Saturday, August 22, 2015

‘MRF 2016 Symposium’

     
I am in Philadelphia now, enjoying the Masonic Restoration Foundation’s Sixth Annual Symposium, where it was announced just now that next year’s event will be hosted in Asheville, North Carolina, August 19-21.

Both the grand master and the deputy grand master of the Grand Lodge of North Carolina are in attendance, displaying a level of commitment to the cause of the MRF that I do not believe I’ve ever seen from top ranking officials from anywhere. The two lodges that will share hosting duties next year are Sophia Lodge No. 767 in Salisbury, the jurisdictions first Observant lodge; and Veritas Lodge U.D. in Asheville, which I suppose will be the second such lodge in the Tar Heel State. And I must mention how MRF President Andrew Hammer is Grand Orator of the Grand Lodge of North Carolina as well.

Oh! And the MRF will meet in Vancouver, B.C. in 2017!

Full Magpie coverage of this weekend’s wonderful activities to come in a few days.
     

Thursday, August 20, 2015

‘Music: The Rose and the Cross’

     
Among the symphony orchestras performing in New York City, the American Symphony Orchestra is the experimental, eccentric one. That is its reason for being, as it aims to give life to music of diverse sources and inspirations that otherwise linger in silence. Based at Carnegie Hall, the ASO will launch its 53rd season soon; included on the calendar this fall will be the New York debut of an obscure Russian work that I suspect would be of interest to the initiated ear.

From the publicity:



Russia’s Jewish Composers
American Symphony Orchestra

Thursday, December 17
7 p.m. Conductor’s Notes Q&A
8 p.m. Concert

Carnegie Hall
Stern Auditorium/Perelman Stage
881 Seventh Avenue
Manhattan

Program:

Aleksandr Krein:
The Rose and the Cross (N.Y. Premiere)

Anton Rubinstein:
Cello Concerto No. 2

Mikhail Gnesin:
From Shelley (U.S. Premiere)

Maximilian Steinberg:
Symphony No. 1 (U.S. Premiere)


I know nothing of any of these pieces of music, but of course this edition of The Magpie Mind concerns the Krein composition. ASO says: “Krein was one of the leading Russian modernist composers of the early 20th century. This work was inspired by settings from Aleksandr Blok’s last play, The Rose and the Cross.” Nor do I know Blok’s last play—and, frankly, Russian modernist music is not my thing—but I do know Rosicrucianism has a long history in Russia. Paradoxically perhaps, but it has been there for centuries.

In his The Rose Cross and the Age of Reason (essential reading!), scholar Christopher McIntosh traces Russian Rosicrucian origins to the 1780s, when Germany’s Rite of Strict Observance fell into decline in Russia, and Rosicrucians there recognized an opportunity to attract spiritually inclined Freemasons. McIntosh writes:

“At his home in Moscow, [Freemason Johann Georg] Schwarz held a series of Sunday lectures, whose theosophical tenor places him firmly in the Rosicrucian tradition of thought. The doctrines conveyed by Schwarz included…the notion of the creation of the world through a series of emanations from God, and the idea of an invisible hierarchy of spirits…. From this standpoint, Schwarz attacked the French philosophes and helped to swell the reaction against the influence of French rationalism in Russia.”

The author continues with a timeline that shows an influential Rosicrucian publishing house, their creation of a hospital and pharmacy that served the poor, Rosicrucian-organized relief for the victims of the 1787 famine, and ultimately the government oppression of the movement.

But back to the music.

The ASO assembles this December 17 program thusly: “These Russian Jews exploded ethnic stereotypes by refusing to be known only as Jewish composers. These works identified them more with their homeland than their ethnicity.”

Krein composed The Rose and the Cross in 1917 for a large orchestra. The piece runs 20 minutes, and is constructed in five movements. It incorporates plenty of woodwinds, brass, strings, percussion, harp, keyboard, “other plucked strings,” voice(s) treated as instruments, and—and I’m eager to hear what this means—“electronic tape.” Its alternate title is “Symphonic Fragments for Symphony Orchestra after Aleksandr Blok.”


Aleksandr Krein
Aleksandr Krein (1883-1951) was born into a family of klezmer musicians. (Seven of the ten children in this family became professional musicians.) At age 13, Aleksandr entered the Moscow conservatory to study cello, and he began to compose music to accompany Russian and French symbolist poetry. He would embark on a career in music that made him pivotal to Jewish music in Russia (and later the Soviet Union). His Zagmuk, a story of the Jewish revolt in Babylon, would be the first Russian opera staged at the Bolshoi, and his Second Symphony is his musical expression of Jewish suffering from ancient times through the Holocaust, so I don’t get ASO’s downplay of his Jewish life. His career also included politically reliable work (e.g. a funerary ode for Lenin), as communist orthodoxies tolerates nothing else, and he was made an Honored Artist of the Soviet Union in 1934.

