The Masonic Quest of Truth
W.Bro. R. A. L. Harland, P.M., Lodge No. 1679
President of the Circle.
To an ancient and venerable exhortation; seek, and ye shall find; ask, and ye shall have; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. (First Lecture; Second Section.)
I will seek that which was lost. (Ezekiel, chapter 34, verse 16.)
For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost. (Luke, chapter 19, verse 10.)
The work of any group of Masonic students must of necessity fall within the purview of the Three Grand Principles on which the Order is founded: Brotherly Love, Relief, and Truth, but in this Circle we have always emphasised that our intention is to make the pursuit of Truth, as it is expressed in the Craft system, our special study. Hitherto, the energies of the Craft in general have been principally directed towards the promotion of the two former of these, Brotherly Love and Relief, with the consequent neglect of an adequate investigation of the third. We have now, however, reached a time in the historical development of both the Craft and society as a whole, when the conditions of social, intellectual, and religious life, are forcing thoughtful minds everywhere to a more intensive and earnest search for Truth than ever before. It is, then, fitting that the present Paper should, from the Masonic standpoint, be devoted to this inquiry. We shall endeavour to ascertain what Truth meant to those guardians of an ancient tradition who, in devising the rituals of Speculative Freemasonry, have left hints concealed beneath veils of allegory and symbolism for their successors in the modern Craft to unravel when "time or circumstances" permit.
If it is true that the ability to wonder is the beginning of wisdom, then this truth is a sad commentary on the wisdom of our age. Whatever the merits may be of our admittedly high standard of literary and universal education, we have lost entirely the gift of wonder. Everything is supposed to be known, if not to ourselves then to some specialist, whose business it is to know what we do not know. Indeed, to confess to wonder is embarrassing, and a sign of our intellectual inferiority. To have the right answers seems to be most important; to ask the right questions is considered insignificant by comparison. Nevertheless, when we start out eventually on the quest of real knowledge we find that we become more and more uncertain about those things which we were formerly certain about, and more and more certain about those we were uncertain about. We begin to undergo the psychological process of reversal; our certainties become less the matters of fact; moments of illumination occur; and we recall the old counsel: "Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom and with all thy getting get understanding" (Proverbs, chapter 4, verse 7). Knowing by means of understanding is a far more real experience than any external method of knowledge. We see things the other way round; the invisible enters the visible on all sides. When the mind sees inwardly the truth of something for the first time, this seeing is of the same quality as the seeing of something outside in a new way. We are liberated from the bondage of this world by that truth, of which it is written: "And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free" (John, chapter 8, verse 32); but this kind of truth, we are told in many places, begins with self-knowledge.
Man gains freedom only through the use of his highest faculties. The goal is to perfect himself, to become complete; and perfecting is mainly a question of following a way, to be on the right path. We are here reminded of the original significance of the word "faith." The meaning appears to have been mental perception of the reality of the invisible. It is in this sense that St Paul, in his Epistles, writes: "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen" (Hebrews, chapter 11, verse 1 ). Faith is therefore another form of understanding, through which force enters us; it differs radically from "belief," which is merely an attitude of mind, for faith is, philosophically, the energy of the soul directed towards an ideal. The soul is without faith only when it is inert, but once stimulated by the revelation of an ideal the latent energy immediately streams, like a river to the sea, towards that ideal. In common with every other form of labour, proficiency in faith depends upon intelligent and continuous practice; it is a constructive energy, or building force; and with those who persist in it there comes a time when, truly and literally, faith passes into sight. Moreover, it is as true in the metaphysical realm of the soul, as it is in physical Nature, that desire creates faculty. Bodily sight is known to have resulted from persistent nerve straining towards the sunlight by blind organisms for whose welfare sight is a necessity, until at last a definite organ of vision was evolved; and, in precisely the same manner, the desire energy of the unseeing soul, straining towards the supernal Light it craves for, results eventually in generating a specialised organ of spiritual vision.
The first aim of Initiation systems in all ages has been to open the inward eye, to restore the candidate to spiritual sight, as is done symbolically in our First degree. We find that in the Speculative Lodges three centuries ago this fact was well known, and many Masonic authors have quoted Adamson who wrote: "We have the Mason word and second sight"; meaning that they had acquitted spiritual clairvoyance enabling them to behold truths not perceptible to the average man. The ceremonial removal of the hoodwink from the eyes of the novice, therefore, foreshadows an actual experience possible to him; namely, the removal from his own spiritual vision of that obscuring hoodwink, the natural mind, which forms an impermeable barrier to the passage of the Light supernal. Not until that barrier is removed can we gaze upon the Reality which lies beyond mind. This was the supreme degree of vision called "Epopteia" to which the Greek Mysteries led up; which is also known as the "Beatific Vision" in the Christian mystical system; and which is likewise signified by the dramatic spectacle revealed in our Royal Arch degree at the moment of restoration to light. We cannot, however, hope to attain the grade of seer without long and persevering effort, nor can that goal ever be achieved by those who are lacking in both the desire and the will to succeed. Where there is a will there is a way. When there is persistent desire, constant and acute striving, there function and organ, successively, appear. In brief, the life of those who have had vision has always been marked by two outstanding characteristics. The first was severe preliminary self training which demanded the utmost exertion; the second characteristic succeeded the first. It was the living out in daily practice the skill which was acquired in the preliminary exercises.
