Candidate Education 

The Master Mason Degree

Significance of the Degree

This Degree is the crown of the Blue Lodge. It is the culmination of all that has been taught to the candidate in the two preceding ceremonies. At this point the candidate has symbolically, if not actually, balanced his inner natures and has shaped them into the proper relationship with the higher, more spiritual parts of himself. His physical nature has been purified and developed to a high degree. He has developed stability and a sure footing. His mental faculties have sharpened and his horizons have been expanded. The candidate is now ready to approach the portal of the Sublime Degree of Master Mason.
The above would be the ideal scenario, but is rarely carried out so seriously. However, regardless of the candidate's pace through the Degrees, he should always review his personal progress and take action to improve himself in Masonry. He should not be satisfied with taking the Degrees halfheartedly and then consider himself a Master Mason. Very few of us are truly Masters of our Craft, and we should maintain a healthy deference for this exalted status. For the designation Master Mason should always be before us in our journey toward the Light as the ideal of our Fraternity. 
Being “Raised to the Sublime Degree” is the appropriate terminology. Sublime is defined as being exalted or elevated so as to inspire awe and wonder. And it also means to undergo sublimation that, like distillation, requires a volatilization of a substance that rises and reforms at a higher level. The significance of this Degree is the portrayal of the removal of everything that keeps us from rising to that state where the soul communes with the Supernal Light.

Symbolism of the Degree

The candidate enters the Lodge of the Master Mason in darkness, for he has not witnessed the Light at this Degree before. But the difference of this entrance from that of the others is that he is now in a state of equilibrium and is prepared to walk on sacred ground. He becomes fully committed to the Fraternity and completely puts his faith on the Three Great Lights. The initiate is given full use of every working tool, but the one tool exalted above the others from this point on is the one that symbolizes the spreading of brotherly love.
After ceremonies in the first section which seem quite familiar, the candidate partakes of the central Mystery Drama of our Fraternity. The very nature of participating in this rite and assuming the role of the Grand Master Hiram Abiff is to forge a link with the inner soul of our Fraternity. And as our legend is completely and absolutely consistent with some of the august Mystery Schools of antiquity, we are communing with the archetypal forces that are the foundation of our tradition. And at least in some small way, we may momentarily forget who we were when we entered the Holy of Holies and realize who we really are. 
The symbolism that we encounter in this Degree can be traced back for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. Some of it is almost identical with very ancient usage, but most of it has taken on the cultural flavor of its successive conveyors. We will try to rediscover the hidden meaning of some of these symbols.

The Working Tools

The Working Tools of a Master Mason are “all the instruments of Masonry.” In the United States, the Trowel is especially assigned to this Degree. The Master Mason uses the Trowel to cement ties between Masons, and to spread Brotherly Love.
It may be remembered that this Degree is specifically related to the soul and, as such, the Trowel being the symbol of love is specifically related to the soul's relation with Spirit. Although all the tools are available to the Master Mason, it is the Trowel with which he must now work. It should be remembered that tools have always aligned us with the creative and builder spirit within us.

The Legend of Hiram

Hiram Abiff, the skilled artificer, was the Son of a Widow of the Tribe of Naphtali. The earlier accounts of Hiram are recorded in the I Kings, 7:13 - 14. His coming to work on the great Temple at Jerusalem is mentioned in a letter written to King Solomon by Hiram, the King of Tyre, and recorded in II Chronicles, 2:13 - 14. The word Abiff is believed to mean “his father,” and the name is often translated as “Hiram, my father.” He was regarded as the father of the workmen on the Temple. One of the lessons of the legend of Hiram Abiff is that of fidelity to one's highest ideals.
Hiram Abiff is, in essence, identical with many of the Mystery School heroes. The drama of the Egyptian god Osiris began with his tragic death, the search for his body by Isis, its discovery and restoration. The Greek god Dionysus was attacked by the Titans. In the course of the fight he went through many transformations but was finally overcome. The Titans dismembered him, but in due time the goddess Rhea came to his aid and he rose glorious and entire. This formula is ancient. It is the concept of the sacred king, who in many instances is lame (which signifies his dedication), and is destined for sacrifice, that the earth might become regenerated and uplifted by divine power. 
Regarding Hiram as the “Son of the Widow,” there are a few things to mention. The Egyptian god Horus, as the child of Isis and Osiris, was also the son of a widow. Hermes Trismegistus called the stone “orphan.” There seems to be a Manichaean origin to the terms “son of the widow” and “children of the widow.” The Manichaeans were called “children of the widow.” Etymologically, the word individual is related to the word widow. Vidua, Latin for widow, derives from the verb videre, meaning “to part.”

The Three Grand Masters

The three Grand Masters mentioned often in our rituals concerning the building of the Temple are: Solomon, King of Israel; Hiram, King of Tyre; and Hiram Abiff. In early times, some religions regarded Deity in three aspects. The secrets known only to these Three Grand Masters typify Divine Truth, which was known only to Deity, and was not to be communicated to man until he had completed his own spiritual temple. Once these secrets were attained, a man could reap the rewards of a well-spent life, and travel to the unknown country toward which all of us are traveling. By knowing the meaning of these names and references to their offices, you will better understand what the ritual means. Tyre, by the way, means stone or rock.

