The Grand Master’s Address

In the Universe a Ternary shines forth,
And the Monad is its principle. (i)

Minerva Masonic Lodge, Liverpool, December 21, 1959

The Grand Master begins with the opening prayer:

‘Most holy and glorious Lord God, Great Architect of the Universe, the giver of all good gifts and graces! In Thy name we have assembled, and in Thy name we desire to proceed in all our doings. Grant that the sublime principles of Freemasonry may so subdue every discordant passion within us, so harmonize and enrich our hearts with Thine own love and goodness, that the Lodge at this time may humbly reflect that order and beauty which reign forever before Thy throne! Amen!’

The brethren respond:

So mote it be!

The Grand Master looks about him, then begins in low grave tones:

‘Brethren, I stand before you on the Winter Solstice – the shortest day of the year, when the celestial longitude of the sun is 270°. This auspicious day of darkness brings to mind not only the birth of Christ, but all the pagan gods who were celebrated throughout the ancient world. Dionysus or Bacchus amongst the Greeks; Mithras amongst the Persians; Osiris amongst the Egyptians; Baal amongst the Babylonians; and Astarte amongst the Carthaginians. They all had magnificent temples built in their name, some more splendid than the Gothic cathedrals of the medieval world. Think of the Egyptian pyramids, and the stupendous temples, built by Cyclopean masons – the citadel at Tyrius, whose lancet arches are as old as Father Abraham! (ii) Were not the Celtic masons of the same Titanic race?

‘The pagan gods were born on, or very near the Winter solstice, and born of a Virgin in underground chambers; they all led lives of toil, sacrifice, and service for mankind; and they all went under the various names of Light-bringer, Healer, Mediator, Saviour and Deliverer. But ultimately, they all died miserable deaths, seemingly vanquished by the powers of darkness. They descended into the Underworld, only to rise again, triumphant over death, and ascend glorious into Heaven.

‘The old gods promised to return again, and preside over the Last Judgment of mankind; and so they inspired many disciples, who were received into their sects by the ritual of baptism. Make no mistake, our pagan ancestors used the same prayers, liturgies and sermons as in Christian churches; the same votive offerings of frankincense and candles; the same saintly relics and amulets against evil. They held Eucharistic rites, and believed in the doctrine of transubstantiation, when the immortal God descended from Heaven to possess the earthly bread and wine. Even as a young man, long before I joined the brotherhood, I was left with one burning question: who is the pagan god of corn? Who is He behind the Nature religion of old?

‘The original mysteries were those of Isis and Osiris in Egypt; they came to the Greeks under the guise of various gods, each one the embodiment of a given purpose. Zoroaster brought them into Persia; Cadmus and Inachus brought them into Greece; Orpheus into Thrace; Melampus into Argis; Trophonius into Bœotia; Minos into Crete; Cinyras into Cyprus; and Erechtheus into Athens. The Ceres of Sicily and Eleusis is none other than the Egyptian Isis, brought by Phoenician merchants, who traded corn from Lower Egypt with the peoples of the Mediterranean. As Isis and Osiris were in Egypt, so was Mithras in Asia; Bacchus in Bœotia; Venus in Cyprus; Jupiter in Crete; Ceres and Proserpine in Athens; Castor and Pollux in Amphissa; Vulcan in Lemnos; and countless others in numerous places. But their purpose, as well as their nature, was the same in all—to preach the doctrine of a future state—of a spiritual existence, above and beyond this material world. Little wonder that all Christian altars are pagan. The Roman Janus kept the keys to Paradise long before Saint Peter. Our holy days for Easter and Christmas were kept as Spring and Autumn feasts, centuries before, by the Egyptians, Persians, Saxons and Romans. Our Christian Candlemas is a Roman feast, and the celebration of the miraculous conception of the Virgin is held on the very same date as the pagan Juno. These sympathies of religion extend throughout the ages and across all creeds. The Bodhisattva and Archangel Michael appear to be the same angelic being. Buddha was born of a virgin; his name means the Word or Logos, but he is known more affectionately as the Saviour of Mankind. In early Christian art, the evangelists are represented with the same heads of eagles, lions and oxen that we find in Egyptian tombs.

The same universal doctrines prevail throughout – good and evil, predestination, atonement, regeneration, a future existence beyond this world, final judgment, and Divinity of the Trinity. Even the same mystical symbols recur, again and again, all over the world: the cross; the triangle; the sphere; the serpent; the all-seeing, all-knowing eye of God; the halo of holy rays; and the eternal Tree of Life… But I did not summon you here to explain how Christianity supplanted the pagan creeds of old, nor celebrate the solar gods of antiquity, nor tell of the many vegetative myths that surround them…

Brethren, my heart is heavy. On this, the shortest day of the year, just one-thousand five-hundred and fifty-six years after the birth of Christ, I have no cause to rejoice. For I am only too aware that the kingdom of darkness has nigh engulfed the world. The Golden Age is lost, buried in the dust of ages. The splendour of Medieval Europe has fallen, consumed in the chaos of post-modernism. The history of civilisation shows that mankind does not evolve as science dictates. Despite our great technological progress, Man still struggles under a tyranny of evil. The catastrophes of two world wars have almost destroyed Europe, and only a vestige of the medieval glory remains. What has science given us? Yet more sophisticated ways of killing one another. Oppenheimer split the atom. And now we stand on the brink of nuclear annihilation. When I awoke this morning, and the sun’s rays touched upon my face, I asked myself many soul-searching questions, not least: “What use is Freemasonry, if it cannot preserve the will and purpose of the Grand Architect of the Universe?”

‘Every brother knows that our order is an initiatory system of symbolic practice – that Masonic symbols possess both an outer and inner content. To practice the brotherhood of our craft is to discern the Light of inner symbols, whether the intellect grasps them or not. Some might argue that this inner comprehension is subconscious; for what a true symbol teaches goes beyond the limits of verbal expression. But militant science is only concerned with outer things; so much so, that the outer has smothered the inner. When this happens, all esoteric meaning vanishes, and all that remains are the husks of things – the hollow shells washed up from the depths, devoid of life.

‘Freemasonry is an initiatory progression up the Tree of Life, towards the mystery of God. Brethren, we must strive to enrich the symbols of inner Light whilst living in the depths of that Light! Alas, in the modern age our task becomes ever more difficult. The shadow of the enlightenment was the birth of rationalism, which has now entrenched the world in a mire of materialism.

‘It was not always so. There was a time when the transcendental magic of the Kabbalah, of hermeticism, alchemy, Platonism, and even the universal gnosis of the theosophists were recognised and practised by men of science. Isaac Newton himself, the true father of the enlightenment, was secretly involved in alchemy. But the notion of symbols as doorways to deeper realities, or as cyphers to the mysteries of God, is now lost on the men of science.

‘Our fraternity extends back to our transcendental brother and magician – the erudite Pythagoras, who effaced Time and Space and took his disciples down the rabbit hole into the infinite Monad – that eternal presence of God, the increate Being, who dwells in the intelligible realm, unfolding from His own incomprehensible essence, all the relations of the universe.

‘The Pythagoreans believed that the great Monad is the formal principle and cause of all things; for they perceived that the nature of Unity is the primary cause of being and preservation for everything. Pythagoras taught that God, the indivisible substance, has accordingly for Number, the Unity which contains the Infinite; for Name, that of Father, Creator, or Eternal Masculine: for Sign, the living Fire, symbol of Spirit and essence of the Whole.

‘Yet the instant God manifests Himself, He becomes double. For the great Monad acts as a creative Dyad. The Monad represents the essence of God, and the Dyad His generative and reproductive faculty. The Dyad brings the material world into being, as the visible unfolding of God in time and space. Accordingly the Dyad represents the union of Eternal-Masculine and Eternal-Feminine, the two essential and corresponding divine faculties.

‘Thus Pythagoras divided the world into two opposing powers; the superior Monad, light, right, equal, stable and straight; and the inferior Dyad, darkness, left, unequal, unstable and movable. The superior Monad expresses equality and measure; indivisible essence; the active, animating and masculine principle. But the inferior Dyad expresses the passive, feminine principle; a divisible substance of amorphous matter, full of excess and defect. The Monad is that perfect essence which, being deprived of all number, remains fixed. But the Dyad is imperfect and passive; the cause of increase and division. For the great Monad is always more excellent and powerful than the subordinate things which are more separate from their cause.

