Brotherly Love

Truth, Relief, and Brotherly Love in the Mirror of Self-Reflection

The image of a mirror can be very helpful in understanding contemplative experience, because it is the nature of our consciousness, of our minds, to reflect.   The term ‘reflect’ not only refers to the act of pondering upon something, but refers even more directly to the way the mind works.  All the images we see in our minds  –  whether images of things in the world around us, of memories, fantasies, or inspired visions – are representations of things and not the things themselves.  This process is also true for all our other senses, but nothing represents the reflective nature of the mind better than the way a mirror works for the sense of sight.  Even when a person attempts to think of his or her own mind, the thought is only an image of the mind, and thus is an action or a part of the mind, but not the mind itself.

Those last statements indicate how thinking about something might actually interfere with our ability to be as authentically present in the moment as possible, and thus to more completely observe and perceive the greater reality or truth of the moment.   As an example, consider the well-known phenomenon that thinking too much about doing something, like dancing, while actually trying to do it, gets in the way of dancing as well as we might.  Another example can be found in the obsessive shutterbug, one who can’t stop taking pictures of something long enough to simply be present in the more direct experience of it.  The more we think about something, the less we actually experience it, whether it is something we regard as external to self or something as internal as our most secret thoughts and feelings.

When practicing silent meditation or contemplative prayer, one sits in greater openness to whatever arises in consciousness, whether a sensory perception in response to something external, or thoughts and feelings arising in other ways.  This kind of prayer is practiced in faithful acceptance of whatever actually is, filtering and distorting it as little as possible with expectations, rules, analyses, or judgments. It means opening our awareness more completely to the immediate facts of existence and the mysterious presence of the Divine.  We therefore see more clearly the truth of things just as they are in the present moment, and less as though in a dusty and warped mirror. 

One of the most common experiences in such practice is a greater awareness of the whole of one’s own thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.  Furthermore, most of us aren’t pleased to observe how much of a crazy mess is going on within us.   We discover that we aren’t nearly as rational, centered, harmonious, practically competent, emotionally secure, intellectually certain, spiritually enlightened, or morally virtuous as we’d often like to pretend to others and ourselves.   In fact, anyone who practices like this for very long eventually comes to see in oneself the seeds, if not the seedlings, or even the buds, of every sin ever committed by anyone.

There are many ways we can react to looking in that mirror.  I have no doubt that an intuitive sense of these possibilities, if not some actual experience of them, leads some people to consider contemplative practice too dangerous, and even speak of it as risking demonic possession.   Those sorts of fears should be respected for the individuals gripped by them, because too much raw truth can be harmful when we’re unprepared to cope with it.   Yet for others, the initial shock and horror of their existential disillusionment is eventually relieved, giving way to deeper and more authentic reverence, humility, gratitude, compassion, kindness, and selflessness.  We become less burdened by all the frailty, confusion, fragmentation, dishonesty, and negativity of our own humanity and that of others, and we see that these things come and go within a greater context, the beautiful wholeness of our being and becoming.  Our own looking inward upon the mirror of the soul, releasing our illusions and accepting reality as it is, in turn leads us to see others more clearly, to love them and ourselves more freely. We are less prone to be narrowly and rigidly judgmental, and more inclined to offer the relief that comes through understanding, forgiveness, good counsel, encouragement, and support.  This is how contemplative practice serves our Masonic principles of Truth, Relief, Brotherly Love.

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Chuck Dunning has authored: Contemplative Masonry: Basic Applications of Mindfulness, Meditation, and Imagery for the Craft

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Brotherhood in the 21st Century

By Guest Contributor: Bro. Byron J. Collier

Photo Credit: Tiffany Roberts Photography- Lodge Veritas  No. 556 Officer Installation

Photo Credit: Tiffany Roberts Photography- Lodge Veritas
No. 556 Officer Installation

As Freemasons we pride ourselves on the antiquity and history of the Craft, but will our ceremonies and ritual in and of themselves be enough to satisfy future generations? The future will demand a better understanding of what it really means to be a Mason through better knowing ourselves and practicing those principles we have all vowed to uphold in our oaths or obligations. I further believe that the silent example of men with integrity who display the moral and social virtues of good men, and who do the right thing for righteousness sake, will prevail and fill the societal gaps created in this new age.

In order for our fraternity to not only survive, but thrive, we must make the welcoming of new members and retention of existing brethren an important part of what we do in Lodge. The experiences of an Entered Apprentice’s and Fellowcraft’s first few months, and a new Master Mason’s first years will determine how they view Freemasonry for the rest of their lives. This is why commitment to mentoring and the sustaining of fellowship is relevant, now more than ever. I believe our Lodges should strive for better masons rather than more Masons.

There’s an old story about a man who was considering offering himself as a candidate to Freemasonry. He selected one of the two Lodges in his local area. After he was made a Freemason a friend asked why he had selected his particular Lodge. His reply was that after interviews with officers from the two Lodges, his selection was easy because one Lodge was very interested in him as a candidate while the other was interested in him as a brother. Which do you think he chose?

Although we make our meetings more interesting by social events and Masonic education, the driving force that brings Masons together is our fellowship when we meet; whether at Lodge meetings or by chance encounters on the street. It does not take very long for a new Mason to realize that he can expect to form new friendships for the rest of his life. However, one of the major dangers comes when the “newness” of the Masonic experience begins to wear off. When a man's attendance becomes irregular or he stops coming to Lodge it suggests that: 1) his priorities have changed, 2) he is becoming overwhelmed with Lodge duties, or 3) something has changed in his life. In order to find out what has changed for the brother, we must be willing and able to engage in open and frank dialogue.

