In this episode, we discuss the 8th Degree - "Intendant of the Building" 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: Hey Gene. How’s it going?
Gene: It’s going OK. Thank you very much. Feeling a bit stoic today.
David: Stoic? OK. Before we get into that, I wanted to remind everyone that Show Notes, Chapter Markers and a Transcript of this episode are on our website - WayOfTheHermit.com. Also, as we have done since the 4th degree, in this episode we are augmenting our discussion of “Morals and Dogma” with material from “The Scottish Rite Ritual - Monitor and Guide” and “A Bridge to Light”. Links to these books are available in the Show Notes. In the last degree we assumed the position of Chief Provost & Judge in order to rule on disputes among the workmen who were about to again begin work on King Solomon’s Temple following the death of Grand Master Hiram Abiff. What is the ritual setting of this degree - Intendant of the Building?
Mythological Setting (02:13)
Gene: OK, this time our setting is - the period of mourning has expired following Hiram’s death and King Solomon wishes to continue work upon the Temple because the work on the Temple stopped without the Master Builder. The drama focuses on the solution to the problem of how do they continue? The character named Ahishar offers a solution. Master Hiram enjoyed communicating the Arts that he knew to anyone who would be willing to learn. Ahishar suggests that Hiram’s favorites, the ones who had learned the most, share responsibility to finish the Temple. The suggestion is accepted and the duties of the young men selected are part of the allegorical teachings presented in the story. There were five selected.
David: Alright… hold up a second. I just wanted to point out that this is a recurring motif of us playing the candidate and being called upon to replace a role formerly filled by Hiram. In this ritual, it takes five people to do the job that Hiram was doing. You know, whatever they were paying him, it wasn’t enough. As we’ve said before, Hiram was a very busy man.
Gene: Hiram was an extremely busy man. Not only did know and do everything, he took the time to pass on the knowledge he had received himself.
David: He wore many hats. So who were the five men chosen to cover Hiram’s duties?
Gene: Adoniram was selected as Supervisor. Yehu-aber was selected Chief Brass Artificer. Satolkin was selected Chief Woodworker. Zeleck, Chief Stonemason and Gareb, Chief over Silver, Gold and Engraving.
Morals and Dogma (04:08)
David: So that’s the mythological setting of the degree. Let’s start into “Morals and Dogma”. What’s your overall take on the Chapter?
Gene: Overall, I like songs and songs seem to be in my head all the time. I can’t decide if this Lecture was “Don’t Worry Be Happy” or “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life”.
David: OK… I can see how both of those songs match the theme of the Chapter, which is to keep an upbeat attitude in the face of adversity. Which is, I guess, why you said that you were feeling stoic.
Gene: The general take for this degree is charity and benevolence, those are the main themes. But I would subtitle it “Stoicism Without Cynicism”.
David: Do you want to explain what you mean by stoicism there?
Gene: At least my impression of stoicism is kind of a fatalistic attitude of “Bad stuff is going to happen so I’ve got to brace myself for it.” And the overarching theme of this degree is - Bad things happen, good things happen and you have to deal with them with grace and dignity and carry on with a good attitude.
David: Along those lines, one of the tenets of philosophical Stoicism, is that “The obstacle is the way.” You’re advised to always look at every difficult situation you’re put in, and instead of complaining about it, make the most of it.
Gene: Yeah. Don’t turn away from what is presented to you.
David: As we discussed in the last degree, every action yields its own fruits and as Pike points out in this degree, to deny our circumstances is in a sense, to deny the justice of Divine Providence or “God Will”. Whichever term you want to use there.
Gene: That is something that I had actually written down.
David: What’s that?
Gene: To turn away from this life is to turn away from God?
David: Do you want to elaborate on that?
Gene: That’s on in the Chapter, but OK…
David: No, that’s alright, we’ll get back to it in due time. Do you have anything else from this first section?
Gene: Yeah. Here’s a quote just right off the bat - “How far you will advance depends on yourself alone. Here, as everywhere in the world, darkness struggles with light, and clouds and shadows intervene between you and the truth.”
David: That’s a beautiful quote. Another quote from that section that somewhat puzzled me was this one - “When you shall have learned to practice all the virtues which it inculcates; when they become familiar to you as your Household Gods; then will you be prepared to receive its lofty philosophical instruction, and to scale the heights upon whose summit Light and Truth sit enthroned.” What do you think he means by “Household Gods”?
