Monday, April 30, 2012

CLIPSAS General Assembly May 17-20 in Casablanca

The CLIPSAS General Assembly this year will take place in Casablanca (Morocco), from May 17th to 20th at the Golden Tulip Hotel in that city.

The theme of the conference will be “Masonry and the Youth of Today.”

CLIPSAS Program Casablanca 201
Wed. May 15-16

Welcome to Partcipants
acommodation and Assembly Registration CLIPSASAgency “Acacia Concierge Services” Golden Tulip Hotel,

Thursday May 17
CLIPSAS Bureau Meeting (8:30am – 6:30pm)
Dinner for members of Obedience, GM or Head delegation, hosted by the GLM GM (8pm)

Friday, May 18

Colloquium Conference
8:30 am – 10:30 am: Opening of the Colloquium
10:30 am – 10:45 am: Coffee Break
10:45 am – 12:30 pm: Continuation of Discussion
12:30 am - 2:30 pm: Lunch
2:30 pm – 4:30 pm: Continuation of Discussion
4:30 pm – 4:45 pm: Coffee Break
4:45 pm – 6:30 pm: Continuation and conclusion of Colloquium
Seashore Dinner (8:00 pm)

Saturday, May 19

General Assembly
8:30 am – 10:30 am: Opening GA of CLIPSAS
10:30 am – 10:45 am: Coffee Break10:45 am – 12:30 pm: Continuation of General Assembly
12:30 am - 2:30 pm: Lunch
2:30 pm – 4:30 pm: Continuation of General Assembly
4:30 pm – 4:45 pm: Coffee Break
4:45 pm – 6:30 pm: Continuation and conclusion of General Assembly
Gala Dinner at Golden Tulip Hotel (8:00 pm)

Sunday, May 20

Closing GLM
9:00 am – 12:00 pm Closing of GLM
Dismissal of Participants

What is CLIPSAS?
CLIPSAS is the world's largest organization of liberal and adogmatic Freemasonry with groups of 71 Obediences in 41 countries in Europe, Africa, Asia and the Americas around the Call of Strasbourg, hence the meaning of its French acronym (Liaison Centre et d'Information des Puissances maçonniques Signataries de l'Appel de Strasbourg) meaning "Liaison and Information Center of the Masonic Powers signatories of the Strasbourg Appeal."

In its statement of principles CLIPSAS expresses its absolute fidelity to the message of tolerance, brotherhood and unity contained in the Constitutions of Anderson, and that Freemasonry's mission is to gather people without barriers between them and the Mason's duty to be a element of harmony among all human beings.

CLIPSAS also believes that the essence of Freemasonry is its social ideal of brotherhood and duty and not in the rigid observance of any custom, even if it is traditional. CLIPSAS believes in a spirituality that leads humans to seek (a positive) future for humanity and in improving their living conditions. Being progressive, liberal and adogmatic Masonry is consistent in carrying out within the modern scientific society the original principles of Freemasonry which by its natural extension include, complete freedom of spirit, and admit no absolute restriction on freedom of conscience.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Words of Wisdom from the World's Most Spiritual Spiritual Leader

The Dalai Lama stated on Wednesday:

"The world belongs to humanity, not this leader, that leader, kings or religious leaders. The world belongs to humanity. Politicians at times forget that, even in democratic countries like the United States. Sometimes they are short-sighted. They are mainly looking for the next vote."

Need we say more?

The Masonic Spectacle of Dom Pedro I & Jacques de Moley

"The Masonic Spectacle of Dom Pedro I" & "Jacques de Molay: The End of the Order of the Temple."

The Brazilian Actor and Freemason, John Vaz, has over the last several years been producing and performing in two stage productions with strong Masonic Themes. He has taken these shows to venues across all of Brazil, with performances in 41 cities. Not only due to his well documented and rewarded personal talent, but also due to the subject matter and professional quality of these plays, it is high time he should be noted by a Masonic audience beyond his native Brazil.

Espetáculo Maçônico D. Pedro I. What went on inside the Masonic Gran Orient Lusitano of Lisbon in 1834? This production, Espetáculo Maçônico D. Pedro I. is a detailed account of the whole trajectory of the life of Pedro IV of Portugal (Emperor Pedro I to Brazilians) from his arrival in Brazil and that of his family in 1808, through the regency of his father, returning to Portugal for his family, the regency of Pedro I, behind the scenes of "Day I" and "independence of Brazil," the abdication of the throne and Brazilian Portuguese, the deposition of his daughter Mary, as Queen of Portugal, and the war he fought against his brother Miguel for the Portuguese throne. Figures such as José Gonçalves Ledo and Boniface are highlighted in the piece.

The production is a detailed history lesson of unprecedented cultural and educational useful and should even be of interest to North Americans.The text for the performance was drafted by the survey of historical sources and the minutes from the Lodges of the Masonic ARTS AND COMMERCE RJ (GOERJ) and also utilized the reports of The Masonic Museum of the Gran Oriente LUSITANO in Portugal.Following on the heels of the success of the production on Pedro I, Vaz created a second play showcasing Masonic history.

Jacques De Molay: O Fim Da Ordem Do Templo (Jacques De Molay: The End of the Order of the Temple) is a dramatic presentation on the history of the Templars, told in the voice of the last Grand Master of the Order. It looks back to the origins of the Order, of the Temple building of Solomon, through the Crusades, the approach of another Order - the Masons, culminating in the standoff with the French King Philip who coveted the power and treasure of the Templar order.

