FREEMASONRY AS THE HERMETIC ART PART 1
FREEMASONRY AS THE HERMETIC ART Part 1: ANALYSIS
By W.Bro. J. R. Cleland, P.P.A.G. Chap., (Kent).
"It is necessary that the soul, when purified, should associate with its Generator." PORPHYRY. "Auxiliaries to the Perception of Intelligible Nature."
"............. What is a man, If his chief good and market of his time Be but to sleep and feed? A beast, no more. Sure, he that made us with such large discourse, Looking before and after, gave us not That capability and godlike reason To fust in us unused."
SHAKESPEARE. " Hamlet, IV. iv."
"Man, in a state of Happiness, recovers all that he observed and experienced in every mode of existence through which he has migrated since his coming into being in Abred (The World of Matter)."
Druidic fragment. D.DELTA EVANS. "The Ancient Bards of Britain."
"The state of humanity is a state of probation and instruction." "BARDDAS."
"Death does not put an end to things by annihilating the component particles but by breaking up their conjunction. Then it links them in new combinations, making everything change in shape and colour and give up in an instant its acquired gift of sensation."
LUCRETIUS. "The Nature of the Universe." Book 2.
"Hear, therefore, but believe what is true. The Priest then, all the profane being removed, taking me by the hand, brought me to the penetralia of the Temple. I approached the confines of death, and, having trod the threshold of Proserpine, I returned from it, having carried through all the elements. At midnight I saw the Sun shining with a splendid light: and I manifestly drew near to the gods above and beneath, and proximately adored them. Behold, I have narrated to you things of which, though heard, i t is nevertheless necessary that you should be ignorant."
APULEUS. "Metamorphoses, Bk. XI."
"But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet our inner, closed or middle chamber), " and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret."
ST. MATTHEW, vi, 6.
The Smaragdine (Emerald) Tablet of Hermes, says
"True without error, certain and most true; that which is above is as that which is below, and that which is below is as that which is above, for the performing of the miracles of the One Thing: and as all things were from one, by the mediation of One, so all things arose from this One Thing by adaptation; the Father of it is the Sun; the Mother of it is the Moon; the Wind carried it in its belly; the nurse thereof is the Earth. This is the father of all perfection, and consummation of the whole world. Th e power of it is integral, if it be turned into Earth. Thou shalt separate the earth from the fire, the subtle from the gross, gently and with much sagacity; it ascends from earth to heaven, and again descends to earth: and receives the strength of the Superiors and of the Inferiors. So thou hast the glory of the whole world; therefore let all obscurity flee before thee. This is the strong fortitude of all fortitudes, overcoming every subtle and penetr ating every solid thing. So the world was created. Hence were wonderful adaptations of which this is the manner. Therefore am I called Thrice Greatest Hermes, having the three parts of the philosophy of the whole world. That which I have spoken is consummated concerning the operation of the Sun."
I do not suppose that there is any Brother here present who has reached his present status in the Craft without, at some time or another, having heard or read references to our Science under the title of The Hermetic Art. But, commonplace as are such references, I do not think that I would be very far wrong if I suggested that not one in a hundred has ever taken up the matter seriously and given consideration to the question of just why this title is ascribed and of how it arose.
I am one of those who are fully persuaded that great body of teaching which is now enshrined in the Craft of Freemasonry has, under many different forms and guises, existed since the beginning of Time or, as we commonly say, from Time Immemorial. On this Earth, so far as Man is concerned, I believe it to be coexistent with him. In this teaching was, and still is, enshrined the whole secret of man himself, his divine origin, the reasons and method of his descent into the realms of matter and, above all, th e key to the means by which he can, if he so desires, return, as a regenerated and self-sufficient entity, to the place of his origin.
As the various bodies of man developed, and as his sense of union with the One Life became more veiled, as his sense of separateness grew more insistent, the true facts of his origin were relegated to the realm of tradition and some means had to be devised for the perpetuation of the tradition, if only under veils of symbolism and allegory. The reality being lost to view, the only possibility of preserving the knowledge of the facts lay in the devising of some "peculiar system of morality, veiled in allego ry and illustrated by symbols." This would have to serve the purpose of conserving and communicating "substituted secrets" which should serve "until time and circumstance should restore the genuine." These would unfold the underlying truth as man, in the course of his evolution, became able to make once more the necessary contacts with the higher vehicles of his being.
These "peculiar systems of morality, have subsisted under many different veils of allegory and have been illustrated by many different systems of symbology, but the fundamental facts of the teaching have remained the same because, in essence, truth can only be truth, however much it may be disguised, and even distorted, by veils and illustrations. There can be only one Truth, but man, so long as he remains mere man, can only assimilate portions of that truth. When, in due course of his evolution, he devel ops his faculties to the point where he is capable of grasping and assimilating the whole, he will hardly be recognisable in a form which we would designate as human. He will have returned to his Father and will have reached Atonement, full Union with God.
The natural tendency in incarnate man is to attempt to preserve the traditions which have been handed down to him with regard to his origins and growth, and this has made him seek out, as a means to this end, materials which gave the greatest promise of being lasting and permanent. Thus, he naturally turned to the primeval rocks and stones which appeared as the most fixed portion of his environment, All else about him appeared as subject to change, to birth, growth and decay, but the rocks remained, so far as he was able to judge, comparatively unchanged, throughout the period of his occupation of his changing body. To preserve his traditions, therefore, he turned to monuments; probably, at first, mere chunks of rock set up in such place and position as would serve to draw attention and, then, as reminders of certain communicated traditional facts. In the full story to be preserved, such stones might, so to speak, represent one letter of the word, one word of the sentence, one phase of the tradition, a gro uping of such parts, relatively, serving to convey the underlying tradition. And so a system of hieroglyph comes into being, maintaining the idea or group of ideas, telling of something higher, supporting the traditional story much as the columns, in classical architecture, support the superimposed entablature, with its various phases of architrave, frieze and cornice.
The menhir or upright stone is found universally spread over the four quarters of the globe; it appears on every continent, from Northern Siberia, through Europe, Africa, Asia, America, Australasia and the lonely islands of the seven seas. From this single stone may have developed the idea of groups of stones, of piling one stone upon another to illustrate the full tale, and we have developed the cromlech and dolmen of the Celtic peoples, the gilgal of Asia Minor, the tumulus of Northern Italy in Etruscan times and so on, all expressing somewhat of Universal Truth, and many of them used as places of Initiation to which the Aspirant who possessed the necessary qualifications might be brought and admitted to receive instruction and, doubtless, in many cases, much more than mere instruction. Such would appear to have been the foundations of that coordinated teaching which today we know in the Craft of Freemasonry. On this line of development, fro m the single stone has arisen a whole Art and Science of Archite cture and Building. The Temple of Solomon traditionally embraced the whole truth, the various stages being represented by the courts and enclosures, narrowing the return until, symbolically at least, the High Priest could grasp the kernel of truth in the final tabernacle, and reach the most concrete manifestation of the presence of God. There, the last truth, the Word Itself, was enclosed in an architectural setting, shell within shell, each shell being adapted to the understanding of those who had reache d some necessary stage of spiritual growth.
