Friday, September 26, 2014

‘Fill in the blanks’

(With apologies to Time Out.)

Masonic lodges in the Northern Hemisphere have resumed their labors after the summer refreshment, so we again are mindful of lodge life. I wonder if anyone would care to fill in these blanks:

The perfect lodge has __________, __________, and __________... and definitely is __________!

Not a ploy to draw comments, I promise. I’m truly interested in hearing. Please feel free to reply in the comments section below. If you prefer to remain anonymous, just say so, and I’ll publish your answers without identifying you.

I intended to post this several years ago, so I will make it a new edition of Flashback Friday.


Thursday, September 25, 2014

‘This wreath of cypress, this garland of roses’

Even as the acacia bends before the tempest, and falls into the waters that murmur at its feet, so has fallen our beloved brother. The widow’s son has forever left this sublunary sphere. Sorrow darkens our countenances, and our eyes are dimmed with tears for we have lost our brightest Light. The Masters are plunged in sorrow; the workmen lament; and even among the profane the voice of grief is heard. Our brother is no more.

Funeral Ceremony worked under the Patriarch Grand Eulogist Degree (23°), but publicly, by a Grand Council in the Antient & Primitive Rite of Masonry of the United Kingdom c.1875. Published in 2003 by the Grand College of Rites as Volume 18, Part I as Statutes, Public Ceremonials and History of the Antient & Primitive Rite of Masonry.

I just received the sad news of the passing last night of Most Illustrious Lawrence “Lonnie” Jolma, Grand Chancellor of the Grand College of Rites.

M.I. Lonnie Jolma in 2013.

I cannot say I knew him well, but he certainly was a familiar and friendly face about the apartments of Masonic Week. In addition to presiding over the GCR since February, Lonnie was a presence in other fraternities that gather in Virginia every winter. He also served importantly in the Templars, the Cryptic Rite (MIGM of Washington, DC in 2008), and I don’t doubt elsewhere. He was a Past Master of Potomac Lodge No. 5 in DC. He was among the first to become a member of The Masonic Society, which is meaningful to me. Lonnie Jolma was an FBI agent—and looked like one too!

The Grand College’s altar will be draped in black when we’ll meet January 31. Again from the Antient & Primitive 23° funerary rite:

Courtesy GL of BC&Y
I now place on our Brother’s Tomb this wreath of cypress, emblem not only of death, but of eternity. We must banish from our minds the morbid feelings that make us shrink from everything denoting the great change awaiting all. We must teach ourselves to look with calmness on the emblems of mortality, to prove that we are superior to the childish prejudices of the uninitiated, and that when the Ceremonies of this sacred Rite demand it, we can conquer any repugnance to what seems, but is not, painful and revolting. This has a moral, teaching also: All that live must die, passing from nature to eternity.

This garland of Roses, which I now place on the tomb is an emblem of life eternal.

All teach the same great lesson: life in death, and death in life—succeeding to all eternity.

Friday, September 19, 2014

‘A Scots Lodge in England’

RW Trevor Stewart presenting the 2011
Wendell K. Walker Lecture at The Players.
With results of Scotland’s plebiscite expected momentarily, and having just gotten home from The Old Lodge, the Wendell K. Walker Lecture of 2011 is an apt choice for today’s Flashback Friday. None other than RW Bro. Trevor Stewart was chosen to present the lecture to Independent Royal Arch Lodge No. 2, highlighting a great evening at The Players. I just wish I could remember what he said.

The lecture is an annual tradition, and this one was part of the 250th anniversary celebration of “Old Number 2.” It is named for a notable figure in the world of Masonic learning. MW Bro. Walker was one of the forces who made the Chancellor Robert R. Livingston Masonic Library the world renowned institution we know today, and who helped launch The American Lodge of Research in 1931. And what better lecturer to bring to the podium than Trevor? The then Right Worshipful Master of Sir Robert Moray Lodge No. 1641 in Edinburgh is no stranger to the First Manhattan District. He came, as he phrased it, “to make announcements of small discoveries that I have made that make a contribution.”

Unfortunately, that quotation is the extent of my notes from the night of March 24, 2011 to have survived to this day, and I have that little notebook page thanks only to a phone number on the back, although I don’t know now whose number it is. So I apologize for this anti-climactic conclusion, but all I remember for certain is that Trevor told us how Robert Moray’s initiation into Freemasonry not only predates Elias Ashmole’s by almost six years, but also that the event bears the bizarre significance of it being the work of a Scottish military Masonic lodge at labor on English soil at Newcastle, while the Scottish army was besieging that city. There were other very odd circumstances at work, but I cannot remember with any accuracy what Trevor shared with us. That’s no reflection on Trevor’s research or delivery, of course, but simply is my own failing. (Trevor, if you happen to see this and care to e-mail me your lecture, I’d love to share its salient details here.)

So, on that disappointing note, have a nice weekend. Oh, the 2015 Wendell K. Walker Memorial Lecture is scheduled for Thursday, March 19. Details TBA.

The other memorable event that evening was the arrival of New York's Bravest, prompted by the accidental triggering of the establishment's fire alarm. Sadly, The Players had to kick us out and lock up for the night, by order of the Fire Marshal. There's Trevor in the foreground, trying, I think, to use his considerable powers of persuasion to keep the party going.

Friday, September 12, 2014

‘Esoteric Grand Central’

Obscura Society New York wants you to take a walk. With author Mitch Horowitz. Through Grand Central Terminal to see the esoteric clues in its design and décor.

Magpie file photo
Mercury atop Grand Central Terminal.

The New York chapter of the Atlas Obscura Society, a group that unites those who are curious enough about cultural oddities and occult landmarks to actually visit and tour them, has a 90-minute walking tour of Grand Central Terminal planned for next month. From the publicity:

Occult Grand Central
Friday, October 10
Noon to 1:30
Meet at 11:50 on the southeast corner
of Park Avenue and East 41st Street

Every day thousands of travelers gaze in wonder at Grand Central Terminal’s vast zodiac ceiling and the figure of Mercury towering over Park Avenue, but few ever grasp their true significance.

