Degrees and Degrees of Work

              ARTICLE NO. 37



        DEGREES AND DEGREES OF WORK


    It's very difficult to come up with a topic when called
upon to speak on Freemasonry.  Oh there are many subjects at your
disposal.  But, when I'm speaking, there is often a nagging
suspicion within me that the subject is dull, boring, has probably
been covered many times in the past, and is therefore not very
interesting to my listeners.

    So a person spends a lot of time wondering about a topic
that is common to us all.  We have a lot in common due to the fact
that we are all Freemasons.  But one thing just as common to all of
us, maybe more so than the fact that we are called Freemasons is
that we all, everyone of us here, received the three most important
degrees in all aspects of Masonry - E.G., F.C. and M.M.  There is
no doubt about it, everyone here one way or another has received
these degrees.

    So that, brothers, is the topic I chose to bore you with
this evening, "Degrees and Degrees of Work".  Actually, the topic
should be something I said a few seconds ago, "One Way or Another". 
That's the  key brothers, one way or another.  We were not born
Masons, we became Freemasons, through degrees, one way or another.

    But, how did we receive these three degrees?  What do we
remember that was outstanding, other than the fact that we got it
between the eyes and saw the light?  Do we remember a funny story
that was told by one of the orators after the degrees were
finished?  Do we remember the color or maybe costumes or that
everyone was wearing a funny apron?  What I am getting at brothers
is the fact that unfortunately not too many of us were left with a
remembrance of what we heard at the time of the degrees and the
manner in which it was presented. Hence the topic - Degrees of
Work - good or bad.

    It would be great to have all of our degrees carried out
in an unforgettable manner, wouldn't it?  But that's been the goal
of all Masonic lodges for many years and unfortunately, it will
remain a dream fro many years to come.  But, we can all help
towards the attainment of that goal in our own little ways.

    We have the ability to memorize.  some more than others. 
But we all have done memory work at one time or another, when we
proved our degrees.  How well we proved up was entirely up to
ourselves and the mount of preparation we did at the time.

    And the same goes for putting on the degrees.  We must
prepare ourselves individually whether it's as a conductor, a
prompter, a lecturer or an instructor.

    We should always be thinking about the candidate, not of
ourselves.  That will look after itself, but of the impression that
we are making upon the candidate.  What is he hearing?  What is he
thinking?  Do we have his attention?  The only way that we can
every hope to accomplish this is by working on our presentations. 
We could start with self discipline, force ourselves to practice,
and after a while it would be an automatic effort.  WE should do
this in two stages, memorize and then perfect.  We memorize our
part then we practice to perfect it.  We should try not to make it
sound as if it's being read.  If we put some feeling into it, it
can make all the difference.  You have to be a bit of an actor
sometimes to deliver this special feeling, and of course, this
comes from practice.  Sometimes we feel embarrassed to say certain
words.  We become self-conscious or feeling foolish and maybe being
made fun of.  But we have to strive to put this aside.  As an
example, take the apron presentation in the first degree.  What can
we do with it.  It's really the first lecture that the candidate
receives in Freemasonry without a hoodwink.  It's the first he sees
or hears other than the instructions at the altar.  This could be
a very long lasting impression on the individual.  You know, we can
take written words and make them sound as if they were our own.  Or
we can make them sound as if we are reading them.  Now if we have
to rad the words (and by the way the only words that are permitted
to be read in open lodge from this book are the words of the edict
prior to the drama portion of the Third Degree).  But if we are
caught short and find at the lat minute that for some reason or
another a portion of the work has to be rad, it still requires
practice.  At least read it over a few times.  Mouth the words
silently, try to give it some feeling.  Impress the candidate with
our feelings towards what we are teaching them even while we are
learning it ourselves.  And we are continually learning.

    Okay!  Let's have some on the job training.---Read
Charge---  Now let's assume that you have been asked to make the
apron presentation.  Let's also assume that you have been given
lots of notice before the time of the degree.  First, you have to
read it over a few times, quietly as well as out loud, until you
understand the content of the charge.  We sometimes think we
understand it all because we received the degrees.  But we don't. 
Think about it.  Have you ever sat back and listened to a lecture
or charge and after hearing a certain line or two, think to
yourself, "I didn't know that".  We hear, but we don't hear.  It's
all in the presentation Brothers and as I said earlier, this makes
the impression.  So assume we have rad it over a sufficient number
of times and we understand the content.  Then of course we memorize
it in our own individual way.  Once this is done, we work on it. 
WE try to perfect it.  WE give it the proper speed and
personalization.

