Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Derwyddiaeth brawdol yng Nghymru - Fraternal Druidism in Wales

Reviving Fraternal Druidism in Wales 
Adfywio Derwyddiaeth brawdol yng Nghymru

of the Ancient Order of Druids (Founded in 1781)
"Reviving Fraternal Druidism in Wales"

Ancient Order of Druids - Glamorgan Lodge No.743 are reviving fraternal druidism in Wales with the re-consecration of the ancient Glamorgan Lodge. Glamorgan Lodge No.74 was one of the earliest AOD Lodges in South Wales, its charter being issued around 1888. The Glamorgan Lodge used to meet at the Stag & Hounds Inn, Cardiff. At one time there were many lodges of the Ancient Order of Druids in Wales and the United Kingdom, unfortunately, many lodges had dis-banded and were closed many years ago, and of the 15 remaining lodges in the UK these are mostly in the Birmingham, Coventry, Great Yarmouth and Kent areas. Globally, the Ancient Order of Druids has a very well established structure of lodges in many countries.

This is the parent and founding order of the modern Druidic Societies, and was revived in the year 1781. Its object is to preserve and practise the main principles attributed to the early Druids, particularly those of justice, benevolence and friendship.

Since its revival the order has adapted itself to modern conditions whilst still preserving most of its original characteristics. The basic pattern of justice, benevolence and harmony, however, remains the foundation upon which the order rests. It has lodges in many parts of England, and close contact with "The International Order" throughout the world.

The AOD is not a religious organization - in fact any discussion on religion or politics is forbidden within the lodge rooms. They run their own Convalescent Home Fund for the benefit of members and their wives, there is also an Annuitants Fund for brethren in need.

If you are in Wales and interested in helping them revive fraternal druidism in Wales 
then please contact:

The International Order:

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Aniversario 160 del Natalicio de Jose Marti

28 de Enero 2013. Aniversario 160 del Natalicio de José Julián Martí Pérez.
(La Habana, Cuba, 28 de enero de 1853 - Dos Ríos, Cuba, 19 de mayo de 1895) fue un político republicano democrático, pensador, periodista, filósofo y poeta cubano de origen español , creador del Partido Revolucionario Cubano y organizador de la Guerra del 1895 o Guerra Necesaria. Perteneció al movimiento literario del modernismo.
Además de destacado ideólogo y político, José Martí fue uno de los más grandes poetas hispanoamericanos y la figura más destacada de la etapa de transición al modernismo, que en América supuso la llegada de nuevos ideales artísticos.
(January 28, 1853 - May 19, 1895) is a Cuban national hero and an important figure in Latin American literature. In his short life he was a poet, an essayist, a journalist, a revolutionary philosopher, a translator, a professor, a publisher, and a political theorist. Most North Americans are familiar with his lyrics for the song "Guantanamera." He was also a member of the Cuban Freemasons and a supporter of La Orden de los Caballeros de la Luz (The Order of the Kinights of the Light) founded in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1873. Through his writings and political activity, he became a symbol for Cuba's bid for independence against Spain in the 19th century, and is referred to as the "Apostle of Cuban Independence." He also fought against the threat of United States expansionism into Cuba. From adolescence, he dedicated his life to the promotion of liberty, political independence for Cuba and intellectual independence for all Spanish Americans; his death was used as a cry for Cuban independence from Spain by both the Cuban revolutionaries and those Cubans previously reluctant to start a revolt.
Born in Havana, Martí began his political activism at an early age. He would travel extensively in Spain, Latin America, and the United States raising awareness and support for the cause of Cuban independence. His unification of the Cuban émigré community, particularly in Florida, was crucial to the success of the Cuban War of Independence against Spain. He was a key figure in the planning and execution of this war, as well as the designer of the Cuban Revolutionary Party and its ideology. He died in military action on May 19, 1895.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

International Conference on the History of Freemasonry 2013

24 MAY- 26 MAY 2013

The first International Conference on the History of Freemasonry was held in 2007 to establish whether or not Freemasonry could be considered a single separate subject worthy of its own platform. It is now clear based on the successes of ICHF 2007, 2009 and 2011 that answer is a resounding, YES. Whilst the organisers welcome invitations from Masonic bodies throughout the world to host ICHF within their own locale, there is something comforting in bringing ICHF 2013 back to where it began; Freemasons' Hall, Edinburgh, Scotland. 2013 is significant in several respects, not least because it marks the 200th anniversary of the 1813 union of the two English Grand Lodges, the Ancient and Moderns, under the auspices of the Duke of Sussex (1773 - 1843). Undoubtedly a number of researchers will submit proposals for papers on this very subject.

