symbols, symbolism, freemasonry

Symbols and Symbolism

symbols, symbolism, freemasonry

By Carlos Antonio Martinez, Jr., J.D., PH.D., M.A., 33º


With respect to the term “Mysteries”, no semi-educated mind can doubt that Symbols (especially Masonic symbols) were the Universal Language of Ancient Theology. For the Tutors of the Ancient World – in likeness with Nature – imparted their teachings by way of sight. The ancient sages of Persia, Egypt and Greece adopted the custom of surrounding their doctrines with enigmas difficult to interpret, illustrating men and women with imagery and parables that were more within their reach and knowledge.

So too were the Mysteries a succession of symbols, and the oral aspect of the same an explanation of their significance; in them were amalgamated sacred commentaries, ideas about Physics and Morals, theories about Creation, allegories about Nature, the relation between planets and elements, and all other conceptions regarding the relation between the Gods and mankind.

The word Mystery comes from the Greek word Musterion, which means: “Secret that must remain Occult” or “secret counsel of God”, hence the strict Silence that must be observed and our consequential familiarization with another term which is etymologically applied to everything related to Mysteries: “Mystic”, a word derived from the Greek “Mustikos” which is an adjective of “Mustes” or Initiates, a reason for which Mystic is considered a synonym of Initiate, and henceforth the essential “mysterious relation” between Initiations and Silent Secret Doctrines. In the most exterior sense, Mystery is that which should not be talked about, that which is prohibited to make known to the outsider. In a second more interior sense, the Mystery designates what is received in Silence, that about which no discussion should be had, for these are truths that by virtue of their supra-natural/rational nature, are above any discussion.

Finally, there is a third much more profound sense in which the Mystery is properly Inexpressible, it can only be contemplated in silence, and for that reason is incommunicable.

There exists an alliance between philosophical systems and symbols that are evident in monuments of all ages, and in the symbolic writings of the Parents of Nations that later came to be part of the rituals of Secret Mystic Societies. It was in this way that Patriarchs and Matriarchs alike expressed themselves through a constant series of invariable and uniform principles that form a harmonious and perfect conjunction which together define a ceremony of religious and cryptic nature that necessitates a preparation or initiation on the part of the individual who desires to comprehend them. Thus exist Lesser and Greater Mysteries, being the first ones those of symbolic nature and common use, those that comprise all that is related with the development of possibilities of the human condition and that culminate with what has been denominated Restoration of Primordial State; and these are nothing but the preparation for the Greater Mysteries, which appertain to the realization of supra-human states, taking the individual from the condition in which he/she was left in the Lesser Mysteries and conducting him/her through stages of spiritual order until the Supreme Identity. Hence the dominance of the Greater Mysteries over Metaphysical Knowledge. They are the most exalted and bring the initiate/adept closer to the occult truths of divinity. To characterize these two terms – Lesser and Greater Mysteries – we can utilize two geometric symbols: to the first we can assign a horizontal line, symbolical and representative of human dominion, which, in turn, serves as a base to the second: a vertical line allegorical of one’s ascension to the heavens, a supra-human realization identified with superior states.

initiation, ancient mystery school, Demeter, Triptolemos, Persephone

Grand Relief of Eleusis: Demeter, Triptolemos, and Persephone

All the philosophers that illustrated antiquity were disciples of initiation, being the progress and foundation of the mysteries what, in those times, permitted mankind to free itself from superstitions. Only the Mysteries could liberate man and woman from barbarousness. From them are derived the doctrines of Sages of the likes of Zoroaster, Confucius, Plato and, of course, Hermes Trismegistus. Such is the vastness and timelessness of the Ancient Mysteries that fragments of them can be appreciated still influencing the various Rites of the modern Masonic Order. Some of the most important to date are the rites of Osiris in Egypt, those of Mithra in Persia, those of Adonis in Syria, those of Dionysius and Eleusis in Greece and those of the Druids among the Celts, to mention a few. In all the Mysteries can be found a common factor indicating a same origin: all initiations had a funereal aspect and were about a type of mystical death and resurrection alluding to a heroic personage or semi-god. Through the assimilation of the Mysteries the Candidate was instructed in the subordination of the Degrees, physical trials and tests of knowledge were given in the darkness of the night, the aspirant had to be solemnly and severely tried and entirely purified in order to attain Wisdom and Light. The Esoteric character of the mysteries remained preserved by way of mandates and oaths of secrecy whose violation was punished with death.

