Wednesday, August 29, 2012

End the Travel Ban on Cuba

People-to-people travel has been one of the few successful elements of our current policy towards Cuba.  Now, that could all change.

Many of about 140 existing people-to-people travel licenses are languishing in the bureaucratic depths of the Office of Foreign Assets Control, pending renewal.  And we know of only three that have been renewed. In 2010-2011 we worked tirelessly to re-instate this category of travel and to we will not stand by quietly and watch it shrivel and disappear.

Tell the Office of Foreign Assets Control and the Cuba Desk of the Sate Department to comply with regulations that President Obama authorized in 2011-and to retain the original intent of the people-to-people licenses without bureaucratic excuses and tangles!

The original application for a people-to-people license consisted of six pages in which you had to provide a sample itinerary and explanation about how trip activities would promote true interactions with the Cuban people.  But as of May 2012, OFAC has tightened up the application process, making it  even more tedious, and averaging about one hundred pages in length.

Why the change? In short, Florida Senator Marco Rubio continued to block the confirmation of Roberta Jacobson as the Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs until the administration addressed his concerns with the people-to-people program. His unfounded complaints? That illegitimate organizations are receiving licenses and primarily meet with government-employed Cubans and that this is purely a way for tourists to get to Cuba who are "curious about Cuba and, at worst, sympathize with the Cuban regime."

Don't allow one member of Congress to take away our right to travel. Email OFAC and the Office of Cuban Affairs at the State Department to tell them to enable President Obama's people-to-people program.

After being confirmed, Roberta Jacobson testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere and defended Obama's current Cuba policy ,"The administration's travel, remittance and people-to-people policies are helping Cubans by providing alternative sources of information, taking advantage of emerging opportunities for self-employment and private property, and strengthening independent civil society." Her testimony proves that the White House still supports and promotes its policy of engaging with Cuba, and therefore, OFAC should be carrying out its mandate of processing licenses.

As Ellen Creager from the Detroit Free Press wrote earlier this week, "Whether you are pro-Cuba travel or anti-Cuba travel, this whole thing should concern you a lot. There is something sinister to me about preventing citizens from traveling, then allowing them to do so, then throwing giant roadblocks to prevent them from going after all."

For further information, please contact the good people at:

Latin America Working Group
424 C Street NE, Washington, DC 20002  
Phone: (202) 546-7010  

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Freemasonry and the Intellectual

A recent blog post by my friend and brother, Victor Guerra, set me thinking. His comments often do, but the vagaries of language and the cultural divides of the North Atlantic sometimes leave me wanting the correct avenue of thought to respond in a way worthy of an audience.  This most recent observation of his set me on a trajectory that I believe merits exploration.

Where is the intellectual in North American Freemasonry? The answer, at least upon first glance, is "apparently absent." We have no great thinkers. Mainstream masonry has in the last half century at least, for lack of a better description, and I do not wish to offend my brethren in the so-called 'regular' camp, fostered a "confederacy of dunces." Anti-intellectualism is as strong and as strident in North American Freemasonry as it has become of late in our society as a whole.  The great American author and thinker, Isaac Asimov remarked, "There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that "my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge."

Well, as Asimov clearly intended it to be understood, it is not.

There are many changes that mainstream North American Freemasonry needs to make if it is to survive the next two decades. I have read on a dozen blogs, some of whose authors have apparently been silenced by their 'regular' obediences, a litany of things that might be done to save the fraternity. Almost none of them have addressed directly the issue of engaging and cultivating the intellectual as a natural facet of the Craft. That comes as no surprise to me. In North America, Freemasonry has replaced Franklin with "Freemasons for Dummies," and while I admire the work that Brother Hodapp does to make an understanding of Freemasonry accessible to the average reader, I am certain he would be the first to assert that he does not count himself among the ranks of the intellectual thinkers of our age. While I am a captive of my own cerebral endeavors, I do not consider myself an intellectual, nor even close to those thinkers capable of providing astute observations and commentary on our fraternity and perhaps more importantly, on our society as a whole from the unique perspectives that Freemasonry ought to offer us.

