Review of Freemasonry

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by W.Bro. Frank Galea
Lodge of St. John and St. Paul No 349 (EC), Malta
Count Roger of Normandy Lodge, Sovereign Grand Lodge of Malta.

Note: This paper was commissioned by the Holy R.A Chapter, St John & ST Paul, 349 EC, where it was read by the author during a regular convocation. It is a critical review of Bro W A Mozart's relationship with Freemasonry, and includes clarifications regarding myths which originated around his life. These include the myth that he was assasinated by Freemasons, the storm that raged when he died, his unmarked grave, a comment about the masonic content in his opera The Magic Flute.




There are buildings because there are those who build them. There is music because there are those that write it, composers. There is also Masonic music. This kind of music comes in two forms. The first form of Masonic music is that music which is performed on or during Masonic occasions, but not only. There are occasions that are corollaries to formal Masonic occasions that have their own special music. These are occasions like Ladies’ Nights and Festive Boards, especially those Festive Boards that take place after the conferment of degrees and installations. Then, there is a second genre of Masonic music which is not so common any longer. This is music which has a Masonic subject, is mostly performed during Masonic occasions, but does not form part of the ritual. Further discussion of this topic requires a presentation in its own right.


If we have all these kinds of Masonic music, there must perforce be those who compose them. But which composers can be termed as Masonic Composers and which not. Why is Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart considered as a Masonic composer and Ludwig van Beethoven is not? Both of them have composed music for Masonic occasions and with Masonic connotations. If one were to examine the case of these two music giants, one would easily come to the proper definition of Masonic Composer. Although Beethoven wrote Masonic music and there exist indications that he might have been a Freemason, there has not been found, till now at least, documented proof that he was such, though as is said in archaeology, absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. The same cannot be said of Mozart. He is known as Brother Mozart, like Bro. Sibelius and others. These are known as Masonic composers because they both wrote Masonic Music and they were also Brethren. That makes a Masonic composer. He must both write Masonic music and be a Mason himself.

A little parenthesis has to be made. Most of those composers, who wrote music for Masonic occasions, later published this music with a religious text under the genre of Sacred Music. One such famous example is Bro. Mozart’s own Ave Verum which was originally a Masonic Ode.  The topic of Masonic Music too is worthy of a full-scale presentation in its own right. Consequently it is right and proper that Brother Mozart be brought in the limelight. 


Politics and Masonry in Mozart’s Austria


In 1784 the Grand Lodge of Austria consisted of sixty six lodges. Eight of these were in Vienna. This Grand Lodge had been constituted thanks to the efforts of none other than the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Breslau, Count Schaffgotsh. This was in spite of the fact that the Church of Rome through Pope Clement XII had condemned the order in 1738. The facts as they stood were that the rulers of several Catholic Countries refused to promulgate the edict pronouncing these condemnations. The reasons were various.


Foremost amongst them is the fact that persons who held the highest posts in these lands, like the rulers and crown princes among others, belonged to the Craft. These persons in high places thought it would be better if they themselves joined the Craft and kept it legal. In so doing they would be in a better position to keep tags on the members. It is worth considering that Masonry was an offspring of the Enlightenment and its ideologies, among them Fraternity, Equality and Freedom, and of course in the beginning, constitutional monarchy. Regicide was still very far off. In Austria itself, Empress Maria Theresa, instigated by her confessors, was very hostile to the Craft, but although she was most influential in the political set-up of Austria, she was never influential enough to have either her husband or, later on, her son promulgate the condemnations of the church. The best that she could achieve at the time was to limit the number of lodges in the year 1781. An anecdote quoted by Newcomb Condee 33 deg from the Hiram Oasis Lodge of Minnesota runs so: The Empress Maria Theresa had been one who was opposed to Masonry and, in 1743, had ordered a Viennese Lodge raided, forcing its Master and her husband, Francis I, to make his escape by a secret staircase.


 One other factor that has to be considered is the fact that several orders had come into existence during the 18th century as a result of the Enlightenment. Among these one has to list: Freemasonry, Strict Observance Freemasonry, the Illuminati and the Rosicrucians. Other orders were constituted by self-styled reformers, like Cagliostro, who sought to Egyptianise Freemasonry, thus throwing the origins further back in time, like the Rite of Memphis and the Rite of Misraim. Misraim is the Classical Hebrew name for Egypt. These two rites were combined some decades ago under the name of The Rite of Memphis and Misraim, precisely in 1959. 


