[The learned Author in the I Chapter of
this book “Masonic Initiation” deals in detail the mystical aspect
of the symbolism of the Initiation Ceremony. He has dealt with the
subject under the heads “From Darkness to Light”,” Initiation-Real
and Ceremonial”, “The Purpose of the Mysteries” and “The Ideal
Lodge” and impresses upon the necessity to strictly adhere to certain
outlook, behaviour and efforts on the part of the Initiates and the
brethren. He has also emphasized on our duties as freemasons. We request
a careful study and assimilation of the views of the author]
W.Bro.Walter Leslie Wilmshurst
I -- From Darkness To Light.
more needed and useful work is to be done in the Masonic Order today
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
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.
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 the 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 ?
you have called me to the presidency of this large Association of
Installed Masters, whose function is to further 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?
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 realised the true nature and purpose of the
I - Initiation, Real and Ceremonial
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 popularised and debased that they are nowadays used in
relation to familiarising anyone with the methods of, say, the Stock
Exchange, or any other pursuit with which he is unacquainted.
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.
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 organisation 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 cooperation 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 .
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 magnetise and chain us to
so long as we are "in worldly possessions" we are 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
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.
is 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.
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 realisation 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.
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.
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.
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 hangs. You 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.
poet well schooled in the process of real Initiation has thus written of
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 ."
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 .
2. The Purpose Of The Mysteries.
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 today. Their great
buildings, which still survive, were assuredly not erected at such
immense labour and skill merely to provide convenient meeting places,
like 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
today, 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.
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.
nowadays recognised 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 modern scientists discovered it in our own
day. It recognised 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
like 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
"Barddas" ; the ancient initiate tradition of Welsh Druidic
then, was seen as broken up and distributed into innumerable
individualised lives or souls and as passing from one bodily form to
another in a perpetual progression. In Masonic metaphor those individualised 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 (symbolised 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.
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
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 !
in order that evolution from lower to higher degrees of life may take
place, some force must previously have been involved in living organisms
that makes their evolution possible. You cannot have evolution without
involution. A seed would never grow unless it held within it the force, which
expands it into a plant with a glory of leaf, flower and fruit.
An acorn contains in itself the possibility of the oak. A bird's egg
conceals within its fluids the miracle of the feathered bird and the
skylark's song . Place any of these in appropriate conditions and the
latent life force will evolve naturally to its preordained limit. The
growth may even be artificially accelerated by methods of intensive
now of man? Man also contains within him a life force, a "vital and immortal
principle" as Masonry calls it, which has not yet expanded to full
development in him and indeed in many men are scarcely active at all.
Man, too, has that in him enabling him to evolve from the stage of the
mortal animal to a being immortal, superhuman, godlike.
Man is evolving towards a far off divine event in common with all
Nature. But how slowly and how greatly he thwarts and retards his own
development by indulging his gross mortal body and its sensual
tendencies, instead of repressing them and cultivating his latent higher
nature, it is commonly said, continues always the same, its weaknesses
and vices are those of thousands of years ago and looking back over the
centuries there is little perceptible improvement in the mass despite
our boasted progress and civilisation.
this long slow process of human evolution be expedited? Is there a
method of intensive culture that can be applied to man, one that will
more quickly lift him clean above his present level and transform the
sensual, benighted, human animal into an illuminated godlike being?
this, the answer of the Ancient Mysteries was "Yes, there is.
Human evolution can be accelerated, if not at present in the mass of
humanity, yet in suitable individuals . Human nature is perfectible by
an intensive process of purification and initiation. There is a royal
science of spiritual advancement and an art of living, by which the
latent, undeveloped divine Life principle in man can be liberated from
the veils of darkness in him now obscuring it and brought forward into
full play. If suitable candidates will but make the requisite sacrifices
and submit to the necessary discipline, they can be brought in their
present lifetime from darkness to Light, they can be raised to a higher
degree of humanity than is otherwise possible to them and from that
position they in turn will be able to raise others to the same degree
and so gradually increase the spiritual stature and powers of the whole
work of the Ancient Mysteries was therefore a "perfecting"
work, or a work of initiation introducing men to a new order of life,
since it was designed to make imperfect beings whole and perfect by
completing their evolutionary possibilities. The Greek word for this (teleios) has
the twofold meaning,"to make perfect" and "to
initiate". It occurs constantly in the
Scriptures the greatest textbook of Initiation science that exists. They
speak of "the just made perfect", "be ye perfect as your
Father in heaven is perfect ", "we speak wisdom (initiation
science) to such as are perfect (or initiated)."
