Tag Archives: freemasonry

Memory Palaces and Masonic Lodges

Hermetic Library Fellow T Polyphilus reviews Memory Palaces and Masonic Lodges: Esoteric Secrets of the Art of Memory [Amazon, Bookshop, Publisher, Local Library] by Charles B Jameux, trans Jon E Graham.

Jameux Graham Memory Palaces and Masonic Lodges

This short volume contains texts from disparate sources, and has been assembled mostly in a sort of reverse chronological order. I think most readers will more easily follow its arguments and be better served by reading it from back to front, and this review will treat it in that sequence.

Appendix B is a 1995 article by the book’s author Charles B. Jameux, originally published in the French periodical Points de Vue Initiatiques with the title “The Ancient Sources of Initiatic Transmission in Freemasonry: The Royal Art and the Classical Art of Memory.” It presents Jameux’s first published development of a thesis grounded in the prior work of two profane historians: Frances Yates (The Art of Memory) and David Stevenson (The Origins of Freemasonry: Scotland’s Century, 1590-1710), each of whom had suggested that the early modern developments of mnemotechny could have determined the form of early Freemasonry. Stevenson had bolstered Yate’s tenuous hypothesis by citing the explicit requirement of memory training from the Schaw Statutes of 1599 governing Scottish Masonry. Jameux quotes at length from each of the two prior authors and uses his own initiated perspective to amend some of their details, as well as to reinforce and extend the basic concept. Reading Yates and Stevenson myself some few years after Jameux had published his article far from my ken, I came to similar conclusions. While this appendix offered little new for me personally, I thought that it was a solid presentation of the history and its relevance for modern initiates.

Appendix A makes no direct mention of Freemasonry or initiation. It reproduces in English translation a 1988 paper by scholar Claudie Balavoine, “Hieroglyphs of Memory: Emergence and Transformation of a Hieroglyphic Script in the arts of Memory during the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries.” This brief study discusses the changing appreciation of Egyptian hieroglyphs in early modernity, along with the emergence of figural alphabets, and relates these to the transformation and decline of the art of memory. Although composed and published earlier than Jameux’s “Ancient Sources of Initiatic Transmission,” it came to his attention later, and it then became an important source for the development of his understanding of the relevant Masonic history, reflected in the five brief chapters of the body of Memory Palaces and Masonic Lodges.

The body text orients to 1637 as a point of historical discontinuity (of the sort proposed by Michel Foucault in Les mots et les choses) signaled by both the appearance of the Master’s Word in Masonry and Descartes’ publication of his Discourse on Method. Jameux presents Masonic initiation as a compensation and potential remedy for the modern fracturing of “the original unity of thought into conceptual, rational, and quantified thought on the one hand and analogical thought as a storehouse for the ancient traditions on the other” (38).

I am a little mistrustful of the Jon E. Graham translation of Jameux’s text, which tends to feature rambling sentence structures, of which the following is a gruesome specimen: “Far from an elsewhere and nowhere of utopia according to Campanella, wouldn’t the future operative and non-operative Freemasons of 1600-era Scotland, engaged in an outside of work quest for method but remaining immersed nevertheless in the here and now of spiritually conflictive societies, be in the process of discovering the Masonic symbol beneath the memorized image?” (16-17) I know that French intellectual exposition often uses this sort of monster pile of clauses and phrases, but preserving that form is not particularly helpful to English readers.

Also, on page 15 I encountered a defective passage, in which “the conversation he recounts” should have been attributed to Plato in the Phaedrus (as Yates does, in the citation given by Jameux), but some elided wording here makes it seem as if “he” is Alexander Dicson, who is then confusingly said to have “reproduced” the conversation with his own characters. Whether the error in this case is that of author, translator, or editor, it undermined my confidence in what I was reading.

The book is equipped with two short laudatory forewords by Francis Bardot and Patrice Corbin, and they are worth reading if only to demonstrate that Jameux’s ideas in this book have a sympathetic audience among eminent French Freemasons.

Solomon’s Memory Palace

Hermetic Library Fellow T Polyphilus reviews Solomon’s Memory Palace: A Freemason’s Guide to the Ancient Art of Memoria Verborum [Amazon, Bookshop, Publisher, Local Library] by Bob W Lingerfelt.

