The Powerful Curse of Jacques de Molay, the Last Grand Master of Templars

The execution Jacques de Molay.

On March 18, 1314, Jacques de Molay and a few other Templars, after enduring torture and many other humiliations, were sent to death. De Molay was an old man, tired with life and proud of his achievements. He knew that the tragedy which touched his brothers and himself was the result of schemes. He was also aware that the king of France had decided to torture and finally execute innocent people – the loyal knights of France. Thus, when he was dying he cursed everyone who recommended his murder.

The Templar Order, also known as the Knights Templar, Templars or the Order of Solomon’s Temple, existed for nearly two centuries during the Middle Ages. Their story began around 1129, when they became a favored charity throughout Christendom. They grew fast, as many wanted to join the group of knights with the distinctive white mantles decorated with the red cross. They were very skillful fighters during the Crusades and had innovative financial techniques, which became an early form of modern banking. The Templars were also great builders of fortifications in Europe and the Holy Land.

Jacques de Molay was born c. 1243 AD. He was the 23rd and the last Grand Master of the order of the Knights Templar. He ruled the Order from April 20, 1292 and was its great reformer.

There are many more and less real stories about him, but there is little certain information about his roots and life. One legend says that during his travel through the Camino de Santiago in the late 13th century he left his sword in the castle Ponteferrada in Spain.

As mentioned, the Templars fought in the crusades, which brought them lots of money. De Molay also spent lots of time in the Middle East, and finally he became the head of the Order.

Ordination of Jacques de Molay in 1265 as a Knight Templar, at the Beaune commandery. Painting by Marius Granet (1777-1849)

Ordination of Jacques de Molay in 1265 as a Knight Templar, at the Beaune commandery. Painting by Marius Granet (1777-1849) ( Public Domain )

By that time the Templars were famous for having a legendary treasure. The royals and nobles of Europe believed that they were very wealthy and some even thought that during the visit to the Middle East the Templars had rediscovered the treasure of King Solomon and took it for themselves.

Listening to these rumors, the king of France, Philip IV, decided to borrow money from the Order, believing he could do so without limits. The Templars were good in money management, but when they lent it to someone, they expected to receive repayment.

That was the beginning of the end for the Templars – Philip IV of France didn’t mean to pay back his deep debt to the Order. In place of giving the money back to the Templars, he decided to take advantage of the situation. He asked for the support of pope Clement V, and in 1307 many members of the Order were arrested in France. The nightmare of the tortures to receive false confessions proving that the Templars collaborated with the devil began. De Molay was also dissolved of his duties by the order of Pope Clement V in 1307.

The Execution of the Templars

Due to the orders of Philip IV, the tortures on the Templars were completed in the most terrifying ways known. One by one, the men tortured by the Medieval Inquisition, gave false confessions to stop their suffering. Nonetheless, the brave Grand Master retracted his confession and Philip decided to burn him on the island in from of the cathedral of Notre Dame de Paris.

Jacques de Molay sentenced to the stake in 1314, from the Chronicle of France or of St Denis.

Jacques de Molay sentenced to the stake in 1314, from the Chronicle of France or of St Denis. ( Public Domain )

After seven long years, Jacques de Molay ended the daily pain of tortures and the Cardinals agreed upon the death sentence for him. According to the eyewitnesses of the execution, de Molay showed no sign of fear, and he tried to not show pain during his slow death on the burning stake.

Most of the pyres were prepared in such a way that the victims would die quickly. However, in the case of De Molay, they prepared a pyre which would burn slowly. Before he died, he made his voice heard loudly once more. The results of the speech may have led the king and the Cardinals to regret not allowing him to die within a few minutes, like the other Knights.

A Curse Which Scared All of Europe

While burning on the pyre, De Molay cursed King Philip IV of France, his descendants, Pope Clement V, and everyone else who supported his death. De Molay said that within a year and a day, Clement V and Philip IV would die. He also said Philip’s bloodline would reign in France no more

Templars burned at the stake.

Templars burned at the stake. ( Public Domain )

It happened as De Molay wished for, and death came for Clement first. He lost a battle with a damaging disease on April 20, 1314. Shortly after the Pope, Philip died of a stroke while hunting. A tragic death was also the destiny for all of Philip’s successors. Between 1314 and 1328 all three sons and grandsons of the French king died. Within fourteen years from the death of De Molay the House of Caped no longer existed – after it had stood for 300 years.

Portrait of Pope Clement V, Avignon, France.

Portrait of Pope Clement V, Avignon, France. ( Public Domain )

Was the curse by De Molay real? Or did his Knights accomplish the revenge of the Grand Master? The story of the last Grand Master and his horrible curse became a shock in all of the European courts. It also ruined the politics of France because some of the rulers were afraid of collaboration with the cursed royal family.

Inspiration By the Curse

This story became a main topic of the famous series of historical novels by Maurice Druon ( The Accursed Kings ). The books were published in the years 1955 and 1977, and depict the reality of the times of De Molay. They were also adapted into several movies and television miniseries.

In September 2001, Barbara Frale, an Italian Paleographer at the Vatican Secret Archives discovered a document known as the Chinon Parchment . It claims that in 1208 Pope Clement V absolved Jacques De Molay and the rest of the leadership of the Knights Templar from charges brought against the Inquisition. Six years later, the Vatican published the document as a limited edition of 800 copies.

In June 2011, Pope Benedict XVI apologized for the killing of De Molay and acknowledged that he was a victim of false accusations. Centuries after the tragedy took place, the Vatican admitted that the pope had supported the murders, although the Templars weren’t guilty.

Featured image: The execution Jacques de Molay. Source: Public Domain

By Natalia Klimczak

References:

M. Barber, The New Knighthood: A History of the Order of the Temple, 1994.

M. Barber, The Trial of the Templars, 2001.

H. Nicholson, The Knights Templar: A New History, 2001.

A. Demurger, Jakub de Molay. Zmierzch templariuszy, 2012.

Making Bad Days Good Days

The soft purple light transitions between nighttime and morning as brilliant pinks illuminate the sky. Moments later, monumental rock faces are washed in glowing orange light. These rock formations are the very ones seen in great Westerns, old Marlboro commercials, and Georgia O’Keeffe paintings. My room sits atop a hill high above Ghost Ranch and overlooking a distant purple plateau, the very one Georgia spent a lifetime painting. This feels like sacred land, or at least an homage to the artist and film directors who made these lands famous.

Fond Farewell

Soon, like each morning for the past week, I’ll meet everyone for breakfast, and then make announcements one last time on our departure day. Tears will flow as people who did not know each other a week ago hug those who have become their new friends and they remember the laughter, the deep talks, the first plein air paintings for some, and the special memories of the week. Though we’re here at an event I call Fall Color Week, a week of painting, the friendships made outweigh the endless painting locations where one could spend a lifetime. I too am sad to say farewell but happy to be home with my family tonight.

