30 Μαρτίου 2011

On Masonic titles and humility...

In the course of the history of Humankind, all esoteric philosophical systems, have developed a number of built-in “safety valves” or “traps”, by which they are capable of expelling all possible intruders. Beyond all conventional initiations, these systems contain hidden “trials” for those who must be further tested, in order to verify their spiritual stamina. It goes without saying that such tests have no similarity, whatsoever, with the conventional initiation types of the various masonic degrees.

Some of the most elaborate, time-enduring and brilliant tests that Freemasonry applies to its members, are the various titles, honors and positions bestowed upon them, because they act exactly in the same manner as the mirages and illusions do for a holy man self-ostracized in the desert.

Indeed, there is a contradiction that provokes questions and criticism by all uninitiated people, especially by those who hold a skeptic position against our Brethren. Freemasonry is a philosophical system that teaches (and demands from its members to demonstrate) moderation and humility. It requires that all newly initiated members learn the way to avoid vanity and instead aim to become familiar with the real nature of things, beyond and above all appearances.

On the other hand, Freemasonry has instituted a plethora of impressive-sounding titles, ranks and grades, most of which may sound outdated, obsolete or even dead. It also utilizes designations such as Worshipful, Most Worshipful, Thrice Illustrious etc. which may be regarded as exceeding all acceptable limits of solemnity, especially if one considers that such titles are always accompanied by medals, ribbons, gold ornaments, swords, stars, collars and gold-embroidered aprons and are worn not by kings or generals, but by common people.

When people are governed by Common Sense and are in contact with Reality, all these titles are perceived by them as a part of the Masonic Ritual and they try to understand the inner meaning and the real purpose of these titles. When a Freemason has achieved a personal high level of self respect in the outside world, he is fully capable to balance these peculiar designations and leave his Metals outside the Temple. A truly initiated individual sees all these titles and honors as real burdens and duties. He avoids boasting about them and he hands them over to his successors with a sense of humility. In addition to that, he feels the duty to prepare his successors, before he withdraws with a sense of relief and happiness, because he prepares himself for the end of his cycle, and when that end arrives, he must show the same humility.

The Masonic titles can only perceived as continuous and hard reminders of our material and spiritual imperfections and sarcastic notions of the perfect state we all strive to reach, usually in vain. Julius Caesar used to have a slave holding his triumphal wreath, riding with him in his golden chariot, at times of his greatest triumphal processions and whispering to him that we are all unimportant, fools and mortals. The Masonic titles act exactly in the same manner. They remind the wise and modest men that their possession is just another milestone to the path of their Ultimate Initiation before our Maker.

On the other hand, a hollow man is tantalized by the shine of his Masonic titles. He crawls towards them, and he is prepared to suffer numerous humiliations in order to achieve them. And when he finally manages to reach his target, he clings on these titles as the sole defining qualities of his miserable life. Such men regard themselves as authorities and behave as tyrants against anyone who might present a difference of opinion. They see conspiracies all around them, fearing that someone will strip them of their much deserved titles.

In this case, these titles act as magnifying glasses, showing in the worst possible manner our imperfections and prejudices. They, cling on their bearer like a carcass, showing to everybody, every repulsive detail of his character.

This is, most probably, the real reason so many titles, regalia and honors exist in Freemasonry. To act as tools, separating the wise and modest men from their impostors.

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