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Making a Mason On Sight
Posted: 24 May 2016 06:20 AM   [ Ignore ]  
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In another thread, a brother feels strongly about this topic. For those who do not know what it means, in most jurisdictions the Grand Master has the power to simply declare a man is a Master Mason without having the man go through the degrees. This is usually reserved for celebrities.  For example,  Danny Thomas and Shaquille O’Neil were made Masons on sight. What do you think? Is this simply a useful tool to bring public attention to the Fraternity or an abomination?

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Posted: 24 May 2016 07:59 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]  
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Are you sure that’s what it means?  I know several grand Masters and I can not imagine any of them making a man a Mason in this manner.

Rather, as there are rules on where you can be made a Mason (must in in a duly constituted lodge, 3 degrees, at least 30 days apart, etc…), I view this ability to “Make a Mason On Sight” to mean that he can dispense with those rules, such as the 1 day class (which is not in a duly constituted lodge, and done in much shorter order).  At least there I could see that as the candidate witnessed the degrees, they’ve not missed anything in theory.  For a GM to say “you’re a Mason” to someone, knowing full well that they have not experienced the degrees, seems far fetched. 

Let me get back to you on this.  I’ll poll some GMs next week and see what they say.

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Posted: 24 May 2016 08:26 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]  
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From the Florida Digest online

Article IV Section 4:
authority of the Grand Lodge in Fraternal Matters devolve upon the Grand Master. He can grant Dispensations for new Lodges, and may suspend a Lodge or take possession of its Charter, when he believes the good of the Order requires it, until the next Annual Communication. He can suspend the Master and Wardens of a Lodge, or any of them, and may cause charges to be preferred against the officer or officers so suspended. He can make a Mason at sight; but he must be made in a body of a regularly constituted Lodge, and by the trial of the ballot. He can grant Dispensations for extraordinary processions, and in all cases of emergency when in his opinion the good of Masonry will be promoted. In the recess of Grand Lodge all Corporate power and authority of the Grand Lodge devolve upon the Corporate Board. (1984)

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Robert Lippek, 32°
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Posted: 24 May 2016 09:20 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]  
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Albert Mackey included the right of the Grand Master to make Masons on sight in his famous list of 25 landmarks. Of course, some of Mackey’s list fail the two-part test for landmarks and this is one of them, for to be a landmark, it is generally felt that the point must a) be of such a nature that changing it will cause immense change to the order and b) that it has existed from time immemorial. As the office of GM dates from 1717, it has not existed since time immemorial and hence most feel that it cannot be considered a true landmark.

Mackey discusses the question at length in his Encyclopedia, defending the concept but concluding:

The mode of exercising the prerogative is this: The Grand Master summons to his assistance not less than six other Masons, convenes a Lodge, and without any previous probation, but on sight of the candidate, confers the degrees upon him, after which he dissolves the Lodge and dismisses the brethren.

This would seem to suggest the Mackey felt the GM can skip the entire investigation and balloting process and waive the normal waiting period between degrees, but still requires the candidate to go through all three degrees in an otherwise-normal fashion.

Mackey is of course not as popular on the other side of the Atlantic.  Bernard E. Jones’ Freemasons’ Guide and Compendium frowns on the concept, noting that the UGLE constitutions give the GM no such authority.  Jones concludes his consideration with:

...the most reasonable interpretation is that the Grand Master could make a mason without causing him to be subjected to lodge scrutiny and ballot, this dispensing with the formal preliminaries associated with lawful and regular initiation.

So - you pays your money and you takes your chances.  There are certainly records of such happening, although not in my jurisdiction.

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Posted: 24 May 2016 10:05 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]  
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But I maintain that while the concept may dispense with the rules of the jurisdiction or scrutiny of the lodge, it would still require the candidate to witness or participate in the degrees.

I can’t imaging a GM doing what some people believe is “Making a Mason at sight”.  I believe it refers to his powers to dispense with all the other stuff, as described in the Mackey bit above.

