The Effect of Masonic Ritual: Part II

Masonic Ritual: The Foundation [Part II]


Here we explore the foundation of Masonic Ritual as influenced, shaped, and formed by the thoughts and mindset of the Brothers of the Lodge. Part 1 of this series sets the stage. This was previously published on the Universal Freemasonry blog site.

A bubble is a self-organized structure that is the result of a new thermodynamic phase of matter; that is, when matter organizes itself differently from its surroundings as a result of applied energy, a bubble is formed. Bubbles are a low-energy state of matter; in that they take little energy to form and little energy to dissipate. Compare soap bubbles to a cardboard box; both contain air but the structures holding them together require little and much energy, respectively.

Bubbles are formed by energy and force; it is the result of one type of matter suspended or held energetically within another. Without going into the science too deeply, there have been experiments and theories regarding the idea that knowledge, information, and/or thoughts have substance – mass. Between Maxwell’s Demon and Einstein’s general relativity theory, people are quick to either propose or dismiss thoughts having energy, and thereby mass. It seems logical that at some level, by the creation of thoughts, the brain has expended energy, and therefore it is possible that thoughts have a very minute mass.AsAbove Bubble

If thoughts have mass, can thoughts create bubbles?

In the latter part of the 19th C to the early 20th C, Bros. Annie Besant, C.W. Leadbeater, and A.P. Sinnett wrote extensively on the idea of thought forms. 

From a letter to A.P. Sinnett, the Master Kuthumi stated that “Thoughts are things — have tenacity, coherence, and life, — that they are real entities.” 

Leadbeater and Besant wrote an entire book on thought forms, published by the Theosophical Society in 1905. In it, they state “each definite thought produces a double effect — a radiating vibration and a floating form.” The radiating vibration “conveys the character of the thought, but not its subject.”

The floating form is a strong and definite thought that has attracted energies from the mental and astral planes, and has become, for a time, a kind of independent living being. We have seen this when we walk into a room and “feel tension” or we pick up, empathically or sympathetically, the thoughts of intense feelings emanating from others. Whether or not we see these forms is another matter. 

Theology and Thought Forms

Various religions have also expounded on the notion of thought forms. The Indian and Tibetan Buddhism traditions had the idea of emanation bodies. One early Buddhist text, the Samaññaphala Sutta, lists the ability to create a “mind-made body” (manomayakaya) as one of the “fruits of the contemplative life.” In other words, the mind can create a “body” with which one can travel and experience other places both in the physical world and the ethereal one. 

alexandra-david-neelThis body is a thought form of the self, whatever we define the self to be. It requires the ability to perceive ideal material, or beauty, the will to expend the energy to create, and the wisdom to understand the limits of the self. It also implies a supreme command of physical, emotional, and mental energies. In essence. The idea that thought forms can be made “material” came from these ancient texts. 

Other early 20th century theosophists took these ideas and expanded upon them. French explorer and theosophist Alexandra David-Néel wrote of “Tulpas” as “magic formations generated by a powerful concentration of thought.” She further wrote:

The power of producing magic formations, tulkus or less lasting and materialized tulpas, does not, however, belong exclusively to such mystic exalted beings [Bodhisattvas]. Any human, divine or demoniac being may be possessed of it. The only difference comes from the degree of power, and this depends on the strength of the concentration and the quality of the mind itself.

According to modern philosophers, “thoughts are a living reality” and thoughts are “ideas on steroids.” All said, we know if nothing else, that thoughts affect our behaviors and that may influence other living creatures around us. Psychologists have made their living on this science. Let us for now say that thoughts have the ability to coalesce and take on some kind of form – scientifically, religiously, or theosophically – and that these forms are created by the thinker, the creator if you will, and are wholly dependent upon his mindset. 

Meditation, Thought, and Masonic Ritual

When one meditates, one creates specific thought forms based on our ability to focus and settle the mind. Likewise, the act of ritual provides us a different opportunity to focus the mind and also create thought forms. Where meditation and some rituals may be done solitarily, Freemasonic ritual is an elaborate weave of motion, word, music, scent, and thought that creates something that may be more impactful.Symbols of the Lodge

Like any ritual or meditation, the onus is on the participants to provide the impetus behind what is created. The mindset of all is critical to the final results. These thought forms, created in Masonic Ritual, create at least three different bubbles where their effects are contained, to be released at later time to achieve a desired effect.

