Dispatches from Maine

Just another person of little note writing about ordinary things. That I reside in Maine is icing on the cake.

22 May 2005

The Maine Masonic College

One of the more important new programs announced at the Grand Lodge Annual Communication was the establishment of the Maine Masonic College. Their mission stationed is:

To create an educational environment for the purpose of inspiring the members of the Craft to explore the nature and purpose of Freemasonry which will lead to a deeper self-understanding of the founding principles, tenets, and lessons of morality.
The way I interpret the text is that this is a body intended to make serious the promise of Masonic education. The lodge system is capable of doing a good job of disseminating existing programs, but in general the lodges are not effective at creating new content for Masonic education. They are likelier to bring in prepared speakers on Masonic topics or historical recreations by esteemed brethren. The Grand Lodge has attempted to fill this gap by providing speaker lists, a failing endeavors as a twenty or even fifty person speaker list is like attempting to light the entire state of Maine with twenty-five or fifty candles: too little light over too much area.

If, on the other hand, the Maine Masonic College could bring in one member from every lodge you would create two hundred candles. An excellent start, since the as the syllabus grows each year new men will sign up and the number of candles will grow. Before you know it the lodges will be vibrantly illuminated by the content created in these programs. Then, just perhaps, the lodges might begin to gather in members who were moved to tears by its deeply meaningful rituals and bored to tears by the interminable Stated meetings. I am a Secretary, so I know for certain that Stated meetings suck the life out of lodges.

One key for the success of this body is a graduated programs like a pyramid: broad general interest at the bottom, more difficult courses for intermediate students of Masonry, and then extremely difficult courses at the top to make the learning of our best Masonic scholars worthwhile. Helping move people up the pyramid lights more candles and creates a progressive institution of learning. Another key is wide dissemination of the material through our vast state. Ensuring the programs reach the parts of the state where the instructor cannot comfortably reach. The two options I can imagine are video tape and use of the distance learning systems within the University of Maine system. I have no idea what the latter costs, but it would be the best possible option as it provides for distributed learning and interactivity.

I have the pleasure of having been asked to plan and teach a class on the development of Masonic ritual. I have been thinking a great deal about this, but I have yet to start my preparatory reading. I am finishing some reading on the study of ancient languages: The Story of Decipherment by Maurice Pope and Lost Languages by Andrew Robinson. The plan I am formulating right now is to split the seminar into two parts. The first part will be a survey of the development of Masonic ritual in four stages: Gothic Constitutions, pre-Grand Lodge exposures, Prestonian developments and finally Webb developments in America. The course would take about three hours with about one hour earmarked for Q&A. I am uncertain how to whip through six hundred years of Masonic ritual in around two hours of speaking, but it is essential for the class to be interesting to all levels.

The second version of the class would be a multi-day or six-to-eight hour class. The idea there is to study the process of ritual development and to help brethren understand how to begin the process of investigate ritual history themselves. The most important steps in the development of ritual in my view are parallel tracks: simple initiation to catechesis then catechesis to lecture and unguarded to bigradal to trigradal. The class would work together studying selected texts to spot the hallmarks of transformation and note places where gaps are occurring. The class would also have a chance to peak into what I call the pruned branches of our ritual, such as the three sons of Noah, a ritual which predated Hiramic legend. There are many interesting questions to address, such as why the trigradal system developed at all.

There are months of research ahead of me to prepare the necessary material. I plan to post what I am reading and drafts of the class as it develops over the Summer and Autumn.


At 22 May, 2005 21:05 , Blogger Norman F rust said...

My dear Bro.Christian
I congratulate you on this fine task. It sounds like it would not only be challenging personally,but should (as you suggest) get our Grand Lodge on a more firm foundation.

I look forward to reading more in the future.
rev. norm rust, grand chaplain


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