In this episode, we discuss the 19th Degree - “Grand Pontiff” 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.
Gene: Are you ready to build bridges?
David: Is that what we’re doing in this Degree?
Gene: Pontiff means “bridge builder”.
David: OK… 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. This Degree begins a new series of “Chivalric” degrees in the “Council of Kadosh”. The “Council of Kadosh” includes this degree, the 19th, through the 30th degree, and then the last three degrees are called the “Consistory”.
The Council of Kadosh (01:49)
Gene: That’s right… in the Southern Jurisdiction of the Scottish Rite in the United States, but I know in Canada, and maybe other jurisdictions, the “Council of Kadosh” degrees are part of the “Consistory”.
David: Hmm. So, what are the degrees in the “Council of Kadosh” about?
Gene: “A Bridge to Light” says that “although Pike identifies them as chivalric or philosophical, they are all intensely mystical with respect to the lessons conveyed and symbols employed.” The word “Kadosh” is a Hebrew word that’s usually translated as “holy”, but a better translation would be “separated”. The root of the word, Kaph-Daleth-Shin, can also be translated as “unclean” or “defiled”.
David: That seems strange for it to mean both “holy” and “defiled”.
Gene: It does seem strange, but the translation of “separated” or “set apart” makes sense. It’s basically the idea behind “priesthood”. To be “set apart” from others means that you’re following a different set of rules, or living by a different standard… so there’s a separation there. If you break those rules, you become “unclean” or “defiled”... or at least, you missed the mark that you were aiming for. The bottom line is that if you define what “holy” means, then you implicitly define “unholy”.
David: That’s a good point.
Gene: Here’s a quote from “A Bridge To Light” about that - “Certainly those persons who are Holy are separated from the rest of humanity. The mission of Masonry is not to create “Holy Men” but to set apart from the rest of humanity those exemplary men who practice her noble virtues in pursuit of Truth. The degrees within the council are designed to further explore the moral, political and religious lessons taught in the Lodge of Perfection and the Chapter of (the) Rose Croix… The examination of widely varied religions of the world that occurs in the Council Degrees seeks to explain as clearly and accurately as possible the nature of Deity and the relationship between him and mankind.”
David: Cool. Do you have anything else about the “Council of Kadosh” before we discuss the Degree?
Gene: I’ve got one more quote that says - “To understand and accept the arguments presented in both the ceremonies and the lectures of the “Council of Kadosh” is to begin developing a rational, coherent and consistent philosophy, the first step in making a good man, a better man… The development of such a philosophy is a lifelong Pursuit…. we must learn through study, reflection, and attendance at the reunions.”
David: And speaking of attending at the reunions… Gene and I are “coincidentally” supposed to participate in the 19th Degree Ritual at the “Valley of Knoxville” on the day before this podcast comes out. I’m scheduled to be the “Master of Ceremonies”.
Gene: And I will be “Evil Spirit #6”. Mo ha ha ha ha ha! That’s all I really have to do is run around in a hooded robe and scare people.
Gene: No, Actually, I’m supposed to represent some of the doubts that infests the heart of man.
David: Right. But dude.. you’ve really got that laugh down though! Anyway, that’s a bit about the “Council of Kadosh”. What’s the “Degree Ritual” about this time?
Degree Ritual (05:11)
Gene: The “Ritual - Monitor and Guide” says that “This degree is founded upon certain apocalyptic mysteries relating to the New Jerusalem; it rests upon the three characteristic virtues taught in the 18th degree, and proclaims the Alpha and the Omega.”
David: How is the ritual space decorated?
Gene: The room is decorated with blue hangings sprinkled with gold stars. The Venerable Pontiff sits on a throne in the East. He wears a white satin robe and holds a scepter in his hand. On his breast is the Jewish High Priest’s Breastplate. Around the room are twelve columns representing the twelve signs of the zodiac starting with Aries in the East and going counterclockwise. Each of the columns has the initial letter of one of the “Twelve Tribes of Israel” engraved on it.
David: So that associates each tribe with a sign of the zodiac.
Gene: Correct. And the tribes are said to be “emblematical of the human race” meaning different types of people. The ritual also makes direct analogies to the “Twelve Tribes” in the Old Testament, and to the “Twelve Apostles” in the New. It says that the “The twelve Apostles are to us the type of all those who have labored to reform, instruct, and elevate mankind.”
