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UniversalFreemasonry: Esotericism of the 4 Journeys in the Masonic Initiation
FreemasonryEsonet Conference 2003: First Meeting

The “journey” is the metaphor of a way to the “search” for truth or sacredness. The “journey” is always accompanied by two other symbols: the first is the walk, path or way; the second is the traveller or pilgrim. The journey can be exoteric or esoteric and the difference between them is perfectly clear. In the exoteric journey the pilgrim physically moves from one place to another with the aim of seeing, touching or pounding tangibly the material representation of his own ideal. Whereas in the esoteric journey the traveller doesn’t physically move but pushes himself towards perfection or consecration. He remains in the same place because it’s not his body which needs to move but his conscience, his mind and his spirit. This is the meaning of the “initiatory journey” that, on the contrary of the profane journey, occurs completely inside the Noble Traveller.

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Esotericism of the 4 Journeys in the Masonic Initiation

by Athos A. Altomonte

© copyright by Esonet.it - Esonet.com


A great example of inner journey is the one described by Dante Alighieri. It's a journey he undertook in the search for Beatrice, his soul, and it occurs inside the mountain of mankind, therefore his own mountain as well, with the help of an expert Brother, represented by the wise Virgilio.

Unlike the pilgrim who moves on the "flat floor" of the Maze of physical life through his own choices, the Noble Traveller ascends in a spiral movement, towards his own inner "top", up to see the sky.

The inner sky is the "soul's heaven" and the meeting point with the divine inside everyone.

Heaven is another metaphor which describes a superior state of conscience (super-conscience) that the initiate can reach starting from a state of physical conscience to more and more subtle states. Only in this way, one can "fly so high" to reach the "heaven on earth".

Light rises from the east, Commentaries say: and towards east is where the Noble Traveller goes to the search for the initiatory Light.

The task of the researcher is to analyze myths and cults in order to discover the causes of psychodramas. The variety of psychodramas about the same event suggests to the researcher to move in a wide range through several interpretations, even if this means to be accused of syncretism. The best ground for credibility will be in the deep search, comparison and superimposition.

The analytical research is based on checks, analogies and correlations made in order to penetrate the appearances of concepts and events and reach the causes that originated them. Esotericism makes use of the analytical research in order to reach its own goals.

Precisely, in our case, if the neophyte is not allowed to penetrate the hidden meanings of the 4 Journeys of his initiation, then the psychodramatic representation would be meaningless. Therefore the initiatory Ceremony, deprived of its contents, would be a simple acceptance ceremony.

The project we are presenting is the "canvas" which will be extended and widened in the first Esonet Conference of this new cycle.

Have a good Journey - Athos A. Altomonte

* * *

The 4 symbolic Journeys

The symbolic Journey of the Apprentice starts in the Chamber of the Reflections* (similar to the preparation room), symbol of the earthly uterus or initiatory cave, then moves into the Room of Lost Steps (similar to the ante-room) where the neophyte "knocks at the Door of the Temple" asking to be admitted in order to face the "trials" which will be asked of him.


* Note: It must be remembered that there are quite a few differences between the ancient Mediterranean ceremonial tradition and the Anglo-Saxon one.


But the esoteric meaning of the 4 Journeys offers a deep vision of their symbolism. It is the allegory of the steps of human evolution, past, present and future, which progresses ruling the 4 elements forming its own nature.

The earth, which corresponds to the physical body and its impulses; the water which corresponds to the emotional reason; the air which corresponds to the higher mind; the fire which corresponds to the spiritual will.


The 1st Journey

The 1st Journey represents the childhood of Humanity.

It is the beginning of the evolutionary process which some traditions represent as a Maze where every choice seems to be a confused and mysterious way.

And the entrance to this maze is hidden by ignorance, fears and superstitions caused by the inner blindness of the individual.

It is the stage of recklessness where the reason without the Light is not able to discern and develop a clear intellectual identity.

It is the time of the mineral-Man, so called because his conscience is focused on the material substance of his own physical, chemical and organic body.

Darkness is given by the dullness of conscience which is typical of the Age of Iron.

Element: Earth

The physical form originates from the Mother matter which is called the Widow in the Masonic catechism, because it is deprived of the Light of the creative Action.

