And the result is a series of volumes noble in form! As far back as , Brother Waite issued his study of the "Mysteries of Magic," a digest of the writings of Eliphas Levi, to whom Albert Pike was more indebted than he let us know. Then followed the "Real History of the Rosicrucians," which traces, as far as such a thing can be done, the thread of fact in that fascinating romance. Of the Quest in its distinctively Christian aspect, he has written in "The Hidden Church of the Holy Graal"; a work of rare beauty, of bewildering richness, its style partaking of the story told, and not at all after the fashion of these days.
But the Graal Legend is only one aspect of the old-world sacred Quest of the truth most worth finding, uniting the symbols of chivalry with the forms of Christian faith. Masonry is another aspect of that same age-long Quest; and just as Brother Pound has shown us the place of Masonry among the institutions of humanity, and its meaning as such, so Brother Waite shows us the place of Masonry in the mystical tradition and aspiration of mankind.
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No one may ever hope to write of "The Secret Tradition in Masonry" with more insight and charm, or a touch more sure and revealing, than this gracious scholar to whom Masonry perpetuates the Instituted Mysteries of antiquity, with much else derived from innumerable store-houses of treasure. What then are the marks of this eternal Quest, whether its legend be woven about a Lost Word, a design left unfinished by a Master Builder, or, in its Christian form, about the Cup of Christ?
They are as follows: first, the sense of a great loss which has befallen humanity, making us a race of pilgrims ever in search of that which is lost; second, the intimation that what was lost still exists somewhere in time and the world, although deeply buried; third, the faith that it will ultimately be found and the vanished glory restored; fourth, the substitution of something temporary and less than the best, but never in a way to adjourn the quest; and fifth, the felt presence of that which is lost under veils and symbols close at hand.
What though it take many forms, it is always the same quest, and from this statement of it surely we ought to see that Masonry has a place in the greatest quest which man has pursued in the midst of time. Our Order is thus linked with the shining tradition of the race, having a place and a service in the culture of the life of the soul, leading men in the search for God, if haply they might feel after Him, and find Him, though He is not far from any one of us. But this is a long and difficult quest, and we must walk carefully, lest we trip and fall into the pits that beset the path.
Brother Waite warns us against the dark alleys that lead nowhere, and the false lights that lure to ruin, and he protests against those who would open the Pandora's Box of the Occult on the altar of Masonry. After a long study of occultism, magic, omens, talismans, and the like, he has come to draw a sharp line between the occult and the mystical. From a recent interview with him in regard to these matters in an English paper, we may read:. Occultism is concerned with the idea that there were a number of secret sciences handed down from the past, and which, roughly speaking, represented the steps toward the attainment of abnormal power by man, corresponding to the idea of Magic.
Magic, of course, meant many things: it meant the power obtained by man as a result of dealing with spirits, raising the spirits of the dead, everything that we understand by the supposed efficacy of talismans, and all that is comprehended in the word Astrology. My interest in these things has been purely historical and critical. Occult and psychical research does help, of course, to show that the purely materialistic interpretation of things does not cover the whole field.
It shows a residue of experience which points to the existent of powers beyond the ken of man, some of them maleficent, others innocent in themselves, of which the student may take account. Unfortunately, I have known too many who follow these things as the be-all and end-all of their interests. I know others also, and many, to whom the exaggerated pursuit has spelt not less than ruin.
I mean, morally and spiritually. I know, for the rest, that they reach no real term; very soon they come up against a dead wall. Here are grave and wise words, spoken out of full knowledge of history and fact, and he is wise who heeds them. It is no theological bias of any sort, but the profound fallacy of the occult, and its danger to the highest life and character, that has moved us more than once in these pages to utter a like warning to those who would turn aside from the historic highway of the soul to follow a will-of-the-wisp into the bog.
If Masonry forsakes its Great Light to follow these wandering tapers, it too will fall into the ditch. But to listen to Brother Waite:. To me all visible things are emblems. When you come to think of it, is it not true that all the workings of the human mind are in the form of symbols? These symbols are truly representive and not mere figments of the mind, and to get at the reality behind the symbol is the aim of the mystic.