The legend of Osiris offered our fore-brothers and sisters their first glimpse of the Masonic Symbolism of Immortality, when Isis found a lush acacia tree over the grave of her dead husband Osiris. This imagery and concept was taken – much later – by the Jews, mainly due to their leaders Moses and Joseph who were both Egyptian Priests and Nobles. At some point, much later in time, the story of Hiram, the martyr-hero of the 3rd Degree, was created, emulating for posterity his allegorical death and resurrection in the persona of every initiate, and the rather timely and propitious symbolism of the sprig of acacia; In the mysteries of Mithra, Zoroaster secluded the initiates in lugubrious caverns, a striking ceremony that was later adopted by most Mystery Schools until it reached the Masonic ritual in the form of the Chamber of Reflection; The Eleusian initiation demanded that the aspirant remain stationary through various intervals of time, hence the Ages of Masonry; In the mysteries of India, the candidate journeyed three times describing a circle that stopped in the South, Symbolic Masonry has preserved these journeys or “travels’ in the form of Circumambulation; And way before our Brothers-Knights of the Order of the Temple came into existence, the Essenes conditioned the admission of all aspirants to the immediate surrender of their wealth to the Brotherhood and their works of charity.

In short, it is my opinion that, for all the aims and goals of our numerous rituals, symbols are of a great transcendence to the Masonic knowledge, compelling us to work in their internal mysteries seeking the Light in everyone of us and in those who surround us, always upholding our sacred principles of Liberty, Fraternity and Equality.

To conclude for the time being, I wish to proclaim that “Any day is good to fix things… including our lives”.

Behold, how good and pleasant it is for Brethren to dwell together in unity!

More Masonic Symbols.

Reprinted by permission of Carlos Antonio Martinez, Jr.

The Occult Bookstore – Chicago


Few book stores really give you whatyou pay for, and even fewer don’t sport a big box name that you can recall on opposite ends of the continent.  In Los Angeles, its rare to find a unique book store that really delivers what its name implies.  In fact, I can only think of one here in LA, and that’s the Bodhi Tree in West LA.

What I stumbled onto today is the home site for a new store that opened (re-opened) in the Great Lakes region, and I only wish I were closer to drop in and check it out for myself.  If your anywhere near Chicago Illinois, I would highly recommend stopping in and spending some time at the Occult Bookstore in Chicago, Il., and if you do, drop me a line and give me the details.

But it really is a rare find these days, even in enlightened cities , to find a store that caters to the esoteric and occult at least in so many words.

From the site:

Occult Co. is a historic occult business based in and operated out of Chicago, IL. For years, we’ve made it our mission to immerse ourselves in the study and practical applications of metaphysics and occult practices. Our specialty lies in Rare / Antique Artifacts (inc. books, tribal fetishes, relics, occult art, ancient rites, and living stones).

…our business has experienced growth and expansion so that our rare magicio-sacred items are now available worldwide. Regardless of where you live – whether surrounded by urban sprawl or secluded in the depths of remote locales – you now have access to the supernatural potential of our high quality magickal items, some of which until now, have been unavailable anywhere in the United States.

Their webstore is do up any day now, and I can’t wait to see what they have in the mix.

What really strikes me is that the store is an oddity in a landscape made exotic by Starbucks Coffee houses housed inside of Barnes and Nobles book stores, or chairs and benches strewen about in Borders.  A store like this is something I’ve contemplated opening on more than one occasion myself, so I’m glad that I’m not the only one thinking about these things and that they still have a commercial presence.  There is just something about thumbing through a book on meditation and magick rather than “Looking Inside” through the virtual Amazon store.

So, iff your nearby, the Occult Booktore is located on Milwaukee Ave near Ashland and Division in Chicago IL and I encourage you to take a trip and check it out.

And, if your not close by, check out the Occult Bookstore Website.

In the mean time, what book stores do you recommend that cater to your esoteric proclivities?

