Monday, October 1, 2007

Grand Lodge – Day 2:

I woke up early, as Grand Lodge was supposed to start at 8:30am today (Saturday). I again, took a cab to the Masonic Auditorium, and ran into R., Mission #169's Secretary again. We had just enough time to get a coffee & danish when we had to go into the main hall for the meeting.

Shortly later, we were joined by most of the officers, including the Worshipful Master, and our most recent Past Master (now an inspector). The best thing, was that R. sat right next to me & was there to answer any questions that I had & could explain what & why certain things were happening.

There were a number of legislative items that were voted upon, and it reminded me a lot of watching C-SPAN, with people speaking for & against certain measures.

We then broke for lunch, and all of the people from Mission Lodge were treated to a meal over at the Fairmont Hotel.

*** OK, I have to say that this was really overwhelming for me. The Fairmont is one of the most exclusive places in SF; and I was feeling out of place. I mean, rich people stay & eat there...

OK guys...

Do you remember during the 1970's on 'Sesame Street' that they had a song about “One of these things doesn't belong???”

Yeah, I felt a little like that... LOL... I know we're all on the level & everything... But, DAMN!

I had a great time & just basked in the moment. I also got to talking with a couple of members of the lodge whom I had a periphery acquaintance with, but have become good friends with them.

These are self-made men, and this was a perfect example of how being associated with types of guys can teach me how to become a better man. ***

As the lunch was finishing, the Worshipful Master said that Mission #169 was going to be recognized at Grand Lodge on Sunday, due to the fact that we gave a $10,000 gift to the “Grand Master's Project.” So, that was a huge honor for us, getting recognized like that, and our own Worshipful Brother K., ended up representing the whole Lodge up on stage in front of the whole auditorium.

After lunch we went back to the Lodge Auditorium & they finished doing all of the legislative processes, and proceeded to elect next year's Grand Lodge officers. R. gave me a play-by-play on exactly what was happening & who was what & what their story was, so I understood what was going on.

We then finished the proceedings for the day (2 hours early!), and R. & I did one more once-through the exhibition hall before he drove me home.

I changed my clothes, plopped on my bed & took a nap until about 9:00pm.

Long day, but it was awesome!

Stay tuned, Grand Lodge ends tomorrow...

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Grand Lodge – Day 1:

So I've been a Master Mason for a whole 72 hours... What's a new Mason to do first???

I know! Go to Grand Lodge!

I took a cab to the Grand Lodge building & there was already a large group of people hanging out out front of the building. I went in & it was sensory overload... So many people, exhibits everywhere: From the Masonic Homes, the Shrine, Eastern Star, Amaranth, Scottish Rite, Knights Templar, National Sojourners, Job's Daughters, Rainbow Girls, DeMolay, and various other people selling Masonic items, including LA Fraternal and The Master's Jewel.

Thank God that I got a tap on the shoulder & it was R., our Lodge Secretary. I registered, and hung out with him, walking around to all the exhibits. We eventually ran into Worshipful Master B., and subsequently ran into the majority of the officers of Mission #169.

After a while, it was time to go into the main hall for the opening of Grand Lodge. Check out the link here to get an idea of what what it looked like inside.

When we got started, this was a fully Tyled Lodge of Master Masons, so all the ceremony was done by the book. One of the coolest things I witnessed was a room filled with approximately 700 men giving the due guard and sign, in unison. Too flippin' cool.

I won't talk any more about what happened in the Lodge, but suffice it to say it was very cool.

It's funny; to think that this was the first lodge meeting of Master Masons that I've ever been to; outside of my raising 3 days ago.

We finished up around 4:45pm, and I walked down to a pizza joint near Grand Lodge. While I was sitting there waiting for my food, two very cool guys from Southern California sat nearby. I ended up talking to T. and R., and the three of us ended up at a bar around the corner from the pizza place & threw back a couple of drinks.

I ended up leaving at 7:45pm, going back to Grand Lodge for Chris Hodapp's talk. I walked in, started schmoozing & introduced myself to Chris, his wife Alice, and a number of other brethren there. We were all corralled into the lecture room where Chris gave his talk on the Masonic influences on the designing of Washington D.C.

One thing about Chris; if you've read Freemasons for Dummies, then you know his writing style. Very smart and informative, but not stuffy nor boring. In person, he's the same way. He has such a great knowledge of Masonry, but isn't big-headed about it at all. He jokes, and doesn't take himself tooo seriously.

Afterwards, T., (a visiting Mason from Denmark – check out his blog), and I walked back over to Chris & got our books autographed. I also got a picture with Chris:

I also met the guy who runs The Master's Jewel, and found out that he is also the same guy who runs Masonic Ink (the best resource I have ever seen regarding Masonic tattoos...) I also met the guys who run Golden State Masons.

