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En:Albert Pike, Morals and Dogma 25d

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Morals and Dogma of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry , prepared for the Supreme Council of the Thirty Third Degree for the Southern Jurisdiction of the United States: Charleston, 1871.

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'XXV NIGHT OF THE BRAZEN SERPENT. ( Part 4 of 4 )T'.


( Part 1 of 4 )( Part 2 of 4 )( Part 3 of 4 )
The blazing Star in our Lodges, we have already said, represents Sirius, Anubis, or Mercury, Guardian and Guide of Souls. Our Ancient English brethren also considered it an emblem of the Sun. In the old Lectures they said: "The Blazing Star or Glory in the centre refers us to that Grand Luminary the Sun, which enlightens the Earth, and by its genial influence dispenses blessings to mankind." It is also said in those lectures to be an emblem of Prudence. The word Prudentia means, in its original and fullest signification, Foresight: and accordingly the Blazing Star has been regarded as an emblem of Omniscience, or the All-Seeing Eye, which to the Ancients was the Sun.
Even the Dagger of the Elu of Nine is that used in the Mysteries of Mithras; Which, with its blade black and hilt white, was an emblem of the two principles of Light and Darkness. Isis, the same as Ceres, was, as we learn from Eratosthenes, the Constellation Virgo, represented by a woman holding an ear of wheat. The different emblems which accompany her in the description given by Apuleius, a serpent on either side, a golden vase, with a serpent twined round the handle, and the animals that marched in procession, the bear, the ape, and Pegasus, represented the Constellations that, rising with the Virgin, when on the day of the Vernal Equinox she stood in the Oriental gate of Heaven, brilliant with the rays of the full moon, seemed to march in her train. The cup, consecrated in the Mysteries both of Isis and Eleusis, was the Constellation Crater or the Cup. The sacred vessel of the Isiac ceremony finds its counterpart in the Heavens. The Olympic robe presented to the Initiate, a magnificent mantle, covered with figures of serpents and animals, and under which were twelve other sacred robes, wherewith he was clothed in the sanctuary, alluded to the starry Heaven and the twelve signs: while the seven preparatory immersions in the sea alluded to the seven spheres, through which the soul plunged, to arrive here below and take up its abode in a body.
The Celestial Virgin, during the last three centuries that preceded the Christian era, occupied the horoscope or Oriental point, and that gate of Heaven through which the Sun and Moon ascended above the horizon at the two equinoxes. Again it occupied it at midnight, at the Winter Solstice, the precise moment when the year commenced. Thus it was essentially connected with the march of times and seasons, of the Sun, the Moon, and day and night, at the principal epochs of the year. At the equinoxes were celebrated the greater and lesser Mysteries of Ceres. When souls descended past the Balance, at the moment when the Sun occupied that point, the Virgin rose before him; she stood at the gates of day and opened them to him. Her brilliant Star, Spica Virginis, and Arcturus, in Bo�tes, northwest of it, heralded his coming. When he had returned to the Vernal Equinox, at the moment when souls were generated, again it was the Celestial Virgin that led the march of the signs of night; and in her stars came the beautiful full moon of that month. Night and day were in succession introduced by her, when they began to diminish in length; and souls, before arriving at the gates of Hell, were also led by her. In going through these signs, they passed the Styx in the 8th Degree of Libra. She was the famous Sibyl who initiated Eneas, and opened to him the way to the infernal regions.
This peculiar situation of the Constellation Virgo, has caused it to enter into all the sacred fables in regard to nature, under different names and the most varied forms. It often takes the name of Isis or the Moon, which, when at its full at the Vernal Equinox, was in union with it or beneath its feet. Mercury (or Anubis) having his domicile and exaltation in the sign Virgo, was, in all the sacred fables and Sanctuaries, the inseparable companion of Isis, without whose counsels she did nothing. This relation between the emblems and mysterious recitals of the initiations, and the Heavenly bodies and order of the world, was still more clear in the Mysteries of Mithras, adored as the Sun in Asia Minor, Cappadocia, Armenia, and Persia, and whose Mysteries went to Rome in the time of Sylla. This is amply proved by the descriptions we have of the Mithriac cave, in which were figured the two movements of the Heavens, that of the fixed Stars and that of the Planets, the Constellations, the eight mystic gates of the spheres, and the symbols of the elements. So on a celebrated monument of that religion, found at Rome, were figured, the Serpent or Hydra tinder Leo, as in the Heavens, the Celestial Dog, the Bull, the Scorpion, the Seven Planets, represented by seven altars, the Sun, Moon, and emblems relating to Light, to Darkness, and to their succession during the year, where each in turn triumphs for six months.
