Way of the Hermit

22nd Degree: Knight Royal Axe

September 18, 2022 Dr. David Brown & Gene Lawson Season 1 Episode 23
Way of the Hermit
22nd Degree: Knight Royal Axe
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

In this episode, we discuss the 22nd Degree - “Knight Royal Axe”, 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:

Images and Diagrams:


  • Introduction (01:14)
  • The Degree Ritual (01:33) 
  • Purpose of the Degree (08:59)
  • Morals and Dogma (09:43)
  • Work is Noble (10:41)
  • Laborare est Orare, “Work is Worship” (14:56)
  • Duty is With Us Always (17:25)
  • Industry Lies at the Foundation of Human Improvement (19:50)
  • The Poor Have Made Many Great Achievements (24:53)
  • Masonry Ennobles Common Life (28:24)
  • The Cedars of Lebanon (29:26)
  • The Royal Ax (30:20)
  • The Workshop (33:08)
  • The Round Table (33:34)
  • Conclusions (34:04)


Introduction (01:14)

Gene: Hello Dave.

David: Hello Gene.

Gene: Are you ready to get to work?

David: Always. But before we get started, I want to remind everyone that Show Notes, Chapter Markers and a Transcript of this, and all episodes, are available on our website - WayOfTheHermit.com. Gene, what does the Degree Ritual look like this time?

The Degree Ritual (01:33)

Gene: The Lore behind the Ritual of the Degree is that it “was learned by the Crusaders, from the Druzes, an Islamic sect then inhabiting (Lebanon).

David: Who are the Druze?

Gene: “A Bridge to Light” says that “the Druze are a mystical group characterized by an eclectic system of doctrines… (that) appear to be an amalgamation of Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Gnosticism and other beliefs prevalent around 1000 A.D.”

David: And what is the Ritual like that they are said to have transmitted to the Crusaders?

Gene: The Degree Ritual again is set in the Middle Ages. You, as the candidate, are dressed as a Prussian Knight returning from a Crusade in the Holy Land. You’ve traveled to Mount Libanus (or Lebanon) to obtain the degree of Prince of Libanus, which is the alternate name of this Degree.

David: How is the Ritual organized?

Gene: It takes place in two apartments. The first apartment is prepared to represent a carpenter's workshop on Mount Lebanon, which is where the first section of the Ritual takes place. The Senior Warden presides over this section and is called “Master Carpenter”. The other participants wear frocks or blouses and aprons… like carpenters.

David: What happens in the workshop?

Gene: It’s an induction ceremony. You’re asked if you believe yourself entitled to this Degree, and then told - “We know the grounds on which you claim it; but birth is not regarded here; and rank and Masonry does not of itself suffice… You see us now engaged in preparing plans for the laborers, and studying the calculations of astronomy. No one can… be admitted to the high privileges of this degree, unless he has first wrought one year in the workshop, and obtain the unanimous suffrage of the workmen. Is your desire for this degree sufficient to induce you to lay aside your insignia, your sword, and jewel, for a time, and join the sons of labor, who represent the toiling millions?”

David: Wow. A year for the degree?

Gene: Yes, work for an entire year and also get along with your fellow workers. Here’s the oath you have to take - do you “acknowledge the Dignity of Labor and know that it is no curse, but a privilege, for (a) man to be allowed to earn his sustenance by work?” Do you “admit that the honest (laborer), upright and independent, is, in Nature's hierarchy the peer of kings and not labor, but idleness, is disgraceful?” And finally, “Are you willing to eat only what you earn; patiently to receive instructions, and to recognize and treat these workmen as your brethren and your equals?”

David: What does it mean by “are you willing to eat only what you earn”?

Gene: Well first, that you should work if you are able to, and also, the Degree speaks against gambling. So, it’s likely talking about that, too.

David: So you’re inducted into a workers guild?

Gene: Yes. The Degree Ritual “explains that the Druze perpetuated an institution originating in Rome about 700 B.C. called (the) College of Artificers, which are… an operative group of artisans.” Because of the many parallels that exist between the organization and the operation of these Colleges and Freemasonry, it’s been speculated that they are the roots of Masonry and the Scottish Rite.

David: The “Scottish Rite” is called the “College of Masonry” and the bodies that perform this Degree are called Colleges.

