"To preserve the reputation of the Fraternity unsullied must be your constant care."


Saturday, June 16, 2012

Edict Against Esotericism?

I thought I had heard just about everything as far as Grand Master edicts go, but this one boggles the mind. It was issued this week by Derek J. Robson, Grand Master of New South Wales & Australian Capitol Territory (NSW & ACT) Australia. In it, he takes on the subject of esotericism and research. And not in a good way. I am almost speechless over the implications of it.

On 12 May 2010 the Board of Management passed a resolution stating the principles governing esoteric research. These principles are central to the practice of Regular Freemasonry. In order that there be no doubt that they bind every brother and Lodge in this jurisdiction I have decided to make them the subject of a Grand Master's edict. At my request the Board of Management has rescinded its resolution so that it may be substituted with the following edict which takes effect immediately.

1. Authorised, official Masonic Education and Instruction is only 'Regular' when applied to Free and Accepted or Speculative Masonry (Regular Freemasonry).

2. Because of the widely divergent interpretations which can be placed upon it, I am concerned about the unqualified use of the word "esoteric", or any of its derivatives or extensions, within Regular Freemasonry. Such use needs to be avoided as it has been and can be misconstrued to the detriment of the Craft.

3. I encourage all Masons to make daily progress in the acquisition of Masonic knowledge. Speculation and discussion within the Landmarks of the Order are to be commended.

4. Within Regular Freemasonry, interpretive discussion and exposition concern only the progressive acquisition of Masonic knowledge towards an understanding of the secrets and mysteries of the Craft, promoting the brotherhood of man under the fatherhood of God. To avoid any misapprehension, such regular discussion and exposition shall be described as "speculative" and the term "esoteric" shall not be applied.

5. Regular Freemasonry does not permit within it any form of esotericism which encompasses or tends towards – occultism, sorcery, alchemy, astrology, profane mysticism, transcendentalism, supernaturalism, druidism, rosicrucianism, satanism or any concept or movement related to any of these. The presentation, endorsement and/or promotion of such subjects in any Lodge holding under the UGL of NSW and ACT whether the Lodge be open, adjourned, at refreshment or closed or at any connected or associated Lodge function should be deemed irregular and is strictly forbidden.

6. Any breach of this Edict constitutes serious unmasonic conduct and shall be treated accordingly.

7. The Grand Master from time to time may grant dispensations to permit the presentation of papers on esotericism which would otherwise constitute a breach of this edict. A dispensation may be granted on such terms and conditions as the Grand Master may impose. An application for a dispensation must be made to the Grand Master in writing through the Grand Secretary. Normally it will only be granted if the proposed paper is a genuine and proper piece of masonic research.

New South Wales & Australian Capitol Territory (NSW & ACT) Australia.


  1. It is a sad commentary on the state of Masonry I believe.

    Lawrence, Enid Lodge #80. Enid, Oklahoma

  2. Is there Scottish Rite in this jurisdiction?

  3. I can understand that some of the "Esoteric Lessons" can be interpreted as stepping over the line of religious discussion and/or propagating.
    Lance Rommerdahl, PM

  4. So Freemasonry exists in a vacuum? How do you separate Freemasonry from esotericism?

  5. Brethren,  I am from the neighbouring jurisdiction of Queensland, and I can assure you that when this edict came out we were absolutely flabbergasted.

    We raised our hackles, vented our disgust, and promptly ignored the edict.  In fact, at the very next meeting of our Research Lodge we chose the open discussion topic to be Esoteric Freemasonry  as a mark of our contempt.

    I have never seen a GM's edict so discussed, abhorred, or ignored.  It became the laughing stock of Australian Freemasonry and is still used as a jibe against our friends and brothers from NSW just across the border.

    I recently presented a paper on Masonic Astronomy to the Research Lodge (www.barronbarnett.org.au) after which I was jokingly informed by a brother attending from NSW that I would have my tongue torn out by the roots for bringing up such topics in NSW - but he enjoyed it none the less.

    It is treated as a joke around Australia, especially within the Ancient & Accepted Rite (we don't use the Scottish here  -  it would get too confusing with all the Scottish Lodges we have here in Australia).

    Our brothers in NSW are embarrassed by it and try to forget it ever came out, and the rest of the country ignores it, unless there is an opportunity to take the mickey out of a brother from that jurisdiction.

    Not the GM's best decision, and I am sure he wishes he had not listened to the advice to publish such an edict.

