In this episode, we discuss the 14th Degree - “Perfect Elu” as we continue our exploration of "Morals & Dogma: The Annotated Edition". 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 are you today?
Gene: Almost perfect.
David: OK. Well, hopefully, we’ll make it perfect for you, in this the final Degree of the “Lodge of Perfection”. But before we get started, as always, 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 the last Degree, Royal Arch of Solomon, the Biblical Patriarch Enoch had a dream in which he went up into the Heavens and down into the depths of the Earth and saw the same name written there… the “True Name of God”. He was also warned that a calamity was coming to the Earth and that the “True Name” could be lost forever. So, he created a Vault that survived “The Flood” which held a cube of agate on an alabaster pedestal. On the cube, he mounted a triangular plate of gold engraved with the “True Name” - The Tetragrammaton. Centuries later, three Master Architects found the hidden entrance to the Vault and brought the cube to King Solomon and in gratitude for the service they had done to religion, he awarded them the 13th Degree - “Royal Arch of Solomon”. So Gene, what is the mythological setting of this Degree?
Mythological Setting (02:28)
Gene: It’s a continuation of the last Degree, where we found out that King Solomon had built a “Secret Vault”. The approach to it was through eight other vaults or apartments in succession. All these were underground running horizontally from his palace to directly under the Holy of Holies of the Temple.
David: I remember just a passing reference to that in the previous degree. Is this the same Vault as the one Enoch built or a different one?
Gene: It’s a different Vault. It’s a Vault that Solomon built.
David: OK. And the access to this one is horizontal rather than vertical as in the Vault of Enoch from the previous Degree.
David: So why did he build this Vault originally?
Gene: In that Vault, he held private conferences with King Hiram and Hiram Abiff. And when Hiram was killed, Solomon and King Hiram resolved not to go back into the Vault, until they found someone to replace Hiram Abiff. And until that time, they would not make known the “Secret Name” to anyone.
David: So how does the story of this Vault connect the story of the one in the previous Degree?
Gene: After we learned in the last Degree where Adoniram, Yehu-aber and Satolkin discovered the cube of agate and the mysterious name and had brought it to King Solomon. In this Degree, King Solomon and King Hiram take the three to Solomon’s Vault and made known to them what was meant by the true pronunciation of the “Sacred Word”, creating a new Degree, the last of the Masonry of the “First Temple” to be called the “Degree of Perfection” and its recipients the “Grand, Elect, Perfect and Sublime Masons” aka “Perfect Elu”. After their vows to live as they had been taught in the previous degrees, he showed them the Ark of the Covenant which held two tablets of stone. He had communion with them and gave them a ring as “a token of the covenant which each had entered into.”
Morals and Dogma (04:33)
David: And that is the setting of this degree. Are you ready to dive into the “Morals & Dogma” lecture?
Gene: Yes. There’s a lot there.
David: There is. The primary source for this chapter is William Rathbone Greg’s “Creed of Christendom.” So, what’s the first thing you have?
Gene: In the very beginning, we’re reminded once again that “It is for each individual Mason to discover the secret of Masonry, by reflection upon its symbols and a wise consideration and analysis of what is said and done in the work.” It’s up to you. You gotta dig.
David: “Seek and ye shall find.”
Gene: Yes. You have to be looking. I mean, you have to be seeking after the Truth to find it.
David: And the Truth that we’re looking for is the subject of the next section.
The Practical Object of Masonry (05:13)
Gene: “The Practical Object of Masonry”. I like the quote in the footnotes from George Washington, “The grand object of Masonry is to promote the happiness of the human race.”
David: And the section defines happiness as the physical, moral, intellectual and spiritual “improvement of individuals and societies” which it says are brought about by the “dissemination of Truth”. That should sound familiar because we’ve talked about it before. This is the capstone degree of the “Lodge of Perfection” and this chapter summarizes what we’ve learned so far.
Gene: The sections are a recap of the things we’ve learned in the previous degrees and a reiteration of those points.
David: And because of that, rather than treating each section like it’s new material, we’ll refer back to our detailed discussions from previous degrees and just touch on the new points or perspectives offered in this chapter.
David: Did you have anything else in this section?
Gene: Yes. Another quote from it, “There are few truths that public opinion has not at some time hated and perceived as heresies.”
