The Works of Walter Leslie Wilmshurst
Brief Masonic Biography
The Meaning of Masonry
The Masonic Initiation
The Ceremony of Initiation
The Ceremony of Passing
Notes on Cosmic Consciousness
The Fundamental Philosophic Secrets Within Masonry
The Hidden Church of the Holy Graal
The Mystical Basis of Freemasonry
Reason and Vision
The Working Tools of an Old York Master
Spurious Ecstasy and Ceremonial Magic
Wilmshurst's Tracing Board of the Centre
The Ceremony of Initiation.
Analysis and Commentary.
W. L. WILMSHURST,
P.M., P.A.G.D.C. (England) and P.P.G.W. (West Yorks.)
J. M. WATKINS, 21 Cecil Court, Charing Cross Road, London, W.C 2.
These notes are intended as a Manual of
Instruction for the benefit of Masons who have recently taken their
First Degree, and for that of other Brethren wishful to understand
the purpose and the meaning of the Initiation Ceremony. The endeavour
to indicate the reason for the existence of the Masonic system, to
draw aside the veil of allegory and symbolism in which the Initiation
Ceremony is clothed, and to reveal its spirit and subsurface
The First Degree Ceremony used on the
reception of a Candidate into the Craft is designed to introduce him
to the first stage of a system of knowledge and self-discipline
which, if faithfully followed up and lived out in his personal life,
will clarify and transform his mind from its natural state of
darkness to one of Light, i.e., expanded clear-seeing spiritual
consciousness raised far beyond and existing independently of the
perceptions of the natural senses. It is, therefore called a Ceremony
of Initiation from in ire to go inwards, i.e., beyond the
merely material surfaces of things), and because it is meant to mark
the beginning (initium) of a new order of personal life and
consciousness. It might equally well be called one of Regeneration or
Rebirth; indeed its parallel in Religion is the sacrament of Baptism,
which is the initial incident of the religious life and is performed
at the West end of a Church, just as a Masonic Candidate enters the
Lodge and begins his Masonic career in the symbolic West. It is a
ceremony provided to give an answer to what the Candidate professes
to be the predominant wish of his heart — a wish well expressed
by probably the oldest prayer in the world, which is still used daily
by millions of our fellowmen in the East:—
From the unreal lead me
to the Real;
From the darkness lead me to Light;
From the mortal bring me to Immortality!
The presence or absence of this aspiration in a Candidate should
be the test of his fitness for Initiation. Any less exalted motive
for seeking Initiation falls short of the true intention. The
Candidate's attitude should be one of definite intelligent
expectation of spiritual good to come to him, and of positive
aspiration and heart-hunger for it; equally definitely it must not be
for any material or social advantage, nor a merely negative state of
curiosity or uncertainty as to what is to be found in the Craft.
For every Candidate the Initiation Ceremony implies that whatever
academic or scientific learning he possesses, whatever philosophical
ideas he holds, whatever religious creed he professes, prior to
Initiation, there remains something more — indeed something
vastly more— for him yet to learn and to which the Craft can
help to lead him. This does not mean that he will necessarily
discover his previous convictions to be false; on the other hand, so
far as they be true he will find abundant confirmation and
amplication of them, and so far as they are erroneous or imperfect he
will learn to modify them. It means that he must be prepared to find
some of his wonted and perhaps even most deeply rooted ideas to be
apprehensions of Truth so partial and limited that they operate as
obstructions to the wider vision which might be his, and that the
more tenaciously he clings to them the more he may be blocking his
own light. If, therefore, he is to profit by the Light to which the
Craft leads he must be prepared to keep his mind open and fluid and
to make such mental self-surrender as occasion warrants. We all tend
to feel so certain of ourselves, so wise in our own conceits, and too
often are unaware that we have much to unlearn before we can become
truly teachable. But from earliest times the Candidate for Initiation
has been called a "child" and taught to regard himself as
Accordingly the divesting of the Candidate's person prior to the
Ceremony is symbolic of the mental unclothing required of him, whilst
his self-abandonment to be taken wherever he is led and to do
whatever he is told betokens the meekness and docility with which his
mind should follow Truth wherever it may lead. even into apparently
perilous places and among ideas not recognised by the conventions and
orthodoxies of the world without. For true Initiation involves a
spiritual adventure, a voyage of the mind, not into the unknowable
but into what the Candidate has never yet known or experienced; and
it leads to regions where he travels farthest who carries least
burdens, where he acquires most who casts away most of himself, and
where the really hearthungry are increasingly filled with good things
from which the intellectually rigid and the rich in conventional
knowledge are automatically precluded. To the single-minded. Wisdom
has ways of revealing itself which the learned understand not.
Mental self-tripping and readjustment is, of course, not a sudden,
but a gradual process. No Candidate is called upon to do undue or too
sudden violence to himself, but rather to adapt himself gradually to
the new conditions and to become transformed by a slow but steady
renewing of his mind and outlook. See how this is evidenced by his
progressive unclothing as he passes on from Degree to Degree! In the
First only certain parts of his person are bared; in the Second, only
certain other and complementary parts. It is not until the Third
Degree that the maximum unclothing is called for, by that time he is
presumed to be inured to self-surrender and better able to make the
larger sacrifice which that sublime Degree involves.
To turn now to the Ceremony itself. Up to about the year 1700,
formally compiled Rituals did not exist. The working was transmitted
orally. There was no such thing as a memorised form mechanically
repeated with such word-perfectness and dignified elocution as may
be, but an extempore pronouncement of real power and spiritual
efficacy, performed by a Master possessing complete understanding of
what he did, and able to adapt or amplify the ceremony in accordance
with the culture, intelligence and probable requirements of a
properly prepared Candidate. The actual form of words employed was
(and still always is) the least important element about the Ceremony.
What is of far vaster consequence is the ability of the Initiator,
and those co-operating with him, to infuse into such spiritual
fervour and emotional momentum that what is done and said over the
Candidate shall penetrate his heart and mind, and awaken certain
truths in his soul, — a result requiring, as its first
condition, that the Candidate be a fit and proper person and properly
prepared for it.
Even to-day, the Irish and many Continental Masonic Constitutions
work to no set ritual. Certain traditional landmarks and age-old
usages are uniformly observed, but for the rest (e.g. The various
charges, explanations, and entrustings) the wording of the Ceremony
is left to the inspiration and emotion of the moment.
The Ritual which, with slight local variations, has become
traditional with us, embodies all these land-marks and usages, and
has been compiled with extraordinary and, indeed, inspired skill and
wisdom. To treat it superficially, or regard it as a composition to
be reeled off one's memory in a "non-stop" fashion, is to
miss the purport and the beauties of a highly complex and
comprehensive compilation. Analysis of it shows that it is built up
of fourteen distinct "movements" or episodes, in two series
of seven each.
The first series is associated with the Candidate's state of
darkness; it is an ascending or crescendo series rising, like an
emotional wave, to a climax at the moment of his symbolic restoration
to Light. The second series is associated with the state of Light to
which he has been lifted up; it is a descending or
diminuendo series dealing with matters consequent upon his
attainment of Light; the emotional billow, as it were, dies gradually
away, but leaving the Candidate's being flooded with new perceptions
and stimulated by a quickening influence such as he never previously
knew and which will probably take him some time to assimilate.
The sequence of these episodes is as follows; and they will
indicate what a large range of ideas has been compressed within a
short Ceremony :—
STATE OF DARKNESS.
1. The Admission to the Lodge.
2. The Prayer of Dedication.
3. The Mystical Journey (or Perambulation).
4. The Declarations of Freedom, Motive, and Perseverance.
5. The Advance from W. to E.
6. The Obligation.
7. The Restoration to Light.
STATE OF LIGHT.
8. The Revelation of the Greater and Lesser Lights.
9. The Entrustment with the Secrets.
10. The Testing by the Wardens.
11. The Investure with the Clothing.
12. The Instruction in the N.E.
13. The Instruction in the Working Tools.
14. The Instruction in the Tracing Board.
Each of these fourteen incidents provides scope for prolonged
reflection and comment, but in these notes only brief observations
can be made upon each of them in succession.
The separation of the Ceremony into two main sub-divisions, the
"state of Darkness" and the "state of Light," has
a far-reaching allusiveness; first to cosmic truth and in relation to
human life generally; secondly, historically and in correspondence
with the Ancient Mysteries.
Cosmically, all human life begins its quest for Light and Truth in
a state of darkness as our nature, our purpose and destiny. We are,
as it were, born blind or hoodwinked about them; as the Ancients
taught, we have all drunk the cup of Lethe and the water of
forgetfulness before descending to birth in the flesh. Our quest,
therefore, at the outset of our earthly career must necessarily be a
darkened one, a mere hoodwinked fumbling about for we know not what,
until the pains, sorrows, and disillusionments of existence awake us
to the fact that we are wasting our substance among shadows and
futilities, and that there may be something higher and better worth
hunting for. This preliminary condition of mind and soul the
Initiates likened to being in a place which they called "the
Hall of Ignorance" or "the Hall of Truth in Darkness,"
in which we grope about for a Light and Wisdom which are at all times
around us, but which we cannot find because our faculties are as yet
sealed from perceiving them.
Later on, when experience has caused a man to turn away in
distaste from outer interests to the quest of better things, he
becomes initiated in to the science of them, and was said to have
entered the "Hall of Learning" or the "Hall of Truth
in Light," for by this time he is no longer ignorantly groping
in the dark, but has become actuated by a definite and enlightened
resolve to find the Reality behind the shadows.
