XVIII. KNIGHT ROSE CROIX.
[Prince Rose Croix.]
EACH of us makes such applications to his own faith and creed, of the symbols and ceremonies of this Degree, as seems to him proper. With these special interpretations we have here nothing to do. Like the legend of the Master Khu_ru_m, in which some see figured the condemnation and sufferings of Christ; others those of the unfortunate Grand Master of the Templars; others those of the first Charles, King of England; and others still the annual descent of the Sun at the winter Solstice to the regions of darkness, the basis of many an ancient legend; so the ceremonies of this Degree receive different explanations; each interpreting them for himself, and being offended at the interpretation of no other.
In no other way could Masonry possess its character of Universality; that character which has ever been peculiar to it from its origin; and which enables two Kings, worshippers of different Deities, to sit together as Masters, while the walls of the first temple arose; and the men of Gebal, bowing down to the Phœnician Gods, to work by the side of the Hebrews to whom those Gods were abomination; and to sit with them in the same Lodge as brethren.
You have already learned that these ceremonies have one general significance, to every one, of every faith, who believes in God, and the soul’s immortality.
The primitive men met in no Temples made with human hands. “God,” said Stephen, the first Martyr, “dwelleth not in Temples made with hands.” In the open air, under the overarching mysterious sky, in the great World-Temple, they uttered their vows and thanksgivings, and adored the God of Light; of that Light that was to them the type of Good, as darkness was the type of Evil.
All antiquity solved the enigma of the existence of Evil, by supposing the existence of a Principle of Evil, of Demons, fallen Angels, an Ahriman, a Typhon, a Siva, a Lok, or a Satan, that, first falling themselves, and plunged in misery and darkness, tempted man to his fall, and brought sin into the world. All believed in a future life, to be attained by purification and trials; in a state or successive states of reward and punishment; and in a Mediator or Redeemer, by whom the Evil Principle was to be overcome, and the Supreme Deity reconciled to His creatures. The belief was general, that He was to be born of a Virgin, and suffer a painful death. The Indians called him Chrishna; the Chinese, Kioun-tse; the Persians, Sosiosch; the Chaldeans, Dhouvanai; the Egyptians, Har-Oeri; Plato, Love; and the Scandinavians, Balder.
Chrishna, the Hindoo Redeemer, was cradled and educated among Shepherds. A Tyrant, at the time of his birth, ordered all the male children to be slain. He performed miracles, say his legends, even raising the dead. He washed the feet of the Brahmins, and was meek and lowly of spirit. He was born of a Virgin; descended to Hell, rose again, ascended to Heaven, charged his disciples to teach his doctrines, and gave them the gift of miracles.
The first Masonic Legislator whose memory is preserved to us by history, was Buddha, who, about a thousand years before the Christian era, reformed the religion of Manous. He called to the Priesthood all men, without distinction of caste, who felt themselves inspired by God to instruct men. Those who so associated themselves formed a Society of Prophets under the name of Samaneans. They recognized the existence of a single uncreated God, in whose bosom everything grows, is developed and transformed. The worship of this God reposed upon the obedience of all the beings He created. His feasts were those of the Solstices. The doctrines of Buddha pervaded India, China, and Japan. The Priests of Brahma, professing a dark and bloody creed, brutalized by Superstition, united together against Buddhism, and with the aid of Despotism, exterminated its followers. But their blood fertilized the new doctrine, which produced a new Society under the name of Gymnosophists; and a large number, fleeing to Ireland, planted their doctrines there, and there erected the round towers, some of which still stand, solid and unshaken as at first, visible monuments of the remotest ages.
The Phœnician Cosmogony, like all others in Asia, was the Word of God, written in astral characters, by the planetary Divinities, and communicated by the Demi-gods, as a profound mystery, to the brighter intelligences of Humanity, to be propagated by them among men. Their doctrines resembled the Ancient Sabeism, and being the faith of Hiram the King and his namesake the Artist, are of interest to all Masons. With them, the First Principle was half material, half spiritual, a dark air, animated and impregnated by the spirit; and a disordered chaos, covered with thick darkness. From this came the WORD, and thence creation and generation; and thence a race of men, children of light, who adored Heaven and its Stars as the Supreme Being; and whose different gods were but incarnations of the Sun, the Moon, the Stars, and the Ether. Chrysor was the great igneous power of Nature, and Baal and Malakarth representations of the Sun and Moon, the latter word, in Hebrew, meaning Queen.
Man had fallen, but not by the tempting of the serpent. For, with the Phœnicians, the serpent was deemed to partake of the Divine Nature, and was sacred, as he was in Egypt. He was deemed to be immortal, unless slain by violence, becoming young again in his old age, by entering into and consuming himself. Hence the Serpent in a circle, holding his tail in his mouth, was an emblem of eternity. With the head of a hawk he was of a Divine Nature, and a symbol of the sun. Hence one Sect of the Gnostics took him for their good genius, and hence the brazen serpent reared by Moses in the Desert, on which the Israelites looked and lived.
“Before the chaos, that preceded the birth of Heaven and Earth,” said the Chinese Lao-Tseu, “a single Being existed, immense and silent, immutable and always acting; the mother of the Universe. I know not the name of that Being, but I designate it by the word Reason. Man has his model in the earth, the earth in Heaven, Heaven in Reason, and Reason in itself.”
“I am,” says Isis, “Nature; parent of all things, the sovereign of the Elements, the primitive progeny of Time, the most exalted of the Deities, the first of the Heavenly Gods and Goddesses, the Queen of the Shades, the uniform countenance; who dispose with my rod the numerous lights of Heaven, the salubrious breezes of the sea, and the mournful silence of the dead; whose single Divinity the whole world venerates in many forms, with various rites and by many names. The Egyptians, skilled in ancient lore, worship me with proper ceremonies, and call me by my true name, Isis the Queen.”
‘The Hindu Vedas thus define the Deity:
“He who surpasses speech, and through whose power speech is expressed, know thou that He is Brahma; and not these perish-able things that man adores.
“He whom Intelligence cannot comprehend, and He alone, say the sages, through whose Power the nature of Intelligence can be understood, know thou that He is Brahma; and not these perish-able things that man adores.
“He who cannot be seen by the organ of sight, and through whose power the organ of seeing sees, know thou that He is Brahma; and not these perishable things that man adores.
“He who cannot be heard by the organ of hearing, and through whose power the organ of hearing hears, know thou that He is Brahma; and not these perishable things that man adores.
“He who cannot be perceived by the organ of smelling, and through whose power the organ of smelling smells, know thou that He is Brahma; and not these perishable things that man adores.”
“When God resolved to create the human race,” said Arius, “He made a Being that He called The WORD, The Son, Wisdom, to the end that this Being might give existence to men.” This WORD is the Ormuzd of Zoroaster, the Ainsoph of the Kabalah, the Νοῦς of Plato and Philo, the Wisdom or Demiourgos of the Gnostics.
That is the True Word, the knowledge of which our ancient brethren sought as the priceless reward of their labors on the Holy Temple: the Word of Life, the Divine Reason, “in whom was Life, and that Life the Light of men”; “which long shone in darkness, and the darkness comprehended it not;” the Infinite Reason that is the Soul of Nature, immortal, of which the Word of this Degree reminds us; and to believe wherein and revere it, is the peculiar duty of every Mason.
“In the beginning,” says the extract from some older work, with which John commences his Gospel, “was the Word, and the Word was near to God, and the Word was God. All things were made by Him, and without Him was not anything made that was made. In Him was Life, and the life was the Light of man; and the light shineth in darkness, and the darkness did not contain it.”
It is an old tradition that this passage was from an older work. And Philostorgius and Nicephorus state, that when the Emperor Julian undertook to rebuild the Temple, a stone was taken up, that covered the mouth of a deep square cave, into which one of the laborers, being let down by a rope, found in the centre of the floor a cubical pillar, on which lay a roll or book, wrapped in a fine linen cloth, in which, in capital letters, was the foregoing passage.
However this may have been, it is plain that John’s Gospel is a polemic against the Gnostics; and, stating at the outset the current doctrine in regard to the creation by the Word, he then addresses himself to show and urge that this Word was Jesus Christ.
And the first sentence, fully-rendered into our language, would read thus: “When the process of emanation, of creation or evolution of existences inferior to the Supreme God began, the Word came into existence and was: and this word was [τρος τον Θεον] near to God; i.e. the immediate or first emanation from God: and it was God Himself, developed or manifested in that particular mode, and in action. And by that Word everything that is was created.”–And thus Tertullian says that God made the World out of nothing, by means of His Word, Wisdom, or Power.
