First Impressions in Freemasonry
First Impressions in Freemasonry
Brother Will Rogers once said “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.” As Freemasons, we must always keep that adage in the forefront of our minds. In particular, we need to be cognizant of the value of first impressions when a newly petitioned candidate for Freemasonry is in our midst.
When a man chooses to petition the Craft, he is almost always personally acquainted with the Brother who is his first line signer. That first impression was most likely a positive experience. His next first impression will be his interaction with the brethren who investigate him. Who are these strangers arriving at his home? How do they conduct themselves? What is their demeanor? How do they treat him? What do they have to say about the Craft? As the committee on investigation will be paying close attention to the petitioner, so, too, will the petitioner pay close attention to the visiting brethren.
If the petitioning man has the prayer of his petition granted, he will next interact with the Lodge Secretary who will notify him of when to arrive for his Entered Apprentice Mason Degree. He will look at that letter with great excitement, soaking in every word it reads. He will have a visual record of what should be a very profound moment notifying him of this new adventure in his life.
When this man on the threshold arrives at the lodge the night he is to be entered into the Craft, he will meet the brethren assembled and carefully observe how they conduct themselves and how they interact with not only him but also with each other. His mind will be open and receptive to this new stimulus and he will glean the demeanor in which he is expected to compose himself.
After his degree, when sitting in the open lodge, he will, for the first time, see the majesty of the eastern chair and, with great wonder and awe, begin to comprehend the beauty of what it means to be the Worshipful Master of the Lodge.
Of course, all his impressions exclusively depend on the brethren he observes. Do they conduct themselves in a distinguished manner? Are they fluid in their ritual work such that the lodge atmosphere has a serious and honorable tone? Do they embrace him openly and make clear to him that, while he has much to learn, they are there to assist and teach him?
Understanding the value in this process is essential for the making of men who are true Masons; men who live their lives as masons and are not simply ghosts with a dues card.
In this process of Masonic development, there are two roles in particular that may be the most important of all in ensuring this man seeking light breathes in the illuminating particulates of the Craft: his Guide and his Mentor.
During the ritual of each degree, no Brother has the potential to make a singularly greater impact on the candidate than his Guide. The Guide does not just prepare and conduct the candidate, the Guide is alone with the candidate in the preparing room.
The Guide is with the candidate at his most vulnerable state, and it is in that moment the Guide can open the portals of light through calming discussion and instruction, through encouragement and report building. The importance of the Guide possessing not only a proficient knowledge of the ritual, but also a deep understanding of, and ability to congenially articulate, the phases of the spiritual path the candidate is embarking upon is essential to the development of the candidate’s Masonic journey.
Outside of the formal ritual setting, the candidate must have a Mentor who shares the same breadth of knowledge as the Guide. The Mentor must strike the fine balance of growing his friendship with the candidate while also working toward developing the candidate’s Masonic knowledge in ritual, symbolism and etiquette. The Mentor must be honest with himself and with the candidate, encouraging him with steadfast patience while not compromising quality performance of required criteria for the haste of advancement.
Brethren, we must remember that our first impressions can never be altered. An errant action in a first impression will take 10-fold effort to correct. A strong and dignified first impression will shine for eternity like a blazing star.
All Freemasons have the obligation to be aware of the first impressions they make, and all Masonic leaders must select the right Brethren to serve in those crucial roles of Guide and Mentor. Every spiritual stone from the quarry seeks to emulate those in the finished temples he observes. Let us strive for our spiritual temples to consist of polished stones that are, at all times, plumb, level and square. If we live by the values of our beloved Craft, the rough stone who is the candidate shall clearly witnesses the path to becoming the perfect ashlar.