Monday, December 31, 2012

Letra del Año Musundi de Cuba | The Congo Divination of the Year for Cuba 2013 (In English)

Originally, the Letra or divination reading of the year in Afro-Cuban traditions was an event which occurred within the confines of a spiritual temple, intended specifically for and shared only among the members of each individual house. It was a tradition which developed in Oricha temples and also in some Bantu (Congo religion) temples.

Over time several groups evolved among Babalawos to mark a letter for all of Cuba. While some decried and still decry this as a "popularizing trend" which waters down the value of the practice by making it both more generalized and eventually a politicized event, it has achieved a significant popularity, letras or readings for the year being made now across the Americas - Several in Cuba, several in the USA, Venezuela, Mexico, and Puerto Rico as well.

Over a number of years, Aldo Durades Román, Tata Tatandy  of the Cabildo Musundi, academic, author, and priest has been publishing a Bantú Letter or Divination of the Year, for the followers of the Bantú or Congo faiths of Cuba.

The Cabildo Musundi and Tata Tatandy Aldo Durades Román have announced the Letra del Año or Reading of the Year for the year 2013.

The Reigning Forces of the Year are Ngurunda (Ngurunfinda San Silvestre or San José) and Nguengerengue (Chola Nguengue - La Caridad del Cobre). The reading is as follows:

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March 28, 2012

LETTER Bantu MUSUNDI  GOVERNING THE YEAR 2013
FOR THE BENEFIT OF CUBA AND HUMANITY
ANNOUNCED ON THE 28TH OF DECEMBER, 2012
BY THE MUSUNDIS TATANDY
ALDO DURADES ROMÁN
AND THE COUNCIL OF THE CABILDO OF MUSUNDI ELDERS

SPIRITS OR RULING POWERS:

NGURUNDA: creator of Ngurunfinda (Ossain in Ocha) (AS REIGNING POWER).
NGUENGUERENGUE: (Chola Nguenge -The Virgin of the Caridad del Cobre as identified in Cuba).
Both powers dominate SPIRITUALITY (territory) of Nlá (Ngó), PREMISES OF THE TIGER.

ACCORDING TO THE PREDICTION BY THE UNIQUE MUSUNDI BANTÚ SYSTEM.
THESE powers represent the psyche and the stomach, sensitive parts of our body, and represent the most vulnerable for diseases and negativities in the year, and that we we must protect in essential ways.

The LETTER, their interpretations and designs

The Prophecy says: Be careful choosing what you hunt. If you are wrong it can bring calamity instead of benefit. Determine first what will be successful for you. .
Considered in the social reality, this alert us to the decisions that we make about ways to obtain money, In the current business and economic crisis, the solutions may not be what you imagine, and the economic realm may not arrive at solutions until the year has ended.
THEREFORE, in this new year we should be more cautious and thrifty, meticulous in investing money, Do not gamble, either in games of chance or in business. Do not leave matters to chance, and above all, avoid illegality and corruption, because both represent just "prey that we should not hunt."

OTHER WARNINGS OF THE PREDICTIONS

Minga (menga), ie, blood, not only runs through the veins to sustain life, but also is a transmitter of increasingly virulent disease;  beware of being contaminated.
This year you should be very cautious about the people around you, whether family, friends or co-workers, marriage should maintain its privacy as it may be affected by a curse or envy, while you are thinking that all is well, There is a risk of losing business, family or relationship.

THE PREDICTION states that this year there will be much negativity and war of muerteras. It is advisable to be protected by spiritual means, seeking the aid of Nfumberos (Muerteros, ie, necromancers) and of Bantú Nganguleros.\

IMPORTANT:

THIS IS THE YEAR IN WHICH THE DEAD WILL PLAY AN IMPORTANT ROLE IN THE LIVES OF ALL, whether relating to trances, spiritualists, psychics, Nganguleros, shamans, witches, Voduistas, babalochas, iyalochas (Santeria) or even babalawos.

THE WISDOM OF THE DEAD should govern all actions taken for good, we must seize its divine influence, spirituality which flows from the ancestors and this reflection will lead us to something that will be essential, and give you an edge on resolving issues. You have to appreciate more the gifts with which nature has blessed the human race and not fall for the temptation of ambition and the overestimation of material things.

This year, 2013 is a time of visions, even the neophytes or unbelievers will dream with the dead, have visions, but be secure in your religion, There’s no need to fear them. F they are dark entities, you can neutralize them, If light, attend the message or warning they send.

Initiates of any Afro-Cuban religion know they must follow their elders advice, and be knowledge of the sources of different beliefs, FOR, AND THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT, wherever they come from, the dead who govern our destiny and advise about the mysteries of existence, act from another dimension and because of that, we must be careful to properly interpret information they seek to convey. Although people perceive these dreams as nightmares do not be upset by them, as it is the Nfumbe’s (ancestors) messages that are being provided you.

Venerating the spirits is the means of being at peace with them, either through offerings, Masses, Parties, etc.

Being a Letter of complex interpretation (since much depends on the reality of each individual), we recommend being very careful in deciding what action to take.

Generally, we must guard against disaster, especially inundation provoked by  Nzarungamba (Baluande or Madre Agua – The Virgin of Regla) and for the mysteries of the deep, (Respect the sea).

This year, people must guard against silent diseases, those which are degenerative and chronic or triggered by stress, as well as for problems with their sexual performance.
You should perform Nzala Nkombo (spiritual work on your body), to ward off the negativity of his life;

It is something that comes from the beginning of your life.

A)   First you must prepare a root tea treatment to clean your blood.

 Then perform a working utilizing nine Langos (waters of different origins) And this must be done at the foot of  a cane (bamboo), plant belonging to NYENDY (Kobayende or San Lazaro). Pour into your head and while asking what you desire.

Then you must beg NTUTUNDIANGO (Mama Kengue or The Virgin of Mercy) and make a ceremony on your Ntu (head) to work well and reason clearly, to help direct your life.

B) The Bantu religion practices will protect you from evil or negativity in your environment.

1. Meet with your family: collect unclean or sweaty clothing from each member, purify them with dark drinks,dry wine (cooking wine) and tobacco smoke. Pass these over their bodies from head to foot, then tear those items into pieces, place them in a (plastic) bag to which will be added dark drinks, dry wine, a bit of tobacco, honey and nine coins. Take this “package” to the wilds (el monte) and on leaving it, ask for health, prosperity, and stability for you and your family.  (In other words, perform what is commonly called a rompemiento).

2. To fight obstacles and negativity
Find a birdcage and place in it three to nine of these birds. They should not be in even numbers, but three, five, seven, nine. Take good care of them, and every time you have a problem, free one, Before releasing the bird, talk to it giving it the message you want it to take to Nzambi (God). This will create a positive effect. (NOTE: If desired, you can retrieve the bird you release.)

3. Go into the woods to seek a stick of Ceiba, Pine, Guayacan, Siguaraya  or Yaya,  The stick must be equal to your height." Purfiy with dark drink, dry wine, Cane molasses, Honey and tobacco smoke, invoking the energy of NGURUNDA (Ngurunfinda), to stop negativity.

MUST purify every nine days with the same materials that were used at first.

EMPIRE OF THE TIGER.

The tiger is the symbol of power for this year and to be used in full force for its magical benefit. Utilize pictures of tigers in, charms, bandanas, wristbands or decorative figures and amulets.

C) NZILA Y NDYDY.
BASIC ELEMENTS OF THE SYSTEM.
They create a bridge, a transition between the ruling powers, Estamblishing a summary of the prediction which may be favorable or unfavorable.

ZERZERDAMBA (Susundamba) governs this year, Nfumbe, Nkanda (The Owl, the Spirit, and the Book)), Y Ndydy Nkayi (Green life of the River):

They give a positive outlook to the letter, iakin to a counterpoint against evil, so that the negative aspects of the prophecy may always be accompanied by a solution Especially when people rely on the power of TUNGUÁ, Regent power of this bridge.

This power represents the science of mysteries of the world and the animal regent is the Puma.
TUNGUÁ says do not be afraid because this bridge will lead to happiness, love, harmony, stability, and therefore the abundance of good fortune.

