MASONIC INITIATION  by W.L. Wilmshurst

Chapter II


THE APRON

So much was said in my former volume, The Meaning of Masonry, in
explanation of the Masonic Apron, that it seems needless to speak at length
of it again . Yet, to maintain continuity of thought, it seems desirable
once more to refer to its symbolism at this point, since we have been
closely considering the manner in which consciousness becomes expanded and
enveloped in bodies or vehicles appropriate to that expansion ; and we have
been dealing with the arcanum or "mystery" propounded by St. Paul as to how
the "dead" (the as yet uninitiated and spiritually unquickened), are raised
up to a new order of life and the new kind of embodiment they take on, or
automatically fabricate, in the process.

Consciousness cannot exist without body . "To every seed (or conscious
unit) its own body," says the Apostle-Initiate; or, as we Masons may
paraphrase it, to every Degree of life is allotted the appropriate Apron,
proclaiming the wearer's spiritual rank . As no one can enter the Lodge
unclothed with the Apron, so no one can enter any of the unseen worlds
without wearing a body appropriate. There are bodies terrestrial, adapted
The to use on the lower planes of life ; and bodies Apron celestial or
ethereal, adapted to functioning on higher ones. Man is a composite of many
bodies, one within the other ; though ordinarily he is unaware of it and
has not yet organized them and come to know them separately, as the
Initiate is expected to do .

The physical body is but one, and the grossest, of the terrestrial bodies ;
it is but a plaster of organized chemical particles, within and around
which his subtler bodies exist, and for which it forms a nexus or
fixation-point. When totally discarded at death it disintegrates ; when
partially abandoned in sleep or anmsthesia its energies persist passively,
and connection with it is kept by the cabletow or "silver cord." In each
case the Ego, whether aware of it or not, stands minus its physical sheath
and enclosed in its remaining ones. And a similar divesting of each
successive body may take place until only the ultimate Ego remains .

That Ego, the ultimate Divine Principle in man, is represented by the
triangular flap of the Masonic Apron. The triangle (or pyramid form) is the
geometrical symbol for Spirit or Fire, and the ultimate Spirit of man may
be likened to a pointed flame or tongue of fire . (The word "pyramid"
derives from the Greek word pur, fire).

The body or form (or rather the succession of bodies or forms), which that
Ego assumes on descending into manifestation through the ladder-like planes
of the Universe, aggregating to itself and organizing around itself
material from each, is represented by the lower quadrangular part of the
Apron . The quadrangle, square, or superficies, is the geometrical symbol for
Body, Form, Physicalisation . The quadrangle is further appropriate because
(i) all Body is constituted of four elements, earth, water, air, fire ; (2)
because the human organism is fourfold, a complex of four distinct
departments, physical, etheric, emotional and mental, and (3) because in
man the three sub-human kingdoms (mineral, vegetable and animal), are
unified into the human synthesis .

The candidate's first investiture with the Apron is symbolic therefore of
his Ego's entrance into this world, and becoming clothed with form or body.
He is meant to realize himself as a sevenfold being, perfectly constituted
originally in the Divine Mirid ; his triangle of Spirit combining with the
quadrangle of materialized form to make up the perfect number seven . He is
meant to realize that he has descended to a condition of embodiment and
limitation of consciousness for the purpose of acquiring experience in
those conditions, and of performing certain work upon himself which shall
raise him- to full realization of his own ultimate nature and of the Divine
purpose in him, and that though his present state or form is one of
restrictedness and humiliation, it will never disgrace him if he never
disgraces it.

In the First Degree, the triangular flap of the Apron is kept erect . In
the Second it is lowered . Thereby is denoted the physiological truth that
the Ego or human Spirit on entering this world at birth does not
immediately attain full embodiment, but at first is, as it were, an
overhovering presence, organically connected with the body, but only The
gradually taking possession of it . We recognize this Apron truth in
practical life. Moral and legal responsibility is never attributed to a
child under seven years of age, for the moral sense has not yet developed .
Important physiological changes connected with puberty occur at the age of
fourteen . Civic responsibility is denied until twenty-one is reached . The
basic reason for all this is the occult truth that the Ego does not attain
its maximum of incarnation until twenty-one. Accordingly it is not until
age is reached that a man is presumed competent to enter the Craft and
undertake the science of himself.

As the Ego immerses itself in its body and works upon it, it creates
changes in it, whether for good or evil. It either organizes or
disorganizes its vehicles according to its will and desires . It becomes an
artificer in metals, whether base or precious ; it either stores itself
with ornaments and jewels and the invaluable furniture of self-knowledge,
or with useless trumperies and grotesque contrivances of which sooner or
later it must get rid . Assuming its activities to have been wisely
directed, they are evidenced in the Apron by the blue rosettes imposed upon
it in the Second Degree ; if they are persisted in and the Spirit more and
more subjugates and controls the Form, that increasing domination and the
further progress made in the science are testified to by the additional
elaborations found in the Apron in the Third Degree. Still more advanced
progress is evidenced by further changes and beautification of the Apron in
the Royal Arch Degrees, and in the Grand Lodges of provinces, and of the
nation .

The Tau displayed upon the Apron worn by those of Master rank is a form of
the Cross, and also of the Hammer of Thor, of Scandinavian religion . It is
displayed triply, to signify that the wearer has brought his three lower
natures (physical, emotional, and mental) under complete control ; that he
has crucified them and keeps them repressed by the hammer of a strong will .

The further important point should be noticed that the Apron covers the
creative, generative organ of the body ; and it is especially to these that
the significance of the Tau attaches . Spiritual self building and the
erection of the "superstructure" are dependent upon the supply of creative
energy available from the generative nervous centre, the "power-house" of
the human organism . Thence that energy passes upwards through other
ganglionic "transformers" and, reaching the brain, becomes finally
sublimated and transformed to consciousness . Conservation of that energy
is therefore indispensable both for generating consciousness and providing
the material for the finer vehicle or "superstructure" in which that
consciousness may function ; the life-energy is always creative, either in
the direction of physical propagation or in that of super-physical
up-building ; hence the importance attached in religious spheres to celibacy .

It should also be noted that in the three Craft Degrees, the investiture
with the Apron is made in the West ; and not by the Master, but by his
principal officer who is deputed to bestow it . The meaning behind this
important detail is that while the human Ego is resident in this temporal
world ("the West"), Nature, as the chief officer and deputy of Providence,
supplies it with bodies of her own material and temporal substance . But in
all cases beyond those three, the investiture takes place in the "East" the
realm of spirit, and from the hands of the Master himself. For the
progressed soul receives a clothing beyond Nature's power to supply ; and,
without intermediate hands, "God giveth it a body as it pleaseth Him," and
to every such soul its own body, according to its measure of progress and
consciousness.

 

 

 

         

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