THE CEREMONY OF PASSING
W. Bro. R. A. L. Harland, P.M., Lodge No. 1679
President of the Circle
"The secrets of nature and the principles of intellectual truth were then unveiled to your view." (Masonic Ritual).
"For knowledge in effect is to know a thing as it is in itself and not as it is reputed to be." (Komensky, The Way of Light).
"Of existing things knowledge alone is permanent, and the truth which is derived from wisdom." (Origen, Contra Celsum)
"Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom; and with all thy getting get undersanding." (Proverbs 4:7).
We are to discuss in this Paper a ceremony which, because it is less dramatic and spectacular than those of the First and Third Degrees, is usually regarded by members of the Craft as a merely formal interlude between the impressive episodes comprising the Initiation and the awesome grandeur distinguishing the Raising ceremonies. This is, however, obviously the wrong method of approach to an appreciation of the deeper purpose of our rites, and in any consideration of the underlying meaning it must always be borne in mind by students of the text of the ritual that all Masonic truths are "veiled in allegory, and illustrated by symbols." Moreover, if the introduction of a candidate to the elementary knowledge of the Craft system, which is represented by the teaching of the First Degree means anything to him, his advancement to a higher grade should indeed signify progress in a very real sense. We may well ask, then, whether the fault in assessing the value of the Second Degree lies rather in our own lack of perception than in the ceremony itself. It is often overlooked that the ceremonial progress of the candidate through the three Craft degrees implies also an intention on his part to convert the significance of each degree into actual corresponding advancement in the level of his spiritual attainment. Just as he pledges himself in the Lodge to "steadily persevere" through the prescribed rites, so likewise he tacitly undertakes to persevere in the more vital task of reducing what those rites signify into facts in his personal life. In normal practice the candidate is furnished in the brief time of a few months with a complete system of instruction to which he is expected to conform in his future life, but which may take him years of thought and effort to work out in experience. Such is the problem confronting the aspirant, and such is the enigma of Masonic teaching.
Historians of the Craft have revealed that before the formation of Grand Lodge in 1717 the Ceremony of Passing in the form in which we now have it, and as a distinct rite, did not exist. Research shows that the compilation of the ceremony belongs to that confused and obscure period known as the transition during which the ancient science was adapted to the familiar tri-gradual system. There is no doubt, however, that the Ritual in common use to-day, with local variations, has suffered from misunderstanding by the compilers, while it contains errors of statement which not too well informed Brethren have since made. It is also the fact that at one time the work now forming the degree of Mark Master Mason constituted part of the Second Degree, as it still does in Scotland, being a side branch or annexe to in much as the Royal Arch Degree is an extension of the Third Degree. By the Act of Union between the two Grand Lodges, the so-called Ancient and Modern, in 1813 it was solemnly declared that "pure Antient Masonry" consisted of three Degrees only, including the Holy Royal Arch of Jerusalem, the Mark work being thus eliminated by the consent of both parties. In the year 1856 an attempt was made to restore the Mark into the Craft Degrees, but it was ruled out by Grand Lodge on the grounds that to admit the Mark would infringe the terms of the Act of Union and the Constitutions which every Master of a Lodge is strictly pledged to observe. The merits of the Mark work are so high that the regrets of many Brethren following the exclusion are not in the least surprising, although the Degree remains under a separate Constitution and is available to any Brother who desires to take it. We draw from the secession of the Mark the conclusion that, in the wisdom which in spite of great blundering on the part of human instruments has guided and inspired the Craft since inception, it was deemed advisable that one ceremony in the series should be definitely less spectacular than the others; and this for two good reasons. Firstly, whilst dramatic ritual and spectacle have immense value in their joint appeal to the imagination, and in awakening the mind to the truths which they are intended to express, there is nevertheless a risk of their becoming valued for their own sake instead of for their significance. This is the inevitable risk attaching to all ritualism; the means too often becomes the end. Secondly, in the tri-gradual scheme of the Craft the Second Degree has especially to do with the inner life, and traces an experience of a purely subjective and psychological character, one which it is difficult, or even impossible, to dramatise. We should, indeed, regard the Ceremony of Passing as deliberately designed to stand in marked contrast with those of Initiation and Raising, and the fault will be our own if we find it lacking in interest.
The ceremony is entitled Passing because it relates to the midway phase of experience through which every aspirant striving to perfect himself must pass before he can qualify for the ultimate degree of development to which the Craft system leads. In the First Degree the candidate begins his ceremonial journey "in a state of darkness" on his entrance to a new life; the message in this stage is addressed primarily to his exterior nature; and it stresses the need of the "practice of moral and social virtue" as a preliminary to the larger experience of the spiritual life. This discipline is presumed to have been undergone, and the time has come when he is qualified for further advancement. He is required now to take an upward step in his evolution; to enter upon and explore an upper chamber of his own being with a view to controlling it, just as he is assumed to understand and restrain his bodily nature; and on his journey onwards from the realm of the senses to that of the spirit he must of necessity pass through an intermediate region, that of the soul or mind, which is the halfway house between the sensible and the spiritual. The pilgrimage at this time becomes an ascent by the traditional "winding staircase" which is climbed by every candidate in the stage between aspiration and raising. This effort may seem arduous and the way gloomy, yet glimpses of light will be met with and intimations of what is cast off and left behind as he mounts higher in approaching the "middle chamber," wherein he will be permitted in silence and meditation, to contemplate "the hidden mysteries of nature and science" which lead "even to the throne of God Himself," symbolised in the Lodge by the "G" in the centre. Were we true to our symbolism, and not hampered in our work by the exigencies of space and expense, we should refrain from the present practice of conferring the Second Degree in the same room and on the same floor level as that in which the First Degree was conducted. We should go "upstairs" to an "upper room," made ready as a Fellowcraft Lodge, and we should "go up" to it as our Hebrew forebears did by a winding staircase and there open the Lodge in the Second Degree and confer the grade. To-day in our Lodges since space necessitates our using the same Temple for all our Degrees, we secure the idea of progressively ascending to higher levels by ceremonially "opening up" from one Degree to the other, and by exhibiting the appropriate Tracing Board in each.
