In this episode of Symbols and Symbolism we look at a short entry from Albert Mackey’s Encyclopedia of Freemasonry examining the figure of the weeping virgin. A newer invention in the symbolism of Freemasonry, Mackey draws an ancient parallel to its cryptic iconography.
The Weeping Virgin with disheveled hair, in the Monument of the Third Degree used in the American Rite, is interpreted as a symbol of grief for the unfinished state of the Temple.
Jeremy Cross, who is said to have fabricated the monumental symbol, was not, we are satisfied, acquainted with Hermetic Science. Yet a woman thus portrayed, standing near a tomb, was a very appropriate symbol for the Third Degree, whose dogma is the resurrection.
In Hermetic Science, according to Nicolas Flammel (Hieroglyphics, chapter xxxii), a woman having her hair disheveled and standing near a tomb is a symbol of the soul.
Jeremy Cross (b.1783, d. 1861) became a mason in 1808 and soon became a student of Thomas Smith Webb. In 1819 he published The True Masonic Chart or Hieroglyphic Monitor, in which he borrowed liberally from the previous work of Webb. The Weeping Virgin first appeared as an illustration as rendered by the American copperplate engraver Amos Doolittle, appearing in Crosse’s The True Masonic Chart.
In this episode we look at a reading of Frank C. Higgins from The Beginning of Masonry. In this piece, Higgins explores the philosophical relationship of God and Freemasonry.
There is no place in Masonry for dogmatic controversy affecting the current convictions of brethren of the craft. In its highest contemplation, Freemasonry solely regards and addresses itself to the “Great Architect of the Universe,” respecting the Names under which this Unique Identity is apostrophized in every clime, by every race, and by every school of thought.
There are no religious differences attached to the adoption of the Supreme Being. Men differ alone with respect to some of His manifestations of love and solicitude for humanity, making claims to an exclusiveness in one respect or another, which are too often the outgrowth of fast-vanishing racial isolation and the diverse trends of thought consequent upon differences of origin, climate, and environment.
In quibbling over these differences, so frequently the result of misunderstandings of identical premises, viewed from diverging angles, men are too prone to forget that the goodness and providence of Almighty God is forever pouring in a mighty deluge upon us, manifesting itself unceasingly and impartially in everything that either experience or can be experienced. From the selfish standpoint of the unintelligent ego, each individual is alternately blessed with satisfactions and cursed with deprivations or distresses, the extremes predominating in many instances without apparent reason. Many of the ancient philosophers, therefore, taught that man could attain supreme contentment only by realizing his identity with the All. Sensing this, he perceived the resistless operation of the great laws of Being, in perfect poise, harmony, and impartiality, requiring only to be heeded for man to escape the evils and enjoy the benefits thereof during his allotted term, the accidents and mishaps befalling him not being subject to the caprices of an unpropitious Ruler, but consequent upon his own unguarded collisions with unchangeable law.
There are no religious differences attached to the adoption of the Supreme Being.
Therefore, the whole problem of human life became the attainment of greater and ever greater knowledge of the natural law, upon which all progress and all security to life and happiness depended in so eminent a degree, and the divine gift of the reasoning faculties, which rendered the possible, was appreciated as God’s most precious blessing to man. Thousands of years of experiment and ceaseless vigilance on the part of eager watchers have never resulted in the detection of a single principle so unrelated to the rest of the universal machine as to have no dependence upon it. Even where the wonders of science have disclosed marvels so intricate as to baffle explanation or analysis, they have at least proved so entirely subject to certain conditions of known factors as to be easily provoked into manifestation or suppressed from view, at the will of man.
Year by year, day by day, hour by hour, minute by minute, the infinite details of this great cosmic-pervading law keep on unfolding to human perception, filling all space with their greatness and mocking pursuit in their ultra-microscopic perfections and yet nothing is discovered that had not existed ages before the human mind began to concern itself with its intricacies. The capacity of mind to see and understand has limitations and history-that of which it takes cognizance through the medium of the senses-is limitless and without historical beginning or end.
Every past age has attempted to place bounds upon that which it is legitimate for man to know or think he knows about the origin and constitution of the wonders about him. Each era has closed its book of human knowledge with a flaming “Finis” at the end of an ultimate chapter, and yet the dawn of every other day has ushered in new wonders, new visions, and new truths.
“Dogma” is the name given to all these futile finalities which do not finish, to the barbed wire entanglements and chevaux de frise set by each generation at the limit of its attainments, in the vain thought that the “End” had been achieved.
