Friday, February 27, 2009
My mother contradicted me, and said she never heard of such a thing. She said that ‘sublime’ was an exalted or glorious state of human perfection and quickly ran to get a dictionary.
Our American Heritage Dictionary defines sublime as 1. Characterized by nobility; majestic. 2. a. Of high spiritual, moral, or intellectual worth. b. Not to be excelled; supreme. That same dictionary defines sublimate as 1. Chem. To cause (a solid or a gas) to change state without becoming a liquid. 2. Psychol. To modify the natural expression of (an instinctual impulse) in a socially acceptable manner.
A scan of the internet brings us the Wikipedia definition of Sublime (Philosophy) as the quality of greatness or vast magnitude, whether physical, moral, intellectual, metaphysical, aesthetic, spiritual or artistic.
In a sense, my mom and I were both right.
But why, you might ask, am I writing about the definition of ‘sublime’ in a Masonic Blog? The simple answer is that I have been reading a lot of Renaissance Philosophy lately, as it relates to the symbolism of speculative Freemasonry. That philosophy is filled with discussions on the Hermetic Tradition, Cabalism, Rosicrucianism, Astrology, and Alchemy. Alchemy, for instance, is the ancient art of transformation or transmutation and was the precursor of modern chemistry. Again, Wikipedia gives us the definition of Alchemy as both a philosophy and a practice with an aim of achieving ultimate wisdom as well as immortality, involving the improvement of the alchemist as well as the making of several substances described as possessing unusual properties.
When I reflected on what I had been reading, it occurred that there was more to the “Sublime degree of a Master Mason” than just an arbitrary term I assumed had been used to name the third degree. From an alchemical sense, the third degree is the sublimation, or transformation of a man from a more profane to a higher more exalted state of being (turning lead into gold). It is a process of lifting a man up and putting him on a path toward the achievement of ‘ultimate wisdom’. The third degree is not the end, however but the beginning of a lifelong journey toward spiritual and intellectual growth.
I feel like I am just now starting to take those first few tentative steps and beginning my journey toward more light in Masonry. I can’t help but regret that I didn’t start my Masonic studies earlier. My hope is that my example can be an encouragement to others to begin their own journeys earlier and thereby influence a new generation of Masons to seek Masonic Formation.
Wednesday, February 25, 2009
Monday, February 23, 2009
I just read a discussion thread on The Masonic Society Forum regarding a One-Day Ritual Class being planned for Western Massachusetts. All of the comments to this event on the forum page were negative and echoed comments I recently heard during the Conference of Grand Masters in North America. Those who responded complained that Masonry is being cheapened by One-Day Ritual Classes, where we are merely making members not Masons. One commenter lamented “. . . why don't we just hand out dues cards in specially marked boxes of crackerjacks”.
Our Alaska Masonic Code allows the Grand Master the option of authorizing a One-Day Ritual Class, but it does not specify under what conditions such a class may be allowed. In recent years One-Day Classes have been held in our jurisdiction to:
1. Help lodges clear their books of EA and FCs languishing on their rolls for several years without progressing through the degrees, and
2. Help give a boost to struggling lodges, in very remote locations, which have candidates but do not have enough members to confer the degrees.
What I have noticed is that, when a One-Day Class has been offered in our jurisdiction, a number of our candidates who are eligible to participate choose not to for fear that they will not enjoy the true initiatic experience offered by normal progression through the degrees. Also, few, if any, of those who do participate in One-Day Classes become active members of their lodge. There is little evidence that these Masons have continued on the journey of self discovery, of spiritual and intellectual growth in Masonry.
What is the benefit to Alaskan Masonry then, when we create Masons who have not had the opportunity to cultivate an understanding of what Freemasonry is through a process of ritual presentation and the art of memorization; who have not had the value of continued Masonic study impressed upon their minds? Does it simply arrest the loss of membership to our lodges and create more dues paying members to help maintain our lodges’ bottom line? Does it help grow our lodges in our remote communities, so that they will become self sustaining?
I believe that our lodges will grow only when they create an atmosphere where the practice of quality ritual becomes the rule rather than the exception, where our lodges are involved in and recognized as a valued assets within their communities, where our lodges have programs of mentorship and continued Masonic education for their members, and where the lodge members enjoy the fraternity and fellowship provided by the lodge and want to actively participate in its activities. I also believe that we are doing a disservice to those that we bring into Masonry through a One-Day Class, if we do not see to their continued Masonic development.
I invite all Alaskan Masons to comment on these thoughts.
Friday, February 20, 2009
MW Ray was born in Cranberry, WV September 12, 1931. He was Initiated on January 12, 1960, Passed on March 15, 1960, and Raised to the Sublime Degree of a Master Mason on May 3, 1960, all in Village Lodge No. 315 in Florida. MW Ray suffered from diabetes the last several years and was cared for by his wife Marilyn, who preceded him in death last year.