The Brazilian Actor, widely acclaimed as the Thousand Faces of the Brazilian Theatre, John Vaz, is an expert at interpreting historical figures for the theatre and both the large and small screen. Vaz was Coordinator of the Theatre of the Republic Museum, Rio de Janeiro. (1999-2007). He has been the subject of books and articles published by O Globo. Vaz has played a gallery of characters including the French poet and actor Antonin Artaud, the Marxist philosopher Louis Althusser, the rubber tapper Chico Mendes, the bossa nova President Kubitschek for which Vaz was awarded the Medal JK in 2002, ousted President Joao Goulart, the revolutionary Che Guevara and now the emperor Dom Pedro I. On television, he acted in the miniseries "Amazon" where he performed the Bolivian Colonel Rosendo Rojas. He also performed the role of JANGO in "miniseries JK" in 2006, participated in the soap opera "Belo" in 2008, the novel "Pura Beleza".

2012 shows include but are not limited to the following venues:

February - Mariana, Barbacena and BH MG

March: Ponta Grossa, PR Curitiba and Spa Camburiú SC

June: Tangara da Serra MT

September: Alegrete RS

Contact information: Schedule: 021 2225-6175 and 8726-9359 / j.vaz @

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Reflexions over the French Rite and the "Moderns"

The editorial introduction to an ambitious project begun last year by the group of masonic writers and scholars calling themselves "The Study Circle of the French Rite of Roëttiers of Monteleau" indicates that they are aware of the deficiencies and gaps in the knowledge available today concerning the ritual known as the French or Modern Rite, which, they state is nothing more nor less than the foundational Rite of Freemasonry derived from so-called "Moderns". They indicate that given the great importance of this rite,
they decided to
do something about it. Their efforts thus far are worthy of a lot more notice than they have received to date.

In a spirit of fraternity that many would be commended for emulating, they have made the fruit of their initial efforts available online for free. Currently, the Primier edition of their Journal, entitled REvista del Círculo de Estudios del Rito Francés "Roëttiers de Montaleau" No. 0, Primer Semestre del 2011, may be downloaded free of cost at a number of sites. At the end of this post, you will find a link to directly download the entire issue.

Currently, the magazine, and it is sufficiently ample and professional, in content, layout, and illustration to easily deserve that term, is available only in Spanish, which may seem odd to some, but as already noted in other postings at the Hedge Mason and on the site of the Roosevelt Center, the masonic communities in Spain are especially active, perhaps deserving the description of the most energized in Europe. So, we find a group of pr
ofessionals and masons, writers and researchers who have congregated around, among other obediences, the Gran Logia Simbolica Española, who are deeply committed to work related to the French Rite. This magazine is one product of their efforts. Work is underway to translate this small tome into English to provide more light on the subject, especially in the US. We will post more information on that as that work progresses.

Some of the content of this magazine include a report of the International Assembly of the V° Order, "The French Rite in America, Development, Awakening, and Survival" by Rodrigo Alvarez Reynal; and "The French Rite in Brazil" by Joaquim Villarta. All in all, these strong contributions share space with no less than 16 other articles, many of which are colorfully illustrated. And, in case I haven't stimulated your curiosity sufficiently, did I mention that the product is available as a free, full color PDF download?

Fair enough, no more delay, here is the link. If you are fluent in Spanish, don't delay. If not, while you are waiting for the English edition, remember that Spanish is going to be heard more and more frequently in Lodges in the coming years, so exercize that intellectual muscle between your ears a little and try it.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Return of the Chapter of Wisdom

Formed by brothers who took time to select a name, define the invocation for the opening of the work, the conditions for the provision of oath or promise to give impact to the ritual; this is what makes the lodge demonstrate the will of its founders.

This was the case even in half of the lodges which sought a patent after demonstrating their ability to manage and promote a initiation. Obedience, which has no call initiation, could not lead to a lodge. Only the will and the union of brothers and their appeal to the Grand Architect grounded on the fraternity and report on their work, could make a just and perfect lodge.

The General Grand Chapter of France was formed by seven sovereign chapters in 1784, and these acted to create the Degree of Wisdom of the French Rite, outside the limits of any one obedience. This they did while taking into account the guidelines of GOF but it was founded on an need that emerged naturally in the whole territory and in the heart of the chapters and brothers who composed it.

The rules of the obedience gradually led to the loss of the deeper meaning of the rites. Successive amendments have hidden symbols and secrets have been misunderstood, and this of course has limited the space for expression of feelings. Where nothing can be explained, the square is open to brute authority, personal ambition and single-mindedness, and of course the power struggles that are distinguished more by reference to what is not allowed than that to which has no circumscribed limits. A return to tradition cannot occur without the participation of all those who have discerned a need.

Having accepted that we have lost everything except the faith in Freemasonry, everything must be rebuilt with different materials, especially by those who chose the strategy over stagnation reflection rather than diatribe, combining their personal views with a confidence in providence, who seek perfect harmony and have hope.

The appearance in the contemporary French Masonic landscape Masonic of a moral authority was a totally unexpected event but one that fed the power of hope that is emerging in Europe. The only country in the world which has uninterruptedly practiced all the Degrees of Wisdom of the Modern French Rite, Brazil, invited all who wished to meet the criteria regardless of sex and obedience, to end the artificial barriers and to revive the tradition of the Modern Rite in its openness and its initiatory vocation full of freedom, humility and spirituality.

That is the appeal of the Charter of Barcelona, which was launched the day of Pentecost by the Modern Rite Supreme Council for Brazil and through the creation of the Union of Modern Rite Masonic Universal.

Representing France were brothers and sisters belonging to the symbolic lodges of the GLNF, GLTSO, GOTM, GLMF, Masonic Universal Alliance and the Alliance of Free and Sovereign Lodges of the French Rite and the Lodges of Free and Sovereign San Juan. Representation of these chapters has issued the Modern Rite Sublime Council for France , co-founder of the Universal Masonic Union of the Modern Rite, now recognized as legitimate authority to bind the Sovereign Chapters of the French or Modern Rite.

