Sovereign Grand Conservator General of the Rite


Discourse on Esoteric Masonry


  A great poet, one of the glories of the time of Augustus, and who, by his genius, was deemed worthy to be initiated, Virgil, wishing to embody in the sixth book of his immortal poem some of the Rites of the Egyptian mysteries, at the moment of these revelations, in order to escape the penalties reserved for those who divulge the secrets of initiation cried out: "O gods, whose empire extends over the souls of men, silent shadows, impene­trable Chaos, Phlegeton of the devouring waves, in places where is found the silence of the night, may it be permitted to me to tell of that which I have seen under your powerful protection, so that I may be pardoned for revealing those things which are plunged in unfathomable depths, and surrounded by mysterious gloom ?"

I have no need to make such a request, brethren, and I have no need to ask for such a pardon. The eminent audience in the midst of which my voice is heard dispenses me from such precautions. Surrounded by the most brilliant lights of our Order, in presence of this august senate, if a regret is born in my mind, it is that I myself am unable to do justice to my theme or to the distinguished audience that is honoring me with its attention.

A Greek philosopher, after having traversed Egypt, and having visited the most important sanctuaries of the science, re­ports (and this fact is confirmed by the records of our Order and mentioned in the introduction to our statutes) that one of the principal points of the doctrine of the Egyptian priests was the division of the sacred science into exoterism or the exterior science, and esoterism or the interior science. It is by these two Greek words that he translated the two hieratic words, which, as one knows, it was forbidden to use outside the temple. "The priests," added he, "were not lavish with any part of their science; hard work, profound studies and rude trials are im­posed to the neophyte before he arrives at the least degree of exoterism. As for the esoterism, the trials were even more severe; no help, no advice, no encouragement is given to him who wishes to penetrate its secrets. It is only by strength of will and divine inspiration that he attains his end. These are mysteries within mysteries, and it frequently happens that the priests the highest in rank have hardly made one step in the mystical side of the sacred science."

The statute of Isis, always veiled even to the priests, and the sphinx, crouching at the door of the temple in an attitude of repose and silence, were the two emblems of these lost secrets; and this conduct of the trustees of the mysteries was dictated by the highest wisdom. The despotic rule of strong violent men extended over the whole earth. Everywhere the inex­orable "vae victis" was the only international and political law; everywhere heads had to bow or were crushed. It is easily understood from this that the trustees of the primitive knowl­edge of human grandeur, of its sublime dignity, of its equality before the Creator, of its inalterable liberty, were forced to hide their treasure, and to communicate it only to those who were found to be worthy, for before communicating it, they had to be certain that the new candidate did not intend to sell the knowledge to their enemies.

Christianity made an immense step forward for humanity; exalted of the mysteries, it popularized their moral teachings. The task of philosophy was made less difficult; its ways were made plain, and it could be more explicit in its teachings, for Christianity had forced the powers to recognize the fight to religious discussion and the training of intelligence. The hu­man mind, by the force of natural expansion did the rest, and the liberty of thought was proclaimed. It is thanks to this progress that in a very real sense we are in a far better position than were the philosophers of antiquity; that we are permitted, without betraying in any way our traditions, to lift the veil of Masonry a little without destroying it entirely; for if we have no longer to dread the intrusion of brute force into our sanctums, we cannot without committing a crime expose to the fickleness of thoughtlessness, to the misapprehension of ignorance, to the false interpretations of bad faith, to the preventions of fanaticism, an ensemble of learning which demands, to be appreciated, an attentive and prepared spirit, a heart pure and independent, seeking only truth and justice. Let us therefore show our aim, show it without fear, proclaim it in our Lodges and to the world; tell it to our brethren, and to the pro­fane, for it is noble and sublime. It is to make of humanity a nation of brothers; join those whom interest divides, and make a man see a friend whom he can hold close to his heart, in the enemy who approaches him with sword in hand.

