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Ancient and Modern Initiation

By Max Heindel

Part I. Chapter II. The Tabernacle in the Wilderness

THE BRAZEN ALTAR AND LAVER

THE BRAZEN ALTAR was placed just inside the eastern gate, and it was used for the sacrifice of animals during the temple service. The idea of using bulls and goats as sacrifices seems barbaric to the modern mind, and we cannot realize that they could ever have had any efficacy in that respect. The Bible does indeed hear out this view of the matter, for we are told repeatedly that God desires not sacrifice but a broken spirit and a contrite heart, and that He has no pleasure in sacrifices of blood. In view of this fact it seems strange that sacrifices should ever have been commanded. But we must realize that no religion can elevate those whom it is designed to help if its teachings are too far above their intellectual or moral level. To appeal to a barbarian, religion must have certain barbaric traits. A religion of love could not have appealed to those people, therefore they were given a law which demanded "an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth." There is not in the Old Testament any mention whatever of immortality, for these people could not have understood a heaven nor aspired to it. But they loved material possessions, and therefore they were told that if they did right they and their seed should dwell in the land forever, that their cattle should be multiplied, et cetera.

They loved material possessions, and they knew that the increases of the flock were due to the Lord's favor and given by Him for merit. Thus they were taught to do right in the hope of a reward in this present world. They were also deterred from wrongdoing by the swift punishment which was meted out to them in retribution for their sins. This was the only way to reach them. They could not have done right for the sake of right, nor could they have understood the principle of making themselves "living sacrifices," and they probably felt the loss of an animal for sin as we would feel the pangs of conscience because of wrongdoing.

The Altar was made of brass, a metal not found in nature, but made by man from copper and zinc. Thus it is symbolically shown that sin was not originally contemplated in our scheme of evolution and is an anomaly in nature as well as its consequences, pain and death, symbolized by the sacrificial victims. But while the Altar itself was made from metals artificially compounded, the fire which burned thereon unceasingly was of divine origin, and it was kept alive from year to year with the most jealous care. No other fire was ever used, and we may note with profit that when two presumptuous and rebellious priests dared to disregard this command and use strange fire, they met with an awful retribution and instant death. When we have once taken the oath of allegiance to the mystic Master, the HIGHER SELF, it is extremely dangerous to disregard the precepts then given.

When the candidate appears at the eastern gate he is "poor, naked, and blind." He is at that moment an object of charity, needing to be clothed and brought to the light, but this cannot be done at once in the mystic Temple.

During the time of his progress from the condition of nakedness until he has been clothed in the gorgeous robes of the high priest there is a long and difficult path to be traveled. The first lesson which he is taught is that man advances by sacrifices alone. In the Christian Mystic Initiation when the Christ washes the feet of His disciples, the explanation is given that unless the minerals decomposed and were offered us as embodiments for the plant kingdom, we should have no vegetation; also, did not the plant food furnish sustenance for the animals, these latter beings could not find expression; and so on, the higher is always feeding on the lower. Therefore man has a duty to them, and so the Master washes the feet of His disciples symbolically performing for them the menial service as a recognition of the fact that they have served Him as stepping-stones to something higher.

Similarly, when the candidate is brought to the Brazen Altar, he learns the lesson that the animal is sacrificed for his sake, giving its body for food and its skin for clothing. Moreover, he sees the dense cloud of smoke hovering over the Altar and perceives within it a light, but that light is too dim, too much enshrouded in smoke, to be of permanent guidance to him. His spiritual eyes are weak, however, and it would not do to expose them at once to the light of greater spiritual truths.

 We are told by the apostle Paul that the Tabernacle in the Wilderness was a shadow of greater things to come. It may therefore be of interest and profit to see what is the meaning of this Brazen Altar, with its sacrifices and burning flesh, to the candidate who comes to the Temple in modern times. In order that we may understand this mystery, we must first grasp the one great and absolutely essential idea which underlies all true mysticism, viz., that these things are WITHIN and not without. Angelus Silesius says about the Cross:

   "Though Christ a thousand times in Bethlehem be born, 

   And not within thyself thy soul will be forlorn. 