That does not mean such thinkers do not exist. They do; simply not in North American Freemasonry. North American Freemasonry has difficulty confronting its own history, preferring to hide in the pseudo-historical views of 19th century Masonic authors. It certainly has not reached beyond that to provide us with minds who can offer insight into the profound issues of society writ large.  Let me clarify, I am not speaking of scholarship, but of intellectual speculation. There is a difference. The latter implies, in my opinion, the former. It is not however, the same thing.

Radu Balanescu, a Grand Master of the Grand National Lodge of Romania, summed up what intellectuals do, why they are important, and what awaits any group that fails to generate them among its members, when he noted that "an elite intellectual, a thinker, is a person who restores to humanity its essence. This is the motive for the gigantic impact thinkers have had in the history of the world. This is the reason why collectivities deprived of great thinkers decay relatively quickly, pervert themselves and are eliminated toward the edge of human history."

North American Freemasonry is not currently producing anybody of the stature of  Jacques-Geoges Plumet, or Alain Bauer. We have no Guglielmi,  Kessel,  Jacques Miterrand, or Fred Zeller. Nor have we any Alain -Jacques Lacot,  whose work Victor Guerra most recently highlighted on his blog,

These observations are not intended to belittle anyone, nor their obediences. Noting a flaw is the first step in empowering an individual or group to grow. Freemasonry in North America needs to begin developing didactic intellectuals if it is going to survive and grow. If that doesn't happen within "regular" freemasonry, we will have to look elsewhere for that leadership and example.

Gracias a Victor Guerra. 

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

New Masonic Titles

Yes, I know these are not in English. The problem is all of the good books, especially the new ones, are in a language other than English. Our goal over the next number of years is to make North Americans aware of the rich trove of books in other languages, notably French, Spanish, and Portuguese. Beyond that, will come the effort to identify a select number of the best and see what can be done to make that information available to an English speaking audience. Here are two worthy of note. More notices will follow.

Two new Masonic titles will be released in November.

Atanor in its Square and Compass collection is planning to launch two new Masonic titles this coming November. These two works are by Freemasons, two  Masters, one of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite and one of the French Rite.

José Luis Cobos offers "Master Manual. The third of the four steps" and Ignacio Merino "Words Union. Tour and evolution of Freemasonry." Both are members of the GLSE. The essential and updated "Manual for the Master's Degree" takes a practical and philosophical point of view . This book is the third of four steps of every Mason in his endless search for the Truth. Providing a tour of historical sources and outlining the evolution of Freemasonry from its operative beginnings as cathedral  builders through its current speculative and philosophical dimension, it begins by analyzing the historical causes and political circumstances that led to the great crossroads of modernity in the seventeenth century and reaches through centuries, bringing us to the constitution of the current United Nations.

Thanks to John Slifko.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The traditional Modern Rite in North America and the Caribbean

The Modern Rite has issued Patents for North America and the Caribbean

The structure of the Universal Masonic Union of the Modern Rite (UMURM), walks slowly, at its own pace and attempts to remain aloof to controversy.

It has been suggested by some that the renewal of the Traditional Modern Rite will not come from Europe,but rather would take place on another continent such as in the Americas. The Rite will continue walking until there comes a day when rejuvenated and modernized it will be well adapted to new forms and visions. What all masonry needs now are new forms and visions, as the old does not seem able to reverse the (sometimes not so slow) decline.

It should be the desire of all masons to embrace a plural and critical view, knowing that all that information is a tool for the rest, so that everyone understands and handle it properly.

THis is why the UMURM, and the Academy, and specific individuals within these structures, working with brethren in the US and the Caribbean, developing through knowledge and relationships they have done with some brothers from the USA, have been able to raise the Modern Rite in the USA.

The Modern Rite in North America and the Caribbean support the Barcelona Charter drafted in June 2011 and are part of the Union Masonic Rite of Modern World (UMURM).

