Sunday, April 8, 2012

The True Chamber of Reflection

It is rightly claimed that Freemasonry is "a beautiful system of morality, veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols."

In those forms of Freemasonry that hold true to their spiritual foundations, a new initiate is led to a small room dark but for the light of the moon or a small candle. Here, amid symbols meant to cause one to ponder the purpose of life, the aspirant is meant to begin the inward journey of self discovery which Freemasonry is intended to be.

While mainstream Freemasonry may arguably be said to have virtually abandoned this endeavor, even many Obediences who wish to pursue the original purpose of Freemasonry do not necessarily have the tools with which to do so much less materials which will assist the modern seeker of light. With that in mind, The Hedgemason hopes to offer from time to time a glimpse at some materials that Masons of any order may find useful in the practice of the Hermetic Science. These may include traditional materials familiar to the elders of the craft, and newer materials which benefit from recent research and discoveries.

One of the most interesting areas of study in the modern field of neuroscience is the search to understand how and why the brain produces spiritual experiences. In The Spiritual Doorway in the Brain: A Neurologist's Search for the God Experience, Kevin Nelson maintains that near-death experiences, out-of-body sensations, battles with the devil, religious ecstasy and psychotropic drugs all figure in this exploration of the neurological basis for altered states.

Mario Beauregard and Denyse O'Leary, in their work entitled The Spiritual Brain: A Neuroscientist's Case for the Existence of the Soul, note that "neuroscientists have not discovered that there is no you in you; they start their work with that assumption. Anything they find is interpreted on the basis of that view. The science doesn't require that. Rather, it is an obligation that materialists impose on themselves." These authors go on to argue, with some convincing evidence, that far from pointing to a materialist answer, the science points to a different conclusion.

So, what does all of this have to do with Freemasonry? Specifically, if, as Freemasons claim, the craft is not a religion, then the approach we find in Freemasonry to spiritual development may be more scientific in its approach. It may at the least, if the argument that Freemasonry is not a religion is more than politically motivated self-delusion, make the esoteric techniques of Freemasonry a useful resource for scientific research. Does this provide us with anything of immediate use? Since part of the process of Hermetic studies includes self-examination, and studying the advances of neuroscience in understanding the spiritual impulse, and the attempts to apply scientific investigation of whatever origin to the corpus of Freemasonry's esoteric teachings, then research into these areas should be recommended reading for any Freemason interested in something other than barbecues, beer, and big charity drives.

To that end, consider the following titles, and set aside some time away from your computer.

"The Spiritual Brain: A Neuroscientist's Case for the Existence of the Soul" by Mario Beauregard and Denyse O'Leary

"The Spiritual Doorway in the Brain: A Neurologist's Search for the God Experience" by Kevin Nelson

"Why Religion Is Natural and Science Is Not" by Robert N. McCaule

"The Lost Key: The Supranatural Secrets of the Freemasons" by Robert Lomas

"The Secret Power of Masonic Symbols" by Robert Lomas

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