Tuesday, August 29, 2017

‘New Book: A Freemason’s Harlot’

The artist William Hogarth, FRSA (1697-1764) was a Freemason in the lodges that met in the Hand and Apple Tree Tavern and the Bear and Harrow Tavern in London in the early eighteenth century, and he served as a Grand Steward in 1735. He is beloved in the art world for having revived the medieval art form called “Pictured Morality,” where the grim consequences of human weaknesses are exposed to warn us all. He would create series of images that could be taken together, like a cartoon strip, or could be appreciated individually without diminishing the moral of the story. He is beloved by me because, as a fairly recent edition of Chambers Biographical Dictionary paints him: “With an unerring eye for human foibles, [Hogarth] was often forthright to the point of coarseness, but although his didactic purpose was unmistakable, seldom indulged in melodrama.”

Click here to purchase.

A new book by art historian and Freemason Jeremy Bell, published for the tercentenary celebration of English Freemasonry, threatens to expose all the Signs of the Craft, as the author jokes in his promotion of the book, adding:

Don’t worry Brother, this was all done in paintings from the 1700s! William Hogarth, Grand Lodge Steward, concealed the following in his popular prints:

  • signs, passwords, and knocks of the EA, FC, MM, and Mark Master;
  • Grand Hailing Sign and Five Points of Fellowship;
  • riddles that hint at the Grand Masonic Word;
  • Royal Arch sign and Ineffable Word; and
  • The first depiction of the letter G, Square and Compass, Labor to Refreshment, and much more!

William Hogarth: A Freemason’s Harlot contains 300 illustrations—and there’s more! What makes this new art history book remarkable is its author’s theory of Masonic symbolism being encoded in Hogarth’s work. More than the obvious Masonic regalia plainly seen in “Night,” but more esoteric imagery that I suppose only the initiated eye can discern. To wit:

About the author, from the publicity:

Jeremy Bell has written articles on Freemasonry for British Art Journal and for the monthly publication of the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts. He was asked to contribute a paper to a recent anthology that commemorated the 250th anniversary of Hogarth’s passing: Hogarth: 50 New Essays: International Perspectives on Eighteenth-Century English Art.

And, he writes:

I fulfilled the dying wishes of my grandfather when I became a Freemason in Edinburgh’s Celtic Lodge 291 on the Royal Mile. I was 18. When I emigrated to America, I bought an 18th century coaching inn which had a ballroom that was a Masonic lodge in the late 1700s. It just so happened that the Grand Master of Grand Lodge lived next door. He made me his Grand Lodge Piper and granted me a dispensation to hold Masonic meetings in my home. I was able to put some friends through their degrees in the 18th century manner in the ballroom!

I was actually researching Hogarth’s prints at the same time for a speech I was doing on the history of rum for Goslings Black Seal (Bermuda). Hogarth features bowls of rum punch in several of his prints. I started to find more Masonic details within his lesser known paintings.

More than 10 years of research went into writing the book. What seems obvious now, actually took years for me to find! I sent a few emails around to Hogarth experts and they were kind enough to reply and comment. Professor Shesgreen was a huge help, and introduced me to the editor of British Art Journal, who suggested writing this book.

A sequel to this book already is in production.

Monday, August 28, 2017

‘Friday: Reunion of Brothers in the Blue and the Gray’

Take a break from the Orwellian insanity being foisted on American society these days by treating yourself to a first rate historical lecture on one intersection of Freemasonry and the U.S. Civil War. Cornerstone Lodge 711 will host the curator of the Chancellor Robert R. Livingston Masonic Library a second time Friday, making this officially an annual happening. Catherine Walter will present the history of Freemasons aiding their brethren across the divide of war, and will display remarkable documents disinterred from the archives of the library. From the publicity:

Don’t miss the Second Annual Curator’s Civil War Lecture in Monroe, New York Friday evening.

Captain Dimmick, Captain Mosscrop, and Corporal Dubey, 10th Regiment NYS Volunteers; and Captain Hugh Barr, 5th Regiment, Virginia Riflemen.

Reunion of Brothers
in the Blue and the Gray
Friday, September 1
Cornerstone Lodge 711
300 Stage Road
Monroe, New York
Lodge opens at 7:30 p.m.
Lecture at eight
Free admission

On Friday, September 1, the Chancellor Robert R. Livingston Masonic Library of the Grand Lodge of New York; the Cornerstone Masonic Historical Society of Cornerstone Masonic Lodge No. 711, Monroe, New York; and Museum Village in Monroe will proudly present a free lecture highlighting one of the artifacts of the Livingston Library’s collection: a 1905 copy of a set of resolutions sent by three northern Masonic brothers to a former Confederate Captain and Masonic brother who saved them after the Second Battle of Bull Run at Manassas, Virginia.

