Thursday, May 28, 2015

Treaty of Recognition between the GLNF & GODF

Who would have conceived of telling a young Grand Master of the GOdF like Alain Bauer, who had both dealt with the issues of recognition and "regularities" that the headquarters of the Grand Orient of France would one day be be flooded by what Alec Mellor called the "separated brethren" but in reverse. Well, 15 years later Alain Bauer should be impressed by the landing the French National Grand Lodge (GLNF) has made on the Rue Cadet. the headquarters of the Grand Orient of France (GOdF). Incredible!

It seems that besides conjuring the astral, because this news appears to have been "predicted" among some Masonic thinkers long ago, a book entitled: “Franc-maçonnerie : regularité et reconnaissance, Histories et postures” (Freemasonry: Regularity and Recognition, Histories and postures), written by Roger Dachez, seems to be the ideal book to turn to to help understand the new set of relationship which themselves suggest the the of the chapter "We are all regular”. Yes, the roads of Masonic diplomacy are very convoluted, as Alain Bauer with some disappointment came to understand from his alter ego in the GOdF, Philippe Gugielmi.

And it is also the debut of the “Rencontres Lafayette” opened with a meeting between the GOdF and GLNF, because from May 21, 2015 forward , one of the great leaders of the Great General Chapter of the French Rite Grand Orient of France: Philippe Guglielmi. signed in Paris, a treaty of Recognition  between the High Grades of the French Rite of the French National Grand Lodge (GLNF) "regular" and the Great General Chapter of the French Rite of GODF. (GCGRF-GOdF) "liberals".

The content of the Treaty of Recognition between the highest body of the French Rite of "French regularlity" representing the GLNF, and GCGRF-GODF, has not been revealed as yet, which in part represents something like "oil and water" but as you can imagine  it will involve the alleged restructuring of the French Rite within GLNF regarding their higher grades, because although the Grand Lodge, controls the French Rite in the blue degrees, the breakdown of the GLNF brought the removal of Philippe Thomas and his (Grand Chapitre Français) as well as the abandonment of H. Vigier and the subsequent creation of their own Conseil Sublime du Rite Français. In the interum, the autonomous high levels of RF GLNF safeguarded the protocols of recognition between the Grand Lodge of England (UGLE) and the GNLF, were in a complex stage of their evolution.

Although it is yet to be seen whether the treaty will affect the reorganization of these side bodies of the RF GLNF,  whether these Brothers can visit Chapters of the GCGRF-GODF, although their rituals bear little resemblance...Anyway in the end we must congratulate the GCGRF-GODF for this master stroke, and those approaches. Congratulations P. Glugielmi!

In any case we must not forget that incredibly the GLNF was an internal split off from the GOdF due to the issue of, among other things, the GAOTU...

And I wonder whether this situation will mean that something similar can happen soon in Spain the  between the GCGRF GODF-GLSE bodies with high degree RF side of the Grand Lodge of Spain (GLE).

Everything is in flux.
Victor Guerra. Vº of the Modern Rite.

Monday, May 25, 2015

The Chamber of Reflection: An Archaic Technique For Achieving Altered States of Consciousness

This is not the first time that the Chamber of Reflection has been the subject of consideration on this blog. No doubt it will not be the last time. It is among existing Masonic rituals perhaps the single aspect of initiation which holds most true to the eldest spiritual initiation practices of Homo Religiosus.  It is precisely that connection with ritual practices of ancient origins which deserves more consideration.

There are mysteries embedded within Freemasonry, the purposes and origins of which unfortunately, the mainstream of the craft today suffer amnesia. In seeking to uncover these spiritual, metaphysical, and psychic secrets, the average mason has to rediscover the hermetic past of our traditions. Most have done this in partial and sometimes flawed ways. Saying this is not a critique of those efforts, nor is it a preface to the unveiling of a perfected system. Spiritual discovery is always tentative, partial, and subject to revision.

However, the resources available for examining and reconsidering Masonic history, and especially the origins of Masonic rituals, are expanding. Before the 19th century, the texts which early Masons, both speculative masons and those who preceded them, because I believe that operative masons were not only engaged in speculative spiritual studies, but in all likelihood knew more about them than today's Freemasons do, were fairly limited and often represented derivative survivals and redactions of a handful of classical works, themselves influenced by earlier Egyptian, Middle Eastern and Eastern texts.

