Tuesday, January 13, 2015

The Masonic Awareness Society of North America

Founded on 17 July 2014, The Masonic Awareness Society of North America, Inc. is a new nonprofit dedicated to goal of increasing awareness of the range of Masonic organizations in North America including feminine, mixed, and adogmatic (liberal).

For those seeking information, they hope you will find information that is accurate, non- judgmental, and useful. If you are just curious, this may be the right point of departure for you. If you are considering Freemasonry, this may be useful. If you are a Freemason, The Masonic Awareness Society hopes the information they share expands your knowledge and supports our collective journeys.

They are seeking Society members as well as individuals willing to assist in this work through volunteering to assist or providing other support. Over time, for those participating, they hope to increase the feeling of universality, celebrate individual and group work (art, crafts, articles, books and other creative expression), to meet each other in public or virtual spaces (such as Facebook) and to provide opportunities to increase awareness across North America of the value and diversity of Freemasonry.
While a website is under construction, they may be contacted through their Facebook page linked below:

Click here to visit The Masonic Awareness Society of North America's Facebook Page!

Monday, November 17, 2014

Modern Rite Event in Mexico

The Modern or French Rite in Mexico

Between November 1st and 4th the Mixed Grand Lodge of the Equatorial Andes and the Sublime Council of the Modern Rite for Ecuador, members of the Universal Masonic Union of the Modern Rite - UMURM, in conjunction with the Joint Hermetic Grand Lodge "Valle Antequera," conducted several the Masonic activities in the City of Oaxaca, Mexico, among which stressed the Keynote on the Modern or French Rite, and the signing of a Treaty of Recognition and Friendship between the two Lodges, attended by the Mayor of the City as a ceremonial Witness of Honor . ·. Olga Vallejo Rueda.·., Ser. ·. Grand Master of GLMAE, and the Grand Orator, J. Villarta. ·., Attending the same event was the M. · . R. ·. Grand Master of the M. ·. R. ·. G. ·. L. ·. H. ·. Mixed "Valle de Antequera" Oswaldo Vill. ·. .

Concomitantly with these events, the occasion was used to Installation Sovereign. ·. Chapter. ·. Ometéotl No. 5, which counts among its members from the RR. ·. LL. ·. Maximilien Robespierre No. 11, and Or. ·. Oaxaca City, and Jano No. 12, of Or. ·. Orizaba, Veracruz, leaving in place a new Soverign. ·. Chapter of the Regular Modern Rite in the Republic of Mexico, and in turn several brothers & sisters were received in different orders of Wisdom. 

These days focusing on the French or Modern Rite were accompanied by a a tiled Interlogial 
Formation attended by the the following:
Venerable of the RR. ·. LL. ·. Lux Veritatis No. 3, of Or. ·. Terrassa, Barcelona, Maximilien Robespierre No. 11, of Or. ·. Oaxaca City and Janus No. 12, of Or. ·. Orizaba, Veracruz, chaired by Ser. ·. Grandmaster, where all types of questions relating to ritual practice, both symbolic and procedural were addressed.

Finally the Council of the Sublime Modern Rite for Ecuador signed a Treaty of Recognition and Friendship with the Supreme Council of SS. GG. II. GG. Independent of the AASR 33rd to the jurisdiction of the United States of Mexico, thus consolidating their fraternal and Masonic work with Sister Republic of Mexico ties. These events were covered by the print media and broadcast media interviews.

Notably, during the events, brotherly love was demonstrated by all, besides being deeply grateful for the hospitality of the people and our brothers and sisters in particular.


Olga Vallejo Rueda.·., Vª Orden, Gr.·. 9
Sup.·. Com.·. del SCRME

Ser.·. G.·. M.·. de la GLMAE

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

A New Book on the French Rite!

