After I received my 32° in the Scottish Rite of Freemasonry, I was honored with the appointment of Class Orator. My inaugural lecture was given to an audience of Scottish Rite Masons and their wives and guests at the graduation banquet. I made many assumptions, as my audience consisted primarily of knowledgeable 32° Masons. If this were an essay for the general public, I would have described things more thoroughly. The part about making sense to a six year old mostly applies to the metaphor of the flower...
The Trinity and Evil
– Only Esoteric?
Wilbur Comstock Hoffman, 33º Memorial Class 2001 Fall Class Donald W. Heller, 32º
The 26th Degree, Prince of Mercy or Scottish
Trinitarian, discusses many descriptions of the trinity of Deity, all quite
esoteric and quite obscure to most readers.
It appears that every religion and every culture has a trinity, often
very similar, often very different, and often involving symbols evocative of a
Father, a Mother, and a Son, such as Osiris, Isis, and Horus; or such as Odin,
Freya, and Thor. But also often involving
symbols that seem purely abstract, such as Creator, Preserver, and Destroyer;
or such as Wisdom, Strength, and Beauty; or such as the pillars of Masonry. And, of course, the well-known Father, Son,
and Holy Spirit. Are these all
describing the same Trinity? And are
they all esoteric references to what those cultures believed to be the true
nature of the Supreme Being? Are they a
poetic way to describe the attributes or manifestations of the Supreme Being? Or is there also an exoteric explanation,
where the various descriptions of the trinity are based upon everyone’s
experience in the world?
It seems to me that the idea of the trinity should be the
simplest and most obvious way to describe the mystery of life. I was taught that if you really understood
something, you could explain it to a six-year-old. Well, let me try to explain an aspect of the
Holy Trinity so that a six-year-old could understand that it is the secret of
If you plant a flower seed in fertile ground during a time
when the sun provides warmth, the seed will grow into a flower. What are the absolute requirements for this
life to prosper? First, it needs the
bounty of the earth. This consists of
the soil, the water, the nutrients, and the molecules that make up all matter,
including the matter of the seed itself.
Second, it needs the energy source of the sun, which provides heat and
light and the power that drives photosynthesis.
Third, it needs the spark of life in the seed itself. There really are exactly three crucial
elements required to manifest life; it is as simple as that. I think this would make sense to a child.
You can interpret many of the descriptive symbols as
applying to these three wonders. It is
easy to symbolize the sun as a Father, with the attributes of power,
outward-driving yang energy, the personification of light, awesome and
potentially dangerous. And it is obvious
to consider the earth as a Mother, with the attributes of gathering, inward-enfolding
yin energy, the personification of stability, nurturing, protecting and
feeding. And it is inevitable that so
many religions have recognized an individual son as the personification of this
spark of life, which is a direct self-aware aspect of the Supreme Being who can
directly and personally express the love of this Being. Some of these interpretations, such as Horus
and Krishna, could be purely symbolic, or they could be
actual beings. Tibetan Buddhists believe
that “God dwells in us, as us”, which can be interpreted as the seed of this
trinity being resident in every person.
As Masons, we are free to interpret symbols, and cannot tell others what
they must mean to them. As individuals,
we can believe that a specific historic being is that Son. I personally associate the Mother aspect,
which is all matter, all water, all air, all molecules of our bodies, that
which permeates and suffuses everything, as synonymous with the Holy Spirit
which is in everything. I like this
interpretation because it links that particular trinity with the other
trinities more beautifully.
The trinity expresses the way the Supreme Being manifests in
our plane of existence. There is no need
to postulate another being to bring evil into the world. If you are naked in the blazing sun in the
middle of the desert, you will probably die.
If you are naked in the middle of the ocean, you will probably die. But I don’t consider those aspects of the
trinity to be evil. Nor floods, nor
earthquakes, nor tigers. After all, if
our soul is immortal, death is merely a transition. Only man can do evil. But why does the Supreme Being permit it to
exist in man at all?
In the 18th Degree, Knight of the Rose Croix, we
learn various interpretations for the existence of evil that have been created
by philosophers and theologians of the past.
Some explain the concept of evil as but the shadow of good or as the
malignant influence of a personified principle of evil, such as Satan, or as
the opportunity for the practice of virtue in the face of adversity. In Bridge to Light, we are instructed that it
is important to remember that not all of the great mysteries have been
satisfactorily answered by the searching inquiries of man; and the existence of
evil is such a mystery. Neither philosophy,
religion nor Masonry have provided an answer to this great enigma that could be
said to satisfy everyone.
Consider the idea that evil is one of God’s greatest gifts
to man. It is the gift that gives us
free will. For without the possibility
of evil, free will is meaningless. We
would be like gentle deer without predators.
Free will to choose peaches instead of plums? Free will to choose to swim or to nap? It is only when we can choose whether to
share the last of the water, or hide it from our neighbor, that the exercise of
free will means something. It is only
when we are presented with a choice whether to leap to the defense of a brother
in danger or to turn our backs in fear, that free will is involved. Without the possibility of evil, there would
be no possibility of virtue, and no need for Masonry. But today, especially, the world is being
horribly wounded by the evil which boils up out of superstition, intolerance,
and fanaticism, all man-made, all expressions of free will. Free will is truly a two-edged sword.
Brethren, let us exercise our own free will. Consider the nature of the world if all men
were Masons. Brethren, we have work to