The theory of mysticism is that the voice of God is within, and that the soul has to enter into the realization that God is within. The question is whether that realization can be fully achieved in this life. All, or nearly all, the great mystics, held that they only approximated it. The absolute vision and union lie very far away-- so the quest of the Lost Word goes on, ever on. Mysticism is not a way of escape either from one's self or the world. It is by the realization of the indwelling of God in all around, and within, in things animate and inanimate, and most of all in the soul of man, that we attain to knowledge of God--in so far as we attain it in this life.
Thus, it is not a path of escape from the world, as the old ascetics imagine, but by finding God in the world, the ideal in the real, one with the ideal within ourselves, that we attain to union with God. We are sacraments to ourselves. A man building a house would perhaps be surprised if you told him that he is not merely building bricks and stones, but that he is trying to bring into being something of the idealism in his own nature, but if he could be brought to understand that, would it not give a new glory to his work?
Thus mysticism, as here presented, is practical common sense-- bringing to the humblest task the highest truth to lighten and transfigure our labor. Time does not permit us to speak of the poetry of Brother Waite, though some think his best work has been done in that field. He himself thinks of his poetry as "light tongued rumors and hints alone of the songs I had hoped to sing. At another time we shall speak of the poetry of our friend to whom the world is ever an infinite parable, giving at present only the following lines as a hint of his poetic purpose and power:. And the soul withdrawn in the deeps of man from the birth of each man has cried.
I know that a sense is beyond the sense of the manifest Voice and Word, That the tones in the chant which we strain to seize are the tones that are scarcely heard; While life pulsating with secret things has many too deep to speak, And that which evades, with a quailing heart, we feel is the sense we seek: Scant were the skill to discern a few where the countless symbols crowd, To render the easiest reading, catch the cry that is trite and loud.
For the rest, we confess a great debt to our dear friend and Brother across the great waters, divided by distance but very near in thought and sympathy and regard; a man of pure and lofty spirit, tolerant of mind, noble of nature, in all ways a true Master Mason --and one who does not forget "that best portion of a good man's life, the little, nameless, unremembered acts of kindness and of love.
Thus saith the Lord GodBehold, I lay in Zion fol a Foundation Stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation; he that believeth shall not make haste. Judgment also will I lay to the line, and righteousness to the plummet. The subject which I am about to approach is one having certain obvious difficulties, because it is outside the usual horizon of Masonic literature, and requires, therefore, to be put with considerable care, as well as with reasonable prudence.
Moreover, it is not easy to do it full justice within the limits of a single lecture. I must ask my Brethren to make allowance beforehand for the fact that I am speaking in good faith, and where the evidence for what I shall affirm does not appear in its fullness, and sometimes scarcely at all, they must believe that I can produce it at need, should the opportunity occur. As a matter of fact, some part of it has appeared in my published writings.
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I will introduce the question in hand by a citation which is familiar to us all, as it so happens that it forms a good point of departure"But as we are not all operative Masons, but rather Free and Accepted or speculative, we apply these tools to our morals. That which is applied more specially to the working implements of Masonry belongs to our entire building symbolism, whether it is concerned with the erection by the Candidate in his own personality of an edifice or "superstructure perfect in its parts and honorable to the builder," or, in the Mark Degree, with a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens, or again with Solomon's Temple spiritualized in the Legend of the Master Degree.
It comes about in this manner that Masonry is described elsewhere as "a peculiar system of morality, enveiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols. It is my design also to show that Craft Masonry- incorporates three less or more distinct elements which have been curiously interlinked under the device of symbolical architecture.
That interlinking is to some extent artificial, and yet it arises logically, so far as the relation of ideas is concerned. There is, firstly, the Candidate's own work, wherein he is taught how he should build himself. The method of instruction is practical within its own measures, but as it is so familiar and open, it is not, properly speaking, the subject-matter of a Secret Order.
There is, secondly, a building myth, and the manner in which it is put forward involves the Candidate taking part in a dramatic scene, wherein he represents the master-builder of Masonry.
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There is, thirdly, a Masonic quest, connected with the notion of a Secret Word communicated as an essential part of the Master Degree in building. This is perhaps the most important and strangest of the three elements; but the quest after the Word is not finished in the Third Degree.
Let us look for a moment at the Degree of Entered Apprentice, and how things stand with the Candidate when he first comes within the precincts of the Lodge. He comes as one who is "worthy and well recommended," as if he contained within himself certain elements or materials which are adaptable to a specific purpose. He is described by his conductor as a person who is "properly prepared. It is not that he is merely a deserving member of society at large. He is this, of course, by the fact that he is admitted; but he is very much more, because Masonry has an object in view respecting his personality--something that can be accomplished in him as a result of his fellowship in the Brotherhood, and by himself.
