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  • Christine Hilcenko

Freemasonry – Between Tradition and Modernity

Freemasonry is a union of good men and women, called to collaborate in a common constructive work, allegorically represented by the construction of the Temple of Wisdom, for a better and more fraternal humanity.



The purpose of freemasonry is to gather what is scattered, to be the center of unity. It does not favour any specific belief or attitude but allows for the confrontation of all attempts of explanation and of the search for truth.


Oswald Wirth would say: “Freemasonry is about constructing one’s own philosophy, the goal of every person liberated from dogma, capable of meditation, assembling concepts, and coordinating them as they see fit.


Life constructs simple organisms, then increasingly complex ones, both individual and collective, from atoms and molecules scattered throughout the universe.


One of life’s great laws, therefore, is continuous construction and complexity.

 

The Purpose of Our Research


Our goal in this research is to attempt to conceive a system that integrates a global vision of the cosmos, enabling an understanding of universal laws and humanity’s place within the universe. In this perspective, the spirit of freemasonry is a spiritual quest to connect humans to the cosmos and involve them in the intuitive harmony they sense when contemplating their origins, regardless of the form they attribute to them.


At this point, it is crucial to recall an essential notion that even experienced freemasons sometimes lose sight of.


This notion often guides their actions: freemasonry is an initiatory society, and every initiatory society has the function of transmitting a tradition. Even if those currently engaged in this task are not fully aware, their efforts, when done well, benefit others who come after them. It is an essential duty we must embrace.


Freemasonry does not revolve around a specific doctrine, dogma, or particular teaching. Instead, it is structured around rituals and symbols focused on action and construction. Unlike other initiatory orders that lean toward contemplation, freemasonry refrains from offering exhaustive interpretations. Instead, it allows each individual to navigate their own path.


In contrast to a religion, which also centers around specific rituals, Freemasonry asserts that any coherent rite involving an initiatory process can open the pathways to knowledge and enable profound self-work.

 


Freemasonry: A feeling and a State of Mind


Freemasonry is, above all, a feeling—a willingly embraced and lived state of mind—without constraints; otherwise, what purpose would it serve?


The rituals are psychodramas meant to be experienced internally, and the symbols serve as tools to provoke, sustain, and nourish meditation and reflection.


Updating a ritual is not iconoclasm in itself. While the rituals we currently practice are no longer the same as those of our predecessors, the essential task—though admittedly challenging and requiring great care—is to preserve their profound meaning while rejuvenating the methods. We must avoid distorting or diminishing their significance.


We must balance tradition—the foundation of the Masonic spirit—with innovation and openness.


Life constructs, as we mentioned earlier, but for what purpose? According to what plans? Construction involves intelligent coordination to draw harmony from the universal chaos. Is this the plan of the Grand Architect of the Universe invoked by some among us?


Each of us represents an unfinished work, and by improving ourselves, we contribute to the organizational and complexifying work that appears to be life’s ultimate purpose. We symbolize this through the construction of the Temple of Humanity to which we dedicate our efforts.


The symbolism of Blue Masonry, fundamentally rooted in the art of building, reminds us that humans are living stones capable of shaping themselves according to the plan and purpose within the edifice they help construct. It entrusts us with the necessary tools for this task.


In this perspective, considering that an individual can only effectively act upon themselves, personal involvement allows them to influence an external domain beyond their own sphere. By doing so, they become part of the broader work.


One of the fundamental qualities expected of a builder is optimism because their work primarily serves the future.


Anyone among us who does not believe in the perfectibility of humankind contradicts their adherence to freemasonry, which strives for both individual and collective improvement of humanity.


We can acknowledge that the only being we can genuinely attempt to know completely is ourselves, if possible. Conversely, all others will always remain partially unknown to us. Therefore, the true path to aligning with the reality of the universe lies in introspection—diving within ourselves. Freemasonry understands this well and illustrates it through the formula V.I.T.R.I.O.L.


Self-knowledge leads to understanding others and the world around us. Hence, it is essential to internalize the initiatory process we undertake in our lodges.


SHAKESPEARE has Hamlet say, To truly know a man, you must first know yourself. The initiatory journey, while leading us to encounter our inner selves, also opens us to the universe and all others.

