In this episode, we discuss the 7th Degree - "Provost and Judge" 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:
David: Hello Gene.
Gene: Hello Dave
David: What’s up?
Gene: Not too much. I’m just… you know… for some reason feeling just a little bit judgmental today. You know what I’m sayin’?
David: I do know what you’re saying. Before we get started today, I wanted to remind everyone (as always) that Show Notes, Chapter Markers and a Transcript of this episode are available from our website - WayOfTheHermit.com. The 6th Degree of Intimate Secretary was about Peacemaking and as Gene just alluded to, the 7th Degree of Provost and Judge is all about Judgment.
Mythological Setting (01:49)
David: So… what’s the mythological setting for this degree?
Gene: Really, the best description is from “A Bridge To Light”.
Gene: “After the death of Master Hiram, King Solomon appointed seven Provost and Judges to administrate justice among the workmen of the Temple. They were to adjust demands, listen to the complaints and settle any disputes, administering the same laws to both Hebrew and Phoenician alike. The Chief Provost and Judge was entrusted with the key to an ebony box which held the records of the Tribunal. In the ceremony, Uriah complains to Naboth that the Phoenician workers pollute the temple by their presence. The two approach Zabud, the Provost and Judge, presenting their sides of the dispute, each seeking favor on their behalf.”
David: So the major characters are Uriah, Naboth and Zabud. The candidate in the ritual of the degree again plays the role of Zabud.
David: OK. So Uriah and Naboth approach Zabud, the Provost and Judge… and, what happens?
Gene: “Naboth, from Hebrew meaning “prominence”, explains that he governs the laborers who work on the South wall. Between him and the workmen a difference has arisen because he has hired uncircumcised Phoenician workers. Naboth expects this difficulty to come before the Judges. He requests that Zabud befriend him in this decision for which Naboth suggests that he will use his influence with the King to advance Zabud’s position. Zabud dismisses Naboth saying “as a fellow of the Craft I have called thee brother but as a judge you are a stranger.”
David: That goes against the widely held belief that Masons show preferential treatment to each other.
Gene: Correct. That’s one of the fallacies, and there are many out there, about what Masonry is and who Masons are.
David: Being a corrupt Judge is un-Masonic.
Gene: Masons want to be judged by a higher standard.
David: So what about the next complainant, Uriah?
Gene: “Upon Naboth’s exit, Uriah, a general laborer, enters. Uriah explains that the workmen on the South wall wish to remove all the workmen who are uncircumcised. Zabud also dismisses Uriah. He chastises him for attempting to corrupt the Judges by asking the Judge to assume powers which are not his. That is, to show religious preference by dismissing non-Jews during the day so someone uncircumcised.”
David: So it was a complain concerning religious discrimination in the workplace.
Gene: Yeah. They were “heatherns”... One of the basics of tribalism - “He is not like me.”
David: But the Provosts and Judges were tasked by King Solomon to make no difference between the Jews and the Phoenicians. Prior to his death, Grand Master Hiram Abiff was the one who settled disputes among the workmen. You know, Hiram was a very busy man.
Gene: He did everything.
David: In the last degree, the Candidate replaces Hiram as Intimate Secretary and in this degree the Candidate again plays Zabud who, in the Prelude to the ritual of the degree, takes over for Hiram as Chief Provost and Judge. It seems that the Candidate is following in Grand Master Hiram’s footsteps.
Gene: As the degrees go along, the responsibilities get bigger and bigger…
Morals and Dogma (05:39)
David: They do. So that’s the mythological and ritual setting of the degree. Let’s move on into Pike’s lecture on the degree from “Morals and Dogma.” Where would you like to start here?
Gene: The third chapter in says it all.
David: What does it say?
Gene: “Those who are invested with the power of judgment should judge the causes of all persons uprightly and impartially, without any personal consideration of the power of the mighty, or the bribe of the rich, or the needs of the poor.”
