Is it dying? How many candidates have you raised in the last year? Have you analyzed what you are doing wrong and what you are doing right?
How is your retention? Do you raise Brothers that never come back? Or are they gone after about three months?
Are you raising Masons that shouldn’t be there just because you hastily gave them a petition? Are you raising Masons who are applying before they are ready to accept what it means to be a Mason? Are you raising Masons that do not fit into the peace and harmony of your Lodge? Do you have a really good Investigating-Petitioning process that screens out those that won’t fit and those who will quit?
Do you have a good mentoring system, not only for those who are going through the degrees but Master Masons in their first year and beyond if needed?
Brother Rhit Moore
Meet Brother Rhit Moore who suffered through three meltdowns of his Lodge before he got wise. Brother Moore will explain to you what he and other committed members of his Lodge implemented the fourth time around to create a successful Lodge. He will explain how his Lodge raises 20 to 40 new Master Masons every year who stay.
Brother Moore doesn’t have a magic wand. He learned what needed to be done the hard way. But he and other members of Fort Worth Lodge learned from their mistakes and kept on trying. Now they have a system that works for them and Fort Worth Lodge is in a new renaissance.
In this installment of Symbols and Symbolism, we explore the origins of the Latin phrase ordo ab chao better known as order out of chaos. Often taken as an esoteric alliteration of transformation, the source of this oft used Latin phrase has its roots deeply embedded in the origin story of the Scottish Rite in the Americas.
While philosophically esoteric, the phrase holds closer to the literal movement from darkness into light, with the formation of the Scottish Rite at Charleston.
Mackey, in his Encyclopedia of Freemasonry, describes the phrase, thus:
A Latin expression, meaning Order out of Chaos. A motto of the Thirty-third Degree, and having the same allusion as lux e tenebrious(this Latin phrase belongs to the Latin translation of the Gospel of John: “et lux in tenebris lucet et tenebrae eam non conprehenderunt,” meaning “The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it”). The invention of this motto is to be attributed to the Supreme Council of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite at Charleston, and it is first met with in the Patent of Count Alexandre Francois Auguste de Grasse, dated February 1, 1802. When De Grasse afterward carried the rite over to France and established a Supreme Council there, he changed the motto, and, according to Lenning in his Encyclopedia of Freemasonry 1822 or 1828,Ordo ab hoc, Order Out of This, was used by him and his Council in all their documents.
The phrase appears on the grand decorations of the Order of the Sovereign Grand Inspectors General. The decoration rests on a Teutonic Cross which sits below a nine-pointed star, formed by three triangles of gold, one upon the other, and interlaced. From the lower part of the left side toward the upper part of the right extends a sword, and, in the opposite direction, a hand of Justice. In the middle is the shield of the Order, blue; upon the shield is an eagle like that on the banner; on the dexter side of the shield is a golden balance, and on the sinister a golden compass resting on a golden square. Around the whole shield runs a stripe of blue, lettered in gold with the Latin words ” ORDO AB CHAO;” and this stripe is enclosed by a double circle formed by two serpents of gold, each holding his tail in his mouth. Of the smaller triangles formed by the intersection of the principal ones, those nine that are nearest the blue stripe are coloured red, and on each is one of the letters that constitute the word S. A. P. I. E. N. T. I. A. (Latin: wisdom, discernment, memory)
You can read more installments of Mackey’s Encyclopedia under Symbols & Symbolism here on this site and video of these segments on YouTube.
Robert V. Lund believes that The Hidden Code in Freemasonry: Finding Light through esoteric interpretation of Masonic Ritual is a book that should be read by all Freemasons. The work, he says, strives to provide a deeper understanding of the hidden information at work behind the scenes of the rituals of Freemasonry. What makes this book different, the author claims, is that it looks beyond the literal veil to the hidden code that underlies each of the craft rituals and the truer meaning of its ceremonies. I talked recently with Robert about his book in hopes of catching a peek behind the veil.
