The Craft Journey — Part Seven
Part 7. CONCLUSION
With some remarks on the Ceremonies of Installation and the Holy Royal Arch.
"Yet some there be that by due steps aspire
To lay their just hands on the golden key
That opens the palace of Eternity."
Milton. Comus 1. 12.
I do not see them here; but after death
God knows I know the faces I shall see,
Each one a murdered self, with low last breath.
'I am thyself — what hast thou done to me?'
'And I — and I — thyself', (lo! each one saith,)
'And thou thyself to all eternity!'"
D. G. Rosetti. The House of Life. LXXXVI, Lost Day.
"Eureka!" or, in the vernacular, "I got it!"
Archimedes (287-212 B.C.) quoted by Vitruvius Pollio, De Architecture, IX, 215.
"Nunc Scio Quid Sit Amor." " Now do I know what Love is." Virgil. Ecologues, 63.
"Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made. And God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made." (GENESIS, II, 1-3.)
And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely." (REVELATION, XXII, 17.)
In this, the concluding part of this paper — or, if you prefer, the last paper of this series — I want to sum up the lessons of the whole series, but, first, I must deal with those concluding stages to which I have already referred perfunctorily, and which form the completion of the Craft picture.
We have seen that in the M.M degree the Aspirant is left, so to speak, " in the air" — incomplete and unfinished. The Temple is structurally complete, so far as one can judge, but the chief architect — representing the Third Logos — is overwhelmed and completely limited in Matter, and the g...... s...... of a M.M. are lost. When one analyses the situation, it is clear that they, and they alone, were the main objects of desire in the Aspirant, when he undertook the quest, which entailed upon him the erection of that great edifice. Until he finds them he cannot undertake the building of a Universe, through which to express himself, and into which to pour his life in complete service. True, he has certain substituted s..... s, but these are only substitutes, and all the inward impulses and intuitions in the man, tell him plainly that he can never be fully satisfied until he has regained the genuine. He is manifestly suffering from what has been called a " divine discontent."
Even the temple of his body is incomplete except to the mortal sense of sight. We have heard the Christian Master give the warning, "touch me not," and this warning must apply equally to the temple or vehicle of the M.M. While it is still in this condition he is not really "Master," although he may have realised to the full his potential mastership. This potentiality is expressed in the p ... w ... with which the Master Elect should be entrusted when he comes forward for Installation, after his election to the Chair by the Brethren in open lodge.
It is extremely difficult, in a mixed gathering such as this, to deal with the Installation Ceremony, yet it is a task which must be attempted, and the difficulty is in no way eased by the fact that the majority of those who have been installed under the English Constitution are unaware of a high proportion of the secrets restricted to the Chair. Those missing generally include the p ... w ... I have mentioned, at least two vital s ... s, and the W.T's. There is, however, a thread which we can follow which will point the direction of the journey.
The EA, you will remember, found and worked upon a stone rough, as it was taken from the quarry, and he fashioned it into an ASHLAR, which, although still rough and unfinished, was still a recognisable CUBE, the ROUGH ASHLAR.
The F.C. took this rough ashlar and still further smoothed and prepared it, so that it presented itself to us as a perfect cube, the "PERFECT ASHLAR."
In the M.M. degree we find no specific stone, yet the Perfect Ashlar appears, and is seen to be sacrificed — opened out, so that its six faces, lying flat, form for us the shape of a Latin Cross, as the basis of our o ... g .... or c .... n. Over this cross the Aspirant ascended into the atmosphere of a new dimension — the Fourth — and there he met, without being necessarily conscious of its presence another Ashlar. This Ashlar had its existence within a four-dimensional continuum. It is a four-dimensional solid — TESSERACT — corresponding to the three-dimensional Cube, as that Cube corresponds to the two-dimensional Square, and the Square to the one-dimensional line. We may even carry the analogy a step further to the Point, which is, of course, without dimension. Each is developed from its predecessor on the ascending scale of dimensions by a movement at right angles to all previous directions of motion. This new Ashlar is specifically implied (although it is never explained in our ceremonies), both in the Third degree and in the Ceremony of Installation of a Master in the C. of K.S. in a duly constituted B. of I.M's.
The Ashlar, sometimes referred to as the "PERPEND ASHLAR," is always present in every Masonic Lodge. It is of such a shape that each of its eight three-dimensional boundaries is a Cube. As a figure it is the resultant of moving a Cube at right angles to all its three dimensions through a distance equal to one of its sides, which gives us, theoretically at least, a figure bounded by eight cubes.
In our lodges it commences with the Rough Ashlar of the E.A., and finishes with the Perfect Ashlar of the F.C., so that, when these two lie exposed on the floor of the lodge, the remaining six bounding cubes lie between them, in the fourth dimension of space to complete the Tesseract. Only the two end cubes can be visible to entities who normally function in a three-dimensional continuum, as is the case with ourselves.
All this may seem to be something of an abstraction, but it is most necessary to gain some understanding of it, if we are to grasp, even symbolically, the mighty changes in the type of consciousness which are involved in the later steps.