David: That’s a good summary. One thing I wanted to call attention to again is the “Cut & Paste” method that De Hoyas discusses in the “Introduction” and that we talked about in our first podcast. The Lectures in “Morals and Dogma” on the 4th, 5th and 6th degrees were taken almost entirely from Right Rev. Jeremy Taylor’s “Whole Works”, which is 15 volumes! This chapter is a compilation of quotes from three books: “Creed of Christendom” by William Rathbone Greg and two books by Orville Dewey - “Discourses on Various Subjects” and “Religion, Commerce and Business”.
Gene: Yeah. It’s a compilation. I mean, to compile something like this in the days before the Great Internet and Google was a heck of a lot of work.
David: Right. He couldn’t just Google it.
Gene. No. He had to know and read the material to be able to do this. Just imagine that he had to be familiar with these different huge works. Check out the Bibliography in the back of “Morals and Dogma”. It’s vast! So, it’s a compiled work… but it is a work. I mean he had an overarching theme and a reason for pulling these particular things. I look at it with a sense of admiration. He had to know a vast amount to be able to do this. This was the style of the day.
David: What I didn’t understand before we started studying the Annotated Version was the extent that this was the case though. It made me think of another compiler of material that De Hoyas mentioned in the “Introduction”, Madame Blavatsky. Neither she nor Pike created most of what they published, but they collected it, crafted and commented on it.
Gene: They were conduits.
Wrong and Injustice (08:30)
David: They were indeed. Anyway, the first section in the Chapter is “Wrong and Injustice”. Did you have something from this section to talk about?
Gene: Yeah I did. Let me “turn the page” (credit to Bob Seger)... In this section, the “big bat” that kind of hit me was - “The wrong and injustice once done, cannot be undone. They are eternal in their consequences.” Think about that. You think about - “We’ll ask forgiveness…” but once it’s done, it’s done. Can you make amends? Yeah, you can make amends that will help the future, but once an act is done… that’s it. It’s eternal. It’s been done.
David: That’s heavy. Here’s a related quote from that same section, “The wrong that is done contains its own penalty as surely and as naturally as the acorn contains the oak.” It’s saying that every action is the cause of its own results. That’s an obvious truth. And as we said in the previous podcast on the 5th Degree and death, you don’t know the results of your actions. If you think about it that way, we all really should pay more attention to how we act and what we do and say to others.
Gene: You know, every time we get into one of these chapters, something surprises me. The whole gist, at least so far that we’ve read from “Morals and Dogma”, is to practice what we modern people call “mindfulness” at all times. You must be mindful of your thoughts, your words, your deeds. And how they affect others. And that knocks the ball out of the park, by going, “You know… once it’s done, that’s it.”
David: That construct struck me pretty hard, too.
Gene: That brings up the question of religious forgiveness.
David: What do you mean?
Gene: You know… “All your sins are washed away.” This is saying that, “No, they’re not. What’s done is done.” Can you try and make reparations and apologies? Yes. Not that that’s a bad thing, that’s an excellent thing to do when you’ve erred but… what this is saying is there are no slates wiped clean.
David: A quote from this section says that you are more prone to do wrong if you believe that your actions can be simply erased than if you believe “that every act of ours must bear its allotted fruit, according to the everlasting laws, (and) must remain forever ineffaceably inscribed on the tablets of Universal Nature.”
Gene: So how’s that for laying responsibility on somebody?
David: Yeah. Another quote I really liked said that it was a mercy for us to be unable to perceive the full results of our actions.
Gene: Amen to that one! Who could actually live with that?
Repentance and Restitution (11:12)
David: I know. The next section, “Repentance and Restitution” hammers home the same themes that we’ve been discussing. Do you have a quote from this section?
Gene: Yeah. “Masonry by its teachings endeavors to restrain men from the commission of injustice and acts of wrong and outrage.”
