A new study on Freemasonry - How does Freemasonry act today?

crisi della Chiesa storia

Pubblicato sul blog Ora et Cogita, 16 agosto 2023. 

- traduzione della recensione di padre Giovanni Cavalcoli O.P. a cura di Paolo Gasparini

Gaetano Masciullo, a young promising philosopher of Italian Catholicism, has recently left us a meticulous and well-documented study on Freemasonry, "The Tiara and the Lodge: Freemasonry's struggle against the Church," published by Edizioni Fede&Cultura of Verona. Freemasonry is a well-known subject, complex, not easily interpreted, but of utmost importance and relevance due to the overt or covert influence it exerts on society, politics, and culture today, as well as within the Church itself. Freemasonry, as a well-organized and efficient global society for the past three centuries, with unwavering determination and clear ideas of what it wants, adeptly camouflages itself while exercising its influence. It offers at times useful contributions to civilization and human progress but more often conspires against the Church and seeks world political dominance. It openly declares its purpose as the supreme advocate and guarantor of human happiness, positioning itself to replace Christianity in its universal salvific mission.

Masciullo recalls the historical origins of Freemasonry from the medieval brotherhoods of cathedral builders, known as "freemasons," who had free passage in all countries of Catholic Europe. However, with the advent of the Renaissance and Lutheranism, they became infected with neopaganism and heresy. Concurrently, as the laity matured and nationalism arose, they progressively distanced themselves from subjection to the Catholic Church. They absorbed Renaissance anthropocentrism and moved into non-Catholic communities. Consequently, they transformed their honest artisanal purposes into ambitious humanistic goals, while still retaining the symbolism of the tools of their trade. These tools no longer represented the construction of physical temples but the spirit's desire for unlimited intellectual and moral elevation.

This institutional transformation from construction activity to cultural and educational pursuits was not inherently reprehensible. On the contrary, it was entirely understandable and legitimate. The rise of non-Catholic communities led to a decrease in church construction commissions. One positive phenomenon of Humanism was the spread of culture even among the lower classes and the emergence of theological and biblical interests among the laity.

Masciullo reviews the sources that inspired Freemasonry, such as an interest in Kabbalah, alchemy, hermeticism, pagan mysteries, Neoplatonism, and ancient Egyptian magical practices. These influences originated in 15th-century Florence and spread to other European countries, including France, Germany, and England.

An important factor in the rise of Freemasonry was the strong need for intellectual and moral unity felt by many European minds after the terrible aftermath of skepticism and mutual hatred following the bloody religious wars between Catholics and Protestants in the 16th and 17th centuries.

Many European thinkers, scandalized by the fierce polemics between Catholic and Protestant theologians following the Council of Trent, the severity of the Catholic and Protestant Inquisitions, and the shameful spectacle of fratricidal wars among Christians during that period, began to doubt whether Christianity could truly be the light of universal truth and a factor of peace for the entire world. Skepticism about the idea of truth itself emerged, reviving ancient Greek skepticism.

As Masciullo points out, in the early 17th century, a mysterious esoteric secret association emerged in Germany and quickly spread to France, serving as a precursor to Freemasonry. This association was known as the Rosicrucian Brotherhood, characterized by extravagant claims of being superhuman [1]. While it did not reject the Christian symbol of the cross as bait, it was based on the antinomic concept of truth from Kabbalah [2] and Greek skepticism. It promised to provide humanity with miraculous material and spiritual benefits through magical means.

Cartesian and Leibniz admired the Rosicrucians [3], and Descartes, as is known, rejected the principle of identity as the basis for philosophy, replacing it with his "cogito," which assumes the unreliability of the senses and thus the principle of contradiction. This principle, already hinted at by Nicholas of Cusa in the 15th century with the famous "coincidentia oppositorum," and the Lutheran principle of "sub contraria specie [4]," will be found in Giordano Bruno and Jakob Böhme, who were both disciples of Kabbalah and masters of Hegel.

According to Kabbalah, reality does not originate from unity but from opposition. God is not only the principle of good but also of evil, which Kabbalah calls the "left hand of the Holy [5]." Giordano Bruno adopted this principle, formulating it in these terms:

"The greatest thing is not to find the point of unification but rather to unfold from it its opposite. This is the true and profound secret of art."[6]

Similarly, Jakob Böhme develops this thesis in the following terms:

"A thesis presupposes an antithesis. In the One, there is no relation. There can be no manifest consciousness without something to be aware of or without that which must be the conscious subject. Without nature, there could not be freedom from nature; without the positive, the negative could not exist; without the dark base of fire, there could not be light.

