Revised by Albert Pike
My Brother, each of us makes such application to his own faith and creed of the symbols and ceremonies of this Degree as seems to him proper. With these special interpretations we have here nothing to do. Like the legend of our Grand Master Hiram, in which some see figured the condemnation and sufferings of Christ; others those of the unfortunate Grand Master of the Templars; others those of the first Charles, King of England; and others still the annual descent of the Sun at Winter Solstice to the regions of darkness, the basis of many an ancient legend: so the ceremonies of this Degree receive different explanations, each interpreting them for himself and being offended at the interpretation of no other.
In no other way could Masonry possess its character of Universality: that character which has ever been peculiar to it from its origin and which enabled two Kings, worshippers of different Deities, to sit together as Grand Masters while the walls of the first Temple arose; and the men of Gebal, bowing down to the Phoenician gods, to work by the side of the Hebrews to whom those gods were an abomination and sit with them in the same Lodge as brethren.
You have already learned that these ceremonies have one general significance to every one, of every faith, who believes in God and the soul's immortality.
The primitive men met in no Temples made with human hands. "God", said Stephen, the first Martyr, "dwelleth not in Temples made with hands" [Acts 7:47 Ed.]. In the open air, under the overarching mysterious sky, in the great World-Temple, they uttered their vows and thanksgivings and adored the God of Light of that Light that was to them the type of Good, as darkness was the type of Evil.
All antiquity solved the enigma of the existence of Evil by supposing the existence of a Principle of Evil, of Demons, fallen Angels, an Ahriman, a Siva, a Lok, or a Satan that, first falling themselves, and plunged in misery and darkness, tempted man to his fall and brought sin into the world. All believed in a future life to be attained by purification and trials, in a State or successive States of reward and punishment, and in a Mediator or Redeemer by whom the Evil Principle was to be overcome and the Supreme Deity reconciled to His creatures. The belief was general that he was to be born of a virgin and suffer a painful death. The Indians called him Krishna; the Chinese Kioun-tse; the Persians, Sosiosch; the Chaldeans, Dhouvanai; the Egyptians, Horus; Plato, Love; and the Scandinavians, Baldur.
Krishna, the Hindu Redeemer, was cradled and educated among shepherds. A tyrant, at the time of his birth, ordered all the male children to be slain. He performed miracles, say his legends, even raising the dead. He washed the feet of the Brahmins, and was meek and lowly of spirit. He was born of a virgin, descended to Hell, rose again, ascended to Heaven, charged his disciples to teach his doctrines, and gave them the gift of miracles.
The first Masonic legislator whose memory is preserved to us by history was Buddha who, about a thousand years before the Christian era reformed the religion of Manous [or Manu Ed]. He called to the priesthood all men, without distinction of caste, who felt themselves inspired by God to instruct men. Those who so associated themselves formed a Society of Prophets under the name of Samaneans. They recognised the existence of a single uncreated God, in whose bosom everything grows, is developed, and transformed. The worship of this God reposed upon the obedience of all the beings He created. His feasts were those of the Solstices. The doctrines of Buddha pervaded India, China, and Japan. The Priests of Brahma, professing a dark and bloody creed, brutalised by superstition, united together against Buddhism and, with the aid of despotism, exterminated its followers. But their blood fertilised the new doctrine which produced a new society under the name of Gymnosophists; and a large number, fleeing to Ireland, planted their doctrines there, and there erected the round towers which were their temples and some of which still stand, solid and unshaken as at first, visible monuments of the remotest ages.
The Phoenician cosmogony, like all others in Asia, was the Word of God, written in astral characters by the planetary divinities and communicated by the demigods as a profound mystery to the brighter intelligences of Humanity, to be propagated by them among men. Their doctrines resembled the ancient Sabeism [probably from Saba (biblical Sheba) Ed.] and, being the faith of Hiram the King and his namesake the artist, are of interest to all Masons. With them, the First Principle was half material, half spiritual, a dark air, animated and impregnated by the spirit; and a disordered chaos, covered with thick darkness. From this came the Word, and thence creation and generation; and thence a race of men, children of light, who adored Heaven and its stars and the ether. Chrysor was the great igneous power of Nature, and Baal and Melkarth representations of the sun.
Man had fallen, but not by the tempting of the serpent. For, with the Phoenicians, the serpent was deemed to partake of the Divine Nature and was sacred as he was in Egypt. He was deemed to be immortal unless slain by violence, becoming young again in his old age by entering into and consuming himself. Hence the serpent in a circle, holding his tail in his mouth, was an emblem of Eternity. With the head of a hawk, he was of a divine nature and a symbol of the sun. Hence one sect of the Gnostics took him for their good genius, and hence the brazen serpent reared by Moses in the desert on which the Israelites looked and lived.
"Before the chaos that preceded the birth of Heaven and Earth", said the Chinese Lao-Tsu, "a single Being existed, immense and silent, immutable and always acting: the mother of the Universe. I know not the name of that Being, but I designate it by the word Reason. Man has his model in the Earth, the Earth in Heaven, Heaven in Reason, and Reason in itself".