After this tour you’ll understand the real meaning behind these and other cornerstones of Grand Central’s design. Indeed, this crowning edifice of the Beaux-Arts architectural movement can only be fully understood by appreciating the occult themes encrypted within its appearance.

In this lively and intellectually substantive journey, writer and historian Mitch Horowitz, whose occult walking tours have been called a “can’t-miss event” by Time Out, reveals the esoteric imagery and backstory of Grand Central’s design, including the station’s colossal exterior monuments, its interior symbols and insignias, and how its appearance shaped the gothic look and feel of midtown Manhattan. The tour also features wonderful stories of the Vanderbilt family, who oversaw the making of Grand Central, and explores the occult atmosphere of the late Victorian and Edwardian age.

Magpie file photo
Mitch Horowitz at Quest,
January 2014.
Horowitz, a modern day, nonfiction Rod Serling, has a passion for mysteries surpassed only by his desire to uncover the truth. Mitch is a PEN Award-winning historian and an acclaimed writer and speaker on alternative spirituality. The Washington Post says Mitch “treats esoteric ideas and movements with an even-handed intellectual studiousness that is too often lost in today’s raised-voice discussions.” Mitch has written on everything from the war on witches to the secret life of Ronald Reagan for the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, Salon,,, and Boing Boing. He has discussed esoteric spirituality on CBS Sunday Morning, Dateline NBC, NPR’s All Things Considered, The Montel Williams Show, Coast to Coast AM, and virtually every cable network. Mitch is the author of Occult America and One Simple Idea: How Positive Thinking Reshaped Modern Life, and is vice president and editor-in-chief at Tarcher/Penguin.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

‘Masonic Ideals at The Met’

Just when you thought The Met had embarrassed itself irredeemably, it shows it still has cultural credibility – at least among the last remaining few of us who treasure Enlightenment thinking. Next month, the Metropolitan Opera House will host a lecture presented by WQXR host Nimet Habachy titled “Masonic Ideals: Die Zauberflöte.” From the publicity:

Tuesday, October 21
6 to 7 p.m.
Admission: $18

Courtesy WQXR
Nimet Habachy
Mozart’s final work to reach the stage was an immense success following its 1791 premiere, and has remained a fixture of the repertoire ever since.

Join Nimet Habachy as she takes a closer look at one of opera’s greatest classics.

The lecture will be held in the Opera Learning Center, located on the sixth floor of the Samuel B. and David Rose Building at Lincoln Center, near the corner of Amsterdam and 65th. For questions, call Lincoln Center at (212) 769-7028, Monday through Friday between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.

(Hat tip to St. John’s Lodge No. 1, Ancient York Masons.)

‘Mindfulness discussion at NYU’


The NYU Center for Spiritual Life is doing it again. On Sunday, November 2, it will host another panel discussion on mindfulness in different faith traditions. The center is located at 238 Thompson Street, and the discussion will be hosted in Grand Hall on the fifth floor from 1:30 to 4 p.m. From the publicity:

Mindfulness and meditation have historically played a role in nearly every major religious tradition, and yet it is only in recent times that many of these traditions are reclaiming those practices, educating their communities, and incorporating them into their spiritual lives. What are the meditation practices in Judaism, Islam, and Buddhism? How do they differ in each tradition, and how are they similar? Why is a renaissance of these practices important now? Internationally renowned spiritual teachers from each tradition will engage us in this conversation, followed by a Q&A.

Featuring Rabbi David Ingber (Judaism), Sarah Sayeed (Islam), and Ven Pannavati Bhikkuni (Buddhism). Moderated by Yael Shy, Co-Director of NYU’s Of Many Institute for Multifaith Leadership.

Co-sponsored by the Of Many Institute, the Mindfulness Project at NYU, and others.


Tuesday, September 9, 2014

‘A Harvest of Anthroposophy’

Herewith, a very limited list of Anthroposophy in America events coming this fall:

Was Leonardo a Mystic?
Wednesday, September 17 at 7 p.m.
Cary Memorial Library
1874 Massachusetts Avenue
Lexington, Massachusetts
Free admission.

With Andrew Linnell. An evening of investigative fun with art history as we explore the mystery of Leonardo daVinci’s Virgin of the Rocks.

This is a prelude to the Incarnation of the Logos performance on Friday.

The Incarnation of the Logos
Friday, September 19 at 7 p.m.
Waldorf School of Lexington
739 Massachusetts Avenue
Lexington, Massachusetts
Suggested donation: $15

An Epic Tale of Christ’s Coming to Earth, performed by Glen Williamson. The story of Jesus’ birth, childhood and youth, as you’ve never heard it before. Harmonizing the conflicting accounts of Matthew and Luke, this saga weaves the threads of many traditions into an intimate but also cosmic drama. Adam and Eve, Moses, Adonis, Osiris, Isis, Apollo, Krishna, Buddha and Zarathustra all appear in this sometimes astonishing retelling of the greatest story ever told. Based on the Gospels and the work of spiritual researcher Rudolf Steiner and theologians Emil Bock and Edward R. Smith. More background will be presented September 17 at 7 p.m. at the Cary Memorial Library (1874 Massachusetts Ave, Lexington) by Andrew Linnell, who will present the mystery of two messiahs in Leonardo’s The Virgin of the Rocks.)

The Life, Nature,
and Cultivation of Anthroposophy
September 19-21
Ann Arbor, Michigan

A weekend retreat at Rudolf Steiner House. The focus will be Rudolf Steiner’s first series of “Letters to the Members,” collected and available in the booklet titled “The Life, Nature and Cultivation of Anthroposophy.” The letters, though written nearly 100 years ago, continue to speak directly to us today. They are full of fertile meditations on collaborative and public, esoteric work. They are instigations toward solidarity and mutuality among those working for Anthroposophical contemplative research and understanding.

