The musings of a previously unemployed Jewish Freemason. I write about the job search, about Judaism, and about Freemasonry.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

A Note About Masonic Ritual and Memory

From the Hyperlexicon:
A bunch of parrots in a jungle overhear an explorer telling a joke. The parrots pass the joke on to the next generation of parrots, who pass it on to the next... but of course, none of the parrots ever actually understand the joke. It keeps on getting passed along from parrot to parrot until another explorer comes through, hears a parrot tell it, and has a good laugh.
The original explorer would be delighted to learn that his joke had provided a laugh to a kindred spirit so many years later, but to the parrots, the laughter is just disruptive: We're trying to teach this creature the sacred sequence of sounds passed down to us by our foreparrots, and instead of repeating the sounds back to us properly, it's making strange hyena noises... perhaps it has a learning disability.
Even though we memorize ritual, it is crucial that we memorize it as explorers and not as parrots. The genius of the structure of Freemasonry is that, in a worst-case scenario, a lodge of parrots can preserve the mysteries of Freemasonry until an explorer knocks at the West Gate. Indeed, sadly, that is often how we have survived. A good parrot is considerably superior to a bad parrot in this regard. But the light of Freemasonry is for the explorers alone. Masonic transmission happens by a process that is a superset of parroting. The ritual must be memorized, and memorized accurately. But if it crackles and sparkles with Masonic light, because the ritualist understands the ritual as an explorer and not as a parrot, then true Initiation can take place. Even still, it is up to the candidate to choose to receive the light as an explorer and not as a parrot.

Before I found Freemasonry (or before it found me), I was an uchi deshi (live-in student) of an aikido master, and trained with him through black belt. My sensei was a good friend before I trained with him, and remains a good friend after I no longer train with him. He lives in Berkeley, California, and teaches at Aikido Shusekai in Berkeley. He is working on a Ph.D. in Transformative Studies at California Institute of Integral Studies.

When he was an undergraduate there, he wrote Hyperlexicon as an assignment. This is a hyperlinked essay written in HTML that covers many topics in Kabbalah (it has the best description of the concept of Qlippoth I have seen) and mysticism. It can be played as a game, or read for its intrinsic value.

A few months ago, he alerted me to a sequel he has written, called the Veiled Oasis. I have spent many hours today exploring it, and I've been very moved by what I have found there. It is advisable to explore "Hyperlexicon" thoroughly before exploring "The Veiled Oasis", but not required.

Neither of these are linear narratives, and it may take some time to find what you are looking for, but I feel they are both worth exploring.

1 comment:

  1. Jeremy, that is brilliant. Maybe you should talk to Rabbi Natan Margalit at some point, at If you like things that may be read linearly but are actually not linear documents, Natan says the Torah is such a document. Through allusion and symbol, the Torah is very much written in organically linked hypertext, even though it significantly predates HTML.