Secrets, Mysteries and Magic: A Personal Journey through Freemasonry and Beyond

Non-fiction by Paul Kindlon 

                                                                  Episode I

                      1986: The Black Metal Box: a burglary that was not a burglary

My journey into the labyrinth of mystery, secrets and magic was triggered by a highly unusual event in my life – a burglary that was not a burglary. It was a break-in that occured in my Chicago apartment that I shared with a commercial artist – Kevin – who owned a sophisticated camera plus very expensive equipment related to his trade. None of these were stolen. Likewise, my stereo and TV remained intact.  Absolutely nothing of value was taken. Except for the one item treasured by the man who stole it – a card that he gave to me in a bar one night as we discussed the imminent demise of the Soviet Union and what the future had in store.

The bar was situated around the corner from where I performed on stage at the “Chicago Repertory Theater”. The individual in question was introduced to me as a “pure Marxist” by a local college professor also in the bar at the time. Having just spent two years as a card- carrying member of the Communist Party of the United States of America , I was more than curious to meet and talk to this young man. His name – if it really was his real name – was Alexander. In his thirties I guessed. Alexander spoke flawless English with just a slight hint of a Russian accent. He was extrememly concerned about the future of the communist movement and the current crisis in his country – the Soviet Union. Alexander told me he had obtained a Visa to emigrate to America by lying to the authorities claiming he was one among many Russian Jews discriminated against and persecuted by the system in the USSR.  After about an hour of socialist discourse he handed me his “calling card” across the table and I looked in astonishment at what appeared there. Below his name was the image of a pyramid with a small leafy branch sticking out from underneath. Having studied Philosophy, Art and Literature I took this to symbolize humankind’s mastery over Nature. Interestingly, the pyramid had no “all seeing eye” and was not truncated. However, when I flipped the card over there was printed one startling phrase on the back: “Light and Happiness for All People”.

Why was he giving me this card? What was he thinking?

I nodded, slipped the card in my shirt pocket and continued with the conversation as if nothing had happened. The night ended on a pleasant note as we bid each other farewell and mentioned meeting again sometime. When I got home that night I tucked the card away in my black metal box containing “valuable papers and documents” such as my original birth certificate and social security card. I honestly forgot all about it – as well as Alexander-  until the break-in. On the morning of the “burglary” that was not a burglary, I noticed a man loitering close-by my apartment building. He looked vaguely familiar, but I was late for my class at the local university so I did not have time to ascertain his exact identity or if – in fact- I knew him from somewhere.

When I returned later in the afternoon I immediately noticed the back window of my first-floor apartment had been tampered with. Reaching my bedroom I saw that it had been ransacked..drawers opened, clothes strewn about and everything upturned. In the midst of the chaos was my metal box clearly open. I approached it slowly with a feeling of unease. Having one’s apartment broken into is somewhat traumatic and the victim always feels violated. Realizing that something inside the metal box was the cause of all this made me feel “creeped out” and anxious. Within seconds of checking its contents, I came to the bizarre and unmistakable conclusion that the entire purpose of the home invasion and “burglary” was so Alexander could retrieve that important card. It was very unnerving yet fascinating at the same time. Alexander did not know where I lived, did not know my phone number and I never told him my last name. Nonetheless, he discovered precisely where I was living at the time. Why would this “pure Marxist” from the Soviet Union come to my apartment a full year after I had met him just to collect a card with a pyramid and a fictitious Jewish surname on it? I was more than curious…I decided I was now going to discover the meaning of this enigmatic episode. It would involve connecting some significant dots. Beginning, of course, with Freemasonry. Be aware, however, that these dots are not connected through a linear progression. There will be lots of back and forth movement as dots connect from the present to the past and back again. It is after all a labyrinth we’re talking about.

                                                       Episode II

             1976: A Touchdown that was not a Touchdown. And an Inside Joke

When I was young I had heard mention of Freemasonry on a few occasions, but never gave it much thought. Just another fraternal organization that people join for comradery and perhaps a bit of networking. Weren’t there half a dozen such groups in America? The Lions Club, Rotary Club, Kuwanis. Knights of Columbus. No big deal. But then I began to remember some strange moments in my life that made me wonder about the workings of this secretive organization. I didn’t have to look far.

My best friend for more than a decade was a Mason and I never knew it. Until I put 3 and 3 together ( Numbers will turn out to be significant). My good friend Mike was “different”. Very open-minded. And funny as hell. He was the jokester and the trickster who turned everything into a game. But one time he turned deadly serious.

