|Rivista di Massoneria - Revue de Franc-Maçonnerie - Revista de Masonerìa - Revista de Maçonaria|
MORALS and DOGMA by ALBERT PIKE
Morals and Dogma of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry , prepared for the Supreme Council of the Thirty Third Degree for the Southern Jurisdiction of the United States. Charleston, 1871.
|Chapter 28 - Knight of the Sun or Prince Adept (Part 3)|
These were the ancient ideas as to this Great GOD, Father of all the gods, or of the World; of this BEING, Principle of all things, and of which nothing other than itself is Principle,--the Universal cause that was termed God. Soul of the Universe, eternal like it, immense like it, supremely active and potent in its varied operations, penetrating all parts of this vast body, impressing a regular and symmetrical movement on the spheres, making the elements instinct with activity and order, mingling with everything, organizing everything, vivifying and preserving everything,--this was the UNIVERSE-GOD which the ancients adored as Supreme Cause and God of Gods.
Anchises, in the AEneid, taught AEneas this doctrine of Pythagoras, learned by him from his Masters, the Egyptians, in regard to the Soul and Intelligence of the Universe, from which our souls and intelligences, as well as our life and that of the animals, emanate, Heaven, Earth, the Sea, the Moon and the Stars, he said, are moved by a principle of internal life which perpetuates their existence; a great intelligent soul, that penetrates every part of the vast body of the Universe, and, mingling with everything, agitates it by an eternal movement. It is the source of life in all living things. The force which animates all, emanates from the eternal fire that burns in Heaven. In the Georgics, Virgil repeats the same doctrine; and that, at the death of every animal, the life that animated it, part of the universal life, returns to its Principle and to the source of life that circulates in the sphere of the Stars.
Servius makes God the active Cause that organizes the elements into bodies, the vivifying breath or spirit, that, spreading through matter or the elements, produces and engenders all things. The elements compose the substance of our bodies: God composes the souls that vivifv these bodies. From it come the instincts of animals, from it their life, he says: and when they die, that life returns to and re-enters into the Universal Soul, and their bodies into Universal Matter.
Timceus of Locria and Plato his Commentator wrote of the Soul of the World, devoloping the doctrine of Pythagoras, who thought, says Cicero, that God is the Universal Soul, resident everywhere in nature, and of which our Souls are but emanations. '"God is one," says Pythagoras, as cited by Justin Martyr: "He is not, as some think, without the world, but within it, and entire in its entirety. He sees all that becomes, forms all immortal beings, is the author of their powers and performances, the origin of all things, the Light of Heaven, the Father, the Intelligence, the Soul of all beings, the Mover of all spheres."
God, in the view of Pythagoras, was ONE, a single substance, whose continuous parts extended through all the Universe, without separation, difference, or inequality, like the soul in the human body. He denied the doctrine of the spiritualists, who had severed the Divinity from the Universe, making Him exist apart from the Universe, which thus became no more than a material work, on which acted the Abstract Cause, a God, isolated from it. The Ancient Theology did not so separate God from the Universe. This Eusebius attests, in saying that but a small number of wise men, like Moses, had sought for God or the Cause of all, outside of that AIL; while the Philosophers of Egypt and Phoenicia, real authors of all the old Cosmogonies, had placed the Supreme Cause in the Universe itself, and in its parts, so that, in their view, the world and all its parts are in God.
The World or Universe was thus compared to man: the Principle of Life that moves it, to that which moves man; the Soul of the World to that of man. Therefore Pythagoras called man a microcosm, or little world, as possessing in miniature all the qualities found on a great scale in the Universe; by his reason and intelligence partaking of the Divine Nature: and by his faculty of changing aliments into other substances, of growing, and reproducing himself, partaking of elementary Nature. Thus he made the Universe a great intelligent Being, like man--an immense Deity, having in itself, what man has in himself, movement, life, and intelligence, and besides, a perpetuity of existence, which man has not; and, as having in itself perpetuity of movement and life, therefore the Supreme Cause of all.
Everywhere extended, this Universal Soul does not, in the view of Pythagoras, act everywhere equally nor in the same manner. The highest portion of the Universe, being as it were its head, seemed to him its principal seat, and there was the guiding power of the rest of the world. In the seven concentric spheres is resident an eternal order, fruit of the intelligence, the Universal Soul that moves, by a constant and regular progression, the immortal bodies that form the harmonious system of the heavens.
Manilius says: "I sing the invisible and potent Soul of Nature; that Divine Substance which, everywhere inherent in Heaven Earth, and the Waters of the Ocean, forms the bond that holds together and makes one all the parts of the vast body of the Universe. It, balancing all Forces, and harmoniously arranging varied relations of the many members of the world, maintains it the life and regular movement that agitate it, as a result of action of the living breath or single spirit that dwells in all parts, circulates in all the channels of universal nature, flashes with rapidity to all its points, and gives to animated bodies configurations appropriate to the organization of each .... This eternal Law, this Divine Force, that maintains the harmony the world, makes use of the Celestial Signs to organize and guide the animated creatures that breathe upon the earth; and gives each of them the character and habits most appropriate. By action of this Force Heaven rules the condition of the Earth and of its fields cultivated by the husbandman: it gives us or takes from us vegetation and harvests: it makes the great ocean over-pass its limits at the flow, and retire within them again at ebbing, of the tide."
Thus it is no longer by means of a poetic fiction only that heavens and the earth become animated and personified, and a deemed living existences, from which other existences proceed. For now they live, with their own life, a life eternal like th bodies, each gifted with a life and perhaps a soul, like those man, a portion of the universal life and universal soul; and the other bodies that they form, and which they contain in the bosoms, live only through them and with their life, as the embry lives in the bosom of its mother, in consequence and by means a the life communicated to it, and which the mother ever maintains by the active power of her own life. Such is the universal life the world, reproduced in all the beings which its superior portion creates in its inferior portion, that is as it were the mnatrix of the world, or of the beings that the heavens engender in its bosom.
"The soul of the world," says Macrobius, "is nature itself" [as the soul of man is man himself], "always acting through the celestial spheres which it moves, and which but follow the irresistible impulse it impresses on them. The heavens, the sun, great seat of generative power, the signs, the stars, and the planets act only with the activity of the soul of the Universe. From that soul, through them, come all the variations and challges of sublunary nature, of which the heavens and celestial bodies are but the secondary causes. The zodiac, with its signs, is an existence, immortal and divine, organized by the universal soul, and producing, or gathering in itself, all the varied emanations of the different powers that make up the nature of the Divinity."
This doctrine, that gave to the heavens and the spheres living souls, each a portion of the universal soul, was of extreme antiquity. It was held by the old Sabaeans. It was taught by Timaeus, P]ato, Speusippus, Iamblichus, Macrobius, Marcus Aurelius, and Pythagoras. When once men had assigned a soul to the Universe, containing in itself the plenitude of the animal life of particular beings, and even of the stars, they soon supposed that soul to be essentially intelligent, and the source of intelligence of all intelligent beings. Then the Universe became to them not only animated but intelligent, and of that intelligence the different parts of nature partook. Each soul was the vehicle, and, as it were, the envelope of the intelligence that attached itself to it, and could repose nowhere else. Without a soul there could be no intelligence; and as there was a universal soul, source of all souls, the universal soul was gifted with a universal intelligence, source of all particular intelligences. So the soul of the world contained in itself the intelligence of the world. All the agents of nature into which the universal soul entered, received also a portion of its intelligence, and the Universe, in its totality and in its parts, was filled with intelligences, that might be regarded as so many emanations from the sovereign and universal intelligence. Wherever the divine soul acted as a cause, there also was intelligence; and thus Heaven, the stars, the elements, and all parts of the Universe, became the seats of so many divine intelligences. Every minutest portion of the great soul became a partial intelligence, and the more it was disengaged from gross matter, the more active and intelligent it was. And all the old adorers of nature, the theologians, astrologers, and poets, and the most distinguished philosophers, supposed that the stars were so many animated and intelligent beings, or eternal bodies, active causes of effects here below, whom a principle of life animated, and whom an intelligence directed, which was but an emanation from, and a portion of, the universal life and intelligence of the world.
The Universe itself was regarded as a supremely intelligent being. Such was the doctrine of Timaeus of Locria. The soul of man was part of the intelligent soul of the Universe, and therefore itself intelligent. His opinion was that of many other philosophers Cleanthes, a disciple of ZENO, regarded the Universe as God, or a the unproduced and universal cause of all effects produced. He ascribed a soul and intelligence to universal nature, and to this intelligent soul, in his view, divinity belonged. From it the intelligence of man was an emanation, and shared its divinity. Chrysippus, the most subtle of the Stoics, placed in the universal reason that forms the soul and intelligence of nature, that divine force or essence of the Divinity which he assigned to the world moved by the universal soul that pervades its every part.
An interlocutor in Cicero's work, De Natura Deorum, formally argues that the Universe is necessarily intelligent and wise, because man, an infinitely small portion of it, is so. Cicero makes the same argument in his oration for Milo. The physicists came to the same conclusion as the pllilosophers. They supposed that movement essentially belonged to the soul, and the direction of regular and ordered movements to the intelligence. And, as both movement and order exist in the Universe, therefore, they held, there must be in it a soul and an intelligence that rule it, and are not to be distinguished from itself; because the idea of the Universe is but the aggregate of all the particular ideas of all things that exist.
The argument was, that the Heavens, and the Stars which make part of them, are animated, because they possess a portion of the Universal Soul: they are intelligent beings, because that Universal Soul, part whereof they possess, is supremely intelligent and they share Divinity with Universal Nature, because Divinity resides in the Universal Soul and Intelligence which move an rule the world, and of each of which they hold a share. By this process of logic, the interlocutor in Cicero assigned Divinity to the Stars, as animated beings gifted with sensibility and intelligence, and composed of the noblest and purest portions of the ethereal substance, unmixed with matter of an alien nature, an essentially containing light and heat. Hence he concluded them to be so many gods, of an intelligence superior to that of other existences, corresponding to the lofty height in which they moved with such perfect regularity and admirable harmony, with a movement spontaneous and free. Hence he made them "Gods," active, eternal, and intelligent "Causes"; and peopled the realm of Heaven with a host of Eternal Intelligences, celestial Genii or Angels, sharing the universal Divinity, and associated with it in the administration of the Universe, and the dominion exercised over sublunary nature and man.
We make the motive-force of the planets to be a mechanical law, which we explain by the combination of two forces, the centripetal and centrifugal, whose origin we cannot demonstrate, but whose force we can calculate. The ancients regarded them as moved by an intelligent force that had its origin in the first and universal Intelligence. Is it so certain, after all, that we are any nearer the truth than they were; or that we know what our "centripetal and centrifugal forces" mean; for what is a force? With us, the entire Deity acts upon and moves each planet, as He does the sap that circulates in the little blade of grass, and in the particles of blood in the tiny veins of the invisible rotifer. With the Ancients, the Deity of each Star was but a portion of the Universal God, the Soul of Nature. Each Star and Planet, with them, was moved of itself, and directed by its own special intelligence. And this opinion of Achilles Tatius, Diodorus, Chrysippus, Aristotlc, Plato, Heraclides of Pontus, Theophrastus, Simplicius, Macrobius, and Proclus, that in each Star there is an immortal Soul and Intelligence,--part of the Universal Soul and Intelligence of the Whole,--this opinion of Orpheus, Plotinus, and the Stoics, was in reality, that of many Christian philosophers. For Origen held the same opinion; and Augustin held that every visible thing in the world was superintended by an Aneglic Power: and Cosma, the Monk, believed that every Star was under the guidance of an Angel; and the author of the Octateuch, written in the time of the Emperor Justin, says that they are moved by the impulse communicated to them by Angels stationed above the firmament. Whether the stars were animated beings, was a question that Christian antiquity did not decide. Many of the Christian doctors believed they were. Saint Augustin hesitates, Saint Jerome doubts, if Solomon did not assign souls to the Stars. Saint Ambrose does not doubt they have souls; and Pamphilus says that many of the Church believe they are reasonable beings, while many think otherwise, but that neither one nor the other opinion is heretical.
