Tuesday, September 29, 2015

‘Rhymes of Robert Frost and Rumi’

If you like artistic creativity in your spiritual life—and who doesn’t?—or simply if you enjoy music and poetry—ditto—there are two great events coming soon to New York City. New York Open Center will host Amir Vahab for an evening of musical interpretation of Sufi poems, and the Anthroposophical Society will present Andy Leaf, who will frame the verse of Robert Frost in the Society’s spiritual science perspective. From the respective publicity:

Sufi Songs of Rumi, Hafiz
and Other Sufi Poets
Amir Vahab and Ensemble
with the Daf Caravan
Saturday, October 3 at 8 p.m.

New York Open Center
22 East 30th Street

Courtesy NY Open Center
Amir Vahab has been described by The New York Times as an “ambassador for a silenced music.” One of New York City’s most celebrated composers/vocalists of Sufi and folk music, he sings in the evocative, traditional Persian style which embodies millennia of mystical tradition. His work transcends political boundaries while maintaining traditional sensibilities in a way few artists can manage. Vahab’s music is rooted in tradition, but has been influenced by contemporary sounds. Like Amir himself, his music symbolizes diversity-in-unity. He is teaching and lecturing private and group classes in universities, libraries, museums, and cultural centers on the one hand and, on the other, he organizes music therapy and sound healing workshops.

This evening, Amir Vahab and ensemble will perform songs selected from the poetry of the great Sufi masters Rumi and Hafiz and other legendary mystical poets to transport us to 13th century Persia with all its beauty and exoticism. The ensemble also will perform lively traditional music from Turkish, Kurdish, and other sources featuring the mystical reed flute, ancient lutes, and the daf drum. The concert will conclude with a dynamic drumming performance that echoes the universal heartbeat of existence.

Robert Frost in the Light
of Spiritual Science and Vice Versa
Presented by Andy Leaf
Saturday, October 10 at 2 p.m.

138 West 15th Street
Admission: donations

Since college days in the mid 1950s, Andy Leaf has had a passionate interest in the spirituality expressed in the poetry of Robert Frost and Emily Dickinson. This Saturday program will be an informal exploration of how spiritual science can enhance appreciation of Frost’s poetry in ways conventional criticism does not—and which can, in turn, enrich our experience of truths revealed in Anthroposophy. The focus will be on a few selected, representative poems.

Andy Leaf has studied Anthroposophy since 1967. He served as a teacher and administrator in the Waldorf School of Garden City, New York from 1967 to 1978. Subsequently, he has been an instructor, program designer, and consultant in training and organizational development. As principal of his own consulting practice, Leaf & Associates, he has consulted with Waldorf Schools in the United States and Canada on issues of organizational health and leadership.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

‘Rose Circle: alchemy in the Hermetic tradition’

I haven’t been able to say this in a long time, so it gives me great pleasure to tell you the Rose Circle Research Foundation has a new event scheduled for next month in New York City. From the publicity:

Rose Circle Research Foundation Presents

Spiritual Alchemical Bodies
in the Hermetic Tradition
presented by Tommy Westlund
of Stockholm, Sweden

Saturday, October 24
2 p.m.
Masonic Hall
71 West 23rd Street
$25 per person, in advance, available here

Tommy Westlund is a trained therapist in psychosynthesis, and since 1990 has pursued studies and research in esotericism and the Western Hermetic tradition. With an academic background in psychology, the history of religion, and the history of ideas, he writes and lectures internationally on esotericism, alchemy, Golden Dawn, gnosticism, Martinism, and Freemasonry.

Tommy Westlund
He is one of the founders of the initiatic Order of the Sodalitas Rosae+Crucis & Solis Alati, which perpetuates many of the old esoteric currents and Hermetic filiations of Europe, and he is director of the Swedish Alchemical Academy, which offers alchemical courses, workshops, travels, and literature.

Tommy holds the highest degree (X°) in the Swedish Rite of Freemasonry and has held his position as Deputy Master of one of Sweden’s oldest St. John lodges (St. Erik, originated in 1756) for the past six years.

He continues to serve as archivist of the Swedish Masonic Grand Archive, a position he has held since 2009, and as secretary of the Swedish Masonic Education Committee, since 2012. He also is a member of the oldest Provincial Grand Lodge of the Royal Order of Scotland.

