Understanding the philosophical testament prior to Masonic initiation
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!
This period is very important! When we live it in the feverish expectation of a "happy" event, we miss something that we can no longer relive!
Initiation, in the first sense of the term, is above all an immersion in a new conceptual universe: the vocabulary, the ritual, the faces, everything is going to be to be discovered! It is this encounter with novelty that characterizes initiation.
Masonic rituals, like all initiation rituals, formalize this meeting through a ceremony that is also called initiation.
One of the prerequisites for this ceremony is meditation in the reflection room; during this meditation the lay person will be asked to write his or her moral and philosophical will.
It is a question of answering three questions; according to the lodges and the obediences several formulations are possible; as an example, here are three possible formulations:
What is your belief in the existence of a God who is the creator and unique principle of all things; in Providence and in the immortality of the human soul; and what do you think of the Christian religion?
What idea have you formed of virtue as it relates to God and to religion, to yourself and to your fellow men?
What is your opinion of the true needs of men, and in what do you believe that you can be most useful to them?
What does a man owe his fellow man?
What does man owe to his country?
What does man owe to God?
1. What are man's duties to himself?
2. What are man's duties to his Family?
3. What are man's duties towards the City?
4. What are man's duties towards humanity?
5. Moral and Philosophical Testament: At his last hour each one leaves a part of himself to posterity; he leaves in particular the memory of his moral behaviour and the expression of his philosophy. And you, what memory would you like to leave? How will you go about it?
The tendency of most laymen is to take these questions at face value and imagine themselves writing an end-of-life will as it can happen to any individual knowing his near end.
However, we don't say enough that we're here in a completely different situation. It is a death of a profane state that will mutate into an initiatory rebirth. Initiation acts like a moult: we are going to get rid of one state to put on another habit.
The moral and philosophical testament of the profane must be understood as an awareness of this will to change towards perfection. There is no need to make declarations of intent about what might be virtues to which one attaches a certain importance.
If this testament must have value it is because it could contain everything that the layman wants to give up because he could be aware that another dimension awaits him with other values much more motivating than those to which he was attached.
It is by helping the layman to prepare himself/herself for this exercise prior to his/her change of state that the very understanding of initiation will be facilitated and consequently he/she will succeed in this initiatory death that he/she wished to achieve.