In this episode, we discuss the 10th Degree - “Elu of the Fifteen” as we continue our exploration of "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: It is going well my friend. Thank you.
David: Good. Before we get started, I want to 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’re discussing the 10th Degree - “Elu of the Fifteen”. Gene, what is the mythological setting of the degree?
Mythological Setting (01:40)
Gene: The mythological setting is just a continuation of the last degree.
David: And in the last degree, “Elu of the Nine”, we found and killed one of the fugitive murderers of Grand Master Hiram Abiff. So what happens next?
Gene: The “Nine Elu” return and Solomon adds to the group, makes it a group of fifteen, and sends them back out. They find the other two ruffians and bring them back to Justice.
David: I thought it was interesting that the “Nine Elu” were “elected”, but the other six added to the search party in this degree were selected randomly by lots.
Gene: You never know when fate will choose you.
David: I guess so. So what was the judgment passed on the two ruffians who were apprehended and brought back?
Gene: The prisoners, after being judged, their heads were removed and posted on the three gates of the Temple - the East, West and South.
David: Yikes! So, what honor do we receive as part of the group that brought Hiram’s murderers to Justice?
Gene: King Solomon rewards them by forming a new order called “Elu of the Fifteen” or the “Illustrious Elect of the Fifteen.”
David: Very cool. So that’s the ritual backdrop for the 10th Degree. Are you ready to discuss the Degree Lecture from “Morals and Dogma”?
Gene: Let us begin.
Morals & Dogma (02:59)
David: OK. The Chapter starts off by stating that it’s devoted to toleration and liberality.
Gene: And just right off the bat, I'll read the first sentence which sums up everything.
Gene: “Toleration - holding that every other man has the same right to his opinion and faith that we have to ours.”
David: Can't you just get up and slap them in the face if you don't like what they say? Or hit them in the head with the setting maul or whatever?
Gene: Yeah… easy there Will.
Respect of Private Religious Beliefs (03:30)
David: Yeah. Just to be clear, we are recording this episode the day after Will Smith walked up on stage and slapped Chris Rock at the Academy Awards Ceremony... and that is ALL that is on the news as we record this episode. I only bring it up here because this Chapter is about Toleration.
David: We’ve said this repeatedly in earlier episodes, Free Speech is about toleration of speech you don’t like...
David: ... and if it’s alright to use violence to suppress speech you don’t like, it’s all over! Toleration is difficult.
Gene: Believing in toleration as an ideal and actually practicing it in your life are two different animals… which bites into that apple again of human ideals versus human actions.
David: And it goes back to the discussion in the last degree about Sentiment vs Principles. You can get swept away by sentiment or emotions and lose sight of your ideals or principles. But toleration, in all its forms, is the main emphasis of this Chapter.
Gene: This whole Chapter just pounds it again and again.
David: In this Chapter, Toleration is held to be a basic tenet of every moral philosophy.
Gene: One of the tenets of Masonry is we all meet “On the Level”.
David: That’s right. Because Masonry teaches toleration and respect for everyone’s right to hold their own private religious beliefs. Which leads to the next section, “Freemasonry Preserves Faith, But is Not a Religion.” What’s the first thing you have from here?
Freemasonry Preserves Faith, But is Not a Religion (05:03)
Gene: I'll just throw in the first sentence from the paragraph which is - “Masonry is not a religion. He who makes of it a religious belief, falsifies and denaturalizes it.”
David: That goes back to an earlier degree when Pike made the point that Masonry is a system of moral philosophy, but not a religion. I have a relevant quote - “Masonry teaches, and has preserved in their purity, the cardinal tenets of the old primitive faith, which underlie and are the foundation of all religions. All that ever existed have had a basis of truth; and all have overlaid that truth with errors.” So, I think it’s saying that the philosophy of Masonry is not religion, but what underlies religious faith.
Gene: That quote continues with - “Masonry is the universal morality which is suitable to the inhabitants of every clime, to the man of every creed. It has no taught doctrines except those truths that tend directly to the well-being of man.”
David: So, Masonry is said to be based around the core truths that are supposedly present in all religious faiths. That’s why it “preserves faith” but “is not a religion.”
Gene: As we go on into the Chapter, he does point out that there are certain underlying truths that are the basis of different beliefs and religions. And I think that is the point - that you try to take a more macro view and pull back from your own individual position and understand that other people are just like you. You know, respect the sovereignty of the individual… if you want that respect in return.