The Choice

During this week I spent time with two different people who were dealing with some major problems and yet had incredible attitudes. One, recently diagnosed with a catastrophic, life-threatening disease, chose to come to the event anyway, though she isn’t feeling well and is going through some difficult treatments.

The other had her career cut short by an accident that left her in intense pain with no hope of relief, probably for the rest of her life.

The Effort for Joy

What struck me about both these people is that they were not wearing it on their sleeves, not talking about it, not seeking sympathy. In fact, I found that of all the people attending my event, these two had the most upbeat and outgoing personalities. Both were filled with joy, both were fun to be around, and they didn’t complain, whine, or fail to participate in spite of the pain they were in. They went out of their way to make things fun, to laugh, and to bring joy to those around them.

“There is no need to be miserable and make it difficult for others to be around me,” said the one. “I’m miserable enough, I don’t want to bring any misery to others and certainly don’t want to be miserable to be around or live with. I’m alive, and that’s a lot to be thankful for.”

I have to admit, I’ve seen few people embrace life with such joy as these two. 

Grumpy Me

Honestly, if I’m experiencing a temporary physical ailment like a herniated disc or a pinched nerve, I’m grumpy and not fun to be around. I cannot imagine knowing that pain would be long-term.

Never Giving In

In one case this person said she intended to beat her disease even though she has been told there is little chance of that happening. In the other case, she has tried dozens of different treatments, drugs, and therapies and has been told there are no more options, yet she is convinced she will beat it by continuing to search.

“I don’t know if I’ll make it through or not, but I believe I will, and I certainly don’t want to live the remaining months or years of my life being a sourpuss.”

Both of these women inspire me and have taught me important lessons. 

They embrace life as it is, not as it should be, or once was. And their conditions have made them want to make the most out of each day. A good day for each is a little less pain than other days. 

No Victims

Secondly, they are not playing the victim. They acknowledge their condition, but are not using it to gain attention or sympathy. They don’t like to talk about it, avoid bringing it up, and want to be accepted for who they are.

Third, they acknowledge their condition — but don’t accept it. Meaning they will never give in and consider their condition a life sentence. Instead, they will keep seeking alternatives, never giving up.

Skipping Through Life

Fourth, they are living life with joy, happiness, and a spirit of fun. I caught one of them skipping, the other singing, and saw both laughing a lot. They want to live full and happy lives and go out of their way to make sure each day is as happy as possible in spite of their pain. 

Healing with Attitude

In Cyber Cybernetics, a book by Maxwell Maltz I read decades ago, the author presented evidence that attitude, laughter, and being happy had a positive impact on health and survival. More sophisticated recent research confirms what Maltz discovered among prisoners in concentration camps — attitude is a major factor in healing.

What causes you to have a bad day?

What makes you grumpy and difficult to be around?

How does what you’re facing compare to a death sentence or a lifetime of chronic pain?

Is it possible that the things we hang on to as victims, the things we get bothered or stressed by, pale in comparison to what these two women are facing? 

Learning Life Through Death

I recently lost an old friend to cancer. I watched him die on Facebook over the last two years. But he died with dignity and a great attitude, up to the very last day. Though he reported his progress, he was upbeat, encouraging to others, and a joy to be around. He taught me a lot about living as I saw the way he died.

People like this are bigger than most. Instead of being “Why me?” focused, they are not me-focused at all but focused on bringing joy to others, and that brings them joy. 

What if we all lived that way?

What if we all shed our grumpy days, our misery, and our complaints, and realized that most of what bothers us isn’t a bother at all?

What if you did not allow yourself to have bad days … almost ever?

Who I Want to Be

I want to be the guy who greets me with a giant smile and open arms.

I want to be the lady who loves to laugh.

I want to be the person who gets joy from helping others realize greatness.

I want to be the person who never complains.

I want to be the person who makes others feel good about themselves when they’re around me.

I want to be the person who keeps his pain and angst to himself.

I want to be the woman who is exuberant.

I want to be the person who loves life, who embraces every minute, even the bad, and makes the best of them.

Who I Don’t Want to Be

I don’t want to be the person who complains, who whines, who is filled with anxiety and fear. I don’t want to be the person who isn’t fun to be around, who takes life too seriously, who finds fault in others and is judgmental.

Who do you want to be?

The great thing about life … you get to choose who you are. You can drop who you have been and reinvent yourself at any time in your life. You can’t shed your past, but you can choose not to allow it to impact your future anymore. 

You can be the life of the party. You can be exuberant if that’s who you want to be.

Circumstances do not define your life. You define how you interpret your life. 

Choose wisely. Each day is a gift, and no day should be approached without pure joy.

Eric Rhoads

PS: I don’t mean to make light of you or your circumstances. I’ve not walked in your shoes. I don’t know what you’re going through or what you’ve been through. But please know, I deeply want the best for you.

PS 2: I feel like I’m living a dream because I get to meet so many wonderful people in a lot of different circumstances. One lady this week said to me, “Coming to this makes me realize I need to be around more people. This is a joy because my family and friends can’t relate to my art, but everyone here is someone who shares the same passion I have.” Find your tribe, no matter what you’re into, and get involved. It will do your heart good. My next event like this is the 10-year anniversary of my Adirondack Publisher’s Invitational in June. If this is the tribe you want to be a part of, I’ll see you there. 

PS 3: This week I had 98 artists in attendance. We had so much fun, and remarkably, there were many beginners, and some who did the first plein air paintings of their lives. I did a lot of high-fives because I was so proud of them and wanted to encourage them. I’d like to high-five you for learning to paint portraits or figures at my Figurative Art Convention & Expo, which is coming up November 10-13 in Williamsburg, Virginia. It’s open to every level, including beginners, and it exposes you to the best of the best. If you’re going to learn, learn from the best. Remember, average people try to solve their own problems, above-average people try to learn from the mistakes of others, and exceptional people seek out exceptional teachers who are the best of the best to teach them. We’ve got a wonderful pre-convention workshop to teach you to draw, and another to teach you to paint people from photos. Then four days of exceptional training. If you’re an artist of any kind, keep this in mind. In the studio, you have questions you don’t even know to ask, but the masters teaching at FACE have answered most of them already. You can return to your studio with answers to questions you haven’t even formulated yet. One kernel of true understanding is priceless — imagine the nuggets the masters at FACE have to share. By attending you can make every day in your studio more stimulating and productive … What could you possibly learn from four days with the masters at FACE? When it’s over you’ll wonder how you could ever have asked such a question.

Stoicism

Simply put, Stoicism was designed to help people live their best possible lives.

It’s a philosophy of life that maximizes positive emotions, reduces negative emotions and helps individuals to hone their virtues of character.

At any moment, in any situation, and at any stage of life, Stoicism provides a framework for living well. It reminds people of what is truly important, providing practical strategies to get more of what is valuable.

Stoicism was deliberately created to be understandable, actionable and useful. Practicing Stoicism doesn’t require learning an entirely new philosophical lexicon or meditating for hours a day. Instead, it offers an immediate, useful and practical way to find tranquility and improve one’s strengths of character.

