All is Tao
All things arise from Tao.
By Virtue they are nurtured.
Ch 51, Tao Te Ching
The news coming out of the Middle East isn't good, political unrest always seems to turn into religious fueled violence in that area of the world, pitting one's belief system against another's. It never made much sense to me, bigotry and hatred.
The question I often find myself asking when I see or read these stories of my god verses your god "why do most limit their God and confine him to the image of man, with all the negative attributes that seem to come with that gender, jealousy, vengeance, retribution, etc.."?
This seems to be what individuals do when they personify their gods, they create a fearful rulers hellbent on destroying anyone that disagrees with their laws.
What makes many of these religious confrontations even weirder is that both sides believe in the same god, the god of Abraham. I do understand that Christians hold Jesus equal to God, where the Muslims and Jews wouldn't, but does that slight difference give one freedom to commit atrocities and even murder against another human being? Apparently so. But that's a different subject for a different time, for now let's look into this personification of deity.
There is no doubt I hold a difference of opinion when it comes to the definition of God, one that doesn't tend to pigeonhole God into a limited role of a manlike creator judge, a premise I find if looked at closely is somewhat absurd.
My personal belief system leans heavily towards Buddhism, with the only caveat I believe in a non-personified god, something I think many western Buddhists would agree with when understood correctly. Certainly not all, but some.
I think much of this erroneous projection and personification of deity comes from a verse most likely misunderstood in the bible "Then God said, 'Let us make man in our image, in our likeness' ... So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.", Genesis 1:26-27.
From this verse I believe many project human like qualities on their perception of deity, and in strange twist of fact most picture 'him' gender specific.
If we are to take this passage literally we might have a problem, one need only turn on the evening news to see that if we are created like God he may have issues, jealousy, hatred, alcoholism, etc.. Or maybe, just maybe, our perception of God is wrong and the passage has a deeper meaning, one that may pose a problem for organized religions who love their gender specific gods.
If we look again at the quoted passage a question I have is who is the "us" and "our", the plural, this passage refers to?
If we were to take the passage literal it appears God has peers, something I bet they never taught you in catechism classes.
As I researched the passage I found that many believe the "us" or the "our" to be angels, some believe he's referring to Jesus, and some even believe he's speaking of the Holy Spirit, yet the fact is all of this is just presumption, we'll never really know the writers intent, but I have an idea, one I'll reveal in due time.
I believe it would be prudent of me to give this disclaimer, although this blog tends to explore Masonic themes and symbolism it does not mean the opinions expressed are those of the tradition the author so proudly belongs. If you continue on know that what you read is the opinion and thought of the author alone and is not necessarily Masonic in nature, although the writer himself does believe Freemasonry is a philosophical tradition created to look into these topics.
"In sexual reproduction, organisms inherit half of their nuclear DNA from the male parent and half from the female parent."...National Human Genome Research Institute
"Then God said, 'Let us make man in our image, in our likeness' ... So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.", Genesis 1:26-27
The truth is not all bible readers take the bible literally, with many seeing it as mix of allegory, myth, and moral law. Case in point, many alchemists found the language of the bible contained a highly symbolic inner path that would lead the individual towards what they call in the east enlightenment.
And why you may ask do I mention alchemists?
The simple fact is many of our early brothers, the very same brothers that created the rituals in Freemasonry, were very familiar with alchemy and its often confusing and symbolic language.
It's a known fact that Isaac Newton was a practicing alchemist, and who was his trusted laboratory assistant? None other than John Theophilus Desaguliers the third Grand Master of Freemasonry the creator of the rituals still in use to this day, with a few modifications. And you don't think he was influenced by the genius of Isaac Newton? Of course he was, he spent years lecturing on Newton's discovers and demonstrating Newton's experiments.
With a little research you'll find many of our early brothers were either influenced by or considered to be alchemists themselves.
The alchemy were are talking about is not necessarily the physical act of changing lead to gold, although some certainly tried, but the inner transformation of consciousness.
