Ben Franklin was a printer and published many pamphlets and booklets during his career. Here is one of his favorites. Thirteen subjects to live by.
FRANKLIN’S THIRTEEN SUBJECTS
- Temperance – Eat not to dullness; drink not to elevation.
- Silence – Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversation.
- Order – Let all your things have their places; let each part of your business have its time.
- Resolution – Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve.
- Frugality – Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself; i.e., waste nothing.
- Industry – Lose no time; be always employed in something useful; cut off all unnecessary actions.
- Sincerity – Use no hurtful deceit; think innocently and justly, and, if you speak, speak accordingly.
- Justice – Wrong none by doing injuries, or omitting the benefits that are your duty.
- Moderation – Avoid extremes; forbear resenting injuries so much as you think they desire.
- Cleanliness – Tolerate no uncleanliness in body, clothes, or habitation.
- Tranquility – Be not disturbed at trifles, or at accidents common or unavoidable.
- Chastity – Rarely use venery but for health or offspring, never to dullness, weakness, or the injury of your own or another’s peace or reputation.
- Humility – Imitate Jesus or Socrates
O powerful goodness! bountiful Father! merciful Guide! Increase in me that wisdom which discovers my truest interest. Strengthen my resolutions to perform what that wisdom dictates. Accept my kind offices to Thy other children as the only return in my power for Thy continual favors to me. – Amen
THAT GOD WILL GRANT THIS DEAR ONE A HAPPY HOME
Our God, our help in ages past, our hope for years to come, I turn to Thee like a wanderer in the dark, seeking a way out of the noise and confusion of my life.
For Thou knowest, dear Father, how much noise and confusion enters into our home. Yes, I realize that many of the words and deeds are not always badly meant, but they do upset our home so much, Father.
So, today, dear Lord, I want to ask Thy blessing on all who dwell under this roof. Help us to bear cheerfully together any sickness, any sorrow, any hardship.
Bless those in our home who have jobs and duties to perform, dear Father. And, bless any small children within our home and those who have left it for homes of their own. Yes, Father, bless and keep those who have left our dear home for places far away.
Thank Thee, dear Father, that even this little talk with Thee has brought Thy spirit into my heart. I know Thou wilt answer my prayer and I thank Thee – I thank Thee for so much comfort, happiness and peace.
The Power to Create
Have you ever wondered why we cultivate character? One answer (perhaps the only answer): to make small rituals for everyday life. Why must we consider seeking to participate in more rituals? What power does ritual hold? Can ritual transform and enrich a man’s life?
Mircea Eliade said, “Sacred and profane constitute the two modes of being in the world.” Eliade’s understanding of religion centers on his concept hierophany (manifestation of the Sacred) – a concept that includes, but is not limited to theophany (manifestation of a god). Eliade argued hierophanies give rise to sacred orders.
Let’s look at the world as the Sacred and the profane. They are concerns to both the philosopher and to anyone seeking to discover the possible dimensions of human existence. So pretty much everybody!
Ritual tends to be esoteric and specifically religious. Rituals that can not be definitively traced strikes us as inherently more real. Today’s world seems mundane and one-dimensional because modern existence lacks a layer of the Sacred and exists solely on the profane. We generally find the Sacred fascinating and an awe-inspiring mystery. A manifestation of a wholly different order from our natural (or profane) lives.
The religious man seeks to live (experience) the sacred as much as possible.
The Sacred is a realm of reality, a source of power, that is saturated with being. For the religious, the profane feels unreal and leads to a state of non-being. In contrast, the non-religious man refuses any appeal to mystery or to the supernatural. Perhaps there is a refusal of the natural. This depends if we define our natural laws as Sacred or profane.
The non-religious man still seeks renewal and rebirth.
“Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul.” – John Muir
Just because one is not religious in the traditional sense doesn’t mean one can’t inject sacredness into their lives. A potent power of ritual is its ability to set off certain times and spaces as Sacred. Something different than the profane.
