MASONIC INITIATION  by W.L. Wilmshurst

Chapter III

FULLNESS OF LIGHT
OBSERVATIONS AND EXAMPLES


"The light of the body is the eye . When thine eye is single,
thy whole body also is full of light . Take heed, therefore, that
the light in thee be not darkness ." (Luke xi., 34-5).

Now will I open unto thee-whose heart
Rejects not-that last lore, deepest concealed,
That farthest secret of My heavens and earths,
Which but to know shall set thee free from ills ;
A royal lore, a kingly mystery ;
Yea, for the soul such light as purgeth it
From every sin ; a light of holiness
With inmost splendour shining .
(The Song Celestial, ix.) .


We have shown that Initiation, in its real and not merely ceremonial sense,
effects in him who undergoes it a permanent enlargement of consciousness to
a level and of a quality never previously known to him. The expansion may
be small or great ; indeed the Science contemplates successive degrees of
Initiation and ever widening expansions to which no limit can be set.

The reader will ask himself, "What are the nature and characteristics of
this new order of consciousness when attained? How will it differ from my
present normal consciousness?" To answering this question the present paper
is devoted, and it shall be dealt with first in some general observations,
and subsequently in a more illustrative manner.

Even normally, and without deliberately sought Initiation, human
consciousness becomes enlarged as the result merely of progressive
life-experience. For what is life itself but a slow, gradual Initiation
process, with the world as a Temple in which it is conferred ? The
consciousness and resultant sagacity of experienced age exceed those of raw
youth, even if the change be of an intellectual rather than of a spiritual
kind, and involve merely increased savoir faire and mundane wiliness rather
than growth in unworldly wisdom . Still, enlargement has occurred, and it
adumbrates what is possible with the spiritual consciousness when it
becomes awakened.

Nature, indeed, exhibits nothing but consciousness in process of expansion
through her fourfold series of kingdoms from the mineral upwards . The
outward forms of life, even of the mineral, are but the objective bodies of
a subjective life-activity resident in that body. The Earth-planet itself,
as also each of the stellar bodies, is, the Ancients rightly taught, not
dead matter, but a Zoon, a living Animal, conscious as a whole, conscious
(though differingly) in each of its parts however materialised or tenuous,
and girdled round with a Zodiac of other mutually interacting "living
creatures," the separate consciousnesses of all the parts of the complex
mechanism blending in the synthetic Omniscience, God .

Life is fundamentally one, a unity, though distributed into many separated
lives and divided into separate self-contained kingdoms, as compartments of
a ship are divided by decks and bulkheads . It is "an ever-rolling stream,"
a stream that pours through those kingdoms in a continuous flow which is
never more than momentarily checked by the forms (or bodies) it flows
through, which are as it were but little eddies and vortices in the stream
; and these forms, from the lowest to the most highly evolved, are devised
and adjusted to raising consciousness to progressively higher levels.
Nature, in a word, is a system of restricted consciousness in perishable
bodies, leading up to unrestricted consciousness in an ultra-natural
immortal body.

Each successive kingdom of Nature assumes into itself the sublimated
characteristics of the one below it, but becomes endued with an additional
principle and takes on a new and appropriate bodily form . Thus, as the
scale is ascended, the sensitive, the emotional, the intellectual, and the
spiritual principles are successively added and built into the evolving
structure . When the Life-essence specialized in the mineral passes on into
the vegetable kingdom, it, as it were, takes a degree of Initiation ; a
fresh start is made, a new form or body is given to it as "a mark of its
progress ." It takes similar and higher grades of initiation, and acquires
appropriate new bodies, as it passes on to the animal and thence to the
human kingdoms.

  It is not here implied that mineral forms directly evolve into vegetable,
thence to animal and so on, at some point which the biologist has sought
for but failed to trace . This is not the case . The kingdoms of Nature are
closed compartments without intercommunicating doors on the phenomenal
plane, and do not there change into one another. The transition takes place
on a super-physical noumenal plane, beyond the range of now current science .

