Wednesday, September 16, 2020

'A point within a city'

   
The Nat Sherman Townhouse closed permanently this afternoon at 3:45, just one act in the tragedy of the near complete dissolution of the 90-year-old institution. Only the luxury cigarette line will remain. No more cigars, and certainly no more pipe mixtures. And no more Townhouse, the venerable retailer's fourth Manhattan location since Jimmy Walker was mayor, and Prohibition was the law of the land.

I don't know how we're supposed to have a New York City without Nat Sherman.

Nor have I any idea whether anyone in the Sherman family (they sold the business to Altria about four years ago) ever had any connection to the Masonic fraternity, but I personally drew something of a parallel.

On the night of my first admission into the worshipful lodge, on a steamy June evening in 1997, a symbol was revealed to me that, in my irreverence, instantly reminded me of the Nat Sherman logo.
   

If you care to retrieve your copy of the Fall 2014 issue of Pipes & Tobaccos magazine, you can read my feature article on the Townhouse. 

'Masonic Book Club is back!'

     
Art de Hoyos just shared this on Faceybook:



A merged terrestrial and celestial globe sitting on an open book atop a pillar capital
The Masonic Book Club (MBC)was formed in 1970 by two Illinois Masons, Alphonse Cerza and Louis Williams. The MBC primarily reprinted out-of-print Masonic books with a scholarly introduction; occasionally they would print original texts. (See “Past Publications” tab.) After some 40 years of service to the Craft, the directors in 2010 decided to dissolve the MBC. The club originally was limited to 333 members, but the number eventually expanded to nearly 2,000, with 1,083 members when it dissolved in 2010.
In 2017 MW Barry Weer, 33°, the last president of the MBC, transferred the MBC name and assets to the Supreme Council, 33°, SJ USA. The revived Masonic Book Club has the goals of publishing classic Masonic books and of supporting Scottish Rite SJ USA Philanthropies. Membership is open to anyone 18 years or older who is interested in the history of Freemasonry and allows you to purchase MBC editions at a pre-publication discount.
The new MBC will have a different business model than the old. Most significantly, there will be no dues; being a member entitles you to purchase books at a pre-publication discount. Check out the FAQ section below for more details. For specific questions, write to mbc@scottishrite.org.


Monday, September 14, 2020

‘Freemasonry and self-actualization’

     

The Chancellor Robert R. Livingston Masonic Library of the Grand Lodge of New York continues its lecture series on Zoom. On Tuesday night, W. Bro. Michael LaRocco, Master of Lynbrook-Massapequa Lodge 822, will present “Freemasonry: The Craft of Self-Actualization, A Western Path to Enlightenment.” From the publicity:


Tuesday, September 15
7 p.m.
Register here

Freemasonry is an enigmatic fraternity whose origins are lost in antiquity. Its purpose, however, is something each generation must decide.

W. Michael LaRocco will attempt to challenge us to perceive how the esoteric and exoteric symbols of Freemasonry lead us to self-actualization, and also to how our toleration for religions, traditions, and cultures aids us in dissolving prejudice, which removes obstacles to enlightenment.

Michael LaRocco
Utterly fascinated with the fraternity, Michael is a Scottish Rite and York Rite Mason. In the Scottish Rite, he is the founder and presiding officer of the Magus Guild of the Valley of Rockville Centre whose mission is to increase the esoteric experience.

Michael’s goal is to discover the essence of Masonry and its connection to mysticism, magic, and personal development, thereby inspiring his brethren to create the best versions of themselves.
     

Monday, September 7, 2020

‘The First Hermetic International Film Festival’

     
The what?

The First Hermetic International Film Festival.

What?

The. First. Herm.Etic. Inter.Nation.Al. Film. Festi.Val.

Really?

I guess so. Click here. “First” doesn’t mean premier. It’s actually in its third year. The “first” refers to it being the original film festival of its kind.

The festival is available on Occultrama. It began last Thursday, and continues through Wednesday. Twenty euros admission.

