Recently (late 2019) the new book of Fabio Venzi was published by Lewis Masonic. It is called The Last Heresy and is about the relation between the Catholic Church and Freemasonry. It is an historical book and nothing like the previous two books that were published by the same publisher. It did make me go back to these two titles and since I was noting quotes, I figured I could just turn that into some sort of article that may give you an idea of the ideas of this Traditionalistic Italian Freemason who has been the Grandmaster of the Regulier Grand Lodge of Italy since 2001.
My last two articles were about Masonic Traditionalism. One was based on a book by Mark Sedgewick about René Guénon, the other inspired by the books of the contemporary Masonic Traditionalist Fabio Venzi. Even though I had not, and have not, really been looking into the subject, I once again return to it.
I recently ran into Christian Guidice’s thesis about Arturo Reghini. Reghini was a Freemason and a Traditionalist. There is an interesting twist to the story.
Reghini’s story is in some regards similar to that of René Guénon. The two were contemporaries. Reghini was born in 1878, Guénon in 1886. Reghini passed away in 1946, Guénon in 1951.
I recently read the book Studies On Traditional Freemasonry by Fabio Venzi. This is a very Traditionalistic book and I wanted to see if that is just the author or if that author is part of some sort of current. Unfortunately it does not seem to be easy to find much information.
Fabio Venzi was born in 1961 in Rome. He is a sociologist who publishes on a variety of subjects. I have not been able to find out when he was initiated, but I do know that since 2001 Venzi has been the Grand Master of the Gran Loggia Regolare d’Italia, or Regular Grand Lodge of Italy.
I was aware that Guénon had shortly been a Freemason and that in his earlier works, he saw Freemasonry as one of the two only genuine Western initiatic orders. Later in his life he changed his mind. Things are not quite so simple it seems.
The first connection between Guénon and Freemasonry occurs on page 47/8:
In 1906 Guénon entered Encausse’s Free School of Hermetic Sciences (as the Independent Group for Esoteric Studies has been renamed) and joined the neo-Masonic Martinist Order and an irregular Masonic body called Humanidad (Humanity), located in France but licensed by a Spanish rather than a French Obedience.
“Encausse” is Gérard Encause, better known as “Papus” who founded the Martinist Order and a whole range of pseudo Masonic groups.
I had already heard that Guénon used to belong to an “irregular” lodge, but on page 67 Sedgewick says something that I did not yet know:
In 1912 Guénon received his sixth and final initiation, into the regular Masonic lodge Thébah. He was introduced to this lodge by Oswald Wirth, a central figure in the history of Masonic Traditionalism. Wirth, the single most important figure in twentieth-century French Masonry, had earlier made the same journey from occultism to respectability that Guénon would make under Catholic auspices.
The African Eve
Witzel uses different sciences for his theory. Mostly genetics, linguistics, archeology and comparative myth. He calls his own approach “historical comparative myth”. Genetic scientistists have found out that the complete human population of the earth, are descendants of one single mother. This does not mean that at some point there were only two people, but simply that other lines did not make it. This first mother is called “The African Eve”, since she lived in nowadays Africa. There is also a stemfather. In his book Wirth explains how this discovery was made and how the method works.
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René Guénon (1886-1951) wrote about a Source of all. This Source can have many names ranging from God to Ginnungagap. The expression of that Source in the world that we live in, can be described as the “primal law”, the order of things. That “primal law” can, again, have different names. Tradition (with a capital T), sophia perennis, religio perennis or a term that Guénon often used, Sanatana Dharma. All terms refer to some kind of primal ‘knowledge’, or in the latter case, a primal law. In the Northern European traditions, there is also a term that literally translates as primal law: Örlögr. In this short article I will investigate this term (and other terms) and its usuage in different texts, old and new.
