MASONIC INITIATION  by W.L. Wilmshurst

Chapter II

THE LAW OF THE MOUNT

In Masonry, as in the Scriptures and every other ancient expression of
mystical teaching, there is frequent allusion to mountains and bills, and
to the work of Lodges and Chapters being, conducted upon them.

Let it be understood at once that in no case is the allusion to any
physical mountain or geographical position, but to the spiritual elevation
of the work undertaken by some particular group or school of Initiates .
Spiritual science has nothing to do with material things or places, save in
so far as the latter serve as a foundation-stone or point of departure for
achieving spiritual results .

From immemorial time the Vedists of India have spoken of their sacred
Mount Meru, which, later in history, becomes reproduced among the Hebrews
as Mount Moriah. The Greeks had their Mounts Olympus and Parnassus, on the
summits of which dwelt the Gods . The Israelites obtained their law from
Divine hands on Mount Sinai ; the Christians theirs from the Mount of
Olives . The woodwork for Solomon's Temple came from the Mountains of
Lebanon. The Gospels tell of the "exceeding high mountain" of Temptation
and of the Mount of Transfiguration . Prometheus was immolated upon a
mountain of the Caucasus (or Ko-Kajon, i.e., "ethereal space"), and Christ
upon the Hill Calvary. Mediaeval Christian mystical . tradition tells of
the hidden sanctuary of the mysteries and the holy Grail built upon Mont
Salvatch (the mount of safety or salvation) in the Pyrenees (which is
another form of "Parnassus .")

None of these mountains are situate in this world, in time or place. The
names are mystical names associated with super-physical heights to which
man in his spiritual consciousness may ascend . Mountains bearing those
names, or some of them, do exist on the map, but their names and the ideas
they connote existed long before they were given a local association for
symbolic purposes . There is scarcely a country without its sacred mountain
that reminds its inhabitants of the heavenly heights and to which sacred
traditions are not attached . The snow-clad Himalayas have always typified
the eternal heavens to the East ; Fujiyama is the sacred mountain of Japan,
as Snowdon is of Britain ; and if such places have been, as indeed they
have, the scenes of religious practices, their sanctity derives less from
what has occurred there than from the ideas that resulted in those
practices . The names of these sacred mountains are drawn almost always
from ideas representative of the religion of the district, and constitute a
sort of spiritual geography which nations of great spiritual genius, such
as the Indians, the Greeks, and the Hebrews, have been faithful in
preserving . Subsequently the materializing tendencies of the human mind
liberalise and localize what originally existed as a purely spiritual idea .

When Initiates of the past are said to have held Lodges and performed their
work upon this or that hill or mountain, the meaning is that they were
engaged in work of a high spiritual order and efficacy-work entirely beyond
the conception of the average modern and merely ceremonial Mason . The
actual place at which they met for such work may or may not have been upon
a physical eminence . Often it was not, as abundant evidence might be
brought to show . The entirely super-physical nature of their work may be
deduced from an old Scottish Degree of advanced Masonry, which speaks, with
a dry humour that to the inexpert eye will seem grotesque and irreverent,
of their Lodge having originally been held upon a hill in the North of
Scotland, a place "where a cock never crowed, a lion never roared, and a
woman never tattled." Now in traditional esoteric terminology, as also in
the Bible, the "North" signifies that which is spiritual and ever
unmanifested, as the other three cardinal points of space indicate varying
degrees of spiritual manifestation. The allusion to cock-crow is to the
guilty conscience of Peter, which could only exist in the world of time and
in one who is spiritually imperfect . The allusion to the lion is to the
Evil One "going about as a roaring lion" in the lower world, but unable to
enter the Paradisal world ; whilst the third reference is to the
contemplative silence of the soul (the "woman") upon that high plane of
life of which the Psalmist says that "there is neither speech nor language
but their voices are heard among them ." In the Odyssey, Homer testifies to
the same truth when Ulysses is told in regard to certain mysteries, "Be
silent ; repress your intellect, and do not speak ; such is the method of
the Gods upon Olympus ."

It must be left to the reader's own research and reflection to deduce the
nature of the spiritual work undertaken by real Initiates ; he will
discover that it is work that is not performed in the physical body or with
that body's faculties, but upon the ethereal planes and with a higher order
of faculty than the average man of to-day has learned to cultivate. For a
striking instance of the kind of work implied, reference can be made to the
narrative contained in the 19th and 24th chapters of Exodus, describing a
Lodge of the elders or Adept-Initiates of Israel upon "Mount Sinai" ;
though for the instructed reader many other passages of like information
are to be found in both sections of the Sacred Law, as also elsewhere .

