Wednesday, September 30, 2015

The Best Book on Masonic Philosophy Never Written by a Mason

Freemasons love to get enthusiastic about new books on Freemasonry, whether those are on the history of Freemasonry or on Masonic Philosophy. If you want some insight on whether that enthusiasm converts into sales for the authors, you'd better check in with a Masonic publisher. I know one or two, but am not one. That being said, I suspect they'll tell you that Freemasons are called that for a reason, they want it for free. 

Regardless of whether that is so or whether I am just being my usual cynical self, I have for a long time been fascinated by materials published with the Mason in mind. While my first love is books on ritual, followed by history, I also like books geared to masonic education and the philosophy of Freemasonry. 

You know the type;  titles that purport to substantiate claims that Freemasonry "makes good men better." Behind them all is the notion that an individual becomes a better person by become more self aware, and that, in some Dan Brownsian way, becoming truly self aware, we may become, if not gods, then at least somewhat more akin to them.

Although this post may sound, thus far,  to be dripping with sarcasm, it really isn't.  I happen to believe that perhaps the most significant thing we can accomplish in the realm of spiritual or self development is true and profound consciousness. I'm talking about the kind which is characterized by awakening from the trance of mundane life and the mindless pursuit of material existence which constitutes most people's awareness. That which is the point of Buddhism, the Tao, and even the Sufi. That is of course, the goal of Esoteric Freemasonry, and as much as most mainstream Masons manage to avoid it, it is also the main purpose of so-called "regular" Freemasonry.

I have been reading Masonic literature for years, and one thing that became clear to me a long time ago, was that there were quite a few authors who had learned how to talk about the subject, but precious few who seemed to understand what they were writing about. 

So, along the way, I began to examine literature about consciousness which was outside the Masonic tradition. From what I can see, many other Masons have in recent years done the same thing.  I plan on highlighting some relevant texts here from time to time, and will start with what is most likely the smallest and most unassuming one I have come across, but  which focuses intently on the subject of self awareness. It is not grounded in Masonic philosophy, but it speaks coherently on the subject which is at the heart of Masonic philosophy and is therefore a title I readily recommend to all.

This book does not make any pretense at being an academic text, nor of being grounded in a philosophical tradition of scholarship.  It is written in colloquial and intentionally simple language. Unlike Freemasonry, it does not rely on a peculiar system of morality, nor does it veil its message in allegory illustrated by symbols.  Unlike the traditional approach of Freemasonry, this text is as straight and as direct and as simple as the author could make a work dealing with such a weighty subject. That is one of the reasons I think most Freemasons who are interested in something more than cigars, whisky, and self congratulatory titles, should read this short work.

While I think that those who pursue the self-congratulatory titles are probably beyond hope, to the rest, I recommend you pour a single malt, light a maduro, sit back and read this book, as the author recommends, from cover to cover in one sitting. Don't worry, that's why it was written so that the average person can read it in an hour. It is worth the effort, and although I tend to avoid titles that seem to fit the genre we call "new age", this one is worth the read. It will, as the author suggests,"will turn your world inside out." It is a small book that makes a big claim. Unlike so much today, in "Lucid Living" Tim Freke keeps his word. This book lives up to the hype. 

Freke is able to do this because he casts an almost surgical glance at just what it is that we do with our brains, and just how we manage to fool ourselves most of the time. He dissects how we construct our understanding of experience, because he has been able to grasp how we are actually responsible for creating that experience, which makes it possible for him to help us deconstruct the illusions we have invented to trap ourselves.

It is a subtle process, this matter of uncreating our self illusions. For me at least, it has taken time. I agreed with most of the contents of this book for a long time before I began to "get" it. Perhaps you won't be as dense as I have been, but then I spent decades in an academic setting which causes us to become comfortable in the labyrinth we call the mind. 

This book has been one of the tools which has helped me shake myself free from the humbuggery of my own thought processes. I can think of no group of people in greater need of being shaken free from humbuggery than those who belong to the society of Freemasons. So go out and read it. 

PS: It should make your Freemasonic hearts pleased to know you can buy a digital edition for next to nothing!

Lucid Living: A Book You Can Read in One Hour That Will Turn Your World Inside Out

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Continuing Attacks on African Traditional Religions in Brazil by Evangelical Terrorists

11year old victim of Evangelical attackers
The crimes being committed by Evangelicals in Brazil should be widely known and equally widely condemned. In fact, crimes against African Inspired faiths everywhere need to be condemned and must not be tolerated. An attack against any religious faith is an attack against all. One may believe in any cosmology one wants, but enshrining intolerance and a sense of superiority over other religions is not religion, it's political hegemony and the ugliest form of bias which a religion can stoop to.

