The monthly degree discussion will be held on Monday, March 16 at 7:00 pm. The class will cover Master of the Symbolic Lodge or 20°. The original title of this degree was Venerable Grand Master of All Symbolic Lodges. While such a grandiose title doesn’t give the right to call oneself a Grand Master or Past Master, it teaches the lessons that would be expected of one who has diligently served the Craft in that respect.You are encouraged to read A Bridge to Light or Scottish Rite Ritual Monitor & Guide for background information on the current degree. As you attend, you will learn where to find new resources for the degrees but no prior knowledge is needed to attend. For those with empty stomachs, we usually adjourn around 8:30 to a local restaurant!
Of course, there are many reasons the Scottish Rite degrees are important. If you were to ask a dozen Scottish Rite Masons why our degrees are important, you would certainly get a dozen different answers, and not one of them would faintly resemble any of the other eleven. Here is one that really speaks to my heart, and I hope to yours as well.
We are all Masons, and our Masonry started in a Blue Lodge where we took our first three degrees, and learned our work. This year will be my twenty fifth year since I took those obligations and spent hours learning what I needed to learn to advance to the next degree. There are two men that taught me my work, and twenty five years later, I remember them well. How could I forget them when we spent hundreds of hours practicing in my home, their homes, or on park benches somewhere? I haven’t seen either of them in a long time, but they are as fresh in my memory as if we had dinner together last night.
Why are these men so important that I have such a deep and lasting memory of them despite the long passage of time and great distances? Somewhere in that process of learning my work, I realized these men were giving me a great gift. They were giving me hours and hours of their lives. Time they could have spent at home with their wives and families, time they could rested, or made money, or done any of the thousand things that makes life fun.
This is where fraternity is born, when we give of ourselves to our brothers. I was sitting there one day watching my instructor patiently untangle the mess I had made of my work, when I realized what a great and special gift this man was giving to me. He was giving himself to me. What more can a man give? So, Willis, Ben, thank you for teaching me not only the work, but the spirit of fraternity.
When we perform our degrees for men aspiring to be Scottish Rite Masons, we are giving something of ourselves to each member of the class. As we sat in the Houston Valley actor’s workshop at the end of February, we were investing our time in our new candidates. As we have rehearsals and practices, as we sit and memorize our lines, and we study the new technologies we now have available in our new theater, we are perfecting our performance. The quality of our work communicates our effort and dedication to each class member.
Of course we want to be proud of our work in the degrees. Pride is a good thing sometimes. Without pride, we really have no reason to excel in our efforts. But more than that, when we put on a great degree, we are telling our candidates that they are special. They are worth the effort to prepare and execute great degrees. Our degrees are our gift to them. So, thanks Clint, and Bill, and Brady, and Kevin, and Rick, and all those who give of themselves in such a visible and tangible way, to make our candidates feel the fellowship of our fraternity.
In preparation for the new theater complex at the Scottish Rite Temple in Houston, an actor’s workshop was conducted on Saturday, February 28th. Lead by Bro. Clint Stephens, thirty six current and prospective actors participated in a two hour workshop that discussed the new technology we will be using in the new theater, affectionately referred to by some as the “Holodeck”, and various acting techniques that will better dramatize the content of our degrees. All who participated agreed that there are ways to improve our delivery and considering the dynamic new theater complex, we need to keep up in order to do it justice!
Proper presentation, addressing the audience, projecting, stage movements, techniques for dealing with those moments when you get stuck on a line, costuming, audio equipment, and many other topics were covered by Clint and some of the support staff.
Planning is underway for our next workshop. As we build out all of our degree teams, more than 400 actors and support staff will be required. We need both quantity and quality. Thanks to Clint and the Degree Coordinators, Chuck Ivy and Michael Prejean, who are working to create as good a degree experience as can be found anywhere in the Orient.
Masonry is often described as being heir to the ancient mystery schools and teaching a beautiful system of morality, veiled in allegory, and illustrated by symbols. The ancient mysteries were initiatory dramas where the candidate played the lead role in a drama designed to elevate him out of a state of darkness and into light. Masonry continues this tradition of expounding its teachings through initiatory dramas. It is in the Temples of Scottish Rite Masonry that we find dramas enacted on stage and our new theater is quickly becoming a hot topic in Scottish Rite Masonry across the country. Therefore, we must improve and refine our theater skills as well. The upcoming Actor’s Workshop and Auditions is an opportunity for you to improve and make sure you are included in all that is to come with the new theater.
