Friday, May 31, 2013

Order and Progress in the Dérive: Freemasonry and Positivism in the Urban Landscape of Rio de Janeiro

With such a distinguished history, it should come as no surprise that Freemasonry has left its mark on architecture and urban design.  For example, various sources have long ascribed the layout of Washington, D.C. to Masonic influence, and indeed, it has recently come to light that original designer Pierre l'Enfant had in fact obtained at the least the First Degree of the Craft (here).  Sandusky, Ohio, has a Square and Compasses integrated into its original street plan.  One square mile in an area known as "The Lodge" was incorporated as Apopka, Florida, so that its namesake Masonic Lodge became its center (Journey to the Center of the Earth).  But time and growth have obscured these Masonic origins.  

It's been awhile, but I'm finally reporting back from a recent trip to South America. For its large number of Masonically-inspired monuments, I figured Rio de Janeiro must be among the most visible Masonic urban landscapes in the world.  I was partly right.  What I hadn't counted on was the related but independent philosophical school of Positivism. Before considering this point, let's take a look a number of examples of potentially Masonic-influenced elements in Rio; we'll get back to the consideration of Positivism towards the end of this article.

When I kept seeing evocative monuments everywhere I went in Rio, I started keeping my eyes peeled like a child looking for Easter Eggs.  I have never seen so many obelisks in my life.  They are used as architectural elements, posts to delineate parking lots, fountains and as lone free-standing sentinels.  In addition to the obelisks, there are pyramids everywhere:  truncated, inverted, both right-side up and inverted together, in pairs....  Even if it weren't for the Illuminati-themed graffiti I saw around some these monuments, I couldn't merely write it off as confirmation bias.  I wasn't the only one grokking them, they are everywhere. 

Graffiti across the road from the Largo do Boticário
My Portuguese is poop and English info on some of these places is kind of scarce, so I hope readers with any information on these monuments will contact us or comment in order to clarify or expand upon the information we present herein.

This graffiti (right) was among the first things I photographed on my very first day in town.  It was to set the tone for next ten days, where on each excursion I came across either an obelisk or a pyramid.  It seems to mock the viewer, tongue stuck out and flashing heavy metal devil horns.  I'd been forewarned.

This Google Earth view shows the general distribution of obelisks and pyramids in Rio:

Most of these were glimpsed from the back of a motorcycle or through a bus window.  It was only later that I tracked them down to inspect them, making long ambling walks through town, stumbling across even more things by chance.  What follows is an account these dérive(s) through the streets of Rio.

This is the first set of pyramids I saw:


They are a striking pair of modest-sized but almost dangerous-looking pyramids made of granite.  They once served as the gateway into the Passeio Público.  Built 1779-1783, this is the oldest public park in Brazil.  The public park we take for granted is actually quite profound; the use of public space freely available to all is certainly a reflection of democratic ideals, although this one wasn't open to all the public until 1793.  Prior to that it had been reserved for the aristocracy.

The architect was Valentim da Fonseca e Silva (Master Valentim).  He planned it in the French formal tradition, originally a rough hexagon, like France itself; as you can see,  the paths within form first a pentagon, then a square. 

1862 drawing showing the Master Valentim's design of the Passeio Público.  Wikipedia.

The idea of the perfection of nature--order and progress--are implicit in a park, especially the French style.  No coincidence that the first public parks date to the Enlightenment.  When the park was re-designed in 1864 by a Frenchman in the English style--less symmetrical and more "natural"--the pyramids were retained.

The principle Masonic themes implicit in these pyramids lies in the fact they are free-standing markers of ingress.  They can thus be likened to Jachin and Boaz, which are elements of the Temple of Solomon.  This in turn derives from Phoenicia, and back to Egypt itself.  (see I ♥ Phoenicia and Pillars of the Community).
Does anyone know if Valentim was a Freemason?
Here is a rather poor image of a fountain, also designed by Master Valentim, topped by an obelisk with a cross, that sits in the center of the Praça General Osório in Ipanema:

The General lived from 1808-1879 and was a Freemason, according to the Lodge Fraternidade No.3 HIMN (Pelotas).  Perhaps this is the reason the obelisk was chosen.  In any event, its construction actually predates the General's birth, having been designed by Valentim in 1799 (source).

Master Valentim certainly liked pyramids and obelisks, having also designed the Chafariz da Pirâmide in the Praça XV (1779) (source).

Chafariz de Mestre Valentim or Chafariz da Pirâmide.  Photo by "Piutus".

The story doesn't end with Master Valentim. Here are 8 other related features I'd like to share.

1. Here we see the obelisk used as an architectural adornment,on the building which houses the Sindicato dos corretores de seguros e capitalização do est.  That is to say the syndicate of insurance and capitalization brokers:

2. This obelisk is apparently quite important, capping as it does Avenida Rio Branco (née Avenida Central), which was a massive engineering affair and a great source of pride for Cariocas.  During one clash between President Vargas and rebel gauchos, "the rebels hitched their horses to [it], claiming ownership of Rio's quintessential monument of the bourgeois republic." (Boldface added)  This was in 1930 (Culture Wars in Brazil):


The needle is 11.4 m and overall it's 28 m high.  Like Valentim's pyramids, it is made of locally-extracted granite and executed by one Eduardo de . It was donated to the city by Januzzi & Brothers at the inauguration of the Avenue.  I don't know if either of these brothers were Freemasons.

A sign names President of the Republic Francisco de Paula Rodrigues Alves (a Freemason) and Transportation and Public Minister. Lauro Severiano Muller (also a Freemason) as those who commissioned the Avenue, completed between November 15, 1902 and November 15, 1906 
3. The Metropolitan Cathedral of Saint Sebastian (1964-1976) is one of the most unusual cathedrals on the planet, an imposing pyramid that evokes some kind of spacecraft:


It was designed by Edgar Fonceca to replace a series of older cathedrals, the last of which had been dedicated to Our Lady of Mount Carmel.  Incidentally, the Chafariz da Pirâmide also replaced a structured dedicated to this apparition of the Virgin.  Perhaps the "pyramid" is thus designed to evoke Mount Carmel?

I don't think this has anything to do with Freemasonry, but it is pretty damn cool, perhaps a tip of the hat to the recurrence of the pyramid in Master Velentim's designs.... 