To Philo the Jew, as to the Gnostics, the Supreme Being was the Primitive Light, or Archetype of Light,–Source whence the rays emanate that illuminate Souls. He is the Soul of the World, and as such acts everywhere. He himself fills and bounds his whole existence, and his forces fill and penetrate everything. His Image is the WORD [LOGOS], a form more brilliant than fire, which is not pure light. This WORD dwells in God; for it is within His Intelligence that the Supreme Being frames for Himself the Types of Ideas of all that is to assume reality in the Universe. The WORD is the Vehicle by which God acts on the Universe; the World of Ideas by means whereof God has created visible things; the more Ancient God, as compared with the Material World; Chief and General Representative of all Intelligences; the Arch-angel, type and representative of all spirits, even those of Mortals; the type of Man; the primitive man himself. These ideas are borrowed from Plato. And this WORD is not only the Creator [“by Him was everything made that was made“], but acts in the place of God; and through him act all the Powers and Attributes of God. And also, as first representative of the human race, he is the protector of Men and their Shepherd, the “Ben H’Adam,” or Son of Man.
The actual condition of Man is not his primitive condition, that in which he was the image of the Word. His unruly passions have caused him to fall from his original lofty estate. But he may rise again, by following the teachings of Heavenly Wisdom, and the Angels whom God commissions to aid him in escaping from the entanglements of the body; and by fighting bravely against Evil, the existence of which God has allowed solely to furnish him with the means of exercising his free will.
The Supreme Being of the Egyptians was Amu_n, a secret and concealed God, the Unknown Father of the Gnostics, the Source of Divine Life, and of all force, the Plenitude of all, comprehending all things in Himself, the original Light. He creates nothing; but everything emanates from Him: and all other Gods are but his manifestations. From Him, by the utterance of a Word, emanated Neith, the Divine Mother of all things, the Primitive THOUGHT, the FORCE that puts everything in movement, the SPIRIT everywhere extended, the Deity of Light and Mother of the Sun.
Of this Supreme Being, Osiris was the image, Source of all Good in the moral and physical world, and constant foe of Typhon, the Genius of Evil, the Satan of Gnosticism, brute matter, deemed to be always at feud with the spirit that flowed from the Deity; and over whom Har-Geri, the Redeemer, Son of Isis and Osiris, is finally to prevail.
In the Zend-Avesta of the Persians the Supreme Being is Time without limit, ZERUANE AKHERENE.–No origin could be assigned to Him; for He was enveloped in His own Glory, and His Nature and Attributes were so inaccessible to human Intelligence, that He was but the object of a silent veneration. The commencement of Creation was by emanation from Him. The first emanation was the Primitive Light, and from this Light emerged Ormuzd, the King of Light, who, by the WORD, created the World in its purity, is its Preserver and Judge, a Holy and Sacred Being, Intelligence and Knowledge, Himself Time without limit, and wielding all the powers of the Supreme Being.
In this Persian faith, as taught many centuries before our era, and embodied in the Zend-Avesta, there was in man a pure Principle, proceeding from the Supreme Being, produced by the Will and Word of Ormuzd. To that was united an impure principle, proceeding from a foreign influence, that of Ahriman, the Dragon, or principle of Evil. Tempted by Ahriman, the first man and woman had fallen; and for twelve thousand years there was to be war between Ormuzd and the Good Spirits created by him, and Ahriman and the Evil ones whom he had called into existence.
But pure souls are assisted by the Good Spirits, the Triumph of the Good Principle is determined upon in the decrees of the Supreme Being, and the period of that triumph will infallibly arrive. At the moment when the earth shall be most afflicted with the evils brought upon it by the Spirits of perdition, three Prophets will appear to bring assistance to mortals. Sosiosch, Chief of the Three, will regenerate the world, and restore to it its primitive Beauty, Strength, and Purity. He will judge the good and the wicked. After the universal resurrection of the Good, the pure Spirits will conduct them to an abode of eternal happiness. Ahriman, his evil Demons, and all the world, will be purified in a torrent of liquid burning metal. The Law of Ormuzd will rule everywhere: all men will be happy: all, enjoying an unalterable bliss, will unite with Sosiosch in singing the praises of the Supreme Being.
These doctrines, with some modifications, were adopted by the Kabalists and afterward by the Gnostics.
Apollonius of Tyana says: “We shall render the most appropriate worship to the Deity, when to that God whom we call the First, who is One, and separate from all, and after whom we recognize the others, we present no offerings whatever, kindle to Him no fire, dedicate to Him no sensible thing; for he needs nothing, even of all that natures more exalted than ours could give. The earth produces no plant, the air nourishes no animal, there is in short nothing, which would not be impure in his sight. In ad-dressing ourselves to Him, we must use only the higher word, that, I mean, which is not expressed by the mouth, the silent inner word of the spirit From the most Glorious of all Beings, we must seek for blessings, by that which is most glorious in ourselves; and that is the spirit, which needs no organ.”
Strabo says: “This one Supreme Essence is that which embraces us all, the water and the land, that which we call the Heavens, the World, the Nature of things. This Highest Being should be worshipped, without any visible image, in sacred groves. In such retreats the devout should lay themselves down to sleep, and expect signs from God in dreams.”
Aristotle says: “It has been handed down in a mythical form, from the earliest times to posterity, that there are Gods, and that The Divine compasses entire nature. All besides this has been added, after the mythical style, for the purpose of persuading the multitude, and for the interest of the laws and the advantage of the State. Thus men have given to the Gods human forms, and have even represented them under the figure of other beings, in the train of which fictions followed many more of the same sort. But if, from all this, we separate the original principle, and consider it alone, namely, that the first Essences are Gods, we shall find that this has been divinely said; and since it is probable that philosophy and the arts have been several times, so far as that is possible, found and lost, such doctrines may have been preserved to our times as the remains of ancient wisdom.”
Porphyry says: “By images addressed to sense, the ancients represented God and his powers–by the visible they typified the invisible for those who had learned to read, in these types, as in a book, a treatise on the Gods. We need not wonder if the ignorant consider the images to be nothing more than wood or stone; for just so, they who are ignorant of writing see nothing in monuments but stone, nothing in tablets but wood, and in books but a tissue of papyrus.”
Apollonius of Tyana held, that birth and death are only in appearance; that which separates itself from the one substance (the one Divine essence), and is caught up by matter, seems to be born; that, again, which releases itself from the bonds of matter, and is reunited with the one Divine Essence, seems to die. There is, at most, an alteration between becoming visible and becoming invisible. In all there is, properly speaking, but the one essence, which alone acts and suffers, by becoming all things to all; the Eternal God, whom men wrong, when they deprive Him of what properly can be attributed to Him only, and transfer it to other names and persons.
The New Platonists substituted the idea of the Absolute, for the Supreme Essence itself;–as the first, simplest principle, anterior to all existence; of which nothing determinate can be predicated; to which no consciousness, no self-contemplation can be ascribed; inasmuch as to do so, would immediately imply a quality, a distinction of subject and object. This Supreme Entity can be known only by an intellectual intuition of the Spirit, transcending itself, and emancipating itself from its own limits.
This mere logical tendency, by means of which men thought to arrive at the conception of such an absolute, the ὄν, was united with a certain mysticism, which, by a transcendent state of feeling, communicated, as it were, to this abstraction what the mind would receive as a reality. The absorption of the Spirit into that superexistence (τὸ ἐπέκεινα τῆς οὐσίας), so as to be entirely identified with it, or such a revelation of the latter to the spirit raised above itself, was regarded as the highest end which the spiritual life could reach.
The New Platonists’ idea of God, was that of One Simple Original Essence, exalted above all plurality and all becoming; the only true Being; unchangeable, eternal [Ἑις ὤν ἑνὶ τῷ νῦν τὸ ἀεὶ πεπλήρωκε καὶ μόνον ἐστι τὸ κατὰ τοῦτον ὄντως ὣν.]: from whom all Existence in its several gradations has emanated–the world of Gods, as nearest akin to Himself, being first, and at the head of all. In these Gods, that perfection, which in the Supreme Essence was inclosed and unevolved, is expanded and becomes knowable. They serve to exhibit in different forms the image of that Supreme Essence, to which no soul can rise, except by the loftiest flight of contemplation; and after it has rid itself from all that pertains to sense–from all manifoldness. They are the mediators between man (amazed and stupefied by manifoldness) and the Supreme Unity.
Philo says: “He who disbelieves the miraculous, simply as the miraculous, neither knows God, nor has he ever sought after Him; for otherwise he would have understood, by looking at that truly great and awe-inspiring sight, the miracle of the Universe, that these miracles (in God’s providential guidance of His people) are but child’s play for the Divine Power. But the truly miraculous has become despised through familiarity. The universal, on the contrary, although in itself insignificant, yet, through our love of novelty, transports us with amazement.”
In opposition to the anthropopathism of the Jewish Scriptures, the Alexandrian Jews endeavored to purify the idea of God from all admixture of the Human. By the exclusion of every human passion, it was sublimated to a something devoid of all attributes, and wholly transcendental; and the mere Being [ὄν], the Good, in and by itself, the Absolute of Platonism, was substituted for the personal Deity [ו ?Y?H?W?H] of the Old Testament. By soaring upward, beyond all created existence, the mind, disengaging itself from the Sensible, attains to the intellectual intuition of this Absolute Being; of whom, however, it can predicate nothing but existence, and sets aside all other determinations as not answering to the exalted nature of the Supreme Essence.