Man, as at his present evolutional stage, is, in his lower nature, but a
summary and synthesis of the three sub-human kingdoms ; his embryo
recapitulates, and his physique incorporates, the kingdoms he has traversed
in the long ascent ; but superimposed and dovetailed into it is now an
additional, a spiritual divine principle, distinguishing and setting him
above the lower kingdoms. To them he stands as a god ; a high initiate,
conscious in a way inconceivable to them. Similarly a plant is a god, an
initiate, relatively to the soil it grows in ; and an animal a god to the
plant .

Yet in virtue of the new spiritual principle grafted upon his highly
evolved bodily structure, man is capable of rising to still loftier
conscious levels ; he awaits still further initiation . Before him lies the
prospect of outgrowing the kingdom of merely animal man and of entering the
higher one of spiritual Man. Four kingdoms-mineral, vegetable, animal
human-he has known and built into his organism. He has now to rise to a
fifth kingdom, that of Spirit, of which already he is a member potentially,
but without having yet developed and realised his potencies.

The secret Science therefore shows him a five-pointed Star as an emblem of
himself and invests him with the five-pointed Apron as a symbol in which he
may visualize himself, read his own past, and deduce his present
possibilities.

The important fact must be emphasized that, on each transition from a lower
to a higher kingdom, on each initiation into a new order of life, a death
to, a complete break-away from and abandonment of, the old form and method
of life, is involved . Natural man must, therefore, die to himself, must
abnegate and put off his old nature, before he can hope to pass into the
fifth kingdom as spiritual Man . This death, we have shown, is signified by
the Masonic Third Degree, which ceremonially dramatizes what the individual
must pass through before attaining an order of life and consciousness he
has never before experienced or been able to experience . The death in
question is not a physical death ; the physical organism is still retained
by its former wearer . He has merely effaced and died to his old self and
its natural tendencies, and suffered them to become superseded by a new
self, functioning not from his former constricted mind, but from a new
centre of illimitable conscious capacity ; a capacity not displaced by the
resumed use of his physical body for the residue of its natural duration,
but one that enables him thenceforward to use that body as a much more
effective instrument for furthering the cosmic purpose .

How is that newly-won consciousness to be described ? It is, of course,
indescribable. As sight is indescribable to the man born blind, as
consciousness in this world would be unexplainable to the unborn babe, so
that of the Initiate is incapable of description to those as yet unborn in
the kingdom of Spirit. To be known it must be experienced . It belongs to
the Greater Mysteries which always remain ineffable and incommunicable,
whatever instruction may be imparted about the Lesser ones . Yet something
may be said about it to help the imagination.

In my former volume it was explained that the moment of restoration to
light in the Third Degree, and also the corresponding moment in the Royal
Arch Degree, are both of them attempts-the former a simple, the latter a
more elaborate one-to dramatize the enlarged conscious state into which the
candidate passes in actual Initiation . A very fine and wonderful literary
description of expanded consciousness effected by Initiation is to be found
in the eleventh section of the great Indian manual of initiation-science,
the Bhagavad Gita (most accessible to English readers in Sir Edwin Arnold's
fine poetic translation, The Song Celestial) . Dante's vision in the
Paradiso is an example, as also that recorded in the biblical book of
Revelation by the seer who was "in the spirit in the Lord's day." Keats
imagined it accurately when, in Hyperion, he wrote of it :

Knowledge enormous makes a god of me .
Names, deeds, grey legends, dire events, rebellions,
Majesties, sovran voices, agonies,
Creations and destroyings,-all, at once,
Pour into the wide hollows of my brain
And deify me ; as if some blithe wine,
A bright elixir peerless, I had drunk
And so become immortal .

