Iowa Freemasonry is a personal journal of a Freemason in central Iowa. This blog documents my Masonic research interests, experiences, and reflections. Welcome!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

But Mr. Miller, there are two right answers!

I mailed the second quiz for the Master Craftsman program yesterday. The quiz covered over 250 pages of reading from the Scottish Rite Ritual Monitor & Guide, Second Edition, by Arturo De Hoyos and A Bridge to Light by Rex Hutchens. I had the most trouble with this question:

In the 14th degree Perfect Elu, what is sought?

Does anyone have ideas as to the correct answer? I eliminated 3 of the 5 possible answers, but that was the problem. Two different answers both looked good and it took me awhile to choose one. I've heard that comment a lot from my students so I guess now it's my turn to experience two "right" answers!

I do like the quiz format. It’s been a great way for me to study the Scottish Rite because it presents specific questions which guide my reading. The questions on the quizzes are not in chronological order so you can’t just selectively read the material, either. I enjoy reading both books by De Hoyos and Hutchens, however, they are quite detailed. A specific reading program, like the Master Craftsman class, is a wise choice for those who want to learn more.

I’m starting the reading assignments for the third quiz. This one covers fewer than 250 pages so I’ll be slacking a bit!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Master Craftsman Quiz #2

I received the results of my first Scottish Rite Master Craftsman quiz in the mail today. The turnaround time impressed me- I mailed the quiz just two weeks ago. That is two weeks for it to travel from central Iowa to D.C., be scored by someone, and then travel back to central Iowa. Plus there’s an essay question. Some high school teachers can’t grade that fast!

The format for quiz #2 is similar to the first quiz. There are about 20 multiple-choice questions and 1 essay. The questions cover reading in the two textbooks for the course: Scottish Rite Ritual Monitor & Guide, Second Edition, by Arturo De Hoyos and A Bridge to Light by Rex Hutchens.

And if anyone is still reading this blog entry...I scored 100% on my first quiz!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Perfect Ashlar as Deity

Here is another section of my paper on the symbolism of the Ashlar-

Perfect Ashlar as Deity
In this interpretation the perfect ashlar represents God. The Judeo-Christian tradition is rich with imagery realted to stones and the Bible contains frequent allusions to stones of all shapes and sizes. In the Old Testament, I Kings chapters 5 and 7 contain the most direct references to ashlars. The New Internation version refers to blocks of quality or high-grade stone (475, 477 NIV Study Bible) while the New American Standard version prefers the terms great and costly (456, 459). Neither translation contains the word ashlar, although it is found in the NIV Bible Commentary. (NIV Bible Commentary).

In Daniel 2:34 and Matthew 21:44 , the generic term “stone” is employed in a messianic sense (NIv Bible Commentary, Daniel 2:34 and Matt 21:44). In Matthew 21:42, Jesus quotes the Psalms in pointing to himself as the capstone which has been rejected. The Letter to the Ephesians, First Corinthians, and First Peter all employ the stone metaphor with Jesus as a cornerstone or living stone.

Ashlar symbolism discussed in this paper primarily relates to Blue Lodge Freemasonry. “All Masonry starts there,” according to Jim Tresner, author of Further Light: Helpful Information for New Master Masons (p. 29). However, the perfect ashlar as deity is an interpretation primarily from outside of the first three degrees of Freemasonry. An example of this view is found in The Royal Order of Scotland, an invitational Masonic organization. Arthur Heiron writes in the Ars Quatuor Coronatorum that the Royal Order of Scotland “…Assigns the highest honour…” to the perfect ashlar. It represents “The Great Architect of the Church who called himself the Rose of Sharon and the Lily of the Valley.”

One encounters general references to God throughout Freemasonry. The ritual itself focuses our attention on the infinite through historical allusion, physical actions, and direct quotations from the Holy Bible. Moreover, some Masonic authors have argued that these symbols and emblems of deity serve a primary goal of the Fraternity: reverence and veneration of God. (Pike 137) However, if God is omnipotent, then to what extent can we attain knowledge of Him through our own efforts? In a recent article, Masonic scholar Robert G. Davis discusses this problematic nature of God:

... there is really only one enduring characteristic of God; and that is that God cannot be defined. God is a symbol; a mystery, a hieroglyph, a metaphor. Of God, there is understanding, reason, knowledge, touch, perception, imagination, name, and many other things. But God is not understood, nothing can be said of It, It cannot be named. It is not one of the things which is.

The symbols found in Freemasonry teach us about our relationship to God and as we study these common, concrete objects, such as the ashlar, we gain insight into fundamental questions. This task requires work, however, to “mine beneath the surface” of what superficially appears to be a simple stone block (pike 136). Working through such symbols, we can approach topics that have baffled men for centuries.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Master Craftsman Quiz 1

I mailed my first quiz for the Scottish Rite Master Craftsman course this morning. The quiz covered 67 pages of reading in the text Scottish Rite Ritual Monitor & Guide, Second Edition, by Arturo De Hoyos.

I received the quiz last week and hoped to finish it earlier, however, the second weekend of the Des Moines Valley’s Fall Reunion slowed my progress. I was a candidate in the Glen W. Lamb, 32˚ KCCH and Eugene L. Smith, 32˚ KCCH class and last weekend was busy.

