In this episode, we discuss the 16th Degree - “Prince of Jerusalem” 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’s it going?
Gene: It’s going good. Ready for the 16th?
David: I think so, 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.
Mythological Setting (02:50)
David: In the last degree, a Perfect Elu named Zerubbabel traveled west to Babylon where He petitioned King Cyrus, a fellow Adept and Mithraic initiate, to free the Israelites and allow them to return to Jerusalem and rebuild Solomon’s Temple. Gene, who was Zerubbabel and what did he mean when he told King Cyrus that he was the “keeper of the Holy Fire”?
Gene: Zerubbabel was a direct descendant of David and Solomon. The prophet Haggai says “On that day, says the Lord of Hosts, I will take you Zerubbabel… my servant, and wear you like a signet ring; for it is you whom I have chosen." (Haggai 2:23). The word for “servant” was not used for any Kings after David, so he’s been compared to David who God gave the plans to the first Temple. Zerubbabel is entrusted by God to return the “holy fire” to the new temple.
David: OK. In the last degree, King Cyrus freed the Israelites and allowed them to begin rebuilding the Temple, but they were attacked on all sides by those around them who did not believe in the “One True God”. So, what’s the mythological setting of this degree?
Gene: The rebuilding of the Temple has begun, but with constant interruptions forcing the Israelites to stop work and fight off those who wish to hinder their work. Jerusalem, which means “City of Peace” is anything but that. It, and the entire eastern kingdom, are in turmoil. The city is filled with wounded people, the workers are dwindling, and the people are disheartened and losing their faith in God.
David: So, what does Zerubbabel do about the problems they’re having?
Gene: Zerubbabel, encouraged by his high priest Joshua and the prophets Zechariah and Haggai, again travels west to Babylon to petition the King for aid. As you said, the eastern kingdom of Judea is in turmoil, so he and his men must struggle to make their way to the bridge that divides the eastern and western kingdoms. The western kingdom of Medea and Persia is now ruled by King Darius “The Great” who has succeeded King Cyrus as the third “King of Kings”. Zerubbabel meets with King Darius and asks for more assistance. Darius is also an initiate, so he honors Zerubbabel and his men while he has the archives, called the “House of Rolls”, searched to find out exactly what Cyrus had decreed.
David: And they find out that King Cyrus had named Zerubbabel as Governor over the Eastern Kingdom.
Gene: Right. So then King Darius gives Zerubbabel and his men the title of “Princes of Judah” and allows Zerubbabel to sit beside him and says to him, “The valiant who are merciful and generous are the equals of kings and every son of light is my Brother”. He also declares Judea to be no longer a tributary province, but part of the Kingdom of Medea and Persia.
David: So that’s where the title of the degree “Prince of Jerusalem” comes from. What assistance does he provide to Zerubbabel for rebuilding the Temple?
Gene: King Darius declares that the “Princes of Israel” are to be enrolled in the “Book of Nobles of Medea and Persia” and paid a monthly stipend. He also provides Zerubbabel and his men safe passage back to Jerusalem and promises protection for them so that the Temple may be completed in peace. He also declares that anyone who attempts to hinder their work to be guilty of a capital offense, punishable by crucifixion on a beam from their own house after which their house is to be destroyed.
David: Wow. So the construction of the Temple was completed then?
Gene: Yes. The Second Temple was completed in the 6th year of the reign of Darius, four centuries after the completion of Solomon’s temple.
David: OK. So what is the historical time period covered by the myth of this degree?
Gene: The foundation of the Second Temple was laid in 535 BC. King Cyrus died in 530 BC and was succeeded by his son and then by a pretender to the throne who was succeeded by Darius in 522 BC. Work resumed on the temple in 520 BC and it was completed and consecrated in 516 BC.
David: Alright. Are you ready to dig into the Lecture?
Gene: Let’s get on with it.
Morals and Dogma (06:06)
David: Cool. What’s the first thing you have in the Chapter?
Gene: Again, I like the way the Chapter starts off, “We no longer expect to rebuild the Temple at Jerusalem. To us it has become but a symbol. To us the whole world is God's Temple, as is every upright heart. To establish all over the world the New Law and the Reign of Love, Peace, Charity, and Toleration, is to build that Temple…”. So are they talking about the “real Temple” here or the Temple within each one of us?
David: I think the “real Temple” is the one inside because it says the building of the Temple is the task in “which Masonry is now engaged.” But some people are looking and waiting for an actual physical structure.