It is these two conditions, one of groping ignorantly and with
blinded eyes for the Reality behind temporal existence, and one of
seeking it intelligently and with the opened eyes of the Initiate,
that are reproduced in the two subdivisions of our First Degree
Ceremony. There remains a third condition, but for the novice it is
as yet a long way off and is, therefore, beyond the purview of our
present enquiry; its attainment is described as entering the "Hall
of Wisdom," which is possible only to Master Masons who have
passed beyond the two previous "Halls," and whose search
has been rewarded with finding the ultimate secrets of life.
Preceding the actual Ceremony, however, there is implied a
preliminary and very necessary routine, — the due Preparation
of the Candidate, some remarks upon which must preface our commentary
upon the fourteen points of the Ceremony itself
As to the sources of the Ceremony, it (as also the official E.A.
Lecture and Tracing Board Explanation provided to interpret it) is a
blend of various streams of influence. The chief of these is the
traditional method — usually called the "Secret Doctrine"
— common to all the Ancient Mysteries and Initiation systems
from the dawn of history; a method and doctrine always held in
reserve from the knowledge of the masses of the people, constituting
stronger "meat" and imparting deeper truths than the more
simple instruction, or "milk," provided for the general
public by the current education and religious institutions of a given
time or place. As is well known to students of the history of
religion, behind the exoteric doctrine of every great Teacher or
religious Founder, has always existed an esoteric counterpart of it
for advanced disciples.
Combined with elements of this ancient esoteric wisdom are
elements from more recent cognate systems, such as Hermeticism, the
Hebrew Cabala, and Rosicrucianism, as also survivals from mediaeval
Gild Masonry, whilst the Holy Scriptures which have served to nourish
the religious life of the West are interfused with all these and act
as a unifying and explanatory "great light."
Accordingly we find our Masonic Ritual, as the offspring of these
sources, continually using the language of its parents, speaking now
in the terms or symbols of one and now in those of another of them;
and it becomes clear that all these sources have been stewards of the
same Mysteries, that they proclaim the same truth and mean the same
thing, and can be constantly cross-referenced and found to be
Take one of a host of possible examples — the Preparation of
the Candidate. The Craft requires every Candidate for Initiation to
come "properly prepared." In Religion this paralleled by
the Church requiring its neophytes to be "prepared" for
Confirmation into fuller realisation of spiritual life. And every
ancient and modern Initiation system has required it; indeed the
preparation insisted on an antiquity and in more advanced secret
Orders than the Craft, was, and still is, of an extremely intensive
character. But the point to be stressed here is that, for those who
really desire Light, a preliminary orientation of will, heart and
mind is indispensable to their desire becoming fulfilled, and
"Prepare ye the way of the Lord!" is the Biblical
confirmation of what the Ancient Mysteries required and what the
Craft still inculcates. And when, with us, the Master of the Lodge
dispatches his Deacon to prepare the Candidate for his reception, is
he not still echoing and giving a personal value to words of
impersonal and cosmic application. "Behold, I will send my
messenger to prepare the way before me"?
The mental preparation of the Candidate should have been
proceeding for a considerable time before the Ceremony is conferred.
It can be considerably assisted by his Masonic sponsors upon whom
rests the responsibility of vouching for his fitness for Initiation,
and who in private converse can adumbrate to him a broad idea of what
is involved, and assure themselves of his sympathetic response to it.
As to the symbolic preparation of his external person, much closer
attention is paid to this in Continental Lodges than is usual with
us. He is taken to a quiet ante-room and there left alone for some
time to compose his mind and read some sentences warning him of the
solemnity of his project and the desirability of proceeding with it
in a spirit of meekness and confidence or of withdrawing from it
while there is yet time.
After an interval he is interviewed by the Deacon and asked for
his decision. If he desires to proceed he is then asked to write
brief replies to some such questions as these :—(1) What is
your view of the purpose of human life and the nature of human
destiny? (2) What is your object in seeking to be initiated? (3) What
may the Craft hope to receive from you in return for what you expect
to receive from it? He is left to write his replies, which are then
taken into the Lodge and submitted to the Master's approval, who
declares whether they are satisfactory, in which event only the
ballot is taken. Upon his election the Deacon is despatched to greet
the Candidate with the tidings and to invite him to surrender his
metals and money. After which the formal preparation of his person
proceeds as with us; this being done with solemnity, the reason for
each separate act of preparation being briefly explained by the
It were well if the above practice or an approximation of it were
always followed. In any event great importance attaches to the due
performance of the Deacon's ministrations so as to create the most
favourable mental conditions for the Candidate before he enter the
Lodge. (The symbolic value of the Deacon's work is explained in our
Lodge Paper No. 4, and it is in the spirit of that explanation that
he should discharge his duties).
If it be essential that the Candidate should enter the Lodge
properly prepared, it is equally important that those waiting to
receive and initiate him should themselves be prepared in heart and
intention to do so. Even the atmosphere of the Temple should be
prepared by rendering it peaceful and free of commotion The W.M. can
ensure this by enjoying complete silence during the interval
preceding the Candidate's entrance and inviting the Brethren to
reflect upon the nature of the work in hand and to unite with him in
earnest aspiration that that work may be spiritually effectual.
The unofficiating Brethren present are not meant to be mere
spectators of the Ceremony. The whole Lodge, and not only the acting
officials of it, should participate in the mystery. Great is the
power of united concentrated thought and intention in impressing a
Candidate's mentality and awaking it to new and spiritual
perceptions; and to this end the spoken work of the Master and
Officers actively concerned can be very greatly assisted by the
silent mental co-operation of the unofficiating Brethren.
From the place of preparation the Candidate is led to the door of
the Lodge. This he finds close tyled. He "meets with opposition"
(as the E.A. Lecture says) and cannot gain admission save in the
In other words, on turning from the world without to the world
within, his first discovery is to find his way blocked by an
intervening barrier. What is that barrier? What does the door of the
Obviously it symbolises some obstructive element in himself. He is
made to recognise that any opposition to his own spiritual
advancement comes from within himself and must be overcome by his own
efforts. (Hence it is that the Candidate is required to give the
knocks himself; they should never be given for him by any one else.)
The purport of this episode is expressly declared in the E.A.
Lecture to be subjective and mystical. The knocks are there stated to
be interpretable in the light of the Scriptural direction, "Ask
and ye shall have; Seek and ye shall find; Knock and it shall be
opened to you." This threefold direction, observe, not only
corresponds with the triple knocks, 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; he should "knock"
with the force of his bodily energies. He who hopes to find the Light
within must devote his entire being to the quest; it demands and
engages the attention of the whole man.
How true to life and to psychology is this symbolic opposition at
the door of the Lodge! We all erect our mental barriers. The habitual
thought-methods, prejudices, preconceptions and "fixed ideas"
in which we indulge in the course of life in the outer world, become
obstructions to the perception of things of the world within. They
create mental deposits which condense and harden, until they obscure
the wider, deeper, clearer vision we might have but for own
self-created limitations. We erect and tyle our own door against
ourselves and block our own light, and eventually on seeking to turn
to the Light find ourselves confronted by darkness and opposition of
our own creating. And it is just these barriers that must be broken
down by our own efforts and the force of our own persistent "knocks."
For "knocks" it may be helpful to think of a more modern
term, — vibrations. Persistent vibrations, in a given direction
will, as is well known, eventually break down whatever is opposed to
them, whether physical or mental. Vibrations of faith remove
mountains. Vibrations of intellectual energy result in the solution
of problems. Vibrations of emotion break through into the hearts of
others. Vibration of spiritual aspiration penetrate into higher
worlds and open doors into them. And all this is signified by the
simple incident of the Candidate meeting with opposition at the door
of the Lodge and gaining admission as the result of his own symbolic
2.—The Prayer of Dedication.
The initial act of the Ceremony is appropriately a prayer by the
assembled Brethren (1) that the Candidate (who has already been
elected to formal membership of the Craft) may now become spiritually
incorporated into the Great Brotherhood, and (2) for his endowment
with such an influx of wisdom as, by virtue of that
incorporation, will give him increasing power to manifest the
beauty of holiness.
The brevity and simplicity of this prayer are liable to obscure
its deep implications. Observe (from the three words just emboldened
above) that it contains the first unobtrusive reference to that
trinity of Wisdom, Strength and Beauty of which the Candidate will
hear later on, and of which it is prayed that he may become a living
Note too, that there is no reference in the prayer to morality of
merely ethical virtues; it invokes something far loftier than these,
— the gift of the Spirit; it strikes a keynote intended to
govern the tone of both the Ceremony and the Candidate's whole
Observe, too, that it is not a prayer by the Candidate (who is
required only to "kneel and listen" to it), but one for him
and for the Craft itself; it is a prayer that the spiritual
efficiency of the whole Fraternity may become augmented by this new
accession to it. Every Brother present, therefore, should unite with
the Chaplain in a strong tension of aspiration that the prayer may
become realised in the joint interests of both the Craft and its new
member. Later on, the latter should make the prayer his own,
remembering throughout his life that it was once offered over him in
his darkness and helplessness on behalf of the whole Craft, and that
it falls to himself to justify increasingly the invocation then so
solemnly made in his behalf.
3. — The Perambulation or
Next follows the Perambulation. But this preceded by an inquiry to
the Candidate; where does he repose reliance in circumstances of
danger and difficulty? It is obvious that he is about to be exposed
to circumstances of that character, and the question is therefore put
to ascertain whether he ought to be allowed to expose himself to them
or not. The answer to the question should always be his own and
should spring spontaneously from his own mind and lips; to prompt him
with an answer detracts from the reality of the Ceremony and
encourages him to give a reply which may be insincere. The Ceremony
implies that if he cannot voluntarily give the proper response to the
question, he is unfit for Initiation and should be led back out of
the Lodge. If, on the other hand, he responds satisfactorily, well
and good; the Ceremony may proceed and will be a test of the
Candidate's profession of faith.
