The Traditonal Observance Lodge Explained

Discussion in 'General Freemasonry Discussion' started by Bro. Stewart P.M., Mar 26, 2011.

  1. Bro. Stewart P.M.

    Bro. Stewart P.M. Lead Moderator Emeritus Staff Member

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    While many Masons may have heard about European Concept lodges, which are themselves a relatively new concept in American Freemasonry, few have heard of the Traditional Observance lodge. Traditional Observance lodge s are similar to European Concept lodges in that they also incorporate higher dues, festive boards, a strict dress code and higher standards of ritual, but differ in that they choose to follow a close observance of the traditional initiatic elements of Continental European and South American Freemasonry.

    This observance is characterized by a solemn approach to holding stated communications and conferring degrees, the use of the Chamber of Reflection as part of the initiation ceremony, forming the Chain of Union after the meetings, longer time between degrees and the requirement for candidates to present a paper before the lodge on the lessons of each degree prior to advancement. Traditional Observance lodges are also more likely to use the term Agape rather than Festive Board to describe the meal which follows the meetings. Agape is the ancient Greek word for “love,” and in Freemasonry the term signifies a meal eaten in common by a congregation of Masons in token of Brotherly Love.

    A non-profit organization working to promote the study and understanding of traditional Freemasonry called the Masonic Restoration Foundation (MRF) provides education and support for Traditional Observance lodges in recognized jurisdictions. The MRF seeks to foster a network of lodges and individuals of strong spiritual and intellectual character that will help preserve the initiatic tradition within American Freemasonry for future generations.

    Members of Traditional Observance lodges believe very strongly that the foremost purpose of Freemasonry is to provide an atmosphere where good men can unite together in a common pursuit of virtue in service to God. The “work” of a Traditional Observance lodge is not to review minutes or bills, or plan social or philanthropic activities, but rather to create an atmosphere where the members can learn the lessons of Freemasonry and how they can be inculcated into their daily lives. This is referred to as Masonic Formation, which is the ever continuing process of spiritual and intellectual formation that all Freemasons must undergo in order to improve themselves in Masonry. This term differs from Masonic Education in that it refers to a process of growth concerned with much more than intellectual faculties. Masonic Formation is the process of fitting the rough ashlar of the imperfect being into the perfect ashlar fit for the divine temple. It is a constant transformation through the use of Masonic symbols, rituals, and teachings.

    Everything that occurs in a Traditional Observance lodge is undertaken within this context. Success is viewed as effective ly imparting the traditional teachings hidden within Masonic symbols and the spiritual unification of the brethren in such a pursuit. Successful Traditional Observance lodges, though usually maintaining a small membership of less than 50 brothers, retain and engage their members with meaningful human fellowship, stimulating discourse and enriching programs.

    Traditional Observance lodges endeavor to make Masonic teachings and philosophy accessible and interesting to the members and do not shy away from dealing with the spiritual issues and questions that many men begin to find more meaningful as they mature. The Traditional Observance lodge seeks to create an ambience where true learning can occur by taking the members inward to the core of their being rather than outward toward the profane elements of life.

    A typical meeting of such a lodge may go as follows. The brethren, all properly dressed according to the dress code (at minimum black suit, white shirt and black tie), will arrive at the lodge hall, which will be dimly lit by candlelight, with classical music softly playing in the background. If there is a degree the brethren will maintain complete silence prior to the ceremony. Otherwise they will converse quietly over some light refreshments before entering the lodge room and being properly seated. Once the lodge officers have ceremonious ly marched in and the lodge formally opened, the Worshipful Master will call for a period of silence, usually lasting several minutes. Following this the Master will call for the scheduled papers and pieces of music to be presented in an arranged order. During the meeting there will be no reading of the minutes or any administrative business of any sort (if allowed in the jurisdiction). The music that is presented is usually of a contemplative nature and is viewed as an important component of every meeting as it contributes to the overall beauty and solemnity of the atmosphere. The music is also intended to acquaint the brethren with the spectrum of Masonic music composed during the 18th Century and to educate them on the profound history of the classical musical tradition and its relationship to the Masonic Mysteries.

