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freemasonry

Het Teken van Dood en Herleving en Het Raadsel van het Angelsaksische Runenkistje * Frans Eduard Farwerck (1954 thule)

F.E. FarwerckFrans Eduard Farwerck (1889 – 1978) was a top-notch Freemason and extremely well informed about Northern European folklore and mythology. He was of the opinion that Freemasonry as we know it today has its roots in the Northern European mystery traditions and gives a lot of proof based on sagas, literature, but especially ornaments, building symbolism, etc. He wrote the massive work Noordeuropese Mysteriën en hun sporen tot heden (reviewed when I was much less informed myself) which was published for the last time the year Farwerck died. Northern European mysteries and their traces to the present has reached the status of ‘cult book’ since it digs much much deeper in the symbolism and habbits of folklore and the like and his explanations of myths and sagas (and sheds light on many elements of Freemasonry, however Freemasons deny his claims) so the book becomes pretty expensive to buy these days. Other books by Farwerck do the same. I have Levend Verleden (Living Past which for some reason I didn’t review), which is a book such as Tussen Hamer en Staf of Koenraad Logghe and my Old Symbolism In A Modern City article in the articles section. Recently I ran into The Symbol of Death and Resurrection and the Riddle of the Anglo-Saxon Rune Casket, also for quite a price for such a small book. As the cover of the book shows, this “symbol of death and resurrection” is the elhaz/man/eolc rune and Farwerck gives a magnificent exposé of its forms, its history, meanings and place in texts and images. The second part of the book is about the right side of what is nowadays apparently called the Franks Casket. Farwerck sees in the images and text an example of a death-and-resurrection initiation ritual.
This is a small, but interesting book. Too bad that, like Jan de Vries, Farwerck spoilt his name and fame during WWII which caused him to be so controversial that not only his books are no longer reprinted (or translated, because all are only available in Dutch), but even mentioning such a title (which has nothing political in it whatsoever) is almost a crime. Too bad, since after all these years Farwerck still is the source and inspiration for anyone seriously interested in the esoteric side of the ancient religion of the North. Since many people do see the value of the books, the price of them (as mentioned) raises daily. If you are interested, I suggest you check sites such as Antiqbooks.com or Abebooks.co.uk frequently.

Die Zauberflote. an Alchemical Allegory * Tjeu van den Berk (isbn 9004130993)

Quite some books have been written about Mozarts famous opera “The Magic Flute”. The story is so symbolic and full of mysteries, that many have broken their heads to explain it. It is known that Mozart was a freemason, so the opera is often depicted as a masonic story, while others see an initiation-story and more others just a loose romantising with symbols to please the public of the late 18th century.

The Dutch scholar Van den Berk (1938) was first intrigued by the music and later by the story and he spend years to investigate the characters, story, history of Vienna in Mozarts time, etc. This resulted in a magnificent work that was first published in Dutch in 2002. Two years later the fifth pressing saw the light of day and every pressing has had corrections, expansions and general editing. Readers brought things under the writers attention, for example freemasons noticed something that he overlooked, or opera-experts knew of something in the score (the written music) so now we have a four-times-made-better massive investigation of “Die Zauberflöte”. There is also an (expensive) English version).

Van den Berk did not really find a Masonic symbolism in the opera, also not really Rosicrucian, but an alchemical; the whole opera is the course of ‘the great work’. To found his theories, Van den Berk extensively investigated Hermetism, alchemy, Freemasonry in Vienna in Mozarts time, Rosicrucianism, mythology and towards the end of the book the writers of the libretto Emanuel Schikaneder (1751-1812) and Karl Gieseke (1761-1831) and the “homo esotericus” Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791) himself.

