The following is an adjusted version of the introduction for a new book I’ve been working on, The Master Mason. This work is the culmination of nearly a decade of consideration and contemplation over the complexities of what it means to become a master in the masonic system of initiation. It is not the complete work and serves as an introduction to the broader themes explored in its subsequent pages. In a nut-shell, the work is an exploration of Freemasonry and how it relates to the Hermetic tradition, the Kabbalah and other esoteric systems that have at various intersections crossed paths with what we know as Freemasonry today.
Transcending Yesod — The Third Degree of Freemasonry
Third Degree Masonic Tracing Board
“To be or not to be” are the immortal words written by the eminent bard of Avon, William Shakespeare. His question appears in the story of Hamlet made by a lost son striving to find answers to what would, by most, be an unfathomable question which is the essence of the third degree. “To be” is perhaps the oldest of the New Age paradigms stirring echoes across theologies of all cultures said best in the application of the Golden Rule as to do unto others which is Being itself. Like the Golden Rule, in order to do unto others, we must first understand ourselves, the innerness of our being such that we can Be in the first place. This lesson is not something that is wholesale unique to the fraternity of Freemasonry, or this degree, as we find the idea of the Golden Rule transcribed across millennia and within every theological system. So too do we find the testament as a personal gospel of finding our truth. For most, truth is mythology whose philosophical lessons are lost in the dogmas of its authority – its commentaries on the philosophies become more valuable than the philosophies themselves and the value of what was said is lost to the dominion of those who hold authority over them. We must interpret the truths for ourselves so as to find their resonance within us. This is the entirety of the lesson of the third degree, the marrow in the bones of antiquity within which the truth spans all landscapes if the seeker looks deeply enough into its composition. But, as with any concept, truth is itself mutable as generations add or redact its communication creating ever fluctuating permutations and confluences of its principle concepts. Truth is truth, no matter how others dictate its interpretation. It is our own internal mechanisms that decide it for ourselves. For the Mason reading, we, as Hiram, perish in custody of our virtue which in turn is the vehicle of our metaphoric resurrection in being made perpendicular again, a zenith we find in the number three as the union between one and two, duality itself made whole. By reading the degree, whether in the Scottish or York Rite telling, the overtones are distinctly Christian but like the Christian Church itself, the tradition existed well before the consummation of the Gospels and illustrate the depth of antiquity for what they seek to convey. As with every symbolic story, we must look at it with filters and adjudge the entirety by the description of the pieces to achieve a level of perspective over the totality within which it exists. Freemasonry is, if anything else, a conglomerate of ideas, culled together from a variety of sources. So then, to understand its summation we need to look at the Kabalistic connections of this degree as it relates to our Tree of Life progression (see The Apprenticeand Fellow of the Craft) as the degree of the Master Mason resides within the Sephirot of Yesod on the pillar of mercy giving several meanings and parallels. So too will we do well in finding its corresponding relations in the Tarot as Yesod relates to the card of the Four Nines, which is also a source of its symbolic origin. But, our greatest understanding will come as we look at the degree itself to try and make sense of why the master mason is arranged the way it is, given its discordant portrayal when compared with the two that preceded it in both presentation and tone. No longer is the degree about simply the teaching of ideas and social principles, nor is it an indoctrination meant to introduce foreign concepts to the newcomer. No, this degree is about the inner journey, the making of the “transcendent transparent” which it does by introducing, in its present-day conduct, an aspect of itself that strives to teach its lesson through theatrics so as to convey its lesson in a manner reminiscent of a morality play with antecedent’s common at the time of its ritual organization. “To be…or not to be,” that is the challenge that faces each of us as we confront our own inner Hiram. And is the question which will open the door of the future of Masonry in the pursuit of the higher degrees. The esoteric writer Eliphas Lévi says, in his book The History of Magic, “Ordeal is the great word of life, and life itself is a serpent which brings forth and devours unceasingly.” Man, is born into chaos to seek light from that which he was created which, the great tradition of Hermetica tells us, is but merely a reflection, as the moon reflects the light of the sun — an aspect of this tradition we find in the parallel with Yesod. So then, we need a place to begin our study and where best to begin than with the number of the degree itself so as to construct an understanding of the significance of the number three and its relationship to many other traditions as the unifying force of division.
As with the past books, this work is being made available to early adopters through a Kickstarter campaign designed to provide a mix of old and new rewards for those students of the work to commemorate its publication.
Following the path laid out thus far in The Apprentice and The Fellow of the Craft, The Master Mason sets out to complete the path of the Symbolic Lodge giving us firm footing in the climb into the Lodge of perfection. Focusing on the nuances of the degree, the Master Mason ritual is an enigma of sorts in that it’s telling follows a divergent path from its predecessors. It is because of this difference that those who undergo it’s rites experience something new in their becoming a master. As with the earlier works, The Master Mason delves further upon the Kabbalistic Tree of Life taking the necessary detours to explore the symbolism and history of the ritual.
For those veteran contributors, you’ll notice a significant difference from the previous campaigns. This change is some of the lessons learned in undervaluing and short sighting some of the hurdles that come with self-publishing a book like this. If you’re new to this book series and collecting the work, there are definitely opportunities to become a sponsor and ensure a spot in the progress of the Great Work.
And, because of the special history of bringing this work to life, I thought it only fitting to launch it on the day of the full solar eclipse in 2017. Truly, a day from darkness into light.
My thanks to you, in advance, for your support in this passion project of mine.
Having just finished Graham Hancock’s Fingerprints of the Gods and Magicians of the Gods, I feel as though I’ve been walking in the footsteps of the gods, and it’s made me a believer.
Seldom do I binge watch more than a few TV episodes at a time. When I do, it feels like an information overload that makes the whole thing hard to process and nearly impossible to enjoy. The same could be said for books and reading. When I finish one book on a particular subject I like to move on to another, to cleanse the mental palate and process what I just read.
