We had shared dinner prior, and all the men I had come to respect and enjoy the company of assured me this was going to be a great night. There was no hazing, no puerile goat jokes, nothing but a jovial but very serious sense that tonight was important. This night was about me. I was the only candidate this evening, but one Brother who I had grown particularly close to over the past six or seven months had just gone through the same experience in November, and now he was able to take part in my initiation.
I had purposely avoided the temptation to search out what this evening would entail or what I could expect. I have no Masonic family members or friends, and so I was truly going into this experience blind, and I am happy I did. I sat shivering in this cold corner room, anxiously listening to the mumbled voices through the wall, trying to interpret what was being said, but between the thick old wall and the chattering of my teeth, I couldn’t make it out.
Then, three soon-to-be Brothers came in, smiled at me, and asked if I was ready. What followed was a transformative experience that has had a profound impact on my life. This was the beginning of a lifelong journey of self-discovery and personal growth. In the two hours or so that followed I experienced a spiritual experience that deepened my connection to Deity, moments of introspection that encouraged me to reflect on my values and beliefs, and something I didn’t even know I needed at the time, a sense of true Brotherly love with a group of like-minded men.
The designers of this shared initiatic experience created a transformative experience that has had a profound impact on every new Mason. It creates a sense of Brotherhood, promotes self-improvement and personal growth, and leaves a lasting impression on the heart and mind.
I have seen some great degree work… I have also seen some not-so-great degree work. I was fortunate in that my initiation was pretty close to perfect, at least in my memory. I can distinctly remember so many key parts that caused me to really think about what was being said and what was going on around me.
Now, just four years since that august event, I am sitting in the East for the conferral of the Entered Apprentice degree on two fantastic men. These candidates have spent months getting to know the Brothers of our Lodge, they have volunteered at food drives, joined us for meals, and proven themselves to be upright men worthy of becoming Masons.
Each rehearsal I am picking up details and insights that previously have not occurred to me. I have been privileged to see many degrees, in many different Lodges, and they are all different. The words are the same, by and large, but the emphasis, cadence, and inflection can be so different as to almost make the meaning of the words change.
For those Brothers reading, think about the demand that was made at one point in your first degree. Was the person who asked shaming you for not being able to satisfy his request? Were you confused by this as they had to know you couldn’t do what was asked? Or was this moment somber, teaching you the real moral of the request and how in the future you could satisfy this for another?
Was your apron presented in a frenzied recitation of a long bit of ritual that felt like you were drinking from a firehose, or was it done at a speed that allowed you to hear each word, with appropriate pauses to give you time to process the honor and privilege it is to be a part of this ancient and honorable fraternity?
We still have a lot of practicing to do for our upcoming degree to ensure we get everything right, or at least as close to perfect as we are able. While the weight of leading this degree is certainly heavy on my shoulders, I am thrilled to be given the opportunity to bring men to Masonic Light in a way that I know will impact their lives forevermore. I can only hope this momentous occasion will have as great an impact on their life as my initiation had on mine.
Erik M. Geehern is currently Junior Warden of Goshen Masonic Lodge #365 in Goshen, NY under the Grand Lodge of New York. He was raised to the sublime degree of Master Mason in October of 2019 and since then has served as Assistant Secretary, Mentor, and Charitable Committee member and chairman. He writes and curates a newsletter for his Lodge quarterly which disseminates education, history, and esoterics. He is also a member of the Grand College of Rites and the Kansas Lodge of Research. He works in restaurant operations & consulting, and when not engaged in his usual vocation, or laboring in the Craft, he loves spending time with his wife and two children.