Casanova De Seingalt, Giovanni Jacopo
Usually mentioned by the word Casanova An Italian adventurer, born at Venice, 1725, died in Bohemia 1798, noted particularly for his Memoirs, a spirited boastful autobiography so romantic and improbable in his numerous detailed successes among the opposite sex that doubt attaches to almost all his claims. Allowing freely for the widespread social evils of his day, we shall the better understand his sneering frankness about vice. Several reliable authorities agree that his eleven writings are trustworthy accounts of the morals and manners of the society he usually frequented.
Among his acquaintances were the most notable people, Rousseau, D'Eon, Frederick the Great, Suvaroff, Empress Catherine of Russia, Voltaire, Cagliostro, and as a prominent Roman Catholic, he received from the Pope the distinction of the Order of the Golden Spur.
Expelled from school, he entered the service of Cardinal Acquavisa, began his travels; returning to Venice in 1755, was denounced as a spy and imprisoned; escaped to Paris and gained a fortune directing the State Lotteries, again traveled to Florence; whence he was banished, thence to Rome.
After further journeys he was. forced to flee from. Poland.
Arriving at Paris he found a warrant for his arrest awaiting him and he took refuge in Spain, but was ejected from Madrid in 1769, and going again to Italy was exiled from Venice, ending his turbulent career as librarian from 1785 to his death in 1798 at Dux in Bohemia. Here he wrote his famous Memoirs, published first in twelve volumes at Leipzig and then in eight at Paris.
Brilliant as any romantic fiction, their worth as sober truth has not been above suspicion and his acknowledged exploits in knavery demonstrate that anything he said or did was subject to question.
Casanova claims to have been initiated in the latter part of 1750 at Lyons, on his way to Paris, where he was made a Master Mason.
At Venice in 1755 he was arrested on charges of sorcery and of being a Freemason, his Masonic clothing being found by police and deemed incriminating.
Not only does he tell of meeting prominent Freemasons in various countries but in Rome itself he asserts that several prelates and cardinals were secretly members of the Craft.
References to the Craft are sprinkled freely through his Memoirs, one of them (pages 276-9, Librarie Garnier Freres edition in French, Paris, tome II, chapter xiii) we translate as follows:
At Lyons there was an estimable personage with whom I became acquainted through M. de Rochebaron, and who obtained the favor for me of being admitted to participate in the sublime trifles of Freemasonry. Arriving as an Apprentice at Paris, some months afterwards, I there planned to become a Fellow Craft and Master.
The Master is certainly the supreme degree of Freemasonry, for all the others that are in the series taken by me are only pleasing inventions which, good enough in symbolism, add nothing to the dignity of Master.
There is no one person in the world who may succeed in knowing everything, but men sensible of their faculties and who know how to take account the more closely of their moral powers, should seek to know all that is possible. A young man, well born, who plans to travel and acquaint himself with the world, and what we call society, who does not wish to find himself in certain circumstances the inferior of his equals and to be excluded from participation in all their pleasures, ought to have himself initiated into what they call Freemasonry, even though it would only be to know superficially what it is. Freemasonry is an Institution of Benevolence which, in certain times and in certain places, may serve as a pretext for plots criminal and subversive of good order; but good God, what has not been abused? Have not the Jesuits been seen, under the sacred guise of religion, to furnish weapons for the parricidal arms of blind enthusiasts to strike Kings'? All men of some importance, I wish to say those whose social existence is marked by merit, knowledge or fortune, should be Freemasons, and a great number are ; why infer that the democratic communications, where the members impose on themselves the law of never speaking intramuros (within the walls in a tiled place) neither of politics, religion, nor government, who only converse about emblems, or morals, or puerilities; why infer, I say, that these reunions where the governments may have their creatures, can offer such dangers that Sovereigns forbid therein and that popes entertain themselves by excommunicating?
Besides that it is a failure of purpose and the Pope, notwithstanding his infallibility, trips up himself by the persecutions, giving only to Freemasonry an importance that it would never perhaps have acquired without them. Mystery is in the nature of man, and all that presents itself to the crowd under a mysterious aspect always excites curiosity and will be sought, many convinced that there something substantial awaits them. though the veil often hides but a zero. After all, I advise every well-born young man who wishes to see the world to be accepted a Freemason, but I urge him to choose well the Lodge; for, although bad company cannot work in the Lodge, it may however be found there, and the candidate ought to guard himself from dangerous associations.