Gene: That’s confusing the symbol with what it points to. That quote continues by saying that the physical temple is no longer needed “to offer up sacrifices and shed blood to propitiate the Deity” but that “man may make the woods and the mountains his Churches and Temples” and that “Wherever the humble and contrite heart silently offers up its adoration, under the overarching trees, in the open level meadows, on the hill-side, in the glen, or in the city's swarming streets; there is God's House and the New Jerusalem.”
David: That’s a beautiful idea… to see the whole world as a Temple of God. And again, that spells out that it’s not a physical Temple if it’s everywhere.
Gene: It’s within you. You carry it with you. So wherever you go, there it is.
David: Right. And to make the world a “City of Peace” requires “Justice and Equity” which is the title of the next section.
Justice and Equity (07:50)
Gene: This section says that Justice and Equity are the characteristics of the “Princes of Jerusalem”. And that their duties are to “To reconcile disputes and heal dissensions, to restore amity and peace, to soothe dislikes and soften prejudices.”
David: Basically to be Peacemakers which we talked about in the 6th Degree.
Gene: Right. I’ve also got a quote from here which I’m going to paraphrase.
Gene: “Walk righteously and speak the truth. Don’t oppress the weak or shut your ears to their pain and suffering. And don’t take bribes or otherwise pervert justice for the rich and powerful.”
David: That’s a good summary of what Equity and Justice mean. Another thing I thought was interesting in this section was that it says that the emblems of the “Princes of Jerusalem” are “part of the language of Masonry; the same now as it was when Moses learned it from the Egyptian Hierophants.”
Gene: That touches on the idea that Masonry stretches back long beyond our established history, at least in the realm of ideas.
David: Right. And the primary emblem of Justice and Equity is the equal balanced scale which dates back to ancient Egypt.
Gene: That relates directly to the “Book of the Dead” and the weighing of a heart versus the weight of a feather.
David: And the feather that the heart was weighed against was the feather of Maat, a goddess who embodied the “concepts of truth, balance, order, harmony, law, morality, and justice.” Here’s a quote from the Wikipedia article on Maat, she represents the ethical and moral principle that all Egyptian citizens were expected to follow throughout their daily lives. They were expected to act with honor and truth in matters that involve family, the community, the nation, the environment, and God.”
Gene: Is that saying that Maat is the implementer of “Natural Law”?
David: It sure sounds that way doesn’t it.
Gene: Yeah. So, is that related to what our symbol for “Lady Justice” looks like? Is that our modern or Greek interpretation of Maat?
David: Yeah. I’m sure that’s the original source for that imagery.
Gene: I’ve always liked that she’s blindfolded. Judge not the exterior but what’s on the inside.
David: And also as you said earlier, not to pervert justice by tipping the scales toward the rich or the powerful. Do you have anything else in this section?
Labor is Noble and Ennobles the Spirit (10:18)
David: OK. The next section is “Labor is Noble and Ennobles the Spirit.” I like the quote in the first paragraph that says “Remember always that all Masonry is work, and that the trowel is an emblem of the Degrees in this Council. Labor, when rightly understood, is both noble and ennobling, and intended to develop man's moral and spiritual nature, and not to be deemed a disgrace or a Misfortune.”
Gene: That’s the basic theme of this section, that work shouldn’t be despised or seen as something to get over with so that you can do spiritual work. It’s part of our Masonic labor. Here’s a quote I had about that, “A life of labor is not a state of inferiority or degradation… Everything around us is, in its bearings and influences, moral.”
David: That’s true, but hard to see sometimes because work often seems like such a struggle. But, the last Degree was about turning adversity to our advantage and this Degree extends that theme to our work life. This section says that work is necessary to develop our human nature and potential. Here’s a quote, “Masonry teaches… its toiling children that the scene of their daily life is all spiritual, that the very implements of their toil, the fabrics they weave, the merchandise they barter, are designed for spiritual ends; and that so believing, their daily lot may be to them a sphere for the noblest improvement.”
Gene: It is. What we think of as “spiritual work” is really only preparation for the actual work. Here’s another quote - “That which we do in our intervals of relaxation, our church-going, and our book-reading, are especially designed to prepare our minds for the action of Life. We are to hear and to read and meditate, that we may act well; and the action of Life is itself the great field for spiritual improvement.”
David: That speaks to how we compartmentalize life and put it into categories. Eat. Drink. Work. Relax. Sex. Sleep… and then get up and do it all again. And maybe sneak in a little time in there to think about your spiritual life.
Gene: Yeah… maybe. If there’s any time left. While I was researching this section, I dug up a book from my library called “Work as a Spiritual Practice: A Practical Approach to Inner Growth and Satisfaction on the Job.”
David: That sounds like what this section’s about.
Gene: I’ll read a blurb from the book summary.
