Saturday, November 17, 2012

Masonic Vision: Glimpses of Glimpsing Beyond

Crystal Ball at University of Pennsylvania Museum
SCRYING: Crystals and Magic Mirrors in the history of Freemasonry

Freemasonry as an institution has always been greater than the sum of its parts. So, while some masons today seek, rather amusingly I think, to deny that Freemasonry has anything to do with Hermeticism, alchemy, theurgy, and such spiritual sciences such as divination, the fact remains that these matters have always been found attached to the Craft.

Dr. John Dee's Divination Equipment
For those who may find the subject of interest whether as an operative activity or a purely speculative examination, in this post the Hedge will take a brief glance at the art of scrying, which is the use of crystals or other reflective surfaces to inspire various types of spiritual vision.  The range of surfaces may include rock crystal, either natural or quite often as a polished sphere, natural transparent or translucent stones, glass, mirrors, polished metal surfaces, or water.

Of course, divination by means of inspiring visions (visual hallucinations if you are a neurologist) is one of the most ancient forms of seeking inspiration from the realm of the spirits. It is recorded in ancient Babylonia and Egypt, although most often those cultures used a speculum, or vessel containing some reflective liquid.

Those who would practice this art or science, are advised to use a relaxed gaze rather than a fixed stare, maintaining a steady gaze for no more than five minutes at a time. Depending on the source, the gazer may find their vision clouding over, or the interior of the crystal or scrying surface clouding over, and they may see images or symbols, or even scenes within the object. Alternately as they gaze, they may see their visions upon an internal screen. I will leave the practical comments to these few words and move on to a brief survey of some notable individuals who were Freemasons or by the common imagination may be associated with the masons, who studied or wrote on the subject. 

Dr. Dee at the Court of Queen Elizabeth I
Dr. John Dee (1572-1608)  The first Renaissance figure we might associate with both Freemasonry and Scrying is the legendary Dr. John Dee. Of course, there is no record of his having been a Freemason, but he is an indisputably significant figure in European Hermeticism, and all of the Noble Arts associated with Freemasonry. Some may wish to disassociate the craft from his name, but both Dame Frances Yates and David Stephenson place him firmly within the stream of ideas that contributed strongly to the development of speculative Freemasonry. Dee, born in London of Welsh parentage (his surname was originally Dû pronounced Dee, meaning black) was known for his work in using crystal gazers to communicate with angels.

Eliphas Levi (1810-1875) Alphonse Louis Constant made a living from his writing and by giving lessons in the occult. He renamed himself Magus Eliphas Levi, the hebrew equivalents of his first and middle names. In 1854 he took a trip to London, where he performed a ritual to conjure the spirit of Appolonius Tyana, a renowned magician of ancient times. Levi;s preparation included a week of fasting. Levi dressed in white robes and entered his magic chamber equipped with mirrors on the walls. His incantations went on for 12 hours after which the floor beneath him began to shake, and he saw an apparition in one of the mirrors. While Levi was not a Freemason, he had a great impact upon at least two very famous Freemasons, Albert Pike and A.E. Waite.

Count Cagliostro
Count Cagliostro (1743 - 1795). Moving into the category of individuals who are unquestionably identified as Masons, we come to one of my favorites, The flamboyant Alessandro Cagliostro who utilized scrying within Masonic rituals, as well as in other non-masonic spiritual practices. While a number of authors have discussed Cagliostro's divination practices, Theodore Besterman, devoted a lengthy essay to the subject. 

Frederick Hockley (1808 - 1885), an accountant by profession, was well known in circles which cultivated 'Rejected Knowledge'.Apart from his scrying experiments with crystals and so-called 'Magic Mirrors', which were used to induce trance states, he was a diligent copyist of old magical manuscripts. He became a significant figure in Esoteric Freemasonry in the 19th Century, although not well known by those who are not themselves committed esotericists.

Francis George Irwin (1828 -1892). Irwin was Chief Adept of the Bristol Soc. Ros. College. Irwin joined in succession several lodges and, according to Gould, so great was his desire to obtain more light, that there was scarcely a degree in existence, if within his range, that he did not join. In scrying seances during the years 1872-3, he communicated with none other than Cagliostro, who told him that 'the Crystal you have will be of little use. It is charged with an antagonistic principle.' Cagliostro came again on 29 October 1873 when he delivered the message that 'I am afraid that at present I cannot give (you) anything to be continuous.' Thereafter, between 31 October and 9 November Cagliostro communicated on four separate occasions and, according to Irwin's 'Spiritual Journal', dictated almost word for word the substance of the 'historical introduction' to the Fratres Lucis ritual.

John Yarker
John Yarker (1833 - 1913). John Yarker, was a prolific Masonic writer who dealt with many historic topics but was especially interested in esoteric topics. Not much admired, it would appear, by Albert Pike. Although that speaks highly of his character, among his other positive credentials was that he wrote a brief work, which was never published in full on the topic entitled "The History and Mystery of the Magic Crystal."  These final words of advice, should anyone care to try for themselves comes from Yarker's aforementioned work.  

"After carefully investigating the visions in their subjective and objective phases for nearly 20 years I imported an Indian or Bhattah Mirror in May 1886 and produced for a few friends a model that answered in every particular quite equal to the expensive original at a tenth of the cost Many investigators from some perhaps congenial cause getting no satisfactory results after repeated trials with the Ball or Egg shaped Crystals may try flat polished pieces of Rock Crystal quartz Cannel Coal Bloodstone or Obsidian or Mirrors their shape suiting them best but they must not forget that no matter whatever may be the cause of individual failure the power to see is in themselves aud not in anything they may..."  (quoted in Rosicrucian Brotherhood, vol. 1-3 (in one volume) p. 145.) S.C. Gould. 1907.

I hope that this brief post does not make any of my masonic brothers or sisters uncomfortable. If by some chance it does however, I admonish them to take a long hard look in the mirror. Any mirror will do. Take a break after five minutes, and try again.

1 comment:

Yvonne said...

this is fun history. thank you for writing.

when are you coming back to church?? Is it really all over?