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Archive for October 2009

The White Lady of Astoria, a ghost story

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- photo by Mitch Waxman

44th street between Broadway and 34th avenue exhibits a well planted block of row houses, most of which are nearing their centennials. Our Lady of the Pentacle and myself, having been forced out of our Manhattan apartment by the rapacious real estate developments that had overtaken our former neighborhood, moved here around six years ago. We have since relocated, to a Matthews Model Flat a couple of blocks away, but maintain friendly relations with our former neighbors and are a constant presence on the block.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

This section of Astoria, technically East Astoria, abuts Northern Blvd. and forms the border with both Woodside and Sunnyside. A bedroom community, an odd mix of “lifers” (neighborhood stalwarts who were born, and will die, in the same house they live in today) and “city people” (new residents, like myself). Croatians, Serbs, Italians, Bangla, and Brazilians form the largest ethnic groups today.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Charming, but in a state of deleterious repair, the house we rented our rooms from is owned by a disagreeable hibernian matron whose family took possession of the place in the mid 1960’s. It survives today as an “investment property”, whose street facing wall is unfortunately being undermined by a feral tree growing in the front yard. The roots of the autochthonous vegetation have actually forced open the cement foundations of the structure, and its pinioned trunk is jacking the wall up and away from the roof. Consequently, flooding in both second floor apartments and the basement are routine during weather events, and the weeping of the ceiling was what led us to find other accommodations.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Over the happy months and years that we lived here, many relationships were forged in the close quartered milieu that describes life in doe-eyed Astoria. Always a collector and connoisseur of intelligence on the unusual and occult, a question that I have put forward to many people is “Have you ever seen a Ghost?”. Oddly enough, the answers on my old block, particularly on the eastern side of the street, were “yes”.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Characteristic of older buildings built on marshy soils, typical of western Queens, audible manifestations attributed to “settling” are common on the block. Floor joists groan, walls bulge under decades of plastering, and a staccato of steel whistles accompanies the arrival of heating. Often awake at those times of night which might be described as an hour of the wolf, your humble narrator often sensed odd silences and formed unadmitted intuitions. Paranoid, promised and prone to wild fantasy and allegorical dissection, my perception of the world is askew- and I am prone to “fill in the blanks” in order to create a comforting mythological blanket to wrap myself in.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

My former neighbor, a sensitive “lifer”, when confronted with “Have you ever seen a Ghost?” related that there was an apparition on the entire block. A lady in white who moved from house to house. He continued on, saying that his mother, himself- and his tenants- had experienced apparitions. Indeed, the subject was well known amongst the generations of children that had grown up here, and that the phantom was called “The White Lady”. The following text is used with permission, and comes from that stalwart friend…

My mother’s story is this:

When my brother and I were very small, around 2 and 5 or 3 and 6 respectively, we both had high fevers and were sleeping in my mother’s bed. My mother said she heard someone walk down our hallway, and she assumed it was my father, as he worked late into the night.  She then says she smelled very sweet perfume, and felt someone sit down on the edge of the bed (she was sitting with us, watching over us).

She never saw anybody, but rather felt a presence.  She said she knew it was the presence of a ‘lady’—with the resonance of the word being someone higher in society, graceful and composed. The presence let it be known to her–how I dont know– that she was there for a good reason; that she was there because she was worried about my brother and I, and would watch over us and protect us.  My mother added that she thought the ‘lady’ was the wife of the person who owned the land way before our house was built, but Im not sure if that was heresay she might have picked up on in future years.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

My tenant’s  story:

My tenant stopped and asked me one day in front of the house. He asked me if we had a ghost  living there, and before I told him, I asked him what he meant.  He said he dreamt about a ‘lady’.  I asked him to describe her, and he said her hair was done up in an old fashioned bun, she was older, her hair was white, and she wore a dress that was cinched around the neck, the way they wore in earlier years.

He also said that he had once peered outside the backyard window, and saw someone looking up at him intently. He said that it was a spirit guide.

My tenant has told me he is sensitive to phenomenon.  He even described meeting a woman and immediately ‘knowing’ that the woman was pregnant.  He in fact asked her, and she said yes.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

The old building we lived in was in a constant state of flux, with tenants moving in and out on yearly leases. The apartment unit directly below us was vacant a few days when a former tenant and her boyfriend rented it. Bright and logical, the vivacious vicar’s daughter who leased the rooms had drawn her man away from his suburban homeland to the creole urbanity of Astoria. Affable, her intended was a man of science, and recently licensed to operate as a Doctor. Down to earth, head on his shoulders, likes to jog.

After a few days living in the apartment, he approached me, and confided an experience to me.

The following text is used with permission, and comes from him…

My ghostly experience, front bedroom 1st floor.

Well, it was the first night staying in that apartment. I spent the day helping my girlfriend move the rest of her stuff in. And put a large mirror up at the foot of the bed facing north (toward broadway).

So anyway, somehow I awoke between 2 and 3am (at least I feel like I was awake), and saw a kind of a dark shadowy figure move/walk from one side of the room toward the foot of the bed staring at me. Seemed like an older women or a deadly looking middle-aged women with long hair past shoulders staring me down as she crept toward the foot of the bed. She lowered down slowly as if she was going to go under the bed but went out of sight at my feet. Almost instantly I felt my feet tingle and begin to shake like I was shivering and then both legs entirely.

I tried to kick my legs to make it stop but it only made it worse as my legs were basically shaking out of control and woosh it went up my trunk to my neck and my whole body was shaking and my head flexed backward hard into the pillow. I called out for my girlfriend, but my face muscles were very tight – “help… help… me…” which felt like I was wide awake- I know I was.

I began to also feel a pull toward the bottom the bed and toward the wall that the mirror was on. And as soon as it felt like it was going to throw my body off the bed or across the room or through into the mirror, whoosh it left down through my body and out my feet and was standing at the foot of the bed staring at me smiling/kind of laughing at me, and turned toward the mirror and walked through.

That’s it, I was wide awake for 2 hours trying to contemplate if that really happened or what. Nothing like that has ever happend before or since.

The only other thing that happened was a couple of weeks later- a glass picure frame seemed to jump off the wall and shattered on the ground in the middle of the night at 3 or 4 am. The same day I put a 2nd mirror up in that bedroom.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Postscript- P.S.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

So, remember the roots of that tree, the one that’s busting up the cement floor in the basement? One day, while shining a light under the concrete slab it had lifted, I saw something weird reflecting in the light in the rotting cement. Using a branch, I worked the glinting object free of the concrete matrix which had hidden it for a century.

It was a piece of jewelry wrought from coarse, industrial metals, and it’s circumference and weight was approximately the size of a United States silver dollar. This is it.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Written by Mitch Waxman

October 31, 2009 at 9:51 pm

Posted in Astoria, Pickman

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Greenwood Cemetery Photos

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- photo by Mitch Waxman

Happy Halloween, major post coming later today, meanwhile- enjoy some eerie shots from the macabre Greenwood Cemetery in Brooklyn.

Click here for the full set, click here for the cool slideshow.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Written by Mitch Waxman

October 31, 2009 at 4:02 am

Working Harbor September Sunset tour 1

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Today’s Halloween week fun is a large chunk of H.P. Lovecraft’s Horror at Red Hook, with photos I shot at the Working Harbor Committee September 15th Sunset tour. For the whole story, at Dagonbytes.com- click here.

All text, of course is by Lovecraft, hyperlinks inserted by Newtown Pentacle.

Working Harbor Sunset by you.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Not many weeks ago, on a street corner in the village of Pascoag, Rhode Island, a tall, heavily built, and wholesome-looking pedestrian furnished much speculation by a singular lapse of behaviour. He had, it appears, been descending the hill by the road from Chepachet; and encountering the compact section, had turned to his left into the main thoroughfare where several modest business blocks convey a touch of the urban. At this point, without visible provocation, he committed his astonishing lapse; staring queerly for a second at the tallest of the buildings before him, and then, with a series of terrified, hysterical shrieks, breaking into a frantic run which ended in a stumble and fall at the next crossing. Picked up and dusted off by ready hands, he was found to be conscious, organically unhurt, and evidently cured of his sudden nervous attack. He muttered some shamefaced explanations involving a strain he had undergone, and with downcast glance turned back up the Chepachet road, trudging out of sight without once looking behind him. It was a strange incident to befall so large, robust, normal-featured, and capable-looking a man, and the strangeness was not lessened by the remarks of a bystander who had recognised him as the boarder of a well-known dairyman on the outskirts of Chepachet.

