Franz Farwerck and his project
A bit of a biography
Franz (sometimes Frans) Eduard Farwerck was born in Hilversum, the Netherlands in 1889. His father was German and his mother Dutch. His father owned several factories, mostly linen. After school, Franz went to work in a brown-coal factory and two years later he was director. Another year later, Farwerck started his own carpet factory and soon after created an umbrella organisation for carpet factories. For his work, Farwerck travelled a lot. Besides managing factories, Farwerck also founded a museum, a Rotary club in his hometown and several associations. Farwerck did not marry. He did have a brother that was married.
In 1911 (age 22) Farwerck was initiated into Freemasonry, a mixed gender lodge. Mixed gender Freemasonry had started in the Netherlands in 1904 when Annie Besant founded the first lodge under Le Droit Humain. The lodge was installed in 1905 by Georges Martin, one of the founders of Le Droit Humain in France. All members of the first lodge were said to be Theosophists. Still, there was a member who was also a member of the (‘regular’) Grand Orient of the Netherlands, who apparently thought that Theosophy put too big a mark on mixed gender Freemasonry in the Netherlands. He left the oldest lodge (‘Cazotte’) and founded another lodge (‘Christiaan Rosencreutz’ 1911) which used a Ritual that Van Ginkel himself wrote, in which his own translation of the Theosophical ritual was edited, based on the Ritual of the Dutch Grand Orient. Later a similar non-Theosophic Ritual would be imposed by the Supreme Council of Le Droit Humain in Paris on all lodges. Three Dutch lodges who wanted to keep using the Theosophical Ritual (including ‘Cazotte’) left Le Droit Humain Netherlands and founded their own organisation. Just one of these three lodges exists today.
Farwerck seems to have been involved in Theosophical circles, just as his brother and his sister-in-law. Still the three joined the first ‘non-Theosophical’ mixed gender lodge in the Netherlands (which is -by the way- the oldest still existing Le Droit Humain lodge in the Netherlands). His ‘Theosophical leanings’ could be the reason why he joined a mixed gender lodge, rather than a ‘regular’ one. The Grand Orient was and is much larger than Le Droit Humain, so that could have been a more logical choice.
In any case, 1918 was the year that the Theosophical lodges split off, so at the moment, there were no Theosophical lodges left in Le Droit Humain Netherlands. The lodges that stayed may have gone from a Theosophical Rite to the one written by Van Ginkel, but this was not needed for Christiaan Rosenkreutz which had used that Rite since it was founded in 1911.
If it was in the lodge or not, Farwerck caught an interest in initiation systems worldwide. Under the pen-name B.J. van der Zuylen (‘B.J. of the Pillars’) he published his first book about initiations in 1927. His next book was about the third grade of Freemasonry and it was published by the publishing house of Le Droit Humain Netherlands.
Farwerck had an interest in folklore and mythology. During the travels he made for his factories he made many, many photos which would later find their ways into Farwerck’s books. Perhaps it was also this interest in folklore and the hope to bring ‘old ethics’ back to society, that Farwerck decided to join the Dutch National-Socialist party NSB in 1933. He resigned from his lodge (some will say that he was kicked out) and quickly climbed the ladder of the NSB. When things started to go less smooth for him (Farwerck did not always agree with the leadership), his Masonic past was used to work him out of the NSB in 1940. He never formally rejoined a lodge, but kept writing about Freemasonry.
In 1953 published his first book specifically about the mysteries of North-Western Europe. By the time he had a 26 year career as an author on a variety of subjects and a 22 year Masonic membership which had ended 20 more years before. The book Noord-Europese Mysteriën en Inwijdingen in de Oudheid (‘North-European Mysteries and Initiations in ancient times’) published as B.J. van der Zuylen) was the first version of his ‘magnum opus’ that would be published in 1970, a year after he passed away.
Also in 1953 Farwerck published a small, but highly informative little book about the famous Franks Casket which (he suggests) has images of initiation on its sides. Farwerck even makes a bridge to Freemasonry.
