Freemasonry and Spiritual Disciplines
W. Bro. J. R. CLELAND, P.P.A.G. Chap. (Kent)
"This self is not obtainable by explanation, nor yet by mental grasp, nor by hearing many times; but by him whoso IT chooses, by him is IT obtained. For him the self its proper form reveals." KATHOPANISHAD
"God said to the Holy Word, Increase in increasing, and multiply in multitude, all you My creatures and workmanships, and let him that is endued with mind know himself to be immortal; and that the cause of Death is the Love of the Body, and let him learn all things that are." The DIVINE POEMANDER OF HERMES : 38
Nature never breaks her own laws. Nature is sustained by the order of her own law, which lives and works within her."LEONARDO da VINCI (Note-books)
"There's a companion walks with me In all my ways unceasingly; A watchman of my daily strife, A steersman at my wheel of life.
I do not see him nor can hear But know him intimately near A presence ever mine o'er shading My nerves and blood and brain pervading." W. L. WILMSHURST (The Way to the East. Daimon)
The old order changeth, yielding place to new, And God fulfils Himself in many ways, Lest one good custom should corrupt the world." TENNYSON (The Passing of Arthur. i. 407)
And so no force, however great, Can stretch a cord, however fine, Into a horizontal line, That shall be absolutely straight." Wm. WHEWELL (Elementary Treatise on Mechanics). 1819. Prose!
My rendezvous is appointed, it is certain. The Lord will be there and wait till I come on perfect terms." Walt. Whitman (The Song of Myself. 44).
The craving for knowledge may cause one to lose sight of the fact that wisdom comes, not from listening to the words of others, but from the unfolding of the inner faculties." J. MORGAN PRYSE.
"Cooperation with the inevitable is the secret of happiness." KENTUCKY MINSTRELS (B.B.C.).
As if you could kill time without injuring eternity." THOREAU (Walden).
Lat take a cat and fostre him wel with milk, And tendre flesh, and make his couche of silk, And lat him seen a mous go by the wal ; Anon he weyveth milk, and flesh, and al, And every dayntee that is in the hous, Swich appetyt hath he to ete a mous." GEOFFREY CHAUCER (Canterbury Tales, The Maniciple's Tale, i, 71.)
Throughout all the ages past, the more highly developed members of the contemporary humanity have felt an inescapable urge to make contact with something higher and more permanent than their ordinary every day selves as they knew them. In order to gain this contact they have invariably found it necessary to withdraw, more or less, from the common round of life and to perform that process which has come to be known as "making a retreat." This term can be used — and has been used in the past — to cover a multitude of apparently diverse activities. It may involve a permanent withdrawal from contact with things, accomplished, very often, by joining some religious Order devoted to Contemplation. It may be done by adopting the even more rigorous asceticism of the solitary or hermit. On the other hand, it may be accomplished — usually by a trained occultist — by an equally complete withdrawal exercised only in spare moments, in the midst of the rush and bustle of the teeming streets of a modern Western city. These are the extremes of withdrawal, each complete and fully satisfactory. Between them there hangs an unbroken chain of varying grades of withdrawal. In the full practice of a retreat the usual process adopted is analogous to the three phases which are generally encountered under the titles of Concentration, Meditation, Contemplation.
Even the first of these is far from easy for the average man especially in the West today, where the environment with its constant aptitude for change, induced by such things as newspapers, radio and films — not to mention the normal vicissitudes of everyday living — is all against the necessary one- pointedness.
In the practice of Concentration it is possible, however, to adapt method to environment, more especially by the practice of 'Recall,' which consists in the selection of a central object, upon which the thought is focused, to which all thoughts must be related, and to which they must return whenever there is an interruption of the journey, and however far they may have wandered afield. All thoughts are related to the central pocket, into which the general trend of thought falls back, the moment it is relaxed.
Probably the most famous case of such practice of recall is that of Brother Lawrence in his " Practice of the Presence of God." You may remember the story. This Brother Lawrence was a novice, serving in a monastery, in preparation for the time when he could take his vows and become a monk. Meanwhile he was engaged in work as a serving brother in the kitchens and refectory. Being naturally somewhat clumsy and forgetful, he strove to build up the habit of referring everything to God, of acting always as though in the actual presence of God, and ever calling upon Him for aid. This brought him such supreme happiness and such certainty of Divine assistance that, when the term of his novitiate drew to a close, he made petition to the Father Abbot that he might be permitted to remain a novice, since he feared that any change or promotion might tend to spiritual pride and to the dimming — or, perhaps, even the loss — of that sense of the actual presence of God which he had achieved in his everyday life. The Master of the Novices used all his influence to have him forced to go forward, but the simple faith and eloquence of Bro. Lawrence gained him his point with the more sympathetic Abbot. I sometimes wonder to what heights Bro. Lawrence might have attained had he not feared to advance.
Schools for the teaching of meditational practices, monastic institutions and training centres, seem to have existed from time immemorial, wherever human beings have congregated. We have records of survivals of such in connection with all known religions and many philosophies, but, interesting as an intensive study of their correspondencies and variations might be, time will not permit of our making a study of the pre-Aryan schools, and we must rest content to try to get a general view of the methods used in Aryan times.
I feel that we must start with the Hindu religion and touch upon the seven great schools of YOGA, which correspond so closely to the seven planes of existence, to the seven Rays, or Types of men, and to other fundamental septenaries.
First, we have the Raja Yoga of Pathanjali.
Second, The Karma Yoga of Shri Krishna, and
Third, The Gnyana Yoga of Shri Shancaracharya.
These three schools are often classed together under the general tide of Raja Yoga, since in each case the aim of the aspirant is to become master of himself and to rule his own life by use of his own Will, Love and Thought, each of these being a separate and distinct power. Man is a sort of half-way house — a transformer station — a link between God and Earth. As Bishop J.I. Wedgwood says,
"There is a duality in every man. On the one side, he is the product of evolution through the lower kingdoms of Nature and the lower stages of human development, and has carried along with him many animal propensities. On the other, he is a mirror of the Divine perfection, still rough and unpolished, and distorting the perfect image of God, but occasionally reflecting lights of dazzling and superb splendour."