I don’t know anything about any of these movies, but look at this list of festival awards:


Best Picture – Mercure Award
Best Feature Film – Caduceus Award
Best Short Film – Sulphur Award
Best Feature Documentary – Paracelsus Award
Best Documentary (Short) – Pelican Award
Best Foreign Documentary – Rosenkreuz Award
Best Animation Film – Apuleio Award
Best Web Serie – Black Lion Award
Best Experimental Film – Vitriol Award
Best Music Video – Kenneth Award
Best Director – Agrippa Award
Best Editing – Ficino Award
Best Cinematography – Fludd Award
Best Music – Atalanta Award
Best Storytelling – Cagliostro Award
Best Topic – Jodorowsky Award
Best Research – Eco Award
Best Sound Design – Theremin Award
Best Performance – Sabbath Award
Best Protagonist – Wormwood Star Award
Best Production Design – Ritual Room Award


New York Film Academy is among the official partners.
     

Sunday, September 6, 2020

‘The new Royal Arch learning center’

     
Okay, so maybe the General Grand Chapter of Royal Arch Masonry can be of useful service to the Masonic world.

The GGCRAMI disclosed last week that it has a website in development—a “computer website,” as it charmingly calls it—that will be an “interactive site, which provides educational opportunities supporting advanced knowledge and training in various aspects of Capitular Masonry.”

The announcement continues:


“It provides certifications for individuals who want to improve their knowledge of the respective offices, and responsibilities of those positions, in the local chapter. Such certification attests to their qualifications for those interested in advancing in the various stations of the chapter or grand chapter.

“Additionally, there are a number of educational areas that deal with explanations pertaining to the symbolism and esoteric nature found within the different degrees. Programs dealing with the historical aspects of the degrees are also on the website which expand a clearer understanding of the times and nature of the degrees.”


You have to start somewhere. (Next, if they could stop infantilizing with phrases like “King’s Komments,” “Scribe’s Scribbles,” and God knows what else, that would be really great.) (Really great.)

The General Grand Chapter presents this in the present tense because there also happens to be a beta test version of this website up now. Click here.


Meanwhile, closer to home, yours truly will be speaking at Scott Chapter 4 in North Brunswick, New Jersey this Friday night. The chapter will open at eight o’clock. I’ll lead a discussion on “The Habits of Successful Chapters.”

Royal Arch Masonry in these parts is in dreadful decline—and there’s no reason for it. I’ll explain on Friday.
     

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

‘Weird Fact Wednesday: A different kind of Masonic home’

     
Courtesy Freemason to Mansion

I remember reading about this several years ago in a news story, and recently I found a website chronicling the progress made in restoring this former Masonic temple in Indiana. A family from California relocated for the purpose of buying and renovating this building to make it a residence. A different kind of Masonic home, if you will.

Looking at the façade, I recognize similarities to the Trenton Masonic Temple in New Jersey, and I don’t doubt there are many others with the resemblance. This one dates to 1926, during the boom when the fraternity exploded in size. Through World War I and the decade thereafter, hundreds of thousands of men flooded into Freemasonry nationwide, so there was need for who-knows-how-many new buildings for lodges, chapters, Scottish Rite, Shrine, and the rest. That need has waned, to say the least, and consequently these properties are sold, but also sometimes abandoned for want of a buyer.

Courtesy Freemason to Mansion
In 2017, the Cannizzaro family changed their plans to acquire and inhabit some big chunk of farmland somewhere, and instead bought the 20,000-square-foot Huntington Masonic Temple, where Amity Lodge 483 had dwelled.

“It’s going to take us at least a year to get it the way we want it,” Theresa Cannizzaro told a local newspaper then. They’re still at it.

I’m not a big fan of Masonic lodges and other bodies putting all their energy and time into stubbornly trying to continue life in their hundred-year-old buildings. The roof, the elevator, the plumbing, the electric, the boiler, the everything cost too much to upgrade because there are too few Masons to shoulder the expenses. The Cannizzaros seem to know what they’re doing, and I wish them “profit and pleasure,” as we say.

Check out the steady updates of their progress on their blog. Actually, it’s not only the rehab; there are photos of the Masonic sights in the building, plus items they found here and there. Look them up on social media too.

Courtesy Freemason to Mansion
The stuff you find laying around.
     

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

‘Archetypes in Masonic Initiation’

     
I don’t know what they’re having for breakfast at Ocean Lodge—not pancakes, apparently—but their lecture series continues to kick ass. Next week. From the publicity:

Click to enlarge.
     

Sunday, August 30, 2020

‘33° congratulations’

     
Magpie file photo
Bro. Greg Knott
Congratulations to Greg Knott, who will receive the 33° of the Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry next August! He is at labor in the Valley of Danville in Illinois.