A large collection of evidence and records of. personal experiences has
been brought together in recent years testifying to the fact of such
conscious expansions . One such compilation is that entitled Cosmic
Consciousness, by Dr. R. M . Bucke, a member of the Craft in America and an
exponent of the mystical nature of Masonry . The subject has even been
investigated experimentally by the late eminent psychologist Professor
William James and others, and although such artificially induced
heightenings of consciousness are strongly to be dissuaded from as perilous
to those who undertake them-and Professor James confessed that to himself
it brought with it a painful reaction and penalty-he has left an able,
vivid description of what is known as "the Anaesthetic Revelation" which
may be quoted ; it could not better have expressed the truth had it been
written by one who had attained Initiation legitimately and in the natural
development of the life of sanctity and contemplation, instead of by one
who was merely intoxicating himself with nitrous oxide gas . He writes :

"In this intense metaphysical illumination, Truth lies open
to the view in depth beneath depth of almost blinding evidence .
The mind sees all the logical relations of being with an apparent
subtlety and instantaneity to which its normal consciousness
offers no parallel . The centre and periphery of things seem to
come together . The Ego and its objects, the meum and the tuum,
are one. Its first result was to make peal through me with
unutterable power the conviction that the deepest convictions
of my intellect hitherto were wrong . Whatever idea or representation
occurred to the mind was seized by the same logical
forceps and served to illustrate the same truth ; and that truth
was that every opposition, among whatsoever things, vanishes
in a higher unity in which it is based ; that all contradictions,
so called, are but differences ; that all differences are of degree ;
that all degrees are of a common kind ; that unbroken continuity
is the essence of being ; and that we are literally in the
midst of an Infinite. It is impossible to convey an idea of the
torrential character of the identification of opposites as it
streams through the mind in this experience." (The Will to
Believe, by W. James, p . 294) .

With this statement let us compare one by a real Initiate describing the
opening up of the Light at his centre :

"My whole spirit seemed to break through the gates of hell
and be taken up into the arms and heart of God . I can compare
it to nothing but the resurrection at the last day . For then, with
all reverence I say it, with the eyes of my spirit I saw God. I
saw both what God is, and how God is what He is . The gate
of the Divine Mystery was sometimes so opened in me that in
one quarter of an hour I saw and knew more than if I had been
many years at a university . I saw and knew the Being of all
Beings ; the Byss and the Abyss ; the generation of the Son and
the procession of the Spirit . I saw the descent and original of
this world also, and of all its creatures . I saw in their order and
outcome the Divine World, the Angelical World, Paradise, and
then this fallen dark world of our own . I saw the beginning of
the good and of the evil, the true origin and existence of each
of them . For twelve years this went on in me . Sometimes the
truth would hit me like a sudden smiting storm of rain, and
then there would be the clear sunshine after the rain ."

The writer of this statement was the poor, uneducated cobbler, Jacob
Boehme, who lived near Dresden, and died, aged 49, in 1624, and who
has  been described by a disciple and competent judge - Louis Claude de
Saint Martin ("Le Philosophe Inconnu") ; himself a Freemason and advanced
illuminate - as "the greatest light that has come into the world since Him
who was Himself the Light of the world." The fuller record of his
illuminations and profound metaphysical insight can be found in his series
of lengthy but difficult and obscure works, from the study of which Sir
Isaac Newton, a deep student of them, drew the information from which he
became able to formulate the principles of gravitation and planetary
motion, and other laws now known to regulate physical phenomena .

Instances might be multiplied indefinitely of cases in which the inner
being of persons ripening for Initiation expands towards all sides from an
infinitely deep central point in themselves, so that they acquire a totally
different outlook upon life, a larger deeper envisaging of the world, than
others . Three outstanding features characterize such cases . First, the
fact that objects, whether those of nature or one's fellow beings, cease to
be seen singly, as separate objects and beings, but as partial expressions
of a single, sublying, inexpressible unity . Second, the fact that for such
percipients all ordinary values become changed ; what the average man
supposes important shrinks to worthlessness, and what he thinks negligible
assumes prime importance . Third, the fact that the five senses,
distributed in the ordinary man as distinct, unrelated channels of
perception, remain no longer separate and diffused, but become unified and
co-functional in one comprehensive faculty, so that to see is also to hear
; to touch, even with blindfold eyes, is to visualize . As a Brother in the
Craft, known to me, writes of his own experience of this enrichment of
consciousness : "You know everything and understand the stars and the hills
and the old songs . They are all within you, and you are all light . But
the light is music, and the music is violet wine in a great cup of gold,
and the wine in the golden cup is the scent of a June night ."