Gene: Right… and that’s where the term comes from.

David: So in the first apartment, you’re inducted into a College and must serve for one year. What happens in the second apartment?

Gene: The second apartment… represents the Council of the Round Table. It is hung in red and lit by 36 lights arranged in six groups of six, and each of the six in three rows of two lights. In the center of the room is a round table and in the East, an altar with an open Bible, the square and compasses and an ax.

David: What happens there?

Gene: You’re told more about the College of Artificers and their connection to the building of Solomon’s Temple.

David: What is the connection?

Gene: Basically, the trees… the “Cedars of Lebanon”. The Ritual says the Colleges of Rome originated “from the ancient people who inhabited the Mount Lebanon area and supplied cedar for the building of Noah's Ark, the Ark of the Covenant and Solomon's Temple.”

David: So, it implies that the Druze were those people?

Gene: Well… at least that the beliefs of the Druze were at the core of the Mysteries shared by Solomon and Hiram, King of Tyre. Here’s a quote from the Ritual - “The Tyrians or Phoenicians were ever ready to aid the Israelites in their holy enterprises. The tie between them was the Mysteries, into which the principal persons of both nations were initiated. Moses necessarily received them in Egypt, before he could marry the daughter of a priest of Heliopolis. These Mysteries, modified by Solomon, or perhaps in an earlier day by Joshua or even Moses, became in some respects like Masonry, such as it was practiced at the building of the Temple, and such as it has in part come down to us. Hiram, King of Tyre in Phoenicia, and Hiram Abiff, whose father was a Phoenician and not a Jew, were likewise initiates. Hence, the intimate connection between them and Solomon, bound together by obligation, as Mason's are today.”

David: That is very interesting. It pulls together some of the stories about Solomon and Hiram but especially, it helps explain the stories about Zerubbabel and his dealings with Cyrus and Darius.

Gene: It does and actually, Cyrus, Darius and Zerubbabel are referred to by their initials appearing on the main symbol of this degree, the Royal Axe.

David: Hmm. Do you have anything else about the Degree Ritual?

Gene: The last thing I have is that the symbolism of the working tools of the Degree are described.

David: What are the working tools?

Gene: They are woodworking tools - the Saw, the Plane and the Ax. The Saw is said to represent patience, perseverance and determination that cuts through all obstacles. The Plane levels off the sources of inequality - prejudice, ignorance and superstition. The Ax is a complex symbol which we can talk about later, but one thing it represents is the civilizing force that chops through chaos and makes resources available for further work or craftsmanship.

David: Yeah. One thing that made me a little uncomfortable in this Degree, was all the talk about tree chopping and “civilizing the barbarism” of native cultures. You know, he discussed the ax as an instrument of progress, turning hunters into farmers, and forests into cities. It was just all very “colonial”, and not very environmentally friendly… and condescending… and maybe a little racist.

Gene: Yeah… it was, but as we’ve said many times before, it’s a product of its time. But the deeper meanings still hold. Pike equates the “mighty trees” that Masonry is supposed to fell as - intolerance, bigotry, superstition, uncharitableness and idleness.

Purpose of the Degree (08:59)

David: I know. I just wanted to point it out. So what is the purpose of the Degree?

Gene: It’s supposed to instill an understanding of the true nature of work. Here’s a quote from the “Ritual - Monitor and Guide” - “Idleness is a deadly deterrent to advancement. Life is a process of never-ending refinement, resulting ultimately in the achievement of perfection... There is always another lesson to be learned, always a new vista or horizon opening before us, and if we apply ourselves as if our lives depended on it, both as individuals and as a society, there is no limit to the heights we might climb. This is symbolized by labor and by the proper application of tools.”

Morals and Dogma (09:43)

David: Alright. What’s the first thing you have in the Degree Lecture?

Gene: The first thing I have is the opening quote - “Sympathy with the great laboring classes, respect for labor itself, and resolution to do some good work in our day and generation, these are the lessons of this Degree, and they are purely Masonic… The idea is as simple and true as it is sublime. From first to last, Masonry is work. It venerates the Grand Architect of the Universe. It commemorates the building of the Temple. Its principal emblems are the working tools of Masons and Artisans… When the Brethren meet together, they are at labor. The Master is the overseer who sets the craft to work and gives them proper instruction. Masonry is the apotheosis of work.”

