Freewill snd Predestination: The Masonic Conception
Part 1. Repentance
W. Bro. J. R. Cleland, P.P.A.G. Chap., (Kent).
Qui non intelligit, aut taceat, aut discat. "He who does not understand should either learn or be silent.
— John Dee The Monad, titlepage.
And I one sacred law confess Surpassing speech or letterpress But read by lowly hearts that hear it Raising the temple of the spirit. One Lord of legions infinite One brotherhood of dark and white One faith that passes into sight One baptism of living light.
— W. L. Wilmshurst The Way to the East. The Breastplate.
The work of the Church ends where the knowledge of God begins.
— Coventry Patmore
The hindrance to our entering upon the Path is that we judge everything by our consciousness, as if it were fixed, instead of recognising that the question is how our consciousness came to assume the form it does. The first step is to recognise that our consciousness is so limited that the realities of the world and ourselves cannot be adequately represented in it.
— Hinton, Scientific Romances. Vol. II. Shells.
This, therefore, is the life of the gods and of divine and happy men, a liberation from all terrene concerns, a life unaccompanied by human pleasure, and a flight of the alone to the Alone.
What we shall see is something like a Battle of the Gods and Giants, going on between them over their quarrel about reality. One party is trying to drag everything down to earth, out of heaven and the unseen, literally grasping rocks and trees in their hands; for they lay hold upon every stock and stone and strenuously affirm that real existence belongs only to that which can be handled and which offers resistance to touch. They define reality as the same thing as body, and as soon as one of the opposite party asserts that anything without a body is real, they are utterly contemptuous and will not listen to another word. Accordingly their adversaries are very wary in defending their position somewhere in the heights of the unseen, maintaining with all their force that true reality really consists in certain intelligible and bodily Forms. In the clash of argument they shatter and pulverise those bodies which their opponents wield, and what those others allege to be true reality they call, not real being, but a sort of moving process of becoming. On this issue an interminable battle is always going on between the two camps.
— Plato, The Sophist (Remarks by a stranger, a visitor to Athens, in reviewing past and present aspects of Greek Philosophy).
Throughout the course of his masonic career there lies before the Aspirant — (I use the title, Aspirant, in its most general sense, reserving that of Candidate for one who is taking a particular step or degree) — what is, perhaps, the most striking feature of the Temple, and, of all the features, the one which is most likely to be overlooked or ignored. This is especially so with the passing of the years and the growth of that familiarity which is so apt to breed contempt. The feature to which I refer is, of course, the chequered floor or tessellated pavement. Symbolically it is composed of twelve squares, six of which are black and six white, arranged to alternate and to form a rectangle of three by four proportion. This is the basic geometrical figure upon which, and within whose bounds, can be laid out and built up the forms of the working tools and other symbols by whose means the masonic teachings are communicated. It is the fundamental symbol of the Lodge in the breast of each individual Brother, and, as such, the Jewish High Priest wore its equivalent upon his robes in the form of a breast-plate.
In Freemasonry this represents for us the universality of the pairs of opposites, those contradictions and opposing trends by which only, paradoxical though it may seem at first sight, we can contact and understand ourselves, our environment and life itself. With these opposites we are all familiar. We see around us sunshine and shadow, light and darkness, joy and sorrow, good and evil, the black and white of the pavement. Every objective fact of which we are capable of being conscious has its opposite, without which we could not conceivably be aware of the existence of the object itself. And so it is with man himself. It is inconceivable that he could know of his own existence, that he should come to realise himself as an immortal, eternal, spiritual entity, had he not first fully identified himself with a mortal, transitory and material body.
The whole function of the physical being is, if I may be permitted the analogy, to act as a screen upon which the picture of the eternal may be focused in reverse. Just as the whole story of a film exists, complete in every particular, in the reels of films themselves, so does man's immortality and unity exist in the eternal now. That immortality is projected through the Individuality by the action of the Eternal Light, and is expressed in motion and multiplicity. These, in turn, give rise to growth and decay, through which are built up those phenomena which we call our earthly lives. Life, raying out from the Eternal, is intercepted by, and focused upon, the screen of the Personality and, by the play of light and shadow, tells the story of existence. Both light and shadow are required to give the picture in detail.
Although the title of the two papers which I propose to read to you now is "Freewill and Predestination," it is my purpose to deal only with a restricted portion of that all-important and extremely controversial subject. The facet with which I propose to deal is now more commonly met with under the title of Liberalism and Authority, but it was felt that to, take this as my title, without comment or further explanation, might be misleading, so we changed to the more general form which, as I have indicated, can cover a very much larger field than that with which I hope to deal.
As a M.M., the aspirant is told that "the chequered pavement is for the High Priest to walk upon." To walk upon anything implies that thing has been transcended and that one can use it to the full. In the process of learning to walk upon the pavement, the aspirant must come to a realisation of himself as High Priest in his own inner sanctuary. Thus, he must transcend the pairs of opposites and come to know that he is fully capable of moulding all the material planes to his will.
