The Independent Magazine for Freemasons
By: Fabio Venzi
‘Freemasonry is a peculiar system of morality, veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols’. Or so the ritual tells us. Often this is phrased in a more simple way ‘Making Good Men Better’. However you phrase it, Masons all over the world make clear that Freemasonry is a system of self-improvement. From Grand Lodge to Grand lodge the message is universal, Freemasonry can transform you, its rituals can improve you. When you become part of Freemasonry you become part of an ongoing system of self-development. If this is true then some important questions need to be asked and answered, such as: What kind of transformation or improvement of self actually takes place? How does this process work? If the rituals bring around these changes then what makes them an effective method? Can we change our morals without some kind of more significant change to our very nature?
To run effective lodges and to faithfully apply our tradition as Freemasons we need to truly understand what we are doing and how it works. But who is in a position to give us a sensible answer to such questions?
This book is written by Fabio Venzi, a very qualified brother, who has a degree in sociology and is the Grand Master of the regular Grand Lodge of Italy. Anyone who has heard Fabio speak will know that he is a philosophical Mason with a great knowledge of esoteric matters. This spirituality is however tempered by a level-headed and rational view of the world; the combination of which is rarely found in modern writers on this subject.
Sometimes to answer a question or to get a more clear vision of things, we need to take a step back. This book allows us to do just this by taking us on a journey that allows us to see Freemasonry in light of its position within our culture, comparing it with movements with the same goals and practices. Indeed the book itself is a systematic analysis and assessment of Freemasonry as a transformative initiatory order and its place in, similarities with, and interaction with the Western tradition throughout history.
Using this comparative process to explore the mechanisms for change and drawing on the author’s extensive historical, sociological and psychological knowledge, this book is a very in depth work. It is a challenging book, both in the terms of the way it makes you look directly at what we are doing as Masons but also in the sense of level of discussion contained. The scope of subject matter is delightful, with insights from ancient and renaissance traditions such as the Eleusinian Mysteries, Hermeticism, Gnosticism, Neoplatonism, Rosicrucian and modern expressions like the works of Carl Gustav Jung and Rupert Sheldrake. It is amazing to see how societies with similar goals, practices and world views seem to form, defuse and reform in a cyclical fashion throughout history. Indeed I believe that after reading this book few people would argue that Freemasonry is not part of this pattern.
Those wishing to get the best out of this book are advised to start by reading Fabio’s previous book Studies on Traditional Freemasonry, which will give you a firm grounding. One thing that will stand out straight away when reading the book is how the process of internal evolution, as directed by Freemasonry, so matches the alchemical process as reflected through its modern expression: Jungian analysis. So much so, that one finds oneself thinking in terms of the discovery of an underlying natural process of human development rather than anything designed or handed down.
For those Masons who are serious about the Craft, this book is more than an academic work. It is a manual coving all aspects of the work involved in being a Freemason including ritual, philosophy and symbolic work.
Reviewer: Martin Faulks
Hardcover: 288 pages
Lewis Masonic (1 Sept. 2016)