Bro. Greg is Second Vice President of the Masonic Society, and he wears many hats in Freemasonry, including eMasonry, where you can find him at the Midnight Freemasons blog, the Meet, Act, Part podcast, and seemingly many more places.

And check out his photography in every issue of The Journal of the Masonic Society.

That’s all the info I’ve seen on who has been elected to receive the 33° next year. Feel free to leave a comment below if you know something more.
     

Saturday, August 29, 2020

‘Bicentenary of Grand Master Henry Clay’

     
On this date 200 years ago, Bro. Henry Clay was elected Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Kentucky. To make a point about “Famous Freemasons,” here comes a list of fun facts about The Great Compromiser.

(With apologies to David Letterman.)

From the home office in Lexington, Kentucky: Top Ten Fun Facts About MW Henry Clay!

Courtesy Holt’s
10. Henry Clay’s name is appropriated for a historic cigar brand, originally a Havana launched in the 1840s, then a venerable Dominican with Broadleaf wrapper, and today in a variety of sticks, including from Honduras. (Clay’s father farmed tobacco in Virginia.)

9. At a national Masonic conference in 1822, he introduced a resolution to establish a “General Grand Lodge” of the United States—which was adopted.

8. He was a hero to a young Abraham Lincoln—until Lincoln actually met him.

7. According to legend, he famously exclaimed he “would rather be right than President,” and he was right! He sought the nation’s highest office multiple times and in several parties, but did not win.

6. With occasional interruptions, he served in the U.S. Congress, in both houses, from 1805 to his death in 1852.

5. He was made a Mason in Lexington Lodge 1, where he served as Worshipful Master in 1820—the same year he became Grand Master.

4. In death, he was given a Masonic obsequy by his Grand Lodge, which considered him still a member despite his not having been active in the fraternity for several decades. Upon the coffin was laid an apron given to him by Lafayette.

3. In 1821, he became the first lawyer to file a Friend of the Court brief with the U.S. Supreme Court. He also is said to have invented the “temporary insanity” plea.

2. The hate triangle among Clay, Andrew Jackson, and John Quincy Adams shaped presidential politics for much of the early 19th century. The 1824 election was decided by the House of Representatives; Clay was Speaker, but did not have enough support to win the White House, so he agreed to back Adams, who was selected. Adams, who would become an outspoken anti-Mason, then made Clay Secretary of State, which then was considered the obvious office for a future president. In 1832, the election was between Jackson (Past Grand Master of Tennessee) and Clay. Jackson crushed him.

And the Number 1 Fun Fact About MW Henry Clay:

1. During the “Morgan excitement,” he disavowed ever having had anything to do with Freemasonry!

From Coil’s Masonic Encyclopedia.
     

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

‘Weird Fact Wednesday: The oldest Masonic Bible?’

     
Magpie file photo
The oldest Bible in Masonic use in the United States? I believe so. This is a Koberger, printed in Nuremberg in the 1470s. It is owned by mighty Peninsula Lodge 99 in New Jersey, which displays it on its altar for its installation of officers every December. I served as Master of Peninsula in 2005, and placed my hands upon the pages of this VSL when being obligated.

Something in a 1921 issue of The Builder magazine caught my attention a few weeks ago. It’s just a blurb shoehorned into the corner of a page:



THE OLDEST MASONIC BIBLE

Blair Lodge, Chicago, which is a representative body in the Fraternity and very successful in the administration of its affairs, owns one of the earliest imprints of King James’ version of the Bible, printed in 1615. It is asserted, according to the Illinois Freemason, that no Masonic lodge in America has an older Bible. During the tercentenary celebration of its translation a few years ago, this Bible was read from in several of the most prominent Chicago churches.

This Bible is nearly fifty years older than the one on which George Washington was initiated in Alexandria-Washington Lodge in Virginia, which latter was also used at the laying of the cornerstone of the national Capitol building in Washington. Up to about ten years ago, the tiler of Alexandria-Washington Lodge had represented to visiting Masons that theirs was the oldest Bible owned by any lodge in this country. None had disputed its honor until Brother Elmer E. Rogers of Blair Lodge brought him to further light.


Setting aside the glaring blunder of where America’s most famous Freemason had been initiated, this reads like a perfectly acceptable bite of Masonic trivia. It seems Blair Lodge is no longer extant, so I don’t know where this 1615 KJV is kept today. (I have an inquiry into Illinois Lodge of Research, and will update this post if I receive the info.)