Recommendation:

Do all correctly and triumph, do not wish ill of others or curse them. Be patient when met with the contradiction of life, meditate and do not get carried away by fortune.

A)   - Build Or find a small wooden or other material in the form of a castle, Find a small  doll to place inside. Place this in your yard  surrounded by a small fence. Place several dolls in what would be the patio of the house, (inside the fence, representing the king, the castle and the people). Burn a black candle for nine consecutive days and invoke the TUNGUÁ (Pangúa) , You will see results.

REFLECTION OF PROPHECY:

How long and profound will the Economic crisis be?
Financial forecasts are daunting, but present to humanity an image of the inequalities that exist in our world and the unfair distribution of wealth. We know that the poor will become poorer, that the hardship will increase as never before. And we know as true believers from the depths of our belief and the heart that generosity can make a difference in an unequal relationship. The family is a bastion, godchildren, friends and the stranger who asks us for help must form an indelible part of who we are: Human Beings.

Witnesses and collaborators for the letter of 2013.

1) LIC. RAFAEL RODRIGO RUIZ CONTRERAS   
SACERDOTE DEL SISTEMA DE ADIVINACIÓN MUSUNDI BANTÚ.  TATA NKISI MALONGO NDÍ BILONGO NZÍ.

2) ANA LAURA CONTRERAS GONZÁLEZ.   
(YAYANDY DE LOS MUSUNDIS BANTÚ PARA EL PAÍS DE MÉXICO).

3) RAÚL FELIPE HORTA JUÁREZ   
TATA NKISI MALONGO NDÍ BILONGO NZÍ. BAKOYULA

4) FRANCISCO DÍAS OLIVERA (PANCHITO)
TATA NKISI MALONGO NDÍ BILONGO NZÍ. MBUMBA NDOKY DIAN DOKY.

5)  FRANCISCO LEÓN MOZO (FRANK NLÁ)  
SACERDOTE DE LOS NTOUKUÉS MBUOMAS  (SISTEMA DE ADIVINACIÓN MUSUNDI BANTÚ). TATA NKISI MALONGO NDÍ BILONGO NZÍ. BAKOYULA.

6) RAÚL ALEJANDRO HORTA  SANDOVAL 
(TESTIGO)

7) BEATRIZ SANDOVAL RAMÍREZ
(TESTIGO) 

8) CRISTIAN ALBERTO HORTA SANDOVAL
(TESTIGO)

9) DIEGO VARELA DE LEÓN   
TATA NKISI MALONGO

10) DAVID ALEJANDRO DE LA CRUZ GUTIÉRREZ  
TATA NKISI MALONGO NDÍ BILONGO NZÍ

INV. ALDO DURADES ROMÁN.
PRIMER SACERDOTE DEL SISTEMA DE ADIVINACIÓN BANTÚ NTOOUKUÉ MBUHOOMA  EN EL MUNDO.
TATANDY (REY) DE LOS MUSUNDIS.
INVESTIGADOR ADJUNTO DEL  CONSEJO CIENTÍFICO.
INSTRUCTOR ADJUNTO DE LA UNIVERSIDAD.
PRESIDENTE DE LA INSTITUCIÓN RELIGIOSA BANTÚ DE CUBA. 

musundi1@hotmail.com
institucionbantudecuba@hotmail.com
TELÉFONOS
044.55.4178.0762 CEL. MÉXICO
00.53.5276.9592 CEL. CUBA
01. (55) 5548.4472 OFICINA MÉXICO


 Para leer La Letra del Año en Castellano sigue por este enlace:


Sunday, December 30, 2012

The Modern Rite's Orders of Wisdom: a brief description of the 1° or Élu.

The main oeuvre of the Modern Rite's Orders of Wisdom is that they brought the expanding ritual field which had grown out of control in the view of the Grand Orient, especially in the realm of Écossisme. This branch of Freemasonry which led eventually to the 33 degrees of the Scottish Rite, was in the late 18th Century in direct competition with Paris, and both because of the growth of rituals in the Grand Orient and outside of it, the ritualists in Paris felt a response was needed.

The motivation behind the creation of the Orders of Wisdom was to simplify and condense the degrees current in France, which amounted to no less than 25 degrees, roughly parallel to Morin's Royal Secret, into a much reduced number of degrees without losing the teachings inherent in these degrees. The result was a 5 Grade system with a total of 9 degrees. Not only did these degrees include all the main teachings of the ultimately 33 degrees of the Scottish Rite, but because of their greatly reduced number, it was possible for an initiate to travel through all the degrees by actual ritual participation, instead of through the once remove of ritual drama. This was a significant point, and one which, at least to those involved, represents a significant advantage of the Orders of Wisdom.


The 1° Order – Élu.

There are no less than thirteen rituals whose synthesis lead to the writing of the Modern Rite's First Order of Wisdom. The rituals which comprise the Order of Wisdom derive from the rituals of the ancient écossisme or Early Scottish Rite as it evolved in France. This first series includes the essences of the following higher degrees: Perfect Master, Secret Master, Irish Master, all the major intermediates between the Master's degree and the Élu (Elected). It also incorporates the family of all the Élu degrees including the different grades of the  Élu,  small Élu, Unknown Élu, Élu of the fifteen, and Élu of the nine.

The Attributes of the 4° of the 1st Order of the Orders of Wisdom of the Modern Rite, as taken from the catechism for this grade are as follows:

A love and zeal for the truth, to provide the good example to prefer virtue to vice; to demonstrate generous efforts in opposing error and crime, and ultimately an eternal aversion to fanaticism, superstition and ignorance.

Friday, December 28, 2012

The Moral Irregularity of Florida's Mainstream Lodges

Call me naïve, or maybe just uninformed. but having had the good fortune of having first sought light in European (not European style) Freemasonry, I have never run smack up against the blatant bigotry and ugliness that is Southern White Freemasonry. My contact with brethren of Prince Hall and other African American Masonic obediences has always been characterized as of the most positive nature.

Frankly, with the exception of a few mainstream brethren I have met online, I have always been more impressed by the enthusiasm, sincerity, and depth of understanding I have experienced among African American masons, especially the elder brethren I've met. We've shared some spirited conversations and I have always come away feeling better for the encounter. My experiences may represent an unscientific sampling, but the outcome of these interactions has been an abiding sense that there is greater enthusiasm and commitment to living their vows than among any other Masonic group I have met in the US. 

As a result of these experiences and my path of entry into Freemasonry, I have never had occasion to come face to face with the details of just how systematically the Southern Lodge uses shiftiness, duplicity, dishonest... need I go on, in maintaining a racist system of apartheid in their Freemasonry. 

Like I said, call me naïve. 

Today, on his blog post on The Bee Hive Bro. Frederick Milliken describes the insidious methods employed by Florida's masons to maintain a totally un-masonic apartheid within their lodges:


"[I]t is worthy to note that other gross violations of Masonic conduct by Florida Brethren have existed for years without any disapproval or reprimand outside the Sunshine State.
For years I have heard of stories of how African American Mainstream Masons from New York (and elsewhere) who were snowbirds spending 6 months of their year in Florida were treated. The Beehive has recently consulted with three Florida Past Masters to verify this practice and ask if it was still in force.
When a “Black Man” appeared at a Florida Lodge for visitation carrying fully accredited papers and knowledge from another Mainstream jurisdiction, the Florida Lodge would refuse to open or if already opened would immediately close. The “Black Man” would then be admitted inside the Lodge room where some explanation for this procedure would be offered by the Master, such as the candidate failed to show up tonight so we have cancelled the degree work. Then a Past Master would rise to give a Masonic education lecture. The Lodge remained closed as long as the “Black Man” remained in the building. The information I have received and verified through three Florida Past Masters is still going on and is the unwritten policy of the Grand Lodge that no man of color ever be allowed into a Florida Mainstream tyled Communication, certified Mainstream Master Mason or not."
What is worse, if such were possible, is the observation that followed:
"To the best knowledge of this author no Grand Lodge or Grand Master in the rest of the American jurisdictions has ever publicly scolded or criticized this Florida practice even though it is widely known to be going on."

