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May 12, 2021Liked by Cameron M. Bailey

This topic is closely linked to the Nut topic. People who take myths as facts tend to be the types of zealots who think it's ok to kill people who don't.

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You are right of course, and I phrased my line about people believing myths to be factual very poorly. What I should have said was that I don't see the harm when it comes to Masonic myths like the ones mentioned.

But yes, I agree.

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There's a ton of mythos around freemasonry depending on the degree system you look at its all beautiful examples of morality plays. Ample evidence it existed before the formation of UGLE in Scotland and Ireland. Mother lodge in Scotland. has minutes dating back to the 1500s. Elias ashmole was made a mason in 1646, they know because there are minutes from the meeting. We was a Fellow, not a operative mason. https://freemasonrymatters.co.uk/famous-freemasons/elias-ashmole-a-celebrated-english-antiquary-and-freemason/#:~:text=Ashmole%20depicted%20with%20reference%20to%20his%20Royal%20appointment,initiation%20took%20place%20at%204.30%20in%20the%20afternoon.

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As I recall, we also have evidence of Ashmole's being a Mason through two separate mentions in his diaries. Once when he was made a Mason, once when the went to Lodge years later. I've always kind of wondered why the clear evidence around Ashmole hasn't convinced those who don't think speculative Freemasonry existed prior to 1717.

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Just about everything you are taught in the lectures is a combination of myth, allegory and symbolic. There is one part in the second degree that does relate to an event told in the Old Testament, so you could say that part is not a myth, if factual. The two johns weren’t patrons of masonry, as another example.

It’s an interesting topic of exploration, but one has to be careful not to throw the baby out with the bath water. The legend of Hiram Abiff is obviously a myth and parable for several important points. You don’t dismiss the lessons because of that.

My only point of contention in your list of myths is the origin of speculative masonry. The fact that we use the working tools as symbols means it did grow out of operative masonry. The only part you can debate is how, either as theft, or evolution. Or maybe a combination of both. Hard to say really. But obviously speculative masonry came well before the Age of Enlightenment, so it is a little hard to deny that there may have been more of an evolution, in my opinion. Certainly debatable.

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True that we use the tools of operative Masonry, so I can accept that in that way we grew out of the operatives.

I think though that the common belief that gentlemen of the leisure class just started wanting to hang out and join operative Masons Lodges, until they outnumbered the operatives, thereby creating the speculative Fraternity is too far of a stretch.

In today's world, in the US, we see nothing wrong with a bank president, a professor, and a mechanic all being friends and hanging out together. In England and Scotland of the 15-1600's, with the importance that society placed on rank, title, and division among the classes, I just can't see it.

I agree that we can't know how it came about, for truly our origins are lost to the mists of time, but I think that the operative to speculative transition, through the adoption of speculatives is just too unlikely to be true. Unless there was another intervening force in the mix.

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The stonemasons at the time were learned men. They studied mathematics and physics, and could read, the printing press being developed in the 1400s. We also had the Age of Enlightenment starting in the 1600s. Speculative masonry didn’t have to evolve from the aristocracy, it probably was born out of intelligent men within the guild questioning life the universe and everything themselves.

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I don't disagree that they were learned, they had to be in order to successfully design and build the structures that they worked on. Likely, in the practical sciences they were probably as a cohort, some of the best educated men in the western world in their time.

I still think though that there would have needed to be some kind of additional intervening force for the transition to take place.

I suppose that is why I find all of this so interesting though. Given that we can't truly know, we are forced to speculate and run down theories in our minds.

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May 12, 2021Liked by Cameron M. Bailey

An Anglican minister came in to my high school chemistry class to talk about Genesis (what a great idea, don’t think they’d get away with it now).

He said he thought Adam and Eve was the truest story in the Bible.

Something in the way he said that unlocked my dim teenage brain and I understood it was true *because* it was an allegory.

My 3rd Degree was a wonder, partly because of the lessons in that true, allegorical story, and partly because so much work went into putting it on for just one man, me.

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I find your point that a story can be both true, and non factual to be excellent. Thank you for it. I too find much to be true within our Third Degree drama, but don't hold the story itself to be factual.

