In the Ancient Orient, all religion was more or less a mystery and there was no divorce from it of philosophy. The popular theology, taking the multitude of allegories and symbols for realities, degenerated into a worship of the celestial luminaries, of imaginary Deities with human feelings, passions, appetites, and lusts, of idols, stones, animals, reptiles. The Onion was sacred to the Egyptians, because its different layers were a symbol of the concentric heavenly spheres. Of course the popular religion could not satisfy the deeper longings and thoughts, the loftier aspirations of the Spirit, or the logic of reason. The first, therefore, was taught to the initiated in the Mysteries. There, also, it was taught by symbols. The vagueness of symbolism, capable of many interpretations, reached what the palpable and conventional creed could not. Its indefiniteness acknowledged the abstruseness of the subject: it treated that mysterious subject mystically: it endeavored to illustrate what it could not explain; to excite an appropriate feeling, if it could not develop an adequate idea; and to make the image a mere subordinate conveyance for the conception, which itself never became obvious or familiar.
Thus the knowledge now imparted by books and letters, was of old conveyed by symbols; and the priests invented or perpetuated a display of rites and exhibitions, which were not only more attractive to the eye than words, but often more suggestive and more pregnant with meaning to the mind.
Masonry, successor of the Mysteries, still follows the ancient manner of teaching. Her ceremonies are like the ancient mystic shows,—not the reading of an essay, but the opening of a problem, requiring research, and constituting philosophy the arch-expounder. Her symbols are the instruction she gives. The lectures are endeavors, often partial and one-sided, to interpret these symbols. He who would become an accomplished Mason must not be content merely to hear, or even to understand, the lectures; he must, aided by them, and they having, as it were, marked out the way for him, study, interpret, and develop these symbols for himself.
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Though Masonry is identical with the ancient Mysteries, it is so only in this qualified sense: that it presents but an imperfect image of their brilliancy, the ruins only of their grandeur, and a system that has experienced progressive alterations, the fruits of social events, political circumstances, and the ambitious imbecility of its improvers. After leaving Egypt, the Mysteries were modified by the habits of the different nations among whom they were introduced, and especially by the religious systems of the countries into which they were transplanted. To maintain the established government, laws, and religion, was the obligation of the Initiate everywhere; and everywhere they were the heritage of the priests, who were nowhere willing to make the common people co-proprietors with themselves of philosophical truth.
Masonry is not the Coliseum in ruins. It is rather a Roman palace of the middle ages, disfigured by modern architectural improvements, yet built on a Cyclopæan foundation laid by the Etruscans, and with many a stone of the superstructure taken from dwellings and temples of the age of Hadrian and Antoninus.
Christianity taught the doctrine of FRATERNITY; but repudiated that of political EQUALITY, by continually inculcating obedience to Caesar, and to those lawfully in authority. Masonry was the first apostle of EQUALITY. In the Monastery there is fraternity and equality, but no liberty. Masonry added that also, and claimed for man the three-fold heritage, LIBERTY, EQUALITY, and FRATERNITY.
It was but a development of the original purpose of the Mysteries, which was to teach men to know and practice their duties to themselves and their fellows, the great practical end of all philosophy and all knowledge.
Truths are the springs from which duties flow; and it is but a few hundred years since a new Truth began to be distinctly seen; that MAN IS SUPREME OVER INSTITUTIONS, AND NOT THEY OVER HIM. Man has natural empire over all institutions. They are for him, according to his development; not he for them. This seems to us a very simple statement, one to which all men, everywhere, ought to assent. But once it was a great new Truth,—not revealed until governments had been in existence for at least five thousand years. Once revealed, it imposed new duties on men. Man owed it to himself to be free. He owed it to his country to seek to give her freedom, or maintain her in that possession. It made Tyranny and Usurpation the enemies of the Human Race. It created a general outlawry of Despots and Despotisms, temporal and spiritual. The sphere of Duty was immensely enlarged. Patriotism had, henceforth, a new and wider meaning. Free Government, Free Thought, Free Conscience, Free Speech! All these came to be inalienable rights, which those who had parted with them or been robbed of them, or whose ancestors had lost them, had the right summarily to retake. Unfortunately, as Truths always become perverted into falsehoods, and are falsehoods when misapplied, this Truth became the Gospel of Anarchy, soon after it was first preached.
Masonry early comprehended this Truth, and recognized its own enlarged duties. Its symbols then came to have a wider meaning; but it also assumed the mask of Stone-masonry, and borrowed its working-tools, and so was supplied with new and apt symbols. It aided in bringing about the French Revolution, disappeared with the Girondists, was born again with the restoration of order, and sustained Napoleon, because, though Emperor, he acknowledged the right of the people to select its rulers, and was at the head of a nation refusing to receive back its old kings. He pleaded, with sabre, musket, and cannon, the great cause of the People against Royalty, the right of the French people even to make a Corsican General their Emperor, if it pleased them.
Masonry felt that this Truth had the Omnipotence of God on its side; and that neither Pope nor Potentate could overcome it. It was a truth dropped into the world's wide treasury, and forming a part of the heritage which each generation receives, enlarges, and holds in trust, and of necessity bequeaths to mankind; the personal estate of man, entailed of nature to the end of time. And Masonry early recognized it as true, that to set forth and develop a truth, or any human excellence of gift or growth, is to make, greater the spiritual glory of the race; that whosoever aids the march of a Truth, and makes the thought a thing, writes in the same line with MOSES, and with Him who died upon the cross; and has an intellectual sympathy with the Deity Himself.
The best gift we can bestow on man is manhood. It is that which Masonry is ordained of God to bestow on its votaries: not sectarianism and religious dogma; not a rudimental morality, that may be found in the writings of Confucius, Zoroaster, Seneca, and the Rabbis, in the Proverbs and Ecclesiastes; not a little and cheap common-school knowledge; but manhood and science and philosophy.
Not that Philosophy or Science is in opposition to Religion. For Philosophy is but that knowledge of God and the Soul, which is derived from observation of the manifested action of God and the Soul, and from a wise analogy. It is the intellectual guide which the religious sentiment needs. The true religious philosophy of an imperfect being, is not a system of creed, but, as SOCRATES thought, an infinite search or approximation. Philosophy is that intellectual and moral progress, which the religious sentiment inspires and ennobles.
As to Science, it could not walk alone, while religion was stationary. It consists of those matured inferences from experience which all other experience confirms. It realizes and unites all that was truly valuable in both the old schemes of mediation,—one heroic, or the system of action and effort; and the mystical theory of spiritual, contemplative communion. "Listen to me," says GALEN, "as to the voice of the Eleusinian Hierophant, and believe that the study of Nature is a mystery no less important than theirs, nor less adapted to display the wisdom and power of the Great Creator. Their lessons and demonstrations were obscure, but ours are clear and unmistakable."
We deem that to be the best knowledge we can obtain of the Soul of another man, which is furnished by his actions and his life-long conduct. Evidence to the contrary, supplied by what another man informs us that this Soul has said to his, would weigh little against the former. The first Scriptures for the human race were written by God on the Earth and Heavens. The reading of these Scriptures is Science. Familiarity with the grass and trees, the insects and the infusoria, teaches us deeper lessons of love and faith than we can glean from the writings of FÉNÉLON and AUGUSTINE. The great Bible of God is ever open before mankind.
Knowledge is convertible into power, and axioms into rules of utility and duty. But knowledge itself is not Power. Wisdom is Power; and her Prime Minister is JUSTICE, which is the perfected law of TRUTH. The purpose, therefore, of Education and Science is to make a man wise. If knowledge does not make him so, it is wasted, like water poured on the sands. To know the formulas of Masonry, is of as little value, by itself, as to know so many words and sentences in some barbarous African or Australasian dialect To know even the meaning of the symbols, is but little, unless that adds to our wisdom, and also to our charity, which is to justice like one hemisphere of the brain to the other.
Do not lose sight, then, of the true object of your studies in Masonry. It is to add to your estate of wisdom, and not merely to your knowledge. A man may spend a lifetime in studying a single specialty of knowledge,—botany, conchology, or entomology, for instance,—in committing to memory names derived from the Greek, and classifying and reclassifying; and yet be no wiser than when he began. It is the great truths as to all that most concerns a man, as to his rights, interests, and duties, that Masonry seeks to teach her Initiates.
The wiser a man becomes, the less will he be inclined to submit tamely to the imposition of fetters or a yoke, on his conscience or his person. For, by increase of wisdom he not only better knows his rights, but the more highly values them, and is more conscious of his worth and dignity. His pride then urges him to assert his independence. He becomes better able to assert it also; and better able to assist others or his country, when they or she stake all, even existence, upon the same assertion. But mere knowledge makes no one independent, nor fits him to be free. It often only makes him a more useful slave. Liberty is a curse to the ignorant and brutal.
Political science has for its object to ascertain in what manner and by means of what institutions political and personal freedom may be secured and perpetuated: not license, or the mere right of every man to vote, but entire and absolute freedom of thought and opinion, alike free of the despotism of monarch and mob and prelate; freedom of action within the limits of the general law enacted for all; the Courts of Justice, with impartial Judges and juries, open to all alike; weakness and poverty equally potent in those Courts as power and wealth; the avenues to office and honor open alike to all the worthy; the military powers, in war or peace, in strict subordination to the civil power; arbitrary arrests for acts not known to the law as crimes, impossible; Romish Inquisitions, Star-Chambers, Military Commissions, unknown; the means of instruction within reach of the children of all; the right of Free Speech; and accountability of all public officers, civil and military.
