Category Archives: freemasonry

Freemasonry: Initiation By Light – Christopher Earnshaw (2020)

And number three published in the ‘spiritual Freemasonry series’. This time the author seems to imply that there will be only three books in these series.

The first book that was published in these series was very interesting, the second less so and the third is interesting again. I do -though- sure wish that it had been published in a single volume. There is a large part of history again in the beginning of this book, but it seems a bit out of place. My guess is that the author had intended a historical part and more esoteric history of the three degrees and had to spread that over three books, the result is a bit odd at times.

The largest of the three books again has much history, but it is more connected to the subject than in the previous book. Again there is a lot of focus on “the first three Grand Masters” and their connections. Earnshaw’s stance towards ‘the operatives’ confuses me. One time he seems to say that these “operatives” have nothing to do with modern Freemasonry and at other times he says that one of the first three lodges was an operative one.

We follow the trail to America and back, the expansion of Freemasonry in Britain and abroad and then comes the part that is the main focus of this book: China.

Earnshaw has a very interesting tale of Jesuits going to China, a convert visiting Britain and the influence of this Chinese Jesuit on the minds of some people close to the founders of the first Grand Lodge. Via this route Earnshaw suggests that the Dao ‘initiation by light’ heavily influenced the first degree of Freemasonry. The Chinese influences also partly explain the alchemical elements in the second degree.

I am mostly interested in Earnshaw’s information about the people around the first Grand Lodge, but the story of Shen FuZong is intriguing. The arguments and comparisons do not always convince me, but Earnshaw certainly describes how different influences came together in the early 18th century and how (possibly) modern Freemasonry was brewed from them.

2020 Lewis Masonic, isbn 979-8605924371

Freemasonry: Quest For Immortality – Christopher Earnshaw (2019)

Here we have the second publication in the “Spiritual Freemasonry” series. Here the author speaks about four books. I just ordered ‘volume 3’ Freemasonry: Initiation By Light and I suppose that Freemasonry: Royal Arch which is announced for September 2020 is the fourth title.

The previously reviewed title has an interesting history of esoteric currents and how people involved in “the Revival” of Freemasonry of 1717 fit into these currents. This time there is again a lot of history, but this time dull and I do not always see its use. 70% Of the book is filled with a history of the United Kingdom. Of course some of that says something about the ‘whys’, ‘whens’ and ‘whos’ of early Freemasonry, but of much of it I fail to see the connection.

There is a short chapter about Freemasonry and Kabbala, but unfortunately Earnshaw does not say when and through whom Kabbala found its way into Masonic symbolism, while exactly that was the interesting part concerning Alchemy in the previous book.

I was curious about the parts of this book about the Medieval mystery plays, in which Earnshaw sees the origin of the third degree, but that short part is not too strong.

Towards the end there is some note of the “signposts” (see previous review) and again the Alchemical origins of Masonic symbolism. That is the better part of the book.

With the first Constitutions, the history of Freemasonry was rewritten and expanded to include a glorious legend. The first Grand Masters, George Payne, John Desagulier, together with Anthony Sayer and possibly James Andersson, rewrote the three degrees with the objective of emphasizing the immortality of the soul, at a time when that concept was under attack. (p. 198)

Maybe some stress lays on the third degree in this book, but it is not like it is a book about the third degree, just as the previous was not entirely about the second. The previous book is the more interesting also with regards to the bigger picture that Earnshaw tries to sketch.

2019 Lewis Masonic, isbn 1673308120

Freemasonry: Spiritual Alchemy – Christopher Earnshaw (2019)

The author was writing a book about spiritual Freemasonry and when the book pushed 550 pages the publisher asked to split it into three books because readers would be overwhelmed by a 500 page book. I personally would not have a problem and taken that this book is targeted at Freemasons (the publisher being Lewis Masonic) who, I guess, are used to reading too, I wonder if that was really the reason.

In any case, Spiritual Alchemy was published in August 2019. Then we have Freemasonry: The Quest For Immortality which was published in December 2019 and the upcoming Freemasonry: Initiation By Light (due April 2020). My guess was that Spiritual Alchemy was the first to read. Amazon has it listed as “spiritual Freemasonry series book 2” and towards the end I understand that the present title is mostly about the Fellow Craft degree (the second) and The Quest For Immortality about the third degree. Strange order of publishing! So when you want to read them by grade, perhaps you should wait until the Entered Apprentice book Initiation By Light.

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The Last Heresy – Fabio Venzi (2019)

The two previous books of Venzi that I reviewed are great, esoteric Freemasonry, very Traditionalistic. His latest work is mostly historical.

As the subtitle says, the present title investigates: “The Catholic Church and Freemasonry. Three centuries of misconception, Satanism, Gnosticism and Relativism”

Especially in the first part of the book the author quotes publications from the Vatican on Freemasonry. I suppose that this compilation is interesting to some. It does seem a comprehensive overview, so this will be handy for people with an interest in the subject.

I only started to find the book more interesting when Venzi treats the different subjects to show how the Church misunderstands the subjects it accuses Freemasonry of and of course, how it misunderstands Freemasonry.

For defence, Venzi keeps referring to the very Christian Emulation Rite which I am sure he knows is only worked by a very small part of Freemasonry as a whole.

As I said, the book is mostly historical. I think a large part of Freemasonry does not care much what the Church says about them. Perhaps some in “regular” Freemasonry do. After the publication of the book talks between the Vatican and (some?) “regular” organisations has been started and I suppose this book can help in forming a picture and quick access to points from either side.

