Book Review: Contemplative Masonry

Recently I read an interesting book that I want to share my opinion about: Contemplative Masonry: Basic Applications of Mindfulness, Meditation, and Imagery for the Craft by C.R. “Chuck” Dunning, Jr.

This is a practical advice to a person who is engaged in freemasonry based on the well-known psychological empirical methods for self-awareness and self-regulation. That makes it a book about psychology.

There is a chapter called “The Psychology of Freemasonry” where a model of human psyche is presented together with the interpretations of health and illness, as well as healing. That makes it a method of psychotherapy.

Later the progression in the mastery of this method is shown as the inner work of three degrees. Each degree or a state of consciousness can be achieved using the special exercises. The assumption is that a layperson has a state of illness, and after completing all exercises for all degrees he reaches the state of health. No external help is required, no drugs, no Jungian analysis, no Freudian couch – nothing, just yourself.

What are those magical exercises?

The whole psyche, as we know, consists of consciousness and the unconscious. The author suggest to add four more dimensions that include both conscious and the unconscious aspects:

  • physical dimension with sensations
  • emotional dimension with feelings
  • intellectual or mental dimension with thoughts and images
  • spiritual dimension with inspiration, intuition, and creativity

Health is defined as the equilibrium of each dimension that categorized as peace, harmony, and unity.

Illness is, logically, a disturbance of the equilibrium. Well, we all know what anxiety or the shadow complex is.

The exercises are concerned with each dimension separately and in unity:

  • physical exercises bring awareness to the mindful and prayerful behavior, as well as paying attention to own sensations and breathing. It can be interpreted as connecting own psyche to own body, to form the body schema
  • emotional exercises bring awareness to own feelings, in the way of accepting them and including them, as well as subdue them
  • mental exercises bring awareness to own thoughts and images
  • spiritual exercises bring awareness to own inspiration, intuition, and creativity
  • unifying exercises bring awareness to all of those things together
  • the inner smile exercise
  • the dream interpretation exercise
  • the centering exercise
  • the contemplation exercises

The idea is to make it a habit of clearly knowing what is being experienced now in the defined taxonomy terms, thus remove ambiguity and doubt, uncertainty and analysis paralysis. The four levels are derived from Kabbalah.

Another idea is to think what is a desired experience, how to feel better given the same situation. This is a reprogramming of the Matrix, shifting the perspective, transformation.

The dream interpretation exercise is a typical Jungian analysis of the dream.

The centering exercise is fundamental to improve own balance and stability. It reminds me of Autogenic Training (AT), but limited to relaxation and warmth levels only. The AT was modeled after the dhyana yoga practice as different intermediate states of going into the meditative state.

The contemplation practice divided into four types:

  • associative
  • analytic
  • intuitive
  • interactive

The interactive contemplation practice is a typical Jungian active imagination.

The idea of balancing the energy is not new. Chinese ancient meridians with chi are about the same. A master is shifting own energy and removes the blockage in order to improve own health. It can be done by tai-chi or qigong practice or by acupuncture.

As we can see, the author combined well known practices of dhyana yoga, Jungian analysis, and mindfulness into a cohesive framework for self-improvement and reducing own shadow complexes constellation, integrating mythological images, and avoiding unnecessary medical expenses or self-medication.

While this is helpful for relatively healthy or neurotic individuals to reduce minor issues, it is not enough for borderline or psychotic disorders. It should be practiced in addition to the regular physician checkups.

Also these exercises will not open the numinous realm. The intensity that they provide is too low. They can be compared to the religious service influence.

In summary, the author did an excellent job of developing a cohesive set of views and practices that can be helpful for anybody who realized a need for better self-regulation and confidence.

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