Stoicism is having a renaissance with entrepreneurs, athletes, and politicians. If you have an interest in learning more about Stoicism, or if you want to explore answers to some of life’s most significant questions, please read on! And don’t forget us know what you think in the comment section below.

Let’s start by learning a bit more about Stoicism.

The History of Stoicism

Stoicism is a school of philosophy that hails from ancient Greece and Rome in the early parts of the 3rd century, BC.

It’s important to keep in mind how differently people thought then.
People’s primary concern was to avoid living an unfortunate life. Therefore, they were more likely to order their thoughts, decisions, and behaviors to promote increased life satisfaction. One of the most important things to keep in mind is individuals didn’t automatically assume that they would achieve happiness by attaining money, prestige, and or beautiful things. With great urgency, people wanted to understand how they could have an excellent soul.

Stoicism was one of the famous schools of thought during this period because the Stoics provided compelling answers to anxiety, stress, fear, and troubling questions like “What do I want out of life?” The Stoics offered an operating system that dealt with the trials of the human condition.

Their ultimate answer to all of these issues (essentially) went as follows:

I want enduring happiness and tranquility of mind, which come from being a virtuous person.

For instance, a person could hone virtues of character by placing more value on actions over words. In short, positive behavior lead toward a more positive life experience. And, you guessed it– negative behavior resulted in a more challenging one.

In summation, Stoicism was an ancient school of philosophy that taught a particular way of living. Its principal focus was how to live a virtuous life, to maximize happiness and reduce negative emotions. Its value has been tried and tested over much of human history by renown individuals like George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Arianna Huffington, Tom Brady, Tim Ferriss and more.

Its principles may have started long ago, but Stoic strategies are as relevant today as they were in ancient times.

Who were the Stoics?

A handful of thinkers helped to form the Stoic philosophy. This section will provide pertinent information about several of the most famous Stoics, as well as what they contributed to the Stoic Philosophy.

Marcus Aurelius

Marcus Aurelius

Marcus Aurelius was one of the most influential human beings in human history. He was the head of the Roman Empire for two decades, at a time when it was one of the largest and most influential civilizations the world had ever seen. And despite being an individual of limitless power – who could do whatever he pleased with impunity – emperor Aurelius ardently practiced and lived the Stoic philosophy.

He wrote nightly in his journal about his struggles to live as a restrained, wise and virtuous human being. He wrote them for himself entirely, later his writings were uncovered, collected, and published under the title Meditations. The collection is now recognized as one of the most influential Stoic texts. His writings are a direct look at the thoughts of a practicing Stoic, and he stands as an incredible example of how Stoic strategies can help individuals deal with stressful situations.

Full text of Meditations of Marcus Aurelius

Lucius Annaeus Seneca

Lucius Annaeus Seneca was a statesman, a dramatist, and a writer, which gave him real charisma and a way with words. He had a particularly simple, entertaining and memorable way of explaining Stoicism, which has placed his writings among the very best ways for beginners to engage with the philosophy. Also, Seneca’s thoughts resonate with modern audiences, due to his unusually practical considerations of topics like friendship, mortality, altruism and the proper use of time. Give one of Seneca’s more popular texts a read here –Letters from a Stoic. And listen to why Seneca offers some of Tim Ferriss’ favorite life hacks here – The Tao of Seneca.

Zeno of Citium

Stoic philosophy started with Zeno of Citium. Having shipwrecked near Athens, he turned his misfortune into an opportunity by taking advantage of all the philosophical resources available in the city. He sat in on lectures from the other schools of philosophy (e.g., Cynicism, Epicureanism) and eventually started his own. He would teach his theory on the Stoa Poikile(a famously painted porch in Athens), and it is from this Greek word for porch “stōïkos” that the term Stoicism came.

Epictetus

Epictetus, a former slave, improved his station in life to become one of Stoicism’s most analytical thinkers. Epictetus’ handbook, The Enchiridion, is an especially practical look at how to implement the Stoic philosophy in one’s life. He had a particular talent for explaining how Stoic strategies improve one’s quality of life and made a compelling case for why one might want to make Stoicism their primary operating system. Many of his teachings have become recognizable, without being known as his. For instance, one of his principles is at the basis of the: serenity prayer: “God grant me serenity to accept the things I cannot change, Courage to change the things I can, And wisdom to know the difference.”

What are the main principles of Stoic philosophy?

The Stoic philosophy changed over time, shifting focus from logic and physics – to more psychological concerns like tranquility and well-being. Also, the Stoics could never convene to affirm all of their tenants precisely, but there are certain principles at the core of the Stoic operating system. Here are some of the most important beliefs and strategies that the Stoics recommend to live a better life.

Importantly, these are not just interesting ideas to think about and then forget, they are meant to be practiced every day of one’s life.

“Waste no more time arguing what a good man should be. Be One.”
– Marcus Aurelius

  • As the philosophy developed, the Stoics came to have very little patience for purely theoretical contemplation. They focused less on pondering for the sake of it and more on real-world pragmatism.
  • In the real world, you need to arrive at an answer and take action. A true Stoic is not an “armchair philosopher,” but someone who gets out and lives by their theory.
  • Also in this quote, one can immediately see the Stoic concern for a righteous life. Stoics think that a good life is one of moral action. If you want to live well, you have got to be a morally just person.

“The chief task in life is simply this: to identify and separate matters so that I can say clearly to myself which are externals not under my control, and which have to do with the choices I actually control. Where then do I look for good and evil? Not to uncontrollable externals, but within myself to the choices that are my own…”
– Epictetus

  • Stoics acknowledge that people don’t have control over all, or even much, of what happens in life. And they emphasize that worrying about things outside of their control is unproductive, or even irrational to a person who wants to attain tranquility.
  • The Stoics would have us remind ourselves daily – to actively differentiate between what is and is not under control – to not waste energy over uncontrollable adverse events.
  • Where many people worry endlessly about things out of their control, the Stoics think their energy is better spent thinking of creative solutions to problems, rather than the issues themselves.

“No person has the power to have everything they want, but it is in their power not to want what they don’t have, and to cheerfully put to good use what they do have.”
– Seneca

  • Living as a Stoic does not mean you must live without material goods. In fact, the Stoics think that material goods are just – to the extent that they serve your happiness and ability to live virtuously.
  • However, Stoics are hyper-aware of the power of consumerism over their tranquility and decision-making. Many individuals spend a significant portion of their days upset about not having a more beautiful car or a bigger home, even though they have excellent health and more possessions than most.
  • Seneca was known to practice days of poverty, where he would fast and wear unfashionable clothing, to remind himself that people do not require luxuries to live a good life. All in all, individuals have enough to get by and be happy, yet they are upset about their lives because they maintain an insatiable desire for more.
  • Stoics consciously try not to suffer over what they lack. Instead, they guide their awareness towards gratitude for what they have.

