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The Masonic Initiation is the powerful sequel to W. L. Wilmshurst's other enduring classic, The Meaning of Masonry. Here, we find the author's most advanced expression as he explores the profound depths of Masonic ritual as a contemplative art, and offers his vision of the future of the Order. Both Freemasons and those who study the Craft from a distance will enjoy these insightful essays. Prominent Masonic author Robert G. Davis wrote that this book "induced many generations of Masons to feel that, when they are in the sacred space of lodge, they are in the presence of a mystery that goes to the root of their own being." Walter Leslie Wilmshurst was an English author and Freemason. He published four books on English Freemasonry and submitted articles to The Occult Review magazine.
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Neither is Masonry a Philosophy ; albeit behind it lies a large philosophical background not appearing in its surface-rituals and doctrine, but left for discovery to the research and effort of the Brethren . That philosophical background is a Gnosis or Wisdom-teaching as old as the world, one which has been shared alike by the Vedists of the East, the Egyptian, Chaldean and Orphic Initiation systems, the Pythagorean and Platonist schools, and all the Mystery Temples of both the past and the present, Christian or otherwise. The present renaissance in the Masonic Order is calculated to cause a marked, if gradual, revival of interest in that philosophy, with the probable eventual result that there will come about a general restoration of the Mysteries, inhibited during the last sixteen centuries . But of this more will be said in the final section of this book
The official description of Masonry is that it is a "System of Morality." This is true, but in two senses, one only of which is usually thought of. The term is usually interpreted as meaning a "system of morals." But men need not enter a secret order to learn morals and study ethics ; nor is an elaborate duction ceremonial organization needed to teach them. Elementary morals can be, and are, learned in the outside world ; and must be learned there if one is to be merely a decent member of society . The possession of "strict morals," as every Mason knows, is a preliminary qualification for entering the Order ; a man does not enter it to acquire them after he has entered . It is true he finds the Order insistent on obedience to the Moral Law and emphasising closer cultivation of certain ethical virtues, as is essential to those who propose to enter upon a course of spiritual science ; and this is the primary, more obvious sense in which the term "system of morality" is used
But the word "morality," in its original, and also in its Masonic, connotation, has a further meaning ; one carrying the same sense as it does when we speak of a "morality-play ." A "morality" is a literary or dramatic way of expressing spiritual truth, putting it forward allegorically and in accordance with certain well-settled principles and methods (mores) ; it is the equivalent of a usage or "use," as ecclesiastics speak of "the Sarum use" or liturgy . In the same sense Plutarch's Moralia is largely a series of disquisitions upon the mores of the ancient religious Mystery-schools .
A "system of morality," therefore, means secondarily" a systematized and dramatized method of moral discipline and philosophic instruction, based on ancient usage and long established practice ." The method in question is that of Initiation ; the usage and practice is that of allegory and symbol, which it is the Freemason's duty, if he wishes to understand his system, to labour to interpret and put to personal application. If he fails to do so, he still remains and the system deliberately intends that he should in the dark about the Order's real meaning and secrets, although formally a member of it . The Order, the morality-system, merely guarantees its own possession of Truth ; it does not undertake to impart it save to those who labour for it . For Truth and its real arcana can never be communicated directly, or save through allegory and symbol, myth and sacrament. The onus of translating these must ever rest with the recipient as part .-of his lifework ; until he makes the truth his own he can never know it to be truth ; he must do the will before he can know the doctrine . "I know not how it is" (said St. Bernard of Clairvaux of allegory and symbol) "but the more that spiritual realities are clothed with obscuring veils, the more they delight and attract ; and nothing so much heightens longing for them as such tender refusal."
