Sunday, March 26, 2017

A Brother Asks: About the Highest Degree Post

A Brother Comments: Coach, a great blog about the highest degree in Masonry.
My Response: Thanks!  It sure was a lot of fun researching and putting it together.
He Continues: There's a bit of confusion in the Temple though.
My Response:  There usually is when Babel's Tower is still being built.
He continues: Are you saying that the Master Mason is a rank and not the last & sublime degree of our Craft system?
My Response: Yes.  That is exactly what I implied. 
He Continues: Please explain this.
My Response: If Fellows of the Craft did the Work that they were supposed to do, as spelled out within the dominant Preston-Webb Ritual practiced within the USA , then the Master's degree becomes a celebration and acknowledgement of what each Fellow of the Craft has Achieved and each "proficient" member comes into the Master's degree as "The Master's Word"; not someone still seeking it.
As it is now, it is a degree bestowing unearned rank where a Substitute is provided because the candidate is not "The Master's Word" and he hasn't a clue as to what the Ritual is intended to point out. 

He Continues: What's that?

My Response: He is a Ruffian.
He Continues: I understand your historical lesson that prior to the formation of the Grand Lodge of England, there's a strong likelihood that there was just a two degree system: The Entered Apprentice & Fellow Craft degrees.
My Response: Thanks!  But if you look carefully as to what was shared in the original post, Freemasonry truly was a one degree system when it entered the Grand Lodge Era.  The newly created Fellow Craft Subprime degree was originally part of the Entered Apprentice Prime Degree.  The "Master's Part" was provided to bestow the governing rank of "Fellow of the Craft" upon a member so he could run the lodge; there was nothing required other then to go through the ritual. 

It was when the first degree was split in two that the second part then bestowed the governing rank of "Fellow of the Craft" upon those going through it.  This was an "innovation" to the existing work.
He Continues: The Master's degree does appear as an innovation.
My Response: I'm glad that you see this too.
He Continues: It's sort of gloss or something added to the picture for whatever purposes these men had but never fully explained and understood by future generations.
My Response: Yes!  Please refer back to my previous comments about "He is a Ruffian."  It doesn't have to be explained to those who have actually done the Work.
He Continues: Our system seems to have been complete with only the 2 degrees.

My Response: Agreed!
He Continues: In fact, the Fellow Craft degree meshes well the Mark Master degree's account without the necessity of the Master's degree.
My Response: Yep!  The breadcrumb trail is definitely thick with clues!  Unfortunately, very few see it and even fewer follow it.
He Continues: However the Master's degree doesn't naturally blend in except maybe with the introduction of the final working tool, the Trowel.  It's explained that only Master Masons are given a trowel.
My Response: Yes.  And that is only used in the USA style Ritual.  There are three Working tools used in some MM rituals.  Additionally, this is where I want to scream, "Wake Up!", but I won't and I'll let you just imagine that I did.
Apprentices and Fellows of the Craft used/use the Trowel.; they HAD/HAVE TO!  The Master's Degree is "Symbolic".  In practice, ALL levels used ALL the Working Tools.  How else were/are each of our Craftsmen going to Learn the Craft????  Learning requires Explaining, Showing, and Doing!
He Continues: I'm understanding where you're coming from historically.
My Response: Good!
He Continues: But I'm not sure if I can agree with you that after all this time, we should not still consider the Master's degree as the final & highest?
My Response: You could agree, but it would require you to 1) step back, 2) remember that these degrees are all "symbolic" and 3) use common sense. 

He Continues: Then you are not advocating changing anything?

My Response: The only thing that I'm advocating here and in the originating post on this subject are opportunities for you to re-evaluation your understandings of the history and basis of the first three degrees. Other than that, it's business as usual, as in, continue to do the Work that makes goods men better!

He Continues: Thanks!  Very doable!

My Response: Good!  Have at it!
Brother John S. Nagy

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