In the long period of training which preceded this stage, the prospective aspirant, on reaching manhood, first has to contend with those entities which have been responsible for the building, and which now maintain the working, of the physical body. The average man, today, has little or no control over the physical elemental, whose office it is to see to the so-called automatic functions, such as breathing, digestion, elimination, and so on. These functions are still carried on, even when the owner of the body is absent in sleep, by the everwatchful caretaker, who, if danger threatens his charge, dials 999, or sends out an S.O.S. along the silver cord connecting the owner with his body, so that the owner hurries back to take charge of the situation which has arisen. In doing so, quite often he has that curious experience with which you are probably all familiar and which we refer to as a nightmare. This very often takes the form of a sensation of falling and never reaching bottom. Actually he does reach bottom in his fall along the silver cord, when he lands up in the body again, but the final landing makes no impression and is not realised nor remembered for this very reason, that he promptly wakes up in the body. Thus, the physical body itself is, in one sense at least, the bottomless pit to which the evil-doer is condemned. This nightmare experience is even more common when the owner himself finds himself in difficulties when out of the body, when he automatically dives for safety into the shelter of the body, his own particular "better 'ole." Thus we find two main tendencies at work and, in one form or another, they have given endless toil and pleasure to philosophers and theologians in all ages. The place which they occupy in human experience has served as a battleground throughout the years between the supporters of the rival doctrines of freewill and predestination. Among the extremist on both sides has been the fixed determination never to concede a point which might seem to support the other side and never to see that there might be some truth in an argument put forward by their antagonists. As is nearly always the case where divergences of this kind arise, the truth possibly lies between the two extremes, neither side being wholly right nor wholly wrong. In the main, I have a feeling that both sides are approximately correct. We find this perennial battle mirrored in many games, such as Draughts (or Chequers) and Chess. Playing cards give a further expansion on the same lines.
Throughout the whole course of human history on this Earth of ours, there have arisen men, and bodies of men, who have tried, by every means in their power, to force upon their fellows their own particular beliefs, and their own particular interpretations of these beliefs, with regard to the Universe and everything concerned with it. Very often men and groups of this kind have been actuated and inspired by what they have conceived to be the highest possible motives, but, in every case, if we search sufficiently deeply so as to get back to ultimates, we find that the foremost impetus has come from a desire to dominate others, the desire for power and self-aggrandizement.
In the present time, in which we have the honour to live and to play our little part in helping forward the evolution of humanity as a whole, this tendency has been peculiarly accentuated. The reason for this is, I believe, that it is necessary that the tendency should play itself out, that it should reach a stage when all thinking men will be forced to recognise it for the evil thing it is, and to take such steps as will finally prevent it for ever from raising its head again.
All around us we have seen it in action; in politics, both national and international; in religion, whatever may be its label; in the arts and in the sciences. Everywhere, in every walk of life, the heresy-hunter is on the warpath, ready to resort to anything and everything, however foul, however degrading, so long as it would seem to offer a good dividend in self-importance and dominion. There is, of course, also the financial motive, which is strong in some cases, but this is really only a facet of self-aggrandizement.
In Science, the hallowed fundamental axiom "nothing exists except matter," which, for many decades ruled the roost, and which led to the deliberate persecution of great men such as Crookes, Lodge and others, who dared to challenge its truth, has been largely overthrown from within, and the process continues. The line of enquiry which, it was presumed, would establish the truth of the maxim and which was to overwhelm and discredit all opposition and the questioning of those daring spirits, driving them to admit their errors and to come to heel, is bringing results which, more and more every day, vindicate them and which show that the materialists themselves were mistaken, and that the axiom is untrue.
New ideas and new trends of thought were until quite recently, and still are in some cases, frowned upon as heretical or ridiculed as nonsensical: yet many of those same ideas are now daily being accepted into the sacred domain of Science. Some are even gaining recognition as new sciences, although they accept and deal with levels of which the science of a decade or two ago would have refused to admit the existence. The immediate results appearing from the operations of some, if not all, of these new sciences seem, at first sight, to be purely destructive in their action, breaking down, modifying, and sometimes completely ousting "scientific facts" which had been held to be final and incontrovertible.
In the seven fields of the Arts — Architecture, Music, Painting, Poetry, Sculpture, Dancing and the Drama — there is the same tale to be told, and, in some instances, the destructive influence is almost more obvious. Old forms and shibboleths are daily being overthrown and contravened, to the very great annoyance of the followers of the old established schools.
