Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Holiday Wishes

The Hedge Mason wants to offer the very best wishes to all in this holiday season, no matter how you celebrate them, or not! Most of all, we hope to see much more peace in the coming year.




Friday, December 4, 2015

Mainstream US Freemasonry should Follow Scotland's Example

A little holiday cheer. If all the mainstream Grand Lodges in the US would follow Scotland's example and provide the equivalent at all lodge meetings, membership would quadruple overnight.



Grand Master Mason's CHOICE whisky. Produced exclusively for The Grand Lodge of Antient Free & Accepted Masons of Scotland by the Isle of Arran Distilleries this robust 46% proof Single Scotch Malt Whisky is a reflection of the character of Arran Malt Whisky but of Scottish Freemasonry itself! 



Monday, November 23, 2015

American Historical Society Conference Panel, Jan. 2016: Freemasonry: The World’s First Global Social Network


Atlanta, January 7-10, 2016
Global Migrations: Empires, Nations, and Neighbors

Panel: Freemasonry: The World’s First Global Social Network

AHA Session 86
Friday, January 8, 2016: 10:30 AM-12:00 PM
Room 311/312 (Hilton Atlanta)
Chair:
Richard Berman, Oxford Brookes University
Papers:
Navigating the “Republic of Masonry”: Print Culture in Masonic Communication and Connection in the 18th-Century Atlantic and Beyond
Hans Schwartz, Clark University
Ancients or Moderns? Reflections on the Genesis of American Freemasonry
Richard Berman, Oxford Brookes University
Caliban and the Widow’s Sons: Some Aspects of the Intersections and Interactions between Freemasonry and Afro-Caribbean Religious Praxis
Eoghan Craig Ballard, HistoryMiami Museum & Roosevelt Center for Civic Society and Freemasonry

Comment:
Richard Berman, Oxford Brookes University

Session Abstract
In the 1700s, Masonic lodges and freemasons could be found from the East Indies to the West Indies to the Indian Country of the North American frontier, all across Europe, and throughout the farthest flung colonial possessions of the British, French, and Dutch empires. By the end of the century it had become an important organizing tool and intellectual force in the African Atlantic diaspora as well. Freemasonry was an emergent, self-created social movement of the 18th century Enlightenment which boasted its own faux history, republican ideology, international diplomacy, meta-economy, and extensive organizational structures. Within a few decades of the formation of the Grand Lodge of England in 1717 there were Masonic lodges and grand lodges throughout the Americas, the Caribbean, India and in some parts of Africa. Ideologically and socially, freemasonry connected men across political, ethnic, racial, religions and class borders. It served as a vital fraternal link in the lives of Atlantic seafarers, soldiers, planters and craftsmen and formed a vast network of overlapping networks which greatly impacted social and commercial relations both within and between far flung communities in every corner of the global in which European culture had penetrated.
This panel will seek to explore the role of freemasonry as an international phenomenon, elucidating the nature and implications of the overlapping social, commercial and intellectual networks created by freemasons, white and Black, on both sides of the Atlantic.

ஃ Navigating the “Republic of Masonry”: Print Culture in Masonic Communication and Connection in the 18th-Century Atlantic and Beyond
Hans Schwartz, Clark University

Within a few decades of the foundation of the Grand Lodge of England in 1717 the Masonic fraternity could be found from the East to the West Indies to American Indian country and was a major social movement of the Enlightenment throughout Europe and the European colonial world. In a speech before Paris' Lodge of Nine Muses, Benjamin Franklin referred to this international brotherhood as, "The REpublic of Masonry." One of the most fascinating and little understood elements of freemasonry's successful spread is the manner in which masons, often merchants or sea captains, were able to arrive in ports of call from Batavia to Boston and beyond and easily locate the meetings of this "secret" society. This investigation demonstrates how various types of print culture were created or adapted to the purposes of masonic. Specifically, this presentation will focus on Masonic almanacs and lists of lodges printed and distributed by Grand Lodges in Europe and reprinted in a wide variety of pamphlets and books; the use of colonial newspapers, particularly in Boston, the most prominent hub of British Masonry in the Americas to circulate Masonic news and contact information; and the highly detailed Tableaux of the French Caribbean Masonic network centered in Saint Domingue. This will include the use of print culture in the early republic to promote Black freemasonry emanating from Boston. All of these sources were circulated, exchanged, and reprinted in a manner which linked the widespread Masonic networks of Bostonian merchants, French creole planters, and European seafarers.

ஃ Ancients or Moderns? Reflections on the Genesis of American Freemasonry
Richard Berman, Oxford Brookes University

American freemasonry was created in the mould of the Grand Lodge of London & Westminster, later the Grand Lodge of England, and initially reflected the pro-establishment mores of its founders, providing its affluent upper middling members with an exclusive blend of ‘ancient’ ritual, fraternal association and drinking and dining. But from the late 1750s and 1760s, the organization split, a division not based more on social differences that political differences – loyalist against patriot.
Dr Berman’s paper traces the debt American fraternalism owes to the more egalitarian and inclusive Irish form of freemasonry, pushed not only by the Grand Lodge of Ireland but by the more aggressive Antients Grand Lodge, formed in London in 1751 and shaped by London’s Irish diaspora, especially Laurence Dermott, its pioneering and long-serving Grand Secretary and later Deputy Grand Master.
Antients freemasonry became a locus for the aspirational lower middling rather than the incumbent social and political elites, and developed a powerful social and economic function, providing mutual financial assistance and an accessible social infrastructure for those seeking self-betterment. It extended formal sociability beyond the elites to create one of the first modern friendly societies and, in an American context, took over the mantle of revolutionary Enlightenment politics in the upswing to the War of Independence.

ஃ Caliban and the Widow’s Sons: Some Aspects of the Intersections and Interactions between Freemasonry and Afro-Caribbean Religious Praxis
Eoghan Craig Ballard, HistoryMiami Museum & Roosevelt Center for Civic Society and Freemasonry

After Freemasonry spread across Europe in the 18th century, it was inevitable that its influence should reach the Caribbean. Masonic lodges were founded in France's colony of Saint Domingue as early as 1738. It was not long before men of African descent entered the fraternity. Some of these men went on to hold leadership positions in the Haitian Revolution. It was inevitable, given the wide distribution of African inspired religious practice in the Caribbean, that Freemasonry would interact with African religions. Elements of Masonic symbolism reflect back from the graphic systems employed in Haitian Vodou and Afro-Cuban Palo, a religion of Congo origin. Hand gestures and ritual movements in the Asson tradition of Haitian Vodou have been credited with Masonic influence, and significant elements clearly identifiable as being of Masonic origin, comprise parts of the intiation rituals of Quimbisa, a religion of Central African origin in Cuba. Such exchanges do not reflect a single direction. Recently a Grand Commander General was appointed to the Scottish Rite for Cuba, who is a practicing member of the Abakuá, a tradition originating in the Cross River area of Nigeria, and also one of the founding Babalawo's of Cuba's internationally recognized Yoruba annual divination committee, which is viewed as religious guidance on three continents. In Haiti, a Masonic Rite was founded which invokes certain Lwa or spirits of Haitian Vodou, which are recognized throughout the international community of Vodou religious praxis as Masonic spirits. One of Vodou's most iconographic spirits, Baron Samedi, the Lord over the dead, unmistakably combines Masonic regalia with the iconic skull used in the initiatic Chamber of Reflection. Even in Brazil, the temples of Umbanda, a modern Afro-Brazilian faith, are replete with Masonic elements, and it is not uncommon for freemasons in Brazil to also be initiates in Umbanda.

http://www.historians.org/annual-meeting

Panel: Freemasonry: The World’s First Global Social Network

Sunday, November 15, 2015

November 15th: The National Day of Umbanda in Brazil

Many blessings to all my brothers and sisters, and the friends of Umbanda, a religion that despite prejudice responds with joy and love ... A Brazilian religion, a religion that unites three religious cultures found in Brazil: The culture of Africa, the culture of Native Americans,  as well as European spiritualism and Catholicism.