David: Yeah, I agree. I have one more quote from this section that almost seems at odds with the previous quote about Masonry preserving the “old primitive faith”. It says, “Mankind outgrows the sacrifices and the mythologies of the childhood of the world." So the potential conflict I see here is, how can Masonry claim to preserve the “old faith” while also suggesting that you outgrow some of it?
Gene: You know, he hints, none too subtly, that it's human nature to take a truth and then start layering over it until it's no longer recognizable. It says, “The philosophies of religion of ancient times will not suffice us now. The duties of life are to be done. We are to do them. Consciously obedient to the law of God, not aesthetically loving only our selfish gain.”
David: Ok, that makes sense. The part that’s retained is the core moral principles, which leads us to the next section.
The Moral and the Good (07:47)
Gene: “The Moral and the Good”.
David: Right. What do you have from this section?
Gene: Again, right off the bat, first sentence - “The good Mason does the good thing which comes in his way… and because it comes his way, from a love of duty, not merely because it is a law enacted by man, or God commands his will to do it.”
David: Yeah, I’ve got a related quote - “The true Mason loves not only his kindred and his country, but all mankind; not only the good, but also the evil, among his brethren…he has a salient longing to do good, to spread his truth, his justice, his generosity, his Masonry over all the world.”
Gene: And also, he emphasizes again that you will find such men in all religions. In the Christian religion, the example is Christ. To be more Christ-like… to love the sinners and deal with the world with a good dose of empathy and sympathy. And man, is that hard or what?
David: It is hard. We all see people do things we don’t believe are right. And not only that, we all face struggles, and loss, and pain, and death? That’s something we all share. Here’s my last quote from this section about how a Mason should deal with those things, “The Mason does not sigh and weep, and make grimaces. He lives right on. If his life is, as whose is not, marked with errors, and with sins, he ploughs over the barren spot with his remorse, sows with new seed, and the old desert blossoms like a rose. He is not confined to set forms of thought, of actions, or of feeling. He accepts what his mind regards as true, what his conscience decides is right, what his heart deems generous and noble; and all else he puts far from him.”
Gene: Ah! Stoicism once again.
David: Exactly. Are you ready for the next section?
The Dangers of Intolerance (9:51)
Gene: Ready to go. “The Dangers of Intolerance.” Oh my Lord!
David: Yeah, this one’s rough. It reminds us where intolerance, particularly religious intolerance, can lead.
Gene: “Better any opinion than the thumbscrew, the rack, and the stake.”
David: That’s a good summary of this section which gives some gruesome details of the horrors that people have inflicted on other people in the name of religion, but what was really, in reality, religious intolerance.
Gene: Yeah. “All religions have examples of vile persecution where one human gleefully harms another under the guise of “God's will”. Which is strange because of the pictures of Hell that are brought up. You know, everything from the Inquisition to Salem Witch Trials. People industrious in their sadism. And that just sounds like it’s of the Devil.
David: And it was, it was those internal tyrants projected onto others. Pike points out that Italy, Spain, Switzerland, France, Netherlands, England, Scotland, Ireland and “America, have been witnesses… to (and) warn man of the unspeakable evils which follow from mistakes and errors in the matter of religion, and especially from investing the God of Love with the cruel and vindictive passions of erring humanity, and making blood to have a sweet savor in his nostrils, and groans of agony to be delicious to his ears.” OK. I think we’ve made the point here. Moving on…
Most Receive Religion At Birth, Not By Choice (11:35)
Gene: Then the next hammer drops - “Most Receive Religion At Birth, Not By Choice”
David: This section continues to pick at some of our most cherished beliefs by pointing out the fact that most of us didn’t freely choose our religion, are mostly ignorant of its details, and still insist on judging others in that feeble light.
Gene: It brings home a very rational point of view. These are the circumstances of your birth and how you were raised. Do we hold that against another person because they were born in another land and have different beliefs? Most of the time the answer is “Yes!”...
Gene: … but should we?
David: It seems pretty arrogant to do that, especially if you stop to think about how little really you know about the roots and doctrines of your own belief system. Here’s the quote from this section, “Birth, place and education give us our faith. Few believe in any religion because they have examined the evidences of its authenticity, and made up a formal judgment, upon weighing the testimony. Not one man in ten thousand knows anything about the proofs of his faith. We believe what we are taught; and those are most fanatical who know least of the evidences on which their creed is based.”
