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Masonic dualism: one of the specificities of Masonic thought?

In a first version, this text was entitled "The two faces of the Masonic "medal" or the praise of duality"!

Comparing a complex entity such as Freemasonry to a medal might seem a reductive approach, to say the least. But isn't the medal one of the first supports imagined by human beings? Before becoming a "medal", this term only meant small change. However, small medals soon became important objects and in particular its use in ancient China to interpret the Book of Mutations also known as the Yi-King.

The medal, therefore, has titles of "nobility" that cannot be contested and it is not restricting the content of Freemasonry to compare it to a medal.

It is not a question, of course, of endorsing this detestable practice of decorative objects that one offers oneself or that one makes for a pretentious gloriole; centenary medal, medal of notables, honorary medal, not to mention other jewels, all that is detestable!

By comparing Freemasonry to a medal, we can read and understand our reality today, heir to a turbulent past.

A medal has two sides, an obverse and a reverse, and a slice; in single metal or alloy, but also in stone or bone, it can be engraved, sculpted, pierced in many ways.

It is customary to oppose the two sides of the same "medal": the side that is shown and the hidden side that is more or less shameful.

Here, there's nothing like it! Freemasonry hides nothing; it is enough to observe!

The two sides of a medal refer us to the binarity and the symbolic content that could be attributed to it. If we attribute importance to the symbolic content of the binary, is it not because it is above all the mould into which every initiate is led to slip. As much as the attribution of a meaning to other numbers proceeds from an intellectual approach, binarity corresponds to a lived experience that gives it its symbolic value.

For the symbolic content of an object or image should not be confused with the representation that emerges from it. It is a linguistic propensity to assimilate signs to symbols to the extent that it is often said that "Everything is symbolic" without specifying the conditions that give a symbolic value to signs.

The symbolic content of the binary in Freemasonry concerns five essential issues:

  • Our bipolarity of layman - initiated,

  • The duty of brotherhood and the omnipresence of solitude,

  • Our filiation as the Widow's Child while claiming to be an heir of Hiram,

  • The philosophical dualism that we claim with the material earthly support and the celestial influence of a more spiritual nature,

  • Our belonging to an institutional order while having to go through a journey of searching.

These four issues will always be omnipresent in our approach, whether in the lodge or outside the lodge. They are not problems of "opposites" but two sides of the same coin. To be one and the other, to claim one and the other of two obligations or realities.

The Masonic symbols of the binary maintain and comfort this environment; one could quote:

  • The two columns at the entrance of the temple,

  • The arrangement in the temple with this axis West - East that imposes its logic,

  • The mosaic paving stone,

  • The pair of white gloves,

  • Light and darkness,

  • Midsummer and winter Midsummer Midsummer,

  • The moon and the sun

  • The nadir and the zenith, combined with the plumb line,

  • The isosceles triangle, symbol of duality by the symmetry it inspires.

  • The square and the compass, the two motifs of a nameless logo that symbolizes freemasonry by itself.

The very origin of the emergence of the Masonic lodges was placed under the influence of a duality: both Christian-inspired and wanting to be as different with a scientific influence and a universal dimension encompassing pre-Christianity.

Who says duality, implies a complexity and the obligation to introduce a subtlety. It is understandably a difficult exercise that can be misunderstood.

The history of Freemasonry conceals many episodes in which an unconsidered commitment (such as during the Paris Commune) ended in drama and misunderstanding.

Wanting to give the image of a committed and militant Freemasonry seems an incongruity in contradiction with this intrinsic duality. It is also for this reason that Freemasonry has no place in a political commitment although it has its place in a proximity to the dominant political power.

If the initial duality instituted in the eighteenth century made sense thanks to the alliance between the bourgeoisie and the aristocracy, we can question the credibility of Freemasonry today.

In formulating otherwise, what content should be given today to a duality that would have a meaning understandable by a large section of the population?

Energy transition, transhumanism, artificial intelligence and North-South dynamics are subjects that could benefit from the subtleties of our approach to duality.

Not to oppose renewable energies to fossil fuels, if we take the example of the energy transition, but to accept a mix of approaches that is compatible.

In the same way, wanting to oppose artificial intelligence to human intelligence under the pretext of a reference to the humanism of the Age of Enlightenment stems from forgetting the contribution of duality in an approach to the future.

By revisiting duality in the light of a contemporary use of human thought, we can enhance the Masonic approach by preserving all its specificity in the handling of a symbolic thought.

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