written by Ronald A. Seale, 33°, Sovereign Grand Commander
Upon first entering a Lodge—not yet clothed with the title “Entered Apprentice” and still known only as “the candidate”—an individual is posed two fundamental questions that will define the rest of his Masonic journey. Indeed the answers will determine in large part if the journey is to continue at all. The first question: “In whom do you place your trust?” Above all else, upon whom or what do you rely? What do you know for sure, are you willing to bet your life on, are you willing to take a beating for? In the final analysis, this question seeks to know upon what the candidate relies as ultimate truth, that upon which his life is grounded.
The second question, closely related to the first:”What do you desire?” In the vernacular: What are you doing here? What are you looking for? What do you hope to find? Even though prompted by a faithful brother, the returned answer is always the same—wisdom, truth, knowledge, metaphorically identified as Light. And thus having answered, the candidate, now a brother, begins his Masonic journey. For many of us who have spent a lifetime in Masonry, the night we answered those questions so long ago is but a distant memory. For others, a more recent event may be inscribed upon their memories. More importantly, perhaps, is when each of us last answered those same inquiries, so essential to maintaining our character and status of a Mason.
Have our life experiences or our Masonic experiences, both positive and negative, altered our perception and our answers to those inquiries? I sometimes wonder if the Craft and each individual would better be served to periodically return to the Lodge, dressed in the garb of the candidate, and again hear the questions propounded and be called upon to respond. In whom do you place your trust, now? What do you most desire, now? How has your experience in Masonry—be it a few days or many years—affected the inquiry and the answer?
In the truest sense, the wisest among us always remain and retain with honor the status of “candidate.” We should forever be learning, growing, and discerning new truths and applying them against our life’s experiences as we progress in Masonry. Only in that way will our membership in lodge or appendant-bodies remain fresh, vital, and challenging. Only when we believe we have completed the initiatory experience, have arrived, and are “in,” do the twin dangers of sloth and self-sufficiency present themselves. When did we last consider ourselves as “the candidate”?
This issue of the Scottish Rite Journal is dedicated to our efforts in Masonic education. There are so many opportunities available to continue our reading, study, and interaction with other Brethren who share our desire to learn and “improve ourselves in Masonry.” I urge you to take advantage of one or more of these opportunities. The Scottish Rite Research Society is an excellent place to begin as is the Southern Jurisdiction’s Master Craftsman correspondence course. As a matter of fact, some areas of the country are starting Master Craftsman study groups to meet regularly, work on the assignments, and discuss the reading materials for each particular installment. This is Masonic education at its best! You can discover ways to avail yourself of these opportunities elsewhere in this issue.
The Pilgrim’s Progress, that timeless seventeenth-century classic by John Bunyan, chronicles the adventures of Christian, a travelling man who seeks God as he sets out on his way to heaven. A Christian classic, this is the story of Christian’s journey of faith toward ultimate Truth. In the closing scene of the first section of the book, our traveler seeks to cross a deep and wide river which we recognize as death.
Beginning to sink, Christian cries out in despair to his companion, Hopeful. His fellow traveler, having based his life on that which is sure and solid replies in this supreme moment, “Be of good cheer, my brother: I feel the bottom, and it is good.”
And may this, my Brother, be your portion. May you continue to grow as a Mason, forever be a candidate, and always know in Whom you place your trust. And knowing, may you find what you most desire.