Eliade argued that all rituals at their core are reenactments of the primordial deeds performed by God, gods, or mythical ancestors during a period of creation. In imitating the gods, it is as the original events are happening once more. The ritual releases some of the potent, transformative power that was present at the very beginning of the world. The rituals re-create and re-form the world, re-sacralizing time and beginning. Each ritual restores freshness and strength to a worn out world.
Rituals can set apart spaces as sacred. These sacred spaces are where the veil between humans and the transcendent are thin. This facilitates communication between the conscious and the subconscious. Stepping into a sacred place leaves the profane world behind. Time is also transcended. We can travel back to the past to participate in our faith’s founding events.
Entering into a state of “liminality” – a state of being in-between – neither here nor there. There is a demarcation of behavior over which people pass when entering into ritual. The day-to-day world is temporarily suspended.
Rituals can sacralize a general environment, objects within the space, and the people within the space. Ordinary elements of the profane life take on a new meaning and can become a cipher through which the Sacred is revealed to us. Symbols are an example of this. Ordinary in the profane, a cipher in the Sacred. Members of the organization know the meaning of the symbol in the profane but do not reveal the meaning until they are in the Sacred. Freemasonry is one of those organizations. The Sacred can be known as the Temple. The Temple is a focusing lens, marking and revealing significance. Rituals make us ponder the meaning of symbols; like wine, which is the blood of Christ during Christian communion. Handshakes are used to reveal truths and can take us “past the particular, into the universal”, according to Eliade.
A fine example of a Sacred space is a House of Worship. As we step in between the street and the sanctum, we move between two modes of being – the Sacred and the profane. SACRED RITUAL DISORIENTS TO REORIENT. Buildings are not the central element that makes possible the space Sacred. RITUAL IS WHAT CREATES SACRED SPACE.
If you often find yourself asking, “Is this all there is?”, you may be due for an immersion in the Sacred. Do not wait for life to hand you texture and meaning, you’ll feel flat forever. The modern world exists solely in the profane dimension; to access the Sacred, the pathway is ritual. RITUAL MEDIATES AND BUILDS THE BONDS OF COMMUNITY AND BROTHERHOOD.
Change your thoughts and you can change anything. The world in which we live is not determined by outward circumstances nearly so much by the thoughts which habitually occupy our mind. Even as air conditioners keep the atmosphere of a room fresh and healthful, so thought conditioners will give clarity and power to our thoughts. This gives us peace to our mind, health to our bodies, and vitality to our lives. Since happiness and effectiveness depend upon our the kind of thoughts we think, it is absolutely impossible to be happy if we think unhappiness-producing thoughts. One of the wisest men who ever lived was Marcus Aurelius, who said, “A man’s life is what his thoughts make of it.”
If you put into your mind thoughts of fear, you will get thoughts of fear out of your mind. Fill your mind with resentment thoughts and resentment attitudes will emerge. Thought conditioners are so powerful that they will displace unhealthy thoughts. Indeed, displacement is the only way we can drive a thought from the mind.
The most vital, creative and positive thoughts are those stated in the Bible. Its words are alive. The Bible itself states what its spiritual words will do. “If we abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.”
This means if we fill our minds with spiritual words so that they sink from our conscious to our unconscious mind by a process of spiritual osmosis, we will so condition our spiritual mind that spiritual power will operate within us. The words of the Bible are powerful THOUGHT CONDITIONERS.
Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. John 14:27
The things which are impossible with men are possible with God. Luke 18:27
Renew a right spirit within me. Psalm 51:10
What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them. Mark 11:24
If God be for us, who can be against us? Romans 8:31
Imagine looking at all our difficulties like an army lined up against us. We have the backing to overcome them all. As we face these enemies – ask ourselves, “WHAT SHALL I SAY TO THESE THINGS?” And the answer is “If God be for us, who can be against us?” Now spend one minute realizing that God is for us and say this affirmation, “God is with me, God is for me. God is greater than all these things.” Then visualize these enemies of our peace and happiness as retreating, giving way before God’s power. Personalize the text by saying: “If God be for me, who can be against me?”
The repetitive use of this text will give us an enormous sense of God’s presense and a powerful feeling of VICTORY.
