SOME PRELIMINARY NOTES ON CRAFT SYMBOLISM

W.Bro. R. A. L. Harland, P.M., Lodge No. 1679,

President of the Circle.

To draw aside this veil, therefore, or more properly speaking, to penetrate its mysteries is the object of our Masonic Lectures, and by a faithful and appropriate attention to them we hope ultimately to become acquainted with all its mysteries." (Introduction to First Lecture).

FREEMASONRY as officially defined is: "A peculiar system of morality, veiled in allegory, and illustrated by symbols." This familiar definition, whilst it is quite true, does not, however, greatly assist Masonic students in their endeavour to "distinguish and appreciate the connection of our whole system, and the relative dependence of its several parts." It is very necessary, therefore, to bring to the notice of students that the Instruction Lectures, which are associated with each Degree of the Craft, purport to expound the doctrine of the system and interpret the symbols and rituals. Indeed, the study of these explanatory Lectures not only discloses the entire range of symbolism used to give expression to the ancient spiritual doctrine concealed within the architectural phraseology of modern Freemasonry, but reveals also that the form of imagery employed is consistent with the language both of universal tradition and of individual genius.

What then, is this richly authenticated language of symbolism? So far as we can tell, it has never been methodically formulated or invented; yet it appears with significant uniformity in all the myths and mysteries. It is a scheme of imagery which is based upon the permanent facts of material existence, and of which the relevance is to the eternal truths of inner spiritual experience. In theory, it has a singular clarity, coherence and precision of structure; and, in practice, it appeals immediately to our instinctive sense of fitness. When properly used, it furnishes a terminology more flexible and exact than any that has been devised by the scientific psychologist; and, when correctly interpreted, it provides the key to every enigmatical utterance in the spheres of art, myth or ritual. Something of this system of symbolism, as well as the meaning and purpose of our Masonic system as a whole, has already been outlined in previous Papers now available to members of the Craft in general. In the present notes it is proposed to extend the consideration of the subject in greater detail, and especially to simplify the mode of presentation, for the benefit of Brethren who require elementary instruction.

The attention of students is first directed to the Masonic use of the term "Geometry ", which in the Second Section of the Second Lecture, is declared to be "the basis on which the superstructure of Freemasonry is erected." To the ordinary man, of course, Geometry means nothing more than the branch of mathematics which is connected with the problems of Euclid, a subject obviously bearing no relation to Masonic ceremonial and ideals. The reference in the Lectures is, however, to "the seven liberal arts and sciences" of ancient philosophy, and in this sense Geometry is correctly described as "the fifth and noblest of the sciences." Geometry, according to ancient philosophy, means literally the science of earth-measurement," but the "earth of the philosophers is metaphysical. From the earliest times physical matter, or "earth," has been the recognised symbol for the primordial substance, or "soul-stuff," out of which we human beings have been created. Man was made, the Scriptures teach, out of "the dust of the ground" (Genesis chapter 2, verse 7), and it is this "ground," or metaphysical "earth," the fundamental substance of our being, which the philosophers stated must be "measured" in the sense of investigating and understanding its properties. Geometry, therefore, is synonymous with self-knowledge, "that most interesting of all human studies," and Freemasonry is otherwise accurately defined as an art founded on the principles of Geometry."

In the terminology of ancient philosophy earth must not be confused with the dense physical matter of which our mortal bodies are composed. Dense physical matter is but corruptible impermanent stuff which merely forms a temporary encasement of the imperishable true "earth," or substance of human souls, and enables them to enter into sense-relations with the physical world. The distinction must be clearly grasped and held in mind by students, because modern Freemasonry, like ancient philosophy, has to deal not so much with the transient outward body as with the eternal inward being of man, although the outward body is temporarily involved with the latter. It is the immortal soul of man which, in the language of building symbolism, is the ruined "temple" needing to be rebuilt upon the principles of spiritual science; the mortal body, with its unruly wills and affections, is the "rubble" which must be cleared from the site before the new foundations can be set. Yet even rubble can be made to serve useful purposes by being re-arranged and worked into the new erection, and accordingly man's outer temporal nature can be disciplined and utilized in the reconstruction of himself. In order, however, to effect such a reconstruction, man declares the old wisdom, must first have a full understanding of the material he has to work with and to work upon. Stated in modern Masonic technical phraseology, he must be made acquainted with what the Lectures call "the form of the Lodge." This is described, in the Third Section of the First Lecture, as: "An oblong square (parallelopipedon); in length from East to West, in breadth between North and South, in depth from the surface of the earth to the centre, and even as high as the heavens."

