AS Discussed in PART I, Classical Art builds on the cultural ideals of Ancient Greece and Rome, as demonstrated in painting, sculpture, and architecture. Founded upon the virtues of harmony and divine proportion, these artists sought to elevate the human form by adorning it with the highest, illuminating humanity’s evolution, and depicting man’s relationship with the Divine. Moreover, the term, Esoteric, has been defined as “known only to the few,” and is derived from the Greek root Esō, meaning “within.” To study Esotericism, often requires communing with a small inner circle of learned fellows in order to embark on a journey of self-discovery.
We continue the discussion by considering the following pieces of Classical Art…
BORN in 1593, Georges de La Tour was a painter, mostly of candlelit subjects. La Tour became a master painter and eventually settled in Lunéville (modern day France). La Tour’s paintings are marked by a startling geometric simplification of the human form and by the depiction of interior scenes lit only by the glare of candles or torches. His religious paintings done in this manner have a monumental simplicity and a stillness that expresses both contemplative quiet and wonder. Magdalene with the Smoking Flame is a 1640 oil-on-canvas depiction of Mary Magdalene by the French Baroque painter.
MELENCOLIA is one of three large prints known as the German Master, Albrecht Durer, Meisterstiche (Master Engravings). Created in 1513-1514, Melencolia I a depiction of the intellectual situation of the artist and is thus, by extension, a spiritual self-portrait of Dürer. In medieval philosophy each individual was thought to be dominated by one of the four humors; melancholy, associated with black gall, was the least desirable of the four, and melancholics were considered the most likely to succumb to insanity. Renaissance thought, however, also linked melancholy with creative genius; thus, at the same time that this idea changed the status of this humor, it made the self-conscious artist aware that his gift came with terrible risks.
SERVING as the frontispiece to Blake’s book, Europe a Prophecy (1794), The Ancient of Days illustrates Urizen, a mythological figure created by the poet. Representing the rule of reason and law, Urizen was Blake’s depiction of God as described in the Book of Proverbs: the one who “set a compass upon the face of the earth.” Viewed an old man with white beard and hair, Urizen is in an illuminated orb and surrounded by a circle of clouds. There, God crouches, his left hand extends a golden compass over the darkness below, creating and containing the universe. With classical anatomy and an energetic, bold composition, Blake’s work evokes a vision of divine creation.
In The Book of Urizen (lines 31-40), Urizen makes the following statement:
“Lo! I unfold my darkness, and on this rock place with strong hand the Book of eternal brass, written in my solitude … One command, one joy, one desire, one curse, one weight, one measure, One King, one God, one Law.”– William Blake
PIETER Bruegel the Elder, aka: Pieter Bruegel I (1525–1569), brought a humanizing spirit to traditional subjects and boldly created new ones. He was an astonishingly inventive artist; whose impact was widespread and long lasting. The Tower of Babel was the subject of three paintings by Pieter Bruegel the Elder. The (Great) Tower of Babel has a group in the foreground, with the main figure thought to be the Tower’s creator, Nimrod.
The painting depicts the construction of the Tower of Babel, which, according to the Book of Genesis (Chapter 11, Verse 4), was built by a unified humanity, which spoke a single language, as a mark of achievement built to prevent humanity’s scattering:
“Then they said, ‘Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves; otherwise we shall be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth.”– Book of Genesis, Chapter 11, Verse 4
MASTER Artist of the Italian Renaissance, Raphael Sanzio achieved success and rose to fame early in life; In his twenties, he was invited by the Pope to live in Rome as an artist, where he would spend the rest of his days. Starting in 1509, he began decorating the first of four rooms in the Papal Palace. Raphael’s fresco, The School of Athens, has come to symbolize the marriage of art, philosophy, and science that was a hallmark of the Italian Renaissance. Painted between 1509 and 1511, it is located in the first of the four rooms designed by Raphael, the Stanza della Segnatura.
The School of Athens is considered a powerful and prophetic work of Art: illustrating the evolution of consciousness, the role of Christ and Christianity in human evolution, and the path of individual inner development. Spadaro shows how Raphael’s paintings depict, with precision and in detail, the spiritual, cosmic, and physical situation of humanity, through which it must grow to fulfillment.
“Of interest, exoterically, is the fact that the Soul passes through experiences before, during and after Initiation into Freemasonry which are symbolically portrayed within the Temple. The application for membership, interviews, voting, acceptance, payment of dues, preparation, admission, Initiation… these represent at the physical level precisely the same processes through which the Soul has gone or will go at the Causal level.”
– Bro. Geoffrey Hodson
DESCRIBED by some as a fraternal group, an esoteric organization, a charity, a cult, or a religion: What exactly is Freemasonry? Regardless of how it is labelled, Masonry’s goals and mission remains constant. Masons work to create a better world by improving humanity, both at an individual and collective level. “Remember always that all Masonry is work,” wrote Bro. Albert Pike, and Masons are sculpted by ritual for exoteric labors: activities conducted for the welfare of mankind according to Masonic principles.
It is in this mysterious, hidden ritualistic work where much of the speculation of what Freemasonry does and does not do begins. As Bro. Kristine Wilson-Slack 33o writes:
“In at least one Masonic Order, and probably many others, it is specifically stated that Freemasons have a special charter to input esoteric knowledge into the Masonic members. By esoteric, let’s use the basic form of the word, meaning “knowledge meant only for a few.” Freemasonry, being a select organization, is “esoteric” in this way.”– Bro. Kris Wilson-Slack
Masons constitute a minute percentage of the approximate Eight Billion Human Beings currently alive on our planet. Esoteric, in its uncomplicated form, does not connote anything spiritual, religious, or occult.
While some aspects of Freemasonry may be considered “esoteric,” other important work is actually “exoteric” in nature. According to the Masonic scholar and author, Geoffrey Hodson:
“A Great Work therefore remains to be done for exoteric Freemasonry… it is essential that it be reoriented towards its true purpose, which is both to aid the spiritual evolution of mankind and to establish Brotherhood of mankind and to establish Brotherhood without distinction of race, creed, sex or color on Earth… it is greatly to be desired that the Order be revealed as a recognizable expression of, and channel for, the true Wisdom.– Geoffrey Hodson
It is toward the fulfillment of these goals that the Brothers of Universal Co-Masonry labor. Whether aware or unaware, all members assist in these endeavors and bring Humanity, step-by-step, ever closer to its ideal and perfected state.