Places of Ancient Initiation in Greece,
Italy, Germany, Ireland
September 22-26
Seminary of the Christian Community
7 Carmen Court
Monsey, New York

From the dawn of human society, all cultures were inspired and formed by the so-called Mystery Centers, where each developed its own forms of initiation. These centers might be called the best kept secrets in antiquity because, under pain of death, no initiate was permitted to reveal his experiences to those outside the temple. From external history we only know fragments of their rituals, for example from artifacts found in temples and through descriptions in myths and legends. In this course, we will imaginatively visit some of the old Mystery Centers through the eyes of Rev. Julia Polter and Rev. Bastiaan Baan. Last summer, after studying their history and spiritual development, Rev. Polter visited several such sites in Greece, as did Rev. Baan over several years, at
Externsteine in Germany, Glendalough and Skellig Michael in Ireland, and Monte Gargano in Italy.
In the Bible Studies, we will explore initiation motifs in the Hebrew Bible and New Testament, and in the workshops we will consider their relevant connections to our time.

Complete Course: $150. Lectures may be attended as a series or separately;
suggested donation $10-$15 per lecture. Registration and information:
(845) 356-0972
or a.b.baan(at)

Standing Between Heaven and Earth
Thursday, September 25 at 7:30 p.m.
Cedarwood Waldorf School
3030 SW Second Avenue, Portland, Oregon

The cycle of the year is a mighty breathing process of the Earth. The Earth grows and evolves through this breathing if human beings standing between Heaven and Earth consciously bring Heavenly forces to the Earth through their own on-going personal evolution. In autumn, when the consciousness of Earth and humanity begin waking from summer’s dream, Michael guides our awakening to Heavenly thoughts by helping us overcome our earthly habits and subjectively colored perspectives. On this autumn evening we are going to focus on the intimate interactions taking place between Heaven and Earth through the active mediation of human beings. Through this, we will seek a positive way of participating in this evolutionary path together; for navigating our lives in the present; and for contributing to the ultimate future of Heaven, Earth, and Humanity.

Information: James Lee at (503) 249-3904 or anthroposophynow(at)

At the Dawn of the Rose Cross
September 27-28

What is inner armor? What is its relation to the Knights Templar of yesterday and today? How does the sacrifice of the Templar Grand Master Jacques de Molay 700 years ago prepare for the Rosicrucians and free Michaelic deeds? Albert Steffen Group (Pittsburgh), Corps de Michael (Hershey), and Friends of Stonehaven Farms (Founded 1737) cordially invite you to join us on Michaelmas weekend in the Sweetest Place on Earth!

Events will include: Eurythmy and Michaelic Courage Verse ◆ Group Study: “Knights Templars, Opposing Powers, & Healing Rose Cross” ◆ Excursion to John Harris Mansion on the banks of the shining Susquehanna ◆ Riverfront and Iron Bridge Walking Tour ◆ Dinner at A Passage to India ◆ Non Nobis Domine followed by group introductions with conference hopes ◆ Procession to Little Rose Interment with Verses ◆ Michaelmas Bonfire on the Saint John’s Meadow ◆ School of Spiritual Science ◆ “My Spiritual Journey from Africa to the Susquehanna Valley” by June O. Lang ◆ Non Nobis Domine with Additional Piano Selections by Chris Brigouleix ◆ Templar Sacrifice and the Inner Armor of Christian Rosenkreutz ◆ Free Michaelic Deeds ◆ Artistic Contemplation: “Burned at the Stake” by Ymelda Hamann-Mentelberg.

Celebrating the Life
of Francis of Assisi
Saturday, October 4 at 7:30 p.m.
Rudolf Steiner Community Center
110 Martin Alley, Pasadena, California

With Jeff Feldman and Andrew Dzedulionis at the Los Angeles Branch of the Anthroposophical Society. October 4 is the Feast Day of Francis of Assisi. Some 800 years after his death, Francis continues to be one of the most loved and revered people in the history of humanity. Rudolf Steiner held him in great esteem, referring to the “new and stronger moral impulses” that Francis introduced into earthly evolution. Jeff Feldman, teacher at Westside Waldorf School, and eurythmist Andrew Dzedulionis will lead this celebration of the life of St. Francis. It is designed to deepen our understanding and appreciation of this great figure through song, poetry, legend, artistic and historical reference, and eurythmy.

Sunday Talks with Rev. Bastiaan Baan
The Christian Community
15 Margetts Road, Monsey, New York
Information: Rev. Thornton at (845) 263-2377

October 12: The Life and Work of Ninetta Sombart
November 2: Chagall and the Bible
All begin at 11:15 a.m. following services.


Friday, September 5, 2014

‘Swedenborg, Yeats, and Freemasonry’

Flashback Friday is an occasional feature on The Magpie Mind when I finally get around to writing about something I should have covered a long time ago. Today we travel to 2010 when the Chancellor Robert R. Livingston Library of the Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of New York hosted Marsha Keith Schuchard, an authority on the subjects of Emanuel Swedenborg, William Butler Yeats, and Jacobite Freemasonry. The lecture also was sponsored by the W.B. Yeats Society of New York and the Swedenborgian New Church.

Keith Schuchard
November 8, 2010
I don’t mind admitting to being out of my element that night. I know little about Freemasonry, even less about Yeats, and less still about Swedenborg, but I had no doubt we were in caring hands when Schuchard came to speak about the relationships among the three.

She has appeared at the lecterns of several Masonic venues, including Quatuor Coronati Lodge No. 2076. Her thesis is so original, as if to appear from out of the ether, so without further preamble, a flashback to November 8, 2010 in New York City. What follows is a greatly shortened version of the lecture. Any concerns of error by omission are attributable to me.

Swedenborg, Yeats, and Freemasonry

I am grateful to officials of the New York Yeats Society, the Livingston Masonic Library, and the Swedenborgian New Church for inviting me to give this lecture, and I will try to address the interests of all three groups. In the process, I will be moving back and forth from the 18th to the 20th centuries, as I trace the role of Freemasonry in the lives of Swedenborg, Yeats, and their contemporaries. It will be a complicated trail to follow, but I hope it does not become the dreaded Hodos Chameleontos, the “Path of the Chameleon,” which Yeats described as confusion, multiplicity, and unpredictability. With that caveat, let us head down the trail.

