THE THIRD DEGREE
W. Bro. Ernest H. Shackleton
Templars Lodge No. 4302
Our system was so designed and devised as to be a true compendium of Universal Initiation; one that reproduces the salient features of every system that has existed, or that elsewhere still exists for advancing human perfection. In that fact lies the strength, the vitality, the attractive power, of the Masonic system. (WALTER LESLIE WILMSHURST.)
History (which by expounding actions past, teacheth to regulate the future, and furnisheth us with Wisdom at the cost of other men's experience) is not unlike painting; their scope is the same; and as in the latter it argues want of skill to look upon the whole draught with an indifferent eye, but to select and insist upon some chief particular is proper to an artist, so he who rests satisfied with the general relation of affairs (not fixing upon some eminent actor in that story) loseth its greatest benefit, since what is most particular, by its nearer affinity with us, hath the greatest influence upon us. (THOMAS STANLEY (1701).)
The whole Universe is the expression of a single mighty Consciousness Who includes within Himself all separated consciousness, and yet transcends them all, is far greater than their totality; and that creative Life of God interpenetrates His system at all points and levels. The Laws, therefore, which govern the manifestation of the Universe in Time and Space, govern the manifestation and growth of man also, the lesser is the reflection of the Greater, the part of the whole, the microcosm of the Macrocosm, and so that which is true of the whole is true of the part also.
The sensible things which religion hath hallowed, are resemblances framed according to things spiritually understood, whereunto they serve as a hand to lead and a way to direct. (DIONYSIUS (Ecclesiastical Policy).)
I give you the end of a golden string; Only wind it into a ball, It will lead you in at Heaven's Gate, Built in Jerusalem's Wall.
There is no word or action which has not its echo in eternity. (OLD PROVERB.)
Fundamental truths — like the lights of heaven, are not only beautiful and entertaining in themselves, but give light and evidence to other things that without them could not be seen. (LOCKE (Conduct of the Understanding).)
The moving Finger writes; and having writ Moves on; nor all thy Piety nor wit Shall lure it back to cancel half a line; Nor all thy tears wash out a word of it.
The Prince who kept the worlds in awe, The judge whose dictate fixed the Law; The rich, the poor, the great, the small, Are levelled, Death confounds them all.
Thus at the whirring loom of Time I ply And weave for God the garment thou seest Him by. (Kayyham)
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the Shadow of Death, I will fear no evil; for Thou art with me. (PSALMS)
The Sun shall be no more thy light by day, neither for brightness shall the moon give light unto thee; but the Lord shall be unto thee an everlasting light and thy God thy Glory and the days of mourning shall be ended. (ISAIAH C. 60, V. 19)
Indeed, it is true to say, that "as the pattern unfolds, the presence of invisible but powerful pressures can be sensed, if not fully seen, in the sudden enrichment of the mystical and symbolical side of Freemasonry, and in the elaboration and beautification of its rituals." (MANLY P. HALL)
From Time Immemorial there seem to have been two stages in the mysteries: the first, the admission of the Candidate, the Obligation and the Ceremonial acts; the other, the Ritual words used to convey the meaning of those acts. But it is true to say that there are really three aspects under which we may consider our work: the practical or operative; the theoretical or speculative; and the symbolical or mystical.
Just as there has been over the generations which have gone before a development of the ritual, so also has there been a development in the ideas to which it gives rise.
As knowledge progresses, and our vision of the Great Universe around us widens, so also do our perceptions of the meaning of our work broaden, and we see how absolutely true were the old foundations upon which it was built. Our Ancient Landmarks standing firm.
It is from the lessons drawn from our ritual that the ideas develop as the mind of man becomes more and more attuned to the higher meanings which are there to be perceived by those who can spiritually discern them.
Consequently, the human mind, by inner contemplation of the Universe, from the point of view of the soul and the intelligence, came to conceive of an intelligible Light, an imponderable element serving as an intermediary between matter and spirit.
The word of the ONE GOD manifesting Himself eternally in the world. Truth is the Soul of God, His Body is the Light. Only seers, sages and prophets behold it; man sees only its shadow. As the magnet attracts iron, so by our thoughts, our prayers, and actions do we attract divine inspiration.
A man knows only the things of the world in which the finite combines the infinite. How can he know them? Between things and himself there is a harmony and relation, a common principle, and this principle is given him by the ONE who gives to all, along with his very essence, measure and intelligibility. It is only by mingling with it that he can penetrate its essence.
This Initiation dispels the dense scales of matter which covered the eyes of the spirit, and Truth beams forth, partaking of the fifth element, the etheric, the original cosmic fluid, the astral light or soul of the world. And in doing so, do we not use a sixth sense, which is higher than the five senses of the body?
Man has always had an innate sentiment of his triple nature, for, even in his instinctive language, he distinguishes his body from his soul, and his soul from his spirit.
Being consistent and transcendent, idealists have always thought that the only real and lasting things on earth are manifestations of spiritual Beauty, Love and Truth. As the after-life can have no other object than this Truth, this Beauty and this Love, for those who make them the object of their lives are convinced that heaven will be truer than earth.
Terrestrial birth is death from the spiritual point of view, and death is a celestial resurrection. The alternation of both lives is necessary for the development of the soul and each one of them is at once the consequence and the explanation of the other. Whosoever is imbued with these truths is at the very heart of the mysteries; at the Centre of Initiation.
Taking this as a keynote we will return to the position in which we left our Candidate at the end of the first half of the paper which was read in our Circle last month. Where, after being stricken, he has been R....... and has heard the lovely words of the Charge.
In one of the very old mysteries, when the Candidate was finally struck, there was released, in the Temple, a bee, as a symbol of the soul released from its earthly casing and ascending away into the distance. And he was told, by his experience thus far, he would find that his whole existence would be changed and that his future life would be spent working peacefully, yet triumphantly, prepared for the end whenever it may come.
