Freemasonry As a Life’s Journey – Part 1

Freemasonry As a Life’s Journey – Part 1 The EA Candidate Enters the Lodge Room
Presentation to Novus Veretis Lodge, #864 January 20, 2018
Alan Gatlin

I appreciate the opportunity to again share with you some ideas about our Fraternity and its application to our daily life. In an earlier presentation we discussed the possibility of how our lives and the external world are interrelated. I understand that some may be skeptical of these associations and rightfully so. Each man here has a responsibility to weigh the information and evaluate for themselves the truth that is or is not present based on their life’s experiences. The “life” of our group is this process of determination of how we will or will not apply what we hear into our personal practice. A quote from Stephen Hoeller in the “The Gnostic Jung”  frames this well when he says “The danger of all systems is that they tend to mistake the words which serve as pointers for the realities at which they point!”  I view Masonry as a system to which guides the practice of my life and hold myself accountable to each day. Some days I meet the mark and others I do not. The Volume of the Sacred Law says it best” Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”  I would like us to consider the 3 Degrees of Masonry as a life path that takes us from birth in this plane of existence to our passage into the next. A further theme is that we do not “avoid” life but pass through and persevere with greater strength and triumph in this process. Again, from the Volume of the Sacred Law, “…even though I pass through the valley of the shadow of death, I shall fear no evil” This does NOT say we will or can avoid hardship or life in general, but that that we walk into & through our life, with all of its positive and negative aspects. The precepts of Masonry are for me, the roadmap to life.  In this process we can find happiness and contentment knowing that we are on a sacred journey that is ours to live, move, and have our being.

When a candidate files a petition for taking the Degrees of Masonry I believe he has begun his Masonic work.  While we may think that the “work” of Masonry only begins with the actual Degrees I would propose that the very process of application is the start of that work and the candidate journeys down a path that he does not fully understand but yet is somehow compelled to begin and from which ignorance is no longer a valid excuse in life. A reminder, where are we first made a Mason? The interviews and meetings with both him and his significant other, if any, challenges him with the “whys” of these first steps and confirms that the candidate understands the level of commitment he is making at this juncture. Many have reported that their drive to join is based on family connections, the desire for male friendships, or other motivations but at the root of all of these is a longing for more in life. If we, as member of this applicant’s Lodge are true to our responsibility, each of us would have personal contact with the candidate to validate these true desires and build a personal bond to assist this seeker in his journey.  At the vote we confirm our inclination and belief that this man is on this path for the “right” reasons and welcome him into the fraternity.

At the time of the 1st Degree the Marshall further interrogates the candidate to ascertain his motivation and to certify his independence of decision process.  While the Stewards prepare him, it is here or earlier if there is a Chamber of Reflection, where the candidate has the opportunity for further consideration of what he is about to begin. The Stewards now help prepare our candidate for entry into the Lodge, a scared place where a new level of experience occurs, and a realization begins that this is a something different and that indeed, a new experience can occur. A question to consider; Why would there be a need for the candidate to seek moving from unrecognized darkness to Light? This is what the Steward and Senior Deacon announce is occurring. Is the candidate unaware of his present condition?  How is he to receive and have a part of the rights and benefits of this of this Worshipful Lodge? How is it erected to God and dedicated to the Holy Saints John? What did the Senior Warden say in response to the questioning of the Master at the Lodge opening when asked where he was from? While the words represent the symbology of the process, there is an actual event occurring that I believe we often ignore at our own risk & loss. Do we treat the Lodge opening with the reverence and “take due notice thereof” as instructed? These are not words of condemnation as only we each can know the answer to this in our own hearts, but is a valid question of our personal actions and perspective as we participate in the Lodge and its Work.

Let us deconstruct these last few words & phrases for further consideration.  Again, there will be those who chose to view all of this process as nothing more than a part of how our heritage is to be celebrated in reenactment and that is fine, but others may view this as a literal “calling” of a gathered Masonic body to a “work” that is practiced not just on this physical plane but engaging the spiritual and reminding us that we are more than just a physical body but also a spiritual being. Is one perspective more “right” than other? I don’t believe so but requires each Mason to examine themselves and see what perspective best serves their needs and practice and then to be consistent in their actions.

Sacred spaces have been created by man since time in memorial as high places, temples, mounds, and sacred circles. How we as individuals celebrate these spaces and times vary but with the common theme of intent either to go to a place or to recreate an environment that has those items or reminders of the scared within each of us. For some it is a building, others a place, or even a group of people, regardless it is our individual choice of what we define as sacred. A place erected to God is by most definitions a sacred space that requires the individuals present to act with reverence and acknowledging that this is a special place and event when gathered together. The Holy Saints John can represent sacrifice and commitment to truth even to the loss of life. In our Masonic symbology, the Baptist can also represent the one who proclaims the coming and the Apostille he who celebrates and proclaims the arrival. Note the image on the wall of most Lodges where they are both together separated by the dot within the circle. This picture can be one of the first “symbols” for the candidate that they are about to receive truth and then celebrating the event of that conferral through each degree. The representation of the Holy Saint’s John’s could also be said to be observing the candidate as the circumambulate the Lodge.