"I am", says Isis, "Nature; parent of all things, the sovereign of the elements, the primitive progeny of Time, the most exalted of the deities, the first of the Heavenly gods and goddesses, the Queen of the Shades, the uniform countenance; who dispose with my rod the numerous lights of Heaven, the salubrious breezes of the sea, and the mournful silence of the dead; whose single Divinity the whole world venerates in many forms with various rites by many names. The Egyptians, skilled in ancient lore, worship me with proper ceremonies and call me by my true name, Isis the Queen".
The Hindu Vedas thus define the Deity:
"He Who surpasses speech and through Whose Power speech is expressed, know thou that He is Brahma, and not these perishable things that man adores.
"He Whom Intelligence cannot comprehend, and He alone, say the sages, through Whose Power the nature of Intelligence can be understood, know thou that He is Brahma, and not these perishable things that man adores.
"He Who cannot be seen by the organ of sight, and through Whose Power the organ of seeing sees, know thou that He is Brahma, and not these perishable things that man adores.
"He Who cannot be heard by the organ of hearing, and through Whose Power the organ of hearing hears, know thou that He is Brahma, and not these perishable things that man adores.
"He Who cannot be perceived by the organ of smelling, and through Whose Power the organ of smelling smells, know thou that He is Brahma, and not these perishable things that man adores."
"When God resolved to create the human race", said Arius [c. 250-336 CE Ed.], "He made a Being that He called the Word, The Son, Wisdom, to the end that this Being might give existence to men". This Word is the Ormuzd of Zoroaster, the En Soph of the Kabbala, the Nous of Plato, and the Wisdom or Demiourgos of the Gnostics.
That is the True Word, the knowledge of which our ancient brethren sought as the priceless reward of their labours on the Holy Temple: the Word of Life, the Divine Reason, in Whom was Life, and that Life the Light of men; which long shone in darkness, and the darkness comprehended it not; the Infinite Reason that is the Soul of Nature, immortal, of which the Word of this Degree reminds us, and to believe wherein and revere it is the peculiar duty of every Mason.
"In the beginning", says the extract from some older work with which John commences his Gospel, "was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. All things were made by Him, and without Him was not anything made that was made. In Him was Life, and the Life was the Light of men; and the Light shineth in darkness, and the darkness did not contain it" [John 1:1-5 Ed.].
It is an old tradition that this passage was from an older work. And Philostorgius [368-433 CE Ed.] and Nicephorus [prob. St Nicephorus I, 758-829 CE Ed.] state that when the Emperor Julian [331-363 CE Ed.] undertook to rebuild the Temple, a stone was taken up that covered the mouth of a deep square cave, into which one of the labourers being let down by a rope, he found in the centre of the floor a cubical pillar on which lay a roll or book wrapped in a fine linen cloth in which, in capital letters, was the foregoing passage.
However this may have been, it is plain that John's Gospel is a polemic against the Gnostics: and, stating at the outset the current doctrine in regard to creation by the Word, he then addresses himself to show and urge that this Word was Jesus Christ.
And the first sentence, fully rendered into our language, would read thus: "When the process of emanation, of creation or evolution of existences inferior to the Supreme God began, the Word came into existence and was: and this Word was near to God; i.e. the immediate or first emanation from God, and it was God Himself, developed or manifested in that particular mode and in action. And by that Word everything that is was created." And thus Tertullian [?155-?220 CE Ed.] says that God made the World out of nothing by means of His Word, Wisdom, or Power.
To Philo the Jew [?15 BCE-?50 CE Ed.], as to the Gnostics, the Supreme Being was the Primitive Light, or Archetype of Light, Source whence the rays emanate that illuminate Souls. He is the Soul of the World, and as such acts everywhere. He Himself fills and bounds His own existence, and His forces fill and penetrate everything. His Image is the Word (Logos), a form more brilliant than fire, which is not pure light. This Word dwells in God; for it is within His Intelligence that the Supreme Being frames for Himself the Types of Ideas of all that is to assume reality in the Universe. The Word is the vehicle by which God acts on the Universe, the World of Ideas, by means whereof God has created visible things, the more ancient God, as compared with the Material World, Chief and General representative of all Intelligences; the Archangel, type and representative of all spirits; even those of mortals, the type of Man, the primitive man himself. These ideas are borrowed from Plato. And this Word is not only the Creator (by Him was everything made that was made), but acts in the place of God; and through him act all the Powers and Attributes of God. And also, as first representative of the human race, He is the Protector of men, and their Shepherd.
The actual condition of Man is not his primitive condition, that in which he was the image of the Word. His unruly passions have caused him to fall from his original lofty estate. But he may rise again by following the teachings of Heavenly Wisdom, by the angels whom God commissions to aid him in escaping from the entanglements of the body, and by fighting bravely against Evil, the existence of which God has allowed solely to furnish him with the means of exercising his free will.
The Supreme Being of the Egyptians was Amun, a secret and concealed God, the Unknown Father of the Gnostics, the Source of Divine Life and of all force, the Plenitude of all, comprehending all things in Himself, the original Light. He creates nothing; but everything emanates from Him; and all other Gods are but His Manifestations. From Him, by the utterance of a Word, emanated Neith, the Divine Mother of all things, the Primitive Thought, the Force that puts everything in movement, the Spirit everywhere extended, the Deity of Light and Mother of the Sun.