This author would like to observe that if one had to trace the oldest operative origins on which free and accepted or speculative Masonic symbolism can be based, then, one has to visit the six-thousand-year-old temples at Tarxien, Malta. There, the symbolism and the parallelisms are unmistakeable for the initiated. The air itself is heavily loaded with Masonic symbology.[1]


At this point one has to comment further about the situation that Masonry had found itself in, in Mozart’s time, by quoting from the notes posted on a CD insert by the by Telarc International Corporation.


Masonry's insistence on shrouding its inner workings in secrecy worked against it, for the code of silence allowed treasonous sects to flourish within the Craft and at the same time caused government officials to imagine Masonic excesses much greater that those that actually occurred. In the end, the emperor felt he had no choice except to ban Masonry outright.

Probably the most virulently anti-monarchic sect of Masonry was the Illuminati, founded in Bavaria by Adam Weishaupt, a university professor, in 1776. Weishaupt joined the Masons the following year and soon allied the Illuminati with them. The sect's original aim was to fight evil and defend good causes, but this was soon expanded with anti-clerical and anti-royalist sentiments. The Illuminati operated for only a decade and probably never had more than 2000 members, but they panicked the royalty, who became suspicious of all Masonry.

The crowned heads had good reason to connect Masonic Lodges with revolutionary activities. Many of the leaders of the American colonies' revolt against their British king in 1776 were Masons, including George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, and Thomas Jefferson. In France Masons were behind the push for republican government that led to the French Revolution (which, incidently, went much further than those high-minded aristocrats had foreseen and claimed most of them among its victims). The Austrian emperor heard first-hand reports of the uproar in Paris from his sister, the French Queen Marie-Antoinette.

Austrian attempts to control the Masons included Joseph II's decree of 1781, forbidding any order to submit to foreign authority. This led to severing Masonic ties with the Grand Lodge of Britain and setting up Austria's own governing body, the Grosse Landesloge von Osterreich. In 1785 another imperial edict centralized the country's lodges and limited their autonomy. The proliferation of local lodges was reduced (only three remained in Vienna), and the members of each were limited to 180. Regular reports of lodge meetings and attendance had to be submitted to the Emperor's police.

In 1790 Joseph II died and was succeeded by his brother, Leopold II. With the French Revolution in full cry, the Austrian government was becoming exceedingly alarmed about treasonous sentiments in the land and especially in the Masonic orders. That same year a lodge of Illuminati was uncovered in Prague, and names of high officials were increasingly mentioned in secret police reports to the emperor. As Landon points out, Austria was fast becoming a police state.



Mozart and Freemasons


Coming finally to Bro. Mozart, well, he lived in this milieu of events. This author considers that it is futile to provide here the biography of Bro Mozart as there does exist a whole multitude of such works. Some aspects of his life though have to be highlighted. These are in regard to Bro Mozart’s life as a Freemason. He was involved with masonry since his earliest years. Suffice it to say that his second opera, Bastien und Bastienne which is based on Rousseau’s work Le Devin du Village of 1752, was commissioned by and performed in the gardens of the Viennese villa of Dr Anton Mesmer the inventor of mesmerism or hypnotism in 1768. Dr Mesmer was a prominent Freemason.


B. Mozart was involved with prominent masons since earlier in life, but his real involvement with the craft started when he was sixteen when he composed two Masonic works: The first, a Masonic song called ‘O Holy Band’, the second two choruses for a play called ‘Thamos’ by Tobias Philip Gebler, another prominent Brother. He had many sponsors and friends who were masons, but the culmination of these relations arrived when he was initiated in the ‘Beneficence’ Lodge in Vienna on the 14th December 1784. He was 28 years old. Less than a month later, on the 7th January 1785, he was passed to the Fellow-Craft degree in another lodge: the ‘True Concord Lodge’ and a fortnight later he was raised as a Master in this same lodge.


After this, besides composing other Masonic works, he also instigated friends, musician friends to join the craft. This also shows that he was very active as a mason. One of these was his own father, who was initiated in the Beneficence Lodge in April and Franz Joseph Hayden in the True Concord Lodge earlier, in February. A full chronology of B. Mozart’s Masonic activities and compositions was compiled by Philippe A. Autexier and may be found in the book ‘A Mozart Compendium’ edited by H. C. Robbins Landon.


B. Mozart also tried to be an innovator and this in a time of nearing crisis for Masonry. He had started to advocate the admission of women in Masonry and this is reflected in his opera the Magic Flute in which both the hero and the heroine are initiated together, even though B. Mozart was only responsible for the music and not for the libretto.


