The Meaning of Masonry 2

Chapter II

Signs are not wanting that a higher Masonic consciousness is awakening in the 
Craft. Members of the Order are gradually, and here and there, becoming alive to 
the fact that much more than meets the eye and ear lies beneath the surface of 
Masonic doctrine and symbols. They are beginning to think for themselves instead 
of taking the face-value of things for granted, and, as their thought develops, 
facts that previously remained unperceived assume prominence and significance. 
They discern the Masonic system to be something deeper than a code of elementary 
morality such as all men are expected to observe whether formally Masons or not. 
They reflect that the phenomenal growth of the Craft is scarcely accountable for 
upon the supposition that modern speculative Masonry perpetuates nothing more 
than the private associations that once existed in connection with the operative 
builders' trade. They recognize that there can be no peculiar virtue or interest 
in continuing to imitate the customs of ancient trade-guilds for the mere sake 
of so doing; or of keeping on foot a costly organization for teaching men the 
elementary symbolism of a few building tools, supplemented by a considerable 
amount of social conviviality. Upon a little thought it becomes pretty obvious 
that our Third Degree and the great central legend that forms the climax of the 
Craft system cannot have, and can never have had, any direct or practical 
bearing upon, or connection with, the trade of the operative mason. It may be 
urged that we have our great charity system and that the social side of our 
proceedings is a valuable and humanizing asset. Granted, but other people and 
other societies are philanthropic and social as well as we; and a secret society 
is not necessary to promote such ends, which are merely supplemental to the 
original purpose of the Order. The discernment of such facts as these, then, 
suggests to us that the Craft has not yet entered into the full heritage of 
understanding its own syst em and that side-mat ters connected with Masonry 
which we have long emphasized so strongly, valuable in their own way as they 
are, are not after all the primary and proper work of the Order. The work of the 
Order is to initiate into certain secrets and mysteries, and obviously if the 
Order fails to expound its own secrets and mysteries and so to confer real 
initiations as distinguished from passing candidates through certain formal 
ceremonies, it is not fulfilling its original purpose whatever other incidental 
good it may be doing.
Now as these facts are the basis upon which this lecture proceeds, let me at 
the outset make my first point by stating that as the progress in the Craft of 
every Brother admitted into its ranks is by gradual, successive stages, in like 
manner the understanding of the Masonic system and doctrine is also a matter of 
gradual development. Stated in the simplest terms possible, the theory of 
Masonic progress is that every Member admitted to the Order enters in a state of 
darkness and ignorance as to what Masonry teaches, and that later on he is 
supposed to be brought to light and knowledge. Putting it in other terms, he 
enters the Craft symbolically as a rough ashlar and it is his business so to 
develop both his character and his understanding that ultimately, in virtue of 
what he has learned and practised, he may be as a finished and perfect cube.
Now the understanding of the Masonic scheme tends to develop upon precisely 
similar lines. Its meaning is not discernible all at once, and unless our minds 
are properly prepared and our understandings carefully trained, they are 
unlikely ever to participate in the real secrets and mysteries of Masonry at 
all, however often we may watch the performance of external ceremonial or 
however proficient we may be in memorizing the rituals and instruction lectures. 
The first stage, the first conception of what Masonry involves, is concerned 
merely with the surface-value of the doctrine; with an acquaintance with the 
literal side of the imparted knowledge which we all obtain upon entering the 
Craft. Beyond this stage the vast majority of Masons, it is to be feared, never 
passes. This is the stage of knowledge in which the Craft is regarded as a 
social, semi-public, semi-secret community to which it is agreeable and 
advantageous to belong for sociable or even for ulterior purposes; in which the 
goal of t he Mason's ambition is to attain office and high preferment and to 
wear a breastful of decorations; in which he takes a literal, superficial and 
historic view of the subject-matter of the doctrine; in which ability to perform 
the ceremonial work with dignity and effectiveness and to know the instruction 
catechisms by heart, so that not a syllable is wrongly rendered, is deemed the 
height of Masonic proficiency; and where, after discharging these functions with 
a certain degree of credit, his idea is often to have the Lodge closed as 
speedily as may be and get away to the relaxation of the festive board.
Now all these things belong to what may be called the very rough-ashlar stage 
of the Masonic conception. I am not, of course, alluding to any individual 
Mason. I confess frankly to having come within this category myself, and I think 
we may agree that we have all passed through the phase I have described, for the 
simple reason that we knew nothing better and had no one able to teach us 
something better. Let us not complain. If we look back upon the progress of the 
Craft during the last 150 years we cannot but congratulate ourselves upon the 
enormous, if gradual, strides made in Masonic progress and decorum even in the 
rough-ashlar stage of our conception of it. Anyone familiar with the records of 
old Lodges will have been brought into close touch with times when almost every 
element of reverence and dignity seems to have been lacking. Lodges were held in 
the public rooms of taverns. Whatever official furniture decorated these 
primitive temples, quart-pots and " churchwardens " figured largely among the 
unauthorized equipment. In one of the great London galleries there hangs a 
famous picture called " Night " by the great artist and moralist of his age, 
Hogarth. His purpose was to depict a characteristic night-scene in the streets 
of London as they appeared in his time. Among the typical specimens of depravity 
haunting those ill-lit streets, the great artist has held up to the derision of 
all time the figure of a Freemason staggering home drunk, still wearing his 
apron and being assisted by the tyler of the Lodge. No true Mason can regard 
this picture without a burning sense of shame, and without registering a 
resolution to redeem the Craft from this stigma. We have, I hope, got past such 
things as these. We have awakened to some sense of dignity and self-reverence. 
