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A Modern Pythagorean
A Modern Pythagorean
by Dana Lloyd Thomas
No study of esoteric culture in Italy in this century can fail to mention Arturo Reghini (18781946).Writer, translator, mathematician, and above all a Pythagorean, he played a key role in the revival of scholarship on esotericism in Italy as well as in the attempt to restore the spiritual traditions of Masonry.
Reghini'Äôs books and articles cover a variety of subjects including Masonic symbolism,Theosophy, Neoplatonism, Cornelius Agrippa, and Cagliostro. As editor of the magazines Ignis and Atanor, he published articles by the noted esotericists Rene Guenon and Julius Evola. Later he was to pay for his out-spokenness'ÄĒespecially on behalf of freedom of conscience -when Freemasonry was outlawed by the Fascist regime.
Born in Florence on November 12, 1878, Reghini was the eldest of five children. His career as a philosopher, in the classical sense of 'Äúlover of wisdom,'ÄĚ began early in life, when his aris-tocratic family sent him to the University of Pisa to study mathematics.The tall, thin young student was approached one evening by a stranger who singled him out as a candidate for initiation into the mysterious Pythagorean school, also known as the Schola Italica.The stranger turned out to be Amedeo Armentano (1886-1966), who fascinated literary circles in Florence with his abstruse, laconic reasoning about time, mind, and soul as well as with his psychic powers.
Reghini was initiated in the highest sense of the word. He experienced the trial of the five elements not only as a ceremony but as a profound reality. For him, passing beyond the threshold of death was a matter of experience, vision, and knowledge rather than a mere symbol. 1
Polltics and Secret Societiea
To understand Reghini'Äôs role in the esoteric culture of his time, it is helpful to have some background on Italian Freemasonry and its connection to historical events. As in other countries, the Craft in Italy has so many facets that there is little point in overgeneralizing. For some, Masonry has commanded a virtually religious allegiance in the observance of the 'Äúancient and accepted'ÄĚ rules and ceremonies, while others undoubtedly saw it as a means of improving society at large based on nineteenth-century rationalist beliefs in progress, education, and science. The ranks of Masonry have also included an eminent minority of philosophers and mystics, as well as-the usual op-portunists. Finally there are the antiMasonic elements, initially Catholic and later spreading to both leftand right-wing politicians and thinkers. In any case, the political and esoteric aspects of Freemasonry have often run parallel throughout Italian history.
The first known Italian lodge was founded in Florence by Charles Sackville, Earl of Middlesex, Henry Fox, and Sir Charles Mann in about 1730. 2 Although by this time Florentine Renaissance traditions were but a distant memory,Tuscany under the later Medici had still managed to preserve some independence, sparing it from the worst excesses of the Counter-Reformation. Lodges were soon opened in Rome, Naples, Turin, and elsewhere. But the Craft'Äôs connection with England'ÄĒa major Protestant power'ÄĒaroused the suspicions of both the rulers of the Italian states and the ecclesiastical hierarchy.
In 1738, when Pope Clement XII issued the bull In eminenti, which in practice banned Catholics from becoming Freemasons, he had reached the venerable age of 87 and was completely blind.
Firmly continuing the papacy'Äôs penchant for power politics, the measure seems to have been initially rooted in concern about the situation in the pope'Äôs native Tuscany and was probably
formulated mainly with Italy in mind. It may have been no coincidence that the last of the Medici, Gian Gastone, had died a year before the move could have had the aim both of strihng a
blow against a suspiciously Protestant organization and of reasserting papal influence in relatively tolerantTuscany. Nevertheless this independence persisted when Francis of Lorraine,
himself a Freemason, became Tuscany'Äôs new ruler. 3 The papal stance marked the start of persecution the poet Tommaso Crudeli, the first known Masonic martyr, was tortured to
make him reveal 'Äúthe secrets of the Freemasons,'ÄĚ but he was released upon Francis'Äôs intervention. 4 Several decades later, the celebrated magus Count Alessandro Cagliostro was not to be so lucky, and would die in 1795 while imprisoned in the papal fortress of San Leo. Of the papal ban Reghini wrote, 'ÄúThe effect of the Church'Äôs hostility was to cause a reaction in some countries, with Freemasonry being forced to defend itself by becoming a secret society. Nevertheless, it never became sectarian, and the rituals were alwavs characterized bv the tolerance, nonsectar1anlsm, ana independence of the early period.'ÄĚ 5
Masons and Masonic organizations played a significant role in the Italian Risorgimento ('ÄúResurrection'ÄĚ) of the nineteenth century. Freemasons actively promoted the unification of Italy'Äôs many states, thus winning them further condemnation for'ÄĚsubversion.'ÄĚ Giuseppe Mazzini'Äôs political organization, Giovine Italia ('ÄúYoung Italy'ÄĚ), dedicated to unification, shared Masonic ideals of humanity, progress, and secular government.
