Revised by Albert Pike
Masonic Consistency and Simplicity
The history of Masonry is the history of Philosophy. Masons do not pretend to set themselves up for instructors of the human race: but, though Asia produced and preserved the Mysteries, Masonry has, in Europe and America, regularly given spirit and action to their doctrines and developed the moral advantages which mankind may reap from them. More consistent and more simple in its mode of procedure, it has put an end to the vast allegorical pantheon of ancient mythologies, and itself become a science.
None can deny that Christ taught a lofty morality. "Love one another; forgive those that despitefully use you and persecute you; be pure of heart, meek, humble, contented; lay not up riches on earth, but in Heaven; submit to the powers lawfully over you; become like little children, or ye cannot be saved, for of such is the Kingdom of Heaven; forgive the repentant; cast no stone at the sinner if you too have sinned; do unto others as you would have others do unto you": such, and not abstruse questions of theology, were his simple and sublime teachings.
The early Christians followed in his footsteps. The first preachers of the faith had no thought of domination. Entirely animated by his saying that he among them should be first who should serve with the greatest devotion, they were humble, modest, and charitable, and they knew how to communicate this spirit of the inner man to the churches under their direction. These churches were at first but spontaneous meetings of all Christians inhabiting the same locality. A pure and severe morality mingled with religious enthusiasm was the characteristic of each, and excited the admiration even of their persecutors. Everything was in common among them: their property, their joys, and their sorrows. In the silence of night they met for instruction and to pray together. Their love-feasts, or fraternal repasts, ended these reunions in which all differences in social position and rank were effaced in the presence of a paternal Divinity. Their sole object was to make men better by bringing them back to a simple worship of which universal morality was the basis, and to end those numerous and cruel sacrifices which everywhere inundated with blood the altars of the Gods. Thus did Christianity reform the world and obey the teachings of its founder. It gave to woman her proper rank and influence; it regulated domestic life; and by admitting the slaves to the love-feasts, it by degrees raised them above that oppression under which half of mankind had groaned for ages.
This, in its primitive purity as taught by Christ himself, was the true primitive religion as communicated by God to the Patriarchs. It was no new religion but the reproduction of the oldest of all; and its true and perfect morality is the morality of Masonry as it is the morality of every creed of antiquity.
In the early days of Christianity, there was an initiation like those of the Pagans. Persons were admitted on special conditions only. To arrive at a complete knowledge of the doctrine, they had to pass three degrees of instruction. The initiates were consequently divided into three classes: Auditors, Catechumens, and the Faithful. The Auditors were a sort of novices who were prepared by certain ceremonies and instructions to receive the dogmas of Christianity. A portion of these dogmas was made known to the Catechumens who, after particular purifications, received baptism, or the initiation of the theogenesis (divine generation); but in the grand mysteries of that religion the incarnation, nativity, passion and resurrection of Christ none were initiated but the Faithful. These doctrines and the celebration of the Holy Sacraments, particularly the Eucharist, were kept with profound secrecy.
These mysteries were divided into two parts: the first, styled the Mass of the Catechumens; the second, the Mass of the Faithful. The celebration of the Mysteries of Mithras was also styled a mass; and the ceremonies used were the same. There were found all the sacraments of the Catholic Church, even the breath of confirmation. The Priest of Mithras promised the initiates deliverance from sin by means of confession and baptism, and a future life of happiness or misery. He celebrated the oblation of bread, image of the resurrection. The baptism of newly-born children, extreme unction, confession of sins: all belonged to the Mithraic rites. The candidate for initiation was purified by a species of baptism, a mark was impressed upon his forehead, and he offered bread and water pronouncing certain mysterious words.
During the persecutions in the early ages of Christianity, the Christians took refuge in the vast catacombs which stretched for miles in every direction under the city of Rome, and are supposed to have been of Etruscan origin. There, amid labyrinthine windings, deep caverns, hidden chambers, chapels, and tombs, the persecuted fugitives found refuge, and there they performed the ceremonies of the Mysteries.
The Basilideans, a sect of Christians that arose soon after the time of the Apostles, practised the Mysteries with the old Egyptian legend. They symbolised Osiris by the Sun, Isis by the Moon, and Typhon by Scorpio, and wore crystals bearing these emblems as amulets or talismans to protect them from danger; upon which also were a brilliant star and the serpent. They were copied from the talismans of Persia and Arabia, and given to every candidate at his initiation.
Irenaeus tells us that the Simonians, one of the earliest sects of the Gnostics, had a priesthood of the Mysteries.
Tertullian tells us that the Valentinians, the most celebrated of all the Gnostic schools, imitated, or rather perverted, the Mysteries of Eleusis. Irenaeus informs us, in several curious chapters, of the mysteries practised by the Marcosians; and Origen gives much information as to the mysteries of the Ophites; and there is no doubt that all the Gnostic sects had mysteries and an initiation. They all claimed to possess a secret doctrine coming to them directly from Jesus Christ, different from that of the Gospels and Epistles, and superior to those communications which, in their eyes, were merely exoteric. This secret doctrine they did not communicate to every one; and among the extensive sect of the Basilideans, hardly one in a thousand knew it, as we learn from Irenaeus. We know the name of only the highest class of their initiates. They were styled Elect, and Strangers to the World. They had at least three degrees the Material, the Intellectual, and the Spiritual; and the lesser and greater mysteries; and the number of those who attained the highest degree was quite small.
Baptism was one of their most important ceremonies; and the Basilideans celebrated the 10th of January as the anniversary of the day on which Christ was baptised in Jordan.
They had the ceremony of laying on of hands by way of purification; and that of the mystic banquet, emblem of that to which they believed the Heavenly Wisdom would one day admit them in the fulness of things.
Their ceremonies were much more like those of Christians than those of Greece; but they mingled with them much that was borrowed from the Orient and Egypt, and taught the primitive truths mixed with a multitude of fantastic errors and fictions.
The discipline of the secret was the concealment of certain tenets and ceremonies. So says Clemens of Alexandria.
To avoid persecution, the early Christians were compelled to use great caution, and to hold meetings of the Faithful (of the Household of Faith) in private places under concealment by darkness. They assembled in the night, and they guarded against the intrusion of false brethren and profane persons, spies who might cause their arrest. They conversed together figuratively and by the use of symbols lest cowans and eavesdroppers might overhear, and there existed among them a favoured class, or Order, who were initiated into certain mysteries which they were bound by solemn promise not to divulge, or even converse about, except with such as had received them under the same sanction. They were called Brethren, the Faithful, Stewards of the Mysteries, Superintendents, Devotees of the Secret, and Architects.
In the Hierarchiae, attributed to St Dionysius the Areopagite, the first Bishop of Athens, the tradition of the sacrament is said to have been divided into three degrees, or grades: purification, initiation, and accomplishment or perfection; and it mentions also, as part of the ceremony, the bringing to sight.
The Apostolic Constitutions attributed to Clemens, Bishop of Rome, describes the early church, and says: "These regulations must on no account be communicated to all sorts of persons, because of the mysteries contained in them". It speaks of the Deacon's duty to keep the doors, that none uninitiated should enter at the oblation. Ostiarii, or doorkeepers, kept guard, and gave notice at the time of prayer and church assemblies; and also by private signal in times of persecution gave notice to those within to enable them to avoid danger. The mysteries were open to the Fideles or Faithful only; and no spectators were allowed at the communion.
Tertullian, who died about 216 CE, says in his Apology: "None are admitted to the religious mysteries without an oath of secrecy. We appeal to your Thracian and Eleusinian Mysteries; and we are especially bound to this caution because, if we prove faithless, we should not only provoke Heaven but draw upon our heads the utmost rigour of human displeasure. Should strangers betray us they know nothing but by report and hearsay. Far hence, ye Profane! is the prohibition from all holy mysteries."
Clemens, Bishop of Alexandria, born about 191 CE, says, in his Stromata, that he cannot explain the mysteries because he should thereby, according to the old proverb, put a sword into the hands of a child. He frequently compares the Discipline of the Secret with the heathen Mysteries as to their internal and recondite wisdom.
