MASONIC INITIATION  by W.L. Wilmshurst

Chapter II

"THE KNOWLEDGE OF YOURSELF"

It has already been shown that the structure and appointments of the Lodge
are symbolic ; that the Lodge is a representation both of the Universe and
of man himself as a Microcosm or the Universe in miniature ; that it is an
image of his own complex constitution, his heavens and his earth (his
spirituality and materiality) and all that therein is .

By contemplating that image, therefore, the Mason learns to visualize
himself ; he is given a first lesson in that self-knowledge in the full
attainment of which is promised the understanding of all things. "Know
thyself," we have said, was written over the portals of the ancient temples
of Initiation, self-knowledge being the aim of their intention and the goal
of their purpose.  Masonry perpetuates this maxim by recommending
self-knowledge as "the most interesting of all human studies."  It is the
tersest, wisest of instructions, yet little heeded nowadays, and it is
incapable of fulfillment unless undertaken in accordance with the ancient
science and with a concentration of one's whole energies upon the task .

It involves the deepest introspection into oneself and perfect
discrimination between what is real and permanent, and what is unreal and
evanescent in ourselves . As aspirants to the Mysteries could not learn the
secrets of the Temple without entering it, learning its lessons, undergoing
its disciplines, and receiving its graduated initiations, so no one can
attain self-knowledge save by entering into himself, distinguishing the
false from the true, the unreal from the real, the base metal from the fine
gold, sublimating the former into the latter, and ignoring what is
negligible or superfluous . The very word Initiation primarily derives from
the Latin in ire, to go within ; and thence, after learning the lessons of
self-analysis, to make a new beginning (initium) by reconstructing one's
knowledge of life and manner of living. The 43rd Psalm restates the same
instruction : Introibo ad altare Dei, " I will go in to the divine altar ."
Similarly, the Masonic Initiation contemplates a going within oneself,
until one reaches the altar or centre, the Divine Principle or ultimate
hidden basis of our being.

To know the anatomy and physiology of the mortal body is not self-knowledge
. The physical fabric of man is a perishing self, mere dust and shadow,
projected from vitalizing forces within it, and without permanence or reality .

To understand the nature and mechanism of the mind, emotions and desires,
is useful and necessary, but is not self-knowledge, for they, too, are
transient and, therefore, unreal aspects of the deeper real self. The
personality we present to the world is not our real self. It is but a mask,
a distorting veil, behind which the true self abides hiddenly and often
unknown to our unreal surface self, unless and until it be brought forward
into consciousness, displacing and overriding the notions and tendencies of
the natural, but benighted, superficial self. Until then its "light shineth
in darkness and the darkness comprehendeth it not ." To bring it forward
out of its veils of darkness, to "comprehend" and establish it permanently
in our awareness is, and has ever been, the purpose of all Initiation . But
this cannot be achieved until the outer bodily and mental vestures have
been purified and a voluntary dying or effacement of everything in us alien
to, or conflicting with, the real self has been suffered ; all which is
implied by the teaching of our three Degrees respectively.

True self-knowledge is unobstructed conscious union of the human spirit
with God and the realization of their identity . In that identic union the
unreal, superficial selves have become obliterated . The sense of
personality is lost, merged in the Impersonal and Universal. The little Ego
is assumed into the great All, and knows as It knows . Man realizes his own
inherent ultimate Divinity, and thenceforth lives and acts no longer as a
separate individual, with an independent will, but in integration with the
Divine Life and Will, whose instrument he becomes, whose purposes he
thenceforth serves . This is "the great day of atonement," when the limited
personal consciousness becomes identified or made at one with one's own
divine, omniscient, vital and immortal Principle, which each must realize
as the high priest of his personal temple and after many washings and
purifyings against the contrary tendencies of his former unregenerate
nature . This was the secret supreme attainment hinted at in the cryptic
maxim "Know thyself !." Each of us may judge for himself whether he has yet
reached it .

To find our own Centre, our real self, involves, therefore, a turning
inwards of our previously externalized faculties of sense and thought, and
an introspective penetration of the outlying circumferential elements of
our nature until the Centre" is found. This task is figured by our
ceremonial perambulations and by the path of the winding staircase leading
from the ante-rooms and forecourts of our nature to the Centre, up which
the aspirant must ascend, asking, seeking, knocking, all the way ; being
subjected from time to time to tests of his progress and receiving, without
scruple or diffidence, such wages of good fortune or adversity as unseen
Providences may know to be his due .

The inmost sanctuary he will find closely guarded . Nothing unclean can
enter or approach that holy place. Hence in the biblical description of the
symbolic Temple one finds that, in the forecourt, stood the great laver of
water for the cleansing of pollutions, and the altar of fire for the
sacrificial burning up of one's impurities. The sword of the G., directed
to those unqualified to enter the Lodge, is the Masonic way of inculcating
that peril exists to those who are not properly prepared to approach the
Centre or who would rush in where angels fear to tread ; it corresponds
with the sword of the Cherubim in Genesis, which turned every way to keep
the way to the Tree of Life from the approaches of the unfit.

