Esoteric, Spiritual and Religious Traditions all around the world have referred to their teachings, methods and attitudes as “the Path”.
The word “Path” implies action, movement, and an eventually destination. It presumes that willful action must take place before completely understanding the doctrines of the Path. It implies development and change, and seems to tell us that we will make progress, at the beginning, the middle, and end of the Path. It also seems to point out that there must be something else out there, that we are trying to navigate through. In the mundane world, a path always leads through something, a forest, for example, and provides us with a guide whereby we can rightly say, “If I stay on this Path, I will not get lost and will reach my destination. If I stray from this Path, I likely will not know where I am.”
Whether we are speaking spiritually or literally, a Path is something that one moves upon and one experiences first hand. A Path can be described to us, and we can get a general idea of what the Path is like. We can then think upon the idea of the Path, what it means to us, and what ramifications it has within our lives, as well as in the lives of others. Yet at some point, if we truly wish to know “the Path”, our knowledge must become experiential, not simply theoretical.
When I was initiated into the Masonic Fraternity, I was humbled and honored to become a part of such a wonderful institution, and to be surrounded by so many people, so profound. It was great to sit in the Lodge with tolerant, thoughtful, dependable, capable men. The Masonic Brethren I met had such integrity, their word was their bond, and I took it upon myself to do whatever I could to emulate my new brothers whom I truly admired. In short, using my brethren as landmarks, I embarked on my journey on the Masonic Path. During the time I have been in the Masonic Fraternity, I have seen this same reaction among other newly made Masons, who also did their best to imitate the example of their brethren in order to become better men.
It is because of this simple pattern of already good moral men, seeking Freemasonry as a way to improve spiritually, morally and intellectually, that we hold our Fraternity in such high esteem. These new members see something about our tenured members, something they feel will help them grow, something they wish to emulate. This is why, when I see someone with a Masonic ring, or Masonic decals on a car, my first assumption is that the person wearing that ring, or driving that car is a moral, tolerant and good man. Even though we may differ in religious, political and philosophical views, I could trust this man with my life and the life of my family.
This Fraternal trust is the cornerstone of Freemasonry. It is truly, what makes us a genuine Brotherhood. We base our entire Initiatic structure upon the idea of finding friends to be Brothers, then discovering the profound meaning of what it is to be a Brother. Without this trust, this knowledge that when you meet a Mason upon the Path of life, you would not know that you have met a fellow traveler, whom you can trust, and who is willing to share the burdens of life with you. Without this fraternal connection, we are nothing but an odd group with archaic kabbalistic rituals and some funny or strange passwords and handshakes.
There are some profound mystical truths in Freemasonry, it is a true Mystic Path and thus, experiential, and the key to the Path is a deep sense of Fraternity. Masonry is many different things to many different people and it tends to evolve to the needs of each individual member. While opinion may differ even among Masons regarding some of the philosophies of the Order, all Masons agree that primarily in importance is Brotherly Love. It is what cements us together.
Freemasonry, like many Esoteric Fraternities, comes and goes in cycles, that is, fluctuates like the wind. Currently, it is cycling through a period of shrinking membership. As the older members pass on, there are fewer new Masons joining the ranks.
According to The Masonic Service Association of North America (MSANA), membership in the United States was at about 3.1 million members in 1925, spiraled to its highest point of the century in 1959, at about 4.1 million members, and then began declining steadily ever since. Membership in the United States, in 2003, was reported at about 1.6 million members, which was the lowest point in the past 75 years. Obviously, we recognize that in order to pass along the Tradition and keep Freemasonry in the United States as strong and as vibrant, an institution as it is today, we must begin to transmit our Tradition to younger generations. Many of the leaders in the Masonic community have begun to implement programs and introduce new ideas designed to do just that. It is this author’s opinion that membership level will continue in cycles. Furthermore, there is no need to bring Freemasonry’s membership back up to the levels it enjoyed in the 1960’s in order, effectively, to pass along the Tradition. Likewise, even in the face of shrinking membership, our focus should always be on the quality of the prospective members, not on quantity.
During a recent Lodge meeting I attended, a Brother traveling from another part of the state stood up and spoke about our “Membership Crisis”. He had many good points about being more Masonic, suggesting that Lodges do more charity work and get out into the community more. He also talked about what he felt the younger generation expects to get out of a Fraternity like the Masons. He used me as an example of a younger member, as I am 30 years old in a Fraternity dominated by men over 60. He told me that my generation expects excitement, wants to be constantly entertained, and constantly busy or preoccupied. He also said that my generation was a generation of people expecting instant gratification, and that if the Order did not keep men like me busy, instantly, upon becoming members, boredom would cause us to leave.
Apart from being slightly offended by his conception that my idle brain must constantly be bombarded with stimuli of some kind in order to be content, his statements were, otherwise, very enlightening. They explained why some younger candidates for Masonry are thrust through 3-day classes, where they are given all 3 degrees and with very little studying and memorization to do. The Brother’s statements explained why newer ritual rules allowed that multiple candidates could be initiated simultaneously, even as they went through the most profound and personal parts of their initiations. Furthermore, his words explained why certain Lodges have become lax on some very important rules. I have seen the negative effects on the Fraternity when individual Lodges do not enforce the rules that exist for qualifying new membership, by signing petitions for perspective members whom they have not known for the minimum of six months, and by not thoroughly investigating perspective members prior to initiation. I, personally, know of one case where a man initiated into the Fraternity, had such questionable character, that his Lodge was forced to stop his progression on the Masonic Path, so that he could not advance beyond the Entered Apprentice degree. This unfortunate situation came about because the members and officers of this Lodge were trained to be concerned with the number of members, not with quality of members, in their Lodge.
This Masonic Path is not supposed to be thrust upon someone within a few days. Like any other Mystical Path, we must take one step at a time, making sure that as each step is taken, it is taken because it is our free will to do so. Each step upon the Masonic Path builds upon itself in responsibility and commitment, and we cannot ask for this commitment, or even a thorough understanding of it, in a short 3 days.
Masonry contributes millions of dollars to charity each year in the United States. It is partly for this reason, to help support the charitable contributions that our leaders have been pushing for more membership. Should we really be pushing quantity over quality? Ask an individual Brother this question and he will tell you that quality is more important! Yet, our Fraternity keeps trying to figure out how to make more Masons faster, rather than focusing on why we are making these Masons.
Strangely, though, some of our newly made Brothers become Masons so quickly, and they are finished with the degrees so quickly, they have nothing left to do within the Fraternity. They are Masons, but have been rushed through and have not had the time to develop the feelings of Brotherhood with their Lodge brothers. Everything has happened so fast that in many cases, they have missed the profundity of the lessons contained within the degrees. Lacking this understanding, they cannot adequately fulfill any officer’s position, as they do not really understand yet what kind of commitment is expected of them. If new Masons are leaving, it is because they feel as if they have been rushed through the degrees and feel alienated from our tightly knitted group, because of their lack of understanding of what Masonry is. I thought about all of this as the speaker at the Lodge was telling us how we must start changing Masonry to conform to “this new society”, which expects instant gratification, if our Fraternity is to gain any new members; and that the Masons are too boring for the new populace!
To the contrary, every young Mason that I know, who has stayed in the Fraternity for any amount of time, tells me that excitement, entertainment and instant gratification are not the reasons he joined the Fraternity. No one expects to be constantly entertained, nor does anyone feel bored. There are plenty of distractions in the world from which to choose. If we wanted instant gratification, something to keep us satiated and busy, we would buy a Big Mac and play a video game, which would keep our mind occupied and our stomach satisfied. It made me wonder if our Masonic leaders had ever asked the younger membership why they were there! The Masonic Fraternity simply offers many things that are not readily available in Modern Society. In fact, the Path of Freemasonry offers exactly what I found lacking in Modern Society!
Freemasonry must not be made to appeal to the masses. It has never appealed to the masses. No true mystery school ever has!
Our Order contains profound and sublime lessons that are only meant for those who are willing to develop an open and introspective mind, willing to honestly examine and tirelessly work towards the improvement of the self and of humanity. Masonry is designed to encourage study, self-reflection and Brotherly Love. These lessons are wasted on those who are not willing to pursue these qualities and disciplines, or who wish to automatically gain these attributes without a period of work and self-development.
We must never get to the point where we admit men of questionable character into the Fraternity just to meet membership goals, nor out of the need for more funds, nor out of fear that the Fraternity may cease to exist. The fastest and surest way to destroy the Masonic Fraternity would be to pass along the Tradition, irresponsibly, to those who did not respect and cherish it. It is far better for the Fraternity to shrink to a fraction of its size!
However, we do have a sacred responsibility to hand down our Tradition to future generations. How do we do this? Well, I believe that the first thing to do, before we try to figure out how to make Freemasonry “easier” to join, would be to talk with our membership. Why did our members join? Why after joining did our members stay active? Certainly, we do not retain every prospective member because Masonry is not for everyone, but, for those who find it their calling, it can become one of the most important and most meaningful aspects of their lives. By focusing on what is important to the members we have, we ensure that Masonry is as valuable to future generations of Masons as it is to us now.
I joined this Fraternity because I met some men of good character, who were intelligent, well spoken and well learned or versed, in the Western Esoteric Tradition. These men, I knew not only talked about “walking the Path”, but they actually walked it. They spoke of enlightenment, morality and right action, and the actions they took reflected what they were telling me. I stay active because after my Initiation, I met more men who truly have walked the Path, who backed up their speech with action, and I saw myself and others around me change in positive ways because of our choice to become Masons. I admire the men in my Fraternity, and I am still a Mason because I desire to follow their example and become more like them.
It is not that we must alter the Path of Freemasonry so that it is easier and quicker to travel on in order to replenish our membership. Rather we must find more ways to present the Path as it is, so that those who desire membership into our organization know that it exists, and anyone can ask us about it. How do we do this? Masons tend to be active in their communities. If we hold onto our Masonic Ideals, and demonstrate them to the outside world by virtue of our thoughts, words and deeds, we will inspire those seekers, who wish to be a part of our Fraternity to seek us out and request membership. If we continue to work to improve ourselves and dedicate ourselves to the betterment of humanity, then we will attract people of like mind, who will join our ranks.
Let us also make sure that we never seek membership for the revenue it can bring. We are one of the biggest charities in the world, and if we need money, there are many ways to raise it, so that we may continue to be a strong force for the betterment of our communities. We must pass along our Ideals to other generations, and always keep our eye out for those who would seek this Path, but we also have a responsibility to make sure that we transmit the integrity of our Order only to worthy individuals who can understand its meaning and purpose. Otherwise, the secrets of Freemasonry will become hollow and meaningless, the profound wisdom long forgotten; and will become simply words, one must hear in order to get through the degrees and become a member of “the club”.
As we walk the Path that we have chosen, it is important to remember that it is a Path, with obstacles and strange, unforeseen turns. We must constantly remind ourselves of the reasons we have chosen this Path and why we continue to choose to walk down it. We must also understand that as we walk the Path of Freemasonry, we become a part of that Path, and future Masons will look upon us as landmarks and examples of what it means to be a member of this great Fraternity. From the first day we become Master Masons, we are entrusted with a Tradition, and it is our sacred duty to preserve and pass along this Tradition, only to those who will cherish and follow it. If we wish to know the best way to ensure the transference of our Tradition, and what would appeal to prospective members, we must look into ourselves and find out why we desired to join the Fraternity, in the first place, and why we are still members. This [introspection] will lead to better results than trying to determine what is in the minds of persons, whom, we have not yet met. Freemasonry does not have to bring its membership [number] back to what it was in the 1960s in order to be an effective group. There are other ways to bring money into the Fraternity if needed. Our actions, our development as Masons will show others what it means to be a part of the Fraternity.
Above all else, and most important to the future of the Fraternity, we must hold sacred our duty regarding recommendation for degrees. We must not recommend someone for the degrees of Masonry unless we are sure that that person is able and willing to understand the importance of the degrees they may receive. Thereby, we can reasonably believe that all of their future transactions with humankind will reflect the high values and integrity of our Order. If we do this, we will ensure that Our Fraternity remains intact and alive for generations to come.
This was originally published Jan 19, 2011 as a contribution from By Tony Horsnby.
This short piece comes from Sanjay Mandaiker on the heels of recent editorials on the differences and disputes between Freemasonry and Catholicism. From those differences, he suggests another path of discovery and consideration from a far off tradition for most in Freemasonry.
I have noticed that some of our Brethren are not at ease with religion and Freemasonry, in my opinion this arises when one confuses religion with the religious institution that represents it, for all religions in their basis are much like Freemasonry sowing the path of spiritual development in the minds of the masses.
Suriya the Sun god of the Hindus (सूर्यSūrya, the Supreme Light) is depicted on a chariot drawn by seven horses; these steeds are interpreted as the seven days of the week.
To me it goes far beyond this shallow meaning, in most religions and for that matter Freemasonry, the Superior Being or God, is represented by light, so let’s say Suria or the Sun is that light.
Another common aspect between religions is that man was made in the image of God so what’s the difference? Let us say there is a prism in between us so on one side is light, “God”, on the other the rainbow, “Man”, represented by the seven horses that draw the chariot, and the seven colors of the rainbow.
Based on this presumption let us assume the different colors are also different religions or paths that lead to the “Light” or “God”. Say your path is green (chosen simply because as it is in the center) and you are far away from the prism, the color you will notice is blurred, this signifies one does not understand one’s own path because of its width. Even while looking at it from the horizon we see only green because of this we assume it is the only path that exists and can become fanatical about following this path. As we start progressing on our journey towards the Light the color gets clearer (better understanding) but also narrower and we start to perceive a tinge of blue on one horizon and yellow on the other, continuing we find that to stay on our path one foot is in the blue the other in the yellow, yet the colors become more and more distinct, till finally we tread on all seven now narrow to a point and keeping their clarity merge back through the prism to become Light.
Is this not the reason we should not tolerate but respect our differences, is this not what all religion and Freemasonry are based on and therefore brethren let us individually merge our personal beliefs. Sharing ones thoughts via freemasonry could be a better use of this truth, compared to simply wondering how our religious intuition will judge us. If it works for you it’s good, it’s as simple as that to me. Maybe truth is a more appropriate word to describe this convergence of spiritual paths.
Sanjay Mandaiker, (Master Mason Lodge Universal Charity 273, Royal Arch Mason, Mark Mason, Secret Monitor, and 18th degree India Rose Cross) has been a tour guide based in India for over 20 years. He combines his extensive knowledge of Hinduism with Masonry to bring a truly unique traveling experience for masons and non masons alike. For masons recognized by the UGLE visits to a Lodge will also be included. Esoteric Travels allows you to be led through India by a brother.
