NICOLAE GABRIEL ZDRENGHEA
Sarmizegetusa Lodge No.111, Deva
An old oriental proverb says: “The word which you have not yet uttered is your slave. The word your have uttered is your master”. Prepared to receive the Light, which had been sought through so many tests which hardened and renewed him, the candidate for Masonic initiation finds himself facing a crucial question: To what must I commit myself in order to receive the Light? The candidate solemnly swears in the presence of the Grand Architect of the Universe and the members of the lodge, “with full and profound conviction in his soul, with absolute and immovable will, fully aware, with the right hand on The Three Great Lights of Universal Regular Freemasonry: to respect the laws of the country, to obey the Constitution and the General Regulations of the NGLR and not to divulge any of the secrets of Freemasonry to the profane or to those who do not have the right to learn them”. The oath continue with the candidate’s solemn commitment to defend the honour and the lives of all his Brethren and, within the limits of his ability, to help his Brethren in any circumstance, if their request does not go against the law or breaches morality, a formula in the text of which we find a triple and profound connotation: fidelity, respect and mutual help between the Brethren. Finally, the candidate assumes the penalty of the oath he has sworn, aware that, “if he breaks the Oath he has made, he will be judged by his Brethren as one worthy of contempt, who does not deserve to belong to Universal Regular Freemasonry and eternally forgotten”, uttering in closing the urging that guides him: “So help me the Grand Architect of the Universe”! Some authors of Masonic literature consider that the initiation builds a “pact” by which the neophyte asking for the Light promises to respect the “discipline of the secret”, to defend, love and help his Brethren and to obey the Masonic laws, social and moral. By the connection instituted by The Oath, the neophyte places himself in the service of the Order, opening a process of aggregation into the community, which will not be over except after his consecration and his recognition as such, to which is added, mandatorily, the instruction specific to the Degree. The practice of swearing the oath, alongside that of receiving the duties, has a great antiquity, being attested with certainty even so far back as the year 1390. This is not a vulgar oath, as is the one often practiced in the profane world; this is a sacred, solemn oath, uttered with the eyes still covered by the blindfold, a symbol of the ignorance in which he finds himself who is on the cusp of passing from the profane to the initiated. The text of the Masonic oath can differ from one rite to another, but the spiritual content is the same: an invocation of the Divinity, with the hand placed on the Book of Sacred Law, as a guarantee of the Oath; asolemn promise, which represents the content itself of the oath and the imprecation – respectively, the punishments accepted in the unlikely situation of breaking the oath. The future Apprentice receives “the revelation of supreme responsibility”, as well as the revelation of the great victory marked by finding the path to sealing an enduring and irrevocable connection to this Brotherhood in which he will enter definitively, because the Masonic initiation and the quality of mason can never be annulled. The Masonic oath is the gate which opens up to the Light. This Sacramentum connects the Candidate and at the same time unties him, liberates him from constraint: in the future, he knows the extent of his freedom, as well as the circumstances of the constraints to which he freely committed; and this awareness gives birth to a sublime and undescribable revelation. This seals an irreversible revelation. The future Apprentice confesses to the revelation of Silence; however insignificant some of the unconventional symbols might seem, in themselves, they become sacred the moment they are adopted, as signs of recognition. Oswald Wirth, an author of Masonic books, said in one of his works: “An honest man respects any secret which is not his”. The silence of the Initiate does not refer only to what he finds out during the initiation ceremony. After the tests of initiation, the Apprentice undergoes a stage of silence, during which he listens, watches and tries to understand, abstaining from speaking. He does not live the silence, he is an emitter of silence and learns to give it a positive value. The Apprentice learns to listen, to restrain his desire to intervene, which is associated with introspection and turning back to himself, which only “an initiation school is in a position to propose”. The silence is the primary form of Masonic symbolism and it is indispensably associated with the Masonic secret and its keeping, because keeping the secret presupposes, first of all, complete and free silence; a silence which is assumed and intellectualized, and not the silence of timidity or fear. It becomes the thinking that permits the advancing