Sunday, December 16, 2018

Masonry: Making Good Men Better?

I have been watching the Masonic Interwonk for quite a few years, and it has always been a mixed bag. Like all else on the internet you have to dig for the treasures, but recently certain conclusions have become more unavoidable.

In the past, I would tire of the grand number of brethren who honestly seem to represent the lowest common denominator. Increasingly though, of late it has begun to feel as if that old claim that Masonry makes good men better is just an empty slogan. I do not mean to suggest that Freemasonry doesn't have the tools for doing so nor that it has not done so. Is it possible that in the anxiety over membership we are more and more seeing a fraternity that has as its base something other than "good men?" Perhaps what Masonry is really doing now is making mediocre men insufferable.

Some may be inclined to condemn me for being snide, or cynical, or worse - unmasonic. However my words are chosen to incite - thought. Is it not possible that we have lowered the bar so far that we are guilty of having shot ourselves in the foot?

A very serious concern we should have if we are hoping to gain membership that will insure a healthy institution moving forward is whether much of our current installed base is busy chasing away exactly the type of individual we need. If you think that I am being unrealistic, I would like to suggest you haven't spent much time in any masonic forum lately. Lest you say, "but an online Masonic forum is not a lodge", I will note that nowadays, that online forum is the first place a person curious about Freemasonry will go. Unfortunately, because of the character of the discourse of most of the "legitimate" masons one encounters there,  it is most likely also the last place they will look.

Ironic as it is, the thought has occured to me that the way to get more and better membership is to accept fewer, thereby letting the water find its level.

Of course, the male craft could just start admitting women. The women would inject a healthy dose of reason, and hopefully the miscreants would make good on their threats of demitting, thereby resolving the rest of the problems.

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Expecting a Different Outcome or Looking For One?

There's an old adage that the only stupid decision is doing the same thing repeatedly while expecting a different outcome. I think that applies pretty succinctly to the periodic efforts at rousing concern over and responding to the decline of the Craft in modern times.

I'm not going to opine that Freemasonry is dying; nor will I suggest that revival is only a few smart insights away. The majority of articles and posts on this subject take one of those two tacks. They usually throw a lot of numbers into the mill, no doubt having learnt that financial reports and business meetings are the only real Royal Secret we have, or at least the only secret the majority of us remember.

I would like to share some thoughts, or perhaps more accurately, the seed of a thought that may give birth to some useful ideas. Perhaps we have been looking at this all wrong.

One school of thought says we are on our way out and there's nothing we can do about it. Freemasonry will take its place alongside the Elks and a dozen other lesser fraternal orders. Another thinks there's nothing at all wrong and we just have to do what we have always done, just a little harder. The third school thinks pretty much the same thing except that there is some new technique we simply haven't figured out, and when we do, all will be well. Minor variations include meditations on the merits of scaled-down efficiency. What both these last two perspectives share in common is magical thinking. Magical thinking will not bring us a solution that will please us. Neither will any pedestrian, conservative ideas.

The notion that something has to radically change tends to get shot down by most schools of thought the moment it is brought up. Of course, we all know that in Freemasonry the swiftest way to be branded a heretic is to use the c-word. Change.

But it needn't be the heart of what is Freemasonry that needs change. Well, ok, Freemasonry needs to lose the business meetings, for sure, and most of the masons who manage the kitchens need to be retired, too.

However, maybe it isn't the content, but the structure that has failed us. Maybe, just maybe, we really have come to a point where the idea of independent lodges which may or may not join loose affiliational organizations makes more sense than the Grand Lodge model. Maybe, if that is too much for some to cope with, we should experiment with inverting that relationship.

