Table of Contents:
- Contact Info
- Full Bio
- About The Crescent and The Compass
- From the Publisher
- Press Release
- Suggested Interview Questions and Answers
As an author and researcher, Angel Millar is primarily interested in exploring connections between different cultures and societies, especially in regard to spirituality, mysticism, religion and meaning.
His first book, Freemasonry: A History (Thunder Bay Press / Greenwich Editions, 2005), explored the history of the fraternity in Europe and America, especially in relation to the development of its initiation rituals, symbolism, and material culture. The book contains over 150 photographs of Masonic artifacts, including regalia, chinaware, and paintings. His second book, Freemasonry: Foundation of the Western Esoteric Tradition (Salamander and Sons, 2014), is an exploration of the influence of Freemasonry on modern Western occultism (such as Aleister Crowley, and Wicca).
His work has been cited in The Mystical Life of Franz Kafka: Theosophy, Cabala, and the Modern Spiritual Revival (Oxford University Press) and published by The Journal of Indo-European Studies and Eurasia Review dot com, among others. He is also the editor and main writer for People of Shambhala (http://peopleofshambhala.com), a webzine dedicated to understanding the body and spirit in modernity, from meditation to martial arts, lifestyle to subcultures, philosophy to spirituality, and more.
Millar was born and raised in England, in the outskirts of London, where he developed an early interest in religion, spirituality, subcultures, art, and lesser-known thinkers. He has also lived in Canada, and currently resides in the USA.
He is a full member of the European Society for the Study of Western Esotericism (ESSWE).
(Click for larger resolution)
About The Crescent and The Compass:
The Crescent and The Compass: Islam, Freemasonry, Esotericism, and Revolution in The Modern Age (Numen Books, March 2015), is the first book to explore the many surprising links between Freemasonry (a philosophical and mystical fraternity) and Muslim activists over the last 150 years. The book also explores Islamic spirituality more broadly, and its relationship to some Western thinkers, such as the current heir to the British throne, Charles, Prince of Wales.
Author: Angel Millar
Publisher: Numen Books
Formats: hardback and paperback
From the Publisher:
A timely survey of radical spirituality and political activism in Islam and the West over the last century and a half, The Crescent and the Compass uncovers numerous previously unknown and unexplored connections between European, American, and Muslim movements, organizations, secret societies, and thinkers.
Subjects covered include Ayatollah Khomeini and Islamic gnosticism (‘irfan); Sufism and Shi’ism; the influence of the ideas of Rene Guenon, a former Catholic and Freemason, and convert to Sufism; and Charles, the Prince of Wales, Traditionalism and Islamic spirituality. At the heart of the book, however, are the many connections, during the 19th and early 20th centuries, between various Muslim revolutionaries and Freemasonry, a fraternal movement that was highly influential in the spiritual and occult avant-garde of Western Europe and America,
The Crescent and the Compass not only explores how revolutionaries and anti-colonialists, such as Sayyid Jamal ad-Din al-Afghani, attempted to mold Masonic Lodges for political aims, but how interpretations of Islam and Freemasonry converged in the writings and practices of such figures as poet and occultist Aleister Crowley; Noble Drew Ali, founder of the faith of Moorish Science in the USA; Abdullah Quilliam, Shaykh-ul-Islam of the British Isles; and, as anti-Freemasonry, in the contemporary Islamist movement.
Exploring one of the least documented yet one of the most important historical chapters of the modern era, the picture that emerges will challenge the way readers looks at the Middle East and Islam, and their relationship to the West.
“Shedding new light on the ideas of Islamic mysticism, ‘Traditionalism’ and the seeds of eastern gnosis hidden deep within western history, The Crescent And The Compass will hopefully spark a resurgence of exploration and dialogue between eastern and western fields of esoteric scholarship, allowing new ideas to emerge that can hopefully provide much-needed guidance out of the dark haze of fundamentalist thought… This is a vital work on the influence of Islamic gnosis on western streams of esoteric spirituality… It should be closely examined by all individuals interested in Islam and the West.” — Craig Williams, author of Cave of the Numinous: Tantric Physics, vol. I.
