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Article # 206
Masonic Initiation -Chapter-4.

Author: W.Bro.Walter Leslie Wilmshurst    Posted on: Thursday, May 18, 2006
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[This is the 4 th and the concluding Chapter of the book “ Masonic Initiation”, which as mentioned by the authour in the Postscript, explains the Mysteries of Freemasonry. Besides, the learned authour has traced the history of Symbolic Masonry and has lamented that in course of time, there has been an abandonment of the real objectives, the founders had. He states that, “ It is undeniable that, through ignorance of the true principles of Masonry, the Craft has suffered itself to become debased and overrun with members lacking alike the intellectuality, the temperament and the desire, to appreciate those principles” and that modern Masonry, amounted merely to an exhibition of venial human weakness, vanity and sycophancy, the growth of which, whilst obscuring and falsifying Masonic principles, has been due to failure to grasp its principles. He however has hoped that, the brethren may be brought to a deeper knowledge of themselves and of the mysteries of their own being, to which end and which end alone, the Masonic Craft was designed and that as Craft will only become what its individual members make it, we should not all make an earnest attempt to understand the deeper meaning and the mysteries of the Craft and dispel the darkness around us. This is an absorbing article and we request that a patient reading with concentration be given.]

 

Masonic Initiation

 

W.Bro.Walter Lelie Wilmshurst

 

Chapter IV.    The Past And Future Of The Masonic Order

 

"First, that which is natural , after, that which is spiritual ."

 

I. The Past

Beginnings, whether of nations, religions, institutions, or even of the world and life itself, are notoriously obscure and difficult of precise fixation. The reason is that nothing actually "begins" to be, but there merely takes place a transformation into new conditions of something that preexisted in other conditions. Call the point or moment at which the change occurs a "beginning", if you wish. It will be found that such beginning is but an effect generated by and issuing from, anterior causes. Life itself does not, at physical birth, begin to be, it merely then enters physical conditions and assumes physical guise. A corresponding change occurs at the birth or beginning of human institutions. They are developments and formalizations of something, which previously existed in a fluid in cohesive condition. This is the case with Masonry and accounts for the tradition, that it is as old as man himself, whatever forms it has assumed and that it is of Divine origin.

Modern Speculative Freemasonry had a beginning in the early years of the 18th century, but only in the sense, that in 1717, originated that which afterwards developed into and now subsists as, the English Masonic Constitution. Masonry itself existed long before that time, and in two forms, (1) exoterically, in the Operative Building Guilds and (2) esoterically, in a variety of secret communities of mystics and occultists, having no relation to the practical building trade, but often using builders' terminology for symbolical purposes of their own.

Modern Masonry is a blend of both of these, its constitutions, charges, rituals and instruction lectures incorporate elements drawn from each of them. The Ancient Charge, for instance, which is delivered to every Masonic candidate on admission to the Order today, is an example of what has come over from the Operative Masons. It is patently an instruction of the kind one would expect to find given to a youth on becoming entered as an apprentice to a handicraft and embarking upon adult and civic responsibilities. It is a mere admonition to him to be a moral man, a worthy citizen, a creditable workman and member of his trade guild, to fear God, honour the King, love his country and generally educate and improve himself. It does not contain the least reference to any knowledge or wisdom of an extraordinary kind, or suggest any vestige of acquaintance with subjects of a mystical or occult character.

But on turning to the ceremonial rituals, especially that of the Third Degree and to the "Traditional History" and instruction lectures, we find, mixed up with references to the Operative Builders' trade, matters of a highly esoteric and mystical nature, having no possible operative or materialistic connection and not to be thought of as associated with the technical equipment of a workman in material stone and brick.

This esoteric element descended, of course, not The Past from the Operative Guilds, but from less public organisations of symbolic or mystical Masons and it is the latter alone whose necessarily obscure history and purpose repay investigation at this time of day. These organisations were the representatives of a stream of Hermetic tradition and practice, the upper reaches of which go back into pre Christian times, into Egypt and to the Rabbinical mystics and Kabbalists, among whom existed a secret, guarded lore of the Cosmos and of human life, a lore which found only partial, though cryptic, expression in the Hebrew Scriptures in terms of building. With them the building and the subsequent vicissitudes of Solomon's Temple (whether this was ever an historical material erection or not) provided a great glyph or mythos of the up building of the human soul, whether considered individually or collectively and as the course of Hebrew history advanced and the stream of circumstances and mystical tradition widened into its Christian development, the same symbolic terminology continued to be used. Accordingly the Gospels, the Epistles and the Apocalypse are found to teem with Masonic imagery and allusions to spiritual building. It is in these that the human soul becomes expressly declared to be the real Temple pre figured by the previous historic or quasi historic one. A spiritual Chief Comer stone, rejected of certain builders, is mentioned, one in which the entire social fabric is to grow together into a single universal Temple. St. John himself, as the "beloved disciple" or most advanced Initiate of the Christian Master, becomes, according to the esoteric tradition, his Chief Warden and entrusted as every Senior Warden in our symbolic lodges is with the task of keeping order in the West and after the days of his flesh, of occultly controlling from the heavens the development of the law of Christ in the Occidental world. Hence he became and still is acknowledged as, the Masonic Patron Saint and is found spoken of in the Rosicrucian reference in Dante's Paradiso as,

“He that lay upon the breast

Of Him who is our mystic pelican,

And from the Cross was named for office blest”

 

whilst one of his known pupils, St . Ignatius, who is reputed to have been the little child whom the Lord once took and set in the midst as a type of fitness for realising the kingdom of heaven is found expounding religion in these purely Masonic terms, "Forasmuch as ye are stones of a Temple which were prepared beforehand for a building of God, the Father, being hoisted up to the heights by the working tool of Jesus Christ, which is the Cross  and using for a rope the Holy Spirit, your faith being a windlass and love the way leading up to God. So then ye are all Companions in the way, spiritual temples, carrying your Divine principle within you, your shrine, your Christ and your holy things, being arrayed from head to foot with the commandments of Christ "    (Epistle to Ephesians.)

The pronounced Masonic imagery used by Ignatius (who was martyred at Rome ) tends to corroborate the tradition that the Square, Level and Plumb rule, now allocated to the Master The Past and two Wardens of a Lodge, were originally associated with the Bishop, Priest and Deacon, when serving at the secret altars of the persecuted Christians. Put together, the three tools form a Cross, which, on the worshippers being disturbed by the secular authorities, could quickly be knocked apart and appear but as builders' implements.

