If you are reading this you are going to think that this is a little far removed from Freemasonry. You may even think that it violates the principle of discussing religion inside Freemasonry. But you would be wrong.
The prohibition in most jurisdictions is against allowing sectarian religion and partisan politics into the Lodge room.
So if I am proselytizing for a religion or denomination within a religion and/or a political party then I am in violation. But if I want to talk about honesty in government or the power of prayer, well I think that is a different story.
Early American Freemasonry was the nation’s biggest booster of the public school system. Are you prepared to tell me that advocating government schools is a violation of the Masonic prohibition about political discussion?
I think that this point is so very, very important because I think that Freemasonry has missed two giant opportunities to teach and help the world, especially America. First Freemasonry could have been the leader in promoting race relations. In 1898 MW William Upton, Grand Master of Mainstream Masonry in the state of Washington recognized Prince Hall. What if that recognition had spread then and there throughout Freemasonry? What if the Craft was able to influence secular government to harmonize the races? Would Martin Luther King’s protest movement have been necessary?
Instead Freemasonry ran from its responsibility for a variety of reasons among them being its timidness towards mixing the secular world and its doings with the fraternity of Freemasonry and its world. So in reality what it ended up doing as a compromise was similar to what the states did before the Civil War – free states and slave states.
Secondly Freemasonry missed its opportunity at promoting World Peace. Our beloved fraternity is one that considers all its members on the level, that is equal regardless of race, religion, political persuasion, creed, culture or economic circumstances. Now what is wrong with promoting that to humankind?
Ultimately Freemasonry must decide whether it is a cloistered society or a community involved society, whether it is a secret or private society or one that is willing to share its philosophy with the public.
While you are thinking about that enjoy the video about science and spirituality. Just don’t tell me it’s a prohibitive sectarian religious discussion.
Once, when thought came to me of the things that are and my thinking soared high and my bodily senses were restrained, like someone heavy with sleep from to much eating or toil of the body, an enormous being completely unbound in size seemed to appear to me and call my name and say to me: “What do you want to hear and see; what do you want to learn and know from your understanding?”
You whom we address in silence, the unspeakable, the unsayable, accept pure speech offerings from a heart and soul that reaches up to you.
Synopsis –This first section of Hermetica is, in essence, a creation mythology to provide an explanation on the creation of the physical world and its link to the philosophy of this teaching. The lesson comes through a discourse of meditations between Hermes Trismegistus and the creative force calling itself the mind of sovereignty, the one and only authority, represented by Poimandres, a force said to be with us everywhere. This emanation of sovereignty is described as a divine being unbound in size and said to be “an endless light, clear and joyful…a vision to be loved.”
In this vision of light, the story of creation unfolds within which it says darkness takes form to become in opposition to the all encompassing light. The darkness resembles the roiling of a snake becoming “something of a watery nature” producing a wailing roar as it coalesces. Out of this light and darkness, a fire breaks forth from the waters becoming suspended in the air between the dark water below and the endless light above, as a spirit from word so that only earth and water remained below. The fire was “stirred to hear by the spiritual word” of its creation which moved between them.
Poimandres explains that he, this endless aspect of light, is god which existed before the water and says that the word (fire) which separated the light from water was its emanation as a son (sun) as the light giving word from mind. This process, it says, occurs in man in that “what you see and hear is the ‘word of God’ but that our mind (thought) is the highest aspect of God; that together they are a union of life undivided and indivisible from one another, that they are one and the same aspect which is the principle of existence of beginning without end.
From this light were created craftsmen who were to be the creators of life which where made in the aspect of god in fire and spirit. These aspects of creation were “crafted in seven governors” who would make the “…sensible world in seven circles” governed by fate, which is to suppose an invisible force which governs their interactions.
The light, as Gods word, “made union with the seven craftsmen” creating life “‘bereft of reason’ so as to be mere nature,” wild and uncontrollable without mandate as they were the emanations of the mechanisms of fate by which they operate.
Another creation of the Mind of God was the son, its own child, who wished to make craftworks in the manner of the seven craftsmen but given all authority over the other craftworks. Nature would come to be the son of god’s bride together governing creation.
Poimandres explains that, because of this, mankind is two-fold – mortal in body but immortal in spirit (or essence the text using essential man), but still mortal and a subject of fate.
From the union of son and nature, nature gave birth to seven men who themselves were craftsmen representing the aspects of earth, water, fire, soul, mind, light, and life. This creation sundered the counsel of god rendering them into two twin aspects – one male and one female, who were charged with the task of propagating and create further giving them will to choose immortality or death through recognition of all that exists. From this choice man was given the ability to transcend his creation in light to be created again the text saying “Life and light are god and father…so if you learn that you are from light and life… you shall advance to life once again.”
It is in this recognition of creation that a resurrection, or reincarnation of sorts, takes place which is a process unseen and hidden to those who embrace the chaotic watery nature of envy, greed, violence, and irreverence. Enlightenment comes in the release of the “material body” which allows our “alteration” (transformation) to occur where our past manifestation “vanishes” to rise up and flow back to its source (light) eventually reaching out to a place that Poimandres calls the ‘ogdoad’ which is a nirvana like state of Heaven in union with the creating light. This ogdoad is the “final good for those who have received knowledge to be made God” achieved by enlightenment which comes from the leaving of “corruption” so as to “take a share in immortality.”
As an ancient religious text, it is very much a creation mythology which sets up a framework by which it puts the universe into operation striving to make sense of the life and creation going on around us. Tempered with the creation of life is its conduct which is relegated by Fate. The text begins with an emanation of light, balanced by darkness, represented in both the darkness appearing like the “roiling of a snake” into water separated physically (and spiritually) by the word (or breath) of god as represented in the boundary of fire. This layer of transformation gives us a glimpse of the alchemical process of transformation which is governed by fire and tempered for us to embrace or reject that which ultimately decides our outcome by fate. The acceptance of this outcome, which is not predicated on scripture or theological “beliefs”, is based on the principle of our acceptance of our origin and the necessity of our conduct to do, and be, good. This suggests a parallel in the teaching of the Golden Rule with the thought of its benefit to all who are bereft of “evil, wickedness, greed, and violence” which are the baser attributes evident in all men. From this practice, and an acknowledgement of origin, man walks in light and returns to it upon his calling from fate, a process Poimandres suggests governs as gate keeper at a distance, resorting to man’s demons as motivation to change lest they be, instead, trapped in the fire of transformation.
