Some Further Notes on Craft Symbolism
W.Bro. R. A. L. Harland, P.M., Lodge No. 1679, President of the Circle.
"But Freemasonry, embracing a wider range, and having a more noble object in view, namely, the cultivation and improvement of the human mind, may with more propriety be termed a Science, although its lessons for the most part are veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols." (Introduction to First Lecture).
The following Notes are intended to supplement those of the preceding Paper ("SOME PRELIMINARY NOTES ON CRAFT SYMBOLISM"), and will provide students with a brief commentary on the profound symbolism and teaching of the Craft system. They will also endeavour to draw aside the veil of allegory in which the Ceremonies and Lectures are clothed, and thereby reveal their spirit and inner meaning. It is truly written, "the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life" (2nd Corinthians, chapter 3, verse 6); moreover, if we fail to realise the deep significance of what lies concealed behind the letter of the Ritual, we can scarcely claim to understand Masonic doctrine.
We have seen (Transaction No. 2 — "THE MYSTICAL QUEST IN FREEMASONRY") that, according to the mystical interpretation of the Craft legend, the "traditional history" of the Third Degree is a parable of a cosmic and universal loss which occurred out of time and space, and before our humanity and the planet on which we live assumed their present physicalised condition. In the guise of a story about the building of a temple by King Solomon at Jerusalem, there is promulgated the truth which is generally known as the Fall of Man. Beneath a veil of allegory it is implied that a perfect humanity was the great Temple which, in the counsels of the Most High, was to be reared in the mystical Holy City, of which the old metropolis of Palestine is taken as the type. The material of this ideal Temple was the souls of men, at once the living stones, the fellow craftsmen and collaborators with the Divine purpose. But during the course of the construction something happened that wrecked the scheme; an evil conspiracy arose among the workmen, resulting in the destruction of the chief artificer; and, on this account, fulfilment was banished from the Craft horizon. The mystical experiment in a measure miscarried; the "genuine secrets" were then pronounced lost "until time or circumstances" should restore them; finally, consummation was declared to be delayed indefinitely. Such is the substance of the Craft legend, and to the extent that we interpret it rightly, so shall we comprehend the doctrinal mystery of Redemption and the cognate ritual mystery of Initiation, which together constitute the "mysteries and privileges" of the Masonic system. The doctrinal mystery, however, is the special subject of a Degree now worked apart from the official Craft series.
To him whose departure was the reason of the loss which the Craft mourns, and on whose skill the completion of the work was acknowledged to depend, is assigned the institution of the Mark Degree at a period prior in symbolic time to the beginning of the actual erection of the structure. Within the limits of the Mark Degree itself we hear nothing repeated of the eventual destruction of the "principal Architect" although, in the fact that not he, but another in his place, presides in a Mark Lodge, is an intimation of substitution which, whilst it cannot here be further examined, at least deserves mention as bearing upon this point. We learn that "formerly" the choosing of the Mark belonged to the F.C. Lodge, and by this we must understand that the Master grade is an innovation, so to speak, introduced into the mystical system after, or in consequence of, the immersion of humanity in physical activity. The symbolism of the Age before the Fall is represented in Freemasonry by that nebulous state of the Craft "in those days," when "our antient Brethren" placed utter reliance upon "the integrity of their employers"; it plays a large part in the traditional "milieu" of the Second Degree, and in the Mark Degree is more fully carried on. It has been pointed out, however, by some expositors of the meaning of Freemasonry that there is a difference between the building symbolism adumbrated in the First Degree and that postulated in the Mark Degree. In the First Degree we are told of the laying of a certain Foundation-stone on which a "superstructure" is to be raised "perfect in all its parts, and honourable to the builder." This is clearly an exhortation to an attainment within purely personal limits. In the Mark Degree we hear, and for the first time, of a mystical House which is, "not made with hands, eternal in the heavens"; a larger and more universal concern, with cosmic connotations. This alteration in the line of allegory, confusing to a limited understanding, is yet in keeping with the method of the instituted Mysteries, and has a purpose. The perpetual work of rebuilding the unfinished Temple of humanity is proceeding silently under the guiding hand of the Great Overseer of the Universe, and whosoever, therefore, is deliberately squaring his individual "stone" is fitting himself for his place in the "intended structure"; eventually, the completed edifice will "be built up as living stones into a spiritual House, meet for His habitation." This large subject is mirrored in miniature in the Craft ceremonial; the cosmic Mystery becomes reduced to a personal Mystery; and Candidates are provided with an epitome or synopsis, in dramatic form, of the spiritual regeneration of man. We have, then, to investigate how personal perfecting is taught in the Masonic system.