“I judge you unfortunate because you have never lived through misfortune. You have passed through life without an opponent—no one can ever know what you are capable of, not even you.”
 Seneca

  •  The Stoics take a very different view of misfortune than most people. They expect mishaps and use them as opportunities to hone their virtues. That is not to say that they are glad when troubles beset them, but they try not to lament them needlessly, and they actively seek benefit wherever possible.
  • Imagine breaking a leg and needing to sit in bed for four months while it heals. A Stoic would attempt to guide their thoughts away from useless “woe is me” rumination and focus instead on how they might do something productive while bedridden (e.g., write their first book). They would try to reframe the event as a way to cultivate their patience and become more creative.
  •  Where there is an adverse event, Stoics try not to let it ruin their tranquility, and instead, they try to derive character-building benefits wherever possible.

“External things are not the problem. It’s your assessment of them. Which you can erase right now.”
– Marcus Aurelius

  • The Stoic way of life has made its way into modern Psychology. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, or CBT, is based on the idea that how we think (cognition), how we feel (emotion) and how we act (behavior) all interact together. Specifically, our thoughts determine our feelings and our behavior. So Stoicism is an ancient thought that has been proven by modern psychological science!
  •  In many ways, one’s thoughts determine their experience of reality. For two people who undergo the same hardship, their differing assessment of that same misfortune can result in entirely different emotions and behaviors. Where one may feel utter despair at the loss of a job, another may feel liberated and hopeful about the opportunity.
  • Monitoring one’s inner critic towards greater optimism can be a  boon to psychological well-being. Remember, it is not the event itself that makes one upset, but one’s thoughts about it.

“Let us prepare our minds as if we’d come to the very end of life. Let us postpone nothing. Let us balance life’s books each day. … The one who puts the finishing touches on their life each day is never short of time.”
– Seneca

“Keep death and exile before your eyes each day, along with everything that seems terrible— by doing so, you’ll never have a base thought nor will you have excessive desire.”
– Epictetus

  • “Memento Mori” has been an important concept in many philosophies, from the Stoics to the Existentialists. It means “remember that you will die.” While this may seem morbid, Stoics like Epictetus & Seneca believed that contemplating one’s mortality can lead to more gratitude and virtuous action.
  •  Instead of always wanting more, this exercise reminds the Stoic to appreciate what they have, while they have it. Or in other words, Stoic philosophy can help you appreciate good like health and well-being while they have them.
  • When one remembers that their lives are not infinite, it tends to clarify what is really important. This idea is often summed up as advice given in the form of “You could get hit but a bus tomorrow.” Again it seems morbid, but the point is to get out and live today. Don’t stress so much about the little things, and ensure that you carpe that diem, as you won’t always have another chance.

The good or ill of a man lies within his own will.”
– Epictetus

  • It ought to be said at least once more – that virtue is the primary concern of the practicing Stoic. More important than wealth or even health, excellence of character is the highest good.
  • A Stoic thinks that as long as they think and behave virtuously (things which are always under their control), that they need not concern themselves with the impact of external events that lay outside of their control.
  • Whether or not people are rude or one experiences an unending streak of bad luck is irrelevant, as long as the Stoic responds in virtuous ways – he/she can rest easy in knowing that they’re living a good life.

What are ways people practice stoicism today?

Tim Ferris on practicing famine

“Practicing poverty or practicing rehearsing your worst case scenario in real life, not just journaling, not just in your head, I find very, very important.

For instance, I will regularly, three continuous days per month minimum, practice fasting. I will do that from early Thursday dinner to an early Sunday dinner to simply expose myself to the rather, often unfamiliar, sensation of real hunger.

The more you schedule and practice discomfort deliberately, the less unplanned discomfort will throw off your life and control your life.”

-Tim Ferris

Find more exercises from renown modern day stoics here.

Ryan Holiday on the Premeditation of Evils

“Practice premeditatio malorum (a premeditation of evils). Everyone talks about positive visualization. The stoics practice negative visualization. Think about what could go wrong, accept that it is a possibility, prepare for it, proceed anyway. Don’t be caught by surprise by misfortune, be ready for it.”

– Ryan Holiday

Find more Stoic exercises to try on a daily basis here.

Where can I learn more about Stoicism?

A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy by William Irvine

Reddit – Stoicism

The Daily Stoic: 366 Meditations on Wisdom, Perseverance, and the Art of Living by Ryan Holiday

The Obstacle Is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph by Ryan Holiday

Wikipedia – Stoicism

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

The Psychology Podcast, ft. Ryan Holiday on Stoicism

Tim Ferris – On The Shortness of Life: An Introduction to Seneca

Ryan Holiday’s website features many articles on Stoicism

How to be a Stoic, website dedicated to practical Stoicism by Massimo Pigliucci

List of Stoicism themed podcasts

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Written by Taylor Kreiss. Taylor writes about positive psychology to help people live their best lives! See more of his work and learn more about Taylor on his site.

A new perpective

IN LOS FELIZ, across from a 7-Eleven on North Vermont Avenue, a few dozen men in their early 20s to late 80s share a dinner behind closed doors. Some wear full tuxedos with bow ties and jeweled cuff links, some have shoulder-length hair, and others wear open-collared shirts that reveal the slightest filigree of tattoo arching across their chests.

Over Italian food, retired lawyers and judges sit elbow-to-elbow with owners of scrap metal yards and vintage clothing boutiques. They hold forth on philosophy, the weather; they rib each other and joke about saving room for cannoli. As they reach for seconds, they reveal skull-cracking rings emblazoned with a compass and a square.

Meet the millennial Masons. As secret societies go, it is one of the oldest and most famous. Its enrollment roster includes Louis Armstrong and Gerald Ford, and it has been depicted in movies such as “The Da Vinci Code” and “National Treasure.” Once more than 4 million strong (back in the 1950s), it has been in something of a popularity free-fall ever since. Viewed with suspicion as a bastion of antiquated values and forced camaraderie, the Masons have seen membership rolls plummet more than 60% to just 1.5 million in 2006.

Only now the trend seems to be reversing itself, and nowhere more noticeably than in Southern California. The reasons seem clear. In another Masonic Hall, this one on La Cienega, a Sri Lankan-born banker, a sunglasses-wearing Russian immigrant and a continent-hopping Frenchman break bread, poke at their salads and chat about their health.

“For a time it looked as if Masonry was going into a sharp decline, if not the death throes,” said UCLA history professor Margaret C. Jacob, who has written extensively about the fraternal order. “But it looks like it may be making a comeback.”

That’s because the Freemasons, whose tenets forbid soliciting or recruiting members, have enthusiastically embraced the Internet as a way to leverage curiosity about an organization with its roots in Europe’s medieval stonemasons guilds. Freemasonry today sees itself as a thinking man’s salon, a learned society with a philanthropic bent.

“We had a record number of new members last year,” said Allan Casalou, grand secretary of the Grand Lodge of California. “We added 2,000 men, which is the most since 1998 and our seventh straight year of membership increases.”