It has always been my contention that Freemasonry at its core is alchemical and Cabalistic, two arcane sciences that can lead to higher states of consciousness if understood correctly. Which in itself poses a problem to many in Freemasonry today, two sciences rarely discussed in lodges and foreign to those that haven't done their homework.
For instance let's see if the passage from Genesis 1:26-27 makes more sense if seen through the eyes of an alchemist and how we may see this played in the esoteric symbolism of Freemasonry.
"So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them."
If your fortunate enough to belong to a lodge with a black and white checkered floor you may have already been exposed to the male and female symbolic relationship, the black square representing the female aspect, the white male.
Pretty easy so far, right?
Now imagine a rather large circle drawn upon the black and white floor, symbolized when the candidate circumambulates around the altar. If you we're able to view this circle from above it would be very easy to see the similarities with the ever familiar yin and yang symbol from the east, the circle divided equally of black and white. The only difference is in Freemasonry we us squares, the taoist splits the circle equally, half black half white. As we circumambulate during ritual around the altar at any given point we are either stepping on a black or white square, duality unified by the circle.
And you thought Freemasonry was all about dinner.
As to what this symbolized, the circle is the symbol of wholeness or oneness, the black and white within the circle symbolize the first creation or first cause. We see this symbolism played out in the myth of Adam and Eve.
In the myth of Adam he is alone in the garden, where one of his ribs is removed to create Eve. Adam is symbolic of oneness creating twoness Eve and himself. Oneness, the circle, divided into two equal parts half black (Eve) and half white (Adam). Here we find equality in duality, black and white as companions, co-creators.
Here's where to many get it wrong, there is no judgment here, right or wrong, good vs. evil, these seemingly opposites combine to create power, energy. Think of a car battery, one positive pole, one negative pole, when we turn the key the two poles combine to create enough power to start the engine, in Freemasonry we would call this win win relationship, harmony.
Let us once again look at the passage "So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them."
The alchemists themselves saw matter, which are plants, minerals, and metals as having masculine and feminine qualities, and projected the transformations of these in their retorts into their inner space in order to explore their own masculine and feminine natures. In many old alchemical illustrations we see this depicted as males and females copulating, our inner being uniting together to create a new unity, a new energy.
In other illustrations we find symbols of the Sun, masculine, white, and the Moon, feminine, black, being assisted by Mercury the hermaphrodite, the combination of both energies. Symbolized in Freemasonry by the 47th theorem, 3 squared is the male, 4 squared is the female, and 5 squared is the progeny, the mixture of both, the new energy.
"Spiritual power begins by directing animal power to other than egoistic ends."...Brother John Ruskin
The case could easily be made that this inner alchemy was the precursor to today's Jungian psychology. Jung, whose paternal grandfather just so happened to be a Masonic Grand Master, postulates that each individual has both masculine and feminine components of the psyche, named the anima and the animus. In the male this feminine aspect is the animus.
The fact is our human biological and psychological development is this mixture of masculine and feminine energies.
Yes Alice, we are going down the rabbit hole.
It's very easy to imagine alchemists of old as crazy chemists working long hours over a fire breathing furnace attempting to turn lead into gold, when the truth may just be that many were quite inquiring souls attempting to follow the advice of Socrates, "Know Thyself."
The alchemists realized each of us has both male and feminine energies within us. In Freemasonry you may find this symbolized by the black and white floor, Jachin and Boaz, and many other symbols that illustrate that duality. The goal of the alchemists was to harmonize these seemingly opposite energies.
Just like the alchemists Eastern philosophies realized this concept of yin (feminine/receptive) and yang (masculine/active) realizing that everything in the universe is made of these two energies.
In the taoist system Yang energy is masculine in nature and is described as light, dry, directed, focused, logical, and action oriented. Yin energy is feminine and described as dark, moist, diffuse, vague, intuitive, and receptive. In regard to psychological functioning, men are predominately yang but contain a yin aspect. Women, while predominately yin, contain an element of yang.