Architecture has been described as the Manuscript of Humanity, written in stone, from the most primitive single block to the magnificent elaboration of a Gothic cathedral. Every phase of human thought and evolution has its place in that great manuscript. Therein may be read the whole history of humanity in most intimate and precise detail, not only in regard to his religious and philosophical ideals, but down to his most ordinary, general, daily activities, his work and his play, even to the most petty in cidentals of his daily life. Religions and philosophies come and go; empires and kingdoms rise and fall; civilisations wax and wane; and habits and customs develop and decline, but all, in minutest detail, remain recorded in the traditions and remains of the builders. These are the records for those to read who have the eyes to see and the understanding to interpret what they see. Tradition is here, in every grade, in every sphere, in every det ail, all coalesced in one great and lasting expression, archi tecture. In the architectural remains of the races and sub-races, of the nations and communities of mankind, we can read the working of their minds and their efforts to preserve the tradition of Truth, each in so far as they were able to contact that truth.
After the turning point in the descent into matter, we can read of the gradual development of the powers of man, of his growth through periods of theocracy, aristocracy, democracy and caste, through unity, dogma and diversity; through slavery, charity and liberty; through all the diverse phases which go to the making up of the curriculum of this University of the World, wherein man must learn to control and to rule on all levels of being, must learn to know himself for what he really is, the immortal, creat ive being, made in the image of the Most High, capable of developing in himself every attribute of Deity, and destined to become one with The Absolute, Which is God.
All through this great Book of Architecture we find stages wherein growth and change are manifest, followed by stages of consolidation, wherein we see a tendency towards fixity, finality and immutability, coupled with a pious horror of change. Dogma, fixity and strict adherence to tradition and authority lead inevitably to decline and to break-up. But such stages of what we may well designate as death are always followed by a resurrection into a new and better manifestation of life, wherein progress, dive rsity and a new richness and variety in design are manifested in continual change, until, again, a period of set ideas culminates in a finality, leading to stagnation and death with another following period of resurrection and growth. And so the cyclic growth goes on, the vast spiral of the Winding Staircase that sweeps towards the Sanctum Sanctorum and the Throne of God Himself.
It has been suggested, and perhaps with some truth, that the coming of the printed book in the Fifteenth Century changed all this and diverted the focus of tradition and learning from the book of Architecture to the written word; but, Brethren, the great book of Architecture continues to add chapter upon chapter to its annals as recorded by the Scribe of Humanity, and, in these present days, we can see indications of the initiation of a new period of growth which lies before us. This is the teaching of the Craft and it is eternal.
Let me take two typical instances which have lately come before us, before I pass on to the main theme of this paper. First, as an example in symbol, let us take notice of the star symbol of the successive races of humanity. In the Fourth Root Race, that which we call the Atlantean, the symbolic star had Six Points. It survives and is venerated today in the Jewish Shield of David and in the interlaced triangles and central point so universally revered in Islam and in all the Eastern countries. In the We st, it is the essential basis of that peculiar traditional survival, the Symbolic Mime of the Harlequinade. In Freemasonry, it is the jewel of that final goal and consummation of the Craft, which we recognise in the Holy Royal Arch of Jerusalem.
With the coming to dominance of the Fifth Root Pace, the Aryan, the Star drops one point and becomes fivepointed. The star of Vishnu is five-pointed and is blue; the star of Bethlehem has also five points, but it is silver. The Pentalpha, or five-pointed star, upon which you tread as you enter and leave that home of the Temple of the Mysteries which stands in Great Queen Street, in the very centre of our civilisation, in the heart of London, Lud's Dom or the House of the Lord, that pentalpha is the same g reat symbol. Upon your entrance to the Temple of Perfection you meet and transgress the Goat of Mendes, the symbol of the animal nature of man. In the ceremonies worked in the precincts of Freemasons' Hall you learn to "Ride the Goat," to get control of these passions which mark man as still partaking of the animal. But, as you leave the building, passing to the place of the Goat you meet the same symbol, the other way up and, as you transgress or walk over it you symbolise and represent the perfected fi ve-fold man.
The star of the Sixth Root Race, now being born into the world of men, should, logically, have four points only. It is surely significant that, of late, we have seen so much of just such a star, as the badge of the Festival of Britain, the badge chosen to designate what we hope and trust is to be the opening of a new era in this old country, and thus in the world of men, wherever scattered to the four points of the compass.
My second illustration is in the realm of Architecture. In some of the earliest temples and places of worship which we know, the entrance would appear to have been in the East and the worship directed towards the West, possibly largely as a propitiatory rite, symbolically seeking to prolong the light of day and, hence, the light of the divine in the worshipper, by delaying the setting of the Sun and petitioning it's return. Gradually the orientation seems to change, and we find the worship directed toward s the Sun at its meridian, in the South. Still continuing the same process, the focus changes into the East, towards which we find it directed in most places of worship today. And, now, the very latest accepted design for a cathedral, to replace the cathedral of Coventry which was destroyed by enemy action in the last war, shows the next step in the same scheme. The High Altar is placed in the North, and the whole building so designed that, from th e rising to the setting of the Sun, the light will be con centrated upon the Altar, as the focus of worship.
In Freemasonry we enter the Lodge in the West; we learn the great lessons of the Craft in meridian sunlight of the Southern perambulations; we attain to the various grades or degrees in the East and, having become Master Masons, we settle down to carry out our work as such, until the time when the Brethren may decide that we have made such progress as will enable us to become worthy rulers of our brethren. In some lodges - would that it were so in all - there is, in the centre of the Northern side, a chair which is normally unoccupied. Here, when he has been duly elected to Mastership of his Lodge, is seated the ruler of things to come, before passing again to the East to be duly installed in the Chair of King Solomon, as representative of the sun, the ruler of the symbolic lodge of the present age. This "Empty Chair" is the Siege Perilous of the Arthurian Rite, wherein only he who shows mastership may be seated in safety. The North has been deno minated the Place of Darkness, and so it is, for those whose spiritual eyes are yet insufficiently developed, so that the majesty of the Eternal Light is so blinding to them that what is indeed perfect light seems to be the most profound darkness. Here, as elsewhere, extremes meet. Perfect Light can only be appreciated in perfect darkness; perfect harmony heard only in the most profound silence; perfect knowledge attained only in the realisation of abysmal ignorance; perfect bliss in the Spirit found onl y in the experience of crucifixion in Matter. God Himself, b e it said in all awe and reverence, can only attain to full selfconsciousness by manifesting His Unity in multiplicity, becoming Man and growing to self-consciousness as such on all the levels of gross matter, that, reuniting the Unity, It may be "perfect and entire, wanting nothing." The S.W., as representative of the aspect of Strength or Power, performs his functions in our ceremonies both in the West and in the North, and the Candidate en ters between his two points or powers to make contact with the Eas t.
