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"If, as Aristole said, it be the mission of tragedy to cleanse and exalt us, leaving us subdued with a sense of pity and hope and fortified against ill fortune, it is permitted us to add that in simplicity, in depth and power, in its grasp of the realities of the life of man, its portrayal of the stupidi of evil and the splendour of virtue, its revelation of that in our humanity which leads it to defy itself, rather than defame, defile or betray its moral integrity, and in its prophecy of the victory of li ght over shadow, there is not another drama known among man like the Third Degree of Masonry."
Joseph Fort Newton, "THE BUILDERS"
In correspondence with the Temples of the mystic cults of antiquity, the Lodge of our modern Freemasonry are emblematical representations of the Universe in miniature, for the real lodge is the Universe itself which is one Great Temple or place of Initiation into the mysteries of the soul and of God. Mother-Earth is also the Mother-Lodge of us all, and as its vast work goes on, souls are ever descending into it and souls are being called out of it at the knocks of some great unseen Warden of life and death, who calls them here to labour and summons them hence for refreshment in the heavenly places. From time immemorial Brother Man has been required to clothe himself (with a physical form - the body of mortality, symbolisod by our Masonic Apron) and enter the Lodge of Life, wherein, silently and without sound of metal tool, is proceeding the perpetual work of rebuilding that unfinished and invisible Temple, of which the mystical stones and timber are the souls of men.
Freemasonry, then, is an image of a universal process, a process which is impersonal and meant for all mankind, but nevertheless we Freemasons are privileged as we possess, in our graded Ceremonies, a small scale chart of the stages or Degrees through which all human life must of necessity pass on Admission into the Craft, however, is not to be regarded merely as participation in a ceremonial excursion into the realms of theoretic transformative progress; on the contrary, it is a solemn sacramental act, and one which commits Candidates to the arduous task of perfecting themselves in advance of the mass of their fellows in order to promote the spiritual welfare of the Race by an active co-operation in the design of the Grand Master of all. The Craft exists to serve the cosmic purpose as a means of grace provided by The Great Architect of the Universe for assisting human redemption, and its life-sources must therefore be looked for in causes far an terior to its inception in 1717, while its history can only be properly viewed in relation to the course of both national and world history.
Students of the Masonic subject will come to know that there is a branch of arcane science which deals with times and seasons in human affairs; which reveals the operation of a periodic law governing them, and which enables us to survey past and present events and prognosticate future events in much the same way that astronomers follow the courses of the stars and predict eclipses. With the assistance of this law we are able to discern that human existence is punctuated by periods of flow and ebb, in which duality, or the spiritual and the material, is alternately manifested through the two areas of circular motion designated as centripetal and centrifugal, or the advance and recessional movements in the scheme of eternal progress. As evidence of this statement, take the twenty-four hour measurement as embracing the day and the night; the lunar month with its two poriods, that of increase and decrease; the annual solar revolution wherein summer and winter are the positive and negative poles of activity; and, greater still, the precession of the equinoxes, in which the Sun's equatorial passage through one of the signs of the Zodiac constitutes a sub-cycle of 2,160 years. The same truth will also be found to be on record in the Volume of the Sacred Law - Genesis 8, verse 22 - where, in terms of natural imagery, it is declared, "While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not ce ase." Moreover, these cyclic periods will be found evidenced by w ell marked events and charges of human development and the subject of this Paper is to consider the Masonic doctrine of Initiation in the light of forthcoming changes due to incoming of a new cycle, that of Aquarius, under the Sign of the Man.
A great deal has been written in exposition of the Masonic Initiation, but notwithstanding a marked forward trend observable within the Order and a corresponding increase in apprehension, it must be conceded that the majority of Freemasons still fail to recognise that the key to the whole Craft system in contained in the Central Legend or Traditional History of the Third Degree. The Craft legend of H.A., although known as "Traditional History" would be better described as "historical tradition", because it is the Hebrew form of a cosmogonical doctrine expressed in numerous ways and common to all peoples since the beginning of time. It is a doctrine explaining the genesis, fall, and destiny of man, and accounting for the mystery of evil, sin and death with which our world is afflicted, by a catastrophe which occurred out of time and space and before we and our planet assumed their present physicalised condition. Under the allegory of a temporal murder and the loss of building plans, the Craft Legend perpetua tes the primal doctrince of Cosmic Tragedy; a tragedy committed before time began, and one by reason of which all Nature groans and is in travail, and human society exists in a state of continuous disorder and confusion. The great virtue of the Craft system, howevers lies in the fact that the Third Degree not only proclaims the nature of the "heavy calamity" which has befallen Hnmanity, but it further reveals how "that which is lost" may be recovered . Thus, although the narrative undoubtedly places emphasis upon the fact that man has fallen away from a high estate to the externalised condition in which we now live, its real object is to draw attention to the truth which has been taught in all subsequent ages, viz. that the way of return to our former eminence is that by which we came. The intimation is, in ritual language, that a loss sustained in the "East" is not to be recovered in the "West," by which we are intended to understand that human life having originated in the mystical "East," and descended into this world, must eventually return again to its source. In the words of verse written by that well known Masonic authority, W.Bro. A.E.Waite:
"From East to West the soul her journey takes; At many bitter founts her fever slakes; Halts at strange taverns by the way to feast, Resumes her load, and painful progress makes Back to the East."
