Despite its constant ascertion that it is not a secret society, Freemasonry is, nevertheless, a society with secrets. For this reason, above any others, most outsiders are deeply suspicious of its methods and motives: for it is one of the few spiritual disciplines that cannot be properly understood or practised by anyone other than its members.
A Clean Broom
A great deal has changed in the world of Freemasonry during the past couple of decades as the movement seeks to counteract this widespread perception of itself as a dark and sinister force.
One of those who is working to tear down the walls of disinformation and ignorance; whilst striving to make the basics of Freemasonry better understood to the wider population, is 32nd degree Scottish Rite Freemason, author, lecturer and philosopher Jean-Louis De Biasi.
De Biasi is the author of, among other titles, the well-received publication Secrets and Practices Of the Freemasons.
In his latest work Esoteric Freemasonry: Rituals & Practices for a Deeper Understanding he returns to this subject and explores the mystical and arcane side to the Brotherhood; along with a particular emphasis on Egyptian Masonry – a relatively modern development in modern Masonry.
Whilst this aspect to the Craft remains a contentious part of Freemasonry, De Biasi believes that within the Ancient Egyptian sacred philosophy can be found the truly authentic teachings of the Ancient Mystery Schools – the same influence that formed the basis of, and contributed to, the early development of Freemasonry.
From the start of his book De Biasi makes no assumptions regarding his reader’s understanding of core Masonic principles, of its hierarchal structure, various side degrees, or even the nature of its membership. Instead he outlines in very clear terms the many lines of enquiry a newcomer to Masonry might have as an uninitiated, but inquisitive, observer.
Following this introduction he moves on to evaluate the importance of the ancient magickal and occult teachings that can be found within Masonry and which connect it to those same, deeply-sacred practices of Egyptian priests. This includes a large section devoted to The Sacred Order Of The Sophisians – one of the most ancient and secret Egyptian Masonic orders.
Later on De Biasi dedicates a whole chapter to that central and most important aspect of Masonic work, namely the Temple. For those readers who have not stepped inside a local Lodge and perused one at close hand he offers a detailed description of its construction and adornment. For those who are unable to explore one for themselves he includes instructions on how to create a replication of your own at home; based, once again, upon the Egyptian mode of working.
Additional information relates to the tools, the officers, Masonic regalia and the implements that are commonly used whilst working the initial three degrees. Later on he extends this to include high, or side degrees of Egyptian Freemasonry
Esoteric Freemasonry closes with a look at work of the ‘Masonic Magician’ Cagliostro, the Masonic Rite of Memphis-Misraim, a commentary on the Masonccally-inspired The Magic Flute by Mozart, a reference to Plato’s allegory of the cave bibliography, extensive illustrations but no index.
When Morals and Dogma of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry was first published in 1871 it shocked both the Masonic and non-Masonic World for its author, Albert Pike, single-handedly revealed the Ancient Egyptian roots of Masonic philosophy. Given that the Masonic movement has not yet got over the shock of Pike’s revelations I am rather intrigued as to how it handles this publication.
In the introduction to Esoteric Freemasonry renown occult writers Chic Cicero and Sandra Tabatha Cicero make the point that, although the numbers of active members in the Masonic Movement is in sharp decline this does not directly correlate to a massive growth of interest in the subject that is emerging from within a younger generation. They also point out that this makes no sense until you realise that what newcomers are effectively seeking is an esoteric basis to Masonry and one which Freemasonry pointedly fails to embrace. De Biasi suggests that the reason for this is primarily due to the fact that modern Masons do not even recognize that such a thing exists within their Order. Maybe they should read Esoteric Freemasonry and discover what this long tradition is, and the probable impact of continuing to ignore it.
Esoteric Freemasonry presents a powerful and refreshing argument for why Masons should sit up and take notice of the wind that is railing against them. Throughout, De Biasi remains highly critical of the movement of which he is a high-ranking member. One chapter following another he blows of the dust off a tired and decaying mystery tradition and infuses it with a true sense of esoteric life-force and spiritual energy – both of which have been missing for so long that very few historians can trace back to a time when it existed!
Written with extraordinary candidness this publication features some genuinely challenging material – such as his take on the three initial degrees for self-initiates wanting to work the Egyptian Masonic Tradition outside of the organisation strictures.
In parts this superbly-crafted and invigorating book feels like it has been written by a man who has run out of patience with the established order. At times he seems to have given up the fight to transform the movement internally (though I am sure this not really the case) and is instead seeking to target a new generation of spiritual seekers. In this regard he comes up with the goods and offers his readership a real reason to continue believing that the Masonic world might yet have something to offer in this 21st century.
So, all-in-all Esoteric Freemasonry is a remarkable example of how so many walls currently blocking our spiritual thinking are starting to dissolve before us. One might hope that the book is successful in revolutionalizing the Masonic world but I suspect it will be openly criticized and decried by all high-ranking members of Grand Lodge midst the continuing snowfall effect of a decline in its membership.
Nevertheless there are modern mystery schools out there ready to take up the mantle and for them this book could initiate a new wave of devotees of the ancient mysteries. In that regard Esoteric Freemasonry paints a very bright future indeed.