The old sun-myth or solar allegory may be the earliest source of the Hiramic Legend. Osiris of the Egyptians, whose death points to the short, dark days of winter, when the sun loses his power and warmth, slain by the powers of evil and darkness, while all nature mourns his loss. The Egyptians gave the Degree the name "Gate of Death."
The corpse of the figuratively slain Osiris was placed on a bier in the Middle of the Hall of Death and the Candidate was questioned as to whether he had anything to do with the crime. He was then made to represent him and afterwards R............ saying "I have come to an end for the Lord of Heaven,. I am written down as Sound of Heart"
At Pyblus a twofold rite was held:
The first part to Mourn his death.
The second part to Rejoice at his revival.
In the Ceremonies of the Adonisian Initiation, the people covered their houses with crepe or black linen, funeral processions traversed the streets. They fasted for twenty-four hours and only when the Priests announced the resurrection of Adonis, did joy prevail, and music and dancing concluded the Festival.
The Book of Gates, or the Book of the Two Ways is said to have been compiled for reading on the journey of a deceased to the Judgment Hall to procure the resurrection and immortality of the person on whose behalf they were recited. The costly tomb, the elaborate mummification and funerary ceremonies, the splendid copies of the Book of the Dead, the inscribed amulets, with which the great and wealthy provided themselves, availed their owners nothing in the Judgment Hall of Osiris, and the true Osirian must have regarded them more as evidences of wealth and power than as effectual means of salvation. For he knew that in that Hall the hearts of Kings and peasants alike were weighed in the Balance before a just judge, and that the decree pronounced was in accordance with the evidence given by the Warden of the Balance.
As no man could possibly fulfil the demands of the Law, it was the mercy of Osiris which ultimately decided the fate of a soul in the Other World, and not the splendour of a tomb, or the magnificence of a funeral procession. For all, there was the same hope.
The central doctrine of the religion of the ancient Egyptians was that the Divine Power dwelt in every man, even the lowest and degraded and they called that Power — the Hidden Light, which was the manifestation of the manifold Power of God.
The Great Temple of King Solomon was constructed in silence, and was for the purpose of containing the Ark of the Covenant — the people using the Outer Courts for their Religious Ceremonial. It was not intended for either Priests or worshippers. The Shrine symbolizing the residence of the Most High, and after much preparation came the magnificent ceremony of Dedication, ending with the Prayer:
Hear, Thou in Heaven, Thy dwelling place, and when Thou hearest, Lord, forgive.
I have read that certain tribes in New South Wales have a ceremony where a man is lightly buried in a grave with a small bush held in his hands, which appears to an onlooker to be growing out of the ground. A procession is formed which includes the Candidate, they dance round the grave and the bush begins to move and quiver, this is noticed by the elders who open the ground and the supposedly dead man arises and joins in the dance with the others.
In some ceremonies, an effigy of Osiris, made of soft clay containing corn, is buried, and after due time the seeds sprout, said to symbolize the resurrection of the God and to teach of the hope of resurrection for all the Brethren.
In the old Eastern ceremonies, the Brethren prayed, at this point, that his rebirth in the hereafter would be in the Western Paradise of Amitabba.
Our Candidate now goes contrary to the course of the Sun, thus symbolizing a passing through and out of the underworld.
He now comes to the third instruction.
Again, we have the entrusting with secrets, perhaps the most beautiful he has to learn, substitutes though they are, eloquent with meaning, revealing a single idea.
The completion of the Taus, so that the completion of the Great Symbol of the Deity takes place. As the old working has it, "Spiritual enemies are as snakes and dragons to be trampled underfoot." So, standing by the O....... G......... seeing that D...... must be his lot and in sorrow for the manner in which it has befallen our M. H.A. he makes the S... of H..... Is it not also the expression of deep regret experienced by him at the sight before him which brings to his own mind a realisation that it is also expressive of his own unworthiness and sinfulness and a feeling of horror creeps over him at the thought?
Seeing the wounds of an injured humanity he makes the S... of S......... of contrition and sorrow for his own misdeeds.
Realising that he must go on, he severs in the P.... S.... knowing that to break the promise he is to be reduced to less than nothing. An old survival of the lesson that he now completely separates his lower nature from his Spiritual nature, which resides above it.
The S... of G... and D..... does, I think, emphasize the acute distress experienced in an endeavour to break away from imperfection and to fight to keep to a higher state of purity.
Even in a still different manner they are S.... of distress and appeal for help in the saddened realisation that so much help is needed.
Then the joy and exaltation at the accomplishment of so great an undertaking. A sense of inward happiness.
For all fallacies are detected, all ranks levelled and all distinctions are gone, just a humble, contrite, sorrowing being is left who confirms his first answer in the Craft — his trust is still in God.
There are three kinds of secrets: The Secrets he is taught.
The Substituted ones.
The Genuine Secrets.
Masonry in sign and symbol, enshrines the nucleus, the irreducible minimum, which forms the basis of all religions. It excludes everything that can limit our concept of religion. It embodies great cosmic truths which neither change nor perish, which have existed from the foundation of the world, and which are eternal, but which can only be spiritually discerned.
The secrets he is taught are the ones he uses between his fellow men and himself. Marks, tokens of a message, unspoken in the main but yet conveying all that lies in them to another mind ready and appreciative of them.
The substituted secrets are signs of emotional stress, of sadness of hopelessness, of appeal and of joy — a application to a force outside — a supplication perhaps the oldest cry — O.G., is there no help?
