Friday, May 30, 2014

Improved Order of Red Men

The Improved Order of Red Men is a fraternal organization, in some ways structurally similar to Freemasonry, and perhaps typical of the many fraternal organizations once widely popular across the United States. This one, without wishing to question the sincerity of its rank and file, was founded upon what may be described as a stereotypically patriotic and romantic vision of the Revolutionary War and of Native American culture. 

According to their own website, the Improved Order of Red Men has its origin in 'secret patriotic societies' founded before the American Revolution. These were essentially revolutionary in character, whose intention was the overthrow of colonial rule. Such groups they inform us, included The Sons of Liberty, the Sons of St. Tammany, and later the Society of Red Men.

On December 16, 1773 a group of men, called the Sons of Liberty, perceived of as members of a formal organization in the account of the IORM, met in Boston to protest the tax on tea imposed by England. Although their initial protest resulted in the resignation of Andrew Oliver, the Massachusetts stamp officer,  a group of individuals led by Samuel Adams disguised as Mohawk Indians, subsequently dumped 342 chests of tea into Boston Harbor.

Modern patriotic interpretations of American history imagine these secret societies as quite formal and organized affairs. The reality was neither so clear cut nor romantic. There was definitely a leadership which established ties across the colonies with a specific political agenda. These were most often educated public figures, and members of the more professional trades. Sometimes these groups took the name of Sons of Liberty or Liberty Boys, and sometimes they didn’t. Being a child of liberty was a flexible concept, and sometimes debated. The vision of the IORM is both reified and romantic. They describe what was a complex, dispersed, and initially inconsistent reaction against British policy in these scripted terms: "members of secret societies quenched their council fires and took up muskets to join with the Continental Army. To the cause of Freedom and Liberty they pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honors. At the end of the hard fought war the American Republic was born and was soon acknowledged among the nations of the world."

The site of the IORM tells us that following the American Revolution many of these revolutionary secret societies continued in existence as brotherhoods or fraternities. While there may be exceptions, it is more likely that patriotic citizens of the new nation formed fraternal organizations to celebrate their patriotic feelings, basing one or two upon the by then mythic revolutionary secret societies. The connections between the original groups and later societies are most likely more one of inspiration than it is historical.

Again, according to the official site of the IORM, "for the next 35 years, however, each of the original Sons of Liberty and Sons of St. Tamina groups went their own way, under many different names. In 1813, at historic Fort Mifflin, near Philadelphia, several of these groups came together and formed one organization known as the Society of Red Men. The name was changed to the Improved Order of Red Men in Baltimore in 1834. At Baltimore, Maryland, in 1847, the various local tribes came together and formed a national organization called the Grand Council of the United States. With the formation of a national organization, the Improved Order of Red Men soon spread, and within 30 years there were State Great Councils in 21 states with a membership of over 150,000. The Order continued to grow and by the mid-1920s there were tribes in 46 states and territories with a membership totaling over one-half million."

Other people utilized the name for various purposes, indicating that such names probably represented more a symbolic association than a literal one. In 1859, a longtime congressman named Joshua Giddings becoming frustrated with the unjust nature of American laws upholding slavery, established a committee in Ashtabula County, Ohio, to use force against slave catchers. He named this committee the Sons of Liberty.

The stated aim of the Red Men is “to perpetuate the beautiful legends and traditions of a vanishing race and to keep alive its customs, ceremonies and philosophies.” Despite this, the order’s ethnological understandings are more stereotypical than accurate. Their model reflects popular, white middle class romantic notions of the American Indian rather than culturally accurate ones. It should be noted that prior to 1974 only whites were officially considered for admission to this organization. This means, ironically, that for most of the history of the Improved Order of Red Men, no Native Americans could have legally become members.

While the organization's official site maintains a fairly right wing, "patriotic" front, it's history is not as straight forward as their own sanitized version depicts it. At least one site notes, without a source, that the original Order of Red Men was disbanded in Pennsylvania due to the often rowdy and drunken character of its meetings.  Dr. Fred Barkey, Professor Emeritus, Marshall University, in contrast, writes about the role of the IORM in the coal mine districts of West Virginia during the early years of the union struggle, in an article entitled "Red Men and Rednecks: The Fraternal Lodge in the Coal Fields"which was published in the West Virginia Historical Society Quarterly, Vol. XVII, No. 1, 2003:

One of the most dramatic struggles in a year of great labor upheavals took place in the coal fields of southern West Virginia in 1912. The Cabin Creek-Paint Creek Strike was in many ways a, small civil war. Full scale battles between miners and Baldwin-Felts detectives raged through the hills along the creeks and three periods of marital law were required to maintain the peace. Because the strike was initiated by rank and file miners, many of whom were Socialists, the press had a double reason for dubbing the incident a "rebellion of West Virginia Rednecks".

One of these rednecks. Brant Scott, a justice of the peace, recently elected on the Socialist Ticket, testified before a United States Senate Subcommittee - which was looking into the causes of the strike. In response to allegations that the radical strike leaders were from outside the district or were the local foreign element, Scott testified that 90% of the striking miners on the two creeks were native Americans and that a great many of them belonged to Improved Order of Red Men, the oldest fraternal organization in the United States. He should know, Scott explained, because he was the Chief of Records of the Algonquin Tribe, #74 which had its wigwam at Mucklow (now Gallagher) on Paint Creek...

Most coal mine camp communities of any size and virtually all nearby incorporated towns has a surprising number and variety of fraternal organizations. For instance, in the lower end of Fayette County, West Virginia which was essentially populated by coal miners in 1910 there were ten lodges of Masons, thirteen chapters of the Order of American Mechanics, six each of Modem Woodmen, Knights of Golden Eagles, Modern Mechanics, and thirteen Tribes of the Order of Red Men.(5) Some of these organizations were little more than benevolent societies of the type which workmen had formed before the Civil War to provide a decent funeral or tide members over in case of temporary unemployment or other emergencies. However, many lodge halls like those of the Red Men could more accurately be described as partial substitutes for familiar neighborhoods and extended family relationships which were being fragmented by the forces of modern industrialism. Fraternal Lodges also served as training ground where workers practiced many of the skills needed to sustain other organizations that would aggressively challenge a new industrial order.