Gene: It says that “Its core message is one of spiritual empowerment, where every workplace situation,... can become an opportunity for spiritual growth… Meditate while sitting, walking, or standing… Perform spiritual practices while commuting to and from work.” It has over “forty spiritual exercises that can be practiced in the middle of a busy workday.”
David: Hmm. Actually that sounds like a way NOT to do what we’re talking about.
Gene: What do you mean by that?
David: I mean, that still sounds like trying to maintain a separation between work and your spiritual life. This Degree isn’t about doing spiritual exercises during your work day. It’s about seeing that work is part of a spiritual practice.
Gene: True… but as with anything you’ve got to approach the subject with steps. So this could point someone to at least beginning to interweave the practice into a work situation.
David: That’s a good point.
Gene: I mean with each degree, what are we doing? We’re stepping toward something. So it’s being present in your life and realizing that every interaction is a part of the whole and it means something.
David: Yeah. Every interaction. And my last quote for this section speaks to that - “All the relations of life, those of parent, child, brother, sister, friend, associate, lover… husband, and wife, are moral… They cannot subsist a day nor an hour without putting the mind to a trial of its truth, fidelity, forbearance, and disinterestedness.” It’s saying that every relationship we have is a test of our morality, judgment and most of all our intent.
Gene: It is. The ones closest to you are the ones hardest to deal with honestly. The closer someone is, the harder it is to pull back and be honest with yourself… or with them.
David: Can you imagine a world where everyone really told each other the 100% truth?
Gene: (Laugh) No.
David: Me either. But just realizing that makes you start looking at what your real motives and real intentions are in your relationships.
Gene: Yeah, the subtle traps we lay for ourselves in building relationships.
David: But, we all do it and it’s really different forms of manipulation.
Gene: Right. (laugh)
David: That we usually just rationalize as something we’re doing to spare someone else’s feelings.
Gene: (laugh) Yeah. It’s like another movie quote, “I can’t even make it through the day without five or six juicy rationalizations.”
David: What’s that from?
Gene: “Big Chill”.
David: There’s truth in that.
Gene: Yeah. A lot of times.
David: Do you have anything else in this section?
Gene: I’ve got one more quote, “A great city is one extended scene of moral action. There is no blow struck in it but has a purpose, ultimately (for) good or bad, and therefore moral. There is no action performed, but has a motive; and motives are the special jurisdiction of morality.”.
David: That’s good. Motives are your intentions and that quote points out that the real spiritual battleground is your mind and your imagination. That may sound really simplistic, but “There is a Secret in the Simplest Things”... which is the title of the next section. What do you have from this section?
There is a Secret in the Simplest Things (16:10)
Gene: The first paragraph says - “Everything acts upon and influences us. God's great law of sympathy and harmony is potent and inflexible as His law of gravitation. A sentence embodying a noble thought stirs our blood; a noise made by a child frets and exasperates us, and influences our actions… There is a secret in the simplest things.”
David: That speaks to the power of words and gestures and the effects they can have on you. Or that yours can have on others. Words can uplift you, or enrage you, or enchant you… or cut you to the bone.
Gene: “Words are weapons sharper than knives.”
David: Or even just a look. Which I think Jada Smith understands.
Gene: “She’s got the looks that kill.”
David: But seriously, that incident demonstrates the truth behind the myth of the “Evil Eye”.
Gene: Yeah it does. It’s a raw public example of that very thing. One look and suddenly, it’s revenge engaged.
David: And we’re all susceptible to the influence of words and gestures and also deal them out to other people. And that’s happening all the time… at every moment that we’re conscious.
Gene: It’s called being human my friend.
David: Yeah that’s true. Here’s another quote, “A world of spiritual objects, influences, and relations lies around us all. We all vaguely deem it to be so; but he only lives a charmed life, like that of genius and poetic inspiration, who communes with the spiritual scene around him, hears the voice of the spirit in every sound, sees its signs in every passing form of things, and feels its impulse in all action, passion, and being.”
Gene: That’s hard to remember. I mean, we take basic things around us just for granted.
David: That’s why people visit the pyramids or other sacred sites… or even the Smoky Mountains.
Gene: The most visited national park in the nation.
David: Yup. And there is great beauty and interesting things to see in those places, but there is close to home, too, if our eyes could just be opened to it.
Gene: I’ve got a quote for that.
Gene: “We are all naturally seekers of wonders. We travel far to see the majesty of old ruins, the venerable forms of the ancient mountains, great water-falls, and galleries of art. And yet the world-wonder is all around us; the wonder of the setting sun, and evening stars, of the magic spring-time, the blossoming of the trees, the strange transformations of the moth; the wonder of the Infinite Divinity and of His boundless revelation.” Again, it’s as close to you as the nose in front of your face. It’s right there all the time.