On Saturday, September 2 and on Sunday the third, Museum Village will host its 42nd Annual Civil War Re-enactment, with the Livingston Library’s curator in attendance on Saturday.

The original of these resolutions was sent in 1881 to the Captain Hugh Barr, the former Confederate officer, whose actions reflected the commonly discussed theme of Masonic Brotherhood: that, even in the midst of battle, the bonds of brothers are stronger than any other affiliation.

Click to enlarge.
The artifact’s history was lost to time until recovered by Catherine M. Walter, Curator for the past 14 years of the Grand Lodge of New York’s collection. During the lecture, she will share the story of the resolutions and the Masonic brothers associated with it. The Library houses more than 60,000 rare books and 50,000 artifacts reflecting the material culture of a group filled with significant and historic figures.

Freemasonry has played an important role in the history of New York State, spearheading a social safety net for widows and orphans, and homes for the elderly, as well as supporting the establishment of public education in the fraternity’s aim to uplift the state of humanity in general. While known as the quiet fraternity, its members have stood as pillars of their communities across the state since before the American Revolution. Learning the histories of the men associated with the artifact collection only highlights the nature of those men who joined the fraternity and who embraced the core tenets of Freemasonry: Brotherly Love, Relief, and Truth.

While there is a lot of misinformation about Freemasonry, its true nature has been best described as “a beautiful system of morality, veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols.” The symbols often have layered meanings, but by using the working tools of an operative stone mason as symbols to teach moral lessons, a Freemason strives to keep his spiritual nature in control of his earthly nature, to remember that all men are equal, to be morally righteous and upright in conversation and action, to maintain a straight course of action in work and interactions, to work hard at labor and at home, to gain accurate knowledge, and to spread the cement of Brotherly Love.

Don’t miss this rare opportunity to see and learn about one of the amazing artifacts of the Grand Lodge of New York which sheds light on the incomparable bonds of brotherhood within the Masonic fraternity.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

‘Contemporary Art and Esoteric Traditions’

This recurring event at New York University has no connection to Freemasonry or the other main subjects discussed on The Magpie Mason, but I’d say there is a tangential artistic sympathy in it. From the publicity:

Occult Humanities Conference
Contemporary Art and Scholarship
on the Esoteric Traditions
October 13-15
New York University
Barney Building
34 Stuyvesant Street
New York City

Hosted by Phantasmaphile and New York University’s Steinhardt Department of Art and Art Professions, the third Occult Humanities Conference will present a wide array of voices active in the cultural landscape specifically addressing the occult tradition through research, scholarship, and artistic practice. Tickets available here.

The arts and humanities at present are acutely interested in subjects related to the occult tradition, which represents a rich and varied visual culture that displays a complex set of relations at once culturally specific and global in their transmission. Roughly defined, the occult tradition represents a series of culturally syncretic belief systems with related and overlapping visual histories. Though there are as many ways into this material as there are cultural and personal perspectives, universal occult concerns often include a belief in some sort of magic; a longing to connect with an immaterial or trans-personal realm; and a striving for inner-knowledge, refinement of the self, and transformation of one’s consciousness—if not one’s physical circumstances.

Intensely marginalized throughout most historical periods, these traditions persist and represent an “underground” perspective that periodically exerts a strong influence on structures of dissent, utopianism, and social change. Though history is marked with several so-called “Occult Revivals,” the contemporary digital age is a perfect confluence of several factors which make this moment prime for a re-examination of all of the esoteric traditions. While the information age has allowed for easier access to previously obscure writings, imagery, and social contexts, it alternately elicits a deep desire for sensorial experiences and meaning-making when one steps away from the screen.

The presenters at the OHC represent a rich and expanding community of international artists and academics from multiple disciplines across the humanities who share an exuberance and excitement for how the occult traditions interface with their fields of study as well as the culture at large. The small scale of this conference (approximately 100 attendees) will give ticket holders an intimate look at the presenters and their views.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

‘Pennsylvania Academy’s plans for October’

The Pennsylvania Academy of Masonic Knowledge has announced its plans for the October 28 meeting. This flier tells the tale:

Click to enlarge.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

‘Alchemy Journal returns!’

The front cover of the new issue of Alchemy Journal,

Vol. 13, No. 1, published August 20, 2017.

Alchemy Journal is back, after an absence of—well, too long!

