Our first season discusses the Scottish Rite of Freemasonry as described in Albert Pike's "Morals and Dogma: The Annotated Edition". Transcripts, Chapter Markers and Show Notes for all episodes are available from our website - WayOfTheHermit.com.
The "Annotated Edition" that we are using in this series contains annotations by Arturo de Hoyos, Grand Historian and Grand Archivist of the Scottish Rite. It is highly recommended that you read the chapter in order to fully follow our discussion. "Morals and Dogma" is available from these sites:
"Morals and Dogma" is composed of lectures intended to accompany the 32 degrees of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry. This episode provides an introduction to the Blue Lodge of Freemasonry, the Scottish Rite and the author of "Morals and Dogma", Albert Pike. It also discusses the Introduction section of the book.
David: Happy Halloween everybody! Welcome to the first “Way of the Hermit” podcast. This episode is also the first in a series in which we plan to discuss “Morals & Dogma: The Annotated Edition” with annotations by Arturo De Hoyos, Grand Archivist and Grand Historian of The Scottish Rite. In this episode, we are going to introduce the podcast and ourselves and also discuss the Introduction section of the book.
David: I'll introduce myself first I guess… I'm Dr. David Brown. I'm a 32nd degree Mason. I’m a member of Oriental Lodge #453 in Knoxville, Tennessee and I went through the Scottish Rite at the Valley of Knoxville
Gene: Hi. My name’s Gene Lawson. I'm a thirty-second degree Mason, same as David. A member of Oriental Lodge 453 in Knoxville Tennessee and I went through the Scottish Rite at the Valley of Knoxville
David: Gene and I were both raised as Master Masons about 7 years ago and we both went through the Scottish Rite about 6 years ago.
Blue Lodge Masonry (02:27)
David: Before we discuss the book, I think it’s a good idea to give our listeners a little background on the Blue Lodge of Masonry and the Scottish Rite and how "Morals and Dogma" fits into that. Gene, would you like to start us off?
Gene: Cool. I can go with that. Well, the Blue Lodge is the foundation of Masonry. A person can join a Blue Lodge which has the first three degrees which at the end, you become a Master Mason. That's all a Mason ever has to do, if he so wants is to do those, support the local Lodge and it's endeavors. Or you can go on to other branches of Masonry such as the Scottish Rite or the York Rite or the Shriners. There are a few others that are scattered around. It just depends on the proclivity of the Mason in which direction he is called.
Masonic History (03:35)
David: The first Grand Lodge, The Grand Lodge of England was founded on St. John’s Day in 1717. And there’s evidence of Masonic in Scotland and other places dating back to the 1500’s or even the 1400’s, but some people believe that the roots of Masonry reach all the way back to the ancient mysteries… and De Hoyas addresses that belief in the Introduction.
Gene: Which brings up the point of - does it have connections all the way back to the great Egyptians?
Gene: Intellectually… yes, because it is man's search for truth and his place in the universe and how the universe works. That's question one from the days that we first walked upright, is like what is going on and how do I explain this?
David: As De Hoyas points out there, Pike never really says that there is a true lineage going back to Egypt. He says intellectually there is, but Pike points out that there's no historical basis for that. It's just that the ideas seem to go back and it's like you said I think that's because human consciousness and the exploration of that - that's the common link. So those truths are since the beginning of human consciousness. People have explored that in different ways and symbolized it in different ways but a lot of those symbols are the same and that's where Masonry derives some of its core symbolism.
David: That symbolism is intended for you to use to change yourself. I think some people believe that Masonry is just a charitable organization, and of course it is but not necessarily in the same way that other people mean that. I think it starts internally and it has to be something about you, and the charity part just comes out of that. It's not initially about charity, it's about changing yourself to where you can be charitable. Really.
Gene: Agreed. Agreed. Charity starts at home and by at home I mean with yourself towards yourself.
Gene: Once you become a better man then everything flows from you.
David: Right. It all comes out of the changes you make inside yourself, but it has to start there. To me, the real meaning of Masonry is about changing yourself. Discovering those working tools inside yourself and learning how to use them properly in the world.
Gene: Agreed 100%.
The Scottish Rite (06:26)
David: So that’s a little bit about Masonry and the Blue Lodge. The Scottish Rite is sometimes referred to as the College of Masonry and it's the primary education outlet. After you've received the third degree you can call yourself a Master Mason. So the 4th through the 32nd degrees are in the Scottish Rite. There is a 33rd degree, which I always thought was an honorary degree…
Gene: Yeah me, too.