Regarding science, which is the means by which we arrive at this magnificent result, let us proceed with wisdom. "None is worthy of the science," say our traditions, "who has not ac­quired it by his own efforts." On this point, brethren, let us be a little more condescending than our severe Masters; let us show from afar this science, and if it is forbidden to us to introduce him who has not, like Joshua, subdued the strong­holds to enter into the promised Land, let us at least transport the neophyte to the mountain where he may view it. Perhaps, inflamed by such a view, he may strive to merit his inclusion in the army of the elect.

The Esoterism of Masonry includes the entire circle of the activity of the human mind; ail science, all art, all thought finds there its rank and its limits; only, neglecting the element­ary and practical part, the Esoterism deals only with the tran­scendent and metaphysical part. Leaving to the Exoterism its proper role - that of working - it only guards for itself the role of creating.

Three cycles united in one mysterious order, connected by an indivisible chain, and engendering reciprocally in an ineffable manner, form the mystic Temple. The first may be called (for the profane) the historic cycle; it is composed of three de­grees of which the philosophy deals with the social develop­ment of the whole human race, and of each nation in particular, in three symbolic periods--sociability, the family and liberty.

The second cycle is the poetic cycle. The nine Muses, grac­ious daughters of the imagination, support the sacred garland that crowns it. The columns of its temple, of the finest mar­ble of Paros, have engraved on them ingenious emblems, rep­resenting the glory of the children of Harmony and Fantasy on wings of gold. The three Graces, Aylaia, Thaiia and Euphro­syne, of noble deportment, keep watch inside the Temple. In­spired artists whose paintings or sculpture transmit to us their sublime inspirations; deep thinking savants, who read in the sky the power of God or in the depths of the earth the infinite resources of the architect of the Worlds; poets of inspired dreams; tragic geniuses who reproduce solemn and pathetic impressions, your place is marked in the temple. The swan with its silver wings crosses the fiver of Oblivion, and over­coming all obstacles, it will attach your names to the breast- work of the temple of immortality.

And you also, why do you not come, you ingenious inter­preters of the conceptions of genius; you, with steps traced by the Graces, and with voices modulated by the goddess of Har­mony, bearing in your minds unknown emotions, and who make us live in a world of Poesy, why should we repulse you from the temple of art? Euterpe, with her sweet accents; Terpsichore with divine measure, call you! All of you, you will learn that above worldly art is a celestial art; you will be able to explain, perhaps for the first time, those flashes which enlighten your noble minds, and illuminate distant regions. The inner voice, which vibrates within you, will become intelli­gible to you, and you will understand God who moves you! Nevertheless, let us collect our thoughts; drive away these too seductive images. Poetic Greece depart! Far from us thy gracious theories, thy groups of dancers, the brush of Apelles and the chisel of Phidias! Let us enter the philosophical cycle. On the altar, three mysterious and emblematic fires are burning; three sacrifices are about to be offered.

To the three mysteries, I will reply by three mysteries; man is body, soul and spirit; reflect, and if these profound researches frighten you, nine heavens are described on the symbolic roof of the temple, and you can traverse them. Nine celestial powers or forces preside there and if you are worthy, you can take your place in the midst of them.

Such are, my brethren, as far as I have been permitted to disclose, the chief points of the esoteric science. To say more would be prevari­cation; even to have said so much is perhaps imprudent. However, this imprudence will be pardoned for it is pure love of the propagation of the truth and of the sublime knowledge, which has provoked it. It was to respond, as far as it has been per-mired me, to the imprudent and foolish who, having just arrived at the porch of the temple of Masonry, believing that all is in the exterior symbols which strike their eyes, turn away in dis­dain, and say, "We have looked into the uttermost depths of the science, and we have found nothing but emptiness." Impru­dent and foolish ones! You have but lifted the first veil of the mysterious statue of Isis; the curtain of the temple of Apollo is closed to you; depart, but do not blaspheme that which you do not understand! For us, my brethren, realizing our high mission, strengthened by the witness of our own con­science, aided by the authority and the wisdom of so many geniuses who have left to us their science by means of Ma­sonic tradition, let us march on towards our goal, and march with perseverance. The work of progress, that work in which all nations groan in anguish, is in our hands. Once more, if we have faith in our mission, Memphis will civilize the world!



The Ancient and Primitive Rite

"Preserving the ancient mysteries of masonry"

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