In most cases dogmas will be found to revolve round the privilege of classes to rule masses, irrespective of the fact that part of the cosmic law is as sure and continual an oxygenation of the sea of humanity by waves of upheaval as is manifest in seas of water, in which that which is the sluggish depth of today may be the foam-crested wave of tomorrow. Yet the mind of man, framed in the image of the Creator, even as the receiver of an acoustic instrument must be attuned to the vibrations of the transmitter, that the message may be received as it is sent, has discovered constant and unchanging elements in this stupendous order of varied manifestations, has discovered chaos-banishing laws which must be the same in an atom as in a sun, and so may be exhibited in symbols of dimensions convenient to the stature of contemplative man.
Such are the symbols of Freemasonry – evidences of the truth attributed to Triple-great Hermes, the mystic founder of our craft, that “that which is above may be discovered by examination of that which is below.”
The Masonic student may concern himself with every branch of research that is capable of throwing light upon the causes that have led men to crystallize their perceptions of immutable law in emblems and symbols. He may pursue each of the various paths of investigation indicated by the obscure phraseology of ritual until he emerges into the full blaze of Masonic light embracing its fundamental truth. He may unravel the intricacies of ancient philosophies and mythologies, in order to convince himself of their ultimate source in the fountain of revealed wisdom, and he may set his own value upon anthropomorphisms or the embodiment of attributes and principles in fleshly guise, so that what really are the play of natural forces, the sport of the elements, the cycles of worlds, are described in terms taken from the vocabulary of human life. Yet, with all this, he may not consciously offend his brother, by striking at the latter’s highest individual spiritual contemplation in a humor of disdain or ridicule. Each mind is a universe in little, a cell of the universe in great, one as eternal as the other, and subject to the same law of gradual unfoldment. Some day we shall all know the intricate and the complicated as we at present know that which is simple and few of parts; but of the infinite aggregate, the unfathomable indivisible total, our Masonry teaches us the value.
One of the greatest enigmas of contemporary Freemasonry, the Chamber of Reflection is a little-used aspect in the rituals of a newly made Mason. Yet, the symbolism of the Chamber has roots in Hermeticism, Rosicrucianism and other occult traditions.
In the French and Scottish Rites, a small room adjoining the Lodge, in which, preparatory to initiation, the candidate is enclosed for the purpose of indulging in those serious meditations which its somber appearance and the gloomy emblems with which it is furnished are calculated to produce. It is also used in some of the advanced degrees for a similar purpose. Its employment is very appropriate, for, as Gädicke well observes,
It is only in solitude that we can deeply reflect upon our present or future undertakings, and blackness, darkness, or solitariness, is ever a symbol of death. A man who has undertaken a thing after mature reflection seldom turns back.
Manly P Hall, in his Secret Teachings of All Ages, writes of the use of V.I.T.R.I.O.L. – beginning with the word VISITA and reading clockwise, the seven initial letters of the seven words inscribed in the outer circle read: VITRIOL. This is a very simple alchemical enigma but is a reminder that those studying works on Hermeticism, Rosicrucianism, alchemy, and Freemasonry should always be on the lookout for concealed meanings hidden either in Parables and allegories or in cryptic arrangements of numbers, letters, and words.
Masonic tradition has had a rich application of the notion that it is imbued with a Hermetic philosophy with very little explanation of what that means. At no time, in the teachings of the fraternity, is a candidate or member handed a pamphlet, booklet or tract explaining what Hermetic has to do with masonry or how it pertains to the rituals of the degrees. Further, no philosophical or religious tradition is said to be the linchpin of Masonic teachings and the esoteric institution of which they have obligated themselves. The only glimpse of that teaching comes in the ritual use of the Bible as the Volume of the Sacred Law which can vary country to country, tradition to tradition, and initiate to initiate as the volume is suggested to be the book the candidate holds as holy.
The closest that this tradition of Masonry comes to teaching the meaning of the Hermetic art can be found in the teachings of the Scottish Rite, which for many years gave out to its members a large bound tome of Albert Pike’s Morals and Dogma instructing the candidate to read it, as able, so as to better understand the degrees. But, because of its complexity, Morals and Dogma more often served as a door stop than a doorway to greater wisdom.
More recently, Pike’s 900 page manuscript of the occult sciences has been replaced with Rex Hutchens’s A Bridge to Light, which is a good and useful tool for the literal understanding of the degrees, yet still lacking in much greater depth than to suggest you, the reader, to go and research the greater meaning of the obtuse symbolism.
Perhaps this is an intentional lesson in resourcefulness for the true student, but for a greater understanding of the esoteric teachings it served as to great a bridge over the wisdom than as a path for the aspirant through the teachings.
