Freemasonry and Catholicism
Wor. Bro. J. R. Cleland, Deputy President, P.P.A.Gd.Chap.(Kent).
"Remember that miserable conventionality is a power that dwarfs intellect and is the mother of nonentity." — Alexander Cannon, The Invisible Influence
"If through the Hall of Wisdom thou wouldst reach the Vale of bliss, disciple, close fast thy senses against the great dire heresy of separateness, that weans thee from the rest." — The Voice of the Silence (Fragment 1.)
"Infinity admits of no qualification and there is no for ever in Eternity." — Ray Knight, The Wheel of the Law.
"Man was made of Life and Light, with Soul and Mind; of Life the Soul, of Light the Mind." — Divine Poemander of Hermes, 34.
"God and the Father is Light and Life, of which man is made. If therefore thou learn and believe thyself to be of the Lie and Light, thou shalt again pass into Life. — Ibid, 50.
"It is a strange trait in certain religious temperaments, that, if you prove a man's religion to him on a rational basis, he is undeniably shocked." — The Initiate.
"Creeds are but footholds on an icy slope Cut by a guide for men that need to rope While slowly mounting to their alpine hope. When to the summit comes the adventurous climber. He flings all fetters free, Inbreathes Immensity And chants Love's simple hymn." — W. L. Wilmshurst, The Way to the East, In Excelsis.
"Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God."— Ephesians, ii 19.
"The life of Man is the knowledge of God. But this knowledge lives and moves. It is not a dead thing embalmed once for all in phrases." — Westcott.
"It is folly to expect men to do all that they may be reasonably expected to do." — Richard Wharton, Abp. Dublin, 1787-1863. Apophthegems, p.219.
"I believe, because it is impossible." — Tertuilian.
"The greater part of what my neighbours call good, I believe, in my soul, to be bad, and if I repent of anything, it is very likely to be my good behaviour." — Thoreau, Walden.
"From the earliest times the old have rubbed it into the young that they are wiser than they, and before the young had discovered what nonsense this was, they were old too, and it profited them to carry on the imposture." — Somerset Maugham, Cakes and Ale.
"I wager 'tis old to you As the story of Adam and Eve, and possibly quite as true." Robert Browning, Ivan Ivanovitch.
"I'll tell thee everything I can
There's little to relate.
I saw an aged, aged man
A-siting on a gate."
— Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking-glass.
* * *
We have often heard it said that Freemasonry is a Universal Science, and so it is, if we truly interpret the word "Science" as meaning "ordered knowledge" or, perhaps better, "ordered knowledge of realities," and if we take 'universal' as implying the possession of the key to that knowledge,' which is all-embracing and alive.
At the very commencement of our career in Freemasonry we are given a definition; Freemasonry is "a peculiar system of morality, veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols." Freemasonry is 'peculiar' in that it deals with that one, absolute truth which is peculiar to all religions and philosophies, and upon which all are based. It is a 'system' logical and coherent, which, if properly applied, is certain in its ultimate action upon the practitioner. It is a 'morality,' in the older sense of the word as descriptive of that type of dramatic instruction in which the various components of man, or sometimes the virtues and vices, were introduced as characters in the play. In the work of the Lodge, the component parts of the aspirant are represented by living actors — the Officers of the Lodge — who, by their actions and reactions, upon and around the Candidate, present a picture of the changes in condition which should be taking place within the Candidate himself.
The teachings of Freemasonry are 'veiled in allegory.' The discrepancies between the story enacted and any so-called historical record upon which it is based are so obvious and glaring that, on the very face of it, it cannot be anything but allegorical. Freemasonry is 'illustrated' — copiously illustrated — by symbols, all of which combine to build up a picture of cosmic truth which can be of universal application, open to the most diverse interpretation and untrammelled by all conditions pertaining to Time and Space.
It is a task of supreme difficulty adequately to express facts of a higher level in terms of one lower. We all know from our own experience how difficult can be the task of translating experience upon the level of desire — even everyday emotions — in terms of language, which pertains to the etheric level of the physical. Yet, here we have two levels which adjoin. How much more difficult, therefore, must be the task of such translation when the gap is one of four, five or even six planes between the level of actual experience and the level upon which one seeks to express it. To be able to bring the level of experience and that of expression into line, one must be able to experience both, in full measure, and be able to express each fully in its own terms, before the attempt is made to express either in terms of the other. And this, of course, in the case we now have under consideration, demands a very high degree of development.
Freemasonry is, for me at least, the most all-embracing and most adaptable expression of Catholicity, using the word 'catholicity' in its true sense as the expression of Universality. No matter by what road the approach to its truth is made — be that approach religious or philosophical, mystical or occult, material or metaphysical — always there is a message awaiting the Seeker, a helping hand outstretched to give assistance and a voice to offer encouragement to those who falter by the way. At all stages, from the lowest depths to which man has fallen, up to the highest heights to which he can hope to attain — and beyond — in the Masonic work he can give expression to the highest that is in him. Ever and always the Master — that is, himself, if he but knew it — cries out, 'Friend, come up higher.' and it rests with the individual aspirant to make response, to accept or to decline the invitation. Yet, woe to him who tries to take a higher place than that to which he has become entitled.
If we were to make a survey of the varieties of outlook adopted by the various religions and philosophies, we could, I think, establish an inherent probability — far more than a mere possibility — that each is an attempt in some measure to express some aspect or aspects of One Truth. In so far as each recognises that, in a humanity such as ours, there must be almost as many avenues of approach to truth as there are individuals to tread them, such bodies can be universal in application, truly Catholic. In so far as each fails to recognize the need for such diversity of approach, they remain "cribbed, cabined and confined" within the boundaries of self- erected prison walls, and fail to make universal appeal. Among the followers of each and every religion there are to be found people who are recognisable as fulfilling the requirements of the One Holy Catholic Church of God. Yet among the many who 'profess and call themselves Catholic' there are those who have not yet begun to glimpse the first implications of the word.