Thus Philo makes a distinction between those who are in the proper sense Sons of God, having by means of contemplation raised themselves to the highest Being, or attained to a knowledge of Him, in His immediate self-manifestation, and those who know God only in his mediate revelation through his operation–such as He declares Himself in creation–in the revelation still veiled in the letter of Scripture–those, in short, who attach themselves simply to the Logos, and consider this to be the Supreme God; who are the sons of the Logos, rather than of the True Being, ὄν.
“God,” says Pythagoras, “is neither the object of sense, nor subject to passion, but invisible, only intelligible, and supremely intelligent. In His body He is like the light, and in His soul He resembles truth. He is the universal spirit that pervades and diffuseth itself over all nature. All beings receive their life from Him. There is but one only God, who is not, as some are apt to imagine, seated above the world, beyond the orb of the Universe; but being Himself all in all, He sees all the beings that fill His immensity; the only Principle, the Light of Heaven, the Father of all. He produces everything; He orders and disposes everything; He is the REASON, the LIFE, and the MOTION of all being.”
“I am the LIGHT of the world; he that followeth Me shall not walk in DARKNESS, but shall have the LIGHT of LIFE.” So said the Founder of the Christian Religion, as His words are reported by John the Apostle.
God, say the sacred writings of the Jews, appeared to Moses in a FLAME OF FIRE, in the midst of a bush, which was not consumed. He descended upon Mount Sinai, as the smoke of a furnace; He went before the children of Israel, by day, in a pillar of cloud, and, by night, in a pillar of fire, to give them light. “Call you on the name of your Gods,” said Elijah the Prophet to the Priests of Baal, “and I will call upon the name of ADONAI; and the God that answereth by fire, let him be God.”
According to the Kabalah, as according to the doctrines of Zoroaster, everything that exists has emanated from a source of infinite light. Before all things, existed the Primitive Being, THE ANCIENT OF DAYS, the Ancient King of Light; a title the more remarkable, because it is frequently given to the Creator in the Zend-Avesta, and in the Code of the Sabeans, and occurs in the Jewish Scriptures.
The world was His Revelation, God revealed; and subsisted only in Him. His attributes were there reproduced with various modifications and in different degrees; so that the Universe was His Holy Splendor, His Mantle. He was to be adored in silence; and perfection consisted in a nearer approach to Him.
Before the creation of worlds, the PRIMITIVE LIGHT filled all space, so that there was no void. When the Supreme Being, existing in this Light, resolved to display His perfections, or manifest them in worlds, He withdrew within Himself, formed around Him a void space, and shot forth His first emanation, a ray of light; the cause and principle of everything that exists, uniting both the generative and conceptive power, which penetrates everything, and without which nothing could subsist for an instant.
Man fell, seduced by the Evil Spirits most remote from the Great King of Light; those of the fourth world of spirits, Asiah, whose chief was Belial. They wage incessant war against the pure Intelligences of the other worlds, who, like the Amshaspands. Izeds, and Ferouers of the Persians are the tutelary guardians of man. In the beginning, all was unison and harmony; full of the same divine light and perfect purity. The Seven Kings of Evil fell, and the Universe was troubled. Then the Creator took from the Seven Kings the principles of Good and of Light, and divided them among the four worlds of Spirits, giving to the first three the Pure Intelligences, united in love and harmony, while to the fourth were vouchsafed only some feeble glimmerings of light.
When the strife between these and the good angels shall have continued the appointed time, and these Spirits enveloped in darkness shall long and in vain have endeavored to absorb the Divine light and life, then will the Eternal Himself come to correct them. He will deliver them from the gross envelopes of matter that hold them captive, will re-animate and strengthen the ray of light or spiritual nature which they have preserved, and re-establish throughout the Universe that primitive Harmony which was its bliss.
Marcion, the Gnostic, said, “The Soul of the True Christian, adopted as a child by the Supreme Being, to whom it has long been a stranger, receives from Him the Spirit and Divine life. It is led and confirmed, by this gift, in a pure and holy life, like that of God; and if it so completes its earthly career, in charity, chastity, and sanctity, it will one day be disengaged from its material envelope, as the ripe grain is detached from the straw, and as the young bird escapes from its shell. Like the angels, it will share in the bliss of the Good and Perfect Father, re-clothed in an aerial body or organ, and made like unto the Angels in Heaven.”
You see, my brother, what is the meaning of Masonic “Light.” You see why the EAST of the Lodge, where the initial letter of the Name of the Deity overhangs the Master, is the place of Light. Light, as contradistinguished from darkness, is Good, as contradistinguished from Evil: and it is that Light, the true knowledge of Deity, the Eternal Good, for which Masons in all ages have sought. Still Masonry marches steadily onward toward that Light that shines in the great distance, the Light of that day when Evil, overcome and vanquished, shall fade away and disappear forever, and Life and Light be the one law of the Universe, and its eternal Harmony.
The Degree of Rose ✠ teaches three things;–the unity, immutability and goodness of God; the immortality of the Soul; and the ultimate defeat and extinction of evil and wrong and sorrow, by a Redeemer or Messiah, yet to come, if he has not already appeared.
It replaces the three pillars of the old Temple, with three that have already been explained to you,–Faith [in God, mankind, and man’s self], Hope [in the victory over evil, the advancement of Humanity, and a hereafter], and Charity [relieving the wants. and tolerant of the errors and faults of others]. To be trustful, to be hopeful, to be indulgent; these, in an age of selfishness, of it opinion of human nature, of harsh and bitter judgment, are the most important Masonic Virtues, and the true supports of every Masonic Temple. And they are the old pillars of the Temple under different names. For he only is wise who judges others charitably; he only is strong who is hopeful; and there is no beauty like a firm faith in God, our fellows and ourself.
The second apartment, clothed in mourning, the columns of the Temple shattered and prostrate, and the brethren bowed down in the deepest dejection, represents the world under the tyranny of the Principle of Evil; where virtue is persecuted and vice rewarded; where the righteous starve for bread, and the wicked live sumptuously and dress in purple and fine linen; where insolent ignorance rules, and learning and genius serve; where King and Priest trample on liberty and the rights of conscience; where freedom hides in caves and mountains, and sycophancy and servility fawn and thrive; where the cry of the widow and the orphan starving for want of food, and shivering with cold, rises ever to Heaven, from a million miserable hovels; where men, willing to labor, and starving, they and their children and the wives of their bosoms, beg plaintively for work, when the pampered capitalist stops his mills; where the law punishes her who, starving, steals a loaf, and lets the seducer go free; where the success of a party justifies murder, and violence and rapine go unpunished; and where he who with many years’ cheating and grinding the faces of the poor grows rich, receives office and honor in life, and after death brave funeral and a splendid mausoleum:–this world, where, since its making, war has never ceased, nor man paused in the sad task of torturing and murdering his brother; and of which ambition, avarice, envy, hatred, lust, and the rest of Ahriman’s and Typhon’s army make a Pandemonium: this world, sunk in sin, reeking with baseness, clamorous with sorrow and misery. If any see in it also a type of the sorrow of the Craft for the death of Hiram, the grief of the Jews at the fall of Jerusalem, the misery of the Templars at the ruin of their order and the death of De Molay, or the world’s agony and pangs of woe at the death of the Redeemer, it is the right of each to do so.
The third apartment represents the consequences of sin and vice, and the hell made of the human heart, by its fiery passions. If any see in it also a type of the Hades of the Greeks, the Gehenna of the Hebrews, the Tartarus of the Romans, or the Hell of the Christians, or only of the agonies of remorse and the tortures of an upbraiding conscience, it is the right of each to do so.
The fourth apartment represents the Universe, freed from the insolent dominion and tyranny of the Principle of Evil, and brilliant with the true Light that flows from the Supreme Deity; when sin and wrong, and pain and sorrow, remorse and misery shall be no more forever; when the great plans of Infinite Eternal Wisdom shall be fully developed; and all God’s creatures, seeing that all apparent evil and individual suffering and wrong were but the drops that went to swell the great river of infinite goodness, shall know that vast as is the power of Deity, His goodness and beneficence are infinite as His power. If any see in it a type of the peculiar mysteries of any faith or creed, or an allusion to any past occurrences, it is their right to do so. Let each apply its symbols as he pleases. To all of us they typify the universal rule of Masonry,–of its three chief virtues, Faith, Hope and Charity; of brotherly love and universal benevolence. We labor here to no other end. These symbols need no other interpretation.
The obligations of our Ancient Brethren of the Rose ✠ were to fulfill all the duties of friendship, cheerfulness, charity, peace, liberality, temperance and chastity: and scrupulously to avoid impurity, haughtiness, hatred, anger, and every other kind of vice. They took their philosophy from the old Theology of the Egyptians, as Moses and Solomon had done, and borrowed its hieroglyphics and the ciphers of the Hebrews. Their principal rules were, to exercise the profession of medicine charitably and without fee, to advance the cause of virtue, enlarge the sciences, and induce men to live as in the primitive times of the world.