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Dan

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Posted: 24 May 2016 04:47 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]  
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Bro.RJL - 24 May 2016 08:26 AM

From the Florida Digest online

He can make a Mason at sight; but he must be made in a body of a regularly constituted Lodge, and by the trial of the ballot.

This would indicate to me that he would still need to do a lodged ballot. And any member or all still have the opportunity to save the lodge (and the fraternity).

Still doesnt make it an agreeable practice to me. But there appears to be that possible hope.

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Posted: 25 May 2016 10:55 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]  
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Brother John - 24 May 2016 06:20 AM

In another thread, a brother feels strongly about this topic. For those who do not know what it means, in most jurisdictions the Grand Master has the power to simply declare a man is a Master Mason without having the man go through the degrees. This is usually reserved for celebrities.  For example,  Danny Thomas and Shaquille O’Neil were made Masons on sight. What do you think? Is this simply a useful tool to bring public attention to the Fraternity or an abomination?


I believe that our jurisdiction is one in which the GM does not have that power. Or at the least it is not defined in our Constitution.

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Bro. David Howard
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Posted: 26 May 2016 02:35 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]  
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Lark - 24 May 2016 09:20 AM

AAs the office of GM dates from 1717, it has not existed since time immemorial and hence most feel that it cannot be considered a true landmark.

While I have absolutely no problem with what you wrote I do feel that this phrase has been misused and needs clarification because over my 20 plus years as a Mason I have often come across Authors using the phrase “Time Immemorial” to mean something that it does not and this is one of them.

Time Immemorial is not an actual amount of time, it means a period of time that is outside the “living memory” of the people or person using the phrase. It is a truism to say that something that is 100 years old or older can be described as “time Immemorial” but that the amount of time can be considerably shorter. If all those originally involved are dead and someone is revisiting a subject it can be described as having existed since time immemorial or if the person talking about an institution is 25 years old and the institution is 50 years old to him it has existed since time immemorial as far as he is concerned. It is even a language device that has been used to make Appendant bodies appear to be as old as Freemasonry itself.

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Posted: 26 May 2016 04:56 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]  
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A large number of years ago, when I was a fairly new Mason and recent Scottish Rite inductee, I read in the Scottish Rite Journal that Danny Thomas had been made a Mason at sight. Reason appeared to be related to his work supporting the St Jude’s Children’s Hospital and various other philanthropic endeavors. I noted that after he was made a Mason, he was presented with a check (I can’t recall the source, but it seemed to be from a Masonic organization) in support of St Jude’s Hospital. I have nothing negative to say about Bro. Thomas; he always impressed me as the sort of man we’d like to have in the organization. However,  I remember wondering why, if he wanted to be a Mason, he couldn’t do it like the rest of us, to include John Wayne, Clark Gable, Red Skelton and many other entertainment figures. I was also rather mystified as to why, after making him a Mason at sight, he was presented with a check for his favorite charity. Seemed it ought to be the other way around.
  I am not knocking Bro. Thomas, and certainly not the good works of St Jude’s….. I’m just saying….
Bob Chadwick
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Posted: 26 May 2016 09:06 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]  
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Bro. Martin, that is certainly one possible definition. Another is that something has been around so long that nobody knows its origins. I suppose it depends on which authorities one wishes to accept.

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Bro. Bob
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Posted: 27 May 2016 07:22 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]  
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Lark - 26 May 2016 09:06 PM

Bro. Martin, that is certainly one possible definition. Another is that something has been around so long that nobody knows its origins. I suppose it depends on which authorities one wishes to accept.

When I look for definitions of the term, I don’t find much to support Mike’s interpretation.  They all seem to favor the idea that it is something older than can be remembered or a time before it was documented.  In repeated searches, I can’t find any definitions that refer to Mike’s suggestion that it is subjective to the observer.  Rather, it is a collective understanding that the thing being referenced predates a time when anyone is able to trace origins.

