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.
Registration is now open for the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library symposium
Perspectives on American Freemasonry and Fraternalism
April 11, 2014
From the Library:
The Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library announces its symposium, Perspectives on American Freemasonry and Fraternalism, to be held Friday, April 11, 2014.
This day-long symposium seeks to present the newest research on American fraternal groups from the past through the present. By 1900, over 250 American fraternal groups existed, numbering six million members. The study of their activities and influence in the United States, past and present, offers the potential for new interpretations of American society and culture.
The symposium program is as follows:
“’The Farmer Feeds Us All’: The Origins and Evolution of a Grange Anthem,” Stephen Canner, Independent Scholar
“Painted Ambition: Notes on Some Early Masonic Wall Painting,” Margaret Goehring, Assistant Professor of Art History, New Mexico State University
“The Colored Knights of Pythias,” Stephen Hill, Sr., Phylaxis Society
“Mid-Nineteenth Century Masonic Lodges: Middle-Class Families in the Absence of Women,” Kristen M. Jeschke, Adjunct Professor, DeVry University
“Pilgrimage and Procession: The Knights Templar Triennial Conclaves and the Dream of the American West,” Adam Geoffrey Kendall, Henry Wilson Coil Library & Museum of Freemasonry, Grand Lodge of F. & A.M. of California
“Bragging Brethren and Solid Sisters? Contrasting Mobilization Patterns Among Male and Female Orders During the Spanish-American War,“ Jeffrey Tyssens, Professor of Contemporary History, Vrije Universiteit Brussels
Participants’ choice of a staff-led tour of “A Sublime Brotherhood: Two Hundred Years of Scottish Rite Freemasonry in the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction,” a behind-the-scenes tour of the Museum collections or a tour of highlights from the Van Gorden-Williams Library and Archives.
Registration, open now through March 21, 2014, is $65 ($60 for Museum members) and includes morning refreshments, lunch, and a closing reception. The registration form with full instructions and details can be found on the Museum’s website at www.monh.org.
For more information, contact Hilary Anderson Stelling, Director of Exhibitions and Audience Development, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 781-457-4121.
The Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library is dedicated to presenting exhibitions and programs on a wide variety of topics in American history and popular culture. The Museum is supported by the Scottish Rite Freemasons in the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction of the United States. The Museum is located at 33 Marrett Road in Lexington at the corner of Route 2A and Massachusetts Avenue. The Museum is open Wednesday through Saturday from 10 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Admission to the Museum is free. For further information contact the Museum at 781-861-6559.
Brother Wayne Anderson of Canada publishes a Masonic newsletter that he sends out to subscribers every Sunday. The newsletter consists of a paper or lecture often times delivered or published many years ago. But as we all know there is a lot about Freemasonry that is timeless. If you would like to receive this newsletter just get in contact with Brother Anderson at email@example.com and he will make you a subscriber. Today’s paper is “He Was A Mason.”
He Was a Mason
by Roger M. Firestone, 32 KCCH
This article appeared in the June 1996 issue of The Scottish Rite Journal, published by The Supreme Council, 33°, Southern Jurisdiction, of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite.
It happens nearly every day in the major newspapers of our cities. A prominent citizen’s obituary appears with a substantial headline. The writer begins with the most recent details age, cause of death, current residence. There follow several paragraphs recounting the eminent man’s life. He was president of his country club, he headed this or that charity drive, he was an executive of these corporations, he attended such and such a college and high school, he was on the board of trustees of his religious congregation, and so on, often for a substantial number of column inches. Finally, towards the end of the obituary, just before the funeral arrangements are specified and the survivors listed, we find the brief sentence, “He was a Mason.”
Curious, isn’t it? Although the remaining details of his career were copiously enumerated, his Masonic activities are summarized in one sentence. Perhaps he was Master of his Lodge, serving “in line” for as long as eight years to reach that station. It could be that he gave his time instead as presiding officer in one of the several York or Scottish Rite bodies. Maybe he took a number of parts in the many degrees of the two Rites. Or perhaps he was one of those who had less skill in memorization but took other responsibilities: for costumes or dining services or Masonic blood programs, even receiving an honorary distinction from the Scottish Rite for many years of such faithful “behind-the-scenes” service. Possibly he was active with one or more youth groups under Masonic sponsorship, giving up his football game-watching on weekends with the other guys to raise funds at car washes or driving cars full of teenagers to annual meetings in distant parts of the state. He might have been a superior fund-raiser for the Shriners’ children’s hospitals, or even represented the Lodge in local civic activities, such as parades for patriotic holidays. Yet none of these is mentioned by the newspaper writer, who was given as much space as seemed necessary to outline other aspects of the career of a distinguished man.