Lodge Aitcheson's Haven
1813 also saw the admission of Lodge Aitcheson's Haven to The Grand Lodge of Scotland - the significance being that this Lodge's records are the oldest extant, commencing on 9th January 1599. As many are aware Edinburgh is known as the 'Athens of the North' due to its much admired architecture. Worthy also of note is that several famous architects who lived and worked in Edinburgh were indeed Freemasons, some examples being Robert and James Adam (1728 - 92 and 1732 - 94 respectively), Charles R. Cockerell (1788 - 1863), David Bryce (1803 - 76) and Sir Robert Lorimer (1864 - 1929). As stated definitively in the Statement of Purpose it is the intent of the Promoters, Supersonic Events Ltd., to ensure that any profits generated from these conferences are directed to and for the promotion of Freemasonry.

Young Researchers Fund
It is anticipated that the Promoters will shortly be in a position to create a Young Researchers Fund - details to follow in the Second Announcement.

Despite considerable rising costs to hold these events, the Organisers are pleased to announce that the cost of attending ICHF 2013 will be £250. The future of ICHF is bright as recent discussions have secured a Canadian venue for ICHF 2015. Further details of this and ICHF 2017 will be released in due course.

Held under the Patronage of:

Charles Iain R. Wolrige Gordon of Esslemont
The Grand Master Mason

J.M. Marcus Humphrey of Dinnet, C.B.E. O.St.J
The Sovereign Grand Commander of
The Supreme Council for Scotland of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite

Sir Archibald D. Orr Ewing, Bt. MA
The Deputy Grand Master and Governor of the Royal Order of Scotland

with the special Patronage of:
11th Earl of Elgin and 15th Earl of Kincardine, KT

and with the support of:    
The Academic Society for Research into Freemasonry and Fraternalism
Centre interdisciplinaire bordelais d'étude des lumières-Lumières Nature Société
Université de Bordeaux III Centre d'étude de la Littérature Françaises des XVIIe
et XVIIIe Siècles (CELLF)
Sorbonne IV. Paris Chair of Freemassonary, Faculty of Religious Studies
University of Leiden Centre de la Méditerrannée Moderne et Contemporaine
Université de Nice Sophia-Antipolis, The Interdisciplinary Research Group Freemasonry
The Free University of Brussels

The conference is supported
by numerous academic institutions.
Conference promoted by:
Supersonic Events Ltd.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Regular vs Liberal Freemasonry? What it's really about.

By all accounts, there exist two major divisions within Freemasonry. These are more politely referred to as Regular and Liberal Freemasonry. Coming from the so-called regular side, you can also hear a lot of uncivil comparisons. Terms ranging from Irregular and Clandestine to "bogus" get bandied about and none of it is done with a shred of courtesy. For an institution claiming to focus on Universal Brotherhood, morals and ethics; an institution claiming to take good men and make them better, this sure falls far from achieving its stated goals.  

If we listen to those who speak on behalf of mainstream Freemasonry in the US, that is the offspring of the UGLE, you will hear a great deal of legalistic arguments that would appeal to a lawyer, but not appropriate to philosophers. One might be forgiven for smelling excuses and justifications rather than explanations. In fairness to most "regular" masons, they have been indoctrinated to accept this approach on faith, and rarely have been called on to examine it rationally. The explanations focus on legalistic definitions and details. The dogmatic details of mainstream masonry define any Masonic organization as legitimate if it possesses recognition from the UGLE or other organizations which themselves were recognized by the UGLE. These arguments are based on political power and control. This is especially ironic as the supposed original lodges of the first London Grand Lodge would have been unable to meet the qualifications demanded by mainstream masonry themselves. There is no element to any of these definitions which reflect a concern with ethics, morals, or personal development, which supposedly are the main purpose of Freemasonry in general, and due to its rejection of esoteric interests, of mainstream freemasonry more narrowly.

I will not expend energy attempting to dissect this argument according to its own perspective. I do not view it as particularly relevant. I am not a lawyer, but further, such arguments are concerned with temporal and political control, and thus do not bear any relation to the stated purpose of the institution. For that reason, I do not view such legalistic foundations as having any real merit or being worthy of serious consideration. I've never seen any of the negative remarks offered about non-mainstream lodges to have any merit either. The so-called "bogus" masons I have met face to face have largely been at least as moral, ethical, and considerate of others as their mainstream brethren.

This leaves us asking what is the real difference here. If one ignores the denominational bigotry, we can see, from an historical perspective that there was a meta-principle which divides "Liberal" and "Regular" Freemasonry. This difference is most clearly identified in historical perspective and has nothing to do with dogmatic practices such as biases surrounding gender, religious, racial, or sexual preferences, none of which ultimately should have any place in intelligent Freemasonry. 

