Sunday, March 31, 2013

Another look at Freemasonry in Cuba

Cuban Freemasonry is unique in the world for operating openly in a communist nation. What can explain that, given that in most other communist nations Freemasonry has been condemned? For that answer, it is necessary to look at the role that Freemasonry played in the original Cuban Revolution or as some people speculate. the affiliation of the Castro brothers themselves?

Cuba is the only country under the administration of a Marxist government that tolerates throughout its territory an important secret society with an esoteric background: Freemasonry. Today, in the beautiful and economically challenged island of Martí and Maceo, no less than 318 Masonic lodges flourish, openly attended by about 30,000 registered members. Such numbers are high for a country with as small a population as that of Cuba. Various Afro-Cuban religions, Palo Congo, Yoruban Ocha, Abakua, and Haitian Vodú among the population of Haitian descent mostly in Eastern Cuba, religions often mistakenly dubbed "santería" - the Cuban first cousins of Brazilian Candomblé and Umbanda also exist in Cuba, the only other power system capable of competing with esoteric Freemasonry in terms of being reasonably free and unrestricted. 

In a Masonic Lodge in Cuba, the rite of the chain of union or force, represented by the crossed hands and arms crossed of the brethren, is symbolic of the evident unity and power of Masonry. The Brotherhood is hoping to play an important role in the future of the country. 

Several unsupported stories, amounting to legends are common on the island, both in the media and in popular currency, even among some Masons, to explain this freedom. Some say that Fidel and Raul are Masons, more likely the latter. Others claim that it is the duty of gratitude and that during the Cuban revolution, Fidel Castro had taken refuge in a Masonic lodge, where he found shelter and protection. So he never closed even a single Masonic temple nor persecuted its members. Such stories cannot be corroborated and since similar stories exist relating to the relative tolerance shown to Afro-Cuban religion, we must remain skeptical until something more than simple assertion can be offered as evidence. The fact is that, today, the Grand Lodge of Cuba - the epicenter of the organization's activities in the country - is entirely regular and recognized by most major Masonic obediences around the world.
What is an indisputable fact, and which may have more to do with this tolerance, is that the very independence of Cuba was achieved with assistance from Cuban Freemasons. Freemasonry first emerged in Cuba in 1763, from English and Irish military lodges during the brief occupation of the island nation by Britain. When the British left, the French arrived by the thousands fleeing the revolution in Haiti in 1791. The first lodge was actually Cuban Theological Virtue Temple, founded in Havana in 1804 by the Grand Lodge of Louisiana and the famous French-Haitian Freemason Joseph Cerneau, honored throughout Hispanic, Franco-, and Luso-America by mainstream and cosmopolitan or liberal Freemasons alike.

What makes the presence of Freemasonry in Cuba uniquely respected is the role it played during the three decades of struggle for independence from Spanish rule between 1868 and 1895. The three great revolutionary leaders - José Martí, Antonio Maceo and the "father of the nation" Carlos Manuel de Céspedes were all Masons. Historians say today that it was the communist revolutionaries recognized and honored the Masonic affiliation of these three national heroes. But the truth is that little or no effort was made to repress Freemasonry. The vast majority of Cuban presidents, starting with Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, were Masons.

There are other curious features in the behavior of Freemasonry within Cuban society. Very little intervention or limitations  have been imposed on Freemasonry. This comfortable state of affairs may be due to the general support Cuban Masonic leaders have demonstrated for the government's policies. Yet, all Cubans are welcome regardless of their politics. A few lodges, outside the Grand Lodge, have begun admitting women to their ranks, which is welcomed generally in a society which formally eschews bias and discrimination.

After the breakup of the Soviet Union - which was the largest trading partner of Cuba - The Cuban government has further facilitated things for masonry, permitting it to participate in public ceremonies and open new lodges. However, the smooth functioning of all the Masonic lodges is still subject to permission from the authorities, and the publication of books and pamphlets is quite limited for Masonic groups due as much or more to financial limitation as government regulation.

The Grand Lodge of Cuba, popularly known as the Masonic Building, was built around 1955 for the functions of the temple and headquarters of the Masonic bodies of Cuba and came to the University Masonic lodge. It is an imposing building, included among the most significant architectural works in the city of Havana. It lies in the current Avenida Salvador Allende in central Havana. Without forgetting that the Chilean Salvador Allende, friend and ally of the Cuban Revolution, was a committed Mason.