The outcome of this understanding comes from our desire to transcend the material universe and return to the source of light which is our metaphorical source of creation. To do this, man must evolve (learn) to transcend fate and slip into the “cosmic framework” which is, in essence, the good. To do this man must take on the nature of the eight craftsman (seven created by God, and one created as its son) and seek to emulate their desire and zeal to create, moving out of the roiling waters of chaos as he overcomes his lower nature breaking free of the seven circles of craftsman (and cycles of birth) so as to communicate to others this message to become a progeny of good. The goal of this process is to return back to the ogdoad which we must consider as the idea of a reunification with the Mind of god. This idea of the Mind of God as our source has existed for a time immemorial in that the ogdoad can be traced to the religious workings from the Old Kingdom in Egyptian antiquity where its religious practice was seen as the highest heaven within which Ra, Hathor, and Thoth were the pinnacle deities. We also find the idea of the ogdoad in Gnostic Christianity in the first century of the Common Era as proposed by the theologian Valentinus as the super celestial space above the 8 spheres of the heavens, literally as the heaven above heaven.
Interestingly, this first monograph of Hermetica gives us a link to the creation of the universe in seven spheres (the seed of life) and seven more in the craftsmen (the flower of life). In this symbolism, it gives us a link to the notions of creation in the seed, flower life that, if left to progress further it would be emblematic of the progression to the tree of life – from seed to fruit to tree. The seed and flower, said to construct a form of sacred geometry and give us the basis of forms from which we can create the platonic solids that are the building blocks of life it self.
Creation myths abound in the many world religions and this version in Hermetica is not unique within that patterning. One need but read the Biblical account of Genesis to see its striking similarities as attempting to establish some answer to the universal question of man – “why are we here” and “where did we come from?” Its essence is that mankind is created in both a form of good and evil represented in dark and light, a similar balance as found perhaps in the Chinese symbol of the yin and yang or even in the Masonic checkered flooring. Our responsibility is to transcend the baseness of that darkness as it is our inheritance from our watery origins, so as to seek and see the light as well as to teach others about its source to return to find our way back to our divine origins. The text speaks to our nature as being the sons (and daughters) of god, from his craftsman son. This, in turn, grants us the quality of being craftsman too; responsible for our own developing creation and the construction of the world around us so as to break away from the firm grip fate allowing us to slip into the cosmic framework within which we inhabit with the universe as creators. We need to seek to be craftsman and build a better firmament from which to find understanding.
All mankind has this capability, but perhaps not the means to see the being of Poimandres or to have the vision of Hermes of such a being without beginning or end, which is the raison d’être of this teaching so as to enable us learn and communicate these lessons to those we meet – which is the simple idea to be good and reverent which enables us to have the vision of a clear and joy filled light. To get there we must undergo the fire of transmutation, which is our quest as a craftsman for the knowledge of constructing for ourselves the space for understanding.
At the conclusion of this passage, the prayer is an important cleansing of the mind and an acknowledgement of our purpose. That prayer reads:
Holy is God, the father of all;
Holy is God, whose counsel is done by his own powers;
Holy is God, who wishes to be known and is known by his own people;
Holy are you, who by the word have constituted all things that are;
Holy are you, from whom all nature was born as image;
Holy are you, of whom nature has not made a like figure;
Holy are you, who are stronger than every power;
Holy are you, who surpass every excellence;
Holy are you, mightier than praises.
It is a good start to begin our path of crafting our journey to light and our quest for enlightenment.
So Mote It Be.
 The name Poimandres had an early understanding to mean “Man-Shepherd” (perhaps a shepherd of men). But, more recent understanding on its etymology suggests that the name is actually derived from the Egyptian phrase Peime-nte-rê meaning “Knowledge of Re” or “Understanding of Re” more commonly understood as the Egyptian creator deity of Ra.
I sat in Mass last Sunday and listened to my Deacon give an excellent homily. His theme was- knowing your personal mission. One of the scriptures he drew upon was part of the first reading – Jeremiah 1: 4-5.
The word of the LORD came to me, saying: Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I dedicated you, a prophet to the nations I appointed you.
He explained to us that the Father gave Christ a mission and then told us that we each had a mission. We need to stop and think about what God has placed us here to do, he said. If we just go to work and then come home and plunk ourselves down in front of the TV, if we never contemplate our higher calling, then we are leading superficial lives and ignoring God. What kind of life are we leading if there is no purpose to it, no point to it, no goals to strive for? Are we existing or are we really living? Think about these things and know that the Father has called each of us to live a life with a mission was the Deacon’s message for the day.
That really stuck with me all week because I have already done that. I know my mission. What was bugging me was how I came to think about what my mission was. What was the catalyst?
The more I thought about it the more I realized that I got a push, a shove from Freemasonry. Freemasons talk a lot about making good men better but often can’t explain how that is accomplished. But aren’t we encouraging a Mason to realize his mission when we pump into him all the symbolism, virtues and tenets of the craft? Isn’t a part of making good men better filling them full of a spiritual awareness? Does not Freemasonry show its members that there is a lot of purpose and meaning to living?
And is Freemasonry not structured for the here and now. It is not showing a way to salvation it is developing a plan for living, and living is done on this earth. As a matter of fact Freemasonry teaches lessons, lessons in living – here and now. This is what separates it from worship.
The fact is all of this is interconnected – the life here on earth, the further existence in the hereafter and all that we do to accomplish these ends as best as we can are interrelated. There is crossover here but there is also separation. The church paves a path to future life and the Lodge shows us a way of life here on earth. To get from one plane to the next we need to have a mission that is more earthly than praise and adoration. The mission and the plan is for us to be all we can be and all that God has seen in us that is possible.