Mythology tells about the descent into the nether world. In other words it is the descent of the spirits into the matter (the fallen Angels) who originate material forms (Daughters of the Man): "Self-sacrifice" that is sacrificing the own spiritual self.

And this Self-sacrifice clarifies the initiatory meaning of the great Work for "the benefit of humanity". In fact, every member of mankind will regain conscience of his spiritual self and therefore will improve the "perception" of his own part of cosmic conscience, which will eventually emerge in his conscience, at the end of the inner process called initiatory path.

Therefore the Great Work marks the steps of the evolution of mankind, consecrating the Mater Matter and rejoining the Anima mundi (feminine energy) and the Spiritus volatilis (masculine energy).

The loss of the memory of the primitive conscience precedes the entrance in the earthly life. This is told in the metaphor of the river Lethe, whose water, once drunk, gives the forgetfulness which precedes the material rebirth.

At this point we could recall the ritual words which tell about going from labour to refreshment and from refreshment again to labour.

Spiritual alchemy: in the earth element starts the Putrefaction which originates the alchemic mutation which will transform Lead (physical mind) into Gold (spiritual mind).

Symbol: the esoteric meaning of the Plumb Line.

Level of mind: (mineralized conscience) enticements of lower nature originate from the individual unconscious and from the common unconscious (Satan). Separating subconscious from conscious and superconscious we can distinguish and mix together the different aspects, changing instincts and impulses in propulsive energy.

Psychological orientation: Meaning of V.I.T.R.I.O.L.: visit (visiting) interiora terrae (the inner earth, your self) rectificando (correcting it, educating it) invenies (you will find) occultum lapidem (the hidden stone, the philosopher's stone).

During the journeys, the Apprentice doesn't express yet the renunciation to the material prejudices, but states the resolution to this renunciation, through the promise of loyalty towards the principles which are the apex and Fundament of the initiatory Communion.

(Between East and West: the 7 Yoga. Seven philosophies linked to the activity and awakening of the seven nervous ganglia of man where the Caduceus of Hermes is the western symbolic representation. The "journey inside the earth" is related to the physical Yoga (Hata) to reach the domain of one's own physical counterpart.

Initiatory trial: to develop the reason and sensibly make the little choices which allow to overcome chaos and obstacles of the profane world.


2nd symbolic Journey

"...here, the purification of water brings back to the image of the initiatory baptism, which cleanses the postulant from the earthly turmoils..."

This journey represents the adolescence stage of man and humankind, based on the acknowledgment of himself as an individual entity. Therefore it is a stage of growth characterized by individualism, which puts him in the centre of a selfish and self-centred conscience. Through this conscience he draws up dreams on which he builds up his beliefs, directed by the instinctive conscience.

This is the conscience of the nonsense, because it is an unconscious conscience subdued by irrational instincts and passions.

This is the habitat of the Man-animal, a level of conscience which some esoterical groups called "astrality".

The individualization, in this rising stage, gives the individual the perception of himself as an entity separated from the rest of the human complex. And the separateness is for a long time the cause of the incommunicability which divides the members of the human communion.

But the individual is most of all separated from himself being separated from the centre of his own interiority. Because of the separation between sections of the same conscience, the physical reason is called a mind that lies*, even to itself. The perception of reality is twisted and therefore it appears imaginary and false, giving different, and sometimes opposite, expectations from individual to individual.


* Note: In Italian mente che mente, where the word ‘mente' means both ‘mind' and ‘lies'.


(The emotional mirage and the illusion are enlightened by what the esoterical tradition calls the Black light. This light is true but not true. This is the "light" of the profane world because it is the negation of objective reality. A "light" which arises from partial and subjective visions as an antithesis of the –light- which arises from the "sun" of the inner vision. It is said that the black light enlightens the world of shadows making it dark.)

Self-centeredness is a blind reason which originates ignorance and superstition. And these are characteristical aspects of the inhabitants of the earthly hell, "prisoners" of their own Mater matter.

Its Door is shut by illusions which become obsessions and greed for possession. The superior conscience, therefore, is closed to objective reality and remains suspended in a persistent hallucinatory state. A state of darkness which the Masonic initiation represents with the black blindfold put on the eyes of the neophyte.

Bronze Age: stage of disorganized emotional impulses.

Element: Water (the sea of illusions).

The theme of illusion can be further studied in the comments made on Maya (the illusion) in the eastern tradition.