Masonic Traveler (MT): Let’s start at the beginning. Who is Robert Lund?
Rob Lund (RL): I am a Past Master of Kilwinning Lodge #565 of Toronto, Ontario (Canada), and currently serve as Secretary. I have served as Chairman of the Toronto West District Education Committee for a number of years and served one year in the Grand Lodge Committee on Masonic Education. I am [the] editor of our Lodge newsletter and write at least one article for it every month. I also run our Lodge website.
I have written lectures on the esoteric meaning of our rituals and presented them numerous times throughout the district. I have also presented at one of the Ontario Masonic Education Conferences. I have had articles published in The Lightbearer, a magazine of the Canadian Theosophical Association.
MT: Do you belong to any other esoteric or initiate rites or bodies?
RL: I am a member of the Rosicrucian Order AMORC, and the President of the York Lodge of the Theosophical Society (founded by H. P. Blavatsky) and a member of the Board of the Canadian Theosophical Association. For a couple of years, I was a member of another masonic Rosicrucian order, the SRIA.
MT: How long have you studied Freemasonry?
RL: I’ve been a Mason for around ten years now. I always knew I would be a Mason since my early twenties but just never got around to pursuing it.
MT: What finally led you there?
RL: For the past forty years, I have been a seeker of truth: the truth behind religions (especially Christianity); the truth behind human origins, and the truth regarding our existence and purpose on earth. These interests go back to my teens. I’ve always felt that there is more to life, this world, and the universe than meets the eye and it’s only in the last decade that I started doing something about it.
The Hidden Code in Freemasonry: Finding Light through esoteric interpretation of Masonic Ritual
RL: My book [The Hidden Code in Freemasonry] is a product of my Masonic, Rosicrucian, and Theosophical journeys and it ties them together. It shows how the composers of our Masonic ritual have embedded information taken from the esoteric mystery traditions and teachings perpetuated for thousands of years, to be discovered by those who have eyes to see, and to be acted upon in order to fulfill their purpose. The book provides the evidence of this hidden “code” and gives a detailed analysis of the three craft degrees showing what these hidden messages are and what they mean. And, since knowing is of little avail without action, the book makes suggestions for next steps.
MT: Interesting. What inspired you to put pen to paper (or finger to keys)?
RL: All through the three degrees, I was waiting for the “secrets and mysteries of Ancient Freemasonry” to be revealed to me. They never came. I was disappointed enough to consider leaving Freemasonry.
All Masons talk about receiving light but, how many actually know what that means? How many actually actively seek further?
It was after reading certain Masonic authors such as Manley P Hall, JSM Ward, and more especially W. L. Wilmshurst, that I began to see the light. That’s when I started my own analysis of the craft degrees, using Rosicrucian and Theosophical teachings. My discoveries are what I want to share with all Masons because the underlying messages are very important to everyone.
MT: What was the hardest thing about writing it?
RL: Let me first tell you the easiest thing about writing this book: finding the material.
Over the years, as I learned things, I wrote articles and lectures and so the material was at hand. What was much harder was putting them together in a cohesive way in a structure that would make it readable. I had help from some of my Masonic Brethren which assisted in achieving this.
MT: I love the cover, is there any particular symbolism at work there?
RL: The cover photo is one of the many fine lodge rooms in the Detroit Masonic Center. I added the additional artwork.
The parchment background is to signify the contents being of ancient origins. The symbols signify the source of the knowledge (Theosophical, Rosicrucian, and Vedic).
MT: Plans for future books?
RL: I am working on another book that deals more specifically with the symbols within Freemasonry and its rituals. However, this will not be ready for quite some time.
Thanks for this Robert. I can’t wait to read the book and I wish you the best for its success.
I found this piece on an old disc the other day. I wrote it as a piece of architecture to a, now, defunct Masonic Club here in Los Angeles – the Hermes Trismegistus Traditional Observance club in Culver City. It dates back to August 22, 2006, almost ten years to the day.