How familiar the phrase is. No Lodge is ever opened or closed, in due form, without using it. Yet how few know how old it is, much less what a deep meaning it has in it. Like so many old and lovely things, it is so near to us that we do not see it.
As far back as we can go in the annals of the Craft we find this old phrase. Its form betrays its age. The word MOTE is an Anglo-Saxon word, derived from an anomalous verb, MOTAN. Chaucer uses the exact phrase in the same sense in which we use it, meaning “So May It Be.” It is found in the Regius Poem, the oldest document of the Craft, just as we use it today.
As everyone knows, it is the Masonic form of the ancient AMEN which echoes through the ages, gathering meaning and music as it goes until it is one of the richest and most haunting of words. At first only a sign of assent, on the part either of an individual or of an assembly, to words of prayer or praise, it has become to stand as a sentinel at the gateway of silence.
When we have uttered all that we can utter, and our poor words seem like ripples on the bosom of the unspoken, somehow this familiar phrase gathers up all that is left – our dumb yearnings, our deepest longings – and bears them aloft to One who understands. In some strange way it seems to speak for us into the very ear of God the things for which words were never made.
So, naturally, it has a place of honor among us. At the marriage Altar it speaks its blessing as young love walks toward the bliss or sorrow of hidden years. It stands beside the cradle when we dedicate our little ones to the Holy life, mingling its benediction with our vows. At the grave side it utters its sad response to the shadowy AMEN which death pronounces over our friends.
When, in our turn, we see the end of the road, and would make a last will and testament, leaving our earnings and savings to those whom we love, the old legal phrase asks us to repeat after it: “In The Name Of God, AMEN.” And with us, as with Gerontius in his Dream, the last word we hear when the voices of earth grow faint and the silence of God covers us, is the old AMEN, So Mote It Be.
How impressively it echoes through the Book of Holy Law. We hear it in the Psalms, as chorus answers to chorus, where it is sometimes reduplicated for emphasis. In the talks of Jesus with his friends it has a striking use, hidden in the English version. The oft-repeated phrase, “Verily, Verily I Say Unto You,” if rightly translated means, AMEN, AMEN, I say unto you.” Later, in the Epistles of Paul, the word AMEN becomes the name of Christ, who is the AMEN of God to the faith of man.
So, too, in the Lodge, at opening, at closing, and in the hour of initiation. No Mason ever enters upon any great or important undertaking without invoking the aid of Deity. And he ends his prayer with the old phrase, “So Mote It Be.” Which is another way of saying: “The Will Of God Be Done.” Or, whatever be the answer of God to his prayer: “So Be It – because it is wise and right.
What, then, is the meaning of this old phrase, so interwoven with all our Masonic lore, simple, tender, haunting? It has two meanings for us everywhere, in the Church, or in the Lodge. First, it is assent of man to the way and Will Of God; assent to His Commands; assent to His Providence, even when a tender, terrible stroke of death takes from us one much loved and leaves us forlorn.
Still, somehow, we must say:” So it is; so be it. He is a wise man, a brave man; who, baffled by the woes of life, when disaster follows fast and follows faster, can nevertheless accept his lot as a part of the Will of God and say, though it may almost choke him to say it:
“So Mote It Be.” It is not blind submission, nor dumb resignation, but a wise reconciliation to the Will of the Eternal.
The other meaning of the phrase is even more wonderful; it is the assent of God to the aspiration of man. Man can bear so much – anything, perhaps – if he feels that God knows, cares and feels for him and with him. If God says Amen, so it is, to our faith and hope and love; it links our perplexed meanings, and helps us to see, however dimly, or in a glass darkly, that there is a wise and good purpose in life, despite its sorrow and suffering, and that we are not at the mercy of Fate or the whim of Chance.
Does God speak to man, confirming his faith and hope? If so, how? Indeed yes! God is not the great I Was, but the great I Am, and He is neither deaf nor dumb. In Him we live and move and have our being – He Speaks to us in nature, in the moral law, and in our own hearts, if we have ears to hear. But He speaks most clearly in the Book of Holy Law which lies open upon our Alter.
