Scottish Rite Education

How Long Must I Haul These Ruffians Around With Me?


The degrees of Freemasonry are built on the clear understanding that men need to be engaged in a quest for self-improvement. But a lot of guys out there are not on board with the quest. They don’t know who they are or where they are going with their life. They are confused and often misguided by their primitive instincts. They are full of media defined ideas about masculinity, and their social conditioning has been based largely on physique, sex, wealth, and conquest. They may seem very successful in appearances. Yet, be wholly at sea in knowing what self-improvement means, where it comes from, and how one accesses it.  


Nevertheless, for most men, life is seen as a journey. Men intuitively know there will be some kind of initiation in store for them on their way to manhood. They just don’t know where it will occur, what it will look like, or how the results will turn out for them.


Even in Freemasonry, where the quintessential initiation takes place in the Blue or Symbolic Lodge, it is important to grasp that this is only the beginning of one’s journey. It is there that we learn of the importance of our outward relationship with others and the institutions of our society. It is there that we are taught it takes a combination of intellect, experience, intuition, feeling, emotion and education to make real progress in life. And it is there that we discover our dual nature. We come face to face with our own worst enemy—our ego. We are given the opportunity to transcend our passions and prejudices and become true to who we are.


However, we are left to our own resources as to how we are supposed to proceed with this profound quest. We are still at sea with embracing the path of self-improvement. In the nomenclature of our private association of men, this is part of the meaning of the Lost Word. As Master Masons, we still have a mountain of self-discovery to climb. It is at this very point that every initiated man either becomes ready for the higher teachings of Freemasonry, or he remains content to enjoy his title as Master Mason and relish in the attitude that his association with good men will bring him improvement enough.   


To a large extent, the higher degrees of Masonry are engaged in completing this drama--completing the quest—completing the process of becoming a man. For example, the degrees or teachings of the Lodge of Perfection in the Scottish Rite (4° - 14°)  explore in depth the shadow side of our own existence—the unfinished business we have with ourselves--our ruffians within. We all have the arduous task of overcoming ourselves. And it will prove the hardest journey of our life.


At least one aspect of our ruffian nature is revealed in each of the 4th through 10th degrees. Bringing these to the surface facilitates our own awakening of consciousness. For instance, the 4° informs us that the mysteries of our own being are not easily revealed to us--our inadequate understanding of things; our ignorance and short sidedness; passions and prejudices; selfish motives and lazy approaches to learning. In the 5°, we are warned of our selfish interests, our idleness and non-committal approach to a genuine interest in others; our unearned privileges, and lack of concern for equity and fairness. In the 6°, our ruffians become our hasty judgments; our inability to separate perception from reality; our “me-first” attitudes; our prejudices and fears.     


You get the idea. Our life is like a stream of water running from the past to the present, having its roots in ignorance, idleness and intolerance. By revealing our failings and inadequacies, we are able to address these in the light of our new knowledge, and change ourselves for the better. As these stumbling blocks to personal affirmation are collectively projected across the many aspects of our society, the overall work of the Lodge of Perfection becomes a kind of knighthood aimed at eliminating ignorance, tyranny and fanaticism.


The bottom line is that the foremost goal of human life is the quest for spiritual enlightenment. Self-improvement is only achieved through higher, more refined levels of awareness brought about by concentrating one’s mind on one’s innermost self—our essential center of being. This cannot be achieved as long as ignorance, tyranny and fanaticism linger in our minds. But the solution requires a little explanation.


The problem of toleration is remarkably difficult for most everyone because it is so easy to feel good about being intolerant. The highest price we are called upon to pay for freedom is not in taxes to defend the country, nor even on the battlefield. The highest price we must pay for freedom is to allow others to be free.


Religious toleration means that we must allow others the same right to freedom of worship we demand for ourselves, even if we find their practices wrong or repugnant.


Intellectual toleration means that we must allow the free and full exploration of every idea, even if we think it wrong or dangerous.


Social toleration means that we must allow others to live lifestyles we may find strange or uncomfortable, whether in a commune or in a same sex relationship.