Gene: You know Masonry is independent of any particular religion. And that was just kind of a general statement to go, “You know… whatever particular flavor your religion is, it does not matter.”
David: OK. That makes sense, but that is NOT what I was thinking though.
Gene: What did you think of?
David: I was taking it to mean what you REALLY worship. How you ACTUALLY spend your time.
Gene: Are you talking about the Internet again Dave?
David: No… yeah, well maybe. Let’s just say, it’s a good exercise to start paying attention to where you actually spend your time. You might claim to worship your notion of God, but on closer inspection, it might be closer to the truth to say you worship TV, a cell phone or Facebook. You’re sacrificing your most precious resource, your time on the altar of something.
Gene: Who and what is your Master? Another which it really emphasized was first learn and practice the virtues step by step. It says each degree is a step and each degree has its own particular duty.
David: The duty of the last degree - Provost & Judge was to become a fair, understanding and impartial Judge. Not just being able to say what the duty is for that degree, but to be able to take on that role of Judge consciously, and understand the spiritual implications of what you’re doing.
Gene: Yeah. I read the book. I’ve got it. I’m there. Journey done. Thank you. Good night.
David: I wish it was like that. Let me ask you this - how many people can truly say that they’ve EARNED that degree… Provost & Judge. Or any of these degrees really. I mean, to follow the instructions in here to the letter… that seems impossible.
Gene: The thought that arose to me from reading this section was - “Masonry seeks to make good men better not make men perfect.”
David: Good point. The last quote I have from this first section is the most odd one to me, Pike tells us to, and here’s the quote - “to be to your brethren an example of virtue; to correct your own faults; and to endeavor to correct those of your brethren.” What happened to “judge not that ye be judged” from the last degree, Provost & Judge?
Gene: Yeah, out of the gate that seems a little bit pushy, a little bit harsh but it talks about benevolence. And correcting your brother’s flaws must be done with a big heaping dose of benevolence, and charity, and mercy, and understanding that you're just as flawed as he is.
David: Our talk earlier about not being able to skip the degrees, or better yet, to not be able to apply the lessons of one degree before incorporating the previous one, I think applies here. If you have REALLY taken the degree of Provost & Judge, then you really are a fair judge… but you shouldn’t just skip the 7th Degree and apply the precepts of the 8th.
Gene: Yeah, if you haven’t done the work and built to that point, then that advice is of no use.
David: So again, until you’ve worked quite a bit on yourself, it might not be such a good idea to call out other people… even though this Chapter seems to tell you to do it.
Gene: Or in modern terms - “You better check yourself before you wreck yourself.”
Emblems of the Degree (10:47)
David: Exactly. OK, let’s move into the next section. Do you have a quote from here?
Gene: From the second part, “Emblems of the Degree” - “Here, as in all the Degrees, you meet with the emblems and the names of the Deity, the true knowledge of whose character and attributes it has ever been a chief object of Masonry to perpetuate. To appreciate his infinite greatness and goodness, to rely implicitly upon his Providence, to revere and venerate Him as the Supreme Architect, Creator, and Legislator of the universe, is the first of Masonic duties.”
David: So the aspects of Deity referred to there are Creator, Legislator and Supreme Architect. And it says that in the Degrees we meet the Emblems and Names (plural) of Diety.
Gene: There again, dipping the toe back into the Kabbalistic Universe of the different names of God. Each particular name signifies a certain aspect of the Divinity.
David: In the last degree the Emblem was Scales supported from a Triangle with a Yod-Heh inside. That was the Emblem and name given for God as Legislator or Judge… I think, because that degree was Provost and Judge.
Gene: Yeah. And this one would be the Supreme Architect.
David: And the Emblem of this degree is a Triangle with Yod-Heh-Vau inside it and Scales above it… ruling over it.
Signs of the Degree (12:27)
David: OK. Let’s move on into the next very short section “Signs of the Degree”. De Hoyos says in the footnote that these aren’t used much anymore, and there wasn’t much context given for these.
Gene: The Signs are Surprise, Admiration and Sorrow.
David: Yeah, I mean that was basically the whole section. You know, what’s that about?
Gene: It’s very short, but it reminds me of the Riddle of the Sphinx.
