Members of Masonic Study groups are naturally keen students of the origin and history of the Craft, and a number of serious-minded enquirers frankly admit that a perusal of the available literature on the subject has left them confused and unconvinced.
In this paper, therefore, it is proposed to trace a rough outline of a movement which is as old as humanity itself and the purpose and doctrine of which are still faithfully, if very rudimentarily, preserved in our Masonic system. By this means, an endeavor will be made to answer the main questions asked by many students who are genuinely seeking fuller enlightenment, such as; What was the nature of the Ancient Mysteries which modern Freemasonry is claimed to perpetuate? Can we justify the need for their perpetuation today? For what purpose was initiation instituted? Did it at any time serve any real purpose, or can it do so now? A satisfactory solution to these problems depends, to a great extent, on a comprehension of the aims and ideals of the Masonic Order .
Now one of the first things to impress itself upon any student of Masonic literature and comparative religion is the remarkable-presence of common factors, common beliefs, doctrines, practices and symbols, in the religions of all races alike, whether ancient or modern, civilized or barbarian, Christian or pagan. However separated from others by time or distance, however intellectualized or primitive, and however wide-their differences in important respects, each people is found to have employed and still t o be employing certain ideas, symbols and practices in common with every other.
A close examination of Masonic literature confirms and amplifies this impression, for the student will find that numerous authors connected with the Craft have demonstrated that there isa close correspondence to be found in the various apparently unrelated systems, and they have further emphasized how ancient and universal are the ideas, symbols and practices which are embodied in our modern system of Freemasonry.
There is one thing, however, that the student invariably has great difficulty in determining, and this is the reason for the antiquity and universality so clearly in evidence according to the existing records. It is unfortunate that the majority of those who have written treaties on Masonic history and purpose have neglected to give an explanation on this point, and since it furnishes us with the essential clue to the entire problem of the genesis, the history, and the reason for the existence of Freemasonry, it is so important to clear up the matter before proceeding with the general outline of our subject.
If one perseveres with research and reflection, it will become apparent to the student that the universality and uniformity noted by historians are due to the fact that at one time, long back in the world’s past, there was implanted in the minds of the whole human family – which was then, doubtless, much more concentrated than at present – a root- doctrine in regard to the nature and destiny of the soul of man and its relation to the Deity. In all Scriptures and cosmologies the tradition is universal of a “ Golden Age”, an age of comparative innocence, wisdom and spirituality, in which racial unity and individual happiness and enlightenment prevailed; in which there was that open vision for want of which it is recorded that a people perished, but in virtue of which man were once in conscious conversation with the unseen worlds and were shepherded, taught and guided by the “gods” or discarnate superintendents of the infant race, who imparted to them the sure principles upon which their spiritual welfare and evolution depended.
The testimony concerning this “Golden Age” is found to be recorded in all languages, and it is unanimously stated to be the period of the early beginnings of the Human Race. In these early days we learn that the psychic and physical intellect in man was dormant, and we are told that it was on this account that infant humanity was guided and taught under the direct superintendence of divine Teachers and Instructors. It is of particular significance to Freemasons to find that tradition affirms that it was under the guidance of these Instructors that humanity was taught its first notions of all the arts and sciences, and that it was They who laid the foundation-stone of those ancient civilizations which so sorely puzzle our modern generation of scholars.
This will account for the fact that no matter how far back into the night of time archaeological or other investigations are extended, high stages of civilization are found, each having an elaborate numerical system; where, according to modern scientific theories, only the most primitive conditions might be expected. The presence of fully developed numerical systems in ancient civilizations proves that the science of numbers was not slowly evolved by primitive man learning to count on his fingers, as is popularly supposed, and confirms the tradition of a fully elaborated system of computation which was revealed to the priesthood of the early Races by the Spiritual Teachers of mankind.
We of today pride ourselves upon being wiser and more advanced than primitive humanity. We assume that our ancestors lived in moral benightedness out of which we have since gradually emerged into comparative light. All the evidence, however, negatives these suppositions. In fact it indicates that primitive man, notwithstanding his intellectual undevelopment according to modern standards, was spiritually conscious and psychically perceptive to a degree undreamed of in our day. It is therefore ourselves who , for all our cleverness and intellectual development in temporal mattes, are nevertheless plunged in darkness and ignorance about our own nature, the invisible world around us, and the eternal spiritual verities. We may, then, well enquire how it is that we have departed so far from our original state, and once again tradition comes to our assistance.