We are intended to interpret the Masonic description of "the form of the Lodge" as alluding to the human individual. Man himself is a Lodge; and just as the Masonic Lodge is: "An assemblage of Brethren met to expatiate on the mxsteries of the Craft " (First Section, First Lecture), so individual man is a composite being made up of various properties and faculties assembled together in him with a view to their harmonious interaction and working out the purpose of life. In our Masonic system the human organism is symbolised by a square or four-sided building. This is in accordance with the very ancient philosophical doctrine that four is the arithmetical symbol of everything which has manifested or physical form. Spirit, which is unmanifest and not physical, is expressed by the number three and the triangle. Likewise, the Hebrew name of Deity, as known and worshipped in this outer world, was the great unspeakable name of four letters or Tetragrammaton, whilst the cardinal points of space are also four, and every manifested thing is a compound of the four basic metaphysical "elements" known to ancient philosophy as Fire, Water, Air and Earth. The four-sidedness of the Lodge in our Masonic system is a cryptic reminder that the human organism is compounded of these four metaphysical "elements" in balanced proportions. We may note here that this symbolical figure is explicitly used by Shakespeare in Sonnets XLIV and XLV (44 and 45), wherein he declares that his "life's composition" is made up of "four elements," which he expressly calls Earth, Water, Air and Fire. Scarcely less ancient than the philosophical number, symbolism is the teaching that the human constitution comprises not only the physical body, but also a series of superphysical bodies or vehicles. The chief of these were named by the Egyptians: "Ka." "Ba" and "Khou"; by the Hebrews: "Nephesh," "Ruach" and "Neshamah and by the Greeks: "Psyche," "Pneuma" and "Nous"; they denote respectively the sensitive, the rational and the intuitive parts of man. If, for the purpose of systematic formulation, the four "elements" of ancient philosophy are equated with the four "bodies," we get definitions built up on a basis of natural symbolism, as follows :-

EARTH: Is a symbol suggested by the solid state of matter in the objective Universe, and represents the condensation in which the other three "elements" become stabilised and encased. It connotes the physical organism of man. This is described in our Masonic system as an "oblong" (oblongated or duplicated square) because the physical body has its "double," or ethereal counterpart in the etheric or astral body, which is an extension of the physical nature, and a compound of the four "elements" in an impalpable and more tenuous form,

WATER: is a symbol suggested by the liquid state of matter, and in particular by the sea. It signifies the sensuous, passional or impressional psychic nature of man. The vehicle of the psychic nature is the "natural" body of which St. Paul speaks in 1st Corinthians, chapter 15-44: "There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body." This natural body is the equivalent of the Egyptian "Ka", the Zoharic "Nephesh", and the Greek "Psyche."

AIR: Is a symbol suggested by the gaseous state of matter. It represents the rational or intellectual nature of man. Its vehicle is the "spiritual" body alluded to by St. Paul; the Egyptian "Ba", the Zoharic "Ruach", and the Greek "Pneuma."

FIRE: Is a symbol suggested by the supergaseous state of matter, and is otherwise known as AETHER. It refers to the divine or intuitional part of man. The vehicle of the divine nature is the "heavenly" body; the Egyptian "Khou," the Zoharic "Neshamah", and the Greek "Nous."

According to ancient philosophy, the four main bodies or vehicles in the human constitution correspond with the four principal planes through which consciousness rises and falls in the cycle of our subjective moods, and the four "elements" may further be utilised for the purpose of expressing the changing phases of psychological experience.

Ancient mystical doctrines, however, invariably schedule seven planes of consciousness, four cardinal and three intermediate, and to complete the series three additional symbols of the same kind are obtained by a simple and logical extension of the analogy with the exterior world of nature, as set out below:-

MIRE: Is a symbol suggested by the mixture of Earth and Water. It connotes the intermediate plane between the physical and the sensuous.

MIST: Is a symbol suggested by the mixture of Water and Air, and represents the intermediate plane between the sensuous and the rational. It is the symbol for the plane of intellectual error, where emotional impulses rise like Mist from the sensuous Water to cloud and obscure the Air of reason.

