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Rites of Passage and Masonic Initiation

by by W Bro Rev. F.A. Shade, PM
27 May 1994


The term Rites of Passage refers to those occasions - festivals, ceremonies, which acknowledge in some way that a person is or has passed into another stage in their life. Often it is an occasion which is witnessed by family and friends; indeed, the ceremony may be performed by others and within the society/group to which the person belongs. The ceremony or occasion will usually signify that the person concerned has also entered into a new relationship to others - whether family, friends, a fraternity or society as a whole. The traditional 21st Birthday party is an example of such a rite of passage.

These occasions may be of a religious nature, such as Christenings, Weddings etc, or they may be secular happenings and include admission to a group (Scouts, Guides), graduation at school/university. But there are also other experiences/events which are called rites of passage, and these too are intensely personal, such as a personal crisis of some kind - death in the family, facing one's own mortality, an experience of personal success, suffering or loss.

I will tend to refer to secular events as rites of passage (because of their minimal religious content), and those which have an explicit spiritual dimension as rites of initiation, but they are not mutually exclusive. Masonic ceremonies are really rites of initiation - we declare that they are so. But they also offer reflections and advice on certain stages in a person's life and our preparation for them.

Sacred Rites in the West

Let us reflect on the word initiation, one which is often attached to events these days with little regard to what it actually implies.

In philosophical terms, initiation is equivalent to a basic change in existential condition, i.e. the novice emerges from his ordeal as a totally different being, possessed of new knowledge or insight, and having a new relationship to others in the group or larger community. The ancient puberty rites can be so described as they achieve all of these changes in the individual - cultural, social and spiritual. (Masonic Initiation today achieves similar goals, but they are not puberty rites - they are concerned with adult issues)

I was initiated into Freemasonry 31 years ago, and I can still recall the remarkable change in my personal perspective and relationships that occurred as a result of this event. As I was only 18 years of age, it is not surprising or unexpected that these things had such a dramatic effect! For exarnple, I found that I now belonged to a select group within the general cornmunity, one which had secret knowledge and a particular perspective on life. Also, I commenced a new relationship with my father as he had also become my brother. And my flute teacher, who was present that evening, became my brother also, yet he continued as my mentor and guide.

Another significant fact for me is that my father was directly involved in my initiation, and not only rnine but also in the initiation of his three sons. He also installed each of us as Worshipful Masters. For these reasons alone, he typifies the true patriarch of old - the guide/initiator into some of the mysteries of life. And he has also performed this role at other times in our lives. Unfortunately, fewer people these days have had these experiences of family and of initiation. In consequence of this, they look outside their family, to other people and organisations, to help them.

In a general sense, Initiation introduces the novice into the human community at another level of relationships and knowledge, and also into the world of spiritual and cultural values. He is given a conception about himself and the world in which he lives. It invariably involves a body of mythical and transcendental teachings and experiences, a sacred history, possibly a new language, and often a new name and identity. (A rite of passage, on the other hand, does not necessarily offer all these things, and so its significance may not be as great. In any case, the effect and significance of the experience/event is usually left to the individual to determine.)

Contemporary Culture and Values

One of the characteristics of modem Western society is the severe lack of meaningful rites of initiation which are available to people. Christian and other faith communities preserve, in varying degree, vestiges of a mystery tradition that is initiatory in structure and intent. But unfortunately, the Primordial Tradition or Ancient Wisdom, which is the foundation of any true religion, is largely misunderstood or ignored in the religious ceremonies and teachings in the West today. The body of teaching and received wisdom on which the ceremonies are based is not being passed on properly. It is becoming diluted with each passing generation; the 'genuine secrets' of that religious tradition are being lost. Christian Baptism is a genuine rite of initiation, as is ordination to the priesthood. Unfortunately, sorne of the other religious rites we have do not 'initiate' as they were intended to do.