The Craft is well governed by its higher authorities, and individual Lodges take 
a pride in providing proper temples and in conducting their assemblies w ith due 
regard to the solemnity of Masonic doctrine. May the Order n ever relapse into 
the primitive and chaotic condition from which it has emerged.
But this improvement in matters of external deportment, great and welcome as 
it is, is not enough. To prevent the Order settling down into a state of 
self-satisfaction with its social privileges and the agreeableness of friendly 
intercourse among its members; to prevent its making its claims to being a 
system of knowledge and science as perfunctory and little onerous as possible, 
the improvement I have spoken of must be attended (and I believe is destined to 
be attended) by an awakening to the deep significance of the Craft's internal 
purposes. And since I have referred to what I have termed the " rough - ashlar " 
conception of that purpose you have the right to ask me now to state that 
loftier conception which may be regarded, in comparison, as the " perfect cube." 
The answer to this enquiry I shall not attempt to state in so many words. I 
invite you to regard this whole lecture as an indication of what as a that 
answer must be. To some extent I endeavoured to formulate that answer upon a 
previous occasion, but whilst I then entered rather into the details and minutae 
of the Craft system and symbols, I shall treat the subject now upon broader 
lines and deal with Masonry in its wider and more philosophic aspect. I said 
upon that occasion--and I must repeat it now--that in its broad and more vital 
doctrine Masonry was essentially a philosophic and religious system expressed in 
dramatic ceremonial. It is a system intended to supply answers to the three 
great questions that press so inexorably upon the attention of every thoughtful 
man and that are the subject around which all religions and all philosophies 
move: What am I? Whence come I? Whither go I? It is a truism to say that in 
our quieter and more serious moments we all feel the need of some reliable 
answer to these questions. Light upon them is " the predominant wish of our 
hearts "; and upon such light as we can obtain, whether from Masonry or 
elsewhere, depends our philosophy of life and the rule of conduct by which we 
regulate our life. In a larger sense, then, than our conventional limited one, 
the Masonic candidate is presumed to enter the Order in search of light upon 
these problems; light that he is presumed not to have succeeded in finding 
elsewhere. If his candidature is actuated by any motive other than a genuine 
desire for knowledge upon these problems, which beyond all others are vital to 
his peace, and by a sincere wish to render himself, by the help of that 
knowledge, serviceable to his fellow creatures, then his candidature is less 
than a worthy one. The reason why no man should be solicited to join the Order 
is that in regard to these matters of sacred and momentous import, the first 
springs of impulse must originate within the postulant himself; the first place 
of his preparation must ever be in his own heart, and it is to the cry and 
knocking of his inward need, and fo r no less a motive, that--in theory, though 
s carcely in practice ---the door to the Mysteries is opened and the seeker 
enters in and finds help. At another stage of his symbolical progress the 
candidate learns from his superior brethren, that they, along with himself, are 
in search of something that is lost and which they have hopes of finding. And it 
is here that the great motive of this and of all quests, as well as the clue to 
the real purpose of Masonry, appears prominently and is stated in emphatic 
terms. Masonry is the quest after something that has been lost. Now what is it 
that has been lost? Consider the matter thus. Why should we, or the world at 
large, require systems of religion and philosophy at all? What is the motive 
and reason for the existence of a Masonic Order and of many other Orders of 
Initiation, both of the past and the present? Why should they exist at all? I 
might reduce the matter to the compass of a small and personal point by asking 
why have you come to hear this lecture, and why should I have been striving for 
many years to acquire the information that enables me to give it?--if it be not 
the fact,--as indeed it is, that every man in his reflective moments realizes 
the sense of some element of his own being having become lost; that he is 
conscious, if he be honest with himself, of the sense of moral imperfection, of 
ignorance, of restricted knowledge about himself and his surroundings; that he 
is aware, in short, of some radical deficiency in his constitution, which, were 
it but found and made good, would satisfy this craving for information, for 
completeness and perfection, would " lead him from darkness to light," and would 
put him beyond ignorance and beyond the touch of the many ills that flesh is 
heir to. The point is too obvious to need pressing further, and the answer to it 
is to be found by a reference to a great doctrine that forms the philosophic 
basis of all systems of religion, and all the great systems of the Mysteries and 
of Initiation of antiquity, viz., that which is popularly known as the Fall of 
Man. However we may choose to regard this event--and throughout the history of 
the human race it has been taught in innumerable ways and in all manner of 
parables, allegories, myths and legends--its sole and single meaning is that 
humanity as a whole has fallen away from its original parent source and place; 
that from being imbedded in the eternal centre of life man has become projected 
to the circumference; and that in this present world of ours he is undergoing a 
period of restriction, of ignorance, of discipline and experience, that shall 
ultimately fit him to return to the centre whence he came and to which he 
properly belongs. " Paradise Lost " is the real theme of Masonry no less than of 
Milton, as it is also of all the ancient systems of the Mysteries. The Masonic 
doctrine focuses and emphasizes the fact and the sense of this loss. Beneath a 
veil of allegory describing the intention to build a certain temple that could 
not be finished because of an untimely disaster, Masonry implies that Humanity 
is the real temple whose building became obstructed, and that we, who are both 
the craftsmen and the building materials of what was intended to be an 
unparalleled structure, are, owing to a certain unhappy event, living here in 
this world in conditions where the genuine and full secrets of our nature are, 
for the time being, lost to us; where the full powers of the soul of man are 
curtailed by the limitations of physical life; and where, during our 
apprenticeship of probation and discipline, we have to put up with the 
substituted knowledge derivable through our limited and very fallible 
But, whilst Masonry emphasizes this great truth, it indicates also--and this 
is its great virtue and real purpose the method by which we may regain that 
which is lost to us. It holds out the great promise that, with divine assistance 
and by our own industry, the genuine realities of which we at present possess 
but the imperfect shadows shall be restored to us, and that patience and 
perseverance will eventually entitle every worthy man to a participation in 
them. This large subject is mirrored in miniature in the Craft ceremonial. The 
East of the Lodge is the symbolic centre; the source of all light; the place of 
the throne of the Master of all life. The West, the place of the disappearing 
sun, is this world of imperfection and darkness from which the divine spiritual 
light is in large measure withdrawn and only shines by reflection. The 
ceremonies through which the candidate passes are symbolic of the as a stages of 
progress that every man--whether a formal member of the Craft or not-- may mak e 
by way of self-purification and self-building, until he at length lies dead to 
his present natural self, and is raised out of a state of imperfection and 
brought once more into perfect union with the Lord of life and glory into whose 
image he has thus become shaped and conformed.