‘Plutarch, describing these mysteries said: “God is a male and female intelligence, being both life and light, he brought forth another intelligence, the creator of the world”.(iii) And Orpheus, who introduced the mysteries into Greece sings: “Jove is a male; Jove is an unspotted Virgin”.(iv) The Brahminical doctrine in the Sama Veda says: “The will to create existed with the Deity as his bride”. (v) And the Upanishad teaches the same: “He caused himself to fall in two, and thus became husband and wife”.(vi) Indeed Lanci interprets the sacred name J.H.V.H., as HO.HI., or he-she.(vii)

‘The Triad is composed of both Monad and Dyad, partaking the nature of both. The Pythagoreans regarded the Monad as God, the Dyad as Matter, and the Triad as the complex phenomena of the World. Thus the Universe is divided into three concentric spheres: the natural, the human, and the divine. Just as man is composed of three distinct yet blended essences: body, soul, and spirit, so the Triad is accordingly the constitutive life of things, the essential key to life – the true corner stone of esoteric science. Hence it is said in the Chaldean oracles, “In every world a triad shines forth, of which a monad is the ruling principle.” The Tetrad is the completeness of all these relations, and the Decad is the cosmos, or harmonious whole. Why? Because 1+2+3+4=10.

‘Almost every esoteric system contains a Triad deity. The uniform symbol of this three-fold Deity is the equilateral triangle; the precise form occupied by our three pillars of Wisdom, Strength, and Beauty.

‘In the mysteries of India, Brahma, Vishnu and Siva, are considered a triune god, distinguished by the name “Tri-murti”. The word murti, is synonymous with eidolon; in a superficial sense, it means form or image, but primarily, it denotes the appearance of a celestial being. Thus Brahma is said to be the Creator – represented by a pillar of Wisdom in the East; Vishnu the Preserver – represented by a pillar of Strength in the West; and Siva, the Judge and Destroyer – represented by a pillar of Beauty in the South.

‘Although this trinity is acknowledged in the first three degrees of Masonry, as the titles of Wisdom, Strength and Beauty, the true identity of the Creator remains hidden from view. As you know, it is only when a mason arrives at the holy Royal Arch, that the name of the Demiurgus is finally made known – that most fearful Divinity, whose presence brings flashes of lightning, and rolling cannonballs of thunder.

‘Which brings me to the magician, Simon Magus, who was a native of Gitta, a village in Samaria. He studied philosophy at Alexandria and founded a Gnostic sect which became a thorn in the side of the early Christian church. Simon Magus believed that coexistent with the Supreme and all perfect God was an evil deity who presided over the world of matter. He asserted that the Supreme Being was not the true Creator or Demiurgus of the world, nor an independent being at all. According to Magus, the Supreme Being, who resides outside of Time and Space, produced from himself all other immortal and spiritual beings, called Æons who then filled the heavens with beings similar to themselves. In his Great Announcement, he said:

‘To you, then, I address the things which I speak, and [to you] I write what I write. The writing is this: there are two offshoots from all the Æons, having neither beginning nor end, from one root. And this is a power, viz. Sige, [who is] invisible [and] incomprehensible. And one of these [offshoots] appears from above, which constitutes a great power, [the creative] Mind of the universe, which manages all things, [and is] a male. The other [offshoot], however, is from below, [and constitutes] a great Intelligence, and is a female which produces all things. From whence, ranged in pairs opposite each other, they undergo a conjugal union, and manifest an intermediate interval, namely, an incomprehensible air, which has neither beginning nor end. But in this is the father who sustains all things, and nourishes things that have a beginning and end. This is He who stood, stands, and will stand, being an hermaphrodite power according to the pre-existent indefinite power, which has neither beginning nor end. Now this [power] exists in isolation. For Intelligence, [that subsists] in unity, proceeded forth from this [power], [and] became two. And that [Father] was one, for having in Himself this [power] He was isolated, and, however, He was not primal though pre-existent; but being rendered manifest to Himself from Himself, He passed into a state of duality. But neither was He denominated Father before this [power] would style Him Father. As, therefore, He Himself, bringing forward Himself by means of Himself, manifested unto Himself His own particular intelligence, so also the intelligence, when it was manifested, did not exercise the function of creation. But beholding Him, she concealed the Father within herself, that is, the power; and it is an hermaphrodite power, and an intelligence. And hence it is that they are ranged in pairs, one opposite the other; for power is in no wise different from intelligence, inasmuch as they are one. For from those things that are above is discovered power; and from those below, intelligence. So it is, therefore, that likewise what is manifested from these, being unity, is discovered [to be] duality, an hermaphrodite, having the female in itself. This, [therefore,] is Mind [subsisting] in Intelligence; and these are separable one from the other, [though both taken together] are one, [and] are discovered in a state of duality.(viii)

‘With the heavenly hierarchies of the Æons in mind, let us return to the Monads. Iamblichus says:

‘From the infinite principle of principles, in which all Created things causally subsist, absorbed in superessential light, and involved in unfathomable depths, a beauteous progeny of principles proceed, all largely partaking of the ineffable, all stamped with the occult characters of deity, all possessing an overflowing fullness of good. From these dazzling summits, these ineffable blossoms, these divine propagations, being, life, intellect, soul, nature, and body depend; monads suspended from unities, deified natures proceeding from deities. Each of these monads, too, is the leader of a series which extends from itself to the last of things, and which, while it proceeds from, at the same time abides in, and returns to, its leader. And all these principles, and all their progeny, are finally centred and rooted by their summits in the first great all-comprehending one. Thus all beings proceed from, and are comprehended in, the first being: all intellects emanate from one first intellect ; all souls from one first soul ; all natures blossom from one first nature ; and all bodies proceed from the vital and luminous body of the world. And, lastly, all these great monads are comprehended in the first one, from which both they and all their depending series are unfolded into light. Hence this first one is truly the unity of unities, the monad of monads, the principle of principles, the God of Gods, one and all things, and yet one prior to all.(ix)

‘Thus each monad has a specific multitude affiliated to itself, just as every multitude is comprehended by a specific preceding monad. In like manner, the Æons created subordinate beings, particular to their own specific natures. And since everywhere a monad binds to itself the cause of its multitude, it is impossible for any multitude to exist without its causal monad. To destroy the causal monad is to destroy all its subsidiary beings. And likewise, to destroy an Æon, is to destroy its subordinate entities.

‘Yet I hear you ask, has not materialist reductionism effaced the monads? For all matter can now be broken up, ad-infinitum into its constituent parts. Does this not imply the dissolution of the whole between its monadical constituents? What of the spiritual atoms split by the Hydrogen bomb? The spiritual atoms are the ultimate building blocks from which matter is formed; they represent a minimal constituent order which cannot be dissolved. For if a monad is to be anything at all, it must be a continuing finite representation of the universe. (x) As above, so below. Thus nothing exists but monads, expressing the holistic integrity of the Whole, which is repeated indefinitely within itself, using indivisible parts which remain unique yet complementary to each other. It is an interesting philosophical point that the monadology of Leibniz borrows from Pythagoras, for each monad mirrors the whole universe, and there is in each perspective a “sensible” which embodies the appearance of a thing. But the Leibnizian monads more closely resemble the “Intelligibles” of Plotinus. So let us, like Leibniz, take refuge in the infinitesimal, and like Pythagoras, look to that incomprehensible cause of all monads, whose essence is profoundly one (xi); the venerated being who is one; let us contemplate the multitude in one; and celebrate God as the one being prior to the multitudinous subordinate monads that exist within the holistic whole: The Unus Mundus.

‘Pythagoras left us the following beautiful conception of the Deity: “God is neither the object of sense, nor subject to passions; but invisible, only intelligible, and supremely intelligent. In His Body he is like the Light, and in His Soul He resembles Truth. He is the Universal Spirit that pervades and diffuses itself over all Nature. All things receive their life from Him. There is but One, Only God, Who is not, as some are apt to imagine, seated above the World beyond the Orb of the Universe; but being Himself All in All, He sees all the beings that fill His immensity: the Only Principle, the Light of Heaven, the Father of all. He produces everything, He orders and disposes everything. He is the Reason, the Life and the Motion of all things.”