In the full opening of a Board of Installed Masters all the usual preliminaries are followed out, just as in the opening of a lodge in the three degrees. The lodge is seen to be close tyled. The brethren s .... to o . . . . as M.M's., and the J.W. proves them in due course to be installed Masters. It is at this point that so many of our I.M's. fail to function, when they try to visit lodges, at home and abroad, wherein the full secrets are imparted, because they have never been shown and do not know how to prove themselves to be I.M's. by signs. The proof having been given, the J.W. copies the example and the W. M. acknowledges the correctness as usual. Certain portions of Scripture are then read, and the Board is declared to be duly open. I cannot of course, deal fully with the ceremony of Installation itself except to repeat that the severe abbreviation of the work, as usually seen in this country is a great loss to those who have seen no more than is usually given of the ceremony. The main essential, which is a certain "laying on of hands," remains, however, and is effective in producing results. Its effect is somewhat analogous to the laying on of hands in the Consecration to the Episcopate in the Christian Churches which preserve the Apostolic Succession, to which there is something very nearly related in Freemasonry. Just as the Bishop is invested with the power to confer the Minor Orders, to ordain to the Diaconate and Priesthood, and to consecrate another Bishop "to preserve the succession"; so the Master is given the power to make Masons, E.A's., F.C's., and Masters, and to Instal his own Successor "to carry on the succession." The secrets passed on, to those who are properly prepared and sufficiently developed to receive them, are closely analogous; but each body has its own particular reservoir of power upon which to draw. The powers and the rates of vibration conferred differ in quality, but the methods and, to a very large extent, the results achieved closely resemble each other. The difference is largely one of degree, of the channels opened and of the source of the power with which contact is made.
The instinctive suspicion and dislike shown towards Freemasonry by certain religious bodies, comes largely from the sub-conscious recognition of the fact that Freemasonry is giving freely to all who seek earnestly, and that, whatever may be their race or creed, their caste or denomination, their class or colour — those closely guarded truths and principles, not to speak of powers, which certain authorities would so much prefer to reserve for themselves, in order to gain material ends and hold temporal power over the lives of their fellow men.
The true Freemason, who lives up to the tenets of the Order, is, above all things, completely tolerant. While ready at all times to aid those who seek the Path, he remains totally void of that quality to which we generally give the title of "missionary zeal." He has, or should have, no desire to force his own way of thinking upon others, for he knows that real truth must ultimately be sought and found by each man for himself. He knows that Truth has as many facets as there are types of men to have view-points, so that the chance of an exactly similar enunciation of the truth seen being equally acceptable to any two persons chosen at random is infinitely remote.
A single example of what I mean is to be found in one of the oldest puzzles in the world. A plate, with three holes cut in it, is handed to the victim, and he is asked to make a block which will pass through all of them and which, in doing so, will exactly fill each hole, without distortion. The three holes chosen are, as a rule, those fundamental figures which we meet in Freemasonry in the build-up of the Altar in the H.R.A., viz., the Square, the Circle and the Triangle. The factor common to all in this case is the measure of the side of the square and the equilateral triangle, and the diameter of the Circle.
Surely it is very much the same with our humanity. The basic Unity which man calls GOD is the same for all, but the manner of observing and contacting God are as many and various as are the units of humanity.
The Master, on his Installation, becomes Worshipful. It is quite impossible (unless the brother is already a P.M.), for a brother to be elected W.M. of a Lodge. He can only be Master Elect, by the vote of the Brn. assembled; and so he must remain until some duly qualified and already worshipful brother takes a hand and instals him in the C. of K.S. in due form, passing on to him in the process the quality of WORSHIP, so that he in turn becomes worshipful. Only too often do we hear of lodges meeting "to elect a W.M. for the ensuing year," and immediately referring to the Bro. concerned as W.M. Elect. The Worship which is attained in the Installation ceremony is the same as that which the Knights of the Round Table of King Arthur set out to achieve and for the gaining of which they were prepared to sacrifice everything which could make for comfort and worldly prosperity. To attain this Worship in its perfection was to "achieve the Adventure of the Holy Grail."
When he is Installed in the C. of K.S., the W. M. should be "as a Plumb-Line set in the midst" of his Brethren, by reference to which they can test their own lives and progress, and, above all, their capacity to serve their Brethren.
The implications of the ceremony are unmistakeable. The W.M. is the Aspirant who is in process of completing that Resurrection which was left unfinished in the Ceremony of Raising. He is invested with a Jewel of Office which will enable him, when it really becomes a part of himself, after the necessary trial and opposition, which here takes the form of his installing his successor in due form, to present himself as a candidate and permit him, as such, to "sojourn" among the Companions of the H.R.A., who are engaged in the clearing of the ground for the building of the "Second Temple." The Jewel on the collars worn by the Sojourners is the same Jewel which is worn by the W.M. in the Craft, and remains so in spite of the fact that modern conditions have led to the admission to the Supreme Degree of the H.R.A. of brethren who have not yet gained the necessary qualifications by having occupied the C. of K.S.
