Saturday, April 25, 2015
It made me realize it has been—amazingly—nine years since the Rose Circle Research Foundation’s first conference, but today the official Facebook page for Rose Circle went live. Facebook users click here.
I don’t write about Rose Circle much because it’s been more than four years since the last event—and I remember now that I never even got around to telling you about that—but if you don’t know, the Rose Circle Research Foundation is an independent educational non-profit group that unites many of the top thinkers in the field of Western Mystery Traditions. Rosicrucianism, Spiritual Alchemy, Freemasonry, Tarot (not the fortune-telling nonsense), and other studies are investigated by world renowned researchers and authors who speak from the podium at Rose Circle’s very well attended conferences in the New York City area. An announcement of a new event is expected next month.
That first event took place April 29, 2006 at the Bayonne Masonic Temple in New Jersey, the home of my Olde Mother Lodge. That one day brought together Michael Buckley, Chic Cicero, Sean Graystone, Trevor Stewart, Piers Vaughan, and others for an incredible and unforgettable celebration of enlightening the mind and invigorating the heart. To see these people, plus Robert Davis, Ron Cappello, Aaron Shoemaker, Thurman Pace, and more still seated in my Masonic lodge was a big thrill. (See below for the summary I shared with the Masonic Light group a few days later.)
Later gatherings, in 2008 and 2011, featured Steve Burkle, Chic and Tabatha Cicero, R.A. Gilbert, Christopher McIntosh, and many others, who I won’t embarrass by including them among the Pantheon, but all have dazzled with their esoteric understandings, historic findings, and other weighty stimuli. Just incredible events.
And here is that report from the first Rose Circle conference of nine years ago. Please read this patiently. The facts and concepts expressed here were almost totally foreign to me in 2006, and are only slightly familiar today. All errors and omissions are attributable to me, and not to the speakers. Sorry to say I have no photos of this event. I sat in the Senior Warden’s station with my old Minolta SLR and dutifully shot several rolls of film—that’s right: rolls of film!—and the prints are long gone. Anyway, happy anniversary, Rose Circle.
On Saturday, the newly blossomed Rose Circle Committee hosted its premier symposium on matters concerning and relating to the Craft. The Western Mystery Schools in Modern Masonry Conference met at the Bayonne Masonic Temple in New Jersey and was attended by approximately 100 men and women of all ages. No fewer than seven scholars presented multimedia programs on their fields of interest.
Bro. Aaron Shoemaker of Missouri, whose introductory address focused on the crucial need for mainstream Freemasonry to provide the secret teachings that many young Masons and prospective Masons are seeking. His insightful remarks definitely set the tone for the day; we in the audience had no doubt that the “thinking Mason” would be celebrated that day.
These Masons have “interest in pursuing the various rites and degrees, and not in collecting more aprons, titles and pins,” he said. He then charged us with the tasks of writing papers for our lodges and publications and to serve in leadership and committees for the very “survival of the fraternity.”
He concluded his remarks with words from Manly Hall’s The Lost Keys of Freemasonry:
“Masonry is eternal truth, personified, idealized, and yet made simple. Eternal truth alone can serve it. Virtue is its priest, patience its warden, illumination its master. The world cannot know this, however, save when Masons in their daily life prove that it is so. Its truth is divine, and is not to be desecrated or defamed by the thoughtlessness of its keepers. Its temple is a holy place, to be entered in reverence. Material thoughts and material dissensions must be left without its gate. They may not enter. Only the pure of heart, regenerated and transmuted, may pass the sanctity of its veil. The schemer has no place in its ranks, nor the materialist in its shrine; for Masons walk on hallowed ground, sanctified by the veneration of ages. Let the tongue be stilled, let the heart be stilled, let the mind be stilled. In reverence and in the silence, stillness shall speak: the voice of stillness is the voice of the Creator. Show your light and your power to men, but before God what have you to offer, save in humility? Your robes, your tinsel, and your jewels mean naught to Him, until your own body and soul, gleaming with the radiance of perfection, become the living ornaments of your Lodge.”
Next, Bro. Sean Graystone, 33° of New Mexico and a Board member of the Scottish Rite Research Society spoke on “Kabbalistic Symbolism in Freemasonry.”
He explained that the Kabbala of Western Hermetic thought is not identical to the classic Hebrew Kabbala, but is a “fabricated language of mysteries” drawing from Hebrew, Greek and Latin. He addressed gematria, a “highly sophisticated cyphering method,” that has enormous implications for esoteric Freemasonry. Taking the first word of Genesis, Graystone explained that this word in Hebrew (Bereshith) is an acronym for “In the beginning the Elohim saw that Israel would accept the law.”