This federal Sublime Council includes a female Grand Chapter, a Joint Chapter Large Chapters and two Great Men who have chosen different rules on the functioning of the Chapters that are members, but all Sovereign Chapters are open to inter-visit and the spirit of the Charter of Barcelona.

(Gracias a Victor Guerra)

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Studia Occulta Islamica

A new journal of interest to all fascinated by the roots of Hermeticism and Masonic Esotericism.
A few months ago I first became aware of the Societas Occulta Islamica thanks to a friend and brother mason in South Africa, who maintains a wonderful blog known as Hermesphilus (
Well, time rests for nobody, and it appears that the Societas Occulta Islamica is hard at work. They have announced the launching of a peer-reviewed electronic journal entitled Studia Occulta Islamica (

The inaugural issue of Studia Occulta Islamica will be devoted to the premier Occult Sage of Islamicate Civilization, Abū-l-‘Abbas Aḥmad ibn ‘Ali ibn Yūsuf al-Qurashī al-Būnī (d. 622 H / 1225 CE at Cairo) and his formidable oeuvre, which has been aptly termed the ‘Corpus Būnīanum’ by Jan Just Witkam. Without doubt the most distinguished work of the Corpus Būnīanum is the celebrated Shams al-Ma‘ārif al-Kubrā (The Great Sun of Knowledge) which will be the principal work of focus in the first issue of Studia Occulta Islamica.

The electronic publication of the Buni number is projected to occur on 1 September 2012 14:33 GMT (16:23 Cairo). Print copies may be made available on demand after this time as well.

Future issues of the journal will investigate the Divine Names, ‘Ilm al-Jafr, Astrology, Alchemy, ‘Magic Squares’, et cetera…

Papers from researchers in Islamic studies as well as those with interdisciplinary interests are most welcome. Please see the links below for further information. All submissions are subject to blind peer-review.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

International Academy of the Order of Wisdom V°


While this news may be a bit late, the Hedge Mason may be excused for reporting on this event nearly a year later, as this blog did not exist at the time. Besides, it may be noted that other reports on this event in English have not to this writer's knowledge seen the light of day. So, forth with, the Hedge Mason wishes to share a report on a significant event which occurred in Barcelona last year. No doubt it with have an impact, even here in the US in the years to follow.

TheUniversal Union of the Modern Masonic Rite.

The motives which gave birth to it are not new. They had been circulating for quite a few years. Brother Jean-Geoges Plumet (GCGRF-GODF) long ago noted that the main issue among other mandatory topics which needed to be resolved was whether the GCGRF-GODF was or was not a mixed rite.

Subsequently all that has been reviewed from other perspectives, with new forms and by brothers reflecting a more diverse set of backgrounds. As a result of these discussions and debates, the Universal Union of the Modern Masonic Rite was born in Barcelona on June 23, 2011, whose policy statement has been published on several blogs and web pages.

Assembly of V °

Within the Universal Union of the Modern Masonic Rite, the members of the Vth Order of Wisdom from its plurality, approved the constitution of the UMURM but also the creation of:

The V° International Academy of the Order of the Modern Rite, and this simultaneous broad approval underscored the two primary missions which it has been charged with performing:

  • To be a laboratory of thought to reflect on the meaning, philosophy, values, and ethics that correspond to the Modern Rite.

  • To be an Academy Rite capable of finding and disseminating that can assume the role of a true conservatory Modern Rite, and finally, to advise any Supreme Council, Grand Chapter General Body or other philosophical demands.
  • This Academy will work beyond boundaries and obediences without normative will, respecting the absolute independence of each of its members.
  • This Academy will be open to any Power Sovereign, Independent Chapter, but also, personally and individually to any holder of the V° Ord. Modern Rite, expressing his desire to be part of it and attesting documentation of the possession of their titles.

The leaders charged with carrying out these mandates are:

Victor Guerra V° Order , Grade 9, as Director of the Academy of the V° Order of Modern Rite

Hervé Vigier, V° Order, Grade 9, Coordinator of the Department of History and Legend of the International Academy of the V° Order of Modern Rite.

Jean van Win , V° Order, Grade 9, Coordinator of the Research Department of the Masonic Academy, V° International Order of Modern Rite.

Victor Guerra, Jean Hervé van Win and Hervé Vigier during their appointment.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

13th Havana Film Festival in NYC

Soy Tata Nganga: A documentary about Central African Religious Traditions in Cuba and the life of Enrique Hernández Armenteros.

Soy Tata Nganga (I Am a Tata Nganga) will be shown at Quad Cinema on Wednesday, April 18th, 2012 at 3:00pm as part of the 13th Havana Film Festival New York.

It is highly recommend it to anyone who appreciates Afro-Cuban culture, especially Las Reglas del Congo (The Congo Rite), known colloquially as Palo. The 22 minute documentary is based on the life of Enrique Hernández Armenteros also known as "Enriquito de la Hata," or simply "La Hata", a 93 year old man who has dedicated close to six decades of his life to las Reglas del Congo, has over 2000 godchildren, and founder of the procession of San Lazaro el Milagroso. The film is not only one of the few positive depictions of this religion currently available that is tastefully and professionally done but also a treasure for those who value the insight of a generation that is sadly disappearing.

For more information on the details of the event please follow this link:

Friday, April 13, 2012

Freemasons: Masters in Africa

It should come as no surprise that whether as a legacy of colonization or viewed as a return to it's birthplace, Freemasonry has spread throughout Africa.