If I ever realized that was happening in a lodge I was attending, you can be sure I would make a very big scene on my way out, and I would not be back. Some might view that as unbecoming behavior for a Mason, but trust me, there are limits to working within the system. 

Agreed, it is unconscionable that Florida's anything but Grand Master George Aladro decided to ban masons who do not adhere to his narrow vision of religious acceptability. However, that pales in comparison with what is undoubtedly a generations long practice of the ugliest and most thoroughly un-masonic character.

Returning again to that observation that to the best of Bro. Milliken's knowledge no other mainstream jurisdiction has every publicly criticized Florida for this practice; this is indefensible. Period. There is no need to qualify it in any way. The entire system needs to be called to task for this. It all has to stop.

The fact that white Freemasons will object to religious bigotry and not to racism, must not go uncorrected.  In fact, if anything good comes from this it will be that all such behavior is brought to an end. There is an undeniable gap in White awareness about racism around them. Some of that is racist, some of it is not. However, white Masons need to recognize you don't get to ignore one problem and focus on another. It's all or none. Societal change moves at a glacial pace, unless we force it. We need to force this.

I believe it is necessary, if the rest of mainstream Freemasonry is to maintain any credibility at all, for those leaders to use all sanctions available to them, including suspending recognition to force Florida to change. If they don't do this, the rank and file should rebel. It is the only course of action that is masonic and ethical. If other mainstream lodges do nothing, they are as guilty as Florida. Period, There is no need to quality it in any way.


There is a little bit of rebellion going on, but it needs a great deal of strengthening. Visit https://www.facebook.com/MasonicLandmarkRestorationCommunity as Bro. Milliken recommends, and get involved.

And they have the audacity to call anyone else "irregular?"

Thursday, December 27, 2012

St. John's Day: Going Back to the True Origins of Masonry


John the Evangelist, is identified as the son of Zebedee and Salome, and the brother of James the Greater. The two brothers were often called after their father "the sons of Zebedee" and  Boanerges, the "sons of thunder." According to the usual explanation John became, with his brother, a disciple of John the Baptist, before following Jesus.

St. John is commemorated on 27 December, which he originally shared with St. James the Greater. At Rome the feast was reserved to St. John alone at an early date, though both names are found in the Carthage Calendar, the Hieronymian Martyrology, and the Gallican liturgical books. The "departure" or "assumption" of the Apostle is noted in the Menology of Constantinople and the Calendar of Naples (26 September), which seems to have been regarded as the date of his death. The feast of St. John before the Latin Gate, supposed to commemorate the dedication of the church near the Porta Latina, is first mentioned in the Sacramentary of Adrian I (772-95).

By history, custom, tradition and ritualistic dictates, the Craft reveres the days of St. John the Baptist on June 24, and St. John the Evangelist on December 27. A lodge would do well to celebrate these dates as a renewal of allegiance to everything in Freemasonry symbolized by these Patron Saints.

St. John the Evangelist first appears in masonry somewhere around the end of the sixteenth century. The earliest reference to St. John the evangelist in Edinburgh occurs in 1599, although earlier mentions are made in connection, probably with John the Baptist. "The Fraternity of St. John" is noted in Cologne in 1430.  "St. John's Masonry" is a distinctive term for Scotch Lodges, many of the older of which took the name of the saint. It has been noted that the Lodge of Scoon and Perth was called the Lodge of St. John.

Masons today seem as puzzled by the presence of the two Saint Johns, John the Evangelist and John the Baptist, in their heritage as they are about most of the rest of what they do. This is obviously due to the decision to turn their back on the spiritual and metaphysical foundations of their craft. Tobias Churton, in his book "The Mysteries of John the Baptist: His Legacy in Gnosticism, Paganism, and Freemasonry," (Inner Traditions, 2012)  states without equivocation, "There are in the world two principle groups of people for whom John the Baptist has significant spiritual meaning, though in the case of Freemasons, I should say a group for whom John ought to have spiritual meaning; Masons have mostly forgotten why they were once "St. John's men." Of course, the rest of that tale will lead us to subjects such as the original Templars, the caput mortuum, the Sabians and the Mandaeans, which is enough to give most masons a permanent migraine.

Despite confusion in some circles, while the Masons celebrate both St. Johns, in what must be viewed as a truly Hermetic touch, the greater importance must rest with John the Baptist. John the Baptist, on many levels may be viewed as a devine Mercurial figure, and his role in masonry, as that of John the Evangelist, deserves much more attention.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Other Rites: Parfait Maître Irlandais - Leçons

Leçons - Lectures

Q. Are you a Perfect Irish Master?
A. Interrogate me and my answers will make you recognize me.
Q. How have you been announced in lodge?
A. By four knocks.
Q. Whom did you meet at the door of the lodge?
A. The brother Junior-Warden, who awaited me in order to instruct me.
Q. What did he teach you?

A. He let me know the excellence of this degree and the duty which it requires.
Q. Who introduced you?
A. The Senior Warden.
Q. Where did he place you?
A. In the West of the lodge.
Q. What did he do with you?
A. He had me put the right knee on the floor and made me pronounce the word: Givi.
Q. What signifies this word?
A. Bend the knees.
Q. What did the Very Perfect Illustrious answer?
A. Ki.
Q. What does this word signify?
A. Rise.
Q. What did the Senior Warden then do?
A. He placed a drawn sword under my chin and made me perambulate four times around the lodge, which is the emblem of the temple of Solomon.
Q. Why did you have a drawn sword under the chin?
A. To recall my first obligation and to show that I had rather have my tongue cut out than reveal the secrets, which were confided to me.
Q. What do the four perambulations you have to make signify?
A. The four ages of Man: his birth, his adolescence, his old age and his death.
Q. How did you arrive at the base of the throne of the Very Perfect Illustrious?
A. By four measured steps, which brought me to the four parts of the temple.
Q. What does this step signify?
A. The entire inspection we have over all workmen and the works of the temple and the lodge.
Q. What did the Very Perfect Illustrious do with you?
A. Upon the testimony he received about my zeal, he received me Prevost and Judge over all workmen and then gave me possession of the heart of Hiram.
Q. What did he give to you after this?
A. A golden key, the attribute of my degree, a Sign, A Token, and two Words.
Q. What is the purpose of the key?
A. To open the case of ebony in order to take out the designs.
Q. How do the Perfect Irish Masters wear this key?
A. They wear it hanging on a ribbon of a fiery colour.
Q. What does it signify?
A. That only we know the place where the heart of Hiram reposes.
Q. Where does it repose?
A. In a golden urn, closed and placed under the secind step of the middle chanber when mounting.
Q. How do you have yourself made known as a Perfect Irish Master?
A. By my Sign, Words, and Token.
Q. Give them to me!
A. Here they are ... he gives them.
Q. What did you perceive on entering the lodge?
A. The knotted cord placed in the form of a canopy under which hung a case of ebony wood and a triangle surrounding a Gஃ and an Aஃ intertwined,
Q. What does the case contain?
A. All of the plans and designs of the lodge.
Q. What do the two letters Gஃ and Aஃ signify?
A. That God has been the Geometrist and the Architect of His temple bu the designs with which He inspired Solomon.
Q. What more did you see?
A. A key, a balance, and different letters of which the meaning is known to me.
Q. What does the balance signify?
A. The exactitude with which we have to fulfil our functions: being committed to ending the strife which may occur between the workmen.
Q. What do the letters JஃHஃSஃ signify?
A. The first is the initial of the Great Architect of the Universe, the second that of the Architect of the temple and the third that of the Master, who as the first discovered the corpse of Hiram.
Q. Where were you placed?
A. In the middle chamber.
Q. On what did you work?
A. On the tomb of Hiram.
Q. Where was he buried?
A. In the sanctuary of the temple.
Q. What is the purpose of the pouch you wear on your apron?
A. To contain the designs which the Masters have to take the proportions of, on the drawing-boards.
Q. What do the red, blue, and black rosettes signify?
A. The red represents the blood Hiram shed, the blue the fidelity of the Perfect Irish Masters and the black the mourning of the true Masters the death of our Worshipful Master Hiram.
Q. How many lights are there in the lodge of the Perfect Irish Masters?
A. Sixteen.
Q. How are they placed?
A. By fours, on the four cardinal points of the Tracing Board of the lodge.
Q. What is your age?
A. Sixty four years or the square number of four times four.
Q. What is the hour?
A. The night did already proceed.