What has happened in recent centuries in Western civilisation is that modern man has become a secular man - he no longer believes that there are dimensions beyond the five senses and what they perceive; he no longer believes that there is a power outside of himself. And as a consequence, he has desacralised the cosmos as well as himself. (See the writings of St.Paul for an entirely different world view e.g. 1Cor.3:16.) He has also 'desacralised' some of the religious and initiatory ceremonies of the Christian Religion, and so religious centres at times become more like extensions of a bureaucracy than places for divine encounters, for miracles, for transcendental experiences. (Our own Lodge Room is not irnrnune from this tendency.) Also, with this onslaught of secular humanism on all aspects of society and human behaviour, new organisations and individuals have made themselves available as civil or secular celebrants for certain ceremonies which were hitherto the sole preserve of the Church. Baptism has become a Naming Ceremony; Weddings and Funerals are also available as secular/non-religious occasions.

In fairness, I should add that I respect what these civil celebrants provide - it is a genuine service to society and its people. Also, non-believers no longer have to be hypocritical when participating in such ceremonies. But as a consequence of this secularisation, these special occasions (rites of passage) have lost the potential to be truly initiatory i.e. involving/affecting the whole person. And so the question which is often asked of me is this: are these secular versions really valid and effective as 'rites of passage". My answer is that they are valid to the extent that they give a dignified and public recognition to what is occurring to that person or group. These secular ceremonies do satisfy the needs of those who ask for an alternative to traditional religious services.

What is taking place in the West, therefore, is a desacralising of certain rites of passage and ceremonies of initiation. But I suspect that this has been occurring in the West for a longer time than we realise. It seems to have been happening since the Reforrnation (16th century) at least, where we can see already a shift from institutional religion and its monolithic structures to personal faith and experience. A focus on the pursuit of a personal initiation or gnosis, and the emphasis on the individual rather than the group. We also see the growing importance of non-religious groups in society such as the Craft Guilds (e.g. the Stonemasons), and aiso City Guilds and Liveries, fraternities which were essentially secular in outlook and purpose. These accelerated the trend to a secular society and one with the Protestant emphasis on personal achievement.

Rites of Death and Rebirth

I now want to take you back to a much earlier period in man's history, to what some describe as ancient or primitive civilisations, but which we describe more accurately these days as pre-modern man.

Pre-modern man had ceremonies dealing with death and rebirth as central to their systems of initiation. They indicated that the novice had achieved another mode of existence, inaccessible to those who had not tasted the ordeal of death and rebirth. This characteristic of their ceremonies is essential to our understanding of the teachings of pre-modern man, which was that death of the old self was required before a new beginning could be achieved. And so we can see that initiatory death was considered indispensable for the beginning of spiritual life. (The Australian Aborigines, the tribes of New Guinea etc. have ceremonies with this as their purpose.) And as modern Freemasonry has a similar teaching, similar requirements (e.g. the preparation of the candidate, the special place for the cerernonies) and similar ritual (e.g. the drama of the third degree), it should produce a change in the candidate similar to that which occurred with pre-modern Man.

Coming to a more recent period, when we look at the writings of the ancient Greek civilisation, we see that a highly developed allegorical interpretation was overlaid on their initiatory rites and ceremonies. This was done very deliberately in order to abstain from revealing the secrets of the various Hellenistic mysteries. The majority of interpretations given at that time suggest that their ceremonies referred to successive stages through which the human soul must pass in its ascent to God. It was also indicating that we are involved in a psychodrama through which the soul can free itself from the limitations of this world, attain regeneration, and take flight to its true home, the intelligible world. And does not this explanation strike a chord with my brother Masons?

What concerns me about Freemasonry in its present form is that it tends to get stuck in the allegory and forgets that there are deeper layers to be explored; it makes the allegorical explanations of our syrnbols and ceremonies an end in themselves. (There is also the danger of being so precoccupied with the ceremonial requirements that we forget the underlying message which it contains.) But, as the founder of the Christian Religion reminds us, parable and allegory are just the beginning, not the goal, in the discovery of Self! (cf Matt. 13 13)

Christianity and Initiation

And what can we say about developments during the past two thousand years in the West? I have already made some observations in regard to Christian ceremonies, but we should spend a little more time on them as they are also part of the foundation of the whole Western Esoteric System. Putting aside the controversial issue of whether or not early Christianity borrowed initiatory rites and ceremonies from other cultures and belief-systems, what we do have in the seven traditional sacraments of the Church is a most highly developed and potent form of initiation, or more correctly, a series of initiations. (cf. The Western Sacramental Tradition: Path to Consciousness.)