David: It makes me think of the twelve “Knights of the Round Table”, too. The “Master of Ceremonies” leads the candidate around to each of the twelve columns and gives a little speech about each of the twelve tribes. I’ll read the last of these that’s given about the tribe of Naphtali. It says - “Naphtali believes, hopes, waits and is patient. Believes that all death is new life; all destruction and dissolution, recombination and reproduction; all evil and affliction, is but the mode of this great genesis that shall not be eternal. Hopes for the time when this incessant flux and change shall cease and the new “Law of Love” rules over all existence. And waits with patience the fulfillment of the inviolable promises of God.”
Gene: So after the MC walks the Candidate around the twelve columns, he’s confronted and told that, “All who will not worship the Beast with the seven heads and ten horns, and upon his horns ten crowns, and the mysterious name upon his forehead, shall be slain. All… shall receive on their right hand, or on their forehead, his mark, his name, and the number of his name. That number is 666. Without it they shall neither buy nor sell; for his is power, dominion, and the authority of the Great Dragon - man, helpless and in darkness. Will you receive his mark, that you may emerge to light?”
David: So, what happens after you get it?
David: I’m kidding. I’m just kidding.
Gene: But yes, all kidding aside, you are supposed to refuse it. The Ritual goes on to say that “If any man worships the Beast and his image and receives his mark, he shall drink the wine of God’s indignation and be banished from the presence of the holy angels and of the Word of the Redeemer. Remorse shall torture those who worship the Beast and receive the mark of his name, and they shall have no rest.”
David: So what happens next?
Gene: Literally “The Apocalypse”. The angels pour out the seven vials on the earth as described in the Bible in Revelation Chapter 16.
David: And those cause all sorts of death and destruction. What is that supposed to mean?
Gene: In the Ritual, it’s likened to the complete annihilation of the old world view and values. It says, “Intolerance, that great Babylon, is no more. The chains imposed by fraud upon the human mind, the manacles and fetters fastened by force upon free thought, have fallen. Power, fraud, and falsehood, thought impregnable, have also fallen.”
David: So if it’s only about letting go of things, why are they symbolized by such horrific images?
Gene: My take is that it's only horrific if you’re holding onto things that you should let go of. It’s the Buddhist concept of attachment. That it’s your desires that cause the agony. But I think what the Ritual is saying is that,... if you can let go of all of that, then you’re worthy to become a “Priest of the Order of Melchizedek”.
David: Who is Melchizedek?
Gene: Well, we’ll talk about him more a little later, but the Degree Ritual says that Melchizedek is called the “King of Salem” or the “King of Peace” and also “Priest of the Most High God”. “He met Abraham returning from the slaying of the kings and blessed him, and Abraham gave him a tenth of the spoils.”
David: OK. Anything else about the Degree Ritual?
Gene: One more thing. It ends with the “New Jerusalem” coming out of the sky and becoming the “New Earth”, which doesn’t need the Sun or the Moon anymore for light. It’s lit by its own light. That scene is also on the Tracing Board of the Degree.
David: Alright. So, what is the purpose of the Degree?
Purpose of the Degree (10:18)
Gene: It says that “Once enlightenment and proper conduct free a man from the bondage of servile and base behavior, the structures of the old and faulty systems of belief are shattered and destroyed; symbolized by the Angels pouring out their vials. For when evil, symbolized by Darkness, destroys itself, naught is left but the Light. Truth alone endures because it is real; all else is illusion.”
David: If you really did that, destroyed all the illusions about yourself and the world, it would have to completely change your point of view.
Gene: Absolutely. And that change is reflected in the theme of the degrees from this point on. It says that “The degrees no longer speak of building the Temple, but of building the New City, referring to the day when all mankind will live together according to the principles extolled by Masonry.”
David: And I take it from the title of the Degree, “Grand Pontiff”, that we’re ordained as a Priest of this endeavor?
Gene: I guess so. In the Ritual, you’re made a “Priest of the Order of Melchizedek” and told to “Be true and faithful to God, to duty and to yourself. This entitles you to be called a Pontiff, or “bridge builder”, able to make your way in the Labyrinth of life.”
Morals and Dogma (11:34)
David: OK. Let’s see what Pike has to say about the “Grand Pontiff” in the Lecture of the Degree. Using Arturo De Hoyas’ annotations as a guide, you can see that the Chapter borrows liberally from Eliphas Levi’s “History of Magic”.
Gene: And again, thank you Brother De Hoyas for the excellent annotations and commentary. It really helps in reading and studying this book.