The Qualifications of the Candidate
The candidate for the Second Degree is required to hold certain qualifications, and, as in the former Degree, he must come to the Lodge " properly prepared " and produce evidence of his fitness to those assembled. It is not generally understood that the candidate in the Craft is not eligible for advancement, unless and until, he "asks" for it. At first sight this will appear to be a trifling point, but is not so in fact, and our system does not provide for such a contingency without adequate reason. It is a law of life that there cannot be any real progress unless there is a strong inward desire for it; no growth of vegetation or faculty occurs in Nature apart from an impelling urge towards larger self expression, and who so desires an increase of Light in the Masonic meaning must first be actuated by that urge in his own heart The axiom : "Ask, and it shall be given you " (Matthew, chapter 7, verse 7) applies to each of our Degrees, and it is Masonically improper to influence a Brother to take a Degree; he must be left to ask for it spontaneously. Admittedly, this "asking" is usually a sheer formality, but at least the rule is observed in form, although what the ceremony actually contemplates is something much more than a technical compliance with the requirement. The candidate must likewise demonstrate to those assembled that he has assimilated the teaching already imparted, and for this the ritual provides formal test questions, the answers to which are learned and repeated by rote. In some Lodges, however, the official test questions are supplemented by others to ensure that the catechism is not mechanical. The test questions nevertheless contain allusions to cryptic truths calling for prolonged study, and they refer to matters involving far greater experience than is possible to a candidate who has been admitted to the Craft only a month or two previously. Following the testing of knowledge and approval by the Brethren comes one of the most illuminating episodes in the rite. Although only a preliminary to the ceremony, and too often regarded as being of small moment, the act of entrusting the candidate with the Passport sounds the key-note of the Degree and introduces a whole range of new ideas.
Entrustment with the Passport
The passport leading from the First to the Second Degree is full of significance. It consists of a P.G. and P.W., and is here entrusted to the candidate as a reward for his labours in the First Degree, and also for having successfully passed the knowledge test to which he has been subjected. The explanation of the symbolic P.W. is full of meaning; it is a word which in English signifies "sprouting forth," and is a title accorded to the candidate himself. It implies that "new life" has germinated within him; that he is already a changed man; and is, as it were, beginning to show signs of growing spiritual. To a trained observer this spiritual change is easily perceptible: "How do you know a Brother by day?", asks a cryptic question in the Lectures, and the equally subtle reply is: "By seeing him and observing the sign." But the "sign" alluded to here is not the formal gesture of salute with which we are familiar; it is the "outward and visible sign of the inward and spiritual grace," one of the "true and proper signs by which to know a Freemason," and it is a paradox that only those can see it in others who display it in themselves. Unwittingly, our visage progressively models itself upon our states of consciousness, and each man bears upon his face the description of his body and soul. There is another cryptic question in the same Section of the Lectures which asks: "How do you know a Brother by night?", and the answer is: "By receiving the T. and hearing the W." (First Lecture; Seventh Section.) This answer will be intelligible to all who know how real is that "mystic tie" which, in spiritually advanced Brethren, binds them together in conscious contact and communion. The form of the T. or greeting cannot be written about, except to say that it refers to the "Mount of Initiation" and the rank to be achieved by the candidate. In this sense, the figuration of the P.G. is indicative of having ascended the first hill and then descended into the valley before climbing the next rise.