When we study the early Christian writings and documents we see that the Christian form of Baptism was in every sense intended to be a true initiation. (The novices, or catechumen, spent a long time in preparation for it.) And the other ceremony which was initiatory is the service of the Holy Echucharist, particularly in its traditional forrn. It is of interest to note that both these ceremonies refer to an historical origin, to certain sacred persons and to certain words of power. But although they have this historical basis, they are not in any way 'profane' ceremonies but truly spiritual ones; we are here dealing with both a sacred story as well as a "remembering" of certain events, with spiritual power as well as physical actions.

There is one other aspect of the celebration of the Holy Eucharist in particular which is also pertinent to this evening's topic. In the Eucharist, the members participate in a 're-enactment', an invoking or recalling (anemnesis) of the past with certain words and actions. By so doing they enter a sacred time as well as a sacred space, which means they celebrate the service outside the normal limitations of time and space. This is very important to remember. Also, this ceremony brings both the past and the future together with the present. For these reasons alone, it is in every sense a magical rite. I mention these features as they are not usually explained in our churches these days. I appreciate that not everyone will agree with the perspective I have offered here, but it is an ancient church teaching.

What I have just said about the Eucharist service also applies to certain masonic ceremonies, e.g. at the consecration of a lodge, the third degree, our specified time and place when at labour and refreshment etc. None of these examples have anything to with the date and time operating outside the lodge room. We separate ourselves from the mundane world when we enter the lodge, both in time and location, and by the authority of the Royal Solomon, the Worshipful Master opens the lodge with his offlcers with certain words and actions, and the work of the meeting is comrnenced. The construction of a (spiritual) temple, and the work the brethren plan to do in that temple cannot take place validly without these special words and actions being performed, and by duly authorised and empowered brethren.

Christian Symbols

As the new Christian Religion moved outside the locale of Palestine, its symbols and teachings took on a more universal application, hence the adoption of some meanings attributed to them from other faiths and cultures, and even the wholesale acquisition of new traditions and festivals. One such example was the adoption of 25th December as the date for celebrating the Festival of the Nativity of Christ. At that time it was a Roman festival - Sol Invictus. Also, we find the symbols of the Cosmic Tree and of the centre of the world incorporated into the symbolism of the Cross.

The Cross is described in ancient writings as a "tree rising from earth to Heaven", as "the Tree of Life planted on Calvary", the tree that "springing from the depths of the earth, rose to Heaven and sanctifies the uttermost bounds of the universe". (Its similarity to the symbol of the Sacred Pole in many ancient civilisations, e.g Australian Aborigines, is quite striking.) Thus the truly cosmic implications of the momentous event - the Crucifixion, became more clearly articulated, and in so doing incorporated other and very ancient and powerful symbols for the purpose. In other words, in order to convey the mystery of universal redemption through the Cross, Christian writers used not only the symbols of the Old Testament and the ancient near East (cf Tree of Life) but also even more ancient symbols such as the Cosmic Tree set at the centre of the world and which ensured communication between heaven and earth.

I think these few examples are sufficient to illustrate the antiquity of some of the religious symbols we have inherited in Christianity, as well as the initiatory aspects of certain Christian ceremonies. The picture I have painted is also pertinent when we reflect on the nature and purpose of Freemasonry, its ritual and symbolism, for Christianity and Freemasony have comrnon sources of symbolism and similar intents - to be life-affecting and life-transforming.

By the fourth century, the secret teachings (arcana disciplina) is fully developed, i.e. the idea that the Christian Mysteries are to be guarded from the uninitiated, finally triumphs. Also, the diffusion of this forrn of the Christian Religion as a religion of mysteries overshadowed and obliterated the existing mystery religions and systems. The rival mystery cults of the time did not survive the spread of Christianity because of the new Religion's capacity to initiate and transform the individual. (Of course, becoming the State Religion also helped!)