The method of instruction formulated for the Craft ritual Mystery preserves the three Degrees of Initiation as known to antiquity. These represent the traditional three stages of philosophic mysticism; first, the preliminary stage of "Purification," involving the discipline and control of the objective sense-nature; second, that of interior "Illumination," which results after a similar discipline and control of the subjective mental-nature; and third, the final and crucial stage of "Perfection" by mystical death and "raising," or regeneration. It is this threefold integration of man's being which lies at the root of the sacred and binding quality of the threefold affirmation, the "third time of asking," that is found in one form or another all over the world. In the natural symbolism of ancient philosophy (see "SOME PRELIMINARY NOTES ON CRAFT SYMBOLISM"), the first stage of Initiation is figured by an ascent of the mystical "Ladder of Perfection" from EARTH, through the sensual MIRE, to the purifying WATER; and in the ritual of the Eleusinian rites, by the smearing of the Candidate with mud and subsequent cleansings in water. It is likewise in allusion to the preliminary preparation of the aspirant that the Scriptures declare: " And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season ". (Psalm 1, verse 3). The First Degree Ceremony, therefore, used on the reception of Candidates into the Craft dramatises, in swift moving episodes, the probationary or "Apprentice" stage of the spiritual life. Our work at this stage is to learn to know ourselves, our fragility and our capacity; and then to realise our situation in the sight of God, " unto whom all hearts be open, all desires known," who knows humanity with its confusions, inconsistencies and conflicts, better than it can ever know itself. Over against the recognition of our inherent weakness, our engrained egotism and turbulent desires, the Craft sets the acknowledgement of our responsibility, and the bracing appeal to the moral will. We come to the Lodge, it is true, "humbly soliciting to be admitted," but humility does not imply an easy acquiescence in our unworthiness for the duties of the high vocation to which we are presumed to have been called. The spirit of adventure, courage, vitality, zest, are among the qualities which are required of the Masonic novice. "Let a man examine himself," says St. Paul to those who would approach the mysteries; not as to whether he is good enough, for that question is n ot worth asking: but as to whether he is willing to take trouble enough, for he will then understand that any opposition to his spiritual advancement comes only from within himself, and must be overcome by his own efforts. Accordingly, in the Craft system, the Candidate discovers that his progress is at once impeded: " By meeting with an obstruction " (First Lecture, Second Section); the door of the Lodge is close tyled, and he cannot gain admission save in the prescribed way. The purport of this episode is expressly stated in the Craft Lectures to be subjective and mystical: "Seek, and ye shall find; ask, and ye shall have; knock, and it shall be opened unto you" (First Lecture, Second Section). This threefold direction not only corresponds with the mode of "report" at the door of the Lodge, but also with the triple faculties of the Candidate himself; he must "seek" with the prayerful aspirations of his heart; he must "ask" with the intellectual activities of his mind; and, he must "knock" with the force s of his bodily energies. The quest will demand and engage the attention of the whole man.
At the very outset of the preliminary work, the aspirant is faced with the necessity of having to discriminate between the two voices which whisper perpetually in his heart, the voice of duty and the voice of desire. It is for this reason that the Apprentice Freemason is made to declare in the Lectures that his first purpose is: "To learn to rule and subdue my passions" (First Lecture, First Section). Initiation is always preceded by what is technically termed "katharsis"; the elimination of such corporea l and psychical elements as inhibit the inception of the emergent function. This is a painful process, but unless it is accepted, and not merely accepted, but embraced and fostered, its full benefit cannot accrue. Insight into the futility of personal desires, however, is one thing; their utter eradication and uprooting from the heart is another. The latter is the task which Masonic teaching is designed to accomplish, leaving at its conclusion the pupil standing on the verge of the ultimate mystery which none can impart to him, the wings of the soul strengthened and purified in preparation for the last great flight, "the flight of the Alone to the Alone." In the case of the ordinary man perceptions of value are tangled up, as it were, and alloyed with much base metal; hence it is that the spiritual alchemist has first of all to purify the elements with which he is dealing, to separate out, as the old symbolism phrases it, the Sulphur, Salt and M ercury, which together compose the body of all things. Just a s the artist learns to appraise, with more and more precision, the purely aesthetic qualities of an object, so must the aspirant learn to discriminate more and more accurately those qualities of an action which, for want of a better expression, we call ethical. To put it briefly, an action is "good" or "better" in proportion as it manifests the harmony, the unity of life, and the interconnectedness of all things. It is "bad" in proportion as, ignoring the underlying unity, it is contrived exclusively for the benefit of a separate centre, the personal self of the doer; and it is precisely this that the principle of desire is continually urging man to do. Out of desire to acquire objects for himself the wayfaring man is always choosing the more pleasant course of action, and the one which is gratifying to him personally. The aspirant, on the other hand, is encouraged to study carefully the circumstances before proceeding to execute any project; he should then act in the way which, in his opinion, is most in a ccord with the principle of harmony. He must, therefore, consider the philosophy of giving, and why it must needs be more blessed than receiving. This is the duty upon which the Craft, during the Ceremony of Initiation, dramatically charges the Candidate "in the N.E. part of the Lodge"; it is described as CHARITY, the complete attainment of which is elsewhere in the Ritual spoken of as the "summit" of his profession. In its Latin original ("CARITAS"), Charity means "dearness," and the duty inculcated is that of regarding all creatures in the spirit of universal compassion as being pilgrims upon a single path; all are in differing degrees of development, yet all are evolving towards a common goal. Impartial service is, and ever has been, the duty of aspirants, although such service can be rendered in other and higher ways than the familiar altruistic activity. Of these the Candidate will learn later; but let him never forget that, at the threshold of his Masonic life, he has pledged him self to become the servant of humanity.
