Sunday, March 13, 2016

A Secret Society Laid Open

There is a large impressive building in Santa Fe called The Scottish Rite Masonic Temple.  While all buildings in the historic district of Santa Fe have since been mandated to be adobe brown, Masonic Temple which was built in 1912 in a style recalling the Alhambra in Seville, is painted pink so that it will glow at dawn and dusk.

I never knew much about the Masons other than that they are usually referred to as belonging to a secret society.   We learned that this is something that they vehemently deny.   In fact, when we went to the Temple on a Saturday it was after a well advertised and reported invitation to see the building and learn about Freemasonry.  We were rather curious knowing that many of the Founding Fathers such as, George Washington, James Monroe, Benjamin Franklin, John Hancock and Paul Revere were Freemasons.

We had actually been in the building a few times for theater productions in their beautiful auditorium that retains Moorish decor and original painted sets. We have even been at a birthday party and a graduation party in the in the large reception rooms,  still it was with some surprise when we learned that our friend Doug Ottersberg is a Freemason and he was one of the “educators” for the afternoon.  He explained that when he came to Santa Fe 22 years ago to start a business here, knowing no one, it was the best way to get connected.

It is not known where or when Freemasonry began.  The oldest known document, however, is the Regius Manuscript dated around 1390 and thought of as a Masonry Constitution.   I like, however, the explanation that it started with stone masons who were free to travel and work where needed and in order to identify themselves they used passwords to prove themselves legitimate.  Those passwords were the first secrets of the Masons.

The motto for a Freemason is “Making a good man better”.  The goal of the organization, as it was told to us. is to help a good man become a better member of his family and his community. There are only two prerequisites to becoming a Mason: being a free-born man and believing  in a supreme being.   Religious denomination does not matter and I was told that there are many Jewish and Catholic Masons in New Mexico.  In other words, a slave could not be a Mason nor could a woman or child since they were also considered property in days of yore.   There are, however, Masonic organizations for women as well.

Their meetings take place in “Lodges,” of which there are two in the newer, detached building on the Temple grounds.  A mock meeting was held in one for the visitors that Saturday.   There were various ranking officials.  The lowest being a Junior Steward, then in order come Senior Steward, Junior Deacon, Senior Deacon, Junior Warden, Senior Warden...and the leader is the Worshipful Master.   These officials sit in designated positions in their Lodge, with the senior officials seated at the South and West sides and the Grand Master at the East, each on chairs, either one, two or three steps above the regular members who sit around the room.  An altar at the center of the large room has a holy book on it corresponding to the faith of the Worshipful Master In the case of the demonstration we were given it was the Senior Deacon who knelt before it to open it.

Not everything was explained to us.  Obviously, some things must be kept secret, but why no answer was given to a question as to what two globes above and to the right and left of the Deacon or Steward sitting in the West was beyond me.  One mystery was explained to me: the Logo of the Freemason is the compass and the square two instruments of architects with a ‘G’ in the center.  The ‘G’ as I understood it is for God and Geometry, though it is translated differently in different places.  Masons wear the symbol on a lapel pin.  Doug Ottersberg explained to us that his daughter could go up to anyone anywhere in the world wearing that pin and ask for help.

To sum up-- the program that was given out to the attendees that Saturday was headed, “Masonry is a beautiful or peculiar system of morality veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols.”

1 comment:

  1. And I should add not only can my daughter request help, my wife and sons could as well.