"The true soul of Freemasonry must be depicted not according to the men enrolled under its banner, but rather according to the Tradition it claims to hold62."
61 Stanislas de Guaita, most notably, in the Serpent of Genesis (t. II).
62 We borrow these masterly definitions from the book - no longer in print - of C. Chevillon: "The True Face of Freemasonry".
This Tradition has unfortunately been altered during the course of time, as is all work of human origin. This was almost inevitable, given the normal reactions of its constituent materials which are nothing more than wretched men.
"The principles of liberty, equality and brotherhood, that immutable Charter of individuals and nations, to which Masonry is attached even to death, has been too often ignored, even trampled on, by all governments and political parties. Personal interests and those of class or oligarchy, poisonous toadstools generated by ineradicable egoism, has too long been favored by the Authorities (and that happens everywhere, whatever the political system), to the detriment of the public interest. But true Masonry has always risen up against Injustice and Intolerance. It has ever sought, everywhere and forever, to restore the broken equilibrium."
But because its members were human, the means employed sometimes overstepped the limits of this Wisdom which it took as its guiding light. In order to fight against the material distress of the governed, against the misery of the humble, it necessarily descended onto the material plane, thus leaving behind the purely spiritual ambience of its high assemblies. And so it lost sight of its essentially spiritual role, and its office as mediator and leader. Victim of the impatience of Progress, it was sometimes taken over by the very people it had been trying to lead towards a legitimately improved state. And in certain cases, it even engaged in partisan activities.
No doubt. But this action was legitimate in essence, if not in its methods. The men in the body of Masonry who directed the fight, were mostly full of faith and goodwill. They had only a single objective, to restore integrity: the Good and the Better. For this goodwill, for this faith in a better future, for this hope for a greater love between men, one should absolve them, even if their work, when all is said and done, were reprehensible (and it was not. ..), Masonry remained innocent, for it never anticipates Error, but Truth.
Do the errors or defects of certain elements of the clergy remove from the Church, revered by so many Catholics, part of its moral authority, and do they distort the precious deposit that had been entrusted to it of old? Clearly not.
Despite the affirmations of its detractors, Masonry is not a vehicle for social demolition, a corrupt organism whose nefarious activities propagate the disease which it attracts. Any mason, and not only the lesser ones (for a cord or collar do not an Initiate or Adept make; but only his own interior work), can err. And the opposite would be astonishing. Many people may act with a view to more or less legitimate personal interests. It is not acceptable to cast aspersions upon the whole Order because of the existence of black sheep who sheltered in its Temples.
Above all other moral prerogatives, masonic ritual ensures that the Profane who knocks upon the door of the Temple, is "free, and of good morals".
From this preliminary freedom in which another replies on his behalf, to what is the neophyte indebted? What new moral viewpoint does it give him? What is this liberty?
Negative liberty consists of mastery of oneself, in the reabsorbtion of the shackles of materialism and passion which belong to slaves. There is also a period of active asceticism, itself generated by the positive aspect of this kind of liberty... This is the liberty of realization. This ultimate liberty is the true one from the masonic point of view: the liberty to bring about.
Through this theme which is developed in its three successive degrees, symbolic Masonry claims to make of a profane a "New Man". It gives him a second life; it makes him born anew. This birth to spiritual light consists of breaking open the mire of passion, of cracking open the intellectual chrysalis of prejudice and error, of which the soul of ordinary man is too often held prisoner, impeded in its momentum towards Truth by so many obscure and dubious matters.
The entry in the Temple, such as ritual provides, provokes a psychological shock, the shock of light, abruptly revealed by the sudden fall of the black blindfold. This is to awaken on a new plane. A new vision of beings and things.
Masonry, neutral from a religious point of view, does not want a common Morality based upon metaphysical fear, or upon reward or punishment after death. Masonry seeks essential Truth, Beauty in itself, the Supreme Good, without being concerned about the consequences generated by the egoism of race, nation, and individual (allowing for the progression necessary to the stability of the Cosmos). Thus it accepts compromises and crossroads, but those focused on the final Goal that it has in view, and never compromises or regressive paths. It is not in vain that its Symbolism attributes such importance to the East, where Light is born daily, and it is not without the most profound motives that this Light personifies the highest Good in its Temples. Masonry accepts the opinion of the present time, so far as it contains a spark of the truth, but combats error and ignorance. It accepts a lesser good in order to move towards a certain better future.
