Skulls, architectural tools, mallets, aprons… all of these things can we weird. So why does Freemasonry use so many odd symbols? This question is at the heart of many detractors who like to speculate on their nefarious meanings.
Freemasonry is a system of symbol and allegory. By using such symbols, it conveys specific meanings or lessons that each recipient can apply to his personal life and spiritual development.
The skull and bones, or specifically the skull (or death’s head) is actually a symbol to remind us of mortality, as it is the ultimate equalizer of men of all rank, as none can avoid its inevitability. This is more a means to remind us that no matter our station in life, rich or poor, we are all subject to the same fate, and that our goal should be to make this world better for everyone. All Masons should always strive for our noble endeavor of spreading brotherly love, relief, and truth. The hourglass similarly reminds us of the swift passage of time, so as not to delay. The Temple of Solomon has many meanings within Masonry; most significantly it represents the Temple built to hold the laws of God to man in the Judaic tradition. Though its use implied a religious connotation, its application is universal and serves as an allegory to a deeper meaning.
The modern incarnation of Freemasonry dates to around 1717, but, was that truly the beginning of the “ancient” and honorable fraternity?
The history of modern Freemasonry is fairly understood, going back to roughly the 1700’s. Beyond that point in time, information starts to become less available. Their are some documents and notable figures prior to that point in time, such as the Regius/Halliwell poem, and notables like Elias Ashmole, but no certifiable records exist to demonstrate organized activity as we have today.
One of the virtues of Freemasonry is that its study and practice allow members to explore this topic, and at times travel outside the bounds of connections typically explored in mainstream history. Some Masonic historians have attempted to draw connections to the Knights Templar, the Rosicrucian’s, Jewish Kabbalah traditions, Hermetica, Alchemy, Christian Mysticism, and to much further back to the precursor Essenes at the time of Jesus. These explorations have been considered in both the past and present Masonic scholarship to varying degrees of acceptance, but many points of contention remain.
In present day, Freemasonry has little changed in the preced-ing 200 years since the founding of the United Grand Lodge of England, and is modeled in a system that was likely little changed for the 150 years prior to that. It is believed that the working aspects of Freemasonry, the form and function of the lodge, comes from the stone working guilds of the European Renaissance and middle ages which, over time as that trade profession became less specialized, attracted new members of non practicing “speculative masons.”
From that shift, the present day fraternity moved from an “operative” guild to a “speculative” one in that the function of the lodge turned to the allegorical and symbolic meanings of the stone masons and less about the physical operation. These changes have evolved to shape the look and feel of modern lodge operation today.
Recently I attended a Festive Board of Jewel P. Lightfoot Lodge No 1283, Grand Lodge of Texas AF & AM. The guest speaker DDGM John Tolbert made a passionate presentation on Hermeticism and Freemasonry using slides as illustrations. That made his presentation peppered with pictures which is what this article will look like. Jewel P. Lightfoot, the founder of this Lodge, had a marked interest in Hermeticism as you will see. This made the Presentation all the more personal to the members of this Lodge assembled. Tolbert was kind enough to allow me to reprint his presentation with his pictures which you will find below.
HERMETIC PHILOSOPHY AND FREEMASONRY by Brother John Tolbert
Have you ever wondered why all of the words and passwords that we use in our degrees are in Hebrew and that every prayer we use in our degrees are from the Old Testament?
Have you noticed that a Masonic Lodge room is full of diametrically opposed objects and symbols which represent polar concepts or ideas? Examples of these opposites are:
Square and Compasses
Rough and Perfect Ashlars
Jachin and Boaz / Wisdom and Strength
Terrestrial and Celestial Globes
Darkness to Light
Checkered Pavement / Black and White pavers
East and West…North and South
Death and Rebirth
Sun and Moon
Stepping off upon the right and left feet
Cowans and Eavesdroppers Ascending and Descending
Isn’t it interesting that Masons are encouraged from the very beginning to control their passions and to pursue a virtuous and pure life? It’s interesting, because the Greeks demanded the very same thing from their candidates before they were admitted into the Ancient Mystery Schools, and the School of Pythagoras (you can see a map of the school here).
After reading thousands of pages written by Masonic scholars, I am convinced that Freemasonry was not “invented” by the English (nor the Scots) in the seventeenth or eighteenth century. Yes, in the early eighteenth century, Freemasonry was developed into a regulated institution and rituals were developed from existing initiatory rites of operative Lodges, but something else was going on beneath the surface and intellectuals of the time could sense that there was more.
In the most recent issue of Heredom, the annual publication of the Scottish Rite Research Society, on page 61 (a paper about the 1738 anti-Masonic Papal Bull by Marsha Keith Schuchard) it reads:
“In January 1721, when the antiquarian William Stukeley (close friend of Newton and Desaguliers) determined to join the fraternity, “suspecting it to be the remains of the mysteries of the ancients…”
This illustrates that even from the first years of organized Freemasonry, educated men were recognizing something about Freemasonry that led them to believe that it was rooted in ancient philosophy and concepts.
The namesake of this Lodge, Jewel P. Lightfoot, speaks candidly to the Texas Mason concerning the mystical and spiritual aspects of the Craft. Please listen carefully to the following quote from the INTRODUCTORY in our current monitor, written by Lightfoot many decades ago.
