There is an old occult maxim which declares that—" Nothing is concealed from him who knows." No Mason is bound to conceal that which he has never learned in the Lodge. All else he receives as he learns any thing, places his own estimate upon its value, and becomes individually responsible for its use. It must be a matter of conscience, and be weighed in the balance of duty, and every one must abide by the result. If Masonry has lost the Royal Secret, or if it never possessed it, or if it was wrenched away in the very name of Religion little more than a century ago, all the same, it belongs to the Craft as the Heir-apparent of the Old Wisdom. But the time has come when no cable-tow can bind it. It now belongs to Humanity equally with the Mason. To this end has it been preserved throughout the centuries.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Just Another Day of Masonic Alchemy

The Lunar phase on 25 November 2012 is Waxing Gibbous, a time I'm using to whip up a medicinal tincture. The waxing gibbous moon appears high in the east at sunset, it's more than half-lighted, but less than full, yet still workable. The moon is in the zodiac sign of Aries, typical characteristics of this sign are initiative and self-independence, nice...lets cook.
And so why is that important? All of that will certainly effect the tincture I am about to create, something alchemists of old realized.

Today I have been practicing a little of what I call Masonic 'kitchen alchemy', cooking up a concoction that is surely influenced by the sun, moon, and on this day the constellation of Aries, that will hopefully aid me in harmonizing my body (mind and soul).
For those that enjoy the mystery lets enter the rabbit hole (Freemasonry), and my kitchen (my real kitchen).

First lets take a look at alchemy, a science understood by few who enter Freemasonry, but in fact a forgotten science that just may be the key to understanding its underlying secret (trust me, there is one).
As to why I call this 'Masonic Alchemy', read carefully and a couple secrets may present themselves (yes, I will provide a little help).
First things first, a little clarification, alchemy got a bad rap. Many believe that alchemy was all about the pursuit of gold through the transmutation of metals, and for many charlatans it was. But for many this precursor to chemistry was actually a spiritual science, hidden under the disguise of early chemistry? (not something the suppressive and dogmatic church wanted you to study).

"The purpose of alchemy was not to make something out of nothing but rather to fertilize and nurture that which was already present. Its processes did not actually create gold but rather make the ever-present seed of gold grow and flourish. Everything which exists has a spirit, the seed of Divinity within itself and regeneration is not the process of attempting to place something where it previously had not existed. Regeneration actually means the unfoldment of the omnipresent Divinity in man, that this Divinity may shine forth as a sun and illumine all with whom it comes in contact."...Brother Manly P. Hall (the purpose of Freemasonry in a nutshell)

Although Brother Hall is referring to alchemy as a spiritual process (which it is), a progression where the initiate travels from "ego to unity" by realizing our true divinity within (not up there), this is the same process at play when we practice plant alchemy (in my kitchen) known as spagyric, where we are going to tap into essence of the plant (my purpose being medicinal).

Above we see the herbs (and mushrooms) I will be using, and of the vodka (spiritus).
I personally prefer 100 proof, the stronger the spirit the more the gain.

Spagyric is a name given to the production of herbal medicines using the alchemical process, similar to the steps you will find hidden and alluded to in the rituals of Freemasonry (where we are attempting to make a man a better man) . In plant alchemy (as in what we could call psychological alchemy) the procedures involve fermentation, distillation and the extraction.

I never said it was going to be easy, but please continue, it just may change your life! (If you get it)

The concept of the spagyric alchemy in turn relies upon the three cardinal principles of alchemy, termed as salt, sulphur and mercury, all familiar symbols to the students of Freemasonry (at least before WW2, after that Freemasonry sadly begins to forget its roots, but we esoterics are making a comeback).

"The basis of matter was the alchemical trinity of principles – salt, sulfur and mercury. Salt was the principle of fixity (non-action) and in-combustibility; mercury was the principle of fusibility (ability to melt and flow) and volatility; and sulfur was the principle of inflammability."...Paracelsus (water, air, fire)

The intuitive brother should be associating the three degrees with the three principles right about now. Salt, refers to the first degree, where the tide ebbs and flows, salt water, mercury, refers to the second degree, the beasts of the field and fouls in the air, Mercury was the god that could descend to the earth (the field) and as send to to the heavens (fowls of the air), and sulfur, symbolic the third degree, have my body burned to ash, fire (or spirit) and he would be right (except for English brothers who unknowly and wrongly have removed the penalties not knowing what they really meant).
So here's whats going on in my kitchen. I'm about to release the essence of a couple herbs for medicinal purposes, what the alchemist would call the sulphur element (within the human some would call this the divine, hoped for during the third degree of Freemasonry).
In the picture above you see three different plants, one is hawthorn, a medicinal herb known to decrease hypertension, turmeric root, a great antioxidant (to clean out the impurities in the body), and chaga mushroom, the king of shrooms, anti-viral, anti-cancer, known as the "Mushroom of Immortality", three I've randomly picked for there medicinal properties . All three of these represent salt, the earth element (they are all matter). This is the beginning of the process (the entered apprentice) matter (the rough ashlar).

