The Theater of Cruelty of the Hiramic Drama, Part I

by Midnight Freemason Regular Contributor
Patrick Dey

“I employ the word ‘cruelty’ in the sense of an appetite for life, a cosmic rigor and implacable necessity, in the gnostic sense of a living whirlwind that devours the darkness.”

—Antonin Artaud, The Theater and Its Double

In my previous essay on this blog, I admonished against interpreting the Third Degree, following the polemical essay by Susan Sontag, “Against Interpretation.” Sontag was influenced by the French writer, actor, playwright, polemicist, and completely insane Antonin Artaud, who advocated for the experience of art over the interpretation of the content of the art itself. Sontag would publish a massive selection of writings by Artaud with what is by far one of the best introductions to Artaud I have ever read — one so good that it would inspire Jane Goodall (yes, that Jane Goodall) to write a large work on Artaud and Gnosticism.

For all that Artaud was absolutely insane — and he was seriously mentally ill and addicted to opium — he was brilliant nonetheless. In 1959 he would publish The Theater and Its Double. In this work he introduces a radical form of conducting theater arts: the Theater of Cruelty.

When Artaud advocates his idea of the Theater of Cruelty, he is not advocating for blood and gore, though certainly those elements may be used. When he says “cruelty” he means a theater that is “difficult and cruel.” In other words, the Theater of Life — life, which is difficult and cruel. It is meant to shock and awaken us to the truths of life, but also to put us in a sort of trance, and to let the theater be the crucible through which we transcend and transmute. The need for the theater to be a means of awakening our spirits is very much in line with the ideologies of George I. Gurdjieff, who advocated that most people spend their lives in a state of “waking sleep,” and required a spiritual awakening of their consciousness to realize their full potential. Artaud felt the only means to truly awaken a person was by shocking them, but not like “shock art,” which only serves to deliberately disturb and offend. No, Artaud advocates for shocking people awake by demonstrating the difficulties and cruelties of life.

The means to do so are multifaceted and multifarious. One instance, Artaud advocates that the Theater of Cruelty should be executed in the round: the abolition of all walls, especially the fourth wall, eliminate the distinction between the stage and the audience, let the world become the theater and allow the drama to unfold around the audience. In so many ways, this is exactly how the Hiramic Drama is conducted: in the round. The candidate begins as an active participant, an actual cast member, and then becomes an auditory spectator — or specter — as the drama unfolds all around him. At this time, the mise en scène transforms, becoming one that is auditory rather than visual. In The Theater and Its Double, the term mise en scène is untranslated, because it is difficult to translate, but is basically the props, the stage scenery, &c. In the Hiramic Drama, the mise en scène is almost totally auditory, and a bit tactile. The clanking of the rubbish of the Temple. The shoveling and chimes as something clandestine is conducted in the night. The pitter-patter of feet as characters move around. The sound of voices calling around the room. The sonorous chants of the funeral procession. These and more set the stage for the candidate in a literal audi-torium, heightening the first of the five senses: hearing.

Then there is the shock, the real cruelty: coercion, betrayal, violence, death, rot, and the most pessimistic ending in all of Masonry: no hope (“hope is lost in fruition”). The candidate, who up to this point in his Masonic journey has put absolute trust in his brothers, and then they betray him. He acts as a character in his own drama, but also as a prop: a corpse. Death, then he listens to the manhunt, trial, and execution of his betrayers, and all the while he is rotting in his lonely grave. A transformation occurs here for the candidate. Who can deny that? Then his rotten body is pulled out of his grave and given a proper burial.

I have said it before and I will say it again: of all the degrees in Masonry, the Master Mason degree is the most powerful, and by a long shot. All the other so-called “higher” degrees, go through mere pageantry meant to rival the Hiramic Drama, and add in some shocking moments such as threats of imprisonment and death, but the candidate is never in any immediate danger, and he knows it. There is a moment in the Third Degree that you actually feel endangered, that you may actually get hurt. In the “higher” degrees, all is well, and after much pomp and circumstance, the candidate is lauded, applauded, given great honors, and made a member of that degree. Yay… It is all very contrived and rather voyeuristic. The candidate is not a cast member; he is only ever a prop, a weak substance of the mise en scène of the degree; a peeping tom of a story that happens before him, but he is not really a part of. Don’t get me started on the Scottish Rite classes or York Rite festival classes.

