Saturday, June 2, 2012

The Ruined Temple

As a Mason, it is perhaps not surprising that I am drawn to architecture. As a child, my brother had a number of old victorian books of architectural plans and while a young teenager, he learnt to execute detailed architectural plans. I never acquired his drafting skills, but I found his fascination with buildings and especially the design details of old buildings to be contagious. A half century later I still cannot pass an old building without examining the lintels, gingerbread, or whatever element attracts the eye and appeals to my aesthetics.

There is nothing sadder and yet more beautiful than a deserted building as it begins to decay. I find Churches, schools, and especially Masonic Halls fascinating. I am especially drawn to those which are neglected, in disrepair, or actually falling into ruin. While I delight in beautiful older buildings which are well maintained and and show the love and care they deserve, there is something compelling about a neglected edifice. 

I think there is something of this affection in all of us. Perhaps it is an element of the psyche of our species as a whole. After all, our species built these structures, and so they contain and reflect something of our hopes, desires, joys, and disappointments. As a boy, like many boys, I loved to explore deserted buildings. Fortunately for me, I grew up at a time, in the 50's and 60's when my urban environment afforded me with some old gems of 19th century architecture to explore, and a world where the only real danger for the most part, was weak floor boards or shaky walls. Fortunately, I did not fall through any holes and had no walls collapse on me. I got to explore some classic gems. Thank goodness my parents never guessed what we were up to.

Now, many years later, considering the old churches and masonic temples, and I have rummaged through the ruins of quite a few, ranging from early medieval chapels in rural Ireland to early 20th century Masonic temples in urban America, I have some theories about the reasons for such fascinations. I am aware of the phenomenon of the egregore. This concept can be understood in a number of ways. On the purely intellectual level, as a psychological concept, or as a spiritual reality. I believe people must apprehend the concept in the way that they are most comfortable, but in essence, an egregore represents a "thoughtform" or "collective group mind", an autonomous psychic entity made up of, and influencing, the thoughts of a group of people. The symbiotic relationship between an egregore and its group has been compared to the more recent, non-occult concepts of the corporation (as a legal entity) and the meme. In short, and stripped of it's metaphysical concepts (for those of our fraternity who are only comfortable with  the "boys club" version of Freemasonry) an egregore is the group feeling that one becomes a part of in an organization. 

The emotion and good feelings we invest in a thing, place, or group can be palpable. Everyone who has invested their own enthusiasm in something knows what an egregore is. It is that feeling you have for a place where something special happened to you, or for the people with whom you shared a certain experience.  Explain it how you like, a church or a masonic lodge will have that feeling for you if you have had important experiences in that sort of place. For that reason, there is something palably sad about a deserted Masonic Lodge. And something which possesses a magical call for me. Perhaps you share this. Perhaps if you don't, looking at these photos may bring to you a sense of what I am describing.

Entering buildings like these, especially buildings where people have come together to perform powerful rituals, organized, choreographed group dramas again and again often for generations, events in which a great deal of human emotion was invested - that energy remains, and for me at least, I have had unique experiences in such places. I cannot give scientific explanations for them, and I think trying to in a real way is disrespectful of those experiences. Either way, I don't feel the need. However, I do hope others may wish to explore such places for themselves, and to take away with them, whatever experiences such sacred temples may hold for them. It is very different than visiting an active lodge building. Make of it what you will, but If you have such buildings in your area, take some photos and send them to me. When I get enough, I will happily put up a new post and credit all the contributors.

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