Chaotic, you would say? Yes, brethren, it would certainly seem to be so; but, behind all this chaos there is to be seen a growing germ of a more stable formalism and order, the chief attributes of which would seem to be a tendency to elasticity, to liberty and freedom for the individual within a more universal law. Individuality is taking the place of the school in the natural order of things, just as, in the earlier stages of evolution each fellowman we know has individualised from an animal group-soul. New schools and groups there are — quite in the old accepted sense of the term 'school' — but the individual variations on the general theme or method of the school become more and more marked, as also does the tendency for the schools to overlap. Thus we have the curious paradox of breaking into multiplicity and combining towards unity taking place at the same time and leading.........? Well! sometimes it is almost impossible for us, within our limitations, to form any opinion as to where this amazing tendency is leading. One thing it most certainly is doing. It is exploding the old idea that unity and uniformity are one and the same thing. It is bringing us back to the old teaching of the occult schools that uniformity is incompatible with unity. Yet another paradox? Perhaps ! But I anticipate.
Plastic Sculpture, the swollen monstrosities, the peculiar and suggestive outlines in weird and unorthodox materials; the paintings of the new schools which purport to represent thoughts and feelings rather than material things; the concatenations of jazz, hot rhythm and such, the moanings of the crooners as from tortured souls and bodies, the writhings and contortions of the modern dance, the architecture of what has been called the "dumped-crate-school"; the poetry which seems to be just a collection of unrelated words thrown haphazard at a page, and all such things which doubtless you have heard so described, are commonplace today, and many peace are apt to throw up their hands in horror and disgust and to castigate them without reserve. Yet, I believe that, however much they may hurt us and arouse our ire, they are really necessary adjuncts to, and instruments for the breaking up of, the set forms of the passing age, that the way may be clear for the birth and development of better forms, more fitted to the growing needs of the new age.
"Verily, verily, I say unto you. Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die it bringeth forth much fruit. He that loveth his life shall lose it, and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal."
Unless the Candidate can come with confidence to face "the last and greatest trial," unless he be accosted by the three ruffians and descend into the tomb of transgression over which he has made his advance, unless he is raised thence to a reunion with the companions of his toil by the ministrations of the representatives of these same ruffians, the same being also the companions of his toil, he cannot become a M.M. All this is again just one great mass of paradox. And the greatest paradox of all, so far as we are concerned, is this Earth itself and the lives we live in its environment.
In religion today we find the same tendency as in other spheres. The increasingly rapid and complete break-up of the old orthodoxies and the devaluation of long cherished ideals in the religious fold, combined, as they are, with ever-increasing attempts at reaching understanding and cooperation between groups, is caused by no lack of religious impulse in the people of today, except, perhaps, amongst the most backward, who have similarly lagged behind in all ages and in whom the urge has not yet germinated. The root cause lies rather in a fierce religious hunger which cannot be satisfied or put off with the formulae of the passing orthodoxy, and which is sufficiently grown up to seek adult food rather than be satisfied with 'food for babes.' It is becoming increasingly evident that any religion putting forward a claim to be final, the last possible word in divine revelation, so that no further revelation, no further growth nor variation, is possible, is ipso facto, moribund, a dead letter. Truly, in the name of Christianity as interpreted by the Churches, our humanity has suffered severely from this same disease. It might almost be said to have undergone crucifixion. This crucifixion in materialism has led to complete finalisation in many groups with the natural result of such finalisation, paralysis and the apparent approach of death. Homo Sapiens has been "most indecently interred" in the "Tomb of Transgression," within the limits of the grave of material formalism.
Yet all this is, as I have already hinted, far from being altogether a matter for ultimate regret but rather, indeed, a necessary phase in the journey towards at-onement and that perfection which is with God. The spiritual body of humanity is indeed stirring in the tomb, only awaiting the strong grasp from above which shall bring about its resurrection, and with it that of Religion, the one and only all- embracing Catholicity, the Universal Wisdom which is of the Most High God. I am making no apology for re-quoting once more the writing of St. Augustine, in his Retractatus, "The very thing, which now is called the Christian religion, existed among the ancients and never did not exist from the beginnings of the human race, until Christ Himself came in the flesh, from which time the same religion, which already existed, began to be called Christianity."
The time of the resurrection is already with us the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand." It only awaits for us to take it to ourselves. This is evident in the universal, and almost wholly divine, discontent in the world of today, the struggle and fight of humanity to drown its discontent in an orgy of manufactured pseudo-pleasure lacking all spontaneity and all limitations of decency. It is a sign of the inward fight to throw off these grave-clothes, to rise from the tomb of separateness, limitation and denominational transgression (cross purposes) to a more full and untrammelled liberty of conscience and action.
"Humanum est errare." Human nature is very much the same, to whatsoever denomination its participant may belong. I have met stout supporters of the authoritarian attitude even, if I may say so, and that with the greatest regret, among my own people, which should, in my humble opinion, if supported, understood and lived, lead to full liberty and true universality in thought, word and action in its adherents. I make one limitation only and that is — yes, in spite of what I have been saying in apparent criticism — that, in the practise of this Catholic liberty the individual should, normally and to the very utmost of his ability, take all reasonably possible measures to avoid hurting others by rudely trampling upon their finer feelings and treasured bonds. He should be "made all things to all men that he might by all means save some." Mgr. Ronald Knox unwittingly made this clear in a broadcast, when he said, "There is headroom in the cave at Bethlehem for everyone who knows how to stoop " (B.B.C. 21.12,1947).