In Scotland, as Bob Cooper has pointed out, the independent attitudes of individual lodges is so strong that the Grand Lodge of Scotland, on occasion gets up enough courage to offer a tentative suggestion. What it doesn't have however, is any kind of real control. That state of affairs might be exactly what North American Free

Without a doubt, most, if they think about any of these vague ruminations for more than a minute, will quickly table them. But I will say one thing which nobody will be able to contradict:

If we do not find creative ways to adapt to the challenges we are facing, change will be forced upon us. It will not be at anyone else's hands. Change will come to Freemasonry, either because we mold that change with intention, or because we have allowed it to happen through our own inaction.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Review: Coalescence Esoteric and Philosophical Musings

Esoteric and Philosophical Musings of a Gyrovague

By Tau Palamas 
Coalescence is the amalgamation of a set of recondite and metaphysical teachings and artworks of ‡PALAMAS XVI° which comprise the fundamentals of a precise instrument of the Voudon+Gnostic OTOA-LCN called the Ordo Gyrovagus. Grounded in a humanistic, mystical, and living philosophy–and exploring the very heart and soul of esotericism–Coalescence picks up where Syzygy left off: developing the inner life and practice of the gyrovague; opening a clear path of personal Masonic integration; exploring the nature of aesthetic mysticism; and providing a set of initiatory rituals as vehicles for expansion.

Duly and truly prepared, with a sharpened intelligence which can link scenes, colors, shapes, and forms immediately to a world of correspondences (which suggest the underlying fundamental unity of being), the initiate makes meaning of the phantasmagoria—which, in turn, causes changes to the fluidic and malleable substance of the dreamscape itself. Then, with the audacity and authority of an ancient magus, the initiate wields the true sword of every student of the mysteries: the sovereign will. Suddenly, within what was once a surrealistic landscape with chaotic portents and confusing bits of data strewn about in a gravity- less atmosphere, there appears a dimension worthy of exploration, a state of being with secrets, information, and lessons to be learned, and beings to interact and travel further with. Such is the lifting of the veil…

Espiritismo Cruzado: Cuban Spiritism

In Cuba there are multiple espiritismos, schools or denominations of espiritismo, if you will. Though all of them may bear some similarities to Kardecism, and most likely have derived certain aspects of their traditions, doctrines, or practices from Kardecist sources, most often, their dissimilarities to Kardecist practices outweigh their similarities. Though these differences may bother Kardecists, they don't seem to bother those who practice these other espiritismos.

So what are these other espiritismos and how do they differ from one another? The following is meant to give a brief overview, a synopsis, of the forms found in Cuba.

Kardecist Espiritismo is known in Cuba as Espiritismo Científico or Espiritismo de Mesa. Heavily grounded upon the writings of Kardec, there is no appreciable difference between these and Kardecism practiced elsewhere in the world.

We will note, without real description, Bembe de Sao, which has been identified by José Millet, but for which little information is available.

Espiritismo de Cordón, also sometimes referred to by the term Oríle, for a word often appearing in Cordonista songs, is quite distinct from Kardecism in several ways. Cordón maintains certain elements from Kardecism, notably a belief in reincarnation, the search for goodness, and the purification of souls. It also has acquired multiple elements from popular Catholicism, and African influences above all related to its efforts to combat negative magic sometimes found in African practices.

Cordón practices magic through extatic methods, and is enriched through syncretization. This is not a uniform or consistent process as Cordón has no centralized authority. For these reasons, we may characterize Cordón as a form of popular Espiritismo, somewhat organic and not consistantly institutional in practice or structure.

Another, and not wide spread Espiritismo is that called Espiritismo de Caridád. This form of Espiritismo differs little from Cordón, and its differences are structural and ritualisic. Most notably, while Cordón requires an assortment of assistants - mediums, other participants as well as the director of the acción, Cardidad requires at its minimum, two people - the medium and the person seeking "la caridad." Espiritistas de Caridad function independently, mostly out of their own homes, some Cordoneros work in a similar way, so boundaries between Cordón and Caridad may be viewed as porous.

Espiritismo Cruzado or "Cruza'o" is more idiosyncratic than these others. It may or may not evince the same elements from Kardecist dogma that we find in Cordón, and while misas are common, there are many Espiritistas Cruzados who work through solo consultation as do the Espiristas de Caridad. The only element in Cruzado that is universal, is their involvement in African derived initiatic traditions, and their use of Espiritismo in relation to those traditions.

