Tag Archives: C W Leadbeater

The Mysticism of Masonry

Hermetic Library fellow T Polyphilus reviews The Mysticism of Masonry: The Key to the correct interpretation of Masonic Symbolism, one harmonious with both the Ancient Osirian Teachings and those of the New Dispensation by R Swinburne Clymer:

R Swinburne Clymer's The Mysticism of Masonry from Philosophical Publishing
Image: Princeton Antiques & Books

 

Most of the text in this book consists of extracts from other authors, including Masonic mainstays such as Mackey, Oliver, Buck, Pike, and Yarker, along with more obscure sources, like New Light from the Great Pyramid by Parsons. Clymer’s own writing only appears in very rare paragraphs of his own, and in relatively common bracketed comments inserted into the long quotes. But the reader is also given pause to about Manisis, the “Master Interpreter of the New Dispensation,” whose platitudinous declamations regarding “Jehovah Adonai the Father of Light” are sprinkled through the book. Was Manisis perhaps the illuminated alter-ego of Clymer?

Much of the book presents a sweeping survey of Masonic pre-history, with an eye to the author’s own esoteric agenda, much after the manner of Leadbeater’s Glimpses of Masonic History. Clymer’s narrative begins with special attention to the obscure and short-lived African Master Builders (1767-1786), whom A.E. Waite supposes to have been responsible for the Crata Repoa.

Clymer is best-known in the esoteric field as a Rosicrucian organizer working under authority descending through the great XIXth century American occult master Paschal Beverly Randolph. Clymer’s remarks on Masonic symbolism in The Mysticism of Masonry reflect an inheritance of Randolph’s doctrines of sex-mysticism, from his reference in the opening pages to “virile manhood capable of reproduction of the species and consequently still in possession of the Elixir Vitae through which only Spiritual Initiation and Conscious Immortalization finally may be attained,” to a much later explanation of “the symbolization of bringing forth a perfect Soul through the medium of the Double Drill between the male and female and representative of the raising of the two serpents (sex forces of the two actors) to the plane of heaven—or spirituality.” Writing such in 1907, Clymer was neither the first nor the last to claim that such readings of Masonic symbolism constitute “the Key” to its correct interpretation. [via]

 

 

The Hermetic Library Reading Room is an imaginary and speculative future reification of the library in the physical world, a place to experience a cabinet of curiosities offering a confabulation of curation, context and community that engages, archives and encourages a living Western Esoteric Tradition. If you would like to contribute to the Hermetic Library Reading Room, consider supporting the library or contact the librarian.

Freemasonry and Its Ancient Mystic Rites

Hermetic Library fellow T Polyphilus reviews Freemasonry and Its Ancient Mystic Rites by C W Leadbeater:

C W Leadbeater's Freemasonry and its Ancient Rites from Gramercy

 

This book is a lot more peculiar than its rather generic Masonic title might suggest. It was written by Theosophist Leadbeater as a sequel to his Hidden Life in Freemasonry. In both that book and this one, he engages the postulate of a secret “Head of all true Freemasons” or H.O.A.T.F., which appears to be a metaphysical doctrine of Theosophical origin. For his references to contemporary Masonic work, Leadbeater focuses on the Theosophical strain of Co-Masonry.

In the first chapter, “Schools of Masonic Thought,” he segregates Masonic historians and theorists into four camps: Authentic, Anthropological, Mystical, and Occult (or Sacramental). These distinctions are drawn clearly and seem useful enough; Leadbeater places himself in the Occult/Sacramental school, and thus concerned with the magic of ceremony, and the development of will and knowledge through ritual.

The author was clearly addressing himself to initiates, as the text presumes a familiarity with Masonic jargon and abbreviations. A reader who doesn’t easily read Installed Master for “I.M.” or know what a “s..n” is will likely be frustrated by the exposition. There is also fairly free use of Theosophical jargon such as “Rays” and “sub-races.”

Possibly the most entertaining section of the book are those chapters dealing with the ancient mysteries: Egyptian, Cretan, Hebrew, Greek, and Mithraic. In all of these, the author sees the perpetuation of an Atlantean tradition of initiatic science, to be taken up in dilute form by Freemasonry. These accounts take into account the latest finds in archaeology in Leadbeater’s day, but they are supplemented with his astral or visionary investigations of history, creating a more colorful (if less credible) story than would be otherwise available.

Later chapters treat in a similar manner the traditions of the medieval stonemasons and the genesis of modern Freemasonry, the development of the Scottish Rite, and the origins of Co-Masonry.

Appendix II is a “Table of Principal Masonic Events from 1717,” which makes a convenient reference for dates, particularly in the development of the Memphis and Mizraim rites and Co-Masonic jurisdictions.

The Gramercy reprint lacks the illustrations of the original edition, which is something of a disappointment when the author references “a number of statuettes and votive figures found in Crete or in the outposts of Minoan civilization, which are represented in such indubitably Masonic attitudes that even the most sceptical student must acknowledge that no chance can explain this similarity.” But the details are not described, and the promised plate is absent. [via]

 

 

The Hermetic Library Reading Room is an imaginary and speculative future reification of the library in the physical world, a place to experience a cabinet of curiosities offering a confabulation of curation, context and community that engages, archives and encourages a living Western Esoteric Tradition. If you would like to contribute to the Hermetic Library Reading Room, consider supporting the library or contact the librarian.