The most popular religious book of the earliest Christian centuries was The Shepherd of Hermas, a collection of teachings, visions and similitudes, couched in terms of Masonic allegory and veiling (as the title implied) the hermetic or esoteric instruction of some "Shepherd," as the Hierophants and Adept teachers of the Mysteries were and in the canonical Scriptures are, uniformly designated.

To define the position which, after the event known as the Christian Incarnation, seems to have been assumed by all the mystical Builders, the spiritual Alchemists, the Rosicrucians and the diverse other schools of the secret Gnosis, who accepted that fact as the central pivotal one of human spiritual evolution and the culmination of earlier Mystery systems, it may be said that they regarded themselves as one great Fraternity in the Divine Mysteries under the unseen but actual guidance of Jesus Christ, "the Carpenter" (Tekton), as Supreme Grand Master, with the greater Initiate, St . John, the Divine and the lesser Initiate, St. John Baptist, as Senior and Junior Grand Wardens, the winter and summer solstices (the times of the sun's lowest annual declension and meridian height) being allocated to the two latter as festival days or time points peculiarly favourable for spiritual contact between the Grand Lodge Above and the lesser Lodges below.

All down the stream of history will be found the similitude of the human soul to a stone and directions for working it from a crude to a perfect state. The career of the patriarch Jacob begins with a stone. The Dervishes of the Arabian Desert are given a cubed stone smeared with blood on their initiation. The sacred object and palladium of the Moslem faith is the Kaabah or Cubical Stone. The stone is found described as Lapis exilis and Lapis ex Coelis, it is always one said to have come from heaven, whence it is now in exile in this outer world. As a protest against materialising the idea of it, one finds exclamations such as Cornelius Agrippa's famous Transmutemini! Transmutemini in viventes lapides!  become ye transformed into living stones! Those more advanced mystics, the spiritual Alchemists, have provided us with a wealth of obscure lore concerning the "Stone of the Philosophers" and all through the Christian centuries, behind the activities of public elementary religion and the official work of the Church, can be traced evidences of this higher, esoteric, more abstruse and difficult work of mystical Masonry and stone working being wrought by abbots, monks, and laymen, either in solitude or communities of less or greater size, yet in severest concealment.

The history of this movement in England cannot be written in detail here, but a few points of it may be cited as evidence of the fact that, beyond all operative trade connections, the primary work of Masonry was one of mystical religion and had to do with the arcana of the human soul that it was an intellectual and a spiritual science promoting the development of the individual initiate and through him, the advancement of the general weal.

The English Masonic Constitutions of 1784, for example, reproduce a memorandum "concemynge the Mystery of Maconrye," said to have been written early in the 15th century by King Henry VI with his own hand probably for private rather than for state purposes, since he himself is alleged to have been made a Mason. Transposing his words from archaic into modern English, the King's memorandum indicates as follows, that Masonry is a spiritual science , that it originated in the East (in both a mystical and a geographical sense) and reached the junior human races in the West through travelling Phoenicians, misdescribed as "Venetian" that its development had been greatly advanced by Pythagoras (curiously mis called by the English names "Peter Gower"), who, after receiving his own initiations, founded the great Crotona school and instructed others in the science , that the science itself involves knowledge of and power over hidden forces of Nature, so that the expert Mason can perform acts which to the uninitiated would appear miraculous, that progress in the science comes by instruction, practice and silence, that the science is to be imparted only to worthy and suitable men, since abuse of it and of the powers arising with it would result in both personal and general evil, that Masons understand and can effect the art of alchemic transmutation and possess a universal symbolic language of their own by which they can intercommunicate, whatever their race or country, that they have the "skill of becoming good and perfect," apart from all motives of fear and hope such as influence lesser minds and are held out by popular religion, that not all Masons realise their attainments or become perfect, for many fail in capacity and more still in the arduous personal effort essential to the acquisition of this wisdom . The genuineness of the King's memorandum has been questioned, though prima facie it is well attested. But whether a genuine script of his or not, its contents, within their limits, accurately represent the nature of Masonry itself.

No one can read English or European history from the period of that memorandum onward without realising that to that history there has been an inner side not cognised or treated of by academic historians, or without feeling behind the march of external events and as it were connected with or even directing them the concealed presence of minds more than normally capable Initiates, possessing and wielding the very powers testified to in Henry VI's memorandum. The lives and literary remains of such men as to name no others Paracelsus, Abbot Tritheim, Basil Valentine, Jacob Boehme, George Johan Gichtel, Thomas Vaughan, and Elias Ashmole, provide above surface indications of a strong current of sub surface activity, a current of which no record exists or is ever likely now to be made. But to that current one must look for the perpetuation of the secret Masonic science and to its projection, in a highly diluted and elementary form, into publicity in modern speculative Masonry.

The religious Reformation of the 15th century was the first great episode in a far reaching revolutionary movement in the intellectual, social and political life of the West, a movement the end of which is not yet. Amid the intensifying unspirituality and materialism of the times and the impending disintegration of public instituted religion, a decision seems to have been come to by some far seeing enlightened minds to put forward the old mystical Gnosis and tradition in a simple form and to attempt to interest a small section of the public in it. This suggestion is incapable of rigorous proof and will perhaps commend itself only to those, who are in any measure conscious of the inner mechanism controlling the visible clock face of historic events. But be this as it may, we find, about the year 16oo and onwards, the first small signs of a movement that has eventuated in the vast modern Masonic Craft, with its as yet further indeterminate possibilities.

The first recorded reception of a nonoperative Mason to an operative Lodge occurred at Edinburgh in 1600. The Operative Lodges were then becoming obsolete and defunct and by 1620. Operative Masonry had become entirely superseded in London by Speculative, the members of the former working no longer in guilds but striving still to keep alive their old form of fellowship. The first traceable initiation, on English soil, of a non operative Mason occurred at Newcastle in 1641 and the second that of Elias Ashmole, already a student of arcane science at Warrington in 1646. Accretions to the ranks of the Craft proceeded to be made, but were at first few and gradual, owing to disturbed political conditions. The Charter of the Royal Society, dated 1663, as drawn up by Dr. (afterwards Sir) Christopher Wren, seems to have been prepared with a view to giving official sanction not to science as at present secularly understood and pursued, but to science of a more occult character such as Masonry as before defined deals with, for the preamble of that document refers to private meetings of certain men devoted to the investigation of the "hidden causes of things" in the public interest.