As a matter of truth, it is by both. The "prepared" state is, however, only external, and all of us know in what precisely it consists. Now the manner of his preparation for entrance to the Lodge typifies a state which is peculiar to his ward position as a person who has not been initiated. There are other particulars into which I need not enter, but it should be remarked that in respect of his preparation he learns only the meaning of the state of darkness, namely, that he has not yet received the light communicated in Masonry. The significance of those hindrances which place him at a disadvantage, impede his movements, and render him in fact helpless, is much deeper than this.
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They constitute together an image coming out from some old condition by being unclothed therefrom--partially at least--and thereafter of entering into a condition that is new and different, in which another kind of light is communicated, and another vesture is to be assumed, and, ultimately, another life entered. In the first Degree the Candidate's eyes are opened into the representation of a new world, for you must know, of course, that the Lodge itself is a symbol of the world, extending to the four corners, having the height heaven above and the great depth beneath.
The Candidate may think naturally that light has been taken away from him for the purpose of his initiation, has been thereafter restored automatically, when he has gone through a part of the ceremony, and that hence he is only returned to his previous position. Not so. In reality, the light is restored to him in another place; he has put aside old things, has come into things that are new; and he will never pass out of the Lodge as quite the same man that he entered.
There is a very true sense in which the particulars of his initiation are in analogy with the process of birth into the physical world. The imputed darkness of his previous existence, amidst the life of the uninitiated world, and the yoke which is placed about him is unquestionably in correspondence with the umbilical cord. You will remember the point at which he is released therefrom--in our English ritual, I mean. I do not wish to press this view, because it belongs of right, in the main, to another region of symbolism, and the procedure in the later Degrees confuses an issue which might be called clear otherwise in the Degree of Entered Apprentice.
It is preferable to say that a new light--being that of Masonry--illuminates the world of the Lodge in the midst of which the Candidate is placed; he is penetrated by a fresh experience; and he sees things as they have never been presented to him before. When he retires subsequently for a period, this is like his restoration to light; in the literal sense he resumes that which he set aside, as he is restored to the old light; but in the symbolism it is another environment, a new body of motive, experience, and sphere of duty attached thereto.
He assumes a new vocation in the world.
The question of certain things of a metallic kind, the absence of which plays an important part, is a little difficult from any point of view, though several explanations have been given. The better way toward their understanding is to put aside what is conventional and arbitrary--as, for example, the poverty of spirit and the denuded state of those who have not yet been enriched by the secret knowledge of the Royal and Holy Art.
It goes deeper than this and represents the ordinary status of the world, when separated from any higher motive--the world-spirit, the extrinsic titles of recognition, the material standards.
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The Candidate is now to learn that there is another standard of values, and when he comes again into possession of the old tokens, he is to realize that their most important use is in the cause of others. You know under what striking circumstances this point is brought home to him. The Candidate is, however, subjected to like personal experience in each of the Craft Degrees, and it calls to be understood thus.
In the Entered Apprentice Degree it is because of a new life which he is to lead henceforth. In the Fellowcraft, it is as if the mind were to be renewed, for the prosecution of research into the hidden mysteries of nature, science, and art. But in the sublime Degree of Master Mason it is in order that he may enter fully into the mystery of death and of that which follows thereafter, being the great mystery of the Raising.
The three technical and official words corresponding to the successive experiences are Entered, Passed, and Raised, their Craft-equivalents being Apprentice, Craftsman and Master--or he who has undertaken to acquire the symbolical and spiritualized art of building the house of another life; he who has passed therein to a certain point of proficiency, and in fine, he who has attained the whole mystery.
If I may use for a moment the imagery of Francis Bacon, Lord Verulam, he has learned how to effectuate in his own personality "a new birth in time," to wear a new body of desire, intention and purpose; he has fitted to that body a new mind, and other objects of research. In fine, he has been taught how to lay it aside, and yet again he has been taught how to take it up after a different manner, in the midst of a very strange symbolism.
Now, it may be observed that in delineating these intimations of our symbolism, I seem already to have departed from the mystery of building with which I opened the conference; but I have been actually considering various sidelights thereon.