The Meaning and Purpose of Freemasonry
We must, then, demonstrate that ours is a Hierarchy of inspired, divine and deifying science, of efficacy and of consecration for those initiated with the initiation of the revelation derived from the hierarchical mysteries.
— Dionysius Aeropagiticus, De Eccles. Hierarch, 1, 1-3,
Although Freemasonry is in its essence a ceremonial method of approach to Truth, the meaning and purpose of its Ritual is now but little understood by the majority of our Brethren. The Ceremonies of the different Degrees are too often regarded as nothing more than beautiful and interesting survivals of an earlier age, to be carried out efficiently, of course, for the honour of the Lodge, but as having no great significance in themselves save as the vehicle for a few elementary moral precepts, taught openly by every great Religion of the World. So many of our Brethren treat the Lodge as a mere social club, in which they can meet their friends and enjoy themselves, rather than as an hallowed Shrine of Wisdom in which the deeper Mysteries of Nature and of Life are unveiled to the earnest seeker. The, ancient wisdom, the Gnosis, once the heart of Freemasonry, has almost departed from our midst; and in the practice of Brotherly Love and Relief we are apt today to forget the Third Grand Principle upon which our Order is founded — the study and knowledge of the Truth. For while Freemasonry in this Age is perhaps the only true and living Brotherhood known in the outer world, and while its Charities are renowned, it must be confessed that, as far as a knowledge of the inner meaning of Life is concerned, most of our Brethren are in a lamentable state of darkness.
Now Freemasonry, although it has undoubtedly been transmitted to us through the Operative Guilds of the Middle Ages, has a spiritual lineage that can be traced back to the Ancient Mysteries, which once formed the heart of every great religion of the world, including Christianity. The goal of the Mysteries was nothing less then Deification — a startling term to our modern ears — whereby man was led step by step from the ordinary life of the world until finally he became raised into conscious union with the Author and Giver of Life Himself. Plotinus, the great Initiate of Alexandria, states, this unequivocally in hit first Ennoad:
"Therefore we must ascend again towards the Good, the desired of every Soul. Anyone that has seen this knows what I intend when I say that it is beautiful. Even the desire of it is to be desired as a Good. To attain it is for those that will take the upward path, who will set all their forces towards it, who will divest themselves of all that we have put on in our descent:- so, to those that approach the Holy Celebrations of the Mysteries, there are appointed purifications and the laying aside of the garments worn before, and the entry in nakedness — until, passing, on the upward Way, all that is other than God, each in the solitude of himself shall behold that solitary — dwelling Existence, the Apart, the Unmingled, the Pure, That from, Which all things depend, for Which all look and live and act and know, the Source of life and of Intellectation, and of Being."
(Ennoad 1, 6, 7; translation, Stephen McKenna) .
The parallel to Masonic Initiation Rites which is disclosed in this statement of Plotinas will be appreciated by all serious students of our Craft, while a fresh light is here thrown upon the Preparation of the Candidate. It is clearly indicated that the true Candidate for our Mysteries must indeed needs be, as the word "candidus" implies; a "white man", white within as symbolically he is white-vestured without, so that no inward stain or soilure may obstruct the dawn within his soul of that Light which he professes to be the predominant wish of his heart; whilst, if really desirous of learning the secrets and mysteries of his own being, he must be prepared to divest himself of all past preconceptions and thought-habits and, with childlike meekness and docility, surrender his mind to the reception of some perhaps novel and unexpected truths which Initiation promises to impart and which will more and more unfold and justify themselves within those, and those only, who are, and continue to keep themselves, properly prepared for them. "Know thyself!" was the in junction inscribed over the portals of ancient temples of Initiation, for with that knowledge was promised the knowledge of all secrets and all mysteries. And Freemasonry was designed to teach self-knowledge. But self-knowledge involves a knowledge much deeper, vaster and more difficult than is popularly conceived. It is not to be acquired by the formal passage through three or four degrees in as many months; it is a knowledge impossible of full achievement until knowledge of every other kind has been lai d aside and a difficult path of life long and strenuously pursued that alone fits and leads its followers to its attainment. So high, so ideal an attainment, it may be urged, is beyond our reach; we are