Discipline is the wholehearted obedience of a disciple, and there cannot be discipleship, unless there is a Master to be heard and to be followed. Throughout the ages the aspirant to Initiation has found it essential to pass under the tuition of some expert teacher who knows the way, and can give him the help which is suited to his personal requirements. Hence the Craft, following this traditional method, declares that every new Apprentice shall himself endeavour: "To seek for a Master and from him to gain instruction" (First Section; First Lecture). This task of the advancement of a junior by a senior is a phase of our science of which recognition is lost owing to existing conditions. It rests not only upon the moral duty of every more advanced Brother to help the less advanced, but upon the spiritual principle that whoever has freely received must as freely give, and that none is initiated for his private advantage. We shall be assisted at this stage of our research by a reference to the traditional gnosis which constitutes the philosophic basis of our Masonic system. This ancient doctrine teaches that the human soul, once fashioned in the likeness of the sevenfold perfection of the divine Light, has slowly fallen from that exalted state of being; has become so deeply involutionised and enmeshed in the darkness and limitations of phenomenal existence that it has lost spiritual awareness; and thereby suffers from grievous arrest and disorder of native inherent faculties. But, we are assured, "that which was lost" is destined to be found; the soul is to be gradually redeemed from evil; and ultimately restored to even greater grandeur. It is hard for us to accept the fact that our consciousness evolves, yet in the course of evolution through the ages we have in part recovered from our loss, although still remaining far short of perfection and the possession of full powers. The extent of that recovery may be measured by the present average standard of racial consciousness. This, as we know, is mainly sensuous; human knowledge, substantially, is dependent upon and limited by, the evidence brought to the mind by the five senses. It is for this reason that Man, in the present age, and in his present imperfect state, is symbolised by the five-pointed star; and with the same significance the number five recurs in the Craft system. The pentagram indicates our five points of entrance into, and fellowship with, the outward world, the world of the senses; and, to cognise the things of the higher life we must develop corresponding, but dormant "perfect points of entrance" into the world of inward vision and audition, the spiritual world.
The purpose of the Craft system is to proclaim that there is a way back out of the present imperfect existence to the transcendent life from which we are racially fallen; that there is a means of recovering that lost Word which "in the beginning" was the true light and life of men, and which can be found and raised up within us when "time and circumstances" combine to restore it. In the long slow course of the cosmic process all will attain that recovery at last, but to expedite it for those who are capable and anxious for advancement, the science of Initiation has ever existed. The physical body, and to a less degree the psychic body, is a congeries of atrophied organs and latent vital centres, functional at one time or another during the vast cycle of evolution, but quite useless at the present stage; they are, however, all capable of being restored to their normal functions, having been preserved or stored up, as it were, to remain dormant until that time, mystically called the Perfecting period, when man can take conscious control of the forces of evolution, synthesise his powers, and regain the divine attributes that have been obscured and seemingly lost throughout the ages the soul has spent in material existence. That religious truths are connected with physiology may appear strange, and even absurd, to minds trained in modern ways of thinking on religious and scientific questions. Modern science derives psychology from physiology, thus persevering in the notion that thought is due to the action of the brain; whereas, in the ancient system of knowledge the very reverse is maintained, and physiology is based on psychology. We learn from the old science that the uncreated, eternally self-existent soul, has evolved the physical body as an instrument through which it can manifest in the material world hence, according to this system, function precedes organism in every instance. Every organ represents some quality, power, or faculty of the soul, and whenever an organ has been evolved for a temporary purpose, it becomes atrophied as soon as the energy of the soul is directed in a different channel; it is either laid aside for future use, or is rejected, just as the scaffolding is torn down from the completed building.
There are mental processes, spiritual science teaches, which entirely transcend ordinary modes of thought. In the realm of abstract thought man is raised out of his illusory sense of separateness. On the higher levels of the mental plane the aspirant, it is affirmed, will undergo "that last and greatest trial, by which means alone" he can achieve Union with the divine, and the promise to him who attains is written: "He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment" (Revelation, chapter 3, verse 5). White is ever the emblem of Eternity, as colour denotes the various qualities of the One Life of the Universe displayed in the realms of time and phenomena. In the words of poetry :-
Life, like a dome of many-coloured glass, Stains the white radiance of Eternity. (Shelley: From "Adonais.")