William Butler Yeats in 1903.
In 1888 the 23 year-old William Butler Yeats met in the British Museum Reading Room a charismatic and controversial character, MacGregor Mathers, who would draw the Irish poet into a long-running Masonic melodrama. The opening acts of this drama took place in the 18th-century world of Emanuel Swedenborg, the Swedish seer-scientist, whose visionary theosophy fascinated both Yeats and Mathers. The English-born Mathers, whose real name was Samuel Liddell Mathers, claimed to be the descendant of Ian MacGregor of Glenstrae, an 18th-century Scottish rebel, who fled his Highland home after the English defeat of the Jacobite rebellion in 1746 and found his way to France. After serving in the French army under the Irish officer Lally Tolendal, a Jacobite Freemason, Ian MacGregor was allegedly ennobled by King Louis XV, who made him the Count of Glenstrae, a title that Mathers claimed to receive by inheritance.

This long-running melodrama was fueled by the 18th century political rivalries between “ancient” Jacobite-Tory and “modern” Hanoverian-Whig Masonic systems, with the first maintaining loyalty to the exiled Stuart royal family, and the second to the Hanoverian kings who have ruled Britain from 1714. Jacobite exiles and their multi-national supporters developed new Écossais systems, with increasingly elaborate Kabbalistic, Rosicrucian, and Templar “higher degrees,” while Hanoverian-Whig systems maintained more rationalist-Newtonian interests. Though the long dominance of Whig-Protestant historiography in the academic world meant that international Jacobite Freemasonry almost disappeared from the historical record, new generations of revisionist historians in Britain and Europe are bringing this submerged history to the surface. In the process, the important role that Protestant-Lutheran Sweden played in supporting the Jacobite cause is emerging from the historical shadows, especially from unpublished documents preserved in the Stuart Papers at Windsor Castle and international diplomatic and Masonic archives.

Though conventional academic wisdom long claimed that the Stuart cause was dead after the defeat of “Bonnie Prince Charlie” on the battlefield of Culloden in 1746, a study of Swedenborg’s political-Masonic career from 1710 to 1772 and of Mathers’ and Yeats’ political-Masonic experiences from 1888 to 1918 reveals the surprising survival of the Jacobite cause and of the old Jacobite-Hanoverian Masonic rivalries into the early 20th century. In a forthcoming book, Emanuel Swedenborg, Secret Agent on Earth and in Heaven, I will argue that Swedenborg was employed as a secret intelligence agent and financial courier for the pro-French, pro-Jacobite party of “Hats” in Sweden, who opposed the pro-English, pro-Russian party of “Caps.” In undertaking this dangerous, clandestine role, Swedenborg was motivated by genuine, even heroic, patriotism, while Sweden was threatened by defeat and even dismemberment by her powerful enemies. In the process, he and his political allies utilized Franco-Scottish or Écossais Masonic networks to carry out their political, diplomatic, and military agendas.

From the time of his first visit to London in 1710-1713, when he was reportedly initiated into a Masonic craft lodge, until his death in London in 1772, Swedenborg and his family were involved in pro-Jacobite, anti-Hanoverian activities. Curiously, some of the most dramatic moments of his participation took place in 1744-1745, when MacGegror Mathers claimed that his Scottish ancestor was taking part in the same enterprise. I will now give some examples of Swedenborg’s Kabbalistic meditations and Jacobite-Masonic predictions, when he undertook a dangerous intelligence mission to London, where government agents were desperately looking for supporters of a feared Franco-Swedish-Jacobite invasion. Before he left Amsterdam for England, Swedenborg was prepared both mystically and Masonically for his Jacobite mission.

In April 1744, while living in Holland, Swedenborg recorded in the peculiar language of his dream diary his initiation into the Jacobite high degrees of Masonry: “I was first brought into association with others... I was bandaged [blindfolded] and wrapped. I was inaugurated [initiated] in a wonderful manner. And then it was said, “Can any Jacobite be more honest?” So at last I was received with an embrace. Afterwards it was said that he ought by no means to be called so, or in the way just named… It was a mystical series.”

The word “honest” was used by Jacobites to denote faithful and discreet supporters, but his initiators worried that the word “Jacobite” was too explicit, because they were worried that Hanoverian spies had penetrated their lodges. Feeling pressured by the demands for secrecy and fearful of the risks involved in his upcoming journey, Swedenborg recorded his dreams and visions about the secret enterprise: “It seemed to me that we worked long and hard to bring in a chest, in which was contained precious things which had long lain there; just as it was a long work with Troy; at last one went in underneath and eased it onwards; it was thus gotten as conquered; and we sawed and sawed...” Wilson Van Dusen, editor of the diary, observes that Swedenborg’s reference to Troy is most curious, for the Trojan horse contained soldiers who opened the enemy gates and enabled the town to be conquered: “It is the same here. The chest contains something precious that will enable the ‘town’ to be conquered.” At this time, Swedenborg was staying with his close friend, Joachim Fredrick Preis, Swedish ambassador at The Hague, who had long participated in Jacobite schemes and who was currently facilitating the shipment of Swedish cannons through Dutch canals en route to the Jacobite forces in Scotland. Preis also helped the recruitment of Swedish soldiers serving in French regiments to join Prince Charles Edward Stewart in the planned campaign. They could indeed provide a Trojan horse to conquer the city of London.