Traveling in Foreign Countries

The goal of our ancient operative brethren was to become masters, so they might posses those secrets which would enable them to practice the art of the builder, no matter where they traveled, even in foreign countries.
The term “foreign countries” is used symbolically in Speculative Masonry, and is not meant to refer to a certain geographical location. Freemasonry itself is a foreign country to every new member. To fully appreciate and enjoy the privileges of membership, he must become familiar with its territory. He does this by learning its language, customs, and history. 
Once Raised, many of our members continue their journey into the inner recesses of the Craft. This can be a most rewarding experience. Truly, Freemasonry is the journey of a lifetime. We must continue to search for light and truth where ever it may be found, even in foreign countries. 

The term “foreign countries” may also be a metaphor for the spiritual worlds. The ancients, and some not-so-ancients, concerned themselves with vast spiritual worlds. Their method of gaining admission was through secret passwords, grips, signs, and sometimes angelic names and holy words.

The Three Ruffians

There are many symbolic explanations for the appearance of these three ruffians in our ritualistic work. Their attempt to obtain the secrets not rightfully theirs, and the dire consequences of their actions, are symbolic of many things. Trying to obtain knowledge of Divine Truth by some means other than a reward for faithfulness, makes the culprit both a thief and a murderer. Each of us is reminded that rewards must be earned, rather than obtained by violence or devious means. The Ruffians are also symbolic of the enemies we have within us: our own ignorance, passions and attitudes, which we have “come here to control and subdue.”

Low Twelve

In ancient symbolism, the number twelve denoted completion. This sign arose from the twelve signs of the Zodiac being a complete circle and the twelve edges of the cube being a symbol of the earth. The number twelve denoted fulfillment of a deed, and was therefore an emblem of human life. High Twelve corresponds noon, with the sun at its zenith, while Low Twelve denotes midnight, the blackest time of the night.

The Lion of the Tribe of Judah

The lion has always been the symbol of might and royalty. It was the sign of the Tribe of Judah, because this was the royal tribe of the Hebrew Nation. All Kings of Judah were, therefore, called the “Lion of the Tribe of Judah.” This was also one of the titles of King Solomon. This was the literal meaning.
In the Middle Ages, the lion was a symbol of resurrection. There were common tales that the lion cub when born lay dead for three days until breathed upon by its father. This breath brought the cub back to life. Representations of roaring lions symbolized the resurrection of the dead on the Last Day. The lion, being such a majestic animal, has long been considered the “king” of beasts; associated with the sun because of its mane. Its likeness is commonly found on the thrones and palaces of rulers. The Mithraic god Aion had a human body with a lion's head. 
Because of its association with the sun and its correspondence to the zodiacal sign of Leo, the Lion is also considered a symbol of alchemical Fire.

The Lost Word

In the search for “That Which Was Lost,” we are not actually searching for a particular word. Our search is a symbol for our “feeling of loss” or “exile” from the Source of Life. What we are searching for is Divine Truth, which should be the ultimate goal of all men and Masons.
The Book of Genesis gives us a clue to the power of speech. In it, we learn that the first Act of Creation occurred when “God said.” The utterance of the Word is also closely connected with the idea of Light, and therefore knowledge. Having the power of speech is perhaps the noblest attribute of man, because he can communicate his thoughts to his fellows. Thus, The Word has been carried down through the ages as synonymous with every manifestation of Divine Power and Truth. We must always search diligently for truth, and never permit prejudice, passions, or conflicts of interest, to hinder us in our search. We must keep our minds open to receiving truth from any source. Thus, Masons are devoted to freedom of thought, speech and action. In our Craft Lodges, we have but a substitute for the True Word. Each person must ultimately seek out and find the True Word for himself, through his own individual efforts. 
Some Masons feel that the names of the Ruffians give us a blatant hint at the Lost Word. Indeed, there is an allusion to the sacred syllable of the Vedic texts found in these names. But again, that word is itself a symbol of the underlying Reality that upholds and sustains the world. Some Masons feel that the Lost Word is spoken of in the scriptures variously as “the sound of rushing waters” and “I heard behind me a Voice like a great trumpet,” or “a great roar like a lion” and such.

The Setting Maul

This was a wooden instrument used by operative masons to set polished stone firmly into a wall. The Maul has been shown to be a symbol of destruction from prehistoric times, and is shown many times in mythology. One of the best known is that of Thor, God of Thunder, who is shown as a powerful man armed with a mighty hammer.