In this segment of the Sojourners, this piece, Natya Raja, comes to us from Sanjay Mandaiker.
I met Sanjay through a few posts about his work with Esoteric Travels, of which Sanjay is the owner. Intrigued, Esoteric Travels specializes in sacred space tours of his homeland, India. At my request he contributed this piece or architecture on symbolism and aesthetics from his unique point of view.
Natya Raja The Cosmic Dancer, the tantric mandala, the Paragon of Symbolism Geometry and Aesthetics by Sanjay Mandaiker
Let me begin with a little bit about its background: according to shivit tradition, the rhythm of Lord Shiva’s dance is what created the universe. Dance being an allegory for:
Energy in perpetual motion,
Geometry and structure,
Rhythm and aesthetics,
Comprehension and expression
‘Natya’ means dance, and ‘Raja’ is the word for king. The ‘Natyaraja’ symbolizes Shiva dancing on the dwarf like figure of ‘Maya’ or illusion. The toes of his raised left foot open the eyes of humanity and his left hand shows them the true nature of reality beyond the veil of terrestrial illusions, our inner sprit so to speak. Man fear’s this truth because of his futile attempts to cling to his ego.
With this realization of his true nature he is forced to lose his ego, this death of ego is akin to death itself. With his raised right hand Lord Shiva blesses the newly awakened humanity, telling us not to fear truth. For truth brings the blessings of the gods, and always triumphs in the end no matter what the adversity it may face.
He has 2 more arms, one holding the drum of creation and the other wielding flame of destruction. This can also be interpreted the other way around, as the flame is in his left hand; the creative side, and the drum is on the right, the side of destruction. According to Hindu philosophy the left side of a human being is connected with the feminine, which symbolize our creative forces. The right side is associated with the masculine nature of humanity, which fuels consciousness and comprehension.
A ring of fire, symbolizing purity, encircles the entire sculpture. The geometry of the sculpture is based on an ancient tantric mandala symbolizing the perfect balance of the feminine and masculine forces. A mandala in itself is an intricate geometrical figure that shows us the path to the sanctum of our own temple. This particular mandala is known throughout the world, used by all cultures, in Europe it is called “The Star Of David.”
The mandala is placed within a circle which symbolizes ‘the whole’, from the head to the flowing garment to the raised foot forms the upward or masculine triangle, to complete the Star of David, the grounded foot to the upraised arms form the downward or feminine triangle.
The downward triangle symbolizes our foundation or true matter, energy, intuition, life forces, senses, and creative matter. All these aspects are creative therefore move upward to the fire of Shiva’s upraised hand, but if not controlled these energies become destructive, in this case they move to the drum; this represents the duality we constantly confront in every walk of life.
The upward triangle starting at the flowing garment like a spark of inspiration moves to the raised foot opening our eyes to our true nature, it then moves upward to the head symbolic of comprehension and understanding, there by channelizing the creative forces into true creativity and not uncontrollable destructive energy.
The upraised hands, the flowing garment, and the raised foot form a square. These are the cardinal points or ‘doors of perception’ of this sculpture. They also symbolize the duality of creation and destruction, and of dreams and reality. One cannot exist without the other; the balance must be constantly maintained. One has to judge and reflect on what is more important. This is the principal of karma and dharma.
The head to the upraised hands to the center of our physical balance form a losange, the base foot to the garment to the center of balance and raised foot form a second diamond shape.
The base foot is the substance we are made of, it is our truth mixed with the spark of intuition, which reaches a point of balance. The repository of life force passes through creation and destruction, one cannot live without the other, this constitutes life in its essence.
The lifted leg is bent at the knee giving it two distinct angels and the scarf on the other side is also divided into two segments using the second angel with the top of the head and out stretched arms we find the pentagram, who’s significance would be a chapter of its own.
Maya or illusion is portrayed as a baby signifying birth, playing with a serpent or the energies of life, merged in the locks of the Lord’s hair is a skull symbolic of death, death thus shows us when the “Corps De Glorie” is achieved, death is material and insignificant.
The Serpent also symbolizes Earth element. Lord Shiva wields the element of Fire in one of his upraised hand. The sound of the Drum and the flying tresses of matted locks, represent the element of Wind. In the Lords tresses sits the mermaid like aspect of the river Ganges,representing the element of Water. The encircling flames represent ether. Thus the five elements are also represented in this truly amazing sculpture.
The traditional south Indian Bronze figurines are not made of three but five metals, Gold, Silver, Copper, Tin and Lead. The Natya Raja also follows this same tradition.
Symbolism being universal one can relate Masonry to ones own beliefs or aspirations; this in my opinion is also the essence of Hinduism. I correlate the two, which helps me, gain a better understanding of life, Masonry, and Hinduism.
The “NATARAJA” form of Lord Shiva, or the Lord of Dance, is to me the most precious of them all. I relate this perfectly captured essence of Shiva to the fundamentals of our initiation: The Three Lights, The Seven Liberal Arts, and Alchemy.
Sanjay Mandaiker, (Master Mason Lodge Universal Charity 273, Royal Arch Mason, Mark Mason, Secret Monitor, and 18th degree India Rose Cross) has been a tour guide based in India for over 20 years. He combines his extensive knowledge of Hinduism with Masonry to bring a truly unique traveling experience for masons and non masons alike. For masons recognized by the UGLE visits to a Lodge will also be included. Esoteric Travels allows you to be led through India by a brother.
Jesuits, Illuminism, and the Royal Arch of Enoch with Robert W. Sullivan IV
Robert Sullivan is a newcomer in the world of Masonic scribes with his first work, The Royal Arch of Enoch, hitting the bookshelf late in 2012. What makes Sullivan’s work interesting is the degree of focus he puts on the Apocryphal figure of Enoch in the Masonic degrees, a figure that most, at best, consider briefly in their progress and, at worst, completely ignore all together. Sullivan’s work takes on the historic, esoteric, and political implications of including the biblical figure of Enoch in both the York and Scottish Rite and why that inclusion may not have been with the purest of Masonic intents but rather a happy accident of allegoric construction like so often happens in the secret traditions, including those of Freemasonry. I found the conversation to be extraordinary and I think you will too as we gain a bit more insight on the keeper of the lost word that is found anew, at least in part.
Greg Stewart (GS) – Before we delve too deeply into the subject matter, I’d love to start by finding out about you. Who is Robert Sullivan, how long have you been a Mason, and to what orders are you a member of?
Robert W. Sullivan (RS) On my website I describe myself as a philosopher, historian, antiquarian, jurist, theologian, writer, and lawyer. I am the only child of antique dealers and I was born on October 30, 1971 in Baltimore, Maryland. I graduated high school from Friends School of Baltimore (the oldest private school in Baltimore, founded in 1784) in June 1990 and attended Gettysburg College in Pennsylvania becoming a brother of Lambda Chi Alpha (Theta Pi, member #1199) fraternity. I earned my B.A. in History in 1995 having spent my entire junior year of college (1992-1993) abroad at St. Catherine’s College, Oxford University, England studying European history and philosophy. While in Oxford I was a member of the Oxford Union, the Oxford University Conservative Association, and the Oxford Law Society. Upon returning to the United States in June 1993 I took a year off from Gettysburg College to serve as office director of the Washington International Studies Council located on Capitol Hill.
Prior to attending law school in the United States I spent the Michaelmas Term 1995 at Trinity College, Oxford University studying jurisprudence and international law. From 1997 to 2000 I attended Widener University School of Law, Delaware Campus, from where I received my Juris Doctorate.
I have been a Blue Lodge Mason since 1997 having joined Amicable-St. John’s Lodge #25 in Baltimore, Maryland. I became a 32 degree Scottish Rite Mason in 1999, Valley of Baltimore, Orient of Maryland.
GS – Thinking back, what induced you to originally want to become a mason?
RS – Since being a child I have always been interested in the mysterious and the unexplained. Growing up I always tuned into In Search Of hosted by Leonard Nimoy. My interest in Masonry had to do with its mystical origins and esoteric symbols, however I was primarily motivated to become a Mason to continue a family tradition; my Grandfather Robert W. Sullivan Jr. was a Freemason, his father-in-law, my Great Grandfather, Frederick J. Wheelehan was as a Past Master (former Worshipful Master) of Freedom Lodge #112.
GS – Did you realize your vision in your first few experiences of joining? (Did it live up to your expectations?) Or did you discover something else?
RS – Yes, the Masonic ritual experience was everything I imagined it would be, however, it was not until a couple years later that I truly understood the esoteric symbolism and the themes of Gnostic ascension that are contained in the third degree ritual. I had a much better understanding of the ritual after I finally read the works of the Masonic greats such as Albert Mackey, Manly P. Hall, and Albert Pike. After that I discovered the real meaning and purpose of Masonic ritual and its underlying occult philosophy.
GS – Gnostic Ascension, elaborate on that. What does the idea mean or look like to you?
RS – Gnostic ascensio [Ascension] is being brought from a state of symbolic death to a resurrected life or darkness to light which is the main theme of the third degree ritual. Once re-awakened, the candidate’s divine spark is ignited, their slumbering Prometheus is conscious, and the newly resurrected initiate is ready to effect positive change in his life and in society in general.
GS – What ultimately led to your crafting your book, The Royal Arch of Enoch?
RS – The research for the The Royal Arch of Enoch began back when I was an associate student at Oxford University in 1992-1993, however the true writing of this book began in 2005 on the old social networking site Myspace. I started posting blogs and uploading photos that reflected my research and much to my delight, was very positively received. I was then approached by a fellow Mason who had seen the page and encouraged me to memorialize the information. Since this was what I was planning on doing anyway, I began putting pen to paper writing and editing the book. The Royal Arch of Enoch: The Impact of Masonic Ritual, Philosophy, and Symbolism was completed and published in August 2012, approximately seven years later.
GS – For those who don’t know about Enoch, describe briefly who he was and why he bears symbolic significance to Freemasonry and more broadly to esoteric or occult circles.
RS – Enoch is one of two people in the Bible to never experience a physical death; the Prophet Elijah is the other. Enoch is taken into Heaven at Genesis 5:18-24 and the Book of Enoch (or I Enoch) documents Enoch’s interactions with both Arch-Angels and Fallen Angels the latter being known as the Watchers. He is important with Masonry because the High (or Haute) degree ritual that bears his name, the Royal Arch of Enoch, sees the recovery of the Tetragrammaton thus philosophically ending the “mission statement” of the Blue Lodge. Enoch’s corporeal travels in the afterlife are very esoteric in nature including the gleaning of knowledge from the Watchers which ultimately become the seven liberal arts and sciences (Medieval Quadrivium and Trivium). My book documents components of I Enoch being incorporated into the Royal Arch of Enoch high degree ceremonial which should not be occurring since the Book of Enoch was lost to Western Civilization from approximately 2-3 C.E. to 1821 when it was first translated into English. This historical anomaly and its influence upon material culture is the thrust of my book.
GS – Without giving too much away, why do you think this anomaly is important?
RS – My book is the first to document it; in other words, prior to the publishing of The Royal Arch of Enoch, this anomaly was unknown to historians in the East and West. The incorporation of the Book of Enoch into the degree ceremonial is a genuine mystery and it is this ritual in particular that has defined, among other things, the American national character. Carrying this Enochian iconography forward, The Royal Arch of Enoch also documents the symbolic restoration of the sun as the premier icon in all of Freemasonry and as the supreme emblem of imperial administration and religiosity lifted from the Ancient Mysteries, incorporated in the Abrahamic Faiths, and carried on in both blue lodge and high degree Masonry.
GS – It’s interesting to me that Enoch comes in tangentially in two different degrees in two different systems (York Rite and Scottish Rite). Why do you think that is (how did that happen)?
RS – Both the York Rite and Scottish Rite owe its origin to the premiere high degree system which was known as the Rite of Perfection. The twenty-five degree Rite of Perfection was developed by the Society of Jesus [aka the Jesuits] as part of the on-going Counter Reformation in an effort to undermine the English Monarchy and destroy the Protestant Church via subterfuge. The Rite of Perfection was mid-wifed piecemeal into the United States and a Temple of Perfection was established in Albany, New York by Henry Francken. The Lodge of Perfection is the forerunner to the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite while T.S. Webb’s Illustrations of Freemasonry of 1797 bear all the hallmarks of Francken’s Lodge. Webb, of course, was the driving force behind the York or American Rite of Freemasonry.
GS – Do you think the two parallel one another in any way? What does one suggest that the other omits and vice versa? Do the two compliment one another?
RS – Yes, the two Rites parallel each other in that the Name of God or the Tetragrammaton is recovered. This is the “Lost Word” that goes missing in the Blue Lodge with the death of Hiram Abif. The two degrees have differences as well. For example, in the York Rite the Name of God is located on the Ark of the Covenant while in the Scottish Rite it is found on the Foundation Stone upon which the Ark once sat, so both Rites associate themselves with the Ark of the Covenant and by default the Decalogue and Hebrew Kabbalah.
GS – Can they be taken together, or do they exist as two separate tellings, unique unto themselves?
RS – Once a man becomes a third degree Master Mason, he is then eligible to join the York and Scottish Rites. He can join one, both, or neither – the decision is his. Since these two rites are not mutually exclusive, a person could receive the Royal Arch degree twice: once in the York Rite and once in the Scottish Rite. So in that sense an initiate can “take” the degrees in each separate haute degree system.
GS – I heard you say, in another interview talking about the book, that the degree is a re-telling of the Book of Enoch. I’m curious how so? Is it an interpretation of its existence (like acknowledging the BoE by the degrees existence) or could it be construed as a literal retelling?
