“Wisdom alone is the right coin with which to deal
and with it everything of real worth is bought and sold. And for it,
Temperance and Justice, Fortitude and Prudence, are a kind of preliminary purification. And those, who instituted
the Mysteries for us appear to have been by no means contemptible
persons and to have intimated in a veiled manner that whoever descends
into Hades uninitiated and without being a partaker in the Mysteries,
shall lie in the mire, but that whoever arrived there purified and
initiated, shall dwell with the Gods. Yet, as said by those who preside
over the Mysteries - 'Many
are the candidates seeking Initiation, But few are the perfected
Initiates.' But these few are, in my judgment, true wisdom lovers
and that I may be of their number. I shall leave nothing
unattempted, but shall exert myself .in all possible ways ." Socrates in Plato's Phcedo.
This book is meant to be a sequel to and an
amplification of, my previous volume, The Meaning of Masonry,
first published in 1922--a collection of papers issued diffidently and
tentatively on the chance, that they might interest some few members of
the Craft in the deeper and philosophic aspect of Freemasonry. It at
once met, however, with a surprisingly warm welcome from all parts of
the world, and already has had to be thrice reprinted. Any personal
pleasure at its reception is eclipsed by a greater gratification and
thankfulness at the now demonstrated fact that the present large and
rapid increase in the number of the Fraternity is being accompanied by a
correspondingly wide desire to realise the significance and purpose of
the Masonic system to a much fuller degree than till now has been the
case. The Masonic Craft seems to be gradually regenerating itself and,
as I previously indicated, such a regeneration must needs make not only
for the moral benefit and enlightenment of individuals and Lodges, but
ultimately must react favourably upon the framework in which they exist,
the whole body of society/
In these circumstances it becomes possible to speak
more fully, perhaps also more feelingly, upon a subject which, as a
large volume of public and private testimony has revealed to me, is
engaging the earnest interest of large numbers of Brethren of the Craft.
So I offer them these further papers, presenting the same subject matter
as before, but in different form and expounding more fully matters
previously treated, but superficially and cursorily.
By "the Masonic Initiation" I mean, of
course, not merely the act and rite of reception into the Order, but
Speculative Freemasonry, within the limits of the Craft and Arch
Degrees, regarded as a system, a specialised method of intellectual
guidance and spiritual instruction, a method which to its willing and
attentive devotees offers at once an interpretation of life, a rule of
living and a means of grace, introduction and even intromission, to life
and light of a supranatural order. Masonry being essentially and
expressedly a quest after supranatural Light, the present papers are
schematically arranged in correspondence with the stages of that quest.
They deal first with the transition from darkness to light. Next with
the pathway itself and the light to be found thereon and lastly, with
light in its fulness of attainment as the result of faithfully pursuing
that path to the end. In a final paper, I have resurveyed the Order's
past and indicated its present tendencies and future possibilities.
In their zeal to appreciate and make the best of
their connection with the Order, some members, one finds, experience
difficulty in defining and "placing" Freemasonry.
Is it Religion, Philosophy, a system of morals, or what ? In view
of the deepening interest in the subject, it may be well at the outset
to clear up this point. Masonry is not a Religion, though it contains
marked religious elements and many religious references.
A Brother may legitimately say, if he wishes and many do say,
"Masonry is my religion," but he is not justified in
classifying and holding it out to other people as a Religion. Reference
to the Constitutions makes it quite clear that the system is one meant
to exist outside and independently of Religion and that, all the Order
requires of its members is a belief in Deity and personal conformation
to the Moral Law, every Brother being free to follow whatsoever form of
religion and mode of worship he pleases.
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 induction ceremonial organisation
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
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
"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 systematised and dramatised 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 be 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, 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
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
programme or theory placed in duction 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 emphasising 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 fulfil 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) who knew and the latter
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 modern 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 obtaining today 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 organisations and methods. His
conclusions may be summarised 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 organisations (Churches and sects) involve grave
disadvantages, for they are always breeding new evils, which are not
known to the East with its absence of organisation. 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
duction 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 practised
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 today, 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
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 whatsoever of the many names the God idea
presents itself to himself or his fellowmen, he will honour the
Universal Father and in whatsoever soil of Mother Earth, or whatsoever
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
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 and no Mason, I believe, will trace in them any disloyal word or
motive, or recognise 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 goodwill 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"
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 today there are drawn blinds everywhere waiting to be lifted, to let
in a Sunlight, that belongs to no close community, but to all men alike.
With that hope, I 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.