After this answer the Very Perfect Illustrious gives four knocks as before with his mallet on the altar, which serve as a signal to all of the brethren to rise and to stand to order. After the wardens have repeated them on their own mallets, the Very Perfect Illustrious says to the whole assembly: My brethren, it is time to leave the work, the lodge of the Perfect Irish Masters is closed. Let us do our duty by four times four. The wardens repeat the same thing and all give together the Sign, clap sixteen times, by four times four as before, with their hands. When this is done they embrace each other. Then the alms-box for the poor circulates and after the usual banquet each retires in peace.

~Finis~


Monday, December 24, 2012

Other Rites: Le Parfait Maître Irlandais

Somewhere in the nineteenth century, a creeping  amnesia came across the Americas and it was known by the name of Preston-Webb. I will readily admit my bias in regards to ritual. Before I even began to wrestle with the myriad ethical and procedural disappointments which mainstream Freemasonry represents to me,  I found myself aesthetically disenchanted with its foundational ritual. In all fairness, there is nothing wrong with the Preston-Webb rituals. It is perhaps unfair to call them the "white bread" of Masonic rituals although I read or heard some mainstream mason describe them that way. I understand a bit of the history of the adoption of Preston-Webb rituals in North America and it is completely appropriate that a person sees the beauty in those traditions with which they are accustomed. My critique is simply based upon a personal aesthetic which values variety.

That there are a host of good reasons for people to be exposed to the rich and varied range of rituals which we all as masons can claim as our heritage. It is another reason why I view regularity and its raft of offensive descriptions of the "Masonic other" to be perhaps the most serious flaw in our society. It separates and robs people of their rightful heritage which should comprise all of Freemasonry. The issue of maintaining secrecy and restricting access to your own rituals is understandable and grounded in a variety of esoteric issues, despite some masons' desire to deny that there exists an esoteric component to freemasonry. However, apart from in North America, almost all rituals are readily available to Mason and Non-Mason alike. The important secrets do not lie in the words of the initiation, but rather its legitimate experience, and that, no administrative body or Grand Lodge controls.

The isolation which is typical of North American Freemasonry often includes a lack of even the most basic familiarity with other forms of ritual apart from the fairly homogenized Anglo-American forms. I hope this short presentation of an important 18th Century Higher Degree ritual translated from the French will serve to whet the appetite of those North Americans who have not included this aspect of masonic study in their own education to date. Apart from the fact that it is a glaring gap in their education, I believe that most who explore this subject will find it not only valuable but quite enjoyable.  Because of the length of this ritual, and its attendant lesson, it will be posted in two entries.

Le Parfait Maître Irlandais or the Perfect Irish Master

In the early years of Freemasonry in France, the higher grades began to develop primarily under the influence of the Jacobite followers of the Stuart Kings in Exile who had been defeated by the Hanoverian pretenders to the throne in the Islands. While these grades eventually came to be identified primarily with the Scottish, before the rise in popularity of Scottish or Ecossais masonry, a number of Irish degrees had circulated in France. This is not surprising when one considers that there were many Irish and Scottish soldiers and aristocrats who had been forced into exile in France, Spain, and Italy. Over time, the Irish component became incorporated into developing systems which subsequently came to be called Scottish or Ecossais. One such degree is that which is called the Perfect Irish Master which follows. The version presented here comes from a translation of the Cayers Maçonniques: Rituals of the Lodge of Perfection by Gerry L. Prinsen. 

This degree was the 7th Degree in a system including the the first three degrees, which in essence is a version of that Rite most commonly known today as Morin's Lodge of the Royal Secret, the immediate predecessor to the Modern Scottish Rite.

Decoration of the lodge

The lodge shall be decorated in blue, as are the altar and the throne, with curtains in which hang cords, all spread with golden stars. Under the canopy must hang a case of ebony wood and a triangle next to it. It encloses the letter Gஃ and Aஃ intertwined. At the other side, the letters JஃHஃSஃ, also intertwined. It is lighted by sixteen lights placed in fours on the four corners of the tracing board, which represents the Temple of Hiram and the unfinished tomb of Hiram. With the title of Very Perfect Illustrious he holds in his right hand the royal baton and is, as are all brethren, decorated with a pair of gloves and an apron of white leather doubled and trimmed with red, the apron decorated in the centre with a small pouch of the same colour, accompanied by three rossettes placed in a triangle with the point raised: one red, one blue, and one black. In the center is the picture of a case of ebony wood. Besides this he and all the brethren are decorated with a large collar of a fiery colour to which hangs a golden key. The golden key of the Master should be enclosed by a triangle of the same metal and accompanied by the letter Gஃ and Aஃ at each side. Regarding his apron, his gloves and his collar, they are all trimmed with golden lace and fringes.

The Senior Warden us at the West and the Junior Warden outside the lodge in order to wait for and instruct the candidate on the excellence of the degree he is going to receive, as well as on the duties he is going to take. Everything thus arranged the lodge is opened as follows.

Opening of the Lodge

The Very Perfect Illustrious, having assured himself of the dorrs being tyled and of all brethren being masons, gives four knocks with his mallet on the altar in this manner: • • ... • •, which ser as a signal to all brethren to rise and to stand to order. The wardens having repeated same with their own mallets, the Very Perfect Illustrious asks some questions from the catechism to the senior warden and ends by saying
Q. What is the hour, my brother?
A. Six or seven o'clock.
Q Why do you so answer thus?
A. Because the truth of the Very Illustrious Prefect Irish Master has to be made known at all hours of the day.

After this answer the Very Perfect Illustrious says to the whole assembly: My brethren, let us set to work, we shall have the visit of our deacons. The lodge of Perfect Irish Masters is opened, let us do our duty. The Senior Warden repeats the same to the two columns, they all give the Sign, the claps each with sixteen knocks, by four times four as before, with their hands. Then each resumes his place and the proceed to the initiation as follow.

Initiation

When the lodge has been opened, the Brother Preparer, on the order of the Very Perfect Illustrious, leaves and goes to see the candidate in the chamber of preperation. There he takes from him his sword and all offensive and defensive weapons. Being disarmed he has him decorate himself with the attributes of the last degree he has acquired and then conducts him with free sight to the dorr of the lodge., where he finds the Junior Warden, who as was said before, instructs him about the excellence of this degree and also about the duties he is going to assume. When the candidate is instructed thus, the Junior Warden gives four knocks as before on the door of the lodge. The Senior Warden having heard them informs the Very Perfect Illustrious, who orders him to see who knocks thus.

This brother goes immediately to the door, where he gives four knocks and then opens the door and says to the Junior Warden:
Q. What do you demand, my brother?
A. It is a Master, who desires to be initiated as a Perfect Irish Master.
Q Is he worthy of this?
A. Yes.

Upon this answer he closes the door, returns to his place and gives the answer of the Junior Warden: A Very Perfect Illustrious, who has asked the candidate whether he be assured that he was worthy of it. Having heard that the answer is yes, the Very Perfect Illustrious says to him: let him enter. This brother goes to the door again, where he knocks as before, upon which he opens and receives the candidate from the hands of the Junior Warden. He introduces him into the West of the lodge, where he has him say: 'Givi', upon which he has him kneel on the right knee. In that posture the Very Perfect Illustrious takes the word and prounces: 'Ki'.

Upon that answer the Senior Warden has the candidate rise and then places a drawn sword across his throat and subsequently has him thus make four times the perambulation in the lodge. Upon his return to the West he has him advance by four great steps to the East, the right foot behind the left leg forming the figure 4. In that posture the Very Perfect Illustrious has him place his right hand on the Volume of the Sacred Law and says to him: It is with joy that I recompense your zeal for Freemasonry and your attachment to Masons by constituting you Prevost and Judge over all workmen of this illustrious lodge. Assured as we are of your discretion, we shall not make any difficulty in confiding to you our most interesting secrets. May the peaceful Genius, who presides over our order procure you, by the will of the Supreme Being, source of perfection,  the same fervour for the degree to which we are going to elevate you, that you had for those or have for them. You will partake in the possession of the heart of Hiram, which we preserve in a golden urn since we discovered him assassinated. Try to have sufficient firmness not to divulge what is going to be confided to you about this degree, even if you are forced by the most terrible torments. Please Answer.
A. I assure this on the same oaths I contracted on entering the order and promise to render justice to all my brethren.