Working Harbor Sunset by you.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

He was, it developed, a New York police detective named Thomas F. Malone, now on a long leave of absence under medical treatment after some disproportionately arduous work on a gruesome local case which accident had made dramatic. There had been a collapse of several old brick buildings during a raid in which he had shared, and something about the wholesale loss of life, both of prisoners and of his companions, had peculiarly appalled him. As a result, he had acquired an acute and anomalous horror of any buildings even remotely suggesting the ones which had fallen in, so that in the end mental specialists forbade him the sight of such things for an indefinite period. A police surgeon with relatives in Chepachet had put forward that quaint hamlet of wooden colonial houses as an ideal spot for the psychological convalescence; and thither the sufferer had gone, promising never to venture among the brick-lined streets of larger villages till duly advised by the Woonsocket specialist with whom he was put in touch. This walk to Pascoag for magazines had been a mistake, and the patient had paid in fright, bruises, and humiliation for his disobedience.

Working Harbor Sunset by you.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

So much the gossips of Chepachet and Pascoag knew; and so much, also, the most learned specialists believed. But Malone had at first told the specialists much more, ceasing only when he saw that utter incredulity was his portion. Thereafter he held his peace, protesting not at all when it was generally agreed that the collapse of certain squalid brick houses in the Red Hook section of Brooklyn, and the consequent death of many brave officers, had unseated his nervous equilibrium. He had worked too hard, all said, it trying to clean up those nests of disorder and violence; certain features were shocking enough, in all conscience, and the unexpected tragedy was the last straw. This was a simple explanation which everyone could understand, and because Malone was not a simple person he perceived that he had better let it suffice. To hint to unimaginative people of a horror beyond all human conception – a horror of houses and blocks and cities leprous and cancerous with evil dragged from elder worlds – would be merely to invite a padded cell instead of a restful rustication, and Malone was a man of sense despite his mysticism. He had the Celt’s far vision of weird and hidden things, but the logician’s quick eye for the outwardly unconvincing; an amalgam which had led him far afield in the forty-two years of his life, and set him in strange places for a Dublin University man born in a Georgian villa near Phoenix Park.

Working Harbor Sunset by you.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

And now, as he reviewed the things he had seen and felt and apprehended, Malone was content to keep unshared the secret of what could reduce a dauntless fighter to a quivering neurotic; what could make old brick slums and seas of dark, subtle faces a thing of nightmare and eldritch portent. It would not be the first time his sensations had been forced to bide uninterpreted – for was not his very act of plunging into the polyglot abyss of New York’s underworld a freak beyond sensible explanation? What could he tell the prosaic of the antique witcheries and grotesque marvels discernible to sensitive eyes amidst the poison cauldron where all the varied dregs of unwholesome ages mix their venom and perpetuate their obscene terrors? He had seen the hellish green flame of secret wonder in this blatant, evasive welter of outward greed and inward blasphemy, and had smiled gently when all the New-Yorkers he knew scoffed at his experiment in police work. They had been very witty and cynical, deriding his fantastic pursuit of unknowable mysteries and assuring him that in these days New York held nothing but cheapness and vulgarity. One of them had wagered him a heavy sum that he could not – despite many poignant things to his credit in the Dublin Review – even write a truly interesting story of New York low life; and now, looking back, he perceived that cosmic irony had justified the prophet’s words while secretly confuting their flippant meaning. The horror, as glimpsed at last, could not make a story – for like the book cited by Poe’s Germany authority, ‘es lässt sich nicht lesen – it does not permit itself to be read.’

Working Harbor Sunset by you.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

To Malone the sense of latent mystery in existence was always present. In youth he had felt the hidden beauty and ecstasy of things, and had been a poet; but poverty and sorrow and exile had turned his gaze in darker directions, and he had thrilled at the imputations of evil in the world around. Daily life had fur him come to be a phantasmagoria of macabre shadow-studies; now glittering and leering with concealed rottenness as in Beardsley’s best manner, now hinting terrors behind the commonest shapes and objects as in the subtler and less obvious work of Gustave Doré. He would often regard it as merciful that most persons of high Intelligence jeer at the inmost mysteries; for, he argued, if superior minds were ever placed in fullest contact with the secrets preserved by ancient and lowly cults, the resultant abnormalities would soon not only wreck the world, but threaten the very integrity of the universe. All this reflection was no doubt morbid, but keen logic and a deep sense of humour ably offset it. Malone was satisfied to let his notions remain as half-spied and forbidden visions to be lightly played with; and hysteria came only when duty flung him into a hell of revelation too sudden and insidious to escape.

Working Harbor Sunset by you.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

He had for some time been detailed to the Butler Street station in Brooklyn when the Red Hook matter came to his notice. Red Hook is a maze of hybrid squalor near the ancient waterfront opposite Governor’s Island, with dirty highways climbing the hill from the wharves to that higher ground where the decayed lengths of Clinton and Court Streets lead off toward the Borough Hall. Its houses are mostly of brick, dating from the first quarter to the middle of the nineteenth century, and some of the obscurer alleys and byways have that alluring antique flavour which conventional reading leads us to call ‘Dickensian’. The population is a hopeless tangle and enigma; Syrian, Spanish, Italian, and Negro elements impinging upon one another, and fragments of Scandinavian and American belts lying not far distant. It is a babel of sound and filth, and sends out strange cries to answer the lapping oily waves at its grimy piers and the monstrous organ litanies of the harbour whistles. Here long ago a brighter picture dwelt, with clear-eyed mariners on the lower streets and homes of taste and substance where the larger houses line the hill. One can trace the relics of this former happiness in the trim shapes of the buildings, the occasional graceful churches, and the evidences of original art and background in bits of detail here and there – a worn flight of steps, a battered doorway, a wormy pair of decorative columns or pilasters, or a fragment of once green space with bent and rusted iron railing. The houses are generally in solid blocks, and now and then a many-windowed cupola arises to tell of days when the households of captains and ship-owners watched the sea.

Written by Mitch Waxman

October 30, 2009 at 1:49 am

Masonic Lodge part 4

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The last installment of a Newtown Pentacle accounting of the Open House New York tour of NY’s Masonic Grand Lodge in Manhattan. (check out part one here), and (part two here), with (part three here).

ret_g10_img_1199_ohny.jpg by you.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Ritual magick (Crowley added the “K”, to distinguish it from stage craft) claims to alter, influence, and control a field of undetectable energy which surrounds and suffuses the material world. Its practitioners, both alone and in groups, enact ceremonial analogies whose imagery and environment stimulate and accentuate sensitivity and control over this ether.

Before you snicker, remember that this is a long winded way to describe faith and prayer, and that energy might as well be called God. I tend not to judge, as I believe in Superman- hey you have to believe in something…

I’m not joking. “What would Superman do?” pops up a few times a week in my internal dialogue, as I make my travels across the poisoned loam of the Newtown Pentacle.

Masonic Lodge offices, from wikipedia

Worshipful Master

The senior officer of a Masonic Lodge is the Master, normally addressed and referred to as the ‘Worshipful Master’ (in Scotland, and in Lodges under the Scottish Constitution, the ‘Right Worshipful Master’). The Worshipful Master sits in the East of the lodge room, directs all of the business of his lodge, and is vested with considerable powers without further reference to the members. He also presides over ritual and ceremonies.

The office of Worshipful Master is the highest honor to which a lodge may appoint any of its members. The office is filled by election, generally by means of a secret ballot. However, in most lodges the progression is such that the post will almost always be filled by the previous year’s Senior Warden.

It should be noted that the honorific “Worshipful” does not imply that the Master is worshiped. Rather, use of the word implies its original meaning, “to give respect”, similar to calling a judge “Your Honor” or a mayor “Honorable”. In fact, mayors and judges in parts of England are still called “Worshipful” or “Your Worship.” French Masons use the word Vénérable as the honorific for their Masters.