It must also be said that there has always been in Christianity an undercurrent of different ideas and methodologies, sometimes erupting to the surface. It has often been described as a Gnostic thread, and it perpetuated the tradition of personal intitiation and knowledge, and also certain esoteric teachings which the Church has either ignored or suppressed.

Gnosticism appeared in different forms and guises down the centuries, as Alchemy, as the secret ceremonies of the Knights Templar in the Middle Ages, and as certain "Christian" sects (e.g. Manichees, Bogomils, Cathars etc.). And we must not forget the Arthurian Cycle and its Grail Motif as another and most important example of initiatory processes and personal gnosis which became prominent during the Middle Ages through its literature.

I mention these rites, traditions and literature of the past to show that much of what pre-modern man presented to the novices in their rites of initiation had indeed been passed down to us in one forrn or another within Western Christendom. (Freemasonry makes a similar claim in regard to the origin of its teachings and symbolism, i.e. claiming a near affinity with the mystery schools of ancient Egypt.) Each of these several rites and traditions in pre- modern times, and later as orthodox and 'unorthodox' teachings of the Christian era, each of these traditions endeavoured to give the novice new insights into the meaning of personal existence, to raise him to a higher level of awareness, of consciousness, and to link him more strongly with the Divine, the Source of all life, knowledge, grace and truth.

And so one can say, with some accuracy I think, that rites of initiation continued to exist in the West both inside and outside the Church, and with varying degrees of success and efficacy. And as a further indication of this, patterns of initiation can be seen outlined in the literature of the times, such as Grail literature previously referred to, the songs of the Troubadors from Provence, the home of the Cathars. The Church did not have (and never has had) a monopoly on rites of initiation or esoteric knowledge.

Modern Western Man

I said at the beginning of my talk that modern man has, to all intents and purposes, very few rites of initiation of the traditional type available to him. Certainly, there are a few of this type within the Christian Church today, but their true intent and key to personal empowerment is lost on most people today. Often the ceremonies are formalities rather than initiatory experiences. Their ancient symbols and ceremonies have lost much of their mystical power as well as their ability to raise the level of consciousness both of the individual and the faith community generally. Of course, they continue to be sources of grace and blessing.

There are a few communities within the Christian Faith today which are endeavouring to bring back the ancient teachings and the deeper meaning of our doctrines which they claim were an integral part of the early Christian Church's understanding of faith and experience, but these groups are very few indeed. (The Liberal Catholic Church is perhaps the best known in this group in Melbourne, but there are others.)

Western religion has become so preoccupied in making its teachings, services and initiatory rites 'relevant', that it has lost much of its 'timeless' quality, sense of mystery, awe and wonder, and those truly personal aspects which are in fact at the very heart of transcendental experience. Also, the use of everyday language, for the sake of 'contemporary relevance', has reinforced this decline in the proper use of language in ritual. This trend thus breaks with an ancient principle - that of using a sacred or 'special' language for liturgy and ritual. (Fortunately, Freemasomy has not yet succumbed to this tendency.)

If you go to a service of the Orthodox Church, you will see how different it is to the services in the West. They have held fast to the timeless and cosmic aspects of the Christian Faith - their ceremonies enable the people to enter another world, literally, to enter a sacred space and a sacred time. They have truly invoked heaven, indeed, have brought earth and heaven together; they communicate with the angels who are God's messengers and hear the Word at the level of spirit. (This also applies to Eastern Religions such as Hinduism.)

When we read the writings of some of the early Church Fathers, such as Origen, we find that they reveal to us a number of layers of meaning in the Christian message, its sacred writings, rites and ceremonies. For example, they teach not only an historic Christ, but also a mythic Christ, a cosrnic Christ, and a Mystic Christ! But fewer and fewer people these days are aware of the richness of the Christian Religion. The ritual and symbolism of Freemasonry need to be approached with similar techniques of investigation in order that we may gain access to its riches. The writings of brethren such as W.L. Wilmshurst, J.S.M. Ward and A.E. Waite bring to our attention the deeper aspects of our symbolism and teaching.