So we give a man working tools, tools to live his life here with – a 24 inch gauge to divide his time between God and a distressed worthy Brother, his usual vocations and refreshment and sleep, the plumb square and level, a trowel to spread the cement of brotherly love and affection, and many other tools to build his spiritual Temple.
We take our Entered Apprentices on a journey of 3,5 and 7 steps there to receive instruction on the wages of a Fellow Craft. Then we raise our Fellow Crafts from darkness into light and they are reborn into a new way of life. Now as Master Masons they have the opportunity to reflect on all that has transpired and to take those teachings from the Lodge room into the big outer world and live them. In the process those of us who are mentoring our newest Brothers are smart if we gently shove them into a contemplative or meditative state to ponder the meaning of it all and how this all fits into their individual paths of life.
If we are smart we encourage our newest Brethren to formulate a mission, even write their own personal mission statement. Then we can say that we have shown the Brethren a way to add purpose and meaning into their lives. Knowing and living your mission in life is having a joyful and fulfilling journey, this journey we call life.
Recently I had the joy of instructing a class of our newly raised Master Masons.
Going over “what’s in the book” is vitally important and we did that. But equally important is to teach what is not in the book, what is not part of the curriculum per se.
For me that means teaching the new recruits that Freemasonry is a non judgmental, non confrontational, tolerant, peace loving fraternity. That doesn’t mean that we will accept evil, immorality or injustice. What it does mean is that as Masons we need to refrain from criticizing another lifestyle, another culture that is legitimate and acceptable in the eyes of God.
Every Lodge room is a haven of peace where harmony prevails and where no harm should come to any Brother. Nor should any be subjected to racism, slander, cussing, berating or other vulgarities.
As Masons we check our guns at the door. We also check our argumentative attitudes, the chip we may have on our shoulder, the cause du jour we may be promoting and the path of immortality we may believe is the one and only true way.
That does not make us a bland, superficial society, however. We stand firmly by the religion common to all faiths. Freemasonry is not a religion but it does promote and instill in its members those tenets of morality common to all religions without prescribing a particular path. It also stands foursquare for justice. Just looking at the Four Cardinal Virtues – Temperance, Fortitude, Prudence and Justice should give anybody an insight into the character of Freemasonry. For this reason we talk about the Universality of Freemasonry.
This is the ideal of Freemasonry. Ideals sometimes get sidetracked. Such has been my criticism of some Southern Mainstream Freemasonry that blackballs African Americans, non Christians and foreign speaking people. Freemasonry was never organized to be an all White, Christian only, Protestant only, English speaking only, born in America society. It is inclusive of all peoples of good character who profess a Faith.
Practiced as it should be, Freemasonry brings together Brothers of different races, religions, creeds, cultures, economic circumstances and political persuasions all under one roof. It brings them together in the pursuit of truth, peace, justice and brotherly love and affection. It’s not what divides us that is important, it’s what we have in common as children of God, a God, however interpreted, who wants us to recognize the fact that we are all one and that in His eyes we are all His children, that is of the utmost importance.
The lessons of the Craft are not complete until we have instilled in each and every Brother that the Lodge is an oasis of peace, that harmony and accord are its modes of operation resulting in a universal society where we are all one.
Almost every day, I seem to read an article or watch a news cast which discusses the controversy surrounding some religious principle. These stories fascinate me because of the variety of religious views that people hold. It seems hard to believe that humans could all descend from one common ancestor and yet have so many different religions. It’s even harder to believe that two people who belong to the same religion can have nearly opposite spiritual beliefs.
Of course, when you consider the course of history the plethora of religious disagreements isn’t so surprising. Throughout the centuries there have been countless prophets, texts, and religious leaders preaching different ideals. If you examine any major religion, there seems to be very little unity among its followers. Every religion has numerous sects and denominations and each one of those divisions has several leaders which teach their own particular view of their faith.
With all of these differing opinions, it is hard to distinguish what the Almighty would really want for his creation. Unfortunately, God doesn’t have his own radio or television station.
Or does he?
The proliferation of different religious ideologies through rhetoric can cause harmful interference to communication between man and God.
The Federal Communications Commission defines harmful interference as
“any emission, radiation or induction that endangers the functioning of a radio navigation service or of other safety services or seriously degrades, obstructs or repeatedly interrupts a radio communications service…”
The radio communication I refer to is the beautiful language of symbolism. The earliest men used symbolism to explain abstract spiritual principles. Symbolism is pure in its form and is more appropriate for describing the complexities of the Deity. They can only become controversial when man uses rhetoric to ascribe absolute explanations to them.
As many have properly noted, symbolism is the language of God.
Luckily for Freemasons, we belong to an organization that relies on symbolism to teach moral precepts. It allows us to be free from spiritual dissent by allowing its concepts to be illustrated rather than explained through language. It is a beautiful way to reduce the harmful interference that is continuously found outside of the lodge.
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The Ancients did not see the split between Science & Religion that has pervaded society since the Enlightenment. Pythagoras was a mathematician and a scientist. But he was equally if not better known as a philosopher, spiritualist and owner of multiple “mystery schools.”
The mechanism of Newton’s physics with its laws of nature able to predict the outcome of every action and reaction has been disproved. The finality and provability of the information fed to us by the five senses has vanished.
“A single consciousness, an all-encompassing wisdom pervades the universe. The discoveries of science, those that search the quantum nature of subatomic matter, those that explore the molecular complexity of biology and those that probe the brain/mind interface, have moved us to the brink of a startling realization: all existence is the expression of this wisdom.”
Then Schroeder sets about to prove his claims through scientific data and a preponderance of the evidence. What Schroeder is talking about is a universal consciousness arising from wisdom, that is present in what we habitually refer to as inert matter. That conclusion, he says, finds support in a range of scientific evidence.
Schroeder will take us through quantum physics and the decision making made by subatomic particles, through molecular biology and the wonders of cells and cell support systems, into the brain/mind connection where there is no scientific explanation for what occurs and finally we will learn about the mysteries of DNA. Through it all the hidden face of God will become more and more evident.