David: It does. So, what’s the first thing you have from the Lecture?
Gene: The first thing I have is a quote, which says “The true Mason labors for the benefit of those who are to come after him, and for (their) advancement and improvement... That is a poor ambition which contents itself within the limits of a single life. All… who deserve to live, desire to survive their funerals… That is an instinctive impulse, given by God… the surest proof of the soul's immortality, and of the fundamental difference between man and the wisest brutes.”
David: There’s the idea of separation again, the difference between man and animals.
Gene: And also, more to the point of the Chapter, the separation of the living and the dead. And the desire to bridge that gap and, as it said, to “survive your funeral” and to have an effect on the world after your death.
David: I like that it said that “all who deserve to live” want to do something that outlasts their life here.
Our Actions Continue After We Die (12:59)
Gene: Yeah. We’ve discussed in previous degrees that “Our Actions Continue After We Die”.
David: We have… and Pike reinforces that notion in this Chapter by telling stories about the influence that many famous historical figures had, and still have, on the world. He mentions Moses, Napoleon, Mohammed, Confucious, Plato, Peter the Great and Jesus. I have a quote from this section about Napoleon that says he “died upon the barren rock of his exile… (but) his Thoughts still govern France.”
Gene: And throughout Europe and the World really.
Gene: There was a quote in there about Mohammed that says - “The law of Mahomet still governs a fourth of the human race… and he, and not the living, rules and reigns in the fairest portions of the Orient.”
The Dead Govern, and the Living Obey (13:46)
David: And that’s the main point. After you accept the idea that your actions live beyond you, Pike hits you with the concept that the ideas of the dead carry more weight than the living!
Gene: I know. That’s very strange, but true on so many levels. It’s the system of government you live under, the religion you follow, the traditions of your family. Here’s a quote about that, “It is the Dead that govern. The Living only obey. And if the Soul sees, after death, what passes on this earth, and watches over the welfare of those it loves, then must its greatest happiness consists in seeing the current of its beneficent influences widening out from age to age… and its bitterest punishment, in seeing its evil influences causing mischief and misery.”
David: You just described a very real version of Heaven and Hell. Just seeing what Good or Evil you’ve contributed to and the fruits it bears in your family and even the long-term effects on society as a whole.
Gene: Yeah. That’s heavy.
David: It is. Another place says - “We think and believe as the old Lords of Thought command us; and Reason is powerless before Authority.”
Gene: Pike called that authority the “arm of the dead” reaching out from the grave. The quote I had about that says, “About to sin or err, the thought or wish of our dead mother, told (to) us when we were children… and many a long year were forgotten, flashes on our memory, and holds us back with a power that is resistless.”
Gene: You could say that memories like that are like the dead haunting you… or helping you… but either way, it's the past shaping the present.
David: That’s a good way to put it. I’ve got one more quote to summarize this section. It says - “Thus we obey the dead… The Thoughts of the Past are the Laws of the Present and the Future. That which we say and do, if its effects last not beyond our lives, is unimportant. That which shall live when we are dead...is the only act worth doing, the only thought worth speaking.”
Gene: And in typical Pike fashion, he says that if you don’t receive “slander and persecution” for following the “Path of Truth”, then to expect “apathy and cold indifference”. I thought that was funny.
Sow, that Others May Reap (16:06)
David: Yeah, I did, too. As we’ve talked about in previous degrees, the point isn’t to get acknowledgment or rewards anyway.
Gene: Right. The Lecture says that we must be willing “To sow, that others may reap; to work and plant for those who are to occupy the earth when we are dead; to project our influences far into the future, and live beyond our time; to rule as the Kings of Thought.”
David: The implication there is that most influence takes time and the Lecture makes the analogy between the slow process of things coming to fruition and cycles in nature.
We Build Slowly and Destroy Quickly (16:43)
Gene: Yeah. Natural processes, or really the creative processes of nature, take time to come to fruition. But the Lecture also says that “We (like nature) Build Slowly and Destroy Quickly”. It says, “All the great and beneficent operations of Nature are produced by slow and often imperceptible degrees. The work of destruction and devastation only is violent and rapid. The Volcano and the Earthquake, the Tornado and the Avalanche, leap suddenly into full life and fearful energy, and smite with an unexpected blow.”
David: In the previous degrees, the constructive or creative forces were symbolized by Light and the destructive forces which work against, or at least appear to work against Divine Providence or “God’s Will” were symbolized by Darkness.