Looking at the Hebrew word for “stone,” he explained that it is spelled with the Hebrew letters Ab (meaning “father”) and Ben (meaning “son”). Turning to Psalm 118, he said that the gematria of “the stone rejected by the builders” = 274, which equals that of the name Hiram Abiff.
Next, Bro. Chic Cicero, Grand Standard Bearer of the Grand Commandery of Knights Templar of Florida, delivered a dramatic talk on the “History and Modern Manifestations of Rosicrucianism.” Explaining that Rosicrucianism is a three-fold mix of alchemy, psychology and mysticism, Cicero spoke at length on the power of the number 3 as a symbol to aid seekers in their quest for spiritual awareness. “The goal of alchemy,” he said, “is to bring humanity to its pre-ordained state of perfection” through the uncovering of inner wisdom that will carry “man’s lower nature to a higher attainment.”
Rosicrucian labor was shown to consist of a “dissolve and coagulate” method in which heat is applied to cause separation and solvents are used to attain purification before recombination is achieved.
Making parallels between psychology and faith, Cicero maintained that “the psyche is as real as the body is real,” and explained that events in the New Testament (Christ’s descent into Hell, for example) illustrate how confrontation is a step that need be taken toward reaching self-awareness.
Bro. Cicero does not mince words. At his conclusion he stated without hesitation that atheists and hedonists can never attain what the “true mystic” can because of their inability to suppress the ego.
It must be noted that there actually was an eighth speaker during the memorable day. VW Bro. Piers Vaughan of St. John’s Lodge No. 1, AYM, serving as emcee, took to the podium after each presentation to draw the conclusions that helped the rapt audience segue into each upcoming lecture. I think his job was the most difficult because the seven lecturers (for the most part) had their prepared texts and PowerPoint files, but Vaughan had to speak extemporaneously and with authority on each of these diverse topics, while establishing commonality among them all. To cite just one example, after Shoemaker’s introductory lecture on the allure of esoteric symbolism and before Graystone’s talk on Kabbala (and during the retooling of the audio/video equipment), Vaughan spoke convincingly of the urgent need for grand lodges to stop buying billboard space to tell the world that Masonry has no secrets. It’s not the meals and the charity that draw people to Masonry and the societies that surround it, he explained, but it is the religious (but not dogmatic) themes and the esoteric meaning of their rituals that are rooted in ancient Israel.
Bro. Michael Buckley addressed the conference on the subject of “Martinism and the Way of the Heart,” a topic perfect for him, as he is Grand Master of both the Martinist Order of Unknown Philosophers and the Hermetic Order of Martinists.
I won’t get too detailed here, as Buckley spoke of Martinism’s history, degree structure and other facts that are likely on the web. If I understood him though, the philosophy of Martinism can be likened to the ideals of Voltaire and the politics of Rousseau.
And I will say that I’m sorry to have missed ML’s very own Bro. Ron Blaisdell, Past Provincial Grand Recorder/Chancellor, who said he was coming from Florida. Ron, I don’t know if you made it to Bayonne, but if so, I am sorry I didn’t find you! Unfortunately I had to leave before the start of the panel discussion to help a brother catch a train at the Hoboken terminal and I couldn’t make it back to Bayonne because of heavy traffic. I did get to shake hands again with Ill. Robert Davis of Oklahoma, who I hear will return to New Jersey June 3 to speak at our Scottish Rite Council of Deliberation. Bob, I’ll have some cigars for you.
Bro. Gregory White, of Circle of Friends Chapter in California (I don’t know what this is a chapter of), gave us all “An Introduction to Tarot, Book ‘T’ of the Rosicrucian Manifesto.”
“The tarot deck,” said Bro. White, “is a map that moves us through the world” and “keeps the mind from wandering and helps redirect our thinking away from anger.” It is said that when the perfectly preserved corpse of Christian Rosenkreutz was discovered, in his hands was Book T, which, it was explained here, is the tarot deck. White mentioned that there are several very common tarot decks, but that the one appearing in his PowerPoint slides was “very Masonic.” And as regards spirituality, he borrowed from author David Hawkins’ “Spheres of Influences,” which charts the progression from Mundane to Astral to Spirit, a journey that I think is undertaken by prayer, followed by theurgy (ritualized prayer), followed by meditation, followed by use of the tarot cards.