I believe that it was Emerson who wrote :-
"There is no bar or wall in the human soul where God, the cause, ceases, and man. the effect, begins."
We will have to return to Raja Yoga later but, meanwhile, it will be sufficient to say that these three systems may be practised up to an advanced stage without danger even without a teacher, provided that normal common sense is used.
The other four systems of Yoga should not be attempted except in the presence of, and with the full support of, an accredited teacher. Anyone who undertakes their practise, on his own initiative and by himself does so — this cannot be too strongly emphasised — at the immanent risk of serious bodily dislocation and disease, and, as happens all too often, mental unbalance, if not complete insanity. Let us, however, glance at them for a moment. They are:
4. Hatha Yoga. 5. Laya Yoga. 6. Bhakti Yoga, and 7. Mantra Yoga,
and, just as the first three schools are allied to the first three Rays of Development, so these four are allied to the remaining four Rays.
Hatha Yoga consists of bodily practices and purifications. These include complicated methods of breathing intended to strengthen the links between the higher and lower vehicles. In its purest form this yoga uses the law of correspondence, but only a fully clairvoyant teacher can see what is required in the individual student, and, without such a teacher, the aspirant has been likened to a sick man let loose in a dispensary, and trying out the contents at random.
Laya Yoga is the use of the dormant fire in the body, the arousing of the Serpent Fire — Kundalini — and, without a fully qualified teacher, this, obviously, can only lead to disaster.
Bhakti Yoga is closely associated with Karma Yoga. It consists in complete devotion to God, through the medium of one particular manifestation or teacher. It involves complete self-abandonment. The human content of most of our asylums in the Western world today bears witness to its dangers more fully than any words of mine could do. All through the ages its misuse has left a trail of blood, war, torture and insanity. Yet it can be perfectly safe if the development of will and intelligence is not neglected in daily life and the work done under direction of a qualified teacher. Many of the organised Churches work along this line but, as a general rule, they miss the whole point by their teaching that their God or His Representative is either a crutch or a tonic — something to lean upon or from which to draw refreshment and benefits — instead of a goal, something so stupendous that even the slightest glimpse of IT's wonder extinguishes all personal desires. Self must be completely lost in the contemplation of THAT.
Mantra Yoga is the last of the seven for our study. As is well known, environment has strong and lasting effects upon men, and nothing with which we come into contact does not affect us nor is not affected by us. This contact may happen through any one or more of the senses. Beauty of any kind is merely the fact of God contacting us through material things, and all beauty, as it affects us, has a mathematical or vibratory basis. A Mantram is usually a sound, a vibratory form prescribed for repetition to gain certain ends. The knocks of the various degrees in Freemasonry are mantric in their action, as are also the Invocations which we use here, in Dormer. So, in Mantra Yoga, sounds are used, and also forms, pictures, signs, symbols, gestures, dances and sometimes even scents, tastes and other contacts. In Christian ceremonial, for instance, there are many traditional survivals from the early days, when much more than is now appreciated was known of such causes and their effects. In this connection it is of the utmost significance that a layman can join in full participation in rituals conducted by authorised persons, who have been property prepared and dedicated to the work, but, unless so authorised and prepared he cannot effectively practise them himself. Here, once more, we find ourselves in the midst of great dangers.
Each of the schools contains something of the other six, but each has its own particular accent, from which it takes its name.
The practice of all these methods can be, and is, carried on up to a point without undue risk. The danger lies in the temptation to get out of one's depth, going too far without competent instruction and help, thus allowing the terrific forces involved to get out of control.
And, now, let us consider, a little more fully, the three primary schools of Yoga, the Raja Yoga or Royal Science of Union. In each of these the Aspirant seeks to become ruler of himself, controller of his own life and environment, by the exercise of the three great powers of the self, Love, Will and Thought, or, as we say in the Craft, Wisdom, Strength and Beauty.
The three systems may be considered together up to a point, because they are built upon the same foundations. They have the same goal, and differ only in the varied arrangement of their parts. This leads to difference of accentuation and gives the appearance of three quite distinct and different methods of working and of approach. All three are based upon a profound understanding of the constitution of man and knowledge of his various vehicles or bodies, and all aim at the complete mastery of the self at all levels, by the application of the same fundamental forces, which form as it were channels connecting God and Earth. All these channels lead through man. They are inherent in man as such, and he can contact them, develop them, respond to them and learn to control them as he wishes, according to the power and direction of the focus of his concentration and attention. We might almost use the analogy of an electric car running upon three guide rails. The focus of consciousness acts as the control switch. Turn the handle to the left and man may descend to the lowest depths, unless some other force steps in to avert this; turn it to the right and he is capable of ascent to the highest heights.
The three schools are most generally referred to in association with the names of their most famous exponents:-
- The Yoga of Will and Freedom of Patanjaii, which is the Raja Yoga, par excellence. It is essentially the Yoga of the First Ray and is summarised in the Yoga aphorisms of Patanjali.
- The Yoga of Love and Union of Shri Krishna, the Charioteer, is known as Karma Yoga and is to be found in the Bhagavad Gita, "The Lord's Song" or as Sir Edwin Arnold calls it, "The Song Celestal."
- The Yoga of Thought and Understanding of Shri Shankaracharya — in which name the suffix Acharya means a Spiritual Teacher, and the name Shankara, Producer of Happiness — is called Gnyana Yoga and, perhaps, for the West, the word Philosophy might best describe it. But it is Philosophy applied as a means of progress towards Perfection and not, as is so often the case with the philosophies of the West, a mere intellectual gymnasium to be treated as a hobby or diversion.
We may summarise the preliminary practices and relations of the three schools as follows :-
- Patanjali, corresponding to the Third or Grand and Royal Lodge.
- TAPAS, Will, Strength, ATMA, Z.(S.W.), Aims to develop:-
- SWADHYAYA, Thought, Beauty, MANAS, H.(J.W.), H.R.A.
- ISHWARAPRANIDHANA, Love, Wisdom, BUDDHI, J.(W.M.), Future.
