Esotericism. Principles and sacredness
All esoteric societies are interpretations of the esoteric philosophy expressed – like a continuous invisible thread running through human history – in general principles and in sacredness. The principles that derive from this philosophy are Freedom, Tolerance, Brotherhood, Transcendence, and the Initiatic Secret.
Freedom is an irrefutable fact of our life experiences. We know that we are free, and that we must choose between two or more options in a responsible manner. Although in theory we can deny freedom, in real life we can only act by assuming our freedom and that of others.
We can speak of freedom in two different senses: material and constitutive.
Material freedoms are those that can be characterized as ‘freedoms of’. In the political and social domains, certain freedoms are demanded: freedom of thought, speech, association, assembly, movement, and the like.
Freedom in the constitutive sense is instead inherent in the very nature of humankind: a man is a man if, and only if, he is free. Conversely, if a man loses his freedom, he is no longer a man. We can chain a man to a rock and thus deprive him of all his material freedoms, but we cannot prevent him from thinking about freedom. To prevent him from thinking about freedom, we must kill him.
Freedom is closely bound up with morality. Freedom is the prime condition for morality. Morality is only possible on the basis of freedom : if there is no freedom, there is no morality. When freedom is denied, a genuine understanding of morality is not possible.
This justifies the choice by esoteric thought of freedom as a fundamental concept. Dignity, in fact, sees morality as the highest realization of initiatic betterment. Since morality is only possible in conditions of freedom, it follows that freedom is the primordial concept from which the entire esoteric construct of Dignity derives.
Closely connected with freedom is the principle of tolerance. Also this concept has two different meanings, which have nothing to do with the ordinary meaning of ‘tolerance’ as ‘forbearance’.
We may therefore say that tolerance is a principle by which, in the presence of my own conception of man and life, I recognize the existence of other, different, conceptions and respect them. I have my own beliefs, but I grant you the right to have views different from mine, and I respect them. I shall never use force to impose my ideas on you.
Moreover, tolerance is a principle whereby, in the absence of my own conception of man and life, I assume an attitude of indifference towards all other conceptions. Hence I can tolerate all other conceptions because I have none. This attitude is called ‘indifferentism’.
Given the two definitions of ‘tolerance’, to be specified is that Dignity comprises only the first of them, while the second is entirely alien to its thought. Dignity, in fact, has its own philosophy, inspired by the esoteric, which gives rise to a specific conception of man and life. The accusation of indifferentism, therefore, does not apply to Dignity.
The concept of ‘tolerance’ is essential to construct the esoteric thought of Dignity, but that of ‘freedom’ is primary. The principle of tolerance derives from the principle of freedom.
The third fundamental concept of esoteric philosophy is that of ‘brotherhood’, which first appeared in human history in the very remote past. It can be assumed that the first bond that tied one man to another was that of kinship, and that it then extended to other men who belonged to the same social group. With Christianity, the bond became religious: brothers were the children of the same God. With the Enlightenment, the relationship with the Father lost its religious significance and assumed a very specific meaning: the father was no longer God but a set of shared moral principles. Brothers were those who believed in these principles.
The concept of ‘brotherhood’, unlike that of ‘equality’, makes it possible to grasp not only the commonalities but also the differences that exist among men. Equality reduces all men to the same (minimum) level, whilst brotherhood preserves the differences that allow authentic relationships to arise among men. Men are equal with respect to rights but different with respect to their subjective characteristics (intelligence, sensitivity, etc.) with which they confront the problems of life and society. It is for this reason that I place ‘brotherhood’ and not ‘equality’ among the fundamental concepts of esoteric philosophy.
Brotherhood is closely related to tolerance: when I admit that other men may profess views different from mine, I act towards them by considering them equally worthy as myself, and in so doing so I treat them as my brothers.
Thus brotherhood is associated with tolerance, and tolerance is connected with freedom. The principle of freedom is therefore primary with respect to those of tolerance and brotherhood. It is the cardinal concept of man’s immanent life. But can man acquire the deeper sense of his perfectioning if he remains in the sphere of immanence? The answer is ‘no’. The reasons for this reply require us to consider the fourth fundamental concept of esoteric philosophy, that of ‘transcendence’.
When one speaks of transcendence, one alludes to a foundation of reality that transcends – that is, goes beyond (extends outside) – the domain of our life experiences. The concept of ‘transcendence’ is the converse of ‘immanence’ (nothing exists outside experience).
On circumscribing the discussion of transcendence to values, it follows that man finds, in the society in which he lives, a set of values that are objective because they existed before him and may be shared by others. A man, however, may not share all the values that obtain in his society, because some of them are contradictory. Sharing them all would introduce into his consciousness contradictory values that would, in their turn, produce contradictory behaviours. Therefore, in order to act coherently, a man must choose and embrace not all, but only some of the values that exist in his society. In so doing, he selects and introduces into his consciousness certain objective values which become subjective (are valid for him) and furnish the motivations for his conduct.