Of course, we might suppose that it is the editor’s decision that Masonic activities are not of interest to the general public, being that they are the doings of a secretive and selective body. It is not obvious how that position might be reconciled with mention of the man’s country-club presidency, which is probably pleased to have an exclusive membership, or his church activities, relevant only to members of the same denomination, or even his rise to prominence in a business corporation, whose internal doings are often cloaked in secrecy as deep as that of any Masonic body. When Masons constitute more than one percent of the adult male population, and almost certainly a larger percentage of those who actually read something besides the sports pages in the newspaper, the reasoning behind such an editor’s position may be strained.
It is more likely that lack of knowledge about the role that Masonry plays in our society contributes to the brief treatment Masonic activities received in the obituary. Other than the Shriners’ Hospitals, few Masonic charities receive any kind of regular mention in the press. And even those Hospitals are still thought of by much of the public as being for crippled children, often overlooking their more recent important role in the treatment of and research into serious burn injuries. Scottish Rite aphasia work, Royal Arch Research Assistance, Masonic cancer hospitals–all find the most infrequent acknowledgement of their contributions to society. The same is true of Masonic service projects, even on a local scale. Did Masons help organize the local Independence Day celebration or aid in cleaning up some poorly-maintained parkland in your town? How would anyone know, if you don’t tell them? When writing a monthly Lodge bulletin is a burden, there is even less likelihood that a newspaper press release is going to be prepared by the secretary, junior warden, or whomever. Perhaps the obituary writer never even had the information about the man’s Masonic career because his family didn’t know it was important, or his Lodge failed to provide the details.
We should not be surprised that a man’s Masonic career is little noted in the memorial of his passing. This is nothing new in Masonic history, after all. According to our traditions, it was at the very founding of our order that a great Masonic architect was rudely interred without proper recognition of his contributions to the Fraternity. In later history, it was often to be that Masons would suffer punishment or even martyrdom for their membership in and contributions to the Craft and to the principles of freedom. Against such a background, mere indifference could even be considered to be an improvement. Yet how much better off might our world be if the contributions of Masons and Masonry were more widely recognized and encouraged? How many more young men might be set on the course of self-improvement through Masonic membership if the examples of great men as Masons were better known? For the past two centuries of American history, a nearly-constant one-third of the leaders of our country, beginning with the signers of the Declaration of Independence and including all three branches of the government, have been Masons. This is a far higher proportion than in the population as a whole. Did Masonry provide these men with the inspiration and training to achieve leadership roles in the country? Did Masonic principles guide their thinking when tough decisions had to be made? For presidents such as George Washington and Harry Truman, the answers can only be “yes.” Of others–those in Congress and the judiciary–we know much less. These are stories that must be told to the rest of the world, not just among ourselves. “He was a Mason” appearing in an obituary is too little evidence to inspire the uninitiated to seek Masonic light.
However, there is one sense in which we may take pride in the way such an obituary is written. When “He was a Mason” appears at the end of the article, it serves as what the accountants call “the bottom line,” a phrase that refers to the number indicating whether an enterprise has showed a profit or a loss. To those who measure things by numbers, everything above the bottom line is simply a detail, one element of many that go to make up the big picture as represented by the final total. Seen in this light, the many contributions the deceased man made to society are parts of a totality. They do not stand alone, independent and unrelated to one another. Each gift this man made to his family, his fellows, and his country were components of that whole summarized in the final words, “He was a Mason.”
Masonic honors and titles are of limited value anyway. They mean much among brothers and companions, somewhat less among family and friends, and little indeed to the non-Masonic world. But if each of us resolves to live according to the principles we embraced when we became members of this ancient and honorable institution, we should be pleased to reflect that there is no higher honor to come to us when our lives are complete than that they should be summed up by that simple but profound phrase, “He was a Mason.”