I ended up taking a cab home, plopped down in front of my computer & started writing.

I'm tired, I'm going to bed.

But I'll keep you posted on what happens tomorrow.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

The Raising:

Tuesday came, and I tried to get some work done, not very successfully. All I could think about was what was about to happen that night. Instead, I updated this blog, bringing it up to date, and started getting ready for L. to come by & pick me up.

We got to the lodge around 5:45pm, and our parking lot was already filling up fast, so we decided to drive around the block to look for parking. It was a really great coincidence that we ended up parking in front of the metal grate at the Lodge's front door, as that was where my odyssey began with Mission #169. We walked around to the main entrance (in the back), walked in, and I greeted the brethren I saw, and their wives as well.

At the end of each month, we have a dinner & get-together for lodge members & their families, so that's what was going on tonight.

We had Chicken Shish-Kabobs (kudos to the cooks!) However, I joked that it might've been funnier if we had goat-kabobs.

*** For the Record: THERE WERE NO GOATS! ***

We were also hosting our brothers from Oakland-Durant-Rockridge #188, and my degree was to be the highlight of the night. The wives ended up watching National Treasure in the Friendship Room, while we did our thing in the main Lodge Room.

An aside about the O-D-R guys: These guys are awesome! Man, I would love to hang out with these guys in general! They'll keep you laughing the whole time, and the constant joking & bantering with these guys made the dinner absolutely great...

K. was there, as well as M., but they couldn't go into the lodge ceremony, as being a 1st Degree candidate and 1st Degree Mason, respectively, so they hung out for a bit, then took off.

I sat outside the lodge talking to the Tyler, (whom I have really enjoyed getting to know). At that point, one of the O-D-R guys came out of the Lodge, and a new O-D-R guy entered the building. Unfortunately the new arrival didn't have a coat & tie, so the Tyler couldn't let him in. The two O-D-R guys and myself walked over to the coat room, found him a jacket & tie when I heard someone calling my name. It was the Stewards; I think they may have thought I'd flown the coop! I came back to the Lodge entrance, they escorted me to the preparation room, and I started getting ready.

The funny thing about this, is that as I was getting prepared, I was checking everything over to make sure it was right. The Stewards said, “Hey, you're not supposed to know how to do that yet!”

I half-smiled & said, “Oh yeah, that's right... I don't know this yet...”

Again, I knew (mostly) what was about to happen, but just hadn't experienced it for real.

The Stewards finished preparing me, and then...

=== snip ===

OK, it's over.

Wow, what an experience. Yes, I knew what was going to happen, for the most part, but there was one section where ____________________ happened, which I didn't expect. I kind of chuckled to myself saying 'that was cool.'

Another thing that happened was that Mission #169 gives you a lot of gifts when you become a Master Mason. People joked beforehand that I would need a bag to carry all of the cool stuff home.

They weren't lying.

It reminded me of the cool swag packages celebrities get when they go to the Oscars... A HUGE Masonic Bible, an trowel engraved with my name, date of my raising & Worshipful Master's name, books signed by all the attendees, my lambskin apron (signed under the flap by the Secretary & Worshipful Master with my entering, passing, & raising dates), a couple of cool gifts from the O-D-R Lodge, my dues card (which I will need tomorrow when I go to Grand Lodge), and a CD-ROM of all the Officer's Manuals, since the wheels are in motion to get me in the Officer's line.

On that note... Before the ceremony, the Senior Deacon for my raising told me that we'd need to get together sometime afterwards so he could explain to me what I would be expected to do next week at the stated meeting... Performing the role of Junior Steward!

OK... Within one week's time, I'll have been raised, gone to Grand Lodge, and performed as Junior Steward.

Very overwhelming, to say the least...

One of the most important things that I'd like to say, was that the performance of the Officers during the ceremony was superb. There were only a couple of times during the whole 2 ½ hour ceremony that anyone needed to be prompted, and the evening was all done in a dramatic, solemn way. My hat goes off to you guys; spectacular job.

Lastly, I would like to officially thank G. & L. for all their time & help to prepare me for everything. On that note, the day after (Wednesday), L. & I started working on the Master Mason proficiency... I don't have to have it done until I want to become Senior Deacon (at least 3 years from now), but getting it out of the way while the iron is still hot is a good idea.

Photo: My Raising 9/25/07, yours truly in the blue shirt, next to the Worshipful Master. Photo courtesy: Brother Sam Yee, Mission #169

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

An Informal Affair... 2nd Degree Proficiency:

So Monday came around and G. had set it all up with the powers that be that I could do my proficiency then. You see, all of the officers were having a 3rd Degree rehearsal that day, and they could just open the lodge “for real,” call down to the 2nd Degree, and I could do my proficiency.