Aleksandr Blok’s drama The Rose and the Cross, the literary inspiration of Krein’s musical composition, was published in 1913, but it never has been staged, even after hundreds of rehearsals in Moscow. It is written in verse. The Columbia Encyclopedia of Modern Drama says it is “one of the finest plays of the symbolist era.” In Russian Opera and the Symbolist Movement, Simon Alexander Morrison writes:


“It constitutes the most elaborate product of a short-lived endeavor among the ‘mystic’ Symbolist poets to write opera libretti, song texts, and plays calling for incidental music. The basic theme of this drama is the heterogeneity of human existence, the idea that there exist two realities, one cognitively graspable by the mind, the other intuitively graspable. The plot brings together dissimilar characters, settings, images, and events: a grief-stricken lady and a dejected knight, a dilapidated castle and a windswept beach, the bells of a sunken city and a ghost in a dungeon, a peasant dance around a decorated tree and a song contest in a flowering dale. The spring that sets the plot in motion is a song so provocative that it haunts the dramatis personae for years after they hear it performed by an itinerant troubadour. The troubadour reappears at the drama’s end for an encore performance…the song’s pastoral text identifies joy and suffering as equivalent emotional states. Its music was intended to mesmerize its listeners—both those on and off the stage.”

Tickets ($29-$54) for the ASO’s December 17 concert will go on sale September 8. Click here. Audio and video clips of the other three pieces to be performed can be heard here.

Let’s get together and check out this concert! Rosicrucians, Rose Croix Masons who get it, Martinists—come one, come all! Maybe meet a few doors down at the Russian Tea Room for dinner first?
     

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

‘To bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance’

     
On yesterday’s date 225 years ago, there took place one of those singular moments in history when a moving event during the American Founding intersected with a cherished moment in the story of Freemasonry. On August 17, 1790, President George Washington visited Newport, Rhode Island during a nationwide public relations tour of the new country to confirm the bonds among the newly united states, and to show off its first president who, for all his exploits as commanding general during the Revolution, really had not seen most of the country.

The visit is memorialized in ways that include two exchanges of letters with Washington. The first was between the small congregation of Jewish residents of Newport; the second was between the Freemasons of the town. Both pairs of letters communicated messages of good will and brotherhood, and both would be remembered by posterity for their significance to the new nation’s fledgling commitment to guaranteeing religious liberty.

Mr. Moses Seixas, one of the leaders of the synagogue, representing approximately 300 Jews in Newport, writes:


Sir:

Permit the children of the stock of Abraham to approach you with the most cordial affection and esteem for your person and merits, and to join with our fellow citizens in welcoming you to NewPort.

With pleasure we reflect on those days—those days of difficulty, and danger, when the God of Israel, who delivered David from the peril of the sword—shielded Your head in the day of battle, and we rejoice to think, that the same Spirit, who rested in the Bosom of the greatly beloved Daniel enabling him to preside over the Provinces of the Babylonish Empire, rests and ever will rest, upon you, enabling you to discharge the arduous duties of Chief Magistrate in these States.


Courtesy Library of Congress
Deprived as we heretofore have been of the invaluable rights of free Citizens, we now with a deep sense of gratitude to the Almighty disposer of all events behold a Government, erected by the Majesty of the People—a Government, which to bigotry gives no sanction, to persecution no assistance, but generously affording to all Liberty of conscience, and immunities of Citizenship—deeming every one, of whatever Nation, tongue, or language equal parts of the great governmental Machine. This so ample and extensive Federal Union whose basis is Philanthropy, Mutual confidence and Public Virtue, we cannot but acknowledge to be the work of the Great God, who ruleth in the Armies of Heaven, and among the Inhabitants of the Earth, doing whatever seemeth him good.

For all these Blessings of civil and religious liberty which we enjoy under an equal benign administration, we desire to send up our thanks to the Ancient of Days, the great preserver of Men, beseeching him, that the Angel who conducted our forefathers through the wilderness into the promised Land, may graciously conduct you through all the difficulties and dangers of this mortal life. And, when, like Joshua full of days and full of honour, you are gathered to your Fathers, may you be admitted into the Heavenly Paradise to partake of the water of life, and the tree of immortality.

Done and Signed by order of the Hebrew Congregation in NewPort, Rhode Island,
August 17th 1790.
Moses Seixas, Warden


President Washington replies:


Gentlemen,

While I receive, with much satisfaction, your Address replete with expressions of affection and esteem; I rejoice in the opportunity of assuring you, that I shall always retain a grateful remembrance of the cordial welcome I experienced in my visit to Newport, from all classes of Citizens.

The reflection on the days of difficulty and danger which are past is rendered the more sweet, from a consciousness that they are succeeded by days of uncommon prosperity and security. If we have wisdom to make the best use of the advantages with which we are now favored, we cannot fail, under the just administration of a good Government, to become a great and happy people.

