Trust and Where to Find It

photo-is-peterson-trustHaving just come off an ugly few weeks at work, the issue of trust has raised its ugly head. Bosses not trusting the people they hire, employees not trusting managers to look out for them, gossipers and those who malign out of jealousy or fear; the workplace seems to be the last place trust is formed. The specter of what passes for trust in the modern world of North America, well, it leaves something to be desired. Many books have been written about the subject, by various authors, from Dale Carnegie to Malcolm Gladwell.  We could talk about being a leader and being an employee ad nauseum, as most of us have performed one of those tasks in some way shape or form. We’ve talked in the last several articles about work, industry, and the idea of being a contributing member of society. We’ve also talked about the value of Social Capital. I find that many of these topics come to a very core value of trust. Where do we find it?

A friend once said that “trust can never be earned. It must be granted and only when you are ready to grant it. It’s yours to give, yours to take away. It’s not something that is a wage to be paid.” Wise words, although at the time, it didn’t seem so. It seemed judgemental and hollow. Of course we can earn someone’s trust. Can’t we? Work hard, be upright, and show our integrity. Right?

Confidence, belief, faith, rely upon – all synonyms for trust. Yet, who creates trust? In short…we do. In our heads, in our minds, and in our hearts. Trust is a construct of our own internal making, built on ideas, expectations, and beliefs that have been gathered over the course of creating our relationships. The building of trust is a wall, brick by brick, that is made from repeated incidents that end up the way we believe they should or would end up – we’ve played out a scenario in our mind and the members of the play have participated correctly and created a lasting impression on us. The integrity and trust of these impressions is built on not  who the individuals are but to what we believe. That is, trust is in our own minds and our own reality.

In trust, both risk and reward are built in. The trust we create in our own mind, oddly enough, is the both the judge and the distributor of the decision. We need trust to be able to form relationships with people; long lasting relationships where both parties are mutually benefited by trust. Marriages, life-long friendships, even employer-employee relationships are trust built brick by brick. We might even consider that when we engage in commerce, it is an act of trust. We call AAA and they say they will come to our aid. When that request is granted, trust has been gained. Never show up and well, trust has eroded or is gone completely. We decide in our own minds what constitutes the willfun crowning of trust on a person or company; the decision lies solely within us. Trust seems to be the glue that maintains a civil and coherent society. Let’s face it, locks only keep out the honest people, yes?

0721_trustThat trust involves risk means that we place a value on trust that is above much of our common interaction with people. Having trust in something or someone can create a dependency that may be “warranted” or not. We need to see value in something in order to actually grant trust. Ergo, that value can be lost if trust is broken. We gain much when we trust – opportunities for cooperative activity, meaningful relationships, knowledge, autonomy, self-respect, and overall moral maturity. Perhaps trust itself has no value – that is, we grant trust not because we will obtain something for ourselves (and the trustee) but “just because” we find the person to be upright. Should we trust them solely out of respect for their person? If trustworthiness is a virtue, and we seek to grow it in ourselves, then doesn’t it behoove us to show respect for another simply because we see they are trustworthy? Shouldn’t others afford us the same quarter? “Trust would be a sign of respect for others if it were an attitude of optimism about the trustee’s character: that is, if it assumed that virtue resided within this person’s character. Moreover, trust that has intrinsic value of this sort presumably must be justified. If optimism about the person’s character was inappropriate, then the respect would be misplaced and the intrinsic value would be lost.” *Article on plato.stanford.edu here*

The author of the article noted above continues on from the quote above to drop the idea of the virtue of trust as simply respect for another person. However, I think it does merit talking about. The term “authenticity” sprang to mind while thinking about this and I think that is where the core of trust begins. Authenticity is not being false or an imitation of something else; it is “worth of acceptance or belief; true to one’s own personality, spirit, and nature.” Being authentic is first knowing about yourself – who are you and how do you show up in the world. Once you know that, being authentic is about letting no one sway you from that way of being. It’s not about conforming – it’s about being who you are regardless of the situation. There was an explosion of authenticity articles and movements between 2010 and 2014; what’s interesting to note is that we’re not, as a culture, talking about authenticity now. Is it because we have new leadership that, in their authenticity, are cultivating chaos? Or is it because the ability to be authentic is too hard or scary, and the movement is gone? Culturally and sociologically, it would be interesting to reflect on why there was that surge in “being authentic” and whence that movement has gone. However, not right now, another time… If you want to read more on authenticity, check out the plato.stanford.edu site which houses many articles both on trust (referenced above) and on authenticity.

All of these concepts seem tied together: autonomy, self-realization, authenticity, and trust. While the core of creating trust is authenticity, there has to be a certain willingness for the trustee to put a personal stake in the relationship. You can be as authentic as a fresh baked apple pie but if someone else has inherent trust issues, you’re never going to trust1be invited to dinner. As the cliche goes, “It’s not about you. It’s about me.” I feel as if I am in constant discovery of myself so to be authentic for me is to be present. As long as I am thoughtful and searching my feelings with honesty, that is as authentic as I can be. Like everyone else, I change my feelings and mind, as I learn more about myself and knowledge about the world. Am I still worthy of trust if my authenticity is fluid? I hope so.

