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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).

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– 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.

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– 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.

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– 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.

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– 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


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.

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– 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


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.

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– 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


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).

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– 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’ 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.

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– 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


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.

ret_g10_img_1141_ohny.jpg by you.

– 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.


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 (The Masonic Library is open to the public, incidentally)

Library Acquires Copy of…
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…


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.


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 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 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 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, 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.

Written by Mitch Waxman

October 25, 2009 at 1:42 pm

Masonic Lodge part 1

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

We came, and stood waiting upon the starting point of a path that they had set out for us. A bearded man portioned the larger than expected crowd into manageable units of 25, and each unit was released into the tour pattern every 20 minutes- or precisely every third of an hour.

This is the Grand Lodge of Masons, on 24th street in Manhattan, which was visited as part of the Open House New York event in 2009 (and to be absolutely clear, I’m not a Mason).

from‘s Web of Hiram

Our Lodge is supported by three great pillars. They are called Wisdom, Strength, and Beauty: Wisdom to contrive, Strength to support, and Beauty to adorn; Wisdom to conduct us in all our undertakings, Strength to support us under all our difficulties, and Beauty to adorn the inward man. The Universe is the Temple of the Deity whom we serve Wisdom, Strength, and Beauty are about His throne as pillars of His works, His Wisdom is infinite, His Strength omnipotent, and Beauty shines through the whole of the creation in symmetry a order. The heavens He has stretched forth as a canopy; the earth He hath planted as His footstool; He crowns His Temple with Stars as with a diadem, and His hands extend their power and glory. The Sun and Moon are messengers of His will, and all His law is concord. The three great Pillars supporting Mason’s Lodges are emblematical of the Divine attributes; they further represent Solomon, King of Israel, Hiram, King of Tyre, and Hiram Abif. Solomon, King of Israel. for his Wisdom in building, completing, and dedicating the Temple at Jerusalem to God’s service; Hiram, King of Tyre, for his Strength in supporting him with men and material and Hiram Abif, for his curious a masterly workmanship in beautifying and adorning the same. But as we have no noble orders in Architecture known by the names of Wisdom Strength, and Beauty, we refer them to the three most celebrated, the Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian.

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Masons on duty were working tirelessly, not for themselves but for their guests. The Masons conveyed their duties in a selfless manner, ferrying special needs guests and answering questions from the crowd. Every Mason did his part, taking pride in the assignment, and they worked in cooperation with each other to assure the smooth running of the whole operation- all the while obeying the rules and proscriptions of their society and striving to expand the knowledge and understanding of the uninitiated.

also from‘s Web of Hiram

The interior of a Freemason’s Lodge is composed of Ornaments, Furniture, and jewels. The ornaments of the Lodge are the Mosaic pavement, the blazing star, and the indented or tessellated border; the Mosaic pavement is the beautiful flooring of a Freemason’s Lodge, the blazing star the glory in the centre, and the indented or tessellated border, the skirtwork round the same. The Mosaic pavement may justly be deemed the beautiful flooring of the Lodge, by reason of its being variegated and chequered. This points out the diversity of objects which decorate and adorn the creation, the animate as well as the inanimate parts thereof. The blazing star, or glory in the centre, refers us to the Sun, which enlightens the earth, and by its benign influence dispenses blessings to mankind in general. The indented or tessellated border refers us to the planets, which in their various revolutions form a beautiful border or skirtwork round that grand luminary, the Sun, as the other does round that of a Freemason’s Lodge. The furniture of the Lodge are the Volume of the Sacred Law, the Compasses, and Square; the Sacred Writings are to rule and govern our faith. On them we obligate our Candidates for Freemasonry; so are the Compasses and Square, when united, to regulate our lives and actions. The Sacred Volume is derived from God to man in general, the Compasses belong to the Grand Master in particular, and the Square to the whole Craft.

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Masons stationed a speaker in each of the ornate rooms that the labyrinth of the tour would visit, a course which moved horizontally and vertically across multiple rooms and floors. The Grand Lodge is not so much a wizardly castle as it is a commonly held ceremonial meeting house for members from all over New York State. These Masonic organs book these rooms for moments of great import in the history of their individual lodge. The Grand Lodge also proffers the Masonic creed of continuing education and intellectual growth by offering the services of a privately curated library which is open to the general public. This library holds an enormous cache of esoteric and rare documents in anticipation of scholarly interest.

