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Wilmshurst W L - The Masonic Initiation

Wilmshurst W L - The Masonic Initiation

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Published by: HiramSecret on Oct 03, 2011
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BYW. L. WILMSHURSTThe Sequel to The Meaning Of Masonry
 Masonry and Religion
This book is meant to be a sequel to, and an amplification of, my previous volume, The Meaning of Masonry, first published in 1922--a collection of papers issued diffidently and tentatively on thechance that they might interest some few members of the Craft in the deeper and philosophic aspectof Freemasonry. It at once met, however, with a surprisingly warm welcome from all parts of theworld, and already has had to be thrice reprinted. Any personal pleasure at its reception is eclipsedby a greater gratification and thankfulness at the now demonstrated fact that the present large andrapid increase in the number of the Fraternity is being accompanied by a correspondingly widedesire to realize the significance and purpose of the Masonic system to a much fuller degree than tillnow has been the case. The Masonic Craft seems to be gradually regenerating itself, and, as Ipreviously indicated, such a regeneration must needs make not only for the moral benefit andenlightenment of individuals and Lodges, but ultimately must react favourably upon the framework in which they exist -the whole body of society .In these circumstances it becomes possible to speak more fully, perhaps also more feelingly, upon asubject which, as a large volume of public and private testimony has revealed to me, is engaging theearnest interest of large numbers of Brethren of the Craft. So I offer them these further papers,[presenting the same subject-matter as before, but induction different form and expounding morefully matters previously treated but superficially and cursorily.By "the Masonic Initiation" I mean, of course, not merely the act and rite of reception into theOrder, but Speculative Freemasonry-within the limits of the Craft and Arch Degrees-regarded as asystem, a specialized method of intellectual guidance and spiritual instruction ; a method which toits willing and attentive devotees offers at once an interpretation of life, a rule of living, and ameans of grace, introduction, and even intromission, to life and light of a supra-natural order .Masonry being essentially and expressedly a quest after supranatural Light, the present papers areschematically arranged in correspondence with the stages of that quest ; they deal first with thetransition from darkness to light ; next with the pathway itself and the light to be found thereon ;and, lastly, with light in its fullness of attainment as the result of faithfully pursuing that path to theend. - In a final paper I have re-surveyed the Order's past and indicated its present tendencies andfuture possibilitiesIn their zeal to appreciate and make the best of their connection with the Order, some members, onefinds, experience difficulty in defining and "placing" Freemasonry . Is it Religion, Philosophy, asystem of morals, or what ? In view of the deepening interest in the subject, it may be well at theoutset to clear up this point . Masonry is not a Religion, though it contains marked religiouselements and many religious references . A Brother may legitimately say, if he wishes,-and manydo say-"Masonry is my religion," but he is not justified in classifying and holding it out to otherpeople as a Religion. Reference to the Constitutions makes it quite clear that the system is onemeant to exist outside and independently of Religion ; that all the Order requires of its members is abelief in Deity and personal conformation to the Moral Law, every Brother being free to followwhatsoever form of religion and mode of worship he pleases .
Neither is Masonry a Philosophy ; albeit behind it lies a large philosophical background notappearing in its surface-rituals and doctrine, but left for discovery to the research and effort of theBrethren . That philosophical background is a Gnosis or Wisdom-teaching as old as the world, onewhich has been shared alike by the Vedists of the East, the Egyptian, Chaldean and OrphicInitiation systems, the Pythagorean and Platonist schools, and all the Mystery Temples of both thepast and the present, Christian or otherwise. The present renaissance in the Masonic Order iscalculated to cause a marked, if gradual, revival of interest in that philosophy, with the probableeventual result that there will come about a general restoration of the Mysteries, inhibited during thelast sixteen centuries . But of this more will be said in the final section of this book The official description of Masonry is that it is a "System of Morality." This is true, but in twosenses, one only of which is usually thought of . The term is usually interpreted as meaning a"system of morals." But men need not enter a secret order to learn morals and study ethics ; nor isan elaborate duction ceremonial organization needed to teach them. Elementary morals can be, andare, learned in the outside world ; and must be learned there if one is to be merely a decent memberof society . The possession of "strict morals," as every Mason knows, is a preliminary qualificationfor entering the Order ; a man does not enter it to acquire them after he has entered . It is true hefinds the Order insistent on obedience to the Moral Law and emphasising closer cultivation of certain ethical virtues, as is essential to those who propose to enter upon a course of spiritualscience ; and this is the primary, more obvious sense in which the term "system of morality" is used.But the word "morality," in its original, and also in its Masonic, connotation, has a further meaning; one carrying the same sense as it does when we speak of a "morality-play ." A "morality" is aliterary or dramatic way of expressing spiritual truth, putting it forward allegorically and inaccordance with certain well-settled principles and methods (mores) ; it is the equivalent of a usageor "use," as ecclesiastics speak of "the Sarum use" or liturgy . In the same sense Plutarch's Moraliais largely a series of disquisitions upon the mores of the ancient religious Mystery-schools .A "system of morality," therefore, means secondarily" a systematized and dramatized method of moral discipline and philosophic instruction, based on ancient usage and long established practice ."The method in question is that of Initiation ; the usage and practice is that of allegory and symbol,which it is the Freemason's duty, if he wishes to understand his system, to labour to interpret andput to personal application. If he fails to do so, he still remains and the system deliberately intendsthat he should in the dark about the Order's real meaning and secrets, although formally a memberof it . The Order, the morality-system, merely guarantees its own possession of Truth ; it does notundertake to impart it save to those who labour for it . For Truth and its real arcana can never becommunicated directly, or save through allegory and symbol, myth and sacrament. The onus of translating these must ever rest with the recipient as part .-of his lifework ; until he makes the truthhis own he can never know it to be truth ; he must do the will before he can know the doctrine . "Iknow not how it is" (said St. Bernard of Clairvaux of allegory and symbol) "but the more thatspiritual realities are clothed with obscuring veils, the more they delight and attract ; and nothing somuch heightens longing for them as such tender refusal."Masonry, then,-as a "system of morality" as thus defined-is neither a Religion nor a Philosophy, butat once a Science and an Art, a Theory and a Practice ; and this was ever the way in which theSchools of the Ancient Wisdom and Mysteries proceeded. They first exhibited to the intendingdisciple a picture of the Life-process ; they taught him the story of the soul's genesis and descentinto this world ; they showed him its present imperfect, restricted state and its unfortunate position ;they indicated that there was a scientific method by which it might be perfected and regain itsoriginal condition . This was the Science-half of their systems, the programme or theory placedinduction advance before disciples, that they might have a thorough intellectual grasp of the

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