Since the Hedge last commented upon the situation in Brazil, the attacks have not stopped. The reports below show how bad the situation is.

After a second attack on his Terreiro (Afro-Brazilian Religious Temple) Pai Ribamarzinho de Goiás closed it down. Through physical violence, intimidation and hatred, the evangelical thugs appear to be waging an all out attack on traditional religions.  (Thanks to Alberto Jorge Silva for this video)

Bible planted by arsonists
Two teirreros (temples) of Candomblé were set on fire in the early hours of a Saturday morning in Goiás recently, about 5 hours apart, in the neighborhoods of Santo Antônio do Descoberto and Aguas Lindas. The owner of one of the sites, which was completely destroyed, said he found a Bible on the site after the fire.

­”The Terreiro was invaded a month ago and since then we have slept here to protect the property. It happened yesterday when I went to my home, around 6 am, a neighbor called me alerting me of the fire. When I arrived everything was destroyed” said the priest Babalorixá Pippa, 46, known as Babazinho. He ran the Terreiro that functioned in Santo Antônio do Descoberto. 

He and his wife, the Mãe de Santo (Priestess) Rejiane Varjão, held a charity supper to raise funds and thus rebuild the place, as it suffered a loss of approximately R $ 30 thousand ($7600) as a result of the previous attack. 

­ Babazinho stated “Now it's all over. We want to get out of here because we are afraid of someone doing something against our own lives. We are here with the moving van without knowing where to take what's left. The neighbors know who was responsible, but I understand they fear to talk. I believe it was an act of religious intolerance because I found a Bible inside after the fire.”

Child attending religious service attacked by Evangelicals
In another case,  in the Vila da Penha, in the north of Rio, an 11 year old girl attending a Candomblé religious service was hit on the head by a stone thrown at her by several attackers who fled the scene on a bus. The adult men with Bibles in hand called everybody at the scene 'devils', saying that “Jesus was coming back.” The girl who was left bleeding from the assault was taken to the Medical Assistance Desk (PAM) of Irajá, where doctors made a bandage on the wound.  The attack was recorded on the 38th DP (Bras de Pina) as a crime of religious intolerance and bodily injury, the child should be subjected to medical examination offense. Police are required to conduct due diligence to seek any pictures that may have been captured by security cameras and any witnesses who can help identify the perpetrators of the crime. The girl's grandmother stated to the press that her granddaughter wanted to make it publically known that she would continue her religious practice and that such attacks only make her more committed to her religious beliefs. (Information from Estadão and Extra)

The traditional peoples of African origin and religious communities see themselves as cultural resistance units in the country. These groups are characterized by maintenance of an African civilization which has survived in Brazil, constituting its own territories marked by community life, mutual aid, the reception and provision of social services.
                                                                            * * *

Mãe Dede Iansã
Another recent case involved the death of Mãe Dede Iansã, Bahia, an elderly priestess who suffered systematic aggression from people who accused her of practicing a demonic cult. The heart attack that Mother Dede suffered is interpreted as a result of grief and suffering caused by the situation. Regardless of the cause of death of this traditional religious leader , the leadership of SEPPIR, an governmental organization founded to defend traditional religious practitioners and fight racism, regrets this loss, and points out the racist component of these attacks which are too often interpreted only as religious intolerance.

Protest against Evangelical Attacks
The Brazilian people have had a guarantee of freedom of worship since the Old Republic, in the nineteenth century. However, the religious practices of peoples and communities of African origin and their organized religious communities continue to be repressed and devalued. For decades they were required to petition for  police permission to run, for example. This history demonstrates the explicit racism underlying the recent attacks made against these communities, crimes that go beyond intolerance for their religious practices, but which certainly are also a major focus of the terrorism.

Lest US residents believe their nation has a better record, it should be noted that the African derived religions of Brazil are recognized officially by the Brazilian government as a national patrimony while too often in the US, local police forces are given free reign to invade religious festivals of African derived traditions, confiscating religious objects and arresting worshippers, as used to be done in Brazil a hundred years ago.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Max Gesner Beauvoir Dies

Max Gesner Beauvoir, recognized by many as the chief religious leader in Haitian Vodou died on Saturday Sept 12, 2015 at the age of 79 in the Haitian Capitol, Port au Prince, according to his family. A Haitian biochemist and houngan. Max Beauvoir held one of the highest titles of Voudou priesthood known as "Supreme Servitur", or supreme servant . This title is given to Houngans and Mambos; Voudou Priest and Priestesses, who have a great and very deep knowledge of the religion, also because of elder status within the religion. As Supreme Servitur, Max was seen as being of the highest authority within Voudou .

