October 10 Daily Tarot Spread

Disclaimer: I don’t believe in fortune telling, but I do believe that the Tarot is useful in the sense that the images and ideas it presents can trigger subconscious thoughts, or help us identify emotions and goals that we weren’t previously clear on.

As of late, I’ve been doing (almost) daily Tarot single-card draws in order to try and better familiarize myself with the Tarot. I don’t have a lot of experience with doing full spreads, so I decided to start with an easy Past/Present/Future spread. Today, I am using the Marseilles Tarot, and I do not use reversals. 

Question: What do I need to concentrate on in the next month?

Spread: 

  • Past: The Hanged Man (12)
  • Present: King of Coins
  • Future: Nine of Rods

Okay, so I have no idea what I’m looking at here. I’m going to try writing my initial impressions of each card first, then look up its meanings.

Past – The Hanged Man (12)

Initial Impressions

I associate the Hanged Man with being at peace, taking in the world passing by, letting go, and enlightenment. He feels similar to the Hermit, but in a way that accomplishes things. I feel like this is saying that I have done a lot of introspection in the past and have been seeking knowledge. Cyclically, he reminds me of the High Priestess, who instructs the fool in accessing his unconscoius mind and developing his potential. 

Post-Research

Things that the Hanged Man are associated with are: letting go, reversing orders/opinions, suspending action, and sacrifice. The primary description seems to be centered around non-attachment and disinterested analysis. He is associated with water and the Hebrew letter מ (Mem). This seems to be pretty much in line with what my initial impressions were, minus the sacrifice bit, which hadn’t popped into my mind.

Present – King of Coins

Initial Impressions

I’m really weak with the Court Cards. I’m going to spitball here with a bunch of loosely-connected ideas.

  • The King is an authoritative father figure.
  • Kings are associated with the Yod in יהוה, so they represent the initial desire and first step of creation.
  • Kings represent Fire.
  • Coins are related to the material world – often literally money.
  • Coins represent Earth.

Maybe I’m currently looking for a mentor to help me with money? I don’t feel like that’s right. Perhaps this is the representation of a desire to manifest real, physical results of something in some manner. 

Post-Research

Kings as the “fire of earth” card represent an enterprising, adept, reliable, supporting, and steady spirit. This King is dedicated to the task at hand and does it well. He represents working hard, methodically, and to completion. 

Based off of my initial impressions and the reading I did, it seems to me that the King of Coins in the Present positiion represents the existence (or need of) a firm resolve.

Future – Nine of Rods

Initial Impressions

Let the spitballing begin!

  • Nines are associated with the Hermit (seclusion, escape, wisdom, learning).
  • Rods are associated with desire, creativity, journeys, and fire.

Do I need to travel somewhere alone? Do I need to be creative in seclusion? I’m at a loss here.

Post-Research

It seems that nines are associated with approaching the end of a cycle. The nine of rods/wands represents defending oneself, persevering, showing stamina, and great strength. The journey is coming to a close; work cannot continue much longer. The Nine of Rods is associated with Yesod and connecting to the task to accomplish. 

I feel like the Nine of Rods goes really well with the King of Coins.

Summary

Based off of this reading, I have been contemplating, learning, and changing my mind. Currently, I need to persevere with a firm resolve, and the end is in sight.

What is the task at hand, though? I drew a clarification card and it was the Ace of Rods, which represents fire, the creative desire, and zeal. I wonder where that leads.

The Big Boy Tuxedo

Well, I’ve gone and purchased a tuxedo. It was a “mid-range budget” type of tuxedo on sale (or perhaps “on sale”) at Joseph A. Banks, so nothing fancy, but I’m excited nonetheless. Based off of the fitting, it needed minimal tailoring, and seemed quite nice. 

The next step is to buy a tuxedo shirt. I’m pretty sure that I want the traditional wing-tip collar, but I’m not super crazy about the pleated bib. I may opt for a more modern style of shirt. I also have to find my old suspenders, and buy both a cummerbund (or vest!) and a satin bow tie. I have some bow ties, but none that are black satin.

Now I’m almost ready to show up to fancy fraternal dinners!

Preserving the Word

The Legend of the Cryptic Degree

Presented by Companion Gabriel Jagush at a stated assembly of Texas Council #321, Royal & Select Masters, on October 2, A∴ Dep∴ 3018.