Of course Washington was initiated in 1752 in the Masonic lodge at Fredericksburg, Virginia. The Bible used is owned to this day by Fredericksburg Lodge 4. It is a King James Version printed in 1668 (so The Builder erred also in its age, since it is 53 years younger than Blair Lodge’s KJV).

And you surely know of the other “Washington Bible,” that on which Washington took his first presidential oath of office in 1789 in New York City. That is a 1767 KJV, printed in London.

Reaching back in time to 1899, but coming closer to home, the Grand Lodge of New Jersey reported in its Book of Proceedings for that year that a Bible of even greater longevity was in Masonic use.

When this grand lodge held its 112th Annual Communication in Trenton on January 25-26 of that year, there was open upon the Masonic altar a very unusual Volume of Sacred Law. I don’t have that New Jersey Book of Proceedings, but thanks to the works of the Correspondence Committee of the Grand Lodge of Kentucky, the story from Trenton is told in that Book of Proceedings of 1899:



An interesting episode took place during the session of Grand Lodge. The Bible used upon the altar was one furnished by Brother George B. Edwards, and said to have been printed before the discovery of America by Columbus, the date being November 10, 1478. The presence of this remarkable book was the means of calling out the Grand Chaplain, whose few remarks are in excellent keeping with the antiquated volume.


You’re probably thinking it’s a Gutenberg, but it is not. This Bible is a product of Germany, but its printer was one Anthony Koberger (sometimes Koburger or Coberger), born circa 1445 and died 1513, of Nuremberg.

It was on this Bible that my hands rested while being sworn during my installation as Worshipful Master of Peninsula Lodge 99 one chilly night in December 2004. The Bible is owned by this lodge. Bro. George Edwards was a member of one of Peninsula’s ancestor lodges, but I do not know which. A number of lodges from in and around Hudson County, New Jersey came and went since the mid nineteenth century before Peninsula was formed in 2003—to be the last one of that family tree.

Perhaps he had no heirs, but for whatever reason, Edwards had arranged for this fifteenth century Bible to be safeguarded by the grand lodge, which had it tucked away in storage for about all of the twentieth century. A past grand master, who was a member of Peninsula, nudged the lodge to take possession of it, possibly in advance of my installation, but maybe a little earlier—I just don’t recall—and so we did. Peninsula does not display this VSL on regular meeting nights, but I’m sure the brethren still use it for the annual installation of officers.

It’s a strange Bible, as compared to what we all are used to. It is bilingual: Latin and the German of that period, and it does not contain all the books of the Holy Bible. It’s been so long, I just don’t remember which books were included. Unlike Koberger Bibles you’ll see on the web, this edition has no art in its pages, so, throughout, the pages are all text in two columns. The lettering is Gothic, making it tough on the eyes. The impressive color woodcuts were added to printings of later years.

But the age is legit. While I do not recall seeing this specific date November 10, 1478 printed in this Bible, I do remember the 1478. Before Columbus. Before Luther. Before King James. Amazing.

One can’t help but wonder at the possible dollar value of such a piece, and I remember seeing an advertisement in the Sunday New York Times Books section, somewhere around 2005, that listed a Koberger at $40,000, but I don’t know the year or condition of that item.

I’m no longer a member of mighty Peninsula (I became a New York Mason in 2015), but I was its Master in 2005. A pretty rough ride, frankly. I still keep in touch with a bunch of the brethren; they are very kind to remember me because I ceased being active there practically the minute the Master’s collar was lowered onto my successor’s shoulders on another cold December night in 2005. By that time, I was enjoying myself in various lodges in Manhattan—a visitor not attached to any problems that may have been fermenting behind the scenes.


Courtesy Travis Simpkins
MW Gregory Scott
The current MWGM of the Grand Lodge of New Jersey, Greg Scott, is from Peninsula Lodge, and that is the Koberger Bible seen in his official portrait, rendered by the talented Bro. Travis Simpkins.

Catholic Encyclopedia offers a useful write-up on the printer and his various Bibles. Koberger made Bibles into the sixteenth century. This Masonic lodge Bible is an early specimen of his, and later editions would improve in design and beauty over the years.
     

