I first heard about The Meaning of Masonry, by W.L. Wilmshurst, from a Brother Mason whose favorite book it is. The Brother suggested that I share my thoughts on the book and so I decided to do so in a series of posts. Wilmshurst wrote The Meaning of Masonry in the 1920s. The book begins with a quote from Dionysius Areopagiticus speaking of what he termed the “hierarchical mysteries.” Dionysius Areopagiticus (“the Areopagite”), is named in the Bible as an Athenian who was converted to Christianity after hearing Paul preach. Acts 17:34 states “some of the people became followers of Paul and believed. Among them was Dionysius.”
Areopagiticus’ opening quote in the Meaning of Masonry states that “[w]e must […] demonstrate that ours is a Hierarchy of inspired, divine and deifying science […] And this is the common goal of every Hierarchy, persistent devotion towards God and divine things […] a knowledge of things as they are in themselves; the vision and science of the sacred truth,” De Eccles. Hierarch., I, 1-3.With the above quote, Wilmshurst sets the tone of his entire book, which is to highlight the continuing link between various early philosophies, Christianity, ancient mystery schools, and Freemasonry. The quote also provides insight into the hierarchical nature of the ancient mystery schools, which Freemasonry has inherited. Like in Freemasonry,Areopagiticus states that the divine, devotion towards God or a Supreme Being, and the search for Truth were the foundation of the ancient mystery schools. Areopagiticus’ quote also illustrates a remarkable link between an ancient mystery school representative from Athens and early Christianity.
Meaning of Masonry by W.L. Wilmshurst, study 2
Today, I write about Wilmshurst’s introductory chapter in The Meaning of Masonry. This is a critical analysis of the book, thus I take the liberty to disagree and argue with it at times and voice my opinions at will. Wilmshurst’s stated purpose in writing the book was to promote a deeper understanding of Freemasonry’s meaning because he felt that such an explanation of Masonry was constantly called for during his time (Wilmshurst wrote the book in the 1920s). It is in that spirit that I have set out to publish this series of studies.
Wilmshurst found it unfortunate that Masons were leaving Masonry because they could not find it applicable to their lives and were given little guidance as to Masonry’s meaning. On the other hand, he also saw this as an added safeguard against the admission into the Order of unsuitable members. He believed that three things are essential to comprehending Masonry’s meaning:
Genuine and earnest desire to understand Masonry’s meaning
I could not agree more with Wilmshurst in all three points listed the above. On the third point, I will say that I think it is beneficial to everyone for older members to remain humble and open to the contributions and spiritual perceptions of newer Masons when providing informed guidance. I was a very enthusiastic new Mason and greatly appreciated the education many Freemasons provided to me. I have made many friendships with older Masons who have provided me fantastic and informed guidance. It was one such Brother who suggested I write studies on The Meaning of Masonry. I have grown enormously from discussing and sharing with more informed and seasoned Masons who have kindly sat through my philosophical rantings and discoveries. Thus, I certainly recommend that younger Masons with a genuine interest in our philosophy approach the older Masons with questions, requests for book references, or just to make conversation on the Masonic topics of their interest. Most Masons delight in the opportunity to assist and get to know newer Masons and so it should be. I am a great believer in welcoming newer members with as open a heart and mind as we can, making them feel comfortable. Our philosophy will give them a hard enough time, if they apply themselves, so we can only endeavor to assist each other as we progress in our Masonic studies.
Wilmshurst states that some Masons may not see much beyond our symbols or hear much beyond our ritual’s words. For these Masons, Initiations may be a mere formality instead of an awakening to a new quality of life. I happen to believe that, even for Masons who do not dive into Masonic education head first, membership has profound benefits as does their presence within our Order when they are good natured and sincere in other ways. A Mason may not be well versed in Masonic literature yet be always ready to lend a hand at charitable events, for example. I am appreciative of all Masons who participate, regardless of which aspect of Masonry they most resonate with. It is only natural that we have varying degrees of commitment and involvement as well. We cannot all attend all meetings and events but we can always be grateful for the members that show up. I tend to be on the optimistic side of these things, not worrying too much about Masonic membership because I firmly believe that Masonry is a Divine science and, as such, it will always have members dedicated to it from the heart because it speaks directly into their hearts and souls.
