"Not everything turns out the way we believe it should, but if we persevere it just might"...me
The degrees were beautiful, what they meant at the time I had no idea, and no one attempted to explain them to my inquisitive mind.
The evening of my Master Mason dinner and Degree I felt a pride I had never experienced before, each and every brother graciously shook my hand, called me brother, congratulated me, and welcomed me to the lodge, a great night. I knew I was about to enter the mystery.
It did not happen.
Instead, I experienced a huge letdown. The monthly meetings I had so looked forward to attending were as boring as watching paint dry. Where were those gentlemen who wrote, spoke, and even practiced the hidden traditions? All I heard discussed was the cost of stamps, the problems printing the trestle board, and the status of our investments, which we rarely spent. Where was the education, the mystery, had anybody found the lost word?
Eventually there comes a time in Freemasonry when all brothers are confronted with the fork in the road moment, what I feel are the three choices
One: you do not get it, possibly feel let down, do not understand what the rituals have to do with the monthly meetings, pay your dues and with out asking questions slowly disappear from the sidelines. Often the next time we hear your name is years later when we drape the alter.
Two: you take a chair, become a very good ritualist, in many cases without ever realizing the ritual's underlying message, receive a bunch of titles, and embrace the fraternal aspects, become a good man, and keep your unanswered questions to a minimum, a journey half traveled.
Or three: you begin to sense that there's something bigger going on, you begin to question, if the whole purpose of Freemasonry is a monthly business meeting, an occasional dinner, and male bonding, what were the purpose of the rituals? It is here, at this juncture, without an answer you either slip to the first choice and disappear from the sidelines, settle for two, or with intuition in hand you begin internally questioning everything.
I choose the path of inquiry, I questioned everything, and I mean everything.
Choosing the later is where the possibility of our true journey begins.
Allow me to share with you the most misunderstood paragraph written by Brother Albert Pike, a favorite paragraph of the paranoid and conspiratorially challenged:
"The Blue Degrees are but the outer court or portico of the Temple. Part of the symbols are displayed there to the Initiate, but he is intentionally misled by false interpretations. It is not intended that he shall understand them; but it is intended that he shall imagine he understands them."
Not that I know the mind of Brother Pike but I think I know what he is referring too.
My realizations did not come over night, nor do I believe I now know everything there is to be known, but I do know Freemasonry purposely hides what I would call its "science of realization". When Brother Pike makes the statement that the initiate is intentionally misled he's referring to the way this science is purposely veiled, in allegory, where we find a fictional story of Hiram Abiff played out in the open, yet inside the ritual another story is being told, one that was carefully encoded in cryptic manner, not created to deceive, but purposely hidden awaiting your discovery.
Here is a little observation, maybe the reason we encrypt our ritual books is a hint, a cleaver way of telling you the ritual itself encrypted.
Brother Pike was not in any way suggesting a nefarious intent as the foolishly paranoid seem to think, he was hinting that the initiate had to look beyond the obvious. When he says "It is not intended that he shall understand them; but it is intended that he shall imagine he understands them." this separates the wheat from the chaff, the wheat will dig deep into the hidden, and the chaff will go through the motions without really getting it.
Brother Pike states it like it is: "Their true explication is reserved for the Adepts, the Princes of Masonry." Rarely today in Freemasonry do we hear the word Adept referred to, according to the Encyclopedia of Freemasonry Adept comes from the Latin word Adeptus, meaning having obtained, the Adept claims to be in the possession of all the secrets of his peculiar mystery, Brother Pike is referring to those secrets hidden within the allegory. You become the true adept when you peer behind the veil.
In the last section of Brother Pike's often-misunderstood paragraph we find him revealing what he believed the essence of what is hidden in the allegory and language of the degrees:
"The whole body of the Royal and Sacerdotal Art was hidden so carefully, centuries since, in the High Degrees, as that it is even yet impossible to solve many of the enigmas which they contain."