Mythology: the Waters and their symbolic "entities". Rivers and lakes (sylphs), seas (undines), oceans (sirens). Esoterical meaning of the God Neptune.

Spiritual alchemy: the water with its vapour produces miasma and emotional clouds which cause "bewilderment" to the traveller; the dimming of the truth and the spiritual darkness.

Metal: Bronze (symbiosis between two different metals – emotional feelings).

Symbol: besides the blindfold on the eyes, a slip knot rope is placed around the neck of the neophyte, to represent the umbilical cord that still links him to the profane world, from which he will gain freedom through an initiatory re-birth, this time at the light of the inner sun.

(culture, that is Cult of Ur, the sun of the spiritual wisdom reflected in the Solar plexus, different from the exterior sun of the profane cults).

Level of mind: the conscience is moved by attraction and repulsion.

Attraction and repulsion rule the world of phenomena, its dynamics and expressions.

Psychological orientation: analysis of the so-called "sensual way".

The reason will necessarily be orientated towards the horizontal level of physicality, originating the two-dimensional thought that acknowledges the models of the world of Chaos.

The cults are still linked to the physical personalities of their creators that originate devotion far away from the intangible and universal Principle. From East to West the Divinity is still seen as an anthropomorphic triad.

(Between East and West: meanings of the Bhakti Yoga, philosophy of the devotion and of the Jnana Yoga, which is realized in pure knowledge.)

Initiatory trial: the bursting Power of the Silence and its alter ego the constructive Power of the Word.

The "sun that impresses" is the power of the initiatory oratory which must be distinguished from the art of telling tales (flatus vocis) of the discursive dialectic.

Silence and Word receive "power" from –mind- and –breathing-.

See Pranajama, the esoterical Yoga which deals with the power of the vital breath.


3rd symbolic Journey

"here, the neophyte is cleaned by the spiritual efflate whence reaching him will inspire all the actions to come..."

In the post-adolescent stage it is very important to "manage" the strength of sexuality (Eros) in order to transform it into energy of intelligence (Psyche, soul).

In an earlier stage sexuality was most of all sensuality projected in the desire for possession.

To possess meant the search for oneself through the keeping. Therefore keeping things, owning idols, models and values was a means to improve self-confidence which then built a scale of values for the comparison between oneself and others.

This explains how possession, comparison and antagonism are instruments to know oneself and to acquire a memory able to remember, recognize and distinguish the different experiences that make one able to judge and face major choices sensibly. Nevertheless, when there is a better awareness of oneself and oneself's actions the consequence of every mistake has stronger and more lasting effects than before.

From the "darkness" of a mind that lies we go then to the "half Light" of a vigilant and sharp mind (symbol of the Rooster).

This marks the appearance of the psychic-Man, who is the builder of ideas which are evolved through logic, ability to analyze, critic sense and intuition.

This "instruments", together with others, make him a Builder of ideas which are "bridges"; through them he reaches a better perception of himself, widening his own consciousness of being and gradually building new levels of mind, up to the point of elevating to the inner apex which some call Pure Reason.

In the meanings of the words pontifex and Ars Pontificia the profile of the Initiate appears. He is the Builder of those "mysterious" Bridges hidden in the allegory of a "royal Arch", which, in its turn, hides the sense of the Ars Regia.

On the whole it is the art of joining heaven and earth. The earth (physical conscience of the initiate) to the inner heaven of the spiritual world.

In order to carry out this subtle construction the help of a ritual method called invocation and evocation is necessary. The invocation comes from the will of the minor "simile", that is the physical personality: to which corresponds the evocation of the major "simile", which attracts the conscious personality towards the superior Ego or soul.

The invocation-evocation is the basis of theurgy.

Silver Age: boosts the conscious learning, going from the fortuitousness of free choice to the consciousness from which originates the Free Will.

Element: Air (free mind in a free soul).

Sophia and Isis, the conscience enlightened by the spirit of the solar groom (Osiris).

It represents the super-rational mind from which Pilo-Sophia and philosopho, fond of wisdom and truth, and the initiates Disus: gifted with scientific spirit.

Sophia is the celestial bride in antithesis to the widow Mater matter, who is the material bride of the celestial Pater.

The Pitis Sofia is mater of Mercy whose physical antinomy is the mater of Sorrows. While the celestial Pater is the Archetype One creator of humankind, whose monads are the "inner suns", that is the "Children of God" made on his own image and likeness.