L. came by & picked me up, and we went through the proficiency a couple of times in the car on the way over. It was really funny, as whenever I've seen the officers, it has been during some sort of Lodge function. But this was truly informal... (remember it was supposed to be a rehearsal) It was really strange putting on my apron over jeans.

I waited outside the lodge room as they opened the lodge, talking to H., the Tyler. Eventually they opened the doors, let me in and...


So there. Done. After the proficiency, I left the Lodge room & they continued with the... Well, whatever the hell they were doing in there. Both G. & L. came out with me & talked with me for a little while. According to both, they both believed it was a letter perfect proficiency. I'm not sure, I think it was, but I'm not positive.

Well, whether or not it was letter perfect, (I think it was), there's nothing left to do but wait 2 weeks to do the raising. It's scheduled for September 25th, a Tuesday.

< fast forward 13 days >

So I've been sitting here the past couple of weeks & I'm really happy with the way things have turned out. I have no pressure before the ritual to get the proficiency right, all I have to do is enjoy the process. Over the past week or so, I've been contemplating what they taught me during the ritual & what it means to be a Fellowcraft. I've always been a well-read guy... But I've taken it upon myself to read materials about history, science, sacred geometry, rhetoric, etc. I keep thinking of the principles of the Enlightenment and how through the constant seeking of knowledge and spiritual development makes you a better person. It's one thing to be a 'good person,' but when a good person strives to improve himself and make his world a better place, that's what separates a 'good person' from a leader.

That's another thing I've felt recently with my delving into Masonry; a greater sense of responsibility to my community, to my country, to the world.

In 24 hours I'll be a Master Mason.

Humph. 15 years waiting for it & here it is.

14 days and counting... Can I do this???

Cramming for my 2nd degree proficiency (full form).

Dear God. What've I gotten myself into?

I've done worse... I've prepared full operas in 2 weeks... I can do this.

Believe it or not, I've actually found learning stuff in foreign languages easier than this. When you don't speak the language, you can't interpret what's being said. The word is the word. But when you memorize something in English, it's too easy to put in synonyms. I found myself mixing and interchanging words like 'can' with 'could,' and 'try' with 'prove'... AARGH!

Well, thanks to non-stop coaching with G. & L., it all began falling into place. The first day (Wednesday) was rough; the second day, I had about 80% of the whole thing down pat. By Friday it was memorized, I just needed to keep running it over & over & over again until it was solid.

On Friday night I talked with G. and asked his opinion on how it was going. He said that we didn't need the 2 weeks, I was good to go right now. If I felt up to it, I could do my proficiency that coming Tuesday.

Holy crap.

I just learned the 2nd degree proficiency in 4 days.

Let's do it.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Whaddaya Know?! I'm Famous:

I originally created this blog hoping that someone may find it, read it, and get some insight about what Masonry is, and help anyone who may be on the fence about joining.

One of the best books out there is Freemasons for Dummies, written by Worshipful Brother Christopher Hodapp. Right about the time when I put in my application, I found his great book, and wholeheartedly recommend it. If you're interested in what the fraternity is, is not, or are thinking of joining, it's the one book you NEED to buy.

There are so many books out there that are utter trash, (and I should know, I think I have them all) this book is a breath of fresh air. Hodapp writes in plain English what you need to know, dispels misconceptions and outright lies, but doesn't take himself too seriously!

Imagine my surprise when I found out that my little ol' blog was a featured post on Chris's blog.

Thanks for the post, I appreciate it!

Again, if you don't have Chris Hodapp's book yet, stop reading this post right now and go out and get it!

Photo: Freemasons for Dummies, Christopher Hodapp

Friday, September 21, 2007

One of the most amazing things I've ever seen:

Shortly after I got involved with Mission #169, another 'new guy' showed up roughly around the same time as my buddy, K. This guy, M., is a really cool guy who was originally from Lebanon, but lives here now, where he has a wife & child.

After getting to know M., I found out that he's a Lewis; in other words, his father was/and is, a Mason. M. had been interested in Masonry for years, but in Lebanon, as in much of the world outside of the U.S., Masonry has had to go underground. There is so much conspiracy-theory paranoia, that so many Masons are (rightly so!) afraid of letting people know that they're a part of this great fraternity. M. said that his father had been a Mason for about 13 years, and M. never even knew it.

Well, he's here now, and he's welcomed with open arms.

Fast forward a few months...

It has come time for M.'s initiation, and our current Worshipful Master specifically wanted to obligate him.

You see, M. is Muslim, and decided to take his Obligation on the Qur'an.

Also, our Worshipful Master happens to be an Episcopal Priest.

With all of the hostility, strife and intolerance in the world right now, it can pain the heart when you think of all that is going wrong. But that night, I saw an Episcopal Priest obligate a Muslim candidate on the Holy Qur'an.

Friendship. Brotherly Love. Truth.

