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Article # 182
Saints John, Solstices and Freemasonry

Author: R.WBro. Leon Zeldis A.G.M.    Posted on: Saturday, January 7, 2006
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[ The learned has given a beautiful exposition of the ancient custom and tradition of the celebrations of the Feast of St.John, the Evangelist and the Feast of St.John, the Baptist. The St.Johns are the guardian saints of Freemasonry. The article contains a fund of information and is bound to help us to expand the horizon of our Masonic Knowledge. Please read on .. .]

Saints John, Solstices and Freemasonry.

By R.W.Bro.Leon Zeldis A.G.M

In many countries, Freemasons follow an ancient tradition and celebrate twice a year the so-called Solsticial Feasts, also known as Festivities of St. John, the Evangelist in December and that of St.John, Baptist in June.

As is well known, the inclination of the earth’s axis in relation with the plane of its orbit around the sun originates an apparent upward and downward movement of the sun. That is, during six months the sun rises and sets at points on the horizon a little to the south of those of the previous day, while in the other six months of the year, the movement is reversed and the sun slowly ascends toward the north. This is the cause for the changing seasons. The dates when the sun stops moving in one direction and reverses its apparent course are called solstices (from the Latin for ‘sun’ and ‘stop’). The winter solstice, in the northern hemisphere, falls between December 21 and 22, and marks the sun’s lowest point above the horizon. It is as if the sun was approaching death and in many cultures special ceremonies were performed, destined to prevent the continued descent of the sun, ensuring its rebirth, that is, the beginning of its northward journey. To this effect, fires of different kinds were lit, sometimes accompanied by human sacrifices. Possibly the Jewish ‘feast of lights’, Hanukah, held in December, as well as the lights on the Christmas tree, have their origin in ceremonies of this kind.

Freemasons, however, do not celebrate solstices for astronomical reasons, nor in remembrance of a pagan rite. Our purpose is both more elevated and more involved. It is important to understand it, for in these celebrations much of Masonic philosophy is expressed.

The invariable course of the planets in heaven, the eternal cycle of yearly solstices and equinoxes (annus, the year in Latin, is related to the word for circle or ring, the anulus), constitute the most striking demonstration of the order that reigns in Nature. This order, however, must reflect an act of creation. Ordo ab Chao. In other words, the act of creation itself is a process of introducing order. The Book of Genesis makes this very clear, God ‘separates’ light from darkness, water from water (sky and earth), the day from the night.

Let me add a few more examples to expand on this concept. Let us imagine an artist, holding a palette with all the colors he intends to use. All the colors are there. But as long as the painter does not impose a certain order, placing dab after dab of color upon the canvas, the colors remain an incoherent collection of pigments. Only owing to the order imposed by the artist is the work of art born.

Take another example. Should we imagine an orchestra, the best in the world, where we instruct the musicians to play each according to his heart’s content, what would be the result? An intolerable cacophony! Only through the order established by the composer and interpreted by the conductor and the players, are the sounds of the instruments transformed into music.

The genetic code of the human species has been deciphered. The ‘Human Genome’ has been published, with all its 30 or 40 thousand genes. All that makes us human, from the color of the eyes, hair and skin to height, intelligence and inherited diseases, all of them are determined by the order of four basic elements arranged along the double helix of the DNA: adenine, guanine, cytosine and thymine. I repeat, the chemical composition of the genetic code is invariable, only the order of these four bases introduces all the enormous differences between one individual and another.

A last example, our English alphabet is composed of 26 letters. Other alphabets have a few more letters, or a few less. The point is, with less than thirty graphic signs we can represent all of world literature, philosophy and history. What distinguishes one idea from another, one word from the others, is simply the order in which the letters are placed.

Order, then, lies at the base of reason, logic, all sciences, al creation. That is why we represent the divinity in our Order (note the name!) as the Great Architect of the Universe. The great builder, who introduces order in place of chaos. Disorder is the law of madness. A disordered mind is the antithesis of reason.

