Freemasonry in Pop Culture

A series exploring the influence of Freemasonry in popular culture from the 1900s onwards – originally published in The Square magazine

Kipling’s War

Kipling’s critics are quick to include him as one of the ‘fathers’ who ‘lied’ – echoing his short poem ‘Common Form’ – ‘If any question why we died, Tell them, because our fathers lied’.

From ‘Kiplings War’

Kipling has long been viewed as a propagandist and supporter of war but that was perhaps merely a product of his passion for his country and his immense capability to express almost every aspect of the human condition.

He wrote, not only as a journalistic commentator but as a father, a common man and as something that compounded his guilt over the waste of his son’s and millions of other son’s lives – a survivor…

Published in The Square Magazine – click on the link to read more

Cagliostro’s Egyptian Rite

Unfairly, history has been somewhat unsympathetic to a man regarded as an occult charlatan and a purported embarrassment to Freemasonry. His Egyptian Rite is in fact a beautiful work of Hermetic and Masonic philosophy, an introduction to higher alchemical teachings, blending what he believed were the three most honourable and noble arts in the world.

Published in The Square Magazine Click the link to read

The Curious Case of the Chevalier d’Éon

One of the most intriguing engravings of the 18th century shows an elegant lady holding a sword and staff, wearing a cross of the military order of Saint-Louis and, more bizarrely, wearing a Masonic apron. The engraving is entitled ‘La Découverte ou la Femme Franc-Maçon’ – roughly translated as ‘The Discovery of the Female French Mason’. Rites of Adoption were not uncommon in France, with women being admitted to quasi-Masonic Orders but what was most unusual was that the woman in the picture was actually a man. A cross-dressing author, diplomat, soldier and spy, the Chevalier d’Éon, became a legend in his own lifetime.

Article featured in The Square magazine – click on the link to read.

There’s a revolution happening in Egypt – but this time it’s art.

A snapshot of the painting I bought – Artist: Alaa Aboelhamd ‭ ‬علاء‭ ‬ابوالحمد

‘It’s not safe in Egypt’.

That phrase is becoming a bit worn now, I hear it every time I book another trip. I’ve been going since 2001, a month after the Twin Towers were brought down and the idea of going to Egypt appalled everyone I knew. I survived that and subsequent visits, including one that turned out to be timed just right for a revolution.

‘It’s fine!’ I always reply wearily. And it is, because to be honest, where is ‘safe’ these days?’

My choice, as usual, is to stay on the West Bank of Luxor – ‘the dark side’, as it is locally known. This time, due to my now somewhat limited mobility, I decide to spend the majority of my days with friends than indulge in the usual frantic temple-hopping. I stay at Villa Kaslan owned by my Swiss/Egyptian friends; tucked away in a village halfway to the Valley of the Kings.

After a few days’ rest, I catch up with a Swedish artist friend, we sip warm Coke and smoke at a local coffee shop overlooking the Nile. She mentions in passing that there is an art gallery. ‘Really?’ I ask. ‘In Luxor?’ She laughs and gives me directions. I head off alone, she has to go; the builders have arrived to work on her studio.

Luxor Art Gallery is inconspicuous down a back street. I ineptly dodge barefoot kids playing football – ‘Salah!’ they shout at me gleefully. Everyone in Egypt loves Mo. Inside the unassuming entrance I am greeted warmly and shown into the gallery, the only visitor. But the art is sublime; contemporary pieces rivalling anything in the Tate – explosions of colour fusing ancient symbolism with modern perceptions. I’m transfixed by a piece by Alaa Abu Al-Ahmed – his art is described as ‘like déjà vu, [they] feel familiar, yet are rare to encounter and mystifying to experience’. Yes, reader, I bought one.

I had no idea of the sheer scope of the talent to be found in Upper Egypt. Perhaps in Cairo’s deliciously trendy – and expensive – suburb of Zamalek but in Luxor? Who knew that hiding in the backstreets would be a hidden gem; a testament to the ancients’ formidable artistry but with modern vigour and passion?

Since I’ve returned, the gallery has moved. Its new home is opposite the famous Colossi of Memnon, and it has a new board of trustees, all artists. Next door is Rabab Luxor, run by friend of a friend Shady Rabab, a self-taught musician who teaches young people to transform waste into musical instruments; his Garbage Music Project won UN acclaim. This is the stuff tourists miss out on; their air-con buses whisking them from temple to tomb. I love the temples and tombs, but this is progress; this is an art revolution! I can’t wait to go back in a few months, not only to add to my art collection but to see how sleepy Luxor is waking up.

Shady Rabab – musician, designer and environmental activist

To see a list of the artists at الأقصر ارت جاليري LUXOR ART GALLERY visit

The Dark Place

Go to that dark place and embrace it.

I say, go to that dark place and rest your tortured head against the cold certainty that everything changes. All will be lost. No one escapes it.

You will be abandoned, betrayed, lose everything. Life will turn on a dime.

But nature is kind and will conjure a brighter place, a fire to step out of, a reverse immolation.

You will grow your fiery skin back, become smokeless fire like the djinn.

You will love and be loved again.

All will be well.

Words: Philippa Lee 2019