The International Alchemy Guild announced today that its quarterly periodical of esoteric thinking and practice returns this very day with Volume 13, Number 1.

The new editorial team is Editor Daniel Coaten and Assistant Editors Jim Baldwin, Tracy Cranick, and Gabriel Maroney, with Founding Editor Dennis William Hauck.

Alchemy Journal now is an online publication. Click here to sign up and get access.

This issue contains:

The Alchemy Guild “is an international organization whose members are practicing alchemists or interested in studying various aspects of spiritual and practical alchemy.” Read more here.

This is so exciting it actually may motivate me to start writing again.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

‘Traubenfest in six weeks!’

It’s hard to think of October right now, but October 1 is only six weeks away, and that’s the date of Traubenfest 2017.

Traubenfest is the annual German culture outdoor party hosted by the Freemasons of the Ninth Manhattan District, the organization under the Grand Lodge of New York that unites historically German lodges. It takes place at German Masonic Park (89 Western Highway) in Tappan. German food, German beer, German music, and a host of attractions await us. It’s a rain or shine event.

Traubenfest has a new website here. Admission is just five bucks, but kids under 14 get in free.

Traditionally, Traubenfest and Grand Master’s Day coincide on the same day in Tappan, but this year Grand Master’s Day will be hosted on October 15.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

‘Albert Pike in bronze: A statue of limitations?’

UPDATE: On the eve of the opening of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite Southern Jurisdiction’s Biennial Session, vandals splashed red paint onto the Albert Pike statue. WRC-TV, the Washington NBC affiliate, reports:

Demonstrators and some D.C. leaders have said Pike was a racist and supported slavery. Friday morning, a banner was draped against the statue with the message

“#ModernConfederates John Kelly. Gary Cohn. Rex Tillerson.”

Courtesy WRC-TV

D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton said she plans to meet with the National Park Service to discuss removing the statue. He certainly has no claim whatsoever to be memorialized in the nation’s capital, Norton said in a statement.

Following the weekend of violence at the University of Virginia initially sparked by anger over the disposition of a statue of Robert E. Lee, dormant calls for the removal of the statue of Albert Pike in Washington, DC have been revivified by local politicians.

Courtesy dcist.com

Today dcist.com reports rallies Sunday and Monday nights at the statue, located at the corner of Third and D streets NW in the Federal City, brought together activists and city officials to renew calls from a generation ago for the removal of the monument because it memorializes a general in the army of the Confederate States of America during the U.S. Civil War. It is the only statue in Washington dedicated to a Confederate figure, but it is Pike the Freemason, not Pike the general, that is commemorated by the 11-foot bronze.

Sculptor Gaetano Trentanove executed the work, creating what National Parks Service records say is Albert Pike:

“...in civilian dress and presented as a Masonic leader rather than a military man. Pike stands 11 feet tall upon a high granite pedestal. Below his feet about halfway down the west face of the pedestal, sitting on a ledge, is the allegorical Goddess of Masonry, holding the banner of the Scottish Rite. The figure is in Greek dress and posed as looking down. Pike holds a book in his left hand, perhaps his popular Morals and Dogma of Scottish Rite Masonry.”

The statue is situated on federal land, so the calls of the local pols are not an eviction notice; the matter will have to be decided by the NPS. I suppose there may come a day when the House of the Temple will become the statue’s next home. The Southern Jurisdiction’s Biennial Session will convene on Saturday. The leadership may want to empanel a committee to prepare for that possibility. It would not be the statue’s first move, but relocating it to private property may be the best thing. While it was the U.S. Congress that authorized the pedestrian statue, it was the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite that raised the $15,000 to create and install the bronze Pike, dedicating it October 23, 1901.

Letter, dated today, from DC officials to the Acting Director of NPS:

Click to enlarge.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

‘What is Masonic success?’

The upcoming meeting of the Masonic Philosophical Society in Queens will focus on the meaning of success. From the publicity:

Masonic Philosophical Society
‘Freemasonry: Is There
a Secret to Success?’
Saturday, September 2 at 2:30 p.m.
Whitestone Masonic Temple
149-39 11th Avenue
Flushing, New York

You are invited to the Masonic Philosophical Society’s next hosted discussion and study. Each month a different topic, ranging from philosophy and science, to religion and metaphysics, is discussed and debated. This group, which is open to the public, is where non-members can learn more about Freemasonry, as well as meet local Freemasons.

September’s topic will be “Freemasonry: Is There a Secret to Success?” After a short lecture, a discussion and debate by the group will follow.