The corresponding grand rank is Grand Master. The Grand Master may preside over his Grand Lodge when it is in session, and also has certain rights in every lodge under his jurisdiction. Grand Masters are usually addressed as “Most Worshipful”.

If you patiently read the following paragraphs of historical explanation, you may come to an understanding of “the hidden mysteries of nature and science”. Then we can discuss Freemasonry, and you will see truths your Worshipful Master has never contemplated.
From the Garden of Eden a battle has raged between two deadly enemies. The battle began when Lucifer incarnate the serpent, a man-like creature – great giant of a fellow, until God changed every bone in his body and put him upon his belly. Lucifer being God’s right-hand man, knew that God’s Plan was to build a kingdom. Knowing it would be inherited by Michael, (or Christ), he became jealous and set about gaining it for himself.
God commanded man to multiply, fill and subdue the earth, and to have dominion over it. But by his wisdom, Lucifer knew that as the seed of a horse can fertilize a donkey to produce the hybrid mule God never created, so the seed of the serpent could fertilize the woman and create a hybrid species uncreated by God. And whenever the offspring of Eve by the serpent intermingled with the seed of Adam, the progeny would always be serpent’s seed, and NOT on the Book of Life. So he incarnate the serpent and seduced Eve.
From that time to this there have been two races of people on this earth. The seed of Cain, and the seed of Adam. Cain was begotten of that wicked one (I John 3:12). Abel was the son of Adam who was the (only) son of God (Luke 3:38).   God placed enmity, that’s “hatred,” between us. Lucifer knew that by miscegenation, he could exterminate the seed of Adam and thus fall heir to the kingdom of Christ.

ret_g10_img_1202_ohny.jpg by you.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Belief in magic(k) is widespread. Psychology calls this a functionalist perspective, which defines varying and random events as having meaningful and interrelated significance and eventually gives way to the phenomena of magical thinking. Believers enact daily and seasonal rituals and even perform pilgrimages to remote locations, performing little acts of magick. Crossing oneself, or washing when returning from a cemetery, are symbolic acts meant to curry harmony with this energy. Other people have found different sets of rituals, and symbols.

note: The Grand Lodge room of the Free and Accepted Masons of NY can seat 1,200 people, and is adorned with 54,000 sheets of gold leaf. The Masons will rent it to you for $2,100 a day. A yearly rent would concurrently be $766,500- but if we could get 1,200 people together at $1.75 a head… the possibilities are unguessable.

Masonic Lodge offices, from wikipedia

Senior Warden

The ‘Senior Warden’ (sometimes known as First Warden) is the second of the three principal officers of a lodge, and is the Master’s principal deputy. Under some constitutions, if the Worshipful Master is absent then the Senior Warden presides at meetings as “acting Master”, and may act for the Master in all matters of lodge business. Under other constitutions, including Grand Lodge of England and Grand Lodge of Ireland, no mason may act as Worshipful Master unless they have previously been a Master, and so the Senior Warden cannot fulfil this role unless he is a Past Master. In many lodges it is presumed that the Senior Warden will become the next Worshipful Master.

ret_g10_img_1207_ohny.jpg by you.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

 

Often, in previous postings, I have mentioned the extreme discomfort I feel when in the company of others. Always, I must remain so, an Outsider.

The things I know are learned from relict books scribed by suspect authors, whose out of print tomes were found on the dusty shelves of resort town thrift shops and long gone East Village storefront churches. Too skeptical to believe even in myself, I nevertheless have tried to find out a lot about what other people believe in.

Or at least- I’ve read books about belief systems, and glimpsed the hidden and wondered as it illuminates the lives of the others.

Masonic Lodge offices, from wikipedia

Junior Warden

The third of the ‘principal officers’ is the ‘Junior Warden’ (or Second Warden). In some jurisdictions the Junior Warden has a particular responsibility for ensuring that visiting Masons are in possession of the necessary credentials. In others, this is the job of the Tyler. The Junior Warden is charged with the supervision of the Lodge while it is in recess for meals or other social purposes.

The Wardens are ‘regular officers’ of the Lodge, meaning that the positions must be filled.

ret_g10_img_1167_ohny.jpg by you.

 

- photo by Mitch Waxman

The ritual space of the western hermetic traditions are always somewhat similar, and adjust for scale. There is always a magickal language, often accompanied by harmonic music. This ritual language may be sourced from another- often ancient- tongue, but its always a bastardized form bent to the specific needs of the ritual and will be sung or chanted in a phonetic and memorized call and response fashion. The Jesuits have Latin, the Kabbalists Hebrew, the Sufi’s have arabic and so on. Ceremonial languages are guided by some sort of hierarchy, whose leader is signified by jewelry or regalia- and in many traditions- the priestly figure will carry a sword and or chalice, sometimes both.

Masonic Lodge offices, from wikipedia

Treasurer

The role of the ‘Treasurer’ is to keep the accounts, collect annual dues from the members, pay bills, and forward annual dues to the Grand Lodge.

The annual presentation of accounts is an important measure of the lodge’s continuing viability, whilst the efficient collection of annual subscriptions is vitally important, as any lapse in payment (deliberate or unintentional) can lead to a member losing voting rights, being denied the opportunity to visit other lodges, and finally even being debarred or excluded from his own lodge.

ret_g10_img_1173_ohny.jpg by you.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

A system of apprenticeship, with transmitted knowledge passing from master to acolyte via ritual attainments, vouchsafes the sacred ritual space against profane intruders. Iconic representations of earlier magickal traditions will be displayed, connoting a connection to some long vanished civilization. The root of magick in the west often refers back to either Egypt or Sumer, which has been the case since the time of the Roman Amulet Trade. The modern connections to the Egyptian mysteries were made when Napoleon invaded Egypt, sparking a fashionable interest in hidden knowledge from “The Black Land” back in the 19th century. Before it became an analogous adjective, the Rosetta Stone promised revelation to academic and magick worker alike.

Masonic Lodge offices, from wikipedia

Secretary

Although any member may hold the office of ‘Secretary’, it is almost universal practice for an experienced Past Master to hold this position. (One notable exception to this norm was the appointment of Rudyard Kipling as Secretary of Lodge of Hope and Perseverance No 782 (English jurisdiction) at Lahore, Punjab, India in 1886: Kipling was just 20 years old, and had only just been admitted as a Freemason; indeed, he recorded the minutes of his own initiation).

It is also common for the same member to hold the office of Secretary for a number of years, for the sake of continuity; although again, there is no rule to this effect, and annual re-election/appointment is necessary in all jurisdictions.

The Secretary’s office is sometimes said to be the real power base of a lodge. It is certainly true that the position is an influential one, and in those lodges which do not have an active general committee, the Secretary inevitably ends up making many key decisions in the life of the lodge.

The Secretary’s role includes issuing the ‘summons’ (a formal notice of an impending meeting, with time, date and agenda), recording meeting minutes, completing statistical returns to the Grand Lodge, and advising the Worshipful Master on matters of procedure. In many lodges it is also the Secretary who determines (with consultation) the progression of officers within the lodge. The Secretary is almost always a key figure in the interviewing of potential new members of the lodge.

ret_g10_img_1181_ohny.jpg by you.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

 

The magickal societies which are offshoots of Masonry are too numerous to mention, but here are a few notable examples which have had staying power.

  • The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, which has a stormy and tragic history due to the influences of Aleister Crowley, was founded by 3 masons.
  • Predating the modern Freemasons, the Rosicrucians or Knights of the Rosy Cross, have contributed significant ritual and symbolic iconography to the Hermetic Traditions.
  • The Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor, which is a bit more theosophical than Hermetic, but nevertheless worthy of mention.
  • The Theosophical Society of Madame Blavatsky, which is actually a VERY important and influential group that shaped modern society. Kindergarden and Montessori education for young children is theosophy made mainstream. So’s the concept of “karma” as it is defined in Pop-Culture.
  • Ordo Templi Orientis, Crowley’s gnostic cult, which popularized the practice of Yoga, Free Love, and the notion of “do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law”.

