MASONIC INITIATION  by W.L. Wilmshurst

Chapter II

SEEKING A MASTER

The junior Brother learns that, as a Mason, his duty is to seek a Master
and from him gain instruction, and usually supposes that by making
acquaintance with the W .M. of his Lodge, and learning by rote the rituals
and lectures, he is fulfilling that duty . If he desires nothing more than
ceremonial Masonry, he is doubtless doing all that need be expected of him.
But if he be in earnest quest of that to which ceremonial Masonry is but an
entrance-portal, he may be interested in the following considerations .

It is axiomatic in the traditional secret wisdom that real Initiation is
not to be looked for save at the hands of one who has himself experienced
it. And it is equally axiomatic that "when the disciple is ready, the
Master will be found waiting ." The modern Masonic student will be well
advised to accept both these axioms as being as valid to-day as they have
ever been in the past .

A Master is not easily found . But neither is he often properly sought .
"Ask, seek, knock," are simple words to say with the tongue . Their putting
into effective operation is a task involving persistent and concentrated
will . Under no circumstances does a Master ever proclaim himself as such ;
he must be sought, must be clearly recognized and wholeheartedly accepted
as one ; and you may have grave doubts of his status and your own judgment
about him before according him that confidence. You might live in close
contact with a Master for years without suspecting the fact . Recognition
being due to spiritual rapport, to vibratory harmony and to intuitional
certainty ; until you possess these a Master's physical personality will
convey no more to you than any other man's . But of one thing be assured ;
the Master will know you through and through long before you recognize him,
or perhaps even realize that you are seeking him .

Exoterically, in the Operative Mason's trade, the youth proposing to enter
a Building Guild had first to find a Master Mason who would accept him as
his apprentice and to whom he became bound for seven years, the Master
making himself responsible for his maintenance and training . In spiritual
Craftsmanship precisely the same method applies . The Master has first to
be sought and found, and, if the disciple be accepted, he must be served
and implicitly obeyed for a similar probationary period, the Master
assuming a real (not a nominal) spiritual sponsorship for the pupil. The
association not being for any temporal advantage but for purely self-less
spiritual advancement, the intimacy is of the closest, as the
responsibility is of the gravest, character . For the apprentice is to
become spiritually integrated with the Master. To use the beautiful
touching simile of the greatest of Masters, as a hen gathers her chickens
under her wing, so is the pupil to become gathered and built into the very
being of his teacher. The real Initiation (or rather sequence of
Initiations) the pupil hopes in due course to attain cannot be achieved
until this intimate relationship exists .

In the days of the Ancient Mysteries, Masters were to be found resident in
the seclusion of the Temples, for Initiation science was then an organised
institution, publicly recognized . In the Orient, no such formal
organization has obtained, but the practice, both in the past and to-day,
is for the aspirant to seek and find his appropriate Master, the onus of
searching being upon the former, and serving as a test of his earnestness
and perspicuity. The Master is there termed a Guru (defined as "one who
removes the veil of darkness from the spiritual eyes of the pupil"), and
the accepted pupil a Chela or spiritual child, in the same sense that St.
John addresses his pupils as "little children ." The ancient Sanskrit word
Guru passed from India to Asia Minor and Greece, and reappears in the
latter part of the name of such ancient Initiates as Protagoras,
Anaxagoras, Pythagoras . The last-mentioned of these literally means the
Pitta (or Pater) Guru, the Master or Father-Teacher, as in fact he was in
his day ; and the continuity of both the science and of the title Guru is
further evidenced by the fact that that title is preserved both in Hebrew
and in Masonry in the name of Hiram Abiff (spelt also in the Scriptures as
Huram and Churam Abiff).  Hiram Abiff has precisely the same meaning as
Pythagoras, the Father-Teacher, or alternatively the Teacher from the
Father . The Egyptian form of the name Hiram is Hermes, the teacher of the
secret or "hermetic" science and wisdom, and the student is strongly urged
to study those two important ancient treatises of Initiation-science, the
Divine Pymander of Hermes and "The Shepherd  of Hermas."

("Shepherd" is the ancient and biblical word signifying "Initiator"
or "Hierophant ." Hence "the Good Shepherd," "the Great Shepherd
of the sheep," "The Lord is my Shepherd ." The "Shepherds watching
their flocks" at the time of the Nativity were not rustics or farmers,
but spiritual adepts in charge of groups of initiate pupils.)

A Master, while rejoiced to find a suitable pupil, does not accept him
without subjecting him to severe preliminary tests . He "knows what is in
man." No hypocrisy deceives him . He discerns the thoughts and desires of
the heart of the intending candidate, and sees whether the latter is
properly prepared there, and really anxious and ready for the work involved
. Of this, an example came to my knowledge, which it may be useful to
record, and to remember in connection with the acceptance of Masonic
candidates . It was as follows :

A young man in India sought out a venerable Master there and asked to be
accepted as a pupil and trained for initiation ; he professed to want to
find the Light, to know God at first hand . The old sage, after a searching
glance into the aspirant's inward condition, discerned that the latter,
while not insincere, was still a long way from readiness, and far from
being sufficiently detached in desire for worldly possessions and sensual
enjoyments ; and, explaining this, he firmly but kindly sent him away to
exhaust or merge himself of these attractions, but with the suggestion that
he might present himself again in two years' time . After two years, the
young man returned, found the old Master bathing in the river at the foot
of his garden, and from the river-bank renewed his application . Again the
old man read his visitor's heart to its depths and perceived how divided it
still was between the claims of the outer and the inner life ; but, calling
him down into the river, he laid his hand upon the young one's head and
gently pressed and held it below the surface of the water. Presently the
young man forced it above the surface . "Why did you do that ?" he was
asked. "I was obliged to do so to find breath ." Then came the Master's
answer : "When you want God and the inward light as badly as you just now
wanted breath, you may come back to me and you shall have your desire . But
for the present you want other things as much, and you can't have both ."
Like the other young man in the Gospels, the applicant went away sorrowful
; but he had found his eventual Master and gained from him the instruction
suitable to him at the moment.

