The Rite Word - Articles

The Rite Word is an official publication of the Valley of San Jose, Orient of California of the A.A.S.R. of Freemasonry, published monthly except July and August, at the San Jose Scottish Rite Center, 2455 Masonic Drive, San Jose, CA 95125.  Phone # 408-978-7483

From the Venerable Master (April 2018

posted Apr 10, 2018, 5:48 PM by San Jose Scottish Rite

Have you ever stopped to wonder what led you to join Scottish Rite?  Maybe you have, or maybe you’ve known all along exactly why you decided to invest your time and money in the organization.

But if you haven’t thought about it for a while, especially if you haven’t attended in some time, then I ask you to talk a few moments and ponder.  Go ahead, we’ll wait.

So do you remember?  Chances are, whatever the reasons were, the same is still true today.  The lessons taught in our degrees are the same.  The fellowship we enjoy at each of our meetings is still there. The collective Masonic knowledge of our members is probably greater than ever before.

As with any Masonic organization, the beauties contained in our body are derived not only from its principles, ideals, and philosophies, but from its members.  That means that you and I change the organization and make it better simply by being there and participating.  And as we’ve already seen, the reasons to participate are the same as when you joined. 

The Scottish Rite has so much to offer Masonry and the world at large, but it functions best through our interaction with each offer.  We draw from one another.  We learn, grow, and become better together.  The more of us there are, the better we become, not only as a body, but as individuals. We want you be a strong & vibrant part of what we do, so that we can become better.

We’re looking forward to our statewide reunion, taking place in Oakland on June 29 and 30, and July 1.  This unique event hasn’t been seen in California in decades.  I hope you will make plans to be there.  More importantly, talk to your Masonic brethren, and encourage them to a part of this very special class of candidates.  What an exciting weekend that will be.

This year, the Lodge of Perfection is sponsoring a day in San Francisco, including a trip to Alcatraz, and an optional ride on the Rocket Boats.  A sign-up sheet is available in the office at the Scottish Rite.  You can talk to me directly if you would like details. I hope to see you all soon.

Randy Downey, Venerable Master



From the Commander of Kadosh (April 2018)

posted Apr 10, 2018, 5:45 PM by San Jose Scottish Rite


Greetings friends, and hope you all are well. Wrapping up the end of the month with what was a first class job done by the Maundy Thursday cast. It gives time for much reflection on what is important. When we break down what is needed to live, up towards the top of the list would be breathable air. We often hear of the Cedars of Lebanon throughout masonry in their use to build, by Solomon and Zurubbabel. There is a grove that goes by the name "Cedars of Lebanon". There are several hundred trees living there including several old trees. In the 1500's there was about 28 old trees, and in the 1700's around 15 were counted. In the 1800's someone began to take notice of a need, and he was J. Sterling Morton. April 27th marks an important day, which often gets passed over, but here's why the date is a notable one. J. Sterling Morton, and his wife moved from Detroit to Nebraska, but were longing for something. He, and his fellow pioneers were missing their trees. The seed was planted and from then on he wrote magazine articles, and sparked something among friends and neighbors. This idea grew, and on January 4, 1872 Morton proposed a day that put the thoughts of those to come after him in everyone's mind. Arbor Day was born on April 10, 1872, and an estimated 1 million trees were planted on the first day. We may not all be able to plant a tree, but if we look past the trees and focus on his message, it leaves possibility for all of us to make a change. With each action we take, and decisions we make that will benefit future generations, we are planting seeds that will ensure success for those that follow.

"Each generation takes the earth as trustees."- J. Sterling Morton

Brandon Heath Duenas 

Commander of Kadosh


From the Wise Master (April 2018)

posted Apr 10, 2018, 5:41 PM by San Jose Scottish Rite

 I want to recommend a book by Ill Brother Manly P. Hall for your consideration; “The Lost Keys of Freemasonry”. I consider this one of the best books written about Masonry.  In Chapter VI, Brother Hall sets forth the attributes of a “true” Mason. I believe one can substitute Master for true and not change the essence of Brother Hall’s thoughts.  Here are just a few of his ideas on the qualifications of a Master Mason.

