There is an old occult maxim which declares that—" Nothing is concealed from him who knows." No Mason is bound to conceal that which he has never learned in the Lodge. All else he receives as he learns any thing, places his own estimate upon its value, and becomes individually responsible for its use. It must be a matter of conscience, and be weighed in the balance of duty, and every one must abide by the result. If Masonry has lost the Royal Secret, or if it never possessed it, or if it was wrenched away in the very name of Religion little more than a century ago, all the same, it belongs to the Craft as the Heir-apparent of the Old Wisdom. But the time has come when no cable-tow can bind it. It now belongs to Humanity equally with the Mason. To this end has it been preserved throughout the centuries.
Thursday, January 24, 2013
It's Raining Fire - The Dew of Hermon
"His name is called the Word of God." Each and every brother is told of the importance of the search for the lost word.
I remember the evening well, the night of my Entered Apprentice Degree, as I was being guided blindly in what seemed like a rather a large circle, I heard a deep baritone voice proclaim as of from atop a mountain: "Behold, how good and pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! It is like the precious ointment upon the head, that ran down upon the beard, even Aaron's beard; that went down to the skirts of his garments; As the dew of Hermon, and as the dew that descended upon the mountains of Zion; for there the Lord Commanded the Blessing, even life for evermore."
As the chaplain of my lodge I have since read the scripture quoted above numerous times, Psalms 133.
One evening while practicing my memorization my attention was drawn to the "dew of Hermon", a symbol I was unfamiliar with.
I had long ago realized that nothing was arbitrarily placed within the highly symbolic rituals of Freemasonry, and as I was to find out the "dew of Hermon" was another good example of the genius of Freemasonry.
For those unfamiliar with my Masonic writings please allow me to share a little of my personal belief as to the highly and little understood symbolic structure of Freemasonry. It is my contention that in order to understand the higher purpose of Freemasonry you have to go beyond face value and literal interpretation of the many symbols contained within the tradition, and only then will you understand the higher level of "Unity" the psalmist was referring too.
History has revealed that the rituals and symbols of our tradition arrived on the scene during the late sixteen and early seventeen hundreds, a time aptly known as the Age of Enlightenment, a period of history that experienced an occult revival of sorts, a reaction to mainstream religion gone bad with its oppressive and overly judgmental dogma.
Amongst the many subjects our learned brothers found interesting at the time were Alchemy, Hermeticism, Gnosticism, and Kabbalah, all very old traditions that used a highly symbolic language as a mode of transmission, all subjects the religiously controlled state would prefer be avoided.
The God of old no longer made sense, centuries of suppression and inquisition had taken their toll, the cultural and intellectual elite decided to rewind, looking again at the past and at the same time taking a closer look at nature and its reality for the real God.
The church saw this exploration as an affront to its authority, which caused many to discuss their findings privately, away from prying ears. What better way to transmit their findings than to create rituals drawn from the wisdom of the past and harmonize it with the science of the present, teachings the literalists would never get.
What many of these brothers began to perceive is that much of the Bible could only be understood through the highly complex language of symbolism, the very same symbolism found in Alchemy, Hermeticism, Gnosticism, and Kabbalah.
The question then becomes, why include the "dew of Hermon" in the Entered Apprentice Degree of Freemasonry?
I assure you that if research the 133rd Psalm in context to the Masonic usage you'll find simplified reasons as to its inclusion in the Entered Apprentice Degree, brotherhood, unity of brotherhood, even references to the rainy season in Palestine, all interesting, yet probably off the mark, all literal.
Let’s look to the past, the time when men spoke the language of symbolism.
"The dew of Hermon, the Holy Spirit, descended upon the mountains of Zion, for there *I.A.O. commanded the blessing, life for evermore..." Psalm cxxxiii.
This dew was also Hermes, the Sixth Messenger or Teacher of Truth and Morality to men.
The ancient significance of "dew" is that of teaching or instruction. This idea is represented in the hieroglyphs of the Egyptians by wavy lines in the form of a double arch. In Hebrew the word (ire) signifies drops of water and likewise to teach. The idea in a symbolic sense is that of instruction which prepares man for the gaining of wisdom, and rain which prepares the earth for bearing crops.
This same symbolism runs back through the ages and shows again the link connecting all the religions with a Secret Teaching given to each Messenger and he in turn transmits it to the people of his generation in a manner best suited for their intellectual development."...Brother Thomas Milton Stewart, Symbolic Teaching: Or, Masonry and Its Message, 1914
(I.A.O. is the principal and most characteristic formula of Osiris, of the Redemption of Mankind. "I" is Isis, Nature, ruined by "A", Apep the Destroyer (Apep was thought to live in the underworld, he was sometimes thought of as an Eater-up of Souls and usually symbolized as a snake) and restored to life by the Redeemer Osiris.)
As we can see in the paragraph above Brother Stewart clearly believed the meaning of the "dew" could be found in Hermeticism, the science of Hermes.
