Part IV: American Exceptionalism
11. The Secrets of Masonic Washington by James Wasserman
Publication Date: November 26, 2008
A fully illustrated guide to the Masonic origins and present-day Masonic sites of Washington, D.C.
• Provides a walking tour of the Masonic sites and symbols of the city
• Explores the critical role of Freemasonry in the founding of the United States
• By the author of The Templars and Assassins
In this guide to the Masonic underpinnings of America’s capital, James Wasserman reveals the esoteric symbols and the spiritual and visionary ideas that lie hidden in the buildings, monuments, and physical layout of Washington, D.C. His walking tour of these Masonic sites includes both the expected and unexpected–from the Lincoln Memorial and the Capitol Building to the Federal Reserve complex, National Academy of Sciences, and the Library of Congress. Each location includes descriptions, interpretations, and explanations of the Masonic symbols and ritualistic meanings hidden within its structure, all illustrated with contemporary color and historic black-and-white photographs.
Wasserman explains the purpose behind putting these symbols and Masonic designs into the capital and how all these monuments fit into the spiritual vision held by the founding fathers. He reveals the prominent role that Freemasonry played in the 18th-century Enlightenment movement and shows how in the New World of America, free of monarchy and aristocracy, the ideas of the Enlightenment were able to flourish. This illustrated guidebook to the Masonic secrets of Washington, D.C., provides valuable insights on the founding of America. It will be welcomed by students of esoteric art and symbolism, admirers of American history, and devotees of Dan Brown novels and National Treasure movies.
Why Tea Party Occultists Should Read It:
I recommend reading Wasserman’s historical books in the order presented on the list: first The Temple of Solomon: From Ancient Israel to Secret Societies, then The Templars and the Assassins: The Militia of Heaven, and third The Secrets of Masonic Washington. They tell the story of the Western Mystery Tradition from its origins in the ancient world of the Old Testament up through the founding of America.
In understanding the link between the mystical practices of Western religion and the American system of governance we come to see that the process for creating a great person mirrors the method of building the greatest nation in history. American Exceptionalism means that the United States of America is unique; that the system of ideas and values institutionalized in the Constitution is the best. And by “best” I mean objectively, empirically this political ideology called classical liberalism and its accompanying religion of ethical monotheism and the system of government that sprang forth from them on the American continent produce greater happiness, prosperity, and freedom than any other. It accomplishes this through balancing conflicting interests against each other so that no individual’s or group’s inner demons can enslave anybody else permanently. Thus, it is the right of every human being on the planet to live free under a system of government approximating ours in their own land. Every human being deserves to have their rights protected — including their ability to seek the Transcendent God as they see fit. We as human beings are all born ignorant and weak and we must turn to the collective wisdom and history of humanity for guidance if we are to balance our conflicting natures and desires on the scale.
That’s what religion — be it the traditional Judeo-Christian variety, Freemasonry, or the modern electric counterculture conservatism I’m describing on this list — is all about. Why practice a religion? Because doing so will produce long-term happiness. Through providing structure and meaning to our daily lives and a source of guidance during difficult times, religious systems act as additional weights to help balance the uneven scales of our hearts.
The final Wasserman book on this edition of the list illustrates how much the founders of our country understood these principles and modeled not just themselves but our nation on them. One of the central teachings of the Western Mystery Traditions describes the understanding of the four symbolic elements and their representations in nature: Fire, Water, Air, and Earth. These are not to be understood in their literal formulations but as metaphors for how God creates — how energy transforms into matter, how nothing becomes something — and how we can imitate His example and take personal responsibility for creating our own lives. (They also correlate with the Tetragrammaton, an important subject to be explored more in writing about future books added to the list…)
Occultists learn to use these symbols as metaphors for personal transformation in rituals — hence the importance of the Tarot cards for use in meditation and prayer. Wands, Cups, Swords, and Disks correspond with each of the elements which also correspond with different parts of our lives: Will, Emotion, Intellect, and the Physical World. Right-Hand mystical practices and their traditional religious counterparts each provide methods to balance these conflicting impulses.
This method mirrors the American government’s system of checks and balances: Executive, Legislative, and Judicial — each eventually balancing the other out. And also, of course: Federal, State, Local. This structure adapts the mystical balancing of conflicting natures in the individual and broadens it into an organizing method for managing the conflicts of human civilization as a whole. Creation comes in the friction of conflicting values, but we have to have a system in place to catch the sparks and manage the heat and light produced. This is what it means to institutionalize the American Trinity as defined by Dennis Prager: Liberty, In God We Trust, and E. Pluribus Unum.
Wasserman reveals that amongst the many Masonic statues and architecture throughout Washington D.C. the four elements appear more than once. Here’s the best example:
The next two books pick up on the story of how the Western Mystery Tradition continued to evolve in different directions after the founding of the United States.Why do we hear so little about freemasonry today? Why do so few people participate in Masonic groups? For much the same reason there why are so few Jews and so many Christians. Because with the founding of America and the ratification of the Constitution, Masonry’s ideas and principles won that era’s culture war, became the new mainstream and then spun off into new groups with different names and variations of the teachings. Religious tolerance is now just the expected, default position instead of something radical as it was during 1770s. We don’t need Free Speech clubs anymore where people can come to speak their minds freely. The First Amendment made all of US territory a Masonic temple where everyone can speak.
David Gelernter reveals another side of this story with the long evolution from 16th century Old Testament Puritanism to 20th century secular Americanism, what he calls “the fourth great western religion.”
And Mitch Horowitz shows another variation of the path, how homespun mysticism and occultism in the frontiers merged with the capitalistic instinct to invent the self-help industry in the first half of the 20th century.