If Masonry needed to be justified for imposing political as well as moral duties on its Initiates, it would be enough to point to the sad history of the world. It would not even need that she should turn back the pages of history to the chapters written by Tacitus: that she should recite the incredible horrors of despotism under Caligula and Domitian, Caracalla and Commodus, Vitellius and Maximin. She need only point to the centuries of calamity through which the gay French nation passed; to the long oppression of the feudal ages, of the selfish Bourbon kings; to those times when the peasants were robbed and slaughtered by their own lords and princes, like sheep; when the lord claimed the first-fruits of the peasant's marriage-bed; when the captured city was given up to merciless rape and massacre; when the State-prisons groaned with innocent victims, and the Church blessed the banners of pitiless murderers, and sang Te Deums for the crowning mercy of the Eve of St. Bartholomew.
We might turn over the pages, to a later chapter,—that of the reign of the Fifteenth Louis, when young girls, hardly more than children, were kidnapped to serve his lusts; when lettres de cachet filled the Bastile with persons accused of no crime, with husbands who were in the way of the pleasures of lascivious wives and of villains wearing orders of nobility; when the people were ground between the upper and the nether millstone of taxes, customs, and excises; and when the Pope's Nuncio and the Cardinal de la Roche-Ayman, devoutly kneeling, one on each side of Madame du Barry, the king's abandoned prostitute, put the slippers on her naked feet, as she rose from the adulterous bed. Then, indeed, suffering and toil were the two forms of man, and the people were but beasts of burden.
The true Mason is he who labors strenuously to help his Order effect its great purposes. Not that the Order can effect them by itself; but that it, too, can help. It also is one of God's instruments. It is a Force and a Power; and shame upon it, if it did not exert itself, and, if need be, sacrifice its children in the cause of humanity, as Abraham was ready to offer up Isaac on the altar of sacrifice. It will not forget that noble allegory of Curtius leaping, all in armor, into the great yawning gulf that opened to swallow Rome. It will TRY. It shall not be its fault if the day never comes when man will no longer have to fear a conquest, an invasion, a usurpation, a rivalry of nations with the armed hand, an interruption of civilization depending on a marriage-royal, or a birth in the hereditary tyrannies; a partition of the peoples by a Congress, a dismemberment by the downfall of a dynasty, a combat of two religions, meeting head to head, like two goats of darkness on the bridge of the Infinite: when they will no longer have to fear famine, spoliation, prostitution from distress, misery from lack of work, and all the brigandages of chance in the forest of events: when nations will gravitate about the Truth, like stars about the light, each in its own orbit, without clashing or collision; and everywhere Freedom, cinctured with stars, crowned with the celestial splendors, and with wisdom and justice on either hand, will reign supreme.
In your studies as a Fellow-Craft you must be guided by REASON, LOVE and FAITH.
We do not now discuss the differences between Reason and Faith, and undertake to define the domain of each. But it is necessary to say, that even in the ordinary affairs of life we are governed far more by what we believe than by what we know; by FAITH and ANALOGY, than by REASON. The "Age of Reason" of the French Revolution taught, we know, what a folly it is to enthrone Reason by itself as supreme. Reason is at fault when it deals with the Infinite. There we must revere and believe. Notwithstanding the calamities of the virtuous, the miseries of the deserving, the prosperity of tyrants and the murder of martyrs, we must believe there is a wise, just, merciful, and loving God, an Intelligence and a Providence, supreme over all, and caring for the minutest things and events. A Faith is a necessity to man. Woe to him who believes nothing!
We believe that the soul of another is of a certain nature and possesses certain qualities, that he is generous and honest, or penurious and knavish, that she is virtuous and amiable, or vicious and ill-tempered, from the countenance alone, from little more than a glimpse of it, without the means of knowing. We venture our fortune on the signature of a man on the other side of the world, whom we never saw, upon the belief that he is honest and trustworthy. We believe that occurrences have taken place, upon the assertion of others. We believe that one will acts upon another, and in the reality of a multitude of other phenomena that Reason cannot explain.
But we ought not to believe what Reason authoritatively denies, that at which the sense of right revolts, that which is absurd or self-contradictory, or at issue with experience or science, or that which degrades the character of the Deity, and would make Him revengeful, malignant, cruel, or unjust.
A man's Faith is as much his own as his Reason is. His Freedom consists as much in his faith being free as in his will being uncontrolled by power. All the Priests and Augurs of Rome or Greece had not the right to require Cicero or Socrates to believe in the absurd mythology of the vulgar. All the Imaums of Mohammedanism have not the right to require a Pagan to believe that Gabriel dictated the Koran to the Prophet. All the Brahmins that ever lived, if assembled in one conclave like the Cardinals, could not gain a right to compel a single human being to believe in the Hindu Cosmogony. No man or body of men can be infallible, and authorized to decide what other men shall believe, as to any tenet of faith. Except to those who first receive it, every religion and the truth of all inspired writings depend on human testimony and internal evidences, to be judged of by Reason and the wise analogies of Faith. Each man must necessarily have the right to judge of their truth for himself; because no one man can have any higher or better right to judge than another of equal information and intelligence.
Domitian claimed to be the Lord God; and statues and images of him, in silver and gold, were found throughout the known world. He claimed to be regarded as the God of all men; and, according to Suetonius, began his letters thus: "Our Lord and God commands that it should be done so and so;" and formally decreed that no one should address him otherwise, either in writing or by word of mouth. Palfurius Sura, the philosopher, who was his chief delator, accusing those who refused to recognize his divinity, however much he may have believed in that divinity, had not the right to demand that a single Christian in Rome or the provinces should do the same.
Reason is far from being the only guide, in morals or in political science. Love or loving-kindness must keep it company, to exclude fanaticism, intolerance, and persecution, to all of which a morality too ascetic, and extreme political principles, invariably lead. We must also have faith in ourselves, and in our fellows and the people, or we shall be easily discouraged by reverses, and our ardor cooled by obstacles. We must not listen to Reason alone. Force comes more from Faith and Love: and it is by the aid of these that man scales the loftiest heights of morality, or becomes the Saviour and Redeemer of a People. Reason must hold the helm; but these supply the motive power. They are the wings of the soul. Enthusiasm is generally unreasoning; and without it, and Love and Faith, there would have been no RIENZI, or TELL, or SYDNEY, or any other of the great patriots whose names are immortal. If the Deity had been merely and only All-wise and All-mighty, He would never have created the Universe.
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It is GENIUS that gets Power; and its prime lieutenants are FORCE and WISDOM. The unruliest of men bend before the leader that has the sense to see and the will to do. It is Genius, that rules with God-like Power; that unveils, with its counsellors, the hidden human mysteries, cuts asunder with its word the huge knots, and builds up with its word the crumbled ruins. At its glance fall down the senseless idols, whose altars have been on all the high places and in all the sacred groves. Dishonesty and imbecility stand abashed before it. Its single Yea or Nay revokes the wrongs of ages, and is heard among the future generations. Its power is immense, because its wisdom is immense. Genius is the Sun of the political sphere. Force and Wisdom, its ministers, are the orbs that carry its light into darkness, and answer it with their solid reflecting Truth.
Development is symbolized by the use of the Mallet and Chisel; the development of the energies and intellect, of the individual and the people. Genius may place itself at the head of an unintellectual, uneducated, unenergetic nation; but in a free country, to cultivate the intellect of those who elect, is the only mode of securing intellect and genius for rulers. The world is seldom ruled by the great spirits, except after dissolution and new birth. In periods of transition and convulsion, the Long Parliaments, the Robespierres and Marats, and the semi-respectabilities of intellect, too often hold the reins of power. The Cromwells and Napoleons come later. After Marius and Sulla and Cicero the rhetorician, CÆSAR. The great intellect is often too sharp for the granite of this life. Legislators may be very ordinary men; for legislation is very ordinary work; it is but the final issue of a million minds.
The power of the purse or the sword, compared to that of the spirit, is poor and contemptible. As to lands, you may have agrarian laws, and equal partition. But a man's intellect is all his own, held direct from God, an inalienable fief. It is the most potent of weapons in the hands of a paladin. If the people comprehend Force in the physical sense, how much more do they reverence the intellectual! Ask Hildebrand, or Luther, or Loyola. They fall prostrate before it, as before an idol. The mastery of mind over mind is the only conquest worth having. The other injures both, and dissolves at a breath; rude as it is, the great cable falls down and snaps at last. But this dimly resembles the dominion of the Creator. It does not need a subject like that of Peter the Hermit. If the stream be but bright and strong, it will sweep like a spring-tide to the popular heart. Not in word only, but in intellectual act lies the fascination. It is the homage to the Invisible. This power, knotted with Love, is the golden chain let down into the well of Truth, or the invisible chain that binds the ranks of mankind together.
Influence of man over man is a law of nature, whether it be by a great estate in land or in intellect. It may mean slavery, a deference to the eminent human judgment. Society hangs spiritually together, like the revolving spheres above. The free country, in which intellect and genius govern, will endure. Where they serve, and other influences govern, the national life is short. All the nations that have tried to govern themselves by their smallest, by the incapables, or merely respectables, have come to nought. Constitutions and Laws, without Genius and Intellect to govern, will not prevent decay. In that case they have the dry-rot and the life dies out of them by degrees.