The Sprig of Acacia

Hebrew people used to plant a sprig of acacia at the head of a grave for two purposes - to mark the location of the grave, and to show their belief in immortality. Because of its evergreen nature, they believed it to be an emblem of both immortality and innocence. The true acacia is a thorny plant, which abounds in the Middle East. Both Jews and Egyptians believed that because of its hardness, its evergreen nature and its durability, it signified immortality. It is believed that the acacia was used to construct most of the furniture and the tabernacle in the Temple. Acacia has red and white flowers. It is a tradition in the Near East that the Crown of Thorns was acacia. In Egypt, it symbolized rebirth and was an emblem of Neith.

Raising of a Candidate

Most people do not understand what being “Raised to the Sublime Degree of Master Mason” means. This Degree is the sublime climax of Symbolic Freemasonry. If you learn only that the living, dying and raising of a Master is a drama, designed to teach the virtues of fidelity, faith and fortitude, you have received only partial light and have seen nothing but a moral lesson. This Degree seeks to answer the age-old question put forth by Job - “If a man die, shall he live again?”
The Degree delves into the deepest recesses of man's nature. While it leads the initiate into the Sanctum Sanctorum of the Temple, it probes into the Holy of Holies in his heart. As a whole, the Degree is symbolic of old age and by the wisdom of which we may enjoy the happy reflections consequent on a well-spent and properly directed life, and die in the sure knowledge of a glorious immortality. 
It teaches no creed, no dogma, no doctrine, no religion; only, that there is immortality.

Qabalistic Allusions of the Third Degree

The system of Traditional Jewish Mysticism known as Qabalah often provides important clues to the interpretation of passages of Scripture. Since much of our ritual is derived from Scripture, there are certain very interesting Qabalistic allusions throughout the rituals of Freemasonry. We will here list only one of the more interesting occurrences, without reference to either Hebrew or Greek. However, some familiarity with these languages can be useful when searching for Qabalistic allusions within Freemasonry.
Using the Qabalistic discipline of gematria, the Hebrew spelling of Hiram Abiff equals the number 273. So does the Hebrew word for “Hidden Light.” And the phrase found in Psalms 118:22 “the stone refused by the builders” also adds up to 273. Sometimes gematria can cross languages, too. For example, the Greek word athanasia, which means “immortality,” also equals 273. From the standpoint of gematria, the message could not be clearer. [See also Fellowcraft: The Masonic Letter “G”]

Hieroglyphical Emblems

In The Three Pillars we have the three great supports of Masonry - Wisdom, Strength, and Beauty. The Three Steps remind us of how youth, manhood, and old age is each an entity in itself, each possessing its own duties and problems, and each calling for its own philosophy.
The Pot of Incense teaches that, to be pure and blameless in our inner lives is more acceptable to God than anything else, because that which a man really is, is of vastly greater importance than that which he appears to be. It is also a symbol of prayer and meditation. 
The Beehive recommends the virtue of industry and teaches us that we should never rest while our fellow creatures are in need of assistance. It should be mentioned that bees have also been symbols of messengers from the heavens. 

The Book of Constitutions Guarded By The Tyler's Sword is the emblem of law and order, and reminds us that our moral and spiritual character is grounded in law and morality as much as is government and nature. It teaches that no man can live a satisfactory life who lives lawlessly. 

The Sword Pointing To A Naked Heart symbolizes that one of the most rigorous of these laws is justice, and that if a man be unjust in his heart, the inevitable results of injustice will find him out. 

The All Seeing Eye shows that we live and move and have our being in God; that we are constantly in His Presence, wherever or whatever we are doing. The single Eye is found in many countries from Egypt to India: The Eye of Horus, the Eye of Shiva and so on. 

The Anchor and Ark stand for that sense of security and stability of a life grounded in truth and faith, without which sense there can be no happiness. 

The Forty-Seventh Problem of Euclid, or the Pythagorean Theorem, is a very potent symbol and is so important in Freemasonry that it cannot be overemphasized. It is the Sacred King of the scalene (limping) triangles. Its properties have incredible implications in many different areas. Plutarch informs us that the Egyptians attributed the holy family of Osiris, Isis, and Horus to this specific triangle: Osiris the vertical (3), Isis the horizontal (4), and Horus the diagonal (5). Remember that after Osiris is killed, Horus becomes the Son of the Widow. 

In The Hourglass we have the emblem of the fleeting quality of life. The Scythe reminds us that the passing of time will end our lives as well as our work, and if ever we are to become what we ought to be, we must not delay.

Practical Aspects of Freemasonry

The Rights of a Master Mason

These consist of Masonic Relief, Masonic Visitation, and Masonic Burial.

Masonic Relief

Masonic Relief may be applied for by any Master Mason - either to his own Lodge, or to an individual Master Mason. In every case, the individual asked has the right to determine the worthiness of the request and whether such aid can be granted without material injury to his family. Relief is a voluntary function of both the Lodge and the individual. If the Lodge's financial condition will not allow it to help, he can apply to the Grand Lodge for help. In order to be eligible for Masonic Relief, the Brother must not have been suspended in the past five years, and there can be no charges pending against him at the time of application. The widow and/or orphan of a Master Mason, who was a member of the Lodge at the time of his death, are entitled to consideration if they apply for assistance. The same conditions as to worthiness and the ability and willingness of the Lodge apply in these cases.