‘Which brings me to the most profound question of all. What is the human soul? It is profoundly this: an immortal monad – an essence of the mighty soul of the world – the Anima Mundi – a spark of Divine spirit. Our spiritual evolution is the ascent of our individual monad, by which we attempt, through the cycle of lives, to rejoin the Divine Monad from which we came. When will this happen? Is there a limit to the labours of the psyche? Most assuredly, yes. For when the soul has conquered matter and developed its spiritual faculties, then it will find within itself the principle cause of all things. We must acquire truth through our intellectual faculties, virtue through our animistic faculties, and purity through our instinctive faculties. At which point our material incarnation will no longer be necessary. For the soul will then enter the Divine sphere, and attain final union with the Divine intelligence. According to Pythagoras, our apotheosis is not a plunge into the dark unconsciousness of Death, but rather a resurrection into the Light of Supreme consciousness. At the destruction of our material body, our virtue shines forth as a luminous body, which escapes the gloomy confinement of the flesh. And so man is destined to becomes a demi-god, the Adam Kadmon, whose entire soul reflects the ineffable light of the Creator. The great poet, Samuel Taylor Coleridge wrote:

Here we pause humbly. Others boldlier dream,
That as one body is the Aggregate
Of Atoms numberless, each organiz’d,
So by a strange and dim similitude
Infinite myriads of self-conscious minds
Form one all-conscious Spirit, who controls
With absolute ubiquity of Thought
All his component Monads: linked Minds,
Each in his own sphere evermore evolving
Its own entrusted powers—Howe’er this be,
Whether a dream presumptuous, caught from earth
And earthly form, or vision veiling Truth,
Yet the Omnific Father of all Worlds
God in God immanent, the eternal Word,
That gives forth, yet remains—Sun, that at once
Dawns, rises, sets and crowns the Height of Heaven,
Great general Agent in all finite souls,
Doth in that action put on finiteness,
For all his Thoughts are acts, and every act
A Being of Substance; God impersonal,
Yet in all worlds impersonate in all,
Absolute Infinite, whose dazzling robe
Flows in rich folds, and darts in shooting Hues
Of infinite Finiteness! he rolls each orb
Matures each planet, and Tree, and spread thro’ all
Wields all the Universe of Life and Thought,
[Yet leaves to all the Creatures meanest, highest,
Angelic Right, self-conscious Agency—] (xii)

‘But this holy truth is lost on the materialists of the modern world; and our bold attempt to revive the Eleusinian mysteries is met with scorn and derision. The forces of darkness plot against us now, just as they always did. Freemasons are the heretics and schismatics of the New World. Just as the Gnostic Cathars were persecuted by the Holy Inquisition, so Freemasons are persecuted by the Catholic Church today.

‘Why do they revile us? Because Gnostics are the veritable children of the new Light! Gnosticism is the true mother of Freemasonry. She has left her mark above the door of every masonic temple. In the middle of the interlaced square and compass, is the letter “G”. As initiates of the First Degree, you were told this “G” stood for Geometry. Later on, you were taught that the mystic letter “G” meant Generation. But I can now reveal, this enigmatic letter stands for Gnosticism. For Gnosticism is the heart and marrow of Freemasonry.

‘The entire Gnostic Mystery is based upon the connection between two irreconcilable opposites: Absolute Spirit and Absolute Matter, which have been coexistent throughout Eternity. The manifestation of the material world is the result of both a positive and a negative principle, one acting upon the other. Dualism. This manifestation takes place at a point of equilibrium, called the pleroma. The pleroma is a mysterious substance produced from the blending of Spiritual and Material Æons. Out of the pleroma came the Demiurgus, creator of the material Universe, to whom we owe our physical existence, along with all the earthly sufferings that we endure. Because of these sufferings, the Cathar Gnostics upheld the Demiurgus as the cause of all misery and pain: an evil God, who in building the material world, separated the souls of men from Truth, by entombing them in mortal flesh. And so the Devil was conceived as creator of the world. The Satan of Gnosticism was confounded with matter, just as the Greek god Typhon was confounded with evil, in both the moral and physical universe. But we hold the Demiurgus as a divine being – one who is inspired by the laws and dictates of the invisible God. Just as Pythagoras taught that the Dyad, Demiurgus of matter, was inspired by the perfect Monad of Spirit.

‘Our Gnostic truth remains an abominable heresy to the Catholics. It is no secret that the Catholic Church has long been hostile to the Masonic Order; and history bares witness to our persecution throughout the ages. Christians have conspired against us for centuries; they have desecrated our temples; stolen our wealth; and put us to the pyre. We shall never forget that ominous day of Friday 13th 1307, when the Templar order was dissolved, and all masonic property was sequestered by the king of France, Philip le Bel. Nor shall we ever forgive the torture and immolation of our brethren at the hands of the Inquisition, not least our most venerable Grand Master, Jacques de Molay, who endured the stake with great fortitude and courage.

‘But our sect did not die and continued growing underground. Then, like a flower from the Tree of Life, it blossomed once more upon the world. Yet even now, six centuries later, we find the same dark forces conspiring against us. The Roman pontiffs hold Freemasonry as an abominable sect of perdition, fatally destructive to the salvation of souls, and the welfare and peace of secular society. They condemn, forbid and anathematize us! His Holiness, Pius XI, declared “masonry is our mortal enemy” (xiii). The Catholic church longs to annihilate our sect! They deem Freemasonry a contagion of poison which flows in the veins of human society and causes a state of total infection! Pope Clement Xlll said: “Let us abandon even the thought of being Christians if we have reached the point of trembling before the threats or the traps laid for us by the perverts.” (xiv) And by perverts, he means us.

‘Much religious propaganda has been associated with Freemasonry; but the purpose of these lies remains the same: to sink our Order in a quicksand of scandal and notoriety; to frustrate our Fraternity and its operations in every Grand Lodge throughout Britain, Europe and America; to hold Freemasonry responsible for the most vile abuses for which it is completely innocent; and so exalt the Catholic Church as the true keeper of the Faith.

‘Ever since our modern inception, the church has tarred us with accusations of Satanism, and all the abominable crimes that black magic entails. That pernicious hoax, perpetrated by Mr. Leo Taxil, in which he slandered Freemasonry with stories of the Devil, are now taken as truth by half the world! Stories in which the Devil appeared in a Masonic Lodge and presided over a meeting! And now Catholics see Master Lucifer as the supreme grand-master of Freemasons. We shall not tell them otherwise! Let them wallow in their ignorance! The true nature of the Deity is a secret only for the initiated. For it would surely strike terror into the hearts of fools…

‘The papal bull against Freemasonry in the 18th century was a grave assault by the Vatican, which provoked much unfounded slander. Our lodge is built upon three great columns: Wisdom, Strength and Beauty, for naught can exist without them. Yet the Vatican accused us of partaking in blasphemous rites and foul acts of bestiality; including desecration of the Host; human sacrifice; orgies of darkness; evocation of fallen angles; and that most heinous crime of all – child abuse. And this, from Catholic priests, who hide all manner of venal crimes under their white woollen frocks! They who sacrifice innocence to perversions of lust, and betray their faith to worldly ambitions!

‘The untaught masses are easily deceived, and in their folly, they proudly boast of their unquestioning faith. But no true Luciferian can be a diabolist, any more than a true Christian can be a Jew. As masons, we are guardians of the Light and Truth of God. But the Catholics maintain that we are keepers of The Evil Principle, disciples of Antichrist, who will come to destroy the world in the fires of Armageddon!

‘We must ever strive to keep and preserve the Divine plan of God. Our masonic order exists solely to prepare the Kingdom of Light – to usher in the age of enlightenment, whereby man can reclaim his birthright, and ascend The Tree of Knowledge, into the transcendental realms of Heaven. But the cult of modern Diabolism, in the guise of the Catholic church, exists solely to pervert that end – to foster ignorance, and hurl mankind into the pit of Hell.