The association of the P.W. with "an ear of corn near a fall of water" is of great significance. Corn is the recognised symbol of regenerated life and has been used in the Mystery systems from remote antiquity. In the Egyptian rituals the candidate, holding "an ear of corn fertilised by the sacred water of the Nile, declared "I am a germ of eternity," while at his death grains of corn were buried with him as emblems of immortality. The advanced initiation rites, or the Greater Mysteries, at Eleusis were sacred to Ceres and "an ear of corn" was presented to the candidate. In entrusting the candidate with the P.W. which is emblematically "depicted in our Lodges" by "an ear of corn near a fall of water" we are perpetuating a sacred practice of extreme age. Why, it may be asked, was corn used in preference to any other plant as the symbol of soul growth? The actual source of corn has always puzzled botanists; it is never found, like other cereals, in the wild state. It is traditionally taught that this golden, graceful, prolific, and needful plant was never a growth of this earth, but was a gift of the Gods, who in the dawn of time transported it to our world from another planet with the double purpose of providing the staple food of humanity, and giving man an emblem of his own soul. So, too, with the human soul; like the corn it is not indigenous to this timeworld but is a native of eternity, whence it has become transported and sown as bare grain in the patch of earth which constitutes the individual human body. There, like the seed of corn, it is subjected to the painful process of disintegration, dying and rising again, but multiplied exceedingly as the result of the trying experience. The scriptures bear witness to the ancient doctrine: "He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him" (Psalm 126, verse 6). When, then, in founding a Masonic Lodge, the Consecrating Officer scatters corn to the four quarters, he is performing a profoundly sacramental act for the instruction of the Founders. He is emulating in miniature the cosmic activity of the Great Sower of the Universe who continually goes forth sowing souls in space, like grain, which fall into natural bodies that they may grow and finally be raised therefrom into spiritual bodies. This will likewise explain why in the Craft to-day, as in the Ancient Mysteries, there is presented to the candidate at this stage of his progress the "time immemorial" emblem. The candidate can now, so to speak, think of himself as a growing ear of wheat destined to ripen in due time into abundant corn that will sustain him, and haply, serve as the "bread of life" to others.
The Opening of the Fellowcraft Lodge
Having retired from the Lodge the candidate is prepared by the Tyler. The preparation in this Degree is of the "right side" of the body which is associated with the head, and active or intellectual effort. Thus, "properly prepared," and with an emblem proclaiming his right to advancement the candidate enters the Lodge on his quest for a further accession of Light. Meanwhile, the assembled Brethren have reconstituted themselves into a Fellowcraft Lodge by "opening" up the Lodge to the Second Degree. This raising of the Lodge from the First to the Second Degree implies a corresponding uplift on the part of all those present. In the Second Degree we are deemed to pass beyond the concrete things of time and space into the more abstract world of mind, of ideas, and of the soul. The ceremonial Opening of the Lodge is on the "Square"; a Working Tool which receives great prominence in the Second Degree. The actual Square in use is the equal armed, or Norman, which is composed of two arms joined at right angles; one arm being horizontal, the other vertical. These two arms symbolise the right relationship of body and soul when we are engaged in the mystical work of the Second Degree. The bodily energies, represented by the horizontal arm, must subside into repose and passivity; while, the higher faculties of the mind, denoted by the vertical arm, become active in mental exercises and aspiration. It is for this reason that every Brother in the Lodge is required to "prove" himself as a "Craftsman"; which means that he must demonstrate by the prescribed ritual gesture that his outward and inward energies stand in the order which is signified by the arms of the Square. Indeed, only when all present do prove themselves to be united in this condition can the Lodge be declared "duly opened, on the Square" by the Master. We need hardly add that the brief Ceremony of Opening the Lodge in the Second Degree must not be treated as nothing more than a formality; it is the method by which the stage is set the atmosphere created, and the minds of the Brethren attuned for the next grade of advancement.
The Prayer of Dedication
It cannot fail to be observed by students that the prayer in this Degree has an intimate connection with the invocation on behalf of the Lodge and candidate at the commencement of the Ceremony of Initiation. The system of spiritual instruction we know by the name of Speculative Freemasonry places great value upon prayer, and this is exemplified by the fact that the prayer in each Degree contains a progressively constructive principle of spiritually expanding growth. In other words, just as the prayer in the First Degree is a petition for aid in the dedication of a life in the service of the Almighty Father, so likewise the prayer in the Second Degree is a supplication for the continuance of grace that the work begun may be wrought to good effect. It recognizes the futility of any effort made by man unaided, and it invokes the blessing of such spiritual endowment as shall perpetuate that which has been sought. The terms of this prayer make it quite clear that the process of becoming a Mason is a "work," and not merely participation in the ceremony; that this work undertaken "in Thy Name" is a "sacred" work; and that it is therefore neither a social compliment or a personal privilege.
The Perambulations of the Lodge
Immediately following the prayer the candidate moves to perambulate the Lodge, and this simple act is highly instructive. There are, of course, valid ceremonial requirements for the perambulations in this Degree; firstly, the candidate must demonstrate to the Lodge his status as an Apprentice; secondly, he must satisfy the Lodge that he is entrusted with the Passport which qualifies him for advancement; and thirdly, he must make his way to the East "by the proper steps." Behind all of these, however, is the deeper reason for the symbolic journeyings. In the First Degree the perambulations symbolise the wanderings of the candidate in the benighted, or "state of darkness" through the various paths of the "wilderness" of this life before he strikes the Path which will ultimately lead him to the Light. At this stage of his progress he has found the right Path, but must resume his wanderings because man of necessity keeps "moving" until he reaches his goal. We may say that men, like the stars in the firmament, move in their courses towards the goal; although, unlike the stars, the ignorance and self-will of men cause them to miss the way until circumstances force them back on the track. The perambulations in the Second Degree, therefore, symbolise the willing forward motion of the candidate under the imperative urge of the promptings of his own heart. We have a fine illustration of the quest for Light in the famous Pilgrims' March from Tannhauser by Wagner, where the music graphically portrays the resolute plod of weary feet, toiling through dangers and difficulties, ever onwards to the distant goal. Motion is inseparable from life; inertia spells death.