The Italian Grand Orient was founded in 1859.6 In 1862, a Sovereign Council of the Scottish Rite convened in Palermo under the guidance of the patriot Giuseppe Garibaldi, and in 1864 the first Congress of Italian Freemasonry met in Florence and elected Garibaldi as Grand Master.
Perhaps even more than the French Revolution, the Risorgimento was a 'Äúbourgeois'ÄĚ revolution, and Freemasonry attracted Italy'Äôs small but active middle class. It was seen as a means of keeping together forces as diverse as Mazzini'Äôs republicans, monarchists who supported the House of Savoy, and Garibaldi'Äôs 'ÄúRedshirts.'ÄĚAs one scholar points out, 'Äúin a country where all the forms of political conflicts had a regional basis, . . . the lodges were the only real school of national unity.'ÄĚ 7 As a result of the Church'Äôs continuing opposition to unification, Masonry persisted in its anticlerical stance.
In the decades following the country'Äôs unification in 1870, numerous members of the new class of politicians and administrators were Freemasons. By the end of the nineteenth century, Freemasonry was widely perceived as part of the establishment and as affording advantages that were often more material than spiritual. Financial scandals and political instability had made establishment politicians vulnerable to attack, and Freemasonry, previously seen as the champion of independence and democracy, was now accused of being class-ridden and corrupt. As in other Latin countries, many anti-Masonic pamphlets were circulated, generally based on conspiracy charges by the Abbe Barruel and Leo Taxil and creating the impression that the institution was much more powerful and monolithic than it actually was.
These ideas undoubtedly influenced Benito Mussolini in his early years in the Socialist Party and were to resurface in the Fascist period (1922-43) despite the Masonic connections of many Fascist leaders. 8 The FAcist movement, founded in 1919, counted a number of Freemasons among its first members, who were attracted by a variety of factors, including the movement'Äôs early anticlerical and revolutionary leanings. Persecution, though not always systematic continued until the fall of the regime.
Paradoxically, as soon as World War II ended, anti-Masonic literature was revived, this time with accusations of collaboration with Fascism. In recent decades, historical research on Italian Freemasonry has largely been monopolized by Catholic and Communist-oriented writers who are for different reasons hostile to the institution. 9 It is therefore no wonder that a Masonic writer has observed that 'ÄúItalian Masonry is probably the most misrepresented and misunderstood in the world.'ÄĚ 10
Italian Freemasonry was not all politics, however, and has always had a strong esoteric strain. Together with the specifically Masonic symbolism of building and architecture, probably rooted in medieval guilds, various esoteric traditions including Rosicrucian, Kabbalistic, Templar, and Pythagorean lines have converged in the Craft.
From the earliest times Freemasonry has considered geometric symbolism to be of the highest importance, with the Pythagorean theorem being widely depicted in Masonic art. It has been suggested that some form of Pythagorean initiation survived through the centuries, first in the Byzantine Empire and later, as the Ottoman Turks advanced, in Italy, where the Greek intellectual elite took refuge.
