You Can’t Pay Someone Else to Have Your Religion for You, So You Can’t Pay Someone Else to Make Your Kids Religious

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.



What’s the Point of Seeking Praise?

I would like to hike in Utah.  I worry I may not be strong enough.  I may go to someone who knows something about how hard it is to hike in Utah and how strong I am and ask him what he thinks of me — am I up to it?  If he says “Yes, you’re strong enough to hike in Utah!” I will be happy.

If he’s telling the truth!

If he’s not telling the truth — either because he’s lying or misinformed — his praise does not bring me a billionth of an inch closer to my goal of being able to hike in Utah.

What if somebody said “I don’t really want to hike in Utah!  But I enjoy having people tell me that I would be able to! And since I never want to hike in Utah it doesn’t matter to me if what they are saying is true or false!”

If somebody said that, I would not know what to say to him!  Why does he enjoy having people say he can hike in Utah if he has no interest in doing it?  Why does it matter?  Why not have people tell him that he can do those things that he can do?  I would be happy to oblige if I had the time.  I would say to this man “You can breathe! You are great at breathing!  And defecating!  That is well within your power!”  Although there will be times when I do not have the time.  But in fact I am not needed for this odd ceremony.   This man could write these phrases on on stones and look at them when he feels like  receiving these messages.  In fact he can imagine that stones or the sky or trees or animals are constantly chanting at him  “Your defecations are wonderful!  They successfully eliminate waste from your body!  Go you!”  He can do that I suppose, if he thinks it will make his days on this Earth more pleasant.

Maybe this man simply enjoys the feeling of being able to make people do things.  That is he fears people, and knowing that they say things that they say because he wants them to, not because they believe it, makes him feel more secure.

Maybe!  But although he may feel secure when greeted with insincere praise, he is not.  Praise does not mean that those who praise are less fearsome, only that they are willing to modify their behavior in this meaningless way for the time being.

I would prefer to hike in Utah.  Perhaps it will be so difficult I will be crushed and a new person will arise on the ruins of the old.   Whatever is left of me might praise this new man, or it might not — there might be too little left, or what is left of me might have other concerns.  It won’t much matter to me, I believe, in Utah.


The Primary Duty of the Government is to Entertain the Governed

Knowing life to be short, labor hard, and love duplicitous our wise forefathers created an institution of government to distract us from our cares and entertain us with their foolish braggadocio and venality.  For brief periods government may stray from its purpose and wander after the pedestrian goals, but the wisdom of the democratic system always punishes these joyless plodders and replaces them with those able to see their duty and answer to it.

“The American people will tolerate being stolen from, lied to, or sent to the slaughter in picaresque duchies or exotic climes, but they will not long suffer to be bored.” – John Quincy Adams


Thinking About the New: Irrationalism and Rationalism

I am going to jot these thoughts down so I don’t forget them, but I would like to return to them at some later time in a more defensible, rigorous form.

I’m thinking about the relationship of rationalism and the possibility of new modes of thought and new concepts.  Rationalism in Aristotelian form says we should think something is true if it falls under a rule.  We should think Socrates is mortal if we know that all men are mortal and Socrates is a man.

Irrationalists, or the foes of rationalists, raise the objection — what about those things that are true but that we don’t have a rule for?  What about the hill that we need to venerate although we have no rule of the form all hills need to be venerated?

The rationalist seems like he always has the upper hand over the irrationalist because he can say: Fine.  What about that hill?  Why do you want to venerate it?  And the irrationalist the moment he starts to answer the question — it is old, it is beautiful, it gives us a feeling of the numinous — seems to be supplying the rule. Venerate those hills that are old and beautiful and give us a feeling of the numinous.

The rationalist seems to win.  Until we bring time into our calculations.  Because go back to the very first person who ever experienced love — that ancient caveman who first fell in love, or perhaps loved his parents, and thought to respect them rather than put them out for the hyenas.  This caveman had no concept to explain his response.  He was essentially a prophet.  He was irrational at the time. But he is rational now.  Because time brings us more concepts.  The human story continues and develops.

The irrationalist is the spokesperson for the as-yet-unconceptualized possibility.


The First Brutus

Brutus, while the others were absorbed in grief, drew out the knife from Lucretia’s wound, and holding it up, dripping with gore, exclaimed, “By this blood, most chaste until a prince wronged it, I swear, and I take you, gods, to witness, that I will pursue Lucius Tarquinius Superbus and his wicked wife and all his children, with sword, with fire, aye with whatsoever violence I may; and that I will suffer neither them nor any other to be king in Rome!” The knife he then passed to Collatinus, and from him to Lucretius and Valerius.  They were dumbfounded at this miracle. Whence came this new spirit in the breast of Brutus?

-Livy, From the Founding of the City


Oh? Imprisoned? Oh? With the Ghouls?

Why was he like that?  I’ll tell you, and I won’t even say “promise not to judge!” as people do.  You judge all you want!

Back when everything went to shit he was on a city street after dark and the ghouls got him and kept him in one of their chambers, for like a long time. And these ghouls after they killed him a whole bunch of times, and made him have sex with all kinds of things you are NOT supposed to have sex with (robots, children, gods, animals, his own dead self, his own children’s dead selves, moms and dads etc.) they built him up into this sort of flesh-goo, and the flesh-goo never ever took responsibility for anything!  That was the whole idea!  It just goo-ed along and squazzed up out of the pipes but it never said “I’m goo! I’m gooing along!  I’m squazzing up out of the pipes!”.  It just did it.  And that’s how the ghouls got their kicks, sort of spraying or squozzing or squeezing this guy all over the place.

They squozzed him at their dances!

They squozzed him at their festivals!

They sold him by the tube in health food stores!

They sold him byt he tub in country fairs.

They hid him in bladders, balloons and pustules and BLAP! out he burst.

So naturally when things started to settle down the Department gathered him up, and cleaned him out, and took out the organelles from his cells


and put a frame together and grew him in a vat and gave him a job and gave him a blog and gave him emails from three lovely potential girlfriends in his in box.

But he’s pretty strange!

And I say– judge away!