A small lodge in the Sierra Maestras is credited as having hidden Fidel Castro in 1958 after his landing on Cuban shores in the ship named Granma.  A building in a remote village in the Sierra Maestra, the door Masonic symbols of the square and compass where it is said that in 1956 hid Fidel Castro who had just landed in the ship Granma. 

It was precisely within this old mountain lodge that future Maximum Leader has created the 26th of July Movement that in a few years would sweep away the dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista, inspired by the teachings of Jose Marti, the hero of the Cuban father independence movement on the island. 

Of course, many stories are told in Havana, including that the tolerance of Fidel toward Freemasonry is due to his affection for his teacher who was a Mason. That Father Angel, famous landowner, was affiliated with Freemsonry. It is a gesture of respect to his friend Salvador Allende, also a Mason. Even some right-wing theories, of which the Internet has unfortunately more than its share claim that Fidel or at least his brother Raul are initiates. This of course, is also said of them in relation to almost all of the Afro-Cuban religions as well as Haitian Vodú.

Today, on the island, there are officially 318 "regular" lodges frequented by over thirty thousand members. The number increased after the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Officially, the government praises Freemasonry for being associated with the noblest moments of Cuban history. Everyone hopes that in the future, Freemasonry will have an important role in the reconciliation process of the various factions of the country.

Not all lodges are in good condition. Many, especially those far from the capital, lie nearly in ruins. But all masons point to the Grand National Masonic Temple, the eleven storey building crowned by the Square and Compass, located at number 508 Avenida Salvador Allende in Havana as a source of pride. 

When it first opened in 1955, was one of the most modern buidings in Cuba. And it remains the best maintained, as witnessed today the small blue leather couches or columns topped by luminous globes. Here's where collective rites occur. It is here, within these walls, with its medals and swords, that the Grand Master and Grand Secretary retain their offices. There is also a museum, a library open to the public and an asylum that houses elderly Masons and administers donations - especially drugs - provided by American and European lodges.

Underground lies the dark "chamber of reflection" on it, along with skeletons and other symbols of vanitas (vanity) human, the aspirant begins to start their learning, "dies" and then is reborn to a new life within the community. A symbolic ritual that, in the country of African diasporic religious traditions, the syncretic traditions that unite African and Christian elements, was enriched with even more macabre passages.

But it may have been precisely this factor that prompted the mix, and subsequently, toleration. The Cuban government has always tolerated the symbols of Afro-Cuban tradition more than previous governments did. As happened in 1959 - a week after the flight of Batista - when during a rally, two white doves - symbols of Obatala, and Tiembla Tierra associated in Afro-Cuban traditions with Christ - land on Fidel's shoulders.

Afro-Cuban faith and Freemasonry, in short, both played a role in consensus building in Cuba after the Revolution. The first was useful to gain support from the largely Afro-cuban population  of the island who remain poorly represented in the government. The second ensured the sympathy of the Latin American left; the sickle and hammer on one side, and on the other the square and compass.

Thanks to Paulo Antonio de F. Lobo and João Carlos del Bianco, brethren from Brazil.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

International Pan Celtic Festival 2013

The Official Opening of the Pan Celtic International Festival 2013 was held recently in the Seven Oaks Hotel in Carlow amid great excitement and enthusiasm. The full interactive festival programme of events is now available to view via the picture link above. Many thanks to everyone who attended the opening to support what is sure to be another fantastic festival with events in venues all over Carlow between the 2nd - 7th April 2013. We look forward to seeing everyone at the festival so download our programme of events and don't miss any of the wonderful festival and fringe events available. Everyone is welcome!

Clár na Féile Idirnáisiúnta Pan Cheilteach 2013 seolta!
Seoladh Clár na Féile IdirnáisiúntaPan Cheilteach go spleodrach i gCeatharlach le déanaí agus tá gach éinne ag súil go mór leis an gceiliúradh. Tá leagan idirghníomhach de Chlár na Féile ar fáil anois ach cliceáil ar an bpictiúr thuas. Bí linn agus bain taitneamh as na himeachtaí uile a bheidh ar siúl anseo de ló is d'oíche ó 2ú-7ú Aibreán. Fáilte go Ceatharlach!