The tradition is also universal of the collective soul of the human race having sustained a “fall” a moral declension from its true path of life and evolution, which has had the effect of severing it almost entirely from its creative source, and which, as the ages advanced, has involved its sinking more and more deeply into physical conditions. This has resulted in its splitting up from a unity employing a single language into a diversity of conflicting races of different speeches and degrees of moral advancement, and has been accompanied by a progressive densification of the material body and a corresponding atrophy of the spiritual consciousness.
This tradition of our extrusion of Fall, howsoever occasioned, from the more immediate precincts of Deity is so catholic a one that it must have been a canon of the root-doctrine which lies at the back of all the great religious systems of history. Antiquity and universality constitute; of course, inadequate evidence of its truth for modern rationalism, but for the genuine student testimony to it can be adduced from another quarter. This will be found in the voluble sacrementalism of Nature where it is perpetuated and registered in such a manner as will be readily discerned by the seeing eye and understanding mind. In our day, evolution, or the perpetual tendency of things upwards, has came to be generally accepted as a cosmic process.
But does not th e capacity for rising imply necessarily an antecedent failing? The logical value of the evolutionary hypothesis, as of every hypothesis can only be appraised by contrasting it with its antithesis, and the laws of human logic, as Freemasons should well know, are shadows of those of the LOGOS, the Divine Logician. The truth, then, of the Fall, has been perpetuated in our phenomenal world by the fact that to fall is the property of everything material Purified spirit alone is capable of ascension, of counteract ing the law of gravitation, which, as shown in the allegory of the flaming sword of the Cherubim guarding Eden, rigidly excludes from ascending all that is unfit to inhabit a world more advanced than a physical one.
Thus the initial act in the earthly existence of every seed, and germ, and egg, of every newborn animal and child, is to fall to the ground. At the very outset of its career it therefore rehearses in its own form or person the primal Fall of Cosmic Spirit into the plane of Nature, while its subsequent function is to rise and grow physically or morally according to its kind.
So far as it affects humanity, the doctrine of the Fall, portrayed in the Biblical legend of Adam and Eve and their expulsion from Eden, was not due, as is popularly supposed, to the transgression of an individual, but was the result of a defect in the collective or group-soul of the Adamic Race, and was a process covering vast cycles of time. Such is the unanimous testimony of the Ancient Wisdom-tradition and despite its rejection by many in our day, it is my conviction that we cannot adequately apprehend the divine scheme unless we realize that the Fall was an incident thereof that was ordained by, and that existed primally in the prescience of, Deity; that the descent of spirit and its incarnation in the material world was a process as gradual as has been, and is, the rise, the mergence, of spiritual life from within its present physical limitations. The incarceration of spirit, therefore, in material conditions, involving, as it did and does still, the struggle for emancipation and the knowledge of evil, was, and is, essential and necessary to enable the spirit of man to become self-conscious of its own inherent perfection and divinity, by
undergoing an experience which is the antithesis of its own birthright in a plane of existence which is the antipodes of its natural home. Hence it follows that Redemption is the necessary complement of Creation, and accordingly we find that tradition assert s that as a consequence of the Fall it was necessary and within the Divine Providence that humanity should be redeemed and restored to its former high estate, the restoration in turn requiring vast time cycles for its achievement. And it required something further; It required the application of an orderly and scientific method under skilled direction, and we may reasonably enquire; whence could come that skill and scientific knowledge if
not from the Divine and now invisible world, from those “god s” and guardians of the erring race of whom all the ancient traditions and sacred writings tell? Would not that skilled method be properly described if it were termed, as in our modern Freemasonry it is termed, a “heavenly science” and a “noble science”, and would it not be welcomed in the words that Freemasons in fact use, “Hail, Royal Art!” Those of our Brethren who here responsible for the inscription set out on the Foundation Stone of the first
Freemason’s Hall, which was consecrated on the 1st, May, 1775, clearly recognized this fact, because in declaring the authority under which the English Craft claims precedence and jurisdiction over the “whole body of Brethren throughout the world”, they re-affirmed the “Ancient Landmark” concerning the origin of the Science in the significant words, “It comes down from Heaven”.
