The Craft Journey — Part One
A Discussion of some of its Finger-posts and Milestones
W.Bro. J. R. Cleland, M.A., D.D., P.P.A.G.Chap. (Kent)
Part 1. THE OPENING OF THE LODGE
Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye might be also. And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know." (St. John's Gospel, Chapter 14, verses 1-4)
"Have we not all one Father? Hath not one God created us?" (Malachi, Chapter 2, Part verse 10)
THE CHAMBERED NAUTILUS
Oliver Wendell Holmes
(The Nautilus, as it grows, leaves the smaller chamber for the larger, just built)
Year after year behold the silent toil
That spread his lustrous coil
Still, as the spiral grew,
He left the past year's dwelling for the new.
Stole with soft step its shining archway through,
Built up its idle door,
Stretched in his last-found home, he knew the old no more.
Thanks for the heavenly message brought by thee,
Child of the wandering sea.
Cast from her lap forlorn,
From the dead life a clearer note is born
Than ever Titon blew from wreathed horn
While on mine ear It rings,
Through the deep caves of thought I hear a voice that sings
Build thee more stately mansions, O my soul
As the swift seasons roll
Leave thy low-vaulted past,
Let each new temple, nobler than the last,
Shut thee from heaven with a dome more vast,
Till thou at length art free,
Leaving thine outgrown shell by life's unresting sea!"
It is with regret that I find myself compelled to open this series of papers with an apology. I have chosen to speak to you on a subject which could be made almost limitless, and which, however much it may be compressed, must still remain impossible to deal with within the limits on one paper. In fact, it will be necessary to devote several papers to the consideration of its merest outline.
I wish to emphasise that these notes are my own particular findings and that they make no pretence to being complete, to being dogmatic, nor to being the only possible solutions of the problems involved. They are submitted rather as a basis for discussion than as a definite teaching. I cannot even claim that they are a full interpretation of my own outlook.
My object in these papers will be to follow an imaginary Candidate through the various stages of the Craft Degrees, opening the Lodge for this purpose in each degree, and taking each symbol — or, in some cases, selected symbols — whether of material, speech or gesture, and making enquiry as to Its meaning and implications.
Many of our symbols have been explained in former papers and, where this is so, I shall dwell but lightly upon them: but others will require fairly lengthy dissertations if we are to bring out their meaning and significance, and their connection with the scheme as a connected whole. Many of our symbols themselves grow with the candidate and appear again and again, keeping pace with his symbolic growth, as the successive houses of the Nautilus repeat the same general design in evergrowing dimensions to suit the growth of the indwelling creature, who is their builder.
So let us straightaway see to the opening of our Lodge, in readiness to greet our Candidate when he arrives upon the scene.
I will take it for granted that you are all familiar with those former papers in which I have set out the meaning of the various offices which go to the formation of a working lodge and the significance of the various knocks used, but there remain a number of points to be considered which have a bearing upon the proper opening of a Lodge.
As the attention of the Brethren is called to the W.M. by means of the instrument which we call the Gavel, we may, as a preliminary, devote a few minutes to the consideration of this most interesting tool. W.Bro. Cathcart Bruce re-emphasised its importance and gave a short talk upon its meaning and origins, in a recent paper read to the "Lodge of Living Stones." Many Masonic writers have emphasised its importance in the scheme.
At the Installation Ceremony, the Gavel is placed in the hands of the newly installed Master "as a symbol of authority and of his rule in the Lodge." Immediately afterwards, when the Master appoints and invests his Officers, he hands to each Warden a replica of the tool he has himself received, "that due order may be observed" in the W and in the S. respectively. So the Gavel is the symbol of Authority and of Order, and more particularly of an authority which is passed on or delegated.
As a symbol, the Gavel is one of the most ancient and respected which has been known by mankind. Its derivation and ancestry can be traced through symbols used in the earliest times. The Pygmies, direct descendants of one of the Lemurian race, used two short sticks in saltire upon a longer upright as their emblem of Deity. The Nilotic negroes used the same three rods, but placed the two short rods across the long one parallel to each other, thus forming the dual cross which is found as far apart as Chaldea and Central America as the symbol of Deity manifested as God-Man. This symbol is still used in the Greek Orthodox Church and elsewhere. It appears in many of the so-called Higher Degrees in Freemasonry. From these two primitive glyphs were developed a variety of symbolic figures, all bearing some likeness to an axe, usually to one having a double blade. The most famous example of a cult centering round the axe is probably the Cretan cult of the Labrys, which took the form of a double-edged axe set with its haft in a stone of three steps, the whole giving a silhouette strongly reminiscent of the plain altar cross seen in many Christian churches to-day. The Labrys could be reached only by threading the way through a maze, from which we inherit the word Labyrinth. Horus, in Egypt, is on occasion referred to as "Cleaver of the Way", and in Greece we find "Zeus of the Double Axe". Both titles link up with this ancient thread of symbolism. In Crete, at Knossos, is still to be seen the "House of the Double Axe", Just as the Chief of a tribe or clan was conceived to hold his authority from Deity — a reminiscence of the ancient rule by Divine Priest-Kings — so some tribes to-day keep an axe in a hut by itself, an honour usually reserved for a head chief, and this axe is held as the instrument of the deputed authority of the Supreme Being.