“… a brilliant exposition on a neglected topic. The history and connections Millar elucidates are not only crucial for an accurate understanding of Islam and Freemasonry today but … [also] the darker side of the story: anti-Masonry, conspiracies, and violent reactionaries. …extremely interesting, and filled with new insights. We should all take notice” — Greg Kaminsky, Occult of Personality podcast.
Suggested Interview Questions and Answers:
Q. Why did you write The Crescent and The Compass?
A. Initially I was interested in exploring the role of the anti-Semitic forgery The Protocols of the Elders of Zion in the propaganda of radical Islamism, the extreme Left-wing and extreme Right-wing – for example, under Stalin and the Nazi regime. At one point, I felt that the book was pretty much complete, but I had some nagging doubts, so I kept researching.
I already knew about some connections between Islam in the modern era and Freemasonry, for example the founder of the “Traditionalist” school of thought René Guénon, who was a Freemason in earlier life, and later converted to Islam. And, Aleister Crowley, Idries Shah, and others, who suggested some kind of historical and spiritual connection between Freemasonry and Sufism. I disagree with them, but what interests me is that they believed this.
I was actually interested in moving away from Freemasonry as a subject. (I had written two books on it already). But, as I began to look deeper, I found countless connections that surprised me. For example, the founder of the first British mosque, who was also an active Freemason, and involved (like Guénon and Crowley) in more secretive and mystical forms of the society, which are not always approved of by mainstream Masonic Lodges.
More importantly, a whole new picture began to emerge, of much deeper connections between Islam and radical Western spiritual seekers and spirituality. And this picture was totally unknown prior to The Crescent and The Compass. And I felt if I didn’t write this book, no one was going to.
At this point, I decided to focus on Freemasonry and its connections to Islam in the modern age, or at least to radical Muslim activists, and to leave aside the material about the Left and Right (which I came to feel was less interesting).
Q. Can you tell me why René Guénon’s “Traditionalism” is important?
A. It’s important for a few reasons. One, Traditionalist thinkers after Guénon have made significant contributions to Islamic scholarship, especially in introducing the religion to the West. Secondly, it has some influence on politics today, especially of a more traditional and less liberal sort, and most notably on Eurasian theorist Aleksandr Dugin, whose ideas are influential in the Kremlin. Thirdly, Britain’s Prince Charles, who is very sympathetic to Islam, also appears to be influenced by Traditionalism — not least of all in regard to Islam — and expresses views in line with this school of thought.
Q. The crescent is obviously a reference to crescent and star of Islam, but what is the compass?
A. The compass refers to the main symbol of Freemasonry, “the square and compass” – or “compasses,” as it is also known. These are architectural or building tools, but Freemasons use them as symbols of morality, Divinity, etc.
Q. How did ideas about Islam affect Freemasonry?
A. By the end of the 19th century, some Freemasons in the West created a number of organizations or “Rites,” conferring initiations based on Sufism. The most well known example is the Shriners, which had perhaps a more important place in the African-American community than among European Americans. From here, you get movements such as Moorish Science, a faith inspired by Islam, New Age ideas, and the Shriners. It was, in a sense, a Black nationalist movement, and it had some influence on Black nationalism later on.
Q. How has researching and writing the book changed how you think about Islam?
A. Well, first of all, I have been exposed to a much broader spectrum of Islamic expression than we will ever see in the Western media. And I have spent quite a bit of time looking at how, in different ways, Islam is or has been interpreted, from the work of Guénon to contemporary thinkers such as Tariq Ramadan and Yasir Qadhi. So, for one thing, I can appreciate that it is a very complicated and often a very nuanced subject.
More importantly, though, it has changed my perception of East-West relation, in regard to Islam. Yes, there has been conflict, but there has also been cooperation, and the absorbing of ideas from one to the other. So, Jamal ad-Din al-Afghani – who is the grandfather of Islamism, if you like, and who was a Freemason for a while – was interested in Western philosophy and ideas of revolution. Ayatollah Khomeini was also influenced, to some degree, by Plato, in his shaping of the Islamic Republic.