When this Degree had its origin, it is not important to inquire; nor with what different rites it has been practised in different countries and at various times. It is of very high antiquity. Its ceremonies differ with the degrees of latitude and longitude, and it receives variant interpretations. If we were to examine all the different ceremonials, their emblems, and their formulas, we should see that all that belongs to the primitive and essential elements of the order, is respected in every sanctuary. All alike practise virtue, that it may produce fruit. All labor, like us, for the extirpation of vice, the purification of man, the development of the arts and sciences, and the relief of humanity.
None admit an adept to their lofty philosophical knowledge, and mysterious sciences, until he has been purified at the altar of the symbolic Degrees. Of what importance are differences of opinion as to the age and genealogy of the Degree, or variance in the practice, ceremonial and liturgy, or the shade of color of the banner under which each tribe of Israel marched, if all revere the Holy Arch of the symbolic Degrees, first and unalterable source of Free-Masonry; if all revere our conservative principles, and are with us in the great purposes of our organization?
If, anywhere, brethren of a particular religious belief have been excluded from this Degree, it merely shows how gravely the purposes and plan of Masonry may be misunderstood. For whenever the door of any Degree is closed against him who believes in one God and the soul’s immortality, on account of the other tenets of his faith, that Degree is Masonry no longer. No Mason has the right to interpret the symbols of this Degree for another, or to refuse him its mysteries, if he will not take them with the explanation and commentary superadded.
Listen, my brother, to our explanation of the symbols of the Degree, and then give them such further interpretation as you think fit.
The Cross has been a sacred symbol from the earliest Antiquity. It is found upon all the enduring monuments of the world, in Egypt, in Assyria, in Hindostan, in Persia, and on the Buddhist towers of Ireland. Buddha was said to have died upon it. The Druids cut an oak into its shape and held it sacred, and built their temples in that form. Pointing to the four quarters of the world, it was the symbol of universal nature. It was on a cruciform tree, that Chrishna was said to have expired, pierced with arrows. It was revered in Mexico.
But its peculiar meaning in this Degree, is that given to it by the Ancient Egyptians. Thoth or Phtha is represented on the oldest monuments carrying in his hand the Crux Ansata, or Ankh, [a Tau cross, with a ring or circle over it]. He is so seen on the double tablet of Shufu and Noh Shufu, builders of the greatest of the Pyramids, at Wady Meghara, in the peninsula of Sinai. It was the hieroglyphic for life, and with a triangle prefixed meant life-giving. To us therefore it is the symbol of Life–of that life that emanated from the Deity, and of that Eternal Life for which we all hope; through our faith in God’s infinite goodness.
The ROSE, was anciently sacred to Aurora and the Sun. It is a symbol of Dawn, of the resurrection of Light and the renewal of life, and therefore of the dawn of the first day, and more particularly of the resurrection: and the Cross and Rose together are therefore hieroglyphically to be read, the Dawn of Eternal Life which all Nations have hoped for by the advent of a Redeemer.
The Pelican feeding her young is an emblem of the large and bountiful beneficence of Nature, of the Redeemer of fallen man, and of that humanity and charity that ought to distinguish a Knight of this Degree.
The Eagle was the living Symbol of the Egyptian God Mendes or Menthra, whom Sesostris-Ramses made one with Amun-Re, the God of Thebes and Upper Egypt, and the representative of the Sun, the word RE meaning Sun or King.
The Compass surmounted with a crown signifies that notwithstanding the high rank attained in Masonry by a Knight of the Rose Croix, equity and impartiality are invariably to govern his conduct.
To the word INRI, inscribed on the Crux Ansata over the Master’s Seat, many meanings have been assigned. The Christian Initiate reverentially sees in it the initials of the inscription upon the cross on which Christ suffered–Jesus Nazarenus Rex Iudæorum. The sages of Antiquity connected it with one of the greatest secrets of Nature, that of universal regeneration. They interpreted it thus, Igne Natura renovator integra; [entire nature is renovated by fire]: The Alchemical or Hermetic Masons framed for it this aphorism, Igne nitrum roris invenitur. And the Jesuits are charged with having applied to it this odious axiom, Justum necare reges impios. The four letters are the initials of the Hebrew words that represent the four elements–Iammim, the seas or water; Nour, fire; Rouach, the air, and Iebeschah, the dry earth. How we read it, I need not repeat to you.
The Cross, ×, was the Sign of the Creative Wisdom or Logos, the Son of God. Plato says, “He expressed him upon the Universe in the figure of the letter X. The next Power to the Supreme God was decussated or figured in the shape of a Cross on the Universe.” Mithras signed his soldiers on the forehead with a Cross. is the mark of 600, the mysterious cycle of the Incarnations. We constantly see the Tau and the Resh united thus . These two letters, in the old Samaritan, as found in Arius, stand, the first for 400, the second for 200=600. This is the Staff of Osiris, also, and his monogram, and was adopted by the Christians as a Sign. On a medal of Constantius is this inscription, “In hoc signo victor eris .”An inscription in the Duomo at Milan reads, ” et Christi • Nomina • Sancta • Teneï.” The Egyptians used as a Sign of their God Canobus, a or a indifferently. The Vaishnavas of India have also the same Sacred Tau, which they also mark with Crosses, thus , and with triangles, thus, . The vestments of the priests of Horns were covered with these Crosses . So was the dress of the Lama of Thibet. The Sectarian marks of the Jains are The distinctive badge of the Sect of Xac Japonicus is . It is the Sign of Fo, identical with the Cross of Christ. On the ruins of Mandore, in India, among other mystic emblems, are the mystic triangle, and the interlaced triangle, , This is also found on ancient coins and medals, excavated from the ruins of Oojein and other ancient cities of India.
You entered here amid gloom and into shadow, and are clad in the apparel of sorrow. Lament, with us, the sad condition of the Human race, in this vale of tears! the calamities of men and the agonies of nations! the darkness of the bewildered soul, oppressed by doubt and apprehension!
There is no human soul that is not sad at times. There is no thoughtful soul that does not at times despair. There is perhaps none, of all that think at all of anything beyond the needs and interests of the body, that is not at times startled and terrified by the awful questions which, feeling as though it were a guilty thing for doing so, it whispers to itself in its inmost depths. Some Demon seems to torture it with doubts, and to crush it with despair, asking whether, after all, it is certain that its convictions are true, and its faith well founded: whether it is indeed sure that a God of Infinite Love and Beneficence rules the Universe, or only some great remorseless Fate and iron Necessity, hid in impenetrable gloom, and to which men and their sufferings and sorrows, their hopes and joys, their ambitions and deeds, are of no more interest or importance than the motes that dance in the sunshine; or a Being that amuses Himself with the incredible vanity and folly, the writhings and contortions of the insignificant insects that compose Humanity, and idly imagine that they resemble the Omnipotent. “What are we,” the Tempter asks, “but puppets in a show-box? O Omnipotent destiny, pull our strings gently! Dance us mercifully off our miserable little stage!”
“Is it not,” the Demon whispers, “merely the inordinate vanity of man that causes him now to pretend to himself that he is like unto God in intellect, sympathies and passions, as it was that which, at the beginning, made him believe that he was, in his bodily shape and organs, the very image of the Deity? Is not his God merely his own shadow, projected in gigantic outlines upon the clouds? Does he not create for himself a God out of himself, by merely adding indefinite extension to his own faculties, powers, and passions?”
“Who,” the Voice that will not be always silent whispers, “has ever thoroughly satisfied himself with his own arguments in respect to his own nature? Who ever demonstrated to himself, with a conclusiveness that elevated the belief to certainty, that he was an immortal spirit, dwelling only temporarily in the house and envelope of the body, and to live on forever after that shall have decayed? Who ever has demonstrated or ever can demonstrate that the intellect of Man differs from that of the wiser animals, otherwise than in degree? Who has ever done more than to utter nonsense and incoherencies in regard to the difference between the instincts of the dog and the reason of Man? The horse, the dog, the elephant, are as conscious of their identity as we are. They think, dream, remember, argue with themselves, devise, plan, and reason. What is the intellect and intelligence of the man but the intellect of the animal in a higher degree or larger quantity?” In the real explanation of a single thought of a dog, all metaphysics will be condensed.
And with still more terrible significance, the Voice asks, in what respect the masses of men, the vast swarms of the human race, have proven themselves either wiser or better than the animals in whose eyes a higher intelligence shines than in their dull, unintellectual orbs; in what respect they have proven themselves worthy of or suited for an immortal life. Would that be a prize of any value to the vast majority? Do they show, here upon earth, any capacity to improve, any fitness for a state of existence in which they could not crouch to power, like hounds dreading the lash, or tyrannize over defenceless weakness; in which they could not hate, and persecute, and torture, and exterminate; in which they could not trade, and speculate, and over-reach, and entrap the unwary and cheat the confiding and gamble and thrive, and sniff with self-righteousness at the short-comings of others, and thank God that they were not like other men? What, to immense numbers of men, would be the value of a Heaven where they could not lie and libel, and ply base avocations for profitable returns?