What are the dangers and difficulties he is about to be exposed
to? 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, realistic
and affrighting, and such as put a Candidate to severe tests of
mental stability and moral fitness. They may be read about more fully
in literature on the subject, from which it will be gathered how very
essential it was that a Candidate for Initiation into the secrets and
mysteries of his own being should possess not only a stable faith and
moral centre, but also a sound mind in a sound body. Otherwise
grave responsibility rested upon both the Initiators and the
Candidate, and grave risks of damage to the latter's reason attached
by suffering an unfit person to "rashly run forward"
towards experiences for which he was unsuited.
Hence it is that a Candidate is still called upon to make a public
declaration of faith and to be passed in review before the Lodge ere
the Ceremony is proceeded with, so that his Initiators may be
satisfied of his fitness.
This is the first reason for the ceremonial Perambulation. But
there is another, of equal importance. The journey round the Lodge is
a symbolic representation of the Candidate's own life-journeyings in
this world prior to his request for Initiation into the world within.
The dangers and difficulties referred to are the vicissitudes
encountered in his own personal Odyssey; indeed the wanderings and
buffetings of Odysseus are an ancient poetic allegory of these
experiences, of a like character to the parable of the career of the
Prodigal Son before he "came to himself" and struck the
We must observe two most noteworthy details in connection with
this symbolic journey. The first is that, though in a state of
darkness himself, he is not alone, but has with him an enlightened
guide. Moreover he is compassed about by a cloud of witnesses keenly
anxious for his spiritual advancement and restoration to light. The
significance of this detail is that every traveller through life has
within himself his own invisible guide and that his soul's upward
struggles are observed by many unseen watchers.
The second is that in the course of his symbolic journey he is led
to each Warden in turn, whom, by a particular gesture, he as it were
arouses from silence and stirs to utterance. The gesture itself is in
fact a repetition of the knocks previously given at the door of the
Lodge. But whereas those knocks were first addressed to inert
material (the door), they are now applied to a living being (the
Warden). What does this imply? It signifies that in our efforts to
turn away from the outer world and penetrate to the Light of the
inner one, we not only overcome our own self-created opposition, but
we awaken and stimulate into activity certain living but hitherto
dormant energies within ourselves.
Of those latent energies with him the Candidate will come to learn
more later. Suffice it for the moment to know that his desire for
Light awakens real but as yet slumbering potencies within himself,
which from now onwards will become stimulated and promote his
spiritual advancement. In each of us reside certain dormant
principles (represented by the two Wardens) higher - than the normal
benighted human reasons knows* [* These latent spiritual principles
in man, symbolised by the Wardens or "Watchmen," are
frequently referred to in the V.S.L., e.g. "I have set watchmen
upon thy walls which shall never hold their peace day nor night"
(Is. 62, 8); "Unless the Lord keep the city the watchman waketh
but in vain," (Ps. 127, 1).]; it is these which it is possible
to provoke into activity, and which, then awakened, no longer block
our passage but speed a man on his ways with, as it were, the
mystical greeting: "Pass, Good Report!"
The expression "Good Report" is a modern form of a very
ancient mystical title accorded to the Candidate. It means much more
than "good reputation" in the popular sense of the phrase.
It implies that the Candidate's nature is one animated by spiritual
sincerity, one that rings true like a coin, and that sounds forth a
convincing note when it speaks. "True of voice" was the
Egyptian form of "Good Report," and it is for this reason
that, on approaching each Warden, our present Candidates are called
upon to sound forth their own note so that the Warden may determine
whether they are indeed "true of voice" and qualified to be
"Say something that I may see you" said Socrates to a
shy youth who sought his instruction, for a man's speech betrayeth
him to the sensitive ear, which is able to judge of the speaker's
sincerity and spiritual status. And hence it is that the Candidate is
required to sound forth his own voice to the Wardens.
4. — The Professions of
Freedom, Motive, and Perseverance,
After both Wardens have assured themselves of the Candidate's
fitness for advancement to the East, he is so certified and presented
to the Master for Initiation. But before the Master accepts him the
Candidate is required to pledge himself to three requirements :—
(1) That he seeks the Light voluntarily, for its own sake, and
from no unworthy or material motive.
(2) That his objects in seeking it are two-fold; (1) knowledge for
himself, and (2) a desire to make himself, in virtue of that
knowledge, of more extensive service to humanity.
(3) That he will persevere in the path about to be disclosed to
him; (which means perseverance not merely through the formal
Ceremony, but in pursuing throughout his subsequent daily life all
that that Ceremony typifies).
It is important that these questions, too, should be answered
spontaneously and without prompting. For they involve definite
personal commitments of a far-reaching character to which no one
should be suffered to pledge himself lightly or under persuasion.
Especially noteworthy is the second promise — that such
higher knowledge as he acquires shall be used in human service. Now
no one can truly serve humanity until he knows how to do so; a good
deal of activity is displayed nowadays that passes by the name of
service, but is not such enlightened or sanctified service as is
meant by the Craft; therefore the acquisition of special knowledge is
mentioned first, so that the Candidate may learn how to serve really
and effectually; but, when acquired, that knowledge is not to be for
selfish purposes but to be put to selfless service of the race. The
enlightenment of Initiation is not to be for his private benefit
only; it must become of importance to, and a trust for, the general
good. Every real Initiate by the mere fact of his enlightenment,
becomes so much salt and seasoning to a corrupting world; hence he is
called upon not to hide his light but to use it and let it shine
before men that they may see in him an example worth following.
Service, indeed, is and ever has been the ulterior motive of the
Mysteries; but there are many forms of it and service can be rendered
in quite other and higher ways than ordinary altruistic activity. Of
these the Candidate will learn more later. But let him never forget
that, at the threshold of his Masonic life, he pledged himself to
become a servant of humanity
5.—The Advance from West to
This is a small episode, yet one of far-reaching significance.
The Candidate has just completed symbolic Odyssean journeying
around the Lodge, which exemplifies his benighted life wanderings
since he came to birth in this world (the "West"). During
his career he has passed blindly, yet never without unseen guidance,
through regions and experiences sometimes of darkness (the "North"),
sometimes of less or greater enlightenment (the "South,"
"West" and "East"), yet entirely ignorant whither
he was going or what the purpose of his life was, or whether at a
given moment he was near to or far from its true goal. Is not this
symbolic journeying true to human life? Until one's eyes eventually
are opened to the whole plan of it, who shall say whether this or
that event in our personal life-experience drew us nearer to or
farther from the goal we are all unwittingly seeking?
But these ignorant wanderings in a circle, these buffetings of
fortune and the tests of character they constitute, at last
terminate, and the moment comes when the Prodigal Son at last turns
homewards and heads definitely away from the West to the East. His
steps may still continue to be irregular; but no matter, they are in
the right direction. Intellectually and emotionally he may still tack
and wobble from side to side before he attains stable foothold and
finds the straight way of peace; but where there's a will there's a
way, and he who is bent on finding the way to the East at all costs
will assuredly arrive there, and he will arrive bearing within his
own character those certificates of fitness for higher things which
are implied by the S.W. presenting the Candidate to the W.M. as a fit
and proper person and properly prepared to be made a Mason.
Following the traditional practice of the Mysteries and of all
secret and monastic Orders, a vow of silence and secrecy is next
required from the Candidate as a further preliminary to the
conferment of Initiation and the entrustment with any secret
This Obligation is often thought of as merely perpetuating the
usual covenant of secrecy required by new members of the old Trade
Guilds as a guard to the privileges of the Guild and the protection
of technical trade secrets. But whilst the Speculative Craft
certainly follows the Operatives in this and other respects, the
reasons for secrecy and for being solemnly obligated to it run much
deeper than to the need for silence about the formal secrets of the
The main purpose of the Obligation is to impress the beginner upon
the path of Light and self-knowledge with a sense of the extreme
value of silence about the new perceptions that will come to him, the
new ideas and experiences he will encounter, and the mental reactions
he will experience as the result of them. And it must be emphasised
that silence and secrecy are imposed not so much in the interest of
the Fraternity at large (which could suffer little from his
indiscretions) as in that of the individual Brother himself.
Experience will teach him, later on, the deep personal value of
silence. He will find that Light and Wisdom are acquired not from
anything that can be ocularly shewn or orally imparted to him, but
from the gradual assembly of new ideas and their gradual digestion
and co-ordination by his own mind, for which purpose it is above all
things essential that his mental energies should be conserved, not
frittered away in talk. To use an electrical analogy, he must become
an "accumulator," receiving new impressions and letting
them revolve in the closed circle of his own mind. which will
gradually digest them and extract their final values.
In the world without the Lodge an appalling waste of human energy
occurs daily in the form of needless private chatter and public
utterance, which might be re-directed to higher ends. The way of the
inner life, upon which one symbolically enters on passing the door of
the Lodge, is the reverse. It calls for silence and economy of
speech. It remembers one's moral accountability for each spoken word.
And because it calls for the conservation of one's verbal energies
and prohibits their needless diffusion in frothy exuberance, it leads
by deep and still waters of knowledge, and silence generates the
power needed for speaking with authority and effect when the time for
such speaking comes.
Turn now to the V.S.L., the Mason's supreme light in these
matters. It declares "There is a time to be silent and a time to
speak," (Ecc. III., 7). Note that the time for silence comes
first in orders; for indeed it is not possible to "speak"
at all in the high sense here implied until, by a previous discipline
of silence, one has acquired the wisdom to know what to say, how,
when, and to whom to say it, and is possessed of the spiritual
momentum which transforms ordinary speech into winged "words of
power." Only after a long discipline of silence is it that "out
of the fulness of the heart the mouth speaketh."
