Monday, September 30, 2013

The French Rite: A Great Unknown For Some

I recognize the complexities that result from trying to find answers to the multiple unknowns that our Order poses for us on various levels - historical,  symbolic,  philosophical,  social ... I am amazed at how unknown the Modern Rite is for some.
We ignore or forget that they are one of most ancient of the Rites that were used by the "moderns" and I always try to avoid the contagion of titles that resulted from the anxious maelstrom of fashion in the last quarter of the eighteenth century.

Developing the " fons et origo " of our Masonic ritual inheritance in four lines, is almost a mission impossible in the context of communicating within a framework which mixes history, fantasy, reality, fiction, legends, fables and feelings. Screening all this objectively, pulling strings,  and drinking from the source,  has been the object of many highly qualified Brethren, thanks to whom we now have more light than 100 years ago.

By way of reflection, today we better understand that at the
time it became imperative, in the view of the Grand Orient of France, to regulate the existing ritualistic 'chaos' caused by the appearance of the higher mysteries that (perhaps) sought to maintain hegemonic dominance in certain groups, factors that contributed to a real and new initiatory experience.

Returning to the structural (not symbolic) simplicity of speculative Freemasonry (and I modestly think that adjective is valid also for the operative), the brothers of the Grand Orient of France at the time created an 'ordination' of existing procedural forms as well as by practicality, those other parallel processes of development in the Third Degree, or ways of working after reaching the Magisterium. And I say parallel in the fullest sense - not superior, although I "like" the term.

Maybe the key is to look - once again - in the proper sense of the Sublime degree as was raised at the time in French interpretation, in which the former Master's Word was replaced, but known, being the key of the degree of "mystical" experience "  (or psychic, conscience, mental, or call it what you will), thus completing the full progression without therefore needing further degrees, since everything has been said.

Some might argue the issue of the "Rule of Three ",  the divergence with the "Antient " (more modern), although we could always resort to collating the essence of English, Scottish, Irish and French Rites in bibliographical sources, minutes of Lodges, and rituals that we have today, surprising us with their very "great" similarities or connection points (as can not be otherwise).

Another step forward decided upon from the platform created through this rite,  was the "natural" and progressive acceptance of female initiation and recognition in our Order.

To this day, still entrenched in positions surprising for supposed freethinkers,  some are engaged in the defense of an outdated issue of the "male" initiatory ritual. So what if there are solar, active, phallic elements ... where's the "goodness " of enlightenment and initiatory reorganization"? Who measures the quality of individual personal life? How does one view  another's initiatory experience as pure or impure? How effective is the feminine procedure?

I only need raise these questions in the XXI century and I generate chill and discomfort from certain quarters.

Gràcies a Joaquim Villalta

Sunday, September 22, 2013

A Brief History of the Modern Rite in Brazil

The Very Mighty and Sublime Grand Chapter  of the Modern Rite for Brazil (O Muito Poderoso e Sublime Grande Capítulo do Rito Moderno para o Brasil ) was founded by Manoel Joaquim Menezes, in 1842 under the title of The Grand Chapter of Blue Rites (O Grande Capítulo dos Ritos Azuis).  It was accepted and recognized as Grand Head of the Modern Rite in Brazil by the Grand Orient of Brazil.

On November 25. 1874, it chose to operate under the name of Grand Chapter of the Modern or French Rite (Grande Capítulo do Rito Moderno ou Francês). The designation of The Very Powerful and Sublime Modern Rite Grand Chapter for Brazil (O Muito Poderoso e Sublime Rite Modern Grande Capítulo para o Brasil )was adopted on March 9, 1953. On June 7, 1976 it was renamed The Supreme Council of the Modern Rite for Brazil (O Supremo Conselho do Rito Moderno para o Brasil).