RS – Although the ritual does not mention quotes or mention I Enoch per se, the ritual that bears Enoch’s name contains elements and components that come out of the pseudepigrapha. For example the Royal Arch ceremony parallels Enoch’s apotheosized ascension from the Book of Enoch thereby transforming the Masonic candidate into a sublime initiate (or parfait [French for “perfect”]) who, by beholding the name of deity as the emanation of all wisdom, becomes a symbolic god-like Enochian (or hermetic) divine figure in his own right. This degree under the T.S. Webb system was thus the premier and most sublime degree in Masonry. The movement of the essential elements of the Book of Enoch into the framework of the pre-history and paragon iconic myth of Freemasonry’s relationship to the broader world can be traced to the transformation of Enoch into a heavenly king. This king was not only a virtuous and wise Pythagorean ruler – an image that had fateful consequences for Freemasonry’s association with Illuminism: the means to the transformation of the world into a perfected Masonic Temple: a one world government – outwardly democratic yet inwardly ruled by an occult theocracy; and with the actual imagery of Pythagoras as the supreme Masonic initiate. The Masonic-Enochian Ritual utilizes the currency of platonic thought, notably that found in Plato’s own Timaeus, as the medium or method for the achievement of Pythagorean kingship with its array of symbolic effects transforming the candidate into a symbolic Enoch, Pythagoras, and Hermes Trismegistus. The Royal Arch of Enoch ritual, on a symbolic level, transforms the Masonic initiate into a divine, apotheosized monarch by beholding the Kabbalistic Tree of Life (or Wisdom) as an emanation of the Tetragrammaton; this concept comes directly out of the Book of Enoch. There are others, but I would refer one to read my book
GS – I have an idea what you mean, but if you can, define what you mean by an “…occult theocracy.”
RS – A society that is outwardly democratic yet inwardly ruled by hidden leaders or masters who rule behind the scenes without the consent of the populace. This can be seen in the early days of the Republic where DeWitt Clinton used high degree Freemasonry as a vehicle to formulate public policy across states’ lines without electoral consent.
GS – Interesting, by saying it represented a perfected temple, vis-à-vis a one world government, do you think that was the notion behind the degree or just an allegorical bonus to utilizing an Enocian theme?
RS – The degree was part of the original twenty-five degrees of the Rite of Perfection, and as the title suggests, by beholding the Tetragrammaton in the Royal Arch ritual the Masonic parfait becomes “perfected” and now can perfect or formulate society as a whole. This was the penultimate goal of what can best be defined as the Thomas Smith Webb-DeWitt Clinton-Salem Town ritual synthesis.
GS – Is one degree (York or Scottish) closer to that retelling?
RS – Not necessarily, but the placement of the Tetragrammaton on the Ark of the Covenant in the York Rite correctly associates the “Lost Word of a Master Mason” with Hebrew Kabbalah in keeping with Enochian and arcane mystical themes and concepts.
GS – Do you think it would have the same meaning if it were given immediately following the third degree?
RS – In some English “Antient” Lodges, the Royal Arch was given after the third degree. Today it is given as part of the higher degree systems and I think the ritual works much better that way.
GS – I’m curious, from the work you’ve done, do you find parallel passages in the Book of Enoch to support the ideas of both the Scottish and York Rite workings, or do you see them as fanciful extrapolations of an Apocryphal biblical figure?
RS – Neither, I see the hands of Counter Reformation Jesuits hard at work in the development of this ritual to undermine the Church of England and inject a heavy dose of Roman Catholicism into Freemasonry. Since the Council of Trent of 1545, the Jesuits have been charged with thwarting Protestantism. Since the formation of the Church of England by Henry VIII, England has been in the Jesuit’s crosshairs. The Spanish Armada of 1588, the Gunpowder Treason of Guy Fawkes, and the “Catholic” Rite of Perfection were all designed to put England under the yoke of Rome. This was the Jesuit’s modus operandi.
GS – So then do you suggest the degree is (was?) really a subversive conversion tool?
RS – The purpose original French-Jesuit Rite of Perfection was to Christianize Freemasonry and serve as a vehicle to restore the Catholic side of the Stuarts back to the Throne of England in violation of the Settlement Act of 1701. In that aspect one could say it was subversive. However, the high degrees flourished on the continent of Europe and by the time they reach the United States, the Jesuit influence and control over the degrees seems to have waned.
GS – What you’re suggesting sounds almost as if it’s the creation of Francis Bacon’s New Atlantis or the embodiment of John Winthrop’s City upon a hill. Do you think these forbearers were thinking of that one world illuminism you mentioned with the Enocian arch degree?
RS – Yes, these works clearly anticipate a new “Order of the Ages.” One can add John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress, Tommaso Campanella’s The City of the Sun, and Thomas More’s Utopia to that list.
GS – So with Enoch, are there other lessons we can pull from the texts about him that inform Masonry?
RS – Yes, in The Royal Arch of Enoch: The Impact of Masonic Ritual, Philosophy, and Symbolism I present evidence that the haute degree that bears the Biblical patriarch’s name is the defining template for the United States of America. This can be seen in the architecture and design of Washington, D.C., it can be found in the Masonic architecture of Baltimore, Maryland, and can be seen in the “rising sun” template of Union College of Schenectady New York which was first college established after the Revolution to offer degrees in civil engineering or operative masonry.
GS – What you’re suggesting sounds almost as if it’s the creation of Francis Bacon’s New Atlantis or the embodiment of John Winthrop’s City upon a hill. Do you think these forbearers were thinking of that one world illuminism you mentioned with the Enocian arch degree?
GS – Do you see any parallel components between say the rituals of Masonry and the practice of Enochian or Solomonic magick?
RS – Yes and Yes. Naturally, Solomonic Magick, as discussed in the Testament of Solomon and Ars Goetia, documents 72 demons that Solomon commanded to construct the first Temple of God. Since the third degree Masonic ritual centers on the construction of Solomon’s temple the nexus is obvious. Further, the 72 demons symbolize a secret name of God, Shemhamphorasch, which is composed by 72 Hebrew letter groups. Again, here we have a “name of god” which is lost in the third degree ritual when Hiram dies and the word is lost yet recovered in the Royal Arch ceremonial which is reflecting Solomonic Magick.
With regard to Enochian Magick, if one is looking for a likely candidate to have possessed a secret copy of the Book of Enoch prior to its official discovery in the West, look no further than the inventor of Enochian Magick, Dr. John Dee. If a copy of I Enoch fell into Masonic circles Dee is a likely source for the copy and the evidence is compelling.
First, Dee’s sorcery, Enochian, is a way to summon angels and demons and is obviously named after the Biblical patriarch and reflects Enoch’s interaction with these ethereal beings.
Second, Dee had one of the largest libraries in Europe and was a purveyor of esoteric texts so a copy (or a detailed summary) could have been in his possession.
And third, and most interesting, is Sir Walter Raleigh. Raleigh, like Dee was involved with Sir Francis Walsingham’s spy-ring that protected Queen Elizabeth I and Raleigh actually mentions in his History of the World that the Book of Enoch contains an Astronomy/Astrology book which begs the question: How did Raleigh know this when the I Enoch was “officially” lost to history at the time. Where is Raleigh getting this information? The answer points in one direction and one direction only: Dr. John Dee.
GS – Do you think this idea of the name of God in the degree is a manifestation of Dee’s work with Enocian magic, or an older idea that we can find some parallels in say the Kabbalah or some other tradition?
RS – I would say it is kabalistic more than anything. In the Book of Enoch, Enoch beholds the Sephirotic Tree of Wisdom as an emanation of the name of God and the source of all wisdom.
GS – You mentioned earlier, and in other interviews for the book, the connection between the Jesuits and Higher degree Freemasonry. I’m curious, do you think that most of what we know or see as esoteric Masonry today comes out of this notion that mythologizing the Catholic experience was an inducement for those 17th century occultists to come back to the Catholic Church?
RS – I think that the high degrees are more mystical and occult laden than the Blue Lodge degrees and one can make an argument that the Jesuits were injecting the high degrees with mystical Roman Catholicism. The evidence for this is overwhelming. Ignatius of Loyola’s Spiritual Exercises are mystical in nature and the works of the Jesuit Athanasius Kircher are very hermetic and arcane leading some within the Society of Jesus to believe they were the real Rosicrucians. The high degree system was itself a Jesuit invention employing subterfuge and even espionage to secretly lure Protestants back to the Roman Church while serving as a vehicle to restore the Stuart Pretenders back to the throne of England violating the Act of Settlement of 1701.
GS – Do you think this is a point many Jesuits would agree with today? And, do you think they feel the same way?
RS – The Society of Jesus of 2014 would likely not be aware as this happened 300 years ago while the Jesuits were put out of business from about 1773-1815. Like Freemasonry, the Jesuits of today’s influence and power has been undercut, although the pendulum does appear to be swinging back towards the other direction for both groups. One has to bear in mind that the Jesuits of 1545 to 1773 were Europe’s version of the CIA while Ignatius of Loyola designed the order based on the mysticism of the Knights Templar and the arcane priesthoods of Egypt. The inner workings of the Rosicrucians, the Illuminati, and Freemasonry are all based upon the occult machinations of the Society of Jesus.
GS – So, moving beyond The Royal Arch, one of my fascinations is the notion of esoteric Masonry. I’m curious your take on the subject. Do you think Masonry has a deeper esoteric, or even an occultic, side?
RS – Yes absolutely. Many of the symbols and rituals contain occult and hidden meaning. For example, the third degree Master Mason ritual is a retelling of the Egyptian Osirian Cycle where the candidate, portraying Hiram Abif, is killed and resurrected which reflects the murder of Osiris and his resurrection. In Christianity, the dying and resurrected “sun-man” character is, of course, Jesus Christ. Hiram Abif is surrounded with solar symbolisms; for example he is buried west of the temple representing the setting, dying sun. Twelve Fellowcrafts go looking for Hiram symbolizing the twelve houses of the zodiac looking for their lost solar ruler, and finally Hiram is raised from the grave with the “Strong Grip of the Lion’s Paw” which is an esoteric reference to the sign of Leo which is the sole house of the sun.
GS – How much of this, do you think, is just absorbed Christian Mysticism which is borrowed from these traditions or more broadly absorbed from their source?
RS – I believe it owes its origins to sources other than Christianity. Freemasonic symbols and rituals derive from the Ancient Mysteries (of Egypt, Eleusis), Mithraism, Zoroastrianism, and Pythagoreanism among others while incorporating Judaic-Christian Biblical themes.
GS – Do you think there is a practice of esoteric Masonry still happening today?
RS – I do not know if I would call it a “practice”, but I believe there is a renewed interest in the esoteric side of the Craft. This seems to be the motivating factor that is influencing the younger generation to join Freemasonry. I definitely see a pendulum swinging back to the mystical side of the Craft where in the past the primary motivations to join a Blue Lodge was community involvement and/or family tradition.
GS – What’s next? What’s on the horizon for Robert Sullivan?
RS – I will be publishing my second book titled Cinema Symbolism: A Guide to Esoteric Imagery in Popular Movies in May/June 2014. This book is a continuation of the final chapter of The Royal Arch of Enoch where I discuss hidden occult, Masonic, Enochian, and solar symbolism in films such as The Ninth Gate, National Treasure, The Da Vinci Code, and Being There amongst others. I am currently writing its sequel, Cinema Symbolism II and I am writing my first work of fiction as well. I have also begun outlining another book on occult Freemasonry.
GS – That sounds interesting, the Ninth Gate is one of my favorite films. Do you think there is an intentional evocation of these themes by the film writers, directors and producers, or are they playing to some underlying zeitgeist?
RS – In some cases it is clearly intentional while in others it could be accidental. If it is accidental, concealed symbols in film appear by way of Carl Jung’s Collected Unconscious psychological mechanism which is a descendant of Plato’s Theory of Forms.
GS – And, I like to conclude with asking who, or what, has been your greatest Masonic influence? Who do you look up to and why?
RS – Albert Pike and Manly P. Hall have been the greatest Masonic influences upon me. I really enjoy their work and have learnt a lot of kabalistic and esoteric information from reading Morals and Dogma and The Secret Teachings of All Ages. In fact I modeled The Royal Arch of Enoch after both of these books. Although I may not “look up” to them, they are both by far the greatest Masonic influence upon me. As to Masons that I look up to, that would be George Washington for his sacrifice and commitment to something he believed in when others may have not shared his vision.
Robert, thanks so much for taking some time to talk about your work and the intricate connections of Enoch and the Haute Degrees of Freemasonry. You can read more about Robert W.SullivanIV on his website and you can find his book The Royal Arch of Enoch on Amazon.
Fred Milliken is a man who needs little introduction, least wise to anyone who has had an ear to hear the heartbeat of Masonry for more than the last 15 years. With a finger, hand, foot and toe in just about every corner of the digital space, Fred either knows what’s going on or someone who does. Never afraid of tackling the wrongs in the craft, some might say that Brother Fred Milliken is Quixote-esque in his championing of what many see to be the status quo of an immovable force. But unlike Quixote, Fred see’s the challenges before him as opportunities to inspire and inform others rather than tilting insistly at allegoriphical windmills. If one thing can be said, Fred is unafraid of Change. To the contrary, he embraces it as easily as a man takes in a breath of air. If ever there was a valiant knight in shining armor who took on every dragon beset before him, Fred would be that knight. In every instance from which I’ve had the vantage of seeing the results of his work, Fred Milliken has demonstrated that he is the epitome of a just and upright Mason. A brother to me, I find his story fascinating. I think you will too.
Greg Stewart (GS)You’ve been in Masonry for some time; what has your Masonic journey been?
Fred Milliken (FM) Well it really starts with joining DeMolay in Lexington, Massachusetts on an invitation from my lifelong friend. Here I got to see the world of Freemasonry through the eyes of Dad Advisers and through meeting at a Masonic Temple.
I entered the line and became a Master Councilor. One of the really interesting events that my DeMoaly Chapter participated in was the state ritual competition when I was Senior Councilor. Pitted against many other Chapters from all over we made the first cut, the second cut, the third cut, the fourth cut and in the runoff won the coveted state prize of DeMoaly ritual champions for the state of Massachusetts. Those skills I learned were pivotal to my success as a Master in Freemasonry. I learned how to speak before a crowd, how to memorize ritual and how to organize a Lodge.
Much later (30 years later) when I was working in Plymouth, MA, I asked to join Plymouth Lodge. I was appointed to office and went up the line. When I became Master I had five Past Master Councilors and five Past Masters from Simon W. Robinson Lodge in Lexington install me and my officers. As Master, I invited the DeMolay Chapter from Brockton, MA, to perform the DeMolay Degree for us.
It wasn’t long before I joined Paul Revere Lodge in the city in which I lived. Paul Revere was in another Masonic District. I can remember doing the First Degree Master’s ritual on a Monday night for Plymouth Lodge and the next night, Tuesday, doing the Senior Deacon’s Middle Chamber lecture for Paul Revere Lodge. One of the first things I did upon joining Paul Revere Lodge was to become a member of the Paul Revere Colonial Degree Team which performed the Third Degree in Colonial costume attaching a patriotic message at the end of the degree. All of us were required to also adopt the name of a Revolutionary War Mason. When I joined the team all the really famous names were already taken so I researched my own name. After doing some research at Grand Lodge I chose Brother William Munroe from my home town of Lexington, Massachusetts. Lexington was the birthplace of the American Revolution when on April 19, 1775 Paul Revere rode into town hollering, “The British are coming, the British are coming.” There to meet him in the early morning hours was Captain Brother William Munroe of the Lexington Minute Men who was on an all night vigil on the Lexington Common. Years later William Munroe would become the first Master of Lexington’s first Lodge and he would journey to Grand Lodge to get his charter from Grand Master…Paul Revere.