Thus the Ancient Thought, earnest and sincere, wrought out the idea of a Soul inherent in the Universe and in its several parts. The next step was to separate that Soul from the Universe, and give to it an external and independent existence an personality; still omnipresent, in every inch of space and in every particle of matter, and yet not a part of Nature, but its Cause and its Creator. This is the middle ground between the two doctrine of Pantheism (or that all is God, and God is in all and is all), on the one side, and Atheism (or that all is nature, and there is no other God), on the other; which doctrines, after all, when reduced to their simplest terms, seem to be the same.
We complacently congratulate ourselves on our recognition of personal God, as being the conception most suited to human sympathies, and exempt from the mystifications of Pantheism. But the Divinity remains still a mystery, notwithstanding all the devices which symbolism, either from the organic or inorganic creation, can supply; and personification is itself a symbol, liable misapprehension as much as, if not more so than, any other, since it is apt to degenerate into a mere reflection of our own infirmities; and hence any affirmative idea or conception that we can, our own minds, picture of the Deity, must needs be infinitely inadequate.
The spirit of the Vedas (or sacred Indian Books, of great antiquity), as understood by their earliest as well as most recent expositors, is decidedly a pantheistic monotheism--one God, a He all in all; the many divinities, numerous as the prayers a dressed to them, being resolvable into the titles and attributes of a few, and ultimately into THE ONE. The machinery of personification was understood to have been unconsciously assumed as mere expedient to supply the deficiencies of language; and the Mimansa justly considered itself as only interpreting the true meaning of the Mantras, when it proclaimed that, in the beginning, "Nothing was but Mind, the Creative Thought of Him which existed alone from the beginning, and breathed without afflation." The idea suggested in the Mantras is dogmatically asserted and developed in the Upanischadas. The Vedanta philosophy, assuming the mystery of the "ONE IN MANY" as the fundamental article of faith, maintained not only the Divine Unity, but the identity of matter and spirit. The unity which it advocates is that of mind. Mind is the Universal Element, the One God, the Great Soul, Mahaatma. He is the material as well as efficient cause, and the world is a texture of which he is both the web and the weaver. He is the Macrocosmos, the universal organism called Pooroosha, of which Fire, Air, and Sun are only the chief members. His head is light, his eyes the sun and moon, his breath the wind, his voice the opened Vedas. All proceeds from Brahm, like the web from the spider and the grass from the earth.
Yet it is only the impossibility of expressing in language the origination of matter from spirit, which gives to Hindu philosophy the appearance of materialisrm. Formless Himself, the Deity is present in all forms. His glory is displayed in the Universe as the image of the sun in water, which is, yet is not, the luminary itself. All maternal agency and appearance, the subjective world, are to a great extent phantasms, the notional representations of ignorance. They occupy, however, a middle ground between reality and non-reality; they are unreal, because nothing exists but Brahm; yet in some degree real, inasmuch as they constitute an outward manifestation of him. They are a self-induced hypostasis of the Deity, under which He presents to Himself the whole of animate and inanimate Nature, the actuality of the moment, the diversified appearances which successively invest the one Pantheistic Spirit.
The great aim of reason is to generalize; to discover unity in multiplicity, order in apparent confusion; to separate from the accidental and the transitory, the stable and universal. In the contemplation of Nature, and the vague, but almost intuitive perception of a general uniformity of plan among endless varieties of operation and form, arise those solemn and reverential feelings, which, if accompanied by intellectual activity, may eventually ripen into philosophy.
Consciousness of self and of personal identity is co-existent with our existence. We cannot conceive of mental existence without it. It is not the work of reflection nor of logic, nor the result of observation, experiment, and experience. It is a gift from God, like instinct; and that consciousness of a thinking soul which is really the person that we are, and other than our body, is the best and most solid proof of the soul's existence. We have the same consciousness of a Power on which we are dependent; which we can define and form an idea or picture of, as little as we can of the soul, and yet which we feel, and therefore know, exists. True at correct ideas of that Power, of the Absolute Existence from which all procceds, we cannot trace; if by true and correct we mean equate ideas; for of such we are not, with our limited faculties, capable. And ideas of His nature, so far correct as we are capable of entertaining, can only be attained either by direct inspiration or by the investigations of philosophy.
The idea of the universal preceded the recognition of any system for its explanation. It was felt rather than understood; and it was long before the grand conception on which all philosophy rests received through deliberate investigation that analytical development which might properly entitle it to the name. The sentiment, when first observed by the self-conscious mind, was, says Plato, "a Divine gift, communicated to mankind by some Prometheus, or by those ancients who lived nearer to the gods than our degenerate selves." The mind deduced from its first experiences the notion of a general Cause or Antecedent, to which it shortly gave a name and personified it. This was the statement of a theorem, obscure in proportion to its generality. It explained all things but itself. It was a true cause, but an incomprehensible one. Ages had to pass before the nature of the theorem could rightly appreciated, and before men, acknowledging the First Cause to be an object of faith rather than science, were contented to confine their researches to those nearer relations of existence and succession, which are really within the reach of their faculties. At first, and for a long time, the intellect deserted the real for a hastily-formed ideal world, and the imagination usurped the place of reason, in attempting to put a construction on the most general and inadequate of conceptions, by transmuting its symbols into realities, and by substantializing it under a thousand arbitrary forms.
In poetry, the idea of Divine unity became, as in Nature, obscured by a multifarious symbolism; and the notionalities of transcendental philosophy reposed on views of nature scarcely more profound than those of the earliest symbolists. Yet the idea of unity was rather obscured than extinguished; and Xenophanes appeared as an enemy of Homer, only because he more emphatically insisted on the monotheistic element, which, in poetry, has been comparatively overlooked. The first philosophy reasserted the unity which poetry had lost; but being unequal to investigate its nature, it again resigned it to the world of approximate sensations, and became bewildered in materialism, considering the conceptional whole or First Element as some refinement of matter, unchangeable in its essence, though subject to mutations of quality form in an eternal succession of seeming decay and regeneration; comparing it to water, air, or fire, as each endeavored to refine on the doctrine of his predecessor, or was influenced by a different class of theological traditions.
In the philosophical systems, the Divine Activity, divided by the poets and by popular belief among a race of personifications, in whom the idea of descent replaced that of cause, or of pantheistic evolution, was restored, without subdivision or reservation, to nature as a whole; at first as a mechanical force or life; afterward as an all-pervading soul or inherent thought; and lastly as an external directing Intelligence.
The Ionian revival of pantheism was materialistic. The Moving Force was inseparable from a material element, a subtle yet visible ingredient. Under the form of air or fire, the principle of life was associated with the most obvious material machinery of nature. Everything, it was said, is alive and full of gods. The wonders of the volcano, the magnet, the ebb and flow of the tide, were vital indications, the breathing or moving of the Great World-Animal. The imperceptible ether of Anaximenes had no positive quality beyond the atmospheric air with which it was easily confused: and even the "Infinite" of Anaximander, though free of the conditions of quality or quantity, was only an ideal chaos, relieved of its coarseness by negations. It was the illimitable storehouse or Pleroma, out of which is evolved the endless circle of phenomenal change. A moving Force was recognized in, but not clearly distinguished from, the material. Space, Time, Figure, and Number, and other common forms or properties, which exist only as attributes, were treated as substances, or at least as making a substantial connection between the objects to which they belong: and all the conditions of material existence were supposed to have been evolved out of the Pythagorean Monad.
The Eleatic philosophers treated conceptions not only as entities, but as the only entities, alone possessing the stability an certainty and reality vainly sought among phenomena. The only reality was Thought. "All real existence," they said, "is mental existence; non-existence, being inconceivable, is therefore impossble; existence fills up the whole range of thought, and is inseparable from its exercise; thought and its object are one."
Xenophanes used ambiguous language, applicable to the material as well as to the mental, and exclusively appropriate neither. In other words, he availed himself of material imagery to illustrate an indefinite meaning. In announcing the universal being, he appealed to the heavens as the visible manifestation, calling it spherical, a term borrowed from the material world. He said that God was neither moved nor unmoved, limited nor unlimited. He did not even attempt to express clearly what cannot be conceived clearly; admitting, says Simplicius, that such speculations were above physics. Parmenides employed similar expedients, comparing his metaphysical Deity to a sphere, or to heat an aggregate or a continuity, and so involuntarily withdrawing its nominal attributes.
The Atomic school, dividing the All into Matter and Force deemed matter unchangeable in its ultimate constitution, though infinitely variable in its resultant forms. They made all variety proceed from the varied combinations of atoms; but they required no mover nor director of the atoms external to themselves; universal Reason; but a Mechanical Eternal Necessity, like that of the Poets. Still it is doubtful whether there ever was a time when reason could be said to be entirely asleep, a stranger to its own existence, notwithstanding this apparent materialism. The earliest contemplation of the external world, which brings it into an imagined association with ourselves, assigns, either to its whole or its parts, the sensation and volition which belong to our own souls.
Anaxagoras admitted the existence of ultimate elementary particles, as Empedocles did, from the combinations whereof material phenomena resulted. But he asserted the Moving Force to be Mind; and yet, though he clearly saw the impossibility of advancing by illustration or definition beyond a reasonable faith, or a simple negation of materiality, yet he could not wholly desist from the endeavor to illustrate the nature of this non-matter or mind, by symbols drawn from those physical considerations which decided him in placing it in a separate category. Whether as human reason, or as the regulating Principle in nature, he held it different from all other things in character and effect, and that therefore it must necessarily differ in its essenticll constitution. It was neither Matter, nor a Force conjoined with matter, or homogeneous with it, but independent and generically distinct, especially in that, being the source of all motion, separation, and cognintion it is something entirely unique, pure, and unmixed; and so, being unhindered by any interfering influence limiting its independence of individual action, it has Supreme Empire over all things, over the vortex of worlds as well as over all that live in them. It is most penetrating and powerful, mixing with other things, though no other thing mixes with it; exercises universal control and cognition, and includes the Necessity of the Poets, as well as the independent power of thought which we exercise within ourselves. In short, it is the self-conscious power of thought extended to the Universe, and exalted into the Supreme External Mind which sees, knows, and directs all things.
Thus Pantheism and Materialism were both avoided; and matter, though as infinitely varied as the senses represent it, was held in a bond of unity transferred to a ruling power apart from it. That Power could not be Prime Mover, if it were itself moved; nor All-Governing, if not apart from the things it governs. If the arranging Principle were inherent in matter, it would have been impossible to account for the existence of a chaos: if something external, then the old Ionian doctrine of a "beginning" became more easily conceivable, as being the epoch at which the Arranging Intelligence commenced its operations.
But this grand idea of an all-governing independent mind involved difficulties which proved insuperable; because it gave to matter, in the form of chaos, an independent and eternal self-existence, and so introduced a dualism of mind and matter. In the Mind or Intelligence, Anaxagoras included not only life and motion, but the moral principles of the noble and good; and probably used the term on account of the popular misapplication of the word "God," and as being less liable to misconstruction, and more specifically marking his idea. His "Intelligence" principle remained practically liable to many of the same defects as the "Necessity" of the poets. It was the presentiment of a great idea, which it was for the time impossible to explain or follow out. It was not yet intelligible, nor was even the road operled throu which it might be approached.
Mind cannot advance in metaphysics beyond self-deification. In attempting to go further, it only enacts the apotheosis of own subtle conceptions, and so sinks below the simpler ground already taken. The realities which Plato could not recognize in phenomena, he discovered within his own mind, and as unhesitatingly as the old Theosophists installed its creations among the gods. He, like most philosophers after Anaxagoras, made the Supreme Being to be Intelligence; but in other respects left His nature undefined, or rather indefinite through the variety of definitions, a conception vaguely floating between Theism and Pantheism. Though deprecating the demoralizing tendencies of poetry, he was too wise to attempt to replace them by other representations of a positive kind. He justly says, that spirit things can be made intelligible only through figures; and the forms of allegorical expression which, in a rude age, had been adopted unconsciously, were designedly chosen by the philosopher as the most appropriate vehicles for theological ideas.
As the devices of symbolism were gradually stripped away, in order, if possible, to reach the fundamental conception, the religious feeling habitually connected with it seemed to evaporate under the process. And yet the advocates of Monotheism, Xenophanes and Heraclitus, declaimed only against the making of gods in human form. They did not attempt to strip nature of its divinity, but rather to recall religious contemplation from an exploded symbolism to a purer one. They continued the veneration which, in the background of poetry, has been maintained for Sun and Stars, the Fire or Ether. Socrates prostrated himself before the rising luminary; and the eternal spheres, which seem to have shared the religious homage of Xenophanes, retained a secondary and qualified Divinity in the Schools of the Peripatetics and Stoics.
