Some years ago I
was driving to a business appointment and to distract myself I turned on my
radio. I always enjoy radio “talk shows” in which a moderator interviews a
guest, usually someone who has fallen into the public limelight by virtue of
accomplishment, behavior (usually inappropriate behavior), or merely because
they have interesting ideas. The moderator of the particular show to which I had
tuned was interviewing a prominent Physicist, who was in the midst of explaining
his work at one of the local Universities. It seems that this fellow was an
expert in the field of Quantum Mechanics.
Mechanics, as he explained it, is a field of study which concerns itself with
the nature of energy and matter at a very small scale. I was about to change the
channel to a station which promised greater entertainment, when he said
something which peaked my interest. For centuries, mankind believed that the
physical universe behaved exclusively in accordance with the laws defined by Bro.
Isaac Newton (1642
– 1727). Since
the early part of the nineteenth century however, scientists discovered that
while Newtonian physics is fairly predictive of the physical world on a large
scale, at the scale of the very tiny (10,000,000,000 times smaller than a
typical human being[i]) all bets are off. He mentioned a classic experiment
performed by a prominent scientist (Thomas Young) which resulted in the
discovery of the electron in the year 1897 and that his own work today in
Quantum Mechanics was directly tied to theories developed by Heisenberg (Matrix
Mechanics) and Schrödinger (Wave Mechanics) more than 100 years ago. This got
many of the better students among you may recall, Young[ii] discovered that when light is passed through an opaque
panel containing two narrow slits, the light passing through each of the slits
interferes with the light passing through the other, creating a pattern of wave
However, it was later discovered that the manner in which this pattern develops
over time indicates that the pattern is produced by particles. In other words,
light is both a wave and a particle at the same time[iv].
He further explained that electrons and other bits of matter also behave the
same way and exhibit the quality of being both waves and particles at the same
time. This of course sounds rather paradoxical, and indeed it is.
Subsequently, Albert Einstein blew the lid off classical physics with the
theory of relativity and his description of photons as discrete quanta of energy;
this was the beginning of the era of Quantum Physics. Quantum physics today
spills over into nearly every scientific discipline.
theory has evolved immensely since the radio show to which I referred, and has
become a mainstream science, albeit a very complicated one which relies upon the
language of mathematics as the means for its expression. Indeed, the importance
of quantum theory to our understanding of physical reality, the nature of life,
and the GATU cannot be underestimated.
objective for this paper is not to serve as a textbook for Quantum Mechanics
however, but rather to offer that paradox, the seemingly impossible co-existence
of two or more contradictory but equally true statements or occurrences, is
really very common and is actually built into the very fabric of the universe as
part of the design of the GATU. It is my premise that Freemasonry appears to
possess a deep and innate awareness of the paradoxical nature of the universe,
and that this awareness is widely expressed in our symbolism and ritual, and is
provided for our instruction.
a detailed discussion of quantum mechanics is both beyond my ability to sustain,
and beyond the limited scope of this paper, there are none-the-less some key
concepts which I would like to summarize and discuss. First of all, it must be
remembered that everything we knew, or thought we knew, about the nature of
matter and energy at the end of the 19th Century turned out to be
false. Newtonian mechanics were discovered to be inadequate for an understanding
of many physical phenomena[v],
particularly the phenomena of black body radiation, the photoelectric effect,
and optical line spectra. These phenomena were investigated by Messrs. Max
Planck, Albert Einstein, and Niels Bohr, respectively, and led to the
development of the Bohr orbital model of the atom. While the Bohr model
successfully explained the three key physical phenomena which were previously
not explainable by the classical equations of Newton, there remained still other
phenomena which eluded scientific understanding. Hence, the aforementioned work
of Heisenberg and Schrödinger which resulted in an entirely new and much
improved version of what we now call Quantum Mechanics. Needless to say the
developments in the field today would startle and amaze the men who pioneered
the reader will permit me the luxury of digressing, such an astounding change in
our scientific understanding of the universe has occurred many times before, as
evidenced (for example) by the work of Galileo Galilei.
Mankind resisted the truth then, and will most likely always be slow to
recognize any truth which contradicts convention.
theory indicates that photons are simultaneously both wave and particle; that
Quanta simultaneously exist in all possible states of being, and resolve into a
single physical state only upon observation, measurement, or interaction[vi].