The Citizens of the United States of America have a right to applaud themselves for having given to mankind examples of an enlarged and liberal policy: a policy worthy of imitation. All possess a like liberty of conscience and immunities of citizenship. It is now no more that toleration is spoken of, as if it was by the indulgence of one class of people, that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights. For happily the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens, in giving it on all occasions their effectual support.

It would be inconsistent with the frankness of my character not to avow that I am pleased with your favorable opinion of my Administration, and fervent wishes for my felicity. May the children of the Stock of Abraham, who dwell in this land, continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other Inhabitants; while every one shall sit in safety under his own vine and figtree, and there shall be none to make him afraid.

May the father of all mercies scatter light and not darkness in our paths, and make us all in our several vocations useful here, and in his own due time and way everlastingly happy.

G. Washington


It is “to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance” that is most remembered from these letters, partially because it is communicated by both writers, but I think mostly because it powerfully summarizes what is at stake. The Jews of Newport were denied citizenship. The First Amendment’s protection of religious liberty still was in its embryonic stage in the summer of 1790, as the Bill of Rights would not be ratified for another sixteen months. But what is more significant to me is what Washington writes additionally: “It is now no more that toleration is spoken of, as if it was by the indulgence of one class of people, that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights.” Again, before the ratification of the Bill of Rights, the first president assures a tiny and disenfranchised religious minority that the right of conscience is not a political option to be elected or rejected by a majority, but is part of what makes the new United States distinct among nations. And I believe there is within it an echo of the first Masonic grand lodges book of jurisprudence—Anderson’s Constitutions of 1723—that enjoins Freemasons from concerning themselves with each others’ religious convictions, instead urging all Masons to build on the common ground of a shared faith in deity, regardless of how various specific theologies can differ beyond that primary spark of belief.

(Thomas Jefferson’s letter of January 1, 1802 to the Danbury Baptist Association in Connecticut arguably is the more famous presidential assurance to a religious congregation of their right to worship. It is here that Jefferson writes of “building a wall of separation between Church and State”—an idea that goes beyond the First Amendment’s prohibitions of a U.S. government-founded church and government interference with religious practices, and that colors many citizens’ understanding of religious freedom to this day.)

Returning to Freemasonry, it was on August 17, 1790 that King David’s Lodge—originally a lodge of Jewish Masons founded in New York City on February 17, 1769—sent a welcoming note to President Washington, the fraternity’s most famous and beloved brother. Moses Seixas, Warden of the Hebrew Congregation in NewPort, was Worshipful Master of King David’s Lodge also, and it is he from whom we hear again:


We the Master, Wardens, and Brethren, of King David’s Lodge, in Newport, Rhode Island with Joyful hearts embrace this Opportunity, to greet you as a Brother and to hail you welcome to Rhode Island. We exult in the thought that as Masonry has always been patronised by the wise, the good, and the great; so hath it stood and ever will stand as its fixtures are on the immutable pillars of faith, hope, and Charity.

With unspeakable pleasure we Gratulate you as filling the Presidential Chair with the applause of a numerous and enlightened people, whilst, at the same time, we felicitate ourselves in the honour done the Brotherhood by your many exemplary Virtues and emanations of Goodness proceeding from a heart worthy of possessing the Antient Mysteries of our craft; being persuaded that the wisdom and Grace with which heaven has endowed you, will ever square all your thoughts, words, and actions by the eternal Laws of honour, equity, and truth, so as to promote the advancement of all good works; your own happiness, and that of mankind.

Permit us then Illustrious Brother cordially to Salute you with Three times Three and to add your fervent supplications that the Sovereign Architect of the Universe may always encompass you with his holy protection.


Mentions of Masonic thought and practice abound in this brief note, which should surprise no one, but what catches my eye is the writer’s seamless blending of Masonic phrasing with concern for civic integrity. Washington was not the president of Freemasonry; he was chief executive of the new federal government. (An attempt years earlier to elect him Grand Master of Masons for the entire country was unsuccessful, Masonic governance thought best to be kept local, not unlike the Federal system of civil government formed later by the U.S. Constitution.) Again:

Virtues and emanations of Goodness proceeding from a heart worthy of possessing the Antient Mysteries of our craft; being persuaded that the wisdom and Grace with which heaven has endowed you, will ever square all your thoughts, words, and actions by the eternal Laws of honour, equity, and truth, so as to promote the advancement of all good works; your own happiness, and that of mankind.

Reading this in 2015, the heart pines.

The Masonic Brother’s reply to the lodge bears the same date, suggesting the two notes were delivered by messenger:


Gentlemen,

I receive the welcome which you give me to Rhode-Island with pleasure—and I acknowledge my obligations for the flattering expressions of regard contained in your address with grateful sincerity.

Being persuaded that a just application of the principles, on which the masonic fraternity is founded, must be promotive of private virtue and public prosperity, I shall always be happy to advance the interests of the Society, and to be considered by them a deserving Brother.

