Digital Series #12 – A word for the Victorians WB J.T. Grand Lodge of Oklahoma

While much Masonic ritual is older than the reign of the good Queen Victoria (1819 – 1901) the philosphy and world view of the Victorians had and continues to have a profound influence on Freemasonry. Because of that, and because Victorians have been the victims of an unfairly bad press, it is worth while to spend a little time looking at them as they were. You will easiy spot the influences on Freemasonry.
I must admit, in honesty, that Victorians are close to my heart, because I am one. Yes, I know that Victoria died forty years before I was born, but of the seven members of my extended family when I was born (two grandfathers two grandmothers, a great aunt, mother and father) all but my mother and father had been born while the Good Queen was yet on the throne. Because we tend to carry our childhood values throughout life, they remained in many ways Victorian until their deaths. Most of the books, especially the children’s books, I read while growing up were Victorian books. Indeed, most of the books in the house were Victorian and early Edwardian, and it was a large library.
I have often thought that it has given me a very helpful insight into American Freemasonry, and especially perhaps the Scottish Rite, because both are the quintessence of Victorianism. That may seem extreme, but you need only consider the time periods in which the rituals were being developed into the form they now have to see the truth in it.

So, while this is likely to be far more personal than I usually approve of being (and I crave your indulgence for that) it may be that some insight into the Victorian mind-set will be useful to some of you.
First of all, and never to be forgotten, these were tough people, with a toughness I can only admire with awe. None of my grandparents came from privileged backgrounds. Quite the contrary. My paternal grandfather was driving a team of mules on a road construction gang when he was 8 years old, because he was the sole support of his mother, who was very ill, and his baby brother. When my grandmother was 14, she and her 16-year-old sister, my great aunt Effie, drove a team pulling a wagon from Oklahoma to Pueblo, Colorado, in the fall and early winter because Effie’s husband, my great uncle Will aged 19, had tuberculosis, and the doctor thought it possible he might live longer there. I simply cannot imagine two teen-aged girls, in 1910, making that trip while taking care of a young man who could not rise from the bed in the wagon. They had to prop the wagon up each night, pull the wheels off, grease the axles, put the wheels back, feed and water the horses, find and cook food, and do the whole thing again the next day for weeks, with snow and cold winds whipping around them.
Victorians had to be tough. Medicine was primitive, only about one child in three lived to be a teenager, and there was no such thing as a social safety-net.

We would not have one either, had it not been for the Victorians. They were the very first culture to decide that “social conditions” were problems which should and could be solved, rather than the will of God or “just the way the world is.” Until then, poverty was simply a fact, like water running downhill. If people were poor, it was because God wanted it that way, or because it was natural and right. The Victorians said that poverty was a problem which effected the entire society, and needed to be eliminated. They created the whole idea of organized charity. The charities of Freemasonry would never have existed without them. Not all the answers they found were good, not all worked. But they assumed there were answers and looked for them with great energy and resources. They created the first orphanages and the first homes for the elderly. Nothing like that had existed before. It is impossible to imagine our world without some sense that the sick, the elderly, infants and young children should be cared for and that we all have some responsibility to help, but that idea was Victorian. They created large and small institutions for those purposes.
They were the first to define mental illness as illness. Their homes for the insane might have been crude and useless by our standards, but before that they had been only specialized prisons which people visited to laugh at the crazies as an afternoon’s entertainment.

Perhaps the most important Victorian idea, so far as Freemasonry is concerned, is the idea of self-improvement (an idea our general society has largely lost, to its great detriment). While scattered thinkers throughout history had suggested that people could and should work on themselves, the idea had never been embraced by a society until the Victorians came along. For them, it became a passion.
If you go to a gym or health club, thank the Victorians. They started the first ones from a belief that it was important to develop the body. The first books on exercise were written. The first clubs for exercise were formed. The first studies in nutrition were done–all this because they believed that man was a work in progress, not a finished product.
The first public libraries and public school systems (in the American sense of the term) were created and publicly funded. People went in droves to public lectures. Societies were formed for the study of music, mathematics, astronomy, medicine, science, and literature.
The typical Victorian believed that he had an absolute and personal responsibility to develop himself, especially morally, ethically, mentally, and emotionally.

The word “emotionally” may come as a surprise. We tend to think of feelings and emotions as something which just happen, but the Victorians no more thought that than they thought poverty or crime “just happen.” They realized that feelings and emotions add depth and richness to life, and they worked on developing those
just as they worked on developing the intellectual aspect of the mind.
The two greatest compliments a Victorian could pay another were to say that they had a “good understanding,” or were of “good sensibility.” Good sensibility meant that the person had a good awareness of the emotions and emotional needs of others, and that he or she were capable of feeling and emotional response. “Understanding” meant that the emotional and logical facilities of the mind were in balance. Perhaps one of the finest expressions of this Victorian balance of the reasonable and the emotional is in Robert Ingersoll’s oration delivered at his brother’s grave. In addition to being one of my favorite works of prose, it is a great description what ideal Victorian manhood as the Victorians saw it.

To quote a short section:
“This brave and tender man in every storm of life was oak and rock, but in the sunshine he was vine and flower. He was the friend of all heroic souls. He climbed the heights and left all superstitions far below, while on his forehead fell the golden dawning of the grander day.
“He loved the beautiful, and was with color, form, and music touched to tears. He sided with the weak, and with a willing hand gave alms . . .”