The Genuine, are they not there within? Is it not the whole quest to find them? — and only a Brother can find them for himself and only he can know — no Brother can communicate them to him — however perfect that Brother may be — it lies not within his power to do so — even our G.M., H.A. (and he was the Teacher of Supreme knowledge) as we have seen, could not do so, all he could do was to make it clear that by patience and by industry a Brother would become entitled to them, for he knew that far beyond the Treasury of Light there lies a greater mystery, besides which the Treasury of Light will count as a speck of dust and as the Light of the Sun by day, and this will be at "the consummation of the Aeon and the Ascension of the Universe," that is when the cycle of the ebb and flow has ended, when the Circumference of the Sphere has contracted to the Point at the Centre. It is the same with the individual to approach the Ray of Divine Darkness and be absolved in union with the Supreme.
The five points of F.......... are communicated to him.
H. to H. Fellowship based on right principles, linking us H. to H. all together in one Bond. The unbreakable G...., a Greeting on the highest Plane of Brotherhood.
F. to F. We are pledged to one another's help. The Fellowship of Comradeship and of sympathy, promising to render to each other his due. He who is on the lowest spoke of fortune's wheel equally with all the others.
K to K. Prayer for another in secret for the help of a Brother is the most genuine token of sincerity of that Brotherhood and is the lesson of unselfishness.
B. to B. Bond of Trust, a constant reminder of that deep and abiding interest in the welfare of a Brother.
H. over B. Pledging to protect that most valuable of all treasures, a good name, which is the only thing that a Brother can take with him across that dark expanse, and in abiding within these points a Brother cannot but keep himself free from any offence to his fellow men.
Our traditions are then of the Universal and Eternal truths, a way of life, a Quest for Light and a search for a Goal, for the Genuine Secrets of our Being and we learn that the God of Love is the only means, for this great lesson is on one note :-
SERVICE FOR ANOTHER-
It is You I greet.
It is You I will support.
It is Your wants that I shall have in my mind.
You may relieve your mind by unloading your troubles to me in confidence which will never be misplaced.
Your name shall be preserved and defended.
The Pentalpha of the Craft. The geometrical symbol of Man.
In the East, Brahm-Atma was the sole Guardian of the Mystic formula, contained in the three mysterious letters A. U. M. which signify Creation, Conservation and Transformation. The elders expounded the meaning of these three letters to the Initiates of the Third and Supreme Degree.
This unknown word was, and still is, kept as a great secret among the Brethren. Manu, in his Book, says this Holy primitive syllable, in which is contained the Vedic Trinity, must be kept secret. It is the Being, existent through and of Itself, He is the central and immortal germ of all that exists in the Universe. Three Trinities emanate from him: the initial triad, the manifest triad and the creative triad — these answering to the Great Unknown.
So it is, in this Degree, in the silence, that he learns the secret, and it is in this silence that the words are whispered, for it is thus that most of the great lessons are learned.
In the old Pagan Mysteries and in the Tananim, the Wise men taught the secrets which are communicated "mouth to ear at low breath."
In Egypt, the Candidate is told, "Now thou hast found the Words of Order, the Mystery of the Secret Places."
The words never to be given in full, even in the Grail Legend we find this in the Degree of Preparation, of Test and of Illumination and Mastership, a thousand years ago the Quest was talked of, the search for the Sacred Shrine — through the land of Mist, doubts and darkness, to reach the Perfect King.
The allegory of a search for a Lost Word is perhaps one of the most abstruse conceptions we have to consider in our Craft. It is not a search for any particular word, is it a search for a word at all? We have in an earlier paper mentioned the Phrase, "I see Thy Word, Oh Lord," and "I feel Thy Word, Oh Lord." In the Greek Mysteries the word of Force was "Logos," an element or, perhaps, more aptly, a manifestation of Divine Power and of TRUTH, identical with the Deity Himself. The WORD to the Ancient races signified "Truth" — Divine Truth — and you remember, Brethren, those words, "In the beginning was the Word. And the Word was with God, and the Word was God." The WORD of Creation -" for Let there be Light" and there was Light — for without the Word was not anything made that was made.
So the search for the lost Word in our Craft is a search for the Great Force and an understanding of that Force — an appreciation of Divine Power and of Truth. A Master Mason can only be given a Substituted Word, for the Master of a Lodge cannot give it, together they can only know in part, an approximation of that Force, and when we, after a good life spent in fitting ourselves for the passage to a higher plane of existence, we hope we shall have earned the right to share in that Divine Truth in all its fullness. In all the ancient nations the Sacred Word was considered to have a mysterious Power and they were taught that by its utterance the world was created. The earliest known people of Northern India had an inflexible Law that the name was never to be pronounced, and in later times, among the Jewish race, they never used the Sacred Name but have used substitutes, and for ages have used the word Adoni in its place. It must be accepted, I think, that there is an inner and much more profound explanation for this concealment and may have occurred when the true nature and attributes of God faded out of the minds of the Jewish people throughout a period of desertion to the principles of Divine morality. The Word dwells in God and is the vehicle by which God acts on the Universe and may be compared to the speech of man.
The Word in the Phoenician Creed is said to be written in Starry Characters, for theirs was the Ancient Worship of the Stars.
(But, Brethren, this subject is so vast a one that I must not enlarge upon it more in this paper, it merits a separate one with fuller consideration.)
He now comes to the time when the Three-Fold permeates completely the Four-Fold Nature and has made man just, Perfect and Regular, possessing all the virtues described as "every domestic and social virtue" as the S.W. at the Order of the W.M. invests him with the Badge of a M.M.
He has progressed from the Square of Innocence, of the Body, with the triangle above it, to the time when the triangle descended into it, the spirit gaining power in the elements of man and the two rosettes, forming the base of another triangle ascending upwards. Now the lower triangle is complete and is mingled with the upper triangle, which comes flowing down and the whole man is strengthened as never before. The Third Rosette is placed in the Triangle of the Spirit, and the rays emanate from the triangle, symbolic of Divine Light.
