Saturday, February 21, 2015

On the Evolution of Freemasonry & its Advancement.

Today we will discuss a slightly complex topic and one which may even create some controversy ... which is never a bad thing.

Can and should a Mason work as in years gone by? Is the Masonic secret still the same? Does Masonic secrecy have any meaning in the information age of computers, in a society demonstrating constant evolution?

A recurring theme is repeated in Masonic forums  "... this can not be made public... this should be addressed in lodge ... this is not for the profane world ... ".

These opinions are understandable, but I do not know to what extent they may be current or credible given the reality of society today. Hiding Freemasonry from technology is guaranteeing it a certain, slow and agonizing death.

It is not being less Masonic to speak of Masonry in public than to maintain one's Freemasonry as if  were something to hide.

No, we Masons do not have anything to hide nor do we have to hide from anyone, and isn't one of our duties o bring light out of our Temples?

I'm tired of  Masonic fundamentalism born of miscomprehension, the symbolism that some believe is for the Masonic world  only... not understanding that it is both totally secular and religious.

Let's be fair and perfect ... we'll be open minded and to carry out our work for and toward humanity.

THERE IS NO MASONIC SECRET, THERE IS ONLY MASONIC LIVING, which is that which gives meaning to what tradition meant by the "Masonic secret". Let us adapt our Temples and members to the society in which they work, so they can be useful to their peers and themselves.
If you search the Internet ... you'll find everything you want to know and more about Freemasonry ... even I dare say, you will find too much ... and too many mistakes!

What a curious way to keep the Masonic secret.!

R.·. L.·. Francesc Ferrer i Guardia nº 1821
SOBRE LA EVOLUCION DEL MASON Y SU PROCEDER.

https://www.facebook.com/RLFrancescFerrerIGuardiaNo1821


Gràcies a Jordi. 

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Rough Ashlar No. 18: Neither Inventions nor Tricks

Our rite needs no mystification to be great; neither inventions nor tricks to be special. It needs no protestation of belief to attest to its purest essence.

Our rite needs only men possessed of ideals; men committed to much more than the mere mechanical repetition of ritual formulas. Our rite needs bolder spirits; the most genuinely Masonic among Masons. 


Muito obrigado por José Antonio Filardo M ஃ I ஃ

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Freemasonry and the Lost Purpose

Freemasons continue to debate among themselves what can be done to turn the tide of shrinking membership, as if numbers were ever important. In fact, it's probably the case that numbers are what has brought Freemasonry to the edge of annihilation; not shrinking numbers, but the mindless expansion of membership in the first place.

Many human endeavors have succumbed due to their own success. In the 18th century Freemasonry was very successful. It had an aura of secretiveness which admittedly disturbed the temporal powers of the time. However, it drew thinkers and the educated, and these often were successful members of society. What drew these people, because even then, not all were men, were two subjects of great interest in the Enlightenment. These two subjects were esoteric thought or metaphysics which had not yet been demonized by those who held materialist views within the evolving scientific community, and new ideas about humanity and the rights of individuals. This latter may also be described by that most taboo of topics for Freemasons - politics.
After the French Revolution and the Revolution of the former British colonies in North America, the next great wave of revolutionary activity took place in Latin America. The first of these, and perhaps the most significant in terms of the breadth of its claim for universal suffrage, was that of Haiti. Simon Bolívar then led a successful revolution against Spain resulting in freedom for much of Latin America. All of these revolutions shared something significant in common; Freemasons were instrumental in if not developing, then discussing and disseminating the ideas which led to these revolutions, and many Freemasons took part in them. While some academics are swift to point out that there were Freemasons among those opposed to these revolutions, I think that observation is a bit disingenuous, however true it may be.