When French political bickering and fierce storms stalled the invasion, Swedenborg laid low in London. He began writing a strange messianic treatise, in which he used Scriptural passages to predict the actions of the Jacobites and their prince to restore the Temple of Jerusalem in the North. Anti-Scottish propaganda had long identified the Scots with the Jews, while pro-Jacobite propaganda utilized quotations from Hebrew scripture in their coded correspondence. The theme of exile for Jacobite and Jew was a potent reminder of a shared fate and a call to action. It would not be beyond the paranoia (now justified) of the government decipherers to read Biblical lines as referring to Jacobite forces coming from Ireland (west) and Sweden (east), with the Stuart prince landing in Scotland (north) and the invasion coming from France (south). The main Jacobite prisoner in London was Sir Hector Maclean, former Écossais Grand Master and major planner for Sweden’s participation in the projected invasion. Maclean was held in the Tower of London, close to Swedenborg’s current residence. The Swedish Hats feared that he possessed incriminating papers about their complicity, and they pressured the Jacobites to arrange his escape. At this time, in 1745, an anti-Jacobite exposé, titled The Freemasons Crushed, revealed that a new, elite grade of Jacobite Masonry included “a tapestry with the image of a ruined temple representing decayed Freemasonry which the Scottish Masters will regenerate.” Swedenborg seemed to refer to the new Écossais degree of Architécte, when he portrayed a Jewish architect who envisions the new temple:

“Upon an exceeding high mountain...was the building of a city. There he saw a man having in his hand a measuring line. A wall surrounded the temple without, and he measured all the things... The splendor of Jova came into the temple by way of the gate looking to the east—he showed the place of the throne... The prince he shall settle in the sanctuary—the northern gate.” Swedenborg’s words would soon prove prophetic. However, by late July 1745, he sensed he was in great danger in London, and he abruptly departed just before the arrival of the Stuart prince in Scotland.

Charles Edward Stuart
Bonnie Prince Charlie
As Bonnie Prince Charlie and his army marched through Scotland, the Swedish populace cheered him on, seeing in his impulsive valor a reincarnation of their great warrior king, Carl XII, who had planned a similar campaign against the Hanoverians in 1718. Acting as a military engineer, Swedenborg had accompanied Carl XII to Norway, from where the king planned a descent on Scotland in support of James III, the Stuart Pretender. For some mysterious reason, Swedenborg left the Norwegian campaign, just before the king was killed by a shot suspected to have come from a Hanoverian agent. Joining the Stuart Prince at Prestonpans was a contingent of Swedish soldiers, including Magnus Vilhelm Armfelt, who campaigned with him until the terrible defeat at Culloden. It was apparently Armfelt and his Swedish companions who carried back to Sweden the report of the Stuart prince’s secret initiation into the Masonic Order of the Temple in ceremonies held in Holyrood Palace in Edinburgh. Swedenborg had envisioned just such a ceremony, with information gleaned either from the spirit world (as he claimed) or from his Jacobite associates in London.

Gustav III
King of Sweden
In the decade after Swedenborg’s death in 1772, the Swedish King Gustav III and his brothers, Duke Carl of Soudermania and Duke Adolph Fredrik of Ostrogothia (all Swedenborgian Freemasons) determined to revive Swedish Masonic links with Charles Edward Stuart, who now called himself Charles III. In 1774 the king named Duke Carl as Grand Master, replacing the elderly Count Carl Fredrik Scheffer, who had been a close friend and political collaborator with Swedenborg. Evidently based on accounts he had heard about the Templar ceremony in the “santuary” of Holyrood Palace, Duke Carl oversaw the secret construction of a similar Masonic sanctuary in the royal palace, where Swedenborgian-Kabbalistic rituals were performed. He and Gustav bestowed the elite degree of “Stuart Brother” on their most trusted supporters. As “Vicarius Salomonis,” the Grand Master began to wear elaborate robes, embroidered with the Sephirotic Tree of Life and other Kabbalistic and Hermetic symbols. In 1776 the king sent Adolph Fredrik to Italy to meet with Charles Edward, who named him as his representative in the northern lodges. Over the next seven years, Gustav and his brothers maintained a secret correspondence with Charles Edward, in which they determined to prevail over their German rivals in the Strict Observance system. In 1783, encouraged by the elderly Pretender’s good will, Gustav III travelled to Italy, and held long emotional meetings with Charles Edward, in which the king’s main motive was “the re-establishment of the sanctuary,” and he “worked with the Pretender in order to raise the Temple of Jerusalem.” Charles Edward named Gustav his successor as Grand Master of the Order, in the event of his death.

Despite the secrecy of their meetings, the British ambassador in Florence (Sir Horace Mann) was able to suborn a French member of Gustav’s entourage and thus learned about the Masonic agreements. In the 1730s, Mann had been a member of the Hanoverian lodge in Florence, which was closed down because of the Papal Ban of 1738. After that, despite Mann’s vigilant surveillance over the Jacobites, he could learn little about developments in Écossais Masonry. On December 30, 1783, he wrote to John Udny, English consul in Leghorn, a revealing letter, which expressed his scorn for “ancient” Stuart-Templar traditions of Freemasonry: “His Swedish Majesty...has taken other steps, which though they may appear ludicrous, are not less certain. It is supposed that when the Order of the Templars was suppressed and the individuals were persecuted, some of them secreted themselves in the High Lands of Scotland and that from them, either arose, or that they united themselves to the Society of Free Masons, of which the Kings of Scotland were supposed to be hereditary Grand Masters. From this Principle the present Pretender has let himself be persuaded that the Grand Mastership devolved to him, in which quality in the year 1776, He granted a Patent to the Duke of Ostrogothica [sic] by which he appointed him his Vicar in all the Lodges in the North, which that Prince some time after resigned as many of the Lodges in those parts for want of authentic proofs, refused to acknowledge the pretended Hereditary Succession to that Denomination. Nevertheless the King of Sweden during his stay here obtained a Patent from the Pretender in due form by which He has appointed His Swedish Majesty his Coadjutor and Successor to the Grand Mastership of
all the Lodges in the North, on obtaining which the French gentleman [Mann’s spy], whom I have often mentioned in my late letters, assured me that the King expressed the greatest joy.”

Mann went on to describe Gustav III’s plan to solicit funds from Templar Masons to support their Stuart Grand Master. He also noted the continuing negotiations of Baron von Wächter in favor of the rival Strict Observance German Masons. In 1788, after the death of the no-longer “bonnie” Prince Charlie, the Masonic documents were sent to Gustav III, and the temple was indeed restored in the North—just as Swedenborg envisioned 43 years earlier.