The Western Hemisphere is now organized for practicing Modern Rite according to the great traditions and heritage as preserved by the Masonic Supreme Council of the Modern Rite of Brazil, whose work takes place in an unbroken chain from 1842 to today , and whose rich heritage was rooted, long before that date, in the soil of the Modern Rite. (...)

The priority is now to work at making available a body of literature concerning the Modern Rite, which in all respects, is simply nonexistent in English. Our brothers in Cuba have an embarrassment of riches, thanks to the efforts of the Spanish in recent years. We plan to produce educational materials on historical topics, as well, and this is of immediate importance, literature appropriate to the needs of researchers and related rituals, ethics and traditions of the Modern Rite. Our commitment to research, education, and courteous debate, whether in or outside the box, and our need to translate the ritual, make a goal like this one an essential objective. We will make sure to share intellectual and moral values  and perspectives of the Modern Rite, rituals and ethics. (...)

This open letter announces that on July 27, 2012 the Supreme Conselho do Modern Rite based in Brazil, under the distinguished leadership of M. '. I. '. H. '. José María Bonachi Batalla, Sovereign Grand Inspector General, working in the Valley of Rio de Janeiro, granted the Letter Patent for the Orders of Wisdom I ∞, II ∞, III ∞ and IV ∞ Order of Modern Rite to the Grand Chapter General of the Modern Rite of North America and the Caribbean.

The General Grand Chapter of the Modern Rite of North America and the Caribbean will be working with the Orders of Wisdom, Brazilian rituals, to be translated from Portuguese.

In addition, the first Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of the Mixed Modern Rite of North America and the Caribbean, working in the Orient of Philadelphia, it is a great honor to announce on behalf of their brothers and sisters, in the United States and Cuba (where several lodges under the lead of Logia Anáhuac are already working with more to come), this Symbolic Power has received its charter from the Grand Mixed Lodge of the Equatorial Andes,  from the hands of M. '. I. '. Hna. '. Olga Vallejo Rueda, S. '. C. '. Sublime Council of Modern Rite for Ecuador. The patent was received on July 12, 2012.

To see the full open letter follow the link below, or click on the bold text at the top of this window.:

Gracias a Joaquim, Olga, VIctor y el muy venerable JosÈ Maria por todo sus apoyos.

Friday, August 3, 2012

The Buried Secrets of Freemasonry: Acacia

Warning: If you are in agreement with those who would present the Craft as some sort of boys club, and with a straight face no less, then read no further.  You will either not like or will reject what you read. If however, you are aware that reality is far more complex and far less fixed, measurable, or even concrete than we try to convince ourselves it is, and that secrets and spirits hide in even the most innocent of shadows, and that those who claim to speak the truth seldom know it, then read on. But, you've been warned.

There are reasons why every symbol and every legend should be held to be of import. If, as many would have us believe, the craft is based upon spiritual teaching from the earliest days of human civilization, then we should not be surprised if it continues to unfold to the curious student, secrets far deeper than those written of in any of our histories or catechisms.  Before I proceed, I will note that sometimes the deepest truths are far from what we expect them to be. The preservers of knowledge are often ignorant of what they preserve. We can argue endlessly whether Freemasonry contains an esoteric system of teaching or whether it is a purely intellectual and moral enterprise. As far as I am concerned, the two are not mutually exclusive. Where ever you fall on the line from mystic to rationalist to disbeliever, it cannot be denied that the institution of Freemasonry contains teachings which can be unquestionably linked to the most esoteric of human studies and knowledge. Do with it what you will, but I offer it  for consideration and, with perhaps just a little more glee than is proper, for the consternation of those starched shirts who believe in nothing more than they can ascertain through their myopic vision. And so we begin, with a radically different set of data about the Acacia.

The Hedgemason does not recommend or encourage anyone to experiment with potentially fatal or dangerous substances, natural or otherwise. The Hedgemason will not be liable for any harm or injury resulting from the use of any substance mentioned on this blog. We advised you not to use it. We provide this information solely for educational purposes, and do not recommend the use of this or any other psychotropic or potentially psychotropic plants.