Of this Supreme Being, Osiris was the image, source of all Good in the moral and physical world, and constant foe of Typhon, the genius of Evil, the Satan of Gnosticism, brute matter deemed to be always at feud with the Spirit that flowed from the Deity, and over whom Horus, the Redeemer, Son of Isis and Osiris, is finally to prevail.
In the Zend-Avesta of the Persians, the Supreme Being is Time without limit, Zeruane Akherene. No origin could be assigned to Him: for He was enveloped in His own Glory, and His Nature and Attributes were so inaccessible to human Intelligence that He was but the object of a silent veneration. The commencement of Creation was by emanation from Him. The first emanation was the Primitive Light, and from this Light emerged Ormuzd, the King of Light who, by the Word, created the World in its purity, is its Preserver and Judge, a Holy and Sacred Being, Intelligence and Knowledge, Himself Time without limit, and wielding all the powers of the Supreme Being.
In this Persian faith as taught many centuries before our era and embodied in the Zend-Avesta, there was in man a pure Principle proceeding from the Supreme Being, produced by the Will and Word of Ormuzd. To that was united an impure principle proceeding from a foreign influence, that of Ahriman, the Dragon or principle of Evil. Tempted by Ahriman, the first man and woman had fallen; and for twelve thousand years there was to be war between Ormuzd and the Good Spirits created by him, and Ahriman and the Evil Ones he had called into existence.
But pure Souls are assisted by the Good Spirits, the triumph of the Good Principle is determined upon in the decrees of the Supreme Being, and the period of that triumph will infallibly arrive. At the moment when the Earth shall be most afflicted with the evils brought upon it by the spirits of perdition, three Prophets will appear to bring assistance to mortals. Sosiosch, Chief of the Three, will regenerate the world and restore to it its primitive Beauty, Strength, and Purity. He will judge the good and the wicked. After the universal resurrection of the Good, the pure Spirits will conduct them to an abode of eternal happiness. Ahriman, his evil Demons, and all the world will be purified in a torrent of liquid burning metal. The Law of Ormuzd will rule everywhere; all men will be happy; all, enjoying unalterable bliss, will unite with Sosiosch singing the praises of the Supreme Being.
These doctrines, with some modifications, were adopted by the Kabbalists and afterwards by the Gnostics.
Apollonius of Tyana [fl. 1st century, CE Ed.] says: "We shall render the most appropriate worship to the Deity when to that God Whom we call the First, Who is One, and separate from all, and after Whom we recognise the others, we present no offerings whatever, kindle to Him no fire, dedicate to Him no sensible thing: for He needs nothing, even of all that natures more exalted than ours could give. The earth produces no plant, the air nourishes no animal, there is in short nothing which would not be impure in His sight. In addressing ourselves to Him, we must use only the higher word that, I mean, which is not expressed by the mouth the silent inner word of the Spirit ... From the most Glorious of all Beings, we must seek for blessings by that which is most glorious in ourselves: and that is the Spirit, which needs no organ".
Strabo [?64 BCE- ?23 CE Ed.] says: "This one Supreme Essence is that which embraces us all, the water and the land, that which we call the Heavens, the World, the Nature of things. This Highest Being should be worshipped without any visible image in sacred groves. In such retreats the devout should lay themselves down to sleep, and expect signs from God in dreams".
Aristotle [384-322 BCE Ed.] says: "It has been handed down in a mythical form from the earliest times to posterity that there are Gods, and that the Divine compasses entire nature. All besides this has been added, after the mythical style, for the purpose of persuading the multitude and for the interest of the laws and the advantage of the State. Thus men have given to the Gods human forms, and have even represented them under the figure of other beings, in the train of which fictions followed many years more of the same sort. But if, from all this, we separate the original principle and consider it alone, namely, that the first Essences are Gods, we shall find that this has been divinely said; and since it is probable that philosophy and the arts have been several times, so far as that is possible, found and lost, such doctrines may have been preserved to our times as the remains of ancient wisdom".
Porphyry [c. 234-c. 235 CE Ed.] says: "By images addressed to sense, the ancients represented God and His powers: by the visible they typified the invisible for those who had learned to read in these types, as in a book, a treatise on the Gods. We need not wonder if the ignorant consider the images to be nothing more than wood or stone; for just so, they who are ignorant of writing see nothing in monuments but stone, nothing in tablets but wood, and in books but a tissue of papyrus".
Apollonius of Tyana held that birth and death are only in appearance: that which separates itself from the one substance (the one Divine essence) and is caught up by matter, seems to be born; that, again, which releases itself from the bonds of matter and is reunited with the one Divine essence, seems to die. There is, at most, an alternation between becoming visible and becoming invisible. In all there is, properly speaking, but the one essence which alone acts and suffers by becoming all things to all; the Eternal God, Whom men wrong when they deprive Him of what properly can be attributed to Him only, and transfer it to other names and persons.
The New Platonists substituted the idea of the Absolute for the Supreme Essence Itself as the first, simplest principle, anterior to all existence; of which nothing determinate can be predicated; to which no consciousness, no self-contemplation can be ascribed, inasmuch as to do so would immediately imply a quality, a distinction of subject and object. The Supreme Entity can be known only by an intellectual intuition of the Spirit, transcending itself, and emancipating itself from its own limits.
