Thursday, January 17, 2019

A Brother Asks: Freemasonic Mythology


 
 Myths & Metaphors

A Brother Asks: Coach, you’ve used the term, “Freemasonic Mythology” several times.  Are you saying Freemasonry is a myth?

Coach: I am not.

Brother: Then to what are you referring?

Coach: Freemasonry has a mythology entirely its own. 

Brother: Mythology?  Isn’t mythology the study of myths?

Coach: Yes. And it is also a collection of myths, especially ones belonging to a particular religious or cultural tradition.  In this case, Freemasonic Myths are those peculiar to Freemasonic circles.

Brother: But aren’t myths widely held but false beliefs or ideas.

Coach: Yes, some are.  And some myths are also traditional stories, especially ones concerning the early history of a people or explaining some natural or social phenomenon, and typically involving supernatural beings or events. 

Brother: And in respect to Freemasonry?

Coach: These are the stories members tell each other to communicate what can be expected in life and what is required to improve oneself as a man.

Brother: Are you referring to our allegories?

Coach: Yes.  And I am also referring to all the supporting lore and traditions that the organization uses to support those allegories.

Brother: Supporting lore and traditions?

Coach: Yes.  Freemasonic lore is not history; it’s supporting stories, definitions and tidbit of information, provided with the intention of helping members understand the truth trying to be conveyed by Rituals and Lectures.  It’s usually not factual. However, it’s treated as factual by many members.

Brother: And the traditions?

Coach: They too support the organizational structure, very much like a wine bottle holds the wine and helps preserve it so it doesn’t turn to vinegar. 

Brother: Wait? Brothers actually think this information is historical and factual?

Coach: Yes.  There’s a cross-section of the Craft who accept everything they are provided as historically accurate and indisputably factual.

Brother: That’s scary.

Coach: Yes.  And it’s indicative of how little foundational education is actually provided to our Brothers.

 

Cowans
 

Brother: What are some examples of Freemasonic Mythology?

Coach: One that stands out is the use of the word “Cowan”.

Brother: Ah!  A pretender!

Coach: Yes, in Freemasonic Mythology that is what we are taught - you have not heard the hole story!
 
Brother: The hole story, not the whole story?
 
Coach: Both!  However, in Masonic history, they were and are members of Stone-Craft; they apprentice under Master Cowaners and are paid master’s wages when they prove themselves masterful.

Brother: But why are we told differently?

Coach: It’s to communicate symbolically what we must be aware of when dealing with Brothers, not just pretenders.  When you evaluate the difference between rough masons and square masons and convert that into symbolic form, it communicates very clearly what we must be aware of as men and masons in our dealing with others.

 

Free & Accepted
 

Brother: Wow!  What about another example of freemasonic mythology?

Coach: Sure!  The term “Free & Accepted” is often explained as Operative and Speculative respectively.

Brother: Well, isn’t that the case?

Coach: It is not.  That’s the mythical lore we are told through Freemasonic literature and conversations with members who picked it up from others. 

Brother: What’s the reality?

Coach: Historical documents show that the term actually means “Superior & Entered” and alludes to “Master & Apprentice” members.

Brother: This light opens a can of worms.

Coach: How so?

Brother: You’re indirectly telling me there’s more behind the word “freemasonry”.

Coach: I am.

Brother: So, tell me!

Coach: Well, for one, it did not appear once in Anderson’s constitutions.

Brother: Not once?

Coach: Not once!

Brother: What else?

Coach: Like the first word in the term “Free & Accepted”, the basis of the compound word comes from the French words “Franc Ma├žon” which meant at that time, “Superior-Excellent-Masterful Builder”.

Brother: Wait? Does that mean the word “free” as it applies to this word does not mean “unrestrained”?

Coach: Yes.  Superior is exactly what it meant at that time the word “free” was first used to indicate Free Masons.

Brother: Does that mean the terms “freeborn” and “freestone” also denote “superior-excellent” rather than “unrestrained”?

Coach: Yes. 

Brother:  Wow! When you don’t know your root histories, you’re going to be misled by the mythical lore.

Coach: Exactly! And generations of members have gone to their graves not knowing any better.

Brother: For sure! Does this also mean that all the other guilds that prefixed their professions with “franche/franc” or “free” were letting the market place know they were the masters of their individual crafts?

Coach: Yes.  It had nothing to do with their being unrestrained.  They were excellent, superior at their crafts and they let the market place know by using the precursor word “Free”.

Brother: This is great stuff.  How about another myth?

Coach: Here’s a simple but profound one.

Brother: Go ahead!

Coach: The majority of the membership believes there is an actual word involved when it comes to the lost master’s word.

Brother: Wait!? There isn’t?

Coach: There isn’t.

 

The Master’s Word
 

Brother: Then what is the master’s word?

Coach: It’s a metaphor for specific skill development that brings about Mastery.

Brother: So, there’s no actual word involved?

Coach: Yes.  That’s the myth! 