In 1717 four old London Lodges combined to constitute a new nucleus . From them the first Grand Lodge was formed and thus Modem Masonry was born, at an inn, the Apple Tree Tavern, in Lincoln's Inn Fields.

 In 1721 Dr. Anderson was entrusted with the drawing up of the Constitutions of the new community. The conditions of the Craft in that year may be deduced from a statement of the eminent antiquary Dr. Stukeley, who writes, "I was the first person made a Freemason for many years. We had great difficulty to find members enough to perform the ceremony. Immediately after that it took a run and ran itself out of breath through the folly of its members".

Abuses supervened from the admission of all and sundry without due qualifications. In 1724, a Brother protested in a public journal that, "the late prostitution of our Order is in some measure the betraying of it. The weak heads of vintners, drawers, wigmakers, weavers, etc., admitted into our Freemasonry, have not only brought contempt upon the Institution, but do very much endanger it". In the same year was established "for poor brethren" the first benevolent fund, which since has developed into the great Charity organisations now connected with the Craft.

In the course of the next fifty years the numbers of the Craft so increased that central headquarters were found advisable and on May day of 1775, the foundation stone of the present Freemasons' Hall in London was laid with great ceremony. Despite the fact that men were being admitted to the Order who were little qualified to appreciate the science of Masonry and that consequently the understanding of that science was becoming increasingly debased, elements of the original intention still remained and echoes of it can be caught in some of the recorded incidents of the occasion. In the Foundation stone itself was inserted a plate perpetuating the event and the names of the then Grand Master, his deputy and the Grand Wardens and stating that Masonry was of heavenly origin, "descendit e ccelo" and concluding with the maxim of Solon in Greek characters, "Know thyself." At the religious service performed upon the occasion was sung an anthem of praise to the Great Architect,

 "Who deign'd the human soul to raise

By mystic secrets sprung from heaven "

whilst a specially composed ode affirmed of the new Aula Latomorum that,

  "Religion, untainted, here dwells,

Here the morals of Athens are taught,

Great Hiram's tradition here tells

How the world out of chaos was brought"

From these extracts it is clear that, at least to its leading minds, Masonry was a secret science of soul building and that the great central legend and mythos expressed in the Traditional History in the Craft's Third Degree referred to no events in earthly time or history, but to Cosmic events of a metaphysical and mystical character. Further, from the preface to the Constitutions of 1784, it is made clear that the practical builder's art is to be considered only as the substratum of Speculative Masonry, that the history of the Operative side is negligible, for when Speculative Masons became a separate body of men the science had no further concern with practical building and that the Speculative work is a personal mystical one, rising like a pyramid "tending regularly up to a summit of attainments, ever concealed by intervening clouds from the promiscuous multitudes of common observers below"

Freemasons' Hall being completed, it was, on 23rd May 1776, triply dedicated, again with great ceremony firstly to Masonry, a second time to Virtue, and a third time to Universal Charity and Benevolence. The last named of the three purposes came in course of time to dominate completely at least the first of them. The Craft became a great money raising institution for relieving its own needy members and their relatives, and as a charitable society does excellent work which commands the devoted interest of many good Brethren who know nothing and seek to know nothing, of Masonry itself in its only proper and primary aspect of spiritual science and who regard it merely as a luxurious item of social life and maintain their connection with it solely from philanthropic motives.

From the facts thus roughly outlined it is clear that the pre 1717 Brethren were men of a very different calibre and held a vastly higher conception of Masonry, from those who subsequently came to constitute the Craft and have expanded it to its present great dimensions. Of the latter class, whatever their merits, virtues and good works in other respects, they cannot be said to have been either theoretic or practical 'mystics or to have cultivated the knowledge of Masonry as that science must be primarily understood. They cannot say of themselves as their predecessors truly could and did, We have the Mason Word and second sight”, for growth in the life of the spirit and the enhanced faculty and inward vision that come therewith have not been within the ambit of their desire. As one of the most deeply learned and understanding writers upon the subject affirms, (the authoress of A Suggestive Inquiry into the Hermetic Mystery) "The outward form (or present practice) of Masonry is too absurd to be perpetuated were it not for a certain secret response of common sense to the original mystery. The Initiated moved one another on by words of power. The Masons ape this but have lost the magic key to open the door into the Hermetic garden. They want the words, which are only to be found by seeking them in the subjective fundamental life, from which  they are as far out as the tools they use. The true tools also may be found on the way in, they will be given one after another as they are wanted ." Another learned author, who had every motive to speak well of the Craft the late Brother John Yarker was constrained to write in 1872, in his able and most instructive Notes on the Scientific and Religious Mysteries that, "As the Masonic fraternity is now governed, the Craft is fast becoming the paradise of the bon vivant, of the charitable hypocrite, who forgets the version of St . Paul and adorns his breast with the charity jewel'  (having by this judicious expenditure obtained the purple, he metes out judgment to other brethren of greater ability and morality but less means), the manufacturer of paltry masonic tinsel, etc. No other institution is so intrinsically valuable as Craft Masonry, or capable of such superhuman things. As now governed, few societies perform less. None profess such great objects, few accomplish so very little real and substantial good. May reformation be speedy and effective "

Such facts are not pleasant to contemplate, nor would they be proclaimed here without good purpose and a constructive motive. But it is well to face them before proceeding further, since what remains to be said will not only deal with a happier aspect of the subject, but is based upon the premise that the otherwise deplorable perversion and materialisation of the true Masonic intention has been both an inevitable and a necessary prelude to a spiritual efflorescence which in due course will manifest itself and of which the beginnings are already perceptible.