   The Cross on Golgotha thou lookest to in vain, 

   Unless within thyself it be set up again." 

This idea must be applied to every symbol and phase of mystic experience. It is not the Christ without that saves, but THE CHRIST WITHIN. The Tabernacle was built at one time; it is clearly seen in the Memory of Nature when the interior sight has been developed to a sufficient degree; but no one is ever helped by the outward symbol. We must build the Tabernacle within our own hearts and consciousness. We must live through, as an actual inner experience, the whole ritual of service there. We must become both the Altar of sacrifice and the sacrificial animal lying upon it. We must become both the priest that slays the animal and the animal that is slain. Later we must learn to identify ourselves with the mystic Laver, and we must learn to wash therein in spirit. Then we must enter behind the first veil, minister in the East Room, and so on through the whole Temple service till we BECOME the greatest of all these ancient symbols, the Shekinah Glory, or it will avail us nothing. In short, before the symbol of the Tabernacle can really help us, we must transfer it from the wilderness of space to a home in our hearts so that when we have become everything that that symbol is, we shall also have become that which it stands for spiritually.

Let us then commence to build within ourselves the Altar of sacrifice, first that we may offer upon it our wrongdoings and then expiate them in the crucible of remorse. This is done under the modern system of preparation for discipleship by an exercise performed in the evening and scientifically designed by the Hierophants of the Western Mystery School for the advancement of the aspirant on the path which leads to discipleship. Other schools have given a similar exercise, but this one differs in one particular point from all previous methods. After explaining the exercises we shall also give the reason for this great and cardinal difference. This special method has such a far-reaching effect that it enables one to learn now not only the lessons which one should ordinarily learn in this life, but also attain a development which otherwise could not be reached until future lives.

After retiring for the night the body is relaxed. This is very important, for when any part of the body is tense, the blood does not circulate unimpeded; part of it is temporarily imprisoned under pressure. As all spiritual development depends upon the blood, the maximum effort to attain soul growth cannot be made when any part of the body is in tension.

When perfect relaxation has been accomplished, the aspirant to the higher life begins to review the scenes of the day, but he does not start with the occurrences of the morning and finish with the events of the evening. He views them in REVERSE order: first the scenes of the evening, then the events of the afternoon, and lastly the occurrences of the morning. The reason for this is that from the moment of birth when the child draws its first complete breath, the air which is inspired into the lungs carries with it a picture of the outside world, and as the blood courses through the left ventricle of the heart, each scene of life is pictured upon a minute atom located there. Every breath brings with it new pictures, and thus there is engraved upon that little seed atom a record of every scene and act in our whole life from the first breath to the last dying gasp. After death these pictures from the basis of our purgatorial existence. Under the conditions of the spirit world we suffer pangs of conscience so acute that they are unbelievable for every evil deed we have done, and we are thus discouraged from continuing on the path of wrongdoing. The intensity of the joys which we experience on account of our good deeds acts as a goad to spur us on the path of virtue in future lives. But in the post-mortem existence this panorama of life is reenacted in reverse order for the purpose of showing first the effects and then the causes which generated them that the spirit may learn how the law of cause and effect operates in life. Therefore the aspirant who is under the scientific guidance of the Elder Brothers of the Rosicrucians is taught to perform his evening exercise also in reverse order and to judge himself each day that he may escape the purgatorial suffering after death. But let it be understood that no mere perfunctory review of the scenes of the day will avail. It is not enough when we come to a scene where we have grievously wronged somebody that we just say, "Well, I feel rather sorry that I did it. I wish I had not done it." At that time we are the sacrificial animal lying upon the Alter of Burnt Offerings, and unless we can feel in our hearts the divinely enkindled fire of remorse burn to the very marrow of our bones because of our wrongdoings during the day, we are not accomplishing anything.