Sadly we look around us, and read the gloomy and dreary records of the old dead and rotten ages. More than eighteen centuries have staggered away into the spectral realm of the Past, since Christ, teaching the Religion of Love, was crucified, that it might become a Religion of Hate; and His Doctrines are not yet even nominally accepted as true by a fourth of mankind. Since His death, what incalculable swarms of human beings have lived and died in total unbelief of all that we deem essential to Salvation! What multitudinous myriads of souls, since the darkness of idolatrous superstition settled down, thick and impenetrable, upon the earth, have flocked up toward the eternal Throne of God, to receive His judgment?
The Religion of Love proved to be, for seventeen long centuries, as much the Religion of Elate, and infinitely more the Religion of Persecution, than Mahometanism, its unconquerable rival. Heresies grew up before the Apostles died; and God hated the Nicolaitans, while John, at Patmos, proclaimed His coming wrath. Sects wrangled, and each, as it gained the power, persecuted the other, until the soil of the whole Christian world was watered with the blood, and fattened on the flesh, and whitened with the bones, of martyrs, and human ingenuity, was taxed to its utmost to invent new modes by which tortures and agonies could be pro-longed and made more exquisite.
“By what right,” whispers the Voice, ‘”does this savage, merciless, persecuting animal, to which the sufferings and writhings of others of its wretched kind furnish the most pleasurable sensations, and the mass of which care only to eat, sleep, be clothed, and wallow in sensual pleasures, and the best of which wrangle, hate, envy, and, with few exceptions, regard their own interests alone,–with what right does it endeavor to delude itself into the conviction that it is not an animal, as the wolf, the hyena, and the tiger are, but a somewhat nobler, a spirit destined to be immortal, a spark of the essential Light, Fire and Reason, which are God? What other immortality than one of selfishness could this creature enjoy? Of what other is it capable? Must not immortality commence here and is not life a part of it? How shall death change the base nature of the base soul? Why have not those other animals that only faintly imitate the wanton, savage, human cruelty and thirst for blood, the same right as man has, to expect a resurrection and an Eternity of existence, or a Heaven of Love?
The world improves. Man ceases to persecute,–when the persecuted become too numerous and strong, longer to submit to it. That source of pleasure closed, men exercise the ingenuities of their cruelty on the animals and other living things below them. To deprive other creatures of the life which God gave them, and this not only that we may eat their flesh for food, but out of mere savage wantonness, is the agreeable employment and amusement of man, who prides himself on being the Lord of Creation, and a little lower than the Angels. If he can no longer use the rack, the gibbet, the pincers, and the stake, he can hate, and slander, and delight in the thought that he will, hereafter, luxuriously enjoying the sensual beatitudes of Heaven, see with pleasure the writhing agonies of those justly damned for daring to hold opinions contrary to his own, upon subjects totally beyond the comprehension both of them and him.
Where the armies of the despots cease to slay and ravage, the armies of “Freedom” take their place, and, the black and white commingled, slaughter and burn and ravish. Each age re-enacts the crimes as well as the follies of its predecessors, and still war licenses outrage and turns fruitful lands into deserts, and God is thanked in the Churches for bloody butcheries, and the remorseless devastators, even when swollen by plunder, are crowned with laurels and receive ovations.
Of the whole of mankind, not one in ten thousand has any aspirations beyond the daily needs of the gross animal life. In this age and in all others, all men except a few, in most countries, are born to be mere beasts of burden, co-laborers with the horse and the ox. Profoundly ignorant, even in “civilized” lands, they think and reason like the animals by the side of which they toil. For them, God, Soul, Spirit, immortality, are mere words, without any real meaning. The God of nineteen-twentieths of the Christian world is only Bel, Moloch, Zeus, or at best Osiris, Mithras, or Adonaï, under another name, worshipped with the old Pagan ceremonies and ritualistic formulas. it is the Statue of Olympian Jove, worshipped as the Father, in the Christian Church that was a Pagan Temple; it is the Statue of Venus, become the Virgin Mary. For the most part, men do not in their hearts believe that God is either just or merciful. They fear and shrink from His lightnings and dread his wrath. For the most part, they only think they believe that there is another life, a judgment, and a punishment for sin. Yet they will none the less persecute as Infidels and Atheists those who do not believe what they themselves imagine they believe, and which yet they do not believe, because it is incomprehensible to them in their ignorance and want of intellect. To the vast majority of mankind, God is but the reflected image, in infinite space, of the earthly Tyrant on his Throne, only more powerful, more inscrutable, and more implacable. To curse Humanity, the Despot need only be, what the popular mind has, in every age, imagined God.
In the great cities, the lower strata of the populace are equally without faith and without hope. The others have, for the most part, a mere blind faith, imposed by education and circumstances, and not as productive of moral excellence or even common honesty as Mohammedanism. “Your property will be safe here,” said the Moslem; “There are no Christians here.” The philosophical and scientific world becomes daily more and more unbelieving. Faith and Reason are not opposites, in equilibrium; but antagonistic and hostile to each other; the result being the darkness and despair of scepticism, avowed, or half-veiled as rationalism.
Over more than three-fourths of the habitable globe, humanity still kneels, like the camels, to take upon itself the burthens to be tamely borne for its tyrants. If a Republic occasionally rises like a Star, it hastens with all speed to set in blood. The kings need not make war upon it, to crush it out of their way. It is only necessary to let it alone, and it soon lays violent hands upon itself. And when a people long enslaved shake off its fetters, it may well be incredulously asked,
Shall the braggart shout
For some blind glimpse of Freedom, link itself,
Through madness, hated by the wise, to law,
System and Empire?
Everywhere in the world labor is, in some shape, the slave of capital; generally, a slave to be fed only so long as he can work; or, rather, only so long as his work is profitable to the owner of the human chattel. There are famines in Ireland, strikes and starvation in England, pauperism and tenement-dens in New York, misery, squalor, ignorance, destitution, the brutality of vice and the insensibility to shame, of despairing beggary, in all the human cesspools and sewers everywhere. Here, a sewing-woman famishes and freezes; there, mothers murder their children, that those spared may live upon the bread purchased with the burial allowances of the dead starveling; and at the next door young girls prostitute themselves for food.
Moreover, the Voice says, this besotted race is not satisfied with seeing its multitudes swept away by the great epidemics whose causes are unknown, and of the justice or wisdom of which the human mind cannot conceive. It must also be ever at war. There has not been a moment since men divided into Tribes, when all the world was at peace. Always men have been engaged in murdering each other somewhere. Always the armies have lived by the toil of the husbandman, and war has exhausted the resources, wasted the energies, and ended the prosperity of Nations. Now it loads unborn posterity with crushing debt, mortgages all estates, and brings upon States the shame and infamy of dishonest repudiation.
At times, the baleful fires of war light up half a Continent at once; as when all the Thrones unite to compel a people to receive again a hated and detestable dynasty, or States deny States the right to dissolve an irksome union and create for themselves a separate government. Then again the flames flicker and die away, and the fire smoulders in its ashes, to break out again, after a time, with renewed and a more concentrated fury. At times, the storm, revolving, howls over small areas only; at times its lights are seen, like the old beacon-fires on the hills, belting the whole globe. No sea, but hears the roar of cannon; no river, but runs red with blood; no plain, but shakes, trampled by the hoofs of charging squadrons; no field, but is fertilized by the blood of the dead; and everywhere man slays, the vulture gorges, and the wolf howls in the ear of the dying soldier. No city is not tortured by shot and shell; and no people fail to enact the horrid blasphemy of thanking a God of Love for victories and carnage. Te Deums are still sung for the Eve of St. Bartholomew and the Sicilian Vespers. Man’s ingenuity is racked, and all his inventive powers are tasked, to fabricate the infernal enginery of destruction, by which human bodies may be the more expeditiously and effectually crushed, shattered, torn, and mangled; and yet hypocritical Humanity, drunk with blood and drenched with gore, shrieks to Heaven at a single murder, perpetrated to gratify a revenge not more unchristian, or to satisfy a cupidity not more ignoble, than those which are the promptings of the Devil in the souls of Nations.
