my financial auditing travels, I met Brother Richard Reese in Fort
Lauderdale, Florida. He is also in the financial business.
I knew him as a friend for almost four years before I found that he was a fellow Brother. He was raised in a lodge in
New York city. He moved to Fort Lauderdale and affiliated with a lodge there. His great ability to trade in commodities was
discovered by a firm that, hired him to manage their portfolio and had him move to Vienna, Austria.
Brother Reese was accepted in the Sarastro Lodge and after a couple of years, he bacame the Orator of the Lodge.
Richard stays in touch even as busy as he is, and he has sent me two of his orations that were presented in
his Lodge. I found them so beautiful and meaningful that I had to share them here. Both are presented below.
Please feel free to email me with any comments that you might want me to pass on to Broher Reese.
email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Lecture presented to Lodge Sarastro, Vienna, Austria, 20 April 2017
Good evening Worshipful Brothers, Visiting Brothers and Brothers all. When I learned that a distinguished group of Brothers was visiting us this evening, I was quite enthused about preparing tonight's lecture. Naturally, Masonic lectures are meant to be informative and educational and depending on the topic, entertaining as well. However, as we approach the 300th anniversary of Modern Freemasonry, I have added three additional dimensions to tonight's lecture besides being informative. The second, is to briefly remind us of the ancient history of Freemasonry so that we may understand our place in the continuation of our Craft; the third, to emphasize what Masonry is and is not; and finally, fourth, to inspire all of us of the great potential we possess as we journey on the path of Freemasonry.
In welcoming the Visitors to Lodge Sarastro, I am sure that most of you know that our Lodge is named after Sarastro, the High Priest in Mozart's Masonic Opera, the Magic Flute (Die Zauberflöte); how appropriate, as we are here in Vienna the home of that opera. Yet how many of us have given thought to the name Sarastro which is derived from the great Persian prophet, philosopher, and teacher Zarathustra or as we refer to him in English: Zoroaster. In post-Classical Western culture Zarathustra is known as a sage, a magician and a miracle-worker. He may in fact have been an Avatar, a messenger sent from above, as he is depicted with wings.
There was almost nothing known of him or his ideas here in the West until the late eighteenth century. In fact there are differing dates for Zarathustra 's life. Certain Greek sources place him as early as 6000 years BCE, yet his teachings appeared in Persia at some point between the 18th and 17th centuries BCE while the Zoroastrian religion dates his birth and ministry at around 600 BCE because of another Greek source. Recent scholarly findings strongly suggest that Zarathustra's lived far earlier than the traditional period and belongs closer to the earlier time suggested. While knowledge was initially transmitted in the oral tradition, subsequent writings of his philosophy were found written in the language of Gathic Avestan, which is very close to the Sanskrit of the Indian Rig-Vedas. According to translations of scholarly texts, archeological and astronomical findings as late as two years ago, the Vedas have finally been traced to approximately 8000 years ago. The convergence of knowledge between India and Persia makes for an interesting investigation.
Yet as uncertain as his origin may appear, his wisdom became the basis of the religion Zoroastrianism, and he influenced the development of Indo-Persian philosophy. The Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy ranks Zarathustra as first in the chronology of philosophers. Zarathustra was the first who treated the problem of evil in philosophical terms. He is also believed to be one of the oldest monotheists in the history of religion. He espoused an ethical philosophy based on the importance of good thoughts, good words, and good deeds.
What is quite fascinating is that the works of Zarathustra and Zoroastrianism had a significant influence on Greek and Roman philosophy. Both the Greek writer Eudoxus and the Latin writer Pliny the Elder praised Zoroastrian philosophy for educating the Greeks, starting with Pythagoras, who incidentally predates Socrates by 100 years and Plato by 150 years, and who used a similar Persian term for the Greek word "filosofia" or “love of wisdom” to describe the search for ultimate truth. Please Note: You would also do well to study the teachings and influence of Pythagoras who is claimed to have had an effect on Freemasonry, and which Masonry itself contends to have evolved out of the Pythagorean Brotherhood for its dedication to the study of mathematics, geometry and logical reasoning as opposed to religious dogma. Plato, in turn learned of Zoroastrian philosophy from Eudoxus and incorporated much of it into his own Platonic realism. It is safe to say that Zoroastrianism likely had as much influence on the formation of Christianity as did Judaism and the Greek mystery religions.