I thought about this when I picked up Graham Hancock’s Fingerprints of the Gods. Fingerprints was one of those books I’d spent the better part of 30 years avoiding just out of sheer will because, I had thought, it was an alt-history cavalcade and the well-spring of countless conspiracy, cryptozoology and pre-history anecdotes. This hesitancy in picking up Fingerprints was on the heels of an Art Bell fascination and right around the time I became a Freemason.
Still, like the mantra emblazoned on Fox Mulder’s poster — I wanted to believe.
The idea of a pre-history has always fascinated me. I had my own theories from history courses in college. Early on, I considered a minor in Greek and Roman art history, but sufficed myself on being an armchair historian consuming academic and literary explorations of ancient history. Field work on the subject, however, wasn’t in the cards.
But all the while, nagging at the back of my brain (along with Fingerprints maybe) was the notion that the timeline of history couldn’t possibly be sufficient to achieve some of the marvels that spawned out of a few short centuries only to go so silently quiet.
So, I’d passed on Fingerprints… and waited. I waited so long I had, for the most part, forgotten about it and lost myself in studying Freemasonry. Fingerprints of the Gods had receded so far in my head that when I caught a YouTube video with Graham Hancock presenting his ideas and theories, it all came back to me such that, within a week I was out at my local book seller buying a new copy to start reading on the spot.
So, in the span of a few weeks, I consumed Fingerprints of the Gods, feeling as though I was right there with Graham climbing the steps of the Giza pyramid and digging around in the water worn stone of the Sphinx. Reading it slowly, I measured every word of every chapter and gave considerable thought to the ideas he put forth — ideas, I’ll add, that while on the fringe of academic study, are not outside the philosophical reality as they intersect the realms of the history before history. Isn’t that part of the great mysteries of the human species? How did we build the pyramids? Why did we build them?
In Fingerprints of the Gods, Hancock sets the theoretical stage for a cataclysmic event at about the period of Younger Dryas (about 14,500 years ago) that wiped out a civilization more advanced than its contemporary hunter-gatherer counterparts. His theory is that this civilization, in collapse, struck out across the globe establishing megalithic monuments and reorganizing the hunter-gathers enclaves they encountered into porto-civilizations turning them into agricultural-socities. Hancock’s theory in Fingerprints was an earth crust displacement that moved and sizable landmass from a habitable zone into an inhospitable one — destroying in an instant an ancient advanced civilization. Upon its demise, this great civilization fled the disaster zone and seeded themselves around the globe erecting megalithic monuments to memorialize the event and warn subsequent generations of the cataclysm that happened to them and it’s recurrence in the future.
Immediately I was sucked into the text with the mention of an ancient map accurately depicting the coastline of Antarctica. It was compelling, and took me down the rabbit hole I’d so long resisted — loving every word of it. While some of the conclusions were broad in their scope, I had to admit that the conclusions were plausible and worth greater consideration. Why couldn’t a species that’s been on the planet only have created a “modern” society in barely the last 7,000 years. Personally, I don’t take this to mean there were flying machines in antiquity or weapons of mass destruction that wiped out society. But, notion of history before history was just as intoxicating to think about in consideration of the imaginings from the sundry religious texts Hancock sites as parallels to his theories.
Finishing Fingerprints, I was compelled to immediately start reading his follow up book Magicians of the Gods.
Written in the same mesmerizing fashion as his earlier work, Magicians was different. Published 22 years after Fingerprints, Magicians of the Gods felt in one hand a mia culpa (on the earth crust displacement and link to the Mayan calendar 2012 debacle) and a in the other a substantiation on the cataclysm of the Younger Dryas period, illiterated across the globe in the surviving (and reachable) megalithic structures, in particular the nascent discovery of Gobekli Tepe in the Anatolia region of Turkey. As in his earlier work, Hancock paints an even greater detailed picture of the province of ancient antediluvian culture. In Magicians of the Gods, with the aid of science and observational inputs, Hancock adds further mass to his scaffold of an ancient civilization being wiped from the memory of time. I don’t want to give too much away but Hancock’s arguments are compelling and worthy of deep consideration and, dare I say, exploration further.
A point in the work I did find of great interest was a reference in the text to the esteemed Masonic author Timothy Hogan and his observational analysis of marks in Temple of Bacchus in Lebanese megalithic structure at Baalbeck. Another was, much to my surprise, was a broad weaving in of the Hermetic texts, expounding the very oft mentioned “as above, so below” but with great consequence in his meaning. In a very brief encapsulation, resting on Hermetica, the thrust of his hermetic connection is that the universe affects life on Earth, and the Earth reflects the effect of the universe upon it. This reflection is encoded in the megalithic monuments of that share uncanny similarities in their construction and in the sheer mass of their existence from a time before recorded history.
In a general reference, Hancock writes of the cataclysmic events that they were,
…embedded in myths and legends and in mathematical and architectural precepts that would be passed on and renewed again and again by the different cultures that received them, thus boosting the signal and allowing it to remain intact for thousands of years. Even if those through whose hands and minds the signal passed no longer understood its meaning, the weight of sacred tradition, hoary with age would ensure that they were continued to transmit it and would do their utmost to keep it free from interference.
Throughout Magicians, Hancock seems reflective of what on what he’s discovered — different than the tone of the Fingerprints when the reporter turned author was carving out a Hyperborean like view of humankind emerging out of the era of hunter-gathers in the prehistoric Clovis period. Maybe the reflectiveness comes at the realization of what he’s proposing is very real and, again, set in a framework of a very clear and present danger in the annual annual passing through the Taurid meteor showers.
Yet, the cycle of the universe moves slowly, and the mysteries of processional time and the rise and fall of the human species is forgetful — it’s an informational overload at a glacial pace. Hancock’s declaration may be a solitary voice in the wilderness with the message of Fingerprints of the Gods and Magicians of the Gods. But science, it seems, is teasing points of validation to both works, if even in validating ancient comet strikes or finding ancient megalithic sites bedecked in astronomical corollaries dating to near the period of the Younger Dryas event. Hancock made me a believer, or at least validates my suspicions of ancient history and the history before history, whether upon the shores of Antarctica or the now underwater regions submerged in the great flood, a point Hancock brings into full focus with the mystery of Atlantis.