My best wishes, Gentlemen, are offered for your individual happiness.

Go. Washington
     

Monday, August 17, 2015

‘MLMA to meet next month’

     
The Masonic Library and Museum Association will hold its annual meeting September 17 at the Masonic Library and Museum of Indiana (and The Quarry Project will follow September 18-20 at the Grand Lodge of Indiana).

I strongly encourage membership in the MLMA. In addition to Masonic libraries, museums, other such institutions, and the people who manage them all, members of the MLMA include many individual Freemasons who appreciate the importance of there being Masonic centers of learning. It’s not just a matter of Masons wanting to preserve places that serve as repositories of Masonic culture for our own edification and enjoyment, but it also is important that all people have access to the stacks, the exhibits, and the knowledgeable professionals and volunteers who staff these treasured destinations. The MLMA provides mutual support in all manner of needs facing librarians, archivists, curators, and others engaged in the labors of preserving and making available the material riches of the Masonic Order. What is a museum but a place of the muses? You, as an individual, may enlist in membership; so can your local Masonic library or museum, your research lodge, book club, and, I suppose, anything else you can think of.

If you are a thinking Freemason—and you must be if you’re reading The Magpie!—click here for MLMA membership information. (Yes, I understand that for many it is yet another Masonic membership, but this one is for a larger good that, frankly, is a lot more important than some of those frivolous clubs with the goofy hats that some of us patronize.)
     

Thursday, August 13, 2015

‘A True Story of Murder and Resurrection’

     
I don’t mind if Chris scoops me on Indianapolis news, but when he beats me to the blog on New York City Masonic news, I know I’m being outclassed. Anyway, Bro. Mark Koltko-Rivera of St. John’s Lodge No. 1 and The American Lodge of Research, among others, will present what I’m certain will be an enlightening talk on Masonic history later this month in Soho.

(You know Freemasonry in your locale is vibrant within and relevant without when brethren are booked to speak on Masonic topics in public venues. Thats New York Masonry!)

From the publicity:



Freemasonry in 19th Century New York:
A True Story of Murder and Resurrection
Sunday, August 23
4 p.m.

177 Prince Street, Third Floor
Manhattan

Tickets available here.

The world’s oldest and largest fraternal organization, the Freemasons, entered the world of nineteenth century New York as a respected group that claimed many civic, religious, and political leaders among its numbers. By the late 1820s, Freemasonry was in tatters, under accusations of having committed ritual murder in an upstate community, it became the focus of the first single-issue political party in American history: the Anti-Masonic Party.

Hounded almost to extinction, Masons regrouped in the 1840s, and began a rise to national prominence resulting in the Age of Fraternalism later in the century when thousands of Masons marched publicly on the streets of Manhattan at regular intervals, and Masons publicly dedicated the Statue of Liberty and Cleopatra’s Needle. Yet, by the end of the century, the seeds had been sown for the rumors that plague Freemasonry to this day—accusations of devil worship and attempts at world domination.

Dr. Koltko-Rivera will go behind the events to explain the forces behind Masonry’s expansion, persecution, and triumph in 19th century New York.

Mark Koltko-Rivera holds a doctoral degree in psychology from NYU. The author of Freemasonry: An Introduction (Tarcher/Penguin, 2011), he is a 32º Scottish Rite Freemason, and a Masonic Knight Templar. He has appeared as an authority about Freemasonry on such television shows as Hunting the Lost Symbol, America’s Book of Secrets, Brad Melzer’s Decoded, and Ancient Aliens.





Listen, Mark is a good man and Mason, and a more than capable educator on things Masonic, so don’t hold the TV gigs against him. (I’d do them too if they asked!) And I also would attend this event if I could, but the MRF symposium ends Sunday, and I don’t know if I’d be willing or able to race up to Manhattan to arrive on time. Break a leg, Mark!
     

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

‘September salute to Sibelius’

     

The George Washington Masonic Stamp Club will honor composer and New York Freemason Jean Sibelius at its meeting September 6 in Baltimore. This year is the sesquicentennial anniversary of his birth on December 8, 1865.

In 1922, Sibelius was among the founders of Suomi Lodge No. 1 in Helsinki, chartered by the Grand Lodge of New York. He was elected Fellow Number 3 of The American Lodge of Research in New York City. Suomi is the owner of the composer’s music for the three Craft degrees. Click here for an article by William Peacher.

The meeting will take place at 1 p.m.—during the annual Baltimore Philatelic Exposition at the Hunt Valley Inn, Wyndham Grand Hotel, at 245 Shawan Road in Hunt Valley, Maryland.

The program on Jean Sibelius will include a multimedia presentation of the great Finnish composer’s music and, of course, stamps issued in his honor. This meeting, like all BALPEX meetings, will be open to the public (with door prizes for all in attendance).