but ordinary men of the world sufficiently occupied already with our primary civic, social and family obligations and following the obvious normal path of natural life. Granted. Nevertheless to point to that attainment as possible to us and as our destiny, to indicate that path of self-perfecting to those who care and dare to follow it, modern Speculative Freemasonry was instituted. For Freemasonry means this or it means nothing worth the serious pursuit of thoughtful men; nothing that cannot be pursued as well outside the Craft as within it. It proclaims the fact that there exists a higher and more secret path of life than that which we normally tread, and that when the outer world and its pursuits and rewards lose their attractiveness for us and prove insufficient to our deeper needs, as sooner or later they will, we are compelled to turn back upon ourselves, to seek and knock at the door of a world within; and it is upon this inner world, and the path to and through it, that Freemasonry promises light, charts the way, and indicates the qualifications and conditions of progress. This is the sole aim and intention of Freemasonry. Behind its more elementary and obvious symbolism, its counsels to virtue and conventional morality, there exists the framework of a scheme of initiation into that higher path of life where alone the secrets and mysteries of our being are to be learned; a scheme moreover that produces for the modern world the main features of the Ancient Mysteries, for the Mysteries were based upon the knowledge that man is a Spark of the Divine Fire, evolving from latency to potency, and that by long-continued training and discipline that evolution might be quickened, the Spark more swiftly famed to flame and thus the Divine be made manifest through the waking consciousness of man. That this ideal of the Ancient Mysteries was no empty dream is demonstrated by the conclusions of the most advanced exponents of modern Psychology. Twentieth century Psychologists — basing their inductions upon the demonstrable facts of science — describe how the Individual Soul, the Self in man, which is itself an individualised portion of the Universal Life, evolves from Unconsciousness to Consciousness through a series of successive incarnations. They lay stress upon the abnormal psychic powers which have been scientifically studied — lucidity, transcendental knowledge and perception, which apparently function outside the limitations of Time and Space as we know them, — as well as upon the marvelous faculties of Creative Genius, and show that although in the majority of men in our present race these powers are subconscious and outside the control of the Will, in time they will become the inheritance of every human being. Dr. Gustave Geley, in his valuable work, "From the Unconscious to the Conscious," shows that the so-called supranormal powers belong to the Self in man, and are limited in their expression partly by the early stage of evolution reached by the majority of mankind today, and partly by the physical brain of man, which can express only a very small fragment of the total Consciousness. Our progress, therefore, consists in unfolding more and more of the latent powers of our being, and bringing those powers down into waking consciousness, until, in due time, we shall have realised directly the Source from which we spring. All this is clearly expressed in the Symbolism of the Craft. In the First Degree the Apprentice is concerned with the shaping of the rough stone, which has been hewn out of the living rock, has become an individualised portion of the Universal Life. In the din and turmoil of the stone-yard, he has to knock off all superfluous knobs and excrescences from his own rude nature until he is fit for the more delicate work of the Second Degree. The Apprentice in the workshops of the world has now become the cultured Fellow-Craftsman, polishing and adorning, with the refinements of Philosophy, Science and Art, the stone that he has rough-hewn in the preceding grade, until it is squared to fit in with other and similar stones for the building of the great Temple of Perfected Humanity. No longer isolated and proudly separate, but now realising his essential unity with all that lives, understanding the inner meaning of Brotherhood, he will "when time and circumstances permit" attain to the Sublime Degree of a Master Mason, and become a Designer and a Builder of the Temple in his turn, a conscious Worker under the Will of T.G.A.O.T.U., in the great Plan of rebuilding the Temple of "fallen" Humanity. And finally, as a Companion of the Holy Royal Arch he will find within his own heart the blazing glory of the Divine Life, and will be caught up into ineffable and conscious Union with the Heart of God. Thus he attains to the Deification of the Ancient Mysteries, to the Exaltation of Modern Speculative Freemasonry, to the Sovereign Consciousness of present day Psychology, to a Love and a Power and a Knowledge that pass man's understanding to fathom.