In the Plant Kingdom, the physical body of the plant itself is the Salt, its essential oil is the Sulphur, and alcohol (and occasionally water), is the Mercury.
If we use the vernacular of today we have (simplified) body (salt or matter), mind (mercury or air), and spirit of soul (sulfur or fire).

In a nutshell (on a very basic level): first we started with a plant (and a mushroom) which at its core contains a spark of the divine.
For those that would like to make their own tincture fill a mason jar half full with your herb of choice. Next add equal amounts of 100 proof vodka, which will become the carrier (just like the god Mercury who had the ability to descend to the world of matter and ascend to the heavenly realm).

Now comes patience as we let the vodka extract the essence of the plant, in this case it's attributes (it's medicinal components).
Six or seven weeks (I prefer seven for occult reasons) later the the mixture will be ready to be transferred to smaller bottles. But first we have to remove the herb the has given up its essence. This is done with a funnel and coffee filter.
Without getting to technical in the alchemical department, next we can take the refuse (sound familiar brother) and boil it in water and create a double extraction. This is done by boiling the soaked herb (or mushroom) mash in water until you have reduced the liquid by half. Strain the reduced liquid and add it to your single extraction. This yields a stronger, more robust medicinal tincture (all from the refuse of the temple, the plant).
Myself, personally, prefer to bottle my tinctures in a 4oz. eye dropper bottle, taking the medical tincture subliminally where it enters the bloodstream directly avoiding the gastric juices (more bang for the buck).

Plant alchemy (just like Freemasonry) is all about getting in touch with the divine within.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Are You Mercury (or Hermes)

"In the early seventeen hundreds the average Freemason was either a philosopher, a theologian, a member of the Royal Society, an alchemist, or a participant in the Invisible College. Today most brothers are blue collar, Joe the plumbers. This is not in anyway a condemnation of today's Freemasonry, it's just an observation, one that could explain why so many find it hard to understand the hidden meaning of its esoteric symbols."...Arthur L. Hendrickson III

One of the problems we often bump into in today's Freemasonry is the lack of familiarity with myth and comparative religious thought, two important subjects that were very much on the mind of those that created what we call modern Freemasonry.
Many of these myths were stories told with a purpose, a way of explaining the world in which we live and the outcomes of certain actions we take if we continue on a certain path..
Take for instance the myth of Sisyphus, who is condemned to repeat forever the same meaningless task of pushing a boulder up a mountain, only to see it roll down again. We all see this myth repeated daily by those individuals that repeat the same actions day after day expecting different results only to find themselves stuck in the '*Groundhog Day' of there own making.
Or how about the myth of Narcissus, a gentleman so enamored with his own beauty that when he sees it reflected in water he stares so long he eventually falls in the water and drowns himself (the ultimate story of the dangers of the inflated ego).
So important are these myths we find them in every culture on the planet, with some often boring myths from others.
Associated with my Lodge here in New Hampshire we have a chapter of the Eastern Star named Pleiades. According to the ancient Greek myth, the Pleiades were seven sisters. In Greek, the word "pleiades" means "doves." Their parents were Pleione and Atlas who was condemned by Zeus to support the Heavens on his shoulders. One day, the Pleiades were traveling with their mother and met the hunter Orion.
Orion fell in love with Pleione and her charming daughters. He spent a great deal of time chasing after them, trying to win their affection. After several years, Zeus intervened and transformed the women into doves to help them escape. They flew into the sky to become the cluster of stars that today has their name.
However, only six stars are visible in the sky without a telescope. The ancient Greeks explained the absence of a seventh star with several different stories. According to one story, one of the Pleiades, Merope deserted her sisters because she was ashamed of having a mortal husband, who also happened to be known as know other than Sisyphus.
Those esoteric minded brothers can have a field day exploring Pleiades, which is pictured above the ladder in the Entered Apprentice ritual, and it's esoteric connection to Freemasonry. Here's a little example (from the 25th degree of the Scottish Rite) as for what it means, I'll leave it to you figure it out, why take away all the fun:

"The Sun, marching victorious toward the Lion of the Summer Solstice, will tomorrow meet the new Moon, and Earth will thrill with joy through all her veins, at the new life which the fortunate conjunction promises. Then, also, with him will rise the Pleiades, and the rainy Hyades, in whose front marches Aldebaran, Leader of all the Heavenly Armies."...Brother Albert Pike, Sovereign Grand Commander of the Scottish Rite's Southern Jurisdiction

People have always tried to figure out common questions like who made the universe or simple questions like what causes the weather. Religion, gods, and myths were all created to help make sense out of these questions. For early people myths were like science because they attempted to explain how things work.
Sadly today many individuals have never had contact with these beautiful myths and there symbolic thought, collateral damage of an education system that streamlined education to point where students are only exposed to those subjects that can get them employed at Walmart, myth not being part of the curriculum,
and today many of these individuals are entering Freemasonry where much of its underlying philosophy contains a boatload of myth.

Myths are clues to the spiritual potentialities of the human life”...Joseph Campbell, American prolific Author, Editor, Philosopher and Teacher

Allow me to introduce the seeking brother to a mythical god that may help him on his journey, Mercury, the messenger of the gods, also known as Hermes, son of Zeus, and child of **Maia (one of the seven sisters).
Mercury is frequently depicted as the winged "messenger god" who shuttled between heaven and earth, delivering messages from the gods to the humans. For this reason, astrologers saw the planet Mercury as symbolic of the transmission of knowledge and ideas.
Now you may be asking what has this got to do with Freemasonry, the not so simple answer is you just may be symbolic Mercury (hypothetically). You have the ability to shift your consciousness between what we call call heaven, the spiritual, and earth, the material. When the candidate in Freemasonry stands before the altar he stands between Matter (earth) and Spirit (heaven). If you look at the staffs of the Junior and Senior Deacons you'll see one topped with the sun (spirit) the other the moon (matter), and you are usually in between them during ritual. As I have alluded to in the previous blog entrees when we stand at the sacred altar of Freemasonry facing east we have the northeast corner on our left, symbolic of St. John the Baptist, symbolic of water (matter) and the southeast corner on our right, symbolic of St. John the Evangelist, symbolic of fire (spirit), and here we stand mercury in the middle. What beautiful symbolism!

Hermes (mercury) was very much on the mind of early modern Freemasonry (early seventeen hundreds), as we have learned he was the mythical messenger to whom Egypt gave the name of Thoth, to whom Greece later gave that of Hermes, and Rome that of Mercury, three different names, symbolic of the same person (a common practice where the Romans, Greeks, and Egyptian preferred to give the gods their own names and often exchanged myths).
He was said to cloth his message in the symbology of 'Light', the very substance all masons seek.
He taught that the higher self is one, "the Person in the Sun", and that all selves are rays of that "***Sun behind the Sun".
It has been said that same idea was carried by Hermes to Egypt, but the symbology was that of 'Light'. For he said that the 'Light' dwells in Heaven, and yet finds its home in every heart of man, that 'Light' in the heaven above us is identical with 'Light' in the heart within us (as above, so below), and that when once men have seen the 'Light' in their own hearts, then they can look abroad and see it everywhere in Heaven and Earth. The message was still the ancient teaching, but in the new form the message spoke of 'Light', where in the earlier time it had spoken of the 'Sun'.

During the inception of modern Freemasonry (early 1700's) many of the brothers arrived on the scene with a background in philosophy, an interest in myth, and especially the mystical writings attributed to ****Hermes Trismegistus, a writer that even captured the attention of Sir Isaac Newton himself (who I personally believe to be instrumental in the creation of Freemasonry, but we'll leave that for another time).
Look at what Brother George Oliver, from his Antiquities of Free-masonry, has to say about this mysterious Trismegistus, you just might find a perfect description of Freemasonry and its purpose:

"Trismegistus concealed the mysteries of religion under hieroglyphics and allegories, and exposed nothing to the eyes of the vulgar, but the beauties of his morality. This has been the method of the sages in all times, and of the great legislators in all countries; these divine men were sensible that corrupted minds could have no relish for heavenly truths, till the heart was purified from its passions; for which reason they spread over religion a secret veil, which opens and vanishes when the eyes of the understanding are able to support its brightness." (I love that paragraph!)