This more logical tendency, by means of which men thought to arrive at the conception of such an absolute, was united with a certain mysticism which, by a transcendental state of feeling, communicated, as it were, to this abstraction what the mind would receive as a reality. The absorption of the Spirit into that super-existence so as to be entirely identified with it, or such a revelation of the latter to the spirit raised above itself, was regarded as the highest end which the spiritual life could reach.
The New Platonists' idea of God was that of One Simple Original Essence, exalted above all plurality and all becoming: the only true Being, unchangeable, eternal; from Whom all Existence in its several gradations had emanated the world of Gods, as nearest akin to Himself, being first, and at the head of, all. In these Gods, that perfection, which in the Supreme Essence was enclosed and unevolved, is expanded and becomes knowable. They serve to exhibit in different forms the image of that Supreme Essence to which no soul can rise except by the loftiest flight of contemplation; and, after it has rid himself from all that pertains to sense, from all manifoldness. They are the mediators between man (amazed and stupefied by manifoldness) and the Supreme Unity.
Philo says: "He who disbelieves the miraculous, simply as the miraculous, neither knows God nor has he ever sought after Him; for otherwise he would have understood. by looking at that truly great and awe-inspiring sight, the miracle of the Universe, that these miracles in God's providential guidance of His people are but child's play for the Divine Power. But the truly miraculous has become despised through familiarity. The Universal, on the contrary, although in itself insignificant, yet, through our love of novelty, transports us with amazement".
In opposition to the anthropopathism of the Jewish Scripture, the Alexandrian Jews endeavoured to purify the idea of God from all admixture of the Human. By the exclusion of every human passion, the idea of God was sublimated to a something devoid of all attributes, and wholly transcendental; and the mere Being, the Good in and by itself, the Absolute of Platonism, was substituted for the personal Deity of the Old Testament. By soaring upward beyond all created existence, the mind, disengaging itself from the Sensible, attains to the intellectual intuition of this Absolute Being; of Whom, however, it can predicate nothing but being, and sets aside all other determinations as not answering to the exalted nature of the Supreme Essence.
Thus Philo makes a distinction between those who are in the proper sense Sons of God, having by means of contemplation raised themselves to the Highest Being or attained to a knowledge of Him in His immediate Self-manifestation, and those who know God only in His mediate revelation through His operation such as He declares Himself in creation in the revelation still veiled in the letter of Scripture: those, in short, who attach themselves simply to the Logos and consider this to be the Supreme God, who are the sons of the Logos rather than of the True Being.
"God", says Pythagoras [c. 580-c. 500 BCE Ed.], "is neither the object of sense, nor subject to passion, but invisible, only intelligible, and supremely intelligent. In His body He is like the light, and in His Soul He resembles truth. He is the Universal Spirit that pervades and diffuses itself over all Nature. All beings receive their life from Him. There is but one sole God Who is not, as some are apt to imagine, seated above the world, beyond the orb of the Universe; but being Himself All in all, He sees all the beings that fill His immensity, the only Principle, the Light of Heaven, the Father of all. He produces everything; He orders and disposes everything; He is the Reason, the Life, and the Motion of all being".
"I am the Light of the world; he that follows me shall not walk in Darkness, but shall have the Light of Life." So said the Founder of the Christian Religion as his words are reported by John the Apostle [John 8:12 Ed.].
God, say the sacred writings of the Jews, appeared to Moses in a Flame of Fire, in the midst of a bush which was not consumed. He descended upon Mount Sinai as the smoke of a furnace. He went before the Children of Israel in a pillar of cloud by day and, by night, in a pillar of fire, to give them light. "Call you on the name of your gods", said Elijah the Prophet to the Priests of Baal, "and I will call upon the name of Adonai; and the God that answers by fire, let Him be God." [1 Kings 18:24 Ed.]
According to the Kabbala, as according to the doctrines of Zoroaster, everything that exists has emanated from a source of infinite light. Before all things existed the Primitive Being, the Ancient of Days, the Ancient King of Light a title more remarkable because it is frequently given to the Creator in the Zend-Avesta and in the Code of the Sabeans, and occurs in Jewish Scriptures. To this idea, the Kabbala united the pantheism of India. The King of Light, the Ancient, is everything that is. He is not only the real cause of existences: He is infinite (En Soph). He is Himself (I am that which I am): there is nothing in Him that can be called Thou. He cannot be known. He is a closed eye: the unknown Father. And His different names represent His attributes. The Kabbalists termed His wisdom, Jeh; His providence, Jehovah; His magnificence, El; His severity, Elohim; His victory and glory, Zabaoth; and His dominion, Adonai: and another of his attributes was Light. The world was His Revelation, God revealed, and subsisted only in Him. His attributes were there reproduced with various modifications and in different degrees, so that the Universe was His Holy Splendour, His Mantle. He was to be adored in silence; and perfection consisted in a nearer approach to Him.
Before the creation of worlds, the Primitive Light filled all space, so that there was no void. When the Supreme Being, existing in this Light, resolved to display His perfections and manifest them in worlds, He withdrew within Himself, formed around Him a void space, and shot forth His first emanation, a ray of Light, the cause and principle of everything that exists, uniting both the generative and conceptive Power which penetrates everything and without which nothing could exist for an instant. Represented by the first two letters of the word I.H.U.H., from it emanated the firstborn of God, the Archetype of the Persians and Platonists, the Universal Form from which all existences are evolved; the Creative Agent, Preserver and Animating Principle of the world; the Light of light; possessed of the three Primitive Forces of Divinity Light, Spirit, and Life.