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May 12, 2021Liked by Cameron M. Bailey

This topic is related to several we have discussed. History as we think of it, a factual almost scientific system of thought and facts, I believe began in the West in Ancient Greece. (I'm not a historian, but that seems to be a dim memory) Before that the stories that were told about the past were meant to communicate important social, moral, spiritual information to younger generations, not necessarily record factual information and events. In short mythology. Human consciousness functions best with stories, and telling stories with important information nested in it is a good way to pass that information on. Now, in the ancient times people may well have believed those stories were true, but as they lived in isolated communities often that did not matter so much, as long as the info passed on was transmitted. Today, we live in a different world, and as humans we have evolved a different way of thinking that includes both myth and history. Most people are developmentally sophisticated enough to manage mythology and history simultaneously. Others can not. This is best illustrated in the flourishing of conspiracy theories today, a form of modern and perhaps pathological mythology. I think that mythology and history should be thought of like this, history is a map for the land, and mythology is the beautiful paintings of the same landscape. If you can handle both history and mythology, then the world can become a beautiful three dimensional world, filled with meaning and information. Maybe its better put this way, history tells us "what" happened and mythology tells us "why" it happened. We need both, BUT we need to guard against confusing the two.

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May 12, 2021Liked by Cameron M. Bailey

You should read "the cave and the light, Plato vs Aristotle and the struggle for the soul of western civilization" by Arthur Herman. Aristotle was the world's first empirical scientist while Plato insisted that all the world we see is merely an illusion. Aristotle famously saying "Plato raises Atlantis from the sea with pure imagination and promptly casts it back under. It's absurd!".

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I know that this comment wasn't specifically for me, but I'm going to take this opportunity to Thank You for giving me a copy of this book. I'm very much looking forward to reading it. I've got two books underway at the moment, as soon as I'm done with one of them, it is next.

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>>" Most people are developmentally sophisticated enough to manage mythology and history >>simultaneously. Others can not."

Thank you for this. I'd not considered it, but certainly you are correct. Not all do possess the gifts to be able to make, and understand, the separation between the two.

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May 12, 2021Liked by Cameron M. Bailey

The first thing an Entered Apprentice Mason learns is the craft is "a beautiful system of morality, veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols."

To say that we are living a lie through myth and allegory misses the point in that the power of icons such as the legend of Hiram is a fundamental touchpoint in learning about the values and propositions of freemasonry.

Joseph Campbell, one of the 20th Century’s literati on the power of myth wrote, “Mythology is not a lie, mythology is poetry, it is metaphorical. It has been well said that mythology is the penultimate truth--penultimate because the ultimate cannot be put into words. It is beyond words. Beyond images, beyond that bounding rim of the Buddhist Wheel of Becoming. Mythology pitches the mind beyond that rim, to what can be known but not told.”

Campbell argues there are four functions of mythology:

• The Metaphysical

• The Cosmological

• Sociological

• Pedagogical

The Metaphysical function serves to awaken the consciousness of its consumers to a reality lying just beyond the veil of normal perception.

The Cosmological function provides the boundary conditions of the universe, explaining the origins, shape, size, location, and birth and death dates of things such as time, space, matter, energy, biological organisms, and the universe as a whole. Humanity’s mythology and philosophy in this respect is incredibly sophisticated. Each culture contains its own creation story. A majority of religions seek to provide a framework in which this universe resides and includes many other realms of existence.

Myth can provide a model of social behavior that, when adhered to, makes for a not-so-squeeky cog in the great machine. Parables and fables guide morality.

By establishing rites of passage into critical stages of life, from dependency to maturity, old age, and finally death, myth provides guideposts and beacons to serve as a reminder that there is a purpose. This is to allow a sense of comfort in the entire process, as the individual remembers that he is not the first and certaintly not the last to embark upon this Hero’s Journey, regardless how far along he arrives.

Masonry follows Campbell’s guideposts.

Or rather, Campbell’s thesis follows Masonry’s guideposts.

The legend of Hiram, for example, teaches significant human values of morality, fidelity and the concept of justice.

Mackey wrote in 1869, “To study the symbolism of Masonry is the only way to investigate its philosophy. This is the portal of its temple, through which alone we can gain access to the sacellum where its aporrheta are concealed. Its philosophy is engaged in the consideration of propositions relating to God and man, to the present and the future life. Its science is the symbolism by which these propositions are presented to the mind.”

Modern Masonry has borrowed from many diverse traditions, such as those of the Knights Templar, the Roman Collegia of Artificers, the Jewish Kabbalists, the mystery cults, the Rosicrucians, and the operative masons of the Middle Ages. The stories, symbols and allegory are instruments of teaching. True or not, they serve a purpose in the instruction and education of a worthy life.