If you have attended previous Rose Circle events, you have experienced the pleasures of learning firsthand from some of the most knowledgeable and sharpest minds in the Western Mystery Traditions. As you can see, this commitment to excellence will continue October 24. (Consistent with the frustration that seems to govern my life, I will not be able to join you that day. I’ll be just about a mile down the street at another event.)

Friday, September 25, 2015

‘Garibaldi Lodge EA° in November’

Magpie file photo

World famous Garibaldi Lodge No. 542 will confer its totally unique and renowned Entered Apprentice Degree—French Rite ritual spoken in Italian—Friday, November 6 inside the Grand Lodge Room of Masonic Hall in New York City (71 West 23rd Street).

This time seating is by advance reservation only. Contact Secretary Bob Mascialino here or Treasurer Steve Marrone here no later than October 30, and give the number of brethren in your party. Bring your identification and regalia, and be prepared to work your way into a tiled lodge of Freemasons. Arrive before 6:45 p.m. The degree will begin at around eight o’clock, and should conclude by 10:30.

I imagine the degree always is a transformational experience for the Apprentices, but it also is an unforgettable experience for those of us on the sidelines. The ritual is a very highly expressive initiation rite with abundant alchemical symbols and deep lessons. You’ve heard about it; you know you want to see it; go already.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

‘ICHF 2017?’

It was announced at the 2011 International Conference on the History of Freemasonry in Alexandria, Virginia that the next conferences would be hosted in Edinburgh in 2013, Toronto in 2015, and England in 2017, that being the tercentenary of the Grand Lodge of England. This year’s event did not come to fruition due to financial obstacles, and it was announced today by the Grand Lodge of Scotland that it is weighing the concept of hosting a smaller event (date TBD) in Scotland that would be “more focused on Scottish Freemasonry,” indicating ICHF 2017 in England is not to be.

Courtesy GLS
I think this spells the demise of the ICHF tradition if Scotland will become the lone thematic and geographic locus. ICHF might remain an international affair by attracting presenters and audience from around the world, but if everything delivered from the podium will be Scot-centric—and don’t get me wrong: I love most of what I know of Scottish culture—then I wonder how long it could be sustained before it becomes a forum only for Scottish lodge histories and biographies.

As for England in 2017, as reported months ago in the pages of The Journal of The Masonic Society, Quatuor Coronati 2076 will host a tercentenary celebration at Queens’ College, Cambridge next September. Planning is advanced by now (call for papers, etc. was long ago). I’ll share news of this as it becomes available.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

‘The Hidden Business of Masonic Building’


No, this isn’t about a dodgy trustees meeting. Earnest Hudson, Jr., Worshipful Master of Joseph Warren-Gothic Lodge No. 934 in the Seventh Manhattan District, will visit New Jersey next week for a speaking engagement.

 Magpie file photo
A Matter of Geometry:
The Hidden Business
of Masonic Building

Peninsula Masonic Lodge No. 99
888 Avenue C
Bayonne, New Jersey
Lodge to open at 6:30
Dinner & Lecture at 7:30

Open to Masters and Fellows
RSVP here

I’m really looking forward to this.

‘What Calls Us to Search?’

The Gurdjieff Foundation of New York City will host an event Monday night at the Theosophical Society to introduce us to the concepts of the Gurdjieff Work.

Click to enlarge.
The Search
for Meaning
in the Midst
of Life:
What Calls Us
to Search?

September 21
6:30 p.m.
Quest Bookshop
240 E. 53rd Street
RSVP here

After attending one of the Foundation’s introductory events, one may attend Ongoing Readings. Send a note to that same e-mail address for more information and to reserve your seat at the Readings if you have attended an introductory event first.

‘Freemasonry and the Roman Church’


Celebrating its 190th year in 2015, Mariners Lodge No. 67 in the First Manhattan District offers an attractive calendar of activities under the leadership of Worshipful Master Francisco Nuñez-Fondeur. For instance, the lodge’s October 14 Stated Communication will feature a lecture by RW Pierre de Ravel d’Esclapon, a Fellow of The American Lodge of Research, on “The Intersection of Freemasonry and the Roman Church.”

Magpie file photo
Pierre de Ravel d’Esclapon
RW Pierre de Ravel d’Esclapon is renowned for his deep research into his subjects. It was he who found the evidence of Pierre Charles LEnfants Masonic membership several years ago while researching early French lodges in New York City.

