Category Archives: freemasonry

Alchemically Stoned – P.D. Newman (2018)

Amazon.com

A fun thing about Masonic symbolism is that you can look at it with different approaches. Some see only Christian or Jewish symbolism, others will compare it to the mysteries of Mithras while yet others see Northern mysteries in them. Here we have an author who has found “The Psychedelic Secret of Freemasonry” as the subtitle for this book goes.

The author had extensive experience with entheogens before joining a lodge. Entheogens are psychoactive substances found in plants and fungi. He recognised Masonic symbolism from his previous experiments and wrote this little book (180 pages) about his findings. This leads to some interesting suggestions.

Newman found several kinds of Acacia that contain entheogens giving a new meaning to the symbol of the Acacia in Freemasonry and perhaps even a suggestion as to how “Cassia” later became “Acacia”. 
In a similar vein Newman explains the strange double meaning of the second degree password which feels forced with the normal explanation, but which makes perfect sense from ‘an entheogenic point of view’. 

With the fly agaric mushroom he more of less leaves Masonic symbolism and he finds references to this white-spotted red mushroom in Grail legends, among the Rosicrucians and with Aleister Crowley who supposedly used his sexual symbolism to hide his mushroom experiments.

After authors with similar theories about Berzerkr, the mysteries of Mithras, even religion in general, Newman pulls the psychedelic card on Masonic symbolism. This is not always entirely convincing and -as mentioned- he does not only focus on Freemasonry, but it sure is amusing to look at the symbolism this way. read more

Esoteric Studies In Masonry volume 1 – Daath Gnosis (2016)

When I ran into this book, published in 2016, I thought (hoped) that it would be a recent publication with an esoteric take on Freemasonry. In a way it is, but not the way I hoped.

The book contains old texts about: “France, Freemasonry, Hermeticism, Kabalah and Alchemical Symbolism”. They are presented in two languages. The left columns are English translations, the right columns are the French (original?) texts. There are texts that I do not know otherwise available in English such as texts from J.M. Ragon and L. Travenol. That make the publication, in a way, interesting.

Most of the book consists of catechisms, Masonic Q&As. These usually tell you something about the rituals, but they are not ritual texts themselves. These catechisms are presented per grade: Entered Apprentice, Fellowcraft and Master Mason or equivalent. The latter I say because texts are presented from different Masonic orders such as the Rite of Memphis Misraim and adoption Freemasonry (pre co-Masonry Freemasonry that included women) where terms and symbols sometimes differ.

The book makes a mildly interesting read. You can, to some degree, compare symbols and ways of working from different Rites. There is one part with completely alchemist Masonic catechisms which show that alchemy once formed a major part of Masonic symbolism (at least in some organisations) with pretty practical information too. The more studious parts of the book are of the usual 18th and 19th century shallowness. Nice to read, not enough to study.

I am unsure if the author is a Freemason himself. I guess not, because here and there (s)he added passwords where the original texts have none. Also some translations are weird when you know something of Masonic symbolism. Perhaps they are correct in French, but a literal translation to English make them incorrect or at least strange.

There are other volumes in these series. I am not sure if this first volume interested me enough to continue with: “The Gnostic and Esoteric Mysteries of Freemasonry, Lucifer and the Great Work”. Under the pen-name Daath Gnosis esoteric and occult publications about non-Masonic subjects have been published as well.

2016 Daath Gnosis, isbn 1312442646

Myth, Magic & Masonry – Jaime Paul Lamb (2018)

This book was written by a Freemason who is also a member of the Ordo Templi Orientis and I understood the book would be about where the two systems touch. This is partly true.

The book has about 120 pages of text and actually contains four essays. In the first “section” the author writes about “The integral relationship between Freemasonry and Ceremonial Magick”. The other sections are about “Solar and astrological symbolism in Freemasonry”, “Elements of classical mythology in modern Freemasonry” and “Freemasonry and the rites of Mithras”.

Most contemporary Western magical orders somehow sprang from Freemasonry. In the time that esotericists and occultists alike joined Masonic lodges they also founded their own societies. Therefor it is not strange that within these orders many Masonic elements can be found. Where (a large part) of Freemasonry developed towards a moralistic society, some of the magic(k)al orders survive until the present day doing more or less what they did in the time of their foundings. The author gives an idea of what magical traces are left in Freemasonry and how a modern magician can look to Freemasonry. This may not be groundbreaking, but it is nice to read this from someone who still has his feet in both currents.