Mythology: the Gods who live in Olympus, the celestial empyrean, are the anthropomorphic representation of natural energies.

The Olympic man is the demigod of the popular representations which is the initiate.

He is the man who puts himself in the axis that joins "heaven and earth" and becomes messenger of the Gods. Or in other religious metaphors becomes a messenger of God.

But in ancient traditions it is difficult to distinguish the initiate from the sleep-walkers who preached the will of God.

Spiritual alchemy: sublimation and regeneration.

Metal: Silver (the conscience that reflects the inner sun).

Symbol: the ascent represented in the Caduceus of Hermes.

Level of the mind: expansion of the mind towards the subtle levels of conscience. The interaction between Psyche and Soma brings to the meanings of the metamorphosis and to its correspondences with psychoanalysis.

(Note: the initiatory path is a field of attracting energy. Themes on the chemical-organic and psycho-emotional affinities which are the fundaments of attraction between similes. Analysis on the different kinds of attraction between animated beings and inborn elements. The physical, intellectual and spiritual magnetism originates different kinds of charisma made by different features.)

Psychological orientation: the harmony of the initiate soothes the phenomenal conflicts brought by chaos. This characteristic is hidden in the motto of the 33rd degree: Ordo ab Chao.

Harmony is intended as a search for Beauty in the thought; as art, science and ethic whose synthesis is the aesthetic of thought and word.

(The laws on Harmony: from Pythagoras to Hans Kaiser and to the Geometry of Fuller's thought.)

(Between East and West: the Raja Yoga, the Royal Art: the Power of the Snake.)

Initiatory trial: consists of the emotional stabilization. To the inner calmness corresponds the calmness of mind, the calmness of word and the peacefulness of action.

To reach this stabilization it is necessary to balance the egoical barycentre which rules the relationships between Ego and physical conscience.

The Rule of the Pendulum or of the Rhythm credited to Ermete Trismegisto, illustrates the conditions of a swinging and irregular conscience, moving between two opposite poles which either enhance it or bring it down.

The contraposition is represented in the black and white of the mosaic of the Masonic Floor, which reminds also of the mosaic law.


4th simbolic journey

"...here, the neophyte is purified by the spiritual fire which enlightens him in the search for the inner maturity..."

The initiate enters the stage of mastery symbolically called middle Chamber.

The Noble Pilgrim "travels" towards East in the search for the spiritual re-orientation.

This search for wisdom is represented in the Pilgrim of the IX Lama of the Tarots.

To travel means to engage in the "initiatory path" to reach the Full light of mind, enlightened by the highest possible degree of conscience in the material environment.

From this presupposition we can withdraw the meaning of "the one who enters the Light" and of the initiate who "becomes a Light in the Order".

Golden Age: the spiritual-Man who "sleeps" deep inside every human being is revealed.

Element: Fire (the soul and spiritual mind).

Mythology: Egyptians put in the centre of heaven the God Osiris to represent the divine spirit that enlightens the Initiate, because he is the archetype of the solar conscience of every member of mankind.

Spiritual alchemy: combustion and regeneration, the Theurgy "breaks the veil of the sacred".

Metal: Gold. Re-proposes the myth of Horus, that is, love for the spiritual knowledge.

Distinction between Cult-ure, the cult of the inner sun, and Nat-ure, nativity from the exterior sun; from this the different concepts of initiatory knowledge and natural learning.

Symbol: the eye inscribed in the Delta which in the Masonry is placed on the throne of the Worshipful Master; it is the representation of the all-seeing Triad that guides the initiate inside the heart conscience, expressing the principle love.

Level of mind: the level of causes and Archetypes.

Psychological orientation: orientation on the vertical axis (the axis of the world) which brings to the subtle vision of the spiritual conscience.

The inner heaven is symbolized by the Domes in the sacred architecture, and in exoterical terms, in the Star Ceiling of the Masonic Temple.

(Between East and West: the inner revelation, gnosis and illumination in the postulates of the Agni Yoga: the philosophy of the unification with the cosmic Fire.)

Initiatory trial: Accomplishment of the royal initiation. Last stage of the metallic transmutation, the metamorphosis, which "changes" the lead of physicality, into the gold of the golden and subtle conscience.

The act of transmutational will is the real power of the Initiate.


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