Masonic Visitation

Visitation of other Lodges is one of the greatest privileges of being a Master Mason. Before you can sit in another Lodge, you must prove yourself to be a Mason in good standing. If you can so prove, and if no member of the Lodge you are visiting objects to you sitting in the Lodge, you may do so. In order to attend another Lodge, you should learn the memory work and modes of recognition in each Degree (if you have not already done so), and carry your paid-up dues card with you at all times.
You can gain admission to another Lodge in one of two ways - examination or avouchment by a Brother who has sat in Lodge with you previously. An examination usually consists of showing your dues card, followed by examination by a special committee appointed by the Master of the Lodge. After successfully passing the examination, the committee will vouch for you and you may be admitted to the Lodge.

The Right of Burial

The Masonic Funeral Service is conducted only at the request of a Brother or some member of a Mason's immediate family. The choice belongs to the family, not to the Lodge. This service can be held in a church, the Lodge room, funeral parlor or grave site. It is a beautiful and solemn ceremony and, like Masonry herself, does not conflict with a man's personal religious beliefs.

The Responsibilities of a Master Mason

The constant responsibility of a Master Mason is “to preserve the reputation of the Fraternity unsullied.” Leading a good life is the best means of carrying through our individual responsibility to our Lodge and our Craft. The conduct of each Master Mason is strictly his own responsibility. He should choose the course which will bring credit to himself and honor to the Fraternity.
We would all do well to remember that brotherhood is the cornerstone of our Fraternity. Treat others with the same respect and consideration with which you would like to be treated. In all your actions, be an example of brotherly love in action. 

Be not hasty to condemn others. How do you know that in their place, you could have resisted the temptation? And even were it so, why should you condemn one who is weaker than you? If your brother should slip, offer your hand to him without judgement or harsh criticism. Judge him not by your standards but by his own.

Lodge Attendance

We do not have a mandatory attendance requirement as ancient Lodges did; nor is there a penalty for not attending, as there once was. However, every Master Mason has an obligation to be loyal to the Lodge which gave him Masonic Light and all the benefits which come with his membership. This should be your inducement to attend Lodge as often as possible and to join in the fellowship that is an important part of Freemasonry.


Only Members in good standing have a right to vote. No member present can be excused from balloting on any petition before the Lodge. No member will be permitted to retire from the Lodge to avoid casting his ballot. The white balls indicate an affirmative, or favorable ballot, and the black cube indicates a negative, or unfavorable ballot. If you have no reason to believe otherwise, then you should accept the word of the Investigating Committee and cast a favorable ballot on a petition for membership. If you have an objection to an applicant, the time to raise that objection is before the ballot is taken. You have the right to speak to the Master privately and express your objection. This is one of the reasons we wait a full month after a petition has been presented before voting on it. However, if you know of some legitimate reason why the petitioner is unworthy, for strictly Masonic - not personal - reasons, a black cube may be cast to protect the Lodge from an undesirable member.
As you approach the ballot box, examine your motives and be sure that the ballot you are about to cast will do justice to the candidate and Freemasonry. The Right to Secrecy of the Ballot is guaranteed by Masonic law, and custom allows each member to have perfect freedom in balloting on petitioners. No brother should disclose how he voted and no brother should inquire into how another brother voted on a particular candidate.

Definitions of Non-age, Dotage, and Fool

In the jurisdiction of California, non-age refers in this Degree to one who is not yet twenty-one years of age. Dotage is a condition associated with old age, and is marked by juvenile desires, loss of memory, and failure of judgment. Being old does not bar someone from seeking membership, but we require that he be mentally alert and healthy. A fool is a mature man without good sense. Legally, he may be of age, but mentally he is incapable of understanding.

Women and Freemasonry

The question of women's role in Freemasonry has arisen many times. When we were an operative craft, the buildings were built by masons who were, by all accounts, men. The Craft became a fraternity for men. Thus, it was a practice that only men became operative masons. This practice has continued down through the years. Certain Masonic Lodges do admit women, but they are not recognized [See Regularity and Recognition] by the Grand Lodge of California.
Women are certainly included in the Family of Freemasonry through Concordant Bodies, such as the Order of the Eastern Star, the Order of Amaranth, and so on.

Examining Visitors

This responsibility belongs to the Lodge itself and is delegated by the Master to a committee of Brethren who are to satisfy themselves that the visitor is a Master Mason in good standing in a regular and recognized Lodge. The Master may call upon any member of the Lodge to serve on the examining committee.
It should ever be remembered that the purpose of examination is to prove that a visitor is a Mason, not to prove that he is not a Mason. Kindness and courtesy should be shown to all visitors at all times.