During the reign of Elizabeth I, Sir Thomas Bodley is said to have been initiated in the northern Italian city of Forli into the Pythagorean Brotherhood of the Fratelli Obscuri, having
'Äúthe laudable object of propagating the Sciences and love of Virtue'ÄĚ and 'Äúestablished in imitation of an older Society which had existed since before the fall of the Grecian Empire in the towns of Constantinople and Thessalonica.'ÄĚ In the eighteenth century, the British and French Pythagoreans came to be known as 'ÄúSnuff-Takers'ÄĚ when they adopted the tobacco plant as their symbol. 11
Naples was the home of Egyptian Freemasonry, a tradition claiming descent from the Hermetic community dating back to Hellenistic Egypt: there is still a 'ÄúNile Square'ÄĚ in the city, and Giordano Bruno, who exalted the 'Äúwisdom of Egypt,'ÄĚ was from nearby Nola. The school subsequently came to light through the work of Cagliostro and later of Giuliano Kremmerz, founder of the Hermetic Brotherhood of Myriam. 12 Cagliostro'Äôs 'ÄúGospel,'ÄĚ first published in Italian in 1914 and later commented on by Reghini, uses alchemical terminology to describe a path to immortality as well as propounding the use of magical seals, meditation, fasting, and a vegetarian diet.
The esoteric Order of Misraim (whose name is derived from the Hebrew name for Egypt) seems to have had Italian origins. The Misraim first emerged in Italy in the eighteenth century, when it was associated with Cagliostro who brought it to Venice around 1788. 13 Because both Egyptian Freemasonry and the Order of Misraim allow the admission of women'ÄĒthus violating the basic Masonic guidelines known as the 'ÄúLandmarks'ÄĚ'ÄĒand because they work degrees beyond the third, they are generally classified as part of 'Äúfringe Masonry.'ÄĚ
The Order of Misraim was introduced into France after 1813 by the Bedarride brothers afterwards it spread to Belgium, Switzerland, Britain, and the U.S. It consists of two forms of practice: the Kabbalistic form adopted by the Bedarrides and the Egyptian-Hellenistic form of the highest degrees known as the Arcana Arcanorum. 14
Politics again crossed paths with the esoteric when Garibaldi was appointed Grand Hierophant of the Misraim in 1880. At that time the order was joined with the Order of Memphis, whose rituals are inspired by Egyptian imagery. By the end of the century, the combined order was to provide a link between Freemasonry and Theosophy in Italy: both H.P. Blavatsky and Annie Besant held high degrees.
Theosophlst and Freemason
When he was only eighteen, Reghini went to Rome, where he was introduced to Isabel Cooper-Oakley, Blavatsky'Äôs delegate to Italy, and in 1898 the two were among the founders of the Italian branch of the Theosophical Society. (Blavatsky had always had a weakness for Italy she even claimed to have fought with Garibaldi against French and papal forces at the Battle of Mentana in 1867.)l5 Theosophy too was soon open to accusations of heresy, if not outright paganism, thus attracting the hostility of the Church. Yet the Theosophical Society proved to be an im-portant vehicle for broadening the horizons of educated and open-minded Italians by introducing the study of oriental philosophy and religion'ÄĒuntil then largely limited to academic circles'ÄĒto a wider public.
While already receiving instruction on the Pythagorean tradition, Reghini started his Masonic career with initiation into the Order of Memphis and Misraim in 1902. What did he find in this esoteric form of Freemasonry? He was probably told something like these comments by a modern Masonic writer:
The Rite of Memphis and Misraim is not suited to every Mason, but
is intended for those few Brothers who, following the many
indications and revelations to be found in their rituals,
genuinely aspire to enter into resonance with the higher planes
of existence, and to overcome their individuality. In this case
the Rite is a visible, tangible link between the lower sphere and
the upper sphere. It provides the key to the Arcana, the way in
which they can be revealed and practiced. 16
The order'Äôs Osirian ritual contains suggestive references Egypt, as when the aspiring Master is told:
Brother, you have entered this Temple which is the Middle Chamber
of the Pyramid, aspiring to become Osiris, and to achieve this
privilege you have recited the negative confession, well aware
that it was only symbolic, the confession that every deceased
person recites when reaching the world of shadows and coming
before the tribunal of Osiris to identify himself with Osiris
if his life has been pure. 17
In 1903 Reghini joined a lodge in Florence that owed allegiance to the Italian Grand Orient two years later this was reorganized as the Lucifero Lodge, with Reghini as one of the founders. At the same time lodges in Milan merged with the Rome Grand Orient, with headquarters in Rome'Äôs Palazzo Giustiniani.