Wilmshurst tells us that “Initiation” means a new beginning (initium); a break away from an old method and order of life and entrance upon a new one of larger self-knowledge, deepened understanding, and intensified virtue. It means an awakening of dormant higher faculties of the soul which endue their possessor with Light. This description of what an Initiation ought to be is in line with the tales of enlightened Initiates of old in various traditions. The word “Initiate,” to me, ideally refers to faculties such as a bright mind, a deep spirit, and a profound character. Wilmshurst warns us against automatically thinking that our friends or relatives would benefit from Masonry. Instead, he asks us to look to the special qualifications of mind and intention essential in a candidate that is to truly benefit from Masonry and vice versa.
Wilmshurst believes that Masonry should be pursued within as well as outside the Craft by knocking at the door within ourselves and letting our inner guidance chart our paths in life. This turning inward is, in Wilmshurst’s words, the sole aim and intention of Masonry. Wilmshurst believes that, because so many Masons have failed at this crucial undertaking for so long, Masonry has not yet fulfilled its original purpose of being an efficient initiating instrument. Wilmshurst sees Masonry’s social and philanthropic channels as excellent endeavors but foreign additions upon Masonry’s primary purpose.
While I agree with Wilmshurst in that Masonry’s social and philanthropic channels are later additions to the Craft, I am reluctant to say they are foreign endeavors because Masonry has always been about becoming better members of society through our individual efforts. Yes, Masonry is an internal science but it has a long history of societal influence and involvement as well, which flows naturally from an interest in the bettering of humanity. I see Masonry’s social and philanthropic channels as consistent with Masonry’s core purpose of creating a better world by forming better individuals. I believe our social gatherings foment a unity which expands our bonds to one another and our philanthropic charities create stronger bonds between us Masons and society at large. I often hear laments that our Craft has become too social and philanthropic at the expense of Masonic education. While I agree that Masonic charities have become central to the Masonic image and functioning, I refuse to say that they are a detriment to the Craft. They certainly are not a detriment to the spirits of Masons who put heart into charitable events and our communities are so much better for it. I believe Masonic educational channels are available for dedicated Masons but I support their expansion. I am here doing my small part for that cause.
Wilmshurst reminds us that every Mason upon reception into the Craft acknowledges that they are spiritually poor and encourages us to not focus relief efforts on satisfying physical necessities only but the spiritual and educational needs of the members as well. I could not agree more and I encourage, once more, newer Masons to approach older ones for educational resources and older Masons to take an interest in Masonic education within their lodges. Wilmshurst thinks that, if we don’t spiritualize Masonry, we will increasingly materialize it. He thinks that, if individual Masons fail to understand Masonry’s underlying philosophy, they will mistake shadow for substance. The danger for Wilmshurst is that Masonry could end up secularized when it was designed to be a means of spiritual instruction. Wilmshurst does not think it is lack of enthusiasm that prevents a more spiritual Masonic education within our lodges, however. He thinks the problem is a lack of instruction. An institutional weakness.
It is my experience that one can find educational channels, literature, and dedicated Masons willing to guide one’s Masonic education if one is intent in finding them. I have also known many Masons who do not engage in education and tend to be less regular in attendance at Lodge. We all have unique needs and abilities. I strongly discourage members from looking down on these less engaged Masons. It is my belief that the spiritual, deeper, and life-altering aspects of Masonry call each of us to the extent we are prepared to listen and give them our full attention. I have faith that Freemasonry will always call to itself dedicated and properly prepared Masons to carry forth its Lights for all times.
Meaning of Masonry by W.L. Wilmshurst, study 3
This is the first article on this series dealing with the symbolic discussions in Wilmshurst’s Meaning of Masonry. Chapter one of the book begins by narrating how candidates entering Freemasonry seldom have a definite idea of what their Initiations will be like. Even after the candidate’s admission, Wilmshurst notes, Masons usually remain at a loss to conclusively explain what Masonry is. Masons are told that religious discussions, as in divisive discussions, are forbidden within the Lodges and that Masonry is not a religion although it has many religious elements. Masonry is supposed to be, as Wilmshurst describes, secondary or supplemental to any religious tenets each Mason may hold dear.
