The Masonic Education Cabal: What It Is and Why It Exists
Throughout Freemasonry today, one may observe a paradox. One the one hand, it seems that a great many of the young men who are entering the Craft these days are strongly interested in Masonic light. They are interested in achieving a deeper understanding of life and the world through the esoteric symbolism of Freemasonry. On the other hand, it appears to be the case that most lodges are poorly equipped to provide that understanding; for whatever reasons, very little time, if any, is devoted to exploring the symbolism of Masonry. The result of this is that many men who enthusiastically enter the Craft become disenchanted, disappointed, and quietly slip away, dissatisfied.
This situation is intolerable. One way to address this situation is Masonic education, but Masonic education of a type that has not been seen in many a lodge in many a year. In many lodges, ‘Masonic education’ means rehearsing the symbolic initiation ceremonies, which are indeed of great value. However, without a thoughtful exploration of the symbolism within those ceremonies, much of the value of the ceremonial is lost. What we need is a different vision of what ‘Masonic education’ means—‘Masonic Education 2.0,’ as it were, to use the language of the software industry.
Here is where the Masonic Education Cabal comes in. The Cabal is an “un-organization”: it is a thought, a cause, an idea that does not involve membership in a formal organization. It is, if you will, a conspiracy of the spirit. The Masonic Education Cabal is composed of whoever is interested in furthering the cause of providing ‘Masonic Education 2.0,’ that is, Masonic education that focuses on helping lodge members explore the meaning and application of the esoteric symbolism of Freemasonry. If this is you—well, welcome to the Cabal, brother! We do not have a membership card, a pin, a hat, or an apron. We do offer an on-line community of fellow seekers, an educational collective that seeks to help us all raise our Masonic consciousness.
Who I Am
I am Mark Koltko-Rivera, a Freemason raised in a regular lodge (Winter Park Lodge #239 F&AM, in Florida). I am very fortunate to be in a lodge where there is a 20-minute session of Masonic education at every Stated Communication. (Incidentally, my lodge’s officers have nothing to do with, and are not responsible for, anything involving this blog or the Cabal. Any faults here are strictly my own.) I started this blog because recently, after a Stated Communication of my lodge, several of the younger brethren were discussing Masonic education, and it became apparent that several of the brethren are interested in participating in the perpetuation of Masonic education in my lodge. Consequently, I started this blog as a means to sharing my thoughts with my lodge’s brethren, and with my Masonic brethren everywhere, regarding Masonic education.
I bring to the table many years of study in symbolism, some familiarity with the study of comparative religion, and many years of teaching experience in a variety of venues (44 class sections taught at the college and university level; maybe 10 years or more of experience teaching weekly classes for adults at my religious congregation).
The Objectives of the Masonic Education Cabal and This Blog
The point of the Cabal, and this blog, are to help improve the state of Masonic education in the lodge, and in our selves. Thus, I will address subjects like the following:
- How to learn more about Masonic symbolism, its interpretation, and its application to life.
- How to deliver sessions of Masonic education.
- Different approaches to Masonic symbolism, and how to teach it.
- How to lobby effectively to implement Masonic Education 2.0 in your lodge.
The Philosophy Underlying the Masonic Education Cabal
There are a few basic principles that underlie the Masonic Education Cabal and this blog:
- The esoteric is primary. Of all the many potential purposes to Freemasonry, the most important is the enlightenment of the individual through the esoteric symbolism of Freemasonry. Accomplish this, and all the other good things will follow. Neglect this, and we are at best a pleasant social and charitable organization—of which there are many in the world already.
- Our work is suggestive, not definitive. No one speaks with final or ultimate authority regarding the interpretation or application of the symbols of Freemasonry. Every Freemason must work out this interpretation and application for himself. The point of Masonic Education 2.0 is not to convey some ‘official’ set of interpretations of the symbolism; rather, the purposes of Masonic Education 2.0 are to help the individual Freemason to become engaged in the task of interpretation and application for himself, and to help equip the individual Mason with the intellectual tools that are necessary to grapple with the symbolism.
