In this episode, we discuss the 11th Degree - “Elu of the Twelve” 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’s going good my friend. How about you?
David: Good so far. Before we get started, as always I want to remind everyone that Show Notes, Chapter Markers and a Transcript of this, and all of our episodes, is available on our website - WayOfTheHermit.com. We’ll start off, as we always do, with some background on the degree. Gene, what is the mythological setting of this, the 11th Degree - "Elu of the Twelve"?
Mythological Setting (01:42)
Gene: The mythological setting this time is the continuation of the trial of the Ruffians. It’s the third bookend in the past two degrees.
David: Could you give a quick overview of the settings of the past two degrees?
Gene: Yeah. The 9th Degree was when we captured Jubelum and the 10th degree was when we captured the other two Ruffians. And this, the 11th Degree is about the trial and things that happened thereafter.
David: So, we again (as the Candidate) play Zabud and are a part of the trial.
Gene: Zabud sits as the judge for the two Ruffians. They are tried, they confess, they’re executed. And Solomon inquires if justice has been satisfied and, yes, it has been. And he declares that Hiram shall be a symbol of inflexible Fidelity and the assassins are to be examples of Ignorance, Ambition and Fanaticism.
David: Which we’ve talked about in the previous two episodes. This Degree is called “Elu of the Twelve” because Solomon selects twelve who were instrumental in the capture of the Ruffians from the “Elu of the Fifteen”. What is the reward for these “Elu of the Twelve”?
Gene: Solomon is told that the taxing of the people is rife with extortion and theft, so he declares that the twelve shall be the new governors of the twelve tribes, and renames this group “Princes Ameth”.
David: And “Ameth” means what?
Gene: It's Hebrew meaning “truth, fidelity, firmness and consistency in keeping one's promises”. And that is the Charge that Solomon gave the twelve.
Morals & Dogma (03:27)
David: OK. That’s the mythological setting of the Degree. Before we start into “Morals and Dogma”, I want to point out that almost the entire text of the Chapter comes from Orville Dewey’s “Discourses on Human Nature, Human Life, And The Nature Of Religion”.
Gene: “Gettin’ Dewey with it.”
David: Yeah, “that’s it”. Where do you want to start here in the first section?
Gene: The first one… in one sense I want to read the whole thing, but that's a mouthful to start out with.
David: Go for it.
Gene: I’ll self-edit as I go.
Gene: “The duties of a Prince Ameth are to be earnest, true, reliable and sincere. You are to be true to all men. You are to be frank and sincere in all things. You are to be earnest in doing whatever is your duty to do.”
David: So, the theme of this Degree is Truth. To be completely truthful with yourself and others is a tall order.
Gene: As always, as we go along, the bar seems to rise higher every time.
David: You mean of what's expected of you?
Gene: What's expected of you… yes. Every time the bar is raised but you also return back down to the basic simple things - the practices.
David: And the next section explains why we should apply these practices to our dealings with others.
Sympathy for Suffering Humanity (04:39)
Gene: “Sympathy for Suffering Humanity”.
David: What’s your take on this section?
Gene: That all men are your brothers and should have your sympathy and concern. The realization that we're one big family… like it or not.
David: To see the whole world as one big family, some people will hear that as a call for a “New World Order”.
Gene: Yeah, except with, you know, loving kindness, but we’ve been through that. Nobody cares about that.
David: Yeah... true that. The first quote I have is related to this theme, “The great distinguishing characteristic of a Mason is sympathy with his kind. He recognizes in the human race one great family, all connected with himself by those invisible links, and that mighty network of circumstance, forged and woven by God.” Those were the two Truths that we ended on in the last episode - acceptance of Divine Providence and our underlying connectedness.
David: But you know, it’s one thing to think or say the cliche “We’re all one”, but it’s another thing entirely to put that philosophy into practice.
Gene: It is. It's the hard part, but it's one of the underlying tenets of Masonry.
David: Right - Universal Brotherhood. This section is called “Sympathy for Suffering Humanity” and as we talked about last time, one of the things that connect us to others is our suffering. So the question is what is the cause of our suffering? Pike begins his answer to this question in the next section.
The Subjugation of Avarice, Ambition and Sensuality (06:14)
Gene: “The Subjugation of Avarice, Ambition and Sensuality”. I think the basic gist of this one is - without the subjugation of the vices, the only fruits that are beared is strife and war. Also, he talks about - if all the people know is war, then peace will be intolerable.