David: The key part of that for me is that it says that Masonry through its teachings are trying to “restrain” you from committing a “wrong action”, because of their irrevocability and everlasting consequences of our actions that we’ve been talking about. The last quote I’ve got from section is that repentance bears its own fruit, “... to secure the Future, not to obliterate the Past.”
Cause and Effect (11:59)
David: What about the next section, “Cause and Effect”?
Gene: The one that bludgeoned me over the head here was, “To cause another to sin, is a much greater sin than the sin itself.”
David: Hmm. I think we often can do that casually without thinking about the consequences for that person or others on down the road. Which again, is why it’s a mercy that we can’t see all of the effects of our actions.
Gene: Yeah. That’s why I said that the whole thing seems to be a take on mindfulness. To be aware. To be awake.
David: To “Wake up.”
Gene: There’s your “Matrix” reference.
David: But as we’ve discussed, we’re limited. We make every decision with incomplete information. We can’t see the future, or even the full effects of our own actions, but we should try to the extent we can. At least, that’s what I feel that the Scottish Rite system is about.
David: Anyway, I have one more quote from this section, “So earth, air, and ocean are the eternal witnesses of the acts that we have done. No motion impressed by natural causes or by human agency is ever obliterated.” This quote made me think of Eliphas Levi’s “astral light”, Jung’s “collective unconscious”, and the “akashic records” of Helena Blavatsky, Rudolf Steiner, Edgar Cayce and others. A place where every action that’s ever taken place is recorded. Do you know if Edgar Cayce equated his conceptions with Jung’s “collective unconscious”?
Gene: I’m not sure if he did or not, but I have heard that comparison between the two.
Judge Righteous Judgment (13:35)
David: We’ll come back to this notion again when we talk about the “ebony box” that was part of the ritual paraphernalia for this degree, but let’s look at the next section called “Judge Righteous Judgment.” The key point in this section for me is that we don’t know the inward life of people, only what we see on the outside. And it reminded me of a Jewish legend of Elijah the Prophet, who would spend his day walking the earth administering God’s Justice.
Gene: Wanders the earth like Cain.
David: Right. Anyway, Rabbi Joshua ben Levi asks to go with Elijah and watch him go about his business. The first place they visit is a poor farmer and his wife who treat them with great kindness, but before they leave Elijah prays that their cow will die, which it does. And that was their only possession of value. They then visit a rich man who treats them badly, but Elijah prays for a wall that had crumbled to rebuild itself, saving the rich man the expense. Elijah continues to do the opposite of what appears to be the right thing until the Rabbi can’t contain himself any longer and demands an explanation. Elijah explains that the Angel of Death was at the farm of the poor farmer and was about to take the farmer’s wife, but Elijah prayed for the cow to be taken in her place. At the home of the rich man, under the wall was a hidden treasure that would have been found had the wall been repaired, but since the man was undeserving, Elijah had the wall hide it.
Gene: The moral of the story is “Perspective.” With omnipresence or unlimited view of both the future and the past, one can make better decisions, than seem right or obvious for someone who can only see the past. Which is us. I mean, we can only see the trail we’ve left behind and not the future that we walk into. “Man’s got to know his limitations.”
David: True. Anything else from this section?
Gene: Yeah. Who among you has not sinned or been close to sinning or been tempted? Which is not a quote, but it’s kind of a summary of, how can you judge another’s weakness without knowing his circumstance that put him in that point? A story from my life… Many, many years ago, I was working at a grocery store and I made friends with the people around me. And there is this one guy that he and I buddied up a little bit and would go and do stuff together. He was supposed to pick me up one night after work. I waited about 30 minutes and this is, you know, pre-cell phone days and such and I’m like - “OK. Something’s come up. Whatever.” I went home. Well, he and three other guys who were going to pick me up, but they decided to stop along their way and rob a liquor store. Having known nothing about what was going on, I could have been in that car and the rest of my life ruined. What saved my bacon?