Saravá Umbanda


A New Afro-Diasporic Inspired Divination System - The Vudu Tarot

While I am not a Tarot reader, and am not heavily invested in Tarot as a form a divination, as someone who has lived his entire life in the United States and Western Europe, someone who has been profoundly interested in divination since he was quite young, I have rubbed shoulders so to speak, with Tarot as a system of divination, Tarot literature, and Tarot decks, both as art and as cards, for roughly 50 years. I've played with Tarot off and on, and studied it in earnest at one point. It, as with cards in general, my first divination deck was a version of the Lenormand cards rather than Tarot, was not to become my method of divination, but I none the less find Tarot and cards in general to be a fascinating study.

Tarot has a fascinating history, part of which relates to divination and magical study, beginning in the 19th century, despite the myths that have built up around tarot during that period claiming it as an ancient system of divination. However, I am not writing to discuss that history, fabricated or otherwise today, nor the fact that Tarot as a modern tool of divination is intimately tied to the esoteric studies of 18th and 19th century Freemasons, most notably A.E. Waite, who gave his name to perhaps the most famous Tarot Deck of modern times.

One of my fascinations with the transportation of Afro-Caribbean religious traditions to North America has been the ways that North Americans translate and alter those traditions when they encounter them. Those ways are sometimes logical, and perhaps more often less so, and even sometimes violent in terms of their impact upon tradition. One alteration, which may in all good reason, be seen as a benign change, has been the adaptation of Tarot cards within the Haitian Vodou religion. Although in Haiti, several other traditional methods of divination have been documented during the 20th century, and by all accounts continue in Haiti, and among Haitians in the North American and European diaspora, by the mid 20th century, some Haitians had adopted the use of  regular playing cards for the purpose of divination. Doubtlessly, they would have been to a greater or lesser degree influenced by French traditions of card reading, and it might have come from interactions with the economic and cultural “elites” within Haiti, who have a history of interest in esoteric practices which parallel those favored among the French.


In the North American diaspora, most Haitian servitors (those who follow the Vodou religion) continue to use traditional methods, most commonly today the regular deck of cards. However, among North Americans who have adopted the religion we most often identify as Haitian Vodou, the tendency over the past dozen years or so has been to use the Tarot instead of regular playing cards. This is no doubt the result of the popularity of Tarot over regular cards for divination in the United States, which was established in the 1960s, and which has grown since that time. The other factor which is not unrelated, was probably the creation of the New Orleans Vodou Tarot deck and book created by Louis Martinié and Sallie Ann Glassman, in 1992.

Since that time, this particular deck became the defacto preferred deck in use by North Americans who had adopted Vodou as their religious practice. Whatever ideological arguments one might make regarding possible weaknesses in the deck, it was found to be visually appealing by most and it emphasized both the Lwa, the spirits of Vodou, and probably because it was popular among such communities, it also referenced the Orichas who are spirits of popular religion in Cuba, Brazil, and Nigeria, which is where their African origins are to be found.

Since the early 1990s, no new deck has come to really challenge the popularity of the New Orleans deck. But things are about to change, or at least that is a distinct possibility! Over the past year, a talented young artist, and follower of several Afro-Caribbean religious traditions named Monroe Rodriguez Singh has designed a new deck of Vodou Tarot. What follows is a description based upon my own observation of Monroe's deck and informed by discussions with him and questions asked of him over the period of time he has been working on designing these cards.

Monroe Rodriguez Singh is an artist, designer, developer, and professional tarot reader. He has formal art education and has had his work exhibited in various locations across the continent. Over more than a half decade, he has read tarot professionally and is a member of the American Tarot Association and Tarosophy Tarot Association. About 5 years ago he began to explore Afro-Caribbean spiritual traditions personally, and at some point came to realize that he wanted to create a tarot  deck that reflected these traditions is a new way, one which more dynamically expressed his connections and experiences with African inspired spirituality. In approaching this goal his efforts naturally reflect his own multicultural background and utilize the knowledge he has gained concerning Afro-Caribbean culture. As a result, this new deck is inspired by Afro-caribbean spirituality in a way that is much less informed by European mediation than perhaps previous decks have been.

In part, his decision to take on this task reflected his frustrations with what was available. There are few decks directly geared toward readers of color, and the foundation of other decks did not reflect his own experiences of these traditions as closely as he would have wished. He decided to create a tarot that would incorporate a better and more complete reflection of the mythology of the African diaspora and which, as also reflects his experience, includes both West Indian and East Indian cultural forms, which is also found in parts of the Caribbean.

Monroe indicated that he first acquired a set of Tarot cards as a child, and he has not stopped. Today he owns over 50 different Tarot decks and shows no signs of slowing down. He brings extensive reading on comparitive religions, mythology, metaphysics, and psychology to his reading practice, and has drawn upon this background in creating his new deck.

Interestingly, he notes that his first attraction to the tarot was due to their artistic aspects more than their functional purpose, although that soon became important to him, and he discovered a natural talent for reading.

Like many of his generation, he grew up within a traditional Protestant family, but also like many, that experience also provided him with exposure to Southern African-American, Latino, and Native spiritual influences. This influence was strongest coming from his grandmother, and was augmented by reading, the result of his own curiosity. When he went to college, he continued this exploration both in formal academic and informal settings.

After college, he began to read the tarot professionally and has read in New Orleans, on the West Coast, and on Internet radio as well.

He notes that Tarot cards today span a wide range of stylistic approaches and this makes chosing a deck which one can be comfortable with challenging, especially if you are trying to bridge popular cultural forms and practices such as Tarot and traditional spiritual practices. He feels that the art, especially an art that is both modern but also respectful of traditional cultural elements is important. He has found aspects of other decks offensive, and also sees some of the artwork as being out of touch with someone of his own age.
His deck is a Vudu deck, and that is an important distinction. He draws on the traditional aspects of Haitian religion, but he also works side by side with the Dominican Vudu traditions of the Spanish speaking side of Hispaniola, the Caribbean island on which the Republic of Haiti was born.

This deck is grounded in the Spirits of the  African Diasporic traditions and their own stories and Monroe argues thoughtfully that they complement the archetypes of the modern Tarot. In his deck, the  death card is Baron Del Cementerio, the Baron of the Cementery who is the guide for the Guede - the Dead. His image with a skull wearing a top hat and cane with Haitian veves is reminiscent of Death on the pale horse in the Rider Waite card.