It is in this large sense, then, that Masonry may become for us--as indeed it 
was intended to become by those who instituted our present speculative system--a 
working philosophy for those brought within its influence. It supplies a need to 
those who are earnestly enquiring into the purpose and destiny of human life. It 
is a means of initiating into reliable knowledge those who feel that their 
knowledge of life and their path of life have hitherto been but a series of 
irregular steps made at haphazard and under hoodwinked conditions as to whither 
they are going. Not without good reason does our catechism assert that Masonry 
contains " many and invaluable secrets." But these of course are not the formal 
and symbolic signs, tokens and words communicated ceremonially to candidates; 
they are rather those secrets which we instinctively keep locked up in the 
recesses and safe repository of our hearts; secrets of the deep and hidden 
things of the soul, about which we do not often talk, and which, by a natural 
instinct, we are not in the habit of communicating to any but such of our 
brethren and fellows as share with us a common and a sympathetic interest in the 
deeper problems and mysteries of life.
I have said already that Masonry is a modern perpetuation of great systems of 
initiation that have existed for the spiritual instruction of men in all parts 
of the world since the beginning of time. The reason for their existence has 
been the obvious one, resulting from the cardinal truth already alluded to, that 
man in his present natural state is inherently and radically imperfect; that 
sooner or later he becomes conscious of a sense of loss and deprivation and 
feels an imperative need of learning how to repair that loss. The great 
world-religions have been ordained to teach in their respective manners the same 
truths as the Mystery systems have taught. Their teaching has always been 
twofold. There has always existed an external, elementary, popular doctrine 
which has served for the instruction of the masses who are insufficiently 
prepared for deeper teaching; and concurrently therewith there has been an 
interior, advanced doctrine, a more secret knowledge, which has been reserved 
for riper minds and into which only proficient and properly prepared candidates, 
who voluntarily sought to participate in it, were initiated. Whether in ancient 
India, Egypt, Greece, Italy or Mexico, or among the Druids of Europe, temples of 
initiation have ever existed for those who felt the inward call to come apart 
from the multitude and to dedicate themselves to a long discipline of body and 
mind with a view to acquiring the secret knowledge and developing the spiritual 
faculties by means of experimental processes of initiation of which our present 
ceremonies are the faint echo. It is far beyond my present scope to describe any 
of these great systems or the methods of initiation they employed. But in regard 
to them I will ask you to accept my statement upon two points: (1) that although 
these great schools of the Mysteries have long dropped out of the public mind, 
they, or the doctrine they taught, have never ceased to exist; the e nmity of 
official ecclesiasticism and the tendencies of a materialist ic and commercial 
age have caused them to subside into extreme secrecy and concealment, but their 
initiates have never been absent from the world; and (2) that it was through the 
activity and foresight of some of these advanced initiates that our present 
system of speculative Masonry is due. You must not imply from this that modern 
Masonry is by any means a full or adequate presentation of these older and 
larger systems. It is but their pale and elementary shadow. But such as they 
are, and so far as they do go, our rituals and doctrine are an authentic 
embodiment of a secret doctrine and a secret process that have always existed 
for the enlightenment of such aspirants as, putting their trust in God (as our 
present candidates are made to say), have knocked at the door of certain secret 
sanctuaries in the confidence that door would open and that they would find in 
due course that for which they were seeking. Those who institut ed modern 
speculative Masonry some 250 years ago took certain material s lying ready to 
hand. They took, that is, the elementary rites and symbols pertaining to 
medieval operative guilds of stone-masons and transformed them into a system of 
religio-philosophic doctrine. Thenceforward, from being related to the trade 
which deals in stones and bricks, the intention of Masonry was to deal solely 
and simply with the greater science of soul-building; and, save for retaining 
certain analogies which the art of the practical stone-mason provided, 
thenceforward it became dedicated to purposes that are wholly spiritual, 
religious and philosophic.