The consensus view since the 18th century at least, is that Freemasonry descends from the philosophical and metaphysical principles of ancient Egyptian Hermeticism and Alchemy, the ritual practices of Mythraism, the teachings of the Essenes, Jewish Cabbalism, and according to one subset of Masonic traditions, the Knights Templar. Depending on which masons you ask, the correct answer is “any of the above”, “all of the above”, or “none, because the only reason this complex set of ritual traditions exist is so that bored men can escape from spending their evenings with their wives.” If you suspect that I consider the “social club” explanation of Freemasonry is spurious, you are indeed astute.

For my own part, I think that elements of all of the supposed spiritual and philosophical antecedents to Freemasonry noted in the previous paragraph are the accurate sources of its traditions. It should be emphasized, although it really shouldn't be necessary to do so, that it is not necessary to prove any documentable line of inheritance to make such a claim. In truth, looking for such a direct inheritance actually is missing the point. Freemasonry is the spiritual and intellectual inheritor of those traditions whether or not any direct lineage existed. Ideas, philosophies and beliefs will resurface across space and time where and when there are people open to what they have to offer, as history and indeed the history of Freemasonry has documented.

The modern disciplines of Anthropology, Ethnology, Folklore and Folklife Studies, as well as the more  visionary elements within Religious Studies have developed a far more nuanced and detailed understanding and account of human spiritual practices past and present across the globe. Modern scholarship has refined our awareness of the ancient origins of practices relating to altered consciousness, including the use of entheogens and oneirogens (spiritually powerful hallucinogenic plants and dream or vision inducing plants) as well as a wide range of other non-plant methodologies for inducing alternative states of consciousness, visionary, ecstatic, and trance. Some have speculated that the accidental discovery of hallucinogenic substances was the initial inspiration for humanity's search for God, and certainly all ritual was at least initially intended to alter human states of consciousness, whether through audio driving techniques (music, especially percussion) movement (dance), the aforementioned chemical stimulants (which range from psychedelic mushrooms to alcohol and tobacco), as well as physical deprivation (fasting) and of special relevance in this case, sensory deprivation.

If we look to the classical sources, the earliest influences upon modern Freemasonry, a couple of texts stand out. Perhaps the most important of these are the dialogues of Plato and Porphory's essay “ On Homer's Cave of the Nymphs.”  Examining these, we may see possible sources for some of Freemasonry's philosophical positions, and at least one of its rituals – the Chamber of Reflection.

Plato presents his understanding of the human condition with an image of unenlightened beings whom he describes as imprisoned in what we today might describe as psychological darkness, unaware of the  limits of their understanding. A fortunate individual may free themselves from the limitations of this “cave” and as a result of personal self improvement, as described by Carl Jung, becomes aware of the higher ethical and moral value of experience. Modern Masons, like Plato, view this sort of enlightened individual as able to serve as a source of moral leadership in the larger society. Freemasons viewed and view themselves as embodying this model.

One possible, if not the probable source for the imagery utilized in the development of the Masonic ritual of the Chamber of Reflection may be Porphyry's words. Porphyry drew repeatedly on Mithraic Mysteries stating that "the Persians, mystically signifying the descent of the soul into the sublunary regions, and its regression from it, initiate the mystic (or him who is admitted to the arcane sacred rites) in a place which they denominate a cavern.”  While this may be a stretch, deductive reasoning suggests it as a real possibility, and would also explain the eventual claims of  Freemasons that they are inheritors of Mithraic mysteries.

Turning to the spiritual technology behind the Chamber of Reflection, we must look beyond the myths and legends with which some in Freemasonry link their rituals with Mithraism and even their philosophical underpinnings in Greek Philosophy. Since the actual details of Mithraism remain, for all the scrutiny to which they have been subjected over the centuries, largely obscured, we must examine other sources of information. While we may be tempted to look to the modern discoveries of apparently ancient ritual spaces in Paleolithic European caves such as Lascaux, Chauvet, Coliboaia, and El Castillo and  similar highly decorated spaces in Africa, Australia and South America, we are frustrated because what ultimately were the uses ancient humanity made these spaces for remain, like the details of Mithraism, indeterminate. However, we are none the less, not without the means of approaching the spiritual activities of our ancestors.