"We are told that Alchemy (a favorite metaphoric science practiced by many early brothers), otherwise styled the Hermetic Philosophy, because it is supposed to have been first taught in Egypt by Hermes Trismegistus, comprehended three distinct pursuits, the discovery of the Philosopher's Stone, of the Universal Medicine, and of the Elixir of Life. The Alchemistical or Hermetical philosophers, it is further asserted, communicated their thoughts to each other in a language and in symbols understood only by themselves. It has also been assumed from the traditionary lore which has gathered round the names of these philosophers that all the sages of antiquity, such as Zoroaster, Plato, Socrates, and Pythagoras, were initiated into the secrets of their science; and that the hieroglyphics of Egypt, together with all the fables of a collective mythology, were invented for the purpose of veiling in allegory and symbolism the teachings of the Hermetic Philosophy."...Brother Robert Freke Gould, On the Traditions of the Craft

The following is Isaac Newton's translation of the Emerald Tablet attributed to Hermes Trismegistus, look closely at the symbolism you'll find many of the same symbolism contained within a well governed lodge, you just have to know where to look.

"Tis true without lying, certain & most true. That which is below is like that which is above & that which is above is like that which is below to do the miracles of one only thing.

And as all things have been & arose from one by the mediation of one: so all things have their birth from this one thing by adaptation. The Sun is its father, the moon its mother, the wind hath carried it in its belly, the earth is its nurse.

The father of all perfection in the whole world is here. lts force or power is entire if it be converted into earth.

Separate thou the earth from the fire, the subtle from the gross sweetly with great industry.

It ascends from the earth to the heaven & again it descends to the earth & receives the force of things superior & inferior.

By this means you shall have the glory of the whole world & thereby all obscurity shall fly from you.

Its force is above all force. For it vanquishes every subtle thing & penetrates every solid thing. So was the world created. From this are & do come admirable adaptations whereof the means is here in this.

Hence I am called Hermes Trismegistus, having the three parts of the philosophy of the whole world. That which I have said of the operation of the Sun is accomplished & ended."

How important is the writings of Hermes to the tradition of Freemasonry, I think the answer can be found in Brother Piles Morals and Dogma of Freemasonry: "He who desires to attain the understanding of the Grand Word and the possession of the Great Secret, ought carefully to read the Hermetic philosophers, and will undoubtedly attain initiation, as others have done; but he must take, for the key of their allegories, the single dogma of Hermes, contained in his Table of Emerald."

So my brother Mercury, where shall we go, up or down?

*If you aren't familiar with this classic film, the premise is simple: Bill Murray, somehow, gets stuck reliving the same day over and over.

**Maia is the goddess of the fields in Greek mythology. She is the oldest of the Pleiades. She is also the most beautiful and the shyest.

***Sirius, the blazing star often times symbolized in Masonic Lodge Rooms, was of a great importance in astronomy and mythology. Mystery schools, which Freemasonry is one of, consider it to be “sun behind the sun” and, therefore, the true source of our sun’s potency. If our sun’s warmth keeps the physical world alive, Sirius is considered to keep the spiritual world alive. It is the “real light” shining in the East, the spiritual light, where as the sun illuminates the physical world, which is considered to be a grand illusion.

****It was during this time, the late 1600's & early 1700's, that the Hermetic writings, also called Hermetica, a collection of writings attributed to Hermes Trismegistus, the Greek name for the Egyptian Thoth, resurfaced and attracted the attention of those that sought to make sense out of centuries of inquisitions, suppression, and church control. Even in England during the inception of modern Freemasonry the church and state walked hand and hand, something our American Freemason Founding Fathers would make sure didn't happen again.

Hermeticism itself is an ancient philosophical tradition that emphasizes the importance of inner enlightenment or gnosis, rather than that of pure rationalism or doctrinal faith.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Obadiah Storm - Historian of the Dead

I made this video a few years ago, I actually forgot all about it. At the time I writing historical stories for the city in which I live, Somersworth New Hampshire. As you can see I used an alter-ego named Obidiah Storm as the writer, a name I still love. If your interested in any of the stories they can be found at:

                        Obadiah Storm

In Search of Light - What is Light?