The Aces of each suits are all Legba (gatekeeper) spirits for the nacions (nations) or divisions of spirits. The Suits reflect their elemental types while using the same names with the exception of pentacles which is called “Skulls” in the Vudu Tarot. The Skulls suit represent spirits from the Guede and Baron Division. The Wands reflect hot Petro and Kongo Spirits; the Cups, the cooler Rada and Agua Dulce (India) Divisions. And the Swords have the armored warriors of the Nago or Ogou Division who have Yoruba influences.

Among his offerings is a  limited edition expansion deck that is focused on other ATRS and Hinduism. I encourage you to support his Kickstarter campaign and get this very creative deck.

To Order a copy of this deck, go to the following link and make a pledge of $50 or more. Ships all over the world and comes with other goodies as listed for each pledge level:

Kickstarter Vudu Tarot Campaign

Saturday, November 7, 2015

A Scholar Who Makes Historical Facts Palatable: Tobias Churton

For some years, since the late 1980s when he released his book The Gnostics, I have repeatedly succumbed to the temptation to read the works of Tobias Churton. Being written for a popular audience, I have justified such self indulgence by asserting that it was to get a quick but relatively accurate overview of material that I wished to study at greater depth and at more leisure. Or else my excuse was that it was a less boring way to acquire a decent if generalized bibliography. Both excuses were true as far as they went, but they were excuses. Having studied at Oxford and being a lecturer at Exeter, his credentials more than pass the most critical academic muster. However, his writing style is eminently readable, which is a rarity among academics in this day and age, and that is what kept me coming back to his titles over the years. Put simply, the man is worth reading.

While not all of his books are specifically focused upon Freemasonry, half a dozen include Freemasonry in the title, and in a few more the subject of Freemasonry more than touched upon. One has to note that his books relating to Rosicrucianism are also by default related to the subject of the craft.

While none of the titles I will mention are new, and while I would hope that most who have read extensively on Freemasonry have at least read a few of his works, I've yet to see a Masonic blog deal with his works as a body. They are extensive enough that they deserve collective mention. They are also intelligent enough to deserve attention. In fact, that may well be why they haven't to date received the attention they deserve from Freemasons. Unlike writers who cater to members of the craft, Professor Churton does not mince words when it comes to the flaws of our institution. That's probably another reason I like his writing, and another reason why all Freemasons should read his works.

In The Mysteries of John the Baptist, he remarks that 'there are two principle 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."' In Freemasonry: The Reality, he discusses what he views as the "real meanings in the now completely misinterpreted rituals and symbols of the craft."
But lest you decide that a scholarly critique should be ignored, keep in mind that as a Freemason and a scholar, he has license to offer that critique and the knowledge with which to back it up.

He also has the knowledge and vision to focus on the deeper truths and to describe them in remarkably clear ways, such as when in his work on Ashmole,  The Magus of Freemasonry: The Mysterious Life of Elias Ashmole--Scientist, Alchemist, and Founder of the Royal Society,  he cuts through the acquired ignorance of a few hundred years, and notes that "the adjective speculative generally referred to an occult activity, or one that involved mathematics or imaginative projection: that is, conjuring.  We have all at some time or another "conjured up an image." The earliest English masonic catechism, in answer to the question "How high is your lodge?" gives the answer "It reaches to the heavens." The lodge was an imaginative projection, "conjured up" by its members to embody a center of the universe."

In The Invisible History of the Rosicrucians, Churton digs deep beneath the surface and uncovers so much that came before the 18th Degree Rose Croix, Before Pernety, even before the Fama Fraternitatis to look at and connect the works of Arab scholars such as Abu Ma'shar al-Balki to the winding thread of history which led to modern Rosicrucianism. In the process of examining the connection between Rabelais and the Fama, he provides a warning which some in the fraternity today should take seriously to heart.  "Let us look to the gates of Rabelais's "Abbey of Thélème." They bear the words "Here enter not vile bigots."... No narrow-minded, pompous churl, no puffed-up hypocrite — especially of the corrupt church and universities — will ever enter the abbey of "Do what thou wilt." To them, the abbey will always be closed, or nonexistent."

His other works of interest to Freemasons include The Golden Builders, an essay entitled Aleister Crowley and the Yezidis which is included in the volume entitled Aleister Crowley and Western Esotericism, edited by Henrik Bogdan, and the book which first drew him popular attention, The Gnostics.

If you are serious about Masonic education, take my advice. Give Albert Mackey a pass and read Churton first.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Gender Discrimination In North American Freemasonry: Opening a Can of Worms

In the past couple of weeks Gender Discrimination has come to occupy center stage in North American Mainstream Freemasonry. There has been plenty to be happy and distressed about regardless of where you stand on the issue.

On the one hand, Kentucky's Freemasons voted overwhelmingly to reject a proposal which would have banned publicly open gay men from being allowed to join or participate in Freemasonry. In Georgia, the Grand Lodge met and the voting members upheld Grand Master Douglas McDonald's edict outlawing homosexuality, and as Chris Hodapp put it, "threw in fornication for good measure." It is quite likely that had the general membership been able to vote there, Georgia would have followed Kentucky's example.

While the events have agitated mainstream Masonry's intellectuals and Blogosphere (often though not without exception one and the same) and would have likely been a source of embarrassment for Freemasonry if the general public actually paid any attention to Freemasonry anymore, the real significance of these events lie in an unanticipated, and even for the majority of Freemasonry's intellectuals, unwelcome side effect.

The ancient rearguard, the old fellows within Freemasonry, are admittedly out of touch with the modern world, and in attempting to ban any presence of Gays in Freemasonry, were demonstrating their sophisticated understanding of US society of the 1940s. They thrust the matter into the forefront and forced the mostly younger and more liberal segment of the membership who are not yet on death's door, to visibly and vocally object. They had no other real alternative. In fairness to them they fairly uniformly objected to such a blatantly gender biased policy. 

However, any rational individual will see the discrepancy here. For many years, indeed since the mid 1700s, that version of Freemasonry which evolved under the thrall of London's influence has denied the right of women to participate in Freemasonry. Although women did have that right and did and still do participate in Freemasonry as it developed outside the control of London's ideologues, what has come to be called "mainstream" Freemasonry in the US, has banned women.

Those mainstream voices representing the intellectual segments of "mainstream" Freemasonry in the US, who so vocally objected to the exclusion of Gays from their form of Freemasonry have just delivered a fatal blow to their own support of the ban on women. 

It was not their intention, and they will no doubt begin to develop a few sophisticated, but mostly unsophisticated denials. However, in voicing their objection to the banning of one gender related group, they have effectively invalidated the arguments supporting the banning of any gender related groups. In supporting the acceptance of Gays in Freemasonry, they have pulled the apron out from under the ban on women. To mix my metaphors, but totally in a way which is in keeping with Masonic symbolism, they will no doubt attempt to place the skeleton back in the closet, but once it is out, there really can be no going back.

That does not mean that mainstream Freemasonry in the US will suddenly embrace the admission of women into their ranks. It will no doubt, if my familiarity with it has provided me with any accurate insight, go down fighting, even until death. However, it will from this point on, hand the opposition to such a ban the ammunition to effectively deprive any mainstream Freemason with any shred of intellectual or ethical credibility, if they ever had any (and I maintain they never did) if they try to support an institution which refuses women admission.