In our college days, Mike, myself and three other students were headed down South for a Bob Dylan concert – the Rolling Thunder Revue (where Joan Baez came on stage and sang “The Night They Drove old Dixie Down” and had the Southern audience in tears). But I’m getting ahead of myself. All of us were packed into a VW microbus – a vehicle that broke down halfway to our destination somewhere in Virginia. Mike brought his VW into a small town service station to have it fixed. Or so he thought. A few miles down the road the VW conked out. I could see that Mike was exasperated and quite agitated. I guessed he was low on money at this point. After a few minutes of looking like Rodin’s sculpture “the Thinker,” he became animated and screamed ” Fuck! Fuck! Fuck!”. Then suddenly he made what seemed like a grave decision. In a very imperious tone, he ordered us all to keep our eyes straight ahead. No one was allowed to turn around and look back. As if we were leaving Sodom itself. He exited the vehicle and strode towards the intersection behind us. Everyone in the microbus complied with his orders as if hypnotized. Except me. I was always stubborn and willful. I looked in the rear-view mirror and saw Mike lift his arms up as if signaling a touchdown being scored. Literally, within seconds a car stopped and I could see Mike leaning through the car window talking to the driver. Five minutes later we were in some stranger’s home garage where our savior spent half an hour really fixing Mike’s VW.  I learned later on through a bit of detective work in the library that Mike’s “touchdown” gesture was, in fact, the international distress signal used by Mason’s in need of help. I never mentioned to Mike that I had discovered this because I thought it too sensitive. If he were to bring up the episode I would tell him the truth, but the incident would always remain buried and forgotten. The day after the concert we stayed on to explore the city. Mike insisted we all go to a Drive-in movie later on. Even though the AC in the VW was non-functioning and it was ninety-five degrees at 8 PM  we all headed out to the Drive-in after an Epicurean stop at KFC. The heat was oppressive and the mosquitoes unbearable, but we all sat through a film entitled “The Man Who Would Be King” with Sean Connery.

When we arrived back home to Albany I paid a visit to the library to pursue knowledge and truth. What I discovered was that the film was based upon a short story by Rudyard Kipling about…what else?…. Freemasonry. Kipling also wrote a novel involving Freemasonry entitled “Kim” where a character refers to the local Masonic lodge as “the House of Magic”. Interestingly, there was a famous British intellectual who defected to the Soviet Union and became a big KGB official. His name was Kim Philby. Coincidence? Or dot connected?

In addition, I now understood why Mike always disappeared mysteriously on Friday afternoons and later re-appeared around 6 PM. That’s the time period when Masonic lodges have their meetings.

                                             “Weirdness Doth Pervade”

Then came Charlie Manson. For those who don’t know…Manson was the leader of a Cult in Southern California and in the summer of ’69 Charlie had ordered (hypnotized?) a number of his devoted followers to murder Sharon Tate – the rising star and pregnant wife of Roman Polanski. My friend Mike – always the non-conformist- was fascinated by Manson and seemingly believed Charlie had magical powers ( Manson supposedly made the prosecuting attorney Vincent Bugliosi’s watch stop during his murder trial).

On one Friday night, I paid a visit to Mike and he was deep in thought. I asked him why he seemed so contemplative. He proceeded to offer an explanation -if not justification – for the Manson family’s action – portraying the gruesome murder of Sharon Tate as a good thing. He didn’t seem utterly convinced by his own argument though. It was as if he were conducting some sort of thought experiment using fundamental rules of logic. “There are cultures in the world that see life as supreme suffering and view death as a welcome release followed by Eternal Happiness. Charlie said that Sharon Tate was so beautiful, she deserved to die. Maybe this is what he meant.”

A few days after this discussion I hit the library again. I was slowly, but surely educating myself on “Speculative Freemasonry 101”. What I next discovered is that the highest “virtue” of Freemasonry is referred to as “Love of Death”. Was this another dot? Or just a tenuous thread of my own making? Then I read about the traditional Masonic Motto – “Momento Mori” – “Remember Death”. Something clicked.

I had always been fortunate with regard to memory retention. Seems to be a family trait. In any event, I retrieved from my personal historical vault a moment of confusion that struck me as odd during the time. It was – I think – the mid 1960s. The comedian Morey Amsterdam appeared on the old Ed Sullivan show doing a stand-up routine. Very entertaining indeed. But when he finished his performance he waived “good-bye” to the audience and called out…”Remember Morey!” Many of the men in the audience laughed appreciatively. But only the men. I thought it was weird because it wasn’t really funny. But I wasn’t a Mason. Small dot connected, but a dot nonetheless.

                                                             Episode III

                                     “Angel, Witch or Extra-Terrestrial?”