Sex and Rockets – The Occult World of Jack Parsons – A Review

Sex and Rockets – The Occult World of Jack Parsons
Sex and Rockets – The Occult World of Jack Parsons

The occult, in the early part of the 20th century, set the stage for how it has come to be perceived in the 21st Century.  Never has the explanation of the third way come into a mainstream light (except in works of fiction books and film) where it has been readily played up with bright flashes of scintillating energy and half mad megalomaniacs bent on short cutting their way to the realms of the Gods.  Few have gone so far as to suggest the connection between space and the realm of the divine powers except in some of the more bizarre Lovecraftian tales of horror and suspense.  (See The Best of H. P. Lovecraft).  But the ground work of this 20th century occult, while shaped in one part by Manly P. hall was

also shaped in character that was formed by the man Marvel “Jack” “John” Parsons. And this tale, as told in the book “Sex and Rockets: The Occult World of Jack Parsons” by John Carter is every bit science fact of rocket to the moon as it is Aleister Crowley‘s failure in inspiring his new aeon and Babylon working to manifest in his Thelemic following in Los Angles circa 1946.  In Jack Parsons, hubris and vanity were very much a part of his wonder at the idea of sending rockets into space.  But even in his explosive demise, Parson’s legacy on earth has crowned him a father of modern Rocketry with a crater dedicated to him on the dark side of the moon.

Jack Parsons
Jack Parsons

First published in 2004, Sex and Rockets: The Occult World of Jack Parsons is the biography of Jack Parsons.  A self taught scientist and rocketer, Parsons started his career path as a hobby of sorts, fueled in the exhaust of creating rockets to soar into the high earth atmosphere.  This was in the age of fiction and rockets were only the dreams of explorers and fiction writers.  Like all men of vision, however, Parsons worked endlessly to create sufficient thrust to make the rocket work.  In this early life he also found and embraced the works of Aleister Crowley which became his faith, of sorts, by his practice of Thelema.  His devotion grew over time in that he became the head of the Agape Lodge of the OTO in the mid 1940’s which met and practiced in his Bohemian home in Pasadena.  In this period, Parsons regularly corresponded with Crowley, whose agents locally praised him as the successor of Crowley’s New Aeon and great work.

The book spends a considerable amount of time on Parsons life, but also included some interesting details on the Ordo Templi Orientis order that Parsons was at first so devoted to.  As it reads Carter spends considerable time in developing the history of the OTO from 1895 through Crowley’s taking over and the credibility collapse of its founders Kellner, Reuss, Mathers, and Westcott.  The history, as encapsulated in the book, is an interesting read especially as it contextualizes their history with Crowley, but also with their connections in Los Angeles in the early incubation of the occult today.  Unlike Manly P. Hall (the author of The Secret Teachings of All Ages), Crowley sent Wilfred Smith (himself a student of the OTO and Crowley) with the purpose of opening an OTO lodge, which was incorporated in 1934 and met for the first time in 1935.

left to right: Rudolph Schott, Apollo Milton Olin Smith, future JPL Director Frank Malina (white shirt, dark pants), Ed Forman and Jack Parsons (right, foreground). Nov. 15, 1936. Image from NASA/JPL-Caltech
left to right: Rudolph Schott, Apollo Milton Olin Smith, future JPL Director Frank Malina (white shirt, dark pants), Ed Forman and Jack Parsons (right, foreground). Nov. 15, 1936. Image from NASA/JPL-Caltech

It was in this era that Jack Parson’s variously worked at the predecessor of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a variety of explosives companies, Electric companies, and gas stations (notably, even rocket scientists needing to work).  In this mix of engineering academia and occult practice, Parson’s path merged in a John Dee/Edward Kelly fashion with the infamous L.Ron Hubbard (before his Scientology fame).  In this time, Hubbard variously played scribe, confidant, and polyamerious love interest to Parson’s spouse Betty who, Carter writes, Hubbard absconded with along with the start up capitol that he and Parson’s had used to start a business. Crowley even going so far to say of Hubbard: “Suspect Ron playing confidence trick–Jack Parsons weak fool–obvious victim prowling swindlers.” In a letter a few days later he said, “It seems to me on the information of our brethren in California that Parsons has got an illumination in which he lost all his personal independence. From our brother’s account he has given away both his girl and his money. Apparently it is the ordinary confidence trick.”.  Included in the book are the notes Hubbard took while acting as scribe in Parsons ritual workings.