The brilliant young German, Novalis, an advanced illuminate, though he died
at 29 over a century ago, tells of his Master, Werner (a professor of
mineralogy at Freyburg), as one who "was aware of the inter-relation of all
things, of conjunctions, coincidences . He saw nothing singly . The
perceptions of his senses thronged together ; he heard, saw, felt,
simultaneously. Sometimes the stars became man to him, men as stars ;
stones as animals, clouds as plants . He sported with forces and phenomena
. He knew where and how to find and bring to light this or that. What came
to him more than this he does not tell us. But he tells us that we
ourselves, led on by him and by our own desire, may discover what happened
to him ."

"Led on by our own desire." In desire lies the secret of it all ! All
Initiation presupposes , concentration and intensity of desire for it, and
is impossible without that indispensable prerequisite . Desire turned
outward, squandered upon exterior attractions, wastes the soul's forces,
distributes its energies through the five channels of sense . Turned
inward, focused upon interior possibilities, desire ingathers those
forces, unifies those senses, and is the heat which, gathering in
intensity, finds its ultimate fruition in a burst of conscious flame . "If
thine eye be single thy whole body is full of light ."

Here is an example . In a small lone isle of the Hebrides lived a young
fisherman-crofter, one of the few natives of a place necessarily poor and
with such scanty social and educational advantages that a mind of any power
and depth is thrown back upon itself ; a place where almost the only book
is that of Nature, the only place of worship the Temple of earth and sky
and sea. Such conditions, however, uninviting to most people, are
particularly favourable to self-realisation and initiation ; since they
ensure that poverty, that simplicity and unsophistication of the mind which
are so difficult to acquire in crowded places and amid the tyrannies,
artificialities and strife of current so-called civilization . So they were
to the man in question. With something of the old primitive passion of
Demeter-worship, he loved the island and the sea, his soul straining
continually to know directly and at first hand the Living Beauty which he
knew resided beneath its manifested veil . One golden day, in a moment of
concentrated adoring contemplation, he threw himself on the ground, kissing
the hot, sweet heather, plunging his hands and arms in it, sobbing the
while with a vague strange yearning, and lying there nerveless, with closed
eyes . His posture at that moment resembled, unwittingly yet surely, that
of one who with blinded eyes and with his hands upon the Sacred Law
declares that the supreme Light is the paramount desire of his heart and
asks to be accorded it. And then came the moment when his longing was
satisfied, when the veil was torn from his eyes and he received his
initiation into light .

Suddenly-for, whatever its nature to the cold-blooded inquisition of the
scientist, thus he translated the psychopathic experience he then
under went two little hands rose up through the spires of heather and
anointed his forehead and eyes with something soft and fragrant .

Thereafter he was the same, yet not the same, man; the place he lived in
was the old familiar place, yet had become new, glorified.  The Eternal
Beauty had entered into him, and nothing that others saw as ugly or dreary
was otherwise than perpetually invested with it . Waste, desolate spots
became to him passing fair, radiant with lovely light. When, later, he went
away to great towns and passed among their squ2dor and sordid hideousness,
amid slims, factory smoke and grime, he saw all that others see, yet only
as vanishing shadows, beneath which everything and everyone was lovely,
beautiful with strange glory, and the faces of men and women sweet and
pure, and their souls white.