“ The presence in the modern Masonic system, of many of the emblems, symbols and allegories of the ancient Temples of Initiation, as well as certain rites performed therein, has persuaded the most learned among Masonic scholars to conclude that Masonry is of very ancient origin, and is, in some aspects, the modern successor of, and heir to, the sublime Mysteries of the Temple of Solomon, and the Temples of India, Chaldea, Egypt, Greece, and Rome [I am certain that he was referring to the cult of Mithras], as well as the basic doctrine of the Essenes, Gnostics and other Mystic Orders“
With this single quote, Brother Lightfoot clearly asserts that Masonry contains remnants of the symbols and rites of the Ancient Mysteries and Masonry also contains the basic doctrines of known esoteric groups, which he terms, Mystic Orders.
This is precisely what the antiquarian William Stukeley had noticed in 1721; there were aspects of Freemasonry that seemed to have similarities to known rites and cults of the ancient world.
This presentation is specifically written to explore one well known stream of thought from the ancient world, broadly called Hermetic Philosophy, and its potential influence on the early progenitors of our Craft. Remember that Stukeley was a close friend of Newton and Desaguliers. John Theophilus Desaguliers is generally credited with the early development of our three degree system, he was the secretary / research assistant for Newton for twenty years, and he was also the third Grand Master of English Lodges.
NOTE – The association of Desaguliers with Isaac Newton is well worth researching; Newton was a practicing alchemist, obsessed with King Solomon’s Temple, and concealed his heretical religious views in enciphered writings, which were supposed to be burned at his death but were retained and translated in the twentieth century.
Hermetic Philosophy focuses around an entity called Hermes; this entity has also been named Thoth (Egyptians), Mercury (Romans), and Hermes Trismegistus or Hermes Thrice Great.
Thoth, Hermes, Hermes Trismegistus, may or may not have been just a single person, but the name and legend could have been inspired by some incredibly intelligent human (like Plato, Pythagoras, or Hypatia) who had such a capacity for knowledge, that their writings evolved into myth and legend, and sometimes converted into God forms. Plato is a perfect example of how one very intelligent person can have profound influence on entire civilizations, and the effects can last for centuries.
Most esoterically minded Masons are already aware of the great intellect of “Hermes” and his contributions of science and knowledge to mankind, but let’s examine how Hermetic Philosophy was evident in 15th-18th century literature, art, and direct Masonic connections. It is important to recall at this point that the typical European citizen had been enduring centuries of civil unrest, violent revolutions, constant wars, disease epidemics, cruel oppression from monarchs and religious authorities, public torture spectacles, and the raw uncertainty of life itself. In light of these long term social stresses, it is no wonder that a new, mysterious, and apparently ancient spirituality would capture the fascinations of intellectuals and develop into obsessions of looking for a better world, a pure un-corrupt religious experience, and a closer relationship to God. These are the allures of so-called Hermetic Philosophy.
The term Hermeticism, doesn’t really have a dogmatic or well defined definition, but in general, it includes the study of alchemy, gnostic spirituality, Kabbalah, theurgy, astrology, and other mystical approaches to relating the physical reality to the spiritual realm. Almost any occult science could be included under the Hermetic umbrella.
The following is a brief and certainly incomplete list of known references to the interest in Hermeticism in 15-18th century Europe.
1.Marsilio Ficino’s translation of what is now called the Corpus Hermeticum brought Hermes and the mysterious writings into the focus of philosophers and the ecclesiastic authorities. The Hermetic writings were interpreted as having predicted the coming of Christ and therefor acceptable; a beautiful marble floor panel in Siena Cathedral (1480s) in Italy depicts Hermes Trismegistus as being a contemporary of Moses.
2. Hermes was a central character in the Sloane (1646) manuscript Constitutions. Hermes discovers the two pillars, one of brick and one of marble, which contain the preserved wisdom and knowledge of the ancient masters.
3. Alchemy, being within the scope of Hermetic Philosophy is everywhere in Europe during this period. The Medici funded translations of ancient scrolls rescued from Byzantium revealed to the Western mind the concepts of alchemy. The Rosicrucian manifestos of the early 1600’s, likely written by Johanne Valentine Andreae and his associates, set off what is called a furor of interest in alchemy as well.
4. Giordano Bruno is travelling around Europe (the late 1500s) promoting controversial mathematical and astronomic theories; he is also promoting the Hermetic Art of Memory, which is not just a mnemonic strategy of memory, but a mystical technique. Bruno was burned at the stake in early 1600 for his heretical scientific and spiritual views.
5. William Shaw, the Master of Werks for James VI, declares in the Second Shaw Statutes (1599) that all craft fellows and prentices shall “Tak tryall of the art of memory”. William Fowler, a colleague of Shaw, had met with Bruno in London in the 1580s and it is feasible that this is how Shaw became exposed to the Hermetic Art of Memory.
6.Robert Cooper, the Grand archivist of the Grand Lodge of Scotland, makes many references to Hermeticism in his book Cracking the Freemasons Code. Brother Cooper asserts Hermeticism as being a component of Scottish Freemasonry in the 1500-1600s.
7. The interest in Alchemy, astrology, magick, and the Kabbalah are very evident in the circles of Royal Society members, and well known Masonic persons. Elias Ashmole, Isaac Newton, Thomas Vaughn, and others were known alchemists and studied occult subject matter; their personal libraries are evidence of these interests. John Byrom maintained a group of intellectually inclined Brothers who convened in an occasional gathering called the Cabala Club, and Lodges in London have minutes showing that papers were presented in Lodges about John Dee, Rosicrucians, and Jacob Boehme. Boehme’s visionary spiritual writings as well as John Dee’s books of angel magic and alchemy were of extreme interest to many intellectuals and free thinkers during this time period.