The Mysteries of Atys were celebrated when the Sun entered Aries; and among the emblems was a ram at the foot of a tree which was being cut down. Thus, if not the whole truth, it is yet a large part of it, that the Heathen Pantheon, in its infinite diversity of names and personifications, was but a multitudinous, though in its origin unconscious allegory, of which physical phenomena, and principally the Heavenly Bodies, were the fundamental types. The glorious images of Divinity which formed Jehovah's Host, were the Divine Dynasty or real theocracy which governed the early world; and the men of the golden age, whose looks held commerce with the skies, and who watched the radiant rulers bringing Winter and Summer to mortals, might be said with poetic truth to live in immediate communication with Heaven, and, like the Hebrew Patriarchs, to see God face to face. Then the Gods introduced their own worship among mankind: then Oannes, Oe or Aquarius rose from the Red Sea to impart science to the Babylonians; then the bright Bull legislated for India and Crete; and the Lights of Heaven, personified as Liber and Ceres, hung the B�otian hills with vineyards, and gave the golden sheaf to Eleusis. The children of men were, in a sense, allied or married to those sons of God who sang the jubilee of creation; and the encircling vault with its countless Stars, which to the excited imagination of the solitary Chaldean wanderer appeared as animated intelligences, might naturally be compared to a gigantic ladder, on which, in their rising and setting, the Angel luminaries appeared to be ascending and descending between earth and Heaven. The original revelation died out of men's memories; they worshipped the Creature instead of the Creator; and holding all earthly things as connected by eternal links of harmony and sympathy with the heavenly bodies, they united in one view astronomy, astrology, and religion. Long wandering thus in error, they at length ceased to look upon the Stars and external nature as Gods; and by directing their attention to the microcosm or narrower world of self, they again became acquainted with the True Ruler and Guide of the Universe, and used the old fables and superstitions as symbols and allegories, by which to convey and under which to hide the great truths which had faded out of most men's remembrance.
In the Hebrew writings, the term "Heavenly Hosts" includes not only the counsellors and emissaries of Jehovah, but also the celestial luminaries; and the stars, imagined in the East to be animated intelligences, presiding over human weal and woe, are identified with the more distinctly impersonated messengers or angels, who execute the Divine decrees, and whose predominance in Heaven is in mysterious correspondence and relation with the powers and dominions of the earth. In job, the Morning Stars and the Sons of God are identified; they join in the same chorus of praise to the Almighty; they are both susceptible of joy; they walk in brightness, and are liable to impurity and imperfection in the sight of God. The Elohim originally included hot only foreign superstitious forms, but also all that host of Heaven which was revealed in poetry to the shepherds of the desert, now as an encampment of warriors, now as careering in chariots of fire, and now as winged messengers, ascending and descending the vault of Heaven, to communicate the will of God to mankind. "The Eternal," says the Bereshith Rabba to Genesis, "called forth Abraham and his posterity out of the dominion of the stars; by nature, the Israelite was a servant to the stars, and born under their influence, as are the heathen; but by virtue of the law given on Mount Sinai, he became liberated from this degrading servitude." The Arabs had a similar legend. The Prophet Amos explicitly asserts that the Israelites, in the desert, worshipped, not Jehovah, but Moloch, or a Star-God, equivalent to Saturn. The Gods El or Jehovah were not merely planetary or solar. Their symbolism, like that of every other Deity, was coextensive with nature, and with the mind of man. Yet the astrological character is assigned even to Jehovah. He is described as seated on the pinnacle of the Universe, leading forth the Hosts of Heaven, and telling them unerringly by name and number. His stars are His sons and His eyes, which run through the whole world, keeping watch over men�s deeds.
