Monday, November 17, 2014

Modern Rite Event in Mexico

The Modern or French Rite in Mexico

Between November 1st and 4th the Mixed Grand Lodge of the Equatorial Andes and the Sublime Council of the Modern Rite for Ecuador, members of the Universal Masonic Union of the Modern Rite - UMURM, in conjunction with the Joint Hermetic Grand Lodge "Valle Antequera," conducted several the Masonic activities in the City of Oaxaca, Mexico, among which stressed the Keynote on the Modern or French Rite, and the signing of a Treaty of Recognition and Friendship between the two Lodges, attended by the Mayor of the City as a ceremonial Witness of Honor . ·. Olga Vallejo Rueda.·., Ser. ·. Grand Master of GLMAE, and the Grand Orator, J. Villarta. ·., Attending the same event was the M. · . R. ·. Grand Master of the M. ·. R. ·. G. ·. L. ·. H. ·. Mixed "Valle de Antequera" Oswaldo Vill. ·. .

Concomitantly with these events, the occasion was used to Installation Sovereign. ·. Chapter. ·. Ometéotl No. 5, which counts among its members from the RR. ·. LL. ·. Maximilien Robespierre No. 11, and Or. ·. Oaxaca City, and Jano No. 12, of Or. ·. Orizaba, Veracruz, leaving in place a new Soverign. ·. Chapter of the Regular Modern Rite in the Republic of Mexico, and in turn several brothers & sisters were received in different orders of Wisdom. 

These days focusing on the French or Modern Rite were accompanied by a a tiled Interlogial 
Formation attended by the the following:
Venerable of the RR. ·. LL. ·. Lux Veritatis No. 3, of Or. ·. Terrassa, Barcelona, Maximilien Robespierre No. 11, of Or. ·. Oaxaca City and Janus No. 12, of Or. ·. Orizaba, Veracruz, chaired by Ser. ·. Grandmaster, where all types of questions relating to ritual practice, both symbolic and procedural were addressed.

Finally the Council of the Sublime Modern Rite for Ecuador signed a Treaty of Recognition and Friendship with the Supreme Council of SS. GG. II. GG. Independent of the AASR 33rd to the jurisdiction of the United States of Mexico, thus consolidating their fraternal and Masonic work with Sister Republic of Mexico ties. These events were covered by the print media and broadcast media interviews.

Notably, during the events, brotherly love was demonstrated by all, besides being deeply grateful for the hospitality of the people and our brothers and sisters in particular.


Olga Vallejo Rueda.·., Vª Orden, Gr.·. 9
Sup.·. Com.·. del SCRME

Ser.·. G.·. M.·. de la GLMAE

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

A New Book on the French Rite!

Una mirada sobre los usos de los "Modernos" y los rituales del Rito Francés.
Edited by Victor Guerra García.
Published by

This new addition is a  continuation inspired by an earlier title,  Rito Francés. Historia, Reflexiones y Desarrollo (The French Rite: History, Reflections and Development). In this first text the historical context and reflective stages of the French Rite and developments were discussed and analyzed from the distinct personal perspectives of various Masonic authors including Charles Porset,  J-Ch. Nerh, Roger Dachez, JG Plumet, Ludovic Marcos, Daniel Ligou, JP. Lefevre, Joaquim Villalta and Victor Guerra García who, in addition to including articles, coordinated the subject with the intention that a Spanish-speaking readership had access to a plethora of interesting items that seemed important to be made known as the Masonic literature on such ritual is virtually nonexistent. 

Una mirada sobre los usos de los "Modernos" y los rituales del Rito Francés (The Modern Rite:  A look from the XXI century) takes a more personal approach, that differs from the examination of the French Rite, understood as the result of ritual practices of the GODF to direct the gaze a step further back, from the perspective of the history behind the rite established as the Modern Rite, and as such, several themes are raised throughout the book, trying to situate the reader in the historical setting of these developments, analyzing in turn the unique nature of a ritual practices that had its development in seventeenth-century Insular Europe but which evolved in eighteenth-century France. 

Victor Guerra García
The second part of the book is set in a more contemporary context, addressing the conceptual differences between the Modern and the French Rite and providing materials for the background of related aspects essential to understanding how the Congress of the French Rite of Lisbon and the Modern Rite in Barcelona, and the birth of the Universal Masonic Union of the Modern Rite (UMURM) or establishment in Spain of the General Grand Chapter of Spain (GODF-GLSE) came to pass. 

The book closes with an impressive piece by Jean van Win that describes the false basis of support of certain ritual developments within the Orders of Wisdom in France, and finally a final reflection on what the Modern Rite's future may look like in the twenty-first century. 

The text also contains several reflections by way of introduction and epilogue from various current Masonic scholars including Joan Francesc Pont, Sovereign Commander of the Supreme Council of the Scottish Rite of Spain; Eoghan Ballard, Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of the Modern Rite of North America and the Caribbean; and José María Bonachi Batalla, the Supreme Council of the Modern Rite of Brazil and President of the UMURM. 

The book may be purchased in either hard copy or electronic format from

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Esoteric Freemasonry, Research, and Playing in the Water

Freemasonry has always been associated with esotercism. The 18th century expansion of Freemasonry demonstrated the continued the interest that earlier Freemasons had in spiritual studies, including hermetic principles and alchemy, and developed it further, adding the newer Rosicrucian elements that had begun to become popular in the previous century. This aspect of Masonic practice continued despite the resistance of first the Christian hierarchies, and in the 19th century of a growing faction within the Masonic institutional establishment to homogenize and manipulate Freemasonry to advance their desire for numeric growth and political control within the institution. Such forces, which are still present in what remains of the “Masonic empire” of the later 19th and first half of the 20th centuries, which is sometimes euphemistically referred to as a golden age for the fraternity, deemed that they needed to eliminate or minimize within the institution elements that might not be comfortable for a membership that was demographically more mainstream and popularist. 18th Century Freemasonry appealed too much to intellectuals and those in search of a more profound spiritual vision, and while it became obvious both that such interest could not be completely eliminated, and that erasing the mystery within Freemasonry, with nothing similarly compelling to replace it would be a fatal mistake, they tried their best. The fact that the 19th century produced Masonic writer with strong esoteric  interests such as Albert Pike, W.L. Wilmhurst, A.E. Waite, and William Wynn Westcott, amply demonstrates that the rug could not be pulled out from Freemasonry's earlier esoteric focii. Sanitized revisionist histories were not compelling enough to erase the memory of those “secrets” hidden in plain view.