The Paul Revere Colonial Degree Team traveled … everywhere. And we were always well received.
As Master of Plymouth Lodge I brought the Colonial Degree Team to Plymouth Lodge where we performed before five different Masters and three District Deputies, one delegation being from Rhode Island. I had to hire a police officer to control the traffic, parking and the crowd.
In due time I became Master of Paul Revere Lodge and one of the first things I did was to take the Colonial Degree Team to Simon W. Robinson Lodge in Lexington. It wasn’t just a performance of the Degree Team, however. It was also the first Tri Table Lodge in the state. Three Lodges got together with permission from the Grand Master to perform a Table Lodge together. So there were three Junior Wardens in the South, three Senior Wardens in the West and three Masters in the East. We started at 4:00 PM with the degree and finished the Table Lodge at 11:00 PM on a Saturday.
But our biggest trip was one which I started working on as Master and didn’t bring to fruition until I had stepped down from the East. And that was the Paul Revere Colonial Degree Team’s longest and farthest performance to Monroe Lodge in Bloomington, Indiana. On a Friday afternoon we flew 18 Colonial Degree Team members into Indianapolis where we were met by a Past Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Indiana in a small bus and transported to Bloomington. After a stop at the Shrine Club for a steak dinner and welcome we were transported to the state DeMolay Chalet for billeting. The next morning we were picked up and transported to the Lodge for Breakfast followed by a bus tour of Bloomington. We performed the Degree Saturday night raising one Brother to the sublime degree of Master Mason and flew back to Boston Sunday afternoon.
Now there is a lot more to tell…but there are other questions waiting to be answered.
GS – That’s an incredible early journey, I have to ask does the Masonry you do today match what your ideal of it was before you joined?
FM – Yes and no. It does in my own personal Lodge and Grand Lodge because I have chosen them because they do match that ideal. But in other jurisdictions across the U.S.A. it clearly does not. Today many Grand Lodges are out of control and overstepping their bounds at every turn.
GS – At some point in your Masonic career, you demitted from your, then, ‘regular’ grand lodge to join a Prince Hall system. What motivated you to move over?
FM – When I moved to Texas from Massachusetts I naturally transferred from the Mainstream Grand Lodge of Massachusetts to the Mainstream Grand Lodge of Texas. After joining a Lodge near my house I stated to travel. I love traveling as a Mason, meeting new Brothers and sharing ideas and thoughts. About the third Lodge I visited demonstrated to me a problem in Texas Mainstream Masonry which has been reported to me many times over by Brothers in other Southern jurisdictions. After the meeting we all gathered in the dining room for some fellowship with coffee and cookies. I was having a discussion with a group of Brothers around a large table when one Brother piped up,
Do you know what the difference between Masonry down here in Texas and up where you come from is?
I took the bait and said no.
We don’t allow no niggers in Lodge down here.
Now this wasn’t out in the boondocks somewhere. This was in an affluent suburb of Dallas.
Later, a friend of mine who I had corresponded with on one of the Masonic forums was getting raised to the sublime degree of Master Mason. So I trekked the 40 miles to his small town to help in his raising.
About three months later he got in touch with me all upset.
They are making racial jokes in an open tyled Lodge. I don’t know what to do. I cannot condone this outrage, yet some of these Brothers are my bosses at work, some are in my church and others are leaders in the community. If I make a big stink my life will be hell.
So I told him, keep your mouth shut and stop attending Lodge, if you want. I’ll make the big stink for you.
I wrote to the Grand Lodge of Texas and explained the situation without mentioning names or location, asking them if they would please get back to me with some plan of action to curb this abuse. No reply came.
At the time I was the feature writer on [Stephen] Dafoe’s Masonic Magazine and I wanted to publish the story there. Dafoe said that absolutely no names or locations could be used because of possible legal retaliation, but otherwise the story was a go. So the story went out.
Now somehow, who the article was directed at leaked out – but as it was just a floating rumor and could not be directly placed in our court. Finally a Brother from England wrote the Grand Lodge of Texas and demanded an answer and posted his question and answer he received publicly. Here was the response of a Grand Lodge officer who must, even to this day, remain nameless.
The respected and well known Grand Officer of the Grand Lodge of Texas said, and I paraphrase his remarks
Masons are all about toleration. We as Brothers have learned to tolerate different lifestyles, religions, political affiliations etc. Racism is just another point of view. As Masons we are obligated to tolerate this view even though we may not accept it. That’s what we are all about as Freemasons.
And that is when I demitted from my Texas Mainstream Lodge and applied to Prince Hall. Now you know the rest of the story.
GS – That’s a terrible story, with a conclusion that still seems to be playing out in slow-motion today. But I’m curious, why Prince Hall and not a Co-Masonic Lodge? Were you willing to leave Masonry all together if Prince Hall didn’t offer you up a home?
FM –I chose Prince Hall because even while in Mainstream Masonry I was outspoken for the admittance of African Americans to all American Grand Lodges. And that was what the quarrel with the Grand Lodge of Texas was all about, its treatment of African Americans. So, I thought, what better place to continue the fight than right there with many of them.
If Prince Hall didn’t take me, then I could maintain my Massachusetts affiliation and practice Freemasonry on the Internet only.
GS – Thus far, what’s your experience been like with Prince Hall Masonry? Do you find many differences or more similarities?
FM – The Freemasonry is remarkably similar. The Texas Prince Hall ritual is almost exactly the same as the Massachusetts Mainstream ritual with one word here or there changed and additional ritual added. One would not feel uncomfortable at all, ritual wise, coming into a Prince Hall Lodge from a Mainstream Lodge for the first time.
Style wise you will notice a difference. Prince Hall Freemasonry tends to be a little more religious. Christian Prince Hall Masons are vocal about Christianity and about politics. But don’t be fooled, all views and all religions are readily admitted and none are disparaged. You have to remember the history of African Americans. Back 200-250 years ago Blacks, free or slave, were not allowed to congregate except maybe in New England. There were no Black picnics or BBQs, no club meetings, no horse races and no Black Grange nor sports events. The one exception was the Black church. Here African Americans were permitted to congregate without interference. So to the church came the politicians, Freemasonry and meetings and social events of every kind. Everything operated out of the church because that is the only place Whites were comfortable letting blacks assemble.
Consequently African Americans did not, until recently, recognize a sharp division between church and state. Hence many aspects of Black society intermingled in the same venue producing a giant mixing bowl that seemed to bring all aspects of society together into one big recipe rather than to have separate distinctions.
Thus, until recently, almost every Prince Hall Freemason came out of the church. That is, he was a church member recommended by a Brother. That’s where everything emanated – from the church. African Americans do not hesitate then, when 100% of a Lodge is Christian, to express that Christianity. Who would object? The vast diversity you find in Mainstream Masonry is not prevalent in Prince Hall. But times are changing and that is not so true anymore.
GS – How So? How is it not so true anymore, from your observation?
FM – Well, when I came into Prince Hall Texas in 2006 I was one of a few White men visible in the Fraternity. Today I see many, many more Caucasians. I saw almost no Hispanics in 2006. Today I see a small cadre of Latinos. Same with Asians.
Prince Hall has traditionally been mostly Christian, Protestant and heavily Baptist and AME. Today I can point to a number of Muslims, some Catholics and some spiritual men with no organized religious affiliation.
The other big distinction that I see is that Prince Hall Freemasons meet with their female counterparts. The Heroines of Jericho (HOJ) and the Order of the Eastern Star (OES) meet in Grand Session in the same building and at the same time that Blue Lodge holds its Grand Sessions. The women are included in many local Lodge social and charitable undertakings. Both sexes within the Prince Hall Family work very closely together.
GS – So then, what bodies do you still carry dues cards for?
FM – In Texas PHA, I carry dues cards for all the York Rite Bodies and Blue Lodge. When I was in Massachusetts I was a member of the Scottish Rite and briefly a Shriner. I have not continued these affiliations in Texas because I do not have the time to belong to everything.
GS – So, let’s flash forward to more recent times. You were the appointed director of Phoenix Masonry, the on-line archive of Masonic texts, artifacts, and materials. Where do you see Phoenix Masonry going in 2014 and beyond? Any big plans you can share?
FM – Phoenixmasonry started as a website only, and one that featured mainly the old Masters of literature in the library and Masonic antiques in the museum. Even before I signed on as Executive Director, President, and curator, David Lettelier was posting my articles. The 21st century article section kept expanding after I signed on. Some “newer” books were added. Upon becoming Executive Director I turned Phoenixmasonry on to Social Media.
First it was a Facebook Page, then Twitter and lastly Rebel Mouse. After that I opened a Prince Hall Section to the website. The first thing posted in this new section was the six part YouTube video series of the William H. Upton Unity March & Memorial Dedication conducted by The Grand Lodge of F. & A. M. of Washington State and The Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Washington State. What a great story. If you don’t know it William Upton, Grand Master of Mainstream Masonry in the Grand Lodge of Washington State recognized Prince Hall in 1898. After he stepped down the next Grand Master rescinded the recognition. In his will PGM Upton demanded that no marker be placed on his grave until the two Grand Lodges once again recognized each other and coexisted in peace and harmony. Well it took until 1990 for that recognition to occur. And in 1991 both Grand Lodges met at the cemetery and in a special ceremony installed a headstone on the grave of PM William Upton. The videos show this ceremony.
The years went by, and as we came closer to the present the Museum was transported to Utah and set up in its own special housing. David stepped down from the Presidency portending a gradual turning over of the reins to youth. And that is what the future portends. David and I will gradually fade into the background and new fresh, young blood will take over management. Where they take Phoenixmasonry remains to be seen but it will always be a place of universal Freemasonry.
GS – For as long as I’ve known you, you’ve always had your ear to the Masonic web, how did that happen? Do you have any favorite haunts on the web that you still frequent?
FM – It all started with surfing the web in the late 90s. I came upon a Masonic E-forum called Masonic Light run by Jeff Naylor out of Indiana. Chris Hodapp was one its early members. I became a regular poster and when that kind of petered out I moved over to The LodgeRoom.com run by Stephen Dafoe who was also a regular on Masonic Light.
Over time I became one of the Moderators of the [Lodge Room] site. Theron Dunn and I used to have an ongoing head to head debate. I was the first interviewee on Dafoe’s Radio Free Mason in March of 2005, something I would repeat on Masonic Central a few years later.
I joined the Knights of the North but after about a year left charging that they were all talk and no action. When Stephen Dafoe pulled out of the Lodge Room forum, his moderators took over and renamed it The Three Pillars. I bowed out from that responsibility and stuck around for awhile but ultimately the position of the site [became one] that one could not criticize a Grand Lodge no matter what it did or did not do, leading to a parting of the ways. I switched over to MasterMason.com and became a moderator but ultimately the same problem cropped up and I faded away to use my talents elsewhere.
I formed my own Masonic Blog the Beehive and merged that with Freemason Information upon invitation by Greg Stewart.
I pretty much stick to Freemason Information, MyFreemasonry and Phoenixmasonry as well as The Phylaxis Society where I am a Fellow. Facebook is now a primary Masonic Source. I don’t need to haunt any locations because people are sending me stuff all the time.
GS – So where does eMasonry stand today? Do you have any observations or insight on the pulse of the eMasonic world?
FM – Masonic blogs, forums and Yahoo groups are out. That is, they are passing out of existence.
Outstanding Masonic websites still have a following, such as Freemason Information, MyFreemasonry and Phoenixmasonry. Freemasonry on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are in. It’s an ever evolving change in tastes. Tomorrow it will be something different perhaps in an entirely different form.
GS – Switching gears here, I know that the subject or Prince Hall and mainstream recognition is very close to you. Given your position as having been in both denominations of Masonry, do you still see them as two branches of the same family tree or do you think the two have grown and evolved into their own separate entities?
FM – Both mainstream and Prince Hall practice the same Freemasonry. In this aspect they are two parts of the same tree.
But, at the same time, they are their own separate entities.
Traditions, ways of doing things, Masonic government, and the Masonic approach to society have evolved over the years into just two different ways of doing the same thing. Those on the Mainstream side that call for Prince Hall to merge into Mainstream are too late. They should have welcomed Prince Hall into their ranks when over and over again Prince Hall requested such a merger 200 or more years ago. The two now have grown apart as any society would do after more than 200 years of separation.
They are like two Christian denominations that split apart and went their separate ways. After more than 200 years apart, forcing them back together would be a big mistake.
But they can and will, when allowed, exist side by side in peaceful coexistence. And they have since the first recognition to stick permanently was accomplished in 1989.
GS – You mention the recognition that happened in 1989. Which was that?
FM – 1989 is an important date in the Prince Hall Community. It was the first lasting recognition of Prince Hall Freemasonry that stuck – and stayed – by the Grand Lodge of Connecticut.
There were other recognitions in years past that were short lived and did not last. Today 42 states recognize Prince Hall. Look how far we have come since 1989. I am proud to have taken a teeny weenie part in all that. (You can see a up-to-date list of Prince Hall Masonry Recognition on Paul Bessel’s website)
GS – With that in mind, is recognition still an issue? Was it really ever?
FM – No recognition is no longer an issue as has been proven by 25 years of peaceful coexistence in all but a few states. That Mainstream and Prince Hall Freemasonry can exist side by side in the same state without incident cannot be challenged. The brotherly love and peace & harmony among regular Masons is now an American reality.
Those 9 states that are left who refuse to recognize Prince Hall no longer practice regular Freemasonry. The race issues aside, look at the Grand Lodge of Florida’s attempt at excluding non Christians. No Prince Hall Grand Lodge, no matter how vocal it’s Christian expression, would ever do that. This separation that exists in these 9 states is no longer a recognition issue. It is now an issue over the corruption of Freemasonry into something it was never intended to be. Those 9 Mainstream states no longer practice Freemasonry.
GS – Elaborate on that. What is it you think they practice?