OUr Masonic doctrine therefore emshrines traditional, universal principles, about the way all Humanity must traverse from this world of time and transiency (the "West") to the eternal "East." It demonstrates conclusively that life is a vast Initiation-process, slowly patiently, and by law and order, leading an intractable world from darkness to increasing light. But, we also learn from the Volume of the Sacred Law that "times (cycles, time-periods) and seasons" are allocated for the accomplishment of cosmic purposes, and that a definite time-limit is set to the stages of the initiatory process. Hence it is that the benefits of initiation are not only conferred in the individual and personal sense, to be achieved by voluntary self-discipline as envisaged by the Craft system, but there are also occasions when the power is directed to operate upon the collective consciousness of mankind. Freemasons will do well to reflect that this is precisly what is happe ning to-day, when under the guidance of the Master of Li fe, humanity as a whole is in the process of being Passed to the Second Degree in a cosmic and vital sense; we are all working to-day as "minds," upon the plane of mind, the region of Humanity's Second Degree. Now, as Freemasonry so clearly illustrates, such initiation involves at one and the same time, a renunciation and a gain, or, in other words, a putting away of that which has served its purpose and become effete and unessential, with the correspondi ng attainment of something superior and esstential. It also implies the permanent tuning up of consciousness from a lower to a higher pitch, the result of which is, that awareness (whether visual or intellectual) becomes intensified, and the immature reactions of the sense-natuve give place to enhanced powers of intelligence. These factors are in evidence today, and despite the fact that at the moment the majority are unable to interpret correctly their feelings, it is becoming increasingly obvious that an organic change is being eff ected in public conscious ness.
Nineteen centuries ago a great spiritual Father and seer wrote to his disciples "Little children, is the last time" (1st. Epistle JOHN, Chapter 2, verse 18): that is, we are living in the closing years, the last lap, of a world cycle and world-order which is rapidly approaching its end and destined to give place to another "time" of a new, higher, and different character. In view of recent events and present conditions, who does not recognise the force of those words today? Every thinking mind realises, ev ery sensitive conscience feels, that we are comings to the end of an age, that the old order of things is fast going down hill with ever-increasing momentum. It has now become apparent that we are moving towards a now order of things, and that the present crisis marks the transition; in biblical language; therefore, it is a "pass-over" of just such a character as that described in the Book of Exodus as occurring "when Israel came out of Egypt". What does s uch a pass-over imply, and what is the order of thin gs to which the transition is being made?