  6. If that ever happened in my jurisdiction I would demitt immediately.

  7. Maybe I'm crazy, but I'd rather the brethren study geometry than satanism and sorcery.


  8. Looks like a gag order on what Freemasons in New South Wales can read, speak or think! There is nothing "Free"mason in that ruling!

    David Lettelier, PM
    Phoenixmasonry, Inc.

  9. What is next; book burning?

    Mike Clevenger, PM
    New England Lodge #4
    Worthington Ohio

  10. Yes, as well as pretty much every other order in Masonry elsewhere on the globe. This will only cover the Craft Lodges.

  11. Perhaps we should get rid of the three degrees since they were created by alchemists and Hermeticists like Schaw and Desaguliers.

  12. It has long been the contention in certain circles that the only true inheritor of Masonic traditions exists within so-called "irregular" Freemasonry.

    With the declaration by the UGLE that Freemasonry really is only a social club, and now this, it seems unlikely that any rational individual can disagree with that contention.

    Petitions, anyone?


  13. Esoteric study is nothing more than studying philosophy of thought but with a little more focus on the inner unknown or unrealized knowledge. I personally feel there are two types of people that join our great Fraternity: the Fraternal Brothers (those that join for brotherhood and social benefits) and the Esoteric Brothers (those joining to obtain knowledge from within or enlightenment) and both are fine but the term esoteric applies directly to Masonic knowledge (unknown or realized knowledge which is usually obtained only by a select few whom seek that knowledge or are initiated into it). I don't believe the Grand Master wants Masons to stop studying knowledge Esoteric in nature, rather he just doesn't like the Fraternity to officially use the term "esoteric" because of the negative modern misnomer or modern cultural association with magic or the devil (no doubt brought about by governed organized religious bodies and perhaps Hollywood). My suggestion to the brothers governed under this Grand Master, is to simply replace the word "Esoteric" with "Unknown" or "Ancient Unknown". It may not sound as exciting as "Esoteric" but it does comply with the rules of "that" Masonic order which we as Masons are bound to follow and uphold, while still allowing us to research and study anything we please.

    It's painfully obvious that someone has approached the Grand Master or someone he knows about what the Masons do behind closed doors and probably said something along the lines of "Hey you guys worship the devil because your members are studying "esoteric" occult, mystic, etc... subjects". (or some other nonsense like that) The Grand Master probably understands that his edict would be a controversial one but needed to protect the image of our Fraternity by distancing itself from the word "esoteric" and its misnomer. His edict appears more a political move rather than a literal one and I don't believe it will inconvenience any brothers by just using a different word to replace "esoteric*". He just doesn't want his Masons to go around publicly stating that word in relation to Masonic activity because of the modern misinterpreted association with it.
    So, continue studying and continue traveling East for further light.

    Blake Dahl, Esq.
    Valparaiso, IN
    Porter Lodge 137
    South Bend SR
    Valparaiso YR

  14. Esoteric and exoteric are apparently foreign concepts to the GM making this edict. I understand that he doesn't want to point a questionable light on the fraternity but if that is the only concern then he needs to find a different organization than Masonry with which to participate. The foundation of our fraternity is questioning and the use of symbolism to keep secret that which the profane won't understand. Sometimes these bridge the divide to other beliefs which we need to respect, but with which we may not necessarily agree. Limiting that up front is censure and waters down the secrets of freemasonry. In essence I believe this edict to violate the core tenants of our order.

    Wes Tapp, PM Clinton #175, PHP Tecumseh #42, PTIM Tecumseh #18, Commander Adrian #4

  15. This sort of reminds me of the period some years ago, when the term "Masonic Temples" suddenly was sent to the back of the filing cabinet, and the lodges in the Northeast (US) became known as "Masonic Lodges." The changes were applied to phone directories, bank statements, etc.

    The explanation given to me was that "the antis" might misinterpret the word "temple" and further associate us with, erm, esoteric practices.

  16. "Each Mason must think for himself, and each is entitled to write whatever he wishes.

    Masonry has no dogma. An official position would deny a man his right to think for himself and his right to follow the dictates of his own faith. Each Mason has a right to seek Masonry for what he wants to find. It is his right to believe as he wishes; BUT it is not his right to force that belief on others.