The term Örlögr is written in different ways. This is caused by different ways of how authors translate old characters with accents that we do not know anymore to something better ‘typable’. The best-looking way of writing the word, in my opinion, would be “Ørlögr”. Actually the second ‘o’ has a dot below. Neither ‘o’ can be typed easily. This is why I prefer the spelling “Örlogr”.
This text was first published in “Mímir – Journal Of North European Traditions“, edited by Gwendolyn Taunton and published in July 2012 by Numen Books (isbn 0987158147) under the pen-name Roy Orlogstru.
As of March 2013 I make my text available in PDF and Epub format. I am not entirely happy with the Epub file. It contains some errors due to conversion and the image looks like crap, but it is readable and the best I manage to make at the moment.
These files can be copied and spread freely unaltered, but not be republished without my permission.
If you have questions or wish to comment on the text, please do so in the comment field below this announcement. Should you write a reaction in or at another medium, please let me know.
I do not intend to display a complete system. I only want to present a hypothesis (or a few if you like), a line of thought so to say and in the process introduce the English speaking world to a couple of books that are only appreciated by a few and completely unknown to many which is truly a shame. The reasons for this I will get to later on.
The sole reason I use this term is to give you an idea of what I am going to talk about. I don’t particularly like the term “Asatru” myself, but it became quite well known and most people get an idea of what the subject will be. “Traditionalistic” refers to the ideas that you can read more about in these pages: the ideas of René Guénon (1886-1951), Ananda Coomaraswamy (1877-1947) and the like. Julius Evola (1898-1974) only in a way. As you will learn “Traditionalistic Asatru” is not simply Asatru in a Guénonian cloth, like I said, the term is only meant to be a pointer.
As you undoubtedly know, the scholarly investigation of pre-Christian religions of Northern Europe started around the beginning of the 19th century, mostly in Germany. This went calmly for about a hundred years and in the early 20th century and after, a great number of highly interesting works saw the light of day. There were massive works on “Germanic mythology” as a whole, but also works about interesting aspects of Teutonic religion and living. One of the recognised standard works on the larger subject is the massive Altgermanische Religionsgeschichte (‘history of the old-German religion’) by Jan de Vries (1890-1964). However De Vries was Dutch, this work is written in German. It was first published in 1935 (part I) and 1937 (part II), but when he learned about the theories of Georges Dumézil (1898-1986), he felt the need to rewrite the work with those ideas and the most recent scholarly and archeological findings and the book was republished in 1956/7. Inspite of the fact that this book is regarded as the ultimate reference work about the wide variety of subjects within the scope of the title, the book is pretty hard to get and very expensive when you find it. The reason for this is that is has not been reprinted since 1970 and that must have been a small edition, since I have never seen a 1970 copy for sale.
It were difficult times in Europe in the first half of the 20th century. De Vries kept working during both world wars, but since he also started working with the enemy, he fell out of grace in his own country and his works are still controversial for the sole fact that he had a controversial period in his life. As far as I know De Vries has never written anything political and his works on Northern mythology have nothing political in them, but since he got “spoilt” (or “burned” as we call it), his books will not be reprinted and the sole mentioning of the name and/or the works of De Vries practically makes you burned yourself. Also the copyright will only expire in 2034, so until then the heirs will have to agree with republication.
Another Dutch writer has a similar history: Frans Farwerck (1889-1978) who had a high rank in the Dutch nazi party NSB during WWII. I will come back to him later.
According to Guénon, a tradition is only truly Traditionalistic if there is an unbroken link to the Divine Source. Guénon was particularly this radical when he says that an initiative order is only such, if there is an unbroken link with that “Philosophia Perennis” (Örløgr (‘Divine Law’) in our own tradition). Since especially in the West, these links have been broken in almost all occasions, there remain only two genuinely initiatic orders in the West: Freemasonry and Le Compagonnage. The latter is a similar organisation (in many ways) to Freemasonry, but it has its own peculiarities and can be found almost exclusively in France and some parts of Germany. Having said that, it is only through Freemasonry that an initiatic order can be “regular” (to use the Masonic term) nowadays.