The perambulations in the First Degree led the candidate symbolically to the gate of his spiritual home; his continued progress now leads him to the foot of the winding hill :-
"Does the road wind uphill all the way? Yes, to the very end.
Will the day's journey take the whole long day? From morn to night, my friend."
In this Degree the perambulations are commenced on the level floor of the Lodge, which the candidate "squares," visiting each of the four sides in turn ; at the end of the second circuit the movement comes when his forward motion on the level ceases, and he is instructed to advance "as though ascending" ; here linear motion gives way to circular. The advance is not only forward, but upward in the form of a "winding stairway" : "And they went up with winding stairs into the middle chamber" (1st Kings, chapter 6, verse 8). There is a scientific justification for this episode. All motion is really circular, spiral, vertical (like the winding stairs), and Nature knows no straight lines:-
"Line in Nature is not found; Unit and Universe are round. In vain produced, all rays return, Evil will bless and ice will burn."
To our ignorant perception the surface of the earth appears flat, but continued motion upon it brings us back to our starting point, and thus teaches us that it is round. Beams of light, once thought to be straight, are known to bend and become circular. Strongly concentrated thought and desire function spirally, like a corkscrew boring a passage into the world of mind, which will explain why the ancient emblem of thought energy is the horn of the Unicorn projecting into space from the centre of the forehead of that mythical animal.
The ascent of the "winding stairway" must, to all who have made progress in the science, indicate the passing from a lower to a higher plane. It is a task claiming all the energies of mind and desire, and this full-time occupation is dramatised by "five steps," which are symbolical of five higher principles for our attainment. The nature of man is resolvable into seven principles, corresponding with the seven Officers of the Lodge, and in this Degree the lowest two are left out of account. The two lowest principles are the senses and the carnal reason, both of which are, as it were, left behind and transcended in the Second Degree work, whilst the higher, or psychic and spiritual, faculties come into active function, and to each of these a "step" is allotted. The five-pointed star, or Pentagon, is the geometrical figure of the five higher principles. To learn to dissociate the five higher principles from the two lower is the primary lesson of the Second Degree; we do so, in a measure, when our bodies sleep and the mind continues to function vividly, as it often does in dreams; and we shall certainly have to do so at death, when the outer senses and the lower reason drop away altogether. It is, however, practicable to do this now, and the work of the Second Degree includes the training of the mind and the higher principles to function consciously apart from the senses.
The Obligation of the Fellowcraft
Secrecy is again enjoined in the Obligation of the Second Degree. The implications contained in the Obligation involve the work which we have to perform by disciplining ourselves so that we may with safety penetrate "the hidden mysteries of nature and science." In the deeper sense secrecy involves the art of concentration; the indrawing of our powers instead of diffusing them recklessly ; and the further conservation of energy for the purpose of upbuilding and husbanding our forces. The old axiom: "Waste not, want not" applies equally to inner energies as to outward goods. In like manner there must necessarily be discipline and training if the "perfect freedom of inclination" which is granted is to be directed to the growth of the soul. Silence, then, secretes power and wisdom; their secretion is itself a secret, and an incommunicable mystery to be learned only by those who practice deep meditation and observe silence. It is in the Obligation that we are warned that much quiet thought is needed to shield the heart from any extraneous and harmful influences. This figuration also emphasises that while proceeding in our search for "that which is lost," we must not only seek diligently, but our search must be secret and silent. It is said in the ritual that: "In every Degree the secrets of Freemasonry are to be kept separate and distinct," and it may well be asked in what respect are the secrets of the First Degree "separate and distinct" from those of the Second Degree? The explanation is that the secrets of the First Degree have to do with the head, that is, with the practical daily intelligence and the performance of active duties. In the Second Degree they are different; they are the secrets of the heart, and of the soul or intuitional and affectional side of our nature which is subjective and passive. The candidate for self-knowledge has to train himself to learn to understand and discipline both his head and his heart, and to balance activity with contemplation.
The foregoing distinction between the things of the head and those of the heart will account for the difference in the posture of the candidate which is assumed by him when taking the Obligation in each Degree. The right side and limbs of the body is associated with the head and the left side and limbs of the body with the heart; both head and heart, although they are intimately related, have their distinct functions and must be separately understood by aspirants seeking for the knowledge of themselves. It is well known that wrong headedness is far more common than evil heartedness and is responsible for far more of the mischief and suffering in the world. We are all too prone to form our judgments of the actions of our fellow men by the carnal reason, rather than consult the luminous intuitions of the heart. In this connection the penal provisions of the Obligation call for particular notice. The penalty of the First Degree is related to the head, while in the Second Degree the penalty refers to the heart. We are likewise most strongly warned to protect the heart from the "attacks of the insidious." Who or what are the insidious? In the penal clause there is a cryptic allusion to the heart being thrown to "the ravenous birds of the air, or the more devouring beasts of the field as prey," and lest this phrase shall be deemed to be fantastic imagery, we will remind ourselves that it is taken from the Old Testament where it occurs more than once. These phrases "ravenous birds of the air" and "devouring beasts of the field" are scriptural terms for certain invisible entities which infest our planetary atmosphere and find easy prey and nesting places in hearts allowing them entrance: "I will give thee unto the ravenous birds of every sort, and to the beasts of the field to be devoured" (Ezekiel, chapter 39, verse 4). Classical literature abounds in references to these "powers of the air" as the "harpies," "furies" and "vultures," and to their tormenting power. Modern psychology, sceptical of the ancient science, speaks of them perhaps more prosaically, as impulses and uprushes from the subconscious, obsessions by alien wills, and as secondary personalities, the unhappy victims of which are often placed in asylums for the mentally afflicted. It is because the dangers from the plane of the mind are real that the Obligation expressly refers to them before the ritual goes on to say in effect to the candidate: "You are now permitted to extend your researches into the hidden mysteries of nature and science." Indeed, until the aspirant does possess a high standard of personal purity, virtue, and understanding of the "difficulties and dangers" such research is not "permitted," and in this matter the Craft is perpetuating a principle uniformly insisted upon by teachers of wisdom throughout the ages. One of the greatest of the Teachers has declared "For wheresoever the carcase is, there will the eagles be gathered together" (Matthew, chapter 24, verse 28); implying that if the human personality suffers itself to become passive it is but a "carcase," liable to invasion by all manner of undesirable and evil entities. However, to the man of strong virtue and who is level headed, who knows beforehand what he is to do and studies under a competent teacher, there is no danger; he will act, and with safety, upon the age-old enjoinder of the Mysteries To know; to will; to dare; and to keep silent."