The symbolic and ceremonial exemplification of all the teaching and tradition behind these facts is that which has been termed the Hermetic Art and many of the old writers on Freemasonry use the term freely. Albert Pike, in speaking of the reputed founder of the Hermetic School of Philosophy in connection with the Craft, says
"from the bosom of Egypt sprang a man of consummate wisdom, initiated in the secret knowledge of India, of Persia and of Ethiopia, named Thoth or Ptah by his compatriots, Taaut by the Phoenicians, and Hermes Trismegistus (Thrice Great Hermes) by the Greeks. In Egypt he instituted hieroglyphics: he selected a certain number of persons, whom he judged fitted to be the depositaries of his secrets, of only such as were capable of attaining the throne and the first offices in the mysteries, he united them in a body, created them priests of the Living God, instructed them in the sciences and arts, especially astronomy, music (which he is said to have invented), arithmetic and work in metals, etc. Under him Egypt paid homage to seven principal deities."
These were the representatives of the seven planets, the seven rays and all the other sevens which make up our environment.
The reputed writings of Hermes Trismegistus had a tremendous influence upon most of the early Fathers of the Christian Church. St. Augustine especially held them in great reverence. The word Hermetic had grown to be synonymous with concealed or mysterious. This arose principally from two causes. First, because the inner teaching of the perfectibility of man and the methods of attainment taught by the disciples of Hermes were communicated only under oath of secrecy, some of the teaching imparted and of t he powers released carrying with them real danger unless the aspirant was properly prepared, and, secondly, from the more material idea, associated with the chemical and alchemic activities of the philosophers, of the Hermetic Seal. The phrase "Hermetically sealed" comes from the method used for the sealing of glass flasks by heating the neck until plastic and giving it a twist to seal the orifice. "My lips are Hermetically sealed " was a phra se in common use, and the same idea was carried into the Chris tian Church in the Seal of the Confessional, under the symbol of the Black Rose of Secrecy, worn originally on the forehead or hatband by those only who were entitled to hear confessions. From this we derive the well-known Latin phrase sub rosa, under the rose, denoting any communication given and received in strict confidence or as in the confessional, Much of the teaching involved control over the powers of Nature, the power to work Magic. In this context, I would like to define Magic as " the productio n of phenomena by the acceleration, retardation or reversal of the action of natural forces by superphysical means." This would include much which we would now designate as Science, including, as it did, many of the laws which govern Physics and Chemistry and, more especially, those pertaining to the Transmutation of Metals now approached more materially.
Before we go any further on this line, let us try to get some clear idea of Hermes himself. As a Greek god, he was recognised as the Messenger of the Gods. As such, he is probably better known generally under his Latin name, Mercury, and in many of our lodges the Deacons, in their capacities as the messenger linking the three Principal Officers, bear his image upon their wands of office. According to Cicero there were no less than five who bore the name of Hermes; (i) A son of Coelus or Uranos (the Heave ns) and Lux (Light); (ii) A son of Valens (a form of Apollo, denoting Healthy Vigour) and Coronis (mother of Aesculapius, whose rod of power is the badge of our medical profession); (iii) Son of Jupiter and Maia (names having the same roots as Joseph and Mary); (iv) Son of the Egyptian Nile and messenger of Ra, he would appear to be identified with the Scribe of the Gods, known to us under the various names of Tahuti, Ptah, Thaut and Thoth, and often refer red to as Thoth-Hermes; (v) Son of Bacchus and Prose rpine.
To the son of Jupiter and Maia have been attributed all the actions and activities of all the others. As Messenger of the Gods, he was messenger of Jupiter in particular. He was patron of all travellers and of shepherds. Here we may note that, in our capacities as aspirants and candidates, we are all fellow travellers upon the Path of Initiation and, in so far as we serve and tend the wants of others, we are shepherds of the flock, true pastors. We may note here also the link with the Bethlehem story of the travellers from the East and the shepherds, who have special mention as those to whom the truth was revealed.
Hermes was the conductor of souls to Hades; he was patron of orators, declaimers and also of merchants. But he was also the god of thieves and pickpockets and of all dishonest persons, which reminds us of the claim of Krishna, as representative of the Second Person of the Trinity, in the Bhagavad Gita, when he says, " I am the gambling of the cheat."
The name Mercury is perhaps derived from a mercibus, because he was the god of merchandise among the Latins, but the more probable derivation is from the Syrian Mar Kurios, meaning "Son of the Lord" or the Sun, this being, in turn, a literal translation of the Egyptian Hermes, or Chr-Mes, i.e. Horus-Moses or the Son of Horus.
Mercury, as son of Jupiter and Maia, was born traditionally in Arcadia, on Mt. Cyllene, and, as an infant, was entrusted with the care of the Seasons. His first effort, however, on the day when he was born or, as some say, on the following day, was to show his craftiness and dishonesty by stealing away the oxen of Admetus, which were being tended by Apollo. He appears almost as an inveterate kleptomaniac, stealing the quiver and arrows of the divine shepherd, the trident of Neptune, the girdle from Venus, his sword from Mars and even his sceptre, the rod of power, from Jupiter himself. Vulcan was ever the greatest sufferer, losing many of his instruments and tools. All of which tales tend to show allegorically that man, the latest creation, the new born, as Mercury, the Son of the Lord and, hence, the Aspirant for spiritual growth and for Initiation, must himself take over all the attributes of Deity, must realise that in himself lie the full powers of the Godhead, only awaiting the proper environment to be awakened and realised that they may function in fullness. Many of these acquisitions are mirrored in our masonic ceremonies and it is an interesting exercise to try to trace them there. Vulcan is, of course, named in the Craft, appearing as Tual-Cain or, as we say, Tubal Cain, who, be it particularly noted, comes to us in his particular guise as the First Artificer in Metals, conveying the same meaning as that other well-known title, "the f irst among many brethren" and, as such, the first to succeed in the grand experiment of transmutation, with which, in its various aspects we will have to deal more fully in due course.