- Krishna, corresponding to the Second or Sacred Lodge.
- PRANIPATA, Love, Wisdom, BUDDHI, W,M., Aims to develop :-
- SEVA, Will, Strength, ATMA, S.W., Craft.
- PARIPRASHNA, Thought, Beauty, MANAS, J.W., Present,
- C. Shankara, corresponding to the First or Holy Lodge.
- VIVEKA, Thought, Beauty, MANAS, J.W., Aims to develop :-
- VAIRAGYA, Love, Wisdom, BUDDHI, W.M., Preparation.
- SHATSAMPATTI, Will, Strength, ATMA, S.W., Past.
A. PATANJALI sums up his system to begin with as CHITTA VRITTI NIRODHA. Chitta is the mind, acted upon both from without and from within. Vritti means a whirlpool and Nirodha means control or restraint. So this Yoga begins with control of the whirlpools of the mind or, as it has been translated, "The stilling of the modifications of the thinking principle." The ultimate aim is to achieve freedom, in the sense in which we might think of God as free. The technical name used is KAIVALYA, which may perhaps best be rendered as independence. Patanjali divides his training into two phases, the preliminary teaching for beginners and the course for more advanced students. As in the Lesser and Greater Mysteries of later schools, the aims of the first phase must be, to a large extent, achieved before the second phase is attempted. In the first the primary object is the transcending of the Five KLESHAS or Afflictions :-
- The clinging to bodily existence.
Through these alone the world can hurt a man and reduce him to slavery. Their transcending to be achieved by the practices named in the table above. It is difficult to find translations for the Sanskrit terms, but, perhaps, without leading to too great misunderstanding, they might be rendered as i. Effort, ii. Right Reading or Study, iii. Devotion and Surrender to God, as All-pervading and Only Consciousness.
This being accomplished, the second phase opens. In it there are eight steps — two moral, three external and three internal. The two moral steps contain five commandments each :-
- Thou shalt not; injure, lie, steal, be incontinent, be greedy.
- Thou shalt be; clean, content, self-controlled, studious, devoted.
The three external steps are: right posture, right breathing and right control of the senses.
The three internal steps are: (we have met them before!) Concentration, Meditation, Contemplation.
Rules are given and a very complete system built up, which if practised assiduously, leads to FREEDOM.
B. In the Karma Yoga of Shri Krishna the central all-pervading impetus is Love.
"therefore, without personal motives, constantly perform the work which is your duty. By so working, without personal attachment, man verily reacheth the Supreme . . . . therefore with an eye to the welfare of the world, thou also shouldist perform action."
Here is love in action.
But, unlike that of Patanjali, which is complete in itself, Karma Yoga links up with and covers two of the lesser systems which we have already noted. These are the Schools of the 6th Ray, Bhakti Yoga or the Yoga of Devotion; and of the 4th Ray, Hatha Yoga or the Yoga of Harmony. The central aim is complete union with God.
"At the close of many births, the man full of wisdom cometh unto ME. 'God is all' saith he, the great soul, very difficult to find. By devotion he knoweth ME in essence and what I am. Having thus known ME truly, he forthwith entereth into the Supreme. Though ever performing actions, taking refuge in ME, by My grace he obtaineth the eternal, indestructible abode. But by devotion to ME alone I may thus be perceived and known, and seen in essence, and entered. He who doeth work for ME, whose supreme good I am, My devotee, freed from attachment, without dislike of any being, he cometh unto ME."
And to Love and Devotion is added Harmony, taken in its application more especially to Intellect. Control is not merely physical control, but is control upon all levels; service is not merely giving, but giving wisely. The gift of wisdom is the greatest gift of all, and in it all actions must ultimately culminate.
Once more we have a preliminary path, the three Sanskrit terms being, perhaps, best translated as:
- Respect for God in All
- Study of the Path.
Again there are seven stages. In the first three the impetus comes from the Personality, in the last three from the Individuality. In the intermediate stage there is conflict between the two, while man is working upon the preliminary path. Three main principles of evolution of consciousness lie behind the working out of the three basic laws, which may be paralleled with the three properties of nature:- Mass, Energy and Law. Man must never cease to use his will in doing work; in that work he must never break the law of Love, and in all he must never omit to use his intelligence.
These are the basic principles, transcending all regulations for the acquiring of virtue. As he makes further progress, the aspirant passes beyond the limitations of law, and becomes himself creative, bending law to his will: his energy finds an inner source, often manifesting in peculiar ways, so that, as has often been said, "the Initiate is no guide or model for others."
Ultimately he gains supreme serenity. He becomes SANNYASI. In the last, discourse in the Gita the term is explained and is compared with the term TYAGI. The latter means abandoning, leaving behind, renouncing the world and all material possessions. The former implies a similar renunciation on spiritual levels, giving up the personal attachment to material things rather than giving up the things themselves. Sacrifice is not mere renunciation but the substitution for the thing renounced of something higher. Sacrifice is the greatest link between all beings, the essence of brotherhood.
C. In the School of Shankaracharya the goal is full realisation of the truth about man. Once again we find a covering of the aims of two minor schools, eliminating the dangers we have seen to arise from their unguided individual practice. These are the schools of Laya Yoga and Mantra Yoga, those of the 5th and 7th Rays, the Scientific Ray and that of Order and Ceremonial. The gross pessimism, so characteristic of the Western world, often can see no possible solution to the problems of human strife, poverty and sorrow — and, indeed, there can be no material solution to such problems, and, so far, the Western world is not prepared to carry the search elsewhere. Shri Krishna points to the solutions to be found upon higher levels. Similarly, the same pessimistic outlook pervading our Science and Philosophy, sees little or no hope of reaching ultimate truth. The practical Yogis of the Shankara School show the road open, clearly and definitely marked.
We all know that we do not normally see things as they really are, because of our own limitations, which allow to us only a more or less restricted field of view. But, always present, we know the craving for full understanding. The soul of man is one with the Universal Soul, and it is ever in search of universality. However satisfied the lower nature may become, the higher ever clamours for a hearing, in its desire for understanding.