The unseen being or beings revealed only to the Intellect became the theme of philosophy; and their more ancient symbols, if not openly discredited, were passed over with evasive generality, as beings respecting whose problematical existence we must be "content with what has been reported by those ancients, who, assuming to be their descendants, must therefore be supposed to have been well acquainted with their own ancestors and family connections." And the Theism of Anaxagoras was still more decidedly subversive, not only of Mythology, but of the whole religion of outward nature; it being an appeal from the world without, to the consciousness of spiritual dignity within man.
In the doctrines of Aristotle, the world moves on uninterruptedly, always changing, yet ever the same, like Time, the Eternal Now, knowing neither repose nor death. There is a principle which makes good the failure of identity, by multiplying resemblances; the destruction of the individual by an eternal renewal of the form in which matter is manifested. This regular eternal movement implies an Eternal Mover; not an inert Eternity, such as the Platonic Eidos, but one always acting, His essence being to act, for otherwise he might never have acted, and the existence of the world would be an accident; for what should have, in that case, decided Him to act, after long inactivity? Nor can He be partly in act and partly potential, that is, quiescent and undetermined to act or not to act, for even in that case motion would not be eternal, but contingent and precarious. He is therefore wholly in act, a pure, untiring activity, and for the same reasons wholly immaterial. Thus Aristotle avoided the idea that God was inactive and self-contemplative for an eternity, and then for some unknown reason, or by some unknown motive, commenced to act outwardly and produce; but he incurred the opposite hazard, of making the result of His action, matter and the Universe, be coexistent with Himself; or, in other words, of denying that there was any time when His outward action commenced.
The First Cause, he said, unmoved, moves all. Act was first, and the Universe has existed forever; one persistent cause directing its continuity. The unity of the First Mover follows from His immateriality. If He were not Himself unmoved, the series of motions and causes of motion would be infinite. Unmoved, therefore, and unchangeable Himself, all movement, even that in space, is caused by Him: He is necessary: He cannot be otherwise than as He is; and it is only through the necessity of His being that we can account for those necessary eternal relations which make a science of Being possible. Thus Aristotle leaned to a seemingly personal God; not a Being of parts and passions, like the God of the Hebrews, or that of the mass even of educated men in our own day, but a Substantial Head of all the categories of being, an Individuality of Intelligence, the dogma of Anaxagoras revived out of a more elaborate and profound analysis of Nature; something like that living unambiguous Principle which the old poets in advance of the materialistic cosmogonists from Night a Chaos, had discovered in Ouranos or Zeus. Soon, however, the vision of personality is withdrawn, and we reach that culminating point of thought where the real blends with the ideal; where moral action and objective thought (that is, thought exercised to anything outside of itself), as well as the material body, a excluded; and where the divine action in the world retains veil of impenetrable mystery, and to the utmost ingenuity research presents but a contradiction. At this extreme, the series of efficient causes resolves itself into the Final Cause. That which moves, itself unmoved, can only be the immobility Thought or Form. God is both formal, efficient, and final cause; the One Form comprising all forms, the one good including good, the goal of the longing of the University, moving the world as the object of love or rational desire moves the individual. He is the internal or self-realized Final Cause, having no end beyond Himself. He is no moral agent; for if He were, He would be but an instrument for producing something still higher and greater. One sort of act only, activity of mind or thought, can be assigned to Him who is at once all act yet all repose. What we call our highest pleasure, which distinguishes wakefulness and sensation and which gives a reflected charm to hope and memory, is with Him perpetual. His existence is unbroken enjoyment of that which is most excellent but only temporary with us. The divine quality of active and yet tranquil self-contemplation characterizing intelligence, is pre-eminently possessed by the divine mind; His thought, which is His existence, being, unlike ours, unconditional and wholly act. If He can receive any gratification or enjoyment from that which exists beyond Himself, He can also be displeased and pained with it, and then He would be an imperfect being. To suppose pleasure experienced by Him from anything outward, supposes insufficient prior enjoyment and happiness, and a sort of dependency. Man's Good is beyond himself; not so God's. The eternal act which produces the world's life is the eternal desire of good. The object of the Absolute Thought is the Absolute Good. Nature is all movement, and Thought all repose. In contemplating that absolute good, the Finality can contemplate only itself; and thus, all material interference being excluded, the distinction of subject and object vanishes in complete identification, and the Divine Thought is "the thinking of thought." The energy of mind is life, and God is that energy in its purity and perfection. He is therefore life itself, eternal and perfect; and this sums up all that is meant by the term "God." And yet, after all this transcendentalism, the very essence of thought consists in its mobility and power of transference from object to object; and we can conceive of no thought, without an object beyond itself, about which to think, or of any activity in mere self-contemplation, without outward act, movement, or manifestation.
Plato endeavors to show how the Divine Principle of Good becomes realized in Nature: Aristotle's system is a vast analogical induction to prove how all Nature tends toward a final good. Plato considered Soul as a principle of movement, and made his Deity realize, that is, turn into realities, his ideas as a free, intelligent Force. Aristotle, for whom Soul is the motionless centre from which motion radiates, and to which it converges, conceives a correspondingly unmoved God. The Deity of Plato creates, superintends, and rejoices in the universal joy of, His creatures. That of Aristotle is the perfection of man's intellectual activity extended to the Universe. When he makes the Deity to be an eternal act of self-contemplation, the world is not excluded from His cognizance, for He contemplates it within Himself. Apart from and beyond the world, He yet mysteriously intermingles with it. He is universal as well as individual; His agency is necessary and general, yet also makes the real and the good of the particular.
When Plato had given to the unformed world the animal life of the Ionians, and added to that the Anaxagorean Intelligence, overruling the wild principle of Necessity; and when to Intelligence was added Beneficence; and the dread Wardours, Force and Strength, were made subordinate to Mildness and Goodness, it seemed as if a further advance were impossible, and that the Deity could not be more than The Wise and The Good.
But the contemplation of the Good implies that of its opposite, Evil. When God is held to be "The Good," it is not because Evil is unknown, but because it is designedly excluded from His attributes. But if Evil be a separate and independent existence, how would it fare with His prerogative of Unity and Supremacy? To meet this dilemma, it remained only to fall back on something more or less akin to the vagueness of antiquity; to make a virtual confession of ignorance, to deny the ultimate reality of evil, like Plato and Aristotle, or, with Speusippus, the eternity of its antithetical existence, to surmise that it is only one of those notions which are indeed provisionally indispensable in a condition of finite knowledge, but of which so many have been already discredited by the advance of philosophy; to revert, in short, to the original conception of "The Absolute," or of a single Being, in whom all mysteries are explained, and before whom the disturbing principle is reduced to a mere turbid spot on the ocean of Eternity, which to the eye of faith may be said no longer to exist.
But the absolute is nearly allied to the non-existent. Matter and evil obtruded themselves too constantly and convincingly to be confuted or cancelled by subtleties of Logic. It is in vain to attempt to merge the world in God, while the world of experience exhibits contrariety, imperfection, and mutability, instead of the immutability of its source. Philosophy was but another name for uncertainty; and after the mind had successively deified Nature and its own conceptions, without any practical result but toilsome occupation; when the reality it sought, without or within, seemed ever to elude its grasp, the intellect, baffled in its higher flights, sought advantage and repose in aiming at truth of a lower but more applicable kind.
The Deity of Plato is a Being proportioned to human sympathies; the Father of the World, as well as its Creator; the author of good only, not of evil. "Envy," he says, "is far removed from celestial beings, and man, if willing, and braced for the effort, is permitted to aspire to a communion with the solemn troops and sweet societies of Heaven. God is the Idea or Essence of Goodness, the Good itself: in goodness, He created the World, and gave to it the greatest perfection of which it was susceptible; making it, as far as possible, an image of Himself. The sublime type of all excellence is an object not only of veneration but love." The Sages of old had already intimated in enigmas that God is the Author of Good; that like the Sun in Heaven, or AEsculapius on earth, He is "Healer," "Saviour," and "Redeemer," the destroyer and averter of Evil, ever healing the mischiefs inflicted by Here, the wanton or irrational power of nature.
Plato only asserts with more distinctness the dogma of antiquity when he recognizes Love as the highest and most beneficent of gods, who gives to nature the invigorating energy restored by the art of medicine to the body; since Love is emphatically the physician of the Universe, the AEsculapius to whom Socrates wished to sacrifice in the hour of his death.
A figurative idea, adopted from familiar imagery, gave that endearing aspect to the divine connection with the Universe which had commanded the earliest assent of the sentiments, until, rising in refinement with the progress of mental cultivation, it ultimately established itself as firmly in the deliberate approbation of the understanding, as it had ever responded to the sympathies. Even the rude Scythians, Bithynians, and Scandinavians, called God their "Father"; all nations traced their ancestry more or less directly to Heaven. The Hyperborean Olen, one of the oldest symbols of the religious antiquity of Greece, made Love the First born of Nature. Who will venture to pronounce at what time God was first worthily and truly honored, or when man first began to feel aright the mute eloquence of nature? In the obscure physics of the mystical Theologers who preceded Greek philosophy, Love was the Great First Cause and Parent of the Universe. "Zeus," says Proclus, "when entering upon the work of creation, changed Himself into the form of Love: and He brought forward Aphrodite, the principle of Unity and Universal Harmony, to display her light to all. In the depths of His mysterious being, He contains the principle of love within Himself; in Him creative wisdom and blessed love are united."
"From the first
Of Days on these his love divine be fixed,
His admiration; till in time complete
What he admired and loved, his vital smile
Unfolded into being."
The speculators of the venerable East, who had conceived the idea of an Eternal Being superior to all affection and change, in his own sufficiency enjoying a plenitude of serene and independent bliss, were led to inquire into the apparently inconsistent fact of the creation of the world. Why, they asked, did He, who required nothing external to Himself to complete His already existing Perfection, come forth out of His unrevealed and perfect existence, and become incorporated in the vicissitudes of nature? The solution of the difficulty was Love. The Great Being beheld the beauty of His own conception, which dwelt with Him alone from the beginning, Maia, or Nature's loveliness, at once the germ of passion and the source of worlds. Love became the universal parent, when the Deity, before remote and inscrutable, became ideally separated into the loving and the beloved.
And here again recurs the ancient difficulty; that, at whatever early period this creation occurred, an eternity had previously elapsed, during which God, dwelling alone in His unimpeached unity, had no object for His love; and that the very word implies to us an existing object toward which the love is directed; so that we cannot conceive of love in the absence of any object to be loved; and therefore we again return to this point, that if love is of God's essence, and He is unchangeable, the same necessity of His nature, supposed to have caused creation, must ever have made His existence without an object to love impossible: and so that the Universe must have been co-existent with Himself.
The questions how and why evil exists in the Universe: how its existence is to be reconciled with the admitted wisdom and goodness and omnipotence of God; and how far man is a free agent, or controlled by an inexorable necessity or destiny, have two sides. On one, they are questions as to the qualities and attributes of God; for we must infer His moral nature from His mode of governing the Universe, and they ever enter into any consideration His intellectual nature: and on the other, they directly concern the moral responsibility, and therefore the destiny, of man. All important, therefore, in both points of view, they have been much discussed in all ages of the world, and have no doubt urged men, more than all other questions have, to endeavor to fathom the profound mysteries of the Nature and the mode of Existence and action of an incomprehensible God.
And, with these, still another question also presents itself: whether the Deity governs the Universe by fixed and unalterable laws, or by special Providences and interferences, so that He may be induced to change His course and the results of human or material action, by prayer and supplication.