As far as I know he was no Traditionalist, but Farwerck has written at length about how elements of the Northern mysteries found their way into Freemasonry. His amazing work Noordeuropese Mysteriën en hun sporen tot heden (‘Northern European Mysteries and their traces to the present’) (1970, second print 1978) deals with that very subject entirely and that means: for about 630 pages. Farwerck says that we know quite a lot about the mysteries of Northern Europe and he dug through myths and sagas, but also a lot through folklore and habits with forgotten meanings, symbolism in and on buildings, rune stones, etc., etc.
Let me try to give you an idea of what could become putting all that together.
The ancient North had its initiations, not just the famous ‘rites of passage’, but also of a deeper and more esoteric nature. Towards the end of part I of his Altgermanische Religionsgeschichte (483 and on), De Vries writes about “Kultverbände” (‘cultic unions’) in a variety of forms. There were trading unions for which the old German word “hansa” is used (remember the German term “Hansestadt”) which De Vries says: “originally meant an offering-society or cultic-society” (p. 487). Later such groups would be called “Gilden” (‘guilds’), like we know from the Middle Ages. Many professions were organised in a guild. According to De Vries there already were guilds in Scandinavia in the 11th century, they even had written regulations. Even some runestones refer to guilds. Again the term refers to offerings and cults, since the Old-Norwegian term “gildi” “also actually meant offering-society” (p. 490).
Both De Vries and Farwerck heavily used the book Kultische Geheimbunde der Germanen (‘cultic secret societies of the Germans’) (1934) of Otto Höfler (1901-1987). Indeed a very promising title. Unfortunately I have not read the book myself yet (not easy to get either).
There have been several cultic groups in the North in these days, such as the “Chatten” and the “Hariern”, but more famous are groups such as the “Einherjar”, the “Ulfhednar” and the “Berzerkr”. “The most important feasts of these men-bonds are connected to the death-cult” (p. 494), meaning: the ancestors. As a matter of fact “acceptance to the men-bonds insures eternal life in the community of the ancestors. The nature of these Germanic men-bonds – thus demonstrates Höfler – were esoteric secrets cults.” (p. 495).
On page 499 De Vries describes death-and-resurrection rituals that we know from virtually every mystery-cult and other “initiation practices” are described. Now let me turn to Farwerck who has written an entire book about these “Northern European mysteries”.
Farwerck makes a flying start with giving information about initiations into Indo-European mysteries. He describes practices around death, ideas about the afterlife and burial practices. In the next part of his book, Farwerck investigates applicants for the vacancy of initiation God. Wodan/Odin of course has a good curriculum vitae, but he is not the only one. Still a large part of the book is dedicated to Wodan and ‘surrounding subjects’. Offering feasts, ‘army of the dead’, the Einherjar and Valkeries, the “Wilde Heir” (‘wild army’, not a very good translation, but I need to keep it separate from…), the wild hunt, horses and horse-offerings, Yule and fertility feasts, name it, Farwerck has investigated and described it. Of course he also wrote at length about the men-bonds and he attends to a while lot of them. Farwerck would not be Farwerck if he did not scratch off the surface of folkloristic practices and investigate remnants of ancient beliefs in Christianity and used a load of visuals. He even takes about 80 pages to find remnants of the practices of men-bonds in folkloristic habits that were still practiced in his own time. Shooting-guilds, Saint Nicholas celebrations, Yule feats, Morris dancers, steal-right of youth-groups, etc., etc.
After a dazzling amount of information, the writer continues with the “reconstruction of ancient initiation rites”. The places of the initiations (still recognisable by the names of places in the landscape), strange figures in churches, “trojan forts”, the hanging rite, wounding with the spear, mead, dances and singing; Farwerck works towards a comprehensive picture of cultic bonds.