FM – It’s not just the refusal to recognize Prince Hall, although that plays a part. It is also the refusal to admit African Americans. I remember vividly the battle with Victor Marshall and Gate City Lodge No 2 in Atlanta with the Georgia Grand Lodge who were ready to expel a Black man who “accidentally got raised” to be a Georgia Mainstream Master Mason. It was then we learned that the Georgia Constitution had a bylaw that prohibited non Whites. Freemason Information was in the forefront of that push back. We all have testimony that when Black Mainstream Master Masons from New York visited Florida that Masters refused to open Lodge and instead held Masonic educational sessions until said Black Masons left.
It is also the refusal to admit non Christians. Such thinking, long held quietly in the breast of local Masons who black-balled every non Christian who applied, became widely exposed when the Grand Lodge of Florida expelled Corey Bryson and Duke Bass for non Christian religious beliefs. Freemason Information was right there in the midst of this fight reporting all the details.
And the third big damning characteristic of these infamous 9 Grand Lodges is their refusal to follow Masonic convention or even their own Constitutions. The Grand Masters have taken over their Grand Lodges with total totalitarian rule. They expel Masons without a trial and close down Lodges without a reason or explanation. THEY GOVERN WITH FEAR.
In civil society when democracies rig elections and ignore the rule of law, they become Banana Republics, democracies in name only. When these 9 Grand Lodges govern their Grand Lodges in the manner described above, they become rogue Grand Lodges, Freemasonry in name only.
Not only do they give the rest of us in the Masonic community who live by the book a bad name, but they exist only because we have no national Masonic identity, no set of rules that would apply to all Grand Lodges in the United States.
GS – Why do you think the 42 other states still recognize them?
FM – The rest of the 42 states recognize them because of the tradition of standing together and not interfering in another Grand Lodge’s business and because, like politicians, they know if they stand by the indiscretions of their Party members, all the other members will stand by them when they step off the reservation. The problem with this is there is no check on the abuse of power in Freemasonry. In civil society we have The Constitution and the Supreme Court. What do we have in American Freemasonry?
GS – Wouldn’t that be taking it a bit to far? Is it, after all, an “at will” association meaning that we choose to be in and a part of it Given that it’s not a part of our day to day lives, like government, do you think most members are THAT actively engaged as to want to contribute like that?
FM – There must be SOMETHING to hold American Grand Masters responsible and accountable to acceptable Masonic practices. Otherwise Freemasonry in the United States is whatever a Grand Master and a Grand Lodge says it is, and you end up with 51 versions of Freemasonry, and sometimes Freemasonry out of control. There is a difference between differences because of tradition and differences solely for the purpose of an agenda that ends up corrupting the Craft. There is an urgent need in the United States for an American Masonic identity that binds all states and all members of the Craft in one common purpose and outlook.
This need not be some cumbersome bureaucracy added onto American Freemasonry. It could be as simple as a national Constitution and Freemasonry in the United States could be overseen by existing Masonic apparatus – the Conference of Grand Masters and the Masonic Service Association of North America.
Let’s look at an analogy – professional Major League Baseball. In the 20s you had the Black Sox scandal precipitated by abuses of the owners. In addition team owners were doing whatever they wanted with no standardized practices. Finally baseball realized it could not operate this way anymore, that the total freedom and separateness was dooming the national pastime. So the owners got together and appointed a Commissioner of baseball that still exists today. It keeps all the teams operating under the same set of rules and practices thereby eliminating corrupt and hurtful practices.
Like baseball teams, American Grand Lodges should not be able to do whatever they want. Now we perhaps don’t want a Commissioner of Freemasonry but we could continue on with a National Constitution with any administering or adjudication performed by the Council of Grand Masters with the help of the MSANA. This solution is simple, not adding any bureaucracy and keeps the sovereignty of each state Grand Lodge.
GS – You make an interesting point, one I’d like to come back to someday. But, let’s shift gears here and talk about your out of lodge work in the craft.You’ve written quite a bit over the years, about a lot of things, is there any one piece, or collection of pieces (Masonic or otherwise) that stand out in your mind as ground breaking or game changing?
FM – Well, I can think of four pieces that really stand out in my mind. One is a rather obscure piece titled Ballot Reform in which I make the point that we should no longer allow one Brother to hold the entire Lodge hostage to his personal prejudices. The way out of this enigma is something for you to find out by reading it. I will not spoil it just as I wouldn’t tell you who did it before you read a murder mystery nor explain the details of a good movie you have not yet seen.
In Of Revolutions and Reforms I make the point that before you market a product you best be sure the quality is up to snuff. I also say a lot of other stuff you can read about at your leisure.
Then there are the two papers I delivered in Alberta, Canada
First was World Peace through Brotherhood where I make the claim that if the majority of the world were Freemasons there would be no war. Again there is a lot of other stuff in more than 20 pages of point making if you want to look it up.
Lastly there is the intriguing Native American Rituals and The Influence of Freemasonry. Here I point to all Native American rituals that mirror Freemasonry as having been borrowed from the White Man – EXCEPT ONE – for which there is no rational explanation of how it got here (North America) or who designed it or how it happens to resemble a Masonic degree.
GS – So, given your history and experience, what do you see as the future of Masonry? Where do you think its heading?
FM – Take a look at the progression of human communication. First there was mostly hand written letter writing. Then came the telegraph which was more a message medium than a communication one. Soon after came the telephone and we could talk, voice to voice, to one another. Then along comes the Internet and we are all introduced to E-Mail. Not long after texting became the preferred method of communication which is really a personal telegraph in everybody’s hands. And today with venues like Skype and a webcam we can do it all!
So goes Freemasonry. From Lodge meetings attended by large numbers in person we have evolved into eMasonry that is trending now towards virtual Freemasonry. Soon we will have actual degrees being conferred in electronic Lodge rooms where all can gather from their smart phone or computer and see each other in a private (tyled) room. Just as personal communication is becoming more impersonal so is Freemasonry. Lodges are lacking attendance while web Masonry hums!
Look for more of the same. Today people value convenience and the ability to pop in and out just as quickly as a virtue. This is not your grandfather’s world. A 9 to 5 world no longer exists. Because of that Freemasonry will follow wherever technology goes. Already the rising stars in Freemasonry are the Masonic techies!
GS – So then, this leads me to wonder about the elephant in the room – membership has always been this invisible/silent specter for all moralities of the craft. Given your experience in both the Prince Hall world and mainstream world, do you see this is a universal issue between all branches?
FM – Yes, it is a universal issue in all branches of Freemasonry and I place the blame squarely upon Grand Lodges. Membership is the life blood of any organization and the way we replace ourselves. Without new blood we wither and die.
GS – Why do you think that is?
FM – Look at the answer above in the future of Masonry. Grand Lodges are still trying to operate in the modus operandi of yesteryear. They are all still driving model T cars. They can’t understand why people would rather text than write hand written letters. And that has been the problem from the start with Grand Lodges. When the world wide web first exploded across America they refused to participate in it and some even banned their members from becoming involved in it Masonically. It was like pulling teeth to get GLs to create a web page. A masonic forum, where Freemasonry was openly discussed, was considered heresy.
And now, as we are changing even more in our methods of communication, Grand Lodges have failed to come along. They are always lagging one step behind.
If we could find a Grand Lodge that would sell its building and operate out of a movie [theater] one to up to four times per year, with a live broadcast only available to you through your computer by a password protected (tyled) site, we might be getting somewhere. If, on a smaller scale, local Lodges could hold all their meetings in the same manner, then perhaps we would be on top of technology promoting it, instead of lagging behind, discouraging it.
If you can sit home and go to church from the favorite room in your house you ought to be able to do the same with Freemasonry. Personal meetings would then be confined to social affairs like BBQ’s, banquets and taverns.
GS – But, do you think that would change the tone of the lodge experience, or even masonry itself?
FM – While touting E-Degrees and all that modern technology brings us, I’m still old school enough to think that degrees should be done “in the flesh.” And you would want to do banquets and celebrations likewise. But other than that I think that Masonic Lodges meet too often and I compare them to the all news networks on TV. These networks, if they have no new news to report, have to make up the news just to keep broadcasting.
Masonic Lodges that meet often have to make up things to do in order to have their meeting. They do a very bad job at that. Many hurt their cause rather than help it.
My ideal Lodge would meet quarterly and gather for celebrations, trips and banquets as scheduled. Those four Lodge meetings might have a degree; always have a dinner and often a guest speaker. In my mind it is better to do a bang up job once in a while rather than a mediocre job more often.
Does that change the tone of Freemasonry? You bet. It gets rid of boring business meetings where you decide how many rolls of toilet paper to order with bad coffee and stale donuts afterwards. Business can be done online and by an Executive Committee with a quick Lodge sanction.
GS – Over the years, there has been drum beats for everything from a Masonic Congress, a national Grand Lodge, lifting territorial jurisdiction restrictions, break away Masonic lodges and even start-up Grand Lodges. Why do you think they have had only limited success, if any at all?
FM – If an organization is to exist across territorial bounds, if it is to be a movement open to everybody, everywhere, who meet certain basic qualifications, then it must have structure, it must be able to govern itself. Without structure there [would be] chaos.
My problem is that the structure that Freemasonry has chosen for the United States is woefully inadequate. This is no longer 1776. Our nation today has evolved into a centralized federal government of immense power. It long ago gave up the Articles of Confederation and evolved into a Constitutional federalized Republic. But Freemasonry has remained stuck in the 1700s.
This does not suit our modern mobile society. Today, unlike the 1700s, you could grow up in New York, go to college in Illinois, get your first big job in Texas, a promotion in California and then retire to Florida. And everywhere you go Freemasonry would be different. Sometimes radically different. Take it from someone who has experienced this first-hand, both in Northern and Southern Freemasonry.
We have 51 little fiefdoms with 51 variations of American Freemasonry. THERE IS NO AMERICAN IDENTITY TO FREEMASONRY IN THE UNITED STATES. And that’s a shame. People today don’t think of themselves as New Yorkers or Nebraskans or Arizonians. They think of themselves as Americans. But Freemasonry prohibits the adaptation of that concept to the Craft.
GS – So what do you think would remedy that?
FM – For awhile I was for a National Grand Lodge. But some wise Brothers pointed out that if states Grand Lodges are screwed up, think about the politics and control a National Grand Lodge would do. Also Prince Hall tried a National Grand Lodge and it didn’t last.
I am now of the opinion that there needs to be a national Masonic Constitution. This would not interfere with the sovereignty of each state Grand Lodge but would bind each one to some basic, general cornerstones. That would provide a national identity for the Craft in the United States and would eliminate the corruption of Freemasonry that can happen when separate entities remain apart for an extended period of time.
GS – What do you mean by corruption? Do you mean in a tangible way, as in a literal systemic corruption or in an intangible way such as in its ethos of corruption?
FM– No, [I mean] a corruption that alters and changes things. Like the English language as it is spoken.
Contrast the way English is spoken in England, America and Australia. It all started out the same, but separation over time introduced idiosyncrasies and a flavor that distinguished each version from the other. And that is really because they were apart for such a long time.
Now take 51 Grand Lodges and leave them to their own devices, totally separate and apart for a long period of time and you end up with 51 versions of Freemasonry. That’s corrupted Freemasonry. It would not be unexpected within the world, that is English Freemasonry or Australian Freemasonry, to be different. But, within the same country?
In a highly mobile society all you are doing is confusing people. And you end up with innovations like no Blacks allowed, Christian only, the Grand Master is God, cowboy hats and jeans, one year Grand Master terms, three year Grand Master terms, voting in Grand Lodge, no voting in Grand Lodge, a Grand Lodge line, no Grand Lodge line, an appointed Grand Master, five Landmarks, nine Landmarks, 13 Landmarks, no Landmarks at all and on and on and on.
Given enough time and you can find a Masonic Grand Lodge in the USA that is no longer Masonic.
GS – On that somber note, let’s talk about something more tangible. I always like ask what, or who, was your greatest Masonic influence? Who do you look up to in the Masonic world?
FM – There is no doubt in my mind that I owe an enormous debt to Stephen Dafoe.
Dafoe nurtured my writing and taught me how to do it right. He gave me a column in his magazines The Fourth Part of A Circle and Masonic Magazine. He encouraged me to keep at it and when I botched it up he showed me how it would read better.
Dafoe was instrumental in providing an all expenses paid trip to Alberta in 2005 for both me and my wife where I got the royal tour and the chance to address Alberta Lodges with two papers I had written. And a special thank you is due John Hayes who also joined Dafoe in welcoming me to Alberta and who was kind enough to board me and my wife at his house. There is nobody that did more to mentor me than Stephen Dafoe and I am eternally grateful.
And then there is also the encouragement and home for my writings provided me by David Lettelier. David was the one who offered me the post of Executive Director of Phoenixmasonry and I have grown immensely with Lettelier at my side.
GS – You mentioned writing in two places, in addition to the Beehive column, where you have written Masonic articles? Where else have you or do you now write?
FM – I started out by writing posts on Masonic forums in the 90s. When Theron Dunn and I went head to head those posts could be lengthy. That developed into articles for those sites. After Theron died my main antagonist became Grayson Mayfield. It was at this point that Stephen Dafoe took me under his wing and invited me to write articles for “The Fourth Part Of A Circle” and “Masonic Magazine.” After forming my own Blog “The Beehive” I merged it with Freemason Information. I also guest wrote at some other popular Masonic blogs. Then I began writing for Phoenixmasonry. Today I still write for The Beehive but I also write for my Grand Lodge publication “The Texas Prince Hall Freemason” where I am Associate Editor.” And I write for the Phylaxis Magazine where I help with editing and where I hold the office of Visual Archives Director. In March of 2014 I delivered a major paper to the annual session of the Phylaxis Society in Albuquerque, New Mexico. They presented me, as they do with anyone who delivers a paper, the award of the cup of knowledge.
I write in and for other fields of endeavor, owning some other websites, but as I like to keep the different aspects of what I do separate from one another, those shall remain in the dark here.
GS – It might be good to touch on one last thing about you and your Masonic journey, and that is your conversion to Catholicism. How difficult is it to be a Catholic Mason today?
FM – Well first of all for all those judgmental Catholics out there, I was not a Catholic who joined Freemasonry. I was a Mason who joined Catholicism. And I had two close Catholic Brothers in my Lodge who were by my side every step of the way. And my Priest, Father Jack, thought Freemasonry was great. At my first confession he said there is nothing bad about Freemasonry. Come into the church with full sacramental rights. You are most welcome.
The problem is that Father Jack isn’t in every Parish and I don’t always get the same approval. So I don’t push the subject. I don’t avoid it but I don’t go out of my way to mention it either. My conscience is my guide.
