Dormer Index

Symposium of Papers Contributed by Members of the Circle

(Part Eight)


by Wor.Bro. R. A. L. Harland, P.M., Lodge No. 1679

It is my privilege as President of the Circle to introduce to members the eighth part of the excellent symposium of Papers contributed in response to the invitation issued by the Governing Council, as follows:-

"WALTER LESLIE WILMSHURST 1867-1939" by W.Bro. Major A. Cathcart Bruce, P.G. Steward, P.M., The Lodge of Living Stones, No. 4957

"THE SYMBOLISM OF THE PAST MASTER'S JEWEL" by W.Bro. C.G. Nicholas, L.G.R., P.M., Bloomsbury Rifles Lodge, No. 2362

I would particularly draw the attention of members of the Circle to the excellent contribution by W.Bro. Major A. Cathcart Bruce who was closely associated with the late W.Bro. W.L. Wilmshurst, affectionately known as W.L.W., the revered Masonic teacher upon whose work Dormer was encouraged to promulgate the spiritual aspect of Freemasonry for the benefit of the Craft in general. I would likewise commend the Paper by W. Bro. C.G. Nicholas, an old and valued friend of myself and the Circle, for his exposition of the symbolism of the Past Master's Jewel which I am sure students will find most instructive. Both of these Papers are welcome additions to our symposium, and I trust will be carefully studied in relation to the aims and ideals of the Circle.

R. A. L. Harland, President.

"WALTER LESLIE WILMSHURST 1867-1939" by W.Bro. Major A. Cathcart Bruce, P.G. Steward, P.M., The Lodge of Living Stones, No. 4957

... "He filleth the hungry with good things "...

The world is the richer because W.L. Wilmshurst passed through it once again leaving the abiding imprint of his wisdom - the greater part esoteric - together with the impact of his spiritual vision, upon all with whom he came into contact. Whilst living in what he once described as this "terrestrial miasma" and partaking of its joys and sorrows, he recognised them for what they are, steps on the way to further effort. He was one of the world's greatest Freemasons, a deep mystic, and a most "gentyle parfait Knight". His vital and illuminating exposition of the inner content of Freemasonry mark him out as one of the forerunners of our modern days.

Wilmshurst or W.L.W. as he was so often known was born on June 22nd, 1867, at Chichester in Sussex. His family came to England from the Harz mountains in Germany, via Paris, in the reign of Henry VIII. They were bankers and jewellers.

It is recorded that at a very early age he showed instinctive recognition and interest in what was to become his great works for his generation, the unveiling of the true purpose and meaning of Freemasonry.

When a boy, he passed daily on his way to school the window of a shop filled with strange things, fascinating to his child's mind. He became so deeply affected by what he thus frequently saw through the magic window that he consulted his uncle, who told him he would have to wait till old enough to become a Freemason as none other could know or explain their meaning.

The pattern of his life and the development of his many talents began to show when he was a teenager, for he was intellectually head and shoulders above boys of his own age and he gave early promise of undoubted literary gifts. On leaving school in 1882, it was decided that he was best fitted for a legal career and so willy-nilly he spent months studying in London. Whilst there he made frequent visits to the theatre for he was always fond of the drama and he also spent much of the little leisure he had in art galleries and museums and especially attending concerns, for music meant much to him. He was ever a devotee of nature in all her moods, from whose quiet depths no doubt he drew much inspiration. Recreation for him ever spelt re-creation.

Eventually he became articled to a solicitor, a friend of the family, in Huddersfield, where he was to labour with distinction at his profession until his death. It was in such surroundings - scarcely conducive to things of the spirit one would imagine - that he was to give forth over the years so much with regard to the hidden things of the inner life of regeneration, and above all the arcana of Freemasonry. His was a soul steeped in an immense understanding of symbology and metaphor, and his ardent devotion to music showed itself perhaps especially in his work for and with the Huddersfield Choral Society. He was an authority on Handel's Messiah on which he broadcast more than once.