We as Masons, recognise in the Gavel, which is the tool of the same order, a "symbol of authority and of rule in the Lodge". Throughout our ceremonies the W.M. and his Wardens are but symbols of the Masonic conception of Deity and, as such, are actually channels for the flow of forces far beyond anything which they themselves could generate.
Hear, then, and observe how the three Principal Officers combine their various functions to call the Brethren to order that the Lodge may be effectually opened, and how this ancient symbol of the authority of T.G.A.O.T.U. is used in that call. This is the call of the three-fold Man - Spirit, Soul and Body — acting as a Unity to prepare the way for the treading of the Candidate, himself a three-fold microcosmic reflection of the Three-fold Universal Macrocosm.
Without this action on the higher planes, typified in the ceremonial opening of the Lodge, the unfolding of the Candidate on the lower planes could not take place, and the personality would never attain that development towards unity which enables it to become a qualified candidate for the development of the higher Individuality, the way to which it is the object of the Craft to show. When the Candidate reaches the necessary stage of development, he is enabled to indicate his preparedness by means of the E.A. knocks.
The attention of the Brethren having been called to what is about to take place, the W.M. now asks them to assist him, to "open the Lodge". It is only by the full cooperation of the three aspects of Macrocosm and the suspension of all other interests by the representatives of the microcosm that manifestation can be brought to pass on a plane realisable even by developed man. For the allocation of the various functions to the officers and Brethren I must refer you to my former paper on the "Lodge-Man."
The J.W., Aspect of Universal Activity, is first interrogated, and states that the first care of every Freemason is to see that the Lodge is properly Tyled. Please note that the Lodge Is not yet open and that it is therefore impossible to "prove the Lodge close Tyled." The attempt to do so is a mistake which one constantly sees being made. The I.G. should open the door and see that the Tyler is at his post before he turns to report. It is definitely wrong to use any set knocks at this stage. The functioning of the Lodge is still on the physical plane, whereon knocks have and leave no effect of lasting value or significance. Titles of offices are also to be avoided until the Lodge reaches that stage of preparation denoted by the Brethren standing to Order.
At the moment of standing to order, which, be it noted, cannot be attained without reference to the Will Aspect, the S.W., the centre of force indicated by the position assumed by the Brethren is stirred into activity and the "tuning-in" process begins and is continued throughout the Opening ceremony. In this ceremony you will notice that there is a rapid reference to the Officers in descending order, followed by a detailed description of the ceremonial function of each, taking them in ascending order.
The drawn sword of the Tyler is the "flaming sword" of the Garden of Eden, " which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life." It might be worth while to note here that the Cherubim are placed "at the East of the Garden of Eden," and that there appears to be no authority for the placing of the sword in their hands. It would be better, as a matter of pure symbolism, to depict the sword in the hand of Adam himself, for it is the function of evolving man himself to keep the gate, to constitute the "ring-pass-not," and to admit or deny admittance according to his own ability to pass the tests required and to tune-in to the necessary vibration. The cowans and intruders are those vestures and accretions whose vibrations are too coarse to be assimilated. The term "cowan," by the way, is used in N.W. England to describe a "dry-dyker," who is reckoned as an unskilled builder, although his work entails a very particular kind of skill. Hence, a cowan is one who pretends to be a mason because he works in stone, but who is untrained in mason-craft. For the purposes of Freemasonry, a cowan may be interpreted as a person who seeks admission pretending to be sufficiently spiritually advanced when he has not reached the necessary stage of advancement.
The sword used by the Tyler should preferably have a hilt which is not a cross-hilt the important point being that the blade should be of sufficient length to close the door of the Temple. If I may carry the analogy of wireless a stage further, without pressing it too far, I might suggest that the sword performs much the same function as certain forms of "earth" in preventing the accumulation and entrance of harmful influences and in safe-guarding the "set."
The I.G. also is armed with a sword, but its function is different. It is essential to the correct symbolism that this instrument should have a cross-hilt. I must refer you to my paper on the "Masonic Trinity and Way of the Cross" for a full explanation of this line of symbolism. The I.G., as the Etheric Body, is the link between the Personality and the Dense Physical Body, and his main function is that of Tester.