That's what Masonry is all about... and I saw it that night.

Welcome, Brother M.

Photo: Holy Qur'an with the Square & Compass

Friday, September 14, 2007

The Initiated Eye:

After working all day Wednesday (2 days ago), I decided to go to The Initiated Eye exhibit over at Grand Lodge. It took a couple of transfers on the Muni transit in San Francisco to get there, but I arrived around 6pm.

I talked to J., the guy at the front desk, and he gave me some pointers. There is a video near the back of the exhibit about Emile Norman, the guy who created the mosaic at Grand Lodge, then I walked around the Masonic artifact cases where they had a number of different Masonic items, some which they pulled from the rubble of the 1906 earthquake. I think two items were the most impressive: There is a sword, which was in the fire so long, that the heat fused the scabbard to the blade. You can still see the guy's name engraved on the sword. Secondly, there's a Past Master's jewel which is all charred & disfigured, and right next to it is another jewel; I think it's a Senior Deacon's jewel, but there's not that much of it remaining to tell.

There were quite a few tracing boards hung on the walls, and an entire wall with beautiful historic aprons on them, some with intricate embroidery on them.

Added to all of this, is the main part of the exhibit: Paintings by Peter Waddell. I don't need to describe them, I'll let his amazing work speak for itself.

Check out the exhibit; it's really quite amazing.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

One *#%$ing word! AAUGH!!!

So the Lodge scheduled my 1st degree proficiency during the tail-end of the August Stated Meeting. I had it down pat. No mistakes. Over & over I would go through it with L., and G., respectively.

I showed up at the pre-meeting dinner, then went over & over the entire thing in the foyer while the rest of the Lodge had the Stated Meeting. It was at this same meeting that my friend, K., from my post “Good friends, great meal” was voted upon and approved as a candidate. Anyone who's worried about the future of Freemasonry definitely isn't hanging out with Mission #169... That night they voted & approved a total of FIVE new candidates, that month alone.

At the end of the Stated Meeting, they called down to the 1st Degree, G. came out & took me into the lodge. I was seated in a chair, and...

=== snip ===

OK, it's over. I'm so ticked at myself right now... So close to perfection, but missed it by one flipping word. I used a synonym. AARGH!!! I knew it as soon as it came out of my mouth, but the damage was done. I just had to complete it as is.

Afterwards, so many brothers approached me saying how they were impressed with my performance, but that one mistake was the only thing that I could think about. More than one guy came up & said that it was the best proficiency they'd ever heard.

Umm... Wow.

I'm proud of what I did, and I couldn't have done it without my coaches... But it's a little embarrassing & very humbling to hear people gush at you like that. You'd think with all the performing I've done, I'd get used to people wanting to give their praise, but it still feels a little uncomfortable.

Next thing I knew, a buzz started going around about me & 'going up the line,' saying that I had a aptitude for ritual & should go for it.


Yeah, I've had fantasies of becoming an officer and helping bring Masonry into the next century, but now that I'm faced with it; it's very intimidating. It's a huge responsibility that I could be taking on here. I can only hope that with the guidance of my elder brethren I won't %@#* up.

Lastly, by the time we wrapped up & were leaving the Lodge, they already had my degree ceremony set for (get this...) September 11th.

A couple of days later I received notification that in addition to doing my degree on September 11th, due to my performance of the proficiency, they scheduled my 3rd degree two weeks later, on September 25th. We're hosting a Lodge visitation for our sister Lodge, Oakland-Durant-Rockridge, and the powers that be thought that nothing could be better than performing a 3rd degree for them. (gulp!)

So... That would leave me 14 days to learn the 2nd Degree proficiency.

Holy crap!

What've I gotten into???


I'm not really worried; heck, if I can learn a 4 hour opera (in German) in 4 weeks, I can do this.

...I think

Photo: Peanuts, by Charles Schulz

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

First Degree Proficiency:

Within minutes of my degree ceremony, I was approached by G., the Head Candidate Coach, and also L., another Candidate Coach. Both of them are Past Masters, so they both have amazing amounts of wisdom when it comes to Masonry and ritual. They told me that in order to pass to the 2nd Degree, I would have to commit a bunch of information to memory, and would be tested on it.

From what they said, it was recapitulation of my experiences during the ritual, along with the obligation that I swore to, in its entirety. Apparently there is an option to take the “short form” of proficiency, which is MUCH shorter and MUCH easier, but both of these gentlemen would have nothing of it. I was to learn the entire “full form.”

(That being said, I have found out recently that the “short form” proficiency is only to be used in extreme circumstances, when there appears to be no way that the candidate can memorize the “full form.”

I won't be so bold as to speak for my entire generation, but I think that people may try to make it easier for us 'young-uns' to join Masonry, but I for one, don't want it. If someone truly can't learn it, that's cool, do the "short form." But personally, I want it to be hard. I want to know that I've earned it.)

