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SPIRITUAL GROWTH OF FREEMASONRY
by By Colin Clarke.
My first indication for the need for instruction in Freemasonry came early in my association with the Craft. I asked an older Brother, the Master of our Lodge, the meaning of a certain piece of furniture in the Lodge. He told me he did not know.
Here was a highly respected brother, a leader, who had instituted many of the lodges of a young and growing district, who could not answer the simple question of an interested neophyte. He was a great ritualist, and could exemplify any part of the Work of the Lodge, but he had no knowledge of the lessons hidden behind the symbolisms. We made many Masons during his lengthy term of office, but few Craftsmen. His work n the Craft was that of a social organizer.
My latest example of the need for education in the Craft occurred a few months ago. A discussion on the subject was commenced by a leader of the district. He brought to the attention of the brethren the desire of some of the members to be able to meet and refute calumnies which had been made against the Craft. He had found during his visits that many younger members were asking questions and information, whereby they might give general relies, and were unable to obtain answers to their own varied thoughts. A suggestion was made that a magazine, or some such publication, should be sponsored which would be informative and available to all Craftsmen. There was also a request for a freer distribution of the ritual and ceremonials.
One of the speakers on the subject, a minister, gave a very impassioned address, calling the attention of the brethren to the obligation as entered apprentices. He strongly opposed the distribution of rituals, and also the proposal for other publications. He seemed to be quire unaware that there is a world of literature available to freemasons. Much of this is worthy of distribution to the public in general, and to the churches in particular.
I believe that it is very necessary and proper that we should be fully informed on the origin of our ceremonies, what those ceremonies and rituals are, and the lessons we should derive from them. Our Order is based on speculation for true knowledge, or Light on the Works of the G.A., and that Light must be continually rekindled.
In the many discussions, lectures and informal talks that I have heard, most have been centred on the premise of the Operative origin of our Craft. I do not dispute the fact that much of original work came form and through the Operative, but I feel that through the centuries there had flowed a current of spiritual or speculative free thought, free building, or freemasonry; carried by various means and is now embodied in our Order. In more recent times men have gathered around the cracker barrel at the country store, met in the barn, or a livery stable; in their favourite club room to spend a social hour. You had to be a kindred soul to join their assembly. From politics, religions and wild stories and conversations and debates would occasionally drift to the more serious contemplation of some phenomenon of the Universe. In ancient times this same procedure undoubtedly occurred.
1. THE NOMADS.
I should probably commence with the building of King Solomon's Temple, but I want to go back to an earlier time. I beg leave to omit specific dates for they are not presently available to me, and moreover, might be misleading. Actually there can be no dating where there may be variations of time, and where in most instances periods may extend for hundreds of years, and over-lap. We could set these periods only in terms of dynasties.
A young Egyptian prince who had been trained in the priestly crafts for the kingship, departed from the tenets of his order, and was expelled from his country. He travelled eastward and mingled with the shepherd people of the plains. At about the same period a young camel driver appeared periodically in the same area, roughly extending through Arabia and Babylonia.
The camel driver became an observer of the Universe, and developed a faith in gods of good and evil symbolized by the controlled movements of the sun, moon and stars, the winds and the waters. The earthly symbol of his Deity was a small altar on which a perpetual fire was maintained, representing Light. His Deity was that force which ordered the heavenly bodies in their pre-determined paths.
Little is recorded of the wanderings of the Egyptian prince. One day he saw a great Light centered at a small fire in the open country. From it he received an inspiration. He returned to his home country and led out from it the enslaved and dissatisfied members of his people. He gave them a new faith in a Deity who controlled the Universe, but was not bound thereto by corporal symbols. This Deity was symbolized by a small fire maintained on a portable altar. This fire gave a Light at night and a plume of smoke by day, to indicate the place of the leader of the tribe during their migration.
Zoroaster and Moses, almost contemporary, if they were not the same person, were the first recorded to find their Deity in the unseen Ruler of the Universe, and to symbolize Him as Light.
2. THE HEBREWS [or Israel]
King Solomon's Temple, which has prominence in our ceremonies, was a city built to be a seat of government for an established Kingdom. The temple proper was a treasure house, a comparatively small building, where were deposited the historical records of the people. Most important of all these records was the scroll of the book of laws that only written record existing at that time.
An order of priestcraft had already been established for the service of this temple, and for the government of the people, of which the king was the titular head.
To this court were attracted those who were learned in the arts and sciences, and Jerusalem became the university of the period; the centre of the philosophies of the deserts. Within this university there would naturally be instituted clubs of priests and artisans to enquire into the peculiar features of their crafts. It is the founding of this university, during the building of the Temple to a universal Deity, that we more particularly mark than the physical erection of the structure.
