Masonic Initiation Checklist :: by T. N. Sampson of Cornerstone Ministries
This checklist is written for the Christian who is considering petitioning for Masonic membership or will shortly enter Masonry as an Entered Apprentice. It is intended to provide some food for thought prior to your initiation, and to help you make an informed decision. If the reader is not a Christian, this checklist will still be a useful source of information; however it may be less useful as you will not have the indwelling Spirit to help you with the issues raised. In any event, checking off the following actions will help you to better understand the significance of that which you are preparing to do.
Things to Discuss with your Wife:
- Make sure she knows that the Lodge will want to take up quite a bit of your time (memory work at home, meetings, volunteer work). These time demands are expected to take priority over other commitments.
- She should also understand the cost of membership, both in the Symbolic Lodge and in any "higher" degrees you pursue, so that it's clear how much will have to be budgeted for the privilege of being a Mason.
- Tell her early on that you cannot share your Lodge experiences with her; therefore, she should avoid questioning you on the subject.
- Ask her permission to remove your wedding band, the symbol of your marital commitment, the night of your Entered Apprentice initiation, as you will be asked (or required) to do so before you can enter the Lodge room.
Things to Discuss with your Masonic Sponsor:
- To avoid later surprises, ask how Masons view your entrance into the Lodge. Mason Allen E. Roberts describes this event as a "spiritual rebirth" in his book The Craft and its Symbols (you may even be given that book after being raised a Master Mason). He further notes that the Mason is to use the teachings of the Craft "to build a Spiritual Temple." As a Christian, already endowed with the Holy Spirit, you may want to ask just what kind of "spiritual rebirth" Masonry is talking about here and how that relates to your being reborn in Christ. As well, you should compare the Masonic "Spiritual Temple" with the Biblical.
- Understand what the "Holy of Holies" means in the Bible, then ask how Masonry uses the term. (He may or may not tell you that in the Master Mason's degree, the Lodge becomes a representation of the Holy of Holies, that place where God resides. In this degree you are "symbolically brought into the presence of God to learn the lessons which it is intended to teach." (Virginia & Florida Mentor Manuals))
- Ask how you should prepare for your initiation. In some states, you will be asked to bath first and arrive well-dressed, and that you spend some time in prayer prior to coming to the Lodge. These things should be performed "in the same spirit that would actuate you if you were being baptised (sic) in your church" (Taking the First Step, Virginia Grand Lodge). You may wish to ask your sponsor why Masons would equate Lodge initiation with Christian baptism, especially since they've already told you Masonry is not a religion.
- Since the Bible is on the "sacred altar" of the Lodge, you may wish to ask if Jesus Christ is also taught there, since he is such a large part of that book.
- You may also ask what the "Volume of Sacred Law" is and how the Bible fits into that Volume. You might inquire if a Mormon can insist that the Book of Mormon be on the altar instead of, or side by side with, the Bible, and if so, why? (To avoid keeping you in suspense, Masonry views the Koran, Book of Mormon and Bible (among others) to be equal representations of God's will as given to man; therefore, each may be on the altar. Interesting company to put the Bible in with; does that bother you? Your wife? Your pastor?)
- You will surely want to ask about the Masonic lesson called the "Fatherhood of God." As Masonic literature explains, it holds that all people are children of God, regardless of their beliefs. Since the Bible teaches that one becomes a child of God only via faith in Jesus Christ (John 1:12), you may want to decide which of these contradictory teachings you are going to support before someone asks. You might also ask a Scottish Rite (Southern Jurisdiction) Mason why the 18th degree claims that Jesus came to teach the Masonic view.
- You may wish to ask why American Masonry continues to be split along racial lines, and why both sides are only now granting full recognition to each other. Given that Masonry claims to support the "Brotherhood of Man," you might well ask why segregation has been such a large part of the Lodge since its landing in the United States.
- You should inquire as to how oaths and obligations are taken. Since they involve you being in a lodge "erected to God," in a semi-dressed condition, blindfolded, a rope around your neck, on your knees in front of Masonry's "sacred altar," Bible in hand with Square and Compasses upon it, and "in the presence of Almighty God," you will want to first think about how proper this really is. Finding this out before your initiation may be important as it may be difficult to ask about this once the initiation is underway.
- Speaking of Masonry's "sacred altar," you may want to ask why Masonry claims it represents the Ark of the Covenant. (As you already know from reading this article that the Lodge is considered the Holy of Holies, you can probably figure out the rest of this yourself. It would be very illuminating to find out by what authority the Lodge claims to be the symbolic home of God, so to speak).