Scientific man of the modern era has relied on the senses for information and for laying the basis for how the universe operates. “Seeing is believing” is a phrase that express this outlook. Schroeder says –
“But how do I hear the sound? Up to and including the storage of the data in the brain, it’s all biochemistry. But I don’t hear biochemistry. I hear sound. Where’s the consciousness? Just which of those formerly inert atoms of carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen and on and on, in my head have become so clever that they can produce thought or reconstitute an image? How those stored biochemical data points are recalled and replayed into sentience remains an enigmatic mystery.”
Schroeder skirts the Evolution-Creationist argument by first accepting the Big Bang theory and then by declaring that The Beginning necessitates a Beginner.
“First consider the laws of physics that made it all happen (the Big Bang). Did they precede the universe? That would mean laws of physics existed without the physical material upon which to act……physics without the physical.”
“The further philosophical problem of there having been a beginning arises with the idea that the beginning of our universe marks the beginning of time, space and matter. Before our universe came into being, there is every scientific indication that time did not exist. Whatever brought the universe into existence must of course predate the universe, which in turn means that whatever brought the universe into existence must predate time. That which predates time is not bound by time, not inside time. In other words, it is eternal.”
“Today we have another seemingly logical, but quite likely erroneous, piece of accepted wisdom forcing itself upon our paradigm of existence: that the physical world is a closed system; that every physical event has a correspondingly physical cause preceding it. It’s not a question as to whether or not we can predict the exact effect of a given cause. Quantum physics says we cannot. But our logic insists that each physical effect must be initiated by a physical cause. How could it be otherwise?”
“The very knowledge of the Big Bang provides proof otherwise. The physical system we refer to as our universe is not closed to the nonphysical. Its total beginning required a nonphysical act. Call it creation. Let the creating force be a potential field if the idea of God is bothersome to you, but realize the fact that the nonphysical gave rise to the Physical.”
“Even the particles that make up the atom, the protons, neurons, electrons, may not be solids after all. They may all be extended forms of energy. If indeed matter is the conscious expression of information, then the idea of mind over matter requires a revision. It must read the consciousness of the mind over the consciousness of matter. Anyone who has witnessed the holder of a black belt in Karate shatter a brick while barely touching it (referred to as a soft break) will find nothing new in this idea. It’s done more by concentrated thought (chi than by physical force. “
But there is evidence elsewhere. By investigating the wondrous workings of our body we can see the hidden face of God.
“In speech, for you to differentiate between the enunciation of a ‘b’ and a ‘p,’ your lips must open some thirty thousandths of a second before you cause your vocal cords to vibrate for the ‘p’ sound to emerge rather than a ‘b’ sound, which occurs when you open your lips and vibrate your vocal cords simultaneously. Thirty thousandths of a second. Consider what this reveals concerning the precision inherent in mental and neurological processing. It’s a sliver of time that makes the difference between bat and ball and Pat and Paul. Your brain determines this phenomenally tight timing and you don’t even have to ‘think’ about it. It’s probably controlled by the brain part located close to the brain stem known as the cerebellum. The entire sequence is encrypted when the signal to vocalize a ‘p’ or a ‘b’ arises in your thoughts. Could this complex yet ordered precision have evolved without guidance?”
“The insights of molecular biology have revealed a complexity at every stage of life’s processes such that, if we were forced to rely on random mutations to produce them step by step, in the word of Nobel laureate deDuve ‘eternity would not suffice.’”
“We’ve surveyed the science and discovered a complex ordered wisdom expressed in the molecular functioning of life nowhere evident in the structures from which life is built or in the laws of nature that govern the interactions of those structures. That wisdom in life is the imprint of the metaphysical.”
We can go through all the elements in the body, we can describe all the interactions of these elements and describe all the processes but what we cannot explain is who the director is. Who or what orchestrates the split second decision making that constitutes the everyday functioning of the human body?
“All told, once we take some givens, we can predict much of the chemical world. But that is where our predictions would cease. We can predict all the elements used in life, but there is no indication that we can predict amino acids joining together in chains of hundreds and thousands of units to form proteins and then proteins combining into the symbiotic relationships we refer to as life.”
“I wish I knew what I meant when I agree with my colleague Dennis Turner that there is a ghost in the system. I’m a scientist. Studying nature is what has put bread on my family’s table for a good number of decades. I want nature to work like nature. But at several key stages in the development of our universe, nature seems to have behaved most unnaturally. It’s what Nobel Prize winning physicist, and avowed atheist, Steven Weinberg referred to in his excellent book ‘The First Three Minutes’ as the ‘embarrassing vagueness……the unwelcome necessity of fixing initial conditions,’ of having to accept a batch of initial conditions simply as ‘givens.’ ‘Givens’ in scientific jargon is the sophisticated way of saying that’s the way it is and so let’s start the discussion from those givens without understanding how they got there.”
“……what we see here is far more significant than fine-tuning. We see the consistent emergence of wisdom, of ordered complex information that is nowhere hinted at either in the governing laws of nature or in the particles of matter that form the brain that lies below the mind’s thought.”
And that takes us to Schroeder’s next fascination, the brain/mind interaction. He takes us into the world of THINKING, first with some description of the physical process of the brain.
“The huge concentrated input of neurotransmitters released into the synapse causes them to diffuse rapidly across the synaptic gap. In less than a millisecond they reach the dendrite surface. If the neurotransmitter is the correct one for the job, its shape will complement the shape of a receptor on the dendrite membrane and it will bond. The right key in the right lock – only one fits and nature designed it just so. It is either the result of chance random reactions among rocks and water or the expression of an underlying wisdom poking its head through into the physics of life. Those are the only two choices available.”
Now comes the interesting part. How do we go from brain to mind?
“We talk about missing links evolution. We have a missing link right in our heads at the brain/mind connection. The move from brain to mind is not one of quantity – a few more neurons and we’ll tie the sensation to the awareness of it. It’s a qualitative transition, a change in type. The mind is neither data crunching nor emotional response. Those are brain functions. Mind functions are self-experience, seeing, hearing, smelling. The replay of what came in. These are phenomena totally different from the acquisition of the information. That is why adding up the synaptic data would predict a brain, but not a mind.”