The oration was delivered in 1879, but he could as easily be describing the Masonic ideal as taught by the Blue Lodge and the Scottish Rite.
Just as Victorians delighted and puzzles and word games to sharpen the intellect, so they worked at developing their emotional awareness with art, music, and literature. Some Victorian novels seem overly “sweet” to our taste (although we should remember that the Victorians approached them in the same way some people approach running—it is both entertaining and good for you), but they were very much aware of the dark side. Mary Shelley’s novel Frankenstein was published in 1818, the year before Victoria was born, but it remained extremely popular throughout her reign. Dracula was published in 1897. In a way, the novels nearly bracket the age of Victoria, and both explore the darker sides of human nature. And, in the middle of it all, the Sherlock Holmes stories with their celebration of logical reasoning struck a balance. In America, Edgar Allan Poe became in some ways the very model of this balance, writing stories which seem filled with horror and the supernatural, but which always provide a rational explanation for what has happened, leaving us to understand that the only irrationality took place in our own minds.
I need not recount all the instances in both Blue Lodge and Scottish Rite ritual in which balance is stressed, along with the ability to both think and feel. Pure Victorian.

Another core Victorian value which obviously plays out in Masonry is the idea of duty. Duty was central to the Victorians. They could find excuse for almost every wrong or sin, but not for failure to perform one’s duty; whether assigned or self- imposed. Everyone had duties, and everyone was expected to perform. Some of them seem a little strange to us. Every young Victorian woman knew it was her duty to find a man who was straying from the straight and narrow, and to reform him, setting his feet upon the better way.
They borrowed the idea of duty from Rome, and carried it to what even I must admit were sometimes extremes. A painting which hung in reproduction in many a Victorian parlor was David’s “The Lictors Bring to Brutus the Bodies of His Sons.” It is still an astonishingly powerful painting, and told the story of Brutus, a Judge in Rome, who had to condemn his two sons to death for plotting to overthrow the Roman republic. Brutus was held up as a hero in Victorian England. The idea of duty as it is defined in most of the armed forces of the world is of Victorian origin.
It rings throughout the Scottish Rite, of course. Consider the sentences from the 4th Degree. “Woe to those who aspire to that for which they are unfitted! Woe unto those who take up a burden which they cannot carry! Woe unto those who assume duties lightly, and afterward neglect them! Duty is with us always, inflexible as Fate! In health or sickness, in prosperity or adversity, Duty is with us always, exacting as Necessity. It rises with us in the morning, and watches by our pillow at night. In the roar of the city and in the loneliness of the desert, Duty is with us always, imperative as Destiny!” Which seems to leave little doubt.
Two more bits of Victorian thinking which it is useful to understand (and then I promise I will end this).

The first is the Victorian concept of sex, which wasn’t the way it is often assumed. The Victorians were neither afraid of nor ignorant about sex. (With the exception of the fact that the process of human reproduction was not well understood. It was not until about 1930 that we really started to understand human sexuality. Victorian medical books discussing sex are good for a laugh today.) But Victorian England was still essentially a rural community, and very few people growing up on farms are ignorant about the fundamentals of sex. If anything, it is the ruthless practicality of the Victorian concept of sex which we find a little disturbing. The Victorian landed gentry had been breeding cattle, pigs, dogs, and horses for hundreds of years, and they applied exactly the same standards to people.
It would be hard for us to imagine today a man interviewing someone who wanted to marry his daughter about his genetic heritage, but it was standard practice for the Victorians. It was a complement to say of a man or woman that they “came of good stock,” and it meant just what it would have meant if they had been talking about breeding a prize bull. Most marriages were still arranged, or at least approved, by the fathers of the people involved. Since this was primarily a means by which the inheritance of property was going to be determined, it was essential that there be no doubt about the parentage of offspring. That is why a young, unmarried couple, was simply never left alone. Many upper class Victorian mothers and fathers maintained notebooks with the names of eligible bachelors and their probable genetic strengths. They were literally called “stud books.” Victorian parents were all for their children experiencing romance, but not sex. Sex led to offspring, and an unwanted pregnancy was a true catastrophe.

In many ways, Victorian society was much more healthy than ours. They were very serious about these virtues, about making the world a better place, about their duties and responsibilities, and about their faith. And yet they could and did laugh at themselves and their own foibles. They had a wonderful sense of humor, and they pointed it at their own most sacred cows. Consider the most popular entertainment of the time, the comic operas of Gilbert and Sullivan. (As it happens, both Gilbert and Sullivan were Masons.) They had a wonderful gift of music and comedy. We have talked about the importance of duty. Go on-line and look up the text and lyrics for “The Pirates of Penzance: of A Slave of Duty,” and you will find Gilbert and Sullivan lampooning the whole idea of duty, taking it to ridiculous extremes, and generally making fun of law and order, the aristocracy, the court system, and almost everything else. The operas were tremendously popular, as they still are, and yet the Victorians were laughing out loud at all the things they held most sacred. There is remarkable mental health there.

Digital Series #14 – What have we learned to be? – MIC J.B.

‘It is what you read when you don’t have to that determines what you will be when you can’t help it.’ -Oscar Wilde

If the only time you read the ritual is when you are trying to learn a new part, you’ve missed the real point of the lessons Masonry teaches. If listening to the opening of a Lodge or Council is something you have to sit through so that you can hear your name mentioned in the minutes, you’ve got it all wrong.

We have a wonderful series of examples and lectures to choose from; beginning with the Entered Apprentice and leading to the Order of the Temple. When you consider the Degrees of the Scottish Rite as well, there are over 40 essays on how to live your life. They are there for you to read when the rapid tempo of your daily life permits. They are not just something you can skim through in a few minutes. They are meant to be pondered and savored.

