Freemasonry can change your life. As this book shows, the very act of initiation, comprising as it does various interlinked stages, leads the aspirant from preparation, inward as well as outward; admission to the temple past the Wardens; a pilgrimage round the lodge culminating in the approach to the east; emblematic trials; the gaining of inner freedom; the gaining of light, both material and spiritual; acquaintance with tools to help him in his building.
Preparation proceeds at different levels. We may regard the physical preparation of the aspirant as being important, in a symbolical sense, yet there are deeper levels of preparation which he must experience before the transformative influence of masonic initiation can be fully effective. He must be prepared in his heart, since it is the intuition of the heart, the ability to gain insights into his own nature, which is supremely important, more than the gaining of academic knowledge. Intellect here then, is the intellect of feeling and sensing rather than that of accumulation of knowledge. Part of this preparation has to do with freedom, and this again relates to different levels and to different aspects. He must be, or intend to be, free of material bonds which may impede his progress towards spiritual advancement. He should be free of selfish impulses and passions, which might similarly hold him back. And he must be free to choose, not impaired by any outside influences.
The Author shows many interesting and largely unknown aspects of the symbolism of the three degrees and provide with a resource to answer the enquiries of other brethren
Bruno V. Gazzo, Editor of PS Review of Freemasonry interviewed the author to find out more...
prompted you to write this book?
realised that there was no reliable handbook for Freemasons, both the
newly-initiated and the experienced. There was no companion to guide the
Freemason as he journeys, in his de-coding of the allegories and symbols. I know
from my conversations, particularly with young Freemasons, that there is a real
need for some help with allegories, to understand the power of an idea that
cannot be put into words.
surely, that is what lodges of instruction are there to provide?
the 18thC, that is what they did. The Brethren would sit around and discuss
matters of scientific, intellectual, philosophical, moral, artistic interest.
But nowadays, lodges of instruction have become lodges of rehearsal, making sure
that the words and movements of the ceremony are learned in the most correct way
possible. It’s like admiring the design on the chocolate box, without ever
tasting the chocolates! There is a need for us to understand the content
rather than just the form of
use the word ‘journey’ a lot in what you write. Why is this?
Freemasonry is about self-knowledge. Once one sets out to gain that, one
discovers that access to the self is not as simple as one might suppose. In
terms of the inner man, there is a great deal to be learned, many places which
we have, figuratively, to visit, before we come full circle to the core of our
own Being. Pilgrimage is one of the most ancient means of becoming one with God,
and it is the journey, more than the destination, that matters. This is why the
practice of some jurisdictions in conferring degrees on a large group of
aspirants over a short space of time is simply unmasonic.
mention ‘becoming one with God’. Isn’t this rather close to religious
word ‘religion’ is from latin re-ligare,
to bind back, binding the individual back onto himself, discovering himself,
knowing his worth. Freemasonry is not a substitute for institutional religion,
but it is a route to self-knowledge, perhaps the most important route, and it
teaches us to own the divine spark residing in each one of us. That is not
against the precepts of any institutional religion – far from it; it assists
us in our pursuit of the knowledge of God.
Freemasons gain a lot from comradeship, from the social life of Freemasonry.
Isn’t esoteric talk of this kind going to put some Freemasons off?
JR: It is
important that we have fun in Freemasonry. And one of the apparent
contradictions is that, while Freemasonry assists me on my path to
self-knowledge, it isn’t a lone pursuit: I need my Brethren round me to assist
in the endeavour. So it is always a sociable pursuit. We build our own personal
temple, yes, but we also join with others in erecting a temple to humanity.
Before I can truly know my Brother, I have to know myself, and he and I can
journey together in becoming a useful part of the society we both are part of,
and which we enjoy – together.
Admission to a Freemason’s temple is not gained by prior knowledge or some qualification entitling the aspirant to proceed. It is gained by certain specific qualities in the person himself – poverty, free will, humility. Poverty implies in this sense that the aspirant is willing, even eager, to relinquish material wealth and gain if it stands in the way of his own advance towards enlightenment. Free will implies that there has been no undue pressure brought to bear on him to make him want to become a Freemason, and that he expects no material gain as a result of membership. Humility implies not that the aspirant is humiliated by the mode of his preparation, which would be a passive act on his part, but rather that he acknowledges the need for an active humility in order to make moral progress away from the darkness of unknowing towards the light of knowing. He must acknowledge that pride has no place in his life, that whereas in his business or other life outside the temple an assertive demeanour will open doors for him, here the reverse is the case.
The aspirant is subjected to a series of pilgrimages. In ancient times a man from the plains who found himself in the mountains, would be outside the realms where the gods who guided his destiny had the power to do so. He would go on a pilgrimage back to the plains seeking God, intent on seeking inner truths and a quest for one-ness with God. In the course of such a pilgrimage, such a man learns about the world, but first he must learn about himself. Only then, only when he has validated his own Self will he be best able to relate to the world around him, and to be in harmony with all men. Figuratively, the pilgimages in Freemasonry represent this life’s journey, culminating, in the first degree, with the aspirant’s approach to the Master, to the three great lights. It is there that the light of knowledge, the knowledge of himself, is restored to him.
On this journey he will be subjected also to symbolic trials. The Wardens, who are there to control his entrance and his progress, represent the need for verification – is the aspirant a worthy man? does he have the right intentions? does he come presumptuously or in humility? does he recognise the need for material poverty? does he understand his own spiritual poverty and the need to rectify that? has he the approbation of the members of the lodge? can the members rely on him to be a good and faithful member of the fraternity?
The aspirant may then hope, by turning his back on material concerns, by turning his back on selfish impulses and passions, to gain a measure of inner freedom, thus making him a Free Mason. Part of that gain will also be the gaining of light, and the removal of the blindfold may represent for him, figuratively, the gaining of spiritual light, of gnosis, knowledge of himself, through which, in the words of Pythagoras, he may then ‘know the universe, and God’.
The reader is also shown that Freemasonry is an experiential journey, not one that can be absorbed by reading about it, and so this book is of little value to those who have not been, or are not about to be, initiated into ‘the mysteries and privileges of Freemasonry’. The true secrets have little to do with signs, token and words. They are those secrets gained through unveiling, decoding, interpreting the allegories which are given to us in the form of ornaments, jewels, working tools, geometric forms and hidden insights. The wearing of the apron is an outward, tangible sign of the inner change which the person undergoes through initiation. The journey he embarks on is a journey towards the centre, a journey towards knowledge of himself, of which the first degree is but a constituent part.