W. Bro. R. A. L. HARLAND, P.M., Lodge No. 1679

"The fear of the Lord is the instruction of wisdom; and before honour is humility." (Proverbs, chapter 15, verse 33).

"Having sought in my mind, I asked of my friend, he knocked, and the door of Freemasonry became open to me". (First Lecture; Second Section).

"And thine ears shall hear a word behind thee, saying, This is the way, walk ye in it, when ye turn to the right hand, and when ye turn to the left." (Isaiah, chapter 30, verse 21).

We are concerned in this Paper with the impressive First Degree ceremony by means of which candidates are admitted into the Craft, and thereby receive their introduction to the ritual method of teaching the aims and ideals of our Masonic system. Ritual is comprised of words, and words, we would remind students of the text of the Craft ritual, are seals of the mind, results of an infinite series of experiences, which have subsisted from "time immemorial", and which sound forth the way into an equally distant future. The essential nature of words is thus neither exhausted by their present meaning, nor is their importance confined to their usefulness as transmitters of thoughts and ideas, but they express at the same time qualities which are not translatable into concepts; and it is this irrational element which stirs our deepest feelings, elevates our innermost being, and makes it vibrate with others. The magic which ritual exerts upon receptive candidates is therefore due to these noble qualities conveyed by words, and the fascinating rhythm with which they are combined in the ceremonial. The power of the ceremony to move the heart and mind of the candidate is stronger than what the words convey to him objectively, stronger even than reason with all its logic, in which we believe so firmly. There is, indeed, a presentiment which is felt by the sensitive candidate throughout the ceremony of a higher state of being, and this is associated in his mind with certain experiences which are fundamental to him, and which can neither be explained nor described. They are so subtle that there is nothing to which they can be compared; and yet they are more real than anything he can see, hear, taste or smell, because they are concerned with that which precedes and includes all other sensations, and which for that very reason cannot be identified with any of them. It is, therefore, only by the aid of symbols that such intimate experiences came to be incorporated in the Craft system; and these symbols again were not arbitrarily invented by the compilers of the ritual, but are typical of spontaneous mental images which break through into consciousness from the deepest regions of the mind.

Ritual, then, is power vested in words, and not merely speech which the mind of the candidate can contradict or evade; what the Craft ritual expresses to him in words, and is otherwise "illustrated by symbols," will surely come to pass when "time or circumstances" permit. It follows from this premise that the power and effect of the Craft ritual depend upon the spiritual attitude and responsiveness of the candidate himself. Just as a chemical formula gives power only to those who are familiar with the various symbols of which it consists, and with the laws of their application; so, in the same manner, the ritual of the Craft gives power only to those who are acquainted with the inner meaning of the rite, and who know that it is a device to call up the dormant forces within us, through which we are capable of directing our "inevitable destiny" and thereby influencing our surroundings. Therefore, the ritual may be printed in books by the thousand without giving away any secrets or losing value; the "secrets" in Freemasonry are not something that is hidden intentionally, but something that has to be acquired by a "prudent and well-regulated course of discipline", combined with concentration and insight. Only in this sense is it esoteric, like every profound wisdom, which does not disclose itself at the first glance, because it is not a matter of surface knowledge but of realisation in the mind of the candidate. Thus, esoteric knowledge is open to all within the Craft who are willing to exert themselves sincerely, and who have the capacity to learn with an open mind. It proclaims the fact that there exists a higher and more secret path of life than that which we normally tread, and that when the outer world and its pursuits lose their attractiveness and prove insufficient to our deeper needs, as sooner or later they will, we are compelled to seek and knock at the door of a world within; and it is upon this inner world, and the path to and through it, that the Craft system promises light, charts the way and indicates the qualifications and conditions of progress.


The admission of every Freemason into the Craft is, we are taught, "an emblematical representation of the entrance of all men on this their mortal existence"; hence every candidate upon his entrance finds himself, "in a state of darkness", in the West of the Lodge. He is repeating symbolically the incident of his actual birth into this world, which he entered as a blind and helpless babe, and through which in his early years, not knowing whither he was going, after many stumblings and irregular steps, after many tribulations and adversities, he may at length ascend, purified and chastened by experience, to larger life in the eternal East. To his "Mother" Lodge every novice Freemason on reception automatically assumes the relationship of a teachable "child", and he is accordingly required as a preliminary to the Initiation ceremony to present himself before the assembled Brethren "in a state of helpless indigence". The implication of the ceremony from the instructional point of view, is that whatever academic or scientific knowledge the candidate possesses, whatever philosophical ideas he holds, whatever religious creed he professes, prior to his admission, there remains something vastly more for him yet to learn, and to which the Craft can lead him. This does not mean, however, that the candidate will necessarily discover his previous convictions to be false; on the other hand, so far as they may be true he will find in the Craft system abundant confirmation and amplification of them, and so far as they are erroneous or imperfect he will be patiently taught to modify them, It does mean that if he is to profit by the teaching available to him as a member of the Craft he must be prepared to keep an open mind and to make such mental self-surrender as the occasion warrants. We all tend to feel so certain of ourselves, so wise in our own conceits, and too often we remain quite unaware that we have much to unlearn before we can become truly teachable. Accordingly, the divesting of the candidate's person prior to the ceremony is symbolic of the mental unclothing which will be required of him in his work as an Apprentice Freemason, whilst his willingness to be taken wherever he is led and to do whatever he is told betokens the humility with which his mind should follow Truth wherever it may lead, even into the apparently perilous places and among ideas not recognised by the conventions and orthodoxies of the popular world. Thus, true Initiation involves a spiritual adventure, a voyage of the mind, not into the unknowable, but into regions where he who acquires most is paradoxically he who casts away most of himself, and where the really heart-hungry are increasingly filled with good things from which the intellectually rigid are automatically precluded. This mental readjustment is, of course, a gradual process; no candidate is called upon to "rashly attempt to rush forward", but rather to adapt himself patiently to the novel conceptions arising from his connection with the Craft, and subject only to the proviso that this slow process of the transformation of mind and outlook is accepted by him "without evasion, equivocation or mental reservation of any kind."