The remaining two Assistant Officers are also links and their difference in function is brought out in the wording of their duties. The J.D. "carries," implying the use of one hand only, "all messages and communications whereas the S.D. "bears," implying the use of both hands, "all messages and commands." The differences in terminology are important and very significant, for on the lower levels the urge or communication impelling the candidate to seek Initiation is carried within the Personality only, finding its outlet through the emotional impulse, whereas on the higher levels, wherein the Intuitional or Wisdom Aspect becomes more and more the originator, the urge begins to approach more nearly to a command which must be obeyed at all costs. The messenger of the reasoning mind can only reach the lower planes by influencing his colleagues on the Emotional level, for which reason it is necessary that the S.D. should "await the return of the J.D.", a return for which, in the earlier stages of growth, he often waits in vain.
The replies of the Principal Officers are closely linked with the old solar symbolism. It is noteworthy that whereas the W.M. and the S.W. mark definite and passing phases in the solar mythos, the position marked by the J.W. is such that in respect to the Craft in general he is omnipresent, unchanging, always on duty, for we are definitely informed at a very early stage in our masonic career that the "sun is always at its meridian with respect to Freemasonry."
The W.M. is informed that his place is in the E., not only to open his Lodge, but also "to employ and instruct the Brethren in Freemasonry." I think it will be plain, when close attention is given to the wording, that this does not only convey the meaning that the Brn. are to be employed and instructed about Freemasonry, but also that the Brn. who are in Freemasonry are to be employed and instructed, this with a view to the full development of the Masonic Image, by which development alone can the fullest possible impression be made upon the Candidate. The making of this impression, with a view to the ultimate perfecting of each individual mason, is the be all and end all of the whole Craft system. The Lodge, as has often been said before, exists for the Candidate, not the Candidate for the Lodge.
As soon as the Lodge is proven to be complete as regards officers, the W.M. calls the Brn. to prayer, in order to bring about the three stages of tuning-in, in Order, Peace and resulting Harmony.
Then, and then only, can the Lodge be opened I.T.N.O.T.G.A.O.T.U., and straightaway the tuning is locked and sealed with three knocks, five times repeated; five being, as we have seen before, the number of the Wisdom-Love or Intuitional Aspect of the Three-fold Deity. These are some of the most important key numbers in Freemasonry. The I.P.M., the Monad, then descends into the lower planes and indicates the level of the work to be done by the placing of the three Great Lights in proper relation to one another.
The Holy Bible which usually lies open upon our altars is not normally referred to as such. It is known and referred to as the "Volume of the Sacred Law," on better and probably more ancient usage, the "Volume of the Sacred Lore." To me the word Volume, used in this connection, does not convey the idea of any specific book, nor, indeed, of a book at all. Rather does it mean to me the Volume of the Sacred Lore in the sense perhaps best expressed in the paraphrase "the Aggregate of Divine Truth." The Bible is used in our Lodges as a representative work, standing for all the fundamental primordial truth which has found expression in the sacred writings of other peoples, all religions and all ages. The very fact that in some lodges the sacred writings of other religions than Judaism and Christianity are displayed, and are used for the obligation of candidates who are members of those religions, accentuates the fact that the term is used in a general and comprehensive sense, and does away with the petty restrictions of a bound work, laying bare, in plain view, the length and the breadth, the height and the depth, of the conception of absolute Truth.
Upon that representative volume are laid the Compasses, with the Square covering their points. The legs of the Compasses should be opened to an once which is usually referred to as approximately 60 degrees. The actual angle which best carries out the intended symbolism is 54 degrees. (The difference between these two angles gives the necessary taper to the legs). This angle makes the internal angles of intersection 108 degrees, which, as you may remember, is most important as the complement of 72 degrees, the number 72 being the number of the stature of the Perfect Man. The points of the Compasses are concealed to show that, at this stage, the Intuitional (Buddhic) and Spiritual (Atmic) principles in Man are still dominated by the Emotional and Physical propensities of the personality. The central diamond represents the completed Mental (Manasic) principle, and its peculiar shape gives the plan of the blade of the true masonic Trowel, the right angle of the square being the point of junction with the handle. The symbol of the S. & C's. is one of those to which I have already referred which reappear and grow with the symbolic growth of the Candidate.
There is one piece of ceremonial, seldom seen, and even then by no means fixed in its form, yet which merits a few words in passing, the ceremony of lighting the candles of the Principal Officers. Those of you who have had opportunity to visit the Lodge of Living Stones know how impressive and how beautiful this ceremony can be. And it is right that more attention should be given to the preparation of these lights than is usually the case. The modern practice of substituting electric imitations for the symbolic candles disturbs the whole symbolism. For the intended symbolism to be correctly carried out and to be effective, it is necessary that the lights be naked flames of such a nature that they follow the fuel downwards as they consume it. Thus the Fuel sacrifices itself through the medium of the Wick for the benefit of the Flame, the Body sacrifices itself through the Soul for the unfolding of the Spirit. Thus, each Light is three-fold and the three taken together form the mystic 3 x 3. The keynote of the symbolism is Sacrificial Service. So must the Physical be subjugated to the service of the Soul; so must the Soul be subjugated to the service of the Spirit; so must the Spirit be subjugated to the service of T.G.A.O.T.U., represented by the "G" at the Centre, which is sometimes, as in the case of the "Lodge of Living Stones," reinforced by a perpetually burning flame from which the fire is carried to the three Lights. This flame is, of course, the Monad, the Divine Spark around which the man, as we know him, is built. The triple nature of the three-fold sacrifice finds many different forms of expression, one of the most erudite being found in the Calvaries of Christendom.