After purification come contemplation and enlightenment; these are the subjects traditionally associated with the second stage. In the symbolism of ancient philosophy, this stage is represented by a further ascent of the "Ladder of Perfection" from WATER, through MIST, to AIR. We retain this reference to AIR in the geometrical symbolism of the Craft modern, Second Degree, where it appears cryptically as: "An angle of 90 degrees, or the fourth part of a circle." The explanation of this "puzzle" language is that the spiritual geometricians of old divided the Circle, emblem of the totality of man's being, into four equal parts, and gave to them names corresponding with the metaphysical elements: EARTH, WATER, AIR, FIRE; all four, in due balance and synthesis, being necessary to compose the perfect being. One fourth part EARTH, is the symbol of bodily form, known as the irrational principle. Another fourth part AIR, is the symbol of the mind, the rational principle to counterpoise and co ntrol the irrational body. Blended with these is the emotional nature, symbolized by WATER, which partakes of both the rational and irrational principles, and is influenced by whichever of them is allowed to predominate. Lastly, beyond EARTH, WATER and AIR is FIRE, the symbol of the spirit, the supra-rational principle., which is higher than mind, and which supplies the dynamic driving power of the spiritual will. Thus, the Circle, divided by a "cross" into four equal parts or right angles meeting at the "Centre," is, and ever was, the emblem of man made perfect in all his parts. Of this mystical Circle, the "fourth part" which we labour to rectify in the Second Degree is MIND, the rational principle symbolised by AIR; converting, as it were, an "irregular" figure into a true "square." The work of the Second Degree, if rightly undertaken, leads to mental illumination; accordingly, in the Ceremony of Opening the Lodge in this Degree, supplication is made on behalf of the Lodge, " that the rays of heaven may shed their benign influence, to enlighten us in the paths of virtue and science." At this stage in the Craft system the Candidate is instructed, "You are expected to make the liberal arts and, sciences your future study"; such studies, indeed, are called "liberal" because they tend to "liberate" the mind from the attractions of the popular world and to elevate it to more momentous themes. It is one thing, however, to rise above material preoccupations to a state of intellectual enquiry; but to rise still higher to a state of complete mental clarity, to the state in which the judgement is not in the smallest measure clouded and confused by the intrusion of the emotions into the reason (as WATER intrudes into AIR in the form of MIST or cloud); to accomplish this is quite another matter, and requires prolonged discipline. Until the judgement has been purged of every trace of passional or sensuous influence, the aspirant wanders vainly in the barren "wilderness" of idle speculation; he is, so to speak, lost i n an intricate mental "labyrinth," wherein he strays long and painfully amid winding and intersecting paths. Upon every seeker after Truth the same remorseless discipline is imposed; there is no royal road to inspiration.