The true disciple of ancient Masonry has given up the worship of personalities. With his greater insight he realizes that all forms and their place in material affairs are of no importance to him when compared to the life which is evolving within him. Hall states that those who might allow appearances or worldly expressions to deter them from their spiritual tasks are failures in Masonry for Masonry is an abstract science of spiritual development.  The true Mason realizes that there is one thing connected to life, the spark of God in all living things.

The true mason is not creed- bound. He knows that within the divine light of his Lodge that as a Mason his religion must be universal; Christ, Buddha or Mohammed makes no difference. The true mason recognizes only the light and not the bearer. He knows the truer understanding of the “oneness” of all spiritual truth.

The true Mason has the power of observation. He is a student of human nature and sees in those around him the unfolding and varied expressions of the connected spiritual Intelligence. He has sworn that in his everyday life he will use the life message he hears and build it as Temple to his God. He is a living instrument or tool in the expert hands of the Master Workman.

There are some six or seven more attributes identified by Brother Hall which I will address in another article. I think it is both important and interesting to point out that Brother Hall was 19 when he started writing this book. He was only 21 when it was published, and he was not yet a Freemason. It was from his study of comparative religion that he became aware of the secret philosophical schools and societies of the ancient worlds. This knowledge and the many books on Freemasonry that were readily available in the library led him to write “The Lost Keys of Freemasonry”. 

I hope you had the opportunity to join us for the Maundy Thursday celebration of Remembrance and Renewal.  In my talk, I presented some thoughts on harmony with oneself, with others and nature. I intend to present elements of this talk in future Wise Master articles. See you in the Temple and I look forward to breaking bread with you.

Fraternally,  Chuck Cowden, Wise Master


From the Master of Kadosh (April 2018)

posted Apr 10, 2018, 5:40 PM by San Jose Scottish Rite


Fraternal greetings!  The trip to Guthrie Oklahoma Scottish Rite reunion has been cancelled.  However, we are planning a joint Scottish Rite Consistory, Knights of St. Andrew, Sciots, and Grotto social event at the Sunnyvale Art & Wine Fest on the 2nd of June starting at noon.  So, mark your calendars and plan to attend this fun and relaxing event!

I wanted to take a moment and thank Wor. Hank Vlcek for his many years of distinguished service to the Scottish Rite and Blue Lodge.  Wor. Hank was a key person in my masonic journey and I had the honor of having him confer all of my Blue Lodge degrees at Golden Rule #479.  He will be sorely missed!  Arizona is gaining an amazing Masonic asset, and I wish him all the best in the next phase of his life’s journey!

Continuing the discussion on the Seven Virtues from my previous two articles, I will now explore the potential connections between the virtues and the seven-step alchemical process.

Seven Virtues as They Relate to Jacob’s Ladder and Alchemical Paths to Perfection

One might draw a connection between the Jacob’s Ladder and the seven-step alchemical process.  The seven-step alchemical process as it relates to the Seven Virtues, as expressed by Jacob’s Latter, is as follows:

Calcination - Temperance

Dissolution - Prudence

Separation – Fortitude

Conjunction - Justice

Fermentation - Faith

Distillation - Hope

Coagulation - Charity

Calcination, as it relates to psychology, is the destruction of ego and attachment to material possessions.  This relates to Temperance in abstaining from things which are not needed.  Dissolution is the further breaking down of artificial structures of the Psyche to remove prejudices and conditioning as well as it works on the heart and Id to release buried emotions that conceal or distort our true nature.  This relates to Prudence in that one must be wise and cautious in how they react to the exposure of their true nature.  Separation is the stage where one has to truly confront their authentic feelings and not simply forgive or excuse particular personal attributes.  This is related to Fortitude in that one must have courage in adversity or pain.  Conjunction provides the inner space, or simmering, which is required for us to truly and honestly accept all aspects of our authentic self.  This relates to Justice in that fair, equitable, and honest acceptance is required.  Fermentation is the process of death and rebirth.  The death of our old aspects of ourselves which no longer serve us and the rebirth or our new selves.  This relates to Faith in that we must have complete confidence and trust that we will be reborn after the death of our old habits.  Distillation is the purification of ourselves such that we constantly die and are reborn in the presence of the moment without reacquiring our previous bad habits or attributes.  Hope is related to this state in that we must expect that we will continue to refine ourselves and not revert back to less evolved ways of life.  Coagulation is the final phase in which we have become free from the mind and have allowed our consciousness or Soul to connect with the Materia Prima: The Spirit.  Alchemy’s ultimate goal is to create an interrelationship between mind and matter, between self and world, which is realized in this phase.  This relates to Charity in that that a true state of Charity is one in which a person loves his brother as himself and has a proper relationship to himself and those in the world around him.