"The teachings of Hermes -- the Hermetic tradition -- is one of the oldest spiritual traditions in the world, and while no direct evidence links the Emerald Tablet to Eastern religions, it shares uncanny similarities in concepts and terminology with Taoism, Hinduism, and Buddhism. In the West, the tablet found a home not only in the pagan tradition but also in all three of the orthodox Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam), and many of the most heretical beliefs of the Gnostics are also openly expressed in it."...Dennis William Hauck, A Hyper-History of the Emerald Tablet
In the Emerald Tablet referred to above we find a passage I believe significant to the "dew" and it's placement in the symbolism of Freemasonry.
"It ascends from the earth to the heaven. It extracts the lights from the heights and descends to the earth containing the power of the above and the below for it is with the light of the lights. Therefore the darkness flees from it."
If we look closely at the sciences known as Alchemy, Hermeticism, Gnosticism, and Kabbalah we find a similar esoteric allusion, the process of the divine Spirit descending down into Matter, called involution, followed by the process by which the divine ascends back upwards out of Matter to Spirit, called evolution. When we once again look at Psalms 133 we see this involution when the "dew" descends upon the mountain, only to be followed by the evolution when the heat of the day draws the dew “back to whence it came”. Talk about the Yin and Yang.
While researching Hermes I came upon an interesting passage from A General History of Freemasonry: Based Upon Ancient Documents by Emmanuel Rebold
"The Egyptian priests inform us that Hermes, in dying, said: "Until now I have been exiled from my true country, to which I am about to return. Shed no tears for me. I return to that celestial country whither all must repair in their turn. There is God. This life is but a death."
I was struck by the similarity of a verse found in the Fellow Craft Degree: "remembering that we are traveling upon the Level of Time to that undiscovered country from whose borne no traveler returns." Coincidence? I think not, it's not above the original brothers to give subtle hints as to where to look for the keys required to unlock the mystery.
Now let’s look to the science of Alchemy (a metaphoric science very much entwined with Hermeticism), where the heavenly dew is considered the universal solvent, the liquid form of the Stone which dissolves all old forms, the self-organizing matrix for the rebirth of new forms, symbolic of ego death and re-creation.
"The truth, symbolized by some alchemists as dew from heaven, had descended into their hearts, and they had all gathered it upon the tops of mountains, after having spread clean linen cloths to receive it; and thus, in one sense, they had secured each for himself, and in his own way, the universal solvent."...
What a beautiful passage highlighted by "truth" and "clean linen cloths". Each Freemason seeks 'light', symbolic of truth, as for clean linen clothes, you can't but help think of the white lamb skins worn by all brothers, symbolic of purity.
Dew in the magical world of Alchemy is also symbolic of divine incarnation or manifestation from Above. Alchemists believed natural dew contained the divine Salt, thoughts of the One Mind, which could transform the Sulfur and Mercury of the First Matter. In many ways, dew represented the Elixir or contents of the cup of God, the Holy Grail.
To this point we have seen how the dew may be interpreted in the traditions of Hermeticism and Alchemy, lets now look toward the Kabbalah, which I believe offers the deepest insight.
Two things you should know before we begin 'Mem' is actually a letter from the Hebrew alphabet, which is symbolic of water, and given the numerical value of 40, a symbolic number that is mentioned one hundred and forty times in the bible.
Nun is also a letter found in the Hebrew alphabet, in Aramaic, Nun means "fish", and the last letter you need to be acquainted with is Shin, symbolic of fire and oil.
The Mem, the waters of the sea, which is alluded to in the penalty portion of the Entered Apprentice Degree, is the natural medium of the Nun, the fish. The Nun "swims" in the Mem, covered by the waters of the "hidden world." The simple fact is that the fish doesn't even realize it’s in the water. If you tried to explain it to, the fish, they'd probably say, “Water? What's water?”
They're so surrounded by it, that it's impossible to see, that is until they get outside of it.
We are told in the Old Testament that the nation of Israel was in the wilderness for forty years, which relates to numeric value of Mem. It was during this time God sustained the people by providing them with manna, which is usually translated as a “bread,” a type of food.
The manna is said to come down from shamayim.
Shamayim literally means “*fiery waters,” but is usually translated as “heaven.”
Shamayim is a “dew, or moisture.” and Manna is spelled Mem-Nun (MAN). Mem is water--that is the dew from heaven--and the Nun relates to a fish, symbolizes a fish, but is much more than that.
"I am the moisture which preserves everything in nature and makes it live, I pass from the upper to the lower planes; I am the heavenly dew and the fat of the land; I am the fiery water and the watery fire; nothing may live without me in time; I am close to all things yea; in and through all things, nevertheless unknown."...author unknown, Secret Symbols of the Rosicrucian’s of the 16th and 17th Centuries
So the Manna is that sustenance that the Initiates receive from God, to help their passing through their trials and ordeals. We need that Manna in order to survive our wilderness. We need more than just the water, the Mem; we also need what is in the water: the Nun, and that Nun is life. It is a type of primordial wisdom within the water.
If we look once more at Psalm 133 we find an ointment (oil) anointing the head, beard, and the garment of Aaron, here we find Shin, symbolic of fire or spirit, descending into Mem, water of matter, the involution, promise of a spiritual illumination to come, you just have to do the work.