When we have fondly dreamed of Utopia and the Millennium, when we have begun almost to believe that man is not, after all, a tiger half tamed, and that the smell of blood will not wake the savage within him, we are of a sudden startled from the delusive dream, to find the thin mask of civilization rent in twain and thrown contemptuously away. We lie down to sleep, like the peasant on the lava-slopes of Vesuvius. The mountain has been so long inert, that we believe its fires extinguished. Round us hang the clustering grapes, and the green leaves of the olive tremble in the soft night-air over us. Above us shine the peaceful, patient stars. The crash of a new eruption wakes us, the roar of the subterranean thunders, the stabs of the volcanic lightning into the shrouded bosom of the sky; and we see, aghast, the tortured Titan hurling up its fires among the pale stars, its great tree of smoke and cloud, the red torrents pouring down its sides. The roar and the shriekings of Civil War are all around us: the land is a pandemonium: man is again a Savage. The great armies roll along their hideous waves, and leave behind them smoking and depopulated deserts. The pillager is in every house, plucking even the morsel of bread from the lips of the starving child. Gray hairs are dabbled in blood, and innocent girlhood shrieks in vain to Lust for mercy. Laws, Courts, Constitutions, Christianity, Mercy, Pity, disappear. God seems to have abdicated, and Moloch to reign in His stead; while Press and Pulpit alike exult at universal murder, and urge the extermination of the Conquered, by the sword and the flaming torch; and to plunder and murder entitles the human beasts of prey to the thanks of Christian Senates.
Commercial greed deadens the nerves of sympathy of Nations, and makes them deaf to the demands of honor, the impulses of generosity, the appeals of those who suffer under injustice. Elsewhere, the universal pursuit of wealth dethrones God and pays divine honors to Mammon and Baalzebub. Selfishness rules supreme: to win wealth becomes the whole business of life. The villanies of legalized gaming and speculation become epidemic; treachery is but evidence of shrewdness; office becomes the prey of successful faction; the Country, like Actæon, is torn by its own hounds, and the villains it has carefully educated to their trade, most greedily plunder it, when it is in extremis.
By what right, the Voice demands, does a creature always engaged in the work of mutual robbery and slaughter, and who makes his own interest his God, claim to be of a nature superior to the savage beasts of which he is the prototype?
Then the shadows of a horrible doubt fall upon the soul that would fain love, trust and believe; a darkness, of which this that surrounded you was a symbol. It doubts the truth of Revelation, its own spirituality, the very existence of a beneficent God. It asks itself if it is not idle to hope for any great progress of Humanity toward perfection, and whether, when it advances in one respect, it does not retrogress in some other, by way of compensation: whether advance in civilization is not increase of selfishness: whether freedom does not necessarily lead to license and anarchy: whether the destitution and debasement of the masses does not inevitably follow increase of population and commercial and manufacturing prosperity. It asks itself whether man is not the sport of a blind, merciless Fate: whether all philosophies are not delusions, and all religions the fantastic creations of human vanity and self-conceit; and, above all, whether, when Reason is abandoned as a guide, the faith of Buddhist and Brahmin has not the same claims to sovereignty and implicit, unreasoning credence, as any other.
He asks himself whether it is not, after all, the evident and palpable injustices of this life, the success and prosperity of the Bad, the calamities, oppressions, and miseries of the Good, that are the bases of all beliefs in a future state of existence? Doubting man’s capacity for indefinite progress here, he doubts the possibility of it anywhere; and if he does not doubt whether God exists, and is just and beneficent, he at least cannot silence the constantly recurring whisper, that the miseries and calamities of men, their lives and deaths, their pains and sorrows, their extermination by war and epidemics, are phenomena of no higher dignity, significance, and importance, in the eye of God, than what things of the same nature occur to other organisms of matter; and that the fish of the ancient seas, destroyed by myriads to make room for other species, the contorted shapes in which they are found as fossils testifying to their agonies; the coral insects, the animals and birds and vermin slain by man, have as much right as he to clamor at the injustice of the dispensations of God, and to demand an immortality of life in a new universe, as compensation for their pains and sufferings and untimely death in this world.
This is not a picture painted by the imagination. Many a thoughtful mind has so doubted and despaired. How many of us can say that our own faith is so well grounded and complete that we never hear those painful whisperings within the soul? Thrice blessed are they who never doubt, who ruminate in patient contentment like the kine, or doze under the opiate of a blind faith; on whose souls never rests that Awful Shadow which is the absence of the Divine Light.
To explain to themselves the existence of Evil and Suffering, the Ancient Persians imagined that there were two Principles or Deities in the Universe, the one of Good and the other of Evil, constantly in conflict with each other in struggle for the mastery, and alternately overcoming and overcome. Over both, for the SAGES, was the One Supreme; and for them Light was in the end to prevail over Darkness, the Good over the Evil, and even Ahriman and his Demons to part with their wicked and vicious natures and share the universal Salvation. It did not occur to them that the existence of the Evil Principle, by the consent of the Omnipotent Supreme, presented the same difficulty, and left the existence of Evil as unexplained as before. The human mind is always content, if it can remove a difficulty a step further off. It cannot believe that the world rests on nothing, but is devoutly content when taught that it is borne on the back of an immense elephant, who himself stands on the back of a tortoise. Given the tortoise, Faith is always satisfied; and it has been a great source of happiness to multitudes that they could believe in a Devil who could relieve God of the odium of being the Author of Sin.
But not to all is Faith sufficient to overcome this great difficulty. They say, with the Suppliant, “Lord! I believe!“–but like him they are constrained to add, “Help Thou my unbelief!“–Reason must, for these, co-operate and coincide with Faith, or they remain still in the darkness of doubt,–most miserable of all conditions of the human mind. Those, only, who care for nothing beyond the interests and pursuits of this life, are uninterested in these great Problems. The animals, also, do not consider them. It is the characteristic of an immortal Soul, that it should seek to satisfy itself of its immortality, and to understand this great enigma, the Universe. If the Hottentot and the Papuan are not troubled and tortured by these doubts and speculations, they are not, for that, to be regarded as either wise or fortunate. The swine, also, are indifferent to the great riddles of the Universe, and are happy in being wholly unaware that it is the vast Revelation and Manifestation, in Time and Space, of a Single Thought of the Infinite God.
Exalt and magnify Faith as we will, and say that it begins where Reason ends, it must, after all, have a foundation, either in Reason, Analogy, the Consciousness, or human testimony. The worshipper of Brahma also has implicit Faith in what seems to us palpably false and absurd. His faith rests neither in Reason, Analogy, or the Consciousness, but on the testimony of his Spiritual teachers, and of the Holy Books. The Moslem also believes, on the positive testimony of the Prophet; and the Mormon also can say, “I believe this, because it is impossible.” No faith, however absurd or degrading, has ever wanted these foundations, testimony, and the books. Miracles, proven by unimpeachable testimony have been used as a foundation for Faith, in every age; and the modern miracles are better authenticated, a hundred times, than the ancient ones.
So that, after all, Faith must flow out from some source within us, when the evidence of that which we are to believe is not presented to our senses, or it will in no case be the assurance of the truth of what is believed.
The Consciousness, or inhering and innate conviction, or the instinct divinely implanted, of the verity of things, is the highest possible evidence, if not the only real proof, of the verity of certain things, but only of truths of a limited class.
What we call the Reason, that is, our imperfect human reason, not only may, but assuredly will, lead us away from the Truth in regard to things invisible and especially those of the Infinite, if we determine to believe nothing but that which it can demonstrate. or not to believe that which it can by its processes of logic prove to be contradictory, unreasonable, or absurd. Its tape-line cannot measure the arcs of Infinity. For example, to the Human reason, an Infinite Justice and an Infinite Mercy or Love, in the same Being, are inconsistent and impossible. One, it can demonstrate, necessarily excludes the other. So it can demonstrate that as the Creation had a beginning, it necessarily follows that an Eternity had elapsed before the Deity began to create, during which He was inactive.
When we gaze, of a moonless clear night, on the Heavens glittering with stars, and know that each fixed star of all the myriads is a Sun, and each probably possessing its retinue of worlds, all peopled with living beings, we sensibly feel our own unimportance in the scale of Creation, and at once reflect that much of what has in different ages been religious faith, could never have been believed, if the nature, size, and distance of those Suns, and of our own Sun, Moon, and Planets, had been known to the Ancients as they are to us.
To them, all the lights of the firmament were created only to give light to the earth, as its lamps or candles hung above it. The earth was supposed to be the only inhabited portion of the Universe. The world and the Universe were synonymous terms. Of the immense size and distance of the heavenly bodies, men had no conception. The Sages had, in Chaldæa, Egypt, India, China, and in Persia, and therefore the sages always had, an esoteric creed, taught only in the mysteries and unknown to the vulgar. No Sage, in either country, or in Greece or Rome, believed the popular creed. To them the Gods and the Idols of the Gods were symbols, and symbols of great and mysterious truths.
The Vulgar imagined the attention of the Gods to be continually centred upon the earth and man. The Grecian Divinities inhabited Olympus, an insignificant mountain of the Earth. There was the Court of Zeus, to which Neptune came from the Sea, and Pluto and Persephoné from the glooms of Tartarus in the unfathomable depths of the Earth’s bosom. God came down from Heaven and on Sinai dictated laws for the Hebrews to His servant Moses. The Stars were the guardians of mortals whose fates and fortunes were to be read in their movements, conjunctions, and oppositions. The Moon was the Bride and Sister of the Sun, at the same distance above the Earth, and, like the Sun, made for the service of mankind alone.