Mental as well as physical purity is indispensable to real Initiation, but
is far more difficult of the two to acquire . Modern psychology discloses
not only how fractional a part of our entire mentality functions above the
threshold of our normal awareness, but also what knots and twists, what
mental lumber, what latent horrors and accumulations of inner foulness, lie
stored in the sub-consciousness of even those living ordinarily clean lives
. They are the deposits of the mind's past activities ; forgotten often by
the conscious mind itself, yet automatically registered upon our impalpable
mind-stuff by the recording pencil (mentioned among the Third Degree
working-tools) which at every moment of our lives posts up entries of our
thoughts, words, and actions. For at the centre of ourselves is the
all observant Eye; so that we ourselves constitute our own Judgment Book,
wherein each of us unwittingly inscribes his own history and formulates his
own destiny, and its pages we have each to read ourselves .

With these mental deposits and consolidations those skilled in Initiation
science are well familiar. The modern psychologist calls them "complexes ."
In the old treatises on the subject they are termed foul ethers,
congelations of impure mental matter . They are the "base metals" of
Masonry. Each of us has been an artificer of those metals and worked them
into all manners of grotesque designs in his mental nature, and hence the
conferment upon the candidate, at a certain stage, of a name attributed to
the first of such artificers and signifying him to be still incompletely
purged of worldly possessions of this kind. These "base metals" require to
be discharged from the system by a long process of corrective purifying
thought and aspiration and to be transmuted into gold, or pure mind-stuff,
before real Initiation is possible. No inward fog must intervene between
the outer and innermost organs of consciousness when the time comes for
these to be unified. The Light of Truth cannot penetrate a mind crammed
with pernicious thought and with opinions to which it clings tenaciously .
It must empty itself of all pre-acquired knowledge and prejudices, and then
rise on the wings of its own genius into the realm of independent Thought
and there learn Truth at first hand by directly beholding it.

The incident of attaining Light and self-knowledge is dramatically
emphasized in Masonic ceremonial . It is represented by that important
moment in the ritual of the Third Degree when darkness suddenly gives way
to bewildering light, in which light the candidate gazes back for the
first" time upon the remains of his own past and beholds the emblems of his
own mortality.  He has now (at least in ceremony) surmounted the great
transitional crisis involved in becoming raised from a natural to a higher
order of humanity.  He perceives his temporal organism to have been the
"tomb of transformation," in which the great change has been wrought . He
has risen from that tomb, and for him the old grave of the natural body has
lost its sting, and that spiritual unconsciousness, which is termed
"death," has been swallowed up in the victory won at last by his higher
eternal principle over his lower temporal one. The mystical sprig of acacia
has bloomed at the head of his grave, by the efflorescence of the Vital and
Immortal Principle in his purified mind and neural system .

Thus is portrayed for us, in Masonic ceremony, the moment of attainment of
knowledge of one's true self. The incident, let it be emphasized, does not
involve the physical death of the body and its faculties, for to "the
companions of his former toils" the, purified mind will thereafter be
reunited . But thenceforth they will be his docile, plastic, obedient
servants, and no longer his master. He will continue to live in the world
for the remainder of his appointed span, no longer for his own sake, but
for the uplifting and advancement of his fellowmen to his own high degree.
His expansion of consciousness and wisdom will become part of his equipment
for practical work in the world. His own spiritual evolution is complete,
so far as the educative experience of this world can take it ; he lives now
to help on that of humanity.

A great and good Brother, reviewing his long connection with Masonic
sanctuaries more than a century ago, wrote thus about Initiation :

"The only initiation which I preach and seek with all the
ardour of my soul is that by which we may enter into
the heart of God and make God's heart enter into us,
there to form an indissoluble marriage which will
make us the friend, brother and spouse of our Divine
Redeemer." This attainment is the self-knowledge
pointed to by the Craft teaching, and to which that
teaching seeks to guide the reflections of every

Louis Claude de Saint Martin ; Theosophic Correspondence, with Baron
Kirchberger ; a work of great value and disclosing the nature of Masonic
work in French Lodges prior to the Revolution of 1789 .

Masonic Initiation has no other end than this conscious union between the
individual soul and the Universal Divine Spirit .

This union is symbolized by the familiar conjunction of the square and the
compasses.  The square is the emblem of the soul ; the compasses of the
Spirit which indwells in that soul.  At first the Mason sees the points of
the compasses concealed behind the square, and, as he progresses, their
points emerge from that concealment until both become superimposed upon the
square.  Thus is indicated the progressive subordination of the soul and
the corresponding coming forward of the ultimate Spirit into personal
consciousness, so that the Mason can " work with both those points," thus
becoming an efficient builder in the spirit and rendering the circle of his
own being complete by attaining conscious alliance with his ultimate and
only true self.

 

 

         

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