It may be possible to argue that those efforts contributed to Freemasonry's current dilemma. The institutional leadership travelled the same path over the last two centuries that the mainstream denominations of Christianity have, that of an increasingly desacrilized approach to the sacred. The institutional leadership, as with those at the top of most complex hierarchies, don't appear to have their fingers on the pulse of the rank and file. If we conclude, as is at least possible, that the older generation of Freemasons agree with the model we have just described, since the 1960s, the fraternity has been unable to find an approach which would stem the attrition, and attract new initiates. I suspect that failure is more do to an unwillingness to give up the by now old, albeit not the original model, than due to the disinterest of potential new blood. Such a conclusion is in keeping with the decision of the UGLE recently to declare in its mission statement for the 21st century that Freemasonry is nothing more than a Gentleman's social club. 
The problem in a nutshell is this; society has changed radically since the 1960s. The great unwashed masses no longer are interested in joining clubs. Mainstream religion is suffering from the same decline in membership that afflicts Freemasonry. There's a link between those sets of statistics. It is no accident that mainstream religions which have desacrilized the sacred are in decline, while those which are growing are those that offer a strong connection to divinity. The religious fields which have grown since the 1960s on the right have been evangelical Christian sects, and among those with more intellectual tastes turn to Eastern, African and a variety of new religions, including those newly coined religions based upon European paganism and myth. In among those has been a steady stream of new students for the various streams of Western Esoteric traditions. Today, the lion's share of these a represented by late Victorian revivals, such as the Golden Dawn, and Crowley's OTO. 

Elsewhere I have, as have others, offered my views as to what Masonry's future could look like. My only comment concerning that today is that it is predicated upon institutional Freemasonry acquiring a radical dose of visionary inspiration. If I were a betting man, I would be fairly pessimistic. I'm neither, though. While that's allowed me to avoid years of costly therapy, I've been wrong more than once in my life.

What I'm interested in discussing here is the subject of remnants of esoteric teachings and practices in Freemasonry, but with a twist.

Many have offered their views on the influence of Hermeticism, Egyptian Religion, and those which apparently have fallen out of favor since the late 19th century, Mithraism and the Culdee of Gaelic speaking societies. While they will no doubt be the subject of future entries, with the possible excepton of a cameo appearance by Gaelic monks, these subjects are not the topic of this blog entry.

In recent years, scholars have begun examining subjects that previously have not been considered, for a variety of reasons. One of those subjects is Freemasonry, and scolars, not limited by the narrowest of guidelines, those which makes many of even current Masonic historians less than successful in producing historical documentation on a par with modern academic research, have come up with some unexpected sources. Information gleaned from the confluence of modern science with more traditional disciplines uncovered that the plant acacia, so central to Masonic teaching, possesses halluconogenic properties which opens a wide range of speculative possibilities. While such knowledge appears unknown among speculative Freemasons, it is quite possible that in earlier times, before our modern neurosis concerning altered states of consciousness, this information had practical applications.

While comparison has frequently been used sometimes to excess in earlier Masonic historiography, caparative cultural analysis today looks more deeply than at mere surface similarities. Comparative methodology may look at social spaces, issues of cultural processies and the role of social institutions in relation to subaltern communities. 

One such examination, by Hugh B. Urban, in Numen (Vol. 44, Jan. 1997) compares two of the world's most sophisticated esoteric traditions - the Srividya school of South Indian Tantra, the school associated with the 18th century south Indian Brahman, Bhaskararaya, and the Rectified Scottish Rite of French Freemasonry founded in Lyons in the 1770s.  As he points out, his selection of these two esoteric schools was due in part at least, to the (relatively) extensive reliable primary and secondary documentation on both of them.  Although, there may be no direct connections between these two esoteric schools of study, Urban suggests that they utilized a very similar strategy of creating social space within their respective organizations. On the one hand, Tantra, which admitted both men and women, with no regard to gender or caste, and at least while within their ritual activities, they were all viewed as egalitarian, and on the other, 18th century speculative lodges which incorporated magical and occult symbolism from Kabbalah, Hermeticism, Templar lore, alchemy and Rosicrucianism.  Rather interestingly, Urban argues that esotericism, which many consider to be counter-cultural and subversive is actually quite frequently an elitist phenomenon,

“the province of highly educated, affluent and powerful intellectuals, who do not wish to overthrow the existing religious and political structures but rather, either to reinforce or else to bend and reshape them to suit their own private interests.”

This of course, describes 18th century Freemasonry closely, but also provides a clear explanation for the  increased distancing of Freemasonry from esoteric ideologies as it became less elite and welcomed a broader range of social classes. It may similarly offer a rationale for the resistance of modern Freemasonry now to innovation, which had previously been its hallmark. While work such as that of Urban focuses on the function of Freemasonry as an institution, and the social relations and impact that the institution had, the work of some other scholars choose to look at practices within Freemasonry and its ritual forms. 

Alan Nowell, has written in Archaeology Ireland (Vol. 24, No. 1 2010) concerning the origins and distribution of a particular dance which he documents through early illustrations in early Irish monastic art, and up to modern times in public media and interestingly, in the survivals of Morris dancing, tying folk custom with ritual tradition. When considering Masonic origins and history, perhaps the first thing to remember is that in spite of attempts to deny connections between Freemasonry and various esoteric traditions, including the Culdees, Cabbala, Mythraism, Hermeticism, Alchemy, the Egyptian mysteries, and even the Templars we have to acknowledge that at least some of these connections are legitimate. The literal and narrow perspective which took hold among Masons who sought to write Masonic history, and epitomized by the Quartro Coronati, while attempting, perhaps sincerely, to counteract what was seen as ungrounded speculation went far beyond what was needed. It also served as a tool to discredit voices, views, and histories that the leadership wished to supress. 

This same literal approach fails to consider that human institutions rarely exist as a dynastic lineage of unbroken inheritance. Nor is it necessary to discover, in the absence of that dynastic inheritance, a book that reveals all the secrets to the reader. That is the stuff of storytellers, and reiterated in our day through Hollywood, the modern version of the storyteller sitting by the fire. We are dealing with esoteric approaches to understanding, and that most esoteric of them all – the passage of ideas and ideals across time. Humans create a receptacle, a vessel within which to manifest systems of understanding, and when the old instution has been eradicated, due to shifting power bases, conquest, or simply the passing of time and the evolution of human societies, cultures, and languages, ideas and human knowledge systems, especially esoteric systems of understanding have a way of sprouting anew, like the seed left from a piece of fruit eaten last summer. 

Freemasonry is one of those vessels, and it is the survival of the old mystery schools, of the Egyptian mystery traditions, and even of Templarism, not because the secret was held and passed down in some literal fashion, but rather because, when the need for these ideas in the human imagination arose, and with it the opportunity, the old traditions sprouted anew. They didn't sprout out of thin air, though. The Renaissance uncovered what materials survived and ultimately this gave rise to what we call the Enlightenment, and in the midst of that, Freemasonry was found to be a convenient space within which to incubate the new child of the old aeon.