Masonic Lodge offices, from wikipedia

Deacons

A Deacon is a junior officer in the lodge. In the traditions of most Grand Lodges each subordinate lodge has two Deacons, styled ‘Senior Deacon’ and ‘Junior Deacon’ (though ‘First Deacon’, and ‘Second Deacon’ is sometimes encountered as an alternative.)

The principal roles of the Senior Deacon are to conduct candidates around the Lodge during certain ceremonies and formally to assist the Worshipful Master and to carry messages between the Master and the Senior Warden.

The office of ‘Junior Deacon’ is similar in many respects to that of Senior Deacon. The principal roles of the Junior Deacon are to assist the Senior Warden, conduct certain candidates, and carry messages between the two Wardens. In some jurisdictions he is also responsible for guarding the inside of the main door of the lodge and ensuring that the lodge is tyled (in other jurisdictions this duty is given to the Inner Guard or Inside Sentinel).

ret_g10_img_1191_ohny.jpg by you.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

The end of the Victorian world, and the dawn of modernity, came at the end of the second thirty years war (the composite World Wars One and Two). The Forty years war (aka Cold War) saw the hermetic tradition compressed into paperback books, horror films, and during the 1970’s- manifested in the United States and western Europe through a three fold process. A fad of commune living and cultic activity in the late 60’s and 70’s, revelation en masse via the burgeoning Evangelical Christianity movement, and large populations experimenting with fashionable psychedelic drugs. Magical thinking had taken hold, and our culture simply wrote off the past.

Through all this chaos, however, the Masons “kept on keeping on”.

Masonic Lodge offices, from wikipedia

Stewards

‘Stewards’ are commonly appointed to fulfill a number of junior assistant roles. There is considerable variance, even within the same jurisdiction, as to the precise roles played by Stewards. Some of their common duties could include the following:

  • Stewards are often tasked with an understudy role to fill the position of the Senior Deacon or Junior Deacons, in their absence.
  • When a degree ceremony is performed, one or more Steward(s) may be required to assist the two Deacons is conducting the candidates around the temple.
  • Stewards have a traditional role in many jurisdictions of serving wine during any meal served after the lodge meeting.

Some jurisdictions specify that each lodge has two Stewards, known as the ‘Senior Steward’ and ‘Junior Steward’. Other jurisdictions put no limit on the number of Stewards who may be appointed, and in this respect the office is unique. The Worshipful Master may appoint any number of Stewards, according to the size and requirements of his lodge.

Although newer members usually fill the office of Steward, in some lodges it is traditional for a Past Master to be appointed to supervise the work of the Stewards.

ret_g10_img_1168_ohny.jpg by you.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Apologies for the depth and exhausting detail in this series of posts on the Masonic Lodge of NY, and I realize that I’ve gone off in wild tangents, years of reading obscure texts and gathering of information on my part- research if you would- has pointed out that you cannot understand the Masons unless you understand the world that created them.

Modernity has simplified and streamlined the sophisticated political and philosophical tumult which spawned the “Brotherhoods”. The powers that be, in media and government and university, offer pat historical narratives portraying the past as some logical progression of events that ultimately, inevitability, results in an America or a European Union or a Soviet Union. The beauty of organizations like the Masons, with their long history, is that they make a convenient tent pole for whatever crazy story they’re selling.

Political observation and bias time:

Institutional memory is a big issue for me. Our lack of it results in the sort of disastrous political culture now enjoyed by the United States. Want conspiracy? Chew some of the following Black Mayonnaise…

  • Senator Strom Thurmond fought to keep black people from attaining their Civil Rights with a 24 hour fillibuster and also ran for President on a Segregation ticket in 1948. Strom died in office, in 2003. Lifelong Mason, Strom was.
  • Senator Arlen Specter is the author of the single bullet theory found in the Warren Commission report on the Assassination of President Kennedy, and has been a Senator since 1981. In April of 2006, Time magazine named him one of America’s 10 best Senators. He was recently the head of the Senate Judiciary Committee, as a Republican, and is now switching parties. Here’s somebody else’s take on Arlen.
  • Ted Kennedy was driving drunk one night, and drove his car off a bridge, which drowned his date. This derailed his ambitions for the Presidency, but after a long service in the Senate, he died in office- like Strom Thurmond. His funeral was attended by one sitting President, 3 former Presidents, one sitting V.P. and three former ones, 58 sitting Senators and 21 former electors, a sizeable portion of the House of Representatives, and a host of foreign dignitaries. Here’s somebody else’s take on Ted.
  • Donald Rumsfeld and later Dick Cheney oversaw the disastrous retreat of military units from Viet Nam as key players in the Ford administration.
  • Gerald Ford of course, served as part of the Warren Commission, was a prominent Mason, and was almost killed by a member of another influential (and still very much alive and well) Magickal Society. He had to choose a Vice President, and the field narrowed to George H.W. Bush or David Rockefeller.
  • Richard Nixon signed the Clean Water act, part of the raft of legislation that created the Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA is currently considering the Newtown Creek for inclusion in it’s clean up efforts. Nixon wasn’t a Mason.

 

I mention the above info just to point out that here in the “real world”, we have to remember that monsters stand in the light of day, and are not some shadowy cabal. The Masons who conducted the tours at their Grand Lodge seemed to be nice guys.

The Trusts, and the Banks, and the Railroads, the Oil men, and the Factory Owners, and the politicians- these are the faces in a traditional rogue’s gallery of American Villiany.

That’s it, I’m done, and will head down into the bunker now.

Masonic Lodge offices, from wikipedia

Tyler

The ‘Tyler’ is sometimes known as the ‘Outer Guard’ of the lodge. His duty is to guard the door (from the outside), with a drawn sword, and ensure that only those who are duly qualified manage to gain entry into the lodge meeting. In some jurisdictions, he also prepares candidates for their admission. The Tyler is traditionally responsible for preparing the lodge room before the meeting, and for storing and maintaining the regalia after the meeting,

In some Jurisdictions the Tyler is a Past Master of the Lodge while in others he may be an employed brother from another lodge.


Written by Mitch Waxman

October 28, 2009 at 8:12 pm

Masonic Lodge part 3

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The third installment of a Newtown Pentacle accounting of the Open House New York tour of NY’s Masonic Grand Lodge in Manhattan. (check out part one here), and (part two here).

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- photo by Mitch Waxman

Since their beginnings in those authoritarian and tyrannical states so typical of 18th and 19th century Europe, the Freemasons and their principled set of beliefs have exerted a strong influence on the culture that created, surrounds, and persecutes them. Orthodoxy and status quo conservatism damned them, and accusations of sensational malfeasance abound.

One of the Masons, Giuseppe Garibaldi, made himself a particular thorn in the side of the Catholic hierarchy in Rome itself. Grand Master of the Grand Orient of Italy, Garibaldi’s opposition to the church- and its Papal States-  may explain some of the animosity exhibited by the Holy See toward the Masons ever since.

It can be argued, since prominent Masons have been key players and organizers in many world events, that the revolutions in North America and France – organized and led by prominent Masons-  began a process ultimately resulting in the sustained existence of liberal democracies in our modern world. With their ideal of an austere pluralism concerning religion and political affiliation, public service, and an uncompromising devotion to the concept of “progress“- the core principles of Masonry have become constitutional rights in many of these “liberal democracies”. The Freemasons would seem to have been the authors of a blueprint by which our society was organized.

This notion, of course, overestimates the power and reach of this organization. Many powerful men are Masons, and many Masons have shaped our culture, but this is more coincidence than it is conspiracy. The notion of a secret society with sometimes sinister secrets rather than a sinister secret society fits my view of the world more comfortably than some overarching global conspiracy whose tendrils reach into every facet of life, and which excludes half the human race.

from wikipedia

The subject of women and Freemasonry is complex and without an easy explanation. Traditionally, only men can be made Freemasons in Regular Freemasonry. Many Grand Lodges do not admit women because they believe it would break the ancient Masonic Landmarks. However, there are many non-mainstream Masonic bodies that do admit both men and women or exclusively women. Furthermore, there are many female orders associated with regular Freemasonry, such as the Order of the Eastern Star, the Order of the Amaranth, the White Shrine of Jerusalem, the Social Order of Beauceant and the Daughters of the Nile.

