The Conductor – A Very Important Person
a “true and trusty friend,” during our degrees
Must we have a conductor in our rituals? Absolutely, no two ways about that. They are vital in the first three degree rituals of Freemasonry. Without the conductor explicitly involved, the ritual will not go anywhere.
Let us first examine the nomenclature of the word conductor. According to Merriam-Webster definition, it is one who conducts such as:
b)a collector of fares in a public
c) conveyance – a railroad conductor
the leader of a musical ensemble – an orchestra conductor
1. a material or object that permits an electric current to flow easily – copper wire is a good conductor
2. a material capable of transmitting another form of energy – aluminum is a conductor of heat.
It is obvious we can rule out b, c, and d definition parts as they bear no relevance to us. Therefore, masonically speaking, the guide is what we are looking for that applies here. In addition, the word conductor is from the Latin root condūcō which has the meaning “I lead.”
Upon putting together the definition and Latin root, we can now look a little deeper into why a conductor is so important to our ritual. His sole role is to help a candidate by holding arm to arm with him during the time that they are together. By doing so, the conductor is performing “I lead” and guide at the same time. The candidate is fully entrusted to his conductor’s care during those moments of time. At the same token, the conductor will ensure the trust is reciprocated. After all, trust is a two-way street.
One must bear in mind that the terms conducting and escorting do not mean the same thing masonically. Conducting is leading a candidate in a ritual setting. Escorting refers to someone in a formal courtesy or protocol, for example: bringing up a Mason for some kind of recognition, or a high ranking officer either on the District or Grand Lodge level; non-Masons including wives. It is easy to distinguish between by arm orientation: Conducting candidate by the right arm whereas escorting is by the left arm.
Who can be a conductor? Any brother in good standing can do it. This includes past lodge officers as well; it does not need to be the current slate of elected and appointed officers such as the Junior and Senior Deacons. What about candidates in their degree process? Yes, they are qualified to be one. However, there is a caveat. An initiated brother, or Entered Apprentice, cannot conduct a candidate in the same degree or a degree he has not received. But a passed brother, or Fellowcraft, can do that. Likewise, a Fellowcraft in the same degree cannot in the same degree nor a degree he has not received. The conductor’s role formally ends in the degree work once Senior Deacon takes over for the closing of the degree.
This more obscure symbol in the initiatic process requires a little more consideration to grasp its true meaning. In our present ritual, the Senior Deacon is the candidate’s conductor throughout the remainder of each degree. The lecture, which follows the degree, explains that his conductor was a “true and trusty friend,” one the candidate can rely on to navigate them through the several stages of the degree.
This statement refers to a much earlier tradition – a time before deacons were common officers of the lodge – when the candidate’s conductor was his sponsor into Freemasonry. The Entered Apprentice degree teaches, in part, that in order to make progress in life we must trust others to lead us when we cannot otherwise know the way forward. The person leading us is often a “conductor,” or someone who serves as a guide.
It is indeed wonderful that any Mason should seek this role to help a candidate in his pursuit of Light in Masonry, whether it’s his first time as an Entered Apprentice or further both for Fellowcraft and Master Mason. The experience of leading and guiding is very enriching to a conductor regardless of what degree it takes place. He will have the satisfaction of performing a job well-done job. The candidate in due time will come to appreciate what his conductor has done for him. If you as a Mason have not had this opportunity, please consider it. Even if you have not done one in quite a while, do it again and reinvigorate yourself. Either way, it is definitely a worthwhile experience! Indeed, it was for me.
Note the author wishes to acknowledge that a small portion of the material contained in the above article was graciously offered by a close brother who requested to be anonymous.
Submitted by Br. John Beiter, Senior Deacon with Union Lodge #45 in Lima, NY.
He holds many memberships with several Masonic bodies – Valley of Rochester, Ancient & Accepted Scottish Rite, Ames #88 Chapter, Royal Arch Masons of NY, Nundawaga #92 Council, Cryptic Masons of NY, and Damascus Shrine Masons.