The Future Of An International Scottish Rite Ritual
C. Fred Kleinknecht, 33
Ill. Arthur J. Kerr, 33, Deputy of The Supreme Council in the Panama Canal, represented Sovereign Grand Commander Kleinknecht at the XIII Reunion of Sovereign Grand Commanders of America meeting in the Masonic Palace of Montevideo, Uruguay, October 10-13, 1996. The following article is a shortened version of the Grand Commander's address to the conference. Unfortunately, the press of a busy agenda prevented all papers by attending Sovereign Grand Commanders from being presented. Representatives from the following countries enjoyed the hospitality of the Brethren of Uruguay and that country's Sovereign Grand Commander, Ill. Diego Rodriguez Marino, 33, host of the Reunion: Republic of Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Cuba, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Mexico, Northern Masonic Jurisdiction, USA (Chief of Delegation, Ill. J. Philip Berquist, Deputy for Massachusetts), and Venezuela with observers from the Supreme Councils of France and Italy. Following nominations, the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction was selected as the site for the XIV Conference to be held in 1999.
Freemasonry has survived for about three centuries with little modification. To feel connected by language and experience to others of a long yesterday ago is a continuously beautiful example of Masonry's genius to hold men together in a common bond. The heart of continuity for the Masonic Craft is centered, of course, in the Ritual.
The Rituals of Freemasonry have had many expressions and interpolations over the years, especially during the 18th and 19th centuries, the age of creative Ritual development. Ritual is a dynamic component of the Fraternity, ever changing, yet somehow ever the same and ever new. Scholars point out that some 1,000 different Degrees have been written in the name of the Craft. Most of these efforts have not stood the test of time. What has survived shines brightest; what has not is left behind as dross.
The history of Masonic Ritual is probably as old as any Lodge of the late 16th century when philosophical touchstones first began to replace the working operations of trade masonry. The first Freemasons were consciously and purposefully deliberate about their patterns of meeting and the means instituted for receiving new members. The early workings of English and Scottish speculative Lodges, however, led to a variety of Masonic Rituals. The diversity of these Rituals adds to the rich philosophical heritage of our Craft. Yet Ritual purity and conformity remain ever-pursued and beneficial ideals. We must continue to protect Masonic Ritual from the danger of drifting too far afield. Our steady guide should be staying on track with Freemasonry's original intentions.
In the United States, the possibility of unifying the Rituals of the many Grand Lodges was proposed as far back as March 1822 when Bros. John Marshall, Chief Justice of the United States, and Henry Clay, U.S. Senator from Kentucky, were appointed to a special committee outlining a prospective General Grand Lodge of the United States, mainly to promote the uniformity of the Rituals. As much as the committee's work was admired, second thoughts took over and no agreement was reached.
By the middle of the 19th century, a similar state of affairs ensued for Masonry's higher Degrees. Systematic organization and presentation were clearly warranted if any continuity were ever to be established, particularly for the Scottish Rite, a small struggling branch of the Fraternity's family tree. Albert Pike tells us that when he was introduced to the Scottish Rite Degrees in 1855, they "were aggregated, but not system- atized...they did not crystallize, but became conglomerate."
"In Pike's Ritual, through it, and around it are the sublime cords of continuity, binding each to each in symmetry and eternity."
In 1855, The Supreme Council appointed a special committee to prepare a new comprehensive set of Rituals for the 4 through the 32. Ill. Albert G. Mackey was the best-known of the five-man committee. The junior member of the committee, and the only one not a 33 Mason, was Albert Pike who did all the work of overhauling the Scottish Rite Ritual while giving credit to an important advisor, Laffon de Ladebat of the Southern Jurisdiction.
Pike found most of the Degrees "unintelligible and much of the work a mere incoherent gabble." For nearly ten years, interrupted by the American Civil War, Pike strove to disentangle or start over from "a heterogeneous and chaotic mass, in many parts [an] incoherent nonsense and jargon, in others jejuneness." Pike believed the Rituals handed down to him were actually designed to "mislead those into whose hands they might unlawfully fall," but the result was to mislead everybody.
Pike's reordering, revising, and rewriting of the Scottish Rite Rituals, his Magnum Opus, was completed in 1868, and the new Pike Degrees from the 4th to the 32nd were gradually introduced to the Scottish Rite, Southern Jurisdiction, over the next ten years. By the late 1870s, the word had spread that Pike's Scottish Rite Ritual had set a new standard of excellence. It reinvigorated the Order and, according to historians, accounts significantly for the growth in the Rite that occurred up to 1900. Then, when the Pike Degree presentation was altered to accommodate a mass audience in a theater, as opposed to a Lodge setting, the Rite exploded in membership. Quality Ritual is practically the sole reason for the premier status of the Scottish Rite in the 20th century. As historian Mark Carnes has said, "The Scottish Rite had become the standard for ritualistic excellence."
A new challenge regarding Ritual confronts the next century of the Scottish Rite. We know that for over 100 years our Pike Ritual has been in the possession of nearly 40 Supreme Councils around the world. Notably, too, most of the Prince Hall Scottish Rite material is derived directly from Albert Pike, according to Masonic scholar Art deHoyos who has analyzed in parallel the published Rituals of all jurisdictions of American Scottish Rite Masonry. Arguably, Pike is the godfather of us all in worldwide Scottish Rite Masonry.
Pike, however, is the product of another time. The language of his day is not the vernacular of our own. He loses something in the translation, even among English-speaking audiences. We have begun in the Southern Jurisdiction to address this problem by appointing Illustrious Brother Rex R. Hutchens, 33, Grand Cross, author of A Bridge to Light and other seminal books on the Pike Ritual, to develop a revised Scottish Rite system of Degrees that are Pike-based. Dr. Hutchens is being assisted by an advisory group of the best fraternalists, historians, and ritualists in the United States. This project will take several years, but it is already well advanced.
If there is ever a chance to realize "an impossible dream" of all worldwide Scottish Rite Masons sharing a common fraternal experience, it will come through a common Ritual. With the recent formation of new Supreme Councils in Hungary and the Ivory Coast, new translations have been prepared. It will be critical to future Scottish Rite continuity that this process be coordinated, not regulated, for each Supreme Council is entitled to its sovereignty in matters of Ritual as well as all other areas.
"It is not by accident that the Scottish Rite of Freemasonry has survived for about three centuries with little modification."
Undoubtedly, however, Pike's Ritual needs new clarity. As revised, it should be so good as to deserve universal adoption. At that point, getting the "Revised Standard Pike Ritual" translated into other languages ought to be a high priority for international Scottish Rite Freemasonry.
Pike's Ritual captures the essence of the Scottish Rite's message "to ennoble common life." Through words and symbols, Pike prescribed a program that would lead to a better life and community. He said, "We are to hear and read and meditate, that we may act well; and the action of life is itself the great field of spiritual improvement" (from Morals and Dogma, page 243).
Pike's interest in the life of the mind, the bridge to world harmony, was summarized in his concluding statement, "that whatever withdraws us from the power of our senses, whatever makes the past, the distant, or the future predominate over the present, advances us in the dignity of thinking beings" (from Morals and Dogma, page 806).
Both the means and the goal of Pike's sense of human dignity is found
in the Ritual. In it, through it, and around it are the sublime cords of
continuity, binding each to each in symmetry and eternity.