In this episode, we discuss the 6th Degree - "Intimate Secretary" from "Morals & Dogma: The Annotated Edition". Transcripts, Chapter Markers and Show Notes for all episodes are available from our website - WayOfTheHermit.com.
It is highly recommended that you read the chapter in order to fully follow our discussion. "Morals and Dogma" is available from these sites:
Gene: Hello Dave.
David: Hello Gene. How’s it going?
Gene: Not too shabby.
David: Cool. Before we get started, I wanted to remind everyone that Show Notes, Chapter Markers and a Transcript of this episode is available from our website - WayOfTheHermit.com. I want to encourage everyone (as always) to read the Chapter in “Morals and Dogma” along with us. We’re also using the corresponding degree material from the “Scottish Rite Ritual - Monitor and Guide” and “A Bridge to Light” in our discussions. All of these books are linked in the Show Notes.
Mythological Setting of the Degree (01:52)
David: In the last degree of Perfect Master, the mythological setting was the one year anniversary of Grand Master Hiram Abiff’s death. What is the mythological setting for this degree, the Intimate Secretary?
Gene: This rite or vignette has three basic characters in it. It has King Solomon, King Hiram and Zabud, who is a faithful servant of King Solomon.
David: And during the ritual, the candidate plays the role of Zabud.
Gene: Right. And the story is that King Hiram, having looked at the towns that King Solomon promised him for his materials that he contributed to the Temple, was disappointed to find them abandoned and in sorry shape. So the scene is - he confronts King Solomon about this deal and about his dissatisfaction and rushes in to expound on his displeasure. And the servant Zabud sees him rushing in and goes to the edge of the room because he's worried that there might be some harm done to King Solomon. So he's there to make sure that if his King cries out, he can rush in to help.
Gene: And so, in the middle of discussion, King Hiram is very fiery and excited - “Why are you trying to give you this bad deal?” And as Solomon starts to explain, King Hiram spies Zabud listening and draws his sword and is ready to rush in and kill him because he’s eavesdropping. And Solomon intervenes and says let’s hear his story and so of course Zabud explains himself that he thought his King might be the trouble. And so Solomon plays “The Peacemaker” and they spare Zabud and they make a new deal between themselves.
David: Right. It was never Solomon's intent to cheat King Hiram. He was going to fix up the cities. Right?
Gene: It was his intention that Hiram Abiff would refurbish the towns for him. That Hiram, of course, was killed and that had become impossible. But it was not his intent to make a bad deal. And they come to a conclusion that satisfies everyone.
David: That conclusion is that King Hiram gives Solomon back all of the towns along with a large amount of gold just to seal their friendship. And they both honor Zabud by naming him Intimate Secretary, which was a post previously held by Hiram. So the candidate is following in Master Hiram’s footsteps by gaining the trust of both Solomon and King Hiram of Tyre.
Morals and Dogma (04:51)
David: None of the backstory of the ritual setting appears in the chapter of “Morals and Dogma”, which is only 5 pages long. Pike starts off the chapter listing the moral lessons of the degree which are - passion, faithfulness, disinterestedness, benevolence and peacemaking. How do these tie back into the ritual setting that we just talked about?
Gene: Certain things are implied and you have to read between the lines but… all of these forces are within each of us.
David: By forces, you mean the energy expressed by each of the characters that were portrayed in the degree ritual?
Gene: Yeah. There’s the passion… the anger at the thought of being wronged.
David: So Hiram King of Tyre exemplifies passion and the candidate as Zabud demonstrates the moral virtue of faithfulness.
Gene: And the Peacemaker in between.
Be Zealous and Faithful (05:56)
David: And that’s King Solomon who demonstrates disinterested benevolence. The first section of the “Morals & Dogma” chapter is called “Be Zealous and Faithful”. Do you have a quote from this section?
Gene: Not a quote just my general thoughts that - “be zealous and faithful” and to be “disinterested and benevolent”. Being disinterested is not showing lack of concern. It’s the point of being able to see both sides of the situation.