To the spiritual guardians of primitive man, then, we must attribute the communication of that universal science of rebuilding the fallen temple of humanity, and to this source we must credit the distribution, in every land and among every people, of the same or equivalent symbols, practices and doctrines. This was the one holy Catholic Religion “throughout all the world”, and it laid down the ancient and established “usages and customs” to be followed at all times by everyone willing to accept its discipline. It was the “Sacred Law” for the guidance of fallen humanity, a law valid from “time immemorial”, or, in other words, from the dawn of time till its sunset, and of which it is written, “As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end”.
This universal science is related to have originated in the East, for the East, in every sense, geographically, astronomically, and spiritually, is ever the source of light “Ex Oriente Lux” (Out of the East Light) – and as humanity itself became diffused and distributed over the globe, to have gradually spread towards the West. The record of this truth is retained in our modern Instruction Lectures in the cryptic phrase, “Learning originated in the East and thence spread its benign influence towards the West” (Fourth Section, First Lecture).
During the process of the distribution of humanity there came about that progressive densification of the material body and consequent atrophy of spiritual perception already mentioned, and on account of this the influence of the Wisdom-teaching became correspondingly diminished, although its principles remained as valid and effective. To follow the course of its progress in any detail would require a long treatise, and is therefore outside the scope of the present Paper, but it should be noted that despite human vagaries and conceptions the Light, like that of a Master Mason, has never been wholly extinguished, however dark the age, and according to tradition the present age is spiritually the darkest of the dark ages. It is truly declared that “God has never left himself without a living witness among men”, and among the witnesses to the Ancient Wisdom is the system we know as Freemasonry; a faint and feeble flicker, perhaps, but nevertheless a true light and in the true line of succession of the primitive doctrine.
The earliest teaching of the Mysteries traceable within historic time was in the Orient and in the language known as Sanskrit – a name itself significant and appropriate, for it means Holy Writ or “Sanctum Scriptum”; and for the very great lights on the Ancient Wisdom one must still refer to the religious and philosophical scriptures of India, which was in its spiritual and temporal prime when modern Europe was frozen beneath an ice-cup.
But races of men, like individuals, have their infancy, manhood and old age; they are but units, upon a larger scale than the individual, for furthering the general life-purpose. When a given race has served or failed in that purpose, the stewardship of the Mysteries passes on to other and more effectual hands. The next great torch-bearer of the Light of the world was Egypt, which after man y centuries of spiritual supremacy, in turn became the arid desert it now is both spiritually and materially, leaving nevertheless a mass of structural and written relics still testifying to its possession of the Doctrine in the days of its glory.
From Egypt, as civilizations developed in adjoining countries, minor centres for impacting the knowledge were instituted in Chaldea, Persia, Greece and Asia Minor, and a record of this diffusion is preserved in the V. of the S.L., for the EXODUS is, in one of its many allusion s, a witness to the passing on of the catholic mysteries from Egypt to new and virgin regions for their enlightenment.
Of these various translations those that concern us chiefly are two; the one to Greece, the other to Palestine. We know from the V. of the S.L., that Moses was an initiate of the Egyptian Mysteries and became learned in all its wisdom, while the writings of the Alexandrian Philosopher Philo Judaeus, called Philo the Jew, inform us that in Egypt Moses became “skilled in Music, Geometry, Arithmetic, Hieroglyphics and the whole circle of the arts and sciences”. In other words he became in a real sense a Master Mason and as such, qualified himself for his subsequent great task of leadership of the Hebrew people and the formulating of their religious system and rule of life as laid down in the Pentateuch.
The Mosaic system continued, as we know, along the channel indicated in the books of the Old Testament, and then after many centuries, effloresced in the greatest of all expressions of the Mysteries, as disclosed in the Gospels of the New Testament, or New Witness, involving the enfoldment, comprehension, and in gathering of the religious past of the whole world, centralized under the Supreme Grand Mastership of Him who is called the Light of the World, and embodying all the characteristics, legends, and symbols hitherto appertaining to the central figures of preceding dispensations, proclaiming the unity of all human aspiration, and formulating in one grand system the doctrines of both the East and West.
