A few years ago I entered a period
of retrospection about my life, which was also an effort at introspection, a
quest to get to know myself better, and an attempt to define the sources and
reasons for my countless mistakes. All of these attempts brought my self-esteem
to its lowest possible ebb.
I realised that all of my actions had been, in the main, the result of choices based on instinctive responses, or made at random.
- I realised that, having been influenced by incorrect role-models, I had dedicated nearly all of my energy to the pursuit of material bliss, and thus the neglect and atrophy of my spiritual world had become a clear and present danger.
- I realised that, contrary to what my overgrown ego permitted me to see, my life's journey up to that point had been rather meaningless.
- I realised, that apart from my time on earth –normal wear and tear in other words– I had nothing to show for my life, and I had not added a single grain of sand to this world.
If someone were to have asked me
how I would describe the spiritual makeup of any individual, I would have
replied that I see it as a vast, and very difficult puzzle, which is different
for each of us; a puzzle which we spend our lives trying to solve.
pieces are in the wrong places, some are missing, some are superfluous and some,
usually by sheer luck rather than by choice, are in their proper place.
true difficulty, however, lies in the fact that basically, we do not have an
image of the finished puzzle – the image we are trying to recreate – and so we
proceed by “whistling in the dark”.
harrowing results of this attempted experiment in self-awareness, led me to
realise that I immediately needed to begin reconstructing my own puzzle, a task
that at the time – and now even more so – seemed both difficult and arduous.
So, having first prepared “in my
heart”, then, “in free will and accord”, prompted by “a favourable opinion
preconceived of the institution”, “unbiased by the improper solicitations of
friends”, “uninfluenced by mercenary or other unworthy motives”, when “the sun
was at its meridian”, I knocked on the door of our Lodge, “humbly soliciting to
be admitted to the mysteries and privileges of Freemasonry”.
During the mystagogical rite of my
Initiation as an Entered Apprentice, the first of the three progressive stages
of the unipartite and indivisible Initiation into Freemasonry, the following
I experienced what was for me an
unprecedented combination of successive and contradictory emotions; hope, but
fear of the unknown, certainty, but also uncertainty, tension, but also
indifference, urgency, but also hesitation, loneliness, but also companionship.
I received a cascade of symbols and
allegories with multiple and complementary interpretations.
a revelatory experience, everything I saw, from the symbols I brought with me,
to the Lodge symbols and the Officers, and above all, everything I heard and
everything that occurred, led me to make connections and into frequently
conflicting trains of thought.
I began to realise that the initiatory process had activated internal spiritual
centres which had not just been inactive, but whose existence I had not even
been aware of. As
a neophyte, my place was in the North-Eastern part of the Lodge, the place where
darkness and light meet, and the place where the cornerstone of a building is
symbolically placed. I
was soon given the opportunity to perceive that I was not the symbolic
cornerstone of some vague and monumental Masonic construction, as I
presumptuously and conceitedly imagined, but that this specific building, of
which I was indeed the cornerstone, was within me.
the Lights that had been revealed to me as guides, I realised that I had to find
and uncover the hidden, internal Light, and not find a convenient external one
to light my way.
During my first steps in the
Fraternity, I was fortunate enough to find “true and faithful” Brethren by my
side, and so I was able, on the one hand, to perceive the difference between
Freemasonry as a system, an “organisation” with administrative and managerial
functions, regulations, commitments, history and traditions, which is often
charged with attributes it never had, and on the other hand, Freemasonry as the
Royal Art, which each of us apprehends in different and unique ways.
the architectural symbolism that is familiar to us all, personally I conceive of
the Fraternity as a building crew on a construction site (i.e. Freemasonry), and
Freemasonry itself as the task of each workman.
building site is governed by strict rules, comprises a hierarchy and an
Within the framework defined
for the building site and the application of the general rules, each worker has
his own, unique way of working.
construction crew has workers working simultaneously, on the same object, in the
same space, with the same tools and the same general purpose, but in different
ways and with different personal goals, since they have different motivations.
common ground in their work is the integrity, as far as possible, of the
completed work on which they are toiling, so that each of them may receive “his
personal goal for each individual is different and unique – and it may be that
the differences lie in the “why” that led each of us to decide to knock on the
door of the Lodge, but it may also be that they stem from the way in which each
of us visualizes his own puzzle.