Of Hermetism you get a quick overview and how a ‘renaissance’ appeared with the coming of Rosicrucianity and Freemasonry and especially Hermetism and the art of alchemy. The history of Freemasonry in Austria is interesting. You learn how fast it grew and how fast the decline was when someone else got power over the country. Mythology was still important in Mozarts time and most of the characters have elements of mythological figures. Of course alchemy is treated most extensively. Van den Berk did his utmost to explain how alchemical symbolism can be found in the characters of the opera, in the general story and even in the music itself. This investigation is sometimes tiringly detailed, but fascinating for treating with both practical and spiritual alchemy and giving a very nice picture of alchemy in practise in the 18th century. Van den Berk used a massive amoun of illustrations too. However of course Van den Berk writes about the opera, this book is also interesting for anyone interested in alchemy, Freemasonry and Rosicrucianity, also (or maybe especially) people who are new to this area.

A very interesting book, even when the music of the opera itself does not appeal much to me. Maybe I should not only hear it on cd, but see it on stage (or DVD) some time.

The Hermetic Museum – Alchemy & Mysticism * Alexander Roob (isbn 382288653X)

This is really a magnificent collection of ‘occult art’. If you like what you see in the occult art section of the artpages of Sententia, you definately have to get this book. It counts over 700 pages and is stuffed with Hermetic, Kabbalistic, philosophical, religious, occult and mystic art, forming a wonderfull overview of pieces full of symbolism. From well known artists such as Athanasius Kircher and William Blake, to title pages of ancient occult works and magical diagrams.
Roob managed to divide the book in sections, so the pieces are not in order of artist. These sections are explained and elucidated and most pieces are explained as well.

Between the pictures and accompanying them, you will also read many quotes from alchemical texts, explanations and history.

Elements Of The Kabbalah * Eliphas Levi (isbn 1558183663)

This book has just as the other Levi book in Dutch been in print since 1984 and has just had a new pressing. It is a short text about the Kabbalah and Freemasonry. Levi speaks a bit about the Siphra Dzeniûta, but only has a fairly short version of the Idra Suta. After this some information about the Kabbalah, Christianity and Eastern religions and then on to Freemasonry. A nice little book, but nothing for a beginner or reference-work. And it is sold out in english too…

The Temple And The Lodge * Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh (isbn 1559701269)

I know that this is the third book that I review of Baigent and Leigh, but their books are just very interesting historical works on interesting persons and subjects.
And looking through the cases of more serious bookstores, there are many kindred books about several interesting historical subjects, but actually I find historical information quite unusefull. It is nice to know that Jaques de Molay was the last leader of the Knight Templars and was burned in 1313, but this doesn’t add much to my personal worldview. Therefor I think that I will read only a few more of such books (they are read quickly anyway since it is nothing more than absorbing information) and then return to my ‘usual literature’.

This time a book in which the writers prove that Freemasonry descents from the Knight Templars, which is indeed completely the opposite of my article / book review of “The Children Of Hiram“. Of course you can gather facts to prove your story and leave out other facts, to back up your theory or explain the facts in a different way. Many facts are in fact theories and the stories and history and built together from the information that is found. Personally I prefer the version of Baigent and Leigh over that of Van den Abeele, maybe for ‘romantic’ reasons, but the amount of information and ‘facts’ that are given by Baigent and Leigh appeal more to me than the (seemingly) lack of certain historical facts in Van den Abeele’s account, but most things correspond in both books and “The Children Of Hiram” definately is a very worthwhile book on the history of Freemasonry with only facts and almost no theories drawn from them.

But let us move to the version of Baigent and Leigh.

The book starts with the writers travelling to Scotland during which they quickly wanted to find out if there was any thruth in a legend that they heard from an acquintance. The legend was about ruins of Templar castles, but there had never been proof of Templars living in Scotland. A years-long investigation was the result, in which some pretty stunning discoveries were done. Some of these resulted in the book “The Templar Revelation” (on which my very first article is based) and others eventually led to the book at subject here.

When checking out the legend that they heard, the writers accidentally stumbled upon a range of anonymous graves with no more decoration than a straight sword on the graveyard of a small village called Kilmartin at the Loch Awe in Scotland. They expected to find Templar graves on one of the little islands in the lake, but at least they found something. Theories to try to back up are formed, more evidence are sought (but safe a few exceptions not found) which fills the introduction to this book.