God alone is all-powerful; but the human soul has in all ages asserted its claim to be considered as part of the Divine. "The purity of the spirit," says Van Helmont, "is shown through energy and efficaciousness of will. God, by the agency of an infinite will, created the Universe, and the same sort of power in an inferior degree, limited more or less by external hindrances, exists in all spiritual beings." The higher we ascend in antiquity, the more does prayer take the form of incantation; and that form it still in a great degree retains, since the rites of public worship are generally considered not merely as an expression of trust or reverence, as real spiritual acts, the effect of which is looked for only within the mind of the worshipper, but as acts from which some direct outward result is anticipated, the attainment of some desired object, of health or wealth, of supernatural gifts for body or soul, of exemption from danger, or vengeance upon enemies. Prayer was able to change the purposes of Heaven, and to make the Devs tremble under the abyss. It exercised a compulsory influence over the gods. It promoted the magnetic sympathy of spirit with spirit; and the Hindu and Persian liturgies, addressed not only to the Deity Himself, but to His diversified manifestations, were considered wholesome and necessary iterations of the living or creative Word which at first effectuated the divine will, and which from instant to instant supports the universal frame by its eternal repetition.
In the narrative of the Fall, we have the Hebrew mode of explaining the great moral mystery, the origin of evil and the apparent estrangement from Heaven; and a similar idea, variously modified, obtained in all the ancient creeds. Everywhere, man had at the beginning been innocent and happy, and had lapsed, by temptation and his own weakness, from his first estate. Thus was accounted for the presumed connection of increase of knowledge with increase of misery, and, in particular, the great penalty of death was reconciled with Divine Justice. Subordinate to these greater points were the questions, Why is the earth covered with thorns and weeds ? whence the origin of clothing, of sexual shame and passion? whence the infliction of labor, and how to justify the degraded condition of woman in the East, or account for the loathing so generally felt toward the Serpent Tribe?
The hypothesis of a fall, required under some of its modifications in all systems, to account for the apparent imperfection in the work of a Perfect Being, was, in Eastern philosophy, the unavoidable accompaniment and condition of limited or individual existence; since the Soul, considered as a fragment of the Universal Mind, might be said to have lapsed from its pre-eminence when parted from its source, and ceasing to form part of integral perfection. The theory of its reunion was correspondent to the assumed cause of its degradation. To reach its prior condition its individuality must cease; it must be emancipated by re-absorption into the Infinite, the consummation of all things in God, to bepromoted by human effortin spiritual meditation or self-mortification, and completed in the magical transformation of death.
And as man had fallen, so it was held that the Angels of Evil had, from their first estate, to which, like men, they were, in God's good time, to be restored, and the reign of evil was then to cease forever. To this great result all the Ancient Theologies point; and thus they all endeavored to reconcile the existence of Sin and Evil with the perfect and undeniable wisdom and beneficence of God.
With man's exercise of thought are inseparably connected freedom and responsibility. Man assumes his proper rank as a moral agent, when with a sense of the limitations of his nature arise the consciousness of freedom, and of the obligations accompanying its exercise, the sense of duty and of the capacity to perform it. To suppose that man ever imagined himself not to be a free agent until he had argued himself into that belief, would be to suppose that he was in that below the brutes; for he, like them, is conscious of his freedom to act. Experience alone teaches him that this freedom of action is limited and controlled; and when what is outward to him restrains and limits this freedom of action, he instinctively rebels against it as a wrong. The rule of duty and the materials of experience are derived from an acquaintance with the conditions of the external world, in which the faculties are exerted; and thus the problem of man involves those of Nature and God. Our freedom, we learn by experience, is determined by an agency external to us; our happiness is intimately dependent on the relations of the outward World, and on the moral character of its Ruler.
Then at once arises this problem: The God of Nature must be One, and His character cannot be suspected to be other than good. Whence, then, came the evil, the consciousness of which must in variably have preceded or accompanied man's moral development? On this subject human opinion has ebbed and flowed between two contradictory extremes, one of which seems inconsistent with God's Omnipotence, and the other with His beneficence. If God it was said, is perfectly wise and good, evil must arise from some independent and hostile principle: if, on the other hand, all agencies are subordinate to One, it is difficult, if evil does indeed exist, if there is any such thing as Evil, to avoid the impiety of making God the Author of it.
The recognition of a moral and physical dualism in nature was adverse to the doctrine of Divine Unity. Many of the Ancients thought it absurd to imagine one Supreme Being, like Homer's Jove, distributing good and evil out of two urns. They therefore substituted, as we have seen, the doctrine of two distinct and eternal principles; some making the cause of evil to be the inherent imperfection of matter and the flesh, without explaining how God was not the cause of that; while others personified the required agency, and fancifully invented an Evil Principle, the question of whose origin indeed involved all the difficulty of the original problem, but whose existence, if once taken for granted, was sufficient as a popular solution of the mystery; the difficulty being supposed no longer to exist when pushed a step further off, as the difficulty of conceiving the world upheld by an elephant was supposed to be got rid of when it was said that the elephant was supported by a tortoise.
The simpler, and probably the older, notion, treated the one only God as the Author of all things. "I form the light," says Jehovah, "and create darkness; I cause prosperity and create evil; I, the Lord, do all these things." "All mankind," says Maximus Tyrius, "are agreed that there exists one only Universal King and Father, and that the many gods are His Children." There is nothing improbable in the supposition that the primitive idea was that there was but one God. A vague sense of Nature's Unity, blended with a dim perception of an all-pervading Spiritual Essence, has been remarked among the earliest manifestations of the Human Mind. Everywhere it was the dim remembrance, uncertain and indefinite, of the original truth taught by God to the first men.
The Deity of the Old Testament is everywhere represented as the direct author of Evil, commissioning evil and lying spirits to men, hardening the heart of Pharaoh, and visiting the iniquity of the individual sinner on the whole people. The rude conception of sternness predominating over mercy in the Deity, can alone account for the human sacrifices, purposed, if not executed, by Abraham and Jephthah. It has not been uncommon, in any age or country of the world, for men to recognize the existence of one God, without forming any becoming estimate of His dignity. The causes of both good and ill are referred to a mysterious centre, to which each assigns such attributes as correspond with his own intellect and advance in civilization. Hence the assignment to the Deity of the feelings of envy and jealousy. Hence the provocation given by the healing skill of AEsculapius and the humane theft of fire by Prometheus. The very spirit of Nature, personified in Orpheus, Tantalus, or Phineus was supposed to have been killed, confined, or blinded, for having too freely divulged the Divine Mysteries to mankind. This Divine Envy still exists in a modified form, and varies according to circumstances. In Hesiod it appears in the lowest type of human malignity. In the God of Moses, it is jealousy of the infringement of the autocratic power, the check to political treason; and even the penalties denounced for worshipping other gods often seem dictated rather by a jealous regard for His own greatness in Deity, than by the immorality and degraded nature of the worship itself. In Herodotus and other writers it assumes a more philosophical shape, as a strict adherence to a moral equilibrium in the government of the world, in the punishment of pride, arrogance, and insolent pretension.
God acts providentially in Nature by regular and universal laws, by constant modes of operation; and so takes care of material things without violating their constitution, acting always according to the nature of the things which He has made. It is a fact of observation that, in the material and unconscious world, He works by its materiality and unconsciousness, not against them; in the animal world, by its animality and partial consciousness, not against them. So in the providential government of the world, He acts by regular and universal laws, and constant modes of operation; and so takes care of human things without violating their constitution, acting always according to the human nature of man, not against it, working in the human world by means of man's consciousness and partial freedom, not against them.
God acts by general laws for general purposes. The attraction of gravitation is a good thing, for it keeps the world together; and if the tower of Siloam, thereby falling to the ground slays eighteen men of Jerusalem, that number is too small to think of, considering the myriad millions who are upheld by the same law. It could not well be repealed for their sake, and to hold up that tower; nor could it remain in force, and the tower stand.
It is difficult to conceive of a Perfect Will without confounding it with something like mechanism; since language has no name for that combination of the Inexorable with the Moral, which the old poets personified separately in Ananke or Eimarmene and Zeus. How combine understandingly the Perfect Freedom of the Supreme and All-Sovereign Will of God with the inflexible necessity, as part of His Essence, that He should and must continue to be, in all His great attributes, of justice and mercy for example, what He is now and always has been, and with the impossibility of His changing His nature and becoming unjust, merciless, cruel, fickle, or of His repealing the great moral laws which make crime wrong and the practice of virtue right?
For all that we familiarly know of Free-Will is that capricious exercise of it which we experience in ourselves and other men; and therefore the notion of Supreme Will, still guided by Infallible Law, even if that law be self-imposed, is always in danger of being either stripped of the essential quality of Freedom, or degraded under the ill-name of Necessity to something of even less moral and intellectual dignity than the fluctuating course of human operations.
It is not until we elevate the idea of law above that of partiality or tyranny, that we discover that the self-imposed limitations of the Supreme Cause, constituting an array of certain alternatives, regulating moral choice, are the very sources and safeguards of human freedom; and the doubt recurs, whether we do not set a law above God Himself; or whether laws self-imposed may not be self-repealed: and if not, what power prevents it.
The Zeus of Homer, like that of Hesiod, is an array of antitheses, combining strength with weakness, wisdom with folly, universal parentage with narrow family limitation, omnipotent control over events with submission to a superior destiny,-- DESTINY, a name by means of which the theological problem was cast back into the original obscurity out of which the powers of the human mind have proved themselves as incapable of rescuing it, as the efforts of a fly caught in a spider's web to do more than increase its entanglement.
The oldest notion of Deity was rather indefinite than repulsive. The positive degradation was of later growth. The God of nature reflects the changeful character of the seasons, varying from dark to bright. Alternately angry and serene, and lavishing abundance which she again withdraws, nature seems inexplicably capricious, and though capable of responding to the highest requirements of the moral sentiment through a general comprehension of her mysteries, more liable by a partial or hasty view to become darkened into a Siva, a Saturn, or a Mexitli, a patron of fierce orgies or blood-stained altars. All the older poetical personifications exhibit traces of this ambiguity. They are neither wholly immoral nor purely beneficent.
No people have ever deliberately made their Deity a malevolent or guilty Being. The simple piety which ascribed the origin of all things to God, took all in good part, trusting and hoping all things. The Supreme Ruler was at first looked up to with unquestioning reverence. No startling discords or contradictions had yet raised a doubt as to His beneficence, or made men dissatisfied with His government. Fear might cause anxiety, but could not banish hope, still less inspire aversion. It was only later, when abstract notions began to assume the semblance of realities, and when new or more distinct ideas suggested new words for their expression, that it became necessary to fix a definite barrier between Evil and Good.
To account for moral evil, it became necessary to devise some new expedient suited both to the piety and self-complacency of the inventor, such as the perversity of woman, or an agent distinct from God, a Typhon or Ahriman, obtained either by dividing the Gods into two classes, or by dethroning the Ancient Divinity, and changing him into a Dev or Daemon. Through a similar want, the Orientals devised the inherent corruption of the fleshy and material; the Hebrew transferred to Satan everything illegal and immoral; and the Greek reflection, occasionally adopting the older and truer view, retorted upon man the obloquy cast on these creatures of his imagination, and showed how he has to thank himself alone for his calamities, while his good things are the voluntary gifts, not the plunder of Heaven. Homer had already made Zeus exclaim, in the Assembly of Olympus, "Grievous it is to hear these mortals accuse the Gods; they pretend that evils come from us; but they themselves occasion them gratuitously by their own wanton folly." "It is the fault of man," said Solon; in reference to the social evils of his day, "not of God, that destruction comes;" and Euripides, after a formal discussion of the origin of evil, comes to the conclusion that men act wrongly, not from want of natural good sense and feeling, but because knowing what is good, they yet for various reasons neglect to practise it.
And at last reaching the highest truth, Pindar, Hesiod, AEschylus, AEsop, and Horace said, "All virtue is a struggle; life is not a scene of repose, but of energetic action. Suffering is but another name for the teaching of experience, appointed by Zeus himself, the giver of all understanding, to be the parent of instruction, the schoolmaster of life. He indeed put an end to the golden age; he gave venom to serpents and predacity to wolves; he shook the honey from the leaf, and stopped the flow of wine in the rivulets; he concealed the element of fire, and made the means of life scanty and precarious. But in all this his object was beneficent; it was not to destroy life, but to improve it. It was a blessing to man, not a curse, to be sentenced to earn his bread by the sweat of his brow; for nothing great or excellent is attainable without exertion; safe and easy virtues are prized neither by gods nor men; and the parsimoniousness of nature is justified by its powerful effect in rousing the dormant faculties, and forcing on mankind the invention of useful arts by means of meditation and thought."