It is common with newly made Brethren in the first flush of their
new Masonic life to find hosts of new perceptions and ideas welling
up in their minds as the result of Initiation and of the thoughts and
studies to which their Initiation has led them. To these they feel
impelled to give expression, and to teach and share with others
things they are just beginning to learn themselves. It is always
satisfactory to find that the forces of Initiation have proved
effective in them and have kindled their inner fire even to that
extent; but it is precisely to the curbing of this crude enthusiasm,
that the Obligation is largely directed at silence is ordained, and
that we owe the traditional practice of restricting the giving of
instruction in Masonic science to those who have become Masters of it
and for whom the "time to speak" has come.
For peril attaches to premature and unwise speech no less than to
more flagrant violations of secrecy; a peril pointed to in the
penalty of the Obligation. That penalty (when we discern the
spiritual intention behind the literal expression of it) implies that
he who is unfaithful to his duly of silence and secrecy may come to
lose the power of effective speech altogether. By frittering away
energies which need to be conserved and consolidated he may
automatically render himself spiritually unvocal. Says a wise old
Word is thrall but Thought makes free;
Hold thy speech, I counsel thee.
Observe this further point. The Candidate takes the Obligation
upon the visible emblem of the ever-speaking Divine Word (than which
nothing is more continually speaking yet nothing is more silent), and
by a manual act attaches himself to and indentifies himself with it.
By emulating its silence he may eventually recover that Lost Word for
which Masonry is the search, and become able to sound it forth
through his own person.
A word upon the posture observed during the Obligation, and
compare it with what has previously been said about the partial
measure of symbolical disrobing the Candidate undergoes in this
Degree. Remember also the changing and progressive nature of both the
posture and the measure of disrobement adopted during the three
Degrees, for they are deeply significant. They imply that, before the
aspirant can attain a new regenerate self, his old selfhood must
become broken down, its pride humbled, its attachment to external
possessions and ingrained mental prejudices severed. All which is not
the work of a moment but a gradual process. He is, therefore, not
called upon to do anything beyond his immediate powers, but to follow
the principle of "precept upon precept; line upon line; here a
little and there a little." Hence it is that the posture (and
the unclothing) change in each Degree and affect different limbs and
parts of the Candidate's person. In the First Degree only one knee
rests on the ground; in the Second it will he the other knee that
will mark his progressive humility; whilst in the Third the posture
will signify that his humility is no longer partial but total, and
that all resistance of mind and stubbornness of will have at last
sunk to complete self-surrender to the Good Law upon whose symbolic
volume he places first one hand and finally both.
7.—The Restoration to Light.
The Candidate is next reminded that for a considerable time he has
been in a state of darkness.
Let no one be so literally-minded as to imagine that this naïve
and simple phrase alludes merely to the few minutes during which the
Candidate's sight has been shut off for symbolic reasons. Remember
that the whole ceremony is allegory, a parable of the soul's life;
that it dramatises in small "the entry" of all men upon
this their mortal existence"; and that the entirety of that
existence has hitherto been spent in a state of darkness and
blindness and will so continue to be spent until that spiritual
consciousness is regained which we call "Light."
"Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting," says the
poet. Our re-birth, he might have added, is an awakening and a
remembering; but it 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 Candidate that wish is presumed to have become a definite
conscious urge, and because it has become so predominant and
overpowering in him that he is without peace of soul until he finds
what he has been blindly seeking, he is, by the law of life itself,
entitled to have his prayer answered, to have the door opened to his
own knocking, and to hear spoken over him the fiat of his own
re-creation, "Let there be Light."
Throughout our Ritual by "Light" we must understand
"consciousness." "Let there be Light" implies,
therefore, "let there be a quickening, heightening and expansion
of consciousness in that which has hitherto been unconscious, or but
Some measure of consciousness is present in everything, in every
kingdom of Nature, from mineral to man. In man is gathered up the
consciousness of all the sub-human kingdoms, and in him that
consciousness is capable of being advanced still farther; indeed, to
a stage beyond the human.
Our First Degree, therefore, implies the first stage of an
expansion of consciousness beyond that of the normal mentality. The
Second Degree implies a still farther advancement; the Third implies
a "raising" to a still higher one; whilst the Supreme
Degree of the Royal Arch points to a final sublime "exaltation"
of consciousness to which the prior Craft Degrees lead up.
Throughout the sequence of grades is implied a progressive advance
from the normal natural mentality to the heights of spiritual
consciousness, an advance which is biblically spoken of as "ascending
the Hill of the Lord." And each of our Masonic ceremonies has
been designed to promote a grade in that ascent.
How far that ascent will be promoted by a particular ceremony, how
far a Candidate's conscience may be thereby quickened and expanded,
depends upon a combination of three conditions; (1) the help of God;
(2) the preparedness of the Candidate; (3) the efficiency of the
Lodge and the Initiating Master as instruments for bringing the two
former into union.
It need not be supposed that an actual accession of spiritual
consciousness to the Candidate comes about instantly and
simultaneously with the symbolic act of restoration to light. It may
or may not do so. Usually new consciousness emerges but slowly
through the darkness of our clouded understanding. To use Masonic
analogy, the Sun at the centre of our personal system only mounts to
the meridian gradually; there is first a dawn and a gradual rising
and a scattering of the darkness before its light manifests in
fullness and strength at high noon.
Significance, of course, attaches to the symbolic "firing"
in which all present engage at the moment of restoration to light. It
is, as it were, a discharge or liberation of the tension to which the
assembly has been subjected during the ceremony; it is the outward
expression of their co-operation with the Initiating Master in
bringing the Candidate from darkness to light; whilst to the
Candidate himself it should mean the sound of the breaking of his
inward fetters, resulting in that uplifting of soul and sudden access
of vision which enables him to say "Whereas before I was blind,
now I see!"
Summary of Part I
The Restoration to Light, the climax and peak-point of the
Ceremony, concludes that first portion of it, that series of seven
ascending steps of the mystical Mountain, which are associated with
his "state of darkness." The remainder of the Ceremony, a
series of seven descending steps, occurs in the newly won "state
of light," and is devoted to imparting information and
instruction in regard to conserving, nourishing and developing that
Light within oneself, now that it has once been glimpsed.
Before passing on to this, let us summarise what has preceded. The
Ceremony has dramatised in symbolic, swiftly-moving, but
comprehensive ritual-form the path to be allowed by any one who,
under the stress of his own deepest heart-impulses, turns in
discontent from the interests of the natural world without, in quest
of those of the world within. It explains his own nature and his own
past life to him; it indicates the conditions and terms upon which a
re-orientation of himself and the satisfaction of his hopes are
possible to him; it shows that he must empty himself of his old self,
divesting and detaching himself from his past acquisitions, whether
intellectual or material. These — his "personal comforts"
—will, like those literal ones of the Candidate's, all be
restored to him later on, but what new values will they then take on!
how amplified and multiplied will their value become to him, who,
like Job, has consented to be stripped of them that he may find a
higher good! To which end, further, he must make a great adventure of
faith; letting all go; surrendering himself to invisible guidance;
maintaining a resolute will to find what he seeks; breaking down all
opposition and interference between himself and his goal; and
dedicating himself to the source of Light and to becoming, as a
light-bearer himself, an instrument for forms of human service higher
than he could ever render without it.
Such is the path of real Initiation as marked out in this
Ceremony. It involves blinding the eyes, baring the heart, and tyling
the mind to things external and shadowy that they may open again upon
things internal and substantial in a true Restoration to Light.
Then comes the Sun's Light to our hut
When fast the senses' door is shut.
For such a pure and perfect guest
The emptiest room is furnished best.
If the Ceremony does not mean all this, it means nothing worthy of
pursuing and is but a vain tradition and formality. If it means all
this, but is performed without understanding and without
transplanting its implications into our life-conduct, we profane it,
increase our own darkness, and act no differently from those who turn
mechanical praying-wheels. But if the dispersion of our natural
darkness and the rising into consciousness above it of that Sun which
glows at the centre of every man's personal system be what we look
for, then in our Ceremony surely we have in our hands a means of
grace of the first value and efficacy.
8.—The Revelation of the
Greater and the Lesser Lights.
It is impossible to formulate in words the condition resulting
from actual "restoration to Light." Psychological states
are indescribable and must be experienced before they can be
understood. But an analogy may help us to an understanding of the
enlargement of consciousness which real Initiation effects; for the
re-birth of one's mind and spiritual nature (which, as we have said,
is implied by Initiation) stands in exact correspondence with, and
follows the same law and process as physical birth; the process of
"birth" is repeated upon a higher level of the spiral of
Now when a child is born into this world physically, it, as it
were, undergoes an initiation into a new state of existence and
attains a consciousness which it never previously experienced, and it
requires some considerable time before its consciousness becomes
adjusted to its new environment, and its vision duly focussed upon
objects around it. It is only conscious vaguely and incoherently;
time and practice are requisite before it can accustom itself and its
eyesight to its surroundings.
Similarly with psychological rebirth. Individual experience of it
varies, but broadly one passes into a state of awareness of something
having happened in oneself of an expanding and illuminating
character. One cannot tell oneself, let alone others, what it is; one
merely knows that there has been an upheaval from within, a shifting
of one's focus of consciousness from a lower to a higher level,
entailing a feeling of liberation from former mental limitations, the
promise of much wider mental vision and deeper understanding for the
future, and withal a sense of deep, uplifting, but inexplicable
happiness. Such is a very crude description of what a duly prepared
and responsive Candidate is likely to experience as the result of his
Initiation; possibly, but not necessarily, during the conferment of
the ceremony, but at some less or greater interval after it. He is,
in biblical language, one of those who having previously sat in
darkness, has now suddenly seen a great light, but cannot yet say
what that light is or involves, or define any detailed perceptions.
