The Fundamental Philosophic Secrets Within Masonry
We are to speak of the fundamental philosophic secrets concealed within the Masonic system. These our system declares to be many and invaluable and to be kept by Masons in their hearts. They are therefore obviously to be distinguished from the merely formal secrets imparted ceremonially, which are kept in the head and are deeply significant.
By these secrets, then, is not meant some definite precise information that can be imparted to or withheld from another person at will, but the arcane truths inherent in the system itself; truths needing to be extracted from it, like poetry or music from the printed page, by personal effort and that can be recognised as truths only by the inward responsiveness of the soul itself after deeply meditating and assimilating them. Hence we are taught that they are matters of the heart, and that they are communicable to brethren and fellows (that is, to those whose minds have developed a common measure of spirituality), and then not orally, but only by means of signs, tokens and perfect points of entrance. By points of entrance is meant appropriate faculties of perception and understanding.
For just as to enter into perception and understanding of the outer world we need our five outward-pointing senses, so for perception and appreciation of the inner world, we need a corresponding inward sensorium. The pentagram or five pointed star indicates our five points of entrance into relations with the world of sense and phenomena by the limited imperfect channels of the senses; and, to cognise the secret things of supra-sensual life, we must have developed corresponding, but perfect points of entrance into it in the form of soulfaculty, inward vision, inward audition. Hence inward truths and mysteries are inevitably and automatically secret from those who have not yet acquired perfect points of entrance to them, not because of any capricious withholding of them by some better informed person, but because such men are without the appropriate faculty for perceiving them; their inner vision is as yet hoodwinked, darkened, and prevented from recognising them.
For all Masons, for all the world, ultimate Truth and all the mysteries of being are an ever-open secret. But because all the world isn’t yet ripe for knowing that secret, or doesn’t want to know it, or imagines either that it isn’t knowable or that it knows it already, or at least as much of it as is needed for present pur-poses, it continues secret, refusing to be revealed save on its own terms, and lying, as the old simile tells, at the dark bottom of a well, which well is our own soul-depths,from which it can only be drawn by our own industry and effort. Hence we find secret orders always existing for initiation into these secrets and mysteries, and in these days when we see our own Order so little concerning itself with such things but preferring to direct its energies rather to social and secular purposes, it is useful to reflect that the sole justification for a secret Order is that it is intended to provide specialised instruction and combined fraternal effort for those desirous to draw apart from these activities of the outer world and enter a quiet sanctuary where they may contemplate and, God helping, perchance attain personal realisation of things which, in their nature, must always remain secret to the uninitiated and outside their consciousness.
Before reaching the heart of our subject I wish to refer to a preliminary matter, and to point out that the text of our rituals and lectures discloses a unique combination of two very different and easily distinguishable levels of teaching; a lower and common-place level which is simple and intelligible to everyone; and a higher and distinctly esoteric level relating to matters of advanced philosophic wisdom.
To the lower level belong the various charges and counsels to morality, and such matters as the simple explanations of the cardinal and other virtues and of the elementary symbolism of building tools. These are matters of no philosophic significance. They have nothing about them distinctive of a secret science or an Initiatory Order. They inculcate only what might be imparted to non-Masons. The ideals of conduct they proclaim are not higher or other than any uninitiated man of rectitude and good feeling normally acts upon, whilst their interpretations of symbolism are adapted to a quite puerile order of intelligence. Of themselves they do not justify the existence of a Secret Order and an elaborate organisation to perpetuate them, and their sole advantage is that they serve as the foothills to the higher peaks ol doctrine and provide a common basis of elementary understanding and conduct among the members of a Society the majority of whom do not look for or aspire to anything more than good fellowship and pleasant social relations, which could just as easily he found in the outside world.
To the higher level, however, belong matters of an entirely different order of instructiveness, matters drawn from and linking us directly with older and advanced systems of philosophic and experimental Mysticism beyond the mental horizon of the average Brother who for want of requisite preparation and instruction (for which also he too often has neither aptitude nor desire), is not only at a loss to understand the main features of our system, but is precluded from vitally benefiting from it. So he remains an initiate in name only, not in fact, whilst the Order instead of cultivating the secret science and royal art to which, nevertheless, it pays much empty lip-service, degenerates into a vast semi-public social and benevolent institution conducted upon the same lines and in the same spirit as characterise the outer world, against which our doors are theoretically meant to be shut and closely tiled. How many Masons could say what initiation really is and involves? How many could explain the doctrine of the centre, the meaning of the circle and the point within it, and the two grand parallel lines bounding it, or the implications of the structure and contents of a Lodge, of the Blazing Star or Glory at the centre, or manifest any personal experience of the mystical death dramatised in our Third Degree? How many could explain all that is meant by the Star in the East or testify to its rising in actual spiritual experience and not merely in symbolic ceremony, bringing with its rising the peace and salvation to which that Degree alludes and that open vision, cosmic and beatific, which the Royal Arch ceremony attempts truthfully to portray?