David: That’s very true. It also says “Public opinion is rarely right on any point.” So as should be obvious, if you’ve been paying any attention to the world at all, you can’t go by what most people believe because it’s probably wrong.
Gene: Anything else here?
David: Next section?
Laborare est Orare: Labor is Worship (06:43)
Gene: “Laborare est Orare: Labor is Worship.” Which was a saying of the Benedictine monks.
David: This section summarizes material that was presented in the section “Hop Opus, Hic Labor Est” - “this is the work, this the labor” from the 8th Degree.
Gene: And also in the section of “The Religion of Toil, Life and Society” in the 13th Degree.
David: Yes. My summary of this section is that if you actually believe the Divine infuses all things, then the world itself is a Temple and your life and labor are worship. That’s very hard to see out in the world. It might be easier if you lived in a monastery surrounded by religious icons as you went about your labor.
Gene: Yeah. And also in a monastery your day is extremely regulated and based around worship.
David: Right. Anything else here?
Gene: No, that's good.
David: Alright. Next section.
Pure Religion is to Help Others and Keep Oneself Unspotted from the World (07:39)
Gene: “Pure Religion is to Help Others and Keep Oneself Unspotted from the World.”
David: We’ve discussed this material in 6th Degree in the section “The True Mason is Disinterested and Generous”, in the 7th Degree about “Charity and Loving Kindness” , in the 8th Degree when we were told to “Exercise Charity and Beneficence”
Gene: And “On the Religious Nature of Masonry” from the 13th Degree.
David: We also discussed the idea that Masonry is the core of all religious teachings in the 8th and 10th Degrees, but here’s how it’s stated in this section - “It is the universal, eternal, immutable religion, such as God planted in the heart of universal humanity. No creed has ever been long-lived that was not built on this foundation.” I think we’ve covered that idea pretty thoroughly, but what do you think is meant by “Keeping Oneself Unspotted from the World”?
Gene: The entirety of the Degrees so far has been teaching you how to keep your own house clean. And it’s not something that you just go through one time. You have to keep doing it as a practice. Otherwise, the muddiness of the world will drag you down.”
David: Amen to that. What’s the first thing you have here?
Gene: It’s a long quote, but I’ll read it anyway - “The ministers of this religion are Masons who comprehend it and are devoted to it; its sacrifices to God are good works, the sacrifices of the base and disorderly passions, the offering up of the self-interest on the altar of humanity, and perpetual efforts to attain to all the moral perfection of which man is capable.” It’s equating ministers with Masons.
David: Well, the candidates in the Degree ritual are baptized, served communion and told to go out into the world and teach. So…
Gene: Yeah. I have another quote.
Gene: “The whole world is, but one republic, which each nation is a family, and every individual a child.”
David: So, a “New World Order”?
Gene: It does not call for one “World Government” or one central religion, it just asks for all of us to be brothers and sisters in Truth.
David: That’s a really great definition of Masonry right there. We were warned of the dangers of trying to define that Truth or God for others in the section “The Dangers of Intolerance” in the 10th Degree.
Gene: In trying to define God, another quote, which is “And yet it is here that man most dogmatizes, classifies and describes God's attributes, makes out his map of God's nature, and his inventory of God's qualities, feelings, impulses, and passions; and then hangs and burns his brother, who dogmatically as he, makes out a different map.”
David: Those spiritual maps are always a conception in someone’s mind which means they’re always limited.
Gene: You only have your learned conceptions. “The consciousness of the individual reveals itself alone. His knowledge cannot pass beyond the limits of his own being. His concepts of other things and other beings are only his concepts. They are not those things or beings themselves.” Another quote is, “Man's views in regard to God, will contain only so much positive truth as the human mind is capable of receiving.”
David: That quote continues by saying that the Truth must “necessarily be both limited and alloyed, to bring it within the competence of finite human intelligence… All attempts to embrace the Infinite in the conception of the Finite are, and must be only accommodations to the frailty of man.”
Gene: Yeah. It’s hard to imagine the infinite when we are finite.
David: True. I have one more quote - “The true word of a Mason is not the entire, perfect, absolute truth in regard to God; but the highest and noblest conception… that our minds are capable of forming; and this word is Ineffable, because one… cannot communicate to another (their)... conception of Deity… God is, as man conceives Him, the reflected image of man himself.” Which brings us to the next section.
