This year’s Mid-Atlantic Esotericon took place this past weekend, and I thought I’d put together a few notes and quick reactions about the conference. This conference started in 2019, and the pandemic wasn’t enough to kill it, only enough to make the conference go online.
Aside from being an educational event for Freemasons, it raised several thousand dollars for Give Kids the World, in conjunction with the Virginia Rainbow Girls.
Distilling so many different topics over a full day of presentations into a few bullets is tough, but I’m going to give it a shot.
- Akram Elias (former GM of Washington, DC) spoke on the Masonic Legacy Society and its 3-fold intention:
- Enable brothers to draw their own transformation, and not merely accept the interpretation of predecessors
- Encourage brothers to remain committed to freemasonry without directing them to other traditions
- Awaken them to meaningful differences in the world at large
- Chuck Dunning spoke on the “Platonic View” of Freemasonry, and the connection between the various mystery schools of the past and Masonry. There was particular focus on the idea of discursive reasoning and self-discovery. There were many sub-topics touched on in this talk, from Plato’s Cave, to Anderson’s Constitutions, to the process of how we can get to dianoia in our discussions.
- Donald McAndrews spoke on “The Craft and the Cross“, a book by Chris McClintock, which deals with the common origin of Freemasonry and Christianity in ancient sun-worship.
- David Bacon spoke on the connection between Neuroscience and perception – and gave many wonderful examples of context-specific symbols and allegory, and discussed how the brain actually processes these.
- Angel Millar spoke about the archetype of the Warrior, and the connection between martial arts & spirituality, touching on Kung Fu, Zoorkhaneh, and how this informs the inner alchemical process.
- Robert Johnson spoke on “Deciphering the Occulted Anatomy” and how one reaches beyond their limits. The “Anatomiae Occultii” is a map of many different esoteric traditions and how they connect. The best way to summarize this talk in a single sentence would be this (paraphrased) quote: “All of these things are just paths, none of which are really correct. Like a wagon wheel, all or most lead to the center”.
- Par Joseph Wages gave a talk called the Man and the Mason which addressed the history of De Grasse-Tilly and the Lodge La Candeur founded in 1796
On the sidelines of the conference in separate sessions, Jamie Paul Lamb and Angel Millar were doing Masonic tarot readings for participants for a small fee in 15 minute sessions.
At the very end of the event, there were thank you videos from the Grand Worthy Advisor of the Virginia Rainbow, and a presentation as well on the esoteric meanings of the Rainbow in that organization.
The logistics of the event went pretty well, which is no small feat to coordinate so many people and keep things running on schedule. The high points for me of the event were the Q&A in Robert Johnson’s talk, and Dave Bacon’s talk on symbolism, allegory, culture & neuroscience. I’d very much like to see this event continue next year.
If you’re a Freemason with interest in esoterics, this is the epitome of quality Masonic education in the area. Do not miss it next year.
The biggest downsides of the event are basically the usual griping about the pandemic and social isolation that I think we all feel. I can certainly hope that things will be back to a new (different) normal next year, and that some form of in-person conference will be possible. The presentations could have been more impactful if I had been sitting in the room with the speakers, and better enabled to discuss the content with other people there and the speakers themselves. Zoom and digital delivery eliminates “the sidelines” of the conference, and that’s a big part of a conferences’ overall value.
And yet, there’s a different lesson in here. Good brothers work with what they’ve got, and make something good out of a bad situation. In this case, ticket structure changes were turned into charitable donations – and while we might have had to connect electronically, still we connected. Delivering content that’s valuable enough to make people spend most of a Saturday on a Zoom call is no small feat – and the organizing brothers did it.
Speaker biographies and photos can be found on the website.
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