Wednesday, April 30, 2014

God or Geometry?


    As though borrowing a page from a Dan Brown novel, science and the hidden philosophies continue to court one another along mercurial, half-illuminated, paths of mystery. At the heart of Freemasonry lie the deepest and most profound allusions to ultimate truth and revelation; Euclid, Pythagoras, and the mystery of geometry as a revelation of God in the so called machine of the Cosmos. Indeed, Physicists are utilizing geometric formulations to advance their understanding of that very 'machine.' Is God peering back in the form of the 'Amplituhedron?'

     There are a myriad of secrets embedded and developed over centuries in the many varied symbols of Craft Freemasonry. Unlocking those secrets requires, perhaps, a kind of alchemy of sorts. Great philosophical leaps often require the right tools to reveal them, or the right time for them to be revealed. Such is the vehicle of the Mysteries that they preserve those truths in cryptic symbolic anagrams of themselves, veiled over the centuries like the virtues of Isis. And is Isis not nature at least; or as well? Brown's Langdon, a professor of symbology, would doubtless know the meaning of the symbols. But, in the end, it may require hard physics to uncover their natural truths. 

     At the heart of the Masonic Square and Compass, in many modern renditions of it at least, one will find the familiar 'G'. Masons, as men of varied faiths and beliefs, may debate the true meaning of the letter. Some will find God there. Others will see only Geometry. Are they really so different? How is the 'image of man', when measured and reckoned, any different ... or any less? So too how is the Mystery diminished as it unfolds before the searching eyes of the sciences? The philosophy must remain somewhere between them both. 

     Does the heart of the cosmos beat to a mathematical precision? We believers of any sort should surely hope so. That in the eye of the void might be a shape, or an archetype of universal perfection can only offer solace that the night sky is truth, and between the stars or the atoms may be found the very Grail of the faiths of science and so too religion. 


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Sunday, October 20, 2013

The Usual Suspects


"It was customary for the members of initiate bodies to accept candidates of only exceptional distinction. In both Greece and Egypt, the disciples were tested as to their knowledge of the arts and sciences, particularly geometry, astronomy, and music. Initiation was an honor bestowed for unusual merit and integrity. The ancient rule holds good to this day in most occult schools."

-Manly P. Hall 


WHO are we recruiting?

WHY are we recruiting them?

WHAT are we recruiting them to do?


Membership in Freemasonry is no longer the exclusive privilege that it once was. Today, Masons across the world are struggling to answer the most basic questions of their own involvement with the Order. The Illustrious Craft is in danger of becoming naught more than a social club for would be elitists from all ranks of society and culture. Too often, the interest of new candidates lies more with their needs for self aggrandizement through group identification than with the search for answers or personal enlightenment. 

What is the motive for many of the new candidates in modern Freemasonry? How well do Masons truly understand their organization? Why are so many Masons afraid of the esoteric symbols and mysteries of their own Order? 

Perhaps these men should not be Masons at all. 



Monday, April 16, 2012

Red Tape in a Blue Lodge

There is value in tradition. Rituals carry the legacies of the past. Symbols preserve the unspoken wisdom of the ages. Men continue the path well worn, beginning their journey as all have and following the countless footsteps laid before them. The traditions, rituals, and everyday practices of the lodge fasten today to yesterday and remain the umbilical cord of modern Freemasonry to its ancient and storied history.

And yet the world must change. Every generation supplants and surpasses the one before it. Is this not the secret dynamic of the art? Equilibrium? So must not the Order change as well?

In mere decades, the computer has revolutionized every facet of the human span. Microchips and the wizardry of science, sure to hang us all in a not so distant age, allow us now to govern our lives from the palm of our hand, to reach across the shores and time itself. Who could have foreseen this?

Is there yet a place for secret grips and tokens now that the Brethren carry printed dues cards and join lodge groups on facebook?

I say yes. I hold that the age old traditions of Masonry are the backbone and nervous center of the Order. The rites and rituals memorized through the succession of worthy and well qualified men are in themselves a Constitution, a Law and an Act of will. They are the foundation. Still, though we rest our homes, our cities and even our civilization upon such foundations, each generation expands its understanding, enhances its tools and reaches to greater heights of architecture and the sublime arts of the humanities.