In no censorious or reproachful spirit, therefore, are such observations as the foregoing recorded. They might indeed be extensively amplified, if to do so would serve any useful purpose, but no one with intimate experience of the Craft will fail to recognise either their truth or the cogency of their reproach. It is undeniable that, through ignorance of the true principles of Masonry, the Craft has suffered itself to become debased and overrun with members lacking alike the intellectuality, the temperament, and the desire, to appreciate those principles . To day's newspaper, for example, contains the advertisement of a turf bookmaker who proclaims himself to be "on the square," and on the strength of that qualification seeks to engage the services of a betting tout. It is well known that commercial houses to day find it advantageous, for business purposes, to insist upon their more important employees being members of the Order. In the Order itself advancement is notoriously connected with social position and the extent of a member's contributions to the Charities. Honours, and even medals, are bestowed for money payments to this or that subscription list. Any man with a title, from a mayor to a prince, needs only to be a Mason a matter of months to find himself elevated to some figurehead position in the Craft, without the least merit of a purely Masonic kind or any understanding of the science itself. The central ideas and teachings of the Craft are left unexplained, ceremonies are discharged quite perfunctorily and with the majority are of entirely subservient importance to the indissociable feasting and wearisome rounds of speechmaking that follow and the general ignorance of Masonic truth provides ample scope for the self assertion of men, whose ideas of moral grandeur and Masonic virtue are evidenced by an ambition to attain office in the Craft and to adorn their persons with as much purple and jewellery as they can acquire. It is all woefully wrong and misconceived. Of course worthier traits exist. The heart of English Masonry is sound, if its head be obtuse and muddled and the work of its hands not of the character it might and ought to be.

When the worst has been said that can be charged against the methods of modern Masonry, it amounts merely to an exhibition of venial human weakness, vanity and sycophancy, the growth of which, whilst obscuring and falsifying Masonic principles, has been due to failure to grasp what those principles imply and entail. Many tares have sprung up among the corn, but good corn has not failed to grow and that  the two can grow together in the same field is a tribute to the richness of the soil from which both spring and the nourishing power of the Masonic intention, which, like sunlight, shines impartially upon both and quickens whatever seed is sown within its field, whether tares or wheat .

There are few received into the Craft to whom Masonry does not bring, if but dimly and momentarily, some measure of new vision, some impulse towards its ideals, few who do not feel it to contain something far greater than they know or than appears upon its surface presentation. Moreover, in the deep heart of every man exists a responsiveness to ultimate truth and a fondness, amounting sometimes to a passion, for it when expressed in ceremonial grandeur and impressiveness, a sub conscious reminiscence, as Plato would explain, of truth and glories it has once known and must one  day know again, and which Masonic ritual does  something to revive, as was of course the intention of all the Initiation systems of the past and is still the intention of our present Order. And how often one finds minds which are denied, or which would repudiate, the use of symbolic ritual in their Church, leap to it with admiration and affection in their Lodge, as though the Protestant rejection, in the religious sphere, of the rich symbolism and sacramentalism wisely once devised for instructing eye, ear and mind and exalting the imagination towards spiritual verities, had starved them of their rightful nourishment. It is not surprising that to many such minds Masonry becomes, as they themselves say, a religion, or at all events a precious fact to which their souls respond however inarticulately, and that for them the door of the Lodge is, as was once said of the Altar rails, "the thin barrier dividing the world of sense from the world of spirit".

 II.    The Future

In the fact that, amidst so much imperfect apprehension of its meaning and intention, Masonry should not only have survived, but should continue to make an ever widening appeal to the imagination, exists the proof that, inherent in it, however deeply veiled, is a vibrant, indestructible vital principle, which awakens a never failing response, whether loud or feeble, in its devotees. The Light is in the darkness, though as yet that darkness comprehendeth it not. The modern Craftsman may not as yet "have the Mason Word" in his own possession, like his earlier Brethren, but, nevertheless, that Word itself abides within the Masonic system and he faintly hears and responds to its overtones. It is, for most, a Lost Word, but it patiently awaits recovery and many to day are impatiently seeking to find it.

That vital principle became implanted in the Order system by those wise, far seeing, now untraceable minds which, as we have said, some three centuries ago conceived and inspired, if they did not directly devise, the formation of the Order as a means of perpetuating in an elementary way, the ancient Secret Doctrine through a period of darkness and disruption and until such time as that Doctrine and the Mysteries that once taught it, can again be revived in a larger way.

The evidences of the presence in the Masonic system and texts of the ancient arcane teaching , are threefold. Firstly, the grading of the system itself into the three traditional stages of spiritual perfecting, involving in turn the discipline and purification of the body and sense nature, the control, self knowledge and illumination of the mind and finally, that entire abnegation of the will and death of the sense of personality, which lead to union with the Divine Will, beyond personality and separateness. Secondly, the incorporation of the myths of the building of Solomon's Temple and the death of Hiram, both of which are allegories and portray not historic, but metaphysical, truth of profound importance. Thirdly, the insertion into the texts of the Ceremonies and side lectures of a number of pieces of esoteric teaching common to all the Initiation doctrine of East and West, but not known to be such by the average Brother, who is unfamiliar with that doctrine and so cryptically expressed and so interwoven with more elementary moral teaching as only to be recognisable to the more fully instructed observer. Examples of this esoteric teaching and of its implications are given in the second section of this volume, dealing with "Light on the Way".

The compilation of the text of the present Rituals and Instruction Lectures is supposed to have been and no doubt was, undertaken in or soon after 1717, by Dr. Anderson and others whose personality is now of no moment. ( Royal Arch Masonry was introduced into England in 1778 by a Jewish Brother, Moses Michael Hayes ) Nor is it material to inquire, how far those compilers were deliberately obscuring and crypticising occult knowledge they personally possessed or, if personally lacking it, were unconsciously led into perpetuating greater wisdom than they knew. The subject has been ably and exhaustively discussed in a work of very high value to the Masonic student, Studies in Mysticism, by Brother A. E. Waite, who takes the view that the compilers did not for the most part know what they were doing, yet that they wrote as if guided by a blind though unerring instinct "which made even the foolish old scholars of the past see through their inverted and scoriated glasses something of what Masonry actually is and therefore, in the midst of much idle talk, they provided, unconsciously to themselves, a master key of the Sanctuary".

This is probably a true verdict, for from various evidences Anderson and his colleagues show little signs of having been esotericists of any depth or ability. But, be it accurate or not, the fact remains that our system was so designed and devised as to be a true compendium of universal Initiation, one that reproduces the salient features of every system that has existed, or that elsewhere still exists, for advancing human perfecting .

In that fact lies the strength, the vitality, the attractive power, of the Masonic system, the subtle charm that it casts over minds sensitive to its implications, but as yet unable to interpret them or to understand their own responsiveness to them. And in the demonstration and elucidation of the doctrine concealed in the system lies the hope of the Craft gradually educating itself and fulfilling its original design in the years now before it.