The regaining of the Eternal, therefore, is described as the putting on of the "white raiment," and for Companions of the Royal Arch this symbolism will have peculiar significance. It is otherwise written: "Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life" (Revelation, chapter 2, verse 10). We find that reward in the form of a crown often figured in the Mysteries; for instance, in one of the Mithraic grades of initiation the candidate, at that stage named the Soldier, was presented with a crown on the point of a sword; he was instructed to reject this, saying: "Mithra is my crown." In the Kabalistic system, KETHER, the crown, denotes highest Wisdom, which will explain why in the Supreme Degree of our Masonic series, the distinguishing Jewel of the First Principal is also the crown. The further reward is the giving of: "A white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it" (Revelation, chapter 2, verse 17). A white stone, with certain mystic characters engraven thereon, was common to many of the Mysteries, the meaning of the letters and symbols being communicated to the initiated alone. It is interesting to note here that a similar token survives in one of our present-day Masonic degrees. In very old systems such engraved stones or tablets were buried with the deceased, that they might be provided with the secret pass- words giving admission to the higher worlds. To the aspirant who, by the exercise of spiritual will, is victorious in recovering "that which was lost," it is then triumphantly declared " The stone which the builders refused is become the headstone of the corner" (Psalm 118, verse 22).
We learn from the study of Initiation systems that the great effort of the aspirant in all ages has not been so much to "know" as to "become"; and herein lies the tremendous import of the famous Delphic inscription "KNOW THYSELF," which is equally the keynote of modern Masonic teaching as it was of the ancient systems. The "properly prepared" candidate understands that true self-knowledge can be attained through self-development alone, a development which begins with introspection and the awakening of creative powers now slumbering in the inner protoplasmic constitution of man, like the vivific potency in the ovum, and which when roused into activity will emancipate him ultimately from material thraidom. This process of transcendental self-conquest, the giving birth to oneself as a spiritual being, is initiation or regeneration, and of necessity becomes a corresponding degeneration, renunciation, and mystical death of all the lower principles that obstruct the work of transformation. The primary task of the neophyte is that of self-purification, clean living and pure thinking; by sincerity and childlike wonder he becomes attuned to the physical elements, and as his psychic faculties gradually unfold he becomes aware of the subtle forces which are behind natural phenomena. Yet this is psychic only, and not spiritual; it is but the "drawing near" of the divine consciousness, and is symbolised by the lustration with water. Courage is one of the essential virtues of the aspirant, who must with dauntless energy cleave his way through the dark and hostile psychic planes of life which have to be traversed before the divine realm is reached; and the realm itself belongs only to him who can become the eventual conqueror. Nevertheless, the mystical and occult teachings are impassed to the novice by those who know, as he may merit them; he will receive no more than his rightful wage, and he can gain nothing by compulsion or artifice.
In the case of the Lesser Mysteries of the Greeks the officiating hierophant, who was called Hydranos (meaning "bather" or "sprinkler") publicly administered to candidates the ceremony of self- purification, by bathing them in the waters of a running stream, as the River Ilissos; he exhorted them to lead lives of the strictest purity, and instructed them in matters pertaining to the psychic stage of their development. This washing or cleansing was the lowest step in the telestic rites, as in the ceremonies at Eleusis, where on the second day the initiates of the lowest degree purified themselves by bathing in the sea. The superficial nature of such purification was symbolised in the Eleusinia by washing a hog, which on being released straightaway returned to wallowing in the mire. There is a reference to this, apparently, in the New Testament, where we may read: "But it is happened unto them according to the true proverb, The dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire" (2nd Peter, chapter 2, verse 22). One of the greatest dangers the aspirant must guard against is that of being mislead by "false prophets", the charlatans, who in every age pursue their nefarious propaganda, and lead their dupes to moral ruin. The novice should exercise the "utmost caution until he is able to discriminate between the genuine and the false. Whether a man is broad or narrow minded depends upon himself; in the search for Truth he sets his own limitations; but before he can receive even the elementary teachings of the sacred science, he must part with the illusory knowledge which he mistakes for wisdom. Fortunate is the man who has a disciplined mind, amply stored with wholesome ideas and useful knowledge; however, if learning is mistaken for wisdom, the mind is made merely the well-stocked storehouse of intellectual theories. Indeed, the exclusive cultivation of the brain consciousness, when carried to the extreme, results in the extinction of the nobler faculties of the mind, and the utter loss of the power of spiritual cognition. Spiritual truths are revealed by interior illumination; enlightenment cannot come from without. Teachings conveyed by word of mouth or by the written page can act only as external stimuli; they are understood and accepted in proportion as they revive latent memories in the subconscious mind of the recipient.