Writing in 1906, Reghini censured opposition to the higher degrees (from the fourth up to the 95th in orders like the Misraim) and expressed regret over the failure of Mazzini and the American Albert Pike to create 'Äúa secret rite above all others, a sort of Masonry within Masonry, which would have unified the divided Masonic family.'ÄĚ 18 In 1908 a number of dissidents, led by a Protestant minister, broke away from the Grand Orient in protest against its overly materialishc and radical political stance.They set up a new Masonic organization with its headquarters at Piazza del Gesu in Rome. Subsequently Italy'Äôs two branches of Masonry were to be known as 'ÄúPalazzo Giustiniani'ÄĚ and 'ÄúPiazza del Gesu'ÄĚ after the location of their Rome headquarters.
An attempt to promote unification of the splintered Masonic groups by returning to the Craft'Äôs eady spiritual roots was undertaken with the Italian Philosophic Rite, of which Reghini was one of the founders. (The name calls to mind the Scottish Philosophic Rite, thought to have some connection with British Pythagoreans.) The Italian rite had seven degrees and has been described as a mixture of Pythagorean and Gnostic elements. In 1911 Reghini and Armentano rewrote the rite'Äôs statutes, dictating that a copy of the Golden Verses of Pythagoras was to be placed in the temple together with the other objects used in lodge work.
This experience was interrupted by WorldWar I, which disrupted international fraternal contacts Reghini himself served in the army. The Philosophic Rite came to an end in 1919, when it was merged with the Grand Lodge Scottish Rite. Afterwards Reghini, while remaining a Freemason, would be more cautious about any 'Äúuniversal reformation'ÄĚ of the Craft.
Occultlsm and the Esoteric
In Italy, as in the rest of Europe around the turn of the century, popular interest in the occult was largely focused on phenomena like hypnotism and spiritualism. Astrological and magical manuals copied from classics such as those by Cornelius Agrippa and Giovanni Battista della Porta abounded. At the same time the works of French writers like Eliphas Levi, Henri Durville, and Papus were gaining a considerable readership, and there were a number of esoteric journals. Reghini himself translated Swami Vivekananda, the Egyptologist E.A. Wallis Budge, and Robert Louis Stevenson'Äôs occult tales.
Both Reghini and Giuliano Kremmerz, active in Naples during the same period, stressed that theirs was a quest for knowledge and warned against the confusion between spiritual achievement and
bouts of emotional excitement. In this respect they rejected the occultism of seances and sects, sharing the position of Levi, who insisted that his occultism (a term he coined) was based on
faith, science, and reason. 19
This experimental method makes use not only of logic but of analogy. Early in his career Reghini had written, 'ÄúThe symbolism of architecture, ceremonies, and images is superior to ordinary
language due to the multitude of meanings which only symbolism can express, since it works through analogy the hieroglyphic and ideogram forms of writing are superior to ordinary writing due to the breadth and precision of their meaning.'ÄĚ20 Twenty years later, Reghini expressed much the same idea: 'ÄúThere exists an oral tradition of hidden knowledge which cannot be transmitted with words (perceived and interpreted in the profane sense). There is still a serious tradition in theWest which has nothing to do with the circuslike uproar, the parody and pretense, of today'Äôs so-called occultism.'ÄĚ21 Reghini also sometimes retired with his friends Armentano and Giulio Parise to an isolated tower on the coast of Calabria, ideal for study and meditation. Reghini was also no stranger to ceremonial magic, though one of the few direct references he makes to it has humorous overtones, mentioning some of the practical difficulties of pre-dawn rituals, with alarm clocks, cups of hot coffee, sputtering oil lamps, incense failing to burn, and candles going out, all to the detriment of the necessary 'Äúspiritual concentration.'ÄĚ22
Throughout all this activity Reghini remained a Pythagorean.What did this mean for him in practical terms? He engaged in the daily recollection of his deeds'ÄĒa practice that has been traced back to Pythagoras'ÄĒas well as 'Äúphilosophical ecstasy,'ÄĚ which was actually a type of meditation. The practitioner was to sit comfortably in a quiet place, emptying himself of all thoughts and emotions he could either be in the dark or have a light behind him. 'ÄúThen, when the soul is purified, a bright and shining light from which nothing can be hidden seems to appear,'ÄĚ says one old text.'ÄĚAnd then a sweet pleasure is felt, incompa-rable to anything in this world, and . . . an extremely plea-surable itch is felt inside the head.... The persons most suited to this ecstasy are those whose skull is open, through which the spirits can escape ....I believe that this is the Platonic ecstasy, the one mentioned by Porphyry as having overcome Plotinus seven times.'ÄĚ
This practice has important implications as a form of 'ÄúWestern yoga.'ÄĚ It does not so much connote an evaluation of deeds as good or bad but rather stresses the importance of remembering
itself. The Renaissance mages Tommasso Campanella and Giordano Bruno were probably familiar with this meditation. 23 Reghini also stressed that the seeker aimed at the trans-formation of his soul by such techniques as breath control, meditation, and recollection, and that this transformation had to take place during one'Äôs lifetime.
