MASONIC INITIATION  by W.L. Wilmshurst

Chapter II

"FROM LABOUR TO REFRESHMENT"

The Masonic reader who recognizes that every reference in Speculative
Masonry is figurative and carries a symbolic significance behind the
literal sense of the words, will at once dismiss from his mind any
suggestion that the formula of adjourning the Lodge from labour to
refreshment, and of recalling it from refreshment to labour, relates to the
customary practice of passing from the formal work of the Lodge to the
informalities of the dining-table.

The familiar formula of dismissing the Lodge after seeing that every
Brother has received his due, no doubt came over into the present system
from Operative usage when Guild-masons periodically received their material
wages . But it has now become the Ite, Missa est ! of spiritual Masonry,
and carries a sacramental meaning. We have to consider what labour,
refreshment, and dues, are in their higher and concealed sense .

First as to Labour. The allusion is less to the temporary ceremonial work
of the Lodge than to the work the earnest Light-seeker is continually to be
engaged upon in his task of self-perfecting . Let it be realized that this
is labour indeed, to be undertaken with earnestness and vigour, "Hic labor
; hoc opus est," wrote Virgil of it. "The Gods sell their arts only to
those who sweat for them" runs another ancient adage of the science.
Purification of the bodily senses and reformation of personal defects are
but part, the simpler and grosser part, of the work ; the redirection of
one's mind and will to the ideal involved, the requisite research and study
conducing to that end, and the necessary control and concentration of
thought and desire upon the end in view, are not child's-play nor matters
of casual, superficial interest.

Intellectual and spiritual labour necessitate rest and refreshment, equally
with physical, that the harvest of that labour may be assimilated . Wise
activity (Boaz) must be balanced with an equally wise passivity (Jachin) if
one is to become established in immortal strength and to stand firm,
spiritually consolidated and perfect in all one's parts . Nor is it a work
to be hurried ; those build most surely who build slowly. Festina lente!
-hasten slowly, is an old maxim of the work addressed to those who would
"lay great bases for eternity ." "Ne quid nimis !" is another ; "let
nothing be done in excess ."

Now it is not easy to combine work of this nature with that which the
exigencies of one's normal duties and responsibilities entail . But to
those who are in earnest, the co-adaptation and harmonizing of all one's
duties will form part of the work itself ; one's present position and
avocation will be discerned to be precisely those suited to making
advancement, and to provide opportunities for doing so. Doubtless
difficulty and opposition will be encountered in abundance ; but these
again are parts of the process and tests of fidelity . No growth is
possible without resistance to draw out latent power. The aspirant must
steadily and conscientiously persevere along the path to what he seeks,
just as each candidate engages himself to do so in respect of its
ceremonial portrayal ; and every Brother may be assured of receiving his
exact dues for the labour he expends .

"There is a time to work and a time to sleep ." Respite from labour is as
contributive an element to progress as labour itself, for the mind must
digest, and the whole nature assimilate, what it absorbs . More may be
learned from the Teacher in the heart than from what is gathered by the
head, when that Teacher-the principle at the Centreis once awakened.
Meditation and reflection are of greater instructiveness than book-reading
and information acquired from without oneself.

Thinks't thou among the mighty sum
Of things for ever speaking,
That nothing of itself will come,
That we must still be seeking ?

For the care and . nourishment of the outer body, Nature provides a
passive, sympathetic system, which arranges digestion, distributes energy,
builds up the body, and discharges its functions for us without
interference with our formal consciousness. In like manner, in our higher
being resides a corresponding principle which winnows out thought,
clarifies and arranges ideas, and settles problems and difficulties for us,
in entire independence of our formal awareness . It is this higher
principle that must be found, trusted and relied upon to participate in the
work of interior up-building . The old writers call it the Archaeus, or the
hidden Mercury, which ingarners and utilizes the fruit of our conscious
efforts, building them up into a "super-structure" or subtle-body. As ages
have gone to the organization of the physical body, so also long periods
are requisite for that of the super-physical structure, the building of
which is true Masonry ; but the process can be expedited by those who
possess the science of it, as Masons are presumed to do . The process
itself is the real Masonic "labour" ; and, as we have shown, it has its
active and its passive aspects .

This is a difficult subject to treat of briefly . Its nature is merely
indicated here, and its fuller study must be left to individual research
and, where possible, to personal tuition ; for this work is precisely that
about which a Master-Mason is presumed to be able to give private
instruction to Brethren in the inferior degrees .

Let the reader reflect that Masonic "labour" involves the making of his
being whole and perfect ; that it is intended to "render the circle of it
complete." His complete being is likened, in geometrical terms, to a
circle-the symbol of wholeness, entirety, self-containedness. But let him
remember that as he knows himself at present, he is not a circle, but a
square, which is but the fourth part of a circle . Where are the other
three-fourths of himself ?- for until he knows these as well as the fourth
part which he does know, he can never make the circle of his being
complete, nor truly know himself.

