Ancient Ideals in Modern Masonry - Part III

Masonic Articles and Essays

Ancient Ideals in Modern Masonry - Part III

The Very Illus..... Bro... Charles W. Leadbeater

Date Published: 11/28/2023                        

In the final installment of this three-part series, Bro. Leadbeater explores the ways in which we may utilize the timeless teachings of occultism to revitalize and restore Freemasonry to its true divine purpose. 

Every member took part in the work, and the labour of those in the columns was regarded as more arduous than that of the Officers, as it was largely on the mental plane. They had all to join at certain points in the Ritual in sending out streams of thought, the object of the whole effort being to erect over and around the Lodge a magnificent and radiant thought-form of colossal size and perfect proportions, specially constructed to receive and transmit in the most effective way the Divine force which was called down by their act of devotion. If any member's thought was ineffectual, the mighty cathedral-like thought-form was correspondingly defective in one part; but the R.W.M. was usually a clairvoyant priest or priestess who could see where the defect lay, and so could keep his Lodge strictly up to the mark.

You will realize that, as everyone present had to bear his part in building that form, the most exact co-operation and the most perfect harmony were absolutely necessary. The slightest flaw in these would have seriously weakened the form through which all the work was being done. It is perhaps a relic of this paramount necessity which dictates our present regulation that any brothers who are not in perfect harmony with each other should not put on their Masonic clothing until they have settled their differences. In ancient Egypt there was an intensity of brotherly feeling between the members of a Lodge which is probably rarely attained now; we felt ourselves bound together by the holiest of ties, not only as parts of the same machine, but actually as fellow-workers with GOD Himself.

Another point of interest is that although Co-Masonry is a comparatively recent development, its chief distinctive feature is of hoary antiquity; for in the work in ancient Egypt women stood exactly upon the same footing as men. The later exclusion of women seems to have been due to the influence of the Operative Guilds. 

I do not know how far, under conditions so fundamentally different as those which exist at the present day, it would be possible to restore to Freemasonry any part of the peculiar position and power which it held on the banks of the Nile; but if there is to be any movement in that direction it can begin only in the ranks of the Co-Masons. That the body has a great future before it in connection with the new Sixth Sub-race is obvious. In that sub-race, as in all the others, there will be egos of different temperaments; some no doubt who will seek their inspiration along the lines of the more liberal forms of Christianity, but also certainly some who from disposition and old association will find themselves more attracted to the philosophic Masonic presentation of truth. It is our business to see that this presentation is a fitting one — to make our work so perfect and so reverent that those who see it may find in it what they need, and may never be repelled by anything in the nature of slovenliness or irreverence. We must not forget that Masonry is truly a religion, though so different in form from that which we have been taught to consider the only religion, that its true character is often overlooked.

I am sure it will be a great encouragement to you to hear that the Head of all true Masons throughout the world takes a keen personal interest in our Order. He has been most gracious and benignant in His ready response to all the inquiries which we have been making. He was kind enough to work His own Lodge for us in English, using our new Ritual, in order to show us exactly how He thought it should be used; and though we can hardly hope to attain to the solemnity and splendour of His working, the opportunity was a source of great profit and instruction to us. We noticed certain points in the ceremonies in which He followed a tradition which varies slightly from ours; but the salient features were the stateliness and military precision of the workings, and the fact that the members in the columns had much more to do than they have in our plan, as they chanted appropriate versicles at short intervals.

There are various ways in which the recollection of the way in which things were done in ancient Egypt may be of use to us, for those people performed their ceremonies with full knowledge of their meaning, and so the points upon which they laid great stress are likely to be important to us also.

Deep reverence was their strongest characteristic. They regarded their Temple much as the most earnest Christians regard their Church, except that their attitude was dictated by scientific knowledge rather than by feeling. They understood that the building was strongly magnetized, and that to preserve the full strength of that magnetism great care was necessary. To speak of ordinary matters in the Temple would have been considered as sacrilege, as it would mean the introduction of a disturbing influence. Vesting and all preliminary business were always done in an ante-room, and the brethren entered the Lodge in procession, singing. The sanctity of the mosaic pavement was guarded with the most jealous care, and it was never invaded except by the Candidate and the Officers at proper times, and of course by the Thurifer when he censed the Altar. The exceeding importance of squaring the Lodge accurately is dictated by the same magnetic considerations. The currents of force are rushing along and across that pavement in lines like the warp and woof of a piece of cloth, and also round the edges of it, and anyone who has to cross it, or even come near it, should be careful to move with the force and not against it. Hence the imperative necessity of always keeping to one direction. In modern days less care seems to be taken of the mosaic pavement; I have even seen a case in which the attendance-book, which all have to sign, was placed on a table in the middle of it. With us in Egypt that pavement occupied almost the whole of the floor of the Lodge; now it is often only a small enclosure in the midst of it.

Much of the ancient wisdom has been allowed to slip into oblivion, and so the true secrets have been lost. But there is every reason to hope that with the aid of the Master they may be recovered, and that we of these later sub-races may prove ourselves just as unselfish and capable of just as good work for our fellow-men as were the people of old. Indeed, we ourselves may well be those men of old, come back in new bodies, but bringing with us the old attraction to the form of faith and work which then we knew so well.

Let us try to revive under these far different conditions the old unconquerable spirit which distinguished us so long ago; let us recognize that Co-Masonry is a most important branch of the work of our Masters; and let us put all our strength into it. It means a good deal of hard work, for it means that every Officer must do his part quite perfectly; and that, in turn, involves a good deal of training and practice. Yet I feel sure that there are many among us who will respond to the Master's call, and come forward to join us in preparing the way for those who are to come. At present our numbers are but small; but while that is so, we have a definite opportunity of doing pioneer work for the movement.

Let each Lodge make itself a model Lodge, thoroughly efficient in its working, so that when anyone visits it he may be impressed by the good work done and by the strength of its magnetic atmosphere, and may thereby be induced to come in and help us with this vast undertaking. Our members must also be able, when they in turn visit other Lodges, to explain our method of working, and show how, from the occult point of view, the ceremonies should be performed. Above all, our members must carry with them everywhere the strong magnetism of a completely harmonious centre, the potent radiation of Brotherly Love.

But to radiate this upon others we must first develop it in ourselves. We must determinedly crush down our personalities; we must weed out our dearest and most intimate prejudices; we must sink them unconditionally for the sake of the work; we must offer them up as an oblation at the feet of our Masters. The sacrifice is absolutely necessary; without it there can be no success. A brother Mason has injured you, has neglected you, has spoken ill of you or rudely to you; forget it! What is the importance of your outraged sense of personal dignity in comparison with the momentousness of the work? Of course from your point of view you were quite right and he was quite wrong; all the more magnanimity do you show in letting bygones be bygones. Consign it all to oblivion; your brain is your own, and you can force it to remember or forget at your will. Common sense dictates that one should remember only the pleasant incidents of the past, and let the rest sink into the obscurity which they deserve. For the sake of the work, you must forgo the perverted pleasure of nursing your imagined wrongs; have the courage to take a decisive step and throw all that away boldly and finally, and make a fresh start along more sensible lines. I assure you, you will never regret it; and when it is done, true Masonic work will be possible for you, and you will have your chance of efficient participation in a movement which is under the especial blessing and direction of the Masters of Wisdom, and is part of Their mighty plan for the upliftment of the human race.

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