In Freemasonic ritual, there appear to be three energetic bubbles created with four “layers” associated with each. A thought form created has an effect on each of the layers, with the ultimate results being dependent upon the focus created inside the Masonic Temple. The Temple itself is a material manifestation of the ideals of the Order, creating a lens and atmosphere that lend guidance to the mindset of the members. 

These bubbles are the result of layers within a Freemasonic ritual, based on the flow of the ritual: 

  1. Intention (Exoteric), 
  2. Gathering (Esoteric Profane), 
  3. Inception (Ritual Perfection), and 
  4. Ceremony (Eternal Divine Ideal).

All of them are released by the unwinding or release of these same forms once the work of the day is complete. Each of the layers creates the bubble “inside” it, thus creating the next inner layer, until the Eternal Divine Layer is achieved and the core work of the Masonic Lodge is completed.  

The Effect of Masonic Ritual: Part I

The Effect of Masonic Ritual [Part I]


This is the first installment in a series exploring the effects of Masonic ritual. Here I explores the nature of ritual, particularly in relation to Freemasonry. This was previously published on the Universal Freemasonry blog site.

A modern Masonic guide states that ritual is “a practice done in a set and precise manner so as to produce a result with a symbolic signification… It can be viewed as a formula that creates a hidden code to be discovered by those who are in search for the truth.” Masonic ritual, in its general form, has been used for hundreds of years to create an “idealized reality of a perfected Man” in each of the members of the Lodge. Bro. Wilmshurst, in The Meaning of Masonry, states:

Masonry is a sacramental system, possessing, like all sacraments, an outward and visible side consisting of its ceremonial, its doctrine, and its symbols which we can see and hear, and an inward, intellectual and spiritual side, which is concealed behind… and which is available only to the Mason who has learned to use his spiritual imagination and who can appreciate the reality that lies behind the veil of outward symbol.

In other words, there are two sides to Masonic ritual: the outward and the inward; these are likened to the great Mystery Schools of ancient Babylon and Greece, where there existed and were performed Lesser and Greater Mystery ceremonies. In general, the legends contained in Freemasonry parallel those from the ancient Mystery schools; and, Freemasonry by its own attestation across the ages teaches a system of morality.

Wilmshurst notes, again from The Meaning of Masonry, that “…it is perfectly certain that Pythagoras was not a Mason at all in our present sense of the word; but it is also perfectly certain that Pythagoras was a very highly advanced master in the knowledge of the secret schools of the Mysteries, of whose doctrine small portion is enshrined for us in our Masonic system.” Additionally, from the Dionysian Artificers, by Hippolyto Da Costa:

“It appears, that, at a very early period, some contemplative men were desirous of deducting from the observation of nature, moral rules for the conduct of mankind. Astronomy was the science selected for this purpose; architecture was afterwards called in aid of this system; and its followers formed a society or sect, which will be the object of this enquiry. The continuity of this system will be found sometimes broken, a natural effect of conflicting theories, of the alteration of manners, and of change of circumstances, but it will make its appearances at different periods, and the same truth will be seen constantly.

The importance of calculating with precision the seasons of the year, to regulate agricultural pursuits, navigation, and other necessary avocations in life, must have made the science of astronomy an object of great care, in the government of all civilized nations; and the prediction of eclipses, and other phenomena, must have obtained for the learned in this science, such respect and veneration from the ignorant multitude, as to render it extremely useful to legislators, in framing laws for regulating the moral conduct of their people.

The laws of nature and the moral rules deducted from them were explained in allegorical histories, which we call fables, and those allegorical histories were impressed in the memory by symbolical ceremonies denominated mysteries, and which, though afterwards misunderstood and misapplied, contain systems of the most profound, the most sublime, and the most useful theory of philosophy. Amongst those mysteries are peculiarly remarkable the Eleusinian. Dionysius, Bacchus, Osiris, Adonis, Thammuz, Apollo, & c., were names adopted in various languages, and in several countries, to designate the Divinity, who was the object of those ceremonies, and it is generally admitted that the sun was meant by these several denominations.” 

Thus, we have a ceremonial system designed over the course of thousands of years using legend, myth, and symbol in ritual form to teach human beings what we may do to perfect ourselves. The focus of such a ritual is to stimulate the mind and nature of the human being so as to be open to new lessons, new ways of thinking, and to observe and understand our place in Nature’s overall scheme.