our first days in Lodge, among many other things, all of us were taught the
following, both experientially and by osmosis, even if we don't always manage to
to be silent if we have nothing to
to see and not to look
to control our impulsiveness
to respect different opinions
not to be afraid to reconsider our
how were we taught all these things?
is not a school; beyond the Ancient Landmarks, the Constitutions, the Internal
Regulations of each Lodge and the Ritual used for Masonic Work, beyond the
framework and the basic principles that cover its functions and organisation, it
does not have positions, it does not offer knowledge, answers, nor any
teachings, and since it rejects personal authority within the system, no answer
– no matter who expresses it – is considered de facto correct.
and large, Freemasonry raises questions and challenges each individual to find
his own, personal answers.
As we have all heard the
Worshipful Master advise us during our Initiation, though we are called upon to
regulate our actions according to the Square, we are also exhorted to “study the
liberal arts and sciences that may lie within the compass of our attainment”.
his book, The Great Initiates, Eduard Schuré points out that “Truth is not
either discover it within you, or you never discover it.
can make you an Adept. You must become one by yourself”.
fact, according to my present perception of Freemasonry, it seems that not only
does it not offer knowledge or answers, but as individuals, as units, we don't
receive anything from the system, we only deposit into it.
deposit time, ideas, spiritual work, money, emotions, physical and spiritual
we receive anything from Freemasonry, we receive it as members of the
indivisible Fraternity, and not as individuals, and from there, in our
individual capacity, we select what we want to utilize.
our Initiation and in our capacity as Freemasons – a capacity which will be with
us for the rest of our lives, even if some of us choose to distance ourselves
for whatever reason – we become inextricable parts of an indivisible whole, the
Masonic Fraternity, without ever losing our individuality because of it.
though it sounds like an oxymoron, particularly to people outside the system,
Masonic work is a purely individual, solitary pursuit which is, however, carried
out collectively and in a collective environment.
the Fraternity, although nobody has the right to even attempt to impose his
opinion or position on another, everybody is obliged – not to the system but to
the Brethren as a whole and each Brother separately – to express that opinion,
and everybody, both collectively and individually, is obliged to listen to it,
to respect it, and to assess it.
my own Freemasonry, there are no good or bad Freemasons; there are only more or
less – or sometimes not at all – sincere ones.
as Oscar Wilde wrote in the Portrait of Dorian Grey: “The value of an idea has
nothing whatever to do with the sincerity of the man who expresses it”.
From the first days following my
Initiation, I observed that once the door of our Lodge shut behind me, I would
be overwhelmed by a new mix of emotions. I was in a different environment, a
peaceful one, filled with good manners, dignity, morality and love, one which
was entirely the opposite of the environment in which I was accustomed to living
and working. I
now consider that one of the greatest dangers of anybody's Masonic journey lurks
in precisely this realization.
now believe that I was in error, but at the time I believed that that was what
Freemasonry was about, and that was its charm.
that, as I realised with the passage of time, was only the charm of the
ceremonial part of Freemasonry, of its first, external layer.
I understand it now has more layers.
external one, which includes the symbols, the allegories, and the rituals, is
visible to everyone, and in this time of information overload that we live in,
it is even visible to the uninitiated.
other, esoteric aspect is that which we see with the eyes of the soul and
spirit, when – and if – we are able to comprehend, consolidate, and eventually
penetrate the necessary and particularly significant outer layer, through
methodical and systematic work.
The old and most popular definition
of Freemasonry tells us that it is a “peculiar system of morality, veiled in
allegory, and illustrated by symbols”.
it would be rather pointless for Masonic work to be limited to a process of
decoding simple architectural symbols and the interpretation of allegories with
the ultimate goal of the experiential teaching of basic humanitarian concepts
such as morality, virtue or charity, concepts which more or less all religions
include in their teachings and which are also part of elementary school
education. Symbolism, in my own Freemasonry, functions in two stages.
first is limited to observation, spiritual processing, and decoding – a personal
second is a more substantial, but far more difficult process, as it means making
use of the symbolism. It
is movement from the idea, to action; a process which apart from spiritual work
requires desire, decisiveness, and above all, as we are told during our
Initiation: “perfect freedom of inclination”.
many of us – myself included – especially before our Initiation, the almost
obsessive severity regarding secrets – which are invisible to our eyes when “in
a state of darkness”, raised many queries.
attachment to tradition, the delineation of the space and the group of people
who shared them, even the idea that it was possibly an “exercise” in Pythagorean
silence and self-control were acceptable explanations, but certainly not
entirely satisfactory ones.