    The presentation of papers is viewed as an essential aspect of the life of the lodge and promotes the continued study of Masonic lessons by the brethren. The topic of the papers must be relevant to the interests of the lodge and papers of a strictly historical or biographic al nature are rarely entertained in the lodge room, though they may be presented during the Agape. Topics considered appropriate for the lodge room are symbolism, initiation, ritua l, metaphysics, philosophy and art. These topics and their relationship to Masonry can be found in the context of the major world religions, esoteric movements such as Gnosticism, Hermeticism, Neoplatonism, Rosicrucianism, Kabbalah and many other Western and Eastern traditions.

    Before closing the lodge the Worshipful Master will call for another period of silence. Once the lodge has been formally closed the brethren will gather around the altar for a ceremony known as the Chain of Union, which is meant to symbolize the common commitment to Masonic ideals and connection with other Masons from all over the world. The brethren will then retire to the Agape, which is usually a catered meal with formal toasts and where a discussion of the main paper presented earlier will take place.

    In conclusion, Traditional Observance lodges give their members the opportunity to partake in a ritual and sociability that they cannot find anywhere else. Traditional Masonry allows brothers to move their minds from the mundane to the mystical, away from life’s petty particulars to attention on its transcendent meaning. While Traditional Freemasonry may not appeal to everyone, it is proving to be a success in more and more jurisdictions around the United States.

    The Traditional Observance Lodge
    Dennis V. Chornenky
    President, Masonic Restoration Foundation
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 27, 2011
  2. tom268

    tom268 Registered User

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    I follow that movement with great interest. The name is better chosen than European Concept, as the last one indicates something cultural foreign. That is not a lucky choice of name in my opinion.

    Are there TO lodges in Texas?
     
  3. Traveling Man

    Traveling Man Premium Member

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    I am seriously interested in this concept. If anyone knows of a seminar being held in either Texas or Louisiana please contact me.
     
  4. flttrainer

    flttrainer Premium Member

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    I am too. It seems to me more brethren would attend if we did more than pay the bills.

    Sent from my iPad using Freemasonry
     
  5. Benton

    Benton Premium Member

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    I'm interested in a TO lodge, or perhaps a European Concept. Now that a TO lodge has been well defined, might someone give a write up of a European Concept? We have neither in our area, so I can't exactly visit one to experience it, at least not easily.
     
  6. Traveling Man

    Traveling Man Premium Member

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    The “European Concept†Lodge Model explained in a paper titled “Back to the Future†by Kent Henderson courtesy of Lodge Vitruvian.
     
  7. Bro. Stewart P.M.

    Bro. Stewart P.M. Lead Moderator Emeritus Staff Member

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    I found a listing of T.O. Lodges at the following site: http://traditionalobservance.com/foundation-council/traditional-lodges/

    I do know that LA just applied for charter for a new T.O. Lodge located in Winnfield, LA. O.K. Allen Lodge has been approved for their "initial" operation, but will not be issued a Charter until next year's GL. Until that time, they can not accept any new members.
     
  8. Beathard

    Beathard Premium Member

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    Are the regular, are the recognized, is it something entirely different like odd fellow or sons of Herman that a mason can join,...?
     
  9. Bro.BruceBenjamin

    Bro.BruceBenjamin Premium Member

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    I am currently studying the similarities between T.O and P.H.A Masonry.
     
  10. Bro. Stewart P.M.

    Bro. Stewart P.M. Lead Moderator Emeritus Staff Member

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    Yes, they are "Regular". Yes, they are "Recognized". Yes per the GLoTX and the GLoLA anyhow. I am a "regular" Texas Mason who now is a dual member of the GLoTX and the GLoLA, and I am a proud charter member of the O.K. Allen "T.O. Lodge" in Louisiana.

    Other than my jurisdictions, I can not vouch.
     
  11. Beathard

    Beathard Premium Member

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    Cool, how do I join?
     
  12. tom268

    tom268 Registered User

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    The European Concept sounds interesting too. Not so esoteric as TO lodges, but those principles sound familiar to me. But the freemasonry in the different european countries is very different. Much more different than you know it from state to state. Much more different than AF&AM and F&AM, maybe even more different than mainstream and PHA. When coming to the point of growth and difficulty in progress, the Australians in the article surely looked at Scandinavia. I never saw brothers, with so much dedication, where even a minimum time spent in the masonic library is necessary to be promoted.