In order to have the ritual perform its “magic,” the physical, emotional, and mental formation of the sacrament must not only be as ‘good as we can make it,’ but also involves positive intention and perfect cooperation by each participant. When Freemasons achieve synchronization in these three areas, the ritual will provide the most constructive outcome possible. The partaker of the ritual does not know what awaits her, but the presenters do; thus, the onus of a well-done ritual lies mainly on those that are performing it. 

The idea that ritual can have an effect on the ‘subtle’ bodies of both humans and environment is not new; theosophists of the 19th c C.E. brought the idea of ritual use creating subtle energies from the Eastern Religions, specifically Hinduism and Buddhism, and these theories have been refined further by modern Yogis and spiritual teachers. In addition, many modern scientists, including Michio Kaku and Albert Einstein, postulate the power of the human mind may do many things that are currently unknown, including what we think of as “extra-sensory.” Human beings are part of Nature and as such, are subject to the Laws of Nature, both known and not-yet known. As Einstein stated:

“A human being is a part of the whole, called by us “Universe,” a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separate from the rest—a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. The striving to free oneself from this delusion is the one issue of true religion. Not to nourish it but to try to overcome it is the way to reach the attainable measure of peace of mind.”

How does the Masonic ritual go about creating the induction of the reality of perfection? Subtle energy focused in the Masonic “structure” is the key; these energies are the vitality that humans generate through physical, mental, and emotional actions, which is transferred to the tools, organic and inorganic, that are present within the ritual sphere.  

These spheres of energy, akin to bubbles, hold the energy created by the ritual intact until the time for its eventual release. When the energy is released, if it were optimally produced, it would have a profound effect on all that it touches. Whatever the intention of the ritual, the releasing effect would be as a large bell being struck, a perfectly clear note vibrating like the waves of a pebble dropped into a still pond. 

I’m Trying

Adult: Pick up your shoes. I’ve told you three times, you need to clean up your room.

Teenager: I’m trying.

Adult: Yes, you’re very trying.

The first definition of trying is “difficult, annoying, hard to endure.” The conversation above is spot on, as it were. To try is to make an attempt or endeavor to do something. To make an effort. The depth and breadth of the effort is generally left open to interpretation by the listener. The word try comes from the old French, trier, or “sift.” It was virtually unknown before the 17th century and meant something very different to the English – it meant to adjust to a level surface by using a plane or other tool. In the general sense, it means an attempt to use or do an action. It is not a guarantee of success.

In most cases today, in North America, it is generally used to mean “you want me to do something for or with you, and I don’t really want to do it, but I’m going to tell you I will make an attempt because it will make you leave me alone.” Certainly, this is a pessimistic point of view, but, let’s face it – it’s generally true. According to Oxford word usage metrics, the word has increased in usage 10x in the last 50 years, generally in relation to attempting to do something rather than an archaic form of testing something.

ballThe word is detestable. Like a reformed smoker, a person who has given up the word “trying” in favor of actually doing becomes irritated at every mention. Yes, me. “Are you coming to my party?” “I’ll try,” is tantamount to “I want to appease you but as for myself, I am not going to commit, and no, I probably won’t be there.” It smacks of falsehood, either to oneself or to the other, and it is disingenuous. We shun the words “yes” and “no” because we know so little about ourselves. I am a horrid pessimist about “I’ll try,” so this may sound more like a rant than an exploration. I hope you bear with me.

In a recent conversation with someone, this word came up in a context of not attending a regular study group. The woman has had several medical issues and has a difficult time remembering things. She’s not one to generally make excuses for herself and she’s worked through various adjustments in her life to make life work. Yet, she still settles into old habits, especially later in the day when she is tried and forgets to attend the study group. In this recent conversation, she said “I’ll try to commit to attend.”

Being the reformed “trying” person, the hairs on the back of my neck rose, the small muscles in my neck twitched, and I swallowed several times before answering. Slowly, calmly, I answered, “I hate that word, ‘try.'” I did my best to remain calm but I knew that the edge of irritation had escaped. “I’d rather you say that you can’t be there and if you show up, you show up. Or, be non-committal.” She did not understand what I was driving at because she wanted to please me. I couldn’t communicate clearly enough to her that I’d rather have her know herself and communicate accordingly rather than please me with an ‘I’ll try.’ We both went away slightly frustrated until a little later when she had digested it further and I was able to be clearer.