Reading through it, I thought it would be fun to share it again to see if it still holds it esoteric weight.
King Solomon’s Temple – A Symbol to Freemasonry
Solomon’s ancient temple was built a top Mt. Moriah in Jerusalem between 964 and 956 B.C.E. Its construction is chronicled in the First Book of Kings, which begins at the end of King David’s reign and the crowning of Solomon. As king, Solomon continues the task his father began which was to build the temple. The text tells us that God restricted David, having collected the materials to construct the temple, from building it because of the blood he shed at the conquering of Israel. Ultimately, Solomon completes work on the temple, which was built to house the Ark of the Covenant, and become “a glorious temple for which God was to dwell”. (1 Kings 8:13).
Chris Hodapp, in his manual Freemasons for Dummies, defines Solomon’s Temple as a representation of the individual Freemason, where both an individual man and the physical temple take “many years to build” as a “place suitable for the spirit of God to inhabit.” The work of a becoming a Freemason is, in my opinion, a metaphor to the construction of the temple. This definition is not far off the mark, but alone it says nothing of why this bold metaphor is used.
Through deeper explorations of this topic, I was lead to a broader understanding of the temple and its relevance to the Freemasonry we practice today. One path of that exploration led me to understand it from the perspective explored in the works of John Dee, Henry Cornelius Agrippa and Francesco Giorgi, each an important Renaissance philosopher.
In Dame Frances Yates text The Occult Philosophy in the Elizabethan Age, she suggests that early Renaissance Cabalists felt the temple represented a definition of sacred geometry that was mirrored in the temple by reflecting a perfect and proportional measure made “in accordance with the unalterable laws of cosmic geometry.” These ideas formed from the work of Francesco Giorgi in De Harmonia Mundi, which drew in Vitruvian principals of Architecture and integrated the foundation of Christian Cabalism with the ideas from Hermetic study to create “connections between angelic hierarchies and planetary spheres” that [rose] “up happily through the stars to the angels hearing all the way those harmonies on each level of the creation imparted by the Creator to his universe, founded on number and numerical laws of proportion.”
These ideas are from an early Christian Cabala (c.1525), before the open appearance of Freemasonry, and Solomon’s temple, as we know it today. Building on the ides of Giorgi, Cornelius Agrippa explored the ideas of Alchemy, Hermetic, Neoplatonic and Cabalist thought, and wrote about them in his book De Occulta Philosophia (Three Books of Occult Philosophy), published in 1533. In this text, one important idea was that the universe was divided into three worlds (degrees), which consisted of an elemental world, a celestial world, and an intellectual world, each receiving influences from the one above it. The first world was believed governed by natural magic (element) and arranged substances “in accordance with the occult sympathies between them.” The second world is concerned with celestial magic that governed “how to attract and use the influences of the stars.” Agrippa himself calling it “a kind of magic mathematical magic because its operations depend on number.” The third world represented ceremonial magic “as directed toward the super celestial world of angelic spirits.” Beyond that, Agrippa says, is the divine itself. These ideas are not about the physical temple, but instead I see it representing an unseen or perhaps inner temple, the travel in what we call today the self.
This philosophy of this divine self, interacting with the magical principals I suggest, merged at that time into the then strong and intelligent stone mason guilds, blending their practical application of numbers and formulation with the exploration of the divine worlds that many worked to physically construct. These ideas were accepted and adopted into the early landmarks of Freemasonry where, I believe, that the temple was perceived as more than a representational place of being. Over time, as philosophy and understanding changed, much of the fraternity lost sight of why Solomon’s Temple was important, that it represented a more mystical and philosophical construct akin to Agrippa’s spheres. Its interpretation has, today, moved into a metaphorical position becoming a part of the metaphorical stage in which our craft is set. But by examining how the temple exists in our degrees today will see some of that connection to the Renaissance philosophy.