The astrology, Greek mythology and Mithras sections have a few nice findings here and there, but they are mostly not too much in depth and do not really give any new information. They can be better regarded as summaries of what can be found elsewhere and of course there is something to say for someone doing that.

Lamb presents a nice little book to read, but not not expect anything groundbreaking or in depth.

2018 The Laudable Pursuit Press, isbn 1732621403

Die Alchemie, Ihre Bedeutung Für Die Freimaurerei – Hans Fischer (2018)

Strangely enough, this book is not listed on the website of the publisher, nor are the other titles of the same author. The book is available from the Masonic Art website that is related to the publishing house (click on the cover).

“Alchemy, it’s meaning for Freemasonry” was just released. The author is a German Freemason who took up an interest in alchemy. The selling information says: “This is not a book about Alchemy, but a book about its meaning for Freemasonry”. In my opinion the author only lives up to this partially.

The square book is printed on glossy paper with many images, quite like the popular big edition works for the general audience. It is only a little over a 100 pages too. The author sketches some general information about alchemy usually in short chapters of only two pages. When you know the subject a little, nothing much will be new. There are also sidesteps to Kabbala, current day chemistry and other linked subjects. Here and there is a reference to Freemasonry, usually in cadres at the end of a chapter. Nothing much in depth here either. Both alchemy and Freemasonry has practitioners who only see the material or superficial side, while others see the spiritualism of the systems. Certain symbols can be seen on images from both systems, such as the sun and the moon, columns, stars, etc. Both systems have different stages. Of course such similarities can be mentioned, but since the author does not really go any further than naming them, a gap remains between what the book suggests it presents and what it actually does.

The little book is not a bad read though. Here and there the author has an original explanation, cross-reference or thought. To me, I ‘categorise’ the book under ‘light reading’ with mostly known information, short chapters that can be little more than introductions to subjects and many images (the original photos are moody by the way). The book seems unfinished, as if the author had an idea, was rushed into publishing it without having had the time to properly work things out.

Of course you also have to be able to read German to read the book and, as I write this, the book only seems to be available from the Masonic Art Webshop.

Fischer also wrote instruction booklets for the three “blue grades” with the mention-worthy titles Schau In Dich (‘look inside yourself’) for Entered Apprentices, Schau Um Dich (‘look around you’) for Fellowcrafts and Schau Über Dich (‘look over yourself’) for Master Masons. The size and format seems to be the same as of the current title.

2018 Leipziger Fraumaurer Verlag, isbn 9783942947138M

Acta Macionica volume 27 (6017)

Even though the latest volume has been available or a couple of months, it took some effort to get hold of a copy. #27 Is again a massive journal of almost 400 pages with 21 essays. As we grew used to, the first texts are written-out talks held at the Ars Macionica research lodge. This includes the only text in English, one of David Harrison about Lord Byron.

The opening text in in Dutch and from the hand of the current Worshipful Master of the study lodge Koenraad Logghe. The author investigates how Freemasonry fits in the research of esotericism of scholars such as Antoine Faivre, Kocku von Stuckrad and Wouter Hanegraaff. Logghe ends his lengthy text with a very interesting Traditionalistic take on Freemasonry which is not entirely unlike the books of Fabio Venzi that I recently reviewed.

After this we alternately get a text in French and Dutch (and one in English), but towards the end the texts in French start to prevail. As I said before, I can read French, but not too well, so I simply tried to see how interesting the French texts were to see if I should put in some effort. One of the more interesting of these is about Paulus Riccius, the Christian Cabalist (hence the cover of the book) which seems to contain mostly fairly common information about (Christian) Cabala but with some links to Freemasonry. I would not mind a translation of this text!

Other texts contain one about doors and inside versus outside, 18th century Freemasonry, Der Zauberberg of Thomas Mann, women in (adoptive) Freemasonry by the Dutch scholar Jan Snoek who wrote in French, again some texts about Freemasonry during WWII and other subjects.

As always Acta Macionica makes a nice read, but only the texts in languages that I master I read attentively. The publication is not too expensive, so that is not too bad. Many of the 27 volumes are still available, so just have a look at the tables of content to see if any of them might interest you.

2017 Ars Macionica

Freemasonry, The Esoteric Tradition – Fabio Venzi (2016)

If I am correct, there are now three books of Fabio Venzi available in English. The first book was a collection of essays called The Influence Of Neoplatonic Thought On Freemasonry, which I can only find for a preposterous price of $ 368,29. Then we have the previously reviewed Studies On Traditional Freemasonry and this one. The last two are available from Lewis Masonic.