Nothing Can be Imagined More Excellent than God (11:53)
Gene: “Nothing Can be Imagined More Excellent than God.”
David: That sounds like a flowery statement, but it’s actually a definition
Gene: Why is that?
David: If you can imagine something bigger, then you need to replace your definition of God. It says, “When we examine our conceptions of His character, if we can conceive of a loftier, nobler, higher, more beneficent, glorious, and magnificent character, then this latter is to us the true conception of Deity…. The highest view we can form is nearest to the truth.”
Gene: And one must strive to break out of the smallness of your own imagination. “You’ve got to dream a little bit bigger darling.”
David: What’s that from?
Gene: Which leads to my quote, not out of the book but from “Everything Belongs”, “God is always bigger than the boxes we build for God. So we should not waste too much time protecting the boxes.”
David: That’s very true. Every concept of God, or really, any concept you conceive of, is necessarily a mixture of the Truth and whatever “you” are.
Gene: Yeah, it’s your own baggage mixed with something pure.
David: Right. It’s like me declaring that God said something.
Gene: I didn’t hear God’s voice. I just heard you.
David: Exactly. The words might be inspired… but they’re still coming through me. And it’s the same for any “message from God”. You have to remember that it’s always a mixture and it’s always up to you to separate it.
Gene: Separate the gross from the fine.
David: And understanding that our concepts are always imperfect, this section calls on us to strive to achieve the highest conception of God that we’re capable of.
Gene: Don’t settle for anything less than the best.
God Concerns Himself With Human Affairs (13:38)
David: That’s a good summary. The next section is “God Concerns Himself With Human Affairs”. We covered most of these ideas in the section “God Exists and Cares For Us” in the 12th Degree. Do you have anything else to add from here?
Gene: The only one I had was about God mysteriously governs the Universe and “that one great mind after another will arise, from time to time, as such are needed, to reveal to men the truths… and the amount of truth that can be borne.” Can you handle the Truth?
David: That’s an excellent question to ask before we head into the next section because it reveals the Truth about the Masonic myth of Hiram.
Hiram: A Symbol of Humanity in its Highest Phase (14:18)
Gene: Next section is “Hiram: A Symbol of Humanity in its Highest Phase.”
David: What’s meant there by “Humanity in its Highest Phase”?
Gene: Well from the footnote, it says that “In Greg’s original text, this refers to Jesus of Nazareth who Pike believed was the subject of the Hiramic Legend. To the early English Masons, Hiram the architect, was symbolic of Christ.”
David: So, how is Hiram symbolic of Christ?
Gene: He died for a principle. “You can take my life, but not my integrity.” It’s a way of looking at the meaning of the symbol of Christ. What does that symbolize? What does that point towards?
David: So are you saying… out loud… that Jesus is just a symbol?
Gene: I did not say that he was not a historical figure. The story is that God became a man and suffered like a man. And as a man he lived seeking Truth. And that presents a perfect example of how to live. It’s the example in our culture that we have.
David: It seems strange to all of a sudden equate Hiram with Jesus, until you think about all the work we had to do to replace Hiram. If, and this is a big if, you really completed that work then you’ve overcome your own ignorance and found Divinity within yourself and then it makes sense. Masonry substitutes Hiram for Jesus because it’s intended to be universal. So, should Masons worship the man who “Represents Humanity in its Highest Phase”?
Gene: No. You know what that is… idolatry? He’s a symbol. He’s a symbol of an idea.
David: And as you pointed out in the last episode, idolatry is mistaking the symbol for what the symbol points to. But what about if we just believe… and I mean really believe the Hiram myth. Will that do the trick?
Gene: No. A symbol cannot stand in for you. But you can take the example of a symbol as to how to conduct your life.
David: Right. The story of Hiram is one of a man who knew “God’s True Name” and could call on him, like a father, and receive guidance on how to build God’s House here on earth… a place for God and Man to commune and re-establish God’s Kingdom on Earth. Does that sound familiar?
David: But as great as Hiram was, he can’t build your Temple for you.
Gene: He can’t do it for you. You’ve got to do it for yourself.