In the Craft ceremonial procedure these benighted wanderings of the aspirant in the "wilderness" or "labyrinth" of intellectual error are represented by the perambulations. There is a wealth of significance concealed within the ceremonial details, which also illustrate the truth of the axiom that before we can climb to a height we must first learn to walk on the level. The perambulations are commenced on the level floor of the Lodge, which the Candidate keeps on "squaring," visiting each of the four sides in turn; but at the end of the third circuit (one in the First Degree and two in the Second) the moment comes when his forward motion on the level ceases, and he is directed to advance " as though ascending"; in other words he is instructed to mount spirally, by a series of winding steps. From this moment in the Second Degree the Candidate is deemed to be mentally leaving the outer world behind him and is rising into the inner invisible world; he is making what has often been called "Itinera rium mentis in Deo," the ascent of the mind to the Source of Light; and it will be to exploring these new regions and learning their many secrets that his work as a Craftsman will be devoted. It may not be out of place to mention here that there are, as on all unfrequented ways, dangers on this Path; it is known as the Path of KNOWLEDGE, and he who follows it will come to realise that much of what he formerly considered to be "right" or "wrong" is only such by social convention. Our distinctions of "good" and "bad" are but our personal or collective view at the moment; the ideal of one age becomes a fault in the next; to clearer sight things are really neither one nor the other, they are facts of life needing no qualifying epithet. "There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so" (Shakespeare, HAMLET 11; 2). The work of the aspirant is to learn to rise above the dualism of material existence, and this means that he must adjust his consciousness to the higher outlook that sees beyond them; stand mentally detached from the inevitable fluctuations of fortune and emotion to which his lower nature is subject, and accept the joys and sorrows of this life with equanimity. To quote from the Lectures: "As the steps of man are trodden in the various and uncertain incidents of life, his days are variegated and chequered by a strange contrariety of events, and his passage through this existence, though sometimes attended by fortunate circumstances, yet is often beset with a multitude of evils; hence are our Lodges furnished with Mosaic work, to remind us of the uncertainty of all things on earth" (First Lecture, Fifth Section). We naturally prefer agreeable conditions, but the Great Law which governs life pays no heed to personal preferences; it is, as St. Paul truly declares, "our schoolmaster" (Galatians, chapter 3, verse 24), concerned only with bringing us from temporal to eternal values. The aspirant on the Path of Knowledge, therefore, has to train himself to understand and discipline both his head and his heart; in other words, to balance activity with contemplation. It is just at this point that "difficulty and danger" will assail him. If his development is unbalanced, if his intellect has outrun his intuition, the props of external morality are sure to fall away from him before he is ready to "stand firm," supported by his own inner perception of what is "right" and in accordance with the cosmic harmony. He will be sorely tempted to abandon his purpose and return to the commonplace and easier concerns of the popular world; and upon the issue of this temptation will depend the outcome of his high endeavour.
The experience of testing or "temptation" is traditionally part of the severe discipline which is imposed upon every Candidate for Initiation. How, then, is it represented in myth and ritual, and in tradition generally? Observe, first, that the temptation of the aspirant may be described in at least three different ways; for we may say (1) that he is assailed by desire, or (2) that he becomes obsessed by unclean thoughts, or (3) that he hears the compelling summons to sensuous indulgence. There is, of course, no essential difference between these three conceptions, which all refer to the same phase of inward experience; but in the process of elaboration the three produce somewhat divergent results. Temptation myths fall, in fact, into three main classes, typical of which are (a) the struggle with the Dragon, (b) the encounter with horrid monsters, and (c) the hearing of the Siren's Song. Legends telling of the struggle with the Dragon or such-like creatures are myths of tempt ation by desire, and it is of interest to note that the Dragon is generally hybrid in form; also that the scene of the encounter is invariably out of and above the level of WATER. Some examples with a common significance are: St. George slew the Dragon and thereby saved the "king's daughter" (symbolising his own soul); Perseus also saved the "king's daughter" by slaying the monstrous serpent that rose out of the sea; Cadmus, likewise, fought with and slew the serpent or dragon that rose out of the water; and, in the "Valley of Humiliation," Christian met with the hybrid tempter Apollyon, who was a dragon with "scales like a fish." The mythical Monsters which figure in other versions of the tradition represent the doubts and fears which confront the aspirant at this stage of the Path. These differ from the DRAGON precisely as evil thoughts differ from DESIRE; for the mythical Monsters (like evil thoughts) are many and can be passively resisted; whereas, the Dragon (like desire) is one and must be actively fought and vanquished. Cognate with the Monsters are the Sirens. The term "siren" has, of course, a very wide usage, but it always connotes the idea of seduction by means of sensuous appeal. Again, it is of interest to note that Sirens are generally associated with WATER, although they are always out of and above water when encountered. This subject cannot be further pursued here, but the point of it all is that, in the Craft system, we are strongly warned against " the attacks of the insidious." Who, and what, are " the insidious "? In the penal clause of the Obligation of the Second Degree we find a reference to the heart being thrown to " the ravenous birds of the air," and lest this phrase be deemed to be fantastic imagery, let us remind ourselves that it is taken from the Volume of the Sacred Law, where it is used in a terribly realistic sense: " I will give thee unto the ravenous birds of every sort, and to the beasts of the field to be devoured" (Ezekiel, chapter 39, verse 4). Classical literature also abounds in allusions to " Harpies," "Furies" and "Vultures," which are identified with the misty "storm winds" of temptation. These are "the insidious" from whose "attacks" the aspirant must resolutely "shield the repository" of his "secrets." Modern psychology, sceptical of the ancient science, speaks of the traditional "powers of the air" more prosaically; as obsessions by alien wills, secondary personalities, uncontrollable impulses and uprushes from the subcons cious, the unhappy victims of which are often relegated to asylums for the mentally afflicted. The aspirant, indeed, is exposed to very real danger from the air," or plane of mind upon which the work of the Second Degree is conducted, and he must possess a high standard of personal purity before he is "properly prepared" to "extend" his "researches into the hidden mysteries." To the man of strong virtue, however, who knows beforehand what he is doing, there is no danger; under the guidance of a competent teacher he will act, and with safety, upon the age-old enjoinder of the Mysteries: "TO KNOW; TO WILL; TO DARE; AND TO KEEP SILENT"; he will also remember the wise counsel: " Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life" (Proverbs, chapter 4, verse 23).