Whenever the early Christians happened to be in company with strangers, more properly termed the Profane, they never spoke of their sacraments but indicated to one another what they meant by means of symbols and secret watchwords, disguisedly and as by direct communication of mind with mind, and by enigmas.
Origen, born around 134 CE, answering Celsus, who had objected that the Christians had a concealed doctrine, said: "Inasmuch as the essential and important doctrines and principles of Christianity are openly taught, it is foolish to object that there are other things that are recondite: for this is common to Christian discipline with that of those philosophers in whose teachings some things were exoteric and some esoteric; and it is enough to say that it was so with some of the disciples of Pythagoras".
The formula which the primitive church pronounced at the moment of celebrating its mysteries was: "Depart ye Profane! Let the Catechumens, and those who have not been admitted or initiated, go forth."
Archelaus, Bishop of Cascara in Mesopotamia, who in 278 CE conducted a controversy with the Manichaeans, said: "These mysteries the church now communicates to him who has passed through the introductory degree. They are not explained to the Gentiles at all, nor are they taught openly in the hearing of Catechumens; but much that is spoken is in disguised terms, that the Faithful, who possess the knowledge, may be still more informed, and those who are not acquainted with it may suffer no disadvantage."
Cyril, Bishop of Jerusalem, was born in 315 CE and died in 386. In his Catechesis he says: "The Lord spake in parables to his hearers in general; but to his disciples he explained in private the parables and allegories which he spoke in public. The splendour of glory is for those who are early enlightened: obscurity and darkness are the portion of the unbelievers and ignorant. Just so the church discovers its mysteries to those who have advanced beyond the class of Catechumens: we employ obscure terms with others."
St Basil, the Great Bishop of Caesarea, born in 326 CE and dying in 376, says: "We receive the dogmas transmitted to us by writing and those which have descended to us from the Apostles, beneath the mystery of oral tradition: for several things have been handed to us without writing lest the vulgar, too familiar with our dogmas, should lose a due respect for them... This is what the uninitiated are not permitted to contemplate; and how should it ever be proper to write and circulate among the people an account of them?"
St Gregory of Narianzen, Bishop of Constantinople, 379 CE, says: "You have heard as much of the mystery as we are allowed to speak openly in the ears of all: the rest will be communicated to you in private; and that you must retain within yourself... Our mysteries are not to be made known to strangers."
St Ambrose, Archbishop of Milan, who was born in 340 and died in 393 says in his De Mysteriis: "All the mystery should be kept concealed, guarded by faithful silence, lest it should be inconsiderately divulged to the ears of the Profane... It is not given to all to contemplate the depths of our mysteries... that they may not be seen by those who ought not to behold them, nor received by those who cannot preserve them." And in another work: "He sins against God who divulges to the unworthy the mysteries confided to him. The danger is not merely in violating truth, but in telling truth if he allow himself to give hints of them to those from whom they ought to be concealed... Beware of casting pearls before swine! ... Every mystery ought to be kept secret and, as it were, to be covered over by silence, lest it should rashly be divulged to the ears of the Profane. Take heed that you do not incautiously reveal the mysteries!"
St Augustine, Bishop of Hippo, who was born in 347 and died in 430, says in one of his discourses: "Having dismissed the Catechumens, we have retained you only to be our hearers; because, besides those things which belong to all Christians in common, we are not to discourse to you of sublime mysteries which none are qualified to hear but those who, by the Master's favour, are made partakers of them... To have taught them openly would have been to betray them." And he refers to the Ark of the Covenant and says that it signified a mystery, or secret of God, shadowed over by the cherubim of glory and honoured by being veiled.
St Chrysostom and St Augustine speak of initiation more than fifty times. St Ambrose writes to those who are initiated. And initiation was not merely baptism, or admission into the church, but referred to initiation into the mysteries. To the baptised and initiated the mysteries of religion were unveiled; they were kept secret from the Catechumens who were permitted to hear the Scriptures read and the ordinary discourses delivered in which the mysteries, reserved for the Faithful, were never treated of. When the services and prayers were ended, the Catechumens and spectators all withdrew.
Chrysostom, Bishop of Constantinople, was born in 354 and died in 417. He says: "I wish to speak openly: but I dare not, on account of those who are not initiated. I shall therefore avail myself of disguised terms, discoursing in a shadowy manner... Where the holy mysteries are celebrated, we drive away all uninitiated persons, and then close the doors". He mentions the acclamations of the initiated "which I here pass over in silence; for it is forbidden to disclose such things to the Profane".
Palladius, in his Life of Chrysostom, records as a great outrage that, a tumult having been excited against him by his enemies, they forced their way into the penetralia, where the uninitiated beheld what was not proper for them to see: and Chrysostom mentions the same circumstance in his epistle to Pope Innocent.
St Cyril of Alexandria, who was made Bishop in 412 and died in 444, says in his 7th book against Julian: "These mysteries are so profound and so exalted that they can be comprehended by those only who are enlightened. I shall not, therefore, attempt to speak of what is so admirable in them lest, by discovering them to the uninitiated, I should offend against the injunction not to give what is holy to the impure, nor cast pearls before such as cannot estimate their worth... I should say much more if I were not afraid of being heard by those who are uninitiated: because men are apt to deride what they do not understand. And the ignorant, not being aware of the weakness of their minds, condemn what they ought most to venerate."
Theodoret, Bishop of Cyropolis in Syria, was born in 393 and made Bishop in 429. In one of his three Dialogues, called The Immutable, he introduces Orthodoxus, speaking thus: "Answer me, if you please, in mystical or obscure terms; for perhaps there are some persons present who are not initiated into the mysteries". And in his preface to Ezekiel, tracing up the secret discipline to the commencement of the Christian era, he says: "These mysteries are so august that we ought to keep them with the greatest caution".
Minucius Felix, an eminent lawyer of Rome, who lived in 212 and wrote a defence of Christianity, says: "Many of them [the Christians] know each other by tokens and signs, and they form a friendship for each other almost before they become acquainted".
The Latin word tessera originally meant a square piece of wood or stone used in making tessellated pavements; afterwards a tablet on which anything was written; and then a cube or die. Its most general use was to designate a piece of metal or wood, square in shape, on which the watchword of an army was inscribed; whence tessera came to mean the watchword itself. There was also a tessera hospitalis, which was a piece of wood cut into two parts, as a pledge of friendship. With the Christians it was generally in the shape of a fish, and made of bone. On its face was inscribed the word Ichthus, a fish, the initials of which represented the Greek words "Jesus Christ, Son of God, Saviour".
St Augustine (de Fide et Symbolis) says: "This is the faith which in a few words is given to the Novices to be kept by a Symbol. These few words are known to all the Faithful: that by believing they may purify their hearts, and with a pure heart may understand what they believe".
Maximus Taurinus says: "The tessera is a symbol and sign by which to distinguish between the Faithful and the Profane".
The most ancient Trinitarian doctrine on record is that of the Brahmins. The Eternal Supreme Essence called Parabrahma, Brehm, Paratma, produced the Universe by self-reflection, and first revealed Himself as Brahma, the Creating Power, then as Vishnu, the Preserving Power, and lastly as Shiva, the Destroying and Renovating Power. These three modes in which the Supreme Essence reveals Himself in the material Universe soon came to be regarded as three distinct Deities. These three Deities they styled the Trimurti or Triad.
The Persians received from the Indians the doctrine of the three principles and changed it to that of a principle of Life, which was individualised by the Sun, and a principle of Death, which was symbolised by cold and darkness, parallel of the moral world; and in which the continual and alternating struggle between the good and evil principles seemed but a phase of the great struggle between the good and evil principles embodied in the legend of Ormuzd and Ahriman. Mithras, a Median reformer, was deified after his death, and invested with the attributes of the Sun, the different astronomical phenomena being figuratively detailed as actual incidents in his life in the same manner as the history of Buddha was invented among the Hindus.