As a result of his childish pranks, it is said that Mercury attracted the attention of Jupiter, who appointed him his messenger, interpreter and cupbearer in the assembly of the gods. In this last office he was ultimately superseded by Ganymede. From Jupiter he received the winged cap called petasus, the winged sandals called talaria, and the short sword called Herpe, which later he lent to Perseus. He was thus enabled to pass instantaneously from point to point in the Universe and had the power of maki ng himself invisible and of assuming any shape he might choose. All of which is an allegory of the powers latent in man, awaiting unfoldment during his journey as aspirant to Godhead. As messenger to Jupiter, Mercury was entrusted with all his secrets, whether good or bad. To Mercury was attributed the invention of the lyre, which, of course, was seven stringed, as emblematic of the seven-fold vestures of man, in which he must learn to function on the seven planes of Nature. This Lyre he g ave to Apollo and received in exchange the Caduceus or Staff with which the god of poetry tended the flocks and herds of Admetus. It carries with it, in symbol, the power to develop and control the Serpent-power, known to us as Kundalini, the symbolism of which is clearly portrayed in the Craft, for those who have eyes to see, in the peculiar modes of preparation of the Candidate.
Mercury was depicted as being brave, spirited and active, showing these qualities in the many feats attributed to him. He it was who delivered Mars from confinement when overpowered by the Aloides; the bastard twins of Iphimedia, wife of Aloeus, son of Titan and Terra, by Neptune. He purified the Danaides of the murder of their husbands. He tied Ixion to his wheel in Hades, destroyed the hundred-eyed Argus, sold Hercules to Omphale, queen of Lydia, conducted Priam to the tent of Achilles to redeem the bo dy of Hector, and carried the infant Bacchus to the nymphs of Nysa. He would always seem to have been busy about something. He rejoiced in many surnames and epithets, indicating his many powers and functions and, in several cases, indicating his essential triplicity as, for instance, Triplex or three-fold and Tricephalus or three-headed. He was credited with many children, most of whose names are associated with phases in the evolution of man. His Roman festival, celebrated by the merchants, was on May 15th. As a god, he is always associated with fertility and is sometimes even referred to as a youth fascino erecto. Sometimes we find him depicted with the head of a dog and so he is sometimes confused with the Egyptian Anubis, or with Sothis, the dog-star. Above all else he was god of eloquence, his powers of speech being sweet and persuasive. On occasion he has even been represented as without arms, indicating that the power of speech can prevail over everything without physical assistance, and we all know how important it can be under certain circumstances, to overcome any defect in speech, if we hope to reach the status of Fellowcraft.
As Hermes Trismegistus in Egypt, he is credited with the introduction of the olive, with the origination of the measurement of land, geometry and hieroglyphics. Traditionally, he lived in the time of Osiris himself and is credited with having written forty volumes on theology, medicine and geography, from which Sanchoniathon the Phoenecian is reputed to have taken his Theologia.
As Thrice-Greatest, he is chief among the eight gods of Heliopolis, the City of the Sun. His title "Lord of the Divine Words" and his voice "of just intonation" link him closely with the masonic aspirant. He acted as Scribe to the gods, as god of all wisdom and learning, inventor and teacher of all the arts and sciences, personification of reason and intelligence as attributes of the divine. He alone was self-created, rising with Ra in the beginning of time. It was his "voice of just intonation," what w e would call his "tongue of good report." which uttered the word of creation, by which all things that have being were brought into manifestation and the whole ordering of the Universe was in his hands. He it was who was arbiter between the gods of light and of darkness. He was possessed of all knowledge of spells and words of power. He could pronounce them aright, as was necessary to enable him to pass through the underworld in safety and, ultimate ly, to reach his desired goal. His word also had the po wer to resuscitate the dead. Herein he appears once more as the fully developed mason, son of God and perfected in His Image.
Once more we see him, now with the head of the sacred ibis, as he stands waiting beside the scales in the Judgment Hall of Osiris to receive and record the verdict after the weighing of the heart against the feather of Maat, a verdict communicated to him through the dog-headed ape so frequently associated with him. The name Tahuti or Thoth signifies the measurer and, as such, he was a Lunar god and wore the lunar crescent and disc. He carries a pen or stylus and a notched palm branch. He is verily Horus- Arnun or ChR-Amun, which was translated by the Tyrians into Chur-Om and further modified by the Phoenicians to Khuram, and this became the Hebraic Huram or Hiram.
The name Horus was written in two hieroglyphs. The first, Ch, represented a triply coiled cord, and the second, R, an open mouth. Written together as a name, the cord of the Ch is passed through between the lips of the R and herein we have a close resemblance to the well-known eastern emblem of fertility, the Lingam-Yoni.
Summing up, then, as "Son of the Lord" Horus becomes Horus-Moses or ChRMes or Hermes, and, as Hermes, is linked with the planet Mercury, Mar Kurios, again the Son of the Lord." He is credited by some writers as author of 20,000 volumes," and almost all ancient literature has been attributed to him, just as, in Babylonia and Assyria, all such was attributed to Nebo, as representative of the same planet. Hermes then is the Great Teacher, the Messenger sent to Man by the Gods, and his name is derived from the same roots, and with the same hieroglyphic spelling, as that of our Masonic Exemplar, Hiram. In many of our Christian churches today we find representations of the same two letter sounds, now in their Greek form, embroidered upon frontals and altar-cloths. These, the Chi. X, and the Rho. P, were the traditional symbols carried upon the Labarum, the sacred banner of Constantine, after his conversion. The linked symbols have, mathematically, a close a ssociation with the Craft, since the proportions of t he banner are those of the symbolic squared pavement, three by four, and are found also on the breastplate of the Jewish High Priest. The Ch is formed on the diagonals, giving angles of intersection of 72 degrees and 108 degrees, the one being the number of the perfect 6-foot man, 72 inches, and the other being the internal angle of the regular pentagon, another symbol of human perfection, and the basis of the Pentalpha, the five-pointed star or pentagram and also of t hat solid which was the final goal of the old Geometers, the compelling reason which gave rise to the thirteen books of the Elements of Euclid, the Dodecahedron, which links the 5 and the 12, having 12 faces, each of which is a regular pentagon.
"Almost every tablet of importance in the royal library of Nineveh has upon it the following words, 'The palace of Ashur-Ban-l-Pal, King of Hosts, King of Assyria, who putteth his trust in the gods Ashur and Belit, on whom Nabu and Tashmetu have bestowed ears which hear and eyes which see. I have inscribed upon tablets the noble products of the scribe, which none of the kings who have gone before me had learned, together with the wisdom of Nabu (Nebo-Hermes) so far as it existeth '." So says the British Mus eum catalogue, and these tablets date from about 700 B.C. Among them is the famous Creation tablet.