Having followed the many paths of the esoteric science, one idea that repeatedly comes to the fore is that it is of a Hermetic philosophy. Pike uses the term liberally in Morals and Dogma saying in the 28th degree
The Hermetic Art is, therefore, at the same time a religion, a philosophy, and a natural science. As a religion, it is that of the Ancient Magi and the Initiates of all ages; as a philosophy, we may find its principles in the school of Alexandria and the theories of Pythagoras; as a science, we must inquire for its processes of Paracelsus, Nicholas Flamel, and Raymond Lulle.
So what exactly does the Hermetic Art mean to being a Mason?
The great teacher of the Hermetic Art is said to be Hermes Trismegistus better known as the Thrice Great Hermes of whom Pike makes a parallel to Grand Master Hiram in his third degree monograph.
Who is Hermes, and why would his teachings be of any importance to a third degree Master Mason?
Through this series on the Hermetic Arts, I will explore those questions and try to create an association between the principal Hermetic text and the Hermetic principals which have wound their way into many esoteric teachings, but in particular those of Freemasonry. To facilitate this understanding, we need to examine the principal Hermetic text from which the teachings of Hermes Trismegistus originate – Hermetica: The Greek Corpus Hermeticum and the Latin Asclepius.
While some may construe its teaching as religious, we need make our focus on it as the source materials from which much of the Western Esoteric Mystery traditions have drawn their teachings. Yet, because of what it teaches, it would be impossible to interpret its writing without acknowledging it as religious text, complete with a creation myth, commandments of adherents, and ceremonies of inclusion for those who choose to devote themselves to its teachings, a practice that would be difficult to separate Freemasonry from in its religious practice of ceremonial ritual. Masonry, like most other mystery schools, has adopted aspects of the work, such as it has from other esoteric workings including tarot, magick, Kabbalah and of and New Thought ideas of life mastery. In this undertaking of exploring Hermetica, our focus need be on its teachings so as to better improve the human condition towards those we come into contact with, which is at the heart of the Hermetic philosophy.
While the text of Hermetica contains what its authors suggest are certain truths, I leave to you their validation and weight, when taken in consideration of your own belief traditions. In some instances, they may give you a path to better understanding your own beliefs or give you another way to look at what was before now an assumption of truth. Over time, it has been said that Hermetica held aspects of religious mythology, early millennial Hellenistic religious ideals, Neo-Platonism, Sufism, Islam, Judaism, and Christianity but it is my belief that as the texts originated in an early period of the Common Era, their ideas stem from an older tradition that dates into late antiquity and perhaps the earliest of monotheistic Egyptian rituals of initiation and veneration. Evidence of origin is difficult at best except when you consider its origins by lineage which, as Free Masons, we can find some heraldry to them as its modern day companions in practice.
At various intervals, Freemasonry itself has been called a hermetic science with seldom a satisfying explanation of what that means. In part, the use of this type of language could be taken in scientific terms to imply a closed loop system of wisdom teachings – a self contained system, without influence or coloration to any other philosophical or religious tradition save what itself promulgates as the allegorical and symbolic lessons it teaches.
Yet, at various points in the Royal Art, of which Masonry has expounded itself as, includes moralistic teachings that, at their core, utilize Christian verse and meaning drawing upon Biblical allegories from the Great Book while introducing ideas from traditions that seem to spring from outside the age within which the Bible was conceived.
A few examples of this include the trans formative process in alchemy and the Jewish Mysticism of found in the Kabbalah which were later elaborated upon by writers of the great tradition of Free Masonry most notably in the works of Pike and Wilmshurst whom both injected their own ideas, by interpretation, into the tradition. So true is it with this undertaking that one must suspend the idea of what it is we believe the Great work of Freemasonry teaches to explore another possibility. From this exploration we can hopefully come to understand the later developments of the ancient idea of philosophical tradition not enclosed within itself – not as a hermetically sealed philosophy but a broader tradition of the philosophy (and perhaps religion) of Hermetica itself. It is through a close reading of the Hermetic texts and an analysis by which we can produce an exegesis through a juxtaposition of the philosophy that comes from Hermetica and the lessons taught in the degrees to find, if it exists, a harmony between the two and reach a firmer understanding of what being a Mason means and how it, perhaps, colors our underlying ideas of morality, truth and faith. Is the link between Hermetica and Freemasonry an accident that occurred in the attempt to mythologize a simple tradition of initiation and mystery play theatrics that has been carried forward religiously for centuries? Upon closer interpretation of Hermetica, this does not seem to be wholly the case.
Sadly, there is no direct evidence of its association or of any such intention other than to compare the rituals of masonry and some of the possible conclusions that may be drawn from them in parallel to the Hermetic writings, in particular in the three craft degrees. But, this is a speculative science, so then we must speculate and attempt to find parallels where we can. In the mean time, while we ponder the deep questions, of origin, source and meaning it is my hope that hope that we will discover a richness of tradition and possibly a new means to understand our own faith in a system of morality taught by symbolism and allegory. That discovery, I believe, comes in understanding the ancient text of Hermetica.