Masonic literature states that the words "veiled in allegory" imply that some of the truths of Masonry are concealed from the uninitiated, but that they can be discovered by those of us who are privileged to join. This is the importance of Masonic education the starts in the Blue Lodge and grows beyond to affiliated organizations such as the Scottish Rite and York Rite. It is here that a Mason learns of the “aha!” moments in understanding the meaning of things learned in the first three degrees.

It takes study and dedication to learn how to recognize and appreciate symbol and allegory. Only through sincere, intelligent, and sustained effort, reinforced by imaginative and emotional sensitivity, can the reward be reaped.

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I really enjoyed reading your perspective. Thank you very much for taking the time to share it.

I'd not heard of Joseph Campbell before you mentioned him. Now that I've done some reading about him, I look forward to diving into a couple of his books, and assuming that I can find them, his PBS documentary series as well.

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May 12, 2021Liked by Cameron M. Bailey

There is nothing wrong with mythology, we all grew up listening to, and reading Greek mythology. Were the Greek and Roman gods angels, or off spring of angels? Were they just stories, made up to teach morals and ethics, or to keep the population in fear and under control. Much of religion is myth, yet we don’t question it. We know that the Templar Knights were real and commissioned many large cathedrals to be built, by operative masons. Did the Templars, watching the masons, gain an understanding of the “secrets” of geometry that were necessary to erect the cathedrals. We know that some structures took more than a lifetime to finish so the knights would have watched as a mason started as a young entered apprentice and as he aged and grew in knowledge, moved up through the guild, becoming a Fellow and finally a Master. I have nothing factual to support my belief that Masonry was developed by the Templars who went into hiding and exile as a way to identify and greet one another so as to not be captured. But we do know as fact that the Templars were real, did commission the construction of cathedrals and other large buildings, and went into hiding when they fell out of favor with King Phillip and Pope Clemente. Facts, intermingled with myth, is what keeps stories alive and passed down from generation to generation. The same holds true with the myths within Freemasonry, they are allegories, stories, sprinkled with facts, that keep are Fraternity alive.

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I don't know how much of the Templar origin theory might be factual, but I do think that it makes too much sense for people to just disregard the entirety of it out of hand as so many do. I imagine that it is partially factual.

What I know is that it is not, as so many claim, simply an invention of John Robinson. It was believed a very long time ago. I think in one of our very early Emeth discussions or maybe on one of the Zoom gatherings, I gave a quote from a British Ambassador's report back home that discussed the Templar origin. That was from back in the time of the struggles between the Stuarts and Hanoverians to determine who would rule England.

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May 12, 2021Liked by Cameron M. Bailey

Other responders have already made the points I was going to express, so I shan't belabor them. Since there are few records available for study, we are forced to go with popular "myths." In many, if not most myths, there are grains of truth (a matter of perception) and fact (immutable). There is hard evidence that Freemasonry, as a fraternal organization existed well before the formation of UGLE in 1717. But did it exist during the construction of the Temple of Solomon? I don't think so, but it's hard to say.

My personal theory, based on readings and connect-the-dots study is that Freemasonry grew out of the suppression and diaspora of the Knights Templar. If Freemasonry is simply a social/charitable organization, why are the penalties for unlawful revelation so dire? A Templar on the run needed to know how far to trust someone he contacted. Modes of recognition provided indicators of levels of trust. Revelation of those modes could result in the capture, torture, and death of a Templar Knight.

Just my two cents...

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Whatever our origins, I've never believed that Freemasonry was created to be only, or even primarily a social or charitable organization. As you say, the penalties themselves call that into question. Not to mention the fact that the word charity meant something different than it means now when our rituals were written.

I think that in this country, and by extension the rest of the English speaking world, because the United States does have a massive impact everywhere, we lost a great deal of our original purpose and modes of working in the aftermath of the Morgan Affair.

I think that we lost more in the two massive growth periods following each of the World Wars.

That said, I think we are regaining those things slowly now. Men are interested in studying Masonry again, not just the words, but the meanings behind the words, and the symbols. That desire for knowledge will bring back that which has been lost.

I also fear though that our traditional guiding star, UGLE, is rapidly fading, just as US Grand Lodges did following Morgan. Due to the negative pressures heaped on it by elements of UK society. That will of course have an impact on Freemasonry here, because UGLE truly has been a guide for the rest of us, for an extremely long time.