On the Tracing Board of the Second Degree there is usually depicted the figure of a man who has just crossed a river, by the side of which, "near to a fall of water," grows "an ear of corn." According to the tradition the man, like Moses, has come "out of the water" (Exodus, chapter 2, verse 10); and he typifies every aspirant who is labouring to break away from the bondage of the senses in order to seek for life upon higher levels. The river symbol signifies the "waters" of regeneration, and may here be c onstrued as the Red Sea through which the Israelities fled from Egypt after Moses had caused a mighty East wind to blow, "dividing the waters" and allowing them to pass through safely. This episode of the allegorical history of the Path is given prominence in the final Section of the Apprentice Lecture, where it is prefaced by the cryptic question: "How blows the wind in Freemasonry?" to which the enigmatic answer is: "Favourable, due E. and W." (First Lecture, Seventh Section). What is the explanation of this Masonic metaphor? The allusion to the direction of the wind in Freemasonry contains a veiled hint of two subjective experiences to be looked for by the earnest Candidate at this stage of his progress. One of these experiences is within his own power to invoke; he can set the wind blowing from " W. to E." by means of consistent aspiration which cuts a passage ("divides the waters") through the flux of thoughts and emotions ("the sea"), and thereby facilitates contact between the lower and higher strat as of the mind. The other vital experience, the wind blowing in reverse direction from " E. to W." is not within his power to command; it is a gift of grace from God; a downpouring of "that Light which is from above." We can only affirm that the records of mystical experience show that given a channel "properly prepared" and receptive, the great "rushing East Wind" may blow through the aspirant at any time, flooding the intelligence and initiating the consciousness into undreamed-of truths. It is not, therefore, within the province or the competence of the present study to define the whole of the substance of the communication which is accorded to the successful aspirant, and which tradition symbolises by the spoken discourse ("Paradosis") of myth and ritual. This communication is spiritual in character and import, and it can be apprehended only on an exalted plane of spiritual awareness. As the WORD, it can be clearly heard and understood only by the genuine Initiate in the mystical experience of inspiration; and it can reach the uninitiated or popular world only "through a glass darkly" ( 1, Corinthians, chapter 13, verse 12), only by reflection through the psychic "water," whereby it assumes an obscure and engimatical form as the myth, the mystery, or the work of imaginative art. Traditionally, the WORD belongs to the AIR; and it falls thence to the lower planes by condensing first into MIST, and then into WATER; hence it is written: "My doctrine shall drop as the rain, my speech shall distil as the dew, as the small rain upon the tender herb, and as the showers upon the grass" (Deuteronomy, chapter 32, verse 2). Similarly, the quality of mercy, which "droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven." On the other hand, the mythical Monsters portraying evil thoughts, which rise as MIST from the passional WATER, are represented as falling back in the form of "rain" with the coming of the purging " tempest," as once the sins of mankind, reeking upward to heaven, fell back upon him in the cleansing "Deluge" that is immemorial in tradition. Well, then, may the aspirant enquire with job of old: "Should a wise man utter vain knowledge, and fill his belly with the East wind" (Job, chapter 15, verse 2).