And this perfecting work was for all men alike, of whatever race,
language or religion, as Masonry is today.
For all are brethren and upon an equal footing in respect of this
work, though not all men are necessarily ready to undertake it at the
same moment, all their religions are but so many radii of
one circle, designed to lead them from the circumference and surface of
life to the one Light at its centre.
qualifications of a candidate for the Mysteries were precisely those
provided for Masonic candidates today. The one dominant
wish of his heart in asking for admission had to be a yearning desire to
pass from his natural blindness to the innermost Light and to have his
old imperfect nature revolutionised and transformed.
Let me quote one of the oldest prayers in the world, still used in the
East by those seeking real Initiation. In its original Sanskrit it
consists of but six words,
which may be translated thus:
From the unreal, lead me to the Real !
From darkness, lead me to Light !
From the mortal, bring me to Immortality!
expresses the desire that should be not only upon the lips but burning
in the heart of every candidate the world over, under whatever system of
Initiation he may come. Without that desire as the deepest urge of his heart
no real Initiation is possible, nor is any candidate properly prepared
to ask for it. No one can expect to come to the revelation of the
supernatural Light or to be raised to the sublime degree of a Master
soul, who is content with his present life as it is, who regards himself
as not in darkness, but as already enlightened, or supposes his present
mortal existence to constitute real life. Only
by perceiving the unreality and impermanency of the present world and
its interests can one really begin to detach himself from it and divest
himself, in thought and desire, of its "money and metals". So
long as one carries these with him or remains in any sense "in
worldly possessions," so long he darkens his own light and
automatically defers his own initiation into it. They mean not merely
one's cash and temporal belongings. They include all that clogs and
clings to us from our immersion in the outer world, our intellectual
possessions, our stores of notions, beliefs and preconceptions about
truth and the mental habits and self will we have acquired, even with
the best motives, in our state of darkness . All these constitute our
"worldly possessions," and they are not our real wealth but
It is a paradox, but a true one, that we can only gain by
giving them up. Their attraction must cease, if that high Light we
profess to seek is ever to be found and the aspirant for it must stand
at the door of the Mysteries in the deepest sense a poor candidate in a
state of darkness, content to be as a child and surrender himself to an
entirely new order and rule of life. Few are prepared for this task of
self divestment of all that, as experienced men of the world, they have
clung to and built into their mental fabric. How many of those who
ceremonially profess to do so would be ready or content to do it really?
On being told of this prerequisite to Initiation they would go away
sorrowful, for they have great possessions and are not yet prepared to
give them up for something intangible.
a like sense the candidate had to be a free man, free in a moral rather
than in a civil sense, voluntarily offering himself for the work and
free from all attachments hindering its achievement and so becoming also
free to the goodly fellowship of all other initiates the world over and
free from any less worthy intercourse. He had to be of full
age, that is, in full bodily and mental
maturity so as to be fit for the disciplines awaiting him and
spiritually mature (as not every one is) for undertaking the final
stages of his evolution. Sound judgment, a sound
mind in a sound body, was also essential
in view of the demands made on the mental and psychic faculties,
involving the risk of insanity to the mentally unstable. Strict
morals (or chastity) were imperative, since the task of self
transformation involves physiological changes in the bodily organism
necessitating the utmost personal purity and continence.
he had to be of good report.
This does not mean of good reputation. It means that on being
tested by the initiating authorities he must be found spiritually
responsive to the ideals aimed at and "ring true," giving back
a good sound or report like a coin that is tapped to determine its
In the wonderful Egyptian rituals in the Book of the Dead, one
of the titles always found accorded to the Initiate was "true of
voice." This is the same thing as
our reference to possessing the "tongue of good report."
It does not mean that he was incapable of falsity and hypocrisy, which
goes without saying, but that his very voice revealed his inherent
spirituality and his own speech reflected and was coloured by the divine
Word behind it. The vocal and heart nervous centres "the
guttural" and "the pectoral," as we say are intimately
related physiologically. Purity or impurity of heart modifies the tonal
quality and moral power of one's speech. The voice of the
real Initiate or saint is always marked by a charm, a music, an
impressiveness and a sincerity absent in other men, for he is "true
of voice"and he possesses the "tongue of good report."
rule of the Ancient Mysteries was and still is in other systems, that
twelve years of preparation should elapse before the last great
spiritual experience was permitted that brought the candidate to the
Light at his centre and qualified him for Mastership, though less sufficed in appropriate cases.