But, before we begin to examine the text of Hermetica, our first stop must need be with the well known Emerald Tablet, a codex of sorts said to codify the teachings of Hermes into a singular distillation of the main points of Hermetica itself.
As we progress ahead, you can be the judge of the Emerald Tablet’s points and their relevancy when compared to their supposed source material.
The tablet, as a translated work, can be found in its oldest documented source from the Kitab Sirr al-Asrar, The Book of the Secret of Secrets, which is a 12th century translation of a 10th century Arabic text which included subjects on many areas of interest to the contemporary mystery school student including ethics, astronomy, magic, and alchemy. Elements of the text are believed to have circulated well before their compilation into the Kitab by several hundred years.
This portion of the greater text is a compendium of advice for rulers, believed to be a letter from Aristotle to Alexander the Great. The work has had many translators over the centuries ultimately producing the work we read below.
The Emerald Tablet of Hermes – Contemporary Rendering of Latin text
[It is] true, without a lie, 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 perform the miracles of the one thing.
And as all things were from the one, by means of the meditation of the one, thus all things were born from the one, by means of adaptation.
Its father is the Sun, its mother is the Moon, the Wind carried it in its belly, its nurse is the earth.
The father of the whole world [or “of all of the initiates”?] is here.
Its power is whole if it has been turned into earth.
You will separate the earth from the fire, the subtle from the dense, sweetly, with great skill.
It ascends from earth into heaven and again it descends to the earth, and receives the power of higher and of lower things.
Thus you will have the Glory of the whole world.
Therefore will all obscurity flee from you.
Of all strength this is true strength, because it will conquer all that is subtle, and penetrate all that is solid.
Thus was the world created.
From this were wonderful adaptations, of which this is the means. Therefore am I named Thrice-Great Hermes, having the three parts of the philosophy of the whole world.
It is finished, what I have said about the working[s] of the Sun.
Image: Thrice Great Hermes Trismegistus, pen and ink rendering, from original source material with adaptation.
Dan Brown’s new book, The Lost Symbol, reminded me of a parable. A parable is a story embellished with perhaps some grains of reality to convey a broader idea of truth. Dan Brown in his new book, The Lost Symbol, has artfully woven an update of an ancient parable into a modern suspense novel that features prominently the one group that should be most apt to see the connection, the Freemasons. Freemasonry, a fraternity “veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols”, is central to the plot under pinning’s, but by its end, merely the back drop by which the modern parable is played out.
Brown, at his finest, is a genius at writing parables. The The Da Vinci Code is a prime example, the telling of the story of the Christ, but not as a divine emanation of God, but rather a mortal man who walked the earth like the rest of us. Brown’s novel was a work of fiction then, just as it is now with his release of the The Lost Symbol. But artfully, he weaves in elements of reality and fact, so as to set his stage onto which the story unfolds, perhaps to give it a greater link into reality, or to simply paint enough real figures into the work so the less (or not real) elements blend in to diffuse with the rest. The more believable the story, the more real it feels for the reader.
In his latest book, The Lost Symbol, Brown brings the story immediately to your feet, sweeping the reader into the air with anti-hero Robert Langdon. These first steps, however are only after a mysterious initiation with libations from a skull. Better to start the mysterious early. With this rapid start, and dubious ceremony, Brown wastes no time in introducing the cast of players and introducing suspicions of who is and who isn’t to be trusted. It works for Brown’s novels; they are after all suspense thrillers. With our cast in place, the story then begins to unfold at whip shot pace.
I do wonder if the book was conceived on a walking tour of Washington, as in the unfolding pages, the actions and activities seem to be bullet points on a map of D.C. rather than more well thought out (or conceived) stages. It seems most of Langdon’s ah-ha moments happen in the less important rooms of these Washington landmarks. Sub sub basements, kitchens, and church offices hardly seem as sexy as the Vatican library, but their mundane setting is really the same places all of us have time to reflect and think in our day to day life. This secondary settings may be a clever illusion to the importance of the idea of discover of the inner sanctum to which we each must travel for our own discoveries, but again, this is Dan brown, and he is writing about the allegorical and symbolic Masons, so you must treat the text with just as much symbolic verve. And brown’s use of these locations give clues to the broader idea of the story too, the chamber of reflection in the U.S. Capitol (inner journey), the Library of Congress (learning, knowledge), and the National Cathedral (where church and state meet).