After this answer the Very Perfect Illustrious has him rise and pass to his right side, where he gives him a knock with his royal baton on each shoulder, saying to him: By the authority I have received and the unanimous consent of this august assembly I receive you as a Perfect Irish Master. While saying these things he decorates him with gloves, apron, collar and jewel of which the description was given above. Having decorated him thus, he embraces him and gives him the Sign, Words and Token as will follow.

The Sign is given by forming with the thumb and index of the right hand a square and bringing it to the chin as if to support it.  The answer to this Sign is by supporting the nose with the two middle fingers of the right hand in the form of compasses.

The Token is given by knocking once with the end of the little finger on that of the examinator, who will answer by two and so on.

The Sacred Word is Tito and the password is Xinchen, which is spelled as that of an Apprentice.

After the Very Perfect Illustrious has given to the candidate the Sign, Words, and Token, he sends him out to have himself recognized as Perfect Irish Master to the whole lodge, which is done. Upon his return he has him take a seat among the brethren. When the initiation is concluded he proceeds to the lecture as follows.


The Lecture will follow in the next Posting. 
Happy Holidays!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Masonic Blogosphere - Last Refuge of Masonic Morality!

Given the almost constant string of scandals issuing from (primarily southern) jurisdictions one could be forgiven for concluding that Freemasonry is synonymous with immorality and a lack of ethics. Now, I have heard and from sources that usually are credible, that such is not the case. I'm beginning to question the traditional characterization, however.

It also seems increasingly clear that the only place where morality and ethics has any expression within mainstream Freemasonry in the US is through the blogosphere. It appears to be totally absent on the Grand Lodge level, and those who are committed to the current establishment too easily forget their vows. It also appears that the average mainstream mason has interpreted, wrongly I might add, that loyalty to the fraternity is measured by loyalty to the dictates of a corrupt establishment managed by leaders devoid of any ethical compass.

The fact that the rest of the Grand Lodges largely avoid the unpleasantness of commenting on the sins of their sister lodges rather than allowing them to avoid "contagion" results in their mutual moral culpability. At a certain point, one can no longer remain moral if you remain silent. Delay only makes matters worse.

Fortunately, a few Masonic bloggers have spoken out on this sad series of affairs.  Brothers Mark Koltko-Rivera and Frederic L. Milliken have taken the brave and moral decision to speak out in active ways to correct these most recent injustices. Brother Koltko-Rivera has begun a petition to void the Grandmaster's ruling in Florida to ban masons who are pagans as a violation of masonic rules, and Brother Milliken has called on other jurisdictions to pull recognition from the Grand Lodge of Arkansas for their most recent mishandling of the Shriner situation, but also in light of all the other banishings they have engaged in in recent times.

Visit their links and read them for yourself:

http://themasonicblog.blogspot.com/2012/12/resolution-to-revoke-floridas-ruling.html

http://www.freemasoninformation.com/category/bee_hive/

More importantly, support and join their efforts.

Doubtlessly, both these good brethren will be challenged and insulted by the mindless followers of mainstream Grand Lodges and I will, yet again, be told, as a "bogus mason" to piss off. It's a small price to pay for occupying the only moral position in this debate. Well done Mark and Fred! I am proud to count you as brothers and friends whether you are allowed to share in masonic discourse with me or not.


Thursday, December 20, 2012

Lisbon & Barcelona — The Modern Rite


Lisbon-Barcelona (Modern French Rite) ADDENDUM
Revista. Riot Francés


When the French Rite magazine was first visualized a year ago, and eventually offered for download, there was a major issue that Victor Guerra spoke of in his announcement post that accompanied the magazine, but it was not referenced in the magazine.  The subject in question concerns the two announcements that were issued with respect to the Modern French Rite by Lisbon and Barcelona.




                     Kadosh Degree            Addendum to Magazine                     


Click on link below each journal to download them in PDF


The first, published in Lisbon is linked to the General Grand Chapter of GODF French Rite, and the other was born as an answer to that effort and led to the Unión Masónico Universal Rito Moderno (UMURM) and relates to the Modern Rite in Barcelona.

Arguably the first intended to be "Union Center", and the second is intended to be "Unity Center", which may appear synonymous, but isn't because the first part reflects an Andolusian heritage which is tied to the hegemony of GODF Freemasonry, and the other is the daughter of the projected balance "Régulateur du Maçon."

These two famous Charters: Lisbon and Barcelona marked two milestones, and two ways of equidistance, and which were the reason why for the No. 1 magazine French Ritewas led off by  Brother William Fuchslocher, one of the first to have studied and worked on the French Rite in Spanish.

From this distant perspective I ordered analytical work on these letters and full freedom once I had published several articles published low these titles: Live the Caenas and also: Analysis of the Charter of the French Rite, signed in Lisbon.

The analysis of these two works is delivered today as an addendum, after almost one year in the making.

These articles can be reached by the links below:

Unión Masónica Universal Rito Moderno

Academia Internacional del V° Orden del Rito Moderno


Gracias a Victor Guerra

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Dreams that Matter; Books that Reveal


Dreams That Matter: 
Egyptian Landscapes of the Imagination
Amira Mittermaier
University of Califormia Press
Berkeley Los Angeles  London
2011



There are some books which deal directly with Freemasonry and yet are peripheral to Freemasonry's essence, and there are some which do not touch on the subject of Freemasonry directly, but could not be more central to them. Dreams That Matter Egyptian Landscapes of the Imagination by Amira Mittermaier 

The official description that the publishers offer states that 

"Dreams that Matter explores the social and material life of dreams in contemporary Cairo. Amira Mittermaier guides the reader through landscapes of the imagination that feature Muslim dream interpreters who draw on Freud, reformists who dismiss all forms of divination as superstition, a Sufi devotional group that keeps a diary of dreams related to its shaykh, and ordinary believers who speak of moving encounters with the Prophet Muhammad. In close dialogue with her Egyptian interlocutors, Islamic textual traditions, and Western theorists, Mittermaier teases out the dream's ethical, political, and religious implications. Her book is a provocative examination of how present-day Muslims encounter and engage the Divine that offers a different perspective on the Islamic Revival. Dreams That Matter opens up new spaces for an anthropology of the imagination, inviting us to rethink both the imagined and the real. "

Mittermaier writes an interesting and connected account of her research on contemporary oneriology* and anthropology in Cairo. The obligatory academic self-insertion in the discourse is in this case sufficiently muted. What does such a text have to do with Freemasonry? Well, it is concerned with dreams in Egyptian society. In spite of centuries of Islamic control, Egypt, is a country with profoundly old cultural roots. Pre-Islamic traditions permeate Egyptian society, from the Coptic language and church to pre-Islamic folk practices including spirit possession. 

Masons who are intrigued by the links to Egypt and Hermeticism must want to learn more about the spiritual traditions of the realm of the Gods on the Nile. Hermeticism, in its current form, modern esoteric orders not withstanding, is essentially a tradition of personal and self exploration. Techniques of self exploration utilizing dreams is foreign neither to modern society, islamic traditions, nor to African traditions. Lest westerners try to forget, Egypt is an African nation. 

While her focus is largely on dreams of Jihadist inspiration, she none the less gives a fascinating glimpse into the spiritual and religious interaction in the realm of dream and dream symbolism in contemporary Egyptian culture. Although her focus is rooted in Islamic traditions, it must be emphasized that nothing in Egyptian culture is solely Islamic in character. When we speak specifically of spirituality as opposed to religion, we find the geography is less well marked than we expect. Islam and Christianity exchange traditions and behind the mask of contemporary folk and popular practices, we may find ancient Egyptian mysticism in a modern form.