L. Ron Hubbard
L. Ron Hubbard

From his start, it seemed Parsons was destined for something great (magickly or otherwise), but ultimately met his demise in a fiery explosion in his garage turned laboratory/workshop.  Sensing his end, perhaps, Carter reports that the last words spoken by Parsons were “I wasn’t done…“.  This final utterance is cryptic in that his professional life had blurred the line with his occult life leaving us to wonder which work he saw unfinished.  Carter suggests that Parson’s was a man drawn by an over arched Oedipious complex and a life long search for a father figure, both in Smith and in Crowley himself.  At his end, it would seem he found it in neither.

The ruins of Parsons lab 1952
The ruins of Parsons lab 1952

Carter does an ample job in giving life to Parson’s beyond his mundane occupation of jet propulsion and established him as one of the patriarchs of the occult in Los Angeles.  As notable as he is in the scientific community, few know his name in the occult community.  What his tangible contribution is will be up to those who follow in his footsteps, but his early dalliances and their display in the public sphere ushered in the modern perception of the occult and quite possibly the era of the baby boomers and their unknown working of the Thelemic philosophy that Parsons hoped would take hold.  Parson’s, despite his end, explored the paths he wanted to physically and spiritually.  His unfinished work being his legacy, left for us to continue to explore.

I recommend the book Sex and Rockets: The Occult World of Jack Parsons by John Carter, which is available at Amazon.

Chemical Wedding

Chemical Wedding
Chemical Wedding

The 2008 film Chemical Wedding is a fictional story about the resurrection of the 20th century occultist Aleister Crowley. Written by Bruce Dickinson–yes, THE Bruce Dickinson of Iron Maiden–and Julian Doyle, it is best described as a low budget horror flick. It fulfills every expectation that that description creates: the story line is kind of cheesy, the effects are mediocre, and it features numerous sexual situations.

The story of the film is fairly straight forward. A professor of theology at Cambridge University is involved in a virtual reality experiment which goes horribly wrong and becomes the reincarnation of Aleister Crowley. Crowley comes to rebuild the temple in three days and perform a virgin birth. Crowley’s objectives during the movie rely heavily on adaptations of Crowley’s interpretations of the Christian Gospels and the story of Osiris. He regards the impregnation of Isis by a reed as the greatest form of sex magick and seeks to recreate the event through a chemical wedding with a red-headed woman.

The Freemasons play an important role in this movie. It is apparently assumed by the writers that the Freemasons had a great effect on Crowley, when the truth is that Crowley really wanted to have a great effect on the Freemasons. Nevertheless, the movie even features a fairly lengthy scene portraying a Masonic lodge meeting. The Freemason will notice the absence of factual information in this lodge meeting and that the movie is obviously portraying the fraternity in a negatively light.

The movie also spends a lot of time showing explicit scenes of Crowley’s sex magick rituals. The squeamish viewer should be warned, watching this movie requires a fair amount of fortitude. In the end, the sex magick is portrayed as being the whole of Crowley’s interest and he is portrayed as a man addicted to the most depraved of sex acts. It is necessary to note that if the inaccuracy of the movie’s portrayal of the Freemasons is an indicator, the portrayal of Crowley and his teachings is probably also a bit far out.

To be honest, the only truly redeeming quality of the movie is its soundtrack. Thankfully, Bruce Dickinson is a shameless self promoter and features the music of his band Iron Maiden. I have long believed that Maiden is the king of metal as they bring everything to the table: wide-ranging vocals, deep lyrics, searing guitar riffs, and rock solid rhythm. My favorite scene of the movie features a man sitting in an alley who says to Crowley “Your time will come,” which Dickinson uses as an opportunity to fade into the chorus of “Wicker Man.”

I would recommend this movie to a person that likes very edgy entertainment, is intrigued by the occult, and cannot be offended or upset by graphic sex and violence scenes. If you get upset about seeing Freemasons being portrayed as the “bad guys” or think that Crowley was more than just a sex addicted madman, then you probably don’t want to see the movie.

I’d give Crowley 4 out of 5 stars as it is for select audiences only.

The Study of the Occult in the System of Freemasonry



Is Freemasonry an Occult Practice?

The question above is a tier two question. It isn’t a topic that is given as a charge in the degrees of Freemasonry, but rather seems to come up in the broader connectivity of the craft to other systems.  Its in these secondary connections that most confront and work with as they start to put the fraternity into a historical context of understanding.