Brother: Do you mean there’s no actual word that anyone can say or write?

Coach: Yes.

Brother: Is that why it’s ineffable?

Coach: Absolutely! 

Brother: Wait!  Skill development… is this why it can’t be handed over to you or anyone else?

Coach: Yes! Think about it. Is it possible to hand over to another person all the skills required to be masterful?

Brother: Well, no.  One must develop these for oneself.

Coach: Precisely!

Brother: That makes a lot of sense, although I know a few members who would argue differently.

Coach: Of course they would! And by doing so, they would be the antithesis of everything for which that metaphor stands.

Brother: Okay, I’m getting a feel for this mythology stuff.

Coach: Good!

 

The Substitute
 

Brother: What about that substitute word? What’s its mythology?

Coach: As in?

Brother: What does it mean?

Coach: It doesn’t mean what we are told in ritual. That’s the myth to get you seeking further light.

Brother: What do you mean?

Coach: Well, for starters, it’s not Hebrew; it’s Arabic.

Brother: Arabic?

Coach: Yes. And the sad part of all this is that Brothers really should know what it means, where it comes from, what it actually conveys and when it should be used.

Brother: And the mythology?

Coach: By studying Grammar, Logic andRhetoric, you can better understand the myth surrounding it and eventually bring to bloom the beauty behind it so that the intent behind it can be realized.

Brother: Such as?

Coach: When Brothers know what’s truly behind the substitute word, rather than just accepting verbatim the myth they are handed, they better understand how to use it within their lives. 

Brother: Are you implying that it was never meant to be kept within ritual?

Coach: Yes.  That is exactly what I am implying and I further recommend members seek out what is behind it, find it and apply it daily!

 

Cement
 

Brother: What other mythology can you direct me toward?

Coach: How about Cement?

Brother: Cement?  Are you referring to the cement of Brotherly love and affection?

Coach: Exactly!

Brother: That’s a myth too?

Coach: Are we not instructed to spread this cement with a speculative trowel to unite our Brothers.

Brother: Yes. So?

Coach: That’s a metaphor and sets the stage for deeper understanding of the offered myth.

Brother: And?

Coach: Did you know the first degree points to the actual operative materials Brothers must use to create operative cement and, once understood, symbolically create that within our lives?

Brother: No!  I did not!  That’s news to me.  It sounds like there’s a lot within ritual that’s not so obvious upon superficial inspection. 

Coach: A whole bunch is hidden from Apprentices. Not deliberately! But because they simple have a superficial Grasp of what is offered.

Brother: Just the surface stuff… got it. There’s a lot to this mythology stuff.

Coach: Indeed!  And when you don’t dig deeper into what’s offered, beneath the surface, you miss out on the very core of its intent.

Brother: What’s that?

Coach: To communicate what must be done to improve, mature, live well and prepare for age.

 

Ruffians

 
Brother: What can you tell me about ruffians? Are they a myth too?

Coach: That’s a great question! They are part of the mythology for sure.

Brother: Thanks! Yes. Please, tell me more.

Coach: Okay. The first thing that needs to be known about the myth is that their names first appeared in 1760.

Brother: Whoa! Doesn’t that mean they were an innovation?

Coach: Yes.  And to add to this innovation, their names were phonetic approximations of statements made in a dialect of French that now only exists in Quebec Canada.  Only no one figured this out until recently.

Brother: Yikes!  The names are not names?  They’re statements?

Coach: Yes.

Brother: Is there a paper trail backing this up?

Coach: Indeed there is and the story behind their names is as exciting to hear as the meaning they convey.

Brother: But don’t their names also allude to other things?

Coach: They sure do. And understanding their symbolism helps explain the deeper truths trying to be communicated by the third degree myth.

Brother: Myth?!

Coach: Yes. It’s also referred to as the third degree drama and tragedy.

 

Ritual
 

Brother: What other myths are found within or about ritual?

Coach: The first is that ritual transforms men?

Brother: Doesn’t it?

Coach: No. It points to what must be transformed within men and directs men toward the Work that must be undertaken to have this occur.

Brother: Like?

Coach: Okay.  Here’s an example: The first degree points to the Apprentice Work.

Brother: Apprentice Work?  You capitalized the “W” in “Work”.

Coach: Yes. It indicates the actual Work that Transforms Youths to Adult.  It is not the work of putting on or participating in ritual.

Brother: Thanks, that’s good to know. Do the other Blue Lodge degrees do similar?

Coach: Indeed.  The Fellow Craft degree points to the Work that Prepares Adults to deal with the universe. And, just as the first degree, the actual degree work is not the improvement Work.

Brother: And the Master’s degree?

Coach: It points to the Work that prepares men for Age.  

Brother: But the degrees are not the actual Work itself?

Coach: Yes.  The degrees only point to the Work. They are not the actual Work.

Brother: What is ritual based upon? Is there a myth involved here as well?