They are often written in code, so you must slow down and decipher them. In addition to maintaining the secrecy for which Masonry is noted, this need to think about what is in front of you serves another, higher purpose. You must concentrate on the words, not just to recognize each one, or to remember what a particular group on letters and symbols stand for, but to see the meaning of the sentences and paragraphs. The questions and answers of the Degrees mean more than “Yes, I am a Mason. I am entitled to more Light.” They lead us to understand what that statement really says about ourselves. You may be entitled to more Light, but you still have to use it well before you can claim it as your own.

Each of us is more than the Degrees conferred on us, and certainly more than the titles others have given us. We are what we have learned to be. Please note that I said “HAVE LEARNED”, not “been shown” or “had demonstrated to us”. It is the attentive ear that receives the sound from the instructive tongue, not the ear filled with the droning of the minutes. The lessons are there, yours if you are willing to reach out your hand for them, stretch forth you mind to receive them, and expand your heart to absorb them. The Light is there, waiting for you to take off the hoodwink of ignorance and sloth.

Can you see the Light?

Digital Series #13 -“Royal Masters – it’s your time” presented by The General Grand Chapter of Royal Arch Masons

Here is something new on our page…and educational video from The General Grand Chapter of Royal Arch Masons. It’s titled “Royal Masters – it’s your time!” and was put together by their education committee. As a Mason, we can take the points in this video to improve our own lives – even if you are not part of the York Rite. – Wor. Matt McColm, PM

Digital Series #12 – Keeping your Passions within Due Bounds by Bro. S. A. S.

“Freemasonry is a system of morality, veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols.”

The Compasses are a symbol vital to understanding Freemasonry. As the Compasses are used to draw the arcs and curves needed by a builder, we must use them to draw the arcs and curves that symbolically serve as guidelines beyond which we should not venture.

Another use of the word Compass fittingly describes an instrument by which to find your way. Use of this Compass lets us use magnetic North as a baseline from which all other directions can be discovered. One uses his “internal” Compass to direct his behavior. This can be done with a strong sense of right and wrong, and enable the user to use the tool at his disposal as a baseline from which a course of moral righteousness can be followed, if that is the desired outcome. As Freemasonry is a system of morality, that is the direction that anyone seeking to join our Fraternity, or anyone already within, should strive to maintain.

The Compasses, well known as a symbol for our Order, must be used by a true Freemason to circumscribe his desires and keep his passions within due bounds.

The Plumb, the symbol on the apron of the Junior Warden, is especially appropriate. The Plumb is used to ensure that each stone in a building is placed straight up and down, allowing the building to be constructed as strongly as possible. The Plumb is also a symbol for the rectitude of conduct, a man working to keep his behavior “upright”, so that his spiritual self will be as strong as possible. The Junior Warden is charged to oversee the conduct of the Brethren while not “at labor.” He is to symbolically use the Plumb to measure the conduct of a Brother, and to offer assistance where needed, to ensure that the Brethren do not overstep the boundaries they have drawn with their internal Compasses.

The symbol of the Circumpunct, the Point within the Circle, is also vital. The center Point represents the individual Brother. The Circle, the boundary-line of his conduct toward God and his fellow man.

Brethren, Freemasonry is said to take a good man, and make him better. By applying these symbols to one’s life, he cannot fail to better himself.

Digital Series #11 – Square your Square by T.H, PM

After a quick break Novus is back with their digital series! Hope all of you have taken care during this time and your family is well. While California Masonry is still under lockdown our digital efforts are still pushing forward. Please enjoy the next article in our series. – MM, WM N.V 864

“Be there or be square”, “He’s just a square”, “A square deal”, and “Square up” are all phrases you may be familiar with. Each of them has a slightly different meaning but each uses the common word ‘Square’. When the term ‘square’ is used in the company of a Freemason, his mind should turn to two thoughts, namely the phrase “Act upon the square” and the 47th Problem (Proposition) of Euclid.

Masonic ritual tells us that a ‘Square’ is an angle of ninety degrees or the one-fourth part of a circle. A square then is a perfect thing. If it is eighty-nine degrees or ninety-one degrees for example, it is not perfect and therefore not a true square. When Masons are taught to “Act upon the square”, they are being admonished to deal with every fellow creature with whom they come in contact, ‘on the level’ and in an ‘upright’ manner. They are taught to strive to be a ‘perfect’ human being just as a square is a perfect entity.

This brings us to the second meaning of the word ‘square’ as perceived by a Mason in regard to the 47th Problem of Euclid. The basis of the Problem is geometry as discovered by our Brother Pythagoras (not Euclid) and even earlier by the Egyptians. We all know from high school geometry that the Pythagorean Theorem states that a2 + b2 = c2 (or 3:4:5) as seen in the two illustrations below. The following, from Brother Thomas Greene of the Quatuor Coronati Lodge in London, will further explain.

‘By it (the 47th proposition) we can prove that in a triangle, one of the angles of which is a right angle, the square of the side opposite the right angle to both the squares on the sides containing the right angle: it follows then that if we make any triangle in which the square of one side is equal to both squares of the other two sides, then the angle opposite that side must be a true right angle – the angle of a correct square… In order to get a correct square angle, it is therefore only necessary to make a triangle the sides of which are in the proportion of 3-4-5. In connection with this, it is of much interest to know that as the standard and symbol of perfection with Speculative Masons now is the square, so this right-angled triangle, which is almost identical, was with the Egyptians several thousand years ago as their standard and symbol of perfection; and they make it also the basis of all their measurements; looking upon it is the symbol of Universal Nature, the side with length 4 being Osiris the male principle, side length 3 the female principle Isis, and side length 5 Horus the son, the product of these two principles. They further said that 3 was the perfect odd number, that 4 was the square of 2 the first even number, and 5 was the sum of 3 and 2.’