If, with the great telescope of Lord Rosse, we examine the vast nebula of Hercules, Orion, and Androméda, and find them resolvable into Stars more numerous than the sands on the seashore; if we reflect that each of these Stars is a Sun, like and even many times larger than ours,–each, beyond a doubt, with its retinue of worlds swarming with life;–if we go further in imagination, and endeavor to conceive of all the infinities of space, filled with similar suns and worlds, we seem at once to shrink into an incredible insignificance.
The Universe, which is the uttered Word of God, is infinite in extent. There is no empty space beyond creation on any side. The Universe, which is the Thought of God pronounced, never was not, since God never was inert; nor WAS, without thinking and creating. The forms of creation change, the suns and worlds live and die like the leaves and the insects, but the Universe itself is infinite and eternal, because God Is, Was, and Will forever Be, and never did not think and create.
Reason is fain to admit that a Supreme Intelligence, infinitely powerful and wise, must have created this boundless Universe; but it also tells us that we are as unimportant in it as the zoöphytes and entozoa, or as the invisible particles of animated life that float upon the air or swarm in the water-drop.
The foundations of our faith, resting upon the imagined interest of God in our race, an interest easily supposable when man believed himself the only intelligent created being, and therefore eminently worthy the especial care and watchful anxiety of a God who had only this earth to look after, and its house-keeping alone to superintend, and who was content to create, in all the infinite Universe, only one single being, possessing a soul, and not a mere animal, are rudely shaken as the Universe broadens and expands for us; and the darkness of doubt and distrust settles heavy upon the Soul.
The modes in which it is ordinarily endeavored to satisfy our doubts, only increase them. To demonstrate the necessity for a cause of the creation, is equally to demonstrate the necessity of a cause for that cause. The argument from plan and design only removes the difficulty a step further off. We rest the world on the elephant, and the elephant on the tortoise, and the tortoise on–nothing.
To tell us that the animals possess instinct only and that Reason belongs to us alone, in no way tends to satisfy us of the radical difference between us and them. For if the mental phenomena exhibited by animals that think, dream, remember, argue from cause to effect, plan, devise, combine, and communicate their thoughts to each other, so as to act rationally in concert, if their love, hate, and revenge, can be conceived of as results of the organization of matter, like color and perfume, the resort to the hypothesis of an immaterial Soul to explain phenomena of the same kind, only more perfect, manifested by the human being, is supremely absurd. That organized matter can think or even feel, at all, is the great insoluble mystery. “Instinct” is but a word without a meaning, or else it means inspiration. It is either the animal itself, or God in the animal, that thinks, remembers, and reasons; and instinct, according to the common acceptation of the term, would be the greatest and most wonderful of mysteries,–no less a thing than the direct, immediate, and continual promptings of the Deity,–for the animals are not machines, or automata moved by springs, and the ape is but a dumb Australian.
Must we always remain in this darkness of uncertainty, of doubt? Is there no mode of escaping from the labyrinth except by means of a blind faith, which explains nothing, and in many creeds, ancient and modern, sets Reason at defiance, and leads to the belief either in a God without a Universe, a Universe without a God, or a Universe which is itself a God?
We read in the Hebrew Chronicles that Schlomoh the wise King caused to be placed in front of the entrance to the Temple two huge columns of bronze, one of which was called YAKAYIN and the other BAHAZ; and these words are rendered in our version Strength and Establishment. The Masonry of the Blue Lodges gives no explanation of these symbolic columns; nor do the Hebrew Books advise us that they were symbolic. If not so intended as symbols, they were subsequently understood to be such.
But as we are certain that everything within the Temple was symbolic, and that the whole structure was intended to represent the Universe, we may reasonably conclude that the columns of the portico also had a symbolic signification. It would be tedious to repeat all the interpretations which fancy or dullness has found for them.
The key to their true meaning is not undiscoverable. The perfect and eternal distinction of the two primitive terms of the creative syllogism, in order to attain to the demonstration of their
harmony by the analogy of contraries, is the second grand principle of that occult philosophy veiled under the name “Kabalah,” and indicated by all the sacred hieroglyphs of the Ancient Sanctuaries, and of the rites, so little understood by the mass of the Initiates, of the Ancient and Modern Free-Masonry.
The Sohar declares that everything in the Universe proceeds by the mystery of “the Balance,” that is, of Equilibrium. Of the Sephiroth, or Divine Emanations, Wisdom and Understanding, Severity and Benignity, or Justice and Mercy, and Victory and Glory, constitute pairs.
Wisdom, or the Intellectual Generative Energy, and Understanding, or the Capacity to be impregnated by the Active Energy and produce intellection or thought, are represented symbolically in the Kabalah as male and female. So also are Justice and Mercy. Strength is the intellectual Energy or Activity; Establishment or Stability is the intellectual Capacity to produce, a passivity. They are the POWER of generation and the CAPACITY of production. By WISDOM, it is said, God creates, and by UNDERSTANDING establishes. These are the two Columns of the Temple, contraries like the Man and Woman, like Reason and Faith, Omnipotence and Liberty, Infinite Justice and Infinite Mercy, Absolute Power or Strength to do even what is most unjust and unwise, and Absolute Wisdom that makes it impossible to do it; Right and Duty. They were the columns of the intellectual and moral world, the monumental hieroglyph of the antinomy necessary to the grand law of creation.
There must be for every Force a Resistance to support it, to every light a shadow, for every Royalty a Realm to govern, for every affirmative a negative.
For the Kabalists, Light represents the Active Principle, and Darkness or Shadow is analogous to the Passive Principle. Therefore it was that they made of the Sun and Moon emblems of the two Divine Sexes and the two creative forces; therefore, that they ascribed to woman the Temptation and the first sin, and then the first labor, the maternal labor of the redemption, because it is from the bosom of the darkness itself that we see the Light born again. The Void attracts the Full; and so it is that the abyss of poverty and misery, the Seeming Evil, the seeming empty nothingness of life, the temporary rebellion of the creatures, eternally attracts the overflowing ocean of being, of riches, of pity, and of love. Christ completed the Atonement on the Cross by descending into Hell.
Justice and Mercy are contraries. If each be infinite, their co-existence seems impossible, and being equal, one cannot even annihilate the other and reign alone. The mysteries of the Divine Nature are beyond our finite comprehension; but so indeed are the mysteries of our own finite nature; and it is certain that in all nature harmony and movement are the result of the equilibrium of opposing or contrary forces.
The analogy of contraries gives the solution of the most interesting and most difficult problem of modern philosophy,–the definite and permanent accord of Reason and Faith, of Authority and Liberty of examination, of Science and Belief, of Perfection in God and Imperfection in Man. If science or knowledge is the Sun, Belief is the Man; it is a reflection of the day in the night. Faith is the veiled Isis, the Supplement of Reason, in the shadows which precede or follow Reason. It emanates from the Reason, but can never confound it nor be confounded with it. The encroachments of Reason upon Faith, or of Faith on Reason, are eclipses of the Sun or Moon; when they occur, they make useless both the Source of Light and its reflection, at once.
Science perishes by systems that are nothing but beliefs; and Faith succumbs to reasoning. For the two Columns of the Temple to uphold the edifice, they must remain separated and be parallel to each other. As soon as it is attempted by violence to bring them together, as Samson did, they are overturned, and the whole edifice falls upon the head of the rash blind man or the revolutionist whore personal or national resentments have in advance devoted to death.
Harmony is the result of an alternating preponderance of forces. Whenever this is wanting in government, government is a failure, because it is either Despotism or Anarchy. All theoretical governments, however plausible the theory, end in one or the other. Governments that are to endure are not made in the closet of Locke or Shaftesbury, or in a Congress or a Convention. In a Republic, forces that seem contraries, that indeed are contraries, alone give movement and life. The Spheres are held in their orbits and made to revolve harmoniously and unerringly, by the concurrence, which seems to be the opposition, of two contrary forces. If the centripetal force should overcome the centrifugal, and the equilibrium of forces cease, the rush of the Spheres to the Central Sun would annihilate the system. Instead of consolidation, the whole would be shattered into fragments.
Man is a free agent, though Omnipotence is above and all around him. To be free to do good, he must be free to do evil. The Light necessitates. the Shadow. A State is free like an individual in any government worthy of the name. The State is less potent than the Deity, and therefore the freedom of the individual citizen is consistent with its Sovereignty. These are opposites, but not antagonistic. So, in a union of States, the freedom of the States is consistent with the Supremacy of the Nation. When either obtains the permanent mastery over the other, and they cease to be in equilibrio, the encroachment continues with a velocity that is accelerated like that of a falling body, until the feebler is annihilated, and then, there being no resistance to support the stronger, it rushes into ruin.