My personal experience entering Masonry in regard to the above point was confusing to say the least. I had a very good idea of the values and core practices of Freemasonry as I had studied them for years prior but I was in the dark, as most Masons are, as to the details and routine matters Lodges deal with. When questioned about my personal views on a Supreme Being, I gave a complex summary of my religious and philosophical journey, which has been intensive and sincere yet hard to convey due to its independent (institutionally) and intuitive development. As I found myself in what seemed to be “hot waters” at the time due to my inability to communicate in simple terms, I stated “I have no easy answer!” (I linked a poem I wrote about that experience at the end of this article). I still cannot adequately articulate many answers to questions about God or a Supreme Being because words fall short, yet I have sincere and very clear tenants that guide my spiritual life. Freemasonry is delightful to people like me who benefit from its religious spaciousness, which is far from being atheistic. We Masons pay respect to the Higher in so many ways! Our fellow Masons who subscribe to various religions should find a safe Heaven and a support system for their spiritual life in Masonry as well.
Wilmshurst writes that new Initiates often suppose that Masonry is extremely ancient, coming down to us from Egypt or at least from early Hebrew sources. Yet, relatively few brethren dive deeply into the obscure symbology of the Craft, at least right away. The Light is there, for those Masons wishing and willing to develop it for themselves. It is Wilmshurst’s view that, ultimately, nobody can communicate “the deeper things in Masonry” to another. Masons can only conduct one another a certain distance on the path of understanding and then each must walk their own path of Masonic development. Wilmshurst reminds us that we are taught that even the elementary “secrets” of Freemasonry must not be communicated to unqualified persons, not so much because of the value of the more superficial Masonic secrets but because such silence is intended to be “typical of what applies to the greater, deeper secrets, some of which […] transcend the power of communication.” Wilmshurst is alluding to a very important, yet elusive core concept of Freemasonry and one that has brought the Fraternity under the suspicion of those who have sought to make something sinister out of a very nobly intended “silence.
As a mystical science, Freemasonry offers profound Light to those willing to expend themselves in search of it. Freemasonry also provides enough freedom to interpret and explore its symbols and concepts as a new box of crayons would to a child. We can each run wild with the ideas yet each Masonic concept can only provide one color, one broad idea, a general realm of understanding. For instance, the concept of the Square was a recent topic of conversation I had with some brethren. Some emphasized how the Square should remind each of us to square our actions in virtue when dealing with all people. Some pointed out how the square can also be used to check the progress on our ashlars and look for possible problem areas where we need further development. The conversation then went in all sorts of directions like using the square to gauge how a wall of masonry is coming along as a metaphor for a Lodge or group of individuals seeking to build together in harmony.
One can endlessly pick apart, pull, and expand every little detail of Freemasonry yet there are basic agreed upon meanings that cannot be changed or we would have no real foundational philosophy. A Square is a Square and it is used to Square things. That is a fact, regardless of the interpretations we add to the tool. Freemasonry has developed common interpretations of the Square that we can all relate to. And so, each aspect of Masonry grows from the basic concept to the colorful understandings of each Mason. If one takes this progression further, as Wilmshurst writes, there comes a point where realities, concepts, and teachings become incommunicable or communication of such things is greatly discouraged or saved for spiritually qualified Masons only. How would you know if you qualify for such things? Oh, trust me, you WILL know because you will gain or develop profound insights regarding Masonic concepts and values. What we call “Masonic Light” tends to hit full strength when one is willing to search for it and remains open to receiving it. Freemasonry is training in a manner of thinking and living, an art and a science. We must learn to handle the tools of the trade, however clumsily at first, before we can be skilled enough to contribute to or comprehend its greater complexity.
Wilmshurst defines Masonry as a “sacramental system” because it has, like all sacraments, an outward and visible side consisting of its ceremonies, doctrine, and symbols, and an inward, intellectual, and spiritual side concealed behind the ceremonial. This hidden side of Masonry is only available, according to Wilmshurst, to Masons who have learned to use their “spiritual imagination.” Although the explanations of our symbols are readily understandable to anyone willing to study them, the meaning of Masonry as a whole may escape many.
