Joining the Scottish Rite, I sought to deepen my understandings of blue lodge work, and masonry overall. I knew this was an adjunctive choice, not in place of my blue lodge work. I wasn’t disappointed. Following my first reunion, I was encouraged to apply to Hauts Grades Academy to expand and reflect upon what I had experienced. Early on, the Scottish Rite was known as Hauts Grades. I eagerly went to the web pageand signed up on the wait list. Hurry up and wait, the useful lesson to temper impulsivity and mobilize contemplation. When my admission email arrived, I paused, then logged in and got started. The program is the Northern Jurisdictions answer to further light self-study.
A video introduction gives a brief and clever overview of the Rite, packed with historical high and low points. Hauts Grades labor consists of three sections: Level I explores the rituals of the twenty-nine degrees by reading through each degree and taking an on-line quiz about the contents. In level II one is asked to choose nine of the twenty-nine degrees, review them in even greater depth, and write a personal reflective piece about those selected. There are specific requirements that frame the task including how lessons and core values might be implemented in lodge and life. Level III is a research paper of the candidate’s choosing which has been approved by the HGA committee; the areas of research represent the history, ritual, or philosophy of the Scottish Rite. Being a lengthy endeavor, a year is granted to complete the task. Here the master mason can make a Scottish Rite journey and study very personal, seeking to explore and bring into the light an aspect of our world of particular interest to him, potentially expanding the body of literature as well.
I have just completed level II and both sad and excited its over; though I realized a few papers back, I can do the same with any and every degree I choose as much as I want. Now knowing the format, I can continue the reflection without the oversight for my own edification. It has been fulfilling and curious to note the difference in writing about degrees I’d never witnessed, ones I have experienced once, and the ones I’ve witnessed two or three times. It mattered and changed things in the visceral response and personal nature of the reflection papers. I also chose to write about the degrees that move me the most, first.
In the middle of the experience it is a meaningful, moving, self-paced study and practice. I’m asked to consider and reflect on how I will implement the lessons of the degrees in my day to day life in and out of lodge. Regardless of education level, HGA participants have a chance to delve into their masonic and Scottish Rite experience and practice reflection and research with the goals of expanding education and understanding, and promoting service. I was talking with my Brother the other day lamenting the fact that I hadn’t gone through the line in lodge beforedoing the work in HGA; he admonished me stating he hoped more of us would take longer and do more internal and expository writing prior to stepping into line thereby improving the depth and breadth of knowledge each new officer brings to the line. HGA provides an additional route through masonry for those who find this modality inviting and inspiring; hone your living tradition as well as your writing and communication tools. I’m grateful to my NMJ leadership of the Hauts Grades as we pay no fee for the privilege of doing this directed work. All nine papers are reviewed sequentially before the next may begin. Important to note, this venture means a lot of work for a few already active in the craft. Thank you. In the interested of more labor and light, I thought I would share it with you here. Though HGA is part of the NMJ, it is available to SMJ master masons who choose plural membership with a valley in the NMJ. New to masonry or a well-traveled leader, I strongly encourage further study through the Hauts Grades Academy. ~EAM
Brother Erik Marks is a clinical social worker whose usual vocation has been in the field of human services in a wide range of settings since 1990. He was raised in 2017 by his biologically younger Brother and then Worshipful Master in Alpha Lodge in Framingham, MA. You may contact brother Marks by email: erik@StrongGrip.org