What do we define as success? The word “degree” in its primitive meaning signifies a step. Is it possible to achieve personal success through steps or degrees, and if so, what are they? Business strategists claim to use certain defined steps to achieve their goals, psychologists help patients through personal struggles using defined steps to navigate through myriad human emotions. Is Masonic knowledge a guide for a successful, balanced life?

The Masonic Philosophical Society embraces the concept of learning, not for school, but for life, and believes that all men, who seek it, deserve access to continued education. We further embrace the concept of a community environment, where ideas can be shared and debated in an open forum. From the Seven Liberal Arts to the arcane, we seek to gain and to share the knowledge that is the legacy of mankind.

Friday, August 11, 2017

‘This month’s Livingston Library lecture’

This month’s lecture at the Chancellor Robert R. Livingston Masonic Library at the Grand Lodge of New York will be hosted Thursday, August 31 at 6:30 p.m. in Masonic Hall (71 W. 23rd Street in Manhattan) on the 14th floor. Photo ID is required to enter the building, but admission to the lecture is free of charge. White wine will be served. Reserve your seat by email here. From the publicity:

Bro. Lajos Kossuth
‘Hungary’s George Washington’
Catherine M. Walter, Curator of the Livingston Masonic Library, will present a lecture focused on the artifacts in the Livingston Masonic Library’s collection that relate to Brother Lajos Kossuth, a Hungarian freedom fighter and Freemason who has been called “Hungary’s Washington.” The artifacts include those involved with the S.S. Kossuth, a Merchant Marine ship built with $4 million of War Bonds raised by New York Freemason Morris Cukor, and a letter in Kossuth’s own hand, written while in prison in Turkey.

She will describe the curatorial process of discovery with the largely unknown collection of the Livingston Masonic Library, and will trace how she regained the Christening Bottle of the S.S. Kossuth, held by the Lasdon Park Veterans Museum in a long-forgotten loan to them.

Ms. Walter has been with the Grand Lodge of New York since 2003 and is responsible for the re-housing, cataloguing, and researching the 50,000-piece artifact collection. She has designed and installed more than 90 exhibits for the 39 exhibit cases found throughout Grand Lodge. She also created the Library’s Virtual Museum, which holds more than 700 artifacts and biographies. Since 2010, her work also includes the copy-editing and production of 11 Grand Lodge books of proceedings.

Her earlier work with museum collections was at the American Museum of Natural History, with the African, Great Basin, and Great Plains Ethnographic Storerooms. When she started at the Livingston Library, she had worked with more than 80,000 artifacts. She holds a B.A. in Anthropology from SUNY Geneseo, with study at CUNY Lehman, and at the Université Paul Valery in Montpellier, France. She has worked on archaeological digs in Westchester and Nevada, and has made a photographic survey of 25 Mayan archaeological sites during a solo-voyage through the Yucatan. She is an author of poetry and short stories, and has completed her first novel.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

‘Throwback Thursday: A new Morals and Dogma’

When Brent Morris assigns you a book to review, you review the book. This Throwback Thursday edition of The Magpie Mason reaches back five years, when The Scottish Rite Journal published my take on the then newly revised Morals and Dogma produced by Arturo de Hoyos. This was published in the September-October 2012 issue, and my submission was trimmed by about 400 words in my recollection.

Morals And Dogma

In his Prestonian Lecture of 1997, Bro. R. A. Gilbert mentions how since the 1720s more than 10,000 books, journals, articles, periodicals, papers, pamphlets, and other output devoted to Freemasonry have been published, and although this reviewer has made barely a scratch into that tonnage of material, he cannot name another book that has been so passionately embraced and widely neglected; as studied and scrutinized, yet frequently misunderstood; and hailed as both epochal accomplishment and anti-Masonic favorite than Morals and Dogma of the Ancient & Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry by Albert Pike. Making it even more remarkable is that it was published in 1871 and was intended for the education of a small minority of Freemasons, those of the A&ASR, Southern Jurisdiction.

There simply are no other books on Freemasonry from 140 years ago—even Pike’s other works—that are as widely known today, let alone deserving of a brand new edition, revised and annotated by Ill. Arturo de Hoyos, 33°, GC, one of the most knowledgeable and prolific scholars in Freemasonry in the United States. The work assigned to this laborer is to rate de Hoyos’s success in conveying Pike’s largest legacy to “the other” Scottish Rite Masons in America—those of us within the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction.

