Guide The Genius of Freemasonry: Williams B. Clarkes Leaves From Georgia Masonry

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Disciples were advanced from the outside to the inside of this divine philosophy, as we have seen, by degrees of initiation. Whereas, by symbols, dark sayings, and dramatic ritual the novice received only hints of what was later made plain. Second, this hidden teaching may indeed be described as the open secret of the world, because it is open, yet understood only by those fit to receive it. What kept it hidden was no arbitrary restriction, but only a lack of insight and fineness of mind to appreciate and assimilate it.

Nor could it be otherwise; and this is as true today as ever it was in the days of the Mysteries, and so it will be until whatever is to be the end of mortal things. Fitness for the finer truths cannot be conferred; it must be developed. Without it the teachings of the sages are enigmas that seem unintelligible, if not contradictory. In so far, then, as the discipline of initiation, and its use of art in drama and symbol, help toward purity of soul and spiritual awakening, by so much do they prepare men for the truth; by so much and no further.

So that, the Secret Doctrine, whether as taught by the ancient Mysteries or by modern Masonry, is less a doctrine than a [64] discipline; a method of organized spiritual culture, and as such has a place and a ministry among men. Perhaps the greatest student in this field of esoteric teaching and method, certainly the greatest now living, is Arthur Edward Waite, to whom it is a pleasure to pay tribute. By nature a symbolist, if not a sacramentalist, he found in such studies a task for which he was almost ideally fitted by temperament, training, and genius.

Engaged in business, but not absorbed by it, years of quiet, leisurely toil have made him master of the vast literature and lore of his subject, to the study of which he brought a religious nature, the accuracy and skill of a scholar, a sureness and delicacy of insight at once sympathetic and critical, the soul of a poet, and a patience as untiring as it is rewarding; qualities rare indeed, and still more rarely blended.

Prolific but seldom prolix, he writes with grace, ease, and lucidity, albeit in a style often opulent, and touched at times with lights and jewels from old alchemists, antique liturgies, remote and haunting romance, secret orders of initiation, and other recondite sources not easily traced. Much learning and many kinds of wisdom are in his pages, and withal an air of serenity, of tolerance; and if he is of those [65] who turn down another street when miracles are performed in the neighborhood, it is because, having found the inner truth, he asks for no sign.

Always he writes in the conviction that all great subjects bring us back to the one subject which is alone great, and that scholarly criticisms, folk-lore, and deep philosophy are little less than useless if they fall short of directing us to our true end—the attainment of that living Truth which is about us everywhere.

He conceives of our mortal life as one eternal Quest of that living Truth, taking many phases and forms, yet ever at heart the same aspiration, to trace which he has made it his labor and joy to essay. Through all his pages he is following out the tradition of this Quest, in its myriad aspects, especially since the Christian era, disfigured though it has been at times by superstition, and distorted at others by bigotry, but still, in what guise soever, containing as its secret the meaning of the life of man from his birth to his reunion with God who is his Goal.

And the result is a series of volumes noble in form, united in aim, unique in wealth of revealing beauty, and of unequalled worth. Then followed the Real History of the Rosicrucians , which traces, as far as any mortal may trace, the thread of fact whereon is strung the romance of a fraternity the very existence of which has been doubted and denied by turns. Like all his work, it bears the impress of knowledge from the actual sources, betraying his extraordinary learning and his exceptional experience in this kind of inquiry.

Of the Quest in its distinctively Christian aspect, he has written in The Hidden Church of the Holy Graal ; a work of rare beauty, of bewildering richness, written in a style which, partaking of the quality of the story told, is not at all after the manner of these days. But the Graal Legend is only one aspect of the old-world sacred Quest, uniting the symbols of chivalry with Christian faith. Masonry is another; and no one may ever hope to write of The Secret Tradition in Masonry with more insight and charm, or a touch more sure and revealing, than this gracious student for whom Masonry perpetuates the [67] instituted Mysteries of antiquity, with much else derived from innumerable store-houses of treasure.

His last work is a survey of The Secret Doctrine in Israel , being a study of the Zohar , [52] or Hebrew "Book of Splendor," a feat for which no Hebrew scholar has had the heart.

THE BUILDERS

This Bible of Kabbalism is indeed so confused and confusing that only a "golden dustman" would have had the patience to sift out its gems from the mountain of dross, and attempt to reduce its wide-weltering chaos to order. Even Waite, with all his gift of research and narration, finds little more than gleams of dawn in a dim forest, brilliant vapors, and glints that tell by their very perversity and strangeness.