"Give me understanding, and I will keep Thy law; yea, I will keep it with my whole heart. The path of the just is as a shining light; shining more and more unto the perfect day."
Always we have a one-sided view of things. The aim of Gnyana Yoga is to let us see things as they really are, man as he truly is. The basis is found in the saying from the Upanishads, "Everything verily is God," or, as it is put in Rig Veda, "There is only one Being, though the poets name IT variously." Thinking and understanding would be quite impossible unless all things were, in essence, a united whole.
In our normal thought of ourselves we find two mistakes. First, we see ourselves imperfectly, and, second, we forget that we are not completely separate beings, but parts of a whole, the other parts of which, be they ever so humble in our eyes, remain essential to our continued existence and to the functioning of the whole. Look again to the Bhagavad Gita and you will find the statement that all work culminates in Wisdom and that the Wisdom is attainable by the right use of three instruments:- i. feelings of reverence and awe, ii. an earnest and enquiring mind, and iii. Service, expressed in action. In this School we find the same assertion stressed by Shankara. We are here not merely to seek knowledge but realisation. No amount of reading, study or meditation can, alone, unfold the required realisation. Discipline in daily life is also essential. There are two great principles which hold sway in the world: One is the active Life, ever building in Form; the other is the Passive Nature, ever pulling down that which has been built. Man builds; Nature destroys. But, nothing ever is lost, for the fruit of all action remains, built into character and growth of consciousness. Fully assured of this fact, the Yogi can say with Emerson:-
"All things are friendly and sacred, all events profitable, all days holy, all men divine."
Such realisation kills out envy and desire, buries their remains in satisfaction over the happiness of others. Shankara exemplified this attitude to the full in His short earth-life of 32 years".
One of the principal doctrines of the School is that of — "MAYA," which, as normally translated by the word 'illusion,' is understood as meaning that the world does not exist except as a product of the imagination of man. This is, of course, not so. Maya is no denial of existence, but it does affirm that man sees things mistakenly and misinterprets the result of his seeing. Observing mistakes and misunderstandings everywhere, Shankara maintained the possibility of realisation of the fundamental truth behind Maya. We have, then, SAT, the being or substance of material things; CHIT, awareness, using as instruments the three powers of will, love and thought. Beyond these two is ANANDA, true life and perfect bliss. We, in the West, are accustomed to identify ourselves with the bodies which we occupy. We say that we possess soul and spirit. All too often soul and spirit are treated as synonymous. What is required is a complete reorientation, if Truth is to be realised. We must reorganise ourselves, as being spiritual beings, using souls as vehicles through which to link up with the more dense vehicles of our gross material bodies. The world appears to us to be plainly irrational. But so it is with all dreams, and, here on earth, we are normally asleep and dreaming, so far as our real selves are concerned. So, all the vaunted achievements of scientific knowledge are largely expressions of unwisdom, because they tend to regard everything from the purely material point of view.
The meditations of Shankara are eminently practical in form and are intended for self-application. First comes the affirmation, "I am not IT," IT being, in this case, the Personality. Next we affirm, "I am not YOU," referring to the Consciousness. Personality and Consciousness are things that you use, not things that you are. Now comes "I am I. I can take up or lay down this consciousness. I can enlarge it or reduce it." Always one's own consciousness must be "You," not "It," so that you can get away from "You" to "I." All happiness in life, all real happiness, is beyond consciousness and can be experienced only when consciousness is left behind and forgotten. All the bliss arising from our response to God's Truth, Love and Beauty; which are expressions in this world of His powers of Will, Love and Thought, (Atma, Buddhi, Manas.), lies in the real self, beyond consciousness and the things of the world, in that sphere wherein Time and Space are forgotten and swallowed up in something greater, of which they are merely the external manifestations. All clinging to conscious existence bars the road to Truth, where indeed is Ananda, Nirvana, Heaven and the Grand Lodge Above.
Once more we pass through three preliminary stages, of which the names may best be translated:- 1. Discrimination, discernment or insight, 2. literally "loss of colour," showing in the delaying of response to outside stimuli until the intelligence has been brought to bear. It might be translated 'desirelessness' or, perhaps better, 'serenity,' 3. almost untranslatable. This is summarised in the 'six forms of success'; a. Control of mind, b. Control of body, c. Contentment and tolerance, d. Patience, e. Sincerity, f. Stability. Gradually there emerges "eagerness for liberty." Then follow the stages of the higher path. The first is called 'one who wanders about,' implying that no external influence can hold him in bondage.
We read "Kill out desire of comfort," It is unfortunate for the world — and for themselves — that so many have paraphrased this to read " Make yourself uncomfortable." This is mere folly and superstition. There is no merit in discomfort. This is a turning of a means into an end. The real process is that true 'poverty' which, however much it may own, still remains completely untrammelled by its possessions, "using them as not abusing them and going on its way rejoicing." Things possessed — even if they be emotions and thoughts — are made for use and not for ornament only. They are given to be used in the service of one's fellows, and not to be stored up as mere accumulations. This stage, normally, is prolonged, and the two which follow are generally of shorter duration. In them the aspirant must get rid of the obstacles to perfection. There are five of these:- i. The illusion of the personal self, ii. Uncertainty about spiritual truth, iii. Superstition, or substitution of means for ends, iv. unnecessary likes, and v. unnecessary dislikes. Living the external life, using all things — ceremonial, exercises, formulae and so on — he must not feel that any of them are essential or even necessary. They are convenient tools for use in achieving the goal. In this way he becomes ' Hut- builder,' establishing himself in the higher worlds. Later he achieves the grade of ' Hamsa '- a swan — an almost universal symbol of spiritual attainment. It is used, in modern times, for instance, by Richard Wagner, in this sense, both in 'Lohengrin' and 'Parsifal.'
After this the aspirant passes to higher levels still, to the attainment of perfection in Truth, Will and Love.
Brethren, I have spent much of our available time on the Hindu School. These were the first Aryan Schools, and are the most typically Aryan. Being fundamental in the Aryan Race, they will, of course, towards the close of the Aryan Cycle, return as the final concepts of the Race, but with greatly augmented vigour and wider universality, distended with the accumulated harvest of the Age.
