Thursday, April 2, 2009

Points Well Made, by Bro. Tom Accuosti

"You're wearing your ring the wrong way, you know."

The Past Master tried to be nonchalant, but the way he slightly emphasized the "you know" implied that he didn't actually think that I did know, and he was going to make sure that I knew I didn't know.

You know how some people are.

"That's odd," I replied, "I was sure it was on correctly when I left the house."

I shifted the glass of Jameson's to my left hand and held my up my right, wriggling my fingers.

"Yeah, see?" I pointed out. "The big part of the ring is on the outside and the the skinny part is on the inside. It would really be uncomfortable the other way."

To his credit, he didn't take the bait, being more interested in pointing out my mistake.

"No, you're wearing it with the points out. You should be wearing it with the points in."

"In where?"

"Pointing in, toward you," he said.

I curled my fingers and moved my hand around a bit. "Aren't they pointing in now?"

"No, I mean pointing in on your finger." He was obviously being very patient with me. "The points on the compasses should be pointing up your finger to your hand, back to you."

"What? Why's that?"

"Because you're not a Past Master, that's why."

He sipped his beer and gave me a knowing look. I swirled the glass of Irish whiskey, hearing the tiny cubes tinkle in the glass.

"I don't remember that being in the ritual monitor," I said.

"There are lots of things about Masonry that aren't written down," he replied. "You just have to learn them the hard way."

He took another sip of his beer. "Do you always wear it that way?"

"Well, maybe," I replied. "I hadn't really thought much about it until now."

"I'm surprised that nobody else has mentioned it before," he said. "I guess I just must be more observant."

"What possible difference could it make?" I asked "It's only a ring."

"It's the symbolism," he explained, "Only a Master can give light; you have merely received it."

"I'm pretty sure that the flashlight is the working tool of one of the other degrees."

"Now you're just being a Mr. Smarty Pants. The Worshipful Master gives light during the degrees. You, however, haven't done that; you should wear your ring with the points in, the way you saw them on the altar."

"Points in?"

"Yes. Look, how were the points arranged when you were brought to light?"

"The same way they always are," I replied.

"Exactly - with you looking up at them."

"Uhh... up?"

"Right. So, when the ring is on your finger, the points should be arranged the same way as when you first saw them, to remind you of that experience."

"Unless I've given light, right?"

"Yes, now you're getting it."

I politely declined his offer of a little cigar, and pulled out my own pack of cigarettes. I struck my lighter, a small butane novelty, and offered it to him. We stood for a few moments, enjoying the cool evening on the back stairs.

"I don't suppose that counts as 'giving light', does it?"

He shook his head. "No, and you're being a Mr. Smarty Pants again."

"I'm just trying to be clear on this," I explained. I took another sip of my Irish whiskey and thought for a moment. "I sort of get the symbolism - sort of. But, as a Junior Warden, though, I've done degree work. I've initiated new brothers. That sounds like I've given light - at least, partially."

He paused for a bit, and then answered. "No, that doesn't count."

He didn't seem compelled to explain why, so I asked him.

"Because, only the Master can give light."

"But I was in the chair doing the work."

"Yes, but you weren't the Master."

"But I was doing the work of the Master."

"That may be, but you were not the actual Master."

"So, are you saying that those new brothers aren't real Masons?"


"Because the candidates certainly didn't notice the difference." I went on, "But if I didn't actually give any light, and if I follow what you're saying, then they must not actually be Masons. It would really be a bad thing if all of those lodges that have the Wardens do degree work turn out to not actually be initiating Masons. Why, half the members in this district are probably invalid, if that's the case."

He thought for a moment. "No, that's not right. You did it with the permission of the Master, so you were acting through him."

I conceded, but then asked "So, what if the master called out sick that night? I'd still have been doing the work, right? Would that mean that..."

"No, you're purposely making this difficult," he pointed out. "Only the Master gives light, so only he is entitled to wear his ring with the points out," he insisted. "It's symbolic."

"And we're big on symbols around here, I've noticed."

"Right." He took another sip of beer. "Besides, when you go around with the points out, pretty much anybody can see them.

"Well, it is a ring..."

"Yes, but it's almost like you're advertising that you're a Mason."

"Wait, what?"

"You're supposed to be keeping the secrets of Masonry, right? You don't go blabbing it all over, right? You do know that we used to call ourselves 'The Quiet Fraternity', right?"

"Yes, that was one of the things that I liked when I was reading about the fraternity; the lack of blatant self-promotion."

"Exactly so," he answered. "When you have your points out, it makes it easy for anybody to notice them. That's why I said, it's almost like you're advertising that you're a Mason."


He nodded. "Like you're showing off, or something."

"Oh, I get it," I replied, "We are quiet and internally directed because we're making ourselves better men; so advertising our affiliation with our rings makes it look like we simply joined for the sake of joining."

Ne nodded again. "Now you understand," he declared, "I'm glad we had this little chat."

He finished the rest of his beer and moved toward the door.

"Umm, one thing," I said.


I motioned at the two dozen or so cars in the parking lot, almost all of which were sporting decals with the logos of Blue Lodge, York Rite, or the Shrine. Several of them also had the now familiar "2B1 Ask 1" bumper stickers.

"Why do you suppose it is that my small, discreet ring is 'advertising', but all of those decals, badges, and bumper stickers are simply showing pride in membership?"

The old Past Master stubbed out his cigar, and turned toward the door. "Some people," he snorted, "just don't get the point, even when you poke them with it."

Used by permission of the author.

Tom Accuosti is a Master Mason from the Grand Lodge of Connecticut, AF & AM. He was raised in 2001, and six weeks later, not knowing any better, volunteered to serve as an officer at Friendship Lodge No. 33 in Southington. Failing to make any notable mistakes, he was elected to serve as WM in 2006, and managed to serve the lodge without breaking anything or causing a rift in membership.