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- photo by Mitch Waxman

Remember, faithful readers of the Newtown Pentacle, that the Church spoken of here is the political and financial entity that existed before the 20th century. This organization maintained an army, fought wars, and held a significant portion of the Italian peninsula where it levied taxes, ran prisons, and banned books.

Absolute control over Europe (inheritance, marriage, heredity, legitimacy, status) for nearly 1,000 years, and the infiltration of high church office by bureaucrat and feudal nobility- resulted in a distrustful resent of both the Roman Catholic Church and the unpopular Nobles by Europeans in the 18th and 19th centuries. Newly emerged, and affluent;  a social underclass of makers, money changersmanufacturers, and merchants- the Bourgoisie- smarted at the arrangements which limited their ambitions.

They were being barred from the corridors of power, blocked by armies of corrupt priests and the unnecessary aristocracy that sheltered them. The temple doors barred, these Middle Class “Gentlemen” created and joined Brotherhoods or  Fraternities, and built their own temples- which used esoteric and often occultist philosophies as articles of faith. One of these Gentlemen’s Societies, the Free and Accepted Masons, would have an interesting and portentous future. So would another fraternity of honorable men, that had a more “mediterranean” feeling.

Ultimately, these conditions led to an Anti-Christ burning Europe down at the beginning of the 19th century- and another doing it all over again at the end of the age- the orchestral progression of the fin de siecle.

from wikipedia

The Vatican has long been an outspoken critic of Freemasonry, and has prohibited Catholics from joining the fraternity since 1738. Over subsequent years the Vatican has issued several papal bulls forbidding Catholics from becoming Freemasons under threat of excommunication. Today, the Church’s stance is that “The faithful who enroll in Masonic associations are in a state of grave sin and may not receive Holy Communion.”

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- photo by Mitch Waxman

Vast populations of this “middle class” fled the chaos on the Continent- some to mercantile Britain, and others to the new American Republic in its former colonies. They took their capital with them- both intellectual and financial. Shaken and somewhat broken after the revolutionary warfare that swept away the old order, Europe shifted its eyes to the future, and to its empires in Asia, Africa, and the Americas.

This immigrant diaspora spread out over the planet, and the Bourgosie brought their culture with them- including Freemasonry.

In America- Masonry became Pop-Culture.

“Masons don’t want to control the world, man, they already do. If you betray them, they cut you up… Lookit the dollar bill… dude… and they killed JFK- Marilyn Monroe too… They’re connected to these sick warrior monks from the Dark Ages called the Knights Templar, who fought a crusade to capture Jerusualem and found an idol to the Serpent of Eden that talked to their leaders buried in Solomon’s Temple, and when the Pope had them killed for being devil worshippers the idol was hidden away in Scotland and then carried to the colonies where it told Washington to fight the English… and Jack the RIpper – awww… just read “From Hell“… if Alan Moore says it- it must be true… and 911 was part of a secret astrological war between the Masons and the Arabs“.

It’s a great rap – a real crowd pleaser and I’m guilty of it, I’m afraid. I’ve also got one ready to go for ghost hunting, also for UFO’s, and general witty remarks about passersby (which is all improv).

An argument for the Masonic “way”, which is probably an endorsement of corruption

I’ve got a buddy who makes keys. You tell me that you need to have a set of keys made at the shop on the corner. I tell you about my friend’s shop, on the next corner, and recommend his services. You are satisfied with the service, which was discounted when you mentioned my name. My buddy thinks better of me, and so do you. Networked transactions like these are based on “who you know”. Now- imagine that “who you know” includes a group of rich and sort-of powerful men who belong to the same exclusive club as you.

That is the core of “Masonic Conspiracy” theories. It would also probably constitute a violation of the RICO statutes, depending on circumstance.

Among the allegations were that Freemasonry denies revelation and objective truth. They also alleged that religious indifference is fundamental to Freemasonry, that Freemasonry is Deist, and that it denies the possibility of divine revelation, so threatening the respect due to the Church’s teaching office. The sacramental character of Masonic rituals was seen as signifying an individual transformation, offering an alternative path to perfection and having a total claim on the life of a member It concludes by stating that all lodges are forbidden to Catholics, including Catholic-friendly lodges and that German Protestant churches were also suspicious of Freemasonry.

from wikipedia

The 1980 German Bishops Conference produced a report on Freemasonry listing twelve points and allegations.

Among the allegations were that Freemasonry denies revelation and objective truth. They also alleged that religious indifference is fundamental to Freemasonry, that Freemasonry is Deist, and that it denies the possibility of divine revelation, so threatening the respect due to the Church’s teaching office. The sacramental character of Masonic rituals was seen as signifying an individual transformation, offering an alternative path to perfection and having a total claim on the life of a member It concludes by stating that all lodges are forbidden to Catholics, including Catholic-friendly lodges and that German Protestant churches were also suspicious of Freemasonry.

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- photo by Mitch Waxman

Unfortunately for the sake of conspiracy stories, most of what the Masons seem to be up to- here in their hidden temples- is providing for the urgent medical care of poor and disadvantaged children.

The  Shriners Hospitals, a masonic charity, has been providing world class hospital services- including transportation- to children, free of charge, since 1922. They specialize in pediatric orthopedics, burn care, and the correction of craniofacial abnormalities like a cleft palette or split lip, as well as treating a host of other maladies.

from wikipedia

The earliest anti-Masonic document was a leaflet printed in 1698 by a Presbyterian minister by the name of Winter. It reads:

TO ALL GODLY PEOPLE, In the Citie of London. Having thought it needful to warn you of the Mischiefs and Evils practiced in the Sight of God by those called Freed Masons, I say take Care lest their Ceremonies and secret Swearings take hold of you; and be wary that none cause you to err from Godliness. For this devllish Sect of Men are Meeters in secret which swear agains all without ther Following. They are the Anti Christ which was to come leading Men from Fear of God. For how should Men meet in secret Places and with secret Signs taking Care that none observed them to do the Work of GOD; are not these the Ways of Evil-doers? Knowing how that God observeth privilly them that sit in Darkness they shall be smitten and the Secrets of their Hearts layed bare. Mingle not amoung this corrupt People lest you be found so at the World’s Conflagration.

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- photo by Mitch Waxman

A guy I used to have beers with, at a bar in the pre-fashionable meat market district of Manhattan, was a Mason. He was literally a concrete and sheet rock contractor, so the whole Masonic thing was a natural fit, I guess. He lived on… Staten Island…. which is far more macabre and sinister than any mere membership in a magickal fraternity. Good food out there, though. Garibaldi, incidentally, hid out on Staten Island during one of his banished periods.

from wikipedia

Many Islamic anti-Masonic arguments are closely tied to both Anti-Semitism and Anti-Zionism, though other criticisms are made such as linking Freemasonry to Dajjal. Some Muslim anti-Masons argue that Freemasonry promotes the interests of the Jews around the world and that one of its aims is to rebuild the Temple of Solomon in Jerusalem after destroying the Al-Aqsa Mosque. In article 28 of its Covenant, Hamas states that Freemasonry, Rotary, and other similar groups “work in the interest of Zionism and according to its instructions….” Many countries with a significant Muslim population do not allow Masonic establishments within their jurisdictions. However, countries such as Turkey and Morocco have established Grand Lodges while in countries such as Malaysia, and Lebanon there are District Grand Lodges operating under a warrant from an established Grand Lodge.

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- photo by Mitch Waxman

The sort of tabernacle, an exclusive club for successful men- replete with ritual and regalia, is not so different from the sweat lodges of Manhattan’s original occupants. All tribal groups create buildings such as this, an Aztec House of the Eagles- or in the case of a culture that can and has sent a Man to the moon – a 19 story landmarked skyscraper on 23rd street in Manhattan. Look past the iconography in these garish decorations, notice the proportion, and the larger design of the place- the negative space formed by them. Most importantly, notice the lighting.

from wikipedia

Conspiracy theorists who are fervent anti-Masons believe that “high-ranking” Freemasons are involved in conspiracies to create an occult New World Order. They claim that some of the Founding Fathers of the United States, such as George Washington and Benjamin Franklin, had Masonic symbolism and sacred geometry interwoven into American society, particularly in the Great Seal of the United States, the United States one-dollar bill, the architecture of National Mall landmarks, and the streets and highways of Washington, D.C.. They speculate that Freemasons did this in order to mystically bind their planning of a government in conformity with the luciferian plan of the Great Architect of the Universe whom, they are said to believe, has tasked the United States with the eventual establishment of an hermetic “Kingdom of God on Earth” and the building of the Third Temple in New Jerusalem as its holiest site.