And now, we turn to other considerations, but, in passing, I would like to refer to a connecting link. It is a little book by the Rev. J. C. Winslow, called "Christian Yoga." It contains four short addresses delivered at the S.P.G. House, the London home of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel, during their anniversary week in 1923. The first three addresses are based upon the three paths:- Bhakti-marga, the Path of Devotion; Dhyana-marga, the Path of Intellect; and, Karma-marga, the Path of Action. These three paths cover the essentials of the seven Rays, two, as we have noted, being three-fold. Karma, in this reading, stands alone in the Second Ray. Its Yoga is that of Shri Krishna, its teachings that of the Christ. Love-Wisdom is its essence. In ritualistic Christianity its symbol is the Altar Cross. In terms of Buddhism it is the Noble Middle Path. In Kabbalism it is the central four- fold pillar.
Bhakti is the threefold left-hand pillar and is symbolised on the Christian Altar by the three candles on the North or Gospel side, dedicated to the VII, III, and VI Rays. It is the Path of Devotion. Dhyana is the right-hand pillar, also three-fold, of the Kabbalistic Tree, and the three candles on the South or Epistle side of the Christian Altar, covering the I, IV, and V Rays. Here is the Path of Intellect.
This little book is worth close study, if one remembers to make allowance for the prejudices which creep in here and there, and for the strong materialistic bias entailed upon the author by the environment in which the talks were given. I want to quote just one short passage.
"Brethren, there are in God inexhaustible treasures to be explored. The world, both on the physical and on the spiritual plane, is plastic in His hands. Shall we not dare, then, to rise in our generation to a faith that shall usher in a new age like the first great age of the spirit? May it not be that God is waiting only for that faith, to pour out upon us blessings beyond our highest imaginings?"
So many and various have been the methods used to make contact with the Divine in the other Great Religions, that we cannot possibly do full justice to them nor consider them in any great detail, but we can make a general survey of the ground covered by them and note especially certain outstanding examples.
Of the details of methods used in Egypt we have little historical evidence, but we do know that they were highly effective, and the probability is great that they approximated closely to those which we have been considering in India. There is a strong tradition that much both of outline and of detail was preserved in the Kabbalistic and Hermetic Schools, of the latter of which Freemasonry claims to be one. The line of descent would appear to have been Jewish.
There are students who believe that the key to the Egyptian System is preserved in the Tarot cards, of which, Elephas Levi has written, "As an erudite Kabbalistic book, all combinations of which reveal the harmonies existing between signs, letters and numbers, the practical value of the Tarot is truly, and above all, marvellous," and, further, "A prisoner, devoid of books, had he only a Tarot of which he knew how to make use, could, in a few years, acquire a universal science, and converse with an unequalled doctrine and inexhaustible eloquence."
Egyptian ritual methods can, as has been shown, particularly by Marsham Adams, from close comparison of the "Book of the Dead" and the structure of the "Great Pyramid," be satisfactorily inferred, and we find that several degrees were worked in due sequence.
Of Zoroastrian methods there are certain survivals. The ancient Science of Astrology — and it was, and still can be, a science, in spite of the ravages of time and misuse, of materialism and charlatanery — this ancient Science was certainly in its origins a science of soul culture, applied designedly for purposes of spiritual development. Meditational practices and practical mysticism survive amongst the Sufis, whose outlook shows close analogies to that of the Indian Vedantins. The sect is now a branch of Islam. It is the true Mahommedanism. It preaches a universal creed and urges outward respect and tolerance for every esoteric and popular faith. Its contacts with Masonic tradition are close. Four degrees are worked, corresponding to four stages of initiation. The first is probationary, enjoining strict outward observance of Musselman rites, the hidden meaning of each ceremony and dogma being explained to the candidate. The second covers metaphysical training. The third is the 'Degree of Wisdom,' revealing the inner nature of things and closely following the Ancient Wisdom tradition. Fourth comes 'Final Truth,' conferring Divine Union and powers. It is Unity with God. The Magi of the Zoroastrians laid the foundations of those mathematical cults which later bore fruit in Greece and Arabia, and which did so much to open the door to modern scientific achievement.
Coming to the Graeco-Roman Schools, founded upon the Orphic revelation, we find the more open and public appearance of the Mysteries, and, in fact, their popularisation, which led first to their debasement and then to their ultimate withdrawal. Here again we have the same fundamental teachings, and many interesting survivals and variations of the use of symbols and instruments. Once more we find groups of degrees worked in regular sequence, as in the Delphic rites, the Philosophical Schools, such as that of Pythagoras, and elsewhere. Instruments for the aiding and relieving of memory seem to have come much to the fore. One of these was the 'Abacus' or counting frame. I believe that the use of this instrument for purposes of calculation came much later, but it is still used for this purpose in Chinese banking today and is, of course, still to be seen in our shops, mostly in the toy departments. It normally consists of a square frame with four parallel wires or crossbars, upon each of which runs a set of ten beads. In counting, the bars may be referred to the Roman numerals I, X, C, M, and it is well known as an aid to teaching the decimal system of counting. The Abacus is probably the forerunner of the Rosary, which has five divisions of ten beads each. Another meditational aid in Greece was the set of symbolic toys, "the playthings of Dionysus," which formed the contents of the Omphalos or basket, carried in the procession to Eleusis. These were enumerated as the Dice, the Spinning-top, the Ball and the Mirror, and there has been considerable speculation as to their shapes and significance. There seems to be no doubt, however, that the Dice were models of the Five Platonic Solids (so-called) viz :-Tetrahedron, Cube, Octahedron, Icosahedron and Dodecahedron. These form the axis of growth for the building up of the chemical elements — the axis of Creation. The Spinning-top represented the Ultimate Physical Atom, from which they are built, the Ball was a representation of this Earth, and the Mirror, square in form, symbolised the seven planes upon which that which is fashioned as archetype by the Logos on the highest levels is reflected in the lower, within the bounds of four-fold Personality. Perhaps the most interesting development of those times took place in the rise of the Mathematical Schools of Thales, Plato, Pythagoras and others, and their culmination in that amazingly complete and coherent system — which could be and often has been used as a basis for meditation — The Elements of Euclid. The study of the full series of thirteen books of this great work is a thing of pure delight to the geometrically minded, but the truncated editions usually seen today — mutilated for so-called practical purposes — are practically (I use the word intentionally) useless. In the full work every problem and theorem has its appointed place in a logical sequential argument which, assuming nothing except the absolute minimum of stated postulates, has one aim only in view, the construction of the Five Regular Solids, concluding with the Dodecahedron, that final masterpiece, symbolic of all that goes to make the Perfect Man. "How are the mighty fallen" in these unenlightened times of ours. Yet, comprehensive as are the Books of the Elements, the ultimate proof rests upon an assumption which probably passed completely unnoticed as such, the assumption that the three interior angles of any plane triangle, sum to two right angles always. While this may be accepted as a working hypothesis for the plane triangle it is not necessarily always true, for Geometry turns out to be a three-fold science, varying in its findings according as this sum is equal to, less than or greater than the two right angles. Euclid deals with the middle path only, but the other two paths have been shown to work under equally hard and fast rules.