The candidate for the Master Mason degree is absolutely a character, an essential cast member. Yes, the drama unfolds around him, but everything happens with him, to him, and for him, and emphatically so. And what is his reward? To be betrayed, murdered, left to rot, grieved for, then exhumed. Oh, and as a consequence he is now a Master Mason. The other degrees put far too much emphasis on honoring the candidate as a member of that degree, whereas the Master Mason Degree emphasizes the drama and the cruelties of life, and becoming a member of that degree is a byline.

If all this is to be realized and understood, we may fully realize the value of Artaud’s ideologies to recover the majesty of this drama.

I have only ever met one other Mason who was familiar with Artaud and the Theater of Cruelty, and he believed the Hiramic Drama was already a full embodiment of the Theater of Cruelty, whereas I would argue the Hiramic Drama has the potential to fulfill Artaud’s vision, but not quite there. That is, if one can even fully realize Artaud’s ambitions, because much of his theatrical philosophy and rhetoric is impossible. And it is the impossible, the impossible in the sense as Georges Bataille conceptualizes it in The Impossible: a journey toward and ever-receding object, like the quest for the Grail, in which the experience of truth is obtained in the failing of the quest.

In a way, this is exactly what the Hiramic Drama is: an enactment of the impossible. Hiram cannot escape. He cannot preserve his life. Nor can the secrets of a Master Mason be extorted from him. On both ends of the exchange, all fail and all die, yet there is an experience of truth, a revelation in the grave in that failure. It is shocking. It is cruel. Such is life. As much as the symbols of the Master Mason Degree focus on death, such are more so revelations of life.

If the cast of the Degree did their job right, no candidate should be asleep, literally and metaphorically. Sadly, I have seen candidates actually fall asleep, and in Part II, we will start to examine some issues I think exist in how the Hiramic Drama is usually conducted and how they might be remedied by taking cues from Artaud’s Theater of Cruelty.



Patrick M. Dey is a Past Master of Nevada Lodge No. 4 in the ghost town of Nevadaville, Colorado, and currently serves as their Secretary, and is also a Past Master of Research Lodge of Colorado. He is a Past High Priest of Keystone Chapter No. 8, Past Illustrious Master of Hiram Council No. 7, Past Commander of Flatirons Commandery No. 7, and serves as the Secretary-Recorder of all three. He currently serves as the Exponent (Suffragan) of Colorado College, SRICF of which he is VIII Grade (Magister), and is a member of Gofannin Council No. 315 AMD and Kincora Council No. 8 Knight Masons. He is a facilitator for the Masonic Legacy Society, is the Editor of the Rocky Mountain Mason magazine, serves on the Board of Directors of the Grand Lodge of Colorado’s Library and Museum Association, and is the Deputy Grand Bartender of the Grand Lodge of Colorado (an ad hoc, joke position he is very proud to hold). He holds a Masters of Architecture degree from the University of Colorado, Denver, and works in the field of architecture in Denver, where he resides with wife and son.

Reflections on the Entered Apprentice Degree

by Midnight Freemason Guest Contributor
Bro. Erik M. Geehern

On a bitterly cold evening in early March of 2019, I sat alone in a room adjacent to the Lodge room, prepared as an Entered Apprentice, nervously awaiting the conferral of my first degree of Freemasonry.

We had shared dinner prior, and all the men I had come to respect and enjoy the company of assured me this was going to be a great night. There was no hazing, no puerile goat jokes, nothing but a jovial but very serious sense that tonight was important. This night was about me. I was the only candidate this evening, but one Brother who I had grown particularly close to over the past six or seven months had just gone through the same experience in November, and now he was able to take part in my initiation.

I had purposely avoided the temptation to search out what this evening would entail or what I could expect. I have no Masonic family members or friends, and so I was truly going into this experience blind, and I am happy I did. I sat shivering in this cold corner room, anxiously listening to the mumbled voices through the wall, trying to interpret what was being said, but between the thick old wall and the chattering of my teeth, I couldn’t make it out.

Then, three soon-to-be Brothers came in, smiled at me, and asked if I was ready. What followed was a transformative experience that has had a profound impact on my life. This was the beginning of a lifelong journey of self-discovery and personal growth. In the two hours or so that followed I experienced a spiritual experience that deepened my connection to Deity, moments of introspection that encouraged me to reflect on my values and beliefs, and something I didn’t even know I needed at the time, a sense of true Brotherly love with a group of like-minded men.

The designers of this shared initiatic experience created a transformative experience that has had a profound impact on every new Mason. It creates a sense of Brotherhood, promotes self-improvement and personal growth, and leaves a lasting impression on the heart and mind.