8. Kabbalah teacher Rabbi Leone Yahudahdi Modena, in 1680, lectured in London about Solomon’s Temple, Lawrence Dermott, the Grand Secretary of the Antients refers to the Rabbi, as Architect, Hebraist, and Brother.
9. Acception – There existed in the 1600’s an elite organization, which was closely associated with the London Mason’s Company, the operative organization of stone Masons. This elite and secretive group was called The Acception and only “accepted” very few members (one being Elias Ashmole); the cost of membership was very high, and one had to be highly educated and well respected. The early 20th century Masonic scholar and writer Reverend Castells, asserts that the name “The Acception” is synonymous to Kabbalah, which in Hebrew means “to receive.” Reverend Castells is convinced that “The Acception” was a purely speculative Masonic organization.
10. Medieval Kabbalists held Hermes in great veneration, no wonder, since he is considered (in some legends) as having given the Kabbalah to Moses. The Zohar contains phrases which closely parallel the well known Hermetic motto, “As above so below.” “Come and see: the world above and the world below are perfectly balanced.” (Zohar 2:176b) Kabbalah and Hermeticism share the all important mystical understanding of the balanced interrelations of heaven and earth.
On 12 May 2010 the Board of Management passed a resolution stating the principles governing esoteric research. These principles are central to the practice of Regular Freemasonry. In order that there be no doubt that they bind every brother and Lodge in this jurisdiction I have decided to make them the subject of a Grand Master’s edict. At my request the Board of Management has rescinded its resolution so that it may be substituted with the following edict which takes effect immediately.
1. Authorised, official Masonic Education and Instruction is only ‘Regular’ when applied to Free and Accepted or Speculative Masonry (Regular Freemasonry).
2. Because of the widely divergent interpretations which can be placed upon it, I am concerned about the unqualified use of the word “esoteric”, or any of its derivatives or extensions, within Regular Freemasonry. Such use needs to be avoided as it has been and can be misconstrued to the detriment of the Craft.
3. I encourage all Masons to make daily progress in the acquisition of Masonic knowledge. Speculation and discussion within the Landmarks of the Order are to be commended.
4. Within Regular Freemasonry, interpretive discussion and exposition concern only the progressive acquisition of Masonic knowledge towards an understanding of the secrets and mysteries of the Craft, promoting the brotherhood of man under the fatherhood of God. To avoid any misapprehension, such regular discussion and exposition shall be described as “speculative” and the term “esoteric” shall not be applied.
5. Regular Freemasonry does not permit within it any form of esotericism which encompasses or tends towards – occultism, sorcery, alchemy, astrology, profane mysticism, transcendentalism, supernaturalism, druidism, rosicrucianism, satanism or any concept or movement related to any of these. The presentation, endorsement and/or promotion of such subjects in any Lodge holding under the UGL of NSW and ACT whether the Lodge be open, adjourned, at refreshment or closed or at any connected or associated Lodge function should be deemed irregular and is strictly forbidden.
6. Any breach of this Edict constitutes serious unmasonic conduct and shall be treated accordingly.
7. The Grand Master from time to time may grant dispensations to permit the presentation of papers on esotericism which would otherwise constitute a breach of this edict. A dispensation may be granted on such terms and conditions as the Grand Master may impose. An application for a dispensation must be made to the Grand Master in writing through the Grand Secretary. Normally it will only be granted if the proposed paper is a genuine and proper piece of masonic research.
COMMENTS FROM BROTHER VICK
From Australia, it appears as the Grand Master has directly defined what is considered ‘esoteric’ within the confines of his definition of Freemasonry. He also outlines what is not “esoteric” as “occultism, sorcery, alchemy, astrology, profane mysticism, transcendentalism, supernaturalism, druidism, rosicrucianism, satanism or any concept or movement related to any of these.”
The argument for this edit was that there were certain lines and teachings occurring that were about as closely related to Freemasonry as I am related to the president of the United States. Charges are that certain Freemasons were using the term ‘esoteric’ as a way to teach/preach non-mainstream religious tendencies and as a recruitment tool within the order.
The glaring issue is that of course this stifles any discussions of the above and how Freemasonry works and is inspired by them. Rosicrucianism for instance is still a topic of debate and its influence on Freemasonry (some believe it was the foundation, others deny that as its foundation on faith, hope and charity). The issue with this edict is that stifles these types of debates, academic research, etc.
On the other hand the use of Freemasonry as a recruiting tactic for some cult should be addressed as it has the potential to bring serious shame to our order.
I don’t believe that this edict was the right approach to curb illegal recruitment, but will cause stagnation in the spiritual growth of a Freemason, no matter path it may take him.
While this ruling was made outside the United States it highlights the direction of Freemasonry in many American jurisdictions. When the Information Age began in the United States many Grand Lodges handled the “computer revolution” poorly. Some restricted Freemasons from owning or operating a Masonic website. Others closed down privately operated Masonic forums and discussion groups by threatening to expel any Mason who refused to knuckle under.
Many Grand Lodges were “Johnny come lately” into the 20th century methods of communication. They, not their individual members, were the last to open Masonic websites. What they did do at first was a very amateurish attempt. To this day some jurisdictions refuse to allow electronic reporting between Grand Lodge and constituent local Lodges.