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

‘Midwest Conference on Masonic Education’

     
Evidently we have to look into 2021 for a resumption of larger-scale Masonic events in the United States. While this one is far outside my usual orbit, maybe you can attend. From the publicity:



2021 Midwest Conference
on Masonic Education
Hosted by the Grand Lodge of Illinois
April 23-25 at Chicago Scottish Rite

Tentative Schedule:

Friday, April 23: Open session
Saturday, April 24: Main session with dinner and featured speaker
Sunday the 25th: “No host” breakfast and travel day

The 2021 session will be packed with presentations, and we also will have plenty of MCME business items to handle. Our Illinois Brothers are hard at work setting up a great schedule of events. Please mark your calendars now. Details will be posted to the MCME website when they are available.

Call for Papers!

The purpose of the Conference is to share best practices in spreading Masonic education and light in our jurisdictions. If you have something that you would like to share at the 2021 meeting, please send us an e-mail with a short summary of your presentation. Even if we don’t have time to put it in the schedule, we can still share it on the website after the conference.

Since 1949 we have endeavored to:


  • Provide a communications and support network for our member jurisdictions.
  • Conduct an annual forum for Masons who have a vital interest in Masonic Education.
  • Offer the opportunity to share Masonic experiences, knowledge, and insights.
  • Publish occasional newsletters, communications, and the proceedings of its annual meetings.


All Master Masons from recognized Masonic jurisdictions in the United States, Canada, and worldwide are encouraged to contact us and become part of our Conference on Masonic Education.

We also encourage recognized Masonic jurisdictions to inquire on how to become a member jurisdiction of MCME.

MCME on YouTube here.
     

Monday, August 24, 2020

’10 weeks of Philosophy Works for free’

     
Who says nothing in this life comes for free? The School of Practical Philosophy offers its 10-week introductory Fall semester, via Zoom, free of charge. (It looks like Monday nights are sold out already.) From the publicity:



Your Life, Larger.


Find peace in turmoil, company in isolation, and purpose in everyday life. Make sense of a rapidly changing world with tools to help you live life more consciously and with greater happiness.

Our 10-week introductory course offers time-tested principles that lead to freedom and sustainable happiness. Gain tools for living life more consciously and fully develop the power of attention to realize your potential.

For the Fall term, starting the week of September 14, the fee for Philosophy Works Introductory Course is waived as a gift to the community.

Classes are live and online with Zoom.

Register here.

It is not an academic survey of great philosophical ideas as one might find in a university. Rather it is an introduction to a series of proven principles that enable students to attain self-knowledge and better their lives through reasonable, compassionate living. The proof of Practical Philosophy’s effectiveness is found in personal experience.

The curriculum is inspired by the philosophy of Advaita (“not two”), and embraces a wide range of philosophical ideas, tapping into the wisdom of the great minds of East and West, including Plato, Socrates, the Buddha, Shakespeare, Emerson, and Shri Shantananda Saraswati.

Much of the learning that students experience comes from their fellow students and their own innate wisdom. The tutors, who direct the classes, are ongoing students in the School who have been practicing Practical Philosophy for many years and generously offer their own insights.
     

Sunday, August 23, 2020

‘Esoteric Wisdom in a Time of Crisis’

     
Next Saturday will be the 30th anniversary of the death of Manly Palmer Hall. The Philosophical Research Society will present an on-line lecture made for these times. From the publicity:


Courtesy PRS

Esoteric Wisdom
in a Time of Crisis:
The Spiritual Legacy
of Manly P. Hall
Saturday, August 29
10:30 p.m. Eastern
Tickets here.

Join us for the premiere of this recently recorded lecture from Dr. Stephan Hoeller on “meeting the current health crisis and cultural turmoil with the aid of Manly P. Hall’s spiritual legacy.” Hoeller was Mr. Hall’s principal lecturing associate at PRS for more than 20 years. He is a noted scholar and lecturer on Gnosticism and the message of C.G. Jung. He is the author of five books and is president of Besant Lodge of the Theosophical Society on Beachwood Drive in Hollywood.