4. The Monument to Estácio de Sá.  I went into this in some detail in Masonic Republics? so I won't repeat myself here; it should be included in the list, just in case you think I'm overstating my case.  I would add that it seems to refer to the pyramids at the Passeio Público in its sharp verticality.  As I mentioned in my other post, the guide at the monument claims the pyramid was chosen because Sá was a Freemason.  Whether the claim is true or not, it's important that he believes it to be true; it's association with the other pyramids, then, somewhat retroactively gives them a Masonic association as well.

5. Finding information about the following monument has proven difficult, and it took me a few hours of walking around in flip-flops, hungover, to find it.  I don't know the artist or the date.  I think at this point we can safely say there are a lot of pyramids in Rio.  Perhaps I'm reading too much into these things, but, judging by the graffiti pictured below, a work over two meters high on the wall facing the left (as you face it) side of the pyramid, I'm not the only one wondering if Rio is not in some ways the enormous sculpture garden of Freemasons....

The honoree here is Zumbi dos Palmares (1655-1695), a rebel leader of great skill who led the Quilombo dos Palmares, a self-sustaining republic open to escaped slaves, free Africans, Indians, whites.  He resisted the Portuguese effectively for years.  The central settlement eventually succumbed to Portuguese artillery but Zumbi lived to fight on for two more years, until he was betrayed.  When captured he was beheaded on the spot.  Today he is an important figure for Afro-Brazilians.  This monument is placed in what was once a thriving Afro-Brazilian neighborhood until much of it was razed to make way for the massive Avenida Vargas built here.

Who commissioned this statue and who designed it?  Why a pyramid?  Did Freemasonry influence the design? 

6. This hourglass configuration of pyramids is the Peace Monument, dedicated to the city of Rio by the Bahá'í Faith after the Earth Summit in 1992.

The Bahá'í Faith is a monotheistic religion religion emphasizing the spiritual unity of all humankind.  Three core principles establish a basis for Bahá'í teachings and doctrine: the unity of God, that there is only one God who is the source of all creation; the unity of religion, that all major religions have the same spiritual source and come from the same God; and the unity of humankind, that all humans have been created equal, and that diversity of race and culture are seen as worthy of appreciation and acceptance.

This sounds a lot to me like the spiritual principles of Freemasonry Indeed, Bahá'í has come under attack in Iran for, among other reason, having direct ties to the Craft. 

As Freemasonry was a secretive society originating from the West, many in Iran connected the movement with the introduction of foreign ideas into the country in order to undermine Iranian values.  Claims were made that many of the earliest Freemason lodges, such as Malkom Khan's faramush-khanih, which were founded in 1858, were linked to European lodges.  However, Freemasonry was brought to Iran by Iranians who had seen the movement in other parts of the world.


The teachings of the Baha'i Faith expressly forbid membership in secret societies. Shoghi Effendi, the guardian of the Bahá'í Faith, asked all Bahá'ís to remove their memberships from all secret societies, including the Freemasons, so that they can serve the teachings of the Bahá'í Faith without compromising their independence.


The Peace Monument, "a five-meter high concrete and ceramic monument was designed by, and built under the supervision of, the renowned Brazilian artist and sculptor, Siron Franco....His design combines two pyramids, one inverted on top of the other, creating an hourglass shape intended to symbolize the fact that time is running out for humanity unless it unites in a new spirit of global cooperation."

During the inauguration ceremony, a line of children dressed in the costumes of many countries passed from hand to hand the soil of 42 nations for deposit into the monument, which is hollow.

Many of the soil samples have been taken from sacred or historic sites. Soil from Iceland, for example, was taken from that country's most sacred and historic spot...

Etched in four languages on the four sides of the upper pyramid are words written by Bahá'u'lláh more than a century ago: "The earth is but one country, and mankind its citizens." The quotation is displayed in English, Portuguese, Chinese and Terena, an indigenous language of Brazil. On the lower half of the structure the words "world peace" have been engraved in more than 35 languages. A glass strip at the monument's midpoint displays multi-colored soils taken from the contributing nations.

This is the kind of sentiment that gives so many people nightmares.  An impending One World Government or New World Order is the bugbear of any number of political and religious persuasions.  Any group with an overtly ecumenical message such as Freemasonry, Scouting (Rio incidentally not only has a monument to Scouting but to its founder Lord Robert Baden-Powell) or Unitarians are often lumped together and charged with having a hand in bringing about this New World Order, often believed to have been foretold in the Book of Revelations and directed by the hand of Lucifer himself.  That Masonic luminaries such as Albert Pike spoke glowingly about the Morning Star, or Venus, aka Lucifer, doesn't help.  That the obverse of the US one dollar bill features an unfinished pyramid of thirteen layers with a banner which reads Novus Ordo Seclorum ("New Order of the Ages"), also adds fuel to the fire.

The charges leveled against Freemasonry do in fact have some merit, if you believe in the exclusivity of your brand of faith.  The Craft does espouse ecumenicism and the Brotherhood of Man.  Personally, I don't think any of these groups are "all in on it together", but they are clearly working towards many of the same goals; it is interesting that they chose the pyramid in a city with its fair share of them already, many of which, as we have seen, have Masonic connections.

Which is also something which can be said about the obelisks of Rio, including our next mysterious fellow...

7. The Praça do Expedicinario:

This seems to be an administrative area, with a variety of police and military museums and facilities, hence the Plaza of the Expeditionary.  It is currently very run down and under renovation, or at least barricaded.  The obelisk itself is covered with graffiti.

According to this blog (in Portuguese), this plaza is considered the birthplace of Rio, as it was the site of the first European occupation of the area, Morro Castle.  The first "town hall" was located here, as was the governor's mansion, warehouses, a Jesuit church and the city's first cathedral, dedicated to Saint Sebastian.  The remains of Estácio de , the soldier who founded the city, were also interred here.

The obelisk is a monument to the Baron of Rio Branco.  A little back story.  The Baron's father was José Maria da Silva Paranhos, the Viscount of Rio Branco (1819-1880).  The elder Paranhos was the Grande Master of  Grande Oriente do Brasil  in 1872 when the Bishop of Olinda expelled all Freemasons from lay brotherhoods.  The Viscount had been a Freemason since at least 1840.  Up until then, Brazilian Masonry did not appear to have the same adversarial relationship with the Church as the Continental Orients, but for various reasons, things came to a head and provoked a political crisis.