Even today The Grand Lodge of West Virginia is on a crusade to find out the identity of a certain website that supported Past Grand Master Frank Haas. It has promised to expel each and every Brother involved with that website. The Grand Lodge of Arkansas closed its website and ordered all Masons within its jurisdiction not to E-Mail each other on threat of expulsion.
This seems to be the modern trend – THOUGHT CONTROL. It used to be that Freemasons everywhere would say that no one man speaks for Freemasonry. Now it seems one man does – the Grand Master and he wants to be the only one speaking on behalf of Freemasonry. If this seems farfetched to you ask Brother Tim Bryce of Florida to explain it to you.
“The origins of the Royal Society lie in an “invisible college” of philosophers and scientists who began meeting in the mid-1640s to discuss the ideas of Francis Bacon. Two of the original members of the Royal Society – Sir Robert Moray and Elias Ashmole – were already freemasons by the time the Royal Society was formed. The Society met weekly to witness experiments and discuss what would now be called scientific topics although science then was much more broadly defined and included subjects such as alchemy and astrology.”
So we can see that alchemy and astrology among other disciplines were from a very early age adhered to by some Freemasons. So was Rosicrucianism. Laura Britton tells us:
“Although Rosicrucian ideas influence the Scottish Rite degrees of Freemasonry, the origins of the two orders are distinctly different. Throughout the history of both Rosicrucianism and Freemasonry, each has borrowed from the other, yet they both retain their own symbols and beliefs.”
Now it seems that Masonic censorship is one more weapon in the arsenal of Grand Lodge control.
One has to wonder how the likes of Albert Pike, Albert G. Mackey, Joseph Fort Newton and Carl Claudy would have reacted to their Grand Master banning their “esoteric” writings.
Freemasonry was once the bastion of liberty and independent thought. It used to be that there was no Pope in Freemasonry and that each Freemason could interpret in his own way what Freemasonry meant to him. What distinguished Freemasonry from the control that many houses of worship demanded was that there was no centralized dogma that must be adhered to. Dogma didn’t drive Freemasonry, the absence of dogma – the freedom for many different ideas, many different philosophies and many different interpretations to exist under the same roof was what used to distinguish Freemasonry. It used to be that the nexus of power resided in the local Lodge. Today Grand Lodges have consolidated their power to such an extent that they hold the power of life or death over both individual Lodges and individual Masons.
If Masonry had a patron saint in Hollywood, Nicolas Cage would be the guy.
I’ll admit, there are a lot of actors who in the past fit the bill including the stalwarts like John Wayne, Audie Murphy, Ernest Borgnine, Clark Gable, or Roy Rogers. Some amongst that list have been more vocal and out front about their affiliation, which is, in the end a personal choice.
No, I say patron saint to Masonry because Cage seems to have a track record of making movies in and around the subject matter that circles that of Freemasonry without any open connection to his affiliation with the fraternity.
Think of it as a parallel line of thought, or of art imitating life.
I don’t think the making of these films is to suggest that Cage or his producers are doing it intentionally. Hollywood films, as you’ve seen in the end of film credits, involve a lot of people with a degree of diversity from film to film. The common denominator in this scheme is types of roles played by Nicolas Cage himself.
Is he doing it intentionally or is there some cosmic push that’s at work directing Cage towards these roles?
This is just a quick list of films that, I think, could be argued as being pro-Masonic or at least positive towards Masonic tradition.
National Treasure 2004
The Wicker Man 2006
National Treasure: Book of Secrets 2007
The Sorcerer’s Apprentice 2010
Season of the Witch 2011
Now these are just a few of the 60+ films he’s stared since his silver screen debut in 1980, but in these six films, you can get a sense of a recurring theme.
National Treasure, released in 2004, we find Cage playing amateur historian and treasure hunter Benjamin Gates who after deciphering a secret code on the back of the U.S. constitution, stumbles on to the lost treasure of the Knights Templars, protected in modern times by the Freemasons, who we meet in agent Sandusky as played by Harvey Keitel.
The Wicker Man, a remake of the film of the same name from 1973, has Cage playing Edward Malus, an American policeman who goes on the search for his missing daughter, when he inadvertently finds himself in the middle of an English Wiccan/Pagan Society to become the Burning Wickerman himself at the end. The link to Masonry, though less obvious in the film, is that modern Wiccan/Paganism was founded by Freemason Gerald Gardner who popularized its reemergence in the 1950’s.
National Treasure 2 saw the return of Benjamin Gates on the trail of the Book of Secrets, which included mentions of the Scottish Rite’s Albert Pike, and the founding fathers. The pre-release advertising of the film leaned heavily on the Masonic connections of its predecessor, while this film itself focused on another “fraternity” the Knights of the Golden Circle. This films success has been successful enough to the talk of a National Treasure 3 in the future.
In Knowing, Cage played Professor Jonathan “John” Koestler, Astrophysicists by day and numerologist (read here gematria, the Hebrew system of words and phrases assigned by their numerical value as seen in the study of Kabbalah) by night that discovers the secret coming end times by decoding the written number sequences found in a 50 year old school time capsule.
Though less overt, the film plays up his ability to read the prophecy and down his ability to its inevitability.
The Sorcerer’s Apprentice from 2010, while a remake of the animated Disney film of the same name, held true to this same series where Cage played Balthazar Blake, a sorcerer trained by Merlin who’s magic is more akin to Alchemy and the power of the mind, a theme prevalent in many Rosicrucian circles and similar to the idea of the Kybalion, that everything is mental – the power of the mind. A strong theme in the film links the ideas of magick to modern physics and the science behind energy.