I know that when we say we will try, it means that we won’t do it. We are not committed enough to do it. Yet, we work hard to fool ourselves and others that we really will make an attempt but if anything gets in our way, it’s over, finished, done. There’s a certain sense of self that is lacking, a falsehood that taints our words when we’re not honest about how we feel or what we’ll do. We are not even able to come up with a “maybe,” and provide excuses. The first words generally blurted out are “I’ll try,” with rationalizations and excuses afterwards. The reformed “try” person knows all of this and that is why they hate it so much.

tree-frogs-on-a-branchIn the quest to be a better Freemason, this was brought to my attention early on. It was brought to the fore by two people, one another Freemason and one not. In both cases, the message was the same. Don’t tell me you’ll try something: either commit one way or another or stay silent. I’ve never been the silent type, so this took me a lot of trial and error to get right, especially for one who wants to please others. Little did I realize that by “trying” a great deal, I was more trying than pleasing. Clearly, the actions that I wanted to perform were to please others and not taking care to understand who I was, what my limitations were, and ultimately living in integrity. An older Freemason said to me once not that long ago, “stop trying to please others. You want everyone to like you.” This was a little frustrating, after having thought that I had surmounted the idea that I wanted to be everyone’s friend. What I didn’t see, or see the subtlety of, was the lack of concrete responses was my way of attempting to please others and not be honest with myself.

Being honest with yourself, sitting in that silence and listening to your “realest” thoughts, can be difficult. We believe we are far better than perhaps we really are. Listening to yourself can be ugly, and we don’t want others to discover our ugliness. We don’t want others to discover we might be lazy, xenophobic, tired, cranky, struggling, or desiring silence. We want to be accepted and loved. In general, though, we forget to treat ourselves with exactly the same kindness or honesty. It truly does start with ourselves.

From the 1934 Walley translation of the Tao De Ching,

To understand others is to have knowledge;

To understand oneself is to be illumined.

To conquer others needs strength;

To conquer oneself is harder still.

Freemasonry tells us the same thing, in so many different ways. We are reminded, in rituals and charges, that the thing we must strive to do is continue to learn, mostly about “the knowledge of yourself.” The trick is to figure out how to do this practically. As Lao Tzu said, “to conquer oneself is harder still.” Why? Because we fear the loss of other’s opinions, favorable judgements, and good will. We want others to like us, because that means we are good people. It’s living by the judgement of others and not the judgement of ourselves. Perhaps we don’t trust ourselves to make an honest assessment of our person, so we let others do it for us. Whatever reason that dishonesty was born within us, there is no reason it has to continue to reside there. In fact, it seems as soon as we find it, it’s probably a good idea to let it go. No rationalizations, no dishonesty, no dodging, no worries: own what you will not do, own what is not priority or what is not as important as other things and then move on. I guarantee the rest will move on as well. It’s far better to not try.

As Yoda so eloquently put it, “Do, or Do Not. There is no Try.” With this in mind, the world becomes a far simpler place to navigate, as do the recesses of our own hearts and minds. And don’t fear – good brothers will hold you to that task.

Hidden Mysteries of Nature

Recently, I was with a group of Freemasons having a passionate discussion about the word “magic.” Some of the members of the discussion group felt that Freemasonry is “magic,” while others disregarded the word as superstition and illusion. Still others were exploring different meanings, trying to find within themselves how the word made them feel, what it made them think, and what was their own relationship to magic. As Freemasons, we regularly discuss religion, or rather, being religious. We sometimes specifically compare religious symbols to one another and generally explore spiritual diversity and messages. Often corrupted by men, we lose site of what being religious truly is. We almost never talk about magic, even in free-thinking circles and in public, you only hear “magic” discussed, generally, with humor, disgust, or fear.

Most humans may lose sight of what being “magical” is. Our current world is corrupted by the thoughts of the fearful in so many ways, it’s often hard to tell that we’ve been conditioned by it, by ourselves, by our family, media, and friends. For example, when we use the word magic, it tend to conjure up thoughts of either something horrific, like ritual sacrifice or Voldemort (Yes, I said his name). It might bring to mind witches, burned at the stake, or witches doing strange things in forests at night. Yet, the word magical also tends to bring us to Disney artifacts (Tinkerbell, anyone?), gigantic film special effects, or even dreamy, personal experiences – think, Christmas at Rockefeller Center. The point is, we have not explored the word magic as much as we’ve explored the word religion. However, both may be important to humanity and the Freemason as well. Our ingrained fears stop us from talking about the word and stick it in a cave, hidden from the rest of the world. It’s time to do a little word spelunking.