The Trinity of the Hindus became among the Ethiopians and Abyssinians Neph-Amon, Phtha, and Neith, respectively The God Creator, whose emblem was a ram; Matter, or the primitive mud, symbolised by a globe or an egg; and Thought, or the Light which contains the germ of everything: triple manifestation of one and the same God (Athom), considered in three aspects, as the creative power, goodness, and wisdom. Other Deities were speedily invented; and among them Osiris, represented by the Sun; Isis, his wife, by the Moon or Earth; Typhon, his brother, the principle of evil and darkness; and Horus, son of Osiris and Isis. And this Trinity of Osiris, Isis, and Horus became subsequently the Chief Gods and objects of worship of the Egyptians.
The ancient Etruscans, a race from the city of Resen on the Tigris, are supposed to have emigrated to Egypt and to have been known there as the Hyksos, or Shepherd Kings. Driven thence, they sailed from the shores of Libya to Umbria in Italy. They acknowledged only one Supreme God: but they had images for His different attributes, and temples to these images. Each town had one National Temple dedicated to the three great attributes of God Strength, Riches, and Wisdom or Tina, Talna, and Minerva. The National Deity was always a Triad under one roof; and it was the same in Egypt, where One Supreme God alone was acknowledged, but was worshipped as a Triad, with different names in each different home. Each city in Etruria might have as many gods and gates and temples as it pleased; but three sacred gates and one Temple to three Divine Attributes were obligatory wherever the laws of Tages (or Tauut or Thoth) were received. The only undestroyed gate of the olden time that remains in Italy is the Porta del Circo at Volterra; and it has upon it the three heads of the three National Divinities, one upon the keystone of its magnificent arch and one above each side pillar.
The Buddhists hold that the God Sakya of the Hindus, called Gautama in Ceylon, Somonakodom in India beyond the Ganges, and Chy-kia or Fo in China, constituted a Trinity [Triratna] of Buddha, Dharma, and Sanga Intelligence, Law, and Union or Harmony.
The Chinese Sabeans represented the Supreme Deity as composed of Chang-Ti, the Supreme Sovereign; Tien, the Heavens; and Tao, the Universal Supreme Reason and Principle of Faith; and that, from Chaos, an immense silence, an immeasurable void, without perceptible forms, alone, infinite, immutable, moving in a circle in illimitable space, without change or alteration; but when vivified by the Principle of Truth issued all Beings under the influence of Tao, Principle of faith, who produced one, one produced two, two produced three, and three produced all that is.
The Sclavono-Vendes (sic) typified the Trinity by the three heads of the God Triglav; and the Pruczi or Prussians by the triune God Perkoun, Pikollos, and Potrimpos, the Deities of Light and Thunder, of Hell, and of the Earth, its fruits, and animals; and the Scandinavians by Odin, Frea, and Thor.
According to Philo of Alexandria, the Supreme Being, primitive Light or Archetype of Light, uniting with Wisdom (Sophia) the mother of Creation, forms in Himself the types of all things and acts upon the Universe through the Word (Logos) who dwells in God and in whom all His powers and attributes develop themselves a doctrine borrowed by him from Plato. The Kabbalists represented the First-born of Ihuh (the Universal Form, containing in Himself all beings), the Creative agent, preserver, and animating principle of the world, as containing within Himself the three primitive Forces of the Deity, Light, Spirit, and Life; and as further revealed in the ten Emanations or Sephiroth, which are but attributes of God: Supremacy; Wisdom (Nous or Logos); Prudence; Magnificence; Severity; Beauty; Victory; Glory; Establishment; and Dominion. They designated Wisdom, Prudence, Magnificence, Severity, Victory and Glory by six of the most sacred names of Deity in Hebrew: Jeh, Ihuh, El, Elohim, Zebaoth, and Adonai.
Simon Magus and his disciples taught that the Supreme Being or Centre of Light produced first of all three couples of united Existence of both sexes, which were the origins of all things: Reason and Inventiveness; Speech and Thought; Calculation and Reflection, of which Wisdom (Reason and Inventiveness) was the first produced, and Mother of all that exists.
Other disciples of Simon, and with them most of the Gnostics, adopting and modifying the doctrine, taught that the Pleroma, or Plenitude of Superior Intelligences, having the Supreme Being at their head, was composed of eight Eons of different sexes: Profundity and Silence; Spirit and Truth; the Word and Life; Man and the Church.
Bardesanes, whose doctrines the Syrian Christians long embraced, taught that the unknown Father, happy in the Plenitude of His Life and Perfections, first produced a Companion for Himself whom he placed in the Celestial Paradise and who became, by Him, the Mother of Christos, Son of the Living God: i.e. (laying aside the allegory) that the Eternal conceived, in the silence of his decrees, the Thought of revealing Himself by a Being who should be His image or His Son; that to the Son succeeded his Sister and Spouse, the Holy Spirit, and they produced four spirits of the elements, male and female, Maio and Jabseho, Bouro and Rucho; then Seven Mystic Couples of Spirits, and Heaven and Earth, and all that is; then seven spirits governing the planets, twelve governing the constellations of the Zodiac, and thirty-six Starry Intelligences whom he called Deacons: while the Holy Spirit (Sophia-Achamoth), being both the Holy Intelligence and the Soul of the physical world, went from the Pleroma into that material world and there mourned her degradation until Christos, her former spouse, coming to her with his Divine Light and Love, guided her in the way to purification, and she again united herself with him as his primitive Companion.
Basilides, the Christian Gnostic, taught that there were seven emanations from the Supreme Being: The First-born, Thought, The Word, Reflection, Wisdom, Power, and Righteousness; or Protogonos, Nous, Logos, Phronesis, Sophia, Dunamis, and Dikaiosune. From these emanated other Intelligences in succession to the number, in all, of three hundred and sixty-five, which were God manifested and composed the Plenitude of the Divine Emanations, of the God Abraxas. Thought (Nous or Intellect) united itself by baptism in the river Jordan with the man Jesus, servant [Diakonos] of the human race, but did not suffer with him; and the disciples of Basilides taught that the Nous put on only the appearance of humanity, and that Simon of Cyrene was crucified in his stead and ascended into Heaven.
Basilides held that out of the unrevealed God, who is at the head of the world of emanations and exalted above all conception or designation, were evolved seven living, self-subsistent, ever-active, hypostatised powers:
These Seven Powers (Dunameis) with the Primal Ground out of which they were evolved, constituted in his scheme the First Octave, the root of all Existence. From this point, the spiritual life proceeded to evolve out of itself continually many gradations of existence, each lower one being still the impression, the antetype, of the immediate higher one. He supposed there were 365 of these regions or gradations expressed by the mystical word Abraxas.
The Greek letters spelling Abraxas are interpreted by the usual method of Gematria to describe the whole World of Emanation as the development of the Supreme Being.
In the system of Basilides, Light, Life, Soul, and Good were opposed to Darkness, Death, Matter, and Evil, throughout the whole course of the Universe.
According to the Gnostic view, God was represented as the immanent, incomprehensible, and original source of all perfection; or, according to Valentinus, the Unfathomable Abyss, exalted above all possibility of designation, and of Whom, properly speaking, nothing can be predicated. From this incomprehensible Essence of God, an immediate transition to finite things is inconceivable. Self-limitation is the first beginning of a communication of life on the part of God the first passing of the hidden Deity into manifestation; and from this proceeds all further self-developing manifestation of the Divine Essence. From this primal link in the chain of life there are evolved in the first place the manifold powers or attributes inherent in the divine Essence which, until that first self-comprehension, were all hidden in the Abyss of His Essence. Each of these attributes presents the whole Divine Essence under one particular aspect; and to each, therefore, in this respect, the title of God may appropriately be applied. These Divine Powers evolving themselves to self-subsistence, thereupon became the germs and principles of all further developments of life. The life contained in them unfolds and individualises itself more and more, but in such a way that the successive grades of this evolution of life continually sink lower and lower; the spirits become feebler the further they are removed from the first link in the series.
The first manifestation they hypostatically represented as a Nous or Logos.
