Whence come you Bro. James Tresner?
I was born in Enid, Oklahoma, now living in Guthrie, Oklahoma.
How did you first become interested in Freemasonry?
In my family, it was inevitable. One joined DeMolay at 13, got a driver’s license at 16, petitioned the Lodge at age 21. In fact, on my 21st birthday my parents handed me a petition, filled out, and my Grandmother handed me a check with which to pay the fees. So far as we can tell, I am a fifth-generation Mason. My Father and Grandfathers on both sides were active in Freemasonry, especially in the Scottish Rite. Both Grandmothers were active in Eastern Star, Amaranth, and White Shrine of Jerusalem. At the time, by Father was the youngest man to receive the 33rd Degree. I actually “took” the Blue Lodge and Scottish Rite Degrees by the time I was 5 years old. I had my hair cut, along with my Father, at Fox Barber Shop in Enid. Most of the customers were Masons, and frequently when we went in on Saturday mornings for a haircut, there would be five or six men there, “running language” either for a Blue Lodge Degree or an upcoming Scottish Rite Reunion. My Father was deeply interested in the philosophy of the Rite as he was in comparative religion, and so there were frequent discussions at home about the topics. I loved reading, and he loaned me his books on Masonry, so that I had read Morals and Dogma by the time I was 11 years old. I’m still trying to grasp it fully.
Well, I wanted to ask what made you decide to petition a Lodge but looks like we’ve covered that using your own words “It was foreordained”.
Bro. Jim, how long have you been a Mason?
Nearly 53 years.
What do you feel is the most important or impactful things you’ve taken away from Freemasonry?
Very difficult to answer. One certainly is how to be a friend. Another is the understanding that nothing is as it seems. Almost always there are deeper and deeper layers if one looks. A symbol may seem simple on the surface, but may lead you into the most profound depths of human experience.
Would you mind telling us a bit about your Masonic history?
(Remember, you asked for this) Originally (and still) a member of Garfield Lodge #501 in Enid, Oklahoma. Also a member and Past Master of Albert Pike Lodge #162 in Guthrie, Oklahoma. Member of the York Rite (made Knight Commander of the Temple by the Grand Encampment). Member of the Guthrie Valley Scottish Rite, Director of the Work there, 33o , Grand Cross in the Rite. Book Review Editor for the Scottish Rite Journal. Holder of the Oklahoma Masonic Medal of Honor and the Kansas Grand Master’s Medal of Honor. Honorary Past Grand Master of Arkansas. Anson Jones Lecturer. Holder of the Duane Anderson Medal in Masonic Education. Member of the Order of the Eastern Star. Publications Editor, Grand Lodge of Oklahoma. Royal Order of Scotland. Blue Friar. Mackey Medal for Excellence in Masonic Research from the Scottish Rite Research Society.
Busting my chops a little, haha, wow you’ve had quite busy Masonic ‘career’ those nearly 53 years! I feel like I’m slacking as a Brother here it’s been a decade and this is book club, which wasn’t even my idea, is my first real attempt at contributing to the Craft.
What Masonic titles have you written and do you currently have any Masonic books in the works?
Previous books include:
- Vested in Glory: The Regalia of the Scottish Rite
- Albert Pike: The Man Beyond the Monument
- From Sacrifice to Symbol: The Story of Cornerstones and Stability Rites.
- The Craft’s Noyse: Composers who were Freemasons
- A Shared Spirit, Freemasonry and the Native American Traditions (with
Robert G. Davis)
I’m currently working on a book I’m calling Bad Mason! Baad Mason!! It’s about the lamentable and unfortunate (and therefore funny) things which have happened in my Masonic life. I’m about ready to try to find a publisher.
I’ll have to keep an eye out for Bad Mason! Baad Mason!! The bit of sample you let me read was quite fun and I think everyone will love it once it’s published!
Have you written any non-Masonic books?
In writing/compiling “But I Digress” what did you find to be the most interesting thing you learned/realized?
Most of the book is a collection of material I originally wrote for the New Age/Scottish Rite Journal. Other material consists of speeches, papers, and a play written at various times and for various reasons. The thing I found most surprising was just how much of it there was. I had never collected it or even paid much attention to it before.
Is there any content in ‘But I Digress’ you wish you could change or plan to change in a future version?
There really isn’t anything I plan to change in another edition, and I suspect I should have left out more than I did. The reason I pulled it together what several younger Brethren contacted me from time to time asking about something they had read or someone had told them about. Two of three of them really pushed me to collect all of it, and I thought it would be fun to do.
If readers could only take one thing away from ‘But I Digress’ what would you want it to be?
If readers take any only one thing, I wold have they realized just how vast a topic Freemasonry is, and how it ranges from those whose pleasure is learning and performing the ritual to those who look for the hidden meaning of things. It is an exploration of human potential—it is part of the great quest tradition which always asks the question “Who are you?” The realization that we do not know who we are, and that the discovery of identity is one of the most compelling, interesting, and essential tasks we can undertake—that is what I hope people learn. And that it is a hell of a lot of fun on the path.
What book, Masonic or otherwise, do you find yourself giving the most as a gift?
The book I give most often as a gift is Morals and Dogma. It is amazing how many copies can be found in library sales, estate sales, etc.
I wonder how often those copies of Morals and Dogma go unread, I must admit I’ve a few copies I’ve found at Goodwill stores and as of yet I’ve never read it’s entirety.
Growing up what was your dream career?
Growing up I wanted to be a college teacher. And I got to do that for a while.
Do you have any favorite books/genres/authors that you like to read?
Thorne Smith, P.G. Wodehouse, Albert Pike, Jole Chandler Harris, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Agatha Christie, and the Harry Potter books.
If you could have one wish granted, what would you ask for?
If I could have one wish granted it would be to spend a couple of days in conversation with Albert Pike.
If you could say anything to the Masonic community, and you can now, what would it be?
If I could say one thing to the Masonic community, it would be not to sell Masonry short. It is an astonishing voyage of discovery if you have the courage to take it.
Thank you so very much for your time Bro. Jim.
This interview was conducted via electronic mail between Bro. Tresner and Bro. Ryan Carl Mercer member of Speedway #729 of the Indiana Grand Lodge F&AM on October 26th and 27th 2015 AD 6015 AL