The Masonic Retreat
Being an argument and certain suggestions for the formulation and practice of Spiritual Exercises in Retreat, based upon the teachings and observances of Freemasonry.
W. Bro. J. R. Cleland, P.P.A.G. Chap., (Kent).
Our little systems have their day: They have their day and cease to be They are but broken lights of Thee And Thou, O Lord, art more than they." (Tennyson, In Memoriam, Prologue.)
Man, above all things that live upon earth, is double: Mortal because of his body, and immortal because of the Substantial Man; For, being immortal and having power of all things, he yet suffers mortal things and such as are subject to Fate or Destiny. God saith, "Let the Man, endowed with mind, mark, consider and know himself well." (Divine Pomander of Hermes, 26 and 52.)
A little philosophy inclineth man's mind to atheism, but depth in philosophy bringeth men's minds about to religion. (Francis Bacon, Essays, " Of Athens.")
For I say this is death and the sole death, When a man's loss comes to him from his gain, Darkness from light, from knowledge ignorance, And lack of love from love made manifest. (Robert Browning, A Death in the Desert, 482.)
Hear once again, my son, Ere further thou dost run
If Light immortal thou wouldst share
Shalt thou not Darkness learn to bear
Till those twain, too, are one?
Burn, then, rich incense always at High Twelve
In thy heart's close-tyled cell,
If thou wouldst hear that great hour strike
Which tolls thy earthborn senses' knell
But, as a marriage-bell,
Soundeth in Heaven to tell
That darkness and the light are both alike
In God and all in God who dwell.
— W. L. Wilmshurst, The Way to the East.)
FREEMASONRY, being, as it were, a basic synthetic expression of the One Truth, can be interpreted in as many different ways as there are aspects of religion, philosophy or science. A brother may appreciate it, and make use of it upon any road of approach which may be best suited to his needs — or to his fancy — at the moment, whether his approach be upon the broadest and most all-embracing lines or narrowed to the most restricted path.
By whatsoever road he makes his approach, it must be clear that, if he merely accepts the ritual and makes use of it as a machine for the making of Masons, or as a peg upon which to hang that conviviality and good-fellowship which so often follows upon the meetings of his Lodge, and all this without giving due attention and thought to the meaning and effects of the ceremonies performed, he is not going to get very far towards a true appreciation of the content of Masonry, nor towards an understanding of the use of such ceremonies for their intended purpose of promoting the spiritual development and general good of the aspirant.
Nor is it sufficient merely to gain an intellectual appreciation of our Royal Art. The very name "Royal Art" applied to Freemasonry gives a hint of something far greater, which is intended approximating, as it does, to the Sanskrit term "Raja Yoga." It is necessary, in order to form any full appreciation of Freemasonry, that it should become much more than a mere environment or even a creed. It must be so built into the self, become so much a part of the life to be lived, that not only does it colour the background, but that it becomes itself the foreground of life. Only by such complete identification can full access be gained to, and full use be made of, those infinite stores of Wisdom, of Strength and of Beauty which are enshrined in Freemasonry. Only so can the Three Grand Principles of Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth be applied to the solution of the problems of life.
In this connection Brotherly Love goes much deeper than the mere fraternal relations with one's brethren and fellows in the Craft, although these relations are excellent as a schooling for the cultivation of Brotherly Love. Being founded in the Fatherhood of God, real Brotherly Love must embrace all the offspring of God, all created things, without distinction, in one vast brotherhood and in closest sympathy.
Relief is not, as is so often erroneously supposed, a synonym for Benevolence, however good that may be. Rather is it a synonym for Salvation, in its truest sense. Relief implies giving, most certainly; but it must be the giving of the self, in selfless sacrifice directed towards the relief from all burdens of limitation.
Truth, also, has here a wider significance than that which is ordinarily associated with the idea in everyday speech. It is that overwhelming absolute of Truth, in which there is left no room for compromise because, in its presence, there can be no intolerance. It brings with it that perfection of tolerance which has sometimes been defined as "that perfect aroma of gentleness which can neither hurt nor offend."
There is a power, a real power, in the Rituals of Freemasonry, and we are distinctly told that the three fundamental qualifications which we have found elsewhere to be required — Discrimination, Desirelessness, Good Conduct — are also necessary preliminaries to the participation in the Truth which is enshrined in Masonry. The only slight variation is in the order of appearance in some of the statements. In those "just, upright and free men, of mature age, sound judgement and strict morals," who are "fit and proper persons to be made masons," the qualities 'just' and 'sound judgement' bring with them the seeds of Discrimination, 'mature age' and 'free' bring Desirelessness, and 'upright' and of strict morals' beget Good Conduct.
Now, the power contained in the rituals themselves is sufficient for many candidates who cannot yet be described as aspirants. Given the chance, it will of itself stimulate the quality of Aspiration and awaken the inner urge to know and to experience more, and that with greater understanding.
The very fact that many brethren, who can only be described as most materially minded, can attend their lodge-meeting, year in and year out, over long periods of time, and yet retain their interest, experience some benefit which they cannot perhaps explain, and continue to crave for the ceremonies, missing them greatly if compelled by circumstances to be absent, speaks volumes for the efficacy of that inner power by which they are held. They begin, despite themselves, to know themselves and their fellow-men better than ever before, although they may actually remain supremely unconscious of the fact.