Therefore, the paths to perfection can be expressed in many ways, and they are interrelated.  Exercising, internalizing, and exhibiting the Seven Virtues polarizes one towards the path of perfection and counteracts the Seven Deadly Sins.  The Alchemical path to perfection is related to Jacob’s Ladder and the Seven Virtues in a balanced and synergistic way.

Wishing you all well on your journey!

Fraternally, Sean Patrick, Master of Kadosh


From the Chief Knight (April 2018)

posted Apr 10, 2018, 5:37 PM by San Jose Scottish Rite


St Andrew is Scotland’s patron saint, but who was he? What did he do that was so saintly? In addition, how did he get the honor of becoming Scotland’s patron saint?

As we look forward to this year’s St Andrew’s Day celebrations, we thought it would be a good idea to give you a little peek into his life, his work and all the things that made him such an impressive character, not just for Scotland, but also for countries all around the world.

St Andrew has been celebrated in Scotland for over a thousand years, with feasts being held in his honor as far back as the year 1000 AD. However, it was not until 1320, when Scotland’s independence was declared with the signing of The Declaration of Arbroath, that he officially became Scotland’s patron saint. Since then St Andrew has become tied up in so much of Scotland. The flag of Scotland, the St Andrew’s Cross, was chosen in honor of him. In addition, the ancient town of St Andrews was named due to its claim of being the final resting place of St Andrew.

Popularization of St Andrew’s Day

Despite the fact that St Andrew has stood as Scotland’s patron saint for so many years, it wasn’t until the 18th century that the popular celebration of his day became commonplace. What might surprise you even more is that the tradition of celebrating on November 30th was not even technically started in Scotland, but by a group of ex-pats in the USA who were keen to reconnect with their Scottish roots.

It all began with the creation of the ‘St Andrew’s Society of Charleston’ in South Carolina, which was founded in 1729 by a group of wealthy Scottish immigrants. The organization is actually the oldest Scottish society of its type in the world and was set up with one simple premise. Their goal was to adhere to St Andrew’s philanthropic beliefs and they became famous throughout the region for their work assisting orphans and widows in that area.

Fraternally, Naresh Rampershad, Chief Knight


From the Venerable Master (March 2018)

posted Mar 7, 2018, 2:12 PM by San Jose Scottish Rite

In March, we celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, a time which honors the patron saint of Ireland.  Much of his life is the subject of conjecture, and even the dates of his life are uncertain, other than that he lived in the mid to late 5th Century.   Born in Great Britain and originally taken as a slave to Ireland, he subsequently escaped and later returned to the Emerald Isle as a missionary.  He later served as a bishop, and has been referred to, at one point, as the bishop of Armagh, Primate of all Ireland. 

St. Patrick is credited with using the shamrock to illustrate the doctrine of the holy trinity, which explains in large part the use of the shamrock as a symbol of St. Patrick’s Day.  Of course, the most famous legend surrounding St. Patrick is his banishment of all snakes from Ireland.  Scientific evidence tells us that there never were any snakes in post-glacial Ireland, but that has never deterred the legend from perpetuating itself.  Many theories exist as to how he became associated with this legend, but none can be proven over any other. 

St. Patrick is buried at Down Cathedral, Downpatrick, County Down, Northern Ireland. This has special significance to me, as it is the country from which my ancestors emigrated in the early 19th century.  

March 17, widely accepted as the date of his death, marks the annual recurrence of St. Patrick’s Day.  Throughout Ireland, it is a day of solemnity, and a holy day of obligation, but also a day of celebration.  Feasts and parades are held in his honor each year. 

In the United States, of course, St. Patrick’s Day is a day to celebrate one’s Irish heritage – whether or not one is actually Irish.  It is a festive occasion, a day of libations and joy, a day for the “wearin’ of the green”, and of less than successful attempts to speak with an Irish accent.  It is, to put it simply, a reason to have a party.