According to Wikipedia:

The government came down on the side of the Freemasons and against the church, ordering Dom Vital to rescind the interdict, which he refused. This refusal led to the bishops being tried before the Supreme Court of Justice of the Empire where in 1874 they were convicted and sentenced to four years of hard labor which was commuted to imprisonment without hard labour. Rio Branco explained in a letter written in August 1873 that he believed the government "could not compromise in the affair" since "it involved principles essential to the social order and to national sovereignty". These actions aligned with his own views, but his convictions were bolstered by the Emperor's identical conclusions. Pedro II regarded Rio Branco as his favorite politician and a second-in-command on whom he could rely. The Emperor played a decisive role by unequivocally backing the government's actions in moving against the bishops. The lack of independence shown by Rio Branco in relation to Pedro II was strongly criticized by historian Roderick J. Barman, who believed that the Prime Minister only enforced policies that did not displease the Emperor or which had his full support. The trial and imprisonment of the two bishops was very unpopular....

Pedro seems to have been an enlightened and simple man who resented the imperial burden which had been placed upon him.  When slavery was abolished, he received the news while on his sickbed, teary eyed and exclaiming "Great people! Great people!"  Although Republicanism never flourished during his reign, Positivism became widespread among junior officers in the military.  When they eventually staged a coup d'état, he apparently seemed unconcerned and did nothing to squash it and quietly accepted exile to Europe.  After his death he was widely praised as an exemplar of Republican ideas.  One curious conflict that occurred during his reign was a uprising against the imposition of the metric system, called "Smash the Kilos" (1874), which many suspected of being condoned by priests....

Today it might be hard to imagine what a ruckus the metric system caused, but one must imagine that it in fact was an extension of Enlightenment and thus Republican ideals being extended into the very fabric not only of daily life and commerce, but in a human being's perception of the world.  Even today, ultra-conservative Catholics yearning for the days before Vatican II condemn the metric system as a technocratic affront to god and the natural, as opposed to rational, order.  One example is Michael A. Hoffman, certainly a fringe figure, whose Secret Societies and Psychological Warfare dedicates quite a bit of ink to railing against the metric system:

The contrast between the reign of number and the world of poetic serendipity, is analogous with the contrast between metric and traditional measure. Traditional measure (pounds, pecks, gallons, bushels, leagues, fathoms, furlongs etc.) represents measurement on a human scale, containing the quantities of serendipity and poetry, which constitute mankind’s defense against the empire of the machine. Modern measure, on the other hand, polices our world with the lifeless rigidity of the metric system, first imposed in 1795 by Freemasons.

Could Freemasonry be reflected in the use of obelisks?  Rio Branco's son, the Baron, is honored by an obelisk and he, like his father, was a prominent statesman and Freemason.  Recall if you will our first obelisk, which now sits at one end of the Avenida Rio Branco, just where it crosses Rua Master Valentim.

Perhaps we're not the only one to link the Rio Branco obelisk to the pyramids and Freemasonry.  The final graffito we will present today is scrawled on the sidewalk just before the Praça do Expedicinario....

8. The last monument we'll take a look at is the Monumento aos Mortos da Segunda Guerra Mundial, dedicated to the war dead of the Second World War, especially those of the Brazil Expeditionary Force.  Interesting coincidence.  Also interesting is the plethora of pyramid forms that sit above a chapel holding their remains.  Just like the mausoleums to Artigas in Montevideo and de Sá, the underground crypts receive light from the surface.  The difference is that there isn't just one single pyramid in this composition, but several.  The monument was designed by Mark Netto Konder and Helio Ribas Marinh and completed in 1960. 

The first thing one notices from a distance is the pair of pillars, supporting a flat table-like slab of concrete.  To me, these two pillars recall Jachin and Boaz.  In fact, there are quite a few uses of free standing pillars in nearby architecture:  the Camara Municipal of Rio de Janeiro, on Avenida Rio Branco, the Memorial Municipal Getúlio Vargas (also underground), a pair of whimsical pillars on the Praça Italia and many more I cannot recall.

I decided not to elaborate upon these examples of pillars (unless they were obelisks, which is another matter) but I mention Jachin and Boaz here because of the metalwork which connects the two pillars.  Counting the squares, we find that there are 32 apertures.  I was sort of surprised but in some way wasn't at all, because as you can see in the next picture, the eternal flame honoring the unknown Brazilian soldier is.... inverted pyramid.

A look over to the other side of the above ground part of the monument, one sees another table-like slab sheltering three figures, representing the three branches of the Brazilian armed forces.  Be that as it may, already primed by the number 32, I could not help but recall the basic three degrees of Freemasonry, or even the Three Ruffians.  That said, I realize that this is more my own poetic invention than anything else.  This entire portion of the monument is supported by what appears to be an inverted pyramid.  What you cannot see so well in this photo is that this pyramid also incorporates a right side-up pyramid into its design, forming an out-of-proportion and three-dimensional visual corollary to the Masonic Square and Compasses.

A variation on this design can be found in the crypt, where the same pyramid/inverted pyramid design is used to support the above ground part of the monument.  I would imagine this to be a structural necessity to reinforce the load-bearing smaller tip of the inverted pyramid.  As a design choice a pyramid is logical as the Egyptian pyramids are probably the most famous tombs in the world and were already ancient in Jesus' day.  A funeral monument is supposed to preserve the memory of the dead.  Why not choose a design that has proven its functional and psychological staying power?

Everything is a pyramid on this monument.  Even the steel that carries the dedication inscription is a perfectly small pyramid of the tetrahedron variety.

Finally, in the small court which allow light into the underground crypt, there are 8 triangular plaques.  Sadly, I neglected to note what these plaques specifically honor.

Phew!  What a "tour" de force of examples I found!  Now, let's get back to Positivism, as I promised in the intro.  I think there's a lot more to be said about the role of Freemasonry in Brazil's history, as well as its influence on Positivism.  Positivism had a big impact in Brazil, especially among the military, and it would be hard to study one without studying the other.  I'm not much of a philosopher, or I'd have a go at it; however, there already seems to be quite a bit on the subject available so I'd suggest pursuing it further online.  Still, a few words on the topic are in order.

