A year on and another Masonic symposium run under the auspices of Lodge Hope of Kurrachee. This year it was a one-day conference. But in all other aspects it was roughly the same as 2001 – a diet of speakers, the working of a 2nd degree and dinner.
For me the major change was my transformation from visitor to office-bearer. The responsibility for this lies with `The Mason with No Name` but it allows me to see what goes on from the inside – hence the title!
As an unofficial starter the Lodge offered participants a tour of Dunfermline Abbey and then a visit to Broomhall, the family seat of the Earl of Elgin and Kincardine, who has now become the Immediate Past Provincial Grand Master of Fife and Kinross, and which is the repository of his huge personal collection of Masonic artefacts and memorabilia. As part of the considerable support afforded to Lodge Hope by our Provincial Grand Master this visit is something special. Unfortunately due to unforeseen circumstances this had to be cancelled. However the Abbey tour went well and the Degree team of `Young Masons`, headed, somewhat appropriately, by Bro. Arkley Walker of Lodge Elgin and Bruce and made up from 9 Lodges of the Province, performed an outstanding delivery of ritual, which received the acclamation of the Brethren assembled. This I would claim is `Pig No.1` - have you ever tried to integrate 9 different lodge ritual workings into one coherent degree? These young men did, with not even the hint of a glitch.
The conference was off to a good start. I slept well that night.
However the feeling of well being was not to last. With the new morning came the first setback – the Director of Ceremonies of last year was on holiday and we were now to learn that his depute was, at the last minute, indisposed. And yes, the fickle finger of fate fell upon me – `Pig No. 2`.
Hindsight is an incredible accurate science. How do you compete with a glorious early summer day and an `Old Firm` cup final? Perhaps the management of the Lodge needs to look at this before next year. As it was over 50 brethren paid up to hear an impressive array of speakers.
The morning started with the `Old Man` of Scottish Research Freemasonry – Lt. Cdr. Bro David Currie PM No2. who enthralled the audience with his work into Lodge No.4. As usual David peppered his narrative with personal anecdotes about the many prominent persons who adorned this Lodge. One example was the Master who made himself Grand Master Mason for the day so that he could open a bridge over the Clyde with the appropriate amount of pomp, but then did not want to give up this `honorific` until Grand Lodge in Edinburgh found out about it. Another described the night that the Lodge kept William Sinclair, Grand Master Mason, waiting outside while they debated the manner in which they would receive him. He was eventually admitted as an ordinary visitor.
Masonry West of the Pecos – would you believe it? Well it was West of the Mississippi, really - imagine my excitement. For a youngster brought up in the 50`s and 60`s on a diet of Westerns I felt a frisson of delight as Bro. Ian Watson, PM of Lodge No. 8 once more brought visions of the wagon train, `injuns`, cattle ranchers and gunslingers vividly into mind. He regaled the audience with tales of the legends of the West – of how Wild Bill Hickock supported the craft and the real story of how freemasons rid the West of `Billy the Kid`. Yes, indeedy, William Bonney was killed by Marshall Pat Garrett, a mason, when he stole a steak from his house. We learned that because Masons were so few in number that the Tyler could often be the family dog. Americans can bring their own special interpretation to Masonic customs and the `Making of Masons on Sight` would appear to be one of them. This was how both Sam Houston of the Lone Star State and even President Andrew Jackson joined the craft. A burial can also be something else with many of the streets in the cemetery being named after Masonic Secrets. A visit to Mount Moriah cemetery in Deadwood City to see the graves of Wild Bill Hickock and Calamity Jane could solve the `secrets` problem for confused and bewildered Entered Apprentices.
Following on from this Mr. Innes Duffus, the archivist of the Nine Trades of Dundee, presented a talk that perhaps foreshadows how Freemasons should prepare and present their history.
Concise, accurate, insightful, informative and interspersed with humorous anecdote, Mr. Duffus led the audience from the formation of the crafts during the early medieval period to its work in the 21st Century. He revealed how the Crafts were regulated and the punishments that were meted out. He described some of the tricks that the trades used to `fool` the public and what happened to those who were caught. Each Trade met in the `Howf`; or graveyard and, even more bizarrely, each Trade had its own gravestone to meet at. It should come as no surprise to us that it was here that the Provost and Burgesses were also chosen. (No surprise there then!) Of more relevance for us, however, is that Masons were not one of the Trades as we were too small in numbers and importance. This is not pig no. 3.
Suitably brought back to size by the Trade Guilds we repaired for lunch and damage limitation.
The afternoon session was lead by Bro. Dr. Ian Thomson, Past Depute Grand Master of Scotland who spoke on the orders of Freemasonry that now work in Scotland. Bro. Thomson described the degrees belonging to the various organisations beginning with Grand Lodge and the primary degrees in the craft. He explained that these degrees required belief in a Supreme Being, but no specific requirement to Christian Orders – it is open to all `Children of the Book`. He pointed out with poignant examples the key tenets of the Craft - Benevolence and Acts of Charity. Everything in Masonry stems from `Blue Lodges` and so the relationship between the Blue Lodges and the Royal Arch Order with its Associated degrees was explained and membership commended as an extended course of study in belief.
Recent criticism of Freemasonry by the Church of Scotland has led to a drop off in membership for orders such as the Supreme Council for Scotland and the Accepted Scottish Rite, both of which require a specific belief in Christianity. At this juncture it was pointed out that there was no higher degree than that of Master Mason and that members should attend their Mother Lodge first.
The journey around the orders led next to the Great Priory of Scotland which should not be confused with the Order of St.John, which is in fact a `civilian` order.
For some of us it was interesting to hear of `The Secret Monitors` and their connection with David and Jonathon. This order is open to both Christian and Jew.