There is much in the origin and development of the Improved Order of Red Men that may have made it the most comfortable lodge for Socialist miners and other radical workers in the Southern West Virginia Coal Fields. The Red Men trace their origins to the decade or so prior to the American Revolution when patriotic groups of mechanics and merchants in several colonies formed secret councils generally known as Sons of Liberty whose purpose was to oppose British mercantile policies.

It  needs to be noted about the testimony of Brant Scott that identification of an individual as native American at the time was far from transparent. While many people may have had native American blood, at least in small measure, it was also a claim frequently made by people of mixed ethnicity to avoid being identified as African American or Mulatto.

Some more information may be found in Albert C. Stevens' "Cyclopedia of Fraternities",  Todd Leahy and Raymond Wilson's "Historical Dictionary of Native American Movements" and in "What a mighty power we can be: African American fraternal groups and the struggle for racial equality" by Theda Skocpol; Ariane Liazos; and Marshall Ganz. From these sources, come information on some splinter groups, including the Independent Order of Red Men and the Afro-American Order of Red Men and Daughters of Pocahontas.

In 1850, the German-language "Metamora Tribe" of Baltimore refused to pay for a benefit. The Great Councils of Maryland and the United States decided that it was legal and proper for them to do so, and as a result Metamora surrendered its charter and formed a German-speaking Independent Order of Red Men. The Independent Order had a height of 12,000 members. It still existed in 1896, but according to Albert C. Stevens it gave "no sign of vigorous growth". By the early 1920s, another researcher, Preuss could not get any response to his inquiries .

In 1904, another group called the Independent Order of Red Men emerged in Virginia, this time composed entirely of African-Americans. When the Improved Order objected to the use of the name, the leader of the group, R. M. Spears, had the charter withdrawn and renamed the group the "Afro-American Order of Red Men and Daughters of Pocahontas".

It should be noted that The IORM is experiencing the same general decline that Mainstream Freemasonry and other fraternal organizations are, and with similar results. An article by Larry Perl in the Baltimore Sun in 2013, informs us that the Red Men were selling their long time lodge and merging with another group in an adjacent county.

Some general information on the structure of the IORM:

“Tribes” meet in “Wigwams” (lodges) to initiate “pale-faces” in return for “wampum,” and officers include the following:

Great Inchonee: Supreme head of the order
Sachem: Tribe head
Prophet: “Religious” leader
Senior Sagamore: Lesser chief
Junior Sagamore: Lesser chief
Chief of Records
Collector of Wampum
Keeper of Wampum

The months of the year are also given Indian or pseudo-Indian names, but they do not work according to a lunar calendar; instead, they correspond to regular Gregorian months. They are:

Cold Moon         January
Snow Moon        February
Worm Moon       March
Plant Moon         April
Flower Moon      May
Hot Moon           June
Buck Moon         July
Sturgeon Moon   August
Corn Moon         September
Traveling Moon   October
Beaver Moon      November
Hunting Moon     December

The Improved Order of Red Men also use alongside the Gregorian calendar a unique calendrical system, based on the “discovery” of the Americas by Columbus in 1492. According to the I.O.R.M dating system, 2014 would be the year 522.

The rituals are based on white per­ceptions of some northeastern Native American tribes, especially those of the Algonquian linguistic group. There are three degrees, Adoptive, Warrior, and Chief. There is also a non-initiatory Beneficiary Degree for insurance.

For the Warrior degree, familiar Masonic touches are employed: The coat is removed and a blindfold is applied.

The third or Chiefs degree is an adaptation of the Hiram Abif legend in Indian guise — including the use of a pipe of peace.

Apart from its customary fraternal activities, the I.O.R.M. today espouses a right-wing conservative political agenda, which is ironic given some of its history.

In 1935 there were apparently well over half a million Improved Red Men and Pocahontases. By 1965, the number had dropped below 85,000. The Degree of Pocahontas is the female auxiliary: the Degree of Hiawatha is for boys; and the Degree of Anona is for girls.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

A Picture is worth a thousand words: Images of Women Freemasons

It is possible to write a great many thousands of words on women in Freemasonry over the past several hundred years, but those who are in denial about this basic reality will ignore them. So, instead of writing more, and masons such as my friend Karen Kidd have written in greater detail and more cogently on the subject than I can, I will simply offer a random selection of photographs and illustrations which speak volumes. These images give the lie to the claim that women freemasons do not or cannot exist. While it is perfectly fine that there are Masonic bodies which refuse to admit women, even though that seems to
me a curious survival from a less enlightened age, the claim that woman are not or cannot be masons is akin to saying that women cannot or should not be allowed to drive, or vote, etc. Such obediences are entitled to their practices. But really fellows, try to force yourselves to show the courtesy expected of a Mason, at least when speaking in public. You make us all look silly when you sputter and get irate over an issue that intelligent and reasonable men dealt with more than half a century ago.

So, without further ado, here is a sampling of paintings, etchings, and photographs of women masons and freemasons across the ages. It should be clear that they did and do exist. The earliest depictions not being included in volumes dedicated to cryptozoology, we are left therefore, with no other conclusion that represents depictions of reality.