David: When you really think about it… all of Masonry is about work.

Gene: Work and working tools… technologies.

Work is Noble (10:41)

David: Right. That last line that said “Masonry is the apotheosis of work” means that work is glorified or even divinized in Masonry, which is the subject of my first quote - “All work is noble: a life of ease is not for any man, or for any God. The Almighty Maker is not like one who… having made his machine of a Universe, sits ever since, and sees it go. Out of that belief comes Atheism. The faith in an Invisible, Unnameable, Directing Deity, present everywhere in all that we see, and work, and suffer, is the essence of all faith whatsoever.”

Gene: Yeah, that’s identifying human labor with the work of the Great Architect of the Universe. So, it is really saying that work is somehow divine. But what did you think about that last part that says to work and suffer are the essence of all faith?

David: Well, it also says that “Our highest religion is named the Worship of Sorrow. For the Son of Man, there is no noble crown, well-worn, or even ill-worn, but is a crown of thorns. Man's highest destiny is not to be happy, to love pleasant things and find them. His only true unhappiness should be that he cannot work, and get his destiny… fulfilled.”

Gene: That’s pretty deep… and painful. Who doesn’t want to be happy?

David: Everyone does, because that’s how we’re wired. But what would it be like to be happy all the time with no suffering and nothing to overcome?

Gene: Initially, that sounds great… but then when you really think about it… not so much. It’s the idea from the last Degree that any Utopia you imagine doesn’t ever work out like you expect.

David: The Lecture says repeatedly that struggle is necessary and that the overcoming of obstacles is the source of all human virtue - “To work is to try (oneself) against Nature and her unerring, everlasting laws: and they will return (a) true verdict... The noblest Epic is a mighty Empire slowly built together, a mighty series of heroic deeds, a mighty conquest over chaos. Deeds are greater than words.”

Gene: That’s what makes something virtuous or heroic. It’s the opposite of “everyone gets a trophy”.

David: If “everyone gets a trophy”, why give it? It doesn’t mean anything.

Gene: I feel the same way and history doesn’t give participation awards… unless you count birth and death certificates as awards.

David: Right.

Gene: Here’s another quote - “It is the hands of the brave, (and) forgotten… that have made this great, populous, cultivated world a world for us. It is all work, and forgotten work. The real conquerors, creators, and eternal proprietors of every great and civilized land are all the heroic souls that ever were in it… Genuine work alone, done faithfully, is eternal, even as the Almighty Founder and World-builder Himself.”

David: But it’s one of the hallmarks of our time that we denigrate people from the past because they weren’t as quote-unquote enlightened as we are, but I think that Pike would argue that it was the people down through the ages that sat on their butts and didn’t try to do anything that we should be unhappy with. You know, if you just have to be unhappy with somebody.

Gene: That’s true. The Lecture tells us to not waste the time we have. It says - “our life passes swiftly over, and the night cometh, wherein no (one) can work. That night once come, our happiness and unhappiness are vanished, and become as things that never were. But our work is not abolished, and has not vanished. It remains, or the want of it remains, for endless Times and Eternities.”

David: What you do here now lives on after you die, but it also says that those without “duties to do, are like trees planted on precipices; from the roots of which all the earth has crumbled… Labor is the truest emblem of God… and yet there are (those) who pride themselves that they and theirs have done no work time out of mind. So neither have the swine.”

Gene: I’d say, don’t beat around the bush there Albert… say what you mean man!

Laborare est Orare, “Work is Worship” (14:56)

David: Yeah… well, I think he really is saying what he means.

Gene: What do you think he means?

David: That work is THE humanizing force. It’s that conflict or friction between our will and the world that creates all the human virtues. The Lecture says that “Man perfects himself by working… Only by labor will man continually learn the virtues. There is no Religion in stagnation and inaction; but only in activity and exertion. There was the deepest truth in that saying of the old monks, "laborare est orare”... which means “labor is worship”.