The circle will always be a circle and the square always a square. The balance and the measure will never falter. The line will be drawn and the compass will make its arc. The laws of the universe, so like the laws and traditions of the lodge, will and must remain. But we have all lost our vision if we cannot renew the lodge...if we cannot build the lodge for the Modern Mason.

Young Masons must not be afraid to take up their rightful place as Architects in the New Order. Yet any new Mason must be readily and rightfully forged. Is it enough to give the man his third degree and brand him a brother Master Mason when he holds no knowledge, value or even understanding of the title he then carries? No. We should all be exhausted by the procession of the fruitless...men who are not so much seekers as joiners. Yet what do they know to seek? Do they even comprehend the foundation they stand upon by that right and the Work that they themselves embody...each Mason a Lodge?

Too many lodges are perishing because they refuse to understand the very reason or benefit of the traditions and rituals they hold so dear. They march men mindlessly through the degrees chafing and guffawing when a line is crossed as though they are the masters. And fools they are. Hiram's secret has become a myth of idealism and demagoguery.

The Master would not laugh, but embrace. The Master would teach. For every true lodge is built within the hearts and the minds of the men that occupy it. They are the lodge. Each brother Master Mason becomes the embodiment of the Order itself. No one is greater than any other. This is a Truth evident in the Foundation for those who would sincerely Seek It.

And so that Foundation must be strong. Each Apprentice and Fellow Craft must proceed by the Guidance and the Knowledge of his Brothers. Each man must be the Pillar of his Brother for the Lodge to rise so it may too wait upon the coming centuries. What then might rise above the Foundation so well fashioned for the ages?

Where now is the vision of Leonardo? Who now holds the craft of Michaelangelo? Freemasonry must embrace its Arts...its Vision. It must remind its young Masters that they are born of men of pedigree and promise. Virtue is their birthright by the blood of knowledge and wisdom past. So noble a venture might yet again transcend the vicissitudes and tyrannies of Time and State.

What has Freemasonry accomplished? Nothing, if it is stripped to the uselessness of cargoes lost ashore from a once proud ship...now wrecked and forgotten because its stewards lost their way. We have the tools but we must artfully apply them. Stone walls become glass cathedrals. Signs and symbols soar the silicon arrays.

Masons remember why they so carefully follow the steps of their forebears. And yet they make their own way.



...

Saturday, March 17, 2012

The Crisis of Our Humanity


The human condition is...

"Suffering" says the Buddha. "Whatever works" says William James. "The result of natural selection" says Charles Darwin. "Submission to Allah" preaches Muhammad.

Random. Created. Evolved. Fashioned. Continuing. Chance. Hopeless. Faithful. Ironic. Miserable. Beautiful.

Biologist Richard Dawkins is an atheist. He would have you believe that we are all the evolved products of billions of years and millions of generations. To Richard...we are genes and memes. Simply put, man is the culmination of physical and psychological patterns that have developed over massive epochs of passing time. We are walking and breathing systems of reproduction copying whatever works best to survive forward into the abyss. Surely, this is a gross oversimplification of the matter. But shouldn't any answer be simple?

Of course, you might ask fellow evolutionist Stephen Jay Gould about Dawkins. He would tell you that Dawkins is the one oversimplifying things. More agnostic than atheist, Stephen thought that God was not the subject of empirical research and represented a kind of unscientific bias in Dawkin's thought catalog.

Perhaps unaware of his vast lineage, man has fallen by the billions to the pox, to war, to cataclysm. The fact that any of us are alive today is a sure testament to a struggle if nothing else so eloquent. We all ask the question at some point why we are here...what is the meaning of it all. In the end most of us either live in denial of an answer, find some personal motivation or seek the solace of an answer in a shared faith...a religion perhaps.

There are plenty of religions to choose from to be sure. Out of his cave man looked to the stars. And under foot he found revelation in the local plantlife. A constellation would steer the mind as well as the navigators of human destiny. And a mushroom would let the man look within. Astrotheology and shamanism painted caves, constructed pyramids and gave rise to stories, and myths...more explanations.