The first of these images come from an early period, and in fact depict a woman who was clearly an operative Freemason. (By the way folks, Freemason did not begin as a term to describe what we now call "speculative"
masonry, a distinction cooked up along with the whimsy that Freemasonry began in London, as there were no small number of operative masons capable of and engaged in speculative thought before the bar hoppers of London formed a Grand Lodge. Rather, it refers to masons who worked in Freestone. Freestone is a stone used in masonry for molding, tracery and other work with a chisel. Oolitic stones are used, although soft sandstones may also be used; in some locations a naturally hardened chalk called clunch is employed for internal lining and for carving.

Elizabeth Aldridge
I include here depictions of women being initiated into Freemasonry in 18th century France, as well as  photographs of anonymous women freemasons, in photographs that span three centuries. Included among these are some interesting examples of Masonic garb. The most unique and creative of which are from the 19th century. I include photographs depicting groups of Women Freemasons with their regalia.

Annie Besant
Additionally, we have a handful of images of Women Freemasons who are or were famous. These images depicting famous women Freemasons include the Honourable Elizabeth Aldworth, a famous woman Freemason in Ireland, who lived from 1693-1775. (nb: these dates are approximate and vary by one to two years at either end based upon the sources).  Aldworth was the daughter of Arthur St. Leger,1st Viscount Doneraile and 1st Baron Kilmayden of Doneraile Court, County Cork, Ireland. She was married in 1713 to a Richard Aldworth, Esq. Little is known of her life is known between her initiation into Freemasonry as a young girl and her death almost sixty years later.

As is to be expected, a fair bit of nonsense has been written about her by Masons concerned with “limiting the damage,” however, her portrait, wearing masonic garb as a mature woman makes it clear that she continued to be active as a mason throughout her life. The lodge her father was the leader of, doubtlessly received its patent from Scotland rather than London, as some have suggested.

Mixed Masonic Lodge in Ghana in the 1930s

Also included are the photograph of a most talented woman Freemason whom, until I went in search of photographs for this blog entry, I had forgotten about, although I have no idea why; the multi-talented and beautiful Josephine Baker. Lastly, I would be remiss if I neglected to post a photograph of the woman who may well be the most famous woman Freemason in the English speaking world today, the talented author and Freemason, Karen Kidd. Karen is the author of a number of books on women and Freemasonry that if you haven't read, you need to. Go look them up.

Josephine Baker

Some titles on this subject, by Karen Kidd, and by other authors include:

Women's Agency and Rituals in Mixed and Female Masonic Orders edited by by Alexandra Heidle and Jan A. M. Snoek.

Initiating Women in Freemasonry by Jan A. M. Snoek

Women in Freemasonry by Louis Goaziou.
Karen Kidd

Haunted Chambers: the Lives of Early Women Freemasons by Karen Kidd

On Holy Ground: A History of The Honorable Order of American Co-Masonry by Karen Kidd

Lastly, one title which might surprise some, demonstrates that no less than Albert Pike was seriously considering the admission of women as Freemasons in the United States. He wrote his own adaptation of the Rite of Adoption with the intention of instituting it in the US.  His book, which is available as a reproduction from Kessinger, is entitled Secret Masonic Rituals For Women: The Masonry Of Adoption.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

William Hogarth: A Masonic Artist

William Hogarth (1697-1764) was an English painter, printmaker, pictorial satirist, social critic, and cartoonist. He was initiated as a Freemason before 1728 in the Lodge at the Hand and Apple Tree Tavern, Little Queen Street, and later belonged to the Carrier Stone Lodge and the Grand Stewards' Lodge; which still possesses the 'Hogarth Jewel' which he designed for the Lodge's Master to wear. Today the original is preserved and a replica is worn for  Lodge meetings. Freemasonry was represented in some of Hogarth's work, most notably 'Night', the fourth in the quartet of paintings collectively entitled the Four Times of the Day.

Masonic records, of the seventeenth century are few in number in England at least, . Fortunately those of the eighteenth century, owing to the revisionist recasting of Masonry's political allegiances, which took place in 1717, and the subsequent growth of the English Craft have conveniently been better preserved. Littler attention has been given to other sources of information -such as art, and especially, William Hogarth, Grand Steward of the Grand Lodge of England in 1735.

Little is known of Hogarth's Masonic record. Where and when he received the degrees are unknown. A manuscript list in the records of the Grand Lodge of England show him as a member of the lodge meeting at the "Hand and Apple Tree," Little Queen Street, London; and in 1730, of the "Corner Stone" Lodge. Hogarth became a Freemason between 1725 and 1728. That Hogarth officiated as one of the Grand Stewards of the Assembly and Feast on April 17, 1735, was indicated in the minutes of the Grand Lodge of England. His appointment March 30, 1734, was recorded thusly: 

"Then the twelve present Stewards were called up, and Thanks returned them from the Chair for the Care they had taken in providing such an elegant Entertainment for the Society, and at the same time their Healths were drank and also desired to proceed for each Steward to name his successor for the ensuing year which they did in manner following.Hogarth's name appeared as number eight on the list.

Hogarth's most famous Masonic engraving is the one named "Night", the last of a series known as The Four Times of the Day.

It is doubtlessly intended, not as a critique of Masonry, but of the behavior of some Masons of his day. The image appears to depict a mason who is inebriated.

Next to Night, Hogarth's engraving, "The Mystery of Masonry brought to Light by the Gormogons, " is a curious piece, quite specific to his time. The Gormogons were a secret society established in 1724 in England in opposition to Freemasonry. It claimed great antiquity and that it was descended from an ancient Chinese society. Other of Hogarth's engravings depict individuals associated with Freemasonry, among them an image of James Anderson, and another of the Duke of Wharton, who was Grand Master in London from 1722-23.

It is unclear when the print was first published. While it is first documented in 1742, it is believed to have been produced in the previous decade.