img_0249The word magic is presumably derived from Old Persian and possibly from the proto-Indo-European language as meh-gh, which means “to help, power, to be able to.” It’s taken many forms over the years, from everything to indicate the workings of scholars, sages, Zoroastrian priests, rituals, spells, and eventually related to something or someone not of your religion. If you didn’t understand it as part of your personal religious upbringing, it was considered magic, especially by both Judaism and Christianity (13/14c C.E) . In Frazer’s The Golden Bough, he illustrates a very thorough journey from folklore, myth, magic, and religion, to the science of modernity. From what I have so far deduced and experienced, the knowledge and wonder of discovering how the natural world works is what magic has been for thousands of years. It’s learning, understanding, exploring, and working in conjunction with the natural world. Forget the word’s baggage and take it back to its origins: the wonder of the natural world that brings us awe and teaches us reverence and respect.

We’ve all learned that humans put their own connotation on the words we use, and shared and agreed-upon usage are how they become “fact.” We should do our best discard dogma; if something imparts an emotional response, it seems to be time to explore it, not shun it or parrot someone else’s belief. Understanding the words we use, like understanding ourselves, gives us authenticity and gives the words power.

Understanding the truth of what magic is seems to be related to how we are in relationship with our natural world. I understand magic to be the physical laws of nature and the universe that I do not currently comprehend thoroughly, and and magic is the process of continually learning how to “be” and be in harmony with our universe. This is not so far from what we perceive herbalists do when they understand plant lore and heal the sick, or weirdly enough, the gymnast who understands the laws of gravity and motion in his body, and can execute the most incredible flips and jumps. Have you ever had someone throw a ball in your direction and you reached up your hand to grab it at the perfect time, even if you might not have been looking at it coming toward you? How did you do that? Magic? Perhaps you understand the laws of motion and the physics of gravity well enough to make the catch. Others may not. To them, it appears as magical.

img_0250The “magical” feelings evoked are the impetus for the process of discovery. We first see something that entices us, intrigues us, gives us a certain spark of interest and imagination. What did we just see? What happened there? Then, we may try to recreate it, seek its origin, find out how to do what it is we saw. “To be able to” means we’re learning magic. From the learning how to do, we wonder and our interest continues. We start dissecting, breaking apart the machine of nature to figure out its meaning, its purpose, and its origin. We might take a path through religion to get there, or we may jump right to science – either is an option. Once we find the how, we seek the why.

There is a quote from a book by Arthur E. Powell, The Magic of Freemasonry, which takes me toward the part Freemasonry plays. It is this:

“Why do men love Masonry? What lure leads them to it? What spell holds them through the long years? What strand is it that tugs at our hearts, taut when so many threads are broken by the rough ways of the world? And what is it in the wild that calls to the little wild things? What sacred secret things do the mountains whisper to the hillman, so silently yet so surely that they can be heard above the din and clatter of the world? What mystery does the sea tell the sailor; the desert to the Arab; the arctic ice to the explorer; the stars to the astronomer? When we have answered these questions mayhap we may divine the magic of Masonry. Who knows what it is, or how or why, unless it be the long cable tow of God, running from heart to heart.”

So, is Freemasonry magical? Not in the way that Disney or Satanists or even fundamentalists of any religion would have the world think. That is fear and ignorance asserting themselves.

img_0253I believe it’s the discovery of the world around us that is magical. It persuades us to keep seeking and searching for the mysteries of nature and science. It speaks to us of understanding our world – not just the laws of men but also the laws of nature and whatever source it is that keeps us all “together.” Some may call it God, The Force, Allah, Jehovah, Yahweh, Diana, Odin, the Tao, Krishna, and a host of other names. Perhaps they are just human mirrors of the same “thing” that ties us together. Perhaps that is the thing I am truly seeking: smashing the mirrors to understand what lies on the other side.

I would say that Freemasonry encourages magic and magical behavior, magical thought, and a magical mind. Ritual of any sort has a purpose and the structure, words, ritual, and trappings of Freemasonry are not as simple as to call them purely “magic.” Freemasonry requires a curious mind to work on its initiates. If one is not curious about Freemasonry and about the world in general, they will see Freemasonry as an institution, made for charity work, a fraternity in which to socialize, and a series of rituals that just encourage the participant to gain degrees. Maybe, for those masons, that is a first step, and maybe if there are more lives than this, we keep Freemasonry going for theirs, and our, future selves.  I see it as the Freemason’s duty to continue to keep our minds open and test our theories, test the world, be inquisitive; thus, perhaps Freemasons are magical scientists.