The natural mind is adapted solely to the norma cognition of natural phenomena; spiritual things must be spiritually perceived. Accordingly, the head being a inadequate faculty for apprehending the sublime truth of the spirit must, as it were, be cut off, beheaded before the eternal verities can be cognised. We are no able to discern the concealed significance of the First Degree sign; it is obviously a sign of decapitation, although the beheading is to be understood no physically, but mystically. Among spiritual alchemists this act of renunciation is often referred to as "cutting off the head of the black crow," that sombre bird being taken as the figure of the natural reason. In further illustration, consider the frequent allusion in mystical writings to "headlessness," signifying total self abnegation, and absorption of the mind in God, the super-conscious state of ecstasy or "samadhi," and this quotation from the great thirteenth century Sufi poet, as follows :-
"When thou seest in the pathway a severed head Which is bounding towards our field, Ask of it, ask of it, the secrets of the heart, For of it thou wilt learn our hidden mystery." (Jallalu'ddin Rumi.)
If the First Degree sign relates to the head, that of the Second is connected with the heart. It is essential for the aspirant to work with both his head and his heart; to balance activity in practising "every moral and social virtue" with contemplation and the study to be "quiet"; but above all, to listen for the "still small voice" in his heart that may be heard speaking when the "rough sea of passion" has abated. In the quest of Truth, precedence must always be given to the intuitions of the heart, while the rational understanding is subordinated and brought up into alignment with them. The point is effectively demonstrated in our Masonic steps. Every step in the Craft system is taken with the left foot first, the right foot being drawn up to it, and we hereby conform with the ancient tradition in that the left side and limbs of the body are associated with the heart and the right with the head.
Mystical experience should never be sought after for its own sake, nor, precious as it may be, should it be overvalued when it occurs. It is not an end in itself; it does not necessarily imply merit, perfection, or sanctity in the subject. The books of counsel and experience left us by the adventurers of the inward life constantly warn us against illusion, pride, and especially the ability of the traditional adverse "principalities an powers" to make the ardent but imperfectly purge mind, the theatre of false fires and specious illumination. Those who are "properly prepared," however have the witness in themselves whereby to distinguish feigned from real; they know too, that whilst the dark powers can display light, to engender inward peace is beyond their power. When, then, comes the veridic experience it brings its own warrants with it, and we are furnished with a valid passport into the land of "plenty"; but, this land "flowing with milk an honey" can only be reached through the "narrow way," after careful training and diligent search. That the journey is laborious and painful every follower of the way knows profoundly. Assuredly the mind keyed up to the attitude just described will speedily suffer the consequences of antagonising against "the prince of the power of the air," the magnetic aura generated by the lower self, exposed to which he will find himself on the defensive from the "attacks of the insidious," an sensitive to every impact of its inimical current. Agonies of apprehension will seize him as former ideals crumble into futility, and trusted supports collapse in ruin. But equally certain will he discern these to be replaced by others for which the old have served as "substituted secrets"; that substance is being exchanged for shadows; and that the shifting sands of his temporal circumstances are most subtly being redisposed to his true advantage, as though by overseers who have been given directions concerning him.
The second stage or grade on the mystical Path, known to us in Freemasonry as the "mid-way," is notoriously one of violent emotional alteration, and may be likened to a rough sea voyage; folly and wisdom, weakness and strength, aridity and fluency; these are the lot of every aspirant, whose psychological life at this sage is one of alternation between the opposite shores by which the fluidic mind of man is bounded. The task imposed at this juncture is the attainment of mental and emotional equilibrium, involving the establishment of the mind "in strength" and "stability," which will ultimately lead to continuous mental illumination. It is traditional that the Psalms of David are a text-book intended to illustrate this stage on the Path; indeed, the Psalmist himself has well described the experiences of those who enter the process we term "passing," in the following passage:-
"They that go down to the sea in ships, that do business in great waters; These see the works of the Lord, and his wonders in the deep. For he commandeth, and raiseth the stormy wind, which lifteth up the waves thereof. They mount up to the heavens, they go down again to the depths; their soul is melted because of trouble.They reel to and fro, and stagger like a drunken man, and are at their wit's end. Then they cry unto the Lord in their trouble, and he bringeth them out of their distresses. He maketh the storm a calm, so that the waves thereof are still. Then they are glad because they be quiet; so he bringeth them unto their desired haven."
(Psalm 107; 23-30.)
To this scriptural metaphor we no doubt owe the apt reference in our Masonic ritual to steering "the barque of life o'er the rough sea of passion, without quitting the helm of rectitude." The grosser self being subjugated, it is now the period of trial and purification for the mental and emotional nature; the mid-epoch of spiritual growth. The name David, which covers this state, implies "the well beloved son," the aspirant in whom already God is pleased, and etymologically is related to the Sanskrit "deva," a bright, or illuminated, one.
