"Liberty, Equality, Fraternity, these three; but the greatest of these is Liberty.” – Benjamin Tucker, Liberty Magazine, 1881
I recently came upon an article titled Spiritual Anarchy and Freemasonry, by Hank Kraychir on his blog Gnosis Masonry. With a compelling title like that I read it with some amount of excitement about what the writer might mean by it. I was immediately disappointed with the thesis but still curious to read it through in order to fully follow the author’s line of reasoning and logic.
When I read the phrase spiritual anarchy, I expected it to have something to do with an individual who is free to pursue their spirituality uninhibited by authority, dogma or punishment. In those terms, I love the concept of a spiritual anarchy. But as I was quick to learn, when the term anarchy is misapplied anything else associated with it falls under the same corruption. I don’t seek to argue from a subjective opinion or preference but from a positioning of historical accuracy.
One could dismiss historical usage of language and assert that a word means whatever consensus has been reached about it through current usage. But I don’t accept that in this case, mainly because the perversion of the word anarchy is such an egregious distortion of intents and purposes carried out as a form of thought suppression. In protest of that suppression of freethinking, I reject Mr. Kraychir’s use of the term and the further perversions he grafts onto it by use of his and others faulty logic.
Anarchism is one of those words. The kind of word that provides an immediate visceral reaction. A word that has been so imbedded with externalized conjecture that it’s safe to assume the original meaning is forever lost. Unless of course it is defended.
So, what is the etymology of the word? I’ve seen it best broken down by the two Greek prefixes, an and archon.
AN - without; the absence of
ARCHON – master; ruler
Anarchy means no rulers. No Kings. No Lords. No slave masters. By definition, there is absolutely nothing stated about the nonexistence of laws or constraints upon human behavior. The trap that humanity has fallen into is in believing there can be no law or rules of constraint in the absence of a massively complex centralization of authority with weapons of mass destruction to carry out that law.
When anarchism is used as a pejorative, as it often is, the direct implication is towards the notion of chaos, disorder, violence and lawlessness. This disfiguration hardly seems accidental. It’s not clear where these associations began being formulated but I would venture the smear campaign started almost as soon as philosophers issued the first treaties on the topic. An educated person who has taken the time to read the early philosophical tracts would find that the entirety of the ideology rests on the ways and means of peaceful organization and nonviolence achieved outside of the State. There is no hint of suggestion towards bombs or pillaging mobs. That suggestion is a creation of State media and State education.
“The education we all receive from the State, at school and after, has so warped our minds that the very notion of freedom ends up by being lost, and disguised in servitude. It is a sad sight to see those who believe themselves to be revolutionaries unleashing their hatred on the anarchist just because his views on freedom go beyond their petty and narrow concepts of freedom learned in the State school.” – Peter Kropotkin, The State: It’s Historic Role, 1896
Kraychir’s argument draws largely from the famed 19th Century Scottish Rite Mason, Albert Pike. The first quote issued is an interesting one that makes the claim that anarchism leads to despotism. “What, in fact, is a despot, spiritual or temporal, but a crowned anarchist?” wrote Pike.
This is a rather bizarre notion, as it creates an obvious contradiction of terms. That is, if you understand the proper terms. Let me state it again, an anarchist by definition is an individual who lives in moral opposition to unjust authority. That none should fall under the rulership of another’s will. How then does it follow that such a philosophy drives its adherents into a position of absolute rule? It’s an impossible logic. A despot surely is one who is motivated by the philosophy of social Darwinism and manifest destiny. Rightly, such a person would be better defined as a fascist. But no, according to Kraychir, underneath the ideals of ultimate liberty and cooperation lies an evil despotism bent on world domination.
In another passage from Pike’s Morals and Dogma, we are instructed, “there is no evil that is not preferable to Anarchy.” Coming from the understanding I have of the true meaning of the word, this passage tells me one thing – that Pike would prefer a system of complete oligarchy and slavery over individual freedom and spontaneous order. No evil worse? Like perhaps the evils of organized genocide propagated by governments? That would be preferable to a free society if we were to embrace his position. (I’d rather give Pike the benefit of the doubt and stricken the word anarchy and replace it with what he might have wished to imply, unfettered chaos. Although he improperly misused the same word numerous times.)
What is this reasoning but a total misappropriation of ideas? Pike is not alone in his faulty argument. We can observe another occult giant, Eliphas Levi, who claimed in the Keys of the Mysteries that, “those two blood-hungered monsters, despotism and anarchy, will tear themselves to pieces, and annihilate each other, after having mutually sustained each other for a little while, by the embrace of their struggle itself.”
I’d like to emphasize once more that anarchy has absolutely nothing whatsoever in common with despotism. The two concepts are in fact polar opposites. Herein lies evidence of the confusion and laziness of misapplication. On the one hand it is argued that anarchy is synonymous with total chaos. On the other it is being said that anarchy is a form of total oligarchy. I’m sorry ladies and gentlemen but this bastardization of ideas can’t be tolerated, even from great minds of the past.
To clear matters and more fully espouse the true nature of anarchism as a practice, I am well served in referring to a contemporary of Pike, the American writer and lawyer, Lysander Spooner. The following paragraph is taken from his 1882 essay, Natural Law; or The Science of Justice.