In the new film Season of the Witch, Cage plays Behman, a long standing (Templar?) Knight of the crusades who grows weary of the holy Catholic Church’s work in slaughtering innocent people, only to be pulled in to one last mission to save an innocent girl possessed by the spirit of a powerful demon. How to slay the demon and its ilk is a Latin reading of the “Wisdom of King Solomon”, a powerful spell that destroys witches and demons.
Again, this is only 10% of his on screen time, but its not terribly hard to see a pattern here of Knights Templars, Freemasons, Magick/Alchemy/Kabbalah, and King Solomon each of which are keys components to the study of Freemasonry.
Without a doubt, one could argue that just as much of his work is about quirky guys doing quirky things – from stealing cars in Gone in Sixty Seconds to stealing Diapers in Raising Arizona.
But none of his filmography follows the same pattern of the six films listed above, and even fewer actors in Hollywood have the same resume of cinema choices that parallel such a recurring theme, unless their character is reprising a role in a sequel. Harrison Ford comes to mind in the Indiana Jones franchise, but here again he is playing a reprisal of a character, not a different character with a recurring thematic undercurrent.
So how does all of this make Nicolas Cage the Silver Screen Saint of Freemasonry? Simply by continuing to play roles in films where he champions the ideas of the fraternity, even the more esoteric ideas, and by keeping it in a positive light.
Will every viewer of these films see the connection? Probably not, but for those with eyes to see, with so many loose connections its hard to miss the underlying current. The other possibility is that Cage has simply been typecast as the ‘guy’ who plays these roles so successfully at the box office that he has become the go to man for the everyman cinema esoteric.
Who knows, based on his resume, maybe we’ll see Cage in the role of Robert Langdon in the film adaptation of The Lost Symbol as its rumored that Tom Hanks may have scheduling conflicts.
In the meantime, pop some popcorn and spend a few evenings watching Cage in these movies and see if you don’t see some connection deeper than a square and compass on a ring or on the bumper of a car as with most Masonic mentions in movies. You might just see him as a patron saint of Masonry too.
It is true without lies, certain and most true;
That which is below is as that which is above,
and that which is above is as that which is below,
to accomplish the miracle of the one thing.
It is true without lies, certain and most true;
That which is below is as that which is above,
and that which is above is as that which is below,
to accomplish the miracle of the one thing.
One of the most extensive collections of esoteric work is in jeopardy of being dispersed into the hands of private collectors.
The Ritman Library, known as the Bibliotheca Philosophica Hermetica comes from the private collection of books by businessmen Joost R. Ritman who turned his private collection of manuscripts and printed works in the field of Hermeticism into a library of the Hermetic tradition, to show the interrelatedness between the various collecting areas and their relevance for the present day study.
Today, the renowed Bibliotheca Philosophica Hermetica (BPH) is in grave danger because of a financial conflict with Ritman, and the Friesland Bank.
An online petition has been started to save the library, which you can sign here, and chronicles the dissolution of the library, saying:
It is widely known that the Bibliotheca Philosophica Hermetica in Amsterdam, was in great danger in the 1990s, when the ING bank took possession of the collection and threatened to sell it. Fortunately, the Dutch government intervened: the BPH was put on the list of protected Dutch heritage, and the State eventually acquired over 40% of it. The books remained at the same physical location, integrated with the rest of the collection, and the government would eventually acquire all of it.
The manuscript was likely written for one of the leading aristocratic families of Medieval France (circa 1315-23) and is now expected to sell for $2.49 to $3.23 million.
As part of this process, there were great plans for further expansion. Largely due to the financial crisis and a change of government this was taking somewhat longer than originally anticipated, but nobody doubted that the library was safe.
Last week this turned out to be incorrect. An extremely valuable medieval manuscript owned by the BPH (The Grail of Rochefoucauld – the oldest known Arthur Manuscript) was put on sale at Sotheby’s, and this triggered a reaction from the Friesland Bank, which took possession of the library, that had apparently been brought in as collateral, in order to get back a 15 million euro loan from mr Ritman.
At present the BPH is closed, and intense negotiations are going on behind closed doors. It is impossible at this moment to predict the outcome, but there is no doubt that the situation is extremely serious. There is a very real possibility that the Friesland bank will try to sell at least 60% of the library that is still owned by Mr. Ritman, and nobody knows what implications this will have for the rest of the collection and the BPH as a whole, including its staff. The brand-new government of the Netherlands has announced a program of radical financial cuts in the culture section and elsewhere, which makes a renewed intervention from that side highly unlikely.
It continues saying:
If the Ritman library would go down, this would mean an enormous blow to international scholarship in hermetic studies. The damage would be irreversible. By signing this petition you express your concern, and ask the Dutch government and the Friesland bank to do their utmost to ensure that the collection will be saved and will remain available for the international scholarly community.
What you can do.
Its a challenge to say what one can do in such an situation, but there are some things one can do to express their concern.
Sign the petition to save the Library.