Gautama, the Buddha, carried on the great tradition in His SANGHA or Brotherhood. Among His followers, and especially amongst those following the purer tradition of the North, we find once more that many degrees are worked. His followers possess some of the most powerful rituals in the world and they constantly use aids to concentration, such as beads. That curious development, the praying wheel, is widely distributed. The monastic system comes to its fullest development here. One of the simplest of the aids used is the chaplet of thirteen beads, one being larger than the other, to mark the beginning and end.
With the advent of Christianity, as such, comes a veritable epidemic of 'crutches.' We find ceremonies and symbols, initiations, words of power, mnemonics of every description, such as creeds, images, bells, books, candles, beads, vestments, incenses, colours, sounds, smells, anything, in fact, that can make appeal to any one or more of the senses. Monasticism settled in to, stay, and, in the earliest days of the Church, there was what amounted to a plague of eremites. If you are interested in hermits and their doings, I would suggest a perusal of the two volumes of "The Paradise of the Fathers." (Tr. :-Budge).
There were undoubtedly Mysteries in the early Christian communities; there are too many references to them in existing works for there to remain any doubt. We read of " The Mysteries of Jesus," and "The Mysteries of The Kingdom." Portions of these early Church Mysteries are still preserved and are worked in the form of degrees in the Vatican and in some of the Monastic Orders. Portions of the Ordinal are taken direct from their rubrics. There was also a "Discipline of the Secret," which still persists in some parts of the Eastern Church and elsewhere. So little was committed to writing in these early days that it is difficult to trace such things, but even the "Catholic Dictionary" of Addis and Arnold says :-
"There can be no reasonable doubt as to the fact that the discipline of the secret did exist in the early Church."
Catechumens were not allowed to be present during the whole of the Eucharistic rite. There is a clear distinction drawn between the "Mass of the Catechumens" and the "Mass of the Faithful." Many of the greatest of the Apologists of early times preserve complete silence with regard to the Central Act of Worship of be Church, a silence "more eloquent than words."
Probably the strongest impetus to meditational practice in the Western Church came from the advent of the "Spiritual Exercises" of St. Ignatius Loyola, founder of the Society of Jesus, or, as his followers are commonly called, the Jesuits. The person employing these exercises is supposed to receive them from a Director, and they are arranged for a normal retreat of four weeks. They begin with meditations upon the end of man and the penalties of sin; they pass to those upon the life and death of Jesus Christ, as exemplar, and thence to the Resurrection and the Joys of Heaven, "that he may learn to unite himself to God" — note how the old self-same, well-established phraseology recurs. The Jesuits themselves glory in the title of "men of the Exercises," and, for those who can accept their extremely material outlook and approach, these exercises can do wonders. Their chief value, however, lies in their systematisation of the method of approach, upon which system so many other systems have been built, using either the same or other materials. Later come other systems, such as the "Interior Castle" of St. Teresa, the system of Mother Julian of Norwich, and many others. All are worth close study, if only to give a sound basis upon which to build a system to suit your own needs.
The Holy Eucharist, as a rite, is itself a magnificent system of meditation. We have already touched upon the Christian Creeds, and the Lord's Prayer is a seven-fold exercise which touches all levels. All sorts and conditions of Orders, Churches, Sects and other off-shoots have formulated their own systems.
The Quakers, and others, throwing ritual overboard, in theory at least, have developed their own rationale, and remain as fixed in their particular non-ritual ritualism as any professed ritualist.
The term Quietism covers a tendency rather than any definite system, but it arose largely from an extension of contemplative ideals, the main aim being to remain passive, without outside aids, actions, desires, or even thoughts, in order to come under direct guidance of the Holy Spirit. Molinos, a Spanish priest, born in Saragossa in 1627, was the first modern Quietist. The Inquisition put an end to his activities — if they can be so called! The greatest defender of Quietism was, perhaps, Mme. Guyon — unhappily married at 16 and widowed at 28. She made a disciple of Fenelon, tutor to Louis XIV, but Bossuet describes her works as "a mass of extravagances, illusions and puerilities." Fenelon, then Archbishop of Cambray (1695), published a defence of Quietism, which was censured by 60 Sorbonne Doctors and refuted by Bossuet. Fenelon appealed to Rome and found 23 of his propositions condemned as rash, scandalous, etc., so he made submission and publicly burned his own book. But there have been many others who have followed the idea and there are some today, although the movement as a whole made no great progress. Its ultimate influence was, however, greater than one might think, and its ideals crop up in the most unexpected places.
I cannot leave the subject of Christian ideas without further mention of the Rosary, but it is so well known and information about it and its use so easily available that I need not go into detail. Let it suffice to say that the Rosary has been, and still is, associated with many other settings than that in which it is most commonly met. It can be, if properly and consistently used, a most valuable aid to concentration.