One of the few remaining pointers in the Craft itself which shows this distinction is to be found in most of the printed rituals and is generally completely overlooked, and its implications ignored. It will usually be found that the "s.m.i.b." which is therein substituted for the "sealing word" or "word of power" at the end of prayers is put into the mouth of the I.P.M. or a P.M., to be spoken by him alone. One form of the real word is to be found in the H.R.A. and, in point of fact, this direction in the rubric is a reminiscence of the days when only a P.M. who was also a Companion of the H.R.A. had the power to pronounce the "seating word." The most usual form in which we meet the word in question is AMEN, but even this was felt to be too much of an indication of its nature and the words "s.m.i.b." were substituted; but the rubric was, in most cases, retained. It is a peculiar and interesting survival.
There are many other points upon which I would like to expatiate in connection with the Installation, but the restrictions must be obvious to you all. I will say, however, that the full ceremony brings us the Trowel in its proper guise, as the instrument of constructive Brotherhood, for the cementing of which it serves as the manipulator in binding the Brethren together into a vital unity. "Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity." (Ps. CXXXIII, I. A Song of degrees of David.)
In the full ceremony of Installation the M.E. is entrusted with the necessary formula of P.G. & P.W. to enable him to gain admission to the open B. of I.M's. Into his keeping are given the usual array of secrets, in which are included no less than five s ... s, which carry the symbolism of the three degrees a stage further. He is told of three most essential and appropriate W.T's. He should also gain the right to use a peculiar knock which, as before, indicates his position on the ladder, and which he should be able to use later to gain admission to the Chapter for the purpose of being exalted. It is unfortunate that this knock is not generally known.
The Closing of the Board follows the same general scheme as the other ceremonies of closing.
Now, for a few minutes, let us consider the Supreme Degree of the Holy Royal Arch of Jerusalem, to give it its full title, to which, as we have seen, only the Master who has been Installed in the Chair of the Craft is qualified to claim admission, and even he only when he has proved his Worship by installing his successor in due form, for the real qualification for exaltation is not the fact of having been installed, but the fact of having passed this supreme test of worthship, the passing on of his powers of Mastership "to preserve the succession."
On several occasions we have drawn the parallel between the stages in the Masonic Craft Journey and the outstanding events in the Christian Gospel narrative. I need not here repeat that parallel. If you will, in due course, refer back to it, you will see that we have now reached a point which is culminative. Such a condition of Perfection has been attained in a human body that the next step must of necessity carry the Aspirant out of Humanity, as we know it, to a state of consciousness which must be beyond anything which we can rearise on the plane of this earthly existence. This is exactly what happens in both cases. In the Gospel story we have the description of the Ascension; in Freemasonry we have the same fact symbolised in the Exaltation ceremony. In each case we reach the concluding stages of a major cycle. The parallel need not be too closely pressed by those who do not desire to press it, but the fact must be recognised that it exists.
In the H.R.A. we have the natural completion of the events which have gone before in the M.M. and I.M. The H.R.A. is not, however often we may hear it said, merely "the completion of the M.M. degree."
In the H.R.A. the I.M. appears as a Sojourner among the Companions who are engaged in the work of "preparing the ground for the building of the Second Temple." There is a hint here of something so vast that it makes one hold one's breath in awe!
The whole atmosphere in the H.R.A. is totally different from that of the three Craft degrees. The arrangement of the principal officers is utterly different. He whom we have previously known as the S.W. now occupies first place, as King and Ruler, but he acts only in the closest concord with those whom we knew as W.M. and J.W. respectively. The Three Aspects or Persons have become ONE, while still remaining manifest to the eye as a Trinity. The outward symbolism of the officers still points their stations. The Third Principal carries the priestly headdress which is the stabilization of the G. or R. S ... of the M.M., when given in the manner suggested in my remarks on that degree (see Part V). The Second Principal carries the symbol of the Open Eye, showing that the power to use the Third Eye to the full is now attained. The First Principal carries the Crown Celestial, the Crown of Thorns, corresponding to the First Sephira — KETHER - of the Kabbalists, and to the "Crown of Glory" of the higher Christian interpretation. The Crown Celestial is now actively in operation, the last of the bodily centres of force to be activated. A certain sign, appearing in a place which I cannot here specify, indicates the power now gained to use the third eye, at will, as a channel through which to view the Universe as a whole.
In the passage through the three Principal Offices of the Chapter we find a short digest of the experiences to be passed through by our Humanity in the future on its journey back to the place of Union with the Source from which it sprang.
Many unwarranted hypotheses have been put forward with regard to this reunion with, or absorbtion into, Deity. Quite recently a speaker on the Radio repudiated the whole idea out of hand, on the assumption that such a return would be like the return of a drop of water to the ocean, and would therefore involve complete loss of individuality. The whole aim and object of the descent of Spirit into Matter has been the direct antithesis of this idea. In the first place, a drop of water has no developed individuality to lose. If he had such, we might, with equal truth, say that the ocean is swallowed up in the drop. In actual fact — although this may appear to our limited understanding to be a paradox — that which is designated as the drop becomes the ocean, and the ocean is the drop. It is practically impossible to express in the imagination — and how much more so to express in words — the complete ONENESS of the relationship which we are attempting to delineate. The one thing which is most certainly NOT involved is loss of individuality.