First, it is necessary to explain what Morals and Dogma is and is not. Written in the late 1860s, it perhaps is the inevitable product of the fraternity that made brothers out of men from myriad diverse backgrounds in that grim time shaped by industrialization and urbanization, and by Civil War and Reconstruction. Simultaneously the country also underwent a period of religious revolution marked by the birth of Reform Judaism, Christian Science, Pentecostalism, Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Salvation Army, and other movements. Elsewhere in the world, Masonry had begun admitting men of the major Eastern religious faiths, as empires emanating from the British Isles and Europe created lodges across Asia, Africa, and the Holy Land.

Fittingly, if not exactly intentionally, Pike responded, authoring a work of comparative religion in Masonry’s name, one that not only traverses the world’s borders and cultural barriers, but also reaches back through time to codify for the Scottish Rite Freemason mankind’s numerous efforts to find communion with deity. Despite how its title sounds to the modern ear, the book never was the sectarian bible authored for a supposed Masonic religion by its purported father, as is alleged even today by certain Christian fundamentalist anti-Masons.

As de Hoyos reveals in his preface to the text, Grand Commander Ronald A. Seale, 33°, had charged him with the huge job of revising this book, which went out of print in 1969. “We either need to republish Morals and Dogma or stop talking about Albert Pike,” Seale told de Hoyos. The result: A new Morals and Dogma consisting of Pike’s original writings in their entirety, augmented with de Hoyos’s notes and commentary.

Morals and Dogma was tailored for the comprehension of Freemasons who had received the new A&ASR degrees that had been penned by Pike. The previous rituals of the Rite were deficient due to problems varying from absent passages of text to confounding messages and more. Pike converted a pastiche of inadequately defined European ceremonies into a single cohesive Masonic rite consisting of degrees in a progressive structure for gradual enlightenment. Morals and Dogma contains the lectures for those degrees. The Southern Jurisdiction works variations of the Pike degrees to this day, while its sister jurisdiction in the northeast of the United States works hard not to modernize Pike rituals, but to replace them with melodramas that are not rituals of any kind, and that are bereft of any form of symbolism. It is here where the new Morals and Dogma can connect Masons to the transformational teachings of traditional Scottish Rite Masonry, “the College of Freemasonry.”

In the NMJ, 30°, Knight Kadosh, was eliminated in 2004, resulting in 31°, Grand Inspector Inquisitor Commander, becoming the new 30°, and 32°, Sublime Prince of the Royal Secret, being divided into two degrees, 31° and 32°. To conserve that which had been lost, the reader of Albert Pike’s Morals and Dogma, Annotated Edition may look inside this Templar degree to see its virtues, albeit anachronistic, laid bare and contextualized by 60 footnotes. Other rituals eliminated by the NMJ in recent years include: 4°, Secret Master; 12°, Master Architect; 19°, Grand Pontiff; 28°, Knight of the Sun; and more. (It also is true that the brethren of the NMJ are free to exemplify these now defunct rituals, but rituals rendered defunct tend not to get the attention paid to official degrees, where the labor and talent is expected to go first.) These degrees’ lectures, too, are available in the pages of this weighty text, communicating their meanings in textured prose made clearer by de Hoyos’s notes and commentaries.

There is no substitute for receiving meaningful degrees laden with lessons and symbols as conferred by knowing ritualists, but where that is unavailable, this resource text can fill in the blanks and keep concerned Masons in touch with their heritage and history. And this need not be confined to the United States, as brethren in the Ancient and Accepted Rite of England and Wales, where rituals are hardly worked at all and degrees are conferred largely in name only, can profit from this book as well.

Absent from the new book is the “Digest of Morals and Dogma,” the 218-page concordance compiled by Ill. Trevanion W. Hugo, 33°, that was added in 1909. In its stead are five appendices: “Textual Corrections” rectifies and standardizes the various errors in spelling and usage in the original (e.g. Cabala, Kabala, and Kabalah correctly become Kabbalah.) “A Glossary to Morals and Dogma” by Ill. Rex R. Hutchens, 33°, GC, is 82 pages of A-to-Z definitions of mostly difficult terms. The bibliography lists the several hundred published source materials that made de Hoyos’s work possible. “The Point Within a Circle: More Than Just an Allusion?” by Bro. William “Steve” Burkle, 32°, shows how that important symbol from the Entered Apprentice Degree also offers an apt method for inscribing a right angle within a circle. That leads nicely into Appendix 5: “The Hidden Secrets of a Master Mason: A Speculation on Unrecognized Operative Secrets in Modern Masonic Ritual” by Ill. S. Brent Morris, 33°, GC—and editor of this periodical—that brings Morals and Dogma, Annotated Edition full circle by showing how operative builders lay out foundations using the Pythagorean Theorem, the very same geometrical device Pike cites to conclude his 32°, Sublime Prince of the Royal Secret, chapter, explaining how the Triangle of Perfection symbolizes the ideal equilibrium by bringing into harmony the spiritual and the material.