However esoteric the ideas and philosophies with which 18th century Freemasons were dabbling, this process I am mentioning is not a chimera. There is plenty of documentation that such investigation was going on in lodges of every description, and if the French were at the forefront, their brethren in insular Europe were no strangers to such speculation.

If you find a keyhole in a door and look through it, you will not see nearly as much as you do when you simply open the door and walk through it to the other side. Since the late 1800s, Masonic historians have spent endless hours staring with trepidation through a little hole. Scholars recently have found the keychain and have opened the door. Being scholars, they have begun to research, which is the word used in academia for play. Whether a particular theory or avenue of research bears fruit or not, such examples suggest that there are many secrets in the history of Freemasonry that have yet to be discovered, even by Freemasons. 
All I wish to do is poke my head back through the door to say that the sun is out, the beach is just outside the door and the water is fine. Come play.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Deja Vu All Over Again

Such a Parcel of Rogues in a Nation is a Scottish folk song whose lyrics are taken from a Robert Burns poem of of the same name, dated 1791. It condemns those members of the Parliament of Scotland who signed the Act of Union with England in 1707, contrasting their treachery toward the nation with the tradition of martial valor and resistance commonly associated with national heroes such as Robert the Bruce and William Wallace. It has continued to be associated with Scottish nationalism.

Burns’s spirited denunciation of the rogues who sold Scotland for English gold refers to the Scottish commissioners who voted for the immoral Act of Union of 1707, some of whom were bribed.  It should be remembered that Burns was one of Scotland's most famous and celebrated Freemason.

The melody and lyrics were published in volume 1 ofJames Hogg's Jacobite Reliques of 1819 (no. 36).

Fareweel to a' our  Scottish fame
Fareweel our ancient glory
Fareweel e'en to our  Scottish name
Sae fam'd in martial story
Now Sark rins o'er the Solway sands
And Tweed rins tae the Ocean.
To mark where England's province stands
Sic a parcel of rogues in a nation.

What  force or guile could  not  subdue
Through many warlike ages
Is wrought now by a coward  few
For hireling traitors wages
The English steel we could disdain
Secure in valour's station.
But English gold has been our bane
Sic a parcel of rogues in a nation.

I would, ere I had seen the day
When treason thus could sell us
My auld grey head had lain in clay
Wi’ Bruce and loyal Wallace
But pith and power ‘till my last hour
I’ll mak' this declaration.
We were bought and sold for English gold
Sic a parcel of rogues in a nation.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The Ghosts of Freemasonry: Haunted Lodges

As with many other aspects of life, the belief in spirits, and by extension, ghostly haunting, is subjective and highly personal. Two common popular responses attempt to establish the idea of spirit contact as either a frivolous idea suitable for entertainment, or gullible naïveté. For most, the search for understanding ceases there. For many who have been habituated to skepticism or disbelief, it's nonsense. For many who do believe, it's a matter of faith alone. There is another group of course, who straddle the world of the organic or natural view of the world, and the materialism that has so infested cartesian science.

As a trained folklorist (Ph.D. University of Pennsylvania, 2005) who spent a large part of my graduate career examining belief studies, I learnt early on that despite the public discourse which attempts to dismiss belief in disincarnate intelligence as superstition and a part of our past as a species, even in the United States according to various polls, more than half of the population believes in life after death, and a significant minority, nearly half, believe that ghosts or spirits can have contact with the living. Many also maintain that they, or members of their families, or friends, have had such contact. 

Wherever you may stand on the issue, in the absence of measurable proof, science, according to its own precepts, cannot offer an opinion on the matter. This is despite the claims made by materialists with axes to grind on the subject. Lack of evidence does not equate to a determination that something does not exist; it merely indicates that science has not been able to provide evidence. Further, despite science's presumption that all things will eventually be uncovered or measured, there's no proof to support that belief. 

None of that is a claim that ghosts or spirits do exist, or that we can have contact with them. Vast amounts of anecdotal accounts exist, and you can collect many from your own friends and relatives when you approach the matter in a way that puts them at ease. People who tend to deny having certain beliefs or experiences when they feel they may be subject to ridicule are often quite forthcoming when they feel they have a sympathetic ear. 

I cannot state to a material scientist's satisfaction that spiritual entities exist, and I am not interested in convincing other individuals to believe any particular perspective. This is one of those things we need to decide for ourselves, and if we are intelligent - or perhaps rather confident, we will not need to try to change other people's minds. The only reason anyone tries to convert another, whether in religion or in opinion, is due to insecurity. 

What I will note is that those who believe in the reality of spiritual entities or ghosts often do so as a result of the rational conclusions they draw from other beliefs they hold, but those who are certain of their existence do so as a result of personal experiences - either their own or those of people whose judgements they trust. More often it is from personal experience. There's an amazing amount of personal experience out there, as anyone who has studied the subject can attest.

All of this rambling commentary serves as an introduction to a fascinating subject - the haunting of Masonic lodges. You may approach this as a fascinating peek at paranormal science or as a piece of entertaining fluff. If you enjoy the entry, I frankly don't mind which view you entertain.  For a long time, it was taboo among academics in the social sciences to admit that they accepted spiritual realities as, well, reality. With the discussion of personal metaphysical experiences in the course of cultural research by no less a figure in Anthropology than Edith Turner, and the subsequent founding of the anthropology of experience, this should no longer be an issue. Scholars have written about their personal experience of phenomenon such as possession without putting their credentials at risk. I am no exception. However, it remains, until such time as the obsessive cartesians can figure out how to materially quantify an essentially immaterial phenomenon (they never stop trying except when they want to deny it's possible), a matter of personal belief. I leave that to each of you to decide. 

In the meantime, I wish to offer a sampling of reports in the media and online concerning haunted Masonic lodges. This is by no means a scientific study. I have done no academic study of the subject, nor should my mention of any one of these stories or sites be taken to infer a viewpoint about their authenticity, nor approval of whatever techniques or approach used by any individuals in any of these cases.  In fact, the majority of references we find online, after weeding out announcements of "Masonic Haunted Houses" being organized for Hallowe'en, fall into three general categories. The first is reports concerning "hauntings" including in the majority variations of the traditional "ghost story." The second category is one which is on the rise. These consist of reports relating to "ghost hunters" who purport to use electronic equipment and recording devices - sound, video, and still cameras, to document and "prove" hauntings. These have mushroomed after the genre became popular on cable television. The third and by far the least common are performances of or in haunted Masonic lodges. Some are dramatic, some are staged by entertainers and stage magicians. 

It would appear that the "Haunted Masonic Lodge" is itself something of a trope, a literary or rhetorical device or figurative scheme of thought which may be constitutive of our experience. The idea of a haunted Masonic lodge seems to be a coming together of a number of standardly held stereotypes. Masons are mysterious and secretive; Masons delve into the metaphysical; Masons are dangerous; and of course, large old buildings, especially deserted ones, are subject to hauntings.