Two of the core values, in my mind, about Freemasonry, are authenticity and trust. Like any society of men and women where people to come together for a common cause, Freemasons have a structure and codified ways of acting and being together. We are separate from the outside world because of the Fraternity. We don’t treat our fellow members with the same casual demeanor that we would the people we work with or classmates or even some of our family members. From the onset, we must consider the people that are bringing us into the fraternity with some measure of trust. This makes the vetting process not only important but critical; not for the Lodge or Order but for ourselves. For the aspirant. Freemasons themselves are under the microscope of the aspirant’s eye – will we meet their expectations?

Do you want some of this?

Open HandsEntitlement. A word bandied about often by many citizens of the United States. I wanted to explore it because in a recent conversation, it was used akin to arrogance and I wasn’t sure that was correct. The word “entitlement” doesn’t appear in the English language until 1782 and I was unable to find its original source. However, in a very interesting article on Entitlement, (in a blog called Language Log),  the author is investigating the question of when the term went from being a positive term to being a negative term. The article in question is here. Specifically, we North Americans now tend to use the term in a negative way: ” a sense of entitlement” is used to discuss someone who is feeling privileged, or feeling they need special privileges when they are not due them.  Additionally, the government uses it in a negative way to indicate the same thing; “entitlement programs” are seen as those programs which feed the parasites in society and are not empowering. Some elements of society tend to refer to them as “handouts.” Others see “entitlements” as a duty to care for fellow human beings.

These references and discussions leads one to see a culture that seems to be pushing the idea of activity and work as the only valid “value” in society. As a nation, we see our work as a symbol of uprightness, honesty, and strength. We see the homeless, poor, and unemployed as having done something wrong or lazy or both. If your parents instilled that value of working hard for your goals, no matter what they are, the thoughts have crossed your mind at some point in your life that someone must have done something wrong to be laid off, fired, homeless, poor, or generally in a poor state of affairs. Guaranteed. The only way one cannot feel this way is if one has been dragged through the proverbial “ringer” themselves and had to be that person who is poor, homeless, oppressed, or otherwise fallen into “bad times.”

Do we take our judgement about “entitlement” to extremes? I ask myself that often. I go to yearly conferences where dozens of people arrive to a site and live in a cooperative atmosphere for days at a time. Living in dormitory settings and eating meals family/buffet style, it’s expected that everyone participates in the setup, cleanup, and EFZmaintenance of the site. No one is exempt from this expectation except the infirm or very senior or aged attendees. In general, this seems to work very well. People are cooperative, happy to help, and understand not only the value of “many hands make light work” but also Industry or work are good for us overall. People feel better when they are participating and joining in the creation of a harmonious and giving space. When twenty people clean up, it means more time spent for everyone in other activities.  The group is happy and the environment is uplifting.

You all know what I’m going to say here. There is no perfection and no paradise. There are always one or two people who struggle with these cooperative work or shared space concepts. They place all their items in the showers of the bathroom that is shared with ten people. They lock the bathroom door, restricting access for those same ten people who would also need the toilets or showers which are shared. They rarely do the dishes, and almost never look around for what work might need to be done. They don’t even ask if they can help – they just disappear for their “personal” time. After all, they’re on vacation, aren’t they? They expect the “locals” to help the with rides, directions, or general questions | assistance at a moment’s notice and with little regard for what that person might actually be doing at that moment. They see other people’s time as their own, not something for which to be grateful. In short, they do not think about the other person before making their requests. They do not see the other person as valuable as they are. They may be the gentlest soul in the world, used to working hard at home; however, at these conferences, there’s a “sense of entitlement” that seems to permeate their actions.

The proper thing to do is to point this out to them and help them understand how their behavior impacts others. As a member of the community during this time, it’s my job to do that. I believe it’s all our jobs to do that. I fail. Others fail. The person continues to see their behavior as acceptable and others continue to see their behavior as intrusive and rude. This breeds resentment, gossip, and ill will. I’ve felt that resentment grow, and ask myself silently, “Don’t they see what they are doing? They are wrecking this for everyone!” That might be a little dramatic but the resentment does grow. I make assumptions that they are lazy, acting entitled, or just clueless. When it finally erupts, it comes off as condescending, belittling, and not very respectful of the other person. Conversely, it does no good to “ignore it.” I do not want to be that person who says “people are people” and they “will always be that way.” That’s condescending in another way; by not offering the person the person the information necessary to learn and grow, you’re saying they are not capable, intelligent human beings. You are demeaning them by dismissing the behavior. In fact, you are enabling the entitlement.