Positivist themes have existed in Western thought since antiquity, but here we are concerned by the Positivism articulated by August Comte (1798-1857).   His Positivism "states that the only authentic knowledge is that which allows positive verification and assumes that there is valid knowledge only in scientific knowledge."

But science and reason were not enough, some kind of religious framework was required.  Comte formalized his Positivist system in the Religion of Humanity based on his belief that "there should also be a religion that would have power by virtue of moral force alone."  He even went as far as to propose a new calendar, as in the French Revolution, where the months were named after great thinkers.  Each day also had its own patron thinker, just as in the Catholic calendar each day has its saint.

His was a complete system of liturgy, sacraments and clergy; Humanity was venerated as the Nouveau Grand-Être Suprême (New Supreme Great Being), which evolved into a trinitarian system with the addition of  the Grand Fétish (the Earth) and the Grand Milieu (Cosmic Space).

Islam has five pillars, Positivism has three:
  • altruism
  • order
  • progress
As I stated earlier, Positivism became quite popular among the military in Brazil during the reign of Pedro II.   In Brazil, this was formalized when philosophers Miguel Lemos and Raimundo Teixeira Mendes founded the Positivist Church of Brazil in 1881.  They were joined by Benjamin Constant.  Constant was a military officer and a Freemason, a leading figure in the 1889 coup d'état which ended the reign of Pedro II.  The 1891 constitution named him the "the founder of the Republic".

In 1897 the Positivist Church became the "Temple of Humanity".  The Temple exists to this day.

The Temple of Humanity is another legacy of the French Revolution.  In 1792 the most radical elements of the Revolution formalized revolutionary anti-clericalism in the Cult of Reason, an atheistic system to designed replace Christianity.  "The Cult of Reason was explicitly humanocentric. Its goal was the perfection of mankind through the attainment of Truth and Liberty, and its guiding principle to this goal was the exercise of the human faculty of Reason."

In 1794, Maximillien de Robespierre supplanted the Cult of Reason with the Cult of the Supreme Being.  As its name suggests, it was not atheistic--and it was the atheism of the Cult of Reason which most disturbed Robespierre.  In his Cult, "reason is only a means to an end, and the singular end is virtue ... The primary principles of the Cult of the Supreme Being were a belief in the existence of a god and the immortality of the human soul."

These principles sum up the principle spiritual tenets of Freemasonry.  It was one of the last straws, however, for Robespierre, and his cult pretty much disappeared after his execution in 1794.  It was later officially banned by Napoleon.

But in a sense, the Cult of the Supreme Being did not entirely disappear.   It lives on in the Temple of Humanity, churches of which exist.  Brazil still has, after France, quite a few Positivist churches, one of which is in Rio de Janeiro; it is oriented, like a mosque towards Mecca or a Cathedral towards Rome, towards Paris.

Positivism's influence in Brazil is demonstrated on its flag.  The first flag was proposed by Rui Barboas, a Freemason, but it was rejected by provisional president Deodoro da Fonseca, military officer and Freemason.  Teixeira Mendes suggested the celestial globe and the Positivist motto.  His ideas were presented to Fonseca, who promptly accepted them. The flag was designed by a group formed by Mendes, Miguel Lemos, Manuel Pereira Reis and Décio Villares.  It was officially adopted on November 19, 1889.  None of these men were Freemasons, but they were all Positivists, except Reis.

27-star version of the flag adoped in 1889. Wikipedia.

The monuments we've studied here, however, are the visible sign of invisible currents; either flotsam or roadsigns depending on whom you think remains in power.  I think it's important to bear in mind that while I'm focusing on Masonic symbolism, quite a few of these monuments aren't linked to the craft in any other way save for their form.  The obelisk is not only a Masonic marker; St. Peter's Square boasts a genuine Egyptian obelisk and the Vatican is certainly the last place to go looking for Freemasons.

Brazil is pretty wild in its architecture, and if you go looking for pyramids in say, São Paulo and Brasilia, you'll find more than one example.  Likewise obelisks.  I know because I came across quite a few examples in those cities while looking into those in Rio.  I limited myself to Rio because there are so many to deal with already, but also because I actually saw these things with my own eyes.  This relates to my desire to process the things I've seen in my travels, to order my thoughts, and to give meaning to my experience.  Order and Progress, wot?

Please, if I've made any omissions or errors, don't hesitate to comment or contact me.  Rio's a big place, and I'm sure more is out there.  Let me repeat: I'm sure of it.  There's an enormous streetlamp in the form of an obelisk in a compass rose on yellow streets in the Praça Espanha in Ipanema, but I didn't actually see it. You can Google it though, and report back.

Happy hunting, and we can't wait to hear what you find.

Thanks to the Gid, who, as in times past, helped untangle the mess I made when I wrote myself into knots.  Gid also suggested breaking this post up into several "micro-posts" -- a suggestion I vetoed.  If this post is too long and unwieldy, then, the fault is all mine.  Likewise the content.

Thursday, May 30, 2013


Two recent posts featured on other websites:

Masonic Republics
A lil' look at monuments in Montevideo, Rio de Janeiro, Buenos Aires and Blagnac.

Sunshine State
KKK and Freemasonry in Florida.  Did I really use the SWAG method?

I link back as both a courtesy and an encouragement to read the other interesting posts these sites contain.

Update 6/6

Thought I'd add

Order and Progress in the Dérive: Freemasonry and Positivism in the Urban Landscape of Rio de Janeiro
An elaboration of Masonic Republics.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Down in a Hole

This post began as a continuation of my last, but as it became longer and longer I decided to make it into a post of its own.  I'd be grateful if any reader could help me out with the unanswered questions contained within, as well as adding their thoughts to the role of caverns and vaults in Masonic contexts.

Are Freemasons obsessed with Caves?

The Masonic Grand Lodge of Arizona meeting in the cave in the mine of the Copper Queen Consolidated Mining Co. at Bisbee, Arizona, Nov. 12th 1897 / A. Miller. 

In his introduction to James Shelby Downard's Carnivals of Life and Death, Adam Parfrey writes: "As seen in this book, Downard believes caves are fundamental to Masonic beliefs and ritualism, part of the secret history of the United States."  Parfrey illustrates his text with the above photo of the Grand Lodge of Arizona, which can be obtained from the Library of Congress website.