“There is no hint of how we physically view and hear and smell the messages of the brain. Yet a metaphysical solution is untenable to a materialist school steeped to believe only that which can be seen or measured, the summing of the individually observable parts. Unfortunately, at the brain/mind interface, this reductionist approach misses the crucially holistic nature of the mind. Quantum mechanics required a paradigm shift from classical mechanics, a shift even more extreme than accepting a universe with a beginning. Quantum mechanics necessitated replacing logical observable processes with the ‘illogical’ phenomena of the subatomic world. The very existence of our universe calls out for a metaphysical explanation, an explanation that by definition is illogical in physical terms. The undisputed yet enigmatic existence of our self-awareness, our consciousness, does the same. The mind may be our only link to the reality of the metaphysical.”
“Every particle is an expression of information, of wisdom. The self-awareness we experience is the emergent offspring of that wisdom. The more complex the entity, the more complex the information stored within. We tap into it via our brain. Because information is present in all existence, the consciousness I feel as my self-awareness has a cosmic history. It does not arise from my brain de novo. Aspects of it have been present from the start, the very start, the Big Bang. Consciousness, as wisdom, is as fundamental as existence itself.”
“Within the brain we perceive the consciousness of the mind, and via the mind we can touch a consciousness that pervades the universe. At those treasured moments our individual self dissolves into an eternal unity within which our universe is embedded. That is the both of physics and of metaphysics.”
“The mind is our link to the unity that pervades all existence. Though we need our brain to access our mind, neither a single synapse nor the entire brain contains a hint of the mind. And yet the consciousness of the mind is what makes us aware that we are humans; that I am I and you are you. The most constant aspect of our lives is that we are aware of being ourselves. Even in the illogical jumble of a dream, filled as it may be with fantasy, the constant is that we are ourselves.”
“From what we have seen of brain function, whether the mind is purely physical or partly metaphysical – call it divine if you wish – the brain’s very existence is quite simply mind-boggling and quite possible miraculous. There is brilliant design in the brain, and to make it requires the nature of our universe, which means we need a metaphysical force, a potential not composed of time, space, or matter that created the time, space and matter of our universe. It’s worth reemphasizing: the inequality between cosmology and theology is not whether there was a metaphysical creation. That is given. The debate is whether the metaphysical whatever-it-is, or was, that produced our universe manifests interest in the physical reality it created.”
Schroeder ends his book with a discussion of DNA as his piece de la resistance!
“In general, simple laws, such as the laws of nature, cannot give rise to complex information that exceeds their own unless that complexity is a fractal extension, a duplication in number and type of the base law. This is simply not the case with the genetic code. The information therein is apparent neither in the atoms and molecules from which DNA is formed nor in the laws and physics and chemistry that govern the interactions among the molecules. And yet if the fossil record is correct, the endowed wisdom of DNA seems to have been present from the very earliest stages of life on earth. How the coding that drives all sprang into existence remains a mystery.”
“……the problem of how the entire process originally got started. The first stage in making ATP requires a dozen or so intricately dovetailed protein enzymes, each one picking up the action just as the previous one leaves off. These enzymes are manufactured using information stored in the DNA. Retrieving and deciphering the wisdom held within the DNA in order to make the enzymes requires a good deal of energy. Get the problem? For the energy we need ATP. For ATP we need enzymes. But to make the enzymes we need the information held in the DNA and to get that information we need the energy supplied by the ATP. I guess if you buy a car at the top of a hill, you can drive away without a battery. It runs by itself. But something had to get the car to the top of the hill in the first place.”
We have only scratched the surface of what this book holds. Much intricate detail and complex explanations have been left for the reader to discover when the whole book is read. This article is only a tease. Once again the beginning needs a beginner or as Schroeder tells us:
“If we could see within as easily as we see without, every aspect of existence would be an unfolding encounter with awe; almost a religious experience even for a secular spectator.”
“Yet as remarkable as the underlying unity of the physical world may be, science is on the brink of discovering an even more sensational reality, one predicted almost three thousand years ago, that wisdom is the basis of all existence.”
Through Freemasonry, however, I have had opportunity to break bread with good men of other than my own Christian faith. Freemasonry does not promote any one religious creed. All Masons believe in the Deity without reservation. However, Masonry makes no demands as to how a member thinks of the Great Architect of the Universe. Freemasonry is, for all its members, a supplement to good living which has enhanced the lives of millions who have entered its doors. Though it is not a religion, as such, it supplements faith in God the Creator. It is supporting of morality and virtue.
Freemasonry has no dogma or theology. It offers no sacraments. It teaches that it is important for every man to have a religion of his own choice and to be faithful to it in thought and action. As a result, men of different religions meet in fellowship and brotherhood under the fatherhood of God. I think that a good Mason is made even more faithful to the tenets of his faith by his membership in the Lodge.” – The Reverend Dr. Norman Vincent Peale
I remember the horror in the eyes of my Irish Catholic in-laws when they discovered I had become a Mason.
According to them, the Masons were responsible for all of the union problems over the years and were not to be trusted. I also remember the shocked expression on the face of the rector of my Episcopal Church when he found me participating in a Masonic funeral service at the church. Fortunately, he was a little more understanding and asked me about the fraternity. Up until then, he had been suffering under the misconception that Masons were anti-Christian. Obviously, these are not isolated incidents, overcoming misconceptions is something Masons have grown accustomed to over the years. I guess it goes with the territory. Even in our degree work we are charged not to get into arguments with those who, through ignorance, may ridicule us. I have to question the validity of this charge in today’s world. True, Masons like to maintain a low profile, but make no mistake about it, the fraternity is still under attack by religious institutions, which hurts us by clouding the minds of the public and affects our membership.
Let me say unequivocally from the outset that Freemasonry is not a threat to religion. Instead, it is probably one of the strongest proponents of organized religion. To become a Mason, a person must believe in a supreme being; an atheist is ineligible to join the fraternity. This criteria is not done to contest the candidate’s beliefs as it is to act as a litmus test of the moral fiber of the person. I have personally seen men of many different faiths initiated into the fraternity; Christians, Jews, and Muslim. Following this, talk of religion (and politics) is barred from discussion in a Masonic Lodge so that it doesn’t cause any contention and discontent between members. True, we offer a nonsectarian prayer to open and close a Lodge, but this is essentially no different than what military chaplains offer in the field and offends no particular faith.