Catholicity, true universality, has always been an object of suspicion, fear and dislike among men, principally because it excludes — I use the word advisedly — compulsion and exclusiveness. Always each man fears that its acceptance might interfere with his own pet prejudices, principally because of an inward suspicion that these prejudices might possibly be wrong. There has always been this tendency to confine himself within some sort of cage or limitation, a kind of self-begotten "ring-pass-not" into which he tries to entice his fellows, without for one moment considering that the atmosphere of his particular little cell may be wholly unsuited to their constitutions.
One thing is certain: Catholicity can never be static. The moment it becomes static it dies, and ceases to be universal. The first essential and inescapable sign of life is growth. Life expresses itself in growth and movement. And this is the fundamental argument against what is called the 'Doctrine of Finality.' If, for purpose of argument, we say that Christianity is final, then it necessarily follows that it is dead. I do not find it so. I, for one, believe that Christianity is the latest and most complete revelation of Truth yet given to mankind, but I realise that, for many of my brethren, there are products of revelation which are more suited to their capacities or outlook. If, however, I am forced to accept it as a fact that Christianity teaches that there can be no further nor fuller revelation on the same lines, then I must go elsewhere to seek for that life and its accompanying growth which such teaching would deny to me. As a living man, holding the sure conviction that I am, in essence, pure spirit, although temporarily contacting the lower planes of matter in a body or bodies, and through the agency of a soul, I know that I also must continue to grow, or I must die the death. It has even been argued that growth by seeming retrogression may be better than the apathy engendered by standing still. "I am the gambling of the cheat," says Shri Krishna, in the Bhagavad Gita.
Catholicism, to survive, must manifest powers of growth and of expansion. Hence, as it is understood today, it can never be truly Catholic. Its opponent, Protestantism, suffers from exactly the same trouble. Exclusiveness invariably forbids universality. I know of no body nor organization among men which can truly claim to be Catholic. There are many which try to put forward the Catholic — or universal — truth, as they see it. Freemasonry, forbidding religious and political discussion and controversy within the precincts of the Lodge, perhaps comes nearest to the requirements of true Catholicity. As I wrote this paper the Convocations of Canterbury and of York were meeting to consider the revision of the Canon Law of the Church of England, a code which has remained unchanged for 300 years. The Archbishop of York, Dr. Garbett, has made a note-worthy remark. He has said that there can be no "unchangeable laws in a living Church," in making which statement he is nearer to Truth than, in all probability, he himself would care to admit.
In this paper we are considering the relationship between Freemasonry and true Catholicity. In order to do so it will be necessary to recapitulate the basic truths of this Universal or Catholic faith, and to use certain illustrations to elucidate these truths. In our earlier studies we have taken most of our illustrations from the basic Aryan teachings, as embodied in Hinduism. But now, I must ask to be forgiven if I take my illustrations from that expression of religious truth which is, for me, the highest, and which has the merit that it is probably that which is best known to the vast majority of my hearers and of those who will read these pages; I mean Christianity. I propose to use the Christian Creeds as a bridge, or a common ground, to link the two systems — which are one — thus complying with the occult maxim that, as every unity is, in essence, a trinity, it is only by examining it as such that it can be fully comprehended: I hope to demonstrate that Freemasonry is synonymous with Catholicity, teaching the same fundamental truth, and that any divergence or misunderstanding which may have arisen in the past, or which may now exist, between Freemasonry as practised and Catholicism, has only come about when one or other has failed, in more or less measure, to express Catholicity. Catholicity is the expression of the Universality of Deity through the medium of men, as integral parts of Deity, and, as such, Sons of God. Freemasonry. as a universal science, can express the balance of that universality at any moment upon any of the levels which intervene between God and Man. Religions and Philosophies, accentuating one or more facets of truth at the expense of other facets of the same truth, thereby debar themselves from the power to express that truth in its universality and completeness.
Some few Churches there are, not necessarily labelling themselves Christian, which, in themselves, express Catholicity; but their followers insist upon erecting barriers, limiting themselves within shells, building prisons, all of which are denials of that Catholicity. The same tendency exists in certain sections of Freemasonry, but Freemasonry is so designed, built up and expressed that it is almost impossible to limit it in essentials.
In the search for God — call it religion if you like — as in every sphere of manifested life, "one man's meat is another man's poison," and it has been truly said that more people have built up hells-upon-earth for themselves and for others through genuine religious conviction, than have done so through deliberate wrong-doing.
In the realm of his own lodge, that subjective lodge which is made perfect in the development of the man himself, and in the cooperation of his various vehicles, no religious discussion is permissible. "There is no religion greater than Truth." Man is made in the image of God, and, therefore, contains within himself all truth. In so far as he limits the scope of his researches into that truth, he introduces religious discussion into his lodge and produces an element of disharmony which frustrates its work. If Religion is the whole Truth, it follows that it must be truly universal, really Catholic, and this leaves no room for discussion in this sense of the word. The very term 'a religion' implies that the organization to which it refers is limited, is one of a number; and at once introduces that limitation which is the negation of 'Religion.'
Therefore, with apologies in advance to any of my brethren in Christianity upon whose pet corns I may inadvertently be treading in the course of my approach to the Christian Creeds and my interpretation of their content, I will commence with the statement that, to the best of my knowledge and belief, these Creeds were originally intended as expressions of this full Catholicity.
Fortunately we are not confined to the study of one credal form, and the parallels and discrepancies between the various expressions of belief enable us to build up a very fair picture of the original intention, a picture which corresponds so closely with the traditional teachings of the Ancient Wisdom as to leave little room for reasonable doubt that the creeds were intended as an outward expression of this inner truth.
The early creeds used in the first Christian communities were short statements of belief which served not only as reminders of the facts, but also as passwords or signs of recognition. In their present forms, most of the creeds embody three distinct phases :-
- A statement of the ancient formula of Cosmogenesis
- The insertion into this formula of a portion of the Rubric for the guidance of the Hierophant in the Egyptian form of Initiation, of which our Masonic Craft is an embodiment; and,
- A powerful tendency to materialization which sought to interpret the resultant combination of formulae in terms of biography of an historical individual.