By the time Zoroaster was recognized in the West, he was associated with lost ancient wisdom that was embraced by Freemasons and written into our rituals. Enlightenment writers such as Voltaire promoted research into Zoroastrianism in the belief that it was a form of rational Deism, preferable to Christianity. Zarathustra's impact continues to this day due in part to the system of rational ethics.
By sharing with you this short biography of our namesake at Lodge Sarastro, my intention is to convey a little mentioned piece of history and a lineage that contributes to our ancient Masonic wisdom and knowledge and for us here at Lodge Sarastro, to add to our awareness some more of his works and contribution that exemplify our lodge's name.
Permit me now to read to you a most beautiful and richly written passage taken from the ritual of the Grand Lodge of the State of New York that dramatizes our Masonic tradition; and I quote: (Note: modified to be shared in the First Degree.)
"The lapse of time, the ruthless hand of ignorance and the devastations of war, have laid waste and destroyed many valuable monuments of antiquity, upon which the utmost exertions of human genius had been employed. Even the Temple of Solomon, so spacious and magnificent, and constructed by so many celebrated artists, escaped not the unsparing ravages of barbarous force. Freemasonry, notwithstanding, still survives. The attentive ear receives the sound from the instructive tongue, and the mysteries of Freemasonry are safely lodged in the repository of the faithful breast. Tools and implements of architecture, and symbolic emblems, most expressive, are selected by the Fraternity, to impress upon the mind wise and serious truths, and thus, through a succession of ages, are transmitted unimpaired the tenets of our Institution.
Every brother admitted within the sacred walls of this august fraternity, should heed the lessons here inculcated and remember that as a Freemason he is also a builder, not of a material edifice, but of a temple more glorious than that of Solomon, a temple of honor, of justice, of purity, of knowledge, and of truth. These emblems of the operative Mason's art indicate the labors he is to perform, the dangers he is to encounter, and the preparations he is to make, in the up rearing of that spiritual fabric wherein his soul shall find rest, forever, and forever more.
Many long years ago upon the eastern plains was thus our Institution set up, based upon principles more durable than the metal wrought into the statues of ancient Kings. Age after age rolled by, storm and tempest hurled their thunders at its head, wave after wave of bright, insidious sands curled about its feet and heaped their sliding grains against its sides; men came and went in fleeting generations; seasons fled like hours through the whirling wheel of time; but through the tempest and storm, through the attrition of the waves and sands of life, through good report and bad, it has continued to shed its beneficent influence wider over the earth."
What magnificent language. The rich expression in this portion of ritual sets the tone for the emphasis I promised for the third dimension of my lecture. Allow me to now share with you a profound insight seldom spoken within the walls of a present day Masonic Lodge, intended to emphasize and strongly recommend that we should truly take our practice of Freemasonry very seriously if we would hope to rise above the level of ordinary existence. This next passage is what I personally have taken to heart and consider Masonry to be and not to be. I quote here the following passage written by W.Bro. Manley P. Hall, a 33° Mason, taken from the first chapter of his book, The Lost Keys of Freemasonry:
"The average Mason, as well as the modern student of Masonic ideals, little realizes the cosmic obligation he takes upon himself when he begins his search for the sacred truths of Nature as they are concealed in the ancient and modern rituals. He must not lightly regard his vows, and if he would not bring upon himself years and ages of suffering he must cease to consider Freemasonry solely as a social order only a few centuries old. He must realize that the ancient mystic teachings as perpetuated in the modern rites are sacred, and that powers unseen and unrecognized mold the destiny of those who consciously and of their own free will take upon themselves the obligations of the Fraternity. Freemasonry is not a material thing: it is a science of the soul; it is not a creed or doctrine but a universal expression of the Divine Wisdom. The coming together of medieval guilds or even the building of Solomon's temple as it is understood today has little, if anything, to do with the true origin of Freemasonry, for Masonry does not deal with personalities. In its highest sense, it is neither historical nor archaeological, but is a divine symbolic language perpetuating under certain concrete symbols the sacred mysteries of the ancients. Only those who see in it a cosmic study, a life work, a divine inspiration to better thinking, better feeling, and better living, with the spiritual attainment of enlightenment as the end, and with the daily life of the true Mason as the means have gained even the slightest insight into the true mysteries of the ancient rites."