Friday, March 29, 2013

The Grand Masonic Library of Galicia

Our good brother Victor Guerra is never lacking for energy. I'd love to have a tap and be able to bottle a little of it myself. Here is a synopsis of one of the interests he is currently turning himself toward, and it is a project that I think merits a great deal of support. I offer it in hopes that some might be inspired to support his efforts in at least some small manner.

The raids on masonic libraries by the Franco government during the Spanish Civil War, had a dramatic and negative impact on the documentary record of Spanish Freemasonry, and it has left Freemasons in Spain today lacking sources of study, especially on Masonry itself.

The summary of the library services requisitioned by the repression of the Franco Masonry in the Northwest Regional Grand Lodge in 1936 makes it clear what was the range of reading materials available to Masons of the first third of the century, so it was not in vain that Pedro Gonz·lez Blanco started to respond to these intellectual limits in Masonic with the publication of the magazine Latomia. ( In this respect shows the contents of the library of the Grand Lodge of the Northwest Regional in which several lodges which worked in Asturian)

But while this gap that is felt in the libraries of Masonic lodges can be excused by several factors such as lack of management, language differences, lack of books, it also was in part influenced by the currents of anti-masonic sentiments in society.

Years have passed, and still there is a saying that Masons do not read, at least not books on Freemasonry. This can be seen as a "quip" but it is not entirely false, seeing that what has been published in Spain since 1978 about Freemasonry, which is not much.

Today practically only three publishers consider printing Masonic books, Editorial Idea, with its collection of the square and compass and the publisher ATANOR, whose collection is also called square and compass, then there is only one publisher of totally Masonic character: MasonerÌa.Es , apart of course , the other publishing projects of Masonic foundations and structures themselves.

In an effort to partly mitigate this trend, the Brethren of the Grand Lodge of Spain from Galicia have put forward the idea of the Great Library of Masonry Galician. This is an ambitious project that aims to create a great documentary center of Masonry in Galicia (N.W. Spain).

The Galician Brothers GLE hope to count on the solidarity of all Brethren. scattered around the globe to create the first bibliographic Masonry Center in Galicia with donations of books and magazines on all Masonic themes. The project is designed in three main phases:

FIRST STAGE: Collection and storage of library materials donations from individual Masons or groups. They can store up to about 3000 volumes in the first stage. Please send any appropriately Masonic texts to Apartado de correos n∫ 33 de Barbad·s, Ourense, CP 32890, SPAIN .

Donors may write a dedication in the book, in their own handwriting to the Great Library Project of Masonry in Galicia, stating your full name or nickname, Lodge and Orient or GL where you belong.

As volumes are received, notice will be posted on the Masoneria Siglo XXI facebook site (at least for now) the securities received and the name or pseudonym of donors.

A Search for sponsorships (cofunding) for rent and refurbishment of premises in which to install and catalog no less that 3000 volumes, at which time they would be available to users and library members.
This will give the project an opportunity to post on several websites dedicated to cofunding, both in Spain and worldwide, and through this web page.

Enrich as far as possible the bibliographic materials and consolidate over time this project with the help of volunteers and/or professionals in the field of document management and historical research for the recovery of bibliographic and documentary heritage of Galician Freemasonry.

The success of this project depends solely on its dissemination to all brethren. scattered around the world willing to see masonry flourish in this corner of Spain. Please donate a book (even if it is something you have duplicates of) and disseminate news pf this project to your contacts to ensure its success.

If within two years maximum we can not complete the second phase of the project, all books received will be donated to the symbolic lodges established in Galicia or to the Ar˙s Library of the city of Barcelona,

currently the only Spanish state Masonic library

Victor Guerra .'.

                                                                                  Masonería Siglo XXI

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Rough Ashlar No. 6

The legitimacy of a Masonic obedience lies in the quality of its labors and not the genealogy of its bureaucracy.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Masonic Stained Glass

It's been a while since I've highlighted Masonic art for art's sake. So it seems as good a time as any to do so again. Previously, The Hedge Mason has focused on Masonic Neon Signs, lodges, Libations, and a variety of other items. Today, we will take a brief glance at Masonic Stained Glass art. We will not provide any definitive history of the use of Stained Glass in relation to Freemasonry. Although there probably is a history that could be written, I haven't done that research, and I just wanted to collect some Masonic Eye candy to share. The sole justification for this is that it is beautiful and I love Masonic Symbolism as well as Stained Glass.