Now, as in the case of Evolution as a whole it is possible to cut out of the main stream and, by especial effort, to quicken the process, so, also, in Freemasonry, the same is possible. Although the goal may be attained in time by merely floating with the current, to some brethren there comes a time when the inner urge develops, to know and to experience more, to understand Freemasonry and to use it as a method of service and progress.
Knowledge, even that which is based upon experience, when acquired for its own sake, is merely an extra burden to be borne through life: but, when knowledge is sought as a means to more efficient service, for the helping of others, and as a stimulus to cooperation with God's Great Plan, it can develop a power, contacting the source of all power, which can change the whole outlook of the practitioner and raise him truly from the dead, from the monotony of drift, into realms of life, of work and of service, which bring with them a happiness of which he could not previously have dreamed.
Even a slight hint of this taking firm root within the inner consciousness will grow, slowly or rapidly according to temperament and previous experience, and as the Aspirant — truly now so called — seeks for methods by which to increase his efficiency and his capacity for service. This inner urge bears upon him more and more strongly to find some answers to the questions:-What am I? Whence, how and whither do I travel through life? What is life itself? How best can I develop and unfold myself and others?
The first, the most fundamental of all questions, is, What am I? It is in the attempt to give you some ideas of the answers which have been suggested and propounded, and of the methods used to arrive at these answers and to gain the necessary knowledge that this paper has been written.
All methods such as those which we shall touch upon, and many others, can be applied with the cooperation and assistance of masonic knowledge, more especially if we have carried out the advice, impressed upon us so early in our masonic career, that we should "make a daily advance" in such knowledge.
The Lodge of Living Stones, in Leeds, has instituted such a system, which can be extremely efficient and helpful. Each month she sends out to her members a subject for consideration and study. They are asked to send in their answers to the question set, together with any thoughts upon the subject which may have occurred to them during the month. All these are collected, analyzed and collated and are then debated in open lodge at certain sessions which are set aside for the purpose. The final results are then summarised and sent out to the members. Thus, all are, or should be stimulated to individual effort, and all are enabled to participate in the results of the efforts of others.
Obviously, there must be many ways of dealing with any such subject. I have a method of work which meets my own personal needs, in which the subject set for the month is taken as a focus for thought; it is set up, as it were, in the mental Forum, so placed that, whenever there occurs a pause in the frantic rush of present-day existence, the thoughts will turn naturally and without effort to that centre. Thus, gradually, the idea becomes one with the manifesting self, a thought habit is formed. "Thoughts are things," and such a thought habit can become a very powerful influence. It is capable of producing the most amazing, and often unexpected, fruits. With each repetition of the process, of course, the work of setting up such a habit becomes easier and more habitual, and the obtaining of definite results more certain. A curious experience has been mine upon several occasions, which may serve as an illustration of how strong and automatic can be the habit. Having selected such a focus of thought and used it for, say, a month without apparent result, as often happens, I have set it aside and have passed on to another focus. Yet, after the passage of some considerable time, it has suddenly hashed back into my consciousness, bringing with it unexpected illumination, if not the full answer.
Let me quote one particular instance. For many years I sought some explanation, which should be more or less reasonable, of the proportions of the symbolic O.G. given in the ritual of the Third Degree, "Three feet East, three feet West, three feet between North and South, and five feet or more perpendicular." At first sight these proportions do not appear to make sense, if taken literally, and my consideration of them brought me no enlightenment. They just did not seem to convey any particular message, yet I felt that there should be such a message for them to convey, if only I could find the clue. Reluctantly I set them aside and they were more or less forgotten, or at least neglected, until one day when I found myself considering the old story of the accusations made against the Grand Master of The Temple, Jacques de Molay, and the Knights of the Order, at the time of its suppression by Pope Clement V and Philip le Bel, King of France. Among these accusations there is one which is outstanding which apparently, none made any attempt to refute or to deny. This accusation was that they, in their ceremonies, were obliged to "trample upon the cross." This accusation appeared in various forms, of which this is the most general and the mildest. As I thought of this, quite suddenly my old problem flashed back into mind and it brought illumination with it. It dawned upon me that the general proportions given in the ritual were identical with those of the "True Cross" given in tradition. This tradition is preserved in the Voyages of Sir John Maundeville, and the Actual figures there given of the measurements, give the key to the symbolism of the Crucifix, as based upon the figure 72, being the symbolic height in inches of the Perfect Man. I have already explained these proportions very fully in a paper on "The Masonic Trinity and Way of the Cross," so will not repeat the full explanation here. It will be sufficient for our purpose to note that "five feet or more" is a pretty good description of 63 inches. It should also be remembered that there is a persistent tradition that the Order of the Temple was the transmitting source of our Third Degree ceremonial. The point I want to stress here is that the result appeared unexpectedly and seemingly spontaneously, and complete in all details.
So also it has been with other matters. Once the habit-forming process is set up and established, a thought-habit will often go on working automatically, after it has been consciously abandoned, and when time and circumstance give the necessary environmental conditions, will return, bringing with it the fruits of its working, sometimes even the full answer to the question set, in complete detail and in a sudden burst of illumination.
There are certain stages, as we have seen, in the course of development, when a Teacher is advisable, and even necessary, but there can never be open teaching of the supreme secret of true Initiation, although, in these peculiar times in which we live, much more than ever before can be done in preparation and much more put into words to assist the genuine and earnest seeker to make the approach to the MAHAGURU, the Great Master, the World Teacher, the Christ, who, as Representative on Earth of the Second Logos, is, and must always be, the One True Initiator.