In spite of the title, the present book does not have a whole lot of information about Freemasonry. Rather, it is a contemporary Traditionalistic book with some references to Freemasonry. The author starts with an introduction to Traditionalism and speaks about some of its best-known exponents. Interesting in this part is that he comments on some of the ideas of people such as Guénon, Evola and Coomaraswamy.
Later on some ‘less likely Traditionalists’ are spoken about, such as Carl Gustav Jung of whom Venzi seems to be quite fond. Jung gets many pages which do not really interest me.
Just as in the previous book that I reviewed, there are other parts which I fail to see the significance of. Largely, the book is interesting though and Venzi again proves to have some interesting and thought-provoking ideas. He also has a couple of interesting views on Masonic symbolism.

I enjoyed Studies… more, but The Esoteric Tradition again makes a nice read, especially because it is a contemporary Traditionalistic work which also dares to thread other paths than the usual.

2016 Lewis Masonic, isbn 0853185344

Studies On Traditional Freemasonry – Fabio Venzi (2013)

I ran into a Traditionalist Freemason! Fabio Venzi is an Italian Freemason (Grandmaster of the Gran Loggia Regolare d’Italia at the time of writing) who saw a few books being made available in English. The original title of this 2012 book is Introduzione alla Massoneria so the translators were aware of the Traditionalistic content of the book.

Venzi wrote a highly interesting work that is ‘very Traditionalistic’. The author has this authoritarian tone and disdain for ‘lesser’ ways of working that we also find with other Traditionalists. He quotes Guénon and Evola extensively (and hence is not afraid for Evola’s bad name), but he certainly is no slavish follower. Would he have been a slavish follower of Guénon, he probably would not have been a Freemason to start with. He shows himself an independent thinker when he proves not to be afraid of citing an author such as Charles Leadbeater.

What makes the book particularly interesting, though, is that Venzi quotes country mates of his, some of whom I never encountered in English before. I am mostly thinking of Arturo Reghini. But also Evola and even Mircea Eliade are quoted from Italian titles that I do not immediately know an English counterpart of.

Venzi has a take on Freemasonry that was new to me. He is of the opinion that Freemasonry did not directly evolve from “operative” Masonry; that Freemasonry started a a moralistic organisation that only got esoteric later. That esotericism mostly came from the so-called Cambridge Platonists.
As modernity’s destructive course ran on, Freemasonry was effected and fell back to a modernistic and moralistic organisation that has (almost?) lost its initiatic chain.

This story, Venzi tells with though-provoking chapters, but also with chapters that come across fairly superfluous to me. Quite large parts are not (really) about Freemasonry, so I can recommend this book not only to people who are interested in Freemasonry, but also to people who are interested in reading the thoughts of a contemporary Traditionalist. There is enough in this book for book types of reader.

Indeed, an unexpected book to run into. Venzi is a little less dreadful about Freemasonry as Guénon or Evola, but even though postponed, Venzi also sees a downfall for Freemasonry.

2013 Lewis Masonic, isbn 9780853184461
See here for quotes from the book.

The Lost Rites And Rituals Of Freemasonry – David Harrison (2017)

The author is fairly active on the world wide web and this book has been announced for a while. Harrison has been working on it for some time too, so I expected quite a book. “The Lost Rites And Rituals Of Freemasonry” proves to be a small publication though, under 150 pages of text.

The author is a British Freemason who writes a lot about that subject, usually from a historical perspective. His latest book is largely historical too. The description it tempting. The book would cover strange, obscure and abandoned Masonic Rites including the systems of Willermoz, Von Hund and the like, about which there is not much information in English.

With the limited number of pages, you can imagine that the book is not really in depth. Harrison starts with the most interesting part, the more exotic ‘high grade’ systems that arose in the time with a peak in occult interests. Here you can read about the likes of Cagliostro, Martinez de Pasqually, Willermoz and Von Hund.

A large part of the book is about the variety of Rites that existed in Britain. When the Grand Lodge of London was founded in 1717 another Grand Lodge arose calling themselves “Antient” (and the other “Modern”) and it took until 1813 before these two Grand Lodges merged into the United Grand Lodge of England. There were differences between the rituals of the Antients and the Moderns, but since it was forbidden to print rituals, many local variations came up, sometimes with “pre-union” elements. Now that the number of members is going down, lodges merge or disappear, many of these local variations also disappear and Harrison mentions a lot of them. Only here and there he shows the differences though. The information is mostly historical.