And, to paraphrase that Oldsmobile campaign, these definitely aren’t your father’s Freemasons. They are bar owners, male models and olive-oil brokers. They are men like Zulu, an L.A. tattoo artist with a swirling Maori-inspired design inked across his face and a panoply of metal piercing his ears, nose and face. They are men like Jonathan Kanarek, who runs a men’s vintage clothing store on Hollywood Boulevard and whose retro chic wardrobe of polka-dot ascots, glen-plaid jackets and smartly pressed pocket squares earned him a spot on Esquire magazine’s 2007 list of best-dressed real men in America. And they are men like Daemon Hillin, whose surfer-dude looks and blinding white smile can be found on Japanese TV, where he plays sidekick and comic foil to the Japanese version of the Hilton sisters.

They are also all men who want to be part of an all-for-one and one-for-all brotherhood built on shared ideals, philosophical pursuits and a penchant for rings, aprons and funny hats. As Zulu bluntly put it: “I joined because I was looking for people to hang with that were like-minded but also hip and cool, and a lot of tattoo artists tend to be drunks and druggies.”

Hillin, who originally joined the Masons in Temecula, moved to L.A. and is interested in the Santa Monica-Palisades Lodge No. 307, one of the youngest and most diverse congregations in the state (the average age of active brothers is just 33). The lodge’s senior deacon, Jim Warren, calls it “ ‘Star Trek’ without the chicks.” “We have every possible national origin, ethnicity and religious denomination you could imagine,” he said.

Warren credits the Internet. “We were one the first lodges in the state to have a website up,” he said. “That led to a huge spike in membership.”

Other lodges followed suit, putting up their own sites and drawing a crowd. That’s how prospective Mason Johnny Royal ended up at the door of Elysian Lodge No. 418 last month. Intrigued by the distinctive Masonic architecture that graces most halls, the 31-year-old publicist with sideburns to his chin and hair to his shoulders and a Renaissance lute player tattoo on his right forearm hit the Web.

What he read about the Masonic ideals — wisdom, strength, beauty and the pursuit of knowledge — made him decide to pursue membership. “My generation wants to be part of something beyond itself,” Royal said. “I want to learn; I want to participate.”

The Web generation

THE INTERNET hasn’t only made it easier to learn about the Freemasons, Casalou says, it’s changed the type of men coming forward. “There is so much information on the Internet that by the time someone comes to a lodge to seek membership, they already know a lot about Masonry,” he said. “Which is a big departure from previous generations. And it means they are more likely to be active participants.”

Zulu became curious about Freemasonry after tattooing Masonic symbology on several clients. He joined five years ago at age 39 and now serves as webmaster and senior warden of North Hollywood Lodge No. 542. He has also gone on to become both a Scottish Rite Mason and Shriner (Masonic membership is a prerequisite for both), and next year he will become the leader of his lodge. “I’ll be the first black worshipful master in the lodge’s history,” he said, using the proper term of respect.

But he probably won’t be the last. Because California’s contingent of Freemasons is expected to grow, the average age of its members, once 71 and now 65, is expected to drop. By 2018, as Casalou predicts, the state will be awash in 55-year-old pre-retirement Masons giving each other secret handshakes, wearing ritual aprons and invoking the Grand Architect of the Universe.

The Internet continues to help. Zulu said that he gets at least four e-mails a week from prospective Masons around the globe who see his tattooed and pierced visage at the lodge website and want to be reassured such an alternative look isn’t a barrier to membership.

“Yeah, I think it’s going to become hip and chic to be a Mason,” Zulu said. “And that could be a dangerous thing.”

10 Guidelines for Egoless Lodge Leadership

1. Understand and accept that you will make mistakes. No matter how prepared you are, no matter how much ritual you know, or how well you know it, no matter how many times you may have been in the chair before, you will make mistakes. The point is to own them, don’t hide from them, and take responsible courses of action to fix them. Fortunately, most mistakes are not egregious, therefore rarely fatal, so we can, and should, learn, laugh, and move on.

2. You ARE your Ritual Proficiency. You both know the ritual, AND can perform it well, or not. There is no middle ground on this. As an officer, and you set the example. If you don’t know your ritual, at best you are encouraging others to follow your example, and at worst, you are insulting all those Brothers who took the time and effort to learn theirs. Period.

[editor] In comment, mistakes will happen. Mistakes can be forgiven. Not knowing your ritual is not a mistake. It is a direct abandonment of the responsibilities of the office.

3. No matter how much “freemasonry” you know, someone else will always know more. Such an individual can teach you some new things if you ask. Seek and accept input from others, especially when you think it’s not needed.

4. Don’t “change things” without consultation. There’s a fine line between “fixing” something that is wrong/incorrect and reinventing the wheel and abandoning centuries held initiatic experiences. Know the difference, and pursue stylistic changes within the framework of a community change, not as a lone enforcer. Also, before changing anything, find out why it is done. Someone in your Lodge knows. Pick up the phone and make a new friend – ask why.

5. Treat others with respect, deference, and patience. The mark of a gentleman is how well he treats those who are of no use to him.

6. The only constant in the world is change. Be open to it and accept it with a smile. Look at each change as a new challenge, not as some serious inconvenience to be fought.

7. The only true authority stems from knowledge, not from position. Knowledge engenders authority, and authority engenders respect. If you want respect in an egoless environment, cultivate knowledge.

8. Fight for what you believe, but gracefully accept defeat. Understand that sometimes your ideas will be overruled. Even if you do turn out to be right, don’t take revenge or say, “I told you so” more than a few times at most, and don’t make your dearly departed idea a martyr or rallying cry.

9. Don’t be “that guy in the room.” Don’t be the guy who always has something negative to say. Don’t be that guy who knows more than everyone else. Don’t be the only guy who can do it right. Don’t be that guy. Don’t be that guy who gets insulted when others don’t see how glorious you are. Don’t be the only guy in the room making a decision or having an idea. Don’t be that guy who never sees positives in others’ work. Don’t be that guy who is too thin-skinned to share with his Brothers. That guy is out of touch, out of sight, and out of control and has no place in an open, collaborative environment such as a Lodge.

10. Critique work instead of people. Be kind to the individual, not to the Work. As much as possible, make all of your comments positive and oriented to improving the Work. Relate comments to local standards, increased performance, etc.

BONUS: You are NOT your title. Correctly speaking, as Grand/Right/Worshipful Master, you are properly addressed as Brother Hiram Abiff, Worshipful Masternot Worshipful Brother Hiram Abiff. Even if your Grand Lodge Code states that you are Grand, Right and Worshipful, refer to yourself as Brother first, and only. You are but a temporary custodian of your office, act as such.

By Brother Jason A. Mitchell, Wasatch Lodge № 1, F&AM Salt Lake City, Utah.

Live with Chivalry.

Let’s raise a glass to the almost-forgotten fine art of Chivalry.

Here’s to doing things the right way.  To give a damn about others.

Here’s to giving your word and keeping it.  Here’s to honor. And it’s simple extension, the handshake.