Any attempt to visualize Quanta in a meaningful way becomes clouded by
the paradox of their perplexing behavior. For example in the double slit
experiment previously mentioned, Physicists have discovered that if they place a
photon (quantum bit) detector at one slit they obtain a measurement. However if
they then insert another detector at the second slit, no measurement appears. If
they then change the setup to measure the second slit first, they get no
measurement at the first slit. In our “large universe” experience this
doesn’t make much sense; however in the Quantum universe, this is what indeed
theorists tell us that once two Quanta become “entangled” (connected) they
remain connected regardless of how far apart they are. Let’s assume for
example that we have two entangled quantum bits, and we place one at the
earth’s North Pole, and one at the earth’s South Pole. If we measure the
behavior of the bit at the North Pole, the bit at the South Pole becomes
immeasurable, and vice-versa. For mankind the knowledge we are gaining of
Quantum phenomenon will have tremendous impact upon our understanding of such
things as how the brain functions[vii],
how life may have evolved on earth[viii],
and even the creation of the universe. Quantum theory also provides astonishing
insight into the collapse of Quanta into matter and energy. By collapse I mean
the transformation of Quanta from a condition of infinite possible states of
being into one specific state among all of those possibilities, and which is
triggered by interaction. Since Quanta are collapsed from a state of potential
to a state of physical being by interaction, who does the interacting ? Is it
the GATU, or is it man ? If it’s man, how does this interaction occur ?
Through conscious prayer ? Through ritual ? Perhaps the historical role of
scientists as leaders in Freemasonry and the importance of science to
reflects an understanding of the close relationship between the physical and the
Quantum realm. Interestingly, articles discussing Quantum theory such as
Heisenberg predictability in Quantum Events and the Bohr Complementarily
Principle began to appear in Masonic Journals[x].as
early as 1988. While not all paradox may be attributed to Quantum phenomena, it
may readily be argued that much of the paradox in the physical and in spiritual
world may indeed have a Quantum connection.
Expression of Paradox
Victor Popow in his address at the 2003
Masonic Spring Workshop at The Delta Lodge at Kananaskas[xi],
Alberta presented an interesting paraphrase of an ancient paradox:
one thing is certain – that nothing is certain; if this statement is true, it
is also false”.
is my belief that humankind has long understood paradox and at some level
Quantum phenomena (though not necessarily Quantum Mechanics and not necessarily
using the term Quantum phenomenon) and has extensively incorporated this
understanding into it’s literature, art, religions, and cultural traditions.
In literature, Shakespeare’s “The Tempest” represents the paradox
which exists between nature and society in the character of Caliban. The
unfortunate Caliban, half man and half fish is really neither, and yet both; a
seeming impossibility. Brother Robert Louis Stevenson in his novel “Doctor
Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” portrays the paradoxical nature of humankind through his
main character, who manifests both good and evil personalities. Indeed the
existence of good and evil in the world is the one of the most common themes in
literature and art in general. In the Masonic Opera “The Magic Flute”,
Papageno, accompanies Tamino into the chamber of reflection and is there put to
test. Papageno fails these tests miserably, but surprisingly is rewarded
nonetheless[xii], an obvious paradox.
the history of religion, there have been deities in a multitude of cultures
ascribed the paradoxical quality of being both god and man – perfectly divine
and at the same time perfectly human. Examples which come to mind include
Osiris, Mithras, and of course Christ. In the Judeo- Christian culture,
paradoxical character is present in the form of the fearsome God of the Old
Testament, who becomes the loving, forgiving God in the New Testament. It might
even be argued that paradox expressed in mankind’s various VSL serve as
purposeful mechanisms for theological insight (and unfortunately for theological
of Elea (circa 490 B.C.) is identified[xiii]
in Plato's Parmenides as having listed
40 “paradoxes of plurality” to show that ontological pluralism (a belief in
multiple existences rather than a single existence) leads to illogical
conclusions. Aristotle attributes two additional paradoxes to Zeno, and
contributed numerous others to the original listing of 40 himself. The famous
“Liars Paradox” (Bro. Popow’s paraphrase given above appears to be a
variation of the Liars Paradox) is attributed to Eubulides
of Miletus (circa
4th Century BCE) which may be both summarized and analyzed as follows[xiv]:
sentence is a lie
(1) is true, then (1) is false. But we can also establish the converse, as
follows. Assume (1) is false. Because the Liar Sentence is saying precisely that
(namely that it is false), the Liar Sentence is true, so (1) is true. We've now
shown that (1) is true if and only if it is false. Since (1) is one or the other,
it is both.
Aristotle's successor, wrote three papyrus rolls about the Liar Paradox, and the
Stoic philosopher Chrysippus wrote six.
There are even early references to mankind’s acknowledgement of paradox.