Of all the lessons a man or a woman must learn to be truly human, toleration may well be the hardest. 


Tyranny is another form of intolerance. Tyranny does not equate to authority, but with attitude. We don’t call the skilled and caring teacher who maintains order and discipline in his or her class a tyrant, nor the nation which offers protection to another nation while carefully not interfering with the nation so helped, nor the husband or wife who discharges the affair of the household with authority but also love and concern.


The essence of tyranny is selfishness. And if tyranny is selfish in the world of material things, fanaticism is selfishness in the world of ideas and beliefs. Fanaticism is the sort of selfishness that says “I am right. If you do not agree with me, you are wrong, and I have the right to hurt you.”


It is ignorance that allows both tyranny and fanaticism to flourish, for only an informed populace can form the basis of freedom. Ignorance is the primary weapon of the tyrant and the fanatic. Both can give good reason why just a little bit of censorship is needed, or why we should control what people think or what they read because otherwise they may ask questions and lose the true faith. The fanatic always wants to benefit others. All he asks in return is your mind and soul.


We are admonished in the Scottish Rite to be always actively involved in the government of our country. Unjust taxes, government bureaucracies which are more concerned with self perpetuation than with service; creeping limitations on the freedom of the people –in the name of expediency, or of conformity, or the greater good--these things are not new. To truly be champions of the people, as Masonry calls on us to be, we must be concerned with every miscarriage of justice, every unreasonable limitation of liberty, every arbitrary act of court or state house or capital.


And our special concern has to be with those who do not have access to the courts, nor the ear of those in power, nor influence with city hall. Their very powerlessness creates a binding obligation on every good brother to promote human equity and impartiality.


Yes, it would be far easier, and far more comfortable, to just chill out. Most men do. But our duty is to be aflame. That is how we conquer the ruffians.

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The Scottish Rite and Noetic Science


One of the major threads in Dan Brown's 2009 Freemason based thriller, The Lost Symbol, is an explanation of the work of fictional physicist Katherine Solomon, who in the book is a leading researcher in the field of Noetic Science. Sponsored by the Smithsonian, Solomon studies the untapped potential of the human mind.

Although we have not given it the same name, Noetic Science is a theme which repeats itself many times throughout the Degrees of Freemasonry.

The idea is that most of us have barely scratched the surface of our mental and spiritual capabilities. The Degrees of the Rite give us an understanding that the mind, like the logos, was with God in the beginning, is made in the image of God, and therefore has the potential to be accessed for remarkably metaphysical and powerful purposes. Noetic scientists envision their studies as explorations into the nature and potentials of consciousness using multiple ways of knowing. They sometimes refer to it as “inner knowing,”--exploring the nature and potential of consciousness. We think of it as the “inner way” or the transformative art of Masonry. Whenever we have an insight or intuition relating to an allegory presented in our ritual that suddenly becomes clear to us for the first time; whenever we are enlightened by our ability to find clarity through reason to a problem we have never before been able to solve; or whenever our senses warn us of an impending danger, causing us to consciously divert our path away from it, we are experiencing the inner way.

Again, we call this work the transformative art of our fraternity. Our studious focus and meditation on the deeper nature of our teachings can literally transform or change us for the better. But the noetic part is that our collective discipline in working together toward perfecting our mind, soul and spirit can also change society for the better. Jung called this type of change as affecting the collective unconscious. Jung saw the collective unconscious as being the repository of all current and past religious, spiritual and mythological symbols and experiences. And these things are imbedded in the genetic dna of all of us. These things form the map of our psyche—the archetypes of all things which have pre-existed us—the thinking processes deep within us which we inherit even if we don’t know it.

The collective unconscious, then, is a kind of universal mind. Since it exists in all of us, it can be manipulated in the direction of good or evil. Dan Brown’s fear in The Living Symbol is that, if the forces for good in the world do not become aware of this metaphysical power of the mind and will, it can be captured and manipulated for evil purposes.