Most glorious God, author of all good and giver of all mercy, pour down Thy blessings upon us and strengthen our solemn engagements with the ties of sincere affection. May the present instance of mortality remind us of our own approaching fate and, by drawing our attention toward Thee the only refuge in time of need, induce us to regulate our conduct here, that when the final moment shall arrive at which we must quit this transitory scene, the enlivening prospect of Thy mercy may dispel the fear of death; and that after our departure hence, in peace and Thy favor, we may be received into Thine everlasting kingdom and there join in union with our friend and enjoy that uninterrupted and unceasing felicity which is allotted to the souls of just men made perfect.
Sunday was the opening of the Conference of Grand Masters in North America, whose theme this year was ”Freemasonry Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow”. The Conference of Grand Masters is the première conference on Freemasonry and delegates came from almost all of the recognized jurisdictions in Canada, Mexico, and the U.S. In addition, there were visiting delegations from the Grand Lodges of England, France, Russia, Uruguay, Paraguay, the Philippines, and others. It was great to renew old acquaintances and to make new ones. The Grand Lodge of Alaska’s delegation included me (Grand Master), RW Johnnie L. Wallace (Deputy Grand Master), RW Ronald Ackerman (Senior Grand Warden), and RW Jerry Wasson (Grand Secretary). RW Jerry spent his time attending the Conference of Grand Secretaries in North America, which took place at the same time as the Conference of Grand Masters.
During the conferences, Alaska’s delegation attended several breakout sessions and gathered a lot of information to bring back to our jurisdictions. Topics covered in the breakout sessions included “The Image of Freemasonry”, “Membership Retention vs. Restoration”, “Moving from Leader to Mentor”, and “Connecting with Non-Participants”. Overall, this was an excellent conference, and the information and ideas shared during the sessions and between the participants stirred a lot of thought to ways Masonry may be progressed in all of its jurisdictions.
This is my inaugural post on the “Grand Master’s Musings” page. My goals are simple; that this blog will become a record of my travels through Masonry this year and that it will provide some information about Alaska Freemasonry to anyone that might pass by this way.
So let’s get started:
On Tuesday, February 3, Beth and I traveled to Kodiak with my parents to attend the 28th Annual Communication of the Grand Lodge of Alaska. Although Redoubt Volcano was threatening (Redoubt Volcano), our trip was not impeded by ash or weather. Kodiak is a fishing village on the island of the same name, situated in the Gulf of Alaska. This was a beautiful setting for our Annual Communication, surrounded by majestic mountains and with eagles circling above fishing boats sitting in the bay. Thank you to Most Worshipful Jared Decker and his wife Suni for a very entertaining and enjoyable time. Unfortunately, since Kodiak is in the middle of the Gulf of Alaska, weather always presents a problem for those traveling into or out of the airport in the winter. This was indeed the case and a few of the expected visitors were unable to get in due to canceled flights.
At the Grand Master’s Banquet on Wednesday, February 4, we were entertained by Worshipful Brother Christopher Hodapp, the author of “Freemasons For Dummies”. Chris delivered a very inspiring message about enhancing the Masonic experience for a new generation of Masons. It was great meeting Chris and having an opportunity to visit with him.
On Friday, February 6, I was elected and installed as Grand Master of Masons in Alaska. This was a very special occasion for me, especially since my folks were present and my father who has been a Mason for nearly 64 years placed the Grand Master’s collar on me during the ceremony. It was special, as well, because of the presence of Most Worshipful Bill Miller (Past Grand Master of Washington) and his wife Maralyn. Beth and I have known Bill and Maralyn for nearly 50 years and they have had a great influence on our lives. MW Brother Bill installed me as Grand Master. At the time, he remarked that it was entirely appropriate that a Grand Master of Washington install the Grand Master of Alaska, as it was a Grand Master of Alaska (Most Worshipful John Ingram) who installed him as Grand Master of Washington in 1989.
Beth and I returned to Palmer on Sunday, after a weather delay in Kodiak and an overnight stay at Beth’s aunt and uncle in Anchorage. I have now hit the ground running. Last night I visited the Al Aska Shrine stated meeting and tonight I will be presenting the Alaska Mason of the Year award for 2008 at Matanuska Lodge No. 7 in Palmer. On Wednesday, I travel to Anchorage Lodge No. 17 to install the District Deputy of the Grand Master, who was one that was weathered out of Kodiak. On Thursday, Beth and I travel down to Anaheim, CA, to participate in the Western Conference of Grand Lodge’s before we attend the Conference of Grand Masters of North America, which starts on Sunday in Anaheim, as well.
I look forward to many more posting this year.