The Great Work is, above all things, the creation of man by himself; that is to say, the fall and entire conquest which he effects of his faculties and his future. It is, above all, the perfect emancipation of his will.
For a good many years, I’ve written about the idea of producing to contribute to the Great Work. Yet, I don’t think I’ve taken the time to address what that idea means, to me or to the wide world when it comes to your self-development.
In basic terms, the Great Work is the idea of completing the development of our soul. By completing it, I mean finding within ourselves that spark of the cosmic consciousness and nurturing it to a state of understanding the wider universe around us.
A lofty goal and, not surprisingly, one that is seldom, if ever, brought to completion.
But, in undertaking such an endeavor, it’s important to not try and put the cart before the horse. While considering the Great Work as the length and breadth of a career, the reality is that the work itself is an ongoing pursuit made by degree, the production of which making small, nearly imperceptible changes to the inner life that slowly make themselves known in the external domain.
So then, what is the Great Work? The easiest way to define what it is is to say that The Great Work is the quest for knowledge that ends in wisdom.
It seems almost too simple. It seems like a process many of us already undertake. In many respects it is. But what happens in the pursuit of the Great Work is the myriad distractions and attention-stealing interruptions that take us away from the pursuit of that work.
Like all the Mysteries of Magism, the Secrets of “the Great Work” have a threefold signification: they are religious, philosophical, and natural. – Albert Pike
To further simplify the term, the Great Work is the betterment of oneself. Be it through learning and doing our trade, perfecting our life, providing for the health and welfare of our family or contributing to the uplifting of mankind. It’s in the undertaking of these tasks that the effort of the Great Work begins to shape the world around us.
The hardest part of understanding what the Great Work represents is knowing that the work is just that—work.
It isn’t something that you can buy on a shelf or order online. It isn’t something you can achieve in the simple reading of a text. No, the Great Work manifests itself in the assimilation of information and application in the real world. It comes out of the understanding of perspectives other than one’s own and seeing meaning from the eyes of the stranger. Think in terms of walking a mile in another person’s shoes. In this aphorism, the purpose is the development of empathy for the world around you, much in the way of the Golden Rule.
With knowledge comes wisdom. From wisdom comes empathy. And yet, there is another component necessary to square the circle. That fourth component is the willpower to undertake such a change with the knowledge that it means a reexamination of past lessons learned in the past.
This is the purpose of the Great Work.
Without doubt, this path implies a measure of agreed upon change that, once begun, inculcates itself into your day to day existence. The seeker, desiring change (knowingly or not) wanting to assimilate knowledge must take the first step in this process by exercising their will to acquire it, fearless of where ever it may take them.
Many Paths, One Destination
Where does that knowledge come from? What path should one follow to pursue the Great Work? Many groups and organizations suggest theirs is the one true way. But, in reality, there is an infinite number of means to obtain knowledge, and just as many in applying it. The effort of undertaking the Great Work is in your mindful daily living, applying the lessons learned and when finding an impasse, seeking further enlightenment beyond where you find yourself now. This is the process of the Great Work, not the Great Attainment. It is work. It is an effort. It is a continually tested result and attunement to the world in increasingly broadening strokes and circles.
It is for this that the pursuit of the Great Work is called the Search for the Absolute; and the work itself, the work of the Sun.
This attunement happens in meditation. It happens in prayer. It happens in mindful interactions with other human beings in the world at large—both in your community and outside of it. One could argue that it happens in the comments in social media if they offer something constructive to the dialog seeking to uplift rather than tear down.
Pike, in Morals and Dogma, writes:
For all that we familiarly know of Free-Will is that capricious exercise of it which we experience in ourselves and other men; and therefore the notion of Supreme Will, still guided by Infallible Law, even if that law be self-imposed, is always in danger of being either stripped of the essential quality of Freedom, or degraded under the ill-name of Necessity to something of even less moral and intellectual dignity than the fluctuating course of human operations.
It is not until we elevate the idea of law above that of partiality or tyranny, that we discover that the self-imposed limitations of the Supreme Cause, constituting an array of certain alternatives, regulating moral choice, are the very sources and safeguards of human freedom; and the doubt recurs, whether we do not set a law above God Himself; or whether laws self-imposed may not be self-repealed: and if not, what power prevents it.
For a long time, Brother Wayne Anderson of Canada has been running a Masonic Newsletter featuring one paper that he sends out every Sunday. I have been a subscriber of his for years and we have become good friends. Recently he sent out a paper of mine which I had long forgotten that I had written. It was written on January 1, 2012. Perhaps you have read it before, perhaps you haven’t. I reprint it here as it seems to reflect thoughts that are universal and never go out of date.
Here is Anderson’s Sunday Newsletter paper that he sent out:
I want to wish each and every member of the Sunday Masonic Paper list a very Happy and Healthy 2016. Today’s paper comes from my long time friend, mentor and good Brother Fred Milliken.
My Masonic New Year’s Resolution
January 1, 2012 by Fred Milliken
Do you believe in coincidences? I don’t.
Do you believe in Angels? I do.
Guess you know where to classify me now.
Before I went to bed on New Year’s eve I read a piece from a friend and Brother who said that he was going to spend his New Year’s day in contemplation of what he had done in 2011 and what he had failed to do and how he could make 2012 Masonically better. Did he visit and help Brothers in need often enough? Did he listen and think about those Brothers who had asked his advice and those that had whispered in his ear? Did he walk the extra mile, did he let anyone down?
He asks himself:
Did I hold true to my values all year-long? Did I lose a friend through lack of communication to too much of it? Did I do all that was required of me in time of need? Did I make new friends? Did I create any enemies? Did I leave something undone that I could have finished, and many more questions that I ask of myself.
These are some of the things that he was going to cogitate on.
On New Year’s morning I read a piece from Canadian Brother Wayne Anderson’s Masonic Newsletter – Sunday Masonic Paper No. 611 – where Brother Doug Gray pondered:
As we approach the count down toward the end of 2011; and the beginning of a New Year, it is a time many use for some reflection! I just wanted to remind everyone that although Masonry is well known as a “Progressive Science”; it should also be remembered as a “Reflective Science.”
The true purpose and value in Masonry is to gain knowledge of ones self; and his own relationship with God.
We must use our Lodge time as a place to think, to consider our fellow-man, to become “Human” and to gain “Wisdom”.
Looking inward is the place to begin, evaluate shortcomings with respect to our obligation, our charges and our commitment to the working tools or each degree.
Brotherhood is our vision in Masonry. How well do you know your Lodge and District Brothers?