Whether this age-old legend of the Quest be woven about the Cup of Christ, a Lost Word, or a design left unfinished by the death of a Master Builder, it has always these things in common: first, the memorials of a great loss which has befallen humanity by sin, making our race a pilgrim host ever in search; second, the intimation that what was lost still exists somewhere in time and the world, [68] although deeply buried; third, the faith that it will ultimately be found and the vanished glory restored; fourth, the substitution of something temporary and less than the best, albeit never in a way to adjourn the quest; fifth, and more rarely, the felt presence of that which was lost under veils close to the hands of all.

What though it take many forms, from the pathetic pilgrimage of the Wandering Jew to the journey to fairyland in quest of The Blue Bird , it is ever and always the same. These are but so many symbols of the fact that men are made of one blood and born to one need; that they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after Him, and find Him, though He is not far from every one of us; for in Him we live and move and have our being.

What, then, is the Secret Doctrine, of which this seer-like scholar has written with so many improvisations of eloquence and emphasis, and of which each of us is in quest? What, indeed, but that which all the world is seeking—knowledge of Him whom to know aright is the fulfillment of every human need: the kinship of the soul with God; the life of purity, honor, and piety demanded by that high heredity; the unity and fellowship of the race in duty and destiny; and the faith that the soul is [69] deathless as God its Father is deathless!

Now to accept this faith as a mere philosophy is one thing, but to realize it as an experience of the innermost heart is another and a deeper thing. No man knows the Secret Doctrine until it has become the secret of his soul, the reigning reality of his thought, the inspiration of his acts, the form and color and glory of his life. Happily, owing to the growth of the race in spiritual intelligence and power, the highest truth is no longer held as a sacred secret.

Still, if art has efficacy to surprise and reveal the elusive Spirit of Truth, when truth is dramatically presented it is made vivid and impressive, strengthening the faith of the strongest and bringing a ray of heavenly light to many a baffled seeker. Ever the Quest goes on, though it is permitted some of us to believe that the Lost Word has been found, in the only way in which it can ever be found—even in the life of Him who was "the Word made flesh," who dwelt among us and whose grace and beauty we know.

Of this Quest Masonry is an aspect, continuing the high tradition of humanity, asking men to unite in the search for the thing most worth finding, that each may share the faith of all. Apart from its rites, there is no mystery in Masonry, save the mystery of all great and [70] simple things. So far from being hidden or occult, its glory lies in its openness, and its emphasis upon the realities which are to the human world what light and air are to nature.

Its mystery is of so great a kind that it is easily overlooked; its secret almost too simple to be found out. Some extend the term occultism to cover mysticism and the spiritual life generally, but that is not a legitimate use of either word. Occultism seeks to get; mysticism to give.

The one is audacious and seclusive, the other humble and open; and if we are not to end in blunderland we must not confound the two Mysticism , by E. Underhill, part i, chap. Of a piece with this is the effort, apparently deliberate and concerted, to rob the Hebrew race of all spiritual originality, as witness so able a work as Our Own Religion in Persia , by Mills, to name no other.

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Our own religion? Assuredly, if by that is meant the one great, universal religion of humanity. But the sundering difference between the Bible and any other book that speaks to mankind about God and Life and Death, sets the Hebrew race apart as supreme in its religious genius, as the Greeks were in philosophical acumen and artistic power, and the Romans in executive skill. Leaving all theories of inspiration out of account, facts are facts, and the Bible has no peer in the literature of mankind. There one meets a fine spirit, alive to the glory of the world and all that charms the soul and sense of man, yet seeing past these; rich and significant thought so closely wedded to emotion that each seems either.

Other books not to be omitted are his slender volume of aphorisms, Steps to the Crown , his Life of Saint-Martin , and his Studies in Mysticism ; for what he touches he adorns. This society was called the Dionysian Artificers, as Bacchus was [72] supposed to be the inventor of building theaters; and they performed the Dionysian festivities. From this period, the Science of Astronomy which had given rise to the Dionysian rites, became connected with types taken from the art of building. The Ionian societies They had significant words to distinguish their members; and for the same purpose they used emblems taken from the art of building.

We need not then consider it improbable, if in the dark centuries when the Roman empire was dying out, and its glorious temples falling into ruin; when the arts and sciences were falling into disuse or being enslaved; and when no place was safe from persecution and warfare, the guild of the Architects should fly for safety to almost the only free spot in Italy; and here, though they could no longer practice their craft, they preserved the legendary knowledge and precepts which, as history implies, came down to them through Vitruvius from older sources, some say from Solomon's builders themselves.