Concurrently with the existence of the Hebrew Mysteries under the Mosaic dispensation, the great Greek school was developing, which originating in the Orphic religion, culminated and came to a focus at Delphi and generated the philosophic wisdom associated with Athens and the Periclean age. Greece was the spiritual descendant of both India and Egypt, and we know that the great Initiate who is accorded the title of Pythagoras journeyed to India before being received in Egypt to take his final initiation prior to founding the school at Crotona associated with him. Plato also tells us that aspirants for initiation visited Egypt before promoting spiritual advancement in Greece.
It will not be possible to deal adequately with all the Mystery-systems in this Paper, although for purposes of illustration in regard to our present subject a reference will be made to one of the most famous of them, the Eleusinian, which existed in Greece for several centuries. The word “Eleusis” means light, and therefore initiation into the Mysteries of Eleusis proclaimed the quest of the aspirant for light, in precisely the same sense as the Freemason today is made to declare that “Light” is the predominant wish” of his heart. In alternative terms, the candidate sought to be endued with “a competency of the Divine wisdom”, and was prepared to voluntarily submit himself to a process whereby he became transformed from the natural state into a spiritual state. Initiation, therefore, meant the gearing of the consciousness of the candidate to a new and higher principle, the making of a new man in the sense of attaining a new method of life and a new outlook upon the universe. Speaking of this process St. Paul writes in his Epistle to the Ephesians. “And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; And that ye put on the new ma n, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness”.
This process of “putting on the new man” spoken of by St. Paul in the 4th Chapter of his Epistle to the Ephesians (verses 23 and 24) involves our comprehension of the esoteric or spiritual interpretation of an Immaculate Conception, or, in other words, the bringing to birth of the Divine Principle to function within the organism of the natural man. In Freemasonry this mystical birth is reproduced by the name “Lewis”, which is traditionally associated with the Craft. The word “Lewis” is an excellent example of the cryptic language deliberately employed by the compilers of our Ritual, for on close examination it will be found to be a corruption of Eleusis and other Greek and Latin names indicating Light. Hence it is that in our Instruction Lectures “Lewis” is said to designate “the son of a Freemason”, but assuredly this has no reference to human parentage and son ship. It refers to the mystical birth of the Divine Light, the Light of the World, in oneself; as a familiar Scriptural text has it, “Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given”, truly an exalted parentage. The Instruction Lectures further describe a “Lewis” as something which “when dovetailed into a stone forms a clamp and enables the Mason to raise great weights to certain heights, while fixing them on their proper bases”, all of which is a concealed way of expressing the fact that, when the Light of Divine Wisdom is brought forward from man’s submerged depths and firmly grafted or dovetailed into his natural organism, he then becomes able easily to grapple with difficulties, problems an d “weights” of all kinds which to the ordinary man are insuperable.
In the time that the Eleusinian Mysteries flourished as a public institution it was regarded as essential by the cultured to apply for initiation, on the grounds that the training and instruction were religiously conducive to the making of good men and good citizens, and it is worthy of mention that in our day substantially the same message has been convoyed to the popular world through the medium of the public press by the Aims and Relations Committee of the United Grand Lodge of England.
In former times, however, the principles of the Initiation science were not communicated to candidates, merely by the discharge of certain ceremonial formalities, and educated men applied to enter the Mysteries in the same way that in our day students go into residence at a University and are required to graduate. The future development and value of the Masonic Order as a moral force in society will depend, therefore, upon a revival, in a form adapted to modern conditions, of the ancient Wisdom-teaching and also of the practice of those Mysteries which became prescribed fifteen centuries ago, but of which modern Freemasonry is the direct and representative descendant.