The main difference can be identified by looking at the original principles of Freemasonry and how they evolved over time. Whatever it was before the non-operative membership began to dominate, and I do not accept the theory that "gentlemen" masons were responsible for the creation of speculative masonry, it makes rather more sense to view the speculative, philosophical, and symbolic aspects of operative masonic lodges were precisely what drew "gentlemen" freemasons to them, by the 17th century it appeared to be fairly cosmopolitan in character. This cosmopolitan attitude  is clearly demonstrated in the Freemasonry which grew both before and after the arrival of Jacobite Higher Degrees from Scotland and Ireland in the first half of the 18th Century in France. It was this cosmopolitan character with its aesthetics and values which inspired enlightenment philosophy, political speculation, and sparked ideas which led to modern democracy, the opposition to slavery, and eventually modern ideals of universal suffrage and equality. 

It was this Freemasonry which inspired people to revolt against monarchy and institute the democratic governments of the United States, France, Haiti, and the Bolivarian Revolutions throughout Latin America, as well as less successful attempts such as that of the United Irishmen (Éireannaigh Aontaithe) of 1798. It was also this cosmopolitan strand of Freemasonry which became embedded in the Memphis Misraim and Carbonari of Giuseppe Garibaldi. 

The foundation of the Grand Lodge in London, in the year of 1717 was clearly a political act of self preservation, assuming it doesn't in fact represent a myth. Freemasonry was closely associated with Scotland and hence the Jacobites. In the new Hanoverian world, to be associated with Freemasonry was tantamount to demonstrating loyalty to the crown rather than the Hanoverian usurper, George I. That was a dangerous if not fatal choice, and so a non-jacobite history had to be rapidly invented, no matter how spurious it may in fact have been. Anderson's claim that the event even occurred needs to be re-evaluated before their 300th anniversary in 2017, but the outcome, regardless of the legitimacy of the claims, was a new form of Freemasonry under Hanoverian authority. The Hanoverian kings lost no time putting this new institution to work as an instrument of its new efforts at empire building. It supported the monarchy, in opposition to the cosmopolitan forms which continued to exist on the continent, moving rapidly to invalidate opposition to its authority and to its monopoly on the claim of authenticity. 

The masonic influence on the revolution in what was to become the United States stemmed from the continental Freemasonry of Benjamin Franklin and his French masonry of Loge Les Neuf Sœurs, far more than the English Freemasonry of Washington. It was liberally assisted by masons among the radical Irish later forced to escape after the aborted Irish revolution of 1798, those disenchanted Scots Jacobites who came to the Americas just as others helped forge High Degree Masonry on the continent, and people such as Joseph Warren.

This, rather than the various dogmatic issues usually pointed to, is what created the difference between "Liberal" and "Regular" Freemasonry ~ the radical re-visioning of society and our scientific and political institutions which had always been the true landmarks of Freemasonry rather than the support of the institutional status quo of pre-Enlightenment Europe. 

Louis Amiable, Une loge maçonnique d'avant 1789, la loge des Neuf Sœurs (Les Editions Maçonnique de France, Paris 1989)

Jessica L. Harland-Jacobs, Builders of Empire: Freemasons and British Imperialism, 1717-1927. (UNC Press, Chapel Hill 2007)

Margaret C. Jacob, The Radical Enlightenment: Pantheists, Freemasons and Republicans (Cornerstone Book Publishers, Lafayette, La. 1981 & 2006)

David S. Wilson, United Irishmen, United States: Immigrant Radicals in the Early Republic (Cornell, Ithica, NY 1998)

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Hail Anubis

Hail Anubis, 
Guardian of the Duat, Keeper of the Dead, 
the Divine Lawyer, Weigher of Hearts, Master of Ammit, 
Beloved son of Osiris, leader of the souls to the light, 
Protector of the Living, patron of hounds, I honor you.

O Anpu, Anubis, Divine Sem or Kheri-Heb, 
He who establishes the column of the Djed pillar, 
Physician of Osiris on his bed, 
You who restores life to the lifeless, hear me. 
Fulfill whatever I ask of you, 
For it shall not be evil or time consuming, within reason.
 I ask of this in the name of the benevolent Kheri-Heb Master, everliving and justified.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Hermes in Print

None of the books I am posting on here are newly published books. Why that is not a problem is because I rather doubt most of the audience here has already read them. Yet, if you are interested in the subject of Freemasonry, and even more generally Hermeticism, then you need to have read at least these.

If one change needs to begin happening in the world of North American Freemasonry, it is the notion that one can get by reading the same old standards of 19th Century American Freemasonry. They were not accurate then, and they are far from sufficient today. Fine, you can treasure your Pike if you want, I  admit to having a deluxe edition of Albert Pike's Masonic Formulas and Rituals bound in leather, which I enjoy looking at from time to time. However, that will not make you an educated mason. That is not seeking light.

Today it is necessary to know and understand the advances in our knowledge of ancient culture and traditions which have been made in the past 150 years. If you don't ride to lodge using a horse and buggy, you have no business seeking light relying solely on resources that are equally antiquated. Don't throw the old standards away, but reach beyond them, far beyond them. 