Window in Lodge in Vermont
No doubt the origins of the use of stained glass art in masonic temples, homes, and hospitals has its origins in the use of stained glass in European religious architecture. That it reaches back to the construction of the grand cathedrals of Europe is only appropriate. That gives its use in Masonic contexts a greater authenticity.  It would appear, if only from a romanticist perspective to have a more ancient foundation than simply a form of 19th Century Romantic Revivalism.

Whether that is true or not, what can be said without fear of contradiction is that at least in modern times, the use of stained glass to ornament masonic buildings is to be found throughout the world, and the use of masonic imagery in the stained glass found even in Roman Catholic churches and cathedrals is, at least in some countries, documented.

Iglesia de San Ildefonso, Mexico
One such perhaps unexpected example is the presence of masonic symbolism in the stained glass windows which can be found in chapels, churches, and cathedrals in Mexico. This is notable because, although one would not normally expect Masonic symbolism in (at least relatively modern) Catholic places of worship, Freemasonry also experienced governmental persecution in Mexico until the establishment of the Mexican state after it achieved independence from Spain. In fact, members of the first documented Masonic Lodge in Mexico were arrested, brought before the Inquisition, and one of these was sentenced to death. Yet, here we find Masonic symbolism clearly present in Roman Catholic religious architecture.

Uíbh Eachach in Uladh
And while I have not heard of stained glass displaying Masonic symbolism in any religious architecture in Ireland, we find some beautiful examples of its effective use in Masonic temples there. One shown here is a gorgeous and innovative use of stained glass in a Lodge in Sciobairín, Co. na Corcaigh. Another example, more prosaic and memorial in function comes from Uíbh Eachach, Condae an Dúin, in Northern Ireland. 

There is much more to be found in Ireland, but we will turn our eyes elsewhere in order not to be accused of playing favorites. And there is a great diversity, and embarrassment of riches to be found in Masonic Lodges through out the world.

David R. Clarke Window in Scotland 

It would hardly seem fair to note several Irish examples if we were to slight her northern sister, Scotland. Scotland, foremost in Masonic history for having been the birthplace of the modern  tradition of Freemasonry, is not without her own treasures. Here we show one such example, a window in the Pollokshields Burgh Hall, near Glasgow. in Scotland. The Pollokshields Burgh Hall was originally designed by H. E. Clifford in the Scottish renaissance style. The hall first opened in 1890 and served for many years its original function of a Masonic Lodge. The window was commissioned to the accomplished stained glass artist, David. R. Clarke.

Kingston Parrish, Jamaica

In the Caribbean we also find Masonic symbols being intentionally displayed in a Parrish church. This time the church is to be found in Kingston, Jamaica. A few stunning examples come from this location, including one which bears an all-seing eye within a triangle, and another with pathagorean symbolism in high relief.

These two Jamaican windows are only two of a larger collection of harmoniously designed window, totaling no less than ten or eleven distinct panels which prominently display Masonic symbolism.  We will return to look further at this particular church in another post, as it merits more attention.

When we turn our eyes toward the United States, we do not fare any worse.

We will end this posting with some North American examples. The first is from the famous Masonic Temple in Washington, DC.  and represents a beautifully crafted example of 20th Century art.  This example includes an image of the temple, the eagles and a stylized border suggesting the Columns of Jachim and Boaz. All in all, it is a beautifully crafted window and evokes many of the myths and symbols dear to Freemasons of all descriptions.

This piece, both due to its subject matter, its choice of color and elongated shape as well as it's positioning which is at the end of a passage, gives a distinctly Egyptian feel to the window. Even the thoroughly modern lighting fixtures above help to reinforce this sensation and blend in well. All in all, a superb installation. 

An interesting image utilizing the Masonic All seeing eye is installed in Saint Joseph's Hospital in Phoenix, Arizona. It uses a more abstract pattern suggesting both geometrical shapes and elements of architectural detail whose chaotic placements serves to draw attention to the more calm eye in the center of the work. This work demonstrates the eclectic vision which has guided the creation of Masonic stained glass where ever it is found. Certainly there is a diversity of vision, style, and approach, the only consistant trait to all of them being that of solid craftsmanship and design. 

