War of the Worldviews

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.

War Of The WorldviewsEarly 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.

Harmful Interference

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.

FDD, harmful interference, definitionThe 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 key to academic success – Spirituality!

This story is something that a lot of groups should pay attention to as the relationships of religious/spiritual interests and academia have grown cold in many places.

Of particular note is that as this piece comes out of UCLA, one of the first 12 structures of the community of Westwood, where the school resides, was a Masonic clubhouse built to serve UCLA students and alumni (which it did for 40 years), and is now called the Geffen Playhouse.

Los Angeles – Researchers from UCLA’s Spirituality in Higher Education project have found that spiritual growth in college students enhances academic outcomes such as scholastic performance, psychological well-being, leadership development and satisfaction with college. Cultivating the Spirit: How College Can Enhance Students’ Inner Lives, written by Alexander W. Astin, Helen S. Astin and Jennifer A. Lindholm, is the first national longitudinal study of students’ spiritual growth. The book’s research represents a national study of college students’ search for meaning and purpose.

For example, compared to students whose equanimity declines during college, those whose equanimity increases have a 50% better chance of earning at least a B+ average. Similarly, students whose Equanimity increases during college, compared to those whose Equanimity declines, are nearly three times more likely to end up being “very satisfied” with their college experience.

“We believe that the findings provide a powerful argument that higher education should attend more to students’ spiritual development,” stated co-author Alexander Astin. “Spiritual development is not only an important part of the college experience in its own right, but also promotes other positive outcomes of college.”

The seven-year research study examined how students’ religious and spiritual views change during the college years and the role that college plays in facilitating the development of their spiritual and religious qualities. The study surveyed 112,000 freshmen as they enrolled in 236 colleges and universities and then followed up with 14,527 of these students as they completed their junior year at 136 colleges.

Other findings include:

  • Religious engagement among students declines somewhat during college, but their spirituality shows substantial growth. Students become more caring, more tolerant and more connected with others as well as more actively engaged in a spiritual quest.
  • College activities contribute to students’ spiritual growth. Some of these–study abroad, interdisciplinary studies, interracial interaction, and service learning–appear to be effective because they expose students to new and diverse people, cultures and ideas.
  • Spiritual development is enhanced if students engage in “inner work” through activities such as meditation or self-reflection, or if their professors actively encourage them to explore questions of meaning and purpose. Spiritual development is impeded when students engage in activities that distract them from campus life opportunities–activities such as watching television and playing video games.
  • Spiritual qualities showing increases during college include: spiritual quest, equanimity, ethic of caring and ecumenical worldview.
  • Faculty effects on students’ spiritual development include: direct encouragement, reflective writing and journaling, collaborative group projects and contemplative practices in class.
  • Majors that positively affect spiritual development include: fine arts, health professions, biological sciences and social sciences. Majors that negatively affect spiritual development include: engineering, mathematics, physical science and other technical fields.
  • Other positive influences on spiritual growth include: meditation/contemplation, service learning, charitable giving, interdisciplinary courses, study abroad programs, interracial interaction, leadership training and student organizations.
  • Negative influences on spiritual growth include: watching TV, playing video games and frequent drinking/partying.

The seven-year study detailed in Cultivating the Spirit was funded through two generous grants from the John Templeton Foundation. The surveys were conducted as part of the Higher Education Research Institute’s Cooperative Institutional Research Program, the nation’s oldest and largest study of higher education.

You can find the Book, Cultivating the Spirit: How College Can Enhance Students’ Inner Lives, on Amazon.

For more information visit Spirituality in Higher Education, and the Cultivating the Spirit website.

In His Image

hand of GodThroughout my entire life, there has been one Biblical passage that has fascinated me more than any other. It appears early in the first book of the Bible in the first chapter of Genesis.

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” (Genesis 1:27)

The statements contained within this Biblical passage could provide every man with a lifetime of contemplation and could provide topics with which an endless supply of tomes could be created. I have no desire to discuss the last part of the passage which concerns the gender of the Almighty. Instead, I am going to focus on the first part of the passage which states that we (man) were created in His image. In particular, I want to discuss an esoteric and somewhat controversial subject: if we were created in His image, can we become Gods?