Man fell, seduced by the Evil Spirits most remote from the Great King of Light, those of the fourth world of spirits, Asiah, whose chief was Belial. They wage incessant war against the pure Intelligences of the other worlds who, like the Amshaspands, Izeds and Ferouers of the Persians, are the tutelary guardians of man. In the beginning, all was unison and harmony, full of the same Divine light and perfect purity. The Seven Kings of Evil fell, and the Universe was troubled. Then the Creator took from the Seven Kings the Principles of Good and of Light, and divided them among the four worlds of Spirits, giving to the first three the Pure Intelligences, united in love and harmony, while to the fourth were vouchsafed only some feeble glimmerings of light.
When the strife between these and the good angels shall have continued for the appointed time, and these Spirits enveloped in darkness shall long and in vain have endeavoured to absorb the Divine light and life, then will the Eternal Himself come to correct them. He will deliver them from the gross envelopes of matter that hold them captive, will re-animate and strengthen the ray of light or spiritual nature which they have preserved, and will re-establish throughout the Universe that primitive Harmony which was its bliss.
Marcion, the Gnostic [fl. 2nd century, CE Ed.], said, "The Soul of the True Christian, adopted as a child by the Supreme Being to Whom it has long been a stranger, receives from Him the Spirit and Divine Life. It is led and confirmed by this gift in a pure and holy life like that of God; and if it so completes its earthly career in charity, chastity, and sanctity, it will one day be disengaged from its material envelope as the ripe grain is detached from the straw and as the young bird escapes from its shell. Like the angels, it will share in the bliss of the Good and Perfect Father, re-clothed in an aerial body or organ, and made like unto the Angels in Heaven".
You see, my Brother, what is the meaning of Masonic Light. You see why the East of the Lodge, where the initial letter of the Name of the Deity overhangs the Master, is the place of Light. Light, as contra-distinguished from Darkness, is Good as contra-distinguished from Evil; and it is that Light, the true knowledge of Deity, the Eternal Good for which Masons in all ages have sought. Still Masonry marches steadily onward towards that Light that shines in the great distance, the Light of that day when Evil, overcome and vanquished, shall fade away and disappear forever, and Life and Light shall be the one law of the Universe and its eternal harmony.
The Degree of Rose Croix teaches but three things: the unity, immutability, and goodness of God; the immortality of the Soul; and the ultimate defeat and extinction of evil and wrong and sorrow by a Redeemer or Messiah, if he has not already appeared.
It replaces the three pillars of the old Temple with three that have been already explained to you: Faith (in God, mankind, and man's self); Hope (in the victory over evil, the advancement of Humanity, and in a hereafter); and Charity (relieving the wants and tolerant of the errors and faults of others). To be trustful, to be hopeful, to be indulgent: these, in an age of selfishness, of ill opinion of human nature, of harsh and bitter judgment, are the most important Masonic Virtues and the true supports of every Masonic Temple. And they are the old pillars of the Temple under different names. For he only is wise who judges others charitably; he only is strong who is hopeful; and there is no beauty like a firm faith in God, our fellows, and our self.
The second apartment, clothed in mourning, the columns of the Temple shattered and prostrate, and the Brethren bowed down in the deepest dejection, represent the world under the tyranny of the Principle of Evil: where virtue is persecuted and vice rewarded; where the righteous starve for bread and the wicked live sumptuously and dress in purple and fine linen; where insolent ignorance rules, and learning and genius serve; where King and Priest trample on liberty and the rights of conscience; where freedom hides in caves and mountains, and sycophancy and servility fawn and thrive; where the cry of the widow and the orphan, starving for want of food and shivering for keen cold, ever climbs up to heaven from a million miserable hovels; where men, willing to labour, with their starving children and the wives of their bosom, beg plaintively for work while the pampered capitalist stops his mills; where the law punishes her who, starving, steals a loaf, and lets the seducer go free; where the success of a party justifies murder, and violence and rapine go unpunished, and he who with many years' cheating and grinding the faces of the poor grows rich, receives office and honour in life, and after death brave funeral and a splendid mausoleum; this world where, since its making, war has never ceased nor man paused in the sad task of torturing and murdering his brother, and of which ambition, avarice, envy, hatred, lust, and the rest of Ahriman's and Typhon's army make a pandemonium; this world, sunk in sin, reeking with baseness, clamorous with sorrow and misery. If any see in it also a type of the sorrow of the Craft for the death of Hiram, the grief of the Jews at the fall of Jerusalem, the misery of the Templars at the ruin of their Order and the death of De Molay, or the world's agony and pangs of woe at the death of the Redeemer, it is the right of each to do so.
The third apartment represents the consequences of sin and vice, and the hell made of the human heart by its fiery passions. If any see in it also a type of the Hades of the Greeks, the Gehenna of the Hebrews, the Tartarus of the Romans, the Hell of the Christians, or only the agonies of remorse and the tortures of an upbraiding conscience, it is the right of each to do so.