So, as you might have expected, or been hoping, if you've read this far, you will now be treated to some brief reports of ghostly encounters in haunted Masonic lodges. 

We start with Boston's abandoned Masonic Hall. Of this site, we find that the old temple was recently bought by photographer Liam Carleton, 36, who told the UK's Daily Mail that ‘We've heard things and seen a few things, there have been a few cases of footsteps running around the building. There's also been a female form shown up in the hallway, that's only happened twice in the time I've been here and on both occasions it was during sunset.’ Mr Carleton, who is currently renovating the building, has been told he should try and do something about the hauntings, although he doesn't agree. ‘If it isn't trying to hurt me, I won't mess with it, I'll just let it be.’ 

The old Davenport Lodge No. 37, in Davenport, Iowa, was donated in 1996 to Palmer College. It now houses a museum and lecture halls. Many types of haunting phenomenon at all hours of the day have been reported by the college's security staff. These involve moving objects, items winding up in odd places, furniture rearrangement, foot steps, weird moving lights, the aroma of cigars, cold spots, cool breezes not coming from the air conditioning or natural wind source, odd noises, disembodied voices in discussion, or the calling out of names, individuals being touched by an unseen presence, having the feeling of being watched, and actual visual sightings of apparitions. It is claimed that security cameras have provided clear evidence of an entity or entities unknown, still enjoying their good times as Masons.

It appears that Detroit's awesome Masonic Temple, said to be the largest in the world, is haunted by more than economic woes. Built in 1912 by George D. Mason, the Detroit Masonic Temple has over 1,000 rooms, several secret staircases, concealed passages, and hidden compartments in the floors. Br. Mason went slightly overboard when financing the construction of
the building, and eventually went bankrupt, resulting in his wife leaving him. Overwhelmingly depressed about his financial and personal circumstances, Mason jumped to his death from the roof of the temple. Security guards claim to see his ghost to this day, ascending the steps to the roof. The temple, abundant with cold spots, inexplicable shadows, and slamming doors, is known to intimidate visitors with the eerie feeling of being watched. The financial woes associated with this building have remained with it and continue to haunt the Masons of Detroit much like the man who built it does.

Over the years, Lodge members and visitors alike have reported many strange and ghostly happenings at the Morrison Lodge in Elizabethtown, Ky., including apparitions of what appear to be Civil War era soldiers; door alarms that ring even when no one leaves or enters the building; phantom footsteps; objects that move around on their own; strange knocking sounds; ghostly figures; and even helpful ghosts (possibly former Lodge members) who once saved a Lodge member from unconsciousness when he fell ill and passed out while alone in the building. Past investigations in the building have collected photos, EVPs and first­ hand accounts of the hauntings. The Masons in Elizabethtown at least from time to time offer ghostly tours as well.

Lastly, although I have no details of the purported ghostly activity at this lodge, we have to make mention of this lodge in the Indianapolis area. The reason? It is named Irvington Lodge, No. 666.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Rough Ashlar No. 17: The Brave New World of Freemasonry

Recently, an exchange I had with a couple of brothers has given me pause to contemplate the difference between critique and hostility.

Having spent a large part of my adult life in close proximity to academia, I have come to take it for granted that adults will have developed an appreciation for critical thinking. It doesn't naturally occur to me that being critical of any aspect of the world would be construed as being inherently hostile toward it.

Since Freemasons are, at least by me, assumed to be involved on some level with self-examination as a means to self-improvement if not self-perfection, I have always assumed that they of all people would appreciate this. Animosity, even toward those with whom I disagree, has never been a part of my critique whether public or private.

It appears that at least in the case of some, I have been mistaken. For that, I am sorry, but I am more bemused. I will never likely change in this regard. I believe criticism of what we perceive as wrong, when combined with critical judgement, represents a valid means of communicating with others. I certainly will not retract those criticisms I have made concerning the flaws I see in the human institution of Freemasonry, whether they represent institutional flaws or errors in attitudes among individual members of our fraternity.

Since it is possible, even probable, that some Freemasons will view me as hostile to what is commonly referred to in North America as "mainstream" Freemasonry, allow me to assert that nothing could be further from the truth. It is true that I am a Liberal Freemason. Just as I understand that all religions hold kernels of universal truth, but not all the truth, so it is with Freemasonry.

My only hope is that we can increase communication and learn that working on ourselves and our institutions is in the greater good. I believe in Universal Freemasonry, regardless of the artificial and political boundaries we have created within our institutions. Believe it or not, we are all in this together.

I do not have delusions concerning the potential impact of my observations. I hope that in some small ways my efforts will open a few minds and instigate a little more communication. It's a big hope for a modest impact.  I hope this will serve as an olive branch for those who have misconstrued my intentions. For the rest, let it be a branch of acacia. Mainstream Freemasonry does not need to listen to my critiques. It would be wise however, to engage in more self-critique and introspection, not because I think it should, but because doing so will help it respond to change and strengthen.

After all of the above, I have come to my point, finally.

Freemasonry has, admittedly without intending to, entered a brave new world. It was inevitable. The internet was created and like it or not, it has changed the entire world. It is also changing Freemasonry. No, I do not envision a Freemasonry which exists only online. Nor do I think that the traditional structures of Freemasonry will morph into something radically different, although they are likely to diversify.

What I do know is that thanks to the internet, the cat is out of the bag. We have entered a world where the Masonic powers no longer control access to information. It was once sufficient to call another form of Freemasonry or those who were members of other forms of Freemasonry "apostate" or in Masonic parlance, "irregular" and ban communication with them. That worked for those masons who didn't think for themselves, and to an extent it appears to still work, although those days are numbered.

Today Freemasons encounter far more masons online in a week than only a few decades ago most would encounter in a lifetime. Without even meeting masons of other obediences, Freemasons with internet connections are going to be exposed to a wider range of information and ideas concerning Freemasonry than ever before. This combined with greater access to early documents and academic scrutiny, are pealing away layers of myths that were constructed over the past two centuries to present and maintain a monolithic view of Masonic history.

It may, given the resistance of Masonic institutions to change, take years for some of them to recognize that the world around them has changed. Some others may already realize that this will be, in fact already is, a game changer. How they respond will affect them more than it will others.

Adaptation is going to take more than clever public relations campaigns. Minds will absorb what they are exposed to, even masonic minds. The days of being able to control the flow of information has ended. It's a brave new world. The cat will not be put back in the bag.

Friday, August 1, 2014

A View Behind the Curtain: A Look at Our Stats

This may really not be of interest to anyone but me, but from time to time I enjoy looking at the stats that blogspot gives me. If I were less numerically challenged, they might actually reveal more to me than they do. I admit to an abiding suspicion that if the truth were to be told, statistics say whatever you want them to say.