The reason that I ask this question is because there was a time that I would have loudly proclaimed “No!” The issue that brought this subject to light for me was gene therapy. According to the Oak Ridge National Laboratory website, “Gene therapy is a technique for correcting defective genes responsible for disease development.”1 When I first considered the concept of correcting defective genes, I decided that the practice was nothing more than man “playing God.” The idea frightened me and I was uncomfortable with the subject.

Years later, I began exploring the meaning of the previously mentioned passage from Genesis. While I was struggling with the concept of being created in God’s image, another scientific concept came to my attention. A laboratory in Switzerland has been working on recreating the Big Bang in order to understand how the universe was created.2 It was at this point that I started asking the question: what if we are just understanding how God created the universe?

This inevitably led me to link science with religion. Through science we better understand the universe and all things therein contained. Therefore, we enhance our knowledge of God’s creation and also are empowered with that knowledge to become creators ourselves. Ultimately, we must ask ourselves “If we can recreate the conditions that created the universe, if we can cure and eliminate genetic diseases, and if we can manipulate all of nature to suit our will, have we become more like God?” For me, the answer has shifted from a firm “No!” to a contemplative “Perhaps.”

Yet, while I ponder the connections between science and religion and between man and God, the truth is that these are questions which cannot be answered. There will always be the scientist who says that there is no God. There will always be the religious leader who believes that science is blasphemy. There will always be those that believe that God is an untouchable entity and there will be those that do actually believe that men can become Gods.

Everyone has an opinion. The important thing is that we ask the question.

1. Oak Ridge National Laboratory

2. Mong, Adrienne. “Teams Toil Underground to Recreated Big Bang.”

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The Realization of Truth

purest form of worshipOne of my favorite scenes in any movie occurs at the climax of the classic film Ben-Hur. During the scene where Jesus is carrying his crucifix through Jerusalem, he collapses underneath the weight of his burden. As Simon of Cyrene is ordered by the Roman soldiers to pick up Jesus’ cross, Judah Ben-Hur (played by Charleton Hesston) pushes through the crowd to give the man they call ‘King of the Jews’ a drink of water.

What I find so beautiful about this scene is that it is the purest form of worship. At this moment, Charleton Hesston’s character is devoid of dogma or religious opinion. He knows that he is witnessing a moment of great realization and does not try to rationalize it or explain it. He only feels the power of the event and offers his praise for the gift of enlightenment which he is receiving.

While the movie is portraying a fictional aspect of the story of Jesus’ crucifixion, it is also providing the piece of the story which is so desperately yearned for when reading the Biblical account of the event. None of the Gospels speak of any assistance given to Jesus during his crucifixion. They are all in agreement that Mary Magdalene remained faithful to him at the end, but we only read of the disciples betraying Jesus. Judas Iscariot had betrayed him and Peter had denied knowing him. Certainly the others would continue proselytizing men to become Christians later, but where were they at the darkest time for their Lord? Were they too busy writing down what they saw and forming the doctrine for their new religion? It is an easy thing to speak of faith, it is another thing to actually have it.

The character of Ben-Hur has nothing to offer the man in suffering, whom he has come to regard as the messiah. However, he throws himself before him with the only offering that he can provide. This is a beautiful action and properly displays the pure realization of truth. In that moment when we discover truth, we can neither define nor rationalize our feelings. We can only find ourselves on our knees in wide-eyed awe of our new understanding.

In many ways, it reminds me of the Masonic process of coming to light. I was only able to truly accept a great realization once in my Masonic career and that was during my first degree. This was because I had no idea of what to expect, I thought of nothing and only focused on the moment. When I was brought to light, it was a truly transcendent moment and it really did change the course of my life. However, after the first degree I had an idea of what to expect and was simply too busy trying to anticipate my next step rather than accept the truth as it came to me.

Perhaps that is the greatest challenge facing the craft today. Are we too busy anticipating the next step in the fraternity’s future and developing a plan to fill our lodges with members? Are we too concerned with the mistakes that the organization has made today and how to fix them? Do we put too much effort into making sure that the recitation of ritual is perfect without understanding the truth which it teaches? Do we rush to research the ritual’s deeper meanings in order to fill volumes rather than letting the realization come to us?