One other point remains to be noted before we leave the opening of the Lodge for masonic work. Up to the point of declaring the Lodge open, the Intuition has been working only through the Mental level. The Activity Aspect has been predominant, and carrying on without interference from above. This is declared to the Body of Masonry in general by the upright position of the Column of the J.W. showing that its positive, masculine, active phase is in being, while the recumbent position of the Column of the S.W. indicates that its negative, feminine, passive phase is functioning. At the moment of opening the Lodge all this is reversed and Intuition draws its inspiration from the Indwelling Spirit. It is to be noted that only two of the Principal Officers have these dual-aspected columns which enable them to evince one side of their dual nature at a time. The third, the W.M., as the Intuitional Principle, is the perfect Androgyne, Male-Female blended in One, able to manifest both positive and negative, masculine and feminine, active and passive, at one and the same time, and so showing forth in itself the perfect balance of Nature. Now that the Lodge is open, the Activity or Mental Aspect is quiescent and direct contact is made with the enlightened Intuition, which takes charge of the whole of the activities of the Lodge, and can, when the necessary preliminaries have been completed, even command that the Spiritual Aspect shall descend and invest the Candidate. Only the perfectly willing candidate, who wills strongly to achieve, can make his way along the difficult road which lies ahead, and we must bear in mind a point which cannot be too often reiterated and emphasised, that the Lodge exists for the sake of the Candidate, whether he be a new aspirant for membership, seeking admission to the Order for the first time, or the more important Lodge-Man himself, the composite picture of all the Brethren composing the Lodge. The seven-fold Lodge-Man, as a complete Unity, is prepared, in the ceremony of Opening the Lodge, so that through his service the Candidate may attain to all that the Lodge-Man has, or should have, attained.
There is a tendency to confuse the Wardens' pillars with the Two Great Pillars, which tendency is enhanced by the common practice of surmounting them with globes. Actually the two pairs are not identical, although there is a magnetic connection between them. The confusion arose probably in early times in lodges working in the Chaldean Tradition, in which the Principal Officers are in the E., N.W. and S.W. and the candidate made his entrance between the Wardens. In the Egyptian lay-out of the lodge, to which we are more accustomed, there should be less chance of this confusion arising, more especially in those lodges in which representations of the Two Great Pillars find a place. The very fact that the pillars of the Wardens change their position should point to a difference in function.
Before leaving the Lodge open for the E.A. Work, I should like to digress for a moment to consider more fully a point which has already arisen, the symbol of 3 x 3. It has been said by one writer that "No term throughout the whole range of Masonic symbolism so completely clenches the connection between Freemasonry and the Ancient Mysteries as this most important link. The number 9 is a part of the great harmony of the universe, and as such was recognised longer ago than man has history. A study of the peculiarities of this number will soon set at rest any wonder as to why it has secured such a paramount place in symbolism (F.C. Higgins, "The Beginning of Masonry.")
If we count the Zero as a digit, we find it to be the only one which occurs once, and once only, in the series, and that as a negation of number, before the first occurrence of unity. Immediately number begins to occur we discover that the digits from 1 to 9 are recurrent in orderly succession, for 10 reduces to 1, 11 to 2, 12 to 3, and so on, by summation of the digits. Nothing which is expressible by number can be expressed outside the nine digits. They are the basis of our expression of Time, Space and Proportion, and they lie at the roots of every system which has attempted to express the nature and attributes of Deity and the Universe in symbolic form. Here we get a glimpse of the difference between the two pairs of pillars of which we have been speaking. You will remember that in the fundamental triangle of Pythagoras (Euclid 1.47.) the three sides are in the proportion of 3, 4, 5, and that the Egyptian system linked 3 with Osiris, 4 with Isis and 5 with Horus, and that our Masonic links are 3=S.W., 4=J.W. and 5=W.M. Without going into detail, I suggest that whereas the Two Great Pillars are the sum of 8 and 9 (2, 6, 1, 8= 17 =8 and 1, 1, 3, 8. 9, 5=27=9), the material and spiritual aspects of Creative Power, this being 17, which reduces to 8, the fierce masculinity of S.W. and W.M. together, the summation of the Wardens' pillars is that of 4 and 3=7, giving that male-female balance which we have noted in the variable positions of the pillars themselves. In the working of the Lodge itself the S.W. remains comparatively quiescent, leaving the summation of W.M. and J.W. as the active principles, and herein appears our 3 x 3, in 5 combined with 4 as 9. I shall have more to say on the subject of these all-important pillars, but it must wait until we meet them in company with our Candidate.