We need to transcend beyond the mathematics to a higher plane of Masonic understanding regarding this theory. Let us first digress for a moment.

Craft Masonry consists of three degrees, the Entered Apprentice, the Fellowcraft, and the Master Mason Degree. Each degree builds on the previous degree and each degree is dependent on the other two. Now, it takes seven (7) officers to open a Lodge of Entered Apprentices; five (5) to open a Lodge of Fellowcraft Masons, and three (3) to open a Lodge of Master Masons. The 3, 5, and 7 are important numbers to all Masons for many reasons, as we know.

Consider that the 3 officers it takes to open a Master Mason’s lodge represent the ‘a’ side of the right triangle, the vertical side, which is also the ‘upright’ side in our illustration above. In the illustration below it represents the leg with 3 units. The 5 that are required to open a Lodge of Fellowcraft Masons represent the base, or ‘b’ side of the triangle which is the horizontal or ‘level’ leg or the side with 4 units from below. And the 7 that it takes to open a lodge of Apprentices represents the ‘c’ leg or hypotenuse of the triangle which is the 5-unit leg. Therefore, the 3, 5, 7 equates to the 3, 4, 5 which is the 47th Problem! Also, consider that the Junior Warden’s jewel is a plumb representing acting ‘uprightly’ in our stations in life. The Senior Wardens jewel is the ‘level’ which represents dealing with our fellow human beings ‘on the level’, and the Master’s jewel is the ‘square’ which reminds us that we should always ‘act upon the square’ with everyone and in everything we do.

The 47th Problem of Euclid or 3:4:5
Anderson’s Constitutions of 1723 refers to the 47th Proposition of Euclid as an ‘amazing proposition’. It IS amazing in that it not only assisted men throughout history in building fine edifices to the highest degree of accuracy, but also continues, in the hearts and minds of modern Freemasons, to remind us how to deal with our fellow creatures. The Problem is not about the math but rather directs us down a path to define Divine truth with respect to moral and intellectual capacities that we possess. If we learn to deal with people in a just and upright manner, deal with everyone on the level and be square in all our doings, we will have fulfilled the true meaning of the 47th Problem of Euclid. We will have squared our square.

As a side comment, it is interesting to note that old and modern English Masons use the square and the 47th Problem as the jewel of their Past Masters.

Digital Series #10 – The Chariot of the Supernal Adam by Bro. B.W.

“After He made the form of the chariot of the supernal Adam, He came down upon it and was then named by that form and called El Elhoim. And if the Craftsman were to break those vessels that He had made, the water would return to its source….And afterward He made a great vessel, and through this He called Himself “the Understanding One.” ZoharThe Faithful Shepherd, as cited in The Tree of Life, the Palace of Adam Kadmon, by Chayyim Vital

There is a common and prevalent misconception regarding the Sephiroth in the modern age. It is commonly presumed that the shape of the Tree of Life (Etz Chayyim), as popularized and transmitted in the form of the three pillars, comprises the Kabbalistic doctrine pictorially.

This is incorrect – the form of the Tree, as communicated by Rabbi Isaac Luria (the Arizal) to his disciples is far more nuanced and opaque than this simplified rendering. The Tree of Life in its “form of a man” is an image of the Ruach of Adam Kadmon, the form of the “middle soul” of the primordial man which filled the universe of creation. “The spirit of man is the lamp of the Lord” (Prov. 20:27). As such, the Sephiroth are first described as the “linear Sephiroth”, which essentially inform the “circular Sephiroth” comprising the vessels and their inner and surrounding lights to fill out and extend the “world of points”. This is a complex form not properly understood, one well beyond the scope of this brief discussion here, but it is one to which the attention of the curious student is readily commended.

Of course, even while it attempts to discuss a prevalent unity, there can be no single kabbalah. When attempting to relay that which exceeds a capacity of words to relate, the form of an expression necessarily adapts to illustrate and accommodate a particular concept set before us. However, there remain internal consistencies which must be upheld to reveal beyond the individual concepts and adaptations themselves the overarching Unity with which we are concerned, and these consistencies are most useful where they are preserved congruently. A departure from the symbolism in one capacity, then, necessarily requires yet more departures to substantiate the change, and a new kabbalah must ultimately emerge. Such a new kabbalah, then, is not really kabbalah at all, but something else syncretizing and appropriating for its own purposes. It is, therefore, advisable to be discriminating. The well is deep, but be careful when drinking from another man’s bucket. The purity of the water may readily be tinged.

So it is that when we look at the modern Tree of Life, popularized in the New Age movements and many so-called Western Mysteries (even those of our beloved Craft), we frequently see three paths constructed between Malkuth (see Figure 1). These paths are used to position the so-called sinister and dexter paths, to the left and right side of the Tree respectively, and thereby balance the Middle Pillar between Severity and Mercy, between (at least in reductionist writings) concepts of good and evil.

Tree of Life

Figure 1: Tree of Life (Photo Credit: Wikipedia)

This is a convenience for some, however it seems to overlook the importance of Yesod, that sphere of Formation, (called in our Royal Arch ritual the cubical stone of foundation) upon which the world was wrought.

Malchuth is the intermixing of all things, like the utterance of new words emerging from a combination of particular letters. Thus, in this world of action (Assiah) the entire Tree is represented, intermixed and combined into all things for the infinitude of expression. All things coalesce in the density of the Kingdom. The sinister path and the dexter path are therefore designations made in Malchuth – there is no need of ascending to the left or the right. Such a duality is inconsonant with the forces of manifestation the Tree balances: “Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he mediate day and night. And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.” Psalm 1. (The rivers are alike the paths. The Tree planted thereby, and nourished and sustained by them, is alike that which grows up from Malchut. The day and the night can be said to be the left and right, the internal and the external and the course of duality.)