His love of nature was intense as with all seers (seers), and visits to the peaceful Yorkshire dales were a chief delight latterly whenever he could tear himself away for a day from not only the ever increasing pressure and tension of his legal profession, but also the enormous amount of literary work and correspondence with regard to Freemasonry and allied subjects with which he had to cope. He never used a typewriter and wrote all by his own hand. During the years just prior to World War II, many Sunday afternoons were spent walking and talking by the green pastures and still waters of Fountains Abbey near Ripon and for his friends the timeless hours became steeped and irradiated by all that Euripides in his Hippolytus implied by "the apples and the singing and the gold."

W.L.W. was not only a man of letters but a poet, as witness his representation in the Oxford Book of English Mystical Verse (1916). A book of his poems, hard to come by, is entitled The Way to the East (1939). The dedication is typical: "Dedicated to the Most High, this piece of Architecture is offered to my Masonic Brethren and Companions throughout the Universe."

These words are quoted from the Foreword:

"... In these days of rapid world change, change is invading the Masonic mind and the long concealed primary significance of the system, its deeper vital and fundamental implications are at last beginning to be recognised ... the mystical Building craft can and seems predestined to become - a drag-net for the skies - and a universal basis of practical brotherhood and spiritual guidance for those who seek experience and initiation on the eternal Mysteries."

and again from A Song of Degrees:

"I will make my way and rejoice To climb the hill of the Lord In search of the long lost word And the sound of a still small voice."

A Born Teacher

But whether through prose or the spoken word he was ever able to give of his "oil" to others in a manner easily understood and in simple language. He could explain the deepest truths by means of symbols taken from the everyday things of life; a rare gift. On one occasion at supper, while coffee was being prepared, he looked up with one of his puckish smiles and said: "I see you are an alchemist." He then proceeded to tell how to "volatilize the fixed" and of how eventually a new confection is distilled from the mixing of diverse tinctures or ingredients. A spiritual lesson indeed and all from a coffee machine!

He was a born teacher, although he was ever the first to deny it or indeed that he professed to teach anything to anyone. As he himself said, he was no Guru, just a man who had perhaps a little more experience than his hearer and had dug things out for himself, as he ever urged us all to do. He was a practical mystic and his book on Christian mysticism Contemplations should be in every thinker's library. He had a profound knowledge and understanding of world religions, for he knew there were other sheep not of the Christian fold but nevertheless the shepherd was one. Amongst his writings was - Chief Scripture of India (the Bhagavad Gita), widely acclaimed as a unique interpretation to the Western world of one of the greatest esoteric teachings from the East.

Yet in spite of his outpourings into many vessels, his magnum opus to countless others throughout the world was his exposition of the real purport of modem Freemasonry, and the giving forth of a true body of teaching and practice concerning the supra-natural purpose of the Royal Art. His two outstanding books are his abiding monument: The Meaning of Masonry and The Masonic Initiation.

The physical vehicle of Freemasonry has been slowly perfected over the years, now the cup is ready - but who could and would dare to fill it with the wine of the spirit, destined to be a veritable Holy Grail in the new age? Of the Order's three great principles, namely Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth, the first two are reasonably and adequately catered for, indeed in danger of overstress, so that the Craft drifts into being largely a social and charitable organisation. Truth, the greatest of the three was and still is neglected. A wise and dedicated disciple was needed and since we are never left without witness, W.L.W. not only could but did fill the bill. He pointed out that the be-all and the end-all of Freemasonry was not the often meaningless repetition of ritual, but the regeneration of our brethren, whether within or without our Order.

"... Throw wide open the shutters of your minds and imagination. Learn to see in Masonry something more than a parochial system enjoining elementary morality, performing perfunctory and meaningless rites and serving as an agreeable accessory to social life. Look to find it in a living philosophy ... realise that its secrets, which are many and valuable, are not upon the surface ... that its mysteries are eternal ones that treat of the Spirit ... "

(from The Meaning of Masonry.)

Know thyself - the Kingdom is within - you my brother are the Lodge of which the material temple is but a symbol - thus and thus spoke and wrote W.L.W. - a voice crying in the wilderness makes straight the Path - Masonry is not of this world. But as well he knew, many are the Thyrsus bearers, few as yet the Bacchoi.