Thus Nebo in Assyria, with Thoth (and, later, Serapis) in Egypt, Taaut in Phoenecia, El Daud (David) in Palestine, The Buddhi (not to be confused with the Buddha) in India, Apollo and Hermes in Greece, Mercury in Rome, such gods as Odin in the North, Esus or Hesus in Gaul, Hu and Arthur in Britain, and so on, all link up as the Messengers of God to Man and aspirants for initiation into their Mysteries, in each case, became the representative of the deific messenger, in his capacity as candidate. In Egypt, for instance, the aspirant was linked with Thoth himself in the process of becoming Osirified.
In the astrological zodiac of the Chaldeans we find the attribution of the houses or mansions to the planets showing the day-house of Mercury in Gemini, leading into Cancer and Leo, the houses respectively of the Moon and Sun, followed by the night-house of Mercury in Virgo. Thus we have the centre of the Zodiacal East marked by a trinity of Sun, Moon and dual Mercury, the lesser lights of the early rituals, representative of the Hermetic and Rosicrucian fundamentals. In Alchemy they are the Salt, Sulphur and Mercury with which you are all familiar, and, in Freemasonry, "the Sun, the Moon and the Master of the Lodge." Freemasonry being a cult of the Second Person of the Trinity, we find the duality in the West and North, in which quarters the S.W. exercises his functions as representative of Strength and Power. To the right of the House of the Sun, Leo, is Cancer, the House of the Moon, which, shining with borrowed light, gathers up the gold of the sun to give forth her silver light. This, then, is the pl ace of the Treasurer.
Virgo is, of course, Demeter or Ceres, the WorldMother, and links with Kubele or Cybele, from whom we derive the name of the squared stone, the Cube. Gemini, the Twins, represents the youthful Hercules and Apollo. Hercules is, again, the type of the Aspirant and, as such, is an equivalent of Hermes, who, in the House of Demeter, becomes the Divine Wisdom.
The secret wisdom of the Alchemistical Philosophers, developed from the Kabbalah of the Hebrews, tells us that it is the combination of the Salt, Sulphur and Mercury which produces the "living gold." The signs used for these elements link again with the Sun, the Moon and the planet Mercury, as representatives of the four elements-Earth, Fire and Air-Water.
Alchemy was, and still is-perhaps it is necessary to make this quite clear-a School of Philosophy, differing principally from other schools in that it found it advisable to keep its teachings secret, or, at least, veiled sufficiently to prevent their profanation by the unworthy and the unprepared. It taught the basic truth of the perfectibility of man, in the same way as does our Masonic Craft, but veiled in terms of Chemistry where we use those of Building.
Man, as a trinity, is made up, as we say, of Spirit, Soul and Body; the body being especially under the influence of the Moon, the soul being of the substance of the Sun and the spirit manifesting as mentality and intelligence, the especial gifts of the dual Hercules-Hermes or Mercury, embodied in Manas, that attribute which distinguishes man from all his younger brethren in the other kingdoms of nature, and from which he derives his very name, Man.
There can be no possible doubt that the whole fabric of ancient philosophy, however much we may dub it as pagan, rested upon this doctrine of the perfectibility of man, and the reason why the teaching has not come down to us more clearly in classical literature is the obvious one that it was "Hermetically Sealed." It was the Hidden Wisdom, that which was, in its very essence, Hermetic.
One of the chief emblems of the Hermetic Art was the Cubic Stone. At first it was black, but later, white. There is at least one degree worked in Freemasonry today, in which the Candidate is obligated upon just such a black stone. It is precisely similar to that stone which is held in such veneration throughout Islam, and which rests in the Kaaba at Mecca. The building itself is rectangular, being 23 cubits in length, 24 cubits in breadth and 27 cubits high. There is but one aperture, in the East to ad mit light. In the N.E. corner is the black cubic stone of Kaaba, traditionally lowered down direct from heaven. On its arrival it was as white as snow but subsequently it became black as a result of the sins of mankind. Another white stone is on the North side. This is the reputed tomb of Ishmael. The place of Abraham is in the East.
I need hardly remind you of the numerous scriptural references to a white stone, as the reward promised to "Him that overcometh," nor to the naming of Simon Peter, from the Greek Petra, a stone, as the foundation upon which the Christian Church was to be built up. In Freemasonry, the story of the stone runs throughout the Craft and almost all other degrees and this our Dormer Masonic Study Circle owes its inception and present existence largely to the influence of that Great Brother who founded the Lodge o f Living Stones in Leeds, our late W. Bro. W. L. Wilmshurst, whose deep inspiration lies behind so much of the revivification of Freemasonry today.
That branch of the Hermetic Art which dealt most peculiarly with the physical aspects of the stone, so far as the outer world was concerned, was known as Alchemy, and all the various aims of its followers were summed up in the term " The Philosophers' stone." In its purely physical aspect, the search for this stone was the origin of the first of the exact sciences, Chemistry, and from the growth of Chemistry all the other sciences may be said to have originated. At the other end of the scale, in its spirit ual aspect, this same search was for the key to spiritual rebirth and the becoming to perfection of man himself. Mrs. Atwood, the gifted author of that wonderful work which was recovered and given to us again by our Bro. Wilmshurst, "A Suggestive Enquiry into the Hermetic Philosophy and Alchemy," in a letter written to C. C. Massey, says " The common faith is mystery without a fulcrum in this life, whereon to rest the lever of the will." Jesus of N azareth strongly urged the doctrine that "ye must be born again," and was not understood. W. L. Wilmshurst speaks of the doctrine as the "vague, mysterious, metaphysic counsel of perfection, capable of being satisfied by living an ordinary, natural life as far as possible in accordance with the standard of conduct indicated in the Gospels," and suggests, not only that the doctrine of rebirth entails much more than this, but that it is capable of literal fulfilment, and that the necessary fulcrum would be p rovided if there were "a definitely recognised method of g iving the Lord's injunction effect." He points out that, even if this method were generally known " it would still be impracticable, in the present state of the world, to put it into general practice. The science of this rebirth has always been practised and taught under conditions of strictest seclusion and secrecy, but, in itself, it is age-old. Never was there a time when the seeker who was really in earnest -and, be it noted, "properly prepared" could n ot hope to find a Master, ready and willing to i mpart the necessary instruction and training. The secrecy and mystery surrounding the Great Science have been due to the mental and moral unpreparedness of those who have been content to live the normal life of the world, even though they may have dreamed of better things. The details of the actual empirical processes of rebirth could only be made public "veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols." The injunction remains valid "Bind up the testimony; seal the law among my disciples," and "cast not yo ur pearls among swine...... it is not meet to take the children's bread and give it to the dogs," and so on, and so on. "Because," comments Bro. Wilmshurst, " apart from the privacy inevitably attaching to sacrosanctities, it involves perils personal and general; it lays open the most secret recesses and properties of the human organism, stripping bare the quivering roots of the physical and psychic life: it leads into contact with magnetic forces of terrific potency, from t he knowledge and effects of whic h we are at present providentially sheltered and safeguarded by the grossness of our sense bodies and the limitations these impose upon us until such time as we become fitted to function in independence of them."