David: People in general, don’t seem very peaceful. That’s definitely not the vibe you get from watching or listening to most media. Why is that you think?
Gene: Because suffering sells. It’s the human condition. It’s not necessarily a modern condition, it’s just amplified in modern times with this advertisement for this, that advertisement for that. Everybody’s unsettled. Everybody’s upset. “I want this! I need this! If I get this thing… my life will be so much better!”
David: Attachment to material things as the cause of suffering is a theme in Buddhism. And the vices in the title of this section - Avarice, Ambition and Sensuality are really just different forms of attachment and are also synonyms for Greed, Envy and Lust.
Gene: So, you’re saying that those are three references to the “Big Seven”.
David: Right. All of “Seven Deadly Sins” are covered in this Chapter. A little later in this section, it says that our first task is to “campaign for Peace”, which is to overcome Wrath.
Gene: So, would you say that sin is the reason of suffering?
David: I just think that Pike is just pointing out that vices bear their own fruits in your life. And they manifest when you forget the Truth about your underlying unity with other people.
Gene: Don’t forget that they are the same as you with the same wants, needs and they live and they die just like you.
David: That’s true, but as Pike points out in the next section, as soon as cultures begin to organize themselves, they start to create disparity.
Disparity of the Social Classes (08:17)
Gene: “Disparity of the Social Classes”. It brings forth the age-old question, as long as there's been humans - “Why do we stratify ourselves? Why do we have Haves and Have-Nots. Some big questions. How do we deal with this?
David: I think Pike is saying that with technological progress, some stratification is inevitable, but it’s made worse by human Greed.
Gene: Right, we’ve referenced it before saying that life is not a “Zero-Sum Game” - that in order for me to have mine, I've got to take yours.
David: But what incentive does a person have if not that hard work will return a fair wage?
Gene: I don’t know, what is a “fair wage”? What is “fair working conditions”? That mythological middle ground where profit can be had but no one suffers because of it.
David: You’re right about that, but Pike presents the extreme case in this section of children starving because they can’t afford to eat due to the Gluttony of some others. He says in the next section that Masonry should stand against this behavior and be “ A Champion of the People”. What’s the first thing you have from this section?
Masonry, A Champion of the People (09:33)
Gene: “Above all things, let us never forget that mankind constitutes one great Brotherhood, all born to encounter suffering and sorrow and therefore bound to sympathize with each other.”
David: This section calls on us to use our super-powers, or actually whatever power we’re able to muster, to help others and not just for our own self-aggrandizement.
Gene: To improve your fellow man, is to improve all of us. “A rising tide raises all boats” if you will.
David: Right, but there are some statements that seem to imply that people are subjugated because it’s “God’s Will”. Do you know the statements I’m talking about?
Gene: “A people that cannot govern themselves and moderate their passions…”?
David: Yes. That’s one of the statements. What did you think about that?
Gene: I don’t know. It's sticky. I mean, from one side you can look at it from a “I lord over you and therefore God intended for me to lord over you.” And the other side is that that person needs more help than you would normally give.
Gene: Another basic tenet of Masonry is to improve and to keep improving. And so if the situation is bad then you should try to improve the situation. If someone is stuck in that bad position then, yes, you should work towards their Enlightenment and their freedom. That doesn’t mean that you should be their lord and master, but you should be more of their friend and helper. Not exploit it.
David: Right. And to be a “Champion of the People” as opposed to… I guess, an exploitative jerk, has to do with how much you’ve overcome the vice of this section - which is Pride.
Gene: “If you feel a little sting Butch, that’s just Pride…”
David: "Messing" with you. Right Gene?
Gene: It’s in the culture man, deal with it.
David: And it’s also true, that sting of Pride can get in the way of us doing what we know is the right thing to do. And it can keep us from learning the lessons we’re supposed to from our mistakes, which is the topic of the next section.
Life is a School (11:41)
Gene: “Life is a Highway”... No, that’s not it… “Life is a School”. Thing that really got me in this one was - “Suffering is the discipline of virtue, of that which is infinitely better than happiness and yet embraces in itself all essential happiness.” What do you think about that statement? “Suffering is the discipline of virtue.” I mean that sounds kind of masochistic doesn’t it?
David: That really sounds like something from George Orwell’s “1984”. “Suffering embraces all essential happiness”? Who wants to suffer?
Gene: Oh! I do! I do!