In modernity, King Solomon’s Temple, within Freemasonry, appears in each of the three degrees (or worlds) as different aspects within each degree. Within the first, it is represented as the ground floor, the allegorical entrance into the fraternity. The temple is not depicted as the complicated structure; instead it is as an unfinished edifice, which is implicit to the ritual. Like Agrippa’s first elemental sphere, the first degree of masonry is the initiate’s entry point into Freemasonry and its philosophy, giving the initiate the elemental components to start his formation, only the work is not the rough labor of the operative, but instead the work of the speculative.
The Second Degree makes use of the temples middle chamber, whose dual meaning represents the halfway point into the temple, and the halfway point of Freemasonry. But interestingly we are taught here that the second degree is the most important of the three degree, as it is here we are lead through the 15 steps from the ground floor to the middle chamber of King Solomon’s Temple, where we as masons are instructed on our “wages due and jewels.” The various adornments of the temple have a multifaceted meaning that is described in this degree, which again factor into the representation of the temple.
But what makes this degree so important to me is that it is not the middle chamber, but the odyssey across the three, five and seven steps to it that mark it as important. Across those steps we are taught about the three stages of human life, the five orders of architecture, and the seven liberal arts (amongst other things), and like Agrippa’s second sphere of celestial magic, its mathematical influence can be felt throughout.
This path is the important symbolic link to the temple, where our ritual goes so far to remind us that of the three degrees, the Fellowcraft is the one that applies “our knowledge to the discharge of our respective duties to God, our neighbor, and ourselves; so that when in old age, as Master Masons, we may enjoy the happy reflections consequent on a well spent life, and die in the hopes of a glorious immortality.” The importance being laid on the journey of a Fellowcraft.
The third degree, or the consequence of that well spent life, ultimately represents the Sanctum Sanctorum or, Holy of Holies, in King Solomon’s Temple. Mentioned at the end of the Fellowcraft, this is where the brother reflects on the “well spent life” by the rewards of his work. The symbolism here is that it is the deepest heart of the temple and the furthest attainment of a Freemason. It also is to represent the deepest penetration into the psyche of the man. This is also the pinnacle of the ritual without the further exploration of the additional rites. The Holy of the Holies is representational of the celestial realm defined by Agrippa, and is the closest sphere outside of the divine itself. It functions as the house of God, both literally in the constructed temple, and metaphorically within the newly raised Mason. This echoes the ideas mentioned by Giorgi and later expanded on by Agrippa and Dee. Dee’s further expansive ideas later went on to influence early Rosicrucian thought in a similar fashion.
Agrippa’s three worlds, I suggest, form (in part) the basis of the steps and the journey through King Solomon’s Temple through the degrees of Freemasonry. The presence of King Solomon’s Temple in ancient thought, from the earliest Old Testament writings to the pinnacle of renaissance occult philosophy has preserved it as an iconographic representation of the path to the divine. Solomon’s temple is not a solitary place in history, used as a simple metaphor in which to base an allegorical play. Instead, it is a link in early Christian Cabala and Hermetic thought, which is just as vital today, as it was then, to the tradition of Freemasonry. Still a metaphor but a more profound one whose importance is not often explored or represented in modern Masonic thought. Looking at the ideas of this renaissance philosophy, I believe that philosophy becomes squarely linked to the past, present, and future of Freemasonry and to King Solomon’s Temple.
Duncan, Malcom C., Duncan’s Ritual of Freemasonry. New York: Crown Publishers. 2005.
Hodapp, Christopher, Freemasons for Dummies. New Jersey: Wiley Publishing, Inc. 2005.
The Holy Bible, NIV, Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing. 1984.
MacNaulty, W. Kirk, A Journey Through Ritual and Symbol. London, Thames and Hudson. 1991.
Vitruvius, 10 Books on Architecture. Trans. Morgan, Morris Hickey. New York: Dover 1960.
Yates, Frances, The Occult Philosophy in the Elizabethan Age. London/New York: Routledge, 2003.
