It is with pleasure that we welcome our first Author of the Month of 2018: P.D Newman, and his radical interpretation of Masonic symbolism, Alchemically Stoned: The Psychedelic Secret of Freemasonry.
“In the tradition of Wasson, Hofmann and Ruck, in The Road to Eleusis: Unveiling the Secret of the Mysteries (1978), and Heinrich’s Strange Fruit: Alchemy, Religion, and Magical Foods (1995), Newman suggests that practical psychoactive pharmacology, rather than philosophy, lies concealed in the root of some of our allegories and mysteries. Admitting to being more than a mere theoretician, Newman draws from his own personal experiences, and a wide range of sources, in presenting his theory in a logical manner, which merits consideration.”
– Arturo de Hoyos, 33°, Grand Archivist and Grand Historian, Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite, Southern Jurisdiction.
“It is admitted that the texts and nomenclature of Medieval materials on [Hermetism] were cryptic and queer; but for that there are several explanations for the need for secrecy, [including] the need to keep laymen from endangering themselves with drugs they could not understand.”i
In the earliest versions of the Master Mason degree there is no mention made anywhere of a sprig of acacia. Rather, the references are to a sprig of cassia; a different plant altogether possessed of no real psychotropic value. Cassia, i.e., Cinnamonum cassia, is an evergreen originating in southern China, whereas acacia is a genus of nearly one thousand species, with all but ten of those having their origin in Australia. Nearly one hundred of them are known to contain DMT.
It has been suggested that the original inclusion of cassia in the Master Mason degree was an error that likely arose “from the very common habit among illiterate people of sinking the sound of the letter a in the pronunciation of any word of which it constitutes the initial syllable.”ii Acacia would therefore have become cassia. However, we are not so convinced. There is no evidence supporting the supposition that the switch from cassia to acacia was not a deliberate one. From 1745 onward the change appears to have been accepted nearly universally. Who, if anyone, is responsible for this switch?
We do not know. But, if it was intentional, it is suspected that the change must have arose with a prominent Freemason who also was a knowledgeable, practicing Alchemist. For, it was the Alchemists who were preoccupied with the production of a miraculous stone, the lapis philosophorum or philosopher’s stone, from the mysterious prima materia, or first matter. For certain of the Alchemically-inclined Freemasons, this stone was none other than DMT salts (a veritable vegetable stone) that had been extracted from certain species of acacia. Truly, acacia is referred to precisely as the prima materia by both Cagliostro and Melissino in the respective Alchemico-Masonic rites authored by them. The same is true of the Fratres Lucis.
The principle goal of Alchemy was (and is) the production of the lapis philosophorum. The Alchemical axiom states that the coveted stone is made “not of stone, not of bone, not of metal.” That is to say, it comes not from the mineral kingdom and not from the animal kingdom. It must, therefore, be deduced that the true stone of the philosophers is to be found only within the vegetable kingdom; namely, within the sprig of acacia, Masonry’s prima materia. Unfortunately, many present day Alchemists are content to produce stones from virtually any mineral, metal, plant, or animal, ascribing the value of those stones solely to their possessed planetary signatures. However, for a stone to meet the criteria of the true stone of the wise, imagined planetary signatures will not suffice. It must first satisfy specific requirements, chief among them being the conferral upon its possessor of the gift of immortality.
The Alchemical vocation is no vain search for physical immortality. Bodily longevity is not the variety of immortality here described. The mythologist explains rightly that “the search for physical immortality proceeds from a misunderstanding of the traditional teaching. On the contrary, the basic problem is: to enlarge the pupil of the eye, so that the body with its attendant personality will no longer obstruct the view. Immortality is then experienced as a present fact.”iii Indeed, the Alchemists purport that the stone of the wise has the power to give its possessor the knowledge of his very immortal soul. Hence, it’s also being called the stone of projection. For, the soul of its possessor is the very thing that appears to be projected upon the stone’s proper application. Liberated from its bodily frame, the stone-projected soul is free to roam and explore the so-called astral plane, loosened from the limitations of its corporeal container — a concept that has come to be known as an outer body experience.
Conveniently, there exists a special class of truly magical and mystical plants that actually satisfies the above listed criteria. We speak here of entheogens. As the word implies, entheogenic plants are those which generate an experience of one’s divinity within; that is, entheogens have the potential to facilitate what appears to be the direct experience of the reality of one’s own immortal soul; of the continuity of individual consciousness independent of the mortal frame. And, certain species of acacia constitute a portion of these plant entheogens.
In the Apprentice and Companion rituals of Count Alessandro di Cagliostro’s Egyptian Rite, the acacia is specifically referred to as being the primal matter in a very particular Alchemical operation. When properly executed, this operation results allegedly in the production of a “cubical ashlar,” that is, the result is a purified, crystalline stone or salt that has been extracted, or, to use Alchemical terminology, produced from the acacia tree. This stone is then dissolved into a “red liqueur,” which is afterward imbibed by the candidate for initiation.