Ancient religious reformers pronounced the worship of "idols" to be the root of all evil; and there have been many iconoclasts in different ages of the world. The maxim still holds good; for the worship of idols, that is, of fanciful conceits, if not the source of all evil, is still the cause of much; and it prevails as extensively now as it ever did. Men are ever engaged in worshipping the picturesque fancies of their own imaginations.
Human wisdom must always be limited and incorrect; and even right opinion is only a something intermediate between ignorance and knowledge. The normal condition of man is that of progress. Philosophy is a kind of journey, ever learning, yet never arriving at the ideal perfection of truth. A Mason should, like the wise Socrates, assume the modest title of a "lover of wisdom;" for he must ever long after something more excellent than he possesses, something still beyond his reach, which he desires to make eternally his own.
Thus the philosophic sentiment came to be associated with the poetical and the religious, under the comprehensive name of Love. Before the birth of Philosophy, Love had received but scanty and inadequate homage. This mightiest and most ancient of gods, coeval with the existence of religion and of the world, had been indeed unconsciously felt, but had neither been worthily honoured nor directly celebrated in hymn or paean. In the old days of ignorance it could scarcely have been recognized. In order that it might exercise its proper influence over religion and philosophy, it was necessary that the God of Nature should cease to be a God of terrors, a personification of mere Power or arbitrary Will, a pure and stern Intelligence, an inflictor of evil, and an unrelenting Judge. The philosophy of Plato, in which this charge became forever established, was emphatically a mediation of Love. With him, the inspiration of Love first kindled the light of arts and imparted them to mankind; and not only the arts of mere existence, but the heavenly art of wisdom, which supports the Universe. It inspires high and generous deeds and noble self devotion. Without it, neither State nor individual could do anything beautiful or great. Love is our best pilot, confederate, supporter, and saviour; the ornament and governor of all things human and divine; and he with divine harmony forever soothes the minds of men and gods.
Man is capable of a higher Love, which, marrying mind with mind and with the Universe, brings forth all that is noblest in his faculties, and lifts him beyond himself. This higher love is neither mortal nor immortal, but a power intermediate between the human and the Divine, filling up the mighty interval, an binding the Universe together. He is chief of those celestial emissaries who carry to the gods the prayers of men, and bring down to men the gifts of the gods. "He is forever poor, and far from being beautiful as mankind imagine, for he is squalid and withered; he flies low along the ground, is homeless and unsandalled; sleeping without covering before the doors and in the unsheltered streets, and possessing so far his mother's nature as being ever the companion of want. Yet, sharing also that of his father, he is forever scheming to obtain things good and beautiful; he is fearless, vehement, and strong; always devising some new contrivance strictly cautious and full of inventive resource; a philosopher through his whole existence, a powerful enchanter, and a subtle sophist."
The ideal consummation of Platonic science is the arrival at the contemplation of that of which earth exhibits no express image or adequate similitude, the Supreme Prototype of all beauty, pure and uncontaminated with human intermixture of flesh or colour, the Divine Original itself. To one so qualified is given the prerogative of bringing forth not mere images and shadows of virtue, but virtue itself, as having been conversant not with shadows, but with the truth; and having so brought forth and nurtured a progeny of virtue, he becomes the friend of God, and, so far as such a privilege can belong to any human being, immortal.
Socrates believed, like Heraclitus, in a Universal Reason pervading all things and all minds, and consequently revealing itself in ideas. He therefore sought truth in general opinion, and perceived in the communication of mind with mind one of the greatest prerogatives of wisdom and the most powerful means of advancement. He believed true wisdom to be an attainable idea, and that the moral convictions of the mind, those eternal instincts of temperance, conscientiousness, and justice, implanted in it by the gods, could not deceive, if rightly interpreted.
This metaphysical direction given to philosophy ended in visionary extravagance. Having assumed truth to be discoverable in thought, it proceeded to treat thoughts as truths. It thus became an idolatry of notions, which it considered either as phantoms exhaled from objects, or as portions of the divine preexistent thought; this creating a mythology of its own, and escaping from one thraldom only to enslave itself afresh. Theories and notions indiscriminately formed and defended are the false gods or "idols" of philosophy. For the word idolon means image, and a false mind-picture of God is as much an idol as a false wooden image of Him. Fearlessly launching into the problem of universal being, the first philosophy attempted to supply a compendious and decisive solution of every doubt. To do this, it was obliged to make the most sweeping assumptions; and as poetry had already filled the vast void between the human and the divine, by personifying its Deity as man, so philosophy bowed down before the supposed reflection of the divine image in the mind of the inquirer, who, in worshipping his own notions, had unconsciously deified himself. Nature thus was enslaved to common notions, and notions very often to words.
By the clashing of incompatible opinions, philosophy was gradually reduced to the ignominious confession of utter incapacity, and found its check or intellectual fall in skepticism. Xenophanes and Heraclitus mournfully acknowledged the unsatisfactory result of all the struggles of philosophy, in the admission of a universality of doubt; and the memorable effort of Socrates to rally the discomfited champions of truth, ended in a similar confession.
The worship of abstractions continued the error which personified Evil or deified Fortune; and when mystical philosophy resigned its place to mystical religion, it changed not its nature, but only its name. The great task remained unperformed, of reducing the outward world and its principles to the dominion of the intellect, and of reconciling the conception of the supreme unalterable power asserted by reason, with the requisitions of human sympathies.
A general idea of purpose and regularity in nature had been suggested by common appearances to the earliest reflection. The ancients perceived a natural order, a divine legislation, from which human institutions were supposed to be derived, laws emblazoned in Heaven, and thence revealed to earth. But the divine law was little more than an analogical inference from human law, taken in the vulgar sense of arbitrary will or partial covenant. It was surmised rather than discovered, and remained unmoral because unintelligible. It mattered little, under the circumstances, whether the Universe were said to be governed by chance or by reason, since the latter, if misunderstood, was virtually one with the former. "Better far," said Epicurus, "acquiesce in the fables of tradition, than acknowledge the oppressive necessity of the physicists"; and Menander speaks of God, Chance, and Intelligence as undistinguishable. Law unacknowledged goes under the name of Chance: perceived, but not understood, it becomes Necessity. The wisdom of the Stoic was a dogged submission to the arbitrary behests of one; that of the Epicurean an advantage snatched by more or less dexterous management from the equal tyranny of the other.
Ignorance sees nothing necessary, and is self abandoned to a power tyrannical because defined by no rule, and paradoxical because permitting evil, while itself assumed to be unlimited, all powerful, and perfectly good. A little knowledge, presuming the identification of the Supreme Cause with the inevitable certainty of perfect reason, but omitting the analysis or interpretation of it, leaves the mind chain-bound in the ascetic fatalism of the Stoic. Free-will, coupled with the universal rule of Chance; or Fatalism and Necessity, coupled with Omniscience and fixed and unalterable Law,--these are the alternatives, between which the human mind has eternally vacillated. The Supernaturalists, contemplating a Being acting through impulse, though with superhuman wisdom, and considering the best courtier to be the most favored subject, combines contradictory expedients, inconsistently mixing tlle assertion of free action with the enervating service of petition; while he admits, in the words of a learned archbishop, that "if the production of the things we ask for depend on antecedent, natural, and necessary causes, our desires will be answered no less by the omission than the offering of prayers, which, therefore, are a vain thing."
The last stage is that in which the religion of action is made legitimate through comprehension of its proper objects and contiditions. Man becomes morally free only when both notions, that of Chance and that of incomprehensible Necessity, are displaced by that of Law. Law, as applied to the Universe, means that universal, providential pre-arrangement, whose conditions can be discerned and discretionally acted on by human intelligence. The sense of freedom arises when the individual independence develops itself according to its own laws, without external collisions or hindrance; that of constraint, where it is thwarted or confined by other Natures, or where, by combination of external forces, the individual force is compelled into a new direction. Moral choice would not exist safely, or even at all, unless it were bounded by conditions determining its preferences. Duty supposes a rule both intelligible and certain, since an uncertain rule would be unintelligible, and if unintelligible, there could be no responsibility. No law that is unknown can be obligatory; and that Roman Emperor was justly execrated, who pretended to promulgate his penal laws, by putting them up at such a height that none could read them.
Man commands results, only by selecting among the contingent the pre-ordained results most suited to his purposes. In regard to absolute or divine morality, meaning the final cause or purpose of those comprehensive laws which often seem harsh to the individual, because inflexibly just and impartial to the universal, speculation must take refuge in faith; the immediate and obvious purpose often bearing so small a proportion to a wider and unknown one, as to be relatively absorbed or lost. The rain that, unseasonable to me, ruins my hopes of an abundant crop, does so because it could not otherwise have blessed and prospered the crops of another kind of a whole neighboring district of country. The obvious purpose of a sudden storm of snow, or an unexpected change of wind, exposed to which I lose my life, bears small proportion to the great results which are to flow from that storm or wind over a whole continent. So always, of the good all ill which at first seemed irreconcilable and capriciously distributed, the one holds its ground, the other diminishes by being explained. In a world of a multitude of individuals, a world of action and exertion, a world affording, by the conflict of interests and the clashing of passions, any scope for the exercise of the manly and generous virtues, even Omnipotence cannot make it, that the comfort and convenience of one man alone shall always be consulted.
Thus the educated mind soon begins to appreciate the moral superiority of a system of law over one of capricious interference; and as the jumble of means and ends is brought into more intelligible perspective, partial or seeming good is cheerfully resigned for the disinterested and universal. Self-restraint is found not to imply self-sacrifice. The true meaning of what appeared to be Necessity is found to be, not arbitrary Power, but Strength and Force enlisted in the service of Intelligence. God having made us men, and placed us in a world of change and eternal renovation, with ample capacity and abundant means for rational enjoyment, we learn that it is folly to repine because we are not angels, inhabiting a world in which change and the clashing of interest and the conflicts of passion are unknown.
The mystery of the world remains, but is sufficiently cleare up to inspire confidence. We are constrained to admit that if every man would but do the best in his power to do, and that which he knows he ought to do, we should need no better world than this. Man, surrounded by necessity, is free, not in a dogged determination of isolated will, because, though inevitably complying with nature's laws, he is able, proportionately to his knowledge, to modify, in regard to himself, the conditions of their action, and so to preserve an average uniformity between their forces and his own.
Such are some of the conflicting opinions of antiquity; and we have to some extent presented to you a picture of the Ancient Thought. Faithful, as far as it goes, it exhibits to us Man's Intellect ever struggling to pass beyond the narrow bounds of the circle in which its limited powers and its short vision confine it, and ever we find it travelling round the circle. like one lost in a wood, to meet the same unavoidable and insoluble ditfficulties. Science with her many instruments, Astronomy, particularly, with her telescope, Physics with the microscope, and Chemistry with its analyses and combinations, have greatly enlarged our ideas of the Deity, by discovering to us the vast extent of the Universe in both directions, its star-systems and its invisible swarms of minutest animal life; by acquainting us with the new and wonderful Force or Substance we call Electricity, apparently a link between Matter and Spirit: and still the Deity only becomes more incomprehensible to us than ever, and we find that in our speculations we but reproduce over and over again the Ancient Thought.
Where, then, amid all these conflicting opinions, is the True Word of a Mason?
My Brother, most of the questions which have thus tortured men's minds, it is not within the reach and grasp of the Human Intellect to understand; but without understanding, as we have explained to you heretofore, we may and must believe.
The True Word of a Mason is to be found in the concealed and profound meaning of the Ineffable Name of Deity, communicated by God to Moses; and which meaning was long lost by the very precautions taken to conceal it. The true pronunciation of that was in truth a secret, in which, however, was involved the far more profound secret of its meaning. In that meaning is included all the truth than can be known by us, in regard to the nature of God.
Long known as AL, AL SCHADAI, ALOHAYIM, and ADONAI; as the Chief or Commander of the Heavenly Armies; as the aggregate of the Forces [ALOHAYIM] of Nature; as the Mighty, the Victorious, the Rival of Bal and Osiris; as the Soul of Nature, Nature itself, a God that was but Man personified, a God with human passions, the God of the Heathen with but a mere change of name, He assumes, in His communications to Moses, the name IHUH, and says to Him, AHIH ASHR AHIH, I AM WHAT I AM. Let us examine the esoteric or inner, meaning of this Ineffable Name.