The stars and planets were properly the angels. In Pharisaic tradition, as in the phraseology of the New Testament, the Heavenly Host appears as an Angelic Army, divided into regiments and brigades, under the command of imaginary chiefs, such as Massaloth, Legion, Kartor Gistra, etc., - each Gistra being captain of 365,000 myriads of stars. The Seven Spirits which stand before the throne, spoken of by several Jewish writers, and generally presumed to have been immediately derived from the. Persian Amshaspands, were ultimately the seven planetary intelligences, the original model of the seven-branched golden candlestick exhibited to Moses on God's mountain. The stars were imagined to have fought in their courses against Sisera. The heavens were spoken of as holding a predominance over earth, as governing it by signs and ordinances, and as containing the elements of that astrological wisdom, more especially cultivated by the Babylonians and Egyptians. Each nation was supposed by the Hebrews to have its own guardian angel, and its own provincial star. One of the chiefs of the Celestial Powers, at first Jehovah Himself in the character of the Sun, standing in the height of Heaven, overlooking and governing all things, afterward one of the angels or subordinate planetary genii of Babylonian or Persian mythology, was the patron and protector of their own nation, "the Prince that standeth for the children of thy people." The discords of earth were accompanied by a warfare in the sky; and no people underwent the visitation of the Almighty, without a corresponding chastisement being inflicted on its tutelary angel.
The fallen Angels were also fallen Stars; and the first allusion to a feud among the spiritual powers in early Hebrew Mythology, where Rahab and his confederates are defeated, like the Titans in a battle against the Gods, seems to identify the rebellious Spirits as part of the visible Heavens, where the "high ones on high" are punished or chained, as a signal proof of God's power and justice. God, it is said � "Stirs the sea with His might - by His understanding He smote Rahab - His breath clears the face of Heaven - His hand pierced the crooked Serpent .... God withdraws not His anger; beneath Him bow the confederates of Rahab." Rahab always means a sea-monster: probably some such legendary monstrous dragon, as in almost all mythologies is the adversary of Heaven and demon of eclipse, in whose belly, significantly called the belly of Hell, Hercules, like Jonah, passed three days, ultimately escaping with the loss of his hair or rays. Chesil, the rebellious giant Orion, represented in Job as riveted to the sky, was compared to Ninus or Nimrod, the mythical founder of Nineveh (City of Fish) the mighty hunter, who slew lions and panthers before the Lord. Rahab's confederates are probably the "High ones on High," the Chesilim or constellations in Isaiah, the Heavenly Host or Heavenly Powers, among whose number were found folly and disobedience. "I beheld," says Pseudo-Enoch, "seven stars like great blazing mountains, and like Spirits, entreating me. And the angel said, This place, until the consummation of Heaven and Earth, will be the prison of the Stars and of the Host of Heaven. These are the Stars which overstepped God's command before their time arrived; and came not at their proper season; therefore was he offended with them, and bound them, until the time of the consummation of their crimes in the secret year." And again: "These Seven Stars are those which have transgressed the commandment of the Most High God, and which are here bound until the number of the days of their crimes be completed." The Jewish and early Christian writers looked on the worship of the sun and the elements with comparative indulgence. Justin Martyr and Clemens of Alexandria admit that God had appointed the stars as legitimate objects of heathen worship, in order to preserve throughout the world some tolerable notions of natural religion. It seemed a middle point between Heathenism and Christianity; and to it certain emblems and ordinances of that faith seemed to relate. The advent of Christ was announced by a Star from the East; and His nativity was celebrated on the shortest day of the Julian Calendar, the day when, in the physical commemorations of Persia and Egypt, Mithras or Osiris was newly found. It was then that the acclamations of the Host of Heaven, the unfailing attendants of the Sun, surrounded, as at the spring-dawn of creation, the cradle of His birth-place, and that, in the words of Ignatius, "a star, with light inexpressible, shone forth in the Heavens, to destroy the power of magic and the bonds of wickedness; for God Himself had appeared, in the form of man, for the renewal of eternal life."
But however infinite the variety of objects which helped to develop the notion of Deity, and eventually assumed its place, substituting the worship of the creature for that of the creator; of parts of the body, for that of the soul, of the Universe, still the notion itself was essentially one of unity. The idea of one God, of a creative, productive, governing unity, resided in the earliest exertion of thought: and this monotheism of the primitive ages, makes every succeeding epoch, unless it be the present, appear only as a stage in the progress of degeneracy and aberration. Everywhere in the old faiths we find the idea of a supreme or presiding Deity. Amun or Osiris presides among the many gods of Egypt; Pan, with the music of his pipe, directs the chorus of the constellations, as Zeus leads the solemn procession of the celestial troops in the astronomical theology of the Pythagoreans. "Amidst an infinite diversity of opinions on all other subjects," says Maximus Tyrius, "the whole world is unanimous in the belief of one only almighty King and Father of all." There is always a Sovereign Power, a Zeus or Deus, Mahadeva or Adideva, to whom belongs the maintenance of the order of the Universe.Among the thousand gods of India, the doctrine of Divine Unity is never lost sight of; and the ethereal Jove, worshipped by the Persian in an age long before Xenophanes or Anaxagoras, appears as supremely comprehensive and independent of planetary or elemental subdivisions, as the "Vast One" or "Great Soul" of the Vedas. But the simplicity of belief of the patriarchs did not exclude the employment of symbolical representations. The mind never rests satisfied with a mere feeling. That feeling ever strives to assume precision and durability as an idea, by some outward delineation of its thought. Even the ideas that are above and beyond the senses, as all ideas of God are, require the aid of the senses for their expression and communication. Hence come the representative forms and symbols which constitute the external investiture of every religion; attempts to express a religious sentiment that is essentially one, and that vainly struggles for adequate external utterance, striving to tell to one man, to paint to him, an idea existing in the mind of another, and essentially incapable of utterance or description, in a language all the words of which have a sensuous meaning. Thus, the idea being perhaps the same in all, its expressions and utterances are infinitely various, and branch into an infinite diversity of creeds and sects.