Why is the Acacia so central to the Masonic Legend? Given that Freemasonry describes itself as 'a peculiar system of morality, veiled in allegory, and illustrated by symbols,’ it would be surprising to think that the choice of the Acacia stopped merely with the fact that it was a tree commonly associated with burial customs. Let us ask why? One answer, and it is in keeping with ancient spiritual teachings is because it is a plant that grants access, for those who know its secrets, to the realm of spiritual vision.

It will come as no surprise to modern ethnobotanists and those who examine the history of Entheogenics, that a plant which has hallucinogenic properties would be prominent in a system of ethics, morals, and metaphysics which is foundational to much of the Western Esoteric system. With that fact noted, let us look at the botanical information available concerning the Acacia, and most specifically, it’s role as an entheogen, or plant providing humanity access to spiritual experiences. One speculative hypothesis suggests the ancient Israelite religion was associated with the use of entheogens (mind-altering plants used in sacramental contexts). The hypothesis is based on a new look at texts of the Old Testament pertaining to the life of Moses. The  ideas entertained by this thesis were primarily based on the fact  that in the arid areas of the Sinai peninsula and Southern Israel there grow two plants containing the same psychoactive molecules found in the plants from which the powerful Amazonian hallucinogenic brew Ayahuasca  is prepared. The two plants are species of Acacia tree and  the bush Peganum harmala. The hypothesis is corroborated  by comparative experiential-phenomenological observations, linguistic considerations, exegesis of old Jewish texts and other ancient Mideastern traditions, anthropological lore, and ethnobotanical data.

“In his book Poisons sacrés, ivresses divines (which, to my knowledge, has not been translated into English), Philippe de Félice (1970 [1936]) reviews various cultures throughout the world and notes the use of psychotropic substances in them. The use of such substances, most of which fall in our contemporary Western culture under the label “drug,” has in many traditions been considered sacred. Indeed, de Félice points out that in many religions, both in the old world and in the new, the use of
such substances was (and often still is) central. The substances, or the plants from which they were produced, were deemed holy and at times even divine. De Félice  puts forward the hypothesis that the use of psychotropic substances is deeply embedded in human culture and intrinsically intertwined with what he characterizes as the most basic human instinct—the search for transcendence. Thus, he proposes, the use of psychotropic substances is at the root of  perhaps all religions” — Benny Shanon

FAMILY: Leguminosae

GENUS: Acacia

SPECIES: Angustifolia, Baileyana, Catechu, Coringera, Maidenii, etc.

COMMON NAMES: Pulque Tree, Timbre, Catechu Tree, Horned Acacia, Acacia, Maiden’s Wattle, Wattle, Druce

The genus Acacia encompasses from 130 to 800 species, found all over the world.  Most Acacia trees are medium sized, with pinnate leaves and clustered flowers.  They produce pod-like fruits.  The flowers are very fragrant and are often made in to an essential oil that is used in aromatherapy (Ratsch 1998, 28).

TRADITIONAL USES: Numerous acacia species have been used for medicine and as entheogens, as well as for making incense.  Many species of acacia, particularly contain DMT and other tryptamines

It has been suggested that the burning bush witnessed by Moses in the Old Testament was an A. senegal tree.  This tree is still held sacred in the Middle East, and it is said that anyone who breaks off a twig will die in a year.  It has even been suggested by scholar Benny Shanon,  Professor of psychology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (Israel), whose main foci of research  are the phenomenology of human consciousness and the
philosophy of psychology,(His publications include The Representational and the Presentational (1993) and The Antipodes of the Mind (2002);  At present, he is working on a book devoted to a general psychological theory of human consciousness) that Moses composed an ayahuasca analog from acacia resin and syrian rue, an MAOI, and that this allowed him to see his visions of Yahweh, the burning bush, and so forth.  The wood of this tree was also used to build the Jewish tabernacle (Wahba Khalil & Elkheir 1975).