Anciently, the Sacred Delta — symbol of Truth.
Surrounding the white of the plane of innocence is the illimitable blue of the infinite space. The Seven Rays of the Right and of the Left are concentrated on the wonderful background and they represent, perhaps, the seven lines of influence or spiritual Forces, the seven great divisions of temperaments of Life. Seven worlds that are without and the Seven worlds that are within.
Innumerable combinations of matter are prepared to develop and complete the human organisation. A vast complexus of spiritual forces elaborates this matter, according to their specific purpose and form of action; and since the elements of man, as those of all things else, manifest tendencies to advance towards development of perfect unity, there are successive systems in his physical plan as well as in his mental structure. They are the osseous, cartilaginous, glandular, muscular, nervous, vascular and cellular. Seven systems, seven forces within him, each of which, considered by itself, is perfect, though forming a part only, regarded in relation to the others. There is also a common confidence in the integrity of each and a common dependence upon the just discharge of each other's office.
The will has endless ways of action and the wisdom faculty has its own modes of manifestation. It is true to say, therefore, that the matter composing the human body is not only elaborated by, but is under the actual government of, spiritual oneness, which is the man eternal. So it is that our nature typifies the Universe, enlivened and actuated by a Supreme Spiritual Force, and if we turn to the study of inward world causes, our knowledge of spiritual truths will be higher and greater.
There is within us that counsel of wisdom, the angel of Mind, which leads unto all truth, "Seek and ye shall find," " Knock and it shall be opened unto you." Back to the cry of the E.A. yet with how much more knowledge?
For now, may we not perceive, if we are strong enough, a sense of what must be beyond the limits of external and material things — then will not the vastness, the music of the Universe be impressed upon the inward principle. When perhaps the human mind can feel the inexpressible realities of its own existence, when the principles of love, truth and wisdom will stir its depths and the mind will turn from all earthly imperfections, and Nature, Reason and Intuition will combine to overcome evil with good. Power, Goodness, Wisdom and Mercy are various aspects of Truth, which is Absolute Being.
The Triad is a symbol of God and the Quaternary of the World and Man, God and Man make Seven, the number of Perfection. In our Craft there are many Sevenfold aspects, the duality of which are symbolised by the two Sevens of the M.M.'s apron — the Seven Primary Officers, and the One. The Sevenfold Structure of the Soul, the Seven Root Races and the Seven Chakras, each Septenary having its two aspects. This most sacred of all numbers is said to be the key to all the most ancient views on the Universe. The Seven angels of the Presence, the Seven Planetary Spirits, the Spirits of the Stars — it is said it is they who are the direct amanuensis of the Eternal Ideation — and Divine Thought — the 42 Judges of the Dead — a series of the various aspects of sevens — accusers of the Soul before Osiris. The Seven Great Scribes who assess man's deeds and adjust his Karma, that the utmost advantage may be therefrom derived. In the Hindoo doctrine there are 14 stages of evolution which lead to God. First, Man on Earth; the last brings the ascending Soul into the Centre of the Circle — known as Paramatura. The sevenfold prismatic spectrum of the Supernal Light. Seven lamps of fire burning before the Throne which are the Seven Spirits of God. (Rev, iv.5.)
(Again, a vast subject, Brethren, which I have just touched upon.)
In the Book of Numbers we find, "Put upon the hinge of the borders a riband of blue and it shall be unto you a fringe that ye may look upon it and remember all the commandments of the Lord and do them."
The three Rosettes are the symbol of Truth.
Later, these rosettes are replaced with three Levels, the Hebrew form of the Cross, known as the Tau, when a M.M. is installed as a Master. The Triple Taus being the symbol of the Deity, and is the sign of Life. The Master's Jewel, the Square, will be his, because without absolute squareness and rectitude of conduct no dealings are possible between man and man, the attitude of the Master determines the whole tone of the Lodge. In erecting a building, the level and plumb-rule prove the walls to be true horizontal and a true perpendicular, but it is the Square which establishes the right relation between the parts and harmonizes the whole. These three implements are all that is necessary to test a trinity or triangle of work, but I must not digress.
Members of the Craft enjoy the priceless privilege of consciously co- operating in the evolutionary scheme, which is the plan of the G. A. for the good of mankind and in conforming their lives to His plan. This perpetuation of the mystery teaching is truly a magnificent inheritance.
It is this duty of all M.M.s to be Light Bearers, to assist the younger Brethren, to help to dispel the darkness and ignorance they meet in them.
So he is led to realise that his responsibilities are all the greater by reason of the Light which has dawned on him.
Brethren, may we for a moment, in passing, consider another aspect amongst us which now reaches its beautiful symbolic climax — the completion of the evolution of the Ashlar. The Rough Ashlar you will remember symbolising our Candidate in his early days with us, who developing under the refining influence of education, having those excrescences knocked away by experience in life which in its ever unfolding aspects is slowly smoothing him. He was then led in the Second Degree, to study the mysteries of Nature and Science which finally brings him to the state of perfect equilibrium, for he has learnt to present the same dignified exterior, the same courtesy, the same equanimity and fortitude to each and every occasion whether it be of sorrow or of joy, for the Craft has helped him to shape himself into that perfection of manhood to become as a Spirit of Light; the working tools assisting to bring him into true form for now he knows that it is not what he does but how he does it, which is, perhaps, the truest test. It is only the spirit of God within him that can transform that rough original material. Finally, we find the perfect Cube in the West, in the rays of the setting sun, waiting, suspended by the life line — waiting — to be placed in its final position in the Great Temple. Man is the Cube and his symbol is the Cube unfolding — the culmination of perfection, in the Third Degree embodying the ideal of Regenerated Man. The Six Sides unfolded displaying a Cross — Three Perfect Squares horizontal, and Four Perfect Squares perpendicular — the Septenary — for in addition to the Six is not there a Seventh in the Centre — of Divine Understanding?