Finally, since 1992, the year of the 150th anniversary of its foundation, and by virtue of being the only existing Official Head of the Modern Rite for all grades practiced continuously throughout universal Freemasonry, it was renamed Supreme Council of the Modern Rite (O Supremo Conselho do Rito Moderno). Remember that the Grand Chapitre Français received in 1989 a patent for the Orders of the French Rite from the hands of this Supreme Council of the Modern Rite, thus reaffirming its supremacy even in France.

The structure of the Modern Rite works with 7 Degree (3 symbolic and only 4 orders of wisdom until 1999. During that year using its unquestionable legitimacy it authorized the V° Order be restructured with two new Grades 8 and 9:

Order 5° - 8th Grade - Knight of the White and Black Eagle,  Philosophical Knight Kadosh, Inspector of the Rite.

Order 5° - 9th Grade - Knight of Wisdom - Grand Inspector of the Rite.

Previously in Portugal, these grades, under the names of Kadosh Perfect Initiate (Grade 8) and Grand Inspector (Grade 9) were worked in the Modern Rite.

Regardless, putting into practice the V° Order derived from those contemplated in the regulations of Grand Chapitre General de France in 1784 with respect to V° Order is varied depending on the various Bodies of Higher Modern Rite degrees today, but absolutely legitimate in application and use despite its formal diversity.

The first 3 degrees Symbolic Lodges meet in Lodges affiliated with the (in this case) the Grand Orient of Brazil.

The Philosophical Grades

Grades 4-7 (I to IV Order: Chosen, Elect Scottish Knight of the East, Knight Rose-Cross) gather in the designated Regional Sublime Chapters, Grade 8 (V Order) meets in the Great State Council Kadosh And Grade 9 (V Order) meets in the Supreme Council of the Modern Rite, which has national jurisdiction over all Philosophical Degrees.

The level of equivalence, in Brazil,  states that Grade 8 corresponds to the 30th Degree of the AASR and grade 9 is 33°.

Finally,  we strongly recommend an excellent book published by the Supreme Conseljo do Rito Moderno entitled: "The French or Modern Rite: Freemasonry for the Third Millennium".

This is a really exciting book that faithfully captures the experience of the Modern Rite in its pure form.

The Spanish edition is translated by the Circulo de Estudios del Rito Francés "Roëttiers of Montaleau" to whom the Modern Rite Supreme Council has generously given its authorization.

References and appreciation to the following authors for this material:

José Maria Bonachi Batalla
Antônio Onías Neto  (In the Grand East.)
Lourival Souza
Alcio de Alencar Antunes  (In the Grand East.)
José Castellani  (In the Grand East.)
Joaquim Villalta (whose writing was the source for this article)

Grande Conselho Kadosh del Rito Moderno. Rio de Janeiro:
Grande Oriente do Brasil:

Octavius V. Catto African-American Elks Lodge

Octavius V. Catto African-American Elks Lodge banner, 1903. Maker unknown; velvet, gold embroidery, fringe and wood. Philadelphia History Museum at the Atwater Kent

The banner commemorates the 1903 opening of the Octavius V. Catto Lodge, the Philadelphia home of the Improved Benevolent and Protective Order of the Elks of the World (IBPOEW), also known as the Black Elks. Fraternal organizations such as the Elks were increasingly common in the late nineteenth century, though such groups often established distinct chapters segregated by race.

The Black Elks, formed in Cincinnati in 1898 by Arthur Riggs and B.F. Howard, were a controversial offshoot of the exclusively white Benevolent Protective Order of the Elks (BPOE). After failing to gain acceptance into the BPOE, Arthur Riggs sought legal counsel and filed for copyright of the still unpatented BPOE meeting ritual. Although violent threats forced Riggs to relocate to Springfield, Ohio under an assumed name, the Black Elks endured under Howard and local chapters throughout the United States began to emerge.

Philadelphia's chapter of the Black Elks is one such example, and Octavius Catto (1839-1871) proved a fitting namesake for the lodge. A prominent educator and activist during and after the Civil War, Catto is reflective of nineteenth century Philadelphia's dynamic and vibrant black middle class. Born in South Carolina in 1839, Catto and his family settled in Philadelphia around 1850. He studied at the highly-regarded Institute for Colored Youth and eventually served as educator and assistant to the principal upon graduating in 1858.