The point up to which these observations are meant to lead can now be stated. It is that before the true spirit and inward content of Masonry could be appreciated upon a scale sufficiently wide to constitute the Order, a real spiritual force in the social body (as one hopes and sees indications that it will become) it has been necessary in the first instance to build up a great, vigorous and elaborate physical organisation as a vehicle in which that spirit may eventually and efficaciously manifest. In view of the importance of the ultimate objective aimed at, it matters nothing that from two to three centuries have been needed to develop that organisation, to build up that requisite physical framework, or that the material of which it has been constructed has not been so far of ideal quality. With the larger prospect in view, we can afford to look both charitably and philosophically upon momentary matters that may be regarded as regrettable and as falling far below  the standard of even the surface and letter of Masonic principle, we can be content, that the Order has been composed so largely of men of little understanding or capable of assimilating its profounder purpose, that its energies have run off from their true channel to the subsidiary ones of social amenities and charitable relief, that its higher ranks have been filled, not with adepts and experts in spiritual science, capable of ministering wisdom and instruction to the humbler ranks below (as the symbolism of our great hierarchical system surely implies their doing), but with "great kings, dukes and lords" and other social dignitaries, displaying no signs of possessing arcane wisdom and placed in their complimentary or administrative positions (which they nevertheless admirably and efficiently fulfil) merely to give the Order social sanction and as the nauseous doggerel runs "our myst'ries to put a good grace on ."

The growth of a great institution a nation, a Church, a system of the Mysteries is a slow growth, proceeding from material apparently unpromising, and involving continual selection, rejection and refining, before something becomes finally sublimated from it and forged into an efficient instrument. To take the most appropriate analogy, the erection of Solomon's Temple was a work of years, of diversely collected material and engaging numerous interests, but not until it was completed, dedicated and consecrated as a tabernacle worthy of the Shekinah, did that Presence descend upon it, illumining and flooding, the whole House and enabling the earthy vehicle to fulfil a spiritual purpose.

So now, too, with the Masonic Order. As a physical vehicle, a material organisation, it is as complete, as elaborated and as efficiently controlled, as perhaps it can ever be expected to be. It now stands awaiting illumination. That illumination must come from within itself, as the Divine Presence manifested within the symbolic Temple. The Order awaits the liberation and realisation of its own inner consciousness, hitherto dormant and repressed by surface elements now proving to be of no, or of illusory, value. No sooner is the deeper and true nature of the Masonic design revealed to Brethren than upon all hands they leap to recognition of it and desire to realise it and for such, there can be no going back to old ways and old outlooks. The people that have sat in darkness have seen glimpses of  a great light, they will now cultivate that light themselves and be the means that others behold it also. In this way the Craft throughout the world will become gradually regenerated in its understanding and so fulfil the destiny planned for it by those who inspired its formation three centuries ago. And it will become in due course the portal to still higher and more important spiritual eventuations.

The coming change must be and will be worked out, not from anything emanating from the higher ranks of the Craft the Grand Lodge and Provincial Grand Lodges but from the floor of the individual private Lodge. For the private Lodge is the Masonic unit. The higher ranks are but recruited there from at present for complimentary or administrative purposes, although when the time comes for those hierarchies to realise their own symbolic value, it  will be their members who will descend upon the Lodges of common Craftsmen, no longer as makers of merely complimentary speeches, but as real authorities upon Masonic wisdom and instructive missionaries and purveyors of Masonic truth. The private Lodge is the point from which the transformation must be achieved. One such Lodge in a town or district, that applies itself to Masonic work upon the lines indicated in these pages, will be as a powerful leavening influence and set up wholesome reactions in neighbouring Lodges. Some resistance and even derision, may be anticipated at first from those content with old standards and not yet ripe to appreciate a higher one, for the "nations" of less refined understanding may always be expected to "rage furiously together" at any suggestion involving departure from habitual methods or implying a possible reflection upon their wisdom. This, however, can be met with patience and charitable thought and will soon disappear before a quiet, resolute adherence to principle. Moreover, the problem of the admission of unsuitable applicants for membership of a Lodge will soon settle itself when the standard of Masonic interpretation has been thus raised. Let it here be emphasised that nothing in this volume is intended to advocate the least departure from or alteration of current ' Masonic working, or any deflection from loyalty to established usage or the governing authority. Those forms are so efficiently contrived, so perfectly adapted to the work of the Order, that, save perhaps in a matter of detail here and there, they can be altered only to their disadvantage and at the peril of disturbing ancient landmarks fixed where they are with greater wisdom than is perhaps at present recognised. Even as things are, in the haste to get through ceremonial work as quickly as may be, there is an unfortunate tendency already in official quarters to clip and curtail certain ceremonies, thereby depriving the Brethren of some valuable and significant pieces of ritual which, if continued to remain unworked, will soon become obsolete and forgotten.

Nevertheless, a little flexibility in matters of Lodge procedure would be permissible and is even desirable when Degrees are conferred. Merely to reel off a memorised ritual in a formal, mechanical way too often results in but mechanical effects and the subject of the Ceremony goes away perhaps unimpressed or bewildered. There is nothing 'to prevent the delivery of the official rite being supplemented by unofficial words of explanation and encouragement such as would lend that rite additional impressiveness, a more intimate and personal bearing and awaken in him who undergoes it a more deep and real sense of becoming vitally incorporated into living truth and into a Brotherhood to whom that truth is no mere sentiment but a profound reality. Moreover, with a view to inducing favourable atmosphere and conditions for the conferment of a Ceremony, before the candidate enters, the assembled Brethren should always be notified from the Chair that they are about to engage in a deeply solemn act which claims the concentrated thought and aspiration of each of them, to the intent that what is done and signified ceremonially may be realised spiritually in both themselves and him to whom they desire to minister. Further, the ceremonial preparation of the candidate before being brought into the Lodge should be treated, not with levity or as a mere incidental formality, but as a profoundly sacramental act, in the significance of which both the officiating deacons and the candidate himself should be instructed. Let all Brethren be assured that there is no detail of Masonic ceremonial, but is charged with very deep purpose and significance, this will appear to them more and more fully and luminously in proportion to their faithful endeavour to realise the intention of even simple and apparently unimportant points of ritual.