As the result of his purification and labours he had become an
illuminate and he was mystically said to be twelve years old. From a
rough ashlar he had become a polished perfect cube, a stone meet for
building into the "holy city", which we are told lieth
foursquare and has twelve gates that are always open. For all the parts
of his organism were now equalised and balanced and all his gates (or
channels of intercourse with the divine world), no longer shut and
clogged by the darkness of his former impurities, lay open for the
passage through them of the true Light. In Masonry, this condition is
called the "hour of high twelve”, and he who has attained it will
be, like Hiram Abiff in constant communion with and adoration of the
when the candidate had advanced still further to the sublime degree and
powers of Mastership he was said to be thirty years old.
You will find these mystical ages referred to in the third Gospel,
where we are told (Luke ii, 42) of the Great Exemplar being twelve years
old and so illuminated that His wisdom confounded the academic but
unenlightened teachers of the Temple and again (Luke iii, 23) that He
"began to be about thirty years old," at which period began
his work as a Master, which continued for another three years and
manifested such works and teaching as are possible only to a Master.
Thirty-three years was, in the Mysteries, the mystical duration of life
of every initiate who attained Mastership.
period has no relation to bodily age. It is based on considerations we
need not now enter into but referring to the completion of human
evolution, when it can be said of the soul's travail "It is
finished," "He hath wrought the purpose through of That which
made him man." It is for this reason that the Antient and Accepted
Scottish Rite of Masonry extends to 33 Degrees, in perpetuation of the
original secret tradition.
the detailed methods employed in
assisting properly qualified candidates to the Light of the centre,
whether in the ancient systems or at the present day and of the
wonderful change wrought by them in the candidate himself, nothing can be said
publicly, these are matters belonging to silence. The secrets and
mysteries of real Initiation can never be fully communicated except in
the course of the process itself. They are not disclosed in Masonry at all. Our teaching refers to them as being "serious, solemn and
awful," but leaves them at that and provides various substituted
ones which have no value save for ceremonial use and as indications,
that more genuine ones exist, which qualified Brethren will come to
know, when time and circumstances warrant. To all others they will remain sealed. That
time and those circumstances depend upon our own desire and efforts.
It is an ancient maxim
the science that "when the disciple is ready, the Master
will be found waiting" to help on his advancement and in
accordance with this, our teaching expressly declares that the purpose of the Mason is to seek a Master and from him to gain
instruction. The earnest Masonic disciple whose heart and thought
are steadfastly set towards the Light may assuredly count upon finding
himself led sooner or later to a real Initiate capable of helping him to
it and of revealing so much of the real secrets as he is qualified to
Initiates exist at all times, in this country and elsewhere, for the
science is not restricted to any nation or creed but is universally
diffused over the earth's surface. They are, of course, not numerous and
they are to be met with only by those competent to recognise them. They
live a hidden life, in the world, but not of it. They
never seek publicity or honours. They never even disclose the fact that
they are Initiates. This is the true Masonic secrecy and humility. The greatest among men are content to be as
those that are least. The world little suspects what it owes to its
would be interesting to say something of them, but time permits of my
speaking only of a single case and I will illustrate the universality of
the science by referring (though reticently) to one who is not of our
country, colour, or creed.
lives in a distant part of our Empire, a man who is in the fullest sense
a Master Mason. Years ago he embarked upon the great quest of Light and
after the necessary self preparation under another Master he attained
that great spiritual experience which changed his whole nature and
raised him finally and permanently from darkness to Light. You may like
to know how the daily life of such a man is spent, for it conforms
literally with the rule of our symbolic working tool, the 24-inch gauge,
in its application to the 24 hours of the day. For at least two hours
each day he withdraws entirely from all external affairs, tyling his
door as it were against their intrusion and opens the Lodge of his soul
to its central depths, passing into blissful, ecstatic communion with
the Most High. It is his "hour of high twelve." For another
two hours a day he sleeps, that brief period, with a minimum of simple
food, sufficing to rest and recuperate his bodily energies, since his
real rest and sustenance are drawn from the supernatural peace and bread
of life that come to him from his Centre. The remaining twenty hours of
the day are devoted to unflagging labour in the interests of his
countrymen and in the spiritual advancement of those brought under his
guidance. You may suppose that he is recluse living an unpractical life
in a cell or a forest. On the contrary, he is a prominent man who has
been knighted for his public service, a King's Counsel, Attorney-General
for a large province, a cultured scholar in English and other languages
and the writer of some important books. I have asked British Government
officials who have worked with him for years whether they have found
anything distinctive in him. But they had detected nothing and were
utterly blind to the extraordinary spiritual power and saintliness
behind his formal exterior. He is one of those who has found and lives
from, the divine centre of his being, that points from Darkness which a
Master Mason cannot err, and accordingly to possesses wisdom and powers
beyond the imagination of the uninitiated world.