What are those “mysteries” which Masonry promises we may attain if we apply ourselves arduously enough to the art and science of Masonry? Wilmshurst, quite skillfully, looks to world history in order to answer that question. During all periods of history and in all parts of the world, he writes, there have been secret societies and societies existing beyond the reach of official churches for the purpose of teaching the “Mysteries.” These elusive groups have systematically imparted mystical teachings to properly prepared minds regarding human affairs and Divine things. The motivation for adopting such a secretive or private mode of operating was two fold, according to Wilmshurst. On the one hand, the Mysteries were seen as too precious to be offered to multitudes of people who would only profane them. Matthew 7:6 comes to mind here: “Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet.” These secretive organizations have historically stressed the importance of admitting only duly examined students into their ranks, people who could skillfully handle the teachings and treat the doctrines with the utmost respect. The wholesale handing out of the Mysteries, it was thought, would bring about light-weight understandings and mistreatment of the societies and concepts themselves. Freemasonry as an institution and as a system of morality has, in fact, seen this occur. We can no longer imagine the days when Freemasonry was free from sinister suspicions and only Masons knew about its teachings.
The second reason the Mystery schools had for adopting secretive or private practices, according to Wilmshurst, was a fear that the knowledge the schools imparted would be used for perverse ends. Nearly all religions and systems of morality have been used to justify or further perverse or disastrous ends. It is a very painful situation devout Christians can relate to when thinking of the KKK’s claims to espousing Christian teachings, for example. It was the foresight of the Mystery school tradition that its teachings not fall into such circumstances. Freemasonry, as a heir to such traditions, has certainly been spared such ideological horrors. We do not only keep the private or secret modes of transmission alive, but we also continue the practice of scrutinizing members before admittance. Once admitted, Masonic Light flows where it is duly earned.
Next time, I will explore the different Mystery schools themselves, from those existing in the East, in Chaldea, Assyria, Egypt, Greece, Italy, Israel, Africa, to those of Christian and Mohammedan origin. I look forward to discussing classical philosophers who Wilmshurst like most, if not all, esoteric writers considers Initiates of such schools: Socrates, Plato, Pythagoras, Aristotle.
Until then! And thank you for reading,
Phoenix St. John
Meaning of Masonry by W.L. Wilmshurst, study 4
It is with great excitement that I write this study because the topic of the Ancient Mysteries is fascinating to me and so many Masons. Wilmshurt writes in Chapter 1 of The Meaning of Masonry that the Mysteries existed in the East, in Chaldea, Assyria, Egypt, Greece, Italy, among the Hebrews, Mohammedans, Christians, and in Africa. I take this opportunity to provide some historic background useful to understanding the rest of the book. The focus of this article is the ancient Mystery religions of Greece.
Ancient Mysteries in Greece
In addition to the official state religion, there were the “mystery religions” in ancient Greece, which required elaborate processes of purification and initiation before one could qualify for membership. The mystery religions were concerned with the inner spiritual life of the individual. Their adherents believed in an orderly universe and the unity of all life within it. The relationship between the Initiates and the Divine within the mystery schools, in contrast with the official state religion, was considered to be intimate. In fact, the aim and promise of the mystical rites was to enable the Initiate to feel a personal union with the Divine. But the nature of the mysteries in Greece was not wholly contemplative. There was much ritual involved: purifications and processions, fasting and feasts, musical liturgies and sacred plays, all geared to fueling the imagination and stirring deep spiritual emotions. Much as in Masonry, Initiates then left the celebration of the mystery rites knowing that they were now better prepared to handle profound problems concerning life, death, and immortality. The Greek mysteries, like their counterparts elsewhere, held the promise of life-renewal or re-birth. Such profound concept, was explained by Manly P. Hall through the symbolism of the Phoenix: “[a]ll symbols have their origin in something tangible, and the Phoenix is one sign of the secret orders of the ancient world and of the initiate of those orders, for it was common to refer to one who had been accepted into the temples as a man twice-born, or re-born,” Manly P. Hall.
The early mystery schools of the Greeks centered around a kind of play or ritual reenactment of the life of such gods as Osiris, Dionysus, Demeter—divinities most often associated with the realm of the dead and the process of rebirth. Initiates enacted the life cycle of the gods who triumphed over death and who were reborn. Initiates also asserted their own path of wisdom that would enable them to conquer death and accomplish a rebirth into a new existence.
There is a general consensus that the principal mystery religions of Greece—the Eleusinian, the Dionysian, and the Orphic— were brought to that country from abroad sometime during the Prehistoric Era (c. 2000 b.c.e.). The oldest of the mysteries, the Dionysian, is thought by many to have been developed in Thrace, in the eastern Balkans.