All that other Teachers, Masters, Gurus — call them what you will — can do, is to take the Aspirant by the hand and guide him to the solitude within himself, wherein "in the dark night of the soul" the supreme choice must be made by the Aspirant himself. He must be 'unbiased by the improper solicitation of friends against his own inclination' and he must be 'uninfluenced by mercenary or other unworthy motives.' He must come, offering himself 'freely and voluntarily' and prompted by the sure conviction that he is really acting for the best, and by a 'genuine desire for knowledge and a sincere wish to render himself more serviceable to his fellow-creatures.' Ultimately each man must seek and find for himself, must approach the Portal of Initiation, naked and alone.
A teacher or guide who knows, and has himself trodden the Path may be able to shorten the way. He may point the road, may sometimes even offer a 'lift' over some part of it. But, in the end, a point must be reached when he can only say what to do and where to go, and leave the Aspirant to proceed upon his way alone. The path of unfolding and of attainment leads always through the solitude and the silence of the self in man, wherein he is prone to cry out, "My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me?" But this self must come to fruition in the One Self, which lies within the Intuition of the Logos. However much the Aspirant may have gained from others in the way of guidance, companionship, healing or assistance of any kind, in the last resort he must learn to stand upon his own feet, he must stand in the presence of God, with the One Initiator only at his side, and from that Presence he will return, knowing that he is one with every living thing. Truth, in its fullness, now lies open before him. It is always there, but the darkness has hidden it from his sight until now. Only in the knowledge of "darkness visible" can true illumination be approached. The very fact that the Aspirant has the desire for illumination working within him is due to the eternal readiness of the Ever Present to reveal Himself to man. To any one of us, Brethren, the Light, which is now and always the 'predominant wish of our hearts,' may come, even in the twinkling of an eye, from out the Now and Here.
All the methods suggested by the Indian Seven Schools of Yoga may be equally applied elsewhere, and also in Freemasonry, but, once more, with the same warning of the dangers which lie in wait, not only for those who rashly go forward, but also for those who, when once committed to the path and to a definite course of action, attempt to draw back.
There are some brethren who concentrate easily upon the mantric or ceremonial method of work, using a daily ritual, in which signs and words of power are blended into a set form for repetition. This method can undoubtedly be effective for some temperaments; but it is not suited to all and is more clearly applicable in some of the so-called Higher Degrees than in the Craft. In some of these degrees, are to be found still in daily use by certain brethren, such rituals, some of which are very old.
For the average man taking up Freemasonry, as for the average student attracted to Yoga, the best possible advice is that he should stick closely to the Royal Art of the Masonic Craft or its equivalent, the Raja Yoga.
Once again, each brother will find himself, accentuation one of the three main facets of the teaching. In Freemasonry we call these Wisdom, Strength and Beauty.
Again a time will come when he will find that, however great the progress he has made upon the particular facet he has chosen it becomes necessary for him to recapitulate, in order to bring the other two facets into line and to work towards that perfect equilibrium and balance which alone can bring full enlightenment. Full enlightenment is ever the goal. LIGHT, and Light only, remains 'the predominant wish of the heart.' You can call it by whatsoever name you will; happiness, peace, rest yoga, atonement, salvation, or a thousand and one other names. Pursue it as you may, by every conceivable kind of foolishness and muddle-headedness, only its attainment can be conceived as bringing satisfaction. With most men the only possible way in which truth can be brought home to them is by letting them continue to make mistakes and to give chase to wills-o'-the-wisp. As we have seen before, whatever may be the substituted secrets which you may select as your immediate goal, their attainment can never bring satisfaction, but only disappointment and disillusionment so long as they remain only substitutes for the reality. All minor goals, however attractive, are automatically discarded when the Light, which is the ultimate Truth, is fully acknowledged as the one and only goal.
The Royal Art is, or should be, practised in itself as a properly regulated training, and in that fact lies the excuse, if not the necessity, for the formulation of some systematised scheme of procedure. I can only suggest to you the outlines of such schemes in very general terms. The details in all cases must be worked out by the Aspirant himself to suit his own needs, and in no two cases will a scheme unfold in exactly the same way.
Those of you who heard or have studied my paper on "The Lodge Man" and, perhaps the series "The Craft Journey" may have seen therein the basis for such a scheme, ready, cut and dried. Most of what I wrote therein is fundamental to the full and considered knowledge of oneself upon all levels. I propose very briefly to recapitulate the findings and to suggest methods by which they may be applied to the carrying out of the recommendation, "Man Know Thyself."
In "The Lodge Man" I attempted to show how the Lodge itself appears as a living representation of the archetypal perfect man. Each Officer of the Lodge is to be seen as representative of some level of attainment in the Aspirant himself, and the actions, reactions and interactions of these Officers, in the course of carrying out the ceremonies, show how the various components which go to make up the man should interact and cooperate to unfold or build up his perfection by utilisation of the matter, substance and experience of all the vehicles which the man, as a spiritual, immortal entity, for a time occupies, and of which he makes use in order that he may attain to full measure of Wisdom, Strength and Beauty, on his own essential level of pure spirit.