To get to the point of honest and open conversation with our Masonic Brethren we must be closer. We must make a concerted effort to elicit the views and feelings of all members, not just a few. Therefore, if the formality of a lodge meeting impedes input from some members we must recognize that and solicit their opinions at less formal meetings or by one-on-one discussions. It is important that every Brother feel that he is not left out, that the Lodge welcomes his views, and that "has had his say."

One of the more common pitfalls that we must be careful to avoid, is just associating with our perceived like-minded Masons, for we can create what appears to be "cliques." I say perceived because sometimes we don't spend enough time to fully understand all of our brethren. They may be like-minded more than we realize!

Finally and most importantly, we must practice openness and tolerance. Openness to feel free to discuss delicate issues, human issues that are important to making and keeping good relationships. Because we are all different, each of us comes from different backgrounds and each of us think and act differently; therefore, we must get to know one another sufficiently so that we can converse on a level that will promote friendship and at the same time avoid discord. We must also assume an attitude that is completely tolerant of the views and ideas of our fellow Brethren. We may feel that their idea or point of view is wrong, but we must recognize that they have their own reasons for their expressions, and it is not our lot to judge them for that. As people we all say and do things that later we wish we could take back. Well, we can openly try to take them back by being honest with ourselves and try to right those wrongs and to quickly and easily forgive those transgressions by others. I daresay we all know brethren of the Craft who for one reason or another are in some level of emotional dispute with other Masons. Are these disputes really important in the grand scheme of things? I truly believe that good honest discussion would make most disputes non-existent. We each must learn to seek out and accept admonitions and whispers of good counsel from others, and at the very least have some accordance by "agreeing to disagree."

I ask you to consider and to practice that openness, tolerance and to express a genuine interest in your fellow Freemason, the man you call Brother.

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BYRON J. COLLIER has over 20 years experience working in the financial services industry. As Founder of Artemis Capital Group, LLC,   Byron has served as its President and Managing Member since 2003. He was a Vice President of Investment Banking with Chicago Investment Group, LLC and held management positions within Global Custody at Bear, Stearns & Co. Inc., (JP Morgan), and Consumer Lending at United Jersey Bank (Bank of America). Byron received his baccalaureate degree from Howard University, Washington DC, and continued with graduate studies in International Business and Commercial Finance at New York University, New York, NY.

Byron served on the Business Advisory Board of Datameg Corporation (OTCBB: DTMG) and is actively involved with local community services including his church as Superintendent of Sunday School for the Ebenezer Baptist Church in New Brunswick, NJ. His interest in world history and cultures has led him to extensively study religions, philosophies, and esoteric traditions, which ultimately led him to the Masonic Fraternity.

Byron was raised to Light this past June and is a member of Jerusalem Lodge No. 26, in Plainfield, New Jersey. As a true lover of knowledge, Byron seeks to discover the meaning and Light that is present within the diaspora that is mankind and, applying this Light to his own spiritual path, help others in their journeys.

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To Live In Hearts We Leave Behind Is Not To Die

It is the custom of many fraternal societies to come together once each year to remember and honor those friends and brothers who have been called from their earthly labors. The winter and summer solstices are good times for this duty, as both are symbolic of death and re-birth and the cycle of life. In every true brotherhood of men, it is an act of fraternal courtesy to remember those we have lost whom we personally knew and most admired in life.  

But this comradely connection is true of many thoughtful men, even beyond the ceremonies of fraternity. Men remember the men who are no longer with them who made the biggest difference in their lives.

These were the men who showed us what integrity looks like. They taught us that our own transformation to an improved being, fully capable of making a difference in the lives of others, is up to us; and can be realized in the example we leave for others.   

In our fraternal society, those special few who have come before us and been an influence in our own life have always been the agents for this transmission. This is true in our Lodges and our Rites. But, on a broader scale, it is also true in occupations, communities, families and social relationships. The significance and meaning of social honor and integrity can only be carried forth in each generation by those honored men who have lived their life in such a way that the attributes of their good example seem right and compelling to the next generation. We should never forget that the kind of man we are will ultimately be the kind of man others see in us. Then, through us, to those who come after us. This is the chain of union in manhood. This is the legacy of good men.

And it is one reason we annually commemorate the memory of our forefathers. We do this to show manly respect; and we do it to check our own progress against the standards they bequeathed to us.

It is the way legacy works. The real ideals of heroism do not come from movies or comic books. Our heroes are found among those whom we have known and followed and admired to be the best models for our own life. They were once real live men with whom we could relate and touch and talk. They are the men we selected to best represent who we wanted to be like when we grew up. We craved their anointment. And, to a large degree, they now define us.

We face life with their kindness and honesty; their confidence and determination. We confront death with their faithfulness, courage and disinterestedness.

So, you see, if we have paid attention, the examples of the fathers, father-figures, brothers, companions and knights we once knew and most admired have prepared us to be worthy as men in our own time. Our task is to carry on the work which they have furthered so that it may also be said of us, as we can truly say of them, that the world is better because we have lived.

To live in hearts we leave behind is not to die.

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