Obviously, as I stated above, the right thing to do is to point out the behavior and talk about its impact. My general way of doing this is pointing out the behavior, listening to them expectation1and their responses, showing how it impacts others, and providing a few possible ways to approach the issue. I try to approach it as a discussion rather than an admonishment – at least the first time. Maybe even the second time. Yet, I always have that fear of bringing something up to someone and having them be upset; indeed, this is the reason most of us don’t do it in the first place. We think we are one of three things: we are not responsible, we’re acting beyond our authority, or we’re going to upset people.

Tough.

At least, that’s what I tell myself. It’s bravado and I stumble. But I have to just do it. Practice makes perfect.

The first steps are always the hardest. For me, approaching entitlement as a discussion rather than corrective behavior seems to be the right answer. I have to frame the words that come out of my mouth in such a way to help correct the situation, not inflame passions. I know that everyone doesn’t work that way; my hope is to have understanding about impact rather than to just blindly correct a behavior. If someone is chastised, they tend to only associate the behavior with that specific environment. If a discussion ensues, they see their actions in the broader context – their lives – and thus may make the leap of approaching all activities with a mindset that steers away from entitlement.

What I think is true for this conference might also be true for the wider society and our day to day lives. While we’re not living in dormitories and sharing food at every meal, I think the path of discussion rather than accusations feels more correct, more productive. Perhaps more human. I personally tend to get mad when someone expects me to jump at their call without even a “hello” or they infringe on shared space with their demands and wants. If I can take a breath and think for a moment before engaging, I might be able to leverage that “pivotal” moment and create something positive. It doesn’t always work – traffic is a great example – but I hope that I’m making progress. Thinking before speaking is always a challenge but one worth jumping into.

Not everyone will “get it.” Some of those I call out will be embarrassed enough by their actions to be mad with me for pointing it out. Some will cry and think I’m calling them awful people. Some will ignore the guidance, or hate me for being arrogant enough to think I’m better than them, or just plain shrug their shoulders and walk way. It shouldn’t stop any of us from trying to address these things that would hold us all back from being better people and better citizens. The community we strive to improve is the one with which we are actively involved; that is our friends, neighbors, and co-workers.

helpinghandAs Freemasons, our behavior away from our Lodge is equally as important as our time within the Lodge. We’re taught how to behave with one another, including the ability to address concerns with a fellow Brother directly and with virtue. Shouldn’t we afford the rest of our community the benefit of our lessons learned? That is part of helping humanity improve, I think. It doesn’t make it easy when the rest of the world doesn’t play by the same rules. It also doesn’t exempt us from facing the challenges and the hard work ahead. If we dislike entitlement so much, and we resent the people who fall into that mode of being, what are we doing to combat it? What are we doing to improve it, whether it is a head-to-head conversation or immersion in supporting an organization like Habitat for Humanity or mentoring for job-training programs? It behooves us to be the examples of working hard to show the meaning of real service, gratitude, and entitlement. How can we help people help themselves, instead of being victims? How does being a victim benefit anyone, personally or societally?

Maybe we can take back the word “entitlement” to mean what it initially or originally meant: “the amount to which a person has a right; the fact of having a right to something.” What is a “right,” and to what do we each have a “right?” What are your thoughts on entitlements and rights? Is a study of “the human right” in order? Or Rights in general? What do you think?

As always, I am grateful for your views and opinions.

thanks1

 

 

 

 

Legacy

legacyThe human condition. It is “the characteristics, key events, and situations which compose the essentials of human existence, such as birth, growth, emotional nature, aspiration, conflict, and mortality.” One key element was left off this Wikipedia definition: creation. Humans were born to create. We die hoping we have created enough. Humans were born to build, adjust, renovate, improve, birth, tend, cultivate – to create.

This might be a general assumption of the readers here, but we are all searching for the meaning of life. Why are we here? If you’re Neil Peart, the answer is “Because we’re here. Roll the Bones.” If you’re Jung, it’s to “realize a vision.” The Bible (Isiah 43:7) tells us that the purpose of man’s existence is to ‘glorify God.’ Pain, frustration, weakness, and chaos seem to all stem from a lack of purpose in our lives, or a not having a goal towards which we strive. We come to the World’s Table with expectations, complications and baggage. By the time we’re ready to create something, we stumble. What are we doing here on Earth, at this time and place? We have way overthought the question. Our purpose is to create. It really is that simple.

All of the examples above can all be distilled to creation. From babies to businesses, from community to chaos to cash reserves – humans cannot help but build something. Even if it’s a stack of beer cans beside the couch while we chill, we’re building. Our minds want to make things better, bigger, faster, higher, more pleasing, more chaotic, different, and new. We build better drugs, faster cars, and higher buildings. Think carefully, when are you *not* creating? Even your body is creating while you sleep.