To give a nation the franchise of the Intellect is the only sure mode of perpetuating freedom. This will compel exertion and generous care for the people from those on the higher seats, and honorable and intelligent allegiance from those below. Then political public life will protect all men from self-abasement in sensual pursuits, from vulgar acts and low greed, by giving the noble ambition of just imperial rule. To elevate the people by teaching loving-kindness and wisdom, with power to him who teaches best: and so to develop the free State from the rough ashlar:—this is the great labor in which Masonry desires to lend a helping hand.
All of us should labor in building up the great monument of a nation, the Holy House of the Temple. The cardinal virtues must not be partitioned among men, becoming the exclusive property of some, like the common crafts. ALL are apprenticed to the partners, Duty and Honor.
Masonry is a march and a struggle toward the Light. For the individual as well as the nation, Light is Virtue, Manliness, Intelligence, Liberty. Tyranny over the soul or body, is darkness. The freest people, like the freest man, is always in danger of relapsing into servitude. Wars are almost always fatal to Republics. They create tyrants, and consolidate their power. They spring, for the most part, from evil counsels. When the small and the base are intrusted with power, legislation and administration become but two parallel series of errors and blunders, ending in war, calamity, and the necessity for a tyrant. When the nation feels its feet sliding backward, as if it walked on the ice, the time has come for a supreme effort. The magnificent tyrants of the past are but the types of those of the future. Men and nations will always sell themselves into slavery, to gratify their passions and obtain revenge. The tyrant's plea, necessity, is always available; and the tyrant once in power, the necessity of providing for his safety makes him savage. Religion is a power, and he must control that. Independent, its sanctuaries might rebel. Then it becomes unlawful for the people to worship God in their own way, and the old spiritual despotisms revive. Men must believe as Power wills, or die; and even if they may believe as they will, all they have, lands, houses, body, and soul, are stamped with the royal brand. "I am the State," said Louis the Fourteenth to his peasants; "the very shirts on your backs are mine, and I can take them if I will."
And dynasties so established endure, like that of the Cæsars of Rome, of the Cæsars of Constantinople, of the Caliphs, the Stuarts, the Spaniards, the Goths, the Valois, until the race wears out, and ends with lunatics and idiots, who still rule. There is no concord among men, to end the horrible bondage. The State falls inwardly, as well as by the outward blows of the incoherent elements. The furious human passions, the sleeping human indolence, the stolid human ignorance, the rivalry of human castes, are as good for the kings as the swords of the Paladins. The worshippers have all bowed so long to the old idol, that they cannot go into the streets and choose another Grand Llama. And so the effete State floats on down the puddled stream of Time, until the tempest or the tidal sea discovers that the worm has consumed its strength, and it crumbles into oblivion.
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Civil and religious Freedom must go hand in hand; and Persecution matures them both. A people content with the thoughts made for them by the priests of a church will be content with Royalty by Divine Right,—the Church and the Throne mutually sustaining each other. They will smother schism and reap infidelity and indifference; and while the battle for freedom goes on around them, they will only sink the more apathetically into servitude and a deep trance, perhaps occasionally interrupted by furious fits of frenzy, followed by helpless exhaustion.
Despotism is not difficult in any land that has only known one master from its childhood; but there is no harder problem than to perfect and perpetuate free government by the people themselves; for it is not one king that is needed: all must be kings. It is easy to set up Masaniello, that in a few days he may fall lower than before. But free government grows slowly, like the individual human faculties; and like the forest-trees, from the inner heart outward. Liberty is not only the common birth-right, but it is lost as well by non-user as by mis-user. It depends far more on the universal effort than any other human property. It has no single shrine or holy well of pilgrimage for the nation; for its waters should burst out freely from the whole soil.
The free popular power is one that is only known in its strength in the hour of adversity: for all its trials, sacrifices and expectations are its own. It is trained to think for itself, and also to act for itself. When the enslaved people prostrate themselves in the dust before the hurricane, like the alarmed beasts of the field, the free people stand erect before it, in all the strength of unity, in self-reliance, in mutual reliance, with effrontery against all but the visible hand of God. It is neither cast down by calamity nor elated by success.
This vast power of endurance, of forbearance, of patience, and of performance, is only acquired by continual exercise of all the functions, like the healthful physical human vigor, like the individual moral vigor.
And the maxim is no less true than old, that eternal vigilance is the price of liberty. It is curious to observe the universal pretext by which the tyrants of all times take away the national liberties. It is stated in the statutes of Edward II., that the justices and the sheriff should no longer be elected by the people, on account of the riots and dissensions which had arisen. The same reason was given long before for the suppression of popular election of the bishops; and there is a witness to this untruth in the yet older times, when Rome lost her freedom, and her indignant citizens declared that tumultuous liberty is better than disgraceful tranquillity.
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With the Compasses and Scale, we can trace all the figures used in the mathematics of planes, or in what are called GEOMETRY and TRIGONOMETRY, two words that are themselves deficient in meaning. GEOMETRY, which the letter G in most Lodges is said to signify, means measurement of land or the earth—or Surveying; and TRIGONOMETRY, the measurement of triangles, or figures with three sides or angles. The latter is by far the most appropriate name for the science intended to be expressed by the word "Geometry." Neither is of a meaning sufficiently wide: for although the vast surveys of great spaces of the earth's surface, and of coasts, by which shipwreck and calamity to mariners are avoided, are effected by means of triangulation;—though it was by the same method that the French astronomers measured a degree of latitude and so established a scale of measures on an immutable basis; though it is by means of the immense triangle that has for its base a line drawn in imagination between the place of the earth now and its place six months hence in space, and for its apex a planet or star, that the distance of Jupiter or Sirius from the earth is ascertained; and though there is a triangle still more vast, its base extending either way from us, with and past the horizon into immensity, and its apex infinitely distant above us; to which corresponds a similar infinite triangle belo what is above equalling what is below, immensity equalling immensity;—yet the Science of Numbers, to which Pythagoras attached so much importance, and whose mysteries are found everywhere in the ancient religions, and most of all in the Kabalah and in the Bible, is not sufficiently expressed by either the word "Geometry" or the word "Trigonometry." For that science includes these, with Arithmetic, and also with Algebra, Logarithms, the Integral and Differential Calculus; and by means of it are worked out the great problems of Astronomy or the Laws of the Stars.
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Virtue is but heroic bravery to do the thing thought to be true, in spite of all enemies of flesh or spirit, in despite of all temptations or menaces. Man is accountable for the _up_rightness of his doctrine, but not for the rightness of it. Devout enthusiasm is far easier than a good action. The end of thought is action; the sole purpose of Religion is an Ethic. Theory, in political science, is worthless, except for the purpose of being realized in practice.
In every credo, religious or political as in the soul of man, there are two regions, the Dialectic and the Ethic; and it is only when the two are harmoniously blended, that a perfect discipline is evolved. There are men who dialectically are Christians, as there are a multitude who dialectically are Masons, and yet who are ethically Infidels, as these are ethically of the Profane, in the strictest sense:—intellectual believers, but practical atheists—men who will write you "Evidences," in perfect faith in their logic, but cannot carry out the Christian or Masonic doctrine, owing to the strength, or weakness, of the flesh. On the other hand, there are many dialectical skeptics, but ethical believers, as there are many Masons who have never undergone initiation; and as ethics are the end and purpose of religion, so are ethical believers the most worthy. He who does right is better than he who thinks right.
But you must not act upon the hypothesis that all men are hypocrites, whose conduct does not square with their sentiments. No vice is more rare, for no task is more difficult, than systematic hypocrisy. When the Demagogue becomes a Usurper it does not follow that he was all the time a hypocrite. Shallow men only so judge of others.
The truth is, that creed has, in general, very little influence on the conduct; in religion, on that of the individual; in politics, on that of party. As a general thing, the Mahometan, in the Orient, is far more honest and trustworthy than the Christian. A Gospel of Love in the mouth, is an Avatar of Persecution in the heart. Men who believe in eternal damnation and a literal sea of fire and brimstone, incur the certainty of it, according to their creed, on the slightest temptation of appetite or passion. Predestination insists on the necessity of good works. In Masonry, at the least now of passion, one speaks ill of another behind his back; and so far from the "Brotherhood" of Blue Masonry being real, and the solemn pledges contained in the use of the word "Brother" being complied with, extraordinary pains are taken to show that Masonry is a sort of abstraction, which scorns to interfere in worldly matters. The rule may be regarded as universal, that, where there is a choice to be made, a Mason will give his vote and influence, in politics and business, to the less qualified profane in preference to the better qualified Mason. One will take an oath to oppose any unlawful usurpation of power, and then become the ready and even eager instrument of a usurper. Another will call one "Brother," and then play toward him the part of Judas Iscariot, or strike him, as Joab did Abner, under the fifth rib, with a lie whose authorship is not to be traced. Masonry does not change human nature, and cannot make honest men out of born knaves.
While you are still engaged in preparation, and in accumulating principles for future use, do not forget the words of the Apostle James: "For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass, for he beholdeth himself, and goeth away, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was; but whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his work. If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man's religion is vain…. Faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being an abstraction. A man is justified by works, and not by faith only…. The devils believe,—and tremble…. As the body without the heart is dead, so is faith without works."
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In political science, also, free governments are erected and free constitutions framed, upon some simple and intelligible theory. Upon whatever theory they are based, no sound conclusion is to be reached except by carrying the theory out without flinching, both in argument on constitutional questions and in practice. Shrink from the true theory through timidity, or wander from it through want of the logical faculty, or transgress against it through passion or on the plea of necessity or expediency, and you have denial or invasion of rights, laws that offend against first, principles, usurpation of illegal powers, or abnegation and abdication of legitimate authority.