Of course, as a private organization, as Masons themselves are so happy to point out, they can do as they wish. What has just happened however is that they have just made it that much less likely that mainstream Freemasonry has any chance of reversing a decades old decline that threatens them with extinction. The hypocrisy has been brought out into the light in such a way that it will be hard for any Freemason of conscience to ignore.

Those who have a conscience will have to think long and hard about whether they will capitulate to convenience and habit, or live up to what they claim are their own ethical standards. 

The rest of us in that other Masonic world, will be watching with interest. And although this post will no doubt be met with hostility from mainstream circles, the rest of us, while expecting the same rationalizations and justifications that allow mainstream Masons to look the other way while many jurisdictions continue to practice racial segregation "off the books", far from being antagonistic, will watch with hope.  

Friday, October 30, 2015

Georgia on my mind

I have watched with sad resignation the latest uproar over another really ignorant decision being made by yet another Grand Lodge of North American "Mainstream" Freemasonry. It might at this point be amusing if it weren't both so sad and so predictable.

As noted elsewhere, why is anyone surprised? It is after all, exactly the same as banning people of various races, religions, and yes, also genders. There is absolutely no difference between banning gays and banning women. It all points to an institution which has become so benighted and backward that it lives in the past and has little if any relevance in our modern world.

It doesn't need to be that way, and of course, I'm also not saying that to be relevant, the flood gates for women membership need be thrown wide open. I will offer the view that if "Mainstream" masonry does not simply die the sordid death it seems intent upon, it will eventually be a fully mixed organization. It may not have all that much time to make up its mind, though.

However, I'm also not writing this to make a case for mixed Freemasonry. That's been done time and again, both here and elsewhere.

Instead, I'd like to suggest a different solution to this current crisis. It is one that would, if it was done on a large scale, not merely force the current GL officers to back down, but would probably guarantee that they all leave office in short order.

I think that if there are any Freemasons of real moral character left in Georgia, they should simply demit en masse. It would cause a crisis in leadership and would change the entire system, not merely in Georgia but in the rest of the nation. It would turn the power structure upside down. That's what needs to happen.

Of course, I rather expect that we will hear a lot of verbal outrage for a few days and then things will go back to normal, until the next time.

So, until the next time,

Sic dixi (or is that sick dixie?)

Rosicrucian Manifestos at the Ritman Library

The traveling exhibition ‘Divine Wisdom – Divine Nature’, celebrating 400 years of Rosicrucian Manifestos which first opened in Germany in September last year and was shown in Switzerland in the spring of this year, opened in the Bibliotheca Philosophica Hermetica on 11 September 2015.

Each exhibition is devoted to the message of the Rosicrucian Manifestos in the visual language of the 17th century, showing the stunning engravings in the works of Heinrich Khunrath, Daniel Mögling, Robert Fludd, Michael Maier and Stephan Michelspacher, but will also have a special focus, depending on the setting of each successive exhibition.

While it is uncertain whether this exhibition may be brought to the United States, and it is unlikely that many here will be able to travel to see it at its current location, it is none the less well worth knowing about, and for those who cannot visit but have a strong interest in the subject, the catalogue is available in several languages and also as an ebook.

http://www.ritmanlibrary.com/books/rosicrucians/jose-bouman/divine-wisdom-divine-nature-2/

The BPH has a strong history of organizing exhibitions on the Rosicrucian theme. In 1995 the BPH organized together with the Herzog-August-Bibliothek in Wolfenbüttel the exhibition Cimelia Rhodostaurotica, followed in 1998 by the exhibition De Roep van het Rozenkruis. Vier Eeuwen Levende Traditie, which was organized with the Lectorium Rosicrucianum and the Royal Library in The Hague. The anniversary exhibition in Calw is also conceived as the third and final part of a set of exhibitions previously organized by the BPH in Florence in 1999 (Marsilio Ficino and the Return of Hermes Trismegistus) and in Venice in 2002 (Magic, Alchemy and Science 15th-18th centuries). The Florence exhibition celebrated the rediscovery of the Hermetic sources in the West, ending with Paracelsus, the ‘Trismegistus Germanus’ as he was also known; the Venice exhibition highlighted the influence of Hermetic thought in Western Europe, ending with the publication of the Geheime Figuren der Rosenkreuzer.


For more information, please see the announcement:  http://www.ritmanlibrary.com/2015/08/goddelijke-wijsheid-goddelijke-natuur/

and also explore the rest of the wonderful Ritman Library Website: http://www.ritmanlibrary.com/

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Further Alchemical Explorations from the Laboratory of Bollingen

It should be noted first of all, that this entry is not announcing a newly published book, nor even a newly discovered one over which I am enrapt with the initial thralls of excitement. I first read this book nearly 30 years ago, and while I have several of this author's titles lying about, it was actually the discovery that my copy of this book had somehow gone missing that lead me to consider recommending that others read it.

Those who know me well know that from time to time I will extoll the wisdom of that great Mage, the man who crafted the modern Temple of the Sun, Moon, and Soul, at Bollingen with his own hands, which should qualify him as a mason far more legitmately than most who claim that title today.

Of course, I refer to the Arch Druid, Spiritual Artificer, Alchemist, and Grand Necromancer of the modern era, whom we all know by his mundane name of Dr. Carl G. Jung. Those who know little of him will describe him as a psychologist, and are comfortable dismissing him thusly, probably thinking the title is defined in the terms of one of his teachers, Freud, with whom he ultimately disagreed, and not with any definition that describes how Jung himself took over that mantle and radically changed the ways in which we study and understand the human psyche.

However, I am not in this entry recommending any of Jung's books. Rather, I am recommending a title written by a life time student and collaborator of Jung's, Marie Louise von Franz.  One of my favorite of her titles, On Divination and Synchronicity: The Psychology of Meaningful Chance (Studies in Jungian Psychology), published in 1980, afforded my eyes a magical glimpse into the mechanics of our world, but one which I would recommend even more to any Mason, is the brief focus of this blog entry. I refer to is a small book called Alchemical Active Imagination, which was first published in 1979.

At least a handful of Masons, and certainly a few I know will have read to some level of depth, the works of Carl Jung. Of course, he was the man who more than anyone else, including his early mentor Sigmund Freud, made modern Psychology what it is. But as we have been reminded with the final publication of his master work, The Red Book (Liber Novus), he was also a Master Magician of the Psyche. At the heart of all this was Jung's interest in Alchemy and Gnosticism.

Jung's early publication, The Seven Sermons to the Dead (Septem Sermones ad Mortuos) which represents perhaps the central core of his Red Book, deals with a gnostic view of wisdom and also reflects the benefits of his approach to Alchemical studies.

From the liner notes of Alchemical Active Imagination:
Although alchemy is popularly regarded as the science that sought to transmute base physical matter, many of the medieval alchemists were more interested in developing a discipline that would lead to the psychological and spiritual transformation of the individual. C. G. Jung discovered in his study of alchemical texts a symbolic and imaginal language that expressed many of his own insights into psychological processes. In this book, Marie-Louise von Franz examines a text by the sixteenth-century alchemist and physician Gerhard Dorn in order to show the relationship of alchemy to the concepts and techniques of analytical psychology. In particular, she shows that the alchemists practiced a kind of meditation similar to Jung's technique of active imagination, which enables one to dialogue with the unconscious archetypal elements in the psyche. Originally delivered as a series of lectures at the C. G. Jung Institute in Zurich, the book opens therapeutic insights into the relations among spirit, soul, and body in the practice of active imagination.

