The genesis of initiatory Freemasonry
«Like any other physical entity, the Corpus massonicum as well is made up by ideas and materiality. It is up to the will of the single adept to let one or the other prevail. The initiate, on the other hand, balances, sums and cancels any differentiation in the whiteness of the synthesis that enlightens his mind.»
The compagnonage of freemasons was a craftsmen Corporation that in Europe was devoted to the building of Temples, Churches and Cathedrals. They were free because in a time of obscurantism and submission their workers were relieved by duties, taxes, feudal slavery and obligations of arms.
In order to do their jobs groups of craftsmen moved from kingdom to kingdom, without particular duties to obey. In this way, by the rule of «up as is down» workmen, stonecutters and carpenters enjoyed exemptions that at the time were a privilege for very few men, all of high descent. The reason for so much esteem was the power of the Order behind them. The minds that conceived Temples and Cathedrals as they had never been seen before belonged to the Templar Order. In the elevation of the gothic style was elaborated the silent sound * that resounds in the inner space of every Temple and Cathedral (the sonorous area). The sound (symbol of God) that vibrated in the handmade stone products (symbol of materiality) became the living symbol of the Great Work of the universe . Every Cathedral (that reflected the precise analogy with an astronomical point, just like the templar Commendam), represented an act made by man for the honor and glory of the Great Builder of the creation.
* on the subject of spaces that resound the researcher can go from the science of sound of Pythagoras , to the analysis on Harmonics by Hans Kaiser , to the present physics of sound or, better still, he can refer to the short essay: “the Stones that sing” by Marius Schneider pref. Elèmire Zolla.
Obviously the art secrets of the masonry Corporations referred to ways of building, carving and engraving. The devotion of those craftsmen, when they were devoted, was towards the stone images and the symbols that they carved with their own hands. Therefore, beyond any mystic legend and considering the transcendent aspect that is at the base of any initiatory order, the origins of Freemasonry didn't have a classic initiatory imprint. They were founded on severe rules of a rigid manual character of the art, they were committed to corporative interests and mutual assistance as it was in the spirit of many other guilds of craftsmen and merchants. The key to the unpredictable development of Freemasonry, then, even on the subjects of transcendence that accompanied the ancient mysterial Mediterranean tradition, is to be found in the oppressing obscurantism of the time.
Intolerance of power persecuted any diversity, vehemently killing any hotbed of illuminism, science and spirituality that wasn't in tune with the sovereign principles and the interests of the Church of Rome. In a time of persecution the privileges given to Freemasonry made it the ideal and anonymous refuge for men on which the shadow of inquisition hung, threatening their freedom and life.
Thirty-three survivors of the Templar Order established the Order of the Consoled Friars (the Rose+Cross) and some of them, together with others, reflowed in the ranks of craftsmen who stayed free and steady (see the article on the Templar Order). The intellectual spark that derived made the Lodges of freemasons a pole of attraction for other victims of persecution who didn't want to abjure their convictions of any nature. Scholars, researchers, experimenters and reformers found refuge in the Lodges, putting their intellectual abilities and spiritual virtues into them.
A renewed eclecticism encouraged ideas that were then transferred into signs and symbols of the fellow masons turning their art jargon into a container of initiatory knowledge. Even though big Orders were destroyed by the barbarism of the times, the ideas that transmigrated into the masons' symbols kept their essence intact. Their meanings were hidden in architectural signs whose geometry seemed meaningless and in decorative art that only appeared as an interpretation of principles of harmony and beauty. Nothing could have been more deceptive. Therefore, despite all, the most pregnant meanings of an ancient initiatory tradition were preserved.
An example can be seen in the constitution of the degree of master mason. When the rose+cross founded this degree they centered the initiation ritual on a psychodrama in which was represented the resurrection of the spirit of a divine Master in the flesh of man , that reminded of the resurrection on earth of the Initiate as it was conceived by the Gnostic mystic. Like this, any other grafting as well joined elements of enlightened intuitiveness to rough manual practices, originating a precious jewel box of ancient knowledge that not everyone knows yet and not everyone wants to know.
Athos A. Altomonte