Concerning God And Religion 4
"Masonry is a progressive science, consisting of different degrees for the more gradual advancement in the knowledge of its mysteries, according to the progress we make, we limit or extend our inquiries, and in proportion to our capacities we attain to a lesser or a greater degree of perfection." (Introductory Address : Second Lecture.)
"And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was." (ST. JOHN, xvii, 5.)
"So, round about me, fulminating streams Of living radiance play'd, and left me swathed And veiled in dense impenetrable blaze. Such weal is in the love, that stills this heaven." (DANTE, "Paradiso.")
Part Four: THE THIRD INITIATION
Another period of service ("labour" in our Masonic terminology) is completed, and the aspirant now prepares to meet the next interior crisis. This is the stage of the third initiation, or Transfiguration. Although the five initiations, which together form the subject of this Paper, constitute in themselves a synthesis of revelation, it may be of advantage to point out at this juncture that three of them are of greater significance than has hitherto been grasped by many students, who are prone to lay emphasis mainly upon one only, the Crucifixion. The three initiations which, in the last analysis, may mean most to the seeker after truth, are the New Birth, the Transfiguration, and the final crisis wherein the immortality of the soul is demonstrated and recognised. These three major initiations — the first, the third, and the fifth — comprise the three syllables of "the Word made flesh"; they also correspond to our three Craft Degrees (including the Royal Arch as the climax of the system). The whole process might be depicted as follows:-
|First Initiation||Third Initiation||Fifth Initiation|
The third initiation is otherwise known as the first of the "mountain" experiences, and in our Craft system it is represented by the completion of the work allocated to the Second Degree. In his Paper, "The Ceremony of Passing," the late W.Bro. W. L. Wilmshurst makes it quite clear that the instruction given to the Candidate in the Second Degree relates to a "higher level" of his being, and he emphasises the intention of the Ceremony in the following words:-
"Now were we true to our Symbolism and not hampered by exigencies of space and expense, we should not confer this Passing Ceremony in the same room or upon the same floor-level as that in which that of the First Degree was performed. We should go upstairs to another room, to an 'upper chamber,' made ready as a Fellow Craft Lodge, and we should mount to it, as our Hebrew forbears did, by a winding staircase, and there open the Lodge in the Second Degree and confer the Ceremony. By so doing we should more vividly impress both ourselves and the Candidate with the fact that we and he were now withdrawing to a still farther remove from the outer world and from things of sense, and were ascending upwards and inwards to a finer and more subtle plane of being, and to dealing with the more abstract life of the mind and understanding."
"'They went up, by winding stairs, into the middle chamber' (I Kings vi, 8). We can still visualise the Hebrew Initiates mounting from the ground floor of their symbolic temple to the middle storey or 'holy place,' chanting as they went their 'Songs of Ascent' or 'Songs of Degrees,' as some of their Temple Hymns are called in the Bible, e.g. 'Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord or rise up into his holy hill?' (Ps. xxiv, 3). But it is the human mind (or soul) which is the 'middle chamber' actually signified, since it stands midway between things sensible and things spiritual, and it is it which must be treated as the intermediate 'holy place' to be passed through before that ultimate 'holy of holies' is reached where everything sensible, material, and even mental, is transcended and only those who are high priests of the Spirit can, 'after many washings and purifications,' enter." (The Ceremony of Passing, by W. L. Wilmshurst.)
A "mountain" in Scripture signifies high mental consciousness. It follows, therefore, that the famous "Sermon on the Mount" recorded in the Gospels is a profound statement of what the right thought life of the aspirant on the Path should be in relationship to the affairs of the popular world. Many men spend their time concentrating and throwing out thoughts which will reap them material things, and there is no doubt of the success of this concentration. The objection is, however, that such demands are often for things which will prove eventually to be boomerangs; hence, the right attitude concerning demands is expressed in the axiom (quoted by the Christian Master for the guidance of aspirants), "Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you" (Matthew vi, 33). The true aspirant, moreover, does not look upon material things as being his possessions, but regards them in the light of things lent to him in order that he may use them awhile both with advantage to himself and to others with whom he comes into contact. This belief in stewardship rather than ownership is the result of his recognition of the truth that the good that comes to the individual man is not an isolated thing, but belongs equally to all mankind. J. R. Lowell, in his poem Youssouf," also portrays this idea:-
"This tent is mine," said Youssouf, "but no more Than it is God's: come in and be at peace."