I do not think that magic is the antithesis of science. I think it is a step in the process of discovery, of which science is another. Science, which is “such knowledge, general truths, or such a system of knowledge concerned with the physical world and its phenomena” is another charged word, especially in the information and technology age. Is Freemasonry scientific? Take your own voyage and let me know what you think. This is your journey, too.


On a recent post, some people were critical of the term “enlightenment” and its application toward the human race. Now, this term was being used in conjunction with the “Age of Enlightenment,” something altogether different from our modern American use of the term. Students of History understand, know, or at least have heard of the Western European “Age of Enlightenment,” so called because of the explosion of knowledge, science, and access to those tools that brought forward many of our modern inventions and way of thinking.

According to Websters, enlightenment is explained thus:



1. the action of enlightening or the state of being enlightened. “Robbie looked to me for enlightenment”; synonyms: insight, understanding, awareness, education, learning, knowledge.

2. a European intellectual movement of the late 17th and 18th centuries emphasizing reason and individualism rather than tradition. It was heavily influenced by 17th-century philosophers such as Descartes, Locke, and Newton, and its prominent exponents include Kant, Goethe, Voltaire, Rousseau, and Adam Smith.

Someone very wise once told me that Freemasons fall into two general “modes,” if you will, with regards to their approach to Freemasonry: intellectual and devotional. This is a wide spectrum; and, we all have elements of both within our personalities while some people will fall more towards one side than the other. It’s difficult for someone who leans more toward an intellectual bent to understand a devotional way of being, and vise versa. An intellectually-bent person might look at Freemasonry as a tool to intellectual discovery, a place for concrete fraternal relationships, and a more inward view of life. Analysis. A devotional-bent person may want to explore the esoteric and occult side of Freemasonry, feel more reverential toward their deity through their Masonic work, and perhaps be more inclined toward personal, service-oriented relationships. Feeling. Each person has to some degree these modes of operation. Yet, as a Freemason, they are perhaps brought visible.

Why does this matter when discussing enlightenment? It seems that each of these people view enlightenment in very different ways. Is knowledge derived from a pure scientific approach? Analysis? Is knowledge derived from a pure empirical approach? Feeling? The interesting thing is the judgement that goes along with how each other views the opposite approach. There’s an intellectual snide comment here or there when the devotional Freemason approaches enlightenment with an emotional response. There’s harsh condemnation of science when the intellectual produces a theory based on their analytical approach and disregards the “human” element.  What is interesting is how each immediately judges the other’s approach to enlightenment, as if there is only one way. Even the non-religious discussion can evoke a dogmatic high-horse.

Is it so difficult to imagine that you can have both approaches, and both are valid?
There’s also this “great quest” toward enlightenment, as if it’s something that can be achieved through one method, one voice, or one frame of mind. Some think that we can achieve enlightenment in a lifetime, like a Buddha or Christ. Some think that scientists could never achieve enlightenment, no matter how intelligent, because they have no “devotion.” Some think that only scientists could achieve enlightenment because they have “purer” processes. Some think that humans can achieve enlightenment one being at a time, and still others insist that it must be an all or nothing endeavor. I think enlightenment is far greater than the individual, and enlightenment isn’t something sparkly, pretty, easy, or fun. There’s no flash of sudden godhood nor individual ascension into the realms of all-knowing, having-no-use-of-bodies beings that will provide us some unknown fascinating wisdom. I don’t think that we get out of this corporeal manifestation anytime soon.
The idea of enlightenment, as in The Age of Enlightenment of the 17th and 18th C., is really about letting go of the shackles of tradition. It’s about embracing change and using knowledge to propel us, individuals and humanity, forward. Enlightenment isn’t everyone achieving godhood. It’s about all of us realizing that we are already in control, and have the tools inside of us to solve those problems. Deepak Chopra said, “I was an atheist until I realized that god was inside of me.” When asked about his religious views, Einstein replied,
“Your question is the most difficult in the world. It is not a question I can answer simply with yes or no. I am not an Atheist. I do not know if I can define myself as a Pantheist. The problem involved is too vast for our limited minds. May I not reply with a parable? The human mind, no matter how highly trained, cannot grasp the universe. We are in the position of a little child, entering a huge library whose walls are covered to the ceiling with books in many different tongues. The child knows that someone must have written those books. It does not know who or how. It does not understand the languages in which they are written. The child notes a definite plan in the arrangement of the books, a mysterious order, which it does not comprehend, but only dimly suspects. That, it seems to me, is the attitude of the human mind, even the greatest and most cultured, toward God. We see a universe marvelously arranged, obeying certain laws, but we understand the laws only dimly. Our limited minds cannot grasp the mysterious force that sways the constellations. I am fascinated by Spinoza’s Pantheism. I admire even more his contributions to modern thought. Spinoza is the greatest of modern philosophers, because he is the first philosopher who deals with the soul and the body as one, not as two separate things.”
Is finding “God” enlightenment? Born just prior to the Age of Enlightenment, Baruch Spinoza laid the groundwork for radical thought (in 17th C Europe) regarding the existence and definition of God. Much like Mozart as the pinnacle of Baroque music, Spinoza was the pinnacle of Latin academic writings in rationalist philosophy. According to Spinoza, God is Nature, and Nature is God. The fascinating thing about Spinoza is that he worked, day to day, as a lens grinder. His passion was philosophy, ethics, religion, and the question of the divine. He did not content himself with or define himself as his day-to-day paying job. He did not accept honors or rewards based on his writings and thought. He died young, at the age of 44, but seems to have accomplished a great deal for the human race in that short of a time. One can read Ethics and Spinoza’s other works at Project Gutenberg.