Masonry, then,-as a "system of morality" as thus defined-is neither a Religion nor a Philosophy, but at once a Science and an Art, a Theory and a Practice ; and this was ever the way in which the Schools of the Ancient Wisdom and Mysteries proceeded. They first exhibited to the intending disciple a picture of the Life-process ; they taught him the story of the soul's genesis and descent into this world ; they showed him its present imperfect, restricted state and its unfortunate position ; they indicated that there was a scientific method by which it might be perfected and regain its original condition . This was the Science-half of their systems, the programme or theory placed induction advance before disciples, that they might have a thorough intellectual grasp of the
purpose of the Mysteries and what admission to them involved . Then followed the other half ; the practical work to be done by the disciple upon himself, in purifying himself ; controlling his sense-nature ; correcting natural undisciplined tendencies ; mastering his thought, his mental processes and will, by a rigorous rule of life and art of living . When he showed proficiency in both the theory and the practice, and could withstand certain tests, then but not before he was allowed the privilege of Initiation-a secret process, conferred by already initiated Masters or experts, the details of which were never disclosed outside the process itself.
Such, in a few words, was the age-old science of the Mysteries, whether in Egypt, Greece or elsewhere, and it is that science which, in very compressed, diluted form, is perpetuated and reproduced in modem Masonry. To emphasizing and demonstrating this fact, both the present and my former volume are devoted ; their purpose being coupled with a hope that, when the true intention of the Order is perceived, the Craft may begin to fulfill its original design and become an instrument of real initiating efficiency instead of, as hitherto, a merely social and charitable institution . Indeed the place and office of Masonry cannot be adequately appreciated without acquaintance with the Mysteries Masonry of antiquity, for, as a poet (Patmore) wrote who knew and the latter perfectly,
Save by the Old Road none attain the new,
And from the Ancient Hills alone we catch the view !
Masonry having the above purpose, whilst not a religion, is consistent with and adaptable to any and every religion. But it is capable of going further. For an Order of Initiation (like the monastic Orders within the older Churches) is intended to provide a higher standard of instruction, a larger communication of truth and wisdom, than the elementary ones offered by public popular religion ; and at the same time it requires more rigorous personal discipline and imposes much more exacting claims upon the mind and will of its adherents . The popular religious teaching of any people, Christian or not, is as it were for the masses as yet incapable of stronger food and unadapted to rigorous discipline ; it is accommodated to the simple understanding of the man in the street, jog-trotting along the road of life. Initiation is meant for the expert, the determined spiritual athlete, ready to face the deeper mysteries of being, and resolute to attain, as soon as may be, the heights to which he knows his own spirit, when awakened, can take him.
Is not the present declension of interest in popular religion and public worship due-far from entirely, yet largely-not to irreligiousness, but to the fact that conventional religious presentation does not satisfy the rational and spiritual needs of a public forced and disciplined by the exigencies of modem existence to insist upon a clear understanding and a firm intellectual foothold in respect of any form of venture duction it is called upon to undertake ? Is not the turn-over of so many essentially religiously-minded and earnestly questing people from the Churches to variants of religious expression, including Masonry, due largely to that reason and to the fact that the Churches, whilst inculcating faith, offering hope, proclaiming love, fail entirely in providing what the Mysteries of the past always did-such a clear philosophical explanation of life and the Universe as provided-not proof, which in regard to ultimate verities it is impossible to offer-but an intellectual motive for turning from things of sense to things of spirit ?
Nothing is further from my wish or intention in these pages than to extol Masonry at the expense of any existing Religion or Church, or to suggest competition between institutions which are not and can never be competitors, but complementaries . I am merely asserting the simple obvious facts that popular favour has turned, and will more and more turn, to that market which best supplies its needs, and that for many nowadays the Churches fail to supply those needs, or form at best an inferior or inadequate source of supply. The growing human intelligence has outgrown-not religious
truth but presentations of it that sufficed in less exacting social conditions than obtain to-day, and it is calling for more sustaining nutriment.
It may be useful to recall how the position was viewed not long ago by an advanced mind racially detached from the religion and ways of the Western world. A Hindu religious Master, an Initiate, who attended the World's Congress of Religions at Chicago as the representative of the Vedantists, made an observational tour of America and Europe with a view to sympathetically understanding and appraising their religious organizations and methods. His conclusions may be summarized thus :"The Western ideal is to be doing (to be active) ; the Eastern, to be suffering (to be passive) . The perfect life would be a wonderful harmony of the two . Western religious organizations (Churches and sects) involve grave disadvantages ; for they are always breeding new evils, which are not known to the East with its absence of organization . The perfect condition would come from a true blending of these opposite methods . For the Western soul, it is well for a man to be born in a Church, but terrible for him to die in one ; for in religion there must be growth. A young man is to be censured who fails to attend and learn from the Church of his nation ; the elderly man is equally to be censured if he does attend he ought to have outgrown what that Church offers and to have attained a higher order of religious life and understanding ."