Hogarth also made an engraving of Simon Lord Lovat in 1746, for which there was an unusually great demand. Lovat is of interest to the Craft on account of his connection with the Rite of Strict Observance. He was murdered on April 9, 1747, by the English for remaining loyal to the Stuart cause, having been implicated in Jacobite attempts to return the legitimate King to the throne.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

La Table d'Hermes: A Masonic Bookstore in Toulon

There are some amazing things happening in other corners of the Masonic world. Here, the Hedge Mason is spotlighting a fascinating Masonic Bookstore in the city of Toulon on the French Riviera. Since 1998 La Table d'Hermes has been located in the historic center of Toulon, opposite the Provençal market commemorated in song  by Gilbert Becaud.

La Table d'Hermes takes its name from Hermes, the intermediary between the gods and men. Hermes, or Mercury to the Romans, is appointed to the communication, hidden and sealed knowledge.

La Table d'Hermes reminds us of the famous alchemical table called also: Emerald Tablet where it is said that “as above so below.”

The bookstore specializes in books of Masonic tradition and symbolism. It offers a wide selection of books, new and used, as well as accessories including:

• Tarot and Oracles
• Masonic decorations and accessories all grades and all persuasions
• Varied purest incense: resins, tears or compounds
• Candles and Accessories
• Gifts: jewelry and Moustiers faience (customizable decor)

La Table d'Hermes organize workshops and meetings on various topics relating to spirituality and wellness; they are partners of the Annual Conference on Hermeticism. La Table d'Hermes is run by Antoine Palfroy, and is open Tuesday to Saturday.

55, cours Lafayette
83000 Toulon
Tél : 04 94 92 09 39

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Vade-Mecum des Ordres de Sagesse du Rite Français
(Vade Mecum of the Orders of Wisdom of the French Rite)
Author: Claude Darche
Edition: Dervy, 2011
€ 10.61

This book is one of a series of Vade Mecum, guides for learning Masonic symbolism with a clear, explanatory approach. Claude Darche discusses the Orders of Wisdom of the French Rite.
The high grades Rite French stand out even in their name: they are orders and unlike the high degrees of the AASR, the term perfection is not mentioned, because here the goal is wisdom. Daniel Ligou in his book on the Modern French Rite Rituals notes that "one of the most significant innovations of the French Rite is the use of the term Orders, where other systems speak of degrees or grades, (...) as well as to have greatly reduced the number.
The explanation usually given is that each of these orders synthesizes a series of various grades of Scottish rites, and thereafter, the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite with its 33 degrees which obviously did not exist in 1786. " The French Rite is practiced by different obediences, by the Masonic Grand Orient of France where it is the majority, but also the French National Grand Lodge, the Grand Lodge and Traditional Symbolic Opera, the Grand Mixed Lodge of France, the French National Grand Lodge, Obediences in Spain, Latin America, and most significantly, in Brazil.
The work of Claude Darche present each of these orders, their symbolic meaning and associated symbols. For each, she says interpretations should be complete and explicit, clear and precise, in order to understand its deeper meaning.

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Le Rite Egyptien au Grand Orient de France
(The Egyptian Rite in the Grand Orient de France)
Author: Christian Perrotin
Edition: Dervy, 2012
€ 20.90

Ten years have passed since the awakening of the Ancient and Primitive Rite of Memphis Misraim within the Grand Orient of France. Ten years of rebuilding the Grand Egyptian Order, the establishment of a vibrant structure values ​​of democracy, transmission of initiations, dedication to  research, and to find its place in the landscape of World freemasonry.
The nature of the work of the Egyptian Grand Order of the Grand Orient of France plunges us into Alexandrine Egypt, the melting pot of cultures, philosophies, and religions of Ancient Egypt, Ancient Greece, Mesopotamia and Asia Minor.
These works lead us on the path of initiation within Hermeticism which led to the famous aphorism "Know you, yourself, and you will know the Universe and the Gods." The works of Plato's Academy and the Medici are here revitalized. This book tells the story of the Rite, the philosophical material that Brothers work and opens a window on the future for this part of the Tradition and the problems facing modern society.
A spiritual path.

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Chants Maçonniques des Hauts Grades
(Masonic Songs of the High Degrees)
Author: Bernard Muracciole
Edition: Vega, 2008
€ 25.07

While continuing his artistic career on stage, opera-director Bernard Muracciole became intrigued that the early Masonic Brothers sang songs after their meetings, at Agape which occupies an important place in Freemasonry. Most were drinking songs celebrating the virtues of the Venerable or Officers of the Lodge. Some showcased Masonic symbols such as the compass, square or rough stone. Other developed goals or feelings of high moral values ​​such as freedom, equality, fraternity, solidarity and tolerance, etc.
Here is a CD, with tunes from of early origins to the present day. Thee songs on earlier CDs were concerned with the first three degrees of Freemasonry, the blue Grades. Were there others specific to High Degrees or Degrees of Wisdom? After painstaking research, the answer turned out to be yes, and it is these songs, all previously unreleased that Bernard Muracciole presents in this new CD, accompanied by an explanatory book on which senior officials of the Rites practiced in France and Europe have collaborated. Music of some of these pieces were found, and where none could be recovered, new melodies were written.
Book and CD.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Grand College of Rites of the United States of America Meets Social Media

For some time, I have looked at and drooled over the listings of rituals published by the Grand College of Rites of the United States of America. It matters little that as a non "mainstream" Mason, I cannot join it. It also doesn't matter that those issues that are of the greatest interest to me are officially out of print and utterly unavailable anywhere.

To my utter delight, I became aware today that the  Grand College of Rites of the United States of America has started a Face Book page and appears to be re-energized.

The reason that I am so happy to see a renewal of activity in this organization, even though I find their claimed motive of "the elimination of sporadic efforts to resuscitate or perpetuate Rites, Systems and Orders of Freemasonry in the United States, except to bring them under control of the Grand College of Rites" to be more than a little odd, (and probably legally unrealistic)  is that the Grand College of Rites of the United States of America represents one of the few resources available to Anglophone Masons in the United States to learn about other forms of Freemasonry besides their own in a way devoid of bias or bigotry.