That secret portion of Masonry which is known only to the initiates as distinguished from exoteric Masonry, or monitorial, which is accessible to all who choose to read the manuals and published works of the Order. The words are from the Greek, εσωτερικός, internal, and εξωτερική, external, and were first used by Pythagoras, whose philosophy was divided into the exoteric, or that taught to all, and the esoteric, or that taught to a select few; and thus his disciples were divided into two classes, according to the degree of initiation to which the had attained, as being either fully admitted into the society, and invested with all the knowledge that the Master could communicate or as merely postulants, enjoying only the public instructions of the school, and awaiting the gradual reception of further knowledge. This double mode of instruction was borrowed by Pythagoras from the Egyptian priests, whose theology was of two kinds-the one exoteric, and addressed to the people in general; the other esoteric, and confined to a select number of the priests and to those who possessed, or were to possess, the regal power. And the mystical nature of this concealed doctrine was expressed in their symbolic language by the images of sphinxes placed at the entrance of their temples. Two centuries later, Aristotle adopted the system of Pythagoras, and, in the Lyceum at Athens, delivered in the morning to his select disciples his subtle and concealed doctrines concerning God Nature, and Life, and in the evening lectured on more elementary subjects to a promiscuous audience. These different lectures he called his Morning and his Evening Walk.
Fellow of the Craft – a Treatise on the Second Degree of Freemasonry
The challenge has been in how to reveal something that is and should be already apparent and known. That is not meant as flippant or assuming. To the contrary, it is to express a sentiment we are each taught from the very earliest of days in our Masonic upbringing, that our progress is measured and celebrated in what we learn and how we grow from those lessons. That is the heart of what it means to be passed as a Fellow of the Craft.
That craft is the intangibility behind the scenes of doing Freemasonry. It’s in the catechism, the lessons of association and the mechanism by which good men become better. The intangibility comes in the day-to-day lessons of knowledge we gain and its byproduct of wisdom. Certainly, it has been written and codified in a myriad of teachings esoteric and exoteric, hidden in plain sight and cloaked in unintelligible symbols the meaning of which we devote lives to the study of.
So then, the becoming of a fellow is the degree of passing, the movement through time and space such that its transit is imperceptible and shapes our moral vantage point.
The importance of it all is in how we go about that transit. This is the heart of BECOMING – the path of time and space along the curve of the compass turn. In a more esoteric sense, it is the replication of the first which makes two – the same unit in its polar opposite, the Janus head or the opposite side of the same coin.
This understanding may seem unimportant, but that is not the case. It is as important as becoming the reflected image in the mirror who stares back in contemplation as one gazes into their soul. It is you, the same but no longer the Apprentice. It is as a fellow amongst many on that journey.
So would have begun the Fellow of the Craft. What was that alternate path? You can find that answer and more in the release of the new book Fellow of the Craft – a Treatise on the Second Degree of Freemasonry.
In this installment of Symbols & Symbolism we look at a reading from Albert G. Mackey’s Encyclopedia of Freemasonry on the meanings behind Clandestine, Clandestine Lodge and a Clandestine Freemason.
The video, deals with the first two subjects, the third is a subject of much contention creating clear vernacular delineation of what IS and what IS NOT considered by the various denominations of the fraternity.
The ordinary meaning of this word is secret, hidden. The French word clandestin, from which it is derived, is defined by Boiste (Pierre-Claude-Victor Boiste – Dictionnaire universel de la langue française, first published in 1800) to be something:
fait en cachette et contre les lois.
Translated to mean – done in a hiding-place and against the laws (or, as translated by Google Translate – made secretly and against laws), which better suits the Masonic signification, which is illegal, not authorized. Irregular is often used for small departures from custom.
The Frontispiece to Noorthouck’s 1784 Constitution.