Vouchers on Petitioners

Before endorsing the petition of anyone for initiation into our Mysteries, you should take the time to discuss Masonry with the applicant. You should know why he wishes to become a Mason, what he expects and what may be expected of him. The Investigating Committee should explain much of this to him, but you should be satisfied with his understanding and know that he is of good moral character. The signing of the petition should be a source of great pleasure for you.
You should also remember that signing the petition of a man who wishes to become a Freemason is a significant responsibility. By doing so, you are committing to assist him to learn and grow as a Mason. Nor does your responsibility end when he has been Raised. From the moment your sponsor his petition, you are bound to him by a strong tie.

Investigating Petitioners

This responsibility belongs to every member of the Lodge, and should not be taken lightly. Serving on an Investigating Committee should be regarded as a mark of special trust by the Master of your Lodge. It is a solemn responsibility. Only those who can be counted on to make a complete and impartial inquiry into the petitioner's character and determine his worthiness to become a Mason, should be selected. The members of the Investigating Committee are known only to the petitioner and to the Master who appointed them.

Financial Responsibilities

Your financial responsibilities are twofold. The first is in the area of mandatory support - the payment of annual dues. The second is in the area of voluntary contributions to certain charities, distressed worthy Brothers, and other Masonic organizations as you desire. By paying dues, each Brother carries his share of the expenses to run his Lodge. Regarding voluntary financial support, he must determine the extent of his participation, measuring the need against his ability.
Any member failing to pay his dues for a period of more than twelve months is subject to suspension. There is no reason a Brother should be suspended for non-payment of dues. Not being able to pay dues can be handled easily and without embarrassment. No Lodge desires to suspend a Brother who is unable to continue payment of dues. A distressed Brother should inform the Master or the Secretary of his situation. One of these Officers will take care of the situation so no record is shown on the books and no debt is accumulated. This is not Masonic Charity, but rather Brotherly Love. In most cases, the other Brethren in the Lodge know nothing about his situation.

Lodge Membership

Although Entered Apprentices are considered Masons in every sense of the word, one does not become a member of a Lodge until after being Raised. Termination of membership can occur in one of four ways - demit, suspension, expulsion or death. One can apply for a demit (or transfer to another Lodge) if his dues are current and he is otherwise in good standing. You can also hold plural or dual membership in more than one Lodge. This sometimes occurs when one Lodge raises a candidate and he then moves to another area and wants to become active in a new Lodge. One must be a member of a Lodge in order to become an officer there. Plural Membership refers to being a member of more than one Lodge in this Jurisdiction (California), while Dual Membership refers to being simultaneously a member in this jurisdiction and in a Lodge of another jurisdiction. See your Lodge secretary for proper handling of the paperwork.
You can be suspended for nonpayment of dues or "unmasonic conduct.” If suspended for nonpayment of dues, you can apply for reinstatement. At any time, you may pay back dues for the year of nonpayment, plus the current year. If suspended for “unmasonic conduct,” you may petition for reinstatement through the proper procedures and channels. If convicted of unmasonic conduct by trial, the trial board may direct expulsion from the order. The verdict can be appealed to the Grand Lodge. A Mason suspended or expelled from a Lodge is automatically denied membership in all Masonic organizations.

Entering or Retiring From a Lodge

Courtesy dictates that you should always arrive before a Lodge meeting is scheduled to begin. This also allows you to share in the fellowship of the Lodge, meet any visitors who may be present, and so on. If you are unavoidably detained and arrive after a meeting has begun, you should clothe yourself properly, inform the Tiler, and ask to be admitted.
The Tiler will inform the Junior Deacon, who will then request permission from the Master that you be admitted. The Junior Deacon will notify you when it is appropriate to enter and also of the Degree in which work is taking place. When permitted to enter, proceed West of the Altar, give the due guard and sign of the Degree, and then quickly take a seat. Keep in mind that you are likely interrupting the business of the Lodge, so be as unobtrusive as possible. 

Retiring from a Lodge is accomplished in much the same way. Move West of the Altar, give the appropriate signs, and then leave.

Deportment While in the Lodge

Your deportment while the Lodge is open should be governed by good taste and propriety. You should not engage in private conversations, nor through any other action disrupt the business of the Lodge. Discussions in the Lodge are always a healthy sign and promote the interest of the Lodge - if properly conducted. If you wish to speak, rise and, after being recognized, give the due guard and sign and make your remarks. Always address your remarks to the Master, even if you are responding to a direct question from another Brother. When finished, you may then be seated. Religion, partisan politics and any other subject which might disrupt the peace and harmony of the Lodge, should not be discussed in Lodge. Voting on routine matters is usually conducted through a voice ballot.

Officers of a Lodge

There are five elected officers of a Masonic Lodge: the Master, Senior Warden, Junior Warden, Treasurer, and Secretary. The Master appoints the Chaplain, Senior Deacon, Junior Deacon, Marshal, Senior Steward, Junior Steward, Tiler and Organist. The Master, Wardens, and Senior Deacon must be proficient in the Work of their respective positions, and the District Inspector must certify their proficiency. Any qualified member may be elected by the Lodge to hold office, but most officer lines are progressive.

