In this episode, we discuss the 9th Degree - "Elu of the Nine" 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.
Gene: Are you ready to be one of the “Elect Nine”?
David: I am ready! Before we get started today, I first wanted to say “Happy Vernal Equinox” and I want remind everyone that Show Notes, Chapter Markers and a Transcript of this, and all episodes, are available on our website - WayOfTheHermit.com. In this episode, we continue to supplement the material in “Morals and Dogma” with the “Scottish Rite Ritual - Monitor and Guide” and “A Bridge to Light”. One interesting thing about this degree is that it is combined with the 10th Degree in “Ritual - Monitor and Guide”.
Gene: In some Valleys the 9th and the 10th Degree are put together as one big Degree. In our Valley here in Tennessee they are split up into two separate degrees, the 9th and then the 10th. But the story starts in the 9th and finishes in the 10th.
Mythological Setting (02: 12)
David: So what is the mythological setting of this Degree?
Gene: Essentially, the story is the retelling of the capture of the ruffians that killed Hiram Abiff.
David: Gene & I attended our Valley of Knoxville Reunion last weekend. I didn’t make it in for the performance of the 9th Degree, but I know you did. How did they split it up from what’s described in “Ritual - Monitor and Guide”?
Gene: In the 9th Degree, the first ruffian is discovered and killed in a scuffle. And then in the 10th degree, the other two ruffians are found and brought to justice.
David: The first thing that jumps out as strange is that this degree goes back in time to just after the murder of Hiram. That’s weird.
Gene: There's no clear reason for the story other than to use the story to tell further moral doctrines. Maybe a deeper telling of the story.
David: I explained it to myself by saying that all these events are taking place in “Mythological Time”. Because the principles are archetypal, in a sense, they’re always happening.
Gene: Also I think that the core principles are repeated again in later lectures in different ways. It's just another way of trying to layer, and to give you examples in different stories, in different lights.
David: That’s a good take on it, too. So, to wrap up the Ritual Setting, we, as the Candidate, are one of The Nine Elu, the people elected by King Solomon to find the men responsible for Master Hiram’s death. We find the main culprit, Jubelum, in a cave. Inside the cave, there is a candle on the floor and a fountain with a basin.
Gene: So what do the candle and the fountain represent?
David: Well… that’s some deep waters, I believe. Let’s put that off until later if you don’t mind.
Gene: No. I don’t care. That’s fine.
David: Anything else before we start on the chapter?
Gene: No. Let’s dig in!
Freemasonry is Experimental and Practical (04:13)
David: OK. The first section is “Freemasonry is Experimental and Practical”. Where do you want to start?
Gene: The second sentence I think tells the tale - “Masonry requires self-renunciation and self-control. It wears a stern face toward men's vices, and interferes with many of our pursuits and our fanciful pleasures. It penetrates beyond the region of vague sentiment; … to the very depths of the heart, rebuking our littlenesses and meannesses, arranging our prejudices and passions, and warring against the armies of our vices.”
David: Which again points out that the focus of the work is internal.
Gene: So, once again, Masonry is “Internal Kung Fu”. Brongg!
David: You’ve said that before in earlier podcasts, but this time there was a real “gravitas” behind it. I’m going to skip back to the sentence before the one you quoted, it says “Masonry is not "speculative," nor theoretical, but experimental; not sentimental, but practical.”
Gene: I would slightly alter that. Instead of “practical”, I would say it is a “practice”. It's not thinking about the high ideals, it's not talking about the high ideals, although that's part of it. It's putting them into practice.
David: Thinking, talking, or feelings about things were what Pike referred to as “sentiments” as opposed to principles. He made several statements throughout the chapter reinforcing that distinction.
Gene: The one that caught my eye was in the same paragraph… those who think good sentiments but have no actions - “They do nothing. They gain no victories over themselves. They make no progress. They are still in the Northeast corner of the Lodge as when they first stood there as Apprentices.
David: What do you think that means?