While Gustav and Carl immersed themselves in occultist studies and experiments, they also developed Swedish Freemasonry from a Jacobite support system into an instrument of state. The king’s confidante Schröderheim described this potent mystical-political brew: “In a small circle of brethren that gathered around the king and the duke more noble objects for our works occurred. They embraced religion, communion with the underworld, with spirits, politics, morals, and alchemy.”

In 1839 in Scotland, there was a revival of the Royal Order of Heredom of Kilwinning, an 18th century Jacobite Masonic order, which had maintained close relations with Swedish and French Freemasonry. The 19th century Scottish members re-established ties with Swedish Masons, and as the great occult revival emerged in the 1880s, some Irish and Scottish nationalists began to dream that the “ancient” Écossais Freemasonry, enriched with Swedenborgian rituals, could play a political role in the growing independence movements in Ireland and Scotland. Thus, we enter the theatrical epilogue of the Masonic melodrama in which Swedenborg and his collaborators earlier played such intriguing but secretive roles.

In 1843 in Edinburgh, there was also a revival of the “Religious and Military Order of the Temple,” which caused a public controversy. Arguments about the reality of the Order of the Temple provoked new interest in 18th century Jacobite Freemasonry, which was further fueled by the romantic publications of the Sobieski Stuarts, two brothers who claimed to be the illegitimate sons of Charles Edward Stuart. In Tales of the Century (1847), they reported that the prince secretly visited Sweden ca. 1750, where he was welcomed by the Freemasons, who honored him as their leader. Despite accusations of fraud, the Sobieski brothers were treated royally by staff at the British Museum, where tales of their charismatic presence may have influenced MacGregor Mathers’ Jacobite fantasies.

As the neo-Jacobite Masonic movement began to emerge among Scottish antiquarians, it was paralleled by a neo-Swedenborgian Masonic movement among a small number of British and American initiates. The driving spirit was Samuel Beswick, who was born into a Swedenborgian family in Manchester, England in 1822. Because several important Swedish Masons who were Swedenborgians had lived in Manchester in the 1790s, it is possible that Beswick’s family became privy to Swedish oral traditions about Swedenborg’s Masonic affiliation. After moving to the United States and Canada, Beswick promulgated “The Primitive and Original Rite of Symbolic Masonry,” which he claimed to be based on earlier Swedenborgian rituals. Though his book The Swedenborg Rite and the Great Masonic Leaders of the Eighteenth Century (1870) is a frustrating mix of valuable fact and unverifiable speculation, he managed to attract several British members of the Societas Rosicruciana in Anglia, which was restricted to Master Masons. From manuscripts describing the 18th century Swedenborgian rituals, Mathers would subsequently develop the elaborate symbolism and ceremonies of The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn in the 1880s.

Through Mathers’ work for Golden Dawn, W.B. Yeats emerged onto the neo-Jacobite, neo-Swedenborgian, neo-Rosicrucian stage. Though Golden Dawn was not a Masonic organization, many of its members were Masons, and it drew heavily on Masonic symbolism and rituals. While Mathers was a Freemason, his co-worker Yeats maintained a much more ambiguous and troubled relationship with the fraternity.

Yeats was initially so attracted to the Kabbalistic expertise of Mathers that he was secretly drawn into his Jacobite activities, such as a brief association with the “White Rose” societies which worked for a Stuart restoration. He wanted to believe that his Protestant ancestors fought with the Jacobites in 1689 at the Battle of the Boyne where, he lamented, the Williamite victory had “overwhelmed a civilization full of religion and myth.” And he convinced himself that he was descended from James Butler, Second Duke of Ormonde, the Anglo-Irish Freemason who helped plan the Jacobite rebellion of 1715 and the Swedish-Jacobite plot of 1717. These fantasies were reinforced by his attendance at a Requiem service for “Bonnie Prince Charlie.” The Neo-Jacobite revival in the 1890s was strong enough to draw the attention of international journalists, who recognized the vulnerability of the German-derived dynasty in Britain.

Echoing 18th century Jacobite complaints about the Electors of Hanover who became kings of Britain, Mathers and his more militant White Rose colleagues argued that Queen Victoria and her Saxe-Coburg-Gotha line were German usurpers. They provided military training to their initiated brethren and dreamed of raising a “Celtic Empire” that would embrace Scotland, Ireland, Wales, Cornwall, and Brittany. Newspapers all over the world carried stories on the international “legitimist” campaign, which sought to counter the rising power of secular, socialist, and communist movements. In headlines ranging from “New Kings on Old Thrones” to the more ominous “Playing at Treason,” journalists made the supposedly dead Jacobite cause seem alive and well.

For Yeats, the best way to harness nationalist energies to the Kabbalistic power of Rosicrucian and Jacobite Freemasonry was to establish an independent “Castle of Heroes” on an island in Ireland. Yeats had “an unshakeable conviction” that “invisible gates would they opened for Swedenborg.” Mathers advised him on the symbolism and rituals, and Yeats worked on the plans for nearly a decade. However, Mathers’ involvement in military planning and arms procurement for the legitimist campaigns led to his ejection from Golden Dawn and his removal to Paris, where Yeats continued to respect his magical expertise but worried about his penchant for violent political action.

In 1906, Yeats visited Scotland, where he gave widely publicized lectures linking Irish and Scottish nationalist ambitions. He then accepted an invitation to stay at Castle Leod in the Highlands, a five-story tower house, originally built in 1606, and the home of the Earls of Cromartie and the seat of Clan Mackenzie. It was to this ancestral home that the old Jacobite, Count Cromartie, returned after his military service in Sweden and India. One wonders if Yeats saw his elaborate certificate of initiation into the Swedish Rite, for Cromartie definitely brought it back to Scotland. Yeats was greatly impressed by Castle Leod, and he wrote “this is a most lovely place—an old castle with wooded hills around it.” He was especially intrigued that ravens still roosted on Raven Rock where, according to Scottish folklore, Gaelic warriors found physical prowess, victory in battle, second sight, and the gift of prophecy. He wrote that the ravens got in the habit “in the time when there were so many fights at it—it is the head of a pass.” From this pass, the Scots held off rival clans and English enemies. Yeats long remembered the ancient Castle Leod and the “joyful youthfulness” of the Countess, and his experience there would color his own dreams of restoring a tower in Galway as a Jacobite-style defense against the madness of sectarian violence. Though he could not get any magical ravens, he would make do with “nine and fifty swans.”

