Every Mason ought fully to understand the Rite of Masonry to which he owes his allegiance. As Rites differ in different countries, it is especially necessary that the Mason from the United States fully know his own system when he travels in other countries.
The common classification of "York" and "Scottish" Rites is inaccurate and misleading. "York" Masonry did not originate in York, England, nor did the "Scottish Rite" begin in Scotland.
Too well known to need elaboration here, it may be mentioned for the benefit of those new in Freemasonry that the term "York" as applied to Masonry, stems from the "York Legend" or "Edwin Legend" of which the first trace is in a verse in the oldest known Masonic document - the Regis Poem, other wise known as the Halliwell manuscript. This quaint old document, to be seen in the British Museum, is doggerel verse in old Chaucerian English, almost unreadable as to spelling and obsolete words, but of course completely translated by scholars.
The legend (that a General Assembly of Masons took place in York, in the year 926, by order of the King) is found in several subsequent manuscripts of the Craft. It was seized upon by early and uncritical historians who made much of it, elaborated on it, and built high upon it. Came a more critical era and modern historians who have so torn the old story to shreds that to many they have left little more than myth in its place.
Whatever the truth of the tale, however, "York" came into Masonry at least as honestly as the cherry tree came into contemporary tales of Washington. And York Rite and Ancient York Masonry and similar combinations of words perpetuate the old tradition to this day.
Freemasonry begins for any selected candidate in the United States in a Symbolic Lodge, which is a part of one of forty-nine Grand Lodges-one for each state in the Union, and the District of Columbia. (Written in 1948 when there were 48 states)
These forty-nine Grand Lodges are the supreme Masonic authorities within their territorial jurisdictions. From the Symbolic -(often called Blue - Lodge), a Mason may apply for additional Masonic light to four universally recognized Masonic systems; Royal Arch Masonry; Cryptic Masonry; Knight Templarism; the Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite.
To none of these may any one apply who is not a member in good standing in a Symbolic Lodge. In none of these may any Mason remain in good standing, who is not in good standing in a symbolic Lodge.
Master Masons may apply directly to the Scottish Rite, and to Chapters of the Capitular Rite (Royal Arch Masonry). Councils of the Cryptic Rite and Commanderies of Knights Templar do not accept petitions from Master Masons who are not also "Companions of Royal Arch Chapters".
The degrees in the Several Tires are:
I.. In the symbolic Lodge Entered Apprentice Fellow Craft Master Mason.
II. In Chapters of the Royal Arch: Mark Master Past Master Most Excellent Master Holy Royal Arch
III. In Councils of the Cryptic Rite: Royal Master Select Master Super-Excellent Master (is conferred in some Councils as an additional honorary degree)
IV. In Commanderies of Knights Templar: Knight of the Red Cross Knight of the Malta Knight Templar, or, Order of the Temple
There are two Supreme Councils of the Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry; that of the Southern Jurisdiction, "Mother Council of the World", which has jurisdiction in thirty-three States of the Union and the District of Columbia; and the Northern Jurisdiction, which has jurisdiction in fifteen States of the Union.
In the Scottish rite, the degrees from the 4th to 14th inclusive form the Lodge of Perfection in both the Northern and the southern Jurisdictions; in the Northern Jurisdiction the 15th and 16th degrees form the Council of Princes of Jerusalem; the 17th and 18th degrees form the Chapter of Rose Croix; and the degrees from the 19th to the 32nd inclusive form the Consistory.
In the Southern Jurisdiction the degrees from the 15th to 18th inclusive form the Chapter of Rose Croix, the degrees from the 19th to the 30th form the Council of Kadosh and the 31st and 32nd degree form the Consistory.
In the Southern Jurisdiction there is an order decoration, or honor entitled Knight Commander of the Court of Honor, given only by the Supreme Council. From the ranks of the holders of this honor, usually, are chosen those who are to receive the thirty-third and last degree. The Northern Supreme Council does not have the Knight Commander of the Court of Honor but confers its thirty-third and last degree directly on thirty-second degree Masons of the Rite who have been elected by the Supreme Council.
