The Feminine and the Magic Flute

 

By Brother Marius Redelinghuys

Lodge De Goede Hoop #1
2016

 

 

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s membership of our Order is a well-known fact. Similarly, the Masonic themes and symbolism in Die Zauberflöte – The Magic Flute – is widely known, to such an extent that it is often referred to as “The Masonic Opera”.

 

While much can be written or said about the depiction of Masonic symbolism and ritual, or the use of Masonic language in the Opera, what is of particular interest to us as Masons is the depiction of the Masculine and Feminine in the work.

 

The depiction of, and references to women and their “proper role” or “place” may be interpreted or considered sexist by the uninitiated. For example, Sarastro (the Master of the Temple) says to Pamina, before her initiation: “Ein Mann muß eure Herzen leiten, Denn ohne ihn pflegt jedes Weib Aus ihrem Wirkungskreis zu schreiten”. (A Man must lead your Heart, because without him a Woman oversteps her sphere of influence [alternatively, “natural sphere” or, literally, “working circle”).

 

Women, or the Feminine, are also depicted as gossipmongers, superstitious, and vengeful, among other things. Qualities often associated with the Feminine, in symbolism such as Tarot, for example, also associate it with other negative qualities: jealousy; hysteria; (from the Latin via Greek, literally, “of the suffering of the womb”); vengeance and wroth (“Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned”); deceitfulness; gossiping; and rumourmongering.

 

These qualities are exhibited by the Queen of the Night – equally in itself significant in Masonry as the Darkness the uninitiated find himself in – and her three ladies.

 

However, it is not only negative qualities that are associated with the Feminine. Pamina and Papagena possess and depict the positive qualities of the Feminine: Love, Beauty, fertility, emotion, nurturing, loyalty, comfort, motherhood and the natural world. The Empress, in Tarot as an example, is associated with the Feminine.

 

The dualism of the Masculine is also portrayed in the Opera. Monostatos, and to a large degree Papageno, displays these, which include: betrayal; abuse of strength or power; lust; arrogance; preoccupation with worldly or fleshly desires; tyranny; cruelty; undisciplined; rigidity; cowardice; and being controlling.

 

Conversely, Sarastro and the Priests in particular, and Tamino to a lesser extent, embody the positive qualities associated with the Masculine: Strength; Wisdom; stability; leadership; order; Reason; logic; fatherhood; bravery; and structure. The Emperor represents this in Tarot.

 

These qualities are not exclusive to just Man or woman. Men and women alike can exhibit both the positive and the negative qualities of the other: Women possess Strength and Wisdom, in a different manner than men; and Man can display Love and Beauty, again, differently than women. Without Love, and an appreciation for Beauty, his Strength is turned into misguided brute force, his Wisdom is turned into arrogance, and his Love is perverted and exhibited through lust.

 

It is in the perfect union of the Masculine and the Feminine, tempering the positive of both, that Man discovers and realises his true potential and nature, and as the Opera conveys: mortals shall resemble gods. For Mozart then, Freemasonry and its teachings are “the Great Path”, as he calls it in the finale of Act I, towards the full realisation of the potential of Man. Before Tamino and Pamina may be married and are allowed to enter the Inner Sanctum of the Temple they “must be purified”. They must, separately, discover and display the purist qualities of the Masculine and the Feminine, respectively.

 

The notion of a union, or marriage, is further depicted by the references and exalted status of Isis and Osiris. Isis – the Egyptian goddess of life health, marriage, and wisdom, “is worshipped as the ideal mother and wife as well as the patroness of nature and magic. She was the friend of slaves, sinners, artisans and the downtrodden 1.” Her friendship to artisans are of particular significance to Freemasonry.

 

Osiris – as “the god of transition, resurrection, and regeneration” 2 – is also associated with judgment and divine justice. Transition, resurrection and regeneration being equally significant to our Order and the three degrees.

 

Furthermore, the Masuline and Feminine, and Osiris and Isis, represent the perfect union of the four elements, central to our trials before entering the First Degree: Fire and Earth for the Masculine (the heliacal rising of Orion and Sirius is closely associated with Osiris, and these stars can be seen as representations of Light, or fire); and Water and Air with the Feminine and Isis, who is also is the goddess of the Sky (or air).

 

In union then, between the elements, a union of Heaven and Earth, constitutes the Universe. Similarly the union between the Masculine and the Feminine in Man represents a union between the Earth and the Divine. Thus, as stated in the text, man and woman must be wed to be complete. Symbolically this represents the perfect union between the Masculine and Feminine in every Brother.

 

This union is further implied by both Tamino and Pamina entering the Temple. Women may not be initiated into our Order, and when both enter the Temple, it represents the perfection union of the Masculine and the Feminine in a purified Brother, who submitted to and passed our trials. It is not clear whether Papageno was admitted into the Order, as he did not enter the temple. However, Papageno, finally seeing the true value of love and beauty, confesses his sins. He then finds the perfect union in Papagena, both depicted with strong ties to the natural world and the fleshly. Whereas the union of Tamino and Pamina finds its sanctified expression in the Temple, thus, our Order.

 

The sanctified character of their union is conveyed in the final chorus 3:

 

Heil sei euch geweihten!

Ihr dranget durch Nacht. Dank!

Dank sei Dir, Osiris! Dank! Dank dir, Isis gebracht!

Es siegte die Stärke

Und krönet zum Lohn

Die schönheit und Weisheit

Mit ewiger Kron!

Es siegte die Stärke

Und krönet zum Lohn

Die schönheit und Weisheit

Mit ewiger Kron! etc.

 

Hail to you who are consecrated!

You pushed through night. Thanks!

Thanks be to you, Osiris! Thanks!

Thanks be brought to you, Isis!

May power be victorious
And crown as a reward

Beauty and wisdom

With an eternal crown.

Strength was victorious

And crowned as a reward

Beauty and wisdom

With an eternal crown. etc. 

 

 

Thus, for a Brother to discover his true nature and potential, he must be aware of and embrace the purest and noblest of both the Masculine and Feminine within himself

 

 

 

References:

 

1 Isis. Wikipedia.

2 Osiris. Wikipedia.

3 English Translation of the Magic Flute. Aria Database.

 

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