A recent conversation with some friends involved discussing the attributes of avatars, archetypes, and virtues. This was in conjunction with a question posed to an audience: Do you want to be (a) God? What an audacious question! Do I want to be a God? Oh, heck no. Hubris has brought down many a man, and woman, and I have no desire to experience that pain. It did bring me back to the question of “why am I here, then?” Having thought about that often, I find it’s difficult to distill a lifetime of thought into so simple of a question. Am I here to be a god, or THE God? That’s a firm “no” in my mind. The very idea makes me shudder. I’m here to be a human being, the best expression of my own form of human being that I can be. Yes, that’s it. Very firm “no” on the “god” thing.  And then the niggling, wormy, repetitive thoughts of humanness and godhood would not leave me alone.

legacy5What is a “god?” To Webster, it is: “ a being or object believed to have more than natural attributes and powers and to require human worship; specifically :  one controlling a particular aspect or part of reality Greek gods of love and war.” Interestingly enough, if it is capitalized, it means, “ the supreme or ultimate reality.” Whoa. Wait. NOT a person? So, someone who is a “god” controls part of the reality but God controls all of reality. Gods and gods create realities. They create.

If our desire is to create, our very need for existence is to create, and God is commonly known as “the creator, the controller of reality” well… yes, let’ say it – Are we trying to be like God? Are we trying to BE Gods? It seems we humans do nothing but try to create and live in our own realities. In Genesis 1:26 though 28, the Bible talks about making mankind in “their” image, and “and he made them man and woman.” We’ll set the plurality of that aside for right now but divinization has been around for 2000 years as a Christian concept. In the second century, Irenaeus, bishop of Lyons (c. 130–202) said that God “became what we are in order to make us what he is himself.” Irenaeus also wrote, “If the Word became a man, it was so men may become gods.”

Maybe we have no choice. Our destiny as a species is to become gods, or God-like. Or even God. We’re inevitably going there, through our experience of creating, whatever it might be. As much mental gymnastics that we do via theology, psychology, astronomy or astrology, it all ends up in the same destination: we live, we create, and we die to forward the human species to return to their God home. We are creating our realities. We control our reality. People attach such reverence, deference, fear, and glory to the term God; I think, however, that it is the same way with ice cream and puppies, money and fame: it’s a human lens viewing and interpreting but it simply falls short. There is a rose-colored lens coating our idea of God, via religion or not, and that rose-color makes everything pretty. What if It just is, and we’re part of the “It?” We can categorize as Archetypes or manifest as avatars or embody ideals and in the end, we create whatever is our own special aspect of the Divine. The individual voice of God, whatever you legacy2deem that to be, becomes a painting, a piece of music, a child, a poem, a home, an organization, a community, a new way of thinking.

The aforementioned conversation inevitably turned to “Well, we’re either supposed to be gods or not, so what?” If we’re supposed to become higher expressions of ourselves, then that’s great. But we’re dead. The point is…? Humanity is constantly changing. Maybe we wouldn’t go as far as saying “evolving” but perhaps that wrong. Perhaps evolution is not a conscious “thing.” That is, we evolve, regardless of whatever we think about it. It’s not about being conscious about evolving; it’s not even about evolving consciousness. The human being species continues to propel itself forward via creation. The evolution will be a reflection of that creation. I think we may have to forget about the what (evolution) and work toward the creations that are within our aspect of the “God whole.” In other words, if my “god-given” gift is speech, then speak. Speak to the best ability and training you can and make an impact. Stir people. Find the Truth of what your little land plot is of “God” and make it prosperous. Forget fame and approbation: do the best you are able, no matter what it is.

In truth, isn’t that the Legacy we’re leaving for our descendants? For the Humans that follow us, we’re leaving what we create, whether it is more humans or more books, fine art, the echoes of music, or beautiful gardens. Maybe it is a life saved because we cared enough to write the policies for the Red Cross that allowed that to happen, or because we ran the sound equipment that recorded Martin Luther King’s speeches. It’s the difference between someone finding a new way forward because you took the time to bring your gifts to an organization, like Freemasonry, or not finding any kind of guiding light at all. Perhaps they would, eventually through some other organization or group; yet, it wouldn’t be the same, would it? It legacy4would be different, and thus cast a different turn on the evolution of Humanity. The best expression of who we are is the creations we give by utilizing our talents, whatever they may be. Like light in a prism, we’re individual colors that come together to make a whole. The idea is that we contribute what god-like qualities we have to weave a whole that helps our descendants move closer to a better expression of the god-like qualities, and so on.

Weird as that may be, maybe that’s what our forefathers were also trying to say when they said that God made humans in their image, and God became “Word” so that we could understand what it was like to be God. In our limited capacity as human beings, in a mortal world, we only see part of the whole. Similar to the workings of a Masonic Lodge, where the many play their parts but only one can see the ALL, we humans are the many. We’re part of the All, but we don’t get to see it yet. We don’t get to play in that playground until its time. When it is time for our individual self? No. When it is time for all. We get to move forward glacially. Progress measured in epochs. When the evolution clock ticks, it won’t seem like evolution at all.

 

 

Liberal Arts – The New Millennium

 

Liberal Arts Degrees: Can They Still Get You a Job?Okay, hive mind, I have a question for you: Do you think Liberal Arts are important? Do you think that they are shrinking in importance in our public education system? Maybe in our private ones, too?