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- photo by Mitch Waxman

Such wide eyed scrying actually leads me back to the beginning of this long posting- on the people who aren’t represented in this long and storied milieu of institutional memory and struggle. Women and Freemasonry is a bit of sticky issue for me. Since my understanding of “how business is done” is largely satisfied by my little argument in praise of corruption evinced above, and since this is a male only society- the ladies are cut out of lot of opportunity by this group. There are female Masons in France, but… France?

Also, racial segregation was a big part of American Masonry for a long time, as evidenced by the Prince Hall branch of Freemasonry.

from wikipedia

Jahbulon (or Jabulon) is a word which was used historically in some rituals of Royal Arch Masonry. According to Francis X. King, it is also used in Ordo Templi Orientis rituals.

There has been much debate over the origin and meaning of this word. There is no consensus even among Masonic researchers as to its meaning or legitimacy: one Masonic scholar alleges that the word first appeared in an early 18th Century Royal Arch ritual as the name of an allegorical explorer searching for the ruins of King Solomon’s Temple; another Masonic scholar believes it is a descriptive name for God in Hebrew; other, non-Masonic, authors have alleged that it is a Masonic name for God, and even the name of a unique “Masonic God”, despite repeated statements by Freemasonry’s officials that “There is no separate Masonic God”, nor a separate proper name for a deity in any branch of Freemasonry. It is this interpretation of a “Masonic God” that has led to debates about and condemnation of Freemasonry by several religious groups. In England, no ritual containing the name has been in official Masonic use since February 1989.

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- photo by Mitch Waxman

Of course, we still need to talk about magick. Why is it that whenever all the lines and patterns have been traced, here at the Newtown Pentacle, we always end up back in the company of Aleister Crowley?

from wikipedia

Ordo Templi Orientis (O.T.O.) (Order of the Temple of the East, or the Order of Oriental Templars) is an international fraternal and religious organization founded at the beginning of the 20th century.

Originally it was intended to be modelled after and associated with Freemasonry, but under the leadership of Aleister Crowley, O.T.O. was reorganized around the Law of Thelema as its central religious principle. This Law—expressed as “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law” and “Love is the law, love under will” —was promulgated in 1904 with the dictation of The Book of the Law.

Similar to many secret societies, O.T.O. membership is based on an initiatory system with a series of degree ceremonies that use ritual drama to establish fraternal bonds and impart spiritual and philosophical teachings.

O.T.O. also includes the Ecclesia Gnostica Catholica (EGC) or Gnostic Catholic Church, which is the ecclesiastical arm of the Order. Its central rite, which is public, is called Liber XV, or the Gnostic Mass.

and…

In 1917, Reuss wrote a Synopsis of Degrees of O.T.O. in which the third degree was listed as “Craft of Masonry” and listed the initiations involved as “Entered Apprentice, Fellow Craft, Master Mason” and elaborated on this with “Full instruction in Craft Masonry, including the Catechism of the first three degrees, and an explanation of all the various Masonic systems.” The same document shows that the fourth degree of O.T.O. is also known as the Holy Royal Arch of Enoch. It was summarized by Reuss as the Degree of “Scotch Masonry”, equivalent to “Scotch Mason, Knight of St. Andrew, Royal Arch”, and he described it as “Full instruction in the Scottish degrees of Ancient and Accepted Masonry.”

In 1919, Crowley attempted to work this Masonic based O.T.O. in Detroit, Michigan. The result was that he was rebuffed by the Council of the Scottish rite on the basis that O.T.O rituals were too similar to orthodox Masonry. He described this in a 1930 letter to Arnold Krumm-Heller:

“However, when it came to the considerations of the practical details of the rituals to be worked, the general Council of the Scottish Rite could not see its way to tolerate them, on the ground that the symbolism in some places touched too nearly that of the orthodox Masonry of the Lodges.”

Crowley subsequently rewrote the initiation rituals of the first three degrees, and in doing so removed most of those rituals’ ties to Masonry. He did not, however, rewrite the fourth degree ritual, which remains in its form and structure related to the various Royal Arch rituals of Masonry.

Written by Mitch Waxman

October 27, 2009 at 3:40 am

All Business- linkage, feed, and community

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The considerable deductive powers of the unstoppable Forgotten-NY team are applied to the farthest extant of the Newtown Creek’s rusty borderlands. Check out scenes and scrying from the far, far east here

Our friend and colleague, Bob Singleton (of Greater Astoria Historical Society fame) is presenting a lecture tonight on the history and construction of the Queensboro Bridge in Middle Village. This lecture is the first in a series being presented by the burgeoning and recently organized Newtown Historic Society.

Tonight, part 3 of our Masonic lodge series will go live, but I came across someone on Flickr who did an amazing job of commenting on her gorgeous photos (with a lot of detail that I missed) – check out ChristiNYC’s photos from the Masonic Lodge tour sponsored by Open House New York at flickr.

Over at bigskybrooklyn, Adam E. shares the products of his poetic ambles around the former Dutch colony. Check him out, and don’t miss his story about Triangle 54.

I’m still gathering info on the Newtown Creek superfund story, but am not ready to talk about it. Recent missives from the Newtown Creek Alliance suggest that the Federal Government’s redoubtable EPA will be holding a public meeting on November 5th at 7PM in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.

Quoth: The US Environmental Protection Agency will be holding a community information session regarding the nomination of Newtown Creek to the Federal Superfund Program.

Where: St Cecilia’s Auditorium, Located on North Henry St midway between Herbert and Richardson

When: Thursday November 5th at 7:00 pm

Halloween week is here, and I would be remiss if I didn’t shill for the Greater Astoria Historical Society Halloween tour, led by its president Richard Melnick. I’ll be there, and Our Lady of the Pentacle plans on assumption of full holiday regalia for both herself and our little dog.

Also, for the pure Geek of it all, I’ve been playing around with the “rss feed” syndication settings on the Newtown Pentacle. Our feed page is located here. Experimental “mirrors” of the site can be found here, and here. Messing around with different layouts and blog services has been my main desire, and I’m intrigued by the notion of the raw text and code flowing into different layouts automatically (to subscribe to our feed, click the appropriate links on the sidebar). I’m a newbie at programming this sort of thing, if you’re not and there’s something obvious and clever I’m missing, please contact me.

Additionally, Joey in Astoria has posted a list of Halloween parties here in the loamy, tree tressed loins of darkest and stormiest Astoria. Click here.

Masonic Lodge part 2

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- photo by Mitch Waxman

The second installment of a Newtown Pentacle accounting of the Open House New York tour of NY’s Masonic Grand Lodge in Manhattan (check out part one here).

The French Doric room is meant to evoke a rustic feeling, picking up its decor and theme from the country houses of the lords of Gaul. Its red, white, and blue lighting scheme combines and illuminates the interior with a soft purple hue- purple being the representative color of imperium in European iconography since the days of Caesar.

The architecture of the place imparts a feeling in the observer that the individual is profoundly small and isolated in comparison to the vast and unknowable universe, but that with a proper structural foundation of conviction and principle surrounding him, every virtue is within reach.

from wikipedia

The Grand Lodge of the State of New York (GLoNY) is the governing body of Freemasonry in the State of New York. The Grand Lodge is over 220 years old, having been founded December 15, 1782. GLoNY acts as the coordinating body for many functions undertaken throughout the state. Its various committees organize blood drives, Masonic Child Identification Programs (CHIP) and charitable events around New York. The GLoNY has jurisdiction over approximately 60,000 Freemasons, organized in more than 800 Lodges, most of them located within New York State.