The following suggestions represent nothing more than a point of departure.

The Egyptian Hermes: A Historical Approach to the Late Pagan Mind 
by Garth Fowden. 
Princeton University Press: Princeton and Chichester. 1986.

Although Fowden, perhaps unsurprisingly, critiques Black Athena in the Preface to the 1993 edition of this book, charging among other things that it was overtly political, as if his own work were not, this book represents none the less, a wealth of information about the place of Hermeticism in late Ptolemaic Egypt. The single greatest strength of this text lies in Fowden's ascertion that Hermeticism can only be properly understood if seen as a practical spiritual path. This title is also valuable for the insight it offers on both the technical and philosophical Hermetica of late classical Egypt. Once this material, little of which was directly available to the Victorian authors who make up the mainstay of American Masonic literature, and which was even less understood by them is apprehended, the confusion so common to contemporary Masonic discussions is easily understood and dismissed. 

What this book also succeeds at, is to contextualize the social and political environment in which the ideas central to Hermeticism, and so influential to Freemasonry, evolved during the late Ptolemaic period. This represents perhaps not the most exhaustive text, but certainly an invaluable one. It is even possible to forgive his establishment objections to Bernal's Black Athena, a work which had an infinitely greater impact on the field than Fowden's work, and which, being published only a year after this title, unquestionably stole a great deal of the attention this book might otherwise have received.

The Arabic Hermes: From Pagan Sage to Prophet of Science (Oxford Studies in Late Antiquity)
Kevin Thomas Van Bladel 
Oxford University Press: Oxford. NY 2009

As is noted in the preface, this book represents the first in-depth study of Hermes Trismegistus - the legendary ancient Egyptian sage, as he has been represented in early Arabic literature. Van Bladel acknowledges Fowden as the standard source on Hellenic Hermetica, which is founded upon centuries of labor and research, this book represents a plunge into uncharted waters, examining for the first time many of the examples of Hermetic writing which found their way into Arabic literature. Here, there is a freshness and less of a sense of adhering to the tried and true. As a result, while equally solid in skill and scholarship, Van Bladel is willing to take greater chances, to speculate on conditions in which certain pieces were written and how they might have been aprehended by their audiences. He does this without losing sight of his academic and historical responsibilities, and the result as fascinating and stimulating. Indeed, some of the Arabic works, although coming after the Greek, may even suggest the connections which connected the Greek texts to earlier purely Egyptian originals. This gives us fresh insights into the earlier, and at time more familiar materials. Examining Hermetic literature and philosophy as it came to be understood in the young capital city of the largest empire the world had ever seen, as he was in Bagdad of the 8th century, is to approach Hermeticism from an entirely unique direction. It is well worth the effort, and the understanding of the range of Hermes in literature, provides a renewed appreciation for the remarkable traditions of which Freemasonry is heir. 

Black Athena: The Afroasiatic Roots of Classical Civilization 
(Volume 1: The Fabrication of Ancient Greece 1785-1985) 
(Volume 2: The Archaeological and Documentary Evidence) 
(Volume 3: The Linguistic Evidence)
Martin Bernal
Rutgers University Press. New Brunswick, 1987.

Without getting mired in the never ending controversy over Bernal's works, suffice it to say that the defenders of the status quo - the supporters of European Classicist theory, find nothing of worth in Black Athena. It has been argued that intrenched scholarship, like many contemporary politicians operate on the principle that if an idea is repeated often enough, it becomes fact. Most other factions have championed Bernal's work.  The gist of Bernal's perspective is that he rejects the theory that Greek civilization was founded by Indo-European settlers from Central Europe; that theory (which Bernal calls the Aryan model) became popular during the 19th century. Bernal returns instead what the ancient model; pointing to the fact that both Egyptian and Phoenician influences on the Greek world were widely accepted in Antiquity.  Bernal emphasizes African elements in Ancient Near Eastern culture and denounces the Eurocentrism of 19th and 20th century research, including the idea of "Ex Oriente Lux" of Orientalists which, reflects  Western appropriation of ancient Near Eastern culture. 

In the extreme, Bernal's work has been used by Afrocentrist authors to support the agenda that all civilization is direct and traceable African foundations, which more extreme supporters of the 19th Century schools may be accused of taking racist stances in their reactionary assaults on Bernal's theories.

Where ever you may stand on the subject, all these books should be read as they provide a much more dynamic and often provocative examination of the Hermeticism on which the philosophy and work of Freemasonry is founded.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

A Masonic Monastery In France

WARNING: If you believe that Freemasonry is just a men's social club, read no further. You will find the contents of this blog post disturbing in the extreme!

