MASONIC INITIATION by W.L. Wilmshurst
THE IDEAL LODGE
And now, Brethren, from what has been said of the ancient and royal science
you may see how faithfully our Craft perpetuates the world-old system of
elevating men to a higher order of life than they normally experience, and
at the same time you may judge how far it falls short in understanding that
science and carrying its intentions into practice.
Are we always going to be content with making merely formal Masons and
maintaining a merely social and philanthropic society? If so, we shall
remain no different men from the popular world who are not Masons. Or are
we wishful that the Craft should fulfill its purpose of being a system of
real initiating efficiency by awaking the undeveloped spiritual
potentialities of its members and raising them to a sublimer level of life
? If so, we must educate ourselves more deeply in its meaning.
Let me indicate how things would go if our work were conducted upon more
intelligent lines . It is too much to expect any marked or sudden change to
take place in old methods or habits, and resistance to any improvement may
always be expected from some who are satisfied with things as they are .
Nor can improvement be forced upon anyone ; to be advantageous it must come
spontaneously . But many Brethren and many Lodges sincerely desire it, and
so let me offer you a picture of what an ideal Lodge would be ; you may
then consider how far it may be practicable to attempt to conform to that
In the first place, Lodge meetings would be primarily devoted to what we
are taught is their chief purpose, namely, to expatiating on the Mysteries
of the Craft and educating Brethren in the understanding of them . This is
now never done ; largely because we are without competent instructors. We
suppose that our side-lectures are sufficient instruction. This is not the
case . There are additional large fields of knowledge that Masons must
explore if they wish to learn this science, while our official lectures are
themselves packed with purposely obscured truths that are left to our own
efforts and -perspicuity to discover, but the purport of which at present
remains entirely concealed.
The duly opened Lodge would be a sanctuary of silence and contemplation,
broken only by ceremonial utterances or such words of competent and
luminous instruction as the Master or Past Masters are moved to extend .
And the higher the degree in which it is opened, the deeper and more solemn
would be the sense of excluding all temporal thoughts and interests and of
approaching more nearly that veiled central Light whose opening into
activity in our hearts we profess to be our predominant wish .
In such circumstances each Lodge meeting would become an occasion of
profound spiritual experience . No member would wish to disturb the harmony
of such a Lodge by talk or alien thought . No member would willingly be
absent. If he were, save from
necessity, it would indicate that, though entitled to wear the apron in a
literal sense, he was temporarily not properly clothed in his mind and
intention to be qualified to enter the Lodge. Every one would regret when
such a meeting closed and it became necessary to be recalled from such
peace and refreshment to the jars and labours of the outer world.
The admission of a new candidate would be a comparatively infrequent event
. For no one would be received to membership save after the fullest tests
of his genuine desire for Masonic knowledge and of his adaptability to it .
The conferment of the different degrees would be at much longer intervals
than is now authorized, so as to ensure their being assimilated and
understood, as is impossible at present . And upon the notable occasion of
a degree being conferred, those present would be not merely passive
spectators of the rite . They would have been educated to become active
though silent helpers in it by adding the force of their united thought and
desire to the spoken word, and so creating such a tense and highly charged
atmosphere that an abiding permanent uplift in the candidate's
consciousness might be hoped for . For the efficacy of rites like ours does
not depend solely on the Master who performs them. He is the mouthpiece for
the time being of all those present, but it is the whole assembly that
should really be acting ; forming, as it were, a battery of spiritual
energy, and drawing the new Brother into vital fraternity with itself.
Great power resides in strong collective thought and intention, and when
these are focused and concentrated upon a candidate properly prepared in
heart and mind for our ministrations, we might hope to induce in him
something like real initiation ; but otherwise he will be listening to but
a formal recital of words .
It follows that we should never hear such things as the usual talk about
"making one's Lodge a success," or as personal praise to anyone for having
performed his work creditably. Whether our work is really done well, in the
sense of being spiritually effective, God alone knoweth, to whom all
gratitude should be rendered for any good achieved ; while the only worthy
success for a Lodge is its capacity for vitally affecting the lives of
those who enter it and transforming their mental and moral outlook.
