Wednesday, January 25, 2012
I think it went well Tuesday night. Makia told me attendance was higher than usual. Even Yasser was there! I got a taste of Pennsylvania Royal Arch ritual, which is a bit different from what I'm used to. Then we went out for drinks and a bite to eat. What more could you want?
For a topic, I went with Kabbalah's interpretations of several of the Royal Arch Degree's borrowings from the Book of Exodus, namely the Breastplate of the High Priest, the Ark of the Covenant, the Ark's Cherubim, the Burning Bush, and "the great, mysterious, and sacred name of Deity."
I don't like public speaking. I dread it, and I'm not that good at it despite all the practice I get. And it is especially daunting to break in a brand new lecture. I'll have to smooth this one out, but to give you an idea of the material, here are a few excerpts.
Of the Ark of the Covenant, the Book of Exodus explains the dimensions and other specs for its construction, including: "Overlay it with pure gold, both inside and out, and make a gold molding around it." This, says the literature of the Zohar, can serve to remind us that we, ourselves, must be of that same essence, both inside and out. That is, our inner selves must be of the same substance we display on our exteriors. More than not behaving one way while secretly feeling differently, the point is to purify our hearts and refine our minds so that our outwardly behavior is determined by that spark of divinity that resides in us all. To be truly "good as gold."
In Exodus Chapter 3, we learn of the identity God chose to reveal to Moses: "I am that I am" (sometimes presented as "I am who I am"). In Judaism, there are seventy-two names of God, and different situations in life require us to know these different names for God, so that in prayer or other labors, we have the correct context for connecting to Him. Perhaps like dialing the correct phone number, but in a spiritual method. For example, in light of what happened to the Israelites after exiting Egypt, the names for Judgment (Gvurah) and Mercy (Chesed) come to mind. Judgment bears the connotation of negativity, but the Zohar informs us that there can be no negativity emanating from the GAOTU, that there only can be the most specific wisdom and understanding of how to treat each person precisely as that person needs at that time. One could say "tough love" is a modern representation of this concept in that to the receiver, it may appear to be the worst of all options, but it actually can be exactly what the person needs.
Exodus 3:13 - Moses said to God, "When I come to the Israelites and say to them 'The God of your fathers has sent me to you,' and they ask me, 'What is His name?' what shall I say to them?" And God said to Moses, "Ehyeh-Asher-Ehyeh." (Variously translated as I Am That I Am, or I Am Who I Am, or I Will Be What I Will Be.) In "I am that I am," we have the very awkward use of the first person as though it is the third person. So, what is God's name? I Am.
I'll spare you the "Who's on First?" jokes, and relate the Zohar commentary, which essentially wants us again to fan that divine spark within each of us, and achieve a communion with deity. In my own crude understanding, if we say the name of God is "I Am" -- that first person usage -- then we want to gain and display supernal qualities autonomously. And, returning to that juxtaposition of Judgment and Mercy, saying "I am" when wondering why God allows bad things to happen directs our attention to our own choices in life, our own management of our capacity for good and our propensity for bad.
Hopefully this renders a clear idea of where my lecture headed Tuesday evening. I make no claim of expertise in these matters. In fact, during the Q&A, I was asked if this kind of material is known to Freemasons generally, or if it is something I connected to Royal Arch ritual myself. I assured the Excellent Scribe that I achieved nothing unprecedented here, but that material such as this, especially Kabbalah, has a particular claim upon the curiosity of Freemasons who seek further Light. I hope the Companions were sufficiently impressed as to start their own searches, in their own good time.