Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Knowledge and Truth

In Masonry, we often say "You are first made a mason in your heart." It is a phrase that many masons say to candidates and newly initiated masons. It is why soliciting for membership is never done. We ask candidates to follow their hearts to the principles of Freemasonry, therefore they must come of their own free will.

It is one of the functions of the lodge to examine a candidate for admission into Freemasonry. The criteria has always been that a candidate be of good character and enjoy a good standing in his community and have a desire to know more and to develop and improve one's character.

Like stone taken from the quarry, a candidate is selected, not because he is flawless, but because the lodge of Masons sees potential in him.

Freemasonry from a metaphysical point of view, does offer candidates a philosophy that will provide "more light" on the physical world that surrounds them and can take them on a journey to the world behind and beyond the physical world. This is the part of Freemasonry that separates it from other beneficient organizations.

Aristotle has said: "All men naturally desire to know." There is an aspect of Metaphysics that is concerned with the nature of Knowledge, and the relationship between things known and that abstract state of knowing which we term Truth.

Sir Francis Bacon, in his famous work, The New Atlantis, describes a philosophic empire, ruled over by enlightened men which is some day to be established upon the earth. According to Bacon, within this empire is the "City of Wisdom" and within this city, a university of the arts and sciences named Solomon's House. The master of this house thus describes the true purpose of knowledge: "The end of our foundation is the knowledge of Causes, and the secret motions of things, and the enlarging of the bounds of human empire, to the effecting of all things possible."

Lord Bacon declares that the end of all science is the knowledge of causes, that we may perceive not only things themselves but the reasons for them.

As Freemasons our quest for reasons must inevitably lead us to philosophy, especially that branch which we call Metaphysics. The Cause and reasons behind all natural phenomena exist in the invisible and subjective part of nature. It is here that we mustsearch for them if we are to become truly wise Masons.

Knowledge enlarges the bounds of the human empire because it is an metaphysical principle that man's own nature extends to the circumference of his understanding. As we grown in knowledge we truly enlarge ourselves, becoming in fact, part of everything that we know. We flow outward along the radiations of our appreciation until at last, according to the old Mysteries, we know everything and become a part of everything.

It is through this growth that we are able to accomplish all things that are possible. Metaphysically speaking "possible" refers to" consistent with the laws of being." Among "possible" things, the final perfection of man and the releasing through his organisms all of the spiritual, intellectual and physical powers which are latent within him.

While we may say there are may forms of knowledge, (i.e., the seven liberal arts and sciences), we can never say there are many forms of Truth, for Truth infers a fundamental, unchanging, unconditioned reality--the fact per se.

An old philosopher once said: "Truth is a divine light, invisible to mortal eyes, but all penetrating. Matter is a prism. The light of Truth, striking this prism, breaks into a spectrum--a spectrum of intellectual colors. These colors considered separately are the departments of knowledge.

Thus, knowledge is Truth conditioned and broken up, but all real knowledge contains within it some element of Truth.

Some part of the whole is in all of the parts, even as some part of God is in every part of nature.

The rational principle in man ascends by aseven-runged ladder from the darkness of its material condition to the luminance of its spiritual state.

In terms of knowledge, the seven rungs of this ladder represent seven sequential stepsin the apprehension of fact.

The lower step is perception, which is possessed by even the most primitive types who abide in unquestioned acceptance of things seen. The intellect rises on the second step from perception to examination, from examination to reflection. What we call education today, is merely the things seen, examined and reflected upon.

From reflection the reasoning part (commonly called the mind) rises to knowledge which is a synthesis of the three form er processes. Knowledge rises to understanding, the fifth step and from there to wisdom and finally to Truth.

You will notice that the fourth step is knowledge. Knowledge, like man, occupies a neutral position between the inferior and superior worlds. Below knowledge lies instinct and the physical perceptions. Above knowledge rises intuition and the spiritual perceptions. Thus knowledge unites the two worlds. Conversely, knowledge also divides them.

Knowledge, is an instrument by the possession and proper use of which an enlightened individual can come gradually to perceive in the elements of life, the invisible forces at work behind the visible. Knowledge, illumined by spiritual purpose, lifts the soul to understanding.

Knowledge, unillumined and undirected, depresses the soul into a sphere of criticism and skepticism.