Send an email/letter to Friesland Bank in protest of the sale and dissolution of the work. You can send to: Headquarters
Friesland Bank Postbus 1 Friesland Bank PO Box 1
8900 AA Leeuwarden 8900 AA Leeuwarden
Call the Friesland Bank Press Officer
at Pers Press
Persvoorlichter Press Officer
Saskia Toor Saskia Toor
(058) 299 44 23 (058) 299 44 23
06 51 50 56 00 06 51 50 56 00
Send them a message at their Friesland Bank contact page here
or call them at +31 58 2994499
Encourage your academic institution to join the growing list of Professors and Academic institutions in support of the study of the Hermetic tradition and the preservation of the library. You can see a list of those who have already signed the petition here.
Also, if there is consideration of private investment in the library, contact me and we can organize a mission to help preserve the collection. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
You can see by their Guide the bredth and work of the collection.
In the colelction of work, you one can study and explore the depth of Hermetic study, which the library has divided into the following principal collecting areas:
Gnosis & Western Esotericism
This collecting area contains works attributed to Hermes Trismegistus, other neo-Platonic works, patristic testimonies to the Christian reception of Hermes and works testifying to the influence of the Hermetica from the Early Middle Ages through to the present day. Placed at the beginning is a general section with relevant historical studies.
Works range from antiquity to modern day.
The general section at the beginning contains a great number of art historical works and plate books on the subject of alchemy and its symbols. There are also specialized periodicals in the field of alchemy available, such as Ambix and Chrysopoeia (both complete).
A number of source texts and secondary works from Greek, Oriental, Arabic and Jewish, to Midieval and Western Alchemy.
The BPH particularly collects medieval and later Western mystics having a demonstrable affinity with Hermetic thought, amongst whom Meister Eckhart, Suso and Tauler.
From early mysticism to mystical spiritualism through the centuries, the Library has a wide collection of works to research from, including a selection on Sufism.
The Rosicrucian Manifestoes (Fama fraternitatis, Confessio fraternitatis and Chymische Hochzeit) were printed in addition to the original 17th-century editions, the BPH holds several modern editions, ranging from facsimile editions to annotated text editions, and various translations, amongst which Spanish, English and French.
The BPH collection spans work from the original Manifestos to more modern workings of the S.R.I.A, Max Heindel’s Fellowship, A.M.O.R.C., O.T.O./O.R.A., and other relevant developments.
V GNOSIS & WESTERN ESOTERICISM
This principal collecting area includes various currents in addition to Hermetism, Alchemy,
Mysticism and Rosicrucians which express a spirituality mainly manifesting itself outside the confines of the institutionalized religions. At the same time they feed and reinforce the core of the collection.
This branch of the collelction includes works of comparative religion, egyptology, pre-Christian cults, Early Christian practice, the Nag Hammadi Library both pre and post materials, Gnostic both past and present, Manichaeism, Theosophy, Anthroposophy, Non-Western philosophy religious traditions, Esotericism, Grail, Catharism, Kabbalah, Judaica, Qumran, Freemasonry, the Templars, and Christianity.
Needless to say, the collection is both extensive and necissary for modern study of the Hermetic Tradition.
The ‘Way of Gnosis’ or the ‘Way of Hermes’ leads to this ultimate goal: the experience of divine reality, which cannot be learnt, but can only be personally experienced (gnosis). Therefore, if one has knowledge, he is from above. If he is called, he hears, he answers, and he turns to him who is calling him, and ascends to him. And he knows, in what manner he is called. Having knowledge, he does the will of the one who called him, he wishes to be pleasing to him, he receives rest. Each one’s name comes to him. He who is to have knowledge in this manner knows where he comes from and knows where he is going.
From: The Gospel of Truth by the gnostic Valentinus,one of the texts found at Nag Hammadi
Take a minute and sign the petition, and if you are passionate about the library, take the extra step and send a note to save the collection.
The focus of this two day event will be Masonic Restoration with a primary focus on identifying a set of best practices that can be regionalized and implemented in those lodges seeking to increase the fulfillment of its members.
This is a “must attend” event if you have ever considered starting a Traditional Observance Lodge in your local area.
Working Talk Points Breakfast on leadership and assessing strengths and weaknesses.
Lodge Formation – How to in YOUR region.
How to best work with your Grand Lodge
Regalia Presentation from the leading regalia manufacturers.
Live vendor trade show with music, art, books, and software.
A Tyled Meeting followed by a Festive Board Agape.
Leadership Psychology from a top national speaker
Break-outs to discuss best practices, obstacles, and implementation
A special presentation on Alchemy by Br. Timothy Hogan
And an afternoon discussion on the practical guide to implementing the full TO system.
Followed, of course, by an event ending networking and cigar Lounge with a on site whiskey master.
The event has tremendous promise and a terrific energy about it and from the descriptions on the events site, its sure to motivate and educate even the passive participant into a passionate Traditional Observation Lodge champion.
Space is limited to 120 participants. If the TO lodge process has been on your radar, this event is not to be missed.
Curious about Masonic Restoration? Listen to the Masonic Central Podcast on the topic.
Weight and volume are very important. Two evenly measured weights on a opposite pans of a scale and you have a perfect balance, so long as your equipment is calibrated correctly. Add more weight to one pan and incrementally the scale will move towards which ever side the heavier burden is applied.
Extrapolate this idea into a larger arena where the medium that surrounds the moving weight is fluid, and with the Newtonian force of gravity, the material closest to, and bonded tightest to the weight will move with it, in effect causing an avalanche of sorts, or at least a heightened shift of position.
Perhaps you could say its an Alchemy of sorts, the transmutation from one thing into another, from one state to another. Neutral buoyancy to weight displacement. From Lead to Gold, or perhaps in this instance, from Gold to Lead.
