From antiquity to just a few centuries ago, trade guilds tended to have their own mythologies and initiation rituals. According to Mircea Eliade, the smiths of primitive tribes functioned also as priests or shamans. In the early modern era, we find a number of guilds, with their mythologies, in France, grouped under the name of the Compagnonnage (“Companions”).
The earliest recorded example of a mythology of the stonemasons’ guild in Britain is more than six hundred years old, and the society of Freemasonry emerged from it, almost 300 years ago, in 1717. From the rituals of the stonemasons the fraternity developed its own initiation Ritual, and, after it spread to Europe, not long after, new Rites and rituals were created, often drawing on Hermeticism, alchemy, Rosicrucianism, and chivalry. Though many of these fizzled out, though many others are still conferred today, especially through the “higher degrees” of the so-called “Scottish” and “York” Rites of Freemasonry.
During the 19th century, a number of the more spiritually- and esoterically-inclined Freemasons founded their own, entirely independent Orders, including the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn and the Ordo Templi Orientis. Continue reading “Ritual, Freemasonry, and Allegory: Julian Rees in Interview”
A few months ago I was lucky enough to attend the opening of one of the more unusual exhibitions in NYC: “Mystery and Benevolence: Masonic and Odd Fellows Folk Art from the Kendra and Allan Daniel Collection” at the American Folk Art Museum.
The “art” on display — ritual objects from various fraternities and secret societies, especially the Odd Fellow and Freemasonry — is rarely seen outside of a few small museums dotted around the US. Wooden hands on the end of poles, paintings of mythical scenes, skulls and crossbones, banners decorated with various symbols — all present in the exhibition — appear strange and alien today. Yet, a century ago or less, when membership in one or other fraternity was extremely commonplace, such art would have been familiar to the vast majority of men. Continue reading “Symbols and Their Purpose in Initiation”
“I would wager that if an average citizen from Athens of 1000 BC were to appear suddenly among us, he or she would be among the brightest and most intellectually alive of our colleagues and companions, with a good memory, a broad range of ideas, and a clear-sighted view of important issues,” Stanford University geneticist Dr. Gerald Crabtree has claimed. “Furthermore, I would guess that he or she would be among the most emotionally stable of our friends and colleagues. I would also make this wager for the ancient inhabitants of Africa, Asia, India or the Americas, of perhaps 2000–6000 years ago.”
While Dr. Crabtree emphasizes genetics (not a subject that really interests me) I would argue that the decline of intelligence is largely due the transformation of the nature of society and the nature of its education, especially in regard to authentic initiation.
In regard to the latter especially, what happened? Continue reading “Initiation: The Foundation of Superior Intelligence”