RING OF FIRE: Is a symbol suggested by an objective phenomena which apparently divides Air and Aether, namely, by the RAINBOW. It is the symbol for the plane between the rational and the intuitional, which is known as the plane of spiritual ecstasy.

The use of the RAINBOW as a symbol in this series calls for some comment. We can see at once that the other six symbols are in correspondence with things with which everyone is familiar in the exterior world. The only remaining feature that could possibly exemplify the plane which lies between the rational and the intuitional is the Rainbow, which, hanging high in the heavens seems to divide the air from the aether of space. Granted, such a conception of the Rainbow does not accord with the modern scientific view, but this age-old system of imagery must not be expected to conform exactly to the teachings of present-day physical science. It is based upon the doctrine that the "things seen," are manifestations of the "things unseen," and ancient philosophy never lost sight of the analogy and the relation of the inferior to the superior worlds; and the use it makes of the Rainbow needs no other warrant than the fact that nothing could serve as well in the seven-fold scale: EARTH, MIRE, WATER, MIST, AIR, RING OF FIRE (RAINBOW), FIRE (AETHER). With this simple classification of four cardinal and three Intermediate planes of consciousness we have likewise seven symbolical terms wherewith to identify the traditional Seven Principles of Man.

The four sides of the Lodge have a further significance in terms of consciousness. First, the East of the Lodge represents man's spirituality, or his highest and most spiritual mode of consciousness, which in the majority of men is undeveloped, but is latent and becomes active in moments of stress and deep emotion. By way of contrast, the West (or polar opposite of the East), represents man's normal rational understanding, the consciousness that he employs in temporal every-day affairs, or as it is frequently called, his "common sense." Midway between these East and West extremes is the South, the halfway house and meeting-place of the spiritual intuition and the rational understanding; the point where intellectual power develops to its maximum, just as the natural Sun attains meridian altitude in that quarter. The antipodes of the South is the North, the traditional sphere of benightedness and ignorance, which is appropriately related to sense Impressions received by that lowest and least reliable mode of perception, the physical sense nature. According to mystical philosophy, all sense impressions are illusionary, and knowledge of the realities of life, the "noumena," can be derived only from the spiritual mode of consciousness. The man whose conscious life is restricted to his physical sense nature is said to be "dead"; but when the passions and desires of the lower nature are ruled and subdued, he becomes conscious of the psychic world, and the psychic senses awaken; renouncing the psychic powers, holding them to be of no enduring benefit, he is "raised" by the Divine power ("dunamis") to the purely spiritual plane of being. In brief, the four sides of the Lodge point to our progressive modes of consciousness, as follows:-

NORTH ... SENSE IMPRESSION
WEST ... REASON
SOUTH ... INTELLECTUAL IDEATION
EAST ... SPIRITUAL INTUITION

Man has, therefore, four possible ways of acquiring knowledge, but of these the ordinary man uses only the first two or perhaps three, in accordance with his development and education. Full and perfect knowledge is reserved for the true Master, who has all four methods at his disposal, and it is in allusion to this high grade of attainment that in the Lodge the place of the Master is always in the East."

The "depth" of the Lodge ("from the surface of the earth to the centre"), refers to the "distance," or difference of degree, between the superficial consciousness of man's earthly mentality and the supreme divine consciousness which is resident at his spiritual "Centre." It is this "Centre," "the vital and immortal principle," which is the ultimate root of man's being and affiliates him with God. In the Hermetic and Platonist systems, "the vital and immortal principle" was known as the "Paternal Monad " (the parent-source of the temporal personality), and it is of interest to students to learn that this recondite expression, "Paternal Monad," was taken over by official religion and given a human and personal touch, and from being a philosophical abstraction became changed into the homely phrase now used in the Lord's Prayer and the Gospels, "the Father which is in heaven." The gold of mystical attainment is the unon of the human with the Divine consciousness; it is that state spoken of by the Christian Master in the familiar words: "I and the Father are one" (St. John, chapter 10, verse 30); and, as the symbolism of the Supreme Degree in the Craft system is designed to illustrate, the mystcal "ascent" to "the Father" involves also an introversion or "descent" into the deepest recesses of the sod.