All religious expression is symbolism; since we can describe only what we see; and the true objects of religion are unseen. The earliest instruments of education were symbols; and they and all other religious forms differed and still differ according to external circumstances and imagery, and according to differences of knowledge and mental cultivation. To present a visible symbol to the eye of another is not to inform him of the meaning which that symbol has to you. Hence the philosopher soon super-added to these symbols, explanations addressed to the ear, susceptible of more precision, but less effective, obvious, and impressive than the painted or sculptured forms which he despised. Out of these explanations grew by degrees a variety of narratives, whose true object and meaning were gradually forgotten. And when these were abandoned, and philosophy resorted to definitions and formulas, its language was but a more refined symbolism, grappling with and attempting to picture ideas impossible to be expressed. For the most abstract expression for Deity which language can supply, is but a sign or symbol for an object unknown, and no more truthful and adequate than the terms Osiris and Vishnu, except as being less sensuous and explicit. To say that He is a Spirit, is but to say that He is not matter. What spirit is, we can only define as the Ancients did, by resorting, as if in despair, to some sublimized species of matter, as Light, Fire, or Ether.
No symbol of Deity can be appropriate or durable except in a relative or moral sense. We cannot exalt words that have only a sensuous meaning, above sense. To call Him a Power or a Force, or an Intelligence, is merely to deceive ourselves into the belief that we use words that have a meaning to us, when they have none, or at least no more than the ancient visible symbols had. To call Him Sovereign, Father, Grand Architect of the Universe, Extension, Time, Beginning, Middle, and End, whose face is turned on all sides, the Source of life and death, is but to present other men with symbols by which we vainly endeavor to communicate to them the same vague ideas which men in all ages have impotently struggled to express. And it may be doubted whether we have succeeded either in communicating, or in forming in our own minds, any more distinct and definite and true and adequate idea of the Deity, with all our metaphysical conceits and logical subtleties, than the rude ancients did, who endeavored to symbolize and so to express His attributes, by the Fire, the Light, the Sun and Stars, the Lotus and the Scarab�us; all of them types of what, except by types, more or less sufficient, could not be expressed at all. The Primitive man recognized the Divine Presence under a variety of appearances, without losing his faith in this unity and Supremacy. The invisible God, manifested and on one of His many sides visible, did not cease to be God to him. He recognized Him in the evening breeze of Eden, in the whirlwind of Sinai, in he Stone of Beth- El.: and identified Him with the fire or thunder or the immovable rock adored in Ancient Arabia. To him the image of the Deity was reflected in all that was pre-eminent in excellence. He saw Jehovah, like Osiris and Bel, in the Sun as well as in the Stars, which were His children, His eyes, "which run through the whole world, and watch over the Sacred Soil of Palestine, from the year's commencement to its close." He was the sacred fire of Mount Sinai, of the burning bush, of the Persians, those Puritans of Paganism.