The fourth apartment represents the Universe, freed from the insolent dominion and tyranny of the Principle of Evil, and brilliant with the true Light that flows from the Supreme Deity: where sin and wrong, pain and sorrow, remorse and misery, shall be no more forever; when the great plans of Infinite Wisdom shall be fully developed; and all God's creatures, seeing that all apparent evil and individual suffering and wrong were but the drops that went to swell the great river of infinite goodness, shall know that vast as is the Power of Deity, His Goodness and Beneficence are infinite as His Power. If any see in it a type of the peculiar mysteries of any faith or creed, or an allusion to any past occurrence, it is their right to do so. Let each apply its symbols as he pleases. To all of us they typify the universal rule of Masonry of its three chief virtues, Faith, Hope, and Charity; of brotherly love and universal benevolence. We labour here to no other end. These symbols need no other interpretation.
The obligations of our Ancient Brethren of the Rose Croix were to fulfil all the duties of friendship, cheerfulness, charity, peace, liberality, temperance and chastity; and scrupulously to avoid impurity, haughtiness, hatred, anger, and every other kind of vice. They took their philosophy from the old Theology of the Egyptians, as Moses and Solomon had done, and borrowed its hieroglyphics and the ciphers of the Hebrews. Their principal rules were to exercise the profession of medicine charitably and without fee, to advance the cause of virtue, to enlarge the sciences, and to induce men to live as in the primitive times of the world.
When this Degree had its origin it is not important to inquire, nor with what different rites it has been practised in different countries and at various times. Even today its ceremonies differ with the degree of latitude and longitude, and it receives variant interpretations. If we were to examine all the different ceremonials, their emblems, and their formulas, we should see that all that belongs to the primitive and essential elements of the Order is respected in every sanctuary. All alike practise virtue, that it may produce fruit. All labour, like us, for the extirpation of vice, the purification of man, the development of the arts and sciences, and the relief of humanity.
None admit an adept to their lofty knowledge and mysterious sciences until he has been purified at the altar of the symbolic degrees. Of what importance are differences of opinion as to the age and genealogy of the degree, or variances in the practice, ceremonial, and liturgy, or the shade of colour of the banner under which the tribe of Israel marched, if all revere the Holy Arch of the symbolic degrees, first and unalterable sources of Free-Masonry, if all revere our conservative principles and are with us in the great purposes or our organisation?
If, anywhere, brethren of a particular religious belief have been excluded from this Degree, it merely shows how gravely the purposes and plan of Masonry may be misunderstood. For whenever the door of any degree is closed against him who believes in one God and the soul's immortality on account of the other tenets of his faith, that degree is Masonry no longer. No Mason has the right to interpret the symbols of this Degree for another, or to refuse him its mysteries, if he will not take them with the explanation and commentary superadded.
Listen, my Brother, to our explanation of the symbols of the Degree, and then give them such further explanation as you think fit.
The Cross has been a sacred symbol from the earliest Antiquity. It is found upon all the enduring monuments of the world, in Egypt, in Assyria, in Hindustan, in Persia, and on the Buddhist towers of Ireland. Buddha was said to have died upon it. The Druids cut an oak into its shape and held it sacred, and built their temples in that form. Pointing to the four quarters of the world, it was the symbol of Universal Nature. It was on a cruciform tree that Krishna was said to have expired, pierced with arrows. It was revered in Mexico.
But its peculiar meaning in this Degree is that given to it by the Ancient Egyptians. Thoth or Phtha is represented on the oldest monuments carrying in his hand the Crux Ansata, or Ankh, (a Tau cross, with a ring or circle over it). He is so seen on the double tablet of Khufu and Noh Khufu, builders of the greatest of the Pyramids at Wadi Meghara in the peninsula of Sinai. It was the hieroglyphic for life, and with a triangle prefixed meant life-giving. To us, therefore, it is a symbol of Life of that life that emanated from the Deity, and of that Eternal Life for which we all hope through our faith in God's Infinite Goodness.
The Rose was anciently sacred to Aurora and the Sun. It is a symbol of Dawn, of the resurrection of Light and the renewal if life, and therefore of the dawn of the first day and more particularly of the resurrection: and the Cross and Rose together are therefore hieroglyphically to be read, the Dawn of Eternal life which all nations have hoped for by the advent of a Redeemer.
The Pelican feeding her young is an emblem of the large and bountiful beneficence of Nature, of the Redeemer of fallen man, and of that humanity and charity that ought to distinguish a Knight of this Degree.
The Eagle was the living symbol of the Egyptian God Mendes, whom Sesostris-Ramses made one with Amun-Re, the God of Thebes and Upper Egypt, and the representative of the Sun, the word Re meaning Sun or King.
The Compasses surmounted with a crown signify that notwithstanding the high rank attained in Masonry by a Knight of the Rose Croix, equity and impartiality are invariably to govern his conduct.