In all these matters we must bear in mind that behind much of our authoritarianism there is the urge of financial considerations. Mammon is rampant in our midst and "no man can serve two masters: for, either he will hate the one and love the other; or else he will hold to the one and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon."
Even Freemasonry, with all its breadth of vision and its fundamental universality, has suffered to some extent from the tendency to aim at getting set in a groove. Several masonic bodies have, for many years, been doing their utmost to limit the Craft to a final and unalterable orthodoxy, tied hand and foot beyond, and even contrary to, the ancient landmarks of the Order, to one set form out of the legion of ritual survivals which still persist and from which so much that is of significance and value may be drawn by the acceptance of a nod here and a wink there, if the horse be not too blind and not too inclined to prove himself a mule. Some there are who would even impose upon us that most stifling and stultifying of all things, a complete verbal perfection in that particular ritual which happens to meet with their personal approval. Not even content with that, they would like to impose a set interpretation upon that wording or, as seems to be the case in one instance, insist that there is no interpretation. They strive for complete standardisation in a prison-law that shall be unalterable, "even as the laws of the Medes and Persians."
Fortunately for the hopes of survival of the Craft, most of the individual lodges, especially the older foundations, who have inherited their forms of ritual from generations of worthy brothers, are very jealous of these old forms and traditions, and it is a real education in Freemasonry to go the rounds and visit them. And, today, there is a growing body of brethren seeking enlightenment, and of those are the great majority of those who seekout the "Dormer" and kindred bodies. These begin to realise the fact which I have already mentioned, that uniformity is not only unnecessary to unity, but is actually completely opposed to and incompatible with true unity. A Brotherly Love which allows no freedom of thought, word or action in the object of its love is not brotherly love at all, but is merely a form of self-love and self-gratification. A System of Relief which considers only the lowest physical needs in the object of relief prostitutes the whole idea and treats the brother as merely an unhappy incident in the universe, a mere incidental effect, instead of recognising him as the root cause of it all, as part and parcel of the Supreme Cause. A Search for Truth which links itself to the dense physical world, or to any other limited sphere of action, or to any one fleeting moment of time, can get nothing better than an ephemeral substitute for the genuine article.
Wisdom is not of the mind only; Strength is not of muscular development and bodily development alone; Beauty also is unlimited in its scope. All are inherently and truly catholic, universal, eternal and all-embracing. Wisdom, Strength and Beauty are the fundamental attributes of Eternity, of that same eternity of which each and every man is an integral part, however far he may have wandered from his centre and however much he may have forgotten his birthright. So we, each one of us — if our Masonic Craft, that truly Royal Art, is to survive and prosper — must concentrate our energies more strongly upon its unfolding and growth within ourselves and in our brethren. I have said it before, but would again reiterate, immediately any body, be it art, science, religion, philosophy, follower of this or that creed or cult, ceases to move and to grow — and I care not whether its growth be a progression or a retrogression — it is moribund, to all intents and purposes dead. There have been times when Freemasonry has seemed to be upon its last legs, when it has appeared to be very near to death and when a majority of its brethren have treated its Rituals as naught but somewhat interesting survivals of a dead community, or as pegs upon which to hang a feeble, unsatisfying, artificial and somewhat dissipated festivity, but I do feel that the purely dining mason, with no other thought than to get the work over as quickly as possible and settle in to an evening round the festive board, is gradually but surely becoming a thing of the past. He always was an anachronism.
Heresy hunts come invariably from, and are a sure sign of, weakness and uncertainty in the hunter. If any man is certainly persuaded in his own heart that his religious outlook expresses nothing but truth, however far it may be from expressing the whole truth, then the conviction follows naturally that nothing whatsoever can undermine or hurt it. He can have no fear that any so-called heretic can shake his faith, for if it indeed be founded upon truth, the only possible change that can take place in it is an expansion to take in more of the universal truth.
Here we have the crux of the matter, the point upon which Freemasonry scores over most of the Churches and other religious and philosophic bodies. In its universal appeal it has room within its breast for every possible shade of religious and philosophic teaching, so long as that teaching is based upon truth. It is founded upon a basis of complete tolerance and openmindednes in its search for materials with which to raise the Temple of Truth. When the thinking mason is confronted with two apparently contradictory doctrines, he does not hastily adopt that which seems to be the most attractive. He examines both impartially, carefully and critically, seeking out rather the points on which they agree rather than those on which they differ. Should he be unable to reach a full decision, he probably takes the points of agreement as a working hypothesis. He may even file both away for further consideration in the light of further pointers towards truth which may later come to light.