    What I feel is really funny is, that, at least in Germany, many brothers sind the lower-the-standards-hymn too. They look for guidance over the pond to the USA, and they jealously see lodges with 400+ members, lodges, that own their own skyscraper and all those great charity things. I guess, it is only a matter of time, when "american concept lodges" pop up with life membership dues, one-day-classes and public installations. Isn't it ironic?
     
  13. tomasball

    tomasball Premium Member

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    I have a good friend who is on the board of the Masonic Restoration Foundation. We've had serious discussions about the TO model and whether it would work in Texas. While most Texas lodges could stand to reexamine their use of the preparation room, I'm certain a "chamber of reflection" would constitute a significant change in our ritual, and would not be acceptable. Also, while encouraging research and the presentation of papers is very desirable, our laws would not allow making them requirements for advancement. And then there's the "long periods of silence"...as my friend pointed out, "Texans don't meditate."

    This said, there is a crying need for Texas lodges to explore and debate "best practices" in the light of these models. Let's get that discussion going here, either on this thread or a new one. My main question is, do you start a new "best practices" lodge from scratch with a group of similarly interested brethren, or do you set out to convert an existing lodge into a whole new animal?
     
  14. tom268

    tom268 Registered User

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    Fascinating! I never thought, that there could be a regular lodge without a chamber of reflection. It seems to be a centerpiece of masonic ritual here.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 27, 2011
  15. tomasball

    tomasball Premium Member

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    Our Scottish Rite, and Knight Templar Commanderies, use a Chamber of Reflection. But in blue lodge, there is a "preparation room". No ceremony takes place there, other than a charge given the candidate before the EA degree. It is my impression that here we are following more the English model than the Continental model.
     
  16. Bro. Stewart P.M.

    Bro. Stewart P.M. Lead Moderator Emeritus Staff Member

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    Membership is as easy as a Certificate of Good Standing from your home lodge. However as I mentioned before, they can not initiate or accept any new memberships until the physical charter is presented and number assigned. At that time, everything will proceed as a fully functional.

    The ideal scenario would be to gather a group of like minded Brethren and organize in a central location to the "core" group. This is how the O.K. Allen Lodge was started.

    The usage of the "chamber of reflection" is still in use here in the U.S. within the Scottish Rite version of the EA, FC, & MM degrees (Red Lodge System). However my understanding is that there are only five "regular" Red Lodges operating in the U.S. most of which are under the jurisdiction of the GLoLA. The York Rite (Blue Lodge System) that everyone here in the States is familiar with does not utilize the "chamber of reflection".
     
  17. tom268

    tom268 Registered User

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    Continental European rituals are strongly influenced by early French traditions. The initiation ritual is seen as a rebirth of the profane into masonry, and depending on the jurisdiction, the CoR is seen as either the grave or the womb, from what the new, transformed life is born from the darkness into the light.
     
  18. JJones

    JJones Moderator Staff Member

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    We always do public installations where I attend lodge. This isn't the norm?

    I'm also curious about chambers of reflection. I've never heard of these until reading up on TO lodges, is just another term for the preparation room for candidates?
     
  19. tom268

    tom268 Registered User

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    You see, how different freemasonry can be. I, here in Europe, have never heard of one.day-classes before joining american forums, and never thought about any profane in our temple, not even in an empty one between meetings. And I always thought, that every brother in the world share the experience of the Dark Chamber (as it is called here, translated).
     
  20. Mac

    Mac Moderator Premium Member

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    Brother, I looked into starting a TO lodge down here, but decided to table the idea indefinitely. Grand Lodge law requires something like 50 charter members for formation of a new Lodge (if it's in a city of a certain population where a Lodge already exists).

    Brothers, how many Lodges do you know that have 50 members that show up? I'm not interested in shopping out the idea so that I can get a fat roster. If a group decides they want a TO Lodge, they want it to be a special group of men who are interested in that model.

    If the number had been smaller, we would already have a TO Lodge in South Texas. I can all but guarantee it.
     

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