To the word INRI, inscribed on the Crux Ansata over the Master's Seat, many meanings have been assigned. The Christian Initiate reverentially sees in it the initials of the inscription upon the cross on which Christ suffered Jesus Nazarenus Rex Judaeorum. The sages of Antiquity connected it with one of the greatest secrets of Nature, that of universal regeneration. They interpreted it as Igne Natura renovatur integra (entire Nature is renovated by fire). The Alchemical or Hermetic Masons framed for it the aphorism Igne nitrum roris invenitur. And the Jesuits are charged with having applied to it this odious axiom, Justum necare reges impios. The four letters are the initials of the Hebrew words that represent the four elements Iammim, the seas or water; Nour, fire; Rouach, the air; and Iebeschah, the dry earth.
To us it has this general meaning: in the hieroglyphic language of Egypt, the Crux Ansata meant life, and it formed part of the character that represented the word Enh, living. Re was the Sun, or King; and Enh-Re, the Living King or God of Light. Thus it represents the Eternal Deity Who is Life and Light, and unites the two great Symbols, the Cross and the Circle with a point in the centre Eternal Life, God, and Nature.
The Crux Ansata surrounded by a serpent in a circle is a symbol of Eternity and immortality.
The battery alludes to the six days or periods in which God created the world, and to the day or period of rest.
The 33 lights, disposed by elevens, represent the sacred numbers 3 and 5. For 33 is equal to 3 + 3 + 5 X 3.
The solemn feast of this Degree, which is held on Holy Thursday, commemorates the Feast of the Passover observed by the Jews; thus ordered:
"On the tenth of this month (the first Jewish month in the year) they shall take to them every man a lamb, ... a lamb for an house; and if the household be too little for a lamb, let him and his neighbour next unto his house take it, according to the number of the souls. Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male of the first year... And ye shall keep it up until the fourteenth day of the same month, and the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it in the evening ... and they shall eat the flesh in that night, roasted with fire ... and ye shall let nothing of it remain until the morning; nor break any bone of it; and that which remaineth of it until the morning ye shall burn with fire. And thus shall ye eat it: with your loins girded, your shoes on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and ye shall eat it in haste; it is the Lord's Passover. And this day shall be unto you for a memorial, and ye shall keep it as a feast to the Lord throughout your generations, a feast by an ordinance forever." [See Exodus 12 Ed.]
This feast, and the bread and wine of which we partake at every assembly, are to us symbols of fraternity and brotherly affection, and of that perfect union that must ever subsist among Brother Knights of the Rose Croix.
Thus the Degree of Rose Croix is devoted to and symbolises the final triumph of truth over falsehood, of liberty over slavery, of light over darkness, of life over death, and of good over evil. The great truth it inculcates is that notwithstanding the existence of Evil, God is Infinitely Wise, Just, and Good; that though the affairs of the world proceed by no rule of right and wrong known to us in the narrowness of our views, yet all is right, for it is the work of God; and all evils, all miseries, all misfortunes, are but as drops in the vast current that is sweeping onward, guided by Him to a great and magnificent result; that, at the appointed time, He will redeem and regenerate the world, and the Principle, Power and existence of Evil will then cease; that this will be brought about by such means as He chooses to employ, whether by the merits of a Redeemer that has already appeared or a Messiah that is yet awaited; by an incarnation of Himself, or by an inspired prophet. It does not belong to us as Masons to decide. Let each judge and believe for himself.
In the mean time, we labour to hasten the coming of that day. The morals of antiquity, of the law of Moses and of Christianity, are ours. We recognise every teacher of Morality, every reformer, as a Brother in this great work. The Eagle is to us the symbol of Liberty, the Compasses of Equality, the Pelican of Humanity, and our Order of Fraternity. Labouring for these, with Faith, Hope, and Charity as our armour, we shall wait with patience for the final triumph of Good and the complete manifestation of the Word of God.
No one Mason has the right to measure for another within the walls of a Masonic Temple the degree of veneration which he shall feel for any reformer or the founder of any religion. We teach a belief in no particular creed as we teach unbelief in none. Whatever higher attributes the Founder of the Christian Faith may, in our belief, have had or not had, none can deny that he taught and practised a pure and elevated morality even at the risk and to the ultimate loss of his life. He was not only the benefactor of a distinguished people, but a model for mankind. Devotedly he loved the children of Israel. To them he came, and to them alone he preached that Gospel which his disciples afterwards carried among foreigners. He would fain have freed the Chosen People from their spiritual bondage of ignorance and degradation. As a lover of all mankind, laying down his life for the emancipation of his Brethren, he should be to all, to Christian, to Jew, and to Muslim, an object of unceasing gratitude and veneration.
The Roman world felt the pangs of approaching dissolution. Paganism, its Temples shattered by Socrates and Cicero, had spoken its last word. The God of the Hebrews was unknown beyond the limits of Palestine. The old religions had failed to give happiness and peace to the world. The babbling and wrangling philosophers had confounded all men's ideas until they doubted everything and had faith in nothing, neither in God nor in His Goodness and Mercy, nor in the virtue of man, nor in themselves. Mankind was divided into two great classes the master and the slave; the powerful and the abject; the high and the low; the tyrants and the mob; and even the former were satiated with the servility of the latter, sunken by lassitude and despair to the lowest depths of degradation.
When, lo, a voice, in the inconsiderable Roman Province of Judea proclaims a new Gospel, a new God's Word to crushed, suffering, bleeding humanity. Liberty of Thought, Equality of all men in the eye of God, universal Fraternity! a new doctrine, a new religion, the old Primitive Truth uttered once again!