Gene: It reminds me of when Faust asks Mephistopheles “Who are you then?", he replies with "I am part of that power which eternally wills evil and eternally works good.”
David: Right. If you believe in One Reality, there is no “working against” really. Everything is an emanation from the source.
Gene: Which links the Gnostic concept of emanations back to the Kabbalah and the lower seven Sephiroth of the “Tree of Life”. The Lecture again reinforces that the Kabbalah is the key to understanding the book of Revelation. It says that “The Apocalypse, that sublime Kabalistic and prophetic summary of all the occult figures,divides its image into three Septenaries, after each of which there is silence in Heaven. There are Seven Seals to be opened, that is to say, seven mysteries to know, and seven difficulties to overcome, Seven trumpets to sound, and Seven cups to empty.”
David: All the sevens. And this degree covers the very last seven. The seven vials.
Gene: Yes, so it’s what you might call the end of… the end of time. In other words, It’s time to face the “Boss of the Level”.
Lucifer Blinds and Deceives Selfish Souls With His “Light” (18:49)
David: Yeah… you know what’s coming up next.
Gene: Yeah. The quote in this section is one that some people use to associate Freemasonry with “Devil Worship”.
David: Do you want to read that quote?
Gene: Sure. Why not? “The Apocalypse is, to those who receive the nineteenth Degree, the Apotheosis of that Sublime Faith which aspires to God alone, and despises all the pomps and works of Lucifer. LUCIFER, the Light-bearer! Strange and mysterious name to give to the Spirit of Darkness! Lucifer, the Son of the Morning! Is it he who bears the Light, and with its splendors… blinds feeble, sensual, or selfish Souls? Doubt it not! For traditions are full of Divine Revelations and Inspirations: and Inspiration is not of one Age nor of one Creed.”
Gene: That’s not saying to worship Satan… but what do you really think it’s saying?
David: It says a light that blinds weak, sensual or selfish souls. I think it’s saying that you can be inspired or have a revelation about reality and still be self-centered. If you still see yourself as weak, inspiration might lead you to seek power. If you’re sensual, you might seek fame, you know, collect a following. If you’re selfish, you’d probably start acting like you were a God, blessed with secret knowledge. Buy a mansion or an island, a few Rolls Royces…
Gene: Yeah. To quote L. Ron, “You don’t get rich by writing science fiction. You get rich by starting a religion.”
David: Yeah, there you go! But the point is that inspiration comes through someone. In terms of Masonry… ask King Solomon for an example. Right?
Gene: That’s true. He fell… royally. I mean because he was King.
Gene : And also the quote-unquote “Wisest Man in the World” he fell a long way, and took Israel along with him.
David: Right. His mistakes ultimately led to the fall of the first Temple and the “Babylonian Captivity”.
Gene: So, what’s the lesson here? How are you supposed to escape that “Luciferian Light”?
David: It’s the whole idea behind sacrifice. You have to give up something lower for something higher.
Gene: So, you have to “kill the beast”, so to speak, to free yourself and set yourself apart, as you’re supposed to do in this Degree. That’s what sacrificing animals in Solomon’s time was supposed to symbolize.
David: But the “New Law” is that after you’ve seen a man embody it and live out… then what was only symbolic before has now been acted out in the flesh. You’re supposed to get the point.
Gene: Which is?
David: Which is to overcome the animal part or defeat Lucifer, if you will, and embody your spiritual principles, all the way through to your own death.
Gene: Knowing that you’re not just an animal.
The Apocalypse and the Symbolic Attributes of God (21:51)
David: Right. And the Lecture says that the book of Revelation is a cryptic guidebook toward that realization. It says, “The Apocalypse, indeed, is a book as obscure as the Sohar. It is written hieroglyphically with numbers and images; and the Apostle often appeals to the intelligence of the Initiated. "Let him who hath knowledge, understand! let him who understands, calculate!" he often says, after an allegory or the mention of a number. Saint John, the favorite Apostle, and the Depositary of all the Secrets of the Saviour, therefore did not write to be understood by the multitude.”
Gene: That quote goes on to say that “The Sephar Yezirah, (and) the Sohar, and the Apocalypse are the completest embodiments of Occultism. They contain more meanings than words; their expressions are figurative as poetry and exact as numbers. The Apocalypse sums up, completes, and surpasses all the Science of Abraham and of Solomon… and their symbols are as little understood by the commentators, as those of Freemasonry.”