Of course having passed the “Männerbunden”, we continue with the guilds and their rites and habits and their current descendants. The building-guilds bring us close to the dawn of modern Freemasonry and indeed, the last part of the book investigates the rites and habits of Freemasonry and their relation to what we have seen earlier in the book. The dimensions of the lodge, the small and large lights, the three “gems of Donar” (his hammer, also used by the Grand Master; his iron gloves became white; his power-girdle became the apron (and of course it is also a reference to animal disguises). Another 100 pages with that subject.
Farwerck frequently jumps conclusions when there are holes to fill, but when you read his book, you can not deny his vast knowledge and deep esoteric insight. He had reached the top of Dutch Freemasonry, but his persistence in the ideas as described above, costed him his membership.
As a branch from the Divine Source the Northern-European mysteries were not totally unlike the mystery-cults from around the Mediterranean Sea that we know quite a lot about, but they had their own peculiarities. Parts of the rites, habbits and dress-codes survived in folklore, but also in the present-day mysteries of Freemasonry. However this will be denied by many lodges, there are also lodges (especially in France) that do not mainly focus on Jewish or Egyptian symbolism, but also that of Northern Europe.
The larger branch that the pre-Christian faith of Northern Europe belongs to, is the so called Indo-European one. In particular Georges Dumézil had made a convincing point in showing similarities between the different Indo-European religions with its tripartite division. This fact also makes us able to fill gaps in that very pre-Christian faith of Northern Europe. Other sources are “folkish Christianity”, folklore in general and the great many (half-)secret societies that preserved ancient practices without even knowing that. Shooting-guilds, students organisations, workers-guilds, there still are plenty of forms of very old traditions.
The person convinced that there one Divine Source (transcending the Gods), an esoteric continuous (and unbroken) passing on of a Divine Spark but also a continuous exotericism and seeing (and finding) that in his/her native religion, could be regarded as a “Traditionalistic Asatruar”.
Do I mean to say that every (Traditionalistic) Asatruar has to become Freemason? I am not one myself and I do not think that in many lodges I would feel myself at home. On the other hand, it is a comforting thought that perhaps not ALL is lost, even when I personally do not yet take part in the ‘esoteric preservation’.
In the second volume of the Journal for the study of radicalism is an article by Stéphane François translated from French by Ariel Godwin. It speaks about “Euro-paganism”. The article is announced by Sedgewick and commented by Joshua Buckley, editor of the Tyr journal which is spoken about in the article.
François tries to make a consistent message of a varried scene, linking it with French new right and other “radical” and “extreme” rightwing organisations. The article is not a bad read, but the writer makes too much of things and tries to underbuild his point by using external sources.
Buckley has made a lengthy and interesting reaction, that I agree with for the larger part, but not entirely. I am not sure if Buckley is ‘part of the scene’ or just an interested outsider of a variety of scenes. Of course he must be well informed, since another editor of Tyr is Michael Moynihan of Blood Axis. In any case, Buckley makes the following statement: “One would expect that a music-based subculture would consist of music groups with an identifiably similar sound.” However he elucidates his point in the following sentences, I do not agree with this statement. The way I see it, there is a gigantic umbrella that we could call “gothic”. This enormous scene has many subscenes and genres, but it all loosely hangs together (and comes together on the annual Wave Gotik Treffen in Leipzig). People listen to some genres within that scene, identify with (the clothing style of) some subscene (it is often easy to say where the main musical interest is to be found), but also listen to some other genres. Under the umbrella there is not only a wide variety of musical styles, but also of non-musical interests. François’ term “black romanticism” makes a good cover for musch of that. Often that is a romanticised view on the Middle Ages, S&M, death and despair, but there are also (semi-)political tendencies going all across the political spectrum. A part of “the gothic scene” is in several ways conservative, with “esthetics” in that direction and makes a more-or-less consistent subscene that has had many different terms, but never a definite one.