Do not forget, either, that as the showy, superficial, impudent and self-conceited will almost always be preferred, even in utmost stress of danger and calamity of the State, to the man of solid learning, large intellect, and catholic sympathies, because he is nearer the common popular and legislative level, so the highest truth is not acceptable to the mass of mankind.
When SOLON was asked if he had given his countrymen the best laws, he answered, "The best they are capable of receiving." This is one of the profoundest utterances on record; and yet like all great truths, so simple as to be rarely comprehended. It contains the whole philosophy of History. It utters a truth which, had it been recognized, would have saved men an immensity of vain, idle disputes, and have led them into the clearer paths of knowledge in the Past. It means this,—that all truths are Truths of Period, and not truths for eternity; that whatever great fact has had strength and vitality enough to make itself real, whether of religion, morals, government, or of whatever else, and to find place in this world, has been a truth for the time, and as good as men were capable of receiving.
So, too, with great men. The intellect and capacity of a people has a single measure,—that of the great men whom Providence gives it, and whom it receives. There have always been men too great for their time or their people. Every people makes such men only its idols, as it is capable of comprehending.
To impose ideal truth or law upon an incapable and merely real man, must ever be a vain and empty speculation. The laws of sympathy govern in this as they do in regard to men who are put at the head. We do not know, as yet, what qualifications the sheep insist on in a leader. With men who are too high intellectually, the mass have as little sympathy as they have with the stars. When BURKE, the wisest statesman England ever had, rose to speak, the House of Commons was depopulated as upon an agreed signal. There is as little sympathy between the mass and the highest TRUTHS. The highest truth, being incomprehensible to the man of realities, as the highest man is, and largely above his level, will be a great unreality and falsehood to an unintellectual man. The profoundest doctrines of Christianity and Philosophy would be mere jargon and babble to a Potawatomie Indian. The popular explanations of the symbols of Masonry are fitting for the multitude that have swarmed into the Temples,—being fully up to the level of their capacity. Catholicism was a vital truth in its earliest ages, but it became obsolete, and Protestantism arose, flourished, and deteriorated. The doctrines of ZOROASTER were the best which the ancient Persians were fitted to receive; those of CONFUCIUS were fitted for the Chinese; those of MOHAMMED for the idolatrous Arabs of his age. Each was Truth for the time. Each was a GOSPEL, preached by a REFORMER; and if any men are so little fortunate as to remain content therewith, when others have attained a higher truth, it is their misfortune and not their fault. They are to be pitied for it, and not persecuted.
Do not expect easily to convince men of the truth, or to lead them to think aright. The subtle human intellect can weave its mists over even the clearest vision. Remember that it is eccentric enough to ask unanimity from a jury; but to ask it from any large number of men on any point of political faith is amazing. You can hardly get two men in any Congress or Convention to agree;—nay, you can rarely get one to agree with himself. The political church which chances to be supreme anywhere has an indefinite number of tongues. How then can we expect men to agree as to matters beyond the cognizance of the senses? How can we compass the Infinite and the Invisible with any chain of evidence? Ask the small sea-waves what they murmur among the pebbles! How many of those words that come from the invisible shore are lost, like the birds, in the long passage? How vainly do we strain the eyes across the long Infinite! We must be content, as the children are, with the pebbles that have been stranded, since it is forbidden us to explore the hidden depths.
The Fellow-Craft is especially taught by this not to become wise in his own conceit. Pride in unsound theories is worse than ignorance. Humility becomes a Mason. Take some quiet, sober moment of life, and add together the two ideas of Pride and Man; behold him, creature of a span, stalking through infinite space in all the grandeur of littleness! Perched on a speck of the Universe, every wind of Heaven strikes into his blood the coldness of death; his soul floats away from his body like the melody from the string. Day and night, like dust on the wheel, he is rolled along the heavens, through a labyrinth of worlds, and all the creations of God are flaming on every side, further than even his imagination can reach. Is this a creature to make for himself a crown of glory, to deny his own flesh, to mock at his fellow, sprung with him from that dust to which both will soon return? Does the proud man not err? Does he not suffer? Does he not die? When he reasons, is he never stopped short by difficulties? When he acts, does he never succumb to the temptations of pleasure? When he lives, is he free from pain? Do the diseases not claim him as their prey? When he dies, can he escape the common grave? Pride is not the heritage of man. Humility should dwell with frailty, and atone for ignorance, error and imperfection.
Neither should the Mason be over-anxious for office and honor, however certainly he may feel that he has the capacity to serve the State. He should neither seek nor spurn honors. It is good to enjoy the blessings of fortune; it is better to submit without a pang to their loss. The greatest deeds are not done in the glare of light, and before the eyes of the populace. He whom God has gifted with a love of retirement possesses, as it were, an additional sense; and among the vast and noble scenes of nature, we find the balm for the wounds we have received among the pitiful shifts of policy; for the attachment to solitude is the surest preservative from the ills of life.
But Resignation is the more noble in proportion as it is the less passive. Retirement is only a morbid selfishness, if it prohibit exertions for others; as it is only dignified and noble, when it is the shade whence the oracles issue that are to instruct mankind; and retirement of this nature is the sole seclusion which a good and wise man will covet or command. The very philosophy which makes such a man covet the quiet, will make him eschew the inutility of the hermitage. Very little praiseworthy would LORD BOLINGBROKE have seemed among his haymakers and ploughmen, if among haymakers and ploughmen he had looked with an indifferent eye upon a profligate minister and a venal Parliament. Very little interest would have attached to his beans and vetches, if beans and vetches had caused him to forget that if he was happier on a farm he could be more useful in a Senate, and made him forego, in the sphere of a bailiff, all care for re-entering that of a legislator.
Remember, also, that there is an education which quickens the Intellect, and leaves the heart hollower or harder than before. There are ethical lessons in the laws of the heavenly bodies, in the properties of earthly elements, in geography, chemistry, geology, and all the material sciences. Things are symbols of Truths. Properties are symbols of Truths. Science, not teaching moral and spiritual truths, is dead and dry, of little more real value than to commit to the memory a long row of unconnected dates, or of the names of bugs or butterflies.
Christianity, it is said, begins from the burning of the false gods by the people themselves. Education begins with the burning of our intellectual and moral idols: our prejudices, notions, conceits, our worthless or ignoble purposes. Especially it is necessary to shake off the love of worldly gain. With Freedom comes the longing for worldly advancement. In that race men are ever falling, rising, running, and falling again. The lust for wealth and the abject dread of poverty delve the furrows on many a noble brow. The gambler grows old as he watches the chances. Lawful hazard drives Youth away before its time; and this Youth draws heavy bills of exchange on Age. Men live, like the engines, at high pressure, a hundred years in a hundred months; the ledger becomes the Bible, and the day-book the Book of the Morning Prayer.
Hence flow overreachings and sharp practice, heartless traffic in which the capitalist buys profit with the lives of the laborers, speculations that coin a nation's agonies into wealth, and all the other devilish enginery of Mammon. This, and greed for office, are the two columns at the entrance to the Temple of Moloch. It is doubtful whether the latter, blossoming in falsehood, trickery, and fraud, is not even more pernicious than the former. At all events they are twins, and fitly mated; and as either gains control of the unfortunate subject, his soul withers away and decays, and at last dies out. The souls of half the human race leave them long before they die. The two greeds are twin plagues of the leprosy, and make the man unclean; and whenever they break out they spread until "they cover all the skin of him that hath the plague, from his head even to his foot." Even the raw flesh of the heart becomes unclean with it.
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Alexander of Macedon has left a saying behind him which has survived his conquests: "Nothing is nobler than work." Work only can keep even kings respectable. And when a king is a king indeed, it is an honorable office to give tone to the manners and morals of a nation; to set the example of virtuous conduct, and restore in spirit the old schools of chivalry, in which the young manhood may be nurtured to real greatness. Work and wages will go together in men's minds, in the most royal institutions. We must ever come to the idea of real work. The rest that follows labor should be sweeter than the rest which follows rest.
Let no Fellow-Craft imagine that the work of the lowly and uninfluential is not worth the doing. There is no legal limit to the possible influences of a good deed or a wise word or a generous effort. Nothing is really small. Whoever is open to the deep penetration of nature knows this. Although, indeed, no absolute satisfaction may be vouchsafed to philosophy, any more in circumscribing the cause than in limiting the effect, the man of thought and contemplation falls into unfathomable ecstacies in view of all the decompositions of forces resulting in unity. All works for all. Destruction is not annihilation, but regeneration.
Algebra applies to the clouds; the radiance of the star benefits the rose; no thinker would dare to say that the perfume of the hawthorn is useless to the constellations. Who, then, can calculate the path of the molecule? How do we know that the creations of worlds are not determined by the fall of grains of sand? Who, then, understands the reciprocal flow and ebb of the infinitely great and the infinitely small; the echoing of causes in the abysses of beginning, and the avalanches of creation? A fleshworm is of account; the small is great; the great is small; all is in equilibrium in necessity. There are marvellous relations between beings and things; in this inexhaustible Whole, from sun to grub, there is no scorn: all need each other. Light does not carry terrestrial perfumes into the azure depths, without knowing what it does with them; night distributes the stellar essence to the sleeping plants. Every bird which flies has the thread of the Infinite in its claw. Germination includes the hatching of a meteor, and the tap of a swallow's bill, breaking the egg; and it leads forward the birth of an earth-worm and the advent of a Socrates. Where the telescope ends the microscope begins. Which of them the grander view? A bit of mould is a Pleiad of flowers—a nebula is an ant-hill of stars.