One writer says:- "Nothing can be stronger than the language of the Fathers of the Church down to the fifth century on the care with which the Creed was to be kept secret. It was to be preserved in the memory only. The name Symbolum is used for it, of which the most probable explanation is that it meant a password whereby Christians recognised each other. St. Augustine says 'You must not write down anything about the Creed because God said, "I will put MY law in their hearts, and in their minds I will write it." Therefore the creed is learned by hearing and is not written on tablets nor on any material substance but in the heart.'
"It is therefore not surprising that there is no specimen of a creed until the end of the second century, and really the most ancient public written creed is about the end of the third century." (The Rev. J.R. Lumby, D.D., "The History of the Creeds.")
In the original formula there were four heads and, as it was a statement of corporate rather than of individual belief, it commenced, 'We Believe.'
The first head was, broadly, a statement of belief in God the Father, as the ultimate source of our system, including the world itself and everything in it, whether seen or unseen.
The second head affirmed belief in God the Son, onely-begotten — not only-begotten or, as it were, the one and only, but onely-begotten or alone-born, that is begotten-of-one-alone and not of a syzygy or pair — begotten before all aeons, not made but emanated, confirming the unique peculiarity. He is described as "of one substance with the Father, true God from true God, true Light from true Light, by Whom (i.e. The Light) all forms were made." "Who, for us men, came down from heaven and entered the DENSE SEA, whence to arise again in ever greater glory to a kingdom without end."
The third head expressed belief in the Holy Spirit, the 'Life-giver' emanating also from the Father, equal with Him and with the Son in glory, and manifesting through His Angels.
Fourth, and last, there is recognition of ONE BROTHERHOOD of Holy Men, as a step towards the Greater Brotherhood above. There is one Initiation by which comes release from the fetters of sin and escape from the wheel of Birth and Death into Eternal Life. This fourth head is later linked with the third, so that each Creed has three main divisions linked to the Three Universal Aspects of Trinity. Of these the first has one clause only, the second has seven and the third four, making twelve in all, which is itself most significant.
The condensed formula appears to have been given by the Christian Master, to the Heads of the Essene Community of Mount Serbal. Like the Buddha's formula of 'The Four Noble Truths,' it was given as a mnemonic, calling to mind much more than what is directly expressed in the words, each clause being taken as a focus for further expansion and explanation.
Always, where true brotherhood is recognised, we find an expression of a common Motherhood with, as it were, a triple expression of Fatherhood. Compare for instance the Mother Mary in Christianity and the three Fathers, God or JHVH, and the Holy Spirit, held in balance by Joseph, the skilled artisan or craftsman, with the three aspects of the Master as 'Lord,' 'Christ' and 'Jesus.' In Freemasonry we have the Mother Lodge with its Three Principal Officers, S.W. and W.M., with the J.W., the skilled craftsman, holding the balance. Or take Man himself as Monad and Personality, balanced in the Individuality, wherein alone lies full potentiality of craftsmanship. The same three aspects are reflected in the three Craft Degrees as also in the Three Grand Originals of the Holy Royal Arch.
In the Egyptian Rubric the Teaching was delivered largely in a long series of rites and ceremonies, dramatic forms in which the Aspirant was himself the principal actor. The culmination at which these aimed was that he should 'enter the Path,' pass from the domain of the Lesser Mysteries to that of the Greater. Part of the rubric for the High Priest in this culminating ceremony — that called by the Buddhists the 'Sotapatti' — is, then, included in the Christian Creeds. Parts of this ceremony we have previously considered, and we have noted that it bears close resemblance to the scheme of our M.M. and H.R.A degrees. The instructions have been cast in the form of a narrative of the Descent of the Logos into Matter, as symbolised in the ritual itself. The actual instruction formula, inherited by the ancient Egyptian hierarchy from that of Atlantis, read:- "Then shall the Candidate be bound upon the wooden cross, he shall die, he shall be buried, and shall descend into the underworld; after the third day he shall be brought back from the dead, and shall be carried up into heaven to be on the right hand of Him from whom he came, having learnt to guide (or rule) the living and the dead:"
This formula appears to have been inserted into the original Christian Creed by the leaders of the Essene Community, evidently with a view to preserving that portion of the Wisdom teaching which it embodied. This probably happened after the Master had left them.
Let us then consider the Creeds now in use and their implications but, first, let me quote the formula known as the Old Roman Creed, probably dating from the fourth century A.D., but sometimes attributed to as early as the end of the First.
A. 1. I believe in God, Father Almighty.
B. 2. And in Christ Jesus, His only Son, our Lord.
3. Who was born of the Holy Ghost and the Virgin Mary,
5. The third day He rose from the dead..
4. crucified under Pontius Pilate, and buried.
6. He ascended into Heaven,
7. sitteth on the right hand of the Father,
8. thence He shall come to judge living and dead,
C. 9. And in the Holy Ghost,
10. Holy Church,
11. remission of sins,
12. resurrection of the flesh.
A very concise statement of what may be described as the form and arrangement of the materialised clauses, before the final setting.
First, then, let us take the creed as it issued from the Council of Nicaene in A.D. 325. It reads, dividing the clauses as before :-
A. 1. We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of all things visible and invisible.
B. 2. And in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the Son of God begotten of the Father, only-begotten (or alone-born), that is, of the substance of the Father; God of God, Light of Light, Very God of Very God, begotten not made, being of one substance with the Father, by Whom all things were made, both those in heaven and those in earth.
3. Who for us men and for our salvation descended; was incarnate, and was made man,
5. and rose the third day,
6. ascended into the heavens
8. and cometh to judge the quick and the dead
C. 9. And in the Holy Ghost. Amen.
That was the whole original as put forward by this Council. It is true that they added an anathema which merely sufficed to show their complete misapprehension of the meaning and purpose of the form. We may neglect it, as having nothing to do with the Creed itself, but, for the sake of completeness, may note its terms :-
"But those who say, 'there was when he was not' and 'before he was begotten he was not,' and that 'he came into existence from what was not,' or who profess that the Son of God is of a different person or substance, or that he is created or changeable, or variable, are anathematized by the Catholic Church."