Tom has served on various Grand Lodge committees, including Education, Publication, and Masonic Awareness, in which he generally served with distinction in positions in which he couldn't do any harm. He currently is the District Grand Lecturer for District Five, a position which he hopes to keep for a long time because it carries few responsibilities.

Tom is married, with 1.8 children. He is mainly known for being easily distracted, and for showing up late. He occasionally writes on his blog, The Tao of Masonry, and for various other publications.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Dr. Casey Blood and the Nature of Man

TSS is pleased to announce a "first-ever-of-its-kind opportunity" to the Masonic community.

We Present Dr. Casey Blood and the Nature of Man

Dr. Casey Blood is a mathematical physicist and student-practitioner of Sufism. He is Professor Emeritus of Physics at Rutgers University and has done research in and published articles on quantum physics and has independently pursued an interest in prescience. He has studied Sufism for more than twenty years with teachers such as Pir Vilayat and Shahabuddin David Less. Dr. Blood lives in Florida with his wife Nurya.

Dr. Blood has published multiple books on the topic and both are available through the TSS bookstore.

This is a chance to the Masonic community to enter into collegiate level theoretical discussions concerning both science and mysticism and how it relates to our existence.

Dr. Casey Blood in his own words:

Thank you for the privilege of allowing me to “speak” on your web site. I am not a mason, but hope the ideas we will discuss will be in harmony with Masonic principles. These ideas are an expansion of a talk I gave at Enlightenment Lodge 198, Colorado Springs, in February 2009.

I would like to thank Cliff Porter for inviting me and for presenting this web opportunity.

The articles will be about the nature of awareness from the point of view of the neuroscientist, the physicist, and the mystic. But really, they are about the nature of human existence. I envision one article a week, 2 to 4 pages in length. No scientific background is required. Hopefully you will gain some understanding of:

How the brain works.

How much the brain determines our human nature. Quantum mechanics and how it tells us a good deal about the nature of the physical world.

What quantum mechanics is, how it shows us that the physical world is incomplete and that, to obtain agreement between quantum mechanics and what we perceive, we must each have a non-physical Mind.

An outline of the views of the mystics. The rich structure of the non-physical world.

Perhaps a little on meditation techniques in view of how the brain works and how the mystic sees existence.

And perhaps a little on the art of personality.

These ideas are also presented in my book, The Way from Science to Soul, but my thinking has progressed a little since the book was written, so the talks will be more up-to-date in the science areas.

Do not miss this opportunity and please share its availability with the Masonic community in your area.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

The Great Masonic Apology, by Bro. Cliff Porter

In the 1820s Masonry was unfortunate enough to make the acquaintance of William Morgan. There is no evidence that Morgan was ever a Mason, what is certain is that he entered into contract to expose ritual from the Royal Arch, was arrested in September 1826, was taken from his jail, and was never seen again. Three members of the Craft were later arrested in regards to related charges and served time. There are wonderful ups and downs in regards to the story, conundrums wrapped in enigmas if you will and all go beyond the point of this article and my reasons for bringing up the affair in the first place. My point in mentioning the affair at all, was that it created the catalyst that would be the cause for the decline in Masonry even today. I am not speaking of the decline in membership that seems to be the discussion of many of today’s current membership, but the decline of the Masonic experience overall. The Morgan Affair ushered in the Great Masonic Apology and we have been apologizing ever since.

The Morgan Affair created in the collective Masonic psyche aversions to secrecy, fraternity, and the actual philosophies inculcated in Freemasonry. Masonry would recover in numbers, and even swell during the era of fraternal organizations, but our halls were hollowed of their mystical teachings and we would institute a tradition of placation and apology.

It might prove helpful to examine some of the changes that have occurred in American Craft Masonry and Scottish Rite Masonry to better understand my statement.

Beginning with the Morgan Affair we eliminated the mysticism. As the anti-Masonic Party began its rise to power, the Craft hemorrhaged members. They flooded away for fear that it could tarnish or destroy a political or Christian reputation. This occurred because of an earlier apology and small dose of dangerous pride that allowed us to convince ourselves, in an attempt to convince others, that we were not a secret society. We degenerated to the point that a lack of secrecy and disclaimer is a common theme in apologies that still occur to this day. We have many a website and have interviewed for many a television camera and tout the statement, “we are not a secret society, but a society with secrets.” Sadly, if we would worry less about public and profane opinion, we would not have public awareness programs or anything of the sort. We should be a secret society whose charity is evident only in such a way that whenever good men gather, the community benefits as a result. If we would have maintained the secrets of our membership and treated the society as such, then men would not have had to flee from their associations with us for fear of their reputations.

The natural product of this loss of secrecy and membership was a desire to appease those who decided to point a finger as we voluntarily declared and exposed our membership. To appease these Victorian minded puritans who would usher in a number of successful programs such as the anti-Masonic Party and prohibition (if you caught the sarcasm it was completely intentional) we would begin a ruin of the Craft in apology to deaf ears. We have apologized to a rather loud, but utterly unsuccessful, minority group of fundamentalist pushing an agenda that is counter to personal freedom and choice. We have apologized to those we are sworn to defend against. We are the keepers of freewill, choice, and free conscience. We flung our doors open, hung our heads, and here is the greatest of tragedies, we put to rest our mystical philosophy. So much so, that it has become the real lost word in our lodges. Our spiritualism and mysticism were so tucked away, that there are generations of men who would argue that such “liberal” thoughts and ideas do not occur as part of or as a result of Freemasonry.