The familiar symbol of "an ear of corn," preserved in our modern Craft system, is of great antiquity. Corn is found prominently associated with the Ancient Mysteries where, as also in the Volume of the Sacred Law, it is always the emblem of the "seed," or "vital and immortal principle," which is sown in the "soil" of our mortal bodies, these constituting the "earth" given to each of us so to cultivate that what is planted in it may spring up into everlasting life. Spiritual growth, however, is gradual, corresponding with the stages of the three Craft degrees: " For the earth bringeth forth fruit of herself; first the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear" (St. Mark, chapter 4, verse 28). Why is corn used in preference to any other symbol of growth? The teaching of the arcane schools is briefly: Corn is a "sacred plant"; its source has always puzzled botanists; it is never found, like other cereals and seeded grasses, in a wild state, from which its growth has been stimulated by intensi ve culture. This golden, graceful, prolific and needful plant, teaches the secret doctrine, was never the growth of this planet, but was a "gift from the Gods," who, in the dawn of time transported it to our world from another planet, with the double purpose of providing the staple food of humanity and of giving man an emblem of his own soul. We find this ancient tradition recorded in Psalm 78: " And had rained down manna upon them, and has given them of the corn of heaven " (verse 24). So, too, with the human soul; like the corn it is not indigenous to this time-world but is a native of eternity, whence it has become transported and sown in the individualised plot of "earth," the physical body; there, also like the seed of corn, it is subjected to the opposing forces of Nature, to the painful process of disintegration, dying and rising again, multiplied exceedingly as the result of the experience. Once again the Scriptures confirm the ancient doctrine: "He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him" (Psalm 126, verse 6). When, then, in founding a Masonic Lodge, the Consecrating Officer scatters Corn to the four quarters of space, he is performing a profoundly sacramental act; he is emulating the Great Sower, who continually goes forth sowing souls in space, like grain, which fall into natural earthly bodies that they may grow and be "raised" therefrom as spiritual bodies. As St. Paul has it: "And that which thou sowest, thou sowest not that body that shall be, but bare grain" (1st Corinthians, chapter 15, verse 37). Moreover, in that fragment of ancient initiatory teaching known as the "Naasene Document" we read: "At Eleusis, they show those who receive in silence the final initiation there, a plucked wheat ear" ("Thrice Greatest Hermes," by G. R. S. Mead). The supreme degree of the Mysteries of CERES (whence our word "cereal") was signified by the symbol of "an ear of corn"; and in our modern Craft, "full corn in the ear" is exhibited in gold embroidery on the dress collars of Grand Lodge Officers, bearing precisely the same profound meaning.
We come now to the third stage on the traditional Path leading to Initiation, and to the "sublime Degree" which is the summit of the Craft work. This is the "crucial" stage which involves the aspirant undergoing "that last and greatest trial," an experience universally known as the "mystical death" or "dark night of the soul," and which is symbolised in the Craft system by the darkening of the Lodge in the Third Degree. In the symbolism of ancient philosophy, the third stage is figured by the final ascent of the "Ladder of Perfection" from AIR, through the RING OF FIRE (RAINBOW), to AETHER (FIRE). Subjectively, the RING OF FIRE is the plane of spiritual ecstasy, and of the " mystical swoon " which is ritually represented in the third degree of Initiation by a simulated death. One of the characteristics of the ordeal through which the aspirant has to pass, and a feature that has been noted by so many of those who have left any record of their passing, is the sense of loneliness that accompanies it. just as he who dies physically has to leave behind all his possessions, friends and relations, even the dearest, so does the aspirant on this inner Path have to leave behind all the ties he has contracted, to sever all the links that bind him to the life of the mundane world, and go on alone. The quest is for LIGHT, although within himself at first, like the darkened Lodge, is nothing but " darkness visible," and there are many who, after one hasty glance, conclude that this way lies only emptiness and gloom; they hurry outwards again into the delusive brightness of the outer world. If, however, he persists in his endeavours to penetrate the veil, his in-turned eyes get accustomed to the blackness, and in the midst of it a far-off point of Light (the Pole-star of his being) will begin to shine, lighting-up the inward Path for him. This is " that bright Morning Star, whose rising brings peace and salvation," but as long as he remains beneath the sphere of the MOON (" this sublunary abode "), so long the drifting MISTS raised by that luminary will cause the Light to twinkle uncertainly; once he has passed beyond (" where the Rainbow ends "), the Light will cease to be merely a "glimmering ray," and will grow in size and brilliance until it has become the very SUN, the deathless LIGHT that is his true Self. The expression of this subjective fact in terms of natural imagery is seen in the widespread tradition which associates the RAINBOW with apocalyptic expe rience: "As the appearance of the bow that is in the cloud in the day of rain, so was the appearance of the brightness round about " (Ezekiel, chapter 1, verse 28). At this stage the FIRE (dynamic energy) of the Spirit blends with the AIR of the mind, and the aspirant is able to function not only on the higher mental level, but upon the transcendent level of the supra-rational principle. In other and more familiar words, he is "at liberty to work with both those points, to render the Circle complete"; he has indeed " squared the Circle " by acquiring mastery over its four component parts (EARTH, WATER, AIR, FIRE).
The study of the third stage brings us to consider one of the central teachings of Initiation science, the teaching known in the West as the Hermetic Axiom and given in the celebrated Emerald Tablet as follows:-
"It is true, certain and without falsehood, that whatever is below is like that which is above; and that which is above is like that which is below: to accomplish the one Wonderful Work."