toward other concepts. It is a materiality which has no consistence and without which reality would not exist, because Silence is The Whole, in The Whole and beyond The Whole. Listening silently, looking silently, trying to understand silently, the apprentice uses silence as a tool of the mind, an active silence; the apprentice “participates” in the works of the others with the silence of wisdom and the wisdom of silence. The hammers strikes the chisel, the only sound that tears, rhythmically, the general silence which rules between the silent columns of the apprentices; a rough stone lets its splinters fly, torn by the sharp tip of the chisel; a decided hand, having passed the tests of Water, Air and Fire, hesitating betimes, but determined, acts on its work hammer, the other one places the chisel in the proper places for the good polishing of the rock. In silence, until the character is polished together with stone, and the uncontrolled impulses, passions, and emotions and the profane hesitation fall far away, like the splinters of stone. “The work of the apprentice begins through silence and ends in meditation.” Between the oath and the secret a relationship is established: the secret imposes on the oath, the oath solemnizes the secret, protects it even from curiosities. The secret of the interior order unites the Freemasons, strengthens their structure and their freedom of expression, but also their ability to be silent; the lodge becomes a veritable “laboratory of ideas”, where each one has the option to express himself, but also the capacity to be silent. The initiation secret forges the chain-links of initiation, intensifies the connections of fraternity, cohesion and solidarity. It is an accepted fact that masonry is the continuation and the inheritor of the ancient mysteries about which is thought that they hold the keys to the entirety of existence. Some writings reveal to us that in antiquity the keeping of secrets was absolute and its divulging brought on an especially harsh punishment and not infrequently the death of the perjurer. Divulging esoteric secrets to one who is uninitiated constitutes an unforgivable crime. Invariably, the unhappy traitor was punished with death and the confiscation of his property. It is told that Aeschylus – the father of Attic tragedy – was accused of having brought to the stage some of the mysteries and therefore could barely escape execution by taking refuge at the altar of Dionysius and by the judicial confirmation of the fact that, in reality, he was not an initiate and, therefore, he had not made any oath to bind him to keep the secret. In his own turn, the historian and philosopher Plutarch talks about the dread of those who aspired to initiation and likens that state to preparation for death. In the true initiation, there is no doctrine that is communicated verbally, there is no dogmatism: the art of living is acquired starting from images, from symbols, from gestures, from a few words only, because “life is not spoken, life is lived”; therefore, the oath of the apprentice, beyond a solemn and sacred commitment, as a free man, guaranteed by assuming the punishments, is the revelation of a wise man, who is capable, in a few words, to confess his love for his Brethren who are receiving him among them, his respect for the laws and for the keeping of the sacred secrets of Freemasonry, and these commitments he makes in the presence of the Great Architect of the Universe. A profane man will never be in a position to realize and to live through such associations, however trained he would be and however much exoteric culture he might have. Faith in the Great Architect of the Universe and his revealed will is the foundation of the oaths of initiation on the Book of Sacred Law. The way to the revelation of the sacred through the oath is announced to the candidate even before he starts on his three journeys, when he sips first of the sweet drink, “the drink of forgetfulness, the drink of accepting the past or the drink of lucidity” – as it is called, in one of his books, by Claude Darche, only to feel, a little later, the bitter taste of another drink, “the drink of remembering what had been forgotten”, from the Cup of Libations, and to hear the explanations of the WM: “May this rink, becoming from sweet bitter, be the symbol of the bitterness and pangs of regret that the crooked oath that would defile your lips would leave in your soul, if you do not respect the word you have so solemnly given”. The symbolism is broader, and the bitter drink also symbolizes the path to virtue, which is difficult and littered with obstacles, that slimming the rough stone presupposes some deceptions along the way, but the mason must show himself to be strong. Therefore, in expressing his oath, the apprentice moves far beyond merely assuming a “penalty” for breaking a “pact”. The Cup of Libations becomes a cup of swearing, and the oath by the cup becomes a symbol of the transition between the profane world, whence the candidate comes, and the world of spiritual aspirations.