Una mirada sobre los usos de los "Modernos" y los rituales del Rito Francés.
Edited by Victor Guerra García.
Published by Masonica.es

This new addition is a  continuation inspired by an earlier title,  Rito Francés. Historia, Reflexiones y Desarrollo (The French Rite: History, Reflections and Development). In this first text the historical context and reflective stages of the French Rite and developments were discussed and analyzed from the distinct personal perspectives of various Masonic authors including Charles Porset,  J-Ch. Nerh, Roger Dachez, JG Plumet, Ludovic Marcos, Daniel Ligou, JP. Lefevre, Joaquim Villalta and Victor Guerra García who, in addition to including articles, coordinated the subject with the intention that a Spanish-speaking readership had access to a plethora of interesting items that seemed important to be made known as the Masonic literature on such ritual is virtually nonexistent. 

Una mirada sobre los usos de los "Modernos" y los rituales del Rito Francés (The Modern Rite:  A look from the XXI century) takes a more personal approach, that differs from the examination of the French Rite, understood as the result of ritual practices of the GODF to direct the gaze a step further back, from the perspective of the history behind the rite established as the Modern Rite, and as such, several themes are raised throughout the book, trying to situate the reader in the historical setting of these developments, analyzing in turn the unique nature of a ritual practices that had its development in seventeenth-century Insular Europe but which evolved in eighteenth-century France. 

Victor Guerra García
The second part of the book is set in a more contemporary context, addressing the conceptual differences between the Modern and the French Rite and providing materials for the background of related aspects essential to understanding how the Congress of the French Rite of Lisbon and the Modern Rite in Barcelona, and the birth of the Universal Masonic Union of the Modern Rite (UMURM) or establishment in Spain of the General Grand Chapter of Spain (GODF-GLSE) came to pass. 

The book closes with an impressive piece by Jean van Win that describes the false basis of support of certain ritual developments within the Orders of Wisdom in France, and finally a final reflection on what the Modern Rite's future may look like in the twenty-first century. 

The text also contains several reflections by way of introduction and epilogue from various current Masonic scholars including Joan Francesc Pont, Sovereign Commander of the Supreme Council of the Scottish Rite of Spain; Eoghan Ballard, Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of the Modern Rite of North America and the Caribbean; and José María Bonachi Batalla, the Supreme Council of the Modern Rite of Brazil and President of the UMURM. 

The book may be purchased in either hard copy or electronic format from Masonica.es:

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Esoteric Freemasonry, Research, and Playing in the Water

Freemasonry has always been associated with esotercism. The 18th century expansion of Freemasonry demonstrated the continued the interest that earlier Freemasons had in spiritual studies, including hermetic principles and alchemy, and developed it further, adding the newer Rosicrucian elements that had begun to become popular in the previous century. This aspect of Masonic practice continued despite the resistance of first the Christian hierarchies, and in the 19th century of a growing faction within the Masonic institutional establishment to homogenize and manipulate Freemasonry to advance their desire for numeric growth and political control within the institution. Such forces, which are still present in what remains of the “Masonic empire” of the later 19th and first half of the 20th centuries, which is sometimes euphemistically referred to as a golden age for the fraternity, deemed that they needed to eliminate or minimize within the institution elements that might not be comfortable for a membership that was demographically more mainstream and popularist. 18th Century Freemasonry appealed too much to intellectuals and those in search of a more profound spiritual vision, and while it became obvious both that such interest could not be completely eliminated, and that erasing the mystery within Freemasonry, with nothing similarly compelling to replace it would be a fatal mistake, they tried their best. The fact that the 19th century produced Masonic writer with strong esoteric  interests such as Albert Pike, W.L. Wilmhurst, A.E. Waite, and William Wynn Westcott, amply demonstrates that the rug could not be pulled out from Freemasonry's earlier esoteric focii. Sanitized revisionist histories were not compelling enough to erase the memory of those “secrets” hidden in plain view.