This teaching is to be found in all the mystical schools: thus Plotinus tells us that "all that is Yonder is also Here"; and the Kabalistic work entitled the Zohar affirms that " esoterically the man below corresponds entirely to the Man Above." There is likewise the version in the Tantrik tradition: " Whatever is here is Elsewhere, what is not here is nowhere at all "; while, we may add, the familiar sentence in the Lord's Prayer:" Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven," has the same meaning. The teaching finds expression in the symbolism of the Craft by means of the Celestial and Terrestrial globes in, "pointing out Masonry Universal," which divide the manifested Universe into two great Spheres or Hemispheres of being. In practice, however, the gaining of the Axiom by the aspirant refers to a real process, namely, that of transferring the consciousness from the one-sided " centre of the personal self, to the true Centre." or the Higher Self, as it is called. When we can learn to focus our being "with the Centre," the world of perception undergoes a great expansion; a range of experience previously hidden from us becomes manifest, and it is seen that the Below reflects the Above in perfect correspondence. Accordingly, the aspirant in the Craft declares that he was first "prepared" to be made a Freemason: "In my heart"; and this is because on the level of the physical body the centre of being is placed in the "heart," although that "heart" extends inwards in dimensions which are not admitted by m odern scientific thought. It is, in fact, the true "Centre" of our being, and it is characteristic of modern "one-sideness" that nowadays most men feel themselves to be centred in the "head," which emphatically is not the true "Centre," and was not felt to be so by the ancients. In the "Heart," then, is placed the "Dweller," who has been described in the literature of the subject as of the size of a thumb, and is indeed the same small but mighty being known in Western myth as "Tom Thumb." He is also the famous "Homunculus" or "Little Man," the creation of whom was one of the objects of Alchemists such as Paraceisus. He is the Thumb of power (hence the significance of the "thumb extended" in the Craft "s..n of Fidelity "); He is also the Man-Child which the Woman brought forth, as related in the Book of Revelation, the Child which the Dragon sought to devour "as soon as it was born," but who is destined to "rule all nations with a Rod of Iron" (Revelation, chapter 12, verses 4 and 5). In ancient Egypt He was known as HARPOCRATES (Horus the Child); He whose finger was ever on his lips in token of silence concerning the secret of His birth from OSIRIS; and we find ISIS saying: " I may not tell the story of this Birth, for it is not permitted to describe the origin of Thy descent, O Horus, son of mighty power, lest afterwards the way-of-birth of the immortal Gods should be known unto men" ("The Virgin of the World," 1, 36). In truth, however, the secret is safe enough, for it is one that cannot be put into words, and as HERMES says: " This race, my son, is never taught; but when He willeth it, its Memory is restored by God ("Hermetic Corpus," XIII, 2).
We pass next to an important point in the symbolism of the Craft version of the third stage. Who was H. AB., and why is the Candidate in the Craft system " made to represent " him? It has been the practice of the Schools of Initiation to identify their Candidates with an ideal "Hero," whose "traditional history" is made to serve the purpose of providing the supreme example for those who are ready and willing to strive to reach the same goal. H. AB., is the Masonic prototype, and a type true ideally if not historically. Had we been initiated in Egypt the Exemplar would have been Osiris; if in Greece, Dionysos or Iacchos (whence our word "Jachin "); if in Persia, Mitthra; but the Craft system being expressed in terms of Hebrew mysticism, the prototype is the reputed Chief Architect or Masterbuilder appointed to erect a temple, or House of God, in the metropolis of Jerusalem. The name H. AB., (sometimes given as ADONIRAM), means the representative or messenger from the Lord ("Adonai") or Father ("Abba"); it is the Hebrew form of the Greek intermediary between Gods and men "HERMES," the Son of the All-Father ("Zeus"). We must also bear in mind that in sacred Scriptures, whether of the East or West, such terms as "the house," "the city," "the temple" are mystery-names for man himself, in one or other of his manifold aspects; "the city" representing man in his composite aspect as all humanity; "the house," the aspirant in the various stages of his training; and "the temple," the regenerate or spiritual man. This conception of man as a form, ever changing, in which dwells the formless, changeless Life of all that lives, is clearly set forth in the first two letters of the Hebrew alphabet, the ALEPH and the BETH. ALEPH, the Ox (or Bull), represents the creative male principle (in its highest aspect the immortal Self or Spirit); BFTH, the House, represents the generative, formative principle (in its highest aspect the Soul, which ever clothes with a form the naked Flame of pure Spirit); H. AB., therefore, represents the active intellectual principle, the third aspect of the Divine creative energy, the "architectonic " power or LOGOS. As far as we are able to lift the veil which conceals the ancient Mysteries, all of them, are seen to commemorate, or more correctly to perpetuate, the primeval sacrifice of the LOGOS (" the Word which was in the beginning "), the indwelling Life of all that lives: " In him was life; and the life was the light of men " (St. John, chapter 1, verse 4). In this sense, H. AB., is a type of the true Initiate who, " in his own person," symbolically represents the repercussion in the time-world of the primal spiritual tragedy which ruptured the cosmic harmony " from the foundation of the world "; thus he suffers, and is (figuratively) slain to re-enact the " fall " of Spirit into matter, and the subsequent long " death " of the Soul in the " tomb of transgression," the body; thus he is "raised from the figurative death " on the third " day " to show forth the final victory of Spirit over matter, and the transmutation of the earthly into the heavenly.
