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Initiatory illiteracy

by Athos A. Altomonte - graphics by Fabio Gasparri

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Whenever I am asked the reason of the existential impasse of Freemasonry, I answer that it is because ‘today we have plenty of words but very few ideas'.

Guenon rightly wrote that Freemasonry is the only Institution in the West able to transmit initiations. But time goes by and Freemasonry today is affected by ‘three bad fellows, which are overshadowing its principles of existence. They are the choices on proselytism, role reversal and initiatory illiteracy .

Role reversal

The politicization of institutional ranks keeps the components in office busy with all the tactics to keep (or gain) positions and chairs. Strategies overshadow speculative interest, dimming the intellectual spirit that used to distinguish Masonism.

Whilst the last representatives of Masonic intelligentsia are going towards the ‘eternal East', the new generations prefer a utilitarian proselytism, trading the so called ‘profane' relationships.

The result is that the Pillars of the Temples are crowded with excellent professionals who, thinking as professionals, find it natural to practice proselytism among those who use the same language. What happens, then, is that intellectualism doesn't enjoy any particular attention any longer, considering also the fact that very few people are now able to distinguish between intellectualism (intelligent creativity) and ordinary culture (sciolism).

The result of a managerial attitude is the particular attention given to careerism, which is gratifying, but nevertheless useless for the purpose of educating initiatory consciences.

Public masks are not interested in the existential track for an initiatory Institution, made of Masonic Culture (the subjects relating to the mysteries of the Architects) and initiatory Culture (the subjects relating to the mysteries of human metaphysics).

The process of cultural simplification in progress is matched by the cultural disengagement, current and generalized, that has reduced the social perspectives of Freemasonry. Yet, initiatory illuminism has been the ‘patent of nobility' of Freemasonry.

I am thinking about the strength of thought of men such as Diderot, D'Alambert, D'Holbach, up to Voltaire, which protected it from the social decadence that killed all the other initiatory Orders in Europe . I wonder how we can hope to survive without responding to the social and technological renewal. The right answer is not to multiply the self-celebrating events that certain Masonic liturgy re-produces as the only sign of novelty.

When facing decadence, Nietzsche wrote: ‘Human, all too human!' This cry is not a solution. Indeed, the solution to any problem consists of finding its cause. And what burdens Freemasonry is the role reversal.

In the Corpus Massonicum, for a long time, the head (the intelligentsia that produces ideas) has been replaced by the belly (the administration that distributes resources). The result is that its main aspect is now political-administrative practice.

Initiatory Freemasonry is suffocated by the ‘notarial' view, which exceeds in bureaucracy and public relations, forgetting that the soul of Freemasonry is not made of celebrations but of the intelligence of men. Once upon a time these energies were spent on initiatory culture; nowadays they are destined to rules, codes and codicils. Furthermore, the political masonism, loves ‘reliable and manageable' men. Without realizing that its requirements of assertiveness alienate the ability to be ‘free and fair men', because turning the Mason into a ‘follower' doesn't develop Free Will at all.

A good administration is essential as much as a good digestive system is fundamental for the health of the body. But if the ‘belly' vision becomes exclusive, then the increases of pay and Light correspond to money, and they overshadow any idea of ‘light'.

Obediences and their representatives cost a lot, we know it. But this must not justify that the distribution of titles becomes a marketing operation to square the budget. Intellectuals run away, because the ‘belly' made of accountants, consultants, doctors and lawyers thinks about making money through the proselytism of great numbers, forgetting the elitist spirit.

Logic tells us that the meaning of ‘elite' is antithetical to that of multitude. And multitude is a synonym of conformism which, again by logic, is the keystone of the profane individual.

Therefore we wonder: will the ‘belly' be able to square the circle between the elitist conscience (initiation) and the drives to trade the system (Masonic careerism)? Will it be able to find the right balance between financial needs and qualities of the associates? It is difficult, unless ‘head and abdomen' go back working together, fixing mistakes made.

Initiatory illiteracy

Intellectual evanescence brings a gradual inability to produce new ideas. This is quite a serious issue for an Institution that claims to be initiatory. Especially if we think that the ancient prestige of Freemasonry was in the strength of the ideas it championed. The most genuine Masonic culture cannot be read in commercial books. It refers to the meanings of symbolic pictures, ritual paraments and furnishings of every order and degree. On this concept the Mason determines his destiny. Becoming or not an initiate is not a matter of seniority and degree, but of education and practice. It means to penetrate the muteness of the ‘symbolic mysteries' and become (inside) what we learn (outside).

The Book of the initiate is not made of paper but of stone. The Temple, the Three pillars (of which one is invisible, because it is spiritual), the mosaic of the floor, the sky and many other signs are, for the man who can grasp their connection, the images of the secret book, which talks about spiritual reintegration (re-birth of Hiram).

I wonder how many masons can read the starry Vault. How many of them can read (inside) symbols, how many understand that the meanings of colors are sounds, how many really know the philosophy of the symbolic pictures, the ritual words and catechisms.

How many, for example, at the words ‘to lead the Brothers from work to recreation and from recreation back to work' consider ‘recreation' as spiritual re-generation, rather than the end of a meal break. And that the ‘new work' that starts again after the recreation has perhaps something to do with the immortality of the soul.

There are many signs of initiatory illiteracy. It is a serious problem. We should find a way to eradicate it before even talking about initiation.

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This article comes from Esotericism Readings

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