In the Alexandrian Gnosis, the Platonic notion of the Hulč predominates. This is the dead, the unsubstantial the boundary that limits from without the evolution of life in its gradually advancing progression, whereby the Perfect is ever evolving itself into the less perfect. This Hulč, again, is represented under various images: at one time as the darkness that exists alongside of the light; at another, as the void [Kenoma, Kenon] in opposition to the Fulness [Pleroma] of the Divine Life; or as the shadow that accompanies the light; or as the chaos, or the sluggish, stagnant, dark water. This matter, dead in itself, possesses by its own nature no inherent tendency; as life of every sort is foreign to it, itself makes no encroachment on the Divine. As, however, the evolutions of the Divine Life (the essences developing themselves out of the progressive emanation) become feebler the further they are removed from the first link in the series; and as their connection with the first becomes looser at each successive step, there arises at the last step of the evolution an imperfect, defective product which, unable to retain its connection with the chain of Divine life, sinks from the world of Eons into the material chaos: or, according to the same notion, somewhat differently expressed [according to the Ophites and to Bardesanes], a drop from the fulness of the Divine life bubbles over into the bordering void. Hereupon the dead matter, by commixture with the living principle which it wanted, first receives animation. But, at the same time, the Divine, the living, becomes corrupted by merging with the chaotic mass. Existence now multiplies itself. There arises a subordinate, defective life; there is ground for a new world; a creation starts into being, beyond the confines of the world of emanation. But, on the other hand, since the chaotic principle of matter has acquired vitality, there now arises a more distinct and more active opposition to the God-like a barely negative, blind, ungodly nature-power, which obstinately resists all influence of the Divine. Hence, as products of the spirit of the Hulč are Satan, malignant spirits, wicked men, in none of whom is there any reasonable or moral principle, or any principle of a rational will; blind passions alone have the ascendancy. In them there is the same conflict, as the Platonic scheme supposes, between the soul under the guidance of Divine reason [the Nous] and the soul blindly resisting reason between the pronoia and the anage, the Divine Principle and the natural.
The Syrian Gnosis assumed the existence of an active, turbulent kingdom of evil, or of darkness, which, by its encroachments on the kingdom of light, brought about a commixture of the light with the darkness, of the God-like with the ungodlike.
Even among the Platonists some thought that along with an organised inert matter, the substratum of the corporeal world, there existed from the beginning a blind, lawless motive power, an ungodlike soul, as its original motive and active principle. As the inorganic matter was organised into a corporeal world by the plastic power of the Deity, so by the same power, law and reason were communicated to that turbulent irrational soul. Thus the chaos of the Hulč was transformed into an organised world, and that blind soul into a rational principle, a mundane soul, animating the Universe. As from the latter proceeds all rational, spiritual life in humanity, so from the former proceeds all that is irrational, all that is under the blind sway of passion and appetite; and all malignant spirits are its progeny.
In one respect all the Gnostics are agreed: they all held that there was a world purely emanating out of the vital development of God, a creation evolved directly out of the Divine Essence, far exalted above any outward creation produced by God's plastic power and conditioned by a pre-existing matter. They agreed in holding that the framer of this lower world was not the Father of that higher world of emanation, but the Demiurge, a being of a kindred nature with the universe framed and governed by him, and far inferior to that higher system and the Father of it.
But some, setting out from ideas which had long prevailed among certain Jews of Alexandria, supposed that the Supreme God created and governed the world by His ministering spirits, i.e. by the angels. At the head of these angels stood one who had the direction and control of all, and therefore called the Artificer and Governor of the World. This Demiurge they compared with the plastic, animating, mundane spirit of Plato and the Platonists [the Deuteros Theos]; the Theos Genetos who, moreover, according to the Timaeus of Plato, strives to represent the Idea of the Divine Reason in that which is becoming (as contra-distinguished from that which is), and temporal. This angel is a representative of the Supreme God on the lower stage of existence: he does not act independently, but merely according to the ideas inspired in him by the Supreme God, just as the plastic mundane soul of the Platonists creates all things after the pattern of the ideas communicated by the Supreme Reason [Nous, the paradigm of the Divine Reason hypostatised]. But these ideas transcend his limited essence; he cannot understand them; he is merely their unconscious organ; and therefore is unable himself to comprehend the whole scope and meaning of the work which he performs. As an organ under the guidance of a higher inspiration, he reveals higher truths than he himself can comprehend. The mass of the Jews, they held, did not recognise the angel by whom, in all the Theophanies of the Old Testament, God revealed himself; they knew not the Demiurge in his true relation to the hidden Supreme God who never reveals Himself in the sensible world. They confounded the type and the archetype, the symbol and the idea. They rose no higher than the Demiurge; they took him to be the Supreme God Himself. But the spiritual men among them, on the contrary, clearly perceived, or at least divined, the ideas veiled under Judaism: they rose beyond the Demiurge to a knowledge of the Supreme God; and are therefore properly His worshippers [Therapeutai].
Other Gnostics, who had not been followers of the Mosaic religion but who had, at an earlier period, framed to themselves an oriental Gnosis, regarded the Demiurge as a being absolutely hostile to the Supreme God. He and His angels, notwithstanding their finite nature, were to establish their independence; they will tolerate no foreign rule within their realm. Whatever of a higher nature descends into their kingdom, they seek to hold imprisoned there lest it should raise itself above their narrow precincts. Probably, in this system, the kingdom of the Demiurge angels corresponded, for the most part, with that of the deceitful Star-Spirits who seek to rob man of his freedom, to beguile him by various arts of deception, and who exercise a tyrannical sway over the things of this world. Accordingly, in the system of these Sabeans, the seven Planet-Spirits and the twelve Star-Spirits of the Zodiac, who sprang from an irregular connection between the cheated Fetahil and the Spirit of Darkness, play an important part in everything that is bad. The Demiurge is a limited and limiting being, proud, jealous, and revengeful; and his character betrays itself in the Old Testament which, the Gnostics held, came from him. They transferred to the Demiurge himself whatever in the idea of God, as presented by the Old Testament, appeared to them to be defective. Against his will and rule, the Hulč was over it, casting off the yoke imposed on it, and destroying the work he had begun. The same jealous being, limited in his power, ruling with despotic sway, they imagined they saw in Nature. He strives to check the germination of the divine seeds of life which the Supreme God of Holiness and Love, who has no connection whatsoever with the sensible world, has scattered among men. That perfect God was at most known and worshipped in mysteries by a few spiritual men.
The Gospel of St John is in great measure a polemic against the Gnostics. Their different sects, trying to solve the great problems the creation of a material world by an immaterial Being; the fall of man; the incarnation; the redemption and restoration of the spirits called men admitted a long series of intelligences intervening in a series of spiritual operations which they designated The Beginning, the Word, the Only Begotten, Life, Light, and Spirit [Ghost]. St John, at the beginning of his Gospel, avers that it was Jesus Christ who existed in the Beginning; that he was the Word of God by which everything was made; that he was the Only Begotten, the Life, and the Light; and that he diffuses among men the Holy Spirit [or Ghost], the Divine Life and Light.
So the Pleroma, Plenitude, or Fullness was a favourite term with the Gnostics, and Truth and Grace were the Gnostic Eons: and the Simonians, Doketes, and other Gnostics held that the Eon Christ Jesus was never really, but only apparently, clothed with a human body. But St John replies that the Word did really become flesh and dwelt among us, and that in him were the Pleroma and Truth and Grace.
The Gospel of St John begins with these words (as translated in our version): "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God: the same was in the beginning with God." This, a statement of the doctrine of the Gnostics against whom the author of the book was writing, expanded into its full meaning, is as follows: "When the work of Emanation and Creation commenced, and the Supreme God, until then existing alone in the profundity of His own nature, unmanifested, began to manifest Himself, the Word, His first Emanation WAS, i.e. commenced to exist. That Word was near to God, an immediate and primary emanation from God; and was God Himself manifested in one aspect or mode of development." And then it is declared that by this Word, first and immediate emanation from God, everything was made: all subsequent emanations proceeded from Him; and out of Him came life and the light given unto men. And then the author proceeds to prove that this Word was Jesus Christ.