Gene: Ouch. I like your story about your colleague from work, the poet, Ed Francisco.
David: Ed’s a very interesting dude, who once wrestled a bear, but that’s another story. But anyway, it was St. Patrick’s Day and we were on the Pellissippi State campus and Ed saw a girl wearing “The Green” and he said “Happy St. Patrick's Day!”. And she smiled and said, “Happy St. Patrick’s Day to you!”. Ed’s a Catholic and so he asked her, “Are you a good Catholic girl?” And her face took on this horrified look and she said, “No… I’m a Christian.”
David: He said he started to explain about the Holy Roman Empire and the Church of England and Martin Luther, but…
David: … instead just smiled and said, “OK.” But you know, in the church I grew up in, asking questions of any kind was not encouraged. You were expected to just think and say the words you have heard others say.
Gene: We've settled for the easy, spoon-fed answers not the hard questions which we should look at for our own sake to shine a flashlight on those dark corners of ignorance in yourself. I've always been inspired by the Jewish belief that one has conversations, even arguments with God as a form of prayer. I was born a questioning person… why would I not pose questions in an attempt to find answers for myself.
David: That’s scary because it means taking responsibility, but I think that’s the only way you can come to a realization of Truth, otherwise something deep inside you won’t truly believe.
What is Truth? (14:38)
David: Which brings us to the next section - “What is Truth?”
Gene: And again, first sentence - “What is truth to me is not truth to another.”
David: So are we talking about “alternative facts” here? That’s a slippery slope that I think a lot of people can get lost on.
Gene: It's really hard because some of the tricks of the Devil, if you will, are those little logical puzzles which you can't seem to get away from.
David: In this case, I think the confusion is caused by two ideas getting smashed together. One is “Facts vs Opinions”, and the other is that not just Truth, but meaning itself is based on your capacity to receive and understand.
David: So, we can address the first question easily. All opinions aren’t equal. The value of your opinion is based on how much you know about the area you’re being asked about.
Gene: I don’t think it’s saying that everybody’s opinion is just as equal as the other.
David: No. Me, either. What it is saying is that what you can understand as Truth is based on your capacity and because of that, our understanding of Truth is always tinged by our own ignorance.
Gene: Because we all see through “A Scanner Darkly.”
David: That's true.
Gene: “The truth comes to us tinged and colored with our own prejudices and our own preconceptions.”
David: And for that reason, Pike reminds us that no one has a personal stranglehold on Truth, so again, get down off your high horse there and respect the sincere beliefs of others. That's my summary of this section. Do you have anything else?
Gene: At the bottom of the quote from Pascal.
Gene: “Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction.”
Freedom of Religion (16:34)
David: Indeed. The next section is “Freedom of Religion”.
Gene: This one digs down into it again - “No man truly obeys the Masonic Law who merely tolerates those whose religions or opinions are opposed to his own. Every man's opinions are his own private property and the rights of all men to maintain each his own are perfectly equal.”
David: Even if it’s an ill-informed, or to use the terminology of this degree, an ignorant opinion, you still have the right to it. Your mind is the only place you can be sovereign. If someone can convince you that you don’t have the right to think whatever thoughts you want to think, that’s George Orwell’s “Thought Police” from “1984”. What do you have left then?
Gene: You have no freedom, you have no liberty over the tyrant that’s in your own head.
David: I think the current term for people trying to control the thoughts of others is “Cancel Culture.”
Gene: Well, it's very much a modern disease of something you don't like you try and shout down or be rid of, or silence… which is fertile ground for intolerance and tyrants.
David: It is. So, the Chapter so far has warned in a variety of ways about the dangers of intolerance. It shifts gears here and the next four sections discuss different religions from around the world and the commonality between them. How do you want to cover these sections?
Moral Precepts - Summary (18:03)
Gene: I was going to wrap them all up with one thread that runs through each and every one of them.
David: And what's that?
Gene: I'll read from the Chinese one - “The doctrine of our Master consists solely of being upright of heart and loving our neighbor as we love ourselves. There's your original moral position. “Do unto others as you would have done unto yourself.” That is the thread that runs through all of them.
