This gives us the key to the Vault in which the Principal Sojourner is about to descend. The whole scene is changed; it is no longer the Hell, whether of the “After death” or of the “Mystic,” but the abyss of chaos. “The earth was without form and void.” This describes the dark void of nothingness out of which God created – LIGHT, not, be it noted, the earth, that was to come later.
We are also told in the passage that “The Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.” This is the vitalizing spirit which penetrates into the void and creates therefrom the visible universe. Here we have a hint of the deepest of all religious mysteries, namely, God the Un-manifested, manifesting Himself forth. Therefore the Principal Sojourner, symbolizing the Divine Spark, descends into the black void of man’s innermost nature and discovers that it is God Himself Who manifests us forth likewise. But for the Divine within us even our physical bodies could not exist in this mundane world, which itself is a manifestation of God.
It is difficult to grasp such a profound thought. Even as we seem to grasp it, it eludes us, but if we ponder over the matter we shall see that this is true. When a man dies his body disintegrates – why? because God – the Divine Spark – the Spirit, has withdrawn from the body, and so as He no longer manifests Himself in its form it passes back to the formless void from which it came. Thus we see that the Principal Sojourner, symbolizes not only the Divine Spark in man, but something vaster and greater; the Spirit of God manifested forth in all Ills vast creation. Nevertheless, God manifested in creation is not all that is God, there still remains behind God the Un-manifested, symbolized by the Principal.
In like manner after the mystical resurrection man must descend into the Void itself, in order to comprehend the nature of the Supreme Being. This Void is often called the Ocean, and the experience is different from that of entering the mystic hell. In a sense we may say that though it is blacker than Bell, yet there is no suffering therein, and the descending soul bears with it its own light.
The instructions, “In order to restore yourself to your personal comfort,” strike a rather worldly note after such profound teaching, but it is nevertheless a valuable piece of evidence that the candidate. should be prepared as a M.M., otherwise he cannot be restored to his personal comfort, for he has never been deprived of it. Mystically it teaches us that the descent into the Void is not accompanied by suffering as is the case with the previous descent into Hell. In this connection it is well to bear in mind the old saying, “God dwells in the silence.”
The Three Strangers.
The three strangers come from Babylon, this world, to the gates of the mystical heaven. It will be noted that they know their old home, thereby implying that after the mystical resurrection man knows that he is “A child of God,” but much of his old traditional faith has faded away, and as yet he has no clear cut conception of God by which to replace what he was taught once, but never really absorbed.
The question of Z., “Are you not descended?” etc.; means are you men who have abandoned your old beliefs for fear of what the outside world thinks? There are men who having been brought up in a certain doctrinal faith throw it over, not because their consciences will not permit them to accept those beliefs, but because other people laugh at them. Such men are not true mystics or seekers after truth. They are mere word lings who want a “Comfortable and respectable religion.” Their disbelief, like their former belief, is merely copied from others, and repeated parrot wise. The Divine Spirit will never reveal the true secrets to such men. Neither will the Divine Spirit help those who conform blindly to established religious dogmas because it pays to do so. Those who serve religion not from conviction but for what they can get out of it, are not true seekers after God. These men are aptly described as the “menial tribe.”
It is quite possible for a man to be a true mystic and yet find after deep heart searching that he can understand and accept every tenet of the faith into which he was born. Such a one the Divine Spirit will lead onward to greater light. The difference between him and the worldly follower of the established religion is that he has not merely accepted those teachings because he was taught them, and it saves trouble to say he believes in them, but has learned within himself to know that for him, at any rate, they are true.
In like manner, the true mystic may find that to him certain doctrines appear false, and he feels bound to reject them, often with pain and sorrow, because to him they are not true. The Divine Spirit will guide him likewise; but the man who drops such beliefs merely because they are not popular is worse than the man who sticks to them without attempting to understand them, for he is a traitor and a coward.
The reply of the Principal Sojourner indicates that all true seekers after truth are Sons of God, the King of Kings. The seventy years represents that period of doubt, difficulty and despair which we have already dealt with under the name of the mystic hell, described by Bunyan as the Bondage of Christian in the dungeon of Giant Despair. Cyrus represents conscience, and acts as does the Principal Sojourner in the preliminary part of the ceremony when he releases the candidate. from the darkness of the V.. So conscience, or the Divine within, causes our resurrection, or release from bondage, in order that we may set forth to find the true secrets in the Holy City of Zion.
The reply of the strangers, “Any position to which,” etc., obviously implies humility. The path to the knowledge of God is humility, and the warning is peculiarly appropriate, for one of the besetting temptations of the mystic, who has passed through the mystic hell into the light of the resurrection, is to feel contemptuous of those who have not gained by experience what he has learned. It is not easy to bear with patience the ignorant remarks and the ofttimes ill-natured comments of those who criticize without having any real knowledge of the subject. Yet the mystic must restrain his indignation, he must learn “To suffer fools gladly,” and this is perhaps his hardest task. Therefore he must be prepared to do whatsoever the Lord sets him to do, for in the humblest task he may perchance find the key to the great mystery whose meaning he is striving to comprehend.
The Z. dismisses the three strangers with the significant phrase, “May the God of your fathers,” etc.. Though his old faith lies dead, the Truth which was in it will aid the candidate to discover the new Truth which he seeks, for Truth is ever the same, and though one set of doctrinal garments may appear to be worn out, the Truth they cover is ever new and ever old. God has taught men since the dawn of history; outward forms change, but the essentials are ever the same, although often we fail to perceive this fact.
J. S. M. Ward
During the time I have been in the army, I never knew a bad soldier who was a Freemason.
DUKE OF WELLINGTON