No Mason may petition for Knight commander of the Court of Honor, or for the thirty-third degree. These are conferred only by the respective Supreme councils and of their own will.
All symbolic Lodges are holden under the Grand Lodges of their respective States (and the District of Columbia).
All Chapters of Royal Arch Mason are holden under the Grand Chapters of their respective States (and the District of Columbia). Most, (not all) Grand Chapters in turn are members of the General Grand Chapter of Royal Arch Masons for the United States of America, which body, however, has "no power of discipline, admonition, censure or instruction over the Grand Chapters, nor any legislative powers whatever not specially granted by its Constitution" (Mackey).
Council of Royal and Select Masters are holden under Grand Councils of Royal and Select Masters of their respective States (And the District of Columbia) except in Virginia and West Virginia, which have no Grand Councils. Most (not all) Grand Councils inn turn are members of the General Grand Council of Cryptic Masonry.
All Commanderies of Knights Templar are holden under Grand Commanderies of Knights Templar of their respective "States (And the District of Columbia). All Grand Commanderies, in turn, form the Grand Encampment of the United States, presided over by the Grand Master of Knights Templar.
There never has been a General Grand Lodge of the United States. Such a body was several times proposed during the early history of Freemasonry in the United States - first with the hope of having General George Washington as the first General Grand Master. He declined the honor, and all subsequent attempts to form such a body were as abortive as the first. The proposal has not been seriously advanced since the outbreak of the War Between the States. Grand Lodges are of one mind that such a body would be disastrous to Masonic unity and all Grand Lodges are rightfully and wisely protective of the many advantages of independent sovereignty.
There are many so-called "side orders" of Masonry in the United States, of which the most popular are the Shrine - "Ancient Arabic Order, Nobles of the Mystic Shrine"; the Grotto - "Mystic Order Veiled Prophets of the Enchanted Realm". The Order of the Eastern Star is for wives, daughters, sisters and mothers of Masons, and also for Masons.
While Masonry is required of members of the first two, and Masonic connections are required of the ladies of the Eastern Star, these are not Masonic orders, or a part of the American Rite; they are orders predicated upon Masonic membership, just as are Masonic Clubs and the National League of Masonic Clubs.
In very early days in this country travel was slow, difficult, and expensive and Masons were comparatively few. With the increase of travel due to railroads and steamships, Masons often sojourned for periods of time in other localities than their homes. All lodges, of course, welcome visiting brethren, but brethren do not like for extended periods to seek continuing hospitality. Brethren also have in a large degree a loyalty to the Mother Lodge which often stands in the way of their taking a dimit to join a more convenient Lodge.
These ideas resulted in the formation of Masonic Clubs, in which brethren meet and discuss their affairs. They often engage in charitable and / or educational activities and promote friendships, without severing the ties which bind them to their Mother Lodges.
Shortly after the beginning of the century several clubs in New York formed themselves into a league, and the National League of Masonic Clubs is now what its name implies, a national organization of many Masonic Clubs the country over.
A natural misunderstanding often arises in the mind of a newly made Mason as to what he has heard named as "the higher degrees" of Masonry.
It is an American characteristic to admire that which is of greatest size. Men boast of the highest building, the biggest lake, the largest town, the richest county, the finest forest, the greatest area, satisfied that whatever can be described by a superlative is, therefore, prima facie excellent. The mental habit continues in uninformed Masonic thinking, so that the several degrees in the Scottish Rite and the Chapter, Council and commandery, necessarily coming after the Symbolic degrees, are usually thought of in terms of being above, higher, and, therefore, greater.
It is undeniably that the thirty-third degree has a larger number as its designation than the third degree, but it may also be argued that a line thirty-two feet long is no "higher" than one three feet long.The additional degrees to be sought in Freemasonry can be a most ennobling experience. They extend the Masonic story, increase the Masonic teaching, add to the Masonic Philosophy.
But, compare to citizenship. An American by birth is a citizen of this country. He may also become a lawyer, be chosen as a judge, serve with distinction, finally be nominated of the Supreme Court and confirmed by the Senate - but the deserved honor makes him no more a citizen than he was by birth and upbringing. The President of the United States is the "First Citizen" but as a citizen has no more right, power privilege or honor than his humblest neighbor.