This text is a gift to all thinking Masons, but especially to those in the NMJ where there are no educational publications or programs to reflect the Light of Scottish Rite Masonry, which probably is what leads to the elimination of our traditional rituals. Until this can be rectified, de Hoyos’s amazing feat is a handy tool to assist us in our daily labors at self-improvement.

The writer is a Past Most Wise Master of Northern New Jersey Chapter of Rose Croix and is the Treasurer of the four Scottish Rite bodies of Northern New Jersey. He is in the process of establishing Architects Lodge of Perfection, the first lodge of philosophical research in the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction. His blog, The Magpie Mason, is very widely read and seemingly enjoyed by Masons around the globe.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

‘Of Errors & Truth translated’


Click to enlarge.
You know Piers Vaughan is a well practiced translator of Robert Ambelain, but now Piers has a book that returns a text by Louis-Claude de Saint-Martin to the seekers of hidden wisdom.

Click here.
“Very happy to announce that my translation of Louis-Claude de Saint-Martin’s first book, Of Errors & Truth, written in 1775, is now available in hardback and paperback on Amazon,” Piers says. “I had the pleasure of working from a copy of the original 1775 book, published in Lyon, France. The book is an extraordinary work against the creeping materialism and atheism of the Enlightenment period immediately prior to the French Revolution. As well as giving an insight into esoteric and Masonic thinking of that time, it also gives us a glimpse into the life and times of late 18th century France.”

From the publicity:

Courtesy Piers Vaughan
Of Errors & Truth, or Man Restored to the Universal Principle of Knowledge was published in Lyon in 1775, when Louis-Claude de Saint-Martin was 32 years old. Born in 1743 in Amboise, France, he studied law for a short time before entering the army, serving as a commissioned officer at the regiment stationed at Foix. There he met the enigmatic Martinez de Pasqually, and shortly thereafter he was initiated into his extraordinary theurgical Masonic group, called the Order of Elect Cohens of the Universe. He soon resigned his commission to become the Master’s full-time secretary, eventually reaching the highest Grade in Pasqually’s Order, that of Reaux Croix.

He worked with Pasqually on his great work, Treatise on the Reintegration of Beings, an extraordinary sprawling work setting forth a unique view on the origin of man, his fall, and providing an unorthodox commentary on the first part of the Old Testament. It is through this close collaboration that Saint-Martin came to meet Jean-Baptiste Willermoz, another disciple of Pasqually who was a prominent Lyonnais businessman and Freemason who went on to found many Masonic Orders, in particular the Scottish Rectified Rite and the Knights Beneficent of the Holy City.

However, Saint-Martin became increasingly uncomfortable with the elaborate theurgical rituals of the Elus Cohen, and when Pasqually left France in 1772 to take up an inheritance in St. Domingo, the Order began to fall apart, and Saint-Martin found himself becoming increasingly mystical in outlook.

Courtesy Piers Vaughan
During an extended stay in Lyon with his friend Willermoz, Saint-Martin wrote his first book, under the pseudonym Unknown Philosopher. The book, recollecting Pasqually’s Treatise, outlines a mystical philosophical outlook that is clearly based on Pasqually’s teachings, but with a distinct Christian flavor. It is wide-reaching, attempting to put forward his theories by drawing on examples from many fields, including Politics, Philosophy, Music, Writing and Painting. The book was printed by Willermoz’s fellow lodge members, the Perisse Brothers, although the frontispiece claims the book was printed in “Edimbourg,” a common practice at the time to avoid paying exorbitant taxes charged on all books printed in France at that time.

The Enlightenment had led to a great expansion in the sciences, and the search to find the solutions to the great questions in nature and in man, rather than in God, distressed him greatly. He was particularly concerned about the influence of the so-called Materialists, who he felt were leading mankind on a path toward atheism. Therefore he wrote this book to counter their materialism, and to set forth a sweeping vision of the origin of man, his fall, and the path of return, which, following Pasqually’s terminology, he also called the Path of Reintegration.

The book was an immediate success, particularly among Masons, though its veiled criticism of religion and politics led to it being put on proscribed lists for a time. Naturally, it drew the wrath of the Enlightenment philosophers of the time, and in particular Voltaire. However, it takes its place as one of the great mystical Christian writings of the 18th Century, and as a major early document on the teachings of European Freemasonry in general, and the nascent Scottish Rite in particular.

