by Jean DUMONTEILof the Grand Lodge Alliance
Can we define what a "Masonic spirituality" would be?
The Masonic approach is a personal journey, it is also a practice of initiating fraternity. Initiation is at the heart of the Masonic approach of Tradition because Freemasonry is first of all an initiatory order.
In all the traditions of the world, initiation rites are symbolic representations of death and birth. Without betraying here the Masonic initiation rituals and without unveiling the course of this ceremony, which must remain an intimate and unprecedented experience for those who live it, we can however indicate that the man who aspires to the light by wanting to become a Freemason strips himself in a first trial, of his past, his prejudices, then through a series of trials suffered during symbolic journeys, opens himself to another reality. The initiation ceremony, with its ritual, is lived intensely both by the host group and by the person receiving the initiation, a personal and spiritual experience. However, the initiation is not only a time of reception of the new apprentice. It is a process of permanent rediscovery which accompanies him throughout his journey and his life.
"It is not the path that is difficult, it is the difficult that is the path.
Initiation, as a beginning, is a starting point, the beginning of a journey that the new Freemason will accomplish with the help of his brothers, but remaining free of his steps, responsible for his commitment, where the transformation lived through initiation will be commensurate with the intimate and spiritual human experience that he has lived and which has brought him into a new life. A demanding journey, because as Sören Kierkegaard writes, "it is not the path that is difficult, it is the difficult that is the path".
Masonic initiation is unique because it is a voluntary commitment. It is not a social initiation as we know it in some human societies, such as the one that accompanies the passage into adulthood for example. Admittedly, there is most often a bit of chance in the first path that leads the future apprentice to the threshold of initiation, an encounter with a brother, a curiosity or a general disposition towards Masonic philosophy. But the essential thing is the positive response. No Masonic initiation is imposed. In the same way, no one can initiate himself. The approach is personal, intimate, but it needs the collective. It is not surprising, then, if the Freemasons of the 18th century spoke of a reception ceremony rather than initiation. The initiation is received. It is transmitted. To enter into trust, to enter into the beauty of the rite and behind it to glimpse the beauty of the world, to allow oneself to be shaped by what constitutes a new vision of the world around beauty, strength and wisdom, which leads in love on the path of truth, this is indeed the first spiritual dimension of initiation. Initiation makes it possible to discover another reality. The universe that surrounds us and in which we live is richer than the mere appearance we have seen until now.
Once initiated, it is not enough for the Mason to put a few small pieces of spirituality in his life, to create moral and intellectual comfort. It is a matter of spiritualizing his life. This means being constantly on the alert, listening to the universe and to one's brothers, first in a stage of silence that the new initiate is invited to live as a meditation to get him out of his talkative ego.
Initiation gives both the quality of a brother and the recognition of a fraternal feeling. Anderson's Constitutions lay down as a fundamental rule: "You shall cultivate brotherly love which is the foundation, the cornerstone, the cement and the glory of our brotherhood" If we say that it is a quest, a journey, it is the quest for self-improvement. This implies a shift in perspective. It is a spiritual, non-dogmatic quest, with trials that change those who experience it.
"Truth does not belong to the one who says it, nor even to the one who claims to hold it, but to the one who seeks it.
Unlike other spiritual and philosophical schools, there are no masters and disciples in the Masonic school. Initiation within Masonry proposes a path of personal realization within and through a fraternity. It is based on the essential evidence that, in order to achieve my unity, I lack the experience of the other. It constitutes a common project for the realization of each one.
Brotherhood cannot be limited to a two-dimensional universe. It is part of a triangulation with a third spiritual and transcendental dimension which gives the meaning of fraternity as it is lived in traditional Freemasonry. Beyond its humanistic dimension, it is also open to all the living beings that make up the universe, as if echoing the words of the great mystics, following the example of Saint Francis of Assisi, who fraternised with the sun and the moon.
As a means and a goal, fraternity is a daily impulse towards the good, the good, the beautiful and the true. It carries in a spiral, a chain of union, fraternity of light and fraternity that elevates. This Masonic commitment must be understood, first of all, as fidelity to the oaths and commitments which, through the Order, bind the brothers. This fidelity is a creator of love, fraternity as an absolute a priori of benevolence for the one who becomes my brother through initiation. It is up to each one to show himself worthy of his duties of honour and loyalty.
This is why Masonry is an Initiatic Order. In all the traditions of the world, initiation rites are symbolic representations of death, of life, which are lived in an unprecedented experience of discovery protected by the previously unspoken.
The Masonic experience must be lived out of tumult, sheltered from the foam of the days to reach the essential. It is both an intimate and collective adventure since it is accomplished in fraternity, recognizing the experience of the other in the common project that we share.
This fraternity is at the heart of the Masonic spiritual journey.