Secret Masters

by wjw on March 11, 2015

masons01So for years, when visiting Santa Fe, I’ve been driving past a giant pink Moorish castle, and wondering what went on inside.  For the place was Santa Fe’s Scottish Rite Temple, where met the Secret Masters of Whatever It Is They’re Secret Masters Of.

The other day, for the first time in history, the temple was opened to the public in a kind of open house.  So I hied myself thither to check out the scene.

I’ve always had a modest interest in Freemasonry, partially on account of a couple literary projects that never got off the ground, partly because some of my dad’s friends belonged to the Craft and talked about it now and again.  (I’m sure none of them divulged anything classified.)

(And also because of the Brimson Boys, who were friends of my dad and fell under the category of “hard-partying Shriners.”  As if there are any other kind.)

But joining the Freemasons seems not to have been a thing that my generation did.  I knew any number of people of my father’s generation who were members, and I know a very few folks younger than me who joined, but I don’t know anyone who grew up with me who became a Mason.

masons02I arrived and was directed to the very large auditorium, which was kind of an architectural mishmash— Egyptian pillars, Moorish windows and screens, a fresco of Boabdil surrendering the Alhambra to Ferdinando y Ysabel, and a large stage with a two-dimensional set of the interior of a European cathedral.

The reference to the Alhambra turns out not to be accidental, because the temple honors New Mexico’s Iberian roots not only by the temple’s architecture, which copies that of the Alhambra, but by its brilliant pink color, which ditto.

Our three genial hosts gave us the history of the Freemasons, their goals (equal rights, freedom of conscience and thought, and progress, if you want to know), and talked a bit about structure and organization and so on.  One gentleman, who spoke about the York Rite and its ongoing charities, was dressed in a military uniform complete with cocked hat, and I was delighted by this, because the uniform of the Past Commander of the Knights Templars is the one that the Commodore steals in my story “The Golden Age.”

Afterwards we were urged to go across the parking lot to Montezuma Lodge #1, a “Blue Lodge”— I’ll assume you already know what this means, or don’t care— for a pseudo-Masonic ritual.  I dawdled in the Moorish castle for a while, and missed it.  The Masons and Eastern Star I talked to were friendly and informative, though they were in something of a hurry because they were about to conduct a funeral rite for a brother who had passed, and they needed to get all the Muggles cowans out of the building.

One whole wing was set up as a rather spartan dormitory, so apparently you can lodge in the Lodge if you need lodging.

I went across to the Montezuma Lodge, which is in a much less distinguished building, and viewed a couple rooms set up for rituals— one Masonic, one Eastern Star— then went to the library, which is stuffed with enough books on Freemasonry to make your eyes cross, and which also held Kit Carson’s Hawken rifle, which you could handle if you put on the appropriate white gloves.  (Carson willed his ordnance to the lodge, and it was delivered by special Army courier.  Though I couldn’t help but notice that the lodge seems to have been founded some decades after Carson’s death, so this may not be the whole story.)

In my wanderings I countered Sage Walker and Patricia Rogers, who’d been there for hours, having a wonderful time, and they told me about the ceremony I’d missed.

I left feeling quite benevolent about the Brotherhood.   I don’t think I exactly learned anything I didn’t already know, but actually seeing everything was of great benefit to my imagination.

So will I actually become a Freemason?  Well, no.  They don’t allow women, and that’s most of my friends right there.  And I’d have to testify to stuff I don’t actually believe.  (For instance, I’ve never met a Supreme Being, though Roger Zelazny came close.)

Besides I already belong to an organization with its own rites, its passwords, its symbols, its orders and degrees, and its alternate version of history.

Which is to say, the world of science fiction.

Emy March 17, 2015 at 11:01 am

Very awesome conclusion.

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