Inspite of Buckley’s statement, what I have liked most about the scene, is that most people have a wide musical taste. Dancefloors are filled with Strength Through Joy, but some of the same people are also there when Genocide Organ cracks the audience’s ears. Whether the music is neo-classical, medieval, neofolk or extreme power electronics, there are people like myself listening to it all. Of course there is also a whole lot of “gothic” that I can not listen to.
Then there are groups of bands and audience with somewhat of a similar taste in music and “esthetics” which could be seen a subscene. However François came to different conclusions, with Buckley I cannot repeat enough: “I would contend that the majority of participants in these subcultures are largely attracted by music and fashion, and that any ideological component is strictly secondary”. As a matter of fact, when I continue in a more personal direction, I can even say that the similarity in ideology is almost purely accidental!
Just an example: me
Let me give my musical curriculum vitae in just a few lines. Soon after starting to listen to independent music, I got to know extreme metal music, listened to death metal for a very brief period. It was not completely my thing, but I liked black metal better when I got to know it. However not particularly interested in what bands and the people in them had to say, I liked the idea that these people actually read books, put some effort in their lyrics (sometimes) and had ideas of their own. The music started to get boring after a while and I rolled into the “gothic scene”. First more dark ambient and industrial things (Cold Meat Industry, many metalheads’ first source of ‘other music’), then more medieval, gothic and darkwave kind of things. Again my taste started to drift, this time more towards neofolk and “martial industrial” and later the more extreme kinds of industrial music.
Apart from that, I had a similar ‘evolution’ philosophically. During my rebelious puberty years (metal) I dug a little into satanism (not much interested), Nietzsche (not too interested) and then the other religions (that is where I drifted away from the music that I listened to). After a Theosophical/Antroposophical period this became smaller religions, esotericism and occultism (Mithraism, Kabbalah, that kind of stuff). By the time I listened to “Euro-centric” music, I heard many names and terms that did not really interest me, but when I was asked to write an article about Julius Evola, I had enough contacts to help me with gathering information, so I wrote the article that can still be found within these pages. These contacts were (by the way) both inside and outside the scene. Around the same time my focus has shifted from subjects from everywhere around the world, to things more close at home: the prechristian religion of Northern Europe. I can only stress that this has nothing to do with the music that I listened to. There are only a few bands that are really ‘pagan’ and I doubt that just music would have brought me to reading certain books. I got involved in a ‘pagan’ movement with an overtly Dumézilian and Traditionalistic approach. That is where I was introduced to the Traditionalistic ideas of mainly Guénon (Evola is regarded too political).
Where the inspiration comes from
I could be regarded as the “music scene Traditionalist” of Sedgewick and in a way even the “Euro-pagan” of François, but I can only say: not because the music that I listen to! It just so happens that these two things go relatively hand in hand, but I listen to the music that I listen to, because of the music. On the other hand, I also listen to very different music, not from that “Euro-pagan scene” and unregardless the ‘ideas’ or ‘message’ in the music. I gladly play Von Thronstahl first and then Ec8or if I feel like it. And to say something about that “Euro-pagan scene message”; did François actually notice that some artists can be regarded ‘politically conservative’, but there are also “eco-anarchic” communistic bands such as Militia? Buckley says: “some of the imagery they use defies the Left/liberal consensus view of what is acceptable, and is therefore troubling for outsiders.” This is done on purpose too. A long time ago I read an interview with one of the guys of Tesco who said something like: we don’t care if it’s left, right or whatever, as long as it’s extreme. There is no (political) agenda and there is no consistent message.