Freemasonry has always fascinated Africans, particularly south of the Sahara, where initiation, esoteric worldviews akin to Hermeticism and rites of passage are the basis of community life. Although found in Anglophone Africa, in Francophone Africa the fraternity of "sons of light" has long been at the heart of what was called Françafrique. Whether leftist and right wing, many leaders of France's African policy were Freemasons. Diagne in the early 1920s until more recently Omar Bongo - who was the most famous African insiders have been active in the growth of the craft in Africa. A complex of mutual dependence where one can not distinguish what is lobbying, comprehensive insurance or pure spirituality, Freemasonry serves as many roles in the mother continent as it does elsewhere in the world.

This relative opacity that obscures rivalry as well as the amazing pageantry symbolic science of "three brothers" have led many fantasy wizards fan the flames of " Masonic conspiracy "that haunted Felix Houphouet-Boigny in the early 1960s. The high ranking involvement of Gabon's Omar Bongo, as with Côte d'Ivoire's Henri Konan Bedie, made it impossible to be influential in Libreville and Abidjan without being a mason. Freemasonry whether viewed as totem or taboo was absolutely essential to survival. What about today in the age of the Internet? The brotherhood of aprons, white gloves, squares and pillars of the temple is more than ever a path that works.

In the 1930s in Ghana, a Masonic lodge known as the Good templars was photographed by J.K. Bruce Vanderpuije. I have found no other information about them, but even in relative anonymity, they speak profoundly of the way in which Freemasonry, born out of Egyptian Hermeticism, and interpreted for centuries through the lens of European intellectualism and esotericism, was none the less evoked a strong sense of belonging to Africans across the continent.

Present but unobtrusive, in a "philosophical school" traditionally considered macho and on a continent where feminism is hardly viewed with respect, obediences which admit women have none the less found their space. Masonry where diversity is accepted - such as Le Droit Humain- but also in various lodges created by the Feminine Grand Lodge of France (GLFF), which opened lodges in seven African countries has grown. Madagascar even has a national obedience which is specifically feminine, the Great Malagasy Women's Rite. As their "sisters" of France, African Feminine masons are distinguished by their strong commitment to certain principles, such as defense of secularism and promoting women's rights, including the right to abortion.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Freemasonry in Seville

The Hedge Mason has mentioned before that perhaps the most exciting developments in European Freemasonry are occurring in Spain. Here we provide a link to a show presented by El Programa GPS dedicated to Masonry in the city of Seville, which was presented last year. The episode includes interviews with among others, representatives of the Lodge Obreros de Hiram (Workers of Hiram) of the Gran Logia Simbolica Española, including the first female grandmaster in Spanish Freemasonry, Ascension Tejerina and a professor of philosophy, Jose Carlos Carmona (University of Seville )

Unfortunately, there are no subtitles for English speakers, but most in the Americas, including a substantial minority in the US, will be able to follow this show without problems.

Editing and postproduction: Ivan Puente

Monday, April 9, 2012

Lodges of Ireland

It's been quite a while since the Hedgemason has last highlighted a piece of literal architecture.

My wife, who is Cuban, pointed out that I have given too much attention to Cuba on my blog even though I am Irish. As always, I bow to the wisdom of "She who must be obeyed" and went straight to work to provide a brief and admittedly incomplete entry on some random lodges in Ireland that happened to catch my fancy. I hope you all enjoy.

Inch Island in Donegal is a remarkable place. In addition to having been home to both Catholic and Protestant communities since the 1700s, it has played a role in Irish political and cultural history, and still does. Today, the Inch House Irish Studies Centre, a center for visiting University programs from around the world, inhabits a home built in the late 1600s for a local landlord. Here we see a photo of the old Inch Masonic Lodge.
The lodge looks quite forlorn; being overgrown with furze bushes and ivy overtaking its slate roof shingles. Rest assured that the masons in Inch have more comfortable if not quite so picaresque accommodations in a newer and more ample lodge building. The Lodge itself was founded in 1781 and as some residents of the area played not insubstantial roles in the Fenian uprising of the period, it stands to reason that the local masons most likely played a part in that sadly failed attempt at gaining liberty for Ireland.
Although the old lodge does not look like much today, we can catch a hint of its former beauty from this stained glass window which was formerly a part of the lodge.
It is important to consider, when we look at Lodges in Ireland, especially those from this period, that our conceptions about political and religious divisions in contemporary Ireland are not as accurate as we believe. The Society of United Irishmen (Cumann na hÉireannaigh Aontaithe) was founded as a liberal political organisation in eighteenth century Ireland that sought Parliamentary reform. However, it evolved into a revolutionary republican organisation, inspired by the American Revolution and allied with Revolutionary France. It launched the Irish Rebellion of 1798 (The Fenian Uprising) with the objective of ending British monarchical rule over Ireland and founding an independent Irish republic. The leader of this movement was Theobald Wolfe Tone, a Belfast Protestant, and as recent research has amply demonstrated, the Freemasons quite often supported efforts at achieving the goal of an independent Ireland. One result of this failed revolution was the institution of a national school system throughout Ireland dividing its youth by religious affiliation and teaching separate histories of Ireland to Protest and Catholic in a rather successful attempt at creating internal strife. This belies the real history, especially of Ulster. For example, in 1865, the Synod of the Presbyterian Church in Ulster (now Northern Ireland) recommended that the students in the Presbyterian Seminary be instructed in the Irish language as the majority of its members in the rural areas spoke only Irish Gaelic and knew little or no English. In 1911, the census for Ireland documented that one hundred years ago there were as many Irish speakers on the Shankill Road as there were on the Falls Road. Shankhill was a stronghold of the Protestant community while the Falls Road was Catholic.