This is the point at which, of course, a true scientific attitude of mind should step in to aid, but it is seldom that it can do so, owing to the great mistrust between holders of the various viewpoints, so little give-and-take between them, and so much inherent prejudice to be overcome.
Once again the Masonic attitude helps to solve the difficulty. Freemasonry confines its teaching, so far as the ritual and ceremonies are concerned, to fundamental principles, and leaves its followers free and unrestrained. It recognises, what really ought to be obvious, that the only truth which can ever be real to a man is that truth which he has reached and contacted for himself. It gives an outline of the work to be done; it points the way, and gives every necessary aid, but it leaves each brother to do his own donkey-work of proving for himself the basic principles laid down. Here is full liberty of conscience and of interpretation, where so many bodies rely upon authority.
What is it, then, that holds the Craft together? What magic is it that has held it and its forebears together through all the vicissitudes of the past; and whence comes that vitality which makes of the corpse, which some would have us believe that it is, of so very lively a variety? I have already hinted at the answer, which can be summed up in one word, if that word is properly understood and is dissociated from much that has grown around it in later times. The word is MAGIC, the true magic to which the Magi gave their name, those Magi who were led by the star, which none but they could perceive, to the place of bread, Bethlehem: those Magi who, having themselves reached the rank of Spiritual Kings, yet knew how to bow their heads in true humility before a greater than themselves and so could find headroom in the cave, in the humble stable of the inn.
Freemasonry is not a religion. It interferes with the religious susceptibilities of no one of its members. It asks no man to leave his religion; but it does, most emphatically, ask each brother to live the highest concept of religion which he is capable of forming; to adopt and to show forth in his life the highest possible interpretation of the teachings of any religion into which he may have been born or in which he may have found an abiding place. Freemasonry expects him to think; to think, not as the ordinary man of the world thinks, but to think differently, to think again, to repent.
Freemasonry deals with no particularised religious beliefs. It concentrates entirely upon universals. It offers a full-scale map of the Temple of Truth, its surroundings and its approaches, and each brother is left free to read that map from whatsoever angle of approach of a map alone. The average man needs more than a may suit him best. Yet it remains a map only, a substitute for the genuine article, the terrain itself.
In offering such a map for guidance, Freemasonry recognises that it is only the quite exceptional man who is capable of finding his way unaided from illusion to truth, through darkness to the light, from the unreal to the real, from ignorance to illumination, from circumference to centre — put it how and as you will — by means map. He must gird up his loins and set out upon the long cross-country journey in search of the truth for himself. He must master the details of the intervening country, not only as shown on the map but by direct contact, for there are many details which cannot be shown upon any map, and of which he can learn nothing except from his own reactions to them when met face to face. A map can deal only with generalities, but the advantage of even such a map, as a replica in miniature of the whole country to be traversed, is that the aspirant is no longer dependent only upon tradition or the authority of stay-at-home, happily contented inhabitants of the various communities to be contacted and traversed. Neither need he depend upon travellers' tales of those who have placed themselves completely in the hands of a guide or company of guides — usually self-appointed, and often more ignorant than the traveller they guide. Others depend upon stories told by other travellers, independent or in groups, who leave behind, out of the kindness of their hearts, such aids as the peculiar circumstances of their own cases have made helpful to them, quite forgetting, for instance, that a book may be useless to one who is illiterate, a pair of crutches to one neither halt nor lame, and a jet aircraft not only useless, but a very menace to himself and others, in the hands of one without mechanical knowledge and ability, or who has a weak head for heights or speed. There are also so many who set up signposts and other aids, although themselves unsure of the way which they have yet to travel. All these dear people, so anxious, oh! so very anxious, to help those they believe to be behind them, and all so utterly certain that, of all the myriad roads leading to the goal, the one they have chosen to follow is the best, if not the only road possible, have we not all had dealings with them? He who possesses the map, he who has made it his own, so that it remains with him, even in the darkness of the blackest night, although still very human and, as such, liable to error just as much as his neighbour, just as likely to make mistakes, take wrong turnings and otherwise go astray, he can yet refer to his map by means of repentance, by thinking back, when he finds himself in doubt, difficulty or danger. He can regain from it, however dim it may have become from neglect and lack of use, at least his general direction.
Remember, Brethren, that this map is a living map, implanted and inherent within the traveller himself and, with constant use, it grows and becomes an infallible guide, external as well as internal to himself, ever to hand for consultation and reference.