Familiarity with the diversity within the Masonic world is healthy. It reduces the tendency toward disrespect for other rites and obediences, and offers those who explore these materials a means to not only appreciate the wide variation in Masonic ritual, but to gain a greater appreciation and understanding of their own ritual practices, and how they came to be as they are.

So, I strongly urge any Freemason who meets the entrance requirements for this organization to join.

Freemasonry and Victorian Hermetic Orders

It is common among certain of the more conservative elements within Freemasonry to deny that Freemasonry has links to anything which, well, to be honest, anything which makes them at least mildly dyspeptic. The problem is that nearly everything makes them dyspeptic. This is symptomatic of the Masonic tendency to eat its own young. We believe in universal brotherhood, except for other Freemasons who have some microscopic difference of perspective from our own, or whom we think might conceivably have a microscopic difference of opinion with us. 

This derives ultimately from the fear that another Masonic organization may have something to offer that we don't. Since we are not able to burn them at the stake as they no doubt deserve, Masons are left with nothing more gratifying than to call them bogus, or fake. 

I am not writing for those dyspeptic Masons. (Frankly, I secretly hope that they will read this and being highly offended, will bestow upon me that most prized of titles, "Bogus.")  I am writing for the other 95% of the Masonic world who are tired of the same old story, and who, while probably not remotely interested in joining Memphis Misraim Freemasonry, or the revivalist Martinists, much less the Golden Dawn, the OTO, or some similar esoteric order, are interesting in hearing a rational sentence or two concerning the origins of these orders and their real relationship to Freemasonry, perhaps even to a form of Freemasonry much like their own.

Probably we should start with what some of the major organizations were, what their origins were, and who the main players were. Then we will be able to see just what their relationship to Freemasonry was. Since much has been written about the beliefs and practices of most of these groups, we will not delve into the question of what Rosicrucian beliefs are, or what it is that the Golden Dawn or the OTO do or did. We just wish to note where and when these groups came into being, and their most immediate connections to Freemasonry, of whatever variety. I'm not interested in territorial claims concerning legitimacy.

What are defined by the UGLE derived Masonic institutions in the United States as 'heretical denominations', and upon which they heap the opprobrium only possible from a jilted lover, are those institutions owing their origins ultimately to continental, which most frequently means French inspired Freemasonry. I refer primarily to both Memphis Misraim Masonry, and Cerneau's version of the Scottish Rite. But what of the sinful Masonic apostates of the Anglophone world? Since they no longer or in some cases never claimed they were Freemasonry, the only response left, which defies not only logic, but historical truth, is to argue that they were not really influenced by Freemasonry, or that those who founded them, were not really Freemasons. The two most famous (and most recent) examples of these, are the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn and the OTO. At a slightly further distance, but perhaps no less influential are orders such as the The Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor, and the Hermetic Brotherhood of Light. 

It all began a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. OK, so it didn't. It all began, as is the case of modern Freemasonic institutions, with a fiction. The fiction in this case was a series of documents describing a non-existent spiritual group which came to be known as Rosicrucianism.  Rosicrucianism was created. as far as anyone can ascertain, between 1607 and 1616, when two anonymous manifestos were published, first in Germany and later elsewhere in Europe. These were the Fama Fraternitatis RC (The Fame of the Brotherhood of Rose Cross) and the Confessio Fraternitatis (The Confession of the Brotherhood of the Rose Cross). Other documents followed. To say they contained internal contradictions would be an understatement. It was the ideas they contained rather than their claims concerning historical events that really mattered. The influence of these "revelations", presenting a laudable Order of mystic-philosopher-doctors and promoting a "Universal Reformation of Mankind", inspired an movement identified by Dame Frances Yates as the "Rosicrucian Enlightenment". 

Ultimately, after this new "Protestant Metaphysics" influenced a significant number of religious thinkers, most strongly in the German speaking world, in the 18th century with the growing fashion for Freemasonry, it was inevitable that the two would be united. Remember, this was before the fantasy that various obediences represented the masonic equivalent of the Vatican, and that their every pronouncement represented the word of the Almighty. Unlike the 19th and 20th Century hidebound rule of masonic legalese, the 18th Century was an epoch of creative vision and experimentation within Freemasonry. 

Some of these experiments were of questionable value, while others produced cogent philosophical thought and brilliant ritual. It should not be assumed that the best and the brightest went on to gain the most adherents, nor that those which survived had as much merit as those which did not. 

I will leave the topic of Hermetic, Egyptian, and Alchemical Masonic rites for another time. They deserve a separate examination. Instead, I will offer a brief description of several "Hermetic" and "Rosicrucian" orders, that while heavily modeled upon Freemasonry, may be viewed and indeed often asserted that they were not Masonic institutions. The justification for associating Hermetic and Rosicrucian orders together is that they themselves often associated these terms, and besides, what might be called one or another was often a "moving target."

• Fratres Lucis or Brotherhood of Light

Out of the various rites which combined Freemasonic ritual with Rosicrucian philosophy in the 18th Century, the majority of activity occurred or at least began in Germany, and often involved individuals associated with the Strict Observance. Among these efforts, one is most often cited as a source of influence upon the  late 19th Century organizations was the Fratres Lucis, or the Brotherhood of Light. 

There is a lot of disagreement about these matters, and the lack of standards in what passed for Masonic scholarship in the 19th Century doesn't help. However, the general consensus is that this order was founded by Baron Ecker Von Eckhoffen, who was also associated with the Golden Rosy+Cross and the founder of the Asiatic Brethren. Ultimately, many of the members of this latter order became members of a German masonic lodge called L'Aurore Naissante (or "the Nascent Dawn") founded in Frankfurt-am-Main in 1807.