Uninitiated Initiates

Here was a Forerunner indeed. In this new Aquarian age, when the water-pots are being filled, many groups are working one way or another for the eventual restoration of the mysteries: an increasing number of aspirants and world servers believe that such will gradually come to full physical plane manifestation. In this important phase of the Plan, Freemasonry has surely a leading part to play so that by an inner gift of grace, real initiation as opposed to the present generally symbolic one will again be possible. W.L.W. wished to do away with the paradox of uninitiated Initiates, through that pattern of the ageless wisdom exemplified by the architectural symbology of Freemasonry and to re-assert the eternal verities temporarily veiled up to now from all but a handful of Brethren.

"... a regrouping and a redistribution of energy is taking place ... a new group consciousness - the Masonic consciousness - has been in the process of formation ... when the time ripens the Mysteries as a science of life, and an art of so living as to qualify for attaining ultra-natural life will come to be restored."

(from The Masonic Initiation.)

W.L.W. was a Forerunner therefore in that he dug the first trench, cut the first channel - indeed he was the channel - to guide the advancing trickle, herald of the incoming flood. No one realized better than he that which would eventuate would at first be but a pale shadow of what was destined one day to come - but he also knew, as others do today, that the tide is irresistibly coining in, though at the moment it only laps around the feet.

His was a soul filled with the wonder of wisdom, strength and beauty. He had "heard a sound as of a silver horn from over the hills". To us who still do but clamour at the gate he would whisper the password and teach us how to knock when - as ever promised - the everlasting doors would open of themselves.

"Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord is still a Candidate's perfect introduction.

He set the example of what all Masters of Lodges should be, both High Priest and King and humbly laboured to set his brother's feet on that Path "which no fowl knoweth and the vulture's eye hath not seen" - though he once wrote - "don't be cocksure any of us are on the Path at all!"

On December 16th, 1927, he founded, consecrated and became the first Worshipful Master of The Lodge of Living Stones: Leeds No. 4957 under the English Constitution, which Lodge he inspired and guided till his death. Today the Lodge follows his ideals, which can be said to be the finding of the glory at the end of the rainbow and the offering of its members, in so far as they are worthy to be used in the building of that temple not made with hands, dedicated to the glory of the Most High and in faith that they have the blessing of the Grand Lodge Above. The Lodge strives to serve as a group. Along with other similarly motivated groups and a growing body of brethren scattered over the world it endeavours to work from the centre and not the circumference. As W.L.W. taught, we Freemasons belong to a system capable of producing real initiation if the craft as a while but knew it.

He was elected President of the Masonic Study Society in London in October, 1937, and his then Presidential address was something long to ponder over and study. He emphasized that our rituals are a far greater system of spiritual doctrine than is popularly supposed and that fruition will come but we must sit under our own fig tree and gather the fruits therefrom: that we must look forward and not back and so endeavour to cooperate with the divine Plan in spite of our muddy vesture of decay - nay indeed use it as the necessary fulcrum to higher things.

"... the deplorable perversion and materialisation of the true Masonic intention has been both an inevitable and a necessary prelude to a spiritual efflorescence which in due course will manifest itself and of which the beginnings are already perceptible." (from The Masonic Initiation.)

In a word W.L.W. said - "in all essentials, though in less elaborate ways, the Craft presents the same graded path to the heights as that taught at Eleusis, Thebes, or other great centres of initiation".

He died on July 19th, 1939, in a manner he would have wished, for he suddenly collapsed in the street shortly after coming from the installation of H.R.H. the late Duke of Kent as Grand Master of the United Grand Lodge of England. He passed on, as it were, Masonic business.

In conclusion some lines by the late John Drinkwater, appear to be eminently applicable to those of us who are left here behind for a while and who wish to serve the Great Architect and our Brethren in Freemasonry:

"May you that watch and we that serve so grow In wisdom as adventuring we go That some unwavering light from us may shine We have the challenge of the mighty line God grant us Grace to give the countersign."

(In addition to brief quotations from Wilmshurst's Masonic publications, the author has received permission to quote from The Life and Work of W.L. Wilmshurst, privately published in 1954. He gratefully acknowledges his indebtedness to Miss Wilmshurst and to The Lodge of Living Stones.)