The mission of the Philosophical Research Society is the same as it was at its founding in 1934: to provide resources for seekers to find meaning and wisdom. To do this we seek out wisdom wherever it can be found, from any area of the world, any era in history, any way of knowing that has shown itself to be worthy by praxis. As a non-profit, on-campus, and on-line society dedicated to the pursuit of wisdom, our vision is of a community of seekers who are continually discovering, applying, cultivating, and rediscovering practical and profound wisdom in the 21st century. Guiding us as we guide seekers are the following values that we apply daily:


  • Inclusiveness: PRS looks to include wisdom from its every source and to make it accessible to all who value it.
  • Objectivity: PRS transcends any particular tradition, philosophy or personality.
  • Freedom: PRS supports free and open inquiry into ways of knowing and being that are at the same time open to critique and dialogue.
  • Community: PRS fosters a learning community characterized by stimulating and good-faith interaction.

     

Saturday, August 22, 2020

‘(Digital) Legends of the Craft lectures’

     
The Fifth Manhattan District and Legends of the Craft continue the popular lecture series, taking it to the web with these three upcoming events. From the publicity:



Greetings Travelers,

We are excited to announce the theme and line-up for this year’s Legends of the Craft Symposium. We are gathering three amazing Masonic lecturers to shed light on the mental aspects of Masonry for our first Digital Symposium. Our lecturers will discuss methods of developing one’s mental processes utilizing tools, instructions, and inspirations from Masonic ritual. This symposium will have three parts and will be conducted over two Thursdays and one Saturday. In addition to the lecturers, each presentation will give the audience an overall discussion that ties together all three days. The idea is to simulate a Journeyman Mason’s travels to different locations, accumulating knowledge.

RSVP here.

Thursday, August 27
7 to 8:30 p.m.
Chuck Dunning on “Contemplative Masonry: Basic Applications of Mindfulness, Meditation, and Imagery for the Craft.

Thursday, September 3
7 to 8:30 p.m.
Anthony Kofi Osei-Tutu on “Masonic Mind Control: Ancient and Modern Methods on Improving the Power of One’s Will.”

Saturday, September 12
1 to 3 p.m.
Martin Faulks on “The Art of Memory: A Journey from Classical Greece to the Medieval Church and its Arrival in the Royal Court of King James I.”

This promises to be a fun event. There will be a special gift for those who attend all three lectures!

Open to the public.

I look forward to seeing you all.
    

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

‘Weird Fact Wednesday: KST and geomagnetic dating’

     
Courtesy Biblical Archaeology
The Givati parking lot excavation site in Jerusalem.

A scientific study published earlier this month posits the charred findings remaining from the destruction of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar 2600 years ago helps today’s research into archaeomagnetic dating, and that the history of Solomon’s Temple facilitates the research.

Titled “The Earth’s Magnetic Field in Jerusalem During the Babylonian Destruction: A Unique Reference for Field Behavior and an Anchor for Archaeomagnetic Dating,” the peer-reviewed paper was published August 7, at which time Biblical Archaeology Review explained:



“…researchers revealed that they were able to determine what the Earth’s geomagnetic field was at the time of the destruction. This allows scientists to compare to the geomagnetic field of today, chart the changes that have occurred over a precise period of time, and potentially project geomagnetic changes into the future. Earth’s geomagnetic field provides stability to Earth’s atmosphere and protects the planet from outside particles. For scientists, greater understanding of how the geomagnetic field has differed from a precise time 2,600 years ago, may provide important insights.

“In the study, researchers analyzed hundreds of burnt floor segments from a building in the Givati parking lot excavation in the City of David. By archaeomagnetic analysis, They were able to establish that most samples had reached a temperature of more than 1100 degrees Farenheit, such that the material would demagnetize, then orient to the magnetic field in the cooling down process. They could also determine that most of the samples were from the second floor of the original building, which had collapsed when the beams holding it up had been destroyed in the fires of Nebuchadnezzar’s sacking of Jerusalem, an event that marked the end of the Iron Age in the Levant.”


Read this research paper here.
     

Friday, August 14, 2020

‘Kybalion movie is coming’

     

“The universe is mental.”


It is said to be in post-production, but they’ll still be filming next week in New York City, according to a tweet from Mitch Horowitz about an hour ago.

The “it” is The Kybalion, a film based on the text of Hermetic principles written a little more than a century ago. “It is a surreal documentation of the supernatural world around us,” says the plot summary.

In addition to Horowitz, the cast of interviewees includes Brian Cotnoir and Raymond Moody. The director is Ronni Thomas.