Let me give you one clue to the study of these continual paradoxes, which are so apt to worry brethren. At one point in the ceremony an Historical lecture is delivered in which will be found the key to much which would otherwise be obscure. We are told of three Grand Lodges — the First or Holy Lodge, the Second or Sacred Lodge and the Third or Grand and Royal Lodge. In the Craft, of which we have been making a study in these papers, we are dealing with the Present, and looking to the Future. If we realise that the three lodges mentioned are the representations in Masonic Symbolism of the conditions of human life on earth in the Past, in the Present and in the Future, we will at once reach the conclusion that the Craft represents the Present and carries within it the lessons which should guide us towards perfection in some Future period. It follows therefore that there must have been a lodge representative of the past existence of Humanity, and that its work is over and its object accomplished, so far as that is possible. This Lodge would have had as its Master that Aspect of Trinity which we attribute to the principal officer whom we designate as J.W., representing Force-Matter, and holding the Lodge together as its "ostensible Steward." This Lodge and its functioning lie behind us. In our Craft of to-day we are dealing with Life-Form, represented by our W.M. in the C. of K.S. Creative Activity lies behind and now is the reign of Preservative Love-Wisdom. But this cannot be the end, and in the H.R.A. we have a vision of things to come, when these two Aspects will be the supporters of a new World Polity in which the ruler will be that perfected expression of Humanity which lies hidden in the symbol of the S.W., the Aspect of Strength, as Divinity-Humanity. When Man and God are ONE; then, and then only, shall come the consummation of the Goal. I would suggest to you that as basic Hinduism found its consummation in the Philosophy of Buddha, that Illumination which is the goal of the First or Holy Lodge, so the Hebraic dispensation finds its consummation in a new outlook which finds one of its expressions in Christianity, delineating that Fellowship which is the key-note of the Second or Sacred Lodge. In like manner the present philosophical and religious outlook of the world as a whole, must reach a further consummation, representing that Unity which is Strength, and the expression of the absolute Oneness which is the key-note of the Grand and Royal Lodge. Tennyson called it "The Parliament of Man, the Federation of the world." This, I suggest, is what attempt has been made to express in the H.R.A., the "Supreme Degree."
Now, I have been rushing ahead too fast, so I must retrace my steps for a time, in order to deal more fully with the actual ceremony of Exaltation.
The accepted Aspirant finds himself armed with a most significant P.W., and by its means he gains admission as one aspect of a trinity — of course, he does not realise this until much later — a trinity which is in the position of "Sojourning" in the symbolic West. After his entrance he stands upon the summit of the Skull — that Golgotha which is also the Holy Mount Moriah - that centre in which he has suffered, has served, and has attained that perfect comprehension and compassion through which alone, as a Lord of Compassion, his further progress is made possible. But, so far as he himself can comprehend, there is a great darkness upon the face of the Earth. In this darkness the Aspirant is re-enacting our Craft degrees in a new symbolism, which is the real reason for the darkness. It is the usual preliminary to a new stage of rebirth. Once more he has to rely upon his conductors, the now completely spiritualised Emotional and Mental Faculties. With their aid he approaches the crown of the Arch — in other symbol, the Vault of the Skull. This is the moment represented in the completed Calvary symbol wherein the skull and cross-bones have been added at the foot of the Cross, to represent this minor trinity of the western nadir. Coming to the central point, he sets to work, again with the help of his conductors, and removes one Ashlar from either side of the central key-stone. These are the Rough and Perfect Ashlars of the Craft, here appearing in a new guise, and their removal indicates that the Perpend Ashlar, the Tesseract of the perfected M.M. now hangs unsupported, in the fourth dimension. One might almost say that it also "rests upon the prospect of futurity." The removal of these supporting Ashlars finds its correspondence in the Christian Gospel in the story of the death of the two thieves. The one is unrepentant governed by the lower reasoning mind; the other repentant, carried away in a flood of highest Emotion, which brings him to the threshold of Illumination. These are the cross-bones behind the skull. The skull itself is a symbol analogous to the Key-stone and the Perpend Ashlar, as also the Master's Cross. Only by passage through these three can the full realisation of the meaning of the Spiritual Crucifix, which grows out of them, be gained. Through their removal, in a peculiar manner and sequence detailed in the ceremony, the Aspirant finds, as we have already seen in the paper to which I have so often referred upon "The Masonic Trinity and Way of the Cross," that the upright of the Cross has turned back upon itself to form a figure which indicates the Supercession of the Cross by a combination of the Master's Square superimposed upon the Circle of the Zodiac. It is the Egyptian resurrection symbol of the Ankh Cross in one of its intermediate forms, and it is also, for those who know that peculiar symbolism, the Round Table of King Arthur.
