Falcon books a is progressive publishing house that specialises in esoteric literature and I was very honoured to be interviewed by them about my new book The Lost Rites and Rituals of Freemasonry. The interview was originally published on their website here:
Author’s Corner is a platform to explore literature ranging from esoteric to historical works. Offering the opportunity for the author to discuss their titles and for us to find more about them and the reasons behind their work.
Presenting today an interview with Dr David Harrison who is a Masonic historian and leading academic expert on the study of Freemasonry, also a musician. He has lectured at the University of Liverpool and Hope University, and has worked as an archaeologist, specializing in industrial archaeology in England. David is also a best-selling author in his field of research regarding Masonic historical literature. His most popular publication to date being The Genesis of Freemasonry. David has recently released a new publication The Lost Rites and Rituals of Freemasonry. We will be discussing both titles in this discussion You can view David’s Website, Facebook and Youtube Channel.
A cordial welcome to David Harrison from Falcon Books Publishing and thank you for taking the time to answer these questions.
1. Falcon Books: I would like to begin with if you could share with us some of your background what inspired you research into Masonic history specifically.
Dr. David Harrison: I became a Freemason in 1998, I had completed my first degree the year before in history and archaeology and was looking for a new direction. I started an MA course in history, completed that and I was offered to research for a PhD. I suggested looking at the origins and the development of English Freemasonry, they said yes and began my research in 2000 part time. I successfully defended my thesis in March 2008 after submitting the previous December, and the thesis was published a year later with Lewis Masonic as The Genesis of Freemasonry.
2. Falcon Books: For those who are not familiar with Freemasonry I wonder if you could briefly outline to the reader the foundations and principles of Freemasonry.
Dr. David Harrison: Brotherly love, relief and truth….
3. Falcon Books:
“The 19C Masonic historian Gould, seems to put forward an idea that as Rosicrucianism disappeared in the Mid- 17th Century, Freemasonry began to develop the remaining elements of the mysterious ancient Rosicrucian Order. The necromancer John Dee and the natural philosopher Sir Francis Bacon were both linked to Rosicrucianism and it was the practice of Hermetic philosophies that led to the foundation of the equally mysterious college.” (The Genesis of Freemasonry, page 27).
We could say a large influence of Freemasonry practices originated from Hermeticism as early on as the 17th Century, I wonder if these practices are still prevalent today among Masons?
Dr. David Harrison: I think the interest in Hermetics within Freemasonry is gaining popularity with the younger Freemasons who are searching for a greater meaning to their lives. I have met many young Masons who are deeply interested in this and want to explore it further.
4. Falcon Books: I wonder if you could explain to us in a little more depth the influence that Hermetics has had on the practices and philosophy within Freemasonry?
Dr. David Harrison: Hermetic philosophy certainly played a role with the careers of certain Masons such as Arthur Edward Waite and William Wynn Westcott for example, especially with the formation of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. The outstanding theme found embedded within Freemasonry of the search for lost knowledge is certainly something that inspired certain Freemasons to search for a deeper meaning and examined other philosophies, Hermetics certainly being one of them. The Occult Revival of the later 19th century witnessed a number of Masons being inspired by Hermeticism, and the Golden Dawn was a way of conducting research in this way.
5. Falcon Books: You also mention in your latest publication The Lost Rites and Rituals of Freemasonry how in the past Masons would use magic in a way to connect with the Divine? Please could you explain a bit more in detail regarding this?
Dr. David Harrison: I can’t delve into it too deeply here as this is all explained in the book, but the formation of certain rites such as the Rite de Elus Coen and others allowed for the use of what we would term magic, which was used as a way to contact the Divine. This was seen as a next step for some Masons and it embraces the theme of the search for lost knowledge.
5. Falcon Books: Please could you explain to those who are not familiar with Freemasonry, the “rites” and what they represent.
Dr. David Harrison: Art de Hoyos (Masonic author and renowned 33˚ degree Mason) who very kindly wrote the foreword for the book says it best when he describes a rite as a staircase, and each step is a particular degree. The rites discussed in the book are Masonic in nature, and developed because Freemasons wanted more.
7. Falcon Books: When researching The Lost Rites and Rituals of Freemasonry which aspects did you find the most intriguing?
Dr. David Harrison: I loved researching this book and it fits in with my other work as well, works such as the York Grand Lodge and the Liverpool Masonic Rebellion. The lost rites themselves where fascinating and reading all the old rituals was a great experience.