In keeping with this contradiction of the modern fault lines in Irish society, we find a grave stone from the old cemetery of Kildemock, Co. Louth. County Louth is one of the counties of the Province of Ulster which became part of the Irish Free State when the Island was divided early in the last century. This ancient stone, shows masonic and catholic symbols side by side on one stone. The Gravestone bears the name of Morgan, a mason who died in 1791. The Archaeologist, Robert M. Chapple, speculates that he may have been either a warden or the master of the local lodge. Someone should see if any lodge records can shed light on this.

Moving to the beauty of County Down, St. Patrick's Masonic Lodge No. 77 founded in 1737 in Newry, Co. Down has been meeting in this building since 1887. The Hall is shared with 5 other Craft Lodges as well as various other branches of Freemasonry. It is also home to Newry Masonic Social Club which is open to members 6 nights a week and hosts many functions throughout the year.
One of the more impressive lodge buildings in Ulster is that of Harmony Lodge 586 Enniskillen
Irish Constitution. Antient Free and Accepted Masons in the Provence of Tyrone & Fermanagh.
Here we see it on a day that is remarkably clear skied for Enniskillen. I do not wish to demean the fair city of Enniskillen, but I have never been there when it wasn't raining cats and dogs. Of course, I've only been there in November or December, so I shouldn't be surprised. The welcome which the residents offer more than makes up for the weather, though. Masonic Lodges in Enniskillen date back to 19th June 1733, when Warrant No. 17 was issued. There are currently 12 Lodges working in Co. Fermanagh, 6 of which are in Enniskillen. In the Province of Tyrone & Fermanagh there are currently 41 Lodges working.

Now we will move on, as I do not wish to give the impression either that I am biased or that there are only Masonic Lodges in Ulster. So, our next image is of Freemason's Hall at 17 Molesworth Street, in the capital city of Dublin. Situated in the heart of Old Dublin. Home of the Grand Lodge of Ireland, it was designed by the architect Edward Holmes of Birmingham and completed in 1866 on the site of the townhouse of the first grandmaster, the Earl of Rosse. The Grand Lodge of Ireland is the second most senior Grand Lodge of Freemasons in the world, and the oldest in continuous existence. Since no specific record of its foundation exists, 1725 is the year celebrated in Grand Lodge anniversaries, as the oldest reference to Grand Lodge of Ireland comes from the Dublin Weekly Journal of 26 June 1725. This describes a meeting of the Grand Lodge to install the new Grand Master, the 1st Earl of Rosse, on June 24. The Grand Lodge has jurisdiction over 13 Provincial Grand Lodges covering all the Freemasons of the island of Ireland, and another 12 provinces worldwide.

There is considerable evidence of Masonic Lodges meeting in Ireland prior to the 18th century. The story of the Lady Freemason, Elizabeth St Leger, dates to a time prior to the existence of the Grand Lodge, also there are references to Lodge meetings across Dublin in a speech given in Trinity College, Dublin as far back as 1688. The oldest artifact of Fraternal Masonry in Ireland, and one of the oldest masonic artifacts in the world is the Baal's Bridge Square, which dates from 1507. Here, we see the preserved apron which belonged to Elizabeth St. Leger. A fascinating account of her life and entrance into the craft is provided by Karen Kidd in her book entitled "Haunted Chambers: The Lives of Early Women Freemasons." Elizabeth St. Leger was recognized throughout her life as a Freemason, and when she died the Square and Compass were engraved on her tombstone. History does not record that there were any objections.

Lest we be accused of ignoring the Province of Munster, I've included a photo of a Masonic Hall in the city of Cork. This building has been the headquarters for Freemasonry in the province of Munster since 1844. It was built c. 1770, in the then recently developed Tuckey's Street (1761) and is shown on a city map of 1771. In 1844, the First Lodge of Ireland purchased the entire building for its use, and that of the quarterly general meeting of the province. In 1925, when all other city lodges came together at this premises, the top floor was added to provide additional capacity. The stalls and panelling in the Lodge Room were taken from St. Fin Barre's Cathedral in 1866 and are about 300 years old.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

The True Chamber of Reflection

It is rightly claimed that Freemasonry is "a beautiful system of morality, veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols."

In those forms of Freemasonry that hold true to their spiritual foundations, a new initiate is led to a small room dark but for the light of the moon or a small candle. Here, amid symbols meant to cause one to ponder the purpose of life, the aspirant is meant to begin the inward journey of self discovery which Freemasonry is intended to be.

While mainstream Freemasonry may arguably be said to have virtually abandoned this endeavor, even many Obediences who wish to pursue the original purpose of Freemasonry do not necessarily have the tools with which to do so much less materials which will assist the modern seeker of light. With that in mind, The Hedgemason hopes to offer from time to time a glimpse at some materials that Masons of any order may find useful in the practice of the Hermetic Science. These may include traditional materials familiar to the elders of the craft, and newer materials which benefit from recent research and discoveries.

One of the most interesting areas of study in the modern field of neuroscience is the search to understand how and why the brain produces spiritual experiences. In The Spiritual Doorway in the Brain: A Neurologist's Search for the God Experience, Kevin Nelson maintains that near-death experiences, out-of-body sensations, battles with the devil, religious ecstasy and psychotropic drugs all figure in this exploration of the neurological basis for altered states.

Mario Beauregard and Denyse O'Leary, in their work entitled The Spiritual Brain: A Neuroscientist's Case for the Existence of the Soul, note that "neuroscientists have not discovered that there is no you in you; they start their work with that assumption. Anything they find is interpreted on the basis of that view. The science doesn't require that. Rather, it is an obligation that materialists impose on themselves." These authors go on to argue, with some convincing evidence, that far from pointing to a materialist answer, the science points to a different conclusion.

