MASONIC INITIATION  by W.L. Wilmshurst

Chapter II

THE CABLE-TOW

These expositions are being offered in their present order with a purpose.
That purpose is to outline, as nearly and systematically as may be, the due
sequence and progressive stages of the work of spiritual Craftsmanship or
self-building.  We have traced that work from its inception in the heart's
desire to pass from darkness to light and attain a higher order of life and
mode of being, through its stages of the outer and inward purification
essential to that attainment, and through the crisis of a deeper gloom, a
voluntary abnegation of and dying to all the attributes that go to
constitute the natural personality, until the aspirant who endures all
these to the end is finally rewarded by receiving his "crown of life," as
the biblical metaphor very fittingly terms that exalted order of conscious
being which marks the fulfillment of human spiritual evolution. And we have
shown how, in winning that high degree of consciousness, he has
simultaneously built for himself out of the sublimations of his original
nature a new superstructural body appropriate to it and in which it can
function. In the abounding wealth of the symbols and veiled verbal
references in our rituals and instruction lectures to the details of this
truly scientific work, there remain, however, many others needing
explanation, some of which can now be considered more advantageously than
at our earlier stage and with better chance of being understood .

One of these is the cable-tow. In my previous book it was explained that
its use in the E .A. Degree taught the beginner the useful lesson that he
who has once felt within him the impulses of the central Light and been
moved to seek it should never recede from his quest and, indeed, cannot do
so without doing violence to the highest within him, a violence equivalent
to moral suicide . At the same time, he is also enjoined not to be unduly
precipitate, not ignorantly and rashly to rush forward in an unprepared
inward state to grasp the secrets of his own being, in which case peril of
another kind threatens him; but to proceed humbly, meekly, cautiously and
under instructed guidance . The ancient maxim "Know thyself," was coupled
with another, Ne quid nimis, "Nothing in excess" ; for the science can only
be learned and applied gradually . It will unfold itself more and more as
it is diligently studied and pursued.

The foregoing explanation of the cable-tow is but a very partial one, and
inculcates a salutary, but purely moral, piece of advice . The deeper
significance is a psycho-physiological one, and has to do with the
mysteries of the human organism . It should not be overlooked that the
cable-tow is given prominence not only in the First Degree . ' It is again
mentioned in the obligation in the Third Degree, whilst it appears under
another guise in that working-tool of the Master-Mason which acts upon a
centre-pin . And finally it reappears in the Royal Arch Degree as a cord or
life-line. It is requisite to understand what is involved in something to
which such recurring prominence is given .

Let us first recall what has been already stated about the human organism
being a composite structure of several natures or bodies (physical,
etheric, emotional, and mental), fixated in a unity or synthesis ; each of
such bodies being constituted of gross or subtle matter, of differing
density and vibratory rate, and the whole coordinated by the central
divine Principle (which may or may not yet have come forward into the
formal conscious mind, although there are few in whose awareness it is not
lurkingly present and more or less active as "conscience.")

Thus the human constitution may be likened to a number of glass tumblers
placed one within the other and with, say, a night-light (representing the
central Principle) inserted in the inmost one . The glass of the tumblers
may be imagined as of progressive thickness and coarseness, from within
outwards, and some of them as coloured, dirty, or not closely fitting in
with the others . The coarser, dirtier, and more opaque the glasses, the
less able will be the central light to shine through them ; a single glass
may be so opaque as to prevent the passage of the light through all the
rest. Here, then, is an object lesson in the need for the inward
purification of our various constituent sheaths, and for becoming "perfect
in all our parts ." As William Blake said very truly : "If the gates of
human perception were thoroughly cleansed, we should perceive everything as
it is-infinite ; but man has closed himself up till he sees all things only
through the narrow chinks of his own cavern ."

