Created in 18th century England, Freemasonry was initially Christian, drawing its inspiration from the only traditional book available at that time, the Bible.
Membership in Freemasonry is done through an initiation; it is the role of the lodge to implement this transition from the secular world to the "light".
For this, the lodge uses an initiation ritual that uses a symbolic language.
The initiation ritual stages this change of state through four great "trials": the trials of Earth, Air, Water and Fire.
The first level of understanding of these trials is accessible from the biblical symbolic content of these four elements. (see diagram above).
Today, while understanding this meaning, other interpretations are possible.
The Masonic initiation: what originality?
If we study all human societies, all organizations, which propose an "initiation", it is fair to recognize that we find many common points and in particular :
- a decorum,
- a ritual with a vocabulary,
- a relationship of subjugation at the beginning,
- a stranglehold on the group,
- some formatting.
And yet, there is an originality in Masonic initiation: the absolute freedom of conscience that we find in the Wirthian formula "Free in a free lodge"!
Like any freedom, it is only of interest if it is used, if it is reappropriated to serve as a filter for any acquisition of knowledge.
It's not easy, everyone will notice, but it can preserve many possible drifts!
Masonic initiation is the work of a group of Freemasons gathered in a lodge for a layman who has asked to be initiated! There is therefore a real care; moreover it is customary to say that this lodge becomes the mother lodge of the new initiate.
The Masonic initiation today can be considered as an initiation of modern times insofar as it is most often relatively simplified and beyond the anxiety of discovering an experience, the layman has no particular role except to let himself be taken care of!
This modern-day initiation, on the other hand, obliges the new initiate to think about it seriously, if he or she wants to understand its meaning!
The Masonic initiation can be understood in different ways, but the most beautiful way, would it not be to understand it as an apprenticeship of Love that we can bring to Nature taken in its broadest sense, by integrating living beings, elements of the relief and also the universe?
A love that would not be a desire for possession, but a contemplation, a benevolence, a respect!
Initiation, a starting point
The Masonic initiation is in a way the starting point of the Masonic approach; it is also for some an esoteric process of knowledge.
It is also a declination of an ancestral practice existing in all the regions and cultures of the world which aims at allowing the selection of individuals able to possess and also to propagate esoteric and/or religious knowledge.
In ancient civilizations, initiation was generally practiced within the institutional framework, which gave the initiate a status of social recognition. For example, in tribal societies, the initiate became a sorcerer or healer.
Initiation is therefore above all a transmission of knowledge for the benefit of a candidate. Entry into the group of initiates is done during a symbolic ceremony called the initiation ceremony.
Historically one could say that initiation is correlated with two paradigms:
- a social status that identifies the initiate with a skill or a social function,
- an entry into a possible process of immortality. (see a development on this subject)
Today, Masonic initiation can also be understood as a formation and a commitment to another way of life; one could say that this other way of life is based on three principles:
1) Self-improvement towards greater authenticity and a relationship with others based on the search for peaceful relations.
2) Strengthening the social bond for a harmony of social relations based on solidarity and altruism,
3) Respect for the convictions and beliefs of each person with the refusal to impose one's own convictions on others.
The model of initiation is most often based on a binary conception: the world as seen by the initiates versus the world of the "mister (or madam) everybody", the world of darkness versus the world of Light, order and disorder, the initiate and the layman, etc. The model of initiation is also based on a binary conception: the world as seen by the initiates versus the world of the "mister (or madam) everybody", the world of darkness versus the world of Light, order and disorder, the initiate and the layman, etc. The model of initiation is also based on a binary conception: the world as seen by the initiates versus the world of the "mister (or madam) everybody", the world of darkness versus the world of Light, order and disorder, the initiate and the layman, etc.
This binarity explains why one speaks of "death to the profane world" by evoking the ritual of initiation. (see below for a development on the will asked of the candidate).
What criteria to make a choice?