There is much acceptance of Freemasonry within the Catholic Church even though its official position is otherwise. It is going to be a long term re-education project. But I don’t intend to miss out on either world because some people have got their facts all wrong.
GS – Since you brought it up, your conversion to the Catholic Church, what was it that led you to that conversion?
FM – A number of things led me to become Catholic. Since my wife has always been a Catholic, I was exposed to it all the time.
After worshiping as a Protestant for many years I came to realize that they were worshiping the Bible. For a Protestant everything is about scripture and scripture answers every question and solves every problem.
I would rather worship Jesus, so I converted to Catholicism.
We often talk about the mysteries of Freemasonry. Well, there are also the mysteries of Catholicism. In practice Catholicism can be quite mystical. Protestantism tries to explain the unexplainable with reason and logic. It is a church of the Word. Catholics have the mystical experience of the Eucharist. It is a church of the Sacraments. The ritualism and pomp and circumstance of Catholicism remind me of Freemasonry.
Given all that it still was a difficult leap to make. What pushed me over the top was this story.
I cannot tell you why, but when I was still a Protestant I began going to a Catholic healing services in a neighboring town in Massachusetts. After communion we would approach the front where there were groups of three – a Priest, a nun and a deacon or lay leader. They would surround you and after asking you what problems you had. They would lay hands on you praying – faster and faster, ending in a great crescendo. Many would collapse on the floor in what we call being slain by the Spirit. I never was.
A friend of mine, we worked together and I brought him into the Lodge, was diagnosed with pancreatic and liver cancer and given six months to live. He was a non practicing Catholic. I recommended he go to one of these healing services. He went, but I could not go with him as I had to work. I asked him how it went and he said well I don’t believe in all that mumbo jumbo, especially the fainting part. So I was surprised when he said he was going into Boston for a healing service led by a Priest who had just come in from Ireland. His report back was quite different this time. He said you won’t believe it, but I passed out for 20 minutes.
Within a month he had to go back to the doctor for a progress examination. His liver and pancreatic tumors were all gone. What was, he had been told, a 98% chance of dying within 6 moths now was a complete cure. That was 15 years ago. My friend is still alive.
GS – That’s an amazing story. I always feel in awe over mystical experiences like that. Before we wrap up, is there any other important piece to the Fred Milliken story that needs to be put on the record?
FM – I can’t leave this interview without mentioning how I became Squire Bentley.
When I first started out on the Internet I used Squire as a pseudonym because I feared censorship by my Grand Lodge. Today I no longer have that fear and have dropped the Squire camouflage in most applications.
I was invited by the Fellowship Players a Masonic drama club from Fellowship Lodge in Bridgewater, MA, to try the part of Squire Bentley in the Carl Claudy play A Rose Upon The Altar. That is a very emotional part and was a challenge I was up for. I can especially remember two performances. The first was before the local Knights of Columbus and their wives. And the second was before a delegation of visiting Masons and their wives from England. That performance was open to the public and members of my family came. Performing in this play was one of my passions in Freemasonry.
And right beside me as I write these words is my Squire Bentley lantern, a present from Stephen Dafoe.
Fred, as always, my respect and appreciation to you for your wisdom and time. I can say, every time I speak or listen to you, I learn something new – both about the fraternity and about you. You can read more from Fred “Squire Bently” Milliken at the Bee Hive.
Editor’s note – Fred has since stepped down and retired from the position of Executive Director at Phoenix Masonry and no longer occupies that position saying of it “It was a great moment in my life and I would not want to ignore it or sweep it under the rug”
For those with an international interest in Freemasonry the organizers of the Summer 2014 International Masonic Workshop have planned a host of panels, debates and round tables inviting several distinguished speakers to deliver papers and lectures.
The event is a unique opportunity for Freemasons around the world, as well as for anyone interested in Freemasonry and their families and friends to meet, get acquainted and discuss options and opinions on Freemasonry, while they enjoy a summer break next to an idyllic beach in Athens Riviera.
Participants sharing an interest in the Craft will have the chance, in a casual laid-back atmosphere, to communicate, exchange ideas and thoughts, to see old friends and to make new ones.
The aim of this Workshop is to provide an overview of the most recent topics concerning the Fraternity, such as: The role of Freemasonry in the 21st century, Regularity, recognition and fraternal relations, Masonic research etc.
The Summer 2014 International Masonic Workshop will hold two different types of speeches: lectures during plenary sessions by the invited keynote speakers and short presentations by the participants in the Workshop.
The Workshop will take place in Alexander Beach, a 4 star hotel located in Anavyssos, in the Athens Riviera, in front of an idyllic, blue flag awarded beach, 47km from the center of Athens, close to Sounion.
Several packages including a variety of accommodation and hospitality services, have been released at the event’s website.
Freemasonry, like religion, is an institution that has created for itself its own teleological system of boundaries. What is, and what isn’t, a Freemason is often a hard etched line drawn in the metaphysical sands of the philosophy. And yet, those lines shift between organizations, time or ideology. To overcome this, most branches of Freemasonry have chosen to define Freemasonry in a particular way, like a very specific rendering of a point within the circle – everything within the circle IS and everything without IS NOT. But, at the edge of that boundary, often times are other groups who have made that self same requisite of what is and what is not. Some of those boundaries blend together and others are hard buttressed edges replete with warning totems, curses, and threats of community rejection should they be crossed. The latter example is the edged between mainstream Grand Lodge Freemasonry and Confederation of Freemasonry known as Le Droit Humain. In this installment of Sojourners, I get to cross that boundary and spend some time talking with Dianne Coombs, a lady Freemason from Le Droit Humain. While far from being an outlier within her branch of Masonry, Dianne and I met on that boundary edge and to talk about the fraternity on the other side. Not surprisingly, I found there to be more in common than I thought marked by some stark differences in contrast. The thought to keep in the back of your head while reading this is to ask yourself “how different are we really?”
Greg Stewart (GS) – Dianne, thank you for taking the time to speak with me. Before we delve to deeply in the conversation, tell me about who Dianne Coombs is? How long have you been a Freemason?
Dianne Coombs (DC) – I have been a teacher of various subjects for 35 years. I am also a practitioner of yoga, and a student of various subjects such as astrology. I have been a Freemason for 32 years.
GS – What initially interested you in becoming a Freemason?
DC – The organization with which I practiced yoga has schools of initiatic and esoteric studies. It was founded by Masters who were among other things, Freemasons. I wanted to continue being in school, so to speak, and being in a hierarchical organization with specific stages of advancement.
GS – I’m curious, you mention schools of initiation and esoteric studies, and could you elaborate on those traditions?
On the internal side, there are degrees of recognition, and the requirements include a vegetarian diet and abstinence from drugs and alcohol. Those who have been recognized with the first degree and above have the opportunity to join a Secret Chamber.
GS – For the record, you are a member of le Droit Humain (LDH), a mixed-gender masonic organization. How did you initially find them and what lead you to join?
DC – I found out about Le Droit Humain through a friend who had been recently initiated. I joined because I was intrigued by an organization that uses ritual and ceremony, something I am very drawn to.
GS – Were your initial ideas about it validated, or did you discover something different?
DC – Yes and more! More than being just a formal ritual I learned how people, working together to perform ritual well, could create a powerful impact and strong personal bonds.
GS – How so?
DC – At my initiation the ceremony seemed very familiar, possibly through connections to my religious upbringing and later spiritual practices.
GS – If I might ask, what was your religious upbringing that you found familiarity to?
DC – I was raised in the Episcopal Church, but the familiarity didn’t directly relate to the liturgy of the Church. I think I am a person who feels a connection with spiritual ritual, so perhaps that was the connection.
GS – So what influenced you most about Masonry early on? Where did you find your inspiration?
DC – I was initiated into a Lodge that had members who came from a variety of spiritual traditions that all worked together in harmony. I was inspired by the leaders of the American Federation at the time, but no one person in particular was influential.
What was more influential is the fact that Le Droit Humain is an international Order [which] meant that I could attend Lodges all over the world and have Brothers and Sisters all over the world.
GS – Do you, or have you, held any masonic office or leadership roles within Le Droit Humain?
DC – I am installed Master, and currently I a District Deputy for the Mountain States region for the American Federation of Le Droit Humain. I have also served as the head of bodies for higher degrees (beyond the Craft Lodge), and I am a member of the Federation Consistory.
GS – Interesting. Not knowing much about LDH, how many higher degree bodies are there in the Le Droit Humain configuration? Does it mirror American mainstream masonry in the U.S.? Would they be easily recognizable to mainstream masons?
DC – After the Craft Degrees, we have Lodges of Perfection, which mainly work the 4º , 12º and 14º, lodges Rose Croix, which work the 17º and 18º, Areopagi (Areopagus singular), which work the 29º and 30º, Sovereign Tribunal of the 31º, Consistory (Princes of the Royal Secret) – 32º and Grand Inspectors General – 33º.
These are based on traditional Scottish Rite degrees, so I think they would be recognizable to mainstream Masons. Those members who have joined Le Droit Humain after having been members of AASR have not mentioned significant differences.
We also have three York Rite degrees that are considered side degrees because they are optional and do not lead to advancement for higher degrees. They are Mark, Holy Royal Arch, and Royal Ark Mariner.
In LDH, higher degrees are not conferred by decree, but given ceremonially in which the candidate participates.
GS – What do you mean by that?
DC – In [mainstream] AASR, multiple degrees can be conferred simply by attending and watching. In LDH, there is a set time period between the higher degrees to receive them , and the candidate must participate in the ceremony, rather than by observing.
GS – I’m always fascinated with the operations of Masonry, the things we do for it, tell me about your work with le Droit Humain.
DC – I have held various offices within Craft Lodges, and I have helped to create Facebook pages to increase awareness about our Order. Additionally I have served as a contact for those who are inquiring about the American Federation.
That’s on the external level.
On the internal level, I have found that being a member has helped me to work to a higher stage of spiritual understanding and to feel a greater connection to humanity as a whole.
GS – Spiritual level, elaborate on that. What have you come to find that to mean in a Masonic context?
DC – In Masonry, I have found a great deal of diversity in background and beliefs compared to other groups in which I have been a member. The fact that we are working together for a common purpose, the brotherhood of humanity, I think transcends the work being done in the individual Lodge. Le Droit Humain has national and international conventions which serve to create connections with people from all over the world. As far as spiritual understanding goes, the individual must transform himself/herself in order to assist humankind. That is one of the great teachings of Freemasonry in all of the degrees. At the same time, there is the reminder that, “it’s not just about me.” None of the ceremonies or rituals can be performed by an individual, but must be performed by the entire lodge working together.
GS – You make an interesting point that I can’t say occurs in a broad way with the Grand Lodge System. So, why do you think co-masonry exists organizationally? Does it fill a particular niche or need?
DC – There are various co-Masonic organizations in the world. In English-speaking countries we are known as The International Order of Freemasonry for Men and Women, Le Droit Humain. We dropped the term “Co-Masonry” because it had a connotation of somehow being lesser than other Masonry. In Europe it is known as “Mixed Masonry,” but that doesn’t really translate into something that makes sense in English.
Le Droit Humain was founded by a man and a woman who were active in the campaign for the rights of women. Thus, it exists because its members believe in equality. Our international constitution says that we accept men and women as co-equals. In addition, generally speaking, its members believe that Freemasonry need not be reserved exclusively for men because the human soul has no gender.
GS – From what you’ve learned or what you know, how did this mixed masonry begin? What were its origins?
DC – This is copied from the international website:
Maria Deraismes, journalist and fighter for the rights of women and children and Dr. Georges Martin, Senator, General Councilor for the Dept. Of the Seine, Municipal Councilor of Paris, undertook campaigns in favor of the civic and political rights of women, the defense of the rights of oppressed children, against clerical intolerance and for the establishment of a neutral school respecting the ideas of everyone.
Maria Deraismes was initiated – on 14th January 1882 – into Lodge “Les Libres Penseurs” of Pecq, a small village to the west of Paris. She was the first female Freemason, symbolising initiatory equality.
Eleven years later, on 4th April 1893, Maria Deraismes and Georges Martin, a well known mason, created in Paris the first co-masonic Lodge. Out of this co-masonic Lodge came the birth of the Grande Loge Symbolique Ecossaise “Le Droit Humain”, establishing the equality of men and women, out of which, later, came the birth of the International Order of Co-Freemasonry “LE DROIT HUMAIN”.
Maria Deraismes died on 6th February 1894, and the task of organizing and developing “LE DROIT HUMAIN” fell on Dr. Martin. His energetic will placed him beyond frontiers, ethnic groups, religions and cultures, and he very quickly founded Lodges outside France: in Switzerland and in England.
The ORDER spread throughout Europe before sowing itself in other parts of the world. Le “DROIT HUMAIN” was built out of a marvelous dream, to unite humanity despite all the barriers, ethnic groups, geopolitics, religions and cultures.
GS – Do you see that mandate of creation still in operation today?
DC – When Le Droit Humain was first founded, a principal reason was to recognize the equality of women, not to create an Order outside the borders of France. After the death of Marie Deraismes, Georges Martin saw that this need transcended national borders. It was his vision to create a more universal Freemasonry.
Considering that humanity remains divided on so many levels, I see that that mandate is definitely still in operation.
GS – What do you see as the role of mixed gender masonry in a landscape dominated by the masculine variety of the fraternity?
DC – Its role is the same as that of many Masonic orders: the progress of humanity. The principal difference is the work on an international level without distinction of gender.
GS – Is there room for both?
DC – There is definitely room for both, just as there is room for women-only or male-only orders. The male members of Le Droit Humain disagree with the idea of discriminating against half of humanity, which is often part of their reason for joining.
GS – Do you see a fixed and unchanging boundary in separate, but essentially equal, branches of Masonry (i.e. regular, Co-Masonry, Prince-Hall, Feminine, etc…)?
DC – I do not see it as fixed. I have come into contact with members [of] traditional male craft lodges who are genuinely interested in learning more about mixed orders. I see very tiny baby steps happening right now towards mutual recognition.
GS – That sounds promising, anything you can elaborate on about this mutual recognition?
DC – While I have come into contact with some traditional Masons who continue to insist that women cannot be Freemasons, in forums such as social media, I have had respectful exchanges of ideas from masculine Brethren. Neither side is insisting that the one join the other, but the fact that the dialogue is respectful, indicates to me that the door is opening slightly. The Lodge of which I am a member has received referrals from masculine lodges for women who would like to become Masons. While that is not indicative of mutual recognition at this point, the fact that there is even a conversation is a step in the right direction.