The Position of the Square and Compasses
Following upon the Obligation, the attention of the candidate is drawn to the altered position of the Square and Compasses; he is told that he is now "midway in Freemasonry," but still inferior to the grade he is hoped eventually to attain. We would bring to the notice of students that quite apart from the personal application to the individual Mason, the change which is here indicated may be viewed in a wider and cosmic sense. We can apply the same progress to humanity as a whole. In the broad general outline of the history of the race, it may be said that we have at last emerged from the primitive "state of darkness," and taken the First Degree of the life process; we are, so to speak, now "midway" in the plan of world evolution. Gradually, the darkness overshadowing the minds of men is being dissolved by the "Light which is from above"; slowly, but nevertheless surely, the two points of the Compasses of the Grand Geometrician of the Universe are coming into sight and overlaying the Square of human activities. The signs of the times proclaim that materialism is definitely on the way out; physical science has disclosed that the apparently solid earth is in fact as immaterial as the proverbial "moonshine," and is leading our thoughts up the "winding stairway" of research and investigation to the exploration of the "middle chamber" of space and being, the existence of which it only recently denied. Human consciousness is expanding as the vistas open, and enlarged mental perceptions are already beginning to manifest in art, literature, and music. In these circumstances, we cannot fail also to consider the conditions of all the peoples of the world and their problems; many new conceptions of social duty are now being put to the practical test. It is still very crude, imperfect, grotesque even, but it signifies real progress, and the pains attending the adjustments are the growing pains which are incident to birth upon a higher level.
The cosmic plan is being carried out to specification under the superintendence of the Master Architect, and they who do not execute the work in accordance therewith, will have to do it all over again. We, as Craftsmen, have obligated ourselves to act as agents in implementing this plan, so helping to complete the divine scheme which is fashioned to the designs of the Grand Geometrician. It is written concerning this scheme: "Thy Kingdom come; Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven" (Matthew 6:10); but the phrase now incorporated in the well-known Prayer carries two meanings. To pray that the will of God may "be done in earth, as it is in heaven," is to pray, in alternative terms, for the coming into time of the Kingdom of eternity. The words, however, do not refer solely to ultimate reality; they apply also to human beings. So far as we are concerned, then, the Kingdom of God can come only to the extent that the kingdom of natural man has been superseded. The petition: "Thy Kingdom come," therefore, has a necessary and unavoidable corollary, which is: "Our kingdom go"; signifying that the condition of complete illumination is not possible without complete purgation. This is easy to say, but enormously hard to achieve; we are prone to become "fiends of righteousness," as Blake so truly affirms. The great problem, that of finding the relationship between the world of eternity and the world of time, is a paradox :-
"Oh wearisome condition of humanity! Born under one law, to another bound Vainly begot, and yet forbidden vanity Created sick, commanded to be sound." (Greville.)
We need grace in order to be able to live in such a way as to qualify ourselves to receive grace.
The acquisition of spirituality is the chief problem of our human life, but the definition of spirituality must be given in a much more comprehensive form than that in which it is commonly known and understood. The spiritual quality and value of man are determined not by nature, of any sort, but by the union of freedom and grace. It must be accepted that Spirit is not a constituent part of human nature; it is, rather, the highest qualitative value. The attainment of high spirituality is liberation from the power of the world and the social environment; it is, as it were, a break through of the noumenal into the phenomenal. In other words, the growth of spirituality in man does not belong to the rhythmic regularity of the evolutionary process. It is a task, Masonically speaking "work," and is the enigma set before man in relation to life. We are taught in Freemasonry that we ought to accept responsibility not only for our own destiny and for the destiny of those who are near to us, but likewise for the destiny of all men and the world. Spirituality is not coldly dispassionate, on the contrary, it is a burning flame; in it a sense of emancipation and severance from the undesirable elements of the world is combined with taking a share in the work of the world. It is in this sense that in Freemasonry we acknowledge Brotherly Love to be a Foundation principle, and that emphasis is placed on the command to love God and to love our neighbour. Love for our neighbour is love for the multiple world, and to turn towards the One does not mean to turn away from the many. The difficulty is that spirituality, like everything else in this world, is objectivised, and takes on a formal and legal character; it becomes, in other words, conventional, and is accommodated to prosaic social norms and adapted to the so-called "average" man. It would be a mistake to conclude that the conflict between mysticism and legalism indicates a lack of the social sense in man. On the contrary, there is an inward sense in which we are all interlinked with each other; man, indeed, is a social being and can realise himself completely only in society. It is for this reason that the Craft system insists upon the "practice of every moral and social virtue"; nevertheless, the old maxim: "In the world but not of it" must guide the aspirant in his progress.