Modern Rites of Initiation

If you are in general agreement with at least some of my observations, you may be prepared to accept the view of writers in this field such as Carl Jung, Mircea Eliade and Professor Rossner, who declare that initiation lies at the core of any genuine human life. This is true for two important reasons:

(i) Any genuine human life will include profound crises, ordeals, suffering, loss and reconquest of self, "death and resurrection".

(ii) Whatever degree of fulfilment it may have brought him, at a certain moment every man sees his life as a 'failure'.

In such moments of total crisis, only hope seems to offer any issue - the hope of beginning life over again. A tota] renewal is required. And this renewal can take many forms, and it may be extremely personal and private, or it may be very public.

One must ask the question, where are the puberty rites today? Where are the rites of initiation for the mature adult, and where are they for the person who is approaching the end of his life? Some of the these stages in a person's life are represented in the ceremonies of the Church, such as Baptism and Confirmation (which should take place at the onset of puberty), but they do not completely satisfy all the requirements. Of course, the sacrament of the Eucharist is a continual source of healing, blessing and grace throughout a person's whole life, hence the desirability of participating in this sacrament on a regular basis. Regrettably, fewer people today see this sacrament in this way, as a continuing encounter with the Divine and personal renewal.

Some of the other traditional sacraments of the Church, such as Healing and Extreme Unction (for the dying) are of great assistance, and I can attest to the spiritual grace which is conveyed by them. Unfortunately, fewer people avail themselves of these sacraments. Yet these can be true rites of initiation, as well as sources of grace and renewal, when both the person concerned and the minister are 'properly prepared'. Unfortunately, society's demand for the 'quick fix' often leads to an inadequate preparation for such encounters with God and, therefore, a consequent disappointment of the individual whose expectations are not realised.

Today, there is a rapid decline in influence of the Christian Church in the West, and concurrent with this we see that people are looking to other sources for explanations, for meaning, for spiritual experience. The initiatory themes contained in the Grail tradition, in the Tarot, in Wicca, in Witchcraft and other neo-pagan revivals, in various New Age groups (and not forgetting the plethora of gurus roaming the West), all of these movements are attracting an increasing number of devotees. People have a spiritual hunger and they will seek ways for personal growth and renewal wherever they can find it. For these people many institutions in the West have been found wanting - they see them as being concerned more with dogma and outward conforrnity than with inner transformation. I can vouch for the truth in what I am saying from my own contact with these groups.

Modern Freemasonry

Well, where does modern Freemasonry fit into all of this? Does it have a role as a place of initiation, as a school of esoteric instruction, as a fraternity which provides the necessary knowledge and guidance for the brethren as they go through the different stages of life? I believe it does provide knowledge and insight into these things, at least to some degree. It reflects very effectively on certain stages and it does, on rare occasions (and this is not confined to the Craft degrees) provide opportunities for real initiation. It certainly presents a helpful commentary on life and its challenges, guidance on how to lead a productive life, and also on how to die bravely. Also, the Teachings of Freemasonry are an affirmation of life, and are therefore couched in very positive terms (e.g. triumph of the human spirit etc.).

The Craft ritual endeavours to help brethren answer the five fundamental questions, questions which man has been asking since the dawn of human consciousness. These questions are:

1. Who am I?
2. Where did I come from?
3. What am I doing here?
4. Where am I going?
5. How can I come to terms with all this, so that it can give meaning to my personal existence, and thus enable me to link up with that Power which is greater than myself!

The ancient Mystery Schools of Egypt, Greece and Rome also assisted their neophytes in answering these questions.