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Dan

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Friendship Lodge A.F.&A.M. - Wilmington, MA
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Posted: 27 May 2016 07:25 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]  
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rchadwic - 26 May 2016 04:56 PM

A large number of years ago, when I was a fairly new Mason and recent Scottish Rite inductee, I read in the Scottish Rite Journal that Danny Thomas had been made a Mason at sight. Reason appeared to be related to his work supporting the St Jude’s Children’s Hospital and various other philanthropic endeavors. I noted that after he was made a Mason, he was presented with a check (I can’t recall the source, but it seemed to be from a Masonic organization) in support of St Jude’s Hospital. I have nothing negative to say about Bro. Thomas; he always impressed me as the sort of man we’d like to have in the organization. However,  I remember wondering why, if he wanted to be a Mason, he couldn’t do it like the rest of us, to include John Wayne, Clark Gable, Red Skelton and many other entertainment figures. I was also rather mystified as to why, after making him a Mason at sight, he was presented with a check for his favorite charity. Seemed it ought to be the other way around.
  I am not knocking Bro. Thomas, and certainly not the good works of St Jude’s….. I’m just saying….
Bob Chadwick
Palm Bay #397
Palm Bay, FL

Again though, what’s missing here is most important.  What did it mean for him to be a Mason at sight?  You heard he was made a Mason “at sight”, but can anyone tell you whether he was put through all three degrees in one day, or if he was just tapped on the shoulder and told he was a Mason.  I’m willing to guess it was still the former. 

Perhaps I am being overzealous on this issue, but I fail to understand how we can have a meaningful discussion about the practice until we agree on what the practice is.  Certainly in the two possibilities I listed above, one is much more appropriate than the other.

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Dan

Past Master, Columbian Lodge A.F.&A.M. - Boston, MA
Friendship Lodge A.F.&A.M. - Wilmington, MA
32° Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite, Valley of Boston
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Posted: 27 May 2016 07:42 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]  
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Dan Madore - 27 May 2016 07:25 AM

Perhaps I am being overzealous on this issue, but I fail to understand how we can have a meaningful discussion about the practice until we agree on what the practice is.  Certainly in the two possibilities I listed above, one is much more appropriate than the other.

Your point is well-taken, but with well over 100 completely independent jurisdictions and each of the jurisdictions being able to change its rules, I am not sure we will ever be able to come up with a one-size-fits-all answer. 

I can certainly see one grand lodge saying yes, but requiring the candidate to go through all degrees. Equally, I can see another jurisdiction giving its grand master under certain special circumstances the right to shake somebody’s hand hand and say, “Welcome to the Craft, you are now a Mason.” And there are of course a lot of places where the GM has no such privilege.

Ironically, so long as all three jurisdictions recognize each other, all three opinions would have to be taken as valid and both of the ‘on sight’ Masons above accepted as regular.

There are abundant cases, particularly in the USA, of men being made Masons on sight, but much has happened in our long and tangled history. I’d be interested in hearing if any have happened recently, say in the 21st century.

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Bro. Bob
Calgary, AB

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Raised 18 October 1979
WM Zetland Lodge No. 83 - 2017

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Posted: 27 May 2016 09:42 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]  
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Lark - 27 May 2016 07:42 AM
Dan Madore - 27 May 2016 07:25 AM

Perhaps I am being overzealous on this issue, but I fail to understand how we can have a meaningful discussion about the practice until we agree on what the practice is.  Certainly in the two possibilities I listed above, one is much more appropriate than the other.

Your point is well-taken, but with well over 100 completely independent jurisdictions and each of the jurisdictions being able to change its rules, I am not sure we will ever be able to come up with a one-size-fits-all answer. 

I can certainly see one grand lodge saying yes, but requiring the candidate to go through all degrees. Equally, I can see another jurisdiction giving its grand master under certain special circumstances the right to shake somebody’s hand hand and say, “Welcome to the Craft, you are now a Mason.” And there are of course a lot of places where the GM has no such privilege.

