"projects" are mentioned, people inevitably think about arguments that
have already been confusingly discussed and declared. Nevertheless, the
true facts shows that, regarding the Free Masonry, it has never been
articulated, proposed and carried on any organic "project".
We often hear talks about "modern" Masonry, more
adapted to our times, made of young people, of Grand Masters dressed in
"Jeans", leaving the dark old peculiar suit in the cellar, but yet they
continue to name the Lodges with anachronistic names like "Garibaldi", "Mazzini"
and so on. I have been wondering for years now, how do you manage to be a
"mazzinian" nowadays, to reproduce in our society, a society referred by
sociologists as a "postmodern" one, the principals of a sociopolitical
vision formulated almost 200 years ago?
That was my starting point, convincing myself
that the first phase of a project for a "modern" Free Masonry, which
doesn’t mean anti-traditional, should necessarily be classified as
"sociological" and aiming to value as to how Free Masonry can insert and
position itself within the social tissue and not being withdrawn and
rejected, as happened often in the past.
My idea was to initially introduce the Free
Masonry as one of the many "associative" phenomena which are likely to be
found in our civil society. The Free Masonry is, in fact, an association,
obviously armed with all of her peculiar "Initiations and Esoterics", but
nevertheless an association.
This first step, in my opinion, would let us
out of the ghetto to which we have been restricted for ages, the cult one,
often enough because of disinformation and the pure ignorance of
journalists and so called researchers of the subject.
The result of this innovative approach has
gone beyond my greatest expectations. Actually, not only the free Masonry
has been inserted into the very important "Italian 2004 Report" by the
Eurispes Research Institute, which reflects the socio-economical-political
situation of the country, but the section it was inserted under, has a
definitely respectable title: "The discrete fascination of Free Masonry".
But above all, it is the content of the Eurispes Research that is
particularly interesting to us. The two true Masonries referred to in the
Report are only The Regular Grand Lodge of Italy and the Grand Orient of
Italy, which is already a useful information and serves as a reference
point to those who are interested in this truth, that unfortunately, in
this country, counts almost a hundred self declared Grand Lodges lead by
as many self declared Grand Masters.
The Regular Grand Lodge of Italy, as you know, is the only true Italian
Masonry recognized by the United Grand Lodge of England, and the Grand
Orient of Italy, to whom that recognition has been withdrawn in 1993, is
the more numbered one. The content of the Report, like I said, is
intriguing especially considering these facts and confirms the difference
between the two Grand Lodges, GLRI and GOI. In fact, at the end of the
section dedicated to the GOI, there is an affirmation as follows:"………." on
the contrary, the section dedicated to the Regular Grand Lodge of Italy
opens with the title: " the GLRI, the politically correct Masonry". It is
known that condicio sine qua non in order to be classified as a
"Regular" Masonry is staying away from "politics", and we would like to
underline that the competent and accurate researchers of the Eurispes are,
obviously, impartial. After this first phase, defined as the
"Sociological" approach, the second phase regards the "Philosophical"
context of Free Masonry, also relating to the contexts within which the
single Masonic truths are operating. My personal point of view, which I
will briefly review and that we will value together if appropriate enough
to be presented and proposed, has already been officially presented in
public at the Cornerstone Society, one of the most important historical
–philosophical associations close to the United Grand Lodge of England,
that gave me the possibility to present, to a competent and interested
audience like our British Brethren, my theory in two consecutive parts at
their annual conference, held last year in Sheffield and a few weeks ago
in London at the Freemason’s Hall.
So vast was the diversity of opinions, that
have been expressed, over the last one hundred years, about Freemasonry
and its historico-philosophical significance, that in trying to come to
terms with them, one is likely to be overwhelmed by confusion. Some of
these opinions are somewhat arbitrary insofar as the subject-matter is
concerned, and merely reflect the ideas of their authors.
When talking about the ‘philosophy of
Freemasonry’ one has to ask oneself, whether the philosophical category
can really be applied to modern Freemasonry or, rather whether, defined by
the well-know concept of "a system of morality veiled in allegory and
illustrated by symbols", Freemasonry should not simply call itself a moral
and ethical code of conduct, which is not underpinned by any particular
organized system of thought.
I set out from such a point of enquiry, and
through the analysis and study of the documentation available to us. I
have been able to find an unquestionable influence of Neo-platonic thought
on the birth and development of "speculative" Freemasonry.