    Even though we are not supposed to make changes in the
work book, I sometimes do.  But I like to think that the changes
are for the better.  Sometimes there is a word or two that we can't
pronounce correctly or we have trouble retaining it and we stumble
over them or we grope for words.  Try replacing the words with ones
that have the same meaning but are easier for you to retain. 
Sometimes you have to ad lib a couple of lines, but not too many,
if any, notice because you understand the story and are able to
tell part of it in your own way.  It's like telling a funny story,
you may not tell it as it was told to you but you get the point
across to your listeners.  The most important thing is the feeling
you are passing on to the candidate.

    So now brothers, let's try the apron presentation from
memory, a little personalizing and some feeling. ---Give Charge--
-  Alright, which was more impressive?  The one we read or the one
we memorized?  You can only add to or take away bits and pieces of
Masonic work and still deliver the same meaning by working on it. 
Prepare yourself, practice.  And the same applies to all the degree
work whether the part is big or small.  Do it well and to do that
with the feeling needed to impress the words upon the candidate, it
takes preparation.

    I would like to think that in the example I just used in
the form of the apron presentation, that I gave it some feeling,
that I held the attention of the recipient, that it was a bit
personalized by adding the word brother a few extra times.  But
most of all Brothers, I would like to think that the new Brother
will remember the words and think about their meaning.  You can
tell if you have his attention by his face.  Watch his eyes.  Be
sure and direct your words to him.  Don't continually look at the
floor or to his left or his right.  Look at him.  Hold his or their
attention.  It's easier when there are two or more candidates as
you can look from one to the other and you don't become too self
conscious.

    I had five Brothers once.  I had all but one looking at
me.  I paid particular attention to him by directing my words to
him, but I couldn't hold him.  He would sneak a glance at me, then
quickly away as if he had done something wrong.  I thought that I
had lost him but afterwards he told me how much he was impressed
with what he had heard.  Even then, he couldn't look at me.  That
was his nature.  So don't feel bad if it happens.  You never know.

    What other important ingredients do we need to make a
successful degree?  The Master of the Lodge calls for a practice. 
We surprise him and show up.  It's called supporting your Master.
We come prepared for the practice.  And by the way, we should
practice our individual work outside the lodge as well as in it. 
You know, we memorize something over and over and, boy, we have it
down pat.  We go to lodge to do the work and when we start to say
the same words out loud, zap! it's gone.  Say your work out loud
several times outside lodge hours.

    How about prompting?  You're giving your work and you're
stuck for a word.  In many cases this happens.  The prompter is
there is one, and there should be, whispers the word, "A" or "IN"
or "THE".  He whispers.  You didn't hear him and then someone else
gives you a word?  Usually the wrong one also in a whisper.  By
then you're really mixed up.  But that's nothing.  Think about the
candidate, he's hoodwinked and doesn't know that this is memory
work.  So then Brothers, just what is his impression of the mumbled
whispers?

    Brothers, if you are the prompters, speak up loud and
clear.  Don't be afraid.  Give the lecturer several words to get
him back on the right track.  As an example, the Master is giving
the first degree obligation.  At the altar he gets to the part in
paragraph two - Furthermore I promise and swear that I will not
write, indite, print, paint, etc., and he says "Furthermore I do
promise and wear that I" and he forgets, which happens no matter
how prepared you are, and after a long pause the prompter whispers
"will".  Instead he should say loud and clear, "that I will not
write, indite."  Give him a good start.  There should also be an
understanding between the prompter and the degree team.  Don't
prompt too soon.  Some lecturers have their own pace.  They pause
for effect not because they forget and if you prompt too quickly or
before they say something like "light" or "word", it may throw them
way off.  (Dick A?)

    Also Brothers, it's important to let the Master know in
plenty of time if possible that you will be unable to attend a
degree in which you have a part.  Give him a chance to find a
replacement and give that replacement a fair chance to work on his
"Degree---and his Degree of Work".


THIS ARTICLE WAS PREPARED BY R.W. Bro. TOM ARAB AND WAS PRESENTED
AT SEVERAL MASONIC WORKSHOPS AND EDUCATIONAL SESSION.  IT WAS
DONATED TO THE BOARD OF MASONIC EDUCATION IN MARCH 1991.