My Brothers, I truly hope you take these words to Heart.
In closing, let me repeat what I tried to accomplish here this evening; that is, to remind ourselves where we come from as Masons, to understand why we are here, and to project where we are going. I want to emphasize that as Freemasons we are offered an amazing amount of wisdom and knowledge that is both openly available as well as purposely hidden from us that we may decipher, apply to our lives and prove our dedication.
Our ritual gives us the structure and discipline to establish our foundations and imparts our tradition. It is designed to focus our thoughts and our language; our obligation binds our commitment, while the trust and bond we make to and with each other, supports us, reinforces our efforts, gives us confidence, and strengthens our resolve, for life will constantly test us. Through our work and practice, we may earn the right and privilege to be custodians of this great knowledge, and achieve a greater understanding, attain a higher consciousness, and in so doing, manifest and fulfill our destiny in this lifetime. If we are to insure our immortality then we must pass it on to the next generation.
It is a great source of inspiration for us to carry on and walk in the footsteps of those great men who precede us. Like Zarathustra, we have the potential to be exemplary in our world, by educating, encouraging, nurturing and healing those closest to us, helping them transform their lives as well as our own, improve our places of work and our communities, strengthen our Brotherhood and the world around us.
Let us remind ourselves, my Brothers, that throughout modern history, we Masons have made important contributions and great achievements. We have stepped forward to right wrongs, oppose injustices, and heal differences. Our Craft grooms us to be leaders. During these monumental yet traumatic times, do not abandon or relinquish your ideals nor concede to the forces that challenge us. Like Zarathustra, I strongly encourage you to shine brightly, my Brothers, and alight the world, with all that is good and great in Freemasonry.
Richard Jan Reese 32° S.R.; K.T., Orator,
Lodge Sarastro; Vienna, Austria; 20 April 2017
Lecture presented to Lodge Sarastro, Vienna, Austria, 26 August 2017
My desire is to share with you four simple words today that if applied, will make considerable impact on your work in Freemasonry and in your lives. They are:
To Dare, To Know, To Will and To Remain Silent
But first let me put it in context: Over the course of Modern Freemasonry, have you noticed that Freemasons have an extraordinary reputation for success and being notable in the public eye? The fact is that a good portion of significant figures in modern history were and are Freemasons. The names are legendary, frequently mentioned, which most of you already know. There are also numerous figures who, if not Freemasons, showed interest or bore some association to Freemasonry or similar societies that share our founding principles.
However being considered part of this esteemed fraternity means a great deal more than one might assume. But why were or are so many significant people part of this august fraternity? Why are they so influential? The majority of uninformed people presume it is because of the connections and powers that one might gain as a part of a secretive order or through some superstitious unholy rites.
Unfortunately and sadly because of their ignorance and their fear we have been accused of many injustices and historically persecuted. As Freemasons we know that those assumptions are not true. No one thing, not even Freemasonry alone, is going to give you everything. It doesn’t magically grant you power and wisdom.
It is not that simple and there’s more to it than simply networking through Masonic circles. For most, the main reason is not the attraction of Masonic Rituals or secret handshakes, nor as our illustrious brother Heinz-Peter once said, "you didn't come here for the food. "It is the desire for more knowledge and understanding. The same types of people who join a secretive order to gain knowledge and explore the Mysteries are the same people who have a burning desire to change the world. These types of people will look far and wide for answers; they will eventually find those answers and the knowledge to act on. Those who aren’t seeking answers and knowledge, however, won’t find any and won’t change the world. The deciding factor is seeking out and obtaining knowledge. As our forbearer, Sir Francis Bacon said, “Knowledge is power.”
