C. Fred Kleinknecht, 33
Sovereign Grand Commander
In the Scottish Rite, many of our most important lessons
are, quite literally, key concepts for unlocking and solving the problems
of the world today.
Key is an interesting word, a word with many different meanings. It is entirely appropriate that a key should be the symbol of the Fourth Degree (pictured above), the beginning Degree of the Scottish Rite of Freemasonry.
A key can be that oddly wrought piece of metal which opens a lock, thus giving access to what was before inaccessible.
A key in music is a sign of relationships showing how the tones of a scale relate to one another.
A key can also be an answer as in a key to a test.
A key can be an idea on which everything else hangs, as when we say that competition is the key to free enterprise.
Or a key can be something which provides stability, as in the keystone of an arch.
These reflections were caused, of course, by the remarkable photograph of the key to the Bastille which LaFayette presented to George Washington. (See article by Frank R. Dunaway Jr.) For the people of Paris, the seizing of the Bastille was symbolic of their seizing liberty. In the Scottish Rite, the key is symbolic of that—and much more—for in the Rite, many of our most important lessons are, quite literally, key concepts.
In the Fourth Degree, the key symbolizes both a locking away and an opening up. It symbolizes the ability to keep confidences while also signifying how the individual can open a new life of study, insight, and growth which is the Scottish Rite. The symbol of the key reappears in later Degrees, each time with a richer meaning.
The word key, in the sense of a key signature in music, is fundamental to the Rite, for we learn progressively more about relationships—the relationships of God to Man, Man to Nature, Brother to Brother, and of the Scottish Rite Mason to the rest of the world.
Key in the sense of an answer is also relevant to our Order. Not that the Scottish Rite gives us answers. Rather the Rite tells us how to find answers by exploring how others have responded to the great questions of life.
Fundamentally, the Rite deals with key in the sense of the idea on which everything else hangs. In the Scottish Rite the key is the process of the individual’s discovery of himself, and everything depends upon that.
Finally, our Order is a key in the sense of providing stability. The ethics and morality taught in the Rite provide Scottish Rite Masons with an anchor in the world of conflicting pressures and temptations, for, as Albert Pike wrote, “principles never betray us.” In our contemporary world where people seem to believe a man can be a “little dishonest,” or a “little greedy,” or a “little uncaring,” it is useful to have a set of principles which tells us that these states are like being a “little pregnant.” The man who is a little dishonest is dishonest, pure and simple.
In giving Washington the key to the Bastille, the young LaFayette honored Washington as his “father in Masonry.” The key to the Bastille was not simply a souvenir or memento; it was a symbol of victory over oppression given to one of the world’s great champions of liberty.
Are the key concepts of Masonry and the Scottish Rite still as relevant to a world rapidly approaching the millennium as they were to the worlds of George Washington and Albert Pike? I think so.
u Integrity still matters. Is there one of us who does not value the friends who do what they say they will do, or who can be counted on to be entirely fair in everything? Is there one of us who does not wish to be such a person?
u Honesty still matters. We admire the man or woman who tells the truth, no matter what. And we still distrust people we have caught in a lie.
u Selflessness still matters. The media may lionize examples of wealth and conspicuous consumption, yet in our hearts we admire the great men and women who, at sacrifice to themselves, work to make the lives of others better.
u Fraternalism still matters, perhaps more now than ever before in the history of our Order. The pleasure we get in associating with Masonic Brothers, the confidence we have that we can trust these men under any circumstances—these fundamentals are vital in a world which seems to grow more selfish and less loving every day.
Yes, these and other key concepts are still valid, still relevant, just as liberty and freedom are still relevant. For there are still locked doors in the world—doors of prejudice, of ignorance, of intolerance, of self-interest, and of fear.
But we have the keys, Freemasonry and the Scottish Rite,
to these doors.
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.