Let us return for a moment to the alphabet. Assume that all of Shakespeare’s works comprise a million letters. It makes no difference for our example, if the number is not accurate. Assume, also, that we have a computer program that selects letters and spaces at random and sends them to the printer. According to the laws of probability, at a certain point the computer would print the entire works of Shakespeare in the right order. Fine, but any reader who has elementary knowledge of statistics will appreciate at once that the number of permutations involved is so huge that we have no way of expressing the time required to perform them. 1

Random combinations, then, could not have produced Shakespeare’s works. The work of one writer, a few books among the many thousands or millions that have been written. What shall we say, then, of the permutations required for designing a cell, a living organism, a human being? How many aleatory - chance - combinations would result in the atoms and molecules that compose the millions upon millions of galaxies and stars dispersed in the universe? Is that really a rational hypothesis?

In my opinion, order in the universe is the irrefutable evidence that a superior reason does exist, inscrutable for us, which we designate the Great Architect. That is why we celebrate the solstices, in homage to the immutable order of nature that reminds us, day after day, year after year, that our lives must not be left to the rule of chance, the law of madness, but to that of order, reason, the logic of mathematics, the queen of sciences, represented in our Temples by the letter G placed in the center of the Lodge.

Everything else in our institution arises from that fundamental premise. Tolerance, fraternity, equality are but partial aspects of the inevitable conclusion. that a well-formed soul must draw before the stupendous spectacle of a world ruled by order.

Order is the mark of the Mason. Order in his manner of standing, walking, speaking, in the course of the ritual. Do we not say that a Lodge is regular when it is truly Masonic? Regular means following a rule, an order.

Order, moreover, implies something else. It implies an objective, an end. The work of art, if born, when the artist orders the colors in order to achieve a certain result. Words are ordered by the writer or the poet to express his ideas.

If all creation implies introducing order, and all ordering implies an objective, our world is not a theatre of the absurd, but the expression of an intention, an objective, which we may be unable to conceive or explain, but which must necessarily exist because of the very fact, that the world is in order and not in chaos.

1. For those who are curious, taking a space as an additional character, the number of permutations would be 27 raised to the millionth power: 271,000,000.