8. Falcon Books: How do you feel the development of these rites has shaped modern Freemasonry today?
Dr. David Harrison: They have shaped it a lot, especially when looking at the development of the Scottish Rite. But also in the Occult Revival, early propagators of these rites such as Count Cagliostro and Martinez de Pasqually certainly inspired Freemasons such as Arthur Edward Waite and John Yarker, who have in turn inspired modern Freemasons as they explore the hidden mysteries.
9. Falcon Books:
“The ritual of Freemasonry is heavily laced with magical imagery, with symbolism and numerology being of utter most importance to ceremonies. The power of ritual and and the secret of symbolism which accompanies the rites of passage is expressed more deeply with each passing degree, the initiate is constantly reminded of moral codes.” (The Genesis of Freemasonry, page 49).
Since Masonry is heavily based on ritual and symbolism, I wonder could explain why this is so, and what does one gain in knowledge and wisdom from it in daily life as a form of self-development?
Dr. David Harrison: The meaning of Freemasonry is different to different Masons, the interpretation, the experiences are all different – we all go through a similar degree ceremony, but each individual experience is different. I have met Freemasons who were moved after the ceremonies, some who were interested in finding out the history, some wanted more ceremonies immediately and go into the side degrees quickly. The power of the ritual certainly influences people in many ways.
10. Falcon Books: How much of Masonic ritual would you say is based on Solomonic magic?
Dr. David Harrison: The Grimoires associated to Solomon date to the Renaissance period and do not appear in Masonic ritual, though certain Freemasons such MacGregor Mathers was deeply interested in them. The Masonic ritual concerns the building of Solomon’s Temple and the search for lost knowledge.
11. Falcon Books: What does one obtain at each stage going through the degrees. Does one need to show a level of magical ability as along with wisdom and how is this assessed?
Dr. David Harrison: Not magical ability, but an ability to understand how one can improve himself; you act out a role in a moralistic play, so you move from apprentice to Master, and you experience how through work, you can improve upon oneself as a human being, moralistically and educationally. There are however many Freemasons who wanted more and saw Freemasonry as a gateway to the Divine, to understand more about the hidden mysteries of nature and science and in my latest book The Lost Rites and Rituals of Freemasonry, some Freemasons took a step further in their search for God.
12. Falcon Books: In what ways does Freemasonry add to society?
Dr. David Harrison: Freemasonry does give a lot to charities, local hospices, local hospitals, children’s charities. I believe in the age of austerity we have entered, Freemasonry certainly assists in filling the holes left by government, especially with charity to hospitals and even local education.
13. Falcon Books: How much do you feel ideologies have changed over the centuries as it has developed and grown?
Dr. David Harrison: Freemasonry has indeed changed over the centuries; its ritual has changed and the people who have joined are changing along with the world around them. The Freemasons of today are different to the Freemasons of the eighteenth century, for example they dress differently and dine differently, and they are worlds apart in the sense of technology, but I think they have the same fundamental needs – to care for their family, fellow brethren and society as a whole.
14. Falcon Books: What is your vision for the future of Freemasonry?
Dr. David Harrison: I think there will always be a need for Freemasonry, it’s attracted people for well over 300 years as a society, and I think it will continue to do so. Freemasonry has always changed and adapted and I believe it is beginning to change again to attract new young people.
15. Falcon Books: I wonder if you tell us about your new title The Lost Rites and Rituals of Freemasonry and what can we expect from this book.
Dr. David Harrison: The Lost Rites and Rituals of Freemasonry is my latest book. The book examines the lost rites of Freemasonry, in particular the mysterious and influential Rites created on continental Europe during the eighteenth century by the likes of Martinez Pasqually, Count Cagliostro and Baron Von Hund. Charismatic figures such as Jean-Baptiste Willermoz, an enigmatic French Mason of the eighteenth century that forged the Rectified Rite out of the teachings of Pasqually and the reorganised Rite of Strict Observance will also be discussed. The eighteenth century saw a number of Masonic Rites developing in France, Germany and Russia, and though some of these Rites ceased to exist by the close of the century, the Rectified Scottish Rite, though changed, still survives today. Other influential figures such as Louis-Claude de Saint Martin and Emanuel Swedenborg are examined, and the influence that these charismatic figures had on the occult revival and later Masonic organisations such as Martinism and the Swedenborgian Rite are analysed in depth. Lost English Rites and rituals are also covered in detail, along with the lost symbolism that vanished after the union of the Antients and the Moderns in 1813.
Thank you again very much. I hope this addresses some of the questions of those who are not familiar with Freemasonry and its practices.
The latest book by Dr David Harrison The Lost Rites and Rituals of Freemasonry published by Lewis Masonic