Here’s to style, exuberance and charisma.   Here’s to black instead of no tie.

To the man rich, in experience.  Here’s to chasing wealth, in all it’s forms.

And here’s to sharing it.

Here’s to straight talking or as it used to be known, honesty.

Here’s to having some front and watching someone’s back.

Here’s to knowing that life‘s real luxuries are time and friendships.

Here’s to optimism, and leaps of faith.

Here’s to freedom.  And having the audacity to go out and get it.

Here’s to knowing that you’re not alone.

That together we’re better, stronger, smarter.

Here’s to the brave and the enlightened.

To a shared way of behaving that sets certain men apart from all others.

Here’s to those who live with Chivalry.

Here’s to us

A Master’s Wages

by ARMAND H. BISHOP, M.P.S. (Kans.)

We have all heard of some Brother being asked to give his reasons for becoming a Master Mason, and among the reasons given in reply, was a desire to receive Master’s Wages. But what are Master’s Wages? The wages of a Master Mason may mean something entirely different to each and every one of us. Wages received by one Brother may give full satisfaction. Under the same circumstances, another

may feel that he has been short changed. Those who seek to become Master Masons in a search for material wealth will certainly be disappointed. Just as surely, those who come into our Fraternity with a sincere desire for light-more light -and further light, and are willing to expose themselves to the teachings of Masonry, will be richly rewarded.

The light we receive as we pursue our Masonic careers will help us in becoming better men in our homes, in our Lodges, and in the community. It will constantly remind us to do unto others as we would have them do unto us, and in so doing, it will give us peace of mind as we become better acquainted with our Maker. It will create in each of us a desire to want to do the right thing at all times, and more than that, a study of Freemasonry will better fit us to live in harmony with our fellowmen. But it is up to each of us to decide for himself just what his wages shall be.

It is not likely that all Brethren will be paid the same wages, either in kind of wages or the amount. We have Brethren who, for reasons that may seem to be sufficient to them, rarely attend our Lodge meetings. This does not necessarily mean that they are not receiving Master’s Wages. Some of our Brethren-without being reminded, find time to visit with the sick in their homes and in hospitals, and in so doing, bring light and joy into the lives of many.

A Mason doing these things certainly receives a Masters Wages. Some Brother may also receive wages in the assistance he is able to give to the grief- stricken family of a departed Brother-or in giving the funeral service at the grave. There is besides, one Brother I know who has devoted practically all of his spare time during the past forty years to helping crippled children. He has spent his own time and money in helping these crippled children into Shriners’ Hospitals where repairs can be made, and their broken bodies mended. Is there anyone so naive that he believes this Brother is not completely satisfied with the Master’s Wages that he receives in so doing?

His rewards for such humanitarian endeavors make him one of the happiest men that I know anywhere.

Some of us receive wages as we take advantage of the opportunity to instruct the younger Brethren in the ritualistic work, lectures, or Masonic history. And most assuredly, some of the best paid Masons are those who under no circumstance could be persuaded to accept an office in the Lodge, or take part in the degree work, but who are grateful for the opportunity to prepare and serve refreshments, help repair furniture and paraphernalia, or who serve on committees with burdensome or unpleasant duties no one else wants to assume. Then, too, we have the good

Brother who receives satisfactory wages in honors conferred upon him for long and faithful service. Another may receive wages in the deep -down satisfaction that comes to one who is able to be of assistance in any capacity-whether in teaching lectures or taking part in the degree work.

The Worshipful Master who starts out his year with his program already prepared well in advance of his installation knowing what he has to do to keep each meeting of interest to the Brethren, appoints his committees, and keeps a watchful eye on every item in order that his plans may develop as scheduled. At the end of the year he justly feels a little weary and ready for a prolonged rest. Without a doubt the thought has occurred to him, at sometime during the year, that all of his time, effort and his personal expense is being wasted. But at the end if his term of office when all is done, he realizes that everything has turned out better than he could have possibly desired. He feels richly rewarded. He, too, had received Master’s Wages. There are many other ways in which we receive Master’s Wages, but I believe that the fine fellowship we enjoy and the friends we make as we travel along life’s restless way, reward us more generously than any of the other benefits derived from our Masonic Associations.

Friendship is something that we cannot buy. Neither can we sell it to anyone. But we can give it away, and we do. Those of us who have long been actively interested in our Masonic organizations have had wonderful opportunities to make friends-and what is more important-to BE friends. There is nothing in the world more important than that each of us take advantage of every opportunity to be a friend. If we will do this, we will make friends and have friends . Those of us who have followed such a policy have been well paid. Many of us have received Master’s Wages over, and over, and over again. It is a wonderful experience. In this day and age, many are making collections of various kinds. These collections cover a wide range of articles. Rare and old paintings, coins, china, precious gems, postage stamps, mechanical pencils, book-match covers, and many other items.

You and I couldn’t have a more rewarding hobby, than that of collecting friends. We all have plenty of room for such a hobby for we find friends for such a collection wherever we may go. It may be somebody who employs you, or it can be some person who is employed by you or it can be someone you scarcely know just as easily as it may be someone who is a regular and daily associate. The plumber, janitor. delivery man, a banker, or some person with prestige and wealth in the community or state in which you live.

Everywhere you look, you will find another friend for your collection, and each of them will be a valued addition to your collection and be highly treasured so long as you can keep them. All collections are of some value to those possessing them but nothing can compare in value to a collection of friends .

You can’t sell this sort of collection to another, but who would wan t to? Reflect on it and I am sure that you will agree with me that no material wealth of any kind can make one so happy as a fine collection of friends. And the cost of putting together such a collection is small. A little kindness, a courtesy, thoughtfulness, and consideration for others are the necessary ingredients for making friends, and it is certainly an easy and pleasant manner in which to earn your Master’s Wages.

Who We Are, and What We Do

Freemasonry is perhaps the oldest fraternity in the world, embracing men of all monotheistic faiths who strive to become better men through instruction, fellowship, and charitable community service. Masonry as we know it today arose in Scotland and England, where in 1717 the Grand Lodge of England was formally established. Since that time, Grand Lodges have been established around

the world with jurisdiction over local Lodges in their respective countries. Masonry in the United States began with the Founding Fathers and many ordinary citizens. Famous American Masons include George Washington, Ben Franklin, Theodore and Franklin Roosevelt, Charles Lindbergh, Will Rogers, Harry Truman, Douglas MacArthur, Audie Murphy, Gerald Ford, Danny Thomas, John Wayne,

Leonardo Di Caprio, Brad Paisley, Cy Young, Shaquille O’Neal, John Elway, John Glenn, and Buzz Aldrin.

