From the Wise Master (November, 2010)

posted May 20, 2015, 4:43 PM by San Jose Scottish Rite   [ updated May 20, 2015, 4:43 PM ]


Anyone who attends meetings at San Jose Scottish Rite probably knows Ken Justus. He and I belong to the same Masonic Lodge, Texas #46 in San Juan Bautista. Ken is also our officer’s coach at Texas lodge. 
You may have noticed that Ken was absent from our last reunion. This was because of health issues which also have prevent him from acting as officer’s coach. As a result, I am now the acting officer’s coach. (I’m told that I volunteered for the position.)
 At our most recent practice, the number of times I heard “That’s not the way we used to do it.” reminded me of the following story by Jim Tresner, reprinted in part from the Oklahoma Mason, April-May 1995:
‘The story is told of a historian, recording folk history in Illinois in the 1970’s. Several people in the countryside had told him of a farm family which possessed the axe Abraham Lincoln had used when splitting logs for a living as a young man. 
The historian finally found the farm, and found the farmer in the yard splitting wood for the living room fireplace. He asked him about the story. 
“Yes,” said the farmer, “it’s true. Abe Lincoln lived around here as a young man, and he worked for a while splitting wood for my great-great-grandfather. Happened he’d bought a new axe from a peddler the day before Abe Lincoln came to work here, and he gave it to Lincoln to use. We’ve kept it ever since.” 
“That’s a real historical treasure” said the historian. “It really ought to be in a museum. Would you mind going into the house and bringing it out so I could see it?” 
“Oh we know it’s important,” said the farmer. “I take it to the school from time to time and tell the kids about it and Lincoln. Seems to sorta make him real for them. But I don’t have to go into the house, I’ve got it here.” 
He handed the horrified historian the axe he had been using. 
“You mean you’re still USING it?!” 
“Sure thing. An axe is meant to be used.” 
The historian looked it over carefully. “I must say your family has certainly taken good care of it.” 
‘Sure, we know we’re protecting history. Why we’ve replaced the handle twice and the head once.” 
In many ways, Masonry is like Abe Lincoln’s axe. All of us tend to assume that Masonry has always been the way it was when we joined. And we become fiercely protective of it in that form. But, in fact, we’ve done more than replace the handle twice and the head once. 
And Masonry is like Abe Lincoln’s axe in another way. For, although the handle and head had been replaced, that axe was still the one used by Abe Lincoln in truth if not in fact The farmer used it to teach. He told children about it and about Abe Lincoln. He helped make the past real to them, so that they could learn the great values of honesty and hard work which Lincoln typified. 
It’s the same with Masonry. In spite of the many changes which have already happened and the changes which are bound to happen in the future—for Masonry, like any living thing, must change and grow or die—it is still the same. It’s essence—the lessons it teaches, the difference it makes in the lives of men, that great moment of transformation which is the goal of Masonry, when a man becomes something new and better than he was when he came in the door as a candidate—that essence cannot and will not be lost, as long as Brethren meet in the true Masonic spirit, to work and learn and study and improve themselves and the world.’
I think some members had concerns about our revised degrees performed at our last reunion but it would appear to me that the concern was unfounded. Our recent candidates seemed to be the most enthusiastic group of new Scottish Rite Masons I’ve seen yet and I look forward to their participation in our organization.

Bryant Day
Wise Master