‘Too long we have borne the assaults of the ignorant and unenlightened; too long we have gone about our business under clouds of terror and suspicion; too long we have suffered the fates of ignoble men, despite our holy cause and dedication!

‘That cause remains the same now as it did in the Temple of Isis, millennia ago – to manifest Heaven on Earth!

‘The revelation of our great Gnostic secret shall come at the appointed time, when the erection of our altar shall replace the ruins of a fallen Christianity! And from the ashes of our medieval pyres shall rise the phoenix of one undivided Masonic republic! One universal brotherhood! With the mallet, apron and triangle, and the two mystic pillars! The masonic emblem, forever established as the World’s sole insignia! On Earth, as it is in Heaven!

A round of applause echoes round the chamber. The Grand Master continues:

‘Perhaps it is no coincidence that this Lodge was built on Hope Street. For I tell you brethren, our time of infamy has come to end. Tonight is a great night – possibly the greatest night of our lives. Yes, my heart is heavy, but it is also flickers with a new flame. I make no confession when I say it is The flame of necromancy…

‘I speak of that forbidden art of calling up spirits of the dead, and making them speak. Philosophers have taken great pains to determine the state of the soul after death; and we know not what awaits our corporal dissolution. The Cabbalists told how Adam derived a sacred book from the angel Razael, and with it conversed with sun and moon; Adam learnt how to summon spirits, interpret dreams, foretell the future, and to heal and destroy. The art of communing with spirits has been lost for many centuries. But in the year 1743, Emmanuel Swedenborg beheld a personal manifestation of the Lord, who opened his spiritual eyes. Ever since that fateful hour, Swedenborg could see and converse with spirits. It was an act of holy grace that granted Swedenborg his clairvoyant gift: the power to converse with the angelic kingdom. Yet I ask you, what if we could do the same? What if we could talk with the Æons, and the Lords of cosmic intelligence? What would we become? What wonders might we achieve? What powers might we attain? And what if that power was granted not by grace, but by works?

‘The apostle Paul says that man is not saved by works, but by grace. Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost.(xv) I believe Paul was wrong. It is most certainly the other way round… We are saved by works, not faith. For in the epistle of James, we read: that by works a man is justified, and not by faith alone.(xvi)

‘Yes indeed. By works, not faith. For man is only saved by knowledge: by logic, rhetoric, mathematics, astronomy, physics, chemistry and biology. But how shall the material sciences help us speak with spirits of the dead? Brethren, before you accuse me of madness, let me tell the secret of our salvation. For I have in my possession, a device more powerful than the Ark of the Covenant itself. I swear before you all, this very night, that Lucis himself will appear before us, and we shall speak with Him face to face, just as the disciples spoke to the risen Christ!

‘Madness! I hear you cry. Our Grand Master has finally taken leave of his senses! But no. I speak the truth, and the proof is here before you…’

At this, the Grand Master pulls back the sheet to reveal the forbidden machine:

‘Gentlemen, meet TERGA: a telergic amplifier that opens portals to hidden worlds. With this machine, we may commune with the Monadic Realm. Think of the implications! To converse with angels! To hear the music of the spheres! To manifest the Æons and their subordinates, right here in this very hall!’

The Chaplain, a frail man in his late seventies, stutters:

‘Er, most honourable Grand Master, might I ask how you came by that machine?’

‘It came to me by the grace of God.’

‘But where is it from? Who built it?’

TERGA was built by none other than Jack Vallis, The Magus of Liverpool.’

‘Magus?’ scorns the Chaplain. ‘That third-rate eunuch? Vallis was convicted for medical fraud.’

‘Vallis was no fraud. He was a genuine thaumaturge who healed hundreds of people.’

‘Need I remind you that Jack Vallis was sectioned by the authorities. He was sent to Sunhill Asylum – the best place for him, if you ask me. Magus of Liverpool, indeed. Did you see his advert in the Echo? The Psychopathic Institution for The Cure of Disease. He called himself The Parisian Lady. My wife went to see him with her sciatica. He wore lipstick and a frilly frock. And he talked with frogs and crows. A stark raving lunatic, if ever there was one. Telergic amplifer? That contraption is the work of a madman. And it would be madness to switch it on. It might explode. Set the place on fire. Or even worse, electrocute you. What then?’

The Grand Master smiles:

‘Thank you brother Chaplain. Your regard for my safety and our lodge is duly noted. But whatever you may think of Vallis, he was an exceptional telepath and gifted engineer. There are certain factions of the deep state who want TERGA for themselves. Why? Because TERGA is a work of spiritual engineering, the likes of which has not been seen since the days of Atlantis! Behind that blank and seemingly impassable screen, lie infinite worlds, just waiting to be found! What fragments of past or future shall be made known when I throw the switch? For with TERGA, all the dormant powers of the human mind shall awaken, and we shall glimpse Man’s future state, in this world and the next! Who amongst you has the courage to gaze into that dark foreboding screen? To reach out into the great beyond, where the entelechy of God manifests the Monadic kingdom of Light!

‘What would you ask the Lords of Cosmic intelligence? What is your heart’s desire? Precognition and second sight? To become like Swedenborg himself? This and much more besides! TERGA is high sorcery indeed! A gate to superphysical planes of existence! With TERGA, men of clay shall become Seraphim of fire! And like the Seraphim, obtain powers of dematerialization! Think of it! To penetrate solid matter! To walk on water and fly through the air! To cure and inflict all manner of disease! What would you do with such unbridled power? Who is worthy to have it? A philosopher once said that such power is never given: it can only be taken. But who amongst us dares to grasp it? Shall it be you, Grand Warden? Or you, Grand Steward?’

The Warden, a slender looking man with iron-grey hair, stands and bows humbly:

‘Not I, most worshipful Grand Master, not I. Only you can wield that power.’

The Steward looks lost for words. He dithers for a moment, anxiously licking his lips, wringing his hands, and tugging at his wispy white beard. Then he replies in earnest:

‘I find this most perplexing. And to be honest, I’m unsure of the true reason I was summoned here this night. At first I thought it was just another test in my long and mysterious initiation. But after hearing the Grand Master speak, I fear there is only one correct answer. True power cannot be taken. It can only be given. A man receives power only when the Holy Spirit is upon him, and not by any other means… True power is a gift from God.’

After saying this, the Steward takes out his snuff-box, snorts a pinch, then squints through watery eyes and adds:

‘As for that machine, if it does what you claim, I fear no good will come of it. No good at all.’

‘You disappoint me brother,’ replies the Grand Master. ‘Is it not written that we are gods, and children of the most high? Shall we not become as Adam in the Garden of Eden? Brethren of Minerva Lodge! Truly, I tell you, this very night we shall breach the impenetrable mystery of Death! And summon the Monads to our bidding!’

‘And what shall we gain by it?’ scowls the Steward. ‘If TERGA is a gateway to other worlds, whither shall we go? Indeed, will we ever return? What are you seeking? A threshold experience? Shall you travel down the tunnel of Death and enter the Light of God? Commune with beings of Love and Intelligence? We have all sojourned out of the body at various times in our lives. When I was a child, I drowned and met my dead grandmother. She was standing in a green meadow, surrounded by radiant flowers. Nothing can describe the beauty of that place. I wanted to stay there forever. But she said it was not my time. She told me to go back. I asked her why. She said I had important work to do. An earthly task. But returning to the body was a terrible thing. My spirit seemed infinite, and it was painful squeezing into such an ugly bag of bones. It felt so cramped and cold. I had returned to Pandemonium. And for many years I wondered what my task was. I was lost and confused. Then I joined the brotherhood and found my true vocation in life. Now I feel the hand of destiny upon my shoulder. Because finally, I know what my task is.’

‘Well what is it?’ asks the Warden.

‘My task is to warn you. What else? Most worshipful Grand Master, I beg you, do not to go through with this. Leave that machine alone. You have a tendency to be intellectually critical, without having an open heart. You believe your apotheosis will be a resurrection into the Light of Supreme consciousness. Accordingly, via that machine, you expect some glorious transformation. But I fear you will only be met with desolation and darkness…’

The Grand Master holds up his hand:

‘Brother Steward, you have always offered sound advice and words of wisdom. And truly, I thank you for your concern. But nothing is ever gained from fear…’

‘Is that so?’ retorts the Steward. ‘Need I remind you that Adam feared to partake of the forbidden fruit. He would have done well to heed that fear.’

