In the primitive Freemasonry, the
initiation of the Freemasons was based on several characteristics,
such as ability for physical and manual work and attitude to
professional abilities. These were necessary features for quality
Later on, when speculative Freemasonry started, other virtues were expected, ethical and typically
intellectual virtues. Therefore the operative dogmas were not the
main ones and they slowly lost their meaning.
In the speculative Freemasonry we find
traditions of an ancient past, enriched with the teachings of the Schools of the Mysteries, particularly the initiatory
schools of the Mediterranean area. When the subtle traditions
entered speculative Freemasonry, it absorbed those initiatory
principles that reflected the inner and spiritual evolution, such
as Gnostic principles.
The speculative Corpus Massonicum’s competence mainly regarded Ars Muratoria with its symbology
of masonry tools; with the advent of past traditions it widened its
horizon up to erect a ritual Pyramid including Ars Regia and Ars Pontificia. It traced a complex initiatory path that
corresponded to the characteristics of the different
qualities of man: physical, mental and spiritual conscience.
The wish to undergo an initiatory process
implies an instinctive wish for personal evolution; this choice is
affected by the attention of the postulant for characteristics of
physical or mental or spiritual conscience. This aspect also
affects most of the choices about culture, education and
In the modern Era higher initiations can be
reached independently from the social class and the nature of
one’s own identity.
Reaching this target only depends on the mental
ability of the postulant and on its wish to assimilate the
standards of the highest initiations. We can start from
those initiations deriving from the hermetic and architectonic
symbols, where geometry of spaces generates numbers and sounds. To
these initiations are linked the scientific-intellectual
initiations which go up to the mysteriosophical initiations of
Ars Regia (power of the mind); at its top we find the spiritual
initiation or Ars Pontificia which completes the initiatory Work.
The Masonic ritual Pyramid is based on the
operative qualifications of the Freemasonry. We find it in
the most ancient documents such as the Bologna Bylaws, the
Regius Poem and the Cooke Manuscript.
According to the rules of the Bologna Bylaws no
master mason could accept an apprentice younger than twelve,
because only at this age he would have had the psycho-physical
characteristics that were necessary to his professional education.
The apprenticeship "contract" had to last at least 4 years but he
had to have two years of apprenticeship before being "accepted" as
an effective member of the Congregation of Free and Accepted
In the Regius Poem the importance of being a
legitimate-born child is underlined. This originates from the fact
that social classes were determined by hereditary birth; all the
births out of the institutional schemes were thought to contribute
to the confusion in the social order.
To be accepted in the workmen Guilds it was
necessary not to have any physical deformity. The reason was in the
hard requirements of manual work and it’s not related to the
use of masculine or feminine energies, as it happens in eastern
traditions, such as tantric initiations.
The acceptance was preceded by an initiatory
ceremony. This wasn’t necessary for the children of the master masons because the paternal initiation was enough;
his father-master could pass down the initiatory link with the
masons Congregation. This link was considered to be partial for
apprentices’ and fellow crafts’ children, because their
fathers were not yet perfect initiatory conduits. For this reason fellow crafts and entered apprentices were not
allowed to convey operative initiations.
The apprentice was instructed only if he
guaranteed to work for a few years with a master mason (joiner,
blacksmith, foundry man, carpenter, builder or any other). On the
contrary, if he was only available for temporary employment or if
he showed to have other plans for his future, it was considered
pointless to initiate him to a Guild of trade and to reveal to him
the secrets of the professional art.
In the same way it was considered pointless to
initiate to the art of the trade the occasional postulant.
He couldn’t complete the education with his own master
craftsman, unless there was, in the place where he
permanently lived, another master of well-known ability who could
take care of him. This was necessary to guarantee the operative
integrity of the craftsman’s Guilds.
The apprentice couldn’t be a slave
because, as it’s written in the Regius Poem: "…the lord
who owns the slave can claim him back at any time…"
A slave was whoever had to obey someone
else’s will and had a job for which he could be ordered
anywhere or requested at anytime. If a slave was participating in a
master’s work, his unavailability would disturb the activity
of his fellow crafts in the Lodge. On the other hand a modest
worker could be initiated because once finished his job he was free
from obligations and commitments and he could dedicate himself to
study the "secrets of the art".