So, what does all of this have to do with Freemasonry? Specifically, if, as Freemasons claim, the craft is not a religion, then the approach we find in Freemasonry to spiritual development may be more scientific in its approach. It may at the least, if the argument that Freemasonry is not a religion is more than politically motivated self-delusion, make the esoteric techniques of Freemasonry a useful resource for scientific research. Does this provide us with anything of immediate use? Since part of the process of Hermetic studies includes self-examination, and studying the advances of neuroscience in understanding the spiritual impulse, and the attempts to apply scientific investigation of whatever origin to the corpus of Freemasonry's esoteric teachings, then research into these areas should be recommended reading for any Freemason interested in something other than barbecues, beer, and big charity drives.

To that end, consider the following titles, and set aside some time away from your computer.

"The Spiritual Brain: A Neuroscientist's Case for the Existence of the Soul" by Mario Beauregard and Denyse O'Leary

"The Spiritual Doorway in the Brain: A Neurologist's Search for the God Experience" by Kevin Nelson

"Why Religion Is Natural and Science Is Not" by Robert N. McCaule

"The Lost Key: The Supranatural Secrets of the Freemasons" by Robert Lomas

"The Secret Power of Masonic Symbols" by Robert Lomas

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Brazil: A Cornucopia of Masonic Diversity

This entry will take a very brief look at Freemasonry in Brazil. Brazil looms as an exotic tropical destination in the minds of many in North America, yet few here know more about the country than that it hosts the largest street party in the world every year. A few older Americans might remember that it is home to the Bossa Nova, although I can hear my younger readers saying "The Bossa what?" However, Brazil is not only the largest nation in South America, covering a land mass nearly as large as that of the United States, much of which is home to the Amazon Rainforest. It hosts a range of climactic zones from tropical or temperate, and while it is not the only South American country whose primary language is not Spanish (for those of you who are counting, there are 3 other nations where Spanish is not spoken and 1 other in which Spanish is a minority language), it is the only nation in the Americas whose national language is Portuguese.

Brazil is culturally very diverse, with a rich tradition developed from the mingling of European, native American, and African origins. It is home to a wide variety of musical styles, traditions, many African inspired religions such as Candomblé and Umbanda, and a rich history of Masonic activity as well. There is even a beautiful city founded by masons - Paraty.
The Grande Oriente do Brazil was founded in Rio de Janeiro, in 1821, as a result of the division of a Lodge at Rio de Janeiro, which had been established under a French warrant in 1815. The Emperor Dom Pedro, banned Freemasonry, presumably because he felt it was dangerous to his rule in 1822. Freemasonry was allowed to operate again after his abdication in 1831. The 1830s and 1840s were decades marked by a burgeoning diversity of masonic forms, rites, and organizations.

Doubtlessly, many felt that at the time that this was a contentious thing, even a problem. Fortunately for Brazil, and the world, such views failed to prevail and diversity was not fended off, as it has been in some other nations. Brazil today is home to perhaps more distinct rites than any other nation. It is possible that I have missed a couple, it would certainly be easy to do so, but I have counted no fewer than six distinct rites currently being practiced to a significant degree in contemporary Brazil. These include rites which are not practiced elsewhere, as well as rites which have become all but extinct in their homelands. Indeed, one rite was reintroduced to Europe recently as it had ceased to be practiced there in its original purity.
We of course can find the usual suspects, but we won't waste time on them here. Suffice it to say that both the York Rite and the Scottish Rite in their modern forms are practiced in Brazil. However, we find that some unique rites, not so common in the rest of the world, have managed to survive and even thrive in the lush cultural environment of Brazil. It might not be much of a surprise to note that the Memphis Mizraim Rite is relatively popular in Brazil. But perhaps the rite of most historic interest is that of Adonhiramite Masonry. Most North American masons assume, if they they even know of this rite, that it died off two hundred years ago. However, it thrives today in Brazil. Similarly shrouded in the mists of masonic history, another rite still practiced in some Lodges in Brazil is the Schroeder Rite. The Schroeder Rite was developed in Germany in the first years of the 19th Century. Schroeder felt that Higher Degree Masonry had gone astray and returned to a three degree system.

Another rite of which few will have heard is the Brazilian Rite. Obviously, this rite was born in Brazil. Re-established in 1968 after years of dormancy - The Brazilian Rite has 33 degrees, admits tradition with evolution, and proclaims the emancipation of Brazilian Masonry.

Grade Distribution
The grades in the Brazilian Rite are distributed over the various liturgical Lodges as follows:

1. Sublime Chapters (Grades 4-18) devoted to Moral Culture
2. Great Philosophical Councils (Chambers of 19-30 degrees-Kadosh) dedicated to culture -artistic, scientific, technological, and philosophical.
3. High Grades (grades 31 and 32) devoted to civic culture
4. Supreme Conclave dedicated to humanistic synthesis.

The degrees of The Brazilian Rite are as follows:

1) Aprendiz (Apprentice)
2) Companheiro (Fellowcraft)
3) Mestre (Master)
4) Mestre da Discrição (Master of Discretion)
5) Mestre da Lealdade (Master of Loyalty)
6) Mestre da Franqueza (Master of Openness)
7) Mestre da Verdade (Master of Truth)
8) Mestre da Coragem (Master of Courage)
9) Mestre da Justiça (Master of Justice)
10) Mestre da Tolerância (Master of Tolerance)
11) Mestre da Prudência (Master of Prudence)
12) Mestre da Temperança (Master of Temperance)
13) Mestre da Probidade (Master of Probity)
14) Mestre da Perseverança (Master of Perseverance)
15) Cavaleiro da Liberdade (Knight of Freedom)
16) Cavaleiro da Igualdade (Knight of Equality)
17) Cavaleiro da Fraternidade (Knight of Fraternity)
18) Cavaleiro Rosa-Cruz ou da Perfeição (Knight Rose Croix or Perfection)
19) Missionário da Agricultura e da Pecuária (Missionary of Agriculture and Livestock)
20) Missionário da Indústria e Comércio (Missionary of Industry and Trade)
21) Missionário do Trabalho (Missionary of Work)
22) Missionário da Economia (Missionary of Economy)
23) Missionário da Educação (Missionary of Education)
24) Missionário da Organização Social (Missionary of Social Organization)
25) Missionário da Justiça Social (Missionary of Social Justice)
26) Missionário da Paz (Missionary of Peace)
27) Missionário da Arte (Missionary of Art)
28) Missionário da Ciência (Missionary of Science)
29) Missionário da Religião (Missionary of Religion)
30) Missionário da Filosofia. Kadosh Filosófico (MIssionary of Philosophy. Kadosh Philosophical)
31) Guardião do Bem Público (Guardian of Public Good)
32) Guardião do Civismo (Guardian of Civility)
33) Servidor da Ordem da Pátria e da Humanidade (Server of the Order of Fatherland and Humanity)

The last major rite practiced in Brazil that we have to mention is the French or Modern Rite. In the 1960s and 70s, several masons such as René Guilly - sought to recapture the original character of the French Rite and made an attempt to reanimate its initiatory and symbolic character. René Guilly was the prime force behind the creation of a chapter of the Traditional French Rite, a chapter which still exists today within the National French Lodge. Research led to Brazil and it was the Supreme Council of the Modern Rite for Brazil which finally accorded the French a patent to establish a French Grand Chapter in 1989 after 150 years' absence, under the name "Traditional French Rite". This is the closest rite to that practiced in France in the second half of the 18th century.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

José Antonio Aponte - Afro-Cuban Revolutionary & Freemason

The history of freemasonry in Cuba has been tragic, violent, and in spite of that, at times amazingly resilient. Most of it's fortunes and misfortunes have been tied to the political climate in which it found itself.

In more than 200 years of Masonic history only a third of that time represented periods of relative peace and freedom. On December 17, 1804, the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania issued a charter for Le Temple des Vertus Theogales, No. 103, in Havana, with Joseph Cemeau as its first Master.

As a result of the Slave-led revolution in Haiti, between 1793 and 1810, three Lodges originally constituted in what was the former French colony of Saint Domingue, were reorganized in Santiago de Cuba and in other cities in eastern Cuba. These original lodges, at least one of which had been founded by Estienne Morin, did not last long in Cuba. Freemasonry was officially illegal in Spain and its colonies, and although it often managed to flourish in spite of this prohibition, at this particular point the leaders in Cuba were extremely mistrustful of French in general, Haitians in particular, and Freemasonry's reputation for fomenting revolutionary ideas. This quickly led to these Freemasons being at the head of the line of French and Haitian citizens who were quickly expelled from Cuba.

In Havana, Cerneau was unceremoniously deported to the United States by 1806. His only apparent crimes were being a French former resident of the neighboring island and a Freemason. The Lodges in eastern Cuba were dispersed in 1808. Many of the members of these formerly Haitian Lodges found their way to New Orleans by the following year. On October 7, 1810, two of these Lodges amalgamated as Concord Lodge, No. 117, under the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania, who also granted a charter to Pe­severance Lodge, No. 118.

While it is doubtful whether Cerneau or the leaders of the other Haitian Lodges originating from Morin's tradition were sympathetic to the Haitian Revolution, the fears of the Spanish authorities in Spain apparently were not unwarranted. Many Africans and Creoles in Cuba - both slave and free were swift to embrace both the teachings of Haitian Freemasons and the Haitian Revolution, whose leaders had mostly been Freemasons themselves.

One of these was the sculptor and artist, José Antonio Aponte who led an aborted attempt at revolution in 1812, which was directly traceable to the example and influence of Haiti. His attempted uprising was repressed with relentless severity, the leader and eight accomplices meeting death by hanging. His head was left to rot at the Havana Street Corner which was the site of his capture. His models included Toussaint L’Ouverture, Jean-Jacques Dessalines, and Henri Christophe.

In his possession they found a book of drawings and paintings, which was used as evidence against him in the trial. The book itself appears to have been destroyed, but the trial records give us a description of the pictures, and these descriptions strongly suggest that Haiti and its Masonic leaders were his main sources of inspiration.

It is not a long stretch to assume that part of the motive behind Albert Pike's ferocious attacks against Cerneau and his version of the Scottish Rite (which by any rational analysis was no more questionable in its origins that that of the Charleston group) was his supposed connection with revolutionary Haiti. It is clear from most 19th Century North American accounts of Cerneau's life that the Anglophone Masonic community had no knowledge of why Cerneau was made to leave Cuba.

A Glimpse at Spanish Freemasonry Today

The history of Spanish Freemasonry has been marked by long periods of persecution. Throughout much of the period of Spanish colonial expansion in the Americas, Freemasonry was a prohibited institution. Again, during the Franco period, Freemasonry was severely persecuted. Spanish Freemasonry, in spite of these hardships and a great deal of institutional fragmentation is growing dramatically. Although many different obediences and rites have to coexist within the nation, they manage to turn this into a strength rather than a weakness by coexisting amacably. That is a lesson Freemasons in the US would do well to learn.

On May 9, four Iberian Masonic obediences are creating a communal space for Freemasonry. They seek, above all, one thing - that people know their reality, which bears little resemblance to the negative legends often told of them.