This is the same group of people that have actually played a role in the drafting, in part, of a number of Masonic constitutions throughout the Grand Lodges in America. We decided as part of and even prior to prohibition that the grown man with all his faculties should not consume alcoholic beverages. We decided that Masons could not be trusted to perform the duties of a Mason, that the Junior Wardens could not be expected to fulfill their duties, that appendant bodies should follow suit, and we eliminated the grown mans ability to raise a glass and toast his Brothers at an Agape or Festive Board. Hypocrisy abounds with this particular apologetic. We have the Shrine Clubs which have bars in them, we have hospitality suites at our Grand Lodge sessions, we drink at home and with our friends, we just can’t drink with our Masonic friends without sneaking it like we were 15 years old and tipping a sip of our father’s favorite scotch. Nonetheless, listen to the cries of the young men who simply want to toast a fellow Brother, enjoy a great glass of wine with good food as part of the Masonic experience, actually hoist a drink during the Feast of Tishri, and exercise their free choice and freewill. They will tell you that their attempts to overturn this ridiculous, hypocritical, and outdated apology have meant with impassioned speeches of doom and destruction. Well, we are Masons; we study the liberal arts and sciences, do we not? Let’s look at Freemasonry in the rest of the entire civilized world and see what effects allowing a man to consume an alcoholic beverage with his Brother have had. We would find refined scotch tastings, ladies festivals filled with fine wine and dancing, and fellowship spent over a pint of the local brew. No doom and gloom. No destruction. As a matter of fact, Masonry is doing better in many of those places. Oh and lawsuits. Yes, if a man has a beer the Fraternity will get sued if he crashes or the like. Really? Site some examples please. I am looking at the bars and liquor stores in existence and wondering why they have not met this miserable fate. Why haven’t they, because it is bunk and the ramblings of those who espouse bureaucratic and legal fallacy while knowing little of actual facts?

The fundamentalist, the evangelical Christian community with an anti-Masonic slant, the self proclaimed moralist do not like Freemasonry because it encourages free thought, free speech, and freedom of religion. They are never going to like Masonry, they are never going to stop fighting the aims of such groups. It is not in their best interest to do so. They want an uninformed class of members with zealous faith that is based on devotion and not study and reasoned thought. We are, in essence, enemies. We owe them no apology. We should pride ourselves that they consider the Craft a threat to their aims and abolish every foolish addition to Masonic constitutions or sets of by-laws ever created in apology to them.

Allow me to address, what I consider, the strangest of apologies. The apology to the POTENTIAL candidate. Prior to the man ever becoming a member we bow our heads and divert our gaze and offer the following apologies.

1. Sir, we are sorry that it cost money to be a member. Allow us to keep our dues artificially low and under fund the infrastructure and programs of the Craft. Allow us to reduce and remove any quality education, travel, and ritual experience for our members because we have no money to do so. Allow our buildings and temples to fall into disrepair and dilapidation so that we never need charge a reasonable fee for the degrees or the dues that follow. Sir, who might be interested, Masonry is cheap. It’s real affordable. Please sir, we are sorry that we even have to charge, please become a member.

2. Sir, we are sorry that it takes time. We have removed the requirements for memory work, for proficiencies, for participation in lodge even. All we need is about one afternoon of your time and you are a Brother. We are sorry that we used to ask for even the slightest commitment. If we can just have the paltry fee that we discussed and already apologized for above, we will get you rushed through, you will not have to learn anything, as a matter of fact, you won’t learn anything, and we can issue this dues card and get you on the books.

If the aforementioned antics of the present state of apology don’t manage get me a bit riled up, then the apologies we make to the public at large certainly do. The Scottish Rite is suffering greatly from these as we speak and if we don’t wrestle this beautiful and mystical system from the grasp of the Great Apology she will die. She will be a shell of her formal self and she will die.

For instance, so that you might better understand me, Scottish Rite petitions used to require a signature of the future candidate proclaiming the following certain ideology with the following phraseology, “The entire separation of church and state and opposition to every attempt to appropriate public monies—Federal, state, or local—directly or indirectly, for the support of sectarian or private institutions.” Several petitions, including those presently available for download from the Seattle Scottish Rite website have only, “THE SUPREME COUNCIL REQUIRES ACCEPTANCE OF THE FOLLOWING FUNDAMENTAL PRINCIPLES: THE INCULCATION OF PATRIOTISM, RESPECT FOR LAW AND ORDER, UNDYING LOYALTY TO THE PRINCIPLES OF CIVIL AND RELIGIOUS LIBERTY. DO YOU APPROVE OF THESE PRINCIPLES? ________ YES ________ NO.”

It would not be reasonable to believe that the removal of the wording was arbitrary. Are the ideas of the separation of church and state no longer valid belief systems important for a free government run by its populace and not by its church? Are the ideas of theocracy and despotism somehow more appealing than they used to be and less of threat? I think not. Clearly, the wars and conflicts of the world that are based on religion and the beliefs systems of those fanatical followers who would attempt to enforce their belief system as form of government are evidence enough that the concept is still needed and not out dated. So, if separation of church and state is still a necessary component of free government, free speech, and freewill, then why have we removed it? Let me hypothesize that it was form of apology. Someone somewhere decided that the general public, the profane, might find such a statement as politically incorrect or somehow offensive. I find the logic behind this line of thinking similar to the statement that the New Testament of the Bible is anti-Semitic and telling the story of the Nazarene is of a similar vein. Hogwash! This is the same idiotic thinking that would allow someone to claim a German bias and hatred of the Germanic people for telling the story of the holocaust. We have many a religious man in our ranks, so must we remove this statement for fear that he is a fundamentalist Christian in support of theocracy to ensure that he is comfortable. Incredible as it may seem, this might be yet another apology in action. It is likely an apology to the fundamentalist, whose philosophies are in opposition to those the Rite. No worries Brother. Although your particular philosophies are in direct conflict with those teachings of the Scottish Rite we will remove these offensive writings for you. We will remove the important teachings inculcated within the Rite. We will change the petitioning process so that you, a man with no interest in promoting and participating in our present philosophies, can gain entry. I hope I am not alone in recognizing the absolute absurdity of this.