"THE SYMBOLISM OF THE PAST MASTER'S JEWEL" by W.Bro. C.G. Nicholas, L.G.R., P.M.,, Bloomsbury Rifles Lodge, No. 2362

The real secrets of Freemasonry are concealed in its signs, symbols and jewels and only partially explained in the superficial reading of its ritual. They are quite safe from violation by virtue of the fact that they are only capable of being fully understood by those minds that have become sufficiently pure and spiritualised to apprehend and interpret them. They are universal and ageless and are to be found in all religions, philosophical systems and mythologies of whatever time or place in the world. Our archaeologists continue to uncover more ancient cities and discover traces of extinct civilisations and in every discovery they find these very same Masonic marks, signs and symbols engraven or carved on temples, palaces and buildings, or painted on murals, thereby proving that they must have had the same meaning for all the peoples for which they were delineated.

Our rituals and ceremonies portray the Drama of the Soul and indicate the obligatory Path to Perfection which has to be trod by every Human Soul. The principal stages of our journey are marked by the degrees. The first degree is that of catharsis or purification, its symbol being the rough ashlar hewn from the quarry or universal substance as most of us are at this stage. The second degree develops the moral and intellectual faculties and is depicted by the perfect ashlar, which has been shaped by the working tools. In the third degree is undergone that figurative death of the lower mortal man or the personality, then only can the Soul be raised as the higher immortal man, the Individuality or Spiritual Ego. St. Paul says, 1st Corinthians, chapter 15, verse 42, "There is a natural body and there is a spiritual body; it is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruption". The Indian Brahmins speak of the "Twice-born", the Egyptians spoke of the "Osirified Man". The soul of man is a - "Living Stone" and is only then fitted to be built into that great Temple of Perfect Humanity otherwise known as the Temple of God.

The means of overcoming obstacles on this Path to Perfection by transmuting selfish and material interests and tendencies into altruistic and spiritual attributes are likewise laid down for our instruction in the Masonic Ritual, by means of the working tools and proper working instruments. In the Charge after Initiation we are adjourned to make a daily advancement in Masonic knowledge. This knowledge is obtained, not only by deep study but by Right thoughts and actions, as Freemasonry is a way of life and "he who lives the Law" becomes the Law. Fortunate is the man whose intuition is sufficiently developed to enable him to acquire Wisdom and receive Divine Grace. Such, however is the destiny possible to every Human Soul.

To appreciate this preamble better, let us select one particular illustration and examine a symbol which we see worn at all Lodge meetings, i.e. The Past Master's jewel which is presented to every Master of a Lodge after he has completed his year of office to denote his attainment and superiority in the Craft. This symbol is a Master's Square with the 47th Proposition of Euclid appended; the latter being placed in a frame adorned by ears of corn. The ear of corn itself is a symbol of the sow.

The 47th Proposition of Euclid demonstrates the proof that in every right-angled triangle, the sum of the squares on the two sides is equal to the square on the hypotenuse. The measurements of the triangle in the Past Master's jewel is the traditional 3 - 4 - 5 and the lines of the proof of the above proposition are shown on the completed symbol.

We will first investigate the practical side of this symbol and afterwards give an indication of its Spiritual meaning. In ancient times, one of the prime secrets of Operative Guild Masonry was that the Master of a Lodge of its order carried a rod measuring three units; the Senior Warden carried a similar rod measuring four units and the Junior Warden carried a rod measuring five units. When these three rods were joined together by the Master and the two Wardens they formed a right-angled triangle. When a temple or public building was to be constructed, the King or Ruler, on a date arranged and with the proper ceremony, laid the centre stone and with a centre-punch made the centre mark on the stone remarking, "there is the centre of the structure, work ye to it". The ancient buildings were usually constructed in one of three forms. (1) Square, (2) Oblong 2 to 1, (3) Oblong 3 to 1. If the building required to be square or to have a square base as in the case of the pyramid, the King decided on the size and gave the distance measured from the centre to each of the four corners, B-C-D-E. The length of the sides followed as a matter of course but it was not considered in the laying out which was simply based on the centre and four corner points. The three Master Masons by means of their 3 - 4 - 5 rods would then from the centre struck by the King, form four right-angled triangles and place the "pegs" to mark the position of the corners. As the pegs would probably be moved or disturbed, the ancient Masons as long ago as the days of Babylon adopted land-marks. They saw in those early days that if the pegs at the corners were moved the whole of the setting thus far would have to be repeated; therefore they adopted land-lines which extended to a considerable distance beyond the actual site of the structure. The land-marks were pegs stuck into the ground at such a distance that they would not be disturbed and it was the duty of every Guild Mason to take great care that these ancient land-marks of the Order were carefully preserved; in fact, in the days of King Solomon it was death to move a Free Mason's land-mark or land-line. Note that in the case of a square building, the four angles must each measure 90 degrees or the fourth part of a circle. In the case of oblong buildings built in the proportion of two to one, the ancient Mason used the same five point system but the angle between the diagonal lines at the centre of a building having its length equal to twice its width is 53 degrees 48 minutes as shown, and the 53 degree 48 minutes degree of the Master's Square was used for this purpose. All ancient temples in all parts of the world were constructed with the main hall or nave three times as long as the width or in the three to one proportion and the height of the wall was half the length. The 36 degree 52 minutes angle of the Master's Square was used in this instance. Such is the practical use of the Master's Square made by our Ancient Brethren.