And then, as part of ‘that scene’, where do I stand among all that ‘information’ I am bombarded with? Honestly, I have no interest in the ideas of the artists that I listen to, nor in the message that a release (in whatever form) conveys (if any). I almost never read interviews, I don’t buy magazines, I don’t study lyrics, I am not trying to find out what the images on the cover or symbolism in lyrics refers to, these things I usually read in ‘anti-publications’ when they happen to cross my eye. Also I don’t care what organisations some artists are or have been involved with. François tries to connect the scene to far right by saying that some persons are or have been part of this and that group. I couldn’t care less! I think outsiders try to make too much of a lifestyle out of things. For some individuals this may be true, but that doesn’t mean that somebody who listens to someone’s artistic outlets, also wants to know about that person’s personal life and copy that. The music that I listen to and the things that I am interested in, are two things that happen to come close together sometimes. I enjoy the journal Tyr that happens to be edited by a person whose music I like, but I also enjoy the journal The Initiate which has no connection with the music that I listen to. Like I said, this does not necessarily go a step further either. I enjoy Tyr, but I don’t care too much what they editors do outside of that. I don’t buy Moynihan’s other publications (to name an example) just because he published them (I have no interest in Willigut because he has) and I like the music of Changes, but I never knew about his ‘philosophical pursuits’ before François investigated them and now it’s still all the same for me.
The moral of the story
People listen to music, they may even like things around that music (clothing style, magazines, concerts to meet people who also like the music, ‘esthetics’, etc.) and maybe once in a while even get inspiration from it to study something (Madonna fans starting to read Kabbalah), but it is far too easy to poor everything in the same bucket. The people in the scene are as much individuals are the other people in this world (even though some of us argument against individualism), they have their own ideas and interests, their own friends (who listen to other kinds of music, etc.). In the scene nothing is organised. Sure, some people want to organise a concert, call up a few bands to play, but I have never ever heard about a gathering of people from the scene for non-musical reasons on a larger scale than just meetings of friends. Concerts are no political gatherings as some people want majors to believe, there are no books sold at concerts or suggested if somebody wants to ‘understand’ some band as as regards with symbolism and ideas put in releases (I said it before), only if I happen to recognise them, I might understand them. Even a person like me, who has read quite a lot about what François thinks to find in our scene, recognise little of what artists subtely put in their releases. Yesterday I had “Bury Me Standing” of Foresta Di Ferro in the player. Hm, what would that “Iron Forest” be, what is that “Oak Leaf”? Some things I could perhaps place, the album title and the songtitle Kshatriya, “On The Marble Cliffs”, well, I read that booklet, but didn’t enjoy it much. Would there actually be people who do try to find everything out and become ‘converted’? Perhaps, but I have my doubts (I even have a doubt if there is a message. Aren’t there just references in order to make people think a little? Thinking of it, I even have my doubts about the point if the people that visit my music reviews section will be the same who read my articles, even though this website might be the place to go from music to “Traditionalism”. I don’t try to advocate, Gangleri.nl simply shows a few of my interests.
And of course never to forget: there are always many more ‘fans’ than bands and of course investigators only take interest in the smaller group.
Funny, that after ‘left-wing’ investigators also scholars start to take interest in a marginal musical current for different reasons (investigating radicalism and investigating Traditionalism); yet the approach seems to be similar (proving organised extreme right by jumping conclusions). What I personally don’t like is that everything not ‘according to society’ is called “radical” or “extreme”. Also I don’t understand why the old-fashioned terms of “left” and “right” are still used. “Different” is not enough of a label and “difference” has to be differentiated and categorised, otherwise it’s too hard to investigate it seems.
Yes, I may be seen as a “music scene Traditionalist”, but the story is a bit different from what some people expect.
Should there be people who visit Gangleri.nl for both the musicreviews and the bookreviews and articles and/or even got inspired by the music to read my articles (and which), it would be interesting to hear your story. Of course the same goes for people like myself, who just happen to have two interests that somehow come together here and there (or not at all you happen to listen the music reviewed in the music reviews section, but are a fanatical Protestant ‘in real life’). I think that that will show that François and Sedgewick (and the many ‘left-wing’ protesters) jump conclusions.