The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

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.

ret_g10_img_1066_ohny.jpg by you.

- 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.

ret_g10_img_1089_ohny.jpg by you.

- 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.

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- 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.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

October 25, 2009 at 1:42 pm

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