A primary field of interest and writing of hers was alchemy, which von Franz always contextualized with Jungian psychological perspectives. She edited, translated and commented on Aurora Consurgens, attributed to Thomas Aquinas on the problem of opposites in alchemy and in her final years, she commented extensively on the Arabic alchemical manuscript of Muḥammad Ibn Umail Hal ar-Rumuz (Book of the explanation of the symbols). For alchemists, imaginatio vera was an important approach to matter. It resembles in many aspects the active imagination as elucidated by C. G. Jung. Marie-Louise von Franz lectured in 1969 about active imagination and alchemy and also wrote about it in in Man and His Symbols. Active imagination may be described as conscious dreaming. In Man and His Symbols, she described it as follows:

Active imagination is a certain way of meditating imaginatively, by which one may deliberately enter into contact with the unconscious and make a conscious connection with psychic phenomena.
A third field of interest and research was about synchronicity, psyche and matter, and numbers. It seems to have been triggered by Jung, whose research had led him to the hypothesis about the unity of the psychic and material worlds, i.e., that they are one and the same, just different manifestations.

For this and many other reasons, both von Franz' and Jung's work on Active Imagination, Gnosticism, and Alchemy should be considered reading material of high priority for Freemasons. In my own case, I tend to view the Jungian approach to Alchemy and Gnostic understanding of greater contemporary value than the more traditional approaches to Alchemy. As much as I love ritual, I know that all too many can get lost in it and never come to recognize its purpose. When one engages Jung's psychological approaches in depth, one in essence is exploring a modern extrapolation of the Masonic journey. One may wish to bear in mind that Jung's grandfather was not only a Master Mason, but a Grand Master of the Swiss Lodge, and may be forgiven for imagining that he had some awareness of Masonic studies as a result.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Martinism and Masonry: A Volume of Essays in Spanish from Masonica.es

CULTURA MASÓNICA Nº 23
Martinismo y masonería
Author: VARIOS AUTHORS; Jato Agüera, José Miguel
Colection: CULTURA MASÓNICA

Un extenso trabajo monográfico de 198 páginas en el que varios martinistas franceses y españoles de reconocido prestigio mundial explican desde diferentes ángulos las peculiaridades de esta sociedad iniciática tan cercana a la masonería.

Una obra que aclara de un modo preciso y riguroso todo lo que un masón quiere saber sobre el martinismo.

A comprehensive monograph of 198 pages in which several French and Spanish world reknowned martinists explain from different angles the peculiarities of this initiatory society which is so close to Freemasonry.

A work that clarifies in precise and rigorous form everything a Mason needs to know about Martinism.

Sumario Año VII / Nº 23 / OCTUBRE 2015
Summary (Year VII / No. 23 / OCTOBER 2015)

7| Cuadro de colaboradores (Table of Contents)

11| Editorial Abrir Espacios de Comprensión entre La Masoneriá y el Martinismo
( Editorial – To open spaces for understanding between Freemasonry and Martinism)

15| Algunas Explicaciones que un Masón y Martinista comentaría con un hermano Masón acerca del Martinismo.
(Some Explanations that a Brother (who is both) Mason and Martinist would Comment About to a Brother Masón Concerning Martinism.)
José Miguel Jato

43 | Papus y La Orden Martinsita
      (Papus and the Martinist Order)
Sâr Amorifer, P.I.

57 | Comentarios sobre el Ritual Martinista
        Comments about Martinist Ritual

87 | Louis-Claude de Saint-Martin...¿Francasón y Martinista?
       Louis-Claude de Saint-Martin... Freemason and Martinist?
Alfonso Marcuello

99 |Louis-Claude de Saint-Martin, El «Filósofo Desconocido»
       Louis-Claude de Saint-Martin, The “Unknown Philosopher.”
Jean-Marc Vivenza

121 | Enigmático Y Ancestral Legado de la Tradición Martinista
La Oración del Corazón
Seguro Sendero y Llave del « Ingreso en la realidad»
(Enigmatic and ancestral legacy of the Martinist Tradition
Prayer of the Heart
Safe Key and Path of the “Integration of Being”
Manuel M. Arce

139 | Louis-Claude de Saint-Martin y Los Ángeles
          Louis-Claude de Saint-Martin and the Angels
Jean-Marc Vivenza

159 | Anales Martinistas desde Los Orígenes Hasta Nuestros Días
         Martinist Annals from the Origins until Our Time.
Serge Caillet

183 | Catálogo Editorial de Masonica.es
            Editorial Catalog of Masonica.es


Click to view order page on masonica.es

(Please note: This journal is available only in a Spanish Language version. English translations of essay titles are provided here only for the benefit of Anglophone only readers, and is not meant to suggest that any materials in the book are in English. They are not.)

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

The Best Book on Masonic Philosophy Never Written by a Mason

Freemasons love to get enthusiastic about new books on Freemasonry, whether those are on the history of Freemasonry or on Masonic Philosophy. If you want some insight on whether that enthusiasm converts into sales for the authors, you'd better check in with a Masonic publisher. I know one or two, but am not one. That being said, I suspect they'll tell you that Freemasons are called that for a reason, they want it for free. 

Regardless of whether that is so or whether I am just being my usual cynical self, I have for a long time been fascinated by materials published with the Mason in mind. While my first love is books on ritual, followed by history, I also like books geared to masonic education and the philosophy of Freemasonry. 

You know the type;  titles that purport to substantiate claims that Freemasonry "makes good men better." Behind them all is the notion that an individual becomes a better person by become more self aware, and that, in some Dan Brownsian way, becoming truly self aware, we may become, if not gods, then at least somewhat more akin to them.

Although this post may sound, thus far,  to be dripping with sarcasm, it really isn't.  I happen to believe that perhaps the most significant thing we can accomplish in the realm of spiritual or self development is true and profound consciousness. I'm talking about the kind which is characterized by awakening from the trance of mundane life and the mindless pursuit of material existence which constitutes most people's awareness. That which is the point of Buddhism, the Tao, and even the Sufi. That is of course, the goal of Esoteric Freemasonry, and as much as most mainstream Masons manage to avoid it, it is also the main purpose of so-called "regular" Freemasonry.

I have been reading Masonic literature for years, and one thing that became clear to me a long time ago, was that there were quite a few authors who had learned how to talk about the subject, but precious few who seemed to understand what they were writing about. 

So, along the way, I began to examine literature about consciousness which was outside the Masonic tradition. From what I can see, many other Masons have in recent years done the same thing.  I plan on highlighting some relevant texts here from time to time, and will start with what is most likely the smallest and most unassuming one I have come across, but  which focuses intently on the subject of self awareness. It is not grounded in Masonic philosophy, but it speaks coherently on the subject which is at the heart of Masonic philosophy and is therefore a title I readily recommend to all.

