Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Scottish Rite Craft Degrees Exemplified in Lake Worth

I came across a very underreported story coming out of the Valley of Lake Worth in the Orient of Florida, AASR (SJ). The city of Lake Worth is near Palm Beach. It's not a big town, its population hovering around 37,000 souls. From my experience though, small places can bring big changes, and boy did they ever.

I decided, after reading about the exemplification of the so-called "Red Degrees" in Lake Worth, that I needed to learn more. I contacted the brother who got the ball rolling. His name is Scott Schwartzberg. He's the Junior Deacon of Boynton Lodge No. 236, Boynton Beach, Florida. He's a great guy and I've really enjoyed talking with him.

For the uninformed reader, the degrees conferred by most states and some provinces of Canada originate from the Preston-Webb, while most lodges in the world use some variation of the Emulation Rite. The Scottish Rite Craft degrees are not conferred as actual degrees except in a few places in the United States, most well known being those lodges in the 16th District of the Grand Lodge of Louisiana, F.&A.M. The only way for brothers to have seen these SR Craft degrees was to monitor the calendars of the handful of lodges that perform them in New Orleans and plan a trip there during those times.

Scott explained to me his reason for wanting to exemplify the "Red Degrees" in his Valley:
I had recently joined the Scottish Rite, despite having read much about Masonry and the Scottish Rite in particular since I first read Morals and Dogma over 25 years ago, and to learn more about the organization, I signed up for the Master Craftsman series of quizzes and essays. While reading about the 9th and 10th degrees, there was a brief mention of how the degrees continue the story of the 3rd, or Master Mason degree, which differs significantly from that which is in the Symbolic Lodge, both here in Florida, and in New Jersey, where I was raised. This piqued my interest, and I was discussing it with a Brother in my Lodge, who had recently returned from a visit to the Dominican Republic, where he had visited a Lodge and witnessed a Scottish Rite Entered Apprentice degree. We decided to see if we could get this ritual, and somehow exemplify it. I talked with Brothers from other Lodges in the District, and they wanted to participate as well.
The ritual that Lake Worth used for the exemplification was the "Ritual of the Entered Apprentice, Fellow Craft, and Master Mason Degree for Exclusive Use of the Scottish Rite Blue Lodges F.&A.M., working under the MWGL of the State of Louisiana, revised 1963. And for those parts not in the ritual, he incorporated some parts of Albert Pike's versions of the Degrees, found in "The Porch and the Middle Chamber".

The degrees were exemplified in three parts: EA on February 23, 2011, FC on March 23, 2011, and the MM on March 27th, 2011. The degrees were open to all Master Masons, and according to Scott, the response was tremendous and the exemplifications were very well-attended. The degree team for each of the degrees was assisted by members of the Grand Lodge of Haïti as there are many lodges that confer the Craft degrees using the Scottish Rite ritual and these brothers had familiarity with the floorwork and ritual. You can find pictures of the degree team on Lantana Lodge No. 372's website here. Scott has written a very nice article going into more detail on the three degree exemplifications; you can read more from his article published in the October 2011 edition of the Working Tools Magazine.

I'll make my disclaimers now. I am not an SR Mason but I'm very antsy to start my journey. The Scottish Rite in Minneapolis and Saint Paul are very special. At any given time during the year, some Scottish Rite degree is being conferred somewhere in the state of Minnesota. The Valley of Minneapolis performs each of the 29 degrees in two long form classes spanning over 12 weeks. The degrees are presented in full theatrical form. Saint Paul Valley confers nearly all of the degrees once per year and the Valleys of Duluth and Rochester confer more than half of the degrees once per year. Minnesota was also very fortunate to have welcomed the brothers of Internet Lodge No. 9659 to exemplify the Emulation Rite third degree for a packed house of Minnesota Masons. (You can read about the trip here and here.)

I have to say, I'm very intrigued by a Valley performing these Craft degrees. I don't know much about the Scottish Rite but from what I understand, the differences between Preston-Webb (of which I include the Royal Arch Degree) and the Scottish Rite can be quite confusing when taking the American Scottish Rite degrees 4°-32°. There is a dissonance between 3° and 4° in the degrees as conferred by SJ Valleys (the NMJ has changed the 29 degrees under their charge many times and have very little in comparison to the SJ degrees.). That's why I've been reading the Porch and the Middle Chamber. I want to feel prepared when taking the degrees.

I've also read somewhere that a Valley in Arizona (I believe the Valley of Phoenix) has conferred all 32 degrees at a regional reunion. My hope is that more Valleys will be performing these in the future. Of course, my guess is that the usual permission must be received but I think that this is a very worthwhile educational opportunity for all Master Masons.

What Lake Worth has done is very important. Masons joining today are focused on light. I found as LEO of my lodge that Masons want a lodge meeting to be dedicated to education. I completely agree and I was very happy to appease the members with papers and opening the floor to other opinions. Allowing the "Red Degrees" to be exemplified will be a boon for Valleys and Grand Lodges. More Masonic opportunities will lead to more Masonry in the state. Furthermore, a Valley exemplifying these degrees will lead to many more candidates. Brothers will bridge the lessons of SR Craft degrees to SR higher degrees and will encourage them to join and, more importantly, participate.

I want to congratulate the brothers of Valley of Lake Worth for taking this first step. This is a gamechanger and you should be proud.

What do you think? Should Valleys be exemplifying the Scottish Rite Craft or "Red" Degrees? Leave a comment.


J. Mitchell said...

My Valley has explored this option, and I only timing prevented it this year.

The attraction of 'additional light' via degrees outside of the standard experience was the driving force behind the establishment of both the york and scottish rites.

That desire, that yearning remains latent within Freemasonry. We'd be foolish not to encourage it.

Scott S said...

Nick (and others) -

I just spoke to my Valley Secretary, and we are going to be exemplifying these degrees again in 2012.


P,E.A.C.E. said...

Peace and Hotep! I am Bro L.V.Whitfield 32*
I hail from Epsilon Lodge #124 A.:A.:S.:R.:F.:M.: Brooklyn N.Y. under the auspices of the Supreme council of Louisiana in the Valley of New Orleans. Founded in 1839 and still working the Scottish rite from the 1st to the 33rd. For the record, some of those SR lodges ALLOWED to work under the Grand Lodge of LA were once under our jurisdiction. We have a long and proud buried history. We are reconnecting with the other SR entities. See the 200 year SR symposium that was in NOLA this past June. If you want the SR degrees (upper) you can affiliate. Or start a SR craft lodge and build from there. We are currently looking for a few good men and women in the St.Louis area to start a Lodge and O.E.S. Chapter. If you are interested,please let me know. We are Sovereign and independent. P.E.A.C.E.

Wayne said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Wayne said...

Scott, could you send me an email at info@tampamason.com about when you will be holding the degrees this year? It's a bit of a drive from Tampa, but I (and a lot of others in my zone) would love to see them.

LicJLM said...

Hi brother, I want to know where can I find the Scottish rite craft lodge ritual? Thank you so much

Alexandre Kappaun said...

Actually, most lodges in Brasil and Latin América work in the Scottish Rite, in the craft degrees. Here, what is more uncommon are lodges working in the York Rite craft degrees, brother Nick Johnson.

SeLaDeputy said...

Here are the Lodge Name, locations and meeting times of the 16th Nasonid District of Louisiana who perform the Scottish Rite Craft Degrees