Some think the Freemason theme is overstressed by scholars, I submit it is purposely underplayed to avoid drawing too much ire. Name that time in history where everyone was super understanding of Masonry… right, exactly.
Mozart, the Magic Flute, and Freemasonry
In other words, the Magic Flue is a typical Opera (or rather, it is a masterwork which, along with Mozart’s other work, set the tone for what today we consider “the typical Opera”).
Most pieces of High Art fill the theater with intrigue, enlightenment, sex, and a few fart jokes (one must always necessarily mention crude jokes when discussing Mozart‘s brand of thought provoking aesthetics as found in works like Don Juan, The Marriage of Figaro, and the Magic Flute); after all, High Art is an expression of the human condition (and that condition is wrought with dualities of higher and lower orders).
This is to say, Opera and High Art, in their highest form, use the aesthetic to pry our minds open and show us different aspects of the physical, logical, ethical, and moral.
Pair that with the themes of myth, Freemasonry, and Enlightenment, which also serve a similar purpose to High Art, and we have the Magic Flute, a thundering powerhouse of Operatic expression that touches at both the soul and humors of the human condition.
Seriously, (although, I have yet to be any less serious than the crown jewel of the theater, the Magic Flute), Mozart not only created the modern opera and arguably modern music, he popularized modern musical techniques like coloratura and arguably helped popularize the dark comedy musical in general, and a great example of this is the metaphor laden Magic Flute.
On that note, lets move on to discussing Freemason metaphors. Here one should be aware that Mozart didn’t write the libretto (the words and story) of The Magic Flute, but he was aware obviously of the theme of Emanuel Schikaneder‘s libretto. If we are unsure of that truism, his 1790 collaborative opera Der Stein der Weisen AKA The Philosopher’s Stone gives us all the evidence we need (as the concept of a “Philosopher’s Stone” is also a liberal enlightenment metaphor).The secrets of Mozart’s “Magic Flute” – Joshua Borths.
FACT: The Magic Flute isn’t as focused on fart jokes as it is on fornication… but Mozart’s work does contain references to flatulence and so do many of the greatest operas and musicals. The idea is the pairing of the base-level aesthetic and the enlightened, or the animal and the reasoned, ethical, and spiritual aspects of man’s nature, to achieve the Highest ends. This is the theme of the Magic Flute and, arguably Enlightenment, Masonry, and liberalism, which can also be seen reelected in the works of Kant, Mill, Plato, Aristotle, Kirkegaard, etc. See an essay on “the greatest happiness.”
Freemason Themes in the Magic Flute
While the story is packed cover-to-cover with themes related to the hero’s journey (the monomyth), liberalism, the enlightenment, and general good vs. evil spirituality, there are a few themes related to Freemasonry specifically:
- In the magic flute, the Queen of the Night represents darkness in general (and arguably the Roman Catholic Church of the time, which was anti-Mason, specifically). Meanwhile, Sarastro, the King of the Sun, represents enlightenment (or the enlightened liberals of the late 1700’s specifically). The story’s hero is in love with the Queen’s daughter Pamina, who is charged with Killing Sarastro, but [spoiler alert] betrays her mother for her lover [the story’s hero] Tamino (hinting that Mozart was more the Man, and Woman, and Citizen type).
- Masonry assigns meaning to the number 3. The Opera opens with a triad of a chord with three notes, and there are 3 child-spirits, 3 ladies, 3 slaves, and 3 priests who act as a Greek chorus. In the opera, one of the two main characters, Papageno, counts to 3 in the main theme played throughout the piece.
- The trials of the initiates act as an initiation into the higher orders of the brotherhood of the light. Mason’s have a number of different rituals and ranks.
Enlightenment Themes in the Magic Flute
While there are a few Masonic themes in the opera, the general themes of enlightenment and “the hero’s journey” are arguably equally, if not more important (one can also argue that distinguishing between these themes is rather tautological, as they are all discussing the same “forms” from different “frames“).
Freemasonry, after all (from what I can know as an outside), seems be just one way of understanding the eternal struggle of light and dark, and good and evil, in the human condition as it manifests on the physical plane.
Thus, all the Masonic themes and even non-Masonic themes can generally be thought of as a metaphor about to the path of enlightenment regarding both the lower “aesthetic” and higher “intellectual, ethical, and moral.”
As Wikipedia says: “The story itself portrays the education of mankind, progressing from chaos (the serpent) through religious superstition (the Queen and Ladies) to rationalistic enlightenment (Sarastro and Priests), using trial (Tamino) and error (Papageno). It ultimately makes “the Earth a heavenly kingdom, and mortals like the gods” (“Dann ist die Erd’ ein Himmelreich, und Sterbliche den Göttern gleich“); this couplet is sung in the finales to both acts.”
In the opera Papageno, and his quest and relationship with Papagena, represent the aesthetic journey of man. Papageno begins by just desiring “women” (like a Don Juan or Don Giovanni), and ends by confirming his future of marriage and reproduction (the aesthetic ends of a good man).
Likewise, Tamino must overcome the darkness of his passions, to achieve spiritual and intellectual enlightenment (the higher path). Tamino starts the story by facing off against a dark serpent which represents the inner reptilian darkness of man that must be overcome (this is a biblical reference. Thus we can say, the Magic Flute in ways simply draws from available symbolism in all eras to make a point common to all enlightened ideologies).
When the Queen of the Night charges Pamina with killing Sarastro, it represents the dark aesthetic traps of life seeking to draw Tamino and Pamina away from the light and away from uniting the female and male higher selves they represent.