But where can we find traces of moral
philosophy within the vast, and at the same time, incomplete and
discontinuous Masonic documentation at our disposal?
We all broadly agree in deriving the greater
part of the Masonic catechisms from the ancient statutes (Ancient Rites)
of the Medieval Operative Masonic Guilds.
Yet it must be stressed that only within the Masonic ritual of the late
eighteenth century it is possible to find the first traces of what we
might call Masonic "philosophy".
In fact, it becomes evident from the
documentation that, in its initial stage, Freemasonry was only practical
or rather "operative" and no particular attention was paid to ethical and
moral matters. The admission of the non-operatives led (thanks also to
their social influence) to a greater consideration of Freemasonry, which
thus slowly changed its connotations and perceptions. Being a Freemason
came to constitute a cause for social prestige.
It is evident that from 1717 onwards a
notable development of the ritualistic and ceremonial elements begins to
take place, with a much greater presence of moral and ethical components,
in comparison to previous decades. Between 1680 and 1730 in fact, various
modifications were gradually introduced to the ceremonies by accepted
Masons, but the changes, in any case, were not completely carried out by
1730, and the process of extension and evolution went on throughout the
Without doubt the most important mutation was
the division of the esoteric doctrine, and consequently the entire ritual,
into three parts. To my mind between "accepted" Masons and "speculative"
Masons, since elements that may be classed as "speculative", appear only
in a phase following the official birth of Freemasonry (1717).
The first, in my view, merely characterized
the transitional phase from operative to accepted Freemasonry. Whereas
speculative Freemasonry was born and developed afterwards, inspired and
permeated by platonic thought, and as such created for itself that
particular autonomy and distinct reality, having its own type of absolute
The choice of Florentine Neo-Platonism and
its Anglo-Saxon continuation, represented by the Cambridge Neo-Platonists,
is intended not only as a quest for that philosophy which best suits
Masonic thought, but also as a quest for that philosophy, which does not
conflict with various religious expressions and especially with Christian
religious expression (in light of secular disputes between the Church and
Freemasonry). To associate thinkers such as Pico della Mirandola or
Marsilio Ficino with other thinkers, such as Giordano Bruno for example,
is, in my view, not only simplistic but also misleading. The antithesis is
particularly evident in the concept of Eros, the core of Neo-platonic
thought. The platonic theory of love, which the Florence Academy had
sought to unite with Christianity, was in fact to be twisted by Giordano
Bruno, who sees in Eros proof of the colossal force of man. It is Eros
which equips man with that ‘heroic fury’ which enables him to have a
vision of the infinite universe and to break the ties which link it to
religion. So, if Pico della Mirandola and Marsilio Ficino never look for
conflict with Christian theology, seeking to let platonic concepts coexist
with Christian theology, in Bruno, on the contrary, the platonic concept
of Eros becomes an out and out weapon against Christian doctrine. The
Italian Neo-Platonists, contrary to Bruno, set out as guardians of a
tradition which they absolutely do not want to demolish, but to preserve.
Thus, it absolutely does not mean that a
thinker of the caliber of Giordano Bruno has to be rejected or abandoned,
just that his theories have to be also examined through a critical point
of view that every Mason must always posses.
The same Giordano Bruno, who always fought
against any form of dogmatism, would not be pleased to know that his
doctrines are being interpreted by the letter, often as if they were the
words of God itself, and his figure idolized by the Masons, sometimes even
in a grotesque and embarrassing way (the faked pyre in Piazza Campo dei
Fiori on the 400th anniversary of his death).
With that we are now down to the third and
last phase, perhaps the most delicate one,that concerns the esoteric
aspects of our course as a Free Mason. It’s obvious, that by getting
closer to the esoteric part is supposed that the Free Mason has completed
a whole series of preparative studies in the matter that would possibly
lead him towards an adequate comprehension.
Sometimes are being mentioned mysticism,
ermeticism and esotericism, and by having a very little to do with the
cause it inevitably leads to confusion and misunderstandings.
Going after "San Graal" in the name of an
anachronistic templarism and looking for improbable Masonic references in
the " Rolls of the Dead Sea" doesn’t really help the Free Masonry to
achieve the credibility and dignity it righteously deserves for its
history and tradition.
My hope is that in the future the study of
Free Masonry, a social-cultural phenomenon of a great importance, would
be based on scientific criterions and therefore on historical,
philosophical and exegetical facts