From the place of preparation the candidate is led to the door of the Lodge, which he finds close tyled; his entrance to the Lodge is prevented by "meeting with an obstruction", as the Lectures say, and he cannot gain admission except by the prescribed way. What, then, does the door of the Lodge signify? In relation to the ceremony it may be said to symbolise some obstructive clement in the candidate himself, his way within is blocked by an intervening barrier, and he must first overcome this by his own efforts. It is therefore directed by the ritual that he must solicit admission by giving "three distinct knocks" on the door. These knocks, it is expressly stated in the Lectures, are to be interpreted in the light of the ancient scriptural exhortation: "Seek, and ye shall find; ask, and ye shall have; knock, and it shall be opened unto you". This threefold directive not only corresponds with the three knocks on the door of the Lodge, but also with the triple faculties of the candidate himself. He should "ask with the prayerful aspirations of his heart; he should seek" with the intellectual activities of his mind; and he should "knock" with the force of his bodily energies. In other words, he who sets forth on the symbolic journey to find the Light which he proclaims is the "predominant wish" of his heart must devote his entire being to the quest, for it demands and engages the attention of the whole man. Moreover, how true to life and psychology is this episode of the symbolic barrier at the door of the Lodge. We all erect our own mental barriers, and the habitual prejudices and misconceptions in which we indulge during the course of our life in the outer world, become obstructions to our perception of the things of the world within. It is these barriers that must be broken down by our efforts, our persistent "knocks", and we should always remember while proceeding on our way that no sacrifice we may make for the sake of others is in vain. Every sacrifice, as the candidate learns later in the ceremony, is an act of renunciation, a victory over ourselves, and therefore an act of liberation. Each of these acts, even if it is not recognised by those for whose benefit it was intended, brings the seeker nearer to his aim, and transforms the theoretical knowledge of the Masonic purpose into practical understanding and certainty of experience. Those, however, who keep aloof from the contacts of life miss the opportunities of giving, of service to others, and thereby the trials of strength and the temptations and ordeals of life. Again; to help others and to help oneself, go hand in hand; the one cannot be without the other. Just as an artist will hold before himself the greatest masters as worthy examples, irrespective of whether he will be able to reach their stage of perfection or not, so, whosoever wishes to progress spiritually, must turn towards the highest ideal within the range of his understanding. This will urge him to sill higher achievements, for nobody can say from the commencement, where the limits of our capacities are; in fact, it is more probable that it is the intensity of our striving that determines these limits. In a similar manner we have to discover for ourselves that the essential nature of Freemasonry cannot be found in the spaceless realm of abstract thought, nor in any historical antiquity, but in its unfolding in time and space, in the immensity of its movement and development, and in it all-encompassing influence upon life in all its aspects; in brief, in its universality.


The initial act of the ceremony proper is appropriately a prayer on behalf of the assembled Brethren that the candidate, who has already been elected to formal membership of the Craft, may now become spiritually incorporated into our Order, and for his endowment with such an influx of Wisdom as, by virtue of that incorporation, will give him increasing power to manifest "the beauties of true Godliness". The brevity and simplicity of this prayer are liable to obscure its deeper implications. It should be noted that there is no reference in the prayer to morality or ethical virtues; it invokes something far lofter than these, the gift of the Spirit: Observe, too, that the invocation strikes a keynote intended to govern the tone of both the ceremony, and the dedication expected of the candidate in regard to his subsequent way of living. Furthermore, the prayer is not offered "by" the candidate, who is required only to listen "while the blessing of heaven is invoked", but is one for him and the whole Craft; it is, indeed, a prayer that the spiritual efficiency of our Order may be augmented by the new accession to membership. Every member of the initiating Lodge present, therefore, should unite with the Master or Chaplain in a strong tension of intention and aspiration that the prayer may become realised in the joint interests of the Craft and the candidate himself. This prayer requires, besides faith and persistence, an additional element, devotion. The prerequisite moral standard is likewise shown in the objectives of the prayer, benefit for others. Two interrelated Masonic tenets have appeared in this short prayer, the Fatherhood of God and the Brotherhood of man, expressed in the love of God and the love of man. It follows from this premise that mind and body, self and neighbour, man and nature, are a unity. The prayer, then, demonstrates the method of the circulation of consciousness through the Father to the Brethren, and freely acknowledges that grace is the constant product of the creative, redemptive and sanctifying life of the Spirit.