Man is once more taught to look upward to his God. No longer a God hid in impenetrable mystery and infinitely remote from human sympathy, emerging only at intervals from the darkness to smite and crush humanity: but a God, good, kind, beneficent, and merciful; a Father, loving the creatures He had made with a love immeasurable and exhaustless; Who feels for us, sympathises with us, and sends us pain and want and disaster only that they may serve to develop in us the virtues and excellences that befit us to live with Him hereafter.
Jesus of Nazareth, the Deity incarnate, or the Son of God, or an inspired prophet, or a pure, noble-hearted wise man (whichever according to your faith and mine he may have been), is the expounder of the new Law of Love. He calls to him the humble, the poor, the Pariahs of the world. The first sentence that he pronounces blesses the world and announces the new gospel: "Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted" [Matt. 5:4 Ed.]. He pours the oil of comfort upon every crushed and bleeding heart. Every sufferer is his proselyte. He shares our sorrows and sympathises with all our afflictions.
He raises up the sinner and teaches him to hope for forgiveness. He pardons the woman taken in adultery. He selects his disciples not among the Pharisees or the Philosophers, but among the low and humble, even of the fishermen of Galilee. He heals the sick and feeds the poor. He lives among the destitute and the friendless. "Suffer little children", he said, "to come unto me; for of such is the kingdom of Heaven. [Matt. 19:14 Ed.] Blessed are the humble-minded, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven; the meek, for they shall inherit the Earth; the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy; the pure in heart, for they shall see God; the peace-makers, for they shall be called the children of God. First be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift at the altar. Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow from thee turn not away. Love your enemies; bless them that curse you; do good to them that hate you; and pray for them which despitefully use you and persecute you. [see Matt. 5 Ed.] All things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye also unto them: for this is the law and the Prophets. [Matt. 7:12 Ed.] He that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me. [Matt. 10:38 Ed.] A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another: as I have loved you, that ye also love one another: and by this shall all know that ye are my disciples. [John 13:34-35 Ed.] Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends" [John 15:13 Ed.].
That Gospel of Love he sealed with his life. The cruelty of the Jewish Priesthood and the Roman indifference to barbarian blood nailed him to the cross, and he expired uttering blessings upon humanity.
Dying thus, he bequeathed his teachings to man as an inestimable inheritance. Perverted and corrupted, they have served as a basis for many creeds, and been even made the warrant for intolerance and persecution. We here teach them in their purity. They are our Masonry: for to them good men of all creeds can subscribe.
That God is good and merciful, and loves and sympathises with the creatures He has made; that His finger is visible in all the movements of the moral, intellectual, and material Universe; that we are His children, the objects of His paternal care and regard; that all men are our brothers, whose wants we are to supply, their errors to pardon, their opinions to tolerate, their injuries to forgive; that man has an immortal soul, a free will, a right to freedom of thought and action; that all men are equal in God's sight; that we best serve God by humility, meekness, gentleness, kindness, and other virtues which the lowly can practise as well as the lofty: this is the new Law, the Word, for which the world had waited and pined so long: and every true Knight of the Rose Croix will revere the memory of him who taught it, and look indulgently even on those who assign to him a character far above his own conceptions or belief, even to the extent of deeming him Divine.
Hear Philo, the Greek Jew: "The contemplative soul, unequally guided, sometimes towards abundance and sometimes towards barrenness, though ever advancing, is illuminated by the primitive ideas, the rays that emanate from the Divine Intelligence, whenever it ascends towards the Sublime Treasures. When, on the contrary, it descends, and is barren, it falls within the domain of those Intelligences that are termed Angels ... for, when the soul is deprived of the light of God, which leads it to the knowledge of things, it no longer enjoys more than a feeble or secondary light which gives it, not the understanding of things, but that of words only, as in this baser world...
" ... Let the narrow-souled withdraw, having their ears sealed up! We communicate the divine mysteries to those only who have received the sacred initiation, to those who practise true piety, and who are not enslaved by the empty pomp of words, or the doctrines of the pagans ...
" ... O ye Initiates, ye whose ears are purified, receive this in your souls as a mystery never to be lost! Reveal it to no Profane! Keep and contain it within yourselves as an incorruptible treasure, not like gold or silver, but more precious than everything beside; for it is the knowledge of the Great cause, of Nature, and of that which is born of both. And if you meet an Initiate, besiege him with your prayers that he conceal from you no new mysteries that he may know, and rest not until you have obtained them! For me, although I was initiated in the Great Mysteries by Moses, the Friend of God, yet, having seen Jeremiah, I recognised him not only as an Initiate, but as a Hierophant; and I follow his school."
We, like him, recognise all Initiates as our Brothers. We belong to no one creed or school. In all religions there is a basis of Truth; in all there is pure Morality. All that teach the cardinal tenets of Masonry we respect; all teachers and reformers of mankind we admire and revere.
Masonry has too her mission to perform. With her traditions reaching to the earliest times, and her symbols dating further back than even the monumental history of Egypt extends, she invites all men of all religions to enlist under her banners and to war against evil, ignorance, and wrong. You are now her knight, and to her service your sword is consecrated. May you prove a worthy soldier in a worthy cause!