Christian traditions, meditation and freemasonry


By Bro. Ilmārs Latkovskis, 33°,
Sovereign Grand Commander of SC for Latvia

Regarding the Christian and universal traditions in freemasonry, our experience in Latvia leads us to emphasise two main points.

Two main points briefly

When Latvia acceded to the European Union as a new member state in 2004, it entered an organization that was seriously threatened by fragmentary forces, but that was nevertheless trying to achieve an overarching sense of unity among its constituents. Many Europeans are concerned about the fact that Europe seems to be losing its influence as a player on the contemporary world stage.

When Latvians recently resumed practicing freemasonry in their country, they soon understood European freemasonry was also threatened by fragmentary forces, and that European freemasons were nevertheless trying to achieve an overarching sense of unity among themselves. Here as well, Latvian and European freemasons are concerned that freemasonry is losing its significance in the contemporary world.

From the above, our first message to our fellow freemasons is as follows.

One of the principal missions of contemporary freemasonry is to promote the continued coexistence and cooperation between its Christian and universal traditions. Now, more than ever, this corresponds with the interests of Europe and of Western civilization as a whole.

Our second message concerns our concrete and practical experience in Latvia.

The Supreme Council for Latvia of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite (AASR) has set up a Hiram contemplation (meditation) group, which has provided the principal basis for our experience concerning the interchange between the Christian and universal traditions in freemasonry.

God away from Man in Heaven

This year, the World Conference of Supreme Councils of the AASR was inaugurated by the Past Sovereign Grand Commandeur of Canada’s Supreme Council, M:. P:. Bro. Norman E. Byrne, who delivered a profound speech about the role of God – the Highest Being – in freemasonry. This is a question that concerns not only the Ordo ab Chao (Order out of Chaos) Degree, but is also the fundamental issue behind the operations of the Scottish Rite as a whole. In the opinion of the author of this abstract, the Christian and universal traditions of freemasonry present two paths which together, can indeed lead us closer to God.

The teachings of Karl Gustav Jung will help us to better understand the relationship between the Christian and universal spiritual traditions. Jung was a profoundly erudite, European man of culture, with a very broad world view. He could also be termed as a Christian with a universal world view. Among other things, he was the grandson of the Grand Master of the Swiss order of freemasons. Jung’s father, for his part, was a Protestant priest. As a child and as a youth, Jung asked his father very critical questions about the Church and Christianity, which sometimes exasperated his father as an ardently devout clergyman.

While Jung was very open-minded about Christianity as a religion, he accurately and poetically pinpointed a problem that has beset Christianity and Western culture, which have both cast God away from Man in Heaven.

Oriental religions, for their part, have attracted many Europeans through their endeavour of helping people to “find the God within themselves” on a lifelong journey of self-realisation. This had made Oriental spiritual traditions seem appealing to many Westerners.

Jung himself thoroughly researched Oriental religious practices. He considered that they had a valuable contribution to make to humanity and were worth knowing. However, most Europeans would never be able to live in strict accordance with true Oriental practices. Europeans need to draw from the spirituality of their own, native traditions, which they must nurture and strengthen.

Here it is important to note that for Jung, Christianity provides the spiritual foundation for the Europeans, rather than Oriental traditions. Yet Western Christian traditions will never flourish and strengthen as long as they forsake the wisdom offered by Oriental traditions, which also have their merits. In other words, one must attempt to establish what is useful for Western individuals and what is not in Oriental traditions.

To put things in perhaps overly simplistic terms, Oriental spiritual traditions urge the individual to strive for a state of nirvana and to abstain from worldly passions. Contemporary Westerners, for their part, are often accused of over-indulging themselves in worldly passions. Nevertheless, in the ideal case, Western spiritual traditions attempt to seek a balance between the spiritual and the worldly, between the eternal and the transitory.

Seeking to find balance

Freemasonry also seeks to find a balance between the spiritual and the worldly, Between the Eastern and the Western, as indicated in the teachings of the Scottish Rite.

According to Jung, the Oriental experience is valuable and should be known by people in the West. Sooner or later, Westerners and Christians will establish their own form of yoga, which Jung perceived in a comparative sense. With this, Jung wished to say that Christianity will return to the notion of God within the individual.

We already see this trend in the 18th, or Knight of the Rose Croix degree of the Scottish Ritual. In Latvia, we began to see this a few years ago with the establishment of a Christian school of meditation, which was introduced in Latvia through the London Christian Meditation Centre. It became clear during the very first seminars that Christian meditation is very similar to freemasonry in its essence, with the common goal of self-discovery, which is stressed in the initiation of every new freemason, and which every freemason must bear in mind in ascending from one level to the next.