There are altogether eight beatitudes scheduled in the "Sermon on the Mount." corresponding with the Noble Eightfold Path" of the Buddhist system. Eight is a very important number in spiritual progress. It is the number of the New Birth, and for this reason many baptismal fonts in old churches are octagonally shaped. Four of the beatitudes relate to sufferings, and four to attributes; the sufferings are: poverty, hunger, sorrow and persecution; the attributes are: meekness, mercy, purity and peace. The four sufferings are not "blessed" for themselves, but only as they are sharp instruments that train the aspirant and cause him to centre his consciousness on the development of the four attributes. Until the aspirant has traversed this eight-fold path he is not sufficiently mellow to go through the difficulties of life, and encounter the ingratitude of his fellow men, without growing sour and bitter. Thus the "Sermon on the Mount" contains all the principles governing spiritual development.
Initiation by "Fire" is the understanding of the Primal Love Essence of the Spirit, which is the only creative force of the universe. Love in this sense is both Fire and Light, music, harmony, energy, and illumination. The "fire initiation" is the natural conclusion or result of the "water" and "air" initiations, and represents the stage when through loving service the aspirant becomes so enthused that he is mystically "on fire." In other and more familiar terms, he has discovered that in his heart there burns a Blazing Star or Glory in the Centre," and he now knows that the "kingdom of God" (T.G.G.O.T.U.) is within himself. The personal realisation of this supreme truth is, indeed, the whole purpose of our Second Degree. W.Bro. Wilmshurst writes (to quote again from his valuable Paper):-
"Doubtless that discovery will not come to any one suddenly or until after a period of devoted labour in the work of the Degree. The rising of the inward Sun into the personal consciousness is usually gradual, like the dawn of the outward sun in the world of Nature. At first we may hold it but as a notion, a theory, a belief; later, there will come a rising of light into the mind scattering intellectual darkness and searchingly purifying the heart, burning up one's rubbish and building one's faculties anew; finally a realised fullness of light, as the meridian Sun shining in its strength, making all clear where once all was dark. No novice could bear the sudden manifesting of that Sun's full glory; whilst the unpurified man is self-barred from all perception of it. 'If the Light within thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!" — and modern psychological science has revealed something of the clotted darkness and unsuspected filth usually pervading the subconsciousness and choking the action of man's immortal spirit. Hence the Craft's insistence upon adequate preparation, upon purity and the wearing of symbolic white garments. For the Candidate who hopes to realise the Craft teaching in its spirit, and not merely in its letter and ceremonial, must indeed be 'candidus,' a 'white man' within and without, and as such he may hope to receive that 'white stone' which the Scripture promises to him who endures to the end, and which our Order signifies by the Craftsman transforming himself into the 'perfect ashlar.'
"But 'candidus' implies something more than whiteness in point of colour. It involves the idea of incandescence, the white glow resulting from heat, from ardent devotion of one's whole being to the task of self-reconstruction, from that fervent self-denying energy which overcomes natural inertia and sloth, and burns up one's darkness and superfluities as with fire." (The Ceremony of Passing, by W. L. Wilmshurst.)
The most wonderful example of illumination is the traditional Transfiguration episode recorded in the Gospels, which the author of Luke cryptically states occurred "about an eight days after these sayings" (Luke ix, 28). Everywhere throughout the Christian era, in sacred literature, in liturgical symbol, the number Eight has been mystically held as the number of regeneration. It is very significant, in the light of our Masonic system, to find that according to the Apostolic Gnosis the Cube (the "perfect ashlar") is the symbol of Truth, and that upon this Cube is built up the number-symbol of the Master — 888; each figure 8 here stands for one of the three principal stages on the Path, namely, PURGATION, ILLUMINATION, and UNION, which correspond to the first, third, and fifth initiations, and to our three Craft Degrees. Here also is the true explanation of our Masonic reference to the twenty-four inch gauge " (8 x 3), and its mystical use "to measure the work." The allusion to "eight days" in the Gospel narrative indicates the completion of the work of preparation leading up to Illumination or Transfiguration. In the same verse (ix, 28) the writer of Luke, speaking of the Exemplar, tells us: "he took Peter and John and James, and went up into a mountain." These three names (Peter, James, and John), interpreted symbolically, signify respectively, FAITH, HOPE, and CHARITY. and the underlying meaning is that the aspirant has to "climb" to his recesses in the "mountain" of contemplation by the aid of the spiritual qualities designated Faith, Hope, and Charity, which are simple terms adopted by the Christian Church (and Freemasonry) for the more difficult psychological terms of Will, Wisdom, and Activity. The next verse (Luke ix,29) contains the remarkable statement: "the fashion of his countenance was altered, and his raiment was white and glistening." We are rarely permitted to see the grandeur and radiance of spiritually developed men, mainly because we are accustomed to seeing them in humdrum or drab surroundings, but there is ample evidence to show that in moments of exaltation or crisis their invisible spiritual power springs to the surface, and they are "irradiated" with an ethereal beauty. The "raiment" of the "illuminated" man represents the subtle bodies with which the spirit is clothed; these have become so purified that they are "white and glistening," like snow. When such a light gleams from an aspirant, the Eastern schools say that he has attained the "Diamond Body," which is glistening and flashing from every facet. When humanity as a whole learns to transform the flesh through divine experience, to transmute the feeling nature through divine expression, and to transfer the consciousness away from the world of mundane living into the world of transcendental realities, the true subjective values of this initiation will reveal themselves. As Dr. Sheldon, however, rightly points out in his book, Psychology and the Promethean Will:-
"all of the best human thought and feeling is carried for generations, probably for ages, in intuitional minds, long before it becomes articulate."
