News about my forthcoming book
It might interest you to know that I’m in the last stages of preparing the manuscript for my fourth book. The title will be The Mystic Tie and the Way of Oneness: Masonry’s Mystical Quest for Unity, Wholeness, and Harmony. Whereas my first two books provide guidance on a general contemplative engagement with Masonry, and my third presents theurgical work in relationship to the Rose Croix Degree of the AASR, this book dives straight into the deep end of Masonry as a potential path of mystical realization. It is a special privilege to have the foreword written by Brother Aaron Shoemaker, Past Sovereign Grand Master for the Allied Masonic Degrees (USA). It is likewise a joy to have the afterword written by Brother Baruti KMT-Sisouvong, who just earned his doctorate with a dissertation based on his research into mystical experiences among Masons.
Here are the first five paragraphs from the preface:
This is a book that almost wasn’t. The manuscript was started after the publication of my second book, The Contemplative Lodge (2021), and prior to A Rose Croix Oratory (2023), but the inspiration for the latter took hold and became the priority. The manuscript for this text was set aside and I was content to let it sit indefinitely, perhaps never to be completed and published. Then, one night in 2023, a couple of months after the previous book went public, I had a dream in which I was back at work on the manuscript. But, in my waking life, I was already beginning other creative projects, and I had the sense that time would unfold what, if anything, I needed to understand about the dream. A couple of weeks later, my family experienced a challenge that made it necessary to postpone or cancel many of my commitments and spend more time at home. As the necessity of that change became apparent, I recalled the dream and clearly understood that part of my time would be given to making this book a reality. So, if you find this work worthwhile, then you can thank the mysterious author of that dream!
This preface provides initial considerations that should prove helpful to anyone proceeding through the book. We’ll address the more particular meaning of mysticism as used in this text, and then we’ll clarify what we do not include under the heading of mysticism. It also seems wise to touch on the perennial concern about Masonry distinguishing itself from religion, and then consider some general preparatory comments about mystical pursuits. We will conclude with technical points about the book itself.
As used here, mysticism is about a human being realizing union with That which is regarded as most sacred, true or real, and which we represent with words like God, the Creator, the Divine, the Monad, the One, the Absolute, Ultimate Reality, Love (with a capital L), Consciousness (with a capital C), the Ineffable, No-Thing, or in Masonic language, the Great Architect of the Universe. From the perspective of this book, these terms are somewhat interchangeable, although each has noteworthy nuances. However, it must be clarified that within this text each name points toward a Great Mystery unlimited by all the concepts and sentiments such words and images stir within us. As distracting, misleading, and confusing as they can be, these symbols still have value in helping us open ourselves to mystical realization of our unity with that Mystery. So, please keep in mind that whenever this book uses language that seems to reduce the Great Mystery to some being or state (even Great Mystery), then you are encountering symbolism that reveals (literally “veils again”) as well as conceals (literally “completely hides”).
Many people consider mysticism to be an aspect of religion, and understandably so since each of humanity’s religions has its mystical elements. Indeed, each religion is arguably an outgrowth from at least one sage, prophet, or savior trying to communicate something from their own mystical realization. Mystics, philosophers, and religious scholars also find that the common elements of mystical awakening and insight across traditions point to an Absolute or Ultimate Reality that transcends religious differences, and I share their view and write from that perspective. In this light, mystical awakening and realization is regarded as the experiential taproot of religion, not only something that develops out of religion.
Throughout this book, the foundational philosophy on mysticism is Platonism, which means it is rooted in the works of the ancient Greek philosopher Plato and his followers such as Plotinus and Iamblichus. For many centuries, this philosophical school was the basis of how learned people understood the origin and manifestation of existence, including the nature and dynamics of the soul and its realization of greater truth, beauty, and goodness. There are many direct connections between Platonism and the ritual and symbolism of the Builder’s Art. A few of those intersections are overtly explored, but many are left for discovery by those who are so inclined, which I strongly encourage. For now, maybe I can whet some appetites by noting that the Four Cardinal Virtues of the Entered Apprentice Degree and the Seven Liberal Arts of the Fellowcraft Degree were first presented to the world as complete sets by Plato in his book Republic. This philosophical context is also Masonically appropriate because over the millennia Platonism has shaped, and been interwoven with, the mystical movements of all the great Western religions. Thus, it is not limited by sectarianism and can therefore be potentially useful to the mystical realization of any brother.
The first chapter is “The Mystic Tie and Spiritual Union.” Included in that chapter is this exploration of the circumpunct as a fitting emblem of the Mystic Tie:
Thus, in its grandest sense, the phrase Mystic Tie expresses the mysterious oneness of the incomprehensible All with the ineffable One. The followers of our friend and brother Pythagoras represented this unity of creation and its Creator with the circumpunct, a point within a circle, which has an important place in the Builder’s Art. Consider the following words from Sickel’s General Ahiman Rezon (1871), reflecting on the Pythagorean interpretation of the circumpunct.
The number ONE was the Point within the Circle, and denoted the central fire, or GOD; because it is the beginning and ending—the first and the last. It signified, also, love, concord, piety, and friendship; because it is so connected that it cannot be divided into parts.
Those words speak not only to the cosmological significance of the circumpunct but also to its social meaning, and thus to its representation of the meanings we are exploring within the phrase Mystic Tie.
That excerpt also explains the imagery I’ve developed for the book’s cover art.
I hope this book will prove useful to individuals and groups within our Fraternity who sense the mystical potentials of the Builder’s Art. If things work out with the timing, it should be available in autumn 2024, just in time for holiday shopping. Stay tuned!