In Craft Freemasonry the special knowledge and science, which is the science of living, is conveyed in the time-honoured way, techniques which go back to pre-modern man. It is conveyed in ritual drama and in a particular ritual space, the Men's House, one in which the candidate plays the principal part. The external features such as regalia, lighting, furnishings, colour, music and special effects, together with the ritual itself, are all designed to induce a receptive and psychological state in which a deeper existential experience is made possible for the candidate. Information is thus conveyed in a most dramatic and effective Such is the intention of masonic ritual and the tools it uses to achieve this end. But, in the final analysis, the lodge room and its ritual is really a projection of that which must take place in the ritual space within ourselves.

The drama of the third degree requires us to appreciate it as a message presented at different levels. It is a morality-play of sorts. It's also a great drama, and one in which the candidate represents our Grand Master H. Ab. He has to face death. ("Nature presents one great and useful lesson more,.... she finally instructs you how to die".) And then there is the R., which teaches him that there is always a rebirth after every death, whether it be physical or spiritual. He is also taught that by following the example of our Grand Master, even unto death, he will rejoin his brethren on the other side in the abodes of the blessed. The message of Freemasonry is one of hope.

And so the candidate participates in a representation of martyrdom, a form of crucifixion, if you like. But at another level, it is one which is also concerned with personal and spiritual renewal here and now, in this life, and also about rejoining his brethren with a new status, knowledge, personal power and responsibility.

Search for Meaning and Renewal

Since the dawn of human consciousness man has had a nostalgia for initiatory renewal. Freemasonry resonates to this eternal quest for meaning and renewal. Freemasonry is also the modern formulation of man's eternal longing to find a positive meaning in death, to accept death as a transition rite to a higher mode of being (as H.Ab. knew it to be). As one writer has observed: "If we can say that initiation constitutes a specific dimension of human existence, this is true above all because it is only in initiation that death is given a positive value. Death prepares the new, purely spiritual birth, access to a mode of being not subject to the destroying action of Time." These are the very perceptive words of the great scholar Mircea Eliade (Rites and Symbols...p.136). I think we would all agree that the Masonic ritual does give a positive meaning to death and also to the virtue of dying bravely.

Because of these ancient purposes of our Fraternity, the signs and symbols of Freemasonry need to be more highly valued and understood by members than they are at present. True, the symbols of Masonry are largely 'pictorial', but some are of a higher order of symbolism, such as Jacob's Ladder, the Pentagram, the Seal of Solomon etc. These can be used as objects for personal instruction, even for meditation. A great symbol will communicate directly to the soul, and some of our masonic symbols do just that.

However, those symbols to which is attributed a basic prescription of morality, social decency or conformity with the ceremonial and other requirements, contribute little to the life and soul of a mason. "Something is lacking in our system of instruction and claims to great truths if the first and last secrets are the same - those of universal benevolence!" (A.E.Waite) A code of ethics is insufficient in itself to justify all this ritual and the claim to be a successor to the Mystery School of ancient Egypt! In any case, morality really does not lend itself to symbolism very well. Stories and legends which illustrate these do exist under the umbrella of Freemasonry, but they have little to offer those who are in search of a personal gnosis, for a sense of meaning.

There is a lack of awareness in Freemasonry today of the role of our ritual as a powerful psychological tool, not only in giving moral and philosophical instruction, but also in providing actual initiation. It is also very easy for members, and the organisation itself, to become distracted by the externals of the organisation, its bureaucracy, paper-work and non-ritual activities.

What it boils down to is this:

(i) Does Freemasonry present purely a Moral Philosophy, or
(ii) Does it also have a higher order of instruction and purpose, a Spiritual Philosophy?; and
(iii) Does Freemasonry merely instruct, or does it also initiate?

Lastly, there is one aspect of our rites of initiation which I find puzzling, and which also has a bearing on tonight's topic.

Masonry: a Rite of Death?

The three Craft degrees can be rightly considered as rites of passage/initiation, or at least reflective of those experiences which we will have in our journey through life. They give sense, meaning and support to them - three essential ingredients in any comprehensive system of instruction.

The three degrees are considered as being representative of:

1. Birth,    
2. Life,      
3. Death.

Another way of viewing them is to see them as commenting on three significant stages in personal development:

1. Commencement (Adult),      
2. Development (Maturity),      
3. Completion.

I think both descriptions are valid, but each needs to be adapted according to the individual's own life experiences - that is the beauty of our system.