Thanks to the research of the modern social sciences, we are aware of a near universal set of spiritual practices of what formerly was pejoratively referred to “primitive” societies. We have documentation of human techniques of altering consciousness for spiritual purposes. We also benefit from extensive theoretical writing linking these recent practices with those of ancient populations. It has in fact been argued that such techniques form the basis of the world religions. While the term “Shamanism” is problematic, not only because the academics who first used the term in their writings were perhaps guilty of utilizing a name with very specific cultural references for a broader set of phenomenon it was never designed to encompass, but even more so because of its further abuse and trivialization by a modern popular school of spiritual practitioners, it must serve because it will be readily familiar to many, and precisely because it has been so widely used to describe humanity's earliest stages of spiritual experimentation.

Evidence from cave art, stretching back perhaps as much as 30,000 years, hints to the use of caves for ritual purposes. The location of some of these caves suggests arduous effort having been necessary to even reach these ancient ritual chambers. It can be aruged that the solitude experienced in such caves served as an initiatic technique intended to explore the psyche.

While modern Shamanic techniques emphasize both movement and sonic or auditory driving techniques (dance and drumming), it should be noted that more passive techniques are well documented as existing in various traditions now identified as Shamanic or containing Shamanic elements. Patanjali, in the Yoga Sutras, distinguished between “samadhi with support” (consentration meditation)  and “samadhi without support.” (opening-up meditation) By this, he referred respectively to meditation which fixed attention upon an object, thought, or even a word, and a meditation in which no intentional focusing object is used, but rather in which the individual attends to whatever thoughts or images his unconscious mind presents to him.

It should be clear by now that the Chamber of Reflection may be regarded as partaking of elements of both approaches. The Masonic imagination combined the stories provided by the Greek writers, the exotic imagery of Mithraism, with what may (or may not) have been an intuitive discovery of a technique which when combined with an initiatory ritual, which also rests upon ancient models and technologies of the spirit, quite effectively serves to intensify and enhance experience of altered states of consciousness intended to inspire the growth of self awareness and enlightenment.

Quaerentibus lumen.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Hermaea: The Festival of Hermes

A Happy and Prosperous Hermaea, (the Festival of Hermes) to one and all! On May 15, the Ides, Mercury (the Roman name for Hermes) was honored as a patron of merchants and increaser of profit (through an etymological connection with merx, merces, "goods, merchandise"), another possible connection with Maia his mother as a goddess who promoted growth.

Hermes was the name the Greeks associated with the Egyptian Neter Djehuty or Thoth. The Masonic student must understand, if they wish to approach the Hermetic Tradition and the reason behind true Freemasonry, that it is necessary to overcome the preoccupations of the modern mind. The studious Freemason must accept that in its earliest foundation, our order was dedicated and devoted to the study and perfection of the Hermetic secrets which give it its reason for existing and define its objectives. The student of Hermeticism must learn the true nature of his own reality, it become the maker and transformer of those conditions which limit and imprison him on a daily basis.

The Emerald Tablet, also known as the Tabula Smaragdina, is a compact and cryptic piece of Hermetica reputed to contain the secret of the prima materia and its transmutation. It is highly regarded by European alchemists as the foundation of their art and the Hermetic tradition.

The Seven Hermetic Principles upon which Hermetic Philosophy is based:

1. Principle of Mentality or Mentalism.
2. Principle of Correspondence.
3. Principle of Vibration.
4. Principle of Polarity.
5. Principle of Rhythm.
6. Principle of Cause and Effect.
7. Principle of Gender and/or Generation.

An Orphic Hymn to Mercury
(Fumigation with Frankincense)

Hermes, draw near, and to my pray'r incline,
Angel of Jove, and Maia's son divine;
Prefect of contest, ruler of mankind,
With heart almighty, and a prudent mind.
Celestial messenger of various skill,
Whose pow'rful arts could watchful Argus kill.
With winged feet 'tis thine thro' air to course,
O friend of man, and prophet of discourse;
Great life-supporter, to rejoice is thine
In arts gymnastic, and in fraud divine.
With pow'r endu'd all language to explain,
Of care the loos'ner, and the source of gain.
Whose hand contains of blameless peace the rod,
Corucian, blessed, profitable God.
Of various speech, whose aid in works we find,
And in necessities to mortals kind.
Dire weapon of the tongue, which men revere,
Be present, Hermes, and thy suppliant hear;
Assist my works, conclude my life with peace,
Give graceful speech, and memory's increase.

As above, so below.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Jung's Red Book: A Must for all Freemasons?