Vincent Crapanzano  remarked  about Amira Mittermaier's book that it is a"sensitive, intellectually challenging, indeed a courageous, investigation of the psychological, ontological, and ethical assumptions that lie behind dreams, visions, and dream-visitations in contemporary Egypt-where the dream is a vibrant site of political, religious, and interpretive contest."

Anyone interested in dreams, visions, psychoanalysis, meditation, or Hermetic sciences, will find this book a worthy and thought provoking addition to their library.


 *
from Greek ὄνειροςoneiros, "dream"; and -λογία-logia; the scientific study of dreams

Friday, December 14, 2012

A few words from Julian Rees.

I don't usually simply repost a blog from elsewhere. However, a blog by as significant a figure in the contemporary English Language Freemasonry as Julian Rees cannot be overlooked, especially when it speaks so clearly and so pointedly about the major crisis which Freemasonry is struggling with at this time. Nobody can say it better, or speak more directly to North American Mainstream Masons as Julian Rees, and nobody can demonstrate more precisely as to what should be done about it and he offers his own decision as the ultimate example.

Last year we all read, and I hope more greeted the pronouncement made by the UGLE in it's PR statement on Freemasonry in the 21st Century with dismay than resignation, the one in which it declared that Freemasonry had nothing to do with spirituality. The Craft, the UGLE now insists, is nothing more than a boy's club.

Well, I am sad to say, although not surprised, that the US mainstream community made no public statements at all. A little nervous chatter followed, swiftly supplanted by the usual silence.

Thankfully someone has spoken, and someone who has not only the requisite male glands and the stature to be heard and taken seriously by the audience which needs to attend to this message. Julian Rees was initiated into Kirby Lodge No. 2818 in London, made Master in 1976 and again at the centenary of the Lodge in 1999, and and also of the German-speaking Pilgrim Lodge No. 238 in 1978. He was a regular contributor to the quarterly magazine Freemasonry Today. He is the author of several books on Freemasonry and has been the focus of several videos.

My advise to Mainstream masons is to follow his example and do as he has done. There is no time like the present.

My hat's off to Julian Rees. Read on!

Here's the link to Julian Rees' excellent post:



It's Time to Put the Record Straight - Julian Rees


Thanks to Mark Elliot.

A Festive Lodge for a Festive Season

A Masonic Table Lodge
A tradition which is far too rarely observed these days, and which truly ought to be more widely practiced is the Table Lodge. Of course, since the rest of the country has gotten around to ending prohibition, it is sort of silly that Masons, most of whom run off to Shriner events to drink themselves under the table, don't allow a dignified drop of the pure stuff at a proper Table Lodge. Given that the earliest Freemasonic Lodges recorded had taverns, Inns, and Public Houses as their meeting places, it seems silly not to respect this tradition in the correct way.

To encourage that, I have included below the details of a typical Table or Wet Lodge. Assume that it is best accompanied by a good Single Malt Scotch. I hope you all enjoy. Huzzah, Huzzah, Huzzah!

GENERAL OBSERVATIONS

If the number of attendees permits, the Table should be laid out in a horseshoe shape. The Worshipful Master is at the Center Table (East); the Brother 1st and 2nd Wardens are at the end of the wings, to be precise at the table-ends, so that their columns form a line, with the Worshipful Master and Dignitaries are seated in the East facing them.
If only Masons are attending the Banquet, they all wear the Master’s sashes or tie and jewel of the Lodge, the Worshipful Master and his Wardens wear their Collars. The ritual candle are placed in front of them, as in the Lodge.
If regalia is not worn, the Worshipful Master and Wardens can wear their Master’s sashes. In all events they carry their gavels in hand.
If the Banquet is “white”, and if there are profane guests, no Battery or ritual Acclamation is given. One may still beat the bans, followed by the acclamation “Vivat! Vivat! Vivat!”
If the Banquet is “white” and if it is desires to give it more ‘luster’ (for example, when it follows a “Ceremony of Conjugal Recognition”, the Apprentices, Companions and Masters may all wear the Master’s sash during the Banquet, just as during the Ceremony; the Officers wear their Collars of Office.

FIRST TOAST 
If there are no profane visitors, they all give the battery and then the acclamation: “Liberty! Equality! Fraternity!”

FIRST DUTY
WM: – Brother Senior and Junior Wardens, kindly invite the Brothers (and Sisters, as well as our Visitors) on each of your Columns at the Table, to ready themselves for a Toast which I will have the honor to propose...
 “en bout de Table”. In line with the military tradition of the Table Lodge, the phrase “de façon à prendre leur Colonne de Table en enfilade...” where ‘enfilade’ suggests in line of fire or gunfire direction along the line of a formation. Cravates. “Blanc” in this context means in presence of profane or non-Masons.  Battre des bans.
SW: – Brothers (Sisters and Visitors) seated  on the Columns of the North and South at this Table, on behalf of the Worshipful Master I invite you in each of your Columns to ready yourselves for a Toast which he will have the honor to propose...
JW: – Brothers (Sisters and Visitors) seated on the Column of the North, on behalf of the Worshipful Master I invite you to ready yourselves for a toast which he will have the honor to propose...
Scottish Musicians such as might be present
at an Early Table Lodge
WM (raising his glass to the height of his forehead, then his heart, then his lips, says): – To the Nation which, in history, was the first to erect columns on its frontiers bearing this inscription: “Here begins the Country of Liberty...”! To that country which was first to give the World the notion of the Rights and Duties of Man! To France, our country, and to the Republic... (he drinks, and all do the same). With me my Brothers (and Sisters, if there are any present), in a triple battery and a triple vivat..

SECOND TOAST
If there are no profane visitors, they all give the battery and then the acclamation: “Liberty! Equality! Fraternity!”

SECOND DUTY
WM: – Brother Senior and Junior Wardens, kindly invite the Brothers (and Sisters, as well as our Visitors) on each of your Columns at the Table, to ready themselves for a Toast which I will have the honor to propose...
SW: – Brothers (Sisters and Visitors) seated on the Columns of the North and South at this Table, on behalf of the Worshipful Master I invite you in each of your Columns to ready yourselves for a Toast which he will have the honor to propose...
JW: – Brothers (Sisters and Visitors) seated on the Column of the North, on behalf of the Worshipful Master I invite you to ready yourselves for a toast which he will have the honor to propose...
WM (raising his glass to the height of his forehead, then his heart, then his lips, says): – To Freemasonry Universal, to the Grand Lodges and Grand Orients of other countries, to: (name other Obediences with which we have de facto relations, including Feminine Obediences)... With me my Brothers (and Sisters, if there are any present), in a triple battery and a triple vivat...
Orner – lit. decorating.  In French the archaic words Septentrion and Midi, rather than the more modern Nord and Sud, are used for ‘North’ and ‘South’ throughout this ritual.

THIRD TOAST
If there are no profane visitors, they all give the battery and then the acclamation: “Liberty! Equality! Fraternity!”

Another Table Lodge
THIRD DUTY
WM: – Brother Senior and Junior Wardens, kindly invite the Brothers (and Sisters, as well as our Visitors) on each of your Columns at the Table, to ready themselves for a Toast which I will have the honor to propose...
SW: – Brothers (Sisters and Visitors) seated on the Columns of the North and South at this Table, on behalf of the Worshipful Master I invite you in each of your Columns to ready yourselves for a Toast which he will have the honor to propose...
JW: – Brothers (Sisters and Visitors) seated on the Column of the North, on behalf of the Worshipful Master I invite you to ready yourselves for a toast which he will have the honor to propose...
WM (raising his glass to the height of his forehead, then his heart, then his lips, says): – To the antique land of the Mysteries of Holy Initiation, to Old Egypt, to the depth of its genius, for that Gnosis to which we owe so much, to the Rites which perpetuate them, to their past glory, to their present renaissance, and to their future... With me my Brothers (and Sisters, if there are any present), in a triple battery and a triple vivat..If there are no profane visitors, they all give the battery and then the acclamation: “Liberty! Equality! Fraternity!”

FOURTH TOAST
If there are no profane visitors, they all give the battery and then the acclamation: “Liberty! Equality! Fraternity!”