The "height of the Lodge ("even as high as the heavens") implies that the range of consciousness, when man has fully developed his potentialities, Is Infinite. Man, however, has yet to complete his evolution from the rational to the intuitional level, and to scale this height is achieved: "By the assistance of a ladder (First Lecture, Fourth Section). Innumerable are the names by which this upward striving of the human mind and soul has been described in the literature of all ages; it is known as the "Ladder of Perfection"; the Ascent of the mystical Mountain"; "the Way": "the Path"; all of which are equivalent terms for the same process. In certain of the Mystery systems a Ladder consisting of seven steps was used to allegorize the manner of approach to perfection. The seven steps of this mystical "Ladder of Perfection" were in correspondence with the seven planes of consciousness, according to the classification of natural symbolism, and the Ladder stretched from EARTH to AETHER; in other words, it stretched from EARTH to HEAVEN, like the Ladder of which Jacob dreamed (Genesis, chapter 28, verse 12). It is written elsewhere (St. John, chapter 14, verse 2) that the Father's House has many mansions; man levels and resting places for His creatures in their different conditions and degrees of progress; and it is these levels, or planes and sub-planes of the Universe, that are denoted in numerous systems, the Craft included, by the symbolic rungs of a Ladder. Of the planes of the Universe there are, for man in the present state of his evolutionary unfoldment, three principal ones; the physical plane, the plane of desire and emotion, and the mental plane which links up with the still higher plane of the spirit. These three levels of the world are reproduced in man. The physical plane corresponds with his material physique; the plane of desire and emotion with his desire and emotional nature; and the mental plane with his mentality which forms the link between his physical nature and his spiritual being. Moreover, the Ladder, with its three principal "rounds," may be seen everywhere in Nature. It appears in the septenary scale of musical sound with its three dominants; in the prismatic scale of light with its three primary colours; in the septenary physiological changes of the human bodily organism, and in similar periodicities known to physics and indeed to every branch of science. Masonically, the perfect Lodge has seven members, with three principal Officers; and the advancement of the Third Degree candidate to the East is by seven steps, the first three of which are given special significance.

We are now in the position to account for "Jacob's Ladder" being given prominence in Masonic symbolism. It should be obvious, in the light of the foregoing, that the ascent of the "Ladder of Perfection" through the sevenfold planes of consciousness has also three main stages; and here we have the prototypical "Three Degrees" which figure not only in the ancient rites, and in modern Freemasonry, but throughout the entire tradition concerning Initiation science. Every system of Initiation, whether of the past or present, is divided into three clear-cut stages, and these may be summarized as follows:-

FRST DEGREE: Is the ascent to WATER, and its implications are, therefore, passional. Here the aspirant reaches the third step of the mystic Ladder. The task to be achieved in the First Degree is detachment from the allurennents of all that is signified in the Masonic system by "monies and metallic substances," and the purification and subdual of the bodily and sensual tendencies. This work of detachment and self-purification in Freemasonry is the Entered Apprentice work, and to it is theoretically allotted the period of seven years. The reason for the seven years of apprenticeship is based on the septenary principle operating in Nature. In the course of each seven years the material particles of the human body become entirely changed and reconstituted. By a course of pure living, diet, and thought for that period, the physical organism is clarified, sublimated and made a more efficient vehicle for the transmission of the central inner Light. This is the true reason for asceticism; the gradual substitution of refined physical tissues for grosser, impure ones.

SECOND DEGREE: Is the ascent to AIR, and its implications are, therefore, rational and spiritual. Here the aspirant reaches the fifth step of the mystic Ladder, and achieves inspiration. The work of the Second Degree is that of analysis, discipline and control of the mind, the intellectual and psychic faculties. This extremely difficult task is, in Freemasonry assigned to the Fellowcraft stage, to which is allotted a further five years, with the previous seven making twelve. Because of this, in the ancient systems, the candidate who had completed the period was said to be "twelve years old."

THIRD DEGREE: Is the ascent to AETHER (FIRE), and its implicatons are, therefore, intuidional. Here the aspirant reaches the seventh step of the mystic Ladder. He "closes his eyes" in a mystical death to this world, and attains the supreme revelation. This, the "last and greatest trial," as it is correctly designated in the Masonic system, lies in the breaking and surrender of the personal will, the dying down of all sense of personality and self-hood, so that the personal will may become merged in the divine Universal Will and the illusion of separate independent existence give way to conscious realization of unity with the one Life that permeates the Universe. To attain this is to attain Mastership, involving complete domination of the lower nature and the development in oneself of a higher order of life and faculty. And he who thus attained was of old said to be of the mystical age of "thirty years."

