In the Light of a Theory and History of Freemasory

Luz do Oriente has the privilege to count from now in this site with the collaboration of famous masonic Portuguese author that likes to sign as Eques Peregrinus and is a good friend of us and a dedicated Brother. This is part of a text previously published in the "Aprendiz" the revue of the Grand Legal Lodge of Portugal. This is the first part of the article and debates the inclination one assist in modern society to turn everything alike: material and profane values and presumption and spiritual and even religious concerns. We are grateful to the author and hope that the English version of its former Portuguese texts pays honor to what he wanted to clarify. The second part will be published in a next week. .

In the Light of a Theory and History of Freemasonry

Eques Peregrinus

We were given the privilege to read in the “Apprentice”, the review of GLLP, recently, a transcription of a paper presented at the First Congress of Freemasonry in Portugal, entitled “In the light of a Theory and History of Freemasonry”. The author kept its anonymity, what is to applaud given the aloof implicit in a publication originated from the Freemasonry. Moreover, anonymity, herein dissolved in the brotherhood, as seems in this case, always reveals the modesty of the spirit of good serving and the dignity of those who give more value to ideas than to themselves. For our part we prefer to sign with a pseudonym acknowledged in certain Masonic circles which ensures, in closed circuit, our identification.

The author of the paper deserves our deep appreciation, the intellectual fraternal cordiality and the full respect for the opinions he expressed, given that they were obviously presented with honesty and conviction. But if it expressed an uncontrolled degree of contempt and conceit towards the most orthodox, occult or even delusional sectors that belong to our Craft, the arguments exposed would have other respectability.

But is not a little fault of broadmindedness that brings us here. The reasons for the reservations that go after are only justified in the expedient to restore some basic features of the Masonic reality that the above mentioned author ignores or repudiates. Two circumstances, absolutely equivalent each other, given the results they generate, conquer a decisive factor, as they favor a biased vision of our Order. If they were only lapses coming from individual idiosyncrasy the bad effects will be restricted to the author of the paper. However looking for an universalisation of these misconceptions, in the appearance of a recommendation to Freemasonry, globally, it gets additional seriousness.

In a transparent manner, the concepts used by our Brother falls within a reformer line that for a long time has trying to convert all the spiritual contents of pluralistic cultures into a “gnostic” materialism of a “revealed truth”, backed by a mixture of rationalism, in which the validity of beliefs is determined by the rational (XVI and XVII Centuries) or the Enlightenment - the clarity of reason that liberate men from the darkness (XVIII Century). Promoted by the mentality of the Reformation these ideas were the ideological foundation of the large changes happening during the last three centuries: in the religious domain, literalism and freewill within the umbrella of Protestantism; in the social domain, secular republic and democracy.

It is in consistency with this line that the author refers to and assumes Karl Popper, the philosopher who argued being victim of large (and unjustifiable) criticism because he kept in the twentieth century its militancy on rationalism and the Enlightenment heritage. If it is true that this school of thought is a strong subsidiary of the doctrines of the Speculative Freemasonry, asserting Freemasons as protagonists of the great reforms that happened in the past three centuries worldwide. Being the world situation in the 21st century completely different, the Enlightenment rationalism is no more in position to facilitate appropriate responses to the problems that surround us, nor the current Freemasons cannot in this ideological scaffold assume the protagonism they are expected to if other is to be the philosophical foundations that cheer them. The correct positioning of our Order towards the modern world (and the future, one) is still to be found, and without the alternative of an entirely “new” reality, the Order may be totally subverted: on one hand, by the sclerosis of the ideologies that create it; secondly, by the loss of the Initiatic identity that root it and proclaim its vitality.

But let us put aside these marginal questions and let us center our attention in the critical issues of the proposals contained in the so said communication, looking at them in full detail under a doctrinaire perspective, absolutely Masonic.