Coach: Yes.  Great question too!  The myth is that they are handed down from time immemorial.  The fact is, they are Morality plays, all created about 1717 or afterward, that use the backdrops of Stonecraft lore, its symbols as props and its lexicon and manuscripts for scripts.

Brother: But some of these plays can be traced back to manuscripts that predate 1717.

Coach: Yes.  The manuscripts exist.  However, the actual ritual itself is based upon these manuscripts.  The manuscripts were used to create the rituals we have today.

Brother: And it all fits together for a Moral Purpose?

Coach: Absolutely.  And it uses hidden codes, meanings and allusions to communicate even deeper knowledge to those who have taken the time to learn how to decode them.

 

Obligations & Compass Points
 

Brother: Would you provide another example?

Coach: Sure. The flanked Circumpunct capped with the Volume of Sacred Law actually means something specific that a Candidate does within each degree.  Astute observers make the connection quickly.  Others may realize it once it is pointed out.

Brother: Within each degree?

Coach: Yes and it also becomes clear where this symbol is found acted out within ritual each time it is done. It’s pretty impressive.

Brother: Is there anything more you can tell me about the Circumpunct?

Coach: Yes. It alludes to the first practitioner of Freemasonry; where he practiced and even his first initial.

Brother: You’re teasing me into researching these things aren’t you?

Coach: But of course.  These things can be found if you take the time to make the connections.

Brother: What about the legs of the Compasses?

Coach: Are you asking which leg of the Compasses should be lifted first?

Brother: Yes!

Coach: If it were to be consistent with the Work pointed toward by Ritual, the answer is easily obtained.  Just observe which side of the body is referred to during each degree and the Work that must be completed to raise it.

Brother: Ah!  So tying the points back to what ritual directs us toward provides the answer?

Coach: Absolutely!

 

Other Stuff
 

Brother: That makes sense. What can you tell me about the due guards? Are there any myths involved there?

Coach: Yes.  And first off, they are not universally used within Freemasonic circles and, when used, they allude to the Fellow Craft working tools.

Brother: Interesting!  How about the term “perpendicular parallel”?  Does it have any mythological background?

Coach: It sure does.  There are at least two entirely differ things that are referred to by this term.  The first can be clearly seen when candidates’ eyes are opened for the first time and the second when the candidates complete the Work of the first two degrees.

Brother: What does the Work of the first two degrees transform?

Coach: In a nutshell, the human soul. 

Brother: That’s deep!  Please expand on that theme.

Coach: The Apprentice Work brings order to the chaos of the Heart; the Fellow Craft the Mind. These two aspects constitute the human soul.  Keep in mind, once again, this isn’t the degrees themselves; it’s the Work the degrees point toward.

Brother: Understood. What about the Master’s Work?

Coach: It transforms the Spirit.

Brother: Not the soul?

Coach: No.  The two are not synonymous.

Brother: You know, I’ll want to revisit this later.

Coach: I figured you would when I mentioned it. Let me know when you are ready to start.

Brother: Okay, I will. Are the Square and Compasses symbolic for anything more than the Fraternity?

Coach: Yes.  If you know how to decode them, you can obtain at least 5 distinct messages.  All based upon the mythology that surrounds them.

Brother: What about the seven liberal arts and sciences? Are they mentioned just because it’s part of our myth? Why are we encouraged to study them?

Coach: So many questions!  Let me say that it’s an important part of Freemasonic mythology.  Their study is based upon the fact that this Work dramatically improves your ability to understand the volume of sacred law, improve your morality and boost your immunity to sophists.

Brother:  This explains so much!

Coach: What do you mean?

Brother: It explains why there is so much inconsistency in Freemasonic lore, practice, and history.  The myths were never meant to be taken as fact.  They were supposed to be taken as hints that there is further light to glean, if one does the Work!

Coach: Yes. And, realizing that there is a difference, how to reconcile all of it and ultimately how to seek out and apply the lessons ritual was intended to communicate in the first place signals the start of one’s Masonic journey.

Brother: Okay, I have my answer!

Coach: To?

Brother: Freemasonic Mythology is not actual history; it’s a map.

Coach: Yes. Like a bread crumb trail to enrich the soul and spirit?

Brother: Yes!  Absolutely!  And I can tell you that I want to explore all these things you point out further. 

Coach: Good!  Each of these things can be expanded upon further.  Light Works that way.

Brother: You’ve given me a lot to think about and quest for… thank you!

Coach: You’re most welcome my good Brother. Now, I have a question for you?

Brother: What’s that?

Coach: What’s your takeaway from all this?

Brother: That’s a great capstone question.

Coach: Thanks!  Well?

Brother: Mythology communicates Truths, but they are not true in themselves.

Coach: How so?

Brother: Myths are cleverly designed stories conveyed to communicate deep truths but these truths are below the surface of each story and can only be found when one knows how to unmask them.

Coach: Excellent Takeaways my Brother!  And this related to Freemasonry how?

Brother: Freemasonry has many stories that have many truths communicated below the surface, when you do the Work to discover them.

Coach: Yes!  Kudos!