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Masonry and Druidry: Druid’s Grove Lodge

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As you may have seen from the comments on my other post about a Druid Lodge, I’ve learned that John Michael Greer (a marvelous author on many esoteric subjects) is putting out a book along these lines.  It is really not so much a combination of Masonry and Druidry (it sounds like) as Druidry and the Golden Dawn (which uses the term “lodge” also).  It should be very interesting, especially because of all the research he has done on the 19th century lodges and the intersection between Masons and the creation of the new druid orders.

Currently, I have been working on a book on Masonry which I’ve given the working title:  A Freemason’s Handbook.  It is designed to be a small-format book that Mason’s can carry about, and one that will essentially be a close reading of the rituals and lectures.  I have already decided it will be three books for the three degrees, so brothers can engage in the work of the first degree without temptation to spoilers for the 2nd and 3rd.  And likewise for the Fellowcrafts.  The idea is to give brothers enough material to work on those degrees for at least a year before applying for the following degree.  I do not harbor any illusions that any lodges will adopt this plan, but you never know.  It is just my feeling that we Masons ought to spend time actually putting the material presented in each degree into practice for a year or more before we are really qualified to go on.  By the time one becomes a Master Mason, in such a scheme, one would have a huge body of practices to continue and pursue from all three degrees.

We’ll see how long it takes me to write it!  Ha!

I think I might just make it available privately through my web site and this blog and pass the Word through the Masonic grapevine.  I can make it available in electronic and POD form.  But I have to write it first and then run it by a few brothers for suggestions and improvements.

So, the starting of “Druid’s Grove Lodge” is a bit of a tangent from this project, yet it also connected.  I feel that working through Druid material and perhaps drawing from Greer as well as the OBOD methods will help me reorganize my brain around the work and at the same time  relate it to Masonry.  This will cross-fertilize both traditions (at least inside my brain).  At the most basic level, both traditions are based on semi-mythical figures:  the ancient stonemasons in the case of Masonry and the ancient druids in the case of modern Druidry.  These were historical people practicing real arts but have been take up as symbols since the 17th century (at virtually the same time).

It might seem that the stonemasons were pretty working class compared to druids, who were the advisors of kings and spiritual leaders of the ancient Celtic tribes.  But on closer inspection, the work of the enchanter and seer was not, in  the Iron Age, considered so high and mighty.  It was respectable, but not “supernatural” because it was part of the cosmological model of nature that formed the thoughts and minds of people in that time.  So, a druid was a specialist worker and the ovate, or vatis, was not only a seer, and healer, but also a smith.  The Grandmaster of the 3rd degree legend in Freemasonry is actually an artificer in bronze, or in other words a metalsmith.  The goldsmith and silversmith of the Celtic world was a magical person producing wonders in art that we still admire today.  The smith working in bronze was the maker of tools and weapons, and when iron was worked, the “blacksmith” continued the mystique of his craft by transmuting one metal into another, or rock into molten metal and metal into swords and tools.

Given this craft connection to druids, one can see that the stonemasons are in something of the same class — learned men and perhaps some women, whose secret arts produced results so exquisite that ordinary people could not begin to imagine how it was done.  Building in stone evolved over the centuries from the ancient world — Egypt to Mycenae, Athens, Persia, Rome, and then the revolution of the Gothic cathedrals produced in the Celtic parts of the former Roman Empire during the Middle Ages.  The druids have arts that are more overtly magical, at least as they were represented in medieval legends, but what modern druids wished to emulate in them was a close and immediate connection to the Divine through working with nature.  That is, learning the secret virtues of herbs, trees, metals, and minerals.  They were metallurgists, herbalists, and the Greek historians lead us to believe, mathematicians in the tradition of Pythagoras.