The One has nothing within itself to desire, nor could such a unity feel its own self. This is possible only in a state of duality. The One, the Yes, is pure power and the life and truth of God or God Himself. However, God would be unknowable to Himself, and there would be no joy or perception in Him without the presence of the No. The latter is the antithesis or opposite of the positive or truth; it makes this manifest, and this is possible only because it is the opposite in which eternal love can become active and perceptible."[7]

In Fichte, the principle of reality is not the absolute self ("I"), but the opposition between "I and non-I" [8]. As we know, Hegel maintains that there are two definitions of the Absolute: "The Absolute is Being" and "The Absolute is nothingness" [9].

This principle reappears in Feuerbach: "Unity is sterile and fruitful is only dualism, opposition, difference" [10]. According to Schelling, there is evil in God, although it is "overcome." Pareyson attempts to justify this Kabbalistic thesis, but as one can understand, he does not succeed [11].

Giordano Bruno enjoyed considerable favor among the idealists, such as Schelling and Gentile, who even dedicated a book to him [12]. Giordano Bruno is well-known for being highly regarded by Freemasons, who erected a monument in his honor in Rome's Campo de’ Fiori at the end of the 19th century, sadly the very place where he was burned alive [13].

It is worth noting that Freemasonry adopts from Kabbalah the idea of an antinomian God who wills evil under the pretext of severity, a benevolent God also present in the Neoplatonism of the return of all things to the original unity and therefore the total final disappearance of evil, as we can also see in the so-called "apokatastasis" of Origen. Freemasons boast of presenting a vision of a God kinder than the Christian one, which punishes the reprobates eternally. However, in Kabbalah, divine goodness does not exclude the "left hand," but since God is "good," in God, even evil is good.

Even Von Balthasar, as known [14], denies the existence of damned souls punished outside of God but then admits the virtual existence of hell within God, which is far more terrible, similar to Schelling. I leave it to the reader to judge which God is kinder, Von Balthasar's or the one taught by the Catholic faith.

Freemasonry arose from the Fraternity of the Rosy Cross

The Rosicrucians started from a Kabbalistic principle, according to which it is not impossible but possible and even necessary and divine for the entity to be and not to be simultaneously. God himself is the principle of both good and evil. God contradicts himself to then reconcile with himself. Here we already have the principle of Hegelian dialectic, which should be considered Kabbalistic through the mediation of Descartes and Boehme.

However, we must distinguish contradiction from the evil act, contradictoriness from the act of contradiction. While the contradiction is impossible, as Aristotle had already demonstrated, evil is possible, and indeed it really exists. What is the relationship between contradicting himself and merely contradicting? Between disobeying God and disobeying the truth? Between the absurd and skepticism? The service of two masters or duplicity arises from (the act of) contradicting and contradicting entails contradicting oneself, even though contradicting oneself is possible, but an entity contradictory in terms of the principle of identity, illustrated by Aristotle, is not possible, being the first principle of being and thought.

Therefore, Cabalist, like Protagoras, Descartes, and Hegel, believes that a contradictory entity can exist. But in performing this, as Aristotle demonstrated, he nullifies the act of thinking. So how can a malign intention exist? How can a thought refer to the contradictory, that is, to the impossible, while the realization of that thought, that is sin, is possible? Because the subject conceives certainly a feasible end - otherwise sin would not exist - though not a true good. Indeed, it is a false good, whose falsehood is demonstrable based on the principle of non-contradiction.

Morale duplicity arises from a lack of trust, skeptical denial, or a subjectivist affirmation of truth. This is the gnosis and cabalistic morality of the Rosicrucians. The Rosicrucians, after the success of Luther and Descartes, feel confident enough to come out into the open and become visible, giving birth to Freemasonry, which was officially established in London in 1717.

Masciullo also points out that in the famous Constitutions of Anderson of 1723, atheism is rejected as "stupidity." However, Freemasonry presents itself as a theism superior to the God revealed by Christianity, and as a doctrine of peace and human coexistence that surpasses what Christianity can achieve. This raises doubts about the credibility of its theism, although it seems to accept the God of natural religion. However, Masciullo insists, the acceptance of Kabbalistic gnosis in the higher, esoteric degrees of Freemasonry raises strong concerns about its substantial indifference to theistic or idealistic concepts like Kantian God [15], and ultimately, to the antinomian God of the Kabbalah, and thus to atheism.

