Like many of you, when I joined Freemasonry, I was told that Freemasonry was a “System of morality, veiled in allegory, and illustrated with symbols.” I expected to learn life-altering secrets but discovered none. Nobody gave me any information other than what I was told in degrees. So I started to read everything I could about Freemasonry. I read about its history, symbols, ideas, and esoteric components. However, when I wanted to discuss these ideas, I found only a few brothers willing to discuss them, and never in an open lodge. Later, when I became a District Education Officer, I saw first-hand the negative reactions of some older lodge members when a lodge education officer brought up discussing the Kabbala. Let me just say that the Hindenburg and Titanic were lesser disasters than his attempt. At that moment, it dawned on me. The fact of the matter is that instead of embracing the esoteric side of Freemasonry, the majority of Freemasons eschew it.
Before I get any further, I want to make it completely clear that I’m not wanting to perform Crowley’s magick. I have no desire to perform the Babalon Working. If I wanted such things, I’d go and join the Golden Dawn or OTO. What I want is to make the average exoteric Freemason understand that whether they like it or not, we perform ritual magick in every degree. I want them to talk about it. Most importantly, I want them to be able to acknowledge that it’s okay to be talked about.
Don’t believe me? Magick (in the western esoteric tradition) is the use of ritual and symbolism to change your perception of reality. What happened to you in your degrees? Think about it. Ultimately, there is a “spell” being cast on the candidate. The members of the lodge performing the degree are performing ritual magic. They follow a specific pattern of floorwork and they say specific words. If you don’t think that your perception of reality wasn’t changed after your three degrees, then I think you’ve missed the point. You enter the lodge room for the first time as a Mister, and you leave the same lodge room as a Brother. If that’s not magick or alchemy for that matter, then I don’t what is. All of our rituals and symbols are based upon more ancient rituals and symbols. Our rituals and symbols do have an esoteric meaning.
Unfortunately, we have placed a stigma on this idea. Some of it has been placed upon us by public perception. I’m sure that someone will read this article, see the word Magick, and immediately claim devil worship. Magick is a tricky word. However, it is present in our rituals and especially during our degree work. There are a growing number of Freemasons like myself that are tired of having the stigma placed upon ideas like this. We want to explore these ideas.
Ultimately, we’re going to lose a lot of Freemasons, and potential members because of our inability to hold a dialogue about Esoteric education. The Exoteric-centered members of Freemasonry will continue to perform Magick in every degree, without even knowing they’re performing it. Then they’ll go across the street from the lodge to have a beer after the degree, and not understand what really just took place during the degree--that makes me incredibly sad.
I’m not asking for esoteric education at every meeting, (unless you have a lodge full of guys who want to discuss esoteric ideas at every meeting, which is a dream I hope someday to achieve), but I am asking for it to have seat at the table. For every educational lecture we have on character development, we want to be able to present one about Kabbala, the Astrological Aspects of our ritual, or the Hermetic Arts & Sciences. Getting them to understand that there’s magick happening in every degree, opening, and closing of a lodge, due to our ritual is key to getting this dialogue started.
Those of us who want more esoteric education want to be able to discuss esoteric ideas and concepts with our brethren without ridicule or judgment before the discussion occurs. We want our brethren to have open minds. We want them to be able to discuss the ideas and if they disagree with them, be able to have a civil discourse about why. We want to be able to reintroduce the idea of a chamber of reflection without it being looked down upon like it is Satanism by my fellow brethren. We want to talk about Freemasonry in terms of it being a mystery school, not a social service organization.
Maybe one day, I’ll be able to be a part of a lodge that is like Vitruvian in Indianapolis, or Spes Novum in Chicago, where I feel esoteric (and non-esoteric) ideas are able to flow freely and without judgment. I’m looking for 20 like-minded guys in my area that are willing to take on forming a lodge with me. It might take years, but it’s a goal. I’m always telling other brethren in my articles to find a lodge or make one if what they’re experiencing isn’t what they want. Time to put my money where my mouth is.
WB Darin A. Lahners is our Co-Managing Editor. He is a host and producer of the "Meet, Act and Part" podcast. He is currently serving the Grand Lodge of Illinois Ancient Free and Accepted Masons as the Area Education Officer for the Eastern Masonic Area. He is a Past Master of St. Joseph Lodge No.970 in St. Joseph. He is also a plural member of Homer Lodge No. 199 (IL), where he is also a Past Master. He’s also a member of the Scottish Rite Valley of Danville, a charter member of Illinois Royal Arch Chapter, Admiration Chapter No. 282, Salt Fork Shrine Club under the Ansar Shrine, and a grade one (Zelator) in the S.C.R.I.F. Prairieland College in Illinois. He is also a Fellow of the Illinois Lodge of Research. He was presented with the Torok Award from the Illinois Lodge of Research in 2021. You can reach him by email at email@example.com.