The same conclusion was expressed by an eminent and ardent religionist of our own country :"The work of the Church in the world is not to teach the mysteries of life, so much as to persuade the soul to that arduous degree of purity at which Deity Himself becomes her teacher . The work of the Church ends when the knowledge of God begins ."In other words Initiation science (in a real and not merely a ceremonial sense) is needed and commences to be applicable only when elementary spiritual tuition has been assimilated and richer nourishment is called for. The same writer, though a zealous member of the Roman Church, affirms frankly and truly that in any age of the world, the real Initiate of the Mysteries, whatever his race or national religion, must needs always stand higher in spiritual wisdom and stature than the non-initiate of the Christian or any other faith .
Such testimonies as these point to-what many others will feel to be a necessity-the need of some complementary, supplementary aid to popular Religion ; some Higher Grade School, in the greater seclusion and privacy of which can be both studied and practized lessons in the secrets and mysteries of our being which cannot be exhibited coram populo . Such an aid is provided by a Secret Order, an Initiation system, and is at hand in Freemasonry . It remains to be seen whether the Masonic Craft, in both its own and the larger ulterior interest of society, will avail itself of the opportunity in its hands . There being a tendency in that direction in the Craft to-day, the pages of this and of my former book are offered to encouraging that tendency to a fruition that could not make otherwise than for the general good.
But let those of us who are desirous to farther that tendency, and to see provided an advanced system of spiritual instruction, never entertain a notion of competing with any other community, or permit ourselves a single thought of disparagement or contempt towards either those who learn or those who teach in other places . Life involves growth . The hyacinth-bulb in the pot before me will not remain a bulb, whose life and stature are to be restricted to the level of the pot it has been placed in. It will shoot up a foot higher and there burst in flower and fragrance, albeit that its roots remain in the soil. Similarly each human life is as a bulb providentially planted in some pot, in some Religion, some Church. If it truly fulfils the law and central instincts of its nature it will outgrow that pot, rise high above the pot's surface-level, and ultimately blossom in a consciousness transcending anything it knew whilst in the bulb stage . That consciousness will be one not of the beginner, the student, the neophyte in the Mysteries ; it will be that of the full Initiate .
But that perfected life will still be rooted in the soil, and, far from despising it, will be for ever grateful for the pot in which its growth became possible . Masonry will, therefore, never disparage
simpler or less advanced forms of intellectual or spiritual instruction . The Mason, above all men and in a much fuller, deeper sense, will respond to the old ordinance "Honour thy father and mother In whatever form, under whichsoever of the many names the God-idea presents itself to himself or his fellow-men, he will honour the Universal Father ; and in whatsoever soil of Mother-Earth, or whichsoever section of Mother-Church, he or they have received their infant nurture, he will honour that Mother, even as he is bound also to honour his own Mother Lodge ; seeing in each of these the temporal reflection of still another Mother, the supernal parent described as "the Mother of us all."
Upon one other point I must add a word. A duction writer wishing to help on the understanding of Masonry, as fully as may be, in the interests of Brethren who, as events have shown, are waiting in numbers to receive and ready to turn to account such help as may be given, is put to real anxiety to find a way of so writing that he simultaneously discharges the combined duty of extending that help and of observing his own obligations as to silence.
In my former volume I explained that, in respect of necessary safeguards, all due secrecy should be observed; and the assurance is now repeated in respect of the present one. No non-Mason need look to find in these pages any of the distinctive secrets of the Craft; no Mason, I believe, will trace in them any disloyal word or motive, or recognize in them anything but earnest anxiousness to promote the Craft's interests to the uttermost. Moreover the things I permit myself to say are, I conceive, exempt from silence as regards the Craft, for they are things which justly and lawfully belong to it and properly concern it ; and since its members, near and far, in full measure and in many ways have proved themselves worthy of such confidence as I can show them, I feel myself justified in addressing them more intimately than before . As regards those outside the Craft, into whose hands a published book cannot be prevented form falling, what I have written consists of things already spoken about at large in other forms of expression in these days of keen search for guidance upon the dark path of human life ; and let me here say that as warm, and almost as many, appreciations of my former volume have reached me from non-Masons as from within the Craft, and that it has attracted to the Order much sympathy and good-will that did not previously exist.
