“Mankind has progressed or retrogressed to our current and critical problems. These involve the things with which the Scottish Rite deals—human behavior. For example, how can we contain our population explosion, end the threats of war and nuclear holocausts, forfend against world famine, control the misery of physical disease and environment, improve the lot of our poor in home and purse?
There is also the problem of whether civilization, even with knowledge, will act to save itself. Walter lippmann wrote perceptively that not only is ‘the supreme question before mankind how our culture can save itself from catastrophe, but also that we must do more than find the answers.’ We must also discover how men can ‘make themselves willing to save themselves.’
Truly, ways must be found to motivate men to be not only able, but willing. We must activate the knowledge. Even if there are at hand the physical, biological and behavioral technologies adequate for the purpose, people still must be persuaded to use them. In other words, how do we induce members of our culture to work for survival?”
“The earnest and perceptive Scottish Rite seeker of truth can learn from our degrees, for example, the futility of dependence either upon persons or things, or upon approval or disapproval. Independence leads to self-reliance. The truly self-reliant is not subject to adverse manipulation or undue influence. He is in control of himself and enjoys freedom and dignity. This induces, in turn, more effective moral and modern behavior.”
“Emmerson, in his ‘Essay on Self-Reliance,’ points the way:
‘A man should learn to watch that gleam of light which flashes across his mind from within, more than the lustre of the firmament of bards and sages.‘
After Buddha attained his own enlightenment, he said to his followers:
‘Be a lamp unto your own feet; do not seek outside yourself.‘
Jesus expressed the same opinion and said:
‘Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.‘
What is needed first, therefore, is an increase of self-understanding—a discovery of your inner selves and of your own essential natures. Where better can this be learned than through your Scottish Rite? You learn there is no need to lean upon others. You are first-rate, front rank—in the forefront, not second-strong. The Scottish Rite Degrees develop full trust in your own innate capacities so that you are never overwhelmed, not overcome by helplessness, nor the desperate victim of despair. When man has faith in himself he learns to reject unreality. Like Alice in Through the Looking Glass, the mirror reflects competitive unreality in front; but behind is found reality—the folly of competitive success and failure, approval and disapproval. You can learn to be self-realiant, to stand upon your own feet—not dependent leaners upon persons or things outside yourselves. Then, in essence, you shall be free and possess initiative and confidence and live in the present.”
“Our degrees drive home with dramatic impact the teaching of great truths. There you will find your own directive approach and the satisfactions and benefits and enrichments you will enjoy as a self-reliant human being. As such, your life also will show to the world the behavioral solutions that can cure the ills of our day.
Hence, you are asked to use your mind to the fullest. Think through the meanings of each degree as suggested in these summaries and commentaries. Apply them to yourself. Supplement your studies with further research. Let your actions then bespeak that you are in fact as well as in name a Scottish Rite Mason. This, you will discover the true secrets.” — excerpts from the preface
Morals and Dogma of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry Prepared for the Supreme Council of the Thirty-third Degree, for the Southern Jurisdiction of the United States by Albert Pike, is part of the collection at the Reading Room. Although the title page of this copy has A∴M∴ 5641 (1881), the copyright page states that this volume was “Manufactured by L. H. Jenkins, Richmond, Va. September 1917.”
I found this book in an antiques shop in Vancouver, WA around, I think, 1983, about the time when I first moved to the area for high school. I was interested in the material contained, but I recall also being extremely amused by the title. So very obviously amused, in fact, that the shop owner became offended and almost refused to sell it to me until he was finally convinced I was precocious enough to actually care about the contents. I vaguely recall that I had read at least the preface and was able to explain to the shop owner that I understood the intended meaning of the title, as opposed to how amusing it was simply at first glance.
“The following work has been prepared by authority of the Supreme Council of the Thirty-third Degree, for the Southern Jurisdiction of the United States, by the Grand Commander, and is now published by its direction. It contains the Lectures of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite in that jurisdiction, and is specially intended to be read and studied by the Brethren of that obedience, in connection with the Rituals of the Degrees. It is hoped and expected that each will furnish himself with a copy, and make himself familiar with it; for which purpose, as the cost of the work consists entirely in the printing and binding, it will be furnished at a price as moderate as possible. No individual will receive pecuniary profit from it, except the agents for its sale.
