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The Ceremony of Initiation
Analysis and Commentary
W. L. Wilmshurst
P.M., P.A.G.D.C. (England) and P.P.G.W. (West Yorks.)
J. M. WATKINS, 21 Cecil Court, Charing Cross Road, London, W.C 2.
Summing up this examination of the Ceremony, then, we see its purpose is as follows. The first half of it designed to restore to Light (in the spiritual sense already explained) a Candidate who seeks Light from his heart and comes prepared in mind and person to receive it. The second and complementary half of it is meant to teach him who has been brought to that Light, how to retain it and increase it, so that he may never relapse into his former darkness.
In being initiated a Candidate is being vouchsafed an initial glimpse into supra-natural Light, but only a first glimpse; it rests with himself to prove worthy of it and to enlarge that temporary glimpse into wider and permanent vision. The Ceremony dramatises, in a few swift episodes and pregnant words, the “Apprentice” stage of the spiritual life; it inculcates that, with increasing self-purification and discipline of his material nature, the light of that spiritual Sun which burns and blazes at his own centre and which has now for the first time appeared above his conscious horizon, will manifest in ever-increasing power. As that Sun rises higher and higher within him, so will his own darkness become correspondingly dispelled, and his materialism spiritualised, and his personality transformed into a translucent vessel. “If thine eye (soul) be single (simple and unadulterated by passion and wrong notions), thy whole being will be full of Light.”
He is taught by that Light to see that the substratum of all things is Divine Law, Law which comprises physical, moral, and ultra-physical aspects, and in which the roots of his own being are integrated; and, therefore, in proportion as he unifies his personal will with the Universal Will and harmonizes his mind and conduct with their Cosmic Prototype, he must needs become a more perfect expression of them and a conscious collaborator with them. And because Love is the fulfilling of the Law, he is enjoined to cultivate that boundless charity and compassion towards all beings which bears, believes, hopes and endures all things, because it under stands the operation of that Law and sees clearly the end to which it is shaping us. Tout aimer, c’est tout comprendre.
The Apprentice stage of Masonry is, therefore, one of purification, education and self-control, which every Brother must work out and live out for himself. No amount of book knowledge or instruction from others can teach him what can be learned only from his own experience and effort. Even these notes, lengthy as they are, are but an elementary preface to far deeper aspects of Initiation than can be spoken of openly, yet which any ardent aspirant may come to learn as he proceeds. To tell the fuller truths about the subject would scare and discourage rather than enlighten and help; and for this reason the science is and always was a veiled and secret one.
One useful counsel may be added which the Candidate should observe if he wishes to progress. It is, never to measure what he finds within the Lodge by his own opinions or by the same standard of judgment that he applies to things without it. Many Brethren go wrong here by lacking humility and teachableness. They try to look at matters of the inner life with the same eyes as those of the outer life. They reserve their ideas of Masonry till they see how far they can square it with other views and beliefs that they hold, and they seek to apply their worldly wisdom to a wisdom which is hidden and not of this world, and their “common sense” to a subject requiring a special education and the use of a sense which in the present state of human evolution is far from common. But spiritual things must be spiritually discerned and not from the standpoint of unenlightened opinion and unspiritual perception.
He who enters the Lodge in quest of Light should leave all his previous learning behind him with his garments and loose the shoes of personal opinion from off his feet. He should think of himself as a child, and as being taken into a world of new sights and sounds, and where new ideas and even a different logic obtain from those with which he has previously been familiar, and where he must begin to recast his ideas and his life. Will his pride suffer him to stultify himself to this extent?
If it will not, he will but continue to darken his own light and the Craft can teach him nothing of value whatever titular rank he may attain in it. If it will, then he may hope to become an Initiate in tact as well as in name and to find his eyes opening to depth beyond depth of truth of which he is at present unconscious.
In the Mysteries of old the Candidate, because of his new birth into Light, was always spoken of as a “child” or a “little child,” and in the Sacred Volume which forms the chief textbook of our science we find how often, and for the same reason, such expressions as “the young man” and “little children” are employed.
It accords little with the modern mental temper to cast aside all one’s knowledge and preconceptions and reduce oneself to the docility, the naivete and single-mindedness of infancy. Yet these qualities still remain indispensible to the Candidate for Wisdom, and it still is not the learned, the critical, and the wordly-wise, but the “little children” who are suffered to come to the Light and are not forbidden from finding it, for of such are both the Kingdom of Heaven and the Craft of Masonry which is designed to lead to that Kingdom.
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