In a brief Paper like this it is hopeless to attempt to deal at all adequately with what obviously are deficiencies in our knowledge of the system we belong to. The most one can hope to do is to offer a few hints or clues, which those who so desire may develop for themselves in the privacy of their own thought. For in the last resource no one can communicate the deeper things of Freemasonry to another. Every man must discover and learn them for himself, although a friend or brother may be able to conduct him a certain distance on the path of understanding. We know that even the elementary and superficial secrets of the Order must not must not be communicated to unqualified persons, and the reason, for this injunction is not because those secrets of themselves have any special value, but because such silence is intended to be typical of that which applies to the greater, deeper secrets, some of which, for appropriate reasons, must not be communicated, and some of which indeed are not communicable at all, becaus e they transcend the power of communication. It is well, then, to emphasise the fact that Freemasonry is a sacramental system, possessing, like all sacraments, an outward and visible side consisting of its ceremonial, its doctrine and its symbols which we can see and hear, and an inward, intellectual and spiritual side, which is concealed behind the ceremonial, the doctrine and the symbols, and which is available only to the Freemason who has learned to use his spiritual imagination and who can appreciate the reality that lies behind the veil of outward symbol. Anyone, of course, can understand the simpler meaning of our symbols, especially with the help of the explanatory lectures; but he may still miss the meaning of the scheme as a vital whole. The Ceremonies of Freemasonry are, as it were, shadows of mighty Realities which belong to the invisible worlds of the Soul and the Spirit; for they reflect, as far as it is possible to reflect in physical drama, the central features of those worlds that form man's true dwelling-place. Freemasonry is like a map of an undiscovered country, conventional in its outlines, yet offering a sure and certain guide to the ignorant explorer. The Masonic Initiate is thus taught first in glyph and symbol the main outlines of the task that lies before him; and later on, in the Greater Mysteries, he learns to enter those invisible realms for himself, to lift the Veil of Isis, and to behold the dazzling beauty of the Truth face to face. That Truth is infinite; and as the Freemason ascends the Winding Staircase of evolution, he will realise ever new and higher meanings in the familiar symbols, until his knowledge of the Mysteries of Freemasonry widens out into a knowledge of the Mysteries of the Universe itself. Thus, there is literally no end to the Knowledge hidden in our Craft; only T.G.A.O.T.U., Himself can know the full splendour of His Divine Plan; and as His Craftsmen progress in their studies, as slowly but surely they grow in to His Likeness, He will throw open before their eyes mine after mine, treasure-chamber after treasure-chamber, richly strewn with the gold and gems of the many-coloured Wisdom of the True and Living God Most High.
From time immemorial methods have existed whereby the process of the development and exteriorisation of the subconscious powers belonging to the Soul and the Spirit within man might be quickened; and through which he might be enabled to contact in full waking consciousness those worlds invisible wherein lie the keys of the problems of Life and of Death. For the invisible worlds, which are the true home of man, are round about us here and now, although composed of matter in a subtler and more rarified state than can be cognised by the physical senses; and they may be perceived and studied by those who have awakened and trained the supranormal faculties that are dormant in every man. Such methods, which consist in the living of a controlled and ascetic life, illuminated and directed by the practice of certain forms of Meditation, formed part of the discipline of the Mysteries, and were taught to candidates under solemn pledges of secrecy. It was to preserve inviolate these genuine secrets of Initiation that the tremendous oaths perpetuated in Freemasonry were instituted, and not just to guard a few s..s and w..s from public curiosity. Knowledge confers power, power over the forces of Nature, power to destroy as well as to build and to bless; and therefore the Sacred Veil which ever covers the Portal of the Holy of Holies was only raised when the Neophyte had satisfied the Hierophant of the Mysteries that the power acquitted would be used solely for the service of Humanity, and not for selfish ends, and had pledged himself irrevocably to secrecy, fidelity, and obedience to his Superiors in the Royal Art. In all periods of the world's history, and in every part of the globe, secret orders and societies have existed outside the limits of the official churches for the purpose of teaching what we have referred to as "the Mysteries": for imparting to suitable and prepared minds certain truths of human life, certain instructions about divine things, about human nature and human destiny, which it was undesirable to publish to the multitude who would but profane those teachings and apply the esoteric knowledge that was communicated to perverse and perhaps to disastrous ends. These Mysteries were formerly taught, we are told, "on the highest tills and in the lowest valleys", which is merely a figure of speech for saying, first, that they have been taught in circumstances of the greatest seclusion and secrecy and secondly that they have been taught in both advanced and simple forms according to the understanding of their disciples. It is, of course, common knowledge