HIH is the imperfect tense of the verb TO BE, of which IHIH] is the present; [AHI-- being the personal pronoun "I" affixed the first person, by apocope; and IHI the third. The verb has the following forms : . . . Preterite, 3d person, masculine singular, HIH, did exist, was; 3d person com. plural, HIU . . . Present, 3d pers. masc. sing. IHIH, once IHUA, by apocope AHI, IHI . . Infinitive, HIH, HIU . . . Imperative, 2d pers. masc sing. HIH, fem. HUI . . . Participle, masc. sing. HUH, ENS - EXISTING . . EXISTENCE.
The verb is never used, as the mere logical copula or connecting word, is, was, etc., is used with the Greeks, Latins, and ourselves. It always implies existence, actuality. The present form also includes the future sense, . . shall or may be or exist. And HUH and HUA Chaldaic forms of the imperfect tense of the verb, are the same as the Hebrew HUH and HIH, and mean was, existed, became.
Now HUA and HIA are the Personal Pronoun [Masculine and Feminine], HE, SHE. Thus in Gen. iv. 20 we have the phrase, HUA HIH, HE WAS: and in Lev. xxi. 9, ATH ABIH HIA, HER Father. This feminine pronoun, however, is often written HUA, and HIA occurs only eleven times in the Pentateuch. Sometimes the feminine form means IT; but that pronoun is generally in the masculine form.
When either Yod, Vav, He, or Aleph terminates a word, and has no vowel either immediately preceding or following it, it is often rejected; as in GI, for GIA, a valley.
So HUA-HIA, He-She, could properly be written HU-HI; or by transposition of the letters, common with the Talmudists, IH-UH, which is the Tetragrammaton or Ineffable Name.
In Gen. i. 27, it is said, "So the ALHIM created man in His image: in the image of ALHIM created He him: MALE and FEMALE created He them."
Sometimes the word was thus expressed; triangularly:
And we learn that this designation of the Ineffable Name was, among the Hebrews, a symbol of Creation. The mysterious union of God with His creatures was in the letter , which they considered to be the Agent of Almighty Power; and to enable the possessor of the Name to work miracles.
The Personal Pronoun HUA, HE, is often used by itself, to express the Deity. Lee says that in such cases, IHUH, IH, or ALHIM, or some other name of God, is understood; but there is no necessity for that. It means in such cases the Male, Generative, or Creative Principle or Power.
It was a common practice with the Talmudists to conceal secret meanings and sounds of words by transposing the letters.
The reversal of the letters of words was, indeed, anciently common everywhere. Thus from Neitha, the name of an Egyptian Goddess, the Greeks, writing backward, formed Athene, the name of Minerva. In Arabic we have Nahid, a name of the planet Venus, which, reversed, gives Dihan, Greek, in Persian, Nihad, Nature; which Sir William Jones writes also Nahid. Strabo informs us that the Armenian name of Venus was Anaitis.
Tien, Heaven, in Chinese, reversed, is Neit, or Neith, worshipped at Sais in Egypt. Reverse Neitha, drop the i, and add an e, and we, as before said, Athene. Mitra was the name of Venus among the ancient Persians. Herodotus, who tells us this, also informs us that her name, among the Scythians, was Artim pasa. Artim is Mitra, reversed. So, by reversing it, the Greeks formed Artemis, Diana.
One of the meanings of Rama, in Sanscrit, is Kama, the Deity of Love. Reverse this, and we have Amar, and by changing a into o, Amor, the Latin word for Love. Probably, as the verb is Amare, the oldest reading was Amar and not Amor. So Dipaka, in Sanscrit, one of the meanings whereof is love, is often written Dipuc. Reverse this, and we have, adding o, the Latin word Cupido.
In Arabic, the radical letters rhm, pronounced rahm, signify the trunk, compassion, mercy; this reversed, we have mhr, in Persic, love and the Sun. In Hebrew we have Lab, the heart; and in Chaldee, Bal, the heart; the radical letters of both being b and l.
The Persic word for head is Sar. Reversed, this becomes Ras in Arabic and Hebrew, Raish in Chaldee, Rash in Samaritan, and Ryas in Ethiopic; all meaning head, chief, etc. In Arahic we have Kid, in the sense of rule, regulation, article of agreement, obligation; which, reversed, becomes, adding e, the Greek dike justice. In Coptic we have Chlom, a crown. Reversed, we have in Hebrew, Moloch or Malec, a King, or he who wears a crown.
In the Kou-onen, or oldest Chinese writing, by Hieroglyphics, Ge [Hi or Khi, with the initial letter modified], was the Sun: in Persic, Gaw: and in Turkish Giun. Yue was the Moon; in Sanscrit Uh, and in Turkish Ai. It will be remembered in Egypt and elsewhere, the Sun was originally feminine, and the Moon masculine. In Egypt, Ioh was the moon: and in the feasl of Bacchus they cried incessantly, Euoi Sabvi! Euoi Bakhe! Io Bakhe ! Io Bakhe !
Bunsen gives the following personal pronouns for he and she:
Jewish Aramaic ........Hu.....Hi
Thus the Ineffable Name not only embodies the Great Philosophical Idea, that the Deity is the ENS, the To ON, the Absolute Existence, that of which the Essence is To Exist, the only Substance of Spinoza, the BEING, that never could not have existed, as contradistinguished from that which only becomes, not Nature or the Soul of Nature, but that which created Nature; but also the idea of the Male and Female Principles, in its highest a most profound sense; to wit, that God originally comprehended in Himself all that is: that matter was not co-existent with Him, or independent of Him; that He did not merely fashion a shape a pre-existing chaos into a Universe; but that His Thought manifested itself outwardly in that Universe, which so became, and before was not, except as comprehended in Him: that the Generative Power or Spirit, and Productive Matter, ever among the ancients deemed the Female, originally were in God; and that He WAS and IS all that Was, that IS, and that Shall be: in Whom all else lives, moves, and has its being.
This was the great Mystery of the Ineffable Name; and this true arrangement of its letters, and of course its true pronunciation and its meaning, soon became lost to all except select few to whom it was confided; it being concealed from common people, because the Deity thus metaphysically named was not that personal and capricious, and as it were tangible God in whom they believed, and who alone was within the reach of their rude capacities.
Diodorus says that the name given by Moses to God was IAQ, Theodorus says that the Samaritans termed God IABE, but the Jews IAQ. Philo Byblius gives the form IEYQ: and Clemens of Alexandria IAOY. Macrobius says that it was an admitted axiom among the Heathen, that the triliteral IAQ was the sacred name of the Supreme God. And the Clarian oracle said: "Learn thou that IAQ is the great God Supreme, that ruleth over all." The letter I signified Unity. A and Q are the first and last letters of the Greek Alphabet.
Hence the frequent expression: "I am the First, and I am the Last; and besides Me there is no other God. I am A and Q, the First and the Last. I am A and Q, the Beginning and the Ending, which IS, and Was, and IS to come: the Omnipotent." For in this we see shadowed forth the same great truth; that God is all in all--the Cause and the Effect--the beginning, or Impulse, or Generative Power: and the Ending, or Result, or that which is produced: that He is in reality all that is, all that ever was, and all that ever will be; in this sense, that nothing besides Himself has existed eternally, and co-eternally with Him, independent of Him, and self-existent, or self-originated.
And thus the meaning of the expression, ALOHAYIM, a plural noun, used, in the account of the Creation With which Genesis commences, with a singular verb, and of the name or title IHUH ALHIM, used for the first time in the 4th verse of the 2d chapter of the same book, becomes clear. The ALHIM is the aggregate unity of the manifested Creative Forces or Powers of Deity, His Emanations; and IHUH-ALHIM is the ABSOLUTE Existence, or Essence of these Powers and Forces, of which they are Active Manifestations and Emanations.
This was the profound truth hidden in the ancient allegory and covered from the general view with a double veil. This was the esoteric meaning of the generation and production of the Indian, Chaldean, and Phoenician cosmognies; and the Active and Passive Powers, of the Male and Female Principles; of Heaven and its Luminaries generating, and the Earth producing; all hiding from vulgar view, as above its comprehension, the doctrine that matter is not eternal, but that God was the only original Existence, the ABSOLUTE, from Whom everything has proceeded, and to Whom all returns: and that all moral law springs not from the relation of things, but from His Wisdom and Essential Justice, as the Omnipotent Legislator. And this TRUE WORD is with entire accuracy said to have been lost; because its meaning was lost even among the Hebrews, although we still find the name (its real meaning unsuspected), in the Hu of the Druids and the Fo HI of the Chinese.
When we conceive of the Absolute Truth, Beauty, or Good, cannot stop short at the abstraction of either. We are forced to refer each to some living and substantial Being, in which they have their foundations, some being that is the first and last priciple of each.
Moral Truth, like every other universal and necessary truth, cannot remain a mere abstraction. Abstractions are unrealities. In ourselves, moral truth is merely conceived of. There must be somewhere a Being that not only conceives of, but constitutes it. It has this characteristic; that it is not only, to the eyes of our intelligence, an universal and necessary truth, but one obligatory on our will. It is A LAW. We do not establish that law ourselves. It is imposed on us despite ourselves: its principle must be without us. It supposes a legislator. He cannot be the being to whom the law applies; but must be one that possesses in the highest degree all the characteristics of moral truth. The moral law, universal and necessary, necessarily has as its author a necessary being;--composed of justice and charity, its author must be a being possessing the plenitude of both.
As all beautiful and all true things refer themselves, these a Unity which is absolute TRUTH, and those to a Unity which absolute BEAUTY, so all the moral principles centre in a single principle, which is THE GOOD. Thus we arrive at the conception of THE GOOD in itself, the ABSOLUTE Good, superior to all particular duties, and determinate in those duties. This Absolute Good must necessarily be an attribute of the Absolute Being. There cannot be several Absolute Beings; the one in whom realized Absolute Truth and Absolute Beauty being different from the one in whom is realized Absolute Good. The Absolute necessarily implies absolute Unity. The True, the Beautiful, and Good are not three distinct essences: but they are one and same essence, considered in its fundamental attributes: the different phases which, in our eyes, the Absolute and Infinite Perfection assumes. Manifested in the World of the Finite and Relative, these three attributes separate from each other, and are distinguished by our minds, which can comprehend nothing except by division. But in the Being from Whom they emanate, they are indivisibly united; and this Being, at once triple and one, Who sums up in Himself perfect Beauty) perfect Truth, and the perfect Good, is GOD.
God is necessarily the principle of Moral Truth, and of personal morality. Man is a moral person, that is to say, one endowed with reason and liberty. He is capable of virtue: and virtue has with him two principal forms, respect for others and love of others,-- justice and charity.
The creature can possess no real and essential attribute which the Creator does not possess. The effect can draw its reality and existence only from its cause. The cause contains in itself, at least, what is essential in the effect. The characteristic of the effect is inferiority, short-coming, imperfection. Dependent and derivate, it bears in itself the marks and conditions of dependence; and its imperfection proves the perfection of the cause; or else there would be in the effect something immanent, without a cause.
God is not a logical Being, whose Nature may be explained by deduction, and by means of algebraic equations. When, setting out with a primary attribute, the attributes of God are deduced one from the other, after the manner of the Geometricians and Scholastics, we have nothing but abstractions. We must emerge from this empty dialetic, to arrive at a true and living God. The first notion which we have of God, that of an Infinite Being, is not given us a priori, independently of all experience. It is our consciousness of ourself, as at once a Being and a limited Being, that immediately raises us to the conception of a Being, the principle of our being, and Himself without limits. If the existence that we possess forces us to recur to a cause possessing the same existence in an infinite degree, all the substantial attributes of existence that we possess equally require each an infinite cause. God, then, is no longer the Infinite, Abstract, Indeterminate Being, of which reason and the heart cannot lay hold, but a real Being, determinate like ourselves, a moral person like ourself; and the study of our own souls will conduct us, without resort to hypothesis, to a conception of God, both sublime and having a connection with ourselves.
If man be free, God must be so. It would be strange if, while the creature has that marvellous power of disposing of himself, of choosing and willing freely, the Being that has made him should he subject to a necessary development, the cause of which, though in Himself, is a sort of abstract, mechanical, or metaphysical power, inferior to the personal, voluntary cause which we are, and of which we have the clearest consciousness. God is free because we are: but he is not free as we are. He is at once everything that we are, and nothing that we are. He possesses the same attributes as we, but extended to infinity. He possesses, then, an infinite liberty, united to an infinite intelligence; and as His intelligence is infallible, exempt from the uncertainty of deliberation, and perceiving at a glance where the Good is, so His liberty accomplishes it spontaneously and without effort.
