stars, moon, canopy of heaven, masonic lodge

Canopy of Heaven | Symbols and Symbolism

A clouded horizon and starry field of shimmering twilight jewels are often the embelishments aloft above the altar of a masonic lodge. As beautiful and mysterious as this stage dressing is, it holds a special significance in the work at hand in the Masonic Lodge. In this episode, we examine the covering of the lodge, better known as the canopy of Heaven.

Albert Mackey, in his Encyclopedia of Freemasonry, says:

As the lectures tell us that our ancient brethren met on the highest hills and lowest vales, from this it is inferred that, as the meetings were thus in the open air, the only covering must have been the overarching vault of Heaven. Hence, in the symbolism of Masonry the covering of the Lodge is said to be “a clouded canopy or starry decked heaven.” The terrestrial Lodge of labor is thus intimately connected with the celestial Lodge of eternal refreshment.

The symbolism is still further extended to remind us that the whole world is a Mason’s Lodge, and heaven its sheltering cover.

Fred Milliken,Freemason Information,The Beehive

The Last Degree

the last and final masonic degree

As I entered the Lodge room sightless I heard the most beautiful music I had ever heard. It was not a music I was familiar with nor was whatever produced the music, instruments that I could identify. But it was oh so peaceful, piercing my soul and creating a sense of harmony and accord throughout. I was energy dragged or conducted in thought around the Lodge to this music in what seemed like a haphazard pattern but after eight repetitions I was able to discern that there were four repeats of two separate maneuvers, one being a circle and the other being a triangle.  The repetition of maneuvers was necessary, as it was later explained to me, to create the image of a three dimensional symbol for this degree. And this symbol was one of the Innermost Chamber where I received this degree.  The Square and Compasses still adorned the outside building of the Lodge but within this building was an inner building where the Pyramid and Globes were the symbols used.

I was later to see what this symbol looked like.  It was a Pyramid within which were three Globes aligned vertically from the peak to the base.  Within the top Globe was a small Pyramid pointing down.  The bottom Globe had a Pyramid pointing up and the middle Globe had a three dimensional six pointed star. The meaning of this symbol was that the spirit of the Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer was infused into the circle of life, that never ending cycle of birth, death, rebirth, death again, rebirth again and on and on into affinity. It also carried the meaning of unity as we are all together as one, united as beings who all possessed a piece of the Creator. The symbol was not attached anywhere but would always appear before your discernment wherever you were in the Innermost Chamber in the form of a hologram

There was neither reception on any points of an instrument nor an obligation to this degree.  It was explained to me that in my present state of neither time nor place but just all, that penalties, oaths and promises were superfluous.

I was conducted to the South, West and then the North of the Lodge where still powered down and only able to hear I would have, however, the insight to view a totally private movie hologram only visible to me.  In the South I received a review of my entire life.  This was shown to me in a hologram depicting people, places, events, happenings and occurrences in a fast moving continuous movie at last stopping at the moment of my passing over. It seemed as if it was over before I had begun but those who surrounded me assured me later that it took quite awhile.

In the West I viewed as before in a continuous moving hologram all the times I had inspired others and when I was kind, compassionate, loving and humble. Many times I was overcome with emotion as what was presented to me was so life like that I felt that what had occurred in the past was happening again right before me.  There is real meaning to the word reliving.

And then in the North I relived the dark side of myself,  all the times I had acted with an overbearing bloated ego to lash out and hurt others, all my failings, my sins and the times I had let others down. Again I was moved to tears to think that I had acted in such a manner. And that is why these holograms were totally private to me as those assembled around me were not there to judge but to support.  And I felt the warmth of their brotherly love and affection.

Like my earthly degrees I was conducted, but by mind, out of the Innermost Chamber to the Ante Room to be prepared to re-enter for the second section of the degree, the lecture.

My conductor, Hiram Abiff, powered me back up to full energy and then spoke to me.  “Your earthly degrees have taught you the merits of the application of toleration and non judgmentalism,” he said. “They have shown you how to enjoy peace, harmony & accord among people of different races, religions, cultures, political persuasions, and economic circumstances.  Now we will take you even further into that concept in the lecture of the Last Degree.”

I was readmitted into the Innermost Chamber and brought to the East.  The image of the Pyramid and Globes were ever present before me in a hologram.  Welcoming me into the East was a black woman of perhaps middle age.  Her feeling of brotherly love and affection was glowing warmth that infused my spirit.  She commenced the lecture slowly and deliberately.

“The lesson of the Last Degree is that the separation that plagues many in their earthly pilgrimage, that division where you see others as different, less worthy or unentitled and which sets you apart from them, is really a separation from God. Yes, in reality there are real differences on Earth.  A man and a woman on Earth are actually made slightly differently and respond in different ways.  There are different races, cultures, creeds and concepts of the Creator.  But to attribute something sinister to those differences is to use then to divide rather than bring together and then to ostracize thus making a separation. Carried to extreme, this separation progresses  from distrust to suspicion leading to contempt to hate and ultimately to extermination or ethnic cleansing. This disunity is a construction of humankind possessing free will and does not reflect the intentions that your Creator has for you. This division, disunity and separation are what really the Adam & Eve story and the fall of man are all about. For in human disunity and separation exists the separation from the Almighty.”