David: I don’t know if everyone has a story like that. I know I have a few. And I’ll also be the first to admit that I often forget about my past and pass judgment on others. But in my defense, I think as you get older, it’s hard to remember just how stupid, or naive or lucky you’ve been.
Gene: Indeed. How close we all come to “the fall”.
Judge Only When Duty Mandates (17:17)
David: The last quote I have from this section is “Let each man ask his own heart”, which leads into the next section that admonishes us to “Judge Only When Duty Mandates”. The first thing I thought of here is that interaction on Social Media demands constant judgment - Like or Dislike!
Gene: The modern quick-moving society, it’s very snap judgments, too. I mean, no time to think. “Do you like this? Do you not like this? Make a stand! Pick a side!”
David: Taking a stand or picking a side demands judgment that this section is advising we should do only with the utmost caution. Here’s another social-media related quote - “Many men think themselves better, in proportion as they can detect sin in others! When they go over the catalogue of their neighbor's unhappy derelictions of temper or conduct, they often, amidst much apparent concern, feel a secret exultation… Many even take actual pleasure in the sins of others; and this is the case with every one whose thoughts are often employed in agreeable comparisons of his own virtues with his neighbors' faults.”
Gene: In this one, it’s… you know… you should take no joy in another person’s downfall. And thinking somehow that somehow that you’re a better person because another has fallen is a sad, sad state of mind.
David: It is.
Gene: The concept of mercy comes up and it says to have pity because “one person’s weakness reveals the weakness in us all”.
Charity and Loving Kindness (18:51)
David: And that brings us to the last section in “Morals and Dogma” - “Charity and Loving Kindness”. Do you have a quote from this section?
Gene: “The power of gentleness is too little seen in the world. Subduing influences of pity, the might of love, the control of mildness over passion, the commanding majesty of that perfect character which mingles grave displeasure with grief and pity for the offender.”
David: A quote I kept thinking about while reading this section was from Goethe who said, “There is no crime of which I cannot conceive myself guilty.”
Gene: That’s truly a wise man.
David: That isn’t saying to condone anything, but If you don’t understand human nature enough (by seeing it within yourself) to be able to comprehend someone’s actions, how can you possibly serve as a fair judge?
Gene: You can’t. I’m going to read the last paragraph out of this one which sums it all up.
David: Alright. Let’s hear it.
Gene: “On all accounts therefore, let the true Mason never forget the solemn injunction, necessary to be observed at almost every moment of a busy life - “Judge not, lest ye yourselves be judged. For whatsoever judgment ye measure unto others, the same be measured unto you. Such is the lesson taught the Provost and Judge.”
Divine Judgment (20:19)
David: Ok. That verse from Matthew chapter 7 serves a perfect summary of all of the readings for this degree. On one level, that means that we should judge others the way we would like to be judged… but the Biblical quote actually says you WILL be judged the same way you judge. Do you see the distinction? Whether it’s something you should choose to do because it’s right or because it’s inevitable. What do you think about that?
Gene: I don’t know. In the whole thing they talk about the “Natural Law” of your actions having consequences. So if you look at someone in strict judging terms, you should expect no less of yourself being looked at in those same terms.
David: But expecting it and it being inevitable are different. I guess I’m talking here about “Divine Judgment”. Do you see things in those terms?
Gene: I don’t know. Where does that little voice come from in the back of your head?
David: Your conscience is still a voice in your head.
Gene: Yeah. I don’t know.
Can You Escape Justice? (21:25)
David: Let’s talk about it another way, do you think that people actually “get away with things”... that is, do people do wrong in the world and have no repercussions whatsoever? And, to be clear I’m not talking about in a future world, I mean here in this world.
Gene: That’s a big question.
David: This chapter states as fact that if someone defrauds you, he has done himself a greater crime. So, I guess I’m trying to decide whether all of these statements are just flowery allegory, or if they actually are part of a deeper “Natural Law” that’s inevitable.