This brings us back to our 3 x 3, and we find that its various symbolic representations are universally spread over the surface of the globe. In fact, one of the most amazing things in symbology is the similarity of the symbols used in its expression among civilizations which are farthest apart both in space and in time.
The number 9, as a trinitized trinity, was "celebrated by the Pythagoreans as flowing round the other numbers within the decad, or ten, like the ocean." Nine is the number of primordial substance as represented in Fire. So nine was the number of Vulcan, a name which is merely a corruption of our Tubal Cain, the Spirit of Fire resolving all things into their primary elements. Vulcan is hinted at in our ceremonies at a far earlier stage than is generally recognised. Nine is the key number, by which alone the other digits may be comprehended, for they represent in combination the dual principle of nature, the masculine element being found in the odd digits, which stand firm and indivisible, whereas the feminine element appears in the even digits, each of which is fluidic and divisible.
The very universe itself was said to be nine-fold, comprising the three forms of Matter, solid, liquid and gaseous; the three directions of Motion, from, to and round a centre; the three dimensions or Magnitudes of bodies, length, breadth and thickness.
Ragon, the great French mystic, who wrote so much about Freemasonry, says, "If the number 'three' was greatly esteemed by the early sages, the number 'three times three' has not been less celebrated, because, according to them, every one of the elements that go to make up our body is triple: Water containing both earth and fire, Earth containing both igneous and aqueous particles, and Fire being tempered by globules of water and earthly corpuscles, which serve as its food. As not one of these elements is ever found simple, and without admixture of the others, all material beings, being composed of these three elements, each triple, can therefore be designated by the figurative number 'three times three' Hence it has become the symbol of incorporization, and also the name of 'nine-fold envelope' given to matter."
Now that our Lodge is open for the E. A. Work, let us pass on to the next phase of the Opening and consider the Opening of the Lodge in the 2nd degree, for the work of the F.C.
When we come to this Opening of the Lodge in the 2nd degree we find that among the Officers only one essential change has taken place. The I.G. has put aside the S.I. with which he was armed in the 1st degree, and now carries, in addition, a Square. Otherwise all remains as before, and even in the Lodge itself there is only one outward change. The T.B. of an E.A. now lies exposed to view, symbolising the whole teaching of that degree, and, indeed, of the whole of Freemasonry, and forming a foundation upon which the teachings of the later degrees can be built up.
For the second time the I.G. sees that the Lodge is properly tyled. That he should see rather than prove the fact is necessitated by such proof only being possible by means of the E.A. knocks, until such time as the Lodge may be open in the 2nd degree. Direct contact with the dense physical level is required to bring it into tune with the forces to be employed as each higher stage is set in motion. The whole object of the interrogatory which follows is the rising of the vibrations of the Lodge as a whole to tune into the vibrations of the higher degree. It is an essentially analogous process which takes place at the withdrawal of a man's consciousness finally from the physical body which he has occupied during his sojourn upon Earth, when, as we have been told, his whole past life passes in rapid review before him. He is making the necessary contact before proceeding to further withdrawal.
Having, then, had mental assurance that the Lodge is properly tyled, the Intuition appeals once more to Spirit for guidance and receives the injunction "to see that the Brethren appear to order as Masons." Each member of the Order present in Lodge must show that he is a complete three-fold Personality by standing to order as an E.A., after taking the first step to show his dominance over the first dimension. The taking of the step before showing the sign is of the utmost importance for reasons into which I propose to go more fully when we come to deal with our Candidate. Now the Intuition links up again with the mental level in its higher aspect, and demands of it "are you a F.C. Freemason?" The reply comes in the affirmative but is pointed out that the fact can only be demonstrated by trial and proof and the demand is made that the necessary tests be applied. Then comes the question of the instrument to be used in the testing and it is amazing to find how few are the Brethren who realise the significance of the instrument employed. The answer received not only conveys that the instrument to be used must itself be two-dimensional in order that the test may be made in two dimensions, but carries a much deeper significance. It is at this point, apart from a passing reference in the E.A.T.B., wherein, as I have mentioned, is contained the essence of all Freemasonry, that we first meet with that S.S. which is later referred to in the Closing as having been discovered in this degree. We are, of course told of its discovery by the craftsman in the M.C. at the end of the Explanation of the T.B. of the degree, but it is a lamentable fact that one hears this most important part of the degree but seldom given.