Perhaps the chief evidence of the transformation thus effected was the 
incorporation of the central legend and traditional history comprised in our 
Third Degree. Obviously that legend can have had no relation to, or practical 
bearing upon, the operative builders' trade. I will ask you to reflect that no 
building of stone, no temple or other edifice capable of being built with hands, 
has remained unfinished through the death of any professional architect such as 
Hiram Abiff is popularly supposed to have been. The principles of architecture, 
the genuine secrets of the building trade, are not and never have been lost; 
they are thoroughly well known, and the absurdity is manifest of supposing that 
Masons of any kind are waiting for time or circumstances to restore any lost 
knowledge as to the manner in which temporal buildings ought to be constructed. 
We know how to erect buildings to-day quite as well as our Hebrew forefathers 
did who built the famous temple at Jerusalem, and indeed a well known architect 
has stated that most of our London churches are, both for size and 
ornamentation, far larger and more splendid than that temple ever was. Our duty 
then is to look behind the literal story; to pierce the veil of allegory 
contained in the great legend and to grasp the significance of its true purport. 
That which is lost is to be found, we are told, with the Centre. But if we 
enquire what a Centre is, the average Mason will give you nothing more than the 
official, enigmatic and not very luminous answer that it is a point within a 
circle from which every part of the circumference is equidistant. But what 
circle? and what circumference?, for there are no such things as centres or 
circles in respect of ordinary buildings or architecture. And here the average 
Mason is at an utter loss to explain. Press him further, " Why with the Centre? 
" and again he can only give you the elusive and perplexing answer " Because 
that is a point from which a Master Mason cannot err," and you are no wiser.
Brethren, it is just this elusiveness, these intentional enigmas, this 
purposed puzzle-language, that are intended to put us on the scent of something 
deeper than the words themselves convey, and if we fail to find, to realize and 
to act upon, the intention of what is veiled behind the letter of the rituals, 
we can scarcely claim to understand our own doctrine; we can scarcely claim to 
have been regularly initiated, passed and raised in the higher sense of those 
expressions, whatever ceremonies we have formally passed through. " The letter 
killeth, the spirit giveth life." Let us enquire what the spirit of this 
puzzle-language is. The method of all great religious and initiatory systems has 
been to teach their doctrine in the form of myth, legend or allegory. As our 
first tracing-board lecture says, " The philosophers, unwilling to expose their 
mysteries to vulgar eyes, Meaning concealed their tenets and principles of 
philosophy under hieroglyphical figures," and our traditional history is one of 
these hieroglyphical figures. Now the literally-minded never see behind the 
letter of the allegory. The truly initiated mind discerns the allegory's 
spiritual value. In fact, part of the purpose of all initiation was, and still 
is, to educate the mind in penetrating the outward shell of all phenomena, and 
the value of initiation depends upon the way in which the inward truths are 
allowed to influence our thought and lives and to awaken in us still deeper 
powers of consciousness.
The legend of the Third Degree, then, in which the essence of Masonic 
doctrine lies, was brought into our system by some advanced minds who derived 
their knowledge from other and concealed sources. The legend is an adaptation of 
a very old one and existed in various forms long before its association with 
modern Masonry. In the guise of a story about the building of a temple by King 
Solomon at Jerusalem, they were promulgating the truth which I have alluded to 
before and which is generally known as the Fall of Man. As our legend runs, upon 
the literal side of it, it was the purpose of a great king to erect a superb 
structure. He was assisted in that work by another king who supplied the 
building materials, by a skilful artificer whose business was to put these 
together according to a pre-ordained plan, and by large companies of craftsmen 
and labourers. But in the course of the work an evil conspiracy arose, resulting 
in the destruction of the chief artificer and preventing the completion of the 
building, which remains unfinished, therefore, to this day.
Now I will ask you to observe that this legend cannot refer to any historical 
building built in the old metropolis of Palestine. If we refer to the Bible as 
an authority you will find that temple was completed; it was afterwards 
destroyed, rebuilt and destroyed again on more than one occasion. Moreover, the 
biblical accounts make no reference whatever to the conspiracy, or to the death 
of Hiram. On the other hand they state expressly that Hiram " made an end of 
building " the temple; that it was finished and completed in every particular. 
It is very clear then that we must keep the two subjects entirely separate in 
our minds; and recognize that the Masonic story deals with something quite 
distinct from the biblical story. What temple then is referred to? The temple, 
brethren, that is still incomplete and unfinished is none that can be built with 
hands. It is that temple of which all material edifices are but the types and 
symbols it is the temple of the collective body of humanity itself; of which the 
great initiate St. Paul said " Know ye not that ye are the temple of God? " A 
perfect humanity was the great Temple which, in the counsels of the Most High, 
was intended to be reared in the mystical Holy City, of which the local 
Jerusalem was the type. The three great Master-builders, Solomon and the two 
Hirams, are a triad corresponding after a manner with the Holy Trinity of the 
Christian religion; Hiram Abiff being the chief architect, he " by whom all 
things were made " and " in whom (as St. Paul said, using Masonic language) the 
whole building fitly framed together groweth unto a holy temple in the Lord." 
The material of this mystical temple was the souls of men, at once the living 
stones, the fellow craftsmen and collaborators with the divine purpose.
But in the course of the construction of this ideal temple, something 
happened that wrecked the scheme and delayed the fulfilment indefinitely. This 
was the Fall of Man; the conspiracy of the craftsmen. Turn to the book of 
Genesis, you will find the same subject related in the allegory of Adam and Eve. 