Buddha taught: Man is so entangled in the “Tragedy of Life”, they are bound together out of sympathy in a “Brotherhood of pity…” Zoroaster taught: That Men are Brethren because warriors in battle between “Light and Darkness” a “Brotherhood of Battle…” Confucius: Brothers because of “common obligations”, a “Brotherhood of Service.”
In my practice of religion I am quite familiar with “centering prayer” which is much like meditation. You take a symbol, a phrase, an idea or a short scripture reading and you meditate on it for hours, making sure you clear your mind of all else. You contemplate the thought you have chosen, repeating it over and over and listening for an answer. If your mind wanders onto something else you force it back often by repeating out loud your chosen thought. Over and over, hour after hour until you have an answer. Where the answer comes from I am not going to get into. That is up to your own personal belief system.
So not believing in coincidences and getting pushed by my Angel I decide to do some Masonic centering prayer/meditation on the Masonic symbol of the Point Within A Circle.
I cleared my mind of everything but the Point Within A Circle and began. Soon I found myself in a closed maze where I went around and around. At one end I bumped into St. John the Baptist at another end the Holy Scriptures and at a third point St. John the Evangelist. But what was the message, what were they trying to tell me? Over and over I pondered and meditated.
After some time it was clear to me that I was being strongly urged to make a Masonic New Year’s Resolution – a commitment to accomplish something in the coming year. But further meditation yielded no clue as to what that Masonic New Year’s Resolution should be. This was not going to be as easy as I thought.
Maybe this is where free will comes in. It’s all up to me. But I am not sure what I should choose. Perhaps you have some suggestions.
Wayne D. Anderson, FCF, MPS
D.D.G.M. Frontenac District, G.R.C. 2015-16
Today’s guest writer, Canadian Brother Mark Kapitan, comes to us by way of Canadian Brother Wayne Anderson’s weekly Masonic newsletter. Anderson publishes a new or old-from-the-Masters article each week and forwards it to everybody on his list. Topics cover a wide variety of issues and interests but they are always Masonic. If you would like to get on Brother Anderson’s list simply E-Mail him at email@example.com . Word to the wise, the newsletter is dark for the summer, except for this recent very special edition.
The big question is could you, if asked, explain how Freemasonry makes good men better? Or does it? That’s what Kapitan, a relatively new Freemason, wants to find out. And his quest has culminated in a fascinating paper he presented just this week.
A Young Mason’s journey to find, the making of a good man, better.
by Brother Mark Kapitan, F.C.F. Ivy Lodge No. 115 A.F. & A.M. G.R.C.
This talk was delivered at Rideau Lodge No. 460, Seeleys Bay, July 5, 2012
The journey starts for many of us, with the initial contact of someone who will probably be our sponsor. We sit down with a person, whom we have never met before, or may not know very well, and ask questions in order to decide whether a Masonic journey is for us. This is probably one of the most important decisions many of us have to make at this time, do I join, or not, remembering that our choice will be based on an enormous amount, of limited information. I recall sitting with my sponsor for three hours, who, during this time, did a very good job of answering all my questions, and quite frankly, telling me absolutely nothing. But, the one comment he did make that tweaked my interest, was that “Freemasonry takes a good man and makes him better”. Personally, I know as men, we have no problem re-assuring ourselves, that yes, “I” am a good man, however, as many of us can attest, it is not uncommon for our better halves to remind us, there is always room for improvement. Upon hearing this oh so wise reminder in my head, it became one of my reasons, to fill out an application, and join Freemasonry.
After a successful Examination, a report is given and we are balloted on. A letter follows from the Lodge, and if positive, your date of Initiation is chosen. You now ask.. What will be next? Well, the journey continues with the big night, nerves are on high alert, and one questions oneself, “what am I doing here”? Everyone is so friendly, smiling at you, shaking your hand, one could assume the best, or the worst, is about to happen. It is at this time; at least it was for me, that the nerves got a kick in the stomach. One of those new friendly faces informs me that I am going to have to change out of this nice suit I have on, and into an interesting pair, of what is best described, as pyjamas, and even further, that I will be blind folded for a short period of time. As the meeting starts and you are not yet part of it… I am sure some of us have wondered if it would not be wise to change our minds, and leave. After all, I was sure I could get down the stairs and out the door, before the Tyler, who distracted with returning his knocks, could have gotten to his sword. Finally, some of the Brethren come out, one asks some questions, making references to an ancient penalty, which you are not to worry about of course, and this again sends the mind off wondering, what have I gotten myself into? Then that point of no return occurs, you pay the requested monies, and another Brother, with what appears to be a spear, is there to make sure you are properly prepared.
It’s now time! You are walked around a room blindfolded, listening to every word, from all directions, trying to remember, how many did I see come in, are they behind me, in front of me, what’s happening, what will be next? Your head is bursting with so many questions. You repeat something, seal it, and then, the Blind fold is off. You are moved here and there; different Brethren are coming up to you and overwhelming you with parts of the ritual. Finally, at last, it’s done. The Master comes down to the level, congratulates you, which is followed by a round of applause from all those in attendance, and then asks the big question, “Do you have anything you would like to say?” Wow, what a question! Let’s see, I’ve come here dressed up in a suit, paid you 3-4 hundred dollars, was paraded around, dressed in pyjamas no less, initially blind folded, in front of 20+ men I have never met before, been over whelmed with some of these strangers speaking to me individually, have been asked to change back to my suit, only to come back in and be overwhelmed again, the whole time not understanding half of what is said to me, and YOU are wondering if I would have anything to say? Of course I do, what just happened? And, ultimately, how will this make me, a better man?
Many of us continue on our journey to be Passed and Raised to the degree of a Master Mason, proving each of our degrees in front of the members of our lodge, or depending on the evening, perhaps a few more than normal. I have often made this statement with regards to the Degrees: The First, is the one that just happens. I feel that this is the Degree that binds us as Brethren, for here, we all experience the same thing, with pretty much the same results, nervousness and confusion. The Second, is the one you do for yourself, we practice and learn, wanting to do it well; and finally, the Third, this is the one we will never forget.
After this point, when one has been raised, it might be difficult for the Mason to see, just how does Masonry, take me, a good man, and make me, better? And it is here that I began my quest for an answer. From what I thought I could see, my memory was improving through practicing of the Ritual for my degrees, was I on my way to becoming a better man? I was quickly reminded by my lady who was still asking me “did I forget” … it was garbage day, or, that we were going to her mother’s tonight. Improved memory??? I guess she would tell you, I was still suffering from that well known man’s disease called, selective hearing Or listening.