As Albert Mackey states in An Encyclopedia of Freemasonry:  "In the ceremonies of Freemasonry, we find the cavern or vault in what is called the Cryptic Freemasonry of the American Rite, and also in the advanced Degrees of the French and Scottish Rites, in which it is a symbol of the darkness of ignorance and crime impenetrable to the light of truth."

The Masonic symbolism as Mackey sees it, then, is essentially that of Plato's Allegory of the Cave.

A.E. Waite's Encyclopedia has a slightly different take:  "We come to see that the Cryptic Grades, the Royal Arch of Enoch and so forth are not modern inventions in respect of their traditional histories.  The common basis of all is of course the literal existence of subterranean vaulted chambers beneath the site of the Temple."  Ultimately, "our secret vaults are like concealed treasures [lying] beneath temples not built with hands" containing the ""Ark of our salvation" [which] bears the true Mason to Eternal Mansions and the Everlasting Presence."

Nothing untoward in either of these definitions, contrary to Downard and Parfrey suggest.

Parfrey, also mentions the underground vault of the York Rite in his handsome book Ritual America, as well as (presumably under the influence of Downard) the importance of caves to Masonry in general.  To illustrate, he reproduces the very same picture of the Arizona cave meeting used in his intro to Carnivals.  In a second photograph, without any commentary, one can discern "Volcano Lodge" embroidered on a banner.  Sadly, the patchy text is pretty much as it is with the rest of the book; it's choc-a-bloc full of beautiful images but rarely provides enough context to properly understand what we're looking at.  It's clearly organized to be sensationalist and panders to the most negative views of Freemasonry out there, but having said that, Freemasons themselves have produced many of these unflattering, silly or sometimes sinister images.  It is these images that make Ritual America, subtitled A Visual Guide, a book worth having, with the caveat that one has to look elsewhere for a more nuanced history of the Craft.

Thinking that if caves are so important to Freemasonry, there must be other examples than two photos, one of which Parfrey uses in two books, I did some Googling and came up with a few more examples of Lodges using caves as meeting places or with other Masonic connections:

Zedekiah's Cave
The cave opening [to Zedekiah's Cave] is beneath the north wall of the Old City of Jerusalem; close to the Damascus Gate. From the entrance, the main path leads south for nearly 225 meters (~740 ft) till it reaches the main large cave called "The Freemasons Hall."

This cave may really be King Solomon's quarries, anyway being a real quarry and in the vicinity of the Temple Mount. This cave has special meaning for Freemasons in general, and for Mark Master Masons and the Royal Arch in particular. Starting in the days of the British Mandate, the cave was used for the ceremony of Mark Master Masons. This was temporarily suspended between the years 1948-1968. The impressive ceremony of the consecration of the Supreme Grand Royal Arch Chapter of the State of Israel was carried out in the caves in the spring of 1969, and ever since then, the Mark degree has been performed in the caves on the average of once a year. 

These are the "subterranean vaulted chambers beneath the site of the Temple" referred to by Waite and are also mentioned in the Ecclesiastical History of Philostorgius known only through a summary by Saint Photius.

Royal Arch Cave
There is a cave in the Chillagoe-Mungana Caves National Park called "Royal Arch Cave."  I can't find a specific reference to Freemasonry but it seems unlikely that the name is a coincidence.  There was a Masonic Lodge in Chillagoe at least as early as 1907.  This Lodge became Chillagoe Lodge No. 166 when the United Grand Lodge of Queensland was created in 1920.

Can anyone can confirm or deny that this cave was named for the Masonic body?

Malheur Cave
Malheur Cave is a classic example of a large lava tube cave.  The cave is 17 miles east of Crane Hot Springs and is owned by the Masonic Lodge of Burns [No. 97, Oregon].

In 1938 two members of the lodge, Ulysses S. Hackney and Charles W. Loggan, came up with the idea of holding an outdoor stated meeting in the Malheur Cave 52 miles east of Burns. They devised a plan to use the Malheur Cave for an outdoor meeting of Masons in Oregon.  Their idea was well received, and the first official outdoor meeting of Masons in the Western United States was held at the Malheur Cave at a stated meeting, under Special Dispensation, at 8:00 pm, October 1st, 1938....After supper the Lodge was opened in the cave on the Master Mason degree, and the MM degree was conferred upon Brother Fellowcraft William Merle Bennett.

Forty-nine masons registered, and twenty-one different lodges from seven states and one foreign country were represented. Lighting was by gas lanterns.

Perhaps not such a propitious name, for malheur in French translates to woe, misfortune or bad luck.....

Eblen's Cave
A Masonic degree is conferred every year in Eblen's Cave, a natural cave that can comfortably hold 300 people. It is located 8 miles east of Kingston on the Clayton Brashears farm. Over the years, degrees have been presented by lodges from Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia, Delaware, California, Florida, Mississippi, Kansas, North and South Carolina, Virginia, Ohio and Maryland.

This event was inaugurated in 1972 "to institute an activity that would promote more interest in Masonry."

As I mentioned before, Parfrey's Ritual America also reproduces a picture of Volcano Lodge (No. 56, California), so a quick search turns up:

"Masonic Cave"

Volcano has an annual picnic usually held on the First Sunday of October at the "Masonic Cave" site (less than five minutes from the Lodge Hall). The Masonic Cave got its name from the first meetings there to organize a petition to the California Grand Lodge for a Volcano Lodge Charter.

Apparently the Lodge held some early meetings there as well.  That said:  "The caves were abandoned after five meetings when the Masons moved into their new meeting hall which they shared with the Odd Fellows, which was most likely a bit warmer and dryer."

George Washington Cave

Parfrey also mentions that George Washington used a cave as a Lodge meeting place.  Further inquiry reveals that the cave in question is George Washington Cave in Jefferson County WV.  "Tradition has it that the large three-room cave was the first Masonic meeting place west of the Blue Ridge. Samuel and John Augustine Washington were among a group of Masons who bought the cave in 1773 and in 1844 there was a major Masonic celebration there."