                                             Moscow, Russia: 2004

Everyone called him Abed – a nickname for a rather long Muslum appellation denoting upper-class status. Abed was a student of mine and had become one of my best friends. His family lived in Damascus, Syria and his father was a prominent Mason. We had many shared interests: smoking weed, astrophysics, astronomy, and mysticism. During one of our “sessions”, Abed began talking about “Red Mercury” and “Jinns”. He told me of an incident with a friend in the Middle East involving this expensive substance – Red Mercury- and how when imbibed allows one to conjure up Jinns – those naughty entities from “the spirit world” who have the power to grant your wishes. “They are mentioned in the Koran”, he tells me. I would – like any rational, well-educated person – dismiss such fantastical nonsense, but my memory intrudes once again bringing me back in time to 1972.   

I was an undergrad student at SUNY Albany ( a god-awful place that I hated and couldn’t wait to graduate from). My father had arranged for me to join a band called the “R & O Trio”. This group consisted of two sisters – one on accordion and one on organ plus yours truly on drums and lead vocals. We were professional and popular in the area playing weddings, anniversaries, local hotel lounges and Moose Lodges. As it turns out Moose lodges are connected to Freemasonry in a kind of indirect way, being sort of a subsidiary. There is some overlap, however, and I experienced it big time one fateful night.

After having played at numerous Moose lodges we in the band knew pretty much what to expect. Until this one summer night. The girls usually just gave me directions to the next gig and I’d meet up with them there thirty minutes before starting time to set up. On this particular day I was told to drive to their home in the country so I could follow their van to the lodge. Otherwise, I was told, I’d never find the place. They were right. Talk about a labyrinth.

When we finally arrived at the proper location what I saw shocked me. The architectural design of the building atop a hill was positively exquisite. One of the girls came out of the van, looked up at this wonder and exclaimed “This is a Moose lodge? Are you friggin kidding me?  (She hated the actual “F” word and referred to those who use it too liberally as “F Troop”). Two men came bounding down the steep steps to carry our instruments for us. They seemed rather excited….as in “psyched!”. Okay, we were good. But not that good.  Why the hyper excitement? I wondered.

The hall of the lodge was quite modern with freshly polished hardwood floors. Very un-Moose like. In the middle was a long table covered with a white cotton cloth. In the middle of that was a silver fountain with ginger ale – I think – flowing down into the basin. That was different. But what really caught my eye were the fifty or so plastic cups arranged in rectangular fashion along the edges of the table. Inside each of them was a reddish liquid. While we were alone, our manager – the girls’ father-  explained to me that it was “Moose blood” and that it was sort of a tradition with this particular lodge to drink it at the start of the proceedings. He told me I didn’t have to imbibe if I really didn’t want to. Feeling my masculinity challenged I quickly grabbed a cup and downed it. And yes, I did need the ginger ale.

I remember setting up the drums, but after that everything was a blur and then non-existent. I can’t remember a single song we played and as I said – I have a prodigious memory. What I do remember is driving home on my own along a dirt road with no van in sight. I looked up as if hypnotized at the full moon as it rose higher and higher and the drummer boy smiling like a lunatic. A young lady appeared like an apparition at the side of the road hitch-hiking. As I slowed down to give her a lift, I could see she had an almost perfect figure. Hopping into my car she immediately sat sideways facing me. Absolutely beaming. I was quite taken aback as she seemed to devour me with her eyes. “Are you thinking what I think you’re thinking? ” was all I could say. She smiled, nodded her head, and said: “Uh -huh”. Suddenly I became paternalistic. To this day, I really don’t know what came over me. Instead of taking advantage of the situation I quite uncharacteristically began to lecture her – gently- on how dangerous it was to be hitch-hiking on a country road at 3 o’clock on a Sunday morning. “Let me drive you home” I suggested. She paused for a moment – laughed – and then replied “Alright”. Following her directions, I just seemed to get more lost so she suggested she drive since she knew the way. That’s when the blurry feeling came back. I don’t know how long it took, but the stars seemed to multiply as we got closer to her home. As she stopped the car she turned to me and said, “I want you to meet my Mom”. “Your Mom?”, I replied incredulously. “Yes. Don’t you think you could use a cup of coffee? ” “Actually that’s not a bad idea”, I said.

We entered her very modest home and I was promptly introduced to her mother – a woman of few words, but hospitable and kind. As donuts and coffee were placed on the table the young lady insisted that I tell her mother precisely what happened out on the dirt road and to include every aspect of our encounter. I was stunned. Why would I…? Why should I…? I mean it was awkward to say the least. I shook my head and said “Please I can’t”. “If you don’t…I will” the girl responded. So I recounted the brief interaction in every detail – much to my surprise. Her mother nodded approvingly and then bid us both a good night.

