In 2018, as part of our Path Forward initiative, the Supreme Council of the Scottish Rite, Northern Masonic Jurisdiction introduced the Hauts Grades Academy (HGA), our premier educational program that promotes the education, knowledge, and engagement of members through in-depth study and reflection of our 29 degrees.
Since its inception, 110 Brothers have completed the program – broadening their knowledge of the Scottish Rite degrees and earning the title of HGA at the end of their name. One of these men is Brother Michael Neuberger, 33°, HGA.
Illustrious Brother Neuberger has been a Freemason for almost 20 years and is a member of the Valley of Northern New Jersey. A lifelong fan of history, he was immediately intrigued by HGA when the program was launched by the Scottish Rite, NMJ five years ago. Since then, he’s not only finished the program but has become deeply involved with the HGA committee.
We sat down with him to chat about his HGA experience, his passion for education, and his advice for Brothers interested in starting their own HGA journey.
1. Tell us about yourself. How did you get involved in the Scottish Rite?
My whole life, I’ve been a huge fan of history. That interest is what got me involved with Freemasonry. Its connection with American history is so apparent and so fascinating.
That interest motivated me to join, which I did in 2004. In 2007 I started getting involved in the York Rite, then ended up joining the Scottish Rite in 2009.
I joined Freemasonry for my love of history but have found that the fellowship and Brotherhood are among anything I could have imagined.
Currently, I am the Most Wise Master of the Rose Croix line, and I just received my 33° in Louisville this past August.
2. When and how did you first hear about Hauts Grades Academy? What inspired you to join?
Early in my Masonic journey, I wasn’t very active in the Scottish Rite, but rather in the York Rite. However, it was my passion for education that kickstarted my Scottish Rite journey.
I am a part of the New Jersey Grand Lodge Education Committee and the Allied Masonic Degrees - education is important to me. So, when I heard about the education that Hauts Grades Academy provides, I was very intrigued.
One of the founders of Hauts Grades Academy, Brother Mohamad A. Yatim, 33°, MSA, HGA, told me personally that I would enjoy it, so I added my name to the waitlist.
3. What was your experience like?
It made me fall in love with the Scottish Rite.
It is one thing to see the degrees, but it’s another to read them, research them, and truly immerse yourself in their meaning. The ability to do that through HGA brought me back to the fraternity.
There wasn’t a single part of the process I didn’t enjoy. I’ve always liked researching and writing, so this was perfect for me.
When I finished the program, I wanted to do what I could to stay involved. I am now a part of the Level 3 Review Team, in which I get to read participant’s research papers. It is such a fun experience, and I’m often left in awe of how great the papers are. Sometimes, it even leads me down a rabbit hole of my own research, because it intrigued me so much.
4. How has HGA enriched your understanding of the degrees?
Reading them, thinking about them, and then writing about them gave me so much more appreciation for them - especially ones that have been modernized. Seeing them in their original form helped me appreciate their true meaning. In my experience, reading and researching forces you to think about lessons infinitely more than sitting in the Blue Lodge.
The whole experience has helped me build up my body of knowledge. I have even given lectures at various lodges!
5. How has what you’ve learned in HGA affected your life outside Freemasonry?
In Level 2 of HGA, you’re required to write essays that touch on the Scottish Rite Core Values. While doing so, it reminded me how important it is to act on them in real life.
It led me to be more conscious of the Core Values in my day-to-day life, allowing me to think about them before I act. That awareness of the Core Values helps in reflection as well – looking at past situations or actions and reflecting on what I could have done differently.
The beauty of Freemasonry is that you are never done improving and developing yourself.
6. What advice do you have for Brothers interested in joining the next HGA class?
When you first look at what’s required, it can be daunting. It is a lot of work, and if you are someone who hasn’t had any educational experience since high school or college, that work can feel overwhelming. However, the hardest thing to do is write the first word.
That first word will quickly lead to one sentence, and that sentence will lead to a paragraph. Soon, you’ve already finished your first page. Before you realize it, you’ll have written your entire paper.
Once you start, you’ll be shocked at how much easier it gets. Also, there’s no rush! You can finish HGA at your own pace.
If you are in the Northern New Jersey area and are interested in starting, know that you can also use ME as a resource! I and another Brother hold HGA classes at our Valley. Come, bring your paper, and we’ll read it and give you feedback.