Yes, it’s extraordinary. Yes, it’s a lot to take in. And, no, it isn’t a scientific treatise. Fingerprints of the Gods, and it’s follow up Magicians of the Gods, are fantastical works about the fluid history past, present and future of humankind. And, just as Hermetica (and Hancock in the conclusion) reminds us,
The forces do not work upward from below, but downward from above…All the world which lies below has been set in order and filled with contents by the things which are placed above… The source of all earthly things are on high: those sources pour forth upon us by fixed measure and weight; and their is nothing that that has not come down from above.
Graham Hancock knows it, his Fingerprints of the Gods and Magicians of the Gods illustrates the points. You should probably know it, too. Even if you have to binge read it like I did.
In Masonic circles, few names carry the weight that comes with the eminent that of Albert Gallatin Mackey. Mostly known as a Masonic historian, author, and scholar, Mackey was also an educator and a medical doctor prior to his lifting the Masonic pen. Yet, this great accomplishments are eclipsed in the shadow of two of his biggest achievements in collecting and publishing Masonic wisdom and knowledge in his magnum opus, the Encyclopedia of Freemasonry, in 1873, and through his Masonic periodical works including The Southern and Western Masonic Miscellany — a project he maintained at his own expense, in 1852. Although Mackey’s life work centered on Freemasonry, it didn’t start out that way — beginning with much simpler objective that would come to fuel his passion for chronicling the world of Freemasonry.
Born on March 12, 1807, in Charleston, South Carolina, a young Albert Mackey began his working career as an educator. Once through his studies, Mackey worked as a teacher to earn the resources necessary to attend medical school. Upon completion, Mackey returned to Charleston to begin his life. After twenty years of practicing medicine (1834-1854), he left the profession in order to become a full-time author writing about a variety of subjects but in particular about the Middle Ages, language, and Freemasonry.
An Encyclopedia of Freemasonry, 1916
Mackey was initiated into Saint Andrews Lodge No. 10 in Charleston, South Carolina in 1841 where he moved through the lodge chairs. Mackey went on to associate with Solomon’s Lodge, No. 1, in Charleston where, 1842, he was elected “Worshipful Master.” He then held the position of Grand Secretary from 1842 until 1867. Albert Mackey went on to hold numerous positions and to be affiliated with numerous other Masonic Lodges.
In the time that he was affiliated with Freemasonry, Mackey produced many different works about the fraternity. His first Masonic piece, A Lexicon of Freemasonry, was published in 1845. He then wrote The Mystic Tie in 1851, History of Freemasonry in South Carolina in 1861 and, in 1874, the opus he is most known for, the Encyclopedia of Freemasonry. At different intervals, Mackey edited the Western Masonic Miscellany (1849-54), the Masonic Quarterly Review (1857-58), the American Freemason (1859-60), Mackey’s National Freemason (1871-74) and the Voice of Freemasonry (1875-79). Said of Mackey and his work to encapsulate the Masonic landmarks:
…his reduction to writing of twenty-five principles of Masonic law, whether or no they are all true landmarks, was a feat of no mean proportions. His list gave other Masonic thinkers a solid foundation from which to take off on expeditions into what was then an unexplored Masonic field. (read more of variations of the landmarks under Masonic Symbols)
After a long and illustrious career, Albert Gallatin Mackey passed away in Fortress Monroe, Virginia, on June 21, 1881. Said before the Supreme Council for the Southern Jurisdiction by Past Georgia Grand Master Henry Buist at Mackey’s eulogy:
He was a fearless and gifted speaker; his language was courteous and manner dignified; and occasionally, in his earnestness to maintain what he conceived to be right, he became animated and eloquent. Positive in his convictions, he was bold in their advocacy. His course of action once determined on, supported by an approving conscience no fear or disfavor or discomfiture could swerve him from his fixed purpose. Whatever was the emergency, he was always equal to it. Where others doubted. he was confident; where others faltered, he was immovable; where others queried, he affirmed. He was faithful to every public and Masonic duty. Treachery found no place in his character. He never betrayed a trust. He was eminently sincere and loyal to his friends, and those who were most intimately associated with him learned to appreciate him the most. He was generous and frank in his impulses, and cherished malice toward none, and charity for all. His monument is in the hearts of those who knew him longest and best. He is no longer of this earth. His work among men is ended; his earthly record is complete.
In 2001, the Scottish Rite Research Society established the Albert Gallatin Mackey Award for Lifetime Achievement and Excellence in Masonic Scholarship. The lifetime achievement award is given to individuals whose works have received longstanding universal recognition by Masonic scholars and the excellence in Masonic scholarship is presented to individuals whose original works published by the society are distinguished by their superior achievement.
How many of us understand what Hermetic thought is, beyond the idea of “hermetically sealed”?
Some time back I attended a lecture, presented by a lodge here in Southern California, by Dr. Stephan Hoeller, the Gnostic “Bishop” of Los Angeles. His title, I assure you, is not a pun or insult, but a very fitting description to a very intelligent man.
The lecture was on The Hermetic Foundations of the American Republic, which essentially suggested that the ideas and efforts of the founding fathers were the result of a broader subcurrent of the intelligentsia within society and whose ideas manifested themselves into the early documents and foundation of the American Republic.
But first, a note on Hermetic thought
A tradition of knowledge said to date into Ancient Egypt, Hermetic thought is associated with the god Thoth, who the Greeks later related to Hermes. Thoth’s title (one of many) was three times great, which the Greeks translated to Hermes Trismegistus or the thrice great Hermes, and who is believed to be the author of the Emerald Tablet, and Asclepius, within the hermetic texts.
It’s thought that Hermeticism flourished in ancient Alexandria, but moved underground and fell out of common knowledge with the fall of Rome and the onset of the middle ages.
