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masonic matters

Sir Ernest H. Shackleton

by Ed Halpaus
Grand Lodge Education Officer
Grand Lodge of A. F. & A. M. of Minnesota

“The crest and crowning of all good, life’s final star, is Brotherhood.”
Brother Edwin Markham

Below is the text from a print ad that appeared in the London Times of the year 1900. “Just a few lines of type, no pictures, no women, no coupons, no gimmicks, no rhymes, no tinsel,”[i] but it brought in responses from all over England. Here is the advertisement:

“Men wanted for Hazardous Journey, small wages, bitter cold, long months of complete darkness, constant danger, safe return doubtful. Honor and recognition in case of success, - Sir Ernest Shackleton.”

Sir Ernest H. Shackleton, (born February 15, 1874 Kilkee County Clare, Ireland, died January 5, 1922 Grytviken, South Georgia, Falkland Islands,) was a British Antarctic Explorer, and according to the book “10,000 Famous Freemasons” he was also a Freemason although there are no dates of his degrees or a Lodge listed. However, thanks to Brother Norman Gene Lincoln I do have the date of his Raising and his Lodge: Sir Ernest Shackleton was raised 9 July 1901 in Navy Lodge #2612. This same Navy Lodge that gave Albert Frederick Arthur George VI, (King George VI,) his third degree in December 1919. Thanks for the help Brother Norman.

Ernest Henry Shackleton sailed on many Antarctic expeditions, but in our times it seems his expedition in 1914 to the Antarctic aboard the “Endurance” is the best known due to documentary movies for Public Television. What made that voyage so memorable is that the ship Endurance was crushed by ice after drifting in pack ice for 9 months. And after drifting in pack ice for another 5 months the expedition escaped in boats to Elephant Island in the South Shetland Group of Islands. Our Brother and five others then sailed off in a Whaleboat on a trip of 800 miles to reach South Georgia Island to find help. He led four relief expeditions, and thus succeeded in rescuing his men from Elephant Island.

“What we see depends mainly on what we look for.” John Lubbock

The Plumb
By Neal A. McAulay

Build up your life like the temple of old,
With stones that are polished and true;
Cement it with love, and adorn it with gold,
As all master builders should do.
Upon a foundation, well chosen and strong,
Build now for ages to come:
Make use of the good, while rejecting the wrong
And test all your work with the plumb.

“Death and taxes and childbirth! There’s never any convenient time for any of them.”
Margaret Mitchell

“The Sublime Degree of a Master Mason” is a wonderful phrase. The use of the word “Sublime” refers to the exalted lessons that the third degree teaches of God and the immortality of the soul.

This phrase is not as old as we might like to think. I have found in some of my reading that one of the things used in reading old documents is to pick up on a phrase that was not used at the time the document was purported to be written, or to dates it was referring to. For instance, when I was doing some reading about the life of Prince Hall it was mentioned that some old re-written minutes from African Lodge #459 were unreliable because they contained the phrase “Being Raised to the Sublime Degree of a Master Mason when that term was not used until 1817”[ii] So the researcher then had doubts about the date of the re-written minutes.

According to Mackey the first time the word “Sublime” was used in conjunction with the third degree was in a book called “Masonic Discourses” published in 1801, but it became wide spread in 1817 and shortly after because of the publication of a book called the “Freemason’s Library,” and about that same time Jeremy Cross used the phrase in his book called “Hieroglyphic Chart,” and he at that time began to use the Phrase Sublime Degree of a Master Mason in his lectures. His book Hieroglyphic Charts, by the way, was widely used in America as a textbook by many Masons and Lodges.

So prior to about 1817 there must have been other words used to describe the third degree of the Blue Lodge. In an edition of the constitutions published at Dublin in 1769 the Master Mason Degree is spoken of as “The Most Respectable,[iii]

“Freemasonry is important because it concerns itself with the fundamentals of life.” Brother Roscoe Pound

I, a while ago, bought a book called “Jewels of Masonic Eloquence and Stories,” Volume 1, it was printed by the Masonic Research Society of Enid, Oklahoma in 1915. It was written by Brothers Richard O. Fritz and Charles N. Harmon of the Grand Lodge of Oklahoma.

This book has some real interesting articles and poems in it, and I find it quite enjoyable to read in, and it is a fine reference book for interesting items. One Item I came across early this morning is a story about the initiation of Frederick William, Crown Prince of Prussia, who married Victoria Adelaide Mary Louise who was the eldest daughter of Queen Victoria, who became Grand Master of the National Grand Lodge of Germany in 1860, and who died just 3 months after he became Emperor of Germany.[iv]


“ON the 5th of November, 1853, the Grand Lodge of Germany was convened in special communication at the Royal Palace in Berlin, by the request of its Protector, the Crown Prince, Charles of Prussia, for the initiation of his son, Prince Frederick William. Bro. Busch, the Grand Master, presided, and nearly all of the officers of the three Grand Lodges of Berlin were present.”