A body of Masons uniting in a Lodge without the consent of a Grand Lodge, or, although originally legally constituted, continuing to work after its charter has been revoked, is styled a “Clandestine Lodge.” Neither Anderson nor Entick employ the word. It was first used in the Book of Constitutions in a note by Noortbouck, on page 239 of his edition (Constitutions, 1784). Irregular Lodge would be the better term.
One made in or affiliated with a clandestine Lodge. With clandestine Lodges or Masons, regular Masons are forbidden to associate or converse on Masonic subjects.
In the Book of Constitutions, Noortbouck’s comments read, first under the Abstract of the Laws Relating to the General Fund of Charity
IV, page ii:
No person made a mason in a private or clandestine manner, for small or unworthy considerations, can act as a grand officer or as an officer of a private lodge, or can he partake of the general charity.
Interestingly, they tell us their reasons:
And then Under the Making of a Mason (page 394 and 395), ART V
A brother concerned in making masons clandestinely, shall not be allowed to visit any lodge till he has made due submission, even though the brothers so made may be allowed.
and, ART VIII, page 395:
Seeing that some brothers have been made lately in a clandestine manner, that is, in no regular lodge, nor by any authority or dispensation from the grand master, and for small and unworthy considerations, to the dishonor of the craft; the grand lodge decreed, that no person so made, nor any of those concerned in making him, shall be a grand officer, nor an officer of a particular lodge; nor shall partake of the general charity, should they ever be reduced to apply for it.
From a Short Talk Bulletin, Vol.XIII, No, 12, from 1935 says definitively (for that time) that,
Today the Masonic world is entirely agreed on what constitutes a clandestine body, or a clandestine Mason; the one is a Lodge or Grand Lodge unrecognized by other Grand Lodges, working without right, authority or legitimate descent; the other is a man “made a Mason” on such a clandestine body.
This follow up book to my 2010 project Masonic Traveler – Essays and Commentary is a different approach to understanding the importance and meaning behind the First Degree of Freemasonry.
Taking the approach from the Scottish (French) Rite degrees, this work explores the nuance of symbolic initiation lost in the contemporary system at work in much of the main-stream practice. By using the Scottish Rite First Degree, the meaning and process of the masonic initiation takes on new dimensions why compared to Albert Pike’s First Degree treatise in Morals and Dogma. It is that dimension that this work seeks to explore celebrating the art and history behind the initiation process.
The idea behind this work is that the degree, whether intentional or as a byproduct of revision and deconstruction, is a metaphorical entry point onto the Tree of Life from the mystical tradition of the Kabbalah. That, the first degree, when examined next to the works of other esoteric writers, becomes the foundation degree of initiation as it blossoms into a rich allegorical journey from chaos into order.
While not a tell-all expose into Freemasonry, the work, at a deeper level, is an attempt to understand what it means to BECOME a Freemason.
In this work are:
Two never before seen original poems by the author
Original Art envisioning the meaning of the initiation
Three explorations of the work
Notes to support the thesis
An interesting note, all aspects of the book from its creators hand. Not a pain stream or commercially published work, its creation is with an artisanal work as the product of a loving devotion to the medium and subject matter. Also interesting about the book is that this work is the first of three to round out three ineffable degrees of the fraternity taking us ever higher into the allegorical tree of life.
And, with this announcement I want to publicly thank those who invested in the work through Kickstarter. So, a big round of thinks to:
Once, when thought came to me of the things that are and my thinking soared high and my bodily senses were restrained, like someone heavy with sleep from to much eating or toil of the body, an enormous being completely unbound in size seemed to appear to me and call my name and say to me: “What do you want to hear and see; what do you want to learn and know from your understanding?”
You whom we address in silence, the unspeakable, the unsayable, accept pure speech offerings from a heart and soul that reaches up to you.
Synopsis –This first section of Hermetica is, in essence, a creation mythology to provide an explanation on the creation of the physical world and its link to the philosophy of this teaching. The lesson comes through a discourse of meditations between Hermes Trismegistus and the creative force calling itself the mind of sovereignty, the one and only authority, represented by Poimandres, a force said to be with us everywhere. This emanation of sovereignty is described as a divine being unbound in size and said to be “an endless light, clear and joyful…a vision to be loved.”
