WB Nelson A. Drobness
Harmony Lodge No.8
GL of NJ, USA
WB William H. Drobness
Who Instilled and Nurtured in me
An Appreciation of Classical Music
And a Love for the Craft.
Acknowledgement and appreciation is extended to the
Chancellor Robert R. Livingston Masonic Library and Museum
The Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons for the State of New York,
For their help, aid and assistance in the preparation of this paper.
Good Evening Brethren…..
I would like to discuss with you, for a few minutes the works of our late Brother Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. We shall consider Mozart as a Mason and discuss the influences of his beloved Masonry in his music, especially his opera, The Magic Flute, widely accepted as a Masonic Opera. For hidden within the fairy tale of the Magic Flute are many allusions to Freemasonry, as it was practiced in 18th century Austria. It is important to remember that the ritual of that time was quite different from that which we practice in 21st century New Jersey. However, the basic concepts of Brotherly Love, Truth, and Charity….Wisdom, Strength and Beauty were observed then as now.
So, the question becomes: Where, in 2016, does one go to learn about 18th Century Austrian Ritual? Considering that, then as now, Freemasons took certain oaths and obligation, to keep and conceal, discovering that ritual was no easy task. Early in my research I learned about a book written by a Frenchman, Jacques Chailley, . His book, written in 1968, The Magic Flute Unveiled, is the most prominent, and perhaps the only book about the `esoteric symbolism in the opera.
But, alas, Chailley, was not a Freemason and therefore, was not privy to that which only Freemasons know. To my surprise, I was able to find a second hand translation into English. I was given a great deal of help from one of the foremost Masonic libraries in the world, the Chancellor Robert R. Livingston Masonic Library and Museum of the Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons for the State of New York. They gave me access to whatever they had. A special thanks is extended to Ms Morgan Aronson, a very patient librarian, for her assistance. Without their help, it would have been very difficult to research this project, and for that I am grateful.
Freemasonry in 18th century Europe was centered on ancient Egypt. Perhaps this is due to Napoleon’s very popular Egyptian campaigns. The Temple of Solomon was referred to as the Temple of Isis and Osiris. Boaz and Jachin were referred to as Isis and Osiris and were given specific attributes, much in the same way as Chinese Taoism refers to Yin and Yang…..the whole of something that is expressed as a combination of opposing characteristics. The Legend of Hiram was given a prominent place in the ritual, very similar to ours. The conflict between light and darkness was at the foundation of their ritual, much as it is today.
The works of Mozart, like many artists, throughout the ages, are an expression of the social and political environments in which they lived. Freemasonry, as was all of the Continent, in the latter half of the 18th Century rather unsettled. Pope Clement XII, in 1738 had declared that membership in the Craft was incompatible with Catholicism and Catholics who belonged to Craft Lodges were subject to ex-communication……effectively cutting them off from the Church and all its Sacraments. (It is interesting to note here that there are some who believe, and have documented, that Pope John XXIII, in our time, was a Freemason) The Pope was relying on the respective heads of their countries to enforce his edict. But this proved to be very difficult because so many of the most powerful and wealthy people, including Royalty, were faithful to the Craft. Then, as now, politics played a very important part in life. Mozart, himself was a practicing Catholic and a devoted Freemason. In his Austria, the Empress Maria Theresa was opposed to Masonry and, in 1743, had ordered a Viennese Lodge raided, forcing its Master and her husband, Francis I, to make his escape by a secret staircase. The Emperor Joseph II who succeeded her, had a much more favorable view towards the Craft and despite pressure from the Church, did not put pressure on the Lodges of Austria.
It was the age of John Locke and the Enlightenment. In the New World, the American Colonies had declared their independence from England and were involved in a new form of self government. In France the people had stormed the Bastille and killed the Monarchs. It was the age of the guillotine and of mob rule. It was the age of contradictions. In Masonry it was the age of Lodges of Adoption. Lodges throughout the Continent were experimenting with the idea of including women with men in tiled Lodges. All women Lodges were formed. Several of these “Adoption Lodges”, influenced by Cagliostro, practiced what was called the Egyptian Rite. The Egyption Rite included elements of magic, alchemy, spiritualism and witchcraft. Some of these Adoption Lodges still exist in France. Needless to say, they are not recognized by proper Grand Lodges anywhere. So these are the times in which Mozart lived and which influenced his work.
Mozart wrote much music specifically for the Craft. Among these were music for the opening and closing of Lodge, funeral music, music for various processions, and music for a fellowcraft’s journey. Most of this was written in the key of E-flat. What makes that significant is that, if we look at the diagram for that key, there is a clear allusion to the three candles about the altar.