The Three Principles of Being (22:54)
David: The main symbol of the last degree was the Logos. In this Lecture, Pike discusses the idea of the “Holy Spirit” or “Holy Ghost” in Christianity.
Gene: Yeah. I thought about that in the last degree. It seemed to not make a distinction between the “Creative Force” in general and its expression in you, which is my picture of the “Holy Spirit” in Christianity or maybe the Shekinah in Judaism.
David: The distinction is between the indwelling spirit and the transpersonal creative word, which is the Logos. Pike describes the distinction in the “Three Principles of Being”, the first of which is “Being is Being”.
Gene: “I am that I am”.
David: Yes. The beginning that is, was and will be. The “First Cause” or Reason.
Gene: The Father. The Source of Light.
David: Right. The second principle is “Being is Real”. Which I think is referring to things that exist, so every created thing would embody this principle. This is the Logos, the Word, the “Reason that Speaks”.
Gene: Which would be the Son. “All things were made through Him.”
David: Yes. And the third principle is “Being is Logic”. This is the way the Logos is realized in the world through Divine Providence and as the Lecture says, “that which makes real the Good”.
Gene: That’s what I wasn’t seeing in the last Degree. The whole “Holy Trinity”.
The Four Worlds of Kabbalah (24:18)
David: But this degree completes it. And repeats the message once again that Kabbalah is the key to unlocking the mysteries of the higher degrees.
Gene: One concept that was discussed in the Lecture that we haven’t talked about much before is the “Four Worlds” of the Kabbalah, which is another way to look at emanations. There are four stages or worlds that things go through from thought to actuality. The highest world is Atziluth, the world of “emanations”, the next is Briah - “creation”, then Yetzirah - “formation” and lastly, Assiah which means “making”.
David: Things are emanated, created, formed and then made.
Gene: Right. If you’re building a house, you first have the idea of “Hey, I would like to build a house.” Then you CREATE some sort of image of it in your mind which you FORM into a blueprint, an exact image of what you want and finally, you MAKE the house.
David: The Lecture associates the “Four Worlds” of Kabbalah with the four letters of the Tetragrammaton and four varying length names of God.
Gene: Yes. The name with only the letter Yod symbolizes the first “emanation” of Light, or the Father. The two-lettered name, Yod-Heh, is the Logos, the “creative force”, or the Son. And the three-lettered name with the Vav is the “Holy Spirit”. The full four-lettered name represents the complete manifestation of God in the Universe.
David: OK. I have one more quote that summarizes the Lecture for me. It says - “The Word is the reason of belief, and in it also is the expression of the Faith which makes Science a living thing. The Word, (the) Logos‚ is the Source of Logic. Jesus is the Word Incarnate. The accord of the Reason with Faith, of Knowledge with Belief, of Authority with Liberty, (and) has become in modern times the veritable enigma of the Sphinx.”
Gene: The enigma is that, like you said in the last Degree, it’s wired into us as humans… to judge Good and Evil. My last quote from Lecture is “It is by His uttered Word that God reveals Himself to us… in our convictions, consciousness, and instincts. Hence it is that certain beliefs are universal. The conviction of all men that God is good led to a belief in a Devil, the fallen Lucifer or Light-bearer… as an attempt to explain the existence of Evil, and make it consistent with the Infinite Power, Wisdom, and Benevolence of God.”
Jewel of the Degree (26:56)
David: Which again points to some underlying human instinct to try to balance things out, to find an equilibrium. It’s inside, but we project it outside.
Gene: We saw that symbolized in the last degree with the double-sided regalia.
David: This time, the “Jewel of the Degree” has the Hebrew letter Aleph on one side and Tav on the other.
Gene: Aleph is the first letter and Tav is the last. So, it’s the “Alpha and the Omega”.
David: The figure in John’s vision identified himself as the “Alpha and Omega”.
Melchizedek, Priest of the Most High God (27:27)
Gene: The “Beginning and the End”... which interestingly, ties the figure in John’s vision to a very mysterious figure from the Old Testament that we talked about earlier… Melchizedek.
David: What’s the connection?
Gene: Melchizedek is not only described as a “Priest of the Most High God”, but he’s described as “Without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days, nor end of life; but made like unto the Son of God; (he) abideth a priest continually.”
David: Melchizedek abides?
Gene: Dude… yes indeed. But really, everything that’s said about him is strange and cryptic.