Freemasons themselves acknowledge that Freemasonry possesses two apparently contrasting souls: a rational, egalitarian, and humanistic soul proposed in the lower degrees, and a more elitist, elevated, secret, and esoteric soul, with a Gnostic character, proposed in the higher degrees to those considered worthy. Not all Freemasons gain access to these higher degrees, and the highest mysteries remain obscure to them.

This division is referred to as "cool" or "blue" Freemasonry and "hot" or "red" Freemasonry. Freemasons themselves view indiscipline in occultism, not without excesses, which they call "fringe," with benevolent disapproval. What does this difference mean? Is there a contradiction? It all depends on how the Freemason interprets the concept of reason.

It is the Cartesian concept of reason, not as a faculty that may or may not function, not as reason that stops at mystery, but as reason existing in act - res cogitans - which should define man as "spirit" or "mind." However, the reason that defines the subject exercising it, the reason that belongs to the being whose essence is to be reason existing in act, is only God.

Thus, Descartes does not (italics mine, Ed.) realize that he is defining human reason in terms that only belong to God. It is no wonder, then, that from now on, reason pretends to be self-founded and capable of reaching absolute science or gnosis, denying the existence of a reality that transcends it and that it cannot comprehend. Reason denies the need for any "faith" to know divine truths that it cannot reach on its own. If reason is divine, why shouldn't it know the divine through science or self-awareness, without the need for any faith or divine revelation?

Masciullo also notes how, especially in its 19th-century development in Germany, Freemasonry sought to surround itself with an aura of sacred venerability by gathering from the most ancient cultures and antiquity whatever could enhance the Masonic ideal, without caring about credibility or authenticity. Thus, Freemasonry wanted to link itself to the Noahic covenant, the construction of Solomon's Temple, the Order of the Templars, ancient pagan mysteries, and ancient Gnostics.

The exploits of Freemasonry in history

Masciullo goes on to review a series of historical events that followed the birth of Freemasonry, questioning for each one how much Freemasonry may have inspired them. There is no doubt about Freemasonry's role in the suppression of the Society of Jesus in 1773, its contribution to the American Revolution of 1775-1783, its doctrinal stimulus to the French Revolution, its influence on Napoleon's enterprise, its contribution of ideas to the Italian Risorgimento, and the mentality that underpinned the Triple Alliance, which sought to overthrow the Holy Roman Empire in the First World War. A collateral or instrumental support could have been the contribution to the Russian Revolution. The role of Freemasonry in the rise of fascism and Nazism, however, requires distinctions.

Masciullo then evaluates Napoleon's enterprise, clearly inspired by the ideals of 1789. One wonders how a Catholic spirit like Manzoni, with firm faith and broad-mindedness, could question whether Napoleon's enterprise was true glory at the time of his death. However, there is no doubt that it was not true glory (! (Ed.)), but a perfidious attempt to destroy the Church from within, according to the intentions of Freemasonry. Napoleon may have toppled many despotic and backward regimes, but one cannot ignore the hatred he displayed towards the Catholic Church, which, for better or worse, maintained vital connections with these regimes.

What is most odious about Napoleon's actions is his distinctly Masonic attempt to divide the Church between the secular element and the religious element, specifically between the area of the people led by pastors, priests, and bishops, and the area of religious institutions, especially monastic and contemplative orders. He made agreements and showed benevolence towards the former while treating the latter brutally.

It is interesting how Napoleon suppressed contemplative orders or those dedicated to Catholic cultures, such as the Franciscans, Dominicans, Benedictines, Augustinians, Carmelites, Jesuits, Cistercians, Olivetans, and Carthusians while allowing institutes of nuns dedicated to education, social assistance, and caring for the sick. To Freemasons, who despise religion and spirituality, these latter institutions appeared socially useful, while they considered monks to be idle, useless, and parasites of society.

Additionally, Masonic doctrine, after finding its foundation in Rosicrucianism and Cartesian rationalism, found support in Kantian deism and expressed its Gnostic soul in German idealism by Fichte [16], Schelling, and Hegel. Certainly, Hegel provided the conception of the State for Nazism. However, Nazism's ideological roots also trace back to medieval German Templar mysticism, pantheism, and esotericism, with connections to theosophy, Rudolf Steiner's anthroposophy, René Guénon's esoteric traditionalism, and Tibetan magical cults. On this level, Nazism could receive collaboration and inspiration from esoteric and occult Freemasonry.