The Common Work

The American Royal Master and Select Master degrees of the Cryptic Council originally have their origins as offshoots of Ecossais degrees from the Burgundy region of France. These degrees all deal with the method of preserving the “true Word.” They are known as “Cryptic” degrees, “Ninth Arch” degrees, “Secret Vault” degrees, or “Sacred Vault” degrees. They all share common themes: there is always a treasure, and there is always a vault, cave, or underground hiding spot.

In the original legend, the Builder of the Temple engraved the Word on a triangular neck jewel that he always kept on his person. In a moment when his life was endangered, he threw the jewel – and consequently, the Word – into a well in the northeast corner of the Temple. Much time later, three workers or builders found the jewel in the well at noontime. Later, the legend was changed so that the hiding of the Word was pre-planned and deliberate.

This legend appears in the Jewish Talmud and the Christian Bible, and is found – in some form – in every Masonic Rite all over the world. One of the first references to the Cryptic legend is found in Anderson’s Constitutions of 1723, which details the preservation of secrets as revealed to Enoch – something we learn about in the Royal Arch degree. Enoch’s story in the Sacred History bridges the gap between the Capitular degrees, which deal with recovering the Word, and the Cryptic degrees which deal with preserving the degrees. Our Cryptic degrees themselves take place a long time after Enoch’s story.

We know there were two vaults – Enoch’s and Solomon’s. Solomon’s builders found Enoch’s vault, and Solomon later constructed his own separate vault where he deposited the Word. Early versions of the Select Master degree treat of both arches, but our present-day version only deals with Solomon’s arches.

Throughout the world in every Rite, the Craft degrees only deal with the loss of the Word, and the Capitular degrees only deal with the restoration of the Word.

All versions of the Select Master degree have common themes:

  • There is always a treasure.
  • There is always a vault, cave, or underground hiding place.
  • There is always loss of the knowledge of God, either by the fall of Adam, the wickedness of mankind after the flood, or the plot against Hiram.
  • There is always a method of preservation, either by hollow pillars, an ark, or a messiah figure.

The manner of preservation doesn’t really matter – what matters is that they are all places of refuge or safe places to hide secrets. The ark itself is an innovation from later versions of the degree, and is entirely made-up for the purpose of our degrees.

The Treasure

The historical object of the Cryptic degrees is to detail how a secret treasure was hidden – in our case, the idea was developed by Hiram Abiff, and executed by King Solomon. In a literal sense, the secret treasure is the physical manifestation of the Word, or the name of God, on top of the Ark of the Covenant. However, as Masons, we should understand that what is being preserved is the knowledge of the Ineffable Name of God, not necessarily a representation or written form thereof. In a narrative sense, it is as important to modern Masons as ever, because without knowing how the word was preserved, the Royal Arch degree doesn’t make sense. It is the completion of the story, and the way we fill in all the “plot holes” in the degrees. More importantly, however, it is a proof and lesson that as Masons, we should desire to know God above all else, and treasure His name.

The Secret Vault

Descending into the secret vault can represent many things. When I think of the more light-hearted parallels, I think of how passing each arch is like a passing year in, or deeper level of, a friendship, love of a spouse, trust of a brother, or knowledge gained. However, that’s not the primary purpose of the secret vault.

The secret vault is, emblematically, a grave, and by descending into it, we emulate the process of dying. Zabud encounters the point of no return when he goes through the door that was left ajar. After that, he must either die, or join the Select of the Twenty-Seven, but he can never un-open that door. Just as Zabud went past the point of no return, so will we, eventually. We can’t undo becoming Select Masters, and we certainly can’t reverse death.

However, what awaits us in the secret vault is the Word. Here on earth, we can only guess at what God is really like, or what awaits us after we die. Much as Zabud is totally clueless until he descends into the vault and becomes one of the twenty-seven, we don’t know what awaits us until we embrace death and join the ranks of those that have died. How different would this story be if Zabud had rejected Solomon’s offer and been executed? How different will our story be if we reject God’s truth?

