Breaking free

Pantheism

Pantheism (Photo credit: Helico)

For quite a while I have been going through the mental anguish of disentangling myself from a belief system that had been implanted and cultivated into my mind as a child. For the better part of 2 years I have been inconsistent with the answer to the question “what do I believe?” because it has been an ever evolving process. However, my moral compass and personal philosophy has solidified for the past couple of months and I’ve been coping with exactly what that means. After all, abandoning a system that teaches that the lack of adhering to it will result in an eternity of torment, does tend to make one second guess abandoning their faith. Eventually I realized that the whole threat of eternal torment is actually the psychological hook that when implanted at a young age, or at a point in one’s life when they are the most vulnerable, can produce an almost impenetrable motivational framework that is extremely difficult to break away from.

After almost slipping into atheism, the birth of my first child made me realize that there had to be something other than a chemical reaction to the love I felt when I looked into his newborn eyes. The same love that managed to spread without effort to my daughter and my youngest son. There has to be something more than just “my imagination” when I can feel the emotion or mood of a room full of people before I see a single face or here the first voice. When I can feel the pain of someone else when I read the details of the many “Pray for ..” Facebook pages and then ask myself the same question they ask themselves everyday, “why?”

For me to believe in something greater than myself, that being or thing actually needs to be greater than me. So when I think of a being with omnipotent power that is present everywhere and is capable of altering “His” own laws of nature, that being is no longer greater than I am when children are sucked up by tornadoes or washed away with floods. Now I used natural forces for a reason, so as not to hear the “man is evil and sinful” retort. To that extent though, a child being raped or multiple children being shot in a school under the watchful eye of a “heavenly father” is inexcusable if that supreme being actually exists.

Sure while parting seas, walking on water, magic ladders, and turning water into wine make for great reading (and the last one would be great at a party) these things are not realities. They are no more factually true then Paul Bunyan dragging his ax to form the Grand Canyon or George Washington chopping down a cherry tree. Since ancient times the greatest teachers have often used stories (aka parables) to teach lessons. Now, we live in a world that is incredibly connected with technology, mass transit, and lightning fast communications. One only needs to take a second look deeper and discover that connection that is longing to be cultivated. It is our true Divine Source that has never faltered and never wavered. It is that which makes us one.

So now it is time to step out from behind the veil of dogma and accept that which I have come to know for quite a while.

I believe the universe is one being; all its parts are different expressions of the same energy, and they are all in communication with each other, therefore parts of one organic whole … The whole is in all its parts so beautiful, and is felt by me to be so intensely in earnest, that I am compelled to love it, and to think of it as divine. It seems to me that this whole alone is worthy of the deeper sort of love; and there is peace, freedom, I might say a kind of salvation, in turning one’s affections outward toward this one God; rather than inwards on one’s self, or on humanity, or on human imaginations and abstractions the world of spirits. (Robinson Jeffers, Pantheism)

There you have it, I’m a Pantheist.

Why am I a Mason?

Recently someone questioned me as to why I am a Mason.  At times this question is usually followed up with the ridiculous accusations that we are some kind of a cult or New World Order.  Since Masonic philosophy makes up a significant portion of my own philosophical views it seemed relevant to share my reply to them:

I am a Mason for a number of reasons. Mostly because after leaving the military there was a camaraderie void that I deeply needed to fill. Contrary to a lot of public myths, Masonry is not a cult or an anti-christian organization. We aren’t a New World Order, which to me is the funniest of accusations because we can barely organize a BBQ. It is not a religion either. Anyone who claims it is really doesn’t know anything about it. It’s pretty much a fraternity with some deep philosophical roots. The description “A moral institution veiled in allegory and illustrated with symbols” simply put just means we use the Bronze Age method of teaching moral truths – we tell stories (or parables) and use symbols. The problem that the big churches have with the Masonic Fraternity is over our stance that we require belief in Deity, but that the choice is up to the individual who they believe in. So we have Jewish, Christian, Muslims, Deists, and others amongst the membership. When you have multiple faiths gathered together like that and you require all men to act in a moral way and be held accountable to their God, an invocation, or prayer, is required when we open and close our meetings. So, in order to not offend the Jew or Muslim by invoking the name of Jesus, or offend the Jew and Christian by invoking the name Allah, or confuse the heck out of the Christians and Muslims by saying HaShem – we simply say Grand Architect. It’s not a made up God, it is just a universal name that is used because as Masons we consider each other as equals and builders of an allegorical temple of human morality and brotherly love. Just as builders get their directions from a blueprint (or Bible) and the designer (or author) of that blueprint is the Grand Architect (or God).