The Renaissance brought about this resurgence of knowledge, including a rediscovery of Hermetic texts (see the Hermetica: The Greek Corpus Hermeticum and the Latin Asclepius in a New English Translation, with Notes and Introduction), brought to Europe by the Medici family from sources in Byzantium. What these texts contained were ancient ideas of wisdom that talked in detail about a dual nature to man and his pursuit to unify them. The two sides were made up of a human lower self that includes feelings, thoughts, sensation, and ego, the human traits we recognize today. The other half consisted of the spirit, that intangible, ineffable thing that gives us that higher conscience. Its efforts were to cultivate the conscious coming together of the initiates self with his spirit.
The idea within Hermetics was the joining of the two, the transformation of two separate elements into a new one. Some believe that Hermetic tradition survived the fall of Rome and the middle ages in the mystical field of Alchemy, which has existed in different forms for many centuries.
With the dawning of the Renaissance, so too brought the return of Hermetic thought which began to seep into Christian tradition. This movement was quickly stamped out by the doctrinal inquisition, which has since walled itself off from and philosophical idea of a personal God consciousness. Some examples of this era of sanitization of this transformative self, he suggests, could be seen in the extermination of both the Templars and Cathars in France. But again, the ideas did not die, nor were they eradicated. The Hermeticists moved underground into the “secret societies” of the age, two of those societies were the Rosicrucian’s and the other was Freemasonry.
One of the traits of Hermetic study was a progression of steps, or degrees, where the initiated would learn different aspects of the knowledge slowly to cultivate the eventual merger into the self, which was the physical and mental awakening of the God conscious, epitomized in the phrase “Know Thyself.”
So this unconscious cognition moved though Europe finding a receptive home in England where it was nurtured and incubated amidst revolution and religious freedom, away from the Catholic Church.
So what does this have to do with the foundation of America?
Many of the ideas, inherent in the fabric of our country within our constitution, have direct connections to the tenants of Hermetic thought. One such connection is the separation of Church and State. Hermetic tradition says that the individual chooses his path to the divine, and is not directed or influenced one way or another. Freedom of religion here is a direct extension of this idea, that the state is the vessel of the people and should not dictate one faith by presuming authority of one faith or another. The initiated must find his self and not be told where or what it is.
Public education is an extension of the Hermetic idea of finding the god consciousness, though the exploration of the physical universe. How does one attain this consciousness, by learning about their physical universe and its furthest reaches. Education creates the “divine metal” of the body, giving it its strength and resiliency.
And lastly, the three branches of government work in conjunction of opposites striving to find a balance for the good of the body, the ultimate attainment of the self.
The lecture made some interesting links and offered some tantalizing food for thought. Somewhere within our collective body of knowledge, behind the fog of memory, lay the history of Freemasonry.
This comes from a Feedback comment to the website. While impossible to verify the veracity of the details, I re-post this with the intent of designating information. The news of this comes as my own concerns have begun to stir as threads of Nationalism have started to be insidiously woven into the American fabric. For those who question this need only look at the brief examples of Freemasons under nationalistic (read fascist) governments.
The following comes from Libero Muratore, who starts, “Please help us spread this:”
Freemasons’ Civil-Rights violation in Italy
A serious discrimination of Freemasons belonging to the four main Italian Masonic Organization is taking place in these hours.
The Italian Parliamentary Committee on Organized Crime (Commissione Parliamentary Antimafia) has seized the lists of all Freemasons belonging namely to the Grande Oriente d’Italia , Gran Loggia d’Italia degli ALAM, Gran Loggia Regolare d’Italia and Serenissima Gran Loggia d’Italia, in the regions of Sicily and Calabria. These lists include over 4000 names and personal data. The Parliamentary Committee justified this act on the basis of the presence of a high concentration of Freemasons in the two regions of Italy with the highest rate of organized crime.
Italian magistrates and investigators have been enquiring on the connections between criminal organizations such as Sicilian mafia and ‘ndrangheta of Calabria with businessmen, civil-servants and local politicians who in some cases are also Freemasons. During these investigations magistrates have obtained the names of the Freemasons connected with the criminal organizations both through voluntary collaboration of the Masonic organizations involved or through issuing search warrants for their headquarters.
Investigations were limited to the member of Masonic organizations closely related to the people charged with connection with organized crime. But in these days the Parliamentary Committee on Organized Crime led by On. Rosy Bindi (Democratic Party – formerly member of the defunct Christian Democratic Party ) has unanimously taken on a new and unprecedented road to what they call the truth. During hearings in front of the Parliamentary Committee, the Grand Masters of the above mentioned four major Masonic organization of Italy (out of a total of over one hundred smaller Masonic groups) were asked to produce the lists of all the Freemasons in Sicily and Calabria, in spite of the strict laws on privacy. At their denial to comply the Committee issued on March 1, 2017, a search warrant for their headquarters and the lists were finally seized. The Committee strategy, although On. Bindi declared that the names of Freemasons will be kept secret and not handed over to the press, seems to consist in an indiscriminate and utterly general investigation of Freemasons in order to file preventively whoever is in a position to commit any possible illicit act or abuse of power.
Moreover various members of this Committee, specifically Sen. Davide Mattiello (Democratic Party) and On. Claudio Fava ( independent left-wing Member of the Parliament) are submitting to the Parliament different draft laws aimed to limit the rights of Freemason, stating incompatibility between Masonic Brotherhoods and almost any job in the Italian Public Administration, from the army and law enforcement to civil-servants and university professors and researchers.
At the same time one of the leading Italian magazines, l’Espresso from Feb. 10, 2017 – Aboliamo la Massoneria, has recently published a long article invoking a total ban on Freemasonry and a close control on service clubs such as Lions International, Rotary Club and Kiwanis, all accused to be in some way connected to Freemasonry.
Apart from this exploit the rest of the Italian paper press and tv and radio media has been almost silent with the exception of the Radio Radicale web site which is hosting the audio-recordings of all the Parliamentary Committee hearings with the Grand Masters.
