Initiatic traditions throughout the ages find many similarities in their content and themes. We see throughout initiatic systems and ancient Mystery Schools themes of birth, life, death and rebirth; often in that order. Initium, the Latin root of “initiation” means “beginning”. Initiatus, the participle from the verb initiare, refers to any act at the beginning or introduction of a thing. Freemasonry is widely known as an initiatic tradition of three stages, and as such we can draw many comparisons from our particular method of initiation and that of birth, a man’s entrance into the world, and one’s birth into the world of Freemasonry.
In life, we enter this world blind. We are transported from the small dark chamber of the womb and lead outward through a passage, from a place of darkness to a world of blinding light. We are for a brief moment bare, stripped of all material and mineral contrivances, unaware of our surroundings.
Once a child has passed through that portal into the world, he finds himself still dangerously tethered to the place whence he came by the umbilical cord. Even after entering the world, a child does not begin to fully survive on his own until he is loosed from that connection by the help of those around him, cutting the cord so a new life can begin. Only then can the child be embraced by his family, both literally and figuratively as a unique and individual person.
Very much in this way, a candidate for Freemasonry who is initiated into our brotherhood is brought from the darkness of his old life into the light of a moral and upright existence within the fraternity and the arms of his brothers. He takes an allegorical journey similar to a babe entering into this existence. Allegorically and symbolically the candidate is freed from his past and brought to a new world, full of new ideas, images and wonder.
This progression is no random set of steps or an accidental occurrence. The process of birth and entering into our world and reality is a very systematic progression that starts a soul on its path, whatever that may be. The processes of initiatic traditions are modeled after this progression to help trigger something within us, causing a sense memory of sorts to help “reset” our mind and spirit into a state similar to birth. When done correctly it causes an individual to be as open as possible to absorb new ideas, symbols and allegorical lessons to great effect. In Freemasonry our first step is to be initiated as an “Entered Apprentice”, alluding to our entrance into this new world.
All of mankind has been initiated into this physical world and can relate to the stages and steps outlined here. As Freemasons of course, we can find deeper esoteric parallels to each of these moments of birth to our own initiatic experience. Any Freemason examining and reflecting upon his first degree will find profound connections and similarities to the amazing mechanics and process of birth. By examining and reflecting upon birth we find the true fingerprints of the Architect of this world, created in his image, impossible to ignore, and worthy of all exploration and consideration.