One hears mention of swingers clubs, fraternities, several types of Mopses, and fraternal Arc lodges, all of which are mentioned in his books by Pierre Yves Beaurepaire... of Toland and his libation and toast society, and we mustn't forget either Crowley or his Wharton Abbey Thelema; all of which had different purposes, but who has ever written or proposed an idea as unique as this: a masonic monastery.

We know of Obediences and structures very close to the mystical practices, and very inclined to all kinds of eternal contemplation with a mix of esotericism, Rosicrucians, and many other mystical mixes, but then to propose the establishment of a Masonic Monastery, there is silence.

And this is the idea that Alain Subrebost, author of Petit Manuel d'eveil et de pratique maçonnique broaches, and he proposes the following:

The first Masonic monastery

Many brothers and sisters are looking for a place to rest, relax, a place where silence and tranquility reign, these numerous masons who may thirst for a unique path, a unique practice such as meditation or to stay for a while in a communal fraternal space, are heading mostly to places and practices that usually fall into the streams of traditional religions (Christian monasteries, Buddhist retreats, therapeutic groups and others ...) while Freemasonry itself contains all the tools that we are tempted to look for elsewhere and often in more dogmatic structures.

The first observation that must be made is that for many, Masonic practice seems insufficient for their spiritual needs to an extent that some feel obliged to turn to a variety of religious institutions and systems to find meaning in their existence or to reach a serenity that can not be acquired at the lodge. If we look at results we must acknowledge this as evidence of a flaw in our practice and in our system.

The second point to make is that there ought to be a Masonic space to fill this gap, a place where all Masons can meet regularly and practice the art of transmutation and brotherhood that is all their own. How can we not be dismayed by the realization that there is no such place?.

Masonic practice is a way of life and a form of personal awakening that has survived for centuries. This practice is based on reception, visibility, reflection and action, and are all parameters that govern monastic life.

The Apprentice is under the sign of perception through meditation practice, the partner in the action directed by the Master. The Master knows that those two poles are both active and passive combining serenity, meditation and action. Although the action of the Masonic body is effective over the long term, it seems logical to think that a consistent and daily immersion in a Masonic practice in its different phases may induce a significant change in personal and spiritual development of the practitioner. Recall that the Freemason is primarily a practitioner and that this practice should be used regularly to symbolically transmuting lead into gold, or make us a better version of ourselves, the best version of what essentially are and with full freedom.

We know that the Masonic tool is used only a few hours a month and is not a substitute for total immersion with the idea of  a Masonic monastery that would be the site for daily practice, a practice that could be pragmatic and not as is the usual case, a mere intellectual exercise. The monastery would be an integral meeting point , recreating itself in direct contact with community as a social institution. Certainly, back to my earlier assessment, this practice leads to a perceptible unity of thought and action.

Everything in our Lodges, as in the monasteries of the world and of all religious persuasions, should have a rule in the etymological sense of the term, that is, a mesh, framework, skeleton, or base on which the practitioner can build. Note that a lattice is a guardian,, a support. It is only a stable base on which to grow plants of their own volition. The plant tends to develop in the direction imposed by the gardener...but in the Masonic spirit, no dogmatic gardener existsThe garden will be constructed and will be as free as the sum of the individual buildings.

The Masonic monastery would have to be adaptable to any approach and should only suggest ways of doctrine and practiceof  traditional symbolism. The rule is a practical implementation, physical and socialized (even if the social structure is the dimension of the monastery), according to the first three stages of initiation we know. What is the essence of home practice will become the essence of monastic practice, but lived and intensified daily. This is the message that is contained in its new Facebook page THE FIRST MASONIC MONASTERY.

But who is Alain Subrebost? He is a 45-year Master Mason, a member of the Grand Lodge of France who develop his work in a lodge of the Perigord Noir France. He is moreover an excellent writer on esoterism and spirituality, as well as a musician and composer.

And through their works published by Editions Dervy proposes a pedagogical approach to the transmission of useful and everyday transdisciplinary way for the reader while allowing Masonic knowledge through such diverse and useful ways such as meditation, alchemy, esotericism, psychology or using tarot . The basis of the proposal contained in one of his books, which is the master, and as he says in task of "sowing the scarlet", has so far created an association " Institute for the Study of Masonic Awakening "(IEEM) with intent to federate all the ideas and projects around the goal of articulating the said monastery, and starts as it exposes us visiting Masonic structures and financial ...

Other Videos :

Gracias a Victor Guerra. MM.'. Rito Moderno o Francés

Monday, January 7, 2013

Lodges in Mexico: A Land of Diversity

Freemasonry in Mexico has an interesting history. Scratch that. Freemasonry in Mexico has a fascinating history. Much to my embarrassment, because I have friends who have studied the subject, I admit to knowing relatively little about the history of the craft in Mexico. The small tidbits I have been aware of thus far, guarantees that I will be working to correct this gap in my education. You should, too. In order to spark your interest, you will find here a few interesting photographs of Masonic Lodges and Masons in Mexico.