The additional degrees and Rites of Masonry all of which form the American Rite, can make their fortunate possessor better Masons than they might have been without these experiences and additional teachings.
But none of them can make a good man more a Mason than he was when he was raided to the Sublime Degree.
By a mutual and wise agreement between the four concordant orders of Masonry in the United States, which, with the Grand Lodges of Symbolic Masonry in the United States form the American Rite, all are recognized as primarily dependent upon Symbolic Masonry for their existence. He who dimits from his Symbolic Lodge, not to reaffiliate with another, thereby severs his connection with Chapter, Council, Commandery and Consistory. He who is suspended or expelled from Symbolic Masonry likewise stands to lose his membership in all the bodies of Masonry, all of which demand, as a necessity for membership therein, that members be in good standing in a symbolic Lodge.
It is to be noted that there is a distinction between dimission (voluntary withdrawal) and expulsion (Masonic Death) and suspension, often phrased "Dropped for non-payment of dues."
The suspended brother is still a member, although denied the instant exercise of his rights and privileges as such. By proper procedure he may be reinstated.
As a general rule, it may be said that the brother who is suspended from his Symbolic Lodge is also considered suspended from the concordant bodies which demand of their members good standing in a Symbolic Lodge. But such suspension may be subject to review. Sovereign Grand Commander Melvin M. Johnson, of the Northern Supreme Council, Ancient Accepted Scottish rite, states;
"The Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite holds that such suspension or expulsion by a symbolic Lodge does not become effective (in the Scottish Rite) unless such suspension or expulsion is found to have been lawfully inflicted, upon which question the brother in case has the right to be heard before the proper tribunal of the Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite."
As every Master Mason who visits in another Jurisdiction than his won soon discovers, the rituals of no two Grand Lodges are alike. They all tell the same story, are founded on the same legends, have the same philosophy, teach the same truths, but they do this with differing arrangements of sequence and of words.
Nevertheless, the ritual of Freemasonry is the basic rock on which all the Masonic rituals of all the several bodies of Freemasonry are built, or from which they departed on a voyage or secure for themselves a new ritual. Symbolic Masonry is the heart and soul of all Masonry, and the wiser a Mason becomes in any of the concordant bodies, the longer he lives and learns within them, the more convinced is he of the primacy of that which is given the initiate when he is raised to the sublime Degree.
It is because of these facts that there is one Freemasonry in this country, not five; there are four recognized, desirable and admirable branches of the universal Masonic tree, but the trunk and the roots thereof are Symbolic Masonry, to which all Masons of whatever affiliation or degree must belong.
In making their rounds through the wards of the Veterans Hospitals, the M.S.A. Field Agents frequently have patients confide in them that "I used to be a Mason." The ensuing conversation usually brings out that the patient was "Dropped for non-payment of dues." When MSA Field Agent follows up with a question of "How come?", the answers seem to fall into a pattern:
1. I moved and lost contact until it was too late.
2. 1 lost interest.
3. 1 couldn't attend.
4. Personality conflict.
5. One year I forgot to pay my dues and the next year it just seemed to be too much to pay, so I let it slip.
6. My wife paid all the bills and didn't think it was important.
7. (And way down at the bottom of the list.) I couldn't afford it.
So often, the person who has been dropped for NPD, has no knowledge of how to become reinstated or has the misconception that he must pay dues for all of the years he has been suspended. M.S.A. Field Agents have "salvaged" a great many by bringing them back into the fold.
In a telephone conversation, which is repeatedly encountered, a wife or other family member, requests assistance in getting a loved one admitted to a Masonic Home, nursing home, or hospital, and is chagrined to learn that he is not eligible because he had let his membership lapse.
Death is always a traumatic experience for the family. Knowing that Dad was a Mason, the family requests a Masonic funeral because they have been impressed with its dignity. Unfortunately, the Masonic service cannot be conducted because Dad was not in good standing at the time of his death.