An allusion in our Ritual to the personal troubles encountered by the aspirant in the "passing" stage is the cryptic reference to the payment of "wages" to the Craftsmen in the "porchway or entrance" to the Temple, that is, in the initial stage of spiritual progress. The mention of "wages" in the Second Degree is a remnant from the Mark Degree, which was formerly incorporated in the Fellowcraft grade, where the subject is dealt with much more fully. It will suffice here to say that every Craftsman may rest assured of receiving good wages for his work and for all the efforts he expends in promoting the spiritual development of himself or his Brethren; the Great Overseer will see to that. Nevertheless, as soon as he wholeheartedly engages in this work of development he may, and probably will, find wages of a disagreeable and quite unexpected kind coming to him in the shape of obstacles and estrangements; as though, at the very moment he has begun to reconstruct his life and outlook, all the powers of darkness are crowding in upon him to prevent his making any advance. Well, so they are; but they are powers proceeding from within himself; he is encountering opposition from his own self, and experiencing the reactions of the Great Law to his own past. The soul of each of us contains its own Judgement Book, with a debit and credit account of what is due from us or to us by the Law underlying our being; an account which is often overdrawn and which sooner or later has to be balanced; and there are "wages of sin" as well as wages of righteousness. The "wages of sin" is always "death," that is, a deadening and dulling of the spiritual faculty, and it is the peculiar trial of every aspirant that, after his first glad glimpse of Light and after most earnest resolves to be faithful to his vision, he loses it and finds himself suddenly confronted with inexplicable difficulties in recovering it. He learns after what manner the Light which "is the life of men" subtly operates; how its rays penetrate first into the dark caverns of the natural intelligence; how it next becomes "a lamp unto the feet and a light unto the path"; how within him it advances from fitful gleams until it becomes an abiding grace. If and when it becomes proper to speak openly of these things the subject of them infallibly knows the due season, and until then will lock up his secrets in the safe repository of his heart with threefold fidelity.
The spiritual Craftsman not only earns his wages proportionately to his work; his own labours automatically supply them. Hence the reference to receiving our wages "without scruple or diffidence," well recognising ourselves to be "justly entitled to them," and with complete confidence in the Employer into whose service we have entered. The aspirant himself is likened to "an ear of corn," nourished by a "fall of water"; that pure element, which "wetteth not the hands" as the old mystics so often say, and yet is the veritable "Aqua Vitae" or Water of Life, of which whosoever drinketh it never thirsts for anything besides. The inpouring of this mystical "water" will soften the hardness of his heart, arouse him to the fullness of his best emotions, and fertilise his "earth," as gross mindedness is always biblically described. In the language of allegory, the dryness of his "south land" is alleviated, and he is given both "the upper springs, and the nether springs" (Joshua, chapter 15, verse 19); for, when the supernal torrents do break upon us, there cannot but flow also the nether springs of our purified emotions, and the tears of contrition over a barren past. It is in these moments that the testimony of the Psalmist is fulfilled: "Thou visitest the earth, and waterest it; thou greatly enriches it with the river of God, which is full of water; thou preparest them corn, when thou hast so provided for it" (Psalm 65, verse 9). In virtue of his animal nature he is likewise "the ox that treadeth out the corn," separating his own golden grain from the stalk that bore it. He is himself the "threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite," winnowing his own chaff from his own wheat. He treads his own wine-press alone; in singleness of effort and in the solitude of his own thought distilling his own vintage, until the cup of his mind runs over with the wine of a new order of thought and intelligence. He is his own oil- press, and out of his own crucial experience and self-realisation extracts wisdom; that oil which anoints him with a joy and ability above his fellows, and that runs down to the "skirts of his clothing," manifesting itself in his personality and in all his activities.
Within us all the Light is being separated from the darkness. Within us also Adam and Eve are generating Cain, Abel and Seth, and their offspring or seed. All these "characters" and many others are represented in the wonderful mystery play, of which a "continuous performance" is taking place in every human psychological theatre. God is the supreme dramatist and His play is being enacted in each microcosm. If, therefore, we seek to know the mysteries of life and of the universe, we need only sit apart and study the play as it proceeds upon our own stage, and this is where the scriptures of the world can afford us great assistance. They are, so to speak, the "book" of the play; including programme, explanatory notes, and commentary. Of this book of the play there are, or have been, many editions, and all of them are not of equal value or completeness. Yet he who would understand the majestic drama will be well advised not to limit his studies to one particular version, but to make use of all that the inspired minds of every race and age have left behind. For the purpose of English- speaking students, however, there cannot be the least doubt that the Bible is the most valuable, complete and systematic collection of sacred books that we have inherited from antiquity. The name Adam, used to designate the first human "character," is related to have been divinely bestowed upon man at the genesis of things. An old proverb says, "Nomen est omen"; a name, and especially one bestowed as this was, is a significant omen, and not merely a fortuitous appellative. To a seer the name of a man is his present signature in the cosmic scheme; an infallible index of the measure of spirituality he has attained, or may develop, whilst sealed with that name. No matter what the language, every name has its particular symbolic import and stands in subtle relationship to the personality who bears it. To be well signatured is a greater blessing than to possess an abundance of outer gear. Names are chords of sound to the inner ear, to which, as in music to the outer ear, they are melodious or harsh, major or minor, according to their constituent letters.