Sometime around 1781, his friend and fellow Mason, Emmanuel Schickenader approached Mozart with a proposition. In addition to being a prominent librettist, one who writes the stories for, among other things, operas, Schickenader ran a theatre in Vienna. The theatre was not doing well; in fact he was going broke by keeping it open. He needed something to make him enough money to keep him and his theatre solvent. So he sat down with Mozart and showed him a story, a fairy tale. But this fairy tale was something of a satire on current political events. Various characters had resemblances to the ruling Monarchy of Austria. For instance, the Queen of the Night had a rather striking resemblance to the Empress Maria Theresa. The character of the wise and venerable Sarastro was said to be taken from Baron Ignaz von Born, a highly esteemed Freemason of Vienna. It also had, hidden in its pages, allusions to the ritual of the Craft. Mozart was interested. He had already written several pieces of music for the Craft but the idea of a complete Masonic opera intrigued him. The result of that meeting was the partnership which created the Magic Flute.
The actual story is very complicated with many multi-dimensional characters. In very general and broad terms, it is the story of Tamino’s journey from darkness to light, from ignorance to wisdom and the trials and impediments he encounters along the way.
I shall only describe what is necessary to properly discuss as many Masonic allusions as I have been able to uncover. Please keep in mind that we are dealing with 18th century Austrian ritual which may or may not be similar to ours. Therefore, there may be some allusions which I have missed.
An opera begins with a piece of music called the “overture”.
A candidate’s journey begins with 3 knocks on the door of the Lodge. I shall now play a recording of the overture. See if you can find the 3 knocks.
Following the overture, the opening music, translated from the original German is:
“Within these sacred walls vengeance is unknown.
If a man should fail, love leads him back to duty.
He is guided by a friendly hand, happy and contented to the better land.
Within these sacred walls, where love binds man t man, no traitor can lurk; for man forgives his fore. He whom no such teaching does not delight, is not
worthy to be a man.
Once again that mysterious number 3 is prominent. Mozart gives 3 fairies, 3 genies, 3 temples, 3 stages to initiation, the previously mentioned 3 chords in the overture, and 3 flats of the key of E-flat. Mozart alludes to the story of Hiram Abiff by having 18 priests in the second act dressed in either blue or red. According to the legend there were 18 guards over Hiram’s grave at the Temple and blue is the color of a Craft Lodge, while Red is the color of a Royal Arch Chapter.
Tamino presents himself, hoodwinked, at the North gate of the temple where he is met by the 3 genies on their flying machine. They ask his guide 3 questions: Is he virtuous? Can he be silent? Is he charitable? A dialog between the Expert (Sr Master of Ceremonies) and the Venerable (Sr. Deacon) ends with Tamino being allowed into the temple and, still hoodwinked, conducted by the Expert.
Eventually he is led into a place that alluded to the Cabinet of Reflection. The Cabinet of Reflection was a part of a Lodge room where a candidate was placed for a period of time. While there he is questioned about why he seeks admission into the order. The hoodwink is removed and he is surrounded by Masonic symbols, such as the hourglass, pitcher, decapitated statue, spade, pick-ax, and the inscription “V.I.T.R.I.O.L…… Visita Interiorento Terrae, Rectivicando Invenies Occultum Lapidem……Visit the interior of the earth;
by following the right road and you will find the hidden stone”….an obvious allusion to the workings of the Craft that we have all experienced. Throughout the ceremony, he has been accompanied by Pamina, the women who he loves.
Finally, as they are about to receive the wisdom that he has been seeking, Pamina is removed from the Temple, thus making a strong statement against the
Adoption Lodges and women in Masonry, and affirming that only men are fit to receive the wisdom that Masonry possesses. The final chorus proclaims that “Strength conquers and crowns with its rewards, Beauty and Wisdom with an eternal crown”.
Thus ends the Magic Flute.
I should like to close my little talk with the ode that Mozart wrote for the closing of a Lodge:
Our thanks are many forever
Who are the badge officer wearing
Let virtue be your sole endeavor.
So eager will joy in having
The chains that bind in such brotherly true.
Sweetening the cup of life anew
Chorus: And the obligation we swear to fulfill
Upon your foundation
We build with a will
Then raise us ever higher
Upon the wings of truth ascending
To wisdom’s throne we may aspire
That so our weary labors ending
We may be worthy of her crown.
I hope you have found this interesting. Thank you for your attention.