Each and every Freemason asks for 'light', the question I have is 'what is that light' and did you receive it?
In my personal pursuit for the meaning of 'light' I came up with varied definitions.
According to the text 'Masonic Biography and Dictionary: Comprising the History of Ancient Masonry Augustus Row
"Light.—The term is used figuratively; as those without the pales of Freemasonry are considered in darkness as to its mysteries and ceremonies, and hence the candidate is brought from darkness or ignorance to true masonic light, or a practical knowledge of its usefulness and design."
Brother Row's definition as we will see is simplistic and very exoteric, and and one the majority of the brethren today would give if asked about Masonic 'light', yet one that offers very little depth.
Now let us go a little deeper. Please read very carefully, that written within the parenthesis is my notations, not that of the author.
"Light was, in accordance with this old religious sentiment, the great object of attainment in all the ancient religious Mysteries (Freemasonry is very much a Mystery School). It was there, as it is now, in Masonry, made the symbol of truth and knowledge. This was always its ancient symbolism, and we must never lose sight of this emblematic meaning, when we are considering the nature and signification of masonic light. When the candidate makes a demand for light, it is not merely for that material light which is to remove a physical darkness; that is only the outward form (the exoteric), which conceals the inward symbolism (the esoteric).He craves an intellectual illumination which will dispel the darkness of mental and moral ignorance, and bring to his view, as an eye-witness, the sublime truths of religion, philosophy, and science, which it is the great design of Freemasonry to teach."...The Symbolism of Freemasonry: Illustrating and Explaining Its Science and Philosophy, Its Legends, Myths and Symbols...Albert Gallatin Mackey
As we can see Brother Mackey adds to the definition truth, knowledge, religion, philosophy, and science, all subjects rarely discussed within the lodge of today's Freemasonry. I would be remiss to not to mention that as of late some very forward thinking Lodges (although not enough in my humble opinion) have been contacting and inviting speakers from various schools of thought to address the brethren on subjects such as Masonic history, alchemy, psychology, and philosophy, all subjects that fit the criteria Brother Mackey used in his definition of 'light'.
Let's descend deeper into the rabbit hole. 
There just may be light at the end of the tunnel.
 "Truth, whether as expressed in Masonry or otherwise, is at all times an open secret, but is as a pillar of light to those able to receive and profit by it, and to all others but one of darkness and unintelligibly."...The Meaning of Masonry, Walter Leslie Wilmshurst
I have found that over my Masonic career 'The Meaning of Masonry' by Brother Wilmshurst as one of those go to books when one needs to research some of the more esoteric symbols found within Freemasonry, a title all brothers should be required to read. In the case of light I think Brother Wilmshurst hits the nail on the head when he says; "It means the awakening of those hitherto dormant higher faculties of the soul which endue their possessor with "light" in the form of new enhanced consciousness and enlarged perceptive faculty." Here we see Brother Wilmshurst alludes to a level of consciousness that is higher than our normal everyday consciousness, a level with a greater awareness and perception.
I believe Brother Wilmshurst is referring a type of wisdom to which is illumined by the light within; it comes with the maturity of the soul, and opens up the sight to the similarity of all things and beings, as well as the unity in names and forms. 
From one that has spent many years studying Buddhism I see Brother Wilmshurst expansion of consciousness correlates easily with the Buddhist concept of 'enlightenment', a state of consciousness that most understand little of. 
Allow me to explain, the Sanskrit word for enlightenment is "bodhi," which means "awakened." But awakened to what?
The only true answer to the question is to realize en-lighten-ment. Short of that, we must come up with provisional answers that come from those that have experienced that level of consciousness, yet because we are not on their level their descriptions do not really do justice to definition of enlightenment.
Enlightenment can be defined as the cessation of dukkha, which is a Sanskrit word usually mangled in translation. It can be defined as the full realization of the truth (light). It can be defined as awakening to a great reality most of us never perceive without doing the work, known as the Royal Art (Ars Regia) in alchemy, the science many of our early brothers embraced (that's a story for another time).
Please allow me to creep a little deeper into the rabbit hole.
Many of our ancient brothers believed it was possible to reach a level of consciousness that was called 'Union with the Divine', or in today's vernacular 'Cosmic Consciousness'.
When we look back to the inception of modern Freemasonry (early seventeen hundreds) we find many of our founders were of the Christian faith (not the same dummy downed Christianity of today), they were surely familiar with Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite and his system of integration of Neoplatonic motifs into a Christian framework. From this system three streams emerge:
1. an outlook concerning the nature of reality
2. a proposed method to interpret and understand this reality
3. a means by which reality Itself is transcended into union with the divine.
All of which I find alluded to esoterically within the rituals of Freemasonry. Don't get hung up on the word 'Christian',  like I said this is not the same as today's Christianity, many of our early brothers understood the bible to be symbolic, allegory, metaphoric, and not necessarily literal.
If we look at number three we see a type of illumination and union which has to do with a level of consciousness far above our normal everyday mindset, a level where if put in a spiritual context may also be associated with transcendence or spiritual enlightenment. If this seems far reached its because you have limited YOUR search for light. 
If we look back to where we started in our search for light, we all asked for something that was not present when we began our journey, and we called this light. What we must ask ourselves, what is that light?