All he knows is that he has "received his sight," and that
whereas before he was relatively blind, he is now at last beginning
Now it will be a very promising fact, if the Candidate's
Initiation result is a "restoration to light" to the extent
just mentioned. For it means that subsequent reflection upon his new
experience will steady his quickened emotions and facilitate the
adjustment of his mental sight until it is able to attain clear
precise vision of certain truths, just as an infant learns to adjust
its eyes to objects around it.
Then certain great primary truths of life will gradually emerge
and become revealed to him. And those great primary truths are, in
our Ceremony, symbolically figured forth in what we call our "Three
Great but Emblematic Lights." These emblems are actually
revealed to the Candidate by the Master as the first objects upon
which his eyes look after being given light, and the Candidate is
appropriately kept in a kneeling posture, and facing the East, whilst
they are exhibited and briefly explained; for how should one
contemplate primary fundamental Divine truths save in an attitude of
humility and upon one's mental knees? It is very fitting, therefore,
that the Three Great Lights should be the first objects of the
Candidate's perception, and that they should be revealed to him
whilst facing East, and whilst in a kneeling posture.
Of what, now, are these Three Great Lights the emblems? They
consist, observe, of the V.S.L., the S., and the C.; the three being
always displayed as if they were organically and indissociably
combined; the V.S.L. lying undermost and forming the base for the
other two which rest upon it. the C. being partially concealed by the
These three emblems we may interpret thus :-—
(1) The V.S.L., although embodying the Divine Law as - revealed to
the Western world, has a far wider significance. For us Masons, it is
the visible emblem of the invisible Cosmic Law, through which Deity
is manifested in the Universe. It virtually, therefore, represents
God Himself who, as Law, underlies everything, and is the basis of
all being. "Law" has many forms or modes, and we must,
therefore, not limit our ideas of it to any one of them, but rather
think of it as comprising them all, as physical law, intellectual
law, moral law, and as unifying the dual qualities of Justice and
Mercy, of Severity and Love, which characterise the Divine Nature.
So broad is the Craft's conception of the "Sacred Law"
that Masons are not committed to treating the Bible as the only
expression of it. Accordingly, the Holy Scriptures of any religion
are permitted to be exposed in the Lodge in substitution for the
Bible; the principle adopted being that a Candidate may be obligated
upon the particular revelation of Cosmic Law which he recognises as
true for himself and binding upon his conscience.
Thus in many Lodges where men of non-Christian faith are admitted,
alternative sets of Scriptures are kept, so that a Jew may be
obligated upon the Pentateuch, a Moslem upon the Koran, an Indian
upon the Vedas or Puranas, and so on.
(2) The Compasses resting upon the V.S.L. represent the Divine
Spirit or Divine Principle issuing forth from Deity into
manifestation, both cosmically and in the individual, and proceeding
to function in accordance with the Divine Law.
(3)The Square set opposite to, but inextricably conjoined with,
the Compasses, represents the sheath or vesture of cosmic Matter, in
which the Divine Spirit takes form and proceeds to function.
Read in conjunction, then, the Three Great Lights reveal the
Cosmic Purpose; i.e.. Spirit and Matter working in unison and
according to Divine Law to realise an idea or intention latent in the
What is that Divine Idea? It is that of constructing a perfect
Universe, occupied by perfect beings; a Universe in which the
animating Spirit and the material form shall stand in perfect balance
and, being made in the Divine image and likeness, shall be a perfect
expression of the Divine Thought and a fitting tabernacle for the
Deity to indwell.
Masonically, we speak of Deity as the Great Architect, and of the
Universe as the Cosmic Temple in process of being built in accordance
with the Divine Law and Order and with the help of the Divine
Compasses and Square; and it is this idea, as being the basis of
Masonic doctrine and philosophy, which is, therefore, the first
"secret" revealed to every Candidate and displayed to him
under the guise of our Triune Great Lights; for, as a Mason, it
becomes his duty to co-operate with the Great Architect in executing
His plan and erecting the Great Cosmic Temple.
Having been shewn the Three Great Lights (or, as we may call them,
the three great Cosmic Principles), the Candidate is now turned round
from facing the E., and shewn Three Lesser Lights burning in
different parts of the Lodge. Now these Three Lesser Lights stand in
direct correspondence with the three great ones. They are meant to
indicate to the Candidate that the three great Cosmic Principles or
Lights which sublie the Universe, are reproduced and present in
miniature within himself. The Universe is the Macrocosm (or great
image of the Divine Thought); he himself is the Microcosm (or image
in small of the same Thought), and in him too reside three "lights"
enabling him to co-operate with the Great Architect's plan. To him,
too, have been entrusted the Compasses of the discerning Mind to
direct his own personal life; the Square of bodily form which it will
be his task to work into due shape and make meet as a living stone
for the Cosmic Temple; whilst the Master Light of Conscience also
resides imperishably within him to indicate to him the path of duty.
By the assistance of these Three Lesser Lights the Candidate is
enabled (as the Lecture of the Degree will teach him) to perceive for
the first time the form of the Lodge; to behold its arrangement, its
furniture and jewels, to contemplate its length, breadth and height,
the disposition of the Brethren round its sides, whilst its middle
portion is left as empty space and illumined by the "Glory in
the Centre." Translating this into personal significance, he is
meant to realise that all this external-imagery is but a picture of
himself, seen from within himself and no longer from without. For
just as he is now within the Lodge, and able to see what was
previously closed to him, so now by the help of his own inner lights
he may hope to become able to enter within himself, to contemplate
introspectively the spaciousness of his own soul, to observe with
what graces and jewels of character he must furnish and adorn it, and
to perceive his own personal faculties at the circumference and the
presence of that bright Star which blazes at his own centre.
To sum up; the instruction in the Great Lights is to reveal to the
Candidate the basic Law and Principles of all being; whilst that in
the lesser ones constitutes his first lesson in the "knowledge
of himself" and teaches him that those Principles exist also
within his own soul and provide him with lights sufficient to shape
it into perfection and bring himself into harmony with Cosmic Law.
In the concealment of the lower points of the C. beneath the S.
lies a most instructive lesson. Thereby is implied that man's
immortal and powerful spirit (represented by the C.) is at present
overlain and prevented from full function by the contrary tendencies
of his mortal material body, represented by the S.) Now this position
must become reversed. If man is to become perfected and rise to the
full height and possibilities of his being, his spiritual principle
must not remain subordinated to the flesh and its tendencies, but
gain ascendancy over them. This the Mason is taught to achieve for
himself, and in proportion as he subdues his lower nature he will
liberate the powers and faculties of his immortal spirit and rise to
mastership over all that is fleshly and material in himself. In the
subsequent Degrees this triumph of the spirit over the body will be
symbolically evidenced by the points of the C. being progressively
raised above the S, first one and then the other, until the Candidate
for perfection becomes at last "able to work with both those
points and render the circle of his Masonic conduct complete."
9.—The Entrustment with the
Next follows the Candidate's entrustment with the "secrets"
of the Degree. This, however, is preceded by an explanation to him of
certain dangers which, unknown to himself, he is told he has already
passed, and he is shewn the sword and the cabletow. These, of course,
are but visible symbols of certain subjective spiritual perils
incident to rashly embarking upon the path of spiritual experience
and to the moral suicide involved in receding from that path when
one's eyes have been opened to it. To the novice these perils are
imperceptible, and will not become apparent until after considerable
experience; meanwhile he should accept the warning as a wise counsel
from those more advanced than himself.
As to the sword that is shewn him, let him reflect upon the
frequent Scriptural references to the two-edged "sword of the
Spirit," to its penetrating power and the way in which it is
said to guard access to the central "Tree of Life." This
will help him to understand the use of the sword in the Ceremony, and
why, on his first entrance to the Lodge, he is made to feel its sharp
To the cabletow attaches very considerable significance; indeed,
so important is this item of equipment that it appears in one guise
(or disguise) or another in each of the three Degrees, as also in the
Royal Arch. It is not expedient that its deeper meanings should be
spoken about promiscuously even among Masons; like many other things
in the Craft, those meanings will either disclose themselves to
advancing experience or be imparted privately by a teacher to
approved pupils. It may be said, however, that biblically, the
cabletow is referred to in the familiar phrase "or ever the
Silver Cord is loosed" (Ecc. XII., 6) and whoever understands
that phrase will perceive why the "cord" is used in each of
The "secrets" (or arcane truths) imparted in this Degree
are explained as consisting of certain peculiar marks or signs,
intended to distinguish all Brethren of the elementary grade of
Apprentice. Outwardly, in this and in subsequent Degrees also, they
are expressed by step, sign, and word. These, of course, are not the
full or real secrets, but only figurative emblems of them. It is what
they signify that constitutes the secrets, and that significance is
left for the Candidate to meditate upon and reduce into daily
personal practice. Only so will he really learn them and come to
understand why they are called "secrets" and why we insist
upon their use. They can never be orally communicated, except in
symbolic form, but must be learned by experimental practice. Just as
a prosperous business man can never convey the "secret" of
his success to someone who has not himself practised it, so the
secrets of Masonic progress are learned only by those who actually
live them. They are clues to spiritual progress rather than
confidential communications of secret information.