The Entrustment with the Secrets of the Degree
This portion of the ceremony is of deep allegorical meaning, the interpretation of which must be individually applied. It must be clearly understood by the candidate that ritual alone may well demonstrate, but can never clarify the underlying allegory. The final clarification of symbols is the result of continuous and persistent study and effort. The secrets of Freemasonry, therefore, are not such merely to keep the popular world in outer darkness; they are secrets because they convey that which can only be communicated to the seeker who has learned to speak their language: "If any man have an ear, let him hear" (Revelation, chapter 13, verse 9). To communicate secrets to those who are unfit for their reception is a profanity, and in like manner the penalties attaching to the violation of the rule, which in their symbolism appear to refer solely to physical prospects of quite an unpleasant nature, in fact allude to spiritual implications which are hidden behind the veil of ritual and allegory.
The preliminary to the entrustment with the secrets of the Degree is the "second regular step" and, as in the First Degree, it is taken with perfect physical erectness, with the feet Masonically quadrated. The implication is that for real progress both physical and moral rectitude must reflect each other, while the intuitions of the heart must be checked and balanced with intellectual perception. In this Degree the candidate is instructed to take a further step forward, but it is again a single step only. The step taken in the First Degree is deemed to cover the theoretical period of seven years which is the time allotted for the discipline of the body; the Second Degree step covers five more years which are theoretically devoted to the control and illumination of the mind. Adding these two numbers together, seven plus five equals twelve, we have the number which is always associated with extension and development. It is on this account that formerly the aspirant was said to be mystically "twelve years old" on attaining a high degree of mental illumination.
The entrustment with the secrets of the Degree also necessitates the use of the sign. The sign in this Degree is threefold in character, and it is probably the oldest sign in the world. It is said to refer primarily to the absolute need for fidelity and steady perseverance in the work, but it likewise illustrates the universal principle peculiar to mental science. Everything in Nature tends to evolve from the horizontal to the vertical and assume the "square" in form. We may describe the process by saying that the Compasses of the Grand Geometrician define the circular area in which Nature is to work, which is termed the Wheel of Creative Evolution; thereupon Nature will proceed to "lay levels and to prove horizontals," and afterwards erect vertical lines at right angles to them. It is not until man emerges that the "perpendicular" is achieved, and here the work of Nature is to cease. Nature has perseveringly built up the body of man to the state of "erectness," thus providing him with a physical vehicle to the limit of her powers; from this point onwards man is to continue the building work with the same perseverance, and thereby promote his advancement beyond the jurisdiction of Nature to spiritual heights. This sign provides the candidate with the first hint of the "hidden mysteries of nature and science," to which his attention will later be directed. It must not be forgotten that greater enlightenment not only means forward progress, but also the obliteration of past misunderstood knowledge. Nature still conceals many secrets from us in astronomy, in biology, and in other departments of life, but gradually yields them in proportion as we become able to receive them.
Not until after the taking of the step and the use of the sign have been disclosed is the ceremonial word of the Degree given to the candidate. Like the word of the First Degree, that now imparted is biblical in origin, and it follows from the explanation that both of the words are used in combination. They are opposites, and the use of them implies that the candidate himself is a blend of them both; there are B. and J. present in him, and he is a combination of dynamic energy and the opposed static inert principle. It may be said by way of more information that the body is the fulcrum; the spirit needs the body to become effective in the work of regeneration, and the body to become perfected must be suffused and sublimated by the spirit.
The Testing by the Wardens
The testing by the Wardens is symbolic of the testing we experience, not only in the material side of our lives, but mentally and spiritually. They are a help to us in apprehending the finality of things, which is reality; whence we come and whither we go. Therefore, following the entrustment with the secrets of the Degree the candidate is bidden to resume his "pilgrims march" ; in other words, he is sent round the Lodge to the Wardens to be examined. The examination is easy to pass; the official examiners may indeed be lacking themselves; only the candidate will ever know to what degree he is entitled to the award. This is strictly in accordance with the law of life that every accession of knowledge, whether spiritual or otherwise, is followed by a subsequent test of our worthiness to retain it. The process which we call "passing" may be likened to a sea voyage; the candidate is warned to: "steer the barque of life o'er the rough sea of passion without quitting the helm of rectitude"; while the course is straight and the wind favourable the haven of calm waters can only be reached by each candidate steering by the undeviating line of conduct laid down for his pursuit. There is another allusion to the testing of our fortitude and courage in the ritual reference to the payment of "wages" at this stage of progress. This subject is dramatically portrayed in the Mark Degree, where it is dealt with much more fully. Every aspirant, however, finds that as soon as he wholeheartedly undertakes to promote the interests of the tasks of spiritual development unexpected difficulties and obstacles suddenly burst upon him. These are the "wages" which he must learn to receive "without scruple or diffidence," well recognising himself to be "justly entitled to them," and with complete confidence in the justice and integrity of the Employer into whose service he has entered. The study of spiritual science often brings about that state of mind which the Psalmist speaks of as: "At their wits' end" (Psalm 107, verse 27). We are indeed subjected to "repeated trials " which are not only quite unforseen, but also distressing and disturbing ; we ask ourselves if we are not being deceived by phantasy, whether the goal is attainable; and whether it would not be better to take the easy way, memorise the ritual, enjoy the social amenities, and forget the spiritual implications. Let all who waver be of good cheer; they may count themselves among those who are privileged to serve their Brethren and the Craft without thought of reward ; the labourers in this field are always few and the work heavy, but the compensations are great.