Another illustration . Human compositeness may be compared with the
concentric skins or sheaths of a vegetable bulb (an onion, or hyacinth) .
Here the sheaths are all equally pure and coordinated ; and because the
bulb is perfect in all its parts or sheaths, and, when planted, fulfils the
whole law of its nature, its life-force bursts its natural bonds, throws up
a self-built superstructure into the air, and there effloresces into the
bloom which is its "crown of life" or fullness of development. Man should do
this, and, as we have shown, this is what .the Mason is taught to do . But
man having (what the bulb has not), freedom of will to fulfill or to violate
.the law of his nature, has chosen the latter course, and consequently by
indulgence in perverse desire and wrongly directed thought, has fouled and
disorganized his sheaths . Hence his spiritual darkness and his liability
to all forms of disease . The central Principle cannot shine through his
opacity, lighting up his mind and governing his desires and actions . It
remains imprisoned within him. , He sees, thinks and knows only from his
self-darkened outer sheaths, and is misguided and illuded accordingly.

For a final example, let us turn to - the instructive familiar episode in
the Gospels of the storm overtaking a boat containing a number of men, of
whom the Chief was "asleep in the hinder part of the boat." The boat
typifies the human organism ; its occupants, its various parts and
faculties, including the as yet unawakened Master-Principle resident in its
depths or "hinder part." An emotional upheaval occurs ; the rough waves of
passion threaten to wreck the whole party . A brain-storm arises ;
intemperate gusts of fright, wrong headedness, and mental un-control, make
the position still worse. The extremity is sufficiently acute to awaken the
Master-Principle into activity whose beneficent power is able instantly to
still those unruly winds, and waves, which suddenly are reduced to a great
peace.

Every Master-Mason, who is a real and not merely a titular one, is able to
perform this "miracle" in himself ; perhaps in others also. There is
nothing super-natural about it to him. It is possible to him because he
"has the Mason Word and second sight" ; he both understands the composite
structure of the human organism, can visually discern the disordered part
or parts, and can apply healing, harmonizing, vibratory power from his own
corresponding part to the seat of mischief, saying to this disordered
mental part or that unruly emotional sheath, "Peace, be still !" Every
Master-Mason is therefore also a Master-Physician, able to benefit patients
in a medical sense, and also to visualize the inner condition of those who
look to him for instruction and initiation in a Masonic sense, to advise
upon their interior needs and moral ailments, and help them to purify and
align their disordered natures . But this is not possible save to one who
himself has become pure and rectified in all his parts; the physician must
first heal himself before he can communicate either physical or moral
health to others .

This promise about the compositeness of the human structure and the
existence in us of a series of independent, yet coordinated "parts" or
sheaths, has been necessary before we can speak directly of the cable-tow.
What is it that connects these parts ? And are these parts dissociable from
one another?

We know that they are normally in close association and to this association
applies the enjoinder that what God hath joined, man shall not put asunder
. What the age-long process of evolution has built up with infinite
patience and care is not to be tampered with for improper purposes, or even
by well meaning but, as yet, unenlightened experiment in the supposed
interests of science ; a point upon which the old Masters and teachers of
our science are specially insistent, for reasons which now need not be
entered upon .

Nevertheless, a measure of dissociation does occur naturally in even the
most healthy and well organised people (and of cases of abnormal psychic
looseness of constitution we need not speak) . It occurs in sleep, when the
consciousness may be vividly active, whether in an orderly or disorderly
manner ; people "travel" in their sleep . It occurs at times of illness or
violent shock . It may be induced by alcohol or drugs ; the "anesthetic
revelation" is a well recognized phenomenon. Under any of these conditions
there may be a complete ec-stasis, or conscious standing out or away of the
Ego from the physical body . Apparitions and even action at a distance are
well accredited facts . Such phenomena are explicable only upon the
suppositions of the existence of a subtler vehicle than - the gross body,
of the fact that consciousness becomes temporarily transferred from the
latter to the former, and that the two are capable of conjoint function in
complete independence of the physical brain and body.

What preserves the connection between the two "parts" thus disjoined, and
makes possible their subsequent re-coalescence, is the "cable-tow." It is a
connective thread of matter of extreme tenuousness and elasticity issuing
from the physical abdominal region and maintaining the same kind of
connection with the extended subtle body as the string with which a boy
flies a kite. As the boy can pull in the kite by the string, so does the
extruded subtle body become drawn back to its physical base . Were the
kite-string severed during the kite's flight, the kite would collapse or be
blown away. Similarly, were the human "cable-tow" permanently severed,
death would ensue and each of the severed parts go to its own place.