In being given the formal symbolic secrets the Candidate should
reflect that he is receiving a first lesson in a long course of
instruction of a private and occult nature; i.e., one not taught
outside the Lodge, but hidden from public knowledge and intended to
help him upon the path of his personal inner life. For having but
just entered upon that path, it is proper that he should now be
instructed how to tread it. He has a long journey to take to reach
the goal the Craft opens to him, a goal not yet visible. Hence he
should absorb instruction slowly, proceed warily, understandingly,
and withal humbly. He has been given a first far-off glimpse of the
Light he seeks, but that Light would only confound and blind him were
it revealed to him in its fullness, suddenly and abruptly. In his
quest of it he should apply to himself the well-worn words of
Newman's hymn, "I do not ask to see the distant scene; one step
enough for me." And it is one step, and only one step at a time,
that the Craft permits and teaches in each of our Degrees. Let him
see that he carries into daily life all that that one step signifies,
for until he has taken it in actual living he will be incapable of
taking the subsequent ones. And to the Apprentice Mason seven years
are allocated to taking it, though (as the Lecture states) less will
suffice if he be found worthy of preferment.
Why so long a period as seven years? The answer lies in the fact
that the First Degree of spiritual and Masonic life is one of
purification of body and mind in preparation for the attainment of
Light in all its fullness. The unpurified natural man can never reach
that Light; his own inherent, impurities and darkness will always
clog his mind and keep him self-hoodwinked from it. Therefore,
purification is necessary and the elimination of everything in him
that clouds his vision and coarsens his nature. This takes time. We
know our bodies undergo change every seven years. Physiologists
declare that during that period every cell and tissue of us undergoes
renewal. The man who understands himself and resolutely sets about at
the work of regeneration can, therefore, rely on Nature's assistance
in enabling him within seven years gradually to work off his own
impurities and replace them with new material, thus building a
cleaner, purer body for himself, one better fitted for being suffused
by the Light resident at his own centre. This "septenary law"
— one of the key-secrets for interpreting life — was well
known to the Initiates of old and it is for this reason that seven
years are allotted to the work of the First Degree.
There is much to be learned about the "word" of the
Degree and the posture in which it is imparted, but this again must
be left to private oral tuition. The directions about the Candidate
being "expected to stand perfectly erect," and the
references to "right (i.e., straight) lines and angles" and
"well-squared actions" comprise a wealth of allusion to
secret truths into which the average Brother never thinks it worth
while to inquire. To the experienced, however, such matters as bodily
posture and the "well-squaring" of one's personal actions
(even in such minute matters as writing legibly and with every letter
well-formed) have both a physiological and a character value of great
importance in relation to the effort to attain spiritual perfection.
Nature has had a purpose in slowly raising man's animal body from a
horizontal to an erect posture and in transforming his animal
instincts and passions into moral rectitude, and she has still
further purposes to disclose as resulting from physiological
erectness. "Unto the upright ariseth light in the darkness,"
says the Psalmist; and to Initiates this is literally true. It is a
part of their training and discipline to adopt a physically erect
posture of the spinal column when engaged in their devotions and
meditations, that pillar-like posture being known to be conducive to
the attainment of spiritual consciousness or "light." Hence
all prayers in the Lodge are said with the Brethren upstanding, for
which reason the Masonic Candidate is instructed to "stand
perfectly erect" at the moment when the light of the "word"
is communicated to him. In former times, for well understood
psycho-physiological reasons, a deformed or diseased person was never
accepted as a fit and proper Candidate for Initiation.
As to the "Word" given to the Candidate, a brief hint
may be given here. It is said to denote Strength; a better rendering
would be Power, Energy, Ardour, all of which are implied by it. It
refers to the energy and ardour with which the Candidate should
pursue his work of self-perfecting now that he has once begun it; and
the word is given him because keeness and energy will prove one of
the key-secrets of his successful progress. All creative work depends
upon two interacting active and passive forces, energy and
resistance, labour and rest. (In the Creation God first laboured and
then rested). The Ceremony reminds us that these two forces were
represented at the forefront of Solomon's symbolic temple by two
"pillars," i.e., foundation principles. And it is these two
principles — activity and contemplation — that the
Candidate must learn to apply to himself in rebuilding his own
10.—The Testing by the
Following the entrustment with the Secrets, the Candidate is
directed to be led to each Warden in turn and told to communicate
them to him. Why is this? It is to ascertain whether he retains the
instructions and impressions already communicated to him and can
reproduce them, or whether he will fail in so doing, or will pervert
or falsify them. In a word he is subjected to a test of his own
capacity to retain and live up to what has already been imparted to
This episode not only perpetuates the practice of the Ancient
Mysteries but is entirely accordant with Scriptural authority and
with spiritual experience. For it is a fact, indeed a law, of life,
that no one receives an accession of knowledge or power or even of
material wealth without being soon afterwards put to a test as to how
he will use it and whether he is able and worthy to retain it, if he
is, he will be still further advanced; not, he will remain where he
was or be degraded to a worse position than at first. 'To him that
hath shall be given; and from him that hath not shall be taken away
even that which he hath." Remember to what a severe testing Job
was subjected after acquiring great wealth; remember, too, the
"temptation" or testing episode related in the Gospels as
occurring to Jesus immediately after his accession of spiritual light
at the Jordan baptism.
And so it will be to everyone for whom our Initiation Ceremony
becomes translated into terms of actual life-experience. As soon as
Light or Wisdom has been vouchsafed him, he will find himself tested
in one or another way as to his worthiness to receive it. "He
who has not been tested knows nothing" says a wise Master
(Thomas a Kempis), for no new truth can become one's own until it has
been reduced to personal conduct and lived out under the stress of
opposition and temptation to the contrary.
Earlier in our Ceremony, you will remember, the Candidate was
conducted to the Wardens in turn and, arousing them from silence,
provoked them to speak to him; and it was explained that in doing so
the Candidate was symbolically calling into activity certain higher
forces latent in himself but previously dormant. It is those same
latent forces or higher principles in himself that will put him to
the test now that his intelligence has been accorded a certain small
measure of Light. Can he retain that Light? Does he still exhibit the
"sign" of a true Mason? Is he still striving to tread the
path and to take the "step"? Does he remember and act upon
the "word" that was given him"? Does his daily life
show that he is uttering that word, — if not in its
completeness, at least in broken syllables or letters? (Our practice
of "half-ing" or "lettering" the word is not
merely for precautionary reasons or to show that we share its secret
with other Brethren, but as a most instructive and delicate reminder
that though we be unable to utter that word in its entirety, yet if
we can only sound it forth in stumbling but sincere fragmentary
efforts, those fragments will suffice to let us pass our test).
If, therefore, we pass the test, we are permitted and directed to
pass on to higher attainments, and it is of this that the sending
round of the Candidate to the Wardens to prove himself a Mason is a
dramatic and symbolic representation.
11.—The Investure with the
Since each episode in the Ceremony follows its predecessor with
far-seeing wisdom and psychological accuracy, we shall now see how
great and fitting a reward awaits the Candidate as the result of
passing the test to which he has just been submitted.
On the S.W. reporting to the Master that the Candidate has made
real and demonstrable progress in the science, the Master forthwith
gives directions for the investment with the Apron. Thereupon, for
the first time the Candidate becomes masonically clothed and entitled
thenceforth to wear the glorious badge of the Order.
Behind this act of investment lies an important but ultra-physical
truth, namely, that every spiritual state into which the human soul
passes is accompanied by an appropriate bodily form.
The ancient maxim of the Initiates about this is "Nullus
spiritus sine indumento;" no spirit (or spiritual condition)
exists without possessing its appropriate form or garment; or, in
Scriptural words, "God giveth it a body as it pleaseth Him, and
to every seed (or soul) its own body." And accordingly, on the
Candidate being certified as having attained a new phase of
soul-growth, the Master (as the Divine representative in the Lodge)
at once orders him to be clothed upon with a vesture expressive of
his spiritual condition.
How fitting a vesture the Apron is will appear on perceiving its
emblematic value. It is at once one of the most important and
comprehensive of our symbols. Its shape is that of an equilateral
triangle, superimposed upon a quadrangle whose sides are equal also.
The triangle is the primitive and universal emblem of what is
Spiritual and Formless, whilst the quadrangle is that of what is
Material and possesses Form (or body); and, since human nature is a
compound of both, the Apron is a figure of man himself. And because
the triangle and quadrangle are among the most ancient ideographs in
the world, and indeed as old as humanity itself, the Apron is very
truly described as being "a badge older than that of any other
Order in existence."
The Apron is also of white lambskin; an emblem, therefore, of
purity, of innocence, and infancy; an appropriate clothing for one
just born into the Masonic life. It is five-pointed, in allusion to
man's five-sensed nature and to many other occult truths concerning
humanity. If you add the three sides of its triangular part to the
four of its quadrangular, you get seven, the number of completeness
in Nature, corresponding with the septenary of colours in the
spectrum, the notes of the musical scale, and the days of the week.
If you multiply them, you get twelve, the cosmic number, comprising
the twelve Zodiacal Signs through which our Solar System moves and
which are reflected in the twelve Hebrew Tribes and the twelve
As the Candidate advances through the Degrees and perhaps
eventually becomes advanced to the higher sections of the Masonic
Hierarchy, he will find at each new step a corresponding change in
the form and colours of his Apron. It will manifest what are known as
the sacred or royal colours, blue, purple and scarlet, whilst to its
unadorned simplicity will be added ornamentations of the precious
metals, at first silver and afterwards gold. These elaborations of
the Apron are meant to symbolise corresponding progress in him who
wears it, and point to the unfolding of spiritual graces and powers
from the depths of his own inward being. As the strength of his
central spirit grows, so his Apron will burgeon forth in symbolic
rosettes and become decorated with celestial blue and ormanents of
silver; and, as it intensifies still further, the pale azure will
deepen correspondingly to royal blue, and silver will be displaced by
gold, — the emblem of wisdom and spiritual royalty. The Apron,
moreover, is attached to the body by a fastener in the form of a
serpent — the emblem of Wisdom, to indicate the wisdom with
which his whole organism has been devised.