The Pagan Utopia
In Reghini'Äôs time the word 'Äúpagan'ÄĚ still had largely negative connotations, and was widely used not to indicate a historically documented religion but rather as a synonym for immorality and
materialism. Nevertheless he found it to be the best term to sum up his own position. In a 1914 article entitled 'ÄúImperialismo pagano,'ÄĚ he called for the spiritual rebirth of Italian culture
in a new type of'ÄĚempire'ÄĚ that would entail excellence in every field of human endeavor.This achievement would require freedom and tolerance, although history showed that, unlike Greco-Roman paganism, the Abrahamic religions had all too often borne the bitter fruit of religious intolerance. Reghini agreed with Gibbon that the fanatical attitude of the Christians from the earliest times had led to the fall of Rome and later to the papal policy of preventing Italy'Äôs unification. 24
The avant-garde milieu in which Reghini'Äôs ideas had matured was also focused on the problem of creating a new 'Äúsecular re-ligion,'ÄĚ free from the defects of Catholicism yet based on spiritual values. 25 Nevertheless for Reghini any anti-Christian'ÄĚcrusade'ÄĚ would have been a contradiction in terms rather he called for the classical distinction between popular and initiatic religion, subsequently developed by Guenon and others. He likewise condemned the materialism and rabid anticlericalism of some in the Masonic community, and may have even cherished a dream of the day when the Catholic Church would have adopted the policy of St. Francis of Assisi, abandoning political and financial power to devote itself to good works.
While aiming at spiritual perfection, Reghini believed, Masonry should be nonsectarian. In his 1922 work on the meaning of the three basic Masonic degrees, he analyzes the symbolism of the initiation of a Master Mason, with the ritual death and resurrection of Hiram calling to mind Osiris, Dionysus, and Jesus the initiate, he says, should become aware that the conscious mind does not depend on physical existence alone. He likewise chides some of his Anglo-American brothers for interpreting the Nineteenth Landmark, requiring belief in God, as meaning that Masons must necessarily be Christians, reminding them that the square and compass are placed on top of the Bible. 26 He also comments that both continental and Anglo-American Masonry are more obsessed with high-sounding titles than with the spiritual perfection of the initiate.
THE DISSAPOINTMENT OF FASCISM
After moving to Rome in 1921, Reghini devoted considerable attention to Fascism and to the relationship developing between Mussolini and the Vatican.
Most of Italian Freemasonry, along with the Nationalist and Socialist dissidents led by Mussolini, had backed intervention in World War I, above all to wrest the cities of Trent and Trieste from Italy'Äôs old enemy Austria. After the war, in 1920, the Grand Orient supported the occupation of the city of Fiume on the Adriatic in defiance of Italy'Äôs allies France and Britain this event was considered to be the final step in national unification.
When Mussolini'Äôs Fascist government came to power in 1922, there was little hint of the disaster that was to befall Freemasonry. None of the betterknown Fascists were practicing Catholics, and ndeed some were known to be Freemasons. Unfortunately, however, Reghini'Äôs warnings that the Craft required spiritual renewal had gone unheeded, as would his attempts to prevent the regime from coming to an agreement with the Church. In addition, the Masonic hierarchy did not prove to be as skillful as their predecessors in avoiding a 'Äúdivide and conquer'ÄĚ policy.