Any applications for membership in GWMSC may be voted upon at this meeting, but candidates will have to wait until the February annual meeting to receive the actual degree.

The club hopes its members will promote club activities in their lodges and other Masonic gatherings. Any Freemason in good standing in a recognized Craft lodge is eligible for membership. There are no annual dues, only a nominal one-time life membership fee. The Master of Philately Degree is conferred at the club’s February meeting at the George Washington Masonic Memorial in Alexandria, Virginia, but it is not necessary to receive the degree to hold club membership. Click here for the membership application.

Club President Walter Benesch also says he is in possession of a deceased member’s collection of covers, and that the lot is available for the right price, so get to Baltimore to see these stamps for yourself.
     

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

‘Masonic town hall meetings’


     
RW Jeffrey Williamson
at Grand Masters Day

last August in Tappan.
With the resumption of Masonic labors next month will come the continuation of Deputy Grand Master Jeffrey Williamson’s tour of New York State to host his Town Hall meetings. From the publicity:

Please be aware of and support the Deputy Grand Master’s upcoming Town Hall meetings in the Metro area.

On Saturday, September 12, a Town Hall meeting will be held in the Richmond District at 8 a.m. at the Staten Island Temple (236 Main Street). Later, at 3 p.m., a Town Hall will be held for the First, Second, and Third Kings Districts; the Queens District; and the Ninth Manhattan District at the Whitestone Masonic Temple (14939 11th Avenue, Flushing).

Please make every effort to attend to learn where the Grand Lodge is heading and to provide your input into the future planning. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact your District Deputy Grand Master or myself here.

Thanks, and I look forward to greeting you at these Town Hall meetings.

RW Christopher Hough,
Junior Grand Deacon
Grand Lodge of New York, F&AM
     

Monday, August 10, 2015

‘The Rosicrucian mirror’

     
I have been neglecting the Rosicrucian Cultural Center in New York City for some time. No real reason, just scheduling, but this is one event I must share, and I aim to be there. It has been said Rosicrucian wisdom serves as does a mirror. In Masonic ritual of the French Rite and other Continental systems, we see a mirror employed poignantly near the close of the Entered Apprentice Degree. I don’t know what this workshop entails, but let’s check it out. From the publicity:


The Rosicrucian Mirror
with Pat Downes

Tuesday, August 11
6:30 p.m.
Rosicrucian Cultural Center
2303 Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. Blvd.
New York City

The mirror used in the Rosicrucian student’s home sanctum is an invaluable tool for holistic growth and development. Perhaps students can make better use of this tool as we use this mirror on a daily basis and/or on Thursday evenings during the weekly study period. This workshop is designed to help the seeker explore what happens when the student gazes into the mirror and what one does with what is revealed.


Courtesy AMORC

Over the years, Rosicrucian students have been described as “walking question marks.” We have been taught to ponder our teachings, to examine what we read in our laboratories. The mirror gives us the opportunity to gaze directly into our eyes—the window to the soul—as we communicate with the God of our Heart and the Master Within with honesty and integrity. How can we better use this mirror to gauge how we are proceeding along the path and whether we are growing in wisdom and understanding of universal law and our application of these laws?

This workshop will examine, discuss, and explore pertinent and relevant questions we can and should ask of ourselves as we work with the mirror in our Sanctum. Patricia Downes is a Certified Life Coach, a Relationship Coach, an Organization Development Specialist, with a doctorate in that field, and is trained as a Positive Psychologist also. She has been a member of AMORC for 31 years and has designed and delivered many workshops and conference presentations for AMORC and other organizations over the years.

In addition to her work in organizations and consulting firms in Trinidad and Tobago, the Caribbean and in Washington, DC, Downes also served as the Head of Training and Organization Development at the OAS in Washington for eight years.

Her passion and life work focus on supporting people in reaching their full potential and helping them realize the amazing and wonderful contributions each of them can make to the world.
     

Sunday, August 9, 2015

‘The spiritual and mystical in Jungian analysis’

     
The C.G. Jung Foundation and the C.G. Jung Institute in New York City announced their advanced seminars for the fall and next spring. From the publicity:


Fall 2015 Seminar
Mind, Body, and Spirit in Jungian Theory
and Contemporary Analysis

Wednesdays from 7 to 8:30 p.m.
September 2 to December 16
(excluding September 23 and November 25)


This course will explore the role of the image, and the development of a symbolic attitude, in Jungian analytic theory and therapy. Jung primarily investigated the image from a Spirit perspective, amplifying their inherited, historical roots, and demonstrating the universal, objective meanings they provide to our one sided awareness. In this course, we will attend to the other, less investigated aspect of the image: its energetic charge and inherent potential to liberate and redirect the individual’s complex psychic energies, moving us towards feelings, behaviors, and values that correspond to the meanings of the Spirit aspect of the archetypal image.