There is the same and a still more wonderful interpenetration between the things of the intellect and the things of matter. Elements and principles are mingled, combined, espoused, multiplied one by another, to such a degree as to bring the material world and the moral world into the same light. Phenomena are perpetually folded back upon themselves. In the vast cosmical changes the universal life comes and goes in unknown quantities, enveloping all in the invisible mystery of the emanations, losing no dream from no single sleep, sowing an animalcule here, crumbling a star there, oscillating and winding in curves; making a force of Light, and an element of Thought; disseminated and indivisible, dissolving all save that point without length, breadth, or thickness. The MYSELF; reducing everything to the Soul-atom; making everything blossom into God; entangling all activities, from the highest to the lowest, in the obscurity of a dizzying mechanism; hanging the flight of an insect upon the movement of the earth; subordinating, perhaps, if only by the identity of the law, the eccentric evolutions of the comet in the firmament, to the whirlings of the infusoria in the drop of water. A mechanism made of mind, the first motor of which is the gnat, and its last wheel the zodiac.
A peasant-boy, guiding Blücher by the right one of two roads, the other being impassable for artillery, enables him to reach Waterloo in time to save Wellington from a defeat that would have been a rout; and so enables the kings to imprison Napoleon on a barren rock in mid-ocean. An unfaithful smith, by the slovenly shoeing of a horse, causes his lameness, and, he stumbling, the career of his world-conquering rider ends, and the destinies of empires are changed. A generous officer permits an imprisoned monarch to end his game of chess before leading him to the block; and meanwhile the usurper dies, and the prisoner reascends the throne. An unskillful workman repairs the compass, or malice or stupidity disarranges it, the ship mistakes her course, the waves swallow a Caesar, and a new chapter is written in the history of a world. What we call accident is but the adamantine chain of indissoluble connection between all created things. The locust, hatched in the Arabian sands, the small worm that destroys the cotton-boll, one making famine in the Orient, the other closing the mills and starving the workmen and their children in the Occident, with riots and massacres, are as much the ministers of God as the earthquake; and the fate of nations depends more on them than on the intellect of its kings and legislators. A civil war in America will end in shaking the world; and that war may be caused by the vote of some ignorant prize-fighter or crazed fanatic in a city or in a Congress, or of some stupid boor in an obscure country parish. The electricity of universal sympathy, of action and reaction, pervades everything, the planets and the motes in the sunbeam. FAUST, with his types, or LUTHER, with his sermons, worked greater results than Alexander or Hannibal. A single thought sometimes suffices to overturn a dynasty. A silly song did more to unseat James the Second than the acquittal of the Bishops. Voltaire, Condorcet, and Rousseau uttered words that will ring, in change and revolutions, throughout all the ages.
Remember, that though life is short, Thought and the influences of what we do or say are immortal; and that no calculus has yet pretended to ascertain the law of proportion between cause and effect. The hammer of an English blacksmith, smiting down an insolent official, led to a rebellion which came near being a revolution. The word well spoken, the deed fitly done, even by the feeblest or humblest, cannot help but have their effect. More or less, the effect is inevitable and eternal. The echoes of the greatest deeds may die away like the echoes of a cry among the cliffs, and what has been done seem to the human judgment to have been without result. The unconsidered act of the poorest of men may fire the train that leads to the subterranean mine, and an empire be rent by the explosion.
The power of a free people is often at the disposal of a single and seemingly an unimportant individual;—a terrible and truthful power; for such a people feel with one heart, and therefore can lift up their myriad arms for a single blow. And, again, there is no graduated scale for the measurement of the influences of different intellects upon the popular mind. Peter the Hermit held no office, yet what a work he wrought!
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From the political point of view there is but a single principle,—the sovereignty of man over himself. This sovereignty of one's self over one's self is called LIBERTY. Where two or several of these sovereignties associate, the State begins. But in this association there is no abdication. Each sovereignty parts with a certain portion of itself to form the common right. That portion is the same for all. There is equal contribution by all to the joint sovereignty. This identity of concession which each makes to all, is EQUALITY. The common right is nothing more or less than the protection of all, pouring its rays on each. This protection of each by all, is FRATERNITY.
Liberty is the summit, Equality the base. Equality is not all vegetation on a level, a society of big spears of grass and stunted oaks, a neighborhood of jealousies, emasculating each other. It is, civilly, all aptitudes having equal opportunity; politically, all votes having equal weight; religiously, all consciences having equal rights.
Equality has an organ;—gratuitous and obligatory instruction. We must begin with the right to the alphabet. The primary school obligatory upon all; the higher school offered to all. Such is the law. From the same school for all springs equal society. Instruction! Light! all comes from Light, and all returns to it.
We must learn the thoughts of the common people, if we would be wise and do any good work. We must look at men, not so much for what Fortune has given to them with her blind old eyes, as for the gifts Nature has brought in her lap, and for the use that has been made of them. We profess to be equal in a Church and in the Lodge: we shall be equal in the sight of God when He judges the earth. We may well sit on the pavement together here, in communion and conference, for the few brief moments that constitute life.
A Democratic Government undoubtedly has its defects, because it is made and administered by men, and not by the Wise Gods. It cannot be concise and sharp, like the despotic. When its ire is aroused it develops its latent strength, and the sturdiest rebel trembles. But its habitual domestic rule is tolerant, patient, and indecisive. Men are brought together, first to differ, and then to agree. Affirmation, negation, discussion, solution: these are the means of attaining truth. Often the enemy will be at the gates before the babble of the disturbers is drowned in the chorus of consent. In the Legislative office deliberation will often defeat decision. Liberty can play the fool like the Tyrants.
Refined society requires greater minuteness of regulation; and the steps of all advancing States are more and more to be picked among the old rubbish and the new materials. The difficulty lies in discovering the right path through the chaos of confusion. The adjustment of mutual rights and wrongs is also more difficult in democracies. We do not see and estimate the relative importance of objects so easily and clearly from the level or the waving land as from the elevation of a lone peak, towering above the plain; for each looks through his own mist.
Abject dependence on constituents, also, is too common. It is as miserable a thing as abject dependence on a minister or the favorite of a Tyrant. It is rare to find a man who can speak out the simple truth that is in him, honestly and frankly, without fear, favor, or affection, either to Emperor or People.
Moreover, in assemblies of men, faith in each other is almost always wanting, unless a terrible pressure of calamity or danger from without produces cohesion. Hence the constructive power of such assemblies is generally deficient. The chief triumphs of modern days, in Europe, have been in pulling down and obliterating; not in building up. But Repeal is not Reform. Time must bring with him the Restorer and Rebuilder.
Speech, also, is grossly abused in Republics; and if the use of speech be glorious, its abuse is the most villainous of vices. Rhetoric, Plato says, is the art of ruling the minds of men. But in democracies it is too common to hide thought in words, to overlay it, to babble nonsense. The gleams and glitter of intellectual soap-and-water bubbles are mistaken for the rainbow-glories of genius. The worthless pyrites is continually mistaken for gold. Even intellect condescends to intellectual jugglery, balancing thoughts as a juggler balances pipes on his chin. In all Congresses we have the inexhaustible flow of babble, and Faction's clamorous knavery in discussion, until the divine power of speech, that privilege of man and great gift of God, is no better than the screech of parrots or the mimicry of monkeys. The mere talker, however fluent, is barren of deeds in the day of trial.
There are men voluble as women, and as well skilled in fencing with the tongue: prodigies of speech, misers in deeds. Too much talking, like too much thinking, destroys the power of action. In human nature, the thought is only made perfect by deed. Silence is the mother of both. The trumpeter is not the bravest of the brave. Steel and not brass wins the day. The great doer of great deeds is mostly slow and slovenly of speech. There are some men born and bred to betray. Patriotism is their trade, and their capital is speech. But no noble spirit can plead like Paul and be false to itself as Judas.
Imposture too commonly rules in republics; they seem to be ever in their minority; their guardians are self-appointed; and the unjust thrive better than the just. The Despot, like the night-lion roaring, drowns all the clamor of tongues at once, and speech, the birthright of the free man, becomes the bauble of the enslaved.
It is quite true that republics only occasionally, and as it were accidentally, select their wisest, or even the less incapable among the incapables, to govern them and legislate for them. If genius, armed with learning and knowledge, will grasp the reins, the people will reverence it; if it only modestly offers itself for office, it will be smitten on the face, even when, in the straits of distress and the agonies of calamity, it is indispensable to the salvation of the State. Put it upon the track with the showy and superficial, the conceited, the ignorant, and impudent, the trickster and charlatan, and the result shall not be a moment doubtful. The verdicts of Legislatures and the People are like the verdicts of juries,—sometimes right by accident.
Offices, it is true, are showered, like the rains of Heaven, upon the just and the unjust. The Roman Augurs that used to laugh in each other's faces at the simplicity of the vulgar, were also tickled with their own guile; but no Augur is needed to lead the people astray. They readily deceive themselves. Let a Republic begin as it may, it will not be out of its minority before imbecility will be promoted to high places; and shallow pretence, getting itself puffed into notice, will invade all the sanctuaries. The most unscrupulous partisanship will prevail, even in respect to judicial trusts; and the most unjust appointments constantly be made, although every improper promotion not merely confers one undeserved favor, but may make a hundred honest cheeks smart with injustice.