Human beings are psychologically androgynous with latent inner masculine and feminine energies awaiting development.
Now that you have been introduced to the male/female dichotomy read the following passage from Proverbs 3:13-20 and see if you can figure out why the alchemist would be attracted to such insight.
"Blessed is the man who finds wisdom, the man who gains understanding,
for she is more profitable than silver and yields better returns than gold.
She is more precious than rubies; nothing you desire can compare with her.
Long life is in her right hand; in her left hand are riches and honor.
Her ways are pleasant ways, and all her paths are peace.
She is a tree of life to those who embrace her; those who lay hold of her will be blessed. By wisdom the LORD laid the earth's foundations, by understanding he set the heavens in place; by his knowledge the deeps were divided, and the clouds let drop the dew."
"Q. When the Philosophers speak of gold and silver, from which they extract their matter, are we to suppose that they refer to the vulgar gold and silver?
A. By no means; vulgar silver and gold are dead, while those of the Philosophers are full of life."...Théodore Henri de Tschudi, Alchemical Catechism, 1766
Now, lets advance further down the rabbit hole Alice.
Time to take a closer look brothers at your apron. Although the apron may seem to be one piece of material it is actually two united into one, a triangle, and a square.
The Square represents the four elements of nature, or matter. In alchemy it is asserted that the metals are composed of the four elements, which the ancient philosophers called fire, water, air, and earth. Easy enough.
Now lets take a look at the triangular flap.
The triangle is often used by the alchemist to convey inner psychological conditions. For instance the upward pointing triangle (E.A. flap up) is the alchemical symbol for fire. One of the four classical elements, fire has the properties of heat and dryness, and symbolizes the “fiery” emotions- love, hate, passion, compassion, empathy, anger, etc., as well as spiritual aspiration- those actions of intent which bring us closer to the divine. Fire is represented in numerous cultures as the triangle, symbolizing rising force. It's in this fiery condition we enter Freemasonry, which we will attempt to harmonize and temper with the assistance our watery aspect.
The alchemical symbol for water is an inverted triangle, symbolizing downward flow. The downward pointing triangle is an alchemical symbol of femininity. As one of the four alchemical elements, water has the properties cold and moist, and symbolizes intuition, the unconscious mind, and the enclosing, generating forces of the womb. We find this symbolized by the Master Mason's apron with its triangular flap pointing down.
Dorothy, your not in Kansas anymore!
Most today refer to alchemy as a bygone precursor to chemistry, or a parlor trick used by unscrupulous individuals to deceive people into buying their fake gold, when in fact it is an integral science harmonizing our inner nature while seeking the divine within, the God within all of us, the philosopher's stone, the grail, name it what you will.
"The oldest wisdom in the world tells us we can consciously unite with the divine while in this body; for this man is really born. If he misses his destiny, Nature is not in a hurry; she will catch him up someday, and compel him to fulfill her secret purpose."...Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan (president of India, 1962 - 67)
When I started off this paper I began by referencing Genesis 1:26-27, "Then God said, 'Let us make man in our image, in our likeness' ... So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.", I hope I have made clear how many alchemists of old saw this as a psychological fact and saw the necessity of harmonizing the feminine and masculine energies within us, resulting in androgyne of sorts, a Spirit energy.
As to how I tend to define God, it is that Spirit Energy that pervades and permeates all of creation. This all-encompassing original source Energy containing both aspects, in perfect harmony.
I also made reference to the plural referencing God made when he said "Let us make man in our image, in our likeness", I tend to think he was talking about us, not Jesus, not a Holy Spirit, and not angels, but a disembodied our consciousness that existed before taking on life in the world of experience, matter.
In days of old I would certainly of been charged with heresy when I say I believe each and every one of us to be divine, but most forgot, freewill can be a bitch.