For the first part of the workshop, we will be covering basic stagecraft. The final portion will cover auditions and everyone who wants to participate as an actor in the degree work will be expected to attend a workshop. (Those with conflicts will have the opportunity to attend a second workshop.) This is a great opportunity for new members to get active in our degrees.
Our stage and technical crews are also invited to attend. We need to have an open dialogue from those teams since it is their job it is to make the actors look good. I’d like for them also to be familiar with what is expected of the actor on stage and to help degree masters if there are any conflicts.
Lastly, I want to open the workshop up to non-Scottish Rite Masons. Let’s face it, all of the roles we play in Masonry can be improved when we realize we are playing a part for an audience. We can build and change lives when we excel at what we do. I hope you will invite local Blue Lodge Masons. Masonry has the ability to do that – to build and change lives! Be sure to mark your calendar for 10:00 am, February 28th at the Scottish Rite Temple.
One of the goals of the Scottish Rite is to provide further education for Master Masons. Since 2009, the Houston Valley has utilized a program that will provide a forum for members to study and discuss the symbols, allegories, and lessons of the Scottish Rite in a monthly discussion series. While we can never expect a complete knowledge of Freemasonry, participation in the program will certainly provide an outlet for you to pursue more light in Masonry and knowledge of yourself.
Let me give a brief example of what is available at the education program. At our last stated meeting, we enjoyed a lecture from Illustrious Brother Sean Graystone, 33°, Grand Cross. Our Ill. Bro. Graystone asked two questions: 1) who knew the origins of the Scottish Rite Degrees and 2) which documents formed the basis of our Supreme Council? From my viewpoint in the West, I only counted about six people who raised their hands. However, I recognized these brethren were attendees of the Houston Scottish Rite Education Program. A couple of these brethren approached me afterward to tell me they wouldn’t have had the answer had it not been for our monthly discussion.
Our next meeting is Monday, February 16 at 7:00 pm. Each class focuses on one degree of the Scottish Rite (although we have spent more than one month on some degrees). We our currently studying Grand Pontiff or 19°. You are encouraged to read A Bridge to Light or Scottish Rite Ritual Monitor & Guide for background information on the current degree. As you attend, you will learn where to find new resources for the degrees. For those with empty stomachs, we usually adjourn around 8:30 to a local restaurant!
When we walk up to a light switch in our home or office we rarely think that we are counting on the fulfillment of an implied promise “let there be light”; we ‘click’ and like magic there is light.
Rarely is this promise not kept.
We are certainly aware that the light is not a product of the ‘click’, but how often does anyone think about the immense turbines, miles of cooper wire and inventive minds that are required to conceive and build the promise of light at every ‘click’. This is such a reliable promise that we have come to feel quite entitled to light on demand and we take it quite seriously when the light fails to materialize with each and every ‘click’. How important is light; well consider how many of us have tripped over a coffee table in our own homes when we tried to navigate without the benefit of light.
What would our world be like if the promise were broken? Back to candles and oil lamps? A step back by 100 years? No one would welcome such a return to darkness.
The idea of ‘light’ is very dear to every Mason, we read in Genesis that God said “Let there be light” and there was light. We were obligated on the three Great Lights of Masonry and received further light as we progressed to the degree of Master Mason. There are many other examples of Masonic light found in the degrees of the Scottish Rite and York Rite.
Masonic light however differs from physical light, there is no switch, and no ‘click’ and it’s not the product of inventive minds. Masonic light is hidden, in plain sight, veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols. Masonic light is never so revealing as to show the whole duty of man in a single flood of light. To understand and appreciate Masonic light one must witness our degrees, learn to interpret our symbols, tease the meanings from our allegories, follow our traditions and be true to God’s revelations to man as found in the Book of Holy Scriptures. Masonic light leads us from ignorance and superstition, inculcates virtue and honest living It directs us to a path that leads to happiness. But this does not come easily, you cannot click for it. Masonic light must be earned.
How important is Masonic light; well would any good and true Mason want to live in an ignorant, superstitious, dishonest world full of unhappy people? That would be a real step into darkness.