Johnny proudly tells his Dad that he has been "accepted" and will be initiated next month. Dad has to make all kinds of excuses as to why he can't be there that night. The truth of the matter being that he was "suspended for NPD. "
The Secretary reports: "Worshipful Master, there are seven Brothers who are two years in arrears. If their dues are not paid by next month, they'll have to be suspended for N . P. D. "
The Master's reply is: "Seven! Wow! . . . is there anything else on your desk?"
(Unfortunately, reactions such as this are all-too-frequent. It has become too mechanical; too much a matter of form.)
Many surveys have been conducted over the past few years to determine the cause of losses through non-payment of dues, and to determine ways of reducing the losses. The results of such surveys, for the most part, have been in conclusive and unrewarding. There has been insufficient follow-through to adequately find a long-range solution. In some communities, there are more "former Masons" than current ones. This is a sad commentary. Little more has been done other than to identify it as a problem facing the Fraternity. We are applying light bandages when we should be applying tourniquets.
We wring our hands and look around to see where to place the blame, when all we need to do is practice what we preach. Just like the church which was having problems in its growth. After trying socials and Bingo games, dances and chicken suppers--all without success--someone suggested they should "Try religion." Maybe it's time for the lodge to "Try Masonry . "
We proudly proclaim that we "take good men and make them better." We express our tenets as "friendship, morality and brotherly love." We announce our belief in "faith, hope and charity." We use the lessons and tools of the operative Masons to teach--symbolically-that we must place our designs on the trestle board so that the stones will fit with exact nicety. The trestleboard is translated to "life" and the stones to each of us as individual Masons.
We--each and every one of us--must make a renewed commitment to those precepts if we are to meet this challenge. It's a matter of education and communication. It's a matter of pride. It's a necessity for our existence as a "brotherhood of man under the fatherhood of God. "
"Taking good men" implies that we must be highly selective in whom we admit to our Order. Is the petitioner a "good" man? Is he "of good report?" Does he measure up to our moral standards? Does he truly believe in a Supreme Being? Does he have concern for his fellowman? Can he meet his financial obligations? If he has those qualities he is deserving of our brotherly love and our desire "to make him better" using the "working tools" as they should be used, so that he may have pride in himself and satisfaction with his new profession .
Once he has been given the working tools and taught to use them, we must ensure that he is "gainfully employed" in his new profession. There is nothing which will cause him greater frustration than being put on "unemployment." He needs to be gainfully employed in meaningful work. There is a commitment when we petition a lodge that we want to be a part of the lodge--that we are willing to work at it. However, too frequently we are not given the opportunity. Communication -Leadership -and Education are the three keys to an effective solution. The instructive tongue can and should be one of the most effective working tools of Masonry. The Masonic leader must put it to use to instruct, to guide, to lead, to build and to translate the lessons of our ritual into meaningful applications in the lives of the Masons. With proper guidance and instruction, everyone can be inspired, motivated and involved in the affairs, operation and activities of the lodge.
An active Mason is involved. His involvement maintains his interest. He is part of the Brotherhood. By maintaining his interest and involvement, there is little chance that he will become an N . P . D . statistic .
There are instances when pride, false pride, or stupid pride, will prevent a Mason from admitting that he cannot meet his obligations. A careful and personal contact with those in arrears should determine if that is the problem. The cause is even more important than the result. We must be as careful--or even more so--in making these investigations as when we investigated him as a petitioner. He may need the compassion of his Brethren more now than ever.
A personal, face to face, contact with one in arrears will usually provide an indication if it is an oversight, or a sincere desire to sever "the mystic tie." It will also offer the opportunity to present the honorable option of requesting a demit once he is "clear on the books."
In the Short Talk Bulletin of March, 1943 ("Dropped N.P.D.") the causes, effects and solutions to the losses of membership are fully discussed. Thirty-nine years later, the same reasoning remains valid. We urge a complete re-reading of this important Short Talk Bulletin, and quote the final paragraphs which so succinctly define the challenge:
"The one and only way to keep them is to make the Lodge worthwhile. To many the mere fact of belonging; the right to see a degree; the thought of being a part of the Fraternity is enough. But others want more; more entertainment, more chance to take part; more good times, more Masonry in Lodge.