Naturally it followed that Symbolism soon became more complicated, and all the powers of Heaven were reproduced on earth, until a web of fiction and allegory was woven, which the wit of man, with his limited means of explanation, will never unravel. Hebrew Theism itself became involved in symbolism and image-worship, to which all religions ever tend. We have already seen what was the symbolism of the Tabernacle, the Temple, and the Ark. The Hebrew establishment tolerated not only the use of emblematic vessels, vestments, and cherubs, of Sacred Pillars and Seraphim, but symbolical representations of Jehovah Himself, not even confined to poetical or illustrative language. "Among the Adityas," says Chrishna, in the Bagvat Ghita, "I am Vishnu, the radiant Sun among the Stars; among the waters, am ocean; among the mountains, the Himalaya; and among the mountain-tops, Meru." The Psalins and Isaiah are full of similar attempts to convey to the mind ideas of God, by ascribing to Him sensual proportions. He rides on the clouds, and sits on the wings of the wind. Heaven is His pavilion, and out of His mouth issue lightnings. Men cannot worship a mere abstraction. They require some outward form in which to clothe their conceptions, and invest their sympathies. If they do not shape and carve or paint visible images, they have invisible ones, perhaps quite as inadequate and unfaithful, within their own minds. The incongruous and monstrous in the Oriental images came from the desire to embody the Infinite, and to convey by multiplied, because individually inadequate symbols, a notion of the Divine Attributes to the understanding. Perhaps we should find that we mentally do the same thing, and make within ourselves images quite as incongruous, if judged of by our own limited conceptions, if we were to undertake to analyze and gain a clear idea of the mass of infinite attributes which we assign to the Deity; and even of His infinite justice and infinite Mercy and Love.
We may well say, in the language of Maximus Tyrius: "If, in the desire to obtain some faint conception of the Universal Father, the Nameless Lawgiver, men had recourse to words or names, to silver or gold, to animals or plants, to mountain-tops or flowing rivers, every one inscribing the most valued and most beautiful things with the name of Deity, and with the fondness of a lover clinging with rapture to each trivial reminiscence of the Beloved, why should we seek to reduce this universal practice of symbolism, necessary, indeed, since the mind often needs the excitement of the imagination to rouse it into activity, to one monotonous standard of formal propriety? Only let the image duly perform its task, and bring the divine idea with vividness and truth before the mental eye; if this be effected, whether by the art of Phidias, the poetry of Homer, the Egyptian Hieroglyph, or the Persian element, we need not cavil at external differences, or lament the seeming fertility of unfamiliar creeds, so long as the great essential is attained, THAT MEN ARE MADE TO REMEMBER, TO UNDERSTAND, AND TO LOVE.�
Certainly, when men regarded Light and Fire as something spiritual, and above all the corruptions and exempt from all the decay of matter; when they looked upon the Sun and Stars and Planets as composed of this finer element, and as themselves great and mysterious Intelligences, infinitely superior to man, living Existences, gifted with mighty powers and wielding vast influences, those elements and bodies conveyed to them, when used as symbols of Deity, a far more adequate idea than they can now do to us, or than we can comprehend, now that Fire and Light are familiar to us as air and water, and the Heavenly Luminaries are lifeless worlds like our own. Perhaps they gave them ideas as adequate as we obtain from the mere words by which we endeavor to symbolize and shadow forth the ineffable mysteries and infinite attributes of God. There are, it is true, dangers inseparable from symbolism, which countervail its advantages, and afford an impressive lesson in regard to the similar risks attendant on the use of language. The imagination, invited to assist the reason, usurps its place, or leaves its ally helplessly entangled in its web. Names which stand for things are confounded with them; the means are mistaken for the end: the instrument of interpretation for the object; and thus symbols come to usurp an independent character as truths and persons. Though perhaps a necessary path, they were a dangerous one by which to approach the Deity; in which "many," says Plutarch, "mistaking the sign for the thing signified, fell into a ridiculous superstition; while others, in avoiding one extreme, plunged into the no less hideous gulf of irreligion and impiety."
All great Reformers have warred against this evil, deeply feeling the intellectual mischief arising out of a degraded idea of the Supreme Being; and have claimed for their own God an existence or personality distinct from the objects of ancient superstition; disowning in His name the symbols and images that had profaned His Temple. But they have not seen that the utmost which can be effected by human effort, is to substitute impressions relatively correct, for others whose falsehood has been detected, and to replace a gross symbolism by a purer one. Every man, without being aware of it, worships a conception of his own mind; for all symbolism, as well as all language, shares the subjective character of the ideas it represents. The epithets we apply to God only recall either visible or intellectual symbols to the eye or mind. The modes or forms of manifestation of the reverential feeling that constitutes the religious sentiment, are incomplete and progressive; each term and symbol predicates a partial truth, remaining always amenable to improvement or modification, and, in its turn, to be superseded by others more accurate and comprehensive. Idolatry consists in confounding the symbol with the thing signified, the substitution of a material for a mental object of worship, after a higher spiritualism has become possible; an ill-judged preference of the inferior to the superior symbol, an inadequate and sensual conception of the Deity: and every religion and every conception of God is idolatrous, in so far as it is imperfect, and as it substitutes a feeble and temporary idea in the shrine of that Undiscoverable Being who can be known only in part, and who can therefore be honored, even by the most enlightened among His worshippers, only in proportion to their limited powers of understanding and imagining to themselves His perfections.