In this outer physical world the spiritual being of man may be completely veiled, but even the Physical has two distinct levels, which we have referred to as 'dense' and 'etheric' and which are in constant touch with each other, so that, when the dense is sufficiently under the control of the real man, the etheric may take over and inaugurate the process of unfoldment. These two levels are represented by Tyler and Inner Guard. Only when the Tyler is in a position to vouch that the Candidate is properly prepared, and that the tongue of good report has been heard in his favour, can the I.G. take over control and admit him to the social environment of the Temple, wherein the virtues of brotherhood may be developed and where enlightenment may be sought.
Still in darkness, with the light of the spirit veiled, the man gives himself up to the guidance of the passional nature, the J.D. In the Body of Desire he passes through dangers, doubts and difficulties, but even while still blinded by passion, begins to sense the existence of a higher self. During some periods of this unfoldment he is almost as much under the guidance of the Concrete Mind, the S.D., as under that of the Emotions (J.D.), but he has no direct contact and has no knowledge of this until after Light has been restored. While yet in darkness, also, he makes contact, for the first time, with the three-fold Individuality, through whose activities he is ultimately destined to progress. He meets the Abstract Mind in the person of the Junior Warden, Pure Spirit in the Senior Warden, and, finally, the faculty of Intuition in the Worshipful Master, who, without his knowledge, has been his real guide throughout.
During the course of the three Craft Ceremonies he makes full acquaintance with all these faculties or vehicles and, as he makes further progress and passes through the various offices in turn, he becomes master upon each level in succession, until, having been installed in the Chair of King Solomon, and having realised the consummation of his own mastership in the installation of his successor, he knows himself to be something greater than any of these. He is the Monad, an immortal, unquenchable spark from the central flame of God himself.
Herein, then, we have a suggestion for a simple scheme of retreat and contemplation, divided into seven clear-cut periods of, say, one week each, or, if a shorter period only is available, of one day each.
Starting with the first period, with the scheme of the offices well before his mind, the Student first concentrates his attention upon the Tyler, considers all that this officer has to do, what are his duties and responsibilities, the words which he has to use in the execution of his duties, the peculiar knocks which summon him within the Temple, his links with other officers and with the Candidate, his peculiar responsibility in the introduction of brethren and visitors and his guarding against intrusion by cowans and others not yet qualified for admission.
The more the student concentrates upon the Tyler and upon all that pertains to the office, the more he will be able to add to the list of items. He will find interest and enlightenment in details which, previously, would have passed unnoticed. Even one single day devoted consciously to such intensive study should be sufficient to initiate a new and more illumined outlook upon the Craft & general, and to fan into a consuming flame that which before has been an almost unnoticed spark of interest felt in the Tyler and his work.
The concentration upon any set subject must be as complete as possible, holding the mind steady upon it and excluding all unrelated matters, while trying to include as many as possible which may be relevant. At the same time there must be no conscious effort, the aim being to a restful dwelling upon the subject without strain of any kind.
This is where symbols, or other material aids, can be of the utmost assistance in focusing the attention. If, for instance, we take such an idea as the correspondence between the Officers of the Lodge and the various components, or vehicles of consciousness of the Aspirant, unless we have had considerable experience and practice in the art of concentration, we may find great difficulty in preventing the wandering of the attention. But, if we lay before our eyes even the merest outline of, say, the jewels worn by these Officers as badges of office, we find that there is an immediate easing of the strain, and that the attention can be focused and held with comparative ease.
In the same way, with ideas of a more abstract nature, some symbol, of which there is found such a profusion in Freemasonry, can often serve as a focus of attention and help to bring about the required one-pointedness.
Returning to the Tyler, and now using his collar-jewel, the Sword, hilted to form the Cross of Initiation, as a point of focus for the attention, it will be found to be quite extraordinary how much this single simple symbol will not only call to mind of that which has previously been observed, but will also suggest to the mind of things which have previously made no impression upon the consciousness. Later, it may be recalled that, in some lodges, the Tyler's Jewel is not the Sword but the Trowel, and, immediately, a further vast field is opened up before the eye of the mind, some of which we have attempted to cover in my papers on "The Craft Journey," wherein, as some of you may recall, we built up this instrument from the fundamental working tools of a Fellowcraft, and then went on to draw the parallel with the Calvary of Christendom.
It would, indeed, be possible to devote a complete scheme of Retreat to the Tyler and his functions alone, and to derive therefrom an illumination upon the whole Craft, which would seem to be out of all proportion to the apparent importance of the subject, and quite beyond anything of which the average brother may have dreamed.
We are living in an age of upheaval, wherein, in spite of the general focus of consciousness of humanity being upon the Mental level, the general attention is still largely centred upon the physical world and its contents. For this reason meditation upon the representative of the Dense Physical Consciousness can be peculiarly effective for many people now in incarnation. But there are others who require a higher point of focus. All must be permitted to find for themselves the level most suited to their peculiar and immediate requirements.
In the Second Period of this Retreat the point of focus would move from the Dense Physical to the Etheric, from the Tyler to the I.G. The Trowel serves as an excellent bridge to carry us into the Temple. Again we take the jewel of office as a symbol to keep before us and we use it to stimulate memory, thought and intuition. Two swords in saltire at once suggest to us the Saltire or St. Andrew's Cross, the cross which represents suffering and limitation, but which can also be the seed-cross from which to launch out towards the formation of new concepts. The two angles of this cross, 72 degrees and 108 degrees, convey the symbolism of the LABARUM, the badge which the Emperor Constantine bore upon his banner. It is also the Greek letter 'Chi' which we have previously met in the Greek rendering of the Egyptian androgyne, 'Ch-R ' or Horus. We may perhaps consider also the implications in the characteristic pose of Harlequin, in the Roman numeral 'X' (ten), and its significance as the symbol of the awakening of the hidden fires beneath the waters of the 'dense sea,' PONTOS PILATOS, and the giving promise of future triumph and resurrection. But, also, as the cross of suffering, the symbol should bring home to us the fact that there can be no final satisfaction on the physical level. The world of the senses is peculiarly one of testing, of disappointment and of illusion. As such, it must be transcended.