We must add that convicts were considered in the
same way as slaves, because they didn’t have their freedom.
The Bologna Bylaw also says that a master’s wife
couldn’t be a slave. It wasn’t for social reasons but
because wives and children of a master mason were part of the Lodge
and therefore of the Congregation by right.
Recently many scholars have stated that the only
initiatory form in the Western World is the Masonic one. This may
sound a bit overstated but in the Masonic symbology we find many
elements of the Ancient Mysteries which have been hidden in the
esoterical and ceremonial rituals, both individual and
Among these the strength of the Chorda
Fratres (the universal initiatory Chain) stands out; we find it
even in the first degrees of the initiatory Pyramid.
The initiations of the Blue Masonry
(1st, 2nd and 3rd degree) are not
transmitted by only one master, but a ritual Triangle of
three Masters is needed: the worshipful Master, the M. Senior
Warden and the M. Junior Warden; to the ritual Triangle is added
the (energetic) "help" of all the components of the Lodge, of any
degree or type.
Nowadays the initiation to the degree of Master Freemason is not operative anymore, but only
speculative; in particular, the foundation of the initiation to the
3rd degree consists of the myth of Hiram and of
the Lost Word.
It is told that the "Master Hiram" (icon of the
initiatory spirit) was faced by "Three Ruffians (three Bad
Fellow crafts)" which expected to be told by him the Pass
Word to the master degree, without having merit or title to
When he refused the three ruffians slew the
Master Hiram hitting him on the head (centre of
intelligence), in the throat (centre of
creativity)and in the chest (centre of altruistic
love). Even if the murderers were punished the Word was lost for
The legend is the metaphor of the dangers risked
by the initiatory Institution and its Adepts (see the Heavenly
Jerusalem) because of the anti-initiatory impulses (vanity,
ignorance, social climbing) that spread between the minor initiates
(the Fellow crafts).
The tension of the initiation to the
3rd degree, of master mason, is released by the mystical re-birth of the inner Master, following the
ancient principle for which the lost Word (inner voice) re-arises in the initiate. In other words: when the
Disciple is ready the Master appears.
This is the memory left from the representation
held in the ceremony of elevation of the master mason; it is the
memory that the initiation to aim for is the one of one’s own inner resurrection. This brings us back, even if in an
exoterical way, to the diffused religiosity that pervades every
The religious attitude in the masonry
Congregations was identified with a Christian theism. In fact, we
read in the Constitutions of the Free Masons of 1723: "Regarding
God and religion: Due to his condition, a mason must obey the
moral law; and if he intends properly the Art he will never be a
stupid atheist or an irreligious libertine."
Masonry requires that the mason is a "free and
moral Man"; therefore it doesn’t say he should follow any
particular religion but that he should follow his own religious
sense, according to the principles of the free conviction. There will be the highest tolerance towards the Brothers who have
different convictions. In order to be wise and tolerant towards the
differences in views, Masonic rituals say that in the Lodge
"political and religious matters" can’t be discussed.
In this way, the Freemasonry becomes the Focal Centre and the
conciliating instrument for honest friendship, even between
culturally different people.
It’s a shame that it is still linked to
models of disjunctive religiosity which is exoterical and popular;
nothing to do with the model of universal Religion.
Atheism is again another matter; it denies any
form of existence before and after the physical birth. It
doesn’t make any sense to initiate atheists to Gnostic or
spiritual principles. It is better for them to dedicate to
practical ideals of sociality and justice where they will be able
to express their "good intentions" in helping to resolve the
cultural and social contradictions of the collectivity (see Common
Speculative masonry originated by the habit of
accepting and initiating who, belonging to intellectual and
wealthier classes, didn’t have any manual art or craft.