At the time when the Mysteries flourished, accepted candidates were graded according to their moral efficiency and their intellectual or spiritual stature. For a period of years they underwent disciplinary intellectual exercises and bodily asceticism, during which they were subjected to periodical tests in order to determine their fitness to proceed to the more solemn and serious processes of actual initiation. Initiation was administered only to those who were duly qualified, and the precise nature was of a secret and closely guarded character. An echo of this progress by regular stages is found in our present day ritual, in the information given to the candidate during the Ceremony of Initiation, stipulating that “their are several degrees in Freemasonry with peculiar secrets restricted to each” and the accompanying reminder that these are “not conferred upon candidates indiscriminately, but only according to merit and ability”. The education of aspirants for Initiation was directed solely to the cultivation of the “four cardinal virtues”, and this at once brings to mind the reference in our own Lectures wherein it is affirmed that “tradition informs us” that they “were constantly practiced by the majority of our ancient Brethren”. A further qualification prerequisite to a participation in the higher order of life was the study of the “seven liberal arts and sciences”.
The construction put upon these virtues and sciences was, however, a much more advanced one than the modern mind considers adequate; and it is interesting to note that although we have not departed from the essential curriculum in theory in the Craft today, in the matter of practice there is a wide difference. For instance, with our Ancient Brethren the virtue of TEMPERANCE involved the complete control of the passional nature; FORTITUDE, implied a courage which is undismayed by adversity, and which permits of no deflection from the goal in view;
PRUDENCE, comprehended that deep insight leading to forward-seeing and producing the prophetic faculty of seer-ship; JUSTICE, demanded unswerving righteousness of thought, word and deed. The “arts and sciences” were also of a positive nature, and they were termed “liberal” because the educational curriculum was expressly designed to “liberate” the soul of the aspirant from the illusions incident to the natural state. Thus GRAMMAR, LOGIC and RH ETORIC were treated as disciplines of the moral nature, by means of which irrational tendencies were eradicated and candidates trained to become living witnesses of the universal Logos and effectively speaking with the “tongue of good report”. GEOMETRY and ARITHMETIC were sciences of transcendental space and numeration, the complete comprehension of which provided the key to both the Universe and man himself, for each expression of life was shown to have its number, rate of vibration or wave length, its form and particular place in the Grand Plan of T.G.A.O.T.U. The science of AS TRONOMY not only included the observation of the heavenly bodies, but was primarily directed to the study of metaphysics and the correct understanding of the distribution of the forces in, and determining the destiny of, individuals, nations and the race. Finally, MUSIC, was not confined to the study of vocal or instrumental works, but was concerned with the adjustment of the personal life into harmony with the Centre of All Life, God, by the living practice of philosophy.
The Eleusinian Mysteries, then, involved much more than a merely notional philosophy; they required also a philosophic method of living, and this method was divided into two main parts, which were known as the Lesser and the Greater Mysteries. In the Lesser Mysteries the elementary instruction was imparted, but the object of these was to enable candidates to proceed with the task of purifying and adapting their lives to the truths which were disclosed to them. The Greater Mysteries related to developments of consciousness within the soul itself, and were connected with the new and intensified life which was the direct result of fidelity to the prescribed disciplines. To draw a faint analogy, the Lesser Mysteries stood in the same relationship to the Greater as our present Craft degrees do to the Holy Royal Arch. Candidates who became proficient and properly prepared in accordance with the curriculum of the Lesser mysteries were eventually admitted to initiation in the Greater, while those who failed to qualify were not permitted to proceed. The decree restraining unqualified candidates from advancement to the Greater Mysteries was not arbitrary, but was absolutely necessary in the interests of candidates themselves because inward purity of heart and mind, coupled with the possession of the four cardinal virtues, was essential to the ordeals of actual initiation, which otherwise rendered the aspirant liable to insanity and obsessions. It was for this reason that the number of qualified candidates amounted to only a small percentage of those who entered the Mysteries, and this law remains valid in our day for we find the same truth restated in the V. of the S.L., which is the text book of our modern system, in the familiar words, “Many are called, but few are chosen”.