It has been copyrighted, to prevent its republication elsewhere, and the copyright, like those of all the other works prepared for the Supreme Council, has been assigned to the Trustees for that Body. Whatever profits may accrue from it will be devoted to purposes of charity.
The Brethren of the Rite in the United States and Canada will be afforded the opportunity to purchase it, nor is it forbidden that other Masons shall; but they will not be solicited to do so.
In preparing this work, the Grand Commander has been about equally Author and Compiler; since he has extracted quite half its contents from the works of the best writers and most philosophic or eloquent thinkers. Perhaps it would have been better and more acceptable, if he had extracted more and written less.
Still, perhaps half of it is his own; and, in incorporating here the thoughts and words of others, he has continually changed and added to the language, often intermingling, in the same sentences, his own words with theirs. It not being intended for the world at large, he has felt at liberty to make, from all accessible sources, a Compendium of the Morals and Dogma of the Rite, to re-mould sentences, change and add to words and phrases, combine them with his own, and use them as if the were his own, to be dealt with at his pleasure and so availed of as to make the whole most valuable for the purposes intended. He claims, therefore, little of the merit of authorship, and has not cared to distinguish his own from that which he has taken from other sources, being quite willing that every portion of the book, in turn, may be regarded as borrowed from some old and better writer.
The teachings of these Readings are not sacramental, so far as they go beyond the realm of Morality into those of other domains of Thought and Truth. The Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite uses the word ‘Dogma’ in its true sense, of doctrine, or teaching; and is not dogmatic in the odious sense of that term. Every one is entirely free to reject and dissent from whatsoever herein may seem to him untrue or unsound. It is only required of him that he shall weigh what is taught and give it fair hearing and unprejudiced judgement. Of course, the ancient theosophic and philosophic speculations are not embodied as part of the doctrines of the Rite; but because it is of interest and profit to know what the Ancient Intellect thought upon these subjects, and because nothing so conclusively proves the radical difference between our human and the animal nature, as the capacity of the human mind to entertain such speculations in regard to itself and the Deity. But as to these opinions themselves, we may say, in the words of the learned Canonist, Ludivicus Gomez: ‘Opiniones secundùm varietatem temporum senescant et intermoriantur, aliæque diversæ vel prioribus contrariæ renascantur et deinde pubescant.’” — preface
The Builders: A Story and Study of Freemasonry by Joseph Fort Newton, an uninscribed presentation paperback published in 1973 by the Supreme Council, 33°, A.A.S.R., Northern Masonic Jurisdiction in the US, is part of the collection at the Reading Room.
“This book, The Builders, is published by the Supreme Council, 33° for the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction of the United States of America through its Committee on Masonic Education for the particular purpose of making available to our membership an excellent piece of reference and study media that covers the history, prophecy, interpretation and philosophy of our great Fraternity.
It is hoped that each recipient of this volume will read and reread it and also encourage members of his family, and particularly our young people, to read the book and thereby obtain a better understanding of what so many of us have come to appreciate over a long period of years.
Our forefathers built well when they formed this organization. It is our duty to transmit it, unimpaired, to those who follow.” — back cover
… it would probably look a lot like the Hermetic Library Fellowship Program, or, rather, what that would be if more fully developed toward what I hope that project will become. And, I’ve been meaning to write more about my ideas and aspirations for the Fellowship Program, so I just might actually do this, even if it’s only in theory for the most part.
Recently, you may have noticed, Jeffrey Kupperman, of Journal of the Western Mystery Tradition, posted a series: “If I were to form a Rosicrucian Order …“, “Why I’m not Starting a Rosicrucian Order” and finally, even after he posted the image of a lamen suspiciously like something for such a thing, “I Did Not Start a Rosicrucian Society“. Likely inspired by this Anthony Silvia, of Gnosis NYC and the Talk Gnosis podcast, posted “I Am Not Forming an Open Source Order of Martinists …“.