The country is stabbed in the front when those are brought into the stalled seats who should slink into the dim gallery. Every stamp of Honor, ill-clutched, is stolen from the Treasury of Merit.
Yet the entrance into the public service, and the promotion in it, affect both the rights of individuals and those of the nation. Injustice in bestowing or withholding office ought to be so intolerable in democratic communities that the least trace of it should be like the scent of Treason. It is not universally true that all citizens of equal character have an equal claim to knock at the door of every public office and demand admittance. When any man presents himself for service he has a right to aspire to the highest body at once, if he can show his fitness for such a beginning,—that he is fitter than the rest who offer themselves for the same post. The entry into it can only justly be made through the door of merit. And whenever any one aspires to and attains such high post, especially if by unfair and disreputable and indecent means, and is afterward found to be a signal failure, he should at once be beheaded. He is the worst among the public enemies.
When a man sufficiently reveals himself, all others should be proud to give him due precedence. When the power of promotion is abused in the grand passages of life whether by People, Legislature, or Executive, the unjust decision recoils on the judge at once. That is not only a gross, but a willful shortness of sight, that cannot discover the deserving. If one will look hard, long, and honestly, he will not fail to discern merit, genius, and qualification; and the eyes and voice of the Press and Public should condemn and denounce injustice wherever she rears her horrid head.
"The tools to the workmen!" no other principle will save a Republic from destruction, either by civil war or the dry-rot. They tend to decay, do all we can to prevent it, like human bodies. If they try the experiment of governing themselves by their smallest, they slide downward to the unavoidable abyss with tenfold velocity; and there never has been a Republic that has not followed that fatal course.
But however palpable and gross the inherent defects of democratic governments, and fatal as the results finally and inevitably are, we need only glance at the reigns of Tiberius, Nero, and Caligula, of Heliogabalus and Caracalla, of Domitian and Commodus, to recognize that the difference between freedom and despotism is as wide as that between Heaven and Hell. The cruelty, baseness, and insanity of tyrants are incredible. Let him who complains of the fickle humors and inconstancy of a free people, read Pliny's character of Domitian. If the great man in a Republic cannot win office without descending to low arts and whining beggary and the judicious use of sneaking lies, let him remain in retirement, and use the pen. Tacitus and Juvenal held no office. Let History and Satire punish the pretender as they crucify the despot. The revenges of the intellect are terrible and just.
Let Masonry use the pen and the printing-press in the free State against the Demagogue; in the Despotism against the Tyrant. History offers examples and encouragement. All history, for four thousand years, being filled with violated rights and the sufferings of the people, each period of history brings with it such protest as is possible to it. Under the Cæsars there was no insurrection, but there was a Juvenal. The arousing of indignation replaces the Gracchi. Under the Cæsars there is the exile of Syene; there is also the author of the Annals. As the Nero's reign darkly they should be pictured so. Work with the graver only would be pale; into the grooves should be poured a concentrated prose that bites.
Despots are an aid to thinkers. Speech enchained is speech terrible. The writer doubles and triples his style, when silence is imposed by a master upon the people. There springs from this silence a certain mysterious fullness, which filters and freezes into brass in the thoughts. Compression in the history produces conciseness in the historian. The granitic solidity of some celebrated prose is only a condensation produced by the Tyrant. Tyranny constrains the writer to shortenings of diameter which are increases of strength. The Ciceronian period, hardly sufficient upon Verres, would lose its edge upon Caligula.
The Demagogue is the predecessor of the Despot. One springs from the other's loins. He who will basely fawn on those who have office to bestow, will betray like Iscariot, and prove a miserable and pitiable failure. Let the new Junius lash such men as they deserve, and History make them immortal in infamy; since their influences culminate in ruin. The Republic that employs and honors the shallow, the superficial, the base,
"who crouch Unto the offal of an office promised,"
at last weeps tears of blood for its fatal error. Of such supreme folly, the sure fruit is damnation. Let the nobility of every great heart, condensed into justice and truth, strike such creatures like a thunderbolt! If you can do no more, you can at least condemn by your vote, and ostracise by denunciation.
It is true that, as the Czars are absolute, they have it in their power to select the best for the public service. It is true that the beginner of a dynasty generally does so; and that when monarchies are in their prime, pretence and shallowness do not thrive and prosper and get power, as they do in Republics. All do not gabble in the Parliament of a Kingdom, as in the Congress of a Democracy. The incapables do not go undetected there, all their lives.
But dynasties speedily decay and run out. At last they dwindle down into imbecility; and the dull or flippant Members of Congresses are at least the intellectual peers of the vast majority of kings. The great man, the Julius Caesar, the Charlemagne, Cromwell, Napoleon, reigns of right. He is the wisest and the strongest. The incapables and imbeciles succeed and are usurpers; and fear makes them cruel. After Julius came Caracalla and Galba; after Charlemagne, the lunatic Charles the Sixth. So the Saracenic dynasty dwindled out; the Capets, the Stuarts, the Bourbons; the last of these producing Bomba, the ape of Domitian.
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Man is by nature cruel, like the tigers. The barbarian, and the tool of the tyrant, and the civilized fanatic, enjoy the sufferings of others, as the children enjoy the contortions of maimed flies. Absolute Power, once in fear for the safety of its tenure, cannot but be cruel.
As to ability, dynasties invariably cease to possess any after a few lives. They become mere shams, governed by ministers, favorites, or courtesans, like those old Etruscan kings, slumbering for long ages in their golden royal robes, dissolving forever at the first breath of day. Let him who complains of the shortcomings of democracy ask himself if he would prefer a Du Barry or a Pompadour, governing in the name of a Louis the Fifteenth, a Caligula making his horse a consul, a Domitian, "that most savage monster," who sometimes drank the blood of relatives, sometimes employing himself with slaughtering the most distinguished citizens before whose gates fear and terror kept watch; a tyrant of frightful aspect, pride on his forehead, fire in his eye, constantly seeking darkness and secrecy, and only emerging from his solitude to make solitude. After all, in a free government, the Laws and the Constitution are above the Incapables, the Courts correct their legislation, and posterity is the Grand Inquest that passes judgment on them. What is the exclusion of worth and intellect and knowledge from civil office compared with trials before Jeffries, tortures in the dark caverns of the Inquisition, Alva-butcheries in the Netherlands, the Eve of Saint Bartholomew, and the Sicilian Vespers?
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The Abbé Barruel in his Memoirs for the History of Jacobinism, declares that Masonry in France gave, as its secret, the words Equality and Liberty, leaving it for every honest and religious Mason to explain them as would best suit his principles; but retained the privilege of unveiling in the higher Degrees the meaning of those words, as interpreted by the French Revolution. And he also excepts English Masons from his anathemas, because in England a Mason is a peaceable subject of the civil authorities, no matter where he resides, engaging in no plots or conspiracies against even the worst government. England, he says, disgusted with an Equality and a Liberty, the consequences of which she had felt in the struggles of her Lollards, Anabaptists, and Presbyterians, had "purged her Masonry" from all explanations tending to overturn empires; but there still remained adepts whom disorganizing principles bound to the Ancient Mysteries.
Because true Masonry, unemasculated, bore the banners of Freedom and Equal Rights, and was in rebellion against temporal and spiritual tyranny, its Lodges were proscribed in 1735, by an edict of the States of Holland. In 1737, Louis XV. forbade them in France. In 1738, Pope Clement XII. issued against them his famous Bull of Excommunication, which was renewed by Benedict XIV.; and in 1743 the Council of Berne also proscribed them. The title of the Bull of Clement is, "The Condemnation of the Society of Conventicles de Liberi Muratari, or of the Freemasons, under the penalty of ipso facto excommunication, the absolution from which is reserved to the Pope alone, except at the point of death." And by it all bishops, ordinaries, and inquisitors were empowered to punish Freemasons, "as vehemently suspected of heresy," and to call in, if necessary, the help of the secular arm; that is, to cause the civil authority to put them to death.
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Also, false and slavish political theories end in brutalizing the State. For example, adopt the theory that offices and employments in it are to be given as rewards for services rendered to party, and they soon become the prey and spoil of faction, the booty of the victory of faction;—and leprosy is in the flesh of the State. The body of the commonwealth becomes a mass of corruption, like a living carcass rotten with syphilis. All unsound theories in the end develop themselves in one foul and loathsome disease or other of the body politic. The State, like the man, must use constant effort to stay in the paths of virtue and manliness. The habit of electioneering and begging for office culminates in bribery with office, and corruption in office.
A chosen man has a visible trust from God, as plainly as if the commission were engrossed by the notary. A nation cannot renounce the executorship of the Divine decrees. As little can Masonry. It must labor to do its duty knowingly and wisely. We must remember that, in free States, as well as in despotisms, Injustice, the spouse of Oppression, is the fruitful parent of Deceit, Distrust, Hatred, Conspiracy, Treason, and Unfaithfulness. Even in assailing Tyranny we must have Truth and Reason as our chief weapons. We must march into that fight like the old Puritans, or into the battle with the abuses that spring up in free government, with the flaming sword in one hand, and the Oracles of God in the other.