I would like to address another apology of the Rite apparently to the general public or no one in particular. Maybe we should classify this one as a preemptive apology. We apologize before anyone is offended in the event that someone might be or could ever be offended. This apology comes in the form of removing different parts of the degree ritual exemplifications. For instance, in symbolism that man should never allow a man to sit in despotic rule over the masses guised as God on earth, claiming his personal orthodoxy as divine will, there used to be a certain stomping on or walking upon a symbol of such a system. No more, nope, gone in many jurisdictions.

Many symbols of the Craft have gone the wayside of this befuddling preemptive apology. The skull and cross bones as a symbol of mortality and the price one should be willing to pay to keep his integrity. The skeletons upon a cross in the 18th degree symbolism have suffered similar fate. It is still listed within the script of the Scottish Rite Southern Jurisdiction, but how many consistories utilize it? Not many.

I was privy to recent discussion of Masonic favoritism in the work place. The statement was made that as Masons we should be careful not to give any other Masons special consideration for employment or services because it might be perceived poorly by those outside the Craft. That someone might legislate against the Fraternity for these unspeakable acts of “good ol’ boyism.” Again, I am forced to ask really? Really? So, the famous Aggies, Air Force Academy grads, alumni of the various Greek clubs, do not participate in such activities? They do and they are unapologetic. The Aggies boast that this is a benefit of graduating from the university. They have alumni clubs that network in hundreds, if not thousands, of cities across the United States. But we must never take a man, whom we believe to be of a high caliber morally and ethically and use this as a good starting place when choosing employees or picking service provider? The idea that we should not is repugnant and flies in the face of common sense. We ought to guard the gate like it was intended to be guarded and then utilize the membership as a foundation for good decision making because Brothers are automatically understood as a the crème of the crop when it comes to integrity and fairness.

Brothers, to whom do we owe the obedience of our obligations? To one another. We owe the Craft and our Brothers. I am encouraging the Craft as a whole to put aside our desires to make the Freemasonry all things to all men. It is not meant to be such vehicle and it never will be. If you try to bend it and shape it as such, you will kill it, and you are killing it in many ways given its present condition.

Stop the apology. Freewill, free thought, free religion, free conscience; they are all laudable pursuits. We do not need to apologize for them. We do not need to apologize for the deep and meaningful way that the philosophies of the Craft improve its men and make them better. We do not need to apologize to anyone except our current membership for letting our guard down and apologizing to those who were not entitled to such for wrongs that were nonexistent. This, by itself, would progress the Craft and heal it more than any catchy slogan or membership drive ever will.

The Lesson of Three, by Bro. T. Justin Robinson

As every Freemason can attest, one of the first aspects of Freemasonry that becomes embedded into the psyche of a newly made Brother is the recurrence of the same number, the number Three.

There are so many portions of our fraternity that reflect themselves in this mystical number that it is nearly impossible to describe them all. There are, of course, three initial degrees in the blue lodge; there are three symbols in the Square, Compasses, and the letter G; three geographical locations in lodge, South, West, East, with the North being a place of darkness; and three officers for those stations.

When you go deeper in the degrees it becomes even more apparent; there are three Great Lights and three Lesser lights represented by the three officers of the three geographical locations. This number is also repeated in the very fabric of our degree work.

To bring it to a more broad horizon, three is repeated on a much larger scale starting with our planet's position in the solar system. Earth is the third planet from the Sun. Thus in this aspect three becomes a number representing the creation and sustaining effect of life. A number that can be connected to a solitary degree of distance which is suitable for the flourish of our existence. Three is an ideal position.

Three can also be attributed to the Holy Trinity in the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. In this aspect the number three becomes a relation of faith, spirituality, and religious teachings. Three is a spiritual connection.

Three is representative of the three stages of life, Childhood, Adulthood, and Old Age. In this capacity Three gives us the sum of education, experience, and wisdom. Three is a path of life.

Three is the first prime number that we come to that is more than the sum of its two predecessors. Why is this number so often repeated in the course of our experiences? Is it a divine truth that yet escapes our full understanding or is it merely a set of coincidences that bar any unforeseen explanation?

As Freemasons it is our privilige to be able to investigate such mystical occurences and try to decipher either for our Brethren and the common good or for our own personal benefit, what truth we can come to ourselves in the never ending journey of the sublime path that such metaphysical matters afford us.

Let us begin.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

The Sunday Masonic Paper


The Restricted Area of TSS now has "The Sunday Masonic Paper." This is a paper circulated once a week by a small group of Masons who like to discover and share together.

Now, for the first time ever, it is available to all members of TSS with access to the Restricted Areas.

Please jump in, read, write, and discuss.

A special thank you to the creator and moderator of the Sunday Masonic Paper...Worshipful Brother Wayne Anderson of Ontario, Canada.

My Thoughts on Science, Religion, The Great Chain of Being, and Universal Truth, by W.B. Robert Herd

The purpose of this paper comes strictly out of my desire to write down my current thoughts on these subjects and how they relate to one another in my mind. Writing to me is somewhat of a method of thinking out loud and strangely enough allows me to understand more fully a subject that I have been reading or contemplating. I also hope that fellow Brother Freemasons who are starting their journey of study and understanding can use my works as easier stepping stones so as not to have to read the piles of materials that I have to get those coveted bits of knowledge or inspiration.