Let the Candidate, then, see in the Apron a symbol of himself and,
in its progressive beautifying, reflect that it calls for the
manifestation of corresponding growth of spirituality in his own
life. Let him regard his Apron with a respect comparable to that with
which he should regard his own soul, keeping it so far as may be
sacred and undented, never treating it with levity nor entrusting it
to any hands but his own. For, being the symbol of himself, it should
be respected as the outward and visible image of his inward invisible
As it is written that no man may enter heaven without wearing a
"wedding garment" (i.e., a vesture qualifying him for union
with the celestial life), so no Mason may enter a Lodge without
wearing the Apron that proclaims his fellowship and amity with the
universal Craft. But we need not restrict our thought or even our use
of the Apron to wearing it in Lodge; it is helpful to imagine
ourselves as clothed with it at all times, whether we are actually
wearing it or not. There are some Brethren who gird on their Masonic
clothing in private, ere engaging in their personal devotions. And
there are some who, loyal to its meaning in their lifetime, like
still to wear their Apron in the grave.
12.—The Charge in the N.E.
Clothed upon Masonically, the Candidate is then placed in the N.E.
corner of the Lodge. By "the Lodge" was formerly meant not
the room in which the Ceremony takes place, but the Lodge-board or
Trestle-board, now called the Tracing-board, to the N.E. corner of
which the Candidate's feet were angulated; a practice still obtaining
in some Lodges and one that seems desirable to pursue.
The N.E. corner is a point of much symbolic significance. It is
the meeting place of N. and E., of darkness and light, and,
therefore, representative of the Candidate's own condition. Standing
at this point, he can henceforward at will step onward to the E., or
backward to the N., advancing further to the Light or relapsing into
darkness; it will rest with himself which direction his life will
He is charged, however, to make his present position the basis of
renewed spiritual activity and to regard his personality as a
"foundation-stone," now well and truly laid, as the
material for raising thereon a "super-structure." By this
expression is meant something much more than mere character-building,
as it is often thought to mean. What is implied may perhaps be
gathered by reference to some of the older Masonic rituals in which
instead of "super-structure," the Candidate is told to
build a "castle in the air," an expression which, far from
meaning something dreamy and imaginary as it popularly has come to
do, really refers to an "airy," ethereal or spiritual body,
"a house not made with hands nor subject to decay (like his
temporal body) but eternal and heavenly."
This leads one into deeper metaphysics than can be dealt with
here, and the subject must be left to private reflection and tuition,
with merely the hint that as our mortal visible body has been built
up gradually, cell by cell and tissue by tissue, out of the essences
and life forces of temporal Nature, so Man has within him the
capacity to raise thereupon, and to evolve from himself, an immortal
invisible "super-structure." an "airy" castle or
fortress into which his conscious soul will retreat and clothe itself
when its earthly vesture fall away. The erection of the
super-structure is known in Masonic mysticism as the "building
King Solomon's Temple," which every Mason must build for
A further subject upon which the Candidate is charged in the N.E.
corner is the duty of Charity, the complete attainment of which is
elsewhere spoken of as the summit of the Mason's profession. Now it
is idle to think of this virtue and its attainment as being fulfilled
by money-donations to those who are financially poor, distressed or
deserving. The usual words of the Ritual may suggest that it does,
but remember that the Ritual throughout is a veil, and always masks
far deeper truths than its surface-words exhibit.
The "Charity" the Candidate is so earnestly entreated to
cultivate at this important moment and throughout his subsequent life
would perhaps be best interpreted by the word "compassion,"
— universal compassion for, and sympathetic feeling with, all
living creatures, human and sub-human. Such a definition includes
Love, which is the usual synonym for Charity, but it embraces even
something more. "Charity," in its Latin original Caritas,
means "dearness," and the Masonic virtue and duty is that
of regarding all creatures in a spirit of universal and impartial
dearness, as being all pilgrims upon a single path and, whilst in
differing degrees of development, yet all evolving towards a common
goal. In their struggles and sufferings to work out that destiny,
which is theirs no less than yours, and whether they are conscious of
that destiny or not, and whether they will thank you for your help or
not, it is nevertheless the Mason's duty to give them all the
compassion and help he can.
Giving what is personal and material is the lowest and not always
a wise, form of giving. Giving mental and moral succour is relief of
far greater value, because it braces the mental and moral nature of
the recipients. Giving oneself from the heart in a constant
sacrificial outpouring of the spirit may yield no visible result but
is yet the highest of all forms of giving, and it is this which the
Mason is counselled to practice, since what he radiates will quicken
the life of all around him and send forth leaves from his own tree of
life for the healing of the nations. At the Centre of each man's
personal system dwells a sun, clouded though it may now be by the
fogs and mists of his own making, which, like the solar orb in
Nature, can send forth its generous beneficent radiation
persistently, unstintingly, and impartially to the good and the evil
alike. All the great teachers and enlighteners of humanity have been
suns in that sense and because their lives were based upon compassion
for the whole world; and it is for the Initiate to try to emulate
Consider the philosophy of giving and why it must needs be more
blessed than receiving. Natural man is necessarily selfish, grasping,
self-acquisitive. All his days he has been receiving — from
Nature, from his parents, from society — and has become
egocentric and habituated and trained to securing for himself a
living, a position, and an individuality. But the Mason is a man who,
by the very fact of his seeking Initiation, is impelled by forces
within himself to rise beyond Nature and to submit himself to a law
higher than that of self-acquisition. All his energies have now to be
reversed; getting must give way to giving; centripetal tendencies
must become transformed to centrifugal radiation of the highest
qualities in him. In Matthew Arnold's words :—
Know, man is all that Nature is but more,
And in that "more" lie all his hopes of good. From that
"more" the Mason builds a "super-structure" upon
the foundation of his old self; not as formerly, by a process of
getting and receiving but by one of giving forth that others may
live. And the more he gives the more he must eventually receive, for
all energy is conserved and, like expanding water-ripples, returns
upon its source, enriched by every contact it has made in its
Hence it is that the Candidate is charged to learn that
self-giving is the foundation-law and foundation-stone of the higher
life; that Charity has its degrees and may be practised in many ways
and upon different planes, the highest of which is the habitual
pouring forth of compassionate love to all beings; that he who has
freely received must as freely give; and that as he, by his
Initiation, has been given the blessing of light and understanding he
never before possessed, so now the Law of life itself requires that,
from this moment, he shall never withhold that light from any who
asks it from him.
Surely one of the most moving moments of an impressive Ceremony is
that in which the Candidate, pauperised and denuded of everything
material, is invited to make a gift to his poor and distressed
fellow-creatures. Out of what resources can he make it save from
treasury of his own heart — without the backing of which no
gift, whatever its form, can have any true value? The incident is
meant to teach him that if that treasury be empty how can he really
give at all, however opulent he be pecuniarily? but if it be filled,
he will be giving what guineas cannot buy.
13.—The Working Tools.
In the N.E. Corner the Candidate is advised what to do, what to
aim at, in order to promote his own advancement. The next thing is to
tell him how to do it. He is, therefore, recommended to pursue
certain lines of self-discipline and self-improvement which are
referred to under the guise of "working tools."
These working tools are three, and as their mystical significance
is sufficiently explained on their presentation to the Candidate it
is needless to repeat it here. They must not be looked upon, however,
as merely emblems incidental to the Ceremony and thereafter to be
ignored or forgotten, but as representing duties essential to Masonic
progress and meant to be put to practical daily observance.
One of these three tools, the measuring gauge, is itself threefold
in its application. It allocates one's daily time to the performance
of three distinct duties, duties not necessarily involving equal
expenditure of time, but duties each of which is of equal value.
It inculcates (1) a duty to God and a persistent devotion to
spiritual things, (2) a duty to oneself, involving due attention to
material pursuits and the care of one's own person, and (3) an
altruistic duty to those less happily placed than oneself; as it were
an equilateral triangle of duties each of which is as important as
the other two, indeed it will be helpful to think of the sides of
such a triangle as signifying God, oneself, and one's neighbour
respectively, and constituting a unity, a whole of which each part is
necessary to the others.
The Mason must find a way of balancing his performance of these
three duties, so as to make of them an equilateral and not an
unequally-sided triangle. Equal attention is called for to spiritual
things, to himself, and to what is other than himself, i.e., his
neighbour; undue preponderance in either direction will prevent a
true balance. That is why, whilst told to give altruistic help to his
neighbour, he is also told that he should not do so "unless he
can do it without detriment to himself or connections." At first
blush these qualifying words sound selfish, contrary to the spirit
i)f self-sacrifice. But there is great wisdom in them. For only he
can really serve and help another who has first discharged his duty
to himself and made himself competent to serve. "Self-love (says
Shakespeare) is not so vile a sin as self-neglect"; and there
are many people who neglect to improve themselves, whilst fussily
trying to improve others. But selfishness will itself disappear if
devotion be habitually accorded to what is higher than self, and this
attainment will then in turn qualify him to help his neighbour.
As the Candidate progresses he will learn of other working tools
in the further Degrees, but these he will find himself unable to use
unless he has first accustomed himself to those of the First Degree.
Therefore, he is counselled to slur nothing over, but to pay
attention to even the minutest instructions of the Ritual until they
suffuse his life and their performance becomes a habit. He will find
his education greatly helped if he will enter upon the systematic
reading of literature dealing with Masonic and cognate subjects.
