by Lady Pamela Grey
The Master Mason -
IT IS Sabatier, the French mystic, who observes
"A myth is created when a lofty truth is made perceptible to our
intelligence in a garb of apparent reality." I link with this
saying the words of a village child, uttered in my hearing:
"When anything wonderful happens in the sky, you must catch the
sight of it in a bowl of water - then you can see it."
each of these sayings you have the idea of a reflection, of
something infinitely great being interpreted and made available
to the infinitely less, and here I want to write of the moral
teaching that is reflected in folklore; and though it may be to
touch only the fringe of so great a subject, to tell something
of the truth that is imaged in symbol and sign.
Wisdom of the Ancients, Bacon lifts a corner of the veil that
hides the moral verities figured in classical legend. These
stories for years were looked on as just pretty tales, and,
indeed, at one time were deprecated on the ground of being not
Christian authority. We know how Mr. Pecksniff alluded to the
Sirens: "Pagan - I regret to say." This was the period when a
schoolboy would receive a flogging for not knowing the exact
date of the Flood, or of the creation of the world. The march of
science was certainly disconcerting to these followers of
dogmatic religion. They were confronted with a serious situation
when it was found that the geological formation of the earth
confounded their restricted conclusions. We remember how they
met the difficulty. This is one of the good laughs on record.
They said the fossils had been hidden purposely by the Almighty
in exactly those particular strata of rock to put to proof the
belief of the faithful!
YET even in those days there were
some who collected Folklore, so the mystical legends were told
and retold - culled and bound into ever-fresh chaplets and
posies, being the undying flowers of the human mind.
remember Mr. Edmund Gosse telling the story of a man who chanced
to stay at an inn where the sitting-room was adorned by a glass
case in which was a stuffed woodcock. "What bird is that?" asked
the traveler. He was perplexed, for the thing bore less evidence
of the skill of the taxidermist than of his industry. The
innkeeper, something of a sportsman who had himself shot the
bird, came readily forward. "Ah! that's my woodcock, Sir," he
said, and was about to tell the whole story, but the traveler
waved a weary hand. "It may be your woodcock," he said; "it
isn't God's woodcock."
The moral idea at the back of all
religions (which is the life that inspires and animates), when
it leaves the woods and open marshes of Folklore, and gets put
into chapel and church, becomes no longer God's revelation of
the divine in man so much as a thing stuffed out of with man's
idea of what he thinks is God's teaching. It becomes deadened by
dogma and cramped by creeds, and is as inert and lifeless as the
innkeeper's wood-cock on its tussock of glue and
"Who will show me God - the living God?" exclaims the
"O, when shall I come and appear before God?" And a
later poet sings:
Often the western wind has sung to me,
There have been voices in the reeds and meres,
leaves have told me, God, of Thee,
And I heard not: O, open Thou
And another declares, in homelier fashion
The whole earth's filled with Heaven,
And every common
bush afire with God;
But only he who sees takes off his
The rest sit round it, and pluck blackberries.
is it that enlightens those who do see beyond the blackberries?
What is it that opens the ears of those who can hear?
from within ourselves the teaching must come - intuition. The
ancient Druids taught that the First Cause, the Most High, the
Incommunicable Name, had two habitations - the Outer Universe,
and the Human Heart.
Further, they taught that the Outer
Universe is, in substance, eternal and imperishable, but subject
to successive cycles of dissolution and renewal. They believed
the eternity of the human soul was attained through a succession
of states of new experiences, in each stage of the way attaining
to fuller capacity for joy, until its consummation with the
The ancient writers held a great belief in dreams.
"God spake unto Israel in the visions of the night" is a phrase
familiar to readers of the Scriptures; and the research of
present-day investigators in the realm of the supernormal
faculties of man agrees here in some measure. Take the field of
hypnosis, for instance; it has revealed a definite enlargement
of what may be called the "day-consciousness." Probably in
everyone there are inner faculties that might be developed, and
this greatly to the good; but this expansion of the inner powers
should be wisely directed. Development should be understood to
be the establishing of a condition of individual harmony. It is
often ignorantly sought by exploring the commoner courses of
spiritualism, which is often a waste of time and sometimes
Moreover, it throws into disrepute and
casts into ridicule what is a fine ideal and an interesting
field of research. Development should be along the lines of the
ancient teaching that man is a triune being - body, soul, and
spirit; a soul, animated by the spirit, expressed in bodily
form. It is to this threefold strand that the phrase alludes in
the Bible where we read, "Be thou whole" - that is to say,
attain the wholeness of complete poise, the perfect balance that
arises if these three expressions of existence hold
THIS IS the idea behind the teaching of
what is vaguely spoken of as "The Holy Trinity." The Trinity is
within ourselves; or to put it in another way, our human nature
reflects this truth, which, were it not so reflected, would be
too lofty for us even to know of it. This is the Trinity we
should try to understand; and our "worship" should be directed
to keeping it sound and whole. A sound mind in a clean body, fit
channels for the indwelling of the truth. Few, in this life (or
in the one life, as we know it), attain to this poise. They are
masters of life who do so, the teachers of the race. But there are
many intermediate stages of development in man's pilgrimage,
each and all conducive towards well-being, and making for a
fairer chance of being of some service while we are here. It is
well even if those who are the watchers can so much as say: "The
wayfarer has not come yet at his destination, but his feet are
on the road."