David: ... until we sent a preliminary version of this podcast to Tom Drieber and he came back and said that the 33rd is actually a capstone degree… that it’s a full degree, but I don’t think you would understand that unless you’d had it conferred on you.
Gene: It also is apparently written by Pike.
David: Huh. That’s all news to me.
Gene: I was looking at the documentary “33 and Beyond” and they break down different rites of the Scottish Rite and they talk about the 33rd degree. There’s one gentleman who confers the it and he talks about it, but there’s no clue on how one gets to that point or how one is determined if you’re ready to have that degree. So that’s why I always thought it was an honorary degree that you have to reach a certain esteem in your brother’s eyes before it’s conferred. The gentleman who was talking about it, talks about certain lines in the ritual that Pike wrote.
Gene: So, it’s a mystery.
David: Very interesting. That’s all I can say.
Gene: He did say you would not be able to control the weather or be master of the universe. Which I thought was funny.
David: That’s too bad. I was holding out hope that I just hadn’t gotten far enough to be able to do that.
Gene: Tom actually plays a big part in that documentary. It has a lot of his dissertation on stuff. Which is really cool.
David: It's really great to have access to him and be able to talk to him about things.
Gene: Yes, when we talked to Tom in Nashville, he told us about his study group that’s been studying the degrees. It was such a wonderful idea. I wish that I lived close enough to be a part of that.
David: That's the official Study Club of the Valley of Nashville. Tom said they've been conducting monthly meetings since 2004 and I think he said in 2011 or 2012 they had started going through “Morals and Dogma” degree by degree. They've made their way all the way up to halfway through the 24th degree.
Gene: When I heard that, I was like, “Wow!” - I wish we could do something like that and then I'm like “Well, in a sense we are”.
David: I think what we're trying to do is encourage people to do that. We may also spark other Study Clubs. Maybe here in Knoxville we could get something started like that, too.
Gene: It's lonely out here in the Hinterlands.
David: It would be a good thing to really spread out to the whole country. I mean what they're doing there is really great and I hope that other people will latch onto that and maybe do something similar. You know, maybe we can help start a fire here.
David: Before we move on I'd like to quote something that Tom said about “Morals and Dogma”. He said, “Morals and Dogma speaks to how the real you might navigate the temporal illusion in which we live and breathe. M&D is like a Road Atlas of the various routes by which you achieve your destination. The Degree Rituals are the inner feelings of anticipation of your journey and the excitation of arrival. M&D represents the various but not the only routes one might take.”
David: I think that’s pretty profound and that’s one of the main points that we are trying to make.
Gene: True. That makes me kind of jealous. I wish I’d said that. That’s dead spot on.
David: Me, too. That’s good. That’s one of the things that we’re trying to bring out as a main point of this is that it’s about changing yourself. It’s about taking those symbols and learning to find those inside yourself and then expressing those in the world. You know, Pike from the very first chapter, starts into talking about how those symbols play out in the world.
Albert Pike (11:23)
David: Before we get too far into "Morals and Dogma" we should say something about its author Albert Pike. Pike really was a renaissance man and a man of his time. He was a great thinker and researcher and writer. The Introduction section discusses how Pike rewrote rituals and lectures of the Scottish Rite degrees because he felt their true meaning had been lost to time. He was on a committee tasked with a rewrite but he was the only one that produced any results. But you know, today Pike could be considered a controversial figure. He was a Confederate Brigadier General.
Gene: Yes, I’ve heard Masons, not necessarily Scottish Rite Masons, talk down about Pike about being pompous or this, that or the other, not really giving him his due. I think that comes from a point of ignorance and not studying, not reading the actual work. I mean, being a 32nd degree Mason and having gone through the Scottish Rite, Albert Pike is always lurking in the background because he wrote the book. What more can you say?
David: Right. There is a thing about separating a person from their ideas.
Gene: Well, I mean that’s the old cliche - Do you judge the art by the artist or do you judge the artist by his work? Pike was a man of his time in the time that he was is in. I don't make any excuses for anybody, they are what they are. But that does not mean that wisdom did not come through him. You don't have to reject the wisdom because you don't like the man.
David: It’s just the way the times are though, that’s what would you say, the zeitgeist of the time? People are judging everyone based on the place that we are in our culture today. If you do that everybody is just going to reject Pike because there are some things in there that appear to be racist and things that would be considered small-minded or uninformed but today's standards.