GS – Are there any overtly different aspects between co-masonry and the grand lodge tradition?
DC – Not really – the main rituals used in the United States are based on traditional AASR rituals. The rituals used in Europe in both Le Droit Humain and traditional orders are essentially the same.
GS – Should there be some recognition between the branches, or even equality of association as in say, some kind of open organizational association?
DC – Yes. We should have this recognition because, in our mutual pursuits for the progress of humanity, we have a lot to gain in solidarity of efforts and to learn from each other’s approach.
GS – Why do you think there continues to be a distinction between the two?
DC – I think many people in the masculine Orders have a great respect for tradition. [But] sometimes respect for tradition does not allow for change. There can be a delicate balance between the respect for tradition and evolution.
One of my favorite texts, The Kybalion: Hermetic Philosophy, teaches that there is always change. If this change is for the greater good of humanity, change does not need to be avoided.
GS – It sounds like there is some degree of openness from the LDH side, how do you react when words like ‘clandestine’ or ‘bogus’ are thrown around when used in describing a flavor of Masonry other than those calling themselves ‘regular’?
DC – I kind of shrug my shoulders. It’s not worth getting upset over, since it’s usually the result of a lack of understanding. By the same token, some male craft lodges have become purely social organizations (men’s clubs) and have drifted away from the deeper traditions of Freemasonry. Often those in traditional lodges seem to have a kind of fear of other orders, or they demonstrate the need to be exclusive (perhaps on a psychological level) – not only towards women, but also towards those or different race or ethnicity.
GS – Within LDH, what do you see as the role of the esoteric aspects of Masonic study?
DC – Although not explicit, the esoteric aspects of Masonic study are an integral part of the Work. The esoteric traditions of initiation in general often draw many people to become members.
GS – Is there an explicitly esoteric aspect to it?
DC – Yes – we interpret the symbolism of the rituals and furnishings to have a deep meaning, which, of course, is not interpreted for anyone, but left for members to discover for themselves. Many members consider Freemasonry to have ancient roots, back to the earliest times of recorded history, and that Freemasonry is the repository for the ancient Mystery Schools. Even though the symbolism is not interpreted for anyone, it is understood that many ancient traditions have a connection.
GS – Which traditions do you think it draw the greatest parallels or symbols from?
DC – I think the great Mystery traditions have informed Freemasonry in general and Le Droit Humain in particular – ancient Egypt, the Hebraic tradition, the Eleusinian mysteries, the Knights Templar, and more.
I think Le Droit Humain would make the same connections with past traditions that mainstream Masonry has made.
GS – As a body, who does Le Droit Humain look to as its organizational patriarchs, matriarchs or its great authors?
DC – Our organization is not based on the Grand Lodge system; we have a Supreme Council headquartered in Paris. Those countries with a sufficient number of lodges are termed federations.
Our International Constitution says that,
The Order is organized into federations, jurisdictions and pioneer lodges within which Freemasons … meet in lodges of all degrees that have been granted a charter by the Supreme Council of the Order.
Due to the way Le Droit Humain is organized, we do not have patriarchs or matriarchs. We have had many Grand Masters who have left profound writings, as well as have past heads of the American Federation, but none is more influential than another.
Inspirationally, members often draw upon the same Masonic authors as members of other orders.
GS – So, let’s take a turn here and talk about something on the minds of both sides of the divide. As a membership society in a landscape of similar such bodies and organization how do you believe LDH is faring in the modern landscape?
DC – Over the last five years, the American Federation has increased its membership by nearly 50%.
GS – Where has that growth come from do you think? Is there an organizational push for growth or is it organic?
DC – I think there are a lot of factors – the thirst from humanity in general, increasing our visibility without proselytizing, and as is the case with other Orders, personal relationships.
GS – So where do you see le Droit Humain 5 years from now? How about 10 years from now?
DC – I expect to see more Lodges being formed in new areas and increased numbers in those that have already been established.
GS – If someone was interested in finding out more about le Droit or interested in associating with them in some capacity, what would you recommend to them? How could they go about it?
DC – Besides recommending the web pages, I would recommend completing the contact form on www.comasonic.org, because a person who is interested in learning more will be contacted personally. Requesting information on Facebook pages generally draws a personal response as well.
Dianne, thank you so much for taking the time to talk with me and share your thoughts. I definitely appreciate it and I know many reading, while perhaps not publicly, appreciate it too.
In or around the Babylon, New York, area in March? Br. John Nagy will be presenting a workshop on the symbols, meaning and landscape of Masonic ritual.
The Building Better Builders Workshop with Br. John Nagy Presented by the Masters, Wardens and Deacons Assoc. & the L.I. Past Masters Association.
Ritual is Masonry’s Veiled Road Maps. You must learn how to lift its Veils and read its Maps to Travel its Undiscovered Country.
This Workshop steps Masons through Ritual and Reveals to them Masonry’s rarely seen Terrain. Through instruction and examples, this Workshop helps develop Map Reading skills that further your Masonic Mastery.
Imagine Masonic Education that actually ‘Builds Better Builders!
Imagine receiving that Education for yourself! Br. John S. Nagy
Masons need Transformative Masonic Education! To address this need, Brother John S. Nagy created a series of books, articles and videos showing the Work that brings forth Masonic Mastery. His combined Works now assist Masons toward better Recognizing, Understanding and Executing the Masonic Work to which Freemasonry alludes. Like his other Works, this Workshop brings to Masons a much clearer and cleaner understanding of what is required to Build Better Builders.
The Transformation and Results That Masons Who Do the Work, Can Expect
Where: Babylon Masonic Temple
250 West Main St.
Babylon, NY 11702
When: March 8th 2014
Tickets: $20 – available online here.
Includes breakfast and lunch.
SATURDAY March 8th ACTIVITY AGENDA
8:00 – 9:00 – Registration/Coffee/Tea/Juice/etc. in Lodge Dining Hall
9:00 – 9:30 – Introductions and Overview – Lodge Room
9:30 -11:00 – The Entered Apprentice Work, Background & Results
11:10 -12:00 – The Fellow Craft Work, Background & Results
12:00 -12:50 – Break for Lunch in Lodge Dining Hall
1:00 – 2:00 – FC (cont.) / The Master Mason Work, Background & Results
2:10 – 3:00 – MM (cont.) / Three Degree Continuity & Interconnections
3:00 – 4:00 – Q&A and Wrap-up
About the Presenter:
Br. John S. Nagy is a Master Mason and member of Tampa Bay Lodge No. 252 in Tampa Bay Florida and the Florida Lodge of Research No. 999. Brother Nagy is Lodge Musician and a Masonic Education Provider for both his Lodges. He is also author of the Building Series of books “Uncommon Masonic Education”.
Coach Nagy is a contributing author to Further Light Magazine, Living Stones Magazine and The Working Tools Magazines. He is a Business Coach, Technical Advisor, a Florida Certified County Court Mediator and an Approved Assistant Mediator Trainer.
In this installment of the Sojourners column we meet and talk to a ‘young’, but accomplished, artist and Freemason – Ryan Flynn. With his art, Flynn brings to the fraternity an unmatched graphic skill to match the patient and certificate makers of old in their typographic excellence and aesthetic composition. Equal parts artist, graphic designer and a true Freemason, Flynn captures the essence of what it means to BE a mason – translating those esoteric ideas into traditional drawings and paintings. No, this is not the print, cut, carve, hack, hew, etch, letter or engraving of the secrets of Freemasonry, rather, Flynn’s work takes a post-modern approach into the little trod corner of the Masonic landscape by capturing it’s ideas in the rendered image. I think you’ll enjoy this Sojourner’s visit as much as I did and will come away from it with a new take on art and Freemasonry and the synthesis between them.
Greg Stewart (GS) – Ryan, thanks for taking the time out of your schedule and sitting down to talk to me. I suppose, let’s start with the basics on how long you’ve been a part of the fraternity?
GS – What was your first introduction to the fraternity?
RF – I had a couple of friends from other states join in 2008 and 2009 and it peaked my interest.
After doing some research on the craft, I called my local lodge and visited for dinner. The next week I put in my application.
GS – Do you remember what ultimately induced you to join?
RF – I am a history buff, more particularly an art history buff, and the idea of symbols in art and architecture was always something I enjoyed learning about.
I also was never part of the armed forces or anything else that served “something bigger than myself,” so when something like Masonry presented itself to me, I was intrigued and wanted to learn more.
GS – Since you’ve joined, have you found your way into any of the other bodies or related groups?
Ryan Flynn with one of his Codex images
RF – As of right now, I am the Junior Warden of Ancient York Lodge no.89 in Nashua, NH. I am a 32º Scottish Rite mason and member of the Philalethes Society and this upcoming year I plan on joining the York Rite.
GS – One of the things that intrigue me most is the artwork you create, in particular the Masonic art, much of it you have up on your website. With that in mind, I’m curious what your biggest influences to making it are?
RF – I have always been artistic. While attending high school, Lexington Christian Academy, my teachers realized this and always pushed me to be more artistic, even those teachers that taught classes that didn’t directly involve the fine arts. I particularly remember the motivation I received in World Literature class after reading Dante’s Divine Comedy with its amazing abstract symbolism. The work taught me to take symbolism in my art to another level.
As for history, my teachers were so impassioned with the subject that I couldn’t help but get motivated. I especially was intrigued with the history of art and the renaissance.
I was very fortunate with my high school. I had hands on training in painting, drawing, graphic design, stained-glass mosaic work, set design and sculpture. And my professor always pushed me harder than the others.
GS – Did you ever have any formal training? How did it influence you in your work now?
RF – After high school, I attended the University of Massachusetts and studied graphic design, painting, drawing and art history. Yet again, I was fortunate to have a professor that motivated me to learn more, and I started diving into learning about symbolism, sacred numerology and mythology.
In 2006, I studied painting and art history in Florence, Italy. I had the privilege of studying the great renaissance masters in person, and I particularly loved learning about the history of art, especially the beginnings of the renaissance. My time in Italy highly motivated me to create, and to create with purpose. I truly believe that I left for Italy as a student, and returned as an artist.
GS – How so? What changed?
RF – While attending college in Massachusetts, I was taught color theory, methods of lighting, brush work and drawing techniques, but MEANING was never discussed. Studying in Italy, I would have these moments of complete harmony with the art, moments to contemplate on what you are looking at, it changes you, and motivates you.
When I came back from Italy, I wanted to paint ideas, not images, and with being initiated into the craft, I had direction.
In Italy, I began to truly understand that works of art were really the culmination of research, practice and years of work. Michelangelo’s “David” transformed from a large nude man, to a blatant political statement, warning the enemies of Florence to fear the repercussions of challenging them. The Sistine Chapel became a lesson book for deep religious and philosophical thought, and at the same time a motivation to stand up to oppression and to use your mind and talents to bring light to others.
It was simply motivating. I recently returned to Florence, and found myself again, sketching, and really looking at the art and architecture again, this time with Masonic eyes. When I returned home, I immediately started working again. To put it plainly, Florence is with out question my muse.
GS – So, from your background, where do you see art mingling with Masonry? Do you think the two have always been in close proximity to one another?
RF – Masonry is based on art, and highly symbolic art at that. Our ancient brethren were artists, and anyone who has put a chisel to a piece of Marble understands how gifted and dedicated they were. And, just as I try to do with my work, they used their talents to share concepts that simply cannot be done by speaking. Hence why we as Free and Accepted Masons use symbols as the base of our degrees and lessons. I firmly believe that a successful work of art can sum up more feeling and emotion than a 30 minute lecture.
CODEX I: THE PILLARS Ryan Flynn
And there are great examples of artists predating what we would now call Freemasonry hiding symbols of what became the basis of our craft into their works. Artists like Albrecht Dürer, Michelangelo and William Blake made it a point to reference Pythagoras, Kabbalah and sacred geometry in their works because they knew it was important knowledge to pass down.
Masonic artists should be no different.
GS – For those who might be unfamiliar with your artwork, how would you describe it to them stylistically?
RF – I’ve dabbled in a lot of styles, but I have been working as of late in a style that mimics the medieval Italian style.
I have a mechanical method of creating; I always need to know how something works before I paint it. So when I learn something, I become motivated to create something referencing it. If anyone ever sees me in lodge, I’m always carrying a sketchbook and notebook. When listening to the ritual, sometimes I get an idea and need to jot it down.
Once I had a good amount of ideas in there I realized I had my own Codex, which inspired me to create my first Masonic series, the Middle Chamber Codex series, in which I re-organized some of my notes to mimic the codices of DaVinci. This in turn led me to try making illuminated documents.
My future works will continue in this style until I am led into something else, it’s one of the things I love about being an artist, I set my own path.
GS – Of the work up on your site, which is your favorites?
Master Mason Patents Ryan Flynn
RF – Without question my authentic Master Mason Patents.
I love the fact that is the real deal, real gold, real calf skin parchment and all by drawn by hand. I take a lot of pride in them. I also like that it’s the only work that the client does not see until it’s finished. I never do one the same as the others; everyone gets their own unique patent.
As any artist will tell you, to know that something you create will be around a lot longer then you will be is a comforting thought. And because they are authentic, these patents potentially can last for hundreds of years.
A little scene that keeps popping in my head is of my daughter’s great-grandson finding my patent a hundred years from now and seeing how much Masonry meant to me.
GS – This may be out there a bit, but do you see juxtaposition between Masonic art and, say, more obscure, esoteric, or symbolic art?
RF – Absolutely, Masonry is about gaining light. And all forms of art can produce amazing “Eureka” moments in the viewers mind. I find that looking at abstract art can be a wonderful method of meditation and reflection.
GS – Your work, how do you create it? Is it hand made, mixed or digital media?
RF –Each project is a little different, but it all starts with pencil on paper.
Codex Series Prints Ryan Flynn
Pretty much with all my prints I will hand draw elements of the project on paper, then scan them in and position and color digitally. For my Limited Edition prints, I then Gicleé print them and complete them by hand, coloring them with metallic infused inks.
As for the authentic patents, they are 100% hand made. I order only the finest parchment from a small family owned company in upstate New York. And once they arrive I press them for a couple days under some large books to keep it flat. Then I sketch out my design on paper and using a small tracing table that I built, transfer it to the parchment. It’s a time consuming process with no room for error. If I mess up, I start over. After the sketch is completed, I ink it with high quality inks. Finally, when that is done, I Apply 23kt gold leaf and a wax seal that I designed.