Doubtless there are eyes of such strictness that they regard any public mention of the Masonic subject as an impropriety. Even these I would not willingly offend ; yet to allow a possible technicality to prevent the giving, to those seeking it, the only gift I can make to the Craft in return for what it has given to myself, seems to me less meritorious Masonic conduct than would be the negative virtue of keeping rigid silence when so much can usefully be said.
So I take comfort from that ancient word of wisdom which proclaims that "He that observes the wind shall not sow, and he that observes the clouds will not reap 1" And though, whilst writing these pages, a morning desire to sow my seed has often been followed by an evening prompting to withhold my hand, yet the former has prevailed with me . And if of that seed, some falls upon Masonic and some chances upon other ground, who shall know whether shall prosper this or that ? ; but I pray that both shall be alike good. For, continues the same old Sage, "truly Light is sweet, and a precious thing it is for the eyes to behold the Sun" ; and to-day there are drawn blinds everywhere waiting to be lifted, to let in a Sunlight that belongs to no close community, but to all men al ik e.
So having, I hope, brought myself to order in this respect, and marking with thankful eyes the sunrise of a new order of intelligence breaking over the Brotherhood, let me now proceed, in the one Name that is thought of under many names, to declare the Lodge open, for the purpose of considering Craft-Masonry in all its degrees.
THE MASONIC INITIATION
From Darkness to Light CHAPTER I
W. L. WILMSHURST
No more needed and useful work is to be done in the Masonic Order to-day than the education of its members in the true purpose of rites of initiation, that they may the better appreciate the reason, the importance, and the seriousness, of the work the Order was designed to achieve.
Hitherto that educative work has been grievously neglected, with prejudicial results to the Craft through the admission of candidates little adapted to appreciate its purpose . Some members have no wish to be masonically educated . They are content to be Masons in name only, and are satisfied that the monotonous, mechanical repetition of unexplained ceremonies and side-lectures fulfils every requisite, and conveys all that is to be known . Yet in every Lodge are to be found brethren who are asking for something more than this, who know that the Craft was designed for wider and better ends; who, as earnest seekers after Wisdom and Light, entered the Order in the hope of finding them, but who too often are repelled by what they do find there, or lose interest on their needs being left unprovided for. It is in the special interest of this worthier type of Mason that this address is given .
We greatly need competent, trained exponents of the meaning and symbolism of the Craft ; not merely teachers of the letter of its rituals and lectures . The duty and responsibility of providing this wider instruction surely lies upon those holding the rank of Installed Master. Is not their place in that East from which real Light should continually be coming, and whence they are supposed to employ and instruct in Masonic science those who sit in less or greater degrees of darkness in other symbolic quarters of the Lodge ? Are they not the figurative representatives of royal Solomon, and symbolic mouthpieces of a more than human Wisdom ? Over each of them has there not been raised a most solemn petition that they may be endued with wisdom to comprehend, judgment to define, and ability to enforce obedience to the holy law declaring the conditions upon which real Initiation depends, so that they may effectively enlighten the minds of their Brethren ? How many Installed Masters are conscious in their hearts of possessing, or of even striving to acquire, that wisdom, that understanding of our science, that power of raising others from darkness to Light in any real and vital sense ?
Now you have called me to the presidency of this large Association of Installed Masters, whose function is to farther the best interests of the Craft in this district. In accepting that position of honour, can I better use it than by inviting you, my Worshipful Colleagues, to consider with me some lines upon which true Masonic instruction should be directed, so that we may combine in raising the general level of Masonic science in our respective Lodges, and at least try to justify more fully our pretension to be Masters of it ?