David: So, the Degree seems to be saying that the understanding of the symbolism of John’s vision is entrusted to the “Priests of the Order of Melchizedek”?
Gene: Yeah. I think it is. In the Biblical book of Hebrews, it says that Jesus was a “Priest of the Order of Melchizedek.” How’s that different from the Levite priesthood? Weren’t they the tribe that the Priests were selected from?
David: It is. But in this tradition, it’s a separate lineage. David was from the tribe of Judah. So Jesus wasn’t from the tribe of the Levites, or the Priests.
Gene: Maybe he was meant to show the way beyond the priesthood? To find your own personal way to God? Well, it seems obvious now that I said it out loud.
David: No one can do it for you.
Gene: Right. It’s just the truth of existence. So, the “Order of Melchizedek” is the “Order of Truth”. Embodied reason.
The Breastplate of the High Priest (29:00)
David: Yes. Supposedly the ones who set themselves apart enough to live their own Truth. So, what do you think the breastplate of the “High Priest”, with its twelve different colored stones, means here?
Gene: Well, twelve is used all through the Degree. The twelves stones, the “Twelve Tribes of Israel”, the “Twelve Disciples”, the “Twelve Gates” of the New Jerusalem. I guess they all refer to the zodiac.
David: As opposed to all the sevens in the 17th Degree, which referred to the “Seven Ancient Planets” and also to the Kabbalah.
Gene: Yeah. The sevens were associated with the lower seven sephirah of the “Tree of Life”.
David: Revelation 22: 2 says - that the “Tree of Life” grows in the “New Jerusalem” and bares
“twelve manner of fruits” one for each month. So you have the seven active principles, the planets that move through the zodiac. And the zodiac is twelve seasons or circumstances that those forces play out in.
Gene: Yeah. Ecclesiastes 3 says “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, a time to reap that which is planted… etc, etc.”
David: That points out that timing is very important. The same actions, done at different times, may have very different results.
Gene: Exactly. I think of it in terms of music. You’ve got your seven notes and the twelve ways those notes are expressed in an octave. Sharps and flats. Flavors or different expressions of the seven notes.
The New Jerusalem (30:36)
David: That’s a nice analogy. One other thing I thought about the number twelve. The “New Jerusalem” is described as a Cube and a Cube has twelve edges.
Gene: That’s maybe why they’re symbolized by gates of the “New Jerusalem”.
David: I think so. The Cube is a perfect model for our observable Universe.
Gene: What do you mean?
David: The twelve edges are the zodiac and the six sides are the planets with the Sun at the center of the Cube.
Gene: And it says that there’s no longer a Sun or Moon. The “New Jerusalem” is lit with its own Light.
David: That’s because you are the Sun. You’re made a “Priest of the Order of Melchizedek” at the altar at the center of the twelve columns, at the center of this “Cube of Space”.
Gene: That speaks again to a radical change of perspective. The Apocalypse of the “Old World”, the geocentric or ego-centric worldview.
David: It does. That’s why the “Tracing Board” shows the old world destroyed beneath the descending “New Jerusalem”. And again, back to the word “Kadosh” meaning separated. If you go through a dramatic change like that in your world view, you can’t help but feel separated from people.
Gene: And even from what you used to believe in… or be.
The Mark of the Beast (31:51)
David: You referred to this as a “Boss Level” a little while ago.
Gene: Yeah. I did. I mean… this is where Pike brings up Lucifer.
David: And it includes another very touchy subject.
Gene: “The Mark of the Beast”.
David: Yes. And we’ve been joking about it, but only because we both knew we were going to have to discuss it because it plays a part in the Degree Ritual.
Gene: Guilty as charged. Um… so I’m going to toss the “hot potato”. Dave - what do you think it means to accept the “Mark of the Beast”?
David: Do you know why I think that question is so misunderstood?
Gene: Why is that?
David: Because once it’s pointed out what it means, it’s too painfully obvious.
Gene: OK. Hit me.
David: Alright. If you read it in a literal way, the obvious question is “Who is the Beast?”
David: But, of course, as we know by now, that’s not the way to read that. It’s a symbol. Think about it…. after all the other Degree work we’ve done, what does it mean to you personally, to overcome “The Beast”?
Gene: Well… once you put it like that! Yeah. OK. It means overcoming the beastly part of yourself, the sensual, worldly part of yourself. But what about “The Mark of the Beast”? What is that?