Science plays an interesting role in this book too, and with another Masonic twist. The nascent field of Noetic Sciences features large here, but not in a first person the reason de etre way, but in a “this is similar to this” allegorical way. Religious mysticism (of all religions) is really at the core of this new science, but besides being an early plot point and step stone to link Freemasonry, mysticism, and Noetic Sciences, the new science field really doesn’t come into play, in the same way it did in Angels and Demons. It was, almost, another symbolic back drop to the whole story, interesting, and connective, but not vital, not the story itself.
As I mentioned, this review will be split in two, and the goal of the 2nd is to look more at the Masonic connections and connotations. But as the book itself was about Freemasonry, it is important to note that Brown’s treatment of Masonry was very tender, almost to much so. Early on, Brown goes to GREAT lengths to debunk and say what Freemasonry isn’t, covering the “is masonry a religion” issue, and even guffawing at the notion of secret geometric grids in the streets of Washington. Even the infamous MASON on the great seal on the back of the 1 dollar bill gets a quick walk on, only to of been used as a dodge for something else. Brown really did write this book with the fate of Freemasonry in mind, in parts almost writing as if he were creating one of our own brochures (perhaps off which he copied his passage) saying very strongly in his main character’s voice “In this age when different cultures are killing each other over whose definition of God is better, one could say the Masonic tradition of tolerance and open-mindedness is commendable.” Brown does go out of his way to weave in all manner of Hermetic, Gnostic, Rosicrucian, and Cabalistic ideas into the offering, but not in a way to dominate the reader into submission of belief, but to paint the picture that the ideas of Freemasonry, in their age and wisdom, are not wholly a Judeo-Christian construct, more on that in a bit in part 2.
Like past Brown novels, the story soon out paces the stage settings and takes over as a thriller and this book is no different. Its pace reaching a fever pitch of intrigue, manipulation, and murder, while embroiled in the ancient mystery of a “Masonic pyramid”. There are a few gasp moments for the reader, and plot spins that I didn’t see coming until hit square in the face by them. And the story winds out with a tragic dilemma, which brings me back to the idea that the story itself was a modern retelling of an ancient parable.
:: spoiler alert::
Caravaggio (1573-1610) The Sacrifice of Isaac
The parable I mention is from the bible. In that sacred text, very early in Genesis (chapter 22 to be exact) Abraham is commanded by God to sacrifice his son Isaac as a show of his allegiance to his faith in God. In that past parable, the test of faith is tremendous as the eldest born of Abraham is the greatest sacrifice that he can give, and give he does, willing at the command of God. In the very last seconds, Abraham is spared, his faith proven, and a ram is substituted for his son. In the climax of The Lost Symbol, that same test of faith is presented, but for a different outcome. As Abraham was to be the one giving sacrifice, the protagonist of the story, Peter Solomon is in that Abrahamic position, and knowing what the consequences were for the sacrifice he was forced to make, he still chose to not make that sacrifice, choosing to follow his heart. Symbolically, in a book about allegory and symbol, it stuck me that the story was alluding to a transition from one of Abraham’s blind faith (as an external salvation, doctrinal, dogmatic, and absolute), to man believing in the faith within us, that by our acts and intentions we were communing with the divine, which is a Gnostic outlook that sacrifice, in totality, is not necessary and in the end destructive.
The reason for this conclusion seems to me to be based in the preceding pages as repeatedly the ideas of the Hermetic law were repeated and stressed (As Above, So Below) and the bomb of the protagonist was not one of physical destruction, but of ideological chaos. To sacrifice the son would still bring chaos, absolute destruction, personally and publically.
The story wraps up and all the loose ends become tied in the neat bows that Brown manages to make following so many leads and loose ends. But the way in which the book reached its crescendo, not in a fiery explosion or an earth shattering revelation of biblical purport, was lack luster. The inclusion of the CIA, the cavalcade of 33rd degree masons and publicity of the who’s-who of Washington seemed to me an interesting plot point, but hardly reason to blow up historical property, and murder several innocent bystanders, but then, this is a suspense novel, and this YouTubian plot device was just as much a stage setting as the Masons themselves (twitter even got a mention to put the story in a contemporary but soon to be outdated setting).
Really, would the world be so traumatized to see people, who are already pretty open about being Masons, being Masons?
In the end, it was a good book, fun, flighty, suspenseful, with a few a-ha and gasp moments. Was it worth the 5 year wait, I’ll let you be the judge, but it was a nice testament to Freemasonry, and very tasteful in its portrayal of the ancient and honorable fraternity, to which I say thank you to Dan Brown. I give the book 7.5 out of 10 stars, and can say that I enjoyed reading it, and I think that you will too.
For those who read the book, but are wondering what Freemasonry is about, I recommend this Free E-book “What is Freemasonry?.”