“His Royal Highness then informed the Grand Lodge that his son Frederick William had long since expressed to him his desire to become a Freemason, but as he had not yet reached the legal age of twenty-five, he had waited until he was twenty-two, before he would comply with his wish, from an unwillingness to extend the time of the dispensation too far; he had now, he said, called the Grand Lodge together for the purpose of receiving his son into the Order, of which he hoped he would prove worthy; he had selected the Grand Lodge of Germany for that purpose, because he had received his initiation in that body, and he then requested the M. W. Grand Master to perform the solemn act.”

“Prince Frederick William (the son of the heir to the throne of Prussia) was then, by dispensation, entered, passed, and raised to the sublime degree of a Master Mason.

After the ceremonies were concluded, the Crown Prince addressed his son in the following language, which is well worth preserving, as the testimony of a father to his son in favor Freemasonry.”

"It has for some years past been your desire to be initiated into the Order of Freemasonry, and your request has now been complied with. The ceremony has been performed upon you as I wished it to be, in the same manner that it was upon me when I was made a Mason. The initiation, indeed, has been only generally and briefly explained. Enough, however, has been done, to convince you that the Order is, in its character, a serious, holy, and sublime one. There is in man's life but one way in which he can be led to the comprehension of true sublimity—to the understanding of this course, the order will lead you, if you continually make it your endeavor to reduce its holy lessons to practice. There are many loud voices outside of the Order, who strive to darken it with suspicion; but I think that he who knows nothing of it, is hardly able to form any opinion of it —and being myself fully convinced of its nature, I shall never listen to such voices. May the future prove that you, also, with a clear and unbiased view, have learned how to decide, and have determined to protect the institution. Men will abuse Freemasonry because it is enveloped in secrecy, and they do not take the trouble to convince themselves that it is necessary to be so. Like all those who are obstinately bent on condemnation, and look, therefore, only on one side of a question, they purposely refrain from examining the principles of the Order, lest they should be better informed. You will I trust, become a firm protector of the Order, and thus, not only will your future be safe, but you will also have the pleasing satisfaction of having endeavored to concentrate truth and virtue around you.”[v]

Our Brother, who is identified as Crown Prince Charles in the book mentioned, and who is quoted above had the full name of William Fredrich Ludwig, and who became King of Prussia and Emperor of Germany until his death in 1888. His son, Brother Fredrick the III became Emperor, but died three months later. Both of our Brothers, father and son, died in the same year.[vi]

‘In Prayer, it is better to have a heart without words than to have words without a heart.”
John Bunyan

Brethren we are now into the Holiday Season, which in my mind, began here in America with the Thanksgiving Holiday on November 27th. This season will go into and through the month of January with the various Holidays celebrated by Masons all over the world. On behalf of my Grand Master, Most Worshipful Brother Neil E. Neddermeyer, and the Grand Lodge of Ancient Free and Accepted Masons of Minnesota, I would like to wish each and every one of you a happy and joyous holiday season. May the holidays you celebrate bring you and yours all the fulfillment and pleasure they are meant to bring, and more.

“God never made a promise that was too good to be true.” D.L. Moody

In the last edition of Masonic Matters I had the quote “In things essential, unity; in things non-essential, diversity; in all things. Charity,” and listed the author as Unknown. Well, thanks again to a Brother, and reader of Masonic Matters, Brother Randy Clark gave me the source of the quote. The author was none other than John Wesley, the founder of Methodism. Thanks for the help Brother Randy.

Here’s a quote from King George VI when he once spoke of Freemasonry. “The world today does require spiritual and moral regeneration. I have no doubt, after many years as a member of our Order, that Freemasonry can play a most Important part of this vital need.” King George, by the way, is the father of Queen Elizabeth.

[i] Harper’s Magazine, Robert L. Heilbroner
[ii] Prince Hall Masonic Quiz Book by Brother Joseph A. Walks, Jr.
[iii] Mackey’s Revised Encyclopedia of Freemasonry by Robert Clegg.
[iv] 10,000 Famous Freemasons, by William R. Denslow volume 2
[v] Jewels of Masonic Eloquence and Stories, by Clifford Fritz and Charles Harmon.
[vi] 10,000 Famous Freemasons, by William R. Denslow volume 4

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Last modified: March 22, 2014