The Discovery

Discovering the sacred treasure in the Royal Arch degree and discovering the secret vault in the Select Master degree represents an allegory for the effect that discovering the nature of God has on our lives. The Word itself was used for the government of the Craft, and seen as being so important that it needed to be preserved. After preservation, it survived the destruction of the Temple and was hidden away safely until it was discovered by the three Most Excellent Masters of the Royal Arch degree, who found it by being willing to do any work, even if they risked their lives by doing so. The Word is so important that the Select of the Twenty-Seven were willing to defend it at all costs, and were more deeply connected to each other than anyone else in the Craft. The Word completes our Masonic journey.

In the same way, knowledge of God governs our lives, and it’s so important to us as a species that we’ve done everything we can to preserve it, be it through telling others, or by writing holy texts. God, and knowledge of God, survives every calamity and every disaster. God is always waiting for us to find Him, and we should pursue Him at all costs – even if we risk our lives. This pursuit binds us together as believers more closely than anyone else. Much how the Word completes our Masonic journey, God completes our lives, and much how the Word was hidden in the Temple, knowledge of God is hidden inside each and every one of us.

The Trust Reposed

Well, it seems that things are going okay. This past Tuesday was a long meeting. There were multiple awards to hand out, all the initial business of the first meeting of the year, and so on. We didn’t get out until 9 PM, which is really something we need to try and avoid. Life would be a lot easier if we didn’t have the Chapter/Council meetings back-to-back.

Some of the proposals I made seemed to be met with a lot of skepticism – but quiet skepticism. I am remaining optimistic. One thing that I’m proud of is that with the exception of one part where I skipped a short section, I have got the ritualistic opening/closing down really well.

I’m excited to see what kind of change I can help affect here, and how I can help my Chapter & Council grow.

The Bible Lecture (J.N. Kirby)

This Bible Lecture was written by R∴W∴ Jerry Nelson Kirby, Past Grand Master of Masons in Texas, for the purpose of delivering to candidates after their Master Mason degree.


My brother, there comes a time in the life of every man, when it seems that no friend can be depended upon, and he is left entirely to his own resources. The lesson of tonight fitly illustrates such a condition. Upon reflection, you will doubtless remember that among the first things brought to your attention in your masonic career was this old book, and you were told that it alone was to be the rule and guide to your faith and practice. At each succeeding step in your advancement, you have been reminded that it would guide you to all truth, direct your path to the temple of happiness, and point out to you the whole duty of man.

And now, at this most auspicious hour, when surrounded by those who would take you by the hand as a brother, and in whose every heart you can have no doubt of a sincere wish for your future happiness, let me impress upon your mind in the most lasting and substantial manner possible:  that this old book contains the mind of god, the state of man, the way of salvation, the doom of sinners, and the happiness of believers. Its doctrines are holy; its precepts are binding; its histories are true, and its decisions are immutable. Read it to be wise; believe it to be safe; practice it to be holy. It will furnish light to guide you, strength to support you, and comfort to cheer you. It is the travelers map, the pilgrims staff, the pilots compass, the masons light, and the Christian’s charter. Through it, heaven is opened, paradise restored, and the gates of hell disclosed. The messiah is its grand subject. Our good its design, and the glory of god its end. Read it slowly; read it frequently; read it prayerfully. If you will obey its precepts, it will be to you a river of pleasure, a mine of wealth, and a paradise of glory.

It is furnished you in life to prepare you for the judgment, and as you choose, so shall your destiny be. In prosperity, or adversity, may you never forget it. Then, when death’s cold wind shall blow around your forehead, you can drop to sleep with the sweet assurance that, when the awakening comes, you will be pronounced a just and upright Mason by the Supreme Creator of the Universe, who has furnished you this means of salvation, and written your destiny between its lines.

It is given you in life, will be opened at the judgment, and remembered forever. It involves the highest responsibility, rewards the greatest labor, and condemns all who trifle with its holy contents. It is a book of laws, to show the right from wrong; a book of wisdom that makes the foolish wise; a book of truth, which shows how to avoid everlasting death.

It is the most authentic and entertaining history ever published, an unequaled narrative, a perfect body of divinity, a book of biography, a book of travels, the best will ever executed, the best deed ever written. It is the learned man’s masterpiece, the young man’s best companion, the school boy’s instructor, the ignorant man’s dictionary, and everybody’s directory.