I met with both G. & L. on numerous occasions, together and separately, and pounded through the memory work. Luckily for myself, committing text to memory comes quite well & very quickly. I pretty much had whole thing memorized in about 2-3 weeks, but due to other degree ceremonies scheduled and the Lodge going dark in the Summer, I didn't do my proficiency for about 3 months.

As an aside: Now, having memorized the whole flippin' thing, I can assure you that (at least in California, anyways)
Duncan's Ritual is WRONG!!!

That's all I'm going to say on that point.

The second main part of my proficiency was to write a paper answering 3 questions posed in the California Grand Lodge Entered Apprentice Handbook. This was really quite cool, as I could put some of my thoughts on paper about what the ritual was supposed to convey and what it meant to me.

If I'm allowed, I might post that text here on my blog. We'll see.*

Now that it's all memorized and it's good to go... The only thing left to do is...

Wait a time with patience, until it's time to do the proficiency.


*Our Lodge Secretary, R., is looking into it.
**Clarification: The Grand Lodge of California doesn't have a ritual book like those shown above, at least not to my knowledge. We're required to commit the proficiency to memory by rote.

Don't tell me they let YOU in?!?!?!

After Mission #169's first Child ID program that we had at Carnaval, I volunteered at a second one in Bernal Heights.

So I was walking around, handing out fliers to the various families and a person behind me says, “Don't tell me they let YOU in?!?!?!” I turn around, and it's J., a friend of mine whom I haven't seen in about 7 years. J. is there with his wife & family, and I was quite flabbergasted!

Over 10 years ago, one of the first times I ever sang the role of Sarastro in The Magic Flute, I did it at a young artist Summer Opera program here in San Francisco. While I was there, J. was a cool, young tenor who sang the part of the 'bad guy,' Monostatos. It was there & then that I started telling him what I knew about Masonry, what they represented, and how someday I'd like to join.

Fast forward 10 years, and he asked about me & my involvement in Masonry and I told him what I've been up to.

He then says: By the way, I'm the Marshall of California #1!

It seems that he's been a Mason for about 5 years or so, not long after I moved to Florida.

What do you know... I haven't seen the man for 7 years, and not only is he a good friend, but he's a brother.

It was surreal, but in a great way.

Photo: The Magic Flute from the Metropolitan Opera

Monday, August 27, 2007

Good friends, great meal:

The weekend after being initiated into Freemasonry, I received a phone call from K., one of my best friends. We decided to go to a great Brazilian restaurant in San Francisco called Espetus. If you like red meat, as we both do, you'll be in hog heaven there.

Something about K.: He's originally from India, but came to the U.S. about 10 years ago, got married, and lives in the East Bay. We're catching up on each other's lives, and I bring up the fact that I've become a Mason.

He immediately perks up, and starts peppering me with questions. Apparently, two of his uncles and at least one of his cousins are Masons back in India, and was interested in finding out more. He'd wanted to join Masonry for a number of years, but didn't know where to start.

I later e-mailed him some Youtube video links from the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts, and told him to buy Chris Hodapp's book: Freemasons for Dummies, and got him in touch with our Lodge Secretary.

We also invited him and his wife to hang out at the monthly lodge dinners, and they both have volunteered at our yearly Child ID Drive at Carnaval. They didn't have to do that, but that's the type of people they are.

Obviously it made an impact on the brethren; K. submitted his application, had his investigation, and will be initiated on October 9th.

Go K!!!

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Time to lighten the mood...

I've been writing so seriously lately about my Masonic experiences... Sometimes you just need to laugh at yourself.


P.S. - We're to blame for Steve Guttenberg?!?!?! Aw Hell, I'm outta here!

The Initiation:

The last time I showed up to pick up my application, it was at the dinner before a 1st Degree ceremony.

That guy never showed.

I was determined to not be like him.

I'd been waiting for that moment for 15 years, and now I was at the brink of it and there was a mix of excitement and nervousness. It was really cool that "D." from my post: "Getting Started," was there. He'd been initiated the month before, and was excited to watch me go through mine.

After dinner, the rest of the brethren went into the lodge room and I hung outside, waiting with the Tyler. He's a real cool guy, always has a smile on his face & talked with me, to keep me at ease.

Eventually, a few guys came out and...

=== snip ===

OK, it's all done.

You know, I've been studying Masonry for so many years, and here I am, finally an Entered Apprentice. The only thing that I can really say about it, was that it surpassed my expectations.

I can honestly say that I wasn't surprised by any of the ritual; from what I've read, pretty much all of it was spot-on with what I expected. That being said, it was an amazing experience. The only way that I can explain it is using an analogy:

Imagine that you've spent the last 15 years reading about riding a bicycle. You've read everything there is to know about balance, coordination, how a bicycle works, theories, training manuals, biographies of great bike riders, etc.

