Membership lists Theosophical Society online

Without the Theosophical Society, founded in New York in 1875, our modern art would have looked very different. No other western esoteric organization or its offshoots had so much influence on the forming of modern art theories. Art historian and OVN-board member Marty Bax has been researching the membership records on the Theosophical Society since the 1980s. She has transcribed many of the records held in archives in India.
Because the original documents are accessible to so few, Bax has created an online database, in which they can be searched. The membership records of 1875-1905 are now online, covering no less than 26.000 members with their biographical data.
The records are part of a larger database, TheArtArchives, which Bax is using to make the archives of her art historical bureau accessible, including documents on Piet Mondriaan. Acces is provided through paid subscription, as is now common for many (genealogical) archive databases.


Exhibitions in Strasbourg

The Musée Historique de la Ville de Strasbourg is hosting an exhibition on the theme of Les Frères Réunis à Strasbourg, une loge maçonnique engagée until 5 February 2012. It marks the 200th anniversary of the lodge and shows a selection of objects and documents on 19th century freemasonry.
This masonic exhibition will coincide with a larger exhibition on the relationship between art and the occult, organized in the Musee d'Art Modern et Contemporain, also in Strasbourg: L’Europe des esprits ou la fascination de l’occulte, 1750-1950. That exhibition runs until 12 February 2012 and is also discussed in the recent column by OVN board members Marty Bax and Andrea Kroon.

Pranks and Initiation Rituals

The initiation rituals of many fraternal and student organizations are associated with harmless, if not humiliating or painful pranks. Author Julia Suits uncovered a curious sales catalogue by the DeMoulin Brothers Company which offered equally curious attributes to help organize these pranks. These items, dating from 1896-1930 are highlighted in a new book: The Extraordinary Catalog of Peculiar Inventions: The Curious World of the Demoulin Brothers and Their Fraternal Lodge Prank Machines - from Human Centipedes and Revolving Goats to ElectricCarpets and Smoking Camels. The author has uploaded an old film clip on YouTube, to help demonstrate what the book is about. It seems an excellent 'stocking filler' for students and scholars in the field of study.

Bibliotheca Philosophica Hermetica reopens

The Bibliotheca Philosophica Hermetica in Amsterdam was frequently in the news in 2011 because of financial difficulties. A Dutch bank impounded the historical collection and the Dutch State, which owns part the core collection, transferred books and manuscripts to the Dutch National Library. This effectively split the collection in two and the bank intended to sell the impounded books. A protest and petition were organized by international scholars in the field of study. While attempts to save the library were made, a media silence was imposed.

Although it remains unclear exactly how it was achieved, the BPH has announced that it will formally reopen on 16 December 2011. The organizational and ownership structure of the library has been reviewed, which will hopefully prevent any problems reoccurring.
Keynote speaker prof. Wouter Hanegraaff (Chair for the History of Hermetic Philosophy and related currents at the University of Amsterdam) will give a lecture ‘Per aspera ad fontes’ to mark the reopening on 16 December 2011. This will coincide with the opening of a new exhibition ‘Oneindig Vuur’ (‘Never ending fire’) in the BPH building. The library collection will then be accessible again to students and scholars from 19 December onwards (while the state-owned part of the collection presumably remains accessible in the National Library in The Hague). For more information: bph@ritmanlibrary.nl

Art & Western Esotericism

From 1996 onwards OVN board members Marty Bax and Andréa Kroon, together with fellow art historians Marijo Ariens and Audrey Wagtberg Hansen, have realized various projects aimed at drawing attention to the relationship between ‘art & western esotericism’. Because their goals have largely been realized, Bax and Kroon feel the time has come to focus on other lacunas in their knowledge of art history. They have marked the end of their joint ‘lobby’ for this fascinating subject with an interesting column on the subject.