The young lady said she thought it might be best for me to stay over since it was already past four. I decided that was a good idea because despite the coffee I was quite enervated. To my surprise, she took me to her bedroom and undressed to her bra and panties. I stripped to my underwear as well. Now, feeling her warm beautiful body next to mine I had a sudden change of heart concerning my recently acquired paternal nature. I slipped my hand between her thighs and upwards. She gently pulled my hand back and away without saying a word and then kissed me – not on the lips, but on my chin. I felt a surge of pure love radiating throughout my entire being. Or so it seemed. The feeling was like nothing I had ever experienced. Was this magic? Who was this girl?

Feeling a bit guilty about my “faux pas” earlier I waited until I thought she was asleep , put on my clothes, left her house, and drove home as if in a dream. When I finally arrived, the sun was beginning to rise and feeling exhausted I undressed, dropped my clothes on the carpet and plopped on the bed. When I awoke the next day, I picked up my pants and shirt and realized they were quite wet. I automatically smelled for traces of urine. Hey, who knows? But no. Just water. There was no cup or glass in sight and only my clothes were saturated. Not the floor, or wall, or bedside table. Now that’s odd, I thought. But then what about the past night was not?

I still have no explanation for just about everything – including the missing five hours, but wait for the dot…

Years later, in  1992, I was a broadcast journalist in Moscow, Russia working at “Open Radio”. We presented a two-hour English language program every day of the week from 7 until 9 AM. One morning my program director, Sergei, handed me the latest copy of “The Economist” saying “Read the article about Russia”. Towards the back of the magazine was an intriguing story about how a large amount of Red Mercury had been sold to America making some people in Russia loads of US dollars. This was the Economist mind you, not some wacky tabloid. “So it’s real”, I thought. “The substance exists!”

In between news segments, we played a bit of music in order to give the listeners a break. I selected a tune by Queen – very popular in Russia at the time. As the lead singer belted out “Bohemian Rhapsody” I thought of his name. Instead of his real Middle Eastern name, he chose to call himself “Freddy Mercury“. Was this another inside joke? Was I experiencing synchronicity? Or just a strange coincidence?

                                                          Episode IV

               “A Philosophical Analysis of the Elite and a visit to Guilder’s Hollow”

                                                      Mana: noun

1. A supernatural force believed to dwell in a person or sacred object.

2. Power; authority.

How does one become “top dog” in society? Or is social status pre-determined?

Some say it’s all about the “Promethean Figure” – one who through sheer strength of will and unbridled ambition takes his or her place as the most powerful because they have the “Promethean fire”. We all have it to some extent, but the great ones have it in abundance having more strength of Will than any other mortal. Anthropologists would recognize this as ” mana” – that special energy (perhaps magical) that gives one power. It is an energy force that has a strong effect on others – making them want to follow you and obey your command. If you’re a film buff you may remember the ending of Spielberg’s “ET” –  where the alien says good bye, touching the boy with his elongated finger and saying “I’ll be right here” as a bright light of ET energy is transferred to the area corresponding to the third eye. This is ET performing the role of Prometheus. And it’s quite Masonic I believe.

In Philosophy, another term for mana is “life-force”. Those who prefer this term refer to the same phenomenon, but simply point out that not all people who possess a lot of mana become leaders. Some choose other paths: an artist, scientist, actor, business tycoon etc.

In Oriental philosophy, this concept of mana or “life-force” figures prominantly. In Hindu philosophy they speak of the seven chakras corresponding to where in your body this life force mostly resides. In Freemasonry, one may read about what members have called ” the upward movement of the inner-path“.

Many actors – when speaking of the characters they portray – will make mention of where he or she is “centered”. Same idea.

Those who seek power are centered in one of the lowest chakras. But if one is even more wilful, the energy rises up the inner path towards love and compassion, then creativity, and then wisdom. However, the highest level of life-force ascension is manifested around the top of the head depicted in religious paintings and icons by gold – an ancient symbol of spiritual perfection. Some would say that these spiritual masters are the true Promethean figures…the truly elite. Rulers throughout history have possessed mana and have been careful not to lose it.

This explains “Royal Incest” – the practice of marrying a close relative to keep the mana” in the family”. This may also explain why in powerful aristocratic families cousins have often married cousins. If you keep the mana “in family” you rule society. The problem is that Endogamy (in-breeding) results in biological degeneration.  Off-spring will exhibit lower intelligence and physical abnormalities of a sometimes freakish nature. It can also lead to health issues like hemophilia.  An example of this biological degeneration involves the early Dutch in America.