As it is to be expected the rest of information on the subject is currently left to a cloud of conspiracy theory web-sites and blogs. It is apparent that the action taken by the Parliamentary Committee on Organized Crime against Freemasons in general represents an arbitrary interference in the private life of citizen without any justified reason, apart that of belonging to what are still fully legal organizations and it is endorsing unjustified rage against Freemasons. The Grand Master of the Grande Oriente d’Italia has even expressed concerns over possible terrorist attacks targeting Masonic Temples after such an appeal appeared on Dabiq, the caliphate magazine.
This conduct clearly represents an attempt of mass surveillance and a violation of articles 12, 18, 19 , 20 and 21 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The Parliamentary Committee on Organized Crime has the same enquiring powers of any ordinary magistrate, but it’s not subject to any higher authority since it is composed by Members of the Parliament, thus precluding any possibility of appeal and any right to defense.
Thousands of Freemasons in southern Italy struggle every day against organized crime and corruption conditioning business and politics, it’s not the presence of a few rotten apples that can justify the mass filing of free citizens. We appeal to everyone who cherish the global respect of Civil-Rights to follow up and watch closely the current situation in Italy.
Manly P. Hall, 33º Scottish Rite Freemason, raised November 22, 1954, passed to the celestial lodge 1990.
The true Mason is not creed-bound. He realizes with the divine illumination of his lodge that as a Mason his religion must be universal: Christ, Buddha or Mohammed, the name means little, for he recognizes only the light and not the bearer. He worships at every shrine, bows before every altar, whether in temple, mosque or cathedral, realizing with his truer understanding the oneness of all spiritual truth. -Manly P. Hall
Manly Hall is an icon of sorts to Freemasonry. His name and memory today are falling into some obscurity to many newer Freemasons, but his works remain important to the Masons education.
Born on March 18, 1901 in Peterborough, Ontario. Studying early on the ancient mystery and wisdom schools, he began a public role as a speaker and writer on philosophy, religion, and science. Much of his work has transformed the Western Mystery teachings that we recognize today. His philosophy is summed into a note he signed into a student’s book that reads, “To learn is to live, to study is to grow, and growth is the measurement of life. The mind must be taught to think, the heart to feel, and the hands to labor. When these have been educated to their highest point, then is the time to offer them to the service of their fellowman, not before.” SelfUnfoldment By Disciplines of Realization.”
Much of his work, specifically about Freemasonry, was done before he was initiated and raised. Using the materials available to him at the time in public institutions, his works delved the many writings from history to find the essence of their connections in word and meaning, collected specifically in his work The Secret Teachings of All Ages in 1928. This work collected and brought back to light wisdom from forgotten “sages” whose ideas, faiths and societies had been long forgotten and ignored by modern scholarship.
In 1934 Mr. Hall founded the Philosophical Research Society, dedicating it to the ensoulment of all arts, sciences, and crafts, and devoted to the one basic purpose of advancing the brotherhood of all that lives, to meet all lovers of wisdom on a common ground. The society still exists in a limited capacity today in its same location in Los Angeles now designated as a Historical Cultural Site. Around it has evolved the University of Philosophical Research, a distance learning graduate program nationally DEAC accredited program offering degrees in Consciousness Studies and Transformational Psychology.
Hall, writing several books on the subject of Freemasonry put himself in the vanguard of Albert Pike and W.L. Wilmshurst with his works The Lost Keys of Freemasonry, Masonic Orders of Fraternity, Freemasonry of the Ancient Egyptian andThe Secret Destiny of America. This last focusing on his belief that our continent was set aside for a great experiment of enlightened self-government by ancient philosophers, and that the seeds of this plan for the founding of America were planted one thousand years before the Christian era and is partly revealed in the symbolism of the Great Seal of the United States. This same idea is tied to Francis Bacon’s book The New Atlantis from 1624, of whom Hall had a particular interest.
Hall passed onto the the celestial lodge on August 29, 1990. While his final years attracted a degree of turmoil and mystery, the legacy of his Great Work lives on in the Philosophical Research Society and in his writings. One of the great aspects of Hall is that his work transcended Freemasonry finding resonance in all of the ancient wisdom and thought including Rosicrucian’s, astrology, the Bible, Tarot, dreams, mysticism, Eastern and Western philosophy, religion, psychology, symbology and reincarnation.
Of all of the lessons that a Mason can take away from his work is to open our eyes and be aware of the depth and light that we have before us from ALL ages of the great mysteries. Freemasonry is but one channel to that light, and thanks to Brother Hall, we have a new lens from which to view more.
The classic work since 1928, Hall’s masterful encyclopedia of ancient mythology, ritual, symbolism, and the arcane mysteries of the ages is available in a compact and easy to read edition.
Like no other book of the twentieth century, Manly P. Hall’s legendary The Secret Teachings of All Ages is a codex to the ancient occult and esoteric traditions of the world. Students of hidden wisdom, ancient symbols, and arcane practices treasure Hall’s magnum opus above all other works.
Probably one of the best primers into the Western Mystery Tradition, you can find Manly P. Halls opus on Amazon.
To understand the depth of Hall’s life and work, Louis Sahagan has assembled one the best biographies on the Master of the Mysteries, breathing life into dark recesses of life that was both remarkable and tragic.
This new edition contains dozens of previously unknown love letters from his wife Marie Bauer. They are the closest we will come to an autobiographical portrait of these Los Angeles mystics in love.
All of us at Freemason Information would like to offer you a happy and hearty Thanksgiving. Here is one of my favorite Thanksgiving Blessings from Arthur R. Herrmann at the Masonic Poets Society.
A Thanksgiving Prayer
Oh, Lord, now this we’re thankful for: The good things life has held in store; The love of those within our home, And friends to greet wherever we roam; The health and strength wherewith to toil, The bounteous food from freedom’s soil; We thank Thee for the right to pray And worship Thee in our own way; To live within a land that’s free; For this, dear Lord, our thanks to Thee; And through these blessings, one by one, May Thy will, Lord, on earth be done!