After proving our third, some of us believe we are ready to assume the role of an Officer and most actually do, to the delight of the many recycled Past Masters, however, for many of us, it is difficult to get up and speak in front of others, myself included. I presumed the proving of degrees, would help prepare for the journey through the chairs, allowing us the opportunity to somewhat feel comfortable, speaking in front of others, at least in our own Lodge. Interests are peaked during this time, yet I feel often, are not tapped. For many of us, we want to be more involved, but being new, don’t know how to, are afraid to ask, are simply just assigned ritual, or, may have been deterred with that famous phrase, “Because that’s the way it’s always been”. Looking at my own Masonic journey thus far, you can imagine that I have heard those words on more than just a few occasions. Another of my favourite phrases is, “wait until you have sat in the East”….. I see! It would be preferred that we Rock the boat when we are all a little older, and a lot less stable on our feet. In all fairness though, these two statements are both very viable comments to many. The first shows that we, as a fraternity, have stayed true in the longevity of our institution, and the second would reference obviously, experience and education. Is this how a good man is made better, longevity, experience and education?
I was hoping this wasn’t the full answer, as some things are in fact being done differently and are not the way they were. To start with, many older Brethren have often told me that when they joined the Craft, one would have to wait possibly several years just to get in the Junior Steward’s chair. This would mean that many men would have been 10 plus years a Mason, before they became the Master of the Lodge. During these times, although some Lodges were doing plenty of Degrees, many still found the time to do some form of Masonic Education, and turn outs were good. The time spent waiting to get in the officer line up, combined with the journey itself of ten plus years, would provide one the experience and education needed to make the second statement true, “Wait till you have sat in the East”. One could also add that with reference of the charge “to make a daily advancement in Masonic Knowledge”, many of the older Brethren, in fact, did.
This charge, was it put forth to encourage oneself to go out, find it, to take the initiative, seek knowledge through education, and then, put it in place? We all know this is not always an easy task, as for many of us; we need to see what is missing, in order to desire it, or know it is in fact missing. Was this charge to encourage one to find what makes a good man, better?
In today’s time of hustle and bustle, we find in many Lodges there are few new members joining, or there is a lack of attendance, which is forcing many Past Masters to do the officer line up, in various rolls, several times. In order to resolve the pressure on the PM’s, we find many Masters are being made in a considerably shorter time, in many instances; it is 5 years or less. Leaving us with these questions: are these Brethren good with the ritual? Are they good men? Are they good examples of Masons worthy to project a public image of the Craft? Of course they are!
However, do they have many years of Experience in the Craft? Are they Masonically Educated? Familiar with the Protocol and Etiquette expected through experience and practice? Would sitting in the East, be a sign of Experience and Education, as it once was, in only 5 short years? These last few questions prompt me to ask, did this become the “fast track” to making a good man, better? And, do they, as the older masons did, make that daily advancement in Masonic Knowledge?
Third Degree Masonic Tracing Board
The Answer to the last question I feel is best summed up, this way; when I look at this call to make a daily advancement in Masonic Knowledge, which as stated was done by dedicated older Brethren, in their time, I find in our era, we profess a desire to, but, find it easier to provide an excuse not to, which usually involves, “having no time”. These days, I look at this act of making a daily advancement and compare to something as simple as eating. Some of us use a knife and fork, yet others, like me, should use a shovel. Some chew and enjoy every bite and others couldn’t tell you how what they ate, tasted like 20 minutes later. Many eat healthy, and others, junk they shouldn’t. But the most honest reference I can use to compare this daily advancement, to eating, is in this hustle and bustle of the busy lives we lead presently, one must surely admit that it is not uncommon to skip a meal, even though, we know that it is not healthy, or good for us. Unfortunately, it is easier, after a few times, to develop a bad habit rather than the “better” one.
This question, “how does Masonry make a good man better”, I have asked of many. It often made me feel like a youngster asking his parents, where do babies come from? I am sure in the time Freemasonry has been around, and from many different geographical areas; someone must have answered this question. But why was it so allusive to me. Am I looking in the wrong places, asking the wrong men? Truthfully, many I have asked could offer me no more than, it just does. For them, being good men, who have been in the Craft for many years, well, maybe it just did. Others, suggested it could be found in education. What Education? The Mechanics, the History, the Ritual, Operations, Protocol and Etiquette, is it any one of these, all on them, or is there something more?
After being Raised, I enrolled in the Masonic Arts and Sciences Course or as it was originally called the Master Masons Course. This course offered me the education in many of the areas I have just mentioned. It is a correspondence course that has been available since 1984, yet many of the Brethren, young and old, have never heard of it, or know very little about it. At present there are only 259 grads since its inception. Did I find the answer to my question in education? Am I a better man? Nope! Just a Mason with a little more education than I started with, and the privilege of adding the initials of FCF, A Fellow of the College of Freemasonry, to my Masonic Signings. The completion of this course has offered me many different opportunities and experiences, for upon being a Grad I was invited to an Alumni group, where education, is ongoing. We have a forum for questions and debates by many experienced and well educated Brethren. Could I possibly ask my question here?
What I was finding, was some very interesting educated views from scholarly Masons, providing discussions and debates far superior to my knowledge, about various topics that I was interested in, the protocol and etiquette, Ritual, and History. Yet, as a member, and a very young Mason, I could not find the nerve to ask my quested question, but hoped I could find the secret by searching in the Q & A’s of the alumni forum history. No such luck!
My patience, or lack of nerve, was rewarded a few months later, and you can imagine my excitement when I received an email, with this exact question from the Alumni, The Making of good men better, What does this actually mean and how do we do this? There it was. Honestly, I must have checked my email for replies every 10 minutes for that whole day.
Many answers where offered to this question, but one in particular caught my attention, causing me to read it several times. I will read to you the answer, which came from Brother Terry Spalding – Martin FCF;
“These same questions come up time and time again on the various Masonic email forums. It is a phrase, thrown out there with little thought, or meaning.
I consider Freemasonry, to be the biggest and oldest self help group in the world. The emphasis, is on “self”.
For the most part, our society wants everything given to them. We will move mountains, if it means we don’t have to do any work. Thus, making men better is generally perceived as something Freemasonry “does” to men.
It is, actually something Freemasonry makes available to men. Freemasonry holds it out, and then, the brother has to do some work in order for it to happen.
Another trite phrase is, “you get out of it, what you put into it.” But it’s true. If you just sit on the bench, nothing much happens. You don’t become better, you don’t become any smarter, and you don’t become anything, other than older.
