Friday, September 28, 2012

Rescue The Occult of Personality!

The Kaminsky family is in an "all hands on board" crisis mode and they need your help! Greg Kaminsky's wonderful Occult of Personality website was hacked last night and is out of commission. The hosting company said that denial of service messages came from thousands of IP addresses that kept changing and were specifically  targeting Greg's website. It sounds like a major conspiracy theory script from a bad movie and it would be amusing if they didn't rely on Greg's site to generate half of their family's monthly budget! As of now, the hosting company has dropped Greg's website and he needs to find a new hosting company that specializes in handling malicious attacks. They are welcoming any suggestions you might have there.

For now, they need to deal with the reality of the site being gone. While Greg is going to rebuild it, that will take time and money. Better security costs more! And some of Greg's subscribers are jumping ship which is totally understandable. After all, would you be paying a monthly fee if you could not even get to the website?

Who knew that posting interviews with esoteric authors is such a dangerous business?! The Kaminsky's certainly didn't think so! Cerntainly not Olga Kaminsky who listens to the podcasts while Greg edits them,  notes that inevitably the message is about the human race awakening, spirituality playing a bigger role in our lives, and different ways of following a spiritual path.

Olga goes on to say, "I would like to ask for your help in covering the website rebuilding costs for Greg. Better security means higher monthly costs and apparently each time there is an attack like this there is a one-time fee to deal with it. There is also a lost time and subscriber cost that makes me nervous. Did I mention this is how we pay our bills? Every little bit you can give will help us get over this unfortunate event, help Greg bring his site back, and put food on the table. Food is good! Thank you for your help!"

The Hedge Mason wants to ask you all to support the Occult of Personality. Greg Kaminsky and his site is a valuable asset to those who are interested in Esoteric subjects including Hermeticism and Esoteric Freemasonry. He needs your help! Please do not let him down! Bro. Greg needs your help!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

A Revisionist's Art of Memory

Well, it's time to do a little experiment. Over the years, I read a lot about the Art of Memory and it's relationship to both Hermetics in general and Freemasonry in particular. The recent acquisition of a gift copy of Dame Frances Yates' book, "The Art of Memory," dredged the topic out from where it was buried, somewhere in my brainstem.

I have a big confession to make. I am one of those lazy Freemasons who never really mastered the classical art of memory. In my misspent youth, I never really needed it. I was blessed with the ability to memorize a fair bit of material using the crude method of repetition. I usually got away with 15 to 20 repetitions to memorize a reasonable number of pages, and so it was simply not worth the investment of time. I memorized the prologue to Chaucer's Canterbury Tales in a sitting and can still recall a fair bit of it some 40 years later. I was also able to slog my way through a couple of languages using the same crude methodology. So, although I read the classic works on memorization and even the more recent additions such as Harry Lorayne's "The Memory Book," I never really attempted to master the technique. 

Well, it's 2012, and I am fast approaching 60. I have a whole cartload of new things I wish to commit to memory and I have come to the realization that the brain is balking. It still works, but it is slower to store all those new bits and pieces and I have to put more time and sweat equity into the project than I recall it taking a decade or two ago. 

So, I thought, this might make an interesting experiment. Let me dust off the old books, take a fresh look at both the theory and the techniques, and see what a new generation is bringing to the table. In fact, why not use this as the basis for a couple of blog entries? And so an idea was born for the first Hedge Mason experiment. As experiments go, it is a fairly unscientific one. In fact, it is totally unscientific. I have never been impressed by statistics, so they were out the window from the get -go. However, it seemed perfectly reasonable as a sort of survey to read Frances Yates' "Art of Memory" as a foundation of my study, throw in a few recent updates in publication, and I am going to take a brief on-line course on memory which is supposed to be based upon classical and hermetic traditions. 

According to classical tradition, the Art of memory was born as an act of divine retribution. According to the account, the Poet Simonides of Ceos gave an ode in honor of his host, Scopas of Thessaly, which included a passage in honor of Castor and Pollux. As Yates recounts the story, when the performance was complete, "Scopas meanly told the poet that he would only pay him half the sum agreed upon for the panegyric and that he must obtain the balance from the twin gods to whom he had devoted half the poem. A little later, a message was brought in to Simonides that two young men were waiting outside who wished to see him. He rose from the banquet and went out but could find no one. During his absence the roof of the banqueting hall fell in, crushing Scopas and all the guests to death beneath the ruins; the corpses were so mangled that the relatives who came to take them away for burial were unable to identify them. But Simonides remembered the places at which they had been sitting at the table and was therefore able to indicate to the relatives which were their dead. The invisible callers, Castor and Pollux, had handsomely paid for their share in the panegyric by drawing Simonides away from the banquet just before the crash. And this experience suggested to the poet the principles of the art of memory of which he is said to have been the inventor. Noting that it was through his memory of the places at which the guests had been sitting that he had been able to identify the bodies, he realized that orderly arrangement is essential for good memory."(Yates. The Art of Memory. 1999. pp. 1-2)

Once I have read the books I will offer my views on them, and once I have taken the course, I will provide my reactions. Then, I will revisit the topic in about a month to see how I have progressed with my selected "tests" of effective memorization. I have a few big tasks coming up. I need to gain at least a minimum amount of fluency in another language - enough to facilitate very basic conversations and provide some ease in reading short texts. That is certainly not a giant task, but it can be time consuming. For the rest, I want to memorize a number of texts, amounting to a total of perhaps 80 pages. They are in a couple of languages, both of which I speak. 

I have purchased several books and have begun reading, and am scheduled for the course. If, in the meantime, anyone wishes to make suggestions concerning reading materials, I am happy to entertain them, although I make no promises in advance, as funds for this are limited.