also from‘s Web of Hiram

The Degree of Knight of the Brazen Serpent relates to the time when the camp of the Israelites was pitched at Punon, on the eastern side of the mountains of Hor, Seir, or Edom, In Arabia Petraea, on the confines of Idumaea, after the death of Aaron, when the new moon occurred at the vernal equinox, in the fortieth year of the wandering of the children of Israel in the desert.
The duties of a Knight of the Brazen Serpent are: To purify the soul of its alloy of earthliness, that through the gate of Capricorn and the seven spheres It may at length ascend to its eternal home beyond the stars; and also to perpetuate the great truths enveloped in the symbols and allegories of the ancient mysteries of Faith.
The Lodge, in this degree, is styled the Council. The camp, standards, and tabernacle with its court, are as in the two preceding degrees. In the East is a transparency on which is painted a cross, with a serpent coiled round it and over the arms.
On the right of the presiding officer is a short column, on which is a winged globe encircled by a serpent. On the left of the Senior Warden and right of the Junior Warden are similar columns, on each of which is a serpent or basilisk, his body coiled in folds, and his head and neck erect above the folds. The globe and all the serpents are gildedThe Degree of Knight of the Brazen Serpent relates to the time when the camp of the Israelites was pitched at Punon, on the eastern side of the mountains of Hor, Seir, or Edom, In Arabia Petraea, on the confines of Idumaea, after the death of Aaron, when the new moon occurred at the vernal equinox, in the fortieth year of the wandering of the children of Israel in the desert.

The duties of a Knight of the Brazen Serpent are: To purify the soul of its alloy of earthliness, that through the gate of Capricorn and the seven spheres It may at length ascend to its eternal home beyond the stars; and also to perpetuate the great truths enveloped in the symbols and allegories of the ancient mysteries of Faith.


The Lodge, in this degree, is styled the Council. The camp, standards, and tabernacle with its court, are as in the two preceding degrees. In the East is a transparency on which is painted a cross, with a serpent coiled round it and over the arms.

On the right of the presiding officer is a short column, on which is a winged globe encircled by a serpent. On the left of the Senior Warden and right of the Junior Warden are similar columns, on each of which is a serpent or basilisk, his body coiled in folds, and his head and neck erect above the folds. The globe and all the serpents are gilded.

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

The crowd was a heterogeneous group, of every type and age and tribe of man, whose questions were answered patiently and with a pleasant humor. No matter how pointed or suspicious the tone of the petitioner- the answers from the Masons always returned a tone of dignity, expressed respect for the point of view evinced by the questioner, and acknowledged a considerate view of the opinions put forward by the crowd.

Someone actually asked “What secrets aren’t you allowed to tell us?”.

from wikipedia

Masonic historians such as William Bissey, Gary Leazer (quoting Coil’s Masonic Encyclopaedia). Brent Morris, assert that “the Masonic abbreviation G.A.O.T.U., meaning the Great Architect of the Universe, continues a long tradition of using an allegorical name for the Deity”. They trace how the name and the abbreviation entered Masonic tradition from the Book of Constitutions written in 1723 by Reverend James Anderson. They also note that Anderson, a Calvinist minister, probably took the term from Calvin’s usage.

ret_g10_img_1011_ohny.jpg by you.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Masonic theme of personal responsibility, an iron creed which ignores circumstantial considerations (wealth and poverty, education or ignorance, illness or health) in its judgement of existential morality and the rightness of one’s actions, rang out in every word of the prepared and rehearsed speakers. The tour group was dazzled, and bathed in the peacock illumination of a gilded set piece.

from wikipedia

Freemasonry is a fraternal organisation that arose from obscure origins in the late 16th to early 17th century. Freemasonry now exists in various forms all over the world, with a membership estimated at around 5 million, including just under two million in the United States and around 480,000 in England, Scotland and Ireland. The various forms all share moral and metaphysical ideals, which include, in most cases, a constitutional declaration of belief in a Supreme Being.

The fraternity is administratively organised into Grand Lodges (or sometimes Orients), each of which governs its own jurisdiction, which consists of subordinate (or constituent) Lodges. Grand Lodges recognise each other through a process of landmarks and regularity. There are also appendant bodies, which are organisations related to the main branch of Freemasonry, but with their own independent administration.

Freemasonry uses the metaphors of operative stonemasons’ tools and implements, against the allegorical backdrop of the building of King Solomon’s Temple, to convey what has been described by both Masons and critics as “a system of morality veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols.”

ret_g10_img_1047_ohny.jpg by you.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Religious pluralists by definition, the Masons instruct that no man has the right to tell another human being what they must think or believe. Every member of our human race has an absolute right to freedom in every sense of the word. That all tyranny, in every form, is illegitimate and false.

In the French room, one finds statuary representing George Washington and the Marquis de Lafayette (although I didn’t get a shot of them). The walls are adorned with the Coat of Arms of the Nation of France, and mythic iconography representing life in rural France. The metaphor is apt, and the room is an obvious tribute to the two greatest victories of the Masonic philosophs.

also from wikipedia

The obligations are historically known amongst various sources critical of Freemasonry for their so-called “bloody penalties”, an allusion to the apparent physical penalties associated with each degree. This leads to some descriptions of the Obligations as “Oaths”. The corresponding text, with regard to the penalties, does not appear in authoritative, endorsed sources,  following a decision “that all references to physical penalties be omitted from the obligations taken by Candidates in the three Degrees and by a Master Elect at his Installation but retained elsewhere in the respective ceremonies”. The penalties are interpreted symbolically, and are not applied in actuality by a Lodge or by any other body of Masonry. The descriptive nature of the penalties alludes to how the candidate should feel about himself should he knowingly violate his obligation. Modern actual penalties may include suspension, expulsion or reprimand.