Such was this man's involuntary Initiation unsought, or rather not
knowingly sought, yet bringing him the fruits of the travail of his soul
and leaving him permanently enlightened and transformed. (The incident is
referred to in the works of the late Fiona Ma) He came to be known among
those with whom he dwelt as "the Anointed Man." In their Greek original the
words "Christ" and "Christian " bore just that significance-an anointed,
"baptized," for initiated man. Actual Initiation, then, regarded, as it may
be, as "baptism," is of two classes, a lesser and a greater. The lesser
(scripturally described as the ,"baptism of water") .is one affecting the
lower nature. the mind, the intelligence, the psychic nature and
sensibilities. The mentality becomes expanded and illuminated ; there is a
quickening and hyperaesthesia of the senses, a growth of psychic faculty
and perception ; for the soul ( or psyche ) is now beginning to exercise
its hitherto dormant atrophied powers.

The greater form of lnitiation, the "baptism of fire," is the awakening of
the Spirit, the innermost essence, the "Vital and Immortal Principle"
centrally resident in the soul, as the soul is resident in the sense-body.
Numbers of people attain the lesser baptism in the ordinary development of
life and often without awareness of the fact. The greater baptism is of
rarer occurrence, and to experience it is a crisis that cannot be mistaken,
or pass unnoticed or forgotten.

To attain either form, Initiation of a formal character is not an
indispensable requirement, for the growth of the soul, and Divine dealings
with the soul, are not dependent upon human formalities. But formal
Initiation has always been, and is to-day, an opportunity and means of
grace for attaining interior advancement which otherwise might not be
secured and, for this reason, the Masonic lnitiation, though only a
ceremonial one at present, assumes so great an importance and is capable of
being put to uses so much higher and farther-reaching than the Craft has
hitherto dreamed of.

Life itself, we repeat, serves for thousands as an initiating-process,
without any supplementary formality .Numbers of people attain in less or
greater measure the lesser baptism of water in the expanded consciousness
associated with the poetic, artistic, musical or mystical types ;-our
Wordsworths, Shelleys, Tennysons and the like" are natural initiates in
whose lives formal initiation has played no part, and numberless unknown
people exist about us who, in silence and obscurity , have developed their
deeper nature and cou1d assert of themselves :-

We have built a house that is not for Time's o'er-throwing,
We have gained a peace unshaken by pain for ever.

Many there are who are conscious of the "mystic tie" that binds not merely
all men into brotherhood .but all the elements of the Universe into unity ;
who have lost the sense of separateness and divided interests that
characterizes the average sensual man whose consciousness and desires
extend no farther than his own camal affections ; who" still incarcerated
in the mortal body can evade its prison-walls and laugh at its iron
window-bars, escaping into the world of soul, exploring its wonders,
mingling in conscious communion with other similarly liberated souls,

and there
Spend in pure converse their eternal day
Think each in each, immediately wise,
Learn all they lacked before; hear, know, and say
What this tumultuous body now denies;
And feel, who- have laid their groping hands away;
And see, no longer blinded by their eyes.
(Rupert Brook).

But those who know the "baptism of fire," the Initiation of, and into,
central Spirit, are few . To help to a conception of such cases one may
refer to recorded instances where, so fully has the Blazing Star at the
human centre opened itself, so habitually has its fire been brought forward
into the purified carnal body and its formal mind, that that Light has
become palpably visible, and not merely as a flesh transmuting grace,
beautifying and glorifying the personality, but as a radiant aura issuing
from the face and person and throwing off actual quasi-physical light . The
traditional portrayal of saints and angels, surrounded by aureoles, haloes
and garments of flame, testifies to this advanced condition. Of such
Initiates as Columba and Ruysbroeck it is credibly recorded that their
persons were seen bathed in self-radiated luminosity that lit up their
chambers or the space around them for a wide radius. If the Central Light
can so be objectified, it may be left to the imagination to surmise the
intensity and range of the subjective consciousness experienced by those in
whom it so burns. Such cases of "fullness of light" exemplify what is
typified by the completed Temple of Solomon, into which descended the
Divine Presence, flooding the whole house with its glory (2 Chron. vii, 1 -3).

And now, leaving these general considerations, let us pass on to an
imaginative illustration of the way in which Light in its fullness may be
known and-God willing and helping-induced, by methods of actual, as
distinct from ceremonial, Initiation.

 

 

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