David: It is but as we’ve said, it’s hard to see the simple things that are really important, because they’re so familiar. I’ve got one more quote from this section, “all these are but the symbols of things, far greater and higher. All is but the clothing of the spirit…. in this show of circumstance and form stands revealed the stupendous reality. Let man but be, as he is, a living soul, communing with himself and with God, and his vision becomes eternity; his abode, infinity…”. Which reminds me of the William Blake quote, “If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is, Infinite. For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things thro' narrow chinks of his cavern.”
Gene: That’s one of the themes that we had in earlier chapter of how you view the world is how the world is. What is the filter you’re putting on the world? “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”
David: That’s right. It’s mankind’s ability to perceive beauty that gives it any meaning.
Gene: Which is a good lead-in to the next section - “Mankind is Endowed with Noble Virtues”.
Mankind is Endowed with Noble Virtues (20:09)
David: Do you have a quote to start off the section?
Gene: I do. “The beauty of Love, the charm of Friendship, the sacredness of Sorrow, and the heroism of Patience, the noble Self-sacrifice, these and their like alone, make life to be life indeed and are its grandeur and its power. They are the priceless treasures and glory of humanity.”
David: And what’s interesting about all of those “noble virtues” that you just mentioned, is that they’re a function of your consciousness and perception and your interaction with the outside world and other people.
Gene: Right. It’s both within and without. That's the process that we've been trying to go through all along, to become co-creators. To work with natural law and become one with the Universe or one with the “Master Architect”, however you want to phrase it.
David: And this section implores us to use our co-creative power to make the world a better place. Here’s my last quote for the chapter - “The million occasions will come to us, in the ordinary paths of our life… in which we may restrain our passions, subdue our hearts… resign our own interest for another's advantage, speak words of kindness and wisdom, raise the fallen… and soften and assuage the weariness and bitterness of their mortal lot. To every Mason there will be opportunity enough for these. They cannot be written on his tomb; but they will be written deep in the hearts of men, of friends, of children, of kindred all around him, in the book of the great account, and, in their eternal influences, on the great pages of the Universe.”
Gene: Every interaction sends out ripples.
David: It does. And that’s the Masonic and the human ideal.
Gene: And through building the temple in your heart you become closer to that and embody it. I’ve got one more quote which sums it up. “To such a destiny… let us all aspire! These laws of Masonry let us all strive to obey! And so may our hearts become true temples of the Living God!”
The Degree Apron (22:23)
David: That’s a great quote to end our discussion of the Degree Lecture. Let’s move on and talk a little about the symbols of the Degree - the Apron, the Cordon and the Jewel. Let’s start with the Apron.
Gene: The Degree Apron is crimson with a gold border representing the “Golden Dawn” of hope. On the flap is the “Hand of Justice” holding a balance in equilibrium. Below is a representation of the Second Temple. On one side is a sword and belt with the letter ‘T’ above it. On the other side is a square and triangle with the letter ‘A’ above it.
David: The “Ritual - Monitor and Guide” says that the sword and belt are emblems of the military profession and Knighthood and that the square and triangle are emblems of the character of a Mason. What do you think about the letters T & A?
Gene: The book says that it stands for the “... initials of names of the two months Tebeth and Adat.” to commemorate their return from captivity and the completion of the Second temple.
David: Also, In Hebrew, ‘T’ is Teth and stands for “snake” among other things. It’s above the sword and belt, so maybe it represents the opposition faced and overcome in the rebuilding of the Temple.
Gene: That makes sense.
David: ‘A’ in Hebrew is Aleph which means “ox goad” and also “to learn”. It’s above the Triangle over the Square. We’ve discussed that the Triangle stands for Divinity and the Square for the material world, so the Triangle over the Square symbolizes the character of a “Prince of Jerusalem.”
Gene: Yeah, OK. Or the “ox goad” being the control of power or the control of yourself.
David: What exactly is an “ox goad” anyway?
Gene: It’s a steering and a pulling mechanism. It’s the harness that the ox can put his shoulders into and direct the power.
David: That fits with the symbolism of the Degree. A “Prince of Jerusalem” has attained power and must learn to direct and use it during their labor in the field of life.
Gene: That’s good. The “Monitor & Guide” points out that the apron is earned. It says, “Masons in this and the higher degrees wear the apron in order that they may never forget that they attained their high rank and dignity by means of Masonic labor alone”.
David: You mean it’s not an attendance award?
Gene: No. It’s not.
David: Alright, let’s move on to the Cordon.