The teachings of the Scottish Rite hold a deep respect towards Bhudism and other Eastern religions, where meditation plays a significant role.

From its very beginnings, meditation can be found in all spiritual traditions (religions). Meditation can also be found in those sources that are associated with the beginnings of freemasonry. Firstly, there are the antiquated mysteries of the Universe. Meditation holds a significant role in Christian mysticism and in the works of Master Ekhardt, both of which are considered reliable sources for the beginnings of freemasonry.

Meditation in freemasonry is a dialog and connecting element between:

<!--[if !supportLists]-->-         <!--[endif]-->different global spiritual traditions

<!--[if !supportLists]-->-         <!--[endif]-->between freemasonry and other spiritual traditions

<!--[if !supportLists]-->-         <!--[endif]-->between different rituals and systems internal to freemasonry

This dialog is self-explanatory and possible because all of these traditions have one and the same questions. Who am I? Self-awareness. Self-improvement. My place in the Universe. Meditation affects an individual’s spiritual growth, not the outside or the appearance of behavior. We are not speaking about inventing a new synthesized religion. We are speaking about understanding, unification and multiplicity.

Ken Wilber – one of the greatest thinkers of our time – say:

“Meditation is a spiritual practice. The Kingdom of Heaven is within – and meditation from the very beginning, has been the royal road to that Kingdom. Meditation is first and foremost a search for the God within.”

Latvia: christian meditation and freemasonry

At first, the pioneers of Christian meditation in Latvia were sceptical about freemasonry, based on their limited knowledge about a number of publicly known freemasons, and on unfavourable publications in the yellow press. Once we began to discuss the essence of matters, their attitude changed for the better. Today, Christian meditation leaders in Latvia are cooperating actively with freemasons within the contemplation group established by the AASR. They now respect freemasonry as a serious spiritual tradition and organization.

We have had similar, fruitful discussions with Buddhists and Sufists. Although we will never create a single, new, syncretised spiritual tradition, we are slowly developing a favourable climate of friendship and mutual understanding, initially among the various group leaders, and then among the rest of their practitioners.

Multicultural Europe does not need to create a new, syncretised religion and does not need to forsake various paths to God. However, it must create a new understanding among its constituents. In this regard, freemasonry may have a significant role to play, as once did the Knights Templar, who sought to unite Western and Eastern religious traditions. While the Order of the Knights Templar was destroyed, its ideas and traditions live on in freemasonry.

During the 17th and 18th centuries, freemasonry experienced a splintering into two seemingly contradictory branches, one arising from the rationalist traditions of the Enlightenment and the other being rooted in mysticism. Unfortunately, the inability to convert various separate energies into a positive synergy persists to this day.

In 1993, freemasonry was officially renewed in Latvia within the Grand Orient. For Latvians, this was not a conscious choice. We knew nothing about the contradictions between regular and irregular freemasonry. With time, we learned about the Grand Orient’s negative position regarding references to a Supreme Being, which generated a sense of deep discomfort amongst us.

As a result, most of Latvia’s freemasons converted to the regular branch of freemasonry. Nevertheless, many brothers in the irregular branch of freemasonry also hold the concept of God very dearly in their hearts. In the opinion of the author of this abstract, the contradictions between regular and irregular freemasonry are due more to a clash between personalities and to personal ambitions, than to differing interpretations about God.

Latvians deeply regret this division of freemasonry into regular and irregular branches, and through their experience, would like to promote a deeper understanding among the adherents of different systems and rituals in regular freemasonry.

In choosing to adhere to the regular branch of freemasonry, we did not realise that it was further subdivided into Christian and universal traditions. Our practice of freemasonry’s universal traditions should not be perceived as since we also adhere to the Christian faith and see no contradiction here. In practicing our universal traditions, we have not forsaken our Christian foundations by any means.  

Depthen and breadth, roots and crown

We are convinced that freemasonry will survive and flourish in Europe only by developing both its Christian and universal traditions. Christian traditions form the spiritual foundation of our common, European values and we need to firmly ground ourselves upon these. At the same time, we are living in a multicultural world, where dialogue is necessary between various religions and spiritual traditions. That is why alongside our Christian traditions, we must also develop our universal traditions.

Christian traditions represent an entry into depth, while universal traditions provide a breadth of perspective. We require both depth and breadth.

Poetically speaking, our roots lie in our Christian traditions, while our crown lies in the universal. In other words, our tree of life requires both its roots and its crown in order to prosper and flourish.

Baltic Annual Briefing for the Supreme Councils in the Baltic region in Tallinn, Estonia, in September 10-12, 2010.