Many American Masons now know of the story of Brothers Corey Bryson and Duke Fortesque and their separation from the Grand Lodge of Florida. Both men were hit hard by having to leave Freemasonry.
But Bryson has gone from despair to joy in just a few short months. Sometimes when one door closes another door opens. And if you are observant and open to a new challenge then walking through that new door feels really awesome.
And that is where Bryson is now having just returned from Salt Lake City where he was adopted into Lodge Athena No. 2009 in the International Masonic Order DELPHI, mixed gender Freemasonry.
At one time in our history when the population was less mobile, Mainstream Lodges in each hamlet and village had a monopoly on the Craft. But times have changed and so has our mobility. But the biggest change has been the advent of the Information Age. As Mainstream Masonry has squashed individual initiative, the free thinkers and has expelled far too many good Masons, alternatives to traditional Masonry are now available.
Now, whether new or discarded, male or female, Christian or not, Black, White, Red or Yellow, Americans can peruse the Internet and find Co-Masonic, Mixed Gender Lodges such as the International Masonic Order DELPHI, Prince Hall Freemasonry and others to choose from. The monopoly of Mainstream Masonry is being broken and its arrogance thwarted.
Corey Bryson has found a new home and it is one he says he might have eventually gravitated to in time anyway. He points to the non judgmental nature of Delphi, how open and unfettered the Masonic experience is when it’s not set up as a closed society.
Bryson explains that there is less focus on memorization and more emphasis on the meaning of the philosophy of Freemasonry. Every newly initiated member receives a written copy of the degree and ritual for their own personal continued education. Sometime later, they must present their “impressions” of their initiation to their Brothers and Sisters in Lodge. Delphi Masons are required to think not just be a parrot.
Delphi uses Scottish Rite ritual rather than Preston-Webb. This does make for some differences that former Mainstream Masons will notice. For instance there is no cable tow nor exposed breast. The configuration of the Lodge room puts the Senior Warden’s station in the North West. The connection between South-West-East forms a triangle. Delphi also uses the Chamber of Reflection.
The overall emphasis of Delphi mixed gendered Freemasonry, Bryson tells us, is on esoteric study and knowledge. Delphi is more spiritually open, he says, and appeals much more to seekers than traditional Freemasonry. It is far less a social club and much more a place of self improvement.
Bryson will be a member of Delphi’s latest U.S. Lodge in Tampa, Florida, Phoenix Triangle (UD). There are 6 people who have already applied for membership. They also have a place to meet. Members of Delphi nationwide are now handcrafting brand new furniture for the latest Triangle.
For Corey Bryson a new day has dawned. Before concluding my interview with him I asked him if this experience had changed him in any way. He said that he was now far less cynical than he was just a year ago. My faith in humankind has been restored, he said. That means that for Corey Bryson the glass is now half full instead of being half empty.
The Beehive is proud to present once again a paper that comes from the weekly Masonic Newsletter of Brother Wayne Anderson of Canada. Anderson sends out a new article each Sunday and to get on the mailing list all one needs to do is to E-Mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Leon Zeldis, an Israeli Freemasonry, is a towering figure in Masonic leadership and Masonic literature.
In this paper from the Inaugural Lecture pronounced on the establishment of the Dr. Ren 0 Gar0a Valenzuela Chair of Philosophical and Masonic Studies, Universidad La Repblica, Santiago, Chile, 12 September 1996 he tells us:
“As another millennium comes to an end, we observe the growing chasm between our ever accelerating technological progress and the immobility – if not backsliding – in the moral and intellectual development of the human race. We should not be surprised, then, if apocalyptic movements and fanatical cults appear here and there, with increasing frequency.”
Zeldis explains that what Freemasonry is all about, what its calling in the world is first:
“In my opinion, the first fundamental principle that sustains our institution, more important that charity, mutual help, tolerance, and all other virtues that we cultivate, is simply personal responsibility. Masonry gives us support, shows the way, stimulates us and tends us the symbolic tools to make our task easier, but in the final account, it’s ourselves who must wield the tools, each at his own pace, following his own music and way through life. That is personal responsibility.”