There a video about the cave hereUnfortunately, there is no proof that George Washington actually ever set foot inside the cave, let alone attended Lodge there; it's merely part of local Masonic folklore.  His signature is scratched into the wall, but this could easily be spurious.  As anyone who lives in the areas where George Washington roamed can tell you, if every place that claims "George Washington slept here" is correct, Brother George would have had to have been something like 300 years old.  I just pulled that figure out of my hat, but you get the idea.  George Washington is such a towering figure that everyone wants to claim a piece of him, like pieces of the True Cross or hairs from Saint Whatchamacallit's beard.

I think anyone wanting to make a case that Masons are mad for caves does have a few examples to support their case, but the evidence is scanty at best.  Proof that Masons are doing evil and creepy things underground, like so many lil' devils, has not been documented at all, Parfrey's offhand mention of Benjamin Franklin's attendance at Sir Francis Dashwood's visits to the Hellfire Club aside.

A handful of Lodges occasionally meeting in caves really is a trifle compared to the literally thousands that do not!  Zedekiah's Cave has a long and obviously very important place in Israeli Freemasonry and the Rites mentioned by Mackey and Waite, yet this is easily explained by it's proximity to the Temple Mount and that the Temple is the central metaphor of Freemasonry.   But even this cave witnesses only one yearly event.  Eblen's Cave and Malheur Cave also hold one event per year, and those only date back to 1972 and 1938, respectively.  Volcano Cave is also only used once a year.  At one point the cave was used for more regular Lodge meetings, but only five times, until a more suitable place was found.  The Washington Cave seems more important not because it was a cave, but because it has been linked, perhaps apocryphally, to George Washington.

As Parfrey, Waite and Mackey write, it is true that a cavern or vault plays an important role in the Royal Arch Degrees.  At one time some Freemasons considered that the Royal Arch was the true culmination of the first three degrees; indeed, a dispute over its place in Masonry in the early 19th century even led to a  "schism" in English Freemasonry, which at one point boasted rival "Antient" and "Modern" Lodges with differing views.

So, one cannot entirely cast aside Parfrey and Downard's belief that caves are central to Freemasonry.  That said, the subject takes up all of four paragraphs of text in the 300+ page Ritual America.  As for Downard's book of weird masochistic fantasy, I can only say that what he purports to be Masonry is a complete load of horseshit.  I've said this elsewhere:  pick a symbol, any symbol.  You'll find it in Freemasonry:  boats, hearts, anchors, daggers, flowers, beehives, rainbows, tools, etc. ad nauseum.  I don't know why caves or vaults would be especially troublesome.  The empty tomb is is many ways the climax of the Passion--er, that didn't come out right!  What I mean to say is that it "proved" for many that Jesus was in fact what he claimed to be.  Early Christians met in catacombs.  What is a catacomb but an extensive cavern and underground vault?

So, it's not a big deal either way, but it was interesting to follow up and I'd be grateful for anymore examples that might be out there....

Friday, May 24, 2013

Masonic Republics?

In a post entitled ¡Viva la Revolución! (3 March 2011) I looked at the influence of Freemasonry in 19th-century Latin America, a series observations and quotes about the Masonic influence on some of the many wars for independence against the Spanish Empire.  I mostly looked at Masonic symbolism on flags, state seals, coats of arms, etc.  We saw that in many cases, the Masonic symbols were indistinguishable from symbols of the French Revolution, which in turn mirror many of those found in Freemasonry.

In retrospect, my article is a rather flawed and superficial piece and represents the serious limits to my reading in the subject.  I hope that this post and others to follow will help flesh out what I've already written, but one should always keep in mind that I'm doing a lot of speculation, kind of like wondering about the subject out loud.

This sequel began as a result of my trip last year to South America, where I saw so many Masonic elements on public monuments my head began to spin.  Buenos Aires and especially Rio de Janeiro are rife with monuments that are either explicitly Masonic or dedicated to groups in accordance with Masonic ideals.  This was also true, to a much lesser extent, in Montevideo, where it nevertheless all started.

Artigas Mausoleum

The monument to José Gervasio Artigas Arnal in the Plaza Independencia bears many striking similarities to the Monument to Estácio de Sá, a monument I hadn't yet seen for myself in Rio, but had written about thanks to a photo and some description from my brother-in-law Alfredo Buendia.  These two monuments also have a lot in common with the Temple du Sagesse Suprême in Blagnac, about which I've written extensively and has since become a well-known object of vilification.

Artigas (June 19, 1764 – September 23, 1850) is called "the father of Uruguayan nationhood" just as George Washington is called the "father of our country" in the U.S.  In fact, there is a group of Founding Fathers, which is an essay unto itself: the implied paternalism of the state, its reflection of a thoroughly ingrained patriarchal society, etc.  But that's another story.

Normal then that the capital city Montevideo would honor the man in a way which is brilliantly symbolic.  His mausoleum is at the center of Plaza Independencia, just as the man himself was at the center of Uruguayan independence.  This Plaza also separates the old city from the new, not only diving pre- and post-revolutionary quarters of the city, but symbolically representing the division of the ancien régime and the new world order and thus Europe and the Americas.

Was Artigas himself a Mason?  He was part of a Masonic-like society called the Society of the Eastern Knights (Sociedad de los Caballeros Orientales), according to the Wikipedia page on compatriot Manuel Oribe. An article in El Pueblo (Salto, Uruguay) states:  Los representantes de la Escuela Hiram reiteraron que José Gervasio Artigas no integró la Masonería pero afirmaron que 'a su alrededor habían masones'.  Simply put, Artigas himself never joined but was surrounded by Masons; the article also traces the strong role of Masonry in the Uruguayan independence movement.

(For those who read Spanish, here's more about the quasi-Masonic Lautaro Lodges). 

In ¡Viva....! I proposed that the sun in the national flags of Uruguay and Argentina (among other countries) derives from Masonic sources.  I wouldn't want to make weirdo leaps of faith, but I couldn't help thinking that Uruguay's full name, the "Oriental Republic of Uruguay" refers to more than its place on the South American continent.  I don't think it's unreasonable to imagine that there was also a sly reference here to Oriental Masonry, the French-born Continental form of Masonry which dominates South American Freemasonry to this day, where each national jurisdiction is known as a Grand Orient as opposed to a Grand Lodge, and which have a number of doctrinal differences from Anglo-American Masonry.  Thus we also see a lot of French symbols among Latin American revolutionary symbols, many of which, as I stated earlier, are also Masonic.