Groningen University Master Program

The Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies of the Groningen University will launch a new Master program Concealed Knowledge: Gnosticism, Esotericism, and Mysticism (60 ECTS, entirely taught in the English language) as of the academic year 2012-2013.
The one-year program consist of 3 modules, 1 tutorial/ internship/ additional module, and a master thesis. The modules are: Knowledge, Secrecy, and Revelation in Antiquity; Medieval Mysticism, Kabbalah, and Contemporary Culture; Modern Esotericism between East and West. All modules are characterized by an approach that is well-established in Groningen: an awareness of (a) the historical dimension that reaches back to antiquity; (b) the fact that religion in the West is pluralistic (including Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, but also pagan and other religious options); and (c) that the notion of 'Western' must be critically engaged in terms of postcolonial debate and processes of globalization.
It is also possible to combine this program with a two-years Research Master. For details of the program, please see the University website.

Date change for Lexington conference

The National Heritage Museum in Lexington (USA) announces a call for papers for its biannual symposium, Perspectives on American Freemasonry and Fraternalism, to be held on 28 April 2012 (please note the change from the previously announced date!). The deadline for paper proposals has been extended to 2 January 2012. For more information, check the museums blog.


New publication

Freemasonry and architecture are closely connected. Professor James Stevens Curl is well known amongst scholars in the field of study for his publications on this subject. His latest book, Freemasonry & the Enlightenment. Architecture, Symbols & Influences, builds on his earlier research into this field.
Curl shows how freemasonry has not only influenced architecture, but also the design of parks, cemeteries, stage design and other parts of the designed environment. Readers who are new to the subject are offered introductory chapters on the nature and origins of freemasonry and the importance of Salomons temple as ‘the great prototype’, as well as glossary of terms. Colleagues in the field of study will especially appreciate the themed chapters providing an overview of symbols, their sources and application in various arts, as well as the extensive bibliography. The book has an encyclopedic feel, because of the many illustrations: all the well-known tracing boards and Masonic prints are there, followed by beautiful architectural designs which have built on these symbolic sources.
As professor Andrew Prescott notes in the Foreword to the book: ‘Professor Curl brings out, as nobody else has done before, the central aesthetic and architectural themes in the history of freemasonry: he masterfully illustrates how these, so intimately connected with the cultural significance of the Art of Architecture, are central and indispensible for our understanding of Freemasonry in the age of Enlightenment’. After an enjoyable read, this book will not remain on your bookshelf for long, it will be leafed through frequently as an important reference source.


New lecture series at the Leiden University

The University of Leiden will be offering a new lecture series on the history of freemasonry from 15 September 2011 onwards. Following the illness and passing of prof. Malcolm Davies, the Leiden chair for Freemasonry as an Intellectual Current and Socio-cultural Phenomenon has been inactive for two years. A successor for prof. Davies has not (yet?) been named. Prof. Ab de Jong took the initiative to organize another lecture series, inviting scholars from academic and masonic circles as guest speakers. More information is available (in Dutch) at: https://studiegids.leidenuniv.nl/courses/show/29516/geschiedenis-van-de-vrijmetselarij.


Freemasons condemn acts of terror in Oslo

Masonic organisations worldwide are deeply shocked by the suffering caused in Oslo. Because the eleged interest in freemasonry by the perpetrator has been sensationalised in various media, the Order of Freemasons under the Grand East of the Netherlands has issued a statement on it's website, condemning the violence. It can be viewed by following this link.


The Patriot Mason

Washington in masonic
regalia, portrait presented
by Henry Wellcome.
Photo: www.freemasonry.
On Independence Day, Monday 4th July, a new exhibition was opened in the Library and Museum of Freemasonry in London: The Patriot Mason: Freemason-ry in American Society. It explores the role of freemasonry in America from the 18th century to the present day, drawing on rarely seen objects from the museum’s own collections. One of the world’s rarest Masonic books – published by Benjamin Franklin in 1734 – will be displayed alongside the elaborate regalia worn by American freemasons. The exhibition will be close un 22 December 2011.