At a certain point, considering the external image of Freemasonry, our author argues “the necessity of a critical revision to make amputations in the body of our narrative and symbolic patrimony”. This is required in full extent because “being larger the interest of the profane world (to the issue of freemasonry), we have a larger increase of publish material on the subject (freemasonry) that turns obvious the idea of an institution vagary based in preconditions normally fantastic and unrealistic, part of an even bigger family of esoteric and folkloric-type organizations”.

Here we find a concern recurrent in the circles of Regular Freemasonry, usually from those recently arrived to the Craft and that hasn’t the required ritual or symbolic instruction, in order they may be in the position to understand themselves, after the Initiatic voyage they were conducted to; and lately to understand the inutility and the risk involved in a perfectionable vision of the Craft by the profane world. From an Initiatic perspective, the profane would never be in the position to understand what represents the Initiation and everything that surrounds it. For the most common vision about the subject even the idea of “initiation” is unreliable and suspicious, because in this process adult and, rational Men, with more or less social prestige, are enrolled. Freemasonry has only sense for Freemasons, and even among them more to some than others, being this outcome dependent on the particular definitions that every Mason asserts towards the Order that he is a member.

To reduce the mitic and symbolic repertoire, in order to be accepted (as normal or common) by the profane world it would have the only result to acknowledge defeat to the opponents of our Order. In today world an organization founded in secrecy in which the secrets implicated are not initiatic would be an association of criminals, executing under concealing what by its criminal nature would not be achieved in open air.

Freemasonry has no interest, whatsoever, in the profane related opinions; the ideal would be that the outer world ignores the existence of the Craft, as ignorance may be beneficial for both sides. Unless that by any promotional intent – of people or groups – there is a decision or inclination to amalgamate, in one singular identity, the profane and the Masonic life, we cannot guess by what cause the Craft, as its more qualified part, would deprive itself of its substance. A substance that is mystic, symbolic and initiatic in order that it can be accepted by its profane critics, as a lesser qualified part, in modern societies, deprived from any calculation of ethical behavior or concern.

Under another perspective, as a Freemasonry and initiatic organization, as the author seems to recognize, Freemasonry should have its own language and would favor the mystic, symbolic and ritualistic approach, the only available to express an initiatic sense that is not easily translated into words. The literalistic interpretations common to rationalism and the Enlightenment perspective would never be able, taking into account its internal and intellectual confines, to understand fully the non-literal meaning of the metaphysics language and to presume, as Mircea Eliade so clearly remarked, that myth and reality are but one thing. As they would never understand the mythic and symbolic language used by the Masonic Doctrine that is not acknowledgeable from a Critical Reasoning scrutiny because it would miss any comprehension at all.

The renowned literalistic belongs to the profane world and the renowned mythic and symbolic interpreter belongs to the initiatic world. It is in this second category that Freemasonry, by definition, is a relevant member.

We recognize the author addresses a distinction between delusional irrealism and folkloric esoterism without acknowledging that these concepts are open to every type of qualification and delimitation. On one side they can be resumed to one concept only as they have no intrinsic value whatsoever. They are emanations of the profane world, that is always open to reproduce, or even involuntarily, ridiculerize readings of what the profane world doesn’t know or understand, looking to present them as unreal, fantasiatic or folkloric. Issues that are related to the Absolute reality or to the highest categorization, as the essential aristocratic significance contrary to the common sense, that comes out from the etymology of the noun “folklore”.

There is an old tendency, probably motivated by the terror of the unknown, that leads people to despise, criticize or satirize what they aren’t able to understand, as defensive tactic. This attitude is absolutely opposed to the one embraced by philosophy, in the original sense of “love of knowledge” (philo+sophy) and not as an academic discipline. The character who loves knowledge will be devoted to what he doesn’t understand by instead of dominating the problematic issue by rejecting it, he otherwise study, reflect and infers till he reaches the underlining or hidden understanding, by that completely controlling the challenge.

(To be continued)