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Letter of the month: May 1997, another

Date: Wed, 14 May 1997 21:25:19 -0400
From: lhensley 
To: dryfoo@MIT.EDU
Subject: Why occult?

Dear Gary,

My father has been a Mason for as long as I can remember, and my grandfather (not his father, but my mother's) before him. He was a Grandmaster, and my brother is something (forgive my ignorance) like a master at his lodge. My grandmother was a member of the Eastern Star and my mother is (as well as my father), and I just became a member last night. I tell you all to explain my confusion.

I was looking on the computer the other night to see if I could find some symbols that I was afraid were occultish and found Feemasonry listed under occult and new age. I checked out your site just now (time constraints), to see if there was a difference is Freemasonry and the Masonic lodge that I am so familiar with, and your site talks about the same thing. WHY is it listed under occult/new age?

Thanks, Lorene

To: lhensley 
Subject: Re: Why occult? 
In-reply-to: Your message of "Wed, 14 May 1997 21:25:19 EDT."
Date: Thu, 15 May 1997 13:33:46 EDT

Dear Lorene,

Your confusion is perhaps with the nature of the World-Wide Web, I think. ANYONE can set up any kind of index they want, and list whatever topics they want under it. That doesn't make them an authority, and it doesn't make their classification scheme accurate or reliable.

Lots of people who are interested in the "occult" (which can mean a lot of different things to different people) are also interested in Masonry. Does that mean Masonry is part of "the occult"?

And "New Age" can mean just about anything. Do Masonic ceremonies use crystals or tarot cards or American Indian spirit ceremonials etc.? No. Do some Masons use those or other "New Age" practices on their own, as part of their own private religious life? Certainly.

Do some people -- who begin looking into "New Age" practices in order to improve their character, their relationship with their family/neighbors/colleagues, and to try to understand their place in the Universe -- arrive at Masonry's door for guidance? Certainly. Does that mean that Freemasonry is "New Age"? What do you think?

I don't believe I even _have_ a page or listing for "occult/new age". (Are you asking about how I classify my page, or about how someone else's indexing scheme has classified it?)

I do have a page listed "Spiritual Stuff" which of course has a pointer to Masonry. Some people see Masonry only for its fellowship and fraternal side, others for its charitable works. I enjoy those, but am also one of many many Masons who find that our ritual, symbols, and teachings can guide on deep and serious questions of faith, understanding, and work here in this world of Action. Do some people conflate or confuse "spiritual" and "occult"? -- of course.

If what you're really wondering is "does Masonry have anything to do with all that stuff I hear about in teevee shock news, cheap church pamphlets, and thrill movies about Devil-worship, animal sacrifice, ritual child-molestation, and other repulsive matters?" the answer is an unqualified "No, it doesn't."

But, if your question is "Do Masons acutally allow members of Other Religions than mine, just as if they weren't heathens, infidels, or unbelievers?" the answer is "Absolutely yes." All Masons profess a belief in a Supreme Being, but not further religious test of any kind is required or allowed.

Your own experience can help you out here. You say that you've just joined the Order of the Eastern Star. I have had people tell me that:

You have observed the Easter Star ceremonies with your own eyes and ears. Did you hear anything about any of the above? No. Yet because of the Eastern Star's central symbol, all those mental associations are possible, and could cause someone to index the OES as perhaps a "pagan fertility cult." Would that make it one, as far as you were concerned?

When you were looking up "occultish" symbols the other night, did you find an inverted pentagram, the symbol of your OES? Does that make the OES an occult group? What do you think?

I hope this helps.


| Gary L. Dryfoos  | Brotherhood of the Blue Forget-Me-Not
| P.O.Box 505, Cambridge, MA 02142 | PM: Ocean Lodge, Winthrop, MA (2nd Mon)
| ofc: 617.253-0184 fax: 253-8665  | & Mt. Scopus Lodge, Malden, MA (4th Wed)
| http://web.mit.edu/dryfoo/Masonry/| 
|      "...one sacred band, or society of Friends and Brothers, among
|       whom no contention should ever exist, save that noble contention,
|       or rather emulation, of who best can work and best agree."

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