Being a Mason in Mexico was sometimes a Deadly Serious Matter
The first Masonic Lodge was founded in Mexico in 1806, established in a building whose address is Callejón de las Ratas, No. 4.  It had been founded by Don Enrique Mugi, a Spaniard, in the house of Don Manuel Luyando, an alderman of the city, who also hailed from Spain.
The rather inauspiciously named Alley of the Rats, No. 4, appeared to be not only inauspicious, but also unfortunately predictive. More on that in a minute, though.

The members of the lodge, which practiced the York Rite, included the Marquess of Uluapa, Gregorio Martinez, Feliciano Vargas, José María Espinosa, Miguel Betancourt, Ignacio Moreno, Miguel Domínguez and others. Apparently, they were also involved in political intrigue. Whatever influence politics might or might not have had in the matter, a neighbor who lived across the street, denounced them to the authorities, reporting that a lodge was meeting there. (Remember that at this time, Freemasonry was illegal in the Spanish Empire.) A number of the members were jailed and brought before the Holy Inquisition. One brother, Lic. Primo de Verdad, was ultimately sentenced to death, in 1808.

Masonry become a major factor in the politics of the republic. The Scottish Rite or Escoceses had been the organization to which most prominent Mexicans belonged. As the Escoceses became more and more involved in political activities, many liberals sought an alternative. They were determined to join the York Rite. The rapid increase of this group, the York Rite or Yorkinos, soon gave them a larger following than that of the Escoceses. One reason for this strength was that the Spaniards, as distinguished from the Creoles, were aligned to the Escoceses.

Freemasonry has had other rocky times since then. During the period of WWII, under the influence of Right Wing despotism, laws were put forward to make Freemasonry illegal again, as demonstrated by the image of the anti-masonic poster shown here.

More recently, Freemasonry has again been growing, and a variety of Rites, including the French Rite and Mixed Freemasonic obediences as well as a thriving rural tradition of house masonry exists in the modern Mexico of the 21st Century.

Mixed and Feminine Freemasonry Past and Present

It should be noted that while Freemasonry today includes Mixed and Feminine lodges, it should not be mistakenly assumed that this is something of an innovation.  As the photo shown here, darkened with age, of Logia Constancia Zaragoza, dating back more than 70 years, Mixed  Freemasonry was practiced in the Mexico of the 1930s and before. This demonstrates that the influences of continental Freemasonry was a continuing influence in Mexico despite the proximity of the United States to the north with its dominating environment of Anglophone conventions.

Feast your eyes on a number of lodge buildings and some young and enthusiastic masonic initiates, both male and female. A wide variety of rites are performed in Mexico. Perhaps not surprisingly, the Scottish Rite, as well as the York Rite are practiced there, the result of influence from Mexico's not always friendly neighbor to the north. The Modern Rite, Memphis Misraim, and the Hermetic Rite, in this case actually a version of the Scottish Rite, are also practiced.

The image at right is from inside the Puerto Vallarta No. 34 in Jalisco. This lodge was recently closed. It shows however both a utilitarian aesthetic and a robust architecture demonstrating both native and colonial influences.

The architecture of Freemasonry is diverse, albeit generally a little more homegrown than what would be normal in larger cities in the United States. Vernacular architecture prevails. The former lodge, the Palacio Nacional, is a notable exception to that rule. At the other extreme, there are lodges in rural areas, which meet in people's homes, in a throw back to the early days of Freemasonry, not only in Mexico, but also in Europe.  To the left is an entrance to the Palacio Nacional showing wording that demonstrates its former use as a Masonic Lodge. To the right below is the Acacia Lodge No. 8, dating from 1941, also doubles as the Shriner's Temple, in Tecate.

House Masonry and Presidental Rites

President of Mexico during the late 1930s, Lázaro Cárdenas, has numerous Masonic lodges named after him and he is even credited with the  establishment of a entire Masonic movement or rite, a claim which has been critically examined and found, by some at least, to be lacking in substance.  However, if President Cárdenas was not as involved in Freemasonry as he might have claimed, many of Mexico's founding fathers were profoundly involved with the craft and this involvement even pitted the York Rite against the Scottish Rite at one time.

One variety of Freemasonry in Mexico is called White Masonry, or House Masonry, and although the term is used loosely, it does cover lodges that meet in private homes -- sometimes with touches of astrology and even faith healing. It is also called by some, perhaps with a bit of disdain, as "White Magic Freemasonry."

Mexico is one of our closest neighbors and it is easy to visit by land, water, or air. Head south and check it out. You'll be glad you did!

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Initiation: Deja Vu all over again?