So far in our study we have found that from earliest time architecture was related to religion; that the working tools of the builder were emblems of moral truth; that there were great secret orders using the Drama of Faith as a rite of initiation; and that a hidden doctrine was kept for those accounted worthy, after trial, to be entrusted with it. Secret societies, born of the nature and need of man, there have been almost since recorded history began; [54] but as yet we have come upon no separate and distinct order of builders.

The Truth About the Masonic Lodge

For aught we know there may have been such in plenty, but we have no intimation, much less a record, of the fact. That is to say, history has a vague story to tell us of the earliest orders of the builders. However, it is more than a mere plausible inference that from the beginning architects were members of secret orders; for, as we have seen, not only the truths of religion and philosophy, but also the [74] facts of science and the laws of art, were held as secrets to be known only to the few.

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This was so, apparently without exception, among all ancient peoples; so much so, indeed, that we may take it as certain that the builders of old time were initiates. Of necessity, then, the arts of the craft were secrets jealously guarded, and the architects themselves, while they may have employed and trained ordinary workmen, were men of learning and influence.


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Such glimpses of early architects as we have confirm this inference, as, for example, the noble hymn to the Sun-god written by Suti and Hor, two architects employed by Amenhotep III, of Egypt. What we have to keep in mind is that all the arts had their home in the temple, from which, as time passed, they spread out fan-wise along all the paths of culture. Keeping in mind the secrecy of the laws of building, and the sanctity with which all science and art were regarded, we have a key whereby to interpret [75] the legends woven about the building of the temple of Solomon.

Few realize how high that temple on Mount Moriah towered in the history of the olden world, and how the story of its building haunted the legends and traditions of the times following. Of these legends there were many, some of them wildly improbable, but the persistence of the tradition, and its consistency withal, despite many variations, is a fact of no small moment. Nor is this tradition to be wondered at, since time has shown that the building of the temple at Jerusalem was an event of world-importance, not only to the Hebrews, but to other nations, more especially the Phoenicians.

The histories of both peoples make much of the building of the Hebrew temple, of the friendship of Solomon and Hiram I, of Tyre, and of the harmony between the two peoples; and Phoenician tradition has it that Solomon presented Hiram with a duplicate of the temple, which was erected in Tyre. Clearly, the two nations were drawn closely together, and this fact carried with it a mingling of religious influences and ideas, as was true between the Hebrews and other nations, especially Egypt and Phoenicia, during the reign of Solomon.

Now [76] the religion of the Phoenicians at this time, as all agree, was the Egyptian religion in a modified form, Dionysius having taken the role of Osiris in the drama of faith in Greece, Syria, and Asia Minor.

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Thus we have the Mysteries of Egypt, in which Moses was learned, brought to the very door of the temple of Solomon, and that, too, at a time favorable to their impress. The Hebrews were not architects, and it is plain from the records that the temple—and, indeed, the palaces of Solomon—were designed and erected by Phoenician builders, and for the most part by Phoenician workmen and materials. Josephus adds that the architecture of the temple was of the style called Grecian.

So much would seem to be fact, whatever may be said of the legends flowing from it. If, then, the laws of building were secrets known only to initiates, there must have been a secret order of architects who built the temple of Solomon. Who were they? They were almost certainly the Dionysian Artificers —not to be confused with the play-actors called by the same name later—an order of builders who erected temples, stadia, and theaters in Asia Minor, and who were at the same time an order of the Mysteries under the tutelage of Bacchus before that worship declined, as it did later in Athens and Rome, into mere revelry.

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So that, blending the symbols of Astronomy with those of Architecture, by a slight change made by a natural process, how easy for the master-artist of the temple-builders to become the hero of the ancient drama of immortality. While this does not establish it as true historically, it surely gives it validity as a prophecy, if nothing more.

How else can we explain the fact that when the Knights of the Crusades went to the Holy Land they came back a secret, oath-bound fraternity? Also, why is it that, through the ages, we see bands of builders coming from the East calling themselves "sons of Solomon," and using his interlaced triangle-seal as their emblem? Strabo, as we have seen, traced the Dionysiac builders eastward into Syria, Persia, and even India.

They may also be traced westward. Traversing Asia Minor, they entered Europe by way of Constantinople, and we follow them through Greece to Rome, where already several centuries before Christ we find them bound together in corporations called Collegia. These lodges flourished in all parts of the Roman Empire, traces of their existence having been discovered in England as early as the middle of the first century of our era.

Krause was the first to point out a prophecy of Masonry in the old orders of builders, following [80] their footsteps—not connectedly, of course, for there are many gaps—through the Dionysiac fraternity of Tyre, through the Roman Collegia, to the architects and Masons of the Middle Ages.