They were intended, as you know, for perfection and happiness, but their 
Creator's project became nullified by their disobedience to certain conditions 
imposed upon them. I will ask you to observe that their offence was precisely 
that committed by our Masonic conspirators. They had been forbidden to eat of 
the Tree of Knowledge; or, in Masonic language, they were under obligation " not 
to attempt to extort the secrets of a superior degree " which they had not 
attained. Now the Hebrew word Hiram means Guru, teacher of " supreme knowledge," 
divine light and wisdom, and the liberty that comes therewith. But this 
knowledge is only for the perfected man. It is that knowledge that Hiram said 
was " kno wn to but three in the world," i.e., known only in the counsels of the 
Divine Trinity, but it is knowledge that with patience and perseverance every 
Mason, every child of the Creator, " may in due time become entitled to a 
participation in." But just as Adam and Eve's attempt to obtain illicit 
knowledge caused their expulsion from Eden and defeated the divine purpose until 
they and their posterity should regain the Paradise they had lost, so also the 
completion of the great mystical Temple was prevented for the time being by the 
conspirators' attempt to extort from Hiram the Master's secrets, and its 
construction is delayed until time and circumstances-- God's time, and the 
circumstances we create for ourselves--restore to us the lost and genuine 
secrets of our nature and of the divine purpose in us.
The tragedy of Hiram Abiff, then, is not the record of any vulgar, brutal 
murder of an individual man. It is a parable of cosmic and universal loss; an 
allegory of the breakdown of a divine scheme. We are dealing with no calamity 
that occurred during the erection of a building in an eastern city, but with a 
moral disaster to universal humanity. Hiram is slain; in other words, the 
faculty of enlightened wisdom has been cut off from us. Owing to that disaster 
mankind is here to-day in this world of imperfect knowledge, of limited 
faculties, of chequered happiness, of perpetual toil, of death and frequent 
bitterness and pain; our life here is (to use a poet's words):--
" An ever-moaning battle in the mist, Death in all life and lying in all 
love; The meanest having power upon the highest, And the high purpose broken by 
the worm."
The temple of human nature is unfinished and we know not how to complete it. 
The want of plans and designs to regulate the disorders of individual and social 
life indicates to us all that some heavy calamity has befallen us as a race. The 
absence of a clear and guiding principle in the world's life reminds us of the 
utter confusion into which the absence of that Supreme Wisdom, which is 
personified as Hiram, has thrown us all, and causes every reflective mind to 
attribute to some fatal catastrophe his mysterious disappearance. We all long 
for that light and wisdom which have become lost to us. Like the craftsmen in 
search of the body, we go our different ways in search of what is lost. Many of 
us make no discovery of importance throughout the length of our days. We seek it 
in pleasure, in work, in all the varied occupations and diversions of our lives; 
we seek it in intellectual pursuits, in religion, in Masonry, and those who 
search farthest and deepest are those who become most conscious of the loss and 
who are compelled to cry " Machabone ! Macbenah ! the Master is smitten," or, as 
the Christian Scriptures word it, " They have taken away my Lord, and I know not 
where they have laid him."
Hiram Abiff is slain. The high light and wisdom ordained to guide and 
enlighten humanity are wanting to us. The full blaze of light and perfect 
knowledge that were to be ours are vanished from the race, but in the Divine 
Providence there still remains to us a glimmering light in the East. In a dark 
world, from which as it were the sun has disappeared, we have still our five 
senses and our rational faculties to work with, and these provide us with the 
substituted secrets that must distinguish us before we regain the genuine 
Where is Hiram buried? We are taught that the Wisdom of the Most High - 
personified as King Solomon ordered him to be interred in a fitting Masonry 
sepulchre outside the Holy City, " in a grave from the centre 3 feet between N. 
and S., 3 feet between E. and W., and 5 feet or more perpendicular." Where, 
Brethren, do you imagine that grave to be? Can you locate it by following these 
minute details of its situation? Probably you have never thought of the matter 
as other than an ordinary burial outside the walls of a geographical Jerusalem. 
But the grave of Hiram is ourselves. Each of us is the sepulchre in which the 
smitten Master is interred. If we know it not it is a further sign of our 
benightedness. At the centre of ourselves, deeper than any dissecting-knife can 
reach or than any physical investigation can fathom, lies buried the " vital and 
immortal principle," the " glimmering ray " that affiliates us to the Divine 
Centre of all life, and that is never wholly extinguished however evil or 
imperfect our lives may be. We are the grave of the Master. The lost guiding 
light is buried at the centre of ourselves. High as your hand may reach upwards 
or downwards from the centre of your own body--i.e., 3 feet between N. and S.-- 
far as it can reach to right or left of the middle of your person--i.e., 3 feet 
between W. and E.--and 5 feet or more perpendicular--the height of the human 
body- -these are the indications by which our cryptic ritual describes the tomb 
of Hiram Abiff at the centre of ourselves. He is buried " outside the Holy 
City," in the same sense that the posterity of Adam have all been placed outside 
the walls of Paradise, for, " nothing unclean can enter into the holy place " 
which elsewhere in our Scriptures is called the Kingdom of Heaven.