All of these Espiritismos except for the strict Kardecist form share a loosely structured set of spirit pantheons. These pantheons are less uniform than that of Oricha traditions or even than the more flexible pantheons encounted in Palo.

In the context of the work I do within Esperitismo, I do readings which in part examine situation, uncover which commissions are actively available to aid the inquirer, and offer guidance on how to move forward to develop ones own solutions and practice. If that is something an individual wants to pursue, they can contact me privately.

Espiritismo Cruzado, a product of Afro-Cuban culture's adoption and adaptation of the Kardecist Spiritism which became popular in the 1850s and 1860s is a uniquely Cuban phenomenon and distinct from forms of spiritism found elsewhere such as in Puerto Rico and Brazil.

While a lot of attention is focused on Afro Cuban initiatic traditions, far less is given to the different variants of Espiritismo. Yet Espiritismo, especially the form referred to as Cruzado, often is the entry point for involvement with all of these traditions. What is more, being non-initiatic, it is accessable to all. A basic awareness of those spirits who walk with an individual and how to mount and work with a boveda or altar, allows the person begin to develop the spiritual life.

Espiritismo Cruzado does retain typical elements of European and North American spiritism, but also nurtures significant aspects of all the African spiritual practices brought to Cuba, and that combination is found nowhere else in the new world, because even in Brazil, there is no Abakua. Cruzado however, has made itself, literally the glue that connects all Afro-Cuban religions, in part because it contains elements of the spiritual pantheons of all Cuban faiths, but also because it is non-initiatory and openly welcomes all people. It also tends to be for those reasons, where most develop their spiritual gifts first.

If you are interested in investigating which spirits make up your spiritual court in Afro-Cuban Cruzado, and want a reading as I was taught a quarter century ago in Cuba, Contact me by email at or on messenger: Eoghan Craig Ballard for details.

Review: Memory Palaces and Masonic Lodges

Memory Palaces and Masonic Lodges
Esoteric Secrets of the Art of Memory

By Charles B. Jameux

Originally entitled  L'art de la mémoire et la formation du symbolisme maçonnique. This book is being listed in pre-release status as of October 20, 2018 by Inner Traditions. The information in this post comes from the publisher's site. I think the subject and content of this translation warrants what small advance publicity I can provide through this blog.

This booh reveals how the art of memory is the origin of the Masonic method

• Explains the classical techniques of the art of memory, how they were reworked by hermetic thinkers during the Renaissance, and how they contributed to the transformation of operative Freemasonry into speculative Freemasonry

• Traces the creation of speculative Freemasonry to 1637, one hundred years earlier than previously thought

• Explores how the “memory palaces” created with the art of memory enabled access to universal knowledge as well as represented the Masonic temple in its imaginary state

In Antiquity, the art of memory was a mnemonic device that allowed an orator, such as Cicero, to recall all the points he wished to make by associating each of them with an image or architectural element in the site he was speaking. When this art was rediscovered in the Renaissance, hermetic thinkers like Giordano Bruno reworked it into a method that allowed them to acquire knowledge with the creation of “memory palaces.” The elements of these memory palaces were not intended to trigger the memory but would actually transform into talismanic objects with knowledge entirely new to the seeker.

In this book, Charles B. Jameux shows that this hermetic reworking of the classical art of memory was no mystery to operative Masons, who grafted it onto their own rituals, catalyzing the transformation of operative Masonry into speculative Masonry. He shows how the hieroglyphic writing used during the Renaissance in the art of memory provided the groundwork for one of the most esoteric elements of masonic practice: the grasp of the realm of image by the letter, where symbols were “buried” within words. 

Using archival evidence from 17th-century Scotland and earlier, combined with the research of modern scholars such as Frances Yates and David Stevenson, Jameux argues that the creation of speculative Freemasonry can be traced back 100 years earlier than conventional history records--to 1637, when the first recorded use of the Mason’s Word appeared and with it, the first known appearance of the symbolic Temple of Solomon. He follows Giordano Bruno’s visit to the British Isles in the late 16th century and the subsequent activities of the men he met there, showing that Masonic symbolism owes much of its current form to early memory palaces, which represented the Masonic lodge and temple in their fully imaginary states.