David: And to see both sides, you can’t allow your own emotions to color your judgment.
Gene: Correct. And you have to look at both sides with a disinterested “Eye of Solomon”, if you will, and make the wise decision of what is the middle path. That is being disinterested or dispassionate.
We are Not Born for Ourselves Alone (06:42)
David: That’s a good definition. The next section is “We Are Not Born for Ourselves Alone”.
Gene: One thing that stuck out to me, part of a quote, “Think not of the advancement of thy brother as losing of thy worth.”
David: I remember some words from the chapter - “Make room for others to shine.”
Gene: In other words, life is not a “Zero-Sum Game”. Just because someone quote-unquote “wins” doesn’t mean that you have to lose anything.
David: I’ve got a related quote, “Remember that we usually disparage others upon slight grounds and little instances; and if a man be highly recommended, we think him sufficiently lessened, if we can but charge one sin of folly or inferiority in his account. We should either be more severe to ourselves, or less so to others, and consider that whatsoever good any one can think or say of us, we can tell him of many unworthy and foolish and perhaps worse actions of
ours, any one of which, done by another, would be enough, with us, to destroy his reputation.”
Gene: Yeah. Don’t wait to be canceled. Cancel yourself now!
David: What do you mean by that?
Gene: “Isn’t the satisfaction of being a good man amongst our fellow men enough to sustain us anymore?”
David: I know that’s a quote but I can’t place it.
Gene: “The Big Chill”.
David: And what I think that’s saying is that just working on yourself should be enough… but where’s the fun in that?
Gene: There’s no way around it. It’s not easy. It’s not sexy. It’s not fun. It is work.
David: Maybe I’m just a particularly obstinate person, but I have my hands full with my own life. I have trouble enough making good decisions in my own life, much less trying to do that for anybody else. Anyway, here’s one more quote from this section “Every man hath in his own life sins enough, in his own mind trouble enough, in his own fortunes evil enough, and in performance of his offices failings more than enough, to entertain his own inquiry; so that curiosity after the affairs of others can not be without envy and an ill mind.” It finishes up by saying that digging into things that are private or shameful for others, should “not be his care and business”.
Gene: That comes in close to the end of the chapter. Essentially, being a good Mason is minding your own damn business.
David: Which certainly seems to be swimming against the tide. We need some peacemakers. Here’s a quote from the last section of the chapter, “Only the base and ungenerous delight in discord. It is the poorest occupation of humanity to labour to make men think worse of each other, as the press, and too commonly the pulpit, (and I’m going to interject here - social media) … do. The duty of the Mason is to endeavour to make man think better of his neighbour; to quiet, instead of aggravating difficulties; to bring together those who are severed or estranged; to keep friends from becoming foes, and to persuade foes to become friends. To do this, he must needs control his own passions, and be not rash and hasty, nor swift to take offence, nor easy to be angered.”
The True Mason is Disinterested and Generous (09:57)
Gene: Reiterating the point, being disinterested is the balancing of passions. It’s finding that magic fulcrum point in the middle that balances things out.
David: And it’s from that engaged but disinterested point within ourselves that we can be truly generous.
Gene: Generosity is to learn to live with an open heart. To be honest and kind because it’s the right thing to do. But there again, you’ve got to engage the disinterested, because that can become a point of pride.
David: That’s called “Spiritual Materialism” and you see it everywhere.
Gene: And that can bring you down quicker than anything.
The True Mason is a Peacemaker (10:45)
David: Indeed. OK, we’ve got one more section in “Morals and Dogma” which is called “The True Mason is a Peacemaker”. So… what did you have from that section?
Gene: There's always two sides to every story and one possible path of mediation in between. And a true Mason tries to be “Mr. In-Between”.
David: I know that “Mr. Inbetween” is the name of a current TV show, but that’s a good name for the archetypal mediating force that’s symbolized by Mercury and Hermes/Thoth. Mercury is a Lesser Light and is associated with the Master of the Lodge.