Many biblical names are part of the nomenclature which formed an important part of religious science among all the great nations of antiquity. In the oldest extant treatise upon names, the "Kratylos" of Plato, Socrates, alluding to traditions that even then were hoary, asserts: "There is an ancient saying; hard is the knowledge of God, but the knowledge of names is a great part of that knowledge." The writer of Genesis records that in the archetypal world that preceded physical manifestation the several forms of the subhuman creation were brought in review before him, "to see what he would call them"; the insight and intuitive efficiency of Adam being thereby subjected to a test that, indeed, proved satisfactory, for it is added that whatsoever he did call those creatures: "that was the name thereof" (Genesis, chapter 2, verse 19). Moreover, when the natural man Abram set forth upon the Great Quest, his name, like his nature, became transvalued by the insertion into it of the aspirate letter, the symbol of the Holy Breath which inspired him, and henceforth he is Abraham. Then a man bearing the name Saul, of sinister import in Hebrew history, and implying gross ignorance of divine things, journeys to Damascus when he too undergoes a revolution of consciousness, and ever afterwards is known as Paul, a latinised version of the Greek divine name Apollo, the Light bringer; so swiftly may spiritual darkness be changed to light. Finally, to every contemplative there may come to be known that hidden "new name," which is revealed only to him whose consciousness awakens in God, and which therefore can be known to none save him who receives it. This is the name accorded to the Speculative Mason who has rebuilt the temple of his own personality after the "plans and designs" of the original order, and who thereupon hears the words of divine acceptation, as spoken at the completion of the emblematic temple of King Solomon: "I have hallowed this house which thou hast built, to put My name there for ever" (1st Kings, chapter 9, verse 3).
In all the ancient Mystery systems a symbolic marriage is figured, signifying the union of soul with spirit which is the sole purpose and goal of spiritual endeavour. Man, however, is the pilgrim of the ages, and for the complete understanding of the whole process of human evolution, we must consult the first and last books in the Volume of the Sacred Law, Genesis and Revelation, which present the beginning and end of the cycle. Stated alternatively, as the myth of the Fall in the book of Genesis is the story of what the poet Milton called Paradise Lost, so the spiritual consummation which is vividly portrayed in the book of Revelation is the symbolic figure of Paradise Regained. It is likewise written that: "In the beginning" (Genesis, chapter 1, verse 1), God created the larger world, and then fashioned man after His own male-female image. We know that owing to the Fall the original design became abortive, and that all human kind were involved in the result. Some moralist has observed that when, in the courtesies of mundane life, a man and woman bow to one another, each is paying unconscious homage to that element of personality which is lacking or repressed in the one and predominant in the other; in the very posture they form "the broken arcs" of what was intended to be, and is still destined to become, "the perfect round." But when, in the mystic life and the understanding that therewith comes, there bend towards one another two who know past all denial that God has joined them together in soul and in spirit, their mutual act of simple reverence is as a betrothal precluding that supreme marriage in which, beyond any sense in which the superficial thought of the world regards the words, they will indeed be made "one flesh." Thus, throughout the myths and tradition generally, there recurs the concept of a Celestial and Immaculate Woman, who is often represented as the beloved and the Bride of the aspirant. Among the many versions of this Celestial Woman are the Egyptian Isis, the Babylonian Ishtar, the Gnostic Sophia, the Queen of Sheba, and the Greek Aphrodite Ourania. In allusion to the remote and seemingly inaccessible perfection which she personifies, she is usually depicted as being heavily veiled, as in the case of Isis; while like Isis and the Queen of Sheba, she is in many instances held to be black of face, although comely beyond compare and utterly without defect.
It is to this Immaculate Woman, as the type both of Wisdom, and of his own faculty of understanding, that the aspirant is fully and finally united in the last stage of his quest; and in this union consists the "mystical marriage." In the book of Revelation the Holy City signifies the sublimated human form, the perfect expression of the purified soul, the "wedding garment" with which the Bride has been "made ready" for the mystic marriage. According to the Kabalistic tradition the word ADAM, the collective name of humanity, is said to be the hieroglyph standing for Abraham, David and the Messiah, marking the three principal grades in human spiritual evolution. Abraham typifies, then, the first turning of the soul to God, and the awakening desire of the aspirant for Truth; David is the further progression, the stage of intermittent illumination, which is marked by alternating transgression and repentance; the Messiah marks the degree of enlightenment and final perfection. We have, however, to seek not only the psychology of the spiritual life, but we must accomplish the evolution of form also, for there are two distinct sides to our complex nature. The name ADAM has otherwise in the Hebrew tradition a numerical value of one hundred and forty-four, and this number, the mystical "measure of a man," is also the measurement of the city. The form, therefore, which at the outset is the mortal sheath of human consciousness, becomes at the final stage the shining robe of immortality. In this sense, the life ensouling the continuously changing form is the Woman; as Eve, she represents at the "beginning," the soul caught in the enchantment of the phenomenal order at the end she becomes the Celestial Woman, "clothed with the sun," and is received back in a glorified state to conscious union with the vital Spirit. By the inner Light now at the centre, the two representatives of the soul of humanity are translucent to one another; they had been created perfect in the two modes, and now know that they are perfect.