‘You would say that: you’re a biblical literalist.’

‘Indeed, I am.’

‘Perhaps it was God’s intention for Adam to eat the forbidden fruit. Have you thought of that? You think that men labour in vain to acquire the fruits of knowledge?’

‘I do not. But I believe there are many unavoidable defects.’

‘Defects?’

‘Defects in science and scientists. The material world is flawed: it was created by an imperfect Dyad, after all. Thus all materialism is flawed. Gnostic dualism might explain the coexistence of moral evil and divine glory. But materialist science cannot divulge the secrets of Spirit. Do not expect that machine to do it for you.’

The Grand Master placates him with wave of the hand:

‘Thank you brother Steward. Thank you for making that important point. Now please be seated… Brethren, in a few moments, I will connect myself to TERGA. Those who wish to leave, may do so now. To those who remain, I ask only one thing: whatever happens, do not approach the machine.’

The brethren remain seated, watching in expectation as the Grand Master puts on the headset. Centering himself, he steps on the rubber mat and flicks the switch. At once TERGA comes to life, filling the room with a low resonant hum. A glass cabinet rattles as a fine vibration courses through the walls and floor: the brethren feel it, tickling their teeth and quivering their bones.

‘This will end in disaster,’ mutters the Steward. ‘I don’t like it. I don’t like it at all…’

But the Grand Master remains resolute. Reaching for the dial marked PINEAL, he turns it to MAXIMUM.

The hum leaps several octaves and the brethren flinch as a sharp squeal pierces their ears. The very fabric of the lodge begins to resonate in sympathy. Two silver cups glide across the table, as if floating on cushions of air. A masonic banner unfurls by its own accord, its tassels trembling with electrostatic force. A ceremonial plate drops from the wall and shatters on the floor. The resonance swells, building in harmonic pools of sound. The walls seem to warp, buckle and bend. Terrified, the Warden scrambles from his chair and darts out the door. The lights flicker as the machine hums louder, and the entire hall is thrown into darkness. The Grand Master is lost in trance, his gaze fixed on the screen as it illumes with a phosphorous dot. The dot weaves into an amorphous line; a sine wave; a spirograph; geometric forms that pulse and spin; Lissajous figures in red, green and blue. The magnetron glows brighter, its tube veiled in a puce aura. Then tendrils of plasma burst from the cathode and discharge upon the ceiling. The Grand Master trembles in frenzy, his limbs taut and tingling. He gasps in ecstasy as a radiance pours between his temples, suffusing his mind with the light of a thousand suns. The entire lodge seems to falls away. He stands upon the threshold of some foreign dominion – a shining realm of glory and power. Before him is an angelic entity, blazing with illimitable splendour, its lustrous wings shimmering like gold; and far beyond, the effulgent eye of God – a molten crucible of power and glory, emitting ruby rays and dazzling darts of Love.

At once the vision collapses.

Darkness.

Yet TERGA still throbs and howls, illuming the face of the Grand Master, who glares at the void with bloodshot eyes. The machine lets out a dismal groan as a pale wraith rises from the terminus. Ribbons of ectoplasm gyre about hall and dance upon the brethtren’s heads like tongues of Holy flame. An eerie spectre hovers in the air – a ghostly Jinn that flickers with a hornéd flame: it towers above the machine – an ineffable eidolon, a divine propagation of Life, Intellect, Soul, Nature and Power.

Awestruck, the Steward falls to his knees and gibbers:

Oh heaven banished host! Pity us your servants, who dwell in Pandemonium!

*    *    *    *

Copyright © Nicholas Shea 1992-2021. All rights reserved.

i. Oracles of Zoroaster.

ii. Almost as old, if historians are correct.

iii. ‘Speculative Freemasonry’ by John Yarker Junior. 1872.

iv. Ibid.

v. Ibid.

vi. Ibid.

vii. Ibid, cited in Mackey’s Lexicon of Freemasonry.

viii. Ante-Nicene Christian Library. ‘Translations of The Writings of The Fathers down to A.D. 325’. Edited by the Rev. Alexander Roberts, D.D., and James Donaldson, LL.D. Vol VI. Hippolytus, Bishop of Rome Vol I. Book VI of The Refutation of all Heresies. Chapter XIII. Edinburgh, 38 George Street, 1867. Italic text quoted in full.

Note: another (less specific) translation is to be found in: ‘Philosophumena or The Refutation of all Heresies (formerly attributed to Origen, but now To Hippolytus, Bishop and Martyr, who flourished about 220 A.D)’. Translated from the text of Cruice by F. Legge, F.S.A. Vol II. Book VI. Simon Magus, Valentinus and Their Followers pp. 14-15. London 1921.

However, both of the above translations are far superior to the rather sparse and flimsy text found in G.R.S. Mead’s ‘Simon Magus an Essay on the Founder of Simonianism Based on the Ancient Sources With a Re-Evaluation of His Philosophy and Teachings’. Theosophical Society London. 1892.

ix. Iamblichus ‘On The Mysteries of The Egyptians, Chaldeans, and Assyrians’ Translated from the Greek by Thomas Taylor. Italic text quoted in full.

x. ‘Theodicy’ by Freiherr von Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz; the sentence in italics is quoted from the introductory material by the editor, Austin Farrer, Fellow of Trinity College, Oxford. 1879.

xi. Note: I have deliberately avoided giving the word “one” a capital letter so as to distinguish it from the Pythagorean “One” which dwells among numbers. (The Pythagoreans preached a difference between the Monad, and the One; the Monad dwells in the intelligible realm, while the One dwells among numbers).

xii. Samuel Taylor Coleridge, extract from ‘The Destiny of Nations’, Draft I. Note: the last two lines of Draft I, as shown here in square brackets, were later erased.

xiii. ‘Papacy and Freemasonry’. A speech made by the late Monseigneur Jouin on December 8, 1930. Christian Book Club of America 1955.

xiv. Ibid.

xv. The Epistle of Paul the Apostle to Titus, 3:5.

xvi. The General Epistle of James, 2:24.

Image credit: ‘Adam and Eve Driven out of Paradise’ by John Martin.

Hope Street

Illustration_of_Hope_Street_by_A-P-Tankhard_(D10816214)

Tradition means giving votes to the most obscure of
all classes, our ancestors. It is the democracy of the dead.
Tradition refuses to submit to the small and arrogant
oligarchy of those who merely happen to be walking about.[i]

Tradition replied, is that so?[ii]

Liverpool, December 21, 1959

Benson turns into Hope Street, the Silver Wraith gliding effortlessly over the cobbles, window-wipers thumping in a downpour that floods the gutters. Stopping at the lights, he quips:

‘It’s cats and dogs out there tonight, sir.’

The Grand Master, an old man of seventy years, immaculately dressed in a black suit and Crombie, sits alone in the rear, surrounded by an opulent red leather interior. He looks lean and tall, his long legs articulated on the foot rest, his brogues as shiny as the Park Ward coachwork. He peers out the window, his keen eyes watching the traffic in a haze of fumes and rain.

‘The world has gone to the dogs, Benson.’

‘Sir?’

‘That new Catholic cathedral they’re planning.’

‘What cathedral?’

‘The Metropolitan. Didn’t you see the plans in evening paper?’

‘No sir.

‘They want to put it at the top of Hope Street. It’s a complete monstrosity, devoid of harmony and proportion. It looks like a tin wigwam, propped up by chop-sticks.’

‘A tin wigwam sir?’

‘They hold a world-wide design competition, then award the commission to an architect like Frederick Gibberd. Architect? What do they teach in schools these days? I ask you. I would have stayed with Lutyens’ design myself. What was wrong with it? Nothing, apart from the expense. Unfortunately, they’ve only built the crypt. The modernists are blaming the war. But I blame the modernists. Catholic evils aside, Lutyens’ cathedral would have been the second-largest church in the world, with a dome even bigger than St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City.’