David: That’s the bottom line. Through the Degrees, we’ve followed in Hiram’s footsteps and become his replacement, but we’re called on in this Degree to actually identify with him. Here’s my last quote for this section - “Whatever Hiram really was, he is the type, perhaps an imaginary type, to us, of humanity in its highest phase; an exemplar of what man may and should become, in the course of ages… and what we believe it will hereafter be in God's good time; the possibility of the race made real.”
Gene: Yeah. What do you think about that one?
David: We are the myth made real. Not the other way around.
Gene: Drop the mic and run away.
David: We could, but let’s move on into the next section instead.
God Has a Plan for His Creations (17:39)
Gene: “God Has a Plan for His Creations.”
David: We’ve discussed the idea of “God’s Plan” throughout the “Ineffable Degrees” under the terms “Divine Providence” and “Natural Law”, but one section in particular where we discussed this was “Life is a Divine Blessing” in the 8th Degree. What else do you have from this section?
Gene: I do have a quote.
Gene: “That every great and good man possesses some portion of God's truth, which
he must proclaim to the world, and which must bear the fruit in his own bosom.”
David: And it says that the Truth speaks to us through our conscience. It says that “Conscience is the very voice of Deity.”
Gene: That’s a good one. I’ve got another one - “Wherever a heart beats with love, wherever Faith and Reason utter their oracles, there is God.”
God’s Existence is Self-Evident (18:29)
Gene: So that leads to the next section, “God’s Existence is Self-Evident.”
David: We discussed these concepts in this section in the 12th Degree. In the section “Sensitivity of the Soul” we talked about conscience as a basis of faith. And in “Cognition Unlocks the Treasures of the Universe” we tried to look at consciousness itself. So, what’s your big takeaway this time from seeing this material again?
Gene: Observation and “Natural Law” reveal God to us. This Knowledge creates Faith… not the other way around.
David: Yeah. There was a quote from an earlier section that said “The Deity is thus not an object of knowledge, but of faith; not to be approached by the understanding, but by the moral sense; not to be conceived, but to be felt.” It’s saying that through Knowledge of our finite limitations, we understand that God or the infinite, or whatever you want to call the “Unnamable Unity”, can’t be completely known, but we know it exists, so we come to understand that that IS faith.
Gene: That makes sense.
David: Here’s a quote that sums up the section for me, “He can find a sure foundation for his religious belief, in these deductions of the intellect and convictions of the heart. For reason proves to him the existence and attributes of God; and those spiritual instincts which he feels are the voice of God in his soul…” It says the “spiritual instincts” are the “voice of God” in the soul, your conscience.
Gene: That small quiet voice that gets shouted down by other loud voices all the time.
David: Right. One more quote “All these sublime precepts need no miracle, no voice from the clouds… to assure us of their divine origin.” So Gene, I think that’s saying that you can’t always expect a sign like a giant finger coming out of a cloud to tell you what to do.
Gene: That’s what I was thinking! Monty Python.
David: I set you up on that one.
Gene: So… “Get on with it!”
God is Our Father, and We Are His Children (20:32)
David: I’ll do that. The next section is “God is Our Father, and We Are His Children.” We’ve been told through all the degrees to treat each other as Brothers and Sisters. Do you have anything from this section?
Gene: Yes. “To the Mason, God is our Father in Heaven, to be Whose especial children is the sufficient reward of the peacemakers.”
David: That’s referring to a verse in Matthew.
Gene: That’s Matthew 5:9 - “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the Children of God.”
David: I only had one quote from here and this is a shortened version of it - “This (natural religion) needs no Priest to teach it, and no authority to endorse it; and if everyone did only what is consistent with it, it would exile… (evil)... from the world. Do you have anything else here?
Gene: No, that’s it.
God’s Laws are Designed for Our Happiness (21:23)
David: The next section is “God’s Laws are Designed for Our Happiness”. We’ve called these laws “Divine Providence” or “Natural Law” and talked about how actions bear their particular fruits in the 7th degree section “Cause & Effect” (and also in other degrees) but it was in the section “Life is a School” from 11th Degree that we discussed how those laws are supposedly “Designed for Our Happiness”. So what more do you have to add this time around Gene?
