My Grandpa Eddie was a Master Mason and believed that God as the Grand Architect of the Universe could be drawn into his life by means of theurgic rites.
What are theurgic rites? Fair question. An example is every morning my grandfather before drinking his coffee would pour it into a saucer to cool. He would look in the six directions – north, south, east, west, but also the nadir and the zenith, while reciting the prayer “May this food make my body grow strong and pure like the Temple of Solomon”. During this short ritual his coffee would cool and he would then drink it from the saucer.
My father rebelled against my grandpa’s masonhood — my father was not a joiner and he was very critical of the morals of some of my grandpa Eddie’s business associates in the Lawyer’s Circle, which was an organization of mason lawyers in Brooklyn in the 1930s.
When I was feeling I had lost my path in life I wanted to join the masons and recapture my Grandpa’s sense that his life was part of a master plan, unfolding from the blueprints of a Grand Architect. Why was I feeling lost? Also a fair question, but suffice to say I was and I believed — with some justice — that if I enjoyed my Grandpa Eddie’s confidence that a divine architect was creating my life and inviting me to participate in building it alongside Him — I would feel peace.
The trouble was I did not believe that this was true. I went to the masons and was even initiated and achieved the seventh grade — acolyte of the mystic harp — but I knew it wasn’t true. The Masons thought their order dated back to Hiram Abeef, the contractor of King Solomon, but they are wrong; it was concocted in the eighteenth century.
My sponsor in the Craft, a man in his sixties named Leslie advocated a policy of faith seeking understanding. I did not know how to reconcile my rational historical consciousness with the mystic truths of masonhood, but if I went to the Conclaves and drank my coffee in the prescribed way (and abstained from shellfish and citrus) my mind would eventually get with the program, and I would see the deep truth, or at least rationalize my way through to it.
What stopped me was the suggestion of the Craft that I enroll my three children (Boz, Walen, and Tiresias) in Masonic Day School. The idea was as follows:
Although I did not believe in the Grand Architect of the Universe, the Masonic Day School would pay money to a young man who had to say he did believe, whether he did or not, on pains of losing his job. Young Boz, Walen and Tiresias would thereby be taught every day in the Grand Architect of the Universe, the efficacy of theurgic rites, the antiqueness of the origins of the Masonic order and its excellence. This would enable them to grow up as my Grandpa Eddie had with unquestioning faith in God and the Craft.
On a few occasions in my life I have been given what is called “second sight” and this was one. I saw that if I enrolled my children in Masonic Day School there would be three possible results:
Waylon, who is a merry animal, would happily go along with the ruse and not believe a billionth of it. He might even successfully trick me as I got old and foolish. He would be the most fortunate.
Tiresias would try to believe but come up short against the very facts that made me realize the Craft did not date back to Hiram Abif, who never existed. He would first rage against his Dad for being a fool, but when he came to realize at the age of seventeen his Dad was not a fool but a liar and a coward, who had hired other men to do his dirty work, he would trade his hate for me for a well-earned contempt.
The least fortunate though would be Boz, the apple of my eye. Boz, a rule-follower who did not want to disappoint his Dad would say he believed in the Grand Architect and the Craft. His model of belief though would be one of paying lip service to certain formulas in order to get along with a social environment. That would take him far from any actual design to the universe and any ability to build his own life. He would mistake hypocrisy and lies for leading a genuine life. And he would ultimately become the tool of people committing horrendous crimes against their fellow human beings, because those criminals have a need of those who are bright, and passionate but have been taught that the only way to earn their parent’s love is to believe lies. His teacher, the one who taught what I told him to for fear of losing his job, even though he knew I did not believe it, would take some sadistic enjoyment in seeing my son’s crimes, and my horror at them.
I realized I could not pay a man to lie to my children.
I knew if I did not believe in the antique origins of masonhood I must not take steps for my children to believe that, because that was simply lying by proxy.
I immediately broke off all relationships with the genial Leslie, and resigned my membership in the Craft.