This is the point at which Masonry becomes mystical Geometry the important
science of which Plato affirmed that no one should enter the Academy where
true philosophy and ontology were to be learned, until he already was well
versed in that science. For in former times these deeper problems of being
were the subject of geometrical expression, and echoes of the science
remain to us in our references to squares, triangles and circles, and
particularly in the 47th problem of the first book of Euclid, which is now
the distinctive emblem of those who have won to Mastership . How many of
those who now wear that emblem, one wonders, have any conception of its
significance ? It is a mathematical symbol representing, for those who can
read it, the highest measure of human attainment in the science of
reconstructing the human soul into the Divine image from which it has
fallen away . No wonder the great Initiate who composed this symbol was
raised to an ecstasy of joy on realizing in his own being all that it
implies, depicts, and demonstrates, and that upon that fortunate occasion
he "sacrificed a hecatomb of oxen"-an expression the meaning of which, like
the symbol itself, must be left to the reader's reflection, for these
matters cannot be summarily or superficially explained . Pythagoras himself
is said to have refused to explain them to his own pupils until they had
undergone five years' silence and meditation upon them . Those five years
represent the period that is still theoretically allotted to the work of
the Fellow-Craft Degree, in regard to which the modern Mason is instructed
to devote himself to reflecting upon the secrets of nature (i.e., his own
nature) and the principles of intellectual truth, until they gradually
disclose themselves to his view and reveal his own affiliation to the Deity
. In declining to explain these geometrical truths to students until they
had familiarized themselves with them for five years, the meaning of the
great teacher of Crotona was that, by that time, the earnest disciple would
have discerned their import, and gone far to realize it, for himself.

Labour, understood in the sense here defined, and Refreshment after it,
constitute a rhythm of activity and passivity ; a rhythm similar to that
which we daily experience in respect of waking and sleeping, working and
resting . To speak of Refreshment, however, in the deeper sense implied in
Masonry is even more difficult than to speak of the philosophic Labour ;
for it involves a subject to which few devote deep thought-the subjective
side of the soul's life as distinct from the objective side which, for most
men, is the only one at present known to them. In that deeper sense,
Refreshment implies what Spenser speaks of in the lines:

Sleep after toil, port after stormy seas,
Ease after war, death after life, doth greatly please .

To the wise, the' study of the subjective half of life is as important as
that of the objective half, and without it he cannot make the circle of his
self-knowledge complete . Even the observant Masonic student is made aware
by the formula used at Lodge closing, that by some great Warden of life and
death each soul is called into this objective world to labour upon itself,
and is in due course summoned from it to rest from its labours and enter
into subjective celestial refreshment, until once again it is recalled to
labour. For each the "day," the opportunity for' work at self-perfecting,
is duly given ; for each the "night" cometh when no man can work at that
task ; which morning and evening constitute but one creative day of the
soul's life, each portion of that day being a necessary complement to the
other . Perfect man has to unify these, opposites in himself ; so that for
him, as for his Maker, the darkness and the light become both alike .

The world-old secret teaching upon this subject, common to the whole of the
East, to Egypt, the Pythagoreans and Platonists, and every College of the
Mysteries, is to be found summed up as clearly and tersely as one could
wish in the Ph edo of Plato, to which the Masonic seeker is referred as one
of the most instructive of treatises upon the deeper side of the science .
It testifies to the great rhythm of life and death above spoken of, and
demonstrates how that the soul in the course of its career weaves and wears
out many bodies and is continually migrating between objective and
subjective conditions, passing from labour to refreshment and back again
many times in its great task of self-fulfillment. And if Plato was, as was
once truly said of him, but Moses speaking Attic Greek, we shall not be
surprised at finding the same initiate-teaching disclosed in the words of
Moses himself. Does not the familiar Psalm of Moses declare that man is
continually "brought to destruction," that subsequently a voice goes forth
saying "Come again, ye children of men !" and that the subjective spiritual
world is his refuge from one objective manifestation to another ? What else
than a paraphrase of this great word of comfort is the Masonic
pronouncement that, in the course of its task of self-perfecting, the soul
is periodically summoned to alternating periods of labour and refreshment ?
It must labour, and it must rest from its labours ; its works will follow
it, and in the subjective world every Brother's soul will receive its due
for its work in the objective one, until such time as its work is completed
and it is "made a pillar in the House of God and no more goes out" as a
journeyman-builder into this sublunary workshop . "Did I not agree with
thee for a penny?" said the Great Master parabolically . Now the round disc
of the coin was meant to be an emblem of that completeness, wholeness, and
self-containedness which is denoted by the Circle, and which every Mason is
enjoined to effect in himself . When the Mason has made the circle of his
own being complete, he will not only have earned his penny and received his
dues ; the circle of his then glorious being will be as the sun shining in
his strength, and he will be able to say with the Initiates of Egypt, as
they contemplated the sun ascending . from the desert into the heavens :
'"I am Ra in his rising!"

 

 

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