Masciullo then questions the plans and tactics of Freemasonry today concerning the Church. He observes how Masonic ideas are now widespread and practiced worldwide, with many adopting them without knowing their origin.

Since the second half of the last century, Freemasonry has ceased its virulent attacks that it had exercised in past centuries until the Second Vatican Council and has changed its tactics. After the Second Vatican Council, it started adopting a softer approach, attentive to the demands of conciliar renewal, promoting interpretations of conciliar doctrines that could somehow align with certain Masonic theses.

For example, interreligious dialogue is interpreted as an endorsement of the theory that Christianity is not the highest religion, universally obligatory for salvation, but merely a particular viewpoint to be placed alongside others of equal value, with each person free to make their own choice. Furthermore, some deny the historicity of Christ's miracles, the creation of Adam and Eve, and original sin. Others propose a God who does not punish but saves everyone. And still, others deny the immutability of dogmas and assert that they change with the evolution of philosophical or cultural ideas, and so on. Freemasonry infiltrates the Church through modernists, such as Karl Rahner [17].

After the Council, numerous attempts were made by Catholics to establish a bridge with Freemasonry, leveraging certain undoubtedly human values present in its doctrines. One significant work in this sense was Don Rosario Esposito's "Le grandi concordanze tra Chiesa e Massoneria," published by Nardini Editore of Florence in 1987.

It is essential to recognize Freemasonry's merit in its unreserved admiration for the Galilean scientific method, which has borne abundant fruit in the progress of science and technology. However, it deceitfully exploits the painful Galilean incident to falsely accuse the Church and faith of being enemies of science. In reality, the Galilean method, as brilliantly demonstrated by Maritain (bold mine, Ed.), is in perfect continuity with Aristotelian empiricism, which Cartesian and Lutheran thinkers hated, seeking to destroy the Aristotelian-Thomistic scholastic philosophy that the Church has supported for centuries and still supports today.

Nonetheless, Saint John Paul II, with a magnanimous gesture, acted on behalf of the Holy Office of Galileo's time, offering an act of reparation for the error it committed. However, as the Pope clarified, this error does not in any way affect the infallibility of the doctrinal magisterium of the Church. The matter on which the Holy Office pronounced was not a matter of faith - no dogma teaches that the sun revolves around the earth - but unfortunately, it was an error in biblical exegesis, where the Holy Office, however authoritative, is inevitably exposed to error when it strays from its doctrinal competencies.

Pope Francis and Freemasonry

As for Pope Francis and Freemasonry, he is sensitive to certain themes of Freemasonry, such as the famous triad liberté-egalité-fraternité, which he addressed in the encyclical "Fratelli tutti," earning applause from Masonic circles. However, some rightly note that the Masonic fraternity lacks a corresponding paternity, emphasized by the Pope, which affirms that we are all children of God (and not of the State, see below (Ed.)). It is clear that after finding points of contact, Pope Francis knows how to keep a distance to avoid misunderstandings or the risk of being exploited.

Nevertheless, Freemasonry remains, as it has always been denounced by past Popes, an association that conspires to destroy the Church or, at the very least, reduce it within the limits of secularity and profanity. The new Canon Law of 1983 does not name it [18], but it is evident that Canon 1374 refers to it when it threatens a "just penalty" for “those who appoint their name to an association that conspires against the Church.” For this reason, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (what is now called the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith -DDF-, Ed.), in a Declaration on Masonic Associations of November 26, 1983 (so we are shortly dealing with the 40th anniversary of it, Ed.) declared that “the Church's negative judgment towards Masonic associations remains unchanged, as their principles have always been incompatible with the Church's doctrine, and thus their membership remains prohibited. Faithful, belonging to Masonic associations, are objectively in a state of grave sin and cannot access to the Holy Communion.”

Today, within the Church, there is considerable acceptance of a vision of man, morality, and society that trusts in the power of reason, law, science, technology, and human dominion over nature, aiming for continuous progress in equality, tolerance, freedom, and cultural pluralism. This vision is undoubtedly a legacy of Freemasonry (bold mine, Ed.). Freemasonry is present in all major international organizations, starting with the UN. Yet, in the end, the UN is also a providential organization, as recognized by recent Popes.

What worries about Freemasonry is its underlying pride, which animates this association and presumes that man can reach the highest goals of knowledge and virtue on his own. This is why those who accuse it of Satanism are not mistaken. Freemasonry disregards the value and necessity of grace and the weight that sin has in our lives. It is a form of Pelagianism, as the Pope would say. For this reason, it hates a society like the Church that reminds it of the duty of humility, penance, atonement, listening to the Word of God, the sacraments, and obedience to its ministers (mostly to the Holy Father, see below (Ed.)), prayer, and imploring for grace and divine mercy.