We obviously are not yet articulate where this experience (symbolised in our Craft system by "the Sun at the meridian") is concerned; indeed, we have not even, as a race, completed important parts of the work of the first initiation (the New Birth); the Jordan experience (the second initiation) is at present attained only by the few; and it is the rare and highly developed aspirant who has "climbed" the "mountain" of Transfiguration.
According to the esoteric physiology preserved in the teaching of Eastern schools, the "Illumination" or "Transfiguration" stage on the Path is due to the awakening of a spiritual force, which is stored up in a state of suspended activity at the base of the spine. By a process of intensive self-culture demanding absolute purity of life, the habit of deep introspection and rigid control of desire and thought, and above all by the continued practice of meditation, it is possible to awaken this inner force, but on account of the tremendous dangers, both physical and mental, accompanying such an awakening in even the smallest degree, the methods of its accomplishment are never openly disclosed. This inner force is called in the Sanskrit writings Kundalini, and in the Greek Speirema; it is one of the cosmic forces. Kundalini means a "ring" or "spiral," and in the symbolic language of the Upanishads it is said to lie coiled up at the base of the spine like a sleeping serpent. When roused to activity by man's spiritual will it displaces the normal nervous force and, enormously quickening his rate of vibration, raises his consciousness to awareness on the higher planes of being. The human organism has two nervous structures: (1) The cerebro-spinal (brain and spinal cord) through which the conscious mind (reason and will) is expressed, working through the cells of the central nervous system. It controls the external muscles, those of the trunk, arms and legs, hence these are called the voluntary muscles, moving as they do at the direction of the will. (2) The sympathetic or ganglionic system, consisting of a series of nerve-centres extending on each side of the spinal column from the head to the base of the spine. The sympathetic system regulates the functioning of the heart and blood vessels, the circulatory system, the organs and the glands, thus controlling the involuntary muscles. It is strongly affected by thought and emotion, and responds readily to the subconscious, as the central nerve system responds to the conscious. There are, however, intimate interactions between the two. Playing upon these nerve-centres and corresponding to them are vortices of energy, situated within the etheric counterpart of the physical body, which act as the link between the physical and the higher bodies. They are called in Eastern books "chakras," a word meaning "discs" or "wheels," and are so named from their appearance (whirling circles or wheels) to clairvoyant vision. Placed to the right and left of the spinal column they form a magnetic field for the current of force. The principal channels through which the serpent-fire passes, called in the East "nadis" (literally "pipes"), are (1) the central spinal column — "Sushumna," and (2) those on either side of it, left and right — "Ida" and "Pingala" - constituting the channels for the positive and negative currents. In the average human being, in whom no conscious spiritual development has taken place, the centres are rotating slowly; they are vibrating at a low rate, and glow with but a faint light. But in the case of the advanced aspirant, in whose body the serpent-fire has been aroused to full activity, the colours are of blinding brilliancy, and the centres themselves are blazing and coruscating like miniature suns. So it is written that: "They that be wise ('illumined') shall shine as the brightness of the firmament " (Daniel xii, 3). To awaken Kundalini, therefore, is one of the chief aims of Yoga, and the discipline and instruction of the Eastern schools are in a large measure directed towards that end. The word Yoga is derived from the root "Yula," to join or to weld together. Just as in welding, two pieces of the same metal are made to become one by the process of heating and hammering, so also in the Yoga of Indian Philosophy, the embodied spirit ("Jivatma"), which is part of the Universal Spirit — "Paramatma" — is made to become one with the Universal Spirit by the process of psychic "heating and hammering"; work which involves a strenuous physical and mental preparation. Yoga science teaches that the three principal channels ("Sushumna," "Ida," and "Pingala"), named in connection with the Kundalini "fire," together with numerous other "nadis" associated with the "chakras," form a network of arteries in the subtle body (known in the Eastern classification as "linga sharira"); these "arteries," however, must not be confused with the corporeal arteries through which the circulation of the blood is effected, and, physiologically, they correspond rather to the ramifications of the nervous system for they are expressly described as luminous; but as fire is in some sort polarised into heat and light, so the subtle state is linked to the corporeal state in two different and complementary ways, by the blood as to the caloric quality, and by the nervous system as to the luminous quality. Furthermore, we must understand that between the "nadis" and the nerves there is still only a simple correspondence and not an identification, since the former are not corporeal, and we are dealing in reality with two distinct realms in the integral individuality. It cannot, therefore, be too often insisted that the real "nadi" system with all its "chakras" is fundamentally a psychic system; the "nadis" are, in fact, "paths" along which psychic energy is organised and transmitted, and this is why they are also said to be filled with an essence which is white, blue, yellow, green, and red, colours identical with those in the mystical Sun. Just as, however, in the physical nervous system there is one nerve (the spinal cord) which runs from the base of the trunk to its summit (the head), so there is in the psyche one subtle "Path" known as the "Royal Path" (the "Path" of "Brahman" and the "Sushumna"), which, as the Tantriks say, contains Sun, Moon, and Fire, and, which runs from the depths of our being to the very summit. This is the famous "Middle Path" which mediates between the two extremes; all actions have their equal and opposite reactions and therefore, as Heracleitus taught, all things pass into their opposites. But, "Yoga is balance," and between Sun and Moon (the psychic opposites"), there is a neutral point (a "Laya" centre; "fire"; the "Blazing Star or Glory in the Centre which is the fulcrum sought by Archimedes in order to move the "world." And not only between Sun and Moon (higher and lower self), but between every bright, right-handed (positive), Solar phenomenon on any level of being, and its dark, left-handed (negative) Lunar shadow, this central "point of balance" (a point within the Circle"), the point of "Laya" or dissolution exists, and is to be found by the aspirant for Union ("Raja-Yoga" — the "Royal Art"). When the aspirant stands balanced upon that Point ("from which a Master Mason cannot err") he is free from the "Pair of Opposites" and, as he passes through it, the Sun and Moon, as represented in that particular "Pair" come together "with the Centre" and are no more. The "Sushumna" or "Middle Path" is the line (symbolised in Freemasonry by "the Infallible Plumb-Rule") that joins all such points ("connects heaven and earth"), and is the unique central "path" in the very midst of our being, all other paths ("to the right or to the left") being mere side-tracks leading in various directions to particular aims, each of which has its compensating shadow. The "Middle Path" ("the strict path of virtue") alone is the "shadowless Path," the "Path" that leads from "death" to Deathlessness, the "Path" through the "valley of the shadow," by means of which the aspirant "may finally rise from the tomb of transgression, to shine as the stars for ever and ever." We here take the liberty of quoting from a Paper delivered before the Lodge of Living Stones No. 4957, by the late W.Bro. W. L. Wilmshurst, in which the meaning of our Masonic symbol of "The Blazing Star" is admirably stated, as follows:-
"THE BLAZING STAR OR GLORY IN THE CENTRE. The Tracing Board having displayed the human 'earth' and 'firmament,' as represented by man's physical and psychic faculties, now goes on to testify to something transcending both these — the Spiritual Essence (or 'Pneuma') which is the ultimate root of his being and affiliates him with God. Of this ultimate Spirit nothing can be described; it is beyond words, beyond the grasp of the reasoning mind, and it has no form. Hence the Board can only suggest its presence; this being done sometimes by a blazing 'Star in the East,' and sometimes by a formless blinding effulgence suffusing the diagram and far outshining the light of the sun, moon and stars, which are but subordinate luminaries and instruments through which its supreme light is mediated.