Since the French Revolution, the fasces, the ancient insignia of Roman power consisting of twelve birch rods bound together with an ax had had revolutionary, antimonarchist connotations, initially inspiring its adoption by the Fascist Party. For men like Reghini, however, the symbol also evoked the ancient Roman concept of res publica, in which power was invested both in the people and in an aristocratic Senate. Reghini did not want to propose some new system of government rather he hoped that a spiritually oriented and Pythagorean Masonry would foster an elite political class whose members would be endowed with superior values.
Nineteen twenty-four was a crucial year for Reghini. In that year
the government decreed Masonic affiliation to be incompatible
with Fascist Party membership. A Jesuit journal published an
article condemning Freemasonry on the grounds that, being
international, it was therefore 'ÄúunItalian'ÄĚ this line was soon
officially adopted by the Fascists. 27
Reghini, a member of the Supreme Council of the Piazza del Gesu Grand Lodge, replied that Masonry'Äôs key role in promoting the Risorgimento disproved this accusation beyond any doubt. By this time, however, historical arguments were of no avail, making him almost inadvertently a political dissident. In May, his friend Armentano, who had continued to work with him in an abortive attempt to reunify the two main branches of Italian Masonry, left for Brazil.
Any hopes that Freemasons may have nourished for a change of heart in the regime were dashed by the antiMasonic violence unleashed in November 1925. A new law against 'Äúsecret societies'ÄĚ did not specifically mention Freemasons, but the regime made it clear that they were the intended target. 28 Mussolini asserted that the measures were to prevent political plots and not to suppress Freemasonry as a spiritual institution, but there was little difference when it came to police suppression. A number of top Grand Orient officials went into exile in France, while after an unsuccessful attempt to reorganize as the 'ÄúOrder of St. John of Scotland,'ÄĚ the Piazza del Gesu was also forced to close. Ironically, the lack of systematic persecution against ordinary Freemasons led Pope Pius XI to criticize the Fascist regime for being 'Äútoo soft.'ÄĚ In an article published in Fascism and the Vatican in 1927-28, Reghini, foreseeing the imminent alliance between Freemasonry and the Vatican, commented:
The current conditions of our country in relation to the
political situation in Europe and the world would be favorable to
someone who was willing and able to exploit them to create a new
universal civilization starting from Rome. However . . . this
type of imperialism could not be subservient to a force which is
universal in name only, whose innate and incurable intolerance is
unacceptable to both the rest of Western civilization and to the
Oriental civilizations.... We would proudly say more, if we were
not obliged today to use more prudent language than Agrippa was
able to use four centuries ago. Z9
By this time there could be no doubt that Reghini'Äôs position was highly unorthodox. In a short time he had graduated from being a gifted writer on rather obscure subjects to being an unflinching public opponent of Mussolini'Äôs rapprochement with the Vatican, culminating in the 1929 Lateran Treaty. How could a self-declared pagan be allowed to publish freely after an alliance between the Church and Fascism? Reghini'Äôs courage in the defense of Masonry was all the more remarkable considering his dim view of the Craft as a whole for failing to fulfill its mission of perfecting the individual.
Faced with such a difficult situation, much of the Masonic hierarchy preferred to temporize, but after unsuccessful attempts to come to terms with the government, both of the major Masonic branches declared themselves to be dissolved and would only reemerge in 1945. Reghini'Äôs sacrifice gained him few friends either before or after the war.
Attacks in the press continued, and Parise writes of attempts 'Äúto save my soul and Reghini'Äôs with pistol shots.. surveillance was so close and overwhelming as to limit our contacts, since we were even afraid of compromising people who just happened to greet us'ÄĚ 30 Reghini was dismissed as a mathematics teacher in a public school in November 1928 and had to make a living by teaching privately.
In a disgraceful eplsode, Reghini'Äôs former friend Julius Evola publicly denounced him for Masonic affiliation. 3l Curiously, Evola had just published Imperialismo pagano, a set of articles borrowing considerably from Reghini'Äôs essay with the same title and calling on the Fascists to avoid political and ideological compromise with Catholicism. Decades later, Evola would ac-knowledge that he owed his awareness of genuine initiation to Reghini and Guenon.