In the Third Period we meet a symbol which is dual in its character; that is, there are two aspects or levels of approach. Sometimes we find a representation of Mercury or Hermes, and sometimes, the other aspect, a Dove carrying an olive branch. Both carry the significant idea of 'Messenger' and, therefore, of a link. They are represented by the Deacons. The J.D. links the J.W. and S.W., and the S.D. links the W.M. and the S W. Hermes is the Messenger of the Gods, the Dove is the Messenger sent out by Noah, which returned with the promise of Salvation. The levels of consciousness represented by the two Deacons are those of Desire and of Concrete Mind, at the junction of which, in the midst of the 'dark sea,' lies the germ from which will spring the Causal Body, to take shape at the apex of the latter to form the Link between Spirit and Matter, between Heaven and Earth, between Individuality and Personality, between God and Man.
It will be found well worth while to take this symbol to cover the whole of our Third and Fourth Periods, concentrating, in Period Three, upon the J.D. and his functions as representative of the Desire Level, and as link between Abstract Mind and Pure Spirit; and, in Period Four, upon the S.D. and his functions as representative of the Concrete Mind, linking Intuition to Pure Spirit. Something of the essential difference between the two offices is indicated in the wording of the ritual itself, in the variations of meaning between the terms 'bear' and 'carry,' and between 'communications' and 'commands.' We may note the retention of the word 'messages' in both cases. These variations can convey much more than, at first sight, the mere words seem to indicate. We may consider also, the separate and distinct placing of these officers in the Lodge, and, above all, note the important fact that they, alone of all the officers and brethren present, have 'the freedom of the floor,' can, at will and must, in certain portions of the ceremonies, go "against the Sun," widdershins," and are exempt from the general rule of 'squaring.' There are lodges in which this privilege is denied, or not always conceded, but it is distinctly a 'landmark' which is worth the preserving, if only for the light which it throws upon the controlled activity and regulated freedom which are privileges only attained when the Aspirant can transcend the lower levels of the Mental levels, and begin to function consciously on the higher, so that, in the linking of all in one, the Causal body can emerge and learn to function freely.
The Dove links with the Deluge-myths, showing that the Deacons' functions lie in the regions of the 'dark sea,' the name commonly used to cover these two planes of consciousness. The olive branch, bearing fruit, is prophetic of the fall of the waters and of the return to conditions of dry land. To pass beyond the sphere of the waters, the Aspirant must submit to be taken in hand by the representatives of the Individuality, and this necessary supersession of the Deacons by the Wardens we find actually takes place at a certain most important point in the ceremonies.
In the Fifth Period we pass to the realms of Abstract Mind, the sphere of the J.W. The plumb Rule is his Jewel, and this shows clearly that the portion of the basic structure which has gone before is absolutely necessary before the uprights of the superstructure can be raised. No one can go far with the work described as "to try and adjust uprights, while setting them upon their proper bases," unless first these bases are set in place and fully tested for strength and stability. Only thus can be established a structure which will stand firm for ever. In dealing with the J.W., it is well to remember that he is the Third Aspect the most material in manifestation, of a Visible Trinity. His Jewel may be represented by a single vertical straight line. As the Ostensible Steward of the Lodge, he has links with the Cornucopia badge of the stewards, by which he manifests in the capacity of 'Lord and Giver of Life,' the basic principle of Creation and Generation. His functions are Beauty and Activity in the task of Creation.
It is, I believe, helpful, and leads to a more smooth and consecutive progression of thought if, in the Sixth Period, we consider the W.M., leaving the S.W. for consideration in the Seventh Period. Part of the reason for this we have already fully considered, and we have shown that, in our Masonic Craft of to-day, as representing the era of the Second or Sacred Lodge, the Chair is occupied by the representative of the Second Person of the Trinity. This fact is further attested when we regard the jewels of office. That of W.M., the Intuition, is derived from that of the J.W., the Abstract Mind, by the addition of a second straight line, making a simple right-angle with the first. This is the symbol of the God-Man, the Dual Image, containing within itself the perfect inter-reflection of the fundamental pair of opposites, which are One. Concentration upon the position and functions of the W.M. can lead directly to the unveiling of the 'Christ-in-you,' to the attainment in each of the full stature of THAT, which in Christendom is called The Christ. The functions of the W.M. are Wisdom and Love in the task of Preservation.
In the Seventh Period we turn to the consideration of the S.W., the representative of the First Person of the Trinity. His Jewel, in turn, is derived from that of the W.M. by the addition of a third line, straight and in continuation of that last added. Again it is at right-angles to that of the J.W. Its extension is equal and opposite to that added to make the jewel of the W.M. This further accentuates the perfection of the reflection of the First Person as mirrored in the Second Person. The functions of the S.W. are Strength and Will in the task of Transmutation. Consideration of his position and functioning will lead to a much fuller understanding of the relationship between the Three Principal Officers. The summation of the three officers is depicted in the three-fold representation of the modification of the jewel of the S.W., which adorns the apron of the W.M. Again I would remind you that it is the S.W. only who can invest the Candidate, and thus set the seal upon his attainment in any of the Craft Degrees.