What then is this " Centre," by reviving and using which we may hope to 
regain the secrets of our lost nature? We may reason from analogies. As the 
Divine Life and Will is the centre of the whole universe and controls it; as the 
sun is the centre and life-giver of our solar system and controls and feeds with 
life the planets circling round it, so at the secret centre of individual human 
life exists a vital, immortal principle, the spirit and the spiritual will of 
man. This is the faculty, by using which (when we have found it) we can never 
err. It is a point within the circle of our own nature and, living as we do in 
this physical world, the circle of our existence is bounded by two grand 
parallel lines; " one representing Moses; the other King Solomon," that is to 
say, law and wisdom; the divine ordinances regulating the universe on the one 
hand; the divine "wisdom and mercy that follow us all the days of our life " on 
the other. Very truly then the Mason who keeps himself thus circumscribed cannot 
Masonry, then, is a system of religious philosophy in that it provides us 
with a doctrine of the universe and of our place in it. It indicates whence we 
are come and whither we may return. It has two purposes. Its first purpose is to 
show that man has fallen away from a high and holy centre to the circumference 
or externalized condition in which we now live; to indicate that those who so 
desire may regain that centre by finding the centre in ourselves for, since 
Deity is as a circle whose centre is every where, it follows that a divine 
centre, a " vital and immortal principle," exists within ourselves by developing 
which we may hope to regain our lost and primal stature. The second purpose of 
the Craft doctrine is to declare the way by which that centre may be found 
within ourselves, and this teaching is embodied in the discipline and ordeals 
delineated in the three degrees. The Masonic doctrine of the Centre--or, in 
other words, the Christian axiom that " the Kingdom of Heaven is within you " 
--is nowhere better stated than by the poet Browning:
" Truth is within ourselves. It takes no rise From outward things, whate'er 
you may believe. There is an inmost centre in ourselves Where truth abides in 
fullness; and to know Rather consists in finding out a way Whence the imprisoned 
splendour may escape Than by effecting entrance for a light Supposed to be 
Brethren, may we all come to the knowledge how to " open the Lodge upon the 
centre " of ourselves and so realize in our own conscious experience the finding 
of the " imprisoned splendour " hidden in the depths of our being, whose rising 
within ourselves will bring us peace and salvation. How then does the Craft 
doctrine prescribe for the liberation of this imprisoned centre? Its first 
injunctions are those of our first degree. There must be purity of thought and 
purpose. I need scarcely remind you that the word candidate derives from the 
Latin candidus, white (in the sense of purity), or that our postulants before 
entering the Lodge leave behind them in the precincts the garments that belong 
to the fashion of the outer world whose ideals they are desirous of 
relinquishing, and enter the Lodge clad of in white as emblematic of the 
blamelessness of their thought and the purification of their lives. As this 
symbolic white clothing is worn during each of the three degrees, it is as 
though the see ker after the high light of the Centre must always come uttering 
the triple ascription, " Holy, Holy, Holy," as the token of the threefold purity 
of body, soul and spirit, which is essential to the achievement of his quest. He 
has left all money and metals behind him, for the gross things of this world are 
superfluous in the world that lies within; whilst if any dross of thought or 
imperfections of character remain in him, he will find the impossibility of 
attaining to the consciousness of his highest self; he will learn that he must 
renounce them and begin again, and that his attempt at real initiation must be 
He must be animated by a spirit of universal sympathy. Financial doles and 
practical relief to the pecuniarily poor and distressed are admirable practices 
as far as they go, but they by no means exhaust the meaning of the term charity 
as Masonry intends it. The payment of a few guineas to philanthropic 
institutions is scarcely a fulfilment of St. Paul's great definition of charity 
so often read in our Lodges, by exercising which we are wont to say that a Mason 
" attains the summit of his profession."
There is a far larger sense of Brotherhood than the limited conventional one 
obtaining among those who are members of a common association. There is that 
deep sense in which a man feels himself not only in fraternity with his 
fellow-men, whether masonically his brethren or not, but realizes himself 
brother to all that is, part of the universal life that thrills through all 
things. A great illuminate, St. Francis of Assisi, expressed what I refer to 
when he wrote in his famous canticle, of his brothers the sun and the wind; his 
sisters the moon and the sea; his brethren the animals and the birds; as being 
all parts of a common life, all constituents in the scheme of the Great 
Architect for the restoration of the Temple of Creation and its dedication to 
His service, and as all worthy of a common love upon our part, even as they are 
the subject of a common solicitude upon His.
And passing from these primary qualifications we proceed to what is signified 
by our second degree, wherein is inculcated the analysis and cultivation of the 
mental and rational faculties; the study of the secrets of the marvellous, 
complex, psychical nature of man; the relation of these with the still higher 
and spiritual part of him which, in turn, he may learn to trace " even to the 
throne of God Himself " with which he is affiliated at the root essence of his 
being. These studies, brethren, so lightly touched upon in our passing-ceremony, 
so glibly referred to as we recite our ritual, when undertaken with the 
seriousness that attached to them in the old mystery-systems are not without 
just reason described in our own words as " serious, solemn and awful." The 
depths of human nature and self knowledge, the hidden mysteries of the soul of 
man are not, as real initiates well know, probed into with impunity except by 
the " properly prepared." The man who does so has, as it were, a cable-tow ar 
ound his neck; because when once stirred by a genuine desire for the higher 
knowledge that real initiation is intended to confer, he can never turn back on 
what he learns thereof without committing moral suicide; he can never be again 
the same man he was before he gained a glimpse of the hidden mysteries of life. 
And as the Angel stood with a flaming sword at the entrance of Eden to guard the 
way to the Tree of Life, so will the man whose initiation is not a conventional 
one find himself threatened at the door of the higher knowledge by opposing 
invisible forces if he rashly rushes forward in a state of moral unfitness into 
the deep secrets of the Centre. Better remain ignorant than embark upon this 
unknown sea unwisely and without being properly prepared and in possession of 
the proper passports.
