The second question asked of a new Entered Apprentice when learning his catechism is, “What came you here to do.” An indication of the importance of the reply to this question is the fact that it is asked so early on in the candidate’s education regarding the symbolism of his degree. The answer to this query is, in part, “To learn to ….. improve myself in Masonry.” It is this response and the candidate’s understanding of the answer that will lead to the new brother’s future in our fraternity.
What is meant when the response, “to improve myself in Masonry,” is given? What does a new Mason have to do to improve himself in Masonry? The answer is that he must start on a life long journey to learn the history, philosophy, and symbolism that lies behind the ritual he has undergone. It is this trip that eventually leads to future in our fraternity. Will he continue to attend lodge meetings? Will he aspire to become an officer of his lodge and, possibly, in one of the committees Grand Lodge.
There are many sources of information about our fraternity, its ritual, philosophy, and history. The question is, where does a new Master Mason start his quest? The answer is, it is the job of the Intender to start the new Mason on his journey toward enlightenment. There are questions about Masonry in the Intender Manual and Guidebooks or each degree. It is a start for the new Mason to learn the answers in the Intender Manual and Guidebooks. The next thing to do is to get the catalogs from the various Masonic supply companies. In these catalogs are listings of many books of Masonic content. It is up to the new Mason to choose those books that are interesting to him.
I suggest that the best book to start new Masons out on their quest for knowledge is The Newly Made Mason by H. L. Haywood. I think that this is the most readable and information packed book for the new Mason.
The catalogs that I recommend are those from: Macoy Publishing and Masonic Supply Co., J. P. Luther Co., and George Lauterer Corporation. These catalogs can all be found on-line. However, the online catalogs only present Masonic clothing and paraphernalia. If you want to get the full catalog with a listing of Masonic books you will need the order the catalogs sent to you in the mail.
There are several good web sites that cater to the teaching of Masonic education. The first of these is the web site hosted by Paul Bessel. His site is www.Bessel.org. The next excellent web site is www.Freemasons-freemasonry.com. After checking into these web sites you will have many sub-sites from which to choose depending on your individual interests in Freemasonry.
From the years 1915 to 1930 a wonderful magazine entitled The Builder was published. This magazine was edited by Joseph Fort Newton, who also authored that most important Masonic book, The Builders. It is not easy to access this web site. The way to do it is to go to Google.com or Bing.com and search on the term “The Builder Magazine”. About two or three entries down you will see a web site entitled “The Builder Magazine 1915–1930.” Clicking on this will lead you to the web site where you can access all fifteen years of articles from this wonderful Masonic publication.
I suggest that you become a member of the Illinois Lodge of Research. This is the best $10.00 you can spend for Masonic education. Each year you will get the proceedings of the Illinois Lodge of Research containing articles of Masonic interest. The Illinois Lodge of Research also maintains an excellent library of books that can be borrowed for your reading. The Library is located in the Normal, IL Masonic Temple and will make an excellent visit should you be in that area.
A Google or Bing search for Masonic Lodges of Research will bring you the web sites for lodges of research all over the world. Best among these are those from Quator Coronati Lodge in London, UK, The Philalethes Society, and Heredom, the magazine of the Scottish Rite Research Society in the Southern Jurisdiction of the Scottish Rite.
One final suggestion is in order. The Masonic Service Association of North America is an excellent source of Masonic knowledge at low cost. The web site is www.msana.com. When you log in to this site click on Publications and Masonic Information Center. You can get their entire catalog online. The Short Talk Bulletins are a great place to get information no matter what your interests are in Masonry. One book that I suggest at a cost of only $3.00 is More Light …Helpful Information for New Master Masons, by Jim Tresner. A year’s subscription to the Short Talk Bulletins is only $8.00. Don’t miss this resource of Masonic information.
I have given you much to start your Masonic life of study. I encourage you to take advantage of these entries into your Masonic education. You will certainly gain much more light in Masonry and the knowledge gained will enable you to say that you are, indeed, Improving Yourself in Masonry.