My brother, if you will take this grand old book as the rule and guide for your faith and practice, enter at the portico of Genesis, and walk down the Old Testament`s art gallery, where hang upon the walls, the portraits of Moses, Joshua, Abraham, and Daniel. Then, step into the music room of Psalms. There, you will hear music of all kinds, ranging from the grand, impassioned strains of Isaiah, to the weeping Jeremiah. There, the Great Hand of the Holy Spirit sweeps the great keyboard of nature, until it seems that every reed and pipe of God’s great universe responds to the tuneful songs of David, that sweet singer of Israel. Then, step into the business office of Proverbs, and next into the chapel of Ecclesiastes, where the voice of the preacher was heard. Next is the conservatory of Sharon, where the lily of the valley’s sweet, scented spices will fill and perfume your life. Next you come to the observatory of the Prophets, where you find a room filled with many telescopes of different sizes and shapes, focused on far off events, but concentrated on the sunlit hills of Judea, where that bright morning star will rise for our eternal salvation. Then step into the anteroom of the King of Kings, and see a vision of his glory from the standpoint of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Next is the construction office of the Acts of the Apostles, where the work of the Holy Spirit is seen in the building of the infant church. Then you come to the writing room where Peter, James, and John wrote their Epistles to the churches. Finally you come to the throne room of Revelation, where high, and lifted up, upon his throne, is the King of Kings. The angel chorus thunders glory and power, honor and majesty  be to our mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace… and, if you are a Christian, your voice will cry out, “all hail the power of His Name, let angels prostrate fall. Bring forth the royal diadem, and crown him Lord of all”.

Isn’t it funny that princes and kings,  
and clowns that caper in sawdust rings,  
and ordinary people like you and me,  
are builders for eternity?  
We have each been given a bag of tools,  
a formless mass, and a book of rules;  
and each must make, ere life has flown,  
a stumbling block, or a stepping stone.  

My brother, this Holy Bible is a special gift of this Lodge, and it is signed by every brother present who wish for your adherence to the rules contained in this guidebook, for by obeying the excellent precepts contained within this sacred volume, you will be enabled to build stepping stones out of the stumbling blocks of life, as you travel the road that leads to success, happiness, harmony, joy, peace, and love, towards eternity in Paradise.

This I believe!

The Point of No Return

Tomorrow night is my first meeting as the presiding officer in my Chapter and Council. I’ve been working on the meeting agenda like a madman staring at the wall, looking for hidden messages. There may be such thing as over-preparing, but for now, I’m just gonna roll with it and let myself obsess over it.

I’m going to be proposing some practical stuff, and a bunch of idealistic stuff. It’s gonna be great. I really do hope that this is something that the Chapter and Council see as a positive thing. I also have some education lined up for Council, but I don’t know if we’ll have enough time. I hope we do.

I’m praying with gratitude for luck, wisdom, and guidance. I guess I’ll report back later with results?

Assuming the Role of Leadership

Pray for me, y’all.

It was my profound honor to be installed as the Most Excellent High Priest in my Royal Arch Chapter, and the Thrice Illustrious Master in my Cryptic Council.

For those not familiar with these terms, the Royal Arch Chapter and Cryptic Council are two separate bodies you can join within Masonry after becoming a Master Mason – the MEHP and TIM are, respectively, the “President” of each local body.

I’m very young for a presiding officer. Very, very young. Additionally, I haven’t been doing this very long – I’ve only been a Mason for almost two years, and I’ve been a York Rite mason for not quite a year and a half. This is truly a trial by fire – not a bad way, I assure you.

I’m grateful to my Companions for electing/installing me. It’s kind of terrifying, to be honest, even though this is something I want. I can only hope that this nervousness motivates me to do the best job I can. I know that things will go well, though. Texas Chapter & Council have a huge network of past presiding officers that have been, and will be, great mentors to rely on.

This is going to be a fun year.

Waco or Bust

[tags Allied Masonic Degrees, Invitational Bodies, Joining, York Rite, Ritual]
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I’m a member of the Allied Masonic Degrees (AMD) now!

I attended TAMDA Day, which is a Friday/Saturday weekend get-together hosted by the Texas Allied Masonic Degrees Association. Things got started off on Friday night with being initiated into the Order of the Scarlet Cord (“elected to the First Grade”). This was pretty interesting stuff, but I was also a little lost at first – since AMD is a collection of several different Rites & degree systems, you can take them out of order. For the OSC, you “need” to have gone through the Order of the Secret Monitor first! I had a good time, anyway.