Cordon of the Degree (24:52)
Gene: The Cordon is again the color of the “Golden Dawn”. It has the “Hand of Justice” holding an upright sword. Below the hand are two crowns, another equally balanced set of scales in the middle of which are five stars around a dagger. Suspended from the Cordon is a Trowel.
David: The “Ritual - Monitor & Guide” says that the two crowns represent civil and religious authority.
Gene: And the Trowel symbolizes the work required to rebuild the Temple. The book also says that the dagger represents the one Ehud used to kill Eglon, King of Moab. What’s that about?
David: Yeah. I thought that was strange, too. I looked it up. That refers to a story in Judges 3:12-30 about a Judge of Israel, before the reign of David and Solomon who killed a King that oppressed Israel.
Gene: So… “death to tyrants”?
David: Yeah, and also that to execute fair judgment sometimes requires the use of force… even lethal force. What do you think about the four stars around the dagger and one above the point?
Gene: The book says that it represents the first five “Princes of Jerusalem”. And also Spirit over Matter, or the spiritual ideal over the material.
David: And that interpretation mirrors the symbolism of the Triangle over the Square in the apron.
Gene: Right. And also the Masonic symbol - square and compass.
David: Yes. All of those symbols refer to the same concept. The Spiritual over the Physical. OK. Let’s talk about the Jewel of the Degree.
Jewel of the Degree (26:26)
Gene: On one side of the Jewel is once again, the “Hand of Justice” holding an equally balanced set of scales. On the reverse is a cross-hilted double-edged sword pointed upward, again surrounded by five stars with one above the point. On one side of the sword is the letter ‘D’ and on the other side the letter ‘Z’.
David: ‘D’ in Hebrew is the letter “Daleth” which means “door” and ‘Z’ is “Zayin” which means “sword”. So, the door of the Temple and the sword to protect it?
Gene: Or Darius and Zerubbabel.
David: Was that in the book?
Gene: Umm… yeah.
Gene: There again is a reference to scales. The balance of the opposites.
David: That’s good. Darius could represent the Western Kingdom and Zerubbabel the East.
Gene: And in our previous one with the bridge over the water. That was the balancing point between the two different sides.
David: And that was point was the point of conflict for Zerubbabel. He had to fight off robbers there. And there were body parts floating in the river beneath the bridge.
Gene: You know, kind of like a “Bridge Over Troubled Waters”... with body parts in it.
David: That’s funny, but it’s great symbolism for the conflict of opposites and the point of equilibrium. The “Hand of Justice” and scales in equilibrium is on the Apron, the Cordon and the Jewel of the Degree.
Gene: Does that hand also represent your own consciousness? You’re trying to emulate the “Hand of Justice” in your own self. And Justice and Equity is a main theme of the Degree.
David: It is. It also makes me think about the theme of the “Chapter of Rose Croix” - “The Unification of Opposites.”
Gene: In what way?
David: The other theme of this Degree was that work and relationships, like adversity in the previous degree, can be viewed as an integral part of our spiritual development. It’s a mistake to view them as opposed to, or not a part of that process.
Gene: So it’s another apparent opposite for us to overcome and/or balance.
David: Exactly. And you know where that reconciliation has to take place.
Gene: In our minds. In our consciousness. Where we make all our distinctions.
David: Right. So this Degree is another step in overcoming apparent opposites. The 15th Degree described how we might be able to view adversity differently and turn it to our benefit. This Degree demonstrates the same technique for viewing our work life and our relationships.
Gene: It’s really all just one thing, but our mind divides it, categorizes it and labels it.
David: And that’s great. We need to do that to make sense of the world, but it can also mislead us and eventually, keeps us from seeing the Truth.
Gene: Which is…
David: In this Degree, it's that the separation we keep in our minds between our spiritual life and the rest of our life is an illusion. It’s an artificial separation that we need to overcome… or at least see in a way that we can turn to our advantage.
Gene: That’s a great summary.
David: Before we end, I’ve got one more thing. The 15th Degree was “Knight of the East”. This Degree is “Prince of Jerusalem”. A knight is called into service when some adversity needs to be overcome, but Princes are on stage all the time. Every interaction of a Prince is being watched and they are usually trained from their youth to know and understand this fact and to act accordingly. This Degree calls on us to begin to watch every interaction at work, at home and in all our relationships and see them for what they really are - opportunities for spiritual growth.
Gene: It’s not a part-time on the weekend kind of thing. It is 24/7.
David: True that. Anything else?
Gene: Nope. I think we’re good.
David: Alright. What are we doing next time?
Gene: In our next episode, we discuss the 17th Degree - Knight of the East and West.
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.