So be with us at our March stated meeting, as we take the chance to celebrate the Irish in all of us.

Erin go Bragh (Ireland Forever)

Randy Downey, 32° KCCH


From the Wise Master (March 2018)

posted Mar 7, 2018, 2:11 PM by San Jose Scottish Rite

Thoughts on Mystery Schools, the Lesser Mysteries and Freemasonry”

I believe it is generally accepted that the Egyptians, more than any other ancients, were the most learned in the occult sciences. The wisest of philosophers from Greece went to Egypt to be initiated in the sacred mysteries by the priests of Thebes, Memphis and Hermopolis. Thales, Solon, Pythagoras and Plato all traveled to the delta of the Nile in quest of knowledge. On their return to Greece, these scholars announced and confirmed the Egyptians to be the wisest of mortals and their temples to be the repositories of the most sublime doctrines concerning the history of the gods and the regeneration of men.

It is both interesting and instructive to relate this story concerning Pythagoras and his experience gaining entry to the Egyptian Mystery School. It is commonly believed that initially his application was denied. Finally, after many years of waiting and preparation, he was elected into the Mysteries of Isis at Thebes. It was only for the very few.

Let’s quickly review the dynamics of a mystery school: it is posited by many scholars that a Mystery School fulfills the following conditions or criteria: 1—There is a Founder, or authoritative leader, dead or alive; 2—There is a community, physical or virtual, of autonomous individuals with a common intention, searching and being open to the mystery of life; 3—There is a doctrine, a philosophy or an ideology; 4—There is a path of initiation; 5—There are specific practices or rituals that form the methodology of the school.

It is usual to examine the mysteries by differentiating between the Lesser Mysteries and the Greater Mysteries. The Lesser Mysteries are the foundation for the initiate to prepare him for the Greater Mysteries through various degrees of purification and discipline along with training in intellectual and spiritual perception. Generally, the first 4 degrees of say, 7, comprised the Lesser Mysteries. Usually, the 4th Degree was employed as a decision or testing point to determine those who are deemed prepared to move on to more stringent discipline and purification as well as a more intimate relationship between initiate and teacher.

The trials of the Lesser Mysteries are comparatively simple, but as the initiate proves his worth and ability to stand the tests, the training becomes more rigorous and the demands on his nature more severe and errors are more sternly dealt with by the teacher. The Lesser Mysteries are marked by two features: 1—instruction in the deeper sciences of the cosmos; and 2—dramatic rites portraying that which the initiate must go through without outside assistance in the Greater Mysteries. In the ancient Greek Eleusinian Mysteries, for example, the sacred rites acted as a spiritual aid in stimulating the candidate to live the higher life, as well as familiarizing him with the path of the initiatic process. These teachings are passed down through the oral tradition from teacher to student in an unbroken lineage of physical initiation. This physical initiation empowers the initiate on their life path as they strive to achieve their full potential and life purpose. The power of this process helps the initiate gain a greater connection to the supreme power and there the “Great Work.” The Mystery Schools were more than cultural forces—they were the culture and civilization of the time!

Early on, I had found the expressions “Freemasonry is a progressive, moral science” and that “it makes good men better men” somewhat unfulfilling in trying to describe our gentle craft. So, when asked, this is how I describe Masonry — It is a modern day Mystery School where the initiate undergoes a transformation from darkness to light by the progressive teaching of our moral science through a series of degrees, self study and the practice of our lessons outside the Temple in all facets of life.

So, I leave this for you to consider: is Freemasonry a Mystery School in the tradition of the Egyptians and the Greeks and so many other Mystery Schools of ancient times and today? If not—then just what is Freemasonry?

Fraternally,  Chuck Cowden, Wise Master


From the Commander of Kadosh (March 2018)

posted Mar 7, 2018, 2:09 PM by San Jose Scottish Rite


We welcome the month of March with change. In our degrees we learn the equinox has important roles throughout time. It is more than just trying to balance an egg perfectly, which can be done any day of the year. The word equinox comes from the Latin word aequus, meaning equal, and nox, meaning night. We may think it to be an equal split of light, and dark, but the equinox is just close in time. It varies due to the sun rise, and atmospheric reaction of sunlight. The few days prior to the spring equinox, and a couple after the Autumn equinox is a period know as the equilux. Taken from Latin meaning equal light. This is when there is both true equal night, and day. Duncan said "Light, is a source of positive happiness: without it man could barely exist". We should take this extra time and lux to share that happiness with all we encounter. A friend often uses the phrase "Let your Light shine", and think that is a solid way to start the month of March.

