The universe uses emblems or symbols to reveal itself to humanity. In ancient days, groups of philosophers and mystics used the symbols of the natural world to teach deep philosophical ideas to their initiates.
The Rosicrucians, also originally known as Brothers of the Rose Cross, are an ancient Order supposedly connected to the Templars. The Rosicrucians of old had one central commandment “to heal the sick for free,” and our commandments to “visit the sick and relieve the distressed” echo theirs. Some researchers believe they paved the way for the Enlightenment of the 18th century. The Independent Order of Odd Fellows as well as Free Masonry are outgrowths of Enlightenment ideals: using reason as the primary source of authority and legitimacy, along with ideas like liberty, tolerance, fraternity, constitutional government, progress, and separation of church and state.
One of the greatest Rosicrucian mysteries in the 17th century was a book called “The Book M.” The “M” stood for “Mundo,” Latin for “World.” The subject of the Rosicrucian’s
book was the examination of the natural world, where every universal riddle is presented and solvable if humanity can examine, hypothesize, and reason out the answers.
In the Third Degree, the Chaplain refers to the natural world. If we consider the natural world a book, and if we read properly, it will teach us about ourselves, our community, our nations, and our universe. All of our knowledge is based upon examining the way the natural world operates.
Part of our ritual says “…the natural world is full of emblems. They utter no sound, they write no alphabet…” But, the human being can translate them and the human mind can understand them. From death and the concept of time, to the cycles of life, to the first cause of the universe, our emblems show us the human capability for compassion, and caution us that humans are inseparable from nature itself.
Our emblems are a clue about how to connect more deeply to the universe in which we live. Ritual says Truth speaks through our emblems. Contemplation of nature leads us to a deeper, more profound connection to our inner selves and the universe, which will lead us to a life full of Fidelity, Loyalty and Tolerance. The natural world advises us. It forces us to develop discipline and reason so we can survive. It guides us in our relationships with one another, and discloses itself to us only when we are able to pull back its perplexing veil.
Over the last centuries, by reading the natural world, humanity has acquired enough understanding so we can partially control our natural environment. We build dams to harness water, we have advanced heating and air systems to control the environment in our buildings. This is because some humans have the skill to see into the natural world and pull back the curtain. They have the ability to reason through the exterior of nature and view the world within. All one needs to do is focus their mind and the natural world becomes clear and translucent.
If one focuses the mind they will see that each contemplation, expression, and activity done by a human is part of nature. For instance, wagons used for centuries gave way to automobiles, but I suppose both are based on human observation of four legged animals. Perhaps the wheel is based upon observing rocks rolling down mountain sides. Maybe our homes are based upon the security of ancient caves, and the concept of the womb.
Since Plato and Aristotle, the natural world has been viewed as teaching values that are important for humanity. As demonstrated through ritual, the natural world teaches us reason, and from that we develop morality, and ethics. Our job is to study the perfection and process of the natural world and apply it to our work in communities and the work we do within ourselves.
One good lesson the natural world teaches is the view that nature promotes the rule of reason over desire, emotion, and passion.
Nature is a process, natural law driven, and unemotional. Nature simply “is.”
Desire, emotion, and passion blind us to facts, and warp our ability to be unbiased. Reasoning is a process, and the natural world has taught us there is a process in all things. When making a decision, we must follow reason–not emotion, not passion, not uncontrolled desire. When we reason, we gather facts, we investigate each fact to see what facts contain Truth, while being careful to discern real Truth from what appears to be true. We attempt to view things from different perspectives, and then we put desire, passion, and emotion aside and make our decision.
Perhaps the way the natural world taught humanity reasoning skills is through agriculture. There is, there must be, a natural process in growing a crop. Our ancestors used reason to discern this process. The ground must be prepared, the correct seed selected, it must be planted at a specific depth, proper care must be given to weeding and watering. Finally, the harvest must be conducted in the correct way. If we have reasoned correctly, followed the process correctly, we’ll yield a crop and eat heartily. However, if we madly, emotionally, and blindly fling the wrong seed upon unprepared soil, we’ll certainly yield starvation.
Our Order teaches us process and reason. There is a strict process in every ritual. Our degree structure and ritual, starting with Initiation and going through the Encampment and Patriarchal Degrees, teach reason and process. There is also a suggested meeting agenda which always follows the same process to encourage fruitful meetings. The Charges delivered in the degrees challenge us to reason in life, and not to base our decisions on wild emotion, blind desire, or unpromising passion.
Other Orders that came before us recognized the key to human advancement was observing nature. Our own Order teaches us the same lesson. As a product of the Enlightenment, Odd Fellows must rely on reason when dealing with our difficult problems.
When passions and emotions over take you, consider talking to another Odd Fellow who can help you reason through your situation. Remember, you have the right to ask any Odd Fellow for help, and sometimes another’s perspective can really help. If that doesn’t do it, consider a professional.
Scott Moye is author of the book “Think Like An Odd Fellow! Wisdom and Self-Improvement in 21st Century Odd Fellowship.”