Sunday, May 3, 2015

The Magical Mason: Forgotten Hermetic Writings of William Wynn Westcott

The Magical Mason: Forgotten Hermetic Writings of William Wynn Westcott, Physician and Magus
by R. A. Gilbert (Editor)

There are a number of reasons, I suspect, why the book I am commenting on here is not much commented upon in Masonic circles even though it has been around for over three decades. I am well aware that perhaps the only group more prickly than the Freemasons are those involved with the Golden Dawn. Mainstream Masons consider William Wynn Westcott apostate for having founded the Golden Dawn, and the contemporary Golden Dawn community, or at least segments of them, are similarly disenchanted with R. A. Gilbert.

That being said, I am affiliated with neither and hence am happy to speak my mind. Since William Wynn Westcott had a long and respectable Masonic career before he founded the Golden Dawn, and wrote some valuable material on Freemasonry he should be read by Freemasons, even if they claim to dislike Esoteric Hermetic Orders other than Freemasonry. Apart from that, Masons have professional reasons for wanting to have a solid knowledge of the Golden Dawn; for whether they like it or not, it was born from Freemasonry and its history is therefore part of Masonic history. Beyond some interesting material about Rosicrucianism, Kabbala, the Golden Dawn and the SRIA, this collection includes three essays on esoteric topics related to Freemasonry.

William Wynn Westcott
Concerning this book, the editor notes:

Of all the actors in the bizarre pageant of the Occult Revival, William Wynn Westcott was the most unlikely: cautious, fearful and altogether too respectable, he yet created its most exotic structure, the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. The task of controlling the Order proved, however, to be far beyond the abilities of this timorous scholar, and it slipped from his grasp to fall into the hands of S.L. MacGregor Mathers, the magical genius who raised it to its greatest glory. But the Order needed Westcott, for he was its true Rosicrucian: the physician and mystic who sought all his life for Hermetic Wisdom, and, having found it, gave it freely to his fellow initiates, inspiring them to follow, and sometimes to surpass him in their occult studies. In the unknown world of Rosicrucians and magicians, Westcott was a Supreme Magus, an Adept who served Hidden Masters, but of this secret life the outside world knew nothing. 

Westcott was born at Leamington, Warwickshire, in 1848 and was effectively born into medicine, for both his father - who died when the young Westcott was nine years old - and his uncle were surgeons. He studied medicine at University College Hospital and after qualifying in 1871 he joined his uncle's practice at Martock in Somerset. In the same year he became a Freemason and commenced his long and solid Masonic career, but he did not begin his occult studies until 1879 when he 'went into a life of retirement at Hendon, for two years, studying the Kabbalah, the Hermetic writings, and the works of Alchymists and Rosicrucians'.

R.A. Gilbert
This 'retirement' was neither purely magical nor unproductive, for early in 1880 he joined the Societas Rosicruciana in Anglia, translated into English the 'Ethical' grade of the spurious 'Order of (Le Philosophe Inconnues) Louis Claude St Martin'[sic] and 1902.

For forty years Westcott poured out a never-ending stream of books and papers on hermetic subjects, translations and editions of alchemical and kabalistic classics, textbooks in his professional field, and learned notes for Masonic journals. Many of his books are still in print, but the papers have been forgotten, buried in obscure and often privately printed journals. T o understand the Golden Dawn, one must read what its creators wrote - not for the world at large but for the benefit of their fellow initiates. The papers in this anthology are just that, fugitive pieces and unpublished manuscripts written for the aspiring adepts whom Westcott sought to serve. 'I am likely to be, like the wheat, ground between the upper and lower millstones', he once wrote." And so he was, but his writings are, for all their odd conceits, perfectly fit for our consumption. 

Friday, April 17, 2015

Rough Ashlar No. 19: What's the Matter?

What's the matter with of Freemasonry? That's an interesting question. Actually, it's an interesting set of questions. What's the matter with Freemasonry? What's the matter of Freemasonry?

I'd like to suggest that what's the matter with Freemasonry is the matter of Freemasonry!

To answer the first question, we have to understand the second. 

If anyone reads my posts with any amount of frequency, they by now assume I will answer the questions I pose. I'm going to burst your bubble if that's what you expected. At least this once. I don't promise to make that a habit, though. 

For many, the matter of Freemasonry is laws, rules, rituals, regalia, offices, and lots of pomp and ceremony. For some, the matter of Freemasonry is legends, lectures, and grand architecture. For others, the matter of Freemasonry is a sense of belonging, a sense of shared importance. Maybe for some, the matter of Freemasonry is mystery. Maybe for a few, the matter of Freemasonry is spirit.