To deal with these questions from the Masonic standpoint and under scriptural guidance, let us remember that, in addition to being our great spiritual guide, the Volume of the Sacred law is the greatest textbook of occult science that exists. It is the chart of human spiritual evolution during the ages for which it was written, and it clearly indicates, for those who can read it, the position at which we gain,have at present arrived and the stages of development through which we have yet racially to pass. In a brief Paper of this nature it is impossible to attempt to expound the philosophic basis upon which the Scriptures impliedly rest, and one must ask that certain facts be assumed as true. One of those facts is that our planet and the system to which it belongs form but part of a vast clockwork of interknit forces worlds or modes of being, of which we in our present state see only the physical aspect to the exclusion of other aspects which are not physical. We, here, live upon the plane of phenomena and effects, and until our inner eyes are opended to what is going on invisibly around us we reamain unconscious of the realms of spiritual noumena, causes, and cosmic ideation which make those phenomena possible. The seen and unscen worlds are in c onstant interaction, and in the same way that the face of an ordinary timepiece is divided up into minutes, quarters and hours, that express the activities of the interior works, so were we to see in its entirety the clockwork of the Universe we should discern the extent to which physical events and cataclysms and crises in human history are the surface records of spiritual energies at work beyond our present sense observation. Further, as our clocks record the major and minor subdivisions of time, so the Great Clock of the Universe strikes its hours, half-hours and quarters, and the echo of its chimes is heard among us in the form of great world events and changes that periodically occur. It is these moments of less or greater crisis which are alluded to by the biblical term "pass-over", and the Hebrew feast of the "Passover" was instituted to keep prominently before the human memory the assurance that such moments would periodically and inf allibly occur, and be attended by great upheavals, distress and des truction of existing conditions. For students this subject has always been one of astronomical science, and it is in the terms of astronomy and the Zodiac that it can be most conveniently exppessed. Without going into details it may be briefly stated that the ZODIAC is a chart of the solar system and the precession of the equinoxes through itr constitute a guide by means of which some things concerning human destiny can be explicated. The solar sy stem, in the course of backward motion through the twelve Si gns of the Zodiac, takes approximately 25,920 years to make a complete, circle, and the last sub-cycle of 2,160 years - in which the equinoctial point receded through Pisces, the Sign of the Fishes - was completed in the year A.D.1881. Dr. Watt's metrical arrangement of the Zodiacal signs will provide their names and order for convenient reference:-
"The RAM, the BULL, the HEAVENLY TWINS, And next the CRAB, the LION shines, The VIRGIN and the SCALES, The SCORPION, ARCHER and THE GOAT, The man that holds the WATERPOT, And FISH with glittering tails."
A new is therefore entered every 2,160 years, the signs being traversed in reverse order, and it is traditional that the passage of each sign in marked by the growth of a new religious conception employing a symbolism appropriate to the sign. For example, at the beginning of the Christian era the solar system was in the sign of PISCES, the FISHES, and we find Fishermen disciples (the "fishers of men"), the draught of fishes, and other fish symbolism fromly employed, while the era itself was foreshadowed in the "sign of the prophet Jonah", who was swallowed by a great fish. The previous sign was that of ARIES, the RAM, and under this sign we find the Hebrew dispensation with the "Ram caught in a thicket", the Ram of the burnt offering, the trumpet of Ram's horns, and other similar symbolism. Before that came TAURUS the BULL, to whi ch are assig ned tbe Bulls of Nineveh, and before that GEMINI, the TWINS, in which period the cult originated which survived in classical times in the form of the Great Twin Brethren, CASTOR and POLLUX. Further back than this it is not necessary to go, although it is of interest to note that to this day the rising sun and the lion figure together on the postage stamps of Persia, and are a reminder of the days when LEO the LION (the sign ruled astrological ly by the Sun) was the sign ruling our solar system.
The changes now taking place in the world-order in consequence of tho "pass-over" into the sign of AQUARIUS (the Water-bearer or Waterman) are of greater portent than those of the former two (PISCES and ARIES), because AQUARIUS is one of the four major or cardinal signs. These four cardinl signs, LEO, TAURUS, AQUARIUS and SCORPIO, correspond with the four arms of the cosmic Cross, and are described in the Volume of the Sacred Law (Ezekiel, Chapter 1) in the likeness of four living "creatures", the LION, the OX, the MAN (i.e. the Water-man), and the EAGLE, facts which are of peculiar significance to Royal Arch Freemasons. Treating man (individually and collectively) as the symbol and measure of the Cosmos, the science of Initiation relates the signs of the Zodiac to his organism, and the Ram is allotted to the head, the Fishes to the feet, the Water-man to the legs. This will convey nothi ng to those who remain unver sed in the deep implications of the Ancient Wisdom teaching, but nevertheless an attempt will be made in this place to offer an explanation in simple terms. The significance of our race an planet being brought at the time of the founding of the Abrahamic family and dispensation within the especial influence of the RAM, and of the Ram being associated with the head or seat of intelligence, is that then for the first time the racial consciousness became aware of the truth that a new fac tor, a new element, fro m the spiritual plane, was in process of becoming introduced into the psychical and phsical fabric of this fallen planet for the purpose of restoring and redeeming it. It meant that "the day-spring (or fontal source of life) from on high" was about to visit us, and this fact is veiled, yet written large for those who can penetrate the veil, in the incident of the patriach's propsed immolation of his son, when he beheld near at hand a ram caught in a thicket. The ram of his vision was none other than the "La mb of God" coming down from heaven into the "thicket" of this gross and material world, and the disordered tangle of human conditions, to purge and revivify them. During the period recorded in the Volume of the Sacred Law as from Abraham to Christ the world remained under the astronomic influence of the Ram, until at length came the next great "pass-over," and our system passed out of the influence of the RAm and entered