Historically, Freemasonry goes back to those earliest ages in which the chief function of building was to express to man, in the symbolism of dimension, a visible representation of the differentiated states of life in the Time Cosmos. But is a matter for wonder that, despite all adverse influences, the Masonic ritual should even now contain such an admirable exposition of ultimate laws.
The subject of our consideration is so vast and so far-reaching that it is difficult to know where to begin. We are coming to the end — or is it the beginning? — of a full circle, without beginning and without end, starting at the Point within the Centre, where we now stand studying the circle of events which have happened.
First in the N.E. Corner, then across to the S.E., the two rosettes, and now at the apex in the Centre, the third rosette, having cornered the triangle of the Lodge in its three aspects.
The Secret of the Degree, Life in Death, Death in Life, combining within it the three aspects —
Cosmic, Mystical and Historical.
Cosmic the Lodge and the Evolution of the Degrees.
Mystical, the aspect of the Almighty stooping to take birth in each human heart.
Historical, traditionally the loss, the loss of the mysterious power of the Spiritual Unity, which will be restored.
The end to which all true religion works, bringing the At-One-Ment, between God and Man, and awakening into activity the faculty of spiritual vision, learning to be one with all other men, the Fatherhood of God and the Brotherhood of Man.
For is not the mission of our Craft nothing less than to redeem all those who are obedient to its precepts and lead them to that divine house ready for us all? — and it is identical with the great Supreme Wisdom Religion, under whatever name and with whatever variety of pageant or dramatic form, the rites and mysteries have been ever but one Rite, expounding one mystery, the reintegration of man in God. So complicated is it that one is faced not with one science but with a synthesis of sciences, knowledge which has remained veded for so many generations, and lies concealed under many symbols, some with more than one meaning, some with meanings which increase in force, as we have seen, as the mind gains greater insight. A high level of attainment is set for us in the Craft and it depends on our devotion, determination, purity of motive and sincerity of purpose as to whether we rise to that state of being when we shall divine the truth of the mystery.
This Degree, being a living drama to be enacted, its primary symbol being man in whom is linked together the Celestial and Terrestrial Universe, and its primary appeal being to the heart and imagination.
It is this symbol drama or Mystery of Man which is the main theme, basis and connecting link of the whole operation and Mystery-teaching in Masonry, as in all mystery systems, for the mystery of man is the Centre and circumference of the Universe and mail celestial and terrestrial, the Divine Thinker, is the subject of all Mystery operations, he is in himself the Three-Fold Temple, unifying in one Mystery the Divine, the Archetypal and the Earthly natures.
So we have a threefold symbolism, astronomic, geometrical, architectural, concentrated in the Grand Symbol Drama of Man, including myth, legend and history.
A complicated Harmony and synthesis of many symbol themes, all based on Man as a primary symbol.
Astronomical, probably the oldest, combining the Stellar, the Solar and the Lunar, all found in our Craft to-day, in the Circumambulations, the stars and the moon. All through the distant past the main theme of the Great Mystery has remained the same, that the Candidate has focused in him the representative of the great idea. In Masonry, the divine or symbolic Man of all Mystery Teachings is represented by the 3rd G.M., he is the type of all divine Men, and in the Craft each Brother can consider the 3rd G.M. as representing the Man God of his own religion leaving each one Free, according to the state of his development, to draw a mental picture of the intuitional consciousness of what is portrayed by the acts of the Ceremony, a thought form, distinctly his own, by following the same line, common to all his Brothers, yet each by a different way.
The teaching of Freemasonry as to the way to find God and be a servant within His Temple, is summed up in one simple direction, "There is a P. within a C. from which a M.M. cannot err." We must go within to find our own C. equidistant from and impartial to, all parts of the circumference.
The genuine secrets lie veiled, there has been from time immemorial, a Root Doctrine or Primal Knowledge in respect of the Soul of Man, indicating whence it arose and whither it is going. Plato has it that all knowledge is memory, the old wisdom has it that man was directed by the Gods and the aim of all Hidden Arts has been the regeneration of the Soul into a Divine condition wherein it originally stood, a restoration.
Masonically speaking, man is the Temple and his Maker the Architect thereof.
The leading principles can never be changed, the ancient Landmarks countenance no deviation, but must be followed faithfully, aiming to retrieve that which is lost so that a raising by the Lion's Grip, that which lingers within in its original form, that vital and immortal principle residing in a perishable frame, may be brought again into the compass of divine Light and full consciousness.
Very early in his Masonic career, a Brother is given the keys to our Mysteries, the First T.B. must lead him to think upon these matters. He learns of the three G.M.s, S. K. of I., H. K. of T., and H.A., and of the Circle with a Point in its centre from which he cannot err — this circle is bounded by two parallel lines N. and S.
There are the three Columns, Wisdom, Strength and Beauty. Moral Strength, Material Strength and Spiritual Strength, the association of which come to the Great Principle.
The Point is the Principle. The Circle, the different forms of adoration.
The two lines, the two forces of Nature, which keep the Universe itself in perfect equilibrium.
From H.A. comes the key to the last, connecting the history with the mystery. Our Masonic Temple is not to be the one here below but the Eternal City of Peace, the Mother Lodge of us all; that Golden City, the length the breadth and the height of which are all equal, wherein the Light of which, is God Himself. Nor are the builders of our Temple two princes and a Master of Arts and Sciences, but are the Divine energy of Wisdom, Strength and Beauty, whose pillars support all creation. With Wisdom to contrive, Strength to support and Beauty to adorn, the building of Divine Man was completed. Solomon the Sun, the brightness of that Light Eternal, always at the Meridian, greeting every Freemason on his admission. H. K. of T. supplying the developing materials, while the Chief Architect, co- operating with the other two, is the Intellectual faculty performing the Great Works.