If the Master is sufficiently on his toes to appoint, inspire and put to work a committee which really works at the task of recovering the lost members, he should also be clever enough to plan interesting meetings and carry them through.
There is nothing the matter with Masonry; the matter boils down to the questions of leadership, sustained and interested planning, enthusiasm for the Fraternity and the Lodge. Given these and members will not drop themselves; begin with these this year and many who have dropped themselves will return--and be happy in their homecoming."
While some refer to this challenge as "membership retention," it is actually more a matter of meeting our obligations as Masons-of showing concern, both for our Brethren and our Ancient Craft. Losses through nonpayment of dues are a surrender of our values.
All Masons know the importance of the Tiler, and the scope of his duties. But the Tiler is only one brother - secrecy is a Masonic duty for all. Throughout the three degrees, and in the ceremonies of opening and closing a lodge, are references to the importance of preserving inviolate the secrets of the Order, preventing the approach of cowans and eavesdroppers, guarding against the disclosure of the esoteric work to those whom it is not proper to be made known.
In the Ritual explanation of the third cardinal virtue, Prudence, we are told (see most monitors) "This virtue should be the peculiar characteristic of every Mason, not only for the government of his conduct while in the Lodge, but also when abroad in the world. It should be particularly attended to, in all strange and mixed companies, never to let fall the least sign, token, or word whereby the secrets of Freemasonry might be unlawfully obtained".
The charge to the entered Apprentice admonishes him, among other things; "Neither are you to suffer your zeal for the Institution to lead you into an argument with those who, through ignorance, may ridicule it."
The FellowCraft is exhorted to preserve steadily "in the practice of every commendable virtue." In the Third Degree the newly Raised Master Mason learns that "The Book of Constitutions, guarded by the Tiler's Sword, reminds us that we should be ever watchful and guarded in our words and actions, particularly before the enemies of Masonry, ever bearing in remembrance those truly Masonic virtues, silence and circumspection."
Not only the "work," both printed and exoteric, and secret and esoteric, exhorts us to "silence and circumspection;" the inner meaning of the symbolism of the Tiler and his Sword teaches plainly that each of us should be a Masonic Tiler.
In other words, the duties of the Tiler are not confined to that officer; every Mason should be, in effect, a Tiler. He is a good Mason as his words and actions are duly "Tiled," and a detriment, if not a positive injury, to the Craft as he is careless of or indifferent to these duties.
In the ancient operative days the secrets of a Master Mason were valuable in coin of the realm. The Mason who knew the Master's Word could travel in foreign countries and receive Master's Wages. Many who could not, or would not, conform to the requirements tried to ascertain the Master's Word and some of a Master's skill in a clandestine manner.
The "eavesdropper" - literally, one who attempts to listen under the eaves, and so receives upon him the droppings from the roof - was altogether without the pale; he was only a common thief, who tried to learn by stealth what he could not learn by work.
The cowan was a more or less ignorant Mason; one who laid stones together without mortar, or piled rough stones from the field into a wall, without working upon them to make them square and true. He was a "Mason without a word" with no reputation; the apprentice who tried to masquerade as a master.
The operative Masons guarded their assemblies against intrusion of both the non-Mason thief, and the half-instructed craftsman, who, like the Fellowcrafts of old, desired to obtain the secret word of a Master Mason by force, rather than by labor.
While nothing very positive is known either as to the date when the guardian of the door first went on duty, or why he was called a Tiler, or Tyler, it is believed that the office is very ancient, and that, inasmuch as the man who put on the roof, or tiles, (tiler) completed the building and made those within secure from intrusion, so the officer who guarded the door against the intrusion was called, by analogy, a Tiler.
In modern days the Tiler of a lodge uses his sword only as a symbol of authority. While all faith and trust in his zeal is entertained by the Master and the Brethren, it is usual to make sure by a ceremony familiar to all Masons that no profane, cowan, or eavesdropper, Apprentice, or Fellowcraft has entered the lodge room of Master Masons prior to opening.
So ancient is the office, and so important the functions, that Mackey says that the Eleventh of his Twenty-Five Landmarks is "The Necessity that every lodge when congregated shall be duly tiled." But of what avail is it to tile a lodge meeting, if individual brethren do not "bear in remembrance those truly Masonic virtues, silence and circumspection;" if we fail to heed the charge and do suffer our zeal to leads us into argument with the profane, regarding Masonic matters?