Gene: Armchair philosopher, if you will. It’s a sentiment, you think great thoughts, have great ideas and hopes and dreams… but you have no putting the rubber to the road.
The Spirit is Willing, But the Flesh is Weak (06:17)
David: Yeah. So this first section is about how we should put Masonic principles into practice. The second section, called appropriately “The Spirit is Willing, But the Flesh is Weak”, is about why we usually don’t.
Gene: My spirit is willing, but my flesh is weak.
David: Hmm. Jimmy Swaggert mixed with Bill Clinton?
Gene: Southern fried!
David: So anyway, this section starts off with - “We approve the right; but pursue the wrong. It is the old story of human deficiency. No one abets or praises injustice, fraud, oppression, covetousness, revenge, envy, or slander; and yet how many who condemn these things, are themselves guilty of them.”
Gene: This one reiterates - how you judge is how you will be judged.
David: And also the divide between how we think, talk and feel about things and what we actually DO.
Gene: Same theme of - “I really want to do good. I really want to get out there and do great things… but I never get around to it.” The sentiment without principles? You talk the talk, but you don’t walk the walk.
David: And that’s all of us… to a greater or lesser extent.
Gene: All who are innocent of your own hubris, raise your hand. I don’t see any hands.
Gene: You know, we're making fun, but it is serious. I mean, we all do it and to think that you don't is to make a mistake examining your own self and your own actions.
David: That brings us back to mindfulness and becoming aware of how our actions often don’t match our ideas about ourselves. You come to realize that we’re all part of the problem.
Gene: But Dave, you’re saying I’m part of the problem, when you’re the problem.
David: That’s it. As long as we see it as outside of ourselves, it doesn’t get fixed. For me, you or the world. I have one more quote from this section - “A man may be a good sort of man in general, and yet a very bad man in particular: good in the Lodge and bad in the world; good in public, and bad in his family; ... Many a man earnestly desires to be a good Mason. He says so, and is sincere. But if you require him to resist a certain passion, to sacrifice a certain indulgence, to control his appetite at a particular feast, or to keep his temper in a dispute, you will find that he does not wish to be a good Mason, in that particular case; or, wishing, is not able to resist his worse impulses.”
Gene: And again, it points out that a person might look like a hypocrite but they're not necessarily a hypocrite, they’re just weak.
David: Our weakness in resisting our worst impulses takes on a different aspect when you consider the duty we have to others besides ourselves. The next section is about those obligations.
Duty is With Us Always (09:12)
Gene: “Duty is With Us Always”.
David: Right. What did you feel was the main point of that section?
Gene: Work not for selfish means but work for something bigger than yourself. However you view it… be it “Greater Humanity” the “Greater Good” or even “God’s Work”. I've got a quote that goes right to it - “Masonry is action not inertness. It requires the Initiate to work actively and earnestly for the benefit of their Brethren, their Country and Mankind.”
David: That seems a little overwhelming. What are “little ole’ me” supposed to do for the benefit of Mankind?
Gene: Do what you can do. It may not seem like much to you, but even a kind word or deed helps move it along.
David: And you never know where even a little action might lead. I’ve got one more quote from this section, “How ungratefully he slinks away, who dies, and does nothing to reflect a glory to Heaven! How barren a tree he is, who lives, and spreads, and cumbers the ground, yet leaves not one seed, not one good work to generate another after him! All cannot leave alike; yet all may leave something, answering their proportions and their kinds.”
Gene: This one again made me think of the beehive… that everybody has their work to do.
David: Very true. Are you ready to move into the next section?
A True Citizen, The Apostle of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity (10:43)
Gene: Yeah. “A True Citizen, The Apostle of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity”. It starts out, “It is not the mission of Masonry to engage in plots and conspiracies against the civil government. It is not the fanatical propagandist of any creed or theory, nor does it proclaim itself the enemy of Kings. It is the apostle of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity.” That sounds pretty highfalutin don’t you think? All the talk of being a Patriot and supporting your country, when he fought for the Confederacy.