"Power? Does Spanish Masonry today have power? What are you talking about? Freemasonry has no official authority, if that is what you mean. Fortunately. That is not our purpose. We do not seek power." Javier Otaola, Master Mason, lawyer, writer, philosopher, a former Grand Master of the Gran Logia Simbólica Española (GLSE), says seriously. He knows that directly contradicts what many people, even the majority of Spanish society, think about Freemasonry. He also realizes that changing perceptions takes a great deal of time. Otaola, undoubtedly one of the most influential Masons of Spain, is clear on this point - Freemasonry neither has nor seeks what most think of as power.

What is the condition of Freemasonry in Spain? Since Americans love numbers (I've never understood why, since most of us don't seem to understand what they tell us), here are the basic stats: There are about 4,000 Masons in Spain, although growth has been spectacular in recent months, spread over nearly two hundred lodges which, in turn, are grouped in 13 different Grand Lodges and Orients, some very small. Since the restoration of democracy 30 years ago, there has been only one Spanish minister who was openly a Mason: the Canary socialist Jerónimo Saavedra, now mayor of Las Palmas. There are undoubtedly others, but nothing is clear because today many Spanish Masons scrupulously maintain secrecy about their status. In the US, France and Belgium, being a member of the Masons is something that many people put into their resumé quite naturally, because many people understand that someone who has joined the Masonic fraternity is a reliable person, a citizen who is possessed of certain ethical values.

In Spain, many Master Masons (some hold even higher positions within the fraternity) are silent for different reasons. Not a few, because they view Freemasonry as a way of inner perfection, something strictly private and not appropriate to inform anyone about. But others are aware that to their friends, their coworkers, and even to their families, they would look different if they were known to be Masons.

Between 1939 and 1975, about 16,000 Spanish citizens were executed, charged with the crime of Freemasonry. In Salamanca files are preserved concerning more than 80,000 people who suffered repression, enprisonment, exile, loss of work, simply for being accused of being Freemasons. The tremendous thing is that when Franco died, there were still more than 6,000 Masons in Spain.

"It was actually the only thing that went right under Franco,'according to Nieves Bayo, soon to be the Grand Mistress of the GLSE. "Today in Spain, it is not surprising that one might be a communist, feminist, nationalist, gay, or anything else. But Masons are still stigmatized. Now, I think that it is time to stop using Franco as an excuse to explain the situation. That man's been dead 34 years. We should focus more on our own mistakes. And secondly, I think the fault of ... let's call it the bad name which still attaches to Spanish Freemasonry is not so much due to Franco who is long dead, and the Church, which is not. Spain remained Catholic, Apostolic and Roman. The hierarchy of the Church pursued modern Freemasonry almost from the moment it was established three centuries ago. Why? It is very simple. Because this hierarchy does not support a group of people who accept all religions, seeking ethical improvement of man without having to obey the church, not to enforce or support dogmas, defend freedom of conscience and free thought, which is not created in possession of the truth ... There's the matter, much more than Franco."

Yves Bannel, Chancellor of the Gran Orient Iberico (GOI), argues that the role of Freemasonry in Spain is primarily ethical; "We are here to reflect on the changes in our society which is in crisis due to the decline of humanistic values. That should be our teacher: to defend the actions of the people according to ethical criteria."

4,000 Spanish Masons are probably more divided than in any other country in the world. When a citizen, after a difficult process of interviews and tests lasting about a year, manages to be initiated as a Freemason, he or she is integrated into a lodge as an apprentice. That is part of a lodge or Grand Lodge obedience, and this determines your rite - the ritual you follow. There are many rites. The best known are the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite and the Modern French, but there are many more. This means that in the same obedience, headed by a single Grand Master, almost always coexist lodges practicing different rites in their work. That is never a problem. The difficulty begins when a newly made Mason, or a citizen who wants to become a Mason, he realizes that the different Lodges (in Spain there are thirteen with a measure of importance) are competing with each other. There are two major groups. On one side are regular Masons, those of the GLE, the most numerous, related to the United Grand Lodge of England, who believe in a revealed God and the immortality of the soul, something that surprises a lot of people who think that all Masons are atheists and anti-religious. Few people know that religious believers represent more than two thirds of Masons in the world. And a further disadvantage - the regulars do not accept women in their lodges.

The others, the Masons of liberal French tradition, they may believe or not what they call the Great Architect of the Universe (a concept that everyone can interpret as they want). Atheists are admitted as well as women. The difference is no light matter: it is, for many Masons, a fundamental ethical premise to implement the ideal of equality.

Unlike in the US, where for too long there has been no real alternative to UGLE style masonry, regulars recognize that it is an open debate, because mixed masonry has been an active tradition from the early eighteenth century. Some liberals still do not admit women, such as the Grand Orient of France (GODF) but even they could change their attitude soon. Many are now convinced that Anderson had written "person" and not "man". Bayo Nieves is very clear; "When I go into the lodge, I do not notice if there are men or women. There are people, human beings are brothers as well as sisters. We are in the twenty-first century, not the eighteenth." There are even women-only Lodges, such as the Women's Grand Lodge of Spain, chaired by Presmanes Rosa Elvira; "We believe that there is much thought and action unique to women. And Masonry is, I think, a great place to explore it."

Many "liberal adogmatic" obediences in Spain, such as the Grand Lodge of France and the Droit Humain, that in Spain today is presided over by Manuel Lopez, do not always get along perfectly, but all say the same thing: "Above the differences, however important, we are all Masons." There is much debate, but it tends to be more civil than in the US, even though some might prefer to have less competition. Competition is seldom a bad thing.

Joseph Carter (Gran Logia Española) voices a point of view with which many agree, "Why would there be any advantage in unification? We would lose the freedom of choice. Besides, there are many different understandings of Freemasonry. It's not a monolith nor a religion."