Here’s my sense: Rosicrucianism as described in the source material is simply a group of people bonded together by a brief code to be of service to humanity and to develop and preserve certain esoteric knowledge. All of the oft associated structural and dogmatic cruft is either imported from the wider Western Esoteric Tradition during the 17th Century’s Rosicrucian Enlightenment, or accreted during the Victorian and Edwardian period of development by Freemasonry of the Rose Croix degree within Scottish Rite and SRIA/Golden Dawn style syncretic Hermeticism. The literary Rosicrucians of the Fama and Confessio are really quite simply organized without much of anything by way of necessary dogma.
Anyway, the whole highly-structured fraternal and/or teaching order thing has been done and done and occasionally “stick a fork in it” and, even, sometimes “can we bury it now because it is starting to smell.” Many still exist, so why start another one just like something already done? If you want to get involved in one of these, let me commend you to a few excellent organizations, about which I can personally vouch more or less, OTO [also], A∴A∴ [also], Golden Dawn [also, and] … and so on, YMMV. Keep your wits about you and do your own research.
Instead, I would focus on starting from the barest and most minimal interpretation sufficient and necessary. I would be inspired primarily by what the Fama and Confessio say about the Brotherhood of the Rosy Cross, and some few later developments such as Joséphin Péladan’s Salon de la Rose-Croix; and, some few indirect inspirations like Benjamin Franklin’s Junto [also], Utne‘s Salons: The Joy of Conversation, my own dialogical work, and so forth. However, for me, the temptation to develop complicated and convoluted structures is strong and therefore something to strongly avoid.
Although I am trying to adhere closely to the simplicity demonstrated by the model of the literary evidence, I am clearly going to eject certain elements. For example, no one will need be German, a Crusader, or even Christian. Nor need one be directly connected to some lineage, order or other organization. Members will also not be required to conform to some such period customs like drinking warm, non-carbonated German beer from tankards made from lead-laced pewter.
If I were to start a Rosicrucian group … it would be a bit of salon, communitarian and egalitarian, for students and scholars, and very likely organized in support of the mission of the Hermetic Library. The group would occasionally meet in person, but connect frequently via modern communication tools and perhaps a private forum. Like a Junto, the group would be dedicated to inquiry and self-improvement; with members providing a weekly summary of some interesting developments to share with the group as well as offering longer form presentations quarterly. I imagine a small group of people, each dedicated to some particular theory and practice. Each would have a personal practice of some kind and they would be engaged in some project to present esoteric thought in service to the larger community, and I imagine that these presentations would be done through Open Access [also] repositories of articles collected in sub-sites for each fellow at the library and also made available via the blog and journal.
There would be no initiations or other accouterments of the Victorian esoteric or pseudo-masonic orders, but there could be shared rituals. I have in mind here the observation made by Ronald Hutton in The Triumph of the Moon: A History of Modern Pagan Witchcraft that without unifying dogma it is the shared rituals that maintain the neopagan community. There may be some shared rituals or practices to help group cohesion, synchronic and diachronic links between members and the collective, including some expressed when apart and some when gathered.
Membership in the group could follow this idea somewhat like the master and apprentice relationship between Jedi and Sith, including the idea that the apprentice only takes the place of the master upon that person’s death, though hopefully without the Sith’s Rule of Two custom of fragging! Within the literature, generation two doubles membership size to generation three, so there is a suggestion that at some time the ranks of the group could be allowed to double, or at least that is something to consider if it ever comes up that members have found a number of suitable potential members to justify growth. Or, instead of setting a rule about this, the group could simply welcome new fellows as they are welcomed to the library site, while helping that process with suggestions and outreach.
In spite of the rule about not being constrained to wear any particular habit, it’d be nice to have some kind of way to identify each other when necessary. Even if that were something similar to and as simple as the shock of red against one’s fashion adopted by Rêveurs, described in Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus. But, perhaps this would be a choice made in the moments when necessary, such as prior to any meeting.
The organizing principles of the literary Brotherhood of the Rosy Cross are enumerated in just six explicit rules, though there are within the literature other obvious organizing principles, such as that of each member maintaining and developing volumes within the order’s Philosophical Library. This last I would interpret as members participating in both theory and praxis around topics that suit them and their interests, and that they are involved in the preservation and presentation of that information; clearly suited to the overall mission of the Hermetic Library.