Brethren frequently discuss the relevance of learning ritual. What’s the use of learning all that archaic language, and then saying it to someone?
Psychologists say that speaking in public is more fearful to the average person than dying. Rather than give a eulogy, we’d prefer to be in the box. By learning ritual, we expand our capabilities for memorization. Something many of us, haven’t done since public school, if ever. By delivering ritual, we overcome our fear, and learn to public speak. This capability boosts our self worth, and self confidence.
Consider each one of the officer chair duties. Each one of them teaches a skill of some sort; Keeping minutes, learning the lodge membership list, interacting with people we do not know, Meeting a new man, and, taking responsibility for showing him around, Setting goals, Organizing volunteers to accomplish a set goal. Each chair, has something of value.
But, we actually have to do it ourselves. Nobody can do it for us.”
This is probably the most practical response, that I have seen or heard to the question I have been asking. Myself, believing that this is at least part of a possible solution, that Freemasonry offers us what we need, right here, in our Ritual, Protocol and etiquette, history, mechanics and very simply, in our operation of the Lodge. Then I have to ask this question, “If we do these very things offered in Freemasonry, “poorly”, will we get the same results”?
It’s an interesting thought! Should we not take pride, in what, and when we do things? I believe the answer is, yes! So, how do we achieve this? Is it through Education? Again I would say, yes! Then one may ask, what education, who will teach it and who needs it?
Going back to my eating theme for the answers, What Education, any number of things we eat, can provide us with nutrition and enjoyment, or, very simply, satisfy a hunger. Who will teach, well, some of us like to cook, and those that don’t, have probably been asked to take a turn cooking, at some point. Truthfully, our wives would tell us, it always tastes better when someone else is doing the cooking, and I believe some of the recycled Past Masters would feel the same way, with that reference. And, the who needs it, we all have the need to eat and most importantly, we all like to eat.
It may be bold of me, a Mason of just over 2 years, to make the comment that we all could benefit from some form of education, but I will offer up this situation for my defence. This past December my Daughter turned 16. My Lady suggested that I should be the one to teach her how to drive, after all, I should have more patience, because “I was a Mason”. My surprised look prompted her to offer up in her defence, “making a good man better”. I couldn’t argue with that statement and, after several successful lessons teaching from my 30 plus years of experience, it was still recommended that we enroll her in Drivers Education. Firstly, for the Insurance breaks, but, in all honesty I must admit, that with Driving, I have been doing it for so long, some bad habits might have crept in, not to mention the changes in the laws over the years, that I may have missed learning. After a few short classes I started hearing things like, “do you know that was a rolling stop?” Or “You are speeding” at 5 km over the limit which most of us are guilty of. As a man, who is proud to be a Mason, I display Masonic emblems on all our vehicles, so truthfully, I do not mind being reminded by her, or, re-taught for lack of a better word, as it can only improve the way I drive and the way I project being a Mason in the public eye. When I wrote this paragraph, I couldn’t help but be reminded, that there are many circumstances where someone will view our behaviour, to evaluate what they will considered to be acceptable behaviour for themselves.
I have stated, and it is a fact, Speaking in public is a very tough area for me. It is much easier when the ones you are speaking to, work for you. Knowing I couldn’t afford to hire all of you, I thought I would ask some fellow Brother for some constructive criticism of my, talk prior to me coming here. Those that have read or heard this, all seem to get something different from it but have encouraged me to change very little. Brother David Ross FCF did however offer me a thought of his that I wanted to share.
His Comments…. “Back to the “good man better” topic. My personal opinion, is that I am a better man for being a Mason – funnily enough, my wife believes that too, and that is because I truly ‘believe’ what I am saying when I recite ritual, and I try to follow its lessons – especially the second half of the Installation General Charge. The problem we face is, that many of the brethren doing the ritual can recite the work word perfectly, but they do not necessarily understand the ‘true’ meaning – if the teacher does not understand the subject fully, then the pupil, (or candidate) has no chance. Again I look to education to make a difference. Learning ritual and understanding ritual are two completely different things.”
Is Masonry working for me at this point in my journey? After my Initiation, I was posed with this question from my spouse, well, what is it about? I am sure many of you might have been asked something similar. How do I answer? In my infinite wisdom, I responded, it’s about morals; you know making a good man, better. A short time after me answering this question to her, I recall an incident, when driving on the HWY, and being cut off, I proceeded to voice, within our car of course, what I felt would be a good solution, to my dissatisfaction. My better half enjoyed offering her opinion to my comments, “well that isn’t very Masonic”. Truthfully, I would have to admit; in the beginning, after joining the Craft, I did hear that comment on a numerous occasions. As I tend to hear it a lot less now, I would like to believe that Freemasonry, is offering me the results through my activeness; as opposed to the alternative, she just got tired of saying it. But, honestly, I believe she simply found a new way to say it. Instead, she now offers “making a good man better”. I haven’t asked her yet, but her comment of making a good man better would imply that maybe I’m not the only one in our house that believes I am a good man.
In closing, from the view offered by our fellow brother Terry Spalding-Martin FCF, I must say, for me, my feelings are, he does have the answer to my question, and has simply, laid out the short version. Freemasonry offers what is required, and our own action is the key to success. In hind sight, every bit of our involvement has offered us the opportunity to work toward this; starting with our coming forward of our own free will and accord, asking questions of our sponsor, filling out an application, our roles in the Initiation, the degrees, our proving, visiting, all our participation, what we do while we are here, the desire to do it well but most importantly, learning and the acquisition of knowledge. I did however find two additional points not fully spelled out in his reply that seemed to be obvious. First, no time line was offered to achieve the goal, so, it must be an ongoing, continuous journey, and one should strive to stay involved, even if it is just in the form of making the effort to attend our regular Lodge meetings. Secondly, it seems much of it often involves us doing it together, as brothers, supporting one another, and working together for our common goal. If all of these things are true, and I believe they are, I must thank you Brethren, for assisting me, with my own continuing journey, by making a good man better.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
BROTHER MARK W. KAPITAN
Initiated into Freemasonry May 4th 2010 at Ivy Lodge No. 115 A.F. & A.M. G.R.C. which is located in Niagara District A, and was Raised on December 7th 2010. Proved his Third Degree February 1st 2011 and immediately enrolled in the Masonic Arts and Sciences offered by the College of Freemasonry that day. Became a graduated of this course 9 weeks later on April 2nd 2011. Joined the Royal Arch Masons on April 8th 2011 and completed the RAM Degree on June 10th 2011. Was a part of the District Degree Team’s Annual Degree on July 9th 2011 and will be again this year on July 14th .