And eventually the aspirant, after these preliminary disciplines, has to 
learn the great truth embodied in the third degree; that he who would be raised 
to perfection and regain what he has long realized has been lost to himself, may 
do so only by utter self-abnegation, by a dying to all that to the eyes and the 
reason of the uninitiated outer world is precious and desirable. The third 
degree, brethren, is an exposition in dramatic ceremonial of the text " Whoso 
would save his life must lose it." Beneath the allegory of the death of the 
Master-- and remember that it is allegory- -is expressed the universal truth 
that mystical death must precede mystical rebirth. " Know ye not that ye must be 
born again? " " Unless a grain of corn fall into the ground and die, it abideth 
alone; if it die it bringeth forth much fruit." And it is only thus that all 
Master-Masons can be raised from a figurative as a (not a physical) death to a 
regenerated state and to the full stature of human nature.
The path of true initiation into fullness of life by way of a figurative 
death to one's lower self is the path called in the Scriptures the narrow way, 
of which it is also said that few there be who find it. It is the narrow path 
between the Pillars, for Boaz and Jachin stand impliedly at the entrance of 
every Masonic Temple and between them we pass each time we enter the Lodge. Very 
great prominence is accorded these pillars in the ritual, but very little 
explanation of their import is given, and it is desirable to know something of 
their great significance. To deal with them at all fully would require an entire 
lecture upon this one subject, and even then there would have to remain unsaid 
in regard to these great symbols much that is unsuited to treatment in a general 
The pillars form, and have always formed, a prominent feature in the temples 
of all great systems of religion and initiation, whether Masonic or not. They 
have been incorporated into Christian architecture. If you recall the 
construction of York Minster or Westminster Abbey, you will recognize the 
pillars in the two great towers flanking the main entrance to those cathedrals 
at the west end of the structure. Non-Masons, therefore, enter these temples, as 
we do, between the pillars in the West; they look through them along the 
straight path that leads to the high altar, just as the Mason's symbolic passage 
is also from the West to the throne in the East. That path is, as it were, the 
straight path of life, beginning in this outer world and terminating at the 
throne, or altar, in the East. Many centuries before our Bible was written or 
the temple of Solomon described in the Books of Kings and Chronicles was thought 
of, the two pillars were used in the great temples of the Mysteries in Egypt, 
and one of the great annual public festivals was that of the setting up of the 
pillars. What, then, did they signify? I can deal with the subject but very 
superficially here. In one of their aspects they stand for what is known in 
Eastern philosophy as the " pairs of opposites." Everything in nature is dual 
and can only be known in contrast with its opposite, whilst the two in 
combination produce a metaphysical third which is their synthesis and perfect 
balance. Thus we have good and evil; light and darkness (and one of the pillars 
was always white and the other black); active and passive; positive and 
negative; yes and no; outside and inside; man and woman. Neither of these is 
complete without the other; taken together they form stability. Morning and 
evening unite to form the complete day. Man is proverbially imperfect without 
his " better half," woman; the two marry to impart strength to each other and to 
establish their common house. Physical science shows all matter to be composed 
of positi ve and negative electric forces in perfect balance and that things 
would disintegrate and disappear if they did not stand firm in perfect union. 
Every drop of healthy blood in our bodies is a combination of red and white 
corpuscles, by the due balance of which we are established in strength and 
health, whilst lack of balance is attended by disease. The pillars therefore 
typify, in one of their aspects, perfect integrity of body and soul such as are 
essential to achieving spiritual perfection. In the terms of ancient philosophy 
all created things are composed of fire and water; fire being their spiritual 
and water their material element, and so the pillars represented also these 
universal properties. In one of the Apocryphal Scriptures (2 Esdras, 7; 7-8), 
the path to true wisdom and life is spoken of as an entrance between a fire on 
the right hand and a deep water on the left, and so narrow and painful that only 
one man may go through it at once. This is in allusion to the narrow and painful 
p th of real initiation of which our entrance into the Lodge between the pillars 
is a symbol.
Now all great symbols are shadowed forth in the person of man himself. The 
human organism is the true Lodge that must be opened and wherein the great 
Mysteries are to be found, and our Lodge rooms are so built and furnished as to 
typify the human organism. The lower and physical part of us is animal and 
earthy, and rests, like the base of Jacob's ladder, upon the earth; whilst our 
higher portion is spiritual and reaches to the heavens. These two portions of 
ourselves are in perpetual conflict, the spiritual and the carnal ever warring 
against one another; and he alone is the wise man who has learned to effect a 
perfect balance between them and to establish himself in strength so that his 
own inward house stands firm against all weakness and temptation. And in still 
another sense the two pillars may be seen exemplified in the human body. There 
are our two legs, upon both of which we must stand firm to acquire a perfect 
physical balance. And Y having discerned this simple truth, and having seen that 
the path of true initiation, which is one of spiritual rebirth, is an arduous 
and painful progress to him who undertakes it, let me ask you to consider in all 
sacredness another physical phenomenon, the great mystery of which we perhaps 
think little of by reason of its frequency and of our familiarity with it. I 
refer to the incident--the great mystery, I might say--of child-birth. Brethren, 
every child born into this world, coming into this life as into a great house of 
initiation, trial and discipline, passes, amid pain and travail, through a 
strait and narrow way and between the two pillars that support the temple of its 
mother's body. And thus in the commonplaces of life, in which for those who have 
clean hearts there is nothing common or unclean but everything is sacred and 
symbolic, the act of physical birth is an image and a foreshadowing of that 
mystical rebirth and of that passing through a strait gate and a narro w way in 
a deeper sense, without which it is written that a man sha ll not enter into the 
Kingdom of Heaven.