that the great secret systems of the Mysteries (referred to in our Craft Lectures as "noble orders of architectures, i.e., of soul building) existed in the East, in Chaldea, Assyria, Egypt, Greece, Italy, amongst the Hebrews, amongst Mahommedans and amongst Christians. All the great teachers of Humanity — Socrates, Plato, Pythagoras, Moses, Aristotle, Virgil (author of the Homeric poems), and the great Greek tragedians, along with St. John, St. Paul and innumerable other great names — were initiates of the Sacred Mysteries. The form of the teaching communicated has varied considerably from age to age; it has been expressed under different veils; but since the ultimate truth the Mysteries aim at teaching is always one and the same, there has always been taught, and can only be taught, one and the same doctrine. Behind all the official religious system of the world, and behind all the great moral movements and developments in the history of humanity, have stood what St. Paul called the keepers or "stewards of the Mysteries." From that source Christianity itself came into the would. From them originated the great school of Kabalism, that marvellous system of secret, oral tradition of the Hebrews, a strong element of which has been introduced into our Masonic system. From them, too, also issued many fraternities, such as, for instance, the great orders of Chivalry and of the Rosicrucians, and the school of spiritual alchemy. Lastly, from them issued, in the seventeenth century, modern Speculative Freemasonry. At this stage it is advisable to stress the fact that our present Masonic system is not one that comes to as from remote antiquity: that there is no direct continuity between us and the Egyptians, or even those ancient Hebrews who built, in the reign of King Solomon, a certain Temple at Jerusalem. What is extremely ancient in Freemasonry is the spiritual doctrine concealed within the architecture of phraseology; for this doctrine is an elementary form of the doctrine that has been taught in all ages, no matter in what garb it his been expressed. The ancient Knowledge of the invisible worlds still remains hidden as a priceless heritage in the Masonic Craft, and is therefore available for the study of every true and lawful Brother among us; although but few indeed today avail themselves of the privileges of their degree; the genuine secrets of Freemasonry have never been lost; they are locked up with in the very ritual and symbolism itself, which has been carefully handed down unchanged throughout the ages. It only needs the right method of interpretation to reveal to the gaze of the Initiate the Hidden Wisdom that was once the secret of Egypt and Greece, the knowledge and understanding of the true mysteries of life — "Nil nisi clavis deest" (Nothing is wanting but the key).
It is our purpose in the present Paper to give only a general survey of the ground, and to discuss the whole matter in greater detail in a series of later Essays. We may, however, briefly touch upon the threefold method of interpretation which was applied in the early Church by Origen, himself an initiate of the Mysteries, to the Volume of the sacred Law. This threefold interpretation belongs to the threefold nature of Man — Body, Soul and Spirit; it is threefold Medicine of the Brothers of the Rosy Cross, and the whole method is one that has ever been applied to the mystic teachings. The grades of interpretation may be respectively termed literal, allegorical and mystical. Freemasonry, it must be realised, is intended to help men in all stages of evolution, and for this reason the symbolism of the ceremonies of all Degrees bears the same three-fold interpretation, and the system forms a wonderfully connected Whole, containing a vast amount of knowledge upon the inner constitution of man and the Universe. We have first, then, the BODILY or CORPOREAL teaching, which belongs to the Outer Court of the Temple of Wisdom, to the Entered Apprentice of the Grand lodge of Humanity. The average man of the world, still engaged in the work of the First Degree, does not need an abstruse and detailed Philosophy of life. He requires a few concrete principles by which to live, simple ethical precepts upon which he can mould his life, and direct his Working Tools — his Will, his imagination, his dawning Intellect. Here he is taught a few simple facts about the Nature of God, learns that He is a loving Father, Who is seeking to evolve His children into His own Divine Likeness, and that by living up to the highest that he knows at this early stage, he will be fulfilling the Plan of T.G.A.O.T.U. The ideal set before him in the Outer Court is but elementary. Fair dealing, uprightness of life, honour and integrity must be cultivated to some extent; a purifying and a regulation of feeling and thought are necessary, if the Apprentice is to progress into the Holy Place; those are the subjects for instruction in the First and Second Degrees. In the Third Degree he learns that he need have no fear of death, that it is but the portal into a higher and happier life, and that by living on the square with all mankind during his earthly days, he will ensure happiness and peace in that state which he must enter after laying aside the physical body. Thus, in the Outer Court, the lessons are those of right conduct in the physical world, and the fact of man's immortality. To this grade of interpretation the ordinary teaching of our Modern Craft belongs, the moral and literal view of Freemasonry that is stressed so strongly in the eighteenth Century Charges, still delivered to every Brother of the Craft. Many of our Brethren think that this is all that Freemasonry contains; but in truth such teachings belong only to the Outer Court, and there is more, far more, within the Temple itself.