In July 2011, enrolled in the District Deputy Grand Master Course and became a graduate 3 weeks later. Enrolled in the original, and at the time new, Worshipful Masters Course in September of 2011, graduating from this course a week later. September 2011, became a mentor of the College of Freemasonry. December 3rd 2011, spoke at the St. Thomas District’s Lodge of Instruction about the College of Freemasonry and the Courses offered.
January 3rd 2012, was invested as the Senior Deacon of Ivy Lodge No. 115 A.F. & A.M. G.R.C. and was enrolled as Senior Sojourner in Chapter January 13th 2012. Has attended a couple of business meetings for the Grand Lodge, Committee of Masonic Education and assisted in the restructure of the new modular system.
The following is the introduction to the Fellow of the Craft, a book on the second degree of Scottish Rite Masonry. Where and when the final work will see publication is still to be determined. In the mean time, I thought it would be good to share and discuss.
In totality, the Rite degree differs from the Webb-Preston ritual, as it lends itself to the 32 degrees of Scottish Rite progression. From a traditionalist point of view, these degrees may seem heretical in that they lend themselves to see the 32 degree progression, a divergence from the idea of “no degree greater than the third.”
The title of this complete work is By Wisdom a House is Built which stems from the degree prayer In strength shall this, my house, be established which in itself comes from the 24th Proverb whose 3rd and fourth verse reads:
By wisdom a house is built,
and through understanding it is established;
through knowledge its rooms are filled
with rare and beautiful treasures.
The degree of becoming a Fellow of the Craft is, in essence, the building of ones house from foundation to eaves.
Intelligence to understand, Honesty to guide intelligence, Courage to act, Prudence to guide courage, and Love to humanity composed of the four others….
…By wisdom a house is built, and through understanding it is established…
The true alchemist will extract the lessons of wisdom from the babblings of folly…
The second degree is our enigma. Having undertaken the ritual and trials of the first degree, we now are at a crux in that we are in one aspect the coalesced form of Malkuth yet faced with our next stage of evolution, an evolution that necessitates our further need to be transformed and given shape for the tasks before us both here and beyond this degree. To do this we need to study and learn – not simply what it means to be a mason but how that practical application applies to the world around us and our interactions on the material influences that we encounter. Why we do this, you will remember, is to relate our own elemental being, as Malkuth, to the elemental world in which we have both become and inhabit. We are Malkuth, the elemental world, and need to now traverse the path of Tav upon the pillar of mercy towards our apex in the craft lode in becoming Master. But, we are getting ahead of ourselves and must first begin our lesson of the Second Degree and the implementation of our will into manifested action to act the square to all mankind. This is our summation of all things, our end which is without end. In the Christian VSL, it begins with the utterance of the Great Architect in saying “Let there be LVX“, and then there was LVX. So too, as LVX was created man become the blazing star of LVX so too uttering our creative force. To realize that vision, as a traveler, we must climb the steps and reach our gnosis which we do through our wisdom journey to surmount the three steps of our existence, the five steps out antiquity, and the seven steps of knowledge, and only there at the top can we acknowledge our being as a fellow of the craft as it is there that we find our self – the man made manifest as he knocks upon the door of greater illumination. As the warning above the temple door reads, “Know Thyself” because “as what you seek you already are.” Little in this journey will change you in a manner you may expect. Rather it is in the subtle shifting of thought that the greatest and most noble developments will occur. This is the middle chamber, the way before the Holy of Holies which is where the need to transform must take place before venturing forward. While these ideas may seem strange and foreign know that they have been a manner of practice for millennia in the houses of wisdom and schools of the sacred. We cannot say with certainty these ideas existed in their present form but in a manner of cause and effect they have been a part of this sacred practice to bring its students from the earthly state to the celestial so as to see the various heavenly apartments above us in the unfolding universe. This is the mystic tie that binds us – as a fellow of the craft, as a lodge, as a member of humankind, and as one can imagine to the Great Creator. In this chain of union, the brilliance of the sun illuminates us, and the moon and stars sing us the glories of the divine harmony of Truth. As the great author Pike says “Light! All comes from Light, and all returns to it.” Of the many great lessons of this degree to be learned this is the most important to understand.
As the great book itself says, “Let there be LVX!”
by Br. Asahel W. Gage, from The Builder Magazine
October 1915 – Volume I – Number 10
Joseph Fort Newton
This jewel comes from The Builder Magazine, a masonic publication published between 1915 and 1930, edited by Joseph Fort Newton.
It was then (and likely still is) the best American Masonic periodical ever published. The work below is just one of many articles in the archives, and one that I thought would be of some interest to readers for its look at Masonic symbols. I’ve made some annotations where I thought they need be. Enjoy
In the beginning, the seeker for truth must be duly and truly prepared. In the usually accepted sense, this talk is unprepared. And yet, I spent five years in the “line” of the lodge observing, thinking about and studying Masonry. It is this study and my later contemplations that are my preparation to speak on the symbolism of the first degree.
It seems to me that the essence of every Masonic lesson is presented in the symbolism of the first degree. An entered apprentice is a Mason. The second, third, and so-called higher degrees are elaborations. All Masonic business was formerly transacted in a lodge opened only on the first degree.
The Masonic lessons are practical lessons. They have a dollar and cents value. The Senior Warden tells us that he became a Mason in order that he might receive master’s, or larger wages. That there may be no misunderstanding as to his meaning monetary wages, he further says, in order to “better support himself and family.” If we will look honestly into our own hearts, we will see that we paid the price for the Masonic degrees because we hoped to receive the equivalent or a greater return. If we have not received a return equal to our original and annual investment, it is because we have not applied ourselves to the study of Masonry with freedom, fervency and zeal.
But let us understand each other. There is little chance of our making much headway unless we agree on a clear and definite meaning of the terms we use. It is not only good and pleasant, but it is necessary for us to dwell together in unity of thought, if we would arrive at a harmonious conclusion. We should therefore endeavor to clearly define our subject.