It was the sudden cessation of that cooperation that was so generally and severe, felt and which led to the search culminating in a discovery. It is really a figurative breakdown in the Threefold Order of coequal unity.
The 15 F.C.s, a complete number in itself, twice seven and One. Divided into 3 F.C. Lodges, again a complete aspect of the 5 senses.
It is an ancient tradition that a plant is found near a place of burial. At Eleusis an E. of C., in Homer's Odyssey a long-leaved olive tree is planted at the entrance to the burial cave, a red anemone marked where Adonis was slain, a tamarisk the grave of Osiris, Virgil describes the discovery of the body of Polydorus by accidentally pulling up a loosely planted shrub.
On the walls of one of the Tombs of Egypt is written a quotation from Ch. XI of the Book of the Dead, "They covered it with all reverence and to distinguish the spot placed a sprig of Acacia at the head of the grave. Homage to Thee, O Lord of the Acacia Tree:"
It is said that the Acacia Tree is venerated in Egypt, and Osiris was Lord of the Acacia. His death and resurrection are commemorated in the Mysteries and the Acacia became the symbol of Eternal Life.
No interments were permitted within the walls of the City, and as it was unlawful for the Priests to pass over a grave it became necessary to place marks wherever a dead body had been interred to enable them to avoid it. To the Priest it was said to be a symbol of the Immortality of the Soul. In the Grecian Mysteries a Sprig of Myrtle was used; Mistletoe by the Druids.
The Chinese plant small shrubs at the head of their graves.
In this aspect of our ceremony it was sometimes said that the Lost Word was as the voice from the Tomb, or sub-consciousness, the voice of conscience with its stern demands, the universal urge.
It was only by going far, and into the dark recesses of the underworld that the 3 were found and these evil forces were then eliminated from the world.
His mighty thought-form exists even now in our Craft. Our Candidate, raised to a level of spirituality and power far beyond anything that is normally possible for him, and every effort of spiritual elevation makes the next similar effort easier for him. Every Ceremony which a Brother attends is intended, if perfectly worked, to have a definite and calculated effect upon him, and the attendance at the Ceremonies over a series of years must and will carry him upwards, so that in the co-operation which he consciously gives each time, makes him a stronger and more expert workman. Thus, perhaps he has for the first time a brief glimpse of the stupendous life which he lives, of the great hereafter, a play on his intuitional and emotional aspects in which the intellect is touched by reflection — by a power to realize in a physical brain, something of the sublimity of vision — an expression of a Great Creator, an enlargement of a dimension — of a much higher plane of existence; in some, creating an intense delight in the Light within which they stand — the source of intellectuality raised to its highest perception.
Master Light is the E. which is eternal, the others may be extinguished, but the central principle is deathless.
The experience is the God-intended plan for every child of the human race. Here is the reality of which the lost Word is the mystic symbol, and he, who has found the Word within himself, has victory within his grasp whatever may betide, for the Centre has become changed so that the Spirit is the Master Power and the whole perspective of life is thus changed and the scale of values is reversed, when God, and not self, become the first and paramount interest when eternity is glimpsed and the present existence is but a brief interlude to endless life.
When the work is finished and is perfect in all its parts and honourable to the builders, and not until then, will acceptance be accorded and the Glory of the Lord shine through the whole House. He has learnt that darkness is really perfect Light within.
Bhagavad Gita has it: —
"Within thyself thou hast a sublime friend thou knowest not."
And it is the mission of the Craft to bear the same witness.
The Tracing Board of this Degree is perhaps the finest in our Craft, as it is of the Secret Tradition, that which is always in the world, though the world comprehends it not. The quest began so long ago for that which we have lost, the hidden vessel of the Sangrail, the search of the Alchemist for the Stone of the Wise; the Work, the Vessel and the Stone are all substituted secrets, the real mystery neither passes into ordinary speech nor is entrusted to anyone not properly prepared. The mystical history is much older than Solomon's time. The tragedy of H.A. is a parable of cosmic loss, and is far more important than we can imagine. The Temple of human nature is unfinished, intellect cannot supply the plan to regulate the disorders of life, the absence of Supreme Wisdom has thrown us into confusion and we must search — and in doing so we grope with our five senses and all our faith.
The burial is a sepulchre outside the Holy City in a grave from the C. 3ft. E. and 3ft. W., 3ft. between N. and S. and 5ft. or more perpendicular. The Grave is said to be the Symbol of Conquest, of Victory. Death is transfigured by a soul made great in its triumph. Are not the Sepulchre and the grave in ourselves, thus emphasizing the passing of the vital and immortal principle from the darkness of the visible world to the Light beyond?
The measuring lines, and the Tools are figures of the power of foundation and creation to perfection, and I suggest, belong to the Providential Guidance and upliftment of us all. These implements assigned to us are also implements by means of which we judge ourselves, a form of corrective discipline, and a judgment applied by ourselves, which rightly applied, free us from difficulties by compelling us to conform to the right principles of life.
The tools used in the attacks are forces within us, which kept in place will carry us on, but if loosened will bring about our own fall.
The Porch may be the Heart, the seat of love and affection, and the place of entry for all good actions and emotions. The Dormer, the Window through which the Divine Rays of intelligence enter to light our inner perceptions, while we walk the chequered plane of this material world. Our duty to pray to the M.H. for assistance and guidance that he may bestow Peace and tranquillity upon us. It must be borne in mind that the Sanctum Sanctorum is not described in our ritual, it is that region of perfection into which we, at present, have not the power or right to enter, for the Porch is as far as we go, and the Dormer is the window which gives light to that Porch, and in the Porch was the square Pavement for the High Priest to walk upon.