There is without a doubt no more influential figure in the field of human psychology and the modern search for human spiritual self understanding than Karl Gustav Jung. There is also no doubt that there is no other work by Jung as important as the Red Book or Liber Novus.

This impressively hand illuminated manuscript chronicles Jungs spiritual quest through dreams and his inner turmoil which led to his ultimate spiritual recover, which followed closely the form of a classic spiritual crisis. This was the means by which the Father of the modern concept of Archetypes developed his philosophy and insights.

The publisher says that the Red book is

The most influential unpublished work in the history of psychology. When Carl Jung embarked on an extended self-exploration he called his “confrontation with the unconscious,” the heart of it wasThe Red Book, a large, illuminated volume he created between 1914 and 1930. Here he developed his principle theories—of the archetypes, the collective unconscious, and the process of individuation—that transformed psychotherapy from a practice concerned with treatment of the sick into a means for higher development of the personality.

While Jung considered The Red Book to be his most important work, only a handful of people have ever seen it. Now, in a complete facsimile and translation, it is available to scholars and the general public. It is an astonishing example of calligraphy and art on a par with The Book of Kells and the illuminated manuscripts of William Blake. This publication of The Red Book is a watershed that will cast new light on the making of modern psychology. 

The original manuscript
I will note that it is a virtual feast for the eyes. I have to say though that comparing it to the Book of Kells is a bit more hyperbolic than even this Irishman can handle. That said, I believe that there is no more valuable text that a modern Freemason can have at his disposal to assist in the personal search for more light than this remarkable text.

The full sized book (12 1/4" by 18 1/4") is at roughly $150.00 well worth the cost. It will be a prized possession the rest of your life, and it is not "just a book." It contains the original calligraphic text in German script, the translation into English and the full illustrations. At  If you cannot afford that price, or just want to dig into the text without distractions, then you can buy the Reader's edition at roughly $20-$25.  If you feel you need some guidance to better appreciate this work, there is very useful guide by Sanford L. Drob, entitled Reading the Red Book: An interpretive Guide to C. G. Jung's Liber Novus at about $16-$20 which will help orient you to the work.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

The Mason Who Flew Over the Cookoo's Nest: Masonic Fraternal Police Force

This one is just too amazing to believe! David Icke is going to have a field day with this, along with all the rest of the conspiracy nuts.

No less than three of California Attorney General Kamala Harris' employees was arrested for supposedly being leaders of an estwhile Masonic Fraternal Police Department, according to the Los Angeles Times, Wednesday. David Henry, Tonette Hayes, and Brandon Kiel, who is the deputy director of community affairs for California’s Justice Department, headed by Kamala Harris, are currently on administrative leave and facing charges of impersonating police officers.
David Henry, Tonette Hayes, and Brandon Kiel

Kiel supposedly called himself the “chief deputy director” of the Masonic Fraternal PD in communications with several California police departments attempting to arrange meetings with them. Santa Clarita Valley police officers uncovered badges, identification cards, weapons, uniforms and vehicles resembling those of law enforcement officers, according to a local CBS affiliate. 

Read more:

Rough Ashlar No. 20: A Radical Approach to Lodge

I'm going to keep this short and sweet, because that's exactly what the goal is. Again and again one hears an old line, both of complaint and inquiry about the character of Lodge meetings. No, I'm not talking about the ideological differences between Liberal and UGLE style Masonry, nor about differing approaches such esoteric vs. rational.

People complain that lodge meetings can be tedious and that this leads or may be perceived as potentially leading to the loss of (especially younger) members. This is followed usually by much hand wringing and head shaking, because that is a revered Masonic tradition, as the down-heartened mason wonders what can be done to liven things up. 

Well, there is one simple solution which could easily be implemented. Gut the minutes and secretary's reports. In fact, gut any and all reports. Strip them from the meeting. Period. Today, everyone has access to email, and if they choose not to deal with email, they can call upon some family member to assist. There is simply no excuse. If you can't deal with email, then the only lodge meeting you should be attending meets in the eternal east. 

All these reports can be sent in advance to members with the understanding that if they want to discuss any matter within them, they can, by providing advance notice by way of an email response to that message - provided the subject is weighty enough, have a total of five minutes in the comment period. In the case of fairly bureaucratic matters, the comments and suggestions can be passed to all by email as well. With that time freed up, there are no end of more beneficial and stimulating discussions that may be had. 