Click here.

Don’t forget Piers will be the guest speaker at Phoenix Lodge in New Hampshire Friday night.

‘Don’t look AT, but look for the eclipse on the 21st’

On Monday, August 21, a solar eclipse will be visible across the continental United States. It will look different depending on where and when one sees it.

Here’s how NASA explains it in less than a minute.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

‘Philatelists to meet in Baltimore next month’

The George Washington Masonic Stamp Club, the last group of philatelist Freemasons in America I know of, will meet next month in Baltimore. Club President Walter Benesch shares this message:

For those who missed the Annual Meeting in February, we had a wonderful time.

The plans for Michael, our Cachet Maker and Cover Chairman, to be succeeded by Assistant Cachet Maker Casey in 2018, hit a snag. Casey has moved to New Jersey, and we are not sure if he will be able to take over. Think about next year. February 2018 will be our next election. We need volunteers to fill the various offices. Your president and many of the other officers are getting up in years. If the club is to continue we’ll need younger blood to take on some of the roles.

Our summer meeting will be at BALPEX on Saturday, September 2 at 1 p.m. in Salon C at the Baltimore Hunt Valley Inn. The program will be “Actors in World War II and in Philately.” Mind you, not all the actors mentioned will have been Masons, but they are included as a reminder of how Hollywood served our country. Still there will be a number of them who will be seen on various stamps, some from other nations.

The Baltimore Hunt Valley Inn is located at 245 Shawan Road, Hunt Valley, Maryland, just off I-83 at Shawan Road (Exit 20 East). There is plenty of free parking. There is a quality restaurant in the hotel, but if there is enough interest, we may go as a group to Outback for an early dinner around 4 p.m. I want everyone to have enough time to review the exhibits at BALPEX as well as to talk to some of the vendors and add to your collections.

Let me remind you the club is dependent upon new members. Remember to talk up the George Washington Mason Stamp Club at your lodge and other Masonic bodies. If you don’t have an application they are available here, and we can vote in new members at BALPEX.

Over the past few years, the number attending BALPEX has been very low. If we wish to continue meeting there, it is up to you to support the club by attending. Remember this is not just for members, but for the whole family and any friends interested in stamps, Masonry, or would just like to get away for a Saturday. All BALPEX programs are totally open. Hope to see many of you there.

Walter Benesch

‘Steiner Books Summer Sale’


Through August, there is a 25 percent off sale on books ordered directly from Steiner Books. Use discount code AUG25 at checkout.

Monday, August 7, 2017

‘Bergman’s Magic Flute: beauty, intelligence, wit, and fun’

Courtesy Sveriges Radio

The Metropolitan Opera and the Film Society of Lincoln Center will co-host an outdoor screening of Ingmar Bergman’s adaptation of The Magic Flute on Friday, August 25. From the publicity:

The ninth Summer HD Festival features nine thrilling performances from the Met’s Live in HD series of cinema transmissions—plus a special pre-festival screening of Ingmar Bergman’s classic 1975 film version of Mozart’s The Magic Flute, a co-presentation with the Film Society of Lincoln Center. The festival runs from August 26 through September 4, with more than 3,000 seats set up in front of the opera house each night, as well as additional standing room around Lincoln Center Plaza.

Friday, August 25, 8 p.m.
The Magic Flute

Courtesy Sveriges Radio

Director Ingmar Bergman was a lifelong fan of Mozart’s late operatic masterpiece Die Zauberflöte (The Magic Flute), having seen the work as a young boy. He went on to create a cinematic version of the opera, sung in his native Swedish, which blends 18th century stagecraft with fairy-tale adventure. For the film, maestro Eric Ericson conducted the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra and a cast that included a number of young Scandinavian artists, most notably baritone Håkan Hagegård—who sang nearly 90 performances for Met audiences—as the charming bird catcher Papageno.

Approximate running time: 2 hours 15 minutes

Vincent Canby’s review in the New York Times of November 12, 1975:

By Vincent Canby

It’s grand opera. It’s a Freemasonry fable. It was made for Swedish television and reportedly cost about $650,000, which would barely cover the expenses of a Hollywood motorcycle movie. It’s based on a work with a magnificent score but with a libretto whose second act seems to have forgotten how the first act started.

Yet Ingmar Bergman’s screen version of Mozart’s The Magic Flute, which opened at the Coronet yesterday, is an absolutely dazzling film entertainment, so full of beauty, intelligence, wit, and fun that it becomes a testimonial not only to man’s possibilities but also to his high spirits.