In the E.A. degrees the Brethren are called to Order by the W.M. by direct command, because, at the stage here represented, the Higher Mind is still undeveloped or in abeyance, so that it is only by what we may call Inspiration — that is to say, by direct contact between the Personality and the Intuitional faculty — that the Personality can realise that it wants something that it has not got, wants it more than it has wanted anything before. It finds that is has developed a sort of soul-hunger, and it often shows considerable resentment about the discomfort it suffers. But it feels impelled to go blindly in search of something, it knows not what, something in the search for which knowledge, and even what passes for wisdom, is of little or no assistance, and against which these faculties may even tend to give it bias. Something — the unfortunate dweller in the personality does not know what it can be — has upset the whole scheme of things and it is not yet possible to recognise the working of the Intuitional faculty, which is telling him that he must go forward blindly — often in more senses than one — and he "offers himself freely and voluntarily, as a candidate "for Freemasonry, or some similar institution in which he hopes to find that which he seeks. It may be that he has no conscious knowledge of what he is doing; this is often the case where contact has been made previously, in former incarnations, and is now being renewed. The blindness of the Personality — with which it is that we are dealing in the earlier stages - remains, and he approaches the Sanctuary again as "a poor candidate in a state of darkness." But, if the contact has been made before, the reawakening may be a stupendous experience..
In the 2nd Opening he is no longer blinded by the Personality, although the contact must still be made, for he has the Wisdom of the developing Higher Mind to help him, but he can only prove himself to the Intuition through the medium of this Higher Mind. So the J.W. calls for the necessary trial and proof to be applied and, in his turn "proves the Brethren Craftsmen" and demonstrates "that proof by copying their example". I want to say much more on this subject but must leave it until we open in the 3rd degree, when I can deal with the giving of signs in general in more detail.
The correctness of the signs being acknowledged by the Intuition, the Brethren are again called to prayer. We have now ceased to be concerned primarily with the architecture of the limited Personality, and are now more interested in Nature and Science as a whole, as expounded in earth- measurement. It is the home of mankind in general, rather than the vehicles of its particular members, with which we have now to deal, so the G.A. has been replaced by the G.G.
Again the Lodge is declared open by the Intuition, this time for the "instruction and improvement of craftsmen," a totally different conception from the "purposes of Freemasonry in the First Degree", wherein, be noted, all the material affairs of the Lodge are discussed and implemented. The whole scheme is so completely logical when examined closely that it seems amazing that questions should be asked, such as "Why cannot the Minutes be read in the 2nd degree or 3rd degree?" and others of a similar nature.
The opened F.C. Lodge, tuned in to the particular vibration of the degree, is locked, as before, by the knocks, again 15 of them, and the symbol of the Emblematical Lights is altered to suit the dominance of Spirit over Matter. The Monad again descends to make the necessary alteration.
Now, let us turn to the Opening of the Lodge in the 3rd degree.
The preliminaries are the same as in the F.C. Opening, the Intuition calling upon the Brethren to assist in the opening, and the I.G. seeing once more that the Lodge is properly tyled and the Tyler at his post. Assured by the Higher Mind that all is secure, the Intuition again approached the Spiritual faculty and is told to assure the complete preparedness of the Lodge for further raising of its vibrations by seeing that all present stand to Order as F.C's. The Lodge is now ready and again the Higher Mind is tried and used as the means of proving the Brethren present as M. M's. The instruments used are those used in the F.C. degree., and that which has taken its place in the hand of the I.G. in this degree, for it is only possible to give the proofs in the M.M. degree after first standing to order as a F.C.
It is most important in this, as in all Opening Ceremonies, and also at other times when proofs are required, that the signs should be given correctly and completely, and that all slipshod methods be wrongly discouraged and avoided. The number of movements required in the correct manipulation of the signs in each degree corresponds in each case with the basic number of the degree itself.
These basic numbers are set out for us in the F.C.T.B., and again it is to be regretted that one so seldom hears this piece of working given in open Lodge. The numbers are given to us as the steps of the staircase therein mentioned, and which we are informed consists of three, five, seven or more steps. Three, five and seven apply to the E.A., F.C. and M.M. respectively and the more refers more particularly to the number nine, of which I have already spoken. I may, perhaps, say more on this point later but will, for the moment, confine myself to the three Craft degrees.
The E.A. degree is founded upon the number THREE. Three steps are taken in the proper advance and the basic Pythagorean proportions are multiplied by three to give their lengths. Three motions constitute the complete sign, whether given as a salute or in standing to order. I rule out here the Scottish "Due-guard" which is not really part of the sign at all but has a much more universal significance. Three Grand Masters preside over the builders of the Symbolic Temple and we should note the fact that three lodges make up the 15 F.C's. who play such an important role in the T.H. the 3rd degree.
The F.C. degree is founded upon the number FIVE. Five steps are taken in the proper advance and five motions constitute the complete signs, whether given as a salute or in standing to order. Five F.C's. constitute each of the Lodges in the T.H. mentioned above, making 15 as before.
The M.M. degree is founded upon the number SEVEN. Seven steps are taken in the proper advance and seven motions constitute the complete signs when the proof of this Degree is required. But in these high levels it is recognised that 7 is merely an extension of 3, although it is a different 3 from that implied in the E.A. degree, for the Individuality is now recognised as becoming dominant over the Personality. Hence, the salute and stand to order consists in each case of three motions only, as in the E.A. degree.
