When Worlds Collide

Great lecture but knowing that further knowledge in the esoteric lodges is by invitation only just bums me out and feels like you external qualities mean more than your internal qualities.

~ Name Redacted

Dear Unknown Brother,

I address my message to this Anonymous You. I don’t know your name. I don’t know your Lodge. I don’t know your age, your faith, your profession, or your blood type. Your identity was, and remains, obfuscated. But I do have some sense of you because you were strong enough to share your mind and your apprehensions.

I also address my message to those Brothers who feel the same as you, now and in the future, in hopes of relieving them and you of your concerns.

You are correct, to a certain extent. The most overtly esoteric bodies of Masonry, in the ‘woobity-woobity-woo’ sense of esoteric, are invitational, viz. exclusive, prohibitive, restrictive.

While not invitational, our Blue Lodges – all of Craft Masonry in fact – are no less exclusive, prohibitive, or restrictive; externally, and internally.

Externally, not everyone has what it takes to be a Mason. Yes, everyone can petition a Lodge for the Degrees and membership, but even duly and truly prepared, worthy and well-qualified petitioners, risk rejection or lack of access (to a Lodge). Our Lodges prohibit women. Our Lodges exclude good men who are atheists. Our Lodges are populated with men, who, on any given day, could be suffering under the peccadilloes of their baser self.

Internally, our Lodges restrict the fundamental human rights of Freedom of Association and Freedom of Movement from Apprentices and Fellows, cf. preventing Work and Travel. Indeed, per the Code of the MW GL F&AM of UT, no Master Mason has indefeasible claims to access his or any other Blue Lodge. Indeed a Master Mason can be disbarred from Fellowship with his Brother, by his Brother.

This shouldn’t be surprising or disconcerting or offensive to the esoterically minded. The very act of Initiation is exclusionary; perhaps even violent. Initiation marks a point in time and space dividing and separating all that came before from all that which comes after. Initiation constricts behaviors, it limits possibilities and requires the Initiate submit. Practically, not everyone has the impulse to start Initiation. Not every Novitiate completes/survives the Initiation. And not every Novitiate advanced to Initiate fulfills the ethical course of the Initiatic journey.

Indeed, Masonic tradition informs us;

  • 12 out of 15 Fellowcrafts never come back from the wilderness;
  • 1 out of 3 Grand Masters will not live the see completion of their Work.

I don’t use ‘woobity-woobity-woo’ derisively. I cannot go through a single day without some type of woobity-woobity-woo. I use the phrase playfully – you may understand this as Matthew xi, 30, or as our Dear Unknown Friend did; both are acceptable. The wordplay creates an apparent contradiction which (if I did my job) calls your attention to the foundational imperative of the presentation: the Blue Lodge, Craft Masonry, is intrinsically and immutably, ritual magic.

  • Through our ritual, we assert upon a room/apartment/grove/building, an assertion of difference, thereby establishing an ontologically distinct time and place.
  • By physical crossing barriers/thresholds/perimeters, e.g., a magic circle we psychologically buy into the fictive narratives populating this separate, i.e., sacred, time and space.
  • Through study and inculation, and dwelling within sacred time and space we deposit these fictions within the repository of our sacred breast.
  • By degrees, these fictions transform us internally/spiritually, and we develop the wisdom to contrive, and strength to establish;
  • Ultimately, by proper application of wisdom and strength, we become Magicians in the Jungian sense, manifesting the unrealities within our hearts; beauty to adorn the real world.

To make the unreal, real, is by definition, magic. No wands required.

You may wish to see more Qabbalah, or more Tarot, or more Astrology, or more Alchemy. And I agree one obtains great value mining those depths. William Connolly – the philosopher and political scientist, not the comedian – describes identity formation by encounters with difference; by copying what resonates with you, and rejecting what repulses you. Connolly asserts repulsive experiences (I am not that) provide perspective, context, and frameworks allowing us to derive value from resonating experiences (I am that). Put, Qabbalisticly: אֶהְיֶה and all it entails.

But I digress.

I invite you to consider our Blue Lodge is theurgic and the Initiatic and Transformative; that the esoteric power of Masonry is intrinsic unto itself, and in no way is Masonry reliant upon the transitive properties of close association to other esoteric traditions; especially to those streams of though Christopher McIntosh called the Post-Napoleonic French Occult Revival; what others may call the “Lodge Tradition” or the “Western Mystery Tradition”.

Every Apprentice, Fellowcraft, and Master Mason is an inheritor of a self-contained, and self-capable tradition of esoteric Initiation and Ritual Magic. You do a disservice by denying yourself access to that tradition because it doesn’t conform to your preconception of “esoteric”, cf. divesting yourself of all those worldly distinctions and equipments.

A Brave World, New or Otherwise.

Freemasonry has the potential to restructure how individuals – and by transitive property communities and societies – organize and identify themselves by directing wisdom towards living, and away from pursuing wisdom as a goal unto itself. It only requires Masons to be brave enough to do so.

Some Incomplete Thoughts, Completely Worth Sharing

I start with Masonry being an Initiatic and orthopraxic tradition. As such the rituals aren’t for the candidate. The rituals are for the initiates. Lodges exist as a community, whereby the members arrange for a shared experience, a visceral encounter with the virtues – and in case of the MM degree the iniquities – built into the Degrees.

Lodges do this repeatedly, because Lodges know we are like children (in fact in the Webb work tells us to adopt a childlike attitude), and that we need to be told and reminded, time and time and time again. Even after the repetition has sunk into our subconscious, and even flowered into our mind and actions, we continue to re-immerse ourselves because discipline is how we overcome apathy, and discipline is how we train our hearts and minds to find something new in each encounter and cherish it.

Too many approach masonry orthodoxically. They want a lecture, or a sermon, or some other tidy bit of information that can be processed, or disposed of. They want that information to conform to their pre-existing conceptions of religion (what, non-christians can be masons), morality (what, gay men can be masons), politics (what, left/right people can be masons), esotericism/occultism (what, the the french post-napoleon school isn’t all there is), and so forth.

In short, many come to Masonry because they think Illumination is equivalent with becoming informed. Masonry works like an old school initiatic tradition, fake it until you make it. Or as Patton put it: if they start dressing and acting like soldiers, maybe they’ll start feeling like soldiers, and by god maybe they’ll even become soldiers.

This isn’t to say there isn’t information in Masonry. But it tends to be of a much more primal nature, somewhere at the point where our neo-cortex and parasympathetic nervous systems are well differentiated.