Sunday, March 22, 2009

Reflections on the Kybalion

In a previous post, I mentioned the fact that the North is considered a place of darkness in American Masonic ritual. Living in Alaska, this is something I will experience, when during the depths of winter there are only a few hours of sunlight each day. However, on the flip side of that is the fact that at the height of the summer there are practically 24 hours of light. This reminds me of the Kybalion and its principle of polarity which states:
"Everything is dual; everything has poles; everything has its pair of opposites; like and unlike are the same; opposites are identical in nature, but different in degree; extremes meet; all truths are but half-truths; all paradoxes may be reconciled."
When we feel that we are mired in darkness, either literal or figurative, this principle reminds us that darkness and light are but opposite sides of the same coin. With some mental effort, we can change the darkness into light, even that Masonic Light of which we are all in search. In fact, the Kybalion instructs us in another principle, that of Rhythm, which is useful in this regard, and states:
"Everything flows, out and in; everything has its tides; all things rise and fall; the pendulum-swing manifests in everything; the measure of the swing to the right is the measure of the swing to the left; rhythm compensates."
By recognizing the first principle and applying the second, we can change our periods of deepest darkness into those of the greatest light. All it takes is a mental effort to swing the pendulum back towards the light, and we can banish the darkness. Much like the North, we can transform the dark shadows of the seemingly never-ending night into an equal measure of warm effulgent sunlight to fill the recesses of our souls. . We need only learn to use our mental abilities, and we can take control of and utilize these principles to enrich our lives as well as bring us closer to our own Masonic enlightenment. So mote it be!

Monday, March 02, 2009

Masonic mediocrity

This is going to be a bit of a rant, so if you don't want to indulge me, then I suggest you click the back button now....
Not too long ago, I decided that the time had come for me to take my York Rite degrees. Of course I would have preferred to take them old style, one at a time over several days, however I felt a bit pressed for time, and the one day option was all that was available to me. So, I reported to the local York Rite building bright and early on a Saturday morning. I was greeted with the standard fare of coffee and donuts, and after some socializing the time came to begin. First off was the Mark degree, for which I was chosen as the candidate. This seemed a fortuitous start, as I felt that I would only receive the full experience of the degrees if I was the candidate. A Past Grand Master served as my guide, and thus I expected to see top notch work. Unfortunately I was sorely disappointed. What ensued over the next several hours was the poorest display of ritual I have encountered in my ten years as a Mason. Not only did the Brethren not know their lines, they could not even read them properly from the book, and that was if they could even follow along. Floorwork was atrocious, and more often than not those serving as guides hardly knew where the candidates needed to be. Props were missing, as were Brethren to fill the various roles. Two of the degrees were not even exemplified, but rather shown on DVD. Yes, you heard me right, on DVD! And I may not have even objected to this had the production values on the DVDs been decent, however the ritual work thus portrayed was only a notch or two above what I was seeing live. I could go on, but I don't want to sound too bitter! At the end of the very long day, I felt cheated. I had given up an entire day off (which at the time was a very precious commodity) and a considerable sum of money only to receive very little Masonic light in return. As I drove home to a slightly put-out wife, I seriously questioned if i would ever return to this particular York Rite body.
Each branch of our Craft has valuable lessons to teach. However these lessons can be lost if we only make a half hearted effort in presenting the ritual. To-the-letter perfection is certainly not required, however we should always try to present the ritual in a manner consistent with the solemnity of the occasion. Often, brethren make sacrifices in terms of time and money to receive these degrees. What kind of message are we sending if we can't even be bothered to do a passable job of presenting them? Masonic mediocrity must be stamped out if our Craft is to prosper. By not taking the presentation of the various degrees seriously enough, we tell the candidates that we do not value these degrees, and thus they will not value them either.

The North

As we all know, the North has been deemed a place of Masonic darkness, due to the fact that the sun could not dart its rays into that part of the Temple. Thus, there is no officer seated in the North. Of course, i've always wondered why there is even a station there. This was obviously meant to draw attention to something, although admittedly I do not know what that might be. Why, you might ask, did I bring this up? For an incredibly awkward Masonic segue, of course!
Uncle Sam in all his wisdom has decided that my stellar (cough, cough!) linguistic skills are needed in Alaska. Thus, I am now residing in the beautiful northern metropolis of Anchorage. It is quite a bit colder here than I am used to, but I am happy to at least be on the west coast, even if a wee bit further north than usual. Currently I am separated from my family, due to the fact that housing is tight here and there are not a whole lot of units available on post that are suitable for a family of seven. This is not a big deal though because within thirty days or so, I will be deploying to Afghanistan. I don't know the details yet, and in the meantime I hope to fire off a few relevant Masonic posts. As of late, my output has slackened considerably, but I hope to reverse this trend!