The citizen who cannot accomplish well the smaller purposes of public life, cannot compass the larger. The vast power of endurance, forbearance, patience, and performance, of a free people, is acquired only by continual exercise of all the functions, like the healthful physical human vigor. If the individual citizens have it not, the State must equally be without it. It is of the essence of a free government, that the people should not only be concerned in making the laws, but also in their execution. No man ought to be more ready to obey and administer the law than he who has helped to make it. The business of government is carried on for the benefit of all, and every co-partner should give counsel and co-operation.
Remember also, as another shoal on which States are wrecked, that free States always tend toward the depositing of the citizens in strata, the creation of castes, the perpetuation of the jus divinum to office in families. The more democratic the State, the more sure this result. For, as free States advance in power, there is a strong tendency toward centralization, not from deliberate evil intention, but from the course of events and the indolence of human nature. The executive powers swell and enlarge to inordinate dimensions; and the Executive is always aggressive with respect to the nation. Offices of all kinds are multiplied to reward partisans; the brute force of the sewerage and lower strata of the mob obtains large representation, first in the lower offices, and at last in Senates; and Bureaucracy raises its bald head, bristling with pens, girded with spectacles, and bunched with ribbon. The art of Government becomes like a Craft, and its guilds tend to become exclusive, as those of the Middle Ages.
Political science may be much improved as a subject of speculation; but it should never be divorced from the actual national necessity. The science of governing men must always be practical, rather than philosophical. There is not the same amount of positive or universal truth here as in the abstract sciences; what is true in one country may be very false in another; what is untrue to-day may become true in another generation, and the truth of to-day be reversed by the judgment of to-morrow. To distinguish the casual from the enduring, to separate the unsuitable from the suitable, and to make progress even possible, are the proper ends of policy. But without actual knowledge and experience, and communion of labor, the dreams of the political doctors may be no better than those of the doctors of divinity. The reign of such a caste, with its mysteries, its myrmidons, and its corrupting influence, may be as fatal as that of the despots. Thirty tyrants are thirty times worse than one.
Moreover, there is a strong temptation for the governing people to become as much slothful and sluggards as the weakest of absolute kings. Only give them the power to get rid, when caprice prompts them, of the great and wise men, and elect the little, and as to all the rest they will relapse into indolence and indifference. The central power, creation of the people, organized and cunning if not enlightened, is the perpetual tribunal set up by them for the redress of wrong and the rule of justice. It soon supplies itself with all the requisite machinery, and is ready and apt for all kinds of interference. The people may be a child all its life. The central power may not be able to suggest the best scientific solution of a problem; but it has the easiest means of carrying an idea into effect. If the purpose to be attained is a large one, it requires a large comprehension; it is proper for the action of the central power. If it be a small one, it may be thwarted by disagreement. The central power must step in as an arbitrator and prevent this. The people may be too averse to change, too slothful in their own business, unjust to a minority or a majority. The central power must take the reins when the people drop them.
France became centralized in its government more by the apathy and ignorance of its people than by the tyranny of its kings. When the inmost parish-life is given up to the direct guardianship of the State, and the repair of the belfry of a country church requires a written order from the central power, a people is in its dotage. Men are thus nurtured in imbecility, from the dawn of social life. When the central government feeds part of the people it prepares all to be slaves. When it directs parish and county affairs, they are slaves already. The next step is to regulate labor and its wages.
Nevertheless, whatever follies the free people may commit, even to the putting of the powers of legislation in the hands of the little competent and less honest, despair not of the final result. The terrible teacher, EXPERIENCE, writing his lessons on hearts desolated with calamity and wrung by agony, will make them wiser in time. Pretence and grimace and sordid beggary for votes will some day cease to avail. Have FAITH, and struggle on, against all evil influences and discouragements! FAITH is the Saviour and Redeemer of nations. When Christianity had grown weak, profitless, and powerless, the Arab Restorer and Iconoclast came, like a cleansing hurricane. When the battle of Damascus was about to be fought, the Christian bishop, at the early dawn, in his robes, at the head of his clergy, with the Cross once so triumphant raised in the air, came down to the gates of the city, and laid open before the army the Testament of Christ. The Christian general, THOMAS, laid his hand on the book, and said, "Oh God! IF our faith be true, aid us, and deliver us not into the hands of its enemies!" But KHALED, "the Sword of God," who had marched from victory to victory, exclaimed to his wearied soldiers, "Let no man sleep! There will be rest enough in the bowers of Paradise; sweet will be the repose never more to be followed by labor." The faith of the Arab had become stronger than that of the Christian, and he conquered.
The Sword is also, in the Bible, an emblem of SPEECH, or of the utterance of thought. Thus, in that vision or apocalypse of the sublime exile of Patmos, a protest in the name of the ideal, overwhelming the real world, a tremendous satire uttered in the name of Religion and Liberty, and with its fiery reverberations smiting the throne of the Cæsars, a sharp two-edged sword comes out of the mouth of the Semblance of the Son of Man, encircled by the seven golden candlesticks, and holding in his right hand seven stars. "The Lord," says Isaiah, "hath made my mouth like a sharp sword." "I have slain them," says Hosea, "by the words of my mouth." "The word of God," says the writer of the apostolic letter to the Hebrews, "is quick and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit." "The sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God," says Paul, writing to the Christians at Ephesus. "I will fight against them with the sword of my mouth," it is said in the Apocalypse, to the angel of the church at Pergamos.
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The spoken discourse may roll on strongly as the great tidal wave; but, like the wave, it dies at last feebly on the sands. It is heard by few, remembered by still fewer, and fades away, like an echo in the mountains, leaving no token of power. It is nothing to the living and coming generations of men. It was the written human speech, that gave power and permanence to human thought. It is this that makes the whole human history but one individual life.
To write on the rock is to write on a solid parchment; but it requires a pilgrimage to see it. There is but one copy, and Time wears even that. To write on skins or papyrus was to give, as it were, but one tardy edition, and the rich only could procure it. The Chinese stereotyped not only the unchanging wisdom of old sages, but also the passing events. The process tended to suffocate thought, and to hinder progress; for there is continual wandering in the wisest minds, and Truth writes her last words, not on clean tablets, but on the scrawl that Error has made and often mended.
Printing made the movable letters prolific. Thenceforth the orator spoke almost visibly to listening nations; and the author wrote, like the Pope, his œcumenic decrees, urbi et orbi, and ordered them to be posted up in all the market-places; remaining, if he chose, impervious to human sight. The doom of tyrannies was thenceforth sealed. Satire and invective became potent as armies. The unseen hands of the Juniuses could launch the thunderbolts, and make the ministers tremble. One whisper from this giant fills the earth as easily as Demosthenes filled the Agora. It will soon be heard at the antipodes as easily as in the next street. It travels with the lightning under the oceans. It makes the mass one man, speaks to it in the same common language, and elicits a sure and single response. Speech passes into thought, and thence promptly into act. A nation becomes truly one, with one large heart and a single throbbing pulse. Men are invisibly present to each other, as if already spiritual beings; and the thinker who sits in an Alpine solitude, unknown to or forgotten by all the world, among the silent herds and hills, may flash his words to all the cities and over all the seas.
Select the thinkers to be Legislators; and avoid the gabblers. Wisdom is rarely loquacious. Weight and depth of thought are unfavorable to volubility. The shallow and superficial are generally voluble and often pass for eloquent. More words, less thought,—is the general rule. The man who endeavors to say something worth remembering in every sentence, becomes fastidious, and condenses like Tacitus. The vulgar love a more diffuse stream. The ornamentation that does not cover strength is the gewgaws of babble.
Neither is dialectic subtlety valuable to public men. The Christian faith has it, had it formerly more than now; a subtlety that might have entangled Plato, and which has rivalled in a fruitless fashion the mystic lore of Jewish Rabbis and Indian Sages. It is not this which converts the heathen. It is a vain task to balance the great thoughts of the earth, like hollow straws, on the finger-tips of disputation. It is not this kind of warfare which makes the Cross triumphant in the hearts of the unbelievers; but the actual power that lives in the Faith.
So there is a political scholasticism that is merely useless. The dexterities of subtle logic rarely stir the hearts of the people, or convince them. The true apostle of Liberty, Fraternity and Equality makes it a matter of life and death. His combats are like those of Bossuet,—combats to the death. The true apostolic fire is like the lightning: it flashes conviction into the soul. The true word is verily a two-edged sword. Matters of government and political science can be fairly dealt with only by sound reason, and the logic of common sense: not the common sense of the ignorant, but of the wise. The acutest thinkers rarely succeed in becoming leaders of men. A watchword or a catchword is more potent with the people than logic, especially if this be the least metaphysical. When a political prophet arises, to stir the dreaming, stagnant nation, and hold back its feet from the irretrievable descent, to heave the land as with an earthquake, and shake the silly-shallow idols from their seats, his words will come straight from God's own mouth, and be thundered into the conscience. He will reason, teach, warn, and rule. The real "Sword of the Spirit" is keener than the brightest blade of Damascus. Such men rule a land, in the strength of justice, with wisdom and with power. Still, the men of dialectic subtlety often rule well, because in practice they forget their finely-spun theories, and use the trenchant logic of common sense. But when the great heart and large intellect are left to the rust in private life, and small attorneys, brawlers in politics, and those who in the cities would be only the clerks of notaries, or practitioners in the disreputable courts, are made national Legislators, the country is in her dotage, even if the beard has not yet grown upon her chin.