This is accomplished by certain orders of ceremonies and procedure; and acceptance of authority in a democratic state; and a lesson in the regeneration of life by a substitution of that which is immediately available, and sufficiently satisfactory until more appropriate, or more instructed means and persons can be discovered or prepared.
3. THE BABYLONIANS
When the first Temple was destroyed the governing families, who were integral with the priesthood, were transported to the Babylonian area. It is unreasonable to assume that there had been previously a considerable traffic between these two centres of exchange and philosophy. Therefore, it is quite possible that these people, who claimed that their origins were form the east, would find many opportunities to settle themselves in the new country, and assimilate with the residents.
In spite of the stories of the tribulations of these people they apparently became very prosperous; entered into the governing, religious and educational services, and eventually gained certain controls through their factions. A high intellectual standard was built up at a college near Babylon, under the direction of a master named Daniel. During this period of 'captivity' these people wrote the story of their race in song and prose, and gave in the world the first books of the V.S.L. The college, at which most of this work may have been performed, became a centre of learning of the known sciences, and to it travelled most of the intellectuals of the era; among them Pythagoras. They built up a system of allegories, signs and symbols, and became the interpreters of the allegories they instituted. By these mediums they established a fraternity among themselves, by which they could travel through the circle of their world; event to the control of kingdoms.
4. THE JEWS.
These associations eventually obtained for them a control which restored to them their original home, one of the holy places; perhaps the most revered mountain of al the people of that day. They rebuilt the temple to their ancient glories and to be the centre of their philosophy, and the repository of their history and laws. For their governance they re-established their polity of a theo-cratic state.
5. THE GREEKS
Their philosophic teachings, and the questions they engendered, were carried beyond their borders, and from these Babylonian researches the philosophies and dialectics of the Greek schools of Socrates, described by Plato, became a searching field of speculation to enhance the authoritarian laws of the Hebrews. We here begin to see the growth of the small schools of enquiry into the mysteries of nature; surrounding themselves with the necessary guards to protect them from uninitiated and ignorant rulers, and rival or spurious bodies.
6. THE ALEXANDRIANS.
The centre of learning, never long established, or able to live unmolested, shifted to Alexandria where a library and university were instituted. In this library were accumulated the known records of the day. To this centre were invited a body of Jews learned in their laws, to make for the library a Greek translation of the Hebrew law. (This is now known as the Septuagint). This body of priests and scribes (about 72) were instituted into an established order; were housed and entertained by their hosts, and to their own primary orders were added new feature and practices obtained during their sojourn.
(This University became in time a rival to Jerusalem, and eventually became a colony of refugees from political and religious oppression of the home country. It probably was the place of refuge of Jehoshua of Nazareth, and the place where he obtained his learning.)
7. THE ESSENES.
A new body grew up around Jerusalem and spread itself through the cities and areas where the Jews resided or travelled to trade. The members of this order were trained in the Mosaic law, and were generally of the Pharisaic [liberal] faction. After completing their course of training and obtaining acceptance into the priesthood, they might enter the novitiate of this order. This novitiate was for the period of one year. During this time they had to undergo a strict period of training, and prove themselves worthy by deprivations and severe frugal living. (Otherwise: retire into the desert). Upon acceptance into the sect, they transferred to it all their possessions, and if celibate were bound to remain so [although this seems to have been optional]. If married they had to submit to a strict control of their personal life, and live away from their family in the common residence of the brotherhood. Trained in the priesthood, they were also artisans and craftsmen, and here they studied and practiced the science of the physicians and the arts of healing.
They had a residence in every own where they live din community, taking common fair with their brethren, and making a common wealth of their earnings from their labours. Any member of this sect or brotherhood travelling to another city would immediately report to the home where he would be received and accepted into the community, fed and clothed, and be given employment or assisted along his road. They became the leaders of thought and inst5ruction, and by their integrity gained the confidence of the people and of the governors, and they attained to high regard and position. While these people retained their associations with the Temple authorities they departed form the material practices of their religion, and were great protagonists for honourable and good government. They sought their comfort in the speculation of the natural sciences.
8. THE MITHRAISTS.
Contemporary with the former body, which was racial and exclusive, another form of brotherhood was growing up among the soldiers of the Roman Empire. These men, of varied races, travelling and living among strange peoples, evolved a creed, based on the elements of nature, similar to and probably deriving from the symbolisms of the East. The Deity was represented by the Pole Star and its neighbouring and companion constellation. [The Bear in is four seasons as the Swastika.] This body in its belief and practices was sympathetic to, and understanding of the more intellectual practices of the priestly brotherhood.