The Eleusinian Mysteries
The Eleusinian Mysteries consisted of initiations held every year for the cult of Demeter and Persephone based at Eleusis in ancient Greece. They are the most well known of the secret rites of ancient Greece. It is thought that their basis was an old agrarian cult which probably goes back to the Mycenean period (c. 1600 – 1100 BC) and it is believed that the cult of Demeter was established in 1500 BC. The mysteries represented the myth of the abduction of Persephone by the king of the underworld Hades. There were three phases, the “descent” (loss), the “search” and the “ascent” of Persephone. The initiations and school was rather public compared to other mystery religions as it became a major festival during the Hellenic era, and later spread to Rome. Yet, the rites, ceremonies, and beliefs themselves were kept secret and consistently preserved from antiquity. There are many paintings and pieces of pottery that depict various aspects of the Eleusinian Mysteries.
The Dionysian Mysteries
The Dionysian Mysteries remained more secretive than the Eleusinian Mysteries, thus their content is largely guessed at from what depictions and information has remained. The earliest rites of Dionysos are almost universally believed to have been a “wine cult”, concerned with the cultivation of the grapevine, and a practical understanding of its life cycle, embodying the living god in the creation and fermentation of wine and the dead god in the underworld symbolized by the intoxicating and disinhibiting effects of the drink itself. Wine back then often included many other ingredients like herbal, floral and resinous additives, which gave the drink a medicinal property and status. The cultivation of all the additions were also under the lore of Dionysos, making it a general vegetation cult and herbal mystery school. Honey and bees wax were also often added to early wine, bringing with them the associations of the even older lore and Neolythic bee cults (whose swarms were often associated with Dionysos as pure “life-force”). Similarly the bull, from whose hollowed horns wine was once drunk, and the goat, who provided wineskins and was the natural pruner of the vine, were also included as cult animals and manifestations of Dionysos.
In Masonry we use stone working metaphors to represent deeper philosophical concepts and teachings. Similarly, the Dionysos Mysteries utilized the stages in the process of making wine to represent different philosophical concepts and teachings, which were for Initiates of the school only. An understanding of both, the practical process of making wine and its wider metaphorical significance, is crucial to grasping the symbolic Mysteries of Dionysos with their emphasis on life and death cycles.
The place of origin of the Hellenic Dionysian Mysteries is unknown, but they almost certainly first came to Greece with the importation of wine, which is widely believed to have originated around 6000 BC in one of two places, either in the Zagros Mountains (the borderlands of Mesopotamia and Persia, both with their own rich wine culture since then) or from the ancient wild vines on the mountain slopes of Libya / North Africa (the source of early Egyptian wine from around 2500 BC, and home of many ecstatic rites).
Whatever the case it appears Minoan Crete was the next link in the chain, taking wine from both the Egyptians and Phoenicians and passing it on to the Greeks by 1600 BC, who would spread it throughout their colonies. The Dionysos Mysteries began absorbing the suppressed primeval cults of all the lands they touched. It would be the Greeks who were left with the task of making sense of the eclectic mix that reached them, and of integrating it into their own mythos with their inventive tales of the journeys and adventures of Dionysos.
The Hellenic world, after Alexander’s conquest, spread the cult of Dionysos internationally, to Egyptian Alexandria, to Palestine, and to India. There was then a breakaway mystical form of Dionysianism that would become part of the more philosophical Pythagorean Mysteries where Dionysos was effectively seen as the creative Primal Chaos before creation. This Dionysianism was in sharp contrast with the earthy, less philosophical, and more primitive rite of Dionysos that in some places still existed at the time.
The Orphic Mysteries
The Orphic religion was a Hellenistic mystery religion thought to have been based on the teachings and songs of the legendary Greek musician Orpheus. No coherent description of the religion can be constructed from the available evidence of its existence as much of it was secretive. Most scholars agree that by the 5th century bc there was at least an Orphic movement, with travelling priests who offered teaching and initiation, based on a body of legend and doctrine said to have been founded by Orpheus.
Part of the Orphic ritual is thought to have involved the death and rebirth of Orpheus. Orphic philosophy emphasized rewards and punishments after the death of the body, the soul then being freed to achieve its true life.
