FREEMASONRY – THE ETERNAL QUEST
Manly Palmer Hall
The average Mason, as well as the modern student of Masonic ideals, little realizes the cosmic obligation he takes upon himself when he begins his search for the sacred truths of Nature as they are concealed in the ancient and modern rituals. He must not lightly regard his vows, and if he would not bring upon himself years and ages of suffering he must cease to consider Freemasonry solely as a social order only a few centuries old. He must realize that the ancient mystic teachings as perpetuated in the modern rites are sacred, and that powers unseen and unrecognized mold the destiny of those who consciously and of their own free will take upon themselves the obligations of the Fraternity.
Freemasonry is not a material thing: it is a science of the soul; it is not a creed or doctrine but a universal expression of the Divine Wisdom. The coming together of medieval guilds or even the building of Solomon’s temple as it is understood today has little, if anything, to do with the true origin of Freemasonry, for Masonry does not deal with personalities.
In its highest sense, it is neither historical nor archaeological, but is a divine symbolic language perpetuating under certain concrete symbols the sacred mysteries of the ancients. Only those who see in it a cosmic study, a life work, a divine inspiration to better thinking, better feeling, and better living, with the spiritual attainment of enlightenment as the end, and with the daily life of the true Mason as the means, have gained even the slightest insight into the true mysteries of the ancient rites. The age of the Masonic school is not to be calculated by hundreds or even thousands of years, for it never had any origin in the worlds of form. The world as we see it is merely an experimental laboratory in which man is laboring to build and express greater and more perfect vehicles. Into this laboratory pour myriads of rays descending from the cosmic hierarchies.
These mighty globes and orbs which focus their energies upon mankind and mold its destiny do so in an orderly manner, each in its own way and place, and it is the working of these mystic hierarchies in the universe which forms the pattern around which the Masonic school has been built, for the true lodge of the Mason is the universe. Freed of limitations of creed and sect, he stands a master of all faiths, and those who take up the study of Freemasonry without realizing the depth, the beauty, and the spiritual power of its philosophy can never gain anything of permanence from their studies. The age of the Mystery Schools can be traced by the student back to the dawn of time, ages and aeons ago, when the temple of the Solar Man was in the making. That was the first Temple of the King, and therein were given and laid down the true mysteries of the ancient lodge, and it was the gods of creation and the spirits of the dawn who first tiled the Master’s lodge. The initiated brother realizes that his so called symbols and rituals are merely blinds fabricated by the wise to perpetuate ideas incomprehensible to the average individual. He also realizes that few Masons of today know or appreciate the mystic meaning concealed within these rituals.
With religious faith we perpetuate the form, worshiping it instead of the life, but those who have not recognized the truth in the crystallized ritual, those who have not liberated the spiritual germ from the shell of empty words, are not Masons, regardless of their physical degrees and outward honors. In the work we are taking up it is not the intention to dwell upon the modern concepts of the Craft but to consider Freemasonry as it really is to those who know, a great cosmic organism whose true brothers and children are tied together not by spoken oaths but by lives so lived that they are capable of seeing through the blank wall and opening the window which is now concealed by the rubbish of materiality.
When this is done and the mysteries of the universe unfold before the aspiring candidate, then in truth he discovers what Freemasonry really is. Its material aspects interest him no longer for he has unmasked the Mystery School which he is capable of recognizing only when he himself has spiritually become a member of it. Those who have examined and studied its ancient lore have no doubt that Freemasonry, like the universe itself, which is the greatest of all schools, deals with the unfolding of a three-fold principle; for all the universe is governed by the same three kings who are called the builders of the Masonic temple. They are not personalities but principles, great intelligent energies and powers which in God, man, and the universe have charge of the molding of cosmic substance into the habitation of the living king , the temple built through the ages first of unconscious and then conscious effort on the part of every individual who is expressing in his daily life the creative principles of these three kings. The true brodaer of the ancient Craft realized that the completion of the temple he was building to the King of the Universe was a duty or rather a privilege which he owed to his God, to his brother, and to himself. He knew that certain steps must be taken and that his temple must be built according to the plan.
Today it seems that the plan is lost, however, for in the majority of cases Freemasonry is no longer an operative art but is merely a speculative idea until each brother, reading the mystery of hi s symbols and pondering over the beautiful allegories unfolded in his ritual, realizes that he himself contains the keys and the plans so long lost to his Craft and that if he would ever learn Freemasonry he must unlock its doors with the key wrought from the base metals of his own being. True Freemasonry is esoteric; it is not a thing of this world. All that we have here is a link, a doorway, through which the student may pass into the unknown. Freemasonry has nothing to do with things of form save that it realizes form is molded by and manifests the life it contains.
