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Ancient and Modern Initiation

By Max Heindel

Part I. Chapter III. The Tabernacle in the Wilderness


HAVING MOUNTED the first steps upon the path the aspirant stands in front of the veil which hangs before the mystic Temple. Drawing this aside he enters into the East Room of the sanctuary, which was called the HOLY PLACE. No window or opening of any sort was provided in the Tabernacle to let in the light of day, but this room was never dark. Night and day it was brightly illuminated by burning lamps.

Its furniture was symbolical of the methods whereby the aspirant may make SOUL GROWTH BY SERVICE. It consisted of three principal articles: The ALTER OF INCENSE, the TABLE OF SHEWBREAD, and the GOLDEN CANDLESTICK from which the light proceeded.

It was not allowable for the common Israelite to enter this sacred apartment and behold the furniture. No one but a priest might pass the outer veil and go in even as far as this first room. The Golden Candlestick was placed on the south side of the Holy Place so as to be to the left of any person who stood in the middle of the room. It was made entirely of pure gold, and consisted of a shaft or principal stem, rising upright from a base, together with six branches. These branches started at three different points on the stem and curved upward in three partial circles of varying diameter, symbolizing the three periods of development (Saturn, Sun, and Moon Periods) which man went through before the Earth period, which was not half spent. This latter period was signified by the seventh light. Each of these seven branches terminated in a lamp, and these lamps were supplied with the purest olive oil, which was made by a special process. The priests were required to take care that the Candlestick was never without a light. Every day the lamps were examined, dressed, and supplied with oil so that they might burn perpetually.

The TABLE OF SHEWBREAD was placed on the north side of the apartment so as to be in THE RIGHT HAND of the priest when he walked up toward the second veil. Twelve loaves of unleavened bread were continually kept upon this table. They were placed in two piles, one loaf upon another, and on top of each pile there was a small quantity of frankincense. These loaves were called shewbread, or bread of the face, because they were set solemnly forth before the presence of the Lord, who dwelt in the Shekinah Glory behind the second veil. Every Sabbath day these loaves were changed by the priests, the old ones being taken away and new ones put in their place. The bread that was taken away was used by the priests to eat, and no one else was allowed to taste it; neither were they suffered to eat it anywhere except within the Court of the Sanctuary, because it was most holy, and therefore might only be taken by sacred persons upon holy ground. THE INCENSE THAT WAS UPON THE TWO PILES OF SHEWBREAD WAS BURNED when the bread was changed, as an offering by fire unto the Lord, as a memorial instead of the bread.

The ALTAR OF INCENSE or the Golden Altar was the third article of furniture in the East Room of the Temple. It was situated in the center of the room, that is to say, halfway between the north and the south walls, in front of the second veil. No flesh was ever burned upon this Altar, nor was it ever touched with blood except on the most solemn occasions, and then its horns alone were marked with the crimson stain. The smoke that arose from its top was never any other than the smoke of burning incense. This went up every morning and evening, filling the sanctuary with a fragrant cloud and sending a refreshing odor out through all the courts and far over the country on every side for miles beyond. Because incense was thus burned every day it was called "A PERPETUAL INCENSE before the Lord."

   It was not simple frankincense which was burned, but a compound of this with other sweet spices, made according to the direction of Jehovah for this special purpose and so considered holy, such as no man was allowed to make like unto for common use. THE PRIEST WAS CHARGED NEVER TO OFFER STRANGE INCENSE on the Golden Altar, that is, any other than the sacred composition. This Altar was placed directly before the veil on the outside of it, but before the Mercy Seat, which was within the second veil; for though he that ministered at the Altar of Incense could not see the Mercy Seat because of the interposing veil, yet he must look toward it and direct his incense that way. And it was customary when the cloud of fragrant incense rose above the temple for all the people who were standing without in the Court of the Sanctuary to send up their prayers to God, each one silently by himself.


As previously said, when the priest stood in the center of the East Room of the Tabernacle, the Seven-branched Candlestick was ON HIS LEFT toward the SOUTH. This was symbolical of the fact that the seven light-givers or planets which tread the mystic circle dance around the central orb, the sun, travel in the narrow belt comprising eight degrees on either side of the sun's path, which is called the zodiac. "God is Light," and the "Seven Spirits before the Throne" are God's ministers; therefore THEY ARE MESSENGERS OF LIGHT to humanity. Furthermore, as the heavens are ablaze with light when the moon in its phases arrives at the "full" in the eastern part of the heavens, so also the East Room of the Tabernacle was filled with LIGHT, indicating VISIBLY the presence there of God and His seven Ministers, the STAR ANGELS.

