Why a heathen became a Freemason
Some 15 years ago I was ‘coming home’ after a long search through the world of religion and esotericism. I had studied all kinds of religion and esotericism and with Hermetism my geographical field of study started to return to the West. Actually it is funny. Many years before I had shortly been involved in a heathen organisation that was run by a Freemason (I would later learn) whom I would meet too years later. Nothing much of that Freemasonry shone through to the heathen group as far as I remember. After that membership my ‘philosophical world tour’ started.
When returning to the old religion of North-Western Europe, I again ran into an organisation led by a Freemason (I would, once more, later learn). More of that seeped into the man’s writings and the lectures that he gave than in the previous organisation, but this was in structure rather than in content.
Around that time I ran into the major work of Franz Farwerck by ‘accident’. I recognised quite a few things of the ‘new heathen group’. As described in the article about him, Farwerck had a ‘project’ showing that one of the sources of Masonic symbolism lays in the prechristian religion of North-Western Europe. An intriguing hypothesis, especially because I had not lost my interest in esotericism. For several years I threw myself on my new fields of study such as Western European history, comparitive mythology and not the least: Traditionalism, also inspired by the heathen group (also used there for structure).
It is also from this last philosophy (Traditionalism) that Freemasonry seemed a good option for esotericism. There was a bit of a problem though, the apparent ‘state’ of contemporary Freemasonry. Neither of these points are a subject for this website.
Things changed. The esotericism (at least, my kind of esotericism) left the heathen group and I wondered what next. My personal studies in the years to follow were going around in circles and I needed something more than ‘armchair esotericism’, more structure too.
The local Masonic building had an open day and me and my girlfriend went simply because we had never been inside the building. My girlfriend met a colleague who proved to be a member of one of the lodges meeting in that place and later he asked if I was interested to come to an information evening. We went together. I had read quite a bit about Freemasonry, but still I was positively surprised by the symbolism used, especially because it is so structured. I took up some of my books about Freemasonry again. We later visited another information evening of another lodge meeting in the same place. The search for information became more intensive and in the end I joined a much different lodge; together with my girlfriend (yes, I am an “irregular” Freemason, another subject that this website is not about).
I can be found in the virtual world regularly, on fora both heathen and Masonic. I noticed that especially Americans on either type of forum are very dogmatic. People mostly tell other people what is not “heathenry”, not “Asatru”, not “regular Freemasonry”, etc. I guess I am more ‘practical’ and more ‘openminded’ than that. I do not have the idea that my ideas are right and other ideas are wrong. I can be quite strict in the way I approach things, but I would not impose my ideas on anyone. Also I may perhaps not be a proponent of ecclecticism in the sense of throwing everything together and brewing something personal of it, but I do use elements Asatru, Hermetism, Alchemy, Traditionalism, etc., etc. in my worldview. Probably in a way nobody but me will understand.
This is also a reason I see no conflict between heathenry and Freemasonry. As a matter of fact, I think they complement eachother, which was a reason to join in the first place. For many years I have felt a need to ‘pierce through’ religion, look for esotericism, the Source of religion. My heathenry is my ‘exotericism’, my ‘structure of life’. Elements of the mythology are symbols to me, but the celebrations (in private or in a group) pave the circular path of life. The solstices and equinoxes are obvious markers and I feel that by consciously marking these phases of the year, life does not fleet by meaninglessly. Life is more than work and television. Seasons are more than times to work and times for holidays.
I find in Masonic symbolism enough to ‘fulfil my heathen need’ for these ‘stop points of the year’. The celebration of the Saints John, which I have put in place of the Summer and Winter Solstices since I was initiated (they fall on the same days), make it that I do not really miss the heathen gatherings on these days.
What is more, the heathen groups that I am involved it only gather a few times a year. Mostly for walks or lectures, sometimes for celebrations. A lodge meets much more often. Also not always ritually, but also ritually much more often than a few times a year. There are elements in the rituals that make me feel ‘at home as a heathen’. I can ponder about elements of the rituals and symbolism from different perspectives, including a heathen one. What is more important, there is a more structure and logic in Masonic symbolism than in contemporary heathen symbolism. Therefor the study of this symbolism seems more satisfying and less fractured. It is not just ‘what is the symbolism of the World Tree?’, but in Masonic symbolism one symbol is much more obviously part of a larger symbolic structure and a symbol is always a symbol in a certain connection to other symbols.
And of course, many of the symbols and quite a part of the structure, I can explain in a heathen way and this makes much sense so far. My brothers and sisters explain the same symbols in their own way and work with them in their own way and we can share our thoughts without anybody being ‘right’ or ‘wrong’. It ‘works’, at least so far, and that is the reason why I do not regret having become a Freemason from the ‘position’ of being a heathen.