That being said, I find the fact that on a given day more than 200 people have read what I've written here, and that I clock up what is to me at least an amazing figure of over 9,000 hits in a single month is surprising. That as of the moment I am writing this, my blog has been viewed an all time total of 130,322 times is humbling, and I hope at least a few of these have found something of value here.

I have no idea how any of this compares to other Masonic blogs, and I may be revealing that I actually have an incredibly small stake in the Masonic Blogosphere. Whatever, that's ok. It still is a great honor to me that so many have chosen to read my thoughts on various topics, mostly on Freemasonry.

What has been even more surprising to me is when I get readers from places such as Afghanistan, Burkina Faso, Angola, Moldova, Russia, Sweden, Mauritius, as well as the more expected locations such as Spain, Brazil, France, Ireland, England, Germany, and perhaps not surprisingly, my largest share, which come from the United States.

As I said, I've no idea if any of this is of the remotest interest to all of you out there, but it has fascinated, and I admit, pleased me a little. Mostly, it has been amazing and humbling. So, this is just a note to allow me to draw back the curtain a bit from my end, and to thank all of you who have taken the time to visit my blog. 

In the time since November of 2011 when I first began this blog, I've only received negative comments from two people, which may mean no more than that most don't think it worth criticizing. However, I've also received a fair number of complements, sometimes from some unexpected sources. This pleases me, mostly because it speaks to the courtesy found among Freemasons, even when they come across a brother who doesn't mind speaking his mind more openly than is common in the fraternity.

So, thank you all, and I'll keep going as long as I find I have things to say that people appear interested in reading. I hope most of you have enjoyed the ride as much as I have, and that you'll keep coming back for more. I have learned an amazing amount in the process, which, along with the friendships I have cemented along the way, has made it well worth the effort.



Thursday, July 31, 2014

Book Review: The Brotherhood of Freemason Sisters by Lilith Mahmud

The Brotherhood of Freemason Sisters: Gender, Secrecy, and Fraternity in Italian Masonic Lodges
by Lilith Mahmud

Other books, notably those of Karen Kidd, have dealt with the subject of Women in Freemasonry, mostly but not exclusively in the English speaking world. This work examines material not as widely known in the Anglophone world. Lilith Mahmud, a talented scholar, takes us into the world of female Freemasons in Italian Freemasonry. It is a title that will inform and challenge the reader.

From the publisher's comments:

From its traces in cryptic images on the dollar bill to Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol, Freemasonry has long been one of the most romanticized secret societies in the world. But a simple fact escapes most depictions of this elite brotherhood: There are women Freemasons, too. In this groundbreaking ethnography, Lilith Mahmud takes readers inside Masonic lodges in contemporary Italy, where she observes the many ritualistic and fraternal bonds forged among women initiates of this elite and esoteric society.

Offering a tantalizing look behind lodge doors, The Brotherhood of Freemason Sisters unveils a complex culture of discretion in which Freemasons simultaneously reveal some truths and hide others. Women—one of Freemasonry’s best-kept secrets—are often upper class and highly educated but paradoxically antifeminist, and their self-cultivation through the Masonic path is an effort to embrace the deeply gendered ideals of fraternity. Mahmud unravels this contradiction at the heart of Freemasonry: how it was at once responsible for many of the egalitarian concepts of the Enlightenment and yet has always been, and in Italy still remains, extremely exclusive.  The result is not only a thrilling look at an unfamiliar—and surprisingly influential—world, but a reevaluation altogether of the modern values and ideals that we now take for granted.

What's Religion and is Freemasonry one?

There has been a recent spike in discussion of religion and Freemasonry in the blogosophere. Having read what's been posted, it seemed to me a topic I wished to weigh in on. While all the posts were interesting to read, I found myself agreeing with most of them, in part. I also found points on which I disagreed with my colleagues. That's fine with me. As the old Quaker aphorism states, "As hard as it may be to believe, I may be wrong and thou may be right." Even if I believe that to be a long shot, it's still a possibility.

First of all, while part of the Masonic World currently has a "religious test" as part of its entry requirements, it wasn't always so. In fact, the very phrase used to justify this religious imposition speaks against there being a requirement. That of course, only goes to show that when Masons want to establish a restrictive rule, they don't let a little thing like the truth get in their way.

In fact, Anderson's famous statement states quite clearly that

"A Mason is obliged by his Tenure, to obey the Moral Law, and if he rightly understand the Art, he will never be a stupid Atheist nor an irreligious Libertine. But though in ancient times Masons were charged in every country to be of the Religion of that Country or Nation, whatever it was, yet ‘tis now thought more expedient only to oblige them to that Religion in which all Men agree, leaving their particular opinions to themselves, that is, to be good Men and true, or Men of Honour and Honesty, by whatsoever Denominations or Persuasions they may be distinguished."

Let's go back and engage in a simple lesson in English. It would seem that Freemasons, at least in the English speaking world have some trouble understanding that language. When Anderson says that "if he rightly understand the Art," that is a clear expression of opinion. It was never meant to be either proscriptive or prescriptive. He stated that Masons expect that all will maintain that upon which all religions agree, and further, to avoid a further expansion of that (perhaps he also practiced the oracular arts and knew someone was going to bullox it up) that this was no more than being good, true, and honest. End of story. What is more, he also said that they should leave their opinions to themselves, which in my reading at least, suggests not only that institutional Freemasonry should keep its nose out of the question entirely, but that Freemasons themselves should keep their mouths shut about the matter. That's not to say Freemasons are not free to share their interests and beliefs with likeminded individuals, but it would seem to me that it parallels the idea that one doesn't seek to proselytize, which where ever you find it is a particularly odious practice.

Now that seems totally reasonable to me. While we are at it, while I am no atheist, no epicurian, to use an older term, it seems to me that Anderson, while he may not have actually been thinking of this (though perhaps he was) left the door wide open to admitting atheists  into Freemasonry. After all, no matter how attached anyone may be to religion, and a belief in God (of some sort), can not atheists also be good, true, and honest people? Therefore, they meet Anderson's original criteria. So, it would seem that the Grand Orient of France, in removing a requirement of a belief in God, was more accurately reflecting the words of Anderson than those who require a declaration of faith. In any case, as it has played out it is more about gatekeeping and politics than it is about faith. I have often suspected that the entire subject became important to the UGLE only as a reason to object to the French. 

Having settled the question of whether or not Freemasonry was intended to have a religious requirement, we can turn to whether Freemasonry is a religion or not.

The biggest disagreement I had with most of the remarks in the blogosphere, is not so much their intentions, although their conclusions are, in my opinion, somewhat compromised by their initial understandings, but is rather in the definitions they apply to the term "religion." Most all of them espoused a definition that was conveniently close to, and doubtless crafted from, a Christian definition of religion; one which mirrors the institutions and understandings of a Christian worldview. Therein lies a significant problem.  You see, not all religions fit those forms, and there is not one universal definition that reflects accurately what a religion is, or what its focus may be.