The word “symbol” is derived from the Greek, meaning “to compare.” From σύμβολον (sýmbolon) from the root words συν- (syn-), meaning “together,” and βολή (bolē), “a throw”, having the approximate meaning of “to throw together”, literally a “co-incidence”, also “sign, ticket, or contract”. The earliest attestation of the term is in the Homeric Hymn to Hermes where Hermes on seeing the tortoise exclaims σύμβολον ἤδη μοι μέγ᾽ ὀνήσιμον “symbolon [symbol/sign/portent/encounter/chance find?] of joy to me!” before turning it into a lyre. A symbol is the expression of an idea by comparison. Often, an abstract idea may be best conveyed by a comparison with a concrete object. A dictionary definition of a symbol would be, a sign or representation which suggests something else.
Symbolism, therefore, is the science of symbols or signs, the philosophy or art of representing abstract truths and ideas by concrete things. Symbolism is suggestion; in sculpture and painting by form and color, in language by words, in music by sounds. What allegory and parable are in literature; what figurative speaking is in language; the same is symbolism.
The symbolism of the first degree is for the apprentice. An apprentice Mason is one who has begun the study of Masonry. Certain qualifications are necessary for every apprentice. The qualifications of a Masonic apprentice are a belief in a God, a desire for knowledge, and a sincere wish to be of service to his fellow creatures.
Possessing these qualifications, the candidate must follow a course of ancient hieroglyphic moral instruction, taught agreeably to ancient usages, by types, emblems and allegorical figures. This is symbolism, and symbolism is universal language. It is the language in which God reveals himself to man. The manifestations of nature are only symbolic expressions of God.
Children learn best from symbols. Blocks and toys are crude symbolic representations of the more complicated things of life. Most of us learned our alphabet and almost everything else by the relationship or correspondence to things with which we were familiar. We are only children after all. Older children call themselves scientists and make their experiments in their laboratories. Each experiment is a symbol of what is taking place in the real world outside.
The apprentice in the moral science should give up the rags of his own righteousness and also all precious metals, symbolical of worldly wealth and distinction, and all baser metals, symbolical of offense and defense, in order that he may realize his dependence upon moral forces only. He should be clad in a garment signifying that he comes with pure intentions to learn the noble art and profit by its lessons, not to proselyte among others, but to develop and improve himself. He is carefully examined to ascertain whether he is worthy and well qualified to receive and use the rights and benefits of Masonry. Being satisfied that he is worthy and well qualified, he is admitted and is immediately impressed with the fact that he must undergo sacrifice and suffering if he would attain the end he seeks. Realizing that the good intentions of the candidate, his own righteousness or even the lodge organization, are not sufficient, we invoke the blessing and aid of God upon our search for knowledge and truth.
We follow the system of symbolism. When we would know the truth in regard to things too great for our minds to comprehend, we take as a symbol that which is within our mental grasp. We know that the truth about the things we cannot comprehend, is identical with the truth in relation to the symbol which we do comprehend.
The apprentice in his search for Light must start from the North with the Easter Sun in the East, and travel by way of the South to the West, and back into darkness. He again comes out of the North in the East and passes through the same course again and again in his development. Obstacles are met by the apprentice in his progress, so similar that they seem identical. The little occurrences-of life may seem unimportant but they determine whether we will be permitted to advance. The apprentice must ever be worthy and well qualified.
The apprentice must advance on the square by regular upright steps. The symbolism is so common and universal that it is used in the slang of the street. Obligations are duties assumed. We must assume them if we would advance and having assumed them we are bound by them whether we will or not. Then the light breaks and we begin to see. We find that others, even the most learned, stand like the beginners. The Master is on a level with the apprentice, and extends a hand which is grasped fraternally, and the candidate is raised. There is the key to the Masters Word–an open book, but he may never find the word itself.
Then, as before, the apprentice must follow the course of the Sun. As is the greatest, so is the smallest. In the drop of water are all the laws of the universe. If we study carefully, we will find in the dew drop the particles revolving and whirling in their little circles the same as we find the heavenly bodies revolving and turning in their great orbits, circle within circle and circle upon circle. The seeker after Light always emerges from the North in the East and passes by way of the South to the West and again into darkness, with full faith and perfect confidence that day will follow night. He is continually subjected to tests and trials and always held responsible for what he has learned and for that which has gone before. God’s Holy Book, His revelation to us, is the guide in our search for light. To the Jew this Holy Book is the history of Israel, substantially the Old Testament. To the Christian, it is the Old and New Testament. To the Mohammedan (Islam), it is the Koran; to the Hindu, the Vedas.
But whatever book it is, it is the Holy Book of the seeker for Light and that which he believes to be the word of God. The Holy Book together with the square and the compasses are the great lights of Masonry.
The lesser lights are the Sun, Moon and Master of the Lodge. The Sun symbolizes the great active principle, the Moon the great passive principle. This symbolism is so commonly accepted that even the uninitiated refer to the Sun as masculine and the Moon as feminine. The Master is symbolical of the offspring of the great Active and Passive Principles. He is the mediator, the child of the two great forces. He sets the craft to work upon their symbolic studies, which is no light responsibility to be assumed by the uninformed. Only chaos and disaster can overtake him who attempts the work he is not qualified to perform. When the apprentice has received his degree he is given his working tools and the primary or elementary instructions as to how to go to work.
The working tools of an apprentice are the 24 inch gauge and the common gavel. The gavel symbolizes strength or force. Force undirected is the flood devastating all in its path or the idle puff of the unconfined powder which accomplishes nothing. Undirected force is the gavel without the rule. But intelligently controlled, and directed along a proper line by the rule of intellect, the force of the torrent grinds the grain and does the work of many men.
The force of the exploding powder prys the rock loose so that the work of months is accomplished in a moment. The operation of universal laws in the moral world is just as ascertainable and understandable as in the physical world. Morals are as susceptible of scientific study as physics.
The lamb skin apron, a most ancient symbol, signifies that it is only by honest conscientious toil that the moral laws can be learned and applied, and that this toil must be done in purity and innocence.
The Lamb of God was a popular symbol in the Middle Ages, which was familiar to both craftsmen of Guilds and the population in general. The admission of apprentices to guilds required an understanding and acceptance of important mutual duties and obligations, before the names were entered on the records of the guild. The issuing of approporate protective clothing in the form of a lambskin apron was necessary before training commenced.
Pope Sergius I (687-701) introduced the Agnus Dei, based on John 1:29, “Behold the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world”, where John the Baptist refers to Jesus. The text in Latin is:
Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, miserere nobis.
Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, miserere nobis.
Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, dona nobis pacem.
which may be translated as:
Lamb of God, who took away the sin of the world, have mercy upon us.
Lamb of God, who took away the sin of the world, have mercy upon us.
Lamb of God, who took away the sin of the world, grant us peace.