"Being the very root and core of our being, the Spirit is called with us the "Centre" — using which, when we come to find and use it, no Mason can ever err. But in the numerous philosophical systems it has many other names. In the Platonist, and Hermetic systems, which are nearer ours than any other, it is called 'the One,' the Good' (as being the unity into which our complex scattered faculties can be collected and summed up), and also as 'the Monad' or 'the Paternal Monad,' seeing that it is the primal and parent-source of our temporal personality, which is its projection and instrument in the world of space and form. And it is of interest that, in religion, this expression, 'the Paternal Monad,' was taken over and given a human and personal touch, and from being a philosophical abstraction became changed into the more familiar and homely phrase found in the Lord's Prayer and the Gospels, 'the Father which is in heaven.'
It is this Centre, this supreme spiritual essence in us, which is Masonically described as 'the vital and immortal principle.' It is this supreme light of all our lesser lights which, like the Master's light in the East, is inextinguishable and never goes out though all other lights may fail. It is the light which alone illumines the darkness of our Third Degree, and which even there is perceived at first as but the merest glimmer, but subsequently is shown as breaking forth in full splendour, its rising bringing peace and salvation to those who faithfully and obediently pursue it to the end.
"The goal of all mystical attainment, whether in Masonry or elsewhere, is the union of the human with the Divine consciousness; it is that state which is expressed by the Christian Master in the words, 'I and the Father are one.' Therefore, the Board exhibits the Blazing Star as its central and most conspicuous feature since it is with that Divine Principle in himself that the aspirant must seek to rise into union and become one with the root and source of his being." (The 1st Degree Tracing Board, by W. L. Wilmshurst.)
From the point of view of Rajs-Yoga, there are three main Knots which have to be untied on the "Middle Path," and they are symbolised by the triply-knotted sacred thread which the Sanyassi of the East offers up in the fire of renunciation. The three Knots, which also correspond with our three Craft Degrees, are as follows:-
FIRST: THE KNOT OF BRAHMA.
The Knot which ties the Light of the Spirit to the sense world in general, and the physical body in particular. As long as we identify ourselves with physical forms, so long we share the inevitable fate of those forms, birth and death.
SECOND: THE KNOT OF VISHNU.
The Knot by which we are bound to the desire world, the world of feeling; on account of which we say "I am happy or sorrowful," and then proceed to move towards or away from the fancied causes of our happiness or sorrow in desire or aversion.
THIRD: THE KNOT OF RUDRA.
The Knot of the mind, the tightest Knot of all; that which binds the Spirit to the world of thought, the rooting-place and ultimate fortress of separate self-hood.
Raja-Yoga teaches that these are the Knots that bring about the compounding of our bodies of mortality, and all compounded things, said the Buddha, are full of sorrow. They are otherwise known as the triple cement that holds together our sorry dwelling; the first cement is of mud and can be washed away by water, the second is harder and must be loosened by the pointed iron of the mind; while the third is the hardest of all, a secret invisible cement that can only be removed by the fire of the Spirit, by burning, as the Alchemists say, "in well-regulated fire." In that glowing fire all that is mortal is consumed, and that which was imprisoned In the husk of mortality re-assumes its naturally Deathless nature; the Gold of the Philosophers shines in its own bright radiance. In the words of the Buddha:-
"O Builder, thou art seen, never again shalt thou build house for me, Broken are all thy beams, shattered thy ridge-pole. My mind is set on the Uncompounded; extinguished are desires."
A description of the process at this stage is given in the Eastern work, "Description of the Six Centres," as follows:-
"Having closed the House which hangs without Support, that is known through service of the Supreme Guru, and, by repeated practice, dissolving the mind in that abode of bliss, the yogi sees within the middle of that space starry sparks of fire distinctly shining. Thereafter he sees the light glowing between Heaven and Earth like a flaming lamp, like the newly risen sun. It is in this place that the Divine Being becomes manifest in full power, imperishable, knowing no decay, as in the Region of Sun, Moon, and Fire."
The House hanging without Support is, of course, the mind which has been isolated from all worldly connections, and therefore corresponds to the sealed Hermetic vessel in which the alchemical "Solution" takes place. The sparks are the lightning-like flashes, the preliminary perceptions which herald the rising of the mystic Sun in all its fullness. It is also stated in a Commentary on the "Brahma-Sutras": "The yogi, having crossed the sea of the passions, is united with Tranquillity and possesses the 'Self' in its fullness." The term "united with Tranquillity" used here is identical with the "Great Peace" ("Es-Sakinah") of Moslem esotericism, or the "Pax Profunda" of the Rosicrucian tradition; our Masonic equivalent is in the use of the Hebrew word "Shekinah," which denotes the "real presence" of the Deity, or the "Light of Glory" in and through which the "beatific vision" is operated.