And then on the Western side you have this alternative, underground spiritual movement that was, early on, connected to mystical interpretations of Freemasonry. But which also, at times, drew on ideas of Islam. Maybe these were not very accurate or authentic ideas, but the attempts were sincere.
Q. You’ve mentioned spiritual interpretations of Freemasonry a few times. My impression was that it is simply a fraternity, or an “old boys’ club” for influential people. Can you explain the disconnect?
A. Yes. Freemasonry – which is really a fraternal movement – is rooted in the British medieval stonemasons’ guild. Like many other guilds both in the East and West, this had an initiation ritual. By the 18th century, the guild’s lodges had already attracted a large number of gentlemen who were unconnected to its trade. Then after 1717, when its first grand lodge was founded, it was made into a mystical and philosophical fraternity, with the rituals and symbols developed, especially from the Old Testament, but also from natural law philosophy, and elsewhere.
Later in the century, the fraternity split into various groups, and many of these absorbed elements from various mystical sources, such as the Cabala – a Jewish and Christian mystical philosophy.
I don’t want to say that no Freemason has ever done anything wrong. During the Mexican War of Independence, Masonic Lodges were used to organize on both sides. It was a factor in the strategies of the conflict. But, we should understand that this is not the essence of Freemasonry. Indeed, the first rule of the fraternity was to avoid becoming in plots against governments, so you could say that such behavior is “un-Masonic.”
Q. How did researching the book affect your opinion of Freemasonry?
A. I was surprised that there were so many links between radical, spiritual activists in the West and Muslim activists, from the middle of the 19th to the end of the first quarter of the 20th century.
I was surprised, also, that al-Afghani and others had attempted to use Freemasonry to promote anti-colonialism in the Middle East.
Q. You’ve mentioned Islamism. And, as you’ve written in your book, Islamists often inveigh against “Freemasonry” in their propaganda. Can you tell me about this?
A. Other people can define it differently, but this is how I define it: In essence, Islamism draws from The Protocols of the Elders of Zion – the forgery from the end of the 19th century – especially its anti-Freemasonry. Essentially, it uses “Freemasonry” as a synonym for all the negative aspects of Western culture – pornography, alcoholism, etc. – especially in relation to the US, and especially as a perceived threat to Islam.
Moreover, it takes the idea of Freemasons serving “Zionists” from the Protocols, and projects it into geopolitics, especially about Israel (“Zionists”) and the US (“Freemasonry”).
Q. So, are you saying that this is why there is such hatred of Israel and the US?
A. No. This is sometimes how it is expressed, and yes, perceptions of East-West relations, for example, can be filtered through this worldview. However, historical events are also important to understanding grievances, and that obviously includes the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, as well as the presence of Western powers in the Middle East.
Q. Is there a “clash of civilizations”?
A. Well, there is a clash between secularism, rationalism, and liberalism on the one hand and religion and spirituality on the other. But these are intra-civilizational struggles as much as anything.
Writing The Crescent and The Compass, I came to the conclusion that, in a sense, both Islam and the West are wrestling with forces unleashed by the French Revolution. We are, in a certain sense, wrestling with and sometimes against secularism. What is the role of religion and spirituality in the modern world? This is what both, in very different ways, are asking.
Hence, in the West we have seen the rise of meditation, yoga, New Age spirituality, and so on. From the perspective of Enlightenment thinkers, this shouldn’t be happening, since man was supposed to be heading toward ever-greater rationalism. But now we have the return of rituals, meditation, mysticism, and non-rational thinking. Secularism and rationalism isn’t enough, it turns out.
I don’t think it’s a coincidence that this comes at a time when Islam is also constantly in the news. Indeed, The Crescent and The Compass really charts the rise of radical forces within, and connecting, Islam and Western spiritual movements – the latter of which provided the foundation for the New Age movement and, as such, for contemporary Western spirituality. Whether we like it or not, we are going through this struggle together.