‘Perhaps the pope himself put a stop to it, sir. He didn’t want Vatican City being upstaged by Liverpool.’

‘That’s a very astute remark, Benson. You could be right there.’

Benson checks left and right, his head turning like ventriloquist’s dummy on a pole; his cap is too small and his pudding-bowl haircut sticks out like a chimney brush. He raps his fingers on the wheel then asks:

‘What does Liverpool want with another Cathedral anyway? They started the Anglican in 1904, and they still haven’t finished it.’

‘The best things take time Benson. At least the Anglican is a fine building – designed by Giles Gilbert Scott – who gave us Battersea Power Station and red telephone boxes. An architect of class who put principal before ego. Just how much will that tin wigwam cost anyway?’

‘It would be cheaper if Catholics became Anglicans, sir.’

The Grand Master chuckles and clears the misty pane with his palm. He looks over the gardens of Saint James’ Mount, where the brooding Anglican squats beneath a leaden sky, its Gothic tower lost in curtains of rain.

‘Yes, I will admit the Anglican is a fine building, even if the Bishop of Liverpool is steeped in ignorance. Do you know Benson, that the Anglican is the longest Cathedral in the world?’

‘No sir. I didn’t know that.’

‘Scott’s first design of 1903 had two towers at the west end. I preferred it myself: it was reminiscent of Notre-Dame. Remarkable that Scott was just 22 years old at the time. He was a pupil at Temple Moore’s practice, with no existing buildings to his name. He freely confessed to the assessors, that his only major work in life was a pipe-rack.[iii] Humility is always a mark of genius, Benson. A pipe rack. Yet he gave the world that Gothic masterpiece. Scott was sensitive to the aspirations and intentions of the original medieval craftsmen. Not like Gibberd who wants to build a tin wigwam at the top of Hope Street.’

‘A tin wigwam sir? At the top of Hope Street? Are you sure?’

‘Alas Benson, I read in black and white. The Royal Institute of British Architects has taken leave of its senses. I fear they have been infiltrated by the enemy.’

‘Enemy sir?’

‘The reverend atheists; the evil post-modernists; the snobs of fallacy and fashion; the instructed materialists; the sectarian sceptics; the derogate bigots; the infidels of art and science; the reckless socialists who want to demolish the glories of the past and replace them with anything that denies a link between Man and God. They cannot grasp that the Universe has its raison d’etre not in itself, but in a supra-mundane and intelligent Creator. Creation is a necessary conception. Man is nothing except in relation to God. Materialists prefer to call themselves Positivists. Even though they refute God, they are in fact Dualists, because they adopt the chief tenet of that heresy, namely, the existence of an external uncreated hyle.[iv] But militant atheists would rather peer into the abyss of Futurism than acknowledge the reality of Spirit. Great Lucifer, drive those pigs away…’

‘Indeed sir.’

‘A good building is a manifestation of the Divine order and harmony of the Universe; it elevates our consciousness, and provides the soul with a transcendent glimpse of a higher reality. I am of the firm belief that good architecture is frozen music, Benson.’

‘Frozen music sir?’

‘Just as music expresses harmonious intervals of time and pitch, so they may be translated into corresponding intervals of architectural proportion – void and solid, height, depth and width. Thus the common man finds himself incorporated into the symphony of the Universe. But Gibberd’s tin wigwam is nothing but a discordant, inharmonious, raucous, yawling, squawking, screeching, jarring, atonal stridulation of tinny, tuneless, ear-splitting, soul-destroying, cacophonous nonsense!’

‘Quite sir.’

‘What an insult to the past! To the golden proportion of the gods! To the Egyptians, Greeks and Romans, who built for one noble purpose: to awaken Man to his Divine source – beyond the fleshy burden of his mortal coils! The great monuments of the ancient world were manifestations of a profound secret Benson.’

‘Secret sir?

‘A secret communicated to the masses by mystical means. And that required the services of a master mason equipped in occult language; a man who could translate that secret into numbers, and master craftsmen who could express those numbers in harmonious curves, verticals and volumes. Craftsmen, accustomed to working with their hands, in the traditions of their ancestors. To what end? To build Heaven on Earth: to manifest infinity in stone. The appearance and effect is that of a sublime miracle. Nature employs the miracle so rarely that most of us go through life without seeing one. Yet enter a Gothic cathedral, and the miracle is manifest all around: vaults of living stone that leap skyward in a taught equilibrium of thrust and counterthrust – the walls mere shells, as the load is carried by an active skeleton of pillars, arches and flying buttresses. But the barbarians at RIBA have the gall to give us a tin wigwam. A tin wigwam, Benson. By god, I’ll have Gibberd’s guts for garters. When that thing goes up, they should rename this Hopeless Street!

‘Indeed sir!’

‘The modernists see no purpose in the preservation of old artistic traditions; the nihilists foolishly assert that tradition stands in the way of progress. They want to purge society from all vestige of tradition; they won’t be content until the past is completely erased. But architecture is the living voice of the past; to demolish a great building is to destroy the civilization that built it. Why do they despise the dead who have bequeathed so much?’

‘I don’t know sir.’

‘In choosing Gibberd, they have erased Lutyens. The Golden proportion has fallen by the wayside. The medieval glory is all but gone. What will become of mankind when he has bulldozed all the high watermarks of civilization? When the puritan atheists have razed every church in the land, and despoiled the works of the dead? When the olden gargoyles and bestiaries have been upcycled into bourgeois absurdities? When the altars, fonts and pews have been refashioned into wine-racks, lamp stands, and Bedlam bistro tables? When every oak panel has been coated in luminescent paint and tropical wallpaper? When the developers have pillaged the ancient artisans of wood and stone; stolen sconces from the choir; portals from the chancel; timbers from the rood; and footings from the nave? A cornice here; a corbel there – a mutilation everywhere. Modern man seems to have suffered a wilful lobotomy of his frontal lobes. Not only has he forgotten his roots, he believes he can exist without them. They say that Adam, the progenitor of the human race, was endowed with sanctifying grace. Then came the Fall, and that grace left Him. Yet the medieval carpenters had more grace than us. They were men of peasant parentage, intoxicated with Nature and all Her works – empaths of Diana, who let their skilful chisels run riot with the green wood, carving ivy bosses, fern galleries, mistletoe vaults, vine-clad pillars, and all the happy dryads of Apollo’s grove. Now look at us. Take a good hard look, Benson. We’re travelling north on Hope Street, from the Anglican to the Metropolitan. From a Gothic romance to a post-modern tragedy. From a heavenly past to an infernal future. Is there any other road in England that so embodies the Fall? You can see the results all around us. As the sacred architecture is lost, knowledge wanes and ignorance waxes. A tin wigwam, Benson. I can scarcely believe it. Gibberd’s Metropolitan has all the reverence of a sneering sarcastic savage.’

‘Not frozen music sir?’

‘Certainly not. RIBA might contrive a case to make it seem like frozen music – a cunning plot to persuade the ignorant. But no Benson, hand on heart, I can assure you, Gibberd’s tin wigwam is not frozen music, and no amount of imposture, duplicity or gerrymandering will make it frozen music. It always astounds me, how the love of beauty, which was innate in medieval builders, is completely stultified and thwarted in modern architects. I find no comfort in this cataclysmal tide of modernism; and I yearn for a strong drift in the opposite direction. Alas, there seems no chance of return. Modern architecture has become a synonym of all that is morally false and mentally despicable. I pray to god Gibberd’s tin wigwam leaks like a sieve. With a roof like that, it certainly will. Then they’ll have to tear it all down and start again. With a proper building – one based on the universal continuum. What a travesty. What a calamity. Moreover, what a complete waste of money… I say, how long does it take to drive half a mile these days? It would be far quicker to get out and walk.’

‘You’re not in very good mood this morning, are you sir?’

‘Forgive me Benson. I got out the wrong side of bed.’

‘It’s the traffic. A van is double-parked ahead.’

The traffic. Is that all you can say Benson? Have you not listened to a word I said?’

‘Of course. I’ve been listening very carefully, sir.’

‘Have you Benson? So what is your opinion on the matter?’