My desire is for the Lord,
All my running
shall be towards Him;
This is my most excellent path.
will try to set down some of the many symbols which figure the
riddle of man's existence upon earth. Ancient things, these: as
old as the stones and the hills. Eloquently they bear silent
witness to the age-old traffic of the centuries. Defaced they
are, and fragmentary. Some are so worn by the passage of the
years that their signs are obliterated. In others, the message
has come to be used as trivial ornament. Nevertheless,
where-ever they are found, and no matter how deeply Time has
scarred them, they tell their story to those who will
LET US look at some of the ancient symbols
that tell of Man's pilgrimage and prefigure his development and
destiny. Long ago, when there were no books, a sign conveyed a
volume of meaning and the wise men who were the priests,
recorded their own knowledge and taught the people by means of
these signs. Man was seen by them as the pilgrim of the
universe. They taught that he had pre-existed this short span,
and that he would survive the death of the body, and that he
could, if he willed so, attain immortality.
taught that his lot in this present phase of existence was, in
all its features, the consequence of his previous living, and
that the tribulations of the soul while on the material plane
might, if he made them so, be greatly to his advantage. just as
the Holy Scriptures teach, using the image of a fiery furnace
that refines the gold, so these ordeals prepare and make fit the
soul for its ultimate union with the Divine. This is the supreme
object of all discipline and doctrine, and it is the meaning of
that figure in the Book of Revelation, "the marriage of the
Spirit and the Bride."
The Fathers of the early Christian
Church knew the esoteric meaning of the Gnostic wisdom, and they
incorporated many symbols of Egyptian origin in their teaching
during the early days of the Christian Church. This has always
been the way of the teachers. Take for instance St. John the
Baptist. He did not invent baptism. St. John baptized people
because he knew water traditionally represented spirit, and that
it was understood by the crowd who listened to him to symbolize
a cleaning of the material senses, a preparation for renewal of
life. The idea of the lily of the Holy Virgin, which is the
lotus of the Eastern tribes, the image of the Lamb, the Dove,
Sacred Fire - all these are figures of truth, emblems having
their origin in the early religious teaching of ancient times,
and like jewels, they are securely set in the fabric of our
Later Church, where they still give out the light of the realities
for which they stand.
CHRIST continually taught the
people by the use of illustrations entirely familiar to common
life; water, light, grain, tares, yeast, a coin, harvest-fields,
thorns, flocks, a feast, a vineyard, stewardship, a child. These
subjects He lifted from the way common to all feet, using them
as figures of truth, making their outer form show forth an inner
meaning. Yet He knew that even with His power of exposition only
some would understand. And this, not because they were wilfully
obtuse, but because only some were ready for it. He said, " He
that hath ears, let him hear" (unfortunately, clergymen never
put the accent on the right word in this, so that His; words are
reduced to a platitude), for He knew that only such souls whose
development was sufficiently advanced would be able to
This is why He never censured. He had nothing but
patience for those who did not understand through undevelopment,
because He knew their feet were on the way: what drew His rebuke
and aroused His condemnation was spiritual obliquity. Hypocrisy
and cupidity, sins of the soul, the acts of those who knew
better than they acted, deliberately degrading the noble in life
to base uses for mean ends - these He exposed and upbraided in
direct contrast to His attitude towards the bodily - what may be
called the more honest - sins.
We have spoken of these
who are on the way. This point of development is figured by the
soles of two human feet. This is the emblem of devotion, of
discipleship, the treading of the path. Masonic emblems are of
great antiquity, and refer to this pilgrimage of the
"Whence do you come?"
"From the East."
are you wending?"
"To the West."
"What is your inducement?"
"To find that which is lost."
"Where do you hope to find
"In the centre."
IN ESOTERIC literature the East
stands for birth, the West for death: "that which is lost"
stands for the soul in exile, the incarnation of spirit in
matter. The reply to "Where do you hope to find it?" stands for
the human heart, the only tribunal that counts, the only seat of
judgment, our own conscience. May it awake! 'Then "Cry out and
shout, thou inhabitant of Zion," says the Bible, "for great is
the Holy One in the midst of thee."
T.E. Brown, the Manx
poet, has some lines called "Indwelling" that touch at this
If thou couldst empty all thyself of self, he
Like to a shell dishabited,
Then might He find thee on
the ocean shelf
And say, 'This is not dead' -
And fill thee
with Himself instead.
But thou art all replete with very
And hast such shrewd activity,
That when He comes, He
says, 'This is enow,
Unto itself, 'tis better let it be.
is so small and full,
There is no room for Me!