Like the belief in a Deity, the belief in the soul's immortality is rather a natural feeling, an adjunct of self-consciousness, than a dogma belonging to any particular age or country. It gives eternity to man's nature, and reconciles its seeming anomalies and contradictions; it makes him strong in weakness and perfectable in imperfection; and it alone gives an adequate object for his hopes and energies, and value and dignity to his pursuits. It is concurrent with the belief in an infinite, eternal Spirit, since it is chiefly through consciousness of the dignity of the mind within us, that we learn to appreciate its evidences in the Universe. To fortify, and as far as possible to impart this hope, was the great aim of ancient wisdom, whether expressed in forms of poetry or philosophy; as it was of the Mysteries, and as it is of Masonry. Life rising out of death was the great mystery, which symbolism delighted to represent under a thousand ingenious forms. Nature was ransacked for attestations to the grand truth which seems to transcend all other gifts of imagination, or rather to be their essence and consummation. Such evidences were easily discovered. They were found in the olive and the lotus, in the evergreen myrtle of the Myst�, and of the grave of Polydorus, in the deadly but self-renewing serpent, the wonderful moth emerging from the coffin of the worm, the phenomena of germination, the settings and risings of the sun and stars, the darkening and growth of the moon, and in sleep, "the minor mystery of death." The stories of the birth of Apollo from Latona, and of dead heroes, like Glaucus, resuscitated in caves, were allegories of the natural alternations of life and death in nature, changes that are but expedients to preserve her virginity and purity inviolable in the general sum of her operations, whose aggregate presents only a majestic calm, rebuking alike man's presumption and his despair. The typical death of the Nature-God, Osiris, Atys, Adonis, Hiram, was a profound but consolatory mystery: the healing charms of Orpheus were connected with his destruction; and his bones, those valued pledges of fertility and victory, were, by a beautiful contrivance, often buried within the sacred precincts of his immortal equivalent.
In their doctrines as to the immortality of the soul, the Greek Philosophers merely stated with more precision ideas long before extant independently among themselves, in the form of symbolical suggestion. Egypt and Ethiopia in these matters learned from India, where, as everywhere else, the origin of the doctrine was as remote and untraceable as the origin of man himself. Its natural expression is found in the language of Chrishna, in the Bagvat Ghita: "I myself never was non-existent, nor thou, nor these princes of the Earth; nor shall we ever hereafter cease to be. The soul is not a thing of which a man may say, it hath been, or is about to be, or is to be hereafter; for it is a thing without birth; it is pre-existent, changeless, eternal, and is not to be destroyed with this mortal frame." According to the dogma of antiquity, the thronging forms of life are a series of purifying migrations, through which the divine principle reascends to the unity of its source. Inebriated in the bowl of Dionusos, and dazzled in the mirror of existence, the souls, those fragments or sparks of the Universal Intelligence, forgot their native dignity, and passed into the terrestrial frames they coveted. The most usual type of the spirit's descent was suggested by the sinking of the Sun and Stars from the upper to the lower hemisphere. When it arrived within the portals of the proper empire of Dionusos, the God of this World, the scene of delusion and change, its individuality became clothed in a material form; and as individual bodies were compared to a garment, the world was the investiture of the Universal Spirit. Again, the body was compared to a vase or urn, the soul's recipient; the world being the mighty bowl which received the descending Deity. In another image, ancient as the Grottoes of the Magi and the denunciations of Ezekiel, the world was as a dimly illuminated cavern, where shadows seem realities, and where the soul becomes forgetful of its celestial origin in proportion to its proneness to material fascinations.
By another, the period of the Soul's embodiment is as when exhalations are condensed, and the aerial element assumes the grosser form of water. But if vapor falls in water, it was held, water is again the birth of vapors, which ascend and adorn the Heavens. If our mortal existence be the death of the spirit, our death may be the renewal of its life; as physical bodies are exalted from earth to water, from water to air, from air to fire, so the man may rise into the Hero, the Hero into the God. In the course of Nature, the soul, to recover its lost estate, must pass through a series of trials and migrations. The scene of those trials is the Grand Sanctuary of Initiations, the world: their primary agents are the elements; and Dionusos, as Sovereign of Nature, or the sensuous world personified, is official Arbiter of the Mysteries, and guide of the soul, which he introduces into the body and dismisses from it. He is the Sun, that liberator of the elements, and his spiritual mediation was suggested by the same imagery which made the Zodiac the supposed path of the spirits in their descent and their return, and Cancer and Capricorn the gates through which they passed.
