The Deadly Deception


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INTO THE LIGHT

The hurricane came and went without any harm to us. But the one within me continued to gather force. It seemed strange, from my point of view, for all the people around me seemed calm. Even the doctor was no longer speaking much to me about the Lord, for I wasn't seeing him regularly. Bonnie was quietly supportive, but we really didn't say much about it. Mike and my other friends went on with life. It was "business as usual" around me, but definitely not that way inside of me.

THE HIGHEST MASONIC DEGREE

Easter was approaching and one quiet morning I was at home recuperating from the second operation when the doorbell rang. It was a special delivery letter from the Supreme Council in Washington, notifying me that I had been selected for the 33rd Degree.

I could hardly believe it was true! This honor is one most Masons never even think of receiving. It was too much, too far out of reach, beyond limits of reality. It was unreal to think I had actually been selected. It was an honor just to be considered for this ultimate degree and I had actually been selected, chosen by that small and powerful group, the Supreme Council of the 33rd Degree.

I called Bonnie to share the good news with her. In talking with her, I surprised myself by asking her if she thought I should accept it

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"What a strange thing to ask her," I thought. But before I could contemplate it she said, "Why, sure you should accept it. You have worked so hard for so long to get there - by all means you should accept it."

So I returned my acceptance immediately and began making plans for the trip.

I MADE IT ON MY OWN

With plenty of time to reflect, I thought about my long climb up the mounatin of Masonry in search of light. I thought about the odds against anyone's ever making it to the 33rd Degree. I realized that in my case the odds have been even greater. I had made it by hard work and dedication alone. Some men have an edge on selection because of their wealth, political power or prominence. I had none of these.

Like the day I had carried the man all the way to the top of "Shaw Hill" between Camp Butner and Raleigh, I had made it to the top of the Masonic mountain because I was willing to make the effort required and refused to quit. Thinking of this, I felt particulary good about it and wished my mother could know.

I had come a long way since leaving the front gate that terrible day so many years ago. I had come the distance with no help from Uncle Irvin. Who would have thought that the lonely walk, begun so many years ago by that frightened 13-year-old boy, would have led to this point? I had reached the pinnacle - made it all the way to the top.

Some of the most prominent and influental men in the world would undoubtedly be there to participate when I was given this ultimate degree - for me - little Jimmy Shaw, who had gone to work at age five and made it alone since age 13. They would be there to give the 33rd Degree to me. It was really a bit difficult to take it all in.

3 DAYS AT THE MOUNTAIN TOP

In order to receive the 33rd Degree it was necessary to go to Washington. D.C. The initation and related functions were to last three days.

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Since Bonnie could participate in practically none of the things I would be doing each day, she decided not to go along. We were both excited as I made preparations to leave. But I was not as excited as I expected to be. The edge was taken off the excitement because, in me, it was mixed with a considerable amount of conviction. Way down deep there was a growing restlessness, an increasing conflict, produced by the things the doctor had been sharing and by all the Scripture I had been reading. Preparing to receive this "ultimate honor" was not as thrilling as it might otherwise have been.

ARRIVING AT THE HOUSE OF THE TEMPLE

I flew into Washington National Airport and took a taxi to the House of the Temple on Northwest 16th Street. Upon arriving at the Temple I was met by a receptionist who asked if I were there to receive the 33rd Degree. I was surprised to find a women in those sacred Masonic precints, but said that I was and showed her my letter from the Supreme Council. She then told me that in order to receive the degree, I would be expected to make a "minimum donation" of a very large amount of money (at least it was a "very large" amount for me). This took me completely by surprise for there had not been a word about any such "minimum donation" in the letter sent me by the Supreme Council. I didn't carry that much money with me and had left my checkbook at home but was able to borrow the money from one of the other men and gave it to her. We candidates were all unhappy about this unpleasant surprise and grumbled to one another about it, but were not unhappy enough to forsake the degree over it. We were too close to the "top of the mountain" to turn back at that point.

THE TEMPLE ITSELF

The House of the Temple is quite impressive - a bit awesome, really. Standing large, grey and silent on the east side of Northwest 16th Street, between "R" and "S" Streets, it looms very wide and tall from the curb. There is a huge expanse of granite pavement in front of it, including three levels of narrowing steps as the entrance

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is approached. Flanking the entrance are two Sphinx-like granite lions with women's heads, the neck of one entwined by a cobra and decorated with the "ankh" (the Egyptian symbol of life and deity).

Adorning the neck and breast of the other is an image of a women, symbolic of fertility and procreation. In the pavement, just in front of the tall bronze doors, are two Egyptian swords with curved, serpentine blades and, between the two swords, brass letters, set into stone, saying, "The Temple of the Supreme Council of the Thirty-Third and Last Degree of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite."

Over the tall, bronze doors, cut into the stone, is the statement, "Freemasonry Builds Its Temples in the Hearts of Men and Among Nations." (1)

High above the entrance, partially concealed by stone columns, is an elaborate image of the Egyptian sun god, backed with radiating sun and flanked by six large, golden snakes.

Inside is elegance: polished marble, exotic wood, gold and statuary. There are offices, a library, dining room, kitchen, Council Room, "Temple Room" and a large meeting room. This room is like a luxurious theater, rather elegantly furnished and decorated.

The ceiling is dark blue, with lights set into it to give the appearance of stars. These lights can even be made to "twinkle" like stars in the sky. There is a stage, well-equipped, and it is all very nicely done. But the thing that is most noticable is the way the walls are decorated with serpents. There are all kinds; some very long and large. Many of the Scottish Rite degrees include the representation of serpents and I recognized them among those decorating the walls.

It was all most impressive and gave me a strange mixture of the sensations of being in a temple and in a tomb - something sacred but threatning. I saw busts of outstanding men of the Rite including two of Albert Pike, who is buried there in the wall.

INTERVIEWED BY THE SUPREME COUNCIL

The first day was devoted to registration, briefings and interviews. We were called into one of the offices, one at a time, and interviewed by three members of the Supreme Council.

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When my turn came I was ushered into the office and seated. The very first question I was asked was, "Of what religion are you?" Not long before this I would have answered with something like, "I believe the Ancient Mysteries, the 'Old Religion,' and I believe in reincarnation." However, without thinking at all about how to answer, I found myself saying, "I am a Christian."

Then, to my suprise and theirs, I asked them, "Are you men born again?" The man in charge quickly stopped me by saying, "We're not here to talk about that - we are here to ask you questions."

After they sent me back out I sat down and thought about it. When the next man came out, I asked him, "Did they ask you if you are a Christian?" He said, "Yes, they did."

"What did you tell them?" I asked, and he replied, "I told them 'Hell no, and I never intend to be!'"

Then he said a strange thing to me, "They said I'm going higher," and he left through a different door, looking pleased.

BECOMING A SOVEREIGN GRAND INSPECTOR GENERAL

The second day was the day of the actual initiation, held in the theater-like meeting room. Those of us who were receiving the degree were seated and the ceremony was "exemplified" (acted out in full costume) before us, in the same way that we had performed the lesser degrees of the Scottish Rite all those years. The parts in the exemplification were played by men of the 33rd Degree.

The representative candidate was dressed in black trousers, barefooted, bareheaded and draped in a long, black robe that reminded me of a very long, black raincoat. He had a black cabletow around his neck but was not hoodwinked. During the initiation he was led around the stage, conducted by two men with swords, as the degree was performed for us.

Instructions and signs were given. Upon the altar were four "holy books" (the Bible, the Koran, the Book of the Law and the Hindu Scriptures). At one point the "candidate" was told to kiss the book


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