Jung noted that a symbolic attitude is necessary to effectively contain, understand, and express both the new, unfolding meanings and corresponding energetic patterns of behaviors embedded in the archetypal image. We will learn about the basic structure of an effective symbolic attitude though the study of its Mind, Body and Spirit characteristics. By revisiting Jung’s writings on the Transcendent Function, Ego-Self axis, and the lost and feared “numinous” quality of the image from this perspective, participants will learn how the psyche/somatic split that is characteristic of modern men and women can be addressed by exploring how our fluid and unique mind/body states resonate with the objective meanings of the archetypal image.


The concept of symbolic body work, and its relationship to a symbolic attitude will be introduced, and persons interested in the body’s role in analytic psychotherapy are encouraged to attend.




Spring 2016 Seminar
The Mystical Experience in Jungian Psychoanalysis

Wednesdays from 7 to 8:30 p.m.
February 3 to May 11
(excluding March 23)
Instructor: Leslie Stein, LLM


All mystical experience confounds rational understanding. When it occurs, it is overwhelming, inexplicable, and daunting. These experiences take many forms: a vision, a flash of clarity as to the existence of a divine force, a powerful dream of archetypal figures, a feeling of unity of all things, a beneficent experience of peace. Jung calls these “numinous” experiences, preferring not to use the word mystical. For most, these numinous experiences are mere oddities, perhaps frightening, outside the reach of conventional religion and, as they are fleeting, we return to the comfort of our ego structure, no longer interested. Yet, they have a profound role in psychoanalysis. Jung writes “The approach to the numinous is the real therapy and inasmuch as you attain to the numinous experiences you are released from the curse of pathology.”

Some commentators have said that he could not have meant that numinous experiences are a substitute for the hard work of psychoanalysis. Yet, the vision of some other force, outside the ego, that can fill our hearts with peace and hope, may indeed be the goal of analysis.


The purpose of this Advanced Seminar is to explore the role of mystical experiences in our lives and in psychoanalysis. There is no single expert on all matters mystical, so the Seminar is to be a collaboration, where participants put away easy answers and open to the mystery of what lies outside what we know.


The course will draw on readings from Jung, William James, Sri Aurobindo, Erich Neumann, Donald Kalsched, and others who have recognized the importance of mystical experience. The objectives of the course are to gain some understanding of the nature of mystical experiences, to explore their function in the individuation process, to examine why some are open and some are not, and to seek to establish some place for these experiences in analysis.

     

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

‘The Habit of Happiness’

     
New York University’s Global Spiritual Life will host a group of Buddhist teachers next month for an evening of interactive learning and meditation exercises. From the publicity:


The Habit of Happiness:
An Evening on Mindfulness

Thursday, September 10
7 to 9 p.m.
Kimmel Center for University Life
Eisner and Lubin Auditorium
60 Washington Square South
Manhattan

If you haven’t lived the best day of your life yet, says Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh, chances are that you never will. We wait for happiness to come to us from external events, things, and people. We hope it will find us when we meet the right person or get the right job, but when it proves fleeting, we are often left with anxiety, depression, and despair.



Courtesy Blue Cliff Monastery


The good news is that if we can truly awaken to each moment of our daily life we can experience happiness right here and now, no matter our situation. With mindfulness, we train the mind to cultivate happiness within ourselves and we learn that our happiness and suffering are deeply connected. Embracing our suffering with the energy of mindfulness can transform the necessary “mud” of our lives into lotus flowers of happiness, at any moment.

Fifteen Dharma teachers from Thich Nhat Hanh’s monastic community, in partnership with Global Spiritual Life’s MindfulNYU, will offer an interactive evening of practice and teaching through sitting and walking meditations, a talk, and time for Q&A. This special event is part of their Miracle of Mindfulness 2015 U.S. Tour. Should you have any questions, please write here.

RSVP here.

Tour information here.

Monastery information here.


This tour includes many stops in California, Mississippi, and New York, so do click this link to see if events are near you. On Friday, September 11, the group will visit St. Mark’s Church in the Bowery for “The Music of Mindfulness: An Eclectic Concert in Celebration of Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh.”

     

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

‘Freemasonry’s latest landmark’

     
Magpie file photo

The George Washington Masonic National Memorial. I shot this at dusk after the close of the International Conference on the History of Freemasonry in May 2011.


The National Park Service announced today it has conferred national historic landmark status on the George Washington Masonic National Memorial in Alexandria, Virginia. The famous site has been a favorite destination for tourists—Freemasons or not—for its museum collections and singular architecture for generations.

The Memorial was opened in 1932, one of countless celebrations in America of the bicentenary of George Washington’s birth. It is home to several Masonic lodges, including Alexandria-Washington Lodge No. 22—an earlier incarnation of which Washington had been a member—and various exhibits commemorating the Masonic fraternity. (I do not know if the timing of this announcement has anything to do with this, but Washington was made a Master Mason on this date in 1753.)