All roads lead eventually to the centre. Some follow a straight course, but few travellers there be that find these without difficulty, or who have the courage and devotion necessary for their treading, and for the overcoming of the dangers and difficulties that beset them. Some roads there are that circle round and round, apparently aimlessly, losing themselves in the mazes of illusion and, in the words of the popular song, "running around in circles, getting nowhere." Herein we have, I think, the basic reason why Freemasonry makes such a point of asking no man to leave his religion, and why it asks him rather to live it to the full. Be he, for instance, a professed Christian, then, for him, must the Christ become more and more, more than ever before, the Way, the Truth and the Life. The Christian Master is, for him, the door that leads to God, the Centre of his Circle. He, himself, becomes, in time, one with the Master, and is, thus, the door, and the Temple of Truth itself. He finds himself, as never before, drawn within the Temple and, as this occurs, so, paradoxically, he finds the Temple absorbed into himself. Herein lies the reality of that much abused term, REALISATION — note it carefully, for it is that which is at-onement with the Master, with Truth Universal and, so, it is Union with God. Once more he can refer to his map and to the detail of the Centre, and, lo, he and his map are ONE. There, with the Centre, where he is to find "that which was lost" he comes to the amazing realisation that what he has sought so long and felt to be the Universal Truth, if only he could find it, is — HIMSELF.
Throughout our journey, the way that lies before us, we must bear in mind — I quote Bulwer-Lytton — that,
"Man is arrogant in proportion of his ignorance . . . . if not a leaf, if not a drop of water but is no less than yonder star, a habitable and breathing world, — nay, if even man himself is a world to other lives, and millions and myriads dwell in the rivers of his blood and inhabit man's frame, as man inhabits earth — commonsense (if our schoolmen had it) would suffice to teach that the circumfluent infinite which you call space — the boundless impalpable which divides Earth from Moon and stars — is filled also with correspondent and appropriate life. Is it not a visible absurdity to suppose that Being is crowded upon every leaf and yet absent from the immensities of space? The law of the great system forbids the waste even of a stone; it knows no spot where something of life does not breathe . . . . Well, then, can you conceive that space, which is the infinite itself, is alone a waste, is alone lifeless, is less useful to the one design of universal being . . . . than are the peopled leaf, than the swarming globule?" (Zanoni).
Thus, we may be sure that, on our journey, we are never alone, always, and everywhere, life is pulsing in its efforts towards that full comprehension of multiplicity, through which alone can come the realisation of Unity.
The words of Bulwer-Lytton might, perhaps, be described by a lawyer as "special pleading;" but, if they are studied carefully, they may do one thing for us, that very thing which it has been my task to try to emphasise. They make us to think and, I trust, to think differently. To grasp truth, we must cover the whole ground of thought, we must re-pent, and again re-pent. William Kingsland says, "Men speak of revelation, as if they had only to be told the truth on divine authority in order to recognise and accept it, but, if they cannot recognise the word of God speaking in all ages, in all history, in all nature, and in their own hearts, the traditional authority which may attach to a particular book or a particular church will only lead them into the grossest error and superstition." (Esoteric basis of Christianity).
Truly, we must "repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand." But we must do our own repenting, our own thinking, for there is no such thing imaginable as vicarious repentance and, as Archdeacon Wilberforce says, "Meanwhile remember 'the Kingdom of Heaven is within you.' All the power you can possibly need is at your disposal. You need no helper to give it to you, it is yours now," (Mystic Immanence), and, again, William Kingsland, "All the Cosmic Powers of the universe are man's, did he but know how to utilize them. They are more than his, they are Himself."
In considering the eternal battle, this idea of inevitable opposition which we have been picturing, we finally reach a point when it is borne in upon us that herein, in the very attitude of mind which is aroused and which has been consolidated by centuries of living with it as a background to life, lies the origin of that fallacious doctrine, that only out of competition can come the greatest good for mankind. This competitive ideal is only now beginning to be seen in its true perspective as a passing, if necessary, phase of growth, a phase which is hopelessly obsolete and outmoded in a world which has become so small that, without brotherhood and cooperation, humanity — not merely a paltry civilization or two, as has happened in the past, but humanity as a whole — must perish, even if by nothing else than man-made famine, and, as it were, start again from scratch. Into the consciousness of a large part of our humanity has come the vision of human cooperation, and the efforts of the more advanced among the nations and individuals are being directed towards its objective manifestation. Ultimately the idea must be extended to include all beings.
To any Freemason who has begun to realise in himself and to live the ideals of Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth, it must become perfectly obvious that competition, and its offspring, exploitation, as we have known them, and as they still exist today, are in direct conflict with these ideals. The full practice of Brotherly Love can only lead to Material Cooperation; the practice of Relief beget Emotional cooperation; and the practice of Truth entail Mental Cooperation; and all lead to Unity, so that in thought, word and deed there cease to be any valid excuses to be offered for competition or conflict of any kind whatsoever.