It may be possible to argue that those efforts contributed to Freemasonry's current dilemma. The institutional leadership travelled the same path over the last two centuries that the mainstream denominations of Christianity have, that of an increasingly desacrilized approach to the sacred. The institutional leadership, as with those at the top of most complex hierarchies, don't appear to have their fingers on the pulse of the rank and file. If we conclude, as is at least possible, that the older generation of Freemasons agree with the model we have just described, since the 1960s, the fraternity has been unable to find an approach which would stem the attrition, and attract new initiates. I suspect that failure is more do to an unwillingness to give up the by now old, albeit not the original model, than due to the disinterest of potential new blood. Such a conclusion is in keeping with the decision of the UGLE recently to declare in its mission statement for the 21st century that Freemasonry is nothing more than a Gentleman's social club. 
The problem in a nutshell is this; society has changed radically since the 1960s. The great unwashed masses no longer are interested in joining clubs. Mainstream religion is suffering from the same decline in membership that afflicts Freemasonry. There's a link between those sets of statistics. It is no accident that mainstream religions which have desacrilized the sacred are in decline, while those which are growing are those that offer a strong connection to divinity. The religious fields which have grown since the 1960s on the right have been evangelical Christian sects, and among those with more intellectual tastes turn to Eastern, African and a variety of new religions, including those newly coined religions based upon European paganism and myth. In among those has been a steady stream of new students for the various streams of Western Esoteric traditions. Today, the lion's share of these a represented by late Victorian revivals, such as the Golden Dawn, and Crowley's OTO. 

Elsewhere I have, as have others, offered my views as to what Masonry's future could look like. My only comment concerning that today is that it is predicated upon institutional Freemasonry acquiring a radical dose of visionary inspiration. If I were a betting man, I would be fairly pessimistic. I'm neither, though. While that's allowed me to avoid years of costly therapy, I've been wrong more than once in my life.

What I'm interested in discussing here is the subject of remnants of esoteric teachings and practices in Freemasonry, but with a twist.

Many have offered their views on the influence of Hermeticism, Egyptian Religion, and those which apparently have fallen out of favor since the late 19th century, Mithraism and the Culdee of Gaelic speaking societies. While they will no doubt be the subject of future entries, with the possible excepton of a cameo appearance by Gaelic monks, these subjects are not the topic of this blog entry.

In recent years, scholars have begun examining subjects that previously have not been considered, for a variety of reasons. One of those subjects is Freemasonry, and scolars, not limited by the narrowest of guidelines, those which makes many of even current Masonic historians less than successful in producing historical documentation on a par with modern academic research, have come up with some unexpected sources. Information gleaned from the confluence of modern science with more traditional disciplines uncovered that the plant acacia, so central to Masonic teaching, possesses halluconogenic properties which opens a wide range of speculative possibilities. While such knowledge appears unknown among speculative Freemasons, it is quite possible that in earlier times, before our modern neurosis concerning altered states of consciousness, this information had practical applications.

While comparison has frequently been used sometimes to excess in earlier Masonic historiography, caparative cultural analysis today looks more deeply than at mere surface similarities. Comparative methodology may look at social spaces, issues of cultural processies and the role of social institutions in relation to subaltern communities. 

One such examination, by Hugh B. Urban, in Numen (Vol. 44, Jan. 1997) compares two of the world's most sophisticated esoteric traditions - the Srividya school of South Indian Tantra, the school associated with the 18th century south Indian Brahman, Bhaskararaya, and the Rectified Scottish Rite of French Freemasonry founded in Lyons in the 1770s.  As he points out, his selection of these two esoteric schools was due in part at least, to the (relatively) extensive reliable primary and secondary documentation on both of them.  Although, there may be no direct connections between these two esoteric schools of study, Urban suggests that they utilized a very similar strategy of creating social space within their respective organizations. On the one hand, Tantra, which admitted both men and women, with no regard to gender or caste, and at least while within their ritual activities, they were all viewed as egalitarian, and on the other, 18th century speculative lodges which incorporated magical and occult symbolism from Kabbalah, Hermeticism, Templar lore, alchemy and Rosicrucianism.  Rather interestingly, Urban argues that esotericism, which many consider to be counter-cultural and subversive is actually quite frequently an elitist phenomenon,

“the province of highly educated, affluent and powerful intellectuals, who do not wish to overthrow the existing religious and political structures but rather, either to reinforce or else to bend and reshape them to suit their own private interests.”

This of course, describes 18th century Freemasonry closely, but also provides a clear explanation for the  increased distancing of Freemasonry from esoteric ideologies as it became less elite and welcomed a broader range of social classes. It may similarly offer a rationale for the resistance of modern Freemasonry now to innovation, which had previously been its hallmark. While work such as that of Urban focuses on the function of Freemasonry as an institution, and the social relations and impact that the institution had, the work of some other scholars choose to look at practices within Freemasonry and its ritual forms. 