The Creed now used with the title Nicaene is the outcome of later amendments and additions, most of which were made, or at least approved, at the Council of Constantinople in A.D. 381. We find it sometimes called the Nicaeno-Constantinopolitan Creed and it reads :-
A. 1. We believe in one God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth and of all things visible and invisible.
B. 2. And in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the onely-begotten Son of God, begotten of His Father before all aeons; God of God, Light of Light, Very God of Very God, begotten not made, being of one substance with the Father, by Whom all things were made.
3. Who, for us men and for our salvation, came down from heaven and was incarnate of the Holy Ghost and the Virgin Mary, and was made man.
4. And was crucified also for us; under Pontius Pilate He suffered and was buried,
5. and the third day He rose again according to the Scriptures,
6. and ascended into heaven,
7. and sitteth on the right hand of the Father,
8. and He shall come again with glory to judge both the quick and the dead: Whose kingdom shall have no end.
C. 9. And we believe in the Holy Ghost, the Lord, the Giver of Life, Who proceedeth from the Father and the Son, Who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified, Who spake by the prophets.
10. And we believe one Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.
11. We acknowledge one baptism for the remission of in,
12. and we look for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come. Amen.
Here we have all three phases in full swing. There are two other Creeds, consideration of which will help us, when they are used for purposes of comparison. They are those known as the Apostles' Creed and the Athanasian Creed. Of these the 'Apostles" so closely resembles the Nicaeo-Constantinopolitan in general outline that we may consider them together as one statement of belief. The Athanasian Creed is probably the only creed which is the work of one hand. It is, of course, of later date than the others, but it is essentially an expansion of the original Nicaean, omiting the anathema and inserting an extended and comprehensive elucidation of the doctrine of the Trinity in Unity. It contains all twelve clauses by implication although several are not directly stated. There is no mention of Pontius Pilate nor of the Church as such. The earliest example is that which was in the Ambrosian Library in Milan, dated about the end of the seventh century.
Objection has sometimes been raised to the Athanasian Creed on account of its opening and closing clauses, but I think the objection arises from a misunderstanding of their implications, so I will deal briefly with them, as they embody a truth which is essential to our understanding of universality.
The opening clause is "Whosoever will be saved before all things it is necessary that he hold the Catholic Faith, which faith except everyone do keep whole and undefiled, without doubt he shall perish everlastingly," and the closing sentence, "This is the Catholic Faith which except a man believe faithfully, he cannot be saved?"
Now in the light of the Wisdom teachings and of those essentials which we have found preserved in one form or another in all faiths, the meaning should be clear to us as a statement of universal fact.
I would suggest paraphrasing the opening somewhat as follows:-
Whosoever wishes to be safe, in the sense of having passed that stage when there remains any danger of failing to meet the minimum requirements for the continuing of his evolution to completion in our humanity, before he does anything else it is necessary that he should gain understanding of the facts of evolution which have been handed down from time immemorial, for, until he has adequately fulfilled this condition, without the clarity of such understanding being dimmed by any considerations of the lower vehicles, he cannot proceed, but must postpone any further evolution 'until time and circumstance shall restore' the required conditions when, in a new age, he can step in at the head of another evolving humanity."
And the final clause simply restates that without having made the necessary progress he is not yet certain of staying with this humanity.
Before going on to analyze the Creeds, I would like to recall that a certain Judah Hallevi of Castile, about 1140 A.D., composed a famous work "Al-Khazari" in defence of what he called "the despised faith." It relates how the King of the Khazars, in his search for 'right belief,' was dissatisfied with the answers to his questionings received in succession from a Philosopher of the Avicenna type, from a Christian Scholastic and from a Muslim Doctor of the Mu'tazilite School. Finally he questions a Jewish Rabbi, who answers, "I believe in the God of Abraham, of Isaac and of Israel, who led the children of Israel out of Egypt with signs and miracles . . . . . . . . . our belief is comprised in the Torah." This answer is supplemented by, "To this the believer attaches the following articles of creed which complete the Jewish belief, viz.
- the recognition of God's sovereignty,
- His eternity,
- the providential care which He bestowed upon our forefathers,
- that the Torah emanated from Him, and
- that the proof of all this is to be found in the delivery from Egypt.
This led up to the famous "Thirteen articles of Creed," still in use.
And, now, let us review the Apostles' and Nicaene Creeds, as found in the Liturgies.
I. 1. "I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible."
The allusion in the Apostles' Creed is to the highest conception then possible to the average man, to That to which we have referred elsewhere as the Logos of our Solar System. In the Nicaene the concept is extended to embrace the First Cause of All.
From this Father all things came and to Him all must return, not to abandon nor forfeit the consciousness gained on the lower planes of manifestation, but to become each a conscious unit of a Single Whole, a facet, or perhaps better a focus, of that infinite all-embracing consciousness. "Then shall the Son also be subject unto Him that put all things under Him, that God may be all in all." 'Heaven and earth' appear in the original formula to have been expressed as 'the system' and 'our world, and all things therein, whether seen or unseen,' reference being apparently to the Solar System, with the Earth as an adjunct. A hint of the confusion of thought remains today in the dual use of the word 'heaven' in common speech.
II. 2. "and in one Lord Jesus Christ, the onely-begotten Son of God, begotten of His Father before all worlds, God of God, Light of Light, Very God of Very God, begotten not made, being of one substance with the Father; by Whom all things were made; Who, for us men and for our salvation, came down from heaven."
So runs the Nicaene. The Apostles' contains only the first few words. It is to be noted that the original formula did not contain the words 'Jesus Christ,' and there is good reason to suppose that, in their present form, they are a misreading of a Greek term referring either to 'The Chiefest Healer' or 'The Most Holy One,' the Greek reading being itself a translation from a still older reading in another tongue.