In Tappan, NY there exists a deserted Masonic home, which was mentioned in  an earlier post concerning Masonic ruins. In the chapel connected to the deserted nursing home remains a beautiful example of stained glass art. We include it here, even though it has been reproduced elsewhere on the Hedge Mason, as it is worthy of a second look. Unfortunately, such derelict pieces are unlikely to have a bright future, unless someone who appreciates their worth and historical significance does something to protect them. Given the current state of Freemasonry in the United States, that is quite unlikely. The best we can hope for is that someone who likes stained glass may decide it is marketable.

We will leave on what I consider to be one of the most pleasing use of the Masonic symbol of the beehive that I have seen in quite some time. Here we are treated to an image of a beehive from a Masonic Lodge in Baltimore, Maryland.  It should serve as a reminder that with such treasures to preserve, we need to get busy.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Ñañigo - Abakúa - An Afro-Cuban Freemasonry?

Abakua or Abakuá  (also referred to as Ñañigo) is an Afro-Cuban men's initiatory fraternity, or secret society, which originated from fraternal associations in the Cross River region of southeastern Nigeria and southwestern Cameroon. Known generally as Ekpe, Ngbe, or Ugbe among the multi-lingual groups in the region, these closed groups all used the leopard as a symbol of masculine prowess in war and political authority in their various communities. The term Ñáñigo has also been used for the organization's members. Similar to Freemasonry, it also functioned as a tool for developing trade among its members. Also like Freemasonry, it significantly supported the fight for Cuban Freedom from Spain.

Parallels have often been made between Abakua and Freemasonry, and many Freemasonrs in Cuba are also Abakua, including the current Grand Commander of the Scottish Rite for Cuba.

Following is a poem by the nationalist poet Nicolás Guillen based upon imagery related to the Abakua. Below you will also find a few links which will provide more information on this fascinating and beautiful tradition.


Abakúa Altar
Esta es la canción del bongó: 
-Aquí el que más fino sea, 
responde, si llamo yo. 
Unos dicen: Ahora mismo, 
otros dicen: Allá voy. 
Pero mi repique bronco, 
pero mi profunda voz, 
convoca al negro y al blanco, 
que bailan el mismo son, 
cueripardos y almiprietos 
más de sangre que de sol, 
pues quien por fuera no es de noche, 
por dentro ya oscureció. 
Aquí el que más fino sea, 
responde, si llamo yo.

En esta tierra, mulata 
de africano y español   
(Santa Bárbara de un lado, 

Andrés Peit - Abakúa innovator
                                                                  del otro lado, Changó), 
                                                                  siempre falta algún abuelo, 
                                                                  cuando no sobra algún Don 
                                                                  y hay títulos de Castilla 
                                                                 con parientes en Bondó: 
                                                                 Vale más callarse, amigos, 
                                                                 y no menear la cuestión, 
                                                                 porque venimos de lejos, 
                                                                 y andamos de dos en dos. 
                                                                Aquí el que más fino sea, 
                                                                responde si llamo yo.

Abakúa Ireme or Dancer

Habrá quién llegue a insultarme, 
pero no de corazón; 
habrá quién me escupa en público, 
cuando a solas me besó... 
A ése, le digo: 
ya me pedirás perdón, 
ya comerás de mi ajiaco, 
ya me darás la razón, 
ya me golpearás el cuero, 
ya bailarás a mi voz, 
ya pasearemos del brazo, 
ya estarás donde yo estoy: 
ya vendrás de abajo arriba, 
¡que aquí el más alto soy yo!

The Last Supper - An Abakúa inspired Serograph by Belkis Ayón

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Egregore of the Freemasons

The subject of this post might require some explanation, at least for some. For others among us, it is probably a well recognized concept, whether understood literally, psychologically or metaphorically. So, bear with me and we will unravel this concept. Etymologically, the word "egregore," comes from the Greek word εγρηγορότα, meaning  watchers . The word appears in the Septuagint translation of the Book of Lamentations, as well as the Book of Jubilees and the Book of Enoch.

