Take Off All Your Clothes!

Take Off All Your Clothes!
by Dr E. Otha Wingo
taken from the Missouri Freemason Magazine

This stark demand, said to a candidate in the preparation room, 
is not degsigned to inspire confidence or to ease anxiety about 
the unknown experience before him.  Some misguided brethren seem 
to think this is amusing.  It is not.  We should do everything 
possible to make the candidate comfortable about receiving his 
first degree in Freemasonry.

Here is a suggested way to explain his preparation for the 
initiation: "Mr. Doe, for the purpose of your initiatory degree, 
it will be necessary for you to remove your street clothing for 
our ceremonial clothing.  We will step out of the room, while you 
slip into this degree garment and we will continue with your preparation.

Brethren, the candidate's comfort is very important for his full 
participation in his initiation.  We should make him comfortable 
in body and mind.  There is always uncertainty and a abit of nervousness 
about the unknown.  A bit of myster about the initiation enhances the 
experience.  However, he should not be worried or frightened.  Make 
sure your candidate is reassured that nothing either hurtful or 
embarrassing will happen to him.

The importance of making the candidate comfortable at all times came 
sharply to my attention recently from two situations.  I heard the 
story of one candidate who was in the preparation room ready to 
receive the first degree, but he refused to change into the clothing 
provided.  He was very nervous and said that he was leaving.  
Several brethren, including close friends, tried to assure him 
that the initiation was totally serious and in no way embarrassing.  
It was too late to convince him and he left the building.  
This candidate had not been properly instructed by his brethren.

Another candidate was scheduled for his initiatory degree in my lodge.  
I called to confirm his appearence that evening.  I stated that he 
would enjoy a very meaningful and memorable experience and I hoped 
he was looking forward to it.  He said, "well, I guess so...".  I asked 
if he had been given any information about what to expect.  He hadn't.  
I asked if he was aware that for part of the initiation he would wear 
a ceremonial garment instead of his own clothing.  He wasn't.  I stated 
that he would be asked to change into different clothes for the intiation 
and that he would not be embarrassed in any way whatever.  I then asked 
if he knew that he would be blindfolded for a time.  He didn't.  I told 
him that he would be accompanied by two persons who would make sure 
he was safe and comfortable at all times.

I had a sudden inclination to ask him one further question: Has anyone 
jokingly suggested that you would have to do some rediculous or 
embarrassing things?  Yes, he had heard innuendos of such.  I strongly 
assured him that such things are not a part of the Masonic degrees, 
which are in every way serious.  He later thanked me for putting his 
mind at ease about some of his uncertainties.

The Masonic Education of a candidate should begin long before he appears 
at the lodge to receive his first degree.  Typically, he receives a 
petition from a friend, who can answer some of his questions and tell him 
what to expect.  When his petition has been received in the lodge, he will 
meet the investigation committee, which determines whether he meets the 
qualifications to become a Freemason.  This committee is crucially important 
also in instructing the candidate in such basic information as mentioned above.  
Making a candidate comfortable involves physical as well as mental comfort; 
accomodating any physical condition that would make him uncomfortable during 
the degree.  Be aware of the need to return his eyeglasses when appropriate 
or to adjust for a hearing problem.

Extend the comfort zone to the candidate's first meeting after his first degree.  
Instruct him in the proper way to respond to the Master, how to give signs, how 
to enter and leave the lodge.  Be aware that a long time member, attending lodge 
after a long absence, may appreicate a quick review of words and signs for the 
opening.  Extend this same courtesy to visiting brethren.

Mark sure your lodge is a place where candidates, embmers and visitors are 
comfortable and glad to be a part of Freemasonry.

Editors note:  Bro Wingo is a member of the Grand Lodge Committee on 
Masonic Education.