In Masonry we hear a lot of references regarding Science and Religion as opposites on different poles or different ends of the spectrum from one another. We hear of this rift almost daily in the news, articles and even popular fiction books recently. In our everyday lives we see countless instances of people choosing sides and the numbers of people who find that regardless of what “side” they choose, be it a religious stance or scientific view, they end up finding they are still not supplied with any complete answer. They are unfulfilled and are unsatisfied whichever end of the spectrum they choose. In Freemasonry we are constantly taught the lesson of balance and equilibrium. What is, or what should, be the balance between Religion and Science? Where is it that they both go wrong in failing to answer or fill this vacuum of understanding that we need to fill? What was it that sent them expanding apart from each other? Can there be a “Universal Truth”? Well my friends and Brothers, my opinions on that are just what I want to discuss.

Listening to recent interviews with physicists and astro-biologists, one might imagine that the scientific perspective is similar to the spiritual one that inspires the perennial wisdom tradition, or simply that they also are seeking a Universal Truth. Unfortunately this is not the case, for despite the willingness to search for alien life-forms or multidimensional super-string theories, mainstream science still defines consciousness as a phenomenon of matter rather than as any sort of primary, causative, and unifying being. While ecological interconnections are understood and acknowledged by the scientific community, and some biologists are pursuing signs of intelligence in "mindless" beings, notions of spirit or any Deity as the fountain-source of consciousness are generally dismissed as irrelevant, naïve or even ignorant. For traditional science found in most research labs, schools, and college classes, the true picture of reality is only what sensory data can detect, in other words things that can be seen, touched, taken apart and studied. Every other perspective has been so marginalized and devalued that this materialistic approach is now largely unquestioned even though many people, maybe even a majority, do not believe it adequately describes the whole picture. What I believe needs to happen is an integration of the visions of both science and religion. This type of endeavor I believe is very much welcome in today's climate, where sensory or materialistic data and information are so loudly persuasive that it is hard to find a scientifically acceptable forum even to debate their value, let alone question their supremacy. Spiritual experiences are dismissed as anecdotal, unverifiable, and a spiritual perspective is deemed inadequate or unnecessary to explain how and what life is. But it hasn't always been this way. A few centuries ago our forefathers lived in a universe alive with great spiritual interior connections, and the Great Chain of Being theory was a basic assumption for most of humanity. It was somewhat of a common knowledge subject that today many people have not even heard of. Arthur Lovejoy wrote early last century that the Great Chain of Being was "probably the most widely familiar conception of the general scheme of things, and of the constitutive pattern of the universe" (The Great Chain of Being, p. vii). He traced its idea back to Plato and Aristotle and explained that…

“through the Middle Ages and down to the late eighteenth century, many philosophers, most men of science, and, indeed, most educated men, were to accept without question the conception of the universe as a 'Great Chain of Being,' composed of an immense, or by the strict but seldom rigorously applied logic of the principle of continuity of an infinite number of links, ranging in hierarchical order from the meagerest kind of existents, which barely escape non-existence, through every possible grade up to the ens perfectissimum or, in a somewhat more orthodox version, to the highest possible kind of creature, between which the Absolute Being and the disparity was assumed to be infinite every one of them differing from that immediately above and that immediately below it by the least possible degree of difference.” Ibid., p. 59

This structure, also known as the Hermetic Chain, has also been pictured as a ladder or stair of life, as well as a web connecting every point of life on every plane of being. Below are a few various depictions of it.

Author Ken Wilber elaborates: "According to this nearly universal view, reality is a rich tapestry of interwoven levels, reaching from matter to body to mind to soul to spirit. Each senior level 'envelops' or 'enfolds' its junior dimensions a series of nests within nests within nests of Being so that every thing and event in the world is interwoven with every other". To Wilber, the Great Chain is more like a Great Nest, a more organic metaphor for an essentially natural and living process. He explains the hierarchy this way:

“Each senior level in the Great Nest, although it includes its juniors, nonetheless possesses emergent qualities not found on the junior level. Thus, the vital animal body includes matter in its makeup, but it also adds sensations, feelings, and emotions, which are not found in rocks. While the human mind includes bodily emotions in its makeup, it also adds higher cognitive faculties, such as reason and logic, which are not found in plants or other animals. And while the soul includes the mind in its makeup, it also adds even higher cognitions and affects, such as archetypal illumination and vision, not found in the rational mind. And so on.”

In other words, each higher level maintains the essential features of the lower levels but also unveils or brings forward elements not found on those levels. Each higher level, that is, transcends but includes its juniors.

This vision of each level becoming increasingly more complex as it transcends and includes all lower levels is fundamental to Hermetic philosophy, which describes the constitution of entities generally as multidimensional, with infinite gradations of varying degrees. For example, every human being is a compounded entity. There is a god in him, a spiritual ego, a human ego, an animal nature, and the physical body which expresses as best it can the bundle of energies surging through and from within it. Now each of these elements is itself a learning entity on its upward way. The self-consciousness, and the sense of ego, is there; but above that is the vast sense of universal unity, which is the atmosphere and consciousness of the inner god, or a spark of celestial Divinity.

So what happened to this grand vision of interconnected, interdependent life? Western Science, embracing materialism in the process of shaking off the dominance of the narrow Christian religious view, fell on the Great Chain and flattened it. But still, how could such a fundamentally commonsense vision as the Great Chain become irrelevant? One of the problems had to do with how the Great Chain idea was misunderstood. The pre-Enlightenment world saw Divinity expressed everywhere, but this vision united art, morals, ethics, science, religion, and secular processes into an exclusive and often oppressive worldview. Galileo could not freely look through his telescope and report the results because art and morals and science were all fused under the Church, and thus the morals of the Church defined what science could -or could not – do. Artists were not free to explore creativity, people were not free to choose different churches, and scientists could not freely research; their domains were strictly monitored by the Church and policed by the state, each reinforcing the other.