Masonry embodies pure worship. It only offers lessons which are left to its initiates to decipher. It has no dogma and is not concerned with the particular beliefs of its individual members. Perhaps we as Masons must be like Ben-Hur. In our moment of realization, we may have little to offer Masonry, but let us offer whatever we can to the fraternity with sincerity. It is not for us to define the fraternity or propound upon its value to the profane world. What we must do is recognize its truths not with words, but with action.

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Spiritual But Not Religious?

It sounds like song title, Spirituaql but not Religious…  The trending seems to match the PEW results from last year that found a down turn in American Religious trends, but an uptick in general spirituality.

Now, this last Sunday’s Parade magazine published their results asking America, Have you become more Spiritual?

From the publication:


New York, October 1 — America is generally thought to be among the most religious nations in the Western world. Results from a new PARADE poll on spirituality are revealed in this Sunday’s issue of the magazine. Here are some of the findings:

  • 69% of Americans believe in God; 27% don’t; 7% aren’t sure about the existence of God.
  • 78% of respondents believe in an afterlife; 43% think people go to Heaven or Hell. depending on their actions on earth; 28% believe our souls or spirits live on, and 7% think we will be reincarnated as another life on Earth.
  • 33% said religion is important but not the most important thing. The most religious and least religious respondents balanced each other—24% said religion was the most important thing in their lives and 22% said it wasn’t a factor at all. Another 22% said religion was in their lives but not particularly important.
  • 30% attend a religious service once or more each week; 20% of respondents say they go to services anywhere from once a month to a few times a year; 50% rarely or never attend.
  • 82% would consider marrying someone of a different faith; a nearly equal number (78%) would never think of converting to another religion.
  • 51% of respondents said they pray daily; 67% said they pray because it brings them comfort and hope. 15% of those who pray said they do so because God expects them to. 77% who pray do so outside of religious services.
  • When praying, 72% ask for the well-being of others, 60% for forgiveness, 27% for personal success, and 21% for money or other material things.
  • How has the recession affected religion? Just 7% of respondents say they are attending religious services more often, and 10% of respondents say they’ve been going less frequently since the recession began.
  • Two-thirds of respondents say they’ve never met with mediums or psychics, had a psychic experience, or even watched a psychic or medium on TV.  12% believe in astrology and check their horoscopes regularly. The rest don’t believe in astrology at all or read horoscopes purely for fun.
  • 83% have had no experiences with the spirit of anyone who has passed away, while 17% believe they have.
  • When asked to pick their favorite of these films involving spirituality—The Da Vinci Code, The Exorcist, The Omen, The Sixth Sense, The Ten Commandments, Ghost, and It’s a Wonderful Life—one out of every four people selected The Ten Commandments.

The movie selection seems to have a strange bias or lack of similarity, so the comparison seems skewed, but in the end, does that matter much?

How important is spirituality to you? Take their poll and see the full results at Parade.com/spiritual


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The Non-Christian Mason

Ferris Thompson was sitting on a bench outside of the lodge building, enjoying a pipe full of Marlin Flake. One of the younger, more progressive members of the lodge, Sean, came out of the building and sat by him.

“I hear that Brian dimitted from the lodge,” he said, “he gave some reasons including the fact that he determined that since Masonry wasn’t solely Christian in nature, he didn’t feel he could belong.”

“Is that so?” asked Ferris. “Well, if that’s what he has decided then it is what is best for him.”

“Yup. I just don’t get guys like that. Christians—especially church goers—are just so ignorant. Don’t they know that the Jesus story has been told a million times before? Or that the origins of their religion are just as pagan as the origins of any other? I think that any Mason that still considers himself a devout Christian has no place in the organization.”

Ferris puffed on his pipe for a couple of moments, composing his thoughts.

“So who convinced you to come to that conclusion?”

“Well, I did. I studied Christianity and spirituality a lot and it didn’t take long for me to realize it was worthless.”

“Hmmm…that is interesting indeed. But did you ever consider the early Christians that closely examined their religion like Paul and John? What about Martin Luther or John Calvin? There certainly have been men that studied Christianity much more thoroughly than you have, so thoroughly that it consumed their entire lives and yet they still subscribed to the Christian religion. What do you do for a living?”