It is currently sung or recited in the Roman Rite, the Anglican Communion, the Lutheran Church, and the Orthodox Church.
In the lectures which follow the ceremony of the first degree, the apprentice is given preliminary information. It would be too tedious to analyze these lectures at this time. Suffice it to say they are very superficial and of little worth in themselves. They must be understood and felt, if they are to be of any value. Briefly we may describe a Lodge as a place to work, a place to study, analyze, and master the moral science so that we may make use of the moral laws and principles in our every-day life. Symbolically, it is representative of the world, our daily working place.
The foundation of the Lodge and its teaching is squareness. It is, however, supported by three pillars; Wisdom, Strength and Beauty. From which we may learn that in every undertaking, when intelligence or wisdom directs, and strength or power works, then beauty and harmony result.
The Lodge is covered with the blue vault of Heaven. Blue is the symbol of equality, it is a proper mingling of all colors, it is perfect concord. It is also symbolical of the universality of that charity, which should be as expansive as the blue vault of Heaven itself. Charity is not the giving of money alone. It is also necessary to have charity toward the weaknesses and mistakes of others.
This life is a checkered pavement of good and evil, but in the center is the blazing star which is the seed and the source of all life and eternal life.
The parallel lines have a symbolism analogous to that of the two pillars, Jachin and Boaz, which is more fully developed in other degrees. The point in the center of the circle between the parallels is sometimes compared to the individual member and sometimes to God who is the center of all things.
The circumference may suggest the boundary of man’s conduct, or God’s creatures, all equally distant and all equally near to Him. Sometimes the circumference is used to depict the endless course of God’s power, and His existence without end. This is all speculation, it is symbolism, the contemplation of which will develop the individual.
If the apprentice pursues his studies in the moral art with freedom, fervency and zeal, he will receive Master’s, or larger wages, and be thereby the better enabled to support himself and family and to contribute the relief of the distressed.
“Have you ever been experienced? Well…I have.” -Jimi Hendrix
I was listening to the Are You Experienced album by Jimi Hendrix the other day. I listen to the album in its entirety about once a month. I find it incredibly inspirational. Every time that I hear the opening riff to Purple Haze I feel like I’m hearing it for the first time. It is so fresh, so original, and so futuristic…even though the album was released 43 years ago.
At this point, many of you are probably asking, “What does this have to do with Masonry?” Well, I’ll tell you.
One of the greatest characteristics that Jimi Hendrix possessed was that he really challenged the natural order of things. Many of his peers felt threatened by his musical prowess and originality. Pete Townshend, Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, and even John Lennon and Paul McCartney felt that Hendrix may possess the ability to put them out of business. Some respected him for that. Some did not.
Hendrix also represented the counter-culture of the 60’s, but in a different way than many of his contemporaries. He didn’t discuss his political philosophy by an outright partisan protest, but rather by passive suggestions and asking rhetorical questions about the state of world affairs. He used his music and his celebrity as a way to open people’s minds instead of drawing a divisive line in the sand. In a lot of ways, Freemasonry is intended to do this for its initiates.
Freemasonry has always challenged the natural order of the world. For centuries, religious organizations and governments have opposed its “questionable motives.” They oppose it for a good reason: Freemasonry promotes individual enlightenment and the right of every man to find his path to a greater existence. Not surprisingly, in order to accomplish those goals a man must challenge his preconceived opinions on spirituality, politics, and philosophy. This makes it difficult for a man belonging to the Masonic fraternity to be controlled by his church or his government.
Unfortunately, one of the problems with Freemasonry today is that we no longer require our initiates to open their minds and challenge their beliefs. We no longer get “experienced.”
There are many reasons for this. One of the major issues facing Freemasonry today is that our organization is very concerned about discrediting any accusations of sinister activities by our fraternity. We spend a lot of time and money on institutionalized charity and removing any mystery surrounding the order in order to combat any unfavorable opinions about Masonry. When mentoring our candidates, we turn our degrees from deep, philosophical allegories into shallow fables. Most Masons don’t do any sort of Masonic research on their own and they certainly don’t receive any in lodge. Today’s Masonry is a charitable civic organization, where a man improves himself simply by joining. We talk about turning the rough ashlar into the perfect ashlar, but we don’t actually pick up the chisel and attempt to transform ourselves.
Of course, some men do experience a transformation because they are diligent in their Masonic studies. I certainly changed a lot of my views and opinions after becoming a Mason. It challenged many preconceived notions that I held. At first, I resisted the new ideas that were floating around in my head, but I finally allowed reason be the victor. I truly feel like I got “experienced.” Sadly, many of our initiates never have this feeling. They never see Freemasonry as being anything more than a set of rituals, a charitable organization, or a social club. They completely miss its complex intricacies. Of course, this makes the questions from our candidates simpler and much easier to answer and for those initiates that feel the need to ask a difficult question, there is always a politically correct answer in some Grand Lodge publication.
We must bring back the process of getting “experienced” back to Freemasonry.
Our Brethren and our initiates should have their minds challenged at every lodge meeting. Our lodge education should be something out of the ordinary. Discussions should be held about every topic that is presented and the Brethren must understand that Freemasonry is about keeping the mind open to new enlightenment.
Building Hiram and Building Boaz now have a new sibling, Building Athens.
Our good friend and Brother John Nagy has been diligently at the trestleboard and is ready to unveil is third installment in the Building Hiram series with his new book Building Athens.
The book, Building Athens, focuses on Wisdom, Insight and the Work of the Second Degree, specifically:
The Ancient Source of the Masonic EA and FC training
The Significance of “The Pass” in all Masonic Work
The Seven Liberal Arts and Sciences and how they relate to “The Pass”
What Raises a Mason’s Abilities to do further Work.
In the new book he explores why the study of the Seven Liberal Arts and Sciences are so critical for Masons to study.
From the books website:
In “Building Athens,” volume three of the “Uncommon Catechism for Uncommon Masonic Education” series, Dr. Nagy shares 12 intriguing and enlightening Masonic Catechisms that outline in depth the very purpose of the Fellow Craft education. Well established nearly 2500 years ago, the training serving this purpose Raises Masons with a specific end in mind.
Building Athens reveals:
The author of and inspiration for Fellow Craft Training.
The purpose Fellow Craft training was intended to accomplish.
The single most important word that denotes the difference between Fellow Crafts and Master Masons.
A widow’s son whose life and death redefined what it means to be heroic.
What should be known about the Seven Liberal Arts and Sciences by every Mason.
What truly Raises a Fellow Craft toward Mastery.