Myths and Legends


Mention has to be now made of the death of Brother Mozart for two reasons. The cause of his death will be discussed first, and the implications of freemasons with his demise. John Stone writing in ‘The Mozart Compendium’ lists eleven serious illnesses which wracked our brother’s short life. The first, in 1762, was scarlet fever. Bro Mozart was only four. The following year he suffered two infantile bouts of rheumatic fever. He had whooping cough, when he nearly suffocated, typhoid, smallpox, hepatitis, and several bouts of rheumatic fever, among other illnesses. It would seem that the illness which brought his life to an end, started towards the end of August 1791. It was probably enhanced by nervous exhaustion. He confessed to his wife that he feared that he had been poisoned. He suffered from pain in his loins and felt languor spreading gradually all over him. This pain and languor had been affecting him since May or June. On the 20th November, he got bed-ridden. His fatal illness was diagnosed, and so certified on his death certificate, as miliary fever. This disease, also known as the sweating sickness, is characterised by profuse swelling from renal failure and by a high mortality rate. He suffered from severe swelling and his sister in law Sophie Haibel made him a nightshirt which could be put on from the front because he could not turn over. This Sophie Haibel plays an important part in Mozart’s demise as will be seen, and not only because he expired in her arms at one o’clock in the morning while she dampened his forehead with water and vinegar. Other possible diseases have been diagnosed from the recorded symptoms, like the Henoch-Schoenlein syndrome and rheumatic fever. What is also a fact is that at the time there was an epidemic of cholera in Vienna.


When one considers the number of illnesses that could fit the symptoms B. Mozart had, one has no other option but to sideline and dismiss as a myth the rumour that Bro. Mozart had been poisoned, either by Salieri or by Freemasons. It is only natural for one who suffers from pain in one’s bowels to compare the situation to poisoning. It is natural for Mozart to think that he had been poisoned and express what he was thinking. This expression of thought gave rise to the myth that B. Mozart was poisoned, first by Salieri, and then, in another version, by Masons. The earliest source of this latter fiction dates from 1928. It originated in Munich and was republished with greater vehemence in 1936. It was an article written by Matilde Ludendorff under the title Mozarts Leben und gewaltsamer Tod. The work asserts that Mozart, like Luther, Lessing, Schiller and many others, had been assassinated for having invaded den Tempel Salomos, das heisst die Judenherrschaft. The implication of Jews in Freemasonry and the assassination of such an assortment of German Giants make one wonder as to the credibility of such a thesis at such a time in Nazi Germany! However it was revived in 1959 by Kuess-Scheichelbaur.


 I quote ‘For two centuries there have been rumours and speculation that Mozart was murdered by the Masons for revealing their secrets, but this seems unlikely for several reasons. His collaborator and fellow Freemason, Schikaneder (who actually wrote the libretto and thus was the one responsible for any revelation of Masonic secrets if there was any), outlived B. Mozart by two decades. Mozart's close personal identification with Masonic tenets and his frequent contact with high-ranking leaders of the society are well-documented in his letters, and it is improbable that he would have defied the society's strictures, or that he would have been unaware of what he could use in a public work and what could not be revealed’, and I unquote. Actually, it was not Bro. Mozart who wrote the script for the opera ‘The Magic Flute’ but Schikaneder. He had been expelled from the craft because of the kind of life he led, bringing the Craft into disrepute. Why was this man not murdered by Masons? Why was it Mozart who got the dirty end of the stick?


For the initiated, it will become obvious that very few so called secrets, if any, have been revealed in the opera’s script. These are the recurrence of the number three (knocks, lights, etc.) and the imposed reticence and secrecy by means of the padlock on Papageno’s lips. In fact secrecy or the guarding of Masonic secrets is not only well-known to cowans to masonry and non-masons, but also it is the basic reason of attacks against masonry. Others also consider the main character Tamino’s fainting as reminiscent of the raising ceremony. Actually, the libretto culls heavily on the literary work ‘Sethos’ by Abbe Ferrasson which was much in vogue among even masons as it purported to be a historic treatise on the rites of Isis and Osiris, translated from an ancient Egyptian papyrus. It was proved to be a fake during the nineteenth century.


