WM of Forum Lodge No. 64, NGLR
I wish long life and many happy returns to the Masonic Forum Magazine on the occasion of its 64th issue, a number that is special to our Lodge. I wish this on behalf of Forum Lodge No. 64 from Bucharest and its Brethren. I congratulate Brother Claudiu Ionescu for his tireless preoccupation of putting Masonic education at the forefront when it comes to the education of Brethren, the laying out of the fundamentals that constitute a collective fraternal conscience and a preoccupation regarding the precepts of Freemasonry. I congratulate the consistency of the members of the editorial office and its collaborators who, over the years, have watched over the transition of the Masonic community in Romania from an assimilation of esoteric information to understanding their content beyond the “epidermis”.
Through the lack of a lively exchange of thoughts and emotions (that would animate the urge to constantly update the knowledge only offered for reflection during the Ritual Meeting), the pandemic and post-pandemic context have amplified the gap between the Brethren and Masonic symbolism. Of course we can speak the ritual phrases as default texts, but without organically processing the meaning of the ceremonies, the signs, the words, the emblems we will feel unchanged on the inside. Even if, quite often, the exterior repetition of certain actions and words can dictate our internal temperature as well, it’s difficult to repeat things without knowing their origin and meaning at the time of their creation. I do not suggest minimizing the importance of memorizing and exactly reproducing the ritual; I do believe, however – to be quite crude – that what memorizing and understanding what comes out of one’s mouth go hand in hand towards truly manifesting this way of life that we have chosen and taken upon ourselves.
During this dictation, which I choose to share without any filters, I remember a passage from W.L. Wilmshurst’s The Meaning of Masonry:
“We meet in our Lodges regularly; we perform our ceremonial work and repeat our catechetical instruction-lectures night after night with a less or greater degree of intelligence and verbal perfection, and there our work ends, as though the ability to perform this work creditably were the be-all and the end-all of Masonic work. Seldom or never do we employ our Lodge meetings for that purpose for which, quite as much as for ceremonial purposes, they were intended, viz.: for “expatiating on the mysteries of the Craft”, and perhaps our neglect to do so is because we have ourselves imperfectly realized what those mysteries are into which our Order was primarily formed to introduce us.”
I am happy to see that magazines such as
“Masonic Forum” bring together Brethren who are gladly righting this evident deficiency, as they feel their belonging to the Order as a purpose that has brought them in the presence of something more meaningful than they knew before and help all the Brethren that have read their pages go beyond the vision layer of a symbol.
Simbol sau vedenie / Symbol or Vision is the title of a book by Romanian writer and novelist Dan Stanca, a follower of René Guénon’s esoteric thought. I admit I had misplaced it somewhere in the bookshelves of my home library after I’d bought it some six years ago, intrigued by this antithetical bringing together of two elements: symbol-vision. Like a vision, it seemed to me that it shimmered lively when it fell from the shelf directly into my hands while I was digging for some texts for performances I had to pick back up once the theatres had reopened. It amused me to see how certain concerns which had come to me during the pandemic period find their synthesis in those two words. I was surprised by the fact that all my attempts at understanding the behavioral disorders from this period, the ignorance and the dividing energies of people, are enrooted in these two words. I had the symbol, which reminded me of symbolism, this alphabet whose letters we use to decrypt the Masonic precepts and teachings. Symbolism is also a form of writing. I wonder if we can invert the assertion and say that reading and writing, from ancient times, to the present day, are forms of symbolism? At the end, the types of writing today are the evolution of hieroglyphs, which are also symbols, so they have a symbolic character. We express our thoughts by using a spoken language that has a symbolic character as well – otherwise we would not have needed to learn and understand it in order to be understood. A sound that is pronounced is written through one or more letters. A word generated by thought is written with letters, symbols which replicate that thought. Therefore, by extrapolation, we gain knowledge through this code of symbols… provided we have learned how to use this toolkit.
Lack of functional understanding of symbols leads to lack of knowledge in any field, be it scientific, linguistic, technical etc. Nonetheless we dare – more evident lately, when the magnifying glass is set on human reaction to the unknown into areas we don’t understand. We don’t differentiate between knowledge and opinion because we haven’t exercised our ability to establish what the causal relations behind a phenomenon are. We aren’t hindered by the small intangible details in our universe that is coursed by palpable explanations, on the first layer. We impose our opinions with no grounds to do so, treating them as opinions coming from people of expertise. Our society is evolving a social and educational disease: we have visions we mistake for knowledge. We belittle counterintuitive scientific knowledge that exposes our self-sufficiency. We prefer vaguely scientific visions because they are closer to our instincts. People today don’t want to have their feathers ruffled if they’ve formed an opinion. They want to parade it around seeking the bubble reputation (I am easily reminded of the Shakespearian character Melancholy Jacques, who today is the Melancholy Person for whom science comes directly through an astral channel after 40 degrees) in Saturday’s talks, where they want to tell off father-in-law, or afterwards, in front of the apartment building, when they go for a beer with the neighbors, they want to be disgusted by their ignorance. Nobody is allowed to come and topple your tower of cards, built upon few and repetitive ideas. Your opinion must be confirmed to the end of time. We are so busy to entertain our vision of living that when we open a newspaper, a website or turn on the teleVISION we only want to receive validation for what we are doing.