that of the Fishes. The sign of ther Fishes, as already stated, is referable to the fee t, and by the "pass-over" from the Ram to the Fishes the "day-spring from on high" passed from the heights to the depths, and was therefore no longer a prospective possibility as a Redeemer apprehended by expectant faith and approached only by the higher spiritual consciousness of seers and prophets; it was a present and actualized fact, brought down to our very "feet" and normal minds. Herein lies the significance of the Master washing the disciples' feet and declaring, "he that is washed needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit" (John 13, 10); in our higher part we are already and always cleanl it is only our "feet", our lower minds and personality, that are foul and need cleansing. And now, after ever two thousand years of the influence of this spiritual element upon the planet comes another transition. We are today passing out of Pisces and coming into the sphere of Aquarius; a sign that in the literature of the old mystics is assoc iated with the "legs", and it is in reference to the pre sent incoming cycle that it is written in the Volume of the Sacred Law, "many shall run to and fro and knowledge (spiritual consciousness) shall be increased". The last twenty centuries, many will say with the present at chaotic state of the world in mind, have not wrought much. Perhaps not to the outward eye, but we must look deeper; despite and amid all the present evil of the world, all the materialism and destruction, at least the beginnings have been made f or the future; in the language of our Craft, f oundations have been laid in the intelligence and consciences of men, upon which a superstructure can be raised when all the rubbish has been cleared away which the laying of foundations always entails. The sudden admission of light always creates intense commotion among the denizens of darkness, and for this reason the entrance of the "Light of the World" into our planet has culminated in the horrors of today; but this is only the initial stage, and amid th e agonies and sorrows of the present we must neve r forget that the change to a new and better order is becoming possible because of them.
In the Volume of the Sacred Law the "pass-over" from the sign of the Fishes to the Water-bearer is alluded to in St. Mark, chapter 14, verse 13 - "Go ye into the city and there shall meet you a man bearing a pitcher of water; follow ye him", The city in question is, of course the "heavenly city", or, in the words of St. Augustine; the "City of God", i.e. the spiritial plane of cosmic causation. These words in the Gospel according to St. Mark are the link with that large body of Old Testament prophecy which declares that the time would come when the Holy Spirit should be poured out upon all the nations of the world, and that the present "earth" (materialised human consciousness) should become quickened and spiritualised. The transistion through which the world is now passing is one betokening an organic change in the spiritual life of humanity, and this will be the direct result of the liberation from the plane of spirit of an unprecedented influx of m ystical "water" into this interlinked plane of effects. We Freemasons are not without some knowledge of the significance of mystical "water", for there is a veiled reference to it in our "pass-word" leading to the Second Degree which involves the conception of a similar "Fall of Water". What, then is this mystical "water", and who is "the man bearing the pitcher" from which it is to be poured forth so abundantly? St. Paul teaches us that "spiritual things must be spiritually discerned", and it is therefore useless for us to think of them in physical terms. However, the explanation lies in the fact that in all mystical systems common water is in correspondence , and a symbol for, that pure, incorruptible, eleutheric element, spoken of in the Volume of the Sacred Law as the "Water of Life". It is this which is referred to in St. John, Chapter 3, verse 5, where we read, "except a man be born of water and the spirit, he cannot enter into the Kingdom of God". There is a definite reason for this correspondence, because in the same manner that common water is a large ingredient of our mortal part, so the celestial fluid or element is an essential constituent of the so ul, and from this exhaustless reservoir every soul that exists can renew, cleanse and replenish itself perpetually, and being "water of life", it is the vehicle and contains all the properties of true, as distinct from sensuous life. It is the original "holy water", the universal solvent for all hardness of heart, and the baptismal purifier. It brings wisdom and illumination of mind because it is the universal vehicle and medium through which the Divine Light and Intelligence are communicated to the human s oul. We can thus visualise what must follow from the redisposition of the cosmic spiritual mechanism, which will liberate into the fiery psychic atmosphere of this frenzied planet an abnormal tide of this Celestial Life-stream, for that will be the result of the present "pass-over". Have no results of that outpouring been yet experienced? Assuredly; but the fulness of those results is to come. These last two thousand years have been needed in order to pave the way for quickened soul-growth for, humanity h as had to be "properly prepared." The world has had to be fully opened up; nations, east and west, knitted together into a whole of mutually interdependent parts; society consolidated; a spirit of concord and fraternity generated; the dross and rubble of current civilisation cleared away - processes which, these years past, have been in the doing, and the completing of which is being accomplished in the fiery crucible today. The race cannot march forwa rd, cannot attain a now grade of spiritual evolution, u ntil its iniquities have been burned up and put behind it. Let no one therefore lose, but rather take, courage in the presence of events which are apparently disastrous to all dreams and hopes of good. If they are the inevitable harvest of our past, they form the essential prelude to our better future. The ground must be swept and cleared before it can be built upon afresh. But the Hand that devastates also restores:-
I looked and lo! mid the decay The Wastor was the Builder too; And when the dust-cloud rolled away, And when the dust-cloud rooled away, I saw the new! (Browning)
The world and its institutions are now being subjected to trial and testing, and the testing will continue until such conditions are attained as make a now order of things possible. Years will yet go to it, but time, as we count it, moves at its own pace when the cosmic processes of Spirit-action are at work. Meanwhile, amid the break-up of all external things, an interior constructive work is going on, preparing upon the mental and psychic planes the conditions that will characterise the Aquarian age and t he evolutionary change in human consciousness upon the threshold of which we now stand.