The lodge meeting and lecture will be followed by the famous Maritime Festive Board. Not tiled, the dinner is open to friends of Masons, but seating is limited so make your paid reservations in advance by clicking here.

It’s a great lodge and it’s always a wonderful time being there. I don’t visit nearly often enough, but I’ll be there October 14.

Friday, September 18, 2015

‘Conferences of Grand Masters’

The 2016 Conference of Grand Masters of Masons in North America will convene next February in Madison, Wisconsin—and, really, where else than Wisconsin would you rather be in the dead of winter?—but the big news is what’s coming next May.

The Conference of Grand Masters of Prince Hall Masons will meet in New Jersey!

This may have something to do with Past Grand Master John Bettis serving as president of the conference, but maybe it’s just the Garden State’s allure. Details to come.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

‘May all be happy.’

May all be happy.
May all be without disease.
May all creatures have well-being.
None should be in misery of any sort.

- Vedic Prayer

This week, the School of Practical Philosophy on East 79th Street commences its fall semester, and those like myself who completed Level 1, Philosophy Works, naturally would continue to Level 2, titled Happiness, which addresses these:

  • What is happiness?
  • Is happiness natural or do we need to find it?
  • What gets in the way of being happy?
  • How does happiness relate to others?
  • How may happiness be experienced fully?
  • Learning to observe without prejudice.
  • Living life in the present moment.

Sorry to say I will have to catch up at a later time, but I did return to New York University last Thursday for Mindful NYU’s presentation of The Habit of Happiness: An Evening on Mindfulness with the Blue Cliff Monastic Community. Located in the Catskills, Blue Cliff was founded by Vietnamese Zen Buddhist Master Thich Nhat Hanh. Read a bit about his amazing life here. A small group of monks are touring the United States this month to impart some of the very useful techniques of mindfulness exercise. They spoke for more than two hours that night inside the Kimmel Center on Washington Square South, and, rather than risk inaccurately reporting all of what they said, I will share a few key points instead.

Monks from Blue Cliff Monastery appearing last Thursday at NYU.

Introducing themselves by name—their names, in Vietnamese, are chosen for them by their teacher—and sharing some of their life stories, the monks of Blue Cliff quickly engaged the audience in a Singing Meditation. Lest anyone think meditative exercises have to be silent and motionless, this is proof that happiness can be achieved through a transparently silly activity. I wish I had video recorded it because it is a lively technique that I guarantee will demolish the most agitated or torpid state of mind at any time, and it must be seen to be believed. I don’t want to leave it at that teaser, so I’ll try to explain:

Fortunately the song can be heard here, courtesy of Thich Nhat Hanh’s Plum Village Mindfulness Practice Centre. In addition to the harmonizing, the monks employed descriptive hand gestures to complement the lyrics, which of course heightened the levity. So you’ve clicked that link, and heard the song—try getting it out of your head—but the point is not humor exactly; it is, in the words of one monk, “to live happily in the present moment.” But what is the present moment? It is not a construct of lineal time connecting past to future. It is, if I understand, a oneness of things physical and metaphysical. Singing the song is a way to practice breathing, a tool to relieve stress, and the lyrics present a method for us to express gratitude for all that we have, and to bring awareness of the things we do all day every day.

Sister Purification and Sister Brightness
demonstrate the Singing Meditation.

I think the monks imparted this lesson better in the Tangerine Meditation. All of us in the audience found small tangerines awaiting us on the seats upon our arrival, and were instructed to not eat them. At the appointed time, we were guided through a simple exercise of just seeing the piece of fruit; and smelling it; feeling it; and contemplating the planting of the tree that yielded it, and its growth; and considering the sunshine that ripens the fruit and makes it grow sweeter; and the rainfall; and the laboring hands of those who pick the fruit for our enjoyment. It is a gift of the whole universe—sky, sun, rain, earth, people—that instills in us a feeling of great gratitude. (You alchemists out there are smiling knowingly in recognition.)

And then it was time to eat the tangerine. The Eating Meditation teaches us to be present with our food, appreciating the love and hard work that goes into producing it, so that we truly may be nourished by the food. Peeling the tangerine with a neighbor, pairs of us shared the pleasures of eating the fruit together.