Gene: Well, here’s my big summary. Transcending pain to see the Law behind it and accepting what is happening, you become a cooperator with the Creator… a “Perfect Elu”.
David: That’s a great definition of what it means to be a “Perfect Elu”.
Gene: You know, delving back into my favorite subject, Stoicism - “Whether good or bad things happen, in either case, the Mason receives it with submission.” Don’t rail against it. Don’t cry “Why God? Why me?” Accept it as it could be a possible lesson or part of a plan which you have no idea what the plan is.
David: We can’t ever see the whole plan. We’re limited. We can’t even see the trees of results that branch out from our actions. Knowing that, this section asks if we can live according to the principles inculcated in the previous degrees and be willing to make the sacrifices required of a “Perfect Elu”. It says the “Perfect Elu” is an unreluctant and self-sacrificing co-operator with the Creator of the Universe.... He is content to fall early in the battle, if his body may but form a stepping-stone for the future conquests of humanity.”
Gene: Accept that you are “cannon fodder”... or that you could be. Like Hiram, Moses, or Jesus… right?
No Good Work is in Vain (23:04)
David: Right. None of them got to see the fruits of their labor. But as the next section says “No Good Work is in Vain”. Again, this is a review of concepts we discussed in the section “Duty is the Object of Masonry” in the 4th Degree, “Duty is With Us Always” in the 9th Degree and “The Rewards of Persistent and Steady Labor” in the 10th Degree. What do you have for this section?
Gene: The gist of it for me was, work not for fame or rewards. Here’s a quote - “The true Mason will not be careful that his name should be inscribed upon the mite which he casts into the treasury of God. It suffices him to know that he has labored, with purity of purpose and in a good cause.”
David: And that’s what sets Masonry apart from many other charitable organizations, they don’t take the credit for the good deeds they do. The Scottish Rite provides free orthopedic appliances and care to children. The Shriners provide pediatric speciality care which includes burn treatment facilities. And the Blue Lodge supports many local charities, especially those related to the poor, widows, orphans and other children in need.
Gene: Yeah. They do not advertise their good deeds. They strive to do good social work without advertisement.
David: And to be clear, I’m only mentioning those things here to illustrate what pure motives are… but to keep it pure, I’ll stop talking about it.
Gene: Those are all great works, and try and honor tradition and not promote them.
David: Exactly. So, let’s move on to the next section.
The Mason and This and The Future of Life (24:40)
Gene: “The Mason and This and The Future of Life”. That is strangely worded. It’s like what?
David: The section title is strange but I think De Hoyos was trying to hit two concepts, what are the Mason’s duty in this life and what is your duty to future generations? We’ve discussed these concepts in several places. In 8th Degree in the section “Mankind Has both Duty and Destiny to Fulfill on Earth” and in the 11th Degree in the section “What Remains to Be Done in Masonry?”. What else would you like to add here?
Gene: Yeah. In the 10th Degree, we talked about how loving God was Stoicism, that this life should not be undervalued. That your attention doesn’t need to be in the past or in the future but needs to focus on the here and the now. Or if you want to put it another way, “Be here now.”
David: Ram Dass. Yeah the only quote I have from here is “Life is real, and is earnest, and it is full of duties to be performed. It is the beginning of our immortality.”
David: Anything else here.
Gene. No. I’m good on that one.
Masonry Imposes No Sectarian Doctrines (25:45)
David: The next section is “Masonry Imposes No Sectarian Doctrines”. We’ve covered this material in the 7th, 8th and especially in the 10th Degree in the sections “Respect of Private Religious Beliefs” and “The Dangers of Intolerance”. The summary here is only one paragraph. Do you want to read it?
Gene: Yeah. “The Mason does not dogmatize, but entertaining and uttering his own convictions, he leaves everyone else free to do the same; and only hopes that the time will come… when all men shall form one great family of brethren, and one law alone, the law of love, shall govern God's whole Universe.”
Symbolic Numbers (26:25)
David: That says it all right there. The last section is “Symbolic Numbers” which we’ve talked about throughout the degrees. Just as a reminder, why is the symbolism of numbers important?
Gene: God and the nature of the Universe are revealed through numbers.
David: So what does the number three reveal about the nature of God?
Gene: Well, in Western Religious Terms, it’s the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost.