Gene: We talked about that phrase in the 14th Degree as a saying of the Benedictines. I have a related quote which says - “To toil, whether with the sweat of the brow, or of the brain or heart, is worship - the noblest thing yet discovered beneath the stars. Let the weary cease to think that labor is a curse and doom pronounced by Deity. Without it there could be no true excellence in human nature.”

David: That’s one of the main ideas of this Degree. That human nature requires something to push against, some conflict, in order to achieve our highest potential.

Gene: Or to feel fulfilled. Another quote says - “There is a perennial nobleness and even sacredness in work… in Idleness alone is there perpetual Despair… Even in the meanest sort of labor, the whole soul of man is composed into a kind of real harmony, the moment he begins to work. Doubt, desire, sorrow, remorse, indignation, and even despair shrink murmuring far off into their caves, whenever the man bends himself resolutely against his task.”

David: You know, that’s really true. You can throw yourself into, or even lose yourself, when you’re focused on a task.

Gene: I think lots of times, people… and I’m including myself here… maybe resent the work they’re having to do, or feel like it’s beneath them. The Lecture addresses this idea, by saying that “primeval man”, whoever that’ s supposed to be, believed that every experience came direct from God and so the whole Universe was a Temple and life everywhere was worship.

David: Which sounds very similar to a line in Crowley’s “Oath of the Abyss” which says - “I will interpret every phenomenon as a particular dealing of God with my soul”. To even start to think that way, you got to see that you’re part of a bigger framework.

Duty is With Us Always (17:25)

Gene: Yeah. Trying to keep in mind why you’re doing what you’re doing. I have a related quote which says - “Labor is a more beneficent ministration than man's ignorance comprehends, or his complainings will admit. Even when its end is hidden from him, it is not mere blind drudgery. It is all a training, a discipline, a development of energies, a nurse of virtues, a school of improvement…. every human toiler, with every weary step and every urgent task, is obeying a wisdom far above his own wisdom, and fulfilling a design far beyond his own design.”

David: And a key to understanding that design is to keep in mind that it’s not all about you. Your work may help or teach someone else… or it could just be your example. People seeing how you go about your work.

Gene: Or how you sit around idle… which the Lecture basically equates to a sin, since work is equated with worship. It says that “Duty is with us ever; and evermore forbids us to be idle. To work with the hands or brain, according to our requirements and our capacities, to do that which lies before us to do, is more honorable than rank and title.”

David: Which reinforces what we were told in the Degree Ritual - that your rank, your title or the Degrees you say you hold don’t mean anything in approaching this Degree… it’s only your willingness to work. The Lecture says that “Masonry stands up for the nobility of labor. It is Heaven's great ordinance for human improvement. It has been broken down for ages… because men toil only because they must, submitting to it as, in some sort, a degrading necessity; and desiring nothing so much on earth as to escape from it. They fulfill the great law of labor in the letter, but break it in the spirit: they fulfill it with the muscles, but break it with the mind.”

Gene: What do you think is the “Law of Labor” that it’s talking about?

David: That work is good for the soul.

Gene: The old clique - “It’s the journey not the destination.”

David: Yes, but in this case it’s completely true… and here’s a quote to back that up - “It was well to give the earth to man as a dark mass, whereon to labor… because the act (of) creating… is better than the things themselves; because exertion is nobler than enjoyment; because the laborer is greater and more worthy of honor than the idler.”

Industry Lies at the Foundation of Human Improvement (19:50)

Gene: If you’re looking for self-improvement, and this is what’s meant by “Masonic Labor”, there isn’t a shortcut. I’ve got another quote - “The great law of human industry is this: that industry, working either with the hand or the mind, the application of our powers to some task, to the achievement of some result, lies at the foundation of all human improvement.”

David: And not only that, the Lecture says that work, above all else, defines who you are. It says “... man must be a worker. He is nothing, can be nothing, can achieve nothing, fulfill nothing, without working. Without it, he can gain neither lofty improvement nor tolerable happiness.”
Gene: That’s an extreme view - “You are your job”?

David: I don’t think it’s saying that. I think it’s just saying that work, and it’s using that term loosely, is what defines us to the world, but more importantly, it’s the way we end up seeing ourselves.

Gene: In terms of the obstacles we overcome.

David: Right.

