In my esoteric research, I often run into heavy criticisms of organized societies. As a young Mason I often took offense to these writings and critiques and rapidly dismissed them. As a tried and true initiate, I now have had the time and experience in our fraternity to understand these criticisms and to heed them as warnings of the fate of our craft if we are not careful in protecting our West Gate and passing on the true tradition for which we were created. Remy de Gourmont was a well known French Symbolist poet, novelist and influential critic. In his piece “The Book of Masks” he states the following “To acquire the full consciousness of self is to know oneself so different from others that one no longer feels allied with men except by purely animal contacts: nevertheless, among souls of this degree, there is an ideal fraternity based on differences, while society fraternity is based on resemblances. The full consciousness of self can be called originality of soul, and all this is said only to point out the group of rare beings to which [he] belongs.
The misfortune of these beings, when they express themselves, is that they do it with such odd gestures that men fear to approach them; their life of social contacts must often revolve in the brief circle of ideal fraternities; or, when the mob consents to admit such souls, it is as curiosities or museum objects. Their glory is, finally, to be loved from afar & almost understood, as parchments are seen & read above sealed cases.” His criticisms of societies are timely and accurate. He criticizes those who regurgitate philosophy and no longer examine the depths of the free exercise of though. This is equivalent to those who are ritualists but do not examine the symbolism and content of the ritual they speak. He questions the convoluted nature of tradition, secrecy and the elitist mob mentality. This is like shutting our doors to the public and not educating them on our purpose, allowing the public to fear our influence while basking in the small attention we get from charity and more public endeavors. Perhaps the best point he makes is on man reaching a full state of enlightenment or self-consciousness and being separated from the masses.
We as Masons must continue to fight so we do not become a society fraternity based on resemblances. Freemasonry was originally a fraternity based on differences. Whether they be religious, economic, or philosophical, those differences help create an understanding that carves the path of the enlightened.
In Light & Love,
Raymond Ortiz II,