In the morning, I was “admitted” a Grand Tiler of Solomon. This was a pretty neat degree to witness. This degree, the Select Master degree in the Cryptic Council, and the Intimate Secretary degree (the 6°) in the A&ASR-SJ Lodge of Perfection, are all descended from the same degree, the *Elu des Vingt-Sept*, or the *Select of the 27*. It’s very similar to both, but also very different. I liked it a lot.

I was also inducted into the First Grade of the Order of the Secret Monitor as the exemplar candidate. This was put on by Holy Stone Council #274, which is filled with guys from Jewel P. Lightfoot Lodge #1283. This was a cool degree. The Companions who put on the degree knew their parts really well, and made it a very immersive experience. The lecture was unusual – far more practical than most lectures that I’ve heard. I really liked the apron, and I’d like to see if I can find or make a replica of it.

We got to see the Architect and Superintendent degrees, but not the Grand Architect. That’s the one in the middle. The Architect degree was put on by Robert Bruce Bannon Council, and it was pretty good – also immersive. Perhaps slightly gross.

In the afternoon, we were “elevated” to the degree of Royal Ark Mariner. Man, that regalia is so pretty. Unfortunately, I don’t remember a whole lot of it! One of the things about doing festivals and reunions is that you blast through degrees and end up retaining very little.

After TAMDA Day concluded, some of us went and got “dubbed” as Knights of the Masonic Order of the Bath. This degree was hilarious. I can’t say more, but I can say that I may have been knighted using a stolen butterknife.

AMD was dope. 10/10 would recommend.

Hail, Companion Knights!

Hail Companion Knights – it’s been a while. No huge updates on my part, other than the fact that today, I was initiated into the York Rite Sovereign College (Trinity No. 154), or, “dubbed a [Companion] Knight of York.” The ritual was pretty cool, although I wish that some of the audience/officers took it more seriously. The esoteric lecture was wonderful and seemed to me to be very Rosicrucian in nature, which took me by surprise. Unfortunately, that’s as much as I can divulge.

We were blessed by the presence of a little cricket who was hopping about the lodge room, causing officers to try and keep themselves from laughing while doing degree work, which was hilarious. Sadly, someone stomped on him as we were leaving. RIP Companion Knight Jiminy.
I am looking forwards to the next meeting. For degree conferrals, we all wear tuxedos, so I’ll have to get cracking!

Recently, I was informed that I have been invited to the Allied Masonic Degrees. More updates on that as we go!

Lighting Test for the Select Master Degree

[tags x,y,z]
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This is a lighting test that I am working on with a [“JUNOLUX” light bulb.](https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01LXJZ4TQ) The bulb is about $30, and is comprised of about 100 individual LEDs that turn on and off in order to simulate a flickering flame. The bulb looks kind of odd without a lampshade or cover, but once covered, or hidden behind an object, it looks fairly realistic.

[Link to Youtube video of lighting test.](https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pJUsH-3oUZA)

There should be mystery in Masonry, and the degrees should be a wild, intense experience. One of the things that we can do to help achieve that is to set the mood with a well-thought-out ambiance. Without giving too much away, the Select Master degree is supposed to take place in a very dark, very secluded area. I talked with a member of the Grand Chapter & Council Committee on Work (the committee which writes our ritual and figures out how degrees should be performed) who explained that the degree should, ideally, be done in almost total darkness.

However, doing it in the dark can be pretty impractical. Nobody can see, there’s an increased fall risk, etc. How do we address this issue? My answer is that we should look at the idea of targeted low-lighting that is “lore friendly.” What kind of lighting would have been used in King Solomon’s time? Workers on the Temple would most likely have used torches, candles, or braziers of coal. Those are all pretty cool – but none of them are really okay in regards to my Masonic temple’s policy regarding flammable materials in the carpeted rooms. We have to look at special effects instead, in the form of LED bulbs.

These are the next few questions that I am going to try to find the answers to:

* Where is the best light placement in the room to increase lighting without using too many bulbs, running too many cords, etc?
* How much light is too much light?
* Will props used in the degree be an issue for lighting?
* If more bulbs are needed, are the cheaper versions as reliable?
* What is the most practical and lore-friendly way to house the light (lamp stand, fake firepit, prop torch, etc)?

Needless to say, I have some experimenting to do.