Its quite a paradigm shift in the way things have been to the way things are to be. What I mean by that is apparently, without much fanfare, the Grand Lodge isn’t just rolling out a few changes for 2010, they are rolling out a battalion of them, for what seems to be for the purpose of improving Pennsylvania Freemasonry and the lives of its members. All said, in their introduction site, the changes are (by category):
Membership Recruitment Members May Selectively Invite Good Men to Join
Three Black Balls Are Now Required to Reject a Candidate
One Day Masonic Journey: October 30, 2010 (at 13 locations and with YR, SR, and Shrine)
All-Star Teams Will Confer District-wide Degrees
An Unlimited Number of Freemasons Can Be Made in One Day
Senior Recruitment Program
Lodges Awarded for Membership Growth and Retention
Membership “Call ‘Em All” Will Continue as “Call to the Craft”
Dues Can Now Be Paid By Credit or Debit
Lodge Notices Are To Be Distributed Electronically
Masonic Ritual Members May Learn Our Ritual From Printed Manuals That Will Be Monitored Closely And Never Used in Open Lodge
Certified Brethren Will Receive a Proficiency Award Pin
Opening and Closing of Meetings May Be Shortened
Grand Lodge Governance District Deputy Grand Masters May Now Serve 10 Years
Some Masonic Districts Will Be Eliminated and Realigned
A Masonic Congress Will Be Held in February 2010
A New Due Process for Suspensions and Expulsions
The Legal Structure of Grand Lodge Will Be Assessed
New Software Will Simplify the Lodge Audit Process
Committee on Masonic Homes Meeting Change
The Dress Code for Masonic Meetings Is Relaxed
On Image and Visibility Open Installations of All Symbolic Lodge Officers
Electronic Guide Will Provide Tours of the Masonic Temple
Masonic Villages Adopt-A-Resident Program
Lodges Will Conduct Monthly Community Service
Members Will Commit A Weekly Random Act of Kindness
Members Will Support Our Military Through “HELP FOR OUR HEROES”
Lodges Will Raise Funds to Support Our Masonic Villages
Masonic Youth Initiatives Will Be Supported By Lodges
On the page from the PA GL, they provide a brief explanation of what each change represents, and the hole that it seeks to fill, and while I am having a hard time understanding (agreeing?) with some of them, I have to say that the approach is an inventive and bold addition of weight to a scale that has long been un-moved by any form of change.
But, this change isn’t without its detractors, and a website has already been published to argue the counter point to the Grand Masters plan, billed as Pennsylvania Masonic Restoration. While I respect the civil dissent, I have to say that the call to arms may be premature given the nature of the changes the Grand Lodge is trying to implement.
On the 21 Century Renaissance site, it is easy to see the large one day class as BIG CONCERN to an otherwise interesting program and a potential affront to what has traditionally been Masonry the way its “always” been, which is clearly not the case. Not that one day classes have ever been the norm, the process of Masonry today is an evolved process that had a beginning that came from something else. It evolved, and this one day mass raising is another step in that evolution for better or worse. And, I’ll be open here, I have my own misgivings as to the intention of the one day class process, but taken in parcel with the other items, it becomes an easier bitter pill to swallow.
Some of what I do like in the program:
Three Black Balls Are Now Required to Reject a Candidate:
This is a good way to break a singular majority in a solitary vote. Harmony in the lodge still needs to be met, but giving live or die power to one brother may be to much power in one place.
Dues Can Now Be Paid By Credit or Debit:
This is a fantastic change that really brings things into he 21st Century.
Lodge Notices Are To Be Distributed Electronically:
Another great system/operations update.
A Masonic Congress Will Be Held in February 2010:
This is a great idea and something FmI and Time Bryce have advocated to see for some time. Perhaps this will lead up to something National.
Lodges Will Conduct Monthly Community Service:
This is a Great program, and my guess is that it will be another hard pill to get down. Not that there isn’t a level of charity within the membership, but to be told to do is it quite different than doing it out of will and love. an interesting idea, however, is the opportunity it gives to lodges to explore what that charity looks like, from donating lodge rooms to Boy Scout Troops, hosting voter polling locations, or any other creative measure to give back to the communities from which the membership comes from.
Members Will Commit A Weekly Random Act of Kindness:
This one escapes me, but I like the idea of it. It has a definite Pay It Forward appeal to it.
Personally, I have some concerns for these items, but I’m sure they are being implemented with the utmost caution.
Members May Selectively Invite Good Men to Join.
One Day Masonic Journey: October 30, 2010.
An Unlimited Number of Freemasons Can Be Made in One Day.
Senior Recruitment Program.
All of these are cause for some alarm, but as I mentioned, to enter into the 21st Century Renaissance, we enter into a period of change, just as Europe did in the post Medieval Renaissance.
Members May Learn Our Ritual From Printed Manuals:
This one concerns me too, in that it would be the first state (to my knowledge) to openly WRITE what had here-to-fore only been given in written cipher. Despite the warnings and admonitions, the content will be copied and distributed no matter the level of governance and audit processes. And if not lost in the original content, photocopiers and scanners are very easy to make use of these days (though I do have some security ideas for how to safeguard the material).
All in all, I say lets see what these changes have in store for 2010. The concerns being what they are, the changes do seem to have the over arching growth and good will of the fraternity in mind.