Gene: It makes me think of modern life. Um… people working at jobs they sort of hate, hoping the day will end so they can go home and watch TV or surf the Internet. I mean, that’s not everyone…

David: Well…

Gene: Wait, yeah I guess it is! But anyway, another quote that caught my eye was about idleness - “The idle must hunt down the hours as their prey. To them Time is an enemy, clothed with armor; and they must kill him, or themselves die.”

David: What did that make you think of?

Gene: Escapism. The way we all seem to want to get away from ourselves. You know, to turn off our minds by doing things that make us forget ourselves. It’s like we’re never where we are. You know, Ram Dass - “Be here now.” and all that.

David: I know. To escape from our cares and woe. My next quote is - “It never yet did answer, and it never will answer, for any man to do nothing, to be exempt from all care and effort, to lounge, to walk, to ride, and to feast alone. No man can live in that way. God made a law against it: which no human power can annul, no human ingenuity evade.”

Gene: That’s interesting. “God made a law against” what? Not suffering?

David: I think that’s what it’s saying. And that makes me think about the second “Matrix” movie when the Architect tells Neo that the first Matrix was perfect, there was no suffering… but that’s because there was no choice or “free will”.

Gene: So, people rejected it. It’s like we need to be challenged… and make mistakes.

David: Or else we stagnate. Another thing that struck me in this section was what it said about retirement.

Gene: What did it say about retirement?

David: That the way we think about it is wrong. It says we thin think “that by some prosperous traffic or grand speculation, all the labor of a whole life is to be accomplished in a brief portion of it; that by dexterous management, a large part of the term of human existence is to be exonerated from the cares of industry and self-denial, is founded upon a grave mistake, upon a misconception of the true nature and design of business, and of the conditions of human well-being. The desire of accumulation for the sake of securing a life of ease and gratification, of escaping from exertion and self-denial, is wholly wrong, though very common.”

Gene: Hmm. As we both know, you need something to do… to focus on. There’s also that clique that people retire, and then die. The implication is they didn’t have a reason to live anymore. Nothing to do.

David: It’s better to realize some of that before you retire. Just make it a way of life or as the Lecture says - “It is best of all for him to banish from the mind that empty dream of future indolence and indulgence; to address himself to the business of life, as the school of his earthly education; to settle it with himself now that independence, if he gains it, is not to give him exemption from employment. It is best for him to know, that, in order to be a happy man, he must always be a laborer, with the mind or the body, or with both: and that the reasonable exertion of his powers, bodily and mental, is not to be regarded as mere drudgery, but as a good discipline, a wise ordination, a training in this primary school of our being, for nobler endeavors, and spheres of higher activity hereafter.”

Gene: There’s another example of Masonry’s apotheosis, or divinisation of work. The last quote I have in this section is “Masonry… honors the Worker, the Toiler; … who produces and not alone consumes; … who puts forth (a) hand to add to the treasury of human comforts, and not alone to take away.”

David: Be a creator, not just a consumer.

Gene: Exactly.

The Poor Have Made Many Great Achievements (24:53)

David: And the Lecture points out how the lack of something can cause people to innovate or create.

Gene: Here’s a quote about that - “God has not made a world of rich men; but rather a world of… men… who must toil for a subsistence. That is, then, the best condition for man, and the grand sphere of human improvement… if the present generation could lay up a complete provision for the next, as some men desire to do for their children; the world would be destroyed at a single blow. All industry would cease… all improvement would stop… and the world would sink, rotten as Herod… into the grave of its own loathsome vices.”

David: Wow. Now there’s a picture!

Gene: There’s another quote about how most wealth is usually gone within three generations because the fire that was behind its initial accumulation gets dissipated. If the kids and the grandkids don’t find a new set of obstacles to overcome, they fall into vice. Or at least that’s the story it presents. And that does happen.

David: It does sometimes. Which leads to the question of what use the wealth is put to. Here’s a quote - “If wealth were employed in promoting mental culture at home and works of philanthropy abroad… there could scarcely be too much of it. But if the utmost aim, effort, and ambition of wealth be, to procure rich furniture, and provide costly entertainments, and build luxurious houses, and minister to vanity, extravagance, and ostentation, there could scarcely be too little of it.”