Coming back to Sophie Haibel’s part during B. Mozart’s last days, it has been recorded by Chailley that she had been chasing a number of Catholic parish priests to assist Mozart on his death-bed. The fact that she chased a number of them implies that many at least had refused. Otherwise why chase a number? We are never sure whether one of them recanted. What is sure is that B. Mozart’s ‘earthly remains were given the last rites in front of the Crucifix Chapel inside St Stephen’s Cathedral in Vienna at three o’clock in the afternoon, and were subsequently buried in an unmarked grave in a churchyard in a suburb of Vienna, St Marx Cemetery. And there was no stormy weather the night he died, either. Weather bulletins of the day recorded fine weather in Vienna (Chailley: 1971)! Propagated myth and produced legend were used to demonise Brother Mozart, implying that he passed away amidst thunder and lighting which were caused by the devils that had come to drag his soul to hell. It all fits.


But why was he buried so far from central Vienna? What comes to mind is the fact that in Catholic counties like Malta and Austria, Catholics who are excommunicated from the Roman Church cannot be buried in consecrated ground. In Malta’s main cemetery, The Maria Addolorata Cemetery, there exists a non-consecrated area were such persons and non-recanting persons used to be buried. This area was much in use during politico-religious war of the nineteen-sixties between Dom Mintoff’s Malta Labour Party and the Roman Catholic Church. (Incidentally, Mintoff himself was reputed to been initiated as a Mason within the Scottish Constitution while he was a Rhodes Scholar in the U.K. but this has not yet ever been confirmed!) Returning to the non-consecrated ground, it was the area where non-repenting (publicly to the satisfaction of the Church) supporters and members of the Malta Labour Party were buried in the sixties. In Maltese this area is known as ‘Il-Mizbla’, the rubbish dump. This implies that if one is cut off from her through excommunication or Interdict, the Church (which preaches charity, forgiveness and blah-blah-blah for the weak and sub-ordinate to observe) considers the dead bodies of these non-repentant as filth only fit for the rubbish dump. How this affects the dead person one cannot know, but it is a grave social blemish and dishonour to those that survive him, who, for all intents and purposes could well be good and practising Catholics themselves. As the Cardinal Archbishop of the Philippines observed, the Church must observe extreme care when dealing with such cases lest ‘innocent’ practising believers be hurt. One has also to mention that the Father of the Maltese Language, Mikiel Anton Vassalli, was buried at Ta’ Braxia Cemetery, an English Protestant cemetery outside Valletta, both because he had translated the Protestant Bible into the Maltese Language, and , unofficially, because he was reputed to be a mason. For there has not yet been found documented evidence. In regards to Bro Mozart’s burial in an unmarked (could it be unconsecrated?) grave away from prying eyes after having been blessed in a Catholic church, could have been a negotiated solution reached as a face-saver to all concerned.


His Brethren held a Lodge of Sorrows in his memory and the Oration was published.

[1] A paper in this regard, accompanied by photographic illustration in in preparation by this author.

Bibliography and references

AUTEXIER, P. A., Freemasonry in The Mozart Compendium (H. C. Robbins Landon ed.), London: Thames and Hudson, 1990


BLOM, ERIC, Mozart, in Grove’s Dictionary of Music and Musicians  (Blom, E., 5th ed. Vol. 5: 923-983), London: Macmillan, 1977


BLOM, ERIC (Ed.),  Mozart’s Letters, London: Penguin Books, 1956


CHAILLEY, JACQUES,  the Magic Flute, Masonic Opera, tr. Weinstock, Herbert, New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1971 (originally publish in French, 1968) 


CONDEE, NEWCOM, Bro Mozart and the Magic Flute. (Unpublished paper retrieved from the website of the Hiram’s Oasis Lodge


DENT, EDWARD J., Mozart’s Operas: A Critical Study, 2nd ed., London: OUP, 1960


MILNES, RODNEY,  ‘Singspiel’ and Symbolism’, in John, Nicholas, ed., The Magic Flute, London: John Calder, 1980 


ROBBINS LANDON, H.C., Mozart and the Masons, London: Thames & Hudson, 1982


ROBBINS LANDON, H.C., Mozart: The Golden Years, London: Thames & Hudson, 1989


ROBBINS LANDON, H.C.Mozart’s Last Year, London: Thames & Hudson, 1998


STONE, JOHN,  Mozart’s illnesses and death in The Mozart Compendium (H.C. Robbins Landon ed.), London: Thames and Hudson, 1990


STONE, JOHN,  Mozart’s Opinions and Outlook in The Mozart Compendium (H.C. Robbins Landon ed.), London: Thames and Hudson, 1990

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