Translating the core six rules from the literature, I would propose the following for this new group:
1. That none of them should profess any other thing than to be a student and researcher, and to be involved in making their studies available in accord with the principles of Open Access;
2. None of them should be constrained to wear one certain kind of habit, but therein to follow their own custom and that of their country;
3. That every year, or some reasonable interval, the group should hold some gathering, to meet in person;
4. Members should cultivate relationships with other students and researchers who might be suitable for membership in the group if such openings become available, but in any case, who may interested in participating in the various projects at the library.
5. There should be some identifying insignia or symbol to represent the group, and members should make known their involvement in the group.
6. The group would maintain the privacy of members and their details, in accordance with the general principle of not revealing anything about another that they have not themselves made public; including personal details and details about their studies and research.
At this point, one might wonder what makes this specifically Rosicrucian, as opposed to simply a group of people engaged in and organized around esoteric study. To this I would simply elaborate that the group is inspired by the principles of human perfectibility through esoteric study and practice along the lines of the Rosy Cross formula of the Great Work, about which plenty more could be said. However, I think this notion is one that might need to be expressed explicitly for the group to be Rosicrucian. Although, it could also be left unexpressed, and the group could simply be inspired by the model provided by the literary Rosicrucians and this could instead simply be the Hermetic Library Fellowship Program more fully developed, much as the Invisible College and the Royal Society were inspired but not fully constrained by the notion of a network Rosicrucians.
Benjamin Franklin details his Junto project in his autobiography writing:
“I … form’d most of my ingenious acquaintance into a club of mutual improvement, which we called the Junto; we met on Friday evenings. The rules that I drew up required that every member, in his turn, should produce one or more queries on any point of Morals, Politics, or Natural Philosophy, to be discuss’d by the company; and once in three months produce and read an essay of his own writing, on any subject he pleased.
Our debates were to be under the direction of a president, and to be conducted in the sincere spirit of inquiry after truth, without fondness for dispute or desire of victory; and to prevent warmth, all expressions of positiveness in opinions, or direct contradiction, were after some time made contraband, and prohibited under small pecuniary penalties.” [via]
With this in mind, I would like to have a group of core people who are actively presenting information of interest not only to themselves, but also to the audience of the library. This means helping to develop content for the site, and related social media.
I also imagine that a group I formed would follow a few of the membership principles set out by Franklin for his Junto, in the form of some questions to which they might answer in particular ways:
1. Have you any particular disrespect to any present members? Answer. I have not.
2. Do you sincerely declare that you are dedicated to the Great Work in service to humanity? Answer. I do.
3. Do you think any person ought to be harmed in his body, name, or goods, for mere speculative opinions, or his external way of worship? Answer. No.
4. Do you support the Hermetic Library and will you endeavor support its mission yourself, and share information about and via the library to others? Answer. Yes.
The group might also generate a series of ongoing questions to guide their inquiries, and make those part of the set of customs for the group.
Inspired by Joséphin Péladan’s Salon de la Rose + Croix, ignoring for the most part his overall Mystic Order of the Rose + Croix movement, I would personally would enjoy this more if there were effort to promote esoteric arts and culture, and, like the original, developing actual Salon de la Rose + Croix events could be part of the praxis of the group.
Obviously, this is something that I try to do with the various participatory pools at the library (such as the audio, visual, video and arts and letters pools) as well as within the Anthology Project through the Hermetic Library Albums and Hermetic Library Journal. And, to no small extent, this is one of the motivations behind the idea of a Hermetic Library Reading Room, as it exists in my imagination and also on the library blog.
So, maybe I’m starting to import my other existing projects into this idea, which can and perhaps should remain separate.
T Polyphilus has the personal practice of writing something about each book he reads, as he says, “on the principle that if I have nothing to say about something, I can hardly justify the effort to read it in the first place.” I could imagine that it might be good for members of the group to also take up this practice, and that these reviews, like those by T Polyphilus, would be made available via the blog.