My purpose now, therefore, is, firstly, to give some idea of what real Initiation involves, and to show how great a difference exists between it and mere formal passage through the ceremonies of the Craft. Secondly, it is to explain what Initiation meant and still means in the more secret and advanced systems out of which modern Masonry has sprung as a comparatively new branch from a
very ancient tree . And lastly, it is to indicate how, and with what greater efficacy, our Lodge-work might be conducted if we better realized the true nature and purpose of the Order.
INITIATION, REAL AND CEREMONIAL
It may be a surprise to some members of our Craft to be told that our ceremonial rites, as at present performed, do not constitute or confer real Initiation at all, in the original sense of admitting a man to the solemn mysteries of the human soul, and to practical experience in divine science. The words "Initiation" and "Mysteries" have become so popularized and debased that they are nowadays used in relation to familiarizing anyone with the methods of, say, the Stock Exchange, or any other pursuit with which he is unacquainted.
We profess to confer Initiation, but few Masons know what real Initiation involves ; very few, one fears, would ' have the wish, the courage, or the willingness to make the necessary sacrifices to attain it if they did. Nevertheless our Craft Degrees give us a rough outline and fragmentary sketch of what the real process entails, and they leave it with ourselves either to amplify that sketch by our own efforts and to make its implications such a reality that our whole life becomes transformed in consequence, or to treat it as so much ceremonial through which we are only to pass formally, leaving our old imperfect nature not a whit changed by the process.
Now if Masonry, with its solemn prayers, assurances and pledges, means anything, its true purpose is to promote the spiritual life and development of its members to a degree far in advance of what it accomplishes at present. Otherwise it remains but a social formality, while its obligations and religious references are apt to lapse into profanity or even blasphemy. To prevent this there is needed a dear grasp of the fundamental purpose of an initiatory system and the reason for its existence, after which one can proceed more advantageously to understanding its degrees and symbols in detail. For without such knowledge and understanding there can be no real power, no spiritual driving-force, behind our rites; and without that power ceremonies are but perfunctory, inefficacious formalities. Ceremonies were instituted originally to give an external form to an internal act; but where the internal power to perform such acts does not exist, a ceremony will avail nothing and achieve nothing. You can go on making nominal Masons by the thousand, but you will only be creating a large organization of men who remain as unenlightened in the Mysteries as they always were. You cannot make a single real Initiate, save, as our teaching indicates, by the help of God and the earnest intelligent co-operation of those qualified to assist to the Light a fellow-being who, from his heart and not merely from his lips, desires that Light, humbly confessing himself spiritually poor, worthless, immersed in darkness, and unable to find that Light elsewhere or by his own efforts . For real Initiation means an expansion of consciousness from the human to the divine level.
Every system of real Initiation, whether of the past or present, is divided into three clear-cut stages ; since before anyone can pass from his natural darkness to the Light supernal and discover the Blazing Star or Glory at his own centre, there are three distinct tasks to be achieved. They are as follows :
First, the turning away from the attractions of the outer world, involving detachment from the allurements of all that is meant by "money and metals," and the purification and subdual of the bodily and sensual tendencies . Not everyone is able or ripe for doing this ; the natural life maintains a powerful hold over us, and our ingrained habits are not readily changed . Yet as long as any of these sensible attractions magnetize and chain us to physical enjoyment, so long are we "in worldly possessions" and precluded from attaining real Initiation into what is super-physical. This work of detachment and self-purification is our Entered Apprentice work, and to it, as you know, is theoretically allotted the long period of seven years. The reason for the seven years apprenticeship
is based on the septenary principle operating in Nature . In the course of each seven years the material particles of the human body become entirely changed and reconstituted . By a course of pure living, diet, and thought for that period, therefore, the physical organism is clarified, sublimated and made a more efficient vehicle for the transmission of the central inner Light. This is the true reason for asceticism ; the gradual substitution of refined physical tissues for grosser, impure ones .
Second, the analysis, discipline and obtaining control of one's inner world,-of the mind, of one's thoughts, one's intellectual and psychic faculties . This extremely difficult task is that of the Fellowcraft stage, to which is allotted a further five years, which with the previous seven make twelve . Because of this, the candidate who had duly completed this period was said, in the ancient systems, to be mystically "twelve years old,"-a point to which we will refer again presently.