Revealing the pivotal role of the memory palace and hermetic traditions in early Masonic symbolism, Jameux sheds new light on the Masonic questions asked of each initiate and the spiritual importance of the Temple of Jerusalem to Freemasonry

Visit the publisher at:

Charles B. Jameux was Grand Chancellor of Foreign Relations of the Grand Lodge of France and the chief editor of the Masonic Journal of the Grand Lodge of France, Initiatory Perspectives, from 1998 to 2001. He is currently the director of the Living Stone collection for the French publisher Dervy (Tredaniel Group). He lives in France

With thanks to Jedediah French.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Mysterious Realities from the Imaginal Realm

From time to time I do post on subjects not directly related to Freemasonry on the Hedge Mason. This is sort of, almost, maybe one of those occasions.

I put it in those terms because, while I recall no reference either direct or implied regarding Freemasonry in this book, and to my knowledge the author is not a mason, though I'm fairly certain he knows that I am, (we've never gotten into a discussion on the craft), to me the subject of dreaming is related.

While Masons will staunchly insist that Freemasonry isn't a religion, and it certainly doesn't try to be, it is a path that leabs many to spiritual awareness. I also have in my own approach to study both within a masonic context and without, have utilized dreams for spiritual development most of my life.

So, while clarifying, neither this author nor this book is intentionally or unintentionally associated with Freemasonry, it is one that I strongly and eagerly recommend to both mason and non-mason alike. Below you will find my brief review of the book. It is currently available for Kindle and the hard copy will follow:

In all of the books Robert Moss has artfully delivered on dreams, he shares some amazing locales beyond the ordinary world. This book is no exception. His description of the costume dept for spirit guides in the moon café and half-armored police with the heads of hounds patroling the seedy neighborhoods, represent only the preface to some amazing worlds.

As Robert Moss warns us, "words have the power to call things...and bring creatures from one world into another," and here he has done that masterfully.

Here is a great collection of short stories. You will encounter good fiction, wonderful snippits of fantasy, shouldn't read this as fantasy. It's a traveler's guide to the countries you visit in dream, "for those who always go beyond the roadmaps." 

Go beyond them; Professor Moss does. This is no light, New Age dip into the shallow end of the dream pool. We meet magicians - the real kind, daimons, and not a few spirits that may qualify as demons, if not of the rich, certainly of the famous. We are taken by a master storyteller into the realms of our psyches; into realms that Yeats, Einstein, Jung, and Eliade knew to be real, and sometimes terrifying.

In this book, Robert Moss goes far beyond his previous voyages into dreaming. He in essence takes off his gloves, imparting not only the magic of dream worlds and the multiple universes in which they reside, but the roadmaps with which to reach them.

As we all will admit when we're truly being honest with ourselves, the worlds we dream in are more real than not. This book is an inspiring trip through dreamland. Book your ticket today, if you dare.

To order the book, click here!

Thursday, August 16, 2018

In Memorium: John Slifko

Today I received word of the passing of one of my dearest friends, my most fraternal brother John Slifko.

Those who knew John knew he was no stranger to the world of Freemasonry. Those who did not know the man or his character may not have not realized that he frequently played a role behind the scenes to avoid controversy and to assure positive outcomes in any venture to which his name was attached. The path he trod was always guided by the highest ethics.
In his career he brushed shoulders and maintained relationships with some significant figures in American Cultural life. He maintained a communication with and interviewed Burl Ives, and was the personal secretary to Manly P. Hall for some time. He maintained close ties with people and organizations involved with Freemasonry and esoteric studies in Europe, North America, and Latin America.

John Slifko was an expert in urban planning and Freemasonry. He graduated from San Francisco State University in 1987 with a Bachelor’s degree in Urban Studies and Geography. In 1989, John Slifko received his Master’s degree in Urban Planning from the University of California, Los Angeles, and more recently received a Doctorate in Geography from the same institution. He served with Councilwoman Ruth Galanter from 1988 to 1989 as a Planning Deputy for Los Angeles International Airport. John also worked as a Legislative Aide and a Field Representative in Congress for eight years.