None of that can compare to actually getting your butt on a bike and riding it.

It's something you just have to go through.

Photo: 1st Degree Tracing Board - image courtesy of

The Verdict:

April 5th: Success!

After talking with @@@ and ###, respectively, I knew that it would be a couple of weeks 'til the next stated meeting.

That date came & went, so I knew that it was a matter of time until I hear from the Lodge, one way or the other. Although I knew that it was mainly a formality, I still was nervous. From what I now understand, certain Lodges (mine included) prefer that if a brother has a problem or reservations about an applicant, they should bring it up with the Worshipful Master privately. If there truly is a problem, the application is pulled.

That being said, that doesn't stop any person from dropping a black cube into the ballot at the moment of truth.

Be that as it may; it didn't happen with me. (whew!) On April 5th, I received a letter notifying me that I had been accepted, and that my 1st Degree was scheduled for the 2nd Tuesday of May.

It's funny; in the letter they sent out, they were very careful to reassure me against any rumors that I may have heard... For instance, they were quite emphatic in saying that there is no goat, and no goat riding thereof in any of the ritual.

Umm... Okay.


It then sunk in how much how much mis-information and outright lies there are out there, if they have to go so far as send letters saying 'there are no goats, nor goat riding involved with the ritual'.

I can only shake my head.

...but, woo hoo, I'm in!

The Investigation Committee:

Investigation #1:

So I ended up getting this phone call from @@@, one of the guys on the investigation committee. He asked if I there was a time when the two of us could get together & officially go through the 'interview.' I suggested going to a little café near my apartment.

We met there in the early afternoon, (I work from home), and went through some official questions that @@@ had on his paperwork. It was quite easy; I'd been nervous about it, wondering if there was anything that might trip me up. In actuality, there was none. The questions ranged from "Do you believe in a Supreme Being," to "Have you ever been convicted of a felony?" etc...

The one question that I thought was odd was the question asking about my bills.

Umm... Just the regular ones...

That was strange.

Eventually, I learned that the main reason they ask that is to make sure that you're not joining to be 'bailed out' by Freemasonry. One of the coolest things that the Masons do here in California is that they have the Masonic Homes for retired Master Masons and their widows.

They want to make sure that you are looking to join the craft because you want to, and you have something to contribute (personally, not necessarily financially), not someone who's looking to 'pull one over' on Freemasonry & get something for nothing.

After hearing that, it made complete sense.

The 'examiner' asked if I was married, and since I'm not, he didn't have to meet with my spouse. One of the biggest things that they take into account is how your spouse feels about you joining. If she has any questions, they could be answered, and if she still has misgivings, that would weigh heavily on whether or not you get admitted. If your wife doesn't want you in, then you basically don't get in.

We then spent the rest of our time together talking about what made him interested in the craft, and how in his native country he met some amazing people who were Masons, and when he came to the U.S., it was a foregone conclusion that he'd join.

[As an aside: After hearing about how some lodges are "lily-white," and that some areas in the U.S. make it uncomfortable for people of color to become Masons, I find it completely heartwarming that my lodge is so multi-cultured. Almost every minority is represented, and with each of my grandparents from a different country: (American Indian, Mexican, Australian, & Italian), this place just feels good.]

Eventually both of us had to go back to work, we said our goodbyes, and we went our separate ways.

Investigation #2:

I got another phone call later that week from ###, my 2nd investigator. We set up an appointment for him to come over to my apartment a couple of days later. He came over & we sat down & and went through the paperwork, rehashing the same questions that @@@ and I went through.

Bing, bam, boom - twenty minutes and he was done.

The cool thing about talking with ###, was the fact that we'd already talked at length at one of the dinners at the lodge, so he already knew who I was & had an impression of me aforehand.

He explained to me that he, and whoever else was on the investigation committee (He gave me strict instructions to NOT tell him who the others were...) would all compile their reports and would submit them at the next stated meeting.

At that stated meeting, the lodge would vote, and if I got a 100% approval, then I was in.

All that was left to do was to wait.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Waiting a time with patience... Hurry up, dammit!

March, 2007 -- During the 'off-time' I had until getting contacted by the investigation committee, I did what I had always done... I pretty much lived my life. Working. Reading. Going out. Every week or so I'd talk to my friends who were my references. “Have you heard from any of the Masons yet?” “Nope, nothing. I'll let you know as soon as I hear from them.”

After looking around all over San Francisco's bookstores, I finally got my hands on John J. Robinson's A Pilgrim's Path. Now, I already own two of his other works: Dungeon, Fire, & Sword, and Born in Blood, both of which I read shortly after their release. What I found interesting about Robinson was that after doing all of this research into the Knights Templar & Freemasonry, he was so moved by the people and organization that he himself, became a Mason.

