LITERARY INITIATIONS

by Nelson King, FPS


This evening I want to present to you two Literary Initiations, or more correctly, portions of two Masonic Initiation Ceremonies. One was written in the 1860's and first published in February of 1865, the other was written in the 1980's and first published in January of 1983, 118 years later. One is epic novel, the other a expose of international intrigue, fraud, and dishonour. Which is which? What are their Titles? Who where the Authors? Where did their information come from?

Let us begin.

In the meeting room, twelve members of the Lodge, dressed in satin ceremonial robes and wearing black hoods reminiscent of those worm by members of the Ku Klux Klan, sit in leather chairs at a red marble conference table. None of the black-clad disciples, or wolf pack as they are also known, knows the identity of any of his eleven brothers. The grand master is the only one who bares his face. In addition to the twelve disciples, two masons stand post at the entrance to the meeting room, their faces covered, each carries an axe.

The ceremony begins.

There is a uneven series of knocks at the door. "Your Worshipful," a disciple announces. "A pagan wishes to enter."

The grand master strikes the table with one blow of his axe. Immediately the oversized door swings open and slams against the inner wall. Two guards escort the initiate to the center of the room where he faces twelve masons with his back to the grand master's throne. The pagan as he is called, is wearing a plain black hood and a blindfold. His identity is known to the grand master, but to no one else. He is asked one question by each of the disciples, but the pagan does not answer; instead one of the guards speaks for him.

Once all of the ritual questions about purpose and belief and reason for wanting to become a member of this lodge are answered, the pagan is turned to face the grand master, who asks. "Pagan, are you prepared to die in order to preserve the secrets of this lodge?"

The initiate now answers for himself; "I am."

"Do you have the necessary quality of contempt for danger?"

"I do."

"Do you have the necessary quality of courage?"

"I am courageous."

"And, pagan, are you prepared to fight and perhaps face shame, even death, so that we, who may become your brothers, may destroy this government and form a presidency?"

"I am."

Then the blindfold is removed. It takes a moment for the initiate's vision to become clear, because this is the first time since entering the compound that he has been allowed to see light. The blindfold serves a purpose other than security. It also represents the power of the lodge. "For without membership one is blind; with the help of the order, however, the way is clear."

There follows three more pages, including an obligation, and then the initiate is admitted, into the Order.

Now to the next book.

Having entered the courtyard of a large house where the lodge had its headquarters, and having ascended a darken staircase, they entered a small well-lit anteroom where they took off their cloaks without the aid of a servant. From there they passed into another room. A man in strange attire appeared at the door. Willarski, stepping toward him, said something to him in French, in an undertone and then went up to a small wardrobe in which Pierre noticed garments such as he had never seen before. Having taken a kerchief from the cupboard, Willarski bound Pierre's eyes with it and tied it in a knot behind, catching some hairs painfully in the knot. Then he drew his face down, kissed him, and taking him by the hand led him forward. The hairs tied in the knot hurt Pierre and there were lines of pain on his face and a shamefaced smile. His huge figure, with arms hanging down and with a puckered though smiling face moved after Willarski with uncertain, timid steps.

Having led him about ten paces, Willarski stopped.

"Whatever happens to you," he said, "you must bear it all manfully if you have firmly resolved to join our Brotherhood." Pierre nodded affirmatively. "When you hear a knock at the door, you will uncover your eyes," added Willarski. "I wish you courage and success," and, pressing Pierre's hand he went out.

Left alone, Pierre went on smiling in the same way. Once or twice he shrugged his shoulders and raised his hand to the kerchief, as if wishing to take it off, but let it drop. The five minutes spent with his eyes bandaged seemed to him a hour. His arms felt numb, his legs almost gave way, it seemed to him that he was tired out. He experienced a variety of most complex sensations. He felt afraid of what would happen to him and still more afraid of showing his fear. He felt curious to know what was going to happen and what would be revealed to him; but most of all he felt joyful that the moment had come when he would at last start on that path of regeneration and the actively virtuous life of which he had been dreaming since he met Joseph Alexeevich. Loud knocks were heard at the door. Pierre took the bandage off his eyes and glanced around him. The room was in black darkness, only a small lamp was burning inside something white. Pierre went nearer and saw that the lamp stood on a black table on which lay an open book. The book was the Gospel, and the white thing with the lamp inside was a human skull with its cavities and teeth. After reading the first words of the Gospel: "In the beginning was the Word and the Word was God," Pierre went around the table and saw a large open box filled with something. It was a coffin with bones inside. He was not at all surprised by what he saw. Hoping to enter on an entirely new life quite unlike the old one, he expected everything to be unusual, even more unusual that what he was seeing. A skull, a coffin, the Gospel -- it seemed to him that he had expected all this and even more. Trying to stimulate his emotions he looked around. "God, death, love, the brotherhood of man," he kept saying to himself, associating these words with vague yet joyful ideas. The door opened and someone came in.