All this left Freemasons and non-Freemasons alike with a problem with the arrival of the 19th century. Taking the USA as an example,  the leaders of the revolution made a great propaganda point about English taxation as a cause of revolution, however, as soon as 1791, the revolutionaries now turned leaders of government, used military force to suppress what came to be known as the "Whiskey Rebellion" in Western Pennsylvania. No small number of those who had led this "rebellion," a protest against what was widely perceived to be an unfair tax, were veterans of the colonial army under Washington.  It didn't take long for the significance of Freemasonry to become apparent to all. On the one hand, this led to a greater interest in membership, but on the other, it also led to distrust of Freemasonry. The first "third party" to develop in the new nation was the Anti-Masonic party in 1828. Such forces, and the decidedly un-masonic activities that became known as the Morgan Affair in 1826 which ultimately led to the founding of the Anti-Masonic party, led to a decline in Masonic popularity for decades. It might well be argued that the Morgan Affair itself indicated that something had gone seriously wrong in Freemasonry in the early years of the 19th century. 
Indeed it had. George Bernard Shaw remarked that "Democracy substitutes election by the incompetent many for appointment by the corrupt few." Freemasonry was on its way to becoming a democratic institution.  After recuperating from the disaster of the Morgan Affair, Freemasonry in North America eventually decided to mass market itself, and it succeeded beyond its wildest dreams. Not a bad trick for an institution that did not advertise. Of course, it did, but having a very public presence, but it worked. The problem was, that when you begin to accept the unwashed masses as it were into your midst, you need to tailor your message to be palatable to your new audience. The net result of the UGLE's successful attempts at rewriting Masonic history and North America's embrace of the working man and Victorian values, was that interests in radical enlightenment ideas, of pretty much any sort disappeared. What you are left with is a private men's club. Even charity was repackaged. No longer did the Mason emphasize personal acts of charity, but donations to charitable organizations, making what was once an act of character into a characterization of good feelings toward others. I'm not arguing that the Shriner's Hospital isn't a good thing, simply noting how the institution lost sight of its original ethos.

And that is what has led the large mainstream Masonic institutions, whether in North America, or in England to an intractable pass. This is also true in Continental Europe, but to a lesser degree.  See, while there may be nothing wrong with men's clubs, or more generally civic societies (if you let the ladies in you have to call them something else), in our modern society they are simply anachronisms. You can deny this till the cows come home, and apparently one of the modern tenets of Freemasonry is denial, but it won't hold up when you look at the mean age of all the Grand Lodges in the country.

Obviously, I think Freemasonry has a future, and I wouldn't mind in Mainstream Masonry were to be a part of that future. I'm not sure that is overly realistic however. The reason has nothing to do with whether Mainstream Freemasonry adapts its message, changes its tactics, or even embraces  - gasp - political engagement, women, or esotericism, although I think in the future, there will be a lot more of all three in Freemasonry in the US. I say that the reason has nothing to do with any of those things, or whether Mainstream Freemasonry embraces change, or rejects it.

Mainstream Freemasonry in the United States has a wonderful treasure, but that treasure is also the albatross around its neck. It possesses an embarrassment of riches in its architectural gems. In the heyday of what I think was mindless expansion, fueled by large membership rolls and even larger bank rolls, Freemasons in the United States erected mighty temples for their Lodges and Grand Lodges. Many of these represent an invaluable architectural legacy not only for Freemasonry but for the nation itself. Unfortunately, these buildings are now no longer the anchors of a growing and proud institution, but are tied to the ankles of those Masonic obediences who own them. The waters are rising, and the anchors are dragging the old lads swiftly down. There is also no easy way to free themselves from them. Some may be repurposed, but the larger ones, and some of these are pretty damned large, as I think anyone reading this blog will be aware, are not likely to be successfully repurposed or sold, because they are behemoths that nobody can afford in these days. 

I have said it before, and I will say it again, the future is in, no - not plastics, but in small. The Bauhaus got it right, less is more. 

However, I think that to gain new blood, Freemasonry needs to have more than a guarantee of freedom from unbearable debt to offer. It has to become relevant again. And in my opinion, what Freemasonry can do to do that is to revive exactly what it had in the 18th century.

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.

Fraternally,

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
2014

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.