That all may sound simple, but as the monk named Sister Brightness explained, these exercises affect a very complex change in the psyche. Mindfulness, she explained, originally was known as “right mindfulness.” Right, not as in value judgments, but meaning a oneness of mind and body that produces great understanding that we can cultivate in ourselves, as we come to a level of concentration and joy with each breath in and each breath out. The breathing allows us to sustain awareness, “and every moment is a Friday, a weekend.”

Brother Jewel with tangerine.

All of this helps me as I prepare to present “Come to Your Senses!” at Inspiratus Masonic Lodge in New Jersey on the 28th. This will be a new and improved version of the talk I gave before the Masonic Restoration Foundation last month in Philadelphia—which reminds me I haven’t posted news and photos from that weekend yet—before an audience of about 70 Freemasons from all over the country. The lecture, which is informed by proprietary instruction from the School of Practical Philosophy, ran 20 minutes, and the Q&A required another half hour, which was great because it showed me how much information I neglected to address in my 20 minutes. I am hardly experienced in the ways of mindfulness, so I am looking forward to getting back to NYU for a special event for alumni on the afternoon of October 24 for more instruction.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

‘Five not so easy Bach pieces’

Bro. Erik Carlson of Publicity Lodge No. 1000 in New York City performs Léon Boëllmann's Suite Gothique at Vincent United Methodist Church in Nutley, New Jersey this afternoon.

Just a quick recap of Bro. Erik Carlson’s organ recital this afternoon in Nutley, New Jersey: Well, I loved it.

Several dozen gathered at Vincent United Methodist Church to enjoy Erik’s mastery of the pipe organ. The pipes are concealed, so I don’t know how many the organ has, but the sound flooded the small, but acoustically marvelous, space. The program offered five Johann Sebastian Bach pieces, and one each from Johann Pachelbel (yes, there is more to Pachelbel than his Canon) and Léon Boëllmann.

Bach – Prelude in G Major (BMV 568)

Bach – Concerto in G Major (BMV 980)
Largo e cantabile

Bach – Prelude and Fugue in E Minor (BMV 555)

Bach – If Thou but Suffer God to Guide Thee (BMV 642)

Bach – Pastorale in F Major (BMV 590)
Alla Siciliana
Alla Gigue

Pachelbel – Theme with Eight Variations on O Sacred Head Now Wounded

Boëllmann – Suite Gothique (Opus 25)
Introduction – Choral
Menuet Gothique
Prière à Notre-Dame

And Bro. Erik closed the performance with an incredibly rousing Lutheran hymn titled “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God.”

I am unfamiliar with all of these pieces of music, so this was a revelation to me. I probably have heard the Bach compositions before, likely during WKCR’s annual Bachfest during the last ten days of the year, but I can’t say I know them. The Pachelbel piece either. And I’ve never even heard of Boëllmann, much less his Gothic Suite.

Vincent United Methodist Church is undertaking a fundraiser to make much needed repairs to its organ. Feel free to contact Becky Olivo here to help out.

‘Traubenfest 2015’

I haven’t actually seen an official announcement for Traubenfest yet, but I have seen other sources discuss it, so I’ll go ahead and state here that Traubenfest 2015 is scheduled for Sunday, October 4—just three weeks away—at German Masonic Park in Tappan, New York.

Magpie file photo
The celebration of German culture—the 125th annual, if I’m not mistaken—will be hosted by the Ninth Manhattan District, home to New York Freemasonry’s German heritage lodges, and it is a great day of German food, German beer, and German music. It usually does take place on the same date as Grand Master’s Day in Tappan, and that is another reason I’m willing to say October 4 is right—but hopefully the organizers will offer news for dissemination soon.

German Masonic Park is located at 89 Western Highway, only about a mile from DeWint House, where Grand Master’s Day will be hosted that afternoon, but that event will end early enough to allow for ample enjoyment of the rest of the day at Traubenfest, which runs from noon to six o’clock.

It’s a great time—family friendly and all that—and every chance I have attended these past five or six years the weather has been perfect. See you there.

‘The Pipe of Reconciliation’

One essential periodical that is as healthy as ever is Parabola. I make a point of not publishing others’ articles in their entirety, but when I do, it usually is from Parabola. This one is an oldie from 1989, but the editors linked to it on Facebook several weeks ago, and I’m glad they did. Being a believer in the varied benefits of pipe smoking, I share it here with you.

The following is copyright © 1989, 2015 Parabola.

The Pipe of Reconciliation
by Joseph Epes Brown

Click to enlarge.