The Investiture with the Badge
In all stately ceremonies some form of robing has a prominent place. The assumption of outward distinction has here to be interpreted in the light of spiritual advancement. The changes in the Apron are evidence of the progress of the candidate; an activity of the Holy Spirit of God is presumed to have occurred, and the candidate is therefore clothed with an emblem meant to represent his present state, superior to that which he was, but far inferior to that which he hopes to be. Hence the alteration in the position of the flap, and the increased decoration in the ornaments of the symbol. It will be noted that the decoration on the Apron takes the form of the Immortal Rose, an esoteric emblem which has been used in the East from the earliest of known times. Moreover, this Rose is a hieroglyph which is universal in whatever the language, or race. In the Middle Ages the pious Cathedral builders of Europe wrought the Rose symbolism into carved stonework of most exquisite perfection as their tribute to the honour and glory of the Rose Queen of the world. Hence, the Rose is the symbol of all that pertains to the quest for God, from the beginning of the Path, through initiation, to the Divine Union consummated at the end. Those experts who devised our clothing were symbolists of a high order, and the blue Rosettes derive from the stream of Rosicrucian influence which largely contributed to the formation of the Craft in the seventeenth century.
The Charge in the South-East Corner of the Lodge
After his symbolic robing in the West the candidate is placed in the South-East corner of the Lodge to illustrate progress. The position of the candidate in this Degree therefore changes from the North to the South, that is from right to left of the Lodge, and again his feet are angulated. In both cases whether in the North-East, or in the South-East, the candidate is literally "squaring the Lodge," in the "foundation" position. This signifies that he is now ready to continue the symbolic ascent which is pictured on the Tracing Board in each of the two Degree, and is about to receive the Working Tools which will enable him to undertake the work proposed. In the consideration of Masonic and Biblical localities, just as the North is the region of the darkness, the locus of the unilluminated, so likewise the South is the place of mental illumination. The candidate is accordingly enjoined to devote himself to the study of "such of the liberal arts and sciences as may lie within the compass" of his personal attainment. These classical "arts and sciences," seven in number, were called "liberal" because their exercise was deemed to have a liberating effect upon the mind. It is axiomatic that the aspirant should have a sound mind in a sound body so as to ensure the "harmony" of the work. This term "harmony" bears no relation to vocal refrains; it means the harmonisation of the too often discordant elements of our being. The old name was Eirene, IRIS, the Rainbow; the "bow set in the cloud" of our earthly organisms, which remains obscured until by "fervency and zeal" it becomes possible "that the rays of heaven may shed their benign influence"; and thereby enable our "coat of many colours" to shine forth in order and harmony. We need not to-day pursue the "liberal arts and sciences" of the ancients; times have changed and in the process we have had forced upon us intellectual and social conditions which provide other means of achieving the same result. Nevertheless, a corresponding discipline is still necessary and any form of exercise that promotes abstract thought and flexibility of intellect is to be recommended; in brief, the active acquisition of knowledge by reading and working upon theoretical problems must be balanced by reflection and meditation. The two requirements which are essential for any "progress in the science" are firstly, the highly tense state of the physical body, demonstrated by concentrated work both mental and physical; and secondly, the completely relaxed physical state, exhibited in meditation and contemplation.
We are likewise called upon to learn to "rule and subdue" our "passions and prejudices," and in this task the advice of the authorities is precisely the same as when dealing with the question of distractons of the mind. The passions, so long as they are purely emotional, have attacking power, which we all experience, but no staying power. It is found that passions will yield only to indirect action; in other words, we are healed of the pain of passionate existence when we cease to enjoy the pleasure of indulgence. To do this we must control what is known as reverie, for where your interest is there also will be your reverie. The aspirant must renounce certain privileges of the worldly estate which are not consistent with his dedications.