In New Netherlands (now New York) wealthy Dutch aristocrats inter-married. According to legend, mutant off-spring were exiled internally to the upper regions of the Dutch colony far away from “the civilized world”. Simply put…they were just dumped off far away hopefully never to be seen again.  But I saw them!

                                              

                                            “A Town full of Incest and Mana”

In 1976 I wrote a one-act play entitled “Persistent Visitor” which was presented at a local college in Albany ,N.Y. One of the actors- Dan- became a good friend.

One evening after a performance Dan and I went out for a few beers at a local bar called “The Washington Tavern”. While there the subject of Dutch aristocrats and their mutant off-spring came up.  Dan turned to me and said that the descendants of the Dutch mutants still existed.

“No way!”

“No, really they do.”

He told me he grew up in Granville, New York not far from the Canadian border. Right next door to his hometown was a tiny place called “Guilder’s Hollow”. This is the location, he explained, where the descendants of the aristocrats were exiled to. Instead of dying off as expected, the early inbred Dutch survived and they themselves inter-married. So, if we focus strictly on mana, this would mean that the original internal exiles -though less intelligent and biologically inferior- still possessed the same amount of mana as their parents (thanks to Endogamy). This also meant that – because of continued in-breeding – a good number of descendants there probably still possessed large amounts of this life-force. Would they use it for good purposes or bad, I wondered.

The very next day Dan and I set off for Granville. He to visit his mother. Me to visit you know who. I was not disappointed. But I actually was.

In order to observe a cross-section of Guilder Hollow’s small population, I decided that a local bar would be quite suitable. As I entered the tavern – the only bar in town – I imagined there was a sporting event on the television because I could hear the patrons urging on their team with enthusiastic fervor. But there was no game being televised. What the patrons were cheering about was a couple – probably cousins – who were openly copulating at the service area of the bar. She with her legs in the air – he thrusting away to the rhythmic chants of the crowd. I am no prude, but it was a bit too much for me. The locals were very animated and exuded extreme self-confidence.  I felt intimidated by their vivacious behavior. After quickly downing a Canadian beer I left the bar satisfied that I had seen proof of the legend – in graphic form. When I drove back to Granville and the home of Dan’s Mom he asked me about my anthropological research.

” How was the bar? Meet any mutants?  What did you do there?”

“No. Just drank a beer and watched a show”

” Oh. Too bad. What were you watching?”

” All in the Family”

                                                                   Episode V

                                          “The life-force performs magic”

For better or worse I decided to become a professional stage actor in 1976. My first gig was in Albany, NY. At this time of my life my heart chakra opened up and I actually felt lighter. As if walking a few inches off the ground all the time. I also felt as though I had found my calling. I had talent! I was that good. Who was that amazing guy on stage? Certainly not me. My success gave me inspiration and ambition. I wanted more!

My good buddy in the cast was Frank. He played the part of King Henry the VIII. Damn good actor. I asked him one day…

“Should I go to New York to make it? “

” No. Too much competition. You’ll starve. Go to Chicago. I hear the theater scene is starting to flourish. “

“Okay. O’Hare, here I come”

Within a month I was living with my very rich Uncle in a gated community with guards and Japanese gardeners wandering about. He told me I could use his Cadillac whenever I wanted.  I lived among 40 some-odd homes – all vacant while their owners were away in some exotic foreign location most of the year. My uncle himself announced that he would soon be vacationing in Europe for a month. But before that, he wanted to make sure that I was “gainfully employed” and making some money to survive. Cheapskate.

He arranged to have me work in one of his cardboard factories, but first, he said, I would have to do an interview with the factory director – Jimmy Bob or something. A good ole boy. “Just a technicality” he assured me.

I arrived at the factory and met the director who escorted me to his office. He sat behind a big desk and leaned forward to question me.

“Paul Kindlon. Hmmm…”

“So tell me…are you serious about cardboard?”

Somehow I managed not to laugh. I really was a good actor.

While driving home to uncle’s place I realized I would require entertainment while he was in Europe. Later on, I called Susan who had been in the show with me in Albany. She played the part of a wench. I asked her if she would like to join me and hang out for a while in style. She thought it was a great idea.

The day after uncle Ed left for Europe she arrived. That’s when the fun started.

One night we were smoking weed and watching a horror film. All I can remember is Bela Lugosi. I was pretty tired so I told her I was “hitting the sack”. She said she would join me

soon, right after the film ended. I fell asleep almost immediately. Then I was dreaming. Bela Lugosi’s character was approaching me menacingly. He was wearing white gloves that reached out to my throat to strangle me. I woke up punching Susan in the face.  At that point, I was propelled off the bed vertically about three or four feet. I hung there… still experiencing the fear that made me react so violently. Then suddenly I felt a profound and overwhelming sense of guilt and shame. Because I was levitating. I  Immediately fell to the bed like a rock. Susan. Poor Susan lost it. She accused me of being possessed by the devil. (Never knew she was religious)

The next morning she was on a plane back to Memphis.