Only through Yesod can the higher manifestations be made known. In earlier representations of the three-pillared Tree, there is one path to Yesod – and it is often denominated by the letter Tav (see Figure 2).

Tree of Life

Figure 2: Tree of Life (Photo Credit: Ben Williams)

This is significant because, in Ashkenazi pronunciation and likely in earlier times, the Tav adopts the double-body diacritic, represented by the dagesh, the vowel point that renders a plosive “t” sound versus the aspirant “s”. (In earlier pronunciations the “s” sounded version (the Tav absent the dagesh) was silent – a voiceless dental fricative. This is significant indeed.)

However, also significantly, the Tav receives no final form like the double letters Pe and Kaph. It’s numbering of 400 is the highest value absent that dual characteristic implied by the final form of other letters. Thus the Tav is a single expression of a dual characteristic that terminates the letters of manifestation. In other words, the Tav conceals within it the dual paths alluded to were Malchut to reach to Hod and Netzach in addition to Yesod.

But Tav is the confines of the Kingdom.

Thus Tav is the reach of totality. Beyond its reaches all things are contained in the action of time. It is the final letter of Malchut. It is the final letter of the Hebrew word emet, meaning truth. Thus via this path from which the Kingdom entirely depends, the sphere of Formation is determinable, from whence the Tree becomes accessible as we enter the higher worlds of YetzirahTavis like the trunk from which the Tree is brought up from the root-giving depths to the sustenance of the light. It can be said, for Christians, to be significant of the Cross itself.

The truth of the Tav is perhaps signified in Ezekiel’s vision (Ezekiel 9:4) wherein the letter Tav is said to be the mark by which the righteous in Jerusalem were represented.

It is, therefore, not surprising that the earlier renditions of the linear Sephiroth were illustrated with this single path between Malchut and Yesod. Further, the two paths when shown fallen to Malchut in the New Age Tree are probably better represented as opening between Din “Judgment” (or Geburah, “might”) and Chockmah, “Wisdom”, and between Chesed, “Mercy” and Binah, “Understanding”. This connects the sides of the Tree across the hidden door (the letter Daleth) at the juncture of the “garden” where Da’ath may be found to appear. Three paths, then, of QophZayn, and Daleth, cross to render a hidden cube perhaps, reflected through Tifaret and reminiscent in the lights of Yesod. This is akin to the mystery of Arik Aipin (the Macroprosipus) made manifest within Zeir Ainpin (Microprosipus).

It is not correct, therefore, to assume that the paths are travelable per se, and that they exist as literal roads to set foot upon. The paths are better contemplated as nourishing rivers that enable the inner light of the vessels to communicate and interrelate. Thus it is worthwhile to contemplate the relational baring Tifaret provides in sustaining the differentiation of Yesod from the other Sephira, from which Malchut therefore depends. This symbolism is entirely lost in the New Age representation which, in all probability, should be considered a syncretism and an appropriation of material reordered for purposes perhaps inconsistent with the intention of the Ones of Blessed Memory.

Thus, Yesod is like a dream. One cannot dream without first falling to sleep (the Kingdom). But in this dream, one cannot awaken from the dream without first awakening within it.

Digital Series #9 – Freemasonry, Which is Greatest: Beer, Wine, or Coffee? By Bro M.F.

American Freemasonry is the progeny of English Freemasonry and descended from those tavern lodges of which the most famous is perhaps the Goose and Gridiron where the Grand Lodge of England was formed in 1717. The Green Dragon Tavern in Boston is famous for being the meeting place of a Masonic lodge as well as the Boston Tea Party (more on caffeinated beverages later). Today, particularly in Alabama lodges, we put on a fresh pot of coffee without a sign of beer in the lodge. If a Knight Templar commandery holds a Christmas observance, we may see wine poured but in the Scottish Rite it is strictly grape (and perhaps coffee before the meeting). A long view of history shows that these beverages have been the center of great moral controversy. Consider that there was a generation of Freemasons that would have been shocked at coffee drinkers allowed into lodge!

Alcohol in Freemasonry

The cornerstone laying ceremony is perhaps one of the quickest reminders of Freemasonry’s veneration for wine. Wine is mentioned frequently in Masonic ceremony in Craft lodges, the Scottish Rite and the York Rite, but it is not a common sight at regular meetings. The Alabama Masonic Code specifically prohibits a Mason to be drunk in lodge. A short list of “who cannot be a mason” includes “those who traffic in illegal spirits.” Perhaps this is a holdover from the temperance movement that began in 1780 resulting in the prohibition of alcohol up to 1933. This movement supported many blue laws which included forbidding the sale of alcohol on Sunday, which persisted in Alabama until the late 20th century. The term “blue laws” has no connection to the term “blue lodges.” Although it may be interesting for some to note that the first blue laws were enacted by Constantine in 312 A.D.: “On the venerable Day of the Sun let the magistrates and people residing in cities rest, and let all workshops be closed.” — Codex Justinianus, lib. 3, tit. 12, 3 The formation of the Grand Lodge of England in 1717 consisted of tavern friendly lodges. Dr. Anderson lists the “Four Old Lodges” as: 1. At the Goose and Gridiron Ale- house in St. Paul’s Churchyard. 2. At the Crown Ale-house in Parker’s Lane near Drury Lane. 3. At the Apple-Tree Tavern in Charles Street, Covent Garden. 4. At the Rummer and Grapes Tavern in Channel Row, Westminster