“You have reviewed in your initiation into the Celestial Lodge all that you have done in your human life on Earth.  You have relived the times when you allowed your fears of others and those differences to put you into separation.  And you have relived the times when paying no attention to these differences has put you in oneness.”

“It has been said that humankind was created in the image of God.  But I say to you that each human is a piece of God and possess a small portion of the Almighty within them.  Whether that piece grows and becomes a bigger and bigger part of a human being depends on the choices each human has made in their life journey.  The purpose of your journey is to feed and nurture your soul in an Earthly mission that God has given you the tools to accomplish.  In so doing you enable the Almighty Creator, the Master of Heaven and Earth to experience itself. Living ‘the Godly life’ is the ability to rise above that which seeks to divide and create chaos.”

“It is now time, my Brother, for you to commit yourself to the belief that WE ARE ALL ONE.  There are no OTHERS. When you pull away or disassociate from what you perceive to be another, you are only separating yourself from yourself and from whence you came and to whom someday you will return. When you harm or hurt what you perceive to be another you only harm or hurt yourself.”

“The Pyramid and Globes are the symbol of this degree, my Brother. It teaches that all of life, its peaks and valleys, its joys and sorrows, its loves and fears, is a holy and sacred experience. It visualizes for you the concept that life is never ending but continues to move, starting where it finished and finishing where it started.  It goes around and around and on and on forever in “the unity of the Holy Spirit.”  WE ARE ALL ONE. There is no part of us that is separate or outside the Pyramid and Globes.  We are all pieces of the same pie.  God is in us and we are in God. WE ARE ALL ONE!  Now go in peace and harmony and accord and rejoice in that knowledge.”

This is KROC your classic rock station for Dallas on this Monday morning.  The time is 5:30 AM and the big yellow ball is rising over the Metroplex on what is going to be a beautiful day. How about a little Pink Floyd – “Dark Side of the Moon” for all you classic rockers who don’t want to get up this morning!

Read from the beginning – I Had a Dream.

I Had a Dream

at the pearly gates

I had a dream not long ago.  And in that dream I passed to the Celestial Lodge above where I found myself just outside the Pearly Gates.  There was no St. Peter there to greet me but rather a Wayfaring man with shillelagh and lantern dressed in a cowled robe or tunic with the hood pulled up over his head.  So hunched over was he that I could barely see his eyes nor his lips move.

“You are a traveling man,” he said with a raspy voice.

“Yes I am and I guess I have traveled a long way,” I retorted.

“Can you prove it?” rasped the Wayfaring man.

I am sure that I can demonstrate to anyone’s satisfaction that I am a Master Mason,” I replied.

“Good follow me.”

“Where are we going?”

“To The Celestial Lodge.”

“The Celestial Lodge above, how nice.”

“No just the Celestial Lodge, you’re already above.”

As we left I tried to step off but I remained stuck to my place.  The Wayfaring man said, “You think your way along here.  Just visualize yourself following me.”

Sure enough I moved along effortlessly as if on one of those conveyor belts at the airport.

We arrived at our destination in a flash.  Before us was what looked like colored clouds of red, blue and purple hue, imprinted on which in navy blue iridescent almost glowing specks was the Square & Compasses. Is this what neon signs look like in heaven, I thought to myself?

That’s beautiful,” I said, “but where is the letter G?”

“We don’t use the letter G up here,” replied the Wayfaring man. “What the letter G symbolizes is present in the East.  God does not need a symbol when God is.  The I Am Who I Am Is Who He Is.”

Wow, wouldn’t Bill Clinton have a field day with that line, I thought to myself.

As we got closer a booming voice queried, “Who comes here?”

A traveling man who has passed through the Pearly Gates,” replied the Wayfaring man.

Does he have the pass?” asked the booming voice.

“He has it not.  I have it for him.”

“He shall wait until the Almighty is informed of your presence and His answer returned.”

Within a short period a woman in a lavender robe with white sparkling star sequins broke through the cloud mass and said, “You shall enter through the outer door to the anteroom.”

I shot a quizzical look at the Wayfaring man.

Reading my thoughts, he quickly answered, “We have fully implemented the lesson of the Level here.”

The clouds parted and I wondered if Moses was on the other side.  We entered the anteroom and the parted clouds shut again. A man was there to greet me and before I could speak he said, “No I am not Moses, I am Hiram Abiff and I am the Master of Ceremonies here to guide you through your next degree.”

“I have another degree to take,” I timidly asked.

“Yes my Brother, but first we must dispense with a few preliminaries, convey some information and then get you prepared.”

Brother Abiff asked for and received all the steps, signs, grips and words of the earthly degrees by thought.  Then he said, “I must ask you if you will proceed of your own free will and accord?”