This is the full consummation and completion of Resurrection in the entry of the Aspirant into the full Light, wherein he must spend a period of study, contemplation, and service, before he can aspire to enter upon the last three steps of the Major Cycle, in the passing of the Three Chairs which occupy the three points of the Master's Square. May I remind you once more that the true Master's Square or Cross, is not the four-equal-armed Greek Cross, so often wrongly shown upon the representations of the Nimbus or Halo of the Christos in pictorial art. The true symbol within the circle has three arms only, the downward pointing arm of the cross being missing, just as we find it in the APRON of the I.M. If the symbolism of the H.R.A. is grasped in its entirety the sequence becomes obvious. First we build up the Cross of Calvary, three arms of three cubes each imposed upon a central cube, which, in turn, rests upon the upright of twelve cubes. The total is, as you will see, 22, of which number we have studied the significance, linking it with the Tarot and the Sephirothic paths. In the H.R.A. ceremony, the twelve become a circle which is formed from and replaces the upright. The Master's Square remains unmoved, surmounting the figure. With the passing of the Chairs, the three upper arms are absorbed into and vivify the Circle, making the most perfect symbol of Unity known to man.
I cannot enter further into the working of the Chapter, without running the risk of taking the flavour from the greatest of Spiritual fruitional treats lying before those of you who have not yet taken the degree.
It must suffice to say that the Installation of a Successor in the Chair of First Principal in the Chapter marks the final completion of this Major Cycle and qualifies the Aspirant — for Aspirant he still remains — for the title of "True of Voice" on a higher level than before, so that he may hope to "present himself at the door of the Lodge" on the next higher ring of the spiral, "humbly soliciting to be admitted to the M. and P. of A.FM." with the object of further expanding his consciousness, and having "a general desire for knowledge and a sincere wish to render himself more serviceable to his fellow-creatures."
In the H.R.A. there are, apparently, only two W.T's. presented to the candidate, and even they are so casually mentioned as sometimes to pass virtually unnoticed. They are, nevertheless, of tremendous significance. They represent the conferment of the powers which lie behind the processes of Involution and Evolution, the vital forces of Integration and Disintegration or, to use terms commonly used — and almost as commonly misunderstood — in the West, "the Fall and the Atonement." Actually there is a third T. Its presence is, however, only implied, for the simple reason that it neither requires to be, nor can be, presented to the Candidate. It is inherent in the Candidate, as such, from the moment that he takes upon himself to do the work required of it, in his acceptance of the C. of K.S., with all its joys, its trials and its responsibilities in the Craft Lodge.
There is, as you will doubtless have noted, a kind of pendulum swing about the whole chain of Involution and Evolution upon each successive level, each set of lesser swings being superimposed upon a single greater swing. Each set is perhaps best represented diagrammatically by the figure used by the Chemists to represent the succession of Elements, in terms of what is called Valency. It is generally shown as a zig-zag line, centering round a medial vertical, and exhibiting a peculiar hesitancy where it crosses from one side to the other. Alternatively it is shown, in three dimensions, by a model in the form of a double spiral, forming a succession of figures of eight, the point being that each ring is on a higher or lower level than the last, according as the course pursued is up or down. Elements having the same valency will be found occupying corresponding places on the rings so that they all lie upon the same vertical line.
And so, perhaps, in the case we are considering, AD INFINITUM. Can there be any finality, you will ask? I do not know; but I can see nothing to suggest that there is, or can be. To postulate any finality seems to me to involve the acceptance of a beginning, and to be an attempt to visualise something which must, from the very nature of our known limitations, be completely beyond our powers of imagination.
From the very start we are up against the questions which have puzzled and perplexed the reasoning faculties of mortal man, from the moment when he commenced to exercise these faculties, even until the present day. Only if we can cease, for a moment, to look upon the prospect from the point of view of mortal man and, realising ourselves as the immortal spirits which we really are, view it from the point of view of Spirit, will we see it in its proper perspective.
It certainly takes on a very different aspect and complexion. And, in my opinion, it is this new point of view, from which to observe the Universe in which it is our fate to have our being, that our Masonic teachings are intended to unveil to our eyes. We are the Children of the Widow, the offspring of the Great Mother, call her by what name you will. In Egypt she was Isis, and which one of us can truly say that he has gazed upon her unveiled? Yet gaze upon her we must, if we would gain that perfect chastity of outlook through which alone the veils dissolve and are dissipated, so that Isis can be known to us by her other tide, the Virgin Sophia, the ever-virgin Wisdom of the most High God.
And now, let me make an attempt to sum up the teachings which I have tried — no one recognises the utter inadequacy of the attempt more than I — to set forth in these papers.
I have tried to lay before you a reasoned interpretation of the sequence of degrees which we designate by the term, the Craft. I have done this with the idea of leading gently up to an idea which I put before you with some trepidation, as it is somewhat in advance of the understanding of the average member of the Craft of today, and is apt to come as somewhat of a shock even to the Brother who has made the deeper side of Masonry his study over a period of years, if he does not happen to have stumbled upon this particular line of approach.