9. THE CHRISTIANS
The intellectual group of craftsmen produced some men of powerful character who became leaders of a new group or order; promulgating to the general public the truths they had found and evolved in their private assemblies. These leaders having caused unrest throughout the province and cities of Judea were arrested and dispersed. A more practical politician had been brought into this group, or had insinuated himself therein for the purpose of improving the opportunities of a new excitement to advance his faction against the ruling powers. This member, finding that the Great Philosopher had antagonized the priestcraft who planned to destroy him, sought the protection of the soldier craftsmen. They having arrested Him, in due form He was brought to the judgment of a court in which rival powers existed between church and state, and in the placating of the priestcraft the Great Philosopher was destroyed.
The execution of the sentence of the court was performed by the soldiers, and they, if the general conventions of this act are portrayed correctly, instead of using the customary Tau cross of the felon, substituted the symbol of the Key of Life of the ancient Egyptians.
The remorse resulting from this crime created a bond and tie between the two brotherhoods until they merged and disappeared into a new and greater order, which spread and established itself wherever soldier and craftsman might travel and sojourn. And they became bonded into closer communion, and protective bodies, as they met the oppositions of religious and state antagonism.
10. THE ROMANS.
From their first great enthusiasms these communities fell into political decay, and jealousies of precedents and powers. The greater political body, which had been built up under an older regime, split into two factions rivalling in their temporal authorities, and of their spiritual original procedure.
The Eastern [Greek] faction, which attained to a more spiritual understanding of their philosophies, spread northwards and eastwards. The Western faction [Roman], of materialistic pretentions, descendant form the Egyptian mysteries, increased its temporal powers as it fell away from truth and justice, and gained governing control of peoples and countries. To secure these controls they built storehouses and towns for themselves, and within them a temple t the Deity they professed to serve.
11. THE BUILDERS.
The architecture and construction of these cities, their temples, fortifications and other main buildings was committed to the members of the building crafts, under the supervision of the intellectuals of the priesthood. Within this grouping there must of a necessity have been considerable discussion of plans, and of ways and means to complete their work. There must have been some room or apartment given to this controlling body for this preparation and storing of their plans, and this apartment would be the meeting place of this group. For the protection of their craft they would have their guards and officers, and each member of this governing body would be jealous of the intrusion of those who had not been accepted into their society. The great charge to their guards would be to keep from this fraternal body [for such it must become to be able to erect their great monuments] the inquisitorial priests and governors of the higher orders, under whose direction they were supposed to be building. These would-be intruders were probably given the most opprobrious term available to them - 'cowan', or, the common name of the Jewish priesthood - 'cohen'.
12. THE KABBALAH
A parallel body also existed during the same period in the area of eastern Europe. During its existence it based its philosophy on the old Hebrew doctrines, to which was added the astrology of the Persians, the romances of the Egyptians, the logic of the Greeks and its own science of numerology. It did not have the stability of the performance of physical structure, and rested its being in mythology and calculations. In the dark days the rhetoric of the Kabbalah faded away. But I left behind a fertile field of thought, on which north-western Europe was to build in due time.
13. THE MOSLEMS.
A new voice came from the Arabian desert, where another camel driver saw a Light. His professions were based on the old Hebrew laws and traditions, and he assumed the roll of prophet of the desert people. His fanaticism attracted both friends and enemies, and while during his life-time his influence was only local, the foundation he laid was built upon extensively, and was spread by the power of the sword of his followers. Strangely, their greater animosities were displayed against the Jews, and they tolerated the Christians. However, in their progress across North Africa and through the Balkans they proselyted and drew to themselves the Jewish people, through the similarity of their race, traditions and fundamental doctrines.
14. THE CRUSADERS
The robbery and oppression of travellers, and the fines and charges levied against merchants by the Moslems and Turks throughout the Mediterranean area finally created an opposition from the West. The remnants of the Western armies [or Crusaders] returned to their homes with new knowledge of the Wisdom of the East. One section of these armies remained in the East to build up a service and protection to travellers and pilgrims. These soldiers formed themselves into a militant brotherhood, founded on their military condition, and added thereto the traditions, romances and lores of the East. Their eventual return injected much of their practice, ceremony and ritual into the growing civilization of the West.