In the doctrine of Valentinus, reared a Christian at Alexandria, God was a Perfect Being, an Abyss which no intelligence could sound, because no eye could reach the invisible and ineffable heights on which He dwelt, and no mind could comprehend the duration of His existence: He has always been; He is the Primitive Father and Beginning; He will be always and does not grow old. The development of His perfections produced the intellectual world. After having passed infinite ages in repose and silence, He manifested Himself by His Thought, source of all His manifestations, which received from Him the germ of His creations. Being of His Being, His Thought is also termed Grace or Joy and Silence of the Ineffable. Its first manifestation was Nous, the Intelligence, first of the Eons, commencement of all things, first revelation of the Divinity, the Monogenes or Only Begotten: next, Truth, his companion. Their manifestations were the Word [Logos] and Life [Zoe]; and theirs, Man and the Church: and from these another twelve, six of whom were Hope, Faith, Charity, Intelligence, Happiness, and Wisdom. The harmony of the Eons, struggling to know and be united to the Primitive God, was disturbed, and to redeem and restore them, the Intelligence [Nous] produced Christ and the Holy Spirit his companion, who restored them to their first estate of happiness and harmony; and thereupon they formed the Eon Jesus, born of a Virgin, to whom the Christos united himself in baptism and who, with his companion Sophia-Achamoth, saved and redeemed the world.
The Marcosians taught that the Supreme Deity produced by His words the Logos or Plenitude of Eons: His first utterance was a syllable of four letters, each of which became a being; his second of four, his third of ten, and his fourth of twelve; thirty in all, which constituted the Pleroma.
The Valentinians and others of the Gnostics distinguished three orders of existences:
The essence of the psyche is disruption into multiplicity, manifoldness; which, however, is subordinate to a higher unity by which it allows itself to be guided, first unconsciously, then consciously.
The essence of the Hylic natures (of whom Satan is the head) is the direct opposite to all unity. It is disruption and disunion in itself, without the least sympathy, without any point of coalescence whatever for unity; together with an effort to destroy all unity, to extend its own inherent disunion to everything and to rend everything asunder. This principle has no power to posit anything, but only to negative: it is unable to create, to produce, to form; but only to destroy, to decompose.
By Marcus, the disciple of Valentinus, the idea of a Word manifesting the hidden Divine Essence in the Creation was spun out into the most subtle details, the entire creation being, in his view, a continuous utterance of the Ineffable. The way in which the germs of divine life which lie shut up in the Eons continually unfold and individualise themselves more and more is represented as a spontaneous analysis of the several names of the Ineffable into their several sounds. An echo of the Pleroma falls down into the Hulč, and becomes the forming principle of a new, but lower, creation.
One formula of the pneumatical baptism among the Gnostics ran thus: "in the Name which is hidden from all the Divinities and Powers [of the Demiurge], the Name of Truth which Jesus of Nazareth has put on in the light-zones of Christ, the living Christ, through the Holy Ghost, for the redemption of the angels the Name by which all things attain to Perfection". The candidates then said: "Peace (or Salvation) to all on whom this name rests!"
The boy Dionysus, torn in pieces according to the Bacchic Mysteries by the Titans, was considered by the Manicheans as simply representing the Soul swallowed up by the powers of darkness, the divine life rent into fragments by matter: that part of the luminous essence of the primitive man of Mani, the Adam Kadmon; the Mundane Soul mixed with matter the seed of divine life which had fallen into matter, and had thence to undergo a process of purification and development.
The Gnosis of Carpocrates and his son Epiphanes consisted in the knowledge of one Supreme Original Being, the Highest Unity, from Whom all existence has emanated and to Whom it strives to return. The finite spirits that rule over the several portions of the Earth seek to counteract this universal tendency to unity; and from their influence, their laws and arrangements, proceeds all that checks, disturbs or limits the original communion which is the basis of Nature as the outward manifestation of that Highest Unity. These spirits, moreover, seek to retain under their dominion the souls which, emanating from the Highest Unity, and still partaking of its nature, have lapsed into the corporeal world and have there been imprisoned in bodies in order under their dominion to be kept within the cycle of migration. From these finite spirits the popular religions of different nations derive their origin. But the souls which, from a reminiscence of their former condition, soar upward to the contemplation of that higher Unity, reach to such perfect freedom and repose as nothing afterwards can disturb or limit, and rise superior to the popular deities and religions. As examples of this sort, they named Pythagoras, Plato, Aristotle, and Christ. They made no distinction between the latter and the wise and good men of every nation. They taught that any other soul which could soar to the same height of contemplation might be regarded as equal with him.
The Ophites commenced their system with a Supreme Being long unknown to the Human race and still so to the the greater number of men: the Buthos or Profundity, Source of Light and of Adam Kadmon, the Primitive Man, made by the Demiurge but perfected by the Supreme God by the communication to him of the Spirit [Pneuma]. The first emanation was the Thought of the Supreme Deity [the Ennoia], the conception of the Universe in the Thought of God. This Thought, called also Silence [Sige], produced the Spirit [Pneuma] Mother of the Living, and Wisdom of God. Together with this Primitive Existence, Matter existed also (the Waters, Darkness, Abyss, and Chaos), eternal like the Spiritual principle. Buthos and his Thought, uniting with Wisdom, made her fruitful by the Divine Light, and She produced a perfect being [Christos] and a second and inferior wisdom, Sophia-Achamoth, who, falling into chaos, remained entangled there, became enfeebled, and lost all knowledge of the Superior Wisdom that gave her birth. Communicating movement to Chaos, she produced Ialdabaoth, the Demiurge, Agent of Material Creation, and then ascended towards her first place in the scale of creation. Ialdabaoth produced an angel that was his image, and this a second, and so on in succession to the sixth after the Demiurge: the seven being reflections one of the other, yet different and inhabiting seven distinct regions. The names of the six thus produced were Iao, Sabaoth, Adonai, Eloi, Orai, and Astaphal. Ialdabaoth, to become independent of his mother and to pass for the Supreme Being, made the world and man in his own image; and his mother caused the Spiritual principle to pass from him into man so made; and henceforward the contest between the Demiurge and his mother, between light and darkness, good and evil, was concentrated in man; and the image of Ialdabaoth reflected upon matter became the Serpent-Spirit, Satan, the Evil Intelligence. Eve, created by Ialdabaoth, had by his Sons children that were angels like themselves. The Spiritual light was withdrawn from man by Sophia, and the world surrendered to the influence of evil until the Spirit, urged by the entreaties of Wisdom, induced the Supreme Being to send Christos to redeem it. Compelled despite himself by his Mother, Ialdabaoth caused the man Jesus to be born of a Virgin, and the Celestial saviour, uniting with his Sister, Wisdom, descended through the regions of the seven angels, appeared in each under the form of its chief, concealed his own, and entered with his Sister into the man Jesus at the baptism in the Jordan. Ialdabaoth, finding that Jesus was destroying his empire and abolishing his worship, caused the Jews to hate and crucify him, but before this happened, Christos and Wisdom had ascended to the celestial regions. They restored Jesus to life and gave him an ethereal body in which he remained eighteen months on earth and, receiving from Wisdom the perfect knowledge [Gnosis] communicated it to a small number of his apostles, and then arose to the intermediate region inhabited by Ialdabaoth where, unknown to him, he sits at his right hand taking from him the Souls of Light purified by Christos. When nothing of the Spiritual world shall remain subject to Ialdabaoth, the redemption will be accomplished and the end of the world, the completion of the return of Light into the Plenitude, will occur.
Tatian adopted the theory of Emanation, of Eons, of the existence of a God too sublime to allow Himself to be known, but displaying Himself by Intelligences emanating from His bosom. The first of these was his Spirit [Pneuma], God Himself thinking and conceiving the Universe. The second was the Word [Logos], no longer merely the Thought or Conception, but the Creative utterance, manifestation of the Divinity but emanating from the Thought of Spirit, the First-Begotten, author of the visible creation. This was the Trinity, composed of the Father, Spirit, and Word.
The Elxaites adopted the Seven Spirits of the Gnostics, but named them Heaven, Water, Spirit, The Holy Angels of Prayer, Oil, Salt, and the Earth.
The opinion of the Doketes as to the human nature of Jesus Christ was that most generally received among the Gnostics. They deemed the intelligences of the Superior World too pure and too much the antagonists of matter to be willing to unite with it: and held that Christ, an Intelligence of the first rank, in appearing upon the Earth did not become confounded with matter but took upon himself only the appearance of a body, or at the most used it only as an envelope.