Chapter one of part one gives the history of Scotland between 1290 and 1330 in which the excommunicated tried to form a Celtic kingdom of Scotland. This is also the very periode in which the Templars were made life difficult on the continent. There even seemed Templar activity in Scotland in that periode, expecially with the battle for Bannockburn in 1313. For some reason the winning army of King Edward of England were eventually scared away by a minority of Scotts.

Then the book continues with a quite detailed history of the order of the Knight Templars. Their origin, foundation, history, different leaders, their gathering of land and fortune, their contact with Moslems and Jews, the Templar philosophy and loyalty to the Pope, etc., etc. Then the arrests, tortures, the inquisition and finally the last strike with the friday 13 october 1307 Europe-wide offensive of Philips IV of France that wiped out the entire Templar order.

But -as the writers suggest- many Templars had been warned about the plans of Philips, so they took what they could and fled, for example with their entire fleet and their (supposed) treasure of which nothing has ever been found. Several possible routes to escape are discussed (Portugal, near east, etc.), but Scotland via Ireland is proven most reasenable.

A history of the Templars in Scotland and Ireland is given based on the accounts of (historical) historians, poetry, literature and slowly working towards neo-Templar organisations such as the Scottish guard in France and pre-masonic activity, such as sir William Sinclair with his chapel full of masonic imaginary around 1450. Many families that were later to become familiar names in Freemasonry pass the revue. Sinclair, Montgomery, Roslin, etc.
Passing through similar, but earlier founded movement like the Rosicrucians and the Royal guard, part II is fully dedicated to the history of Freemasonry.

This part has quite some similarities with “The Children Of Hiram”, dealing with the Stuart-minded (Jacobite) and very political early history of the Masonic movement. The foundation of the “Grand Lodge”. The later schismas and internal quarrels, the fast expansion of lodges all through the UK, Europe and the rest of the world and eventually the first Mason that came up with the story that Freemasonry has its past in the Knight Templars: Andrew Michael Ramsey around 1690 and the new form of Masonry based on this past of Karl Gottlieb von Hund around 1750, which was later to become the still existing “Rectified Scottish Rite”.

Part III deals with the formation of the United States Of America.

When Masonry was at its peak in the UK, colonalisation of the ‘new world’ began and many Masons travelled to this new world to build up a new life, preferably a life and community according to the ideals of Masonic and Rosicrucian thinkers.

Especially so called ‘field lodges’ flourished in the early times. These were lodges that were founded in different sections of the British, but also French armies. Often the colonels or generals were not only leaders of the different regiments, but also of the lodges. So many soldiers were member, that every soldier was -if not a member- very much influenced by Masonic thinking. Many high-ranked persons openly practised Freemasonry and later when the English defeated the French all over the east-coast, a large part of the people who formed the United States, wrote the constitution and the first laws, did this with a Masonic conviction. For example, two of the five people who wrote the declaration of independence (?) were Freemasons: Benjamin Franklin and Robert Livinstone and of one other the conjecture is strong, but there is no proof: Roger Sherman. The driving force behind the constitution consisted of five Masons: Washington, Franklin, Randolph, Jefferson and Adams. The first president became George Washington on 7 februari 1789, his vice-president was John Adams and the oath was taken by Robert Livingstone, grandmaster of the New York grand lodge. The burial of Washington was one large Masonic ritual.
Shortly is touched upon the formation of the states and other matters that made the United States to what they are today.
Needless to say that however there were many Masonic influences on the childs-years of the US, the largest part of the people involved in the process were not Masons. But a nice (disturbing?) list of Masonic presidents is a good thing to close this part off: Monroe, Andrew Jackson, Polk, Buchanan, Andrew Johnson, Garfield, Theodore Roosevelt, Taft, Harding, FD Roosevelt, Truman and Ford.