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May 12, 2021Liked by Cameron M. Bailey

Since the Templar story is cycling thru this thread, I guess I'll add my two cents. The modern image of the Templars focuses entirely on the Martial element of the order. Big strong knights defending the pilgrims and winning the Holy Land, wearing white mantels and shining armor. Very romantic. OK, thats fun. Like all military groups, religious or otherwise, the fighters are not the only element of the order or army. Our modern army has in addition to fighters, cooks, medics, accountants, signal men, and engineers, etc. The Templars, as an organization were exactly the same. Each Bailey, Templar headquarters, would have had some number of non-combatants specialist to support the order, and stone masons were certainly part of this. It is my 'theory' that some Templar imagery and myth might have been transferred to local stone masons when after the suppression in 1307 they found themselves with out a job and sold their skills to the local guilds. Templar Masons, in rebellious Scotland, might have been seen as rock stars and eagerly snatched up by the guilds. As evidence, there was a Templar Bailey in Temple Scotland, formally named Ballentrodoch (the name changed to note the Templar presence), and the Roslyn Chapel is within the Bailiwick, (area controlled by the Bailey). Now the order was suppressed in 1307 and the Chapel built in 1450, by local Masons. On the outside wall of the Chapel is a panel carved with two men, wearing Templar robes. One is kneeling with a rope (cable tow) around his neck, he is also blindfolded. I have seen this panel in person, touched it in fact. It is my theory that this panel MIGHT commemorate the Templar history of some of the Templar masons, and might be the only proof that Masons in the employ of the order integrated into the local stonemason guilds and contributed some of their ritual, myth and symbols. Its a tenuous link and not very glamorous but at the same time has a tiny bit of evidence and makes sense form a human point of view. Over time those elements donated by the Templar's merged with other medieval guild elements, like the passion plays that the guild performed publicly as part of religious life as well as signs of recognition to prove guild membership and the study of geometry to create the foundation of speculative Masonry.

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The other thing that I think is often forgotten is that the Templars were monks. I'd argue that even the fighting men, the knights themselves, were monks first, and warriors second.

I am one who believes that Freemasonry contains an extremely strong spiritual element. Religion even. But it is a decidedly non-dogmatic spiritual system.

I can easily see this coming from a Templar influence. These were profoundly religious men, holy men within their Church. They were likely not surprised to be attacked by a State, but to be attacked by their own Church would have been mentally and spiritually devastating. I can easily see a non-dogmatic spiritual system growing out of that profound betrayal by the Church they served.

I can't see it growing out of Mason's guilds though. Those working groups would have held traditional religious beliefs in most cases. It was what they were born into, and building the structures they were building would have kept them perpetually exposed to orthodox religious beliefs.

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May 12, 2021Liked by Cameron M. Bailey

Many thoughtful ad interesting responses. Well done brothers. Since I suggested this topic, I suppose I should comment, although most of my thoughts have already been eloquently expressed. I suppose the one statement that impacted me the most was Brother Cameron's comment, "If some believe the myth to be factual, I honestly can’t see where that does any harm." I am not sure I concur with this assessment. As has been pointed out, Myths teach valuable lessons, both in Masonry and in history. But when they are taken as historical fact, I believe they are somewhat harmful. My concerns here are two-fold.

First, taking myth as actual fact have led to many disagreements among those in different camps. Some of these differences have even led to war in historical contexts. This is not good for humanity historically speaking nor for the Craft of Masonry. We have enough dissention and distractions to keep us challenged already.

Second, believing a myth to be actual fact closes the individual's mind to alternatives. When one ceases to question and evaluate, again leading to possible disagreement and conflict. In order to effectively practice the arts we are to learn (Logic and Rhetoric), it is important to keep an open mind and evaluate all sides of a situation. Much of the lack of civility and division we see in our society today is a result of believing things without question and not relying on available arguments on all sides to allow us to formulate a solid course of belief.

I love Myths. I have collections in my library of all types. But, take from them the value they offer...life lessons, morals, guidance...and do not rely on them as historical evidence of any kind.

Thanks again, my brothers, for making life more enjoyable and instructive through these discussions.

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Thank you for giving us such a great topic!

I found the responses to be uniformly superb. Each of them gave me something to think about, and I really appreciate everyone who shared their unique perspectives.

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