Consequently the student is seeking so to mold his life that the form will glorify the God whose temple he is slowly building as he awakens one by one the workmen within himself and directs them to carry out the plan that h as been given him out of heaven. So far as it is possible to discover, ancient Freemasonry and the beautiful cosmic allegories that it teaches, perpetuated through hundreds of lodges and ancient mysteries, forms the oldest of the Mystery Schools; and its preservation through the ages has not depended upon itself as an exoteric body of partly evolved individuals but upon a concealed brotherhood, the exoteric side of Freemasonry. All the great mystery, Schools have hierarchies upon the spiritual planes of Nature which are expressing themselves in this world through creeds and organizations. The true student seeks to lift himself from the exoteric body upward spiritually until he joins the esoteric group which, without a lodge on the physical plane of Nature, is far greater than all the lodges of which it is the central fire. The spiritual instructors of humanity are forced to labor in the concrete world with things comprehensible to the concrete mind, and there man begins to comprehend the meaning of the allegories and symbols which surround his exoteric work as soon as he prepares himself to receive them.
The true Mason realizes that the work of the Mystery Schools in the world is of an inclusive rather than an exclusive nature, and that the only lodge which is b road enough to express his ideals is one whose dome is the heavens, whose pillars are the corners of creation, whose checker-board floor is composed of the crossing currents of human emotion and whose altar is the human heart. Creeds cannot bind the true seeker for truth. Realizing the unity of all truth, the Mason also realizes that the hierarchies laboring with him have given him in his varying degrees the mystic spiritual rituals of all the Mystery Schools in the world, and if he would fill his place i n the plan he must not enter this sacred study for what he can get out of it but that he may learn how to serve. In Freemasonry is concealed the mystery of creation, the answer to the problem of existence, and the path the student must tread in order to join those who are really the living powers behind the thrones of modern national and international affairs.
The true student realizes most of all that the taking of degrees does not make a man a Mason. A Mason is not appointed; he is evolved and he must realize that the position he holds in the exoteric lodge means nothing compared to his position in the spiritual lodge of life. He must forever discard the idea that he can be told or instructed in the sacred Mysteries or that his being a member of an organization improves him in any way. He must realize that his duty is to build and evolve the sacred teachings in his own being: that nothing but his own purified being can unlock the door to the sealed libraries of human consciousness, and that his Masonic rites must eternally be speculative until he makes them operative by living the life of the mystic Mason. His karmic responsibilities increase with his opportunities. Those who are surrounded with knowledge and opportunity for self-improvement and make nothing of these opportunities are the lazy workmen who will be spiritually, if not physically, cast out of the temple of the king. The Masonic order is not a mere social organization, but is composed of all those who have banded themselves together to learn and apply the principles of mysticism and the occult rites.
They are (or should be) philosophers, sages and sober-minded individuals who have dedicated themselves upon the Masonic altar and vowed by all they hold dear that the world shall be better, wiser, and happier because they have lived. Those who enter these mystic rites and pass between the pillars seeking either prestige or commercial advantage are blasphemers, and while in this world we may count them as successful, they are the cosmic failures who have barred themselves out from the true rite whose keynote is unselfishness and whose workers have renounced the things of earth.
In ancient times many years of preparation were required before the neophyte was permitted to enter the temple of the Mysteries. In this way the shallow, the curious, the faint of heart, and those unable to withstand the temptations of life were automatically eliminated by their inability to meet the requirements for admission. The successful candidate wbo did pass between the pillars entered the temple, keenly realizing his sublime opportunity, his divine obligation, and the mystic privilege which he had earned for himself through years of special preparation.
Only those are truly Masons who enter their temple in reverence, who seek not the ephemeral things of life but the treasures which are eternal, whose sole desire is to know the true mystery of the Craft that they may join as honest workmen those who have gone before as builders of the Universal Temple. The Masonic ritual is not a ceremony, but a life to be lived. Those alone are truly Masons who, dedicating their lives and their fortunes upon the altar of the living flame, undertake the construction of the one universal building of which they are the workmen and their God the living Architect. When we have Masons like this the Craft will again be operative, the flaming triangle will shine forth with greater lustre, the dead builder will rise from his tomb, and the Lost Word so long concealed from the profane will blaze forth again with the power that makes all things new.