As Founder and Co-Director of the Roosevelt Center for the study of Civil Society and Freemasonry, John Slifko raised funds to support scholars and gave lectures, and tirelessly promoted the academic study of the fraternal organization of Freemasonry. He was a member of the Association of American Geographers, the American Historical Association, The John Dewey Society, and the Academic Society for Research into Freemasonry and Fraternalism. John Slifko volunteered for The Midnight Mission, which takes the homeless off of Skid Row and rehabilitates them into self-sufficient members of society. He contributed to the UCLA Foundation’s endowment, supporting the educational endeavors of the university.John Slifko was an active stock trader from 2000 to 2006, investing in green technologies. 

In his spare time, he pursued the study of geographical mapping and exploration, as well as archeaoastronomy, the study of how past cultures understood the sky. He also participated in Healthy City, a California information portal that helps residents connect to health and social services and community data.

He was active in the quest to bring the Modern or French Rite to North America in recent years and instrumental in the work to bring about the foundation of the Higher Orders of Wisdom in North America and the Caribbean. It was in fact at his prompting that I chose to create the Hedge Mason Blog. He was active in the foundation of and the promotion of Project Awe, (Aesthetics of Western Esotericism) - Where Art meets Magic.

While he struggled with failing health against great odds over the last few years, he never dwelt upon his problems and continued to struggle relentlessly for those causes about which he felt passion and loyalty. He was a devotee of the Blessed Virgin and it was perhaps no surprise, as his wife Belinda noted, that he left this world on the day the Church celebrated the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary (August 15)

Freemasonry has lost a true crusader and a gentle soul to the Eternal East.

His family urges people who wish to do something in his memory to make donations to The Hirsberg Foundation for Pancreatic Cancer Research

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

The Evolution of the Vth Order of the French or Modern Rite

Recent years have been witness to a kind of rediscovery of the French or Modern Rite, which despite being a great unknown was the foundation of what would later evolve into various Masonic ritual "manifestations" both good and bad. Undoubtedly, the proliferation of the so-called High Degrees and heterodox systems, often lacking in coherence and sometimes contrary to the original aims of the Order, the intrusion of extravagant and visionary fashions, grotesque messianic systems, pseudomystical rituals and other varied fauna, led French continental masonry, and specifically the Grand Orient of France, to the creation of a "Grand General Chapter of France" in order to bring order and give uniform coherence to the chaos that was 18th Century Continental Freemasonry.

From time to time, history provides us with clear minds in various fields of art and knowledge. One of the transcendental figures to approach this structuring was Roëttiers de Montaleau, who along with Graffin, Salivet, Saurine, Millon and many other of those 81 founding members (note the number 81), gave form to the Orders of Wisdom, previously called Superior Orders, the intent of which was and continues to be that of coherently grouping the teachings, bringing together all the historical currents of the so-called Scottism, which I have developed extensively in other articles and essays.

Alexandre-Louis Roëttiers de Montaleau
The original founding idea of ​​1784 that simply intended the making of a V Order that contains "all the physical and metaphysical degrees and all systems, especially those adopted by the Masonic associations in force", remains a hard task to master. it came to be realized progressively and, curiously, was forgotten in some cases, or unknown in others, either by laziness, ignorance or egocentric overeagerness.

The French Rite of the Moderns that Roëttiers de Montaleau called in one of the reorganization proposals as the "Primitive Rite" affirming with this qualifying adjective the source of the French Rite, a name adopted to differentiate it from others created later and also implemented in France. I will leave for another occasion my modest analysis about the misuse that has been given to a supposed "Primitive Rite" in other parts of the world.

Now let's return to the true concept, that Primitive Rite, the French Rite or Rite of the Moderns, which compiled after the three symbolic degrees represents an authentic Academy and Conservatory of masonic degrees of the Enlightenment and the accumulated knowledge of multiple ritual systems.
This ambitious, but necessary regulation on the one hand academic and on the other administrative, is still alive today, and its genesis was intended to present a vision of the future as indicated by its first Statutes and General Regulations of March 19, 1784.
It is not simply a compilation or "Ark of the Covenant" of the first and historic 81 degrees distributed in 9 series, but meant to accommodate the greater masonic knowledge it contained, thus incorporating and conserving the culminating degrees of all the different systems and Rites.