Jean-Pascal Ruggiu traces a series of associations which imply that Eliphas Lévi who was alleged to be a member of this Brotherhood, represents the link between 18th Century Rosicrucian Freemasonry and the later 19th Century institutions such as the Societas Rosicruciania in Anglia, The Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor, and ultimately both the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn and the Ordo Templi Orientis.

• Societas Rosicruciana in Anglia (SRIA) was founded around 1860-1865 by the freemason Robert Wentworth Little . He claimed to have in his possession Rosicrucian documents deriving from an authentic ancient order. The SRIA seems to have operated as an alternative to Freemasonry. One of its important members was Kenneth Mackenzie, who assisted Little in running the society. Mackenzie was allegedly in contact with a "Count Apponyi" of Austria-Hungary, and is said to have received some sort of lineage from him. The more probable source was the Societas Rosicruciana in Scotia which eventually went silent at the end of the 19th century. Many well-known individuals of that time were members of the SRIA, including John Yarker, P.B. Randolph, A.E. Waite, E. Bulwer-Lytton, Dr. W.W. Westcott, Eliphas Levi, Theodor Reuss, Frederick Hockley, and William Carpenter. The SRIA was originally nothing but a study group, and initially did not work rituals. It eventually spread overseas with offspring in North America including one founded as the result of a charter received by Albert Pike from a Canadian organization. 

• The Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor was an initiatic organisation that first became public in late 1884, although it claimed to have begun in 1870. According to  Peter Davidson, the order was founded by Max Theon, who was initiated in England by "an adept of the serene, ever-existing and ancient Order of the original H. B. of L". These men formed this order that included practical magical work. The Hermetic Brotherhood of Light, or Luxor was mostly forgotten after the turn of the twentieth century. Jocelyn Godwin and others began researching the history of the order in the last decades of the 20th Century. The order apparently was similar to the later Golden Dawn having an Outer Order and an Inner Order. The “Outer Circle" offered a correspondence course on practical occultism which was advertised in print. Its curriculum included the writings of Hargrave Jennings and Paschal Beverly Randolph. The influence of the Rosicrucians and Masons is visible in the structure of its initiation rituals. We find the same basic initiatory rituals that were being used throughout Europe by "mainstream" Rosicrucian and Masonic orders of the late 18th and early 19th Centuries. These included a system of degrees such as found in the majority of lodge systems. 

• The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn (HOGD) was founded in 1888 by Freemasons and members of the SRIA. HOGD was established by Samuel Liddel MacGregor Mathers, William Robert Woodman, William Wynn Westcott, and they were all initiates of the SRIA as well. The Rosicrucian connection allegedly derived from a mysterious German adept; Fraulein Anna Sprengel, whom they contacted after having encountered some old cypher-manuscripts belonging to her lodge. Some researchers have seen a possible relation between the HOGD and the Fratres Lucis/Asiatic Brethren, of which one of its descendants was the Hermetic Brotherhood of Light/Luxor. The HOGD became an indisputable success, and attracted many prominent persons of its time, including A.E. Waite, Mina Bergson, Edvard Munch, August Strindberg, Rider Haggard, R.F. Felkin, "Aleister" Alexander Edward Crowley, William Butler Yeats , Allan Bennett, Bram Stoker, Rev. William Alexander Ayton, Frederick Leigh Gardner, and Florence Farr. The HOGD is the source to most of the modern ritual magic flourishing on the occult market today.

• Ordo Templi Orientis (OTO) was originally founded by Carl Kellner, Heinrich Klein, and Franz Hartmann around 1895. Albert Karl Theodor Reuss Willsson succeeded Kellner as chief in 1902, and not until this point did it become a real operative order. Reuss was more of a typical continental occultist and Mason. He was chartered by Westcott of the HOGD, John Yarker of the Memphis-Mizraim, and Leopold Engel of the revived Illuminati Order. Reuss' energic efforts spread the OTO throughout the world. Many famous occultists of the time were in one way or the other linked to Reuss or the OTO,  — Papus, Rudolph Steiner, Jack W. Parsons, Ron L. Hubbard, Gerald Gardner, George Plummer, and Israel Regardie. It was brought to the Americas by Charles Stansfeld Jones (Frater Achad). The post-Reussian lineages of OTO are controversial to say the least. There are those who claims that Crowley was not the real heir to Reuss, and until to the present, many groups have either splintered away from the main order, or others have been founded claiming to represent the authentic order. 

That there have been many splinter groups and organizations that faded away is nothing surprising. This has been true of any organization made up of talented people as these are often opinionated (in the best of ways). It certainly has been true of Freemasonry in its more creative and dynamic aspects.  In any case, it is foolish to deny the profound influence that Freemasonry had upon Hermetic and Rosicrucian movements over the past few hundred years. We can see that even if some of these organizations are not with us today, their offspring are.  I wonder if the GM of Florida appreciates the irony in the probability that Wicca is a not so distant derivative of Freemasonry. If it's any consolation, I suspect that there are as many Wiccans who are made uncomfortable by that idea as there are Freemasons. 

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Rudolph Steiner & Freemasonry

This is a topic which will probably be outside the experience of all but the most esoterically minded Freemason. Alas, in this day and age, that is the majority. While it may be true that in today's world, Freemasonry does not contain an active system or structure of esoteric education, but that does not mean that Freemasonry does not contain within its symbolism, esoteric teachings. 

They are there, whether any given mason or group of masons see them, or even whether they like the idea or not. It is a sad truth about humankind, and Freemasons are no exception, that those who are uncomfortable with the more profound questions of life, or the search for knowledge which challenges their comfortable assumptions that reality can be measured by the limits of their vision, usually seek to deny the right of others to seek a greater vision.