Happy Saint Patrick's Day

Brandon Heath Duenas 

Commander of Kadosh


From the Master of Kadosh (March 2018)

posted Mar 7, 2018, 2:08 PM by San Jose Scottish Rite

Fraternal greetings!  First off, I want to congratulate all involved in making the Sweetheart dinner in February a success!  I’m proud to be part of an organization which continues to honor and support the spouses of our departed brethren.  Additionally, I would like to remind everyone of the upcoming trip to Guthrie, Oklahoma, April 6th through the 8th, where we are organizing a trip to observe all 29 degrees in their amazing Scottish Rite temple.  Please mark your calendars, and more details concerning the logistics and cost are to come soon.  This will be a great opportunity for our brothers to see how Guthrie performs all the degrees in preparation for our Statewide conferral in June.

In continuing with my last article in February, I would like to continue to explore the Seven Virtues and how they relate to the path of Jacob’s latter as follows:

Seven Virtues as They Relate to Jacob’s Ladder

Faith, Hope, and Charity are said to be the daughters of Sophia, who was the goddess of Wisdom.  Sophia is represented in Hellenistic philosophy and religion, Platonism, Gnosticism and Christian theology.  In Gnosticism Sophia is a feminine figure who represents the feminine aspects of the Godhead and the Holy Spirit in the Trinity.

In the mysteries of Mithras there existed a ladder, Jacob’s ladder, with seven rounds which symbolized the path of the soul towards a state of perfection.  The rounds of the ladder were considered gates whereby the novitiate was to pass through seven dark and winding caverns in his ascent to perfection.  Each cavern represented a world, or state of existence, through which the soul was to pass as it progressed towards perfection.  The rounds were considered to be made out of metals of increasing purity and associated with the ancient seven planets.  The Seven Virtues represent the seven rounds as follows:

7.  Charity

6.  Hope

5.  Faith

4.  Justice

3.  Fortitude

2.  Prudence

1.  Temperance

The first four rounds are the foundation of perfecting the lower nature of our being.  Moving up the ladder the three principle rounds are Faith, Hope, and Charity.  Whereby Faith creates Hope, and Hope leads to Charity.  The greatest of these and the pinnacle of the journey is Charity.  Therefore, perfecting our natures and behaviors, and knowing ourselves leads us to the ultimate spiritual path up Jacob’s ladder from the Earth to Heaven!

Wishing you all well on your journey!

Fraternally, Sean Patrick

Master of Kadosh


From the Venerable Master (February 2018)

posted Feb 8, 2018, 3:03 PM by San Jose Scottish Rite

Let me begin by thanking the brethren of the Valley of San Jose, for allowing me the opportunity to serve as Venerable Master this coming year.  I am looking forward to an exciting year, with many and varied activities – including the first ever state-wide reunion in Oakland in June, where all 29 degrees will be conferred.  You definitely want to be a part of that.   In addition, each of the bodies is planning social activities that should prove enjoyable for all our members and their families.  In the Lodge of Perfection, we are sponsoring a day trip to San Francisco, where we will visit Alcatraz, perhaps ride the rocket boats, and even stop by the famed Buena Vista Inn, purported inventor of Irish Coffee.  The other three bodies are sponsoring activities such as college football games/tailgating,  a visit to the fabulous Steinbeck Center in Salinas, and many others.  Stay tuned for details.

In February we celebrate love, and we honor our loved ones.  This is especially true in Freemasonry, as we take this opportunity to honor our sweethearts.  It is the tradition of the San Jose Scottish Rite, at our February stated meeting, to welcome the widows of our members, and let them know how important they are to us.  Please be there to help us show our beautiful sweethearts how much we care.

Our Scottish Rite is for you, my brethren.  Remember that our stated meetings are always short in length, to allow us to take care of our essential business, but then have time to enjoy each other’s company at our dinners afterward.  I hope you will join us at our meetings and our other activities.  Make San Jose Scottish Rite a regular part of your life.  We look forward to seeing you.

Randy Downey, 32° KCCH


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