The NPS press release quoted in the Washington Post this afternoon says the site is “among the most architecturally significant projects to honor George Washington and one of the boldest private efforts to memorialize him,” and that the designation was approved “to connect people with the history in their own backyard.”


Magpie file photo
In recent years, the George Washington Masonic National Memorial (Didn’t they drop the National part a few years ago?) has been transforming from its longstanding role as a passive museum destination to a leadership force that champions Masonic learning. It provides digitalization services to grand lodges for the preservation of official records; hosts major conferences and other significant educational events; and lends its resources to other cultural happenings in Freemasonry in the United States. The Memorial is funded by nearly all Freemasons in the country through modest contributions collected through the grand lodges’ annual assessments. A movement is underway to increase the individual Mason’s annual donation to the GWMNM, which I hope every grand lodge will adopt in short order. It’s literally the least we can do to bequeath to posterity—Freemasons or not—this national treasure.
     

Saturday, August 1, 2015

‘Can Light Be Golden?’

     
I’ve been awake all night (long story) and had the chance to read. I selected Owen Barfield’s novella Night Operation, a science fiction story published in 1975 that, among other things, comments presciently on cultural collapses we are experiencing today. It is a kind of allegory of the cave—clearly it acknowledges Plato’s lesson—as subterranean humans venture toward the light of day to experience what life might be like above ground. It’s a good story, and short enough to read in one sitting, if you’re so inclined. And reclined. Actually, reading Night Operation as dawn approaches enhances the tale’s ambience. Furthermore, to read it during the opening hours of August causes the mind to wander and ponder.

August of the zodiac sign Leo: Leo’s ruling planet is the sun; its element is fire; its color gold. (A slain lion named Cecil so prevalent in the world’s news this week.)

Can light be golden?


Owen Barfield, Anthroposophist extraordinaire, has three characters in Night Operation: Jon, based on himself; Jak, based on his dear friend C.S. Lewis; and Peet, inspired by another close friend and fellow Anthroposophy leader Cecil Harwood. The three young men protagonists endure a hellish existence, but their spiritual longings prompt them to undertake their Night Operation—a determined search for a place of enlightenment in a totally unknown atmosphere above ground. They behold dawn for the first time.

Anyway, the story triggered a memory of this Barfield poem, which I share with you:



CAN LIGHT BE GOLDEN?

Can light be golden? That can never be,
The well-informed assure us, because light
Is what we see by, never what we see.

But are the well-informed, I wonder, right?
Those painters of the old Italian school
Seem almost to condense it into sight.

I doubt if Cimabue was a fool,
Or faked the background, or the aureole.
Perhaps they worked to some more secret rule

That light observes—not light through Newton’s hole
(The force we see by when we are not blind),
But light inbreathed by man’s adoring soul.

Can light be golden? Now recall to mind
That seeding whereof Perseus was the flower:
How sad Acrisius’ daughter was confined

In Argos long ago—the brazen tower—
Then Zeus, the Light of Day, with godlike stride
Descending on it in a Golden Shower,

Breaching its walls to glorify the bride.
Can light be golden? Now the truth comes clear:
It is, when wonder meets it open-eyed—

As I am to the light that streams from her,
When she at last is near, and these old walls
Invading, overwhelms their prisoner:

The light that, condescending, disenthralls!
For now the pagan myth’s inverted: she
(Look up, and see how smilingly it falls!)
The Shower of Gold; I, wondering Danäe.


If you registered for the MRF symposium in Philly, I’ll see you in three weeks. Otherwise, I hope you’re enjoying this incredibly kind summer weather. I will be the guest speaker at Inspiratus Masonic Lodge No. 357 in New Jersey on September 28—presenting again “Come to Your Senses!”—so maybe I’ll see you there.
     

Thursday, July 30, 2015

‘Journal 28 in the mail’

     

Issue No. 28 of The Journal of the Masonic Society is arriving in members’ mailboxes now. Some of the highlights include:

Editor Michael Halleran considers the importance of candidate proficiency examinations. “It seems clear that suitable proficiency means comprehension—not just a rote recitation—of the experience of the degree, enriched with appreciation of the implements of Masonry and some understanding of the symbolism of the fraternity, as specified by the grand lodge,” he rightly writes. “Sadly, we have all witnessed perfunctory examinations, but these do no one any favors.”

It’s very simple to me: Since Freemasonry uses the building arts metaphorically, we’d view the prospective member as raw material. When your basic building blocks show no understanding of the fundamentals of Masonic thought, you’ll have a fraternity that serves no vital purpose. Just shallow sociability, perfunctory charity—oh, wait.