The pre-revolutionary condition and philosophy of illustration of the era, propitiated the strengthening of the Principle of Equality between a man and a woman, and so it came to pass that both genders became lawfully eligible for membership in the Craft.
To admit a Woman in Lodge, is more than “opening the doors of our Temples to the Lovelier Gender”. It is to interrogate our Inner Tribunal of Consciences over the Eligibility of Women for Induction, in other words, to reflect on their potentials and their undeniable intellectual and spiritual qualifications as human beings; Yet these reflections cannot be carried out in Lodge so directly and openly – it is preferable to induce them by making reference to the “High Priestesses” and “Female Initiates of Ancient Mysteries”, through whom it is tacitly presupposed therefore that Women are “thinking beings”.
In spite of the efforts of many Free-Masons to place women in conditions of Equality, the Official Masonry at the dawn of the XIX century, at best, accepts the Adoption but not the Initiation; this meaning that women may become “adoptive daughters” of Anderson, perhaps even “his sisters”, but never his equals.
Now, in the arts and written press of France, serious, noticeable, and rather loud public discussions over women joining Free-Masonry began to take place, and to become the habitual topic of debate in almost every social gathering of the period.
In general, we can state that the arrival of English-Styled Masonry in France caused problems, and provoked an uproar in the aristocratic-bourgeois sociability of Paris and other parliamentary capitals dominated in part by women. Since 1730, the year in which the first Feminine Masonic Lodge appeared, there were published a number of literary works that fervently manifested the discontent of Ladies who saw themselves marginalized by “Regular Masonry”. In fact, however, not a single one of those pamphlets and/or books was written by a woman; thus leading us to assert with much certainty, that “The Enchanting Gender” was not considered odd or foreign to the mobilization and activism of many Male Free-Masons who favored the admission of women to the Royal Art.
At the same time, we must be honest, and for the sake of historical accuracy mention that there were Male Masons whom, over-looking the fundamental principles of the Order, invited to their banquets, dance halls and post-official gatherings, numerous loose females, dancers and courtesans, with whom they committed excesses that brought forth a terrible loss of prestige to our Institution in the eyes of the government, the roman catholic clergy, and the society at large; However, since the legalization of Masonic Lodges of Adoption by the Grand Orient of France, there were countless Male Free-Masons who defended the Legitimate Right of Women to participate in Masonic labors; and these actions, of course, provoked an immediate reaction in their detractors. As every day went by, more and more, the arguments over Women in Free-Masonry became a personal dispute between members of the Craft in general – whether they be sympathizers or adversaries of Co-Masonry. Eventually, the debate, or, better stated, the war of ideas between the defenders of the “enchantment of women”, and those concerned-accusers who denounced the “dangers of their weaknesses”, created the propitious soil for the germination of what in due time came to be known as: The Global Feminist Movement.
STATE OF CO-MASONRY IN OUR DAYS
Masonic Organization in Mexico and Latin America:
Given the fact that during the last 150 years Co-Masonry has gained greater notoriety, relevance and power in the Masonic World at the south side of El Rio Grande in the American Continent, and most of Europe (with the exception of the so-called “United Kingdom”) has long embraced the spirit of True Universal Free-Masonry, I will focus this section of my article in that part of the Western Hemisphere where the most retrograde and deplorable conservative-religious societies still exist, Mexico, Colombia, and Latin America as a whole.
Despite having been duly constituted as Independent Secular Republics, and, as such, having earned their Freedom and Sovereignty among the nations of the world – through the leadership and struggles of Free-Masons precisely, Mexico and most Central and South American countries, have proven to be quite an on-going challenge for the Craft and, most particularly, for the aspirations of women.
For a very long time, in Mexico, Colombia, and other Ultra-Catholic/Patriarchal Latin American countries, the membership of women in Free-Masonry has been considered one of the greatest taboos that, more than anything else, divide rather than unify.
The equivocated interpretation and enforcement of the Landmarks, which, per the so-called “Regular Masonry,” bars women’s admission and equal participation in the Craft, not only ignores the role of Guilds of Women Spinners, Seamstresses, Weaveresses, Women Glass-Stainers/Cutters/Blowers, Sculptresses, Women Engravers, etc. in the Arts of Architecture and Construction, but, it also captures one of the fundamental prejudices of the Puritan English Society of the beginning of the XVIII century, to whom a woman was considered a “thing”, in the juridical meaning of the word, and, as such, she was legally deprived of any and all rights, except, of course, of those dispensated to her by her Master, or better stated, her “Proprietor.”