Noëtus termed the Son the first Utterance of the Father: the Word, not by himself as an Intelligence and unconnected with the flesh, a real son; but a Word, and a perfect Only Begotten; light emanated from the Light; water flowing from its Spring; a ray emanated from the Sun.
Paul of Samosata taught that Jesus Christ was the son of Joseph and Mary; but that the Word, Wisdom, or Intelligence of God, the Nous of the Gnostics, had united itself with him so that he might be said to be at once the Son of God and God Himself.
Arius called the Saviour the first of creatures, non-emanated from God, but really created by the direct will of God before time and the ages. According to the Church, Christ was of the same nature as God; according to some dissenters, of the same nature as man. Arius adopted the theory of a nature analogous to both. When God resolved to create the Human race, He made a Being which He called The Word, The Son, Wisdom, [Logos, Uios, Sophia] to the end that He might give existence to men. This Word is the Ormuzd of Zoroaster, the En Soph of the Kabbala, the Nous of Platonism and Philonism, and the Sophia or Demiurge of the Gnostics. He distinguished the Inferior Wisdom, or the daughter, from the Superior Wisdom: the latter being in God, inherent in His nature, and incapable of communication to any creature; the former, by which the Son was made, communicated itself to him, and therefore he was entitled to be called the Word and the Son.
Manes, founder of the Sect of the Manicheans, who had lived and been distinguished among the Persian Magi and profited by the doctrines of the Scythians, was a Kabbalist or Judaising Gnostic of the times of the Apostles. Knowing those of Bardesanes and Harmonius, he derived his doctrines from Zoroasterism, Christianity, and Gnosticism. He claimed to be the Paraclete or Comforter in the sense of a Teacher, organ of the Deity, but not in the sense of the Holy Spirit or Holy Ghost. He commenced his Epistola Fundamenti in these words: "Manes, Apostle of Jesus Christ, elect of God the Father; Behold the Words of Salvation emanating from the living and eternal fountain". The dominant idea of his doctrine was Pantheism, derived from its source in the regions of India and on the confines of China: that the cause of all that exists is God; and at last, God is all in all. All souls are equal God is in all, in men, animals, and plants. There are two Gods, one of Good and the other of Evil, each independent, eternal, chief of a distinct Empire; necessarily, and of their very natures hostile to one another. The Evil God, Satan, is the Genius of matter alone. The God of Good is infinitely his Superior, the True God, while the other is but the chief of all that is the enemy of God and must in the end succumb to His Power. The Empire of Light alone is eternal and true; and this Empire is a great chain of Emanations, all connected with the Supreme Being which they make manifest: all Him, under different forms, chosen for one end, the triumph of the Good. In each of His members lie hidden thousands of ineffable treasures. Excellent in His Glory, incomprehensible in His Greatness, the father has joined to Himself those fortunate and glorious Eons whose Power and Number it is impossible to determine. This is Spinoza's Infinity of Infinite Attributes of God.
Twelve Chief Eons, at the head of all, were the Genii of the twelve Constellations of the Zodiac, and called by Manes, Olamin. Satan also, Lord of the Empire of Darkness, had an Army of Eons or Demons emanating from his Essence, and reflecting more or less his image, but divided and inharmonious among themselves. A war among them brought them to the confines of the Realm of Light. Delighted, they sought to conquer it. But the Chief of the Celestial Empire created a Power which He placed on the frontiers of Heaven to protect His Eons and destroy the Empire of Evil. This was the Mother of Life, the Soul of the World, an Emanation from the Supreme Being, too pure to come in immediate contact with matter. It remained in the highest region, but produced a Son, the first Man [Adam-Kadmon and Hivil-Zivah of the Zend-Avesta, the Kabbala, the Gnosis and Sabeism], who commenced the contest with the Powers of Evil; but losing part of his panoply, of his Light, his Son and many souls born of the Light, who were devoured by the darkness, God sent to his assistance the living Spirit, or the Son of the First Man, or Jesus Christ.
The Mother of Life, general Principle of Divine Life, and the first Man, Primitive Being that reveals the Divine Life, are too sublime to be connected with the Empire of Darkness. Placed in the region of the Sun and Moon, this pure soul, the Son of Man, the Redeemer or Christ, labours to deliver and attract to himself that part of the Light or of the Soul of the First Man, diffused through matter; which done, the world will cease to exist. To retain the rays of Light still remaining among his Eons, and ever tending to escape and return by concentrating them, the Prince of Darkness, with their consent, made Adam, whose soul was of the Divine Light, contributed by the Eons, and his body of matter, so that he belonged to both Empires, that of Light and that of Darkness. To prevent the light from escaping at once, the Demons forbade Adam to eat the fruit of "knowledge of good and evil" by which he would have known both Empires. He obeyed; an Angel of Light induced him to transgress, and gave him the means of victory; but the Demons created Eve, who seduced him into an act of sensuality that enfeebled him and bound him anew in the bonds of matter. This is repeated in the case of every man that lives.
To deliver the soul, captive in darkness, the Principle of Light or Genius of the Sun, charged to redeem the Intellectual World of which he is the type, came to manifest himself among men. Light appeared in the darkness, "but the darkness comprehended it not", according to St John. The Light could not unite with the darkness. It but put on the appearance of a human body, and took the name of Christ in the Messiah only to accommodate itself to the language of the Jews. The Light did its work, turning the Jews from adoration of the Evil Principle and the Pagans from the worship of Demons. But the Chief of the Empire of Darkness caused him to be crucified by the Jews. Still he suffered in appearance only, and his death gave to all souls the symbol of their enfranchisement. The person of Jesus having disappeared, there was seen in his place a cross of Light over which a celestial voice pronounced: "The cross of Light is called the Word, Christ, The Gate, Joy, The Bread, The Sun, The Resurrection, Jesus, The Father, The Spirit, Life, Truth, and Grace".
With the Priscillianists there were two principles, one the Divinity, the other Primitive Matter and Darkness; each eternal. Satan is the son and lord of matter; and the secondary angels and demons children of matter. Satan created and governs the visible world. But the soul of man emanated from God, and is of the same substance with God. Seduced by the evil spirits, it passes through various bodies until, purified and reformed, it rises to God and is strengthened by His Light. These powers of evil hold mankind in pledge; and to redeem this pledge, the Saviour, Christ the Redeemer, came and died upon the cross of expiation, thus discharging the written obligation. He, like all souls, was of the same substance with God, a manifestation of the Divinity, not forming a second person; unborn, like the Divinity, and nothing else than the Divinity under another form.
It is useless to trace these vagaries further; and we stop at the frontiers of the three hundred and sixty-five thousand emanations of the Mandaďtes from the Primitive Light, Fira, or Ferho and Yavar; and return contentedly to the simple and sublime creed of Masonry.
Such were some of the ancient notions concerning the Deity; and taken in connection with what has been detailed in the preceding degrees, this Lecture affords you a true picture of the ancient speculations. From the beginning until now, those who have undertaken to solve the great mystery of the creation of a material universe by an Immaterial Deity have interposed between the two, and between God and man, divers manifestations of, or emanations from, or personalised attributes or agents of, the Great Supreme God, who is coexistent with Time and coextensive with Space.
The universal belief of the Orient was that the Supreme Being did not Himself create either the Earth or Man. The fragment which commences the Book of Genesis, consisting of the first chapter and the three first verses of the second, assigns the creation, or rather the formation or modelling of the world from matter already existing in confusion, not to Ihuh but to the Elohim, well known among the Phoenicians as subordinate Deities, Forces, or Manifestations. The second fragment imputes it to Ihuh-Elohim [Lord of the Elohim]: and St John assigns the creation to the Word; and asserts that Christ was that Word, as well as Light and Life, other emanations from the Great Primeval deity, to which other faiths had assigned the work of creation.