It has been said, with some truth, that almost anything, or any story, can be used as a basis for meditation — from a speck of dust to a universe, a single event to a cosmic cycle, a quatrain to a saga, a micro-organism to God Himself. As an instance, which you can try out for yourselves, take some of our better-known folk tales, those fairy tales which are world-wide in their distribution, such as Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty and others, comparing different versions and trying to get at the fundamental teachings which lie behind the stories. Take up a copy of Grimm Brothers' collection and compare such tales as "The Frog Prince" and "The Water of Life" and try to search out the universal significance which they veil.
Finally, if you will bear with me a little longer, I would like to run rapidly through such an analysis.
Let us analyze one of the best known of our Nursery Rhymes, seeking to uncover its use as a theme for meditation, and see what we can make of it in reference to the general scheme of the ancient teachings about man.
This is rather a long rhyme and it was first analyzed in this connection, so far as I am aware, in a magazine article by Colin Sterne, who suggested that the study should be carried out by — "looking within the words, with the intellectual faculty submerged and with commonsense and perception of humour in abeyance."
He considers — and I fully agree — that the author of the rhyme must have known the ancient system of cosmology in considerable detail, as it describes the evolution of the monadic consciousness from the dense physical to the adept level. He dealt with twelve verses. I am indebted to our Librarian W. Bro. Weatherstone, for drawing my attention to two further verses, which Probably most of fit neatly into gaps in the scheme.
You will know best the first verse:
"Old Mother HUBBARD went to the cupboard
To get her poor Dog a bone,
But, when she got there, the cupboard was bare,
And so the poor Dog got none."
This verse is introductory and contains the necessary clues to the general esoteric meaning and scope of the poem. Old Mother Hubbard represents the manifested Solar System with its seven planes of being which supply the vehicles for man's manifestation. The words 'Old' and 'Mother,' and the seven letters of the name, indicate this. The HUB of the system is the Sun itself, associated with its Universe and represented hieroglyphically as Circle with central Point. This circle is divided into the various levels and is thus Hub-barred. The syllable 'HUB' may be referred to the three-fold Individuality (Atma-buddhi-manas.) and 'BARD' to the fourfold Personality. The double B represents the duality of the mental level, the meeting place of the Solar Macrocosm or Hub and the microcosmic inhabitant, as potential Bard. The Dog, again three-fold, is the Monad seeking unfoldment, the Candidate. He is divine in origin, as a reflected or reversed God. The failure to provide a bone is reminiscent of the primitive boneless structure of the early races. The Cupboard is symbolic of the Cave, or secret place, in which takes place the first spiritual rebirth.
"She went to the Bakers,
To buy him some bread,
But when she came back,
the Poor Dog was dead:"
Here we have the complete submergence of the Monad in gross matter. This is the real death. Association with the simpler life-forms of the vegetable kingdom, indicated by 'bread,' confirms this, and indicates also the location of the rebirth in Bethlehem, the "place of bread." The reference to the Baker suggests the 'bakers dozen,' the thirteen periods of the subjective Universe. It is of profound significance that the death comes thus early in the sequence, as a necessary preliminary to growth.
She went to the Joiners,
To buy him a coffin,
But when she came back,
The Poor Dog was laughing."
Here we have the Physical Plane and the Material from which it is built, (Latin :- MATERIA = Wood or Timber). The coffin, of wood, is normally six-sided. The hexagon is typical of the physical level, as seen in the structure of snowflakes, honeycomb cells, etc. Sometimes the coffin has eight sides, indicating a still deeper plunge into matter and, since the octagon is constructed upon the cross, crucifixion in matter.* The latter part of the verse suggests the Etheric level, not only because the Monad has somewhat emerged from his comatose condition and is here for the last time referred to as 'poor,' but also from the reference to laughter Laughing Gas (N20), resembles Ether in rendering the physical vehicle insensible to pain by its action upon the Etheric level of the Physical. The next stanza takes us there :-
She went to the Hatters,
To buy him a hat,
But when she came back,
He was feeding the Cat."
Here is a stanza full of Lunar symbolism, which links up with the Etheric activities. The Hatter is proverbially mad, associated with lunacy, a word derived from the Latin for the Moon. The Cat is also a lunar animal in its associations, 'Feeding the cat' would seem, therefore, to indicate aiding the growth and development of the Etheric Double.
She went to the Tavern,
For white wine and red,
But when she came back,
the Dog stood on his head."
Here we have the first transition from Etheric to Desire level. White wine indicates the silver-white of the Moon as typifying the Etheric, while Red, the colour of Mars, links with the level of Desire, the seat of generation and stimulation of the animal passions, The Dog standing on his head indicates the phenomenon of inversion which almost invariably puzzles the aspirant when first he develops vision on these levels. It holds forth promise also of future inversion of the Aspirant himself, from DOG to GOD.
She took a clean dish,
To buy him some Tripe,
But when she came back,
he was smoking a pipe."
Now we reach the level of Concrete Analytic Mind. The dish, or DISCUS, indicates the disc of the Sun and also reminds us of the circular ring or rim round the planet Saturn, the planet which corresponds to this level. This idea is confirmed in the Tripe, used presumably as a blind for the unthinking. Tripe is quite a usual synonym for nonsense. (Quite probably long before this
* See Transaction No. 8 "The Masonic Trinity and way of the Cross."
many of you have murmured the word in connection with these remarks of mine). It links up, however, with the Greek root Tri or Tris, which indicates threeness. Thus, there is a suggestion of the third level on the upward road and of the first contact with the higher trinity of the Individuality in man. The last line clears up the matter, for fire is connected with MAHAT and the level of Mind, and the lower subplanes of the Mental are well symbolised in eddying smoke. The pipe itself may be a reference to the opening up of the channel of the Causal Body, the link between the Lower and Higher Mental levels.
She went to the Fruiterers,
To buy him some Fruit,
But when she came back,
He was playing the Flute."
Now the Monad begins to come into its own. The fruit is the same as that which appears in the Book of Genesis as the product of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. The Flute is the seven- piped flute, the pipes of Pan — emblem of the seven forces of Natwe which the Aspirant now learns to play upon and to control. It is the same Flute that Krishna plays in India to the Shepherdesses, the flute-of-seven-stops, and it is one with the seven-stringed Lyre of Orpheus, symbolically.