David: Well, you know, not that I’ve not known some people who seemed to enjoy being miserable.
Gene: Let’s not name names here Dave. OK?
David: No, but what do you make out a statement like that?
Gene: To go into my wheelhouse, that's the koan of this chapter - what are the only real lessons that you've learned? What did those real lessons cost you?
David: Pain and suffering.
Gene: Which I think that's the point of it.
David: That the cost of the lessons in the “School of Life” is pain and suffering.
Gene: Yeah… but it still sounds masochistic. I mean…
David: It does… but I think it’s just “esoteric mechanics”, you know, cause and effect, how actions we take bear their own fruits. Knowing some about how that works should help us to be as happy as we can in our circumstances. It looks like.
Gene: Exactly. Happiness is not a permanent state.
David: No it isn’t. We have to constantly adjust to make the best of whatever the next day presents to us, which takes us back to Stoicism.
Gene: The next quote I had goes right to that and right to the heart of Stoicism - “Man should go forth with a brave and strong heart to battle with calamity. He is to master it.”
David: Master of Calamity. That sounds like a great degree title! Doesn’t it?
Gene: I know!
David: Here’s another Stoic-like quote “... the principle of misery is not an evil principle. We err, and the consequences teach us wisdom. All elements, all the laws of things around us, minister to this end; and through the paths of painful error and mistake, it is the design of Providence to lead us to truth and Happiness.” That’s a hard view to take though, especially when the proverbial “bad things happen to good people” we usually don’t see that as part of a bigger process.
Gene: Yeah, we fight. There is acceptance and there's misery. That's pretty harsh and to the point but…
David: That’s what it means to live in a material world. Everything’s transient. So what are the lessons we’re supposed to learn here?
Gene: Back to the simple… master the “Seven Deadly Sins”.
David: Sin is a really loaded word but what we’re talking about here is just in the philosophical sense of how certain actions tend to lead to certain unpleasant results.
Gene: To try to make it more widespread and not necessarily Christian-centric, let’s say the “Seven Mortal Errors” or another version, the “Seven Deadly Distractions”, because that's what’s being laid out. Each one is like a different tree that bears its own fruit… and if you water and feed the tree then these will be the fruits of your labor.
David: And the root cause of us acting against our own best interest, is our own ignorance of the full implications of our actions.
Gene: Right. If one were enlightened enough to see the the fruits of those trees then one would not fertilize and water them.
David: One would hope, unless we’re just too rebellious to take instruction.
David: But you know what, “Death is the Great Teacher”... which is the title of the next section.
Death is the Great Teacher (15:46)
Gene: “In every man, there’s a dead man waiting to get out.”
Gene: Counting Crows.
Gene: I know.
David: Anyway, here’s my first quote - “It is a fearful lesson that never becomes familiar. It walks through the earth in dread mystery, it lays its hands upon all. It is a universal lesson that is read everywhere and by all men. Its message comes every year and every day. The past years are crowded with its sad and solemn mementoes; and death's finger traces its handwriting upon the walls of every human habitation.”
Gene: It’s a really rough thing to deal with. Because death is inevitable. Death comes to us all. As surely as we’ve taken our first breath, we’ll take our last. The only question that matters is “Have you lived well?” And it's the journey where you can take nothing with you.
David: That’s true.
Gene: This chapter kind of reminds me of the poem “Ozymandias” by Shelley. It's not that long but it's - “My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings; Look on upon my Works, ye Mighty, and despair! Nothing beside remains. Round the decay of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare. The lone and level sands stretch far away.” Which, that’s the last part of the poem, but you know, what remained of all his great works? You leave with what you came in with in this world and that’s zero.
David: Right. So what do you think this section says about what we should do with the time that we have here?
Gene: Interesting quote from this one, “The basis of Masonry being morality and virtue, it Is by studying one and practicing the other that the conduct of a Mason becomes irreproachable.” How did you live?
David: Hmm. To study morality and practice virtue. That really just means to study ourselves and our mistakes and attempt to make better decisions and actions. The study of morality is the subject of this chapter and is the reason why the Scottish Rite is called the “College of Masonry”.
Gene: Yeah. A College of Morality. It’s not a religion. It’s the results of observations of life and the world around you. And these are the logical reasons why. It’s not because of an edict. It’s because actions have consequences. Cause and effect.