The Temple of Paradise, although so spacious, its length, its breadth, are within our own hearts, and St. Paul has said, "That ye being rooted and grounded in love may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and depth and height."
Clement of Alexandria says, "If anyone know himself, he shall know God, and by knowing God he shall be like unto Him." For each one who is allotted a place according to his capacity towards the Divine likeness and what is still more Divine, he becomes, as the V.O.T.S.L. says — a Fellow-worker with God, and show forth the Divine activity revealed as far as possible in himself. So that some are purified, others purify, some are enlightened, others enlighten, some are perfected, others make perfect, for in this way the Divine initiation will fit each one. For all those who are being initiated must hold themselves free from all imperfection, thereby becoming, ultimately, participators in the Divine Wisdom which they have contemplated.
The Tools of the Third Degree give rise to a new idea, the keynote of which is PLAN, the Skirret, Pencil and Compasses and here we have a fourth, added to the Square, Level and Plumb Rule, which is Straight, and this gives rise to another thought, to be straight implies "restraint." There must be no going off at a tangent. With the movement of many forces pulling many ways, we must pursue that straight and undeviating course, set for us on our progress to God.
The Pencil, a symbol of the past, the present and the future, for in due time there will be a check of all our doings against the Plan, that they may be true in the light of our understanding.
For God, Time and Space are conceptions that are illimitable and unchangeable.
TIME, merciless but just, will one day reckon with what measure of success we have built or destroyed. To reach absolute perfection, is to reach a region out of Time and Space, the Eternal Here and Now, illimitable, immovable, in itself, but the cause of motion in all else, from the immeasurable river of light. For in the olden days the tribes placed a "jod" in the Centre of a Circle as a symbol of Deity, surrounded by Eternity. Explaining that the Circle referred to Eternity and the Central Point to Time, to show that time was only a point compared with eternity and equidistant from all parts of its infinitely extended circumference.
On earth, I see Time as a straight line, upon it, the present is a point from which, in opposite directions, stretch the past and the future, marked into divisions of the years like thumb joints on the taut string of the drawing scribe. On earth, I see the horizon, also, as a straight line.
TIME, the Centre of a Circle where past, present and future join. For when future and past are joined, then the circle is complete — the present is the endless NOW. The Past is solid, for what has been done cannot be changed, but every action that you do is changing a future, which is fluid and can be altered into a Past which is permanent.
When the I.P.M. in his Address to the W.M. expresses the hope that Joy will abide with him "when time with you shall be no more," is it not a lovely wish, and does it not convey so much?
The Compasses, the Third Great, though emblematical, Light. The first and the last, again the Plan and the future, of the accuracy of that Plan, and of the impartiality of Judgment, Justice with mercy, if our efforts are such as to merit it, for the Compasses are a limit, a restraint, working from a Centre, marking out the bounds within which we must work. A link with the old Chinese ritual, "Ye Officers apply the Compasses . . . "
A cold calculation of an application of Judgment and the expectation of a great standard of conduct. In Egypt the heart was weighed in the scales upon which the counter-weight was a feather. Should the tongue of the Balance go against him, he was lost.
"When He established the heavens, I was there, when He set the compasses upon the face of the deep, when He marked out the foundation of the earth, then was I by Him, as a Master workman." (Proverbs viii 27-30)
The Compasses keep us within bounds, is the boundary of all things. Faith is the Soul of Masonry. Faith in the Most High in the Light and in the Darkness. Faith, while it emphasizes the Spiritual view of life, reminds us that we are children of the Most High, and that when this short life on earth is passed away we shall enter into a larger life in Eternity, so that when we are summoned from this sub-lunary abode we may ascend to the Grand Lodge above.
In the Bristol Working there is a fourth, which is the Trowel, with which the cement is spread, for what is best in a wall? The Bond.
The progression of the Cable Tow is marked in our Degrees, in the First it is the Symbol of Restraint, in the Second it hangs taut, upright and in the Level and the Plumb Rule and is further emphasized as the line which holds elevated the Perfect Ashlar, a symbol of the unity of Perfect Man with his Creator, whereas in the Third we find it coiled on a centre pin — which in its cyclic movement it uncoils and forms that straight and undeviating line stretching to the illimitable circumference of Space.
In the Zend Avesta, God is Illimitable Time, "No origin can be assigned to Him. He is entirely enveloped in His Glory, His nature and attributes are so inaccessible to Human Intelligence, that He can be only the object of a Silent veneration."
In the olden rituals there was an emblem, not often met with these days, but which occupied a place on the Ancient Tracing Boards — the Hour-glass. For many centuries this device has been used as a means of measuring Time, and in the evolution of our symbols was regarded as a symbol of human life. "The running sands are carrying with them the moments of our lives into the eternity of the past with its report of things done and not done.
So also, the Scythe was an emblem of Time, being pictured as an old man of advancing years and wise with experience, employed in gathering the harvest of this mortal life into the vast storehouse of eternity.
Our Craft, therefore, is planned to advance the destiny of the races by deepening the Spirit of Brotherhood, ennobling humanity and establishing truth and righteousness in all the world, and we who feel the want of those plans and designs to regulate our lives, try as we do, will continue to feel that some heavy calamity has befallen us.
Like the F.C.s who went in search of the body, we, in our different ways and by various roads, search for that which is lost.
There are some who make no discovery of any importance in regard to the mysteries of humanity throughout their lives. There are others who make a discovery, but it avails them not, it is too late, but they take heart, and fight on with substituted secrets, their senses, and a strong faith that their cry, "O God is there no help for us," will be answered, and there are still others who reach the sources of their difficulties, eliminate them and carry on with greater strength. For is not the lesson that the grave of H.A. is our very selves, that in the centre of ourselves lies buried the vital and immortal principle, the glimmering ray never to be extinguished in us, set as it is 3ft. N., S., E. and W., the length of your reach, left or right from our Centre and 5ft. or more high, and in the building thereof no sound of hammer is heard?
