description below is reprinted with the permission of the Scottish Rite
of Perfection Degree Descriptions
Tresner, 33°, Grand Cross
painting by Bro. Robert H. White, 32°
The symbolic reenactment of
the funeral of Hiram the Builder forms the theme of the Fifth
Degree. We are told of the legend that each year, on the
anniversary of his burial, a worker was selected to represent the Grand
Master Hiram, was briefly entombed and then brought forth, and was
expected to live his life thereafter by the very highest standards of
excellence of behavior.
The crossed pillars on the
Fifth Degree apron represent Jachin and Boaz, which Biblical literature
informs us Hiram named and set up on the porch of the Temple.
In addition to their traditional Masonic meanings, they here represent
Resting upon them is a cube, symbol of the
finite universe. But here the cube also represents the Temple
of Solomon. Among its many meanings, the Temple is considered
as a model or representation of the universe, of life, and of the
spiritual life each man must build.
Thus, the pillars represent
Hiram, and the cube represents the work of God (the universe) and the
work of Hiram (the Temple).
Surrounding the cube are three
circles in orange, blue, and red. The circle is, of course,
one of the oldest symbols of God, and these three represent His Wisdom,
Power, and Beneficence. They surround, enclose, and protect
His creation and the creations of His creatures.
The green border, lining, and
flap of the apron, as well as the green cordon, represent spring or
rebirth—the coming again of life after the death of winter.
The compasses are open on a
quadrant to 60° to represent the other ancient symbol of God,
the equilateral triangle.
Again the ceremony of the Degree centers
around death, not as a negative or destroying force, but as the door
through which we must pass to have eternal life.
Thus, while the border of the apron of the Fourth Degree is black
(representing sorrow, mourning, and death), this border
represents moving past death into new life, rebirth, and joy.
The Degree also reinforces the
ancient Masonic obligation to see our Brethren decently
interred. It may be difficult for us, today, to understand
the importance our Brethren of the last century placed on decent
Masonic interment. But in Pike’s day, the bodies of
impoverished citizens were given the most callous and ghastly shallow
burial in potter’s fields, which were often despoiled by
thieves or unearthed by animals. In contemporary America, our
duty to the dead consists more in seeing their unfinished work
completed and their memories preserved.
This is a good place to
discuss the idea of Death, as presented in the Scottish Rite. Brethren
sometimes remark that there is a great deal of death imagery in the
Degrees, and they are correct. But the death imagery in the Rite is
almost always an affirmation of life.
It serves two functions. At
one level, there is a deep fear of death in most people—an
unreasonable fear, in the light of the teachings of religion, but a
fear nonetheless. That fear prevents many people from truly living.
Using the same techniques of confrontation to be found in a modern
clinic for the treatment of phobia, the Rite presents the image of
death so that the fear can be overcome.
More importantly, the Masonic
Degrees carry on the tradition of the ancient mysteries that new,
richer, and expanded life can come only from death of some sort. Thus
in the three Blue Lodge Degrees, we have the death of the ego
represented by the entrance of the Entered Apprentice into the Lodge
(for one cannot be a Brother if he selfishly places himself first in
all things). We have the death of the ego-intellect in the Fellow Craft
Degree (for one cannot experience intuition and insight if one is bound
to their pre-conceived ideas and opinions). And in the Master Mason
Degree, we have the death of the sense of apartness and individuality
which keeps us from experiencing spiritual unity with our Brothers and
with the Deity.
Later, in the 14°,
Pike identifies the lessons of the 5° as “Honesty,
Sincerity, and good Faith.” There are two central points the
candidate should understand from the Fifth Degree. The first
in honesty. But, for the Scottish Rite Mason, honesty is more
than simply telling the truth. Honesty means that we do not
mislead by innuendo nor slant information, truthful in itself, in such
a way that people draw false conclusions. Honesty involves
fulfilling commitments and doing what we have said we will
do. It means looking out for the interests of the other
person, not just for “Number 1.”
And Pike also reminds us in
this Degree of the great importance of work and of doing that work
well. As its second point, the Degree teaches it is honorable
to leave behind us tasks well and truly accomplished, just as it is
shameful to leave nothing. We owe a debt to posterity; it is only in
that way we can repay the debt we owe to our predecessors.
And we owe a debt to others, to place their interests at least on a
level with our own.
The Scottish Rite Journal - February 1996
is Director of the Masonic Leadership Institute and Editor of The Oklahoma Mason. A frequent
contributor to the Scottish Rite Journal and its
book review editor, Illustrious Brother Tresner is also a volunteer
writer for The Oklahoma Scottish Rite Mason and a
video script consultant for the National Masonic Renewal Committee. He
is the Director of the Thirty-third Degree Conferral Team and Director
of Work at the Guthrie Scottish Rite Temple in Guthrie, Oklahoma, as
well as a life member of the Scottish Rite Research Society, author of
the popular anecdotal biography Albert Pike, The Man Beyond
the Monument, and a member of the steering committee of the
Masonic Information Center. Ill. Tresner was awarded the Grand Cross,
the Scottish Rite's highest honor, during the Supreme Council's October
1997 Biennial Session.