He was not only Creator of the World, but guardian, liberator, and Saviour of the Soul. Ushered into the world amidst lightning and thunder he became the Liberator celebrated in the Mysteries of Thebes, delivering earth from Winter's chain, conducting the nightly chorus of the Stars and the celestial revolution of the year. His symbolism was the inexhaustible imagery employed to fill up the stellar devices of the Zodiac: he was the Vernal Bull, the Lion, the Ram, the Autumnal Goat, the Serpent: in short, the varied Deity, the resulting manifestation personified, the all in the many, the varied year, life passing into innumerable forms; essentially inferior to none, yet changing with the seasons, and undergoing their periodical decay. He mediates and intercedes for man, and reconciles the Universal Unseen Mind with the individualized spirit of which he is emphatically the Perfecter; a consummation which he effects, first through the vicissitudes of the elemental ordeal, the alternate fire of Summer and the showers of Winter, "the trials or test of an immortal Nature"; and secondarily and symbolically through the Mysteries. He holds not only the cup of generation, but also that of wisdom or initiation, whose influence is contrary to that of the former, causing the soul to abhor its material bonds, and to long for its return. The first was the Cup of Forgetfulness; while the second is the Urn of Aquarius, quaffed by the returning spirit, as by the returning Sun at the Winter Solstice, and emblematic of the exchange of wordly impressions for the recovered recollections of the glorious sights and enjoyments of its preexistence. Water nourishes and purifies; and the urn from which it flows was thought worthy to be a symbol of Deity, as of the Osiris-Canobus who with living water irrigated the soil of Egypt; and also an emblem of Hope that should cheer the dwellings of the dead.
The second birth of Dionusos, like the rising of Osiris and Atys from the dead, and the raising of Kh�r�m, is a type of the spiritual regeneration of man. Psyche (the Soul), like Ariadne, had two lovers, an earthly and an immortal one. The immortal suitor is Dionusos, the Eros-Phanes of the Orphici, gradually exalted by the progress of thought, out of the symbol of Sensuality into the torchbearer of the Nuptials of the Gods; the Divine Influence which physically called the world into being, and which, awakening the soul from its Stygian trance, restores it from earth to Heaven. Thus the scientific theories of the ancients, expounded in the Mysteries, as to the origin of the soul, its descent, its sojourn here below, and its return, were not a mere barren contemplation of the nature of the world, and of the intelligent beings existing there. They were not an idle speculation as to the order of the world, and about the soul, but a study of the means for arriving at the great object proposed, - the perfecting of the soul; and, as a necessary consequence, that of morals and society. This Earth, to them, was not the Soul's home, but its place of exile. Heaven was its home, and there was its birth-place. To it, it ought incessantly to turn its eyes. Man was not a terrestrial plant. His roots were in Heaven. The soul had lost its wings, clogged by the viscosity of matter. It would recover them when it extricated itself from matter and commenced its upward flight. Matter being, in their view, as it was in that of St. Paul, the principle of all the passions that trouble reason, mislead the intelligence, and stain the purity of the soul, the Mysteries taught man how to enfeeble the action of matter on the soul, and to restore to the latter its natural dominion. And lest the stains so contracted should continue after death, lustrations were used, fastings, expiations, macerations, continence, and above all, initiations. Many of these practices were at first merely symbolical, - material signs indicating the moral purity required of the Initiates; but they afterward came to be regarded as actual productive causes of that purity.
The effect of initiation was meant to be the same as that of philosophy, to purify the soul of its passions, to weaken the empire of the body over the divine portion of man, and to give him here below a happiness anticipatory of the felicity to be one day enjoyed by him, and of the future vision by him of the Divine Beings. And therefore Proclus and the other Platonists taught "that the Mysteries and initiations withdrew souls from this mortal and material life, to re-unite them to the gods; and dissipated for the adepts the shades of ignorance 'by the splendors of the Deity." Such were the precious fruits of the last Degree of the Mystic Science, - to see Nature in her springs and sources, and to become familiar with the causes of things and with real existences. Cicero says that the soul must exercise itself in the practice of the virtues, if it would speedily return to its place of origin. It should, while imprisoned in the body, free itself therefrom by the contemplation of superior beings, and in some sort be divorced from the body and the senses. Those who remain enslaved, subjugated by their passions and violating the sacred laws of religion and society, will re-ascend to Heaven, only after they shall have been purified through a long succession of ages.
