Monday, July 24, 2006

Glimpses of Masonic History

This week I've started reading a book originally titled Glimpses of Masonic History by C. W. Leadbeater. The edition I purchased is newer, and has been re-titled "Ancient Mystic Rites." (although the content is essentially identical.) Although written from a Co-Masonic ("irregular" or "unrecognize") point of view, I believe Mr. Leadbeater's conclusions are spot-on in many particulars, and well worth reading, especially if you are interested in the Mystic or Occult aspects of the fraternity. I here quote from a portion of the text that has particularly impressed me, to give you a sample of Leadbeater's work:
To the occult student Masonry has also another aspect, of the greatest importance ... It is not only a wonderful and intricate system of occult symbols enshrining the secrets of the invisible worlds; it has also a sacramental aspect which is of the utmost beauty and value not only to its initiates but to the world at large. The performance of the ritual of each degree is intended to call down spiritual power, first to assist the Brother upon whom the degree is conferred to awaken within himself that aspect of consciousness which corresponds to the symbolism of the degree, as far as it can be awakened; secondly to aid in the evolution of the members present; and thirdly and most important of all, to pour out a flood of spiritual power intended to uplift, strengthen and encourage all members of the Craft.

Some years ago I undertook an investigation into the hidden side of the sacraments of the Catholic Church ... the shedding abroad of spiritual power is one great object of the celebration of the Holy Eucharist, and of other services ... by the invocation of an Angel to build a spiritual temple in the inner worlds ... and the charge of that temple with the enormous power called down at the consecration of the Sacred Elements. A somewhat similar result is achieved during the ceremonies performed by the Masonic Lodge, although the plan is not exactly the same, being indeed far older; and each of our rituals, when properly carried out, likewise builds a temple in the inner worlds, through which the spiritual power called down at the initiation of the candidate is stored and radiated. Thus Masonry is seen, in the sacramental sense as well as the mystical, to be "an art of building spiritualized," and every Masonic Lodge ought to be a channel of no mean order for the shedding of spiritual blessing over the district in which it labours.

Sometimes orders and rites which were once channels of great force have admitted, as the years passed by, Brethren less worthy than their predecessors - Brethren who thought more of their own gain than of service to the world. In such cases the spiritual powers associated with those grades were either entirely withdrawn by the [Gods] to be introduced later into some other and more suitable group, or allowed to remain dormant until more fitting candidates should be found to hold them worthily - the bare succession passing down and transmitting, as it were, the seeds of the power, although the power itself was largely in abeyance.

On the other hand, there have been cases in which a rite or grade has been manufactured by a student who wished to throw some great truth into ceremonial form, but knew little of all this inner side of Masonry; if such a degree or rite were doing useful work and attracting suitable candidates, sacramental powers fitted for that rite or grade were sometimes introduced into it, either by some Brother on the physical plane who possessed one of the lines of succession mentioned above, which was then adapted by the [Gods] for the work, or by a direct and non-physical interference from behind.

Furthermore, the inner effect of a given degree, even in a rite that may be fully valid, may vary greatly with the ... Brother upon whom it is conferred; so that in one case, let us say, the 33° would confer stupendous spiritual power, and in another, less worthy, the powers given would be much smaller, because of the candidate's incapacity to respond fully to them. In such cases a fuller degree of power will manifest itself as greater advancement is made in the development of character. It also appears to be possible for power to be temporarily withdrawn in cases of evil-doing by one of the Brethren, and to be restored later when the evil-doing has ceased.

... the chief lines of Masonic tradition - those which are of the greatest inner or spiritual value - are the Craft degrees, upon which all other grades are superimposed, the Mark and the Arch degrees, and the chief degrees of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite, the 18°, 30° and 33°. Other degrees ... have their own peculiar powers ... but the grades which I have mentioned are those which are considered by the [Gods] to be of the greatest value to our present generation ... Another line of great interest, though very different ... is ... the rites of Memphis and Mizraim, which are relics in their occult power, although not in their form, of perhaps the very oldest Mysteries existing upon earth. These too have their part to play in the future, as in the past, and they have therefore been preserved and transmitted to us in the present day.

This particular section, to me, is reminiscent of the explanation of magickal gestures in Initiation into Hermetics which I recommended in a previous post, and I think they are essentially teaching the same principle, which I myself endorse as accurate. Both of these books are "must-read" items for the mystic Mason, as far as I'm concerned, but they must be read with discernment because they may also contain much erroneous information. We must sift those things of the most value out from it.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


Leadbeater's comments about the Culdees are essentially correct. My ancestors were the hereditary abbots of Iona and I'm fully aware on this account that his speculations are true.
The Culdee tradition has a strong hereditary element in it due to a certain spiritual passage of the tradition through heredity. (It's difficult to explain how it works, but we just remember.)
I find it interesting that Joseph Smith might have had a link to my family. I looked into his genealogy once and found that his grandfather on his mother's side, John Mack, had come from a clan with a boars head crest. John or his father had shortened their last name to MacK in order to avoid the protestant persecution of families of the older religion. There is only one family who has both a boars head crest and who's last name begins with MacK, and that is mine, MacKinnon, who before the reformers came had been the hereditary abbots of Iona.

James McKinnon