Gene: It had a quote that - “It’s not a meeting Masons of there’s discord amongst the brothers.” And you definitely can't be a good man in society if you’re at odds and ends with everybody else.
David: And as we’ve discussed, that starts with working out some things within yourself.
Gene: In yourself to live a good life you can't you can't be at the odds, at ends with yourself. Level head, middle ground.
David: What about “taking a stand”? Where does that play into that?
Gene: I stand for peace.
David: That’s not a popular stance.
Gene: No. Never will be.
David: Oh wow… a “Peacemonger!” Let’s vote him off the island.
Gene: Yeah. He gets voted off the island every time.
David: You’re fired. A couple of other quotes I have here. One says “who can sum up the horrors and woes accumulated in a single war”? In the previous episode we talked about the death of someone close to you… you know. Just, put that on a national scale… a country-wide scale. And that’s what war is. At the very least, it shouldn’t be treated like a football game… which, I sometimes feel like it is.
Gene: Yeah. “America!”
David: Yeah, I know. That’s the sentiment sometimes and that’s just wrong. That’s a lack of recognition about death. Here’s another quote, it says, “The groans of the battle-field are echoed in sighs of bereavement from thousands of desolated hearths. There is a skeleton in every house, a vacant chair at every table.” You know Pike is pulling from his personal experience here.
Gene: That was from the great American Civil War. That was truth. It affected every family.
David: Death and destruction was everywhere. I know I’m inundating us with quotes, but I’ve got just one more, “The national mind is brought down, from the noble interchange of kind offices with another people, to wrath and revenge, and base pride, and the habit of measuring brute strength against brute strength, in battle. Treasures are expended, that would suffice to build ten thousand churches, hospitals, and universities,... If that treasure were sunk in the sea, it would be calamity enough; but it is put to worse use; for it is expended in cutting into the veins and arteries of human life, until the earth is deluged with a sea of blood.”
Gene: Wow. Did Pike just like… die last year?
Scottish Rite Ritual - Monitor and Guide (13:57)
David: That seems prescient but understanding human nature is better than being psychic. That’s all I had for “Morals and Dogma” and I think we’ve already covered almost everything in the “Monitor - Ritual and Guide” already.
Gene: I don’t know, it’s so short that everything we’ve said about Pike is everything about the others as well. I mean it really is.
A Bridge to Light (14:20)
David: What about from “A Bridge To Light”?
Gene: And I actually do have a quote from that that kind of stuck out to me at the very first…
Gene: When Solomon forgives Hiram and his hasty words and unkind thoughts are forgiven and forgotten, Solomon asks, “Is there no one we can forgive as God forgives our faults and errors? And I thought that was pretty deep because, God forgives us every day for being the stupid idiots that we are. The least you could do is, you know, give a little bit of that to your fellow brother?
David: Amen there Gene. It’s just hard to shine that light on ourselves. It’s much easier to point out the flaws of other people.
Gene: You shine that light on your fellow brothers and then you turn that light and shine it on yourself. Realize that you're imperfect, as everyone is, and that there needs to be charity and forgiveness in your heart for yourself, as well as for others.
Why Act the Peacemaker? (15:29)
David: The question for reflection in this degree is - “Why act the peacemaker?” I first thought of Matthew 5:9 which says “Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God” and then the Dr. Martin Luther King’s quote, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.”
Gene: “If you fight the empire, you become the empire.”
David: Hate just breeds more hate. The core teaching of this degree is to act as a Peacemaker, but how do we do that? King Solomon demonstrated that a good Peacemaker exhibits disinterested benevolence. On a personal level, this means that sometimes we have to reign in another part of ourselves that might act rashly. But really think about that statement - “YOU have to reign in YOURSELF.” Are there two parts of you? Wouldn’t there need to be a third one to judge whether you reigned yourself in successfully? This may sound like a mental game, but it’s not. There’s an important realization here.
The First Awakening (16:43)
Gene: To recognize that there are different voices in your head and learn to hear them.
David: Right. The philosopher and author Eckhart Tolle calls this realization “the first awakening”. Here’s a short clip from one of his lectures.