Next in the ceremonial sequence of events is the perambulation of the Lodge, but this is preceded by an enquiry to the candidate: Mr..... in all cases of difficulty and danger in whom do you put your trust?". It is clear from the ritual that this question involves a profession of faith, and the answer should spring spontaneously from the mind and lips of the candidate. What are the "cases of difficulty and danger" to which the candidate may be exposed? In our ceremony they are, of course, merely theoretic and symbolic, but in the Initiation rites of the Ancient Mysteries, of which ours are a faint echo, they were extremely exacting, and of such a nature as to put the candidate to severe tests of mental stability and moral fitness. It should not be overlooked, however, that the candidate in our Masonic system is still deemed to be "a fit and proper person" to be initiated, and is therefore called upon to be passed in review before the Lodge, so that the Brethren may be satisfied of his fitness. This is the first reason for the perambulation, but there is another of equal importance. The journey round the Lodge is a symbolic representation of the candidate's own life in the world of everyday affairs before his request for Initiation, and the "cases of difficulty and danger" alluded to are none other than the vicissitudes encountered by him in his personal Odyssey; indeed, the wanderings and buffetings of Odysseus are an ancient poetic allegory of these same experiences, and of like character to the scripture parable of the career of the Prodigal Son before he "came to himself" and struck the true path. There are two noteworthy details in connection with the symbolic journey. Firstly, although the candidate is in a "state of darkness" himself, he is not alone, but is accompanied by an enlightened guide, the Junior Deacon; also he is compassed about by a "cloud" of unseen witnesses keenly anxious for his advancement and final restoration to Light. The significance of this detail is that every traveller through life bears within himself his own invisible guide, and that his soul's upward struggles are observed by many unseen watchers. Secondly, in the course of his journey the candidate is led to each of the Wardens in turn, whom, by means of a particular gesture he, as it were, arouses from silence and sirs to utterance. The gesture itself is a repetition of the knocks previously given at the door of the Lodge, but whereas those knocks were at first addressed to inert material, they are now applied to a living being. This detail illustrates that in our efforts to turn away from the outer world and penetrate to the Light of the inner world, we not only overcome our own self-created opposition, but we awaken and stimulate into activity certain living and hitherto dormant energies with ourselves. In each of us reside slumbering potencies, represented by the two Wardens, higher than the normal human reason knows, and it is these which it is possible to provoke into activity, and which, when they are awakened, speed a man on his way with, so to speak, the mystical greeting: "Enter, free and of good report". The expression "of good report" is the modern form of a very ancient title accorded to the candidate for Initiation, and it implies that the candidate is one animated by sincerity, one who rings true like a coin, and whose voice sounds forth a convincing note when he speaks. In ancient Egypt the title "True of Voice" was the equivalent of our Masonic "Tongue of good report" and this is the reason why, when candidates are subsequently instructed to "advance" to the Wardens, they are also required to repeat verbal formulas so that each Warden may determine whether they are "true of voice" and qualified to proceed.


After both Wardens have assured themselves of the fitness of the candidate, he is certified as being "properly prepared" and presented to the Master. Before, however, the Master accepts him the candidate is required to pledge himself to three conditions : -

(1) That he seeks admission to our Order voluntarily, and from no unworthy and material motive.

(2) That his objects in seeking admission are twofold;

(a) knowledge for himself (b) a desire to make himself, in virtue of that knowledge, more extensively serviceable to his fellow men.

(3) That he will "steadily persevere" in the path about to be disclosed to him, and "ever afterwards act and abide by the ancient usages and established customs" of our Order.

In the same way as only those are admitted for higher education in the universities and similar institutions, who have the necessary gifts and qualifications, so also the Craft requires certain special qualities of mind and qualifications from candidates, before they are initiated into its secrets and mysteries. For nothing is more dangerous than knowledge which has only theoretical value. The conditions for admission to the Craft, therefore, involve personal commitments of a far reaching character to which no candidate should be permitted to pledge himself lightly or under the least persuasion. Masonic knowledge can be called a secret doctrine with as much or as little justification as mathematics, physics, or chemistry, which to the ordinary man who is not acquainted with the symbols and formulae of these sciences, appear like a book with seven seals. Like every valuable thing, it cannot be gained without effort, and it demands the positive attitude of our whole being, without which no progress can be attained. Herein lies the magic of the Ritual and its mystic power over the candidate. It is clear, however, that the efficacy of the Ritual depends on the harmonious incorporation of form (sound and rhythm); feeling (devotional impulse); and idea (mental associations), which arouse, intensify and transform the latent psychic forces of the candidate. The form of the Ritual is indispensable, because it is the vessel, so to speak, which holds the other qualities; feeling is likewise indispensable, because it creates unity, like heat which, by melting different metals, amalgamates them into a new homogeneous unit; while the idea is the substance, the "prima materia" of the Alchemists, which vitalises all the elements of the human mind and calls up their dormant energies. But it must be noted that the term "idea" should not be taken as representing a mere abstraction, but as in the original Greek sense of "eidos", signifying a creative picture, or a form of experience in which reality is reflected and reproduced anew. The impulse which amalgamates the qualities of heart and mind, and the creative forces which respond to the idea and fill it with life, this is what the candidate has to himself contribute. If his faith in God is not sure, he will not achieve inner unity; if his mind is untrained, he will not be able to assimilate the idea, if he is psychically dull, his energies will not respond to the call; and if he lacks in concentration, he will fail to coordinate form, heart and mind. The harmonic of the First Degree is service which is, and ever has been, the prime motive of Initiation systems, but service can be rendered in other and higher ways than conventional altruistic activity. Of these the candidate will learn more later, but he should always recall that at the very threshold of his Masonic life, he pledged himself to the service of humanity.