Christian tradition speaks about the Angels of Heaven and Fallen Angels, the ill-fated followers of Satan. There is, however, a third kind of Angel less well known. The Grigori were a group of fallen angels, described in both the Old Testament and Biblical Apocrypha, who mated with humans, giving rise to a race of hybrids known as the Nephilim, who are described as giants and heroes of old, the men of renown. In Enoch, the Watchers are angels apparently sent to Earth simply to watch over the people and teach law and justice to humankind. In that context, they might have been equated to what we today refer to as "guardian angels."
The first modern author to adapt "egregore" in a contemporary language appears to have been the French poet, Victor Hugo. In La Légende des Siècles ("The Legend of the Ages"), 1859, he uses the word "égrégore" first as an adjective, then as a noun, although he left the meaning obscure. The author seems to have concerned with providing a word that would rhyme with both with "or" (gold) and "mandragore".
Eliphas Lévi, in Le Grand Arcane ("The Great Mystery", 1868) identifies "egregors" with the tradition concerning the fathers of the nephilim, describing them as "terrible beings" that "crush us without pity because they are unaware of our existence." More recently, the concept of the egregore as a group thoughtform was developed in works of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn and the Rosicrucians and has been referenced by writers such as Valentin Tomberg.
The concept of egregore is generally positive regardless of whether viewed as a psychological, sociological, or metaphysical concept. Gaetan Delaforge (Gnosis Magazine, 1987) defined Egregore as a form of group consciousness created by people consciously coming together for a common purpose.
In metaphysical terms, an egregore is the general character that binds a group entity. It may be viewed as the combination of physical, emotional, mental and spiritual energies generated by people working together towards the same goal; being a by-product of our personal and collective creative processes.
According to the metaphysical view, an egregore may develop to the point of attaining an independent existence as an entity or as an intentionally created entity, such as a servitor, that has grown in power well beyond its original design. To a non-religious practitioner of magic, an egregore and a god, or goddess, would be interchangeable terms. To a religious practitioner, an egregore would be somewhere below the level of a god or goddess, saint or other spiritual entity.
For those who find themselves either uncomfortable with such "magical" language or who are totally lost in the concept, relax, the concept may also be approached from a psychological or sociological perspective, and that might make more sense to you, or be more comfortable if you are into rigid materialistic views of what passes for reality. From these more material perspectives , an egregore is that  atmosphere or  personality that develops among groups independent of any of its members. It is the feeling or impression you get when walking into a neighborhood that has an ambience distinct from others, or that you may experience visiting a club or association that has been around for a long time. It also is analogous to what is commonly referred to as "corporate culture." In this last case, admittedly, egregore may be viewed as being from mildly toxic to downright evil. Generally speaking however, as noted before egregore is usually a positive or at least benign concept.
So, what does any of this have to do with Freemasonry? The symbols, rituals and meetings of a group, when repeated over time, develop an egregore or group mind which binds the members together, harmonizes, motivates and stimulates them to realize the aims of the group, and enables the individual members to make more spiritual progress than if they worked alone. Now here is where some psychological speculation may raise some interesting food for thought. Eosteric groups often shield themselves not so much against public awareness of their activities but to ensure that negative opinions do not disturb the group mind or egregore. This may in fact explain the extreme positions many rank and file members of mainstream masonry take toward the subject of secrecy, positions that often go far beyond the actual regulations. What is more, it raises another interesting question, and this may be considered from either a psychological, a sociological, or a metaphysical perspective. What reactions may be inspired in the egregore, or "group-think" of an organization which has a strong egrigore but which has somehow lost sight of its original purpose? How does that even come to be? Such a thread of speculation may provide some useful ideas for those concerned with the future health of Freemasonry.
To turn to a completely experiential set of observations, and this may be a way to convince the skeptical that such things exist, let me raise a few questions for the readers. Test your own reactions, and see whether the concept of egregore relates to Freemasonry, and how it may fit into your own understandings. How do you feel in lodge? Do you feel a different ambience there? Do you sense that Masonry is somehow, perhaps indefinably, more than just the members of the lodge? Is that difference palpable in some way? Does the lodge feel different when you are lone there than when with the other members? Do you sense a presence or awareness, on whatever intellectual or emotional a level? Have you ever entered a deserted lodge, or one which has been repurposed? How did that feel? Do not worry about trying to justify these reactions as belonging to your own thinking. That would be missing the point. After all, an egregore is at the very least, a feeling, a group of common emotions or conceptions, or social identity. At the opposite end of that spectrum, it may be more than just a common identity, it may be a group energy, or even a group "soul."
What is the "Masonic Egregore?" Well, what are real Masonic values? There will be more than one answer to that last question, as there is far less agreement among masons concerning Masonic values than most like to admit. If you look at a hundred attempts to express them, the majority will possess some range of divergence, which is fine. Uniformity is overrated. I would argue, that just as there is more than one "Freemasonry," there exists more than one "Masonic Egregore." Certainly the egregore of Progressive Freemasonry is a very different spirit than that possessed of Mainstream Masonries. Maybe they may be viewed as siblings. 