The idea which I have in mind is that the three Craft degrees, the E.A., the F.C. and the M.M., as commonly practised, when they are referred to the scheme of Freemasonry as a whole, give a picture, not of the mounting of successive steps on the ladder which leads from the material to the spiritual, but, very much to our surprise, of the apparent descent of a series of steps leading from the nearest point to God, to which we have been able to again, down into the lowest depths of gross matter. They bring to our notice a picture of our past functioning on this Earth since our first attainment of Individuality, at the point where we broke finally with the animal group-soul, and set out upon the way, walking, as it were, upon our own feet. At that critical moment we reached realisation that into us had been breathed "the Breath of God," and that each one of us had "become a living soul."
Owing, however, to the peculiarities of the Cyclic Law, we may come to see that in reality there is no such thing as retrogression, for every step taken is, in its own way, a step forward. So it has been possible to so clothe the apparent descent in the garments of ascent that we see in them, in their surface meaning, the later unfolding of consciousness in incarnate man. I will not labour this point as I think that, if you will read and study these papers closely when they reach you, and compare them with my former papers on "The Lodge Man and "Evolutionary Symbolism," you will gain a very fair picture of the way in which the consciousness of man gradually unfolds so that he obtains ascendency over all the planes of nature, and gains knowledge of himself, first as that which sounds through the vehicle which we call the Personality, then as that which comes into action in what we have named the Individuality, and finally as that which comes to know itself as something transcending both, yet but a facet in the stone of a greater and more all-embracing Personality. "Man, know thyself " contains far deeper implications than are usually attributed to the injunction, when we see it merely as the motto of the lower mysteries.
There are, as I have hinted, certain questions, which have been propounded throughout the ages by all the great thinkers among men. What is God? What is Man? What is the relationship between them, if there is such a relationship? What is Matter? What is its relationship to God and to Man? Is there a primordial substance which lies behind matter, and, if so, what is it? Truly there is no beginning nor end to the inquisitive faculty in man!
Towards the end of the last century the greatest brains of so-called Science were full of speculation about the ATOM and the MOLECULE. The whole subject had been revived by the putting into words of the Atomic Theory by Dalton. Through all the scientific writings of this period runs a peculiar bias — a bias which the Scientists themselves would have been the first to repudiate, had it been pointed out to them, for they would have treated it as being mere religious speculation — a bias which definitely tended to the enunciation of a theory of "special creation." Every road which they explored appeared to lead directly to this unacceptable hypothesis.
Then came the discovery of RADIUM. The ATOM did not spell finality! Here, in their hands, was an Element, the atoms of which were in a state of perpetual disintegration. "Away with Special Creation" they cried, "We men of science have proved that it is unnecessary. The Atom, that which was thought to be permanent and unchangeable, can be further subdivided, can be broken down into yet simpler constituents!"
It was all very nice and proper, and very satisfactory to all. But there was a "still small voice" that would not let well alone. The voice of the Metaphysician was heard to whisper, "Yes, yes, quite so! The Atom can be broken up into its constituents. But-after all, there is always that horrid little 'but' — whence come these constituents? And why? And how? And, above all, what were they made out of? And who made them? "A truly formidable array of age-old questions, revived upon a forgotten level; questions which rocked the castle of cards to its foundations, and sent the Scientists scuttling back to their Laboratories to initiate other and wider experiments, and to send forth other and equally final pronouncements. But ever the real fact seems to escape notice. For those who had eyes to see, and the necessary knowledge of themselves, as the greatest of all instruments of research, the whole system of universes, great and small, presented a completely logical sequence of analogous units. This fact remains the same today, as ever from the beginning, and it will endure to the end.
We have traced the journey of our aspirant through the course of a Major Cycle and, I trust, have all been able to form some kind of mental picture of the course of events and the changes in consciousness and in outlook which have been involved.
In some previous Cycle the Aspirant has made such progress as will enable him to claim, knowingly or unknowingly, that he is "true of voice," and, when properly called upon, to substantiate that claim. He is free and of good report, such a one as will call to the remembrance of his Brethren the former strong ties which have been forged between him and them, so that they testify that the tongue of good report has already been heard in his favour. It may only have been a whisper, or it may have blared forth as a trumpet blast, but it declares him to be worthy to be admitted once more upon the hallowed path, the homeward way, Or, it may be, that he comes for the first time, with the faltering steps of spiritual childhood, vouched for by sponsors who believe that he has reached the beginning of the appreciation of brotherhood.
Blindly he goes forward, yet, from the contact with his unknown conductor, and with the Brethren assembled to receive him, he gains in Strength, and makes a beginning of functioning as a prince and a ruler in the Ish-Ra-El of his own multiple Personality. Through the medium of this Personality the contacts are made, and through it, for the moment, he finds a channel of expression, however inadequate.