Men who only plan to be accepted as Freemasons, with the purpose of coming to know the secret of the Order, run great risk of growing old under the trowel without ever attaining their object. However, there is a secret but it is so inviolable that it has never been told nor confided to anyone.
Those who grasp at the superficiality of things believe that the secret consists in words, signs and grips, or that in the final analysis it is the grand word of the last degree. A mistake!
He who discovers the secret of Freemasonry, for they never know where they are finding it, will not arrive at that knowledge by reason of frequenting Lodges.
He gains it only by the strength of reflecting, of reasoning, of comparing, and of deducing. He will not confide it to his best friend in Freemasonry, for he knows that if that brother does not find it for himself as did he, the friend will not have the talent to extract the means to do so from what shall be said in the ear.
He who has it remains silent and this secret is always secret.
All that is done in the Lodge ought to be secret; but those who by dishonest indiscretion make no scruple of revealing what is done there, have never revealed the essential: they do not know. it; and if they have not known, truly they cannot reveal the ceremonies.
The sensation experienced today by the profane, that is to say by those who are not Freemasons, is of the same kind as that experienced in times of yore by those who were not admitted to the mysteries that were celebrated at Eleusis in honor of the goddess Crs. But the mysteries of Eleusis interested all Greece, and all they had there of eminence then in society aspired to be made a party to them : so it is with Freemasonry., in the midst of a great number of men of premier merit, enclosed by a crowd of scamps that no society would acknowledge, because they are the rubbish of the human species under the moral accounting.
In the mysteries of Crs they long kept an impenetrable silence to cause the reverence of which these mysteries were the object. Moreover, what could they reveal? The three words that the hierophant said to the initiates! But to what would that lead? To the dishonor of the indiscreet, because he would only reveal barbarous language unknown by the vulgar, the common herd.
I have read somewhere what is meant by the three sacred and secret words of the mysteries of Eleusis : Be watchful and do nu evil.
The sacred and secret words of the several Masonic degrees are nearly all as criminal!
The Eleusian initiation lasted nine days; the ceremonies very impressive, and the company very respectable. Plutarch informs us that Alcibiades was condemned to death and all his goods confiscated for having dared in company with Polition and Theodore against the Eumolpides to turn into ridicule the great mysteries.
They even intended that Alcibiades should be cursed by the priests and priestesses.
But the curse was never uttered because a priestess opposed it, saying. " I am a priestess for blessing, not cursing." Sublime words!
Here is a lesson of morality and of wisdom that the Pope despises, but the Gospels taught and the Savior of the world ordained.
There is an allusion (page 286, tome VIII, chapter xi) to the prominent Roman Catholics of the eighteenth century ignoring privately in practice what they said publicly and officially against Freemasonry. Of course there are instances of Roman Catholics of prominence being admitted openly into Masonic Lodges during that century- and later. Daniel O'Connell, the Liberator, as he was called, also active in the Grand Lodge of Ireland, found the two pursuits, Roman Catholicism and Freemasonry, were deemed inconsistent and he eventually resigned his membership in the Craft. But others, as the Abbe Cordier at Paris, a leader in the famous Lodge of the Nine Sisters, and with Benjamin Franklin, supporting Voltaire when he was initiated, paid little or no heed to the threats from the head of the Roman Catholic Church against Freemasonry.
'What Casanova says gives a hint as to the position of those attempting to be on both sides of the fence and his introduction of a Prince of the Roman Catholic Church as a Freemason is a curious commentary on the situation in question:
The first day of the year 1772, I presented myself to the Cardinal Brancafarte, Legate of the Pope, who I had known at Paris twenty years previously when he was sent by Benoit (Benedict XIV) to carry the blessed linen clothes to the new-born Duke de Bourgoyne. We had been together in a Lodge of Freemasons, for the members of the Sacred College who thundered against the Freemasons knew well that their anathemas (solemn curses) impressed only the weak, whom a too lively light might dazzle.
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