I cannot answer what the matter of Freemasonry is for anyone but myself. To me, that is a very personal matter, although not necessarily a secret. However, I urge everyone who calls themselves a Freemason, to give this question some very serious thought. 

Because what is the matter with Freemasonry is all about what the matter of Freemasonry is to each of us. 

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Words & Deeds: Written law vs. Ethical Behavior

Recently, I read an excellent piece of architecture by Iván Herrera Michel, published on the website of the Revista Cultural Masones de la Lengua Española New York.  I am not translating the work in its entirety, but wished to use it as a basis for a few observations and perhaps a rhetorical question or two.

Members of mainstream North American lodges will no doubt be familiar with the symbolic explanation of the schism between Liberal and Conservative (or Imperial) Freemasonry under the flagship of the UGLE. I refer to the claim, no doubt believed in by the rank and file, that the UGLE offered for branding the Continental Freemason persona non grata. The decision of the GOdF to eliminate the requirement of a belief in the GATU was used as a pretext by the UGLE for an act of aggression against Liberal Freemasonry.

While it mainly succeeded in insulating its membership from creative thought, the advent of war in Europe - first WWI and subsequently WWII caused the destruction of much if not most of Continental Freemasonry. As Bro. Herrera notes, "Amid this European tempest, the United Grand Lodge of England decided, as more convenient for her, to further reinforce its differences with Progressive Freemasonry by unilaterally enacting eight Basic Principles for the Recognition of Grand Lodges in 1929." Later,  in the face of the widespread devastation inflicted upon Freemasonry on the continent during WWII, including the deaths of thousands in Nazi Death Camps, the UGLE and the American Lodges did not lift a brotherly hand to help in any attempts to rebuild Liberal Masonic institutions. Apparently petty sectarianism continued to be a greater Masonic Value than Universal Brotherhood.

As a result, it has taken more than half a century for much of Liberal Freemasonry to regain lost ground. In the case of Spanish Freemasonry, the persecution lasted until the early 1960s under Franco.  However, Liberal Freemasonry is rebounding, and it has the advantage of something which the mainstream masonry of the Anglophone now lacks - innovation and youthful energy.

So, I leave you now with a couple of somewhat rhetorical questions. What is the significant characteristic in Freemasonry that may be described as dogmatic or adogmatic; is it really about belief in the GATU or about petty sectarianism? Which is more important for Freemasons, the adherence to narrow rules and regulations, or demonstrating true universal brotherhood, in spite of a few doctrinal differences?

There are hints that an extremely few wiser minds among Anglophone Freemasonry in the United States are making some very tentative steps toward establishing better communication with Liberal Freemasonry. It remains to be seen whether these attempts will in the end be determined to be "too little too late" or "better late than never."

GLSE ratifies Re-Election of GM for Three Years

Nieves Bayo, 9s re-elected as Grand Master of the GLSE

April 16, 2015

The Symbolic Grand Council of the Spanish Symbolic Grand Lodge (GLSE) has ratified the result of the elections for Serene Grand Master of Obedience, proclaiming the office is to go to Sister. ·. Nieves Bayo Gallego, who was re-elected for another three years, 2015-1017.

The Grand Master will be installed by the General Assembly of the Order which will take place in Seville on June 6.

The Spanish Symbolic Grand Lodge (GLSE) limits its territoriality to the Spanish State. However, as decided by the General Assembly, it may permit the formation of Lodges under its auspices in other nations where there is no liberal Obedience, or in the case of Lodges expressly wish to work in one of the official languages of the Spanish State.

The GLSE's Rite of Obedience is the Ancient and Accepted Scottish, and in this Rite all work of the Obedience is performed. This does not preclude that  the individual Lodge level, the use of other rites may not be authorized.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

New Cuban Grand Master - Faustino Lázaro Cuesta Valdés

CUBA: The Sovereign Grand Commander Faustino Lázaro Cuesta Valdés was elected Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Cuba
Friday, March 27, 2015

Havana, Cuba. From 22 to 23 March 2015 elections for the office of Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Cuba were held. Faustino Lázaro Cuesta Valdés was elected Grand Master (2015-2018) after his resignation as Sovereign Grand Commander. To apply, Cuesta Valdés, Sovereign Grand Commander of the Supreme Council for Cuba, has resigned from that position and  organized elections for the office of Sovereign Grand Commander. Alonso José Ramón Viñas is the new leader of the Scottish Rite in Havana.