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- photo by Mitch Waxman

The enlightenment era philosophies of the post reformation European landscape- such as the “the golden liberty” of the Poles or the “democracy” of the English, French, and Dutch- are hinted at in the Mason’s ceremonial architecture. Such “common sense” idioms as the equanimity of and gray areas between divinity and diabolism, empathy for the plight of others, the thirst for scientific knowledge and ultimate truth, the Christian ideal of forgiving the trespass of enemies- taken for granted as inalienable rights in modernity- are core Masonic ideals which have become encoded in the global culture.

from wikipedia

It is not known when the first Freemason set foot in the American colony of New York, but the first documented presence dates from the mid 1730s, when Daniel Coxe was appointed by the Duke of Norfolk, then Grand Master of the Premier Grand Lodge of England (known to historians as the “Moderns”) to act as a Provincial Grand Master for the provinces of New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. As no authenticated records exist of his tenure as Provincial Grand Master, it seems doubtful that he exercised any authority in Masonic endeavors. From 1738 to the 1780s additional Warrants were issued by GLE (Moderns) to Francis Goelet (1738-1753), to George Harrison (1753-1771) and to Sir John Johnson (from 1771). As Johnson was a supporter of the British during the American Revolution, he is believed to have taken his warrant with him when he fled to Canada, thus leaving the Moderns Lodges without a Provincial Grand Master.

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- photo by Mitch Waxman

There are certain qualities that a Masonic Lodge seek to encourage, and ideally cause its membership to emulate. When a man knows how to make and keep friends, hunt birds without a gun, exult in the sound of a child’s laughter, stand in bright rectitude when confronted by the meaner forces of life, when the sight of star crowned trees and the mesmerizing glint of sunlight upon the water fills a man with reverie and contemplative thoughts, and a resolute response to another’s peril is not so much a response as it is a reflex- then that man is on the road to being considered a Mason.

from wikipedia

To make matters complicated, by the 1750s, the Antient Grand Lodge of England (known to historians as the “Ancients”), a rival Masonic Grand Lodge, had also created a Provincial Grand Lodge of New York, which subsequently chartered lodges under its own jurisdiction. Additional lodges were chartered in New York by the Grand Lodge of Scotland and the Grand Lodge of Ireland. The Ancients retained their charter throughout the Revolution, however, and it was based upon this charter that an independent Grand Lodge of New York was created in 1781, with Robert R. Livingston as Grand Master. The Grand Lodge of New York was officially organized on December 15, 1782 under the Provincial Grand Warrant dated September 5, 1781 from the “Athol” or Antient Grand Lodge of England. The Grand Lodge declared its independence and assumed its modern title “Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of the State of New York” on June 6, 1787.) While the “Athol” Charter descended from the “Ancients”, Livingston himself was a member of a “Modern” Lodge. Thus the two rival Grand Lodge traditions, which in England did not unite until 1813, had already merged before that in New York State.

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- photo by Mitch Waxman

Other traits familiar to modernity have been carefully shepherded by the Masons over their long history- a pluralistic view of religion (in which any methodology that brings men into communion with the divine and majestic is valid, noteworthy and deserving of respect), an ability to see beyond the surface and judge the world in an objective and situationally appropriate manner, and the notion of a reluctant warrior forced by circumstance to defend his community (God’s lonely man who is forced to drop the plowshare by his conscience- sword in hand, who is glad to live- but is not afraid to die for a righteous cause).

form nymasoniclibrary.com (The Masonic Library is open to the public, incidentally)

Library Acquires Copy of…
PROCESSUS CONTRA TEMPLARIOS
The Chancellor Robert R Livingston Masonic Library of Grand Lodge has announced the acquisition of Processus Contra Templarios, an unprecedented publication containing a collection of facsimile manuscripts relating to the trials of the Knights Templar.
The Holy See shocked the world when it announced that the Vatican Secret Archive would publish exclusive and previously unavailable source material on the hearings against the medieval warrior-monks. The announcement was of special interest to Freemasons and students of Masonic history, as many theorists trace modern Freemasonry’s origins to the military-religious order, and the modern Masonic Templar organization is an important part of the fraternity today. To date, there is no proven historical link between the medieval Knights Templar and modern Freemasonry.

Library Acquires Copy of…

PROCESSUS CONTRA TEMPLARIOS

The Chancellor Robert R Livingston Masonic Library of Grand Lodge has announced the acquisition of Processus Contra Templarios, an unprecedented publication containing a collection of facsimile manuscripts relating to the trials of the Knights Templar.

The Holy See shocked the world when it announced that the Vatican Secret Archive would publish exclusive and previously unavailable source material on the hearings against the medieval warrior-monks. The announcement was of special interest to Freemasons and students of Masonic history, as many theorists trace modern Freemasonry’s origins to the military-religious order, and the modern Masonic Templar organization is an important part of the fraternity today. To date, there is no proven historical link between the medieval Knights Templar and modern Freemasonry.

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- photo by Mitch Waxman

The Masons moved the largish and increasingly disorganized tour groups from room to room, a dizzying cavalcade of baroque color and sharp turns on marble mosaic floors. Their craft, with its signature emblems and sigils, was reinforced in every stair or window sconce observable from these public areas of the building. The continuing impression of their organization was that of a Glacier- impossibly gargantuan, inexorable, and steadily flowing out of time itself.

from nymasons.org

Masonry is the oldest fraternity in the world, although no one can claim to know its exact origins. There is evidence that the Masonry we know today probably grew out of the guilds of stonemasons who built the castles and cathedrals of the Middle Ages. In the U.S., many of the Founding Fathers were Masons, including Benjamin Franklin and George Washington. From presidents, astronauts, and sports heroes to carpenters, CEOs, and bus drivers, millions of Masons have made our country what it is today. As Masons, history, tradition, and pride are central concepts in our lives.

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- photo by Mitch Waxman

Corinthian Room appointments were elegant, and its particular Masonic speaker possessed that ineffable quality of charisma called “the common touch”. A likeable, confident aura and regionally appropriate urban patois suggested to me that in his profane life he might be a police officer, but this is pure speculation on my part. He spoke with an air that suggested familiarity with speaking to, and commanding definite action from, large groups- a certain “Bossitude“. In his sacred incarnation, he is of course, just another Mason.

from nymasons.org

from their list of famous masons- John Jacob Astor (1763-1848)

When John Jacob Astor left Germany in his late teens years, he worked his way to London and eventually to America. During his voyage across the Atlantic, he met a man who was a fur trader. That acquaintance convinced him to explore the fur trade., and with determination he amassed a fortune from his fur empire. At one time, he was considered the wealthiest man in America. Astor was Master of Holland Lodge #8, New York City in 1788 and later served as Grand Treasurer for the Grand Lodge of New York.

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- photo by Mitch Waxman

Officially, (and this is hearsay of course, because the real Masons don’t EVER talk about this stuff with outsiders- just like everything you’ve heard about organized crime is hearsay) there are only three degrees of illumination in Masonry. There are secondary rituals which increase rank horizontally after the third level, and there are certainly splinter groups who commit “heresy” pursuing unorthodox and unaccepted knowledge, and there are rogue lodges. Of course, I’m not implying anything sinister, as other magickal (that’s magick with a “k”, kids) societies spawn such groups, all the time. The nice part about Masonry is that even the future Kings of England join the Free and Accepted Masons at the initiate level.

from nymasons.org

from their list of famous masons- Harry Houdini (1874-1926)

Harry Houdini began performing magic at the age of sixteen under the name of Eric the Great. He later changed his name from Eric Weiss to Houdini, hoping to become like his mentor, internationally known magician Robert Houdini. In 1916, Houdini began a film career but was best known for his great escapes. He executed the largest stage illusion of his day making an elephant disappear. Houdini was a member of St. Cecile Lodge #568 in New York City.

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- photo by Mitch Waxman

Newtown Pentacle policy on the freemasons, as if it mattered, is that they are not a sinister secret society but rather a secret society with sometimes sinister secrets. I’m fine with the hermetic ideal of a fraternity devoted to opposing tyranny in the name of furthering science and illuminating the great architecture of the universe via thousands of individual magickal temple lay societies. I also like their approach to charity, and overall- the resume of the Freemasons is pretty impressive and seems to be on the right side of history- but I was educated in a school which espoused these principals so my viewpoint is suspect. Good music, too.