3, 5 and 7, as we have seen, are summed up in 15, which, according to tradition, was the number of steps leading to the Temple, as mentioned in many old Christian legends. Associated with each of these steps or degrees is an appropriate Psalm. You will find these psalms, each headed as "A Song of degrees", numbered CXX to CXXXIV inclusive in the Book of Psalms, and a close study of their contents reveals many points of interest. Some of these points I will refer to later when dealing with the three degrees of the Craft, but, at the moment, would merely suggest that you read the first three in conjunction with the E.A., the next five with the F.C. and the last seven with the M.M.
There are legends connected with the Virgin Mary which refer to these steps. She is said to have ascended them without assistance and each in succession while she was yet only a child, implying, of course, that even at the age she had reached the perfection of womanhood.
We might call to mind here that it is only after one has ascended the fifteenth step in the ascent of the Great Pyramid that the entrance, opening upon the seventeenth course, first appears in view.
And now we come to a point in our ritual which appears to remain an insoluble enigma to many of the Brethren, for the next two questions are almost identical with two which are asked in the First Section of the First Lecture, yet the answers are diametrically opposite, and one of the questions recurs in the full closing in the 3rd degree, and is answered as in the First Lecture.
The substance of this question is "Whence come you? and the answers given state the direction as being from the W., in the Lecture, from the E. in the Opening, and from the W. in the Closing.
Let us try to get this clear. We are dealing in the Craft with TWO WORLDS, the World of the Flesh and the World of the Spirit. In order to gain an idea of the aim and object in view in the masonic ritual we must try to attain some conception of what these two worlds imply. This is, perhaps, the most difficult problem to be faced in the whole of Freemasonry for it is absolutely fundamental and, owing to the very circumstances in which we are placed, it is quite impossible for us to formulate anything like a full account of such fundamentals. If such a formulation were possible for us, I can only suggest that we would no longer be here to make it, for in the assimilation of such a conception lies MASTERSHIP.
Placed as we are, we can only reach a limited intellectual concept, which, from the very limitations imposed by intellect, can be only a "Substitute" for the reality.
Let us see how far we can go towards making this intellectual concept a little less hazy than it normally appears. To do this we must set ourselves to answer, so far as is possible for us, certain questions which may be roughly summarised as follows:-
- What is GOD?
- What do we mean by the ABSOLUTE?
- What is LIFE?
- What is REALITY?
- What is MAN?
- Can Man be Perfected?
- What should be the motive of Man in seeking Perfection?
- What is this Perfection, and how can it be attained?
- What is this PATH which one hears talked about, and what is its connection with Freemasonry?
I will try to compress the answers to these, as they appear to me, into as few words as possible.
1. What is GOD?
I would like, for the purposes of this paper, at least to define GOD as the Highest Conception of which I may be capable, as a Candidate at any particular Stage, of the First Manifestation of the ABSOLUTE.
2. What do we mean by the ABSOLUTE?
We have discussed the definition of the Absolute in a former paper, and you will remember that we came to the conclusion that any Absolute of which we were capable of forming a concept must necessarily be relative to ourselves and, as such, not a true Absolute.
Let me try to clarify this a little, as we must try to get the idea clear if we are to form a detailed conception of the Craft which we have set out to study.
The true Absolute can have only one attribute, that one and only one principle in all life which cannot by any possibility be modified, annihilated or changed into something else, which cannot be known apart from Being, or from things and lives that have Being. We may call this principle the principle of BE-NESS. I prefer this term to the term IS-NESS which is sometimes used, because Isness implies the existence of something outside the Absolute to observe that the Absolute Is, whereas Beness implies merely the conception of Abstract Being, without outside recognition or inward realisation. Beness is perfectly static, poised, harmonious, balanced, containing within itself the potentiality of everything, yet producing nothing and explaining nothing; nor yet is it itself to be explained. It is not produced; it cannot be produced; for, if it is produced, it is necessary that something should have produced it, which leads us to a "reductio ad absurdum," for if some further Absolute beyond has produced this Be-ness, Be-ness itself must still be the First Principle of that Absolute and must have preceded It.
Probably the greatest obstacle to the understanding of the Absolute is the tendency which persists of looking upon the Absolute as a Cause. Anything which is a Cause must necessarily be conditioned by that which it causes and so cannot be an Absolute, which must, ipso facto, be unconditioned. I would urge upon you to get this idea settled firmly in your consciousness, and you will find that it leads to clarification of many difficulties and leads to the nearest conception possible of the Being of GOD.
3. What is LIFE?
Life may be defined as BEING — as distinct from BE-NESS. It is a state resulting from unbalance in the ABSOLUTE, leading to Manifestation, and it possesses one Attribute only, which is perhaps best defined in the term "EVER-BECOMING". It is eternal and ceaseless MOTION, for so long as the Unbalance persists. It is identical with the "Great Breath" of the Eastern tradition. It can only be conceived in the form of IDEA. Life is known only in this Attribute of Ever-becoming, which is indeed Life itself.