Modern liberty and freedom brought with it the ability to differentiate among these arenas. Anyone can now go to any church or temple, or look through a telescope without being charged with heresy or treason. People are free to distinguish art from ethics, science from religion, and philosophy from both. The upside to the modern scientific perspective is the ability to differentiate various links of the Chain of Being (which helped usher in a much more democratic, less exclusive and oppressive way of life), but the downside is that it declared valid only the bottom link which could be accessed and verified by the senses. Speaking of the collapse of the Great Chain perspective around the late 18th century, author Huston Smith wrote: "Why did the hierarchical outlook then collapse? As it had blanketed human history up to that point, constituting man's primordial tradition and what might almost be called the human unanimity, the force that leveled it must have been powerful, and modern science is the obvious candidate. . . . Modern science requires only one ontological level, the physical . . . [and] challenged by implication the notion that other planes exist" (Forgotten Truth: The Primordial Tradition, pp. 5-6).

It wasn't so much that modern science rejected spirit as that it just didn't need interior or metaphysical domains in order to do its work. In dismissing all subjective interior processes as insignificant, Spirit and Spirituality were simply a couple of the numerous casualties. As technological breakthroughs captured the hearts and minds of researchers, the vision of a living and interconnected universe seemed irrelevant or, worse, superstitious. Take the well-known comment by biologist Richard Dawkins, "Faith is the great cop-out, the great excuse to evade the need to think and evaluate evidence. Faith is belief in spite of, even perhaps because of, the lack of evidence."

And so, it came about that the modern West was the first major civilization in the history of the human race to deny substantial reality to the Great Chain of Being. That denial caused a profound and rapidly spreading shift in our view of what's "real," but humanity's universal and historical understanding of the Chain didn't disappear quietly or without notice. There have been repeated attempts to reintroduce spirit into the modern world.

Freemasonry continues to try and rekindle the spirit and the spiritual, as do the efforts of some other postmodernism schools of esoteric studies to reframe the world with spirit at its center. There seems to be even a bit of resurgence recently in the desire for this type of spiritual rekindling separate from Religion. The problem is how might we shift the current popularity of reductionism and strictly logical scientific view? One step is to recognize the flaws and often self-defeating weaknesses inherent in most of our philosophical approaches, including the most important in my mind in that none of them rarely if ever challenge empirical science on its own ground. To do this, one must understand current scientific methodology and then use it to determine and establish the existence of spiritual planes, or what some call the value spheres or those vertical dimensions of depth that give value to our lives.

Science believes itself to be value free. It tells us what is, not what should be. It tells us what we are, not what we can be. It describes the world factually without ascribing any meaning to it. That is why we look to the value spheres of philosophy, art, religion, morals and ethics for that. Science accomplishes its wonders because it utilizes a solid method for discovering fact, (which is not necessarily ever a whole truth), a method that is empirical and experimental and based on evidence and this is the very prescription and method I offer to you to explore and validate authentic spiritual truths. Current science may claim to use only objective data, but I can tell you that it hypocritically does also demonstrate convincingly that it continually relies on intellectual processes, theories and the unproven assumptions of materialism to interpret data itself. It is both naive and wrong to accept the idea that science merely reports what already exists in the material world because science approaches the empirical world with massive conceptual and assumptive apparatuses. Mathematics for a perfect example contains everything from tensor calculus to theoretical numbers to extensive inter-subjective linguistic signs to differential equations. I don’t expect you all to know what all of those are, I barely have just learned of them myself, but let me tell you that virtually all are non-empirical structures found only in interior spaces of theory, not the material world. So science grants validity to some interior modes, but only those that support its own biases. Therefore, to actually fulfill its own empiricism, it must also grant the possibility that there are interior states other than those it uses, states that can be investigated empirically, (though not necessarily physically), and that can be evaluated by specially trained researchers.

We don't call on seismologists to evaluate claims by cardiologists, or entomologists to validate mathematical theorems. Each branch of study requires different specialized training, performs its own experiments, and generates its own data that is then interpreted by its own specialists. Given all that, spirituality can and must be able to stand up to scientific authority by announcing its own means and modes, data and evidence, validities and verifications. It can and already is being done as it has since ancient times, by checking, testing, and verifying in every department of nature the traditions of old by the independent visions of great adepts or men who have already developed and perfected their physical, mental, psychic, and spiritual organizations to the utmost degree. In ancient times, no vision of any one adept was accepted until it was checked and confirmed by the visions of his peers or other adepts, so obtained as to stand as independent evidence of the other adepts, and by centuries of accumulated experiences.

The practice of grounding our assertions on experience and evidence is, in all actuality the enduring strength of science itself, so why not investigate spiritual dimensions scientifically as well? Empirical evidence, in the strictest sense, is that which is derived from experiment and observation rather than theory. Moving from the intensely important idea that all knowledge must be ultimately grounded in evidence and experience, many modern scientists reduce this vital insight to the absurd notion that all "real" knowledge must be limited to objective, materialistic, sensory experience. But true empiricism is not limitable to material nature. If empirical science rejects the validity of any and all forms of interior apprehension and knowledge, then it rejects its own validity as well, a great deal of which rests on interior structures and apprehensions that are not delivered by the senses or confirmable by the senses (such as logic and mathematics, to name only two). Science has effectively disregarded its own principles and acted "metaphysically" in denying that universally acknowledged and experienced spiritual or divine states have no reality without performing scientifically valid experiments.