    There are only three documents a Mason must abide by; the Ritual, the Constitution of the Grand Body in whose jurisdiction he lives and the by-laws of his Lodge, Chapter, etc. The Rituals embody the whole of Masonic instruction. The latter two contain the Laws, Rules and Regulations necessary for their government as is necessary for all organizations. Everything else is opinion." Bro Robert H Meyer

    I think the scenario given by Bro Blake Dahl is more closer to reality as far as I can tell. Not a lot of Brethren would delve into 'esoteric' part of Freemasonry in any jurisdiction I know of anyway. But for those who do; as I do now, I tend to read & research for my own benefit. As in the case; for example of my 'religion', my quest would be purely personal & I don't need to announce or promote to anyone. I tend to think of it as purely personal in nature anyway.

    As Oscar Wilde once quipped “The pure and simple truth is rarely pure and never simple."

    Mario Baylon Jr
    Lincoln Lodge No 34 GLP
    Lodge Jose Rizal 1045 UGL NSW & ACT

    1. Bros Baloney and Dahl,

      You two are pretty moderate, which is refreshing. I kindly suggest you re-read the GM's msg. What I got out of it was that he wanted esoteric papers to be remitted before presentation for quality control.
      That's pretty inconvenient and inappropriate of him.
      We have a definition of esoteric, but not the traditions he lists. If reputation was indeed his concern, I would respectfully suggest a better edict would have been to promote discretion in these matters.

      Good thing it is ignored.


  17. I think this seems to be a misunderstanding of what 'esoteric' means by definition. Certainly, there can be an odious side to the word 'esoteric', yet it does not fulfill the word's meaning:

       /ˌɛsəˈtɛrɪk/ Show Spelled[es-uh-ter-ik] Show IPA
    understood by or meant for only the select few who have special knowledge or interest; recondite: poetry full of esoteric allusions.
    belonging to the select few.
    private; secret; confidential.
    (of a philosophical doctrine or the like) intended to be revealed only to the initiates of a group: the esoteric doctrines of Pythagoras."


    By this definition, every individual works in a very esoteric way, but that stretches the point a bit. ;.)

  18. All Masons should be proud Esotericists, seeking the hidden and researching the unknown.

    Jonathan Gatlin, 32°
    Observance Lodge #686
    Nashville, TN

  19. We saw this coming. This kind of ignorance is similar to the current situation facing the Knights Beneficent of the Holy City here in America, which we also knew would happen. It is kind of like the growing pains of children before they grow up. Years ago there was an effort to correct what was considered to be Wrong or "Irregular" interpretations of Masonic science. During this clean up well meaning brethren with little knowledge in esoteric subjects tried to make Freemasonry more of a socially (political?) acceptable institution by down playing the esoteric component and highlighting the civic component. If we rely on public opinion we will DIE! Many men are looking for the esoteric and they will find it elsewhere in other organizations outside of Freemasonry if we donot supply them with it. We were meant to be the social leaders! It is no accident the three founding members of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn were all Freemasons! Lon Milo Duquette, Carroll Poke Runyon, and John Michael Greer. All Freemasons!!! LOL!

  20. The last major Church Council before the ultra famous Council of Trent was the lesser known Council of Florence. The Council of Florence was principally dedicated with trying to unite the Western and Eastern Churches. But a side effect attributed to it was that it brought many "eastern" types into the West of for the council, and that this stimulated what came to be known as the more "esoteric" preoccupations of the Renaissance. Whatever one might think ultimately of esotericism, there is no doubt whatsoever that Masonry is indebted to Renaissance thought in many ways. Thus, the collateral point is that one way or other Masonry, even in its most "regular" form is both indebted to the historical effects of things like Church councils AND the de facto esoteric elements that were introduced, and later flourished, in the Renaissance, by way of them. I hardly think a Church Council is an outlandish element. You can't shut down history and its effects with an edict!

  21. I would suggest reading " They Call each other Brother"The strange, slow death of Mateship in Australia 1788 -2010 as the authentic history by Bro Bob James as a source of what is going on "downunder".

  22. I have largely been off the Internet the last couple months, and heard about this edict during the Annual Festive Board of the American Lodge of Research, in New York City. I had just delivered a paper to the brethren assembled. My topic? "Esotericism and Freemasonry."

    I am reminded of the complaint of the image-conscious teenager to his or her parents: "Don't walk on the same side of the street as me! Don't wave to me when you see me at the mall!"

    It would appear that some brethren are less equipped than others to deal with our esoteric background. How sad, for a fraternity that prides itself on its arcane symbolism.

  23. I’ll therefore ignore the observation that the lodge room changes to a slight pink light when it is opened in the 2nd?

    Any brother in NSW that wishes to meet in secret to discuss the esoteric elements of freemasonry may do so by contacting us in the usual manner.

    S Rowlison, MM
    Redcliffe First Settlement No 287


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