4. What Is REALITY?
Life can never be explained by man, as such, for he is himself nothing but a phase of its Ever- becoming, and only by having consciousness of being this Ever-becoming can he contact that of which he is the attribute. The only Reality is, therefore, the ultimate Life into which all appearances must be absorbed.
5. What is MAN?
Man has in himself a living and ever-present witness of Life Universal. Not without good reason did our ancient Brethren write over the doors of their Temples of Initiation, " Man, Know thyself!", for only through attainment of knowledge of his own ultimate self can man contact this Reality. As "I AM" expresses the Manifestation of God, so "I AM I" may be used to express the Idea of Man, and, when the second "I" changes to "THAT I AM", which is the expression of God, the full Unification may be said to be reached in "I AM THAT I AM ".
6. Can Man be Perfected?
If the Perfection of Man is unattainable, then is our Masonic System and its teaching vain. Deep within ourselves we reach a firm conviction that Man and God are essentially One, and that through this perfectibility in Man the God-Man can be derived, who completes the Trinity, uniting the Twain in Unity. But the understanding of this can be accomplished in Man only by the complete identification with the Ever-becoming, which is Life.
7. What should be the Motive of Man in seeking Perfection?
Of the greatest importance is the Motive which urges Man to seek this Perfection, for the least remaining trace of Separative Desire may ruin all. The only Desire admissible is the desire to be the Path itself, which is the same as to be one with the Ever-becoming.
8. What is this Perfection, and how can it be attained?
This Perfection is the complete antithesis of popular ideas of Endless Rest in Nirvana and passive Blissfulness in the bosom of a personal God, for it implies an Eternal and Ceaseless Activity in Conscious Identity with the Ever-becoming. Only in such complete Identity can Perfection be attained.
9. What is this PATH which one hears talked about, and what is its connection with Freemasonry?
The PATH cannot be defined at this Stage, but it opens up to view as consciousness develops and the Inner Man reaches out to that State of Being when he can say, "I AM the Way, the Truth and the Life!" It is a State of Being, unidentifiable and indefinable outside the full realisation of Identity with the State of Being itself.
The connection with Freemasonry lies in all that I have tried to express in my paper on "The Lodge- Man wherein I attempted to show the underlying identity of the Lodge and the Candidate. Only by Becoming himself the Lodge in full work can the true Candidate fulfil his obligations as a Freemason.
So here at the root of all do we find the solution of our initial difficulty if understanding and remembering these things, we realise the Two States or Worlds which I have tried to distinguish in the terms BE-NESS and BEING.
BE-NEss, the East, is static balanced, comprehending and embracing All. It is the Centre of the Circle of Existence, which, paradoxically, cannot itself exist.
BEING, the West, is dynamic, unbalanced, separative and manifesting as multitude. It is the Circumference of the Circle of Existence, which is itself veritable existence.
In the progression from Centre to Circumference and from Circumference to Centre lies the clue to that Ever-becoming which is Life Eternal, comprehending the Bliss of Eternal Service.
And now we come to the consideration of the concluding words of our Opening Ceremonies, and already we have answered much of what might have been asked about them.
If I may express it briefly, we are seeking that balance which has been lost by the Death of the Master from the Centre into the Tomb of the Ever-becoming Circumference, and this Balance can only be found "WITH the Centre" — not at, not on, nor in the Centre, for all these words imply the Existence of the Non-existent. The Centre can never EXIST, it can only BE. It has no BEING and can have no BEING, from the very fact that it is BENESS.
The M.M. should be in a fair way to the realisation of this Be-ness and, having glimpsed it, it becomes obvious that he cannot again err, for complete balance implies the absence of possibility of error in any direction.
The W.M. — the Intuition — promises that he will assist the other attributes to reach that state of Balance in Be-ness, and the Lodge is declared open with the earnest desire that God shall prosper their united endeavours. The Deity is now referred to as the M.H., an indication of the Static Be-ness which can only be conceived in its outward expression as Being. The Lodge is opened on the Centre, for it is in a state of Being, and its purpose is the instruction and improvement of M.M's.
"All Glory to the M.H.!"
Again the locking is completed with the 15 knocks and the Monad descends to indicate by the placing of the Emblematical Lights that the Intuition is now dominant over the Desire-nature. The Individuality is supreme, and the sublimation of the Personality is indicated in the title of the degree, the " Sublime Degree of M.M."
The Lodge is now ready for the reception of our Candidate and I now close this preliminary paper with the words of the last of those Psalms which are designated "Song of Degrees", in grateful remembrance of the Light which shines in the darkness of the Soul in the M.M. degree.
"Behold, bless ye the Lord, all ye servants of the Lord, which by night stand in the house of the Lord. Lift up your hands in the sanctuary and bless the Lord. The Lord that made heaven and earth bless thee out of Zion."
Psalm CXXXIV, A Song of degrees.
"Peace to all Beings. AMEN. s.m.i.b."