At first blush, the 21st Century Renaissance seems to be mind blowingly radical, but really, the alchemy is in putting into play the ideas of best practice to bring its large membership in the modern age. Hopefully the ambitious shift of their weight shift will be a good one and something others will adapt too and continue the Renaissance of the 21st Mason.
At its surface, the Christmas holiday has no intrinsic connection to the fraternity of Freemasonry. What I mean by that is no where in the degrees does it link itself to any particular holiday in its practice, in particular the Christmas holiday season.
There are, however, certain celebrations that have become a part of the fraternity which are linked to one of the interesting symbols that resides at the heart of the practice. Without any specific reference, Masons are said to come from a Lodge of the Holy Saints John, the specific why and how of this connection is lost in the sands of metaphorical time, but some connection infers a balance to the celestial equinox (from summer to winter and back again).
Through this link, winter is said to be represented by the Saint John the Evangelist, whose feast day falls on December 27th.
This Holy Saint John has an interesting symbolic significance, in that, as John the Baptist (who represents the other Holy Saint John) was the precursor to the coming Christ, John the Evangelist is said to be the first disciple at the Lake of Genesareth who recognized the Christ and believed that he had risen.
Of the Saint it is also said that he was the only disciple of Christ to not to forsake him in the hour of His Passion at the foot of the cross. John the Evangelist is also called the Apostle of Charity, which may be in part, his connection to Freemasonry in addition to his unwavering resolve and purity of his love of the divine.
In creating the original construct of the two Johns, the conclusion that I came to was that they struck a balance between zeal and knowledge.
The Baptist who was the precursor of the Christ living in his zeal for the coming son of God and the Evangelist as the representation of knowing that the Christ was the son of God. Only in piecing the component of knowing did it become clear to me that it was not about the degree of knowledge gained, but the degree to which the Evangelist trusted his intuition, to know what was before him. An interesting parallel comes in the book of Matthew where this very lesson is communicated to Peter from the Christ who says in Matthew 16:15-17
“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven.”
This is somewhat out of original context, but illustrative of revealed knowledge based on experience, on learning.
John the Evangelist came to that knowledge by his experience with the Christ.
Another way of looking at this experience is coming from darkness to light, an awakening, and if you take it further, the dawning of awareness. This awareness sits squarely with the idea of Sol Invictus, or the conquering sun which overcomes its captivity of night from the summer solstice and again begins to vanquish the night in its ever increasing minutes of daylight.
Looking at some of the other symbolic connections, the Evangelist is said to relate to the alchemical symbol of the up pointed triangle which represents fire, where again we can see a link to light and knowledge. When we combine the alchemical sign of the Baptist with that of the Evangelist, we create the star of solomon, and the duality of fire and water, further, the duality of light and dark and summer and winter.
Further work attributed to John the Evangelist are the Epistles of John, and the book of Revelation, though his connection to them in later centuries has been contentious, as much of his life from 2000 years ago is lost to time. Within the church his feast day is first mentioned in the Sacramentary of Pope Adrian I near 772 A.D.
The message of the church, and something each of us can take away from John the Evangelist is to “Apply thyself, therefore, to purity of heart, and thou shalt be like Saint John, a beloved disciple of Jesus, and shalt be filled with heavenly wisdom.”
The feast of the Evangelist is little remembered today, except within Masonry where it is celebrated by a few lodges that still practice the Table Lodge ritual where brothers gather together to celebrate it with toasts to those brothers present and absent. in the past, it was considered a feast day of high importance for Freemasonry because of its proximity to the holidays and the presence of lodge members being close to home. Because of this, It gave those brothers a festival to meet under to punctuate the closing of the year. Meeting like this though is something less convenient in this modern day as most with families travels abroad to celebrate the holiday.
Because it is celebrated less does not diminish the importance of the day, nor the symbol itself, as in the modern ritual we are reminded that we come from the Holy Saint John’s in Jerusalem, and as such we should pause and reflect on just what that means. John the Evangelist gives us an important lesson to pursue knowledge and wake from the darkness and renew our commitment to the awakening light of the Victorious Sun. Even taken out the Christian metaphor, we can salute with Sol Invictus, as knowledge is re-awakened from its cold wintry defeat.
Through the lens of symbolism, John the Evangelist gives us a means to find resonance with the holiday of giving and compassion to the fraternity of brotherly love, relief, and truth.
Join us for this episode as author Lon Milo DuQuette joined Masonic Central on Sunday, November 29th, 2009, to talk about magick, esoteric Freemasonry and the his masonic journey.
Within in Freemasonry, there are many titles and attributes bestowed upon its members, but few come to the table with the appellation of Magus. With a number of books having flowed from from his pen and a good many years of practice under an adept hand, Brother Lon Milo DuQuette is a stand-out example of bridging the esoteric with the obvious. Obvious at least to a few.
A Mason for many years, DuQuette has spent a substantial amount of time in the study of the realms of the tarot, Kabbalah, Thelema and Enochian Vision magic. Capturing the essence of DuQuette’s work, a quote from Aleister Crowley comes to mind in his saying,
“Magick was defined as the science and art of causing change to occur in conformity with WILL.”
It’s that path in the conformity of will that led Masonic Brother DuQuette to his position within the Ordo Templi Orientis which itself has a rich history and modern day contribution to the occult practice.
In this episode, we explore the magical connections that Masonry may (or may not have) exist and what lessons we can find within the sage wisdom and teaching of the Masonic patriarch King Solomon.
No mere parlor tricks here. It is an excellent program of magical conversation, and delightful insights.