A staunch advocate of equal rights among men, Catto became increasingly involved in political action, both formal and informal. During the Civil War, he and Frederick Douglass were instrumental in recruiting black volunteer regiments in and around Philadelphia, many of whom served in battle. In 1865 he staged a demonstration of civil disobedience against Philadelphia streetcar companies, which did not board black men and women. Having entered a streetcar, Catto quietly refused to get off when urged to by the conductor.

When the conductor eventually chose to derail the car, Catto remained seated in silence well after the car had emptied. The event received national attention. Threats of legal action were made against Catto, but he ultimately escaped reprimand. In 1866, with his friend Jacob C. White, Catto formed the Pythians baseball club. The Pythians club served three functions: first, it provided a social recreational network for members of the black community, many of whom knew each other from their days at the Institute for Colored Youth; second, it served as a political stage to demonstrate African Americans' love and mastery of an increasingly popular and distinctly American game; and third, it provided a means to negotiate acceptance into white administrative organizations such as the Pennsylvania Association of Amateur Base Ball Players (the Pythians were ultimately denied acceptance). As player-manger and skilled shortstop, Catto was well recognized on and off the field. Catto further lobbied for black citizenship as a supporter of the Republican Party. He served as secretary in the Republican-organized Pennsylvania Equal Rights League.

His political involvement brought his young and accomplished life to a sad, untimely end. In 1871, a year removed from Pennsylvania's adoption of the 15th Amendment, which granted voting rights to black males, racial tensions ran high in the city of Philadelphia. Newly enfranchised black citizens, who almost exclusively supported Republican candidates, posed a significant threat to Democratic leaders, who relied heavily on white support. On Election Day, October 10, 1871, rioters sought to suppress the black vote, largely by violent means. Catto himself was confronted on the street and shot to death by Frank Kelly, likely an act of political murder motivated by Catto's civil rights activism. Kelly stood trial in 1877 but escaped conviction. Catto's death was mourned by the city, by white and black alike. His legacy lived on in the benevolent work of the Elks and black fraternal organizations throughout the region.

Based upon original page on

Saturday, September 14, 2013

La Respectable Lògia Lux Veritatis

La Respectable Lògia "Lux Veritatis" va ser fundada el 14 de desembre de 2007 amb la voluntat d’assolir i difondre els magnes fins i valors ètics, morals i socials que la nostra Ordre cerca i representa de forma plena i responsable. En el seu interior, aglutinem les nostres forces i energies per tal de materialitzar els principis maçònics, alhora extrapolables a la nostra societat civil dins dels seus objectius filantròpics, lliure d’ingerències polítiques de qualsevol tipologia i d’influències profanes en el nostre funcionament.Pretenem dur a terme els nostres Treballs amb rigor i solidesa, i mantenim fraternal contacte i relació amb d’altres estructures francmaçòniques internacionals amb qui compartim el desig d’Unió Universal de la nostra Ordre participant en la mateixa sinèrgia constructiva.

The Respectable Lodge "Lux Veritatis" was founded on 14 December 2007 with the aim of achieving the great and responsible goal of creating an ethical, moral and social order. Within our order this solidifies our efforts and energies to materialize our Masonic principles, while it also applies to our society at large in our philanthropic goals, free of political interference of any kind and within the secular influences on our organization. We intend to carry out our work with rigor and solidity, and maintain contact and fraternal relationship with all other international Masonic institutions with whom we share the desire of our Union of Universal Order and to be a constructive participant in the same synergy.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

ASE 2014 Conference Call for Papers

ASE 2014 Conference Call for Papers
Association for the Study of Esotericism
Fifth International Conference

Call for Papers: Esoteric Practices: Theories, Representations, and Methods
June 19-22, 2014

The Association for the Study of Esotericism (ASE) is seeking paper and panel proposals for its fifth International North American Conference on Esotericism to be held at Colgate University, in Hamilton, New York.

