Tuesday, October 7, 2008

The Greater and Lesser Lights

From the Book "The Meaning Of Freemasonry"
By Watler Leslie Wilmshurst 1920

The purpose of Initiation may be defined as follows:--it is to stimulate and awaken the Candidate to direct cognition and irrefutable demonstration of facts and truths of his own being about which previously he has been either wholly ignorant or only notionally informed; it is to bring him into direct conscious contact with the Realities underlying the surface-images of things, so that, instead of holding merely beliefs or opinions about himself, the Universe and God, he is directly and convincingly confronted with Truth itself; and finally it is to move him to become the Good and the Truth revealed to him by identifying himself with it. (This is of course a gradual process involving greater or less time and effort in proportion to the capacity and equipment of the candidate himself.)

The restoration to light of the candidate in the First Degree is, therefore, indicative of an important crisis. It symbolizes the first enlargement of perception that, thanks to his own earnest aspirations and the good offices of the guides and instructors to whom he has yielded himself, Initiation brings him. It reveals to him a threefold symbol, referred to as the three great though emblematic lights in Masonry--the Holy Bible, Square and Compasses in a state of conjunction, the two latter resting on the first-named as their ground or base. As this triple symbol is the first object his outward eye gazes upon after enlightenment, so in correspondence what they emblematize is the first truth his inward eye is meant to recognize and contemplate upon.

He is also made aware of three emblematic lesser lights, described as alluding to the " Sun," " Moon " and " Master of the Lodge," (the psychological significance of which has already been explained in our interpretation of the Officers of the Lodge).

Now the fact is that the candidate can only see the three greater Lights by the help of the three lesser ones. In other words the lesser triad is the instrument by which he beholds the greater one; it is his own perceptive faculty (subject) looking out upon something larger (object) with which it is not yet identified, just as so small a thing as the eye can behold the expanse of the heavens and the finite mind can contemplate infinitude.

What is implied, then, is that the lesser lights of the candidate's normal finite intelligence are employed to reveal to him the greater lights or fundamental essences of his as yet undeveloped being. A pigmy rudimentary consciousness is being made aware of its submerged source and roots, and placed in sharp contrast with the limitless possibilities available to it when those hidden depths have been developed and brought into function. The candidate's problem and destiny is to lose himself to find himself, to unify his lesser with his greater lights, so that he no longer functions merely with an elementary reflex consciousness but in alliance with the All-Conscious with which he has become identified. In the Royal Arch Degree he will discover that this identification of the lesser and greater lights has theoretically become achieved. The interlaced triangles of lights surrounding the central altar in that Supreme Degree imply the union of perceptive faculty with the object of their contemplati on; the blending of the human and the Divine consciousness.

What then do the three Greater Lights emblematize, and what does their intimate conjunction connote ?

(1) The written Word is the emblem and external expression of the unwritten Eternal Word, the Logos or Substantial Wisdom of Deity out of which every living soul has emanated and which, therefore, is the ground or base of human life. " In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God; without Him was not anything made that was made; in Him was life and the life was the light of men; and the light shineth in darkness and the darkness comprehendeth it not." In an intelligently conducted Lodge the Sacred Volume should lie open at the first chapter of the Gospel by St. John, the patron-saint of Masonry, so that it may be these words that shall meet the candidate's eyes when restored to light and remind him that the basis of his being is the Divine Word resident and shining Further within his own darkness and ignorance, which Notes on realize and comprehend not that fact. He has lost Craft all consciousness of that truth, and this dereliction is the " lost Word " of whic h every Mason is theoretically in search and which with due instruction and his own industry he hopes to find. Finding that, he will find all things, for he will have found God within himself. Let the candidate also reflect that it is the secret motions and promptings of this Word within him that have impelled him to enter the Craft and to seek initiation into light. In the words of a great initiate " thy seeking is the cause of thy finding "; for the finding is but the final coming to self-consciousness of that inward force which first impelled the quest for light. Hence it is that no one can properly enter the Craft, or hope for real initiation, if he joins the Order from any less motive than that of finding God, the " hid treasure," within himself. His first place of preparation must needs be in the heart, and his paramount desire and heart-hunger must be for that Light which, when attained, is Omniscience coming to consciousness in him; otherwise all ceremonial initiation will be with out a vail and he will fail even to understand the external symbols and allegories of it.

(2) The Square, resting upon the Sacred Volume, is the symbol of the human soul as it was generated out of the Divine Word which underlies it. That soul was created " square," perfect, and like everything which proceeded from the Creator's hand was originally pronounced " very good," though invested with freedom of choice and capacity for error. The builder's square, however, used as a Craft symbol, is really an approximation of a triangle with its apex downwards and base upwards, which is a very ancient symbol of the soul and psychic constitution of man and is known as the Water Triangle.

(3) The Compasses interlaced with the square are the symbol of the Spirit of the Soul, its functional energy or Fire. Of itself the soul would be a mere inert passivity, a negative quantity unbalanced by a positive opposite. Its active properties are the product of the union of itself with its underlying and inspiring Divine basis, as modified by the good or evil tendencies of the soul itself. God " breathed into man the breath of life and man became--no longer a soul, which he was previously--but a living (energizing) soul." This product, or fiery energy, of the soul is the Spirit of man (a good or evil force accordingly as he shapes it) and is symbolized by what has always been known as the Fire Triangle (with apex upward and base downward), which symbol is approximately reproduced in the Compasses.

To summarize; the three Greater Lights emblematize the inextricably interwoven triadic groundwork of man's being; (1) the Divine Word or Substance as its foundation; (2) a passive soul emanated therefrom; (3) an active spirit or energizing capacity generated in the soul as the result of the interaction of the former two. Man himself therefore (viewed apart from the temporal body now clothing him) is a triadic unit, rooted in and proceeding from the basic Divine Substance.

Observe that in the First Degree the points of the Compasses are hidden by the Square. In the Second Degree, one point is disclosed. In the Third both are exhibited. The implication is that as the Candidate progresses, the inertia and negativity of the soul become increasingly transmuted and superseded by the positive energy and activity of the Spirit. The Fire Triangle gradually assumes preponderance over the Water Triangle, signifying that the Aspirant becomes a more vividly and spiritually conscious being than he was at first.

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