French Free-Masonry, sponsored in considerable measure by Opulent Ladies of the period, since its very official foundation in 1740, marks a pivotal moment in the consolidation of a more egalitarian society, by taking on the challenge of recognizing the rights of their compatriots of like gender, and with that the possibility of being initiated in a Masonic Lodge. To our contemporary dismay, unfortunately, the prejudices of “Victorian Morals” remain in force at the dawn of the Third Millennium, and they still are the principal cause of Discord and Disharmony among the different visions and bodies of Symbolical Masonry around the world.
Amidst this puritanical phase in Global Free-Masonry, a significant event took place in the less-suitable country, Mexico. Surprisingly and amazingly enough, by the standards of that period and society, the Mexican Masonic Organization, following the tradition of Vanguard Thinking which, since its official birth around the middle of the XIX century has been hoisted by “The Mexican National Rite,” has sponsored the formation of Bi-Gender Lodges, considering women in total equality of conditions, rights and capacities as those of their Male Brothers. There is also much respect to the autonomy, habits, and bylaws fomented among all different Lodges and Grand Orients or Jurisdictions, by recognizing and accepting with like enthusiasm the existence of Masonic Lodges which, are exclusively masculine or feminine.
Thus, in all the Lodges and Bodies amalgamated in the Mexican Masonic Organization, and particularly in the Grand Orients of Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, Argentina, Chile and Bolivia, the participation of women or men in The Order, is accepted – without being obligatory to Lodges that are purely masculine, or, exclusively feminine, respectively.
Moreover, in 1991, the Mexican Masonic Organization welcomed the official birth and constitution of the First Masonic Grand Lodge of Women of Mexico, also known as: “Grand Lodge of Insurgent Women”. Unlike a number of “Co-Masonic” and/or “Para-Masonic” Grand Jurisdictions of Latin America where women are recognized as “Lesser Sisters”, this unique Masonic Body has total recognition. and is endowed with absolute power and autonomy over its laws, decisions, and labors. In 1995, Argentina and Peru followed in their Mexican Brethren’s footsteps, by rejoicing in the emergence and formation of their respective Feminine Masonic Grand Lodges. Presently, with the exception of The Central American Isthmus, there are Co-Masonic and Feminine Grand Bodies in every country of Latin America.
CONCLUSION = GENDER IS IN EVERYTHING
“Gender is in everything; everything has a Masculine and Feminine Principle; Gender is manifested in all planes”, so teaches the ultimate of the Hermetic Laws. With this postulate, the “Thrice Wise Master” guides us through the different levels of Natural Evolution, observing in it how duality is fused into one, in order to create a new being.
This Principle, which relates to Procreation, also shows us the existence of centrifugal and centripetal impulses, which are the forces that support gravitation, be it at the level of minuscule particles, or, of immense Universes.
Of all the Cosmic Purposes, to engender Life is the most sacred and transcendental act. At the microscopic level, the force of attraction makes the negative corpuscles or electrons revolve around the positive-ones or protons. After their obligated courtship, they unite, and thus the creation of a new atom occurs. In the animal and human species the “dance of life” repeats itself with male spermatozoa being attracted by female ovules. When one of the male reproductive cells attains penetration, the miracle of conception takes place.
The same system of procreation reigns at the macro-cosmic levels. In the British Encyclopedia we find that
“… in remote times, the bombardment of comets to the earth could have had an important role in the formation of the atmosphere and the seas. Additionally, these comets could have supplied the organic molecules necessary for the development of life”.
The method of fertilization is then the same – be it electrons, sperm, or comets that fecundate protons, ovules or planets. In like manner, we must apply the Principle of Gender to “traveling” from the “known” to the “unknown” – supporting ourselves in the Principle of Correspondence: “As it is above so is below, and, as it is below so is above”. Only through such application of this Principle shall Free-Masons comprehend and harness its primordial significance and power.
So states Hermes Trismegistus:
The very creation of the Universe also obeys the Principle of Gender.
He adds further: “Gender is manifested in all planes.” This, my Brothers, means that all possibilities of creation – mental and spiritual – are governed by the same Universal Law or Principle. Until the luminous emergence of the “Thrice Greatest Master”, a little over five thousand years ago, this was an occult body of knowledge available only to the Great Sages and High Priests/Priestesses of Ancient Egypt. In it there also secrets of “High Magick”, for only the faithful implementation of this law can bring within our reach the key, with which to command the Sacred FIAT LUX by the power of the Wise.
Brethren, Co-Masonry is already part of our lives – whether we accept it or not; it is in our very Human Faculties; it is part of our natural mechanism, and, accordingly, part of our very Masonic Essence as “Individuals who were first made Masons in OUR HEARTS”. Even at more subtle levels, to procreate is the result of the union of opposites.