In the old Mystery dramas, candidates wandered a chamber of initiation (sphere of experience) and were always accompanied by an ancient man, sometimes called "the kindly or venerable guide." This aged person, (i.e., Gurnemanz--in the opera "Parssifal, or Merlin in the Arthurian Cycle) represents the spiritual emotion of veneration. This power is reperesented as aged and kindly because it is born of suffering and experience and has traveled long on the road of life.

No one who approaches the mysteris of nature without veneration can find his way through the tortuous passageway of uncertainties.

The uninformed man fears life, the informed man comes to respect life, but only the wise man, enriched with understanding loves and venerates life.

Man is capable of containing knowledge or of accumulating it, storing up in himself facts out of experience. But no man is capable of containing Truth in himself, of collecting it or storing it up. Thus the lesson: "The individual absorbs knowledge, but Truth absorbs the individual."

Truth, was called by the alchemists, Mercury, because it was a common solvent which bound all things together. It recognizes no boundaries or divisions, but penetrates all existence so universally that it can never be captured or limited by any organism.

To know Truth, one must know God, and to know God man must have discovered divinity in all of its manifestations, and have become one with that divinity.

"God, in terms of time or extension, is Eternity.
God in terms of emotion, is Divine Love.
God in terms of morality, is absolute Virtue.
And God, in terms of fact, is absolute Truth."

The search for Truth is life. The realization of Truth is illumination. The practice of Truth is virtue.

In some old drawings of the roof of the ancient temples of wisdom there are three columns or supports. According to the old Mysteries, theses column are integrity, loyalty and appreciation. These three columns are know in Freemasonry, by other names, but they too, must uphold the temple of philosophy within Masonry.

It is through the metaphysics of Freemasonry that not only the creation of the world is described, but it also reveals the mystical anatomy of God.

In the midst of the great body of the Eternal One is the luminous heart, the everlasting house, and universal temple. Those who are seeking for Truth are seeking the heart of God. Those who discover Truth and who are possessed by it are one with the heart of God.

May Freemasonry find its life in the "heart of God."