FOURTH DUTY
WM: – Brother Senior and Junior Wardens, kindly invite the Brothers (and Sisters, as well as our Visitors) on each of your Columns at the Table, to ready themselves for a Toast which I will have the honor to propose...
SW: – Brothers (Sisters and Visitors) seated on the Columns of the North and South at this Table, on behalf of the Worshipful Master I invite you in each of your Columns to ready yourselves for a Toast which he will have the honor to propose...
JW: – Brothers (Sisters and Visitors) seated on the Column of the North, on behalf of the Worshipful Master I invite you to ready yourselves for a toast which he will have the honor to propose..
WM (raising his glass to the height of his forehead, then his heart, then his lips, says): – to our Sisters, Masters, Companions and Apprentices of (name the Lodge of the Obediences represented), to you, Ladies and to you, Honored Guests, who have been pleased to show your confidence and friendship by coming her to join us in this fraternal and social Festive Meal (Agapé), we lift our glasses to you... May Prosperity accompany your steps, may Joy inhabit your lives, and may Light shine in your heart...With me my Brothers (and Sisters, if there are any present), in a triple battery and a triple vivat...

FIFTH TOAST
If there are no profane visitors, they all give the battery and then the acclamation: “Liberty! Equality! Fraternity!”

FIFTH DUTY
A Masonic Cannon
WM: – Brother Senior and Junior Wardens, kindly invite the Brothers (and Sisters, as well as our Visitors) on each of your Columns at the Table, to ready themselves for a Toast which I will have the honor to propose...
SW: – Brothers (Sisters and Visitors) seated on the Columns of the North and South at this Table, on behalf of the Worshipful Master I invite you in each of your Columns to ready yourselves for a Toast which he will have the honor to propose...
JW: – Brothers (Sisters and Visitors) seated on the Column of the North, on behalf of the Worshipful Master I invite you to ready yourselves for a toast which he will have the honor to propose...
WM (raising his glass to the height of his forehead, then his heart, then his lips, says): – To all Freemasons dispersed across this cast world, whether happy or unhappy, celebrated or ignored, free or in irons; to those who, beneath the lamp of philosophy, seek knowledge of truth; to those who at all times, and especially in our own times, fight against the intolerance and fanaticism in which they live; to Wisdom, and to the Future... With me my Brothers (and Sisters, if there are any present), in a triple battery and a triple vivat...Chain.

If there are no profane visitors, they all give the battery and then the acclamation: “Liberty! Equality! Fraternity!”
My Brothers (and Sisters, if there are any present), let us form the Fraternal Chain.
This is done in silence. Then:
My Brothers (and Sisters, if there are any present), let us break the Chain.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Rough Ashlar No. 2

Doubtlessly those of our brethren resistant to the idea that working on the rough ashlar means changing that with which one is comfortable, will accuse me of being unjustly critical of the status quo. I thank them for the complement. I am simply noting the truth. If someone doesn't find the truth comfortable, change it.

With that advice in mind, I will from time to time present a rough ashlar. A rough ashlar is a pithy fact that points out where we, as masons, need to do as we say, rather than as we do. I think that is self explanatory.  These may be observations of my own, or quotes of others. Either way, they represent a specific aspect of our experience which needs improvement. That is after all, what we are supposed to be about, is it not?

Masonic Landmarks and Regularity

"Of the ancient landmarks it has been observed with more or less foundation of truth: 'Nobody knows what they comprise or omit as they are of no earthly authority, because everything is a landmark when an opponent desires to silence you; but nothing is a landmark that stands in his own way." 

- Robert Freke Gould (1836-1915)

"However, it is sad to see men of enlightened reason, who should no longer be swayed by prejudice, indulge their passions and blindingly behave as sectarian clerics."

- Gerard Encausse (Papus) (1865-1916)

As I have noted elsewhere not so long ago, the only "Regular" mason is one who uses Exlax. The idea of regularity as used by masonic jurisdictions is so unmasonic as to be laughable. Or, it would be laughable if it hadn't been used since that non-event, the foundation of the Grand Lodge in London in  1717, to commit immeasurable harm to many sincere brothers and sisters. Every so often, an idea is just so bad it deserves to be ridiculed, and "regularity" is one of those ideas.

Regularity is supposedly based upon two factors. The first is that the masonic institution in question was founded in a correct way by a similarly correctly founded institution which preceded it or exists above it in hierarchy. The second factor which speaks to the maintenance of regularity after it is established is grounded upon faithfully maintaining the landmarks of Freemasonry.

There are two problems with this concept and the way it might play out. The first is that as noted by Gould in the quote above,  landmarks are about as slippery as a pig in mud, not to mention about as clear. They are in short, a fraud. I know, I know, this amounts to sacrilege; except, I thought Freemasonry wasn't a religion. Everyone knows the truth and nobody wishes to speak it. It is the 3 ton elephant in the room. Landmarks are dragged out for three things - to write pieces of architecture for lodge, to impress potential candidates with what a tradition bound and hoary institution Freemasonry is, and the most common use, to charge some other mason or masonic body with being irregular. Since nobody really cares about the first two, it must be that the main purpose of landmarks, is as Gould said, to deprecate our competition.

The other big problem, as I see it, with regularity, is that the least regular of the masonic organizations make the loudest claims about being regular. Let's draw back the curtain fully for a minute and let the light of day stream in. I know, that's unmasonic, but let's do it for a minute. We can all deny it ever happened afterwards and strike it from the minutes. 

If we seek more light, something which it seems, most masons prefer to talk about rather than do, we will have to admit that there is no substantive evidence, apart from the word of a man known to fabricate falsehoods professionally some 25 years after the purported event, that the convocation of the first Grand Lodge in 1717 ever took place. There are no minutes, no official documents, no charters... nothing. OK, that strips the Blue lodge of regularity. Now, if we look at the Scottish Rite, apart from the fact that it is generally acknowledged that the Morin Rite upon which the Modern Scottish Rite was founded was an invention by Morin himself, there is a small matter of the falsehood, broadly hinted at by Pike himself eventually, of the supposed charter issued by Frederick. It was a fake. And it would appear, Pike entered the Scottish Rite under a Cerneau initiation. Further examples of "irregularity." 

Isn't it really high time, that along with bigotry, racism, sexism, and general pomposity, we ditch regularity and show that we are adult enough to not call each other names? Heck, even the Pope is able to break bread with the Archbishop of Canterbury. 

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Johannes Kelpius - Not America's First Rosicrucian


A significant portion of my youth was spent in Philadelphia and I was immersed in the stories and legends of the area, even though many of my contemporaries paid little attention to them. The most fascinating of these were doubtlessly the stories I heard about the mad visionary monk or magician who lived alongside the Wissahickon Creek. The legends were fantastic, and the fact that they seemed to contradict themselves and left room for the suspicion that the truth was something other, did nothing to dampen my enthusiasm for the most outrageous of them.

In graduate school I did a little more digging and found many fascinating facts about the magician of the legends I heard as a child. Unfortunately, I have found that most adults are not as interested in finding the truth as I was. So, a recent visit by a friend which led me to take him to see the sites associated with the legends if not the facts, has led me to publicly right a few of the most commonly circulated errors.

Johannes Kelpius
The man I am referring to was a well educated German Pietist from what is now Switzerland. Actually, this man, most commonly known today as Johannes Kelpius, was born in Transylvania. He was a radical pietist. For those who wish to make the claim that he was America's first Rosicrucian, including AMORC, I am sorry to burst your bubble. Radical Pietists were not Rosicrucians. They certainly influenced what came to be known as Rosicrucianism, but they were no more Rosicrucians than ancient Jews were Christians because the Christian faith grew out of Judaism.

The small band of German pietists who settled in the Wissahickon Valley in 1694 were initially recruited by Johann Jacob Zimmerman, a former Lutheran minister and professor at Heidelberg University, disenfranchised by the church and dismissed from his academic post for his Pietist and millennialist beliefs. Religious wars devastated much of Europe throughout the seventeenth century, particularly Germany, then the Holy Roman Empire, during the Thirty Years War from 1618-1648.

