MASONIC INITIATION by W.L. Wilmshurst
LIGHT ON THE WAY
" They went up with winding stairs into the middle chamber,
and out of the middle into the third ." 1 Kings vi, 8.
"Does the road wind up-hill all the way ?"
Yes, to the very end.
"Will the day's journey take the whole long day ?"
From morn to night, my friend!
"But is there for the night a resting-place ?
A roof for when the slow dark hours begin ?
May not the darkness hide it from my face ?"
You cannot miss that Inn.
(Christina Rossetti) .
In the previous paper we have spoken of the transition from darkness to
light made by those who seek to effect the reconstitution of their natural
being and to develop it, by the science and methods of Initiation, to a
higher and ultra-natural level.
It has been made clear that that transition must necessarily be gradual,
and that, though ceremonially dramatized in three Degrees which can be
taken in successive months, to realize the implications of those Degrees in
actual life-experience may be a life-time's work ; perhaps more than a *
life-time's. The Apprentice who has entered himself to the business of
rebuilding his own soul has much to learn and to do before he becomes even
a competent Craftsman in it ; the Craftsman, in turn, has much to do and
far to journey before he can hope for complete Mastership. The work of
self-transmutation is a strenuous one, not suddenly or hurriedly to be
performed, and one needing hours of refreshment and passivity as well as
hours of active labour, to each of which he will find himself duly summoned
at the proper time. There is much to be learned in regard to the secrets of
his own nature and the principles of intellectual science, which only
gradually, and as the result of patience and experience, can become
revealed to his view . There is a superstructure to be raised, perfect in
all its parts ; a work involving much more than is at first supposed. There
are tests and ordeals of a searching character to be undergone on the way.
A measure of Light, a first glimpse of the distant Promised Land, may come
to the eager sight of the properly prepared candidate from the first moment
of his entrance upon the work, but he must not suppose that he has yet
fully captured it and made it permanently his own . It is something,
however, to have felt that a veil has been suddenly withdrawn from his
previously darkened sight and that he has become able to distinguish
between his former benightedness and the goal lying before him.
We will entitle this present section, therefore, "Light on the Way," and
make it treat of a variety of matters calling for the aspirant's attention
as he pursues the way that intervenes between his first glimpse of the
Light and its ultimate realization ; and in a subsequent section we shall
speak of Light in its fullness of attainment . We will supplement our
previous explanation of Masonic doctrine by dealing with further symbols
and passages in the rituals, with which every Mason is familiar formally
and by the outward ear, but the significance of which too often passes
unexplained and unobserved .
The expositions in this Section are offered not Light only for the private
reflection of - members of the on Craft, but with the suggestion that they
may serve the as material for collective meditation by Brethren in open
Lodge or at Lodges of Instruction . For those upon the path to real
Initiation, meditation is essential. For meditation opens a window in the
mind through which Light streams into the understanding from the higher,
spiritual principle in ourselves ; which window is symbolized by the
dormer-window in the emblematic Temple of Solomon, through which came light
to those ascending the stairway that wound inwardly to the middle chamber
leading to the central sanctuary where alone Light in its fullness was to be
The practice of meditation, moreover, whether personal or collective,
conduces to that quietness and control of the normally restless, wandering
mind . which are indispensable for the apprehension of deep Truth. Ancient
Lodges, _ we are told, were wont to meet on the highest hills and in the
lowest valleys ; and in an old Instruction-lecture it is explained that
those expressions are meant to be figurative and relate less to actual
places than to the spiritual and mental condition of those assembled. To
meet in the valley, implied being in a state of sheltered passiveness and
tranquility, when the minds of the Brethren surrendered themselves to
quiet collective thought on the subject of their work ; and thus, being
"led beside still waters," they became, like the limpid unruffled surface
of a lake, a clear undistorting mirror for the reflection and apprehension
of such rays of light and truth as might reach them from above . To meet on
the high hills, on the other hand, implied the more active work of the
Lodge and the performance of it upon the superphysical planes-the "hills"
of the spirit ; for the real work of Initiation is only there accomplished,
and is no longer a ceremonial formality.
There are times for work and times for repose in the Craftsman's task-times
of labour and refreshment and to perform that task efficiently both must be
utilized. Modern Lodges, in the general imperfect conception of Masonry,
follow merely the rush and hustle methods of the outside world, which, of
course, inside the Lodge have no place and ought no longer to be emulated .
They are busy enough on the active side, but they provide no opportunity
for cultivating the equally necessary passive aspect of the work . It would
be found eminently advantageous, therefore, if Lodges which desire to-
realize true Masonry adopted the practice of collectively contemplating
points of symbolism and teaching ; devoting certain meetings to this
special purpose, and then, without more discussion than is necessary and
helpful, quietly and earnestly concentrating attention upon the
significance of some symbol or point of doctrine brought before them .
For those seriously engaged in the ascent of the winding staircase, -the
following expositions may perhaps serve as helpful rays of light from the
dormer window. They are necessarily brief and merely elementary
introductions to phases of the science which, as the aspirant proceeds, he
will find inexhaustible and claiming not cursory notice but his constant
deep attention. May they, however, be as a lamp to his feet and a light
upon the spiral path to ledge his own middle chamber, and help to guide him
to that final central sanctuary where the Light itself shines in fullness
and waits to be found.