We come now to a small episode in the ceremony which is of great significance. At this stage the candidate has just completed the symbolic journey round the Lodge, which, as we have already stated, is intended to exemplify his own life wanderings since he came to birth in this world. During his life career, as the ceremony is designed to illustrate, he has passed blindly through regions and experiences which are sometimes of darkness and ignorance (symbolised by the "North" of the Lodge), at other times of less or greater enlightenment (symbolised by the "South", "East" and "West" of the Lodge), but always unheeding of his true purpose and goal in life. The moment (dramatised in the ceremony) has come when, in response to an imperative inward urge, he at last heads in the right direction, "towards the East". His steps in this direction may at first be irregular; he may still continue to reel to and fro intellectually and emotionally before he attains stability; and he must then traverse the "straight and narrow way" before undergoing "that last and greatest trial, by which means alone" he can be fully restored to Light and the goal of his pilgrimage achieved. Nevertheless, it is axiomatic that "where there's a will there's a way", and he who is intent upon finding that way to the East at all cost will most assuredly arrive there. The way, however, is not one of suppression and annihilation, but the way of development and sublimation of all our faculties. It is the path of the great transformation, which has been described in the terms of Alchemy as the transmutation of base metals, signifying substances exposed to decay and dissolution, into the pure uncorruptible gold of the "prima materia", meaning the imperishable jewel of the adamantine mind. The mind, then, the "ashlar" of the Craft system, becomes in the process of transformation the "jewel" or Philosopher's Stone, whose touch it is that converts all the elements of our consciousness into the processes or "tools" by which the final restoration to Light is accomplished. It is obvious that these things can only be hinted at in the Ritual, but cannot otherwise be explained to the candidate in their deepest meaning. Of necessity it must be the candidate himself who creates his own inner order, and thereby gives sense and purpose to his own existence and to the world which he conceives in his mind. And the only sure guide on the path is that Kindly Light, the power of consciousness, which gradually through discrimination and understanding, grows into knowledge and wisdom.


Following the traditional practice of Orders of Initiation, the candidate is next required to take the vow of silence as the further preliminary to the ceremonial conferment of Initiation, and the initial entrustment with "the secrets of Freemasonry" which are appropriate to his grade. This solemn Obligation is often thought of as perpetuating the usual covenant of secrecy demanded from new members of the old Trade Guilds as a guard to the privileges of the Guild and the protection of technical trade secrets. Apart from the fact that our Speculative Order certainly follows the Operative procedure in this and other respects, the reasons for secrecy run much deeper than the need for silence about the formal secrets of the Craft system. The main purpose of the Obligation is to impress upon the novice the extreme value of silence about new and vital perceptions that will inevitably come to him, and the mental reactions he will experience as the result of these. It is of the utmost importance that candidates are informed that silence and secrecy are not imposed upon them for the protection of the Craft at large, which can suffer little or nothing from indiscretion on the part of its members, but solely in the interests of the candidate himself. The earnest and sincere candidate will soon find that true wisdom is not to be acquired from anything that can be ocularly shown or orally imparted to him, but arises from the gradual digestion of ideas and their coordination by his own mind, and with this object in view it is essential that his mental energies should be carefully conserved. To use an electrical analogy, he must become in effect an "accumulator", receiving impressions and then allowing them to revolve within the closed circuit of his mind, where they will be marshalled and their intrinsic values extracted. Each new experience, each new situation of life, widens our mental outlook and brings about a subtle change in ourselves. Thus our nature changes continually, not only on account of the conditions of life, but because by the constant addition of new impressions, the structure of our mind becomes ever more diverse and complex. In the affairs of the popular world an appalling waste of energy occurs daily in idle conversation and needless discussion, the way of the inner life, however, as taught in the Lodge, leads by the "deep and sill waters" of knowledge, and therefore calls for silence and economy of speech. Silence, on the other hand, generates the power necessary for speaking with authority, when the rime for such speaking comes; hence the Biblical injunction, "a time to keep silence, and a time to speak" (Ecclesiates, chapter 3, verse 7). It is not generally recognised that peril attaches to premature and unwise speech no less than to more flagrant violations of secrecy, a peril which is alluded to in the penalty of the Obligation. The penalty, when we discern the spiritual intention behind the literal expression, implies that he who is unfaithful to his duty of silence and secrecy may, by frittering away energies which need to be conserved and consolidated, automatically render himself spiritually unvocal. A wise old counsel says:

"Word is thrall but Thought makes free; Hold thy speech, I counsel thee ".

This kind of discrimination has to be exercised by every aspirant, not only in general but in each individual who is genuinely concerned for his advancement. Accordingly, the discipline and spiritual teaching of the Craft system should not be insisted upon in the case of those who do not care for it, or who are not yet ripe for it: it should be given only to those who sincerely desire higher knowledge, and it should be given only at the proper time and at the proper place. We may add that those who blindly accept the letter of the Ritual, as well as others to whom only authentic documents are evidence of Truth, will never admit this. The posture observed by the candidate during the Obligation should be studied in conjunction with what has previously been said concerning the partial measure of symbolical disrobing that he undergoes before being permitted to enter the Lodge. We should also compare the changing and progressive nature of the posture and disrobing which is adopted in each of the three Degrees, for they are profoundly revealing. They imply that the aspirant must entirely abandon his former egocentricity, humble his pride, and sever his attachment to "worldly possessions" and ingrained mental prejudices, all of which is a gradual process. In the First Degree only one knee rests in the prescribed position, in the Second Degree the other knee is the mark of progressive humility; and in the Third Degree the posture signifies that humility is total, and that all resistance of mind and will are in complete self-surrender to the Good Law upon whose symbolic volume is placed first one hand and finally both.