I have seen some great degree work… I have also seen some not-so-great degree work. I was fortunate in that my initiation was pretty close to perfect, at least in my memory. I can distinctly remember so many key parts that caused me to really think about what was being said and what was going on around me.

Now, just four years since that august event, I am sitting in the East for the conferral of the Entered Apprentice degree on two fantastic men. These candidates have spent months getting to know the Brothers of our Lodge, they have volunteered at food drives, joined us for meals, and proven themselves to be upright men worthy of becoming Masons.

Each rehearsal I am picking up details and insights that previously have not occurred to me. I have been privileged to see many degrees, in many different Lodges, and they are all different. The words are the same, by and large, but the emphasis, cadence, and inflection can be so different as to almost make the meaning of the words change.

For those Brothers reading, think about the demand that was made at one point in your first degree. Was the person who asked shaming you for not being able to satisfy his request? Were you confused by this as they had to know you couldn’t do what was asked? Or was this moment somber, teaching you the real moral of the request and how in the future you could satisfy this for another?

Was your apron presented in a frenzied recitation of a long bit of ritual that felt like you were drinking from a firehose, or was it done at a speed that allowed you to hear each word, with appropriate pauses to give you time to process the honor and privilege it is to be a part of this ancient and honorable fraternity?

We still have a lot of practicing to do for our upcoming degree to ensure we get everything right, or at least as close to perfect as we are able. While the weight of leading this degree is certainly heavy on my shoulders, I am thrilled to be given the opportunity to bring men to Masonic Light in a way that I know will impact their lives forevermore. I can only hope this momentous occasion will have as great an impact on their life as my initiation had on mine.


Erik M. Geehern is currently Junior Warden of Goshen Masonic Lodge #365 in Goshen, NY under the Grand Lodge of New York. He was raised to the sublime degree of Master Mason in October of 2019 and since then has served as Assistant Secretary, Mentor, and Charitable Committee member and chairman. He writes and curates a newsletter for his Lodge quarterly which disseminates education, history, and esoterics. He is also a member of the Grand College of Rites and the Kansas Lodge of Research. He works in restaurant operations & consulting, and when not engaged in his usual vocation, or laboring in the Craft, he loves spending time with his wife and two children.

From the Archives: The 50 Year Member - Just an Old Photo On the Wall

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
WB Bill Hosler 

“He needs to rest, so please make sure your visit is brief,” the nurse told the 50 Year member as he and Pudge were about to enter the hospital room. “Yes ma’am, we won’t stay long.” The nurse stopped and hesitated for a moment:“You are family members of his, aren’t you?” The old man smiled. “Yes ma’am, he is my brother.” She smiled, “I’m so glad. The poor man has been in here so long and has never had a visitor. You can see the loneliness in his eyes.”

The 50 Year member peeked into the sterile hospital room. He could see Martin Baker lying quietly in a hospital bed. The only sounds that broke the silence in the man's darkened room were that of the machines providing the medicines keeping him alive, beeping as the life-giving drugs coursed through his veins.

Martin was a long-time member of the 50 year member's lodge. The old man felt like he knew Martin his entire life. Which, for the most part was correct. Martin and the old man’s father served together in the same unit during World War II and after the war they continued their friendship for decades.

The two men and their wives socialized together, some nights playing bridge at each other’s houses. And both family’s kids spent summers at each others homes playing baseball and other games. Some of the 50 years members earliest and favorite childhood memories are spending time at the lodge building with Martin and his dad while they served as officers. The fondest memory of Martin was when he served as the Senior Deacon conducting him through his Master Mason degree while the old man’s dad sat in the east and obligated him.

The shuffling of feet into the quiet hospital room seem to wake Martin up. A smile came across his face as his eyes tried to focus in the darkened room: “John, Is that you?”  “It sure is Marty. I heard you were in here, I wanted to make sure you were okay and see if you needed anything.” Martin looked into the 50 year member's eyes and said with a feeble smile. “I’m doing okay. They are taking good care of me, considering everything that is wrong with me.” He looked over and saw Pudge standing near the foot of his hospital bed. "Who is this young man? Is this one of your sons?”

The 50-year member chuckled “Nope, but he might as well be. Marty this is Jeremy Pugslie. Most people just call him Pudge. He belongs to the lodge." Despite the many IV tubes, Marty raised his right arm and gave Pudge a certain grip. In a quiet voice Marty said, “Good to know you Brother. I’m sorry I don’t get down to the lodge much like I used to. I don’t get to meet many of the newer members.”