This collection of seemingly unrelated passages all seem to speak to the promise of a new world, a “new Jerusalem“, a crowning jewel of the world. It is to that vision that we are thankful for and celebrate this day. I am thankful for my country, its warts, blemishes and all. We daily strive to build our collective city upon a hill.
…for we must Consider that we shall be as a City upon a Hill, the eyes of all people are upon us… John Winthrop
“God bless thee, my son; I will give thee the greatest jewel I have. For I will impart unto thee, for the love of God and men, a relation of the true state of Solomon’s House. Son, to make you know the true state of Solomon’s House, I will keep this order. First, I will set forth unto you the end of our foundation. Secondly, the preparations and instruments we have for our works. Thirdly, the several employments and functions whereto our fellows are assigned. And fourthly, the ordinances and rites which we observe.
“The end of our foundation is the knowledge of causes, and secret motions of things; and the enlarging of the bounds of human empire, to the effecting of all things possible….
… I give thee leave to publish it, for the good of other nations; for we here are in God’s bosom, a land unknown.” Francis Bacon – The New Atlantis.
And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea.
And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.
And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. Revelation 21:1-3
Now, therefore, I do recommend and assign Thursday, the 26th day of November next, to be devoted by the people of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be; that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people of this country previous to their becoming a nation; for the signal and manifold mercies and the favorable interpositions of His providence in the course and conclusion of the late war; for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty which we have since enjoyed; for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enable to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national one now lately instituted for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and, in general, for all the great and various favors which He has been pleased to confer upon us. – George Washington’s 1789 Thanksgiving Proclamation
For each new morning with its light, For rest and shelter of the night, For health and food, for love and friends, For everything Thy goodness sends. – Ralph Waldo Emerson
Though our mouths were full of song as the sea, and our tongues of exultation as the multitude of its waves, and our lips of praise as the wide-extended firmament; though our eyes shone with light like the sun and the moon, and our hands were spread forth like the eagles of heaven, and our feet were swift as hinds, we should still be unable to thank thee and bless thy name, O Lord our God and God of our fathers, for one thousandth or one ten thousandth part of the bounties which thou has bestowed upon our fathers and upon us. – from the Hebrew Prayer Book
The Pilgrims made seven times more graves than huts. No Americans have been more impoverished than these who, nevertheless, set aside a day of thanksgiving. – H.U. Westermayer
Enjoy the blessings of this day, if God sends them, and the evils of it bear patiently and calmly; for this day only is ours: we are dead to yesterday, and we are not yet born to the morrow. When our fortunes are violently changed, our spirits are unchanged, if they always stood in the suburbs and expectation of sorrows and reverses. The blessings of immunity, safeguard, liberty, and integrity deserve the thanksgiving of a whole life. – Albert Pike, Morals and Dogma, Intendant of the Building
The hardest arithmetic to master is that which enables us to count our blessings. – Eric Hoffer, Reflections On The Human Condition
Thanks are justly due for boons unbought. – Ovid
Find the good and praise it. – Alex Haley
Reflect upon your present blessings, of which every man has plenty; not on your past misfortunes of which all men have some. – Charles Dickens
The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequalled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle, or the ship; the axe had enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom. No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to his tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union. It is the duty of nations as well as of men to own their dependence upon the overruling power of God; to confess their sins and transgressions in humble sorrow, yet with assured hope that genuine repentance will lead to mercy and pardon; and to recognize the sublime truth, announced in the Holy Scriptures and proven by all history, that those nations are blessed whose God is the Lord. – Abraham Lincoln’s Thanksgiving Proclamation, 1863 from the collection of Lincoln’s papers in the Library of America series
I spent some time talking with the author of Managing the Future of Freemasonry: The Book of Optimism, Dr. David West, about his work, the past and future of Freemasonry and what is at stake in moving into 21st-century fraternalism. Some of his ideas may surprise you, but when you consider what he says I think you may find some resonance in his ideas in addressing what’s at stake as we move into the new millennium.
Greg Stewart (GS) – Let’s start with who is Dr David West BA PhD
David West (DW) – I gained my first degree in Philosophy from the University of Exeter and my Doctorate of and in Philosophy from the University of Leicester. I taught university in England and Canada for several years, publishing in the academic press. My later business career included Ford and Xerox (President’s Award for exceptional service.) I served on several quasi-governmental committees on the future of work, was the special adviser to a Cabinet Minister (a bit like an Under-Secretary of State) and later founded The Working Manager Ltd, creating the core content of its web-based management education process. My books include:
My mother lodge is St Laurence No. 5511, a fast growing lodge which grows by 12% each year and is the subject of two of my books. I am a member of two other Craft lodges and three RA chapters under the English Constitution and am in the process of joining the Mark and the Royal & Select to trace Neville Barker Cryer’s footsteps in The Royal Arch Journey. I served as Grand Registrar of the Masonic Province of Essex and am now Past Provincial Junior Grand Warden.
I lecture on such Masonic topics as The cowboy, the devil and the Masonic hoax, Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it, The King and Raquel Welch, Never be short of candidates again, The law of paradoxical intent and King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba. I write for The Square magazine.
I have been married to Jenny, a retired Consultant Clinical Psychologist, for forty-eight years and we have two children, one a lawyer on the side of the angels and the other a professional musician. We live in London, England.
GS – Tell us what’s behind your book, Managing the Future of Freemasonry: The Book of Optimism.
This book is based on the view that the golden years of Freemasonry have passed with the departure of a world never likely to return. We cannot pretend that our membership problem will simply go away. If we are to rescue our order, we must take an objective look at ourselves and understand the society we now face. Our challenge will be to renew our ideals and bring them to the attention of a new audience, one that we as yet know little about. This will require hard work, open-mindedness, creativity and above all leadership. The optimism that runs through this book depends upon our ability to change, knowing that holding on to the past will be the last thing our order does.
