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Symbolic language and initiatory growth

by Athos A. Altomonte

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We can certainly state that rational and verbal language of daily actions is mainly a logic language; that is self sufficient; as L Wittgenstein said “it is perfect just as it is and it doesn't need any reform”. Symbolic language, on the other hand, thanks to a special correspondence with nature's action itself, is analogical.

Despite what many people think, the analogical process doesn't represent a particular mode as opposed to the structure of our mind. Indeed, if we say similarities instead of analogy, we should admit that often, even during our ordinary experience, we make use of similarities in order to support our thinking processes. Similarities, on a banal level, can refer to somatic features and attitudes; on a more complex level they can refer to whole situations, complete sequences that, appearing to us in our life's experience, recall others. If we stick to a superficial look they will seem completely different, not identical but indeed analogous; that is some of their essential features are similar.

Symbolism in general and Masonic in particular, reaches us from a distantly ancient past; or, at least, this is what is continuously underlined in initiatory schools. Here, though, it is not a matter of believing or not to the fundamental precept of symbolic ancientness. Beyond any historical or scientific consideration, symbolism obviously appears very old. Besides the strictly scriptural aspects of the symbolism of the Lodge (in Apprentice degree the Gospel of John, in Lodge of Perfection the Epistle of James) everything is considered fair and perfect when a series of steps and gestures are made, together with the exchange of cues between people dressed for the rite in an environment full of symbolic paraments that vary according to the degree of the Lodge. This game of consequent and growing superimpositions – since what is in the Lodge of First Degree remains, anyway, on the background of the Lodge of Perfection – result of a wisdom whose ancientness doesn't need to be proved, introduces us to a representation of the many states of the being (R. Guènon). The being is divided from the “beings” by an uncountable abyss (chpt. XXVI of “The symbolism of the cross”); nevertheless the indivisible naturalness of the symbolic language causes the similarities between the inferior and the superior state of the being. Furthermore, the peculiarity of the symbol consists of the fact that any manifestation is related with the form.

The form of the beings reminds the most of their superior origin (after a possible fall, like some traditions highlight); this was known – and vividly stated – by some of the greatest spirits of the XVIII and XIX centuries: Goethe, Hölderlin, Schelling most of all. Goethe thought that all vegetable forms pointed, or rather hinted, to a vegetable archetypical form from which all the known varieties of plants derived. Immanuel Kant's observations on the sublime of the natural display are in line with the Romantic theme; a faithful pictorial representation of it could be in the works by Caspar David Friedrich, where the human subject is marginal to the space; he appears overwhelmed and crushed by the impending nature which doesn't, by the way, win him definitely, thanks to the power of the look that man – observer addresses to it. Despite all this, the Romantic spiritual and aesthetic experience appears overall limited by the emphasis placed on it in opposition to individuality, the possible empowering of the single to the detriment of nature, more than in harmony with it. The Romantic “titanism” degenerates, towards the end of the century, into the exhausted solitary and self-erotic elation of the characters of Huysmans or D'Annunzio. The germs of this degeneration are already fully developed in the beginning of Romanticism; the most classical hero of this period is Faust, the solitary erudite that torments himself for having swapped youth with wisdom and wants and asks for youth and wisdom together. He asks for and obtains this huge power but the price is to ally with the devil.

On the contrary of immature romanticism, esoterical symbolism teaches us that it is fair and perfect to cultivate forms, on the condition to keep in mind that each of them leads back to a higher and more comprehensive form and that the highest and most comprehensive of all is a non-form. It might sound extravagant to think that the source of forms is not a form itself; if we think about it, though, it can't be otherwise. Indeed, according to which principle should a form be so privileged as to be the first and found all the others? If we stated that the verbal form “is” is the first and true fundament of all verbal forms, where would we place the form “is not”? It would be irremediably excluded from all the rest, it couldn't be included; therefore it would constitute a formidable, impregnable power and more convincing and mighty than the whole being altogether, weakened by being a known principle and therefore obvious.

A metaphysical need pushes us to say that a true principle can't but include the being and the non-being. Moving this to the subject of the form, it is necessary then that the true source of the form is the non-form.

The Lodge, in any degree, expresses this idea by welcoming all the ritual forms passed on by all religions. What is surprising in a Lodge is not the variety of objects-symbols that appear, but the absence of many others that, perhaps, in the future will be part of it. Most of all, this expresses the firm conviction that above all the objective symbols there is the non-form that is the One.

The fundamental unit of all revealed religions leads, significantly, to the unity of the esoterical traditions that each of them has invariably generated. Tibetan Buddhism, Christian templarism and Muslim Sufism are some examples.

A wise man of the Sufi tradition, Pir – Or – Murshid Inayat Khan, has left us ten sublime “thoughts” (I'd say “commandments” if I wasn't afraid of distorting this delicate message from the East) of these admirable initiates:

There is only one God, the Eternal, the Only Being; nothing exists but Him.

There is only one Master, the Spirit Guide of all Souls, who constantly guides His followers towards the light.

There is only one Holy Book, the divine book of nature, the only scripture that can enlighten the man who reads.

There is only one Religion, the unstoppable progress towards the right direction of the ideal which accomplishes the vital goal of every soul.

There is only one Law, the law of reciprocity that can be observed by a conscience free from the Self, together with a re-awakened sense of justice.

There is only one Brotherhood, the human brotherhood that joins the sons of the earth without discrimination in the benevolence of the Father.

There is only one Moral, the love that bursts out when we deny ourselves and flowers in the spirit of charity.

There is only one Object of Praise, the beauty that appears in the heart of those who venerate it, in all that is visible and invisible.

There is only one Truth, the true knowledge of our beings, internal and external, that is the essence of all wisdom.

There is only one path, the annihilation of the false ego in the reality that leads mortal man to immortality, where perfection is.

The analogies between these principles and the tasks of edification and perfection belonging to our Rite appeared to me surprising. Therefore I leave these notes, without further comments, to the reflection of my dear Brothers.

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This article comes from Esotericism Readings

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