Freemasonry, Esotericism, and Spiritual Development: An Interview With Piers Vaughan

Angel Millar: You’re a well-known lecturer on Masonic and esoteric subjects in the USA, and you’re involved with many Masonic Rites as well as many Western esoteric Orders outside of Freemasonry. Most recently, you published the book Renaissance Man and Mason. Before we talk about Western esotericism more broadly I want to ask what made you join the Masonic fraternity?

Piers Vaughan: It was something I had dreamed of doing from a young age. My grandfather had been a very enthusiastic member, to the extent that he would take his pony and trap and travel the 20-mile journey from his farm in Upper Beeding to Brighton, in England, to attend meetings. Sadly, his enthusiasm did not pass on to his son — my father — but by the age of 16, I was already devouring Pick and Knight’s Pocket History of Freemasonry. In my teens, while maintaining my Christian beliefs — attending a local Anglo-Catholic Church, composing music, playing the organ, singing in choir (which I had done since the age of 7) — I was drawn to explore comparative religious paths, visiting a mosque, synagogue, other Christian places of worship, a Spiritualist church, and even reading and experimenting with Wicca and Rosicrucianism. Continue reading “Freemasonry, Esotericism, and Spiritual Development: An Interview With Piers Vaughan”

Committing to The Spiritual Search: An Interview With Mitch Horowitz

Mitch Horowitz is one of the most respected contemporary historians of the occult and related spiritual movements, such as New Thought (the movement that gave birth to the idea of “positive thinking” as a practice to change oneself and one’s life for the better). We recently spoke with him about the influence of occultism, Freemasonry, Hermeticism, and esotericism on the modern world (especially America), and what he believes authentic spiritual practice requires.

Phalanx: You’re the author fo the widely-acclaimed Occult America, as well as the more recent One Simple Idea, which explores the positive thinking movement from its origins in New Thought. Can you tell us what drew you to these subjects, and why you feel they’re relevant to our understanding of the world?

MH: I felt that the figures and ideas in these cultures were getting lost to mainstream history, as most of the historicism was being written by people who had no sense of the values that emanate from the spiritual search. Also it occurred to me that we cannot understand ourselves when we draw neat lines between “alternative” and mainstream culture. Ideas tend to enter our society, and all societies, from the fringes. This phenomenon is true not just for trends or popularizations, but it goes to the foundation of American history. Continue reading “Committing to The Spiritual Search: An Interview With Mitch Horowitz”

Ritual, Freemasonry, and Allegory: Julian Rees in Interview

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”