ASE is seeking proposals for papers exploring the many dimensions of Western esoteric practices, including theories, representations and methods of practice viewed from cultural, practical, religious and aesthetic fields of inquiry. ASE encourages papers that address the conference theme in terms of
diverse types of representation, including arts and literature, as well as methods that reflect specific theories of esotericism, either historically or in a contemporary context. ASE invites proposals on magic, alchemy, astrology, ritual practice, mysticism, spiritualism, occultism, hermeticism, neo-paganism, contemporary esoteric movements and teachers, Asian influences on Western traditions, and other relevant topics.  ASE is also interested in panels specifically on mysticism, contemplative practice, and other topics related to the conference theme. ASE regards esotericism as an interdisciplinary field of research and we invite scholars from all disciplines to share their research and writings in support of a cross-fertilization of perspectives. ASE welcomes scholars from a wide range of areas, including anthropology, American studies, art history, history, intellectual history, religious studies, literature, philosophy, psychology, medieval studies, sociology-the full range of academic disciplines and fields.

The deadline for panel or paper proposal submission is January 15th 2014.

If you wish to submit a paper proposal or a thematically focused panel proposal (with three presenters and short descriptions included) for review and possible presentation at the conference, please send it by regular email to

No attachments, please: simply copy and paste your abstract into plain text email. Individual abstracts should be limited to one or two paragraphs, and must indicate academic affiliation and/or other academic qualifications. Independent scholars are welcome to submit proposals. Please note that the previous conference was at maximum capacity, so it is best to submit your proposal sooner rather than later. ASE hopes to post a preliminary list of accepted proposals early in 2014. Possible venues for the publication of conference papers include the book series Studies in Esotericism (this will be the fourth volume in the series).

For more information on the ASE, see their website at

An additional announcement will be forthcoming on the 2014 ASE conference, with information on location, hotels, and conference registration.

About the Association for the Study of Esotericism

In May, 2002, the journal Esoterica hosted the First North American Symposium on the Study of Esotericism at Michigan State University. There, the invited participants created a new scholarly organization, the Association for the Study of Esotericism [ASE], along with a mission statement and a set of goals. This organization subsequently was incorporated in August, 2002, as a recognized 501(c)3 non-profit organization. The primary mission of this organization is to support excellence in scholarship and to foster communication among scholars who, though their work originates from a wide range of fields, find esotericism a common theme of their research.


In this groundbreaking collection, leading scholars in this emerging field explore how nature can be understood in a wide range of esoteric religious contexts. Included here are articles on subjects ranging from alchemy and panpsychism to music, Appalachian folk magic, and new religions. Esotericism, Religion, and Nature illuminates the way that nature is understood by major esoteric figures and traditions. Taken together, these articles shed new light on the connections between humanity, nature, and religion. Authors include Joscelyn Godwin, Wouter Hanegraaff, Lee Irwin, Richard Smoley, Arthur Versluis, M. E. Warlick, and many others. The second in a series of volumes on Western esotericism, this book emerged from international academic conferences held by the Association for the Study of Esotericism.

Their third volume in the series Studies in Esotericism is now in process. Esotericism, Religion, and Politics will be published in 2012.

Please visit the website of their sister organization, the European Society for the Study of Western Esotericism (ESSWE), for information about other academic events in this field.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Rough Ashlar No. 9

A subject we should all be concerned with, not only in assuring the rights to religious belief, but to assure that no one religion attempts to position or present itself as either better or more privileged than any other. All faiths are equal. If you believe otherwise, you have a lot more work to do on your ashlar.

