That Saturday morning experience with “The Class” only serves to set us forth on our way. And what a journey of discovery it might prove to be.
In the Fall and Spring of each year, Southern Jurisdiction Scottish Rite Masons gather in fraternal reunions where the order of business is the conferral of five or more of our ritual degree presentations for the benefit of new initiates as well as the enjoyment and enlightenment of others in the audience, not the least of which are the degree cast members themselves.
From city to city and across the land, these fraternal experiences take place. In some locations the presentations are often quite involved. The drama unfolds on a professional quality stage to the accompaniment of a pipe organ and choir. Elaborate backdrops and lighting with artfully designed props can transport the audience who has any imagination at all to distant lands and times as the age-old lessons evolve.
In other venues, the fare is much simpler. Limited by finances or space, the degree cast must often work with a paucity of theatrical equipment and add-ons. Absent is the majestic rumble of the organ, the painted canvas, and the banks of spotlights illuminating the unfolding drama. Street clothes and not costumes, Scottish Rite caps and not wigs are evident.
Perhaps the audience must engage more, and what they now see will only be seen with the “mind’s eye” as the world of make-believe is left to each participant to himself discover. Yet the lessons taught, the truths espoused, and the message remain constant. At these reunions, it is often assumed that our primary purpose is initiatory, to acquire new members.
These Master Masons who seek further enlightenment through Scottish Rite membership, by adding Light to Light, are most collectively referred to as “The Class.” We spend much time throughout the Reunion weekend talking to and making presentations to “The Class,” moving “The Class” from place to place, taking “The Class” photo and urging “The Class” to return and become involved in the activities of the Valley. Noble actions all.
Yet, while we witness the degrees often in the company of “The Class,” I would submit that exposure to a Scottish Rite degree is, or should be, an intensely personal experience. We often fall prey to the assumption that when the drama concludes and the house lights come up and as “The Class” is escorted from the auditorium, that the show is over. Let’s get ready for the next one!
But, the perceptive Mason will realize that the show is just beginning and, indeed, may go on for a lifetime. Each individual is charged to struggle with each degree one by one and over an extended period of time.
• What is the message and its relevance for our day and time?
• How does it play out where I spend my days and in the context of my relationships?
• Do I hear and see, really see—what has been told and shown to me?
• Am I convicted in my life where my actions are not in accord with what I have seen and heard in that darkened auditorium?
• Does my profession of belief and obligation square up with my conduct? • Or was it just a nice and somewhat quaint show?
The sublime simplicity of the Fourteenth Degree and its reverence for the name of Deity, the eternal hope and optimism of the Rose Croix, the end times of the Seventeenth, the clarion call of the Thirtieth against intolerance and bigotry, or the fundamental rule of justice as espoused by the Provost and Judge in the Seventh.
Think you got it all in one sitting on a Saturday morning?
Until all this stuff becomes a part of our psyche, and maybe even keeps us up a night or two, then I would submit our goal of being truly initiated remains unattained. The hard part isn’t learning the ceremonies. Laying them out as a yardstick against which to measure one’s life is where the pinch comes in.
Here’s one for you. Our country has just completed a national election and as of this writing remains sharply divided. Did what I profess at the altar of Freemasonry, the Great Light upon which I pledged my faith and honor, serve as a rule and guide to my conduct throughout the election cycle? Was I temperate in my speech and restrained in my actions? How have I approached others who entertained opinions contrary to my own? Have I been quick to judge, to assign unworthy motives, while yet acquitting myself? I offer this not to convict you but, unfortunately, to convict myself. Thrice guilty!
What is the behavior that you have seen modeled around the country lately? Do you think that the lessons put forth across town at the Scottish Rite are only a throwback to yesteryear with no applicability for today? Turn on your favorite cable outlet and see what you find. Then consider again those tales of old and what they might have to say to those wise enough to look and listen. That Saturday morning experience with “The Class” only serves to set us forth on our way. And what a journey of discovery it might prove to be.
A Scottish Rite Reunion. Lots going on there and much to haul away with you. But, you don’t need an empty box, just an open mind—and a receptive heart.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Ill. Ronald Armbrust Seale, 33°, was elected Sovereign Grand Commander by the Supreme Council, 33°, on October 3, 2003, and installed on October 7, 2003, during an Executive Session of the Supreme Council, 33°, in the House of the Temple, Washington, D.C. Grand Commander Seale succeeded C. Fred Kleinknecht, 33°.
Ill. Seale’s service on the Supreme Council began with his appointment as Deputy in Louisiana effective January 1, 1995. He succeeded Ill. D. Walter Jessen, 33°, who retired as S.G.I.G. in Louisiana on December 31, 1994. Then on October 8, 1995, Ill. Seale was elected S.G.I.G. in Louisiana and crowned an Active Member of the Supreme Council, 33°.