New publications

The postprints of the conference on women and freemasonry, organized at the University of Bordeaux 3 in 2010 are now available: Cécile Révauger/Jacques Lemaire (eds.), Les femmes et la franc-maçonnerie. Des Lumières à nos jours: Volume 1. XVIIIe et XIXe siècles, Volume 2. XXe et XXIe siècles, La Pensée et les Hommes 2011. A 20 % discount offer applies to orders received before 15 September 2011: € 40 for both volumes + € 7.10 postage.  Orders: christiane.loir@ulb.ac.be.

- André Hanou, De loge Concordia Vincit Animos te Amsterdam. Namenlijsten (1755-ca 1825), Astraea, 2011, ISBN 978 90 75179 30 9, 75 pages, € 10,-. Lodge Concordia Vincit Animos (CVA) was constituted on 14 april 1755 and is still active in Amsterdam today. During the first 75 years, this lodge counted many authors, politicians and other 'thinkers' amongst its members. The book contains the membership and visitor lists between 1755 and 1825. These show that the lodge had a very cosmopolitan character, with visitors arriving from Western Europe, but also the East and West Indies.

- Jan A.M. Snoek, Einführung in die Westliche Esoterik, für Freimaurer, lodge Modestia cum Libertate, Zürich 2011, 271 pag., 40 CHF (ca. € 31) plus verzendkosten. Snoek discusses the history of various esoteric currents with significance for the development of freemasonry: Astrology, Neuplatonism, Gnosticism, Alchemy, Cabbalism, Hermeticism, the Astrea-cult, Rosicrucianism and Occultism, as well as the building traditions. The last chapter provides examples of their influence of freemasonry. While the book was written for a masonic audience, students and scholars will also benefit from this introduction into the subject. Orders: bi@modestia.ch.

- Helmut Reinalter, Geheimbünde in Tirol. Von der Aufklärung bis zur Revolution 1848/49, (Quellen und Darstellungen zur europäischen Freimaurerei 12), Studienverlag, Innsbruck 2011, ISBN 978-3-7065-4461-0, 292 pag., € 39.90. Revised and expanded edition of a standard work dating from 1982, which discusses the role of freemasonry in political and cultural developments in the late Enlightenment in Tirol.
From the same publisher: Reinhold Dosch, Deutsches Freimaurerlexikon, (Edition zum rauhen Stein 14), Studienverlag, Innsbruck 2011, ISBN 978-3-7065-4522-8, 416 pag, € 49.90.

- P.L. Dunbar, 'Hidden in Plain Sight: African American Secret Societies and Black Freemasonry', Journal of African American Studies (2011), pp. 1-16. [thanks to Robert Peter.]

- Elly Keus, In de voetsporen van Rakoczy. Het honderdjarige bestaan van een bijzondere loge, De Steensplinter, 2011. Lodge Rakoczy was founded in The Hague 1911 by the Dutch branch of the International Order of Co-Masonry 'Le Droit Humain', but separated from the Orden together with two other mixed lodges. They founded a new Order, the Nederlandsch Verbond van Vrijmetselaren (which translates as The Dutch Union of Freemasons) in 1917. Lodge Rakoczy attracted many artist members, including the well known architect K.P.C. De Bazel. He designed a temple complex in The Hague, which housed both the theosophical and masonic lodges of which De Bazel was a member. The building is now part of the Museum of Communication. 

Rose Croix Exhibition

The Belgian Museum of Freemasonry hosts an exhibition on masonic jewelry until 31 October 2011: From Utopia to Knowledge. On display are 134 jewels of the Rose Croix degree from the Guéguen collection. They are dated between ca. 1760 and 1890 and often executed in gold or silver and embellished with precious stones. This private collection was previously the subject of a publication: Robert Vanloo, Les Bijoux Rose+Croix, uitgeverij Dervy 2003.