After taking the Obligation the candidate is immediately reminded that for a "considerable time" he has been in a "state of darkness", but this simple phrase must not be interpreted as alluding to the short period during which his sight has been shut off for symbolic reasons. The whole ceremony is an allegory of regeneration. The poet Wordsworth says: "Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting" ("Intimations of Immortality"); our re-birth, he might have added, is an awakening and a remembering; but regeneration comes about only when there is kindled within us that latent central "Light", to seek which is the purpose of our entrance into this world, and to find which is really "the predominant wish" of every human heart, whether that wish becomes a definite conscious urge, or remains dormant and subconscious. In every genuine candidate for Freemasonry that wish is presumed to have emerged as an imperative urge, and because it is the avowed "predominant wish" of his heart, he is, by the law of life itself, entitled to have his prayer answered, and to hear spoken over him the creative fiat: "Let there be Light". Throughout our Ritual by the word "Light" we must understand "consciousness", and the First Degree, therefore, implies the first stage of an expansion of consciousness beyond that of the normal mentality. How far the consciousness of a candidate may be quickened and expanded by a particular ceremony depends upon a combination of three essential conditions: Firstly, "the help of God"; secondly, the preparedness of the candidate himself; and thirdly, the efficiency of the Lodge and the Initiating Master as instruments for bringing the two former into union. It must not be supposed that an actual accession of consciousness comes to the candidate, at least in the majority of cases, simultaneously with the symbolic act of restoration to light. Usually the new consciousness emerges slowly, sometimes quite imperceptibly, through the darkness of our clouded understanding, and, to use a Masonic analogy, the Sun, the symbol of enlightened consciousness, mounts to "its meridian" in due time; there is first the dawn and rising before the Light can manifest in full strength at "the hour of high twelve". This cannot be achieved through building up convictions, ideals and aims based on mundane reasoning, but only through conscious penetration of those layers of our mind which cannot be reached or influenced by logical arguments and discursive thought. The abstractness of philosophical concepts and conclusions requires to be constantly corrected by direct experience, by the practice of meditation, and the contingencies of daily life. We must likewise be conscious of the insufficiency of words and all intellectual attempts of explanation, in which we should never see more than approximations and preliminaries, which prepare us for deeper forms of experience, just as the theoretical knowledge of the laws of musical harmony and counterpoint are only preliminaries, but can never be a substitute for the enjoyment or creation of music. By glibly talking about the "mysteries" of Freemasonry we destroy the purity and spontaneity of our inner attitude, and the deep reverence which is the key to the temple of revelation. Moreover, as the mystery of love can only unfold when it is withdrawn from the eyes of the crowd, and as a lover will not discuss the beloved with outsiders, in the same way the mystery of the inner transformation and expansion of consciousness can only take place if the secret force of its symbols is hidden from the profane eyes and the idle talk of the world. Thus, with the lodge "properly tyled", and at the given signal the "blessing is restored" to the candidate, while there is a special reason for the symbolic action by means of which all present "acclaim" the moment of restoration. It is, as it were, a discharge or liberation of the tension to which those assembled have been subjected during the action of the ceremony leading up to the climax.


The attention of the candidate is now directed to "the three great, though emblematical Lights in Freemasonry". These emblems are revealed to him by the Master as the first objects upon which his eyes look after being "restored to the blessing of material light", and the candidate is appropriately kept in a kneeling posture, and facing to the East, while they are exhibited and briefly explained. They consist of the Sacred Writings, the Square and the Compasses; the three being always displayed as if they were organically and indissociably combined; the V. of the S.L., lying undermost and forming the base for the other two which rest upon it, the Compasses being partially concealed by the Square. The three emblems may be interpreted as follows :-


This emblem although embodying the Divine Law as revealed to the Western world has a far wider meaning. Masonically, it is the visible emblem of the invisible Cosmic Law, through which the Deity is manifested in the Universe. It is virtually, therefore, the representation of God Himself who, as Law, underlies everything, and is the basis of all being. As we know "Law" has many forms or modes, and we must not limit our ideas of it to any one of them, but rather think of it as comprising them all, and as unifying the dual qualities of Justice and Mercy, Severity and Love, which characterise the Divine Nature. Furthermore, the Masonic conception of the Sacred Law is so broad that members of the Craft are not committed to recognising as valid only one expression of it. Accordingly, the authorised Scriptures of any religion are permitted to be exposed in the Lodge in addition to the Holy Bible, the principle adopted being that a candidate may be Obligated upon the particular revelation of Divine Law which he accepts as true for himself, and therefore binding upon his conscience. It is impossible to appreciate the Sacred Writings of any religious movement unless we approach them with humility and reverence, which is the hall mark of great scholars and pioneers of learning, and the Masonic student is expected to exercise tolerance and understanding in this important aspect of his work.


The Compasses resting upon the V. of the S.L., are the Masonic symbol of the Divine Spirit issuing forth from the Deity into manifestation, and proceeding to function in accordance with the Divine Law. Our perception of the manifested Universe is spatial, and space is, philosophically speaking, the principle of higher unity. In contrast to the principle of space is the principle of substance, but nevertheless space is the precondition of all that exists, be it in material or immaterial form, because we can neither imagine an object nor a being without space. Space, therefore, is not only the "conditio sine qua non" of existence, but also a fundamental property of our own consciousness. It follows from this premise that the infinity of space and the infinity of consciousness are identical, while it may be said with equal justification that the experience of space is a criterion of spiritual activity and of a higher form of awareness. Thus those who see only the transitoriness of things and reject the world on account of its transistory character, see only the change on the surface of things, but have not yet discovered that the form of change, the manner in which the change takes place, reveals the Divine Spirit that inspires all form, the Reality that informs all phenomena.


The square set opposite to, but conjoined with, the Compasses, represents the vesture of Cosmic Substance in which the Spirit takes form. The thought behind this symbol is that of the "prima materia", the original substance, the ultimate principle of the manifested world. According to this idea, all existing elements or phenomena are only variations of the same force or substance, which can be restored to its purity by reducing and dissolving the manifold qualities which have imposed themselves upon it through differentiation and subsequent specialisation. This idea, which only yesterday was ridiculed by our Western science as a phantasmagoria of medieval thought, has today again become an acceptable theory, borne out by recent discoveries in the realm of nuclear physics. The repercussions of these discoveries already make themselves felt in all branches of modern thought and have led to a new conception of the Universe.


