A certain Past Master had strolled over to the local pub to mentor a newly initiated brother. Being overly prompt as usual, he sat down at the bar and ordered a scotch to sip on while he waited for the apprentice. He actually didn’t really know the fellow all that well, but since no one else was willing to sign his petition it was left up to the Past Masters of the lodge as usual to do it, and to be perfectly honest he had grown quite tired of it.
He slowly took out one of his Havanas and cut the tip off, hoping the apprentice wouldn’t show. He had rather stayed at home in his den with a good text to study. Let the younger brothers take care of the lodge, he’d already had his turn. Becoming part of Grand Lodge certainly wasn’t something he was interested in. He joined the craft to improve himself in philosophy and esotericism, not become some big shot.
He reached into his pocket, grabbed his Zippo, and just as he was lighting up he noticed a long lost brother in the corner of his eye, sitting at the end of the bar. He wondered if he should go over and say hello. He hadn’t seen the fellow Past Master for a quite some time, and although he remembered him being extremely knowledgeable in the mysteries of the craft, he also distinctly remembered him being rather unapproachable. Not that it mattered anyway, for he had already been spotted and was being beckoned over.
The Past Masters greeted each other in the usual manner, sat down, clunk their glasses together, and shot the usual shit, inquiring into present affairs and reminiscing on days long past. Surprisingly, it was good to see each other again, and it seemed as though the two had much reverence for one another. Of course, the topic of Masonry eventually came up.
“So how’s your masonic journey coming along, Bert?”
The smile from Bert’s face gently faded. There was silence for a brief moment, as he stared into his 8 ball glass. “I’m finding it difficult to be involved with Freemasonry these days, Jim.”
This hadn’t surprised Jim in the slightest. He had heard the rumours. “Aw, I knew you weren’t happy with it. I’m feeling the same to be honest. Benign and without substance.”
More silence, as Bert finally took hold of his drink. He carefully swirled the scotch, intensely watching it, as if he were an alchemist on the verge of discovering the Philosopher’s Stone. “It could be something, if it had substance within its many members.”
Jim was somewhat intrigued by this. “Yeah, my thoughts exactly. Grand Lodge is a melting pot of petty politics and jealousy. Its whole district too.”
“Seems to have been infecting Freemasonry for a long time. Money and a committee of enquiry can get you anything these days,” Bert chuckled, as he finally took a sip. “Wrong members asking the wrong questions, and why? Because the lodge is dying for lack of funds. What else is to be expected?”
Jim knew all too well what Bert was referring to. “You’re spot on. Bums on seats, drop in quality of members. Seems like money is more important than quality.”
“Seems like..” Bert puffed on his cigar. “MacBride was spot on after all in his speculative Masonry.” He winked at Jim. “You and I are a part of those few PMs who know things and know what’s being discussed in ritual, yet we are the type that lodges filled with charlatans want to hush and force out once they get their hands on the reins.”
Jim realized this was turning into a bitch session, but he was so frustrated with the state of the craft himself, that he gladly welcomed it. “Absolutely. Like I say, Grand Lodge is a melting pot of Masonic hatred. Anyone who is actually a good Freemason and tries to understand the ritual is condemned.”
Jim wasn’t sure if Bert was really paying attention to him or not. He seemed more fixated on his scotch, continuously swirling it for a rather unnecessary amount of time. Finally a smirk popped up in the corner of his mouth while he closed his eyes and slowly shook his head. No sooner had he tapped his glass on the bar, than the remainder of the highland malt flowed down the hatch.
Having nothing to focus on anymore, Bert’s gaze finally met Jim’s. “Let them suffer the consequences that come from abuse of sacred things and their ignorance.” There was a strong sense of contempt in his voice. “Knowledge and practice of the spiritual mysteries requires that we, who know better, must withdraw to keep it sacred. Otherwise, we’ll also suffer heavily by continuing to be involved in those abuses.” He signaled the barkeep for a top up.
Bert took his revitalized 8 ball in one hand, his stoked cigar in the other, leaned back in his bar chair and sighed. “Eventually, some will come to seek and find us out to rediscover what everything is supposed to be and why.” He winked at Jim once again. “Where was I first prepared to be made a Mason? In my heart, where it counts. Not in a Lodge surrounded by naive fools. Same as you. I’m still a Mason, but I’m offended to be called such by the sham of the human organizations that are becoming irregular and wrong. And hanging in there to ‘change them from the inside’ won’t work, it just corrupts us too. That be my thoughts on it,” he chuckled, as he puffed away on his stogie.
Jim couldn’t help but agree with Bert’s words. They both knew Masonry wasn’t original in many ways, from their copycat Noachite rituals to the likeness of the Druids and the constant references they made to the Knights Templar. After all, they were brothers of several other fraternities, including the Rosicrucians, Golden Dawn and the O.T.O. as well. Of course, Masonry was an amazing organization, but Jim and Bert both believed that brothers were told only half truths in the blue lodge. To them, being a part of those other orders helped them to understand why they did certain things in masonic ritual.
“It’s a habit,” Jim replied. “I wouldn’t say I enjoy it. We run a small study circle where we research forgotten orders and rituals. I get more from that than I do from Freemasonry.”
Bert nodded. “I did the same with my study of other Scottish rituals and comparisons. Found I didn’t want to go to lodge because I could predict everything,” he chuckled again. “Then again, study and practice of Kabbalah has a side effect of being able to instantly recognize and predict systems.”
