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To be is to do

October 22, 2007 Leave a comment

To do is to be. – Plato
To be is to do. – Aristotle
Scooby dooby do. – Sinatra

(Graffiti rumored to have been discovered
on a bathroom wall in the ruins of Pompeii.)

A few years ago I was talking to a friend who, at the time, was very interested in yoga, Zen, meditation, and various other “Eastern” style teachings. Once a week or so we’d get together and have discussions about teaching styles, philosophies, authenticity, and how far he thought he happened to be along his own spiritual path. One day ha asked me about a particular Taoist author, to which I responded that I couldn’t remember anything about him, nor did I have the books which he mentioned. He seemed stunned. “But that’s one of the most well-known books on Taoism,” he exclaimed, “how could you not have them, let alone not remember them?”

“It’s simple,” I explained to him, “I spent years picking up every book I could find on Taoism. I amassed a decent library, I read all the volumes, I cross-referenced authors, and even made an attempt to study Chinese, with the hope of being able to read them without the quasi-poetic translations into English as is so often seen.

“And one day, amid all of the books and charts that I’d picked up over the years, I was struck with a realization: that for all the books I had, and for all the years I’d researched, all I had been doing was reading about Taoism; I hadn’t been practicing it at all! So, I gave away the books and charts and made a point to stop reading about it and to start being, that is, living what I’d read about.

See, reading about something isn’t quite the same as doing it. Anyone who doubts this should pick up a book on learning to ride a bicycle. You can get any number of the principles inside your head, but some of them need to be internalized in your gut in order for you to receive the full impact.

Some years later, I discovered that I was doing the same thing with my new-found interest of Masonry. I had picked up any number of books, ranging from Mackey to Pike to Robinson, and quite a few others. Even before I became a member, the guys on the interviewing committee said I was the most well-informed candidate they’d ever seen. Every night found me combing the web for more and more information, from Usenet groups to Anti-Masonic websites in search of more Light in Masonry. I applied myself to learning the rituals, to understanding the symbols, to the metaphors and allegories of the Craft. I made it a personal mission to be knowledgeable about Freemasonry.

And then, somewhere in the midst of – appropriately enough – my year in the East, I suddenly realized that I was not practicing Masonry, that is, I wasn’t making a point of internalizing the concepts that I’d spent so much time reading about. So, at some point during this past year, I stopped reading Pike (just as well, it was my third try at getting through Morals & Dogma), I put away all those books on Masonry (except for Freemasonry for Dummies, which is still on loan to someone, and A Complete Idiot’s Guide to Freemasonry, which spent some time in the Tyled Room) and made a point to cut back on my internet time. I spent more time with my lovely wife and precious daughter. I took some time to work on my own temple – my body – because it’s the only one I’ve got to work with, and I’d let the building maintenance crew slack off for too long.

When I had that conversation with my friend, I pointed out that Taoist meditation is unlike what we normally think of as meditation; it’s simple and practical, and often performed while in the midst of doing some useful, physical labor, such as plowing or cutting wood. One learns to become “centered” as it were, by utilizing normal, everyday activities. In much the same way, however, can we, as Masons, smooth our personal ashlars by the proper application of friendship, charity, and brotherly love. We can debate the symbolism of Masonry for so long, that it causes us to lose sight of the fact that Masonic morality is not meant to be merely some esoteric concept, but a real, practical lifestyle.

Remember; the root of “practical” is “practice,”which has two connotations. One is the habit of doing something, and the other is the repetition of that habit. Can we really be true Masons without doing, that is, practicing our Masonry in our everyday lives?

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What Secret Society Are You?

September 5, 2006 4 comments

Take the quiz:
What Secret Society Are You?

Freemasons
The old Masonic society that was initiated in America by some of the Revolutionaries who fought for its freedom. It has been described as “A peculiar system of morality veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols.” This group is essentially a worldwide fraternity with roots dating back hundreds of years. Symbolized by the square and compass, they believe in a Supreme Being, but are not themselves a religious organization.