This notice below is for the 6th walk in defense of Religious Liberty organized in Rio de Janeiro. It is an effort by the Afro-Brazilian religious community in response to repeated and intensifying attacks upon their rights and their personal safety coming from right wing Evangelical and Neo-Pentecostal Christian extremists. We stand in support of religious freedom for all, including those of African Inspired Religions where ever they may be found. These rights need to be assured whether here in the United States or in Brazil or other parts of the world. It is not acceptable to attempt to inhibit other religions in any way. If this is part of your belief, you need to reconsider some fundamental issues upon which your beliefs are founded.

No belief is any better or any more correct than another. 

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Writing Secrecy in Caribbean Freemasonry

The recently published book, Writing Secrecy in Caribbean Freemasonry (Palgrave Macmillan, 2013) by Jossianna Arroyo has been available for several months now. I strongly recommend it for people interested in exploring the role of Freemasonry in the course of the development of new nations in the Caribbean. 

Writing Secrecy in Caribbean Free Masonry analyzes the Masonic, literary, and political writings of Andrés Cassard, Ramón E. Betances, José Martí, Arturo Schomburg, and Rafael Serra, Spanish Caribbean intellectuals who lived in the decades of anti-colonial struggle in Cuba, Puerto Rico, and Hispaniola (1860-1898). In the Caribbean, Masonic notions of liberal freedom coincided with the legacies of empire and colonial slavery, creating languages of secrecy, dissent, and radical affective politics that influenced radical Caribbean political cultures in the turn of the nineteenth century.

By analyzing the lives, writings, and activism of these exiled Masonic intellectuals, this book provides insights into the Pan-Caribbean formations of nation and diaspora and sheds light on the role of print-culture, Masonic ritual and languages, racial ideologies, and community in the Caribbean and the United States.

Jossianna Arroyo is associate professor of Latin American and Caribbean Literatures and Cultures at the University of Texas, Austin. She is the author of Travestismos culturales: literatura y etnografía en Cuba y Brasil (2003).

For more information, follow this link: Writing Secrecy in Caribbean Freemasonry

Monday, September 2, 2013

Saint John's Day — Redux, Pt. II

So here is the second part of the video you all waited so patiently for me to post. This is what you've really been waiting for. We get pyrotechnics here.

The ritual itself is actually quite interesting, with traditional religious song, and sigils which Haitians might call vevers, which are in the tradition of the medieval and renaissance ceremonialists. The names written around the base of the pyre are the names of the Angels which are commonly used in Theurgic rituals.

The Masonic ritual viewed in these two videos is a public ritual, one in which the majority of the city of Jacmel attends and in which they participate. This was record several years ago in Jacmel, which is southwest of Port au Prince, the capital. Similar rites are practiced by other lodges across Haiti and are annual events much anticipated by the members of the lodge and the local population alike.

Not at all what modern North American Freemasons are used to, but very much in keeping with what came over from Southern France in the mid 18th Century when Haiti was still Saint Dominque, and the most prosperous colony in the entire New World.

St. Johns Day - Redux

Ok, so it is not midsummer. The unofficial final weekend of Summer in the US has just past, and I'm as inclined to push the clock back a month or two as the rest of you are - unless you have school age children. My son teaches grade school, so it's no longer an issue for me.

However, totally unrelated to all of that, I just came across a great film of a midsummer bonfire recorded by the Brethren of a lodge La Parfaite Sincérité de Couers Reunies No.4 in Jacmel, Haiti.

Freemasonry is historically closely tied to the veneration of Saint John the Baptist. However, as Tobias Churton notes in his book, The Mysteries of John the Baptist: His legacy in Gnosticism, Paganism, and Freemasonry (2012), "There are in the world two prinicple groups of people for whom John the Baptist has significant spiritual meaning, though in the case of Freemasons, I should say a group for whom John ought to have spiritual meaning; Masons have mostly forgotten why they were once "St. John's men.

Well, in Haiti, a land where the spirit has exceptional power, perhaps precisely because there's little opportunity for people to chase that nightmarish chimera we call here "the American dream", it appears that at least some Freemasons have not forgotten.

I apologize if this has been posted elsewhere, and will excuse myself by noting that this material is worth repeating.