‘Well, if you’ll forgive me for saying so, I think you’re viewing the past through rose tinted spectacles. Merry England wasn’t so merry. They burnt witches back in them days you know.’

‘Witches? The masons didn’t burn witches, Benson. The masons were burnt as witches. There was a time when the divine feminine was celebrated throughout Christendom. Even the rude pagan goddesses took pride of place above the altars. Besides, the whole of Catholicism is built upon the cult of The Virgin – a black Virgin, in most cases. Enter any Gothic portal and you pass through the vesica of her vulva. No, the medieval artisans celebrated the generative principal. It was the priests who burnt the witches; and the puritans who mutilated female genitals and decapitated their images. Whenever men become revolutionaries, they hurl themselves in hatred at the past. Or they attack the feminine. Psychologistically, past and feminine are equivalent: they both give birth to the present existential crisis. Revolutions feign to substitute a republic for a monarchy, democracy for aristocracy, and political liberty for absolute power. But they always bring despotism instead. In 1562, the whole of France was ransacked, pillaged and destroyed. The Huguenots burnt the library at Cluny, then vandals of the Revolution demolished what was left. They turned the church into a quarry and carted it away stone by stone! The greatest Romanesque cathedral in the world! The cathedral of Orléans was also destroyed by the Huguenots, who blew up four columns and brought the steeple crashing into the nave. The mystical lead labyrinth of Sens was destroyed in 1769 during the so called “Enlightenment”. Then in 1793, revolutionaries shattered the art treasures of a thousand years, and tore down Cambrai, Avranches and Arras. Under the Terror, Chartres suffered great damage; statues on the south portal were broken up, the lead roof was pilfered for musket balls, and the bronze Minotaur of the maze was smelted into guns. God only knows what splendours we’ve lost to reformation and revolution. Not to mention two world wars. The magnificent Cathedral of Rheims was destroyed by German shellfire; the mighty timbers of the vault were once saplings in the vast forests of the Gauls and Celts, when Druid priests believed the destiny of man was mingled with dreams of metempsychosis. Great oaks like that don’t exist any more. But that didn’t stop them burning; they burned with such rage, that the gargoyles spewed molten lead for three whole hours, destroying the bishops palace.’

Trembling with grief, the Grand Master opens a mahogany cabinet wherein a crystal decanter sparkles with reassuring comfort. Pouring himself a whiskey, he sips and continues:

‘…And just think of medieval Coventry, with its cathedral of melodious bells, and its narrow twisting alleys, leading all the way back to pagan lady Godiver! Razed in the blitz! Not to mention the horrific firestorms of Dresden, which consumed the heritage of centuries – along with two generations and their dim ancestral beliefs. The devotional spirit of the medieval church is gone forever. Believe me Benson, if you could walk amid those lost churches, you would find many perverse images.’

‘Perverse sir?’

‘Erect phalli and freezes of copulation that would make the Hindu gods blush.’

‘Really sir? In a church?’

‘Especially in a church. But the witch-hunters chiselled them off. Puritans whitewashed the walls, pierced the stained glass with their pikes, and peddled spoils to the highest bidder. And now we have a new breed of witch-hunters: the Marxists. They refuse point blank the possibility of purgatory or paradise; they consider themselves far too intellectual to live amongst the damned, let alone the saved. Yet they are more fallible and dangerous than even the most rabid fundamentalists. Marxists insist they are not concerned with God – only with avoiding any heretical expression of thought – like a belief in something greater than the proletariat. They think that to destroy is to build. And what they build are monstrosities. Socialism is a poisoned chalice. Men drift into revolution, only to become accomplices in the very crimes and mischiefs which their original cause tried to suppress. And now the spirit of revolution has given us a tin wigwam. A tin wigwam, Benson. It saturates my soul with despair. I fear the pseudo-intellectuals and architectural reformers will sink us into oblivion. If there’s one thing I abhor, it’s a building that ignores the basic principles of the ad triangulum.

‘Ad what?’

‘Alas, I can reveal no more, lest I divulge the masonic mysteries to the uninitiated. Which begs me to ask, have you thought any more about my proposition?’

‘Proposition sir?’

‘Oh come on Benson, you know very well what I’m talking about. Don’t make me repeat myself. Have you thought any more about it?’

‘About what sir?’

‘About becoming an apprentice. For goodness sake!’

‘With all due respect sir, I don’t think Freemasonry is for me.’

‘Why ever not?’

‘I was brought up Protestant, sir. My mother always said that a man is saved not by works, but by grace.’

‘Do you really believe that Benson?’

‘Well, I suppose I do sir.’

‘What a pity.’

‘And you sir? What do you believe?’

‘About grace?’

‘Yes sir. About the sanctifying grace of Adam.’

‘I pray for it Benson.’

‘As a Catholic or Protestant?’

‘Do you take me for an ass?’

‘But what religion are you, sir?’

‘Catholics and Protestants, Atheists and Theists – all are convinced that they possess the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth; and that it is their divine right to propagate their faith at any price – even if it means slaughter of the innocents. The records of the Dark Ages are grim, but those of modern Europe are far worse. Like the Catholic slaughter of the Huguenots on St. Bartholomew’s Day, 1572. The king had prepared a list of Huguenots in Paris, and their houses were marked. None was spared. Old and young, women and children, were savagely butchered. The orgy of carnage lasted several days, all under the gaze of a resplendent August sun. Then a white thorn was seen blooming out of season in the cemetery of the Innocents; it was hailed as a sign from God that the Catholics would reign after the genocide of the Huguenots. So the killing went on until late September. Huguenot corpses blocked the streets; they piled high around the Louvre and public squares. Tumbrels were hired to toss the dead into the Seine, which literally ran red with blood… Do not ask my religion, Benson. My faith is heresy. They would send me to the scaffold.’

‘But why sir? I have to ask why.’

‘Because, like Lady Jane Grey, I ground my faith upon God’s word and not upon the Church; for if the Church be a good Church, the faith of the Church must be tried by God’s word and not God’s word by the Church.’ [v]

Their eyes meet in the rear view mirror and they fall into a grave silence. They seem to have reached an understanding. But as they pass the Liverpool Philharmonic, the Grand Master tuts and shakes his head in dismay:

‘Art Deco. The less said about that, the better.’

‘But I quite like that building, sir.’

‘Do you really Benson? How extraordinary. Well there’s no accounting for taste, I suppose. The Liverpool Philharmonic looks like something out of Flash Gordon. One fully expects Ming the Merciless to leap out at any moment and destroy us with his death ray.’

Approaching the junction of Myrtle Street, Benson slows before a shire pulling a brewers cart.

‘Look at that poor old nag,’ remarks the Grand Master. ‘Towing all that dead weight, day in day out. All those barrels of beer. How many tons is that, do you suppose?’

‘I dread to think, sir.’

‘The poor brute. He looks ready for the knacker’s yard. One can just feel his sorrows and pains; I bet there’s not a bone in his body that doesn’t ache.’

Benson waits for the horse to pass, its hooves ringing on the cobbles like the sound of yesteryear. Then the Grand Master points across the street:

‘You see that fine building over there: that’s Hope Hall, built in 1837. It used to be a Protestant dissenters chapel. Now look at it: a cinema. What’s playing? A horror film – with Christopher Lee. His terrifying secret – his hideous obsession, made him… The Man Who Could Cheat Death. I know how that one ends. Not in the imperishable world of eternal light and glory, but in the corruption of the body. Immortality amid the ruins of the flesh. A Hammer Film Production.’

‘Christopher Lee does make a good Dracula, though, doesn’t he sir?’

The Grand Master looks into his empty glass and mutters:

‘Vampires. Socialist vampires…’

The Silver Wraith slows to a crawl as Benson pulls up beside Minerva Lodge – its Georgian front stained with grime. Above the entrance are the words: Kodes La Adonai [Holiness to the Lord].

‘I say Benson, will you help with that crate in the boot? It’s rather heavy.’

‘Of course sir.’

‘I would be most grateful.’

‘What is it? A statue or something?’

‘No, it’s a television set. And quite expensive. So handle it with care. It’s very fragile. We don’t want any sudden knocks: they might damage the tubes.’

‘I understand sir. Leave it to me.’