Candidates must always be properly prepared before they can be initiated, and we are told that "many are called but few be chosen." The step to be taken is relatively final. It entails renunciation or transvaluation of almost everything sought after and prized in ordinary mundane existence, a stepping out of the current of the world-stream, by which we are normally carried along. It involves apparent contradictions, in the necessity for the complete discarding of evidence of the senses, evidence which the senses and the natural reason show as palpable truth. Phenomenal existence appears in a completely new light and ceases to be of any importance except as an indispensable foundation upon which to build. As the building itself rises in all its splendour, the foundation passes out of sight beneath the ground and, if it has been well and truly laid, should appear no more.
The Alchemistical Philosophers were men of real worth, who were concerned only with realities. Their motives were completely unconnected with any ideas of personal salvation or spiritual superiority over their fellow-men. The outstanding qualities which distinguished them were their piety and their humility, coupled with their reputation for great and unusual wisdom. Their religious outlook was not to be evidenced in a mere being good, had no credal nor dogmatic basis, had in it none of that complacenc y which turns things aside and says " God's in His heaven; All's right with the world." Their attitude was rather that the whole world was "out of joint," disunited from God and from His righteousness and sorely in need of humble service from men who were prepared to renounce everything, even their own salvation, if only they could do something to save humanity from its only real enemy, humanity itself. So different was their outlook from that of their fellows that it was, and always will be, incomprehensi ble to the " man-in-the-street," who meets it with derision and, more often than not, with persecution.
The path of the man who decides, finally and at all costs, to reach firm ground while still immersed in, and being carried along by, the torrent of ordinary human thought and action, is hard; must, of necessity, always be hard. He has, as it were, to cut across the stream and sometimes to struggle in direct opposition to its flow. It is almost as if he were dead to the world, for he is actually and consciously experiencing the tomb of transgression in that he is trans-gressing - literally cutting across - the general course of the stream. We have all heard it said that "the way of the transgressor is hard," and it may often be seen at its hardest where the transgressor, he who is moving across the cur rent, is the greatest saint. The outstanding examp le of transgression in this sense is, of course, Jesus of Nazareth. His whole life and teaching cut clean across all the cherished and accepted values of his time and threatened to undermine all the powers upon which the rulers of the people set such store. No matter how palpably foolish, how plainly ridiculous, how definitely evil, may be that upon which a man sets store, as being necessary or conducive to his happiness, he will fight to keep it, will hold it to the last gasp and will put every obstacle in the way of anyone who threatens its possession, even though that person may offer something infinitely better in its place. Truly there is no man so blind as he who is determined that he will not see. Humanity, as a whole, is much in the position of the man with the muck rake in the "Pilgrim's Progress." It is so fully occupied in raking up the muck it has created, and so intent upon wallowing in its own filth, that it has no eyes for the crown of glory offered, nor ears to hear the voice of him that o ffers it.
In talking here of Alchemy and the Alchemists, I must make it perfectly clear that I am referring only to the genuine science and the genuine practitioners, and not to any of the pretenders to the art who have, throughout, deluded their fellows - and, quite often, themselves - by trickery, chariatanry and deception, thus lowering the standards in the eyes of men and bringing disrepute upon the whole idea. So much was this the case at one time that the Pope was obliged to issue a bull prohibiting the practi ce. But, paradoxically enough, that same Pope was himself reputed to be a most successful practitioner.
Let us, for a few minutes, look at some of the men who were outstanding in the field of Alchemy, in the later centuries of the Christian Era. But first, let us recall that about the year A.D. 284, Sindas relates the facility with which the Egyptians were able to make gold and silver and thus were able to levy forces against Rome, thereby so exciting the envy and annoyance of the Emperor that he caused every chemical book that could be found to be publicly burned, hoping thereby to mitigate the trouble. (Si ndus in Verbo Chemeia.) He also attempts to account for the silence and secrecy which surrounded this Egyptian Art, that art which survived in places throughout the years of the final decline of Egypt. Among the scanty surviving records we have the story of Cleopatra, the last of the Egyptian monarchs, dissolving her ear-ring in such sharp vinegar as was known only to the genuine practitioners of the philosophy. The survival of the art in the Ro man world is evinced by the continual recurrence of stories o f perpetual-burning lamps. St. Augustine mentions the case of one which was dedicated to Venus in his day, and which was inextinguishable. In the year 1500, a rustic, digging deeper than usual near Alestes, came upon an earthen vessel or urn, containing another urn in which was a lamp, placed between two cylindrical vessels of gold and silver respectively and each full of a very pure liquor, by virtue of which it is probable that the lamp had continued to burn for 1 ,500 years, and might have continued so t o burn indefinitely, had it not been for his barbarian curiosity. From the inscriptions upon the vessels, it would appear that they were the work of one Maximus Olybius. These inscriptions are still, I am told, extant, preserved in full.
Hermolaus Barbarus, speaking of water in general, refers to
"a celestial, or rather, a divine water of the Chemists, with which both Democritus and Trismegistus were acquainted, calling it divine water, Scythian latex, etc., which is a spirit of the nature of ether and quintessence of things, whence potable gold and the stone of the Philosophers takes its beginning." H. Kunrath affirms that "the ether in this praeter-perfect aqueous body will burn perpetually, without diminution or consumption of itself, if the external air only be restrained."
There are also later well-authenticated cases of such lamps.
In Alexandria we find many Christian Platonists studying and discussing these occult arts. St. John the Apostle was reputed to have practised them "for the good of the poor; not only in healing the sick but also confecting gold, silver and precious stones for their benefit." There is an ancient hymn for the honour of St. John's Day which commemorates this. Much is to be learned from the Fathers and the Apostles themselves left some clear ordinances and hints. But, our reformers, mistaking everything whic h they themselves were unable to grasp for merest superstition, brushed all such aside as meaningless and retained little but a traditional and unsupported faith in place of the true mystery of regeneration. The direct result of this was the ascendency of a rank superstition which led to a slavish and senseless idolatry and the exercise of a credulity and ignorance which is almost unbelievable. The letter came to be reverenced and worshipped, in the co mplete absence of the spirit which should have dwelt t herein. If truth is ever to be re-established it must be on a sure foundation of understanding and cooperation, and on no mere basis of authority.