And secondly he adds:
“The second principle, no less important than the first, is the possibility of finding a common ground, of working together, involving collaboration and developing feelings of fraternal affection among persons with the most diverse backgrounds, with different social and ethnic origins, speaking diverse languages, belonging to different cultures, religions and political movements. Despite all these enormous differences, which Freemasonry recognizes and accepts, it still insists in demonstrating that there is a common level of humanity that binds us all, a joint yearning towards the far distant goal that makes us fellow travelers on the road to truth. Our ideal is capable of surmounting all inequalities.”
This is a monumental work and deserves to be read in its entirety.
Projection of the Values of Freemasonry in its Actions for the Benefit of Society
Leon Zeldis, FPS
If there is something in which the majority of contemporary thinkers are in agreement, is that we are experiencing a world crisis. As somebody said: “God is dead, communism has fallen, and I myself don’t feel so good.” From the sublime to the ridiculous in less than twenty words.
There is talk of a crisis of values, the end of ideology, the oil crisis, the ozone crisis, the AIDS crisis, the economic crisis. Sometimes it appears that the word crisis is in crisis because of overuse.
The fact is, whether a situation of crisis does exist or not, the sensation of crisis undoubtedly does, and this is almost the same thing.
It is not only anxiety due to uncertainty about the future. The malaise affecting us has deeper roots, and perhaps less conscious as well. The Angst of our time is comparable to the sensation of somebody who is sliding down a slope without being able to reduce his speed, or seeing what. lies behind the net hillock. Worse still, he doesn’t know why he is there in the first place. The “future shock” brilliantly predicted by a writer a few years ago is no longer in the future, but a daily reality. Knowledge acquired with great effort in the course of years becomes outdated in a matter of weeks. We have hardly finished learning a new computer program when another appears, better than the previous one… and different. The problems of work, in the family, in society, are becoming more severe. We are sick of novelties.
As another millennium comes to an end, we observe the growing chasm between our ever accelerating technological progress and the immobility – if not backsliding – in the moral and intellectual development of the human race. We should not be surprised, then, if apocalyptic movements and fanatical cults appear here and there, with increasing frequency.
To speak of the new Middle Ages has become hackneyed. Berdiaeff, the Russian philosopher, writing after World War 1, already gave this tide to one of his books. The death of God was proclaimed by Nietzsche over a century ago. So let us leave aside these shopworn concepts, and within the limited space we have available let us examine instead in what way we might alleviate our condition, even if perfect solutions are not within our reach.
Better light a candle than curse the darkness, says the old Chinese aphorism. This is precisely my intention. It could not be otherwise, taking into consideration the optimist and meliorist vision of the human condition implicit in our Masonic ideology.
Freemasonry proclaims the possibility of improving society, starting with the betterment of the individual. Hence the vital importance our Order assigns to education, as a means of advancement and rectification, both of the individual and of society as a whole. Education is the best medicine against prejudice and intolerance. Education is the highest form of charity.
However, education, commented Kraus, is something most people receive, many transmit, but very few have. The problem, as with so many other philosophical questions, lies in the definition of our terms. If education is conceived as simply a transfer of information, we shall fall into the condition observed by Trevelyan: a great many people know how to read, but are incapable of recognizing what is worth reading.
Condorcet, in 1790, clearly indicated the ends of public education, and the first objective he postulated is the following: “Offer all individuals of the human species the means to provide for their needs, ensure their welfare, know and exercise their rights, understand and fulfill their duties.” Please note: not a word about mere accumulation of knowledge. We could hardly improve on this definition, even today.
Nowadays, data is obtained with utmost ease. It’s enough to have access to a computer terminal, and the whole world of information is at your fingertips. If we suffer, it’s not because we lack information, but because we are overwhelmed by it. We have a surfeit of information. The importance of education is precisely the acquisition of a capacity to judge, to categorize, to personally classify and evaluate the quality of the information received, not only from the factual, but also from the ethical and teleological standpoints.
Particularly in our present world, submerged in a maelstrom of stimuli and distractions that pull us apart from the essential, where, as noted by Umberto Eco, the mass media do not restrict themselves to transmitting an ideology, but have become an ideology themselves, the spirit of serene and academic examination is a last refuge of the thinking man.