Unless all of understand and abide by the need for us to tile our own words and actions, our portals might as well be in charge of a door keeper who would admit on the production of a printed ticket! In the profane world (the word is used in its ancient sense of meaning "without the doors of the Temple") considerable curiosity exists regarding the Masonic Fraternity. The inescapable newspaper reporter, with his accounts of Masonic meetings, does not lessen it. Public appearances of Masons naturally arouse curiosity; spectators are interested when the Grand Lodge, in silk hats and frock coats, embroidered Aprons and with solemn and ancient ceremony, lays the cornerstone of a church, or when a private lodge, attired in white Aprons and Gloves, conducts an impressive funeral, with customs quite different from those of the usual religious service.
Masonry has given to the language certain phrases used by the entire English speaking world. The "Third Degree" of the police is a perversion of a Masonic matter; so is the "goat" of the familiar joke. "He's on the level" - "He's on the square" are commonplaces. Naturally the public begins to ask questions. What is Masonry? Who may be Masons? Why can't women be Masons? What do Masons do? Why do you wear those funny little aprons? The Mason who is his own Tiler is "ever watchful and guarded" in what he answers.
To satisfy a legitimate curiosity about Freemasonry there is much information which a brother may conscientiously give. A sincere desire to learn something of the Fraternity, on the part of a man who is considering making an application, is an evidence of thoughtfulness. He is entitled to a serious and thoughtful answer to all proper questions. Much information regarding Masonry is printed; its history, its government, its extent, its public appearances - such matters are no more "secret" than a Masonic Temple is secret. Few Masons, not even the careless and indifferent, will disclose the esoteric work of the degrees; the modes of recognition, the words or our methods of teaching. It is not the disclosure of these that we who would tile our hearts and lips must fear.
But in between lies a vast body of knowledge and information which are borderland to both the exoteric and esoteric. Here the indifferent, the careless, the uninstructed and the ignorant can - and sometimes do - work an injury to the Fraternity. A Mason comes home from lodge and remarks to his wife - "Joe Smith has applied to the lodge. I'm glad old Joe is coming in!" Friend wife thinks nothing of it. Apparently it is a harmless statement.
"But suppose Joe Smith is blackballed!" "By the way," remarks Mrs. Mason, after a few months. "Why don't you call for Joe Smith when you go to lodge tonight?" What is the Mason going to say? What can he say? And so Mrs. Mason learns - and with the utmost innocence may tell - that Joe Smith applied for the degrees of Freemasonry and was rejected.
If Joe Smith wants to make the matter public, that's his business. But as a man may be rejected for the degrees for many reasons; and, while the public thinks only that the rejection means unfitness it's unfair for the lodge, or for any individual member of the lodge, to make the matter known.
This is offered merely as one small instance of the harm that may be done by a Mason who is not his own Tiler. A thousand others will occur to the thoughtful. Particularly should we Tile our lips in communities so small that a lodge meeting assumes almost the importance of a Public Event. As a general rule, we are well advised if we do not talk of anything which occurs in a lodge - even such matters as are harmless - with those who are not of the Fraternity, since such conversations give rise to questions, and questions lead to answers.
Freemasonry works her gentle miracles in men's hearts in a way which no profane can understand. Her reputation among the general public is that of silence, secrecy, good works, unselfish doing of good, failure to advertise and to seek publicity. These facts in the jewel of her reputation are the working tools of the Craft among the profane. Every inadvertence which breaks down any one of them, injures the Fraternity in the public eye and thus her ability to do good. Every airing of scandals, every dragging of lodge politics - hateful words! - into community talk, every disclosure of charity, even when dictated by pride, is, in the long run, injurious to the Fraternity.