One such visionary was Rudolph Steiner (1861 - 1925).  His childhood was spent in the Austrian countryside. At the age of eight Steiner was already aware of things and beings beyond the material. Writing about his early experience, he noted, “[T]he reality of the spiritual world was as certain to me as that of the physical. I felt the need, however, for a sort of justification for this assumption.”

Recognizing his intelligence, his father sent him to the Realschule at Wiener Neustadt, and later to the Technical University in Vienna. Steiner had to support himself, by means of scholarships and tutoring. Studying and mastering much more than was in his curriculum, he always was fascinated by the question of knowledge itself. He was cognizant that in the experience of the personality, one is in the world of the spirit. Although he took part in the arts, sciences, even politics — he felt that “much more vital... was the need to find an answer to the question: How far is it possible to prove that in human thinking real spirit is the agent?”

During the last two decades of the nineteenth century, Steiner published extensively on scientific, literary, and philosophical subjects, including some popular work on Goethe's scientific writings. After the beginning of the 20th century, he transformed his earlier ideas into a methodical research of psychological and spiritual phenomena.

His curiosity led to innovations in medicine, science, education (Waldorf schools), philosophy, religion, economics, agriculture (Bio-Dynamic method), architecture, drama, eurythmy, and other areas. Shortly before his death he founded the  Anthroposophical Society.

While many Anthroposophists are as uncomfortable with this aspect of his life and research as Freemasons are to consider him one of their own, Steiner was a Freemason. Indeed, he worked on a combination of Freemasonry and Anthroposophy, and wrote on it, as well as on the related subject of the spiritual insights of Rosicrucianism. 

More details about his activities as a Freemason can be found on that excellent website, Four Hares: .

Below are links for several books by Steiner on Freemasonry, and about Steiner and Freemasonry. I hope those masons with a desire for more light will explore this fascinating work.

The majority of his lectures on Freemasonry are to be found in The Temple Legend.  His ritual work has been reprinted in  Freemasonry and Ritual Work: The Misraim Service. Also of interest to Freemasons are Rosicrucian Wisdom: An IntroductionThe Secret Stream: Christian Rosenkreutz and Rosicrucianism, and Knights Templar: The Mystery of the Warrior Monks. While this last title might seem an unlikely addition to a bibliography of Steiner's work relating to Freemasonry, I include it because, as far from the normative views on the subject, his chapters on Jakim and Boaz in this book,provide an interesting contrast to the usual interpretations of those symbols. So, I would suggest that if you are intrigued by Steiner's relationship to Freemasonry, you might also wish to take a look at The Seer's Handbook.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Freemasonry in the Third Millennium

There is a wonderful resource online that is unknown in the Masonic English speaking world. is a spanish publishing house focusing on Masonic literature. I'd like to encourage North American Freemasons with language skills to explore this publisher. They are small, but their work is substantive.

This will be the first of what will hopefully be a periodic notice of books from outside Anglophone Masonic literature. Those will skills in other languages may be pleased to locate such resources if they are not already aware of them. For those unable to read the various languages of these books, they will I trust, inspire some curiosity and awareness about what is being written and done in the rest of the Masonic world. It's just another small attempt to spread more light.

The French or Modern Rite
Freemasonry in the Third Millennium

This book contains an easy to read, but highly constructive message on the Modern Rite. It is a work that includes the impressions and viewpoints of several members of the  Grand Inspectors General of the Supreme Council of the Modern Rite in Brazil.

There have been many controversies within the Modern Rite, but it has prevailed and came to be practiced in France, Holland, Belgium and the colonies of France, as well as in Portugal, Spain and several other countries, including Brazil.

The Modern Rite given its philosophical spirit and progressive reform is rational and appropriate to our century, under the banner of the new Masonry, ie Freemasonry of the third millennium .
We feel comfortable stating that this is a work that fills a gap in Masonic literature on the study of the Modern Rite.

Author: Supremo Conselho do Brazil Rito Moderno
Collection: Red Series
Edition: 1
Pages: 248
Size: 140 x 210 mm
Binding: Paperback milled;
Top: with flap; plasticized shine,
ISBN: 978-84-92984-51-0

Disclaimer: For the record, the author of this blog has no legal or business ties to, nor have I been solicited or paid in any fashion for blogging about this company or its products.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Conference at the Masonic Museum of Portugal

CONFERENCE: " Philosophy and Freemasonry in the eighteenth and nineteenth century "

Main SPEAKER: Prof. Teixeira Francisco
May 23, 2014 7 pm 
Gremio Lusitano [Rua do Gremio Lusitano, 25, Lisbon

Masonic Museum of Portugal

"Freemasonry in its ideas of values,and its ritual symbolism, has always been influenced and shaped by the philosophical and spiritual views of each age.

Freemasonry emerges from the values ​​of tolerance, freedom of conscience, of the primacy and autonomy of the individual, resulting from an experimentalist English Enlightenment and the Royal Society of the 18th century. It was a child of the values ​​and the ideals of the French Revolution and encyclopedias. It is permeated by the thought of the Rosicrucians, theosophists, the perennial philosophy, the occult of the 19th century...

The positivist philosophy and thought "pierces" Freemasonry and adapted masonic rituals and practices. In public space are heroes, artists, and men of letters replace the saints. Atheism is gaining ground in the plural and fraternal coexistence, where various philosophical currents of thought reign.

Freemasonry is enriched by other viewpoints, other approaches, other ways of life and other peers. In present day society, pragmatism wins supremacy of the mercantilist view, Wellness, Opinion, and the ephemeral spectacle of society, opposed to the essence and Being. Freemasonry, in its spirituality, is not immune to the influence of these new trends.

