Wednesday, February 8, 2017

A Mindful Masonry: Cogitating on the Craft

Sometimes life gets in the way and plans of tasks to do that get put off for days, end up put off for longer. Such is the fate which temporarily befell this blog. It is time to breathe a little life back into it, and as a reminder that we should always remain aware of our goals, our behaviors and actions, and all too often for most, the gap that separates these, my first post in far too long is concerning an interesting book that arrived not so long ago which offers some techniques relevent to my comments.

The subject of spirituality within Freemasonry is a perrenial topic. It tends to give masons who neither know what masonry is or why they became one, a sense or vertigo, It is a topic which won't go away and one which has resulted in both excellent studies of the human psyche, and ridiculous excursions into fantasyland.

One aspect of having an abiding interest in this is that I have noted that Freemasonry, as out of touch as some masons may be, as a whole picks up trends in popular spiritual exploration and attempts to find a place for these practices in its search for the apotheosis of the masonic seeker. This is how Freemasonry over the centuries has adopted Gnosticism, Cabala, Alchemy, even Vodou and other African derived traditions.

It should have occured to me that some industrious beekeeper would have turned his hand to adopting the current fad of Mindfulness meditation to Freemasonry. Sure enough, not so long ago, it happened.

Now, mind you, I am not criticizing this nor making fun of it.  While I have not jumped on the bandwagon of Mindfulness training for some, I believe, sound reasons, I certainly utilize practices that parrallel and aim for the the same or similar outcomes. None the less, unless you are the sort who wants to, and can afford to buy every book remotely related to the subject of Esoteric Masonry, you may wish to decide if this is worth your time and money.

The answer, for me, is a resounding maybe. I say maybe,  not because I find flaws within the work, nor that I wish to suggest that the concepts and practices offered here are not likely to benefit everyone who puts them into practice. I think they will, if used as presented. However, many members of the craft are more interested in a dash of theory and a smathering of nice graphics. If that describes you, save your money. This book is practical and very much a hands on guide to applying certain meditative techniques to the symbolism inherent in Freemasonry.

To set the stage for this book, although it was only published last year, its roots stretch back a half decade to an anonymous guide published on the internet by C.R. Dunning. To also make clear why I chose to give this book the attention I am here, I need to note one of the frequent issues I have with such titles in masonic literature. They too often tend to have a victorian veneer whether honestly earned or not, or either know a great deal about Masonry, or at least one version of it, and nothing about spiritual practices, or the reverse, knowing a great deal about spiritual practices while totally misapprehending the craft.

That, thankfully, is not the case in this book.

Bro. Dunning has been a counselor and professional therapist, and so he brings a range of skills to
this project, and it shows. He limits himself primarily to the symbolisim of the blue lodge, as many will feel is appropriate, and he does it well. His  bases his inspirations and guidence upon a sound understanding of masonic symbolism and avoids, as he states clearly, a reliance upon historical assertions, which he rightly notes have in the case of masonic literature far too often been "poor, misleading, and even blatently false[.]" Rather than making such claims, he clearly describes the rational and psychologically grounded basis for his application of masonic symbolic tools as tools of self discovery.

Nor is this a boring read. Jim Tressner's forward sets the stage by noting that a role model of his was fond of say that "I would be very dissapointed in any of you who went for a walk in the woods expecting to see an elf. I would be even more disappointed if you were surprised when you did see one."

As he notes, "This book is not a tour through the vague mists of Avalon. It is a practical, reasonable guide to development...Follow the exercises and younwill see results. Leave it on the shelf, and nothing will happen...You may even figure out what to do if you see an elf."

Link to Contemplative Masonry order page.