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Mozart's The Magic Flute

(Die Zauberflöte)


 Mesoteric or Masonic Level of Interpretation

The oil painting, shown at the right, was probably completed in about the year 1789 by an artist named Ignaz Unterberger. It is now on display in the Historical Museum of the City of Vienna. The painting shows the inside of what is thought to be the Crowned Hope Lodge in Vienna. There has been much discussion about the identities of some of the lodge members shown in the painting. It is believed that Mozart is depicted at the extreme right, sitting next to his close friend Emanuel Schikaneder (1751-1812). Also, the young actor, playwright and mineralogist Karl Ludwig Giesecke (1761-1833) may be the fifth figure from the front left (seated). Both Schikaneder and Giesecke were involved in writing the libretto for Die Zauberflöte. The Master of Ceremonies is Prince Nicolaus Esterházy (1714-1790), the principal patron of Joseph Haydn.

This painting contains several symbols pertaining to both Freemasonry and alchemy.

On the back wall is a large painting showing the setting sun and a rainbow. In Freemasonry the rainbow was a symbol of purity. The Freemasons always met at night after the sun had set.

The two columns at the far end of the lodge are decorated by a climbing snake or serpent carved on each column. The column on the right is the lunar pillar associated with salt. The column on the left is the solar pillar associated with the substance Sulphur.  These two pillars are also associated the brass pillars of the Temple of Solomon in Jerusalem cited in the Bible at 1 Kings 7:21 as follows:

And he set up the pillars in the porch of the temple: and he set up the right pillar, and called the name thereof Joachim: 1 and he set up the left pillar, and called the name thereof Boaz.

The god Mercury (Greek = Hermes; Egyptian = Thoth) stands in a niche in the right-hand wall of the lodge; in his right hand he holds a flute and in his left hand he holds his Caduceus or wand depicting two entwined snakes.  The symbol of snakes coiled around a staff is an ancient representation of the transformation of consciousness. The staff represents the spinal column with the snake or snakes being energy channels. In the case of two entwined snakes, they usually cross each other seven times, symbolizing the Pythagorean seven-interval octave (Law of Seven) of psychological transmutation.

Opposite Mercury, on the left-hand wall is a statue of the god of the forge, Vulcan (Greek = Hephaestus; Egyptian = Ptah), who is identifiable by being depicted with a lame leg and by his hand holding a rising flame. The gods Mercury and Vulcan are commonly associated with the alchemical arts. Mercury represents with the principle of feminine moisture and the element water; Vulcan is associated with Sulphur principle of masculine dryness and the element fire.

 

Wolfgang Mozart petitioned to become a Freemason in Vienna during the latter part of 1784. He was sponsored by Baron Otto Freiherr von Gemmingen-Hornberg, Master of the Zur Wohltätigkeit Lodge.

Mozart's name was put before the Lodge on 5 December 1784 and he achieved the three basic degrees of Masonry on the following dates:

1) Entered Apprentice Degree - 14 December 14 1784

2) Fellow Craft Degree - 07 January 1785

3) Master Mason Degree - Before 22 April 1785

Subsequently, his father, Leopold Mozart, also became a Master Mason in Vienna in that same year.

There is wide disagreement among historians concerning Mozart's position within the Masonic movement, particularly with respect to his relationship with those Masons who were also members or sympathizers with the Illuminati.

Maynard Solomon has asserted that Mozart supported the beliefs of the Aufklärung (rational Enlightenment), a rational, humanist inspired membership, as opposed to those members oriented toward mysticism and the occult, a movement in German known as the Erleuchtung. The rationalist faction has been identified with the Illuminati, a political group which was founded by the Bavarian professor of canon law, Adam Weishaupt (1748-1830), who was purported to be a friend of Mozart. The principal political goal of the Illuminati was the abolition of all monarchical governments and state religions in Europe and its colonies.

The Illuminati espoused the rational, humanist views proposed by the French philosophers Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Denis Diderot. The Illuminati contended that social rank was not coincident with nobility of the spirit, but that people of lower social status could be noble in spirit just as nobly born people could be mean-spirited. This view appears in Mozart's operas; for example, in The Marriage of Figaro, an opera based on a play by Pierre Beaumarchais (another Freemason), the lowly-born Figaro is the hero and the Count Almaviva is the boor.

Other scholars and historians, such as M. F. M. van den Berk, contend that Mozart was more closely associated with the Erleuchtung (mystical Enlightenment). This movement was more closely associated with the Rosicrucians and mainly was concerned with the achievement of higher states of human consciousness.

My personal research in this matter is still in progress. Mozart had strong connections with both groups and his final opera, Die Zauberflöte may be interpreted with respect to either belief system.

 


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