Coffee in the age of Enlightenment

This probably accounts for the duty of the Junior Warden, as given in the Alabama Officer Installation, to “see that none of the craft convert the purpose of refreshment into intemperance of excess.” Tavern meeting lodges probably had a much greater concern for such oversight than coffee drinking lodges. We have some idea that drunkenness did occur thanks to the artwork of Brother William Hogarth’s painting, Four Times of Day, created in 1736. While Hogarth himself was a Mason, it is not a flattering picture of Freemasonry. The night scene depicts a worshipful master in apron, with master’s jewel and hat walking drunk through the streets with the assistance of the Tiler, sword tucked under his arm, while a woman empties her chamber pot – which contents find their way to pour onto the master’s hat. The worshipful master is suspected to depict Sir Thomas De Veill who spoke at length of temperance in lodge but was regularly seen in public quite the opposite. While Hogarth’s painting derides a drunken Mason, it does establish that drinking alcohol in lodge was not considered unmasonic at the time, but what about coffee? In 1645, twenty-two years before the formation of the Grand Lodge of England and twenty-seven years after the First Schaw Statutes, the first coffee shop in Christian Europe appeared. The coffee bean had come to Europe thanks to trade and war in Arabia. Coffee houses spread across Europe and became a popular place to share news, debate politics, and discuss philosophy. The criticism of government in coffee houses resulted in publications by Royalists that “the alehouse patron ‘is one of the quietest subjects his Majesty has, and more submissive to monarchical government.’” At one point, the monarchy commanded all coffee houses closed for fear of sedition. The Women’s Petition against Coffee in London 1666 claimed coffee was making husbands impotent. On the other hand, coffee house patrons included John Milton, Sir Isaac Newton, and several of the great thinkers of the Enlightenment. (Melton, 2001)

Lodge Beverages As stated earlier, the Temperance Movement likely influenced the exclusion of alcohol from Masonic lodges. The once wicked coffee bean is now the mainstay of lodges while beer is relegated to the Shrine. Wine persists in some appendant bodies for ceremonial purposes. The idea of forming a lodge that would meet in a tavern or bar would be met with strong resistance. All of these bits of information are presented here for your consideration when you drink your coffee before lodge to consider its “evil” reputation at the time of the birth of modern Freemasonry and to consider after lodge, when you leave the building to go to a local bar to have a beer with a brother. Some appendant bodies allow alcohol for ritual purposes and some for socializing. Some grand lodge jurisdictions have fewer restrictions than Alabama. So wherever you are and whatever your poison, remember the Entered Apprentice lecture that “our mother earth alone has never proved unfriendly to man….though she produces poison still she supplies the antidote and returns with interest every good committed to her care.”

Bibliography law. (n.d.). (n.d.). Four_Times_of_the_Day. acrefore/9780199329175.001.0001/ acrefore-9780199329175-e-82. (n.d.). (n.d.). americanhistory/view/10.1093/ acrefore/9780199329175.001.0001/ acrefore-9780199329175-e-82.

Melton, J. V. (2001). The Rise of the Public in Enlightenment Europe. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Digital Series #8 – The Several Secrets of the Letter G by PIM B.W.

In all regular and well-governed Lodges a letter “G” hangs in the East above the Master’s station. Some say it stands for “Geometry”. Others, that is stands for “God”. Some note that “G” is the seventh letter of the alphabet and allude, with mysticism in their eyes, that seven is a number familiar to Freemasonry.

Of course, each of these interpretations is correct. There is nothing to discount them. And why should we? They each have a valuable lesson to impart. The beauty of symbols, which inform and uphold the transmission of our Gentle Craft, exists in a type of cognitive resonance. Symbols become different things for different people, they evolve and change in the mind’s eye, never losing old associations, but gaining new ones. Symbols resonate cognitively, and often, despite the individual meaning ascribed to them, arrive at a common center regardless. So, in the nature of this symbolic resonance, to bring us to a center, I’d like to present to you just one of the several secret meanings of the Letter G.

Funnily enough, when we’re done, we’ll have ended where we started. There is much to be said for returning to the place from whence we came, and seeing it as if for the first time. But, in order to introduce you to these ideas to explain them cogently, we will need to quickly recap a couple of points with which you may already be familiar. Please indulge me.

So, the Kabbalah, as you doubtless already know, is an oral tradition that interprets the scriptures and, indeed, reality, by using (among other techniques) a type of symbolic recombination to reveal that which cannot be seen by the eyes. This symbolic recombination, as I’ve termed it, is used to illustrate hidden meanings, meanings gleaned from symbols often hidden in plain sight. I refer, of course, to the practice of Gematria – a word whose first letter is, notably, “G”. Gematria is just one symbolic key, among so many, that are usable to unlock these hidden meanings. Our Brethren of earlier times were familiar with Gematria, indeed far more than the present day Mason it seems. However, that appears to be changing.

To continue, Gematria is a technique used most notably by Rabbis to numerically associate meaning between words. Please refer to the preceding article for a discussion of Gematria, its various types and uses, if you are not already familiar with the term. In Hebrew the letter G is g (gimel – pronounced gee-mill). It is the third letter of the Hebrew alphabet. The letters comprising the word gimel are (reading from the right) gimel, mem, and lamed L m g

The numerical significances or which are (reading from the right): 3, 40, and 30. The sum of which is 73. The letter gimel, the Hebrew “G”, then, has significance with the numbers 3 (it’s own number) and 73, the number of its name.Gematria seeks to pair words of like numerical value. So what is another word having the numerical value of 73 which is important to Masonry and also associated with the East, where we typically find the letter “G” in the Lodge? Wisdom.