All in all a very nice investigation of the case of Freemasonry and it is obvious that there is more to the subject than Ad van den Abeele wants to admit in his book. He doesn’t mention that already in the 14th century gravestones with symbols that were later to be used by Freemasons (the well-known compass and square) were found in Turkey and similar stones were found by the writers of this book in Scotland. These graves were certainly of Knight Templars. This is only one obvious link between the two organisations.

Should I have caught your interest, you are invited to read this book for more information.

Vrijmetselarij In De Lage Landen * Anton van de Sande (walburg pers 2001 * isbn 9057301598)

I have read my share of books about Freemasonry, also about “Freemasonry in the Low Countries “, but this is the most informative and visually attractive one. Anton van de Sande is special professor Freemasonry at the University of Leiden . He is (of course) no Freemason, but probably the best informed ‘profane’. The book was written with the help of the major Dutch and Belgian Masonic organisations (both ‘regular’ and ‘irregular’). The book starts with general information about Freemasonry, facts and misconceptions. Then follows the artificial history given by Masons, followed by the ‘official’ history of the “mysterieus brotherhood without secrets”. First in general, later more appointed to the situation in the Low Countries (nowadays Belgium and The Netherlands show pretty different histories) . Of course, since this is a scholarly work, you get the ‘scholarly history’, meaning that Masonry started somewhere in the 17th century as one of many ‘social clubs’, as you can read elsewhere at monas.nl. Further information is about the growth and shrinkings of the movement, phases in different time-periods, royal protection, Freemasonry in the 20th century, Freemasonry and the Church and the last part is about the symbolism and rituals.
The book is informative, comes in a large format (about A4) with many images in b/w and colour. I asume that the information is valid, but the two strange mistakes that I ran into myself are hopefully the only ones. (On page 41 Van de Sande writes that the ‘Huis der Liefde’ was a Dutch esoteric sect of around 1600 who were occupied with Hermetism, a thing that has yet to be proven; and two pages further Van de Sande writes that the Rosicrucians were the brainchild of Johann Valentine Andreae who wrote the manifestoes and the Chymische Hochzeit. Van de Sande is probably the only scholar left who believes this.) Overall I think it is safe to say that this is yet the best book about Freemasonry in the Low countries .

De Werkelijkheid Achter Een Geheim * dr. Joh. S. Wijne (isbn 9072032063 * fama fraternitatis)

I have a few books about freemasonry and this is a book written by a mason and released by a masonic publisher. Unfortunately all masonic books that I have are in Dutch and published by Dutch or Belgian publishers and I don’t know if English versions are available from international masonic organisations. This book is also not available from for example Amazon, so the link is to the publisher “Fama Maçonieke Uitgeverij”, who -I suppose- you can ask about this. The foundation “Fama Fraternitatis” from the Netherlands was especially founded to present genuine masonic information to ‘profanes’, so you can be sure to get real information from the modern masonic movement that they think is suitable for non-masons.

But on to the book.
However is is a small and thin (113 pages), it contains a lot of interesting information about the the masonic view on various subjects. To name a few: The Ancient Duties, no priests, Satan, no Thruth, free will, esotericism, rites, initiation, brotherhood, conspiracy theories (Jewish/Masonic, Leo Taxil, the Protocols of the Elderly Brother of Sion, Humanum Genus), free science, emancipation, the new man, etc., etc., etc.
All subjects in short and clear chapters, written in a readable manner without irrelevant information.

A small masonic jewel so to say.

Find the Fama page for more masonic works (in Dutch) and the highly informative Dutch masonic internetpage (English version is worked on) at www.vrijmetselarij.nl.