Physical manifestation in time and space conditions proceeds from the One Source in a fourfold manner. Thus there are four seasons of the year, four phases or quarters of the lunar month, and four epochs of the day-midnight, sunrise, noon and sunset; space is also divisible into the four cardinal points of the heavens, east and west, zenith and nadir. In the far past it was held that the material universe is expressed through the creative activities of four elements, symbolically represented as fire, air, water and earth; indeed, that the universal soul and hence the human soul manifests itself in the temporal order through the powers of the four principles or energies; symbols, respectively, of inspirational power, rational mind, emotional expression, and durability or body. In the book of Genesis, the river of Eden which parted into four heads signifies the dispersal of energy to different levels of activity, and thereby man manifesting on the planes of four-fold being; whereas, in the book of Revelation, by the one river that flows through the Holy City there is signified, in contrast, the integrated consciousness of the perfected man. He is in-drawn, made whole, unified; and for this reason in the old Egyptian ritual the candidate declares: "I have gathered myself together from the four quarters." The four cardinal points are mystically the four levels of consciousness: North-body, South-mind, West-soul, and East-spirit. Hence of the four rivers which went out of Eden it is the fourth, the Euphrates, with its course "towards the East" which denotes the spiritual element in man, and in the book of Revelation it is this river which alone is named. Moreover, in the centre of the Garden of Eden were two Trees (the Tree of Life, and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil); in the Holy City one Tree remains, the duality of mortal existence (Good and Evil) having been unified in the higher mode of consciousness. The twelve "manner of fruits" borne by the Tree of Life in the book of Revelation, one for each month of the year, represent the matured faculties of the aspirant, while the leaves of the Tree "for the healing of the nations" symbolise the manifold outspreading of the spiritual life in beauty and service.
Corresponding to the twelve fruits of the Tree of Life, and bearing the same significance, are the twelve gates of the Holy City, which are associated with the twelve tribes of Israel. At every gate there is a pearl: "And the twelve gates were twelve pearls" ( Revelation, chapter 21, verse 21 ). The pearl is found by diving into the sea, and is the appropriate symbol of treasure earned, likewise of the qualities unfolded by the immersion of the soul in the "waters under the firmament." When the Master compared the Kingdom of Heaven to a "pearl of great price" (Matthew, chapter 13, verse 46), He also indicated the nature and tribulations of the quest, and this is the reason why, in popular belief, pearls bring tears or sorrowful trials. The rational mind is free to choose and make experiments in the world of events, reaping in terms of its sowing, and being nourished and built up by experience. When, however, the will is bent upon the quest of Truth, "error" subserves and stimulates the search, changing in character from stage to stage. Truth is, indeed, at the summit of a sloping ladder or stairway as between "earth" and "heaven," whose successive upward steps must be wisely traversed and surmounted under the varied circumstances of our actual everyday life, by the fullest exercise of intelligence, action, and poise. To quote from St. Paul: "But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil" (Hebrews, chapter 5, verse 14). Knowledge then follows; life becomes full of meaning and purposeful activity; and the drama of the formal life (the Tree of Knowledge) develops in accordance with the Divine Will (the Tree of Life), so that daily happenings appear to lift the veil from "the hidden mysteries of nature and science," thereby illumining the mind. The teaching process is based on intuition and experience: "If any man will do His Will, he shall know of the doctrine" (St. John, chapter 7, verse 17). Life in physical conditions entails inevitable trials and strife; the bitter is as necessary to life as the sweet; and only they can live mentally who have the power to extract vital ideas from formal thought. The symbolism of the Tree of Knowledge is concerned with the evolutionary theory of good and evil. That which meets with no obstacle, goes forward without returning upon itself, hence does not manifest itself. Conflict between two opposing forces, the policy of "resistance," this is the real driving power forming the human soul and revealing it to itself; in the later stages the method is by "raising" the lower or finite elements to the spiritual condition.
