Sunday, October 19, 2008

Albert Pike and Freemasonry - Part 2

Number 2 in a series on Albert Pike's views on Freemasonry.

As I pointed out in Part 1 of this series, Pike believed the great truths of Masonry are concealed in the rituals and symbology of the Blue Degrees. Let's explore that further in the following, adapted from the lessons of the 32d Degree:

What is most worth knowing in Masonry is never very openly taught. The symbols are displayed, but they are mute. It is by hints only, and those the least noticeable and apparently insignificant, that the Initiate is put upon the track of the hidden secret. A word seemingly used at random, and as it were by chance, long escapes notice, and at last attracts the attention of some inquring mind, and gives the clue that leads to new discoveries. Many of these [clues], by the manipulations of the improvers of the work, men of audacious mediocrity, such as Preston and Webb, have disappeared forever, and meaningless trivialities have taken their places. Some remain, proofs of the great antiquity of Masonry much more convincing than all the babble of those whose business is to invent and pervert and not to discover. Masonry, tortured out of shape by these interpreters, no longer has a Secret and Holy Doctrine, is no longer Sanctum Regnum or Holy Empire.

It was never intended that the mass of Masons should know the meaning of the Blue Degrees, and no pains were spared to conceal that meaning. The commentators pretend to do what they cannot do and have no right to do. They deceive and delude those who read their works; and their only exucse is that they are blind leaders of the blind.

Whether the Higher Degrees have for you any real value depends upon your capacity to understand them and upon the amount of study and the degree of reflection you have bestowed upon them. The wisdom that constitutes true intellectual wealth is not easily acquired. In these degrees, the Lectures, the Obligations, the incidental explanations, the opening and closing ceremonies, are all in unison, each word carefully weighed, and each meant to have effect. No man can understand them fully without close and long study, and profound thought. Often the sentence is truly the symbol that hides the meaning, or the hint that puts you upon the track of discovery. The symbolism of Masonry is not only a sphinx, but a sphinx nearly buried in the sand, which the envious centuries have heaped around it.
And from the 14th Degree:

It has been objected to us, that in our lectures we under value that which is absurdly called "Symbolic Masonry," as if any Masonry could be not symbolic. It is quite true that we should not value it if we saw nothing in the Symbols of the Blue Lodge beyond the imbecile pretences of interpretation of them contained in the ordinary sterile instruction which we owe to Webb and his predecessors. These misinterpretations are not so much guesses at the true meaning as merely arbitrary and unwarranted explanations invented with but a moderate degree of ingenuity, and no more authoritative or genuine than any others that an ingenious fancy might invent today. To pretend that they have been transmitted to us from antiquity is a mere fable. By the same process, an Egyption hieroglyph might be made to mean anything. To these pretended interpretations it is owing, and to those blind guides who look no further into Masonry, that intelligent men find so little to attract and interest them in Masonic Symbolism, and that much which is found in the Blue Degrees seems trivial and sometimes absurd.

Freemasonry must once have had other and very different purposes, and other and vastly more interesting and important objects than those for which, in the United States and England, at least, it now exists. All of its symbols, that are not merely modern inventions, have a concealed meaning, which never appeared in the Liturgies or Rituals, these containing only hints cautiously given, and ideas easily misunderstood (and so intended to be) by all but the Adepts.

We do not demand your assent to these conclusions. We state them here to lead you to reflect and study, that you may decide for yourself. All that we positively assert is, that so far from containing in themselves all Freemasonry, the Blue Degrees, especially in England and the United States, only conceal the Light from the Initiates, were at the beginning only a means of organization, and are now only preliminary and rudimental.

1 comment:

Bro. J.Luis Castañeda, 32º said...

Fascinating. My search for light has also led to the AASR. From what little I have seen it seems to be what I have been looking for.
These are strong words. I am curious as to how they are reconciled, or if they are addressed at all.