From the publicity:


What if there was great wisdom and boundless power available to us, but hidden in plain sight? The Kybalion is a documentary film adaptation of the widely popular but underground occult text of the same name, which explores the “Seven Principles” that govern the universe. Occult historian Mitch Horowitz takes us on a metaphysical journey of how we can apply these principles and unravel their mystery. Mitch argues that the ancient philosophy of the occult may hold exactly the keys modern people are seeking to a universalistic faith of inner development, karmic values, and personal power. Along the way we meet alchemists, artists, mediums, and scientists working within the parameters of these principles. The film, presented as a dark and mysterious enigma, sheds new light on ancient wisdom and gives viewers who wish to expand their consciousness valuable tools to do so. Director Ronni Thomas makes the film an otherworldly and cinematic journey spanning the monuments of ancient Egypt to a surreal and uncanny other world.


See previews here.
     

Thursday, August 13, 2020

‘ESSWE Call for papers!’

     

The European Society for the Study of Western Esotericism’s 2021 conference is set for Ireland next July, and the call for papers is open until November 1. From the publicity:



Eighth Biannual Conference
of the European Society
for the Study of Western Esotericism
Western Esotericism and Creativity:
Art, Performance, and Innovation
University College, Cork
July 5-7, 2021

This conference brings together scholars who seek to examine the intersections of Western Esotericism and artforms, creative performance, and production. The theme is open to broad interpretation, as well as geographical scope, and historical and cultural context from antiquity to the present day. The relationship between diverse genres of the arts and Western Esotericism are close and multivalent; many artists, historical and contemporary, are practicing occultists or influenced by esoteric philosophies or practices. The theme encourages explorations of manifestations of spiritual creativity and the relationship between esoteric symbols, principles, and religious frameworks, and the production of artwork. A multitude of examples of esoteric-inspired art can be identified, from literature and music to painting and photography. Examinations can also be made of the interconnection between innovation and esotericism, and attention paid to historical and philosophical developments in alchemy and other so-called “occult sciences,” or this aspect can be explored in terms of scholarly theoretical and methodological innovations in the field of Western Esotericism.

Specific sub-themes could include:


  • Esoteric themes in art
  • Otherworldly encounters and creativity
  • Ritual, performance, and esotericism
  • Esotericism and literature
  • Art and music as techniques in esoteric practice
  • Aesthetic dimensions of Western Esotericism
  • Occultism, artistic expression, and popular culture



Call for Papers/Panels

While the aim is for ESSWE8 to be a large, cross-disciplinary and inclusive conference, paper and panel proposals will go through a careful selection process to ensure the final program will be of high academic quality as well as focused on the conference theme. We encourage scholars across disciplines to creatively consider the theme and to come up with innovative analytical perspectives and frameworks that examine specific historical and cultural contexts, source materials, unique cases and topics.
As always, the ESSWE wants to provide a platform for intensive exchange and collaborative networking between scholars from diverse perspectives, regions, and on all levels of the academy. In this regard, postgraduate students as well as more experienced and established scholars are all encouraged to participate and submit proposals for papers or panels.

In the many intersections that this conference theme shines a light on, we are confident that ESSWE8 will be a foundational event for developing collaborations in the field and establishing new research avenues for the future.

Paper presentations should have a length of 20 minutes, leaving 10 minutes for discussion.

The conference language is English.

Please send your paper or panel proposal here.



Submission Guidelines

Individual paper proposals must include basic information about the author (title, institutional affiliation/independent scholar), a paper title and an abstract of no more than 300 words and 3-5 keywords about the proposed presentation.

Panel Proposals must include the following information:

  • Title of panel
  • Panel Description of approximately 300 words
  • Purpose, goals, expected outcomes and contribution to the conference theme (approximately 300-350 words)
  • Panel Convenor(s) (Organizer(s))’ names, email addresses and affiliations
  • Chosen Length: Panels can be 90 minutes or 120 minutes in length
  • Special requests/equipment needs




Important Dates

Deadline for submission of paper and panel proposals: November 1, 2020
Notification of acceptance by: January 15, 2021
Beginning of Registration: February 15, 2021
Early bird conference fee until: April 1, 2021
Normal conference fee: April 1 to June 25, 2021



Contact

All questions and inquiries should be directed here.
     

Sunday, August 9, 2020

‘New book provokes burst of positive press for Masonry in Britain’

     
Freemasonry is enjoying a burst of positive media in the British papers this weekend!