For example, if Freemasonry applies the demand to believe in God, that causes a serious problem for Buddhists, Jains, and Taoists, whose religions do not stipulate a belief in deity as any Christian would understand it. Further, some religions are more morally relative than is Christianity. As a social scientist whose doctoral dissertation was focused on religion, I would argue that a more accurate definition of religion is "a set of attitudes, beliefs, and practices pertaining to supernatural power." That, and nothing more. Each religion has its own sets of specific beliefs, attitudes and practices. Indeed most of them, including especially Christianity, have multiple and often conflicting sets of beliefs, attitudes and practices pertaining to supernatural power.  For those who have particularly narrow views on religion, "supernatural power" can and does refer to 'god' among other things and people.

If "religion" is therefore "a set of attitudes, beliefs, and practices pertaining to supernatural power," then since Freemasonry does possess sets of beliefs, attitudes, and practices pertaining to supernatural power, whether we are referring to the spiritual perfection of mankind, or the Grand Architect of the Universe, Freemasonry is a religion, whether or not you subscribe to more esoteric practices that interest some Freemasons or not. If one views religion as possessing dogmas and metaphysical teachings, and priests, then Freemasonry may be viewed as either a religion or not, depending on which version of what Freemasonry supposedly is, you either dogmatically accept (like some religions) or believe fervently (also as religions do). I have never met a Freemason who doesn't have (usually strong) opinions on this subject. I often wonder whether all too many of us would be prepared to go into battle and kill for the Masonic principle of Universal Brotherhood if our Grand Lodge dictated that we do so.

My point in this post was not to offend as many different types of Freemasons as possible, although I suspect I may have succeeded in either doing that or confusing them. Rather, I wanted to point out that the entire question is, in my opinion at least, totally irrelevant. It is the wrong question, and that means whatever answers come from the question do nothing really to bring us more light.

Religion is a moving target, and whether some Freemasons, or Freemasonic jurisdictions and obediences would like to claim to possess the one true and correct form of Freemasonry (just like some religions claim about themselves), Freemasonry also has more than one form or version. In short, Freemasonry and religion in general cannot be pinned down to only one thing. After all, the human spirit is multifaceted and too little understood for one size to fit all.

Freemasonry does serve many of the functions of religion for its members, and also, it is very different from what most Christians would consider religion to be. The majority, if not virtually all Freemasons, would argue that it is not a religion. Whether it really matters is probably moot. Religion and Freemasonry is in the eye of the beholder. The bigger question is...

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

World Conference on Fraternalism, Freemasonry, and History: Paris 2015

World Conference on Fraternalism, Freemasonry, and History: 
Research in Ritual, Secrecy, and Civil Society 

The Bibliotheque Nationale- Paris, France 

May 29-30, 2015 

Convened by the journal Ritual, Secrecy, and Civil Society in cooperation with the Bibliotheque Nationale, the first World Conference on Fraternalism, Freemasonry, and History: Research in Ritual, Secrecy, and Civil Society, focuses on the study of ritual, secrecy, and civil society vis-à-vis the dynamics of Masonic scholarship around the world. The conference aims to explore how civil society, secrecy, and ritual have been important elements during different episodes of local and world histories, and indeed still are.

The conference will be held bi-annually in Paris, and hopes to open new doors while promoting multilingual and multicultural scholarship in areas such as, the relations between such Masonic-related subjects as the Companionnage, guilds, friendly societies, and Greek fraternities.

The call for papers is now open, and perspectives on and interpretations of all time periods and geographic zones are welcome. Paper and panel proposals should be submitted to Whitney Shepard, Registrar of the Conference, at Papers accepted for presentation will be published by Westphalia Press in three collections: Vital Masonic Scholarship in the 21st Century, New Research in Secret Societies, and European Scholarship in Secrecy and Ritualism. Additionally, some presentations will be made available for online streaming and video recorded through the American Public University System.

Conference Committee: Guillermo De Los Reyes (Conference Chair- University of Houston), Paul Rich (George Mason University), Daniel Guiterrez-Sandoval (Policy Studies Organization), Pierre Mollier (Editor, Ritual, Secrecy, and Civil Society), Maria Eugenia Vazquez-Semadeni (University of California, Los Angeles), Brent Morris (Scottish Rite Supreme Council), John Belton (Manchester Association of Masonic Research)

Keynote Address by John Cooper, Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of California, President of the North American Conference of Grand Masters- Into the Maelstrom: The Issue of Masonic Regularity, Past and Present Commentator: Alain Bauer
Chair: Guiillermo De Los Reyes

Conference Website

Call for Papers

Thanks to John Slifko, and the Policy Studies Organization.

Rough Ashlar No. 16

My view, which is admittedly not popular among much of the rank and file of Freemasonry in general today, is that the history of Freemasonry was highjacked by the Grand Lodges. If one was guilty of starting the trend, it was taken up on all sides.

It was largely political and about worldly control of the fraternity. Freemasonry was not originally supposed to be about institutional power. It was supposed to be about internal growth, however one chooses to frame that personal process. Now, even that is colored by dogmatic assertions and ideologies. It has been tamed and defanged in the exercise of political muscle and in the attempt to make the fraternity palatable for an increasingly less introspective audience which was necessary to increase membership beyond a limited scope. That's probably not a popular view, but so mote it be.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

In Defense of African Religious Traditions: Brazil, Haiti, & USA

Religious intolerance is something that we all have an awareness of these days. Between the Islamic fanatics in the Mid-East and Africa, to our own homegrown Evangelical Fanatics in Texas (and too often in political office), we've seen the worst that can result from an excess of narrow-minded devotion to an over-testosterone driven deity.

We notice plenty of outcry against religious intolerance, at least when its directed at a mainstream religion, and in the US, that means only one thing - Protestant Christianity.

Mind you, I have nothing really against Protestant Christianity, well, almost nothing. I hate religious proselytization of any kind, regardless of the questionable claim that your god wants you to spread the "good" word, it's just plain tacky. Like the recent FB meme put it, which compared religion to a specific part of the male anatomy, "it's fine if you have one, just don't pull it out and wave it in my face."

What absolutely nobody seems to object to, is disrespecting religions of African origin. It seems that after they floated the idea that America had become post-racial, it started taking on water almost immediately, and sunk while nobody was looking. Unfortunately, the USA, famous for being a nation of immigrants (except for latinos, please) isn't the only place where African derived faiths face a great deal of hostility.