Appendant and Concordant Bodies

Once you have been Raised to the Sublime Degree of Master Mason, you may choose to join any number of Masonic Appendant Bodies. The two most common Appendant Orders are known as the Scottish Rite and the York Rite.
The Ancient & Accepted Scottish Rite is an additional system of degrees from the early 19th Century which are designed to add further Light to one's Blue Lodge experience. The Scottish Rite is divided into four interrelated bodies, each of which deals with the recovery and meaning of the True Word of a Master Mason. The Scottish Rite system progresses through the 33°, but it should be remembered that the highest degree in Masonry is the Third Degree. Thus, the Scottish Rite degrees are more properly called additional degrees, rather than higher degrees. The Scottish Rite is well known for the pageantry and flair with which it presents its beautiful degree ceremonies. 

The York Rite is a confederation of three independent Masonic bodies: The Royal Arch Chapter, the Cryptic Council, and the Knights Templar Commandery. The Royal Arch is the foundation of the York Rite, and it is here that the recovery and meaning of the True Word of a Master Mason is dealt with. The Chapter confers four degrees. The Degree of Royal Arch Mason is often described as the most spiritual and mystical of all the degrees of Freemasonry. The Royal Arch is also known as a “gateway” degree, and membership entitles one to join certain smaller rites and orders, such as the Allied Masonic Degrees, Knights Masons USA, Red Cross of Constantine, and so on. 

The Cryptic Council confers three degrees which help explain how the True Secrets of a Master Mason were safeguarded until the time when future ages should discover the right. 

The Knights Templar is the third body of the York Rite. It is Christian in character and content, and describes the passage of pilgrims on their way to Jerusalem during the Crusades. 

32° Scottish Rite Masons and Sir Knights of the Knights Templar Commandery are eligible to join the Ancient Arabic Order, Nobles of the Mystic Shrine (Shriners), a benevolent and social Masonic organization. The Shrine is particularly well known for the many hospitals it maintains for the care of children. This care is offered to all children in need at no cost to them or their families. It is supported entirely from the donations of members of that body. 

There are other rites, degrees, and organizations one may join upon becoming a Master Mason, depending on one's interest in searching for further Light in Masonry. California has four Research Lodges, each of which is dedicated to promoting scholarly Masonic study and discussion. The Philalethes Society is an International organization of Masonic Research and offers members an outstanding quarterly publication, The Philalethes magazine, which includes excellent Masonic information from around the world. The Societas Rosicruciana in Civitatibus Foederatis (the Masonic Rosicrucian Society of the United States) is the most esoteric of all the rites and degrees of Freemasonry. It is an invitational body open to Master Masons. 

The Order of the Eastern Star, Order of the Amaranth, and the White Shrine of Jerusalem are popular concordant bodies which admit both men and women. Often, they provide the chance for a husband and wife to share in the Masonic experience together. 

There are also three Masonic Youth Orders in California, which include boys and girls (and young men and young women) in the family of Freemasonry: The International Order of DeMolay for Boys, the International Order of Job's Daughters, and the International Order of Rainbow for Girls. 

Each of the these Appendant and Concordant Bodies is an important part of the larger Family of Freemasonry in California, and each must obey the rules and regulations of the Grand Lodge.

The Grand Lodge and You

Grand Lodges

Every Grand Lodge presides over one (and only one) Masonic jurisdiction. It is the supreme Masonic authority within that jurisdiction. Its authority extends not just to the Lodges under its control, but also to each of the Appendant and Concordant Bodies within its confines.
Jurisdictions vary is size and composition. In some places, like England and Scotland, there is a single Grand Lodge for the entire country. Others, like the United States, have multiple Grand Lodges, but each has a certain exclusive territory in which it operates. [See the important exception below under Prince Hall Masonry.] Still other places have multiple Grand Lodges acting within the same territory, each responsible for its own Lodges. Currently, there are 51 mainstream Grand Lodges in this country - all 50 States and the District of Columbia. 
A Grand Lodge serves as the administrative center for a Masonic jurisdiction. It sets policies and procedures, ensures that rules and regulations are being followed, maintains the esoteric work according to the ancient usages, charters new Lodges, provides information and assistance to its constituent Lodges, and so on. 

Constituent Lodges are responsible for paying per capita to the Grand Lodge for its upkeep and maintenance. This money comes from the annual dues of the membership of each of the Lodges. Each Lodge must also adhere to all of the rules and regulations adopted by the Grand Lodge. However, it is important to remember that the authority of the Grand Lodge is derived from the Lodges. Individual Lodges can exist without a Grand Lodge, but a Grand Lodge cannot exist without Lodges.