‘That’s most kind. You’ll find a sack trolley by the lift, half way down the corridor.’

Benson exits into the rain and runs inside the lodge. A moment later he re-appears with the sack trolley which he steers towards the boot. The Grand Master gets out, raising his umbrella as he navigates around the bumper. Benson fumbles with his keys and the boot yawns to a leaden sky. Inside is a large crate about four feet long.

‘That’s a bloody big television!’ exclaims Benson.

‘Yes, it is rather. I had to get rid of the spare wheel just to make it fit.’

The rain smothers their voices, rattling on the roof, hissing on the pavement, and gurgling in the drains.

‘Be careful Benson,’ frets the Grand Master. ‘It’s priceless and irreplaceable…’

The men grapple with the crate, edging it over the bumper and onto the sack trolley.

‘Easy does it Benson! Easy does it!’

A van rumbles past, its wheels raising a curtain of filthy water that drops about their shins. Benson slams the boot and cries:

‘Bloody idiot! Watch where you’re going!’

The van honks and speeds away.

‘Never mind him Benson. Just watch the curb as you go. We don’t want any sudden knocks, remember?’

‘You go inside sir. I can take it from here.’

‘No, no, no,’ insists the Grand Master. ‘I’m staying with you. I must protect the merchandise at all times.’

Sticking like glue, he follows Benson down the pavement, his umbrella shielding the crate as they weave amid a crowd of Christmas shoppers. At one point they become stranded, surrounded by pedestrians going hither and thither, some rushing by without noticing them in the least. At length, Benson cries:

‘Coming through! Make way now! Coming through! Make way!’

Forging through the melee, they finally enter Minerva Lodge, pausing for breath in the lobby. Benson stoops like a wet pigeon, rain dripping from his nose and cap. His sodden trousers cling to his legs revealing thin shanks, knock knees, and chubby avian thighs.

‘Look at you Benson. You’re soaked through. You’d better have a hot bath. I’ll find you a clean suit from my wardrobe. I don’t want you catching cold.’

‘That’s very good of you sir. But what about you?’

The Grand Master grins:

‘I’m waterproof mostly. And fireproof too, now I come to think of it.’ He pats the crate proudly. ‘Thank god we got here in one piece. Shall we go in?’

After ascending a small flight of stairs, they amble down a fine corridor lined with masonic banners. The building is much bigger than it looks from the street, stretching back tens of yards, with an elegant lift in an iron cage that ascends many floors. At the end of the corridor is a bronze memorial, listing the names of 190 Masons who died in World War I.[vi]

‘They were all heroes, Benson,’ remarks the Grand Master.

‘I don’t doubt it sir.’

‘That plaque always brings a tear to my eye. Such a tragic waste of life.’

‘Where do you want it?’ asks Benson.

‘Hmm?’

‘The television. Which suite? The Corinthian, Adams or Roman? We can use the lift…’

‘No. I don’t want it taken upstairs. Put it in the Egyptian Room.’

‘Egyptian Room? Sorry sir, I don’t know where that is.’

‘Few people do. It’s on the lower ground floor. Sorry, I wasn’t thinking: it’s back the way we came. The Egyptian Room is only used by Royal Arch masons.’

‘Royal Arch?’

‘– That’s a senior level of freemasonry. You see Benson, for a Freemason to take only the three craft degrees and not join the Royal Arch means his masonry is incomplete. He might be compared with a man who goes to watch Agatha Christie’s Mousetrap but leaves 10 minutes before the end. He can claim to have seen the play, but he doesn’t know what it was about. He’s missing the final piece of the puzzle that reveals the plot.[vii] Do you follow?’

‘I think so sir.’

‘Very well Benson. Follow me…’

Retracing their steps, they proceed down a gloomy corridor and enter a striking multi-coloured hall, designed like an Egyptian temple. Around the walls are fluted columns with blue papyrus capitals inset with white lotus leaves. In the centre is a strange chequered platform surrounded by banners representing the 12 tribes of Israel; a small prayer cushion sits before a semi-circular motif with the words Fiat Lux. At the far end is a raised dais with three oaken thrones, whilst various chairs and benches surround the rest of the hall.

‘Leave it by the door,’ instructs the Grand Master.

‘Shall I help you unpack it?’ asks Benson, curiously.

‘Oh, no thank you Benson. That won’t be necessary.’

‘As you wish sir.’

Benson eases the crate off the trolley and backs away.

‘Take a hot bath Benson. I’ll hang a clean suit outside the bathroom. And er, wait a minute…’

The Grand Master fumbles in his wallet and removes a crisp new note:

‘Please Benson, accept this for your trouble.’

‘Five pounds!’ gasps Benson. ‘I can’t take that!’

‘Oh, but you must. I insist.’

‘But that’s more than I earn in a week!’

‘Benson, you’re very good at giving, but not at taking. I want you to have it. A small token of my appreciation.’

‘Small token? A shilling perhaps. But not five pounds!’

‘You’ve been driving me about for fourteen years. You’re always kind, courteous, reliable, and loyal to the last. And you always listen to my ramblings with attentive ears. Please Benson, take it. Get yourself something nice for Christmas.’

‘I couldn’t sir. It wouldn’t be right. I don’t need tips for loyalty. You have that already, without question. I know the contents of that crate is far more important than a television set. But what’s inside is none of my business.’

‘You’re quite right Benson. None of your business at all.’

‘Will that be all sir?’

The Grand Master tucks the note back inside his wallet:

‘Yes Benson. That will be all.’

‘Very well sir. And what about tonight?’

‘Tonight?’

‘What time shall I pick you up?’

‘Take the evening off Benson. I’m holding an informal meeting with the brethren. I’ll make my own way home.’

‘In that case, I’ll bid you good day, sir.’

As soon as Benson has left the room, the Grand Master locks the door and sets about dismantling the crate. After removing two side lathes, the box folds apart, revealing a mysterious machine standing four feet high. It does indeed resemble an old television set, but modified with a large control panel, crammed with dials, and switches. The Grand Master peers into the screen which gleams with a foreboding darkness. His bony fingers tremble on the controls as he whispers in awe:

‘What lies beyond? What monad, what spirit, what creature from the depths? By what forbidden metamorphosis do men of clay become seraphim of fire?’

Copyright © Nicholas Shea 1992-2021. All rights reserved.

Image credit: Illustration of Hope Street by A. P. Tankhard. By Courtesy of the University of Liverpool Library, reference number (D1081/6/2/1/4). Thanks to Robyn Orr at the Special Collections and Archives for arranging this.

i. ‘Orthodoxy’, G.K. Chesterton.

ii. ‘The Mysteries of Chartres Cathedral’ by Louis Charpentier-1972.

iii. “Liverpool’s 75-year-old infant”, The Guardian, 21 October 1978, p. 9. [unverified ref. via Wikipedia]. Another unverified source claims the pipe-rack was constructed to Scott’s design by his sister.

iv. ‘God The Author of Nature and The Supernatural’ (De Deo Creante et Elevante) A Dogmatic Treatise by The Reverend Joseph Pohle, PH.D., D.D. 1916.

v. In a letter, Lady Jane Grey recounts her debate with John Feckenham (c. 1515–1584), a Benedictine monk sent by Mary Tudor a few days before her execution, in order to convert her to Catholicism. In it, Jane details how she refutes and remains unmoved by Feckenham’s attacks on her Protestant ideas. For example, she retorts: ‘I grounde my faith uppon goddes word and not uppon the Churche for if the Churche be a good Churche the faith of the Churche must be tried by goddes worde and not goddes worde by the Churche’. (The dialogue was published in pamphlet form as early as 1554, but gained further circulation by its inclusion in Foxe’s Actes and Monuments). [‘Lady Jane Grey’s Letters from The Tower of London’, by Clarck Drieshen, Medieval manuscripts blog of the British Library]. https://blogs.bl.uk/digitisedmanuscripts/2021/02/lady-jane-greys-letters-from-the-tower-of-london.html

vi. https://www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/look-inside-liverpools-historic-freemasons-13502797

vii. Ibid

NOTE: Both the Grand Master and Benson are fictional charcters, and no representation is intended or implied, to any person, either living or dead.