In this Alexandrian period there was a great revival of philosophy. We find associated with it such famous names as Plotinus, Philo-judaeus, Proclus, Porphyry, Jamblicus, Julian and Apuleus, each and every one of whom professed a knowledge of the Hermetic Arts. And we must not leave Alexandria without mention of that most excellent lady, Hypatia, so famous not only for her outstanding wisdom and acquirements but also for her tragic and untimely end at the hands of the materialistic and power-intoxicated b ishop and his mob. It was from this marvellous lady that Synesius himself learned the hidden truths of the philosophy to which he dedicated his life, pursuing it even more zealously after his conversion to Christianity and his becoming Bishop of the Church in Alexandria. He was ever careful to protect the mysteries of his religion from public abuse, and would not publicly expound even the Platonic philosophy. No one was admitted to the Conclave except on the unanimous vote of its memb ers.
One could mention name after name in this field; Heliodorus, Zozimous, Athenagoras and on ad infinitum. The loss of the great library of Alexandria, destroyed by the orders of the mad Calif Omar, after the taking of the city in A.D. 640 was more than a disaster. It is said that he heated the public baths of the city with its contents over a period of over six months and the loss was irreparable and is one of the chief reasons for the backward state of the world of today. This wanton vandalism let loose a wild and unrestrained period of religious fanaticism, founded upon and accentuated by a most complete and abysmal ignorance upon both sides, Mohammedan and Christian, in the blind struggle for temporal supremacy.
But, behind it all, the flame of truth remained unextinguished. In England, such men as Roger Bacon carried the torch high. In Arabia, the famous Prince Geber - from whose name and obscure writings the word gibberish is said to be derived - had the reputation of being the greatest adept after Hermes himself. Later, we find Albertus Magnus, Nicholas Flamel, Raymond Lully, Avicenna, Paracelsus, Cornelius Agrippa and many other well-known names. Roger Bacon most carefully concealed the practice, while clea rly stating the roots of the Hermetic Art, for, as he himself wrote, "Truth ought not to be shown to every ribald, for then that would become most vile which, in the hand of a philosopher, is the most precious of all things."The works of Arnold di Villa Novo are very numerous but of greatest interest to us, here in Britain, is, perhaps, the work of one of his pupils, Raymond Luily, his teaching in support of Alchemy bearing the greater weight from the widespread fame of his Christian zeal, his blameles s lif e and his great wisdom and talents. He met Arnold late in life and, unlike most of his immediate predecessors and contemporaries in the art, who were cloistered, was a great traveller. There is very sound evidence to show that he was in possession of the material philosophers' stone.
John Cremer, then Abbot of Westminster, had worked for thirty years on this problem and without success, having been led widely astray by the enigmatic writings of the old adepts; but he had discovered sufficient to make him firmly convinced of the reality of that for which he sought. He heard of Luily and determined to seek him out, even undertaking a journey to Italy for the purpose. He was so fortunate as to meet with him and to gain his confidence, obtained the instruction he sought but was as much ed ified and delighted by the pious and charitable life of Lully himself. Luily was persuaded to accompany him to England, where he was presented to the king, Edward II, who had previously, and in vain, invited him to visit him. Filled as he was with zeal for Christianity, Lully promised to produce the necessary gold for Edward, if he, on his part, would promise to revive the Crusades. Edward accepted every condition and supplied the necessary appliances and fitti ngs for a laboratory in the Tower of London, wherein, true to his promise, Lully produced from base metals-lead, tin and quicksilver - supplied, no less than 50,000 lbs. weight of the purest gold. But then the King broke faith with Lully and held him prisoner in the laboratory, demanding more gold. Cremer lamented this base conduct and openly expressed his indignation in his Testament. He succeeded in engineering the escape of Lully. A gold coinage was minted from this particular gold, pieces each of about 10 duc ats weight and called Nobles of the Rose, an inscription on them detailing their miraculous origin. It has been said that a fully competent metallurgist can generally recognise the place of origin of any specimen of gold submitted to him, but that this particular gold is more pure than any natural metal. Dickenson relates that, sometime after the escape of Lully, when some repairs were being made to the cell at Westminster which he had occupied with Cremer, a quantity of the powder of transmutation was found, by means of which the workmen a nd architects were greatly enriched.
Before leaving the Alchemistical Philosophers, I think that we should recall one other. This is Nicholas Flammel, who, with his wife Pernelle, lived and worked in Paris in the XIV Century. Being people of humble origin, they lived quietly and unostentatiously, but let him speak for himself. He writes:-
"I, Nicholas Flammel, Scrivener, living in Paris, in the year of our Lord, 1399, in the Notary-street, near St. James, of the Boucherie, though I learned not much Latin, because of the poverty of my parents, who notwithstanding, were, even by those who envy me most, accounted honest and good people; yet, by the blessing of God, I have not wanted an understanding of the books of the philosophers, but learned them, and attained to a certain kind of knowledge, even of their hidden secrets. For which cause's sa ke, there shall not any moment of my life pass wherein, remembering this so vast good, I will not render thanks to this my good and gracious God. After the death of my parents, I, Nicholas Flammer, got my living by the art of writing, ingrossing and the like; and in the course of time, there fell by chance into my hands a gilded book, very old and large, which cost me only two florins. It was not made of paper or parchment, as other books are, but of admirable rinds, as it seemed to me, of young trees; th e cover of it was brass, well bound, and graven all over with a strange kind of letters, which I took to be Greek characters, or some such like. This I know, that I could not read them, but as to the matter which was written within, it was engraven, as I suppose with an iron pencil, or graver, upon the said bark leaves; done admirably well, and in fair neat Latin letters, and curiously coloured. It contained thrice seven leaves, for so they were numbe red on the top of each folio, and every seventh leaf was without writing; but in place thereof were several images and figures painted."