We may note, in passing, the light of the Golden Candlestick, which was clear and the flame odorless, and compare it with the smoke-enveloped flame on the Altar of Burnt Offerings, which in a certain sense generated darkness rather than dispelled it. But there is a still deeper and more sublime meaning in this fire symbol, which we will not take up for discussion until we come to the SHEKINAH GLORY, whose dazzling brilliance hovered over the Mercy Seat in the WEST ROOM. Before we can enter into this subject, we must understand all the symbols that lie between the Golden Candlestick and that sublime Father Fire which was the crowning glory of the Holy of Holies, the most sacred part of the Tabernacle in the Wilderness.


The East Room of the Temple may be called the Hall of Service, for it corresponds to the three years' ministry of Christ, and contains all the paraphernalia for soul growth, though, as said, furnished with only three principal articles. Among the chief of these is the Table of Shewbread. Upon this table, as we have already seen, there were two piles of shewbread, each containing six loaves, and upon the top of each pile there was a little heap of frankincense. The aspirant who came to the Temple door "poor, naked, and blind" has since been brought to the light of the Seven-branched Candlestick, obtaining a certain amount of cosmic knowledge, and THIS HE IS REQUIRED TO USE IN THE SERVICE OF HIS FELLOW MEN; the Table of Shewbread represents this in symbol.

The grain from which this shewbread was made had been originally given by God, but then it was planted by mankind, who had previously plowed and tilled the soil. After planting their grain they must cultivate and water it; then when the grain had borne fruit according to the nature of the soil and the care bestowed upon it, it had to be harvested, threshed, ground, and baked. Then the ancient SERVANTS OF GOD had to carry it into the Temple, where it was placed before the Lord as bread to "SHEW" THAT THEY HAD PERFORMED THEIR TOIL AND RENDERED THE NECESSARY SERVICE.

The God-given grains of wheat in the twelve loaves represent the OPPORTUNITIES FOR SOUL GROWTH given by God, which come to all through the twelve departments of life represented by the twelve houses of the horoscope, under the dominion of the twelve divine Hierarchies known through the signs of the zodiac. BUT IT IS THE TASK OF THE MYSTIC MASON, THE TRUE TEMPLE BUILDER, TO EMBRACE THESE OPPORTUNITIES, TO CULTIVATE AND NOURISH THEM SO THAT HE MAY REAP THEREFROM THE LIVING BREAD WHICH NURTURES THE SOUL.

   We do not, however, assimilate our physical food IN TOTO; there is a residue, a large proportion of ash, left after we have amalgamated the quintessence into our system. Similarly, the shewbread was not burned or consumed before the Lord, but two small heaps of frankincense were placed on the two stacks of shewbread, one on each pile. This was conceived to be the aroma thereof, and was later burned on the Altar of Incense. Likewise the soul sustenance of service gathered daily by the ardent Mystic Mason is thrown into the mill of retrospection at eventide when he retires to his couch and performs there the scientific exercises given by the Elder Brothers of the Rose Cross.

There is a time each month which is particularly propitious for extracting the frankincense of soul growth and burning it before the lord so that it may be a sweet savor, TO BE AMALGAMATED WITH THE SOUL BODY and form part of that golden, radiant "wedding garment." This as at the time when the moon is at the full. Then she is in the east, and the heavens are ablaze with light as was the East Room of the ancient Atlantean Mystery Temple where the priest garnered the pabulum of the soul, symbolized by the shewbread and the fragrant essence, which delighted our Father in Heaven then as now.

Let the Mystic Mason take particular note, however, that the loaves of shewbread were not the musings of dreamers; they were not the product of speculation upon the nature of God or light. THEY WERE THE PRODUCT OF ACTUAL TOIL, of orderly systematic work, and it behooves us to follow the path of actual service if we would garner treasure in heaven. Unless we really WORK and SERVE humanity, we shall have nothing to bring, no bread to "shew," at the Feast of the Full Moon; and at the mystic marriage of the higher to the lower self we shall find ourselves minus the radiant golden sold body, the mystic wedding garment without which the union with Christ can never be consummated.


At the Altar of Incense, as we saw in the general description of the Tabernacle and its furniture, incense was offered before the lord continually, and the priest who stood before the altar ministering was at that time looking toward the mercy Seat over the Ark, though it as impossible for him to see it because of the SECOND VEIL which was interposed between the first and second apartments of the Tabernacle, the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies. We have also seen in the consideration of the "shewbread" that INCENSE symbolizes the extract, THE AROMA OF THE SERVICE we have rendered according to our opportunities; and just as the sacrificial animal upon the Brazen Altar represents the deeds of wrongdoing committed during the day, so the incense burned upon the Golden Altar, which is a sweet savor to the Lord, represents the virtuous deeds of our lives.



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