If you were to ask what religion Freemasonry adheres to, you might as well ask what political party we support (e.g., Republican, Democrat, Libertarian, Socialist, Independent, etc.). Frankly, such talk is inconsequential as it is simply not discussed. This is a key reason why Masons enjoy harmony in the Lodge. We may not agree with each other’s religious beliefs but we respect the individual’s right to practice his own faith. This is called “religious tolerance,” something more people should practice. Opponents to Freemasonry believe the fraternity should be used as a bully-pulpit to preach the gospel of a particular religious denomination and try to convert people to their point of view. Hogwash. This is not what we are about. This is a fraternity; a Brotherhood that promotes fellowship, morality, charity, integrity, citizenship, honor, and brotherly love. The ultimate aim of Freemasonry is world peace and harmony, not world domination as some critics argue.
Another gross misconception of the fraternity in the middle East is that Freemasonry originated from Judaism. This misunderstanding is the primary reason why the offices of the Grand Lodge of Turkey was bombed a couple of years ago. Again, this is self-inflicted ignorance as preached by religious extremists/terrorists in the middle East. If you go into any Masonic Lodge you will find a “Volume of Sacred Law” on the Lodge’s alter to represent divine guidance. In those Lodges where the membership is primarily Christian, you will find the Holy Bible; in a Jewish Lodge you will find the Torah, and; in the Lodges in Turkey, I will guarantee you will find a Koran (I’ll bet the terrorists did not know this). As an aside, when Masons are initiated, the candidate’s holy book of choice is used in the ceremony.
Over the years, various religions have cast a suspicious eye on Freemasonry; Southern Baptists in the United States, the Anglican Church in England and Australia, the Presbyterian Church in Africa, and, of course, the Catholic Church. The division between the Catholic Church and Freemasonry is an old one dating back in history. Frankly, the reasons for the division gets cloudier with the passing of each year but widened recently with the passing of Pope John Paul II and the election of Pope Benedict XVI. Following the new Pope’s installation, the following item appeared in the Catholic News Service:
Found among the list of the principal public documents and decisions issued by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith from 1981 to 2005 when Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (later Pope Benedict XVI) was prefect of the office was the following item:
NOV 26, 1983: “Declaration on Masonic Associations,” saying Masonic principles and rituals “embody a naturalistic” religion incompatible with Christianity. Those who knowingly embrace the principles or attend the rituals are involved in serious sin and may not receive Communion.
Following the 9/11 disaster, the Grand Lodge of New York invited New York Governor George E. Pataki to become a Mason in recognition of his work responding to the disaster. Initially, Pataki was pleased to accept the offer and even posed for a photo with New York’s Grand Master which was published on the cover of the “Empire State Mason” (New York’s magazine). However, after the Catholic’s declaration was brought to his attention (Pataki is a Catholic), he respectfully declined to join the fraternity.
The declaration has also led to problems in the Philippines where the local Bishop asked Catholics who are members of Freemasonry (and appendant bodies such as the Eastern Star) to stay out of the church:
“We would like to inform our Freemason brothers and sisters that you are no longer allowed to enter the church because your group contradicts the teachings of the Catholic Church.” – Bishop Alo in a pastoral message read during masses
Fr. Medardo Salomia, spiritual director of the Diocese of Mati, said Bishop Alo and majority of the priests in the province have also agreed not to give Holy Communion to Catholics who are members of Freemasonry.
“The reason given why they are being barred from taking the Holy Communion was that they are being anti-Christ,” Father Salomia said.
Do not look for Pope Benedict to change his mind regarding Freemasonry any time soon as the subject of secret societies is a pet project of his; see related stories at: Reference 1Reference 2
These recent events have been unsettling to Catholic Freemasons:
“Is it any wonder they call him the ‘German Shepherd’? It is this incredible arrogance of the church that has caused me to stop having anything to do with the Catholic Church. This is just another example of how they believe that they are the end all, and be all, of everything to do with the GAOTU. The epitome of arrogance.” – a Mason from Sarnia, Ontario, Canada
“My background is fourteen years of Catholic private schooling, alter boy, etc. Theology (four years) taught by French monks that came in the US as brothers vs. priest. We became French Catholic Theology students, so to speak, didn’t know there was a difference until later in life.
The teachings were pretty much the same as what I see in Masonry, treat each other with value and respect, the basic 10 commandments theme, with the difference being the church addition of specific scripture, a typical focus and part of religious beliefs, this is what makes a religion a religion. Masonry being non-religious, no scripture to believe in, cannot be a religion. I know it is hard to understand this when there is a Bible on an altar, prayer is given and things have names like catechism etc., should fall outside the above statement because it does not fit the incompatibility test. How can it be incompatible when it is pointedly non-religious?
Masonry probably does itself a disservice by using the old terms and symbols that scare people looking for something to be scared of. I have spent plenty of time out in the field, doing crazy things to evaluate our military strength, sometimes I was asked, “Did you see any snakes?” My answer is always the same, “I wasn’t looking for any.” They might be there, I’m sure some exist, but I didn’t have or let any of them hinder my mission. I’m convinced that if you go into the field looking for “snakes” you will indeed find them.
We were taught that each person, not just an ordained priest, has a special relationship with the trinity and no one can judge it but the two concerned. The fear of religious leaders is that they might lose followers, when they should be concerned with saving souls and doing good work. If they look to history, as we did, they will be enlightened as to the mistakes that are repeated continuously throughout history.
I have not seen the basis of the sin that is referenced here, like it is easy to see, killing an innocent person is wrong. Taking another’s wife or goods is wrong. Brotherhood and passing on an old mouth-to-ear order of words being a sin needs more explaining. I think the author is misinformed and has not done the research and homework needed to make a clear accurate proclamation. Too gray an area, there is only mortal and venial as far as I know. Keep in mind the background, with all due respect, of the human person involved, Germany is very tender about any other than mainstream groups because of the Hitler event and their lack of action against such atrocities. Look how they went crazy over the Scientologists in Germany.