“I have a choice? “ I asked.

“Oh yes, we can send you back.”


“From whence you came, but there will be one stipulation.”

“And what might that be?”

“You will not go back who you were there.  You will start over anew as someone else.”

“Then who will I be?”

“It is not predetermined but as you say back on earth, it is a roll of the dice.  You could go back a new person to China or Germany or India or Cuba or Uganda or anywhere.”

“And what would I do there?”

“Whatever you choose to do.  You see with free will you always have a choice.  Bad choices, however, usually yield bad results.”

“I think I would like to proceed right here.”

“Very well, so it shall be.”

“I have made a good choice?”

“It is not for me to say.  One man’s garbage is another man’s treasure, as the saying goes. As you have probably noticed your body as well as ours is but an illusion.  The best description of what you are right now is pure energy.  As such instead of being unclothed or hoodwinked you will be powered down so that you can hear but not see.”

“Is this then the 34th degree?”

“No,” Brother Abiff replied.  “This is The LAST DEGREE.  Now follow your conductor and fear no danger.”

Next installment:  The Last Degree.

karma, spirituality

A Victim of Biblical Karma

In the Entered Apprentice degree, the new Masonic initiate is taught about Jacob’s Ladder and how it applies to Masonic symbolism. Of course, in Masonic symbolism, three of the rungs on Jacob’s Ladder represent faith, hope, and charity. The story of Jacob’s Ladder and its symbolism is beautiful and a wonderful example of God’s relationship with mankind. However, for many years I have struggled with the fact that Jacob received this vision—and God’s favor—immediately after deceiving his father Isaac and taking his brother Esau’s blessing. How could God let such a sin be committed without any negative reaction? When examining the whole story of Jacob we discover that Jacob’s biography is a great example of religious universality. Just as Jacob’s ladder is a story which appeals to many outside of the Jewish faith, Jacob’s betrayal of his brother and father is atoned for by a principle from the East when he becomes a victim of Karma.

karma, spirituality

Does the Buddhist idea of Karma exist in Christianity?

Karma is the Buddhist ideal that for every action there is an equal and just reaction. It is the age old principle of cause and effect. Give charity to your brother and in turn you will be given charity when you need it. Wrong your brother and you too will be wronged. It is the Golden Rule: do unto others as you wish they should do unto you. People often visualize Karma as being cosmic, but not necessarily the direct justice of the Almighty. However, when God hands out punishment in the Old Testament, this is in fact a version of Karma. But the story of Jacob is different from most in the Old Testament because no where in the scripture does the author clearly state that God was displeased with his dishonesty. This is where Jacob becomes a perfect example of the cosmic force of Karma.

In the 27th chapter of Genesis, Rebekah helps Jacob deceive his blind father Isaac in order to obtain a blessing meant for Esau. While Esau is out hunting for game in order to cook a meal for his father, Rebekah and Jacob prepare a meal and Jacob takes it to his father, lying when his father asks him if he is Esau by saying “I am.” Of course, Jacob wrongly receives the blessing and when Isaac realizes that he has been deceived he does nothing to correct the error. Later, Jacob has the famous vision of the ladder extending from the earth to heaven where God promises him that his descendants will be as the dust on the earth.

karma, jacobs ladder, god, jacobs vision, stairway to heavenHow could God remain silent about this injustice? In Genesis 29, Jacob once again seems to find favor in the eyes of the Lord. Jacob goes to work for a man named Laban and falls in love with Rachel, his youngest daughter. Jacob is so enamored with Rachel that when Laban asks him what he deserves in return for his work Jacob agrees to work for seven years in order to marry Rachel. Laban agrees to this and after seven years Jacob asks him for his daughters hand. However, when the long awaited night comes for Jacob to lay with Rachel, Laban deceives him and sends his oldest daughter Leah to Jacob’s bed. When Jacob awakes the next morning he is incensed at the fact that he has been betrayed. Laban simply states that the oldest daughter should be married first and that Jacob will have to work for seven more years in order to marry Rachel.

This is the perfect cosmic justice for Jacob. Not only is he forced to work seven more years to earn what he wants—essentially a seven year sentence for the betrayal of his brother—he is the victim of a similar birthright situation. Its irony is nearly comedic. We indeed discover that Karma is always at work.

This story shows the true universality of many religious concepts. While Karma may be Buddhist in its origins, we see that it plays a great role in the Old Testament. It also is alluded to throughout the world’s many great religions and one may astutely note that it also has a role in Masonry when one considers the purpose of acting upon the square. Jacob’s story is an excellent example which reminds us that Karma can affect everyone and that no matter what creed we may follow, we share the same values.

square and compass, freemasonry, S&C, freemason information

The Habitation of The Grand Architect

a poem by Bro. Rev. J. Gierlow
From The Masonic Mirror,
October, 1872

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.

eye of god, providence, triangle eye

The Vast Indifference of Heaven

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?

all seeing eyeOne 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.”