Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The 'Rite' Stuff

"Masonic Light, like the light of day at the close of the long night in far northern climes, must come, not all in one flash, but by slow and imperceptible degrees."

- Albert Pike

Follow the story of a scientist who, as a man in his fifties, had found his life frequented with unhappiness and the meaning of it lost among a lifetime of struggle and failure. All manner of gloom and despair was visited upon him and his body cried out with terrible and blinding headaches.

At his wits end, and determined to make a positive change for himself, the scientist decided to perform an experiment...with himself as its subject. For one month, he would strive to control his thoughts. If his mind turned to the past, he would only concentrate on the brightest and happiest of his memories. In considering the present, he would dismiss the undesirable and favor the opportunities at hand. And when thinking of the future, he would expect only the fruition of his endeavors and ambitions.

After only eight days passing, he began to feel a quickening of his spirit and a virtual transformation of his health. His headaches were no more. As he progressed through such success, the world seemed no longer at odds with him. He was elected to a prestigious position as the President of a great scientific society.

And all of this...because he changed his mind. He altered his perspective.

Of all of the many works, rituals, traditions and degrees of Freemasonry, the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite tasks a man with approaching the Light through an inner journey of personal reflection like none other. Through its series of degrees leading to the 32 and final destination of the journey, a mason travels the labyrinth of his mind and spirit, facing inner Ruffians and ready mercies.

The degrees of the Scottish Rite are not so unlike the modern depth psychology of Carl Jung or Freud's psychoanalysis. What is very interesting indeed is that the Rite itself predates such current psychological systems, by centuries. The Rite is Victor Frankl's reframing in 'Man's Search for Meaning.' It is William James's 'altering of one's life ... through altering one's mind.'

And finally, it is the Heroes Journey of the great mythologist Joseph Campbell, fraught with joy, sorrow, life's breadth, becoming, and death.

Historically, the Scottish Rite evolved as the Rite of Perfection over 200 years ago on the Continent of Europe. It is a respendent amalgam of the philosophical essence of a multitude of learned cultures throughout the ages past including India, Egypt, China, Chaldea, Assyria, Persia, Greece and Rome. Here are represented the timeless truths of antiquity distilled by the most brilliant minds of mankind such as Confucious, Socrates, Pythagoras and Plato.

Those seeking the wisdom of the Rite expand their knowledge of history, philosophy, religion, morality and tolerance and come to know well the treasures gained with focus and rarified discipline. These seekers are guided to reflection, study and personal discernment.

The value of the Scottish Rite is to help a man find self understanding; to reveal the Light within; and to clarify his true place within the greater Order of all things. Perhaps its most controversial feature, these teachings of Masonry deviate from the priest and the prophet. It draws much significance from the Kabbalah allowing that the fruits of the tree of life may be tasted if the soul is made ready for them. Indeed, as a mason examines his inner mental stratums and conditioned behaviors he finally recapitulates the Light within his soul and draws nearer to the Divine through gnosis...the personal knowing of God.

"What is needed first, therefore, is an increase of self understanding - a discovery of your inner selves and of your own essential natures." - Henry C. Clausen, 33* Past Sovereign Grand Commander of the Scottish Rite.

This is the very maxim of the temple pilgrim. Millenia ago above the entrance to the Delphic Oracle at the Temple of Apollo (the Temple of the Sun/Light) the words read 'Know Thyself.' What is the worth of a man when his very soul is weighed upon the scale? This is a question to be answered through living and not at the moment of one's death. To know the sure path, one must first know where he has determined himself to go...he must discern to what end he has set his mind.

"A man should learn to watch that gleam of light which flashes across his mind from within, more than the lustre of the firmament of bards and sages." - Ralph Waldo Emerson

"Be a lamp unto your own feet; do not seek outside yourself." - The Buddha

"Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you." - Jesus

The Scottish Rite recognizes man's innate inner capacities toward self actualization. Today, much of its teachings are sadly lost on the modern pilgrims who are determined to find their personal rewards easily won and without sacrifice of time or contemplation. It's wondrous teachings are displayed throughout the world in a series of theatrical displays. It is a worthy undertaking and yet but a profane gesture if the seekers content themselves with little more than the spectacle at hand. These displays serve to whet the appetites of those who wish to make that personal journey through the degrees. But each mason must apply the teachings in his own life and examine his own mind along the way.

And so we are all scientists of a sort. We explore and experiment with our lives as we live them. But there are those who have gone before us and who have well prepared our way. The Scottish Rite of Freemasonry is a well worn path, frequented and travelled by the most earnest of good men, becoming better men.

Enlightenment, the true goal of all worthy philosophies, and that too of Scottish Rite Freemasonry, comes about through a proper personal perspective and a revelation that affirms the inner Light with that yet Greater Light.

-- Much thanks to the Past Sovereign Grand Commander of the Scottish Rite, Henry C. Clausen 33*, for his wonderful story about the scientist and his great many insights into Scottish Rite Freemasonry in his Commentaries on Morals and Dogma.


Fred H. Anderson said...

Brothers, I will be receiving the Scottish Rite Degrees in a June Reunion in Long Beach, so this was extremely interesting to me. Thanks for posting it.

Lightheaded1 said...

Beautiful post Brother Free. Well written and obviously well considered. I'd love to add something but I believe you have said it all. Thanks.

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