“I totally understand,” Pudge said. “I’ve heard a lot about you from John.” Martin laughed through a cough, “I bet you have. I could tell you a lot about him, too. I remember once, a long time ago when he was still in short britches, he carved the name of a girl he liked on the wall of the lodge’s preparation room with a pen knife when he was supposed to be cleaning it. His father tanned his hide so hard…” The 50 year member stopped Marty’s story, “Careful Marty, I am trying to run for sainthood and I can’t have these young ones know I am not perfect.” The 50 year member said with a laugh in his voice. Marty smiled and said, “Well son, you will never get elected as long as I am still on this earth. I know all your secrets. Lucky for you the doctor said I won’t be around here much longer.” Martin said quietly.

The 50 year member took the old man's hand and grasped it, trying to choke the tears away, “Oh Marty don’t believe those doctors. You are I both know they don’t know as much as they think they do.” Martin grasped Johns hand back. “I’m afraid this time they might be right. I can see the writing on the wall as clearly as I can see that girl's name you carved on the wall all those years ago.”

Martin continued, “Don’t feel sorry for me. I’ve lived a good life. But sadly, most of the folks I have known all my life have went before me. I can tell because my daughter told me she called the lodge to let the brothers know I was in here and I wasn’t doing well. When I was in active in lodge we used to make it a priority to visit members or their wives in the hospital and make sure they didn’t have any needs. I never heard from anybody. I guess I have gotten so old I have been forgotten just another old dinosaur. I’m just an old photo on the Past Masters wall that no one ever looks at anymore. I know all these men are busy at their jobs, raising kids and trying to keep their wives happy,” Martin said with a slight smile on his face. “We had all of that and more in our day. But when we got a call from the lodge that a Brother was sick or his family was in a desperate situation, we all came running. I guess they are all busy with those charity projects the lodge does now that I read about in the paper.”

“I am just so glad you two came here to see me. I can’t say thank you to you both enough." A tear began to run down Martin’s cheek as his voice began to falter.

“You know I am scared but I am also happy because I will finally be able to stand in the Northeast corner of the Celestial lodge above and hear the Master say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” And I will finally get to sit in lodge with your dad again and all those old guys I have think about every day. But John, I need you to promise me something. Since I had all daughters they don’t understand Masonry. When my time comes to climb those winding stairs will you please make sure I get a Masonic funeral? I will make sure to tell my daughter to get my apron to you.”

The 50 year member sitting at the edge of Martin’s bed. Tears running down his cheeks, his hands shaking said to Martin, “Of course I will Brother. I will personally conduct the service, if I can keep from crying, I am also going to promise you something else. I promise to make sure that you won’t be just another old photo on the wall and I will make sure no other member of this lodge ever feels like they just an old photo either.”


WB Bill Hosler was made a Master Mason in 2002 in Three Rivers Lodge #733 in Indiana. He served as Worshipful Master in 2007 and became a member of the internet committee for Indiana's Grand Lodge. Bill is currently a member of Roff Lodge No. 169 in Roff Oklahoma and Lebanon Lodge No. 837 in Frisco,Texas. Bill is also a member of the Valley of Fort Wayne Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite in Indiana. A typical active Freemason, Bill also served as the High Priest of Fort Wayne's Chapter of the York Rite No. 19 and was commander of of the Fort Wayne Commandery No. 4 of the Knight Templar. During all this he also served as the webmaster and magazine editor for the Mizpah Shrine in Fort Wayne Indiana.

The Symbolism of the Beehive

by Midnight Freemason Guest Contributor
WB Christian Garrett, 32°, K.T.

The beehive is a symbol introduced in the Master Mason lecture, representing industry, cooperation, and the idea that a group of individuals working together can accomplish great things. Bees, as creatures, have long been recognized for their remarkable work ethic and the highly organized and efficient social structure of their hives. For Freemasons, the beehive serves as a reminder of the importance of these values in their own lives.

In Masonic symbolism, the beehive is often depicted as a skep, the traditional woven structure reminiscent of an upside-down basket, or by the hexagonal structure of the cells created by the bees working together within. The hive is often shown with a door or entrance, through which the bees enter and exit. One of the primary lessons that the beehive teaches is the importance of industry. Bees are known for their tireless work ethic, spending their entire lives gathering nectar and pollen and constructing the honeycomb within the hive. Similarly, we as Freemasons are encouraged to work hard and diligently, both in our professional lives and in our Masonic pursuits. By ever being industrious, we as Masons can achieve great things, both individually and as a brotherhood.