There is a beautiful little book entitled "The Candle of Vision" (written by A. E., the Irish poet and mystic), in which the author gives a graphic account of the stages leading up to the third initiation, and his record of their culmination is most instructive. He says:-
"I began to feel, after long efforts at concentration and master of the will, the beginning of the awakening of the fires, and at last there came partial perception of the relation of these forces to centres in the psychic body. I could feel them in myself: and sometimes see them, or the vibration or light of them, about others who were seekers with myself for this knowledge; so that the body of a powerful person would appear to be throwing out light in radiation from head or heart, or plumes of fire would rise above the head letting from fountains within, apparitions like wings of fire, plumes or feathers of flame, or dragon-like crest, many-coloured. Once at the apex of intensest meditation I awoke that fire in myself of which the ancients have written, and it ran like lightning along the spinal cord, and my body rocked with the power of it, and I seemed to myself to be standing in a fountain of flame, and there were fiery pulsations as of wings about my head, and a musical sound not unlike the clashing of cymbals with every pulsation; and if I had remembered the ancient wisdom, I might have opened that eye which starches infinitude. But I remembered only, in a half-terror, the danger of misdirection of the energy, for such was the sensation of power that I seemed to myself to have opened the seal of a cosmic fountain, so I remained contemplative and was not the resolute guider of the fire. . . . Normally I found this power in myself, not leaping up Titanically as if it would storm the heavens, but a steady light in the brain, 'the candle upon the forehead,' and it was revealed in ecstasy of thought or power in speech, and in a continuous welling up within myself of intellectual energy, vision or imagination. It Is the afflatus of the poet or musician. . . . It is the Promethean Fire, and only by mastery of this power will man be able to ascend to Paradise."
Students of mystical doctrine are sometimes inclined to question the veracity of such testimonies as the foregoing, but we have only to examine the biographies of the great poets and teachers, to know that there is a stage of illumination and transfiguration continually taking place in the lives of those who are highly advanced enough spiritually to receive it. In his work on "Cosmic Consciousness," Dr. R. M. Bucke gives many examples including the poets Tennyson, Wordsworth and Walt Whitman, of illuminates and of the powerful factors operating during spiritual transformation. Furthermore, we must not overlook the fact that light and luminosity have ever been attributed to the great ones of the earth and to the saints. It is also essential to avoid the error of thinking of cosmic Fire in physical terms. The kindling of the Light within, to use mystical phraseology, denotes that stage in the process of transmutation in which Divine Love (the synthesis of Wisdom, Strength and Beauty — the three "Shaktis" of the Eastern tradition) is experienced by the aspirant as a "re-polarising" power. God is certainly "a consuming fire," but not in the sense of burning up anybody or anything; "con-sumo" implies absorption and assimilation with; as the mystic Jacob Boehme says, speaking of a symbol prominent in our Masonic Lodges:-
"In a burning candle the fire attracts the substance of the candle into itself and consumes it: thus the substance dies. In this dying, the darkness (the fat) transmutes itself in the fire, into a spirit, or light."