Many good men and true seek to "improve" Masonry. Modern conditions do demand ideas; our brethren of two hundred years ago, for instance, never hard of a Masonic Home. Many "improvements" are wholly exoteric, and necessary. Others, so-called, attempt to change the "Ancient Usages and Customs," destroy some of the Landmarks and nullify some of the Old Charges. The Freemason who is his own Tiler will set his face steadfastly against all such efforts. As one bad egg will spoil an omelet, so the unfit candidate, admitted, does more harm to the lodge, and thus to the Fraternity, than ten good men and true can do good. The well Tiled Mason will be very careful in the petitions he brings into the lodge. It is not enough to say" "Oh, Jim's a good fellow." Jim must be more than a "good fellow" to be a real Mason. It is for us to see that we Tile the petitions we sign with truly Masonic "circumspection."
Finally - and perhaps most important of all personal duties we perform as Tiler - let us see to it that we do not ourselves bring anything into the lodge but brotherly love. Let us be "ever watchful and guarded" that, in the language of the Old Charges, we bring "no private piques or quarrels" within the tiled door. Not only with our lips but truly, let us meet on the level and part upon the square. Let us each so act in the lodge, as a brother, and out in the world, as a member of the Ancient Craft, that our brethren within, and our friends at large without, can be proud of what Masonry means. For only by so tiling ourselves can we insure that, that with which we are so solemnly charged as Entered Apprentices will endure; "that the honor, glory and reputation of the Institution may be firmly established and maintained; and, the world at large convinced of its good effects."
Like a few equally illustrious predecessors, such as Leonardo Da Vinci or Francis Bacon, Grand Commander Albert Pike led not a single life, but many. He was an explorer, so he knew privation; a journalist, so he knew the excesses of the press; a lawyer, so he knew the constant threat of despotism that the law entails; a teacher, so he knew the importance of education; a general, so he knew the horrors of war; a poet, so he knew the soul of man.
His contributions to so many fields vividly demonstrate the productivity possible from the wise use of time. If he knew the exaltation of success, he also knew the meaning of misfortune. The civil war estranged him from his northern roots, so he knew despair; he was a father who outlived eight of his ten children, so he knew sorrow; he once possessed great wealth but died a virtual ward of the Scottish Rite. Yet he was a Mason, so he also knew the unrivaled power of the human will.
His life exemplified the teachings of the Craft, and all of us might envy his steady dedication to those principles. Few, if any, of us have lived so completely. He came to the Craft relatively late in life, at the age of forty, so Freemasonry can take little credit for his character. What it did provide, however, was an outlet for his energy and a vehicle for his creativity.
Though a man of many talents, no aspect of his life received such enduring concentration as his work for the Scottish Rite. He found it in ruins and left it a stately temple to the dignity and rights of man. Above all else our illustrious Brother Pike taught us the meaning of leadership. No fair-weather friend of the Craft, he assumed the mantle at its lowest ebb: its membership nil, its ritual in chaos, it charities nonexistent.
Albert Pike assumed the intellectual leadership of the Scottish Rite even before he was elected as Sovereign Grand Commander. To him was entrusted the rewriting of the Rituals of the Degrees which either never existed in any coherent form or which had suffered degradation at the hands of the unlearned.
Albert Pike had a subtle motive in his rewriting of the Rituals, seeking to do more than simply improve the presentations of the lessons of the Degrees. He wished to establish the Scottish Rite as an agent for the intellectual development of the Craft. This goal was furthered by the preparation of a foundational literature for the Rite embodied in the new Ritual and a series of lectures entitled Readings, Legends, Liturgies and Morals and Dogma. These were further supplemented by The Book of Words and the 1st and 2nd Lectures on Masonic Symbolism.
By the exercise of the proper tenor of leadership, he built upon the strength of Scottish Rite teachings, expunged the Ritual of its adversely political and sectarian character and set the Rite upon a course of growth and development that clearly had as its intent to make the Southern Jurisdiction the single most influential body of Freemasonry in the world.
He sought this goal by a steady application of strength and determination, mitigated by patience and self-control. He never forgot that ours is a volunteer organization, utterly dependent upon the good will and commitment of the membership who give to it time which deprives their employment, family, church and community of a portion of their talents. But he as well understood how that commitment of time and talent bore fruit in the character of the man, making him a better employee or employer, a better father or husband, a better churchman or citizen.