That’s when I’ve refocused my attention on the society of initiation that we are part of. The purpose was seeking the beneficial influence it has on the profane world by exporting its values, and implicitly the polished characters and intellects of the Brethren. Sadly, I remembered that our organization has been itself connected to this type of visions that replace knowledge with pseud-knowledge. The principle of communicating vessels has not spared us. Freemasonry selects its men from the very same ranks of the profane, and the influx of moral and intellectual flaws was beyond the filtering capacity of the Craft. The decadence I was highlighting is the effect of a long-term process and derived from the fact that some “Brethren” have tricked the sieve and have, in turn, generated those same models. Some of them, tasked to manage our destinies, have taken the letter or the form as such and have eliminated the symbolic character. But, in order to quote Dan Stanca, because I liked his book: “When the form stops being a symbol, then the content stops being God”. The consequences are visible today. We have a considerable percentage of people who understand the true philosophy and significance of the Brotherhood only by conventionally and mechanically executing the ritual and its words, which, if spoken in full knowledge, could be real resonance keys. They are captives of the vision that they have already gained symbolic knowledge.
Let us start anew our habit of reflecting upon the symbol as Divine foundation of the virtues towards which we strive in our path to the Light. Samuel Beckett said: “The air is full of our cries. But habit is a great deadener.” In other words, because of this type of unresponsive habit the cries expressing suffering have become inaudible. If we keep replanting roots, let us turn the understanding of the symbol into a habit that breaks any platitude and stimulates prompt reaction in the face of ignorance and the tendency to control by deprivation of education.
The term symbol comes from the Greek sym-ballein, which means to bind together, to put back that which is divided. The symbol becomes the glue between two objects, two entities, two worlds that when put together amount to something more important. It usually requires a trained critical sense, because it associates disparate ideas. For example, a white dove that nests inside a soldier’s helmet is a symbol of peace after the war. If in the profane view the symbol represents something through exact similarity, then in the initiate’s view it reunites meanings from both the physical and the spiritual realm. That is how from a symbol of ferocity in the profane world the lion is associated with royalty, nobility, the sun and ardor in Masonic symbolism.
The symbol is something that replaces, represents or reminds of something, again, not through exact similarity, but rather through an association of ideas, especially when it comes to an object representing something abstract, such as a quality, a flaw or a condition. We thus have virtues essential in our practice for which we have a number of associations with different objects. Through association, the square, the symbol of the right course of action, gains the meaning of equity. The compasses is a symbol of measure, of the self-control we have to show in our straight path, because loss of measure – even on the right path – leads to fanaticism, to extremist reactions, just as any good thing without measure becomes evil. By association with man, the compasses has a head and two arms, which when opened to the maximum show the limits that the human mind can reach.
The virtues symbolized by the square and compasses would have no value if they were not subordinated to the Divine, Revelatory Truth symbolized by the Book of the Holy Law.
The symbol reveals itself through its own condition by challenging the initiate’s associative thinking when it envelops a relation of significance with something other than itself. If we think about the true jewels of the Lodge in Bro Oliver Day Street’s view we see its revealing and, at the same, it’s envelopment. We see the morality symbolized by the square, the equality symbolized by the level, the integrity, verticality specific to the plummet, the condition of the man with a still unpolished mind, but with a true character symbolized by the rough ashlar, the condition of the educated man – having had his native qualities nurtured – symbolized by the cubic stone and any source of assimilation of the Revealing Truth offered to the worker engaged in the construction of the temple in the tracing board. The apparent revealing leads on a false path, in the sense that if we take into consideration only this visible reality then we are missing out on the diametrically opposed reality, from which attention is easily deterred if we are satisfied with only a few signs in and of themselves, with just one part of the symbollon. By making the supreme association building the Temple – building character, a fundamental concept of speculative Freemasonry, we will begin to make correlations between the Lodge and human society. You will thus go from the jewels of the Lodge to the jewels of any nation: an honest, truthful, though yet uneducated people becomes a respectable, refined civic mechanism by learning the great Revelatory Truths which grant it education and mental training characterized by moral conduct, equality before the law and verticality. This is how the symbol affirms itself as a perceivable term, together with a nuance that is unperceivable for one who does not hone his power if discerning.
In order to remain a symbol, it has to maintain the necessary distance between the visible and invisible reality (that body of opportunities waiting for the right moment of personal polishing to reveal itself). Only thus understood can it truly change us. It is in respecting this distance that the ineffable quality of envelopment resides. The dangerous revealing forces the thought to be born in a costume that doesn’t suit it, but looks nice. It’s an aesthetic vision. The modifying mystery becomes confusion, then as degradation goes on it turns into stupor, indignation, revolt. But how beautifully the illusion that we understood everything lulls us! How beautifully our ego is stroked! Incapable of going beyond the aesthetic, beyond that short and passing thrill an image instills in us, we don’t realize that the importance of the thrill isn’t the fact that it moves or nurtures the pride of the brain, but rather the fact that it produces a shock we should feel not only on a mental level. The shock means dislodging any veins of self-sufficiency. This is the only way we can reach a better version of ourselves. By trying to decipher the symbols, we avoid the overlapping of the two worlds – visible and invisible – which would turn them into mere visions. I think that this set of instruments can strengthen the Brother as part of the Fraternity and consolidate the position of Freemasonry as a bastion for the progress and good of humanity.
Once we take up these values, they can cast away the visions from the profane world was well. Of course, the task will be difficult, easily replaceable in a world where ideas are covered not by the consensus of intellectual intuition, but by piling up evidence under the nose of collective skepticism. Information is no longer searched for because everything is known. If the doctor gives as bad news, we will find the antibodies on the internet, because we are certain that in there we control reality.
But I know, Brethren, that when we all think about the same thing we generate a transformative energy, capable of eliminating even the visions bred by the informational illiteracy that wants to forcefully shut up those who see things from a different perspective as well. Let us not forget that through this way of life that we have chosen we propose finding an allegory for human existence and, implicitly, for the direction that must be chosen for the art of living better.