All of the best Bergman films have been about some aspect of love (often its absence), but The Magic Flute is virtually an act of it.

It is, first and foremost, Mr. Bergman’s exuberant tribute to Mozart’s genius, with full, amused recognition of the inconsistencies in the Schikaneder libretto. Mr. Bergman hasn’t set out to interpret The Magic Flute but rather to present it as it originally was, bursting with the life of an exquisite stage production as it would look within the physical limitations of an eighteenth-century court theater.

This approach recalls the Laurence Olivier production of Henry V, though there are marked differences. The Bergman Flute begins as if it were simply the record of a single performance of the opera on a golden summer evening in a theater set in a royal park. During the overture the camera scans the faces in the contemporary audience, all of whose members, with several obvious exceptions, look exceptionally, particularly Swedish. The recurring expression of the film itself is that of an enraptured little girl (said to be the director’s daughter) as she watches the opera unfold.

As the overture ends and the curtain goes up, the camera slides over the footlights into a magical world of painted backdrops and other eighteenth-century stage conventions. Unlike the Olivier Henry V, the Bergman Flute never moves through the painted backdrops into a realistic world beyond. Though the film, after having established its stage conventions, enlarges upon them and, once or twice, abandons them when it suits the director’s purpose, the Bergman production is virtually a hymn in praise of theatricality and the efficacy of art.

At the opera’s intermission, the camera catches Tamino and Pamina, the opera’s two young lovers, playing chess in a dressing room, while the evil Queen of the Night smokes languidly under a backstage No Smoking sign. Mr. Bergman, who loves Mozart and the theater, has special fondness for the performers who work so hard for our joy.

The Magic Flute was first performed in a theater near Vienna on September 30, 1791, just a few weeks before Mozart died. Though Don Giovanni is the grandest of Mozart’s operas, The Magic Flute is the more ideally romantic, the work of a man who, while dying, was able to compose the kind of profoundly lyrical and witty music that almost convinces a lot of people—including me—that opera should begin and end with Mozart.

Mr. Bergman treats the odd Schikaneder libretto fairly straight, neither apologizing for it nor patronizing it. Tamino, the young prince who, in the first scene, is charged by the Queen of the Night with the rescue of her daughter from the wicked sorcerer, Sarastro, winds up by becoming a member of Sarastro’s mystical priesthood, the members of which are the protectors of truth, beauty, and wisdom. Somewhere near the end of the first act, the Queen of the Night has become the villainess of the piece, and The Magic Flute has turned into what was, in its day, quite bold propaganda for Freemasonry.

I hesitate to say even this much about the story of The Magic Flute since it gives no indication of the opera’s phenomenal beauty and good humor. Reduced to its showbiz essentials, it’s about the triumph of the perfect love of Tamino and Pamina, the daughter of the vengeful Queen of the Night, with the help of a little magic and a lot of steadfastness of purpose.

The aural quality of the production is superb. Mr. Bergman recorded the music before he began shooting the film, thus allowing the actors to lip-synch the lyrics (which are in Swedish, not German) instead of belting them out on-camera. The system works beautifully because of technological magic I don’t understand and because the actors are lip-synching their own voices.

He has also found singers who both look and sound right, including his Tamino (Josef Kšstlinger), who resembles a prince in a Maxfield Parrish mural, and a beautiful Pamina (Irma Urrila), who looks like a young Liv Ullman. He is especially fortunate, too, in his choice of a Papageno (Håkan Hagegård) who manages to be simultaneously robust and comic without ever being opera-silly.

The film is full of memorable moments, some moving, as in the first-act Pamina-Papageno duet, and some gravely funny, as when three little boys in a festively decorated eighteenth-century balloon caution Tamino to be steadfast, silent, and wise, which are probably the three things that any three little boys you or I know would find most difficult to do. The camera, in close-up, never misses a gesture.

Make no mistake: This Magic Flute is no uneasy cross-breed of art forms. It’s a triumphant film in its own right.


Directed by Ingmar Bergman; written (in Swedish, with English subtitles) by Mr. Bergman, based on the opera Die Zauberflšte by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Emanuel Schikaneder; cinematographer, Sven Nykvist; edited by Siv Lundgren; music by Mozart; production designer, Henny Noremark; produced by Mans Reutersward; released by Svergies Radio/TV2. Running time: 135 minutes.

With: Ulrik Gold (Sarastro), Josef Kšstlinger (Tamino), Erik Saedén (Speaker), Birgit Nordin (Queen of the Night), Irma Urrila (Pamina), Håkan Hagegård (Papageno), and Elisabeth Erikson (Papagena).