Root Cellar not really associated with Kelpius
Johannes Kelpius, the man who lead this group, was born in Transylvania around 1667. Born to a Lutheran pastor, he developed an interest in theology at a young age. Kelpius excelled as a scholar and received a doctorate of philosophy and the liberal arts in Nuremburg in 1689, where he received a "thorough scientific and religious education." He became fluent in German, English, Latin, Hebrew, and Greek and used his knowledge for religious study and philosophy. The young man continued his studies and attended the University of Altdorf, where Dr. Johannes Fabricus closely nurtured his academic ambitions. Kelpius's prowess was such that, during his first year at Altdorf, he collaborated with his mentor to publish two books in 1690.

During his life, Kelpius witnessed the growth of the religious and mystical movement called Pietism. It originally began as a faction of Lutheranism in Rome, but spread across Europe and grew particularly in Germany. Pietism rejected reliance on institutionalized religion and instead advocated deeper personal relationships with the spiritual world. Mystics especially found Pietism attractive because of its similarities to their own beliefs. Pietism's popularity spread quickly in Germany's intellectual community and shaped the academic environment that Kelpius studied in.

Although Kelpius guided the Pietists to America, he was not the group's original leader. Johannes Zimmermann, a noted mathematician and astronomer, took to mysticism and became convinced that Jesus Christ would descend from the heavens to begin the millennium in March of 1694. To prepare for the Second Coming, Zimmermann organized a group of forty devotees (including himself) to await the return of Christ in the New World. The work that Fabricus and Kelpius published impressed Zimmermann, and he sought out and recruited Kelpius as his Deputy Magister.

Wissahickon Monastery
Under Zimmermann's direction, the group planned to settle in the woods surrounding the scarcely-settled Philadelphia. Pennsylvania proved an obvious choice with its reputation for religious tolerance and secluded environment where the Pietists could devote themselves to perfecting their souls uninterrupted. The wilderness, they concluded, provided them with the best environment to receive divine revelation in the manner that Moses and Elijah had. Furthermore, the port at Philadelphia was near the fortieth parallel. Mystics considered forty to be the perfect number, as Moses spent forty days on Mt. Sinai, and Christ wandered in the desert for 40 days, among other things.

Ephrata Cloister
In the summer of 1693, Zimmermann's group of forty Pietists rallied in Rotterdam, Holland, where they prepared for their journey. A Dutch Quaker, believed to be William Penn's Rotterdam agent, Benjamin Furley, took an interest in the group and their beliefs and provided them with 2,400 acres of land in the new world and £130 for their passage. Zimmermann's unexpected death later that year delayed the group's journey. Kelpius took Zimmermann's place as leader, and after restoring the group's membership to forty, Kelpius, "convinced by God, resolved upon going to America." On February 13, 1694, Kelpius boarded the English Sarah Maria and set sail. After many adventures, documented in Kelpius' Diary, which survives, the band arrived in Philadelphia.

According to Philadelphia legend, they marched to Fairmount. For those of you unfamiliar with the historic names of Philadelphia geography, that is the location where several centuries later Rocky Balboa ran up the museum steps in the movie. where they lit fires and celebrated St. John's day.

Ephrata Song Book
Legend also neglects to note that Kelpius and his group lived a life that was anything but removed from the German speaking community which occupied what is still called Germantown today. They taught children, grew a large botanical garden to help heal illnesses on the site where the Philadelphia Cricket Club Golf Course now exists. Legend also makes no mention of the fact that the monks, including Kelpius made a killing in local real estate, and that Kelpius went on to win a legal suit against him for real estate fraud. Kelpius and his followers performed what may have been the first chamber music concert in North America in Old Swede's Church, and the portrait of Kelpius by Christopher Witt, who founded Pennsylvania Hospital, is the oldest portrait in the United States.

"Lady in the Wilderness" from Ephrata
The Pietists, who believed literally that the return of Christ was imminent, were disappointed when the appointed date came and went, and many ended up leaving to live in Germantown. Kelpius stayed on with Conrad Mathai. When Kelpius died in 1708, having had to be removed to Germantown to convalesce, this left Mathai and six of the original 40 still living at the monastery. This was the group which met Conrad Beissel who arrived in 1720 to join the group which locals had nicknamed "The Woman in the Wilderness," after the imagery of the New Testament Book of Revelations.

Beissel, went on to lead a group to found a similar Pietist community in Effrata, Pennsylvania in 1730. The community prospered while Beissel lived, but began to decline after his death. In 1814, the scant few remaining dwellers of Ephrata Cloister incorporated themselves as the Seventh Day German Baptist Church, a title which survived until 1934. With its future in limbo during the late 1920's, these few members recognized the end of their communal experiment but strongly disagreed on how to best dispose of the grounds, buildings, and artifacts which held considerable monetary and historical value. The arguments escalated into legal action against each other to such a degree that the courts revoked the incorporation of their charter and placed the property under receivership. The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission assumed ownership of the grounds and buildings in 1941, with a program of research, interpretation, and careful restoration.

Nothing remains of the original Temple built by Kelpius and his followers, and while we know the general area where it was located, we do not know the exact location. The Monastery House most likely was built after Kelpius' death and is understood to have belonged to the group under Beissel's leadership which subsequently moved to the Cloisters in Ephrata, Pa. Of course, it might also have been used by the Dunkers, another Pennsylvania religious community which coexisted in the Wissahickon.

Böhmeian Philosophical Illustration
What exactly did they believe and teach? They were first and foremost Lutherans. They rebelled against the rigidity of the Lutheranism of their day, but they were essentially Lutherans with a mystical worldview. This was the same forge out of which what we today call Rosicrucianism was born. There were certain minor similarities and parallels, but there were also significant differences between the two philosophies. Sorry AMORC, your impressive plaque at the site of the root cellar both you and local folklore incorrectly identify as The Hermit's Cave is incorrect on two points. The first is that this location was not used by Kelpius, although he may have walked close by where it today stands. The second is that Kelpius was not a Rosicrucian, nor would he have self-identified as one. It is even quite possible that he was not familiar with the term. It certainly is not mentioned in any of the brief works we have which can be identified as his work. So, while it pleases me to see that you have honored Philadelphia's favorite esoteric son, for some of us at least, accuracy matters. Had your memorial sign read "Kelpius was a Radical Pietist whose faith in many ways anticipated modern Rosicrucianism" it would not have as much dramatic impact in your favor, but it would have been a lot more historically accurate, and that would be welcome. Instead, setting themselves up as an authority, they have perpetrated the spread of misinformation. That is unfortunate.

Kelpius was a follower of Böhmeianism  We might today call him a Bohemian, as the modern term it is claimed has been influenced both by the term Böhmeianism and the region known as Bohemia. One of Boehme's most influential works was named Aurora. In that book, he defined seven major qualities, planets and humoral-elemental associations:

1. Dry - Saturn - melancholy, power of death;
2. Sweet - Jupiter - sanguine, gentle source of life;
3. Bitter - Mars - choleric, destructive source of life;
4. Fire - Sun/Moon - night/day; evil/good; sin/virtue; Moon, later = phlegmatic, watery;
5. Love - Venus - love of life, spiritual rebirth;
6. Sound - Mercury - keen spirit, illumination, expression;
7. Corpus - Earth - totality of forces awaiting rebirth.
In "De Tribus Principiis" or "On the Three Principles of Divine Being" Böhme subsumed the seven principles into the Trinity:
1. The "dark world" of the Father (Qualities 1-2-3);
2. The "light world" of the Holy Spirit (Qualities 5-6-7);
3. "This world" of Satan and Christ (Quality 4).  

Grave of Conrad Beissel
Böhmeianism does not describe the beliefs of any single religious group, rather, it is a more general description of Böhme's interpretation of Christianity. Böhme influenced many anti-authoritarian and Christian mystical movements, such as the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers), the Philadelphians,  the Gichtelians, the Society of the Woman in the Wilderness (Kelpius' group), the Ephrata Cloister, the Harmony Society, Martinism, and Christian theosophy. Böhme was also an important source of German Romantic philosophy, influencing Schelling. Richard Bucke, in his 1901 treatise Cosmic Consciousness, gave special attention to Böhme's spiritual enlightenment. Böhme is also an important influence on the ideas of the English Romantic poet, artist and mystic William Blake.