There is often much talk these days of ‘Masonry and the Ancient Mysteries,’ or Masonry and its relationships to the Ancient Mysteries, but then the reference usually ends there with little follow-up explanation as to why, what or how.
It could be said that the Ancient Mysteries refer to that body of teachings which has existed “since time immemorial” pertaining to the truer spiritual purposes for humanity’s existence, and which, on an individual level of application, delineates the goal to be sought, the objectives and reasons for the soul’s purpose through the medium of the form, the sequential stages of the disciplines to be applied to oneself in the pursuit of achieving these objectives step by step, and all with the view to eventually achieving mastery of self, (self-mastery, the most difficult thing in the world to achieve), and thus express divinity on the physical plane by the spiritual being within through the medium of the form. The fundamental tenet of the true Mystery Schools pertains to the spiritual evolution of the inner being, the soul, on its own plane. This is the esoteric path. The secondary factor requires the cooperation of the personality through which the soul incarnates in this enterprise. This is the exoteric path and the one most familiar to students of the Ageless Wisdom. But success upon this ‘path of return’ does require the cooperation of both polarities of the one being, the inner and the outer.
The Ancient Mysteries also include a vast exposition on the greater purposes of the Macrocosmic whole, of the relationships of the part (individuals and humanity as a great center within that whole) to and within that Whole and of the Whole to the part (via the Laws of Correspondence and Analogy), and of relationships that exist within that Whole between greater groups and stupendous spiritual and cosmic Entities.
These Ancient Mysteries were originally given to humanity by the Grand Lodge on High and contain the entire clue to the evolutionary process, hidden in numbers, in ritual, in words and in symbology; these veil the secret of man’s origin and destiny, picturing to him, in rite and ritual, the long, long path which he must tread, back into the light.
It is therefore the great dissertation upon the purposes of existence, bequeathed to us by “those who have gone this way before us,” and who are actual Knowers and not merely scholars, (for the knower is always greater than the knowledge), pertaining to the whys and wherefores, the whence, how and whither, summed up in the nomenclature of the Ageless Wisdom as the Plan. The Plan essentially pertains to the unfolding, developing, maturation and expansion of consciousness, ever upwards and onwards towards a greater Light.
In the Mystery Schools of past ages, such as those in India, the Zoroastrians, Chaldæa, Egypt and Greece, one of the major methods for training and teaching its neophytes (as well as by other methods) was by dramatic enactments of rite and ritual representing and illustrating by allegory and symbol certain precepts of the Ancient Mysteries which taught the origin of things, the nature of the human spirit, its relations to the body, and the methods of its purification and restoration to a higher life expression, plus the greater exposition of the interrelationships within and between those greater spiritual Entities of the Macrocosmic Whole.
This method of dramatic enactment of the Ancient Mysteries, illustrated through allegory and symbol, has been preserved throughout the ages, and remains still with us today in the form of modern Masonry. This is why Masonry and the Ancient Mysteries are often paired together and referred to as such, although the reasons are somewhat of an enigma to many, and even to many Masons themselves. Masonry is closely related to the restoration of the Mysteries and has held the clue down the ages to that long awaited restoration, to the platform upon which the required teaching can be based and the structure which can express the history of man’s moving forward upon the Path of Return.
It cannot be denied that much that exists in modern Masonry has become distorted and crystallised and that new life must be poured in and great changes wrought in the awareness and training of those who work in and through this media of truth; Masonry has also lost the true livingness it once possessed, but in its forms and rituals the truth is preserved and can be recovered, and the esoteric facts, detail and structure of the Ancient Mysteries have survived and exist within the Masonic Workings by those who can see it, even in their skeletal outline as they exist today. Masonry still has yet a greater future, for in its modern form it is a seed of a future effort and is one of the major forms through which the Ancient Mysteries will eventually be reinstated and restored to a natural part of the program for human living in the coming Aquarian Age. But this will first require a drastic retraining in the disciplines of the esoteric teachings by those who work in and through it.
The Ancient Mysteries will be restored, the ancient landmarks will again be recognised—those landmarks which Masonry has so earnestly preserved and which have been hitherto securely embalmed in the Masonic rituals, awaiting the day of restoration and of resurrection. The Mysteries are, in the last analysis, the true source of revelation but it can only be at a later date when a certain progress on the part of humanity itself has been made that the extent of the coming revelation can be safely given.
Through the degree work of Masonry, and mainly through its Three Degrees of the Blue Lodge, plus that of the Mark and H.R.A., Masonry has preserved, through its dramatic enactments of ceremonial ritual, the truer purposes of ritual from the standpoint of the Ancient Mysteries, which is to relate that which is within to that which is without; to relate the inner world of meaning to the outer world of form, and thus to cause a reciprocal flow of energy between the two through invocation and evocation, which is one of the major spiritual techniques of Masonry in group formation.
It is widely recognised that it is not possible to prove Masonic origins or to trace the straight undeviating line of revelation. It can be admitted, however that Masonry, as we know it today, has been inherited from a very ancient past, and that humanity has never been without rituals and ceremonials and symbols (under some form or another) whereby the Master Craftsmen of the world have trained the builders of the Temple.
We therefore have no intention of getting into the veiled history of Masonic originations, and nor are we in a position to do so. Nevertheless, in terms of its current form, it can probably be ‘correctly assumed’ that during their sojourn in Egypt many prominent Jewish leaders became Initiates of the Egyptian Mysteries, and that on setting out upon the building of their “new nation” those wise Jewish Seers of old devised a continuity of the Ancient Mystery Teaching illustrated and symbolised in the nomenclature of the history of their “new nation,” and in which they ingeniously added the theme of the builder and the building to what they had learned of the source of Light from the Egyptians. Hence, although their intention was metaphoric and symbolic as it pertains to the work of the inner builder, the Soul within, building a Temple of Light, (the Egoic Body), through which the divine Shekinah can manifest upon the earth, this important contribution to the ongoing emergence of the Ancient Mysteries appears to have been wisely ‘hid’ within the so-called building guilds of the Middle Ages, right under the noses of those ‘Christians’ who would otherwise have persecuted such practitioners for ‘heresy.’ But now and in the light of a new day, a new contribution is to be sounded out in this magical work of Masonry, and to be built upon that which has been bequeathed by those who gave us the symbolism of the Builders. Of course the ‘builder’ (Mason) and the ‘building’ (Temple) are metaphors pertaining to the inner processes of spiritual evolution and effort. And what beautiful symbolism it is!
A Lodge is a place where Masons meet, work, and study the Ancient Mysteries together.
A Temple is a group of souls gathered together to work out the purposes of Deity.
But another unique factor of the Ancient Mysteries of which Masonry has been and is a custodian pertains to the sequential unfolding progress upon the Path of Light by way of a graded series of achievements that culminate in the five major initiations of which the Ancient Mysteries teach us. The truth is all there in Masonry anent initiation for those who can see and recognise it. These graded stages evolve from that of a beginner on the Path when the soul “enters” and begins to take control of its personality, to that of the triumphant adept, the risen master. Thus has Masonry preserved the teachings anent the spiritual goals set before us and has thus remained as a custodian of the Plan within the bosom of humanity, for the latter has never been left without a witness to its abiding spiritual purpose.