David: The Sphinx? The signs are Surprise, Admiration and Sorrow… Yeah, OK. The riddle of the Sphinx was man’s journey through life and Surprise for Youth, Admirationfor Adulthood and Sorrow for Old Age. That fits really well. I kept thinking about what you’ve said in past episodes about truth in the section “Mankind Seeks Truth”.
Mankind Seeks the Truth (13:19)
Gene: There are different levels of truth. I mean, there are intellectual kinds of truth and then there’s the truth which resides inside of you.
David: It’s one thing to see the truth in something that’s happened in the world, it’s a different level of truth to understand why things happen the way they do.
Gene: You know, I think Masonry is seeking the truth behind why men do what they do.
David: I think so, too. By looking inside yourself, you can extrapolate what you find and better understand your fellow creatures and the world. For me personally though, I’ve found that experience pretty frightening…
Masonry Preserves Faith (14:08)
David: Anyway, the next section is “Masonry Preserves Faith”. How would you summarize that one?
Gene: It states that it's not words or creeds that are above moral actions but it's the moral actions themselves that count. “By their fruits, you shall know them. Also another point that it said to me anyway, it doesn't necessarily matter what religion you follow but “love your neighbor as yourself.”
David: That was my summary of the section coming from Matthew chapter 22 verses 36 through 40, which says “Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” Were there other points you wanted to bring out from this section?
Gene: Yeah, that tolerance is benevolence - one of the main points of this Lecture. In other words, tolerate your brother in his different beliefs than yourself and you’re showing benevolence.
David: That cuts both ways. Toleration doesn’t mean that everyone else has to approve of whatever you do. To expect them to do that is intolerant.
Gene: He has a right to his opinion, same as you. You believe in the equity of your fellow man or you don’t.
David: Right. The next section has a Latin title…
Hoc Opus, Hic Labor Est (15:45)
Gene: “Hoc Opus, Hic Labor Est”. Do you know what that means Dave?
David: I do now… after I looked it up. It means “this is the task, this the labor.” It comes from Virgil’s Aeneid and here’s the section it comes from “Trojan, son of Anchises, easy is the descent to Avernus: night and day do the doors of black Dis lay open; but to retrace your step and escape to the upper air, this is the task, this the labor.” That’s where the title of the section comes from. In that passage, Avernus is the entrance to the Underworld and Dis is Lord of the Underworld, so it’s saying the path to Hell lays open and close at hand, but to find your way out “This is the task, this the labor”.
Gene: “I’m in Hell Nedley.”
David: Well… in previous degrees, Pike painted a pretty grim picture of the world, but in this degree we are admonished, as you put it earlier, “To always look on the bright side of life.” I think Pike resolves that philosophical conundrum with one of the main points of the Chapter which is that life can be Hellish, but if God created this life to be a pure Hell and not also beauty… why should realistically expect the next world or life to be any different?”
Gene: I think that's the point too of the lecture is that there is no separation of Heaven and Earth. It’s all one Continuum. And to ignore one part is to ignore the whole thing. We shouldn't take this life for granted and we should not look upon it with disdain.
David: Absolutely not. Not if out of the other side of your mouth you’re saying it’s “God’s Handiwork.” Another big symbol in this section was the beehive.
Gene: I’ll just read the first sentence out of it - “The Masonic Lodge should resemble a beehive in which all the members work together with ardor for the common good.”
David: I know you’ve talked in past episodes about each member of a Lodge fulfilling their roles and I know you probably relate that to the beehive here… but, do you see more in that symbol as it’s presented here in this degree?
Gene: It puts it in a Lodge but it is an overarching hope of Masonry to extend the beehive into mankind at large. And all of us be working toward the one goal. That's the secret mission of Masonry.
David: You’d better watch out there Brother! People are going to say that you said that Masonry has a secret mission to control the world!
Gene: In that case, you know, I guess we want to take over the world but take it over with loving kindness where we can all get along.
David: OK. Nobody cares again. Anything else from this section?
Gene: Yeah, the last sentence.
David: OK. Go for it.
Gene: “We do not now enlarge or elaborate on these ideas but we utter them to you briefly as hints upon which you made at your leisure reflect. Hereafter, if you continue to advance, they will be unfolded, explained and developed.”
David: Just like the beehive symbol has more meaning the more you contemplate it… really.
Masonry Does Not Dogmatize (19:34)
David: The next section is “Masonry Does Not Dogmatize”. What did you feel was the main point of that section?