The following are personal ramblings on some subjective experiences. They are not well articulated and they wander in seemingly random ways. I am publishing these, not because I expect any answers, nor really because I feel the need to share them with many who are probably total strangers. Rather, it is the need to speak out loud about what I experience, and some of its incoherence. Doing so with only the cat as a witness didn't seem enough. There are changes in the world and in me that I do not yet fully understand. Perhaps posting this is because of some inchoate sense that others may be experiencing something similar.

Initiation is central to most cultures. Although contemporary society is no different in this regard, the majority in our culture are usually ill informed about the topic if not totally ignorant of it. This is reflected in how the term is used and misused in popular discussions of the subject.

With that in mind, I feel the need to consider a thoughtful definition of the term. Van Gennap in "Rites de passage" creates a definition which recognizes a three-part or three tiered process of ritual transformation. These three steps include, in his order,  the separation of the subject from the current or larger social group; a period in which the individual has no social identity; the initiand belongs neither to the old group nor to the new; and a final stage of initiation which admits the subject into the new society providing a new identity. I not interested in exploring emic and etic distinctions in academic terms. Neither am I going to explore the wider range of esoteric practices outside a generalized conceptualization of initiation and its meaning for the initiate.

Rather, from an emic perspective,  albeit as an individual simultaneously aware of and consciously exploring the etic approach to the subject, I will attempt to very briefly examine my feelings and reactions to a current process of initiation and of multiple initiations. 

I have experienced initiation into a variety of "secret societies" and esoteric traditions over much of my life. This began in the early 1970s including over the years initiations into both modern and more traditional Western Esoteric traditions, as well as African and Afro-diasporic traditions, and which have continued throughout my life. Over the past two years I have begun a renewed sequence of initiations, including concurrently different branches of Freemasonry, increased involvement with various Afro-diasporic traditions, and other modern forms of spiritual energetic systems.

In a traditional context, an individual might become an initiate in one tradition in a lifetime. At most, an individual might initiate into a couple of systems in a culture with some level of spiritual specialization. In the west, most in past centuries might be initiated into a major religion such as Christianity or Judaism, even though those traditions tend not to use such terminology. There were few alternatives until the late twentieth century. If male, the individual might initiate into Freemasonry or a similar society. For women, in a few locations, there was access to Freemasonry, but in many areas that was restricted, most notably in the Anglophone world, which always seems more socially recidivist than many of its neighbors.

In contrast, in today's society there are a myriad of traditions coexisting and many seem eager to sample everything. There is a reluctance, buried deep within my genes, to this approach. Yet, I find myself dealing with it, and am struggling with my own traditionalist preferences. I rationalize this with the recognition that I am being called to engage various disparate avenues of spiritual exploration, and it would seem, by the forces which are associated with some of these pathways. While I continue the good fight, I realize that my narrow, single-path aspirations have long ago given up the ghost. What can I say? Being Irish, I'm stubborn.

I first became aware of and began exploring alternatives to the standard models of Christianity that I was born into, quite early in life. I discovered the magical realm of nature spirits before entering grade school. I briefly examined various forms of Christianity, even briefly wanting to become Amish before I fully examined the theology, and for a few years explored a variety of alternate spiritual approaches. By the 1970s, I branched out and read everything I could find on African derived religions in Cuba, New Orleans, Haiti, and Brazil. By the early 80s, living in Ireland, I met the founders of the Fraternity of Isis and initiated my fascination with Egypt and its spiritual traditions.

Back in the United States and in graduate school, I returned to Afo-diasporic traditions and completed my doctoral dissertation in Folklore and Folklife on Central African religious traditions in the Americas. In the process, I received a number of initiations in Cuba, frequented many Vodou fetes, explored Brazilian traditions such as Umbanda and Quimbanda, and acquired a raft of initiations in (thankfully very irregular) Freemasonry in Europe. Armed with several initiations into different branches of the Congo religions of Cuba, Martinism and Memphis Misraim to name a few of the initiations I had accumulated, I also received attunements in a "new" branch of alternative healing called "Reiki." I was given the attunements for this (as initiation into Reiki is usually called) by a friend, and although I was interested in energy manipulation and healing, I really paid little attention to this latter "initiation" at the time.

A decade and a half later, having ignored Reiki almost altogether, and having become a lapsed Freemason, I found myself moving toward a renewed and intense involvement in both, on a level I had not predicted. Having embarked on gaining mastery in masonic obediences which were new to me, and now beginning an adventure into attuning to a dizzying degree to the mysteries of Reiki, far beyond that of a simple "Reiki Master," it seems to me that I need to investigate the issue of initiation and what it means, as well as what it does to an individual. 

All of this came as a result of my renewed involvement with Haitian Vodou. I discovered that the Loa or Haitian spiritual forces guided me through Afro-Cuban traditions and back to the Haitian which I had flirted with prior to my first trip to Cuba. Interestingly then, I found on a personal level that these same forces were presenting linkages through Egyptian spirituality with Freemasonry and even Reiki. I found that when I tried to untangle this net of associations I was met with a profound cognitive dissonance.