Levitating. Seriously?

I don’t know how to explain it. Because it’s inexplicable. I’m sure you don’t believe it really happened. But – hey – neither do I.

By the way…if you’re wondering how I was able to push my life-force all the way up to my heart chakra, here’s the secret –  I told it to go up.

You connect the dots.

                                                            Episode VI

                                               “The Big Question”

I discovered that elite aristocrats in Russia did exactly the same thing with biologically freakish offspring that the Dutch had in New Netherlands. These unfortunate children were carted off to a remote area in Siberia where they were expected to die off in the harsh climate. However,  they not die off. Is it possible they remembered why they were banished and abandoned and vowed revenge on the royal family for allowing this practice to occur? Did the surviving members of this group select one man with the most “mana” who would be sent on a mission to infiltrate the inner circle of the Romanov family and destroy them?

Was this one man Rasputin?

Before Rasputin made his way to St. Petersburg he went on a journey – a spiritual quest. During part of this journey, he spent 40 plus days in isolation and without food – far away from civilized life. Anthropologists call this the “Vision Quest”. Stories abound about men who survived this “rite of passage” being able to perform magic afterward. Indeed, according to Christians, Jesus Christ began performing miracles following 40 days without food and in isolation in the desert.

There are many instances of Rasputin performing what some might call “miracles” and he greatly impressed the monks he met with his life-force shining powerfully from his fiercely hypnotic eyes. It is said that Rasputin either struck you as a “holy man”(starets) or as “one possessed by demonic spirits”. In any event, he got his big chance to enter the private world of the Romanovs when he was summoned on to care for Alexei the hemophiliac son of Nicholas and Alexandra.

Using his healing powers, Rasputin seemed to cure Alexei’s malady which, incidentally, was caused by too much inbreeding among the Romanovs. Having gained the trust and gratitude of Alexandra, Rasputin would graduate in time from a part-time spiritual advisor and personal healer to confidant and political advisor! His presence within the deeply religious family was seen as ruinous by many aristocrats close to the royal family and many citizens blamed Russia’s ills on Rasputin. Prince Felix Yusupov and others would eventually assassinate this controversial “starets”.               

According to legend, his life force had become even stronger after the Vision Quest. So much so that Rasputin was not killed by the poison-laced wine they gave him or by the bullets pumped into his body three times at close range. His corpse- when it was eventually retrieved from the Neva River – revealed the cause of death to be drowning and that Rasputin had struggled to the last moment trying to break through the winter ice.

This story came full circle when I read about a certain Greet Hofmans who was a Dutch faith healer and “hand layer”. For nine years she was a friend, confidante, and advisor of Queen Juliana of the Netherlands, often residing at the palace. Like Rasputin, this healer deeply divided the Royal family causing enmity and conflict. Hofmans would have ended up like Rasputin, but left the Dutch royal court in 1956 after receiving a letter warning that both she and Queen Juliana’s private secretary would be “assassinated if she did not leave “voluntarily”.

                                                    Episiode  VII

                           “The Origins of Freemasonry in Russia”

By all accounts, Freemasonry in Russia dates back to 1731, when Captain John Phillips was appointed as the provincial grand master of Russia. Under the guidance of the “Royal Arch” in England, all Masonic activity in Russia was really organized by a “liaison” communicating instructions from this very elite lodge: his name was Anderson.

From the very beginning, only the best and the brightest were selected to become Russian Masons. At the time, that meant – of course- initiating aristocrats. The basic idea behind Freemasonry – the initiates were told – was to make “good men” even better so that the “good works” of these men would benefit society.

However, shortly after the lodges in Russia were established a problem arose: the Russian Masons wanted to know the identity of the “Top Mason” in England giving out orders. All Anderson would tell them was that instructions came from “the unknown superior”. Not recognizing that as a definitive and clear answer, the aristocrats became disillusioned and abandoned freemasonry. The early lodges simply closed down.

Interest in Freemasonry would return later on during the reign of Tsar Alexander I. Deeply spiritual and contemplative, Alexander enjoyed philosophizing with the exiled French senator, diplomat, and scholar, Joseph de Maistre – a Jesuit-trained Scottish Rite Mason. De Maistre was a mystical “spiritualist” and their very private talks about Freemasonry profoundly affected the impressionable Tsar.

