moral and spiritual dimensions.”
- B. Obama
an alien joined you in a large city’s entertainment centre, pointed to
something on the side of a building and asked what it that... a reply could be
made on the lines of, a thousand neon tubes, a thousand switches and some miles
of cable. Perhaps not an entirely fulfilling description of an advertisement
hording; yet, not inaccurate. Perhaps the description would need to be
supplemented with explanations of materials, labour, markets and consumer
choice. However descriptions, more extensive than the inadequately material, can
be achieved without invoking inspiration from a putative “beyond” material.
Perhaps it is not quite
so easy when describing the opus of Mozart. Once beyond a description of his
music being but vibrations - number in time - it is not difficult to think in
terms of this composer being a conduit from an inspiration beyond the universe.
Fortunately, the sound output from Stockhausen would remind us that descriptions
of vibrations - number in time - may well be of the earth, earthy. When masonic
ritual is performed well it is easy to be in transportation to a putative
transcendent. When the IPM is overly busy, contemplation may well not extend
beyond reviewing the career of the director of ceremonies.
“spiritual” and “spirituality” are in common use both within and without
masonic communication. Perhaps the generality of their use militates against a
clear understanding of what, if anything, is being usefully designated by the
terms. Recently, during an address to a university audience, President Obama
said, "Maybe we won't agree on...., but we can still agree that this is a
heart-wrenching decision for any....to make, with both moral and spiritual
dimensions.” In which layers might these two dimensions be located and
how, if at all, are they able to interactively coexist for Freemasons both
within and without the lodge?
can have a shared understanding of spirituality...”
Indeed, Freemasonry is
abroad chapel celebrating diversity, in all its richness, across the planet. Yet
celebrations notwithstanding the purpose of this little article is, regardless
of the moonshine and cobwebs of conventional notions of recognition and
regularity, to begin to consider the possibility of something that is initially
and fundamentally shared by all Freemasons although it may be individually
further developed and explored.
For some freemasons
“the spiritual” is an alternative to “the material” and it requires,
somehow, a necessary transcendence from the material to realise the spiritual.
That is to say, a given situation cannot be both material and spiritual at the
same time - spirituality is of a different paradigm - from a different place to
that of the material. It is suggested that Freemasons can have a shared
understanding of spirituality that is within space and time but that some may
choose to extend beyond space and time albeit, hopefully, maintaining respect
for those who prefer their spirituality to remain on and of terra firma.
We are united as
members of a thinking/rational species and have a view (scientific) of nature
based upon recognizing repetition and describing it in terms of prediction and
control. From this, laws and rules of nature are “created”. Perhaps better
just to stay with “repetition”, the logic of which is that “a” is
followed by “b” where “a” is both necessary and sufficient for “b”.
Our species being can be understood without subdivision into races as we are all
related to the degree of fortieth cousin at least – fraternity indeed. It is
trusted that we can agree that the concept of race as applied to our species
has no place in nature, is without philosophical foundation, and fails
analysis by scientific method. As a species we are united in a dependence
on food, clothing and shelter; how these things are rough-hewn from the earth,
smoothed and distributed over the planet is our story. That we can recognise
repetition in nature and that production and distribution can be planned and
organised indicates that we are capable of more than instant gratification and
which we share...knowingly following a rule.... the defining characteristic of
our species...smoothed through Masonic improvement”
Indeed, this draws our
attention to that which we share; that is to say, we have the capability of
knowingly following a rule. We know what a rule is and our compliance or
otherwise with it; this is the defining characteristic of our species being and
is smoothed through Masonic improvement. Current British Parliamentary
experience may shed some light on the President’s dichotomy of morality and
spirituality. Perhaps to follow a rule is morality; to remain within the
intention of a rule is spirituality. Yes, the letter of the law and the spirit
of the law.
