I fell down a Russian rabbit hole. A while ago I ran into a ‘spiritual auto biography’ of a Dutch woman. The reason was that she was shortly member of a mixed gender lodge of Freemasons, but in her book she mentions “spiritual Russians”. It turned out she actually helps publishing books of one of them: Konstantin Serebrov. I have not found when Serebrov was born and if he still lives, but the best thing I found is that he was born: “in the Caucasus region in the fifties of the last century” (1), so there is a good chance that he is still around. In his books, Serebrov describes how he met his spiritual “Master G.” and follows him around the esoteric underground in Russia in the 1980’ies. “Master G.” was Vladimir Stepanov (1941-2011) whose name led me to the “Iuzhinskii Kruzhok” (‘Iuzhinskii Circle’, sometimes spelled ‘Yuzhinsky’). A few… Read More »Schizoid culture and the Russian esoteric underground
You may have ran into the discussion when and how Freemasonry went from being “operative” (workmen doing their job) to “speculative” (thinking about the symbolism of the job and its tools). A similar distinction is sometimes made for Alchemy. Some alchemists actually tried to make gold from base metals, while others called such people “puffers” and were of the opinion that the transformation should take place within the alchemist himself. In a 1894 article in six parts What Is Alchemy? the British author Arthur Waite (1857-1942) suggests that alchemy had a similar transition from ‘operative’ and ‘speculative’, or at least, that these two approaches existed. Waite uses the descriptions: “physical and transcendental alchemy” and wonders where both originate. Waite has various places of ‘origin’ of Alchemy: Egypt/Greece, Byzantium, Arabia and Syria. Later, following a lead of Helena Blavatsky, he adds China to the list. Alchemy in these countries and regions… Read More »From operative to speculative alchemy
The Kirkwall scroll is a fascinating piece of Masonic history, but not too much has been published about it. The writings that I know about the scroll are either old (J.B. Craven in 1897 and W.R. Day in 1925, both in Ars Quatuor Coronatorum, the first is mostly history, the latter about the symbolism), or short. It seems that in Cooper’s The Rosslyn Hoax? from 2007 some pages are dedicated to the scroll. Today I want to have a look at a specific element on the scroll. The ‘seal’ in the third panel from the bottom. According to Craven and later authors, the Kirkwall lodge was founded in 1736. J.B. Craven writes/quotes: The Lodge Kirkwall Kilwinning No. 382 was founded on the 1st day of October, 1736, by “John Berrihill, free Meason from the Antient Lodge of Stirline, and Wm. Meldrum, from the Lodge of Dumfermline.” These two brethren, having… Read More »The Antient Kirkwall Scroll?
In October 2022 I read a book with texts of Leo Schaya (1916-1986), a Traditionalist who wrote from a Jewish perspective. He had a few recurring points that got me thinking. One was about the lost word, a familiar element of both Jewish and Masonic lore.
Let us start with the most common Jewish prayer, the “Shema”.
Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD
(Deuteronomy 6:4)Read More »The lost word in the Jewish and Masonic traditions
I do not remember what exactly I read and when, but it did start making me think about “escapism”. There is this track of Das Ding with the constantly repeating sample/vocals: “why is my life so boring, why is my internet so slow?” Obviously a reference to a futile ‘importance’ of a certain element in the life of the young. If happiness in life depends on the speed of your internet connection, something must be wrong.Read More »Escapism
A question that interests me is when Freemasonry ‘became esoteric’. An unavoidable question when looking at that is ‘how did it ‘start’ in the first place?’
For centuries very different theories have been worked out. The most common is that in the days of the guilds there were also masons guilds and from these “operative” lodges, over time “speculative” Freemasonry grew. How, when and why non craftsmen joined is a matter of dispute. An often heard theory is that lodges asked ‘higher ups’ in society to join to raise their own prestige. Another idea is that these men joined by their own initiative because they thought to find something in these lodges. That ‘something’ can hardly be craft secrets, so what then? Interest in architecture as Knoop and Jones suggest? (1)
Fabio Venzi suggests (2) that initially Freemasonry was not yet esoteric, but this was introduced by the so-called “Cambridge Platonists” in the 17th century. He writes:
Elias Ashmole, Robert Boyle and Isaac Newton were all scientists, members of the Royal Society who continued to practise alchemy side by side with the experimental methods applied by modern science.
Studies p. 190
So that is before the foundation of the ‘premier Grand Lodge’ in 1717. Yet, most old texts even from around 1717 are not very esoteric. The rituals were only developed later. Perhaps there are a few things to say about this.Read More »Esoteric Freemasonry before 1717?
Fuxi (or Fu Hsi, Paoxi) and Nüwa make a nice, Chinese couple of which images often appear on fora, Facebook pages, etc. The image on the right is one of the better known depictions of the two creator Gods and as you can see, Nüwa is holding a pair of compasses and Fuxi a square. Ancient Eastern Freemasonry right? Especially because from Hermetic and alchemic literature we know another Siamese androgynous character known as “Rebis” who are also holding compasses and a square, the Chinese image supposedly shows ancient (Free)masonry. The image to the right is from the Tang dynasty, so 618 to 907. That not only massively predates modern Freemasonry (1717) and Western alchemy and Hermetica. But are these instruments really compasses and squares, or is this wishful thinking? As I said, Fuxi and Nüwa are creator Gods. The named instruments would be fitting for their joint role of… Read More »Fuxi and Nüwa
I am finally reading Maria Kvilhaug’s 2004 dissertation The Maiden With The Mead. In her introduction, Kvilhaug says:
There are, for example, three different versions of the poem Voluspá, all with rather fundamental differences from each other.
I never really thought about that. As probably many others I took it that what is printed in our Eddas as the first poem Völuspa is the text that comes from the Codex Regius that that was found in 1643 and probably compiled in the late 12th century. Many translations and translations of translations have been made, so it is sometimes hard to say which of the modern translations are anywhere close to the original text. Kvilhaugs remark brings another problem: if there are “three different versions” are the texts that we know all based on the same source?Read More »Comparing Völuspás
I am currently reading the massive Satanism: A Social History by Massimo Introvigne. This is a scholarly work published by the esteemed publisher Brill. It was first published in Italian in 1994 and was later translated, rewritten and expanded in various languages to (currently) end with the 655 pages that Brill published in 2016. There is something in this book that got me thinking about the early days of Freemasonry. There are many histories of these early days. Not all treat the rising of ‘modern’ lodges in the context of the late 16th, early 17th society. There are investigations showing that there were many social clubs, workers associations that either or not provided financial security in case of sickness, but besides social and philosophical clubs, there were also gatherings of another kind. You have probably heard of “the” Hellfire Club. Actually, there was not one Hellfire Club, there were several.… Read More »“he will never be a stupid atheist nor an irreligious libertine”
Tarot is a subject that has only interested me mildly. I enjoy the symbolism of the cards, but that is about it. At some point I bought myself a ‘Crowley tarot’, mostly because the cards that are drawn by Frieda Harris (1877-1962). See the card on the right above. Some time ago I was reading something and the author kept referring to symbols on the Rider/Waite tarot (second from the right above) but without images. The images for this deck are drawn by Pamele Colman Smith (1878-1951) and designed by the (in)famous Arthur Edward Waite (1857-1942). Rider was the company that first published the deck. I do not have the deck myself, so I grabbed my Crowley tarot and I remembered just how great these cards look. They were not all that helpful for the text that I was reading though. So I figured I should read up a bit… Read More »Tarot