There is in fact, no reason that the form and structure of regular meetings cannot be modified or streamlined. The details of the meeting are not defined by anyone's landmarks. They are for the most part the confluence of constitutional regulations and old usage or tradition. In most cases, the regulations require that some means of handling issues related to correspondence and business be accommodated but there should be a fair bit of latitude for how that is done.

You see, the more I think about it, the more I begin to believe that Freemasonry is shrinking, not just because it has lost touch with society, although it unquestionably has, but perhaps even more because habitual practice has made it quite simply, as boring as hell. There may be a few shining examples of lodges which are dynamic, but by and large they are the exceptions that prove the rule. Freemasonry is in fact boring itself to death. There is absolutely no excuse for that. Do something about it!

Sunday, May 3, 2015

The Magical Mason: Forgotten Hermetic Writings of William Wynn Westcott

The Magical Mason: Forgotten Hermetic Writings of William Wynn Westcott, Physician and Magus
by R. A. Gilbert (Editor)

There are a number of reasons, I suspect, why the book I am commenting on here is not much commented upon in Masonic circles even though it has been around for over three decades. I am well aware that perhaps the only group more prickly than the Freemasons are those involved with the Golden Dawn. Mainstream Masons consider William Wynn Westcott apostate for having founded the Golden Dawn, and the contemporary Golden Dawn community, or at least segments of them, are similarly disenchanted with R. A. Gilbert.

That being said, I am affiliated with neither and hence am happy to speak my mind. Since William Wynn Westcott had a long and respectable Masonic career before he founded the Golden Dawn, and wrote some valuable material on Freemasonry he should be read by Freemasons, even if they claim to dislike Esoteric Hermetic Orders other than Freemasonry. Apart from that, Masons have professional reasons for wanting to have a solid knowledge of the Golden Dawn; for whether they like it or not, it was born from Freemasonry and its history is therefore part of Masonic history. Beyond some interesting material about Rosicrucianism, Kabbala, the Golden Dawn and the SRIA, this collection includes three essays on esoteric topics related to Freemasonry.

William Wynn Westcott
Concerning this book, the editor notes:

Of all the actors in the bizarre pageant of the Occult Revival, William Wynn Westcott was the most unlikely: cautious, fearful and altogether too respectable, he yet created its most exotic structure, the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. The task of controlling the Order proved, however, to be far beyond the abilities of this timorous scholar, and it slipped from his grasp to fall into the hands of S.L. MacGregor Mathers, the magical genius who raised it to its greatest glory. But the Order needed Westcott, for he was its true Rosicrucian: the physician and mystic who sought all his life for Hermetic Wisdom, and, having found it, gave it freely to his fellow initiates, inspiring them to follow, and sometimes to surpass him in their occult studies. In the unknown world of Rosicrucians and magicians, Westcott was a Supreme Magus, an Adept who served Hidden Masters, but of this secret life the outside world knew nothing. 

Westcott was born at Leamington, Warwickshire, in 1848 and was effectively born into medicine, for both his father - who died when the young Westcott was nine years old - and his uncle were surgeons. He studied medicine at University College Hospital and after qualifying in 1871 he joined his uncle's practice at Martock in Somerset. In the same year he became a Freemason and commenced his long and solid Masonic career, but he did not begin his occult studies until 1879 when he 'went into a life of retirement at Hendon, for two years, studying the Kabbalah, the Hermetic writings, and the works of Alchymists and Rosicrucians'.

R.A. Gilbert
This 'retirement' was neither purely magical nor unproductive, for early in 1880 he joined the Societas Rosicruciana in Anglia, translated into English the 'Ethical' grade of the spurious 'Order of (Le Philosophe Inconnues) Louis Claude St Martin'[sic] and 1902.

For forty years Westcott poured out a never-ending stream of books and papers on hermetic subjects, translations and editions of alchemical and kabalistic classics, textbooks in his professional field, and learned notes for Masonic journals. Many of his books are still in print, but the papers have been forgotten, buried in obscure and often privately printed journals. T o understand the Golden Dawn, one must read what its creators wrote - not for the world at large but for the benefit of their fellow initiates. The papers in this anthology are just that, fugitive pieces and unpublished manuscripts written for the aspiring adepts whom Westcott sought to serve. 'I am likely to be, like the wheat, ground between the upper and lower millstones', he once wrote." And so he was, but his writings are, for all their odd conceits, perfectly fit for our consumption.