A Thought, which is activity and mobility, represents Masculine Polarity, while Emotions and Sentiments, as clear expressions of Receptivity and Repose, and incarnate the Feminine Principle.
In order to physically produce what we desire, we must unite these forces:
THOUGHT plus EMOTION equals MANIFESTATION.
Thus, all our individual and/or collective endeavors shall first be conceived in subtle planes. Then, if the Law/Principle of Correspondence allows, the Universe will support it/them and accommodate the circumstances of manifestation (Gestation Process), Once the necessary time has elapsed, we shall invariably see the materialization of that which we created.
Our membership is still declining, regardless of our Enthusiasm, Official Optimism, and the momentary “Increase” of alleged “quality brethren”. It is Time to open our Third Eyes and begin seeing!
THERE ARE PLENTY OF ELIGIBLE AND WORTHY WOMEN OUT THERE!
All it takes is Humility, Wisdom, and a Sense of Justice and Equality. Are we “Worthy Masons” not characterized by such Virtues?! Are we “Concerned Masons” not worried about the Future of our Institution?! Are we “Enlightened F-r-e-e-Masons” not the Children of Alchemy’s Hermaphrodite Being?! If you responded positively to these questions, there is no need for further disputes and/or discussions – there is only much Amelioration to bring into our Fraternity.
In short, Is Co-Masonry the Antidote?
I have no doubt!
Reprinted by permission of Carlos Antonio Martinez, Jr.
Join Greg and Dean in this episode, recorded on April 26, 2009, as they delve into the distant cousin of Freemasonry—the OTO. For the show, they’re joined by Frater Hrumachis who was the Former Public Information Officer for the U.S. Grand Lodge of the Ordo Templi Orientis.
This was a particularly rough episode, for a variety of reasons. On its surface, the episode had more than a few audio issues (sorry for all the popping). This was also a hard subject to explore for the hosts. I’ll let you listen to see how that evolved in the show. And then this was one of those “lost” episodes that only resurfaced a decade after it was recorded.
We plan to discuss the Order’s history including its early Masonic roots in European Freemasonry as well as the Order’s modern operations of philosophy and its path of esoterica and fraternity under the teachings of Thelema.
Most importantly, we want to explore what the Thelemic practice is, what it isn’t, and why its relevant to the OTO and how it applies to each of us.
This subject came to mind as I had the unique opportunity recently to attend a Gnostic Mass with LVX Lodge of the O.T.O. a short time back. The mass is presented as an open ceremony that is the public face to the orders otherwise private activities.
For those unfamiliar with the O.T.O., it is a separate philosophical system from Freemasonry whose origins are tied to some late 19th century founder, Karl Kellner, who had feet firmly planted in Freemasonry. In Kellner’s original formulation, the O.T.O. was to serve as a Masonic Academy of sorts that would enable all Freemasons to become familiar with all of the Masonic degrees.
In lieu of a broader exploration, essentially the Ordo Templi Orientis (Order of Oriental Templars) was an esoteric order founded on the idea of re-instilling the esoteric ideas of magik (self development, not hocus pocus) and mysticism into a system that at that time had essentially excised out most of its esoteric leanings. Essentially, it formed and took shape in the absence of these things in the preeminent system of the age, especially as Aleister Crowley took over after his introduction to it in 1910.
It seems to me that in its original context this system was it adopted as a similar practice of the craft and only later did it evolve into their present participatory rites.
I think we may be surprised how many similarities we share and the few differences between one another. For those who have never before heard of the OTO, this program will be an excellent primer to open that door, and for those who have crossed paths with the order, this will be an excellent rediscovery of a past member of the Masonic family and put to rest some of the misconceptions that may exist.
Join us for this episode from March 8, 2009, as Greg and Dean are joined W. Kirk MacNulty, who is an exceptional Freemason and author of several books on the fraternity. A longtime Freemason, MacNulty brings a special understanding of Freemasonry delving into the esoteric and deeper “mystical” underpinnings of the craft. In this conversation we go deep about finding the divine presence through Freemasonry.
Br. Kirk has been an inspiration for many on the mystical ideas of Freemasonry and its deep rooted ties to the Renaissance and scientific revolution that followed. But interestingly, his take on Masonic Mysticism does did not originate from the familiar sources that we associate with it today. Also, we plan to explore the meaning and need of allegory and myth, as it pertains to the fraternity.
I do think generally speaking, that there is probably a greater interest now in the in the mystical or metaphysical dimension than there used to be.
W. Kirk MacNulty
With perhaps in a more poignant tone, this episode talks about the reawakening of the new age idea and philosophy of the the development of the inner Temple and how that act is shaping the face of Freemasonry in the 21st Century.