After the initiates (Pamina and Tamino) face their trials, they defeat the Queen of the Night, overcoming darkness and entering the brotherhood of the light where “With passion and reason No longer at war. Kindness and wisdom Prevail evermore.”
Consider, Kant “crossing” of Hume’s fork is a metaphor for “crossing” passion (the senses) and reason, as is Kirkegaard’s spheres from Either/Or (where he uses Mozart’s Don Giovanni as metaphor), as is just about every theme that touches on morality from Utilitarianism to the general tenements of liberalism.
It does not matter, generally speaking, if we call it Masonry, enlightenment, moral philosophy, or “being a good person.”
These are metaphors to show “initiates” the “path to enlightenment,” and thus “the ends are justifying the means.”
Specifically, from any lens, this is a metaphor for how to temper the higher and lower self and society to achieve both aesthetic and spiritual enlightenment.
Masonry and the Magic Flute. The Magic Flute is the hero’s journey.
The sun bathed in splendor Has vanquished the night; The dark cries surrender To wisdom and light…
…With passion and reason No longer at war, May kindness and wisdom Prevail evermore!
Rise of the Sun King and the Return of the Queen of the Night
Mozart’s Magic Flute premiered on September 1791.
1791, 1791, what was happening with Freemasonry in 1791? “Oh that is right,” the newly formed America, the French Revolution, and Liberalism sweeping across the old and new world.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart died on December 5th, 1791. It was an interesting time to be alive.
Mozart’s Magic Flute was fairly well received, but in those times, the sentiment was shifting away from the more radical forms of liberalism and toward a right-wing traditional and social conservatism.
By June of 1795, an order came down to close all Masonic lodges and other secret societies, and Freemasonry ceased to exist openly in Mozart’s Austria for more than a century.
Likewise, in America, the Anti-Masonic Party forced most Masons into the major parties as sentiment became puritanical as it had so many times before and had so many times since.Mozart, Music and Masonic Symbolism: An Exploration for the Uninitiated. Mozart liked to Waltz on people’s toes, he was Genius and in retrospect whimsical, but he also died young after writing perhaps the most blatantly anti-establishment bit of theater outside of Cato, a tragedy.
FACT: Schikaneder and Mozart were Masons as was Ignaz Alberti, the engraver and printer of the first libretto. The engraving is filled with Masonic imagery. Nearly all the leaders of the French Revolution, and George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, and Thomas Jefferson, and. many others were Masons. After the rampant persecution of Masonry by American anti-Masons and the decline of Masonry in Europe due to the European Conservatives around the end of Mozart’s time, Masonry slipped out of the public eye. As the play eludes, “the children of the Queen of the Night have their knives out for the Brotherhood of the Light.” As in the Magic Flute, it is not funny to be persecuted by people with this and this in their back pocket.
TIP: Illuminati were the Illuminated or “Enlightened.” Likewise, Freemasons were an intellectual group originally centered on building. It takes a great deal of knowledge to build well and it provides an excuse for intellectuals to meet. It is easy to see why secret groups of intellectuals who did not necessarily worship the accepted deity or the King could be scary. Masons were mistaken for “Satanists,” so one can understand why they kept their organization secret. Secrecy equaled self-preservation, not conspiracy per-say. Most of our intellectual ancestors from George Washington to Thomas Jefferson, to Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, to John Locke all related to the longstanding philosophical Masonic idea of lifting up people to their best selves (AKA Aristotelian virtue theory). This makes it hard to accept the idea that they are “evil serpent worshipers.” Their mission is to defeat the serpent, not to worship it above goodness, empathy, and reason. If you watch the opera, pick up a Tarot deck, examine astrology, read any philosophical text, or take a closer look at the many religious texts, you will find similar themes. This doesn’t make everyone who acts in the name of enlightenment, liberalism, masonry, or anyone “Illuminated” inherently good or bad. You can see how populist nativist Anti-Masonic sentiment complicated our ability to see the world clearly and avoid metaphor-filled opera. See the Age of Enlightenment and Freemasonry, by W.Bro. Ronald Paul Ng.
FACT: Mozart popularized the coloratura technique, writing in a “very high” voice, for his sister-in-law Josepha Weber who played the original Queen of the Night at 32. Both arias of the Queen of the Night, “O zittre nicht, mein lieber Sohn” (AKA Oh, tremble not, my dear son) and “Der Hölle Rache kocht in meinem Herzen“(AKA the Queen of the Night Aria as shown below AKA Hell’s vengeance boils in my heart) require high F6, a “very high” note that is rare in opera (truly, High Art; Mozart really “took things to the next level”).Diana Damrau as Queen of the Night (english subtitles available). This is one of the more famous parts of the Opera. The Magic Flute: “Pa-pa-pa Papageno” – Nathan Gunn (Met Opera). In the last leg of the Opera we get a lament by Papageno followed by “Pa–, pa–, pa–” – the somewhat famous Papageno and Papagena song. That song is featured here for your enjoyment. Following that we also get a clearly Masonic ending where wisdom, enlightenment, reason and brotherhood defeat the darkness and win the day. (Oh, how awful and scary! Can we persecute this already? My pitchfork is burning a hole in my back pocket with all this rational metaphor discussion.)
FACT: Other works that are related to Masonic metaphor include Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus. The monster is used as a metaphor for the French Revolution. Considering these metaphors, we can ask a complex question. “How can a thing be at once so powerful, so virtuous and magnificent, yet so vicious and base?”