David: That’s all it is. Just to be complete, I have one more quote from this section - “Let the Mason be faithful in the school of life, and… Let not the years pass over him, witnesses of only his SLOTH and indifference…” That mention of Sloth completes the list of the “Seven Deadly Sins” or “Errors” or “Distractions” from this Chapter.
What Remains to be Done in Masonry (18:42)
Gene: So with that Dave, “What Remains to be Done in Masonry”.
David: We should definitely outlaw dueling. That’s just a reminder that this book was written during a very different time. What was your impression of this section?
Gene: It’s really weird. This one, for some reason, I started reading it and just the way it’s set up, reminded me of the “Book of the Dead” and the “Negative 42 Confessions” when the heart is weighed.
David: Well, that ties back perfectly to the theme of overcoming the vices, or “lightening the heart” so to speak.
David: Did you think that because of the way the questions were worded in the text?
Gene: Right. Ask the questions in a negative sense. “Does no Brother proceed by law against another Brother of his Lodge?” “Do Masons no longer form the charitable opinions…”. You know. Blah, blah, blah.
David: That’s an interesting observation.
Gene: Another one that stuck out to me, and I'm paraphrasing - Don’t be self-congratulatory back-slappers. Don’t inflate your own ego with a great sounding title. That is not the point. The title is just something to point you towards what you should try to be. To help know one another with our human condition is the point.
David: Well put. I have a related quote - “Where in our Lodges are lectures habitually delivered for the real instruction of the Brethren? Do not our sessions pass in the discussion of minor matters of business, the settlement of points of order and questions of mere administration, and the admission and advancement of Candidates, whom after their admission we take no pains to instruct?” Do you think that’s true?
Gene: You know I do.
David: Yeah, I know. Last week, Gene and I listened to an episode of the “Right Where You are Sitting Now” podcast that featured an interview with Mark Stavish, who was discussing his book “The Path of Freemasonry: The Craft as a Spiritual Practice”. I’ve linked to the podcast and that book in the Show Notes. Anyway, Mark Stavish mentioned a Masonic education program run by the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania. I’ve linked to that also in the Show Notes. Did you look at their website?
Gene: Yeah. Their website looks very interesting and geared towards teaching these things… and doing them remotely, which is the modern way.
David: It is. Mark Stavish talked about that in the podcast. He pointed out that even though there may not be that many people locally that are interested in Masonry’s deeper mysteries, Masonry is an International organization and there are still those people, but they’re spread out over the world. A Brotherhood of those people emerges through the use of technology because literal “mouth-to-ear” people don't have that reach.
Gene: Their cable tow is very, very short.
David: It is. But a realization of that limitation could spark something big. Maybe a new era for the Scottish Rite? Anyway, are you ready for the last section?
Masonry has Yet Much to Accomplish (21:51)
Gene: “Masonry Has Yet Much To Accomplish”. And I’ll sum up the large paragraph in four words… ah, let’s make it five.
David: OK. Let's hear it.
Gene: The work is never done.
David: Yeah. The “School of Life” doesn’t have “Snow Days”.
David: I have one last quote. “There are works yet left for Masonry to accomplish, greater than the twelve labors of Hercules…”. What I thought was interesting there was the reference to the “Twelve Labors of Hercules” in the closing paragraph of a Chapter called “Elu of the Twelve”. We talked about number symbolism early on…
Gene: Pike is very sneaky. Even though he takes huge chunks from other people's work, there are little strange things woven in along the way that are referencing other things bigger than what is covered. So, the numbers being important, what does the number 12 bring to your mind?
David: In this Degree, 12 Governors were appointed over 12 areas.
Gene: And the 12 Tribes of Israel.
David: Right. Each area was associated with one of the Tribes. There are also 12 signs in the Zodiac, 12 disciples of Jesus and 12 Knights around Arthur’s Round Table.
Gene: I think that it’s really cool because there's a lot of subtlety that is stuck in between all the big words and big phrases. And it gives me that glimmer that, hey - I didn't catch everything that there is to catch. There's more there to find. And the reference to numbers like that, like we just rattled off a few. There's more than that to the number 12.
David: One thing that is in here, but isn’t apparent until it’s pointed out - is that the 12, in all the cases we mentioned, signify different fields of activity where the 7 virtues or vices can be applied. In this Degree, each of the “Elected 12” are instructed to overcome the 7 Vices so that they can be good Governors of the 12 Tribes. Do you have any other number symbolism you want to discuss?