Ironically, so long as all three jurisdictions recognize each other, all three opinions would have to be taken as valid and both of the ‘on sight’ Masons above accepted as regular.

There are abundant cases, particularly in the USA, of men being made Masons on sight, but much has happened in our long and tangled history. I’d be interested in hearing if any have happened recently, say in the 21st century.

Not sure it IS that complicated….UNTIL we have the answer to the really essential question here, which is….Is “Making a Mason at sight” the conferral of the 3 degrees in Freemasonry in a non traditional manner, or is it stating someone is a Mason WITHOUT witnessing the degrees”?

We need to agree which of the two we are talking about before a meaningful discussion can take place, and I’ve not seen anyone….even those participating in this thread….specify which practice it is that they are referring to when they give their opinions.

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Dan

Past Master, Columbian Lodge A.F.&A.M. - Boston, MA
Friendship Lodge A.F.&A.M. - Wilmington, MA
32° Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite, Valley of Boston
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Posted: 27 May 2016 11:06 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]  
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Funny how an obscure topic will ignite one’s interest. I got digging and found some more info.

There is a good article dating from 1916 at http://www.masonicdictionary.com/sight.html which traces it back to as far as Anderson’s day. The author makes the point, oversimplified here, that as the GM has the explicit power to constitute lodges which in turn can make Masons, then by extension, he should be able to call up a lodge for the express purpose of making a Mason and then close it immediately after.

A second site interest contains a list of men who have been made Masons at sight, along with the jurisdictions and dates. I was surprised to see that the GMs of the District of Columbia, Pennsylvania and Minnesota have all done so in this present century. It also touches on the case of Bro. Danny Thomas, which actually caused a brief break in recognition between the Grand Lodges of New Jersey and California.  http://bessel.org/atsight.htm

The third is closer to home for me and contains (among others) a description of the last (and only) man made a Mason at sight in Alberta, in 1946. This gives a bit more detail on what actually happened and how things were done. The man in question was a bishop and a WW1 vet. The affair was anything but secret or casual and he went through all three degree ceremonies in normal fashion, but without the man joining a particular lodge or being normally screened or balloted upon.  The article is contained in a lengthy collection of research papers and is on page 1457.  Search for ‘Barfoot’. Several other cases in Canada and the USA are discussed as well.  https://archive.org/stream/papersofcanadian03cana/papersofcanadian03cana_djvu.txt

Another point made relates to the feeling that as GMs’ rights, powers and privileges in many jurisdictions do not include specific mention of making Masons at sight, they cannot legally do such.  Yet most grand lodge’s constitutions begin their definition of their GM’s powers with a paragraph akin to this one, taken from those of my own Grand Lodge in Alberta:

Except as limited or abridged by the Constitution and Regulations, the Grand Master has all the powers, prerogatives and privileges attached to the office of Grand Master by Masonic law or custom.

If (he said, donning Nomex and Kevlar) that is taken to read as not specifically limited or abridged, then one could make the case that there are numerous precedents of GMs making Masons at sight, to the degree that it could be considered ‘Masonic custom’.  By that logic, then, it would still be entirely legal.

Now, as to how a Mason is made at sight, I would again suggest that that would be up to the jurisdiction in question. Is it possible that one or more grand lodges somewhere in the world permit their GMs to make a man a Mason without doing the three degrees? To my mind, it is a possibility and thus makes trying to define what making a Mason at sight is becomes impossible beyond saying that a man is made a Mason at the prerogative of the GM outside of the normal process.

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Posted: 27 May 2016 03:39 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]  
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Bro. Lark…...  The correct URL for the Bessel site on Bro Thomas’ “at sight” is   http://bessel.org/atsight.htm  No “l” on the end.  I had a look and found no other additional info. It’d be nice to get details of exactly what ritual was used for this ceremony.

Bob C
PB397
Palm Bay, FL

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