David: That’s right. How do you reconcile those things? Here’s another quote along those lines, “Masonry does not know those as its Initiates who assail the civil order and all lawful authority.”
Gene: That’s a big can of worms there. I mean, who’s deciding that it is a “lawful authority.”
David: That’s the $64,000 question. Pike follows that cryptic statement saying that Masonry is “the soldier of the sanctity of the laws and the rights of conscience.” So “The Laws” versus “Your Conscience”. So, it’s based on your Judgment, and as we’ve talked about the problem with that is that we first have to confront our own ignorance. The things you don’t know… or don’t care to know.
Gene: Yeah. And this also goes to the theme of this ritual of the Ruffian representing Ignorance.
David: To be clear, ignorance isn’t the same as stupidity. Stupidity is when you should know better, but do something anyway.
Gene: “Mama always said…”
David: Alright… go ahead.
Gene: “Stupid is as stupid does.”
David: That’s right Forest, but ignorance is a lack of knowledge, or blindspots… places you can’t or don’t want to look at. And you know, some of Pike’s blindspots are right here in this section with his statements on the “inferior races”.
Gene: Yeah. And all of the high and mighty ideals come crashing down.
David: It’s a good lesson for everybody really. For all Pike’s knowledge and open-mindedness in many areas, he was still constrained by the morality and worldview of his time and his own prejudices.
Gene: It brings you back down to earth from those high and mighty ideals and go - “Woh, what? Wait a second…”
David: It’s weird. In a Chapter dedicated to Patriotism and Liberty, we know that Pike opposed the established government and right here is his support of slavery.
Gene: It goes back to should you disregard the art because the artist is flawed? I’m not going to let it taint my reception of the good knowledge that is here.
David: Me either. We’ve discussed these issues before and I’m sure we will again, but I thought we needed to at least address it head on so there’s no misunderstanding about where we stand on it.
David: OK. Moving on. The next section is “Liberty”.
Gene: “Liberty Bibity”.
David: What are your thoughts on this section?
Gene: When you say Liberty, you think big thoughts like Country and the World and “USA against the World” and all that kind of stuff, but internally speaking, we can only achieve true Liberty, when our baser desires are not defeated, but overcome.
David: What’s the distinction you’re making there between “defeating” and “overcoming” desires?
Gene: In other words, you can’t just declare that - “My sinning stops today!” because the desires and baser instincts are always going to be there.
David: OK. From an esoteric perspective then, it’s an ongoing battle to overcome our internal Tyrants, our baser desires.
Gene: That’s what overthrowing a King would be. You know… “The Three Kings”... whether it’s smo-KING or drin-KING or that other King…
David: So what are your thoughts about that ongoing struggle then?
Gene: You know… understand your base desires and sometimes you let the dog have a little bit more leash than you normally would but you want to keep the leash on the dog. You know, that sounds wishy-washy to me. I mean, either you try and control your baser instincts or you don’t.
David: It goes back to the question of - do you fall back on sentiment and feelings or do you have some principles you can rely on. Before we move on to the next section, I want to tie this section back to the previous one about Duty. This section implores us to make it a Masonic duty to further the cause Liberty, in ourselves, in others and in the World. Ok. Let’s move on to the next section.
Power is Delegated for Good (15:40)
Gene: “Power is Delegated for Good”.
David: What’s the first thing you have from this section?
Gene: “Masonry teaches that all power is delegated for the good, and not for the injury of the People; and that, when it is perverted from the original purpose, the compact is broken, and the right ought to be resumed; that resistance to power usurped is not merely a duty which man owes to himself and to his neighbor, but a duty which he owes to his God.”
David: That is a mind twister.
Gene: Is it not?
David: It seems to say that God delegates power to those in authority but turns around and says that it’s your duty to resist power that has been usurped.
Gene: Yeah. It’s like the Eastern tradition of Koans. It makes your brain bounce from one side to the other going - “What? What? What? Huh?”