To pass to a less abstruse and more elementary point, those who seek to
become real Initiates and aspire to the work upon the mountain-tops that is
feasible only to such, must first conform themselves to the Law of the
Mount . That law may be so called because it involves a loftier teaching
and a totally different order of conduct from those to which the
uninitiated popular world conforms . We have a reference to this in the
direction that a Mason's conduct ought to be such as will "distinguish and
set him above the ranks-of other men," and not merely leave him at their
level . Hence the instruction given by the Great Master to his
initiate disciples, which is called the "Sermon on the Mount," and is
popularly supposed to have been delivered upon a hill-side . There exist,
however, many great pieces of Initiation-teaching going by that name,
notably the great and eloquent discourses known as The Divine Poemander of
Hermes ; and all of them are called "sermons on the mount," not because of
having necessarily been delivered upon any actual mountain, but because
they relate to spiritualities and to the loftier plane of thought and
action upon which every Initiate must live . The "Mount" is that of
Initiation, where alone, in the silence of the senses, the spirit of man
can learn the things of the spirit.

That the standard of thought and conduct for Initiates is always beyond the
capacity of the popular world is evidenced by the fact that society,
however advanced in civilization, find itself quite unable to act up to it.
Even the Churches find the Sermon on the Mount impracticable doctrine for
general social observance . It is regarded as a counsel of perfection, and
eminent clerics are found declaring that it was never meant to apply to the
unforeseen, complex social conditions of to-day, and declare that, whilst
sound as a theoretic ideal, it must be compromised with in practice . From
their low level of outlook they are right. The popular world is truly quite
unable to act up to the terms of the Law of the Mount. But it is overlooked
that that high doctrine was not meant for the popular world nor addressed
to it. It was delivered to, and intended for, those few who have outgrown
and renounced the ideals of the outer world and who seek initiation into a
new and higher order of life which contradicts the wisdom of that world at
every point .

But the real Initiate must observe it at all cost and conflict to himself,
and is told that unless his righteousness exceeds that of popular orthodoxy
and convention, he cannot hope to realize the goal at which he aims . The
whole life of the real Initiate, and of those aiming to become such, will
be at cross purposes with the standards and methods of the rest of the
world, which will be as it were in conspiracy against him for not
conforming to its ways ; and, as with Hiram Abiff, at every attempt to
leave the . gates of his temple and come into contact with the outer world,
he will find himself opposed by persecuting "ruffians," by objections to
his refusal to fall in with popular conventions, and by demands to know the
secrets of his superiority to them . Hence one of the reasons for the
silence and obscurity of real Initiates, as also for Masonic secrecy, is
self-protection, which the Christian Master gave as a justification for not
casting pearls before those incapable of appreciating them "lest they turn
and rend you ."

The way of the natural uninitiated man is that of self-assertion and
material acquisitiveness ; he is bent upon securing all he can get from
this world ; and wisdom, knowledge, and power, are what seem to be such in
his own eyes . He is not wrong or blameworthy ; he is simply fulfilling the
law of his present nature, which is the only law he as yet knows ; he is
merely ignorant and self-blinded to any higher nature and law. The
initiated man is one to whom a higher nature and law have become revealed,
and who, conscious of their compulsion upon himself, has abjured all the
ideals of his less advanced fellows. He lives upon the Mount and fulfils
the law of the Mount ; and therefore to him come wisdom, grace and power
transcending anything his uninitiated fellowmen can as yet conceive .
Initiates were termed by the Great Master the "salt of the earth," for,
without their leavening presence in it, the world would descend to greater
corruption than it at present suffers . "Ten just men (i.e., Initiates)
shall save the city," as was said of those "cities of the plain" which are
a figure of civilization at large .

It is not, however, for his personal aggrandizement or salvation that a man
seeks, or should seek, Initiation into the higher order of life, or should
aspire for the wisdom and power that therewith come. To do so from this
motive would be merely to imitate the ways of the outer world, apart from
the fact that it would neutralize the whole purpose of Initiation. His real
purpose is to help on the world's advancement, to become one of its
saviours, at the sacrifice of himself. For the real Initiate is self-less ;
he has abandoned all personal claims and the "rights" to which lesser men
claim to be entitled ; and, having crucified his own personality, is able
to look upon human life impersonally and to offer himself as an instrument
for its redemption . When wisdom and power come to him, they are not for
his own use but for the help of the whole race ; he is a Master among men,
because he is a universal servant ; he is the most effective spokesman in
the world, because of his utter silence.

Masonic secrecy and silence are inculcated for this very reason ; for all
spiritual power is generated in silence. In silence the aspirant must
concentrate his own energies and climb from his own earth into his own
heavens, -rendering to the Caesar of the outer world the things that are
his, but in other respects fulfilling the law of the Mount in a way that
will "distinguish and set him above the ranks of other men" who are not yet
ready or prepared to follow him . If the Masonic Brotherhood has not yet
risen to full appreciation of the meaning of its own system, it
nevertheless stands provided with all the information needful to lead it to
Initiation in the high sense indicated throughout these pages, to which
each of its members may aspire if he follow the Ancient Sage in Tennyson's
poem and

Leave the hot swamp of voluptuousness,
A cloud between the Nameless and thyself ;
And lay thine uphill shoulder to the wheel
And climb the Mount of Blessing ; whence, if thou
Look higher, then perchance thou mays't-beyond
A hundred ever-rising mountain-lines,
And past the range of Night and Shadow-see
The high-heaven dawn of more than mortal day
Strike on the Mount of Vision !

 

 

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