Third, the "last and greatest trial," lay in the breaking and surrender of the personal will, the dying down of all sense of personality and self-hood, so that the petty personal will may become merged in the divine Universal Will and the illusion of separate independent existence give way to conscious realization of unity with the one Life that permeates the Universe . For so only can one be raised from conditions of unreality, strife and figurative death to a knowledge of ultimate Reality, Peace and Life Immortal. To attain this is to attain Mastership, involving complete domination of the lower nature and the development in oneself of a higher order of life and faculty . And he who thus attained was said to be of the mystical age of thirty years, of which also I will say more presently.
Now it is these three stages, these three labours or processes, that are epitomised dramatically in our three Degrees . Every Mason in taking those Degrees identifies himself ceremonially with what they signify ; he also solemnly obligates himself to put their significance into actual practice in his subsequent life. But it is obvious that those labours are highly arduous tasks demanding the whole time, the persistent thought, and the concentrated energies, of any one who submits himself to them . They are not achieved by merely passing through a sequence of ceremonies in three successive months, at the end of which the candidate, far from being an Initiate, usually remains the same bewildered, benighted man he was before, knowing only that he has been hurried through three formal rites entitling him at last to the august title of Master Mason.
Hence we are justified in asserting that Masonry, as now unintelligently practised, does not and cannot confer real Initiation ; it merely discharges certain ceremonial formalities . Nevertheless in those formalities the earnest Mason, the diligent pursuer of the path of Light, is given a clear chart of the process of spiritual self-development which he can follow up by his own subsequent exertions ; and further, he is directed to a most valuable key for unlocking central truth and discovering the hidden secrets and mysteries of his own being,-the key of intense aspiration to find the Light of the centre.
"Does that key hang or lie?" asks one of our lectures . For most Masons it lies . It lies rusting and unused, because they either do not desire or do not know how to use it, or have no one competent to show them how to do so. For some few it hangsyou are taught where-and, though it is of no manner of metal, those who have found and use it, pursuing their quest with fervency and zeal, if perhaps at first with shambling feet and uncertain steps, may assuredly hope to gain admission into the Lodge of their own soul, and, when the last hoodwink falls that now blinds their vision, to find themselves there face to face with the Master of that Lodge, and in possession of every point of fellowship with Him.
A poet well schooled in the process of real Initiation has thus written of it:
Pierce thy heart to find the key
With thee take
Only what none else would take Lose, that the lost thou mayst receive ;
Die, for none other way cant live .
When earth and heaven lay down their veil And that apocalypse turns thee pale,
When thy seeing blindeth thee To what thy fellow-mortals see,
When their sight to thee is sightless,
Their living, death ; their light, most lightless ;
Seek no more ....
Francis Thompson's "Mistress of Vision ."
For it is then, and only then, that true Initiation is achieved, that the lost Word is found at the deep centre of one's own .heart, and the genuine but withheld secrets of our immortal being are restored to us in exchange for the natural knowledge and faculties which, in this world of time and change, have been given us by Providence as their temporary and mortal substitutions .
The Purpose of the Mysteries
We shall understand little of the purpose of Masonry unless we know that of the older systems out of which it issued. That purpose was to promote and expedite the spiritual evolution of those who desired the regeneration of their nature and were prepared to submit to the necessary discipline. Thus the work of the Ancient Mysteries was something vastly more serious and momentous than merely passing candidates through a series of formal rites as we do to-day. Their great buildings, which still survive, were assuredly not erected at such immense labour and skill merely to provide convenient meeting-places, l ik e our modern Lodge premises, at which to administer a formal rite at the end of a day devoted to business and secular pursuits . The mass of Initiation literature and hieroglyphs available to us reveals how drastic and searching was the work to which candidates were subjected under the expert guidance of Masters who had previously undergone the same discipline and become competent to advance their juniors . With them the work was a difficult but exact science, claiming one's whole time and energies ; it was the highest, greatest and holiest of all forms of science-the science of the human soul and the art of its conversion from a natural to a regenerate supernatural state . Reminiscences of the dignity of this work still survive in our references to Masonry as the "noble science" and "royal art," terms meaningless to-day, although each newly made Mason is charged to make daily progress in Masonic science and every one installed into the chair of a Lodge is termed a Master of Arts and Sciences .
