“ Give heed, my brethren, to every hour when your spirit
would speak in similes: there is the origin of your virtue.” [“Thus
Spake Zarathustra”, (XXII, The Bestowing Virtue) by Friedrich Nietzsche]
Souls have lost their
wings. I have wanted to give this title to today’s address
drawing inspiration from the metaphor of “losing the wings” of
Platonic origin (Phaedrus 246). This metaphor has been
subsequently utilized in the patristic literature in order to
indicate both the arisen absence of impetus and surge of the soul
towards the heaven, the superior, the divine and on the contrary,
to indicate the direction towards the inferior, the material that
is, in one word, the corporeal (Gregory of Nissa-- Homilies on the
It has been
sufficiently discussed about secularization, loss of relationship
with the sacred, nihilistic and relativistic vision of future, all
characteristics of a present society that seems to perfectly
represent the prototype of a society in which men have consciously
decided to “lose the wings”.
In the light of
these premises, it is obvious that Freemasonry runs a grave risk
and this is the reason for which today I would like to discuss
with you a vital problem for our future- the abandonment of
is an initiation society in which the esoteric component is basic,
and for this reason it distinguishes itself from all other simple
fraternal societies tending to mutual solidarity.
who think that Freemasonry can gain credit as an opinion party,
for example taking a clear position on politics, economics and so
on, make a serious mistake. This would constitute the beginning of
the end of Freemasonry, which would be thus deprived of its main
characteristic, the esoteric one.
an historical context, in which the absence of ethical and moral
values is evident, it can be very important to propose, through
the esoteric vehicle, a lay Masonic morality and an ethic that
have their foundation on transcendent.
is possible through esotericism to realize a dilatation and a
reawakening of man’s conscience, so that he will be able to
sense the presence of sacred in everyday life and to mould his
existence on this discovery.
is the heart of esotericism and is hinged on a sum of mythical and
ritual practises and lessons. Its aim is to project the initiate
towards a higher level of life through an interior path. Mysteries
are closely linked to initiation and can be considered initiation
rites, that require a whole series of symbolic acts. From this
point of view, today I would like to underline the fact, that if
we want Freemasonry to continue to live, a serious, conscious and
quick return to esotericism within the Masonic Temples is
few weeks ago, while I was visiting a Lodge, a Brother asked me
(referring to my first address as Grand Master in which I had
exposed my program for this mandate) when I would have faced the
last of the four points I wished to develop with you- the esoteric
one. My program traced a path starting from the simple
sociological approach, which defined Freemasonry as an
association. The next step was the historical one, in which I
distinguished between continental and Anglo-Saxon Freemasonry.
Then I arrived at the philosophy of the Freemasonry’s thought
that, in my opinion, assumes characteristics that unequivocally
come from Neoplatonism. The last and most delicate phase would
have been the esoteric aspect of Freemasonry.
to answer the Brother’s question?
of all it is necessary, we ask ourselves if esotericism is a
doctrine, a discipline or a theory. You know perfectly well that
none of these answers is correct. No esotericist could ever accept
to answer the question on “what esotericism is” since it is
not possible to “talk” about esotericism or to try to explain
it without merely reducing it to something else.
is an inspiration of the soul that needs mental tension and
spiritual presence when practising it.
not, every thing we shall do within a Masonic ritual will have no
sense and nothing to do with esotericism. If a perfectly known and
performed ritual is the non plus ultra for an esoteric
ceremony, a stammered ritual makes the rite muddled and
incomprehensible. Quite often the mnemonic repetition of the
rituals, the fixity of the Brethren’s expressions when trying to
remember all the words, the total lack of interpretation and
sensibility - that does not allow empathy with the Brother whom we
are addressing - make the ritual a sterile rosary, a sort of
mantra, without understanding the meaning.
this case we could at most define ourselves esoteric scholars,
that is those who are interested in esotericism, who study it, but
we could never claim ourselves to be esotericists, that is those,
who practise it.
the basis of esotericism there is a subtle intuition, which is a
kind of deep knowledge that cannot be explained nor communicated
because peculiar of that unique soul, but can be shared among
real esotericist “knows” and does not study, he respects the
discipline of the arcane without revealing it, for fear of
degrading what has been revealed.[1
of Freemasonry’s thought, who are not Freemasons can therefore
write on the subject only at a second level of knowledge because
the first one is necessarily reserved only to the initiates.
could be interested in the future in two basic aspects of
esotericism, gnosis, the regenerative knowledge and hermeticism,
the inaccessible language. Gnosis, which seems a theory, is
instead a practise consisting in continuous research and
intermittent discoveries. Hermeticism, which seems a practise, is
instead a speculation on reading the signs and on writing the
symbols. The initiate is he who has the knowledge,
precisely the gnosis.
brings us to a further question. Is it sufficient, to become a Freemason, only
to be considered “a free and moral man”?
Can one join Freemasonry, only because he “believes” in
it? I am convinced it is not enough and it is necessary that this
man has in himself an intuition, an ambition to knowledge, a
peculiar spiritual behaviour, a strong will of the intellect, a
sensibility and a predisposition of the soul and love for
is just this love for knowledge that should always induce us to
investigate the meaning of what we often repeat without
could discover, for example, that the most known and utilized
definition of Freemasonry as “Moral system veiled by
allegories and illustrated by symbols”, can contain a
we have nothing to object in the first part of the definition,
that is “veiled by allegories”, since by definition an
allegory “permits to mean an ideal or moral or religious
concept veiling it with an image that expresses a different and
autonomous reality” (UTET Dictionary). Regarding the second
part, “illustrated by symbols”, I think we are in the presence
of an oxymoron that is, two terms that contradict one another.
could think this analysis is captious and on the verge of sophism.
