Ever since I can remember I have memories of every Thursday evening my Father going to Lodge. It was normal and openly discussed that he was going. No secret society but a place where he liked to go. My brother and I always mentioned his shoes that we called “Lodge shoes” it was a sort of hint for us to know that it was Thursday and Dad was going to Lodge when he was (and still is) wearing those shoes.
In our house, when growing up, we had a variety of Masonic symbols and artefacts. I remember, as an example, my father making an ink drawing depicting the 4th degree (Scottish Rite).
So, for me freemasonry was something that was almost spoon fed, it was normal and not secretive. When on Holidays visiting the big cathedrals all over France my brother and I would be looking for the stonemason’s markings and dad would tell us the heroic stories of the build of these cathedrals or kings that ruled the land.
Enough about my upbringing but thought it to be of importance to be noted that Freemasonry plays a very important part in my father’s life, due to the fact he was open about it and didn’t make a secret out of it I have a lot of memories about it.
Amsterdam 1st degree
When I was raised to M∴ M∴ I was very eager to visit the Lodge of my father, this place where my father went all his life and where I met so many people from already during my life. Some whom have played a very important part in my life as well on a personal level.
My dad’s lodge, La Paix No 4 is housed in a beautiful building designed by the famous architect Kuijpers, who also designed the Central station in Amsterdam and the Rijksmuseum. The Lodge room itself is minimal with an altar, a perfect ashlar, made out of marble by my brother, Brother M∴.
The degree, in essence, is the same - a candidate coming from darkness into light, however, the way the ritual is done is substantially different. Let me stress at this point that I do not see it as better or worse than the Irish way, it is just different (which in itself is the beauty of Freemasonry that we have differences in all we do and are). It explains more, it makes things clearer from the get-go, whereas the Irish ask you to study and read up on what just happened.
The ritual starts in the Chamber of reflection. From wiki:
Although the impact of the chamber's furniture must of necessity be personal, the symbolism relates to hermetic and alchemical correspondences. The chamber itself is symbolic of a cave, introducing the candidate to the alchemical element of earth. (He will meet the others in the temple.) The skull (often with crossed bones) is an obvious symbol of mortality, and coupled with the hourglass, points to the brevity of mortal existence. Bread and water indicate simplicity. The rooster symbolises the alchemical principle of mercury, which partnered with the salt and sulphur, symbolise faith, hope and charity. "V.I.T.R.I.O.L." or vitriol (sulphuric acid) is interpreted as "visita interiora terrae, rectificandoque, invenies occultum lapidem", or "visit the interior of the earth, and purifying it, you will find the hidden stone." This is another way of saying "look within yourself for the truth".
I might write another article one day about the chamber as I find it a very powerful way to start the journey into the light.
Two fundamental and prevailing moments in my opinion during the degree were, first, when the candidate was asked to kneel next to the tracing board that again was next to the place with the rough ashlar and was asked to hit with the common gavel and chisel several times (E∴ A∴ knocks) on the physical stone.
As to make it abundantly clear that we chisel away imperfection of this stone, ourselves, to form it into the perfect ashlar, to form part of the bigger building, the temple of humanity.
Second, when the ritual was almost finished a mentor was appointed who would guide the E∴ A∴ into his journey up to M∴ M∴.
The ritual was performed perfectly and gave a good insight into what was to be expected of the E∴ A∴ in his first year in Freemasonry. The last entered apprentice was also taking part in explaining what just had happened to the newly initiated E∴ A∴. Again, a way to assist the Brethren who just joined to learn about the degree of E∴ A∴ and become slowly more aware of the meaning of it.
Freemasonry is OK
It was wonderful to be there in Amsterdam with my Brother, Brother M∴ (Concordia Vincit Animos), my Father Most Worshipful Brother J∴ W∴ T∴, (La Paix No4.) and my Cousin, Brother N∴ M∴ (Victoria IV).
To bring family together amongst the brotherhood and to see my father so joyous was fantastic. To experience Amsterdam in a different light and to be able to see the lodge building from within, where my father for as long as I remember visited, was really special. The Brethren from La Paix showed the Dutch way of brotherhood and welcomed the Irish with open arms. The Brotherhood sees no boundaries and doesn’t resent differences but embraces them. If people ask me: “what is Freemasonry?” I would answer: "Freemasonry is OK!"