This book does not make any pretense at being an academic text, nor of being grounded in a philosophical tradition of scholarship.  It is written in colloquial and intentionally simple language. Unlike Freemasonry, it does not rely on a peculiar system of morality, nor does it veil its message in allegory illustrated by symbols.  Unlike the traditional approach of Freemasonry, this text is as straight and as direct and as simple as the author could make a work dealing with such a weighty subject. That is one of the reasons I think most Freemasons who are interested in something more than cigars, whisky, and self congratulatory titles, should read this short work.

While I think that those who pursue the self-congratulatory titles are probably beyond hope, to the rest, I recommend you pour a single malt, light a maduro, sit back and read this book, as the author recommends, from cover to cover in one sitting. Don't worry, that's why it was written so that the average person can read it in an hour. It is worth the effort, and although I tend to avoid titles that seem to fit the genre we call "new age", this one is worth the read. It will, as the author suggests,"will turn your world inside out." It is a small book that makes a big claim. Unlike so much today, in "Lucid Living" Tim Freke keeps his word. This book lives up to the hype. 

Freke is able to do this because he casts an almost surgical glance at just what it is that we do with our brains, and just how we manage to fool ourselves most of the time. He dissects how we construct our understanding of experience, because he has been able to grasp how we are actually responsible for creating that experience, which makes it possible for him to help us deconstruct the illusions we have invented to trap ourselves.

It is a subtle process, this matter of uncreating our self illusions. For me at least, it has taken time. I agreed with most of the contents of this book for a long time before I began to "get" it. Perhaps you won't be as dense as I have been, but then I spent decades in an academic setting which causes us to become comfortable in the labyrinth we call the mind. 

This book has been one of the tools which has helped me shake myself free from the humbuggery of my own thought processes. I can think of no group of people in greater need of being shaken free from humbuggery than those who belong to the society of Freemasons. So go out and read it. 

PS: It should make your Freemasonic hearts pleased to know you can buy a digital edition for next to nothing!

Lucid Living: A Book You Can Read in One Hour That Will Turn Your World Inside Out

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Continuing Attacks on African Traditional Religions in Brazil by Evangelical Terrorists

11year old victim of Evangelical attackers
The crimes being committed by Evangelicals in Brazil should be widely known and equally widely condemned. In fact, crimes against African Inspired faiths everywhere need to be condemned and must not be tolerated. An attack against any religious faith is an attack against all. One may believe in any cosmology one wants, but enshrining intolerance and a sense of superiority over other religions is not religion, it's political hegemony and the ugliest form of bias which a religion can stoop to.

Since the Hedge last commented upon the situation in Brazil, the attacks have not stopped. The reports below show how bad the situation is.



video

After a second attack on his Terreiro (Afro-Brazilian Religious Temple) Pai Ribamarzinho de Goiás closed it down. Through physical violence, intimidation and hatred, the evangelical thugs appear to be waging an all out attack on traditional religions.  (Thanks to Alberto Jorge Silva for this video)


Bible planted by arsonists
Two teirreros (temples) of Candomblé were set on fire in the early hours of a Saturday morning in Goiás recently, about 5 hours apart, in the neighborhoods of Santo Antônio do Descoberto and Aguas Lindas. The owner of one of the sites, which was completely destroyed, said he found a Bible on the site after the fire.

­”The Terreiro was invaded a month ago and since then we have slept here to protect the property. It happened yesterday when I went to my home, around 6 am, a neighbor called me alerting me of the fire. When I arrived everything was destroyed” said the priest Babalorixá Pippa, 46, known as Babazinho. He ran the Terreiro that functioned in Santo Antônio do Descoberto. 

He and his wife, the Mãe de Santo (Priestess) Rejiane Varjão, held a charity supper to raise funds and thus rebuild the place, as it suffered a loss of approximately R $ 30 thousand ($7600) as a result of the previous attack. 

­ Babazinho stated “Now it's all over. We want to get out of here because we are afraid of someone doing something against our own lives. We are here with the moving van without knowing where to take what's left. The neighbors know who was responsible, but I understand they fear to talk. I believe it was an act of religious intolerance because I found a Bible inside after the fire.”


Child attending religious service attacked by Evangelicals
In another case,  in the Vila da Penha, in the north of Rio, an 11 year old girl attending a Candomblé religious service was hit on the head by a stone thrown at her by several attackers who fled the scene on a bus. The adult men with Bibles in hand called everybody at the scene 'devils', saying that “Jesus was coming back.” The girl who was left bleeding from the assault was taken to the Medical Assistance Desk (PAM) of Irajá, where doctors made a bandage on the wound.  The attack was recorded on the 38th DP (Bras de Pina) as a crime of religious intolerance and bodily injury, the child should be subjected to medical examination offense. Police are required to conduct due diligence to seek any pictures that may have been captured by security cameras and any witnesses who can help identify the perpetrators of the crime. The girl's grandmother stated to the press that her granddaughter wanted to make it publically known that she would continue her religious practice and that such attacks only make her more committed to her religious beliefs. (Information from Estadão and Extra)

The traditional peoples of African origin and religious communities see themselves as cultural resistance units in the country. These groups are characterized by maintenance of an African civilization which has survived in Brazil, constituting its own territories marked by community life, mutual aid, the reception and provision of social services.
                           
                                                                            * * *


Mãe Dede Iansã
Another recent case involved the death of Mãe Dede Iansã, Bahia, an elderly priestess who suffered systematic aggression from people who accused her of practicing a demonic cult. The heart attack that Mother Dede suffered is interpreted as a result of grief and suffering caused by the situation. Regardless of the cause of death of this traditional religious leader , the leadership of SEPPIR, an governmental organization founded to defend traditional religious practitioners and fight racism, regrets this loss, and points out the racist component of these attacks which are too often interpreted only as religious intolerance.


Protest against Evangelical Attacks
The Brazilian people have had a guarantee of freedom of worship since the Old Republic, in the nineteenth century. However, the religious practices of peoples and communities of African origin and their organized religious communities continue to be repressed and devalued. For decades they were required to petition for  police permission to run, for example. This history demonstrates the explicit racism underlying the recent attacks made against these communities, crimes that go beyond intolerance for their religious practices, but which certainly are also a major focus of the terrorism.


Lest US residents believe their nation has a better record, it should be noted that the African derived religions of Brazil are recognized officially by the Brazilian government as a national patrimony while too often in the US, local police forces are given free reign to invade religious festivals of African derived traditions, confiscating religious objects and arresting worshippers, as used to be done in Brazil a hundred years ago.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Max Gesner Beauvoir Dies

Max Gesner Beauvoir, recognized by many as the chief religious leader in Haitian Vodou died on Saturday Sept 12, 2015 at the age of 79 in the Haitian Capitol, Port au Prince, according to his family. A Haitian biochemist and houngan. Max Beauvoir held one of the highest titles of Voudou priesthood known as "Supreme Servitur", or supreme servant . This title is given to Houngans and Mambos; Voudou Priest and Priestesses, who have a great and very deep knowledge of the religion, also because of elder status within the religion. As Supreme Servitur, Max was seen as being of the highest authority within Voudou .