The "burning bush" is another metaphor frequently used by authors of mystical works (see Exodus iii, verse 2), and is comparable to the "Water" of the Alchemists "which wetteth not the hands" any more than the bush burns without being destroyed. The "bush" is no wayside shrub, as popularly conceived, but the Kabbalistic "tree of life," one of the key symbols of Hebrew esoteric philosophy common to the Old Testament books and the Apocalypse (see also Exodus xv, verse 25); one, moreover, which recurs in other religious systems, for example the Norse Ygdrasil, and the Buddhist Bo-Tree. A diagram of the Sephirotic scheme and the Tree of Life will be found in any elementary book on the Kabbalah, but to see the Tree as Moses or the Apocalyptic writer saw it signifies the granting of a very high initiation which is beyond the power of words to portray. The imagery of a book written "inside" and sealed "at the back," also employed by the writer of the Apocalypse, is a further variation of instruction to aspirants "veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols." In the larger sense this is the Book of Life, the Universe itself, in which the secrets of existence are hid, being written within. Reality must be sought for by penetrating beneath the surface of things, as man's power of spiritual response, too, lies below the level of normal awareness, to be awakened only by turning within, "where truth abides in fullness." The allusion to the "back" of the book is not without significance. While under the limitations of the lower consciousness we see only the reverse of reality. Jacob Boehme compares life to the weaving of a tapestry in which a wondrous picture is slowly taking shape; man sees but the reverse side; he is looking at it, as it were, upside down. Could he expand his consciousness to see the other side, the splendour of the Great Plan would be revealed, but at his present stage he would be unable to grasp it. Thus Moses was suffered to see only the "back" of the Divinity that spoke to him, for it was declared, "My face shall not be seen" (see Exodus xxxiii, verse 18-23); the glory of the full revelation would be unbearable (see also the incident of Krishna's revelation of Himself in the Bhagavad-Gita). This book, again, is man's own nature, which he must learn to know by sinking into himself and by studying the inwardness of his being. Applying the physiological key, the "book" is seen to be the human body, with the spinal column ("at the back") being the principal channel for a spiritual force at present "sealed" or suppressed. The opening of the "seals," alluded to in the Apocalypse, therefore relates to the gradual releasing of the force by the successive energising of the centres as described in the science of Yoga. In the worship of Osiris a frequent symbol and object of veneration was the TET-pillar or tree-trunk, called "the backbone of Osiris." This holy pillar symbolised the sustaining power within the Universe, the word TET meaning "firmness, stability, preservation." The Tet-pillar in man's mind is his Will; in the human body it is the spinal column which supports his frame, and which in the regenerative process becomes the channel or conveyor of the "serpent fire." Hence, the following passage from the "Book of the Dead" alludes similarly to the awakening of this force in the neophyte:-
"Rise up thou O Osiris! Thou hast thy backbone, O Still Heart . . . Thou hast the fastenings of thy neck and back, O Still Heart."
The Still Heart is the Divine Love latent within the self, awaiting the fiery energy which shall arise and arouse it to full activity. So the Apocalyptic "book," sealed "at the back," is man himself, and the "Lamb" who alone can open the seals is his own Higher Self, when consciously directing the work of spiritual expansion in the process of initiation. We Freemasons should experience no difficulty in following the scenic drama where the "Lamb" is hailed as "the lion of the tribe of Judah" and the "root of David." As the lion (Leo) he represents the Sun, symbolic of man's highest principle; as the "root of David" he signifies Divine Love, the source of all being, for David means "beloved," and the Biblical David is the type of the love element in man. The "Lamb" is also described (Revelation v, 6) as having the appearance "as it had been slain," a cryptic reference again to the higher faculty in man which is dormant, or "dead," until an inner awakening takes place.
We will conclude this part of our Paper with an indication of certain verbal allusions to the third initiation in our Craft Ritual which pass unnoticed by the casual observer, but are eloquent with meaning for instructed Brethren. There is a central point at the top of the head at which "that light which is from above" enters the human brain, and at which the physical organism enters into contact with its spiritual principle. This, in many mystical systems, is compared to a window through which light passes into a dark chamber. In our Masonic system it is, in fact, designated the "dormer window" (or roof-light) which "gave light" to the interior of the Temple of Solomon. But, as members of this Circle are aware, the Temple of Solomon is symbolic of the human body, and accordingly the "window" typifies a corresponding point of illumination in ourselves, The point in question is one to which three major bones composing the cranium converge and come to unity; in an infant these bones are disunited; soon after birth they close together and ossify into the skull. We lose something, therefore, by being born into this world, for as the poet Wordsworth ("Ode to Immortality") truly says, with our birth, spiritual consciousness "fades into the light of common day," and is battened down beneath the "hatches" of physical form; yet that temporary loss is necessary to our further growth. It follows that in order to recover "that which is lost" (spiritual consciousness) our closed "dormer window" must be re-opened, and for this purpose we need the guidance and assistance of a "more zealous and expert Brother"; for every experienced Freemason, like the Hebrew adept Danien learns to "pay his adoration to the Most High" with "his windows open in his chamber toward Jerusalem" (Daniel vi, 10). Persistent aspiration or meditation — any form of mental prayer — helps to sensitise the brain and skull at the crucial point, and as a reminder of this important psycho-physiological process the members of certain monastic Orders in both the East and West are required to adopt the tonsure (shaven patch on the crown of head). It may be stated here that the name of this Study Circle was also expressly adopted in order to serve an identical purpose for the Brethren of our Masonic Order. We turn now to a familiar passage in our Ritual in which occurs the phrase, "the three entrances of the Temple"; this apparently simple expression conceals a further reference to the work of the third initiation, but we must first consider why the symbolic Temple of Solomon is related to have three main entrances, and in what sense these are present in the person of each of us.