During the ancient dispensation all the sacrifices were rubbed with salt before being placed upon the Altar of Burnt Offerings. We all know how it smarts and burns when we accidentally rub salt into a fresh wound. This rubbing of salt into the sacrifices in that ancient Mystery Temple symbolized the intensity of the burning which we must feel when we as living sacrifices place ourselves upon the Altar of Burnt Offerings. It is the feeling of remorse, of deep and sincere sorrow for what we have done, which eradicates the picture from the seed atom and leaves it clean and stainless, so that as under the ancient dispensation transgressors were justified when they brought to the Altar of Burnt Offerings a sacrifice which was there burnt, so we in modern times by scientifically performing the evening exercise of retrospection wipe away the record of our sins. It is a foregone conclusion that we cannot continue evening after evening to perform this living sacrifice without becoming better in consequence and ceasing, little by little, to do the things for which we are forced to blame ourselves when we have retired for the night. Thus, in addition to cleansing us from our faults this exercise elevates us to a higher level of spirituality than we could otherwise reach in the present life.

It is also noteworthy that when anyone had committed a grievous crime and fled to the sanctuary, he found safety in the shadow of the Altar of sacrifice, for there only the divinely enkindled fire could execute judgment. He escaped the hands of man by putting himself under the hand of God. Similarly also, the aspirant who acknowledges his wrongdoing nightly by fleeing to the altar of living judgment thereby obtains sanctuary from the law of cause and effect, and "though his sins be as scarlet they shall be white as snow."

THE BRAZEN LAVER

The Brazen laver was a large basin which was always kept full of water. It is said in the Bible that it was carried on the backs of twelve oxen, also made of brass, and we are told that their hind parts were toward the center of the vessel. It appears from the Memory of Nature, however, that those animals were not oxen but symbolical representations of the twelve signs of the zodiac. Humanity was at that time divided into twelve groups, one group for each zodiacal sign. Each symbolic animal attracted a particular ray, and as the holy water used today in Catholic churches is magnetized by the priest during the ceremony of consecration, so also the water in this Laver was magnetized by the divine Hierarchies who guided humanity.

There can be no doubt concerning the power of holy water prepared by a strong and magnetic personality. It takes on or absorbs the effluvia from his vital body, and the people who use it become amenable to his rule in a degree commensurate to their sensitiveness. Consequently the Brazen Lavers in the ancient Atlantean mystery Temples, where the water was magnetized by divine Hierarchs of immeasurable power, were a potent factor in guiding the people in accordance with the wishes of these ruling powers. Thus the priests were in perfect subjection to the mandates and dictates of their unseen spiritual leaders, and through them the people were made to follow blindly. It was required of the priests that they wash their hands and feet before going into the Tabernacle proper. If this command was not obeyed, death would follow immediately on the priest entering into the Tabernacle. We may therefore say that as the keyword of the Brazen Altar was "justification" so the central idea of the Brazen Laver was "consecration."

"Many are called but few are chosen." We have the example of the rich young man who came to Christ asking what he must do to be perfect. He asserted that he had kept the law, but when Christ gave the command, "Follow me," he could not, for he had many riches which held him fast as in a vise. Like the great majority he was content if he could only escape condemnation, and like them he was too lukewarm to strive for commendation merited by service. The Brazen Laver is the symbol of sanctification and consecration of the life to service. As Christ entered upon His three years' ministry through the baptismal waters, so the aspirant to service in the ancient Temple must sanctify himself in the sacred stream which must sanctify himself in the sacred stream which flowed from the Molten Sea. And the mystic Mason endeavoring to build a temple "without sound of hammer" and to serve therein must also consecrate himself and sanctify himself. He must be willing to give up all earthly possessions that he may follow the CHRIST WITHIN. Though he may retain his material possessions he must regard them as a sacred trust to be used by him as a wise steward would use his master's possessions. And we must be ready in everything to obey this Christ within when he says, "Follow me," even though the shadow of the Cross looms darkly at the end, for without this utter abandonment of the life to the Light, to the higher purposes, there can be no progress. Even as the Spirit descended upon Jesus when he arose from the baptismal water of consecration, so also the mystic Mason who bathes in the Laver of the Molten Sea begins dimly to hear the voice of the Master within his own heart teaching him the secrets of the Craft that he may use them for the benefit of others.

 

 

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