But the seed, sown beside the flood of desire, gains nourishment therefrom, and it sprouts out to the bearing of a full ear of corn, ushering in a season of plenty, of apparent fulfilment, wherein the aspirant can rest satisfied for a time. It does not, however, bring with it any adequate means of self-expression — it has a defect in aspiration — until realisation dawns that this season of plenty is but a passing phase, a step on the way to something which will give more scope for his self-expression. So again he presents himself at the door of the lodge, and there hands over and leaves behind the limitation of the burden of plenty, in the hope that the renunciation will recommend him to attain to something higher.
Onward he travels until he begins to establish himself as an assistant, cooperating consciously with the Higher Self, the High Priest within his own Temple, for the dedication of that temple to the task ahead. Thus he gains worldly possessions, and again, for a space, he rests satisfied. But he finds in time that his further progress is barred, and his footsteps clogged, by those very worldly possessions to gain which he has striven so hard and so long. Once more he sees the necessity to overcome the limitations of his gains, and again he hands them over as his passport to the next stage, when he comes again to the door of the lodge. He sells all that he hath, and gives to the poor and to the fatherless, the "sons of the widow."
Now, the builder, the Creator, the third Aspect of the Divine Trinity within him, is smitten. His work is completed for the time being and, in the death of the builder, the aspirant aggregates and then conquers the whole essence of the material plane.
Thus, and thus only, can he attain to Mastership. The supreme sacrifice is made, voluntarily and whole-heartedly. The seed of corn has fallen from the ear, has sacrificed itself in the depths of the earth, that new generation, growth and fructification may ensue.
Once more the traveller rests content with the progress made and the height to which he has attained, but now he knows that all he has experienced can only be in the nature of preliminary foundation upon which to build to more purpose. He knows that TRUTH is Infinite and that it can only be found in INFINITY.
He must, therefore train himself, in order that, when the call shall come, he may be ready to put off his Mastership and voluntarily renounce the title of Master, as a further passport to the attainment of that state of Worth-ship, which shall make him a Master of Masters, a perfect Mason.
In this great renunciation he learns to practice Mercy, and through the practice of Mercy, he becomes himself one of those who have obtained Mercy. The attainment comes only in the apparent loss of the Vision of Celestial Bliss toward which all his struggling has hitherto been directed. He comes to the realisation that he must forego even this title to mercy which he has obtained, and he is apt to shrink involuntarily from the great adventure.
Finally he reaches the decision and finds himself in a state of darkness and bewilderment once more and in an atmosphere differing profoundly from anything which he has before experienced.
Down, down he goes into the darkness and noxious vapours which lie concealed under the Vault of Heaven. Down he plunges into the depths of his inmost self, in fear and trembling, and clinging tightly to his old friend and guide, the C.T., which has itself developed three aspects, corresponding to the three channels of force which we have so frequently met in our enquiry. In the Centre he finds an altar of incense which conveys to him the truth of the Trinity in Unity, although he cannot yet grasp its meaning. In his blindness he cannot read the message. Yet, on his return, he brings back something which, in the light of previous experience, he can decipher. To his unbounded surprise he finds himself already perfectly familiar with its content, as a record of the facts of Creation.
In this moment of exaltation he inherits to the full the powers which he last saw buried in the cruciform tomb of a M.M. By devious paths he has reached the light once more. This time it is a fuller light, showing clearly the form of the Universe and the Central Control therein. The secrets of Life and Death, of Involution and Evolution, of Creation, Preservation and Transmutation, all these are unveiled to his eyes and he is invested with the power to use and apply any and all of them at will to himself, so that he can act in the full three-fold capacity of Creator, Preserver and seeming Destroyer.
Never again is it necessary to renounce that which he has gained, for he knows the true value of all things and suffers limitation from nothing. At each step he can gather up all that has gone before and absorb it into himself. He has become the perfect sphere, the true "Rolling Stone" which no longer gathers any moss on its way, but remains pure and translucent in its perfected activity in service.
As Priest he attains to the perfection of humanity, as Prophet he gains the open eye that can see the whole Universe as a perfect and well-ordered scheme, and as King he gains the power to rule over a universe created by himself as a vehicle for the further unfolding of that part of the Universal Life which flows in him.
In performing these functions he knows, with a sure knowledge which is quite beyond our comprehension, that universe, which he has created, now preserves, and will bring to perfection, is merely another Personality, a something through which he can sound, through which he can express himself.
Sacrificing himself for its sake, he will again descend into the darkness, and each smallest component of himself which shares in his life will go forward until it, in its turn, may humbly solicit to be admitted to the mysteries and privileges of Ancient Freemasonry. The next stage of the Great Adventure has commenced. In his own Universe he is true God, but that very fact only serves to emphasise the more strongly that, now and for ever, he remains — "The Candidate."
The whole story, upon which the Masonic Teaching is based, is a Paradox. I told you in the early stages of our companionship upon this Journey that, in its course, you would meet many a paradox. Surely the final Paradox is the greatest of all.
