C. Fred Kleinknecht, 33
Sovereign Grand Commander
The inscriptions carved throughout the House of the
Temple provide a concise and inspiring definition of what it is to be a
Scottish Rite Mason.
They are a part of our life from birth certificate to funeral ser-vice; even before birth, if some of the latest theories are correct, for it may be that the child in the womb can hear. We are surrounded by words, from talk radio to the great ideas of history recorded in the books in our libraries. Like the electricity which we access by the flip of a switch, words are so much a part of our environment that we often lose sight of their power.
Your headquarters building, the House of the Temple in Washington, D.C., could easily be called the House of the Words. Everywhere there are words cast in bronze and engraved in stone. I gave special attention to those words a few days ago when walking through the building.
Embedded in bronze letters on the limestone landing in front of the main entrance to the House of the Temple are the words “Erected to God and Dedicated to the Service of Humanity.” And above the door, inscribed in stone, are the words “Freemasonry builds its temples in the hearts of men and among nations.” Those words reflect the Mason’s life. It is built in the service of God and dedicated to the service of humanity. We strive to make a difference in the world, starting by making a difference in the heart of each Scottish Rite Mason.
When you pass through the epic bronze doors of the Grand Portal and come into the Atrium, the first thing you see is a white marble table. Supporting the table is a carved double-headed eagle, and engraved into the marble of the eagle are the words “Salve Frater,” “Welcome Brother.” But it means more than “welcome.” It also means “be of good health,” “be of joy.” And that is how I would hope all Scottish Rite Masons always feel upon entering the House of the Temple. It is your home, and where should a man feel more welcome, more comfortable and joy-filled than in his home?
As you look up, across the Atrium, to the sweep of the great staircase which ascends to the Temple Room, you can see a bust of Albert Pike, and engraved into the stone above his head are perhaps his most famous words: “What we have done for ourselves alone dies with us; what we have done for others and the world remains and is immortal.” If every Scottish Rite Mason remembered those words daily, what a force for good the Rite could be! As it is, we do much, but we have not yet even glimpsed the foothills of our possibilities.
If you continue up the grand staircase, you will find, just outside the Temple Room, a marble tiler’s seat. Engraved into the back of the seat is the famous Greek injunction, “Know Thyself.” If only we could! If the Deity would give us the power, as Brother Burns wrote, to see ourselves as others see us, how quickly we would reform those aspects of our character which are less desirable and strengthen the positive. And although we can never know ourselves perfectly and completely, yet the search for that self-knowledge is fundamental to the Scottish Rite. It is what we are all about.
Step into the Temple Room, and you read a Latin phrase which means, “Those whom virtue has united will not be separated by death.” There is great comfort in that thought. If we have tried to live a virtuous life, if we have striven to do good and to be good, then even when we are gone, our influence will be felt. We will have touched lives, and those lives will touch others. In that sense, we will never be separated from our Brothers who are also striving to do and be good.
Around the Temple Room itself, in letters of bronze on a black marble frieze, you can read, “From the outer darkness of ignorance through the shadows of our earth life winds the beautiful path of initiation unto the divine light of the holy altar.” It is a single sentence, but it reflects the whole Masonic journey. The altar, of course, represents each Mason’s personal commitment to his own faith and House of Worship. It is by initiation, by progressive learning and understanding, that we leave ignorance and move toward the light of know-ledge. It is the great path we chose to tread as Masons when we decided there is more to life than eat and drink and success as measured by the world.
Around the Temple Room altar itself, set into the floor, are the words, “From the Light of the Divine Word, the Logos, comes the Wisdom of Life, the goal of initiation.” Written on the front of the altar itself, in Hebrew, is “God said, Let there be light and there was light.” And thus we have journeyed into the very heart of faith.
There are other words in the House of the Temple, of course. There are millions of words in the books in our excellent library; there are more millions of words in our extensive Archives of The Supreme Council, 33.
But the words I have shared, the words in stone and metal, reflect most directly and concisely the great purpose and inspiration of the Rite. I hope you can visit the House of the Temple to see these words and the great Masonic treasures in the museum. But even more, I hope for you that these words are engraved as clearly and strongly in the temple of your own heart as they are in this historic and most beautiful of Scottish Rite buildings.
It is always a pleasure to welcome visitors to the House of the Temple, 1733 Sixteenth Street, NW, Washington, DC 20009-3103. Located on Sixteenth Street between R and S Streets, seven blocks NE of the Dupont Circle Metro stop, Red Line, the Temple is open to Brothers, guests, and the general public for tours from 8 am to 2 pm on weekdays. The Temple is also open on weekends and holidays for groups of 25 or more provided special arrangements are made in advance with the Grand Executive Director's office (202)232-3579. Visitors are requested to register at the door.