Call for papers

The School of Social Sciences and Humanities at the University of Tampere is organizing an international conference titled: Edges of Freemasonry - Western Esotericism and the Enlightenment, to take place on 7–8 September 2012. The conference, organized in association with the Research Lodge Minerva No. 27, is open to scholars, freemasons and the public.
The key themes to be discussed are: The historical constitution of freemasonry; the connections between western esotericism and the development of modern science; symbols as cultural artefacts and transmission objects between the personal and the transcendence; extending the rational: rites, intuition and religious experience in western subjectivity. Keynote speakers are Professor Ronald Hutton (University of Bristol, U.K.), Dr. Róbert Péter (University of Szeged, Hungary), Dr. Henrik Bogdan (University of Gothenburg, Sweden) and Mr. Antti Talvitie, Architect MSc. (Seinäjoki, Finland).
Paper proposalss for general sessions (abstract 400—600 words) should be sent via email to Mr. Antti Harmainen (papers[at]edges.fi) and Ms. Katariina Lehto (papers[at]symposium.fi) before 31 January 2012; papers for other sessions may be sent later. For registration and details of the conference, please see http://www.edges.fi/.

Seamen freemasons

- A new, expanded edition is available of the Dictionnaire des marins francs-maçons. Gens de mer et professions connexes aux XVIIIe, XIXe et XXe siècles, with a preface by Pierre Mollier, Éditions SPM 2011, ISBN 978-2-901952-81-7, 572 pages, containing 5000 names. Orders: diffusion.harmattan@wanadoo.fr. Price: € 46,50.

- Travaux de la Loge de recherche en histoire maçonnicomaritime 'La Pérouse', (Éditions Le Phare de Misaine), Volume VII (2011), ISBN 978-2-917827-03-1, 140 pag., € 12. Journal on the relationship between freemasonry and maritime history, with articles on subjects as: 'La loge dunkerquoise Les Vrais Bataves', 'Joseph Henri François de Gantès, un officier de marine franc-maçon au XVIIIe siècle', 'Le corsaire François Thurot et le mystérieux Ordre de Coldin', 'Le Livre d’Architecture de la Mariners’ Lodge de New York de 1825 à 1847', ‘Le vice-amiral Platon et la lutte contre les sociétés secrètes’. Orders: aspoma@rllaperouse.org.

- The Lettre Periodique d'Histoire Maritime Cercle Thomas Dunkerley also deserves a mention in relation to the subject. Registration for this digital newsletter at: aspoma@rllaperouse.org.

Dispersed Nazi Records of Looted Art

The Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany is supporting a series of projects aiming to make the Nazi records of cultural plunder during World War II publicly available. These projects have located and documented original files of the Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg (ERR), the primary Nazi agency responsible for looting cultural valuables in Nazi-occupied countries. The ERR's records include not only art objects, but also items taken from libraries, archives, Masonic lodges, and religious buildings in the occupied countries of Western and Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union.
Reconstructing the Record of Nazi Cultural Plunder: A Survey of the Dispersed Archives of the Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg (ERR) by by Patricia Kennedy Grimsted has been published online at www.iisg.nl/publications/errsurvey.  In addition to the publication of the survey, the Claims Conference is supporting two additional initiatives. One is the ongoing imaging of the ERR files located in Kiev, Moscow, Vilnius, Berlin, Koblenz, Amsterdam, Paris, New York, and Washington. The other is the joint initiative of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum to create a Database of Art Objects at the Jeu de Paume in Paris that brings together all documentation in a searchable form. The website was launched in October 2010 and can be found at: www.errproject.org/jeudepaume.


New publications

- Andrea Kroon/Audrey Wagtberg Hansen, Geheim Den Haag. Vrijmetselaarstempels en andere esoterische gebouwen in Den Haag rond 1900, De Nieuwe Haagsche, Den Haag 2011. Guide to masonic temples and other esoteric locations in the city of The Hague, the Netherlands, around 1900.

