On 20 and 21 oktober 2005 held in Den Haag. The conference was a co-organisation between the “Stichting OVN” (“foundation for the advancement of academic research into the history of Freemasonry in the Netherlands”, site under construction) together with Wouter Hanegraaff of Amsterdam Hermetica. The subject of the conference was important: “new perspectives for art and heritage policies”. The decision if a building, a garden, an interior or whatever should get the status of monument is usually taken by people who are unaware of Masonic or esoteric symbolism. Also for examples buildings designed with certain ideas are often wrongly restored or altered to serve modern needs and I even haven’t mentioned paintings or other forms of contemporary art. The organisers of this congres think it is time to combine the knowledge of art-historians and scholars on the field of Western esotericism to prevent more important heritage to be lost. Also people should be aware that a Masonic temple is as valuable as a Christian church from the same time and therefor worth preserving. The organisers thought it wise to start with a conference to make scholars of other fields acquainted with esoteric symbology and also to draw attention to the subject.
How expensive the conference was, as cheap is the very nice publication that followed it. You can get the book from Stichting OVN for only 10 euro plus shipping. For this you will get a very nice book of 246 pages with 17 essays and a long list with references where to get more information. The essays are by Wouter Hanegraaff who opens with a general introduction into Western esotericism; Henrik Bogdan with a (in my opinion slightly out of place) text about Gustav Adolph Reuterholm; Diane Clements who speaks about the architecture and art of the Freemason’s Hall in London; Christopher McIntosh who has a very nice text about symbolic garden design; Melanie Í–hlenbach who says something about Philipp Otto Runge (a painter); then follows a text about both “Goetheaniums” designed by the founder of the Antropsophical Society Rudolf Steiner, by Helmut Zander; Marijo Ariëns-Volker writes about the esoteric side of Picasso and contemporaries; Giovanna Costantini does the same with Giorgio De Chirico. Then we turn to the heritage with Alan Solomon, a stockbroker who ran into a strange symbol in a building near NY’s “ground zero”; Masonic garden design is spoken about by Erik Westengaard; Eugène Warmenbol describes Masonic temples in Belgium; Malcolm Davies writes about Masonic music; Andréa Kroon informs you about the (changing) atitude towards (possible) esoteric buildings in the Netherlands and Marty Bax renders a year-long investigation of a building with Theosopnical architecture. The last part is about “interdesciplinary research and conservation”, opened by Andreas Í–nnerfors and Jonas Andersson who give information about Swedish freemasonry; Andrew Prescott who sees “Freemasonry as part of national heritage” and Kroon closes off with “the pilot-study ‘Masonic heritage in the Netherlands, 1735-1945′”.
Now that Amsterdam has a university chair for the study of Western esotericism the academic knowledge of (the existence) of it is finally growing, so the possibilities to join forces grew. Many art-students follow the classes of Hanegraaff and his followers, which proves that the tide is indeed changing. This is important, because (as Kroon describes in her essay) important buildings get lost because of the ignorance property developers and of the people having to decide about monument-statuses. Global scholars now joined forces to inform their colleges in other disciplines, so hopefully most of what is left can and will be preserved in the future.
An important subject and a very nice book to read for the non-scholar (like myself) too. There could have been more examples (images) in the book though. In America I have ran into numerous obviously Masonic buildings, monuments and grave-stones, but if people even don’t recognise the compass and the square, how should they recognise the more ‘hidden’ symbols (or symbology in the architecture itself)? People who may be interested in the subject and get this publication as guideline, might want to have a few examples so they know what to look for. For the rest, and especially for this price, nothing but praise!
2005 Stichting OVN, isbn 908077782X