Sundry other matters may here be mentioned as deserving the consideration of the Craft. The first is the co ordination of the Rituals with a view to securing uniformity of working and instruction throughout the Craft, coupled with a certain, but slight amount of desirable revision. An official standardised Ritual would be beneficial and would no doubt be widely adopted even if its adoption were left optional to Lodges preferring to continue their present form of working. Upon all new Lodges, constituted after the date of standardisation, the official working should be imposed, so that, in course of time, virtual uniformity of procedure would be achieved. The present divergencies in the working of Lodges are not great and are easily capable of adjustment so as to secure a common footing of work throughout the Craft. Some Lodges use points of working not used in others and which they are rightly jealous in desiring to conserve, for example, many Lodges neither work nor know of the traditional five signs connected with the Third Degree and merely communicate three of them, omitting two which are of great significance. On the other hand, some Lodges retain details brought over from the Operative bodies, details now obsolete and without moment to Speculative Masonry and which nowadays might well be dropped. The "Ancient Charge" delivered to Entered Apprentices on their reception, is an instance of an Operative tradition, for which, if it be not abandoned altogether, an alternative Charge, more suited to present conditions and more in consonance with Speculative Masonry, might well be substituted. For a Charge that was intended for and that was delivered to, youths upon entering an Operative Building Guild is unsuited to men already immersed in civic, family and business responsibilities and seeking now to acquire knowledge of a purely mystical character, it is absurd and grotesque to counsel a middle aged experienced man to perform elementary duties of citizenship, or to express to perhaps an ecclesiastical dignitary, who joins the Order, the hope that he "will become respectable in life!”

Revision of the Rituals would, of course, be a delicate task, one not to be undertaken at haphazard or to meet the chance whims and uninstructed notions of this or that Brother, but one calling for the enlightened guidance of minds conversant with Initiation science, otherwise the Craft may lose more than it may gain and good plants may be pulled up and thrown away in mistake for weeds. As an example of a point needing revision and excision, let me instance those passages in which a candidate is enjoined to extend charity and relief to those needing it "if he can do so without detriment to himself or connections". These qualifying words surely vitiate the whole spirit of "Charity".  If Charity means anything and mere financial help is not charity, but only one form of its practical manifestation it involves a wise but unstinted selflessness, a self sacrifice at whatever personal cost. To hedge round that supreme virtue with a cautious verbal reservation in one's own favour is a limitation entirely unworthy of Masonic magnanimity and the words come as a shock to one's moral sensitiveness.

To come to the next point the Festive Board. In previous pages it has been indicated that the customary practice of refreshment and social conviviality is not only practically useful, but has a deep sacramental value. It is, of course, technically extra Masonic and non official, or perhaps quasi official, but it provides real and useful opportunities for fraternising and intellectual opportunities for enlarging upon Masonic matters not dealt with in the Lodge sanctuary itself, whilst, in its symbolic and higher aspect, it illustrates that relaxation from labour and that refreshment derived from the inter communion of those united in a common work, which in the providential order are arranged for us both in this life and hereafter.

The value, or otherwise, of the Festive Board, depends, therefore, upon its good use or its abuse. If it be regarded and used as the natural extension of the more formal work of the Lodge, it can exercise a ministry of great service, if on the other hand, it be but an occasion for junketing and social frivolity under the cover of Masonry, but with little or no Masonic relevance, it is apt to become a thing of reproach, the sublimities of the Lodge work are falsified by it and any good issuing from that work is forthwith neutralised. The test of true Masonic devotion and sincerity would be the honest answer each Brother can give to the question, "How far would my interest in Masonry extend and continue, if the practice of the Festive Board did not exist and Masonic proceedings were confined to the formal work of the Lodge ?" With this reflection the matter may be left to the good judgment of the Craft.

There must also be mentioned a question which has already rankled as a thorn in the side of Grand Lodge and will doubtless become still more troublesome the "Women's question" and if I approach it, it is not with the idea of presuming to offer suggestions to the governing authority of the Craft, but of defining the position for the guidance of the average Brother.

As things stand, Grand Lodge is the trustee of a system, which it has inherited, which it is pledged to continue upon established lines and which it has no power to alter if it wished, save at the request and by the common consent of those whose interests it exists to conserve. It has no power to sanction the admission of women into the order, nor is there any desire in its ranks that it should indeed the fact that women can to day take elsewhere precisely the same degrees as the Craft confers is a fact unknown to the majority of Brethren.

Whether Grand Lodge should extend official recognition to societies professing to be Masonic and admitting members of both sexes is another matter and depends upon the view to be taken of the regularity or irregularity of the societies in question. Can such societies produce satisfactory evidence of their regularity and right to recognition, or have they sprung into existence through the treachery or disloyalty of members of the Craft? That is not a question falling to the present writer to determine, nor has he sufficient material before him to do so. The only conclusion he can come to for himself and the only advice he can offer to others, is to abide loyally by the existing ordinances of the duly constituted authority. The Craft so far has been the "Men's House" and must so remain until such time as circumstances which do not now exist and for a long time to come are unlikely to exist clearly warrant a departure from the present position. It may be that the "Men" do not make the best use of their "House", it may be that the now banned societies have sprung into existence because of that fact, it may be and there are grounds for supposing it that in those societies Masonry is worked with greater decorum, a far fuller understanding, a deeper reverence and appreciation of what it implies, than in the orthodox Craft. But the fact remains that we are committed and pledged to our own Constitution for the present and we shall do neither it nor our individual selves a service by departing from strict loyalty to it.

Upon the general question of the fitness of women to receive the Masonic or any alternative form of Initiation, I must record an affirmative conviction of the same strength as the negative one I make to the suggestion that women should be admitted to the Craft or that visiting relations between the latter and the unauthorised societies should be sanctioned, for in existing conditions, such relationship is undesirable and might prove disastrous to both. Although the sexes meet upon a common footing in the field of both religious and secular affairs and although the whole modem tendency is towards equality of rights, function and responsibility, Masonry at present stands outside both the religious and the secular categories and by the majority of its members is viewed merely as a social luxury and a casual appendage to other activities of life. Until it is accorded a far higher appreciation than this, until it can be viewed from a standpoint not merely of ordinary morality, but from one involving a high standard of personal sanctity, until the mental conception of it is sufficiently lofty and compelling to neutralise emotional frailty and the chances of moral lapse, Masonry is far better reserved as the "Men's House," even though that House be, in the prophet's words, one "of untempered mortar" and lacking the advantage of feminine association.