The hope of the Scottish Rite, as the enemy of all spiritual and mental tyranny, is that by projecting the balance of faith, logic, and reason into the minds of mankind, it can develop the wider human potential and creative capacities for good in the world.
By supporting individuals in the transformation of their own consciousness, we lay the cornerstone for a collective transformation in the world which is built on freedom, wisdom and love.

Methinks this is what Dan Brown wanted us to discover in his book.

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To Be The Heroes We are Supposed to Be

By: Robert G. Davis, 33*, Grand Cross

Like the archetypal hero, we each can transcend to a new level of awareness and attain a veritable rebirth.

                     Horatius Cocles, a 1586 engraving by  Hendrick Goltzius

                     Horatius Cocles, a 1586 engraving by Hendrick Goltzius

One of the powerful icons of antiquity is displayed in a section of a votive relief at the Louvre in Paris. From the Hellenistic period, 1st century, B.C., the sculpture is titled "Offering to the Dioscuri." It represents Castor and Pollux, the most famous twins, dioscuri, of Greek mythology, riding magnificent steeds across the heavens. According to the myth, one of the twins is mortal, the other immortal. One represents the divine principle within us; the other signifies the energy in life which we must eternally encounter and transform. As the story goes, the twins spend alternative nights in the heavens and in the netherworld seeking, through their experiences, the light of tomorrow.

We commonly think of them as the zodiac sign Gemini. In astronomy, they are the two brightest stars in the constellation Gemini.

                              "Offering to the Dioscuri" - louvre Puseum, Paris

                              "Offering to the Dioscuri" - louvre Puseum, Paris

Contemplating the imagery of this myth, we can see the twins as heaven and earth, day and night, past and future. Also, they represent the tension of opposites within ourselves at the very point of our transition from darkness to light, from ignorance to knowledge. Thus, this relief carving offers a pictorial description of the classic journey of the hero—the journey each of us is to make in life. It is an uncertain, often dreadful, and always dangerous night journey into the deepest reaches of ourselves. But through this journey, this confrontation with ourselves and our experience, we each can transcend to a new level of awareness and attain a veritable rebirth.

Only a hero, which we all can be, can wage such a battle. For it is only when we have an unrelenting resolve to overcome our deepest fears that we are enabled to know ourselves and fulfill our true potential. We labor and strive and learn in this world so that we may hope to live perfect in the dawn of eternity. That is the quest of the hero.

Of course, the symbolic meaning of the "Offering to the Dioscuri" is the same as depicted in Masonic ritual by the young Fellowcraft as he passes between the pillars of the Middle Chamber. At that moment in his life, he begins his journey into the greater mysteries which will enable him to become transformed into his better, truer self.

In contemporary Masonic symbolism, the Fellowcraft is the exemplar of the Gemini twins. His spirit is integrated by the dual nature of the pillars. Everything which represents the opposites in his life—passion and reason, aggression and cooperation, weakness and strength, anger and compassion, selfishness and charity—he takes with him on his subsequent quest toward self-improvement. Every emotion, experience, and lesson he learns on his own life journey, represented by the winding stairs, he integrates into his being.

He has only to make this hero's journey—this path of initiation, separation, and return—to see the Light of Lights and understand why Masonry is itself a timeless Truth, like the myth frozen in a piece of stone from two millennia past.

In the Scottish Rite (the college course in Freemasonry), our hero's journey is reinforced time and again. In the 13°, the candidate makes the descent into the cavern of his own life to discover the Lost Word. In the 18°, he finds, from his own journey through darkness, the light of the world. And in the 30°, he becomes the Dioscuri yet again, this time in the symbol and form of the black and white double-headed eagle.

Thus, when he becomes a Master of the Royal Secret, if he has taken seriously the path of the Rite, he is enabled to look back to the pillars of symbolic Masonry with new eyes—the eyes of a hero—and marvel at what Joseph Campbell has called the "song of the soul's high adventure," the path of his own self-meaning.

Perhaps it is really not so hard to be a hero. Maybe we need only to dream of a magnificent steed that will carry us aloft to a castle that knows no East nor West, but reveals the treasure of our soul's deepest longing.

Or, as Freemasons maybe we need only to know in what we are engaged--to be the heroes we are all supposed to be.

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