The name JESUS, in its various forms, such as Jeshua, Joshua, Jesu, Jehu, Gizeh, Jason, Isus, and so on, was revered in many older faiths in prechristian times and it is notable that the Master Jesus is attended by twelve chosen Disciples, that Joshua made the crossing of Jordan with twelve companions, that Jason sailed upon his famous voyage in search of the Golden Fleece with twelve others and that the Roman altar of fire sometimes appears surrounded by the figures of twelve gods. All these numerical analogies tell the same story, which appears in Freemasonry in the Holy Royal Arch, wherein the central Symbol is set in the midst of the banners of the twelve tribes, as the Earth is set within the circle of the Zodiac. That a representative of Deity, bearing a name with similar etymological significance to that of Jesus, was almost universally worshipped in early times seems clear. And, in many cases he seems to have had the title equivalent to the Greek 'monogenes,' born-by-one or onely-begotten. Such a one must come into manifestation, it is said, at the beginning of every major cycle of becoming, but, thereafter, all that which becomes must do so from the interaction or cooperation of two. The whole concept is, perhaps, the most difficult for the ordinary man to grasp, yet it is perfectly natural and each successive act of this type is confirmation of the immutable law of Creation, which the Master comes "not to destroy, but to fulfil." We have here to deal with the only direct manifestation of the Unmanifest and "without Him was not anything made that was made." His ensouling and energising essence is, the principle behind all organic life. So the title ' onely-begotten' can refer only to the Second Aspect of a Logos. 'Before all the worlds' is, literally, 'before all the aeons,' indicating that the Second Person is first-in-time and greatest of all the aeons or emanations of the First Person or Father.
"for us men and for our salvation, came down from heaven."
It is fundamental truth that man is an immortal spirit, is of the very nature of the Father, yet, but for the sacrifice of the Son, in pouring Himself into the lower planes and thus limiting Himself in vestures of their materials, the Causal Body, the link between heaven and earth, between God and Man incarnate, could never have come into being; a man could not have become a living soul. This Causal Body is the true GRAAL, the vase or vessel to hold the Elixir of Life. Thus, in very truth, the Son is Salvator and Mediator, as well as being the Creator of man and of all things, for, without Him, the gap could not have been bridged and the Individuality, the three-fold living soul, of man could never have had conscious being.
II. 3. "and was incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary."
This is the Anglican Prayer Book reading. It has always been a puzzle to many that the birth of the Second Person could be the outcome of any activity on the part of the Third Person. The ordinary man cannot get away from the idea of Time, and sees the Third Person as holding the relation of offspring, rather than that of progenitor, of the Second Person. The contradiction is only apparent, and we are dealing only with a further stage in the descent of Spirit into Matter. The meaning has been further confused by a totally unwarranted change of preposition on the part of some translator. This mistake is so obvious that, but for the fixed presumption of material historicity of the sentence, it could hardly have been missed by any scholar. Even in the latest Greek readings there is only one preposition to govern the two nouns, and the sentence reads literally, "was incarnate of the Holy Ghost and the Virgin Mary." The Monadic Essence, having come down into matter, now takes a garment of the visible, tangible material which has already been prepared for its reception by the activity of the Third Person, acting upon what would otherwise have remained unproductive or virgin matter. Of its own motivation or activity the atomic matter of each level does not enter into any sort of combination. It remains inert and unproductive until some outside stimulus is applied. This outside stimulus is the energy of the Third Person which, applied upon the physical level, brings into existence those fixed arrangements of atoms which we know as the Chemical Elements. It builds the ultimate physical atoms into protons, neutrons, electrons, and combines these into atoms, molecules and so on, a process which still continues. Forms appear, built up from these, ready for the vitalising principle of the Second Person to inhabit them. The materialising tendency has been further aggravated by the change from Maia to Maria — from Mother to Mary — a perfectly natural change in the confusion with Mare, the sea, a term so universally used to denominate those levels upon which the creative action takes place.
Behind the Mystery of the Virgin Birth lie three essential meanings:-
- The Incarnation of the Logos and the manifestation in matter of the Second Person;
- The becoming of the human 'living soul,' the Individuality in each unit;
- The Birth of the Christ-principle in the man who is ready for the Path of Return.
The idea of a Virgin Birth is much older than Christianity, and sometimes that which we have called the Virgin is referred to as the Widow, or as the World-Mother. Under such designations She has received tribute from men in all ages. Indeed the best known Temple of the Virgin is the Parthenon in Athens.
"and was made man."
Here is a most significant clause which clearly indicates that the coming of the Monadic Essence to the human level is a separate stage, later in time than the descent into matter. The insertion of this clause contradicts flatly the suggestion that the "taking flesh of the Holy Ghost and the Virgin Mary" might refer to a human birth. The clause does not appear in the Apostles' Creed, but it is found in the draft of that of the Council of Nicaea, where the fact that it is a later step is further accentuated in the reading "and was made flesh, and was made man." The Apostles' shows the materialisation at its lowest limit in the utterly gross rendering "conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary."
II. 4. "and was crucified also for us: under Pontius Pilate He suffered and was buried,"
The variation in the order of events here in the two creeds is interesting. That much maligned man, Pontius Pilate, managed to get dragged into the scene through an error which was probably quite fortuitous in the first instance, PONTOU PILETOU (the dark sea) becoming PONTIOU PILETOU by insertion of an iota, and which only later became accentuated by a change in preposition, when Epi was substituted for Hupo. Once the proper name had been substituted for the reading "the Dense Sea" the mischief was done, and the change of preposition merely lessened the chance of enquiry, while polishing the phraseology. In the earlier transcriptions the actual intention is made clearer still by the use of the dative case, which showed that the expression was intended to refer to a place and not to a person, but the change to genitive seems to have taken place even before the insertion of the fatal iota. The meaning is perfectly clear," He endured the dense sea."