The Hebrew word for wisdom is Hockmah. Hockmah has a value of 73 when we spell out the word and combine the numerical values represented by each letter.

H m k x
73 = 5 + 40 + 20 + 8

Wisdom, or Hockmah, is a word associated with the second sephira on the Tree of Life, the sephira immediately preceding the sephira Binah, understanding. “The LORD by wisdom hath founded the earth, by understanding hath he established the heavens…” Proverbs 3: 19. KJV “He hath made the earth by his power, he hath established the world by his wisdom, and hath stretched out the heavens by his direction.” Jeremiah 10:12. KJV. Thus Wisdom and Gimel are paired in Gematria, and, according to this practice, may be used as a code to represent each other. The second sefira, Wisdom, on the Tree of Life, is also known as Ab, “Father”. Ab is comprised of the letters alef and bet – which have a significance all of their own, and represent creation through the blessing of God, and the bestowal of wisdom in the utterance of the Word. It should be noted, however, for the purposes of our discussion here, that the word Ab has the numerical equivalence of 3:

b a
3 = 2 + 1

So again, the nature of Wisdom – the “father”, that which inseminates action to bear the fruit of good labor – is again paired with the letter gimel because the letter gimel itself is also the number 3. The name of the letter is the name of wisdom, in that the name of the letter springs from the letter itself in the same way as wisdom springs forth from the Father. Indeed, we know the letter by its name. And we know the Father by His Wisdom. The symbolism of the number 3 in representation of Deity will not escape the thoughtful reader, no doubt.

Yet there is more. In many churches around the world we see a symbol of Deity illustrated by the eye in the triangle. The Great Seal of the United States also uses this symbol. Why? To explain one meaning pertinent to our discussion at hand, we must return again to the Kabbalah.

The triangle has long been a symbol of Deity in and of itself. The three sides of the triangle allude to the number 3, the triune nature of God in omnipotence, omniscience, and omnipresence. The Trinity of manifestation, that between two principles a third is evinced – between potential differences of opposite charge, for example, current manifests. The Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Wisdom, Strength, and Beauty (Hockmah, Gevurah, and Tifareth speaking Kabbalistcally). There are many more examples. Thus, we have the triangle like the three pillars on the Tree of Life itself, extending down from the void.

So why the eye? And what does this have to do with the letter “G”? The Hebrew letter ayin is a letter used in the Kabbalistic code to allude to the quality of endlessness. Ayin is the endless, illimitable principle of what Plato called the Supreme Good. Ayin manifests as the endless, unlimited eternity from which the center was born and the effulgence of the Ayin Sof – the limitless knowing – the I am that I am – initiated. The Ayin Sof became the Ayin Sof Aur, and the limitless light of reason filled the heavens. Thus began the creation, so the Kabbalists tell, and the Tree of Life – the Sephiroth – extended into the void in a successive emanation into Being and the limited experience of the mortal, that ever changing cosmos set in motion, emerged in glory of the eternal and unchanging that all things could come to pass.

The Hebrew word ayin means “eye”. There is only one eye because there is only one Supreme Good. There is only one endlessness. That which is illimitable could never be two – for two is the end of one and the beginning of another. At the same time, that which is illimitable can not really be thought of as one alone – for that is a limit. Thus the one eye represents the totality – what the Gnostics called the pleroma – an endless, shining unity that encompasses all. Hence the eye – that which sees and bares witness. There is one eye, because there is One God.

So what is the numerical equivalence of the word ayin? The number of the word is 70. Ten multiples of 7. Ten multiples of 7 which, when added to the 3 of the triangle again make the number 73. Thus wisdom and Deity, as both a noun and a verb (in that Deity moves to create as symbolized from the eye in the triangle) are all associated with gimel, and, by extension of the Kabbalistic code, the letter “G”.

Remember, this is not gospel. This is just a harmonious resonance around a symbol which, we all knew, symbolized God to begin with. The Godhead radiant in the East – that angle of illumination from whence the Sun rises and the light of day makes visible all things in the world even while that same light itself remains invisible. I said we’d end up where we began. And we have. Better still, this is symbolized in the reduction of the number 73 by the addition of its component numbers 7 and 3. 7 + 3 = 10. The decad is again revealed, and 1 + 0 = 1, the preeminent Unity alone remains. For the rest is the illusion of separateness; through wisdom we return to God, there praise in Holy Silence the unending and unerring nature of All.

Digital Series #7 – Why do bad things happen to good people?

By MW R.S.D, PGM California

In the early times of Speculative Freemasonry, Pythagoras was often mentioned without really much discussion of why. Of course, the Harmony or Music of the Spheres is attributed to his school
of philosophy: no matter how violent the Universe may be, it will always return to harmony. Geometry measures that harmony when exhibited by celestial objects, and thus becomes not only the symbol of that harmony but also the symbol of its source: the Great Geometrician.
The Fellow Craft degree lecture encourages us to find that harmony on Earth, in the return of seasons, for instance. Just as good and bad happen in Nature, so it is among humans: we have free will to choose good or bad. Yet, everything eventually returns to harmony. Scientists
find that harmony at the quantum level: everything is energy that will return to equilibrium and follow the rules after it is disturbed. That quantum harmony originated in the Big Bang, which we metaphorically refer to as Let There Be Light. That harmony is also
the meaning behind the Word (or the Logos in the original Greek)
at the opening of John’s Gospel. Good and bad are part of existence, but so is the Logos. We observe that harmony, the Logos, by its nature will return. That expectation should offer us hope that we can overcome the bad when it does come.