The All-Seeing Eye (22:05)
David: I’ve been thinking about the symbols of the degree. In the ritual you’re given a Gold Key to an Ebony Box that holds the records of the tribunal. And over the altar is a balance suspended from a triangle with a Yod-Heh… which makes me think of the “Eye in the Triangle.”
Gene: The All-Seeing Eye.
David: Exactly. Much of the chapter was devoted to the idea that everything you do is recorded for all time. Do you believe this? Let me be more specific about what I’m asking here… do you believe that there is a part of you that sees and records everything you do?
Gene: The All-Seeing Eye… I mean, that’s… personally, I think… yes, the part of yourself that is bigger than yourself. You know, what makes up “me”. There’s a part back there, call it the subconscious, or the superconscious, whatever you like that is the Observer. The Watcher.
David: I believe that, too, but more importantly, I think that’s what it means in this context of the degrees, so let’s keep going. There’s a Gold Key and an Ebony Box.
What's in the Box? (23:22)
Gene: “What’s in the Box?”
David: I knew Gene would not be able to resist that movie reference from “Seven”.
David: So back at you here… what’s in the box?
Gene: That’s where the records of the judgment were kept. And the key was the key to that box to unlock it and look inside.
David: So, if it’s all the records that are really needed to make a completely fair judgment, as we’ve already discussed, it would have to be a complete record of all the thoughts, words and deeds. Again, pointing to a part of ourselves that’s always aware, even when the “I” that we think of as ourselves, is not.
Gene: I mean, what happens when you fall asleep every night? What shuts off? What wakes you back up and suddenly you become you again?
David: The Triangle and Scales represents a part of yourself that maintains balance and harmony. In this model, it has access to a record of everything you’ve ever done (as symbolized by the Ebony Box), and it renders Judgments (as symbolized by the suspended Scales) that you may not register consciously, but its verdict is there “like a splinter in your mind” and bear it’s own fruits. So, according to this model, a person might apparently, from the outside, appear to escape justice…
Gene: But they’ve still got to live with the squirmin’ worms in their head.
The Gold Key (24:51)
David: Right. So the Ebony Box is your “Personal Subconscious” and the Gold Key is able to open the box.
Gene: Yeah. Dare you use that key?
David: Do you really want to see all the things you’ve thought, said and done? Really?
Gene: There’s a question! Under what circumstances do you use that key?
David: I think the chapter spelled it out. Unless you’re willing to examine your own life, you’re not qualified to judge other people.
Gene: To do it correctly and to do it the moral way if you will, you have to open the box. If you can’t face what’s staring back at you from the box, the true face, the true nature of what you’ve done, what can you do?
David: Damn. What…what do you do?
Gene: This one’s hard not to curl up in a ball in the corner and whimper with, “My God! What have I done?”
David: Yeah. Just really, thinking about that every single thing that you’ve ever thought or said or done is available for judgment…
Gene: But, as it said, you cannot change the past. All you can do is try to make a more fruitful future.
Final Thoughts (26:07)
David: True that. So, any final thoughts?
Gene: Once again, I start out and I’ll generally read the material at least three times. I’ll go through it, I’ll read it just straight through the first time. And then go back and read it again and do my final read through making notes and such. Sometimes at first glance, because of the language and the nature it’s put forth, it doesn’t dig in, but by the second or third time, things really start to hammer you… If you start to think about what’s being said. And in that sense, this one was pretty heavy, too for me, because it forces you to look at yourself in a clearer light… and that’s rough.
David: It is.
Gene: I mean to be honest with yourself about yourself is not an easy thing to do. We all would like to turn away from that cup and not have to look at ourselves in the mirror straight on.
David: So why should we do it?
Gene: It does help you to grow and develop if you take it seriously and think about it and ponder what the lessons are. That’s my sermon for the week.
David: So… are we done?
Gene: Yeah. I’m real tired of being judgmental of myself. I need some distraction Dave.
David: I'm right there with you Brother. What are we doing next time?