After reviewing my latest book The Crescent and The Compass, Lithuanian culture site Radikaliai.lt recently interviewed me about how the book came about, as well as about my background, Freemasonry, Russia and Europe. It is quite a mix of subjects, but I think the interview works well, and it gave me a chance to talk about subjects that interest me, but that I’m not normally asked to discuss. I have pasted the first question below, but there is a lot more, so please check it out here.
I first read about you when I started to read Your newest book The Crescent and The Compass. Could you tell me more about yourself? Where you are from? What is Your background?
I grew up in England, in the southeast of London. I became interested in spirituality at a young age, and, by about 17, was reading fairly extensively on the subject, and was especially impressed by the work of Mircea Eliade. By my early twenties I had read many of the Buddhist, Taoist, and other religious texts, including the Zoroastrian Zend Avesta, as well as many books on Western esotericism, new religions, and so on.
A little later I began attending art college in London. A friend of mine who was studying literature had already introduced me to the work of Yukio Mishima, and there I was exposed to other aspects of Asian culture, such as the Ma-Xia school of painting, which focused on the idea of atmospheric space, in contrast to the often much more detailed Western art. I also came across the early work of Japanese fashion designers Issey Miyake and Koji Tatsuno (who used to make clothing out of strange material, including bamboo, coral and mushrooms). I was interested in how they drew on nature or on ancient Japanese culture. It was a kind of Zen.
“Cultural Studies” was a part of the curriculum. This concentrated on both non-Western cultures and low culture, such as underground art movements, subcultures, and so on — which I think left a lasting impression on me, and shows up even in The Crescent and The Compass in the sense that I look at a range of material, from Masonic documents to online Islamist magazines. But, I think this makes for a more accurate and more honest work than one that sticks to areas that academia deems acceptable.
As you can probably guess, I had already been practicing meditation, etc., for several years, but not long after I started at college I also began staying in a Benedictine monastery. I did not consider myself to be a Christian — and still do not — but I felt it was important to experience the spiritual tradition of my home country of the last thousand years. We are very ignorant of, and even hostile to, our own religious and spiritual tradition, and yet we somehow believe that, with this attitude, we can identify with non-Western traditions and cultures that do respect the past. Unfortunately, usually people just read whatever political opinions are cool into whichever foreign, ancient tradition that appeals to them.
Why did You choose this topic – Freemasonry?
At 17 or 18, I came across a ritual book, published for members of the fraternity, for the Rose Croix degree of Freemasonry, at a used book stall in London, and purchased it. Not much later I somehow got hold of a book of the Royal Arch degree of Freemasonry. I didn’t really understand them at the time, but I recognized that there was something intelligent about them. The Royal Arch book included a lecture on the Platonic solids — described in the Timaeus — and the Rose Croix was, I recognized, clearly influenced by Rosicrucianism and/or alchemy. (It is also influenced by Catholicism.) In Britain, at that time… continue reading.