The second great layer of interpretation, intended for the cultered Fellow-Craftsman, for him who is engaged in polishing and refining the rough stone, is what we may term PHILOSOPHIC, which is taught in the Holy Place of the Temple of Wisdom. The interests of the Craftsman are no longer centred upon selfish pleasures, the crude delights of the outer world, but rather upon Art, Philosophy, or science; and because of his general intellectual and moral advance in evolution, very much more knowledge concerning the inner worlds and the Divine Plan can profitably be given to him. Indeed, the Craftsman has ascended to a higher level of the Winding Staircase, and will now find that in the Holy Place the symbols of Freemasonry can be applied to the nature of the Universe and the constitution and development of man. The student in this Second Degree learns that the Lodge is built upon the exact proportions and plan of the Universe itself, and that each of the Officers and symbols bears a definite relation to a living Reality behind; so that in contemplating a Lodge he is, in truth, contemplating the Universe of which it is the reflection. He learns that T.G.A.O.T.U., although One in essence, is yet Three in function, and that He descends for the purposes of evolution into the Sq...e of Matter, vivifying it and making it to glow with His Hidden Life, until it expresses to the highest possible degree a fragment of His Divine beauty. The detailed method of His unfoldment, the sequence of events in that mighty Ceremonial of the Universe, the passing from Labour to Refreshment, and from Refreshment to Labour again, the systole and diastole of the great Heart of the World, all is reflected with amazing accuracy in the ritual enacted in the Masonic Lodge. And the initiate will find, too, that a complete picture of the constitution of man, the microcosm, is also hidden in the Ritual, the Three Chief Officers representing the reflection of the Holy Trinity within his heart, the WIIL, the WISDOM (or Intuition), the CREATIVE INTELLIGENCE, which form the Soul of man, and are made in the image and Likeness of God. And behind this manifestation of the Divine Life within himself, he will grasp the Nature of the Spirit, of which the soul is likewise the reflection, the Divine Spark, the Son in Bosom of His Father, entirely Unconscious as far as waking life is concerned in our present stage of evolution and represented in our Lodges by the I.P.M., who silently watches the progress of the Work. He sees that the sacred Triangle within himself also manifests through a material sq...e, the INTELLECT, the EMOTIONS, the BODILY VITALITY, and the PHYSICAL FORM that he wears in the outer world, symbolised by the S.D., the J.D., the I.G. and the O.G., or T., through whom all communications within the outer world are given and received. In the Outer Court the last lesson taught to the Apprentice was that death is but the entrance into a higher life, and not a thing of terror, to be feared and shunned. Now in the Holy Place the Craftsman must learn further details about the life that awaits him beyond the grave, in this Philosophic interpretation, the very doorway of the Temple represents the gateway of death, and the First Degree is a picture of the INTERMEDIATE WORLD into which the Soul passes after leaving the physical body, whether in sleep or in death, in that vehicle through which emotions and feelings are expressed it the waking consciousness of the ordinary man. Its true powers may by long training be awakened and exteriorised, and then the Intermediate World is perceived and known, as we perceive the physical world in which we live. A clear and definite account of this stage is contained in the progressive events of the Initiation Ceremony, and the Craftsman is thus taught what lies on the other side of death. In the Second Degree the Craftsman will find a picture of that state which all Religions have termed HEAVEN, that Middle Chamber into which all must pass to receive, without scruple and without diffidence, their wages for the deeds and aspirations accomplished while on earth. And then, by entering the deep but dazzling darkness of the Third Degree, he learns to rise above the transitory personality, the sq...e of the one incarnation; until he blends with that permanent part of his being, the Triangle or Soul within him, which passes from personality to personality, from life to life, assimilating the lessons of the lower worlds, and building them into character and faculty. Thus the Initiate in the Holy Place is taught the details of his life upon the other side of death, learns that he is not the physical body, nor the emotions, nor yet the intellect; for oven those which are his instruments can obscure the Divine light which burns within him. But he is taught to know himself as the soul which never dies, but lives immortal throughout the ages. Finally, in the Degree of the Holy Royal Arch, he learns that the Life within him is the Life of God, that His flaming Splendour dwells within the vault in all its loveliness, and that only by plunging into the mysterious and glorious depths of his own inmost being, will he find the Reality he seeks.