 


The Methodology Proposed by Freemasonry


The methodology proposed by freemasonry for this purpose involves individual improvement, leading to societal advancement. It aims to acquire new ways of thinking and acting. However, before embarking on this path, it is essential to completely shed the old self of its impurities and prejudices before the initiatory rebirth.


The initiated builder understands life and becomes part of our Grand Work. They are both the material and the agent constructing this ever-evolving world, thereby embodying the image of the Grand Architect. These operations are intimate, but our rituals, which evoke them, become meaningless if their symbolism is not deeply understood and internalized by each of us during our lodge meetings.


While the initiation conferred by the lodge remains theoretical and may vary in implementation, true initiation can only occur internally and personally. It results from meditation, deepening self-awareness, and gradual transformation.


We must begin by constructing ourselves. Each of us is a link in the chain of life. Living means feeling in harmony with our environment.


Some freemasons may consider this pursuit secondary or outdated, believing that freemasonry’s impact should primarily extend to the external world. However, both aspects are inseparable in an initiatory society. To genuinely harmonize with other beings constituting the macrocosm in which we live, services can indeed be rendered within a community where everyone freely expresses their opinions, and no single viewpoint dominates—where fraternity prevails.


The Masonic journey is inherently individual and progressive, as we have reiterated. However, a freemason cannot progress in solitude. The transmission of tradition relies on the practice of rituals and requires diligent integration within a lodge. Occasionally, the egregore—the collective energy—will mark the freemason and make them receptive to the harmony we aspire to.


The lodge accumulates individual knowledge and experiences necessary for any construction operation. Architects are chosen there, plans are drawn, and countless stones are continually shaped for implementation. Thus, we cannot emphasize enough that assiduity is the freemason’s primary duty.

The lodge brings together all individualities in their differences, and collaborative work contributes to harmonizing these tendencies. The perfect lodge should be one where we listen to the universal language, and where the freemason regains serenity and becomes available before returning to the profane world and its agitation.

 

Freemasonry: Guardian of Traditions and Fertile Ground for New Ideas


Freemasonry serves as both the guardian of traditions and the fertile ground for new ideas.


The language of the lodge—the ritual—is necessary and sufficient for freemasons to learn and derive lessons. Our duty is to maintain and enhance this language without deviation. Each word and gesture of the ritual must be genuinely experienced and intensely felt during every meeting.


On another level, the lodge is a sovereign entity operating within a well-defined framework. When regularly constituted, it must refrain from interfering with the functioning of other lodges. Cohesion within the lodge is fundamental for the work to be accomplished.


In conclusion, let us remember modesty. An initiatory society merely reflects the complexity of the human society in which it exists. While the religious adheres to principles and acts based on freely accepted dogmas, the freemason must continually question their assertions to derive new insights.

 


The Essential Role of a Freemason


A freemason’s essential function is to construct and create. To achieve this, they must first build themselves, structuring their inner self before influencing their environment.


Continual work remains the primary duty of a freemason, as our rituals emphasize. Each individual, guided by practical rituals, sensitivity, and affinities, should find their path and equilibrium.


To construct our temple, we require various materials, with each of you representing an essential element. Depending on your uniqueness, you may be a crucial keystone in the structure, a sculpted capital contributing to its decoration, or an anonymous cornerstone embedded in the walls. Regardless of appearance or function, all these elements are vital for the lodge’s existence and perpetuity.


A lodge has no independent existence; it thrives through its members. Ours, like all others, will merely reflect what you make of it—radiant through your presence and work or declining if too many members detach.


We must have faith in humanity’s capacity for improvement and progress. Otherwise, why would we gather here today? Whether within these walls or beyond, as freemasons, we must embody our ideals. Within our families, workplaces, and among our profane acquaintances, we should exemplify freedom for both men and women.


If the edification of the Temple we are working on does not proceed at our desired pace, I believe we should only blame ourselves. We must reflect on ways to strengthen our efforts in the face of the rise of various forms of individualism, selfishness and intolerance.

 










Sis. Christine Hilcenko.

Lodge International Concord No. 977

 

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