I’m sure there’s some truth to the wack job stories out there- but there’s a LOT of masons- and simple demographics dictate that some Masons, over the centuries, must have been bad guys. Given the political realities of much of their existence, I can understand why the Masons deny or just won’t speak about a lot of stuff.

from nymasons.org

from their list of famous masons- George C. Marshall (1880-1959)

Marshall was a general of the army and US Army chief of staff during World War II and later Secretary of State and of Defense. The European Recovery Program he proposed in 1947 became known as the Marshall Plan. He received a Nobel Peace Prize in 1953. General Marshall was made a Mason “at sight” in 1941 by the Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of the District of Columbia.

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- photo by Mitch Waxman

The Freemasons were born in hell.

The official story told by the Masons involves the building of Solomon’s Temple and some sort of continuance as a stonecutter’s guild for all of recorded history, and they have all sorts of manuscripts to prove it. The Catholics have little scraps of a 2,000 year old veil, the Mormons have angelic gold plates Joseph Smith found buried in upstate New York, the Muslims have the footprints of the Prophet’s Horse Buraq at the Well of Souls. The reality of who these people are and what they did for mankind began in the apocalyptic landscape of 17th century Europe.

also from nymasons.org, the Masonic Compact

Because I am a Freemason…

… I believe that freedom of religion is an inalienable human right and tolerance an indispensable trait of human character; therefore, I will stand in my Lodge with Brothers of all faiths, and respect their beliefs as they respect mine, and I will demonstrate the spirit of Brotherhood in all aspects of my life.
… I know that education and the rational use of the mind are the keys to facing the problems of humanity; therefore, I will bring my questions and my ideas to my Lodge, and strive to advance the growth of my mind alongside my Brothers.
… I know that the rich tradition of Freemasonry and its framework of Ritual are important platforms for growth and learning; therefore, I vow to stand upon these platforms to improve myself as a human being, and I vow to help in the mission of the Craft to provide tools, atmosphere, challenges and motivation to help each Brother do the same.
… I know that charity is the distinguishing human virtue, and that personal community service is the best demonstration of one’s commitment to humanity; I acknowledge that words without deeds are meaningless, and I vow to work with my Lodge to provide service to the community, and to promote charity, friendship, morality, harmony, integrity, fidelity and love.
… I know that my obligation to community extends beyond my local sphere and is partly fulfilled in my patriotism: love of my country, obedience to its laws and celebration of the freedoms and opportunities it symbolizes.
… I know that leadership is best demonstrated by commitment to serving others; I will therefore participate in, and help work at improving individual leadership skills, and serve the Brothers of my Lodge to the best of my ability.
… I know that friendship, fidelity and family are the foundations of a well-lived life; I therefore vow to be a faithful friend to my Brothers, as I expect my Lodge to respect my personal obligations, and to treat my family as though my family were their own.
… I know that the last great lesson of Freemasonry — the value of personal integrity and the sanctity of one’s word– is a lesson for all people in all times; I therefore vow to be a man of my word.
… I know that Masonry’s power is best exercised when its Light is shared with the world at large; I therefore vow to bring the best of myself to my Lodge, in order that my growth might be fostered and nurtured, and to present myself to the world as a working Freemason, on the path to building a more perfect temple.

Because I am a Freemason, these values and aspirations are guideposts for my progress through life.

ret_g10_img_1093_ohny.jpg by you.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

In 1517, Luther published his 95 theses. The Protestant Reformation broke Europe into two halves, constantly at war and funded on one side by a river of gold and silver flowing from Mexico and other holdings in the Americas, and on the other by a spice and sugar mercantile trade route skirting the coastlines of the Atlantic and Pacific.

Curiously, the Protestant and Catholic borders which became apparent at the end of the century were very similar to the borders of the Roman Empire as defined by Augustus (another coincidence of this type is found in the map of communist and capitalist Europe during the Cold War).

By the beginning of the 17th century, 1618-1648 to be exact, what modernity calls the Thirty Years War had murdered Europe.

The Peace of Westphalia in 1659, the first modern diplomatic accord, ended the Thirty Years war- and also settled the Eighty Years War between Hapsburg Spain and its former Dutch holdings. This treaty set the map of Europe, pointed to what would be known as the Great Powers concept, and allowed a parasitic class of noble born warlords to entrench and inherit themselves in power all over Europe for the next 100 years. The dynastic chaos following their reigns was a time for opportunistic men to consolidate power and authority onto themselves, and like all who hold power too closely, they nervously squashed dissent and opposition.

from wikipedia

Esotericism or Esoterism is a term with two basic meanings. In the dictionary sense of the term, it signifies the holding of esoteric opinions, and derives from the Greek ἐσωτερικός (esôterikos), a compound of ἔσω (esô): “within”, thus “pertaining to the more inward”, mystic. Its antonym is exoteric. In the scholarly literature, the term designates a series of historically related religious currents including Gnosticism, Hermetism, magic, astrology, alchemy, Rosicrucianism, the Christian Theosophy of Jacob Böhme and his followers, Illuminism, Mesmerism, Swedenborgianism, Spiritualism, the theosophical currents associated with Helena Blavatsky and her followers. There are competing views regarding the common traits uniting these currents, not all of which involve “inwardness”, mystery or secrecy as a crucial trait.

Esoteric knowledge, in the dictionary (non-scholarly) sense, is thus that which is available only to a narrow circle of “enlightened”, “initiated”, or specially educated people. Esoteric items may be known as esoterica. In contrast, exoteric knowledge is knowledge that is well-known or public; or perceived as informally canonic in society at large.

Finally, it can be noted that esotericism, beside its scholarly and dictionary definitions, can be used in a loose, popular sense: not in order to denote e.g. mystical knowledge or practice, but rather informally to mean any perception or knowledge that is for the advanced individual such as theoretical physics, or that pertains to the minutiae of a particular discipline, such as “esoteric” baseball statistics.

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- photo by Mitch Waxman

The governments of the 18th century, obsessed with the amalgamation of bureaucratic control and suppression of popular dissent which had led to the disastrous religious wars of previous centuries, sought stability. On the whole, they ignored the secrecy and ritual of the medieval guilds of artisans and trade- who had been loyal and useful to previous kings- while brutally attacking religious splinter groups and issuing lists of banned books. The various church organizations, who had been shown their place by the Kings of England and France, worked as an organ of these new states as proselytizer and informant. Here’s the place in 1700, on the eve of the war of Spanish Succession, and in 1805 at the start of the War of the Third Coalition.

A burgeoning new social class was emerging in this predictably cruel and impartial world, merchants and manufacturers who represented the beginnings of a modern economy, that called themselves the Bourgosie.

Rational, utility minded, and patient- these “New Men” were the wet nurses of many nascent secret societies, where they could gather together without government or church tenders.

also from wikipedia

In the early 17th century, esotericism is represented by currents such as Christian Theosophy and Rosicrucianism. A century later, esoteric ideas entered various strands of Freemasonry. Later in the 18th century, as well as in the early 19th century, the diffuse movement known as Mesmerism became a major expression of esotericism. In the 19th century, esotericism is also represented e.g. by certain aspects of the philosophy, literature and science associated with Romanticism, by spiritualism, and by a notable French wave of occultism.

The major exponent of esotericism in the latter part of the 19th century is the Theosophy of H. P. Blavatsky, not to be confused with the Christian Theosophy mentioned above. In the 20th century, Theosophy was reformulated by Annie Besant, C. W. Leadbeater, Alice Bailey, Rudolf Steiner and many others, and became the source for a whole range of post-theosophical movements such as The Summit Lighthouse. A particularly successful post-theosophical movement is Anthroposophy, a synthesis of occultist, Christian and neo-Platonic ideas with Western esoteric concepts as formulated in the wake of Theosophy. Anthroposophy, which was founded by Rudolf Steiner in the early part of the 20th century, includes esoteric versions of education, agriculture, and medicine.


Written by Mitch Waxman

October 25, 2009 at 1:42 pm

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