Stay tuned! It should be interesting, and may serve as an introduction to further discussion of the traditional arts and sciences associated of old with Freemasonry.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Research Lodge of The Moderns

The Modern Lodge of Research

Almost a year ago the Lodge of Research "The Moderns" had raised its columns to work under the auspices of the Circle of Studies of the French Rite of Montaleau Roëttiers. This was uncommon in that it was a lodge under the protection of a Research Center, although it was regularly raised by Master Masons, regularly initiated. However, independence at that time was a priority for those involved.

These days, the sponsorship has changed for the Research Lodge of “The Moderns,” who works on deepening the knowledge and heritage of "The Moderns" in Freemasonry, and thus they have regularized their situation under the protection of the Mixed Grand Lodge of the Equatorial Andes and look forward to continuing their work under new sponsorship.

Announcements of their publications will be presented here as time goes on. We wish Olga, Joaquim, Victor and our other brothers and sisters involved with this effort every success in the coming months and years.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

A Modest Proposal for a Modern Freemasonry

Where does the Esoteric, Hermetic or even serious Philosophical approach to Freemasonry stand today? We see Mainstream masons nodding off into their chicken soup, back woods past masters engaging in public hissy fits across the web condemning books which even dare to hint that freemasonry might be more than an empty bag of metaphors, and the GLE hired a PR firm to poll the public as to the meaning of Freemasonry, only to develop from those results a white paper saying that the King is dead, long live the Old Boys social club.

Although Masonic blogs for a while sprouted periodic dialogs in which the authors detailed their personal epiphanies concerning the best way to save the craft from imminent doom, ie itself, these have mostly quieted down. I assume the silence is due either to pressure or  apathy. Either way, they only serve to highlight an apparently inevitable decline in enthusiasm experienced by the bloggers themselves, as they watched the continuing dip in numbers when nobody embraced their solutions. Some continue to rail, others have monetized their blogs and moved on.

Apparently, young men are not interested in cold soup at expensive clubs that do not have a wine list and don't allow them to bring their girlfriends, wives, or boyfriends. So, what is a potential source of new membership for Freemasonry, and who will bring them in?

There exists a group of young people actually interested in initiations and becoming a part of a fraternal organization to spend an evening practicing and discussing ritual and the history of such societies. They are called esotericists and hermeticists, and there are more of them out there than there have been for nearly a hundred years. The problem in winning them is several fold.

What I wish to suggest is that mainstream Freemasonry in North America needs to realize is that soon they will have real competition for these profanes, that is if the grand lodges don't bow out of the race before it begins. Why? Because there is an increasing interest, however small, in liberal, mixed, esoteric, hermetic, and yes, even ethnic Freemasonry.

Several trends are converging, and I will touch briefly on both. Gradually, small groups of ethnic Freemasonry have been growing as a result of the changing ethnic makeup of the US.  The young esotericists are one trend, the ethnic mason another.

Liberal and Mixed Freemasonry has had a "mixed" history in the US. There are a small number of long standing, or slumbering institutions that have become as exciting as any mainstream Grand Lodge system, and there have been the dramatic implosions of small groups wracked by internal politics, not to mention the fantasy driven Pseudo-Scientific Neo-Harmonic revivals, mostly never more than a series of websites proclaiming non-existent lodges world-wide. However, while mainstream lodges have laughed these off, assuming they proved their positions unassailable, a generation of people have grown up who have immersed themselves in esotericism, hermeticism and ritual studies and for whom, while a Masonic experience is desired, the offerings of mainstream masonry represent a pale reflection of what they know they should expect of the craft.  And they don't give a hoot about claims of regularity or the myth of 1717.  The few very reserved efforts at accommodating serious students that the mainstream has deigned to offer will not suffice.

This, combined with the general lack of welcome that greet the non-European aspirants who knock at the lodge door, has created a perhaps small but serious class of potential masons who are looking elsewhere, and when they do not find what they are looking for, they are prepared to build their own solutions. Added to these numbers are of course, the women. There are serious Liberal obediences willing to support those who are capable and prepared to do the work. It is reasonable to assume that in addition to the current and the new obediences on the North American scene, there will be more to follow. Add to this growing and real academic research which is pushing back against the myths of the past upon whose sands the Grand Lodge system was fabricated; myths which have become articles of faith but which are empty, such as territorial exclusivity and the claims that masonry began in London in 1717. The first always was an empty claim and the latter has since been proven false by solid scholarship backed up with original source materials. What's more, small is the new big.

As a supporter of Liberal Freemasonry, I will fly in the face of what most might think is in my own self interest, and suggest a solution that might allow Mainstream masonry to regain the upper hand. I know of course, it is probably too radical for even the most liberal leaning of the Grand Lodges to consider, and that perhaps is part of why I feel free to offer the advice.  Forget the "European Style" Lodges (which are European in name only) or the Traditional Observance Lodges (which offer a lot of structure and very little excitement), and get radical.

The radical plan is quite simple. Allow lodges, new and old to experiment with any historically documented rite they wish, in the language(s) of their choice. If old lodges won't agree, allow the interested parties to easily create new lodges that will. Then those really bohemian Grand Lodges can allow women in.

I guarantee that if this is done, and those lodges are allowed to engage in an open study of either esotericism, hermeticism, or a serious and academic study of philosophy and symbolism, that the numbers will turn around. Of course, it won't be your grandfather's Freemasonry anymore. It will be your Great Great Great Grandparents' Freemasonry. And it will thrive.

In the meantime, the rest of us will continue to work on gaining ground, and we don't have to worry about the electric bills you guys have.