A while back I posted about some hopeful steps forward that took place in Brazil, when Umbanda was declared an intangible cultural heritage by the City of São Paulo. Unfortunately, there tends to be more bad news than good, and lest any reader feel satisfied that the trouble is in Brazil, although I suspect some may secretly and not so secretly opine that oppression of African faiths is a good thing, there's plenty of it going on in the US, as well.

In spite of the hand of friendship the new Pope is extending, a newly appointed Cardinal in Haiti has recycled the old discourse that Vodou, the national religion of Haiti which is of African origin, is a bad thing for Haitians. It doesn't matter that he's black and Haitian, the mindset is of the worst sort, and unbecoming a supposed "man of god." At this stage of our evolution we should be able to recognize that all faiths lead to deity, because all deities are simply human attempts to apprehend the divine. Nobody's faith gets it better than anyone else's.

In Brazil, even as São Paulo declared Umbanda part of the city's cultural heritage, institutionalized bias elsewhere allowed that cultural heritage to take second fiddle to a sports complex.

And while construction workers destroyed historical sites to build a sports club, Evangelical Christians are egged on often by their pastors and on TV, to attack Umbanda and Candomblé temples. In more than one case, they have even murdered the priests. Of course, the church leadership always back peddles when that happens, and tries to claim that the individual was mentally ill.

Even in the US, African religions are constantly subjected to discrimination. For decades, police departments have systematically attempted to criminalize the practice of African derived faiths, and the fact that most practitioners are members of minorities, are poor, and in many cases speak English as a second language, makes them easy victims of institutionalized racism. The former New York City Mayor, Rudy Guliani, that bastion of privilege and obnoxiousness, even harassed Afro-Cuban drummers. 

As these religions continue to grow, society has to learn to behave with tolerance toward other religions. It's a well documented truth that if you are not tolerant toward others, you can expect none to be shown to yourself. 

One may wonder why such intolerance exists. Apart from the obvious answer that while Jesus didn't teach intolerance, most Christian institutions have over the last two millennia. It's easy to point to some of the practices within African faiths which make modern first world people uncomfortable. In the US, most people don't witness the preparation of the animal protein they consume, and they want it that way. Also, Christianity's God generally has become (although for some of its history this was not the case) a Dios Otioso - a distant god. Christianity has gradually intellectualized deity into an invisible one, whose presence exists only in metaphor. As Western society has generally moved away from direct contact with spiritual forces, it has generally become afraid of such experience, and as a result has tried, under the mantle of "science" (which despite being a methodology of research has become a catch word for materialism that has never lived up to its claims of objectivity) has attempted to variously criminalize, ridicule, and turn religious imminence into psychosis. Thomas Szasz summed up Western society's hostility to imminent religion succinctly when he said that "If you talk to God, you are praying; If God talks to you, you have schizophrenia. If the dead talk to you, you are a spiritualist; If you talk to the dead, you are a schizophrenic."

Since African derived faiths deal with the direct interaction of the living with the realm of spirit, most commonly through spirit possession, modern Western materialist society is variously fascinated, appalled, and what is probably at the heart of Western society's hostility toward such faiths, envious.

In this day and age, we need to be working to insist on more tolerance for all, and that most certainly includes African derived faiths. They are after all, the inheritors of humanity's earliest engagement with spirituality.

Below you will find links to a number of articles dealing with these issues.

Ebony: Haiti doesn't have a Vodou problem, it has a Christianity problem!

Marchers in São Paulo protest Religious Descrimination

Evangelicals spread intolerance toward African Religions

Attacks on Afro-Brazilian Religious Practitioners, Temples!

The Temple that started Umbanda razed despite attempts to halt its demolition.

Eminent Domain used in Brazil to shut down Afro-Brazilian Temples, but not Christian Churches!

Candomblé Priestess and family members murdered by Evangelical

Fighting back against institutionalized racist public policy in USA

How Mayor Guliani targeted Afro-Cuban drummers

Friday, July 18, 2014

Masonic Book Fair

12th Annual Masonic Book Fair: Paris
15th and 16th of November 2014
Twelfth Masonic Book Fair

Organized by The Masonic Institute of France

will take place on 15 and 16 November 2014

Organized with the participation of Various Obediences.

9 rue Pinel

75013 Paris

Admission is free. Details of the program schedule will be available in October.

Regnas Redux: Still the Most Amazing Masonic Rings

A while back I did a post about The Regnas Collection, a fabulous business which produces truly unique Masonic (and other) jewelry. While I have no vested interest in the company, and as yet do not own any of their magnificent creations, I am still extremely enthusiastic about them. Their work is superb. They use precious and semi-precious stones, and one of the most remarkable aspects about them, what in fact sets them apart from virtually all other producers of Masonic jewelry, is that they are set up to enable individuals to order custom designed pieces.

The good gentlemen at Regnas have not slowed down one iota. They continue to do wonderful work and this post is nothing more nor nothing less than a blatantly self-indulging look at their site another time. I hope you enjoy their work as much as I do.

Also, I sincerely hope that the next time I write about them, I will showcase the piece or pieces I have had them design for me, as sooner or later I will fold my cards and place an order. You should do the same. Such good work deserves support.

So, without delay, check out their wares. I have a link for their website as well as their facebook page. Both are worth the time, even if you only windowshop. Enjoy a real feast for the eyes. Also bear in mind that for what they do, they are really quite reasonably priced. Be certain to check out their automated custom ring page, which can walk you through the entire process of creating your own customized ring. It really is remarkable.

The Regnas Collection Web Site

Regnas Collection on Facebook

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

A Random Sampling of Some (Relatively) Recent Academic Articles on Freemasonry

For far too long, as far as scholarship was concerned, Freemasonry was left to its own devices. While this no doubt pleased some within Freemasonry for whom outside opinions were not welcome, it did Freemasonry a great disservice. Now and then, some farsighted academic would take an interest and write on the subject, but by and large academia considered it a subject not worth investigation.

The result of this neglect was that on the one hand, little objective research into the origins or the societal impact of Freemasonry existed of any professional calibre. On the other hand, it also allowed fable, myth, and too often, outright lies to take the place of knowledge. The truth of this can be seen that today, in that at least in Anglophone circles, what passes for scholarship, with a few worthy exceptions, remains the pseudo-scholarship of 19th century authors who were themselves Freemasons, and frequently invested in either establishing the status quo or maintaining it. 

Sic Transit Gloria Mundi. 

Today, we are on the verge of a monumental change. In the past couple of decades, some adventurous scholars have begun to turn their eyes toward the fraternity, and it is now the subject of a small but growing scholarly study, which is itself beginning to take on the shape of a discipline. It is to be hoped that before long we will see stable departments where such scholarship is a serious academic focus. Keep on eye on UCLA, for one. 