What are the “rights and benefits of this Worshipful Lodge”? If you do a google search you will be hard pressed to obtain any meaningful information about “Masonic Rights” Even the word “rights” itself is somewhat vailed. From Wikipedia “ Rights are legal, social, or ethical principles of freedom or entitlement; that is, rights are the fundamental normative rules about what is allowed of people or owed to people, according to some legal system, social convention, or ethical theory.” It goes on further to say “Rights are often considered fundamental to civilization, for they are regarded as established pillars of society and culture” Gentlemen what are the pillars of Freemasonry? The “rights” we are granted as Masons is access to a great Truth.  Brother HA Kingsbury in The Connecticut Builder  October 1917 wrote : “Pillars have been used for commemorative, monumental and symbolistic purposes since the beginnings of civilization. For example, among the Egyptians many extraordinary events, singular or noteworthy transactions, and new inventions were commemorated, and their histories preserved, by records carved upon pillars of stone. According to tradition, Osiris, that Egyptian hero and god of such peculiar and especial interest to the Mason, set up pillars in commemoration of his conquests; the pillars bore hieroglyphical inscriptions recording certain interesting facts and details relative to those conquests. This reputed example of Osiris was followed by the kings of ancient Egypt for many centuries, for those kings had, in many instances, records of their conquests, triumphs, power, and magnificence, engraved on pillars or obelisks.

By the various Semitic peoples pillars were used in ways similar to those in which they were used by the Egyptians. Thus, Hiram King of Tyre, upon the forming of his grand junction between Eurichorus and Tyre, dedicated a pillar to Jupiter in commemoration of the event. Enoch erected two pillars–the Pillars of Enoch of which Masonry has its symbolic legend–the one of brass to resist water and the other of stone to resist fire upon which he inscribed information calculated to preserve his knowledge to posterity in the case of the destruction of the world. Jacob’s Pillar at Bethel was erected to commemorate his extraordinary vision; his Pillar at Galeed was raised in commemoration of his treaty with his uncle, Laban. Joshua raised a pillar at Gilgal to perpetuate the fact of the miraculous passage of the River Jordan. And Absalom erected a pillar in honor of himself.

Leaving, now, the consideration of pillars as merely individual units and turning to the consideration of grouped pillars, each group consisting of three units, one realizes at the outset that the conception of a symbolic group of three pillars is not by any means one confined exclusively to Masonry; in not a few of the ancient mysteries and religious systems some symbolic meaning was assigned to a group comprised of three pillars.

The symbolistic conception of three grouped pillars was contained in the Druid Mysteries, indeed, in those mysteries, in some instances the sanctuary was actually supported on three stones or pillars. In the mythology of India the conception of three pillars was present, the pillars being considered as located in the East, West, and South and as bearing the names Wisdom, Strength, and Beauty.

The three-pillar-group, in every ancient mystery or religious system where it occurred as such, was the presentation, symbolically, of a triad. Therefore, a consideration of the Three Pillars of the Lodge brings before the student, the curious fact that nearly every mystery practiced by the ancient peoples of the world contained its reference, and that an important reference, to a triad. In the mysteries of India the triad was Brahma, Vishnu, Siva; in the Grecian Mysteries the triad was Jupiter, Neptune, Pluto; in the Persian, Ormazad, Mithra, Mithras; in the Gothic, Woden, Friga, Thor; in the Mexican, Tloquenahuaque, Huitzilopochtli, Mictlanteuctli; and so on through the various systems practiced by the ancients. Of course we add out Masonic Trio of King Solomon, Hiram of Tyre and Hiram Abiff.

So, in carrying forward what was best in the conceptions and the teachings of the peoples of antiquity, Masonry, too, has its pillars of peculiar significance; places one in East, one in the West, and one in the South; considers each one symbolically significant as a unit, calling one Wisdom, one Strength, and one Beauty, as did the Hindus; and, finally, Masonry considers those Pillars as a group, unitary in character and in itself a symbol, indeed a symbol of the very highest type.

The Mason is informed that the Three Supporting Pillars of the Lodge are Wisdom, Strength, and Beauty “because it is necessary that there should be wisdom to contrive, strength to support, and beauty to adorn all great and important undertakings”: he cannot but gather from the lectures and the work, particularly of the First Degree, that the Lodge is the symbol of the World: therefore, when he combines these two conceptions and draws the necessarily resulting conclusion, he arrives at the same understanding of the ultimate symbolic significance of the Three Pillars as did the ancient Hindus–the Three Supporting Pillars of the Lodge are, considered as a group, the symbol of Him Whose Wisdom contrived the World, Whose Strength supports the World, Whose Beauty adorns the World– Deity.

Let us turn to the word “benefits”. Benefits are those items we choose to participate in based on the rights that are granted. We choose to come to Lodge, to Education, to events, and to study the mysteries for ourselves We gain the benefits of the rights by our own elections and decisions!

If we divert a minute and again look at the image of the Saints John that is found in every Lodge Room. What is the central figure? A dot within a circle which is also the astrological symbol of the Sun, or again in the ancient cultures, Deity. Many ancient groups also considered the circle to represent the universe as a continuum, a beginning flowing to an end and into the beginning. Nay wedding nuptials refer to this circular pattern of life. The addition of parallel lines provides us a way to establish East and West with a bisecting line, and the South at the top. Hence, we have a unity and world view for Masonry to consider and meditate upon. Again, what is represented by the 3 primary cardinal directions and the corresponding chairs associated with each? Another consideration is again the picture shown of the Holy Saints John. When the candidate is about to receive Light for the first time, how are the members of the Lodge standing? Note we re-create the parallel lines with the alter at the head shining the Light from the volume of the Sacred Law. In another lecture we will examine the symbolic representation of the Northeast corner of the Lodge and how that is “calculation” from these fundamentals overlaid on the Lodge room floor.

I again encourage you to come to Lodge experience the Degrees anew. Observe, imagine yourself as the candidate and take in the actions, surroundings and words all around you.  I assure you, your Lodge experience will become more interesting and you’ll find a course of study that will impact your life.

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