Second Degree … and the Third Degree

This afternoon my Masonic Lodge will be demonstrating the Second Degree ceremony … and as I am the current Worshipful Master the bulk of the ritual has to be done by me. Although this is my second time in the Chair, I have never done a Second Degree ceremony before, and I must admit to being a little nervous about doing it. Funnily enough I have done a Third Degree ceremony, which is much harder as I had to learn far more ritual.

The Third Degree in Freemasonry is by far and away the most difficult of the three Degrees a candidate has to go though … and is probably the origin of the expression ‘giving someone the Third Degree‘ (i.e. using excessive force, pain, or emotional pressure to extract a confession or statement from someone). In Freemasonry we certainly don’t use any of those methods as were aren’t trying to get someone to confess to anything … but the ceremony does make the candidate confront something that he might fear, but only to show him that he has nothing to fear except fear itself.

So why am I bothering to tell my regular blog readers all about this? Simply so that they can understand why so very few of my recent blog entries have actually been about wargaming. Instead of writing rules, devising scenarios, or painting figures, I have been trying ā€“ not very easily ā€“ to learn a great chunk of Masonic ritual.

Once today is over I hope to get back to wargaming regularly again, although rumour has it that there might be a candidate for Initiation (i.e. the First Degree) on the horizon … and I haven’t ever done that ceremony before either!


22 Comments on “Second Degree … and the Third Degree”

  1. Gonsalvo says:

    While only superficially familiar with Freemasonry (although my wife's father and his father were both Masons), it certainly has a long, rich and honored past. I have participated in somewhat similar rituals in other settings, and have found that learning a ritual, while challenging, also gives you much deeper insight to the symbolism, etc, than simply being a participant or witness. Good luck!

  2. I have every confidence that all will go well but best wishes all the same.

  3. My second degree went smoothly, my third degree was conducted during a thunder and lightening storm which resulted in a lightning bolt hitting the rail crossing near our lodge, and cutting the power, so the “lights” needed to be re lit. That was twenty years ago!

  4. Gonsalvo,

    Thanks for you best wishes. The ceremony went very well indeed, and everyone seemed to enjoy taking part or watching it.

    Ritual seems to count for less and less in the modern world … and yet it does perform a very useful function, and I have found that taking part in it can be both a cerebral and spiritual experience. In this case learning this particular ritual has been a testing experience … but in the end I managed to convey the symbolic meaning to the candidate, and that is what really counts.

    All the best,


  5. Ross Mac,

    Thank you very much for your best wishes. The ceremony went very well, and I was ably assisted by the Brethren of my Lodge, whose numbers include two other wargamers.

    All the best,


  6. Irishhighlander,

    The Third Degree is a pretty scary ceremony to experience without Nature's interference. It sounds as if you had a memorable Raising … and one that will no doubt live on as part of your Lodge's oral history.

    All the best,


  7. Paul O'G says:

    I quite enjoyed all my ceremonies and remember that those little hiccups are not noticeable to the candidate!


  8. Paul O'G (Paul),

    You are absolutely right! The candidate has no idea what the words and perambulations are supposed to be like, so they don't know if it is spot on or slightly out of kilter.

    Last night I caused the SD a moment of panic when I mistakenly said that the Working Tools would be presented by the SD and not the SW, which is what I was supposed to have said!



    PS. How many Freemasons does it take to change a lightbulb?

    One to do the work, one to write down that the work was done … and an ancient Brother to say that it wasn't done as well as it was done years ago.

  9. Jim Duncan says:

    I always thought that the 'third degree' referred to the third degree after 100 degrees centrigrade.

    103 degrees centigrade body temperature is getting near critical.

    I was 102+ just recently.

    This story has just been made up!


  10. Jim Duncan,

    It's a nice story, even if it is a work of fiction.

    All the best,


  11. Congratulations.
    I am curious as to how the English constitution differs from the Irish constitution, I missed the chance to see a visiting Scottish lodge demonstrate a degree last year as I was laid up with cellulitis.

    I like the third degree, all of them are interesting but the third most of all (1-3). When it is happening to you it is just a blur but when you get a chance to watch it then you can see what is happening.

    Fraternally yours,

  12. Stu Rat says:

    I sure hope Jim Duncan meant Fahrenheit…

  13. Michael Blair,

    Many thanks for your congratulations.

    I'm not sure how the ceremonies in each Degree differ from Constitution to Constitution, but I do know that within the English Constitution there can be significant differences. The words used in Emulation, Taylor's, and West End Workings are very similar to each other, but Bristol Workings can be very different.

    I always thought that the Third Degree was the most interesting of the Masonic ceremonies until I joined a Royal Arch Chapter. The process of being Exalted and becoming a Companion brought everything that had come before together, and I can see why many Masons regard the Royal Arch as being so important in ones journey through Freemasonry.

    Fraternally yours,


  14. Stu Rat,

    Jim Duncan is a tough Scot … and he may well have meant Centigrade!

    All the best,


  15. Jim Duncan says:

    @Stu Rat

    Of course I meant Fahrenheit, I blame my autotext, my MP's, my kids, my parents and my school teachers and scientists everywhere.

    Life was so much simpler when you could say normal body temperature was 98.6 so anything over 100 must be bad.

    Then some others came along and said, no, no, no, normal is 37 not 98.6, and you have to add a 'C' or a 'F', or not, so that you don't confuse anyone else.

    At the end of the day I was 'hot' as in 'sick' and not 'hot' as in 'cool' but when I was 'hot' I was also shivering and clutching at my NHS blanket which my doctor was trying to grab off me as he was trying to cool me down.

    And that's a true story.


    I think 'resilient' would be a better word.

  16. I keep in touch with a few former students. But you are right about the satisfaction that comes with knowing that they have come along and made something of themselves. The funny thing is how surprised we are that they aren't all in jail.

  17. Jim Duncan,

    I stand corrected; resilient is a much better word!

    All the best,


  18. Stephen Biddon,

    Funnily enough, one of the members of my a Lodge is someone that I taught in 1973!

    All the best,


  19. guy says:

    We're doing a third at our December meeting. Somehow it works better on a dark night! Normally I do the second half of the inner workings as we do try to break it up a bit but fortunately we have a willing volunteer to stand in for me. We actually manage the ceremony itself reasonably well but it's the 3rd closing which is always a complete Horlicks. We tried it at LOI on Tuesday night and it took about 3 goes before it was even semi respectable. Our chapter meeting is on Monday. regretfully no candidate.


  20. Guy,

    Now you have pointed it out, doing a Third Degree during the winter months would make it even more memorable. Have you ever seen a Bristol Third Degree? I have … and it put the willies up me!

    Luckily we don't bother with the Long Closing; we just resume in the Second, which is much quicker but not as interesting. What are you going to do in Chapter if you don't have a candidate?



  21. guy says:

    About 10 years ago we went on a bus trip down to Bristol to see one. Fascinating. I took my dad and we had a detour before hand to see the SS Great Britain.

    Regretfully my chapter is the smallest in Berkshire and struggling. I'm Scribe E and fill in as money collector as our treasurer is unwell. We're installing H as he missed the installation ceremony as he was sunning himself on a Greek Island in June. I'm working on some new candidates. Fingers crossed.


  22. Guy,

    My IPM is a Bristol Mason, and I generally manage to see Bristol Workings at least once a year. It is well worth the journey from London to see.

    Until a couple of years ago my Chapter in London was having problems as its membership was aging, and numbers at meetings were so low that they could only just fill the offices. Since then we have had several new members come in from a couple of Craft Lodges, and it has begun to flourish. Hopefully your Chapter will experience the same sort of influx.

    All the best,


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