But this secret immemorial science could be imparted only to those morally fit and spiritually ripe for it, as not all men yet are . It was meant only for those bent on passing from the moral and intellectual darkness in which normal humanity is plunged, to that Light which dwells in their darkness, though that darkness comprehendeth it not until it is opened up at their centre . It was solely for those who sought the way, the truth and the supernatural life, and were ready to divest themselves of the "money and metals" of temporal interests and concentrate their energies upon the evolution of the higher principles of their nature, which is possible only by the abnegation and surrender of their lower tendencies .
Evolution, nowadays recognized as a universal process in Nature, is sometimes supposed to be a modern discovery. But the ancient Wisdom-teaching knew and acted upon it ages before modem scientists discovered it in our own day. It recognized that in all the Universe there is but one Life broken up and differentiated into innumerable forms, and evolving through those forms from less to greater degrees of perfection . In Masonic metaphor it saw Nature to be the vast general quarry and forest out of which individual lives have been hewn l ik e so much stones and timber, which when duly perfected are destined to be fitted together and built into a new and higher synthesis, a majestic Temple worthy of the Divine indwelling, and of which Solomon's temple was a type. All life has issued out of the "East," i.e., from the Great World of Infinite Spirit, and has journeyed to the "West" or the Little World of finite form and embodiment, whence, when duly perfected by experience in those restricted conditions, it is ordained to return to the "East." Hence when our Entered Apprentice is asked in the lecture, whence he comes and whither he goes, he replies that he is on his way back from the temporal West to the eternal East. The answer corresponds with a fuller one to be found in the surviving records of the early British Initiates, the Welsh bards, where to the same question the following reply is made:
"I came from the Great World, having my beginning in Spirit. I am now in the Little World (of form and body) where I have traversed the circle of strife and evolution, and now, at its termination, I am man . In my beginning I had but a bare capacity for life ; but I came through every form capable of a body and life to the state of man, where my condition was severe and grievous during the age of ages . I came through every form capable of life, in water, in earth, in air. And there happened to me every severity, every hardship, every . evil, every suffering. But purity and perfection cannot be-obtained without seeing and knowing everything, and this is not possible without suffering everything . And there can be no full and perfect Love that does not provide for its creatures the conditions, needful to lead to the experience that results in perfection Every one shall attain to the circle of perfection at last."
—From "Barddas" ; the ancient initiate tradition of Welsh Druidic
Life, then, was seen as broken up and distributed into innumerable individualized lives or souls and as passing from one bodily form to another in a perpetual progression . (In Masonic metaphor those individualized souls are called "stones," for stone or rock is an emblem of what is most enduring, and the stones are rough ashlars or perfect cubes accordingly as they exist in the rough or have been squared, worked upon, and polished) . The bodily form with which the soul becomes invested upon entering this world (symbolized by the Mason being invested with the apron) was seen to be transient, variable, perishable, of small moment compared with the life or soul animating it . Yet it was of the greatest importance in another way, since it provided a fulcrum point or point of resistance for the soul's education and development. It was, as we still term it, the "tomb of transformation" ; the grave into which the soul descended for the purpose of working out its own salvation, for transforming and improving itself, and ascending out of it the stronger and wiser for the experience . Thus life was seen as one continuous stream, temporarily checked by the particular form that clothed it, but flowing on from form to form to ever new and higher conditions ; slumbering in the mineral, dreaming in the plant, waking in the animal, and reaching moral self-consciousness in man.
But does the ascending process end there ? Is man as he is now, the goal, the last word, of evolution ? Surely, no. As a Persian Initiate once wrote :
I died as a mineral and became a plant .
I died as a plant and rose to animal.
I died as an animal and became man .
Why should I fear ? When did I ever grow less by dying ?
Yet once more I shall die as, man, to soar
With angels blest. But even from angelhood I must pass on.
I shall become what no mind e'er conceived !
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