Beauvoir graduated in 1958 from City College of New York with a degree in chemistry. He continued his studies at theSorbonne from 1959 to 1962, when he graduated with a degree in biochemistry. In 1965, at Cornell Medical Center, he supervised a team in synthesizing metabolic steroids. This led him to a job at an engineering company in northern New Jersey, and later to a period as engineer at DEC in Massachusetts. His interest in steroids led him to experiment with  hydrocortisone  synthesized from plants. Beauvoir held a patent on the process of obtaining hecogenin from plant leaves until 1993. However, the death of his father led him to move back to Haiti in January 1973 and become a vodou priest.

In 1974, he founded Le Péristyle de Mariani, a Hounfour in his home (which also served as a village clinic) in the village of Mariani. He had a troubled relationship with the ruling Duvalier family. While he urged that they do more to meet the medical needs of the poor, his status as a houngan kept him from being subjected to much of the wanton violence exacted by theTonton Macoutes against critics.

During this period, he founded the Group for Studies and Research on the African Tradition (French: Groupe d'Etudes et de Recherches Traditionnelles, GERT) with a group of scholars, and later founded the Bòde Nasyonal in 1986 to counter the effects of the post-Duvalier dechoukaj violence which had targeted both Vodou practitioners and the Tonton Macoutes paramilitary, both of which had been used by the Duvalier regime to oppress the Haitian people.

In 1996, Beauvoir founded The Temple of Yehwe, a Washington, D.C.-based non-profit organization for the promotion of education concerning Afro-American religion. In 1997, he became involved with the creation of the KOSANBA group at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Beauvoir was interviewed in 1982 by Canadian ethnobotanist Wade Davis for his 1985 book The Serpent and the Rainbow, later made into a film, in which the actor Paul Edward Winfield, played a figure based losely upon Max Beauvoir.

Vodou is part of the culture of Haitians inherited from their African slave ancestors of the 16th and 17th centuries. It was forbidden during the time of French colonization and during slavery. The Vodou religion, which like other African Diasporic Religions combines African spiritual practice and cosmology with elements of belief, ritual, and cosmology of Roman Catholicism.  Since Haitian independence in 1804, it has none the less been exposed to the often open hostility of Catholic Clergy and more recently Protestant Evangelical sects which have often actively attacked, with personal physical violence, the practitioners of African derived spiritual traditions throughout the Americas, as well as in Africa.

Ati Houngan Max Gesner Beauvoir always seemed to take the time to answer inquiries personally. While he had no reason to be more than marginally aware of who I was, I knew some people who communicated with him fairly regularly. However, on those occasions when I reached out to him, he always took the time to respond to me personally, and sometimes in some significant length and detail. I have heard the same from others who contacted him over the years., He demonstrated in my opinion, all the characteristics one would expect of an individual of profound spiritual awareness. Most significantly, both humility and kindness. Me he be at peace with the ancestors.

Yon mapou Ginen tonbe! Max ou janbe, men poto mitan pa tonbe !

Montray Kreyol

24 horas (en español)

Obituary in the Washington Post

In New York TImes

In the Daily Mail (England)

The Straits Times (Singapore)

Thursday, September 3, 2015

The 2015 Esoteric Book Conference is upon us!

The 2015 Esoteric Book Conference will be in Seattle on September 26th and 27th, 2015.

The Esoteric Book Conference is an annual international event to bring together authors, artists, publishers and bookmakers working in the field of esotericism. In addition to presentations by notable authors and scholars, the conference opens it doors to publishers and booksellers showcasing new & used books as well as rare and hard-to-find esoteric texts. For two days the conference hosts the largest selection of esoteric books under one roof. Contemporary esoteric publishing, finepress book arts and antiquarian texts are offered to augment the libraries of readers, scholars and collectors alike.
This multi-disciplined conference will feature presentations by contemporary authorities researching and working in esoteric currents both East & West. Western Esotericism, Gnosticism, Theosophy, Mythology, Shamanism, Rosicrucianism, Sacred Sciences, Occulture and
World Religions are among the subjects to be represented. An esoteric book fair and art show will also be on site allowing education, vending and networking in a unique field of literary, historical and cultural arts.
This conference offers several opportunities for promotion, networking and exhibition for publishers, authors and artists who work in the esoteric publishing field. There will be two days of presentations wherein authors and scholars may present lectures as well as a book fair with scheduled book signings. On Saturday night there will be an evening of entertainment featuring various ritual performances.

http://esotericbookconference.com/

Tickets to the 2015 Esoteric Book Conference
$40.00–$160.00
Tickets are required to attend the presentations. The Book Fair, and Art Show are Free and open to the public.

To buy tickets click on this link

Friday, August 21, 2015

Bridges: If You Build Them, They Will Follow!

We have heard it said again and again; there is a crisis in modern Freemasonry. It may be argued that there are many, and it also may be argued that many identify the crisis in contemporary Masonry differently. It just may be possible to find a common focus.

That focus is Freemasonry's leadership. Mind you, although I do believe that if you are not part of the solution you are part of the problem, and the Leadership of Freemasonry too often is not part of the solution, the purpose here is not to criticize Masonic leadership. I believe, and my experience with masons who have leadership roles is that they often represent the best that you can find within the craft.

That being said, I have recently followed a discussion online, typical unfortunately of many I have witnessed over the years, of a very sincere brother who voiced opinions which are contrary in every detail with what Masonry is about, and yet, I experienced no surprise in hearing his opinions. A lot of regret, but no surprise. The opinions that far too many rank and file masons, all of them no doubt sincere and hard working masons regularly express are narrow minded, bigoted, dogmatic, and intolerant.

I am continually amazed that an organization dedicated to improving the individual and which espouses the universality of it's traditions, becomes intellectually mired in the minutia of dogma and sectarian differences. We can broadcast our concern for all humanity, but too often are incapable of demonstrating any humanity when dealing with other masons who possess what amounts in reality, in the reality that any rational human being would concur, to very minor differences in tradition.

We have managed to become blind to the forest by looking solely at our own tree.

What does any of this have to do with Masonic leadership? Well, who sets the example? Who leads? Who, to put it in blunt and very unmasonic terms, will these dogmatic brothers listen to? The leadership of their Grand Lodge of course.

Clearly, such remarks will be lost on the leaders of those Grand Lodges or Obediences which are led by people who have the same lack of understanding that I refer to. We all know some such jurisdictions, and I will not be so crude as to mention any geographical locations.  A godson of mine, who has been a member of one such jurisdiction, and whom I encouraged to take the route of "mainstream" Masonry because of his geographical constraints, has bemoaned the state of things in his own fine state. However, there are leaders in Grand Lodges in North America whom I am certain are more enlightened than their rank and file. Hopefully, they are not alone on the Grand Lodge level.

Those leaders, if they are alone in their own jurisdictions, have the responsibility to reach out to like minded masons across the country who hold similar positions, and do something to address the issue.

If they feel no pressure to do so for the obligations of Universal brotherhood or Masonic principles, they should at least consider the possibility that when those who are not Masons, "cowans" as the popular archaicism puts it, see such discourse, it reflects to them a sectarian organization that has ceased to understand its own teachings.

If the leadership does not realize that such bad habits exist among their rank and file, they aren't doing their jobs; if they do not recognize either how it hurts the craft or how it reflects a lack of internalization of fundamental Masonic principles, they do not deserve their positions. High titles should come with responsibility.