When Alexander’s troops triumphed over the Grand Armee of Napoleon and entered Paris in 1815, Alexander gave specific instructions to his officers to socialize with the French Masons there. What the Tsar did not know was that these particular French Masons were highly political – espousing liberal, anti-monarchist views and shouting “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity” while drinking with their new-found friends from abroad.

Shortly after their return home, these very same Russian officers began planning an uprising against the Monarchy! Alexander I was no longer around, however, having been buried at the St. Peter and Paul Cathedral. Some insisted he was still alive and had simply walked away from his “day job” to become a reclusive monk (Interestingly, Soviet authorities opened up his coffin in the 1920s only to find it empty).

The new Tsar – Nicholas I – would decisively crush this uprising on Senate Square in St Petersburg in 1825. The brave and idealistic rebels – now known collectively as the Decembrists- were almost all Masons dedicated to giving up their lives in order to light a “spark” and change society for the better.

The Russian poet and playwright Alexander Pushkin – also a Mason – did not manage to join the Decembrists in their quixotic adventure, but he was very sympathetic to the cause. He was certainly not alone in this regard. I specifically mention him here because eight years later Pushkin would write a short story entitled “the Queen of Spades”. Critics to this day believe this to be a supernatural fantasy about avarice and gambling, but it is actually much more.

In reality, the “Queen of Spades” (later to become an Opera by Tchaikovsky) is a clever riddle in which the author reveals the “secret Masonic code” which is used to unlock the true meaning of sacred texts like the Bible and Koran.

While researching Russian Freemasonry as a graduate student oh so many years ago, I felt a powerful urge to find out the identity of that “Unknown Superior” mentioned earlier. “Why was Anderson so reluctant to divulge his name?”

I contacted the Scottish rite Masons in Chicago at the time and began visiting them at their local lodge adjacent to the Newberry Library. The brothers were quite affable and gregarious, but they themselves were unable to help me out in my search for the truth. Over time, I was finally introduced to someone who was considered an expert in Russian Freemasonry! I could feel that the Holy Grail was within my grasp.

I asked him – point blank- if it was possible to reveal to me the identity of the illusive and mysterious “unknown superior”. “Yes, oh yes”, he replied, and then paused for a suspenseful moment… “You see…let me put it this way, it was either the Prince of Wales or … an extra-terrestrial. I will leave it up to you to decide which one to believe”. That was not, of course, a definitive and clear answer. Was it perhaps another clever riddle? Dare I connect the dot?

                                                   Episode VIII

                                            Cosmic Consciousness

                                     Part 1- The Siberian Journey

During my first summer in Moscow, I had an affair that later magically transformed into marriage. Her name was Julia and she arranged for us to take a trip up the Ob and Irtish rivers on a ship filled with tourists from Poland. Along the way, we stopped at small towns and villages throughout Siberia – a stunningly beautiful part of Russia.

One of those stops was in the “Xanti” region where indigenous people live in Teepees like their ancestors who migrated to North America 30-40,000 years ago.

I was feeling under the weather when the ship dropped anchor, so Julia went out to explore on her own. When she returned she told me what she had experienced.

The local Xanti view Nature as a sacred Goddess. Geologists searching for oil, therefore, were “fair game”. One had been killed just last year. The Xanti apparently had no history books or “Bible”. She asked them how they accounted for their presence on Earth. Did they believe that God created them? “No”, they replied, “our people were brought here on a spaceship by superior beings from another part of the Cosmos”. She also told me that the families survive by fishing and selling the catch to the local authorities. At the time (1992) there was a pernicious bacteria inside the fish they caught causing people to die rather young. The average age of death was thirty-two.  Rather than being distraught by this fact, the locals rejoiced for they view life as supreme suffering and death as a great release into Eternal Bliss. Funerals were happy occasions where villagers celebrated the glorious “passing over”.

The following year I began teaching at an American College in Moscow. During a Philosophy lecture on “Mysticism,” I re-told this story because I found it fascinating. Afterward, one of my students – a bit older than the rest – approached me to say something. She waited for the other students to leave the room and then informed me that her husband was a Cosmonaut. Moreover, her cosmonaut-husband had actually met an ET.

“Where?” I asked.

“In the anomalous zone out in Siberia”. She paused and then asked, “Do you believe me?”

“I think I probably do”, I replied. “There are many things which are seemingly “unreal” that cannot be explained”.

                      

                                         Part 2 – “How many ETs can dance on the head of a pin?

      Nikolai Fyodorovich Fyodorov. Most inhabitants of planet earth have never heard of the man, but they will eventually.