The university thus becomes the fortress of Humanism, the forum where all ideas are brandished and debated within the greatest freedom, restricted only by the freedom of others . That, likewise, is the function that must assume Masonry in its Temples, and that is only one parallel among many that link both institutions, University and Freemasonry.
This may be an opportune moment to underline the fact that Masonry, as a social and historical phenomenon, must be studied as part of the History of Ideas, and its philosophy, without question, belongs in the stream of philosophical ideas of Western civilization and is inseparable from it.
The same refreshing and humanistic impulse introduced in Europe during the Renaissance, that led to the study of the classics and brought about a rebirth of architecture, beginning with Bacon established the bases of the inductive and experimental method of scientific research that would eventually lead to the development of present day science. This creative impulse resulted in the foundation of the Royal Society of England in 1660, the first society devoted to scientific research, and on the other hand, it found expression in the creation of the premier Grand Lodge in London, on June 24, 1717. It need not surprise us to learn that many personalities in science and philosophy were active in creating the one and the other.
Putting together science and philosophy is not accidental. The roots of modern science lie in Renaissance philosophy — and Natural Philosophy was an early name for physical science.
Freemasonry is intimately connected with social changes and the development of ideas in Europe in the 17th and 18th centuries. No serious study of the beginnings of Speculative Masonry, for example, can ignore the role played in English society at the time by the important influx of Huguenots, fleeing France after the St. Bartholomew massacre. According to one author, the most important single English contributor to the Enlightenment was John Locke, who believed in religious toleration and was in almost unbroken contact with French-speaking Protestants from 1675 until his death in 1704. A Huguenot, John Theophilus Desaguliers (1683-1744) who was a scientist of note, had an important influence on the beginnings of English Freemasonry, serving as its third Grand Master (1719) and later as Deputy Grand Master for several years.
Likewise, a serious study of Masonic philosophy must address the Rosicrucian phenomenon in the 16th and 17th century, the development of the Hebrew Cabala and its Christian offshoot, the different semi-secret and semi-occult groups that flourished in Europe from the end of the Middle Ages until the Victorian age, from Dante Alighieri’s Fideli D’amore through Baron Tschoudy’s pseudo-Templars and down to the Golden Dawn created by Wynn Wescott and MacGregor Mathers in the last decades of the 19th century.
On the other hand, a study of European or Western philosophy that ignores Masonry is also incomplete. A writer of the stature of Lessing (called the first German playwright of importance) could author the “Masonic Dialogs”, and poets such as Kipling and Burns wrote many a Masonic poem, apart from the influence Masonic thought may have had on their work.
However, let us return to the theme proposed at the beginning of my talk. Having observed the prevailing malaise of our “global village” and having established the validity and placement of Masonic philosophy within an academic framework, we should focus now our attention on the principles of Masonry, on the one side, and in what way could they be applied in order to assuage, as far as possible, the existential anguish of contemporary man.
An objection could be advanced, that such study is pointless, because we would be guilty of hubris if we were to pretend that the discussions held within a Lodge or any other Masonic context could really affect the course of events in our society.
However, the pen is mightier than the sword. Men pass away, and their memory fades until only a distant reflection of their presence remains with us. But ideas stay forever, embodied in words capable of stirring our passions no less today than centuries ago.
And what are those ideas, transmitted by our Order, that we believe capable of improving the world? I can only graze the surface of our subject. I shall try, then, to summarize our Masonic teachings in two fundamental principles, like the two columns at the entrance to King Solomon’s Temple. These may not be the same ideas enunciated elsewhere by other Masonic authors, but I will ask you to bear with me for a moment.
In my opinion, the first fundamental principle that sustains our institution, more important that charity, mutual help, tolerance, and all other virtues that we cultivate, is simply personal responsibility. To Cain’s anguished question, resounding from century to century to our days, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” we give a ringing and unequivocal reply: ‘Yes, I am!”.
Let me explain a little further. We want to improve the world, but improving the world is a very complicated and difficult task, depending not only on us, but on many others, as well as on many circumstances that we are powerless to affect. On the other hand, our personal improvement, that depends only on our own resolve, it’s our decision and nobody else’s. Every human being is capable of polishing his imperfections, restraining his bad impulses, developing his positive inclinations, without requesting anybody’s permission, under any circumstances, in any place and time. If we want to, we can be better.