Neither of these Creeds expresses the original idea fully. In the Apostles' some stages are omitted, and in the Nicaean there is some confusion of arrangement.
"was crucified, dead and buried," of this one writer says, "The astounding evolution of a perfectly reasonable allegory into an absolutely impossible biography has had a very sad influence upon the entire Christian Church and upon the faith which it has taught."
It is useless to turn to the Gospels for help in unravelment. I doubt if any merely human mentality is capable of disentangling completely the mixture of Solar myth, Christ allegory, Initiation rubric, Morality drama and tradition of the real life of the Master Jesus therein set forth.
The Crucifixion and Resurrection are Initiatory rites, applicable upon all levels. They are a part of the Christ allegory. The fact that the date of their annual commemoration is not fixed links them closely with the Solar myth and, while there certainly has been a tendency in this Century to ride the horses of the Solar myth to death, yet, over and above the mass of speculation and exaggeration which has been indulged, there lies a germ of fundamental truth, for the course of the Sun has been used as an allegory in all ages. "As above, so below;" again the old maxim holds, in this method of communication of truth. In my paper on the "Masonic Trinity and Way of the Cross" I have already dealt sufficiently with the Cross symbolism, so I need not repeat. The Cross has been used as a symbol from the very earliest times and it might be interesting here to note that amulets of a cross rising from a heart — so supremely applicable to the Masonic Craft — such as can be purchased today at any Roman Catholic dealers', were in Use in Egypt in the days of the earliest Dynasties.
In the Holy Royal Arch the words of the Prophet Ezekiel (ix-4) are quoted "And the Lord said unto him (him who was clothed in white linen, with a writer's inkhorn by his side) 'Go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, and set a mark upon the foreheads of the men that sigh and that cry for all the abominations that be done in the midst thereof.' " The words here translated 'set a mark' mean literally 'mark Tau' which is to say that he was to mark them with a gross.
There are several forms evolved from the simple cross within the circle. There are two main lines of development . In the first the circle falls away and the symbol evolves into the Swastika, the Sawastika, the Maltese Cross and other derivatives. In the second the cross grows out to embrace the circle, which remains at the centre as a rose, a star or one of countless other emblems. Interpretations of Cross symbolism are possible, at all levels, from the most gross forms of phallicism to the highest Spirituality, and beyond to Cosmic levels. Everything goes to show that, in Christianity, the figure was in use long before the cross was added. It is a figure of a living Christ and in the earliest known examples of the crucifix, dating to about the fifth century (e.g. on the gate of Sta. Sabina in Rome and on a contemporary ivory in the British Museum) still had the living figure. Marucchi, the well-known Catholic archaeologist says, "It is to be remarked that the Christ is here represented as still living, with the eyes open and without any mark of physical suffering." Only in the twelfth century do "they cease to represent the Christ as living and triumphant on the cross." The cross then remains as a symbol of voluntary sacrifice, the Logos sacrificing and humbling Himself, and bearing with enormous patience the crushing limitations of His almighty power, in order that the manifold forms which He has filled with His Life, may gradually expand without breaking, that each spark of the Life may come to realise itself as one with Him, in service to Him and to all its kind. Man himself, did he but realise the fact, is thus crucified and limited in matter, and so the supreme sacrifice is perpetuated. If man does not realise this it is because the 'living soul,' the ' Christ-in- man' continues to identify itself with the cross to which it appears to be bound. The cross-symbol is a sure touchstone to distinguish good and evil in the intricacies of this mortal life, for it has been truly said "only those actions through which shine the Light of the cross are worthy of the life of the disciple." The real key to happiness, as to brotherhood, lies in willing, self-sacrificing love.
We have seen the full process in action in the Egyptian ritual and this setting survives to a very large extent in the Masonic Craft of today, although symbolically only.
The Apostles' Creed as used in many churches today has here, " He descended into Hell," accentuating that while the body was "dead and buried," He Himself was alive and fully conscious, undergoing tests and instructions, to familiarise Him with the new environment and to teach Him self-confidence and self-reliance, to enable Him to preach to the "spirits in prison," those still imprisoned in the flesh.
II. 5. "The third day he rose again, according to the Scriptures."
Many, who take the Gospel narrative literally, find it difficult to correlate the interval between Friday night and Sunday morning with the 'three days,' and especially with the words of the Master "the Son of Man shall remain three days and three nights in the heart of the earth." The change occurred in the days of watering down the Mysteries to meet the needs of weaker and less worthy candidates and of more ignorant and more financially-minded priests. Largely for financial reasons, it was most conveniently discovered that the 77 hours of the rubric was a clerical error for 27, and that after the third day 'should read' on the third day and so wealthy patrons were saved from two days of solitary confinement and extreme physical discomfort. The form in which the Gospel narrative is cast shows obvious signs that the facts and their real meaning had already been largely forgotten.
II. 6. "and ascended into heaven." Here is that tremendous experience which we have seen as the first awakening of the Intuition, of consciousness upon the Buddhic level For the first time man knows the fact of spiritual brotherhood with his fellows, and with all that lives, in union with the Father of All. It is a step from speculation and theory to actual knowledge which is startling, stupendous and sometimes overwhelming. It inevitably changes the whole outlook on life.
II. 7. and sitteth on the fight hand of the Father,"
8. and He shall come again with glory to judge both the quick and the dead; whose kingdom shall have no end."
The Egyptian rubric reads "having learned to guide the living and the dead." In the Regula of Apelies, disciple of Marcion, we find "whence He hath come to rule" etc. Personally, I believe this to be the older reading but it is admittedly difficult for some to grasp, cutting out, as it does, reference to a 'second coming' in time, and spreading the 'Day of Judgement' into an eternal NOW. It also accentuates the fact that each and every man is capable of becoming consciously one with the Father Almighty, to cooperate in the work of guiding all creation, whether living or dead. The lesson is that all powers of mind are held in trust for use in service to all creation, without distinction and without limit.
