Hermes Trismegistus, an Egyptian mystic and philosopher, stated that all things have polarity or two sides. My grandmother used to say “there are two sides to every story.” And it’s true that every event, every position, every direction, has two sides, two aspects, or has an opposite. Front and back, on and off, hot and cold, love and hate, truth and lies, friends and enemies, etc. If you approach our Initiatory and First Degree thinking about these polarities, you will find a lot of examples. Mind. Blown.
As Odd Fellows we can use this idea as a way to solve many of our problems.
One of the difficult parts of this idea is realizing that each of these things that seem to be opposed to one another, are really the same thing separated by degrees. For example, light and dark are opposites until through investigation you find that there are many degrees of light and dark between total light and total darkness.
Hot and cold are shown on a thermometer, with the lowest number being cold and the highest number being hot. Between these two numbers are many other numbers that indicate the degree of hot or cold. You could call any number either “hot” or “cold” and you could be equally correct because it’s a matter of degree. There is no absolute place on a thermometer where “hot” begins and “cold” ends. A room that is hot to you may be cold for me. One degree above absolute zero is “hotter”…but it’s still “cold.” Yet, “hot” and “cold” are measurements of the same category or thing. Here’s a great video that goes a long way to explain what we’re looking at:
Good and evil follow the same pattern. Typically it is difficult to define anything as absolutely evil or absolutely good. There is a varying set of degrees between the two. Another way to illustrate this is through music where the note low “C” ends with the note high “C” with many other notes in between. Sharp and dull is another example, and let’s not forget “smart” and “dumb.”
As Odd Fellows, we must also bear in mind the opposites of Friendship, Love, and Truth which are enmity, hate, and lies. Between the opposites of friendship and enmity are degrees in between, and we see this illustrated with the newly formed word “frenemy,” which is a person you dislike but like at the same time. Between the opposites of love and hate are varying degrees of love or hate and this is often illustrated by the phrase “a love/hate relationship.” Between truth and lies are also degrees of the same category (thing) and can be illustrated by the word “half-truth.”
It is important to understand that each set of opposites is a separate category, and by universal law are always separate. “Dark” cannot be in the same category as “Sharp.” Nor can “Smart” be in the same category as the musical note “C.” Each set of opposites is a category to itself.
As Odd Fellows, we are called to go into situations and modify enmity, hate, and lies into Friendship, Love, and Truth. And we have to be able to step into situations and recognize how to go about this process.
One way we can do this is to apply these ideas of degrees to situations that need Friendship, Love, or Truth. And if you know how to do this, it can be very effective. Modern people want immediate solutions not realizing that difficult problems are often hours, days, months, and years in the making; that we descend by “degrees” into the difficult problem over time. And since we descend into difficult problems by degrees, we must ascend toward solutions by degrees. So, when confronted with a difficult problem, try to solve it by constant, but gentle pressure by degrees, rather than pushing hard to the opposite pole.
If you have an issue within yourself you wish to change, try modifying it by degrees, rather than pushing directly toward the other pole. If you don’t have a good relationship with your boss, seek to change it by degrees–one step at a time. You’ll find that if you attempt to solve difficult human problems by shoving dramatically toward the opposite pole, everything will probably be complete chaos and upset.
Slow and sure wins the race.