The Pythagorean Mysteries
Pythagoras is a most beloved Ancient Mystery, spiritual, mathematical, and philosophical icon. He was a multi-faceted genius the likes of which Leonardo Da Vinci would embody later in history. Yet, most of the information we have about Pythagoras was written centuries after he lived, so very little truly reliable information is known about him. He was born on the island of Samos in Greece in 570 BC, traveled to Egypt and maybe India, and in 520 BC he returned to Samos. Ten years later, he founded his own school.
Pythagoras is best known for the Pythagorean theorem which bears his name. Because of the obscuring effect of unrecorded history, it is possible that some of Pythagoras’ accomplishments were actually produced by his colleagues and successors. What is clear is that numbers and mathematics were central to the Pythagorean school.
Pythagoras considered himself to be a philosopher, a lover of wisdom. Plato, who lived after Pythagoras, is said to have known and befriended many Pythagorean thinkers. Pythagoras’ ideas had a profound influence on Plato, and through him, on all of Western philosophy including Masonry.
After spending time in Delphi, Pythagoras worked in Croton, where his Pythagorean School arose, which was a college and a model city under his direction. Through a wise combination of art and science, that magical harmony of soul and intellect which Pythagoreans regarded as the arcanum of philosophy was established.
Pythagoras was particular in admitting Initiates into his more secretive School. A combination of right thinking, virtue, physical abilities, and character was essential to meet the tasks and intensive learning demanded of Initiates. Pythagoras practiced and taught veganism and health, in general, was of primary importance in his school. His teachings were organized in degrees, each with its tests or trials, lessons, and challenges. Albert Pike, while admiring what has come down to us about the Pythagorean system, admitted that its philosophy was simply too well concealed with a veil that is impenetrable, without Pythagoras’ oral explanation. The complex numerical philosophy embedded in the Pythagorean Mystery School remains largely a mystery because only fragments have survived.
The schools established by Pythagoras at Croton and other cities, have been considered by many writers as the models after which Masonic Lodges were subsequently constructed. They undoubtedly served the Christian ascetics of the first century as a pattern for their monastic institutions, with which institutions the Freemasonry of the Middle Ages, in its operative character, was intimately connected.
The disciples of Pythagoras’ school in Croton wore the simplest kind of clothing, and having on their entrance surrendered all their property to the common fund, they then submitted for three years to voluntary poverty, during which time they were also compelled to a rigorous silence. The members were divided into Esoterics and Exsoterics. This distinction was borrowed by Pythagoras from the Egyptian priests, who practiced a similar mode of instruction. The exoteric students were those who attended the public assemblies, where general ethical instructions were delivered by Pythagoras. Only the esoterics constituted the secret or Mystery school. Before admission to the privileges of this school, the previous life and character of the candidate were rigidly scrutinized, and in the preparatory initiation secrecy was enjoined by an oath, and he was made to submit to the severest trials of his fortitude and self-command. It was in this secret school that Pythagoras gave instructions on his interior doctrine, and explained the hidden meaning of his symbols.
From what little we know of the Pythagorean School, scholars have discerned the following. There were three Degrees in Pythagoras’ Mystery School: the first or Mathematic, being engaged in the study of the exact sciences; the second or Theoretic, engaged in the knowledge of God and the future state of man; and the third or highest Degree, which was communicated only to a few whose intellects were capable of grasping the full fruition of the Pythagorean philosophy. He who after his admission was alarmed at the obstacles he had to encounter was permitted to return to the world. The disciples, considering the departed as dead, performed his funeral obsequies and erected a monument to his memory.
The Brethren, about six hundred in number, with their wives and children, resided in one large building. Their meals consisted principally of bread, honey, and water. This school, after existing for thirty years, is believed to have been dissolved through the machinations of Sylo, a wealthy inhabitant of Croton, who, having been refused admission, in revenge excited the citizens against it. A mob attacked the Initiates, burning forty of them to death. The school was never resumed but, after the death of the philosopher, summaries of his doctrines were made by some of his disciples. Many of such doctrines remain uninterpreted and unexplained.
Next time, I will continue this discussion by exploring other Mystery School traditions of the past in an effort to provide a backdrop to Wilmshurst’s views on the foundation of Masonic philosophy and tradition.
Thank you for reading!
Phoenix St. John