So, when the equipoise of Reason and Faith, in the individual or the Nation, and the alternating preponderance cease, the result is, according as one or the other is permanent victor, Atheism or Superstition, disbelief or blind credulity; and the Priests either of Unfaith or of Faith become despotic.
“Whomsoever God loveth, him he chasteneth,” is an expression that formulates a whole dogma. The trials of life are the blessings of life, to the individual or the Nation, if either has a Soul that is truly worthy of salvation. “Light and darkness,” said ZOROASTER, “are the world’s eternal ways.” The Light and the Shadow are everywhere and always in proportion; the Light being the reason of being of the Shadow. It is by trials only, by the agonies of sorrow and the sharp discipline of adversities, that men and Nations attain initiation. The agonies of the garden of Gethsemane and those of the Cross on Calvary preceded the Resurrection and were the means of Redemption. It is with prosperity that God afflicts Humanity.
The Degree of Rose ✠ is devoted to and symbolizes the final triumph of truth over falsehood, of liberty over slavery, of light over darkness, of life over death, and of good over evil. The great truth it inculcates is, that notwithstanding the existence of Evil, God is infinitely wise, just, and good: that though the affairs of the world proceed by no rule of right and wrong known to us in the narrowness of our views, yet all is right, for it is the work of God; and all evils, all miseries, all misfortunes, are but as drops in the vast current that is sweeping onward, guided by Him, to a great and magnificent result: that, at the appointed time, He will redeem and regenerate the world, and the Principle, the Power, and the existence of Evil will then cease; that this will be brought about by such means and instruments as He chooses to employ; whether by the merits of a Redeemer that has already appeared, or a Messiah that is yet waited for, by an incarnation of Himself, or by an inspired prophet, it does not belong to us as Masons to decide. Let each judge and believe for himself.
In the mean time, we labor to hasten the coming of that day. The morals of antiquity, of the law of Moses and of Christianity, are ours. We recognize every teacher of Morality, every Reformer, as a brother in this great work. The Eagle is to us the symbol of Liberty, the Compasses of Equality, the Pelican of Humanity, and our order of Fraternity. Laboring for these, with Faith, Hope, and Charity as our armor, we will wait with patience for the final triumph of Good and the complete manifestation of the Word of God.
No one Mason has the right to measure for another, within the walls of a Masonic Temple, the degree of veneration which he shall feel for any Reformer, or the Founder of any Religion. We teach a belief in no particular creed, as we teach unbelief in none. Whatever higher attributes the Founder of the Christian Faith may, in our belief, have had or not have had, none can deny that He taught and practised a pure and elevated morality, even at the risk and to the ultimate loss of His life. He was not only the benefactor of a disinherited people, but a model for mankind. Devotedly He loved the children of Israel. To them He came, and to them alone He preached that Gospel which His disciples afterward carried among foreigners. He would fain have freed the chosen People from their spiritual bondage of ignorance and degradation. As a lover of all mankind, laying down His life for the emancipation of His Brethren, He should be to all, to Christian, to Jew, and to Mahometan, an object of gratitude and veneration.
The Roman world felt the pangs of approaching dissolution. Paganism, its Temples shattered by Socrates and Cicero, had spoken its last word. The God of the Hebrews was unknown beyond the limits of Palestine. The old religions had failed to give happiness and peace to the world. The babbling and wrangling philosophers had confounded all men’s ideas, until they doubted of everything and had faith in nothing: neither in God nor in his goodness and mercy, nor in the virtue of man, nor in themselves. Mankind was divided into two great classes, the master and the slave; the powerful and the abject, the high and the low, the tyrants and the mob; and even the former were satiated with the servility of the latter, sunken by lassitude and despair to the lowest depths of degradation.
When, lo, a voice, in the inconsiderable Roman Province of Judea proclaims a new Gospel–a new “God’s Word,” to crushed, suffering, bleeding humanity. Liberty of Thought, Equality of all men in the eye of God, universal Fraternity! a new doctrine, a new religion; the old Primitive Truth uttered once again!
Man is once more taught to look upward to his God. No longer to a God hid in impenetrable mystery, and infinitely remote from human sympathy, emerging only at intervals from the darkness to smite and crush humanity: but a God, good, kind, beneficent, and merciful: a rather, loving the creatures He has made, with a love immeasurable and exhaustless; Who feels for us, and sympathizes with us, and sends us pain and want and disaster only that they may serve to develop in us the virtues and excellences that befit us to live with Him hereafter.
Jesus of Nazareth, the “Son of man,” is the expounder of the new Law of Love. He calls to Him the humble, the poor, the Pariahs of the world. The first sentence that He pronounces blesses the world, and announces the new gospel: “Blessed are they that mourn for they shall be comforted.” He pours the oil of consolation and peace upon every crushed and bleeding heart. Every sufferer is His proselyte. He shares their sorrows, and sympathizes with all their afflictions.
He raises up the sinner and the Samaritan woman, and teaches them to hope for forgiveness. He pardons the woman taken in adultery. He selects his disciples not among the Pharisees or the Philosophers, but among the low and humble, even of the fishermen of Galilee. He heals the sick and feeds the poor. He lives among the destitute and the friendless. “Suffer little children,” He said, “to come unto me; for of such is the kingdom of Heaven! Blessed are the humble-minded, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven; the meek, for they shall inherit the Earth; the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy; the pure in heart, for they shall see God; the peace-maker, for they shall be called the children of God! First be reconciled to they brother, and then come and offer thy gift at the altar. Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not away! Love your enemies; bless them that curse you; do good to them that hate you; and pray for them which despitefully use you and persecute you! All things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye also unto them; for this is the law and the Prophets! He that taketh not his cross, and followeth after Me, is not worthy of Me. A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another: as I have loved you, that ye also love one another: by this shall all know that ye are My disciples. Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friend.”
The Gospel of Love He sealed with His life. The cruelty of the Jewish Priesthood, the ignorant ferocity of the mob, and the Roman indifference to barbarian blood, nailed Him to the cross, and He expired uttering blessings upon humanity.
Dying thus, He bequeathed His teachings to man as an inestimable inheritance. Perverted and corrupted, they have served as a basis for many creeds, and been even made the warrant for in-tolerance and persecution. We here teach them in their purity. They are our Masonry; for to them good men of all creeds can subscribe.
That God is good and merciful, and loves and sympathizes with the creatures He has made; that His finger is visible in all the movements of the moral, intellectual, and material universe; that we are His children, the objects of His paternal care and regard; that all men are our brothers, whose wants we are to supply, their errors to pardon, their opinions to tolerate, their injuries to forgive; that man has an immortal soul, a free will, a right to freedom of thought and action; that all men are equal in God’s sight; that we best serve God by humility, meekness, gentleness, kindness, and the other virtues which the lowly can practise as well as the lofty; this is “the new Law,” the “WORD,” for which the world had waited and pined so long; and every true Knight of the Rose ✠ will revere the memory of Him who taught it, and look indulgently even on those who assign to Him a character far above his own conceptions or belief, even to the extent of deeming Him Divine.
Hear Philo, the Greek Jew. “The contemplative soul, unequally guided, sometimes toward abundance and sometimes toward barrenness, though ever advancing, is illuminated by the primitive ideas, the rays that emanate from the Divine Intelligence, whenever it ascends toward the Sublime Treasures. When, on the contrary, it descends, and is barren, it falls within the domain of those Intelligences that are termed Angels. . . for, when the soul is deprived of the light of God, which leads it to the knowledge of things, it no longer enjoys more than a feeble and secondary light, which gives it, not the understanding of things, but that of words only, as in this baser world. . . .”
“. . . Let the narrow-souled withdraw, having their ears sealed up! We communicate the divine mysteries to those only who have received the sacred initiation, to those who practise true piety, and who are not enslaved by the empty pomp of words, or the doctrines of the pagans. . . .
“. . . O, ye Initiates, ye whose ears are purified, receive this in your souls, as a mystery never to be lost! Reveal it to no Profane! Keep and contain it within yourselves, as an incorruptible treasure, not like gold or silver, but more precious than everything besides; for it is the knowledge of the Great Cause, of Nature, and of that which is born of both. And if you meet an Initiate, be-siege him with your prayers, that he conceal from you no new mysteries that he may know, and rest not until you have obtained them! For me, although I was initiated in the Great Mysteries by Moses, the Friend of God, yet, having seen Jeremiah, I recognized him not only as an Initiate, but as a Hierophant; and I follow his school.”
We, like him, recognize all Initiates as our Brothers. We belong to no one creed or school. In all religions there is a basis of Truth; in all there is pure Morality. All that teach the cardinal tenets of Masonry we respect; all teachers and reformers of mankind we admire and revere.
Masonry also has her mission to perform. With her traditions .reaching back to the earliest times, and her symbols dating further back than even the monumental history of Egypt extends, she invites all men of all religions to enlist under her banners and to war against evil, ignorance, and wrong. You are now her knight, and to her service your sword is consecrated. May you prove a worthy soldier in a worthy cause!