Gene: I do. In talking about the past three Degrees as a whole…
David: And they are connected, thematically and sometimes even merged in their performance.
Gene: Right. You had the “Elu of the Nine”, the “Elu of the Fifteen” and the “Elu of the Twelve”.
David: So… 9, 15 and 12.
Gene: All which are divisible by 3 which leaves you with 3, 5 and 4 or… 3, 4, 5… a right-angled triangle.
Gene: And the Walrus was Paul.
David: “I am the Walrus!” But… what do you see in this?
Gene: If you go by these three rituals, you’ll become “squared away”. To put it in Masonic terms, first you must learn to square yourself before you can help others square themselves.
David: That’s a good analogy for laying the foundation of your Temple. You want that cornerstone of Truth to be “on the square”, otherwise it would ultimately tumble.
Gene: Built upon an un-square foundation.
David: Right. So, to wrap things up, this degree is the third in a sequence. In the 10th Degree we faced Ignorance. In the 11th, the two offspring of Ignorance - Intolerance and Ambition. And finally, in this Degree, we examined the “7 Deadly Sins” (or Mistakes) - Envy, Greed, Lust, Wrath, Sloth, Pride, Gluttony and their results. I think we’re supposed to see this sequence as an evolutionary chart.
Gene: So, Ignorance or the lack of seeing the Truth, leads to the 7 Deadly Mistakes.
David: Well, if you accept that premise, then by examining the “7 Deadly Mistakes” and their effect on your life, and working your way back, you can see the Intolerance and Ambition, and ultimately the Ignorance of the Truth that’s at the root of those. But without making mistakes and suffering for it, we wouldn’t learn anything.
Gene: Without it, it’s all smooth sailing and candy bars, and lollipops and sunny skies! So that’s a reference back to the virtue of suffering.
David: So, to find the Truth at the root of our suffering is the Holy Grail. It’s the goal and purpose of life.
Gene: Right. Seek ye the Truth.
David: To find the Truth or die trying seems to be the main message of this Degree. I had one more insight from this Degree and it was about the meaning of a Jewish legend that revolves around Truth. The Golem of Prague.
The Golem (26:41)
David: You say tomAto. I say tomAHto. Will you lay out the golem (gAHlem) story Gene?
Gene: In Jewish Folklore, there is a creature called a golem (gOHlem), which is a creature made out of clay that only the priests could make and carried out the will of whoever made it. And this creature existed as long as there was a word written on its forehead… and that word was “Ameth”.
David: Truth. As in “Princes of Truth”... one of the titles of this Degree.
Gene: Yeah. And when the creature got out of hand or it was time to undo it, the maker would erase one letter from “Ameth” just leave “Meth” which in Hebrew is “death”. And that would be the end of the Golem.
David: The Golem is the theme of a primary Kaballistic text, the “Sepher Yetzirah” or “Book of Formation ''. Which tells how God created the Universe and how Man was created, like a Golem, from mud, before God breathed life into him. It also says that Moses learned the secret of how to create a Golem. One way you could interpret that is… that the text tells how to create animated statues. What do you think of that idea Gene?
Gene: It can sing, it can dance, but it can’t carry a tune.
David: I think that, too. Instead, I’ll trace out an esoteric interpretation. The Golem is animated as long as it’s One with Truth. It dies when the “A”, the Aleph in Hebrew, is removed. The Aleph stands for Breath and in this case, the breath of God, or Divine Inspire-ation. When that leaves you, you’re spiritually dead. But with it, you’re not a robot.
Gene: You’re not an animated sack of mud. You’re a living breathing human being.
David: But the Truth we’re talking about is only discovered (in it’s dark cave) through mistakes and pain, but to walk in that Truth... would change you.
Vicere Aut Mori (29:00)
Gene: One might say you were “born again”. That just puts a whole new light on everything Dave.
David: “More Light? It’s what we do!” Alright. Last thing… Gene, would you describe the regalia of this Degree.
Gene: From “A Bridge to Light” when it’s describing the implements, the Cordon is of black watered ribbon worn right to left over the flaming heart. On the Cordon are painted, or embroidered, the words “Vicere Aut Mori”... literally “Either conquer or die.”
David: And that is the charge of this Degree. Either conquer yourself and your vices by finding the Truth or… actually AND… die trying.
David: Yep. I think that’s a good place to stop. So, what are we doing next time?
Gene: In the next episode, we discuss the 12th Degree - "Grand Master Architect".
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.