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 inaugural class, 88 Scottish Rite Brothers have completed this program and expanded their understanding of the Scottish Rite principles and Core Values, including Brother John Hetherson, 32°, HGA.

Scottish Rite Freemason John Hetherson in his police uniform
Brother John Hetherson, 32°, HGA in his Baltimore City Police uniform. He served his department proudly until his retirement in 2017.

Brother Hetherson became a Scottish Rite Mason in 2019 and quickly enrolled, eager to seek more light from our Craft. We sat down with him to chat about his HGA experience and hear 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?

I became a Master Mason in June 2019 and became a Scottish Rite Mason in December of the same year. It was the first appendant body I joined outside of the Blue Lodge and was a great introduction into what the appendant bodies of Freemasonry have to offer.

The Scottish Rite is one of the most open and welcoming fraternities I’ve ever been a part of. Friendship is instant. Everyone treats you like family.

2. When and how did you first hear about Hauts Grades Academy? What inspired you to join?

I’m a person who likes to know the “why” behind things. I want to truly be a part of what I’m involved in, so I sought out to gain more knowledge about the fraternity.

I did some research and found a symposium in Elizabethtown, where I learned about the Master Masonic Scholar Program. As I took part in that program, I was curious about other educational opportunities and found the Hauts Grades Academy. I did both HGA and the Master Masonic Scholar Program in tandem, all in my first year of being a Mason.

3. What was your experience like?

The HGA program is tough but rewarding. I don’t have an academic background, I dropped out of school in the 9th grade, but I’ve always had a drive to learn and succeed. When I found HGA, I knew it would be challenging but the tougher something is for me, the harder I charge at it.

Scottish Rite academic certificates
Brother Hetherson’s Masonic academic achievements

Before you begin HGA, you make a promise to not take notes, record lessons, or take any screenshots to aid you in your studies. As you learn more about the degrees and are tested on what you’ve learned, you must answer by memory – this was my biggest hurdle. In the first level of the course, I had to repeat some sections multiple times, however, I was able to really learn and digest the material that way.

I credit my success at the second level with Thursday Night at the Rite (TNR), which helped me immensely in my study of the degrees. It’s one thing to read the degrees on paper, but having the visual from TNR alongside it helped paint a picture of each degree and allowed me to better understand what lesson each degree was teaching.

As part of the third level, I wrote a research paper on Albert Pike that took me quite a bit of time to complete. I worked closely with my mentor, Yasser Al-Khatib, 33°, but, when we found we needed another perspective on my paper, he kindly found another mentor that could help. Yasser continued as my mentor, but he gave me another resource to help me complete the final level of the program. It goes to show how great the HGA mentors are – they want to see you succeed.

4. How has HGA enriched your understanding of the degrees?

At Reunions, I find it’s sometimes difficult to fully understand the lesson each degree is trying to teach us because it’s easy to get caught up in the acting and production of each presentation. HGA has helped me better understand the true lesson of each degree and, in turn, I now watch them with an intention of taking in the lessons completely. It has totally enriched my experience of witnessing the degrees and will continue to do so.

5. How has what you’ve learned in HGA affected your life outside Freemasonry?

Personally, this experience has helped my writing immensely. It’s given me new skills that I can now take to other aspects of my life. In my previous role at the Baltimore City Police Department and in my current role at the Maryland State Police Department, I’ve had to write a lot of reports in my career. With the knowledge I’ve gained from HGA, my report writing has become worlds better.

A Freemason at a car show
In addition to being heavily involved with Freemasonry, Brother Hetherson is an avid car lover. Pictured above is Brother Hetherson with his 1968 Mercury Cougar that he restored.

6. What advice do you have for Brothers interested in joining the next HGA class?

My main piece of advice is to keep an open mind. Your mentor is only there to help you succeed. There might be some back and forth on what your final paper should look like, but I think there is a need for that back and forth. It sparks discussion – when people start discussing different ideas, it only leads to good things.

Two Freemasons holding an award
Brother Hetherson and Grand Master of Pennsylvania, Ill. Brother Jeffery M. Wonderling, 33°, when Bro. Hetherson received his Master Craftsman Award

Also, don’t be afraid to take your time. HGA is a robust program so time-management is important. If you burn yourself out too quickly, you won’t feel motivated to continue. Do a little bit at a time – whatever you are the most comfortable with.

Anyone who is thinking about starting this program but is skeptical should be reminded that, with your Brothers in the Scottish Rite and in Freemasonry, ANYTHING is possible. This fraternity offers unlimited support and every Brother is here to help you reach your goals.

Interested in expanding your knowledge of 32° Freemasonry and joining our next Hauts Grades Academy class? Click here to learn more and join our waitlist.