Grand Commander's Message: Just Another Book?
Written by Ronald A. Seals, Sovereign Grand Commander
The Lost Symbol by Dan Braun has shaken up the Masons. Their long-awaited reaction has been a fact since yesterday. The Grand Commander of the Supreme Council of Masons, Ronald A. Seale published his address to the Fraternity all over the world. The article was published in Scottish Rite Journal (ISSN 1076 - 8572). It is published every two months by the Supreme Council 33ø of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry from the Southern Jurisdiction of the USA. Because of the high interest to Dan Braun’s book, the Standart publishes the message of Seale.
Mr. Brown wrote a book - more than one as a matter of fact. Of course, I refer to Dan Brown, author of 2003's super blockbuster, The Da Vinci Code, and the country now seems to be taken by storm with the release of his latest work. The Lost Symbol.
In his newest tome, we find ourselves on an action-packed adventure through the streets of the metropolitan Washington, D.C. area, following the exploits of Da Vinci's, hero, Robert Langdon, as he tries to prevent a deranged killer from executing his evil plot. Lo and behold, the Freemasons play a central role in the action! What's the deal? Where do we come in, you might ask. I know better than to say more. Read the book!
Of greater interest to us here, however, is the reaction of our members, particularly in the days leading up to The Lost Symbol’s release. At the House of the Temple, which figures prominently in the novel, we were accosted over several weeks by the major media, both print and television. Several of the big networks filmed and broadcasted from the building. In-depth articles appeared in the Washington Post and national Sunday supplements, such as Parade magazine. As the media came to inquire about us, the entire process was fascinating to watch and gave insight into how we Freemasons are viewed from outside the ranks.
It was interesting to observe the questions and requests that were made. Some of the inquiries were serious and reflected a genuine desire to learn and understand what the fraternity represents, while others unfortunately tended to the more sensational and trivial. What are the “secrets" which only the highest circle of Masons jealously protect from the uninitiated? Where is the underground vault and secret chamber wherein the most secure activities are conducted and concealed from the light of day'. What was the agenda of our Masonic forefathers as reflected in the symbolic messages hidden in the layout and construction of the District of Columbia and many of its prominent buildings, not the least of which is the U.S. Capitol building itself? What is the relation of Masons to the KKK? Now there's one for you. And on it goes.
It is easy to appreciate the thoughtful and discerning questioner seeking to understand who and what we are and equally to dismiss the uninformed sensationalist. Yet, in a greater sense, one can see here a microcosm of society at large in its reaction to our fraternity. There are those that approach us out of a genuine sense to know more and to understand what it was that attracted their grandfather to Masonry and what it is the Lodge might hold for a man in these days and times. Others, of course, look for the macabre and the secrets, and they stand ready to trumpet the "breaking news" that something mysterious and sinister is at work behind closed doors.
We can easily be over simplistic, categorizing those who inquire into the Craft as good and bad. 1 would argue that we Masons also fall into distinctive groups according to our responses to questions, sometimes from the general public. There are Freemasons who are eager to share their enthusiasm and love of Masonry with those who make thoughtful inquiry and also understand it's more often ignorance, not malice, that cause others to raise superfluous issues. Masonry is much more than a series of passwords, signs, or codes to be hidden, but rather it is a philosophy of living and a way of life to be shared with all qualified candidates who knock upon the inner door. To such men, the words of Joseph Fort Newton ring true, "When he has kept faith with himself with his fellow-man, with his God; in his hand a sword for evil, in his heart a bit of a song - glad to live, but not afraid lo die! Such a man has found the only real secret of Masonry, and the one which it is trying to give to all the world." For these brothers, the attention sent our way by Dan Brown is good news, and we arc thankful for the treatment of the Craft in his volume, certain to be read worldwide by millions.
But there are others. Those who feel called to circle the wagons, close the doors, and pull the shades. Let's ride out the storm they say. Masonry is ever to be guarded against the potential discovery of the "secrets", whatever they may be. Entertainment as provided by Mr. Brown and his cast of characters on the pages of a novel is something to be feared and tolerated at best. In the minds of these admittedly well-intentioned brothers, Masonry functions best in relative obscurity and without the locus of public attention. We survived and always will.
Which response serves us best? How is Masonry presented in your community'' You might want to discuss it at your next meeting.
And be prepared. Someone you know will read The Lost Symbol and, discovering you to be a Mason, will ask for your reaction. Whatcha’ gonna say?
The Scottish Rite Journal (ISSN 1076-8572) is published bimonthly by the Supreme Council. 33ø, Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry of the Southern Jurisdiction. United States of America, 1733 Sixteenth St., NW, Washington. DC 20009-3103.