David: So what do you make out of a statement like that then?
Gene: Reading it several times and banging my head against it, and I came away with - Power is to be used for the good of All, not for yourself.
David: So usurped Power would be Power used for personal gain and not for those you claim to serve. But again the question of whether you believe it's selfish or not is up to you and your conscience, as always… I guess.
Gene: Always. Yeah.
David: Anything else from this section?
Gene: Yeah. In the last sentence. I read it and reread it and it. I’m like “OK. Alright…”.
David: What does it say?
Gene: “Wherever there is a people that understands the value of political justice, and is prepared to assert it, that is his country; wherever he can most contribute to the diffusion of these principles and the real happiness of mankind, that is his country.”
David: That is strange.
Gene: So… brings up the question of “What is your country?”. Do you think he’s talking about a land mass at this point or not? No man is an island, but every man is a country?
Masonry Inspires Patriotism (17:46)
David: I don’t know, but the next section is called “Masonry Inspires Patriotism” so it raises the question of “Patriotism to what?”.
Gene: This one’s kind of sticky.
David: It is. The first sentence “The true Mason identifies the honor of his country with his own” could be misinterpreted as saying that you should support a certain brand of politics. Do you think Pike is talking about “Country” here as a “land mass” (as you said before) or something internal?
Gene: I don’t know. I try to go back and forth like in the game of Go where you’ve got to see local influence as opposed to the greater influence across the board, both the macro and the micro, the inner and the outer.
David: Looking at the outward meaning of the section, I would sum it up with the quote from Benjamin Franklin who said "Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety." Pike says that the only benefit you should expect from your country is Justice… but you could cherry-pick statements from here to support almost any position you want to take politically.
Gene: Yeah. That’s why I try to take the adage of turn it inward and trying to use it on myself. That’s all I can do is work on me.
Service is an Honor (19:04)
David: That’s so true. The “Serenity Prayer” comes to mind here. Many of the things we talk about and spend time on, we have absolutely no influence over but we can still always work on ourselves. That’s an ongoing and endless task. OK. The last section is “Service is Honor”. What did you get out of this section?
Gene: Basically to me, it reiterated the principle of everyone has work that they can do and no matter what it is, that work is honorable.
David: That was an important point. Pike calls it an honor to be presented with the opportunity to be hailed as a Hero. Here’s a quote - “Not often is a country at war nor can every one be allowed the privilege of offering his heart to the enemy’s bullets… but every Mason can unite; and every one can affect something, and share the honor and glory of the result.”
Gene: You’ve got to remember that it’s not always these great heroic deeds that live in infamy that are the key to that.
David: What is the key?
Gene: It is the little things of… you’re in traffic, you let someone go in front of you. You offer help to an old lady crossing the street… not to be all “Boy Scout”, but it is the little everyday things, or overcoming things in yourself that make a person just as much a Hero as someone who did some great deed that will be famous for fifteen minutes.
David: Yeah. You know if you look at this whole chapter… first it's “Practical”, second “Spirit is Willing Flesh is Weak”, that there's things you have to overcome. “Duty is Always With Us” meaning you should do something. “The True Citizen, Apostle of Liberty”, that one is about what everybody wants is liberty, so you should be working toward that. “Power is Delegated for Good”, if you ever have the power to, that's what you should tell people to do, is get Liberty. Right? And that “Service is an Honor”. You should be honored to get to do something like that. That's Heroic.
Gene: Well, if you’d just wrapped it up like that Dave you could have said that in the first five minutes and we wouldn’t had to talk for a half an hour!
David: Well shit! If I’d thought of it, I would’ve! No, I mean I’m just trying to go back through and give a summary.
Gene: Yeah. It just occurred to you now as we're getting near the end.
David: Well, I’m looking at the outline and after what we’ve talked about, that does kind of make sense.
Gene: Oh yeah.
Ritual - Monitor and Guide (21:30)
David: That’s it for “Morals and Dogma”. Do you have anything to discuss from “Ritual - Monitor and Guide” or “A Bridge to Light”?