Alan Nowell, has written in Archaeology Ireland (Vol. 24, No. 1 2010) concerning the origins and distribution of a particular dance which he documents through early illustrations in early Irish monastic art, and up to modern times in public media and interestingly, in the survivals of Morris dancing, tying folk custom with ritual tradition. When considering Masonic origins and history, perhaps the first thing to remember is that in spite of attempts to deny connections between Freemasonry and various esoteric traditions, including the Culdees, Cabbala, Mythraism, Hermeticism, Alchemy, the Egyptian mysteries, and even the Templars we have to acknowledge that at least some of these connections are legitimate. The literal and narrow perspective which took hold among Masons who sought to write Masonic history, and epitomized by the Quartro Coronati, while attempting, perhaps sincerely, to counteract what was seen as ungrounded speculation went far beyond what was needed. It also served as a tool to discredit voices, views, and histories that the leadership wished to supress. 

This same literal approach fails to consider that human institutions rarely exist as a dynastic lineage of unbroken inheritance. Nor is it necessary to discover, in the absence of that dynastic inheritance, a book that reveals all the secrets to the reader. That is the stuff of storytellers, and reiterated in our day through Hollywood, the modern version of the storyteller sitting by the fire. We are dealing with esoteric approaches to understanding, and that most esoteric of them all – the passage of ideas and ideals across time. Humans create a receptacle, a vessel within which to manifest systems of understanding, and when the old instution has been eradicated, due to shifting power bases, conquest, or simply the passing of time and the evolution of human societies, cultures, and languages, ideas and human knowledge systems, especially esoteric systems of understanding have a way of sprouting anew, like the seed left from a piece of fruit eaten last summer. 

Freemasonry is one of those vessels, and it is the survival of the old mystery schools, of the Egyptian mystery traditions, and even of Templarism, not because the secret was held and passed down in some literal fashion, but rather because, when the need for these ideas in the human imagination arose, and with it the opportunity, the old traditions sprouted anew. They didn't sprout out of thin air, though. The Renaissance uncovered what materials survived and ultimately this gave rise to what we call the Enlightenment, and in the midst of that, Freemasonry was found to be a convenient space within which to incubate the new child of the old aeon.

However esoteric the ideas and philosophies with which 18th century Freemasons were dabbling, this process I am mentioning is not a chimera. There is plenty of documentation that such investigation was going on in lodges of every description, and if the French were at the forefront, their brethren in insular Europe were no strangers to such speculation.

If you find a keyhole in a door and look through it, you will not see nearly as much as you do when you simply open the door and walk through it to the other side. Since the late 1800s, Masonic historians have spent endless hours staring with trepidation through a little hole. Scholars recently have found the keychain and have opened the door. Being scholars, they have begun to research, which is the word used in academia for play. Whether a particular theory or avenue of research bears fruit or not, such examples suggest that there are many secrets in the history of Freemasonry that have yet to be discovered, even by Freemasons. 
All I wish to do is poke my head back through the door to say that the sun is out, the beach is just outside the door and the water is fine. Come play.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Deja Vu All Over Again

Such a Parcel of Rogues in a Nation is a Scottish folk song whose lyrics are taken from a Robert Burns poem of of the same name, dated 1791. It condemns those members of the Parliament of Scotland who signed the Act of Union with England in 1707, contrasting their treachery toward the nation with the tradition of martial valor and resistance commonly associated with national heroes such as Robert the Bruce and William Wallace. It has continued to be associated with Scottish nationalism.

Burns’s spirited denunciation of the rogues who sold Scotland for English gold refers to the Scottish commissioners who voted for the immoral Act of Union of 1707, some of whom were bribed.  It should be remembered that Burns was one of Scotland's most famous and celebrated Freemason.

The melody and lyrics were published in volume 1 ofJames Hogg's Jacobite Reliques of 1819 (no. 36).