I support my church, but it is my church, a church between me and my trinity as taught in theology at Trinity High School in the 1960’s. Remember in the 60’s it was a sin to be friends with a person of another faith. They would lead you to sin. You lead you to sin, not others.
Others may need the road map to heaven, we were given it as were others of other religions. We studied the old and new testament, everything brought into context of the time it was written, a year on each. We studied every religion known to man at the time and considered the differences of the teaching and beliefs.
I could go on forever, but, I know I’m okay because I do not embrace Masonry as a naturalistic religion replacing my Catholic upbringing and I know plenty of other Catholics that are of the same mind.
We all hope for the “lessons learned” part of the middle east to surface and hope religious leaders of all faiths, get over the “I’m the right one” and see the error of that way. Unite for peace thru understanding, temperance and defensive posture, it is the only future we can have or give our loved ones. What we see today is the other choice.
Man is what messes up religion. History proves it.” – a Past Master from Dunedin, Florida, USA
Wanting to understand the separation of Religion and Masonry, I established some Internet polls through the various Masonic Discussion Groups I participate in throughout the world.
The question was rather simple:
“If your place of worship (church/temple/mosque) said you must either abandon Freemasonry or the church, what would you do?”
3 (02%) – I would abandon Freemasonry 119 (93%) – I would abandon my place of worship and find another 6 (05%) – I would abandon my faith altogether
The results were to be expected. The overwhelming majority did not see any incompatibility between religion and the fraternity, but instead of causing a problem, they opted to move to another church where they could practice their faith.
Only a few others felt it necessary to choose sides. Here is a Brother who described why he would abandon Freemasonry:
Well, I guess I am a stand out in this poll. Being a newer member of a lodge I can say without a doubt, I would abandon Freemasonry. I was told from the very beginning that Masonry should never interfere with your service to your family, your usual occupation or your service to God. I belong to my church because I believe and have faith in my pastor. He has the vision of God (through the Holy Spirit and the Holy Bible) and does His work within and outside of our church. If I had no faith in this I could not remain an active member there. Please don’t think I belong to a cult or follow some nut job out there, our church is full of free thinking men and women who will let their opinion be known. Our pastor will listen to and consider all free thinking ideas, but when the final decision is made, it is made according to God’s word (Holy Bible) and not our pastor’s word. That is the reason I would abandon Freemasonry if it came down to a choice. I am very glad that choice will never have to be made. I spoke to my pastor before joining Masonry and although he is not a member of a lodge we have several members who are. My only problem is that there are several Brothers who attend my church who are Prince Hall Masons. In Tennessee our Grand Lodge does not recognize PH Masons. We treat each other as brothers anyway without holding any Masonic communication. But that is another discussion all together. Thank you for your time to hear me out. – a Mason from Nashville, Tennessee, USA
Another Brother felt entirely different:
“What has the Church done for me lately? First to criticize. Very dictatorial. Masonry promotes tolerance and mutual understanding.
If the choice was mandated by my Church, we would cease our association with each other. For I believe the terrible atrocities committed in those centuries past were by the Church that did not allow its parishioners the right to think for themselves.
As Freemasons this is our most treasured gift and ability. To be able to think for ourselves and to teach others of like minds to do the same for themselves is who and what we are. This is a major reason our way of life has existed for so many centuries! For if we cannot practice charity to or for whomever we wish, if we cannot have fellowship with whomever we wish or if we cannot hold a belief in whatever Supreme Being that we wish, what will our satisfaction be in belonging to a Church that refuses us these simple important pleasures?
I for one, like you too, believe in the life hereafter, and when push would come to shove, my relationship with my God is not hinged on belonging to a particular church! My faith in Him is contained in my heart, the same place my love for our ancient fraternity will live until the day that I die.” – Past District Deputy Grand Master, Havre, Montana
As I see it, this division between religion and Freemasonry is primarily our own doing. True, the ceremonies of the fraternity are well maintained secrets and, as far as I’m concerned, it is nobody’s business but our own. After all, Masons have no intention in meddling in the workings of our places of worship, why should others meddle in ours? Aside from this, we have done a horrible job of communicating to the public about our stance on religion.
One of the best ways to overcome misconceptions with the public is to develop a one-on-one relationship with members of the clergy. Let me give you an example; I know of a Past Master living in Clearwater, Florida who considers himself a well-read Catholic and actively supports both his Church and Lodge. He invited his priest over to his house for dinner where they talked for hours about Freemasonry and cleared up a lot of the priest’s misconceptions about the fraternity. I also know of another Brother who retired and taught Sunday School at his Baptist Church. Initially, his pastor was very suspicious when he discovered the Brother was a Mason. But over time he found the Brother to be an honest and honorable man, and an active supporter of the church. When the Brother passed away, the pastor not only wept, he openly welcomed the Masons into the church to perform a Masonic funeral service.
Knowing there is no discrepancy between practicing one’s faith and Freemasonry, I invite all members of the clergy to contact a local lodge to discuss the fraternity and to find ways to work together. Better yet, I encourage all Masonic Lodges to establish a program to meet with the local clergy and discuss the fraternity. One-on-one meetings can overcome a lot of problems. Maintaining a total cloak of secrecy over the fraternity does nothing but cast a cloud of suspicion over our motives. We must take a pro-active approach to communications as opposed to reactive. Failure to do so leads to rumors and inuendos which only creates barriers.
Do we really have anything to hide? Not really. After all, are we the ‘Good Guys’ or the ‘Bad Guys’? We’re the ‘Good Guys’ who help the needy and try to make the world a better place by practicing charity, citizenship, patriotism, honesty and integrity. Let’s continue to leave religion to those institutions charged with practicing it.
To summarize Freemasonry’s stance on religion:
Yes, men of many faiths are Masons.
No, Freemasonry does not advocate a specific religion.
Yes, many Masons have been (and still are) members of the clergy.
No, Masons do not worship Lucifer.