I recognize that there may be need for more structure to function, and I’d propose that the group keep track of the set of organizing principles, the necessary and sufficient structures, and also a set of customs, the agreed upon additional behaviours. Generally, for this discussion about organizing principles and customs I’m going to use terminology imported from Peter Suber’s Nomic. At the core, I would would begin at Nomic rule zero, that all participants must agree to the rules. Organizing principles would be Nomic immuntable rules. Customs would be Nomic mutable rules. The organizing principles and customs would all be subject to self-ammendment, but always subject to the necessary and sufficient cohesion of rule zero. I also propose an even more primary rule, which I’ll call rule i (imaginary unit), which represents the simple observation that all rules have a scope of real effect, beyond which they are meaningless, in other words rules which attempt to legislate delusions or absurdities are self-evidently meaningless and without need to attempt they be enforced. I see this last as a guard against the group trying to legislate overreach beyond its own self-governance.
Recognizing that so far I’ve talked about this idea being tied closely to the library, there’s two alternate directions one might take in modifying the idea: more or less meta. For a less meta alternative, the group might simply be something like a “Friends of the Library” organization; but it would seem a bit presumptuous of me to start my own friends group, and it might be a bit duplicative of the options I already provide for people to show support for the library in a variety of ways. A more meta alternative direction would be to understand that all the specific references to the Hermetic Library and related projects are my particular projects, but that a group could be formed for mutual support and improvement between like-minded site owners who have projects of their own, sites and blogs; a kind of association of project owners. This last reminds me of the point that there appears to be no particular organization or association around esoteric venues, an example of one such is my speculative Reading Room; but that there may be a lot of sense in having some way for people doing similar things, running or planning such venues, to communicate, share and support each other.
I’m sure there’s plenty more that could be written about this, but as a final note I think I’ll mention that one thought that has occurred to me is that others might create similar organizations as what I imagine. I’ve always had in mind that the work I do to post on the various social media platforms and so forth is really about trying to encourage people to engage with the materials on the site. So, I could imagine that there might be groups of people who form themselves around their own research and study related to the library. I can also imagine that groups like this might offer information about what they’ve been up to on some regular basis, such as monthly, and I might then post about these presentations and research so that they are available to others as well.
Obviously, there’s no real reason why groups of students would necessarily organize around the library and participate in this idea in particular, but, it’s a thought that came to me in a kind of daydream.
Hermetic Library fellow T Polyphilus reviews Rose Croix: A History of the Ancient and Accepted Rite for England and Wales by A C F Jackson:
This history entails a dramatic shift in perspective for readers who have already gained some familiarity with the Ancient and Accepted “Scottish” Rite in the United States. The A&A Rite, as it is denominated by its Supreme Council for England and Wales, is an expressly Christian system of grades, as contrasted with its ecumenically theistic progenitor twice-removed, the Charleston Supreme Council for the southern United States. The English system is predominantly focused on the 18th degree Rose-Croix of Heredom, hence the book’s title. The 18th degree is in fact, the only degree worked in full ritual form by the chapters of the Rite in England and Wales. The 30th degree Knight Kadosh is worked by the Supreme Council only for candidates who have served as the Most Wise Sovereigns of their Chapters, and the 31st and 32nd are further dignities conferred by the Supreme Council of the 33rd.
The volume includes highly detailed research on the early development of the Rose-Croix and Eccosais high degrees in France and the western hemisphere, with an impressive effort to sort out the facts from the mythopoeia of early organizers. Frederick the Great is discounted from having played any actual role in the development of the Rite, with convincing justification. On another point of important originary myth for the Rite, the author notes that the chapter of Clermont “is now known to have been mythical,” but he frustratingly fails to provide how that might be known, by means of specific data or even by reference to another historical text.
There is no discussion of the elaborate jurisdictional conflicts of the AASR in the US during the XIXth century, since they are taken to be subsequent to the transmission of authority to the Supreme Council for England and Wales. Instead, there is appropriately an account of the abortive 1819 first patent for an English Supreme Council to the Duke of Sussex from the French Supreme Council of the Prado, information on the 1845 patent from the Supreme Council of the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction USA, biographical data on the original members of the English Supreme Council, and the narrative of the jurisdictional consolidation of existing bodies working the Rose-Croix and Kadosh (Ne Plus Ultra) degrees in England and Wales.
The appendices of Jackson’s book contain very useful transcripts of historical MSS, including the Patent to Etienne Morin 1761, and the 1762 and 1786 Constitutions of the Rite. The book is also rife with high-quality black and white illustrations of historical initiates, regalia, and documents. [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.