She went to the Barbers,
To buy him a Wig,
But when she came back,
He was dancing a jig."
The wig symbol is perhaps a trifle crude, but it is not an inappropriate symbol of the element of Intellect as seen in the human aura. This appears as a yellow cloud surrounding the head. So we make closer the link with Abstract Mind. The dance of joy expresses the bliss which comes with further development of the Causal and Mental vehicles.
She went to the Cobblers,
To buy him some shoes,
But when she came back,
He was reading the NEWS."
The shoes are the sandals of Mercury, the seven-leagued boots, the shoes of swiftness, conferring the power to travel with the speed of thought, and of remaining fully conscious on these levels. Reading the News indicates the resulting knowledge of the four divisions of space, indicated by the letters N, E, W and S.
"She went to the Hosiers,
To buy him some Hose,
But when she came back,
He was dressed in His clothes."
Hose, or hosepipe, is a further development of the former pipe symbol, with the idea of distance added. It represents the 'Thread of Fohat,' by which the Causal Body is said to be suspended. It is the channel for the flow of the Water of Life, coming down from the higher levels to vivify and enrich the lower. The hose simile was, in some ways, better than the thread when the stanza was written, in preelectric days, before the ordinary man had become accustomed to think of the flow of power in connection with a wire. The Aspirant now consciously wears his vehicles, as he would wear clothes, knowing them as completely separable from himself.
"She went to the Alehouse,
To get him some Beer,
But when she came back,
The Dog sat in a Chair."
The main steps on the Path are indicated, as usual, in terms of births, symbolised as in Caves or Inns. Thus, we began with the Cave or Cupboard, pass to the Place of Bread, with its Cavena or Oven, and then on to the Tavern. Now we come to the Alehouse. The beer indicates greater universality than wine and, so, further growth. Now the Aspirant is enabled to "take his place in the Lodge" in full membership. He is entitled to occupy a chair, and can aspire to the Chair.
"She went to the Tailors,
To buy him a Coat,
But when she came back,
He was riding the goat."
The Coat is the 'Robe of Glory,' the 'Light Vesture of the Pistis Sophia, indicating an advanced stage of Initiation. The same vesture appears in the degree of the Holy Royal Arch. The Goat, as we have seen elsewhere, symbolises the greatest of the Mysteries of the present dispensation, the fall into generation. It is the five-pointed star or pentalpha, with the single point downward. The Aspirant "riding the goat," a phrase famous but seldom understood in Freemasonry, reverses this pentalpha, so that the single point is upwards. If you ever go to Freemasons Hall in Great Queen Street, London, I suggest that you consider carefully the floor of the entrance porch by which you gain admission to the building. Alan Leo, in his book "Practical Astrology," remarks that "Capricorn............. deals chiefly with the external world." This suggests that the riding of the Goat, Capricornus, completes the conquest and subjugation of this external world.
"She went to the Seampstress,
To buy him some linen,
But when she came back,
The Dog was a' spinning."
Linen — usually in the form of 'white linen garments' — symbolises purity and perfection. This is the candidus, the garment from which the candidate in the Mysteries takes his title. The switch over to the female, or generative and negative side, in the Seampstress, is noteworthy here. The reference to spinning indicates the return to full consciousness on the ultimate plane of Creation. The Aspirant has himself become the Creator, the "Father-Mother-spin-a-Web."
"The Dame made a curtsey,
The Dog made a Bow,
The Dame said, 'Your Servant,'
The Dog said, 'Bow-wow.'"
At last, the Aspirant is free, triumphant over all the planes of Nature. Dame Nature makes obeisance, acknowledging her subservience to the Divine Monad as Master, he who has attained to Adeptship, to serve and to obey whom all the occult forces of Nature stand ready. His crowning effort is to 'make a BOW,' He is at Peace with ALL.
"And God said, 'This is the token of the covenant which I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you for perpetual generations: I do set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a token of a covenant between me and the earth.'" (Genesis IX. 12-13).
This is the BOW of Apollo, whose arrows of Light dispel all the powers of darkness. Dame Nature says 'Your Servant' and the Dog replies 'Bow-wow.' The final word of the Mystery, the Greek Bou-ou is attained and pronounced by him. This is the symbol of the Fifth Name, which was said to be lost. It was reputed to be three-fold, making, with the other four, the complete Septenary. The names of the lower Quaternary are known to the man who has reached perfection in incarnation. He has complete control over the Personality, but now he passes on to control the Individuality, Atma-Buddhi-Manas. This Name, or Word-of-Power, has been symbolised in many ways. Probably the most familiar to you is the three-lettered Sanskrit A.U.M. The triplicity of the Greeks was the Beta, followed by Omicron- Upsilon, twice repeated. In Christian churches we find it as the Greek Alpha and Omega, with a symbol between them corresponding to the Mu. Thus, the whole symbol reads, significantly enough, as A M O, and, as you all know, amo is the Latin for 'I love.' It is never permissible to give the word- of-power in its true form, nor to speak of the real nature of the mystery therein contained. The triple- unit name is symbolised for us in certain phases of Freemasonry, particularly in the Holy Royal Arch.
The whole process of withdrawal is worth our deep consideration. I can only indicate the bare outline here. If you decide to carry the matter further for yourselves, I suggest that you keep before you some of the diagrams to be found in our Transactions, watching for clues contained in Schemes, races, rays, keynotes, etc. You might also like to make analysis of some of the better-known Folk- tales and Nursery Rhymes: "Hey, Diddle-diddle," "Three Blind Mice," "Sing a song of Sixpence" and so on, or you may prefer some book such as "Through the Looking-glass" or "Water Babies."
Almost, I am inclined to disagree with the remark of Hamlet, "There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy," if, as is so often the case, the words are applied to all philosophy. Personally, I find all great Philosophies very much at one, each merely emphasising some facets of an All-embracing, universal unity, which is TRUTH.
PEACE TO ALL BEINGS.
So Mote It Be.