Thirdly, the Spiritual Teaching, which is given only in the Holy of Holies, hidden behind the Veil that the God within man alone can pierce, reveals, as it were, at a higher level, the glory that was but barely hinted at in the holy Place. It belongs only to the true Master-Builder, to him who has united his will with the Great Will, and who seeks to attain to conscious Union with the SUPREME. He has ascended to a yet higher spiral of the Winging Staircase, and will begin again as an E.A., of those True Mysteries of which Freemasonry is but the shadow. Now he must do in fact what heretofore he has but done in symbol, and must live out in the world the mysterious Life of the Initiate. Before him lie the Four Great Stages, which every Disciple must pass through on his way to the Light — PURGATION, ILLUMINATION, PERFECTION, and DEIFICATION; — and these are like wise symbolised by the Three Degrees of Blue Masonry and the Holy Royal Arch. He will now experience that state of consciousness which has ever been termed the New Birth, will mystically receive the Light, symbolised in the Christian Mysteries by the Birth of the Christ in the cave of the Heart. He must pass onwards to Illumination, being baptised in the river of the world's sorrows with the Holy Ghost and with Fire; and be transfigured by the Light of the Awakened Spirit within him, till he glows with a glory that is not of earth. He now goes forth into the world as a leader and a teacher of mankind, working under the personal direction of the Masters of the Wisdom, in Whose strong hands lie the ruling and guiding of the destinies of earth. And eventually, after these preliminary disciplines, the Initiate must suffer that "last and greatest trial", by which means alone he can be admitted to a participation in the secrets of the Sublime Degree to which he aspires. He has to learn the great truth embodied in the Third Degree; that he who would be raised to perfection and regain what he has long realised has been lost to himself, may do so only by utter self-abnegation, by a dying to all that to the eyes and the reason of the uninitiated outer world is precious and desirable. Hence the Third Degree is that of mystical death, of which bodily death is taken as figurative, just as bodily birth is taken in the First Degree as figurative of entrance upon the path of regeneration. In all the Mystery-systems of the past will be found this degree of mystical death as an outstanding and essential feature prior to the final stage of perfection or regeneration. The title of admission communicated to the candidate for the Third Degree is noteworthy, and as the Craftsman fits himself for the teachings of this higher, spiritual grade he clearly perceives the reason for it. It is a Hebrew name, said to be that of the first Artificer in metals and to mean "worldly possessions". Now it is obvious that the name of the first man who worked at metal-making in the ordinary sense has no bearing upon the subject of human regeneration. It is obviously a veil of allegory concealing some relevant truth. Such it is found to be upon recognising that Hebrew Biblical names represent not persons, but personifications of spiritual principles, and that Biblical history is not the history of temporal events but a record of eternally true spiritual facts. In order to interpret the allegory we must clearly understand from the teaching of the Entered Apprentice Degree what "money and metals" are in the Masonic sense, and realise that they represent the attractive power of temporal possessions, and earthly belongings and affections of whatever description. We must appreciate too that from the attraction and seductiveness of these things, and even from the desire for them, it is essential to be absolutely free if one desires to attain that Light and those riches of Wisdom for which the candidate professes to long. Not that it is necessary for him to become literally and physically dispossessed of his worldly possessions, but it is essential that he should be so utterly detached from them that he cares not whether he owns any or not and is content, if need be, to be divested of them entirely if they stand in the way of his finding "treasure in heaven;" for so long as he clings to them or they exercise control over him, so long will his initiation into anything better be deferred. It follows then that it is the personal soul of the candidate himself which is the artificer in metals" referred to by the Pass-Word, and which during the whole of its physical existence has been engaged in trafficking with "metals". Desire for worldly possessions, for sensation and experience in this outward world of good and evil, brought the soul into this world. There it has woven around itself its present body of flesh, every desire and thought being an "artificer" adding something to or modifying its natural encasement. If, then, desire for physical experience and material things brought the soul into material conditions, the relinquishing of that desire is the first necessary step to ensure its return to the condition whence it first emanated. The First and Second Degrees of Freemasonry, therefore, imply that the candidate has undergone lengthy discipline in the renunciation of external things and the cultivation of desire for those that are within. But, notwithstanding that he has passed through all the discipline of those Degrees, he is represented at