The introductory address to the First Lecture of the Craft Lectures commences with the words "Brethren, Masonry, according to the general acceptance of the term, is an art founded on the principles of Geometry, and directed to the service and convenience of mankind. 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 called a science although its lessons for the most part are veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols, inasmuch as, veiling itself under the terms of the former, it inculcates the principles of the purest morality". We should understand the word Morality in the sense of the old Morality plays which conveyed spiritual teachings, rather than confining its meaning to refer only to customs and ethics although these too are very important and necessary. In Proverbs 4th chapter, verse 4, we read, "Wisdom is the principle thing, therefore get Wisdom and with all thy getting get understanding". Pythagoras, the meaning of which name is Father Teacher, says, "God geometrises". So now to interpret the spiritual meaning of our symbol; the side of the triangle measuring three units represents Spirit, the Supreme Triad, the side measuring four units represents Matter. the lower quartemery, and if the conjoining angle is a right-angle of 90 degrees, the hypotenuse measures five units representing Self-conscious Man. Man as a composite being comprises seven principles. The right angle represents the equal balance of spiritual and physical forces so that neither shall bring detriment to the other. The perpendicular stands for the spiritual. The horizontal or physical conditions lie continually along the same plane, never rising above it nor can it fall below it, for should it do one or the other it ceases to be perfect physical. The perpendicular rising out of the physical plane at every point of its progress, is constantly changing its position, growing upward and out of the physical environment beneath which it does not penetrate: it meets the physical at the point of contact only. The hypotenuse represents the bond of union which connects the physical and spiritual on the opposite ends of the line; the extreme points of the perpendicular and the horizontal coalescing with the extreme points of the hypotenuse, represent body, soul and Spirit which are but manifestations of the Divine Power and Presence. St. Paul says, "Be ye therefore perfect even as your Father which in Heaven is perfect ".

A square is the symbol of perfection. It has four equal sides and four equal angles of 90 degrees. This makes four equal perfection, 360 degrees or a whole circle. That which is perfect must be real and the real must be the Infinite Perfect One. The perfect Supreme Intelligence is represented by the square described on the hypotenuse. The square described on the perpendicular shows forth the Perfect Spirit, while that on the horizontal stands for the perfect physical. Because manifestation exists as physical, it does not follow that it is imperfect. Consequently, the Square on the hypotenuse or Divine Perfect is equal to both the manifestations of Itself, the Perfect Spiritual and the Perfect Physical. Not until they return into Itself will their equality, each to each be manifest.

Brethren this short and partial explanation of the meaning of only one of our symbols should enable us to have some appreciation of the inestimable knowledge that is epitomised in the priceless jewels enshrined in the chalice of Freemasonry. The mystery of Man, the mystery of the Universe and the true understanding of Man's relationship with God are concealed therein. A veritable feast of Wisdom is placed before us and it is entirely up to each of our brethren how much he will partake of the Divine repast. May you find an ever increasing and deepening interest in following our Ritual and quietly contemplating the jewels during the unfolding of the degrees during our ceremonies.