- You should ask your sponsor for a copy of the oaths and obligations you will have to make during your initiations. Since Jesus taught that the Christian is expected to fully carry out everything he gives his word to, you will want to know exactly what they expect you to swear to so that you can work within Jesus' injunctions. The appropriate Bible verse is Matthew 5:33-37:
"Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, 'Do not break your oath, but keep the oaths you have made to the Lord.' But I tell you, Do not swear at all: either by heaven, for it is God's throne; or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. Simply let your 'Yes' be 'Yes,' and your 'No,' 'No'; anything beyond this comes from the evil one."Keep those words in mind, for example, when they ask you to never reveal any of Masonry's secrets. When they do, you should make sure you know which ones they are referring to so you don't inadvertently break your oath should your wife pester you about what happens in the Lodge. Similarly, before you swear that you will never reveal a fellow Mason's secrets (generally murder and treason are excepted), you should consider whether or not you would go to the police if another Lodge member confided to you that he was abusing his daughter. If you say "yes" to the obligation, you will have to keep this secret (hopefully your conscience won't bother you much after a few weeks).
- Ask about the penalties you will be required to swear to. As these involve having your throat cut, your tongue and heart torn out, being disemboweled and so forth, you may want to determine if they are consistent with the above verses. Continue to bear in mind that you will be swearing to those penalties while still on your knees "in the presence of Almighty God," as they will have asserted.
- Being a Christian, you may want to ask if it is permitted to use Jesus' name in prayers in the Lodge. The answer will be "no," so you may want to think about what you are going to say if you are called on to pray. You will have to find a prayer that will not offend any brother Masons, and end up having to choose between declaring the gospel of Jesus Christ by using his name in Lodge prayers or placing the requirements of Masonry over that gospel. Either way, it's your decision, but you may want to think about it before you enter the Lodge. A good Bible verse to consider is Matt 10:32-33, where Jesus states:
"Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven."
- You will most definitely want to have the Masonic view of "tolerance" explained to you so you can avoid trouble with your Christian witness later on. In Masonry, "tolerance" is not merely putting up with another's point of view; rather, it is learning to accept and even welcome those views. In action, this view means that you should accept and welcome other men's faiths even if you know they conflict with the Bible. You can follow Jesus' injunction to make disciples or the Masonic injunction to be 'tolerant,' but you can't do both.
- Another topic of fascinating discussion with your Masonic sponsor is the symbolism of Jacob's ladder. In Masonry, the rounds of the ladder are Temperance, Fortitude, Prudence and Justice; Faith, Hope and Charity, which, to the Mason, symbolize perfection. Essentially, Masonry teaches that one uses that ladder, with its rounds, to get to heaven. Obviously, Jesus isn't one of those rounds, the implications of which you may wish to consider.
- Since you may decide to pursue the "higher degrees" in the York Rite, ask what 'Jahbulon' refers to. Ask as well if it's true that in the Knights Templar degree, that 'Christian' part of the York Rite, you will be drinking wine from a skull with swords pointed at your throat. Would that be something you would boast about to your wife, children and non-Mason friends?
- Since you may instead decide to pursue the "higher degrees" of the Scottish Rite, ask to read the book A Bridge to Light by Rex Hutchens. This describes the Southern Jurisdiction rituals and shows the lessons of the degrees. Ask why the order in the 25th degree features the names of Osiris and Isis, two pagan deities. Ask your pastor, or wife for that matter, what he thinks of your wearing such devices. You may also want to ask why one of the lessons in that degree is "Do not weary God with petitions." You may also want to ask where faith in Jesus Christ fits into this lesson from the 16th degree: "Build Temples of the Living God in our Hearts by following Masonic Truth – justice, equity, morality, wisdom, labor, fidelity, brotherhood – to achieve immortality." Finally, ask what Masonry means by this statement in the 14th degree: "All the world's messiahs have sought to unify the spiritual and earthly qualities of man, providing a model of perfection." Note the plural here: 'messiahs.' The degree goes on to equate Jesus with other 'messiahs' such as Osiris and the Greek god of wine, Dionysus. Interesting comparison, don't you think?
- Finally, should you aspire to the Shrine, ask about the bathroom humor used in that degree, if wine is drunk there and how it is obtained, and why you will have to petition Allah, the false god of Islam, for aid in this rite. Ask yourself if Jesus would do such a thing and, if not, why it would be okay for one of his disciples.
Things to Ask Yourself:
- When you are blindfolded and escorted into the Lodge for the first time, you will hear your escort describe you as one "...who has long been in darkness, and now seeks to be brought to light..." Before you get to that point, you may want to ask yourself if that's a fair description of your spiritual condition, especially since Masons, as we've seen above, view your initiation as a "spiritual rebirth." Jesus noted in John 8:12: "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." Unless Jesus is the 'light' of Masonry (he isn't), Masonic 'light' must refer to something else (it does). You may wish to ask just what that "something else" is.
- You may hear the following verses discussed in one of the degree lessons:
"Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened." (Matthew 7:7-8)These verses will be applied to your entering Masonry (i.e., you asked the recommendation of a friend, you sought admission, and you knocked on the door of the Lodge and Masonry opened its doors for you). You may wish to look these verses up and see what Jesus had in mind when he made these statements so you can discuss them factually, should anyone ask. Perhaps other Masons would be interested to find out that Jesus uses them in reference to himself, not Masonry. It might lead to an interesting discussion of why the Craft feels it can reinterpret Jesus' words for its own reasons.
Given the above, is this really something you should be doing?