"I indeed baptise you with water unto repentance," says John the Baptist; "but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear; he shall baptise you with, the Holy Ghost, and with fire" (St. Matthew, chapter 3, verse II). In the Greek text, Ghost is "Pneuma," which means also AIR. To be baptised with the Holy Ghost, therefore, is figuratively to mount the "Ladder of Perfection" to the rational plane of AIR and receive the "divine afflatus," or that spiritual breathing-into which is the accredited "voice" of inspiration. These three baptisms of which John speaks signify successive "immersions" in WATER, in AIR, in FIRE and they are in correspondence with the traditional THREE DEGREES of Initiation.

The implications of the symbolical term WATER in mystical tradition are many and complex. Primarily, of course, WATER is the Psyche, the passional or sensuous principle; it is the vehicle of psychic or instinctive vision, which is vision by reflection, as distinct from intuitive or mystical vision, which is direct insight. Secondarily, as the sensitive and instinctive soul, the variable "element" of WATER is the life principle animating the physical, body, and the Mixture of EARTH and WATER constituting the living physical body denotes what is known in mystical literature as "human clay." At death, the life principle leaves the physical body, or, in mystical terminology, "the WATER is poured out," and then the dry EARTH crumbles to dust, "dust to dust returning." ("For we must needs die, and are as water spilt on the ground, which cannot be gathered up again "-2nd Samuel, chapter 14, verse 14.) In sleep, which is traditionally regarded as a lesser death, the WATER is only partially poured out, and it flows back again at awakening; this ebb and flow of the WATER in the recurrent phenomenon of sleep having its analogy in the exterior world in the daily tides of the sea. ("But the wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt" — Isaiah, chapter 57, verse 20.)

Hardly less complex than those of the WATER are the symbolical implications of the AIR. Of these two, AIR is traditionally masculine and represents all that is connoted by the term "the spirit," as WATER is feminine and signifies all that is understood by the term "the senses." And between them there is this important distinction: that whereas the sensitive WATER is a "separating" medium and a vehicle of the merely personal consciousness, the spiritual AIR is a "unifying" medium and a vehicle of the impersonal and universal consciousness. Herein lies the true import of the words: "For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them" (St. Matthew, chapter 18, verse 20); that is, escape from personal separation by means of spiritual communion with others is the condition precedent to spiritual awareness. All energy comes from one Ultimate Source, as from God. On the intuitional plane of AETHER it operates as Light or Idea, but on the spiritual plane of AIR it works as Wind, Breath, Sound, Voice or Word; and hence these latter are the forms in which spiritual impulses are traditionally depicted.

Above and beyond the spiritual AIR is the intuitional AETHER, the plane on which human consciousness achieves the highest and fullest apprehension of which it is capable. In relation to the divine Mystery, the operation of pure reason is likened in tradition to the hearing by ear, and the faculty of intuition is compared to the seeing by eye. For example, after suffering many grievous trials Job is represented as saying to the Lord: "I have heard thee by the hearing of the ear; but now mine eye seeth thee" (Job, chapter 42, verse 5). This means that cleansed by long discipline, Job is free from illusion, free even from the comparative limitations of reason; and, in the words of St. Luke, "The light of the body is the eye; therefore when thine eye is single, thy whole body is full of light" (Luke, chapter II, verse 34). The "singleness" of the eye consists, of course, in its steady purity of vision, not in the literal fact that it is only one. There are many mythological variations of the symbolical distinction between "hearing" and "seeing"; for instance, it is recorded that when Adam was in Eden (AIR), he heard the Voice, but did not see the Face, of God: "And they heard the voice of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day" (Genesis, chapter 3, verse 8); according to the Hebrew the "voice" was in the wind. In the same subjective sense we must interpret the universal tradition concerning a Voice that speaks from behind a Veil which is lifted only in supreme revelation. This Veil hangs between reason and intuition, and the drawing of it aside signifies the ascent of the consciousness from inspiration to revelation. The Veil itself corresponds to the RING OF FIRE (RAINBOW) which divides the AIR from the AETHER. It Illustrates the idea underlying the story of Siegfried, who, being upon the mountain-top (AIR), had to pass through the "fiery ring" before he could possess the bride Brunhilde, which is a version of the myth of the Veiled Lady who, both in tradition and in ritual, is the Bride of the Initiate. The dividing Veil also corresponds to the, "wall of fire" placed around the Heavenly Jerusalem, protecting the Shechinah: "For I, saith the Lord, will be unto her a wall of fire round about, and will be the glory in the midst of her" (Zechariah, chapter 2, verse 5). It is the Veil worn by the sacred Isis, and by the Veiled Lady of the Kabbalah; and It is the prototype of the Veil of the Sanctuary, concealing the mystery of that Holy of Holies of which the archetype is Heaven, and into which none save the High Priest may enter: "And thou shalt hang up the veil under the taches, that thou mayest bring in thither within the veil the ark of the testimony; and the veil shall divide unto you between the holy place and the most holy" (Exodus, chapter 26, verse 33). Implicit in these traditional concepts is the distinction between "Inspiration" and "Revelation," between the "hearing" of Truth as the "Word" on the spiritual plane of AIR, and the "seeing" of Truth as the "Idea" on the intuitional plane of AETHER. This distinction has an important place in the interpretation of Craft ceremonial and Royal Arch tradition.

