Copyrighted July, 1923
By MANLY P. HALL
“He who lives the life shall know the Doctrine”
THERE eternally presents itself to the student of Mystic Masonry one problem. He knows it under many names. It is told to him in many symbols, but briefly it may be defined as the purification and liberation of spirit and body from the ban of crystallization and materiality. In other words, he is seeking to lift the life within himself from the little room down under the ruins of his fallen temple, and place it again as the keystone of his spiritual arch.
When studying ancient Masonry we are dealing with one of the first outpourings of what we now know as the Wisdom Teachings, and, like other great mysteries, it consists of solutions to problems of everyday existence.
It may seem of little use to us now to study these ancient, abstract symbols, but the time will come when each student will realize that the things that he now casts aside as worthless are jewels which one day he will need.
Man is eternally striving like the centaur in the zodiac to lift his human consciousness from the body of the animal, and in the three rung ladder of the Masons we find the three great steps which are necessary for this liberation. These three steps are the three grand divisions of human consciousness. We can briefly define them as materiality, intellectuality, and spirituality. They also represent action as the lowest, emotion in the center, and mentality above, and all human beings are lifting themselves up to God by climbing the three steps that lead to liberation.
When we have united these three manifestations into a harmonious balance, we then have the Flaming Triangle. It was said by the ancients that God, as the dot in the circle, was unknowable but that he manifested through his three witnesses, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Now the same is true with man. The God in each of us can only manifest through His Three Witnesses. The Father manifests through our thoughts, the Son through our emotions, and the Holy Spirit through our actions.
When we balance our thoughts, desires, and actions, we have an equilateral triangle. When man’s purified life energies radiate out through these three witnesses, we then have a halo or flame added to the triangle, while in the center is God, the unknowable One, the Yod, the flaming letter of the Hebrew alphabet, unknowable, unthinkable, the abyss, which no one can understand but from which all things come. The life of this unknown pours outward through the triangle, which in the higher degrees is surrounded by a halo of flames. The halo is the soul which is built by the transmuted thoughts, actions, and desires, the eternal triangle of God.
We, also, find among the Masons the Beehive, which is called by them the symbol of industry, for it clearly demonstrates how man should cooperate with his fellowman for the mutual development of all. It, however, contains a much deeper message, for each living soul is a bee who travels through life and gathers the pollen of experience, the pollen of wisdom, from the conditions and occurrences of life. Each of us should extract the spiritual nectar from each happening, from each joy, from each sorrow, as the bee gathers the honey from the heart of a flower, and incorporate it into the great beehive of experience, the soul body of man. In the same way it is said that the spiritual energies in man are eternally taking the life forces which he is transmitting and carrying them up into the beehive in the brain, in which is kept the honey or oil necessary for our life.
It is said of the ancient gods that they lived on nectar and did not eat and drink like other men. It is true that the honey gained or extracted from the problems of everyday life is the food of the higher man, and while we eat at the well-laden board it will be well for us to consider whether or not the spiritual man is also being nourished and developed by the things which we have transmuted in our own lives.
An ancient philosopher once said that the bee makes his honey from the pollen of the flower, while from the same source the spider makes his poison, and the problem which confronts us, is, are we bees or spiders?
Do the experiences of life become honey or do we change them into poison? Do they lift us as they should or do we eternally kick against the pricks? Many people are soured by experience but the wise one takes the honey and builds it into the beehive of his own spiritual nature.
It is, also, well for us to consider the Grip of the Lion’s Paw, one of the world’s most ancient symbols of initiation. It was said in ancient times that the neophyte on his way through the mysteries of ancient Egypt’s temples was finally buried in a great stone chest for dead, to be later raised to life again by the Master Initiate in his robes of blue and gold, and when he was arised the Grand Master wore upon his arm and hand like a glove the paw of a lion, and it was said of the newly raised disciple that he had been brought to life by the grip of the lion’s paw.
The Hebrew letter “yod,” which is used in the center of the triangle and is sometimes used as a symbol of spirit because of its flamelike appearance, means, according to the Kabbalist, a hand that is stretched forth. We understand this to symbolize the sun spirit in man, which is said to be enthroned in the sign of Leo, the lion of Judah, and as the fruits of the fields and the seedlings are grown and developed through the sun’s rays, so it is said that the crystallization of man is broken and dispelled by the light of the spiritual sun which raises the dead with its powers and liberates the life held in latency.