And because it considers that the essences of the Good, the True, and the Beautiful are attributes of an Absolute which is ultimately irreducible into a causal mode, since this religiosity carries within itself the highest form of religious spirit,
Masonry refuses to define and limit its understanding of the Beautiful, the True and the Good in dogmas and concrete formulae. For her, Beauty and Goodness are limitless in Time and Space, and no dogma can confine it. For as well as Light, its guide is also Hope...
And this justifies its apparent religious indifference.
Masonry does not only tend to create pure and strong personalities among its Adepts: it also wants to illuminate the masses as much as possible, having them understand what true justice, equity, law and duty are, and to confirm them in liberty through that true brotherhood, that "caritas generis humani", once evoked by Cicero and the Stoics.
This is why its teaching is also an apostolate, and in her Temples all converges towards action, without remaining in the domain of individual anagogical reverie.
Through speculative science, it leads to the science of realization and its dream of constructing the Temple of Humanity. And this is the reason one of its degrees takes for motto the theological triad: "Faith, Hope, and Charity".
But what that these three virtues, when considered from the purely masonic standpoint?
Just now we pronounced the word "illuminate". In common parlance this is synonymous with madness and idle fancy. But nevertheless, it also has another meaning! This is to clarify... The illuminated one must himself be a beacon.
This is why masonic Faith is not a narrow belief in which the ignorant bow before an indefinable dogma. Masonic Faith is the transfiguration of thought, the sublimation of understanding. This is not the heroic or lazy creed of the charcoal-burner of legend, this is the creed which is filled with the light of discursive and intuitive science, which declares: "I feel, I see, I know, and through that, I believe...".
Hope is not that blissful aspiration for a problematic and often undeserved aid; towards a free reward, inadequate for the effort put out to win it. It is the leaping of the whole being towards the summits of Beauty and Justice.
Charity is not the selfish love of Good, conceived as well-being which one wishes to enjoy. This is a selfless Love for a supreme Ideal of Goodness, of
Mercy, of general Peace and not for a single being, but rather for the Universality of Beings...
And these three virtues are one and the same thing, contemplated under three different aspects, in consequence of human triplicity.
It is Will, purified of all degenerate impurity, Reason, magnified and rendered subtle as the blade of a sword, and it is the Heart, enlarged for sacrifice by an illuminated Consciousness63...
The true work of the Freemason must therefore be totally selfless, and accomplished under the angle of Duty. The Freemason, in fact, does not claim personal rights of the free and upright man, except in order to accomplish this duty, for he knows well that these rights are relative and limited, but that his work is entire and without limit.
Also, the Freemason must consider himself as an apostle, a leader commissioned among the elite, for he must strive to become - and he must become - at the same time an initiate, an illuminated one, a man of heart, a man of science, and also a man of action.
Perhaps one may now realize, from the glimmers of these few clarifications on the true inner aspect of Freemasonry, that this vast association is fundamentally more than the banal self-help association, more than a brotherhood of tastes and opinions, and above all more than a shameful means to hoard sordid materialism?
It is possible that the Great Work it imposes must remove certain obstacles from its path, irreducibly fixed in permanent hostility. It is possible that such dogmatic intransigence will try to tear all means out of its hands. Impassive as the immanent Justice which it has commissioned, Universal Freemasonry must destroy these obstacles without hate and equally without weakness.
The superhuman magnitude of this task imposes on it a mask of frightening insensibility which has so often led to accusations against Masonry of preaching certain principles and employing others. But this terrible power which it has in itself, in the vertiginous height from which it emanates, in the nobility of the Principle which sustains it, means it can only to put it into action with discernment and equity.
63 The non-masonic reader will appreciate as he may this magnificent definition of true masonry from the profound thinker and committed Christian that was C. Chevillon.
The Egregore of all high human spirituality, the Collective of that which all Humanity considers most noble, most pure and most selfless in its natural aspirations, Freemasonry must watch out that no foreign disease manages to disturb its own eurythmy. As an inevitable consequence, it cannot then open its Temples to any desire or ambition, and welcome in any type of person. Comprising the Elite of the elite, an athanor in perpetual motion, Freemasonry must ever put into practice its old motto "Ordo Ab Chao" in the very heart of its Workplaces, its Chapters, and its Assemblies. That is to say that goodwill from the profane alone does not suffice to justify and motivate opening its Temples. Just the opposite. It must demand more than it is in a position to give. This done, Freemasonry will show itself worthy of the confidence it formerly enjoyed from the Illumined Ones who presided at its origin; it will be thus in possession of all the means needed to realize this ideal of Justice, Happiness and Fraternity, to which, for almost two centuries, it has invited Men.
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