A Short Talk
“A Masonic Hierarchy”
Presented at Novus Veteris Lodge, #864
By Alan Gatlin
October 21, 2017
Worshipful Inspector Handell made a presentation to the Scottish Rite at the October 2017 Stated Meeting regarding the effect on our world with both the absence of Masonry and if the precepts of Freemasonry were Universally adopted by mankind. The practice of Brotherly Love, Relief, and Truth is a powerful element of change in both an individual’s life and that of the Society he is a part of. The absence of these virtues throws the individual, or the society, further into selfishness, greed, and lies and some would say that this represents where we find too many members of our world and its leadership at today. This delicate balance between virtue and evil has always been present but if one watches the evening newscasts, podcasts, or other media as a percentage of the time taken, the dark elements seem to have sway at this stage in this cycle of our history. How can we then, as Masons make “good men better” and practice what we agree upon is our obligation that of planting the seeds of individual and our society’s change?
This presentation is a look at how we can both challenge and examine ourselves against a standard that is consistent with whom we say we are as Masons and provide a path for continued improvement. Much as the butterfly effect, as we change so does the world around us change in meaningful ways! The symbol used to reflect this process or hierarchy of change will be based on a geometric form you are all familiar with from school, an isosceles triangle which can also could be viewed as a two dimensional pyramid. It is interesting that when discussing hierarchies that this from is most often used; a triangle with 2 sides of equal length coming to a point. If we subdivide this form with parallel lines we can view the lowest level as a foundation with subsequent layers being dependent on the lower for support and strength. Let us then divide this from into three sections that represent our Masonic journey. Starting with the top layer we have our “Secrets”. The second layer our “Mysteries” and the third layer and base would be our “Life’s Journey.”
Let us start with the most familiar, our Secrets. What did the 3 Ruffians ask of HA and why did they ask for this? One answer is as old as man, they wanted a short cut. All too often secrets are seen as a shorter path to truth and in some cases that may be true. But rarely does truth come without a cost or price. To be truly useful Secrets must also be applied in the context of the body of the evidence they support. While many of the Masonic “Secrets” can be easily discovered; the pass, token of the pass, words and signs, these are just a few of the visible parts of the Masonic experience. There are indeed deeper Secrets but ones that must be “mined” from a personal journey and discovery path. Many articles and books by Hall, Mackey, and others have been written on this subject and will not try to expand but refer you to these many works for additional reference and Light.
The middle layer represents our Mysteries. Many believe that these are where much of the esoteric knowledge and wisdom lives, moves, and has its being. The repository of Masonic Mysteries takes it wisdom from the ancients and the myriad of traditions representing the mystery schools, Hermetic, Egyptian, and Jewish traditions to name a very few. Throughout the world, disconnected peoples erected pyramids, mapped the skies, and studied the liberal arts all to come to many of the same conclusions and observances; that the laws of nature and man’s experience are of one accord; that the external and internal processes ‘operate on the same principals and laws. In all this we find that spiritual and physical are but yet two sides of the same coin. These interrelationships, when observed and followed bring balance to a world of extremes both within man and without. How do we discover and use these “tools” for the benefit of ourselves and the world around us? By applying what is recorded and presented in the Degrees of Masonry and represent the base layer of the pyramid, our Life’s Journey. The elements of this quest, a Life’s Journey, are that each of the 3 Degrees of Masonry ARE a retelling of our new life from birth to death in this physical realm and is defined by a sacred trilogy of words that each Degree represents.
The 1st Degree is a story of birth and realization and could be characterized by the concept of “Respect” A poor blind candidate desires to be brought from Darkness to Light…and there learns the true nature of life, that there is a Supreme Architect of the Universe and that the Fraternity represents a body, a safe place to grow and learn but that there are conditions and requirements that he must grow into. Remember from the Charge we are given; “…Let Temperance chastens, Fortitude support, Prudence direct you, and Justice be your guide in all your actions.” These, my brothers are the foundation of Brotherly Love, Relief, and Truth and where we learn to Respect ourselves first and then others.
The 2nd Degree is a story of learning and growing with the key word being “Integrity” Here we learn that Masonry is a progressive moral science. We are charged not only with our own behavior, internal and external, but the responsibility “…to judge with candor, admonish with friendship, and reprehend with justice” the actions of our brothers and truly of ourselves. The old adage is that Integrity represents those actions you take when no one is watching is a reflection of this moral code! The demons we each fight do not have to be just ours alone but when we face up to our realities we can come together and assist each other in our growth as men and Masons.
The 3rd Degree is a story of betrayal, repentance, and judgment for actions taken. Every action has a positive or negative consequence that each much face as an individual and a group, society, country, and the world. The key word here is “Loyalty” and tells the story of the consequences of behaviors, but also the reward given now and in the next life. Again from the Charge; “…Duty and honor now alike bind you to be faithful to every trust; to support the dignity of your character on all occasions; and strenuously to enforce, by precept and example, a steady obedience to the tenants of Freemasonry.” Here again we are called to action and preparation for that transition to that Celestial Lodge where our work will continue.
Again who are the Degrees of Masonry for? My brethren, the sideline is not a place JUST for the support of the candidate, but even more so a place for examination of ourselves and renewal of our commitment to that which we are called. The Search for how we can deepen out Respect, Integrity, and Loyalty to both ourselves and the fraternity can be a primary focus in both the participation and observance of Degree work. From these actions we will lay the ground work to open the door to the mysteries of our fraternity contained in the outer chamber. As we grow and develop we may be put into the position to have the Secrets of the inner chamber revealed if we are found worthy. If we do not obtain access to that inner chamber or any other earthly accomplishment, achievement, or aspiration we may think important are we any less a Mason or a Man? The answer is no, for each of us have a path in this life with the important task being to live to the full potential set before us by the Supreme Architect and accomplish those tasks that are a part of our Life’s Journey. What that path may be for you is truly not comparable with another’s path as each journey is likely different and our own. OUR obligation is fulfilled when we live fully that path placed before us and become the Man and Mason we are meant to be.
I challenge you to take up this noble cause. Become this “Man”, affect the world, and join the path of discovery in an active, not passive way.