The Masonic initiation is done in a Masonic lodge! But all the lodges are not the same because each one has its own personality. Often the choice of the lodge is not made by the candidate; it is the "fruit of chance"! Nothing prevents this choice from being considered; to do this, it is necessary to put forward criteria that seem important to you:
- The distance to your home
- dates and times of meetings
- Frequency of the different meetings
- the rite used
- whether or not meetings are mixed
- interest in a working method
- belonging to the obedience
- the possibility or not to visit other lodges
- and so on
The appropriation of the Masonic ideal is a long process that the new intity is going to live through and which implements many mechanisms!
It is a question of integrating into one's own psychology notions which for the most part are little or badly known before entering the lodge, to criticize them, and in the end to make them one's own by adhesion and not by obligation!
The Philosophical Testament to make a success of his initiatory death
Most of the time the lay person who has made the request enters a process of meetings, followed by the passage under the band, before being announced the date of initiation; in total, it can take between a few months and a year. It is an ambiguous period: we are not yet but we will be soon; so that apart from the readings that one may allow oneself, discussions with the godfather or godmother (when he or she exists), or with Freemason friends (whose spouse sometimes) often revolve around generalities: one must wait!
The real obstacle to initiation, the risk of sadomasochistic tilting!
The term "sadomasochism" is sometimes used to refer to sexual behaviour, but in psychology, its meaning is much broader, since it refers more generally to the "executioner-victim" couple.
Initiation does not give rights, but simply duties!
If in the past, it was quite usual to see Freemasons making fun of being initiated, and all the more so as they reached the so-called higher degrees, we know well today that Masonic initiation does not bring any quality by itself.
The fact of having experienced a ceremony, whatever the emotion that accompanies it, does not change anything to the individual who remains the same!
Initiation can be seen as a mark of trust and a bet!
- "I have confidence in you and I'm sure that this approach to knowledge that you will now become familiar with, will help you improve!"
- This mark of confidence is accompanied by a wager because no one knows if the new insider (or the new insider) will actually start working with the new tools he (or she) now has at his (or her) disposal!
Being initiated is therefore a new duty which should be imposed and which will consist of years of reading, listening, observing and writing!
Is Masonic initiation esoteric?
In a lapidary way one could answer Yes and No!
If one understands the word "esoteric" in its primary meaning of a transmission of knowledge from a Master to a student in an intimate way, it is clear that Masonic initiation is not esoteric! And this for two reasons:
- The teaching does not start with one master, but with a group of masters;
- it is never an "intimate" teaching!
If one understands the word "esoteric", in its meaning of a knowledge reserved for a few people, there too, one can affirm that this is not an esoteric initiation; millions of Freemasons exist throughout the world and it is a long time since the Masonic group became a crowd!
On the other hand, if esotericism is understood as knowledge accessible only on the condition of being initiated, it is clear that the answer must be Yes!
What are the objectives for Masonic initiation?
Soliciting an initiation in a Masonic lodge is always an important step from an emotional point of view and when this step is successful, the initiation is first of all a moment of shared happiness even if anxiety is always present before the unknown!
Masonic initiation is not interesting for ...
- Those who believe that Freemasons possess mystical powers that would make them invulnerable or capable of influencing others or events; such beliefs are fantasies that rest on nothing; those who are convinced of them would be seriously disappointed.
- Those who are engaged in a political or political commitment and who think they can take advantage of Masonic involvement to get closer to power or have advantages. Generally, political staff is not very appreciated in the lodges because it is well known that in the majority of cases it has constraints and interests that do not make it free. On the other hand, the many political excesses bring discredit to those who have made it a remunerative activity!
- Those who believe that Freemasons are capable of changing the world and bringing an innovative solution to all problems. Unfortunately, the truth is that this is not true.
- Those who think that when you are a freemason you are not successful in business or have no employment problems! How many have been disappointed when they realised that all this was just a piece of cake!