There are great benefits in this for Freemasonry, but as with all growth, there will be some inevitable discomfort. For one, Freemasons will have to recognize that myth will no longer be acceptable as an alternative to documentable fact. At least a few treasured beliefs about the history of Freemasonry will be jettisoned, to be replaced by hard, modern research. While this may be extremely uncomfortable for some, it results in more light. I have always, at least after becoming a reasoning adult, responded to emotional resistance to better understanding of a subject by pointing out that shedding light on historical reality is a worthy, even necessary thing, and it does not decrease the value of what we cherish, if we can also analyze it soberly.

With that in mind, I want to open a small window onto this scholarship by highlighting some relatively recent academic articles which touch on the subject of Freemasonry. They are very diverse, and some represent micro examinations of one or another aspect of Freemasonry. They were specifically chosen, not to touch necessary on topics that would revolutionize our thought on Freemasonry, although some may do exactly that, but rather to demonstrate the diversity of subjects that are coming out of this new scrutiny of fraternal organizations, their role and impact on society, and society's impact upon them. They also do not include some of the larger names in this field of study, as I wanted to highlight some things that might have escaped general attention. This sampling is also miniscule. It doesn't even represent the tip of the iceberg. The idea is to incite some curiosity rather than to serve as a guide to a broad picture of what current scholarship is producing.

As always, there are likely to be a variety of reactions and responses to such attention. While some will doubtlessly react negatively, it should be remembered that such a response will not slow down a process which is by now well underway. I think it wiser, and certainly healthier, to embrace what we cannot resist and enjoy this remarkable moment in time. We will emerge on the other side with a far better understanding of our own traditions and practices, and a renewed appreciation for the impact Freemasonry has had upon the world. 

If you're not afraid to face the eye of the storm, and want some small insight into what is bound to reach our Masonic shores before long, read on.

"Making Degenerates into Men" by Doing Shots, Breaking Plates, and Embracing Brothers in Eighteenth-Century Freemasonry
Heather Morrison
Journal of Social History
Vol. 46, No. 1 (Fall 2012) (pp. 48-65)
Oxford University Press
This article explores the significance behind ritual celebrations depicted in the published drinking songs and toasts that emanated from a freemasonic lodge active in the early 1780s in Vienna. Bacchanalian overindulgence within the exclusive association aimed to create a fraternity that would act together to bring progress to Habsburg lands. Publication of their celebrations aimed to bring the same benefits to the rest of the western world. By excluding women, by acting like apes, by singing and chanting formulaic verses while ritually eating and drinking, men became part of a community and found a new identity. Drunken homosocial celebration provided the antidote to the constructed problem of a contemporary society still dominated by aristocratic women or religious institutions. Masons believed their lodge provided them freedom from societal constraints and a social transparency necessary to uncovering a more natural self. The tension inherent in the form of masculinity in the Viennese lodge's songs and toasts, whereby what may be termed the "high" and the "low" mixed, was the basis of freemasonry's appeal and effectiveness. Belly laughter and base behavior were by no means oppositional to a rational program of societal reform. Through these drinking songs and ritual practices, the association emphasized self-improvement and moral development. Publication of their celebrations aimed to bring the same benefits to the rest of the western world. In a time of transformation in social practices and hierarchies, freemasonry taught brothers how to behave as men amongst fellow men and with women. The idealistic intellectual and bacchanalian sociable masculinities combined to allow members to articulate new measures of social worth.

The Bygmester, His Geamatron, and the Triumphs of the Craftygild: "Finnegans Wake" and the Art of Freemasonry
Laura Peterson
James Joyce Quarterly, Vol. 27, No. 4, Finnegans Wake Issue (Summer, 1990), pp. 777-792
Published by: University of Tulsa

One of the most curious of the many claims made by some Masons about their Craft is that it, like the Hebrew Kabbalah to which it is united, harks back in human history to the creation of the world and the Garden of Eden (as does Finnegans Wake). Also like the Wake, Freemasonry is a compendium of personalities, history, religion, and lore, based on certain unifying principles more easily discernible than those of Joyce's last novel, but irrevocably allied to many of those same principles. Like the Wake, Masonry is cosmic; both the book's and Masonry's inner secrets are known only to persistent initiates. However, there is enough exoteric Masonic material readily available to allow the uninitiated inquirer to trace Joyce's journey through it.

Jayhawker Fraternities: Masons, Klansmen and Kansas in the 1920s
Kristofer Allerfeldt
Journal of American Studies, Vol. 46, No. 4 (November 2012), pp. 1035-1053
Published by: Cambridge University Press on behalf of the British Association for American Studies

In the 1920s, like most of the rest of the nation Kansas found itself the target of the attentions of the KKK. One of its main ways of recruiting was via existing fraternities. Using new archival material this article investigates the response of one of the leading fraternities of the times — the Masons. What emerges is a picture of mixed responses — ranging from mutual hostility to active Klan recruitment within Masonic lodges. In many ways Kansas can be seen as a microcosm of the nation, and as such this study can add to our understanding of what drove up to 10 million American men and women to join this mysterious and now hated body.

"That Grand Primeval and Fundamental Religion": The Transformation of Freemasonry into a British Imperial Cult
Vahid Fozdar
Journal of World History, Vol. 22, No. 3 (September 2011), pp. 493-525
Published by: University of Hawai'i Press

In light of recent research on the role of Protestant Christianity in the British Empire, this article explores the possibility that the British actually carried to India a "religion" besides Protestantism, something that mimicked a religion so closely that it could virtually serve as an alternative to Christianity for purposes of imperial consolidation— namely, Freemasonry. The article posits that British Freemasonry, although it emerged from a Christian environment, progressively de-Christianized itself in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and increasingly espoused a religious universalism, which in turn allowed it to serve as an institutionalized, quasi-official, and de facto "civil religion" for the British Empire in India.

John Marrant and the Meaning of Early Black Freemasonry
Peter P. Hinks
Source: The William and Mary Quarterly, Third Series, Vol. 64, No. 1, Free to Enslave: Politics
and the Escalation of Britain's Translantic (Jan., 2007), pp. 105-116

ON June 24, 1789, at the Feast of Saint John the Baptist, one of the most important days in the Masonic calendar, the Reverend John Marrant, chaplain of Boston's African Lodge no. 459 of Freemasons, delivered a momentous sermon at Mr. Vinal's school in the South End before an audience of black and white Masons as well as non-Masons. Marrant's oration occupies a preeminent place in the history of Freemasonry among African Americans. It was the first printed formal address before the first African Lodge and among the first printed works by an African American in the late eighteenth century.
Marrant's oration broached racial prejudice and slavery in America and condemned them as the antithesis of the fellowship and benevolence Freemasons cherished. More significantly, the sermon identified and extolled the meaningfulness of the African Lodge's founding and the relationship it bore to the deepest virtues and origins of not only Freemasonry but also Christianity as well-virtues and origins that Marrant would clarify in novel contexts.