Freemasonry as a structure
I do not remember exactly, but I think around the time that I got a real interest in the prechristian religion of Northwestern Europe, I also ran into the work of Georges Dumézil. I still enjoy the field of comparative myth and love to read (about) other mythologies.
When using Dumézil’s structure on Norse mythology, it is quite obvious that the theory is too strict. It is not as easy that the “first function” is occupied by Tyr and Odin, the second by Thor and the third by Freyr and Freya. Both Tyr and Odin have links to war (“second function”) and Thor to fertility (“third function”). A theory to explain this that the structure ‘dropped half a function’ in Norse mythology.
There are arguments against Dumézil’s system. Of course there are alternative systems. I have looked at a few of those, but the “structural” approach of Dumézil remains the most convincing, and especially ‘workable’, to me. There seems little use to me to compare Odin to the Hindu Nasatya twins. The latter are “third function” Gods and thus ‘in the same place’ as Freyr and Freya. This structure is a guide to studying myth and I must say, after quite a couple of years, it works fairly well.
Only relatively recently I seriously started to study ‘Masonic mythology’. Freemasons will probably agree with me that this ‘body of symbolism’ has a fairly rigid structure. It works a little different from (for example) Norse mythology though. The symbolism of the degree of Entered Apprentice makes sense in that very degree, but it sometimes more fully explained in the following degrees. Masonic symbolism ‘builds up’ more. Some elements get a different meaning in another context, but often the symbolism gets clearer once you learn ‘the bigger story’.
I guess in a way mythology also works like that. You can try to narrow down all mythology to fertility symbolism (as James Georges Frazer did) or only study the fertility aspects of different myths, but some elements might make more sense once you take heed of other elements of these myths. It is only in that way that is becomes clear that Dumézil’s theory does not exactly ‘fit’ with Norse mythology. You can see this mythology as a social structure of Gods and Goddesses, but how is this going to help comparing it to, say, Hindu mythology?
In Freemasonry many things only make sense within the story of a certain degree and there is no need to take a detail of the first degree of some Rite and compare it to a detail of the third degree of another Rite. In this way studying Masonic symbolism just might be used as ‘practice’ for studying (other) myth(s).
Or the other way around? Would somebody who is familiar with (for example) Dumézil have a good basis for studying Masonic symbolism?