Read in conjunction, the Three Great Lights are an emblem of the Cosmic Purpose, that is, Spirit and Substance working in unison in order to realise an idea or intention latent in the Divine Mind. The idea in question is that of constructing a perfect Universe, a Universe in which the animating spirit and the material form shall stand in perfect balance. This is why, Masonically, we speak of the Deity as T.G.A.O.T.U., and of the Universe as "the Temple of the Deity whom we serve" (Fourth Section; First Lecture). The cosmic Temple is, indeed, the "intended structure", which is in the process of being built in accordance with the Divine Law, and with the assistance of the Divine Compasses and Square. It is the duty of every Freemason to cooperate with the Great Architect in the execution of His plan, and the candidate during the ceremony of Initiation has disclosed to him, under the guise of the Three Great Lights, the basis upon which our doctrine and philosophy rests.


Having been shown the Three Great Lights, the candidate is turned round from facing the East, and Three Lesser Lights are pointed out to him, burning in different parts of the Lodge. In the symbolism of the Craft system these Three Lesser Lights stand in direct correspondence with the Three Great Lights, and they are meant to indicate to the novice that the three great Cosmic Principles which sustain the Universe are reproduced in miniature within himself. It is in this sense that the Universe is termed the Macrocosm, or great image of the Divine Thought, while each individual man is a microcosm, or image in small of that same Divine Thought. To each of us from our birth into this world have been given three lesser lights, by means of which the Lodge within ourselves may be illumined. Thus, the "Sun" symbolises our spiritual consciousness, the higher aspirations and emotions of the soul; the "Moon" betokens our reasoning or intellectual faculties which, as the Moon reflects the light of the Sun, should reflect the light coming from the higher spiritual faculty and transmit it into our daily conduct; whilst "the Master of the Lodge" is a symbolical phrase denoting the will-power of man, which should enable him to be master of his own life, to control his own actions, and keep down the impulses of his lower nature, even as the stroke of the Master's gavel controls the Lodge and calls to order and obedience the Brethren under his direction. It is by the assistance of these lesser lights within him, that the candidate perceives what is, again symbolically, called the "form of the Lodge"; in ether words, the way in which his human nature has been composed and constituted, the length, breadth, the height and depth, of his own being. The establishing of inner relations between spiritual qualities, psychological principles, planes of consciousness, and their symbolical figures and spatial positions, are not an idle play of imagination or arbitrary speculations, but the visible representation of experiences. But the instrument of human consciousness, like a musical instrument, has to be tuned anew continually, and this tuning depends upon the knowledge of the right vibrations or "knocks", and on the capacity of perceiving their relationship, which requires a high degree of sensitivity and devotion. The candidate will be helped by his studies to discern that he himself, his body and his soul, are "holy ground", upon which he should build the altar of his own spiritual life, an altar which he should suffer no "iron tool", no debasing habit of thought or conduct, to defile. Finally, he will discover that there is a mystical "ladder of many rounds or staves", signifying the innumerable paths or methods by which men are led upwards to the spiritual Light encircling us all, but that of the three principal methods, the greatest of these, and the one that comprehends them all, is Love, in the full exercise of which God-like virtue a Freemason reaches the summit of his profession.


At this juncture of the ceremony there follows the formal entrustment of the candidate with the "secrets" of the Degree. This episode is, however, preceded by a cryptic explanation of certain dangers through which he is told, unbeknown to himself, he has already passed, and he is shown the p...... and the c .... t. . by way of confirmation. These symbols relate to certain subjective perils which are incident to rashly embarking upon the path of spiritual experience without proper preparation, and to the moral suicide involved by turning back once a decision has been voluntarily made to go forward. To the novice such perils are, of course, of little importance, and they do not become apparent until after considerable experience of spiritual science; meanwhile, the candidate should keep the admonition in mind as a wise counsel for his future guidance. The p...... exhibited at this stage of symbolic progress reminds us of the frequent references in the Sacred Writings to the two-edged "sword of the Spirit," and the way in which it is said to guard access to the "Tree of Life"; this will explain the use of the sword in the ceremony, and also illustrate why, on the first entrance to the Lodge, "the p .... of a s .... i... t was presented" to the "n ... d l .. t b....t of the candidate. To the c . . . . t . . there is attached a deep significance, indeed, so important is this item of our equipment that it appears in one guise or another in each of the three Craft Degrees, and also in the Royal Arch. It is not here expedient to deal with its full implications, but it is permissible to say that in the V. of the S.L., the c.... t . . is referred to in the familiar phrase "or even the silver cord be loosed" (Ecclesiastes, chapter 12, verse 6), and whosoever understand the meaning of that phrase will see why the "cord" is used in each of our ceremonies. The arcane "secrets" imparted in this Degree are said to consist of peculiar marks or signs intended to distinguish all Brethren of the grade of Entered Apprentice, and outwardly they are expressed in the Lodge by step, sign and word. These outward and conventional "secrets", however, are to be regarded as clues to spiritual progress, rather than the communication of confidential information. The real "secrets of the Degree" are not communicated orally, but must be learned by experimental practice. Stated in other terms, in the same way that a prosperous business man is quite unable to convey the "secret" of his success to another who has not himself practised commerce successfully, so the "secret" of Masonic advancement is withheld from those who fail to fulfil the requirements of living by "the practice of every moral and social virtue". This does not mean that the oral teaching given during the ceremony may be subsequently regarded by the candidate as a merely formal introduction to the Craft system. On the contrary, the candidate should be impressed with the fact that he has received his first lesson in a long course of instruction of a strictly private nature which is reserved from public knowledge, and he should be encouraged to "make a daily advancement in Masonic knowledge ".


