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Monday, July 25, 2016

Houston Scottish Rite's "Holodeck"

Back when I first joined the fraternity in 1998, a group of younger Indiana Masons excitedly batted around the notion of creating a virtual reality version of Solomon's Temple and other scenarios, especially to make the conferral of degrees more immersive. At the time, VR technology was in its infancy, and pretty much beyond the reach of even the most dedicated computer hobbyists. But that is changing.

Take a look at what the Scottish Rite Valley of Houston  has been up to. They moved to a new location in 2013, and they rethought the traditional methodology of conferring the Scottish Rite degrees on a stage. Instead of building a new auditorium, they created an immersive space using screens wrapping around three quarters of the room and fed by projectors that can show static scenes or moving images. For the moment, it appears to be used to project elaborate backdrops for live actors. But that could easily change in the future as the technology and the programming are developed.

The AASR-NMJ has been showing a few degrees projected on video for several years now - mostly to aid Valleys that can't assemble qualified casts anymore - but most of them have not been very well received by candidates or seasoned veterans (although some have clearly been better than others, and the desire to help struggling Valleys is certainly commendable). The main criticism has centered around a basic "I didn't join to watch TV" theme. But what Houston is doing is quite different. It will be fascinating to see the direction this heads, as well as the reception among members.

Towards the end of the 19th century in the U.S., the Scottish Rite became the fastest growing fraternal organization in the country. It was due in part to its use of what were at that time state of the art theatrical scenery, lighting, music, sound and special effects. That's how so many not so large cities across the country got massive Scottish Rite auditoriums in them. They were presenting frontier theatre that was as well produced as anything you could see in New York, Chicago, or San Francisco. In many ways, what both Houston and the NMJ are doing is just an extension of that philosophy. 


  1. As a member of the valley I have to say that it is really cool. Not only can the technology make cool backdrops, it can also make trees move from wind, water flow, clouds move etc.
    And it makes the stage changes very easy.

    I'm sure the guys in the technology both have their work cut out for them, but as a tool it's been really cool to see and perform degrees in. Definitely something for other valleys to consider.

  2. This would be awesome!!!!!!
    Jon Greene
    Valley of Tulsa


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