As for my watercolors and paintings, they are all 100% from the brush. I sketch out my projects with light graphite and start applying the paint from light to dark.
GS – Have you had much response to your work from the Masonic world? What’s been the response?
RF – When I originally produced the window designs for my lodge, the images went viral, I think they were shared on Facebook over 1000 times, and they were featured on the covers of some magazines, I was in shock at how many people adored them.
My codex series was a big hit. I unveiled them at the Masonic Restoration Symposium in August and had many brothers not only purchase them, but have long conversations with me about why it was important to masonry for me to continue creating them.
I also have received some welcomed support by some fellow brothers. My good friend, Wor. Paul C. Smith, has helped me by pointing me towards information, by offering me council as well as recommending books and reading. His help has been immeasurable.
GS – Your patients look like illuminated manuscripts from the middle ages. How did you master that technique? Is there a subtext to styling them the way you styled them?
RF – Easy, I haven’t mastered it.
When I finished my first one, I looked back and said to myself “this is amazing.” Then I did my second one and it blew the first one away. As for training, having extensive knowledge in drawing, painting and design can lead you to learn anything you want.
Some things didn’t work out so well. I tried to create my own inks and failed miserably at it. I’ll try again soon.
As for gold leaf techniques, I learned by making mistakes. I bought some faux gold leaf and applied it to heavy paper and spare scraps of parchment. It took me 3 or 4 tries to get it to work the way I want.
GS – Given your proximity with Masonry and the arts, beyond the work you create are there any artists or artistic influences that come to mind that you think should (or do) have an influence on Masonry?
RF – As for the fine arts, I encourage every lodge to have someone take the time and learn about Filipo Brunelleschi, Michelangelo and William Blake.
Brunelleschi, for those who are not familiar with him, started the renaissance by stepping back, travelling and learning about geometry, science and the knowledge of the past. This to me sounds like the perfect example of what we as masons should strive to accomplish.
Michelangelo should be a patron saint of symbolism. He knew of Kabbalah, sacred geometry and numerology and he put in into all of his masterpieces. The Sistine chapel is a love letter to the Kabbalah, and learning about how he hid those messages into this work will open up your eyes on how to contemplate on a work art.
And Blake – Blake is the prime example of what a Masonic artists should strive to be. His tremendous works engulf the viewers with blatant Masonic symbolism, but upon further inspection, the real messages can be found within. Each of his paintings could be its own lecture in lodge.
GS – So what’s next, any new Masonic works on the horizon?
RF – I carry around with me a notebook of all my potential works. I don’t want to reveal most of them yet because I have not perfected them, and as any artist or writer will tell you, a first or second draft will rarely look like the final project.
However, I can say that I have detailed plans for a tracing board that will be like nothing else in Freemasonry. I’m also working on an illuminated manuscript of the Middle Chamber lecture and a series of prints that mimic the Egyptian style.
Unfortunately all my big projects require funds so it’s a slow and steady process, but God willing I have a lot of time to get working and make and hopefully make a small difference in Masonry.
My thanks to Ryan, to whom I appreciate the taking of his time. I very much appreciate his tremendous body of artwork and will definitely keep an eye out for your up coming projects. You can see more of Ryan Flynn’s artwork at his website, and, if you’re in the New Hampshire area, you can see Ryan’s lodge windows in person by visiting Ancient York Lodge.
Esoterica, anti-Masonry and the Scottish Rite with Grand Archivist and Historian
In this installment of Sojourners, noted author, editor, and translator Arturo de Hoyos takes some time to discuss anti-Masonry, esoterica, and his work and role as the Grand Archivist and Grand Historian of the Supreme Council of the Scottish Rite in the Southern Jurisdiction.
His biography on Amazon reads that he is considered“America’s foremost scholar on the history, rituals, and symbolism of Scottish Rite Freemasonry, and most other Masonic orders, rites, and systems,” a claim that readily becomes apparent in even just a few brief minutes of talking with him.
Greg Stewart (GS) – Br. de Hoyos, thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule. I’d like to start with the basics by asking how long have you been a Mason? Do you recall who or what ultimately induced you to become one?
Arturo de Hoyos (AdH) – I’ve been a Mason about 26 years. I was actually interested in joining earlier, but didn’t know any Masons. When I was a kid, I grew up in Utah. My parents are LDS and, when I was young, I was raised in their faith. Although I no longer share their religious views, I was intrigued when I learned that Joseph Smith, Jr., the founder of Mormonism was a Mason, as were many of its other early leaders.
As I began to investigate Masonry I was impressed with its principles, its unique system of morality, by its antiquity, legends and rituals. The notion of men meeting upon the level, uniting in a common good irrespective of nationality or creed appealed to me. A couple of years after moving to Texas I attended an open house at my local lodge (McAllen No. 1110), and asked for a petition. Remarkably, I was the only person to attend that night, but I’m glad they left the lights on, and I think it also paid off for them. At least I hope so!
GS – Did your experience live up to the expectations you had built up about it?
AdH – Joining definitely lived up to my expectations. I found the ritual very satisfying and the members of my mother lodge amazing. The secretary was a Past Grand Master and Thirty-third Degree Scottish Rite Mason, and we had the strongest lodge in the Rio GrandeValley.
My lodge has given Texas three Grand Masters, of whom we’re quite proud. We were frequently called upon to confer degrees in other lodges, and several of our members were expert ritualists. But it was more than that. There was a genuine comradery amongst the members, which I can honestly (and perhaps sadly) say I haven’t seen equaled in other lodges.
GS – How so?
Although I’ve certainly enjoyed my lodge experiences elsewhere, I felt that my mother lodge had a perfect balance.
Perhaps it’s an idealized reflection like one’s “first love,” but there was such a deep affection and friendship among the members, that we were willing to help each other at the drop of a hat. There was a warm spirit in the lodge, and a sense of pride that we had several members capable of conferring all the work and giving all the lectures. If someone was ill, we’d show up and help with whatever we could. It was like the The Lodge in Friendship Village, if you’re familiar with the book.
GS – Without a doubt your role with the Supreme Council speaks to your affinity with the material, but I’m curious what lead you into your role?
AdH – It’s pretty easy to get my position. You simply have to read everything on Masonry ever written, remember most of it, and then write about it.
I’m joking of course, but it was my fascination with everything Masonic that eventually got me here.
I am, first and foremost, a bibliophile. Once I joined I read everything I could get on Masonry, including things like Mackey’s and Coil’s encyclopedias, cover-to-cover. The first Masonic book I wrote was a response to anti-Masonry in which I revealed all the sources used in a sermon against the fraternity, and showed how the speaker was disingenuous.
Although the speaker didn’t reveal them all, I was familiar enough with Masonic literature, that I recognized his unreferenced sources, and knew what was taken out of context, and paraphrased or distorted.
GS – Do you remember who that preacher was and the sermon that you rebutted?
AdH – I do, The preacher which caused me to respond was Dr. Ron Carlson (d. 2011) [he] made a living selling anti-Masonic tapes, and giving anti-Masonic sermons, along with bashing other faiths which were not his brand of Christianity.
GS – The sermon was Freemasonry, Masonic Lodge and the Shriners Are Not Compatible with Biblical Christianity. Did Carlson ever respond to your book?
AdH – Carlson refused to debate me publicly, even though he was the one who made the offer.
GS – So then, how does one become a Grand Archivist and Historian in the Rite?
AdH – I have tried to learn about every aspect of Freemasonry: its history, symbolism, and ritual. I have tried to read and study something about the history and rituals of every Masonic organization on the planet, in order to understand how they are interrelated, and grasp their inner teachings. This is not an easy task, and my abilities as a polyglot were a great help. Stubbornness is also useful!
For about 20 years I’ve served on the board of the Scottish Rite Research Society, and had previously done some contract work for the Supreme Council over the years. I had also traveled to DC on my own and would spend days at a time researching in the library and archives when I was researching the origins of Morals and Dogma. I knew the library and archives so well that they’d actually call me in Texas to ask where something was located.
When the position opened, Bro. Kleinknecht called me and invited me to fly to Washington to discuss it. I accepted.
GS – Knowing what you know now, would you do it again?
AdH – Yes, I would. It’s involved a tremendous amount of work, but has been rewarding.
GS – Is there any one instance that would sum up your role as the Grand Archivist and Historian? Any good take aways from the experience?
AdH – I believe that my role is to preserve and disseminate Masonic light and knowledge. One of the things I’ve tried to do is publish and/or write books which I wish had existed when I was a younger Mason. It was well-nigh impossible to find some of the things I’ve published when I was younger.
What have I taken away? The satisfaction of knowing that I kept true to my obligation as a Past Master to share Masonic light and knowledge with my Brethren.
GS – So, I’d like to delve into an area that is a personal favorite of mine. Very often terms like occult, esoteric, mystical and so on get tossed around in the definitions of descriptions of Masonry. I’m curious, from your perspective, what do you see as the role of these esoteric aspects?
AdH – Some people see Freemasonry as the outer fraternity to an inner mystery. Certainly, some types of Freemasonry employ symbols common to the esoteric schools and to alchemy, but not all types of Freemasons do. There’s a question as to how, and whence it derived its esoteric symbolism.
Our Masonic forefathers were familiar with the interests of their day, and as well as the popular contemporary literature. Freemasonry is both eclectic and organic. It uses symbols to teach lessons in a way very similar to the books of Choice Emblemspublished throughout its formative years in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth centuries.
These books assigned moral meanings to the square, compasses, skull and cross bones, pelican, and other familiar symbols. They taught virtues like constancy, zeal, brotherly-love, and even used the bee hive as an emblem of industry. I think we must have borrowed symbols from them as well as from alchemical texts, which I believe I demonstrated in an article I published 20 years ago on the Royal Arch word (The Mystery of the Royal Arch Word, Heredom, Vol 2., 1993)
But what role does it all play if our teachings don’t have any practical purpose? If they have none, they aren’t really of value. I think they are there to point us to further fields of study, as do other things mentioned in Masonry, like the orders of architecture, or the cardinal virtues.
Freemasonry states its truths, and points the way to education, admonishing us to learn the greatest mystery: who and what we are, and what our obligations are. Freemasonry is “occult” in the sense that its mysteries are hidden or concealed, which it the literal meaning of the word. I do believe that Masonic ritual conceals its truths in unique ways which are esoteric, but Masonry does not teach practical magic. It is not an occult school in that sense, as Pike makes clear in a couple of places.
GS – This may dive even deeper, but what do you see as some of the deeper meanings of Scottish Rite Masonry? Is it a subject that can easily be distilled down into a few sentences?
AdH – Scottish Rite Masonry is the intelligent advocate of the principles of an enlightened society. It advances the notion that we can create an empire of reason and wise morality, and its degrees provide practical examples, in symbolic form, of what is necessary to achieve this. It prompts us to consider ourselves as integral to the advancement of the human race, and challenges us to make ourselves fitting to the task. It teaches us that duty is the one great law of Masonry, and obligates us to its performance stressing that we must come to understand the great mystery of who and what we are: mortal in body, although immortal by the results of our actions.
GS – You’ve spent a great deal of time surrounded by Pike’s writings, ideas and ephemera. Do you have a sense of what he was ultimately trying to communicate in the body of all his work? Did what he was trying to say change over time and do you think his ideas work in the world today?
As he matured, [Pike] discarded some of the popular but unfounded notions on the origins of Masonry, and realized that Freemasonry’s practical value lay in its ability to transform lives for the better, but he believed it also assured us of a future existence after this life.
Pike’s ideas continue to be valuable today because human nature is the same. Technology is merely a tool for humans; it doesn’t modify who we are. Pike notions of Masonry inspire men to greatness.
His ritual revisions provide valuable teachings in a profound and simple way, which resonates with the thinking man who has overcome the notions and credulities of childhood.
GS – So, from the depths of the esoteric, I’d like to come back up and talk about the Supreme Council in general. I’m curious what you see as the greatest strengths of the Scottish Rite and how that compares with the strengths of lodge masonry? Do you see the two as different institutions on similar paths or one and the same occupying the same space?
AdH – In my view, the strength of the Supreme Council lies in its coherence and stability.
Unlike Grand Lodges, [the Scottish Rite’s] government does not change every year, or every couple of years which permits the Scottish Rite to set and follow its goals without fearing they’ll be discarded in twelve months.
Grand Lodges are necessary and useful, and not in any way a competition to the Scottish Rite. In fact, I believe that Scottish Rite adds value to the Blue Lodge by its coherence. The best Scottish Rite Masons I know are strong supporters of the Grand Lodges.
I agree with Pike when he said,
“Let us … always remember, that first of all and above all, we are Master Masons; and wherever we work and labor, calling ourselves Masons, let us work and labor to elevate and dignify Blue Masonry; for we owe to it all that we are in the Order; and whatever we may be elsewhere, we are always amenable to its law and its tribunals, and always concerned to maintain and magnify its honor and glory.”
GS – Is there any one artifact, work, item or book that you feel really stands out as a jewel in the crown of the Rite that readers might not have heard of before?
AdH – That’s tough. I believe that Esoterika is such a jewel.
Before I published it, almost no one knew that Pike had written a book on Blue Lodge symbolism, since there were only two handwritten copies in the world.
Of course, Morals and Dogma is a masterpiece of an anthology on comparative religion and philosophy. The 20 years I spent reverse-engineering the text, and the 4000 notes I put in my published annotated edition taught me a hell of a lot along the way. It’s quite remarkable when read with the notes, if I can flatter myself for a moment.
GS – One last question, who is the person who influenced you the most?
AdH – Masonically, it’s not Albert Pike.
I know that may surprise some people, but the Mason I respect most is Giles F. Yates (1799-1859), of Schenectady and Albany, who was once a member of our Supreme Council, but later transferred to the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction eventually becoming Grand Commander.
Yates was indefatigable. He revived Francken’s Lodge of Perfection, authored the first Scottish Rite Monitor, wrote the first ritual revisions of the Scottish Rite, wrote an etymological study of its secret words, and pushed J.J.J. Gourgas to revive the Scottish Rite in the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction following the Morgan affair. He was an antiquarian, and built the Schenectady Lyceum and Academy which future President Chester A. Arthur attended. There’s much more I could say about Bro. Yates, but let me sum it up by saying he was an amazing man and Mason. His personal motto was “prodesse quam conspici” (accomplish rather than be conspicuous).
My thanks to brother de Hoyos for taking the time out of his busy schedule to spend some time as one of our Sojourners.
You can find more information on the Scottish Rite by visiting their website.