Those of you who have passed the Chair can, of course, extend your researches into an Eighth Period and, should you be Companions of the Holy Royal Arch, can also add a Ninth Period.
In the Eighth Period the jewel for consideration is that of the I.P.M. (embodying Euclid 1.47), but the full implications of this great symbol can only be realised by a Master who has himself duly Installed his Successor in the C. of K.S. I can say no more here, except to suggest that in the jewel of the I.P.M. lies an important key to the organisation and management of the Craft as a whole and, ipso facto, to the knowledge of the organisation and management of the 'self.'
In the Ninth Period the research is carried beyond the knowledge of the immediate self into the realms of the highest conception of Absolute which can be comprehended by man, while he remains man. In it lies the key to the Gate which leads to Superhumanity. Again, I can say no more.
All this is, of course, a mere outline sketch. It is intended only as a hint of how to set about the consideration of the Officers and their related human principles, in such a scheme of Retreat. It is not, nor does it pretend to be, even an approach to a full exposition of the subject. No such full exposition of that which is to be gained in such a Discipline of Retreat can, indeed, be put into words. There must always be much which comes to the Aspirant, if he makes such a Retreat earnestly and conscientiously, which can be expressed only in terms of experience. It can be experienced; it can be felt; it can be fully realised and even envisaged, but it cannot possibly be communicated to others, who have not themselves had the experience, nor can it be translated into words.
It does not really signify what symbol scheme or story we may adopt as a foundation for our Retreat, so long as the Retreat itself is genuine, taking us away from the rush, the noise and the bustle of the outer world to the essential centre or focus of the real self, which is inherently of God, that Centre from which a M.M. cannot err. Only if these conditions are fulfilled can we build, as Architects after the manner of T.G.A.O.T.U., find the measure of ourselves and of our environment after the manner of T.G.G.O.T.U., and reach out to that Love which is comprehended only in T.M.H.
It is the manner of approach that matters; not so much the subject of the Retreat; yet the selection of a suitable subject may make all the difference to the results obtained.
Of all the subjects suggested by Freemasonry, perhaps that which is of most general application is to be found in one or other of the Tracing Boards. This is especially so of the T.B. of the E.A.
I do not propose to attempt the task of going fully into these Boards, nor to assess their value to the particular individual, but I would like to suggest one outline in the form of a series of questions on the T.B. of an E.A. It might run somewhat as follows :-
- What is the significance of that which we call a T.B., and what is its relation to the Craft in general, and to the individual Candidate in particular?
- What, in particular, is the meaning and purpose of the E.A.T.B.? e.g., while recognising that the standard address on the T.B. gives a fair outline of its content, can we not see deeper and fuller interpretations awaiting the student?
- What is the real significance of the proportions of the Lodge, as given in the T.B.?
- Why are the squared pavement and the tessellated border shown in the particular colours which normally appear on the T.B. and what are their interpretations and counterparts on levels higher than the dense physical? 5. Why are certain Working Tools, other than those of the E.A., shown upon the T.B. and explained in the Address?
- How do the Orders of Architecture, represented in the Three Pillars, and their placing, suggest the ordering of the Three Aspects of Deity and their placing in the Second or Sacred Lodge?
- Why, in such T.B.'s as have representations of the three Grand Masters, are these worthies generally depicted as standing upon the tops of their respective pillars?
- What are the various possible interpretations of the symbol of the Sun-disc between two parallels?
- How do the Three Great Lights sum up the Path to be followed and why are they situated at the base of the ladder and above the Sun-disc symbol?
- How many rungs should there be in the ladder?
- What are the symbols usually shown upon the rungs of the Ladder, and how are they related to the three basic symbols which represent the Sun, the Moon, and the Master of the Lodge?
- Four (sometimes only three) such symbols are usually shown upon the rungs. Should there not be FIVE and, if so, what would be the form of the fifth, and upon which rung should each rest? Why is the fifth omitted?
- This is the Ladder which connects Earth and Heaven. What is the significance of the heavenly bodies which are depicted above it and why are they marshalled in the particular order shown?
- What is the relationship between the symbols at the top and at the bottom of the Ladder?
- What is the real significance of the Blazing Star at the Centre, and what is the relationship of this symbol to the heavenly bodies which flank it, and to the T.B. as a whole?
If you can really answer satisfactorily these fifteen questions (which, admittedly, do not cover the whole subject of the Board), and can give a full, reasonable and intelligent explanation of each, so that all hold together as integral parts of a single argument, you may claim to know very much more of the meaning and purpose of the Masonic Craft than is usually conceived by those who call themselves Freemasons.
It is an interesting exercise to concentrate upon such a series of questions in succession, doing all that you can to come to a clear understanding of the underlying principles and of the meaning of each, to let the understanding grow and expand in Meditation and, then, having got things as clear as seems possible at the moment, to return to the first question on the list and, after any necessary further reflection, compare your new conception of its answer with that which satisfied you in the first instance. The results of such an exercise can sometimes be most surprising.