My goal this year is to start a nonprofit organization dedicated to education… specifically, the liberal arts. I’m in the process of crafting a mission statement and goals. My target age group specifically is High School and older, all the way through adulthood. I want to do something similar to a classical ancient educational center, with a type of small class (Oxford Tutorial?) maybe open air, with a center and focus on liberal arts and thinking.

Source: Liberal Arts Degrees: Can They Still Get You a Job?
We are quickly losing the ability to think critically, step through problems logically, and use rhetoric to make our points. Worse still, we pride ourselves on feeling our way through debates rather than applying reasoning. I went to school in the 70s and college in the 80s, and liberal arts were looked down on at that time, but not wholly forgotten. Today, they seem to be the first studies cut, in favor of applying money to vocational training. I’m all for having a vocation but we need to use all of our brains to be able to create a better human race. Quite honestly, I think we are where we are today in the United States because we have failed to teach all of the Trivium and Quadrivium.

So, let me first ask… what do you think of the liberal arts?

Let’s ask more questions… how important do you find Liberal arts in your daily life? Do you value it personally? Do you think it’s necessary for a strong culture? Do  you find it lacking? If so, how and why? Where? What do you think the answers are? I want to hear from you – see if what I see is what other see. You’re smart Masons, and you already value the idea of knowledge and study. If you could “fix” it, what would you fix? If you want to take a survey for me, that would help out a whole lot. Here’s the link: http://thedarkduchess.polldaddy.com/s/more-on-liberal-arts. I’ll post the results here in a few weeks.

Thanks!! ~Kris

Understanding Chaos

inline-the-company-chaos-you-dont-know-youre-creatingIn this first month of 2017, here in America and in some other countries, there has been a great deal of what we like to call chaos. Chaos is “complete disorder or disruption.” However, I’m going to challenge us all, especially Freemasons, to look at Chaos differently. We put “Order out of Chaos” but what does this mean? The challenge I have is to look at Chaos as something different and necessary to life and growth, or at least our ability to tell the difference.

Let me first start by saying this is not, emphasis on NOT, a political discussion. This is using an event in politics to illustrate a point. However you feel about the politics/events, right or wrong, is irrelevant to the content of this blog. What I want to do is illustrate how science and nature have a real place in our processes to affect change. Think differently. That said, here we go.

A recent event happened in politics in America – the Immigration Executive Order that Trump signed on January 27th. The executive order was, by mostly-credible accounts thus far, written by Steve Bannon, a self-designated fear monger. He stated, in a 2010 interview, “Fear is a good thing. Fear is going to lead you to take action.” He also stated that “I’m a Leninist,” [quoted as saying by a writer for The Daily Beast] He later said he did not recall the conversation. “Lenin wanted to destroy the state, and that’s my goal, too,” the site quoted him as saying. “I want to bring everything crashing down, and destroy all of today’s establishment.”  Mr. Bannon told The Washington Post this year, “We call ourselves ‘the Fight Club.’ You don’t come to us for warm and fuzzy. We think of ourselves as virulently anti-establishment, particularly ‘anti-’ the permanent political class. We say Paul Ryan was grown in a petri dish at the Heritage Foundation.”

I do not think that Mr. Bannon is alone in his thinking this way, especially across the current appointees and heads of various government agencies. I think Trump has a specific goal in mind: introduce chaos into the system to turn it on its head and change it. The difficulty that most people have is that it is chaos mixed with fear, hatred, and injustice – not Masonic values at all.

In a recent Facebook posting, historian Heather Cox Richardson explained this “shock event” in very succinct and clear terms – what it is, what the outcomes may be, and what we can do to overcome it. The full text can be found in this blog. I think that one of the best sentences in this piece, and one we should all take hold of is this: “But because shock events destabilize a society, they can also be used positively. We do not have to respond along old fault lines. We could just as easily reorganize into a different pattern that threatens the people who sparked the event.” Her point, in other words, is that we don’t have to react in ways we’ve always reacted – we can take our emotions and work differently. It takes consciousness, focus, and effort. It takes energy. Energy.

thermodynamicsHere’s where I want to turn chaos on its head. In the world of science, specifically physics and thermodynamics, chaos equates to entropy. Entropy is not sitting on your couch, drinking a Coors, and watching the game. No. In physics, entropy is the lack of order or predictability; gradual decline into disorder. Simply stated, entropy is the spreading of energy until it is evenly spread. A great, in-depth, and head-expanding article on the second law of thermodynamics and entropy is here. I warn you, it’s long and even though it says “simple,” it takes focus to really follow the whole article. Bottom line: let’s just say, energy disperses.

If you look at our country, or any “related system” I will call it, we were founded by many humans with a great deal of energy for change. Events which upset the equilibrium – taxation, religious persecution, and the like – created energy, which in turn led people to expend their energy differently – fighting for and creating a new country and a new form of government. This energy, related to the creating of the United States of America, has over time, received influxes of upsets to its equilibrium; these are the events more remembered as shapers of the country. It is how we got to where we are today.