I compare our current situation with the years following 1800, a period in which 42% of English lodges were lost. In the earlier 18th century, the ideals of Freemasonry were in keeping with those of our craftsmen and tradesmen brethren. Those ideals were lost during the first part of the industrial revolution and Freemasonry almost died in massive social and economic changes during which the majority of these crafts and trades disappeared. There was no leadership during this vital time for our order and our survival was almost entirely accidental as, eventually, Freemasonry found a new source of membership in the growth of the middle class.
Odd as it may seem, given that the period saw two world wars, little changed in the social and moral life from 1850 to 1950, and the middle class sustained Freemasonry for a hundred years. We assumed that this would go on forever but, during the 1950s, a quite sudden change occurred, one which began the end of the middle class — and which despite promptings, our leadership currently seems content to ignore. Unless we recognize these changes, we will be unable to recognize the opportunities open to us.
This is a book of optimism. I believe that we can achieve a resurgence. More than this, I believe that we can become more relevant to and more important in society than ever before. I examine the absence of common ethical principles in today’s society and argue that this absence makes the moral life near to impossible. I argue that Freemasonry is a moral order, one in which the moral life can be sustained in the face of this new dark age. This is our purpose, our function in society. It is what we are here for. I argue that making the choice to become a Freemason provides a meaning to life, something that many men are looking for and that, in providing this meaning, we shall save ourselves.
There are many implications of this, one of these is that we must cease to listen to the siren voice of [public relations], and make a positive statement of what we are and what we offer. It is clear that the false gods of PR are seeking to change the excellences of our order, and they must be resisted. I describe the form of leadership we require, one that makes the three grand principles the basis of all we do. These principles also turn out to be the principles of effective management. I will not say that it will be easy and I recognize that resistance will be strong. There are many brethren who would see their lodge go dark rather than accept change. Many lodges will go under, but then many always have.
We must take action now, just as we did not take action back in 1830. We cannot rely on luck again.
GS – What, in a nutshell, did Masonry do in the 1830s to make that change? Or was it more of a social change (like the industrial revolution) that preceded the change mid-century?
DW – In the 1830s, there was no leadership in freemasonry capable of recognizing the need for change, let alone make it. Our survival in Europe at least was solely a matter of the serendipitous rise of the middle class.
GS – What inspired this work? What made you put pen to paper?
DW – I have been working up to this book in all my earlier works. I care deeply about Freemasonry but I am equally deeply worried about the emperor’s new clothes. There seems to be very little written in the UK which is anything other than hagiography, even if there is a lot more virility in American writers such as John Bizzack, Richard A. Graeter, Andrew Hammer and Kirk C. White. Reading Rudyard Kipling again, I became convinced that he loved the ideals and ritual of Freemasonry but not its management, which is why he attended lodge so remarkably rarely after he left India. I think we must talk about the management of Freemasonry before it is too late.
GS – Given its subject matter, without giving away all of your ideas, what do you think is behind the drop in numbers?
DW – The social democracy of the 1960s and 1970s seemed to be leading towards a more egalitarian and caring state, but from 1980 such decency was replaced by greed on the one hand and fear of poverty on the other. The establishment showed that it could not be trusted, with the absence of a relationship between pay and performance at the top, continued crime and dishonesty within the finance industry, expenses fiddles and cash-for-access in government, sex crimes among media personalities, racial gang rape, organized pedophilia, hucksterism, ‘clever’ tax schemes, fiddled automotive performance reports, unreliable drug studies, and too many other sins to mention. Life has become harder-edged and uncaring with fewer spiritual values.
Respect for senior management has declined to an all-time low and there is a meanness about life. The focus on money, an outcome of Thatcherism and Reaganomics, is not an environment in which Freemasonry can flourish. Brotherly love, relief and truth do not fit with greed and self-interest. Austerity has meant that the men that we seek to recruit and retain have less time, less money, less energy and less security. Brethren can not commit to regular attendance at lodge because they simply do not know what demands their employers will put on them. These changes go along with other uncertainties in religious belief and the role of the sexes.
GS – Is there any one “silver bullet” that lodges or even individual masons can do, starting today, to change that tide?
DW – As I say in my book, Things to do when you have nothing to do, when faced with a problem, we try to solve it on the basis of our experience. When we fail, we rarely question our experience and thus repeat the same failed attempts. The law of paradoxical intent holds that by doing something different, even the opposite of what we usually do, we will be more likely to succeed; in terms of Masonic recruitment that: Being busy not seeking candidates will actually cause them to appear.
Candidates will come to those energetic lodges that are involved, active and ready for something new — and thus feel good about themselves. People will rarely talk about dull, gray lodges that are doing nothing interesting but they will talk about lodges that are busy, exciting and vibrant. Members who feel good about their lodge will talk to friends, relations and neighbors about it; not overtly to recruit but simply because they are excited about the lodge — and excitement is infectious.
GS – “Being busy not seeking candidates,” what, in your opinion, are some of the things lodges could (or should) be busy doing?
An entertainment using 18th century exposures of the ritual, featuring Prichard’s‘Masonry Dissected’ and exposing a dreadful cover up. ?- The truth about the words
Shock! Horror!The established theory is wrong.? – A White Table?
The complete ‘how-to’ with a full script and a discussion of openness.? – Success??
The design and use of websites, a caution, being interesting, contacts and how to manage them, getting to know candidates, mentoring recruits.? – Triple!
How to initiate three candidates at one meeting in a dramatic but personal way.? – Music for Exposure!
GS – From your perspective, what was the hardest thing about writing this book?
DW – As with all books, deciding what NOT to include.
GS – Any glimpse of what you chose NOT to include?
DW – I very nearly wrote a program for change but realized that it was too detailed. I would have liked to have gone into more detail on middle class values and their development and on change of employment 1799 to 1899. [I] could have gone on forever!
GS – Any plans for future books?