The explanation is one involving a knowledge of facts concerning the evolution of racial consciousness; indeed, our Ritual deliberately asserts that before the "secrets of nature and the principles of intellectual truth" can be "unveiled" to his view, the aspirant must be led to "contemplate the intellectual faculties, and to trace them in their development" (i.e. from principles or "beginnings"). This implies an understanding of the progressive evolution of the intellectual faculties, but in practice few Brethren ever "contemplate," or even give a thought to, the question of how they have come to be intellectual beings at all; yet the understanding of these things is an integral part of our science, and very necessary to "that most interesting of all human studies, the knowledge of yourself." Modern science has expounded the theory of natural evolution, and the Western mind, in accepting that idea, has undergone a startling and rapid reversion of thought as to the processes of Creation and the age of the world. It has had to learn to adjust itself to a new time-sense, for considerable effort of imagination is demanded in the contemplation of the enormous periods needed for the changes which have taken place, for the gradual building up of structure, form, and organisation by which evolution proceeds. Esoteric science, however, adds to the conception of the evolution of form, by which the whole world of Nature is slowly working towards higher and more complex types, the synchronal unfoldment of spirit within that form. It shows the whole realm of nature to be labouring patiently in the ascent of the ladder of life, and by reciprocal process the spirit descending towards in ensoulment, until at last in the human kingdom the fusion takes place and Man becomes "a living soul." In the esoteric teaching, therefore, Man is shown to consist of an enduring soul manifesting in a transient body, and it is further declared that although during the period of manifestation the soul suffuses the entire body, there are points or regions of the latter at which the fusion is especially intimate. These points are, in our Masonic terminology, "points of entrance," points where the soul most deeply enters the body, and is, as it were, anchored in it; in other words, they are "entrances to the temple" (and also serve as exits from it). Moreover, our Masonic science affirms, and this is testified to in the penal signs of the thee Craft Degrees, that the three main "points of entrance" in the temple of the body are located in the region of the navel, the heart and the head. These three "points" correspond to great and progressive changes of consciousness which our race has undergone in the course of racial evolution. Ages went to the shaping of "Homo animal"; his main centre of consciousness was confined to a plexus in the region of his navel, and nutrition and reproduction were the ends of his existence. The next major centre to be evolved was in the region of the heart; man's emotional nature developed and became grafted upon his sensual; he became actuated by passions, desire, the aspirations and affections of the heart. Ages passed and man became "Homo sapiens"; upon his sensual and emotional nature was grafted the high faculty of mind, intelligence, the reasoning faculty; consciousness mounted to his head, and he became a self-conscious moral being, with the sensual and emotional centres active but subservient to the superior gift of discriminative reason. This is where the average man stands to-day. Within each of us are built those three centres of consciousness at the navel, the heart and the head, while the brain is a storehouse into which are gathered our unconscious, sub-conscious and fore-conscious activities. We are all, however, destined to evolve to still higher conscious modes, and the aspirant preparing himself to undertake the work leading to the third initiation must of necessity "extend" his "researches into the hidden mysteries of Nature and science" on the lines indicated by our Craft system. Admittedly, in the case of the majority of our Brethren, the necessary proof by means of a demonstration of "the perfect points" of entrance into the temple of the body cannot be given, but the counsel is to "steadily persevere." How, then, can we proceed to make progress "in the science"? In the words of the late W.Bro. W. L. Wilmshurst, extracted from a Paper delivered by him before the Lodge of Living Stones, No. 4957:-
"At least each of us might labour to open his personal dormer window towards that "Jerusalem above," within whose walls are peace and plenteousness of all we now so sorely lack. Thence we should attract peace and light into our darkened minds. We should gain insight not only into ourselves and upon that chequered floorwork of existence upon which all humanity is walking; we should have vision of that lost Plan of the Great Architect, the execution of which has been frustrated; and we should find ourselves in conscious contact with our advanced Brethren in the Grand Lodge Above who are labouring to rebuild the ruined Temple, who have projected our Craft as an image of that great work, and who are ever calling upon us to collaborate with them in its advancement." (Glimpses of Initiation Science, by W. L. Wilmshurst.)
SO MOTE IT BE.