An absolute Existence, wholly immaterial, in no way within the reach of our senses; a Cause, but not an effect, that never was not, but existed during an infinity of eternities, before there was anything else except Time and Space, is wholly beyond the reach of our conceptions. The mind of man has wearied itself in speculations as to Its Nature, Its essence, Its attributes; and ended in being no wiser than it began. In the impossibility of conceiving of immateriality, we feel at sea and lost whenever we go beyond the domain of matter. And yet we know that there are Powers, Forces, Causes, that are themselves not matter. We give them names, but what they really are, and what their essence, we cannot comprehend.
But, fortunately, it does not follow that we may not believe or even know that which we cannot explain to ourselves, or that which is beyond the reach of our comprehension. If we believed only that which our intellect can grasp, measure, comprehend, and have distinct and clear ideas of, we should believe scarcely anything. The senses are not the witnesses that bear testimony to us of the loftiest truths.
Our greatest difficulty is that language is not adequate to express our ideas because our words refer to things, and are images of what is substantial and material. If we use the word "emanation", our mind involuntarily recurs to something material issuing out of some other thing that is material; and if we reject this idea of materiality, nothing is left of the emanation but an unreality. The word "thing" itself suggests to us that which is material and within the cognisance and jurisdiction of the senses. If we cut away from it the idea of materiality, it presents itself to us as no thing, but an intangible unreality, which the mind vainly endeavours to grasp. Existence and Being are terms that have the same colour of materiality; and when we speak of a Power or Force, the mind immediately images to itself one physical and material thing acting upon another. Eliminate that idea: and the Power or Force, devoid of physical characteristics, seems as unreal as the shadow that dances on a wall, itself a mere absence of light; spirit is to us merely that which is not matter.
Infinite space and infinite time are two primary ideas. We formulate them thus: add body to body and sphere to sphere until the imagination wearies; and still there will remain beyond a void, empty, unoccupied Space, limitless because it is void. Add event to event in continuous succession, forever and forever, and there will still remain, before and after, a Time in which there was and will be no event, and also endless because it too is void.
Thus these two ideas of the boundlessness of space and the endlessness of time seem to involve the ideas that matter and events are limited and finite. We cannot conceive of an infinity of worlds or of events; but only of an indefinite number of each; for, as we struggle to conceive of their infinity, the thought ever occurs in despite of all our efforts there must be space, in which there are no worlds; there must have been time when there were no events.
We cannot conceive how, if this Earth moves millions of millions of miles a million times repeated, it is still in the centre of space; nor how, if we lived millions of millions of ages and centuries, we should still be in the centre of eternity with still as much space on one side as on the other; with still as much time before us as behind; for that seems to say that the world has not moved nor we lived at all.
Nor can we comprehend how an infinite series of worlds, added together, is no larger than an infinite series of atoms; or an infinite series of centuries no longer than an infinite series of seconds; both being alike infinite, and therefore one series containing no more or fewer units than the other.
Nor have we the capacity to form in ourselves any idea of that which is immaterial. We use the word, but it conveys to us only the idea of the absence and negation of materiality; which vanishing, Space and Time alone, infinite and boundless, seem to us to be left.
We cannot form any conception of an effect without a cause. We cannot but believe, indeed we know, that however far we may have to run back along the chain of effects and causes, it cannot be infinite: but we must come at last to something which is not an effect, but the First Cause: and yet the fact is literally beyond our comprehension. The mind refuses to grasp the idea of self-existence, of existence without a beginning. As well expect the hair that grows upon our head to understand the nature and immortality of the soul.
It does not need to go so far in search of mysteries; nor have we any right to disbelieve or doubt the existence of a Great First Cause, itself no effect, because we cannot comprehend it: the words we use do not express it adequately even to ourselves.
We rub a needle for a little while on a dark inert mass of iron ore that had lain idle in the earth for centuries. Something is thereby communicated to the steel we term it a virtue, a power, or a quality and then we balance it upon a pivot: and lo! drawn by some invisible mysterious Power, one end (pole) of the needle turns to the North, and there the same Power keeps the same pole for days and years; will keep it there, perhaps, as long as the World lasts, carry the needle where you will, and no matter what seas or mountains intervene between it and the North Pole of the world. And this Power, thus acting, and indicating to the mariner his course over the trackless ocean, when the stars shine not for many days, saves vessels from shipwreck, families from distress, and those from sudden death on whose lives the fate of nations and the peace of the world depend. But for it, Napoleon might never have reached the ports of France on his return from Egypt, nor Nelson lived to fight and win at Trafalgar. Men call this Power Magnetism, and then completely think that they have explained it all; and yet they have but given a new name to an unknown thing, to hide their ignorance. What is this wonderful Power? It is a real, actual, active Power: that we know and see. But what its essence is, or how it acts, we do not know, any more than we know the essence or the mode of action of the Creative Thought and Word of God.
And again, what is that which we term galvanism and electricity which, evolved by the action of a little acid on two metals, aided by a magnet, circles the Earth in a few seconds, sending from land to land the Thoughts that govern the transactions of individuals and nations? The mind has formed no notion of matter that will include it; and no name that we can give it helps us to understand its essence and its being. It is a Power, like Thought and the Will. We know no more.
What is this Power of gravitation that makes everything upon the Earth tend to the centre? How does it reach out its invisible hands towards the erratic meteor-stones, arrest them in their swift course, and draw them down to the Earth's bosom? It is a power. We know no more.
What is that heat which plays so wonderful a part in the world's economy that caloric, latent everywhere, within us and without us, produced by combustion, by intense pressure, and by swift motion? Is it substance, matter, spirit, or immaterial, a mere Force or State of Matter?
And what is light? A substance, say the books matter, that travels to us from the Sun and stars, each ray separable by the prism into seven distinct colours, and with distinct peculiar qualities and action. And if a substance, what is its essence, and what power is inherent in it by which it journeys incalculable myriads of miles and reaches us ten thousand years or more after it leaves the stars?
All power is equally a mystery. Apply intense cold to a drop of water in the centre of a globe of iron, and the globe is shattered as the water freezes. Confine a little of the same liquid in a cylinder which Enceladus or Typhon could not have riven asunder, and apply to it intense heat; and the vast power that couched latent in the water shivers the cylinder to atoms. A little shoot from a minute seed, a shoot so soft and tender that the least bruise would kill it, forces its way downward into the hard earth to the depth of many feet with an energy wholly incomprehensible. What are these mighty forces, locked up in the small seed and the drop of water?
Nay, what is Life itself, with all its wondrous, mighty energies that power which maintains the heat within us and prevents our bodies, that decay so soon without it, from resolution into their original elements: that constant miracle the nature and essence of which have eluded all the philosophers, all of whose dissertations about it are a mere jargon of words?
No wonder the ancient Persians thought that Light and Life were one both emanations from the Supreme Deity, the archetype of light. No wonder that in their ignorance they worshipped the Sun. God breathed into man the spirit of life not matter, but an emanation from Himself; not a creature made by Him, nor a distinct existence, but a Power, like His own Thought: and light, to those great-souled ancients, also seemed no creature, no gross material substance, but a pure emanation from the Deity, immortal and indestructible like Himself.
What, indeed, is Reality? Our dreams are as real, while they last, as the occurrences of the daytime. We see, hear, feel, act, experience pleasure and suffer pain, as vividly and actually in a dream as when awake. The occurrences and transactions of a year are crowded into the limits of a second: and the dream remembered is as real as the past occurrences of life.
The philosophers tell us that we have no cognisance of substance itself, but only of its attributes: that when we see that which we call a block of marble, our perceptions give us information only of something extended, solid, coloured, heavy, and the like; but not of the very thing itself, to which these attributes belong. And yet the attributes do not exist without the substance. They are not substantives, but adjectives. There is no such thing or existence as hardness, weight, or colour by itself, detached from any subject, moving first here, then there, and attaching itself to this and to the other object. And yet, they say, the attributes are not the subject.
So Thought, Volition, and Perception are not the soul, but its attributes; and we have no cognisance of the soul itself, but only of them, its manifestations. Nor of God, but only of His Wisdom, Power, Magnificence, Truth, and other attributes.
And yet we know that there is matter, a soul within our body, a God that lives in the Universe.