One qualification above all was demanded from those who applied to enter the Mysteries, – humility, and it is for admission into important to note that the candidate for admission into Freemasonry is still required to come “humbly soliciting”. The reason for this was, and still is today, that the wisdom into which the Mysteries and initiation admit a man is foolishness to the worldly minded. To attain it a candidate must therefore be prepared for a complete and voluntary renunciation of worldly wisdom and this may involve his finding negated everything he has previously held to be true, and which, furthermore, those among whom he ordinarily mingles will continue to believe, and insist, to be true. Speaking of this manner of approach to the comprehension of things spiritual, St. Paul, in his Epistle to the Corinthians, declares, “Let no man deceive himself, if any man among you seemed to be wise in this world, let him become a fool, that he may be wise” (1st. Corinthians; Chapter 3, verse 18). The candidate for the Christian Mysteries was instructed that he was to be content to “become a fool for the kingdom of heaven’s sake”, and was to be ready t o suffer adversity a nd ridicule, should the necessity arise. This was one of the prime reasons for secrecy and one – though not the only one – of the origins of the Masonic injunction as to secrecy. In the public processions of the Lesser Mysteries of Eleusis, the sacramental vessels and elements were carried upon the back of an ass, to signify that for the reception of divine knowledge “humility is an essential virtue”, while in the V. of the S.L., the same thing is symbolized by the Palm-Sunday ride into Jerusalem of popular conception, of which we read, “thy King cometh unto thee, just and having salvation; lowly and riding upon an ass”. Apuleius, in the “Golden Ass”, provides the explanation when he writes, “There is no creature so able to receive divinity as an ass; into which if ye be not turned, ye shall in no wise be able to carry the divine mysteries”.
In addition to the practical instruction included in the curriculum of the Mysteries, another and greatly educative means employed was the expression by means of myths of truths of the Divine world and the entire spiritual history of man. The Greek mythologists were adepts at expressing cosmic and philosophic truths in the guise of fables which conveyed theosophical teaching to the discerning and veiled it from the profane. Myth-making was a science, and not, as many allege, an indulgence in irresponsible fiction, and by their presentation in dramatic form candidates were instructed in the fundamental verities of life. One of the best known of the Greek myths is that of Demeter and her daughter Persephone, which was performed annually with great ceremony at the Eleusinia. It told how the maiden Persephone strayed away from Arcadia (heaven) and from her mother Demeter, to pluck flowers in the fields of Enna, and how the soil there opened and caused her to fall into the lower dark world of Hades ruled over by Pluto. The despair of the mother at the loss of her daughter reached Zeus, the chief of the Gods, with the result that he ordained that providing that the girl had not eaten of the fruit of Hades, she should forthwith be restored to her mother for ever, but that if she had so eaten she must abide a third of each year with Pluto and return to Demeter for the other two thirds. Enquiry proved that unfortunately Persephone had eaten a pomegranate in the lower world, so that her restoration to her mother could not be permanent, but only periodic. This myth is the story of the human soul and is of precisely the same nature as the Mosaic myth of Adam and Eve and the apple, and, as the parable of the Prodigal Son, neither of which have any physical reference. Persephone denotes the human soul, generated out of that primordial incorruptible mother-earth which the Greeks personified as Demeter, in the same way as the Mosaic narrative speaks of God forming man out of the dust of the ground. Her straying from her Arcadian home and heavenly mother in quest of flowers (flowers symbolizing fresh experiences) in the fields of Enna, corresponds with the same promptings of desire that led to Adam’s disobedience in the Garden of Eden and his fall thence to this outer world, The word “Enna” signifies “darkness and bitterness”, which is the result of unruly desires, and a fuller explanation of the meaning will be found in the V. of the S.L., where it is translated from the original as GEHENNA. Pluto, is designated the “god of riches”, meaning the riches of wisdom and experience, and it is into his kingdom that Persephone fell. The “eating of fruit” alludes to the inferior pleasures of this lower plane of existence, which, as the Pomegranate symbolizes, is many-seeded with illusions and vanities. Until these false tendencies are eradicated until the desires of the heart are utterly weaned from external delights, there can be no permanent restoration of the soul to its source, but merely the periodic respite and refreshment that physical death brings when it withdraws the soul from Pluto’s realm to the heaven-world, to be followed again and again by periodic descents into material limitations and re-ascents into discarnate, conditions, until it becomes fully perfected.