“‘The acacia is the primal matter and [when] the rough ashlar or mercurial part has been purified, it becomes cubical …It is thus that you may bring about the consummation of the marriage of the Sun and Moon, and that you shall obtain…the perfect [astral?] projection. Quantum sufficit, et quantum appetite [as much as you need and as much as you have appetite for].’
The candidate…shall drink [the red liqueur placed on the Master’s altar] raising his spirit in order to understand the following speech which the Worshipful Master shall address to him at the same time.
‘My child, you are receiving the primal matter …Learn that the Great God created before man this primal matter and that he then created man to possess it and be immortal. Man abused it and lost it, but it still exists in the hands of the Elect of God [Elus Cohen?iv] and from a single grain of this precious matter becomes a projection into infinity.
The acacia which has been given to you at the degree of Master of ordinary Masonry is nothing but that precious matter. And [Hiram’s] assassination is the loss of the liquid which you have just received …It is by this knowledge that, assisted by the Great God, shall bring you these riches.’”v
If not for its DMT content, we cannot conceive of any reason why Cagliostro would have his initiates literally drink a concoction of acacia, especially when considering the fact that the libation was expected to “raise” the candidate’s “spirit” so that he might “understand” Cagliostro’s corresponding lecture. Nor is it conceivable in any other than an entheogenic context how a “single grain” of Cagliostro’s acacia stone might become a “projection into infinity.” In our estimation, this was clearly no symbolic ritual act.
Granted, there is no mention made in Cagliostro’s Egyptian Rite of a monoamine oxidase inhibitor (MAOI) containing plant, the same which would normally be necessitated in order make DMT orally active, as in the case of the Amazonian jungle brew ayahuasca. However, there are yet two other possibilities. The first is that, if enough is consumed, the DMT may be able to overwhelm the MAO within the gut, thereby making it orally active without the need of an MAOI. The second possibility is that, being Beta-carbolines, certain flavonoids present in some species of acacia (such as A. confusa) may work as functioning MAOIs. J. Erik LaPort, one modern-day practicing Alchemist, is currently doing some important research in this area.
To continue, the Fratres Lucis, an alleged splinter group of Der Ordens des Gold und Rosenkreuzer,vi offered a similar Alchemical interpretation of Masonic ritual. Compare the following excerpt to that of Cagliostro’s Egyptian Rite:
“Before receiving the into the Order they took thee into a darkened room, this teaches thee that our Matter is found in a black state — our Earth. We also took away all the Metals thou hadst upon thee; this shows that our Matter is not found where Metals grow. They tookest away thy clothing; it shows that our Matter is stripped of the Veil with which Nature has clothed it …They removed thy shoe, [significant] of the mysterious severance …Thine eyes were blindfolded; which teaches that though our Matter is luminous, and in itself shining and clear, yet that it is only to be found in the darkest dwelling. A [Cable Tow] was round thy neck, by which the body was led; it…teaches the drawing out of our Matter. …The point of a [Poniard] was applied to thy breast to warn thee to beware of it. It should remind thee that no double edged weapon must ever be used to slay our Hiram and produce his precious blood, which is shown afterwards by a feeble Brother and his bloody handkerchief… In touching thee with the Compasses (held over a plate with blood thereon), the plate of blood held up, signifies that we have another [Poniard] beside the one that was shown to thee, and which we thrust into the bosom of our Matter until it pours forth blood. …Hiram, which word signifies our Matter, has been killed by Three Workmen, in order that they might procure the Word… These traitors buried him and have already his Caput Mortuum. They make a hillock and the dead head appears, as if the Spirits excited it with rage, this is shown by the Branch of Acacia.”vii
As was shown with Cagliostro’s Egyptian Rite, the Fratres Lucis lectures relate an Alchemical interpretation of Masonic ritual which again appears to point to the extraction of DMT from acacia. The “Matter” is to be found in the earth, that is, in the roots. For, the highest concentrations of DMT in the acacia are to be found within the root bark. The removal of the clothing or “stripping of the veil with which nature has clothed,” the “Matter” is therefore likely the stripping of the superfluous material; all but the DMT. The removal of the shoe is perhaps an allusion to the stripping of the bark from the roots of the acacia; the ‘other poniard’ which is “thrust into the bosom of [the] Matter until it pours forth blood,” to the chemical solvent used to extract the compound, etc. etc.