That is the ultimate goal of the V Order: to reunite what is dispersed at the highest level of initiation. That's how it was and that's how it is today.

(Translated from the Spanish of Joaquim Villalta)

Joaquim Villalta, Vª Orden, Gr. ·. 9, 33rd
Director of the International Academy of the Fifth Order - UMURM
Member of the Sublime Council of the Modern Rite for Ecuador
Vice-president of the Circle of Studies of the French Rite "Roëttiers de Montaleau"
Honorary Member of the Lusitano Grande Orient
Honorary Member of the Colombian National Grand Orient
Honorary Member of the Traditional Grand Lodge of Paraguay
Very Powerful Sovereign Grand Commander of the Supreme Council of the 33rd Degree for Spain of the Ancient and Accepted Rite (R de C)

Saturday, August 4, 2018

New Modern Rite Links

The Universal Masonic Union of Modern Rite – UMURM, was created under the 1st International Congress of Supreme Councils and Major General Chapters of the Modern Rite or French Rite, held in Barcelona, Spain, on 11 and 12 June 2011.

Its purpose is not to become a supra structure, but rather a body of “research, dissemination and interaction” exclusively for the Philosophical or higher degrees Organizations that wish to join, regardless of any discrepancies of “recognition” taking as a fundamental basis of “regularity” and initiatory “legitimacy” as long as this can be properly demonstrated.

The Academy of Vth. Order

Is a body of the Universal Masonic Union of Modern Rite, UMURM, which limits members exclusively to SS.·.GG.·.II.·. Rite, “Vº Ord. ·., Gr.·. 9 “, attached freely and voluntarily, exclusively from the Philosophical Powers officially empowered to confer this degree in the traditional manner and regularly.

It is headed by the Director, who in turn coordinates various research and development projects, as well as analysis in the fields of history, ritual, philosophy, symbolism and society.

In compliance with our tridivisa “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity”, it organizes, produces, provides and promotes written material about the true origins of speculative Freemasonry in general and the Modern or French Rite in particular. Members are part of the academic team and are committed to support in fulfilling these tasks, for which they are accredited.

The UMURM has a blog with a good number of interesting a^ticles related to the French Rite and the Higher Orders of Wisdom. Please giqe them a look.

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Genderbending Freemasonry

These are strange times, indeed. The United Grand Lodge of England has taken what for Male Craft Freemasonry is a dramatic move. Without wishing to be cynical about it, I suspect they realized that failure to address the issue as they did most likely would result in a devasting legal decision against them. Certainly, the wording of their directive was written by a team of lawyers.

The UGLE, announced that Freemasons in good standing who choose to undergo gender reassignment must still be received as Masons with full rights to attend lodge and should further be treated with kindness and respect. From the perspective of simple humanitarian behavior, this might not seem an unreasonable expectation. It however must have been a decision that caused endless debate and not a few sleepless nights, at least for the Grand Master. For most people under 50, the variety of gender identities people claim today seem no big issue. Such is not the case for many older people, and the conservative character that all too often dominates the Masonic community, especially in North America, where it often is reactionary, has not made adjusting to modernity pleasant or smooth sailing for the fraternity. Male Craft Masonry might uncharitably be called "the Brotherhood of the Ostrich" for so often burying its head in the sand.

While I have no sympathy for the more backward leaning attitudes of the Craft, I do understand that the discomfort and confusion is real. I may not personally be completely at ease with the myriad new gender identities, and especially surgical sexual changes, but then, the idea of cosmetic surgery disturbs me nearly as much. In anycase, if it's not my choice, who am I to judge? The point is that Male Craft Freemasons have regularly worked themselves up into frenzies over the idea that biologicaliy females might be made Freemasons, much less more modern gendered people. So, I find it to be the height of irony that in the paragon of Male Freemasonry, the UGLE, the gender barrier is now broken, not by accepting naturally born biological women, but by a much more controversial issue, at least for most Masons, gender reassigned individuals.