TRADITIONAL PREPARATION: Various types of acacia root, leaf and bark may be used as ingredients in ayahuasca analogues, in cases where they contain DMT. Many species of acacia are also used in combination with other herbs in ritual psychoactive alcoholic beverages, such as pulque. The Masai, who use A. ataxacantha to stimulate themselves for battle or hunting prepare the plant by making a water infusion of the bark and roots and then consume meat that has been cooked with an extract of the same plant. Milk is not to be consumed at the same time as this combination, in order to avoid illness.  The Masai also occasionally chew the bark to produce stimulation and courage (Voogelbreinder 2009, 65-66).

Much care should be taken with the preparation and consumption of unknown species of acacia, as many contain poisonous cyanogenic glycosides and have been known to poison livestock.  Closely related species also often interbreed, which may make identification of the alkaloids present in the plant very challenging.  Therefore, it is not recommended that one consume any part of an acacia plant until the species is confirmed (Voogelbreinder 2009, 65-66).

MEDICINAL USE:  In Africa, A. ataxacantha root is combined with other herbs and used to treat wounds.  The leaf is an analgesic.  A. nilotica has been used in Sudan to treat a variety of different inflammatory disorders.  The Masai use a decoction of the stem bark and root to acquire courage and as a stimulant (Voogelbreinder 2009, 65-66).

TRADITIONAL EFFECTS: Many African species of acacia are said to have very stimulating and energizing effects, although some individuals are also said to go mad from chewing the bark, and even to fall comatose in rare cases.  The bark is said to cause a “furious and imbalanced state of mind” and is therefore often consumed before battle. Many species of African acacia are said to be stimulating aphrodisiacs, and are still used as such by indigenous tribes in the regions in which they grow (Voogelbreinder 2009, 65-66).


ACACIA: Burned with sandelwood to stimulate the psychic powers.

(Acacia senegal) Also known as gum arabic, gum senegal and gum acacia; produced by a tree that grows in North Africa. The species of acacia that produces gum arabic and gum acacia are so closely related that one can be used for the other.

Parts Used - flowers, leaves, stems, root, bark, resin, seeds, and essential oil

Magical Uses - (Herb and Oil) Burn for altar offerings or purification; aids psychic powers, meditation, platonic love, psychic awareness; purification; inspiration; wisdom; visions; anointing; protection; prophetic dreams; spirituality; money. A sprig place over the bed wards off evil.

Ritual Uses - In India, the wood is used as fuel in scared fires, and also in building temples. Acacia is an excellent choice to build a small chest or sacred box. It should be handmade and used only to store your ritual tools.. If unable to obtain enough to build the box, the powdered herbe may be used to consecrate the containers you use for sacred items.

Other Uses - The dried gum can be burned as incense, the leaves and wood can be infused to create sacred water for aspurging. This gum is water soluble and when dissolved in boiling water, clarifies and makes a very good adhesive that is used, among other things, to make scented beads and pomanders.
Acacia can be used for blessing any sacred space.

Gum Arabic
Acacia senegal
Also known as gum hashab, this resin is associated with the Sun because of its light warmth and the fact that the plant loves to grow in warm, dry, sunny places, but it also has some associations with Air (its lightness) and Mars (it comes from a prickly plant). This gum has literally thousands of uses--changing the texture of food, in adhesives, in medicine, and of course, in incense, where it makes a good binder for other ingredients--it is water soluble. It has its own very light, typically resinous scent. This gum arabic comes from Kenya, where farming of acacia is being substituted for herding cattle. Overgrazing is destroying the environment there, and farming acacia is a viable alternative that gives people an income and provides them with a source of firewood. I have high-grade nuggets ground into a convenient, fine powder.

The acacia tree has been associated with the sacred since the proverbial time immemorial, from the myth of Osiris to the Ark of the Covenant. Burn it as incense to stimulate and enhance psychic ability as well as to provide contact with the sacred.

Basic Acacia Incense:
Burn dried powered acacia and allow the fragrance to permeate the area.
Osiris Incense:
Blend Acacia, frankincense, cypress, and cedarwood and burn wafting the fragrance as desired.
Sacred Wood Incense:
Blend dried powdered acacia, sandalwood, and frankincense. Burn the powder to enhance and develop psychic power and vision.