In the Craft Lectures the symbolic rungs of "Jacob's Ladder" are also given a moral significance, and made to "point out as many moral virtues" (First Lecture, Fourth Section), the three chief ones being associated with the Pauline triad of FAITH, HOPE and CHARITY. This moral interpretation is both warranted and salutary. It is necessary at the outset to remind aspirants that the height cannot be reached by a single bound or sudden translation, but only as the result of continuous effort in, which every act and thought of the daily life is concentrated upon the end in view. Moreover, incidental methods of developing consciousness should always be subordinate to three primary and essential qualifications :

FAITH: Full assurance in the possibility of attaining the goal. "By Faith we have access to the Throne of Grace, are justified, accepted, and finally received" (First Lecture, Fourth Section).

HOPE: Persistent desire for its fulfilment. "So shall success attend us; if we believe a thing to be impossible, our despondency may render it so, but he who perseveres in a just cause, will ultimately overcome all his difficulties" (First Lecture, Fourth Section).

CHARITY: An unbounded Love which, seeking God in all men and all things, despite their outward appearances, and thinking no evil, gradually identifies the mind and nature of the aspirant with that ultimate Good proclaimed from "time immemorial" as the consummation of the cosmic scheme. This is expressed Masonically: "Glory to God on high on earth peace; goodwill towards mem." It is the best and the surest proof of the sincerity of our religion" (First Lecture, Fourth Section).

It is wrong to assume, as some of our Brethren apparently do, that Initiation is dependent upon intellectual attainments, scientific or academic learning, and studious book-knowledge. These may be, and indeed are, lesser staves of the mystical "Ladder of Perfection"; but they are not numbered among the principal rungs. Compare the words of St. John: "If any man will do His will, he shall know of the doctrine." Our perpetual work lies in striving to raise our consciousness from the level of the material to that of the spiritual, and to unite it with the Light Supernal. We must never forget, however, that whilst we make this effort of struggling towards the Light, our steadfast Faith is that the Light is also seeking us with a reciprocal Intense desire for union. The unitive process is mercifully gradual, coming as "a thief in the night" (of our darkness); were its advent sudden and abrupt it would blind rather than enlighten; and did it come to one whose organism is not adjusted to bear the strain, its coming would confound and sear, rather than heal, bless and sustain. Hence the insistence of our Craft system upon the necessity of the Candidate being "properly prepared" in each Degree, and in possession of the proper qualifications.

To each of the traditional Three Degrees of Initiation there belongs a specific Ordeal. The nature of these Ordeals is determined by the nature and significance of the three intermediate planes of consciousness, MIRE, MIST and RING OF FIRE (RAINBOW), which are in correspondence with three rungs of the mystical "Ladder of Perfection."

The First Degree is a preliminary purification, and consists in the ascent to WATER, involving the Ordeal of MIRE. It denotes the mounting of the consciousness through the sensual to the sensuous plane; and it implies a repudiation by the aspirant of those "carnal affections" to which the ceremony of Baptism makes specific allusion. At Eleusis, the Candidate for the Mysteries was smeared with mud or clay before the purifying immersion in water. This smearing the subsequent Cleansings ("Katharsia") clearly represent the passage through MIRE into WATER.