A Dictionary Of Freemasonry * Robert Macoy (gramercy books 2000 * isbn 0517692139)

Robert Macoy (1815-1895) published several books about Freemasonry in the 1870’ies. I haven’t been able to find out from what year this book is, but as you can see, it is still in print. You can buy it together with Waite’s A New Encyclopedia Of Freemasonry for only $ 30,- at Amazon. This 700-page book is indeed more of a dictionary than Waite’s encyclopedia. Where Waite tends to write articles about subjects, Macoy has mostly short information for a whole lot of terms. Different from Waite, Macoy sticks to Masonic subjects. However I haven’t been able to confirm it, I think that Macoy really was a Mason of high ranking. Also different from Waite is that this book contains a lot of images. B/w and not of a magnificent quality, but many grade symbols, temple-symbolism, symbols of offices, etc., etc. Also a very nice book to have for reference, but whereas Waite goes more into the deep, Macoy gives information about a great many subjects. The books complete eachother very well, that may be why Amazon sells them together.

A New Encyclopedia Of Freemasonry * Arthur Edward Waite (university books 1970 (wings books 1996) * isbn 0517191482)

Athur Edward Waite (1857-1942) is one of the most well-known occultists of the 19th/early 20th century. He was involved in several traditions, groups such as the Golden Dawn and founder of the Fellowship of the Rosi Cross (1914), but I don’t know if he was also an initiated Freemason. He did write a few books on the subject. The present book is (as the title suggest) an encyclopedia / dictionary. The book says that the first print is from 1970, which would mean that it was published post-mortem. I think that 1970 is the first printing of the combined parts and that the book was actually first printed in 1921. In any case, René Guénon (1886-1951) thinks that Waite may have been very scholarly, his ‘esoteric insights’ were not too good since he was involved in the ‘wrong organisations’ (which would imply that Waite was no Freemason, because in the eyes of Guénon, Freemasonry is one of two genuine esoteric traditions in the West).
To the book then. It opens with a short and very helpfull glossary with abbreviations and ‘technical terms’, followed by an introduction into Freemasonry and then follows Masonic terms, symbols, history, rites, etc., etc. in alphabetical order. There is pretty much in it, but of course it is a 900-page reference work. There is a lot of text about subjects that only indirectly have something to do with Freemasonry, such as Kabbalah, Alchemy, ceremonial magic, etc. which obviously gives away the writer’s background. I didn’t find anything wrong myself and there is a lot to be found, so the book is easy for reference-purposes and not too expensive too. There are not too many images in the book, which is a bit of a pitty. It seems that similar books haven’t been written in the last century, so a book like this remains a must-buy for anyone interested in Masonic and/or other occult subjects.
Funny fact. I ran into this book second hand together with A Dictionary Of Freemasonry by Robert Macoy and Amazon.com has these books together in a ‘super-saver’ combination! Both for only $ 30,- plus shipping.

The Spirit Of Masonry * Foster Bailey (isbn 0853301352 * 1957)

I ran into a second hand version of the 1985 Dutch translation (“Zin en Betekenis van de Vrijmetselarij”) of this book and in the same week I noticed that this translation is still in print when I got a fund-list of the publisher. Funny how these things can go.

This little book (170 pages) is written by an American mason and not -as with many books about the subject- by an outsider. This has pros and cons. The disadvantage when insiders write about their own group/tradition is that you often get to read how great everything is, the official stories and of course the ideal plate of how the organisation should be. This is not the case with this book by Bailey. Bailey writes very openly and honestly about the Masonic tradition and gives critique and points to flaws. Not that this is a negative book, Bailey remains a Mason and proud of being so, but his way of writing gives a very nice inside view of the subject.

The book starts with the purpose of Freemasonry. This is (among other things) helping mankind (and not just Masons) on the path of evolution.
Then follows a nice part about the origin of Freemasonry. There are three major theories, supported inside as outside the Masonic lodges. The first is that Freemasonry originated in the 17th century. The second that the origin goes back to the building of the temple of Solomon. The last theory says that Freemasonry has been there since the dawn of mankind, but not under the specific name. Also the Jewish influece is dealth with at lengh.
Other chapter speak about the symbolism, landmarks and the building of the temple.

Then there is a second part which speaks about the Masonic community, the good and ‘bad’ people in it; Masonry in society and the future of Freemasonry.

As I said, Bailey is open, honest and critical and even though the book is almost 50 years old, it is a very nice read.