Dr. Joseph K. Dixon, A Native American sends smoke signals in Montana, June 1909, National Geographic Creative.

The sacred pipe of the Native Americans is a potent symbol of relationship. Through it the human breath sends to all the six directions the purifying smoke that connects the person to the divine and is the link between all forms of life: mitakuye oyasin, we are all relatives.

In the foreword to The Sacred Pipe: Black Elk’s Account of the Seven Rites of the Oglala Sioux (recorded and edited by Joseph Epes Brown. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1953), Black Elk is quoted saying:

“Most people call it a ‘peace pipe,’ yet now there is no peace on earth or even between neighbors, and I have been told that it has been a long time since there has been peace in the world. There is much talk of peace among the Christians, yet this is just talk. Perhaps it may be, and this is my prayer that, through our sacred pipe, and through this book in which I shall explain what our pipe really is, peace may come to those peoples who can understand, an understanding which must be of the heart and not of the head alone. Then they will realize that we Indians know the One true God, and that we pray to Him continually.”

On a recent visit to Joseph Epes Brown, we were shown a beautiful pipe and a braid of sweet grass, and he told us the following:

This is the pipe that was given to me by an old Assiniboin when I was traveling west to find old man Black Elk. I found out where he was, in Nebraska, and walked into his tent with this pipe, and I prepared it and lit it and puffed on it and passed it to him. And he puffed on it and passed it back. I was getting a little bit uneasy, and he looked at me and said, “I’ve been expecting you. Why did it take you so long to get here?”

The sweet grass is mostly to add some fragrance, like incense. Back in Maine when I was a boy, I made friends with some of the Abenaki people there. They used to hunt on our land, and they would give me these braids of sweet grass.

Once the pipe is lit, it is very important to keep it going. They pass it around the sacred circle where the Sun Dance takes place, and they use it to smoke people with, too—they smoke the dancers, as part of the ceremony. There’s a lot of smoke, believe me.

I remember how much Black Elk used to smoke. He smoked violently. He would actually disappear in the smoke: smoke would seem to be coming out of his ears and eyes.

The pipe is always associated with the center. It is pointed to all four directions in ceremonies like the Sun Dance, then pointed above and below as well. It ties them together— the horizontal and the vertical. That’s very important. The symbolism is very rich. For the Indians, the smoking of the pipe is the same as taking the Eucharist to a Christian.

The bowl of the pipe is essentially the place of the heart, and the stem is the breath passage. There’s also the foot, on which the pipe rests.

They associate the pipe with the human person: it’s anthropomorphic symbolism. Like a pipe, a person has a mouth and windpipe, he has a heart, and he has a foot. And his heart is where the fire is. In the pipe it is the point of interception, where the tobacco burns. In the ceremony, they designate each pinch of tobacco: this one for the winged of the air, for example, this one for the horned beasts, this one for the fishes. They do the same with all the beings of creation. And then the smoke contains all that which has been made sacred by the fire.

The pipe also represents the relationship between the people who are participating. The ceremony is a communal thing; it is one pipe that is passed to everyone. It speaks of who we are, in a sacred sense—that we are all relatives. It’s the idea of the joining of all peoples—which is certainly a very real kind of reconciliation, on a very high level.

Joseph Epes Brown on the Native American symbol of relationship, Parabola, Winter 1989, “Triad.” This issue is available here.


Saturday, September 12, 2015

‘The end of a Tradition’

I was sorry to see the announcement earlier this week from the Journal of the Western Mystery Tradition of its demise.

There is a grave shortage of resources and knowing writers in the English-speaking world of Western hidden wisdom, and this closure is as apt an example as any of what this deficiency produces.

The announcement on Monday from the publisher:

For a second cycle now, we have not had enough material to put together an issue of the Journal of the Western Mystery Tradition. So, after 15 years, the Journal is coming to an end. Archives of the Journal will, at least for the time being, remain online.

Jeffrey Kupperman

‘Cults and Secret Societies in Brooklyn’

Sorry, I had meant to post this earlier, but on Wednesday night, Morbid Anatomy Museum will host author Julie Tibbott for a lecture on “Cults and Secret Societies: A to Z, an Illustrated Lecture” beginning at eight o’clock. The author will return Wednesday the 23rd for a second lecture titled “Secret New York Exposed.”

