Putting Masonic Light Into Action

                    Guthrie SR Atrium – Photo by  Matthew D. Anthony  (c) 2012

                    Guthrie SR Atrium – Photo by Matthew D. Anthony (c) 2012

Scottish Rite Reunion season is upon us. During the past few weeks there has been a flurry of back channel emails in my Scottish Rite Valley discussing the programs and sessions that will take place, degree team sound offs, etc. I am supremely fortunate to be a member of the Guthrie Valley, which not only boasts a beautiful Masonic building, but also has unique education and contemplative practice programs. During the Reunions there are group meditation and education courses, as well as ample opportunities to spend one-on-one time with individual seekers, teachers, and facilitators from numerous spiritual traditions ranging from mainstream Christianity, Gnostic Christianity, Buddhism, Islam-Sufism, Neo-Paganism, etc., so it is truly a spiritual melting pot that provides a smorgasbord for the spiritual seeker. It also provides people from all spiritual backgrounds and levels of interest or development with a platform to learn from one another, which unfortunately is a very rare opportunity. In a world that is constantly tearing itself apart over the proper name for God, or the proper mode of worship, a Reunion provides a rare opportunity to simply spread Light and love.

As I prepare for the upcoming Reunion, I have started to go through my notes and ritual copies to prepare my lectures for the two or three education sessions that I'll be teaching. The main theme that I keep coming back to is one of the central teachings of the Scottish Rite, which is that its members should actively go out into the world and practice what they have learned in order to take up the struggle against tyranny, oppression, ignorance, and human suffering of all kinds- To be a true soldier of Light in the world.

Too often people are merely content with “receiving” teachings, which they in turn put away on a mental shelf and call it "wisdom"; however, wisdom is not passive learning and recitation, because that is merely an intellectual exercise. To discover Truth and become “wise”, means really internalizing the teachings that you learn from Freemasonry, your spiritual practice, friends, mentors, etc., and actually putting these teachings into an active practice, which will not only make “you” a better person, but it will also make the world around you a better place. After all, it doesn’t do you any good to constantly go to a church, mosque, a dharma center, or Lodge if you aren’t reflecting those teachings into every aspect of your life. Don't be content with putting your lamp under a bushel. (Matthew 5:15)

From a Buddhist’s perspective it doesn’t do me any good to know about the noble truth of suffering, and the need to end the suffering of all sentient beings, and then turn a blind eye to suffering. From a Christian’s perspective it doesn’t do me any good to know about Christ’s compassionate and loving nature, and then turn away from helping someone because “they don’t deserve it”, or “they haven’t earned it like I have”, or condemn someone just because you don’t personally agree with all of their actions, choices, or lifestyle.

I really enjoy it when a teacher, preacher, or spiritual leader tells their followers to get off of the meditation pillow, out of the pews, and off of their knees in order to actually go out and put teachings into practice. I firmly believe that getting out into the world, and actually practicing what you have learned facilitates dramatic personal and external growth and progress, and the friction and conflicts that arise in the world will highlight areas of your ashlar that you still need to work on. The journey of a craftsman is a lifelong journey, and it is a journey of work.

Few among men are they who cross over to the further shore. The others merely run up and down the bank on this side.” – The Dhammapada

"You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; 15nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. 16"Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven." -(Matthew 5:15)

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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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Are You a Master Mason?

Bro. Bro. Joseph C. Harrison. Photo Credit:  Wor. Matthew D. Anthony

Bro. Bro. Joseph C. Harrison.
Photo Credit: Wor. Matthew D. Anthony

A lot of men ask me if I think every Mason should be a 32° Mason. Since I am privileged to serve the craft in Oklahoma as the Secretary of one of the most popular and respected Scottish Rite organizations in America, you would think I would enthusiastically respond in the affirmative; touting a long list of reasons why it is so very true that all Masons should be Scottish Rite Masons!

Well, you might be surprised to learn that my answer to this question is “no.”

I think what we get out of Masonry depends so much on how we feel in our heart about being a Master Mason. We all know that some men are Master Masons in name only. Remember—we are admonished by the Worshipful Master well after we have taken all the obligations of Craft Masonry that we are not yet Master Masons; and we may never become Master Masons. We are told of a journey we must first make, and are informed the path will be arduous at best. We are warned that if we do make it, we will make it only as a matter of faith and will.

It turns out this journey is no less than our own life journey. And, for every one of us, that journey is still a work in progress. In a very real sense, we are all Master Masons at times; while, at other times, our actions fall short of the ideals we are taught in Masonry.

In evaluating how we are doing, here are some important questions: Have we done anything different with our life since we were initiated as Entered Apprentices? Do we know we are better men today than before? Have we become transformed by our experience of becoming a Mason? Are we more caring, less selfish, more thoughtful, less judgmental, more sharing, less rigid, more willing to learn and grow and help others who are on the same journey with us?

There are many ways of testing whether or not we have done anything different with our lives since we became brothers of the Mystic Tie together. It’s really a matter of becoming aware that we are actively and consciously working toward our own personal growth and development. It is this awareness which makes Masonry the most important work we will ever do--because, in large measure, our happiness is based on ourselves.

This brings me back to my earlier response. Here’s the question I usually ask when a brother inquires about becoming a 32° Mason. Are you ready to make the journey into yourself to discover who you are and learn what it means to live a life of meaning; so that you will not only become a better man, but will also have made so lasting an impression on your family and fellowmen that they, in turn, will want to live like you?

You see, this is the kind of faith and will which ultimately makes us Master Masons. To be a good man is not the only qualification to be accepted. An appropriate intellectual and spiritual level of personal development is also to be considered.


If we are men of such hope and conviction; if we have a deep yearning to discover our inner nature and strive to make the best of our own life’s journey--to live a life that makes a positive difference to ourselves and others--then we are Master Masons; and the right kind of men to be Masters of the Royal Secret.

For such men, the "book of the world" lies open before them. The reward is in the journey.

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