I believe the Royal and Sacerdotal Arts Brother Pike refers to, the Royal Art, or Ars Regia, is none other than a type of alchemy, a symbolic journey of our transformation from the dark leaden physicality of earth bound consciousness to the refined gold of the spiritually illuminated being, and Sacerdotal in the sense our goal is salvation of the soul.
Brother Pike was certainly a lifelong student and scholar of comparative religion, thought, and myth. His "Morals and Dogma" is filled with ancient belief systems and philosophies rarely spoken of today. Even with his wealth of arcane knowledge he realized there were always questions to be had, with many unanswerable, the pursuit of wisdom is truly endless.
Now for a couple personal observations, although they may sound like I am criticizing I assure you I am not, by sharing these observations it is my hope that we may save one brother from choice number one, disappearing from the lodge, or two, prevent a brother from becoming a parrot mason.
A Gallup poll taken not so long ago found that 49% of all respondents with a High School education and below believed the bible to be a "literal" fact, compared with no more than 22% of respondents with at least some college education. By the time the college educated graduated the number drops to 15%. The numbers in no way imply that the belief in deity drops the more educated one becomes, I believe what is happening is the more one expands his or her awareness the more we begin to see and understand the symbolic, metaphoric, and allegorical, one of the reasons on one level we are directed to the seven liberal arts and sciences, to break the grip of ignorance.
Freemasonry may not be religious but I assure you at its root it spiritual, and with that in mind, I think the numbers above could easily be applied to Freemasonry.
Now if we look closely at today's Freemasonry and compare it with the late sixteen hundreds and early seventeen hundreds, when the rituals were created, we find the greater majority of early brothers were well educated, most with roots in the Royal Society and Invisible College, giants of their time, gentleman who intimately aware of symbolism and allegory. Today we are Joe the plumber, and all too often taking things literal.
I am not in any way implying that we don't have the ability to perceive or understand the symbolic, that which is veiled in Freemasonry, we might just have to work a little harder, and lets not forget we are not encumbered by elitism and inflation our early brothers often suffered from.
We all begin the journey on the same level. Our road may be a little tougher, few enter Freemasonry with a familiarity of alchemy, Hermeticism, philosophy, ancient myth, Rosicrucianism, and Kabbalah, all subjects that you might just find contained with the veiled truth of Freemasonry, but if you really want to get it you have no choice but to go there.
Here's a bit of advice for the new Master Mason, never believe those so called lodge spokesmen that tell you "the only secret about Freemasonry is there is no secret", what that really means is they don't know what they're talking about, clearly they weren't paying attention, in every single degree the word secret is present, there is even a degree in the Scottish Rite named the Secret Master and the Sublime Prince of the Royal Secret.
Not long ago I was involved in an investigation of a new brother, and during our conversation one of the other investigating brothers made the statement "there are no secrets here", referring to the temple and Freemasonry itself. It literally broke my heart. What are the odds that this new perspective brother will begin to look behind the veil after being told there is no veil? The simple answer is slim to none.
Why is it certain lodge spokesman issuing press releases announcing open houses make those statements that the "only secret is there is no secret" as if the idea of secret carries a stigma that hurts our reputation? The mystery has been the draw of Freemasonry for centuries, our numbers are not down because of secrets, our numbers are down because of changing society, television, the Internet, and assorted distractions that have captured the attention of a public that once found brotherhood in the fraternal organizations a rite of passage. The paradigm is shifting, and on a very positive note, fortunately the tide ebbs and flows, today many inquiring brothers are beginning to take a closer look at the sciences and traditions of the past for clues as to the underlying philosophy hidden within the ritual, allegory, and symbolism of Freemasonry. For the first time in a very long time Masonic authors are researching, discussing, and even publishing works on the very subjects that brothers of old spoke about behind closed doors. What I thought at one time was lost has now been found.
Many of these brothers are drawing brothers to the craft that want to look behind the veil, to unlock the mystery that I assure you is there, you just have to know where to look.
Allow me to off this prayer for all sentiment beings; May they attain full wisdom and enlightenment. May they be liberated from all suffering. In addition, may we all exit through the Gate of the Gods by the way of the Seven Spheres