The Ideal Lodge
now, Brethren, from what has been said of the ancient and royal science you may see how faithfully our Craft perpetuates the world old system
of elevating men to a higher order of life than they normally experience
and at the same time you may judge how far it falls short in
understanding that science and carrying its intentions into practice.
we always going to be content with making merely formal Masons and
maintaining a merely social and philanthropic society?
If so, we shall remain no different men from the popular world who are
not Masons. Or are we wishful that the Craft should fulfil its purpose of being a
system of real initiating efficiency by awaking the undeveloped
spiritual potentialities of its members and raising them to a sublimer
level of life? If so, we must educate ourselves more deeply in its
me indicate how things would go if our work were conducted upon more
intelligent lines. It is too much to expect any marked or sudden
change to take place in old methods or habits and resistance to any
improvement may always be expected from some who are satisfied with
things as they are. Nor can improvement be forced upon anyone. To be
advantageous, it must come spontaneously. But many Brethren and many
Lodges sincerely desire it, and so let me offer you a picture of what an
ideal Lodge would be. You may then consider how far it may be
practicable to attempt to conform to that ideal.
the first place, Lodge meetings would be primarily devoted to what we
are taught is their chief purpose, namely, to expatiating on the
Mysteries of the Craft and educating Brethren in the understanding of
them. This is now never done, largely because we are without competent
We suppose that our side lectures are sufficient instruction. This is
not the case. There are additional large fields of knowledge
that Masons must explore if they wish to learn this science, while our
official lectures are themselves packed with purposely obscured truths
that are left to our own efforts and perspicuity to discover, but the
purport of which at present remains entirely concealed.
duly opened Lodge would be a sanctuary of silence and contemplation,
broken only by ceremonial utterances or such words of competent and
luminous instruction as the Master or Past Masters are moved to extend.
And the higher the degree in which it is opened, the deeper and more
solemn would be the sense of excluding all temporal thoughts and
interests and of approaching more nearly that veiled central Light,
whose opening into activity in our hearts we profess to be our
such circumstances, each Lodge meeting would become an occasion of
profound spiritual experience. No member would wish to disturb the
harmony of such a Lodge by talk or alien thought.
No member would willingly be absent. If he were, save from necessity, it
would indicate that, though entitled to wear the apron in a literal
sense, he was temporarily not properly clothed in his mind and intention
to be qualified to enter the Lodge. Every one would regret when such a
meeting closed and it became necessary to be recalled from such peace
and refreshment to the jars and labours of the outer world.
admission of a new candidate would be a comparatively infrequent event. For no one would be received to membership save after the fullest tests
of his genuine desire for Masonic knowledge and of his adaptability to
it. The conferment of the different degrees would be at much longer
intervals than is now authorised, so as to ensure their being
assimilated and understood, as is impossible at present.
And upon the notable occasion of a degree being conferred, those present
would be not merely passive spectators of the rite. They would have been
educated to become active though silent helpers in it by adding the
force of their united thought and desire to the spoken word and so
creating such a tense and highly charged atmosphere that an abiding
permanent uplift in the candidate's consciousness might be hoped for.
For the efficacy of rites like ours does not depend solely on the Master,
who performs them. He is the mouthpiece for the
time being of all those present, but it is the whole assembly that
should really be acting, forming, as it were, a battery of spiritual
energy and drawing the new Brother into vital fraternity with itself.
Great power resides in strong collective thought and intention and when
these are focussed and concentrated upon a candidate properly prepared
in heart and mind for our ministrations, we might hope to induce in him
something like real initiation. But otherwise he will be listening to but a formal
recital of words.
follows, that we should never hear such things as the usual talk about
"making one's Lodge a success," or as personal praise to
anyone for having performed his work creditably. Whether our work is really
done well, in the sense of being spiritually effective, God alone
knoweth, to whom all gratitude should be rendered for any good achieved,
while the only worthy success for a Lodge is its capacity for vitally
affecting the lives of those who enter it and transforming their mental
and moral outlook.