If, in the course of your researches, your Concentration leads, as it should do, to full Meditation, and, possibly, even further, into Contemplation, it becomes correspondingly more difficult to enunciate the vastly more vivid experience. These notes of mine can only point the way by which it is suggested that you set out upon your travels. Whether you succeed in journeying far along that way or whether you may even find that it is suited to your needs, must depend upon your particular temperament, stage of development, and powers of attention and faith. With regard to the circumstances of a Retreat, such as we here envisage, let me reaffirm that these are capable of manifesting an almost infinite variety.
It would be perfectly possible to retire from the world altogether and to, spend a lifetime in solitary contemplation of the Craft and of its Mysteries. I do not know of anyone who has actually carried this into effect, but there exist temperaments which would not only acquire much by such a course of action — very strenuous action, be it noted, but which would be able to give out abundantly thereby for the helping of others, and indeed of all humanity upon its way.
Never, Brethren, fall into the error of thinking that the hermit and the recluse are necessarily running away from the problems and responsibilities of life, and acting from purely selfish motives. That such has, on occasion, been the case, cannot be denied with any certainty, but generally the complete opposite is the fact. Such a life of voluntary renunciation may not only be of value as an example of self-control and of self-sacrifice, but the power generated and disseminated upon the mental and higher levels may be of inestimable value in stimulating growth in others on these levels.
Again, in the environment which one usually associates with a Religious Community, it would be possible to conduct a Masonic Monastic Retreat, working upon the same, or parallel, lines to those found in the Monasteries of the Religious Orders. Once more let us avoid the error of supposing that the work of such Orders, or even the constant reiteration of 'Paters' and 'Aves,' or other similar petitions, is mere 'vain repetition.' Such constant repetition, made consciously and with full attention, can generate power beyond the comprehension of those who have not themselves experienced it nor seen its effects.
Passing further from the state of complete withdrawal, it is again possible to generate effective power by regular and devoted participation in public worship, and, correspondingly, by regular and devoted attendance at Lodge meetings. A Lodge such as the 'Lodge of Living Stones' is a Centre of Power of incalculable value, although, even in this, we have but a pale image of those greater lodges which are constantly at work but of whose existence so much is not generally known. These lodges, working upon all levels, range from those which meet habitually upon the physical plane, to those which approach nearer to the Lodge of the Great Master who is the Head of All True Freemasons, working upon the Intuitional Level and beyond. Higher still is that Great Lodge which we speak of as The Grand Lodge Above, The Communion of Saints, The Great White Lodge, and so on. Its members are those great Initiates whose work it is to carry out the direct instructions of the LOGOS HIMSELF.
But, again, it is possible to build up a Centre of Power without any use of ritual methods. Such, we hope and pray, may be the mission of the Dormer Masonic Study Circle, wherein we attempt to learn and to teach a little more than is generally known of the Royal Art.
The very effort to give out something of enlightenment to the Craft in general, through the mediumship of such a Circle as this, is the most certain way of gaining enlightenment for oneself. The concentration necessary to the elucidation of some of the subjects upon which we touch can bring moments of illumination which can never be forgotten and which are impressive to a degree beyond any capacity of mine to describe.
And, finally, the brother who feels no urge towards any of these methods may still make equal progress, in the midst of the ordinary life of the world of to-day, by making his Masonic experience a background, ever present and ever illuminating, to the carrying out of his everyday commitments and contacts. Perhaps, as an illustration of my meaning, I might refer to a play which made a sensation when it first appeared and which undoubtedly influenced many people for good. I refer to "The Passing of the Third Floor Back," by Jerome K. Jerome, in which Sir Johnston Forbes Robertson made such an outstanding success in the name part. Into the sordid surroundings of a somewhat squalid lodging house, with all its petty jealousies, its vices and its vanities, and all the varieties of character in its inmates, comes a new lodger. He does not preach, he does not find fault nor even ridicule. By his complete tolerance and his undeviating sympathy with all their various faults, failings and foibles, his mere presence during his stay amongst them effects a complete revolution, not only in each and all of his fellow guests, but in the landlady, and even in the little servant-maid. My own impression is that Jerome wrote the play in a mood of satyrical humour but, whether this was the case or not, it found a niche in the hearts of the public and will certainly go down in the history of the Stage as one of the really great productions of the British Stage — and perhaps of that of the whole world. It carries a lesson for us which is, I think, the same as that which I have attempted to convey in this Paper. It is that, to do any real good in this world or elsewhere, we must work to bring out and develop the essential unity of all that lives. Only by the cultivation of the habit of looking for the points of agreement, rather than for points of difference, and of putting ourselves in the position of the other man, of entering into the most intimate relation with the sense-impressions upon all levels of all that has life, can we develop that perfect tolerance and full-hearted, all-embracing sympathy which is the essence of Brotherhood. I and my brother are 'of one flesh subsisting,' without distinction of race, creed, sex, caste or colour, or even of kingdom of nature. More important still is the realisation that we all share one Life, that we all are one Spirit. The normal attitude of mankind has been, and still is, to seek out and accentuate differences, and the lamentable results of this policy we can see for ourselves in the chaos of the world of to-day. Brethren, we must realise that all differences are superficial. No difference can be fundamental. Differences come into being only as a result of differing points of view, different angles of vision. Never do they come from any difference in that which is viewed. All points of view cannot be the same, cannot give exactly the same picture; nor can all interpretations be expected to be alike; yet, underlying all, inspiring all, ready to meet all needs, is the eternal, universal Truth. Of this Truth the essence is the Universal LIGHT, Nothing can be known as Truth which is not in some way a manifestation of that Light. We ourselves are Light, and the Light is the "Light of men" and the Light of the Logos which, so far as incarnate man is concerned, is GOD.