- Dr Ann Pilcher-Dayton, The Social Impact of Women's Freemasonry in England, 1903-1935, dissertation University of Sheffield (History), 2011.

- Manuel de Paz Sánchez, Masons in the Atlantic, 3 Vol, Editions Idea, Library Square and Compass (Santa Cruz de Tenerife), 2009-2010. Collection of essays on the history of freemasonry on the Canary Islands, includes biographies.

Online resources

An up to date list of English Constitution erased lodges is now available on the website of the Library and Museum of Freemasonry in London as pdf file.

The Library and Museum has also completed a survey of the whereabouts and types of material relating to freemasonry held by record offices around the country. The survey is available on line at: http://www.freemasonry.london.museum/resources/information-leaflets/


- The Fifth Conference of the Association for the Study of Esotericism and Mysticism (ASEM) will be held in St. Petersburg, Russia on December 2-5, 2011. The conference theme is History and Discourse: Historical and Philosophical Aspects of the Study of Esotericism and Mysticism. The keynote speaker will be Professor Dr Wouter Hanegraaff from the University of Amsterdam. For more information about the call for papers please follow the link: http://asem.ucoz.org/index/call_for_papers_2011/0-31.

- Coinciding with the 130 anniversary of the creation of the National Grand Lodge of Romania (MLNR) the Romanian Institute for the Study of Freemasonry organizes an international conference on the theme: 'Freemasonry and Fraternalism under authoritarian regimes / dictatorships of the twentieth century', 15-18 September 2011 in Bucharest (Romania). Info: http://www.irsmf.ro/. Contact: Sorin Antohi, sorin.n.antohi@gmail.com.


Lecture series

- 'All’Oriente d’Italia. Unità, Massoneria e Saperi tradizionali', lecture series until 25 May 2011, Museo del Risorgimento, Milan, Italy, in cooperation with Università degli Studi di Milano (Dipartimento di Filosofia). Information: c.museorisorgimento@comune.milano.it

- 'História da maçonaria: Maçonaria e Política', lecture series until 20 Juni 2011, Centro de História da Faculdade de Letras da Universidade de Lisboa, Lisbon, Portugal. Information: centro.historia@fl.ul.pt.


Conference: Knowledge to die for

The conference Knowledge to die for: Transmission of Prohibited and Esoteric Knowledge through Space and Time will take place on May 2-4 2011 at the Max-Planck-Institute for the History of Science in Berlin.
The conference deals with prohibited, heretical and esoteric knowledge, as attested in Mesopotamia and in ancient Jewish, Rabbinic, and Apocalyptic literature, as well as in Christian and Islamic contexts, pre-Islamic and later Iranian sources, and incorporating Judeo-Christian-Muslim heterodoxies.
Speakers will include: Michael Stone (Jerusalem), Boris Uspenskij (Naples), Gebhard Selz (Vienna), Tal Ilan (Berlin), Alexander Kulik (Jerusalem), James Russell (Harvard), Dimitri Gutas (Yale), Hans Kippenberg (Bremen), Angelika Neuwirth (Berlin), Antonio Panaino (Bologna), Maria Macuch (Berlin), Velizar Sadovski (Vienna), Jens Braarvig (Oslo), Desmond Durkin-Meisterernst (Berlin), Yuri Stoyanov (London), David Shankland (London), Matteo Martelli (Berlin).
Organiser: Prof. Dr. Florentina Badalanova Geller, fgeller@zedat.fu-berlin.de. Contact: Kirsten Koners, kirsten.koners@topoi.org.


Vacancy: Director of Research, London

A job opportunity for a ‘director of research’ at one of the largest study collections in the field of study - The Library and Museum of Freemasonry in London, was announced today. See the advert in The Guardian: http://jobs.guardian.co.uk/job/4283204/director-of-research/.