I am, on the contrary, convinced that the exact meaning of basic
terms like symbol and allegory is extremely useful.
Italian dictionary “Devoto-Oli” defines the Symbol as
“effective sign, condensed, solemn, and corresponding to
particular or universal contents or values: the flag, the symbol
of the country, the hearth, the symbol of the family...”. The
UTET dictionary indicates that the symbol is “what (sensible
reality, image, object, person, animal, etc.) evokes or
represents… an abstract concept, a condition, a situation, a
general reality often pertaining to the sphere of
sacred…graphical representation which evokes a reality or an
abstract concept…image or many images, mostly obscure and
enigmatic, that makes an esoteric knowledge incomprehensible to
non initiates, or permits to transmit knowledge or to acquaint
other people with an experience that cannot be communicated in
other ways”. Therefore it would be much more correct to
affirm that Freemasonry is a system of morality veiled by
allegories and communicated, transmitted or rather evoked
by symbols, but not illustrated, since the symbol for its own
nature tends to veil an essence that cannot be represented
and that can only be evoked among initiates.
at this point we can not hesitate to ask a question: where, within
our ritual (emulation), do we find ourselves in the presence of
allegories and where, on the contrary, of symbols?
the light of these premises, symbols can only be the working tools
of the Entered Apprentice, of the Fellow Craft and of the Master
Mason. They symbolize, according to the circumstances, the 24
hours of the day, the conscience, the instruction, the moral law,
the equality, the justice, the rectitude, and so on. Other symbols
are the Mosaic Pavement of black and white tiles, the
Tracing-Board, the letter G, the Flaming Star (representing the
quintessence, the microcosm, and the man).
legend of Hiram Abif, concerning the death of the principal
architect of the Temple, is therefore an allegory, being a
rhetorical figure whose concept of death and rebirth is expressed
through a sensitive or fantastic representation, mostly
we have seen, allegory distinguishes itself from the symbol
because the relationship between symbol and the symbolized thing
is such that the symbol completely substitutes the symbolized
thing, while the allegorical representation is a transfiguration
or rather, a return from the sensitive to intelligible. From this
we deduce the cognitive gnoseological basic value of the allegory
and the importance of its use in an esoteric initiation society.
In fact, if it is true that our knowledge goes from the sensitive
to the intelligible, the allegory has the precise function to
bring to us what is by its own nature difficult to grasp by the
mind, allowing us to express it notwithstanding the deformations
of its sensitive disguise.
symbol is different from the sign because besides being an
indication it is also a representation of the meant thing; for
example, the flag on a ship can simply indicate its nationality or
be the symbol of a nation. At the base of a symbol there is a link
that can be of various types, ontological or merely conventional
but what interests us is that this link involves a total
substitution so the symbol is in the place of what is symbolized
and it fulfills its functions.
starting our path in the world of hermetism and of gnosis, it will
be necessary to familiarize with these basic concepts. Without an
adequate knowledge of symbolism and of its esoteric interpretation
and without a good knowledge of religions in general, each ritual
becomes only a mnemonic exercise.
is for Freemasonry a primary exigency that cannot be renounced;
through it we have the possibility to penetrate, via intuition, in
the veil of the most hidden mystery and at the same time we obtain
to conform the message to the receiver’s degree of knowledge.
The peculiar nature of the symbolic communication is to be liable
to different degrees of interpretation, depending on the level of
whom is questioning the text. A certain expression will remain
silent in front of the neophyte or will communicate to him a very
simple and immediate message. But for “whom who knows” that
is, who has the correct key for an interpretative reading and the
proper sensibility only one symbolic sign will open an entire
world of analogies and implications. The mystic symbol gives the
rough ashlar a little gleam of truth and opens to the smooth
ashlar the profound sense of the interior research.
today’s historical context, which the Hindu doctrine defines as
the “Kali Yuga” or “obscure age” (the fourth and last age
of a progressive cycle of obscuring of spirituality), in a society
that Guenon defined the “Reign of Quantity” for the tendency
to bring every phenomenon to the quantitative point of view, it is
therefore necessary and desirable to continue the
“Freemason’s” esoteric path, last bastion against the mass
is, in my opinion, the only way to succeed in “riding the
tiger”, as Julius Evola would say; that is to spur men to
resist, in a standardized world without points of reference and
often hostile, clinging themselves to the strength of tradition
and being aware of their own individuality.
the vacuum of the traditional values, the only representative of
the Tradition remains the Promethean figure of the Freemason, a
man who tries to defend his space and his time, master of his own
existence. According to the philosopher José Ortega y Gasset, in
his “The Revolt of the Masses”, each civilization lies in a
condition of fundamental insecurity and needs a persevering
commitment in order not to decay into barbarism; such effort can
be necessarily supported by men willing to live according to
duties and imperatives.
men have represented the aristocracy of each society
and this is the role to which the “Freemason” is called to
A. Riffard, L’ Esotérisme, page. 54, Edition Robert
Laffont, S.A., Paris, 1990.