The time to address such serious problems within the craft is long overdue. There are many examples of fundamentalist religious bigotry in the world today, and we can see what it leads to. Can any Freemason committed to self improvement tolerate the same within their own lodge or jurisdiction? Well, that is not for me to say. Although actions speak louder than words, I have spoken.

I only hope someone is listening.

Eoghan Ballard ஃ

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Rough Ashlar No. 22: Sins of the Fathers

What's in a word? How do we parse our meanings and our language when we discuss matters Masonic? I find it fascinating how brethren in some obediences, mostly those with ties to the UGLE, but not exclusively, use certain highly charged and judgmental terminology to characterize other paths within Freemasonry, always to describe those Masonic obediences which they feel themselves to be in competition with or which they find intellectually threatening.

Inevitably, when it is pointed out that the terms they are using are offensive, they quickly point to the fact that their obedience, or Grand Lodge, or some Masonic Writer 150 years ago defined the term as they use it, to assert it is correct usage. None of that of course, in any way negates the fact that the terms are offensive. What they conveniently avoid stating, although often their attitude and statements make this clear, is that they were intended to be derogatory when they were coined, and are used in that manner today. The intent then was to discredit other varieties of Freemasonry, and claim sole authority for themselves.  The intent today is to defend what they were taught, because they are usually shocked when anyone contests the legitimacy of such views. It is even more troubling when these people do not behave otherwise like low lifes and have both documentation and educated commentary to back up their statements.

Freemasonry, like almost all other human traditions, is nuanced and multifaceted. It is never monolithic, although there are never a shortage of people who would prefer it were.

Language is at issue here almost as much as the sectarian mindsets it reflects. Terms such as bogus, clandestine, spurious,  and only to a slightly lesser degree, irregular are often used to describe many forms of Freemasonry. The logic of these perceptions and judgments are so ingrained that the average Mason considers them perfectly logical and legitimate perspectives. Seldom do any but a few with broader experience or education, even consider the possibility that the premises upon which these assertions and terms are based is at best seriously flawed. In point of fact, the terms are seldom used correctly even within the so-called Masonic definitions of the terms; they are invariably used as synonyms. In fact, those who do use them tend to get defensive when someone points out to them that such language can actually be derogatory,  insulting and demeaning. It occurred to me as I wrote this that it is very much like institutionalized racism, designed to be unseen to those guilty of it. "We are not biased, this view is correct."

All of this will change over time, one way or another. Either "mainstream" masons will simply get used to other forms being around and will perhaps grudgingly adjust, or by continual exposure, they will come to change their views. Alternately, mainstream masonry will continue to shrink until the variants will mostly be of equal or greater size and their voices will have no real significance anymore. It would be nice, but probably too much to hope for, that the leaders of UGLE derived Freemasonry in the US, will see fit to drop the fossilized ideas of 200 years ago and join the 21st century.

I have recently had a discussion with some brethren, and I must admit there has been a little growth, though not nearly enough, since the last time I dealt with the topic at length. That may just be chance, but I hope it means that prolonged exposure to the wider Masonic world is giving some of my brethren pause for thought.

The terms themselves are not legitimate. In theory, regularity is an important consideration for Masons. But who in reality made it so, and does it even bear any relationship to its origins any longer? At one time, when all masons were operative masons, there was a legitimate reason for that concern. It not only was a matter of being able to perform serious work well, but was tied to one's livelihood. With the advent, not so much of speculative masonry as of the establishment of Grand Lodges, the issue became about power and influence, not safety, skill, and livelihood. One has to question why a group of men, whom we now know were not unique among masons in their day, and by no means the first or only, should represent the establishment of a universal hegemony within Masonry.

Especially when their leadership is driving Freemasonry to its grave.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Vandalism at the Provincial Grand Lodge of Madrid

En la noche del 15 de agosto del 2.015, la puerta de la sede de la Gran Logia de España - Grande Oriente Español en Madrid, aparece con carteles de una organización de ultraderecha, con imágenes xenófobas, antisemitas y racistas.
Los hechos han sido denunciados a la policía.

— Gran Logia Provincial de Madrid

On the night of August 15, 2015, the door of the headquarters of the Grand Lodge of Spain - Spanish Gran Oriente in Madrid, appears with signs of an organization of right-wing, xenophobic, anti-Semitic and racist images.
The facts have been reported to the police.

— Provincial Grand Lodge at Madrid


http://gle.org/

https://www.facebook.com/glpmadrid

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Reclaiming Freemasonry in the Post Modern Epoch

Modern Tracing Board by Joseph Thompson
Among the many things that occupy my thoughts and in seeking out the tasks in front of us all,  it occurs to me, and from what I can see, a few others as well, that in bringing a revitalization and renewed energy to Freemasonry, we have to really take stock of what it is that drives Freemasonry.

It should be evident to any Mason who has given serious thoughts to the state of Freemasonry, that the tried and true answers that have frequently been spoken of are insufficient to bring new life into Freemasonry. Freemasonry, to be again vibrant and successful as an institution, must have renewed purpose.

It is not going to capture that energy it needs to become strong again by speaking of "making good men better" or even speaking in a more substantive way of the Mason's search for self understanding and improvement. There are too many ways for people to do that. While those things will remain in the heart of Freemasonry, and of course also in its living practice, we need more. Freemasonry needs a new spirit, a new focus to see itself renewed.

In the early days of Speculative Freemasonry before it made a pact to become involved with nation building, as it did during the growth of the British Empire or its conflicted and conflicting role during the French Revolution, it was actively involved in the intellectual and the social politics of its day. By social politics, I am referring to its involvement with the new societal ideals which flooded societies of the enlightenment.

Today, we find ourselves in a new world - postmodern, post-industrial and although not all have realized or admitted it yet, a post-capitalist one. If there are any space in which Freemasonry can make itself relevant today, it most surely will be by offering light on the societal challenges we face. Those are, among others, the ecological crisis we face as a planet, and the social and humanitarian crises that our now global society will have to deal with urgently and effectively if we are to survive as a species.

These ideas may seem to those who were initiated and raised in what is thought of today as "old school" Freemasonry as startling, or at least unconsidered, but are they that foreign to the spirit which inspired the foundation of Speculative Freemasonry in its early days? I think not. It seems that as Freemasons, we have bigger fish to fry than worrying about falling numbers and how to make lodge more interesting for young people. Freemasons always led by example, and I think it is time that we do so again.

Doubtlessly, not all will be thrilled with such notions, and I've no doubt they're ready to dismiss them. So be it. But if a handful of Freemasons and a few Masonic obediences or Grand Lodges have enough vision to take the first steps in such a direction - engaging these issues and becoming not only spokespersons for change in the larger society, as well as within their lodges, they can lead the way. None of this means turning our backs upon tradition, ritual, or those things with which we are accustomed and which we as Masons love. It means recapturing the true spirit which led our forefathers to found the craft in the first place. It means requiring of ourselves that we take what we preach, what we study, and what we claim to be our highest intentions, and bringing them out of theory and introspection, out of discussion, and lectures, and architecture, and into the world of action, grappling as Freemasons with the real problems in the world in which we live. To do less is unmasonic.

It only takes a few visionaries. Does the craft still have any of those?