Lingerfelt Solomon's Memory Palace

In my book A Bishop’s Advice there is a chapter on memorization for purposes of religious ceremony. There, as in other presentations I have made on memorization of O.T.O. ritual, I avoided discussions of the classical and renaissance “arts of memory,” although I have made extensive study of them elsewhere. I don’t see those techniques as essential for our ritualists, and they seemed perhaps sufficiently exotic to distract from the other points I was making with respect to ritual memorization. I was, however, very interested to read the recent book by Bob W. Lingerfelt, Solomon’s Memory Palace, which is a brief instructional volume for Freemasons on the very subject of applying traditional techniques of locative memory to the memorization of ritual.

While Lingerfelt is clearly well read in the traditional sources and modern scholarship for ars memoriae, his tone is not at all academic. The approach is colloquial and practical, and often at pains to clarify the sort of dated English diction that pervades Masonic ritual texts. He is a Nebraska Mason, and his book makes it implicitly clear that his jurisdiction places a greater emphasis on ritual secrecy (and consequently memorization) than many do, including today’s United Grand Lodge of England. While the introduction of the book seeks to offer it to other readers in addition to Masons, the text was quite evidently written for the benefit of Lingerfelt’s Masonic brethren throughout. That said, anyone engaged in the memorization of liturgy, scripture, or other texts should be able to apply his advice on the memorization method sometimes called “memory palaces.”

Specific instructions on the technique are amplified with a fair amount of other useful and valid advice regarding memorization, and the author’s “Closing Thoughts” speculate productively on the potential thaumaturgy involved in the development of memory, and its role in traditions of fraternal initiation. Three appendices are more illustrative than procedural, and very much grounded in the details of Masonic ritual.

I feel I can earnestly recommend Solomon’s Memory Palace to my Thelemic coreligionists in MMM and EGC.

The Apron Symbolism

More ancient than the Golden Fleece

Whose story shines in classic lore:

Or Roman Eagle—which portrayed

Chivalric deeds in dare of yore.

 

More honored than the Knightly Star,

Or Royal Garter, it must be;

A symbol you should fondly keep

From spot and stain forever free.

 

It may be that in coming years,

As time shall all your labors test:

That laurel leaves of Victory

Shall on your brow in honor rest.

 

Yea, from your breast may jewels hang

fit for diadem to grace:

And sparkling gems of beauty rare

May on your person find a place.

 

Nay more, perchance which coming light,

Your feet may tread the path of fame:

Which in our Mystic order leads

To glory, and an honored name.

 

Yes, on your shoulders there may rest

The purple which we hold so dear:

That ensign which our progress marks

In high fraternal Circles here.

 

But never more can you receive

From mortal hand while here below:

An emblem which such honor brings

As this one—which I now bestow.

 

Until your spirit shall have passed

Beyond the pearly gates above:

May this the “Badge of Innocence”

Remind you of your vows of love.

 

‘Tis yours to wear throughout your life,

‘Til death shall call your soul to God;

Then on your casket to be placed,

When you shall sleep beneath the sod.

 

Its spotless surface is a type

Of that which marks a noble mind:

The rectitude of heart and life,

Which in its teachings you should find.

 

And when at last your weary feet

Shall reach the goal awaiting all:

And from your tired nerveless grasp

The working tools of life shall fall.

 

May then the record of your life,

reflect the pure and spotless white

Of this fair token which I place

Within your keeping here tonight.

 

And as your naked soul shall stand

Before the great white house throne of light;

And judgement for the deeds of earth

Shall issue there—to bless or blight;

 

Then may you hear the Welcome Voice

That tells of endless joys begun,

As God shall own your faithfulness,

And greet you with the words, “Well Done.”

— N A McAulay, The Builder, Anamosa, Iowa, December, 1916

Let There Be Light

Let there be light! the Almighty spoke—

Refulgent streams from chaos broke,

To ilume the rising earth!

Well pleased the Great Jehovah stood,

And gave the planets brith!

In choral numbers Masons join

To bless and praise this Light Divine.

 

Parent of light! accept our praise,

Who shed’st on us thy brightest rays—

The light that fills the mind!

By choice selected, lo! we stand,

By Friendship joined, a mystic band,

That love, that aid mankind!

In choral numbers Masons join

To bless and praise this Light Divine.

 

The Widow’s tears we often dry,

The Orphan’s wants out hands supply,

As far as power is given;

The naked clothe, the prisoner free—

These are our works, sweet Charity!