I believe this is partly the reason that large numbers of people are losing their connection to Deity. Even within their own churches and Religious belief systems its popularity seems to be shrinking. I believe this is because science and its popularity and empiricism lead modern followers to rely too much on intellectual tools when neither sensory empiricism, nor pure reason, nor practical reason, nor any combination thereof can see into the realm of the True Spirit. I don’t mean that we should have simple “blind faith”. The intellect can point toward the spiritual, and true spiritual experiences are entirely possible and obtainable. They alone are the final evidence for its own validity and reality, just as mental experiences present evidence for the existence of the intellect. My point is that both science and Religion must address timeless spiritual concepts in a manner that acknowledges and adopts scientific methods, but eschews materialism and reductionism. In Expanding Horizons James Long made a similar point: "when the followers of any faith keep on blindingly clinging to their particular view of truth, after a while it loses its vitality; it loses its living inspiration and therefore its helpfulness. The most important thing in my opinion is not the attainment of truth, but the searching after and the reaching toward a greater and greater understanding of it”.

It has been my experience that the great and secret message of the mystics the world over and throughout all time has been that, with the eye of contemplation, Spirit can be internally seen and proven. With the eye of contemplation, G-d can be seen. With the eye of contemplation, aided by introspection, the greatness within us radiantly unfolds.

Throughout history wise and discriminating people of all lands have sought a Truth which is Universal and Eternal. Yet this has been the main quest not only of philosophers and mystics but of all of us in life's more profound moments. Deep inside ourselves we all long for an Absolute Truth through which we can transcend suffering and death and gain bliss and immortality. Many great thinkers, looking beyond the names and forms of the various religions and philosophies which have existed through history, have looked for tradition of knowledge which reflects the Universal Truth and allows people of every generation to connect with it.

We should recognize what is universal in the different teachings of the world and if we are to discard anything it should be that which is not universal, being careful however to strictly remember that the real unity is self-existent at the core of who we are. It cannot be fabricated or accomplished by removing the differences that exist at the surface. I have heard it explained that “The unity of the ocean exists at its depth, not at the level of the waves, which ever remain turbulent”.

There are others who want to create a universal tradition anew by discarding the Religions of the world, recognizing that all the Religions we possess have become limiting identities. Yet this would be like trying to create a new Science by discarding all that science has previously discovered. We must take what is universal in the teachings of the world, neither validating them at the level of their surface differences, nor discarding all that they have to offer. To do this we must recognize the tradition which has existed and the forms it has created.

I suggest that in order to reinvigorate in our lives the idea of the Great Chain, to reach equilibrium, balance, and Universal Truth, individuals must learn to use Science and its own processes to investigate and apprehend the inner as well as the outer domains common to human experience. We must also learn to be willing to apply our Religions in ways that look more toward Spiritual experience and less towards fundamentalism and its dogmas. This may be difficult for some in mainstream Religions, but I believe it to be no less important than the actual saving of civilization and the Brotherhood or Unity of man.

I believe that thru living and applying this method, the direct union or at least the identity of the individual and Spirit, a union of Science and Religion is possible. A union that is not to be thought of as a mental belief but lived as a direct experience, the very summum bonum of existence, the direct realization of which confers a great liberation, rebirth, or enlightenment on the soul fortunate enough to be immersed in that extraordinary union, a union that is the foundation ground, the goal, the source, and the salvation of the entire world.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Essay on The Architecture of American Freemasonry, by Bro. Justin Robinson

This great country was founded on a very simple principle. Yet, this simple principle addressed so many issues as to relate with a complicated resolution. This principle was--simply--let the states have the power. At the birth of this country it was decided by our Founding Fathers that the states would have the majority of power over the citizens, while the government would sit in the background and only address necessary national issues. This idea of State sovereignty is at the heart of how American Freemasonry was established.

When our Founding Fathers, many of whom were prominent masons, started drafting this countrie's organizational structure, they used their current knowledge of how Freemasonry was structured, to give them an idea of where to go with this country. Before the revolution, this country was 13 colonies; each colony had its own masonry, many with their own Grand Lodge established. Our founding fathers looked at this and figured if it can work for our masonry, it can work for our country.

As our country grew, this same mentality continued to be applied to both freemasonry and the states. Each state had the ability to determine its own laws, its own regulations, and its own rules of settlement, as long as it applied to the government's basic outlining of how a state should operate. Each Grand Lodge that was established also was given the right to govern its own jurisdiction by its own bylaws, rules, and regulations, as long as it adhered to the landmarks which its brother Grand Lodges adhered to. This also gave rise to enhanced understanding of regularity and recognition. As each Grand Lodge must have been established through a regular vote of the majority of masons in the state, this kept the bonds between the states strong.

It wasn't until after the Civil War that the government took control of a large portion of the rights that states had and in essence the states lost that freedom which was intended to always been had, by our Founders. This of course had no effect on the Grand Lodge system of today, as the Grand Lodges continued to not have a governing body over them.

Thus, one can see that today's Grand Lodge system was and is the ideals of our Forefathers, the ones who went this way before us, and it works as well as any establishment can. No single Grand Lodge should have say over the operations of any other Grand Lodge; nor should they interfere with the operations of any other Grand Lodge, as it is not their place nor right to do so.

Our Founding Father's dream lives on today, not through our government, but through our Freemasonry.

Friday, February 29, 2008

TSS: Tarot 101 with Bro. Dave Mavity at

Greetings Brethren,

This coming Sunday, March 2nd, TSS will be kicking off a Tarot 101 class in the Entered Apprentice restricted forum. The class will be proctored by Bro. Dave Mavity.

This class will be a basic introduction to Tarot, its symbolism, and correlations with the craft.

If you are an Entered Apprentice or higher and have not registered with the admins to gain access to the restricted forums, please do not wait!


Friday, February 22, 2008

The Hourglass, the Scythe and the Sprig of Acacia, by "The Hammer"

My lodge had scheduled a dinner and First Degree.

As always in life, the unexpected happened: instead of bringing a new brother to light we gathered to say goodbye to a brother, a Past Master who sat in the East for the first time at the age of 86 and passed to the Celestial Lodge at the age of 97. Cliff, in your passing you caused me to pause and reflect on our Craft.