Gauurrgghh! I hate blogs that fill up with “blogthings”, those stupid little quizzes and other whatnots. You know the ones I mean: those stupid time wasters that purport to predict your favorite color or magazine subscription or your sex life based on what condiments that you put on hamburgers, or those that presume to answer the burning questions like “What kind of breakfast cereal are you?” or “What’s your HQ (Hipness Quotient)?” I swore to myself that I would never put those kind of things here because that’s not the kind of blog I want. My intention was to make this a web log of my personal observations, not to mention my little ego trips. Original content! Good writing! Real Masonry! Yes, that’s what The Tao of Masonry is all about!But considering how my year as Master has been going, we all should have known that this was bound to happen, right?

Anyway, I’m going to justify my doing it because considering the topic of the quiz itself, how could I possibly not post something like this?

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Auntie Em! Anti-M!

June 29, 2006 10 comments

Most people do not know about the intricate Masonic messages and symbolism in the movie ““The Wizard of Oz””, but with the recent spate of books and movies about the hidden codes and conspiracies elsewhere, I thought that I’d let you in on some of the inner secrets. This is for purely mercenary motives because I’m looking to take my blog to the syndicates.

First, note that Dorothy begins with the letter D, the fourth letter in the alphabet and 4 being a very mystical number to Freemasons. If you subtract that 4 from 7 (the number of the letter G, found inside the Masonic Square & Compasses logo), you get 3, the central mystical number of all esoterica. And needless to say, 7 itself is a number with magical properties. Dorothy then meets 3 (!) misfits on the yellow brick road (making 4, and there’s that number again), and one can easily see the symbolism between the stone bricks and Masonry. The movie contains 2 wicked witches (2 being a prime number and one that is important in Freemasonry) and 1 good witch (making 3 again), and when added to the 4 travelers becomes 7, proving the importance of that number to Masons.

They travel on the road (the assumption is that they are heading East, a direction with mystical connections) to the Emerald City, with green being an important symbolic color to Masons.(the yellow from the bricks mingled with the ““blue”” of the so-called Blue Lodges makes green). And it’s obvious that the castle of the Wizard (that is, the Grand Master) is built of stone and resembles the medieval churches of Europe. This is a nod to both the Knights Templar and the the pagan religions that the Templars studied, which we now know made them heretics. The travelers meet up with the Wizard (now making 5, an important number in Masonic symbolism), who asks them to perform a service before he will help them. This is a veiled reference to the Hiramic legend in which the workers on the Temple of Solomon must complete the Temple before receiving the secrets of Freemasonry.

The travelers -– and let us note that Masons refer to themselves as ““traveling men”” – meet up with the Wicked Witch of the West, the one from the East having been killed by Dorothy’s house. Note that ““house”” is synonymous with ““temple””; the Wicked Witch of the East has been interred under the Temple from the Heavens -– yet another reference to several items central to Masonic lore. The Wicked Witch of the West appears to take the shoes that Dorothy acquired from the Wicked Witch of the East, which resonates with the ancient Masonic initiation ritual in which the candidates are deprived of their own shoes.

Dorothy is eventually captured by the Wicked Witch of the West, who flies on a broom, symbolizing ““Air””, one of the four classical elements of antiquity. Dorothy is then kept in the stone castle (symbolizing “Earth””), but during an ill-fated rescue attempt, sets ““Fire”” to the witch, which is then set to right by the application of ““Water””. This, of course, is an acknowledgment that the Freemasons have subverted the religion of their fathers in order to study the ancient pagan ways.

The service to the Wizard now completed, the travelers make their way back to the Emerald City. The Wizard is exposed to be simply a man, which resonates with the Masonic idea that only the Grand Architect of the Universe can be perfect and all knowing. The Wizard, though, is a wise man who manages to help the Lion, Tin Man, and Scarecrow develop traits which are secret Masonic virtues: courage (Strength), heart (Beauty), and brains (Wisdom). Of special note is that the Scarecrow, upon receiving brains (symbolic of receiving Masonic ““light””) recites the Pythagorean Theorem! This is the most important theorem in geometry (which starts with the letter ““G””), and is the essence of the esoteric Masonic mystical teachings.

Did you get all of that?

Non-Masons, I’m sure, are nodding their heads up and down, the with the understanding slowly growing, like the dawn creeping over the horizon. Right? Makes sense when it’s pointed out to you, doesn’t it?

Actual Masons, though, are probably scratching their heads and asking ““What the hell was that?””