Nor is that all. Some of us hold that the Word Of God “Became Flesh and Dwelt Among Us, Full Of Grace and Truth,” in a life the loveliest ever lived among men, showing us what life is, what it means, and to what fine issues it ascends when we do the Will of God on earth as it is done in Heaven. Not one of us but grows wistful when he thinks of the life of Jesus, however far we fall below it.
Today men are asking the question: Does it do any good to pray? The man who actually prays does not ask such a question. As well ask if it does a bird any good to sing, or a flower to bloom? Prayer is natural and instinctive in man. We are made so. Man is made for prayer, as sparks ascending seek the sun. He would not need religious faith if the objects of it did not exist.
Are prayers ever answered? Yes, always, as Emerson taught us long ago. Who rises from prayer a better man, his prayer is answered – and that is as far as we need to go. The deepest desire, the ruling motive of a man, is his actual prayer, and it shapes his life after its form and color. In this sense all prayer is answered, and that is why we ought to be careful what we pray for – because in the end we always get it.
What, then is the good of prayer? It makes us repose on the unknown with hope; it makes us ready for life. It is a recognition of laws and the thread of our conjunction with them. It is not the purpose of prayer to beg or make God do what we want done. Its purpose is to bring us to do the Will of God, which is greater and wiser than our will. It is not to use God, but to be used by Him in the service of His plan.
Can man by prayer change the Will of God? No, and Yes. True prayer does not wish or seek to change the larger Will of God, which involves in its sweep and scope the duty and destiny of humanity. But it can and does change the Will of God concerning us, because it changes our will and attitude towards Him, which is the vital thing in prayer for us.
For example, if a man living a wicked life, we know what the Will of God will be for him. All evil ways have been often tried, and we know what the end is, just as we know the answer to a problem in geometry. But if a man who is living wickedly changes his way of living and his inner attitude, he changes the Will of God – if not His Will, at least His Intention. That is, he attains what even the Divine Will could not give him and do for him unless it had been effected by His Will and Prayer.
The place of Prayer in Masonry is not perfunctory. It is not a mere matter of form and rote. It is vital and profound. As a man enters the Lodge as an initiate, prayer is offered for him, to God, in whom he puts his trust. Later, in a crisis of his initiation, he must pray for himself, orally or mentally as his heart may elect. It is not just a ceremony; it is basic in the faith and spirit of Masonry. Still later, in a scene which no Mason ever forgets, when the shadow is darkest, and the most precious thing a Mason can desire or seek seems lost, in the perplexity and despair of the Lodge, a prayer is offered. As recorded in our Monitors, it is a mosaic of Bible words, in which the grim facts of life and death are set forth in stark reality, and appeal is made to the pity and light of God.
It is truly a great prayer, to join in which is to place ourselves in the very hands of God, as all must do in the end, trust His Will and way, following where no path is into the soft and fascinating darkness which men call death. And the response of the Lodge to that prayer, as to all others offered at its Altar, is the old, challenging phrase, “So Mote It Be!”
Brother, do not be ashamed to pray, as you are taught in the Lodge and the Church. It is a part of the sweetness and sanity of life, refreshing the soul and making clear the mind. There is more wisdom in a whispered prayer than in all the libraries of the world. It is not our business to instruct God. He knows what things we have need for before we ask him. He does not need our prayer, but we do – if only to make us acquainted with the best Friend we have.
The greatest of all teachers of the soul left us a little liturgy called the Lord’s Prayer. He told us to use it each for himself, in the closet when the door is shut and the din and hum and litter of the world is outside. Try it Brother; it will sweeten life, make its load lighter, its joy brighter, and the way of duty plainer.
Two tiny prayers have floated down to us from ages agone, which are worth remembering; one by a great Saint, the other by two brothers. “Grant Me, Lord, ardently to desire, wisely to study, rightly to understand and perfectly to fulfill that which pleaseth Thee.” And the second is after the manner: “May two brothers enjoy and serve Thee together, and so live today that we may be worthy to live tomorrow.”
“SO MOTE IT BE”
Our first great discovery is that each of us is a focalized expression of all the infinite harmonies of the Universe.
The best description of this, as a positive experience, has been written by Margaret Prescott Montague in Twenty Minutes of Reality.