Gene: The gist of this section for me was - simple practical statutes that can be followed by any man, no matter what his faith or what is creed.
David: Hmm. Yeah, that bothered me. Where it says, “Masonry utters no impracticable and extravagant precepts… It asks of its initiates nothing that it is not possible and even easy for them to perform.” Easy or simple? That’s the first time I’ve heard that!
Gene: The ideas as presented are simple but to actually incorporate them into your life and your actions is hard.
David: That makes sense.
Gene: It's simple. It's easy. It's plain… but the work is hard.
Mankind Has Both Duty and Destiny to Fulfill on Earth (20:36)
David: That’s a good reading of that quote. The next section is “Mankind Has Both Duty and Destiny to Fulfill on Earth” and I believe this section contains the discussion you wouldn’t allow me to jump to earlier.
Gene: Yes. This one to me he hits home the point of - to deny this life is to deny God. To deny what's right in front of you, is to turn your back on God.
David: I agree. My reading of this section is that focusing on the past or some imagined future wastes our most precious resource… which is now. The present moment where everything actually happens.
Gene: That's another thing that came through in this chapter to me was the “Stoicism Without Cynicism”. Deal with the here and now. Make the most of what is in front of you and let the future take care of itself.
David: I have a related quote, I modified it slightly to take it out of the 3rd person to make it more readable, but here it is - “He is sent into this world, not to be constantly hankering after, dreaming of, preparing for another; but to do his duty and fulfill his destiny on this earth; to do all that lies in his power to improve it, to render it a scene of elevated happiness to himself, to those around him, to those who are to come after him. His life here is part of his immortality…”. Do you have anything else here?
Gene: One more quote from this section. “If this life is worthless, so is immortality.”
Gene: That’s it. Drop the mic.
Of Human Society (22:20)
David: The next section is “Of Human Society”.
Gene: The paragraph itself kind of reminded me of Somerset Maugham’s “Of Human Bondage”.
David: Why is that?
Gene: The human condition. What are the things that tie us down and the things that set us free and help us to be brotherly?
David: Yes, this section was about the needs, hopes and dreams that we share with other people and that should bind us together.
Gene: It may seem on the surface of things that society… mankind, is like someone's humorous attempt to herd cats. But if you pull back and reflect there is a common human bond. I mean we do all want the same things out of life. And if we didn’t, there would be no society, there would be no function.
David: Some of those shared things that Pike mentions are family, friends, a place to live and to be able to speak your true thoughts… which is the subject of the last quote that I have from this section - “That one can be a true, social man, can speak his true thoughts, amidst all the janglings of controversy and the warring of opinions; that fact from within, outweighs all facts from without.”
Life is a Divine Blessing (23:45)
David: The next section is “Life is a Divine Blessing” which repeats many of the themes we’ve already discussed, but here is some text from the Lecture that sums up the section for me - “Masonry deems it no mark of great piety toward God to disparage, if not despise, the state that He has ordained for us… It holds that a man may make the best of this world and of another at the same time… It holds that, with all its evils, life is a blessing. To deny that is to destroy the basis of all religion… The very foundation of all religion is laid on the firm belief that God is good; and if this life is evil and a curse, no such belief can be rationally entertained.”
Gene: Again, I hear the Stoicism in the section. Again the point - “to deny life is to deny God”. And the quote - “Misery makes a greater impression on us than happiness because the former is not the habit of our minds”.
The Virtue of Contentment (24:44)
David: That is so true, but I’m going to quickly segway to the next section, “The Virtue of Contentment” because I know you have a story that tells about someone you met that didn’t think that way.
Gene: I do have a story from when I was working at a grocery store and in the position where I was supervising people. And I was told that we were getting a new employee and this new employee was a special-needs person.
Gene: You know, and being the kind humanitarian that I truly am… you know, I thought of “Oh, what trouble is this going to cause me? What problems am I going to have because of this?”
Gene: You know your typical thoughtful, kind, loving person.
David: So what had you been told about this person before you met with them?
Gene: There weren't necessarily any particular things. You just had to be aware that this person was “different”. It’s like… “OK”. So this person shows up and I start to work with him and before the first shift was through, I realized that we'd stumbled upon a gold mine. Because this person was friendly, helpful, outgoing and nice. Listened to what you said. Strove diligently to do that and happy with his position. And I was humbled very quickly, this quote-unquote “special-needs” person has got their life together. They are content and happy and spread the happiness to others.