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Metaphysics 101

"The beginning of wisdom is the beginning of supernatural power."
--Paracelsus
Freemasonry can and must teach an enlightened way of living. Its metaphysical philosophy can transform knowledge into wisdom, and a life directed by wisdom is an enlightened life which will naturally fulfill its destiny.
A civilization built upon wisdom will advance and grow. A civilization built upon ignorance and perpetuated by ignorance will collapse under the weight of ignorance. Metaphysical Freemasonry helps the earnest Mason find the enlightened courage with which to face the day. And those who have light within themselves will pass triumphantly through the difficult days and years which lie ahead.
Among the many gifts of Freemasonry are the tools for prefecting oneself through the development of the intellect and the taming of the passions of the lower nature.
So let us begin with the study of "Metaphysics"---plain and simple.
Aristotle use the term "Metaphysics" at one time as synonymous with wisdom and at another time as synonymous with theology.
The study of the visible universe is called "Physics" and the study of the invisible universe is called "Metaphysics." All visible effects are suspended from or supported by invisible causes and Metaphysics is that branch of learning which seeks to discover and understand the unseen causes at work behind visible nature.
Metaphysics includes the following areas of study:
The nature of Being.
The nature of God.
The nature of knowledge.
The nature of truth.
The nature of energy.
The nature of creation.
The nature of divine and human relationships.
The purpose of Metaphysics is to move the mind from the consideration of forms and bodies to an understanding of the principles which animate these forms and bodies. The intellect which has discoverd the divine essence in all things has the metaphysical viewpoint.
From the metaphysical viewpoint, "Being" is an eternal unchanging principle and is often referred to as "First Cause."
Pythagoras defined God as an immeasurable and inconceivable Being whose soul is composed of the substance of truth and whose body is composed of the substance of light.
Being is termed also "Essence" and "Existence" every effort being made to discover a term appropriately impersonal with which to designate this eternal energy.
The three aspects of Being are "Unmoved", or God; the second kind of Being is called "Self-moving", or the gods, chief of which are the intelligences of the celestial bodies; and the third aspect of Being is called "Moved" and includes all bodies and forms to which life is imparted by spirit, soul or mind--the chief of such creatures is man.
Metaphysics teaches us that God is not a personality but rather that Divine Life upon which all things subsist, and that this One Life manifests attributes which are also divine principles. These attributes are often called "the gods." These secondary gods or attributes are the agencies by which all physical life is supported.
Before we go too much farther, a reminder that Freemasonry speaks of "Wisdom, Strength and Beauty," which represents attributes of the "Great Architect of the Universe", a symbol of the Metaphysical "First Cause."
If we are to become truly enlightened metaphysical Freemasons we must be prepared to accept the presence of God in every element of nature and in every aspect of existence. Like the pagans of old, we must conceive of the universe as full of intelligent principles.
In the mystical tradition of the Cabala, it bestowed upon the creative principle ten Innefable Names, by which it qualities might be made known to the wise. One of these names was El Shaddai which means the Lord of Hosts. Therefore, while divinity in its absolute essence is one and indivisible, man is not permitted to perceive Being in this absolute state. To mortal perception the creating power must always be the Lord of Hosts.
This simply means that deity is so immersed in its creating processes that we perceive not its unity but its absolute diversity. As surely as it is appropriate to worship its unity, so also is it appropriate to reverence its diversity.
As metaphysical Masons, it is our philosophic privilege to worship and seek to understand the Lord of Hosts, and sense the Creator as an innumerable army of intelligent building agencies. Space is filled with the individualized aspects of divinity. The suns, moons, and stars which populate the heavens are divine beings, radiant sons of the Infinite. Man is part of the divine host of gods, and all creatures great and small share divinity in common.
We all desire to achieve security---spiritual, mental and physical. We know that security is conferred only by wisdom and only a wise man can rise above the ills "the flesh is her to." Heraclitus of Ephesus said: "Character is fate." This is probably one of the most significant statements ever uttered by man. Our destiny is measured by what we are. And if we would come to a good end we must possess a character which justifies that end. Character is a compound of several factors. The chief of these is our philosophical perspective. We live upon the level of our thoughts and ideals.
If we are to elevate ourselves to a philosophical level, our first lesson is to seek to understand, at least in part, the origin of the universe and our own place therein, and to sense the sublimity of the divine path.
The ancient mystery schools, like Freemasonry hold within their tradition the ability to instruct those who are earnest and willing to pursue this kind of understanding.
Contemplation of the transcendent beauties of this mystical theology will elevate our minds above those narrow and unworthy concepts which bind us to an ignoble state. It will give us a spiritual perspective by which we can live more usefully, happily, intelligently and completely.
We cannot consider lightly, or merely speculatively, the old metaphysical philosophies, for what can be more practical or more useful than a discipline which directs our attention to the nobler aspects of life and invites us into a mystical communion with that eternal Spirit which dwells in the furthermost and innermost part of us?

Sunday, August 08, 2004

Return to Ritual-Metaphysical Masonry

The light of Freemasonry is dimming, not because memberships are dropping but because Masonry has lost its metaphysical meanings. Whether this is because the oral tradition or teaching have been lost or because collectively some Masons decided their was no value in the metaphysical side of Masonry I do not know.

I believe that it is the metaphysical aspect that will return the true Light to Masonry. Every thing in Masonry is a symbol. If for example, the rituals were returned to the symbolic teachings they once were, and the meanings of these rituals were taught and studied, Masonry would begin its journey back to the ancient mystery school it once was.

Those Masons who have "edited" the rituals over the years did so, perhaps with the intent of removing all metaphysics from Masonry, or because they knew no metaphysics and were ignorant of what they were doing.

In either case, the heart (and true light) of masonry is being slowly snuffed out. Masonry, is a philosophy which accepts people of all faiths. Those who study the metaphysics of Masonry bring to their lives and their faiths a better person.

Physics is the study of the visible universe and Metaphysics is the study of the invisible universe. The purpose of Metaphysics is to lead the mind from the consideration of forms and bodies to an understanding of the principles which animate these forms and bodies.

Visible nature is but a small part of our existence. Although we are limited to visible nature in our present state we can never live intelligently or think accurately until we have some understanding of that larger world which extends beyond the physical shell of our environment.

Metaphysics is taught through many disciplines, among them Freemasonry. I believe through the symbols, rites, and rituals Masonry provides us with a foundation in metaphysical thought. This foundation is a foundation in superphysical principles.

I would like to see those who seek to recover this aspect of Masonry make their voices heard. There are those of us who have studied in silence for many years and are ready to answer any Masons' earnest voice.