Masonry gives us support, shows the way, stimulates us and tends us the symbolic tools to make our task easier, but in the final account, it’s ourselves who must wield the tools, each at his own pace, following his own music and way through life. That is personal responsibility.
The second principle, no less important than the first, is the possibility of finding a common ground, of working together, involving collaboration and developing feelings of fraternal affection among persons with the most diverse backgrounds, with different social and ethnic origins, speaking diverse languages, belonging to different cultures, religions and political movements. Despite all these enormous differences, which Freemasonry recognizes and accepts, it still insists in demonstrating that there is a common level of humanity that binds us all, a joint yearning towards the far distant goal that makes us fellow travelers on the road to truth. Our ideal is capable of surmounting all inequalities.
Working together, we develop our sentiments of Fraternity and Charity, Tolerance and Assistance. This great principle, which we might call Fraternal Cohesion, the possibility of establishing and developing links of sincere friendship among all men, is perhaps our greatest contribution to society, so often riven by class, religion and politics, not to speak of prejudice and blind hatred.
Fraternal Cohesion finds expression both in the spiritual and the material realms. In the spiritual, by the instant effective communication that develops between Masons who have never met before, and may never meet again. No less important, it grows within us, and the assistance given to others miraculously creates within us a wealth of inner satisfaction and development. In the material, this principle finds expression in the many works of charity and social benefit undertaken by Masons institutionally and individually throughout the world, often under a veil of discretion.
The Mason is taught to give without causing offense to the less fortunate. This discretion has led to a situation where much of our charitable effort is ignored by the world at large, or attributed to other, non-Masonic sources. How many people know, for instance, that taken together, Masonic charities in the United States distribute over 3 million dollars every day, in a multitude of programs, from children’s hospitals to the study of mental disease? Not only hospitals, but libraries, universities, cultural institutions of every kind, benefit from our largesse.
The same could be said, guarding the proportions, of Masonry in many other countries. Looking back at the depressing picture of our present world, with which I started, we can see at once how Freemasonry can and does help, can and does make a difference.
Firstly, Masonry imposes upon us a discipline of thought, a philosophical posture that demands the rational examination of problems. Just as in Marcus Aurelius, the constant remembrance of the fragility of human existence pursues him without pause, and leads him to disdain the miseries of life, the Mason learns to face with serenity the tumultuous landscape of daily strife, the strident claims of the media, the hysterical demands of the merchants of ideologies. Silence is the best antidote against confusion.
Secondly, we face the future with optimism. This is an imponderable factor, but one that subtly infuses our way of looking at things and strengthens our will, sustaining a proactive rather than passive stance.
The external action of Freemasonry, of course, depends on local circumstances. Masons have fought for religious tolerance, universal education, the separation of church and state, the removal of social barriers of every kind.
Allow me now to say a few words about Freemasonry in Israel. As you will see, this has a direct bearing on the subject of our talk.
What characterizes Israeli Freemasonry, and has done so from its very early beginnings at the end of the last century, is its ethnic and cultural-diversity. Starting with the first Lodges, in Jaffa and Jerusalem, there have always been both Arabs and Jews working together, of all religious persuasions, speaking many languages, keeping alive the flame of fraternity even in the most trying circumstances.
Israel’s Masonry is composed of a majority of Jews, and a strong proportion of Christian and Muslim Arabs, much greater than their demographic weight in the total population. This pluralist tradition has withstood wars and terrorist attacks, strife and agony. Our Grand Lodge opens three Sacred Books on its altar: the Jewish Tanach, the Christian Bible, and the Koran. Three Grand Chaplains are equal in rank. The Grand Lodge Seal includes the cross, the crescent and the -Star of David within square and compasses.
Coming from Israel, I bring the direct and irrefutable testimony that Masonic ideals do work, and that they have proven their worth through scores of years of uninterrupted conflict.
This, however, is no isolated instance. We could give numerous examples taken from the history of other countries, the United States included. The enlightened and beneficial contribution of Freemasonry is felt in many forms, through the activities performed by Masons themselves, not only by the Institution as a whole.