In this vision of light, the story of creation unfolds within which it says darkness takes form to become in opposition to the all encompassing light. The darkness resembles the roiling of a snake becoming “something of a watery nature” producing a wailing roar as it coalesces. Out of this light and darkness, a fire breaks forth from the waters becoming suspended in the air between the dark water below and the endless light above, as a spirit from word so that only earth and water remained below. The fire was “stirred to hear by the spiritual word” of its creation which moved between them.
Poimandres explains that he, this endless aspect of light, is god which existed before the water and says that the word (fire) which separated the light from water was its emanation as a son (sun) as the light giving word from mind. This process, it says, occurs in man in that “what you see and hear is the ‘word of God’ but that our mind (thought) is the highest aspect of God; that together they are a union of life undivided and indivisible from one another, that they are one and the same aspect which is the principle of existence of beginning without end.
From this light were created craftsmen who were to be the creators of life which where made in the aspect of god in fire and spirit. These aspects of creation were “crafted in seven governors” who would make the “…sensible world in seven circles” governed by fate, which is to suppose an invisible force which governs their interactions.
The light, as Gods word, “made union with the seven craftsmen” creating life “‘bereft of reason’ so as to be mere nature,” wild and uncontrollable without mandate as they were the emanations of the mechanisms of fate by which they operate.
Another creation of the Mind of God was the son, its own child, who wished to make craftworks in the manner of the seven craftsmen but given all authority over the other craftworks. Nature would come to be the son of god’s bride together governing creation.
Poimandres explains that, because of this, mankind is two-fold – mortal in body but immortal in spirit (or essence the text using essential man), but still mortal and a subject of fate.
From the union of son and nature, nature gave birth to seven men who themselves were craftsmen representing the aspects of earth, water, fire, soul, mind, light, and life. This creation sundered the counsel of god rendering them into two twin aspects – one male and one female, who were charged with the task of propagating and create further giving them will to choose immortality or death through recognition of all that exists. From this choice man was given the ability to transcend his creation in light to be created again the text saying “Life and light are god and father…so if you learn that you are from light and life… you shall advance to life once again.”
It is in this recognition of creation that a resurrection, or reincarnation of sorts, takes place which is a process unseen and hidden to those who embrace the chaotic watery nature of envy, greed, violence, and irreverence. Enlightenment comes in the release of the “material body” which allows our “alteration” (transformation) to occur where our past manifestation “vanishes” to rise up and flow back to its source (light) eventually reaching out to a place that Poimandres calls the ‘ogdoad’ which is a nirvana like state of Heaven in union with the creating light. This ogdoad is the “final good for those who have received knowledge to be made God” achieved by enlightenment which comes from the leaving of “corruption” so as to “take a share in immortality.”
As an ancient religious text, it is very much a creation mythology which sets up a framework by which it puts the universe into operation striving to make sense of the life and creation going on around us. Tempered with the creation of life is its conduct which is relegated by Fate. The text begins with an emanation of light, balanced by darkness, represented in both the darkness appearing like the “roiling of a snake” into water separated physically (and spiritually) by the word (or breath) of god as represented in the boundary of fire. This layer of transformation gives us a glimpse of the alchemical process of transformation which is governed by fire and tempered for us to embrace or reject that which ultimately decides our outcome by fate. The acceptance of this outcome, which is not predicated on scripture or theological “beliefs”, is based on the principle of our acceptance of our origin and the necessity of our conduct to do, and be, good. This suggests a parallel in the teaching of the Golden Rule with the thought of its benefit to all who are bereft of “evil, wickedness, greed, and violence” which are the baser attributes evident in all men. From this practice, and an acknowledgement of origin, man walks in light and returns to it upon his calling from fate, a process Poimandres suggests governs as gate keeper at a distance, resorting to man’s demons as motivation to change lest they be, instead, trapped in the fire of transformation.