Further describing this volume, Flammel tells of long and fruitless toil until a Jewish stranger, whom he met on his travels, explained the meaning. On his return home he says:-
"He that would see the manner of my arrival home, and the joy of Pernelle, let him look upon us two in the city of Paris, upon the door of the chapel of St. James', in the Boucherie, close by one side of my house, where we are both painted, kneeling, and giving thanks to God: for through the grace of God it was that I attained the perfect knowledge of all that I desired. I had now the prima materia, the first principles, yet not their preparation, which is a thing most difficult above all things in the wo rld; but in the end I had that also, after a long aberration and wandering in the labyrinth of errors, for the space of three years. During which time, I did nothing but study and search and labour, so as you see me depicted without this arch, where I have shown my process, praying also continually unto God, and reading attentively in my book, pondering the words of the philosophers, and then trying and proving the various operations which I thought they mi ght mean by their words. At length I found that w hich I desired; which I also soon knew, by the scent and odour thereof. Having this, I easily accomplished the magistery. For knowing the preparations of the prime agents, and then literally following the directions in my book, I could not miss the work if I would. Having attained this, I came now to Projection; and the first time I made projection was upon mercury; a pound and a half whereof, or thereabouts, I turned into pure silver, better than that of the mine; as I proved by assaying it myself, and also causing others to assay it for me, several times. This was done in the year A.D.1382, January 17th, about noon, in my own house, Pernelle alone being present with me. Again following the same directions in my book, word by word, I made projection of the Red Stone, on a like quantity of mercury, Pernelle only being present, and in the same house, which was done in the same year, April 25th, at five in the afternoon. This mercury I truly transmuted into almost as much gold, mu ch better indeed than co mmon gold, more soft also, and more pliable. I speak it all truthfully. I have made it three times with the help of Pernelle, who understands it as well as myself; and, without doubt, if she would have done it alone, she would have brought to the same, or full as great perfection as I had done. I had truly enough, when I had once done it; but I found exceeding great pleasure and delight in seeing and contemplating the admirable works of nature, within the vessels. And to show you that I ha d then done it three times, I caused to be depicted under the same arch, three furnaces, like to those which serve for the operations of the work. I was much concerned for a long time, lest Pernelle, by reason of extreme joy, should not hide her felicity, which I measured by my own; and lest she should let fall some words amongst her relations, concerning the great treasure which we possessed. But the goodness of the great God had not only given and filled me with this blessing, in giving me a sober, chaste wife; but she was also a wise, prudent woman, not only capable of reason, but also to do what was reasonable; and made it her business, as I did, to think of God, and to give ourselves to the work of charity and mercy. Before the time wherein I wrote this discourse, which was in the latter end of the year 1413, after the death of my beloved companion; she and I had already founded and endowed with revenues fourteen hospitals, three chapels, and seven church es, in the city of Paris; all which we had built new from the g round, and were able to enrich with gifts and revenues. We have also done at Boulogne about the same as at Paris, besides our private charities, which it would be unbecoming to particularise. Building, therefore, these hospitals, churches, etc., in the aforesaid cities, I caused to be depicted under the said fourth arch, the most true and essential marks and signs of this art, yet under veils and types of hieroglyphical characters; demonstrating to the wise a nd men of understanding, the direct and perfect way of operation and lineary work of the philosophers' stone; which being perfected by anyone, takes away from him the root of all sin and evil; changing his evil into good, and making him liberal, courteous, religious, fearing God, however wicked he was before, provided only he carries through the work to its legitimate end. For from thenceforward he is continually ravished with the goodness of God, and with his grace and mercy, which he has obtained from the fountain of eternal goodness; with the profund ity of his Divine and adorable power, and with the contemplation of his admirable works."
So much for the testimony of Nicholas Flammel.
Elias Ashmole, that great light in Freemasonry and true lover of occult science, published a volume containing a collection of English Alchemy in verse. Of Alchemy itself he writes, "I must profess I know enough to hold my tongue, but not enough to speak." He appears to have been completely convinced of the reality of the practice even if he did not succeed in it himself, but caution held him back, "lest, being not wholly experienced, I should add to the many injuries the world has already suffered."
A contemporary of his, although 25 years his junior, there is, admittedly, no shred of evidence that Sir Isaac Newton was a Freemason, but there is very convincing evidence that, in his later years, he devoted a large proportion of his time to the Hermetic Arts, wrapping himself for a matter of about sixteen years in a scientific oblivion totally foreign to the trend of his earlier life. The only link with science which he appears to have retained was his presidency of the Royal Society. When he finally l eft Cambridge to take up the work of Warden, and, later, Master of the Royal Mint, his whole thought direction seems to have undergone a change. From being the outstanding Mathematician and Physicist he went into a seclusion in which his chief interest appeared to be Chemistry, or perhaps it would be better to say outright, Alchemy. Now, during all that time he produced no tangible results and published nothing, and I, for one, cannot reconcile t his with his character and abilities. It would appear to be quite inconceivable that a mind of his capacity and temper should spend so much time upon any subject without result, and I have a theory that it is not without significance that, during the long tenure of office at the Mint, the currency of this country, which had been in a very unstable condition, was stabilized and finally established upon a basis which, if it tends to be lost today, remains traditional. The evidence of his brother and amanuensis, Humphrey Newton, makes it perfectly clear that Sir Isaac was seeking to perform the transmutation of metals and was in search of the philosophers' stone, and my firm belief is that he found it and was successful in the great work. Further, I believe that, behind the revival of Freemasonry in 1717 were some of the greatest brains that this country has ever seen, but that, for obvious reasons, others, of less profundity and more in touch with the outer world, were appointed to carry through the work, and it is these whose names have come down to us as the founder s of Freemasonry as we have it today. Such a theory, if founded upon truth, would explain much that has remained inexplicable, such as the obvious fact that not one of these founders appeared to have the necessary qualifications to originate the work which they undoubtedly carried out.
Our Masonic Craft possesses all the essentials of the Hermetic Art. Freemasonry is essentially a life to be lived and not a creed to be taught. It is truly a peculiar system of morality: It is veiled in allegory: It is illustrated by symbols: Its allegories and symbols tell the same old story as do the allegories and symbols of the Hermetic Schools, Its symbols are derived from the building trade, but correspond closely to the relevant symbols derived from Chemistry. The central theme in both is the crea tion and bringing to perfection of a Stone. All such teachings cannot be otherwise than non-credal, since they seek to bring together and to interpret all creeds in terms of ultimate truth, asking every man to live his religion in the spirit that stands behind the letter, realising that unity can manifest only through multiplicity and that, whatsoever the creed adopted, it can only stand as each man holds to his own interpretation of it, to that interpret ation which best serves to aid him in his search f or happiness for himself and for all that lives. When men realise that unity can never be accomplished through any kind of uniformity, that it must grow up spontaneously within each molecule that goes to make up a part of the whole and that it can never be imposed from without, then all tension and all friction will cease and strife and war will have no more place in the thoughts of men: The great transmutation will have been effectually performed and the kingdom of God wi ll be established on Earth.
The method pointed by the Craft for the accomplishment of these things we must leave until we meet again.