One would like to think this is true enlightened human being. Spinoza was an everyday man who engaged in deep thought, the search for Truth, and produced that Truth in service to Humanity. He propelled the next generation, and several after, to continue to explore and discover knowledge. He was an individual who kept the greater species in mind, literally. He was not concerned with some idea of heavenly admittance, some monetary gain, or some brilliance that only he could attain. This is someone who is on the path to enlightenment and bringing others along with him by virtue of sharing what he thought. It’s not purely the result of his work that causes him to be enlightened; it is the fact that he is bringing the entire species up to a level of awareness not previously found. He’s enlightened because of his humility and selflessness. Perfecting the human to perfect humanity.

The Age of Enlightenment did that as well; it brought different cultures to new heights of thought, awareness, and knowledge. As a species, it was a leap forward. Each leap of knowledge is obvious but not grand. One cannot leap from the valley floor to the top of a mountain in one go. Enlightenment seems, to me, to be incremental. There are no five easy steps to enlightenment, no matter what anyone says. There is no golden knowledge at the end of all the degrees. Enlightenment is work. Hard work by many, many people. And…we can only bring humanity up if we work toward its good, bringing it all up with the talents and gifts that we have, be it a lens grinder or a philosopher. And why not both? What is stopping us from pushing away from the TVs and video games and doing what Spinoza did? Nothing, as far as I can tell, except our own laziness. We are tempted by many things which bring down our humanity, or at the very least, stagnate and stall our progress. We need to be self-discovering, exploring ourselves, our environment, nature, our own natures, the universe, looking at things we know and don’t know, with both our natures – intellectual and devotional. Science and nature. Analytical and feeling. We might not find “enlightenment” at the bottom of a test tube but we may find wonder, delight, and wisdom on the journey. The results, of the destination and the journey, are the seeds of Enlightenment.


I hear a lot, often, in work, in Freemasonry, in all aspects of life, how busy people are. Busy. Busy bees, working around the hive, always moving, always… doing. I heard once someone say “we should be less ‘human doing’ and more ‘human being.’ I thought they were a little crazy. We’re always humans being, and we’re always humans doing, too. That’s what we do. We just… do. As an adjective, to be busy means “to have a great deal to do.” As a verb, it means to ‘keep occupied.’ The first known use of the word is before the 12th century C.E…. so we know people have been ‘actively doing things’ for some time. Hence, humans have always been busy.

Listen to the word in common English conversation now, and the word tends to be laced with more judgment. Thoreau said, “It is not enough to be busy. So are the ants. The question is: What are we busy about?” The quote is intended to be self-reflective and self-directed. We must ask the question, to what are we applying our time? Is it worthy? Is it constructive for our needs and wants? Does it go to enrich us, feed our families, or improve the greater good? WHY are we busy? It’s easy to be busy: cleaning, cooking, laundry, writing, reading, caring for our families, running people around. Much of the time, we’re so stuck in ruts of “doing” that we forget to ask “why” or “is there a better way?” I find myself continually doing something and then wondering if I really need to be doing this task that task. Is there a different way to do it? Can I make myself less “busy” and more productive? These are two very different things.

busyness1“Life is simple, yet we continue to make it complicated.” Confucius was right – we are creatures keeping busy making many things complicated, if not everything. Complication is not creation. It’s just a headache waiting to happen. What do we complicate with “busy?” Our relationships. “How are things?” “Really busy, you know?” These opening salvoes in communications with others beg us to talk about what our activities have been. What have we been applying our time? When people tell me “wow, you’re really busy,” I think “not so much.” I think about if the time I’ve been spending, like wadded up cash in my pocket, is really been put toward worthwhile things. Have I been a slug? Or have I been working on bettering things?