"Reading is good prayer" says an old counsel, provided it
be of a kind that helps one's quest for Light, and since Masonry is
so largely a work of the mind, every study that conduces to the
expansion of his mental faculties will prove a "working tool"
and open fresh doors of perception to him,
14.—The Tracing Board.
The concluding instruction to the Candidate is the explanation of
the Tracing Board, though for convenience this is often deferred to
another occasion, since it is necessarily lengthy.
It will have been observed that the Candidate has already been
instructed in certain spiritual and ethical matters; and there now
only remains to supplement these by appealing to his intellectual
nature. This is done by introducing him to the Tracing Board and
imparting to him certain esoteric information of a philosophical
character. By "esoteric" is meant information not imparted
outside the Lodge or taught by churches and other systems provided
for public instruction, but which has always been reserved for more
private and advanced tuition and which has been perpetuated in secret
and embodied in hieroglyphic or symbolic pictures. At one time these
cryptic designs were never exposed to the risk of public gaze. but
were drawn upon the floor of the Lodge by the Initiating Master when
occasion required and were expunged by the Candidate at the close of
the Ceremony. Today they are kept permanently depicted upon the Lodge
Board. A detailed examination of the First Degree Tracing Board
appears in a previous Lodge Paper, and need not, therefore, be
In the official Lecture explaining the Board the new Mason is
recommended "to seek a Master and from him gain instruction,"
once more instancing the truth "Seek and ye shall find."
This refers to an age-old practice by which every junior Brother
sought out and attached himself for seven years to an expert Master
for the purpose of gaining much fuller private tuition in the science
than is possible at meetings of the Lodge. The relationship of Master
and Apprentice, which obtained in the Trade Guilds and later on
became an ordinary business practice, was originally one in which the
Master undertook not the commercial but the spiritual training of the
neotype, a practice which obtains throughout the East to-day and
which was always observed in the Mysteries of antiquity. With us the
practice has, unfortunately, fallen into desuetude because so few
Masters are competent to teach and so few Candidates are wishful or
even ripe to learn what lies beneath the surface of the Craft
Where, however, the true relationship of Master and Disciple does
exist it becomes an intimate and precious one, involving the forging
of a spiritual tie and a reciprocal responsibility which neither of
them would lightly sever. This is a subject about which far more can
be said than is possible here, but let us reflect that old maxim of
our science is that "when the pupil is ready the Master will be
found waiting," and that such Master will impart personal
instruction of a far deeper and wider character than can be given
publicly or promiscuously.
Finally, the Candidate is told to retire from the Lodge to be
restored to what are called, a little ironically, his "personal
comforts" — the poor trappings and belongings he
surrendered before entering a place where such possessions have no
value. Nevertheless, a pointed lesson lies in his being directed to
resume them, for henceforth it will be his duty to recast his
estimate of them, and. whilst using them for what they are worth, to
learn to discriminate between what is of transient and what is of
enduring moment. What he has hitherto deemed and clung to as
"comforts" he may find to be irksome discomforts later on,
until he acquires that wisdom and balanced understanding which reacts
neither to comfort nor discomfort, but looks beyond both.
* * *
The "Ancient Charge" with which the Ceremony usually
concludes is self-explanatory and need not be examined here. Strictly
it is not an integral factor of the Ceremony, from which it differs
both in method and language. The Ceremony proper is "veiled in
allegory" and contains cryptic phrases and sub-surface allusions
at every turn, whilst the "Ancient Charge" has no ulterior
meaning whatever. It is merely a simple homily complimenting the
Candidate upon his reception into the Order and informing him of some
observances with which he will be expected to comply.
The Charge obviously embodies advice formerly tendered to young
men on becoming apprenticed to the Operative Building Guilds,
enjoining them to good citizenship and to leading a moral and useful
life. But as present day Candidates for Speculative Masonry are
assumed to hold these qualifications before joining the Craft, the
Charge is of interest only as perpetuating an old custom of the Trade
Guilds on admitting an Apprentice to membership.
Summing up this examination of the Ceremony, then, we see its
purpose is as follows. The first half of it designed to restore to
Light (in the spiritual sense already explained) a Candidate who
seeks Light from his heart and comes prepared in mind and person to
receive it. The second and complementary half of it is meant to teach
him who has been brought to that Light, how to retain it and increase
it, so that he may never relapse into his former darkness.
In being initiated a Candidate is being vouchsafed an initial
glimpse into supra-natural Light, but only a first glimpse; it rests
with himself to prove worthy of it and to enlarge that temporary
glimpse into wider and permanent vision. The Ceremony dramatises, in
a few swift episodes and pregnant words, the "Apprentice"
stage of the spiritual life; it inculcates that, with increasing
self-purification and discipline of his material nature, the light of
that spiritual Sun which burns and blazes at his own centre and which
has now for the first time appeared above his conscious horizon, will
manifest in ever-increasing power. As that Sun rises higher and
higher within him, so will his own darkness become correspondingly
dispelled, and his materialism spiritualised, and his personality
transformed into a translucent vessel. "If thine eye (soul) be
single (simple and unadulterated by passion and wrong notions), thy
whole being will be full of Light."
He is taught by that Light to see that the substratum of all
things is Divine Law, Law which comprises physical, moral, and
ultra-physical aspects, and in which the roots of his own being are
integrated; and, therefore, in proportion as he unifies his personal
will with the Universal Will and harmonizes his mind and conduct with
their Cosmic Prototype, he must needs become a more perfect
expression of them and a conscious collaborator with them. And
because Love is the fulfilling of the Law, he is enjoined to
cultivate that boundless charity and compassion towards all beings
which bears, believes, hopes and endures all things, because it under
stands the operation of that Law and sees clearly the end to which it
is shaping us. Tout aimer, c'est tout comprendre.
The Apprentice stage of Masonry is, therefore, one of
purification, education and self-control, which every Brother must
work out and live out for himself. No amount of book knowledge or
instruction from others can teach him what can be learned only from
his own experience and effort. Even these notes, lengthy as they are,
are but an elementary preface to far deeper aspects of Initiation
than can be spoken of openly, yet which any ardent aspirant may come
to learn as he proceeds. To tell the fuller truths about the subject
would scare and discourage rather than enlighten and help; and for
this reason the science is and always was a veiled and secret one.
One useful counsel may be added which the Candidate should observe
if he wishes to progress. It is, never to measure what he finds
within the Lodge by his own opinions or by the same standard of
judgment that he applies to things without it. Many Brethren go wrong
here by lacking humility and teachableness. They try to look at
matters of the inner life with the same eyes as those of the outer
life. They reserve their ideas of Masonry till they see how far they
can square it with other views and beliefs that they hold, and they
seek to apply their worldly wisdom to a wisdom which is hidden and
not of this world, and their "common sense" to a subject
requiring a special education and the use of a sense which in the
present state of human evolution is far from common. But spiritual
things must be spiritually discerned and not from the standpoint of
unenlightened opinion and unspiritual perception.
He who enters the Lodge in quest of Light should leave all his
previous learning behind him with his garments and loose the shoes of
personal opinion from off his feet. He should think of himself as a
child, and as being taken into a world of new sights and sounds, and
where new ideas and even a different logic obtain from those with
which he has previously been familiar, and where he must begin to
recast his ideas and his life. Will his pride suffer him to stultify
himself to this extent?
If it will not, he will but continue to darken his own light and
the Craft can teach him nothing of value whatever titular rank he may
attain in it. If it will, then he may hope to become an Initiate in
tact as well as in name and to find his eyes opening to depth beyond
depth of truth of which he is at present unconscious.
In the Mysteries of old the Candidate, because of his new birth
into Light, was always spoken of as a "child" or a "little
child," and in the Sacred Volume which forms the chief textbook
of our science we find how often, and for the same reason, such
expressions as "the young man" and "little children"
It accords little with the modern mental temper to cast aside all
one's knowledge and preconceptions and reduce oneself to the
docility, the naivete and singlemindedness of infancy. Yet these
qualities still remain indispensible to the Candidate for Wisdom, and
it still is not the learned, the critical, and the wordly-wise, but
the "little children" who are suffered to come to the Light
and are not forbidden from finding it, for of such are both the
Kingdom of Heaven and the Craft of Masonry which is designed to lead
to that Kingdom.
A Note upon the Frontispiece.
The picture forming the Frontispiece to these pages not only
depicts the Sign of Silence, but is a symbolic illustration of one
who has attained complete Initiation and Illumination.
The beautified arched design framing the figure is know as the
Vesica Piscis. "This mysterious figure (says Dr. Oliver, the
well-known Masonic authority) possessed an unabounded influence on
the details of sacred architecture, and constituted the great and
enduring secret of our ancient brethren." It formed the
geometrical basis of the great Christian cathedrals, and was the
womb-shaped symbol of Initiation and of Candidates being thereby
brought to spiritual re-birth.
The aureole or solar imbus round the head typifies the Candidate's
attainment of spiritual consciousness; the "Sun" at the
centre of his personal system has fully risen above his mental
horizon and illuminated his mind.
His clothing, a white inner tunic surmounted by a black cloak,
typifies the separation of light and darkness in himself. The
darkness of his outward mind and nature is dispelled by the light and
purity of the soul within. This is the result of his following the
secret path of Initiation in regard to which the Sign of Silence or
Sign of the Child attaches.
THE SIGN OF SILENCE.
The above was formerly the first sign imparted to and use by every
Candidate for the Mysteries. By the Egyptians it was called the Sign
of Horos. and by the Greeks the Sign of Harpocrates. i.e. Har the
child; "the child" being the title given to the new
Initate. As the above illustration shows (from the Museum of St.
Mark. Firenze,) the Sign then became used by Christian Initiates. Hear; See; Keep Silence, is the Motto of the United
Grand Lodge of England.