Jim simply dismissed this notion. He really felt that despite being so wise, Bert could really be a pompous ass at times. He continued to try and make his point, “The thing that gets me, is that Freemasonry teaches us to look within. To assess our own faults and failings. ‘The internal not the external,’ that point within a circle – that’s us!”
Bert found it interesting that Jim had also woken up and was dissatisfied with the state of things within the craft. He could sense that his fellow Past Master was trying to figure out what to do. “Yep, yet you see everyone focused and discussing the crap on the outside, or dressed in their finery at their dumbass banquets, while faking the words of charity and remembering the poor,” he kept chuckling. “The outer actions defy and make liars of what takes place within the lodge.”
Indeed, the Past Masters felt that Masonry had become nothing more than a service club, whose mysticism had been removed, partly due to its many interactions with either the law or its members facing death. They knew the history of the Vatican, Hitler, and other instances which aimed to kill members; and that other groups had sprung up in Masonry’s shadows, being more discreet – ignorant masons all the while flaunting their jackets, para, and light on their bumpers. Personally, Jim and Bert loved all fraternal organizations. As Masons, they knew the importance of realizing that they did not birth this train of thought, but rather that they simply glorified and advertised it best.
Jim was beside himself. Even after all that nagging, whining, moaning, bitching, and complaining, he didn’t really feel much better. Such was life he guessed, as he chuckled. “You know Bert, I think we’ve gone far beyond the stereotypical realm of ‘Grumpy Past Masterdom.'”
“Actually, I prefer the term, ‘Crusty Ol’ Past Master.'” Bert winked again. “I say do the same as done in every age when the mysteries were profaned, get mad. It seems to work best until honest seekers come after it again. I’ll probably be happy if I decide to leave the lodge.”
This disheartened Jim. He felt that Masonry needed someone as knowledgeable as Bert. “You know Bert, to employ and instruct the brethren in Freemasonry is the job of a master. It doesn’t say to ‘rage quit.'”
“Use it how you wish Jim, but how can one not rage against the dying of the light?” Bert winked once again. “I suppose we can disagree on this.”
Of course there was no problem with the crusty ol’ Past Masters’ disagreement. After all, that’s how they learned new things. Disagree, reconsider, contemplate, reconsider, so on, and so forth. They knew that at the end of the day, even if they disagreed, they’d still be able to shake hands and call each other brother, and both go home understanding more than they started with.
“I gotta go. Good seeing you again. You gonna stay a bit?”
“Yeah, I’m mentoring an EA. Should be here soon.”
“Ha, good luck with that.”
“I hear ya bro, I’m just not sure if I want to waste my time sharing sacred things to kindergarten kiddies anymore.”
They chuckled. With that, the Past Masters clunk their glasses together one last time, finished their scotches, and shook hands.
The departing Past Master nodded with a smirk on his face and turned to go. He paused and looked back. “I want you to know that you’re my brother, with or without some piece of cloth or number.” He sauntered out, unknowingly passing the newly initiated brother who had just arrived.
Now this baby faced apprentice was kinda stumpy and nothing save a bag of bones; he looked like he still belonged in junior high. Just barely old enough to be a mason.
The remaining Past Master motioned him over, ordered a couple more scotches, and slid one over to the apprentice while also offering him a cigar. “So Ben, how’s the studying going?”
“Well,” Ben cleared his throat, “I kinda feel overwhelmed. There’s the ritual and its symbolism of course, but I’ve also been trying to figure out why the masons put certain things in there.” He sounded like such a pipsqueak when he spoke with his mouse like voice. But despite that, the Past Master couldn’t help but notice the light in his eyes.
“Well Ben, I suppose I could point you in the right direction. You could try checking out texts like the Zohar, Hermetica, Book of the Dead, and Nag Hammadi to start with.”
“Oh, sure – I’ve already been looking into those.”
“I see. Well, if there’s anything you’d like to know specifically you can always ask me. For instance, why we knock on doors, why we invoke deity, why we face East.. you know, stuff like that.”
“Thanks, but I’m good,” Ben bluntly replied. “You know sir..” He paused. He was a little apprehensive. “Our ancient Masters, the Egyptian Hierophants, displayed their symbols and let them speak for themselves, leaving the initiates to study out their meanings. This they did upon the principle, that what is learned easily is not valued; and that little care is taken to remember an explanation which one can at any time have repeated to him.”
The little smart ass. The Past Master smiled. “Well then, I’d love to hear what you’ve learned so far. And please Ben, call me brother.”
Ben was a little embarrassed. “Sorry. Of course I’d love to share with you, but first..” He looked down at his drink. “If you really want to help, I sure could use some advice with a personal problem that I’ve been having in my life, brother..”
The Past Master was speechless. Suddenly, a flood of memories had rushed through his mind of when he was but an apprentice. He had almost forgotten that mentorship meant much more than teaching ritual, history, science, and the like. He was touched that Ben would come to him for advice.
They conversed on this and many other subjects, losing track of time and ending up much closer to each other than they had originally expected. At the end of the evening, the crusty ol’ Past Master had forgotten all about his anger, and felt revitalized in his duty to the craft. To think he had almost considered leaving, when there was so much labor to be done. He thanked Ben for his time.
“No Brother Pike, thank you. I’m really glad you’re my mentor,” replied Ben, as they shook hands and parted ways.