15. THE SARACENS.
When the power of the Moslems as at its highest, under the Saracen, Saladin, new consciousness came to the Jewish people. In the court of Saladin, a Jewish physician and philosopher became the centre of thought, and a guide to his people wherever they were scattered. His interpretations and instructions were sought and followed by all Jewry, and were likened to a cord stretched between heaven and Earth; they effected a consolidation of the Jewish practice and worship at a time when thee had fallen into uncertainties through their dispersal.
Coincidental with this period a re-discovery was made of the works of the Greek philosophers, as recorded by Plato, and revived by the Alexandrian Plotinus. While the Moslems burned and sacked the archives of Alexandria some of its treasures were saved, and were carried into Europe by refugee Jews. The liberal philosophies thus distributed were taken up by the learned of the day, and caused many schisms and open rebellions against the power of the church and state then centred at Rome.
16. THE REFORMERS.
A long period of argument, discussion and oppression and armed conflict continued over a couple of centuries, and culminated In the 'Reformation'. The Roman Catholic church sustained an internal revolution as great as that revolt which separate certain sections and countries from its direction and control. Through this period students of the philosophies renewed their searches of all the old writings for the truths, and many great scholars of the day have left to us the records of their thoughts and deductions. Out of these works have come many of the finer things of our present system of ethics.
17. THE GUILDS OR COMPANIES.
Following the reformation period there was still much unrest and strife for the control of the temporal, as well as the spiritual life of the people. Men, who through their political, religious and commercial activities had come in contact with others of common sense and reasoning debate, joined together in clubs to advance their mutual ideals and welfare. They were not content with any of the religious professions, so they built their beliefs into the simplest allegories they could devise. They reorganized that all men were brothers in the eyes of the Supreme Being who was Governor of the Universe, and they practiced charity and benevolence as an outward demonstration of that truth. Their assemblies were held in the taverns adjacent to their working places, where during their periods of refreshment, and in the evenings after the days' toil, they would discuss their thought and ideals. Mixed with the questions of their trades were those of the ethics of life, and as most men who had attained to a position of authority must, in their youth, have been apprentices or serving brothers, clerks, businessmen and profession gentlemen were included in their gatherings. The status of the clubs grew in dignity until we have our fraternal Order of today.
18. THE FREEMASON.
To-day this liberal thought pervades the whole world. Through the past dark period of war the brightest lights have shone form the elders of our nations and armies. They have, with few exceptions, expressed themselves in terms that to the initiated told that they too had travelled from east to west, in search of the truth they found on the centre, and that their service was devoted to the works of the G.A.O.T.U. We knew the rightness of our cause for on every hand we, and our brotherhood, were condemned by our inhuman enemies, and we taught our soldiers to practice charity.
While the English-speaking freemasonry has gone far, our fraternity in other European countries has not fared so well. It is difficult to asses the reasons, but there never has been the freedom of association, and freedom from material powers that has existed in our countries. Periodically a revival has occurred, and liberal thought and policy has seemed to gain ground, but only for a short time, and then be crushed under the heel of a new oppressor. It may be national temperament, or it may be that that certain over-reaching political powers have a strangle-hold on the temporal, and therefore, the spiritual welfare of the people. There never has been in those other peoples, that common knowledge of a Supreme Being to give them the strength and support we enjoy.
To offset some of the objections to the Order, and possibly to placate some of their members, the French Grand Orient removed the V.S.L. from their altar and replaced it by their constitution; reverting to a condition in which our own lodges ere originally furnished. This probably was a wise procedure for the French, when the change was adopted, and may have been a fir and proper thing for them to do.[It may have been the cause of their recent downfall and distress]. We thought other wise and refuse dour recognition, thereby breaking a tie that would in time, with benevolence and forbearance, additional instruction and influence, have restored the V.S.L., or some their appropriate article of faith more acceptable to those people, to the place of the centre.
I have tried to trace the progress of the spirit of our thought and practice through the ages, and, while my line of reasoning may be fatuous, I am encouraged by a remark of a great scientist of today who, while he thinks that a large proportion of the inhabitants of the world may be wiped out, added, "There will always be enough thinking men and books to start gain." And, so I believe, through the ages, a leaven of hardy men have kept bright the Light of the G.A. And I am further satisfied that now the greater numbers, and the dispersion of free and true men, bound by the cable tow of brotherly love and good intentions, throughout the English-speaking world is an indication of a higher level of civilization, which cannot be destroyed. It is not strange that all, or most of the leaders of our day speak with a single voice. They will control any powers of darkness that might attempt to rise gain. The Spirit of Freemasonry has been the seed for the Spirit of our Greater Commonwealth of Nations.
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Last modified: March 22, 2014