Another factor is the philosophy of Freemasonry. It has to do with transforming ourselves and developing the ability to manifest things into being and to become the defining force in our lives. It’s about our journey, our search, and our ability to manifest things. It’s not about what the world can do for us, but what we can learn to do for ourselves, by building strong and noble qualities of character. In Freemasonry, we refer to this as “building our own inner temple.”
Now, what is the significance of the four words I gave you at the start of this lecture: to Dare, to Know, to Will, and to Remain Silent? This is one of the first admonitions (a piece of advice that is also a warning on how to conduct oneself) given to an initiate as he starts on the path to higher knowledge and transformation, regardless of what Path he or she chooses to take.
To Dare: A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. That quote originally comes from Lao-tzu in Chap. 64 (again on the Square) of the Tao Te Ching. This requires courage, commitment and daring to step out of our comfort zone, to rise above our creature habits and mundane existence, relinquish our fears, face the unknown and accept the challenges of life. Challenge oppressive authority, false faiths and dogma and superstitious myths. Be determined to develop our talents and fulfill our destiny. But you must remember; that once you set out on this path, be cautioned of the seriousness of your commitment for there is no turning back without paying a price. In the VSL Luke 9:62: states that "No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the Kingdom of God." Pythagoras says it this way: "Having departed from your house, turn not back; for the furies will be your attendants." I assure you from personal experience, these warnings are real and not figurative, because when you make a commitment to pursue and apply the deeper aspects of hidden knowledge into your life, the Path becomes narrower and steeper. It sets up a psychological process on both a conscious and subconscious level. Life begins to try and test your commitment, harden your resolve, forge your character, and heighten your consciousness. If you decide that you want to go back to your old ways, it doesn't release you from your commitment without exacting a toll on many levels. Emphatically, you are strongly admonished to know the consequences of your actions. I Corinthians 10:12 tells you: "When you stand, take heed lest you fall."
To Know: This is our never ending journey for knowledge and wisdom. If we are indeed "to know," then we must constantly be learning, questioning, and expanding our horizons. As Freemasons, we are encouraged with seeking and finding, or as quoted in Matthew 7:7 countless times, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you shall find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” And most importantly, we must know ourselves before we can know our true path.
To Will: means to have discipline, determination and perseverance. Nothing of any value comes with ease, and spiritual growth is no exception. If you want to be a competent practitioner in the art of transformation and manifestation, then you had better study, and work at it. If you make the choice and commitment to evolve and grow both materially and spiritually, then you will. For our Will guides us, and our Will leads us to success. Without it, we are stagnant.
To Remain Silent: Within our beloved fraternity we have obligations for maintaining Silence, and penalties for betraying them, but this requires more thought than it appears on the surface. We all remember the ancient admonition, "cast ye not pearls before swine," but as we journey together along the Path, we must remember that it is also one of personal development. We cannot expect the same of others, or fill them with false hopes and expectations. To be certain, "keeping silent" also means that we should try not to outshine our Brothers or impose personal experience or opinion without their permission. It also means we need to keep our personal practices private and learn the value of inner silence or meditation. It is through that inner silence that we transcend the realm of the senses, which when achieved is verbally difficult to express let alone share.
Finally, let me conclude by repeating what I strongly expressed in my last lecture: Our ritual gives us the structure and discipline to establish our foundations. It is designed to focus our thoughts and our language; our obligation binds our commitment, while the trust and bond we make to and with each other, supports us, reinforces our efforts, gives us confidence, and strengthens our resolve, for life will constantly tests us. Through our work and practice, we will earn the right and privilege to be custodians of great knowledge, achieve a greater understanding, attain a higher consciousness, and in so doing, manifest and fulfill our destiny in this lifetime. My Brothers, we are on this path together, helping and supporting each other, to get through this life as positively and successfully as possible and to leave our world better than we found it.
at Lodge Sarastro, Schloss Potzneusiedl, 26.08.2017 by
Bro. Richard Jan Reese, 32°S.R.; K.T., Orator