There is a Masonic degree, a now unused portion of which compared human existence to a bird flying in the night. The bird enters through an open window a great, lighted hall, flying around in it for a time, experiencing pleasure and pain, before flying out another window back into the night. The energy that is our spirit takes physical form upon entering the metaphorical hall but returns to spirit upon leaving. The spirit does survive despite the time of trial. When I was a boy and first learned about what I thought was limitless space (not yet understanding the theory of expanding bubbles of space and time), I came to doubt that there was a place for God in the Universe, until after many years of thought I came to find in Geometry and the Logos my proof of a Great Intelligence whose harmony pervades everything.

This short talk was published recently in a Masonic publication I receive and it really stuck home for me. It has now been a month and a half since I have been in quarantined with my family. During this time I have seen the good and the bad of the human race. Just before the lock down I saw two men fighting over a roll of paper towels at my local super market. While I do not know if the two men knew each other after this moment, it did spark the thought of “why do good people do bad” in certain situations. While both men may or may not have needed that item they did make a lasting impact on those around them. For all the wrong reasons. To protect my family, what would I do when put into the same situation? Would I lean on my Masonic principles or take the easy route? On the contrary side, it was pointed out to me in another store that “we need men like you to help guide us through this” when the cashier saw my ring. While I was doing nothing but buying supplies – our fraternal reputation had proceeded us. The line “ the eyes of the fraternity are upon you” from the 3rd degree are more important now than ever before. The eyes of the human race are now upon all of us, to help lead us through these troubling times. We should ever strive to do good even if being bad makes the good come easier. We must continue to shave the rough edges off of our Ashlars. On a side note – Please let anyone in the lodge know if you need any assistance. *Wor. M.M, PM and Master of Novus Veteris 864*

Digital Series #6 – Post Pandemic Masonry by Wor. T.H. PM Consuelo 325

As of this writing on Monday, April 13, 2020, we are still in the midst of our stay-at-home edict issued by our local, state, and federal officials. In addition, and perhaps most painfully, our Grand Master has suspended all Masonic gatherings, albeit for good reason. We ALL are in the same pandemic boat floating around in our own personal seatrying to stay busy, stay safe, virus free, and sane. This is unprecedented obligatory activity for virtually everyone.  

While we attempt to survive this homeboundedness (yes, we can even fabricate new words to pass the time ) our lives are fulfilled by creating games with the kids, doing more yard work that we like to, staying home with the spouse more than we are used to, cooking, doing housework (yuk), eating more than we should, and enjoying too many libations out of boredom. Easter has come and gone without the usual celebration of our Lord’s resurrection. Birthdays and anniversaries have come and gone. Graduations will not be as special, and other special life events will have passed us by with no particular notoriety. Many of us have given up shaving or perhaps showering daily during this time with the attitude that, “Who cares, I’m not going anywhere for a while”. This is a small sample of the times right now.

Recently, I did an informal poll among my Brothers as to what they perceived the worst thing was about the stay-at-home situation we are all currently experiencing. Nearly every answer eluded to the fact that we miss our degree meetings, our stated meetings, (who ever thought it would come to that?), our Masonic picnics, and all the myriad events in which we don’t get to participate. In fine, we miss our brethren! Is that a surprise to anyone? I seriously doubt it. One of the greatest things about this fraternity isthe brethren themselves. When we are denied gathering with them, it simply leaves a hole in our lives.

However, Masons being what and who they are, innovative ideas have surfaced to keep us in contact with each other. Personally, I have had many phone calls, emails, and text messages from my brethren, locally and all over the map, some of which whom I haven’t heard from in years, inquiring if all is well, or simply to shoot the breeze. Virtual gatherings and happy hours are popping up all over the internet and virtual education series are being presented, to name a few. In sum, we are finding methods of staying in touch with those that we hold special to us – our brethren! Masons have virtually rallied to formulate plans to help one another as well as assist those throughout our jurisdiction that have fallen on difficult times as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak. That’s what Masons do. We are living by our three principle tenets! And we can’t forget the jokes and cartoons that are flying all over giving us all a small humorous respite from the depressing issues of the day. We are finding ways to stay in touch with our brethren!

So, what will Masonry look like then when the pandemic disappears and we are back to normality? Here are my thoughts and hopes for Masonry in the post-pandemic period.

1. Our communication will continue and we will have an even closer bond with our brethren and with more brethren whom we may not have communicated with prior to this time.

2. Our charitable efforts will continue to flourish as we have seen first-hand how desperately our giving is needed not only monetary charity but spiritual charity as well.

3. We will each have the realization that our brotherhood is much more than attending meetings and that we are truly dependent on one other for physical and moral assistance as well as our own well-being.

4. The education presentations will continue to stimulate others to read andacademically participate in all that Masonry has to offer; it will inspire deeper thinking into our mysteries and their meaning. That deeper thinking will cause new presentations that will in turn inspire even more brethren to delve into the esoteric lessons Masonry offers.

5. I see more online innovations coming forward directed toward the membership’s education and awareness as to what is going on in Masonry in our jurisdiction and the world of Freemasonry. Two-way communication will be more readily available to all Masons.

So, again, what will Post Pandemic Masonry or PPM look like? Through all the hardships we are currently enduring, I hope that our innovative minds will continue to blossom, and our beloved fraternity will emerge better that it was with more socially active brethren, more educated brethren, more motivated brethren, more charitable brethren, and overall a much wiser membership. We can do it. WE WILL DO IT!