Bro. Richard Bunn, in his article, draws comparisons between architectural cornerstones installed ceremonially and elements of the Hiramic drama. “If the Freemasons had been farmers, they would have seized upon the metaphor of the seed—as utilized by ancient agrarian societies in their mystery dramas, the most famous example being the Peresphone myth, which elucidates on the esoteric phenomenon of sowing, i.e., the seed, after being buried in the earthen furrow, rises again in the new stalk—but as the Gentlemen Masons were Symbolic builders, they chose the stone, like the medieval alchemists before them, to teach the same lesson of regeneration, or immortality of the soul,” he says in one breath. “Regrettably, with the ceremony of the laying/dedication no longer being in high demand, twenty-first century Freemasons are rarely, if ever, exposed to the profound symbolism attached to one of the fraternity’s most ancient and important observances. The symbolism of the ceremony of the laying of a cornerstone and the Degree of Master Mason are so interconnected that it is my contention that if the mystery drama of the latter did not directly arise from the former, then, the two ceremonies, one public and exoteric, the other private and esoteric, evolved contemporaneously.”

A new feature, “Retrospective,” invokes lessons from the past we ought to take to heart today. This time, a concept from 1864: “The extraordinary and ruinously rapid growth which Freemasonry has experienced during the past few years has only become possible in consequence of a neglect properly to exercise the privilege of the ballot. Hundreds, nay, thousands of improper persons have been permitted to receive the degrees, who, under a proper exercise of the ballot, would never have been allowed to cross the threshold of our institution.”

Yes, that’s from 1864, not 1964.

Speaking of changes, Bro. John Bizzack returns to The Journal with “Paradigms and Periods of Transition in Freemasonry,” in which he explains what a paradigm is and how it works, and how Masons can attain a keener understanding of their fraternity’s need for constancy in Masonry’s reason for being. “The idea has never been for men to change Masonry, but for Masonry to change men. Its core values and lessons can be challenging to incorporate into one’s life,” he writes. “It takes discipline of the mind. It takes effort. But the fraternity offers true camaraderie for those who choose this difficult psychological and philosophical journey. Incredible, life-altering changes occur as a man develops and uses a value-driven moral compass.”

He continues: “The landscape has changed. Freemasonry is indeed in a paradigm shift, one that was readily identified by leaders in the fraternity in the mid 1960s and that set the course for the natural turbulence that follows any time a paradigm begins to shift. That very shift gives us the signature of the fraternity today: dwindling numbers and a sense of baffling urgency to find answers, to stop the revolving door of men in and out after only a couple of years of membership.”

Bro. Mark Tabbert, Director of the Museum and Library Collections at the George Washington Masonic National Memorial in Virginia, spends a lot of time these days researching and writing what I am confident will be the definitive Masonic biography of George Washington—a comprehensive study of all Washington’s Masonic words and deeds that will serve for generations. His article in The Journal this time is “George Washington Meets a Past Grand Master of England.” How did our future first president’s interactions with the Fourth Earl of Loudoun during the French and Indian War impact England’s military strategy in that conflict? You’ll want to read this one.

In his always engaging regular feature “Masonic Collectibles,” Bro. Yasha Beresiner shares an item that actually cannot be gathered into a collection: a singular ephemeral tract of anti-masonic propaganda from 1698(!). From the pamphlet: “Knowing how that God observeth privilly them that in Darkness they shall be smitten and the Secrets of their Hearts layed bare. Mingle not among this corrupt People lest you be found so at the World’s Conflagration.”

There’s no pleasing some people.

And getting back to cornerstones, Bro. Stephen Ponzillo, a Past Grand Master of Maryland, hits the books to provide some biographical knowledge of the men whose names are inscribed on the silver plaque set into the cornerstone laid in the U.S. Capitol on September 18, 1793. Reflections on brother Masons who ought not be forgotten.

Plus, there are the regular attractions. President Jim Dillman tells us about the upcoming Quarry Project in Indianapolis. In “Book Reviews,” we have six titles of Masonic and related importance, including Frances Timbers’ Magic and Masculinity: Ritual Magic and Gender in the Early Modern Era, and Roscoe Pound’s Lectures on the Philosophy of Freemasonry. “News of the Society” informs us of the many successes enjoyed by various members of The Masonic Society as they pursue their labors in various employments throughout the fraternity, plus some other oddities you may not have heard yet. And, under “Conference, Speeches, Symposia & Gatherings,” is a list of educational and cultural events around the nation upcoming in the next few months.





‘Masonic Treasures’ is the regular feature on the back cover of The Journal. This issue treats us to the tracing board artwork of Bro. Jorge Soria of Grapevine Lodge No. 288 in Texas. Such low tech devices were common in the 18th and 19th centuries as aids to imparting lessons in Masonic symbolism and thought, but were replaced by electronic media as generations passed. However, thanks to artists like Soria, lucky lodges again are able to employ graphic crafts to instruct their candidates through the degrees.

And finally, if you wish to advertise your books, regalia, wares, organized events, or other Masonic-friendly goods and services, please contact yours truly here. Our rate card is here.