David: OK. That’s the “Holy Trinity”. What does the number three reveal about the nature of the Universe?
Gene: It’s also thesis, antithesis and synthesis. Which is the basic structure of everything.
David: Right. Without opposition, nothing new emerges. But once there is opposition, there’s an opportunity for something new.
Gene: It’s polar opposites and the point in between where they meet and join.
David: Right. And see this structure in every field of study. You see this in novels and movies divided into three acts with an introduction, a conflict and a resolution. Or like the original Star Wars trilogy. “A New Hope” introduced the characters. “The Empire Strikes Back” focused on the conflict between the Jedi and The Empire with the construction of the second "Death Star”. And then “The Return of the Jedi” resolved the conflict when the Rebel Alliance destroyed it.
David: It doesn’t make it any less true. Understanding that any concept or thing can be analyzed using the number three helps to see what the “Holy Trinity” symbolizes - the archetypal creative process. Even a symbol has three parts, the symbol, what it points to, and a consciousness that can make the connection. OK let’s move on. What about the number seven? What does it symbolize?
Gene: Well you know, you’ve got your basics… the seven classic planets, seven colors, seven virtues…
Gene: Seven notes, yeah.
David: So three is the underlying creative process. What do all these sevens represent?
Gene: Seven represents manifestation.
David: Right. It’s the manifestation and embodiment of the three. For example, you can see light as three primary colors that unite as white but can be split by a prism into seven. What about when you combine the three with the seven?
Gene: That would be ten? Completion.
David: So ten represents the origin and the manifestation of a thing. What about twelve?
Gene: When you think of twelve, you think of the Zodiac, the months of the year, the path of the Sun.
David: And the Sun is our primary symbol for the light of consciousness. In the 13th Degree, Enoch’s vision was equated with the path of the Sun. He ascended into the Heavens and descended into the depths of the Earth. What does that remind you of?
Jacob’s Ladder Revisited (29:14)
Gene: The dream of “Jacob’s Ladder” and the angels ascending and descending.
David: What does that symbolize to you?
Gene: It’s the nature of our contact with God. We build ourselves up to touch Divinity and then try and bring it back down into our daily lives. You have to continuously cycle it.
David: Right. Things have to be earthed to be of any use. Lofty spiritual thoughts and ideas are great, but what use are they if they don’t produce any fruits? The “Emerald Tablet of Hermes” says, “It ascends from the earth to the heaven and again it descends to the earth and receives the force of things superior and inferior.” To me, that’s becoming conscious of the way things are created and refined.
Gene: A circulation of creation. You become a co-creator.
David: Exactly. And the process is described there too. It says, “Separate the earth from the fire, the subtle from the gross, gently and with great ingenuity.”
Gene: It’s kind of like distillation of spirits. First you must apply heat which separates the volatile from the fixed. The volatile is then condensed and collected. And then you can actually repeat that process with what is collected and refine it even more. So, “Alchemy 101”.
Solomon’s Seal (30:32)
David: Yeah. And think about this, during the ritual of the Degree, in the East is “Solomon’s Seal” drawn as a black descending triangle interlaced with a white ascending triangle on a red background. What do you think that represents here?
Gene: The symbol of man.
David: How’s that?
Gene: It’s a symbol of the spiritual and the material conjoined.
David: Yes. It’s our state of being… which is a mixture of the spiritual and material. In terms of alchemy, it’s the “Prima Materia”, the “First Matter” that’s used to make the Stone. It’s what you circulate and separate. The black triangle is the fixed and the white triangle is the volatile.
Gene: Ah! Yeah.
David: So what does the red background represent?
Gene: There again, referring to alchemy and the trial of fire to produce the essence.
David: And for us the “trial of fire” is the “School of Life”.
The Perfect Elu Ceremony (31:22)
David: Let’s talk briefly about the ceremony in which the candidate is elevated to the degree of “Perfect Elu”. In that ceremony, the candidate is baptized, served communion and clothed in white. Baptism symbolizes the purification process… like the circulations you talked about.
Gene: Like the circulations correct. Baptism is a symbolic cleansing of oneself.
David: OK. What does communion symbolize?
Gene: Becoming one with something. To internalize something.
