Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Millennium and the Masons

frank black
Recently I got a tremendous bargain when I picked up all nine seasons of the X-Files on sale. I also picked up Millennium while I was at it— you know, Millennium, the other spooky series that came, along with the X-Files, from the fertile and febrile mind of Chris Carter?

I used to follow both those TV series with a passion. Millennium was never as popular as the X-Files, and it was canceled after its third season. I always thought that had something to do with the fact that Millennium was quite a dark and brooding show. But then, back in those days, in the late 90s, I was going through a very dark time in life myself, so it sort of fit.

Millennium: the protagonist, Frank Black, was a former FBI agent, now working with a consulting detective outfit known as the Millennium Group. Frank had a special gift, an uncanny ability to see into the minds of killers. He also seemed to be carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders, grim, wearied, bowed but not defeated, determined to carry on against the powers of darkness in a world of gathering gloom and evil, a world on the eve of the millennium.

The first season of Millennium was a rather dark detective show, and little more: as someone has called it, "serial killer of the week."

Second season, Millennium took more of a turn for the fantastic. Frank began to learn that there was far more to the Millennium Group than he had known. Far from being merely a detective outfit, the Millennium Group was a secretive body of initiates, something like the Masons. Its history extended back many hundreds of years, back into the Middle Ages at least, when it had been known as the Order of Knights Chronicler. Now the Millennium Group operated at the heart of a vast and dark conspiracy. Just how dark, Frank realized too late, as the Millennium Group staged a "test," unleashing a genetically engineered plague on the Seattle area, killing dozens of people including Frank's wife.

"It was always about control." Third season found Frank back at the FBI, his hair literally turned white overnight, now trying to warn people about the Millennium Group and its nefarious plans. Of course most people were like, "Frank, well yeah he's a good fellow, but you know he's a bit cracked."

One thing that always struck me about Millennium is that the three seasons of the show trace Frank's initiatic journey, from (1) not knowing what's going on, to (2) gaining some insight into what's going on, and finally to (3) fathoming something of how and why these things are going on. Sort of like the three degrees of Blue Lodge in the Masons: Entered Apprentice, Fellow Craft, and Master Mason; or, in the case of Frank, Master Anti-Mason. This was never stated outright, but the Masonic parallels were certainly played up more and more as the series progressed.

It may sound strange to people who know me, but I always rather identified with Frank Black. And with his dark and brooding temperament. Like I say, the late 90s, when this show was airing, was a very dark time in my own life. Plus, as you may have perceived, the incandescent radioactive-core-meltdown imagination I put on display here in my blog stems from some very dark roots dating back to my childhood. Roots that maintain their hold on me inwardly to this day.

Part of the initiatic journey is entering into the realm of transformation— learning how to take those dark experiences in us, and transform them. Transform them into something profound, bottomless, fathomless. Transform them, and in transforming them, be transformed oneself.

As the old pop song put it, "You will see light in the darkness, you will make some sense of this. When you make your secret journey, you will be a holy man."

Or as Nietzsche more profoundly put it, "Battle not with monsters, lest ye become a monster; and if you gaze into the Abyss, the Abyss gazes also into you."

Millennium. The "secret journey" of one Frank Black from prentice to journeyman to master anti-anti-hero. The Millennium Group and its deep, dark Masonic schemes. Gazing into the Abyss. It was a TV show that deserved a wider viewership than it ever achieved.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Masons. Bah! Anti-mason is an understatement for my depth of emotion!

"Hmmm" you might say "It seems so unlike you to despise an entire group based only on their proclivity for ceremony"

I can honestly say that I've come close to just telling them to "shut up" at a funeral. In Florida. In full sun. In July. In sandy-soil while wearing heels and standing for 90 minutes while babbleling nothing remotely significant for anyone other than themselves (including the family of which I was part).

Its my personal opinion that they are a selfish petty group of people who like the sound of their own voices to the exclusion of all else.

Ok. Maybe they're not selfish. Maybe they're stupid. Gah! Either way, its not a good warm fuzzy feeling I have for them.

Hmmm. Maybe you and/or your regular readers are Masons. Sorry if I've upset you and/or yours. Really. Its not my goal to provoke Masons. They'd probably send me a twenty-page letter about why I'm wrong!

Wednesday, December 20, 2006 11:59:00 AM  
Blogger Paul Burgess said...

Lucy, no, actually I'm not a Mason; I was just drawing some comparisons between the three seasons of the TV show Millennium, and my entirely "book-masonic" knowledge of the three degrees of Blue Lodge Masonry.

"By the Saints John of Jerusalem, so mote it be. Look to the north, look to east, look to the south, look to the west. This lodge is declared closed, and its traces scattered." Oh dear, now the Masons, or the Millennium Group, or somebody, is going to have to hunt me down and kill me... ;-)

While we're on the topic, let me share a really spooky true story with you. I've never been involved with the Masons, but the Burgesses were involved in Freemasonry for some generations, until my Dad. My Dad was active in the Order of Demolay when he was younger, and when he was first starting out in the pastorate he had some involvement with the Masonic Lodge in my hometown.

Anyhow, one morning at breakfast— I must've been only about three or four— I said that I had had a dream during the night, that Daddy was over in the Masonic Lodge, and that there was a Bible open in front of him, and that he was facing east and beating the Bible with a stick.

My Dad nearly flipped. He hadn't mentioned any details to my Mom or anyone else, but in fact the previous evening he had been over at the Masonic Lodge, and his part in the proceedings had been... to face east and wave a wand or stick or whatever over an open Bible.

That was it. My Dad dropped his Masonic involvement like a hot coal, and never had anything to do with the Masons again.

On a more general note, my own suspicion is that back in the old days— and anywhere I've lived, Freemasonry has always been pretty much an activty of people at least a generation older than me— back in the old days, many of the people who were drawn into the Masons, were attracted by the ritual, since their own Protestant church was probably fairly "low-church" and ritual-deprived, and they were... well... starved for ritual. Just a guess, but it's always seemed that way to me.

I suppose such folks nowadays would more likely be attracted to New Age or neo-paganism or whatever— which wasn't really an option back then, since there warn't no "New Age" back then. Or rather, actually there was, sort of, only the Masons were widespread, whereas a body wasn't likely to stumble across the closer analogs to New Age unless they happened to stumble onto something exceedingly obscure such as the Order of the Golden Dawn, or whatever. Fifty to one they'd hit the Masons first.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006 12:50:00 PM  
Blogger Paul Burgess said...

BTW, I think that, in some broad and general sense, there is an underlying spiritual reality to the notion of an "initiatic journey"— and of a profound and abiding spiritual illumination, an inward transformation, which emerges therefrom— if you can strip it of those more or less gnostic elements in which the Masons drape it. The biblical basis would be found in Christ's temptation in the wilderness— note, in the wilderness.

As for how that breaks out in the spiritual life of the individual Christian, I will resist the temptation to ramble on for another 5000 words, and say only that historically the Catholics have been much more systematic and intentional on matters of applied spirituality than most Protestants are. Which is not to deny that one does meet many Protestants who have stumbled upon it just as profoundly on their own, at a time of crisis in their life, or through the good influence of others (cf. Barth and the Blumhardts), or sometimes just through sheer dogged Protestant individualism.

Eh, the Church used to know these things, centuries ago. It was part of the warp and weft of life in the cloister. Don't get me off onto what Protestantism lost when it threw out the baby of monastic spiritual discipline along with the bathwater of very real monastic abuses...

Wednesday, December 20, 2006 4:22:00 PM  

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