This inkling of mine about the word "Oriental" was reinforced when I saw the Plaza de los Treinta y Tres, or Plaza of the Thirty-Three.  These "33" are in fact the Treinta y Tres Orientales, a fighting force led by Juan Antonio Lavalleja (1784-1853),  a Freemason, whose insurrection against the Empire of Brazil "culminated in the foundation of modern Uruguay."

Funny thing is "The true number of the group has been the object of controversy, based on the existence of various lists of members, published between 1825 and 1832. Albeit thirty-three is the officially accepted number, the names differ from list to list".

I don't believe the number 33 is an average of those lists or scientific estimation, nor is it merely pulled from a hat.  I would wager that it is symbolically representing the 33 degrees of the Scottish Rite, like the the 32 rays of the Sol de Mayo on the Argentine flag and the 1828 version of Uruguay's flag.  This version was designed by Joaquin Suárez (1781-1861) who the GOFMU claims was a Freemason.  (Note that there are 32 degrees to be earned, and one honorary degree; thus both 32 and 33 can allude to these degrees).  Is it possible that Freemasons active in the formation of Uruguay could in this way symbolically lay claim to a Masonic foundation of the fledgling state?  I wouldn't wager my life on it, but grok if you will the following image.  The Estévez Palace, the former workplace of the Uruguayan President and now a museum, displays relics of its early presidents.  One of those articles:  a Masonic sash, with the 33 inscribed within a Delta in glory.  I believe it's Oribe's sash, but my memory fails me and I didn't take notes.  If anyone in Montevideo can confirm this I'd be grateful.

Treinta y Tres, by the way, is also the name of one of Uruguay's 19 provinces.  Its capital city bears the same name and "Together with Ejido de Treinta y Tres and the southwestern suburb of Villa Sara, they form a population centre of around 33,000 inhabitants." 

I was delighted to see on Wikipedia that the population of Uruguay is rounded to 3.3 million!
Oribe's (?) Masonic Sash.  Palacio Estévez.
Artigas' Mausoleum, opened in 1977, contains a great deal of Masonic symbolism.  The above-ground portion is a truncated pyramid, which, like the pyramid on the American one dollar bill, suggests that the nation's work is not finished; it must, like men and Masons, continue to progress in life towards perfection.  It is a symbol which implies betterment through education and walks hand in hand with the notion of scientific and social progress in addition to the fundamental assumptions of capitalism, which despite the negative connotation of capitalism among contemporary  "progressives", was then considered progressive during the Enlightenment; strange to many American ears, the word "liberal" in Spanish and French still implies the tendency towards laissez-faire politics in economics and law.

Truncated Pyramid
Related, or not?
The pyramid is open at the top, which allows a shaft of light, one of the foremost Masonic symbols, to shine upon Artigas' urn.  Two guards are stationed to either side like Jachin and Boaz, the silent sentinels of a Masonic Lodge, but this is certainly a poetic metaphor in my own invention rather than an intentional reference!

As Mackey's Encyclopedia says:  "In the ceremonies of Freemasonry, we find the cavern or vault in what is called the Cryptic Freemasonry of the American Rite, and also in the advanced Degrees of the French and Scottish Rites, in which it is a symbol of the darkness of ignorance and crime impenetrable to the light of truth."

If this is an accurate reading of the cavern symbol, the architects of this monument have done well to allow the light to fall upon Artigas' remains.  He who led them out of ignorance and into truth, "illuminated" as one might say.  Hence the sun on the Uruguayan flag, as well as the appellation "Oriental" for the nation?  After all, the sun rises in the East, the direction revered by Masons as the source of light, or wisdom.

I tried to discern numerical symbolism in the number of panels and alcoves in the mausoleum, but didn't come across much, though I do find some meaning in the fact that it resembles the tessellated floor of a Lodge. 

The truncated pyramid, however, does have three layers of marble panels, so this may reflect the basic Masonic degree structure of three degrees.

Monument to Estácio de Sá

Let's compare the Artigas mausoleum to a monument I've previously written about, the Estácio de Sá monument in Rio de Janeiro.  Sá (1520-1567) , like Artigas, was a soldier and the "father" if you will, of Rio.  The monument is a pyramid which above ground is composed of 13 layers.  The American flag of course has 13 stripes the number appears in many places on the reverse side of the dollar bill.  It is also the number of layers in the pyramid in the Temple de la Sagesse Suprême, a monument I'll discuss in the next section.  I read the pyramid, like simpler geometric forms, as abstractions which, though based on naturally-occurring shapes, are not so commonly found in nature; they are "perfected" versions of mountains, fruit, rocks the sun and the moon.  You can see from this photo that in my original post I slightly misinterpreted its form due to the camera angle of the photo at my disposition, but I think this interpretation is essentially correct.

Like the Artigas mausoleum, light shines into the crypt

Before this pyramid is a triangular window, formed with smaller triangular panes of glass. Just like Artigas' monument, this aperture allows light to shine into the crypt below, shaped as a triangle, following the perimeter of the low wall which marks the boundaries of the exoteric monument above:  as above, so below.  This crypt serves as a small exhibition space, but also houses a reproduction of Sá's tomb.  A remarkable parallel.  Unlike the Artigas mausoleum, the pyramid continues underground for several more layers.  A sinister interpretation is that this represents the hidden forces below the surface of everyday politics, perhaps even echoing the cave-like effect produced in a Masonic lodge, where the ceremonial space is always windowless.  A less sinister interpretation as that this represents deeper forms of knowledge, higher values which ironically, are accessed by going into the deeper concerns of man beyond everyday living.

This above/below theme is reflected in the triangle of sand below these windows.  A quirky thought occurs to me:  sand is used to make glass.  Perhaps this is another metaphor for the powers of reason and enlightenment?  Sand is used to make glass, which in turn allows us to illuminate once-darkened spaces.  Here again though, I think we're entering the realm of the poetic imagination rather than objective analysis.

I should also mention that the small paved plaza around the pyramid is a triangle, as is the crypt itself.  Every form used in its construction, then, is a triangle, or based on one.