David: Wow, that's pretty inspirational. What was that person's name?
Gene: His name was Guy and he stayed with us for a while and when he left to go to another location, I was highly disappointed because I looked forward to working with him. Working with him was one of the pleasures of that job. It was truly incredible. He taught me the lesson of - “Be happy with what you’ve got and make the best of it”. The end.
David: Yeah. He sounds like an interesting person. I’ve got one more related quote from this section, “No man is poor who does not think himself so.” I know there are caveats to a statement like that, but there is truth in it, too. Anything else?
Gene: “So when the storm of mischance beats upon our spirits we may turn it into something that is good, if we resolve to make it so. For so a wise man should overrule his stars and have a greater influence upon his own content than all the constellations and planets of the firmament.”
Enjoy the Blessings of the Day (27:49)
David: That’s a nice statement about our own creative capacity. The next section is “Enjoy the Blessings of the Day”. To me, this section had two main points. One was, again that all we have is now. It says, “... we are dead to yesterday and not yet born to the morrow…”.
Gene: Yeah. The present is all you have.
David: And the other point was that we should use the time we have wisely.
Gene: The most valuable thing that you have is your time.
David: It was also pointed out that you have to dedicate or sacrifice your time to accomplish anything of value.
Gene: You have to make choices.
David: And of course, choices have consequences and contrary to what the movies may lead people to believe, you can’t actually do everything.
Gene: Are you trying to limit my possibilities Dave?
Exercise Charity and Beneficence (28:44)
David: No… it’s just because of a thing called time… and how it works. OK. We’re almost finished with the Chapter. Two more sections. What did you make of the next section “Exercise Charity and Beneficence”?
Gene: Once you’ve found your contentment, share your contentment. And spread it around by exercising charity and benevolence.
David: How many people have you been around that you feel like are sharing their contentment?
Gene: A handful… in my lifetime. The one example that I can state that is close to home is my father. Other than complaining about UT basketball, the referees, I've never heard him complain about anything!
Principles Require Practice (29:24)
David: Alright, from the last section “Principles Require Practice”. I only have one quote “These Degrees are also intended to teach more than morals. The symbols and ceremonies of Masonry have more than one meaning. They rather conceal than disclose the Truth. They hint at it only, at least; and their varied meanings are only to be discovered by reflection and study.” Do you have a quote from here?
Gene: Yeah. “The principles of Masonry reduces to practice. By them it expects you to hereafter be guided and governed. It especially includes upon them who would employ the labor of others, forbidding him to discharge them when to want employment is to starve. Or contract the labor of a man or woman at so low a price that by the overextension they must sell their blood and life at the same time with the labor of their hands.”
David: That quote speaks to the relationship between capital and labor. And we could talk at length about the decline of the power of workers to influence the workplace or the ethics of exploiting people in other countries to make ourselves more comfortable, but I’d say let’s leave those for another day. Do you have anything else from the chapter in “Morals and Dogma”?
Gene: No. My vessel’s pretty much empty at this point.
David: Me, too. Let’s wrap things up with some final thoughts. One of my biggest takeaways was the recurring theme of us as the candidate taking on other roles or wearing different hats. Like for example, when you’re called on to pass judgment, whether you think of it that way or not, you’re taking on the role of Judge.
Gene: You put on the powdered wig.
David: We’ve mentioned how busy Hiram was but ultimately we’re supposed to come to an understanding that we ARE Hiram. We’re doing all the duties described in the degrees in our own Temple, ourselves… we just don’t realize it.
Gene: The bottom line is you are doing all the work … is to be done by you.
David: What was your takeaway from Lecture for this degree?
Gene: Yeah the bottom line is that all the work to be done on your own Temple, the Temple not made by hands, is to be done by you .
David: Exactly. So what was your take away from this degree?
Gene: Not denying the world in which we live and hoping for a better afterlife. This life is just as much a part of God's creation as the afterlife. It keeps reminding me of the Bob Marley song “Get Up, Stand Up”. There's a line in it, “If you knew what life was worth, you would look for yours here on Earth. Get Up, Stand Up.”
David: “Get Up, Stand Up”. That's a good place to stop. What are we doing next time?
Gene: In our next episode, we discuss the 9th Degree - The Elu of the Nine.
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".