MacGregor Mathers
Though Yeats had broken with MacGregor Mathers in 1900, because of the latter’s autocratic behavior in Golden Dawn, he continued to respect his magical expertise. In 1908 he made moves toward reconciliation, and he occasionally kept in touch with Mathers and his lovely young wife, the mystic artist Moina Bergson, who confided to Yeats that one of her husband’s mystical teachers was a Scot living in France, whom she had known only by his magical motto, “Light from the North.” During World War I, Mathers recruited hundreds of volunteers for the French Foreign Legion before dying in the global influenza epidemic of 1918. On his death certificate, his widow Moina honored his claim to Scottish ancestry, noting that he was born in Perth, Scotland. Two years later, Yeats portrayed his magical mentor as a member of “The Tragic Generation,” one who dreamed of playing a Napoleonic role in “a Europe transformed according to his fancy,” and becoming ruler of “a Highland principality.” Unfortunately, Mathers thus “mounted onto Hodos Chameleontos,” a dangerous path that led him to a Jacobite-Masonic “dream-court” and near insanity. But Yeats still admired him, noting that Mathers remained to “the end courageous in thought and courteous in manner”; in moments of adversity, he and his students would repeat, “There is no part of me that is not of the gods.” It was perhaps this re-evaluation of Mathers that led Yeats and his young wife Georgie to consider joining a Masonic lodge.

After their marriage in 1917, objections to British imperialistic Masonry no longer mattered to the Yeatses, and he and Georgie were still attracted to the symbolism and ceremonies of the Écossais higher degrees. They knew that Mathers had drawn on these when he designed the elaborate rituals for Golden Dawn. They renewed their friendship with Mathers widow, who had beautifully illustrated those Swedenborgian-Masonic rituals. When the Yeatses resided in Oxford in 1921, they may even have attended a Masonic lodge. If so, it would be an Écossais or Rose-Croix rite which admitted women. (In 1987, when my husband and I were living in Oxford, the eminent Yeats scholar Richard Ellmann confided to me that he had discovered a note in which Georgie Yeats mentioned their Masonic attendance. Unfortunately, Ellmann became terminally ill and could not locate the note among his voluminous papers. He wanted me to examine her note, because I had been helping him with information on Oscar Wilde’s earlier initiation into a Rose-Croix lodge in Oxford.)

W.B. and Georgie Yeats c.1928.

As Ireland’s struggle for independence became more violent, culminating in the Irish Civil War in 1922, Yeats worried about his own contribution to the nationalist cause which had generated so much hatred—hatred that now consumed political rivals within Ireland itself. In his great poem Meditations in a Time of Civil War, he drew upon recent, sensationalist publications which charged that 18th century Templar Freemasonry generated the French Revolution. Though Yeats rejected the anti-Semitic argument of the authors, he worried that French secularist, republican Masonry had veered far from its Jacobite and royalist roots. In the last section of Meditations, he wove imagery from architecture and stonemasonry through his lament for the internecine violence, which he summed up in cries of “Vengeance upon the murderers... Vengeance for Jacques Molay.” Referring to the martyred Grand Master of the medieval Templars, he admitted his own earlier attraction to political violence, remembering that:

I, my wits astray,
Because of all that senseless tumult, all but cried
For vengeance on the murderers of Jacques Molay.

Returning to his beloved tower home in Galway, he evoked both the destructive effects of “Loosening masonry” and “cracked masonry,” but also the constructive possibility of visionary architecture and solid masonry—emblems of his hopes for a recovering Ireland.

Nobel Prize for Literature.
Soon after writing these lines, Yeats learned in November 1923 that he had won the Nobel Prize in Literature, an award that was criticized by some English commentators who scorned him as a treasonous rebel against the British Crown. Before leaving London, he re-read Swedenborg and discussed his upcoming visit with the Swedish ambassador, Baron Erik Palmstierna, an old friend, fellow spiritualist, and admirer of Swedenborg’s theosophy. Erik Palmstierna was a direct descendant of Nils Palmstierna, a confidential friend of Swedenborg and a leading Écossais Freemason.

It is from the 18th century Nils Palmstierna’s unpublished diplomatic papers, collated with the Stuart and British diplomatic correspondence, that we piece together the context for Swedenborg’s puzzling claim that he made an important visit to Spain—a visit never mentioned by his biographers. He referred to his earlier journey to Spain in a letter to the Swedish king in 1770, when he asked for royal support against the Caps’ attempt to banish him. A possible explanation for this journey lies in his experiences in Italy in 1738-39. In February 1739, while Swedenborg was in Rome, Nils Palmstierna and Carl Gustaf Tessin, both Masonic Hats, planned a secret diplomatic mission to Spain to solicit Spanish funding for Swedish troops to join a Jacobite invasion of Britain. During Swedenborg’s five-month residence in Rome, he spent much time with Count Nils Bielke, an Écossais Mason. Named a Senator of Rome by the Pope, Bielke was close to the Stuart Pretender, James III, and his two sons. British spies reported that Bielke was the main channel for the Swedish-Jacobite overture to Spain and that he collaborated with Carl Gustaf Tessin (his brother-in-law and current Grand Master of Swedish Masonry) in dangerous Swedish-Jacobite intrigues.

In Swedenborg’s laconic travel journal, he described the Roman palace of the Pretender, and a later dream memory suggests that he met with James III and his two sons in the secret chamber arranged for foreign visitors. In March 1739, Swedenborg suddenly left Genoa, Italy, and virtually disappeared. There is no record of his activities for the next two months, until he arrived in Paris in May and sent his confidential reports in the Swedish diplomatic bag to his Hat allies. These letters have disappeared, but they apparently covered his journey to Spain. Unfortunately, his heirs tore out the final pages of his journal, which covered his experiences after leaving Genoa, for they were determined to protect his benign, apolitical public image. However, from Nils Palmstierna’s unpublished papers, we learn that Swedenborg reported to him on his secret mission. Swedenborg later recorded a dream-memory in which money was collected in Spanish chapels or monasteries, which may refer to the Spanish funds which were indeed sent for the proposed (but eventually cancelled) Swedish-Jacobite expedition of 1739-1740.