CUBA: El Soberano Gran Comendador Lázaro Faustino Cuesta Valdés fue elegido Gran Maestro de la Gran Logia de Cuba
viernes, 27 de marzo de 2015

La Habana, Cuba. Del 22 al 23 de marzo de 2015 se celebraron elecciones para el cargo de Gran Maestro de la Gran Logia de Cuba. Lázaro Faustino Cuesta Valdés fue elegido Gran Maestro (2015-2018) después de su renuncia al cargo de Soberano Gran Comendador. Para poder postularse, Cuesta Valdés, Soberano Gran Comendador del Supremo Consejo para Cuba, ha presentado su dimisión y ha organizado elecciones para el cargo de Soberano Gran Comendador. José Ramón Viñas Alonso es el nuevo líder del Rito Escocés en La Habana.

Source: agencia de prensa

Modern Revivalist Bantu Divination System

Although this product, concerning a modern bone divination system,and not unrelated to the Egyptian Hermetic divination which survived in references and practice among later Egyptian inspired Greek Hermetic traditions, is in no way connected to the Hedge Mason, because of my interest in this evolving divination system, and my respect for the people who are offering this package, I've decided to repost their announcements here. Check them out. These are very interesting offerings and deserve your consideration. If you do not know much about this sort of divination and wish to learn more, feel free to contact the Hedge, and I will provide you with links and will be happy to discuss the matter with you.

At long last, the hotly anticipated Ancestor Healing divination kits are here! Hot off the presses in a limited run of 154, this special edition divination kit – codenamed “Crossroads Shaman” – is unlike anything you’ve ever seen or used before, whether you’re involved in hoodoo/conjure, Santeria/Voodoo/Palo, or something else entirely!

Based on the solar cosmogram of the Bantu Kongo, the central divination cloth features stunning, full-saturation colors on heavyweight cotton cloth, easy to fold and store, but large enough for the most demanding and complex investigations. Each quadrant intersects and reflects the energy fields of all the others, opening up a portal to a world rich in complexity and spiritual inspiration, and equally adaptable to tarot reading, dice, runes, or whatever suits your fancy.
Inspired by West Central African divinatory traditions and included in the 5×7″ red satin bag with hot stamp gold print are 22 hand-chosen throwing pieces covering every conceivable life situation, energy and archetype, from misfits and authority figures, to healing, cursing and the list goes on….! These aren’t cheap, plastic trinkets but real roots, resins, bones and charms, collected at great effort from the four corners of the globe.

So you don’t get lost in your travels, we’ve included a guidebook and red-covered manual (sample chapter here) to get you started, covering the meanings of all the throwing pieces, full explanations of the medicines and energies involved and sample throws and interpretations to inspire your explorations.

Finally, the set is ritually “fed” (in the traditional Central African style), the cloth is stamped with special ritual ingredients, and each set is packed with a numbered certificate of authenticity (red and black color palette), guaranteeing that yours is one of only 154 “Crossroads Shaman” divination kits in existence.

There will be other editions in the future, but none with this exact combination of book cover, throwing piece bag, certificate and stamp colors, pieces and accompanying ritual consecrations. Order now as supplies are limited, and when they’re gone, they’re gone!
Due to the “hot” nature of the consecration ritual employed, this edition is recommended for those already initiated into an African Traditional Religion or similar indigenous practice. If you’re uncomfortable with primal traditions, you may wish to consider the spiritually consecrated “Community Healer” edition instead.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Feminine Grand Lodge of Memphis-Misraim Conference May 2015

The Feminine Grand Lodge of Memphis-Misraim announces a public conference this May 2, 2015 in Brigoles (Var), France on the theme: "From profane woman to woman initiated" by its president Dominique Palfroy.

A public conference is an opportunity to meet with an obedience. In this case, it is also an opportunity to meet many sisters of ritual and practice.

The Feminine Grand Lodge of Memphis Misraim Masonic Obedience is incorporated as a non-profit organization subject to the law of July 1, 1901. Founded in 1965, it is currently one of the oldest denominations practicing the rite of Memphis-Misraim (called "Egyptian" rite) before the break and the dissolution in 1998 of the Grand Lodge of French Primitive Rite of Memphis-Misraim.

The Feminine Grand Lodge of Memphis-Misraim demonstrates the importance of sincere work in the stability of persuasion.

It is open to all women of good will who want to help build a more just and fraternal world, whatever their nationality, their origin, color, or creed.

With 50 lodges, 1300 sisters, it offers an essentially spiritual and initiatory process, because of its rite that borrows from ancient Egypt symbolic, putting people at the center of the cosmos, even as it borrows its ethical and philosophical approach from Greek thinkers and the Age of Light. It's approach is secular, led by women involved in the city who want to carry beyond the Temple their work and questioning "how to make the world more beautiful? ".

Lilithemently yours,