 

Freemasonry in Texas began with six Masons who met under an oak tree near Brazoria in 1835 and petitioned the Grand Lodge of Louisiana for a dispensation to form and open a Lodge. A dispensation was granted and a charter was issued for the first Lodge in Texas, Holland Lodge No. 1. This charter was brought on horseback to Anson Jones just before the battle of San Jacinto. Since then,

Masonry has become an integral part of Texas history, with strong support for statewide free public education and world-renowned charitable treatment for children through Shriner’s Hospitals and Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children. Today there are over 90,000 Masons in Texas and more than 900 Lodges. Famous Texas Masons include Sam Houston, Anson Jones, Stephen F. Austin, Lorenzo de

Zavala, William B. Travis, Mirabeau B. Lamar, and Jose Navarro.

 

James A. Smith Masonic Lodge No. 395 was chartered in 1874 and was named in honor of the Reverend James A. Smith, who came to Texas in 1846 and settled in the Peters Colony area of Dallas County just north of the present location of S.M.U. Rev. Smith was the first minister to establish a Methodist Church in Dallas County, and he became very involved in many Dallas area civic activities

including being appointed the president of the first annual Dallas County Fair, now the State Fair of Texas. Rev. Smith became a Master Mason in Tannehill Lodge No. 52 in 1851. Rev. Smith died in 1863. His son William Smith was the first Worshipful Master of James A. Smith Lodge, which was first located in Mound Prairie, Texas (the area around Midway Road and Northwest Highway today). The Lodge moved around 1898 to the Odd Fellows building in Farmers Branch at the corner of Old Denton Road and Valley View Lane. In 1957, the Lodge moved to its present location at 12823 Demetra Drive in Farmers Branch. James A. Smith Lodge has been very active in the community of many years, and a number of community leaders have been Lodge members including Milburn Gravley, Jack Blanton, W. H. Blanton, R. J. McInnish, Eugene Biggerstaff, Abe Godfrey, Jesse Woody, H. D. Myers, and Dave Blair.

 

One of James A. Smith Lodge’s key Masonic goals is to help make good men better men through our Degree work, our meetings and fellowship, and our community service. Our current areas of community service include the following.

Fantastic Teeth: we distribute oral hygiene kits to first graders at 3 elementary schools.

Community Builder Award: each year we give this Grand Lodge Award to a special citizen who does outstanding work for others and is not a Mason.

Lamar Awards: every year we give these Grand Lodge Awards to outstanding public school teachers and scholarships to deserving graduating seniors.

Feed My Starving Children: we send a team of volunteers to this Dallas area community event to pack mobile meals to distribute to starving children in Haiti, Africa, and Mexico.Texas

Scottish Rite Hospital for Children: we participate in fund raisers for the Scottish Rite Hospital to benefit children with orthopedic conditions and learning disabilities.

Masonic Widows: we distribute Christmas baskets of food and other items to the widows of our Masonic brothers.

Masonic Family Services: we make financial contributions to this state-wide Masonic organization that provides funds for children’s health including physical exams, autism evaluations, and dental care.

Rainbow Girls: we support this organization of young women through fund raising, and we provide them with meeting space in our Lodge building. Would you like to have more information about James A. Smith Masonic Lodge and Masonry?

Please contact our Secretary Rusty Bjorkman through the following:

Mailing address: 12823 Demetra Drive, Farmers Branch, Texas 75234

Telephone: 1 (254) 289-2755    Website: www.jas395.org

Facebook: www.facebook.com/jamesasmithlodge;

email: rdbjorkman@gmail.com

email: roger@rogerlandry.com

The Legend of the Three Wise Men

Who Visited the Grand Arch and Discovered the Central Idea

Translated by Brother Emmanuel Y. Dumigron MPS

Long after the deaths of Hiram, Solomon and their peers, and long after the armies of Nebuchadnezzar had destroyed the kingdom of Judah, flattened the city of Jerusalem, ran- sacked the temple, and taken the survivors into slavery, where the mountain of Zion was deserted and dry, where only a few starved goats were kept by a few scraggily plundered Bedouin farmers, three men arrived one morning at the slow pace of their camels.

These were the wise men, the initiates of Babylon, members of the universal priesthood, who came in pilgrimage to explore the ruins of the ancient sanctuary. After a frugal dinner, the pilgrims went searching through the ruins; they went along the destroyed walls, finding the bases of the columns to determine the layout of the temple. Next, they went to look for the capitals of the pillars of the temple, searching for inscriptions and symbols on those stones.

They discovered during the excavation a manmade opening in the ground under the side of a fallen wall in the midst of thorny bushes.

It was a well, situated at the southeast corner of the Temple. Having cleaned the opening, one of them, the eldest and the one who seemed to be the leader, laid down on his stomach at the edge of the hole and peered inside.

It was the middle of day. The sun shined at meridian and its rays plunged vertically into the well. A brilliantly shiny object captured the eyes of the leader. He called over his companions who laid down by his side and stared down the well. This was of course an object worthy of attention, without a doubt a sacred jewel. The three pilgrims resolved to get hold of it. They removed the cable tows from around their waists, tying each one to the other, and tossed one end into the well so that two of them became at once a bracket of support for the weight of the third who would descend. The leader, gripping the cord, disappeared into the opening and negotiated his descent.

Let us look now at the object that captured the attention of these pilgrims. For this, we must go back several centuries to the time of Hiram’s murder.

“When the Grand Master received the blow from the second ruffian at the west gate, he escaped towards the south gate. Fearing that he would be followed there and that he would meet a third ruffian, he removed from his neck a jewel attached to a collar made of seventy seven rings and threw it into the well of the temple that was located at the southeast corner.

The jewel was a Palm Leaf inside the ineffeble delta made of the purest metals on which Hiram, who was a perfect initiate, inscribed the unspoken word which he wore at all times. Confronted to himself, alone, exposed to onlookers, he showed only a face of resolve”

With the help of his hands and feet, the leader descended into the depth of the well. He noticed that the walls were divided into different layers. These layers of stones were made of different colors, each a cubit high. When he reached the bottom, he looked and counted the layers which were in the number of ten. He then turned his attention to the floor where he saw Hiram’s jewel. He picked it up, looked at it and noticed with emotion that the unspoken word was inscribed on it. He knew the word to be true as it was the same he had received when he became a perfect initiate.

Because his companions had not fully been initiated, they could not recognize the word. He quickly put the collar around his neck and laid the jewel under his clothing as the Grand Master had done before him.

He surveyed his surroundings and noticed an opening in the wall, large enough for a man to squeeze through. He advanced, feeling his way around in the dark. His hands made contact with what he guessed to be a bronze door. He retraced his steps back to the bottom of the well and let his companions know that he was coming back up so that they would steady themselves as he climbed back towards them.

Seeing the jewel resting upon the chest of their leader, the two pilgrims advanced towards him believing that he had received a sacred blessing. He described what he had found and mentioned the bronze door. They all thought that a mystery laid there and resolved to discover it together.

They tied one extremity of the rope made from the cable tows to a flat base made of stone next to the well where one could read the word “Jachin”. They then rolled part of a broken column onto it where one could read the word “Boaz”, reassuring themselves that the rope could hold the weight of a man.