The entrustment with the "secrets" being completed, the candidate is led to each of the Wardens in turn and subjected to a test of his ability to communicate what has been imparted to him. This part of the ceremony is entirely in accordance with scriptural authority, and with experience. It is a law of life that no one receives an accession of knowledge or power without being soon afterwards put to a test as to how he will use it, and whether he is able and worthy to retain what he has received. If he is found worthy he will be still further advanced, and if not, he will remain where he was, or find himself in a worse position than he was at first. The law is: "For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance; but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath" (St. Matthew, chapter 25, verse 29). And so it will be to every candidate for whom our Initiation ceremony becomes translated into terms of actual life experience; as soon as Light has been vouchsafed to him, he will find himself tested in one way or another as to his worthiness to retain it. Our method of "halving" or "lettering" the Word of the Degree is not a precautionary measure, or in order to demonstrate that we share its secret with other Brethren, but is a most delicate reminder that although we are not able to utter what the Word signifies in its entirety, yet if we can only sound it forth in sincere fragmentary efforts, those fragments will suffice to let us pass our test. We know something only insofar as we can express it, that is, produce it. The more perfectly and manifoldly we can produce something, the better we know it. We know it completely, if we can produce and communicate it always and in every possible way, and if we can bring about an individual expression in every fragment of it. The mystery of speech is more than words and concepts, it is the principle of all mental representation and communication, be it in the form of audible, visible or thinkable symbols, in which the highest knowledge is imparted.


Since each episode in the ceremony follows its predecessor with psychological accuracy, we should expect that a fitting reward awaits the candidate as the result of passing the symbolic test to which he has just been submitted. It is so, and on the Senior Warden presenting the candidate to the Master for "some mark of your favour", the Master then directs that he shall be invested with the Apron. Thereupon, for the first time the candidate is Masonically clothed, and is entitled henceforth to wear the Badge of the Order. Behind this apparently simple act of investiture lies an important fact, namely that every spiritual state is accompanied by an appropriate bodily form. It is written: "But God giveth it a body as it hath pleased Him, and to every seed his own body" (1st Corinthians, chapter 15, verse 38). Accordingly, on the candidate being reported as having attained a new phase of soul growth, the Master as the representative of the Divine in the Lodge, at once orders him to be clothed upon with a vesture which is expressive of his spiritual condition. It should be noted that the Apron is of white lamb skin, which is an emblem of that purity and innocence that we always associate with the lamb and the new-born child. The shape of the Apron is that of a triangle superimposed upon a quadrangle; the triangle is the universal emblem of what is spiritual and formless, whilst the quadrangle is the symbol of what is material and possesses form or body; and, since human nature is a compound of both the spiritual and material, the Apron is a figure of the candidate himself.


Clothed upon Masonically, the candidate is placed in the N.E. corner of the Lodge, and thereby he is intended to learn that at his birth into this world the foundation stone of his spiritual life was duly and truly laid and implanted within himself. He is now charged to develop it, to raise a superstructure upon it. Two paths are open to him at this stage; it is the meeting place of the N. and the E., of darkness and light; and, therefore, representative of his own condition. The N.E. corner of the Lodge is a point of much symbolic significance. By standing at this point, the candidate is intended to see that he can at will proceed on his journey towards the E., or be can turn back to the N., advance further to the Light, or relapse into the darkness; and it rests with himself in which direction his life will henceforth move. Appropriately, it is here in the N.E. corner of the Lodge that the candidate is reminded of his duty to render himself more extensively serviceable, and the Charge now given to him emphasises the virtue of charity, the complete attainment of which is elsewhere declared to be the summit of our Masonic profession. We must not, however, think of the fulfillment of this virtue merely in the terms of money donations to those who are financially poor, distressed, or even deserving. The familiar words of the Ritual may suggest that it does, but we should bear in mind that the Ritual throughout is "veiled in allegory", and enshrines a deeper meaning than the surface interpretation. Actually, the "charity" which the candidate is earnestly entreated to cultivate at this important moment in the ceremony would perhaps be best translated by the word "compassion", meaning sympathetic and kindly feeling with all living creatures. Such a definition includes Love, which is the usual synonym for Charity, but it comprehends something more. In its Latin original "Caritas", the word "Charity" means dearness, and the virtue implied is that of regarding all living creatures in the spirit of universal and impartial dearness, as being pilgrims in the same way, and whilst differing in degrees of developing, yet all evolving towards a common goal. In their struggles and sufferings to work out that destiny, which is theirs no less than ours, and whether they are conscious of it or not, it is the duty of every member of the Craft to give them all the compassion and help that he can. The giving of mental and moral succour is relief of far greater value than the giving of what is personal and material, because it strengthens the mental and moral nature of the recipients. Surely, then, this is one of the most impressive moments of the ceremony when the candidate, denuded of everything of material value, is asked to make a gift to the poor and distressed. The only resources from which he can possibly make a gift are from the treasury of his own heart, and the incident dramatically demonstrates the fact that if the treasury of the heart is empty we cannot really give at all, however opulent we may be pecuniarily. On the other hand, if the treasury of the heart is full, we shall be giving what guineas cannot buy.