Regularity and Recognition

One of the most complicated areas of Masonic jurisprudence, or law, relates to the standards a Grand Lodge must follow in order to be considered regular. Each Grand Lodge has its own set of standards, and since there is no central governing authority within Freemasonry, determining regularity is difficult at best.
Masonic Law is based in part on Anderson's The Constitutions of the Free-Masons, originally published in 1723. This book was written just six years after the formation of the first Grand Lodge [See Entered Apprentice: Origin of the First Grand Lodge] and lists the commonly accepted rules of the time for a Grand Lodge, Lodge, and individual member. Space does not permit a comprehensive list of all the relevant issues, but some examples include: acceptance of candidates, irrespective of their personal religious beliefs; the Holy Bible, Square, and Compass displayed upon the Altar at all times; the acceptance of men only; the Hiramic Legend as an integral part of the Third Degree, and so on. 
In the late 19th Century, Albert Mackey published a list of 25 Ancient Landmarks of Freemasonry. A Landmark is supposed to be an integral part of the Craft and can never be changed. Mackey's list has served as the basis of regularity since its publication, but confusion arises, because each Grand Lodge determines its own set of Landmarks. Some jurisdictions use all 25 Landmarks as presented by Mackey. Others have a shorter list. Still others, like California, refer to the Ancient Landmarks but do not define them. 

Regularity is, therefore, a subjective term. It depends on the perspective of the one making the determination. Furthermore, a Grand Lodge may be considered regular by one jurisdiction and irregular by another! 

In contrast to regularity, the concept of recognition is purely objective. Recognition refers to the state of amity between two Masonic jurisdictions. The relationship is similar to that between Nation States, and since each Grand Lodge is sovereign, it decides for itself which Grand Lodges it will recognize and which it will not. 

When two Grand Lodge share recognition, their members are permitted to visit one another and, in most cases, hold dual membership across jurisdictional lines. The only Brethren permitted to visit our Lodges are those from recognized Masonic jurisdictions. Brethren from unrecognized jurisdictions may not visit a Lodge in our jurisdiction. It is the responsibility of the Master, or his designee, to make this determination and to ensure that all visiting Brethren are from a recognized Lodge. The book List of Lodges Masonic is published annually and includes a comprehensive list of every Lodge in the world which is recognized by the Grand Lodge of California. Every Lodge Secretary should have a copy of this book in his office. 

The term Clandestine is often misused and should be avoided as much as possible. A Clandestine Lodge is simply one that is not working with a legitimate charter from a Grand Lodge. It may have been in possession of such a charter at one time, but for any number of reasons, it no longer possesses one, and thus, it is considered Clandestine, or “in the dark.” This term is not the same as irregular.

Prince Hall Masonry

In 1783, a free Black man named Prince Hall was made a Mason in Massachusetts by a traveling Irish Military Lodge. Hall wished to form a lodge but was denied dispensation by the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts. He sent his petition to the Grand Lodge of England, and after 12 years, he received a charter for African Lodge No. 459 on their rolls.
This Lodge eventually led to the first “Prince Hall” Grand Lodge. Since that time, Prince Hall Grand Lodges have spread across this country, much like mainstream Grand Lodges. For 200 years, these Grand Lodges were unrecognized and considered irregular. It is only very recently that Prince Hall Masonry has started to be accepted by the mainstream. 
It should be understood that the separation between Prince Hall Masonry and mainstream Masonry was not entirely one-sided. Prince Hall Masons are justifiably proud of their Masonic heritage, and there was some concern on their part that recognition would lead to their jurisdictions being swallowed up by the larger mainstream. However, there can be no doubt that racism played a large part in the gulf between mainstream Freemasonry and Prince Hall Freemasonry. 

In 1989, the United Grand Lodge of England extended recognition to the Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Massachusetts. Connecticut and Massachusetts soon followed with recognition of their own. Since that time, many Prince Hall and mainstream Grand Lodges have extended recognition to one another. As of 1998, 28 of 51 mainstream Grand Lodges were in fraternal accord with their Prince Hall counterparts. 

The Grand Lodge of California recognized the Prince Hall Grand Lodge of California and Hawaii, Inc. at our 1995 Annual Communication. We are now permitted to visit their Lodges, and they are permitted to visit ours, without restriction. Dual membership is not permitted, however, because their Masonic Code expressly prohibits their members from joining Lodges outside their jurisdiction. 

We are also in fraternal accord with the Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Oregon.

The Grand Lodge of California

The Grand Lodge of California was formed in April of 1850 by representatives of five Lodges. Four are still extant: California No. 13 of the District of Columbia (now California No. 1 of San Francisco); Western Star No. 98 of Missouri (now Western Star No. 2 of Shasta); Connecticut No. 75 of Connecticut (now Tehama No. 3 of Sacramento); and Benicia Lodge of Louisiana (now Sublime-Benicia No. 5 of Benicia). They met between April 17-19 on the third floor of the “Red House” at the southeast corner of “J” and 5th Streets in Sacramento. This was five months before California was admitted to the Union. Our first Grand Master was Jonathan D. Stevenson, a lawyer from San Francisco and member of California Lodge No. 1.
From these humble beginnings, Freemasonry grew rapidly throughout the State. Lodges from Hawaii soon petitioned and were admitted to the jurisdiction. In 1989, the Lodges in Hawaii withdrew from this jurisdiction and formed their own Grand Lodge. Currently, we have approximately 100,000 members and 420 Lodges. 
The Grand Lodge of California is composed of 7 elective and 20 appointive Grand Lodge Officers, Past Grand Officers, the Masters and Wardens of each Lodge in the State, and the Past Masters of all Lodges in this jurisdiction. 