Where does it get complicated? It gets complicated in the swamp of judgment. Not judgment of ourselves – judgment of others. Are our friends busy with work? Busy with “play” or busy with children. As yourself, “Do I place more importance on one than on another?” If you’re honest with yourself, you probably do.  There is an implicit bias in North America, particularly the United States, that if you’re busy with children, your life has far more importance than if you do not. American businesses are geared toward relieving parents in times of hardship and our social services and whatnot are far more supportive of parental and childhood needs than of those without children. Think, “mental services” versus “child services.” Reflect and be honest – which do you think is more deserving of financial and labor support?

I do not have children of my own, and most of my friends know this. Most of my acquaintances as well. I have other friends who do not have children and hear some of the same ‘feedback.’ There is an underlying judgment in my brand of “busy” versus the parental brand of “busy.” In all honesty, I do my best to let it go because I know the choices we all make. I only ask that people don’t judge me and mine in return.

still-moment-in-midst-of-busynessRobert Louis Stevenson was more absolute: “Extreme busyness, whether at school or college, kirk or market, is a symptom of deficient vitality.” I have to wonder at this. What makes being busy being less vital? To Webster, vitality is, “the power giving continuance of life, present in all living things.” This leads me to believe that RLS was talking about the ability to discern where you put your time versus just placing your activity “somewhere,” to an indefinite purpose. In this time of the the year, the Winter Holidays, people are “busy” – running here and there to get one last gift, get the groceries, make party and dinner decorations, send cards. I believe that RLS is saying that we should judge what we’re placing our time into and its meaning.

I think we forget that there really is a time for everything… with a nod to the KJV of the Bible and the Byrds. “For everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven:  a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;  a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;  a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;  a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;  a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;  a time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;  a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace.” I would not be so dogmatic as to say “this is the time for sewing, and now this is the time for dancing.” I think, though, that we have to look for balance. What this author, and Pete Seeger were saying is there is a moment for everything and we need to relish, support, sustain, and then let go of that moment. This means the busyness in our lives should not be mindless – it should exist with purpose. If there’s no purpose, why do we do it? 

busyness3As I grow older, I find myself torn between the busyness of youth and the contemplation of maturity. I eschew watching television in favor of reading, forego quick coffee for a good French press, and strive to make dinner rather than eating out. I think, probably far too much now, about why I do things before doing them. I like to pause before opening my mouth and think about the words I want to say, rather than just blurting them out to “move on.” I like silence. I find comfort in waiting. I wait for both sides of the story, rather than just one. I don’t mind waiting for someone on a meeting, if they are late. It certainly wasn’t always this way; yet, I still find time to get a lot done – like writing and photography, like working, gaming, and sleeping. I think it takes time to build your life in such a way as to find stillness and thought refreshing, restorative. Being busy was what I did. I’m still busy; I hope that now I am more thoughtful about it.

I contemplated this during some recent activities with my Lodges. People were all talking about how busy they were. It brought me right back to my apprenticeship in Freemasonry. We are reminded that there’s only so many hours in a day, and like the quote above, it’s all spent “doing” something – sleep, meditation, refreshment, study, labor – but we are specifically directed to be doing it all in the service to humanity. This is another motivation to think about what we do and why we do it. Ego and self-glorification are fleeting and thin. Working toward a greater good is something that can send the satisfied person to sleep with a smile. Well, at least it does me. I find that the more I do work with a better purpose – something better than making my personality feel good or just “getting away with what I can,” I just, well, feel better. Better. As in, more satisfied with a job well done, rather than just a job done. Why am I busy? Because there is work that needs to be done that is important work. It takes time to stop and figure out what “important” is; perhaps it takes finding that in yourself before you can apply your hands to it. Or, perhaps, it should. My job this next year is to take even more time to apply what time I have to important things. This is the time to think about what is important, before the new year comes.

“You should sit and meditate for twenty minutes a day. Unless you are too busy; then you should meditate for an hour.” – Zen Proverb, Unknown 


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 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 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?