Two of them proceeded to make a sacred flame. Placed in their palms, they rolled a stick of hard wood which was inserted into a hole in the middle of a soft piece of wood. When the soft wood ignited, they blew on it, creating thus a flame. The third priest searched the saddle bags on the camels and found three torches with resin tips which were used to protect them and their camp against wild animals at night. Each torch was ignited successively from the burning wood, becoming thus three sacred flames. Each Priest, holding his torch in one hand, proceeded to descend down the rope to the bottom of the well.

Once there, they followed the leader through the opening leading to the bronze door and the old priest examined the door with great care under the light of his torch. He noticed a raised engraving in the middle of the door in the shape of a royal crown around which was a circle composed of twenty-two points.

The priest entered deep meditation, uttered the word “Malkuth”, and the door opened suddenly.

The explorers found themselves in front of a staircase going down. They advanced, torches in hands, counting the steps as they moved downwards. They went down three steps and found a triangular shaped landing where a new set of stairs started on the left. They went down the next five steps and found another landing similar in shape and size to the one above. This time, seven steps continued on the right.

Having advanced to a third landing, they went down another nine steps to find themselves in front of a second door, which was also made of bronze.

The old priest examined this one as he had the previous, and noticed another raised engraving in the shape of a corner stone encircled also by twenty two points. He uttered the word “Lesod” and the door opened as before.

The priests entered a large circular vaulted hall. The walls were divided into nine decorated segments which started from the floor, coming together into a central point in the middle of the vaulted dome.

They examined the room under the light of their torches, looking for a passage beyond the one they had entered. They found none and thought of turning back, but the leader – going back over each segment and looking for an indication or a marker – counted the segments and suddenly called the two other priests over. He found a new bronze door in a dark corner. This one featured the symbol of the shining sun, also in a circle of twenty-two points. The leader of the priests pronounced the word “Netzah” and this one opened in turn. It lead into a second hall.

The explorers reached successively five other equally hidden doors advancing into further crypts.

On these doors were a beaming moon, the head of a lion, a soft curve, a ruler, a gavel, an eye, and finally a royal crown.

The words pronounced in order were Hod, Tiphereth, Chesed, Geburah, Chokmah, Binah and Kether.

When they entered through the ninth arch, they stopped, surprised, taken aback and somewhat cautious. This hall was not draped in darkness but, to the contrary, it was brightly lit. In the center of the room were three candelabras, eleven cubits high, with three stems each. These lamps still burned after all these centuries, through the destruction of the Kingdom of Judah, after the city of

Jerusalem had been flattened and the crumbled ruins of the temple had tumbled down. Nobody could extinguish them. Brilliant and shining, the lights illuminated all the corners brightly and softly as well as all the details of the magnificent architecture of this room, one without parallel, carved into solid stone.

Having no further need for them, the pilgrims put down their torches near the entrance of the gate. They removed their shoes and hats as one would in a sacred place. They advanced and bowed nine times towards the giant candelabras.

These were placed at each corner of a triangle in the center of which was an altar made of marble, two cubits high. Placed on the altar, made of gold, were the instruments of masonry: the ruler, the compass, the square, the plumb, the level, the trowel and the mallet. On the left side of the altar were geometric carvings: the triangle, the square, the five-pointed star, and

the cube. On the right side of the altar, one could read the numbers 27, 125, 343, 729, and 1331. Finally, on the rear of the altar was the symbolic sprig of acacia. Placed on the altar was a three-sided agate stone with the word “Adonai” written in gold letters on its surface.

The two priests, as disciples, bent forward and worshiped the name of God. The leader, lifting his head, said on to them: “It is time for you to receive your last teaching, thus becoming perfect initiates. The name Adonai is only symbolic in nature and does not teach the true idea of the Supreme Conception.”

He then took the stone of agate in both hands, approached his disciples and said “Look, the Supreme Conception is here and you are the central idea.”

The disciples spoke the words Lod, He, Vau, He and began to say the word when the Master cried out: “Silence! This is the ineffable word that should never part from one’s lips.”

He then returned the stone of agate to the altar, pulled out the jewel of Grand Master Hiram from around his neck and showed them that all the same signs were engraved onto it.

“Learn this now, that this Grand Hall was not made under Solomon, nor were the eight others, nor did he hide the stone of agate. This stone was placed here by Enoch, the first of all initiates. The first initiate who did not die but who lives in all his spiritual sons. Enoch lived a long time before Solomon, even before the great flood. No one knows when the previous eight rooms where made.”

Meanwhile the newly made Masters turned their attention from the stone of agate and the altar to the ceiling, looking into the heavens where their voices echoed through time and space. They arrived at a hid- den secret door upon which was the symbol of a broken vase. They called for their Master and said “Open this door, there is one more mystery.” – “No. This door must not be opened”, he replied. “Therein lies a mystery, it is a terrible mystery, the mystery of death.” – “You are hiding something to keep for yourself.” they said. “We want to know everything

They started to utter every word their master had previously said. As these had no effect, they started to utter all the words they could think of. They were about to give up when one of them said: “We cannot continue until the end of time.” The door opened violently on this last word, pushing the two down unto the floor. A terrible wind blew through the vault extinguishing the sacred flames out of their torches.

The leader hurried to the door and called for his disciples’ help. Guided by his voice, they all strained their bodies to finally push the door closed.

But the Sacred Flames of their torches were out, leaving them in the deepest of darkness. They gathered around the voice of the master. “It was to be expected,” he explained, “for it was written that this would happen and that you would be dis- obedient. Here we are in great danger, to be forgotten in these underground crypts unknown to man. We must try to escape. Let us retrace our steps through the eight previous arches and find the bottom of the well from which we descended. We must hold hands and search in the darkness for the gate from which we came. We will continue thusly in each of the eight rooms till we reach the twenty-four steps. Let us hope we can make it.”

Hour after agonizing hour passed. The priests advanced without desperation until they arrived at the base of the stairs with twenty-four steps. They went upwards counting 9, 7, 5, 3 and reached the bottom of the well. It was midnight, the stars shined in the twilight, and the rope still hung from above.

Before letting his companions start their climb, the Master pointed out to the sky in the circle made by the opening of the well and said: “The ten circles we have found in our descent represent also the arches or gates of the stairs. The last o e corresponds to the eleventh gat – the one where the disastrous wind blew – from an infinite sky with light beyond our mortal reach.”

The three priests arrived at the point of entrance in the ruins of the temple and rolled aside the base of the column. Without noticing the name of “Boaz”, they untied their cable tows, got dressed and saddled up their mounts. Without a word and in deep contemplation, they left towards Babylon in the dead of night under the starlit sky at the slow pace of their camels.

Translated by Brother Emmanuel Y. Dumigron MPS, KT, KM, MMRS

Edited by Mr. Julian Vorus, WB Francis Dumaurier

Reviewed by The Counsel of the Master Mason Research Society

Dedicated to the memory of my father Louis A. Fonlupt

Author of original text Unknown. Translated from the back pages of “La

Symbolique Maconnique by Jules Boucher” published by Dervey in Paris, France in the year 1948