Sunday, October 27, 2013

I Would Like To Thank The Academy

Yesterday was not a day to sleep in. It was an early day that, despite the long hours, seemed to fly by leaving me wondering where the day had gone. Having staggered out of bed around 5:30 in the morning, it was inevitable to have the feelings of “what the heck am I doing up at this hour.” But once I got on the road, I began to get excited for what I was going to learn that day about the craft.

After picking up one of my fellow brothers in Bryn Mawr, we slowly made our way westbound on the Pennsylvania Turnpike and through the twisting and turning roads of Lancaster County. Driving up to the impressive gates of the Masonic Village in Elizabethtown, we couldn’t help but be impressed by its grandeur and expanse. Fortunately, even though there were a few wrong and missed turns along the way, we made it to the meeting just as registration was opening up.

It didn’t take long before we ran into a few brothers we recognized and a couple that we knew by name which filled the first hour of the event with catching up and talking about our future plans both at the lodge, in freemasonry, and with Scottish Rite (both of us are still within our first year). However, what dominated the conversation was our excitement about the speakers that we were about to hear. For many of us, this was our first experience with the Academy of Masonic Knowledge and so we didn’t know what exactly to expect but, for me, having been to numerous other presentations and readings in and out of the masonic world I knew what we were in for and I was looking forward to it.

In a bit of a switch in the schedule, Brother Arturo DeHoyos, PM, was up first. While his original topic was going to be on Masonic Ritual, he decided to take advantage of the time of year and speak about the images of mortality in Freemasonry. Keep in mind that Brother Arturo is someone that, given his background and experience, you give him your undivided attention regardless of the subject matter. Brother Arturo DeHoyos, PM, is currently the Grand Archivist and Grand Historian of the Supreme Council, 33°, Scottish Rite of Freemasonry for the Southern Jurisdiction of the U.S.A., a member of the Executive Staff of the House of the Temple, and the Grand Archivist of the Grand College of Rites of the U.S.A. He is America's foremost authority on the history and rituals of the Scottish Rite, an author, editor, and translator of many books and articles on Freemasonry.

Needless to say, we were all left thinking about what we had seen and attempting to remember and process all the information that was given to us in a matter of 45 minutes. Shortly after his talk, we spent some time in a Q&A session that was, for lack of a better term, astounding. The amount of knowledge (and I am talking about pinpointing exact dates, people, events, resources, etc.) is something that I don’t think I have ever seen before and will never see again.

Appropriately, following the lively discussion with audience members (I was too much in awe of this man’s intellect to think of a question) we were given some time to digest by adjourning for lunch. Masonic meals at larger events have always been a great way to meet other Masons from all parts of the commonwealth. Doing so allows for greater fellowship both during that particular event as well as future events when you may run into them again.

With our stomachs full and much left to process in our minds we were on our way back upstairs to hear the second speaker of the day, Brother John Belton, PM, who spoke on The English Masonic Union of 1813. This was a topic of great interest to all in the room as we are a unique group of masons that differs greatly in ritual as compared to all other parts of the United States and much of the world the only exception being that of the Grand Lodge of Ireland. Given my Irish ancestry, I was intrigued by what I might find out in this presentation.

To give you some background, Brother John Belton, PM has been a regular writer on topics of current interest relating to the role of Freemasonry in society. In 1998 he became the founding Senior Warden of Internet Lodge No. 9659 UGLE. His research has focused on the decline of Freemasonic membership across the English speaking world and has been published in AQC and Heredom. His most recent book, The English Masonic Union of 1813, was published in 2012.

It is a fascinating discussion and one that I look forward to exploring further as I read his book which I purchased at the meeting. I am also curious as to the relationship between Irish and English ritual since the union in 1813 and whether there are slight differences in the rituals of Northern Ireland given their ties both to Ireland and Great Britain. While we discussed the lack of a noticeable difference stemming from a question I posed in the second Q&A session it is still something that I believe is worth exploring further.

Both of the presenters left me with a great sense of uniqueness in the masonic world. Having heard my heritage spoken about (both the Irish and German sides were explored in vastly different ways) and the singular nature of Pennsylvania rituals in the United States, I could help but feel uniquely privileged for being a part of something that holds such a substantial role in the history of the brotherhood. It is this feeling that I look forward to sharing with my fellow brothers at my lodge and something that I look forward to exploring further both in my own reading and research as well as at addition meeting of the academy.