In the beginning of things, it is written, "the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters" (Genesis, chapter 1, verse 2), the formless raw material of creation. In so far as the material remains - without form and void," that is, not brought into conformity and likeness with the divine image, the Spirit is still moving upon the face of those waters, and will continue to move until the work of the creation is completed. The Psalmist restates this truth in the words: "The voice of the Lord is upon the waters" (Psalm 29, verse 3). Here are two different ways of expressing the same fact. The moving Spirit in each case is the same Spirit; the waters referred to are the same waters; and both are intimately related to the fluidic qualities of the mind. We find them sometimes spoken of as waters of strife: "the waters thereof roar and be troubled" (Psalm 46, verse 3); labouring to attain, through conflict, the durability and tranquillity which must needs characterise the image into which they are being fashioned. But of inward peace there is an illusory as well as a true kind; there is a peace which is but an evasion of stormy circumstances, and a mere contrivance for escaping from them. It is not, however, what happens to us in life that really matters; what is of vital consequence is the reaction in ourselves towards the happenings. At the heart of every storm, whether within or without, is a still centre; so Job found God in the whirlwind and peace in himself. But before such mastery of the turbulent winds and waves of the mind becomes possible to the aspirant, there is a prior stage of experience that causes him to seek solace in external refuge: "And I said, Oh that I had wings like a dove! for then I would fly away, and be at rest" (Psalm 55, verse 6). We all no doubt have uttered these appeals for truce and respite from the storms of life; yet they are confessions of our frailty, and voices of that weakness from which the courage of the soul becomes strengthened in those who endure to the end.
The aspirant, then, eager to be strong and of good courage - and he cannot know strength without first learning all about weakness - disdains temporary soporifics; and will not suffer himself to be side- tracked into imaginary havens of refuge. Rather will he wrestle with the angel of the storm, the earthquake, and the fire, crying: "I will not let thee go, except thou bless me" (Genesis, chapter 32, verse 26); will seek to pluck out the heart of their mystery; and make them yield up the secret of the still small voice speaking in the silence of their centre. Through knowing many tears he will reach the stage when tears are permanently dried; when he can behold unbleached, yet with infinite tenderness, the most painful of spectacles; and when, by virtue of a wise and comprehending love, he can interpret problems and paradoxes which are inexplicable to those whose understanding is less developed. At this stage, the use of the harmonising powers of poise is an essential characteristic, and gives the key to the conduct of the aspirant. Poise, or dispassion, is not in any way connected with indifference; it is the introspective state of inner stability, attained through conscious effort of the mind and will during the stress and strain of active life. The psychology of both Eastern religious systems and our Western scriptures recognises this faculty. Both describe it by the same title, "the Watchman"; it dwells, as it were in a tower overlooking the mortal part of us which is built like protective walls and bulwarks around the central citadel of our peace. Our watchman is ordained to keep sentinel from his height in the timeless part, to warn of approaching peril, and to decipher the signs of our personal times. Seeing and knowing beyond the limited horizon of our workaday objective mind, he it is who, in all ages, watches over the mystic Israel, and slumbers not nor sleeps. We do not, in our busy lives, usually realise the power of poise, but our Craft system teaches us that at suitable periods we should: "See that the Lodge is properly tyled" against the world without, and then seek for the kingdom within. Unless our mentality is kept in sensitive touch with the region of calm and poise, our intelligence becomes irresponsive to spiritual intimations: "Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it; except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain " (Psalm 127, verse 1)
We will conclude this Paper by reminding students that the way to spiritual things is by the gate of sensible things. We have to be truly human before we can rise to the rank of the divine. That the transformation of the human personality does not come about of itself, but has to be preceded in every case by the endeavour of the aspirant to fit himself for advancement, is the substance of Initiation method and doctrine. Always there have been temples and schools of the mysteries, where the true seeker could find what he sought; and receive instruction in the way he should follow. The prophet of old proclaimed: "And an highway shall be there, and a way, and it shall be called the way of holiness; the unclean shall not pass over it; but it shall be for those; the wayfaring men, though fools, shall not err therein" (Isaiah, chapter 35, verse 8). Unfortunately, so few Brethren realise on their admission to the Craft the fact that, behind and beyond all elementary religious sanctions, there is a spiritual law, to which sooner or later our rebellious self-willed reason has to become obedient; and which has been called for ages "Disciplina arcani," the "discipline of the secret" (or "of what is secret"). It is the law which prescribes for everyone the conditions upon which knowledge of Truth and acquaintance with the deeper aspects of the mysteries of faith can be imparted. Each of us is a pilgrim in the way, and providing our motive is worthy and the rule of the road is followed by means of a "prudent and well-regulated course of discipline," the simplest way to its discovery leads through the spiritual discernment of what is implied in the universal symbols. Those who have discovered this way seem uniformly silent about it, as having found something ineffable which each one of us is put to finding for himself. They are obviously typed (in the V. of the S.L.), by the "wise men" who once saw a star in the East and followed it, It is just the same in our own day; those who find depart "into their own country another way" (Matthew, chapter 2, verse 12); and keep silent. But they know that others will follow them into the same "country" when they, too, have become wise, and that all is well.
That excellent key, a Freemason's tongue, which should always speak well of a Brother, absent or present, but when that cannot be done with honour and propriety, let us adopt that excellent virtue of the Craft, silence:' (First Section; First Lecture)