But mystery rites, worthy of that title, should teach us more than this; they should also provide us with insights into what is to come, what is beyond the grave. (The famous Egyptian Book of the Dead and other documents suggest that the Egyptian system provided this information as well as the strategies to meet the tests ahead.)

It is for this reason that the Craft is sometimes described as a Rite of Death, because it ends at the grave. I appreciate that the candidate is R. therefrom, but he is told nothing about what is beyond. Meaning and purpose is given to death, also encouragement and hope, but that is all! The instruction is incomplete. But if we accept the view that the Installation of the Worshipful Master and the Exaltation Ceremony in the H.R.A. are indicative of the soul's subsequent joumey, i.e. beyond the grave, as I do, then we can say that Freemasonry also provides a Rite of Resurrection. I would go further and suggest that possibly the Rose Croix (18) and the Knights Kadosh (30) provide us with a Rite of Ascension. Thus, we would then have a complete system of initiation, a comprehensive commentary and set of experiences in our rites which concern rites of passage in this life and beyond the grave; three levels of instruction - a Rite of Death, a Rite of Resurrection, and a Rite of Ascension. This conception would give strong support to the claim that Freemasonry is truly a progressive science.


We are all pilgrims on this planet, making our journey to our spiritual home and destiny, which is abiding for ever in the presence of the Divine. Everything we think and do is predicated on this fact. (Remember, many of our rituals have the candidate as a sojourner or a pilgrim.) For this reason, every serious undertaking in life has a spiritual dimension. This is true of our work in Freemasonry. True, our Masonic instruction is moral, and it is philosophical. But I believe it is also spiritual. And if Freemasonry is to have any impact/influence upon its members, let alone on the rest of the community, then we need to make our brethren aware of its greater plan and purpose, and that a personal gnosis and renewal must be added to a set of moral imperatives.

I believe that Freemasonry is a true successor to the Mystery Schools of pre-modern man. It does have the Teaching as it is based on the Primordial Tradition, the Wisdom of the Ages. It uses the ancient method of instruction, i.e. ritual drama presented in a sacred space and time. For these reasons, I believe it can help the brother mason a great deal on his journey through this life and even beyond the grave, if only we can communicate more effectively what Freemasonry has to offer.

But first, we need to teach the teachers in the Craft about Freemasonry, to explain to them how it is a multifaceted and multi-layered system of knowledge - truly a progressive science. We also need to make our brethren aware of the other degrees and Orders within Freemasonry as these add so much to our storehouse of knowledge; they complete our initiation and training. Masonry has so much to offer its members and the world in general, but the great challenge to the Fraternity at the moment is for its members to comprehend more deeply what it has to offer its brethren.


Bly, R., "Iron John: A Book About Men", Element, England, 1990

de Coppens, P.R. "Divine Light and Fire: Experiencing Esoteric Christianity", Element,

Rockport, MA, U.S A, l 992

Eliade, M. "The Sacred and the Profane: The Nature of Religion", Harvest, New York, 1975

Eliade, M., "Rites and Symbols of Initiation: The Mystery of Birth and Rebirth", Harper, New York, 1958

Fortune, D., "Esoteric Orders and their Work", Aquarian, Gt Britain, 1987

Jung, C., "Modern Man in Search of a Soul", Harvest, New York, 1933

Kubler-Ross, E., "Death: The Final Stage of Growth", Prentice-Hall, London, 1975

"On Death and Dying", Travistock, London, 1975

Murray, J. (ed), "Rites of Passage: Sacred Music and Ceremonial", A B C, Victoria, 1988

Rossner, J., "In Search of the Primordial Tradition and the Cosmic Christ (Uniting World Religious Experience with a Lost Esoteric Christianity.)" Llewellyn Publications, St Paul, U S A, 1989

Krusenstierna, S.von "Partaking in the Christian Mysteries", St Alban Press, L C C, Melbourne, 1989

Wilmshurst, W. "The Meaning of Masonry", Bell, New York, 1980

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