Philippa Lee is an author, publisher and researcher as well as the editor of the new digital version of The Square. She has published a number of books on Freemasonry and spirituality and perhaps her most famous work is The Masonic Magician – the Life and Death of Count Cagliostro which she co-wrote with Robert Cooper. Philippa’s website is https://philippa-lee.com/ and the website of The Square magazine is https://www.thesquaremagazine.com/
Dear Philippa thank you very much for your time. First of all I was wondering if you could talk to us about your personal spiritual journey. How did you become interested in Freemasonry and Esotericism?
You are more than welcome and thank you for your interest in my work.
I first became interested in esotericism in my early teens. I have always been very curious and enjoyed reading and researching even at that young age. As is common with interests in all things esoteric, I moved through various stages of interest from paganism, Wicca, Golden Dawn, to Hermetics. However, I was especially fascinated with the ancient Egyptian cosmology and their pantheon, and I have spent a lot of time both researching and visiting Egypt over the past 20 years. I find all religions and traditions fascinating but ancient Egypt is my main passion.
With regard to Freemasonry, I was introduced many years ago via friends and family. I developed an interest in the historical aspect of the fraternity and was lucky enough to not only write some books on the subject, but I also began working as publishing manager for a Masonic publishing company. This then led to my role as Editor of The Square magazine.
Are you a Freemason? Tell us a bit about your order. What is Freemasonry for you?
I was initiated into a women’s Order, the Honourable Fraternity of Ancient Freemasonry (HFAF) in 2014 but I am no longer a member.
Freemasonry, for me personally, is about growth on all levels. It is a wonderful life-skills organisation, which through its rituals, symbolism, and allegories, gives us the solid foundations we need to build on. Each degree then adds to this knowledge and can be applied to our daily lives, both in and out of the lodge.
Although I am no longer part of an Order, I feel my real contribution to Freemasonry has come from being able to share an abundance of research and knowledge via my books, and especially through the magazine. To be able to share what I have learnt, what I am continuing to learn, and what others have to offer through the medium of the written word, is a real joy – and with the online platform we now have with the magazine, we can reach Freemasons of all jurisdictions and obediences throughout the world!
I really enjoyed your book on The Masonic Magician – the Life and Death of Count Cagliostro which you co-wrote with Robert Cooper and which I used as a reference for my book The Other Brotherhood. How did this project come about? What do you make of Cagliostro and the Memphis Misraim rite?
Thank you, I’m glad you enjoyed it. Cagliostro is certainly a colourful character! I’d very much like to read your book too.
The project was an interesting one which came about through a serious of serendipitous discoveries. I had read an obscure piece in a book recounting the odd tale of a flamboyant eighteenth century Count (Cagliostro), who had embarked on a bizarre ritual whereby he descended – stark naked – from the ceiling on a golden globe into the midst of a group of elegant ladies! Well, that piqued my interest and I remarked upon it to someone and in turn they mentioned it to Robert Cooper who surprised us all by dropping into the conversation that there was a ritual book by a chap called Count Cagliostro in the library at the Grand Lodge of Scotland. Bob had a look at the book, took a few photos of the text and although it was in French, we realised it was a bit more than the standard ritual. We decided we would get it translated and the rest, as they say, is history. The ritual turned out to be a fascinating blend of the esoteric: Rosicrucian mysticism, kabbalah, Hermeticism, alchemy and so on, but definitely not Egyptian!
As for Memphis-Misraim, I think Cagliostro’s Egyptian Freemasonry invariably influenced a few subsequent Orders and more than a handful of esotericists/occultists. But to be fair, he was in turn undoubtedly influenced by the rituals and teachings of the likes of Martinez de Pasqually and Emanuel Swedenborg. I think in most liberal or continental Masonic rituals and doctrine, you will be able to find elements of nearly every religion or spiritual tradition if you look hard enough; this kind of wisdom filters down through all Orders created by free thinkers and esoteric advocates.
The new digital, all–inclusive, free edition of The Square is fantastic. The content is superb and for the first time there appears to be a masonic publication that deals with universal Freemasonry. How did this come about and does editing this magazine take a lot of your time?
Thank you, that is such lovely feedback. I love working on The Square; it does take up a fair amount of my time, but I really enjoy the editing, researching, writing, image-sourcing, and working with our fantastic contributors, so it’s a great job. As I mentioned earlier, it is a real privilege to be able to be in the position to reach readers across the entire globe – sharing Masonic knowledge with all Freemasons worldwide is basically our mission statement. I was Editor of the magazine when it was a print and digital subscription periodical, but since it changed hands – and I was lucky enough to continue as editor – we have opened it up making it free to read online for everyone. The publisher, Nicholas Broadway, is the master of all things technical and with every issue I am blown away by what he does with the design – I think we make a good team!
Please tell us about your other books. The zen cookery book stands out as I did a retreat in Eijechi, Dogen's monastery, in Japan and discovered that the most revered job in a zen monastery is the job of the cook. The food was delicious – I did not know such delicious food could be made with vegetables and roots. What other projects do you have in the pipeline that you can share with us?
That is really interesting about your retreat, I’d love to know more. I imagine you are much in demand with your Japanese chef skills now!
The Zen Diet came about due to a variety of factors. My co-author Martin Faulks was at the time exploring the Japanese arts of ninjitsu and meditation, so that was one reason. The other was due to my interest in health and especially trying to find a diet that was healthy but not restrictive. At the time I had M.E. and I was more concerned with creating a holistic lifestyle, maintaining a good level of health (mental, physical and spiritual) rather than just losing weight. I had read a lot about gut health and wanted to include recipes that were gentle on the stomach but also very beneficial to the health of the gut – hence my obsession with kefir!
My current project is a book about some of the most powerful women in ancient Egypt – the God’s Wives of Amun. Most people think only of the kings and powerful men of Egypt, but these women ranked almost equally with the pharaoh during some of the dynasties. And I think people will be surprised when they read of a few of the well-known royal women who were God’s Wives. I’ll leave it (teasingly) at that, but I will be sure to tell you more when the book is published.
Thank you again for the opportunity to share my thoughts and work with you. My best wishes to all your readers.
Lodge Human Duty No. 6
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