Gene: Yeah, just something that comes out of “Scottish Rite Ritual - Monitor and Guide”. In the synopsis of the 9th and 10th there’s this little paragraph that kind of sets the tune for where my headspace at least tries to go. It says, “Finally, you are reminded that everything that appears in these degrees is a symbol of something else. You are called upon to reach beyond the surface appearances and seek for deeper meanings.”
David: That’s especially appropriate to this degree. It required some digging on my part to get at the gold this time.
Gene: This one you really have to chew on a bit because it seems very straightforward. It says originally this degree was consecrated to bravery and devotedness and patriotism. It seems very straightforward but you have to also in the spirit of the whole thing, you have to hold the mirror up to yourself first. What do these things mean inwardly?
A Bridge to Light (22:36)
David: The “esoteric” meanings. Anything else from “A Bridge to Light”?
Gene: I’ll just read the “Reflection” out of “A Bridge to Light”.
Gene: “Do Principles shape and control your conduct or are you guided by a Sentiment. Are you tolerant, even of intolerance?”
David: That is a two-edged sword. It’s also the definition of “Free Speech”.
Gene: That’s going a little too far. I don’t think I can tolerate that Dave.
David: You’re not alone. I think it’s hard for most people. “A Bridge to Light” points out that the attack on Hiram at the South Gate was a Rule slashed across his throat, which was symbolic of attacks on “Free Speech”.
Gene: Be silent.
David: Or if not cutting off your speech completely, to at least let you know that it’s being measured.
Free Barabas! (23:24)
David: The second attack at the West Gate was a Square to the chest. That attack was near the heart and symbolic of attacks against freedom of religion or beliefs. The fatal blow was struck by Jubelum (who is the Ruffian in this degree) with a Setting Maul to the head, which represents the brutality and violence of ignorance. It makes me think of Jesus on the cross saying, “Forgive them Father for they know not what they do.”
Gene: So what you’re saying is… “Free Barabas”!
David: Man… that IS the Setting Maul right there. A cry of the brutality of the mob. Perfect!
Gene: Should we free this guy named Jesus Christ or this criminal named Barabas and the crowd says…
David: “Free Barabas”. You could also see Jubelum as a Judas character in that he betrayed his Master, too. But… let’s walk back through the details that are given in the ritual and talk a little about what they might mean internally. So, there are Nine people elected by King Solomon to pursue the Ruffians, the Nine Elu.
Go Into Your Cave (24:35)
Gene: “E-LOO” or “Eh-LOO”, I’ve heard it pronounced both ways, is a French term for “The Elect.”
David: OK. We, as Candidate and one of “The Elect”, pursue Jubelum and find him in a cave in the side of a hill. It’s nighttime and Jubelum is asleep on some stray. There is a lit candle on the floor and a fountain with a basin. So, let’s just start with, it’s nighttime.
David: In Masonic philosophy, Light is Knowledge, so here, with Jubelum symbolizing Ignorance, he is hiding from the Light in a cave.
Gene: The cave of darkness… interior of the Earth.
David: So… where is it?
Gene: Hmmm… would that be inside yourself?
David: I know. Shocker. But… what about the Light?
Gene: The candle is a symbol of feeble illumination, as opposed to the Star of Masonry, if you will. Internally, you’ve got to look at it like the back of “Plato’s Cave”. I mean things that are happening, you see them as shadows on the wall, which is actually your own projections and your own thought process.
David: Yeah and the other thing that was interesting about the Light. It’s not hanging on the wall. It's on the floor. They make a point of saying that.
Gene: It’s not giving true reflection. It’s distorted. A feeble, distorted Light.
David: Yeah. And it’s coming from below. It’s coming up. Have you ever looked at anybody who’s illuminated from below?
Gene: Yeah. The old flashlight under the chin routine.
David: It makes things look sinister.
Gene: Very demonic.