This, my dear readers, is an illustration of the imagined connections of the pseudo-mystical, the conclusion jumping of the breathless Internet seeker, and the convoluted logic of the dreaded “Anti-Mason”. The light, in other words, was that glow of the false dawn.

In the past 5 years (5 being an important Masonic number) that I’ve been paying attention to such things, I’ve been amazed at the number of non-Masons who have derived some authority which they believe qualifies them to write about what we are and what we do. Some of them are benign, and draw upon other sources without really understanding what it is that they’ve read. They claim that we are the keepers of some kind of mystic or esoteric knowledge, and that we secretly or surreptitiously try to impart this knowledge or perhaps communicate with other Masons through the use of these symbols. You know the type: they tell you about the importance of the measurements and other numbers related to the Washington Monument, or the Great Pyramid in Giza, or the US one dollar bill. If you listen to them long enough, you’ll see that virtually every number, color, and shape is somehow important in Masonic Mysticism. You can easily spot them by their “Kaballah for Dummies” reference guide.

But some aren’t quite so harmless. Like the benign group, they jump to the same conclusions drawn from irrational leaps of logic, but from there they build a conspiracy theory worthy of the X-files. These are the people who create pages and pages of web sites and Usenet postings about how the Freemasons are behind the black helicopters and the Illuminati or New World Order, the control of money in the World Bank, and the infiltration and control of public officials, from the local zoning commission to “the highest offices of government””. When someone from this group gets a parking ticket, it’s not because they left their vehicle to run 20 minutes over on the meter; no, it’s because the Masons in the local town council have it in for them, and are going to use their power to drive out the little people. When you try to explain to them that the Masons in your lodge are just shop owners and engineers and utility workers, they accuse you of lying, of covering up the ““real”” truth, and will probably send you a 9 page letter (9 being an important Masonic number), threatening to take you to court, if they could only believe that the Masonic judges and police weren’t already spying on them.

Then there are those, who for reasons I still can’t quite fathom, would seek to undermine the Craft because (so they believe), we are a religion unto ourselves, one that has long since strayed from The True Path©, one that worships the demon Baphomet, and which seeks to capture and convert other unknowing souls into our pagan ways. And that’s not the strange part; the really strange part is that we somehow seek to convert others to our soul-stealing, hell-bound perversions by such unspeakable acts as raising money for children’s organizations, or by donating money to the poor, or by working in soup kitchens, or by donating time and energy into various community activities, or -– and this is apparently the absolute worst thing -– by not only sitting in the same room with people of other religions, but of accepting them and not trying to convert them to something else!

I’m trying to imagine a culture in which tolerance for the beliefs of others is a bad thing. Nope, still can’t fathom it.

Those with religious objections to Freemasonry are insidious. I’ve tried explaining that Freemasonry is not a religion, that we don’t worship Baphomet or any other Deity in particular, and that most of the Masons I know are conservative men with a religious or certainly spiritual bent. And I used to be surprised by the rejoinder: those men don’t know that they are worshiping a false deity. The ““true”” secrets (they claim), are only known to a very select few of the highest degrees. If you are a 32º Scottish Rite, then they will tell you that the secrets are known only to the 33º. If you are a 33º, then the secrets are only known to some smaller sub-group. Apparently only a very super-secret select few know that when Freemasons open a lodge, they unknowingly offer up a prayer to some deity that nobody else has ever heard of.

We don’t know who gets the prayer when we bow our heads for some quiet contemplation, as if some deity is hijacking our cable? War-driving in the psychic realms? No firewall on our spiritual Wi-Fi?

I don’t have any solutions or answers or even any witty responses to these conditions. Most Masons will probably rarely or maybe never find themselves in a situation in which they have to face such wrong-headed thinking. As an old Usenet junkie, I tend to run across them much too frequently, and now have more names in my newsreader filters than a small phone book. But after several years, I realize that I’m getting tired of hearing the same, old arguments from them, and I’m tired of hearing myself respond with the same old explanations.

So I’ve decided that, if only to keep myself from feeling bored and tired (and to amuse myself, if possible), I’m going to go to the other extreme and point out the Masonic connections where they would least expect them to be.

And did anyone count the words in the previous paragraph? Hint: it’s the most important Masonic number of all, and the key to life, the unverse, and everything!

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