In the world of Economics, I am assured that all kinds of wonderful things were expected, and in some quarters are still expected, from the exercise of free competition. These were to come in the improvement in quality and quantity of goods, the cheapening of production and so on. Instead, the results have been more on the lines of slavery and exploitation, lowering of quality and rise in price of goods. Although it took the economists a very long time to notice the fact, there was a growing tendency for the system to cease to function as planned. Instead, there grew up the great monopolies. Laws were passed to control these monopolies, but it was quite another thing to implement these laws, which were, and are, tacitly ignored. Of course, competition is really a comparatively early stage in what is known as Industrial Development, and is ousted by the tendency to create these monopolies. Hence, there is bound to come a moment when, as Bertrand Russell put it in a recent broadcast, "either the industries take over the State or the State takes over the industries." Either choice can be extremely uncomfortable for the ordinary citizen, as we all know to our cost, as we enter the phase of either-or, but this either-or is logically inevitable.
It is the same story with man himself in his vehicles of the matter of the lower planes. He, as an individual, is gradually being confronted with a similar either-or situation. Either he must let the Elemental of a particular level take complete charge on its own plane and let himself be dominated and enslaved by it, or he must learn to control it, to bring it to heel and make of it his willing and fully cooperative servant and cooperator. There is no middle way. The choice is clear cut. But, in order to rule, man must first learn to obey. He must learn to cooperate with that which is higher than himself.
A few centuries ago the arena of competition was still a matter between individuals, but it has grown, through the rivalry of groups and communities, until the basic rivalry is between nations, and beyond. In these days, through which we are trying to live, it has passed over into a rivalry between what we are pleased to term Ideologies. The vast techniques, arising from industrial and intellectual revolution, are rapidly washing out the divisions between all grades of humanity, and all men, groups, communities, nations, and even ideologies are finding themselves more and more interdependent. Every day the absolute necessity for reaching a state of world order and agreement becomes more obvious and imperative, if any of the aspects that are best in our embryo-civilisation, of which we are tempted to be so inordinately boastful, are to survive at all. The whole problem before us is rather terrifying in its magnitude, but we must face up to it, and try to find and apply sane solutions to the various aspects of the problem. Each one of us, individually, each group, community, nation, federation, commonwealth and ideology, must get down to the task in its contacts with others, within and without itself, and on all levels.
From the very beginning of things, apparently, man has allowed himself, both individually and collectively, to be obsessed and dominated by tradition. Bertrand Russell points out that "this has been at once the main cause of progress and the main obstacle to progress." Were it not for tradition, each generation, even each incarnation, would have to start from scratch. There would be no handing on or bringing through acquired knowledge or experience, no possibility of growth resulting from earlier events. No matter how progressive any particular period may be, the progress made and the activity shown upon all levels must depend upon earlier experience coming through as tradition. "We may rebel" says Lord Russell, "against our parents' narrow-mindednes, but we can only rise above them by standing on their shoulders."
The tendency to bow to tradition, to harden it into dogmatic assertion and to treat such dogma as sacrosanct, is very strong in us, and, consequently, very liable to be carried to extremes. This is stultifying to growth and expansion, and, when changed conditions necessitate revision, the results are often cataclysmic, more especially when mental change lags behind change in physical environment. Every new discovery and invention necessitates a mental adaptation in those who are to use it, if it is to be used for the good of humanity. If mental adaptation lags behind, then it is liable to bring about results which can only be classed as evil.
Man, inhabiting, as he does, an animal body, is yet different from other animals. He is capable of realisation of his separateness; he knows himself as "I," as distinct from "NOT I "; he has power to control his own free choice; he has what we call self-determination. This stage he has reached by the development of mind, MANAS, the power to think for himself and to make decisions. Someone put it tersely as "Manas maketh man." Man is capable of giving names to things in his environment, to things outside himself. When he sees an already familiar object, its name at once jumps to his lips, he recalls similar pictures already in existence in his mind. It is a fundamental law that to know and to be able to pronounce the true name of anything, with intention, is to have full power and control over that thing. When something new is seen for the first time it is recorded in the mind; it is cognised, so that, when a similar object is contacted later on, it is re-cognised for what it is. There must, therefore, be a mechanism by which such recording and storage of facts is effected, an instrument of cognition, and the man controlling or using it is the cogniser. Thus we have with us the three heads recorded by Pathanjaii in the Yoga Aphorisms: "All things in the universe can be classed under three heads, namely, the cogniser, the instrument of cognition and that which is cognised."
Man, as we are told in Genesis, received into himself the Breath of God and became a living soul. It is this living soul, consciously recognised as part of himself, that differentiates man from the rest of creation and that gives him the power of cognition, upon which depends that power with which we are chiefly concerned, his power to re-pent, to think again, to think differently.
The very word, MAN, itself comes from the Sanskrit root, MA, to measure, from which is derived the word Manas, mind. Another derivative is the name of MANU, the Spiritual Ruler and Law-giver of the Race. The word Man means to think.
"Man" says Nietzsche (Zoroaster Sutra.), "is a rope connecting animal and beyond mana rope over an abyss . . . What is great in man is that he is a bridge and not a goal: what can be loved in man is that he is a transition and a destruction . . . I love him who liveth to perceive and who is longing for perception in order that some day beyond man may live. And thus he willeth his own destruction."