Humanity has come at last - in recent years that coming has been silently, but enormously speeded up to be so closely knit, its units to be so mutually interdependent, as already to have developed what is spoken of as a social consciousness. The appropriation of the whole of the world's surface, the intellectual linking up of its several parts, rapid universal distribution of thought and ideas, annihilation of time and distance by scientific ingenuities, have all tended to expedite racial consolidation, until even the non-mystical "man in the street" has been forced into a crude and elementary perception of the mystical truth that humanity is a single organism of which every part is essential to the well-being of every other part, and that every ma n is indeed by the necessity of things, demonstrably his brother's keeper. Unquestionably this perception is a vast race gain, which has been brought about, not by deliberate adaptation of conduct to the theory or ideal of some doctrinaire, whether political or religious, but as a result of actual life-experience gained by contact with the conditions and force-currents that control human destiny. The great significance of this gain, however, lies in the fact that the perception of unity in respect of the ra ces external, material nature, is only the prelude to a larger vision; one which will disclose that not only the collective forms of men, but their aggregated inward being also, constitutes the Cosmic Temple of the Divine Spirit, the dwelling place of the Shekinah or Divine Presence. In the meantime it must be acknowledged that after a period of exhaustive investigation of his material environment, man finds himself at last flung back upon himself; he h as interrogated nature to the farthest reach of his nat ural faculties, and the result has been to bring him to an impasse. There now remains to him but one more kingdom to exploit - the kingdom which is within himself.
Since we are now standing on the threshold of the Age, it is time that we considered the position of our Craft and the part that Freemasonry has to play in the incoming cycle. During the next two thousand years the human race must penetrate deeply into the mysteries of Aquarius, which are the mysteries of Man. Hence, we Freemasons who have been solemnly exhorted to guide our reflections to "that most interesting of all human studies", must now take up in earnest that which our lips have so glibly repeated: "Man; know thyself". And step by step we must prove and demonstrate to the world the knowledge thus gained. In the fact that, amidst so much imperfect apprehension of its meaning and intention, Freemasonry should not only have survived but continues to make an ever-widening appeal to the imagination, exists the proof that, inherent in it, however deeply veiled, is a vibrant indestructible vital principle. That vital principle became implanted in the Masonic system same three centuries ago, but those wise, farseeing, unknown Founders who, as we have endeavoured to show (see Paper "Freemasonry; How, Whence & Whither?"), conceived and inspired the formation of the Order as a means of ensuring the perpetuation of the ancient Secret Doctrine through a period of darkness and disruption, and until such time as that Doctrine and the Mysteries that once taught it, can again be revived in a larger way . During the past two centu ries the Craft has been gradually developing from small and crude beginnings into its present vast and highly elaborated organisation. Its future development and the value of the Order as a moral force in society will depend upon the view that the members take of their system; if they fail to interpret its veiled purport, to enter into the understanding of its underlying philosophy, and to translate its symbolism into what is signified thereby, they will but secularise what was designed as a means of spiri tual instruction and grace. Freemasonry is closely linked with the message of Aquaria, and with the incoming of the new cycle we may confidently look forward to the restoration, in a form adapted to modern conditions, of the ancient Wisdom-teaching and the practice of those Mysteries of which Freemasonry is the direct and representative descendant. Indeed the place and office of Freemasonry cannot be adequately appreciated without acquaintance with the Mysteries of antiquity, for in the words of the poet:-
"Save by the old road none attain the new, And from the Ancient Hills alone we catch the view."