A question we could ask ourselves is: What weight does Freemasonry have today in the competition among the great (financial and political, military and intelligence, advertising and entertainment, academic and legal, (Ed.)) powers vying for world domination? Freemasonry is undoubtedly a product of the West. Beyond its second-hand esotericism, it is a product of Western rationalism, with its merits and faults. Its roots lie in Greece, Rome, and pagan myths, with contributions from Kabbalistic and Zionist Judaism.

It certainly holds weight in Europe, the United States, and Latin America, though to a lesser extent in Judaism, Russia, and China, and even less so in India and Muslim states. Australia and African states are (almost totally) dependent on European, American, Chinese, Russian, and Islamic powers.

Freemasonry seems to triumph everywhere. I am not far from believing that in Ukraine, two opposing factions of Freemasonry are at odds - the Russian and the American. However, Freemasonry has made a fundamental mistake: it wanted to destroy the Church. Today, it seems discarded by the world's great masters, despite its billion and a half believers, who are mostly poor. Yet, "the stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces; anyone on whom it falls will be crushed" (Luke 20:18).

Fr. Giovanni Cavalcoli, OP

Fontanellato, 27 luglio 2023

source: https://padrecavalcoli.blogspot.com/p/un-nuovo-studio-sulla-massoneria-come.html

[1] The members of the association claimed to be able to render themselves invisible to operate secretly more effectively, of course, for the good of humanity and the progress of sciences.

[2] Cf. Gershom Scholem, La Cabala, Edizioni Mediterranee, Rome 1992, pp.127-132.

[3] Regarding Descartes' sympathies for the Rosicrucians, see J. Maritain, Le songe de Descartes, Buchet & Chastel, Paris 1932, pp.10,13,294.

[4] According to Luther, God can assume the appearance of the demon, and the demon can appear as God. This is true if we admit a criterion of distinction. It is false if it assumes confusion of appearance with reality.

[5] Quote from Franz Hartmann, Il mondo magico di Jakob Böhme, Edizioni Mediterranee, Rome, 2005, p.128.

[6] Quote from Hegel, Lezioni di storia della filosofia, 3, I, La Nuova Italia, Florence 1985, p.221.

[7] Gershom Scholem, La Cabala, Edizioni mediterranee, Rome 1992, pp.74-75.

[8] La dottrina della scienza, Editori Laterza, Bari 1971, pp.41,51,77.

[9] Enciclopedia delle scienze filosofiche in compendio, Editori Laterza, Bari 1963, pp.91-92.

[10] Opere, Editori Laterza, Bari 1965, p.286.

[11] See his book: Ontologia della libertà. Il male e la sofferenza, Edizioni Einaudi, Turin 1995.

[12] Dealing with Schelling: Bruno. Il divino e il naturale principio delle cose, Edizioni Spano; related to Gentile: Giordano Bruno e il pensiero del Rinascimento, Edizioni “Le Lettere,” Florence 1991.

[13] Recently, Monsignor Miguel Fernandez, newly elected by the Pope as Prefect of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, assured us that the times of harsh severity are over. However, today there is the opposite problem of excessive indulgence. Today, the DDF listens to the faithful. However, it is also necessary for the faithful to listen to the DDF.

[14] See my book L'inferno esiste. La verità negata (Hell Exists. The Denied Truth), Edizioni Fede&Cultura, Verona 2011, pp.54-70.

[15] Refer to I. Mancini, Kant e la teologia (Kant and Theology), Cittadella Editrice, Città di Castello 1975; Paolo Ceresa, "Studi kantiani" (Kantian Studies), Libreria di Scienze e Lettere, Rome 1923.

[16] Fichte, who was openly a Freemason, left us a "Filosofia della massoneria" (Philosophy of Freemasonry).

[17] See my article "RAHNER E LA MASSONERIA" (Rahner and Freemasonry), in Fides Catholica, 2, 2011, A.VI, pp.245-260; Paolo Siano, "Karl Rahner 'massonico'?" (Karl Rahner "Masonic"?), Il pensiero di Karl Rahner e la cultura massonica a confronto, in Fides Catholica, 2.2007, pp.315-360.

[18] It was explicitly mentioned in Canon 2335 of the old Canon Law.

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