“Certainly no man can rightfully be required to join, or support, an association whose protection he does not desire. Nor can any man be reasonably or rightfully expected to join, or support, any association whose plans, or method of proceeding, he does not approve, as likely to accomplish its professed purpose of maintaining justice, and at the same time itself avoid doing injustice. To join, or support, one that would, in his opinion, be inefficient, would be absurd. To join or support one that, in his opinion, would itself do injustice, would be criminal. He must, therefor, be left at the same liberty to join, or not to join, an association for this purpose, as for any other, according to his own interest, discretion, or conscience shall dictate.”
It should be clear based on this statement what the intent of anarchism in fact is. Freedom of association and liberty from forced associations. A society that is not formed on the basis of forced association would become a society of voluntary associations. The liberty to follow ones conscience in making their allegiances is all that is demanded. This, not a violent state of apocalyptic madness, is what anarchy stands for.
We need only look to Masonry itself to understand this principle. Yes, there is a system of rules and a hierarchy of order. But of great principle is the voluntary nature of choice in living by those bonds. A Mason, is a Mason by choice and is free to break that association at anytime. That is an anarchistic relationship defined by the freedom of movement. It is not a form of conscription against one’s will, which characterizes all modern forms of government. A social contract is only valid if it is one made by free choice and selection, not as a byproduct of birth.
Rather than examining his own customs that would reveal a similarity of commitments to liberty, Kraychir would rather make false associations that stir up the greatest of all bogymen, the anti-Christ.
What is the basis of mingling the philosophy of anarchism and the Biblical anti-Christ? He rests his argument of correlation on a punk song by the Sex Pistols, Anarchy in the U.K. I would argue that Johnny Rotten, like Pike and Levi, wrote based on wishful fantasies that ignore the entire body of scholarly and philosophically sophisticated essays of the 19th Century.
To Kraychir, the anti-Christ symbolizes the rejection of Christianity as a source of spiritual authority and therefor sits nicely alongside a rejection of political authority. He equates both rejections to the evils and moral decay of postmodernism. Admittedly, early anarchists like Emma Goldman were also atheists and therefor rejected the authority of the Church. Spooner was a Deist. Leo Tolstoy was a Christian. Anarchists as a whole can’t be uniformly in agreement on any tenet outside of the commitment to uncoerced self-determination. Surely there are anarchists among all the active faiths in the world.
The words attributed to Jesus himself in the Sermon on the Mount have influenced many within the Christian tradition to honor his commitment to nonviolence to its logical end – opposition to militaristic governments responsible for more carnage and genocide than can ever be calculated.
“The gospels tell of Jesus' temptation in the desert. For the final temptation, Jesus is taken up to a high mountain by Satan and told that if he bows down to Satan he will give him all the kingdoms of the world. Christian anarchists use this as evidence that all Earthly kingdoms and governments are ruled by Satan, otherwise they would not be Satan's to give. Jesus refuses the temptation, choosing to serve God instead, implying that Jesus is aware of the corrupting nature of Earthly power.” – Alexandre Christoyannopoulos, Christian Anarchism: A Political Commentary on the Gospel.
|The Sermon on the Mount|
Returning to Kraychir’s opposition to postmodernism, we see an argument made from a fear of change and a clinging to the past. The fear illustrated in his article is that the cancer of postmodernism is tearing apart not only Freemasonry, but the very fabric of society. Whether we chose to see recent societal developments as progressive or regressive is another line of argumentation that exceeds the point here.
There may be many agreements Kraychir and I might reach in identifying displeasing new customs prevailing over ancient ones. I for one hold the old customs and teachings of the Mystery Schools in the highest esteem. The most ancient of customs would surely look much more like the communities anarchists suggest then the contemporary reverence for conformity and obedience that so-called Traditionalists pine away for.
I see nothing in conflict with the principles of Freemasonry and an individual who chooses to make the Divine source of light his only authority by which to live. The same individual can serve the community of his brothers and sisters enthusiastically without any sort of emotional commitments to officials or Kings, who officiate not by God’s Law or Natural Law, but by a perversion of manmade laws.
“Freemasonry teaches structure, not Anarchy; social cohesion, not disorder,” says Kraychir.
In this statement alone, the flaw is exposed. Anarchy is a doctrine of cohesion and structure but finds its base in reason and cooperation, not militarism and structural domination. There is no morality in structure that operates without choice or that suppresses the individual will.
Kraychir claims that “subordination to legitimate authority–government” is at the heart of Masonry. I ask Kraychir to have a look around, principally over the span of the last 100 years and identify the legitimacy of this god-like authority, whose true record is one of murder, theft, dishonor, racism, suppression, invasion of privacy, imperialism, police militarization and much else. Is that his idea of a Divine authority to which the true Freemason is obedient? Is the sham of rigged elections between highly placed elitists to high finance and war his idea of legitimate authority? A Freemason most certainly is bound to an oath of justice. It is the anarchist belief that Natural Law is the only law that man must observe to achieve that justice.
I leave you with a quote penned by the first self-proclaimed anarchist, Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, in which he cites the true origin and birth of all righteous and moral order.
“Liberty is not the daughter but the mother of order.”