Before we can adequately talk about this though, it may be necessary to define what occult means.  In contemporary society, the term occult is an immediate watch word for Satanism, or the study by some nefarious cult.  The pejorative aspect if it’s meaning, derived to give credence to the user’s opinion, brands it with only one aspect of its meaning.

The definition of the occult does not relate to Freemasonry per-se, but we find that it is in the study of the obscure and less obvious that we can link meaning and practice. Specifically in the study of things hidden or shut off from view. Often we rely on the term “esoteric” to be less socially offensive.

Read: Baphomet – Symbols and Symbolism

But I question if esoteric is really an accurate definition for what the study entails.

In my opinion, the esoteric idea is a broad one that encompasses much by way of subjects not often spoken of. Whereas, the word occult is a particular area of study, an area or topic out of the mainstream because it encapsulates an area of study that was at one time found to be counterintuitive to the acceptable line of thought.

Perhaps this is still the case.

I raised this same discussion in a forum that I frequent and from it came two interesting results.  The first throught was:

As broad and diverse that the practice of Freemasonry encompasses, that there was nothing prohibitive to the study of the Occult to the Freemason, but that the requirement of its study was not linked to the craft.

Simply that the two are not linked except in the interest of study by the student.

The second idea said:

Confusion arises when the study of the subject becomes its practice. In this instance the study of the occult in Freemasonry becoming the practice of the fraternity in its day to day operation.

Where I see this come full circle is that the question is still overshadowed in how others perceive the work. Do we shirk away when the accusation is made that we study occulted topics, or can we affirm the work that we do, despite the proposers insinuation of what is “acceptable”?

More still, do our minds immediately go to the negative meaning of the word occult when someone asks us if it is a part of our study?

Is it acceptable in Freemasonry to be open about the study of the occult?  Is the occult a negative word?

Is there a better word to define the study that Freemasonry embarks in?

Harm Timmerman, Composer of The Temple of Humanity

templeThis Sunday, March 29th, we are jumping the pond again to welcome our special guest from the Netherlands composer and Producer Harm Timmerman from Free Stone Music, the creator of the Masonicly inspired CD “The Temple of Humanity“.

Missed the live show?  Listen to it Now!

The CD is self-described as The “Music of Freemasonry” and having listened to it several times already I would tend to agree. But this isn’t the usual high-pitched organ grind or the occulted “Magic Flute”  of past generations, no, this music reaches out and becomes part of the spirit of the tiled Masonic lodge room and carries the listener into the sublime meditative state that we each strive to inhabit when contemplating the degrees.

This is just a sampling of the stunning Music on this album.

Look for us this Sundays, March 29th, at 6PM PST/9PM EST.

Listen to the program live stream player widget on Freemason Information, or dial into the show to listen and interact with the hosts. Join our interactive show chat from our application site on talkshoe. To join the conversation live, dial the number 724-444-7444 and enter the show I.D. 19162, fifteen minutes prior to, or during the program.

And, check back soon as some of the details of the program may change preceding the on-air portion.

Academia and speculation – two sides to the same coin.


I never know where I’ll end up in my meandering on the web.  At times (most times in fact) its a journey down a labyrinthine path to no where, the proverbial Alice through the looking glass, only to end up behind the mirror.

But today, in only a short time, I stumbled across two sites that seemed to be the flip side of the same coin, the yin to the yang, the mercury and salt to the philosophers stone.

You get the picture, opposites to the same idea.

Their paring may seem like strange bedfellows, but in the end, what they both represent are studies into the mechanics of the fraternity.  Essentially two non-Masonic groups that at some level study Freemasonry, or its practice.

The first site in this paring was the relatively new journal site to the OVN, which is a Foundation for the advancement of academic research into the history of freemasonry in the Netherlands.  This foundation is similar to the Center for Research into Freemasonry and Fraternalism at the University of Sheffield.

The OVN journal is a clearing house for all things Masonic in an academic standing, from paper calls, to forum and symposia.  This is a bit different from what most American Masons are accustomed to, as Freemasonry in Europe has percolated into academia as a path of study as it relates to civil society.  As they say of our European neighbors, they do things a little “different” than what we here in the states are familiar with, which is this case is a good thing.  So, if you have an interest in the academic approach to Freemasonry, or have been considering a Master or PhD program, perhaps this is an area of study that you would want to explore here in the U.S., and the OVN Journal woudl be a good place to start.