For those who are experienced masons there is the opportunity to join the Holy Royal College of Royal Arch Templar Priests or the Society of Rosicrucian’s in Scotia. Even more obscure, to me at least, is the Guild of Masons revived by certain Captain Hay of Hayfield in Aberdeenshire. This organisation would appear to require an `operative` involvement with the building trade.
Perhaps some of us will have heard of the Hammermen. Members must be Master Masons and the main function of the order is charitable giving.
Negotiations are going on between the Supreme Grand Royal Arch Chapter and the Grand Council of Allied Masonic Degrees, an English body, who would like to offer degrees in Scotland. These talks are going on to avoid conflict in areas where some overlap may occur. Additionally the Grand Lodge of Free Gardeners, dormant for some time is about to be reponed. This order, which boasts a Pruning Knife on the Square and Compasses, work a variety of degrees. They are the founders of Fruit and Vegetable Shows, for whom they raised the prize money. Bro. Thomson finished with the prudent caution – whilst considering all these orders remember the time that is also due to ones’ family.
Last but certainly not least came Bro. Chris Knight. His topic was the design and purpose of King Solomon’s Temple.
Bro Chris began by setting the scene – all degrees refer to KST. The United Grand Lodge of England uses it as the focus for their moral story but for Bro Chris it is something bigger. He views it as a Myth – it might be a building or even a temple but it is crafted around the morals of the Jewish people of the time, and thus must be viewed as an icon. Knight then took us on a quest through biblical scholarship, showing how the experts are divided over many of the people, places and events that we usually take for granted. For example Knight cites a text found in Grand Lodge library that Hiram Abif was King Solomon’s father. The source for this is none other than the Rev. Bro. Dr. Anderson the Scottish Mason who wrote the first constitutions of United Grand Lodge.
Jerusalem also comes in for serious scrutiny. Knight quotes from Egyptian texts and stele, which identify the city as Ursalim, meaning `the Foundation of Venus in its evening setting`, and shows that there was a temple constructed for the worship of the sun and Venus, but not on the site associated with the Temple Mount.
Knight also relates the preparation of child sacrifices as part of the ritual of worship for the God Moloch and in the ordination of kings. He brings evidence to suggest that Solomon was more than aware of these practices and indeed had little interest in Yahweh and what was to become traditional Christo-judaic practice. However we should well remember the efforts of Abraham to offer child sacrifice when we seek to criticise Knights work. Reference is made to ritual still practised in the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite, but if you want to know more I suggest you look at Knight and Lomas` forthcoming publication.
Knight then moved his argument on to claim that there is little evidence left of the 1st and 2nd Temples and that the 3rd or Herodic Temple was built on a newly expanded site. Bro Chris maintains that at this time the temple itself was realigned and cites evidence from Asher Kaufman, a physicist from the Hebrew University. He is trying to make a link to the Vernal Equinox and its importance in the astronomical alignment of the temple. Evidence is also put forward to support the contention that there are vaults and tunnels underneath the Temple which have religious and ritualistic importance. Bro. Chris left us with the intriguing thought that 1440 years after the birth of Christ a New Jerusalem Temple was built on the same rock stratum – Rosslyn Chapel. Furthermore in the 14th degree of the AASR – the Grand, Elect, Perfect and Sublime Mason – a passage underneath the Temple wound to the Palace, with the 9th Arch being situated underneath the Holy of Holies. Knight asserts that a representative of the Sinclair family assures him that a similar tunnel runs from the castle to the church at Rosslyn.
For critics, cynics and sceptics the cry will be of disbelief - `and pigs can fly`. Thanks to Bro Chris and his well-documented and researched piece the answer is probably - `they do`!
The lectures being over, the symposium was concluded later that evening with a dinner held in the Masonic Temple of St Clair of Dysart. The Guest Speaker was Bro. David Wishart, newly commissioned Provincial Grand Master of Fife and Kinross. In a wide-ranging speech Bro. David laid out his vision of how he would like to see Freemasonry in Fife develop. He stressed the ideas of community involvement and promoting acts of benevolence. He wished to see Brethren become more pro-active in their communities and to show to others our pride in our honourable and ancient craft. Not to be left out Lodge Hope was tasked with becoming more involved in the recording of local histories and encouraging the brethren of the province to pass on information about their Mother Lodges, ritual workings and Lodge furniture and fixtures.
Bro. George Wight PM No. 8, spoke on the importance of Education in our Lodges and more generally in the Craft. Bro. Wight made the point that it is understanding of the moral precepts contained within our rituals and the application of that understanding to the way we live our lives is more important than its mere rote learning. The third speaker of the evening was Bro. Roy Scott, Grand Master of the Great Priory of Scotland. This was an `unexpected pleasure` for him as he was called upon at literally the last minute to stand in for the Immediate Past Provincial Grand Master of Fife and Kinross, the Rt. Hon. Lord Elgin, who was indisposed. Bro. Roy spoke on the relationship between the orders in freemasonry and the importance of maintaining family ties. He gave specific examples from his experiences within the Great Priory. Each speaker gave those of us at the dinner cause for thought as to our conduct as Brethren, our commitments to our families and our responsibilities to others within our communities.
Bro. Gordon Vincent, RWM of Lodge Hope, formally drew the symposium to a close by thanking the conference lecturers, after dinner speakers, the Brethren of the Kirkcaldy Masonic Trust, who provided the venue for the symposium, and the Master and Brethren of Lodge St. Clair of Dysart who generously allowed the use of their fine temple for the Degree work and dinner.
It was pleasing to note that after the dinner nearly everyone stayed on for further harmony. Speakers and participants alike showed that spirit of brotherhood that so clearly marks out our orders by exchanging stories and songs until the small hours.
Now for 2003……….
Bro Keith Thomas
Lodge Hope No. 337