Moroever, their order used three degrees or specialities and years of training.  The stonemason’s symbolism centers on tools.  The druid’s symbolism has tools of a different sort:  trees, a wand, a cauldron, a robe.  The Bard, of course, has his musical instruments — especially the harp — but his tool is really his voice and the mathematics of harmony and music. As a druid, I did not think about the symbolic tools of Druidry. We tend to take them more literally because they are magical and magic is what druids do — druidecht is the word for magic in Gaelic.  Masons, on the other hand have not usually thought of their craft in terms of “magic.”  But “high magic” really is self-transformation and the enlightenment of consciousness in connection with the Divine.  And that is something that Masons might recognize in Masonry.

Neither Druids, nor Masons, devote themselves to Tarot cards and astrology or “godforms” as in the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn.  Nor is there any necessity to learn Hebrew letters or gematria.  The craft of the Mason and the Druid brackets all “god-forms” and focuses on the Divine at its highest, undifferentiated level. Now, I am aware some druids — J.M. Greer among them — consider polytheism to be something completely distinct from theological monism.  Natually, it is by definition not monotheism, but the belief in (or experience of) a Supreme Being lies behind much of the modern Druid movement. The avatars of the Divine One, are many. I myself think that the muliform divinities are important and by no means should be rejected as “idols.”  I’ve never liked that expression, but it does not apply to gods and goddesses and their worship. Idolatry is like superstition:  it is the worship of the images of gods and goddesses without any understanding of their actual existence as archetypal beings.

The Square and Compasses is a wonderful set of tools and the other tools of the builder, as well as the extended metaphor of “building.”  is a superb system of thought.  Druidry cannot do quite the same thing with the working tools of a bard, vatis, or druid.  Druidry is not a physical craft — or lacks that hard physicality of Masonry.  Druids don’t build temples, they meet in sacred groves.  Yet, however erroneous from an actual archaeological standpoint, the Druids were associated with the “temple builders” of the earliest times.  They were associated with stonehenge, Avebury, and the scores of dolmens and standing stones, henges, and circles, and burial mounds of the Celts and other Iron Age and Neolithic (as we now know) peoples.  This is what the 19th century Druid revivalists believed to be the case.

So, in stonehenge and its amazing construction, we actually do find a connection with stonemasons and temple builders.  And this might be what appealed to the Masons of the time. There was also a legendary connection. Caesar had mentioned that the druids never wrote anything down but passed on their teachings from mouth to ear.  Because of this, some Masons jumped to the conclusion that the ancient Masons must have in fact been Druids.  It seems like a quirky leap of logic to us now, but in the 19th century similarities were enough to demonstrate a causal connection. It is a fallacy, but where the story-teller’s imagination is concern, adherence to strict and careful logic is not necessary, nor is deviating from it a crime.

In this too, Masons and Druids share something.  Both have accumulated a body of legend and story for themselves including origin myths without regard for the strict demands of academic scholarship.  This has annoyed academics and led for a long time to scholars in universities turning their backs on both institutions as things not worthy of serious study.  But it is about truth that is very different from academic proofs and consensus.  It is about truths much deeper and more spiritual — truths of the human soul.

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2 Comments

  1. Where as you mentioned that the Greeks considered the Druids to be “mathematicians in the tradition of Pythagoras” and that one of the tools of the Bard are “the mathematics of harmony and music”, has your Bardic training with OBOD actually included the mathematics behind harmonics?

  2. alferian says:

    Bashmu, the answer is no, not as such. That is not the mathematics mathematically. The take I have on the similarity between the ancient druids and Pythagoras is that they understood geometry and its place in the “mystical” side of the natural world — in other words, these were abstract, invisible ideas that permitted one to understand and manipulate the natural world of things. The Pythagoreans also were a semi-closed association of seekers who practiced disciplines of a more general nature to prepare them for adepthood. The Greeks obviously had their “bards” too and the combination of musical theory and cosmology crosses many if not all cultures, I should think. An interesting question would be whether the druids used the same kind of harmonic scale and associated it with the spheres of the visible planets, and so also with levels of human consciousness and awareness. It would be very cool to learn more of the mathematics behind music. I have a musician-mathematician friend who is deep into both. Can you recommend any sources for the “layman” (i.e., not very adept at either math or musical performance)?

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