Material interests overlap with spiritual interests, solidarity and brotherhood. Time moves on and we are dispossessed of our inner time, which is reflected in the current experience of Freemasonry "

[Fernando Castel-Branco Sacramento - Director of the Portuguese Masonic Museum ]

Saturday, May 17, 2014




DATES: 4 – 7 JUNE 2014


FEE: €150


LANGUAGE: Some presentations will be in native Celtic languages
(Irish, Welsh, Scots Gaelic, Breton, Cornish, Manx), with simultaneous

ACCOMMODATION: Preferred accommodation. “Campus Fields” at Waterford
Institute, Main Campus. €30/night. Contact:

Further information at

Aralt Mac Giolla Chainnigh
2526 Alta Vista Drive
Ottawa, Ontario
K1V 7T1
613 731-1857

Freagraí as Gaeilge, le do thoil, oiread agus is féidir.

Federal Judge in Rio seeks to return Brazil to the 19th Century: declares Afro Traditions "not" Religions.

Federal Court defines that Afro-Brazilian cults, such as Umbanda and Candomblé religion are not Religions.

A Federal Court in Rio de Janeiro issued a decision in which it opines that Afro-Brazilian religions are not religious and that their "religious events do not contain the necessary traits of a religion."

The definition was in response to an action by the Federal Public Ministry (MPF) which called for the withdrawal of videos of evangelical cults that were considered intolerant and discriminatory against religious practices of African origin on YouTube.

The judge overseeing the case expressed the opinion that for a belief system to be considered religion, it must follow a basic text - such as the Bible, Torah, or the Koran, for example - and have a defined  hierarchical structure, as well as a single (monotheistic) deity as the main focus of worship.
The action of the MPF sought the removal of videos by considering the material contained  dissemination of hate speech, prejudice, intolerance and discrimination against practitioners of Umbanda, Candomblé and other african-Brazilian religions. "To get an idea of ​​the contents in one of the videos, a pastor tells those present that they can close the  “voodoo” temples in the neighborhood," according to the Regional Attorney for Citizens' Rights, Jaime Mitropoulos.

According to the Justice website in Focus, the MPF will appeal the decision at next session of the Federal Court and to continue seeking the removal of the videos from streaming on the Google platform.

"The decision is puzzling, because instead of appropriate judicial review,  he opted to create a definition of what constitutes a religion, denying various international institutions and authorities that deal with the matter (International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Pact of San José, Costa Rica, etc..), the Federal Constitution and the Brazilian Law 12.288/10. In addition, this ruling denies history and social facts about the existence of these religions and the persecution they suffered throughout history, disregarding altogether the notion that the religions of African traditions are anchored on the principles of orality, temporality, seniority in ancestry, and do not require a basic written text to guide them, " said Mitropoulos.

Based on the reporting of Tiago Chagas

Send a message to urge overturning this decision:

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

More Egyptiana: Some Masonic, Some Not

The romantic and metaphysical images of Egypt have for a long time been invoked by Freemasonry and by Western Culture in general. Every century since at least the 1600s has seen at least one wave of interest in Egypt with often significant impact upon architecture, visual arts, literature, and music.  Quite often, this has also had an impact on the spiritual arts, and even on social discourse.

One example of the latter is a fascinating book written by Scott Trafton, entitled Egypt Land: Egypt Land: Race and Nineteenth-Century American Egyptomania. It is noted that "drawing on literary and cultural studies, art and architectural history, political history, religious history, and the histories of archaeology and ethnology, Trafton illuminates anxieties related to race in different manifestations of nineteenth-century American Egyptomania, including the development of American Egyptology, the rise of racialized science, the narrative and literary tradition of the imperialist adventure tale, the cultural politics of the architectural Egyptian Revival, and the dynamics of African American Ethiopianism. He demonstrates how debates over what the United States was and what it could become returned again and again to ancient Egypt. From visions of Cleopatra to the tales of Edgar Allan Poe, from the works of Pauline Hopkins to the construction of the Washington Monument, from the measuring of slaves’ skulls to the singing of slave spirituals—claims about and representations of ancient Egypt served as linchpins for discussions about nineteenth-century American racial and national identity." 

A quite different perspective is offered by Keith Moore, in Freemasonry, Greek Philosophy, The Prince Hall Fraternity and the Egyptian (African) World Connection. While some views expressed in this title may be controversial, it also attempts to address the issues of the universe of African-American Masonic organizations from the early 18th century to the 20th century ranging from the origins of Prince Hall Freemasonry to Black Nationalism and esoteric religious sects like the Moorish Science Temple of America, the UNIA and several other offshoots.  This subject deserves a lot more attention, and from a variety of academic perspectives. Of course, it is reasonable to ask how Freeasmonry, The Memphis Misraim Rite, and Prince Hall Freemasonry reflected this discourse. Now, there's a research topic for someone.

In other areas, the interest in Egyptian metaphysics remains alive and well, as demonstrated by modern energetic healing systems based upon ancient Egyptian religion, such as Sekhem Heka.  Sekhem Heka, a Reiki/Skhm energy system created by Storm Constantine,  was inspired by an Order founded in Ireland by Lady Olivia Robertson and her brother Lawrence Durdin-Robertson. The FOI was founded at Huntingdon Castle (Clonegal) in 1976.  I first became aware of them while living in Ireland and visited them at Clonegal Castle numerous times between 1982 and 1985. The FOI is estimated to have over 24,000 members worldwide.

The French author, Freemason, and very amiable scholar, Gérard Galtier, has written a number of works on related topics. I think probably his best on this topic is La Maçonnerie Égyptienne: Rose Crois et Néo-Chevalerie. In this book, Galtier covers the history of Memphis-Mizraim, the FUDOSI, Rosicrucian and Martinist movements, making this is a key book on the topic. Historically seriously which is rare in this area. Along with Roger Dachez and Serge Caillet, Gérard Galtier is one of the key authors of the three Rites of Memphis and Mizraim.  This last item points to the fact that while North American Freemasons largely surround themselves with dusty tomes dating back to before the age of automobiles and airplanes, those in the French and Spanish speaking world are blessed with an embarrassment of riches.