And how are the cards employed? White showed one set of placement. Imagine four blackjack players and a dealer. The four are abreast of each other and the dealer is alone. The four settings are Past, Action, Result and Future, and the dealer is Present. White said (I think) the order of the five actually doesn’t matter because the cards will find their rightful places. (I’m sure someone here can make sense of this because I probably misunderstood.) He also showed the 22 trump cards and explained some of their archetypal natures. The Fool always means potential, he said, so there may be hope for me yet.
The sole speaker to receive a standing ovation was New Jersey’s own Bro. Taras Chubenko, who I’m privileged to know through my York Rite activities. He is protopresbyter of New Jersey’s largest Orthodox congregation and I know him as a very inspirational and thoughtful man who has made an enormous difference in the lives of two people I care about. His topic was “The Rectified Current of Christian Masonry and Mysticism in the Chivalric Orders,” which took him entirely by surprise. He digressed and spoke without notes on how our everyday concerns and activities can conspire to occlude Light from reaching us and reflecting off us. “We circumvent faith and want to see everything on paper,” he observed, “but there is nothing holy about the Bible (as an object). It is the CONTENT that can be holy to those who ‘see’ holiness.... There is an aura around each of us. Your ‘third eye’ can see it.”
On chivalry, he suggested its purest definition calls men to be true in the “embracing of the other sex” and be “accepting of women.” Yet another instance of this conference’s seeming mirroring of ML.
In conclusion, and perhaps provoking the aforementioned ‘standing O,’ Chubenko left the audience with this thought: “Heaven isn’t ‘up there’ and Hell isn’t ‘down there,’ but Heaven is right in front of you.”
Continuing on the theme of tolerance, VW Vaughan reminded us of how KST had many different groups of workers all doing their own tasks but working as one, united toward achieving a common goal. He repeated a call for which he is known: that Freemasonry’s fundraising experts, ritualists, dinner planners and scholars need to support each other’s endeavors because each represents an important facet of the Craft.
And last, but not least, and returning to New Jersey for the first time since his appearance as Prestonian Lecturer in 2004, Bro. Trevor Stewart of Quatuor Coronati opened all our eyes to Joséphin Péladan and his Salons de la Rose-Croix. Unfortunately time did not allow for more enjoyment of the dozens of PowerPoint slides showing off the truly stunning “symbolic art” paintings produced in Paris from 1892 to 1897 for these exhibitions. There’s truly nothing I can say to describe any of them. They must be viewed intently and joyfully, and perhaps accompanied by Holst’s work “The Planets.”
There were six Salons de la Rose Croix in this period, each dedicated to a Babylonian deity. The following is the list matching deity with planet and with (mythological) attribute.
The stated purpose of the Salon de la Rose Croix was “to ruin realism, reform Latin taste and create a school of idealist art.” This invitational Order was flawed, said Stewart, in that its purpose was defined not in terms of what the salon was, but in terms of what it was not, quite possibly resulting in the absence of France’s leading artists of the day. For example a lengthy list of prohibitive rules excluded the following subjects: history painting; patriotic and military painting; representations of contemporary life; portraits; rustic scenes; landscapes; seascapes and sailors; all humorous things; “merely picturesque Orientalism;” all domestic animals and those relating to sport; flowers, fruit, still lifes “and other exercises that painters ordinarily have the effrontery to exhibition.”
The list of acceptable themes was much shorter, but covered many media. Of architecture: “since this art was killed in 1789, only restorations or projects for fairly tale palaces are acceptable.”(!)
The results briefly glimpsed via PowerPoint were shocking in their daring originality. Even the posters made to advertise the events were stunning, including one depicting Perseus clutching Zola’s decapitated head.
“When the simple is ambiguous, what does it mean?” asked Stewart on behalf of M. Péladan. “Symbolic art is subjective. It appeals to the irrational and the variable.”
Despite having missed the panel discussion on “Esoteric Orders Today,” to which the audience was encouraged to submit written questions, this conference meant so much to me I can’t even articulate it. [Sorry, Magpie readers, but I have to omit several sentences here.] And then along came Piers Vaughan and the Rose Circle Committee and their outstanding symposium, bringing together experts and seekers from across two continents... and all under my own roof, to boot. It was hugely inspirational to look around my lodge room and see Trevor Stewart and see Robert Davis and Taras Chubenko and all the diverse, eclectic personalities in the audience... sitting at the edge of their seats.
It’s my understanding that other Rose Circle conferences are to come. I recommend keeping an eye on this and buying your tickets early.