DW – I am currently working on an update of my leadership book, Employee Engagement and the failure of leadership and collecting material for a series of essays for a book to be called Masonic legends and puzzles. The latter keeps interrupting work on the former. I find that books being researched are almost alive; like pets demanding constant attention.
GS – Where can people find you? Any social or traditional websites?
DW – I avoid social media but the website of my mother lodge http://stlaurencelodge.org.uk/ contains a lot that I agree with and also includes information on our busy lodge.
In doing this interview, Dr. West included the following statement on the craft. He listed it as his Statement for Freemasonry, which reads:
Freemasonry is a moral practice. We enable good men to live respected and die regretted.
There are periodic intervals in human experience when the moral life comes under attack. Now is such a time, and we must respond.
We will become a reservoir of social capital, enabling society to preserve the virtue of trust.
We will provide a bastion for the virtues in an amoral world, maintaining a community within which the moral life is lived.
In choosing to become a Freemason, a man accepts an obligation to live according to the virtues of the order. Such a choice cannot be made lightly.
There is no sense in which a man can say, ‘I want to be a Freemason but not a good one.’
To be a good Freemason is to exhibit specific virtues. The most important of these are the three grand principles — brotherly love, relief and truth — and the four cardinal virtues — prudence, fortitude, temperance, and justice.
My thanks to Dr. David West for taking the time (and having the patience) for getting this interview out there.
By now you’ve heard the sensational news of five Donald Trump statues, The Emperor Has No Balls, that were placed around the country. If you haven’t heard about it, you can read about it in Slate, the Daily Beast and in the The Washington Post – just to name a few. Even Chris Hodapp, over at Freemasons for Dummies, made a mention of it (taking no public sides in the political debate) on the day the statues appeared.
As strange as the appearance of this statue was, even stranger was the inclusion of a Masonic Ring on the nude presidential contender, rendering a strange message on an even stranger figure upon which to associate it. The inclusion reminded me of a certain car commercial that ran during a certain super football game in 2013 with a devilish Willem DaFoe (you can read about it here and here) sporting the square and compass on his finger which ended up garnering nearly 3000 signatures to have the image removed.
Masonic ring on Donald Trump Statue
And yet, here we have another example of the iconic square and compass stealthy sneaking its way back into the material culture*, now poised eloquently on one of the most in-eloquent of presidential candidates in an unflattering of pose. Alas, the Hans Christian Andersen appellation of the Emperor Has No Clothes is perhaps one allegorical tale to be told about the presidential contender. But, an emperor without balls, wearing a Masonic Ring? The only question I can imagine on the minds of most Freemasons (after the obvious statement of how ludicrous it is) is …why? Why a Masonic ring on a naked Donald Trump?
I wondered that too. So, I asked the artist behind the statue “Ginger” (aka Joshua Monroe), why. Why a naked Donald Trump wearing only a Masonic Ring?
I should probably say that replicas of the sculpture, which are now priced at $10,000 with multiple buyers lining up, was a commissioned piece by the activist collective Indecline. In a recent press release, Indecline says “Museums in Miami (Wynwood), Germany, Arizona and California have also contacted INDECLINE in attempts to secure Trump statues for gallery shows.” The statue (and by circumstance, the ring upon it) further seeps into the material culture.
This was my conversation with the artist Ginger about it.
GS: A masonic ring is a pretty unique thing to have on hand, even for an artist. After watching the making of video where you cast the model (at bottom), was the ring the models or something you had on hand in your studio?
Ginger: It was not very hard to acquire the ring. Then the model was not [a mason] as I believe most Mason’s would want nothing to do with a project like this. I meant absolutely no disrespect to the Masons but they are the world’s most recognizable secret society.
GS: It’s an interesting juxtaposition, the naked figure clad only in a Masonic square and compass ring. The Washington Post mentioned that it represented his (Trumps) access to secret or elitist power (attributing to the artist “emblematic of privilege, secret handshakes and cloistered groups of powerful people”). I’m curious, as an artist, is that a real part of the philosophy you see in [Trump] or just a design element meant to connect disparate elements into a new reality? Was the inclusion of the ring just a “secret society” prop, or did you mean to link the “naked emperor” with a Masonic ring as his only garment (which itself has a strangely symbolic reverse meaning within Freemasonry)?
Ginger: The reason that I myself chose to put the Masonic ring into the sculpture was to symbolize the fact that Donald Trump, who I know is not a mason, is most definitely involved in secret dealings and secret societies that the general public will never be aware of.
My grandfather was a high-ranking mason. I myself, being a legacy, have been asked to join several times by several members. As far as owning the Mason’s ring there’s actually artist and vendors that sell them on the street.
GS: Having a background in art, I think I understand how the ring is being used, but I know that a huge community of Freemasons are just dumbstruck (if not outright offended) at its use. Knowing that it’s the artist prerogative to choose what goes in or stays out of a piece is their own, I wonder what your thought is about how the community-at-large reads or interprets the association? Do you have any thought on how the community of Freemasons would interpret the inclusion? (Do you care or does it matter?)?
Ginger: I considered it a very tongue and cheek wink to the secret societies and their Quest To Rule The World. I have many friends who are masons and they joke about their meetings being held Pinky and the Brain style to try and take over the world. But it’s mostly crappy food that their wives have made. I myself have done lots of Charity and volunteer work and that’s why I’ve been approached by Masons I respect what you do and I hope you guys are not offended.
GS: I’m curious, do you see Trump as an emperor with no cloths because of what he’s done before the election or because he’s running now? Do you think it’s that secret access that makes him so naked?
Ginger: The title of the installment was actually set in stone long before the collective even found me as an artist.
The overall concept and look was their idea and their political statement. I am just the artist who brought it to life. However it was my idea to add the Mason ring not to insult Masons but [it] suggests his involvement in secret societies.
*Material culture is defined as: the physical evidence of a culture in the objects and architecture they make, or have made. The term tends to be relevant only in archaeological and anthropological studies, but it specifically means all material evidence which can be attributed to culture, past or present.