Dr. Nagy provides you with yet one more interesting and thought-provoking guide to improve and strengthen your Masonic awareness and clarity. He shares key information and insights that will help you better understand how facets of the second Degree fit together to help you in your Building efforts.
Something that immediately caught my eye was the title and how it correlates to the work. Building Athens shares 12 intriguing and enlightening Masonic Catechisms which seems to coincide with the founding of the city of Athens and the uniting of the 12 cities under the name Athenae (Athens), where the rich, the farmer, and the artisan all shared equal rights.
You can pre-order the book now, or pick it up when it hits June 1st from the Building Athens site!
York Rite Cross and Crown – A Cross and Crown laid upon the Cross Pattée inscribed with “In Hoc Signo Vinces”
The LORD said to me, “Take a large scroll and write on it with an ordinary pen: Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz. And I will call in Uriah the priest and Zechariah son of Jeberekiah as reliable witnesses for me.
Then I went to the prophetess, and she conceived and gave birth to a son. And the LORD said to me, “Name him Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz. Before the boy knows how to say ‘My father’ or ‘My mother,’ the wealth of Damascus and the plunder of Samaria will be carried off by the king of Assyria.” Isaiah 8:1-4
This passage will more than likely spark the interest of those who have taken the Order of the Temple of the Commandery in the American York Rite. When I opened up my Bible to examine this bit of scripture, I was not terribly excited. I find the book of Isaiah to be the Revelations of the Old Testament. Interpreting and understanding prophesies is something that I am very uncomfortable with and find that examining such writings typically results in a headache. But determined to find some sort of applicable meaning in this passage, I focused on the task at hand and forged ahead in a bit of Biblical research.
I thought that perhaps the name Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz might be the key to understanding this passage. This name is defined in the New International Version of the Bible as “quick to the plunder, swift to the spoil.” Considering the last part of the piece of scripture quoted above, this definition does not seem odd. But when considering its place in the Order of the Temple, this meaning does not seem to make much sense.
However, this passage from scripture is actually referring to information found in the seventh chapter of the book of Isaiah. In this chapter, King Rezin of Aram and Pekah, son of Ramaliah King of Israel, have decided to fight Jerusalem and overtake the city. Ahaz, the king of Judah, is troubled by these events, but God sends Isaiah to tell Ahaz:
“It will not take place, it will not happen, for the head of Aram is Damascus, and the head of Damascus is only Rezin. Within sixty-five years Ephraim will be too shattered to be a people. The head of Ephraim is Samaria, and the head of Samaria is only Remaliah’s son. If you do not stand firm in your faith, you will not stand at all.” Isaiah 7:7-9
These pieces of scripture are relevant to the period during the Order of the Temple when the candidate is symbolically serving his three years as a pilgrim warrior. A pilgrim is a person that is on a spiritual quest, a religious journey. He is a traveler who has humbled himself and whose piety has urged him to seek a holy destination. As a warrior, he is engaged in a cause or conflict. Therefore, the ninth verse of the seventh chapter of Isaiah couldn’t be more applicable: “If you do not stand firm in your faith, you will not stand at all.”
But what is faith? Is it that blind belief of something that can not be proven? The eleventh chapter of Hebrews says “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” However, this makes the word faith, as found in Isaiah, seem rather worthless. Considering this definition, without an irrational belief in something with no empirical evidence, you will not stand at all. But what if faith is something more?
The Mason should exhibit wisdom, strength, and beauty in all that he does. If you have no faith in God, you have no wisdom; if you have no faith in yourself, you have no strength; if others have no faith in you, you have no beauty. Therefore, if you have no wisdom, strength, or beauty, you will not stand at all. Perhaps the name Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz really means that without this wisdom, strength, and beauty a Mason’s life will be easily plundered and spoiled.
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King Solomon of Israel is referred to in Masonic tradition as being the fraternity’s first Most Excellent Grand Master. He is championed as the man who constructed the magnificent temple for Jehovah and is heralded as the personification of wisdom. However, a closer look at the life of King Solomon shows that he wasn’t always worthy of emulation.
It is true that Solomon had multitudes of wives and concubines, but that will not be the source of any criticism in this article. Many Biblical kings had large harems, including Solomon’s father David. No, Solomon would be condemned for the very sin which had plagued his people for centuries: putting other gods before Jehovah.
As Solomon grew old, his wives turned his heart after other gods, and his heart was not fully devoted to the Lord his God, as the heart of David his father had been. He followed Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, and Molech the detestable god of the Ammonites. So Solomon did evil in the eyes of the Lord; he did not follow the Lord completely, as David his father had done.
On a hill east of Jerusalem, Solomon built a high place for Chemosh, the detestable god of Moab, and for Molech the detestable god of the Ammonites.
1 Kings 11:4-7
The Hebrews could be a strange people. God parted the Red Sea and freed the Israelites from slavery. Then he gave them a pillar of clouds by day and a pillar of fire by night to guide them. Then he provided them with manna to nourish them. Yet, the Hebrews worshiped other Gods. In Solomon’s case, he was allowed to complete the Lord’s temple and was blessed by the presence of the Ark of the Covenant. Still, he decided to disobey the First Commandment.
Like many main characters in the Old Testament, Solomon’s place of prominence came only through special circumstances. When David was old and frail, Bathsheba convinced him to place Solomon on the throne of Israel (indeed, the influence of women can be great). Solomon was certainly not David’s first choice for his heir. Joseph Heller’s God Knows gives a fictional account of the events surrounding the elderly King David. Heller portrays Solomon in a less than flattering manner in this humorous work. In the story, King David says of his son:
And I was smart enough to appreciate that for Solomon you had to spell everything out. I’ll let you in on a secret about my son Solomon: he was dead serious when he proposed cutting the baby in half, that putz. I swear to God.
While this portrayal may have no real historical basis, this much is true: Solomon was made king only through the unfortunate deaths of David’s older sons, he built his temple only through a blessing secured by his father, and he managed to nearly destroy the promising future which God had given David’s offspring. Nevertheless, 1 Kings 4:29 says that “God gave Solomon wisdom and very great insight, and a breadth of understanding as measureless as the sand on the seashore.”
Through this knowledge he was able to secure his place in history as the builder of the Lord’s temple and has been given the honor of being a prominent figure in Masonic tradition. Like all men, Solomon may have had faults, but some of his actions have earned him respect. This is a lesson that can benefit all Masons. Masons must recognize that all men have their redeeming qualities as well as their imperfections. The Mason should never hesitate to clearly identify these qualities in the men that they have identified as being worthy of emulation.