Pythagoras (circa 1788 B.C.) encountered paradox[xv]
during his search for the common denominator.
then, is a fairly well recognized condition, and one with which mankind, both
ancient and modern, has spent more than a little time wrestling. I would submit
to the reader that in art, literature, religion, and in cultural traditions
paradox is most often described in a reactionary sense, that is to say it is
presented as a dilemma to which man’s reaction is of paramount interest. I
believe this differs from the treatment of paradox in Freemasonry, in which
paradox is used in ritual and symbolism as instruction in understanding complex
Freemasons, the very history and nature of the lodge are paradoxical. We are
after all a speculative science founded upon operative art[xvi]; we exhibit both an esoteric aspect though our rites,
signs, and tokens, and an exoteric aspect through our community projects[xvii].
It is also somewhat paradoxical that Freemasonry, with it’s abundance
of mystic and allegorical ritual flourished[xviii]
in the period of the enlightenment[xix]
when reason was the prevailing force in science and society.
The paradoxical nature of Freemasonry as it relates to the Hermetic[xx]
tradition has long been a source of interest to Masonic authors and researchers.
Gallatin Mackey, H L Haywood in their Encyclopedia of Freemasonry[xxi] point out
that Freemasonry represents a paradox as an order with orthodox origin, but
which was obliged to meet in secrecy, with covert means of identification, and
with tiled doors, or as stated[xxii] by Bro. Tom
Driver, author of “Liberating Rites”
stands in contradiction to society while at the same time being a part of it.”
type of paradox however is not that which I intended to explore nor does it have
obvious ties to Quantum phenomena. In my discussion of paradox as it relates to
Freemasonry, I intend to define Quantum paradox somewhat narrowly as that which
reflects paradox existing in the fabric of nature and the universe.
of our acquaintance with the concept of Quantum paradox do proliferate in
Masonic ritual and especially in Craft symbolism. One example lies in our Blue
Lodge initiation ritual, in which the Candidate is questioned concerning his
footwear and attire during his initiation. The reader will recall no doubt that
the expected answer is paradoxical, although perfectly truthful. The repetition
of this paradox (with appropriate modification) during all three degrees should
alert the Candidate to the presence of paradox in our allegory and symbolism,
and further alert him to the underlying truth found (hidden) in paradox as the
ritual and subsequent lectures progress.
his commentary on a painting by Alessandro Botticelli showing the two Saints
John together, Brother Stuart Gregory points out that in Masonic symbolism (i.e.
Point Within a Circle) we experience paradox in our perspective of these two
Masonic Patron Saints[xxiii]:
the Masonic perspective we are given the balanced dualism of John the Baptist on
one side and John the Evangelist on the other. Represented together this way
they represent the balance of passionate faith with a learned understanding of
faith. Individually strong, together they stand as a harnessed focus of zeal and
extremely pertinent example of a connection between Masonic symbolism and
Quantum phenomena is to be found in the two pillars (J & B) signifying
duality or polarity as twin forces throughout creation[xxiv].
Further paradox is found to be represented by the Double Headed Eagle in
the Scottish Rite[xxv]
for which it is stated:
general, its symbolic meaning in the Scottish Rite is that of duality contained
in or resolving itself in unity. Thus, among many other things, it reminds us
that man, while only one being, is composed of both body and spirit, that he is
both temporary and eternal; that both good and evil exist in the world and that
we must ever foster good while opposing evil. It reminds us also that knowledge
comes both from study and from insight; that we have obligations both to
ourselves and to others, and that both faith and reason are necessary.”
are many more examples, coming from a wide variety of Masonic traditions. The
Fibonacci sequence (golden mean) used in Rosicrucian initiation[xxvi]
literally translated is the addition of the monad to the initiate who together
dominate duality. The Square and
Compasses itself has long been held to represent the alchemical joining of fire
(male) and water (female). I believe the average Mason could upon short
reflection add several more.
does the presence of paradox in our ritual and symbolism tell us ? I believe
that one answer to this question is that it communicates to us the complexity of
the universe in which mankind exists, a universe which lies beyond the ability
of our senses and our minds to directly perceive or to understand in
“rational” terms. By “rational” I mean in terms of our experience gained
by direct observation in our own limited world. I also believe that the paradox
present in Craft ritual and symbolism is purposeful and intended to be
instructional at a level beyond rationality, and to teach us that our inability
to rationalize paradox does not mean that paradox does not represent truth.
Ultimately, acceptance of paradox as truth is necessary for and perhaps the
essence of faith.
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Manchester, Nottingham, Oxford, Heriot Watt. Antonine
A truly remarkable animated representation of the double slit experiment,
entitled “Dr. Quantum – Double Slit Experiment” may be found on YouTube
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