A polymath and deeply spiritual, this Russian philosopher and resident librarian at the Rumyantsev library had advanced cutting-edge knowledge in many of the hard sciences. Known for his humility and ascetic lifestyle (he mostly ate dark bread, drank only tea with an occasional slice of cheese and slept on an old chest instead of a bed), Fyodorov was practically idolized by some of the leading minds of the late 19th century. Dostoevsky, Soloviev, Berdyaev, and Tolstoy were in awe of this visionary.  And rightfully so.

Fyodorov “walked the walk”, living his philosophy of life 24/7. Intentionally choosing poverty and chastity so he could focus entirely on knowledge acquisition, his words and actions were consistent, harmonious and always life-affirming.

Death, he said, is the true enemy and must be overcome. We should live forever.  We should follow in Christ’s footsteps and defeat death so that all of mankind will live in heaven on earth. Sounded a lot like “Light and Happiness for All People” to me.

Movements such as “futurism” and “cosmism” were directly influenced by Fyodorov’s ideas.

For quite some time, of course, almost all scientists thought he was – well… bonkers. His reputation, however, is beginning to get a make-over because of wide-spread interest in the medical community on the hot topic of immortality.

After Fyodorov’s death, a number of his followers gathered his notes and published a book entitled “The Resurrection Project”. Here’s a look at some of his main ideas…

Palingenesis: there is a genetic signature that remains in our bodies long after we die. We must – as a global community of loving souls – figure out a way to scientifically “resurrect” the bodies of our fathers, grandfathers and so on.  Considered an absurd notion for more than a hundred years, some futurists are now enthusiastically working on this dream with serious research and experimentation.

On evolution: humankind evolved by force of will. We are bi-pedal not because our ancestors needed to “free up their hands” as Darwin believed, but because we “willed” ourselves to stand up-right. Anthropology has discredited Darwin’s theory on bipedalism incidentally.  Our being, Fyodorov said, involves self-evolution as well as creating new external realities. Nature may have determined our biological make-up in the distant past, but now we are able to determine our own nature and create a new Nature.  This notion foreshadowed the current transhumanist movement by more than half a century.

Leo Tolstoy introduced Fyodorov to a very bright young man while at the library. Impressed by the boy’s keen intellect, Fyodorov decided to take him on as a private student. The older scholar imbued and saturated the pupil’s mind with ideas such as we humans are spiritually repulsed by the harshness, baseness, and violence of nature and seek to overcome that which pulls us down towards this baseness. Our aspiration as a species is to rise above the dirt and mud, away from the earth. This is why we willed ourselves to stand upright and walk on two feet. This is why we built the pyramids and why we build tall skyscrapers – proof of our constant striving to rise above nature and its blind forces. In fact, if we could choose an image of humankind that expresses our true character, it would be a man standing on his toes reaching towards the stars.

By the way… the name of Fyodorov’s private student? It was Konstantin Tsiolkovsky – the father of Soviet rocketry who once claimed in an interview that he “spoke to angels”.

Somehow I believe him.

                                                        Episode IX

                                                    Self-reflection                            

                                                     “Stupid Mouse!”

Every journey begins and ends in the imagination. Filtered through time and the emotional pauses of experience. Cleansed of all rational falsehood and meaning. This much have I learned and perhaps more. What I will never know is the why: that probing after-thought of jealous consciousness. Like a curious young boy left behind who insists on knowing the details of his older brother’s dangerous exploits and manly adventures. The pleasure of memory robbed and replaced by a desperate yet harmless guessing game.

But my little mind wanders, I suppose.

Still, in the labyrinth, I feel about with my extremities, aware of the sound of running, scratching and bumping into. The smell of my error in a bloody trail.

Wherever I go from here can only lead me away from the point of escape: that liberating space free from the search.

And so I remain. Lost and hungry.

When I had entered the labyrinth, my expectations were modest, but mine. Not borrowed beliefs accepted and projected as personal. That would be unwise.

Look!

Fire does not burn on a page inside a book. Skin is the only receptor of truth.

To learn is to feel and suffer. Your scream a philosophical utterance no one can refute.

Yet there are those who would turn away. Afraid to see the weltering proof.

Maybe courage is measured by the unsure moments we step-step forward. Into the unknown. Adding another layer to our incomplete being. Getting fat on life. Growing large and therefore unavoidable. A living presence.

As I prepare to turn another corner, I am hopeful still. I pray the right angle will lead me to something quite new. But if it doesn’t, that’s okay too. I realize this all must continue.

Why not?

Eventually, I will be plucked from the labyrinth by the scientist who put me here in the first place. To observe me try as he watches on with a cautious smile.

  


Paul Kindlon has had published ten short stories and six poems. After having graduated with  a Ph.D. in Russian literature and Philosophy, he taught Humanities for 23 years in Moscow, Russia. He now resides in Buffalo, N.Y. The author is 66 years old and counting…
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