The Second Degree is traditionally the stage of Self-conflict, but in order to understand its import and the nature of the Ordeal, we have first to consider both the mythological and subjective connotations of MIST and AIR. Mythologically, MIST is Purgatory, while AIR signifies the LOWER PARADISE from which Man fell: hence the Ordeal is one of expiation and triumph over the temptation by which the Fall was compassed. Subjectively, MIST is the plane or state of error, and the Ordeal usually takes the form of "wanderings," figurative of those discursive intellectual speculations in search of Truth which take place before the plane or state of inspiration (AIR) is attained. In the Eleusinian system the Candidate, after bathing in the sea (WATER), wandered in darkness on the seashore, ostensibly making a ritual search for the lost Persophene; he then passed into the vestibule of the temple, where temptations were simulated by encounters with monsters. It may be added that, since the spiritual plane of AIR (upon which alone the WORD is received) is the prototype of the mythical Lost Estate, the Second Degree involves a search for the Lost Word. Thereafter comes what Theon of Smyrna calls "Paradosis" or "transmission of the mystery." In the New Testament account, the Baptism of the Master and His sojourn In the Wilderness correspond to the First and Second Degrees; hence in the Wilderness the Master was seeking for the Word, as indeed, being "hungry" and tempted by the Devil, He repied: "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every Word of God" (Luke, chapter 4, verse 4). The temptations are signified in the Craft system by the cryptic reference to "the attacks of the insidious."

The Third Degree is traditionally the Degree of Death it consists in the ascent to AETHER, involving the Ordeal of the RING OF FIRE. Mythologically, AETHER is the Celestial Paradise, which is the habitation of the Gods; and the fiery RING corresponds to the Veils which shroud it. Subjectively, AETHER is the plane of intuition, to which the consciousness attains after passing through the fiery RING, which is the plane of spiritual ecstasy. Here, on this supreme plane of AETHER, which is the plane of REVELATION, the aspirant is united (as it were, married) with the Truth he seeks. The divine mystery is now at last seen with the eye of intuitive certitude; and, in the ecstasy of this direct and full inward perception, the aspirant is temporarily "dead" to the external world. Accordingly, the ritual Ordeal of the Third Degree is a simulated death representing that "closing of the eyes" to all the things of this world which is a condition precedent to divine revelation. To quote from an ancient record of Initiation: "The sleep of the body becomes the awakening of the soul, and the closing of the eyes true vision, and silence becomes impregnated with God" (Hermes, Poemandres, 1, 30). We have also the testimony of Apuleius that in the final stange of his Initiation into the Mysteries of Isis he received a "new life" and was "born again," which suggests quite clearly that he suffered what amounted to a ritual death. In the Eleusinian rites the Third Degree was called — "Epopteia," which means "seeing"; this apocalypse (literally, unveiling) figured the process of intuitional perception. The aspirant now "saw" that of which in the Second Degree he had "heard" and henceforward he bore the title of "Epoptes," which means a seer." In brief, "Epopteia" was the mystery visible it symbolized the process of "Revelation"; and it was therefore the culminating feature of the Greater Initiation. The equivalent rite in the Craft system is the Royal Arch Ceremony, which is the completion of the Third Degree. There is no doubt that the Third Degree in some of the ancient Mystery systems included a ceremony of "mystical marriage." In this ceremony the same psychological allusions were rendered in a sexual allegory.

According to the general tradition which underlies all lnitiaton systems, the "Bride" of the initiate is WISDOM (SOPHIA) — the "Veiled Lady" of the Kabbalah; she is married to the Initiate himself, who, being depicted as a seeker after Truth, is ritually a "philosopher" (a lover of Wisdom): "She is more precious than rubies; and all the things thou canst desire are not to be compared unto her" (Proverbs, chapter 3, verse 15)

