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References to Freemasonry in popular culture range from the vitriolic to the innocuous. Far more often they are merely misinformed allusions from which Freemasonry faces a far more insidious threat; that of being marginalized, trivialized, and fictionalized. Most of the references noted on this site are harmless, simply pointing out that Freemasonry has played a role in our society; some are humorous, yet some are disturbing in their associations.
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Masonic references in
Goethe’s writings
Wilhelm Meister’s Apprenticeship was at last published in 1796, nineteeen years after its inception. The extent to which this work was influenced by Goethe’s experience of Masonry cannot but be evident to any thoughtful member of the Order; portions of it were in fact, incorporated in the ritual of the St. Gallen Lodge. There figures in the story a mysterious secret society formed for the cultivation of all that is noblest in humanity. The following extract from the "Indenture" presented to Wilhelm will afford some notion of the quality of the work: "Art is long, life is short, judgement difficult, opportunity transient. To act is easy, to think is hard, to act according to our thoughts is troublesome. It is but a part of art that can be taught; the artist needs it all... The true scholar learns from the known to unfold the unknown, and approaches more and more to being a master..." [p. 155.]
Wilhelm Meister’s Years of Travel was published in its final form in 1829. The Masonic tone of this work is even more pronounced than that of the Apprenticeship. [p. 161.]

These Men were Masons, Hubert S. Banner. London : Chapman & Hall Ltd, 1934. p. 155
Wilhelm Meister’s Years of Travel or The Renunciants
[Wilhelm Meisters Wanderjahre oder Die Entsagenden]

"'...if you are willing to spend the night with a kindly old charcoal burner, sitting or lying in a warm place, you are welcome.'" [p. 118.]
"That the stranger may become acquainted with us more quickly and be initiated into our circle...." [p. 127.]
"'To the Superior, or the Three.'" [p. 198]
"The youngest ones crossed their arms over their chests and looked cheerfully heavenword, the middle ones put their hands behind their backs and looked smilingly down at the earth, the third group stood stiffly and bravely: with their arms at their sides they turned their faces to the right and formed themselves into a row, instead of each standing alone where he had been." [Book Two, Chapter One p. 199.]
"'You have seen three sets of gestures, and we teach a threefold reverence, which reaches its greatest strength and effectiveness only when t flows as one and forms a whole.'" [p. 203.]
"'The religion founded on reverence for that which is above us we call the ethnic religion.... The second religion, based on reverence for that which is equal to us, we call the philosophic religion.... the third religion, which is based on reverence for that which is below us....' [p. 204-05] "
""...for the three taken together actually produce the true religion....'" [p. 205.]
"Then you too shall be initiated into the Sanctuary of Pain." [p. 210.]
"'...though he does not know how to concoct everything, is not initiated into every secret, still understands the entire treatment quite well and for the beginning will be of great use to you, until you have worked your way far enough in that I may reveal to you the higher secrets.'
'What!' cride the major, 'You have steps and grades in your art of rejuvination? You have secrets even for the initiates?'
"Most certainly,' the other replied. 'It woulf be a sorry art that could be grasped all at once....'" [p. 219.]
'The fourth, however might find himself enrolled in that order only too soon." [p. 258.]
"The arts are the salt of the earth; as salt is to food, so are the arts to technical science." [p. 266.]
"...Wilhelm’s first concern was to seek renewed contact with the members of the league...." [Book Three, Chapter One p. 313.]
"'... you seem to adhere strictly to the laws of your society.'" [p. 316.]
"The bond, so he said specifically, bade the stranger welcome...." [p. 316.]
"... in this society a decided freedom of religion prevailed." [p. 317.]
"'the basic principles of our league; to claim membership you must be thoroughly grounded in some field.'" [p. 330.]
"'... a happiness that lies within your reach, but can be possessed only after several trials.'" [p. 344.]
"All the members of the bond are instructed in these laws, and our examinations have shown that each person applies the main points to himself as is most suitable." [p. 380.]
"Taverns and circulating libraries will not be tolerated among us...." [p. 380.]

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Wilhelm Meister’s Journeyman Years or The Renunciants, Translated by Krishna Winston, Edited by Jane K. Brow. [Wilhelm Meisters Wanderjahre oder Die Entsagenden] New York : Suhrkamp Publishers New York, Inc., 1989. [Goethe’s Collected Works, Volume 10] ISBN: 3-518-03059-0

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