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Conference The Expression of Freemasonry, Leiden University - call for papers


Call for Papers and Preliminary Conference Announcement


The Expression of Freemasonry:

Its ritual, oratory, poetry, music, literature, art and architecture


27-28 November 2008, Leiden University, The Netherlands


Proposals for papers before 11 July 2008 (details below) to:


For centuries freemasons have led a separate creative existence behind closed doors. The rituals, orations and poetry used in the lodge use words to express the society?s hopes, aspirations, philosophy and approach to religion and society. The music of the lodge includes songs and larger scale cantatas. Many lodges had an orchestra or at least and organist and a choir. Orchestral and piano pieces without words but incorporating Masonic symbolism have also been composed for lodge use. As well as musicians actors have always found a home in the lodge and some masonic plays even found their way onto the public stage as did some operas. These songs, poems, musical works and dramas range from the amusing to the serious, from the occasional to the esoteric, from bawdy to deeply religious.

Freemasonry and esoteric themes have been widely used by authors in the 19th century in Germany and elsewhere for literary works as well as in our own time in e.g. The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown. Masonic and esoteric influences are also to be seen in the visual arts; for example paintings and theatre scenery. Freemasonry has exerted an important influence on architecture in general and in the design of lodge buildings in particular. A perhaps unexpected influence is to be seen in garden design where some gardens take the visitor on a journey past masonic or esoteric symbols.

All of these various aspects of Masonic culture need to be recorded and interpreted. And when this vast creative effort by members of a closed brotherhood is set in the wider context of the time, place and the society in which masons wrote and created it sheds light on the evolving place of freemasonry in society as a whole. This causes us to ask questions such as ?did freemasonry influence social development directly or indirectly or was it itself led by the great upheavals of the Enlightenment, revolutions and wars that have beset the last centuries??



The conference is organized by the Chair for the Study of Freemasonry as an Intellectual Current and a Socio-cultural Phenomenon at the Leiden University in the Netherlands. Speakers will be scholars and students from several academic disciplines. The conference has the support of The Order of Freemasons under the Grand East of The Netherlands, The Cultural Masonic Centre ?Prince Frederik? (CMC), The Foundation for the Advancement of Academic Research into the History of Freemasonry in The Netherlands (OVN), The Leiden Institute for the Study of Religions (LISOR), The Sub Department History of Hermetic Philosophy and Related Currents (Univ. of Amsterdam) and departments in other universities.


Call for papers and registration

A summary of potential papers is invited, not exceeding 400 words. Papers on the cultural heritage of movements similar or related to freemasonry including esoteric groups are also welcome. A short CV of 250 words or less must be added. The closing date for submissions is Friday 11 July, 2008. The Conference committee will inform speakers if their concept for a paper has been accepted by 1 August 2008.

The conference will take place in the Lipsius Building of the Leiden University in the Netherlands. The event will be accessible to all who are interested in attending, but due to a limited number of seats registration will be required. Registration fees will be announced shortly. For more information or preliminary registration, please contact the conference organizers at:


The conference will be preceded by the inaugural lecture of Professor Malcolm Davies, Chair for the Study of Freemasonry (as an Intellectual Current and a Socio-cultural European Phenomenon) at the University of Leiden on 25 November 2008. Scholars who are considering attending both events may also be interested in visiting (at their own opportunity) the important major historical collections for the study of freemasonry and western esotericism in The Netherlands: the Cultural Masonic Centre ?Prince Frederik? (The library of the Dutch Grand Lodge) in The Hague and/or the Bibliotheca Philosophica Hermetica in Amsterdam. Seating at the inaugural lecture is limited.

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