I suspect and this is speculative, that there are several reasons for this. The first, already hinted at is that it was initiated in response to a real and no doubt specific legal threat. Another probability is that it was easier to detach this decision from the traditional male-only stance of UGLE Freemasonry. There are no rules in the constitutions of Freemasonry that specifically address sex changes. However much chagrin this may cause, oddly enough, it is likely not as hard a pill for most Male Craft Freemasons to swallow as acceptig biologically born women. Further, the numbers are likely to be far fewer.

Of course, as a brief browse through online forums has confirmed, there is a predictable measure of distressed reaction among Masons. In one or two places, I actually noted some supportive commentary, but the opposite was more common. What surprised me most is that the entire matter was much more low key than I expected. That may change momentarily of course. However, it felt to me like people were waiting to exhale.

It's a seismic change. We will know in time how cataclismic a change it will be. It presents problems for leadership. Will they force, even if gradually, the membership in various states down the same route? Will they dig in their heels? Will some take the fateful move of denouncing the UGLE and rescinding recognition? That latter is not likely, but still possible. More likely, the ostrich will win the day as people try to pretend nothing happened.

Of course, the writing is on the wall. It is necessary for the Craft to move into the 21st century. Regardless of how many of the old guard fall on their own swords, women will inevitably follow.

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Rough Ashlar No. 24: Obligations

Recently I have had several conversations with brethren of various obediences and jurisdictions on the matters of both oaths and obligations. These have led me to contemplate the differences between our masonic obligations stated and unstated, obvious and implicid.

For most the conversation seems simple and straightforward. They have sworn oaths and mostly these are interpreted in literal and unequivocable terms. They must follow the rules of the institution and must keep the secrets they have sworn to maintain. In today's Freemasonry, it would seem, if one contemplates anything related to the craft these are not among the things one considers. Yet, I would suggest that they should be. Indeed, they deserve to be on the top of the list.

As masons, we have certain obligations and foremost among those obligations ought to be to question them all.

 No, I am not suggesting that masons should not take their obligations and oaths seriously. Quite the opposite, I am suggesting that oaths and obligations that are not examined, questioned, and measured against our values both personal and masonic, are not being taken seriously. Socrates, is credited with saying that "the unexamined life is not worth living." I would suggest that the unexamined oath is not an oath at all.

As masons, we are expected to work on our rough ashlars. But it should be understood that we have collective as well as individual rough ashlars. Our masonic institutions are not perfect, nor are our rules and regulations carved in stone. They have changed and evolved both on paper (officially) and in interpretive practice (informally) for as long as Freemasonry has existed. Today there are many different Freemasonries, each with variations in oaths, regulations, and different definitions of what a "Masonic Secret" is.

Personally, I am not particularly preoccupied by the issue of Masonic secrets. We who are masons are familiar with those of our particular obedience, or at least, based upon my own informal surveys of  the matter, what Freemasons imagine them to be. In truth, there exists no Masonic Secret that has not been published, often multiple times.

But I am concerned with this: it appears that far too many masons assume that their oaths mean they have to accept things the way they are and that to challenge the status quo is tantamount to breaking their oaths. Nothing, of course, could be further from the truth.  Our Masonic institutions are far from perfect and have never been static.  it is our responsibility, I would suggest, to examine our institutions and if they are found to fall short of our higher standards, then we are obliged to work to improve them.

We are all entitled to different views on specific issues. I'm not going to point to any issue in particular. Rather, I wish to highlight what I would consider a "meta-issue." If we as a fraternity aim to seek more light, to smooth our rough ashlars, and to become better, than we have an obligation, I believe, to attempt to seek the same collectively. We must attempt to push our collective body to improve itself. We must seek to know ourselves, and strive to improve ourselves. We must not content ourselves with the narrowest of definitions concerning our Masonic obligations.