2019 Lewis Masonic – isbn 0853185662

Formen und Inhalte freimaurerischer Rituale – Jan Snoek (2017)

Jan Snoek (1946-) is a renowned Masonic scholar. This works both ways: he is a scholar, he is a Freemason and since many years, Freemasonry is his main object of investigation.

I have ran into Snoek several times. Of course because he is one of the best known Dutch scholars in the field and because he used to lecture about the subject. Snoek did not remain in the Netherlands though.

Snoek is an avid writer. He is a member of several study lodges. He does nto confine his subjects to those of “regular” Freemasonry, as he also writes about Freemasonry and women and it is also in that field that I found writings of him before.

For Snoeks 70th birthday, his studylodge in Bayreuth, Germany, published a “Festschrift” in which many of Snoeks previously published texts are bundled. The texts are both in English and German, about 50/50 and span a variety of subjects. Usually they are very interesting, especially because Snoek is not afraid to swim against the stream here and there. Also interesting, in notes Snoek sometimes gives updates from between the original writing of the text and the republication in this book.

It is quite amazing how the book contains subjects that I had decided to delve into some time, such as the variations on the Hiram myth (no use for my anymore to invest time in that now!). Snoek also collected a massive amount of ritual texts, old, new, famous and obscure, which he refers to a lot.

What may be Snoeks most ‘controversial’ stand is that besides the known Masonic traditions known as those of the “antients” and the “moderns” there were other traditions, most interestingly the elusive Rite called Harodim or Heredom. What is probably even more controversial is that Snoek argues that this Harodim tradition started to initiate women and slowly Harodim symbolism found its way into the so-called “adoption” lodges (initiation women). Adoption lodges which have been there almost from the start, when contemporary Freemasonry crossed the Canal from the UK to France.

Although being a scholar, Snoek is also interested in the esoteric side of Freemasonry, so you can also read about Masonic connections to currents such as Kabbalah or Hermeticism.

Very, very interesting indeed!

2017 Salier Verlag, isbn 3943539857

Ars Quatuor Coronatorum, volume 123 – John S. Wade (editor) (2011)

Lewis Masonic

A while ago I ordered a book from the Masonic publisher Lewis Masonic. In order to relatively lower the shipping costs, I looked around what other titles the publisher had and got myself two volumes of “The transactions of the Quatuor Coronati Lodge no. 2076”.

The said lodge is the oldest and most famous of Masonic research lodges based, of course, in London. They have their annual lectures and these have been published in books for well over a century.

At the time I checked, only a few volumes were available from the website of Lewis Masonic and all were extremely cheap. Fortunately for me, one of these volumes contained the contribution of Fabio Venzi. Venzi’s talk was based on his thesis about Freemasonry and Fascism in Italy. This is not the most interesting subject to me, but Venzi gives a good idea of the 1920’ies Italy and how Freemasonry tried to navigate in the changing regimes.

AQC lectures are mostly historical. This does lead to some interesting investigations here. There is a text about the years before the “Antients” and the “Moderns” merged into the United Grand Lodge Of England. I also enjoyed the text about the elusive “Harodim” grade, or was it a Rite? Jean Murat seems to find traces in metalworkers lodges and incidentally seems to suggest that some esotericism of Freemasonry actually did come from Andersson. What other texts are available you can see by clicking on the cover.

Especially for the price that this volume costs (5 UK Pounds!) this is a good buy. Other volumes are less cheap.

2011 Ian Allan, isbn 1905318858

The Art and Science of Initiation – Jedediah French & Angel Millar (editors) (2019)

Amazon.co.uk

It is good to see that more and more serious books about Freemasonry and esotericism see the light of day. Here we even have a book with partly a Traditionalistic approach. Very much so in the first essays even. Angel Millar opens with a text about René Guénon and Traditionalism. The most interesting article is Richard Smoley’s text about the Traditionalistic view on initiation. This text may raise a few eyebrows I think. As we go along, the essays become ‘lighter’ in one way, but ‘darker’ in another. From the personal story of Joscelyn Godwin to the ceremonial magic of Donald Tyson. Other authors are Mark Booth, Herbi Brennan, Richard Kaczynski, Chuck Dunning, Greg Kaminsky, Jeffey Kupperman, Adam Kendall, Timothy Scott and my biggest surprise, Susanna Åkerman whom I know for her work on Rosicrucian history, but who here presents an interesting text about women in early Scandinavian Freemasonry.

Not every text is as interesting as the next (to me), but this not too expensive book touches upon a few subjects that deserve more notoriety in Freemasonry, so it is good that this book was actually published by the famed Masonic publishing house Lewis Masonic from the UK, so it will probably be mostly Freemasons buying the book. The book is available from the publisher or Amazon UK (click cover). It would be nice if the other Amazon stores would list it too.

2019 Lewis Masonic, isbn 0853185638

Acta Macionica volume 28 (6018)

Ars Macionica

The latest edition of Acta Macionica saw the light a couple of months ago, but I do not think I saw any announcements anywhere and it is not listed on the Ars Macionica website yet. When time comes I guess. If you are interested, just send them an email.

For quite a couple of volumes, the Acta is an impressive book. As we got used to, it contains a variety of essays in three languages. Most are in French, several are in Dutch and two in English. Since most are in French and that is not really my language, I fairly rapidly went through the 600+ pages.

There are a couple of very interesting texts, but also texts that are less of my interest. Most notable are the texts of Koenraad Logghe, Jan Snoek and Roger Degol.

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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.

2018 The Laudable Pursuit, isbn 0578194007

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