The spirit in man, with its eyes that see in the dark, is eternally striving to lift the lower side of his own nature to union with itself, and when the lower man is raised from materiality by the higher ideals which evolve within his own being, it is then said that the spirit of light and truth has raised the candidate for initiation by the grip of the lion’s paw.
It is well for us to notice the symbols of the two John’s, as we find them in the masonic rituals. John means “ram,” and the ram is symbolical of the animal passions and propensities of man. In John, the Baptizer, dressed in the skins of animals, these passions are un-transmuted, while in the case of John, the Evangelist, they have been transmuted until the vehicles and powers which they represent have become the beloved disciples of the Christ life in man.
We often hear the expression of “riding the goat” or “climbing the greased pole.” This is very symbolical to those who have eyes to see, for when man masters his lower animal vehicles he can say very honestly that he is “riding the goat,” and if he cannot ride the goat he cannot enter the temple of initiation. As to the greased pole which he must climb, this refers undoubtedly to the spinal column; and it is only when the consciousness of man climbs up this column into the brain that he can take the degrees of Free Masonry.
When taking up the subject of the lost word, we should again understand it as an individual problem. Man himself, that is, the true principle, may be called the lost word, but it is better for us to say that it is a certain something which radiates out from man which is a password recognized by all members of the craft. When man abuses and destroys the life energies within himself, the architect of his temple, then this builder carries to the tomb with him where he is laid, after having been murdered by the three lower bodies, the word which is the proof of his position.
All abuses of mental, physical or spiritual powers result in the murder of energy and when this energy is lost man loses with it the sacred word. Our lives are the living password, our thoughts, desires, and actions are the three-fold password by which a Master Builder knows his kin, and when the student seeks admittance to the inner room he must present at the temple gates a purified body and a balanced mind. No price can buy this sacred word; no degree can bestow it; but when within ourselves the dead builder is raised to life, he himself speaks the word and upon the philosopher’s stone built within ourselves is engraved the living name of the divine.
It is only when this builder is raised that the symbols of mortality can be changed to those of immortality. Our bodies are the urn containing the ashes of Hiram; our lives are the broken pillars; crystallization is the coffin; and disintegration the open grave. But above it all is the sprig of evergreen promising life to those who raised the serpent power, showing that down below in the debris of the temple lies the body of the builder and that he may be raised when ever we so live that the divine life within is given expression.
There are many of these wonderful Masonic symbols handed down to us from the forgotten past, symbols of which the meaning has been lost and buried beneath the mantel of materiality. Still, the true mason, the child of light, cries out for liberation and the empty throne of Egypt waits for the King of the Sun who was killed. Still, all the world is waiting for Balder, the Beautiful, to come to life again, for the crucified Christ to roll away the stone and rise out of the tomb of matter, bringing with it its own tomb.
When man has so lived that he can understand this wonderful problem, then the great Eye or center of consciousness enabled to see out through the clean glass of a purified body is opened; and the mysteries of true masonry, long concealed from the profane, are understood; and the new Master donning his robes of blue and gold follows in the footsteps of the great immortals who are climbing step by step the ladder leading upward to the seven stars; while far above the source of life, the ark, floats over the waters of oblivion and the spiritual life of man floating in the sea above sends its messages to the lower man through the cable tow. When this point is reached, the door in the “G” is closed forever, for the dot has returned to the circle; the three-fold spirit and the three-fold body are linked together in the eternal seal of Solomon. Then, the cornerstone which the builder rejects becomes again the head of the corner, and man the capstone long missing from the universal temple is again in place.
The daily happenings of life are sharpening our senses and developing our faculties. These are the tools of the craft, the mallet, the chisel, and the rule, and with these self-developed tools we are slowly truing the rough ashler or cube into a finished block for the universal temple. It is only then that we become Initiates of the Flame for it is only then that light takes the place of darkness, and as we wander through the vaulted chambers of our own being we are then learning the meaning of the vaulted chambers of the temple, and as the initiative ritual unfolds before our eyes we should recognize in it the growth of our being, the unfoldment of our own consciousness, and the story of our own lives.
It is with this thought in our minds we are able to understand why the Atlanteans of old worshipped the rising sun and how the modern mason of today symbolizes this sun as Hiram, the high-born, who, when he rises to the top of the temple, places a golden stone upon it and raises to life all things in man.