Take, then, the attributes of the soul. I am conscious that I exist and am the identical person that I was twenty years ago. I am conscious that my body is not I: that if my arms were lopped away, this person that I call Me would still remain, complete, entire, identical as before. But I cannot ascertain, by the most intense and long-continued reflection, what I am, nor where within my body I reside, nor whether I am a point or an expanded substance. I have no power to examine and inspect. I exist, will, think, perceive. That I know, and nothing more. I think a noble and sublime Thought. What is that Thought? It is not Matter, nor Spirit. It is not a Thing, but a Power and Force. I make upon a paper certain conventional marks that represent that Thought. There is no Power or Virtue in the marks I write, but only in the Thought which they tell to others. I die, but the Thought still lives. It is a Power. It acts on men, excites them to enthusiasm, inspires patriotism, governs their conduct, controls their destinies, disposes of life and death. The words I speak are but a certain succession of particular sounds that by conventional arrangement communicate to others the Immaterial, Intangible, Eternal Thought. The fact that Thought continues to exist an instant after it makes its appearance in the soul proves it immortal: for there is nothing conceivable that can destroy it. The spoken words, being mere sounds, may vanish into thin air, and the written ones, mere marks, be burned: but the Thought itself lives still, and must live on forever.
A Human Thought, then, is an actual Existence, and a Force and Power, capable of acting upon and controlling matter as well as mind. Is not the existence of a God, Who is the immaterial Soul of the Universe, and Whose Thought, embodied or not embodied in His Word, is an Infinite Power of Creation and Production, Destruction and Preservation, quite as comprehensible as the existence of a Soul, of a Thought separated from the Soul, of the Power of that Thought to mould the fate and influence the destinies of Humanity?
And yet we know not whence that Thought comes, nor what it is. It is not We. We do not mould it, shape it, fashion it. It is neither our mechanism nor our invention. It appears spontaneously, flashing, as it were, into the soul, making that soul the involuntary instrument of its utterance to the world. It comes to us, and seems a stranger to us, seeking a home.
As little can we explain the mighty power of the human Will. Volition, like Thought, seems spontaneous, an effect without a cause. Circumstances provoke it and serve as its occasion, but do not produce it. It springs up in the soul, like Thought, as the waters gush upward in a spring. Is it the manifestation of the soul, merely making apparent what passes within the soul, or an emanation from it, going abroad and acting outwardly, itself a real Existence, as it is an admitted Power? We can but own our ignorance. It is certain that it acts on other souls: controls and directs them, shapes their action, legislates for men and nations; and yet it is neither material nor visible, and the laws it writes merely inform one soul of what has passed within another.
God, therefore, is a mystery only as we ourselves and everything that surrounds us are a mystery. We know that there is, and must be, a First Cause. His attributes, severed from Himself, are unrealities. As colour and extension, weight and hardness, do not exist apart from matter, as separate existences and substantives, spiritual or immaterial; so the Goodness, Wisdom, Justice, Mercy and Benevolence of God, personify them as men may, are not independent existences but attributes of the Deity, the adjectives qualifying One Great Substantive. But we know that He must be Good, True, Wise, Just, Benevolent, Merciful: and in all these and all His other attributes, Perfect and Infinite: because we are conscious that these are laws imposed on us by the very nature of things, necessary, and without which the Universe would be confusion, and the existence of a God incredible.
He is the Living, Thinking, Intelligent Soul of the Universe, the Permanent, the Stationary of Simon Magus, the ONE that always Is of Plato, as contra-distinguished from the perpetual flux and reflux, or Genesis, of things.
And, as the Thought of the Soul, emanating from the Soul, becomes audible and visible in Words, so did the Thought of God, springing up within Himself, immortal as Himself, when once conceived immortal before, because in Himself, utter Itself in The Word, its manifestation and mode of communication, and thus create the Material, Mental, Spiritual Universe.
This is the real idea of the Ancient Nations: God, the Almighty Father and Source of All; His Thought, conceiving the whole Universe and willing its creation; His Word, uttering that Thought, and thus becoming the Creator or Demiurge in whom was Life and Light, and that Light the Life of the Universe.
Nor did that Word cease at the single act of Creation. Having set going the great machine and enacted the laws of its motion and progression, of birth and life and change and death, it did not cease to exist or remain for ever in inert idleness.
For THE THOUGHT OF GOD LIVES AND IS IMMORTAL. Embodied in the Word, it not only created, but it preserves. It conducts and controls the Universe all spheres, all worlds, all actions of mankind, and of every animate and inanimate creature. It speaks in the soul of every man that lives. The Stars, the Earth, the Trees, the Winds, the universal voice of Nature, tempest and avalanche, the Sea's roar and the grave voice of the waterfall, the hoarse thunder and the low whisper of the brook, the song of birds, the voice of love, the speech of men: all are the alphabet in which it communicates itself to men and informs them of the will and law of God, the Soul of the Universe. And thus most truly did "the Word become flesh and dwell among men".
God, the unknown Father [Pater Agnostos], known to us only by His attributes; the Absolute I AM ... the Thought of God [Ennoia]; and the Word [Logos], Manifestation and Expression of the Thought: Behold the True Masonic Trinity the Universal Soul; the Thought in the Soul; the Word, or Thought expressed the Three in One of a Trinitarian Ecossais.
Here Masonry pauses and leaves its initiates to carry out and develop these great Truths in such manner as to each may seem most accordant with reason, philosophy, truth, and religious faith. It declines to act as Arbiter between them. It looks calmly on, while each multiplies the intermediates between the Deity and Matter, and the personifications of God's manifestations and attributes, to whatever extent his reason, his conviction, or his fancy dictates.
While the Indian tells us that Parabrahma, Brehm, and Paratma were the first Triune God, revealing Himself as Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva, Creator, Preserver and Destroyer; ... the Egyptian, of Amun-Re, Neith, and Phtha, Creator, Matter, and Thought or Light; ... the Persian, of his trinity or Three Powers in Ormuzd, Sources of Light, Fire, and Water; ... the Buddhists of the God Sakya, composed of Buddha, Dharma, and Sanga, Intelligence, Law, and Union or Harmony; ... the Chinese Sabeans of their Trinity of Chang-ti, the Supreme Sovereign: Tien, the Heavens; and Tao, the Universal Supreme Reason and Principle of all things; who produced the Unit; that two; two, three; and three, all that is...
While the Sclavono-Vend typifies his Trinity by the three heads of the God Triglaw; the Ancient Prussian points to his Triune God, Perkoun, Pikollos, and Potrimpos, Deities of Light and Thunder, of Hell, and of the Earth; the Ancient Scandinavian to Odin, Frea, and Thor; and the old Etruscans to Tina, Talna, and Minerva, Strength, Abundance, and Wisdom...
While Plato tells us of the Supreme Good, the Reason or Intellect, and the Soul or Spirit; and Philo of the Archetype of Light, Wisdom [Sophia] and the Word [Logos]; the Kabbalists of the Primitive Forces, Light, Spirit, and Life...
While the disciples of Simon Magus and the many sects of the Gnostics confuse us with their Eons, Emanations, Powers, Wisdom Superior and Inferior, Ialdabaoth, Adam-Kadmon, even to the three hundred and sixty-five thousand emanations of the Malfaites...
And while the pious Christian believes that the Word dwelt in the Mortal Body of Jesus of Nazareth and suffered upon the Cross; and that the Holy Ghost was poured out upon the Apostles, and now inspires every truly Christian Soul...
While all these faiths assert their claims to the exclusive possession of the Truth, Masonry inculcates its old doctrine, and no more: That God is ONE; that His Thought, uttered in His Word, created the Universe, and preserves it by those Eternal Laws which are the expression of that Thought; that the Soul of Man, breathed into him by God, is immortal as His Thoughts are; that he is free to do evil or to choose good, responsible for his acts and punishable for his sins; that all evil and wrong and suffering are but temporary, the discords of one great harmony; and that in His good time they will lead by infinite modulations to the great, harmonic, final chord and cadence of Truth, Love, Peace, and Happiness that will ring forever and ever under the Arches of Heaven, among all the Stars and Worlds, and in all souls of men and Angels.