The outcome of this understanding comes from our desire to transcend the material universe and return to the source of light which is our metaphorical source of creation. To do this, man must evolve (learn) to transcend fate and slip into the “cosmic framework” which is, in essence, the good. To do this man must take on the nature of the eight craftsman (seven created by God, and one created as its son) and seek to emulate their desire and zeal to create, moving out of the roiling waters of chaos as he overcomes his lower nature breaking free of the seven circles of craftsman (and cycles of birth) so as to communicate to others this message to become a progeny of good. The goal of this process is to return back to the ogdoad which we must consider as the idea of a reunification with the Mind of god. This idea of the Mind of God as our source has existed for a time immemorial in that the ogdoad can be traced to the religious workings from the Old Kingdom in Egyptian antiquity where its religious practice was seen as the highest heaven within which Ra, Hathor, and Thoth were the pinnacle deities. We also find the idea of the ogdoad in Gnostic Christianity in the first century of the Common Era as proposed by the theologian Valentinus as the super celestial space above the 8 spheres of the heavens, literally as the heaven above heaven.
Interestingly, this first monograph of Hermetica gives us a link to the creation of the universe in seven spheres (the seed of life) and seven more in the craftsmen (the flower of life). In this symbolism, it gives us a link to the notions of creation in the seed, flower life that, if left to progress further it would be emblematic of the progression to the tree of life – from seed to fruit to tree. The seed and flower, said to construct a form of sacred geometry and give us the basis of forms from which we can create the platonic solids that are the building blocks of life it self.
Creation myths abound in the many world religions and this version in Hermetica is not unique within that patterning. One need but read the Biblical account of Genesis to see its striking similarities as attempting to establish some answer to the universal question of man – “why are we here” and “where did we come from?” Its essence is that mankind is created in both a form of good and evil represented in dark and light, a similar balance as found perhaps in the Chinese symbol of the yin and yang or even in the Masonic checkered flooring. Our responsibility is to transcend the baseness of that darkness as it is our inheritance from our watery origins, so as to seek and see the light as well as to teach others about its source to return to find our way back to our divine origins. The text speaks to our nature as being the sons (and daughters) of god, from his craftsman son. This, in turn, grants us the quality of being craftsman too; responsible for our own developing creation and the construction of the world around us so as to break away from the firm grip fate allowing us to slip into the cosmic framework within which we inhabit with the universe as creators. We need to seek to be craftsman and build a better firmament from which to find understanding.
All mankind has this capability, but perhaps not the means to see the being of Poimandres or to have the vision of Hermes of such a being without beginning or end, which is the raison d’être of this teaching so as to enable us learn and communicate these lessons to those we meet – which is the simple idea to be good and reverent which enables us to have the vision of a clear and joy filled light. To get there we must undergo the fire of transmutation, which is our quest as a craftsman for the knowledge of constructing for ourselves the space for understanding.
At the conclusion of this passage, the prayer is an important cleansing of the mind and an acknowledgement of our purpose. That prayer reads:
Holy is God, the father of all;
Holy is God, whose counsel is done by his own powers;
Holy is God, who wishes to be known and is known by his own people;
Holy are you, who by the word have constituted all things that are;
Holy are you, from whom all nature was born as image;
Holy are you, of whom nature has not made a like figure;
Holy are you, who are stronger than every power;
Holy are you, who surpass every excellence;
Holy are you, mightier than praises.
It is a good start to begin our path of crafting our journey to light and our quest for enlightenment.
So Mote It Be.
 The name Poimandres had an early understanding to mean “Man-Shepherd” (perhaps a shepherd of men). But, more recent understanding on its etymology suggests that the name is actually derived from the Egyptian phrase Peime-nte-rê meaning “Knowledge of Re” or “Understanding of Re” more commonly understood as the Egyptian creator deity of Ra.
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.