As we assign to God that liberty which is the basis of our existence, so also we transfer to His character, from our own, justice and charity. In man they are virtues: in God, His attributes. What is in us the laborious conquest of liberty, is in Him His very nature. The idea of the right, and the respect paid to the right, are signs of the dignity of our existence. If respect of rights is the very essence of justice, the Perfect Being must know and respect the rights of the lowest of His creatures; for He assigned them those rights. In God resides a sovereign justice, that renders to every one what is due him, not according to deceitful appearances, but according to the truth of things. And if man, a limited being, has the power to go out of himself, to forget his own person, to love another like himself, and devote himself to his happiness, dignity, and perfection, the Perfect Being must have, in an infinite degree, that disinterested tenderness, that Charity, the Supreme virtue of the human person. There is in God an infinite tenderness for His creatures, manifested in His giving us existence, which He might have withheld; and every day it appears in innumerable marks of His Divine Providence.
Plato well understood that love of God, and expresses it in these great words: "Let us speak of the cause which led the Supreme Arranger of the Universe to produce and regulate that Universe. He was good; and he who is good has no kind of ill will. Exempt from that, He willed that created things should be, as far as possible, like Himself." And Christianity in its turn said, "God has so loved men that He has given them His only Son."
It is not correct to affirm, as is often done, that Christianity has in some sort discovered this noble sentiment. We must not lower human nature, to raise Christianity. Antiquity knew, described, and practised charity; the first feature of which, so touching, and thank God! so common, is goodness, as its loftiest one is heroism. Charity is devotion to another; and it is ridiculously senseless to pretend that there ever was an age of the world, when the human soul was deprived of that part of its heritage, the power of devotion. But it is certain that Christianity has diffused and popularized this virtue, and that, before Christ, these words were never spoken: LOVE ONE ANOTHER; FOR THAT IS THE WHOLE LAW. Charity presupposes Justice. He who truly loves his brother respects the rights of his brother; but he does more, he forgets his own. Egoism sells or takes. Love delights in giving. In God, love is what it is in us; but in an infinite degree. God is inexhaustible in His charity, as He is inexhaustible in His essence. That Infinite Omnipotence and Infinite Charity, which, by an admirable good-will, draws from the bosom of its immense love the favors which it incessantly bestows on the world and on humanity, teaches us that the more we give, the more we possess.
God being all just and all good, He can will nothing but what is good and just. Being Omnipotent, whatever He wills He can do, and consequently does. The world is the work of God: it is therefore perfectly made.
Yet there is disorder in the world, that seems to impugn the justice and goodness of God.
A principle indissolubly connected with the very idea of good, tells us that every moral agent deserves reward when he does well, and punishment when he does ill. This principle is universal and necessary. It is absolute. If it does not apply in this world, it is false, or the world is badly ordered.
But good actions are not always followed by happiness, nor evil ones by misery. Though often this fact is more apparent than real; though virtue, a war against the passions, full of dignity but full of sorrow and pain, has the latter as its condition, yet the pains that follow vice are greater; and virtue conduces most to health, strength, and long life;--though the peaceful conscience that accompanies virtue creates internal happiness; though public opinion generally decides correctly on men's characters, and rewards virtue with esteem and consideration, and vice with contempt and infamy; and though, after all, justice reigns in the world, and the surest road to happiness is still that of virtue, yet there are exceptions. Virtue is not always rewarded, nor vice punished, in this life.
The data of this problem are these: 1st. The principle of merit and demerit within us is absolute: every good action ought to rewarded, every bad one punished: 2d. God is just as He is al powerful: 3d. There are in this world particular cases, contradicting the necessary and universal law of merit and demerit. What is the result?
To reject the two principles, that God is just, and the law merit and demerit absolute, is to raze to the foundations the whole edifice of human faith.
To maintain them, is to admit that the present life is to terminated or continued elsewhere. The moral person who acts well or ill, and awaits reward or punishment, is connected with a body, lives with it, makes use of it, depends upon it in a meas but is not it. The body is composed of parts. It diminishes or increases, it is divisible even to infinity. But this something which has a consciousness of itself, and says "I, ME"; that feels itself free and responsible, feels too that it is incapable of division, that it is a being one and simple; that the ME cannot be halved, that if a limb is cut off and thrown away, no part of the ME, goes with it: that it remains identical with itself under the variety phenomena which successively manifest it. This identity, indivisibility, and absolute unity of the person, are its spirituality, the very essence of the person. It is not in the least an hypothesis to affirm that the soul differs essentially from the body. By the soul we mean the person, not separated from the consciousnes of the attributes which constitute it,--thought and will. The Existence without consciousness is an abstract being, and not a person. It is the person, that is identical, one, simple. Its attributes, developing it, do not divide it. Indivisible, it is indissoluble, and may be immortal. If absolute justice requires this immortality, it does not require what is impossible. The spirituality of the soul is the condition and necessary foundation of immortality: the law of merit and demerit the direct demonstration of it. The first is the metaphysical, the second the moral proof. Add to these the tendency of all the powers of the soul toward the Infinite, and the principle of final causes, and the proof of the immortality of the soul is complete.
God, therefore, in the Masonic creed, is INFINITE TRUTH, INFINITE BEAUTY, INFINITE GOODNESS. He is the Holy of Holies, as Author of the Moral Law, as the PRINCIPLE of Liberty, of Justice, and of Charity, Dispenser of Reward and Punishment. Such a God is not an abstract God; but an intelligent and free person, Who has made us in His image, from Whom we receive the law that presides over our destiny, and Whose judgment we await. It is His love that inspires us in our acts of charity: it is His justice that governs our justice, and that of society and the laws. We continually remind ourselves that He is infinite; because otherwise we should degrade His nature: but He would be for us as if He were not, if His infinite nature had not forms inherent in ourselves, the forms of our own reason and soul.
When we love Truth, Justice, and Nobility of Soul, we should know that it is God we love underneath these special forms, and should unite them all into one great act of total piety. We should feel that we go in and out continually in the midst of the vast forces of the Universe, which are only the Forces of God; that in our studies, when we attain a truth, we confront the thought of God; when we learn the right, we learn the will of God laid down as a rule of conduct for the Universe; and when we feel disinterested love, we should know that we partake the feeling of the Infinite God. Then, when we reverence the mighty cosmic force, it will not be a blind Fate in an Atheistic or Pantheistic world, but the Infinite God, that we shall confront and feel and know. Then we shall be mindflll of the mind of God, conscious of God's conscience, sensible of His sentiments, and our own existence will be in the infinite being of God.
The world is a whole, which has its harmony; for a God who is One, could make none but a complete and harmonious work. The harmony of the Universe responds to the unity of God, as the indefinite quantity is the definite sign of the infinitude of God. To say that the Universe is God, is to admit the world only, and On the other hand, to suppose that the Universe is void of God, and that He is wholly apart from it, is an insupportable and almost impossible abstraction. To distinguish is not to separate. I distinguish, but do not separate myself from my qualities and effects. So God is not the Universe, although He is everywhere present in spirit and in truth.
To us, as to Plato, absolute truth is in God. It is God Himself under one of His phases. In God, as their original, are the immutable principles of reality and cognizance. In Him things receive at once their existence and their intelligibility. It is by participating in the Divine reason that our own reason possesses something of the Absolute. Every judgment of reason envelopes a necessary truth, and every necessary truth supposes the necessary Existence.
Thus, from every direction,--from metaphysics, aesthetics, an morality above all, we rise to the same Principle, the common centre, and ultimate foundation of all truth, all beauty, all good. The True, the Beautiful, the Good, are but diverse revelations of one and the same Being. Thus we reach the threshold of religion and are in communion with the great philosophies which all proclaim a God; and at the same time with the religions which cove the earth, and all repose on the sacred foundation of natural religion; of that religion which reveals to us the natural light give to all men, without the aid of a particular revelation. So long a philosophy does not arrive at religion, it is below all worships even the most imperfect; for they at least give man a Father, a Witness, a Consoler, a Judge. By religion, philosophy connects itself with humanity, which, from one end of the world to the other, aspires to God, believes in God, hopes in God. Philosophy contains in itself the common basis of all religious beliefs; it, as it were, borrows from them their principle, and returns it to them surrounded with light, elevated above uncertainty, secure against all attack.
From the necessity of His Nature, the Infinite Being must create and preserve the Finite, and to the Finite must, in its forms, give and communicate of His own kind. We cannot conceive of any finite thing existing without God, the Infinite basis and ground thereof; nor of God existing without something. God is the necessary logical condition of a world, its necessitating cause; a world, the necessary logical condition of God, His necessitated consequence. It is according to His Infinite Perfection to create, and then to preserve and bless whatever He creates. That is the conclusion of modern metaphysical science. The stream of philosophy runs down from Aristotle to Hegel, and breaks off with this conclusion: and then again recurs the ancient difficulty. If it be of His nature to create,--if we cannot conceive of His existing alone, without creating, without having created, then what He created was co-existent with Himself. If He could exist an instant without creating, He could as well do, so for a myriad of eternities. And so again conles round to us the old doctrine of a God, the Soul of the Universe, and co-existent with it. For what He created had a beginning; and however long since that creation occurred, an eternity had before elapsed. The difference between a beginning and no beginning is infinite.
But of some things we can be certain. We are conscious of ourselves--of ourselves if not as substances, at least as Powers to be, to do, to suffer. We are conscious of ourselves not as self originated at all or as self-sustained alone; but only as dependent, first for existence, ever since for support.
Among the primary ideas of consciousness, that are inseparable from it, the atoms of self-consciousness, we find the idea of God. Carefully examined by the scrutizing intellect, it is the idea of God as infinite, perfectly powerful, wise, just, loving, holy; absolute being with no limitation. This made us, made all, sustains us, sustains all; made our body, not by a single act, but by a series of acts extending over a vast succession of years,--for man's body is the resultant of all created things,-- made our spirit, our mind, conscience, affections, soul, will, appointed for each its natural mode of action, set each at its several aim. Thus self-consciousness leads us to consciousness of God, and at last to consciousness of an infinite God. That is the highest evidence of our own existence, and it is the highest evidence of His.
If there is a God at all, He must be omnipresent in space. Beyond the last Stars He must be, as He is here. There can be no mote that peoples the sunbeams, no little cell of life that the microscope discovers in the seed-sporule of a moss, but He is there.
He must also be omnipresent in time. There was no second of time before the Stars began to burn, but God was in that second. In the most distant nebulous spot in Orion's belt, and in every one of the millions that people a square inch of limestone, God is alike present. He is in the smallest imaginable or even unimaginable portion of time, and in every second of its most vast and unimaginable volume; His Here conterminous with the All of Space, His Now coeval with the All of Time.
Through all this space, in all this Time, His Being extends, spreads undivided, operates unspent; God in all His infinity, perfectly powerful, wise, just, loving, and holy. His being is an infinite activity, a creating, and so a giving of Himself to the World. The World's being is a becoming, a being created and continued. It is so now, and was so, incalculable and unimaginable millions of ages ago.
All this is philosophy, the unavoidable conclusion of the human mind. It is not the opinion of Coleridge and Kant, but their science; not what theyg~uess, but what they know.
In virtue of this in-dwelling of God in matter, we say that the world is a revelation of Him, its existence a show of His. He is in His work. The manifold action of the Universe is only His mode of operation, and all material things are in communion with Him. All grow and move and live in Him, and by means of Him, and only so. Let Him withdraw from the space occupied by anything, and it ceases to be. Let Him withdraw any quality of His nature from anything, and it ceases to be. All must partake of Him, He dwelling in each, and yet transcending all.