the end of them as being still not entirely purified and to be still in "worldly possessions" in the sense that a residue of attraction by them lingers in his heart; and it is these subtle elements of "base metal" in him that need to be eradicated if perfection is to be attained. The ingrained defects and tendencies of the soul, which are the result of all its past habits and experiences, are not suddenly eliminated or easily subdued; self-will and pride, for instance are very subtle in their nature, and may continue to deceive their victim long after he has purged himself of grosser faults, However, all must be renounced, died to, and transmuted in the crucial process of the Third Degree. In view of the fact that much has been said about the Ceremony of the Third Degree in other Papers issued by the Circle, it is not necessary to give a further exposition here, but it is advisable to emphasise once more that the Third Degree alone constitutes the Masonic Initiation. The First and Second Degrees are, strictly, but preparatory stages leading up to Initiation; they are not the initiation itself, and only prescribe the purification of the of bodily and mental nature necessary to qualify the candidate for the end which crowns the whole work. Only one more stage remains, that which is typified in our symbolism by the Exaltation to the Supreme Degree of the Holy Royal Arch, for Freemasonry, under the English Constitution, reaches its climix and conclusion in the Order of the Holy Royal Arch of Jerusalem. There exists a variety of other degrees ramifying from the main stem of the Masonic teaching, which either elaborate side-points of its doctrine or re-express its theme in alternative symbolism, but these, while of greater or less merit and interest, are beyond our present consideration. It is a fallacy to suppose that the multiplying of degrees will result in the discovery of important arcane secrets which one has failed to find in the rites of the Craft and the Royal Arch. The Royal Arch is the natural conclusion and fulfilment of the Third Degree. The latter inculcates the necessity of mystical death and dramatises the process of such death and the revival there-from into newness of life. The Royal Arch carries the process a stage farther, by showing its fulfilment in the "exaltation" or apotheosis of him who has undergone it. The Master Mason's Degree might be said to be represented in the terms of Christian theology by the formula; "He suffered and was buried and rose again", whilst the equivalent of the exaltation ceremony is, "He ascended into heaven". The Royal Arch Degree seeks to express that new and intensified life to which the candidate can be raised and the exalted degree of consciousness that comes with it. From being conscious merely as a natural man and in the natural restricted way common to every one born into this world, he becomes exalted (whilst still in his natural flesh) to consciousness in a supernatural and illimitable way. As we have endeavoured to portray in previous papers, the purpose of all initiation is to lift human consciousness from lower to higher levels by quickening the latent spiritual potentialities in man to their full extent through appropriate discipline. No higher level of attainment is possible than that in which the human merges with the Divine consciousness and knows as God knows. And that being the level of which the Order of the Royal Arch treats ceremonially, it follows that Freemasonry as a sacramental system reaches its climax and conclusion in that Order. But, as the Third Degree ceremony so dramatically illustrates, to attain that level involves as its essential prerequisite the total abnegation, renouncement and renovation of one's original nature, the surrender of one's natural desires, tendencies and preconceptions, and the abandonment and nullifying of one's natural self-will, by such a habitual discipline and self-denial and gradual but vigorous opposition to all these as will cause them gradually to atrophise and die down. In words familiar to us all it is elsewhere declared, "Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone; but if it die it bringeth forth much fruit". As with a seed of wheat, so with man. If he persists in clinging to the present natural life he knows, if he refuses to recognise that a higher quality of life is here and now possible to him, or is unwilling to make the necessary effort to attain it, he "abideth alone", gets nowhere, and only frustrates his own spiritual evolution. But if he is willing to "die" in the sense indicated, if he will so re-orientate his will and silence his natural energies and desires as to give the Vital and Immortal Principle within him the chance to assert itself and supersede them, then from the disintegrated material of his old nature that germ of true life will spring into growth in him and bear much fruit, and by the stepping-stones of initiation will rise from his dead self to higher things than he can otherwise experience. Since, however, this is a process involving a "most serious trial of fortitude and fidelity" and a grapple with oneself from which the timorous and self-diffident may well shrink, the Mystery-systems have always exhibited an example for the instruction, encouragement and emulation of those prepared to make the attempt and the necessary sacrifice. To hearten them to the task the Initiatory Colleges have held up a