III. 9. "I believe in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Giver of Life, Who proceedeth from the Father and the Son, Who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified, who spake by the prophets."
Back again to the original formula. The Council of Constantinople 381 A.D., reinstated the wonderful title 'Giver of Life' but, so far as this function is concerned, we have drifted far from the old faith. It has, been suggested, with some truth, that the Churches, in their denunciations of birth-control and contraceptives, have gone so far as actually to imply denial of this function of the Holy Spirit, or, at least, to suggest that it can be overridden by human agency.
The whole idea of the Holy Spirit links strongly with the ancient teaching of the primary creative force of light and fire. This Aspect of Deity is represented as manifesting in tongues of fire.
III. 10. " and I believe one catholic and apostolic Church."
'I believe,' not 'I believe in.' 'Catholic' means universal, which must imply that this Church has an appeal to all, 'without distinction of race, creed, sex, caste or colour and 'Apostolic' demonstrates clearly that it is a Church which is initiated and guided by Apostles or Messengers. This will be seen to be the case if we carry our researches into its manifestations in the outer religions of mankind.
III. 11. "I acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins."
There is no idea at all resembling the modern 'forgiveness' even implied. This is a clear statement of the fact that the Aspirant recognises that he must rise through the watery levels, setting himself free from all the limitations of sin and error before entering upon the Path proper. Baptism is always an initiation rite, be it of water or of fire. The first great initiation is in very truth 'a baptism for emancipation from the bonds of sin.'
III. 12. "and I look for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come."
As is almost invariably the case in such formula, 'the dead' are those whom, in our everyday physical lives, we designate as 'the living.'
Volumes have been written upon the subject of 'the resurrection of the body,' the 'agenrisyng of fleish' as an English Creed of about 1400 A.D. calls it. On the face of it this cannot mean the rehabilitation of the same actual physical body, not only because the body is changing every day during its existence, but because the elements of which it is composed have formed part of many other bodies and will go on forming part of others until such time as they evolve beyond that stage of development wherein such participation in body-building is necessary for their evolution.
The clause covers a fundamental belief in the natural fact of reincarnation for the inhabitant of the 'body.' As with the elements making up that body, so must he reincarnate until he reaches a stage wherein this is no longer necessary for his evolution. As they form part of his fleshy envelope, so does he himself form part of the material envelope through which THAT, of which he forms a part, manifests. If the clause bore the commonly attributed physical meaning, how could one interpret the words of St. Paul to the Philippians when he describes himself as striving "if by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead"?
'the life of the world to come' is literally 'the life of the coming age.' One Celtic Creed renders it simply I believe in the life after death."
Well, brethren, there is the story as told in the Christian Creed, so now let us consider Freemasonry and its teachings in the light of this and our earlier studies.
What has Freemasonry to do with all these matters?
Are we not Sons of the widow? Are we not brethren in the spirit? Have we not all a new Mother in the Lodge and do we not all reach the new birth therein by the agency of Three Fathers? Do we not recognise and teach the Brotherhood of Man under the ultimate Fatherhood of God? Are we not creative entities, co-operating in the work of Creation with God Himself?
The answer to all these rhetorical questions is quite definitely in the affirmative.
The more-than-hint of a Solar Cult-pattern in the Masonic Ritual gives, in my opinion, the safest clue to the whole position of Freemasonry as a Universal Science, as a statement of THE UNIVERSAL SCIENCE.
We an told that the Three Lesser Lights in the Lodge represent the Sun, the Moon and the Master of the Lodge," and the teaching is even more clearly emphasised in the T.B. of the E.A. Here we find the Sun and Moon, one on either side, supporting the Blazing Star at the Centre. Many of you will doubtless remember that, in the working out of the parallel between the stages in the Christian Initiation scheme and that of the Masonic Craft, we attributed broadly; Birth to the E.A., Baptism to the F.C. and Mark Man, Transfiguration to the Mark Master and R.A. Mariner, Crucifixion to the M.M., Resurrection to the I.M., culminating in his installation of his successor, and Ascension to the H.R.A. In doing this we noted that in either scheme the stage of Transfiguration was capable of standing as complete in itself, and that it could be placed in any position in the scheme, or could even be omitted altogether without detriment to the whole as a sequence.
We now, I hope, understand considerably more of the basic necessity for viewing all such schemes in the light of the facts of cosmo-genesis, more especially in reference to our own Solar System, the SUN of which is the physical manifestation or focus of its Logos. We may now consider for a moment the further implications of the E.A.T.B., in which the symbol of that Transfiguration is set out as plainly as may be. We have been told that this board is a complete precis of the Path and its various stages. The Ladder is the ascent of the mounting consciousness, up which all must inevitably climb — not forgetting that it is, in essence, the same ladder by which the Spirit made the descent. At the bottom it rests upon a symbol of that which is to come. At the top we find, as we ought to expect, a complete figure of the Transfiguration. At the Centre is the Blazing Star, the Source of Light as the agent of Creation, Preservation and of Transmutation, all three uses to which we find light and its derivatives, fire and heat, put in daily practice in our everyday world. Christianity sees this ultimate Light as the Christ-principle in man. It shines in all its splendour as Light of Light, the focus of the One Light within each individual derivative spark. Each such unit of creation depends for its very existence upon the presence within it of a portion of the Light, the first manifestation of the vibration of the Word of God, when He said "Let There Be LIGHT."
In the Gospel narrative the Representative of this Light appears flanked by figures of Moses and Elias. In the T.B. these are shown as the Sun and the Moon. In man himself, the manifested Individuality is flanked by the Monad and the Personality.
All these symbols are parallels. Moses, so uncompromisingly material in his general outlook, whose very name implies 'saved from the waters,' stands for the personality and matter, symbolized in the Moon with which also his name has a close link. As the source, for this earth, of reflected Light, the Moon is essentially the symbol of Matter, seen as a reflection, reversal or mirror-image of Spirit. The Moon was the first Physical Planet in our Earth Scheme. The link is close with the human personality, so close that, when it becomes too marked, we describe the man as lunatic or moon-struck.