The last part is about Rites that go back to old (and exotic) Rites or persons, such as the Swedenborgian Rite with which Emmanual Swedenborg himself had nothing to do. Also there is a part about symbols that went out of use after the union of the two British Grand Lodges.

“The Lost Rites And Rituals Of Freemasonry” makes a nice read and gives a good idea of the ‘experimental period’ of Freemasonry to the English speaking audience. It would have benefited from more detail though. It is clear that the author studied many Rites, such as the handwritten texts of John Yarker, but shows this only only a few occasions. As the book is now, it is mostly a general introduction to the subject, but not the study book that it is suggested to be.

2017 Lewis Masonic, isbn 0853185417

Acta Macionica volume 26 (6016)

Somewhere in the summer (2017) I noticed that the website for the Belgian Masonic studylodge Ars Macionica was back online. Even though the link said ‘Acta Macionica volume 1 to 25’, the table of contents also had one of volume 26. I sent an email, but got no reply. Masonic lodges are usually closed during summer. With the start of the new working year, I was able to lay my hands on a copy of the latest Acta. Apparently not much advertisement has been made for it, since I have not seen any announcements for it.

#26 Has the impressive size of its predecessors, more than 350 pages in a well-printed and well-bound softcover. As we got used to, there are essays in different languages. One is on English, the rest is mostly alternately in Dutch and French. Also as we are used to, there is a big variety in subjects.
The opening text is about Jan Amos Comenius. There are purely historical essays about subjects such as German field-lodges in Belgium or the confiscation of Masonic property during the second World War. Reprint of historical texts can be found next to a wonderful text (and main reason to get this volume) of Koenraad Logghe about the Masonic parallels in the Arthurian novel Torec by Jacob van Maerlant.

I do not find all texts as interesting as the next and I especially did not really read the texts in French. I can read French with a lot of effort, but I usually skipped through the texts to try to see if they were interesting enough to make that effort.

What I like mostly about the <emActas is that, even though it is a publication of the relatively small and only “regular” Grand Lodge of Belgium (the Regular Grand Lodge Of Belgium), there are also references to other Masonic orders and to subjects that caused schismas within Belgian Freemasonry.

So, the latest Acta Macionica again makes a good read with a few very interesting and with (to me) less interesting subjects. It helps if you master your languages, but since the book is not very expensive, it is still a good buy when you can only read half the book.

Only available from the Regular Grand Lodge of Belgium. Click on the cover to go the the Ars Macionica website where you can find the tables of content of all 26 volume. I believe they are all available.

2016 RGLB

Renaissance Man And Mason – Piers Vaughan (2016)

Somewhere I read that this author writes about Freemasonry and alchemy. When looking for such a title, I saw no such book. Among the titles of this author at Amazon, the present one seemed the most interesting.

“Renaissance Man and Mason” is a reference to the fact that the author has broad interests like the Renaissance ‘homo universalis’, at least, he is of the opinion that a Freemason should study further than just memorising the ritual.

The book is a collection of lectures that Vaughan gave during the course of many years and at different meetings. Some were addressed at lodges, others at public events. Most of them he gave more than once and here he presents the final version.

The subjects differ widely. The lectures go from (Masonic) history to things like Masonic meditation, spiritual healing, the symbolism of specific degrees and indeed “alchemy in Freemasonry”. The book seems to aim at a Masonic audience, because more than once knowledge of (for example) a certain degree seems required. He is quite explicit here and there. When some (ritual) text is already available on the world wide web, Vaughan does not shy to write about it in this public book.

Interesting I find the historical notions of early Freemasonry in England, how the “Moderns” and the “Antients” split and reunited, and how Freemasonry reached the colony America with lodges chartered by the “Antients” and the “Moderns”. Before the “Antients” and the “Moderns” reunited, America declared itself independent from England, so what about the two different types of Freemasonry?

Also interesting are Vaughan’s esoteric musings. He proves very keen on Kabbalah and to a somewhat lesser extent Alchemy. Both systems he projects on Freemasonry. Less interesting I find the lectures about Masonic meditation and spiritual healing.

Overall “Renaissance Man and Mason” a nice read. This is something quite different from the usual Masonic histories and it gives a nice peek into Freemasonry in the USA. The author was born and initiated in the UK, but has lived, and been a Mason in, the USA for 25 years and he travels a lot Masonically, so he has many comparisons and anecdotes to accompany his esoteric musing about Freemasonry.

2016 Rose Circle, isbn 0981542182