The Initiatic Secret

Discussion in 'Masonic Education' started by Blake Bowden, Jan 4, 2010.

  1. Blake Bowden

    Blake Bowden Administrator Staff Member

    By: Bro. Theron Dunn

    There are many secrets in the world in which we live, which holds true in Freemasonry. The initiatic secret, however, is a peculiar one. The secret is the key concept of any initiatory society, being quite different from any other kind of secret which can be encountered in every organization.

    The word Secret stems from Latin se-cernere, to set apart and aside at the same time; “initiatic†– and also “initiatory, initiate†– derives from the Latin verb in-ire, to go into, in depth. The expression, therefore, alludes to something which the searcher comes across walking the inner path and then grasps in his deepest soul. The true secrets of Freemasonry are personal, and are different for every man, and for this reason, the secret is truly ineffable and cannot be communicated, even willingly.

    This is why Br. René Guénon wrote:
    In fact this secret is of such a nature that words cannot express it
    and why, Br. Giovanni Giacomo Casanova wrote:
    Those who become Freemasons only for the sake of finding out the secret of the order, run a very great risk of growing old under the trowel without ever realizing their purpose. Yet there is a secret, but it is so inviolable that it has never been confided or whispered to anyone. Those who stop at the outward crust of things imagine that the secret consists in words, in signs, or that the main point of it is to be found only in reaching the highest degree. This is a mistaken view: the man who guesses the secret of Freemasonry, and to know it you must guess it, reaches that point only through long attendance in the lodges, through deep thinking, comparison, and deduction.(1)

    He would not trust that secret to his best friend in Freemasonry, because he is aware that if his friend has not found it out, he could not make any use of it after it had been whispered in his ear. No, he keeps his peace, and the secret remains a secret.
    It can seem contradictory to hold out that Freemasonry can teach the secrets, while at the same time noting that we cannot communicate them. This is part of the mystery of the initiatic method, one that uses rites and symbols to suggest and lead, rather than express, in the ordinary sense of the word.
    Properly speaking, what is transmitted by initiation is not the secret itself, since this is incommunicable, but the spiritual influence that the rites vehicle and that makes possible the interior work by means of which, with the symbols as base and support, each one will attain that secret and penetrate it more or less completely, more or less profoundly, according to the measure of his own possibilities of comprehension and realization.(2)
    The initiatic secret is a method of spiritual improvement, which stems from a hard inner work aimed to transform the initiate, that is to make him go beyond his present form in order to achieve a new one: it refuses religious dogmas and pushes initiates toward a perfection’s status, which, even if unattained, nevertheless will be considered a rule for their actions.

    Freemasonry is an initiatic society, one whose rituals and mystic rites are as much about wakening the inner spiritual man as about improving the moral, mortal, material man. This is why the symbol of the Square and Compass are at once silent, and voluable. The Square symbolizes the material and the mortal sphere, while the Compass symbolizes the Spiritual, and when thus combined, demonstrates the combination and ascention of the man from animal to spiritual being, demonstrating elements of BOTH. It is balance.

    Initiation, undertaken in the proper mindset, with a man properly prepared, both in his mind and in his heart, will set a man on the first step of a spiritual awakening. This spiritual awakening is different from the one proffered by religion, which is about the rightful worship of the deity from the creature to his creator, while the initiatic process is about improving the inner man, that he might seek an awakening of the spirit, and thus become a balanced creature, at once mortal and spiritual.

    This spiritual awakening is, after all, what the initiatic experience is all about. We are told in the ritual, ask and it shall be given, seek and you will find, knock, and the door will be opened to you. This is as plain and open as initiatory rites get for a man.

    Yet, it is up to the man to seek. The degrees only prepare a man, open his eyes so he can see the door. It is up to the candidate to walk the path. Since the secrets of freemasonry cannot be communicated, the man must undertake the search and do the work. Nothing worth having comes easily.

    A further consequence is that such a secret cannot be betrayed, because profanes are outside the initiatory world so void of any means – rites and symbols – to do any inner work.

    Freemasonry is not a secret society, even if it has a “closed†character. This does not hinge upon a reason of prudence – even if in the past times persecutions justified it – but rather to avoid the danger of degeneration, by admitting profanes who are not fully qualified to grasp the secret. These men will remain profanes with the apron, and soon or later they will “waste the chainâ€, because they are reluctant to walk the inner path.

    Rene Guenon writes:
    As for the fact that these organizations are ‘closed’, that is, that they do not admit everyone indiscriminately, this is explained simply by the first condition of initiation described above, the necessity of possessing certain particular ‘qualifications’ lacking which no real benefit can be derived from attachment to such an organization. Moreover, when an initiatic organization becomes too ‘open’ and insufficiently strict in this respect, it runs the risk of degenerating through the incomprehension of those whom it thus thoughtlessly admits, who, especially when they become the majority, do not fail to introduce all sorts of profane opinions and to divert its activity toward goals that have nothing in common with the initiatic domain, as one sees only too often in what still remains of this kind of organization in the Western world today. Mediocre minds despise and hate what they cannot understand.(3)
    People should not confuse the initiatic secret with the prohibition to reveal grips, tokens and signs. They cannot be disclosed for two reasons. The first consists in that, that they are symbols like any other and therefore are to be meditated and internalized. They are means to elaborate the initiatic secret and therefore man has to treat them with due reverence and seriousness.

    The second reason is the silence’s pedagogic role. The ‘discipline of the secret’ constitutes a sort of ‘training’ or exercise that is part of the method of these organizations—and this can be seen in a way as an attenuated and restricted form of the ‘discipline of silence’ that was used in certain ancient esoteric schools, particularly among the Pythagoreans. Disciplina secreti or disciplina arcani, as it was also called in the Church of the first centuries, something that certain enemies of the ‘secret’ seem to forget; but it should be noted that in Latin the word disciplina usually signifies ‘teaching’(4), which is its etymological meaning, and even, by derivation, ‘science’ or ‘doctrine’.

    To keep a secret thus enhances character.

    Giovanni Giacomo Casanova, Memoirs, Volume 2a, Paris, p. 33
    R. Guénon, “The Initiatic secretâ€, in Perspectives on Inititiation, Sophia Perennis, p. 85
    R. Guénon, ibidem, p.86
    From Latin discere, to learn. Discipline is the means to learn
    May the blessing of heaven rest upon us and all regular Masons. May brotherly love prevail, and every moral and social virtue, cement us.

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