R.W.Bro.Leon Zeldis was born on June 20 th in 1930 in Buenos Aires. He was the fifth child of his parents, who were Russian Immigrants. His family moved to Chile in 1931. He grew up and was educated in Valparaiso, Chile. He graduated as a Textile Engineer from Philadelphia University in 1952. He also graduated in Linguistics, History and Business Administration. He married Luisa Drapkin in 1956. They have four children and ten grandchildren. The family immigrated to Israel in 1962. He retired as Quality Control Engineer. As an Academician, he has been the Professor of Philosophic and Masonic Studies in La Republica University, Santiago in Chile from 1996, Visiting Professor Universidad Complutense, Madrid and Professor of Textile History and Technology, State Technical University, Santiago up to 1962. The Chilean Government has appointed him as Honorary Consul of Chile in Tel Aviv from 1963 and awarded the Order Bernardo O’Higgins.He was initiated into the mysteries and privileges of Freemasonry in America Lodge (No.86) Chile. He was a Founder member of "La Fraternidad, Lodge( No 62 )of Tel Aviv (1970),which was the first Spanish-speaking lodge in Israel, working in the AASR.and of which he became the W.M in 1971. He had held various offices in the Grand Lodge of Israel, of which he is the Honorary Assistant Grand Master from 1995. In Royal Arch, he was installed as the First Principal of Har Sinai Chapter in1985. He held various offices in R. A. Grand Chapter, including that of Grand Chaplain. He has taken the Degrees of Captivity, Royal Select and Super-Excellent Master Degrees and Royal Ark Mariner. . In Scottish Rite , he was elevated to 4th Degree AASR in 1969, Coroneted Active Sovereign Grand Inspector General 33° in 1991.He has served as Grand Secretary General in 1993-1995 and elected as Sovereign Grand Commander in1996-1998. He is an active member of various Masonic Research bodies as follows. Founder Member, Chair of Philosophical and Masonic Studies "Dr. René García Valenzuela", Universidad La República, Santiago, Chile., Fellow, Philalethes Society, Contributing Member, Scottish Rite Research Society (USA), Member, Society of Blue Friars and Correspondence member, Quatuor Coronati Lodge No. 2076, England. Honorary Member of "Rey Salomón" Lodge No 105, Lima, Perú (1982), Supreme Council for Italy (1996), Academia Maçónica de Letras de Pernambuco, Brazil (1997), "Salem" Lodge of Perfection N° 12, Haifa, Israel (1997),Supreme Council for France (1998) ,"King Solomon" Lodge of Perfection N° 13, Ra'anana, Israel (1998), "Montefiore" Lodge N° 753, Glasgow, Scotland (1999). "Hermes" Lodge N° 13, Madrid, (2000), "Max Polliack" Rose-Croix Chapter N° 4, Ra'anana, Israel (2002), and "Lázaro Cárdenas del Río" Lodge N° 57, México City (2002), "Mount Moriah" Rose-Croix Chapter N° 2, Jerusalem, Israel (1975), "Ramat Gan" N° 6 Lodge of Perfection, Ramat Gan, Israel (1978), "La Esperanza" N° 72 Lodge, Haifa, Israel (1978), "France" Lodge N° 77, Jerusalem, Israel (1993), "Jerusalem" Lodge N° 909, Paris, France (1995), "Jerusalem" Lodge N° 91, Roma, Italy (1996),"Igualdad" Rose-Croix Chapter N° 3, Tel Aviv, Israel (1998) and "Galilee" Lodge N° 31, Nazareth, Israel (2003) He was the Representative of the Grand Lodge of Chile near the Grand Lodge of Israel (1976-1993), Representative of Grand Chapter of South Carolina near the Grand Chapter of Israel (1983), Representative of the Supreme Council of Ecuador near the Supreme Council of Israel (1991). Representative of Grand Lodge of Spain near the Grand Lodge of Israel, He was awarded Tiradentes Medal, by the Supreme Council of the Federal Republic of Brazil (1992).Besides all those distinctions, he enjoys the unique reputation of an erudite Masonic scholar and a prolific writer and has presented many papers in the Research Lodges. Many of his articles have been posted in the premier Masonic website Pietre Stones Review of Freemasonry. He maintains the website in which his articles have been posted. Visits to that website is earnestly recommended for acquiring great Masonic knowledge.He has presented the following papers in International Conferences.1. “Spanish-speaking lodges in Israel” in International Symposium on the History of Spanish Masonry, Cבceres, Spain, June 1991.2. “Education as the Key to Tolerance” in European Conference of Sovereign Grand Commanders, Berlin, May 1994.3. “Freemasonry in the 21st Century”in First World Reunion of Grand Masters, Mexico City, March 1995.4. “Masonic Blue” in International Congress of Masonic History and Geography, Goiania, Brazil, June 1995.5. “Projection of the Values of Freemasonry in its Actions for the Benefit of Society”, Inaugural lecture at the foundation of the Chair of Philosophical and Masonic Studies “Dr. Rene Garcia Valenzuela, University La Repתblica, Santiago, Chile, September 1996.6. “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion” in International Seminary on Anti-Freemasonry, Santiago, Chile, October 1997.7. “The Scottish Rite Tradition and its Present Actuality”in European Conference of Sovereign Grand Commanders, Paris, May 1998.8. “Presence and Evolution of Freemasonry in the 21st Century”in International Seminar “Masonry: Myth and Reality”, University La Repתblica, Santiago, Chile, October 1999.9. “Antisemitism and Freemasonry”in International Conference on The Historiography and Methodology in the Study of Freemasonry, Canonbury Masonic Research Centre, London, November 1999.10. “Freemasonry and Society in the Middle East”in Summer Colloquium, Grand Lodge of Chile, Santiago, January 2000.11. “Looking back - Moving forward”in Philalethes Annual Conference, Washington, February 2000.12. “Facing the Future of Freemasonry”in Academy of Masonic Knowledge, Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania, October, 2000.13. “Anti-Masonry and Anti-Semitism”, 9th Symposium on the History of Spanish Masonry, Segovia, Spain, October 2000.14. “Iconography of the Tracing Boards” in The Visual Arts and Freemasonry, Third International Conference, Canonbury Masonic Research Centre, November 2001.15. “Freemasonry in the Middle East”in Grand Lodge Valle de Mיxico, Mexico City, February 2002.His illuminating articles have been posted in his website visit that site to peruse his articles.We are very thankful to this great Masonic Scholar for kindly permitting us to post this article in our website.

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