The Initiate was required to emancipate himself from his passions, and to free himself from the hindrances of the senses and of matter, in order that he might rise to the contemplation of the Deity, or of that incorporeal and unchanging light in which live and subsist the causes of created natures. "We must," says Porphyry, "flee from everything sensual, that the soul may with ease re-unite itself with God, and live happily with Him." "This is the great work of initiation," says Hierocles, - �to recall the soul to what is truly good and beautiful, and make it familiar therewith, and they its own; to deliver it from the pains and ills it endures here below, enchained in matter as in a dark prison; to facilitate its return to the celestial splendors, and to establish it in the Fortunate Isles, by restoring it to its first estate. Thereby, when the hour of death arrives, the soul, freed of its mortal garmenting, which it leaves behind it as a legacy to earth, will rise buoyantly to its home among the Stars, there to re-take its ancient condition, and approach toward the Divine nature as far as man may do." Plutarch compares Isis to knowledge, and Typhon to ignorance, obscuring the light of the sacred doctrine whose blaze lights the soul of the Initiate. No gift of the gods, he holds, is so precious as the knowledge of the Truth, and that of the Nature of the gods, so far as our limited capacities allow us to rise toward them. The Valentinians termed initiation LIGHT. The Initiate, says Psellus, becomes an Epopt, when admitted to see THE DIVINE LIGHTS. Clemens of Alexandria, imitating the language of an Initiate in the Mysteries of Bacchus, and inviting this Initiate, whom he terms blind like Tiresias, to come to see Christ, Who will blaze upon his eyes with greater glory than the Sun, exclaims: "Oh Mysteries most truly holy! Oh pure Light! When the torch of the Dadoukos gleams, Heaven and the Deity are displayed to my eyes! I am initiated, and become holy!" This was the true object of initiation; to be sanctified, and TO SEE, that is, to have just and faithful conceptions of the Deity, the knowledge of Whom was THE LIGHT of the Mysteries. It was promised the Initiate at Samothrace, that he should become pure and just. Clemens says that by baptism, souls are illuminated, and led to the pure light with which mingles no darkness, nor anything material. The Initiate, become an Epopt, was called A SEER. "HAIL, NEWBORN LIGHT!" the Initiates cried in the Mysteries of Bacchus.
Such was held to be the effect of complete initiation. It lighted up the soul with rays from the Divinity, and became for it, as it were, the eye with which, according to the Pythagoreans, it contemplates the field of Truth; in its mystical abstractions, wherein it rises superior to the body, whose action on it, it annuls for the time, to re-enter into itself, so as entirely to occupy itself with the view of the Divinity, and the means of coming to resemble Him. Thus enfeebling the dominion of the senses and the passions over the soul, and as it were freeing the latter from a sordid slavery, and by the steady practice of all the virtues, active and contemplative, our ancient brethren strove to fit themselves to return to the bosom of the Deity. Let not our objects as Masons fall below theirs. We use the symbols which they used; and teach the same great cardinal doctrines that they taught, of the existence of an intellectual God, and the immortality of the soul of man. If the details of their doctrines as to the soul seem to us to verge on absurdity, let us compare them with the common notions of our own day, and be silent. If it seems to us that they regarded the symbol in some cases as the thing symbolized, and worshipped the sign as if it were itself Deity, let us reflect how insufficient are our own ideas of Deity, and how we worship those ideas and images formed and fashioned in our own minds, and not the Deity Himself: and if we are inclined to smile at the importance they attached to lustrations and fasts, let us pause and inquire whether the same weakness of human nature does not exist to-day, causing rites and ceremonies to be regarded as actively efficient for the salvation of souls. And let us ever remember the words of an old writer, with which we conclude this lecture: "It is a pleasure to stand on the shore, and to see ships tossed upon the sea: a pleasure to stand in the window of a castle, and see a battle and the adventures thereof: but no pleasure is comparable to the standing on the vantage-ground of TRUTH (a hill not to be commanded, and where the air is always clear and serene), and to see the errors and wanderings, and mists and tempests, in the vale below; so always that this prospect be with pity, and not with swelling or pride. Certainly it is Heaven upon Earth to have a man's mind move in charity, rest in Providence, AND TURN UPON THE POLES OF TRUTH."
end 4 of 4

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