In these brief notes it is not possible to expand consideration of the great theme of the Third Degree, which must be studied more fully elsewhere. We can only indicate here the trend and significance of the doctrine underlying the whole Masonic system, and point out that the Craft, like every other and older system of Initiation, exists for the purpose of providing instruction in regard to the deepest truths concerning our humanity. The legend of H. AB., must be freely recognised as pure myth, but by " myth " we do not mean to imply that the narrative is an irresponsible fiction; on the contrary, it exemplifies the ancient and very effective method of conveying spiritual principles and teaching to the public mind. It is, indeed, a doctrine explaining the genesis, fall, and destiny of man, expressed in numerous forms and common to every human race since the beginning of time. The adjective "traditional " was, therefore, doubtless applied to the legend in order to make it abundantly clear that the compilers of the Ritual were in no sense inventors of the theory. Moreover, the subject of the legend is not to be looked upon as something that does not come within the province of the individual man; it is an expression of the true faith, which is a form of knowledge, being the reflection in the personal self of Knowledge that has been realised at deeper levels of being. The transmutation of such faith into Knowledge is the task which the aspirant will have to perform for himself, the Path which he must tread. No theoretical exposition is of the slightest value to any member of the Craft, except as a preparatory step with a view to an eventual realisation in actual experience. Mastership signifies the recovery of "that which is lost" in a given individual, and the Craft indicates graphically the terms upon which it is achieved. As for "theory," in its original and Masonic connotation, it is but the Greek word for "vision" (to be contemplated), and refers to the preliminary glimpses of the distant goa l which are vouchsafed to the aspirant, without which he would have no incentive either to set out or to continue on his difficult journey. It is, however, an immutable law that each must pass alone through the ordeals of the Path, seemingly unaided, and relying solely on his own inner strength. Out of the depths of our own being must come the strength that is to carry us over the barrier. We learn from the teaching of the Craft that the three essential actions of the Path are the acts of sacrifice, charity and self-discipline, but that in addition to these, there must of necessity be the indispensable element of real Knowledge. Actions, indeed, are of great practical use, and it is quite impossible to live without them; in themselves, however, they will not suffice to take us to the Goal; they must be backed by the knowledge of their inner significance. In other words, we must assuredly "know," and thoroughly realise, by uniting our being with the Knower; the Light, "which is from above," and "which lighteth every man that cometh into the world " (St. John, chapter 1, verse 9)
Before concluding this second Paper in the series on the symbolism of the Craft, one final word to Masonic students may perhaps be profitably added. Students should always remember that in every Lecture or written Transaction, whether it be profound or comparatively elementary, the ideal of the Craft itself greatly surpasses in scope all its possible forms of expression. Even the most faultless exposition of the Masonic subject is bound, by definition, to leave out far more than it includes; moreover, what it omits is really the essence of the teaching, which is incommunicable by its nature, and can only be fully interpreted by those "who have ears to hear"; the listener or reader must, therefore, make every allowance for the " inexpressible," which is the important factor. We are all prone to reserve our ideas of the Craft doctrine until we see how far we can reconcile it with other views and beliefs we hold, and we seek to apply worldly wisdom to a Wisdom which is not of this world; and bri ng our " commo n sense" to study a subject requiring a special education and the use of a sense which in the present state of human evolution is far from being common. It is on record in that Sacred Volume which is the chief textbook of Masonic science, that near the foot of the Mount of Olives was an orchard and a primitive oil-factory. The olives, grown to ripeness upon the hill above, were gathered and taken down to the foot to a place where the fruit was crushed and its essential oil extracted. Olive-oil is the richest fruit-essence produced; richer than wine, with which it is so often associated. It serves for food, light, healing; it is a lubricant, an emollient, a preservative; on which symbolical grounds it has always been used for consecrational purposes. Spiritual oil possesses precisely the same properties, for the outer and objective is always the type and rudimentary form of the inward and formless reality; but this kind of oil has to be grown within and pres sed out from ourselves. Wisdom, like its symbol, oil, is the ultimate product of growth, knowledge, experience, suffering, squeezed out of us, the " olives," by the oil-press of the Great Law operating through our life-process and continually adjusting the latter into harmony with the Divine Life. It accords little with the modern mental temper to cast aside preconceptions and reduce oneself to docility and humility; yet these qualities remain indispensable to the Candidate for Wisdom, for it is not the critical and worldly-wise, but the " little children " who are suffered to come to the Light; of such are both the Kingdom of Heaven and the Craft of Freemasonry, which is designed to lead to that Kingdom.
SO MOTE IT BE.