David: It’s a mark that separates people. Those who accept it and those that don’t, the Kadosh.
Gene: That makes sense. But, what does it mean?
David: The “Mark of the Beast” is the imprint of nature. A person in this state is sometimes referred to as a “Man of Nature”, a “Natural Man” or a “Carnal Man”. Which all mean living a life not guided by higher principles and reason, but according to nature and the urges of the body. In other words, being guided by the “beastly” or animal part of ourselves.
Gene: Well, to live requires some animal needs, but if that’s all you’re living for, you’re living like an animal.
David: Right. And the “Mark of the Beast” is the same for everyone who lives that way.
David: It means you haven’t spiritually separated yourself from the herd.
Gene: OK. But what’s the whole “Number of the Beast” 666 thing?
King Solomon is The Beast (34:01)
David: Well, the answer I have for that is a very strange one.
Gene: “You don’t know where I’ve been man.”
David: OK, well it starts with the fact that the only other reference to 666 in the Bible is 1 Kings 10 where it’s describing the amount of gold Solomon receives in tribute every month. So, when it says the number is the number of a man, in the Bible it seems that that man is Solomon.
Gene: I’ve always heard that it's a reference to the Sun. 666 is the sum of the numbers one to thirty-six, which is associated with the six-by-six grid called the “Magic Square of the Sun”.
David: But again, Sol-o-mon. Sol is the Sun. Solomon is the Sun King. He’s like the Candidate, identified with the Sun. At the center of his own universe. A “wheel rolling out of its own center” if you will.
Gene: I think that’s cool and all, but how could Solomon be “The Beast”?
David: Because he represents someone who made it to “Boss Level” or whatever, and then went “Dark Side”. I mean, think about it. As we said, his fall led to the fall of the First Temple and of Jerusalem.
Gene: That’s true.
David: The Biblical account says he became proud, then fell into lust and idolatry. So… selfishness, sensuality and weakness. Where have you heard that before?
Gene: That’s the type of person that the Lecture says Lucifer leads astray. Wow.
David: So, in a sense, Solomon is like Lucifer, he fell out of pride.
No Buying or Selling (35:38)
Gene: And took the Jewish people along with him. So, why does it say that you can’t buy or sell without the Mark?
David: Well, the short answer is “Money doesn't grow on trees”.
David: By that I mean that buying and selling aren’t part of nature, they’re part of the social world. If you’re totally separated from that, from the social world… where’s the money coming from to pay for your food or anything else?
Gene: That’s a good question. So how are you supposed to live and not accept the Mark?
David: That is a good question. How do you live in the world and still be separated and not marked by it…
Gene: Or scarred by it.
David: Exactly. You’re in a body, you can’t escape that fact. But how do you live a spiritual life and not allow your physicality and the material world to totally define who you are? It says you get a new name that no one knows but you if you don’t accept the Mark.
Gene: Meaning you’re either unique, or you’re just a beast. Do you live a human life or not? That’s a really interesting take. Solomon was a hero of the earlier degrees, but here he symbolizes a Luciferian fall from grace. It reminds me of the movie quote - “You either die a hero or you live long enough to become the villain.”
The New Law (36:53)
David: It’s the thing about timing again. Times change. It’s like the Olympians unseating the Titans. What was appropriate at one time is no longer appropriate. The “Law of Solomon” no longer rules.
Gene: So “An eye for an eye” is replaced with the “Law of Love”?
David: Exactly. Do you remember how Solomon dealt with the three ruffians representing ignorance, intolerance and desire?
Gene: The ruffians had their heads cut off and put on pikes (pardon the pun)...
Gene: … at the gates of the Temple.
David: Well, in this Degree, right after being ordained a “Priest of the Order of Melchizedek”, you step on a three-headed serpent.
Gene: So why the change in symbolism?
David: Because here the forces that oppose the Light, those that brought down even Solomon, are put under heel to symbolically fulfill the prophecy that the serpent would bruise the heel of humanity, but eventually, one would come to bruise its head. You are the One.
Gene: It’s the image of Michael defeating Satan or the final victory of the Light over the Darkness. It’s a changing of the guard.
David: It is. It means you’ve quit looking for a scapegoat. You take responsibility for ALL of your actions and then step up and take charge of your own world.
Gene: There’s a new sheriff in town.
David: That’s a good way to put it. So, what are we doing next time?
Gene: In the next episode, we discuss the 20th Degree - Master of the Symbolic Lodge.
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.