The price that the
Fraternity has paid and continues to pay for these secrets is disproportionately
satisfactory – for me – explanation appeared when I realised that beyond the
external aspect of Freemasonry, that of rituals, symbols, and regalia, there was
the esoteric aspect, that of the Great Work.
better than the well-known Pythagorean aphorism: “do not say all things to all
men”, the Biblical saying: “Give not that which is holy to the dogs, neither
cast you your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and
turn again and rend you”, in combination with the following saying from the same
chapter of the Gospel according to Matthew: “Ask and you shall receive, seek and
you shall find, knock and the door shall be answered” demonstrates the symbolism
of secrets and the necessity of guarding them strictly, and without exception.
Outlining the Great Work in
alchemical terms in my own Freemasonry, I would say that we are each working on
the transmutation of gross matter, of the soul, of the spirit, but also of the
mind as a “bridge” between spirit and body; transmutation into purified matter
through continuous internal work and perpetual spiritual ascent – according to
each individual interpretation – a task which is both arduous and
as Erasmus, the great Renaissance philosopher said: “nobody is born a Man, he
becomes a Man”. We
too, as spiritual Alchemists, seek the Philosophers' Stone, the catalyst for
transmutation, but, as in practical Alchemy, if we are to succeed then
systematic, methodical, particularly time-consuming work is needed, as is a deep
study of the materials and their composition, and finally, their harmonious
separation, systematic work on each part separately, and reunification.
the very characteristic symbolism of the Chequered Pavement, traditionally
during every meeting of our Lodge, at the moment when the three Lesser Lights
are lit and extinguished, respectively before and after our work is complete,
the Worshipful Master and his Wardens symbolically indicate to us how the
balance between logic and spirit, word and deed, the harmony between matter and
spirit are all essential to our work.
our meeting opens, we hear:
Wisdom guide us during the rebuilding of our Inner Temple”
it be made fast through Strength”
may it be decorated through Beauty”
respectively at the closing of the Lodge:
governs the worlds evermore”
holds the Heavens”
is inherent everywhere, visible and invisible”
My own Freemasonry is the way in
which I am trying to achieve, not only inner harmony, but also a harmonisation
with the timeless Universal Laws, those which Giordano Bruno called the “eternal
and immutable Laws of Nature”.
from Plato's Republic, written over
21 centuries before the appearance and systematisation of Speculative
Freemasonry, sums up the essential purpose of my own Freemasonry in a few words:
“in all respects be like a God among men”; not from a deist perspective, but
from a rather more mystical viewpoint: due to a conscious need for liberation –
and not a fleeting escape – from the walls of sensed reality, and thus due to a
need to lift the limitations imposed by these walls.
If we consider our roots, we will
note that manual labourers did not become true Masons when they picked up the
tools corresponding to their degree during their admission, but only when they
learned to use them. As
Accepted Masons, it is neither the initiation rituals, nor the symbols, nor the
interpretation of allegories, nor even learning our rituals by heart that makes
us “true and faithful”.
Those are simply our tools.
them, learning to use them correctly and apply them consciously are the actions
which, in time, and in combination with other essential virtues, may render us
privy to the “mysteries and privileges of Freemasonry”.
time ago, one of our Brethren said, with anguish: “Will I succeed?
is the most tormenting question, which I am afraid can only be answered at the
end of life”. I
agree with him, and I think it is
hard to disagree with such a statement, yet – in my own Freemasonry – I will add
to it the verses of the Alexandrian poet (C.P. Cavafy):
every stage bear Ithaca in mind.
arrival there is your appointed lot.
hurry not the voyage in the least:
if you travelled many years
reached your island home in your old age,
rich in riches gathered on the way,
not expecting more from Ithaca”.
Special thanks to Mrs. Sasha Chaitow, Academy Director of Phoenix Rising Academy of Esoteric Studies and Creative Arts, for the assistance in translation from Greek into English.