In a free country, human speech must needs be free; and the State must listen to the maunderings of folly, and the screechings of its geese, and the brayings of its asses, as well as to the golden oracles of its wise and great men. Even the despotic old kings allowed their wise fools to say what they liked. The true alchemist will extract the lessons of wisdom from the babblings of folly. He will hear what a man has to say on any given subject, even if the speaker end only in proving himself prince of fools. Even a fool will sometimes hit the mark. There is some truth in all men who are not compelled to suppress their souls and speak other men's thoughts. The finger even of the idiot may point to the great highway.
A people, as well as the sages, must learn to forget. If it neither learns the new nor forgets the old, it is fated, even if it has been royal for thirty generations. To unlearn is to learn; and also it is sometimes needful to learn again the forgotten. The antics of fools make the current follies more palpable, as fashions are shown to be absurd by caricatures, which so lead to their extirpation. The buffoon and the zany are useful in their places. The ingenious artificer and craftsman, like Solomon, searches the earth for his materials, and transforms the misshapen matter into glorious workmanship. The world is conquered by the head even more than by the hands. Nor will any assembly talk forever. After a time, when it has listened long enough, it quietly puts the silly, the shallow, and the superficial to one side,—it thinks, and sets to work.
The human thought, especially in popular assemblies, runs in the most singularly crooked channels, harder to trace and follow than the blind currents of the ocean. No notion is so absurd that it may not find a place there. The master-workman must train these notions and vagaries with his two-handed hammer. They twist out of the way of the sword-thrusts; and are invulnerable all over, even in the heel, against logic. The martel or mace, the battle-axe, the great double-edged two-handed sword must deal with follies; the rapier is no better against them than a wand, unless it be the rapier of ridicule.
The SWORD is also the symbol of war and of the soldier. Wars, like thunder-storms, are often necessary to purify the stagnant atmosphere. War is not a demon, without remorse or reward. It restores the brotherhood in letters of fire. When men are seated in their pleasant places, sunken in ease and indolence, with Pretence and Incapacity and Littleness usurping all the high places of State, war is the baptism of blood and fire, by which alone they can be renovated. It is the hurricane that brings the elemental equilibrium, the concord of Power and Wisdom. So long as these continue obstinately divorced, it will continue to chasten.
In the mutual appeal of nations to God, there is the acknowledgment of His might. It lights the beacons of Faith and Freedom, and heats the furnace through which the earnest and loyal pass to immortal glory. There is in war the doom of defeat, the quenchless sense of Duty, the stirring sense of Honor, the measureless solemn sacrifice of devotedness, and the incense of success. Even in the flame and smoke of battle, the Mason discovers his brother, and fulfills the sacred obligations of Fraternity.
Two, or the Duad, is the symbol of Antagonism; of Good and Evil, Light and Darkness. It is Cain and Abel, Eve and Lilith, Jachin and Boaz, Ormuzd and Ahriman, Osiris and Typhon.
Three, or the Triad, is most significantly expressed by the equilateral and the right-angled triangles. There are three principal colors or rays in the rainbow, which by intermixture make seven. The three are the blue, the yellow, and the red. The Trinity of the Deity, in one mode or other, has been an article in all creeds. He creates, preserves, and destroys. He is the generative power, the productive capacity, and the result. The immaterial man, according to the Kabalah, is composed of vitality, or life, the breath of life; of soul or mind, and spirit. Salt, sulphur, and mercury are the great symbols of the alchemists. To them man was body, soul, and spirit.
Four is expressed by the square, or four-sided right-angled figure. Out of the symbolic Garden of Eden flowed a river, dividing into four streams,—PISON, which flows around the land of gold, or light; GIHON, which flows around the land of Ethiopia or Darkness; HIDDEKEL, running eastward to Assyria; and the EUPHRATES. Zechariah saw four chariots coming out from between two mountains of bronze, in the first of which were red horses; in the second, black; in the third, white; and in the fourth, grizzled: "and these were the four winds of the heavens, that go forth from standing before the Lord of all the earth." Ezekiel saw the four living creatures, each with four faces and four wings, the faces of a man and a lion, an ox and an eagle; and the four wheels going upon their four sides; and Saint John beheld the four beasts, full of eyes before and behind, the LION, the young OX, the MAN, and the flying EAGLE. Four was the signature of the Earth. Therefore, in the 148th Psalm, of those who must praise the Lord on the land, there are four times four, and four in particular of living creatures. Visible nature is described as the four quarters of the world, and the four corners of the earth. "There are four," says the old Jewish saying, "which take the first place in this world: man, among the creatures; the eagle among birds; the ox among cattle; and the lion among wild beasts." Daniel saw four great beasts come up from the sea.
FIVE is the Duad added to the Triad. It is expressed by the five-pointed or blazing star, the mysterious Pentalpha of Pythagoras. It is indissolubly connected with the number seven. Christ fed His disciples and the multitude with five loaves and two fishes, and of the fragments there remained twelve, that is, five and seven, baskets full. Again He fed them with seven loaves and a few little fishes, and there remained seven baskets full. The five apparently small planets, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn, with the two greater ones, the Sun and Moon, constituted the sevencelestial spheres.
SEVEN was the peculiarly sacred number. There were seven planets and spheres presided over by seven archangels. There were seven colors in the rainbow; and the Phoenician Deity was called the HEPTAKIS or God of seven rays; seven days of the week; and seven and five made the number of months, tribes, and apostles. Zechariah saw a golden candlestick, with seven lamps and seven pipes to the lamps, and an olive-tree on each side. Since he says, "the seven eyes of the Lord shall rejoice, and shall see the plummet in the hand of Zerubbabel." John, in the Apocalypse, writes seven epistles to the seven churches. In the seven epistles there are twelve promises. What is said of the churches in praise or blame, is completed in the number three. The refrain, "who has ears to hear," etc., has ten words, divided by three and seven, and the seven by three and four; and the seven epistles are also so divided. In the seals, trumpets, and vials, also, of this symbolic vision, the seven are divided by four and three. He who sends his message to Ephesus, "holds the seven stars in his right hand, and walks amid the seven golden lamps."
In six days, or periods, God created the Universe, and paused on the seventh day. Of clean beasts, Noah was directed to take by sevens into the ark; and of fowls by sevens; because in seven days the rain was to commence. On the _seven_teenth day of the month, the rain began; on the _seven_teenth day of the seventh month, that ark rested on Ararat. When the dove returned, Noah waited seven days before he sent her forth again; and again seven, after she returned with the olive-leaf. Enoch was the seventh patriarch, Adam included, and Lamech lived 777 years.
There were seven lamps in the great candlestick of the Tabernacle and Temple, representing the seven planets. Seven times Moses sprinkled the anointing oil upon the altar. The days of consecration of Aaron and his sons were seven in number. A woman was unclean seven days after child-birth; one infected with leprosy was shut up seven days; seven times the leper was sprinkled with the blood of a slain bird; and seven days afterwards he must remain abroad out of his tent. Seven times, in purifying the leper, the priest was to sprinkle the consecrated oil; and seven times to sprinkle with the blood of the sacrificed bird the house to be purified. Seven times the blood of the slain bullock was sprinkled on the mercy-seat; and seven times on the altar. The seventh year was a Sabbath of rest; and at the end of seven times seven years came the great year of jubilee. Seven days the people ate unleavened bread, in the month of Abib. Seven weeks were counted from the time of first putting the sickle to the wheat. The Feast of the Tabernacles lasted seven days.
Israel was in the hand of Midian seven years before Gideon delivered them. The bullock sacrificed by him was seven years old. Samson told Delilah to bind him with seven green withes; and she wove the seven locks of his head, and afterwards shaved them off. Balaam told Barak to build for him seven altars. Jacob served seven years for Leah and seven for Rachel. Job had seven sons and three daughters, making the perfect number ten. He had also seven thousand sheep and three thousand camels. His friends sat down with him seven days and seven nights. His friends were ordered to sacrifice seven bullocks and seven rams; and again, at the end, he had seven sons and three daughters, and twice seven thousand sheep, and lived an hundred and forty, or twice seven times ten years. Pharaoh saw in his dream seven fat and seven lean kine, seven good ears and seven blasted ears of wheat; and there were seven years of plenty, and seven of famine. Jericho fell, when seven priests, with seven trumpets, made the circuit of the city on seven successive days; once each day for six days, and seven times on the seventh. "The seven eyes of the Lord," says Zechariah, "run to and fro through the whole earth." Solomon was seven years in building the Temple. Seven angels, in the Apocalypse, pour out seven plagues, from seven vials of wrath. The scarlet-colored beast, on which the woman sits in the wilderness, has seven heads and ten horns. So also has the beast that rises up out of the sea. Seven thunders uttered their voices. Seven angels sounded seven trumpets. Seven lamps, of fire, the seven spirits of God, burned before the throne; and the Lamb that was slain had seven horns and seven eyes.
EIGHT is the first cube, that of two. NINE is the square of three, and represented by the triple triangle.
TEN includes all the other numbers. It is especially seven and three; and is called the number of perfection. Pythagoras represented it by the TETRACTYS, which had many mystic meanings. This symbol is sometimes composed of dots or points, sometimes of commas or yōds, and in the Kabalah, of the letters of the name of Deity. It is thus arranged:
, , ,
, , , ,
The Patriarchs from Adam to Noah, inclusive, are ten in number, and the same number is that of the Commandments.
TWELVE is the number of the lines of equal length that form a cube. It is the number of the months, the tribes, and the apostles; of the oxen under the Brazen Sea, of the stones on the breast-plate of the high priest.
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