Lodge-room should be holy ground, a Temple consecrated to Masonic work
and used for it exclusively. For it is a symbol of the temple of the
human individual and we who are taught the necessity of every intending
initiate's excluding money and metals from his thought and who have
before us the significant example of a Master, who vigorously scourged
all money changers out of the Temple, should surely conform to those
lessons by keeping our symbolic temple sanctified and entirely free from
There is a practical advantage in so doing, for premises continually
devoted to a single purpose become, as it were, charged and saturated
with the thought and ideals thrown off by those, who habitually so use
it. A permanent spiritual atmosphere is created, the influence of which
appreciably affects those who enter it and the possibility of the
efficacious initiation of candidates is thereby greatly increased,
whereas that atmosphere becomes defiled and any spiritual influence
stored in it neutralised, by promiscuous use.
other Lodges would no longer be for social reasons,
but, as in ancient times, solely with a desire to enlarge one's Masonic
knowledge and experience, to share their spiritual privileges, or even
to bring spiritual reinforcement to Lodges needing such help. No
practice is more beneficial than intercourse between those of different
Lodges engaged in a common work and no right is more firmly established
than that of any seeker of the Light to claim and be given hospitality
and assistance conducing to that end. But our modern practice of mass visiting is
calculated to disturb the true work we ought to be doing and is somewhat
of an abuse and travesty of a privilege dating from antiquity, when
occasional representatives of one school of the Mysteries journeyed,
often long distances, to another in a different land to enlarge their
own knowledge or impart it to those they visited.
to office in, the Craft would not be by rotation or from seniority of
membership or social standing in the outside world. It
would depend entirely upon spiritual proficiency, upon ability to impart
real illumination to candidates and advance the true work of the Craft.
The little jealousies and heart burnings,
that now occur at the annual promotions would be impossible, such things
belong to the base metals in our nature, which ought long ago to have
been got rid of in any one really qualified for office.
Did we better realise the serious nature of Initiation work, we should
often shrink in humility from accepting positions we are now eager to
seize. Remember that in leaving the outer world and passing the portal of the
Lodge into the world within, all values change. All questions and even
all sense, of personality should cease.
You become engaged not in a personal task but in a common fraternal work
before God, in whose sight all are equal and who will act through such
instruments as seem good to Him. Therefore "let him that is greatest among
you be as he that is least", it may well be that the apparently
least among us is often likely to be the more efficient workman.
I know, are lofty ideals, largely impracticable at the moment and I have
no wish to alienate any Brother's interest in the Craft by imposing a
standard beyond his present capacity and desire.
Yet Brethren to whom the ideal appeals, and to whom it is both desirable
and practicable, might unite in meeting with the intention of conforming
to it and here and there even a small new Lodge might be formed for that
special purpose, leaving other Lodges to work on their accustomed lines.
Masonry, throughout, anything but a lofty ideal, which so far we have
made little serious attempt to realise? The main difficulty before us is
that the true work of the Craft contemplates a much greater detachment
from the things and the ways of the outer world than we are at present
willing, or perhaps able, to allow. So we compromise with ourselves, and
seek to combine the outer secular life with the inner ideals of the
Craft. The two conflict, and no man can efficiently serve two masters .
We must choose whom we will serve.
the ideal is before us, a glimmering light in a dark, distracted and
dying world and it rests with ourselves whether it remains a glimmer or whether we
strive to fan it into a blaze of fact. For those who desire merely a
social and sociable organisation, garnished with a little picturesque
ceremonial and providing opportunity for a little amusement and personal
distinction, Masonry will never be more than the formality it long has
been and still is for many and they themselves will remain in darkness
as to its meaning, its purpose, and its great possibilities.
for those who are not content with vanities and unrealities, who desire
not a formal husk but the living spirit and are bent on plumbing its
well guarded secrets and mysteries to their depth and living out its
implications to the full, Masonry may well come, as for some it has come
to be the chief blessing and experience of their lives, it may yield
them even the last secret of life itself. It may fulfil for them the
ancient prayer of the Eastern Initiates, we just now spoke of, by
leading them from the unreal to the supreme Reality, from darkness to
Light ineffable, from the things of time and mortality to things
immortal. They may find it a ladder of truth and world escape set up for
them in the wilderness around them and their Lodge a place of unfolding
vision where, with the Hebrew patriarch, they will exclaim, "This
is none other than a house of God and a gate of heaven!"