The human soul is essentially sexless, yet to the feminine side of humanity is notoriously credited exceptional intuitive power and capacity for the finer apprehension of truth and upon this account, in the days of the Eleusinia, women were never excluded from initiation into the Mysteries, but were allotted special rites of their own and, in the processions of the Thesmophorim, passed along the public street bearing upon their heads the volumes of the Sacred Law, an eloquent symbolic tribute and testimony to the superior power of the feminine understanding to intuitise the finer sense and implications of that Law. It was to a woman the mysterious Diotima of  Megara, that the amazed Socrates owed his supreme initiation into that last Mystery of Love about which he speaks in the Symposium with such awe and moving eloquence, yet a woman with whom stands exhibited, in purposed contrast, that opposite pole of womanhood the futile, mindless Xantippe whom he had wedded. There have been Egerias, Aspasias and Hypatias, besides those known to history and Dante's hierophantess, Beatrice, but types that "eternal womanly" which, Goethe truly divined, always exists with us to lead the male intellect ever upward and on. It is almost needless to point to the mass of work done by women still living in the exposition of mystical philosophy and religion, or to say that such great mines of instruction in matters of Masonic moment as Isis Unveiled, The Secret Doctrine and A Suggestive Inquiry into the Hermetic Mystery, have come from the pens of women learned and enlightened in things pertaining to the Craft to a degree seldom evidenced by its own members.

In every interest, then, it is desirable that the "women's question" should rest where it is. Nothing can prevent those, of whichever sex, who are really builders in the spirit, from privately fraternising in that spirit. To such, formal collaboration, however agreeable it might be were it permissible, can be dispensed with, for their work is not dependent upon facilities of a formal character and they will be the first to recognise the wisdom of Order accepting and the expedience of conforming to current technical necessity. When the time and conditions arrive for present barriers to be removed, it will be because the Craft itself will have removed them by entering into a fuller realisation of its purpose than now obtains and because Grand Lodge will have been influenced to alter its laws by an authority higher even than itself the Grand Lodge Above.

To pass now from these considerations of things of the moment to the larger vista towards which those things are leading, what is the prospect before the Order? That prospect is perhaps sufficiently indicated by the familiar words written at the head of this paper. "First, that which is natural after that which is spiritual" For nearly three centuries the Craft has been developing from a small germ to a great robust body characterised by tendencies of a purely natural kind, manifesting natural human weaknesses and displaying the inexperience, the irresponsibility and the limitations of outlook common to all youth. It has meant well, even when it has misconceived its purpose. If it has provided a field in which numbers of men, blind to the Order's real significance, have sought merely social amusement and personal distinction, it has also proved a source of light and guidance to many obscure souls not subject to those vanities and who have realised and profited by its implications and some of who from the portal of the Craft, have passed on in silence to more advanced methods or colleges of spiritual instruction. A sacramental system is not invalidated by the default of those accepting its jurisdiction and as saints often flourished in the Church amid most unsaintly conditions, so not a few Masons have won to the Light, despite the surrounding darkness of their Brethren.

But now is coming a change and it is significant, that it comes not from the higher ranks of the Craft, where with all desire for the Craft's best interests, every tendency is towards conservatism and the sufficiency of old standards, but from the rank and file, from the younger, newer blood now flowing into the veins of the Order. It is, of course, not a movement even remotely resembling disaffection, but now, as never before, Brethren in numbers are asking from Masonry bread of life, they are caring less and less for ceremonies and ancient usages unless these can be shown to have supporting justification, they look to the leaders and teachers of the Craft for, not a perpetual reiteration of complimentary but unsatisfying speeches, but for instruction in real Masonic light and wisdom.

The future of the Order cannot be appraised without reference to the general social life surrounding it, for it is not something apart and detached from that life, but an integral element of it and between the two there is perpetual interaction and reaction. The gradual disintegration of the Churches affects the Craft, tending both to increase it numerically and to advance the exploration of its concealed spiritual resources. Religion will not die, the religious instinct can never die nor will "the Church" in some form cease to exist and to fulfil a certain ministry. But today a supplementary form of ministry is required and Masonry can provide it. A regrouping and redistribution of energy is taking place, in the course of which we may come to find that that powerful psychological phenomenon, a new group consciousness the Masonic consciousness has been in process of formation, a consciousness which may become in time as potent a factor as was the Church consciousness of mediaeval days, or as was the moral power of the Delphian Mysteries during the seventeen centuries of their great influence.

When the time ripens, the Mysteries as a science of life and an art of so living as to qualify for  attaining ultra natural life will come to be restored. For long past, both within and without the Church, the tide of human persuasion and events has been deadest against the tradition of regeneration into that ultra natural life, as originally taught and practised. But that which has been, is that which, in the course of cyclic recurrence, shall be again and upon a higher level of development than before. It is not that the Christian Church is not a steward of the Mysteries or at least that portion of it which does not reject the authentic sacramental signs and channels through which those Mysteries may be realised, but, from reasons too complex and lengthy here to detail, there has been failure on the human side to realise them, as they are now presented, with the result that the Christian Ecclesia has degenerated into a state analogous to that into which the pre Christian Mystery systems had fallen, when the new  era began. To the clear seeing eye the narrative in the Gospels, apart from all questions of historicity, is a drama of Initiation written for that time, for every eye to see and for every mind to profit by, for what previously had been, but adumbrated and approached by a few individuals in the concealment of the Mystery schools, became, at the Incarnation, objectified, universalised and made generally accessible. In other words the Gospels became a manual of Initiation instruction to the whole world according to the measure of individual capacity to receive it, notwithstanding that large tracts of knowledge remained unproclaimed in those Gospels, but were reserved for more private communication. The recurrent cycle of the Church's year, with its feasts and fasts, its symbolic seasons pointing to inhibitions and expansions of the soul's consciousness, is a true chart of the path to be followed by those, who themselves seek initiation under the mastership of the Great Hierophant and Exemplar of regenerative science, while in the Sacrament of the Altar is portrayed, albeit under different symbolism, the actual process of Initiation and the same transmutative changes in the body and mind of the recipient as are emblematised to the  Masonic candidate in the Craft Degrees.