That we are the Temple, the Temple of Humanity, the Universe, that God made Man in his own image. That all the ritual, the ceremonies, the Tracing Boards, the Tools, are but means to point out to us the means by which the genuine secrets are to be regained to us — the length to which we have to go and to lead us to the path we have to tread, and to render us fit members to attain that Perfect Union with the Lord of us all, to reach the Great Mystic Temple, where dwells the Presence, the Divine reality.
There, too, in the Temple where also burns the Divine Fire and where God is, there is His Temple, the Centre of the Whole is the Centre of each.
The Craft exists on earth because the Craft exists in a higher form in the heavens:
"As above, so below,"
and our earthly Craft with its hierarchy of graded Masons, is a reflection of the similarly graded Great Hierarchy in the Grand Lodge above.
Our inspiration is drawn from those sermons in stone which arose at the hands of the earliest of our operative Brethren, and as we look back along the corridor of time we conjure up the mighty edifice raised to The Great Architect and which we take as a symbol of our Faith. The foundations are laid in our common Brotherhood, walls raised in mutual sympathies and kindred needs, its pillars are fashioned out of purity and truth, its Altar is fear of God and love of our fellow-men, and its chief strength lies in a sincere wish to do good by all. And in doing so we recognise that every moment is a precious jewel not to be wasted.
The Initiate's mind becomes clearer as he proceeds, and the search develops his powers of thought and feeling. For it has ever been, and ever will be, given to those who seek to find; that which is born of the spirit can only be found by those who seek in the spirit, and desire that the mysteries shall be unveiled, and by constantly wrestling with the mighty problems of the past, shall eventually find the secret of the future. Step by step our progress is made and we gain a clearer and closer knowledge of the circle of our existence. Perhaps it is for this reason that there is something hidden, always a deeper secret, a search for which will keep us alert and active.
So, in this degree, he has learned to surrender his lower self to the higher, in order that the higher may obtain expression within him.
A time comes when he must go out alone into the void — for the day is over — he has traversed the Valley of the Shadow and has gone through the gloom of the grave. Here it is that the necessity of the completion of the symbolism is retained in that part, which is the completion of the whole, the Holy Royal Arch, wherein beneath the ruins of a former Temple of himself he has to find the Hidden Glory for himself by himself, where in the Light he has obtained he can consciously search within himself for that which culminates in his entry into the Light. Portraying a further experience of the liberated life.
Freemasonry is a symphony on the theme of Silence, so we must learn to listen to that "voice of the Silence" in the depths of our Spirit which is always there, but which is difficult to hear when the noise of the outside world is vibrating in our ears.
It may be that from the present tribulation some new Spirit of Righteousness may arise which will eventually bring about the everlasting peace on earth and a glorious Brotherhood among the peoples.
In Browne's Ritual in the long closing in this Degree, printed before the Union, the wording is crude, but in those days it was still the Wardens who "bring up the word to the W.M." and when they are asked by the W.M., "What is the M.M.'s name?" they answer:
Cassia, Cassia, is my name, From a just and perfect Lodge I came, A M.M. raised most rare From the diamond ashlar to the Square."
Then the Lodge is closed and the W.M. says, "Brethren, the word that was lost is not yet found, but that substituted in its room proves to be like the Cassia ever to be found in every M.M.'s breast."
In our Lodge, as every ceremony finishes its rendering of the old, old story, we can only wait for the perfect day uniting in the act of Fidelity.
In future years, Brethren, each one of you will journey far along our mystic path and add to your knowledge of our ancient Craft, but I think that nothing you will find will add to the simplicity, the dignity and the beauty of the structure, the plan of which is humbly laid before you, in the building of which you are all fellow-workers with all those in whose footsteps you have travelled thus far.
So, Brethren, I would like to end with that lovely prayer at Lodge Closing by W. Bro. Walter Leslie Wilmshurst in the Meaning of Masonry:
O Sovereign and Most Worshipful of all Masters, who, in Thy infinite love and wisdom, hast devised our Order as a means to draw Thy children nearer Thee, and hast so ordained its Officers that they are emblems of Thy sevenfold power;
Be Thou unto us an Outer Guard, and defend us from the perils that beset us when we turn from that which is without to that which is within;
Be Thou as an Inner Guard, and preserve our souls that desire to pass within the portal of Thy holy mysteries;
Be unto us the Younger Deacon, and teach our wayward feet the true and certain steps upon the path that leads to Thee; Be Thou also the Elder Deacon, and guide us up the steep and winding stairway to Thy throne;
Be unto us the Lesser Warden, and in the meridian sunlight of our understanding speak to us in sacraments that shall declare the splendours of Thy unmanifested light;
Be Thou also unto us the Greater Warden, and in the awful hour of disappearing light, when vision fails and thought has no more strength, be with us still, revealing to us, as we may bear them, the hidden mysteries of Thy shadow;
And so, through light and darkness, raise us, Great Master, till we are made one with Thee, in the unspeakable glory of Thy presence in the East.
No soul can return to God, and no one can wish it to return to God, until of its own free will and accord, it desires at-one-ment with the source of its being, and to those who have eyes to see — at the end of every Meeting goes forth the old cry — particularly appropriate to every Brother — the true reason why he entered Masonry:
"Wishing them a Safe return,"
and I would say:
It is not death to die
To leave this weary road
And with the Brotherhood on high
To be at home with God ....
For when we shut the Book, lay aside the jewels, knowing that in the end likewise, there shall be only God.