How, where, is one to seek one's Master, if he be so secluded, so hard to
find ? He may be sought both without and within oneself . He should first
be sought in every event of the daily life, in the person of everyone you
meet. Finding him depends on the intensity of your search . "Seek and ye
shall find" is not a vain promise.  Look not to meet immediately with some
learned or impressive personality capable of giving you all truth in
tabloid form in a few hours . Final truth cannot be communicated at all
from one person to another orally ; it exists already within yourself and
needs only to be dug out and ' liberated. Socrates-himself a Master, though
the son of a poor midwife used to joke that he had inherited something of
his mother's profession in that his task was to help others to bring truth
to birth out of themselves ; and in the same sense the mediaeval teachers
speak of using "the obstetric hand" in eliciting truth from their pupils
rather than of instilling it into them . For the pupil has first to learn
to clear away his own falsities and unrealities, so that what is already
central in himself may no longer be obscured, but shine out , in its own
self-conscious Light.

When the time is ripe and the pupil in a deep sense ready, he may come to
meet a Master literally and in personal wise. But a Master, being one who
has evolved in his spirit, is no longer to be thought of as a separate
independent person, although displaying a separate personality and presence
to the world. He is integrated with others of the same rank ; he is part of
a group, all the members of which are conscious on the plane of Spirit. And
Spirit is universal, not fettered by place, time, or space. What the group
perceives, each of its parts sees, and vice versa. Remember the All-seeing
Eye, the universal Watchman, that perceives you and knows the quality of
your spirit, though you yourself know nothing of it.

Until, then, a Master is met with personally, the search should persist in
confidence that he will be found. Responses, justifying your confidence and
demonstrating that the Eye is watching you, will come in unsuspected ways
to the earnest seeker ; perhaps from a chance passage in an apparently
quite irrelevant book you may be led to pick up ; perhaps from a casual
meeting with a stranger, an offhand remark, the conversation of a friend
who speaks more wisely and pointedly to you than he himself realises.
Through such and other ways may the veiled Master look or speak to you, and
proportionately to the ardour of your search will you find evidences of his
presence and watchfulness . A saintly woman, a great British poetess, so
keenly sought a Master in the details of daily life that she would pick up
torn scraps of paper in the street on the chance that they might reveal his
name or yield some evidence of him.  Another seeker traveled across the
world in blind faith that somewhere the unknown Master would be found. One
day in the street of a foreign city the recognition came suddenly ; before
a stranger in the crowd the seeker stopped, saying "Master, teach me !" and
the search was ended.

"The Master" to be sought, then, is a comprehensive term-abstract and
mystical if you will, but standing for a reality embracing many personal
Masters integrated in it. In seeking a personal Master, one seeks also the
group of which he is a member ; in seeking the impersonal Master one may be
brought into personal contact with one of that group. Life in the realm of
Spirit is a unity, not a diversity, and for Masonic seekers the wide world
over, of whatever nation or creed, there is but one Grand Master and
Hierophant, but He can manifest and deputize through divers channels . As
in the Craft Lodge there is but one Master, yet many of equal rank capable
of representing him and doing his work, so has the world's Grand Master in
the heights His associates and deputies here in its dark depths .

So far we have spoken only of seeking exteriorly, for an outward personal
Master. But the search can and should also be made interiorly, within
oneself ; for what is sought subjectively and spiritually can then more
readily come to be realized and found objectively . The great Indian manual
of Initiation (the Bhagavad-Gita) therefore teaches:

There lives a Master in the hearts of men
Who makes their deeds, by subtle-pulling strings.
Dance to what time He will . With all thy soul
Trust Him, and take Him for thy succour .
So shalt thou gain,
By grace of Him, the uttermost repose,
The Eternal Peace.

Seek therefore to realize the Master in the heart . Conceive him
imaginatively . Build up in your constant thought a mental image of him,
invested with the nature and qualities of that master-soul to whom you look
to raise you from your present deadness, to remove the stone from your
sepulcher, and to utter to your inmost self that vibrant word of liberating
power, "Lazarus, come forth !" For until you have in yourself something in
common with him, points of fellowship with him-be it but a bare desire for
resemblance-how shall you expect to be raised into fullness of identic
relationship with him, to be "gathered as a chicken under his wing?"

Our Science in its universality limits our conception of the Master to no
one exemplar . Take, it says, the nearest and most familiar to you, the one
under whose aegis you were racially born and who therefore may serve you
best ; for each is able to bring you to the centre, though each may have
his separate method. To the Jewish Brother it says, take the Father of the
faithful, and realize what being gathered to his bosom means . To the
Christian Brother, it points to Him upon whose breast lay the beloved
disciple, and urges him to reflect upon what that implies. To the Hindu
Brother it points to Krishna, who came and rode in the same chariot with
Arjuna, and bids him look to a similar intimate union . To the Buddhist it
points to the Maitreya of universal compassion, and bids him reflect upon
him till he become drawn beneath his bo-tree ; and to the Moslem it points
to his Prophet, and the significance of being clothed with the latter's
mantle .

Let the earnest Craftsman, then, seek a Master where and how he will.  He
cannot-experto crede fail to find.  Failure to find will be due to his
having failed, rightly, and from his heart, to seek.

 

 

         

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