David: “I think we’re in Hell Nedley.”
Gene: Ignorance reigns in Hell.
David: Apparently quite literally in this case since Jubelum symbolizes Ignorance. Anyway, there’s one more fixture we haven’t talked about. A fountain pouring water into a basin… in a cave!
Gene: Yeah. That is odd in a cave.
David: What does that symbolize?
Gene: That the wellspring of knowledge is close at hand, even in your own ignorance. That’s a stretch. I don’t know.
David: No, I think that’s a good take. The Cave and the Fountain reminded me of Alchemical drawings. And I also thought of myths where a dragon guards a well or a fountain, and also of the Grail. I mean, think about it, we’re confronting a murderer, the main nemesis of the Degrees so far. And I think that’s why they split up this Degree from the 10th where the other Ruffians are apprehended.
Gene: Why do you think they split it up?
David: In the Ritual, Jubelum says - “The guilt is mine… Twas I led poor Jubela and Jubelo astray…”. He claims full responsibility.
Gene: I see where you’re going. Ignorance is the root of all the other vices.
David: Right. And it takes you pulling together all of your internal resources, the Nine Virtues associated with the Nine Elu, to face that ultimate darkness within yourself.
Gene: Are you saying it requires a Country? Or it takes a village?
David: Hmm. Well, that may be the answer to the Koan from earlier. It does mean pulling yourself together enough to fight for your life. After the struggle with Jubelum, we cut off his head. What do you think that means?
Gene: That would certainly stop the ignorance would it not?
David: That’s true.
Gene: It goes hand in hand with the other symbol white you haven’t mentioned, the Dagger. The black and white Dagger, the double-edged “Blade of Truth”.
David: Which we use to overcome the Darkness of Ignorance, so it represents the union of the two.
Gene: Light and Darkness.
David: So, I’m thinking back to your definition of “overcoming” lower impulses as an ongoing internal battle. How does that fit in with the symbolism here of beheading Ignorance?
Gene: And the gosh darned thing about it is… I mean, you cut that head off… and another one grows back!
David: Ah! OK. You’ve got a Hydra going there.
Gene: That’s the problem! It’s like - “Now I’ve done it! I’m no longer ignorant!”. Then you wake up the next day and you’re just as stupid as you were the day before.
David: Not stupid Forest, Ignorant.
Shadow Work (29:06)
David: There’s a difference. Ignorance is all the things that we’re unaware of… all the things that we keep in darkness. It’s the things we don’t know about ourselves, don’t care to know and also, the things we don’t want to know… the things we’ve shunned. I think Ignorance, as symbolized by Jubelum in this Degree, can be related to the “Jungian Shadow”.
Gene: That directly applies. That’s a direct one-on-one equivalence. At least in my understanding of Jung’s “Shadow”.
David: So, isn’t it ironic that in this ritual depiction of the confrontation with the Shadow, Pike’s own psychic projections were on full display.
Gene: To me that was kind of a weird working of the Universe going - “See… it’s in everyone. All the time. Beware.”
David: That’s really true and some good solid advice. To wrap things up, I’d like to take a stab at the meaning of this Degree.
Gene: OK. Go for it.
David: I think it describes the confrontation, struggle and victory over your Shadow.
Gene: I’m with you.
David: Your victory over it entitles you to drink from the Fountain. And the waters represent knowledge you weren’t previously eligible to, because your Ignorance stood in the way.
Gene: That’s cool.
David: I think it fits… and picture this image in your head… returning home holding the head of your own Shadow!
Gene: And the head is smiling, because it knows it’s growing right back. The Hydra.
David: Maybe, but that image would describe internal Kingship. To overcome your internal Tyrants and to see all the way through the darkness inside yourself… and not look away.
Gene: Only a King doesn't look away. Drop the mic. Let’s call it.
Gene: And with that, I’m going to shut the book.
David: Cool. What are we doing next time?
Gene: In the next episode, we discuss the 10th Degree - Elu of the Fifteen.