The regenerated man, the man who not merely in ceremonial form but in vital 
experience, has passed through the phases of which the Masonic degrees are the 
faint symbol, is alone worthy of the title of Master-Mason in the building of 
the Temple that is not made with hands but that is being built invisibly out of 
the souls of just men made perfect. Not only in this world is this temple being 
built; only the foundations of the intended structure are perceptible here. The 
Craft contemplates other and loftier planes of life, other storeys of the vast 
structure than this we live and work in. Just as our Craft organization has its 
higher assemblies and councils in the form of the Provincial and the Grand 
Lodges that regulate and minister to the need of the Lodges of common craftsmen, 
so in the mighty system of the universal structure there are grades of higher 
life, hierarchies of celestial beings working and ministering in the loftier 
portions of the building, beyond our present ken. And as here at the head of our 
limited and temporal brotherhood there rules a Grand Master, so too over the 
cosmic system there presides the Great Architect and Most Worshipful Grand 
Master of all, whose officers are holy Angels; and the recognition of this truth 
may tend to consecrate us in the discharge of the little symbolic part we 
severally perform in the system which is the image of the great scheme.
The world at large, Brethren, is as it were, but one great Lodge and place of 
initiation, of which our Masonic Lodges are the little mirrors. Mother Earth is 
also the Mother-Lodge of us all. As its vast work goes on, souls are ever 
descending into it and souls are being called out of it at the knocks of some 
great unseen Warden of life and death, who calls them here to labour and summons 
them hence for refreshment. After the Lodge, the festive board; after the labour 
of this world, the repast and refreshment of the heavenly places. And thus, 
although our after-proceedings have no formal place in the Masonic system, any 
more than the after-life is in formal connection with us whilst our sphere of 
activity is in this present world, still it plays a striking and of appropriate 
part calculated to awaken us to the deep significance of our customary 
conviviality. Upon such occasions we are wont to drink the toast of " the King 
and the Craft," remembering as loyal subjects and loving brethren our ear thly 
sovereign and our Masonic comrades throughout the world. But here again I would 
ask every Master who gives and every brother who drinks this toast, to lift his 
thoughts to a greater King and to a larger craft than our limited and symbolic 
fraternity. I would remind you how in the Christian Mysteries there was another 
Master whom unconsciously we imitate, who also after supper took the cup and 
when he had given thanks to the King of kings, pledged himself, as it were, to 
that larger Craft which is co-extensive with humanity itself; directing them in 
this manner to show forth symbolically a certain great mystery until his coming 
again. But this, Brethren, is none other than what is implied in our own Masonic 
words when we also are directed to use certain substituted secrets until time 
and circumstances shall restore to us the genuine ones.
In submitting, then, these thoughts to you, it may be claimed that Masonry 
offers to those capable of appreciating it a working philosophy and a practical 
rule of life. It discloses to us the scheme of the universe-- a scheme once 
shattered and arrested, but left in the hands of humanity to restore. It 
indicates our place, our purpose and our destiny in that universe. It is as a 
great house of instruction and initiation into the Mysteries of a larger and 
fuller life than the unenlightened worldling is as yet ripe Masonry for 
appreciating. Let us, therefore, value and endeavour fully to appreciate its 
mysteries. Let us also be careful not to cheapen the Order by failing to realize 
its meaning and by admitting to its ranks those who are unready or unfitted to 
understand its import. I said at the outset of this lecture that some Masons are 
beginning to awake to a larger consciousness of the true meaning and purport of 
our Craft. I say now at the end, Brethren ! lift up your hearts; throw wide ope 
n the shutters of your minds and imaginations. Learn to see in Masonry something 
more than a parochial system enjoining elementary morality, performing 
perfunctory and meaningless rites, and serving as an agreeable accessory to 
social life. But look to find in it a living philosophy, a vital guide upon 
those matters which of all others are the most sacred and the most urgent to our 
ultimate well-being. Realize that its secrets which are " many and invaluable " 
are not upon the surface; that they are not those of the tongue, but of the 
heart; and that its mysteries are those eternal ones that treat of the spirit 
rather than of the body of man. And with this knowledge clothe yourselves and 
enter the Lodge--not merely the Lodge-room of our symbolic Craft, but the larger 
Lodge of life, wherein, silently and without the sound of metal tool, is 
proceeding the perpetual work of rebuilding the unfinished and invisible Temple 
of which t he mystical stones and timber are the souls of men. In that rebuild 
ing, men and women are taking part who, whilst formally not members of our 
Craft, are still unconsciously Masons in the best of senses. For whosoever is 
carefully and deliberately " squaring his stone " is fitting himself for his 
place in the " intended structure " which gradually is being " put together with 
exact nicety " and which, though erected by ourselves, one day will become 
manifest to our clearer vision and will appear " like the work of the Great 
Architect of the Universe than that of human hands." Upon us Masons therefore, 
who have the advantage of a regular and organized system which provides and 
inculcates for us an outline of the great truths that we have been considering 
and that always in the world have been regarded as secret, as sacred, and as 
vital, there rests the responsibility attaching to our privilege, and it must be 
our aim to endeavour to enter into the full heritage of understanding and 
practising the system to which we belong.