Three of the most meaningful symbols in Freemasonry—the Hourglass, the Scythe, and the Sprig of Acacia—are often the least thought about, except at times of sorrow.

“The Hourglass is an emblem of human life. Behold how swiftly the sand runs and how rapidly our lives are drawing to a close! We cannot, without astonishment, behold the little particles in the device, how they pass almost imperceptibly, and yet, to our surprise, in the short span of an hour, they are all exhausted. Time wastes man. Today he puts forth tender leaves of hope. Tomorrow blossoms and bears his honors; the next day comes a frost which nips the shoot; and when he thinks his greatness is still aspiring, he falls like autumn leaves to enrich our mother earth.”

Our time on earth is short. We establish ourselves; we strive for success, and when we think we have everything where we want them, we fall like autumn leaves. Think of it! We enrich the earth by dying. When the Craft chooses, it can be brutally direct as it enlightens us with the honesty of its Logic.

“The Scythe is an emblem of time, which cuts the brittle thread of life and launches us into eternity.”

Our lives—our deaths, a difficult subject for us to confront, but as Freemasons, we are prepared for we know that we live our lives according to the tenets of the Craft, immortality
awaits us.

Deaths frees us towards that “clouded canopy or starry-bedecked Heaven where all good Masons hope at last to arrive” knowing that if we “have erected our spiritual building in accordance with the designs of the Supreme Architect of the Universe in that great Book of Revelation which is our Masonic trestle board,” if we have lived our lives as “true” men, a glorious immortality will be ours.

As we reflect upon the scythe we find the words very direct.

“Behold what havoc, the scythe of time makes upon the human race! If, by chance, we should escape the numerous ills incident to childhood and youth and with health and vigor attain years of manhood, yet, withal, we must soon be cut down by the all-devouring scythe of time and be gathered into the land where our fathers have gone before us.”

Reality presented in Masonic terms; words we do not enjoy hearing, but words we must reflect upon and understand if we are to complete our lives as Master Masons.

In the description of the hourglass, we fall like autumn leaves to enrich our mother earth from our graves. In the description of the scythe, we are gathered into the land into our graves. While it presents an uncomfortable reflection, the grave is a most important symbol in Freemasonry. Let’s pause for a moment and recall GMHA lying in his. Reflect upon the meaning paying special attention “to the lessons of integrity, fidelity and immortality” that are portrayed.

In the light of this, should we fear death? Absolutely not, for we know the earth is a comforting place, if we have lived our lives according to the teachings of the Craft.

“There is nothing more zealous than clay, our mother earth, for it alone of all the elements has never proved unfriendly to man and when at last we are called upon to pass through the Valley of the Shadow of Death, she once more receives us, and tenderly enfolds our remains within her bosom, thus admonishing us that, as from the earth we came, so to the earth we must surely return.”

Our mother earth has never proved unfriendly to man. She tenderly enfolds our remains within her bosom. These words are there to comfort, not scare us.

The hourglass admonishes us to make the most of our lives, not to waste a tiny particle or minute, the scythe is the symbol for the end of life, but it is the Sprig of Acacia that is the most important symbol in all Freemasonry because it is the symbol for what awaits us at the end of the successful life’s journey—immortality. The sprig of acacia reminds each of us that we have a soul which lives beyond the grave, but only if we conduct ourselves as “true” men.

The sprig of acacia is the reminder of those things we must accomplish as Masons to achieve eternal life.

“These emblems of the operative Mason’s art indicate the labors he is to perform, the dangers he is to encounter, and the preparations he is to make in the up rearing of that spiritual fabric wherein his soul shall find rest forever and forevermore.”

Everywhere we look in the Standard Work, we come upon those tenets, emblems and symbols we must fully reflect upon and understand if we are to achieve immortality.

The Logic of Freemasonry is obvious. If we perform all the duties set forth in our degrees to God, our neighbor and ourselves, if we make the most of the best in ourselves, if we divest our hearts and consciences of all the vices and superfluities of life, we will then fit our minds “as living stones, for that spiritual building, that house not made with hands, eternal in the Heavens.”

That’s it my brothers...the perfect definition of immortality— “that spiritual building, that house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.” And immortality and what we must do to achieve it is one of the basic tenets of Freemasonry. Never, ever forget: “the true man is the human image of the Mason’s God” and the Mason’s God is immortal and so are you if you become the “true” man.

Monday, February 11, 2008


What is (TSS)?

TSS is a resource for Masonic education and networking established by Freemasons to educate the Craft and the general public on what Freemasonry is all about.

It is designed to put into electronic practice the three principal tenets of Freemasonry--Brotherly Love, Relief, and Truth.

It is a window into which the world of Freemasonry may look and see the true reflection of Freemasonry around the world.

Why is there a need for

The internet is rife with inaccurate information about Freemasonry.

TSS was created as a public forum where people with a genuine interest in the ancient Craft may come to ask sincere questions and get replies from experienced Freemasons.

TSS is an online masonic community, where Freemasons from around the globe can learn from each other.

I am a member of Co-masonry. May I join the forum?

TSS has a policy prohibiting anyone claiming to be a Freemason who is not a member of a Grand Lodge or Orient that is not recognised by at least one regular Grand Lodge, as defined by the various regular Grand Lodges of North America.

Is this just “another” forum about masonry? What is different about

TSS is firmly committed to providing quality educational discourse about Freemasonry on the web.

Some of the very best minds in Freemasonry have gathered at TSS to assist the developing Freemason get the most out of his Craft, and to assist the public to understand Freemasonry.

At TSS we are constantly developing projects and programs to meet our goal of providing quality interactive and educational experiences about Freemasonry.


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