On the other side of that looking glass, I stumbled onto the blog Mysterious Societies which was an all things conspiracy, secret, occult, and, well, mysterious.  It is not an academic approach, more like a gad-fly sensational version with images of the pope making devil horns, Nazi occult New World Order fear, lost tomb of Jesus Masonic connections, and invisibility with Masonic symbols.  I think you get the point.

Now, you may be saying that this is far from a Masonic research site, but as with anything written and published, it enters into our consciousness and exists, whether we agree with it or not.  So, by its existence, it becomes a parallel line of research.  The point for consideration is that just as the OVN exists, so to does its obverse exist in the Mysterious Societies.  And at times, both can lead you down interesting paths.

And, like Alice, once you start down these paths, you never know where you’ll end up.


Maja D’Aoust from the Philosophical Research Society

Join us on Masonic Central this Sunday, February 8th, as we speak to Maja D’Aoust who is the Librarian of the Philosophical Research Society in Los Angeles, California.

Missed the Recording? Listen to the show now!

Our program will cover a range of topics including Hermetics, Freemasonry, the occult , astrology, religious and scientific disciplines and her unique role as caretaker of the libraries massive collection of more than 30,000 items collected by the society and its founder Manly P. Hall.

The Philosophical Research Society is a nonprofit organization founded in 1934 by for the purpose of providing thoughtful persons rare access to the depth and breadth of the world’s wisdom literature.

This will be an excellent program and one not to miss as we delve into the esoteric of yesterday and the role of the philosophic in the future.

For more information on the Philosophical Research Society visit

The program will record live Sunday, 6pm PST / 9pm EST on the only radio program for Freemasons by Freemasons, Masonic Central.

Join our live in “virtual” studio to ask your questions on the digital dominion by logging in to our program on talkshoe!

Masonic Central Podcast

Timothy Hogan: Alchemical Keys to Masonic Ritual

Masonic Central podcast

Join Greg and Dean in this episode of the Masonic Central podcast, originally recorded on November 16, 2008, as the talk with to Brother Timothy Hogan about his book The Alchemical Keys To Masonic Ritual. It was an enlightening conversation on alchemy, ritual, and the “secrets” of Freemasonry.

In His work, Timothy has found several special connections from antiquity that correspond to more than a few aspects of Freemasonry. Do they connect the modern fraternity to the ancient path? We talk about those answers as Hogan explored them in his book, The Alchemical Keys To Masonic Ritual.

In the episode we dig into:

  • Freemasonry and Alchemy
  • The Mystery Schools of antiquity
  • Hermes Trismegistus
  • The Morgan Affair
  • And, of course, alchemy!

Timothy Hogan is a great listen. He’s passionate about Freemasonry and well versed at conveying complex ideas in an understandable manner.

More on Timothy hogan:

Jennifer Emick on Masonic Central

Listen as Masonic Central talks to the former alternative religion guide Jennifer Emick, originally recorded on August 24th, 2008

From Jennifer’s bio on

Jennifer has promoted religious understanding for twenty years, writing for a number of websites and periodicals. During her seven years with About, Jennifer has made numerous radio, newspaper, and pod cast appearances, and consulted with law enforcement agencies around the world on religious ritual and symbolism.

Jennifer is the author of the upcoming Everything Book of Celtic Wisdom.

And from Jennifer Emick:

About Alternative Religion exists to provide everyone from the casual reader to the serious seeker with unbiased, fair, and understandable information about religion’s less-traveled paths, from Asatru to Zoroastrianism and everything in between. About Alternative Religion is the most used resource on the internet for religious symbolism.

“Tolerance of the views and beliefs of others is the first step toward understanding; understanding is the first step toward peace. Tolerance does not mean accepting another person’s beliefs, but recognizing their right to have those beliefs.”

On the show we plan to talk about the many aspects of alternative religion on the net, her work on the site, and why it exists. Some interesting areas to cover will be comparative religion, Hermetics, Gnosticism, and how they relate to Freemasonry (and if so why).

Listen to the program NOW!

Download the Show here.