MANY MEN, MANY MINDS
A Mason soon learns that the ritual and ceremonies of a neighboring Jurisdiction are different from those he knows. When he travels widely through this great land, he learns in how many ways Masonic practice has been altered by time, latitude and longitude, different people, ideas, beginnings.
In many Grand Jurisdictions, a single ballot elects for all three degrees. In others, a ballot must be had on each candidate before each degree. In one Grand Lodge there are two ballots before the Fellowcraft and Master Mason degree - one on the candidate's ritualistic proficiency, the other upon his moral worth and fitness. Many Jurisdictions adhere to the ancient custom of the examination of Entered Apprentices and Fellowcrafts in open Lodge before permitting advancement; in others, the Master accepts the avouchment of an instructor that the candidates have attained a "suitable proficiency" to entitle them to the next degree.
In forty-three Grand Jurisdictions, Masons display the square and compasses on the Altar. In six they use the square and compass! "We have always called it compass" they say, and no one who knows and loves his old time ritual with all of its curious verbiage and, sometimes, ungrammatical phrases, but will agree it is a good reason not to change.
Aprons are worn in one Jurisdiction in a certain way as a Fellowcraft and another way as a Master Mason. Cross the state line, and learn that what is correct for a Fellowcraft in one Jurisdiction is right only for a Master Mason in the next.
Grand Lodge aprons differ from one another as one star is different from another in glory! Two Grand Lodges equip their Grand Masters with aprons so heavily encrusted with gold embroidery and lace that they cost hundreds of dollars, are imported from abroad, weigh pounds, cannot be folded, and must be worn with a leather belt to hold them up! Rosettes and tassel, emblems and decorations, are upon many Grand Lodge officers' aprons. Another Grand Lodge has a Past Grand Master's apron in which the forty seventh problem conventionalized and repeated in a circular form, is embroidered in many colors - the general effect at a little distance is of a beautiful bouquet of flowers. One Grand Lodge edges all Grand Officers' aprons with purple, and permits no emblems or decorations at all, while in another Grand Lodge officers from Grand Master to Tiler wear plain lambskin aprons of white with a white silk edge.
To most Masons a degree is a ceremony put on in a Lodge room in a Temple. In some Jurisdictions this Lodge room must be upon a second floor, to make certain no eavesdroppers may peep in through windows inadvertently left un-shuttered. But not all degrees are so staged. In several Grand Lodges, degrees are occasionally put on out-of-doors, on a hill or in a low vale.
Different men, different minds; different States, different ideas; different Jurisdictions, different Masonic practices. Yet in spite of the contrasts, the variations, the wide divergence in what seems to the un-traveled Mason "the right Masonic way," Masonry in the United States is wholly one in essentials; a unit in its teachings, its fundamentals, its philosophy. It is one of the great tributes to the adaptability of the American genius, that it be so at variance in unimportant details, remaining so united in all that is essential in the Ancient Craft.