Gene: Again, do you see wealth as a resource you bring to bear on your work, or as an end in itself? The Lecture says that “The answer is, that every man has a work to do in himself, greater and sublimer than any work of genius; and works upon a nobler material than wood or marble - upon his own soul and intellect, and may so attain the highest nobleness and grandeur known on earth or in Heaven; may… be the greatest of artists (or authors)… and his life, which is far more than speech, may be eloquent.”

David: Your life itself is the work of art you’re creating… whether you realize that or not. The Lecture says that - “The great author or artist only portrays what (everyone) should be. (They) conceive what we should do… (and) portray virtues, commended to our admiration and imitation. To embody these… in our lives is the practical realization of those great ideals of art.”

Gene: It’s the myth made real. The embodiment of the archetype. If you think about it, it’s the greatest homage and the greatest sacrifice to the deity, to embody your ideal of it and to actually live it. What more can you do? Here’s my last quote in this section -  “For it is a nobler thing to be a hero than to describe one, to endure martyrdom than to paint it, to do right than to plead for it. Action is greater than writing… There are but two things worth living for: to do what is worthy of being written; and to write what is worthy of being read; and the greater of these is the doing.”

Masonry Ennobles Common Life (28:24)

David: Do something. For yourself. For the world.  Here’s another quote - “There is a wide field for the courage, cheerfulness, energy, and dignity of human existence…. No matter how magnificent and noble an act the author can describe or the artist paint, it will be still nobler for you to go and do that which one describes, or be the model which the other draws.”

Gene: And that made me think of working at Kroger… and mindfulness.

David: What did it make you think of?

Gene: Just being present and where you are in the world. There are opportunities everywhere, every day to facilitate and help. Just to be a positive instead of a negative in people’s lives. It may not be a big thing, but you never really know what effect just a kind word can have.

David: That’s what a real Knight would do.

Gene: Indeed.

David: Do you have anything else?

Gene: One more quote - “Masonry seeks to ennoble common life. Its work is to go down into the obscure and unsearched records of daily conduct and feelings; and to portray, not the ordinary virtue of an extraordinary life; but the more extraordinary virtue of ordinary life.”

The Cedars of Lebanon (29:26)

David: That’s a good place to end our discussion of the Degree Lecture. Let’s talk a bit about the symbols of the Degree. Let’s start with the Cedars of Lebanon. What do you think they symbolize?

Gene: Well, the Ritual, and I guess the Bible, too - says that they were used to build Noah’s Ark, Solomon’s Temple and the Ark of the Covenant.

David: So why cedar?

Gene: The stated reason is the properties of cedar. The smell, and its ability to withstand rot. It seems eternal, so it’s a fitting material for something that’s supposed to symbolize immortality.

David: Also, I know the proportions of Noah’s Ark, Solomon’s Temple and the Ark of the Covenant are related… But what about the two Arks? Noah’s Ark and the Ark of the Covenant?

Gene: I don’t know. Noah’s Ark was for saving animals from water. Solomon’s Temple and the Ark of the Covenant are said to be created to save humanity from everlasting fire.

The Royal Ax (30:20)

David: That’s good. I think that relationship, whatever it really is… is behind the Hebrew letters on the top of the Royal Ax of the Degree - Nun and Samech, which stand for Noah and Solomon.

Gene: Yeah, the initials all over the Ax are fascinating. On the handle are the Hebrew Letters for L and T, or Lebanon and Tyre, the source of the wood used to make the handle. What did you make of the other letters and the people they stood for?

David: Well, on one side of the blade, the Ritual says are the initials for Adoniram, Cyrus, Darius, Zerubbabel, Nehemiah, and Ezra. The first four of those we’ve talked about in previous degrees because they were instrumental in getting the Second Temple built. Ezra was the last High Priest of the First Temple and Nehemiah was said to have brought the “Holy Fire” back after their captivity and exile.

Gene: So you could say that they are all builders, or at least laborers for God.

David: Yes. That’s the connection. On the other side of the blade are the initials for Shem, Ham, Japeth, Moses, Aholiab, and Bezaleel.

Gene: OK, so I know that Shem, Ham and Japeth are the sons of Noah… but why are they here among a list of workers?

David: Well, let me ask you this question… would your dad build a big ol’ boat in your backyard to save humanity and not make you hammer some nails?