Morbid Anatomy is located at 424A Third Avenue in Brooklyn. The cost of admission is $8 for Wednesday, or $13 for both lectures, and can be purchased here.

From the publicity:

Join Julie Tibbott, author of the book Members Only: Secret Societies, Sects, and Cults Exposed, for a strange storybook journey through the world of cults, secret societies, and other exclusive groups. In this slideshow presentation, stylized to mimic a twisted alphabet book for grown-ups, A is for All-Seeing Eye, B is for Brainwashing, C is for Costumes…and so on! We’ll visit exotic locales, from the spiritualist hamlet of Lily Dale, New York, to the Jonestown commune deep in the jungle of Guyana; encounter larger-than-life personalities, such as Patty Hearst and Aleister Crowley; learn about secret initiation rites, magical rituals, reptilian humanoids, and much, much more! It’s a lighthearted look at some of the darker corners of history, sure to spark the imagination and make you feel like a curious kid who just found some very creepy reading material.

The lecture will be followed by a Q&A session and book signing. It is part of the “Secret Societies, Sects, and Cults Exposed” lecture series with Julie Tibbott. “Secret New York Exposed” will be presented on the 23rd of September.

I guess we’re not talking Rose Circle caliber revelation here, but it sounds like fun. You can’t go wrong for eight bucks. You can’t even see a movie in Brooklyn for eight bucks.

‘Stumble down life’s checkered street’

Poets.org, the website of the Academy of American Poets, offers this today:


Come, brothers all!
Shall we not wend
The blind-way of our prison-world
By sympathy entwined?
Shall we not make
The bleak way for each other’s sake
Less rugged and unkind?
O let each throbbing heart repeat
The faint note of another’s beat
To lift a chanson for the feet
That stumble down life’s checkered street.

- Georgia Douglas Johnson

Georgia Douglas Johnson was born in Atlanta, Georgia in 1880. A member of the Harlem Renaissance, her collections of poetry include The Heart of a Woman (The Cornhill Company, 1918) and Share My World (Halfway House, 1962). She died in 1966.

Monday, September 7, 2015

‘Elias Ashmole’s alchemy anthology’

It’s been a while since I posted an unsolicited promotional announcement of Ouroboros Press’ wonderful publications, but the books these people produce are of such luxurious and dazzling quality, that I am happy to help spread the word.

Courtesy Ouroboros Press

Ouroboros’ latest is Theatrum Chemicum Britannicum, the Complete and Corrected Edition, which is “An Annotated Catalogue of Printed Books on Alchemy, Chemistry and Cognate Subjects.” Manly Hall called the text “marvelous” and by “the most learned antiquarian of his age.”

In Freemasonry, Ashmole is merely a curiosity, remembered only because someone discovered his brief notes among his personal papers recording the day—October 16, 1646—when he was initiated into the fraternity. Outside Masonry however, Elias Ashmole (1617-92) was an aristocrat, public official, Fellow of the Royal Society, gentleman, doctor of medicine, Royalist for Charles II, and, among other admirable pursuits, the benefactor of the Ashmolean Museum at Oxford University—regarded as the first public museum in the West.

Courtesy Ouroboros Press
“Wherefore you that love to converse with the Dead, or consult with their Monuments, draw near: perhaps you may find more benefit in them then the Living; There you may meet with the Genii of our Hermetique Philosophers, learne the Language in which they woo’d and courted Dame Nature, and enjoy them more freely, and at Greater Command, (to satisfie your Doubts) than when they were in the Flesh; For, they have Written more then they would Speake; and left their Lines so Rich, as if they had dissolved Gold in their Inke, and clad their Words with the Soveraign Moysture.”

Elias Ashmole
Theatrum Chemicum Britannicum

This book, first published in 1652, is an anthology of poetry written by diverse English authors on alchemy. I’m sure there are other editions available, but none like this. From the publicity:

Courtesy Ouroboros Press
The Theatrum Chemicum Britannicum is a major collection of English alchemical texts which encapsulate the arcana of the Magnum Opus in poetic form. Originally gathered by Elias Ashmole from several rare medieval manuscripts, the text represents the largest collection of verse concerning the production of the Philosopher’s Stone to be brought together in one volume. Ashmole’s pride in English literature was amplified through the consideration he gave to the project. In deciding which texts should be included in the book, he details ancient British examples among the Druids and the Bardic Tradition and explains that poesy is much better than mere verse. Here we find well-known names in the alchemical corpus, among whom are included: Thomas Norton, George Ripley, Geoffrey Chaucer, John Daston, Pearce the Black Monke, Richard Carpenter, Abraham Andrews, Thomas Charnock, William Bloomefield, Edward Kelley, John Dee, Thomas Robinson, William Backhouse, John Gower, John Lydgate, W. Redman, and several anonymous authors. This who’s who of English alchemists is placed in historical context by a Prolegomena by Ashmole, which supports his thesis that England may be proud of its alchemical literary heritage. In addition, Ashmole has provided ample annotations and commentary on each of the texts as supplementary material in the concluding chapter of the book. The text has a new introduction by William Kiesel and a full bibliography of alchemical and bibliographic materials used in researching the text.

Click here for a full list of the contents.

This complete edition of Theatrum Chemicum Britannicum goes beyond the mere reprinting of the original pages as past facsimiles have done. Using the original errata sheets provided by Ashmole, the entire text has been corrected and reset in a more readable typeface and features clear reproductions of the original engravings produced by Robert Vaughan. In addition, this edition features a more complete version of the Breviary of Natural Philosophy by Thomas Charnock by employing a complete manuscript of the text not available to Ashmole in 1652. This is the most ambitious publishing project embraced by Ouroboros Press in its years of laboring to bring source works of western esotericism to scholars and collectors alike. Over a dozen individuals and institutions worked hard to bring the book into this complete and corrected edition. This is fine esoteric book arts at its best, a volume Elias Ashmole himself would be proud of.

“In scope, these poems encompass all of the aspects of the great work: theory and practice, instructions on furnaces and vessels, or on substances to be avoided, and allegorical accounts intended to convey the most important secrets.”

Didier Kahn, author of Alchemical Poetry in Medieval and Early Modern Europe: A Preliminary Survey and Synthesis Part I — Preliminary Survey
Ambix Volume 57, Number 3, November 2010

Courtesy Ouroboros Press
Robert Vaughan’s Engraving.

Theatrum Chemicum Britannicum features several engraved plates by Robert Vaughan (not to be confused with Thomas Vaughan, author of Lumen de Lumen.) C. H. Josten notes “these engravings are probably the earliest engraved reproductions of miniatures from an illuminated manuscript.” The manuscripts in question are preserved in the British Library. The engravings are certainly among the most beautifully rendered in the alchemical corpus. Heralding from the emblematic tradition, such engravings are by now hallmarks of the famous alchemical books extant. According to Ashmole’s diary, Vaughan actually came to stay with him where the artist “wrought and finished all the Cutts.” The images themselves feature several alchemical scenes depicting famous alchemists, work in laboratories, astrological charts, as well as allegorical themes, and the larger images are each surrounded by foliated borders which are also populated with animals, insects, and birds. The book also has a few engraved ornamental grotesques, alchemical dragons, trees, and fleurons scattered throughout the text.

Courtesy Ouroboros Press
The Folding Plate: John Goddard’s Diagram.

In addition to Vaughan’s engravings there is a folding plate by another artist which is to be found in the Compound of Alchemie, or Twelve Gates by George Ripley. This typographical diagram labeled “Here followeth the Figure conteyning all the secrets of the Treatise both great & small” was originally rendered by John Goddard. Again in keeping with the original, the folding plate is included in the Ouroboros Press edition with the Latin parts translated into English by Darius Klein.

Text designed by William Berkson, is based on an early font cut by William Caslon who in the 18th century made British printers’ dependence on Dutch type a thing of the past. Caslon’s typeface was also popular in America and it was utilized by Mary Katherine Goddard of Baltimore for the printing of the Declaration of Independence. The Fleurons Garamont ornaments, based on 16th century originals, were designed by Bruce Rogers, the famous American book and type designer. The fine engravings by Robert Vaughan were scanned from a first edition copy of the Theatrum Chemicum Britannicum which was originally owned by Isaac Newton.

Two versions of this text are still available.

Trade Cloth Edition: Gilt-stamped cloth over boards in letterpress printed dust jacket. Over thirty alchemical texts in 528 pages. Illustrated, bibliography and table of obscure words. $75.00

Special deluxe bindings in leather and vellum will be executed with traditional bookbinding technique by the studios of Ars Obscura Bookbinding utilizing antique book presses.