How does the principle of transcendence relate to the principles of freedom, tolerance and brotherhood? Freedom, tolerance and brotherhood express properties of man that are realized in a process of initiatic betterment oriented to ethical transcendence. Transcendence is the end towards which the immanence of the initiatic betterment is directed. The transcendent rules the immanent, while the immanent tends towards transcendence, in a dialectical process that governs man’s fulfillment.
These four fundamental concepts of esoteric philosophy are the constitutive elements of the esoteric conception of man. To use a technical expression, they constitute a set of four elements that we call ‘quadruple’ and is represented as follows:
< Freedom, Tolerance, Brotherhood, Transcendence >
Is this quadruple sufficient to express the entire esoteric philosophy? No it is not. The four elements, though necessary, are not sufficient, because the key concept of initiation is lacking: the ‘initiatic secret’. If one wants to characterize the esoteric conception of man, it is necessary to add to the four elements that of ‘initiatic secret’, which represents its specific nature. Thus we have the quintuple:
< Freedom, Tolerance, Brotherhood, Transcendence, Initiatic Secret >
which represents the esoteric conception of man. It is this conception that inspires Dignity.
The elements of the quintuple should be understood globally. This means that if any of them is lacking, this conception of man collapses. If this conception is deprived of even one of its constituent elements, it is not merely weakened, it is annulled.
All esoteric societies in the history of mankind have been inspired by the above-mentioned esoteric philosophy. This is true of Dignity, Freemasonry, and the Illuminati. These three societies share a common basis in esoteric philosophy and differ only in their specific characteristics.
To become an adept of an esoteric society, one must have the requisite qualities. Only those suitable for the initiatory path will be admitted to the initiation ceremony.
All initiants are presented with exactly the same model of man by exactly the same initiatory process. The newly initiated adepts will pursue this model with the full force of their subjectivity. Each of them will be a rough stone different from all other rough stones. This means that every adept follows his own initiatory path towards the achievement of perfection. The smoothing of the rough stone will come about through the infinite aspects of subjectivity. It is thus that we grasp, after the constitutive act of initiation which is equal for all, differences among individual adepts. There are adepts who are more or less just, more or less good, etc.. As each adept pursues the model of man which he has spontaneously accepted, he will apply the principles of freedom, tolerance, brotherhood, transcendence, and the initiatic secret with all the weight of his uniqueness and subjectivity.
Fulfillment by the Dignity adept therefore occurs in a constant betterment that brings him increasingly close to the presence of the mysteries of the Order. This perfectioning will come about in harmonic afflatus with all the other initiates, who together will form the Communion of the Elect.
The esoteric conception of man is characterized by the quintuple Freedom, Tolerance, Brotherhood, Transcendence, and Initiatic Secret. Only the fifth element, the Initiatic Secret, is specific to it, in the sense that, if it fails, the esoteric philosophy no longer exists. This means that the esoteric edifice must be built on the foundation of the Initiatic Secret. It is for this reason that the fifth element of the quintuple must be explained further.
A first consideration concerns the meaning of ‘Initiatic Secret’. By the expression is meant the pledge not to reveal the initiation that has been received. The object of the commitment is therefore the initiation. What is initiation? The term means a ritual ceremony by which admission is gained to an esoteric society. The fundamental characteristic of initiation is a complex ritual termed ‘death/resurrection’ through which the initiant passes from a state known as profane to the new state of the neophyte. He has died to be reborn into a new life. Initiation rites are present in all human societies from antiquity to the present day.
Initiation and secret require, in their turn, perfectioning, which is a procedure whereby man improves himself by passing ritually to ever higher levels of knowledge. Initiation, secrecy and perfection are therefore the pillars that support an esoteric society. Both the rites of initiation and passage and the truths revealed only to the initiated are called ‘mysteries’. In antiquity, of particular importance were the orphic mysteries, which are still considered to be the beginning of esoteric thought.
A second key aspect is the connection between the initiatic secret and sacredness, because the initiation and perfectioning takes place in a sacred place called the Temple. Thus we understand the fundamental role of the sacred in esoteric societies. But what is the sacred?
In general, the sacred is something that, in its essence, is separated, hidden and inaccessible (at least in the way that other things are accessed). The sacred, then, is separate. But from what? To understand, one must refer to the opposite of sacred, which is profane. In antiquity, the Temple had a consecrated part, the fanum, and a place that stood before it (outside the fanum), which was the pro-fanum. Hence, the term ‘profane’ denotes everything that is extraneous to sacred things.
The Temple is a sacred place separate from profane ones where perfectioning takes place. The architectural form of the Temple represents and symbolizes the universe. From antiquity until the present day, considered to be Temples have been a garden, a terrace, a cave, a hut, a mountain, a tower, a pole. Of great fame is the Temple of Solomon, built on what was believed to be the navel of the world, and which has profoundly inspired esoteric societies like Freemasonry and the Illuminati.
The Temple is, for our Dignity Order the sacred microcosm in which the esoteric doctrine of the Order is fully realized.