Symbols and Their Purpose in Initiation

masonic-symbolism-initiationA 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”

When Men and Mountains Meet: Spiritual Ascent in the Age of Commodification

nicholas-roerich-meditation-mountains“Great things are done when Men & Mountains meet / This is not Done by Jostling in the Street,” wrote William Blake.

The modern world suffocates the soul of humankind. Matter longs for the embrace of soul, just as the unborn is ensheathed in the mother’s womb; and the soul desires the caress of matter, just as a newborn is cradled in the mother’s arms. Every moment is the nondual experience of gestation and birth of soul into matter, matter into soul. Modern life severs this connection as carelessly as the assembly line obstetrician prematurely severs the umbilical cord that still carries vital nutrients from mother to child. We are weighed upon scales imbalanced by ceaseless activity and insidious apathy, our hearts faint with anxiety and our bodies dead with the weight of indifference.

How do we reconnect with the primordial source in a decentered and displaced world? Continue reading “When Men and Mountains Meet: Spiritual Ascent in the Age of Commodification”

Season of the Wolf-Man

Romulus and Remus suckled by the wolf.
Romulus and Remus suckled by the wolf.

From the Latin word lupus, meaning “wolf,” the ancient Roman festival of Lupercalia was celebrated between February 13 and 15. Priests of the god Lupercus (sometimes identified with the ancient Greek god Pan) would meet each year in the Lupercal Cave, where they would perform certain sacrifices.

The cave is mentioned in the story of Romulus and Remus, the mythical founders of Rome. Accordingly, Rhea Silvia — a Vestal Virgin (i.e., priestess of the goddess Vesta) — became pregnant with the twin boys, thus evidencing that she had broken her vow to chastity. She had been forced to become a priestess of Vesta by her uncle Amulius when he became king of Alba Longa. Continue reading “Season of the Wolf-Man”