David: Jesus said, “Do this in remembrance of me.” So, here I think we’re supposed to internalize the lessons of the 13th Degree and realize our oneness with humanity after which we’re clothed in white. What does that symbolize?
Gene: Your nature has been purified.
The Cordon (32:10)
David: After that, the candidate is given a cordon (or sash) on which is Pentagram with a triangle inside with the Hebrew word “perfection” in the center. The Pentagram is a symbol of Spirit over Matter and also a symbol of mankind. So the Pentagram is “Perfected Man” and the triangle represents Divinity. So, it's a symbol for embodied Divinity or “Humanity in its Highest Phase”.
Gene: That is the essence of this degree… to try and perfect yourself. Not that you have achieved perfection but that you have come as close as you can. Because the learning never stops and the circulations never stop.
The Apron (32:51)
David: The candidate is then given an apron on which is an image of a ring connected to a flat stone.
Gene: And that symbolizes the entrance into Enoch’s Vault.
David: Right. The place where found the “True Name of God”. What does it really mean to have found that name?
Gene: It means you’ve established contact. You can talk and receive replies if you listen… through your conscience.
The 14th Degree Ring (33:16)
David: The ring attached to the stone on the apron represents the 14th Degree ring that candidates are endowed with following the installation ceremony. What does the ring signify?
Gene: It connects you with the promise that you’ve made of how you’re going to live your life and conduct yourself.
David: The ring has a Latin inscription that translates as “Virtue has united, and Death shall not separate.” The ring symbolizes a personal achievement - realizing your unity with Divinity.
Gene: And when you die you bequeath it to your nearest loved one but they are never to wear it because only you can achieve it alone.
David: The ring has a triangle with a Yod inside. Why just Yod, why not the “Four-Lettered Name”?
Gene: To remind you of the continual process. You have to… you don’t just stop, you continue to ascend and descend, to look inward and upward and circulate.
David: But how does the Yod represent that process?
Gene: Yod represents the highest conception of God that you can achieve.
David: Also in the “Provost and Judge” Degree, we had the symbol of scales suspended from a Yod inside a triangle. Those are the scales we weigh ourselves against the “Perfect Ashlar” we discovered in the last degree, our pure self. It’s a goal to reach for, but you can’t ever actuall reach it.
Gene: That’s the image in the Sistine Chapel of man reaching up and God reaching down and the fingers almost touching.
The Fall of Solomon’s Temple (34:48)
David: And that’s a beautiful image on which to end our discussion of the Degree of “Perfect Elu”. As Gene said earlier, this is the last of the “First Temple” Degrees, which foreshadows a calamity that occurs after the events of this Degree, the destruction of King Solomon’s Temple.
Gene: Solomon became proud, vain and “intoxicated with flattery” and “yielding to the blandishments of lascivious women, (he) built temples to gods of other nations, and profanely offered up incense to them which should have been offered to the True God alone, in the Holy of Holies of the Temple.”
David: So, the line of Kings of a united Israel ended and Nebuchadnezzar II, King of Babylon subjugated Judea, the Temple was razed and the bronze columns, as well as most of the Jewish people, were carried away to captivity in Babylon. This legend is a cautionary tale for us about the dangers of pride, lust and willful ignorance, but Pike also links it to the decline of Masonry.
Gene: Masonry deteriorated during Solomon’s time because “... by degrees … their teachings were narrowed down and the symbols so interpreted as to suit the common comprehension… men were indiscriminately admitted, almost without inquiry, and Improper men gained admission, and unworthy persons even became blind teachers of the blind, trivialized the ceremonies and substituted commonplace absurdities for the profound lessons of the wisdom of the ancient sages… Candidates were admitted in order to gain numbers for revenue alone; the degrees were too rapidly conferred, and without a knowledge of the principles or even the work of the preceding Degrees…men of little intellect and information swarmed into the order and lowered it to their level… Men of little intellect…swarmed into the order and lowered it to their level; others joined it merely through idle curiosity and wholly disregarded their obligations; frivolous ceremonies were multiplied and new degrees invented; and large bodies of men calling themselves Mason's … pretended to a knowledge of the “True Word”, without possessing it… so that the Temple of Masonry became an arena of strife and house of contention.”
David: And that sets the stage for the next Degree.
Gene: In our next episode, we discuss the 15th Degree - Knight of the East.