Whilst no single obligation is representative of Freemasonry as a whole, a number of common themes appear when considering a range of potential texts. Content which may appear in at least one of the three obligations includes: the candidate promises to act in a manner befitting a member of civilised society, promises to obey the law of his Supreme Being, promises to obey the law of his sovereign state, promises to attend his lodge if he is able, promises not to wrong, cheat nor defraud the Lodge or the brethren, and promises aid or charity to a member of the human family, brethren and their families in times of need if it can be done without causing financial harm to himself or his dependents.

ret_g10_img_1029_ohny.jpg by you.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A certain amount of self control was being practiced by your humble narrator when visiting these environs. I had to reign in my base desires to pry open locked doors, and allow my more intellectual side to wander freely about the place. Such temptations are selfish, after all, and charitable respect for another’s belief system is something I’ve been trying to cultivate in myself for awhile. An angry and broken shell of something like a man, I am often small and cruel to those I’ve perceived as slighting or insulting me, and have been attempting for the last few years to not write people off. To reflect control and cool discretion in the face of derisive fury is one of my goals. Cooley-cool.

the Widow’s Son, from wikipedia

Hiram Abiff is a character who figures prominently in an allegorical play that is presented during the third degree of Craft Freemasonry. In this play, Hiram is presented as being the chief architect of King Solomon’s Temple, who is murdered by three ruffians during an unsuccessful attempt to force him to divulge the Master Masons’ secret password. It is explained in the lecture that follows this play that the story is a lesson in fidelity to one’s word, and in the brevity of life.

Numerous scholars, both Masonic and non-Masonic, have speculated that the character may have been based upon one or more Hirams that appear in the Bible. For example, in the Masonic ritual Hiram is referred to as ‘the Widow’s Son,’ which is similar to a biblical reference to a Hiram found in 1 Kings 7:13–14.

ret_g10_img_1038_ohny.jpg by you.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Mason in the French room, who was one heck of an enigmatic presence incidentally, spoke to the increasingly giddy crowd about the quality of Faith, and its central role in masonic traditions. Religious affiliation doesn’t matter to them, as the metaphorical or ritual cult names espoused by the world’s religions all refer to the same entity in masonic ideology. As long as a man believes in something, and acknowledges the existence of an immortal soul- he can be a Mason. While he spoke, the Mason was moving his right hand upon the altar in sweeping arcs intersecting with long horizontal and vertical movements. He continued on, saying that Faith must be the center of life, and commenting of the centrality of this philosophical and religious concept.

from wikipedia

In its ritual context, Freemasonry employs an allegorical foundation myth: the foundation of the fraternity by the builders of King Solomon’s Temple.

Beyond myth, there is a distinct absence of documentation as to Freemasonry’s origins, which has led to a great deal of speculation among historians and pseudo-historians alike, both from within and from outside the fraternity. Hundreds of books have been written on the subject. Much of the content of these books is highly speculative, and the precise origins of Freemasonry may very well be permanently lost to history. Some believe the scant evidence that is available points to the origins of Freemasonry as a fraternity that simply evolved out of the lodges of operative stonemasons of the Middle Ages. Others have disputed whether stone masons were ever organized formally into guilds, and have criticized the suggestion that Freemasonry evolved out of such organizations as a trite myth, stemming merely from the fact that the fraternity uses stone masonry as the core allegory for the organization of its symbolism. In any event, the matter of the origins of Freemasonry continues to puzzle and mystify historians.

The origin of Freemasonry has variously been attributed to: King Solomon and the construction of the Temple at Jerusalem, Euclid or Pythagoras, Moses, the Essenes, the Culdees, the Druids, the Gypsies, or the Rosicrucians, not to mention the intellectual descendants of Noah. Some of the more popular theories include Freemasonry being an offshoot of the ancient mystery schools, or that it is an institutional outgrowth of the medieval guilds of stonemasons, or that it is a direct descendant of the “Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ and the Temple of Solomon in Jerusalem” (the Knights Templar).

ret_g10_img_1035_ohny.jpg by you.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The working of the tour, as it wound amongst ceremonial centers, amplified the thematic elements of good citizenship and obeyance of the law as not just being a precept of some otherworldly reward but instead describing lawfulness instead as a duty to all mankind.

from wikipedia

Freemasonry spread from the British Isles during the Colonial Era. All of the “original” Grand Lodges began to issue charters to individual lodges in North America, but the two English Grand Lodges (the “Ancients” and the “Moderns”) were the most prolific. Starting in 1730 The Grand Lodge of England (Moderns) began to issue Warrants for Provincial Grand Lodges in the colonies. Initially, these Warrants were issued to individuals, to act as deputies for the Grand Master in a given area for fixed periods of time, and some confusion resulted due to overlapping jurisdictions. To confuse matters further, with the formation of the Antient Grand Lodge, rival Provincial Grand Lodges were chartered under their jurisdiction.

Part 2 coming tomorrow

Written by Mitch Waxman

October 24, 2009 at 12:15 am

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