I was lying on a cot on the porch of a hospital at the time, convalescing after a serious illness. It was an ordinary cloudy March day. I am glad to think that it was. I am glad to remember that there was nothing extraordinary about the weather, nor any unusualness of setting-no flush of spring or beauty of scenery-to induce what I saw. It was, on the contrary, a most dingy day.
Yet here, in this everyday setting, and entirely unexpectedly (for I have never dreamed such a thing), my eyes were opened, and for the first time in all my life I caught a glimpse of the ecstatic beauty of reality. I cannot now recall whether the revelation came suddenly or gradually; I only remember finding myself in the very midst of of these wonderful moments, beholding life for the first time in all its young intoxication of loveliness, in its unspeakable joy, beauty, and importance. I cannot say exactly what the mysterious change was. I saw no new thing, but I saw all the usual things in a miraculous new light-in what I believe is their true light. I saw for the first time how wildly beautiful and joyous, beyond any words of mine to describe, is the whole of life. Every human being moving across that porch, every sparrow that flew, every branch tossing in the wind, was caught in and was a part of the whole mad ecstasy of loveliness, of joy, of importance, of intoxication of life.
It was not that for a few keyed-up moments I IMAGINED all existence so beautiful, but for my inner vision to the truth so that I saw the actual loveliness which is always there, but which we so rarely perceive; and I knew every man, woman, bird, and tree, every living thing before me, was extravagantly beautiful and extravagantly important. And as I behold, my heart melted out of me in a rapture of love and delight.
For these glorified moments I was in love with every living thing before me-the tress in the wind, the little birds flying, the nurses, the internes, the people who came and went. There was nothing that was alive that was not a miracle. Just to be alive was a miracle in itself. My very soul flowed out of me in a great joy.
For those fleeting lovely moments I did in deed and in truth, love my neighbor as myself. Nay more: of myself I was hardly conscious, while with my neighbor in every form, from wind-tossed branches and little sparrows flying, up to human beings, I was madly in love.
This is how for me, all fear of eternity has been wiped away. I have found a little taste of bliss, and if Heaven can offer this, no eternity will be too long to enjoy the miracle of existence. But that was not the greatest thing that those twenty minutes revealed, and that did most to end all fear of life everlasting. The great thing was the realization that weariness, and boredom, and questions as to the use of it all, belong entirely to unreality. When once we wake to Reality-whether we do so here or have to wait for the next life for it-we shall never be bored, for in Reality there is no such thing.
The preceding appeared in the Atlantic Monthly in 1916.
What if here we are only symbols of ourselves, and our real being is somewhere else-perhaps in the heart of God? If so, then are we really and truly becoming?
“Once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been, and there you will always long to return.” – Leonardo da Vinci
I started out in the early morn of a long past day,
And I’ve enjoyed every moment of that long weary way.
But how much longer will I be permitted to stay?
So I guess I’ll sit, for a little while,
To rest a bit, in this last long mile,
And to deck my face with a big bright smile.
For how many folks are blessed as me?
All the wonderful things I’ve been permitted to see,
And to know that a kindly voice is calling to me.
Time keeps me in tune, with an ache or a pain,
But I get along nicely, with the aid of a cane.
And I’d do all the same things, could I do them again.
I’ve tried keeping my home as a haven of love,
My prayers have been answered through my God above,
They’re as swift and as sure, as the wings of a dove.
I wish I were home, at that place of mine,
For in the yard stands a beautiful trumpet vine.
Then like a silent word, a whisper, or a breath of air,
The hummingbirds are collecting and scattering nectar there.
Nature’s way, directed by the great God above,
To propagate, species by species, through perfect Love.
What beautiful lessons God has given to man,
With, “Thou shalt have dominion over all, in this land.”
I’m here in a flower bed, but yet far away,
On the blooms of the vines, the hummingbirds play.
Their trim little bodies, their tireless wings,
Their willing devotions, these cute little things.
So much like the Earth, now holding my hand.
If I’d call her hummingbird, she’d not understand.
So I’ll thank my God, for the blessings they give,
In a tireless way, that help me to live.