Freemasonry, as already indicated, being the lineal descendant of the ancient Wisdom-teaching, follows the traditional method of imparting instruction by means of myths, and its canon of teaching in the Craft degrees contains two such myths. The first is that of
the building of King Solomon’s Temple, and the second, the narrative of the death and burial of the Master Builder related in the traditional history. To the literal-minded, the building of the Temple at Jerusalem appears to be the history of an actual stone
and mortar structure which was erected by three Asiatic notables, one of whom conceived the idea, another supplying the building material, whilst the third was the practical architect and chief of works. The two former are said to have been kings of adjacent small nations; the third was not a royalty, but was apparently a person of no social dignity and a widow’s son. For the good of Freemasonry in general, let it be clearly stated in the words of St. Paul, “Which things are an allegory”, for the Masonic Temple of Solomon is not one of common brick and stone. It is fashioned out of that “unhewn stone” or incorruptible raw material out of which the Creator formed the human organism. The Jerusalem in which this temple was built was obviously not the geographical one in
Palestine, but refers to the eternal “city of peace” in the heavens, or, in other words, “that House not made with hands”; not, as St, Paul also affirms, “the Jerusalem which now is”, but “the Jerusalem which is above, which is the m other of us all” (Epistle to the Galatians, Chapter 4, verse 26), and thus corresponding to the Greek Demeter. Neither were the builders of the Temple three human personages resident in the Levant, for their names are the personification of the Divine energy considered in its three constituent principles, which are otherwise spoken of in our Lectures as Wisdom, Strength and Beauty.
These three principles of “Pillars” as they are also termed in the Instruction Lectures, are personified by S. K. of I., H.K. of T., and H.A., and an explanation of their concealed significance is necessary in order to properly interpret the myth. Solomon personifies the primordial Life-Essence or substantialised Divine Wisdom which is the basis of our being; this is described as “King of Israel” because Israel means “co-operating or ruling with God”. To conjoin this transcendental Life-Essence to a vehicle which should give it fixity and form required the assistance of another “kingly” principle, personified as “King of Tyre”, who therefore may correctly be said to have supplied the “building material”. In Hebrew the name “Tyre” signifies “rock” and refers to strength or durability, and the conjunction of Solomon and Hiram of Tyre (Life-Essence and Mould or Matrix) therefore represents the groundwork of the soul, which is made functionally effective by the addition of the third principle described as the “widow’s son”, and personifying the active intellectual principle or Logos. Thus H. A. is the Christ-principle immanent in every soul; crucified, dead and buried in all who are not alive to its presence, but nevertheless resident i n all as a saving force. Again to quote St. Paul, “Christ in you, the hope of glory”. The description of this principle as “the widow’s son reflects in our modern system a beautiful piece of the Gnostic symbolism, and refers to the widowed nature of the Divine Motherhood as the result of the defection from wisdom of her frail children. The true Gnosis informs us that only those children who are striving while in the flesh to rejoin their Mother are worthy to be known as “sons of the widow”, and as our ceremonial rite clearly indicates, it is from these laboring at the task that the traditional petition is addressed to all those who have rejoined her, “Come to my help ye sons of the Widow, for I also am the Widow’s son”.
The Temple of the human soul, primordially constituted of the three principles exemplified in due balance and proportion and divinely pronounced to be “very good”, has owing to the certain untoward incident, which is the subject of our central Masonic legend, been thrown down from its primitive eminence. Its fall has been effected by the disproportioned, unbalanced, and therefore, disorderly abuse of its inherent powers. Thus man is now, figuratively speaking, a ruined temple, over which it is written, “Ichabod”, – “the glory has departed” for severed from conscious intercourse with his Vital and Immortal Principle, man is a prisoner in captivity to himself and his temporal nature; it remains for him to retrace his steps and rebuild his temple. Hence it is that the Masonic candidate is counselled to continue no longer in bondage to his self-made illusions and the attractions of “worldly possessions”, but to become a free man and a mason, engaged in the work of shaping himself into a “living stone” for the cosmic temple of a regenerate Humanity. In the Craft to be installed in the “Chair of King Solomon” means, therefore, in the true sense; the re-attainment of “that which is lost”, and this is rightly
represented to be the aim of every Freemason. In fact if we do not re-attain the Divine Wisdom during our sojourn in this world, we miss the opportunity, since it is universally attested to that the after-death state is not one of labour, but of refreshment and rest, where no real progress is possible. Initiation, therefore, was instituted to impart the science of re-attainment, but we are reminded as the Ancient Mysteries taught, that the soul that never even begins this work in this world, will not be able to begin it in the hereafter, and will remain suspended in the more tenuous planes of this planet, until such time as it is again indrawn into the vortex of generation by the ever-turning wheel of life.