Published on his own publishing house Thule and in an edition of 750 copies, again 1953 would be the year for his ‘most Masonic’ publication: Noord-Europa, een der bronnen van de Maçonnieke Symboliek (‘Northern Europe, one of the sources of Masonic Symbolism’, B.J. van der Zuylen). It is but a small book (under 200 pages), apparently typed on a typewriter, with the (by then) typical huge amount of photos printed. The book is very thematic. Farwerck speaks about each grade (only the three ‘blue grades’) taking elements that fit in his story, but they are many!
The rest of his life seem to have been spent on writing the 640 page Noordeuropese Mysteriën en hun Sporen tot Heden (‘Northern European Mysteries and their Traces to the Present’ published (post mortem) under his own name). Overall there is not more ‘specifically Masonic’ information in this massive (small-print) book than in the smaller Masonic book, but Farwerck first presents a staggering amount of mythology, folklore, folk-habbits, folk-art, building symbolism, etc. etc. with only towards the end the link to Freemasonry. Many contemporary Dutch speaking heathens see the book as almost a cult-work with a brainwrecking amount of information, but they do not care about the Masonic part.
It is impossible to give you all the details of Farwerck’s theory in a short article, but I am going to try to give you an idea of what he came up with.
In his big book, Farwerck starts with looking for traces of initiations among the Germanic tribes. He investigates several (possible) Gods of initiation (Wodan/Odin, Thor/Donar, Freyr, Baldr) and then follows a detailed investigation of folktales about the Wild Hunt and similar stories. He works his way to the “Männerbünde”, the (esoteric) men-societies that can be found in many old cultures, including those of North-Western Europe. When Christianity came, these “Männerbünde” had to change form and became the guilds that would eventually become one the sources of modern Freemasonry. It is through this line that old, Germanic practices and symbols found their way into Freemasonry.
Of course there are obvious things that can be found in other cultures too. Brotherhood and secrecy, for example, did not have to come from Germanic sources into Freemasonry, but what in English are: “men of good character”, the Dutch saying is: “free men of good name”, “free” as in ‘not a slave’? Of course a ‘good name’ was important in our old culture.
Many examples are given by Farwerck. The “oblong square” form of the lodge looks a lot like the foundations of temples found on Iceland. The orientation was as we know it (West-East) with in the middle of the North wall (the most important wall) the seat of the leader. There is still an empty seat in the North in some lodges. The start of building a temple is known to have been in the North-East of the future building in Frisia, the spot where the Masonic work starts as well. The three windows that can be seen on many tracing boards of course trace the path of the sun (there is no window in the North) are just as Snorri Sturluson describes the grave-mound of Freyr in the Heimskringla. The checkered floor looks a lot like symbols of the ploughed field (and hence: the land) which fits perfectly with the sky-dome above; obviously, because most Germanic temples were open-air. Table-lodges with toasting remind of the drinking-feasts and the clamor during the initiation of the Wild Hunt. The first grade sign can be found on pre-Masonic buildings and the weird punishment of the first degree sounds a lot like a punishment from Frisian law.
Farwerck comes with many, many details. Sometimes his arguments are rather thin, often the similarities are thought-provoking. Does all this prove that Freemasonry can be traced back to our European ancestors rather than the Jews of Christians? Of course not entirely. Masonic history is too large and vague and the influences are too varried for such an easy conclusion. The amount of information surely (at least to me) suggests that “Northern-Europe [is] one of the sources of Masonic symbolism” as the title of one of Farwerck books goes (emphasis mine). Later he even made his point stronger when he named the last chapter of his large book: “Freemasonry, one of the youngest descendants of the old Männerbünde”.
Therefor I think that Freemasonry can make a good match for a modern heathen. Freemasonry has a longer tradition than modern heathenry and a more complete symbolic system. More even, if Farwerck is even a little bit right, Freemasonry may hold some ‘heathen lessons’ inspite its Christian varnish.
More about Farwerck on Farwerck.nl