A Master’s Ramblings

My grandfather was a Freemason for most of his adult life. He was very active in Racine Lodge, in the city where he lived his entire life. He and my grandmother were in Eastern Star. My father remembers many Masonic events growing up, mostly dinners and picnics. He was encouraged by my grandfather to join DeMolay, but he found that, at least in Racine at that time, he didn’t fit in with that group. He joined the Boy Scouts instead.

Growing up, I had very little awareness of my grandfather’s involvement in Freemasonry. I lived in Worthington, Ohio, and the Grand Lodge building was right next to the church I went to. There was another Lodge building next to the allergist’s office where I got shots once a week for years. This is what you call a secret society hiding in plain sight. My parents knew these buildings were there and what they were, but they were not involved in Masonry, so explaining it to me was likely not a priority. Or maybe they did explain it to me, but I wasn’t paying attention.

I didn’t become a Mason until after my grandfather had died. I’m not sure how I became interested in the Fraternity, but when I was 22 or so, I was on a long airplane flight, probably to San Diego, and I sat next to a Brother who was studying for a Scottish Rite play. Of course, I didn’t know that at first, but I noticed his Masonic ring and asked about it. He didn’t need much prompting to start and then continue to talk about Masonry for the next three hours. I expressed my interest in Masonry to him, and he contacted the Grand Lodge of Wisconsin, or so I presume, and within a week, I was contacted by Commonwealth Lodge.

If you ask me why I became a Mason, or maybe more importantly why I’m still a Mason, I don’t have a great answer. I’ve seen plenty of candidates that made it through the first degree and stopped. I’ve seen others that were officers in their Lodges who stopped being Masons, including my brother. At Grand Lodge and District meetings, we are told that this is a problem and we need to reach out to these Brothers and bring them back into the fold.

While I respect that view, sometimes we are better off if that Entered Apprentice who doesn’t have the time or continued interest in meeting with the members of a Lodge doesn’t show up for the next degree. Likewise, it’s sad that Brothers who have made great contributions to their Lodges stop participating, but life gets in the way of many things. Better a brother to remove himself from Lodge than cause discord among the Brethren. If people have other priorities in their lives, who am I to say Masonry should be more important to them than it is?

Here is my answer: I joined Freemasonry because I was at a point in my life where I was looking for something more interesting to do than going home every night and watching TV for 6 hours. I continue to be a Freemason because talking to Brothers in Benjamin Franklin Lodge (through a haze of cigar smoke) about Masonic esoterica and the trials and triumphs of this life — continues to be compelling. There is no Lodge, only men on the Level that are driven to continue to associate through ritual and fellowship — friends whom I found to be Brothers.

Sincerely and Fraternally,
Erik Nielsen
Worshipful Master
Benjamin Franklin Lodge #83