What is real? Dont ask me. Ask the likes of Stephen Hawking or Carl Jung. Again, one looks to the stars for his answers and one looks deep inside the Self. Is the Self, the psyche, God? Are we the myths made flesh and blood? So many, such as the mythologist Joseph Campbell, would think so. But man doesnt know his place after all. The travail of mankind is that each individual decides his place and, like the Biblical God, fashions himself in 'his' image.

We either entrap ourselves or free ourselves by our own perspective. What we believe to be true...becomes true. Ask the orphans of madness populating the behavioral centers. Ask them what is true. Are we all mad with faith? Go ask Bill Maher who sees faith as 'Religulous'. It is clearly ridiculous to him to believe in something outside of what he chooses to believe in. Perhaps we are all a bit more 'Religulous' than Maher would like.

At the end of all of our philosophies, our religions and our ideologies we stand the naked ape before the stars. Ask the young woman of the pain of her births. Ask the soldier the worth of killing. Ask the old man on his deathbed what he lived for. And ask the sick, the wounded, the terrified...in the end is the pain of life worth the living it?

Be at peace...yet we are not peaceful. Go to war...yet we are mortal. How many untold agonies tell the true tale of the human struggle? 55 million of us died in World War 2. Is that not Apocalypse? What of the unspeakable brutality of the murderous Inquisition? Man is Gladiator in the arena, spilling his own blood and crying victory.

Damn them all for being anything but a Humanitarian. What belief can justify the horror of murderous war? What god or religion is still calling for human sacrifice on altars that must be, must only be, profanities in the analog of our species? So many of us now are Stalin...men of steel. And like that tyrant, we steel ourselves against the suffering of nations, of our brothers, our sisters...our other selves.

"Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." This is the golden rule. Buddha, Jesus, Krishna...they all said as much. Or look away...stand as god among mortals. Live forever in contributing to the suffering of others. Is not such a thought madness? For all of us are mortal after all, aren't we? All of us suffer and bleed and eventually die.

It is not a miracle that we rise in the morning and greet the warmth of the sun. But there is no explanation for it. Science is not qualified to philosophize. And the rational mind must know at once that 'the answer' is elusive by our own relative perspective to it. And so we each greet the sun indifferently, accepting our fate under the heavens.

We are not so blind now. We cannot excuse ourselves in ignorance. We are learned men and women...or so we tell ourselves. Only in the moment of your pain may you judge the pain of others. Only at the moment of your death can you know that we are all the same you and I.

We are builders. We are creators. In spite of all of our weaknesses, man has raised civilizations, built bridges and artfully expressed the inexpressible beauty of a stunning likeness to god within...the works of Michaelangelo, Leonardo, Beethoven...

And yet...we spend our lives surviving in third world countries in war torn chaos like animals. Or the more fortunate gorge themselves on heart wrecking fast food, driving the right cars and wearing the right clothes. We evolve Dawkins says. In his view, we are no better than enlightened monkeys. Few of us, if any, prove him wrong in the end. We are vacuous, banal, and self serving. My life. My generation. My time. My ...

If we don't wake up in time, then the dream may become a nightmare and we may always sleep in terror of waking. At the dawn we must confront what we are left with and we must, at last, embrace it and live a life that is genuine by all accounts.

I am a man, he says. And I see that we all are.

Monday, December 6, 2010

The Craftsman

Can we brothers better our natures? Can we brothers improve ourselves in Freemasonry?

There are a good many self help systems out there. You can find 'Unlimited Power' through Tony Robbins. You can learn the 'Power of Intention' under the tutelage of Dr. Wayne Dyer. You could try manifesting and attracting your wealth, security and happiness via 'The Laws of Attraction.' Perhaps Kevin Trudeau has that 'Natural Cure' you've been looking for? Learn to see with 'The Teachings of Don Juan' by Carlos Castaneda. Allow Eckhart Tolle to show you 'A New Earth,' or Norman Vincent Peale to guide you with 'The Power of Positive Thinking.'

Religions are something like self help systems as well. Perhaps you can find your personal answer in one of them. Christianity sacrifices the ego. Judaism is an enlightened path. Islam submits man's will to a Higher Authority. Hinduism contains a rare beauty of ideas. Buddhism harnesses desires through compassion.

Are the answers there?

It really doesnt matter if there are answers in the myriad self help tomes and systems available to the general public. And here is not the place for religious discussions; beliefs all too subjective to the believers.