Biblically this human "cable-tow" is called the "silver cord" in the well
known passage, "or ever the silver cord is loosed and the golden bowl is
broken ; then shall the body return to the earth and the spirit to God who
gave it ." "Silver" is the technical esoteric term for psychical substance,
as gold is for spiritual, and iron or brass for physical . Its
physiological correspondence is the umbilical cord connecting the child
with its mother.  Its analogue in ecclesiastical vestments is the girdle
worn by the high-priests of the Hebrew and by the priests and monastics of
the Christian Church .

Everyone unconsciously possesses the cable-tow, and it comes into use
during sleep, when a less or greater measure of involuntary dissociation of
our parts occurs . A Master, however, is one who has outgrown the
incapacities to which the undeveloped average man is subject. Unlike the
latter, he is in full knowledge and control of all his parts ; whether his
physical body be awake or wrapped in sleep, he maintains unbroken
consciousness . He is able at will to shut off consciousness of temporal
affairs and apply it to supra-physical ones . He can thus function at a
distance from his physical body, whether upon the mundane or upon, higher
planes of the cosmic ladder. His cable-tow, of infinite expansiveness,
unwinds from his centre-pin and, stretching like the kite-string, enables
him to travel where he will in his subtle body and to rejoin and reanimate
his physical one at will . Hence it is that the Master- Mason is pledged to
answer and obey all signs and summonses from any Master-Mason's lodge if
within the reach of his cable-tow ; and such assemblies, it should be
remembered, are contemplated therefore as taking place not at any physical
location, but upon an ethereal plane. For corroboration of what is possible
in this respect to a Master, one should reflect upon the instances of
-bi-location, passing through closed walls, and manifesting at a distance,
recorded of the Great Exemplar in the Gospels . These are representative of
what is feasible to anyone attaining Mastership .

The cable-tow, therefore, is given prominence to the reflective Craftsman
as a help towards understanding his own constitution, and to foreshadow to
him work that lies before him when is he fitted to undertake it ;-work
which now may seem to him impossible and incredible.  For as the skirret
(which is the cable-tow in another form) is intended for the skilful
architect to draw forth a line to mark out the ground for the intended
structure, so the competent builder of the spiritual body will unwind his
own "silver cord" when he learns how to function consciously on the
ascending ladder of supraphysical planes, and to perceive the nature of the
superstructure he himself is intended to construct .

Further importance attaches to the significance of the cable-tow from the
fact testified to at the admission to our Order of every new candidate for
ceremonial initiation. For all real Initiation involves the use of the
actual "silver cord" or life-line ; since such Initiation always occurs
when the physical body is in a state of trance or sleep, and when the
temporarily liberated consciousness has been transferred to a higher level
. Thence it subsequently is brought back to the physical organism, the
cerebral and nerve centres of which become illumined, revitalized and
raised to a higher pitch of faculty than was previously possible. The
perspicacious Royal Arch Mason will not fail to perceive how this truth is
dramatically exemplified in that Degree.

This subject might be considerably extended, for whilst in a ceremonial
system like the Masonic, only one initiation is portrayed (or, rather where
initiation only occurs once), yet in the actual experience of
soul-architecture Initiation succeeds Initiation upon increasingly higher
levels of the ladder as the individual becomes correspondingly ripe for
them, able to bear their strain and to assimilate their revelations . What
the Craft teaching and symbols inculcate is a principle common to every
degree of real Initiation that one may prove worthy to attain . For each
upward step the candidate for the heights must be prepared as he is in the
E .A . Degree; at each there will be the same peril in turning back, and
at each the same menace directed against rashly rushing forward.


 

 

Museum Home Page     Phoenixmasonry Home Page

Copyrighted 1999 - 2007   Phoenixmasonry, Inc.      The Fine Print