They didn’t dress very nice, always looked a little like the entire family had been dumped from a bag. They tried, their hair was combed, they were clean, but always a little haggard. Dad worked three jobs to make ends meet, but still found time to put Jimmy in soccer and to make the games. Mom worked two jobs, both under the table type stuff, and the money went a long way to making sure the car ran and the house payment was made.
When the offering plate was passed, they put money in, for those less fortunate than they. For on this Christmas Eve, they would have a nice family dinner.
Yet, in the upper middle class neighborhood brimming, the large church with a membership into the thousands, this family was “different.” Not in a good way as the Christmas Christians packing the parking lot with Toyota Highlanders and mini-vans of various types and sizes packing the pews would leave, in a church packed to the gills, the remainder of this wonderful front row empty. No one wanted to sit next to the poor family.
Prior to services begining the pastor would make a plea for involvement in the church, explaining that the new “small groups” programs would begin in January with the New Year and to please sign up early to guarantee a spot. You could hear all the programs rustle as people began checking off the groups they would participate in. A lady stood in front of the church and spoke of their bread ministry where they would bake loaves of bread and drop off a flavorful banana bread or zucchini bread to the door of every new visitor to the church with a small informational brochure in the event they decided to return.
These are “good and loving” people as the pastor would describe his parishioners later in the evening, yet the pew remained empty except for the “poor” family.
Many of the Prada bearing PTA moms would discuss how the church program handing out groceries for the poor was a huge success as they sipped Starbucks coffee in the church “café” following the service. The poor family headed home quickly to their own dinner. Dad never could stomach paying three dollars for a cup of something he could make for twenty cents. The whole practice seemed wasteful in a world where waste had become common place.
The Prada parade would head to restaurants where only half of the over portioned meals will get eaten, the rest disposed of so that their waist size doesn’t get too big when the other girls in the Pilates class will all be looking for who may have gained a pound during the holidays. The poor family will freeze leftovers and nothing will go to waste. Yet, their pew remained empty.
It would seem sometimes that we allow ourselves, in our busy lives, to believe that the ills that have befallen the world are their own fault. They have not worked hard enough, they are lazy, or they drink too much, etc. Our life, because we have been lucky and because we have worked hard, is blessed. And, since we own your blessings more than we should and because we believe ourselves separate from the remainder of the world, we are disconnected from it and do not see the unity of it all.
This disconnect can manifest in many ways. A church full of “good” people who will help the poor so long as they don’t have to sit next to them or share their god with them is only one common example. As harmless as this might seem there is a danger in it.
The Christian that can fail to share a pew is the Christian that can feel removed from their community. This is the Christian that can feel so disconnected that they look upon the affairs of the world, the wars, the sickness, and famine with glee as they hail them as signs of a depraved world and as evidence that the end is about to come. They offer praises of this debauchery as evidence of their saviors return. What if the savior wants us to love and care for our planet, what if we are connected to its oceans and soil in ways that we can never truly appreciate and the stories of this savior are ones that, when understood, call upon you, with intellect and reason, to care for the entire universe, not just a simple planet?
The Muslim that can feel separate from the Christian is the one that can bomb him without thought, can praise the radical, and destroy the peaceful adept.
The Buddhist that can detach himself completely from the world’s affairs is the one that can not share the beauty that exist in his Nirvana.
Let’s jump backwards to one of first lessons in Masonry for minute.
A network, at least to most, would describe some sort of intra or Internet, a wireless network in their house or from their cell provider. But, to the Fellow Craft it is something entirely different. It is described as one of the ornaments adorning the pillars that flanked to doorway to King Solomon’s temple. The lesson the second degree Freemason learns from this, or is supposed to learn from it is UNITY.
I’ve written before of balance and equality and some of the misunderstandings that occur in trying to grasp the concept of balance in regards to esoteric mystical philosophy and I think similar misunderstandings occur with unity, but for different reasons. Balance need not exist. It is a generative product from the creative force of the macro and microcosm. It assists us in an understanding of freewill because it exists as a product of it. In the end, it is likely the universe will balance itself, but this is difficult to comprehend while we ride the ride upon the diurnal rotation.
Unity, on the other hand, exists in spite of us. More importantly, our collective ignorance of it creates a dangerous and deadly situation for us.
Let’s use some word pictures to better illustrate the point and let’s use nature as our guide. There was a time that we, as a collective people, did not realize the connection between earth and water. We thought, as recently as the 1960’s that you could dump something into the ground or bury it underground and be fine. It took scientific discovery to realize that this could affect drinking water, plants, crops, and the people that ingested the water, the plants, and the fish from the water. We did not recognize the connection, but it existed in spite of us. We can choose not to recognize it, but it remains connected, mercury will continue to leech from the ground, to the water, to the fish, to the person.
This line of thinking is equally as dangerous in the philosophical world as well. The failure to recognize unity has resulted in death, war, and hatred.
Returning to the Christian for a moment, consider the early Christian Church since is the most common religion in the world if taken collectively even though they will not consider themselves collectively…keys to heaven, lack of unity, etc. The priest craft was often referred to as “papa” or father. The papa’s began to argue their particular supremacy and the Pope was born. The “papa” or priest craft created a system where the follower of God comes to the priest as an intermediary between them and God. The priest craft itself further divided and the positions of deacons, bishops, and cardinals grew. Now, man had quite the road to travel between himself and God.
If God is omnipotent and omnipresent it is arguable at best that we as a people, planet, or universe can even be separate from him. But, if we fail to recognize the unity of G-d and man, then it is a short step to surrendering our relationship with G-d to the intermediary. Because we fail to recognize our connection and lack of separation with G-d, orthodoxy and dogma appear to create separation. Because this is our perception, we act on it as truth.
The early Christian church, coming to believe its own dogma, divided and separated into factions and the protestant movement was born. Each protestant denomination, believing that the silliest of things can cause separation from G-d, further divided for fear that a relationship with G-d is a fragile thing. Heaven became a far off place with this line of thinking and grape juice instead of wine, Masonic affiliation, or improper dress could buy you a chariot ride to the dark place.
Further, because heaven, G-d, hell, earth, and such are all separate, we are able to commit our sins in private. We can harm and then hope for salvation. We can war against one another and destroy whole peoples because they are separate from G-d.
But if the Muslim and the Jew saw themselves as the heart and eyes of a singular body, if the Christian saw himself as this same bodies legs, would we be so quick to destroy the other? If we understood that the darkest of rooms does not separate us from G-d would we be so quick to murder, to lie, to cheat? How about this? What if the darkest of actions still does not separate you from G-d, from your neighbor, from the earth, from nature, or heaven?
This brings us to the lesson of the 32nd degree of Masonry. Equilibrium. This should not be understood as a concept that exists in singularity. Nor should it be taken to mean that there should be absolute equality in all things. Equilibrium is the result of unity recognized and balance applied.
The most frightening separation that has occurred within humanity is a belief that our consciousness is granted from outside of us, that we are separate from the faculties of reason, logic, faith, and hope. That these wonderful attributes granted by the Creator are without us and not available from within. Know thyself is a physical formula for equilibrium that is simple and profound all at once.
If one man can find himself within, and express it without, the entire universe is changed. We can choose to deny unity, to live out of balance, and to pretend that the universal equilibrium is a dream. Or, we can take responsibility for our actions and own the decisions we make. We can decide to live now instead of seeking a separate heaven while creating a hell of ignorance in the present existence.
This is the relevance of Scottish Rite Masonry.