Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Studies in Freemasonry and the Compagnonnage

I often lament the lack of study of the different strands of Freemasonry by those of us who live in North America. It is easy to attribute this to the lack of decent materials. I suspect more often it has to do with either a lack of awareness, or more sadly, the lack of interest.

So I was pleased to see that a powerful work on the subject has been made available to Anglophone audiences, in the form of an English translation of René Guénon's "Studies in Freemasonry and the Compagnonnage." That it has been available since 2005 leaves me, who has personally struggled through the French edition for a couple of years now, with egg on my face.

Not being one to dwell on self recrimination if it doesn't serve a better purpose, I'm prepared to accept my oversight and am eager to delve into reading this gem with great enthusiasm in a language I am better able to juggle.

Of course, I shouldn't be surprised that it has been ignored. It starts with some strong language. In the first two pages it takes the bull by the horns, stating that

"If Masonry is to be faithful to its principles, it must accord equal respect to all religious and philosophical beliefs, and to all scientific or social opinions, whatever they might be, on the sole condition that they are held sincerely. Religious dogmatism or scientific dogmatism: the one is no better than the other; and it is moreover perfectly certain that the Masonic spirit necessarily excludes all dogmatism even when it is "rationalist," and that by very reason of the particular nature of its symbolic and initiatic teaching. But what has metaphysics to do with dogmatic assertions of any kind? We see no relation between them and are willing to dwell further on this point.

Indeed, in a general sense what is dogmatism if not the purely sentimental and very human tendency to present one's own individual ideas (whether these pertain to a man or to a collectivity), with all the relative and uncertain elements they inevitably entail, as if they were incontestable truths? It is but a short step from this to the desire to impose these so-called truths on others, and history shows well enough how many times this step has been taken; nevertheless, on account of their relative and hypothetical - and therefore in a large measure illusory - character, such ideas constitute 'beliefs' or 'opinions,' and nothing more."

Heady material indeed. I encourage Masons with an interest in a challenging and absorbing examination of our craft, to dig in. It should be a bracing and eye opening read.

Guenon is well known in the Masonic world outside of Anglophone audiences, and we would all have a better understanding of what it is we are involved in were we to read his work. Of course, if you prefer your sacred cows to remain well fossilized, avoid it like the plague.

"Studies in Freemasonry and the Compagnonnage" by René Guénon is easily available through Amazon, if you're interested. The price is reasonable.

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