David: That’s what I saw, too. Pike makes the case for the basis of Zorastrian, Nordic, Confucian, Tamil, Jewish, Greek and Christian faiths as being to love God and love your neighbor as yourself. Gene and I were part of a discussion group years ago called “Conspiracy of Doves'' that was looking at common mystical truths of various world religions.
Gene: It was an interesting group because we all picked different religions, not necessarily our own, but one for study and then present it to the other members of the group for discussion and thought.
David: We had people cover Esoteric Christianity, Paganism, Kaballah, Nordic Philosophy (“The Havamal”) and a couple of others. I did Hindu philosophy and during my time, we met with members of a Hindu Temple hee in Knoxville and listened to them talk about their practices and beliefs. What faith did you discuss?
Gene: I did Sufism.
David: Right. Rumi. That group was pivotal for me, too. At the end, I think we all came to believe that if you are persistent and pursue the mystical core of any faith, all paths ultimately lead to God. I think the reason that isn’t obvious is due to our lack of context and understanding of other religious beliefs. And Pike offers the solution to this problem in the next section.
Education and Moral Improvement (20:03)
Gene: “Education and Moral Improvement”. What does one have to do with the other Dave?
David: Well, the main idea of the last two Degrees is that Ignorance is the root of all evil. Ignorance is a lack of knowledge, so education leads to moral improvement.
Gene: It said the “Elu of the Fifteen ought therefore take the lead of his fellow citizen and teach and enlighten.”
David: But that leads to a question of what to teach? What are the core concepts of Masonry Pike implies are at the heart of all religious practices and how would you spread those out to the world?
Gene: As a Mason you can lay one stone, one block, but you can't build the building by yourself.
David: That’s true, except for the Temple inside yourself.
Gene: In the inward view, you should work on your own enlightenment and your own education and to start the revolution toward that great day of “Worldwide Enlightenment” one step at a time by working on yourself.
David: Well said. That’s all I have in this section.
Charity is a Mason’s Duty (21:15)
Gene: On to the next - “Charity is a Mason’s Duty”. Again it sounds high-and-mighty but it's actually low and simple. “Masonry requires of its initiates and votaries nothing that is impractical. It does not demand that they should undertake to climb those high and lofty peaks… excetera excetera…” but do what you can. And every step that is taken is a step closer to a better world.
David: And this section calls on us to do something to further that cause.
Gene: I'll read a quote - “... but it does require and expect of every man of us to do something within and according to his means, and there is no Mason who cannot do something.”
David: And, that charitable act, no matter how small, may resonate in ways we can’t anticipate. I have one more quote from this section - “For we never know the importance of the act we do.” Someone we help “may perpetuate the liberties of a country and change the destinies of nations, and write a new chapter in the history of the world.”
Gene: There again, “The Butterfly Effect”.
The Rewards of Persistent and Steady Labor (22:23)
David: Right, but because all those effects can’t be anticipated, we should expect to have to work long and hard to have any real effect on the world. Which brings us to the last section of the chapter “The Rewards of Persistent and Steady Labor”. I’d sum up this section by saying, don’t wait for an opportunity to do “something great”. Do something that you feel is important. It may turn into something great… and as we’ve said many times, you may never become aware of all that resulted from that work.
Gene: It’s the slow and steady that gain results. I’ve kind of got ti summed up with my “Porch Buddha”...
David: OK. Let’s hear it.
Gene: To be a “True Mason” and to build a better world you have to do it one stone, or one act, at a time.
David: You just have to keep at it. That’s how the pyramids got built.
Gene: That and beer.
Scottish Rite Ritual - Monitor & Guide (23:15)
David: True that. That’s it for “Morals and Dogma”. Do you have anything else from “Ritual - Monitor and Guide” or “A Bridge to Light”?
Gene: I'll read some out of the “Monitor”. I think there's a couple of chapters there which we pondered on the symbolism in the 9th and it just spells it out plain and simple.
Gene: “Albert Pike’s interpretations of these degrees presented a moral and philosophical lesson that found its germ in the rituals he studied. For Pike, the Ruffians were seen as spiritual tyrants symbolizing the three chief vices that are enemies of human progress namely ignorance, fanaticism and ambition. Ignorance is symbolized by Jubelum who was seen as the principal enemy of human freedom. The cavern in which he concealed himself is a symbol of intellectual darkness in which ignorance resides.
David: OK. That was the symbolism we worked through in the last degree. What does it say about the two ruffians who were brought to justice in this degree?