As Professor Carvajal once remarked, the University doesn’t operate patients or build bridges, and Masonry does not intervene directly in the life of the country, but both institutions operate their effect through their graduates and individual members.
The influence of Freemasonry is not limited to what its members do themselves. The love of freedom, the lesson of tolerance towards others, learned in the course of Masonic activities, are inevitable reflected in the professional life of its members, their dealings with others, their way of life as a whole. The influence of their example spreads like ever widening waves and elicits favorable reactions in others, contributing to improve human relations, reduce extremism, control the passions. Whether a judge or an architect, a politician or a merchant, the influence of Freemasonry contributes to reinforce man’s natural impulse to do good, seek the truth, help others and avoid excess. I shall quote a few sentences from an article published in 1970 by Bro. Pedro Fernandez Riffo, entitled Masonry and Axiology, that will serve to illustrate our thesis.
After reviewing the different theories of values proposed by philosophers, and their connection with Masonry, the author writes as follows:
Freemasonry teaches us that the philosophical knowledge achieved must not remain, can not remain simply theoretical knowledge. Masonry demands action in social life. It is altogether a system of tasks.”
Philosophy, as well, invites to action, because to act is to live, and philosophy is embedded in life itself… Let us remember Ortega y Gasset, for whom human life is a manner of doing philosophy.
A related idea was briefly noted by Marcus Aurelius in one of his thoughts:
It’s not a matter of discoursing about what a good man must be, but of being one.
This, too, is Masonic philosophy. We trust in the actuality and effectiveness of our ideals. We trust in the possibility of improving ourselves, and thereby improving the society in which we live, and we work diligently, here and now, for the realization of our objectives.
Human beings desire perfection, strive to become better, and if we create the conditions that will enable them to develop all their capacities, there is no limit to what can still be achieved. Freemasonry, humanistic and meliorist, will stimulate, accompany and participate forever in the prodigious saga of human progress.
The Iberian Center for Masonic Studies, in Madrid Spain, issues a call for papers to be presented at the First International Competition of Masonic Essay – CIEM
Centro Ibérico de Estudios Masónicos
The Iberian Center for Masonic Studies (CIEM) calls all Spanish, Portuguese, English and French speaking masons to participate in the First International Competition of Masonic Essay, which will take place in 2013.
The aim of this competition is to promote the investigation of the following themes:
The historical development of the Masonic Order;
The intrinsic values of Freemasonry;
The defense and preservation of our patrimony.
The competition is open to all Masons, without distinction.
The official languages of the competition are Spanish, Portuguese, English and French.
The essays presented must be unpublished and three printed copies are to be sent, double-spaced, typed in 12-point Times Font, in letter-sized sheets. Also, the electronic file must be enclosed in a compact disc.
The essays should not exceed 10.000 words.
The essays should begin on the second page. This page and all the following should not contain information susceptible of identifying the author.
The essays should appear undersigned with a pseudonym, enclosing, in another envelope, a card containing the name, address, telephone number and e-mail address of the author. The envelope will bear the chosen pseudonym. The originals presented will not be returned.
The bibliography should be enclosed as an annex with the essay.
The authors should include a certificate drawn up by the Secretary of their Lodge, attesting to their affiliation and membership to a Masonic Jurisdiction.
The essays should be sent to the following address: Centro Ibérico de Estudios Masónicos (CIEM), Apartado de correos 6.203, 28080 – Madrid (Spain) or via e-mail at: email@example.com
The deadline for presenting essays is the 1st of December, 2013.
The prize will be communicated on the 22nd of December, 2013.
The jury, made up by Master Masons, will award a first and only prize consisting of a diploma proving their condition as the winner of the competition, as well as the amount of 250 Euros.
The jury may, in the case of it being justified by the quality and interest of other essays, concede an access it or declare the prize void if the essays do not meet the required quality standards.
The essays chosen will be published in the web site www.cienmas.org and transmitted, electronically as well as in print, to the Grand Lodges and the main Masonic institutions.
For further information, contact the Secretariat of the Competition at the following e-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org or by post to the Centro Ibérico de Estudios Masónicos (Iberian Centre for Masonic Studies) CIEM, International Competition of Essay, Apartado de correos 6.203, 28080 – Madrid (España)