Fareweel to a' our  Scottish fame
Fareweel our ancient glory
Fareweel e'en to our  Scottish name
Sae fam'd in martial story
Now Sark rins o'er the Solway sands
And Tweed rins tae the Ocean.
To mark where England's province stands
Sic a parcel of rogues in a nation.

What  force or guile could  not  subdue
Through many warlike ages
Is wrought now by a coward  few
For hireling traitors wages
The English steel we could disdain
Secure in valour's station.
But English gold has been our bane
Sic a parcel of rogues in a nation.

I would, ere I had seen the day
When treason thus could sell us
My auld grey head had lain in clay
Wi’ Bruce and loyal Wallace
But pith and power ‘till my last hour
I’ll mak' this declaration.
We were bought and sold for English gold
Sic a parcel of rogues in a nation.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The Ghosts of Freemasonry: Haunted Lodges

As with many other aspects of life, the belief in spirits, and by extension, ghostly haunting, is subjective and highly personal. Two common popular responses attempt to establish the idea of spirit contact as either a frivolous idea suitable for entertainment, or gullible naïveté. For most, the search for understanding ceases there. For many who have been habituated to skepticism or disbelief, it's nonsense. For many who do believe, it's a matter of faith alone. There is another group of course, who straddle the world of the organic or natural view of the world, and the materialism that has so infested cartesian science.

As a trained folklorist (Ph.D. University of Pennsylvania, 2005) who spent a large part of my graduate career examining belief studies, I learnt early on that despite the public discourse which attempts to dismiss belief in disincarnate intelligence as superstition and a part of our past as a species, even in the United States according to various polls, more than half of the population believes in life after death, and a significant minority, nearly half, believe that ghosts or spirits can have contact with the living. Many also maintain that they, or members of their families, or friends, have had such contact. 

Wherever you may stand on the issue, in the absence of measurable proof, science, according to its own precepts, cannot offer an opinion on the matter. This is despite the claims made by materialists with axes to grind on the subject. Lack of evidence does not equate to a determination that something does not exist; it merely indicates that science has not been able to provide evidence. Further, despite science's presumption that all things will eventually be uncovered or measured, there's no proof to support that belief. 

None of that is a claim that ghosts or spirits do exist, or that we can have contact with them. Vast amounts of anecdotal accounts exist, and you can collect many from your own friends and relatives when you approach the matter in a way that puts them at ease. People who tend to deny having certain beliefs or experiences when they feel they may be subject to ridicule are often quite forthcoming when they feel they have a sympathetic ear. 

I cannot state to a material scientist's satisfaction that spiritual entities exist, and I am not interested in convincing other individuals to believe any particular perspective. This is one of those things we need to decide for ourselves, and if we are intelligent - or perhaps rather confident, we will not need to try to change other people's minds. The only reason anyone tries to convert another, whether in religion or in opinion, is due to insecurity. 

What I will note is that those who believe in the reality of spiritual entities or ghosts often do so as a result of the rational conclusions they draw from other beliefs they hold, but those who are certain of their existence do so as a result of personal experiences - either their own or those of people whose judgements they trust. More often it is from personal experience. There's an amazing amount of personal experience out there, as anyone who has studied the subject can attest.

All of this rambling commentary serves as an introduction to a fascinating subject - the haunting of Masonic lodges. You may approach this as a fascinating peek at paranormal science or as a piece of entertaining fluff. If you enjoy the entry, I frankly don't mind which view you entertain.  For a long time, it was taboo among academics in the social sciences to admit that they accepted spiritual realities as, well, reality. With the discussion of personal metaphysical experiences in the course of cultural research by no less a figure in Anthropology than Edith Turner, and the subsequent founding of the anthropology of experience, this should no longer be an issue. Scholars have written about their personal experience of phenomenon such as possession without putting their credentials at risk. I am no exception. However, it remains, until such time as the obsessive cartesians can figure out how to materially quantify an essentially immaterial phenomenon (they never stop trying except when they want to deny it's possible), a matter of personal belief. I leave that to each of you to decide. 