Pyotr Ivanovich Melissino was even more explicit in the lectures he penned for his Russian Rite. Additionally, unlike his friend and colleague Cagliostro, the same having had his candidates for initiation drink a concoction made from an extract of acacia, Melissino instead appears to have opted to have his candidates actually inhale the fumes of incinerating DMT crystals. The lectures of the Russian Rite of Melissino state:
“The cubical stone [produced from the first matter] is the alkaline Universal-salt …The Master Degree speaks to us of the acacia found upon Hiram’s grave. This is the true [first] matter, from which the philosophers create their treasures. It is the true light of the world, from which glorious Hiram shall rise again under the guise of the Redeemer. It is the burning coal of which Isaiah (in chap. 6:6-7) and Ezekiel (in chap. 10:2) speak, and which must be prepared in accordance with the secret system of the wise men of old and the philosophers.
One of our most mysterious materials is therefore the burning coal, which the Egyptian Kabbalah [Cagliostro’s Egyptian Rite?] names clearly and without fuss.” viii
What other than DMT could the “treasures” and “riches” created from acacia by Cagliostro and Melissino have been? The scriptural allusions in the above excerpt refer to a biblical episode wherein a burning coal of an unspecified substance is placed upon Isaiah’s lips by an angel, assumedly for him to inhale its fumes, that is, for him to smoke it. “Lo,” said the angel. “This [burning coal] hath touched thy lips; and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin is purged.” Note that acacia or akakia, as Mackey related it in his Masonic Encyclopaedia, is suggestive of freedom from iniquity or sin. One wonders how far back this tradition stretches.
Was the sprig of acacia added to Masonic ritual on account of its DMT content? Or did certain Freemasons who were privy to the acacia’s entheogenic mysteries take it upon themselves to interpret and apply it in that manner? We simply do not know. What we do know, however, is that DMT was not properly synthesized until the 1950s. The possibility that the compound was being extracted and employed by Alchemically-inclined Freemasons as early as the 18th century is therefore highly significant. Indeed, Masons have repeatedly touted the Order as a friend and protector of science. And, perhaps for the first time, it is beginning to look as though the Fraternity may have actually made a lasting contribution to the field.
i H.L. Haywood in vol. III of Mackey’s Encyclopedia of Freemasonry and Its Kindred Sciences
ii Mackey, p. 176
iii Campbell, p. 163
iv Founded by Martinez de Pasqually, the Elus Cohen was the first real High Grade system of Freemasonry. The Order was essentially theurgic in nature and as such instructed its initiates in ceremonial magic. According to Arthur Edward Waite, Cagliostro borrowed liberally from Pasqually’s system.
v Faulks, pp. 214 & 225
vi Created after the publication of Sigmund Richter’s The True and Perfect Preparation of the Philosopher’s Stone, by the Brotherhood of the Order of the Golden and Rosy Cross (1710), the German Der Ordens des Gold und Rosenkreuzer was the very first Rosicrucian Order to surface following the initial publication of the Rosicrucian manifestos in the early 17th century. Like the Fratres Lucis, the Order was limited to Master Masons and instructed candidates in an Alchemical interpretation of Masonic ritual. It was from their ritual papers that the Masonic Rosicrucian Order Societas Rosicruciana in Anglia, the immediate predecessor of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, was constructed. Save a few changes, both S.R.I.A. and the H.O.G.D. (as well as Aleister Crowley’s A.A.) retain the original Grade structure of Der Ordens des Gold und Rosenkreuzer.
vii Collectanea Vol. 1, Pt. 2, pp. 52-4, 60
viii Collectanea Vol. 23, Pt. 1, pp. 88-9
Campbell, Joseph. The Hero with a Thousand Faces. Novato CA.: New World Library, 2008.
De Hoyos, Arturo. “The Rite of Strict Observance and Two High Degree Rituals of the Eighteenth Century.” Collectanea vol. 21 pt. 1. The Grand College of Rites, U.S.A. 2010.
Grand College of Rites. “Fratres Lucis.” Collectanea vol. 1 pt. 2. Grand College of Rites, U.S.A. 1978.
Faulks, Philippa. The Masonic Magician: The Life and Death of Count Cagliostro and His Egyptian Rite. Watkins, London. 2008.
Mackey, Albert G., Encyclopedia of Freemasonry and Its Kindred Sciences., New and Revised Ed., New York and London.: The Masonic History Co., 1919.
Mackey, Albert G. The Symbolism of Freemasonry. New York, NY.: Clark and Maynard, 1869.
About the Author
P.D. Newman is a 32° Freemason and a Rosicrucian. He has had papers published in The Scottish Rite Journal, Knight Templar Magazine, Ad Lucem, The Square, and many others. His book Alchemically Stoned: The Psychedelic Secret of Freemasonry explores the use of dimethyltryptamine by select circles of Freemasons via a psychedelic species of acacia during the eighteenth century.