Yes, Masons are regular church-goers.
No, Freemasonry is not a religion.
Yes, Masonic Lodges have been used by many religious faiths to hold service (Lodges also make their facilities available for boy/girl scouts, civic and governmental organizations, and other non-profit organizations).
Anyone who thinks otherwise probably has a hidden agenda.
So, to those religious orders reading this article, what will it be: allies or adversaries? Since Freemasonry respects religious institutions and encourages its members to attend the places of worship of their choice, why can’t religion accept Freemasonry?
NOTE: The opinions expressed in this essay are my own and do not necessarily represent the views or opinions of any Grand Masonic jurisdiction or any other Masonic related body. As with all of my Masonic articles herein, please feel free to reuse them in Masonic publications or re-post them on Masonic web sites (except Florida). When doing so, please add the following:
Article reprinted with permission of the author and www.FreemasonInformation.com
Please forward me a copy of the publication when it is produced.
Question, what is the most important function of a Masonic Lodge? Is it initiating new members, taking care of widows and orphans, community charity, providing scholarships, marching in parades, esoteric study, brotherly bonding?
The answer is none of the above. The most important function of a Masonic Lodge is to bury its dead. The Masonic funeral service is the most important act of compassion and service that a Masonic Lodge can perform for a Freemason and his family.
Yet too often not enough preparation, practice and elocution go into its performance. It’s often just one more chore, one more duty in the awesome responsibilities of a Worshipful Master.
Obtaining permission to ceremoniously bury members of the Black community in the 1770’s was a major concern of Prince Hall and prompted him to seek out Freemasonry to help him accomplish this end. It has been said by many scholars that way back in the operation of early English and Scottish Lodges, before the formation of the Grand Lodge of England, a funeral ceremony was part of their modus operandi.
If so then the best way for us to honor our grieving Brother’s family and the best way to honor our commitment to God and the best way to follow through with who we really are is to do justice to the ceremony of honoring and saying goodbye to a Brother who has been called to the Celestial Lodge above.
As you watch this video, see in it the fulfillment of that Masonic obligation well done. And think about in your own Lodge of perhaps forming a Masonic Funeral Team who will memorize the service and deliver it with the feeling and the sincerity that befits a Mason and that will do justice to the departing Brother and to God who sits and reins in the heavenly Grand East forever and forever.
a poem by Bro. Rev. J. Gierlow
From The Masonic Mirror,
God dwells in light!
Before the ocean of unmeasured space
Was islanded with stars serenely bright
Reflecting back the radiance of His face,‑
He dwelt above, in Heaven’s immortal bliss,
Thinking into existence that which is.
God dwells in light!
Before He laid the world’s foundation‑ stone
High on the nothing of primeval night,
And in Heaven’s center throned th’ eternal
He dwelt above, beyond the far‑off sky,
With Angels born of His Eternity.
God dwells in light!
And holds within the hollow of His hand
The universe of worlds which gem the night,
Which, through Heaven’s sea, at His divine command.
Freighted with His own smiles now sail at even,
Fearless of storms, around the sun in Heaven.
God dwells in light!
And where He dwells, there spirits also dwell,
Who drink fresh glory from His face so bright,
As stars drink from the sun’s deep golden well
Exhaustless beams, so that they never die,
And thereby show His immortality.
“We contemplate eternity beneath the vast indifference of heaven.” -Warren Zevon
My favorite songwriter of all time is the late Warren Zevon.
Warren was incredibly adept at vocalizing the reality of his emotions through the medium of music. One of his works that has become a favorite of mine is his song “Indifference of Heaven.” To me, the song tackles an issue that most humans are afraid of addressing: does God really play an active role in the human existence?
Most people that I have met refuse to even consider this question and with good reason. The idea of an almighty being that doesn’t influence world events or care about our day-to-day existence is unnerving. We naturally want to believe that God is on “our side,” that God wants what is best for us, and that God will protect us. The desire to be one of God’s chosen people has been instilled in us through many different religions. It is a perfectly natural desire and it seems like a logical assumption. If God cared enough to create us, then he would care enough to make sure that everything turns out well for us, right?
One spiritual ideology that separates itself from this belief is Deism. Deism is a belief that came out of the Enlightenment Age of the 17th and 18th centuries. It is the belief that the Supreme Architect of the Universe created the universe and all things therein contained, but is not involved in man’s existence. It rejects the idea of divine miracles, revelations, or prophets. However, Deists do believe that all of the universe’s natural processes were put in place by the Almighty Creator and that God does desire for us to act morally.
Deism doesn’t necessarily declare that God is indifferent, but depending on one’s view of this theological ideal Deism could imply that indifference is one of God’s characteristics. Frankly, I think that the idea of an indifferent God can be comforting at times. Consider an event like the Holocaust. It is much more difficult to understand how a God that interferes with human actions would allow such a tragedy to occur. What about those times when a crime is committed and the victim is an innocent law-abiding and God-fearing citizen? How can we accept that a proactive Deity allows these things to happen? Yet, we find ways to rationalize God’s inaction and decide that tragedies are all part of God’s plan.
Maybe there is another way of looking at the vast indifference of heaven. Maybe we don’t have to accept that God is indifferent or that he does direct the course of human action and allows bad things to happen for a reason. Like many people, I like to think of God as a father figure. A good father knows that he cannot run the lives of his children, because if he doesn’t allow them to realize the consequences of their own actions they may become dependent on his guidance and will suffer in the long run because they are not capable of making responsible decisions. He may well know that his child intends on going to a party on the weekend which may result in his child making a wrong decision. So he raises his child by giving them a good example of proper conduct and trusts that they will make the correct decision when it is necessary. Perhaps God works in the same way. He has given us his guidance through various religious texts and trusts that we act in an upright manner, but he also realizes that we must suffer the consequences of our own mistakes.
The truth is that while we exist in this world, we may never know the real characteristics of God. He may be interested in our lives, indifferent, or like a loving father, gently guiding us to follow the right path. But one thing that will not change is that we will all–at one time or another–feel like we are “contemplating eternity beneath the vast indifference of heaven.”