This habit is justified in the general
principles for which an operative initiation was accessible to the
members of higher classes, as long as they possessed the necessary
moral qualities and were available to accept its symbolic-operative
Note how in the manuscripts, the belonging to
the male sex wasn’t considered essential to the entry
into the arts and crafts Congregations. In the Regius Poem we find
statements referred to both brothers and sisters:
"…This great clerk's name was Euclid, His
name it spread full wonder wide. Yet this great clerk ordained he
to him that was higher in this degree, that he should teach the
simplest of wit in that honest craft to be perfect; and so each one
shall teach the other, and love together as sister and
"Tenth article: Among the craft, to high and
low, there shall no master supplant another, but be together as
sister and brother, in this curious craft, all and some, that
belongeth to a master mason."
"Ninth point: …that he be steward of our
hall, if that you be in chamber together, each one serve other with
mild cheer; gentle fellows, you must it know, for to be stewards
all in turn, week after week without doubt, stewards to be so all
in turn about, amiably to serve each one other, as though they were
sister and brother."
In the history of the craftsmen’s Guilds
we find many traces of the admission of women with the same rights
and duties. In France in the "Livre des Métiers"
(Book of trades) by Etienne Boileau (1268), is described the entry
of women in the craftsmen’s Guilds and their elevation to the
degree of Master, even in typically male spheres.
The Statutes of the Guild of Carpenters of
Norwich (1375) are addressed to "the Brothers and
The traditional female admission continues up
until the appearance of speculative Masonry. The Statute of the
Lodge of York (1693) says that: "He or Shee that is to be
made Mason shall lay their hands thereon (the Bible or the Book
of Constitutions), and the charge shall be given." The
acceptance of female members can therefore be considered as a
common practice in the Freemasonry.
Women in speculative Masonry didn’t
take part directly to the building works and they were recognized
in the same way of the "accepted" male members. The matter of their
"acceptance", though, is controversial and still arouses
The problem could be actually faced by examining
which aspects go into the initiatory process.
1) Initiatory rituals are linked to the
subtle structure of man. The so-called occult structure of Man
is the energetic one, made of masculine-feminine vitality. In other
words made of ethereal, emotional or astral, mental (from the level
of practical thought to the level of permanent intuitiveness) and
spiritual (Pure Reason) energy.
The vital multiplicity of humankind is also
found in the two Columns of the Masonic Temple. The two exoterical
Columns called J ad B, which take shape from the Sephirothic Tree,
represent the binomial of masculine-feminine, that is positive-negative that characterizes the energetic
(subtle) structure of Man and Woman.
In this binomial we can translate the
extroverted pole called masculine into Will and
Power, and the introverted pole called feminine into Love and Wisdom.
The apparent conflict of this binomial is
resolved in the third Column, the invisible one, which runs across
the longitudinal axis of the Temple and represents the activity in
the energetic plexuses running along the vertebral column of the
human being (see Caduceus of Hermes).
Following this ancient postulate it is desirable
that both these energetic polarities (plus and minus) are used to
initiate Men and Women. It should emphasize the intellectual
comprehension (love) aspect in the Man and
the complementary aspect that is the mental
will in the Woman. They will need, then, to be re-united
and made complementary by the individual work of each of them.
2) Initiatory rituals are linked to the
masculine polarity. In this case a few tricks will make them
suitable to feminine polarity. Little changes, then, allow to
initiate the Woman as well to the mysteriosophical stream,
separating from the path of the "destructive power"
which is typical of the inferior masculine
On the other hand the contrary is true as well.
Mystical rituals are based on the feminine aspect, characterized by
impersonal and unselfish Love (see impersonal God). Under this
aspect Men have been initiated to the path of mysticism as well,
leaving the "sensual" path which is typical of the inferior feminine component.
3) Exterior rituals depend on the
physical-animal structure of man (genitals and sexual energy);
therefore they are not suitable for the feminine structure.
Keeping in mind this difference in the sexual
energy, it happens that in the initiatory rituals a malign virus
which is ethically aberrant connected to the ancient
standards of Black Magic is, maybe unconsciously,
introduced. That is to link the rituality to the
strength of the lower centres which are the direct expression of
This problem is a great threat to the Masonic
Institution. A choice must be made, and it is a choice which will
mean the evolution or the dissolution of future Masonry as an
initiatory instrument. This choice is to leave out of ceremonial
rules ancient standards linked to the low magic.