Yet, should not this Paradox — as well as others — have been expected by us? Have we not had it drummed into us that "the last shall be first, and the first last," "For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it," "Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added unto you", "Whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth," and many other admonitions on the same lines?
The Master says, "Ye are gods; ye are all the children of the Most High". Not "You shall be," but "Ye are". Here and now, each and every man is "DIVINE." The Spirit within him is part and parcel of the Divine Spirit. He needs only to let it show itself to the full, and he will have won everything for which he came into the world,
"You have wrought the progress through of that which made you man," as someone has put it.
Throughout the whole Masonic Journey — as in all other systems which try to teach the same basic truths — we have two distinct meanings which are closely interwoven. Sometimes other meanings are woven into the pattern, but it will be found to be based upon these two main themes. Of these, the first tells of the stages in the path which must be trodden by every aspirant to Initiation, while the second describes the descent of the second aspect of Spirit, the Second Logos, into the Matter which has been formed for His reception by the third aspect, the Third Logos.
The building of the Microcosm of Man, and the building of the Macrocosm of the Solar System, or of the Universe, are so dovetailed into one another that the fundamental system of Cosmogony stands for both, whatever may be the dress in which it is presented by the particular religious system we may be considering at the moment. You will find the Jewish version set out in the Book of Genesis, and the same story is even more clearly set out in the Gnostic teaching of the Christian Religion.
The man, the world, the system, the universe, none is left to wallow along on its own account, without guidance from above. Each and every phase and stage has its Great Hierarchies, upon which the units which compose it can rely for guidance.
In this world of ours, there are "just men made perfect," who hold definite offices and carry out definite functions in the ruling and helping of all that lives therein. They hold office and work under the Spiritual King of the World, the Leader of its evolution. He is the One Initiator, in whose name all initiations are carried out, all degrees conferred, although, in the earlier stage, the actual work may be done by a Deputy, and even by a deputy of that Deputy.
The man who has made such progress in the Greater Mysteries as will allow of his admission to the Third Stage comes face to face with the Spiritual King Himself. He is "presented in the Temple," and his age-old Self cries out in the rapturous words of Simeon, "Lord, now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace, according to Thy word; for mine eyes have seen Thy salvation, which Thou hast prepared before the face of all people, to be a light to lighten the Gentiles and to be the glory of thy peace Israel."
If we can grasp the meaning and the plan of the progress of Man, we can make a picture of the meaning and plan of the progress of the Solar System. The various stages are set out clearly in all religions if only their followers have the eyes to see. Even in Christianity, the early Church Fathers lost no opportunity of impressing upon the followers of other religions that their systems fell in no way behind, pointing out that their faith, like all the others, had Mysteries which explained all these wonderful things in detail. But it seems that it was necessary that man, in the Western world, should plumb the depths of the profoundest materialism in the "dark ages," in which most things that were worth remembering were forgotten, and the rulers of the Church succeeded in losing all the inner meaning of the great allegories and so left Christendom to feed upon the husks of mere reputed historicity of a physical plane event.
But the tradition did not die. In the Church and in Freemasonry magnificent and stately rituals have been handed down through the ages, and the utmost care has been taken that none of the highly significant details should be changed or lost. In both cases, despite the continued efforts of the ignorant and the superficial amongst their followers, the task has been faithfully accomplished, although it is quite certain that in neither case had those, who so loyally fulfilled their trust, a full conception of the real meaning of the ceremonies whose integrity they guarded with such loving care.
As a direct result of their faithful and devoted service we are now able to formulate with exactitude the information which the original founders of the systems desired to convey.
Brethren, it is no "joy-ride" upon which you embark, when you enter upon the Craft Journey, but there is a story of Dean Swift which is perhaps pertinent. The Dean was justly noted for his Charity sermons, but, like most preachers he liked to have due and timely notice of what was expected of him. On one occasion he found himself faced with making an appeal from the pulpit, of which he had no warning, although the congregation had been informed that he would preach on the occasion. Justly incensed, he turned the tables on those whose lack of courtesy had put him in such a position, by giving the shortest, and probably the best, Charity sermon on record. Ascending the pulpit he opened the Bible and gave out his text, Proverbs, Ch. 19, v. 17-
He that hath pity upon the poor lendeth unto the Lord; and that which he hath given will he pay him again." If you like the security, down with the dust!" And he closed the book, and retired.
Brethren, if you like the security, it is up to you to give of yourselves unstintingly to Freemasonry and all that for which it stands, ever remembering that the way is hard, for it will lead you to transgress every desire of the body, the emotions and the lower mind.
Let me close with the description of the typical Initiate as described for us in the 53rd Chapter of the Book of the Prophet ISAIAH.
Do we accept the security as good? Are we prepared to undertake the required deposit of sacrifice?
"When you know — You will have the Wisdom to discriminate. When you can dream — you will have Strength to desire naught. When you Will — you will show Beauty of character in good conduct. When you can Keep Silent — You will have time to Love."
"May all that have life be delivered from Suffering!" (Hindu).
So mote it be.