A lot of his historical premises I don't really abide by, but what I really admired about this guy was his guts to stand up to the anti-masons and tell it how it was. A Pilgrim's Path, was an effort to dispel a lot of the unfounded rumors and outright lies that have been waged against the Freemasons over the years to discredit them. Whether or not you like the guy, I think the best response comes from George W. Bush: “They [the anti-masons] hate us for our freedom.” The people who really hate Masons are typically fundamentalists who are trying to create a church-state here in America, or the conspiracy theory whack-jobs who are convinced that what they saw on the X-Files is about to happen for real!

Enough of my ranting... I've got a phone call...

“Mr. Sarastro? Hello, I'm XXXX from Mission Lodge and I was appointed to meet with you as part of the investigation committee. When would you like to meet?”

Hell, yeah. My adventure begins.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

The Application Process:

Unfortunately a couple of weeks after the installation ceremony, I ended up in the hospital with pancreatitis. Worst pain I've ever been dealt with. I wouldn't wish that pain on anyone. After 10 days, they finally released me from the hospital, and it took me a few weeks to get back on my feet again.

After forgetting to get my application at the installation, I contacted R., the lodge secretary. I got an application from him and he volunteered to be one of my recommenders. He also said that I should come to the lodge that next week, as they were having a 1st degree initiation & I could join them for dinner and meet some of the other members; hopefully one of them could be my second recommender.

I showed up at the lodge & had a great time with the guys, talking to quite a few gentlemen and by the end of the night I had my second recommendation.

The weird thing, was that the person who was to go through that night's initiation never showed! Well, that left the ritual team with plenty of time to practice whatever they were doing behind closed doors, which left me plenty of time talking to the non-ritual team Masons in the banquet room. We must've talked for about an hour and a half, about everything from the decline and subsequent rise in current Masonic membership, to their thoughts on Albert Pike, and what it meant for them to be Masons. Eventually, the ritual team came out and everyone said their goodbyes.

I officially turned in my completed application, and R. told me what came next: The application would be read at the next stated meeting in a month's time, and at the meeting an investigation committee would be appointed. These investigating people would contact me, we would have a meeting (I assumed something like a job interview), and this committee would report their findings at the next stated meeting. So, from this point in time right now, I wouldn't know if I got in or not for about 2 months, at least.

Aargh... Well, I guess there's nothing really left to do but wait for the investigation committee.

In the meantime, I racked my brain trying to see if there's anything that could bite me in the butt. Was there anyone in my past that I may have ticked off bad enough to get me blackballed? Could I get a bad recommendation because I got a lot of speeding tickets when I was 18? What if they contacted any of my ex-girlfriends? What if they got one of the bad breakups? Sheesh, I could go crazy worrying about this. I'm not perfect, and no one else in the world is either. The best thing to do is to not fret, be myself and let the chips fall where they may. Even though my future Masonic life lay in the balance, in my heart of hearts I know I'm a good person, and that should speak for itself.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Getting Started:

Here we are in the 21st century. Where does anyone find out information nowadays? The Internet. If I was going to finally do this, I'd find as much info as I could online & go from there. I found the Grand Lodge's website, and whadda ya know, they're located in the city I live in.

I looked up the 8 lodges in 4 locations across the city, and decided to check out a couple of them. I took the municipal transit out to both locations and found the buildings. Of course, no one was there; I didn't really expect it, as it was on a Saturday afternoon. But I wrote down the contact information listed on the front of the door & left a voice mail. No response. No big deal, as another lodge was closer to my home & much more accessible via transit. I went to this second lodge's website, e-mailed & called them, and talked to a very nice and genuine guy (I found out later that he was the outgoing Worshipful Master). He told me that they were about to do their yearly officer installation, and I was more than welcome to come by for the ceremony & dinner.

I didn't really know what to expect. What was this going to be like? Was this lodge going to be filled with people whom I couldn't relate to? Did the people in the lodge think of Freemasonry like a typical service club, not taking the philosophical aspects as seriously as I did? I wondered...

I went to the lodge, which was very nondescript from the outside. If you didn't know it was there, you would've probably missed it. There was a locked metal grate across the door with a doorbell buzzer in between two 'dollar stores.' Had I come to the right place? Did I come on the wrong day? I was right on time, what am I missing? I was about to give up when another gentleman walked up just as confused as I was. We both knew we were there for the meeting, as we were the best dressed guys on the block... We kept pressing the doorbell buzzer, hoping that someone would come by & let us in.