- We shall pull ourselves up by our bootstraps. In an ideal world, the more mature members of the Craft would help instruct the younger brethren in the interpretation and application of esoteric Masonic symbolism. However, in the world in which we actually live, we must recognize that the esoteric symbolism of Masonry has been underemphasized—in many places, simply ignored—for generations. (The ritual has been performed, of course, and in many cases with excellent execution; however, the exploration of the meaning and application of the symbolism largely has been ignored in Lodge discussions.) Therefore, it is largely up to the new generation of Freemasons to take up the burden of Masonic education, along with those more mature members of the Craft who have long labored to keep bright the flame of exploration in regards to our esoteric symbolism. We shall educate ourselves, and then educate our brethren: such is our motto in the Cabal.
- This task is revolutionary, not evolutionary. At least in the United States, Freemasonry came to de-emphasize discussion of the esoteric symbolism generations ago. Re-focusing the Craft on the esoteric symbolism is an important development in Masonry. We are not changing any of the ancient Landmarks of our Order; indeed, if anything, we are re-emphasizing ancient Landmarks that have long been neglected and become obscured through inattention. However, a diligent attention to Masonic Education 2.0 will ultimately change something about the nature of the Craft and its meetings. We will discuss more the meaning of the symbolism, and how it has application to our lives, and be less occupied with inessentials. I see this as a good thing; I know that many agree with me.
- We are a society of gentlemen. Personal attacks and rudeness will not be tolerated on this blog or within the Cabal.
- We are a beneficent cabal. The dictionary defines “cabal” as a group secretly united in a plot. Usually, the term is applied to those seeking to overthrow or control a government. I use the term in a more positive, constructive sense. Frankly, it is simply fun to use a transgressive term like ‘cabal,’ even if we are not really secret, and are more of a movement than a plot. We in the Masonic Education Cabal have no interest in the politics of Masonry; we do not seek to control the Lodge or its appendant orders. However, we do seek change, through putting a greater emphasis on the esoteric. In addition, the dictionary notes that the word “cabal” is ultimately derived from “Kabbalah,” meaning ‘lore that has been received’; thus, putting the term ‘Cabal’ into the title of the blog and the movement connects us spiritually with those Jewish brethren of an earlier day who focused on the esoteric meaning of their religious tradition.
- We will consider multiple approaches to symbolism. Different approaches to symbolism will be discussed here. These shall include the ancient approach involving the literal, the allegorical, the ethical, and the hidden interpretations of a symbol. The approaches we use shall also involve history, and depth psychology.
How This Blog Shall Function
I shall post essays to this blog on Masonic Education 2.0. The topics of these essays shall be centered about how to learn about the symbolism, how to lead discussions about the symbolism, and so forth—as well as topics that the readers suggest in the comments. And, of course, you are welcome to comment, at greater or shorter length as you wish, concerning the blog entries and other comments. Those who wish to make guest postings (that is, those who wish to post their own essays) are welcome to contact me directly (firstname.lastname@example.org). You are welcome to disagree, even most vigorously, with anything posted or commented in this blog. However, I do insist upon civility: readers should work out maturity and anger issues elsewhere before commenting in this blog, where rudeness and personal attacks shall not be tolerated.
I hope to post essays at least weekly. (Less frequent posting will mean that I am travelling on business or otherwise indisposed.) I shall not post my own lessons for Masonic education, because these are offered for sale by the LVX Publishing Company. However, I shall be very open in my thoughts concerning ways to educate oneself, and one’s brethren, in the interpretation and application of Masonic symbolism.
It is my hope that this blog will be a vehicle through which we will spread Masonic light, improve the nature of our meetings, and give Freemasons what they are looking for in this troubled age: a way to approach life and the world from an enlightened viewpoint. So mote it be.