Some of the British
legislators are claiming not to have broken any rules and indeed may well not
have – this is the moral layer; yet, are repaying substantial amounts of
money. Is it in this need to repay that a spiritual layer can be identified and
demonstrated? It may well be but surely no one is claiming that the rules
governing British Parliamentary expenses and allowances have intended dimensions
beyond space and time. St Paul wrote that all things are lawful but not
expedient; perhaps a text with which to open the next session of the British
is from obedience to constitutions that a freemason’s regularity takes its
A constitution is a set
of rules that share a family resemblance. It defines and organises some human
arrangements that are designed to meet a contemporary human opportunity and or
need. Those who are included within a constitution and are in compliance
therewith are called regular and are recognised as such.
In order to ensure that the aims of a particular organisation are
achieved, there are consequences arising from non-compliance. A political entity
such as a nation state has some form of constitution. A nation state is but a
line drawn, often in human blood, on a politicians map.
A constitution claims a
right to make rules applicable within physical boarders and to some extent
control the common wealth therein. To
claim that a supreme being might recognise such boarders is a tad chauvinistic.
Freemasons are citizens of the world. Yet, a Freemason’s morality is realised
through obedience to the rules of the political entity in which he or she
resides, in obeying the rules of one’s grand lodge and in the distribution of
some personal surplus wealth for those in worthy need. It is from obedience to
constitutions that a freemason’s regularity takes its rise.
However, during the
preparation of this article the rules governing the financial claims that
British legislators can make have been changed. The letter comes and goes but
the spirit reflects more on-going intentions and objectives. Surely no one is
claiming a transcendental origin from a supreme being for this change in the
rules of the British Parliament - fascinating concept though it is.
unique insight is that the values necessary for worthy material production can
be applied to the rest of life.”
Perhaps it is the case
that the use of the term “spiritual” is not an alternative to
“materialism” but rather, pertains to deeper layers of the material. Perhaps
operative freemasonry is material and speculative freemasonry is spiritual.
Above it has been suggested that among human beings it is in the shared
production of food, clothing and shelter, that it is in the operative workplace,
that rule making has its primacy; Freemasonry’s unique insight is that the
values necessary for worthy material production can be applied to the rest of
life. And yes, that does seem to
imply a material origin for morality. Some interpretations of Genesis III would
indicate that the physical labouring for material existence is a consequence of
The Fall. However, such as maybe, it does not entail that operative
relationships and behaviours take their rise from other than the earth.
Freemasonry is a
celebration of the work ethic, that roughing and smoothing process. Yes, these
stones shall be made bread. A mason’s ontology can be understood as, I am what
I do and I am excited by what I could become.
The smoothing process of distribution is separately energised by two
forces; that of demand as market led and that of need as understood by society
on behalf of those for whom the market is neither available nor suitable. This
indicates more than species survival; natural selection does not usually favour
those unable to acquire their own food, clothing and shelter. However, we share
a layer, above the level of individual survival which takes its rise from the
earth and our material needs. We are charged to relieve and befriend, with
unhesitating cordiality, every brother that might need our assistance; however,
those noble and generous sentiments must be extended as every human creature has
a just claim to our kind offices. And yes, whilst this will demonstrate to the
world the beneficial effects of our honourable and ancient institution that is
not the motivation; it is a benign collateral. The “just” claim is the cry
for the cause of humanity. As Freemasons we are citizens of the world and
members of the family of mankind. It compels us to discharge, without
forethought of recognition or reward, the claim of humanity upon us - for its
own sake. How can it be more worthy to support those in need as a personal
investment in a putative existence beyond space and time?
As freemasons we are
not unthinkingly, materialistically, enslaved to rules; rather we evaluate their
purposes and their intentions. If rules are for the cause of humanity, if they
are to ensure a fairer distribution of food, clothing and shelter and if they
are for the personal improvement of all people we can identify with them. Such
is a demonstration of our spiritual dimension although it is of the earth,
earthy and within space and time. We cannot subscribe to rules that promote
privilege, discriminate or victimise; that also is a demonstration of our
spiritual dimension, again of the earth, earthy and here in space and time. Yes,
in considering the Presidents moral and spiritual dimensions, as Freemasons we
can keep our feet on moral ground and can locate ourselves spiritually on the
level of humanity.