Reveal’d to us from Heaven!

In choral numbers Masons join

To bless and praise this Light Divine.

— From The Freemason’s Repository for 1797

In 1712 the last execution for witchcraft occurred in England; in 1714 witch trials were abolished in Prussia. In 1715 an Italian Jesuit missionary, Castiglione, arrived in China; in 1716 the Chinese abolished Christian teachings. In 1717 Freemasonry was formalized, with the establishment of the first Grand Lodge in London.

Terry Melanson, Perfectibilists: The 18th Century Bavarian Order of the Illuminati

Each In His Own Tongue

A fire-mist and a planet—

A crystal and a cell

A jelly-fish and a saurian,

And caves where the cave-men dwell;

Then a sense of law and beauty

And a face turned from the clod—

Some call it Evolution,

And others call it God.

 

A haze on the far horizon,

The infinite, tender sky,

The rich ripe tint of the cornfields,

And the wild geese sailing high—

And all over the uplands and lowland

The charm of the golden rod—

Some of us call it Autumn,

And others call it God.

 

Like the tides on a crescent sea-beach,

When the moon is new and thin,

Into our hearts high yearnings

Come welling and surging in—

Come from the mystic ocean

Whose rim no foot has trod—

Some of us call it Longing,

And others call it God.

 

A picket frozen on duty—

A mother starved for her brood—

Socrates drinking the hemlock

And Jesus on the rood;

And millions who, humble and nameless,

The straight hard pathway plod—

Some call it Consecration,

And others call it God.

— William Herbert Carruth

To this beautiful conception, Deputy Grand Master Roe Fulkerson, Grand Lodge of the District of Columbia, has added the following inspiration:

Brethren banded together

Hand in hand for good,

Joined for mankind’s uplift,

United in brotherhood.

Each of the band a builder,

Faces turned from the sod;

Some folks call it Masonry

And others call it God.

“Unto the Least of These”

Hail, Craftsman, hail! Canst thou in honor say

Thou hast fulfilled the glory of this day,

Ere thou hast heard the plea of those who miss

A mother’s holy love, a father’s kiss?

 

Tho’ from thy lavish hand such riches pour

As even princes had not known before,

Hast though much given while a Brother’s child

Wakes to a dawn on which Christ has not smiled?

If Thou hast children, or the memories

Of dear soft lips that once thy cheek didst know,

Give to the orphaned waifs and thou wilt please

The Master who hath said long, long ago:

“As ye have done it to the least of these,

Thus ye have done it unto Me also.”

— George Sanford Holmes, from The Square & Compass, December 1921

Mason Marks

They’re traced in lines on the Parthenon,

Inscribed by the subtle Greek;

And Roman legions have carved them on

Walls, roads and arch antique;

Long ere the Goth, with vanal hand,

Gave scope to his envy dark,

The Mason craft in many a land

Has graven its Mason mark.

 

The obelisk old and the pyramids,

Around which a mystery clings,—

The Hieroglyphs on the coffin lids

Of weird Egyptian kings,—

Syria, Carthage and Pompeii,

Buried and strewn and stark,

Have marble records that will not die,

Their primitive Mason mark.

 

Upon column and frieze and capital,

In the eye of the caste volute,—

On Scotia’a curve, or an astrogal,

Or in triglyp’s channel acute,—

Cut somewhere on the entablature,

And oft, like a sudden spark,

Flashing a light on a date obscure,

Shines many a Mason mark.

 

These craftsmen old had genial whim,

That nothing could e’er destroy,

With a love of their art that naught could dim,

They toiled with a chronic joy;

Nothing was too complex to essay,

In aught they dashed to embark;

They triumphed on many an Appian Way,

Where they’d left their Mason mark.

 

Crossing the Alps like Hannibal,

Or skirting the Pyrenees,

On peak and plain, in crypt and cell,

On foot or on bandaged knees;—

From Tiber to Danube, from Rhine to Seine,

They needed no “letters of marque;”—

Their art was their passport in France and Spain,

And in Britain their Mason mark.

 

The monolith gray and Druid chair,

The pillars and towers of Gael,

In Ogham occult their age they bear,

That time can only reveal.

Live on, old monuments of the part,

Our beacons through ages dark!

In primal majesty still you’ll last,

Endeared by each Mason mark.

— Anonymous