Elias is the representative of the Sun; 'my God is Jahwe' is the literal meaning, the word being, in this form, identical with the Greek word for the Sun, Hellos. We find the word in common use in such common derivatives as heliocentric, heliograph and so on.
The common link between all systems is LIGHT — not the direct light of the Sun, which is but a focus, nor that of the Moon, which is but a reflector — but the Light from the activity of whose vibration even they also were called into existence. The First Chapter of the Book of Genesis — and indeed all other such cosmologies — states that the first word of Creation was 'Let there be Light.' 'And there was Light' and from that Light came the Sun and the Moon and all the infinite multitudes of modifications, combinations and permutations which we label as Creation or Nature. From this Light came also such manifestations as sound, taste, smell, touch, and all the wonders of Creation upon which such vibratory senses can be exercised and to which they respond. All is Light.
Our ancient brethren knew what they were about when they set AGNI, God of Fire and Lord of Light, at the Head of their Pantheon, with the title AGNI DEUS, which root sounds, in Christian lands, underwent a permutation of its terminations to become AGNUS DEI, the Lamb of God, the central symbol of the "Light of the World" which has, in very truth, been 'slain from the beginning of the world' that all creation might have being. Without it there could be no manifested Life.
In Freemasonry we have the symbolic rendering in its widest and most all-embracing form. The representative of the Master, in his advance to the E. in the III degree, and in that which follows, mirrors that great Cosmic Sacrifice, descends into the cruciform womb of Matter hollowed to receive him. Thence he arises, in the constellation of the Lion, which momentarily "lies down with the Lamb," for the purpose of completing the Great Work. And, so, as a Rose set in the centre of the cross, he comes again to a new birth and to a reunion with the companions of his toil.
Ever and again it is the same old story that is told. The Ancient Wisdom, Freemasonry and, the link which we have chosen to use here, Christianity, all tell the story, in their various ways, of the descent of Spirit into Matter and the consequent veiling of the Light; all tell of the possibility of developing and expanding the individual consciousness, and of the guidance of the Inner Light in its increasing splendour which will enable the Aspirant to reach out and, in fullest possible illumination, to grasp the prize of Eternal Life, to become once more an integral, inseparable portion of the Central Flame, the One Light of the Logos whence he sprang, but, by his wanderings and prodigality in the far country of his exile, having gained that which never again, save by his own volition and urge to serve, can he lose, full consciousness.
Which one of us can say what lies beyond? Not I! Yet, may it not be — I make the suggestion in all humility and reverence — that the very highest conception of Deity which man, as such, is capable of envisaging is Himself evolving. May it not be that He is waiting to make his next step forward when He shall have gathered in the fruits of the development of those particles of His Light which, in very truth His children, His direct offspring, living, moving and having their being in Him, He sent out to sow and to reap and to bring in their harvest to His store.
Why must we postulate an end? Why must we ever seek finality? Surely, brethren, there can be no finality in Eternity, whose circle, of radius and circumference infinite, must endure to all infinity. If there is an Eternity at all, it must stretch both ways. The key to its accomplishment lies in the application of the quaternary, the Cross, the Cardinal Points, and in that which links them, the saltire cross of sacrifice, the Four Tassels at the corners of the Pavement, the four Cardinal Virtues to be developed. The Regents of the Four Cardinal Points, whom we have so often encountered in our travels, are the Guardians of the Four Qualifications which must be attained in the Personality, before progress can be made.
There must, obviously, be many interpretations of the eight points graded to meet the needs of different types of men. So, in closing, I will only suggest one, which happens to appeal to me personally, and which I sometimes envisage in the Lodge.
In this interpretation the Four Qualifications occupy the four Cardinal Points; Discrimination in the East, Desirelessness in the South, Good-Conduct in the West and Love in the North. The points of the saltire cross marked by the Tassels have the Four Virtues; Prudence in the N.E., Temperance in the S.E., justice in the S.W., and Fortitude in the N.W.
By this arrangement we find that the Fortitude of the Candidate is first tested on his entrance in the N.W. but unbeknown to himself. He passes by the point of Love in a state of darkness, ignorant of its resplendent virtue, but in the N.E. learns that Prudence in physical contacts which enables him to acquire the qualification of Discrimination as an E.A.; in the East; Passing into realms of matter in the S.E. he learns to practise Temperance, which, from a natural tendency, leads him to the qualification of Desirelessness in the South, the outstanding mark of the F.C.; Passing on his way he acquires the principles of justice in the S.W., which help him to develop habitual Good Conduct in the West as a M.M.; and so he returns to the N.W., where his Fortitude is consciously developed on a higher level than when he first unknowingly practised it. Now he understands the dangers which beset him on the Path, and the conscious practise of the virtue enables him to reach the Chair in the North, wherein, as Master Elect, he, alone among all his fellows, can be seated for a time in preparation for the opening of the higher cycle.
Love makes the world go round. It may be a trite saying, but it is veritably true. Without this Fourth and greatest Qualification, no man can truly say that he is Ruler in his own Lodge. The practise of Love as a final virtue, and its acquisition as the final qualification, demands, above all things, an infinite patience. On his first entrance into the Lodge he has learned the elementary practise of this virtue in deep humility, and its application grows steadily in the practise of the hidden mysteries of nature and science, building up a capacity to undergo even the 'last and greatest trial of his fortitude and fidelity.' Thence it leads on to that even more extended patience which is necessary for the practise of Mastership. It continues even then to grow and expand, becoming more and more exacting in its demands, so as to embrace that infinite degree of patience which must be practised in the creation and guidance of a humanity, a world, a solar system, a universe, and beyond.
The words of St. James which I have so often quoted, are applicable upon all levels, becoming ever more exacting in their demand as the Aspirant ascends the ladder. With them, then, I leave you for the present:-
"My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have the perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing. If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed."
PEACE TO ALL BEINGS!
So mote it be.