The Working Tools of the Second Degree
As in the First Degree, the Working Tools appropriate to the work of the Craftsman are now presented to the candidate. It is the duty of the Master to ensure that the significance of these Tools is explained because they represent the keys of progress which in all ages have been passed on from Master to novice. In the First Degree the Tools are applied to the discipline and education of the outward person; in the Second Degree they relate to the government of the mind. It will be noted that the Working Tools in this Degree are associated with the Principal Officers of the Lodge, and are emblematic of the function of these offices. The emblem of the Senior Warden signifies that the grade of Craftsman can only be maintained by strictly conforming to the edict of the Tools presented, and by realising that all souls stand upon an equality before the Grand Geometrician, finally to be tested by the Level of Divine perfection. Similarly, the emblem of the Junior Warden illustrates that there is a vertical line of conduct prescribed for the development of physical and mental life, of which the Plumb Rule is the traditional symbol, and that by this means we may reach the required Level of refinement. With the presentation of the Working Tools the Ceremony of Passing fittingly ends, leaving the candidate to convert the moral implications into practical conduct in the career of Fellowcraft which is open before him.
The Closing of the Lodge in the Second Degree
The work of the Second Degree having been concluded, the Lodge is closed down to the First Degree, but at this juncture a question is asked the answer to which furnishes the key to the purpose of the Degree. It is addressed to the Junior Warden: "In this position what have you discovered?", and the cryptic reply is: "The Sacred Symbol." When this question is asked the Brethren are standing "to order" with hand on heart, displaying the dual Signs of Fidelity and Perseverance, and thus testify that they have been brought to the vivid realisation that in the heart of each of us burns invisibly the "blazing Star or glory in the Centre." We vouch that we have discovered that the "Kingdom of God is within" ourselves. These considerations lead us to define that Faith, as understood Masonically, is an impulse of God within us; the reaction in the soul of a man who, knowingly or not, and however remotely, has effected some contact with the Grand Geometrician of the Universe. It is therefore intimated that Faith is an energy, activated by God and directed towards an ideal; it is also implicit in the instruction of this Degree that the accomplishment of the ideal is within the power of every candidate; fulfilment is irrespective of academic ability or social rank and fortune. There are two qualifications only which are required of the Craftsman namely, sincerity of motive, and the willingness of great humility; he dedicates his future labour to the building of the Lord's House which, as mystical Masons, we have pledged ourselves to build. It follows, however, that the work of the builder is in vain unless the Ground Plan is laid in a personal relationship with the Personality of Him in Whom the Craftsman has declared his faith: "In strength will I establish this mine House to stand firm for ever."
May PEACE, PLENTY, and UNANIMITY, ever subsist among Fellowcraft Freemasons." (Second Lecture, Third Section.)
The Volume of the Sacred Law.
"The Ceremony of Passing" — W.L. Wilmshurst. "The Key of Masonic Initiation" — P. T. Runton. "The Rose Immortal" — A. Bothwell Gosse. "The Lily of Light" — A. Bothwell Gosse. "The Craft and the Royal Arch — W. H. Topley. "The New Man" — Maurice Nicoll. "The Unknown God" — F. J. Mayers.
(The author would here record his personal gratitude to the late W. Bro. W. L. Wilmshurst, and make due acknowledgement to The Lodge of Living Stones, No. 4957.)
In summarising this Paper on the Ceremony of the Passing, I would remind students that our ritual directs attention to the importance of the Fellowcraft Lodge for three reasons, as follows:-
- On the Installation of a Brother into the high Office of Worshipful Master, an obligation is required of him in respect of his duties. This vow of the Master Elect is made in the Fellowcraft Lodge.
- It should likewise be remembered that the greatest of all discoveries is made in the Fellowcraft Lodge; it is made by the Junior Warden in that symbolic place to which every Freemason must go for a similar disclosure; that is "into the middle chamber" of his personal temple.
- The most fundamental aspiration of all men, namely Immortality is referred to for the first time in Freemasonry in the Fellowcraft Lodge.
We should reflect upon the fact that formerly the First and Second Degrees in Freemasonry were one. They now represent two stages of consecration; in other words two-thirds of the tri-gradual initiation. In the first stage, the sense nature an apparatus of time, space, and outward physical life is dedicated to the service of God. This is mystically known as the "Baptism of Water", and not until this is effected can the work of the Second Degree commence. In the second stage, the intellectual faculties which apprehend the ideal as a conception and thereby involves the inner life are similarly dedicated. This is traditionally known as the preparation for the final step and is termed the "Baptism of Fire". Each of these levels involves an active and passive aspect in the aspirant. The active side implies present effort and future result; the passive aspect connotes both witting and unwitting receptivity. It is for this reason that a period of time is presumed to have elapsed between the conferment of Degrees, and the Candidate is deemed to come "properly prepared", or fit and ready, a state which is presumed as flowing from the passage of time. This state of readiness brings about the result "by their fruits ye shall know them" (Matthew, Chapter 7, verse 16). It is likewise for this reason that in our Masonic system we acknowledge two opposed positions, that of the Right and that of the Left; the two Pillars are defined as corresponding with these situations. Finally, two qualifications and two only are required of the Craftsman, namely sincerity of purpose and the willingness of humility, and these being present in the aspirant a mechanism of advancement under and through the guidance of God is at once conditioned. This effort brings about a visible manifestation of the intellectual faculties in action and by the activity the intellect acquires wisdom which is a vastly different thing to knowledge. The work of the builder, however, is in vain unless the ground plan is laid in conjunction with the Grand Geometrician of the Universe in Whom the workman has declared his faith. Only by that in a communion can the hidden mysteries be understood and a superstructure be erected.