What Freemasons really want to know is whether or not Freemasonry actually 'can' help a man improve himself. Many Freemasons even want to know exactly how it can. Most Masons are seekers on the path. They have followed that first step with many after. But they want to know...in the end...where that path is leading them.

Does the Masonic Path...do those steps up the ladder lead to the York Rite?; perhaps the Scottish Rite and Albert Pike's opus 'Morals and Dogma of the Scottish Rite?; or is it into those halls of fellowship and frivolity found in the Mystic Shrine?

I have followed the Path from its beginning in the Blue Lodge and continued my journey through each of these Masonic 'systems'. And so like Alice moving through the dreaming depths of Wonderland I have met brothers and friends along my travels and faced dangers, challenges and even an enemy or two.

We men who seek to learn to improve ourselves in Freemasonry must begin with the belief that Masonry is a system of ideas, symbols and even instructions. But we must go fearless onto that Path and begin first at the side of the Angel of Faith. Soon enough we will have Hope. And if we toil long enough...and learn well enough...perhaps we shall rectify ourselves at that higher plane where alone waits the Angel of Charity...Love.

If you are indeed a Freemason then you should already be aware that atop that stairway to heaven is the Light. And before that Light is the Angel of Charity...the Angel of Love. This is a symbol...the most profound of Masonic symbols. The author Ram Dass recently released his third book in his trilogy of enlightened works entitled 'Be Love Now.' Love is a state of Being he insists. It is the key to the true mastery of the self and the revelation of the infinite Light. Call that what you will.

Where have we many Masons misplaced our Brotherly Love? I have still found waiting daggers in the hands of Brothers. Men set foot on the Path and lose their way...discouraged because the Light is unclear to them for all the secrets we keep...even from ourselves. Unworthy men have set foot on that same True Path. These men did not come to that place to learn to improve themselves...these men only came to empower themselves. These men are brothers but to themselves.

Worthy Brothers, discarded Ruffians, keep your heads along the way...and Pay Attention! It is true that you will find what you are looking for. Certainly we Masons are all looking for brothers in the Order...friends...family. But Do Not take that first step of Freemasonry and shame yourself and your Order along the Path because you are content that Masonry is a means to a social end...or empowerment in business or something else.

Freemasonry is a Light in the Darkness. But so long have men clouded the way with their own preconceptions, desires and prejudices that you will likely find the Path a perilous one...with little reward for your undertaking.

If you are daring you will cast aside your preconceptions, remove the hoodwink and cable tow to stand at last on the edge of a yawning precipice. Your world, the self you were, lies behind you. The Angel of Faith awaits you and you must walk where the ground is uncertain...where the familiar is no more.

There are many answers for the true seeker in Freemasonry. How many Masons, too afraid, cast aside the teaching in 'Morals and Dogma'? How many Masons know the Order's teachings save the Lodge procedures and degree rituals?

So many brothers have I spoken with who were yet lost along the way and simply disgusted because they have learned to improve themselves only in fellowship. There is more...much more. But most either do not know, pay attention or dare to look into or apply those most relevant of Masonic teachings.

To learn to improve yourself in Freemasonry is not simply a call to learn the motions of the Order. It is an Oath to apply the teachings of the Order...teachings obscured because many Masons are afraid to face that most fearful of all things...themselves.

Wait in the chamber of reflection and look well at what you see. Mortal man, alone and weak enough before the tides of time and fate. The other Angel waiting...Death.

Are we not all rough ashlar, so like an unfinished cast out corner stone? Each day we live, our character is revealed as that coarseness is chipped away. What is the Image of the Man we will each find inside once we are finished? Man in the Image of God?...or simply so obscured by passions, jealousies, hatreds and small mindedness that what remains is too awful to look upon?

Masonry is artistry. It is a profession with tools and labors. And we are each the Craftsmen of our own likeness. In its teachings and through its admonishments, our works - and that final 'self portrait' - is often tried by that Great Architect. Only a worthy work...only an Image revealed at last beneath the ashlar to be as beautiful as the Original can stand before the Light.

Take up your work not without care then. Safeguard your tools and learn your Master's teachings well.

To make a Good Man a Better Man...is a Craft.

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