I’m enjoying the Master Craftsman class quite a bit. The first quiz helped focus my reading on what is, to be honest, an intimidating text. De Hoyos’s book is over one thousand pages!

The multiple choice quiz questions are very specific and require close reading and rereading of the book. Already I feel like I have learned more about the Rite because of the course than if I simply read the book itself without the structure of the Master Craftsman program.

The next quiz covers over 270 page of material. Let’s hope I’m still optimistic when I mail that one in!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Lux E Tenebris- Scottish Rite second weekend ends

The Glen W. Lamb, 32˚ KCCH and Eugene L. Smith, 32˚ KCCH class finished their work with seventeen candidates completing the 32nd degree on Saturday afternoon at the Scottish Rite Temple in Des Moines. Two of our original classmates were excused due to family commitments and one member of the Spring class joined us to finish the earlier degree work he missed.

The class started their last day of work with the 27th degree- Knight of the Sun. This was one of my favorite degrees of the day. To me it seemed quite different from the others with unique symbols and a fascinating speech at the end by Brother Gabriel. The dramatic element of the degree stands out in my mind, too, especially the portrayal of Lulli. There is plenty here for further reflection, as is true with all of the degrees, however, this one is again a bit different from others: the text given to the candidates the previous weekend, A Bridge to Light by Rex Hutchens, states that the lecture of this degree alone makes up almost one-fourth of Pike’s Morals and Dogma!

The Kitchen Krew served us another delicious meal for lunch and then we started back to work on the 31st degree. Sitting in a dark auditorium after a great meal presented its own challenges to a few classmates, but we persevered. The quality of all of the degree teams amazed me and during our breaks our class frequently talked about how impressed we were with the amount of time and effort people put into the reunion. Our class President, Daniel Beyer echoed this during his remarks at the Double Eagle Gala. The 31st and 32nd degrees were simply amazing; I can only imagine the amount of time spent to make these two degrees look as polished as they did Saturday. The ending lecture in the second section by the Master of Kadosh may be the most memorable part of both weekends for me.

The night concluded with the Double Eagle Gala. Class President Daniel Beyer expressed our class’s thanks and class Orator Nathaniel Hedin Schmidt delivered a fine speech, although I’m still disappointed we didn’t get a chance to hear him sing in the 22nd degree! Our class Treasurer Nicholas McGahan presented a gift to the Consistory and then the fun really began with the band Freestyle providing the music. Ed, Scott, and the guys did a great job. You didn’t really need to dedicate Brick House to your Polk City friends, but both my wife and I enjoyed it!

Thanks to all who helped the Glen W. Lamb, 32˚ KCCH and Eugene L. Smith, 32˚ KCCH class. We were impressed and honored by your efforts.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Second weekend- Scottish Rite Reunion

The Glen W. Lamb, 32˚ KCCH and Eugene L. Smith, 32˚ KCCH class resumed work Friday in Des Moines at the Scottish Rite Temple. Our class completed the 20th, 21st, and 22 degrees: Master of the Symbolic Lodge, Noachite or Prussian Knight, and Knight of the Royal Axe. It's been two weeks since our class last met for the first weekend of the reunion and it was great to see my classmates again. One of my brothers from Operative Lodge #308 in Polk City joined us for this second weekend to finish his 32nd degree.

We started the evening with another delicious dinner by the Kitchen Krew: BBQ ribs, beans, cornbread, and chocolate brownies. I’m enjoying the fellowship with my classmates between the degrees, but the opportunity we have to sit down together for meals and talk has been especially meaningful. My first experience with the Des Moines Valley was this past summer when I attended a dinner and a meeting with a brother from my lodge in Polk City. The food and fellowship was great then and continues to be a highlight for me. Everyday life is so busy with work, family, and other responsibilities that it’s difficult to set aside time to develop friendships. Freemasonry gives me a place where I can socialize with other men. We need more of this today.

I have a new favorite degree- the Noachite or Prussian Knight. It tells a fascinating story about truth and oppression. I wonder if this one is ever performed outdoors during a full moon?

I’m looking forward to today’s degrees and to the Double Eagle Gala tonight.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Varnum v. Brien quote

A political post might be appropriate since it's the day after the election.
Quote from Varnum v. Brien (Iowa 2009)
The legislature, in carrying out its constitutional role to make public policy decisions, enacted a law that effectively excludes gay and lesbian people from the institution of civil marriage. The executive branch of government, in carrying out its role to execute the law, enforced this statute through a county official who refused to issue marriage licenses to six same-sex couples. These Iowans, believing that the law is inconsistent with certain constitutional mandates, exercised their constitutional right to petition the courts for redress of their grievance. This court, consistent with its role to interpret the law and resolve disputes, now has the responsibility to determine if the law enacted by the legislative branch and enforced by the executive branch violates the Constitution.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Scottish Rite Master Craftsman Course

(picture copyright

I received my Master Craftsman Course materials in the mail today and I'm eager to start reading. The mailing included the first quiz, book, and reading assignments. The book is huge: over 1,000 pages. I wondered why the shipping charge was so high!