Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Happy 200th Birthday to Albert Pike!

Just had to break out of my year-end rush to send out happy 200th birthday greetings for Albert Pike (1809-1891), formerly the seventh Sovereign Grand Commander of the Scottish Rite in the Southern Jurisdiction.

Yes, I know he looks a bit scary. The fellow had more than a slightly rough life, upon the details of which I shall not dwell here. However, looking beyond his stern appearance, I am in awe of his sheer scholarly output, a great deal of which is worth our while today. A few cases in point:
  • His revision of the Scottish Rite rituals. Sure, the rituals have been revised a bit here and there since his time, but by far most of what one sees in the Scottish Rite rituals in the Southern Jurisdiction today is Pike's work--and it is magnificent. (For a taste of it in print, take a look at Rex R. Hutchens' A Bridge to Light: The Revised Standard Pike Ritual (3rd ed., 2006, ed. by Arturo de Hoyos).
  • His major commentary on that ritual, Morals and Dogma. Yes, the language is a bit outdated. However, if you take it in bite-sized chunks, you'll find that there are depths of interesting thinking here. I don't agree with everything Commander Pike had to say, but I'm grateful for him raising the issues he raised. (I look forward to the forthcoming new edition of Morals and Dogma, also edited by Arturo de Hoyos, which I hope will be out in the new year.)
  • His other commentary on that ritual, which can be found in the Scottish Rite Ritual Monitor and Guide (second edition, 2009, also edited by Arturo de Hoyos). Where else does a modern man make intelligent remarks on Pythagoras, the Kabbalah, and the meaning of Freemasonry?
  • His thoughts on the symbolism of the Blue Lodge, found in Albert Pike's Esoterika (2nd ed., 2008, edited by the indefatigable Arturo de Hoyos). When some leading intellectuals in the United Grand Lodge of England got a hold of a manuscript copy, they declared this the most profound work they'd seen on the Blue Lodge degrees.
Beyond all of the scholarship, I have a great deal of respect for the values that Albert Pike espoused. Among those that he made a point of emphasizing in the Scottish Rite ritual:
  • Tolerance of different religions, and championing of the cause of religious freedom, and respect for religious diversity.
  • Commitment to ongoing learning.
  • Championing the cause of those not in power. Commitment to fight political repression.
  • Commitment to seeing the truth and value that is there to be found in philosophies and religions from across the many cultures of humanity, throughout the ages.
He was not a flawless man by any means, but I have a great deal of respect for much of his thought. I was pleased to discover his condemnation of slavery (not what one expects from a former Confederate general). I also am in awe of his efforts on behalf of Freemasonry--for the Scottish Rite, to be sure, but also for many other aspects of the Fraternity. In my opinion, American Masonry might not have emerged from the Anti-Masonic Period half so well without his efforts.

So happy birthday to you, Commander Pike--with thanks for a job well done.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Mark Koltko-Rivera on Masonic Central--Tonight!--Talking About His Dan Brown Book

Mark Koltko-Rivera will be on the Masonic Central podcast this evening, Sunday, December 13, at 9:00 p.m. Eastern time. (You can link to the podcast here.) Mark will be discussing his book, Discovering The Lost Symbol: Freemasons, Magic, Mystery Religions, Noetic Science, and the Idea that We Can Become Gods.