“I’m a computer programmer.”

“So would you say you have devoted the majority of your life to the study of Christianity?”


“So who are you to tell these men that they are wrong? Who are you to tell any man who has devoted the same amount of time that you have to such study that they have come to the wrong conclusion?”

Sean became defensive, “Well, do you believe that Christian stuff?”

“Some of it, yes. Some of it, no. But it is my decision and my faith. In a Masonic lodge, no dogma is greater than any other. Christian, Jew, Muslim, Hindu, or even personal, independent worship are perfectly equal in the lodge. Our symbolism is applicable to every religion and no religion at the same time. No one can look at the faith of his Brother and say ‘Mine is better.’”

Sean thought for a second and then said, “You can if they have developed an incorrect image of God.” He had a smirk on his face, he thought he had fooled his senior Brother.

“Have you ever met God?”

The smirk left Sean’s face. Ferris emptied the contents of his pipe bowl.

“My Brother, you have taken great steps to find the destination of your personal spiritual journey and I commend you for that. But you cannot degrade those that have taken another path. Are they not still traveling toward the same destination? A Mason must be tolerant, he must accept that others may disagree with him. Do Christian Masons have the right to tell you that you are wrong and that Masonry is a Christian organization?”

Sean swallowed, as though he was digesting his pride. “No they don’t…I suppose I have been a little hard headed about this, huh?”

“Sure you have, but now you’ve learned. Now suppose you give me your interpretation of the symbolism of the Third Degree based on your religious views and later we can discuss it from my perspective.”

An Allegorical Dream


The other evening I had a strange dream. Now, most dreams are rather odd, but every once in a while a dream gives us a bit of truth about life. The following is an account of my dream.

I found myself driving along a highway, following a gray pick up truck. I could see that we were nearing a storm on the horizon and it appeared to be a cloud burst. It was obvious that the rain was very heavy because the curtains created by the precipitation from the clouds had ceased to be translucent and had now become opaque, blocking out all light from the sun.

As I entered the storm following the gray truck, I thought to myself “As long as I stay behind that vehicle, I will be safe. The pickup will guide the way.” But while I turned on my head and tail lights so that the vehicles in front of and behind me could see my car, the truck didn’t follow suit. The gray color of the truck provided it with the perfect camouflage in the rain storm and without the rays of red emanating from its tail lights it was nearly impossible to see. My windshield wipers struggled to remove the dense rainfall from my view and I feared that I would not be able to find the vehicle that was suppose to be guiding me through the rain.

In a moment of desperation, I pressed harder on the accelerator to find the gray truck. As I sped through the sheets of rain I wondered if it had pulled off of the road and I was lost forever. Finally, I saw the reflection of my head lights on the wet tailgate of the truck. I realized that if I could see my own reflection in my guide, that I could properly follow it anywhere.

I found this dream incredibly applicable to the idea of knowing thyself, which is an important part of a person’s overall spiritual health. It is impossible to learn more about God without learning more about one’s self. Self examination is essential to spiritual growth.

The idea of examining one’s inner self in order to come closer to God is an ancient concept. In the Bible, it can be found in the very first chapter of Genesis:

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.
Genesis 1:27

This passage has long supported the idea that there is some sort of divine spark in man. Something that raises man above the animals and makes him god-like. If a man can look at his own reflection and see the part of the Divine which exists in him, he can unlock the mysteries of his Creator. As Oscar Wilde once said “The final mystery is oneself.”

Namaste OmMasonry is a personal journey that leads us through the journey of knowing ourselves. It invokes the contemplation of our past, present, and current conduct, how we can better ourselves, how we view God, and even our own mortality. In order to truly understand Freemasonry, we cannot only look to the organization for our purpose; we must look inside and discover what role Freemasonry plays in ourselves. Through personal study, meditation, and devotion we can truly subdue our passions and improve ourselves in Masonry. This is how Freemasonry helps us to know thyself.

The Hindus use the greeting Namaste—or I bow to you—which is commonly used in religion to say “I salute the divine within you.” I think that this salutation is a fitting way to end this article.


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