The general results of this preliminary study of Craft symbolism, together with the major premises to which they point, may now be summarized. In the first place, it becomes fairly obvious to the student that formal or ritual Initiation is a series of Ceremonies designed to represent a reversal of the process which is implied by the doctrine that forms the philosophic basis of all the great world religions, and also of the Mysteries of antiquity, namely the doctrine known popularly as the "Fall of Man." Stated alternatively, as the myth of the "Fall" is the story of Paradise Lost, so ceremonial Initiation is the narrative of Paradise Regained. According to universal tradition, however, there are two Paradises, the Lower and the Celestial; there are, therefore, two successive objectives in ritual Initiation, (1) the recovery of the Lost Estate or Lower Paradise, and (2) the attainment of the Celestial Paradise. The realization of these two objectives consists in (a) the Lesser Mysteries, and (b) the Greater Mysteries. In the Craft system the Three Degrees correspond to the Lesser Mysteries, and the Royal Arch Degree to the Greater Mysteries. We have noted that in the symbolical scale of the "elements" the Lower Paradise is AIR and the Celestial Paradise is AETHER; it follows that the full Initiation is signified by an ascent through all the "elements." On the other hand, since the "elements" themselves are symbols of planes or states of consciousness, ritual Initiation may likewise be interpreted as a purely psychological expedence. It figures the ascent of consciousness from material or physical concerns, through the passional WATER and the MIST of error, to the AIR of pure reason, which is the plane of inspiration; and finally the ascent (involving a death to this world) to the intuitional AETHER, which is the plane of revelation. Interpreted in this manner, ritual Initiation corresponds exactly to what may be called empirical Initiation; for this detachment of the consciousness from material and passional things is precisely what every philosopher must achieve before the Truth he seeks can be heard in inspiration; as he must, further, rise beyond reason before Truth can be fully revealed to him through intuition, making him an Initiate, a "seer." As an ascent through the "elements," or the figurative mounting of the "Ladder of Perfection," ritual Initiation, then, is neither an arbitrary nor a fantastic sequence of Ceremonies. It is indeed, a symbolical counterpart of empirical Initiation; that is, of the renouncing of "the world, the flesh, and the devil" in the pursuit of divine illumination.

Furthermore, the initiatory rites which the aspirant has to undergo before he can participate in the "secrets" of the Mysteries are a faithful allegory of the psychological changes which are a condition precedent to every revelation of Truth in experience; while the symbolical testing ordeals of the rites are an equally valid reflection of the difficulties and temptations which will be encountered by every man who seeks salvation in the quest for Truth.

Here the present Paper must end, although at the point where it might well but begin. The interpretation of Masonic symbolism, and its application to personal life, will be continued in subsequent Papers to follow in regular order. One important question which arises out of the preliminary study, however, calls for an answer immediately. Is the conscious possession of real Initiation attainable through the Ceremonial rites of modern Freemasonry? We may, in the words of Shakespeare, "have immortal longings in us," and aspire to realize them; indeed, such a nostalgia of the heart is the necessary prerequisite to their realization; can the offices of the Craft system of Initiation promote direct experience? The answer must surely be: It all depends upon ourselves, and upon our individual qualifications. The aim of Initiation, which is Immortality or Eternal Life, is declared in Scripture to be "the gift of God," but the bestowal of that gift is not confined to any specific method; neither is it represented as being conferred in a capricious manner. On the contrary, it is spoken of as something to be arduously and intelligently laboured for and earned; and as being given only to him who "endures to the end" of the ordained process. What can be said with assurance is that all the great Initiation Orders of the past were designed to assist in this dedicated work, and that the same is equally true of our Masonic Order today. There has always been some measure of success by these means; there has always been a far greater proportion of failure. The maxim: "Many are the called, but few are the chosen" is still applicable; nevertheless, the failure was and is attributable, not to the Initiation system but rather to the members themselves. There is no essential difference between the implications of the modern Craft Degrees and what was taught in Egypt or at Eleusis, or in the Hebrew Schools and other systems, only variations in detail and elaboration. The discipline, the technique, requisite for Initiation on the spiritual level, are presented in the Craft system in our day, quite as effectively as ever they were in the past, at least rudimentarily. It is we ourselves who may fail to apply them, we who may so misunderstand our doctrine that we miss finding what we profess to seek, and who live in social conditions of our own making that are inimical to the culture of the inward life.

Finally, we should reflect upon the significance of that "ancient and venerable exhortation" which is quoted in the Lectures: "Seek, and ye shall find; ask, and ye shall have; knock, and it shall be opened unto you (First Lecture, Second Section).

SO MOTE IT BE.