This seems to be an idea and a realm of speculation worth returning to, and should I find more worth sharing on the subject, the Hedge Mason will return to the subject. Perhaps looking at the concept of egregore in relation to Quantum Physics might reveal some interesting new insights.

Monday, March 11, 2013

An Honor Bestowed

While it has not been a matter of speculation in the United States, among Latin American Freemasons, I have become aware of a number of debates over whether the late president of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez was or was not a Freemason. The consensus has largely been that he was not. However, things change. I have come into possession of an announcement from Cuba that one lodge there has as a sign of respect, granted him posthumously an honorable membership in their lodge

The lodge members of Logia Anahuac, a mixed lodge have taken the extraordinary formal  decision to  appoint Mr. Hugo Rafael Chavez Frias late President of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela as an Honorary Member post-mortem of their Lodge, due to his attitude toward life, his concern for the problems of the dispossessed, for historical truth, and having what they view as an attitude in life enviable by any Mason, who is respected for having brought peace to his nation, education and health care for all regardless of class or gender, and for struggling for the integration of all people , as stated in our triple Masonic currency: Liberty, Equality, Fraternity
La Logia Simbolica Mixta Anáhuac
La Habana, Cuba

Los miembros de La Logia Mixta Anáhuac en tenida solemne extraordinaria hemos acordado nombrar al Sr. Hugo Rafael Chávez Frías extinto presidente de la República Bolivariana de Venezuela como Miembro de Honor pos-morten de nuestra Logia, atendiendo a su actitud ante la vida, ante los problemas de los más desposeídos, ante la verdad histórica, habiendo tenido en vida una actitud envidiable por cualquier Mason que se respete, por haber llevado la paz a su nación, la educación y la medicina para todos sin distinción de clases ni géneros, luchando por la integración de nuestros pueblos hasta sus últimas fuerzas, en fin siendo un portavoz de nuestra triple divisa masónica:
Libertad, Igualdad Fraternidad
La Habana 12 de Marzo del año 2012
Miembros de la Logia Mixta Anáhuac  

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Rough Ashlar No. 5

I opened the first of the Rough Ashlar posts by noting that doubtlessly those of our brethren resistant to the idea that working on the rough ashlar means changing that with which one is comfortable, will accuse me of being unjustly critical of the status quo. I thank them for the complement. I am simply noting the truth. If someone doesn't find the truth comfortable, change it.

My topic today is on grumpy old men. I am looking in the mirror as I write this hoping that I will not, as Jackson Browne wryly noted in one of his songs, hear my own words offered back to me.

I am well aware that it is a common if not inevitable human response to resist change. We become comfortable and perhaps, at a certain point in our lives, simply do not wish to deal with further change, especially when we have lapsed into romantic nostalgia concerning our own fictive past. However, there is I believe, a special sort of grumpy old man endemic in mainstream masonry today. I know a few of them. Apart from their extreme orneriness when it comes to facing uncomfortable realities, they are mostly decent folk.

They are none the less, impediments to the survival of Freemasonry, and their behaviors are decidedly un-masonic. Perhaps, they may be forgiven. I have been reminded from time to time by my loved ones that I can be a pain in the ass. Guilty as charged.

Maybe they are right and there is no such thing as masonic education, and that each individual has to do that themselves. I was laboring under the delusion that I was given one. Indeed, part of my masonic education included the idea that one needed to apply critical thinking to all subjects, even when it leads us to unpleasant realizations.

Freemasonry is in need of change. If it is to survive as a significant institution, it must embrace the 21st century in ways that mainstream masonry at least, has been loath to do thus far. Grumpy old men who call anyone who upsets them, un-masonic, are part of the problem, not the solution.

The focus of this Rough Ashlar isn't really grumpy old men. They are only the delivery system of the message that sometimes human institutions get so stuck in the past that they are willing, like the proverbial lemmings, to run en masse over the cliff into oblivion rather than accept that change is not only inevitable, but necessary.  Calling the messengers of this truth "un-masonic" is itself un-masonic. It denies the good intentions of the messenger, it casts them in the role of the bad guy, and it denies reality.

I may be a grumpy old man myself. At least though, I am one who is open to change and cares more about seeing an institution which he values survive than seeing it become no more than a fond memory of the past.