Truth remains static, although temporal expressions and ministries of it follow the temporal order and are born and die. When this form of the Mysteries becomes neglected or abused, or that steward of them decrepit or ineffective, another in the Divine providence and patience stands ready to carry forward their torch, truth becomes "fulfilled in many ways lest one good custom should corrupt the world". The Masonic system was devised three centuries ago, at a time of general unrest and change, as a preparatory infant school in which once again the alphabet of a world old Gnosis might be learned and an elementary acquaintance made with the science of human regeneration . However misunderstood and misapplied, however materialistically conceived, have been its rites, the soul and consciousness of every voluntary participant in them stands imperishably impressed with the memory of them. The maxim "Once a Mason, always a Mason" expresses an occult truth not realised by those who are unaware of the subjective value and persistence of one's deliberated objective actions, though the Church implies the same truth, when it deems the act of sacramental baptism to bring a given soul within the fold of Christ for ever. In each case and especially so when the deliberate will of the neophyte assents to the act, a new addition is made to the group soul of the community into which the individual becomes incorporated and in the case of the Masonic initiate, the aggregate and volume of what we have termed the Masonic Consciousness is enlarged. Reactions and consequences follow of a nature perhaps too abstruse to dilate upon here, but to which the Roman Initiated poet referred in the well known words,    “Magnus ab integro saeclorum nascitur ordo .

                                   Iam redit et Virgo , redeunt Saturnia regna ,

                                    Iam nova progenies coelo demittitur alto”.

Meanwhile, tinctured and affected by this metaphysical influence from the subjective world, the work of the Craft proceeds within this bourne of time and place, beginning, as we have shown, crudely and following the grosser tendencies of the natural order, until a moment is reached when a new birth becomes possible. Then the natural gives way to the spiritual and the great material organisation, a "body prepared," becomes the requisite physical vehicle for a correspondingly great office as a minister of real Wisdom.

Operative Masonry preceded and became spiritualised into Speculative and the gross beginnings of the latter are now becoming sublimated into a more subtle conception and tending to a scientific mysticism at once theoretic and practical. We may look forward to the gradual increasing spiritualisation of the Craft and to its becoming in a future the nearness or distance of which no one can presume to indicate the portal to a still more advanced expression of the Sacred Mysteries. For, foretold the Great Master, the time will surely come when in the present ways of neither this "mountain", neither this Church, nor that Craft, nor any Jerusalem, that now serves as a place of peace, will men worship the Universal Father, but after another manner and mystically, that is, after the manner of the eternal Mysteries. "For salvation is of the Jews," He added and it has previously been explained that by "Jews" is implied the Initiates of those Mysteries, acting under the Grand Mastership of Him, who was named "the King of the Jews."

The Churches, therefore, may be left to continue to discharge their proper ministry, whilst those who feel the need of a larger science, an alternative and perhaps richer fare than the Churches provide, may find it in the ancient Gnosiss to which Freemasonry serves as a portal of entrance. By following the path to which that portal leads, they may be brought to a deeper knowledge of themselves and of the mysteries of their own being, to which end and which end alone, the Masonic Craft was designed. That Craft will only become what its individual members make it. If they see in it only a ceremonial procedure, at such it will remain and their initiation will be but one in name and not in fact. But if they strive to realise and make their own the living spirit and intention behind the outward rites and formal usages, the dramatised quest of Light and of the Lost Word may result for them in a blessed finding of that which they profess to seek, and what they find themselves they will become able to communicate to other seekers, until the Craft is justified of all its children and itself becomes as it was intended to become a great light in a dark world.

POSTSCRIPT

And now let me close this book, as every Lodge is closed, in peace and concord with all my Brethren and with the ancient prayer, that the Order may be preserved of God and its members be cemented with every virtue. If, in what has here been written, Masonry has been given a conception spiritualised beyond the measure of its common understanding, I have but followed the example of our Ancient Brethren, who, lifting up their eyes to hills, whence cometh strength, wrought their Masonic work upon the highest eminences of the mind and discerned the Mysteries of the Craft, not with eyes of the flesh, but with the vision and understanding of the spirit. And they, it was who perpetuated, for us of later time, an Order and a Doctrine by the right interpretation and use of which we, too, might ascend, where they had risen and from the same Mount of Vision, behold the same things, that they had seen.

Few, perhaps, ascend to those high hills today, in this more than usually troubled and dark age. But some are ready and eager to do so and for them especially it is that this book is written. All must ascend thither at last. But, at the moment, the World spirit is dominant in all our institutions. Wisdom is little apparent, for want of vision the people perish and the quest of Light has to be pursued under conditions of peculiar adversity. But there is a mystery of Darkness no less than one of Light and in the moulding hands of the Great Architect of the House of Life, the darkness and the light are both alike and serve as twin pillars, that finally, will establish, that House in strength.

Those, then, who cannot, or are not yet prepared to, mount the higher path of understanding the things of the Craft, must nevertheless be thought of in charity and spoken of in faith and in hope. For, placed as we all are in different and unequal degrees of perception upon the chequer work floor of Life, around all alike black and white, wise and foolish, learned and uninformed  runs the unifying, surrounding skirt work and border of a common Providence, about us all are flung the Everlasting Arms, whilst, from the mutual interplay of the light and darkness in us all, becomes gradually generated the realisation of that Wisdom in which, even now, we are all one, though of that unity few as yet are conscious. And since Wisdom will at last be justified of all her children, we need not complain of her processes, which, as they work out through the ages to a beneficent conclusion, temporarily involve the sharp and painful contrasts, that we find.

Twenty four centuries ago, at a time of similar darkness and degeneracy to the present, an aged seer and golden tongued poet, who through a long life had contemplated the Ancient Mysteries of Light and Wisdom, spoke of the difficulty of conveying them to a world not yet able to appreciate them and yet recognised the truth that, in the opposition of the World spirit to them, the Divine purpose was nevertheless being effected. In sending forth this book, then, and exhibiting the Mysteries of Masonry in a light towards which, doubtless, some who read it will not at once be responsive, let me appropriate that poet's words and welcome any inappreciation of what I have written with the same serenity as his, the same confidence of forward looking faith in its ultimate acceptance,

 "Knowledge, we are not foes!

I seek thee diligently,

But the World with a great wind blows,

Shining but not from thee !

Yet blowing to beautiful things,

On, amid dark and light,

Till Life, through the trammellings

Of laws that are not the Right,

Breaks, clean and pure and sings

     Glorying to God in the height. "

 ( Euripides, Baccha  translation   Murray)


 

 

Please peruse Articles 196 and 197 for a write up about the Authour.


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