Eventually someone did. Wow, someone about my age! We were taken upstairs to the Friendship Room, where the was a veritable party going on with about 100 people. Apparently, no one uses the actual 'front entrance,' everyone enters through the back door adjacent to the large parking lot. Whoops. I told them that I was interested in joining & had been invited to show up. Any hesitation or nervousness I felt when I arrived immediately evaporated. I was ushered around and introduced to so many cool and genuine people that I was put at ease in a heartbeat. I met another applicant, D., and he & I hit it off right off the bat. D. had been a DeMolay member in his youth, but hadn't done that much study of Freemasonry in itself, whereas I had done a lot of study, but had no face-to-face contact before that evening.

The whole crowd filed into the lodge room & they did the installation ceremony. All I can say, was that it was very cool. There was even one officer who was younger than me! I liked the pomp & circumstance; it's as if I could feel a connection with all those great Masons who have come before.

Yes, I want this even more.

After the ceremony, we all went into the banquet room where we were all served a great meal. D. & I sat down with a bunch of people we didn't know, but these people were not only friendly and answered any of our Masonic questions, but they had us rolling in stitches the rest of the evening. I walked away that night amazed that these people welcomed us as friends, and they just met us.

Ah crap. I forgot to get an application.

Friday, May 25, 2007

My Introduction to the Craft:

This posting is intended to talk about my background and how I became interested in Freemasonry. Hopefully I can be an online resource, as other Masonic bloggers who have helped me. I have no delusions that I know all (or anything) about Freemasonry, nor do I speak for Freemasonry itself. These are my own musings, and mine alone. I imagine that I will look back at these postings in the future & cringe due to my naïveté.

I am 35 years old, and studied vocal performance in university, training to be a professional opera singer. I won't bore you with the details on why & how I fell in love with opera, but suffice it to say that Mozart's music was my one true love.

In 1991 I found a PBS telecast of Mozart's “Die Zauberflöte” (The Magic Flute) and immediately was transfixed with the music, story, and voices. Upon later study, I found out that Mozart was a Freemason, as well as Emanuel Schikaneder, who wrote the libretto. Of course, I delved into the history of Freemasonry, and Masonic symbolism in Die Zauberflöte. I was shocked to find out that a number of notable Freemasons were a venerable “who's who” of the past 300 years.

Being from a family of teachers, I have always been interested in history. Imagine my good fortune in 1994, getting to study in London, singing in various UK cathedrals. One of the most fascinating churches was this little round church right next to the Inns of Court. It wasn't until a year later did I find out the importance of London's Temple Church.

In 1996 I moved to the 'big city', and began auditioning for different opera companies. At 25 it seemed that I was beginning to come around full circle, as I was cast as Sarastro (Zoroaster) in a production of Die Zauberflöte. I read every book I could find about Freemasonry, exposés on ritual, anti-masonic diatribes, quasi-masonic histories, pretty much everything that I ran into. Over the past 10 years, I have since amassed over 30 performances of 5 different productions of Die Zauberflöte.

In 2000, I e-mailed my local lodge & asked for an application. It then sat on my dresser for the next year. Looking back, I wasn't ready, but the interest has always been there.

In 2002, I lost my day-job in the Internet industry & spent the next 3 years in Orlando, Florida. I pretty much hated the entire experience, but the one saving grace was the fact that I lived very close to a Shriners' Temple. During my lunch break from work, I found myself at a Wendy's fast food joint, when I noticed the gentleman sitting right next to me was wearing a Masonic ring. I told him my story, that I'd wanted to petition for years, but never did anything about it. He was extremely gracious, he answered any and all of my questions, and we parted ways. I never did see him again, but I would like to thank him for spending that time with me.

2005 came around, and I had finally saved enough money to move back to California. In 2006, I turned 35, and I began to take stock of my life so far...

Alexander the Great was 33 when he died.
Jesus Christ was 33 when he died.
Martin Luther King, Jr. was 39 when he died.
Wolfgang Mozart was 35 when he died.

Look at what these men did during their lifetimes... What the hell have I done?

So far, nothing that really matters.

I thought, “What is it that I really want? When I leave this earth, how do I want to be remembered?”

I want to be a catalyst for change. I want to make the world a better place. I want to be a uniting influence across the world. In this world of hate and intolerance we live in today, I want to give people hope.


There isn't much of that nowadays.

But think of our Founding Fathers; they started a country based on Masonic principles. Men from all backgrounds, races, creeds, colors, and economic classes, all believed that they could make the world a better place. They didn't all have the same religion, nor agreed politically, but they left that outside the lodge and met as brothers.

That's the biggest thing that I feel that we're missing nowadays. People so embroiled in the belief that they're right, and if you don't believe the same way that they do, then you're evil & must be destroyed. It hasn't entered people's consciousness that there are good people out there, regardless of religion and political beliefs.

There is only one group I know of that brings men from all backgrounds, and does good works in the name of charity, brotherhood and truth.

One of their mottoes is to “Make good men better...”

That's what I want.

That is why I chose to join Freemasonry.