It is for this reason that the Masonic candidate is admonished, “be careful to perform your allotted task while it is yet day”, the implication being that stated in the V, of the S.L., “Now is the time for salvation, for the night cometh when no man can work”. The Masonic conception of the “Grand Lodge Above” is also in accord with the teaching contained in the V. of the S.L. concerning the post-mortem levels of existence, for we read that, “In my Father’s house are many mansions”, or, literally, resting places, a nd that they and their occupants are graduated in Hierarchical order according to their degree of spiritual eminence. “As Above, so Below”, affirms the ancient axiom, but unfortunately the modern world has lost all sense of the principle of hierarchy, which, since it obtains in the higher world, ought to be reflected in this. Freemasonry, however, preserves the witness to this graduation in the symbolic distribution of its membership, for above the Craft Lodge there presides the Provincial Grand Lodge, while beyond that rules the Grand Lodge of the nation. Then theoretically higher than any of these is the Royal Arch Chapters with the Provincial and Grand Chapters at the summit. Also in the symbolic clothing worn by the members of each of these ranks, the observant student will perceive the intention to give appropriate expression to the truth which is thereby signified. Thus the pure white Masonic Apron is fringed with a pale blue in the case of junior brethren, a pale shade of that blue which, even in physical nature, is the color of the heavens. In the case of the seniors of the Provincial and Grand Lodges the pale blue of the craft is intensified to the deepest degree, and the clothing is adorned with gold lace, thus emblematizing that which is referred to by the Psalmist, “The King’s daughter (the soul) is all glorious within, her clothing is wrought of gold”. Proceeding to the Royal Arch it will be observed that the devotional blue of the craft is now indented with red, the color of fire denoting spiritual labor, and the blend of these results in purple which in both earth and heaven is always the prerogative of royalty. Thus it is, that by their clothing in the various grades, the members of the Masonic Order are emblematic on earth of the angels, archangels and all the company of Heaven.
And now, brethren, may I conclude this Paper, and close, as every Lodge is closed, in peace and concord with all my Brethren, and with the ancient prayer that the Order may be preserved of God, and its members cemented with every virtue. If, in what I have written, Freemasonry has been given a conception spiritualized beyond the measure of its common understanding, I have but followed the example of our Ancient Brethren, who lifting their eyes to the hills whence cometh strength, wrought their work upon the highest eminences of the mind and discerned the Mysteries, not with eyes of flesh, but with the vision and understanding of the spirit. It may be that few are prepared to ascend to those high hills today, in this more than usually troubled and dark age, but nevertheless some are ready and eager to do so despite the great trials and tribulations which are incident to world in upheaval, and for them I have especially compiled this record. At the moment, the World-spirit is dominant in all institutions. Wisdom is little apparent; for want of vision the people perish; and the quest for light has to be pursued under conditions of peculiar adversity.
But, we are reminded that there is a mystery of darkness no less than one of Light; and, in the molding hands of the Great Architect of the House of Life, the darkness and the light are both alike and serve as twin pillars, that, finally, will establish the House in strength. Those, then, who are not yet prepared to mount the higher path of understanding the things of the Craft, are nevertheless incorporated in our great Fraternity, for as we are
reminded by the words of a familiar Masonic Ode, we are charged and required to extend:- “A welcome sweet to all we meet Within our sacred walls; May God still grant that those we greet May haste when Duty calls.”
Finally, it remains with the craft itself, whether it shall enter upon its own heritage as a lineal successor of the Ancient Mysteries and Wisdom-teaching, or whether by failing to do so, it will undergo the inevitable fate of everything that is but form, from which the spirit has departed.
SO MOTE IT BE.
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