To me, as well as other Masons who actually study the philosophy and theology behind the fraternity – religion is not what the public perceives it to be.  Religion actually has a Biblical definition – “Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless. Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” James 1:26-27

I hope this answered your question and perhaps cleared up some false impressions you may have of us. We actually have some great guys amongst our ranks. Guys like – George Washington, Ben Franklin, John Hancock, Paul Revere, FDR, Harry Truman, Gen. McArthur, Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain), John Wayne, Dave Thomas, Walt Disney… I could go on but, that should give you an idea of the type of organization we are.

Stop talking and do something

English: A homeless man in Paris Français : Un...

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Faith does not feed the homeless, it does not assist the elderly, it does not protect the weak, or comfort widows and orphans. 

Faith does not house an injured veteran, it does not counsel the depressed, it does not provide healthcare to the poor.

People with big hearts do.

People who talk less and perform random acts of kindness are not as numerous as those who like to complain about the state of things.  Some people perform acts of kindness out of the goodness of their heart and some do them for self-gratification and recognition.  Either way it is our actions and not our personal beliefs that can affect the lives of other people. 

Many of the worlds religions rest the fate of mankind on a messianic figure of some kind.  Some believe this person will be a warrior who will defeat the forces of evil by force, some believe he already came and will return to finish what he started, and some believe that there have been messianic figures in the past and that more are to come – each one adding to the work of the other.

Instead of waiting around for someone why not look at yourself?  Every single person has the power to make a difference on their own.  There are so many stories of this happening in the past.  From Hercules, Noah, and Moses to George Washington, Martin Luther King Jr. and Gandhi. 

“Be the change you want to see in the world” ~Gandhi

It was a small group of ambitious men who ended the Divine right of kings in Europe and its grip on America.  It was a small group of people who inspired thousands to rise against dictators and topple oppressive regimes.  Why are you waiting around for someone else to “save” you or the rest of the world when you can do it yourself?  Every single one of us has the power to change the world for the better.  You don’t have to start a revolution or sacrifice your life either, it can be a simple act of kindness for a complete stranger that can start a ripple effect of kindness that can span a distance greater than you can imagine. 

 “Each person must see himself as though the entire world were held in balance and any deed he may do could tip the scales.”  ~Maimonides

I am not telling anyone to renounce their religion or any doctrines they may teach.  I am merely saying that it’s time to stop preaching about ending times and the collapse of morals in society and actually do something about it.  Sitting around and acting hopeless accomplishes nothing.  In my life time I have seen the rich get richer, the poor get poorer and people in positions of power that can do something about it (Washington, the Vatican, etc) do absolutely nothing about it.

Rather than spends billions of dollars fighting an ideology, why not spend those dollars on things like feeding the homeless, assisting the elderly, protecting the weak, comforting widows and orphans?   Maybe instead of waiting for a savior we can provide housing to an injured veteran, counsel the depressed, or provide healthcare to not just the poor but, every single person who needs it.

You can call me unrealistic, you can say I’m crazy, you can even tell me this is impossible.  If you did then it would just be a useless parade of words with little to no meaning and another example of a complete lack of action.  All of us have heard the expression “actions speak louder than words” but, how many of us actually try to help others?  How many of us show our children the necessity of having a charitable heart?  How many of us spend more time “keeping up with the Jones’s” instead of “helping out the Smith’s”?

If you think you can’t make a difference.  Just watch what happens when you actually try.

© Nelson Rose, The Quest for Light