What a riot
of apparent conflict in these two images, the wayfarer and the
pilgrim's feet, and yet a journey only to be accomplished
through "indwelling," though more than staying at home! Is this
sensible? Yes, because an actual pilgrimage is the external
image of the journey of the soul. "While I rest, my soul
advances," says Sir Thomas Browne. It is, indeed, of an earthly
journey of which we write, but one in which we wear out no
shoe-leather. This is why the soles of the feet, as shown in the
emblem, are depicted bare. And Sir Thomas Browne's prayer holds
good, for if once the orientation of the will through spiritual
conflict be rightly established, then progress may be made in
If thou canst get but thither,
There grows the
Flower of Peace,
The Rose that cannot wither,
and thine Ease.
THE SCALLOP is the emblem of the pilgrim; and
this is so, because in days when china and glass were unknown,
pewter too costly, and earthenware too heavy and brittle for
wayfaring, a scallopshell made the traveller's cup.
have spoken of the design of the two soles of human feet which
figured "discipleship" - a following of the path. Now to bring
these two emblems in juxtaposition, the bare feet and the
scallop-shell, is useful here, because we illustrate by so doing
the truth that everything upon the material plane has its
spiritual counterpart; that it exists only, and is manifested
here only, by reason of its spiritual counterpart. just as the
outer bark of the tree is one expression of the hidden sap
within, which in its turn derives its being from the spiritual
plane. "As above. so below," Archdeacon Wilberforce would say,
when he wanted to illustrate that this earthly life as we know
it is the reflection of the spiritual life. Often a clumsy
image, a distorted reflection, it is true: it is for us to make
the likeness more perfect; for behind everything actual there
exists something real.
There are some types so old they
have become almost obliterated, or have come to serve as trivial
ornament, divorced in the minds that set them where we find them
now, from their original content.
THE KEY pattern is the
chief of these; though the Egg and Dart design tells a part of
the same story. You find the Key pattern on the windowstraps in
railway carriages, along mantelpieces, bordering carpets, in the
upholstery of music halls, and on embroidered hems. This
concentrated design holds a world of meaning. To understand it
we must return to what we were telling of the ancient teaching.
Man was believed to exist through a series of earthly lives and
deaths, and these were divided by periods of rest in Paradise.
It was taught that during these periods of rest, the soul learnt
retrospectively the true values of its immediate past.
is to say, it could clearly see and rightly estimate the use of
sincerity and uprightness, and the folly of falsehood and sin.
It realized also the privilege of incarnation, as being the
precious means of speeding its ultimate good. During these
periods of vision a soul would deliberately choose and undertake
to "see through" those very trials and ordeals it would later,
blinded by the flesh, shrink and stiffer front. This is a fine
idea; it restores justice to God and gives free-will to man, and
provides a key to the riddle of existence. It shows the waters
of Lethe of the Grecian mythology, to figure existence in the
flesh when we must forget our past, but also the rest in
Paradise; for to remember the one would cruelly burden us, and
to recall the other would lessen the virtue in our endurance of
the present trial.
Once I said impatiently to my teacher,
"But why don't we remember our past lives? Is it really for our
good that the facts and acts of our past Iives should be
shrouded in oblivion?" And he answered me with another question.
"When you drink wine," he said, "you do not think it would be
better, do you, if the pips and skins and stalks were left in?"
And this is so. Just as in the wine we have the juice of the
vintage, so in ourselves do we hold the essence of the past; it
is in our instinctive tendencies; in the "intuition" we have
alluded to, that in some amounts to a sense of mystical
communion, or to some inner knowledge that directs; it is in our
conscience; even in "those obstinate questionings that will not
be stilled," we have an outcome of our Fast; and according to
the wisdom of Divine ruling it is not only in our interest that
we should forget the past, but to our comfort that this should
NOW LET us see how the Key pattern deals with all
this. It is composed of eight lines - five short ones and three
longer. We must take it to pieces and rebuild it again in order
to understand the epitome it presents of the procession of man's
fate. It is a Design of Infinite Progression. It is thus broken
to show that the spirit does not incarnate in fulness of being
once, but, as the present school of Anthroposophists teach, the
years of infancy and childhood prepare the body for the descent
of the ego, when maturity, is reached and the full submerging of
spirit in matter is completed. Here then is the tale told in
these few lines, a pattern apparently without end and without
Wearily monotonous, you say? It is not for us to
WITHOUT commencement, and with what conclusion? We
cannot tell. To me there seems a noble reticence in this old
design; a fitting acknowledgment of our inadequacy to so much as
spell our beginning, or even to suggest an end. The ancient
teaching from which it originates provides this key to the
riddle, and with it a philosophy which throws at least some
light upon the apparent injustice and inequalities of man's
existence here on earth.
It may be seen on the window-strap
in your railway compartment, and is not wholly out of place
there, for it tells of the greater journey
Homeward he travels. All roads lead to God. Long is
the way, but all reach home at last.
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