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Masonic Service Association of North America

Emessay Notes November 2002

Grand Lodge of Iowa Redefines "Proficiency"

At its Grand Lodge Session (Sept. 2002) the Grand Lodge of Iowa redefined "proficiency" by changing its laws to read: 

The term proficiency as used in this chapter shall mean a satisfactory review of the Masonic Systematic Enlightenment Course as prepared by the Board of Custodians.

What this means is that Iowa has dropped memorization in favor of knowledge about the Fraternity. Their rationale is:

The Systematic Masonic Enlightenment Course has been designed to provide basic information about the history, mechanisms, symbolism, and principles of Freemasonry. The "Proficiency Examination" currently used provides very little information about Freemasonry other than the Signs of Recognition and the degree's Obligation. As times have changed, society has moved from basic memorization to formal instruction and "self-service information gathering" such as the Internet.

More candidates will knock on Freemasonry's doors if memory requirements are removed and replaced with knowledge about this great Fraternity's heritage and traditions. Many men come into the Fraternity who do not complete their degrees because they are either unable to memorize or find the memory work intimidating and daunting. These men will be fine Masons, and an asset to their lodges and communities if allowed to become active. Simply memorizing the Ritual to repeat it once during the Proficiency Examination does not bring the brother to further light. With the Enlightenment Course, he receives a broad introduction into the Fraternity with recommended resources for further study.

Further, the course brings a common method for all Masons completing their degree work traditionally or through the Grand Master's One-Day Class. The search for Masonic Light is a life-long process, and the Systematic Masonic Enlightenment Course provides the necessary cornerstone for that process to begin. 

(Source: Grand Lodge of Iowa - for more information [email protected])




Founder of "Haagen-Dazs" A Freemason

The Mattus (mat-is) family has been in the ice cream business through four generations spanning more than 80 years. During this time the family had many product successes but one truly stands out among the rest. Haagen-Dazs®. Before Reuben Mattus created Haagen-Dazs®, ice cream was a frozen commodity sold for 50 cents a gallon. It was a summer time product that tasted nothing like the rich, creamy, old fashioned ice creams that were homemade. Mattus knew things could be different. He was born into a family whose homemade ices business grew into a popular treat. Mattus and his bride, Rose worked together in the business to create products which could be purchased at hundreds of local "Mom & Pop" candy stores. As the small corner stores began to fade away, Mattus made the transition to selling his ices and ice cream products to supermarkets. He was the first ice cream producer to use special low rounded pint containers, color keyed to flavors. He was the first to distribute Popsicles and other ice cream novelties on a grand scale. In 1959, the ice cream he was working on for a decade was ready for market. It was made strictly from fresh cream, egg yolks, and other superior ingredients. He called it Haagen-Dazs®. The late founder of Haagen-Dazs Ice Cream, Brother Reuben Mattus was a Master Mason in good standing for 53 years in Girard Perfect Ashlar Lodge No. 604, (now known as Scotia Lodge No. 634) in New York City. 

(Source: Grand Lodge of New York)

Working the Rough Stone

This is the name of a new book by Douglas Smith who received his Ph.D in Russian history at UCLA. The book is available through the publisher, Northern Illinois University Press or The publisher's summary of the book says: "Using a wealth of archival sources previously unavailable, this first study of eighteenth-century Russian Freemasonry to appear in English examines the Masonic lodges and their meaning for the men who were drawn to them. As some of the earliest organizations in Russia to open membership beyond social class, the lodges offered the opportunity for social interaction, personal discipline, and a free exchange of ideas. Teaching new standards of civility and politeness, they helped to prepare the way for the birth of a civil society in Russia. Working the Rough Stones reveals the private world of Masonic lodges and the significance of the brothers' rituals and practices. By "working the rough stone" of their inner thoughts and feelings, the social and intellectual leaders who belonged to the lodges sought to distinguish themselves as champions of moral enlightenment. As men of conscience and superior moral worth, many envisioned a future of social action that could bring about change without challenging the social and political precepts on which Russia's stability depended. In addition to exploring the inner workings of the Masonic lodges, Working the Rough Stone shows how Freemasonry became part of a larger social transformation that saw the development of salons, literary circles, and learned societies. As quiet shelters for men of learning and conscience, these institutions offered a social alternative to life at the tsarist court. The lodges thus played an important role in fashioning personal and social identities at a time when questions of identity were widely debated in Russia. During the reign of Catherine the Great, the lodges were perceived as havens for democratic ideas dangerous to the aristocracy, and many of them were forced to close their doors. Freemasonry would eventually flourish again in Russia, although the lodges' fortunes have fluctuated with history's upheavals. For Smith, Freemasonry is a prism through which to view changes in Russian society. Anyone interested in Russia, Europe during the Enlightenment, and the history of Freemasonry will find Working the Rough Stone rich with insight."

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