The triangle on the floor
As my brother-in-law discussed the symbolism with the monitor in Portuguese during my visit, I was able to make out one thing the monitor said, and that is the form of this monument had been inspired by the "fact" that Sá  was a Freemason.  This claim is possible but a bit of a stretch; the earliest indications of Masonic-like lodges date to Scotland and France in the 1530's, but more convincing references to Freemasonry were a century down the line .  Whether true or not, the claim that he was is significant, as well as that the form was chosen as an homage to Masonry.  The architect and people who paid him seem to have wanted to link the founding of their city with Freemasonry.  Indeed, the Flag of Brazil is a very natural green and blue, decorated with stars.  Above this nature symbolism are words, not shapes:  "Order and Progress."  This encapsulates Masonic values regarding the perfectibility of human nature and via democracy, society as a whole.

Pirámide de Mayo

The pyramid is also has a strong solar connection; as tombs of the Pharaohs, they were essential for survival after death.  Like the sun itself, they signify re-birth.  This in turn is one symbolic meaning of the New World, a fresh start, a perfection of the Old, a new day as it were.  We can here point to the Buenos Aires Metropolitan Cathedral.  The pediment, a triangle naturally, depicts the reunion of Joseph with his father and brothers in Egypt.  Though it represents reconciliation, it also provided the sculptor an opportunity to depict the three pyramids of Giza in the background.  Buenos Aires' most prominent landmark is an enormous obelisk, after all, and I've never seen such a prolific use of the obelisk in miniature scattered throughout a city, except in Rio.  I also passed a small pyramid in a public park near the Recoleta cemetery, the cemetery of the city's illustrious and wealthy...and where explicit Masonic symbols abound.  The Sun and two hands shaking in fellowship derive from Masonry; the Phrygian cap was derived from the French Revolution.  All three symbols are ubiquitous in Argentina, as they form they principal elements of the country's coat of arms. 

These symbols are also displayed on the Pyramid of May  (1811), a monument in Buenos Aires' Plaza de Mayo.  The pyramid was ordered by the Primera Junta to celebrate the first anniversary of the May Revolution that led to removal of the Spanish Viceroy and the establishment of the Junta, the first local government on the path to independence.  The president of this Junta, its two secretaries and five of six committee members were Freemasons.

The Pyramid was originally crowned by a ball finial and encircled with 12 pillars, also with ball finials.  The number 13 appears yet again!  This original Pyramid was renovated and significantly modified in 1856 under the direction of Prilidiano Pueyrredón, a Freemason.

As for the sheer number of obelisks and pyramids, however, Rio has Buenos Aires beat, but I think I'll compile that list for another post.

Temple de la Sagesse Suprême

A third monument I'd like to touch upon is the pyramid monument located at the heart of Blagnac's (France) Place de la Revolution named the Temple de la Sagesse Suprême.  A thirteen-layered pyramid sits at the center of the plaza, as if literally at the heart of not only the Revolution, but the subsequent State, represented by an abstract form of a house from within the center of which pokes the tip of the pyramid.  Its symbolic position at the heart of the Revolution is echoes in both the Pyramid of May and the Artigas Mausoleum.  The pyramid rises with the state, from the masses at the bottom to the President at top, which actually rises about the state itself.  The Sun is metaphorically represented by a circular pathway which radiates outwards.  Here the Sun may represent a new day, but also France's self-proclaimed role as a beacon of Liberty, radiating its revolutionary principles throughout the world.  In fact, a tessellated map of world once lay beneath the pyramid, which is a working fountain.  The pyramids of Sá and Artigas are within view of the sea, perhaps this fountain replaces that natural watery setting.  Why that would be I'm not sure, as water is not really a Masonic symbol, although both the anchor and the ark are.  Perhaps then this refers to the story of Noah, whose story is important not only to Freemasonry, but esoteric circles in general.  As we've seen in previous posts, Noah's story represents....a new start for the world.

The light however, is not just symbolic.  In the ensemble of sculptures that flank the pyramid, a dog-like belvedere can emit a beam of light through a hole in the pyramid.  This too is reminiscent of the eye in the pyramid; because this "eye" also serves to transport light, it's not at all "conspiracy theory" to believe it represents a wink in the direction of Enlightenment, if not a direct homage to the Bavarian Illuminati.  After all, Weishaupt did envision a small elite of enlightened men pulling the levers of the state; the pyramid with the eye is thus called the Temple of Supreme Wisdom.  The clincher is a bronze panel which quotes eccentric architect (and Freemason) Jean-Jacques Lequeu: "Happiness is in the angle where the sages gather."  These sages are of course, enlightened, that is to say illuminated men.  Masons of course, meet on the square, a perfect equilibrium of four angles, a perfected microcosm of the natural world's four directions, its winds, its elements....

Templo da Humanidade —  Rio de Janeiro
France's self-image as a beacon of these values is not arrogance.  The beam of light passes through the eye to hit a crystal set within a tri-colored shield held by a stylized revolutionary carrying a halberd and wearing a Phrygian cap, the symbols repeatedly found in Latin American post-revolutionary heraldry, proof perfect that in fact the ideals of the French Revolution did indeed shine upon the world.  There is, for example, a positivist church in Rio, the Church of Humanity, oriented not towards Jerusalem, but Paris!  Positivism as a church values rationality and promotes universal fraternity; order is its foundation and progress is its aim.  There are some really good articles about the link between positivism and Freemasonry and their use of compulsory public education as means of achieving their goals of order and progress. Many positivists were  Freemasons, including fellows like Jules Ferry, who is primarily responsible for the first laws regarding compulsory education in France.  The most Masonically-festooned tomb in the Recoleta is that of President Domingo Sarmiento, the "father of the Argentine education system" and obviously a Freemason.  I wholeheartedly recommend the articles here and here for a history of positivism, Freemasonry, public education and Latin America. 

This little comparison of these monuments is fitting for a fraternity rich in ideas expressed in architectural metaphors, for these monuments express those ideas not with metaphorical architecture, but in real stone.  The link between Freemasonry and independence in Uruguay and Argentina, as well as in France, is I think clearly expressed in the symbols on these monuments.  A quick look at the people honored by them and who had a hand in making them also demonstrate a number of Freemasonic personalities that cannot be ignored.

So, a lot more could be written here, but for now I've hit a wall, the very same upon which I've just laid another brick.  There'll be more to come....