We cannot be content with the status quo.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Book Review: Masonic rivalries and literary politics

It seems to me as good a way as any to turn the lights back on here at the Hedge Mason to highlight a book that will stimulate thought. This title comes from the pen of Marsha Keith Schuchard, who brought us insight into Masonry and Cabalism in Jacobite Scotland.

Masonic rivalries and literary politics: from Jonathan Swift to Henry Fielding – May 17, 2018
by Marsha Keith Schuchard

Freemasonry had a major influence on politics and literature in eighteenth-century Britain, but many historical accounts have been limited by an overly Anglo-centric focus, which omitted the importance of Scotland, Ireland, Wales, and Europe in its development. The persistent “conventional wisdom” that the fraternity was non-political ignored the intense Jacobite-Hanoverian and Tory-Whig rivalries that continued from the 1690s. The assumption that Freemasonry generally espoused a rationalistic Enlightenment agenda omits the Hermetic, Cabalistic, and chivalric themes that infused the Écossais (Scottish-French) higher degrees which expanded rapidly in Europe and eventually in Britain itself. These rivalries and polarizations were reflected in the Tory-Jacobite writings of Jonathan Swift, Alexander Pope, Moses Mendes, Eliza Haywood, Chevalier Ramsay, and many others, while Whig-Hanoverian authors such as Daniel Defoe, Jean-Theophilus Desaguliers, “Orator” Henley, and Henry Fielding supported the loyalist agenda of the Grand Lodge of England. By providing a detailed, chronological account of these developments, this book fills many gaps in eighteenth-century Masonic history.

Marsha Keith Schuchard, Ph. D has written extensively on eighteenth-century Cabalistic and “illuminist” Freemasonry and its influence on Swift, Ramsay, Swedenborg, and Blake. She lives in Atlanta, Georgia.

Table of content
Chapter 1 - The Ruined Temple and the Flight of Knights (1685-1691)
Chapter 2 - Freemasons, Rosicrucians, and Radical Clubs (1691-1703)
Chapter 3 - Jacobites, Williamites, and Disputed Architectural Traditions (1695-1703)
Chapter 4 - Judaized Scots, Jacobite Jews, and the Problem of “False Brothers” (1702-1712)
Chapter 5 - Building Castles in the Air, at Home and Abroad (1710-1716)
Chapter 6 - The Swedish-Jacobite Plot and the Grand Lodge of London (1716-1719)
Chapter 7 - Scottish-Swedish Masonic Traditions and English Innovations (1719-1722)
Chapter 8 - Atterbury, Wharton, and “Combinations of Workmen” (1722-1723)
Chapter 9 - Chinese and Cabalistic Threats to the Grand Lodge (1723-1724)
Chapter 10 - Masonic Rivalries and International Ramifications (1725-1726)
Chapter 11 - A New King, Yet Old Corruption (1727-1730)
Chapter 12 - International Expansion of Chivalric Masonry (1730-1732)
Chapter 13 - Masonic Politics and “A Babel of Religions” (1732-1733)
Chapter 14 - Outbreaks of “Hyp” at Home and Abroad (1734)
Chapter 15 - Riots in Britain, Wars in Europe, Charges of Masonic Conspiracy (1735-1736)
Chapter 16 - Rival Claimants to the “Higher Order” and “Ancient Footing” (1737)
Chapter 17 - Two Young Pretenders to the British Throne (1738-1739)
Chapter 18 - Masonic Cabalists and the Opposition Cabal (1740-1742)
Chapter 19 - Mock Masons, Royal Arch Rebels, and Invasion Fears (1743-1744)
Chapter 20 - Rebuilding the Temple in the North (1745)
Chapter 21 - Early Jacobite Victories, Apparent Hanoverian Triumph (1745-1746)
Chapter 22 - Rival Grand Masters, Beheadings, and Boastings (1746-1748)
Chapter 23 - Disappearance of One Young Pretender, Emergence of the Other (1748-1750)
Epilogue - Schisms: Antients versus Moderns, Royalists versus Republicans, Nationalists versus Imperialists (1751-1788)

The book is available on Amazon.