In the N.E. corner of the Lodge the candidate is advised of "what" to do, what to aim at, in order to promote his own advancement, and the next thing is to tell him "how" to do it. Thus under the guise of what are termed "Working Tools" he is recommended to pursue certain lines of discipline and self improvement. These so-called Working Tools are three in number, and their significance is sufficiently explicit in the Ritual used in their presentation. They must not be looked upon, however, only as emblems which are incidental to the ceremony, but as indicating duties which are essential to Masonic progress. One of these three tools, the measuring guage, is itself three-fold in application. It allocates our daily time to the performance of three distinct duties, duties not necessarily involving equal expenditure of time, but each of which is of equal value. There is first a duty to God and a persistent devotion to "spiritual" things; secondly, a duty to one-self, which will involve due attention to "material" pursuits and the care of our own person; and thirdly, an "altruistic" duty to those who are less happily placed than ourselves. This is, as it were, an equilateral triangle of duties each of which is as important as the other two, and it will be helpful to consider the sides of such a triangle as signifying God, our neighbour, and ourselves respectively. We are expected to find a way of balancing our performance of the three duties, and this is why the candidate is told that assistance to others is to be "without detriment" to himself or his "connections". At first sight these qualifying words appear to be selfish, but there is great wisdom in them, for only he can serve and help another who has first discharged his duty to himself and thereby made himself competent to serve. There are, indeed, many people who neglect to improve themselves, whilst fussily trying to improve others to their own detriment. The attention of the candidate is likewise drawn to the "advantages of education", and in practice he will find that his education is greatly facilitated if he will enter upon the systematic reading of literature dealing with Masonic and cognate subjects. Says an old counsel: "Reading is good prayer"; and since Freemasonry is largely a work of the mind, every study that conduces to the exercise of the mental faculties will prove to be a "Working Tool", and open fresh doors of his perception. Assuredly, all disciplines of the mind are equally precious and their discoveries mutually so, but this solidarity of science and art does not necessarily mean confusion. What is important for the student is to integrate the results of the diverse applications of the mind without confounding them, "by which means alone we are rendered fit members of well organised society ".


Finally, the candidate is given permission to retire from the Lodge in order to be restored to what are called, a little ironically, his "personal comforts", the belongings which he surrendered before he was allowed to enter the place where such possessions have no intrinsic value. Nevertheless, there is a pointed lesson in his being directed to resume them, for henceforth it will be his duty to carefully revise his estimate of them, whilst using them freely for what they are worth, and to learn to discriminate between what is of transient and what is of enduring moment. On his return to the Lodge the "Ancient Charge" is delivered to the candidate which concludes the ceremony, but as this Charge is obviously self explanatory it need not be further examined here.

Summarising, we may state briefly that the Ceremony of Initiation dramatises, in a few swift episodes and pregnant words, the novice or Apprentice stage of the spiritual life. The preliminary work of education and self knowledge which is the subject of the First Degree in Freemasonry can be learned only by experience and effort. We must at all times beware of the tendency to be false and insincere with ourselves. Love of mankind, altruism, are very fine words, but they will only have meaning when we are able to effectively serve others. The primary reason for our dilemma is ignorance, and above all, ignorance of ourselves. In the ancient teachings the first demand was: "Know Thyself", but this principle embraces much more than is generally accepted. Self knowledge involves long and patient study but to study ourselves is one thing and to change ourselves is quite another, although study is undoubtedly the "first regular step" towards the possibility of change in the future. We are therefore "taught to be cautious", implying that we should absorb the teaching slowly, proceed warily, understandingly, and withal humbly. In our quest for Light we should carefully apply to ourselves the well known words of the hymn: "I do not ask to see the distant scene; one step enough for me" (Newman); and it is one step, and only one step at a time, that the Craft ceremonial system permits. To change oneself, this may seem, to the keen aspirant, a small preliminary to the more alluring aspects of our Masonic science; in actual fact it is nothing of the sort; it is, indeed, the most radical of alterations. We are all integrated in society, and we cannot change in any way without affecting those around us; self change is always social change; and the "practice of every moral and social virtue" is strictly enjoined. The life of the earnest Masonic student should be carried on in constant interchange between contemplation and deed. As in human breathing inspiration and expiration, as in the working of the human heart systole and diastole, are forever alternating, so likewise in man's relation to God do contemplation and service succeed one another. We are reminded in the ceremony that creative work depends upon two interacting active and passive forces; these were represented at the forefront of the symbolic temple of Solomon by "two pillars", denoting foundation principles; and it is these two principles, activity and contemplation, that the true candidate will learn to equilibrate in his daily life. We are counselled to "steadily persevere" in our researches as it is unwise to come to hasty conclusions, especially in regard to our fitness for advancement, whilst we must always endeavour to correctly interpret the motives by which we profess to be actuated. Delay in our progress will certainly intervene on occasions, not as a denial of our efforts, but as part of the discipline imposed. Those who are more expert know that deeper acquaintance with spiritual verities is conditioned by motives, and the use to which the knowledge will be put if it is attained. Throughout the ages the novice seeking Initiation has found it necessary to solicit tuition from an expert teacher who can give him guidance suited to his personal needs. It is for this reason that the Craft, following the traditional method, declares that every new Apprentice should: "Seek for a Master and from him gain instruction" (First Lecture; First Section). This relationship of Master to pupil which is implicit in our Masonic teaching is likewise expressed in the old maxim: "When the pupil is ready the Master will be found waiting", but let us reflect upon the apparent paradox, that while the teacher is indispensable to the pupil, so the teacher himself cannot progress without the pupil. This is the basis of our Lodge and the method of Masonic progress from which all members are deemed to derive the maximum benefit. The group is essential, but it must be linked with the principle, demonstrated by the Installation of the Master in the Lodge, that none can ascend to a higher station until he places another in his own place. In other words, what we receive we must progressively give back, and the value of a Masonic Study Circle lies in the fact that it implements the group work of the Lodges by teaching and interpreting the doctrine of Freemasonry, from which all members of the Circle may mutually assist each other and thereby the Craft in general.


The Volume of the Sacred Law

The Masonic Initiation W.L. Wilmshurst

The Meaning of Masonry W.L. Wilmshurst

Spiritual Disciplines Papers from the Eranos Yearbooks

The Key of Masonic Initiation P.T. Runton

The Secret Path P. Brunton

Man and His Becoming R. Guenon

The Lost Keys of Freemasonry Manly P. Hall

The Way of Attainment S. T. Klein

(The author would here record his personal gratitude to the late W.Bro. W.L. Wilmshurst, and make due acknowledgment to The Lodge of Living Stones, No. 4957.)