How does this relate to thermodynamics and physics? Hang with me, I’m getting there. There is new discussion about entropy and how physics can be applied to the biology of life. Another long article but with a very clear video about the thoughts and theories is found here. In essence, the article explains that in the end, thought (that is, intention, logic, and problem-solving) are the keys to fighting entropy and disorder. Another way of looking at this is that the destruction of forms happens because of entropy; the introduction of an upset to the equilibrium staves off entropy (chaos) and causes the current energy to reorganize and become a viable source for change. We can look at teleology as having a connection to thermodynamics rather than biology. Simply said, thought is energy.

Did I lose you? I might have lost myself. But, stay with me. Where I’m getting to is this: Freemasonry values nature and science – we need to look at both for the answers of how did we get here and where do we go next. Let’s take a step and connect biology, physics, and politics, weird as that may be, into a line and we can see how we got here. And, to Heather Cox Richardson’s point, how we get out. We need to take whatever energies we receive from the upset of the equilibrium and turn it into a thoughtful way to change our world. chaos-3Like the small discs of atoms the researchers used in their experiments in the above article, we too can use tools and socially organize into effective change advocates. We can create something new from the impetus we’ve been given. To me, Freemasonry has given me the balance to look at something like Chaos as see it as a blessing. I’m not talking about how that chaos is delivered, which may involve incredible emotional and physical upheaval. Pain, Fear, Hate, Ignorance – all of these continue. It is in our responses where we can affect the change. Until we think about our next moves, use the energy that we’ve been given to that plan of thought, and execute well, the shock event will actually create nothing new at all. I might even venture to say that what we might view as negative change can actually be what positive change needs to get going. All of these lessons are clear in nearly all degrees of Freemasonry. Sometimes, it takes chaos for us to see the value in what we’re learning. If we can take a breath and use our thought processes to absorb the disruption, we might be able to see the value in all sides of an event.

 

Egregore

maxresdefaultEgregore (also egregor) is a collection of thoughts put forth from a group mind. It’s a simplistic explanation of a complex concept – at least to me. Psychologically speaking, an Egregore is that “atmosphere” or “personality” that develops among groups independent of any of its members. It is the feeling or impression you get when walking into a restaurant, store, or neighborhood that something feels… different. It’s not wrong or odd, just… different.

“The word “Egregore” derives from the Greek word egrégoroi meaning “watchers.” The word appears in the Septuagint translation of the Book of Lamentations, as well as the Book of Jubilees and the Book of Enoch. Gaetan Delaforge, in Gnosis Magazine in 1987, defines an Egregore as a kind of group mind which is created when people consciously come together for a common purpose.” Think of groups coming together to build something, like Habitat for Humanity, or like the feeling of a synagogue that prays together for a common cause. No, those aren’t quite right. It’s more of the feeling that comes from doing the work in a group, of like-minded people. Being in the midst of the common mind working for a specific purpose, which feels powerful. Transformative, even. Egregore implies, by its definition, spending time and energy to create…something.

This word, egregore, came up recently in a conversation with a fellow Mason, and I wondered at its true meaning. It isn’t a word in my everyday vocabulary and not one I had heard or used more than maybe once. It was time to brush up. I found an astounding number of occult meanings and, to be frank, made up ones as well. I know that the word was first used by Victor Hugo, and the root is noted above. But, the idea of egregore is, I think, difficult to put into exact words. It’s kind of like other concepts of “good” and “bad” – you may not have the adequate words but you know it when you see it. Egregore is that same way for me: I “know” what it means and I have seen it, and felt it, in action. Yet, saying it feels, frankly, a little “woo-woo.” A little fluffy, new-agey, and weird. But, I know it exists.

There are some who feel that an Egregore is an entity unto itself; the being is a collection of spiritual, emotional, and mental energies put forth by a group of people with a single purpose in mind. I don’t know that it has a consciousness of its own; rather, I think it ebbs and flows as the group “moves” through its work. I think in well-done ritual, the Egregore can be felt moving among the members of whatever group is working toward the goal. When I think of Egregore, I think of the pinnacle of a Freemasonic ritual: all members working together to achieve the goal of promoting the best welfare of humanity, combating ignorance and hate, and striving to bring beauty and wisdom into the light. Think of a Masonic ritual that felt incredible and think of what made it feel that way – THAT is egregore. I think that Leadbeater alluded to it in “The Science of the Sacraments” in his discussions about censing the Church space.