At this stage Reghini, Guenon, and Evola went on separate paths. In 1930 Guenon, who continued to be ambivalent about Masonry as a true source of initiation, left Europe to devote himself completely to Islamic studies in Cairo. Evola would soon drop his intransigent 'Äúpagan imperialism'ÄĚ and condemn Freemasonry on the grounds that it could not provide any genuine spiritual initiation. He would go on to cultivate a view diametrically opposite to that of Reghini'Äôs, seeing the Catholic Church as the successor to the Roman Empire as well as developing his own peculiar brand of racism that was to influence the Fascist regime.
In the 1930s Reghini devoted himself to teaching and to the study of the Pythagorean interpretation of numbers, proportion, and harmony, seen not simply as an intellectual game but as the key to life. His approach somewhat resembles that of the nineteenth-century English Neoplatonist Thomas Taylor (whose works he quotes) in correlating spiritual and material reality with numbers and proportions. Reghini'Äôs book on the reconstruction of Pythagorean geometry, containing notions 'Äúon which Freemasons would do well to meditate,'ÄĚ 32 was published in 1935 and was praised for its scientific value by the Accademia d'Äôltalia, Italy'Äôs equivalent of the Royal Society.
As World War II came to an end, Reghini intensified his work on Pythagorean numbers. Perhaps sensing that his time was short, he left detailed instructions concerning his manuscripts. 33 At five o'Äôclock on the hot afternoon of July 1, 1946, in a country villa near Bologna, he died standing in his study, facing the westering sun.
In one of his later works on the relationship between mathematics and the spiritual quest, Reghini stressed that true philosophy involved the direct experience of the seeker:
Modern Western science is objective experimental science,
achieved externally by instruments which aid the senses its
purpose is to observe, understand, taking into account the
inevitable alteration (the Heisenberg principle) made on the
observed conditions by the observer. In Masonry, Hermeticism,
Pythagoreanism, and esoteric science of all times, the observer
is also the object of the experience, considered internally and
directly without limiting the field to any imaginary columns of
Hercules not so much a matter of theorizing as of feeling and
And what indeed is the purpose of philosophy'ÄĒthe love of
wisdom'ÄĒif not, as the Neoplatonist Porphyry said, 'Äúto free our
mind from limitations and chains'ÄĚ?35 u
Calfornia-born Dana Lloyd Thomas now lives in Rome. He has wntten articles on Pythagoreanism, akhemy, and oriental medicine and is writing a book on Arturo Reghini and esoteric traditions in Italy.
1. One of the main sources for Reghini'Äôs biography was written by his
friend Giulio Parise and published as an introduction to Arturo Reghi-
ni, Considaazioni sul rituale dell'Äô apprendista libero muratore (Genoa: Phoenix, 1981),pp i-xv.
2. Bernard E. Jones, Freemasons'Äô Cuide and Compendium (London: Harrap, 1986), p. 204.
3. There is extensive literature on Clement Xll'Äôs 'Äúexcommunication'ÄĚ of Freemasonry The events of this period are far from simple the Catholic Jacobites were conspiring against the Protestant Hanover dynasry in Eng-land, and the Jacobite association with early Freemasonry also deserves attention.
4. Aldo A. Mola, Storia della massoneria italiana: Dalle origini ai nostri giorni
(Milan: Bompiani, 1994), pp. 53-54.
5. Reghini, pp. 13-14.
6. Dnisions in 'Äúofficial'ÄĚ Freemasonry have persisted up to recent years. Be-cause of the dispute over 'Äúaccepted'ÄĚ and 'Äúirregular'ÄĚ lodges and the dis-agreement over the position of higher-degree or 'Äúfringe'ÄĚ Masonry, Englishlanguage Masonic literature has perhaps not dealt with Italian history as extensively as it could.
7. Mola, p. 61. Lodges were named after such heretics as Tommasso Cam-panella and Giordano Bruno and a&er patriots like Cavour, Mazzini, and Garibaldi.
8. Ibid. pp. 48ff.
9. Augusto Comba,'ÄĚLa Massoneria in Italia dal Risorgimento alla Grande Guerra 'ÄėunLamassonerianellastoriad'Äôltalia,ed.AIdoA.Mola (Rome:Atanor, 1981), pp. 82-83.Among these were the famous Communist intellectu-al Antonio Gramsci and a number of Jesuit writers.