In memoriam: André Hanou (1941-2011)

We have received a sad, but not unexpected message: professor André Hanou has passed away on 8th February 2011. The many 'in memoriams' that have since appeared online, make it clear just what a remarkable inspiration this Dutch researcher, author and tutor was to students and colleagues. We would like to mention his many contributions to the study of freemasonry amongst an impressive body of work:

Hanou studied philosophy, theology and Dutch literature. In 1988 he defended his dissertation at the Nijmegen University: De Sluiers van Isis. Johannes Kinker als voorvechter van de Verlichting, in de vrijmetselarij en andere Nederlandse genootschappen (The Veils of Isis. Johannes Kinker as a campaigner for the Enlightenment in freemasonry and other societies). It marked the beginning of a specialisation in Dutch literature of the Enlightenment. 
Between 1992 and 1998 he published a series of articles on his research of 18th century lodge archives in Thoth, a research journal for freemasons, including the series ‘Beelden der vrijmetselarij’ ('Images of Freemasonry').
De loge parterre’ ('The ground floor lodge') appeared in: ‘Een stille leerschool van deugd en goede zeden’. Vrijmetselarij in Nederland in de 18e en 19e eeuw in 1995.  In this article, Hanou drew attention to the lack of standard sources and statistical data for the (new) field of study, such as a bibliography of 18th century masonic publications and publication of membership lists of lodges. This overview is still very relevant today.

Hanou worked at the University of Amsterdam for a long time, where he eventually became professor in 1989. Together with his wife, Rietje van Vliet, he founded Astraea Publishers in 1994, which published many 18th century studies, including Onder de Acacia. Studies over de Nederlandse vrijmetselarij en vrijmetselaarsloges (Underneath the Acacia. Studies on Dutch freemasonry and masonic lodges, 1997). Hanou also actively participate in many research societies, including one of the first on the subject of western esotericism, Aries. This is where the founders of the OVN Foundation first met.
In 2000 Hanou was appointed at the Radboud University as professior of early modern Dutch literature. He published: De Naakte Waarheyt der Vrije Metselaars. Teksten van de 18de eeuwse schrijver Jacob Campo Weyerman over de Vrijmetselarij (The Naked Truth about Freemasons. Texts by the 18th century author Jacob Campo Weyerman, 2004).

For some, becoming emeritus professor marks the end of their scholarly productivity. But when that moment arrived for Hanou in 2006, the steady stream of publications continued. In 2007 he started blogging on the Herkauwer blog, where he shared his expertise, exciting discoveries in libraries, and opinions on new books on an almost daily basis. The number of visitors shot up to nearly 35.000 hits. And when it became clear that an illness would soon make an end to his life's work, he still kept on blogging. It's characteristic for his love of research that he quickly wrote columns about notes found in his archive, in order to stimulate a new generation of researchers to pick up those subjects.

From the foundation of the OVN in 2001 Hanou was involved, as a speaker at conferences and member of the research grant committee. He declined our invitation to join as board member because of his very busy working schedule, until he finally found the time to do so in 2009. Our board members welcomed his stimulating input on the foundation's activities and especially the sense of humor he brought to our meetings. We will miss him dearly. Following Hanou's own initiative, the OVN will shortly publish a compilation of his articles on Dutch freemasonry. We sincerely hope that a translation of his work into English will be published one day, so his contribution to the field of study will be accessible to even more readers.


Freemasonry on Dutch television

The BBC-program 'Who do you think you are?', which researches the family trees of celebrities has a Dutch counterpart, called Verborgen Verleden (= Hidden Past). In 2010 the OVN Foundation was approached to cooperate on an episode about a Dutch celebrity whose ancestors included a male and female freemason. The Grand Lodges of the two Orders were also involved in the program. We are not allowed to say yet whose family tree is discussed, but we can tell you to watch on 13 februari 2011 or the online version which will be available afterwards...