A Masonic blogger, E.C. Ballard, wrote the following, “So, what does any of this have to do beehivewith Freemasonry? The symbols, rituals and meetings of a group, when repeated over time, develop an egregore or group mind which binds the members together, harmonizes, motivates and stimulates them to realize the aims of the group, and enables the individual members to make more spiritual progress than if they worked alone.”  This is why I think symbols all have meaning – more than the one we discern from their location or use in Lodge. We smell the Lodge incense and this brings our hippocampus to a place of Order and Structure – the temple room. It’s the shivers we all get up our spines during any initiatory ceremony, when certain names or elements are invoked. The Freemason’s ritual, by its very nature, followed correctly creates this egregore.

And… this is really what I mean about being able to identify a Masonic egregore. I once wrote, in a personal essay, “I don’t know exactly how Freemasonry works, but it does work. I am a far better person today than I was before, by applying Masonic principles and being open to learning. Had those two things not come together, Freemasonry would not have worked.” So, for me, egregore is the “work” achieved by a group mind, coupled with the willingness to receive that work. Sounds remotely like discipline, doesn’t it?

Interestingly enough, both group mind and willingness are addressed by the structure of Freemasonry. The willingness to work, well, that’s a given. We come to the group of our own free will, and we can leave of our own free will. Freedom of choice is the purest example of a willingness to work. If we don’t want to do the work, learn the lessons, or put in time, why do we stay? We shouldn’t. Freemasonry doesn’t or shouldn’t bend to our will. It’s not about us. It’s about us conforming to the rules and regulations and more than that, being willing to be honest with ourselves about being there. If we’re not willing to submit to Masonic discipline, why the heck are we there? Why spend the money, time, and effort to be there? It’s far better for the individual and the group if the person chooses one way or the other and then…just does it.masonicsymbols

The second piece, creating the group mind, is far more difficult to qualify… In articles I have been reading recently, on leadership, there is a concept called emotional intelligence. “Emotional intelligence (EI) or emotional quotient (EQ) is the capability of individuals to recognize their own, and other people’s emotions, to discriminate between different feelings and label them appropriately, to use emotional information to guide thinking and behavior, and to manage and/or adjust emotions to adapt environments or achieve one’s goal(s)” The term has been thrown around psychologists for fifty years but it has only recently (1990s) been the subject of business and leadership roles. The basic premise is this: in order to build effective teams, everyone must be working at their highest level of emotional intelligence, which develops trust, and eventually creates a team that is able to do anything towards which they put their minds and efforts.

Emotional intelligence develops “corporate culture”, which is like Masonic egregore.  The ritual brings a physical demand in our lives; study and philosophical discussions bring mental stimulation. I think we forget the emotional component to Freemasonry and that is emotional intelligence – how we dispense justice, how we reprehend, our voices when speaking with people – things the ritual instructs us in on how to live. By combining the first two, physical discipline with study and mental exertion, with the third, well-regulated emotions, we get Freemasonic egregore. At least, it appears that way. Maybe the concept of the “Lodge” or maybe even “Freemasonry” is itself an egregore.

I think we have to test it ourselves. How does Lodge make us feel? How does well-rehearsed ritual sound and express itself? Do we feel satisfied when the pieces work well together? How do we feel when they don’t? How does it feel to stand in a Lodge room alone? What about with other members? What happens when there are three people attending a meeting versus fifteen? What happens to the Lodge when one or two members are not “hooked in” and trusting the Lodge, the Master, or the Order?

earthWith Freemasonry, it feels as if one needs to be “all in” in order to even start to build a true Freemason’s Lodge: a curated collection of people coming together in a thriving and growing group that finds, eventually, its own brilliant egregore. Perhaps that is what we are searching for and why Freemasonry appeals to us as human beings. The mystical experience that some members hope to find is really this egregore that, in some ways, we are all hoping to find. We all want to make a place in the world – leave our mark or our legacy. As Freemasons, that is a better humanity. Masons seem to be searching for that community that brings us hope, trust, and peace. Finding it takes a lot of work, it seems. But having seen it, I find it pure Beauty, pure Wisdom, and perhaps a brief insight into what the Divine really is like.

Discipline

selfdiscipline2Something I’ve been thinking about for a while now is discipline. We humans are funny beings. We value discipline and yet…not really. We need the structure but we, especially North Americans, value our “freedom.” We have funny ideas about freedom, too. Freedom isn’t do everything you want, and discipline is not don’t do everything you want. True freedom and true discipline are free from excuses. Both are situational, that is, each has its own breadth of structure applied to the situation you are in. For example, school rooms have a certain discipline but the recess yard has another discipline. They may overlap, or they may be 180 degrees from each other.  To have discipline is to be a disciple of something – that is, the discipline is applicable to the governing body, group, committee, or any other social structure. It may not even be social in nature – there are many solitary pursuits that have a discipline; think religions, sports, or even academia. To be free is to be at liberty, as opposed to being restrained or constricted. To be free is to enjoy your individual rights. Perhaps, even the individual right to pursue a personal discipline.