Cooperation is another key lesson found within the symbolism of the beehive. As the bees work together in a highly organized and efficient manner, each bee performs a specific task that contributes to the overall success of the hive. This cooperation is necessary for the survival of the hive and the production of honey, which serves as a valuable resource for the bees and for humans. So too do we as Masons, strive to cooperate, utilizing our individual skills for the betterment of not only our individual lodges but our fraternity as a whole and thus the world.

By working together, Masons can achieve greater things than we could on our own. The beehive should also be a reminder of the importance of unity. The individual bees within the hive are all part of a larger community, working together for the common good. In the same way, Masons are part of a larger brotherhood, united by shared morals, values, ethics, and goals. Through unity, we can create a strong and cohesive brotherhood that benefits our members and communities alike.

Similarly, In the Old Testament, we see that bees and honey are often used as symbols of industriousness, cooperation, and abundance. For example, in Judges 14:8, Samson finds bees and honey inside the carcass of a lion, symbolizing the idea that even something that seems dead or useless can still contain valuable resources. Likewise, in Proverbs 16:24, Solomon wrote that "gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones," suggesting that kindness and encouragement can be a source of nourishment and strength, thus we are to choose our words wisely.

Finally, the beehive symbolizes the importance of order and organization. Bees have a highly structured social hierarchy, with each bee knowing its place and role within the hive. This order and organization are essential for the efficient functioning of the hive and the accomplishment of its goals. Similarly, we as Masons value order and organization, both within the fraternity and should strive to in our personal lives. But as our yearly election and installation ceremony remind us, we pass on these duties and responsibilities year after year, in a respectful transition of authority.

The Beehive and The Kabbalah:

"A single bee cannot pollinate the field, but by the efforts of the hive, the world can fill with flowers." - Brother Stephen Webinga 32°

The beehive symbolism in Freemasonry can also be related to Kabbalah, the Jewish mystical tradition that seeks to understand the nature of the divine and the universe. In Kabbalah, there are several teachings that align with the lessons of the beehive symbol.

One of the primary teachings of Kabbalah is the concept of Ein Sof, the infinite and unknowable divine essence that exists beyond all creation. Just as the hive represents a community of bees working together for the common good, Ein Sof represents the unity of all things in the universe, working together in harmony to fulfill a greater purpose.

The beehive also relates to the concept of the Tree of Life, which is the central glyph in Kabbalah that represents the divine structure of the universe. The Tree of Life is composed of ten interconnected spheres, or sefirot, that represent different aspects of the divine, such as wisdom, understanding, and compassion. Each sphere is interdependent and necessary for the overall functioning of the Tree, just as each bee is necessary for the functioning of the hive.

In Kabbalah, the Tree of Life is also associated with the concept of the soul, which is said to be composed of ten levels or dimensions that correspond to the sefirot. Each level represents a different aspect of the individual’s spiritual growth and development, and each level builds upon the one before it. The beehive symbol can be seen as a reminder of the importance of each individual’s contribution to the greater whole, just as each bee in the hive is necessary for the survival and success of the entire colony.

Lastly, the beehive can also be related to the concept of tikkun olam, which is a central idea in Kabbalah and Jewish thought more broadly.

Tikkun olam refers to the idea of repairing the world or making it a better place. This is accomplished through acts of kindness, justice, compassion, and by working together to create a more just and equitable society. The beehive in a similar manner represents the idea that by working together, individuals can accomplish great things and create positive change in the world.

In conclusion, the beehive symbol in Freemasonry can be related to Kabbalah through its emphasis on unity, interdependence, and the importance of working together for the greater good. By reflecting on the lessons of the beehive, we as Masons can deepen our understanding of the divine structure of the universe, our place within it, as well as our role in repairing the world to create a more just and compassionate society.


Christian Garrett is the current Worshipful Master of Cottage Grove Masonic Lodge #51in Cottage Grove, Oregon.  He is also an affiliate member of Eugene Lodge #11 and McKenzie River Lodge #195 in Eugene, Oregon. A 32° member of the Eugene Valley of the Scottish Rite, Scribe of Cottage Grove Royal Arch Chapter #41, Secretary for Hiram Council #7 and Ivanhoe Commandery #2, Senior Warden of Goose and Gridiron Allied Masonic Degrees, and Deputy Director of Units for Al Kader Shriners.