Our Masonic Law is codified in a document called the California Masonic Code (C.M.C.). Every member of a Lodge and every Masonic organization in this jurisdiction must adhere to the rules and regulations of the C.M.C.. Failure to do so may be grounds for disciplinary action. You are therefore encouraged to make yourself familiar with this important document. 

Each October during Annual Communication, the members of Grand Lodge meet at the California Masonic Memorial Temple in San Francisco and conduct the business of the Grand Lodge. During Annual Communication, resolutions are presented and voted on by the Grand Lodge. Each member of Grand Lodge has one vote, except the Grand Tiler who has no vote and Past Masters who have one collective vote for their whole Lodge. Thus, each Lodge in this jurisdiction has four votes total: one for the Master, one for each of the Wardens, and one for its Past Masters as a group. All Master Masons in good standing are permitted to attend these sessions but may not vote unless they are members of Grand Lodge. Pre-registration is required and is handled by the Lodge Secretary. 

Resolutions must receive a 5/6 affirmative vote for adoption. Legislation receiving less than 5/6 but greater than a majority of the ballots are carried over to the next year's session, where they must receive 2/3 affirmative vote for passage. Resolutions receiving less than 1/2 fail. The Grand Master is permitted to make Recommendations and Decisions, which are special kinds of legislation and are described below. Legislation which passes is adopted as part of the California Masonic Code. 

Every year, the results of the Annual Communication are recorded in the Grand Lodge Proceedings.

The Grand Master

The Grand Master of Masons of California is elected for a one year term by the members of the Grand Lodge. Almost without exception, he has served the prior three years as Junior Grand Warden, Senior Grand Warden, and then Deputy Grand Master.
The Grand Master is the chief executive officer of this jurisdiction and his powers and responsibilities are wide and varied. In brief, he may grant dispensations, convene and preside over any Lodge, arrest the charter or dispensation of any Lodge, suspend the Master of any Lodge from the exercise of his powers and duties, and officiate at the laying of cornerstones. The Grand Master also acts on behalf of the Grand Lodge when it is not in session. 
During his term, the Grand Master is sometimes called upon to interpret the California Masonic Code. He may consult with the Jurisprudence Committee on the matter, but the final determination is his to make. This interpretation of the C.M.C. is called a Grand Master Decision and immediately becomes law within the jurisdiction. At the Annual Communication next following, all Grand Master Decisions are voted on by the Grand Lodge. They must receive 2/3 affirmative vote for passage and are subject to the same rules regarding carry-over legislation as any other resolution. 

The Grand Master may also offer his Recommendations to the Grand Lodge. These are treated like any normal resolution brought before the Grand Lodge, except that the Recommendation of a Grand Master often carries a great deal of influence. 

The Executive Committee consists of the Grand Master, the Deputy Grand Master, and the Senior and Junior Grand Wardens. In the absence of the Grand Master, one of these other officers presides on his behalf.

The Grand Secretary

The Grand Secretary is the chief administrative officer of the Grand Lodge. He has many responsibilities, most especially managing the staff and day-to-day operations of the Grand Lodge office. He is also responsible for serving as secretary for various Grand Lodge Boards and Committees, recording all transactions of the Grand Lodge proper to be written, maintaining important documents and papers of the Grand Lodge, and conducting the correspondence of the Grand Lodge. He also receives Resolutions, Decisions, and Recommendations presented to the Grand Lodge for Annual Communication, maintains membership statistics, and more.

The Grand Lecturer and Ritual Committee

In matters of ritual, this jurisdiction is divided into four geographical Divisions, each of which is under the supervision of an Assistant Grand Lecturer, who is appointed each year by the Grand Master. These four Assistant Grand Lecturers receive instruction in the ritual and report to the Grand Lecturer, who is an elective Grand Lodge Officer.
Each of these Divisions is further subdivided into Districts, which are overseen by an Inspector. Each Inspector is usually accountable for about four Lodges. The Inspector oversees the ritual work and is also the representative of the Grand Master within the District. He is authorized to ensure that the administration of each Lodge in his District is handled properly. Within each Lodge, an Officers Coach, appointed by the Inspector, sees that the ritual work of that Lodge is done properly.

Boards and Committees

The Grand Lodge maintains a number of Boards and Committees, each of which has a specific responsibility within the overall structure of the Grand Lodge. Boards and Standing Committees are mandated by the California Masonic Code. The Grand Master may also convene any number of Special Committees at his pleasure.
All Members of Grand Lodge Boards and Committees are appointed by the Grand Master and are usually Past Masters, but a limited number of Master Masons may be appointed, as well. Members may only serve for nine years, with five of those as president or chairman, unless the Grand Master feels that circumstances warrant a longer term.



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