Nils Palmstierna’s 20th-century descendant, Erik, carried on the family’s diplomatic tradition, and he was a generous supporter of Swedenborgian causes in Sweden. He often collaborated with Mrs. Otto Wilhelm Nordenskjöld, a leading Swedenborgian, whose husband was a direct descendant of the Nordenskjöld brothers who joined Blake’s Swedenborg Society in London in the 1780s and ’90s. As Freemasons with interests in Kabbalah and alchemy, the Nordenskjölds participated in King Gustav III’s Swedenborgian and Hermetic enterprises. Georgina Nordenskjöld’s maiden name was Kennedy, and her own ancestors had served “Bonnie Prince Charlie.” In Stockholm, the Yeatses had tea with Mrs. Nordenskjöld, and the poet was deeply moved by this descendant of Blake’s Swedenborgian colleagues. He declared “his high estimation of Swedenborg,” whose writings made him a convinced adherent of the doctrines of the New Church.” Though he did not belong to any New Church organization in England, “he had intended, when he married, that the ceremony should take place in a New Church temple in London, but circumstances prevented this.” Grateful to his hostess and moved by her history, Yeats may have exaggerated his New Church association, but he increasingly sensed that in Stockholm he was inhabiting an older, unspoiled world, which reflected not only Stuart but Celtic values of art, imagination, and spirituality.

Yeats was especially impressed by the grand architecture of the Swedish royal palace, designed in 1690 by Nicodemus Tessin, whose kinsman, the military architect Edouart Tessin, had been initiated in an Edinburgh Masonic lodge in 1652 and subsequently served the restored Stuart king, Charles II. Nicodemus Tessin was also an early Freemason (possibly initiated during his visit to London in 1670, when he presented his architectural drawings to Christopher Wren and Charles II). Nicodemus’s son, Carl Gustaf Tessin, recalled that his father was always proud to call himself a Master Mason, and he himself was considered the leading figure in Swedish Freemasonry. Swedenborg was a great admirer of Nicodemus’ architectural designs, and he would serve Carl Gustaf in several Franco-Jacobite diplomatic missions. When Yeats viewed Nicodemus Tessin’s palace, he realized it deserved “its great architectural reputation,” for he discovered “a vast, dominating, unconfused outline, a masterful simplicity,” which he believed expressed the essence of Swedish royalism and patriotism.

The dignity and attractiveness of the Swedish royal family, the lavishness of the ceremonies, and, especially, the glittering mosaics in the Golden Hall of the new City Hall sent Yeats into reveries about Ireland’s history and on-going struggle to become an independent nation. Inspired by his feeling that he was back in an 18th-century court, he planned to write a tribute to Sweden when he returned to Ireland. The biographer Roy Foster expressed surprise at the opening lines of Yeats’ essay The Bounty of Sweden, noting that it is “disconcertingly different from anything the reader may be disposed to expect.” The surprise was provoked by Yeats’ opening reference to “the Cabbalist MacGregor Mathers,” who had encouraged the young poet to write down his first impressions of Paris, for, like those of Stockholm, he would never see it so clearly again. However, the Swedish connection with Mathers’ Jacobite and Masonic fantasies would not surprise Ambassador Eric Palmstierna, who described Yeats in Sweden as the reincarnation of a Jacobite bard, “with strong hands accustomed to harp strings and clashing swords.” The Palmstierna family was aware that Swedish Freemasonry combined Kabbalistic with Swedenborgian symbolism in its rituals and that one could still become a “Stuart Brother” in a Swedish lodge. They also knew that the Swedish king, Gustav V, whom Yeats met and admired, served as hereditary Grand Master of Swedish Masonry—a Stuart tradition transmitted to Gustav III by Bonnie Prince Charlie. Gustav V’s son, the “artist prince” who worked with the stonemasons and lapidaries on the Golden rooms, was also an Écossais Freemason.

As the Yeats critic Giorgio Melchiori observed, the poet perceived in Stockholm and its new City Hall a “symbol of the holy city of art.” Thus, in 1926 Yeats tried to emulate the architectural and Masonic accomplishments of Nicodemus Tessin and the current Swedish royal family, when he urged the Irish government to bring artisans from Sweden to teach the Irish how to improve Dublin’s great public buildings. In The Bounty of Sweden, Yeats wrote that the Golden Hall carried his mind “backward to Byzantium.” [Do click here to get an eyeful of Golden Hall!] As Roy Foster wryly remarked, “Dublin could reach Byzantium by way of Stockholm.” But, certainly, it was Yeats’ memory of Stockholm’s glittering walls that enriched his earlier impression of Ravenna’s golden mosaics, and both fueled his imagination to produce the incantatory lines of Sailing to Byzantium:

O Sages standing in God’s holy fire,
As in the gold mosaic of a wall,
Come from the fire, perne in a gyre,
And be the singing masters of my soul.

In that same year, in January 1926, Yeats published his philosophic treatise, A Vision, noting that he could not have written it without his study of Swedenborg. Linking his memories of royalist Sweden with the neo-Jacobitism of his youth, he dedicated A Vision to MacGregor Mathers’ widow. Seven months later, in July, in Moina’s preface to a new edition of Mathers’ translation of the Kabbala Denudata, she reaffirmed her full belief in her husband’s Jacobite ancestry. Some literary critics characterize Yeats’ praise of royalist Sweden and tribute to the Mathers as a depressing foretaste of his sympathy for Mussolini’s early Fascism. However, it is more historically accurate to view them as the nostalgic aftertaste of the Jacobite dreams of his magical mentor, MacGregor Mathers, Comte de Glenstrae, who through Swedenborgian Masonic rituals was able to “feel like a walking flame,” when all tartaned up in flamboyant Highland garb.