Gene: “The other two assassins were symbols of Ambition and Fanaticism, from which springs intolerance and persecution. In this degree, you are reminded to become the champions over these vices even as “The Elu” succeeded in bringing the murderers to justice.”
David: So Intolerance and Persecution, which were the subjects of this chapter, spring from Ambition and Fanaticism and both of these supposedly come from Ignorance.
Gene: Right. What are we ignorant of?
David: That’s the big question, isn’t it. Whatever it is, knowing it would have to make sense of why you should treat others as yourself instead of just doing what’s in your best interest. Otherwise, there’s no philosophical foundation for any of this.
Gene: A valid point.
David: I have an idea of what we are ignorant of, but let’s work up to it. We’ve talked for over 20 minutes about Intolerance and Fanaticism, but let’s just define our terms one more time. What does it mean to be intolerant of someone?
Gene: Intolerance is to dislike another person for things that they do, things that they say, how they look…
David: Right, or as we’ve talked about - what they think or believe. So tell me, what do you think is the root belief behind Intolerance.
Gene: They’re different! They’re different from me! I don’t like that!
David: That’s really good. The belief that “they” are different and that you can’t deal with or accept “their” differences. So, what is Ambition?
Gene: Ambition is - I have to take away from you to give to me.
David: But why do you need things that other people have?
Gene: There’s a hole I need to fill.
David: We’ve talked about that “hole” in previous episodes as “The Wound.” So, Intolerance is “You’re different from me” and Ambition is “You have something I want.”
David: Both of these are based on the premise that you and I are fundamentally different. What if the truth that we are ignorant of is that we aren’t different.
Gene: So are you saying we all are one… we’re one organism?
David: I’m just saying that if that were the truth, then it would make sense of “do unto others” because you would be doing it unto you.
Gene: Right. There is no other. The other is us.
David: And, just to be clear, I’m not really making this up. This is the Hindu concept of the Atman and the Brahman. It’s a concept I learned about while studying for “Conspiracy of Doves”.
Gene: That concept is that there’s only one entity which we’re all a part of but see different views.
David: Right. And the idea is that at a deep level, God is looking out of every one of us, but we can’t usually see this because everyone is so caked up with crap, that it sure doesn’t look like God. But if there is only one God, and you really believe that, how could it be otherwise?
Gene: We’re all one body. The Church or the “Body of Christ”, if you will.
David: That’s the meaning behind the greeting “Namaste”.
Gene: Which supposedly means “I bow to the god in you” but what it actually means is “I bow to you”, the other part being implied that I recognize that you are part of God… as I.
David: What happens to Intolerance, which we defined as “You’re different from me”? If the truth is we’re not.
Gene: It slips away like a thought in the night.
David: And if we truly believed that we were part of God, who we’ve defined as omnipresent, omniscient and omnipotent, what becomes of Ambition?
Gene: What do you really lack?
Gene: And Ignorance or blindness is the root cause of the rest.
David: Exactly. It seems to fit everything.
Gene: That’s pretty deep.
David: I’ve got one more thing. In Matthew 22:40, Jesus says that all laws of the prophets hang from two commandments - love your neighbor as yourself (which we just covered), and love God. So, my last question is what do you think it mean to love God?
Gene: I don't know. What does it mean to love God? To truly love God… not just a buildup of what we assume God is… but to truly love God. It's to love life. To love your existence that you were given.
David: I think this goes hand-in-hand with the idea that God’s Will or Divine Providence, whatever you want to call it, is what is, what actually happens or manifests. How could you believe in an all-encompassing force that wasn’t always in control?
Gene: It either is or it is not.
David: So if you see it like that, you know that to fight against things that have already happened is just futile. You have to learn to roll with it, learn from it or use it.
Gene: It’s acceptance.
David: And Stoicism. The “obstacle is the way”.
Gene: To love God is Stoicism. That’s interesting.
David: I think so, too. One last question, if the Truth really is that what happens is what is supposed to happen… and that God is really hiding inside every person and every thing that you encounter… how would that change how you see the world?
Gene: It’s a very different mindset. It would change everything.
David: It would. That’s all I’ve got. Do you have anything else?
Gene: Nope. Nope, I’m done.
David: OK. What are we doing next time?
Gene: In the next episode, we discuss the 11th Degree - Elu of the Twelve, or Prince Ameth.