Gene: But, quoting Dr. Tom Driber, “Only the most ignorant are foolish enough to judge another time through the lens of today and proclaim a judgement.” Period.
David: That's a good quote. You do have to separate what he’s saying from a judgment based on our own time. If you can't do that then you probably can't appreciate “Morals and Dogma” and you definitely shouldn't go through the Scottish Rite because Scottish Rite in a sense, is Pike.
Gene: That's one thing that Tom said on the documentary was that not everybody is cut out to be a Mason and not everybody is cut out to be a Scottish Rite Mason. So…
David: I think that's true. Another criticism of Pike is that he plagiarized much of “Morals and Dogma”. A big part of the introduction section is where de Hoyas talks about the cut and paste method that Pike used to create those degrees which was a common practice at the time that Pike wrote the degrees. Usually people didn't really make reference to the material they were copying from but that was just a common practice.
Gene: It's akin to reading a recipe here, a recipe there and deciding to cook your own meal. He takes bits and pieces from all over and tries to forge an overarching conception. It’s the ideas behind it that is the driving force.
David: Right. Today that would be considered plagiarism to not cite your sources.
Gene: True, but different, times different ways.
David: At that time that was a common practice.
Gene: He’s not the only one. De Hoyas mentioned that “The Golden Bough” was written in such a manner as well.
David: Getting back to the work itself.
The Scottish Rite Degrees (15:53)
David: Pike’s intention was that people would read those lectures before they would go on to the next degree. You had to fully understand the degree before you could move on. Last week we were speaking with George Ladd, who is the Secretary of The Tennessee Lodge of Research. He said that in Germany, each Scottish Rite degree takes a full year.
Gene: I agree with that. I mean there's a lot of digging. It's not very modern society to have to dig and stretch. You should have everything presented just to you and you got it. But that's not how we actually work as human beings. That's not how you learn. That's not how you grow. Digging is part of the process.
David: Do you remember how many degrees they actually presented when we went through? I don't remember how many there were. Maybe 10?
Gene: I would say between 8 and 10. Yes.
David: Yeah… that they actually put on the degree. The other ones we just kind of talked through. Which, in the time frame that’s set up to do that. It was tiring. It was two weekends. I was studying in between those times but it's a lot to take in. It is like uh… trying to drink from a firehose.
Gene: That was a great analogy and it is true. I mean even having been exposed to… and I personally had "Morals and Dogma" for possibly 20 years before I ever went through the Scottish Rite but I never did do anything more than scratch the surface and read a bit here and a bit there.
David: That’s what I've done, too. You know I write in my books and it is like I've got scribbles in different degrees but nothing systematic.
Gene: It was literally even having an idea of what it was about. It was literally a blast. In other words, you were blasted with all the information with the rituals, everything was just “Boom!”. It does leave you exhausted and wondering what the hell was that all about?
Morals & Dogma (18:10)
David: You know everybody talks about "Morals and Dogma" kind of reverently mostly but how many people have actually read it? Of course, we met a couple people this weekend. You know Tom Driber said he’d read it. Joe Kendall said he’d read it.
Gene: Yes, so there’s two people that I know of.
David: We shook their hands because it’s like that’s unusual. I haven't read it but that's part of what I want to do. The reason why I want to do this is number one, I want to make a study of it and I think this will make me do it because we're trying to put together a podcast on each of the degrees. So it'll make me do it and I also hope it encourages other people to either follow along with us or, of course, because the podcasts are going to always be out there people can follow along later and go through the book themselves using the podcast as a guide. We’re planning to go through everything that’s in the book, but in the podcast itself, we’re not planning to go through everything in “Morals and Dogma.” We’re just trying to provide a framework. It’s 831 pages, right?
Gene: I think it’s 61 but somewhere thereabouts.
David: 861 pages. We're not trying to cover everything but I think what we can do is kind of provide a skeleton, a structure and other people can then fill that in by actually reading the chapter.
Gene: I mean essentially it's us two guys having the experience of reading it and trying to encourage others to experience it for themselves.
Gene: I mean that’s the only way that you can get anything out of it is to take it on one-on-one with yourself and the book.
Gene: And… I want to know. I want to know what the lectures mean, what the rituals mean. I want to make them more than something that was just presented to me. I want to make them living entities in my life. I think that's the point. I think they're meant to make you question and dig and make that journey.