Eckhart Tolle (from lecture): The first awakening, spiritual awakening, is something very basic and something very simple. It’s the discovery that there is a voice in your head that always talks to you.
David: In the last degree, we discussed mindfulness as paying attention to our own actions. Eckhart Tolle describes a deeper level of mindfulness that arises from self-examination and discovery. Here’s one more clip from that same lecture (which I’ve linked in the Show Notes).
Eckhart Tolle (from lecture): Mindfulness is first of all, discovering the simple fact that there is a voice in your head that continuously comments on your life or on what's happening around you. It’s the “self-talk” and everybody knows what self-talk is, in that you talk to yourself. Sometimes you talk to yourself in the first-person, “I”. Some people talk to themselves in the second-person, “you”. So you can get annoyed with yourself and then you say, “You shouldn't have done that!” and then you have another thought that says, “Yes but I couldn't help it!”
David: We all have this experience so often that it’s just background and we think nothing of it. But recognizing that we have conflicts within ourselves, it should be obvious that we should try to find peace within ourselves before we would be able to reach our potential as peacemakers in the world.
Gene: I agree wholeheartedly on that one.
Cultivating Peace Within Ourselves (18:48)
David: So how do you find peace?
Gene: It's like any crop you have to cultivate. You have to be a good steward.
David: But really, how do you cultivate peace? Do you read a book about meditation, or post on Facebook about the value of silence (which I’ve seen people do)? How can you hear the deeper voices that are trying to tell you things when your mind is constantly buzzing with all of these thoughts and activities?
Gene: You have to develop practice and be conscious about it… about there’s an unbalanced voice stating its opinion and… That's just an opinion man”. That’s not reality. You have to understand that these thoughts are going to crop up. You can't box them up. You can't put them in a corner, deny them, pretend they don't exist. “You can't put baby back in the corner.” But, just because the thoughts arise does not mean you have to give them power.
The Power of Imagination (19:57)
David: How do you give those thoughts or voices power?
Gene: One of the great secrets is that you have to control your imagination.
David: Yeah. Once you let your imagination start it’s storytelling magic on your thoughts, things can take a different turn. Your emotions can get involved in these imaginary scenarios.
Gene: Once the chemical cascade starts, it's hard to undo that. It's got to run its course and run out.
David: I think it helps just to realize that there is a sequence here: voices or thoughts that lead to your imagination making a story, which then might then might cause an emotional response.
Gene: And there’s different levels of that, too. You can catch yourself and pull yourself back away from it intellectually but the imagination or the emotions have already fired all the chemicals in your body. Your body still feels it. Your head is like, “OK, I'm coming back from this…'' but your body is still paying the consequences. You know, you stumped your toe, you're like - “I want to smash that piece of furniture to bits!” Well, that's just the rage talking. Do you really want to destroy that piece of furniture that you actually love? No, but you have to accept that the rage has its voice for a moment, and then you take a breath, and calm down and travel on.
David: And hopefully, you can travel on and leave whatever emotion you got possessed by behind. But in truth, some people seek out situations that end up generating negative emotions.
Gene: It really plays into the Buddhist concept of attachment. How attached do you become to that surge of rage? I mean, does it flow through you and you let it go, or does it tack on and keep pushing?
David: You have to be able to let go of things. To forgive. But it all starts with self-observation.
Take Me to the Pilot (21:58)
Gene: That’s where the intellectual dispassionate comes in realizing that you have gotten angry and it's going to take a while for the body to calm back down. But “who’s piloting the ship” is the question?
David: “Take me to the pilot, lead me to the chamber.”
Gene: “Take me to the pilot.”
David: OK, we’ll stop there for this episode. Gene, what are we doing next time?
Gene: In the next episode, we discuss the 7th Degree - Provost and Judge.
David: So, I'm David.
Gene: And I'm Gene.
David: Join us next time as we continue our exploration of “Morals and Dogma: The Annotated Edition”.
Gene: As we walk the Way of the Hermit.