I grew up thinking that discipline was a dirty word. My parents, products of a Depression generation, felt that you provide moral and ethical discipline, hand, belt, or wooden spoon – didn’t matter. And you know what? I turned out okay. I might not have been OK with everything they did but I could see the value of that kind of upbringing, for the most part. I know a lot of people in my generation did not value that discipline and in turn, have made discipline a dirty word for their children. Today, any kind of spanking seems to result in a huge uproar of child abuse. It’s interesting that a Google search of “physical discipline” immediately comes up with the definition “corporal punishment” and images of fists and violence. Discipline is none of those. For humanity’s sake, there has to be a balance.

Where my parents did not have discipline was in the gaining of material things. It was a product of not having much as children; to compensate, they were unrestrained in their material desires. In turn, I have a tendency to succumb to those same desires – will the next “thing” make me feel better? I’ve come to find that spot in my consciousness that seems to feel a need and when I want to go fill the need, I have to ask what it is I really am looking for. Where I have moved beyond upbringing is the understanding of myself and the need to find the world beyond that immediate desire.

discipline1To me, this is a personal discipline. I need to invoke my own method, structure of analyzing a situation and put rules and guidelines down for myself to be able become better disciplined in this world. The discipline changes as I change, and as the world changes. In another culture, in another time, my upbringing might have been okay in the world. In this, my world, my desire to be a better person is driving my need to invoke this discipline for myself.

I don’t know that I would have recognized discipline if it weren’t for Freemasonry. Perhaps it would have taken a very long time. Freemasonry allowed me windows into my own psyche and in others experiences  which I might not have been privy to without its influence. I remember a new member a very long time ago who seemed to fight the discipline of Freemasonry. She was in her late 30’s and a long time practitioner of many mystery schools and esoteric teachings. She presented herself as self-confident and perhaps a little angry at the world. In her first four or five months of Masonry, she bridled at the need to discipline her body to sit for long periods of time, to keep silent and not provide her opinion at every turn, to quiet her mind and be still. During her reading of a personal essay, before she was to go through another ceremony, she burst into tears while reading. She opened her soul to us. She felt as if all of the previous work she had done, the disciplines she had followed, were not fully there for her. Freemasonry was the first order she belonged to that had provided her the structure she needed for who she was at that time, to begin a new life. She taught me that if we the Lodge had not strove to be disciplined in Freemasonry, she would not have had that experience. How powerful a transformation for all of us because of Masonic discipline.

Every degree, every step, every office in Freemasonry we obligate our selves to follow Masonic discipline. Literally. We vow with our heart and soul to do what needs to be done to be good Masons. Discipline has two sides: the discipline that is invoked by the individual and the group, and the recipient’s acceptance of that discipline. It is a cycle, in Freemasonry, and in this cycle, we reap as we sow.

discipline-quote-and-photoI shake my head, and find it a little funny, when people tell me that I have high expectations, or that I should “cut some slack” or “have compassion.” I find it funny because I was there. I had excuses. I was that undisciplined fool. I have been the talker in the study hall during a ceremony that I could not attend. I have not learned the lines that I should have. I have shown up with sloppy clothes, dirty aprons, too much jewelry. I have talked in lodge meetings, made faces at people, told people what to do when I should not have, and not done my own job. In each case, someone corrected me. In each case, someone had to care enough to invoke the discipline necessary to correct me, to make me think about what I was doing, to help me become better at knowing myself and my own life. Without that structure, without their strength, I would not be who I am today. I accepted the discipline and they provided the discipline to me. It comes full cycle. I hope that, today, I have been of service to those who provided me with the Masonic structure, and I hope I provide that to the Masons with whom I share Lodge.

I also have the view that it is unfair to ask of my brothers less than I would ask of myself or anyone. Why would I assume that someone can’t be disciplined if they are a Freemason? Why would I assume someone couldn’t do something physical, mental, or emotional if they have taken the same path I have taken? To me, that is demeaning and rude, discriminatory, and frankly, un-Masonic. My brothers are level with me, square with me, and fully capable of following Masonic discipline. My brothers are strong, capable, and striving to be better, just as I am. I want to be the best Freemason I can be. I am sure all Freemasons want that. Don’t be easy on me. Consider me worthy of the discipline and help me be that better person.

Discipline is not punishment. Discipline does not have to be guided with a harsh voice, a sharp tongue, or violence, especially not in Freemasonry. We are human, and sometimes frustrations come through. We are all a work in progress. Invoking discipline in and of itself is not mean, harsh, or cruel – quite the opposite. It says we care enough about our fellow members and the institution of Freemasonry to speak up and not be silent. Are we not to reprehend with mercy? Judge with candor? Discipline guided with brotherly love – where else can we find that?

discipline3Discipline is no longer a dirty word in my vocabulary. To me, it means following some guiding principle, some Light to make me a better human being and a better citizen and friend. It has helped me learn the value of my words and commitments, of the virtues of fairness and integrity, and hopefully the knowledge that I have far, far more to learn. I can only hope that my fellow members continue to share discipline with me, in a sort of joyous sacrament that brings us all to better community and Masonic fellowship. Discipline is safety. Discipline is Love. Discipline is success.