The Lodge-room should be holy ground ; a Temple consecrated to Masonic work
and used for it exclusively. For it is a symbol of the temple of the human
individual, and we who are taught the necessity of every intending
initiate's excluding money and metals from his thought, and who have before
us the significant example of a Master who vigorously scourged all
money-changers out of the Temple, should surely conform to those lessons by
keeping our symbolic temple sanctified and entirely free from secular use .
There is a practical advantage in so doing, for premises continually
devoted to a single purpose become, as it were, charged and saturated with
the thought and ideals thrown off by those who habitually so use it . A
permanent spiritual atmosphere is created, the influence of which
appreciably affects those who enter it, and the possibility of the
efficacious initiation of candidates is thereby greatly increased ; whereas
that atmosphere becomes defiled, and any spiritual influence stored in it
neutralized, by promiscuous use.
Visiting other Lodges would no longer be for social reasons, but, as in
ancient times, solely with a desire to enlarge one's Masonic knowledge and
experience, to share their spiritual privileges, or even to bring spiritual
reinforcement to Lodges needing such help . No practice is more beneficial
than intercourse between those of different Lodges engaged in a common
work, and no right is more firmly established than that of any seeker of
the Light to claim and be given hospitality and assistance conducing to
that end. But our modern practice of mass-visiting is calculated to disturb
the true work we ought to be doing, and is somewhat of an abuse and
travesty of a privilege dating from antiquity, when occasional
representatives of one school of the Mysteries journeyed, often long
distances, to another in a different land to enlarge their own knowledge or
impart it to those they visited.
Promotion to office in, the Craft would not be by rotation or from
seniority of membership or social standing in the outside world. It would
depend entirely upon spiritual proficiency ; upon ability to impart real
illumination to candidates and advance the true work of the Craft. The
little jealousies and heartburnings that now occur at the annual promotions
would be impossible; such things belong to the base metals in our nature,
which ought long ago to have been got rid of in any one really qualified
for office. Did we better realize the serious nature of Initiation work, we
should often shrink in humility tool from accepting positions we are now
eager to seize . Remember that in leaving the outer world and . passing the
portal of the Lodge into the world within, all values change; all
questions, and even all sense, of personality should cease. You become
engaged not in a personal task but in a common fraternal work before God,
in whose sight all are equal and who will act through such instruments as
seem good to Him . Therefore "let him that is greatest among you be as he
that is least" ; it may well be that the apparently least among us is often
likely to be the more efficient workman.
These, I know, are lofty ideals, largely impracticable at the moment, and
I have no wish to alienate any Brother's interest in the Craft by imposing
a standard beyond his present capacity and desire. Yet Brethren to whom the
ideal appeals, and to whom it is both desirable and practicable, might
unite in meeting with the intention of conforming to it, and here and there
even a small new Lodge might be formed for that special purpose, leaving
other Lodges to work on their accustomed lines .
Is Masonry, throughout, anything but a lofty ideal, which so far we have
made little serious attempt to realize? The main difficulty before us is
that the true work of the Craft contemplates a much greater detachment from
the things and the ways of the outer world than we are at present willing,
or perhaps able, to allow. So we compromise with ourselves, and seek to
combine the outer secular life with the inner ideals of the Craft. The two
conflict, and no man can efficiently serve two masters . We must choose
whom we will serve.
Still the ideal is before us, a glimmering light in a dark, distracted and
dying world, and it rests with ourselves whether it remains a glimmer or
whether we strive to fan it into a blaze of fact. For those who desire
merely a social and sociable organization, garnished with a little
picturesque ceremonial and providing opportunity for a little amusement and
personal distinction, Masonry will never be more than the formality it long
has been and still is for many, and they themselves will remain in darkness
as to its meaning, its purpose, and its great possibilities .
But for those who are not content with vanities and unrealities, who
-desire not a formal husk but the living spirit, and are bent on plumbing
its well guarded secrets and mysteries to their depth and living out its
implications to the full, Masonry may well come-as for some it has come to
be the chief blessing and experience of their lives ; it may yield them
even the last secret of life itself . It may fulfill for them the ancient
prayer of the Eastern Initiates we just now spoke of, by leading them from
the unreal to the supreme Reality, from darkness to Light ineffable, from
the things of time and mortality to things immortal. They may find it a
ladder of truth and world-escape set up for them in the wilderness around
them, and their Lodge a place of unfolding vision where, with the Hebrew
patriarch, they will exclaim: "This is none other than a house of God
gate of heaven!"