It is food for thought, and material for visions. Of course.

The Hedgemason does not recommend or encourage anyone to experiment with potentially fatal or dangerous substances, natural or otherwise. The Hedgemason will not be liable for any harm or injury resulting from the use of any substance mentioned on this blog. We advised you not to use it. We provide this information solely for educational purposes, and do not recommend the use of this or any other psychotropic or potentially psychotropic plants.


"Acacia Spp. – Acacia Tree." Acacia Spp. N.p., n.d. Web. 03 Aug. 2012. <>.

Hofmann, A., Ratsch, C., Schultes, R., Plants of the Gods: Their Sacred, Healing, and Hallucinogenic Powers.  Rochester: Healing Arts Press, 1992.

Ratsch, Christian., The Encyclopedia of Psychoactive Plants: Ethnopharmacology and its Applications. Rochester: Park Street Press, 1998.

Shanon, Benny. Biblical Entheogens: a Speculative Hypothesis in Time and Mind:  The Journal of Archaeology Consciousness and CultureVolume I-Issue IMarch 2008 pp. 51-74

Voogelbreinder, Snu, Garden of Eden: The Shamanic Use of Psychoactive Flora and Fauna, and the Study of Consciousness. Snu Voogelbreinder, 2009. 

Wahba Khalil, S.K., and Y. M. Elkheir. "Dimethyltryptamine from the Leaves of Certain Acacia Species of Northern Sufan." Lloydia 28, no. 2 (1975): 176-177.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

An Outline of the Orders of Wisdom of the Modern Rite

I° Order, "Elect": from revenge to justice.

Avenging Hiram is the primary theme of the First Order of the modern rite, as it appears in the ritual of the late eighteenth century. Revenge does not reflect Masonic sentiments or values. However, justice must be exercised against the murderers of Hiram. Find, prosecute and punish the murderers of the Master is thus a better way of describing the theme of the first order. The first order is therefore essentially the subject of the arrival at the concept of justice. When justice reigns, then truth can be satisfied and peace may materialize: man's inner peace, peace in society, community, and on a larger scale peace among nations. In the first Order, the Mason works for the construction of justice in all domains.

II° Order, "Grand Elect": From the union of men to the unity of values

One of the objectives of Freemasonry is the work toward the realization of the union among men. But under the guise of virtue, the union can hide even opposing, contradictory objectives. The union may also be established for perverse motives: bad companions, the murderers of Hiram, succeeded in carrying out their crime because they were united. The union can only be fruitful when it strives to realize the unity of values, ie, working for the adoption of universal values, values raised by the masonic humanism. In the original rituals, this issue is illustrated by the pursuit of knowledge symbolized by a precious jewel that belonged to Hiram.

III° Order, "Knight Mason":  to fight and defend.
The rituals of origin we have here the reconstruction of the Temple of Salompon after the Babylonian exile. The Masons released by Cyro return to Jerusalem and rebuild the Temple, bringing the trowel in one hand and sword in the other. Two lessons are included: no construction is final and human history is summarized in a ternary ever: construction, destruction, reconstruction. therefore, the values  obtained are always threatened and should always be prepared to fight and defend.

IV° Order, "Perfect Free Mason" the release to fulfillment.
The apprentice mason work is enshrined in the fight that should engage a man to become emancipated, and therefore free. Freed from the obstacles imposed by nature hostile, also freed of the burdens set out in its own interior. This emancipation achieved, this freedom won, responds like an echo the teaching of the fourth order, dedicated to the development of man in a society whose structures and operating to allow the realization of this ideal. After having done the above steps, establish justice, work on the realization of the unity of values and rebuild, the mason can reach its full and full development in a just society and more perfect.

V° Order, "Knight of Wisdom": Reunion of the dispersed. Universality. which would include all degrees physical and metaphysical, and all systems, particularly those adopted by active Masonic associations. 

Gracias al Soberano Capítulo de Rito Francés "Ferrer i Guardia"