That which man is capable of recognising as himself cannot, in the very nature of things, be permanent. The very fact that it is able to be realised by man makes it relative to man, as well as relative to the One Self which alone has permanence.
Hence, as Albert Einstein once wrote ("The World as I see it") "The true value of a human being is determined primarily by the measure and the sense in which he has attained to liberation from the self," which coming from the great Apostle of Relativity, is significant, for, to attain liberation from the self, we must necessarily have some conception of what the self is and must realise its impermanence.
Man is an immortal spirit and must learn, as such, to detach himself from the worlds of forms, leaving their impermanence aside, living his life here, in service, in order that whatsoever dwells in these worlds and imparts to them vitality, may itself stand with him, that all may advance together.
Let me now, Brethren, draw to a close with some excerpts from the Second Book of the Bhagavad Gita, using the translation of Sir Edwin Arnold, which he calls The Song Celestial." Therein we read:
The soul which is not moved,
The soul that with a strong and constant calm
Takes sorrow and takes joy indifferently,
Lives in the life undying! That which is
Can never cease to be; that which is not
Will not exist. To see this truth of both
Is theirs who part essence from accident,
Substance from shadow. Indestructible,
Learn thou! the Life is, spreading life through all;
It cannot anywhere, by any means,
Be anywise diminished, stayed, or changed.
But for these fleeting frames which it informs
With spirit deathless, endless, infinite,
I say to thee weapons reach not the Life;
Flame burns it not, waters cannot o'erwhelm,
Nor dry winds wither it. Impenetrable,
Unentered, unassailed, unharmed, untouched,
Immortal, all-arriving, stable, sure,
Invisible, ineffable, by word
And thought uncompassed, ever all itself,
Thus is the Soul declared! How wilt thou, then, —
Knowing it so, — grieve when thou shouldst not grieve?
How, if thou hearest that the man new-dead
Is, like the man new-born, still living man —
One same, existent Spirit — wilt thou weep?
The end of birth is death; the end of death
Is birth: this is ordained! and mournest thou,
Chief of the stalwart arm! for what befalls
Which could not otherwise befall? The birth
Of living things comes unperceived; the death
Comes unperceived; between them, beings perceive:
What is there sorrowful herein, dear Prince?
Hear now the deeper teaching of the Yog,
Which holding, understanding, thou shalt burst
Thy Karmabandh, the bondage of wrought deeds.
Here shall no end be hindered, no hope marred,
No loss be feared: faith — yea, a little faith —
Shall save thee from the anguish of thy dread.
Here, Glory of the Kurus! shines one rule —
One steadfast rule — while shifting souls have laws
Many and hard. Specious, but wrongful deem
The speech of those ill-taught ones who extol
The letter of their Vedas, saying, "This
Is all we have, or need;" being weak at heart
With wants, seekers of Heaven: which comes — they say —
As "fruit of good deeds done;" promising men
Much profit in new births for works of faith;
In various rites abounding; following whereon
Large merit shall accrue towards wealth and power;
Albeit, who wealth and power do most desire
Least fixity of soul have such, least hold
On heavenly meditation. Much these teach,
From Veds, concerning the "three qualities;"
But thou, be free of the "three qualities,"
Free of the "pairs of opposites," and free
From that sad righteousness which calculates;
Self-ruled, Arjuna! simple, satisfied.
Look! like as when a tank pours water forth
To suit all needs, so do these Brahmans draw
Text for all wants from tank of Holy Writ.
But thou, want not! ask not! Find full reward
Of doing right in right! Let right deeds be
Thy motive, not the fruit which comes from them.
And live in action! Labour! Make thine acts
Thy piety, casting all self aside,
Contemning gain and merit; equable
In good or evil: equability
Is Yog, is piety!
That man alone is wise
Who keeps the mastery of himself! If one
Ponders on objects of the sense, there springs
Attraction; from attraction grows desire,
Desire flames to fierce passion, passion breeds
Recklessness; then the memory — all betrayed —
Lets noble purpose go, and saps the mind,
Till purpose, mind, and man are all undone.
But, if one deals with objects of the sense
Not loving and not hating, making them
Serve his free soul, which rests serenely lord,
Lo! such a man comes to tranquillity;
And out of that tranquillity shall rise
The end and healing of his earthly pains,
Since the will governed sets the soul at peace.
The soul of the ungoverned is not his,
Nor hath he knowledge of himself; which lacked,
How grows serenity? and, wanting that,
Whence shall he hope for happiness?
In the end, Brethren, the command, "Man, Know, Thyself!" means far more than the uninstructed can conceive, and delves far deeper into self than the furthest limits of manifestation, be it even upon the highest levels attainable while man remains man. It is the command to be AT ONE with the ONE SELF. "As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, throughout the ages of ages," the predominant wish of the heart of mankind is LIGHT. Therefore, Brethren, ought we to illumine and to love one another, and to each and every one, in the Love of God, in the Light of his Being, and in His Peace which transcends all mere understanding, ought we to bring this eternal message "O Man, my brother in that Light which is the Most High in manifestation, Know Thyself."
So Mote It Be.
Peace to All Beings!