Prompted by the pending (August 18) release of a book titled The Craft: How the Freemasons Made the Modern World by John Dickie, there have been four (that I’ve seen) stories in the press that present Freemasonry calmly and fairly. I have not read this book yet, but here are some excerpts from the media coverage.


Actually, this started last Sunday, the second, with a review in The Times. Dominic Sandbrook writes:


“Despite being a Cowan, as Masons call non-members, I enjoyed this book enormously. Dickie’s gaze is both wide and penetrating; he is just as good on black American Freemasons, whose ranks include basketball star Shaquille O’Neal, as he is on the intricacies of French or Italian Masonry. He makes a persuasive case for Masonry’s historic importance, from its Enlightenment origins to its influence on the Mafia, Mormonism, and the Ku Klux Klan, all of which copied its rituals. He treats the conspiracy theories about Masonic influence in the British police with withering scorn, lamenting that ‘such stories regularly make it past the bullshit detectors of reputable newspapers.’ And, most refreshingly, he makes Masonry sound like an entirely sane, reasonable way to spend your time.”


From Friday’s Daily Express:


“So the Freemasons must be a secret society, right? Ask any Mason, and he will deny it. ‘We are not a secret society, but a society with secrets’ is the standard response, which is hardly reassuring. Anyone with even a mildly suspicious frame of mind is bound to assume the Brothers have something to hide. Yet the secrecy issue is not at all as straightforward as it might seem.”

And:


“When it comes down to it, when all the mysterious allegories, myths, and oaths are stripped away, what Masons are actually hiding is a series of very elementary moral principles: be a good person, [and] embrace tolerance and respect for your fellow human beings.”





In an interview published last Thursday in BBC History Magazine, Dickie is quoted at length.


“In Britain, I think there are two competing stories that dominate discussions of Freemasonry. On the one hand, they appear in the public imagination as a shady organization with something to hide. And this is what fuels the newspaper coverage they get—outlandish stories in which they are responsible for cover-ups of the sinking of the Titanic, or the Hillsborough disaster. People put two Freemasons in a row and make a conspiracy. Counter to that runs the Freemasons’ own narrative of their history, one of a noble, honorable tradition of brotherhood and altruism. This, admittedly, is much more dull. But somewhere in between these two stories is a vast, untapped world of extraordinary tales about what Freemasonry has meant to people, about the things it has got involved in and the paranoia that Freemasons have generated throughout their history, and also how Freemasonry has been hugely historically important.”

And:


“[Secrecy has] been a great selling tool for them—this idea that if you join the Masons, you will learn the secrets and become part of an elect band with access to privileged knowledge. But the way that Masons use the word ‘secrecy’ actually translates to something more like sacredness, because it’s used to create a sense of awe and specialness around their rituals, which are very important to them.”


In The Spectator yesterday, Dominic Green writes of “Demystifying Freemasonry.” Excerpted:


“The history of rubbish can be scholarship, but the history of scholarship is often rubbish. Hindsight diminishes earlier habits of thought and behavior, especially when, as with Freemasonry, they involve rolled-up trouser legs, coded handshakes, and a curious blend of mysticism and matiness. Yet Freemasonry was once a radical, even revolutionary, rite—to its adherents a harbinger of egalitarian, middle-class democracy, to its detractors a conspiracy of Jews, satanists and sex addicts.

The Craft is a shadow history of modernity. Though more sober than most lodge meetings, it is, like its subject, ingenious and frequently bizarre. Freemasonry, John Dickie argues, is one of Britain’s ‘most successful exports,’ along with other club activities such as tennis, soccer, and golf. It is ‘a fellowship of men, and men alone, who are bound by oaths to a method of self-betterment.’ If this ideal of tolerant fraternity sounds modern—the absence of women aside—it is because it is.”


From what I’ve read, this book is not a gushing laughingstock of rosy public relations, like some silly Dan Brown story. Based on what I’ve seen, John Dickie speaks frankly, not untruthfully or unfairly, about our fraternity. I say that’s how one dispels ridiculous misconceptions in the minds of people who aren’t addicted to the flimsy fantasies promulgated by political and religious tyrants. I don’t think this media coverage will convert anyone who loathes Freemasonry, and I doubt it will bring appreciable numbers of curious men to the Inner Door, but the truth has great value, especially these days when facts, logic, and reason are hunted for extinction.