All of this is background and not at all that with which I am grappling. Why is it that I find myself at this point in my life, looking for new experiences and without having consciously sought it at this point, on a path of an excellerating cycle of  initiation, re-initiation, and continual initiation. To be honest, I do not have a clue. I do know that it is exciting to feel such a strong connection to spirit and it strikes me that since I am in several areas of my life, both in Quimbisa (a form of Afro-Cuban religion of Congo origin) and in Freemasonry, I am increasingly responsible for the initiations of others, and I am being led to experience, and re-experience the process from the perspective of the neophyte, as, I suppose, a reminder of the role, to assist me in making it more meaningful for those I assist. Each time I go through another initiation, I find myself experiencing the introduction to new ideas and new life that an initiation, any legitimate initiation provides. I also am becoming more conscious of the importance of making informed choices about where you rest your head, so to speak. I find that I am only being allowed access where it is healthy for me to go. Although I do not yet have a clue to what it looks like, there seems to be a meta-picture here somewhere. All the Afro-diasporic traditions have a connection, often directly to one another (at least between Cuba and Haiti) and from there to Egypt, and that is aligned through Hermeticism to Freemasonry. Beyond that, links appear to have been forged between Reiki, which originated in Japan, and with Egyptian traditions through people whom I met a quarter century ago when I was living in Ireland.

In the process of looking at this subject, at this point at least, I cannot find useful information from my intellectual brain. The etic is of little use in resolving these questions or quieting my own cognitive dissonance. There is no apparent logic behind such an experience. I can assure you they are not at all the choices I would have taken on my own, but I also bow to the logic of understanding that once one places faith in the spirit(s) giving direction to initiatic experience, they will make apparent connections that you may not have recognized, and they don't appear to be concerned with footnotes. Isn't that a relief?

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Breaking New Ground: Freemasonry as Theme for a Samba Club Performance in Brazil

As Bro. Nuno Raimundo, of Lisbon, Portugal remarked, only in Brazil could Freemasonry become a theme for a Samba Club performance.  Here it is.

Grces Mocidade Independente de Padre Paulo 2013

Enredo: Da luz que Difunde, Sagrada Filosofia, Surgiu no Mundo Assombrado. a Pura Maçonaria
Interprete : Fredy Viana
Compositores: Gilson Caffé, Carauba, Petter Pan, Giba 7 Cordas, Hermes Sobral e Bochecha

Storyline: The light diffuses, Sacred Philosophy, Emerging to an amazed world, a Pure Freemasonry
Interpret: Fredy Viana
Composers: Gilson Caffé, Carauba, Peter Pan, Giba 7 Strings, Hermes Sobral and Cheek

Águia guerreira anuncia
Em verde e branco
Uma história vem contar
Nos áureos tempos do Egito
Arquitetos construíram... Templos de se admirar
Tetos ocultam símbolos celestiais
Que outrora fora perdido... Pelos ancestrais
Na era das cruzadas os templários... A ligação
A inquisição marcou o mundo com a fogueira da opressão
Entre rituais e lendas
Originou a busca... Da perfeição

Cai a tirania queda da bastilha... Liberdade
Difundidas cores, graus e alquimia
Arco Íris, luz da verdade.

Em nossa terra chegou com uma forte influência
Grão mestre, imperador, independência.
Duque defensor da ordem além da fronteira
Heróis que conduzem a mesma bandeira
Abolição, proclamação, estadista do império.
Dissidência vence o tempo a porfia
Ditadura afronta a ideologia
O olho que tudo vê
Homens de fé, filosofia.
Delta iluminou... Sabedoria

Olhai meu pai a natureza, abençoai a humanidade
Um laço de amor grito de igualdade
MAÇONARIA, é o carnaval da MOCIDADE.

Eagle warrior announces
in Green and white
Comes to tell a story
Of the golden days of Egypt
Architects built ... Temples of wonder
Ceilings which hid celestial symbols
What once was lost ... by ancestors
In the era of the Crusades the Templars ... bound
The inquisition marked the world with the fire of oppression
Between rituals and legends
Originated the search ... of perfection

Tyranny fell in the Bastille ... freedom
Widespread colors, degrees and alchemy
Rainbow, the light of truth.

In our land came with a strong influence
Grandmaster emperor of independence.
Duke defender of order beyond the border
Heroes leading the same flag
Abolition, proclamation, statesman of empire.
Dissent at time wins against strife
Dictatorship affronts ideology
The all-seeing eye
Men of faith, philosophy.
Delta lit ... wisdom

Behold my father's nature, bless mankind
A bond of love, a cry for equality
FREEMASONRY is the carnival of Youth.