Beauvoir graduated in 1958 from City College of New York with a degree in chemistry. He continued his studies at theSorbonne from 1959 to 1962, when he graduated with a degree in biochemistry. In 1965, at Cornell Medical Center, he supervised a team in synthesizing metabolic steroids. This led him to a job at an engineering company in northern New Jersey, and later to a period as engineer at DEC in Massachusetts. His interest in steroids led him to experiment with  hydrocortisone  synthesized from plants. Beauvoir held a patent on the process of obtaining hecogenin from plant leaves until 1993. However, the death of his father led him to move back to Haiti in January 1973 and become a vodou priest.

In 1974, he founded Le Péristyle de Mariani, a Hounfour in his home (which also served as a village clinic) in the village of Mariani. He had a troubled relationship with the ruling Duvalier family. While he urged that they do more to meet the medical needs of the poor, his status as a houngan kept him from being subjected to much of the wanton violence exacted by theTonton Macoutes against critics.

During this period, he founded the Group for Studies and Research on the African Tradition (French: Groupe d'Etudes et de Recherches Traditionnelles, GERT) with a group of scholars, and later founded the Bòde Nasyonal in 1986 to counter the effects of the post-Duvalier dechoukaj violence which had targeted both Vodou practitioners and the Tonton Macoutes paramilitary, both of which had been used by the Duvalier regime to oppress the Haitian people.

In 1996, Beauvoir founded The Temple of Yehwe, a Washington, D.C.-based non-profit organization for the promotion of education concerning Afro-American religion. In 1997, he became involved with the creation of the KOSANBA group at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Beauvoir was interviewed in 1982 by Canadian ethnobotanist Wade Davis for his 1985 book The Serpent and the Rainbow, later made into a film, in which the actor Paul Edward Winfield, played a figure based losely upon Max Beauvoir.

Vodou is part of the culture of Haitians inherited from their African slave ancestors of the 16th and 17th centuries. It was forbidden during the time of French colonization and during slavery. The Vodou religion, which like other African Diasporic Religions combines African spiritual practice and cosmology with elements of belief, ritual, and cosmology of Roman Catholicism.  Since Haitian independence in 1804, it has none the less been exposed to the often open hostility of Catholic Clergy and more recently Protestant Evangelical sects which have often actively attacked, with personal physical violence, the practitioners of African derived spiritual traditions throughout the Americas, as well as in Africa.

Ati Houngan Max Gesner Beauvoir always seemed to take the time to answer inquiries personally. While he had no reason to be more than marginally aware of who I was, I knew some people who communicated with him fairly regularly. However, on those occasions when I reached out to him, he always took the time to respond to me personally, and sometimes in some significant length and detail. I have heard the same from others who contacted him over the years., He demonstrated in my opinion, all the characteristics one would expect of an individual of profound spiritual awareness. Most significantly, both humility and kindness. Me he be at peace with the ancestors.

Yon mapou Ginen tonbe! Max ou janbe, men poto mitan pa tonbe !

Montray Kreyol

24 horas (en español)

Obituary in the Washington Post

In New York TImes

In the Daily Mail (England)

The Straits Times (Singapore)

Thursday, September 3, 2015

The 2015 Esoteric Book Conference is upon us!

The 2015 Esoteric Book Conference will be in Seattle on September 26th and 27th, 2015.

The Esoteric Book Conference is an annual international event to bring together authors, artists, publishers and bookmakers working in the field of esotericism. In addition to presentations by notable authors and scholars, the conference opens it doors to publishers and booksellers showcasing new & used books as well as rare and hard-to-find esoteric texts. For two days the conference hosts the largest selection of esoteric books under one roof. Contemporary esoteric publishing, finepress book arts and antiquarian texts are offered to augment the libraries of readers, scholars and collectors alike.
This multi-disciplined conference will feature presentations by contemporary authorities researching and working in esoteric currents both East & West. Western Esotericism, Gnosticism, Theosophy, Mythology, Shamanism, Rosicrucianism, Sacred Sciences, Occulture and
World Religions are among the subjects to be represented. An esoteric book fair and art show will also be on site allowing education, vending and networking in a unique field of literary, historical and cultural arts.
This conference offers several opportunities for promotion, networking and exhibition for publishers, authors and artists who work in the esoteric publishing field. There will be two days of presentations wherein authors and scholars may present lectures as well as a book fair with scheduled book signings. On Saturday night there will be an evening of entertainment featuring various ritual performances.

Tickets to the 2015 Esoteric Book Conference
Tickets are required to attend the presentations. The Book Fair, and Art Show are Free and open to the public.

To buy tickets click on this link