Gene: Yeah, I see your point. They helped build the Ark. But what about the last two? I’ve never heard of them.

David: Yeah, just another example of the people who actually do the work getting forgotten. Those are the guys who built the Ark of the Covenant.

Gene: Oh really!

David: Yes, and they both held the title of “Chief of the Tabernacle”, which is the name of the next Degree.

Gene: Interesting. So, are they in a sense, the culminating symbols of this Degree? The sharpened blade of the ax, so to speak?

David: I think they are. They’re artisans who have perfected their craft.

Gene: And how do you get good at anything?

David: By working at it.

Gene: What is it they say… you’ve got to put in 10,000 hours of work to be an expert? Or like in the game of Go, you lose your first 1000 games quickly?

David: Right, because you have to see and work through different situations and overcome conflicts. That’s how you learn and improve. So, how should someone who’s made the realizations of a “Knight of the Royal Axe” now approach work? What would you tell them to do?

Gene: The same thing they had to do to get here - “Chop wood. Carry water”... meaning your work, whatever it is you do… but now mindfully. With more of a realization of the context of what work really is.

David: What is it?

Gene: It’s your means of realizing yourself.

The Workshop (33:08)

David: That’s good. What did you think of the first apartment of the Ritual… the Workshop? I thought of Jesus as the carpenter's son and that being a mark against him when he came back to Nazareth to preach, they said “Isn’t this the carpenter’s son? Why should we listen to him?”

Gene: Yeah, they saw him being a laborer as a negative. I also thought it was interesting that they were studying astronomy in the first apartment, even though it’s decorated like a wood-working shop.

The Round Table (33:34)

David: Well, you might say that the stars are the Great Architect’s workshop, so they were studying the Heavens to make their own plans.

Gene: “As above, so below”.

David: Right. And the second apartment has a round table, which “A Bridge to Light” says related to King Arthur’s “Knights of the Round Table”, but ultimately it mirrors the zodiac constellations, with the Knights as God’s agents here on Earth.

Gene: To try to bring Heaven to Earth, through our work.

Conclusions (34:04)

David: Exactly. So what was your takeaway from this Degree?

Gene: I’d summarize it with two ol’ country sayings.

David: OK.

Gene: The first is “An idle mind is the Devil’s Workshop.” but that actually derives from a line in “The Canterbury Tales” which is more pertinent to this Degree - “Idle hands are the Devil’s Workshop”. So, the first point is that it’s important to your own well being, and to the well being of society as a whole, for people to be busy… to work.

David: That is one of the main points of this Degree and one I completely agree with, too. What was your second country saying?

Gene: “Make hay while the sun shines.”

David: Alright, what does that mean in the context of this Degree?

Gene: You’re only on this Earth for a short time. That’s your time in the Sun. It’s a call to do whatever you’re going to do, for yourself, for society, now. Don’t waste the sunshine of your life. Or, in a nutshell, turn your time on Earth into something. Don’t just sit there… do something!

David: Yeah, that’s good.

Gene: What about you?

David: Do something. Make your mark. Your time here is short. Don’t waste it. See the truth about work and suffering in general. That old saying that “everything has a purpose”... it does, but that doesn’t mean you’re always going to like it, but that’s life.

Gene: It is.

David: The other thing was just what keeps us from being mindful or in the present moment. That voice that’s the root of dissatisfaction in work, that there’s something else you should be doing… and then that something else just turns into trying to annihilate your sense of self some way.

Gene: Again, “it’s a trap - get an ax!”

David: Right. A Royal one. That’s all I’ve got. Do you have anything else?

Gene: Let’s end with the last line of the Degree Ritual.

David: OK.

Gene: “The Cedars of Mount Lebanon have fallen and this College is closed.”

David: So mote it be. Gene, what are we doing next time?

Gene: In our next episode, we discuss the 23rd Degree - Chief of the Tabernacle.

The Degree Ritual
Purpose of the Degree
Morals and Dogma
Work is Noble
Laborare est Orare, “Work is Worship”
Duty is With Us Always
Industry Lies at the Foundation of Human Improvement
The Poor Have Made Many Great Achievements
Masonry Ennobles Common Life
The Cedars of Lebanon
The Royal Ax
The Workshop
The Round Table