In the meantime, I wish to offer a sampling of reports in the media and online concerning haunted Masonic lodges. This is by no means a scientific study. I have done no academic study of the subject, nor should my mention of any one of these stories or sites be taken to infer a viewpoint about their authenticity, nor approval of whatever techniques or approach used by any individuals in any of these cases.  In fact, the majority of references we find online, after weeding out announcements of "Masonic Haunted Houses" being organized for Hallowe'en, fall into three general categories. The first is reports concerning "hauntings" including in the majority variations of the traditional "ghost story." The second category is one which is on the rise. These consist of reports relating to "ghost hunters" who purport to use electronic equipment and recording devices - sound, video, and still cameras, to document and "prove" hauntings. These have mushroomed after the genre became popular on cable television. The third and by far the least common are performances of or in haunted Masonic lodges. Some are dramatic, some are staged by entertainers and stage magicians. 

It would appear that the "Haunted Masonic Lodge" is itself something of a trope, a literary or rhetorical device or figurative scheme of thought which may be constitutive of our experience. The idea of a haunted Masonic lodge seems to be a coming together of a number of standardly held stereotypes. Masons are mysterious and secretive; Masons delve into the metaphysical; Masons are dangerous; and of course, large old buildings, especially deserted ones, are subject to hauntings.

So, as you might have expected, or been hoping, if you've read this far, you will now be treated to some brief reports of ghostly encounters in haunted Masonic lodges. 

We start with Boston's abandoned Masonic Hall. Of this site, we find that the old temple was recently bought by photographer Liam Carleton, 36, who told the UK's Daily Mail that ‘We've heard things and seen a few things, there have been a few cases of footsteps running around the building. There's also been a female form shown up in the hallway, that's only happened twice in the time I've been here and on both occasions it was during sunset.’ Mr Carleton, who is currently renovating the building, has been told he should try and do something about the hauntings, although he doesn't agree. ‘If it isn't trying to hurt me, I won't mess with it, I'll just let it be.’ 

The old Davenport Lodge No. 37, in Davenport, Iowa, was donated in 1996 to Palmer College. It now houses a museum and lecture halls. Many types of haunting phenomenon at all hours of the day have been reported by the college's security staff. These involve moving objects, items winding up in odd places, furniture rearrangement, foot steps, weird moving lights, the aroma of cigars, cold spots, cool breezes not coming from the air conditioning or natural wind source, odd noises, disembodied voices in discussion, or the calling out of names, individuals being touched by an unseen presence, having the feeling of being watched, and actual visual sightings of apparitions. It is claimed that security cameras have provided clear evidence of an entity or entities unknown, still enjoying their good times as Masons.

It appears that Detroit's awesome Masonic Temple, said to be the largest in the world, is haunted by more than economic woes. Built in 1912 by George D. Mason, the Detroit Masonic Temple has over 1,000 rooms, several secret staircases, concealed passages, and hidden compartments in the floors. Br. Mason went slightly overboard when financing the construction of
the building, and eventually went bankrupt, resulting in his wife leaving him. Overwhelmingly depressed about his financial and personal circumstances, Mason jumped to his death from the roof of the temple. Security guards claim to see his ghost to this day, ascending the steps to the roof. The temple, abundant with cold spots, inexplicable shadows, and slamming doors, is known to intimidate visitors with the eerie feeling of being watched. The financial woes associated with this building have remained with it and continue to haunt the Masons of Detroit much like the man who built it does.

Over the years, Lodge members and visitors alike have reported many strange and ghostly happenings at the Morrison Lodge in Elizabethtown, Ky., including apparitions of what appear to be Civil War era soldiers; door alarms that ring even when no one leaves or enters the building; phantom footsteps; objects that move around on their own; strange knocking sounds; ghostly figures; and even helpful ghosts (possibly former Lodge members) who once saved a Lodge member from unconsciousness when he fell ill and passed out while alone in the building. Past investigations in the building have collected photos, EVPs and first­ hand accounts of the hauntings. The Masons in Elizabethtown at least from time to time offer ghostly tours as well.

Lastly, although I have no details of the purported ghostly activity at this lodge, we have to make mention of this lodge in the Indianapolis area. The reason? It is named Irvington Lodge, No. 666.