Mythology and Belief Systems in a Stable Society
Delivered to the Novus Veteris Lodge, UD
March 18, 2017 By Alan Gatlin, Orator
Today’s presentation is the beginning of a series of lectures for 2017. These lectures will seek to expand our knowledge, show us some alternative ways of thinking, and challenge us on how we view the Society(s) from which we function within. A key thought to consider when reviewing this lecture is how our belief system is tied to a stable society, Freemasonry, and to our personal growth.
If I give you a quote from a prominent East Coast newspaper can you identify the time period it is from? Is it the 1770s, 1850s, 1940’s or in the present? “It seems to now become dangerous for the good people of this town to get out late at night without being sufficiently well armed” The New York Gazette in 1749 and again in 1775 but similar quotes can be found in each of these timeframes. Historically what was occurring in the mid- 1700s, the beginning of what we call the United States of America? The term Pre-Revolutionary period, would seem to sum up the “feelings and attitude” of the fledging “American Experiment”. Our Founders were faced with a diverse population of immigrants from Western Europe who brought with them their spiritual practices, vocations, life styles, and all the attributes that defined them as a “society” within the larger group of a newly forming nation. Did they all get along with mutual acceptance and in peace? Not in the least! They had heated exchanges on issues of States Rights, Federal powers, currency, personal freedoms, and a number of other issues. “Societies” were organized around their belief systems and built organizations that would support “THEIR” way of living with all the carry though actions and attitudes. The Society of Friends commonly known as Quakers is considered the basis of the State of Pennsylvania. What was the original tenant of this society? The Quaker belief system focused on inclusivity and acceptance but not all others were open and accepting as a group. The common thread here is that in the American Colonies there was NO commonality other than escape! The Colonies represented diverse groups, many escaping persecution from Europe, finding a fresh start, or running from other “troubles”. Compared to other European groups, the Colonies did not have a State Religion, they were not a homogenous people, nor did they share a similar “historic” background. What would be the event that finally pulls this “mess” together? The common “enemy” of England whose actions overcame the things that divided this lose group of colonies into a nation. As a consideration take a look from the 1770s advancing in approximate 80 year segments and search for similarities. We will cover this in more depth in a later lecture examining the cycles we find in societies.
Let us take a step back and look at an underlining theme that is often missed when examining our belief systems. As Freemasons we are called upon to be observant, free thinking, and open (with due examination) to new concepts and ideas. What is an underlying base that is common to most all belief system? I would propose that the bases of all belief systems are those stories and associations represented in and by the sun, moon, planets and zodiac. The beliefs, myths, and stories of both ancient and modern societies are based on a shared universal symbolism of these patterns in the sky and what various groups associated with those patterns. Even in our Society of Freemasonry we have a foundation based in this stellar system. Examples of this can be found in the physical orientation of our Lodges /Chairs, the circumambulation involved in our rituals, and number of the Masons/Officers needed to open a Lodge of Entered Apprentice Masons. The Temple of Solomon within the Jewish tradition is orientated along the cardinal points as our Lodges. The name Solomon, one of the greatest Kings of Israel, when deconstructed has astrological implications. The landmarks and buildings in the ancient world have been found to have a stellar orientation. The idea presented here today is that when a society loses its belief system, mythology, or story, it is the beginning of their demise at all levels, personal, groups, and societies. Until that “entity” recovers its historic foundation of beliefs or creates a “new” story, the society will decline and fall into ruin. We will discuss this process in more depth in a future lecture and see how this has occurred multiple times in the America Experiment and what may be coming again in the near future. Beginning an orientation to these “stellar stories” today we will cover the first sign in the zodiac, Aries and the implications and mythology associated with this sign. Each month I will devote a section of my oration to each astrological sign and invite your comments, options, and thoughts. Again this is not presented as “fact” but to stimulate discussion. We can use these studies to begin the process of personal examination into the basis for beliefs, what that means to each of us, and how we can impact Society in general. The Sun moves into Aries at the Vernal Equinox which this year is Monday March 20th at 3:29 am PDT. Aries represents the passage of “darkness to light” often associated with the Jewish celebration of Passover but also a part of other groups and traditions “new beginnings”. The Hopi of AZ, the Aztecs, the Egyptians, and many more celebrated events concurrent with the Vernal Equinox, 0 degrees Aries. This event occurs, where the days and nights are equal and the time of daylight begins to increase each day. New beginnings and creativity are associated with the Ram which is the symbol of Aries. Each sign of the zodiac can be further divided by 3 distinct 10 degree segments or decanates. The first decanate is represented by the Triangulum formation, or triangle, with the key word being activity. Masonry identifies the triangle with many meanings and associations that are worth the effort to explore in depth along with the number 3 and the concept of activity, all a part of Aries. The second decanate is associated with the Eridanus formation and represents a flowing river. The creation stories of various religions place water as one of the most important elements and through which the “Spirit of God” accomplished his/her/its purpose. The Greeks had the ferryman who transported souls across the River Styx while the Egyptians had the soul transported to the Sun to face the judgment seat of Osiris. We also have the “passing over” traditions associated with the Judo Christian Passover and Easter celebrations as a time when new beginnings occur, life “reborn”. Note the waters in each of these traditions are neither a torrent or totally calm but a flow that encapsulates the images of exaltation. The last decanate is represented by the winged figure of Mercury or Perseus. He is pictured with a sword holding a severed head (for those in Scottish Rite please take note of the associated degree with this imagery). This also brings reminders of the Hebrew story of David who did not initially use a sword to fall Goliath but one to cut off the head of the Philistine warrior in Davis’s victory. Perseus’ hand holds the severed head of the Gorgon Medusa. Association with this last 10 degrees centers on the championship in the causes of truth. Medusa was a terrifying figure whose hair was that of serpents and whoever looked upon her was turned to stone. He defeated her by using a reflective shield given to him by Minerva. This shield allowed him to see the reflection of the monster that protected him from her evil powers so that he would not look directly at her. Perseus won victory by using the “shield of salvation/victory” to bring focus on what can and must be accomplished by good men, especially in times of crisis. The focus must not be on that which we fear but on what is right and true. A part of the Hermetic and other traditions believe that what we think about is where we focus our attention. When we drive a car and look to the left, the vehicle will gradually begin to drift that direction. Another analogy is that what we feed (think about) grows stronger. We must guard our thoughts and focus on the higher precepts if we want positive change in our lives and the environment around us.
These images and traditions reflected in these stories can be a source of strength, motivation, and understanding as we study where these stories originate. They can reinforce our belief systems along with adding depth to our convections. If our Society of Freemasonry is to “make good men better” we are challenged to bring a deeper understanding into both our beliefs and personal lives. We face a call to action based on those beliefs for us, our Societies, and nation to prosper in these times and more so in the future. We can be a part of building a stable future and building/restoring our Societies belief systems. We can make a difference and the call is to begin that impact today.