By the dim light, to which Pierre had already become accustomed, he saw a rather short man. Having evidently come from the light into the darkness, the man paused, then moved with cautious steps toward the table, and placed on it his small leather-gloved hands.

The short man had on a white leather apron which covered his chest and part of his legs; he had on a kind of necklace above which rose a high white ruffle, outlining his rather long face which was lit up from below.

"For what have you come hither?" Asked the newcomer, turning in Pierre's direction at a slight rustle made by the latter. "Why have you, who do not believe in the truth of the light and who have not seen the light, come here? What do you seek from us? Wisdom, virtue, enlightenment?"

Further on in the ceremony Pierre is informed of the seven virtues, corresponding to the seven steps of Solomon's Temple, which every Freemason, should cultivate in himself. These virtues were;

1. Discretion, the keeping of the secrets of the Order.

2. Obedience to those of higher ranks in the Order.

3. Morality.

4. Love of mankind.

5. Courage.

6. Generosity.

7. The love of death.

"In the seventh place, try, by the frequent thought of death," the Rhetor said, "to bring yourself to regard it not as a dreaded foe, but as a friend that frees the soul grown weary in the labours of virtue from this distressful life, and leads it to its place of recompense and peace."

There follows about eight more pages of the initiation ceremony, and Pierre is admitted in to the Order.

Do you know from which books these two passages where taken?

The first may surprise you, as it is the initiation ceremony of Propaganda Due, better know as P-2 the clandestine lodge of freemasons in Italy. And is quoted from the book "St. Peter's Banker: Michele Sindona," written by, Luigi DiFonzo, who says that the ceremony, and obligation, which are in his book where described to him by two former members of P-2, including Lieutenant Colonel Luciano Rossi, one-time member of P-2's execution squad, who committed suicide six weeks after being interviewed.

The second passage comes from Book Five of Leo Tolstoy's War and Peace. Tolstoy took the ceremonies of the Freemasons from his study of books and manuscripts in the rich collection at the Rumyantsev Museum in Moscow. In a letter to his wife in the autumn of 1866 he wrote. "After drinking my coffee I went to the Rumyantsev Museum and sat there till three o'clock reading very interesting Masonic manuscripts. I can't describe to you why the reading produced on me a depression I have not been able to get rid of all day. What is distressing is that all those Masons where fools."

"You may wonder why Tolstoy was so interested in the Masonic movement and

what connection it has with the main thread of the novel. In reality he was profoundly sensitive to the fundamental wrongness and consequent rottenness of the system under which everything depended on the wish and whim of an autocrat, and he felt a keen interest in the group which -- through often rashly and with mixed motives -- aimed at overthrowing the established order and replacing it by a better one. That this is not clearly expressed in the novel, was no doubt, due to the censor."

Brethren, the forgoing statement was made by Aylmer Maude in the Translator's Preface, to War and Peace.

Brethren, this evening I have presented to you two Literary Initiations, I am sure that there are many more to be found. These two books can be found in any Public Library or any book store, and maybe one of the many reasons, why the general public gets so confused as to what is, or is not Freemasonry, just as you and I understand that these two stories do not contain our Ritual and that we do not recognize the participants as Freemasons. But that is another topic for an other time. Tonight I just wanted to show that Masonic Education does not have to be dull or boring, and that it can be found in great literature or even in the comics, for as Little Orphan Annie, said about Daddy Warbucks, "With all his mines an' oil wells in the orient -- Daddy's been out there hunnerts o' times -- but he says one time he travelled to the East, but didn't make a dime, meant more to him than all th'other trips he'll ever make -- I don't get -- do you?"

 

 

 

         

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