David: Like you said I think you're really trying to bring those symbols to life inside yourself, and I'm really excited to dig into that.
Gene: I am too. It's one of those things that by joining together and egging each other on, we can accomplish more than either one of us by ourselves could.
Gene: I mean, I'm a stubborn reader. Even if something is dry as dirt, if I'm determined I'm going to read it - I'm going to read it.
David: Yeah. I can vouch for that. Gene is very stubborn.
Gene: I'm trying to try to use super power for good and for my own good for my own learning.
David: Yes. Me, too.
David: Another thing that I found out this weekend when we went down to the Esoteric Masonry Conference at the Grand Lodge of Tennessee. Tom told us that… what is it the 28th degree?
David: Was about a third of the material. I didn't really realize that. I guess I should have but that's over 200 Pages for the 28th degree. Right?
Gene: That is a work all in itself. It's a big degree with a lot a lot jammed into it.
David: We had talked about doing one degree per episode but I guess now we're seeing that that's not possible. We're going to have to split some of the degrees into multiple. That one, to make it even you know reasonable to do, that may be 5 or 8 if we're going to get it down to something we can actually talk through.
Gene: Yeah… but relooking at that chapter I mean that's going to be exciting even if it does take longer than you know 4 or 5 podcasts to to kind of get through it. It'll still be worth it because it is so packed full of information and ideas.
The Hiram Key Series (22:28)
David: So Gene after reading that introduction I heard that you got rid of some books.
Gene: Yeah it’s funny. I’m an unapologetic bibliophile and just collect anything that sparks my interest. For many years I enjoyed speculative books which I knew were not necessarily based on facts but told an interesting story. I've always picked those from the used bookstore and had quite a collection. The “Ancient Aliens” kind of thing and just everything in between. After reading the Introduction and De Hoyas’ brutal takedown of certain authors and a certain trilogy of books, in shame I had to pull them for my bookshelf and take them and turn them in for credit at a local used book store.
David: What were the books that he really went into because I have not read those? It was the “Hiram Key” and…
Gene: Yes, it was the Hiram key series. When I got them and read them I knew what they were, no bones about it. But respecting De Hoyos as a historian and an author, I couldn't in good conscience keep them in my bookshelves to be found by whoever was taking care of my estate.
David: Another book that de Hoyas criticises in that section is the abridged version of “Morals and Dogma”. He says that it’s no more offensive than a condensed Bible. Which I thought was funny.
David: I don’t see how you could condense that material, especially the myths without losing some of their significance.
The Meaning of Myth (24:27)
Gene: I’ll toss you a softball Dave.
Gene: What is myth?
David: Some people use myth to mean the same thing as a made-up story like a fairytale but myth, and I'm drawing this from Joseph Campbell the famous mythologist, myths are eternal. They’re a truth that isn't just true once in the past. It’s something that is true all the time eternally. Again he uses eternal to mean outside of time. Not anything to do with time. It's not a long time. It's just timeless. It's now always so…
Gene: So… the meaning of myth is the continuum of truth exposing himself again and again?
David: Yes. Myth clothes itself in events and circumstances that are repeated over and over. But something that’s mythological is an eternal truth. So, what Pike is referring to is myth. It's a mythic way of looking at reality
Gene: I’m going to throw you another softball.
Gene: To quote Guy Ritchie, the director, “There is only one story”.
David: Guy Ritchie defines that one story as being the story of the internal self and its interactions with the outside world. Which you can see any story as being that way. You can take it as the outward clothing that that story has and just see it as a robbery movie, or let’s say John Wick. You can just see that as a shoot-'em-up gun fu movie but the real story is about John Wick’s intense and undefeatable internal self versus the circumstances he finds himself in. You know when they shoot his dog at the beginning of it. If John Wick wasn't the person he was internally there would be no story. Nothing would happen, right?
David: But because of who he is he can't let that go. So the whole story revolves around his response to those external events. You can see any story that way and that was what Guy Ritchie was talking about. I think that is a profound insight and I’ve thought about that concept quite a bit since then.
Gene: By doing this kind of research, by reading “Morals and Dogma”, we're trying to flush our own one story of our internal being versus the external world.
David: That is so true. I think that’s a good point to end on. So, I’m David.
Gene: And I’m Gene.
David: Join us next time as we begin our exploration of “Morals and Dogma: The Annotated Edition”.
Gene: As we walk the Way of the Hermit.