10. Kent Henderson, 'ÄúAVisit to Italy'ÄĚ in Masonk Sa,uare, March 1987. p. 28.
11. R.F. Wallace-James, 'ÄúLes Nicotiates, or the Order of the Priseurs,'ÄĚ in
Transactions of the t2uatuor Coronati Lodge, vol. 27 (1915), pp. 168-88. The
order was said to adopt different names for reasons of safery, becoming the Nictotiates or Priseurs ('Äúsnuff-takers'ÄĚ) in France and the Tobacco-logical Sociery in England. See also J.M. Ragon, 'ÄúNotice historique sur les Pednosophes (enfants de la sagesse) et sur la Tabacologie, dernier voile de la doctrine pythagoricienne 'Äė in Monde Ma,connique, no. 12,April 1859.
Ragon traces the history of the order from antiquiry and hypothesizes
contacts in the Near East between the 'Äúchildren of wisdom'ÄĚ and the
12. Dana Lloyd Thomas, 'ÄúHermetic Healing in Italy: The Magical Thera-peutic Brotherhood of Myriam 'Äė in GNOSIS #34, pp. 46-49.
13. F Brunelli, Rituali dei gMdi simholiri di Memphis e Misraim (Foggia: Basto-
gi, 1981), p. 45. See Ellic Howe,'ÄĚFringe Masonry in England, 1870-85 'Äė
in Ars Quatuor Coronatorum, vol. 85 (1972), pp. 242-95.
14. Brunelli, p. 46.
15. Paul Johnson, In Search of the Masters: Behind the Oreult Myth (South Boston,Va.: self-published, 1990), pp. 37-40.
16.Brunelli, p. 73.
17. Ibid., pp. 205-06.
18.Arturo Reghini,'ÄĚLa massoneria come fattore intellettuale 'Äė in Leot~ardo, Oct.-Dec. 1906, p. 297.
19. Parise, in Reghini, p. vi.
20.Arturo Reghini,'ÄĚll punto di vista dell'Äôoccultismo,'ÄĚin Leonardl~,Aprillune 1907, p. 144.
21. Arturo Regluni, in Cornelius Agrippa, Laf losofa o~ulta o la ~nagia (Rome:
Edizioni Mediterranee, 1972), p. Ixxxvii.
22. Arturo Reghini, 'ÄúAwenture e disavventure in magia 'Äė ill Gruppo di Ur,
Introduzione alla magia (Rome: Edizioni Mediterranee, 1978), vol. I, p. 388.
23. Roberto Sestito, 'ÄúLe basi pitagoriche dell'Äôestasi filosofica 'Äė in Ignis,June
21, 1991, p. 4-5.
24. Parise, p. viii.
25. Walter L. Adamson, Avant-Carde Florenee: From Modernism to Fasrism (Cam-bridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1993), pp. 64ff.
26. Arturo Reghini, Le parole saae e di passo dei primi tre gradi ed il massimo mistero massonko (Rome:Atanor, 1981).
27.The article appeared in La Civilto attolita,Aug. 2, 1924.After Reghini'Äôs reply, a counterreply appeared in October in the monthly Cerarrhia, edit-ed by Mussolini signed with a pseudonym, it may have been written by Mussolini himself.
28. Mola, pp. 138-39.
29. Reghini, in Agrippa, pp. cxxxvi-vii.
30. Parise, pp. xi-xii. Reghini'Äôs paganism has recently been reproved by
Catholic anticult writer Massimo Introvigne, n ~appello del mago (Milall:
31. Letter of April 6,1929 from Rene Guenon to Guido de Giorgio, in De
Giorgio, L'Äôlnstant et l'Äôeternite (Milan: Arche, 1987), p. 294.
32. Parise, p. xii.
33. Partially published as Arturo Reghini, Dei ~lu~neri pitagoriri: Prologo (All-
cona: Casa Editrice Ignis, 1991).
34. Arturo Reghini, I numen saai nella tradizione pitagorira e massonira (Rome:
Casa Editrice Ignis, 1947), p. 143.
35. Porphyry, Lfe of Pythagoras, 46.
Summer 1997 / Gnosis Magazine 59
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