Brother Pike set forth certain precepts to guide the Mason in the conduct of his life. These may be found in Morals and Dogma in the Entered Apprentice Lecture as the ten commandments of Masonry and in the Prince of Mercy Lecture as the nine great truths of Masonry. But as Martin Luther noted, ''Precepts show us what we ought
to do, but do not impart to us the power to do it.'' Pike's unique contribution was to impart to us also that power--the power of just government, the power of collective action, the power of truth.
This power is manifested in our actions. He reminded us that reward accorded to merit is a debt; without merit, it is an alms or a theft. From him we learned to make change without creating destruction; to practice charity without fostering dependence; to lead without tyranny; to counsel without criticism.
It is difficult to reflect upon the man without wondering what he would think of our present edifice, the foundation of which he laid. It is certain that he would find no fault with the extensive system of charities that has evolved over the years. He probably would have tolerated the changes in emphasis responsible for the rapid growth of the Scottish Rite in this century. After all, great charities require a broad membership base to support them. He did not hold the rules he devised for the government of the Rite to be inviolate; he changed them often himself.
Equally evident would have been his deep disappointment in the numerous versions of the Ritual in use within the Rite today.
In contravention of the edicts of The Supreme Council, our Ritual has been continually reworked and elaborated or simplified by sincere, hardworking, dedicated Brethren who all too often have had only the vaguest notion of the intent of the original Ritual. The result has been the corruption of Scottish Rite teachings. The sublime lessons portrayed in our original Ritual have become so simplified or, more accurately, diluted, that the experience of receiving the Degrees has become, for many, a numbing rather than an uplifting experience.
Brother Pike knew that this eventuality was possible, even inevitable, if the sanctity of the Ritual was not preserved from additions by the unlearned. Thus, the authority for the changes in the Ritual was confined to The Supreme Council itself through its Committee on Ritual and Ceremonial Forms, instead of the dozens of Orients, hundreds of Valleys or the now 600,000 plus members of the Rite in his Jurisdiction.
The lack of enforcement of his formally instituted controls over the Ritual of the Rite has resulted in just the changes Brother Pike feared and just the consequences he anticipated.
He would also have been disappointed in the waning of his goal that the Scottish Rite become the agent for the intellectual leadership of the Craft. It is in the area of Masonic research that this trend is clearly seen. There is an almost total absence of Scottish Rite research to be found in the literature. Those few research papers and books which are found usually treat of minor historical matters rather than any analysis of the symbols and teachings of the Scottish Rite. Until this shortcoming is corrected, we shall never attain that influence in the intellectual life of Freemasonry that he sought.
The spirit of Brother Pike bids us to protect from corruption those lessons from ancient history which he gave to us and to reassert his goal of contributing to the intellectual leadership of the Craft. His wise counsel pervades the literature of the Scottish Rite, even in those jurisdictions where his Rituals are not used.
It is often said today that no one reads Pike's writings anymore. This is, of course, an exaggeration. But it is true that his intellectual influence is less today than it has been in the past. That this is unfortunate stems, not from the need to read what Pike wrote, but to learn what he taught. It is certain that the Scottish Rite possesses the talent to preserve those lessons of the past and once again contribute to the intellectual leadership of the craft, always keeping in mind the example of Brother Pike. Quoting from Pope's Essay on Man, we may say of him that he was:
Slave of no sect, who takes no private road,
But looks through Nature up to Nature's God;
Pursues that chain which links the immense design,
Joins heaven and earth, and mortal and divine;
Sees, that no being any bliss can know,
But touches some above, and some below;
Learns from this union of the rising whole,
The first, last purpose of the human soul;
And knows where faith, law, morals, all began,
All end, in Love of God, and Love of Man.
Pike was a great man because he lived greatly. Although few will ever attain such stature in history and probably none of us will ever decide to begin learning Sanskrit at the age of sixty-five, Albert Pike is a worthy model. For us, he is a reminder that perseverance in the face of adversity and hope in the future are the most excellent qualities we can possess.
Author: Dr. Rex R. Hutchens
1989 Biennal of the Supreme Council 33` Southern Jurisdiction
A blog dedicated