prototype in the person of some great soul who has already trodden the same path and emerged triumphant therefrom. It matters nothing whether the prototype be one whose historic actuality and identity can be demonstrated, or whether he can be regarded only as legendary or mythical; the point being not to teach a merely historical fact, but to enforce a spiritual principle. In Egypt the prototype was Osiris, who was slain by his malignant brother Typhon, but who se mangled limbs were collected in a coffer from which he emerged reintegrated and divinised. In Greece the prototype was Bacchus, who was torn to pieces by the Titans. Baldur in Scandinavia and Mithra in Graeco-Roman Europe were similar prototypes. In Freemasonry the prototype is Hiram Abiff, who met his death as the result of a conspiracy by a crowd of workmen of whom there were three principal ruffians. In the Christian and chief of all systems, since it comprehends all the others, the greatest of the Exemplars died at the hands of the mob, headed also by three chief ruffians, Judas, Caiaphas and Pilate. If in Freemasonry the mystical death is dramatised more realistically than the resurrection that follows upon it, that resurrection is nevertheless shown in the "raising" of the candidate to the rank of Master Mason and his "reunion with the companions of his former toils", implying the reintegration and resumption of all his old faculties and powers in a sublimated state, just as the limbs of the risen Osiris were said to reu nite into a new whole, and as the Christian Master withdrew his mutilated body from the tomb and reassumed it, transmuted into one of supernatural substance and splendour.
Here we must bring to an end our brief survey of the true meaning and purpose of Freemasonry. It will, we trust, now be evident to the student that our Masonic teaching is purposely veiled in allegory and symbol, and that its deeper import does not appear upon the surface of the ritual itself.
This is partly in correspondence with human life and the world we live in, which are themselves but allegories and symbols of another life and the veils of another world; and partly intentional also, to ensure that only those who have reverent and understanding minds may penetrate into the more hidden meaning of the doctrine of the Craft. The deeper secrets of Freemasonry, like the deeper secrets of life, are heavily veiled and closely hidden. They exist concealed beneath a great reservation; but those of our Brethren who know anything of them, know also that they are in truth "many and valuable", and that they are only disclosed to members of the Craft who act upon the hint given them in the Instruction Lectures, "Seek and ye shall find; ask and it shall be given; knock and it shall be opened unto you". The search may be long and difficult, but nevertheless it may be affirmed that to the candidate who is, in the real sense, "properly prepared", there are doors leading from the Craft that, when knocked, will assuredly open and admit him to places and to knowledge that at present he little dreams of. Finally, it rests with ourselves whether Freemasonry remains for us what upon its outward and superficial side appears to be merely a series of symbolic rites, or whether we allow those symbols to pass into our lives and become realities therein. Whatever formalities we may have gone through in connection with our admission into the Order, we certainly cannot claim to have been "regularly initiated" into the "mysteries and privileges" of Freemasonry, so long as we are content to regard the Craft as merely an incident of social life, and to treat its ceremonies as but rites of an archaic and perfunctory nature. As we have suggested in an earlier Paper, the Craft was given out to the world from more secret sources still, as a great experiment and means of grace. It was intended to provide an epitome or synopsis, in dramatic form, of the spiritual regeneration of man; and to throw out hints and suggestions that might lead those capable of discerning its deeper purpose and symbolism into still deeper initiations than those of a ceremonial order enacted within the Lodge. For, in the same manner that on the external side of Masonic organisation we may be called to occupy positions of honour and office in the Grand Lodge, so also upon its internal side there are eminences to which we may be called that, whilst offering us no social distinction and no visible advancement, are yet really the true rewards, and the most valuable attainments of Masonic desire. To this latter goal all may attain who truly seek to do so, and who prepare the way for themselves by appropriating the truths lying beneath the superficial allegory and the symbolic veils of the Craft teaching. And since there seems today a genuine and widespread desire on the part of many Brethren to enter into a fuller understanding of what the Order conceals rather than reveals, this Paper, for what it may be worth, is offered as a contribution towards the, advancement of Masonic knowledge. Upon us Freemasons, who have the advantage of a regular and organised system which provides and inculcates for us an outline of the great truths that we have been considering, there rests the responsibility attaching to our privileges and it must be our aim to endeavour to enter into the full heritage of understanding and practising the system to which we belong.
AMEN: SO MOTE IT BE.