Henry D. Thoreau writes, "I know of no more encouraging fact than the unquestionable ability of man to elevate his life by conscious endeavour. It is something to be able to paint a particular picture, or to carve a statue, and so to make a few objects beautiful, but it is far more glorious to carve and paint the very atmosphere and medium through which we look, which morally we can do. To affect the quality of the day — that is the highest of arts."
The future, all that is or can be, every slightest event and everything that can result therefrom, is in the hands of man, as such. As an imperishable, immortal being, whose central focus is upon the levels of spirit, man is capable of taking full control in the world of forms. By training, based upon self- discipline, man can control and handle all the powers of the three planes of manifestation, the levels of the physical, the emotional and the mental. His task, the work which lies before him as a unit humanity, is to gain full control on the level of mind and thus to bridge the gap between two major cycles evolving within the mental compass of the Scheme of which our physical Sun is the centre. Those cycles might perhaps be likened to the plans of the architect and the materials for the building. Only by the intervention of the skilled craftsman can the latter become the concrete embodiment of the ideas contained in the former. Mankind is destined for this work. It is for the purpose of training for this work that he is here. He is destined to become in fact that which he now is in potential, the skilled craftsman upon whose work must depend the ultimate success or failure of the whole scheme.
And, Brethren, this is the state of being which we, as Craftsmen and Master Masons, can bring to pass by the purposeful use of the mental faculty that is in us.
Science and religion, properly applied, can help us to create and to disseminate the proper atmosphere for the work, but we must be very clear as to what we mean when we talk of science and religion.
C.H. Waddington (The Scientific Attitude, Pelican) gives a good definition of Science:- "Science is the organised attempt of mankind to discover how things work as causal systems" and, further, "The Scientific attitude of mind is an interest in such questions."
I would take a definition of religion from Wm. Kingsland :- "Religion, therefore, I define as : The instinctive recognition by man that he possesses a spiritual nature, and the effort he makes to realise that nature."
These two definitions, it is to be noted, both involve a definite mental effort, a repenting, which must be initiated and maintained by the operator himself.
If, then, we consider the matter closely, we will, I believe, find, always, that it is only by a prolonged contact with the paradoxical vicissitudes and contradictions of the lower planes of manifestation that matter of the mental level can be sufficiently sublimated and controlled to allow of full repentance.
Now that we have obtained, as I hope and trust, some idea of the rationale of this business of repentance, we must pass on to a consideration of that to which it leads, as the next step. The Prodigal has reached the stage when he has come to realise that there are better things than those which turn to the husks which feed his animal nature and his lower vehicles. He should also have realised that no one is going to spoon-feed him and that it is up to no one but himself to make a move to better his condition in this "far country" of incarnation. He is coming to realise himself as a proud, stiff-necked creature, whose arrogance has met with its natural deserts and has dragged him, the potential Lord of all Creation down to the level of the beasts, and below. He knows, with certainty, in his inner being, that he is this Lord of Creation, that he has the right — nay, verily, the duty — when he shall have made himself fitted for the work, to dominate nature, to change the face of the globe, to over-rule,natural law and use all things to the ends for which they are most truly fitted, the perfecting of himself and of all that lives.
But he, this dynamic, positive, self-assertive creature, can only fulfil his destiny and learn to rule when he has learned to obey, can only come into his kingdom when he has learned to bow his head in true humility, and in penitence for past transgression. Thus, only, can he attain to true repentance. Thus, in the parable, we find the prodigal saying, "I will arise, and return to my father," and he might add, "for now I know that 'He that exalteth himself shall be abased and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted."' Among the greatest men in history you will not find one who was not noted in some way for his humility. Of this arising and of the path of return, involving, as it most surely does, a complete volte-face, a drastic turn-round or revolution, we will hope to discuss when next we meet together.
May I close with another excerpt from that great scripture which I have so often quoted to you, The Bhagavad Gita, "the Song Celestial," as it is translated by Sir Edwin Arnold, from whom I quote:
"Know thou that Nature and the Spirit both Have no beginning ! Know that qualities And changes of them are by Nature wrought; That Nature puts to work the acting frame, But Spirit doth inform it, and so cause Feeling of pain or pleasure. Spirit, linked To moulded matter, entereth into bond With qualities by Nature framed, and, thus Married to matter, breeds the birth again in good or evil yonis. (wombs).
Yet in this —
Yea! in its bodily prison! — Spirit pure, Spirit supreme; surveying, governing, Guarding, possessing; Lord and Master still PURUSHA, Ultimate, One Soul with Me.
Whoso thus knows himself, and knows his soul, PURUSHA, working through the qualities With Nature's modes, the light hath come for him! Whatever flesh he bears, never again Shall he take on its load...........
PEACE TO ALL BEINGS.
So Mote It Be.