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Sunday, September 6, 2015

‘Boston University Lodge AF&AM’

The marriage of colleges and universities to Freemasonry is a subject dear to me, not for the penchant for making more Masons, but for the proximity to education and culture. It’s a natural partnership that we do not see nearly enough. My own dream is to found Perstare et Praestare Lodge (to perservere and to excel) No. 1831 to meet in one of those beautiful townhouses along Washington Square North, but I digress.

Meanwhile in Massachusetts, Boston University Lodge has two events upcoming that you should know about, one this month, and the latter next spring. From the publicity:

Tales from the Vault:
10 Things You Didn’t Know About Masonic Aprons
Thursday, September 24 at 6 p.m.

Open to the public

Boston University Lodge AF&AM
186 Tremont Street
Boston, Massachusetts

As part of the Alumni Weekend events, we have asked Aimee Newell, Director of Collections at the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum and Library, to give a presentation. The event is open to the public. A social period will follow the presentation.

Called “the badge of a Freemason” in Masonic ritual, the fraternity’s apron was adapted from the protective aprons worn by working stonemasons during the 1600s and 1700s. Still worn by members today, the apron remains one of the iconic symbols of Freemasonry. The Scottish Rite Masonic Museum and Library has more than 400 aprons in its collection, dating from the mid-1700s to the present; and made in the United States, England, China, and other countries. Aimee Newell will share examples of aprons from the Museum’s collection, telling stories about their manufacture and use and highlighting new discoveries uncovered in her research for The Badge of a Freemason: Masonic Aprons from the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum and Library (published in 2015). A book-signing will follow the talk. Books will be available for $42.45 (tax included).

Aimee E. Newell previously worked as the Curator of Collections at the Nantucket Historical Association and as the Curator of Textiles and Fine Arts at Old Sturbridge Village. She holds a B.A. in American Studies from Amherst College, a M.A. in History from Northeastern University, and a Ph.D. in History from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. She is the lead author of Curiosities of the Craft: Treasures from the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts Collection (2013), and the author of The Badge of a Freemason: Masonic Aprons from the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library (2015). Newell writes and lectures frequently on American Masonic and fraternal history.

It’s a no-brainer. If you are in or near Boston, get there.

Next year, the lodge will endeavor something novel and massive: the academic conference. Details will be forthcoming, but save the dates March 31 through April 3, 2016 at the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts for the North American Masonic Academic Convocation. (Yeah, let that phrase sink in for a minute: North American Masonic Academic Convocation.)

Thursday, March 31—Kick-off lecture on Boston University campus.

Friday, April 1—Social outing.

Saturday, April 2—Convocation, break-out sessions, and dinner.

Sunday, April 3—To be determined.

Details are promised to come soon.

The lodge’s 90th anniversary will arrive October 8. Many happy returns, brethren! Many happy returns!

Saturday, September 5, 2015

‘News from Masonic Hall’

With the resumption of Masonic labors after a (particularly glorious) summer refreshment, news of some changes at Masonic Hall, the headquarters of the Grand Lodge of New York, is getting around.

Courtesy GLNY

First, the air conditioning! As reported here last year, the scheme to bring central air conditioning to our 100+ year-old home has been tackled. When you have serious trustees who are supported by the Grand Lodge, big jobs get done. This doesn’t happen everywhere, believe me.

“We have started up the air conditioning for the 11 lodge rooms, including the collation rooms on the eighth and tenth floors today,” said Bro. Paul Reitz, Trustee of the Masonic Hall and Home. “I am sure we will have some minor kinks in the system, but we are pleased that the air handling units are very quiet. You can hardly feel the air-flow, and we have matched, as closely as possible, the diffusers to the colors in the lodge rooms.”

Facts we need to know:

  • The chiller is clock-operated. It will be turned on weekdays at 5 p.m., and Saturdays at two o’clock.
  • The lodge rooms and the dining rooms will have their cooling settings turned on by building staff at 5:30, and they will remain set for six hours.
  • Do not touch the thermostats. The people who know how they work have set them for us already. And don’t touch the controls in the locker rooms either.

Bro. Reitz will make sure the complete rules of operation are posted in the lodge rooms and locker rooms.

Thank you, Trustees!

At the Chancellor Robert R. Livingston Masonic Library, new hours of operation have been announced:

Monday through Friday: 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

No evening hours. No weekend or holiday hours.

Inquiries: 212.337.6620.