The failure of fanciful religion to become philosophy, does not preclude philosophy from coinciding with true religion. Philosophy, or rather its object, the divine order of the Universe, is the intellectual guide which the religious sentiment needs; while exploring the real relations of the finite, it obtains a constantly improving and self-correcting measure of the perfect law of the Gospel of Love and Liberty, and a means of carrying into effect the spiritualism of revealed religion. It establishes law, by ascertaining its terms; it guides the spirit to see its way to the amelioration of life and the increase of happiness. While religion was stationary, science could not walk alone; when both are admitted to be progressive, their interests and aims become identified. Aristotle began to show how religion may be founded on an intellectual basis; but the basis he laid was too narrow. Bacon, by giving to philosophy a definite aim and method, gave it at the same time a safer and self-enlarging basis. Our position is that of intellectual beings surrounded by limitations; and the latter being constant, have to intelligence the practical value of laws, in whose investigation and application consists that seemingly endless career of intellectual and moral progress which the sentiment of religion inspires and ennobles. The title of Saint has commonly been claimed for those whose boast it has been to despise philosophy; yet faith will stumble and sentiment mislead, unless knowledge be present, in amount and quality sufficient to purify the one and to give beneficial direction to the other.
Science consists of those matured inferences from experice which all other experience confirms. It is no fixed system perior to revision, but that progressive mediation between ignorance and wisdom in part conceived by Plato, whose immediate object is happiness, and its impulse the highest kind of love. Science realizes and unites all that was truly valuable in both the old schemes of mediation; the heroic, or system of action and effort; and the mystical theory of spiritual, contemplative contemplative communion. "Listen to me," says Galen, "as to the voice of the Eleusinian Hierophant, and believe that the study of nature is a mystery no less important than theirs, nor less adapted to display the wisdom and power of the Great Creator. Their lessons and demonstrations were obscure, but ours are clear and unmistakable."
To science we owe it that no man is any longer entitled to conider himself the central point around which the whole Universe of life and motion revolves--the immensely important individual or whose convenience and even luxurious ease and indulgence the whole Universe was made. On one side it has shown us an infinite Universe of stars and suns and worlds at incalculable distances from each other, in whose majestic and awful presence we sink and even our world sinks into insignificance; while, on the other side, the microscope has placed us in communication with new worlds of organized livings beings, gifted with senses, nerves, appetites, and instincts, in every tear and in every drop of putrid water.
Thus science teaches us that we are but an infinitesimal portion of a great whole, that stretches out on every side of us, and above and below us, infinite in its complications, and which infinite wisdom alone can comprehend. Infinite wisdom has arranged the infinite succession of beings, involving the necessity of birth, decay, and death, and made the loftiest virtues possible by providing those conflicts, reverses, trials, and hardships, without which even their names could never have been invented.
Knowledge is convertible into power, and axioms into rules of utility and duty. Modern science is social and communicative. It is moral as well as intellectual; powerful, yet pacific and disinterested; binding man to man as well as to the Universe; filling up the details of olbligation, and cherishing impulses of virtue, and, by affording clear proof of the consistency and identity of all interests, substituting co-operation for rivalry, liberality for jealousy, and tending far more powerfully than any other means to realize the spirit of religion, by healing those inveterate disorders which, traced to their real origin, will be found rooted in an ignorant assumption as to the penurious severity of Providence, and the consequent greed of selfish men to confine what seemed as if extorted from it to themselves, or to steal from each other rather than quietly to enjoy their own.
We shall probably never reach those higher forms containing the true differences of things, involving the full discovery and correct expression of their very self or essence. We shall ever fall short of the most general and most simple nature, the ultimate or most comprehensive law. Our widest axioms explain many phenomena, but so too in a degree did the principles or elements of the old philosophers, and the cycles and epicycles of ancient astronomy. We cannot in any case of causation assign the whole of the conditions, nor though we may reproduce them in practice, can we mentally distinguish them all, without knowing the essences of the things including them; and we therefore must not unconsciously ascribe that absolute certainty to axioms, which the ancient religionists did to creeds, nor allow the mind, which ever strives to insulate itself and its acquisitions, to forget the nature of the process by which it substituted scientific for common notions, and so with one as with the other lay the basis of self-deception by a pedantic and superstitious employment of them.
Doubt, the essential preliminary of all improvement and discovery, must accompany all the stages of man's onward progress. His intellectual life is a perpetual beginning, a prepetual beginning, a preparation for a birth. The faculty of doubting and questioning, without which those of comparison and judgment would be useless, is itself a divine prerogative of the reason. Knowledge is always imperfect, or complete only in a prospectively boundless career, in which discovery multiplies doubt and doubt leads on to new discovery. The boast of science is not so much its manifested results, as its admitted imperfection and capacity of unlimited progress. The true religious philosophy of an imperfect being is not a system of creed, but, as Socrates thought, an infinite search or approximation. Finality is but another name for bewilderment or defeat. Science gratifies the religious feeling without arresting it, and opens out the unfathomable mystery of the One Supreme into more explicit and manageable Forms, which express not indeed His Essence, which is wholly beyond our reach and higher than our faculties can climb, but His Will, and so feeds an endless enthusiasm by accumulating forever new objects of pursuit. We have long experienced that knowledge is profitable, we are beginning to find out that it is moral, and we shall at last discover it to be religious.
God and truth are inseparable; a knowledge of God is possession of the saving oracles of truth. In proportion as the thought and purpose of the individual are trained to conformity with the rule of right prescribed by supreme Intelligence, so far is his happiness promoted, and the purpose of his existence fulfilled. In this way a new life arises in him; he is no longer isolated, but is a part of the eternal harmonies around him. His erring will is directed by the influence of a higher will, informing and moulding it in the path of his true happiness.
Man's power of apprehending outward truth is a qualified privilege; the mental like the physical inspiration passing through a diluted medium; and yet, even when truth, imparted, as it were, by intuition, has been specious, or at least imperfect, the intoxication of sudden discovery has ever claimed it as full, infallible, and divine. And while human weakness needed ever to recur to the pure and perfect source, the revelations once popularly accepted and valued assumed an independent substantiality, perpetuating not themselves only, but the whole mass of derivitive forms accidentally connected with them, and legalized in their names. The mists of error thickened under the shadows of prescription, until the free light again broke in upon the night ot ages, redeeming the genuine treasure from the superstition which obstinately doted on its accessories.
Even to the Barbarian, Nature reveals a mighty power and a wondrous wisdom, and continually points to God. It is no wonder that men worshipped the several things of the world. The world of matter is a revelation of fear to the savage in Northern climes; he trembles at his deity throned in ice and snow. The lightning, the storm, the earthquake startle the rude man, and he sees the divine in the extraordinary.
The grand objects of Nature perpetually constrain men to think of their Author. The Alps are the great altar of Europe; the nocturnal sky has been to mankind the dome of a temple, starred all over with admonitions to reverence, trust, and love. The Scriptures for the human race are writ in earth and Heaven. No organ or miserere touches the heart like the sonorous swell of the sea or the ocean-wave's immeasurable laugh. Every year the old world puts on new bridal beauty, and celebrates its Whit-Sunday, when in the sweet Spring each bush and tree dons reverently its new glories. Autumn is a long All-Saints' day; and the harvest is Hallowmass to Mankind. Before the human race marched down from the slopes of the Himalayas to take possession of Asia, Chaldea, and Egypt, men marked each annual crisis, the solstices and the equinoxes, and celebrated religious festivals therein; even then, and ever since, the material was and has been the element of communion between man and God.
Nature is full of religious lessons to a thoughtful man. He dissolves the matter of the Universe, leaving only its forces; he solves away the phenomena of human history, leaving only immortal spirit; he studies the law, the mode of action of the forces and this spirit, which make up the material and the human world, and cannot fail to be filled with reverence, with trust, with boundless love of the Infinite God, who devised these laws of matter and of mind, and thereby bears up this marvellous Universe of things and men. Science has its New Testament; and beatitudes of Philosophy are profoundly touching. An undevour astronomer is mad. Familiarity with the grass and the trees teaches us deeper lessons of love and trust than we can glean from the writings of Fenelon and Augustine. The great Bible of God is ever open before mankind. The eternal flowers of Heaven seem to shed sweet influence on the perishable blossoms of the earth. The great sermon of Jesus was preached on a mountain, which preached to Him as He did to the people, and His figures of speech were first natural figures of fact.
If to-morrow I am to perish utterly, then I shall only take counsel for to-day, and ask for qualities which last no longer. My fathers will be to me only as the ground out of which my bread-corn is grown; dead, they are but the rotten mould of earth, their memory of small concern to me. Posterity !--I shall care nothing for the future generations of mankind ! I am one atom in the trunk of a tree, and care nothing for the roots below, or the branch above. I shall sow such seed only as will bear harvest to-day. Passion may enact my statutes to-day, and ambition repeal them to-morrow. I will know no other legislators. Morality will vanish, and expediency take its place. Heroism will be gone; and instead of it there will be the savage ferocity of the he-wolf, the brute cunning of the she-fox, the rapacity of the vulture, and the headlong daring of the wild bull; but no longer the cool, calm courage that, for truth's sake, and for love's sake, looks death firmly in the face, and then wheels into line ready to be slain. Affection, friendship, philanthropy, will be but the wild fancies of the monomaniac, fit subjects for smiles or laughter or for pity.
But knowing that we shall live forever, and that the Infinite God loves all of us, we can look on all the evils of the world, and see that it is only the hour before sunrise, and that the light is coming; and so we also, even we, may light a little taper, to illuminate the darkness while it lasts, and help until the day-spring come. Eternal morning follows the night: a rainbow scarfs the shoulders of every cloud that weeps its rain away to be flowers on land and pearls at sea: Life rises out of the grave, the soul cannot be held by fettering flesh. No dawn is hopeless; and disaster is only the threshold of delight.
Beautifully, above the great wide chaos of human errors, shines the calm, clear light of natural human religion, revealing to us God as the Infinite Parent of all, perfectly powerful, wise, just, loving, and perfectly holy too. Beautiful around stretches off every way the Universe, the Great Bible of God. Material nature is its Old Testament, millions of years old, thick with eternal truths under our feet, glittering with everlasting glories over our heads; and Human Nature is the New Testament from the Infinite God, every day revealing a new page as Time turns over the leaves. Immortality stands waiting to give a recompense for every virtue not rewarded, for every tear not wiped away, for every sorrow undeserved, for every prayer, for every pure intention and emotion of the heart. And over the whole, over Nature, Material and Human, over this Mortal Life and over the eternal Past and Future, the infinite Loving-kindness of God the Father comes enfolding all and blessing everything that ever was, that is, that ever shall be.
Everything is a thought of the Infinite God. Nature is His prose, and man His Poetry. There is no Chance, no Fate; but God's Great Providence, enfolding the whole Universe in its bosom, and feeding it with everlasting life. In times past there has been evil which we cannot understand; now there are evils which we cannot solve, nor make square with God's perfect goodness by any theory our feeble intellect enables us to frame. There are sufferings, follies, and sins for all mankind, for every nation, for every man and every woman. They were all foreseen by the infinite wisdom of God, all provided for by His infinite power and justice, and all are consistent with His infinite love. To believe otherwise would be to believe that He made the world, to amuse His idle hours with the follies and agonies of mankind, as Domitian was wont to do with the wrigglings and contortions of insect agonies. Then indeed we might despairingly unite in that horrible utterance of Heine: "Alas, God's Satire weighs heavily on me! The Great Author of the Universe, the Aristophanes of Heaven, is bent on demonstrating, with crushing force, to me, the little, earthly, German Aristophanes, how my wittiest sarcasms are only pitiful attempts at jesting, in comparison with His, and how miserably I am beneath Him, in humor, in colossal mockery."
No, no! God is not thus amused with and prodigal of human suffering. The world is neither a Here without a Hereafter, a body without a soul, a chaos with no God; nor a body blasted by a soul, a Here with a worse Hereafter, a world with a God that hates more than half the creatures He has made. There is no Savage, Revengeful, and Evil God: but there is an Infinite God, seen everywhere as Perfect Cause, everywhere as Perfect Providence, transcending all, yet in-dwelling everywhere, with perfect power, wisdom, justice, holiness, and love, providing for the future welfare of each and all, foreseeing and forecaring for every bubble that breaks on the great stream of human life and human history.
The end of man and the object of existence in this world, being not only happiness, but happiness in virtue and through virtue, virtue in this world is the condition of happiness in another life, and the condition of virtue in this world is suffering, more or less frequent, briefer or longer continued, more or less intense. Take away suffering, and there is no longer any resignation or humanity, no more self-sacrifice, no more devotedness, no more heroic virtues, no more sublime morality. We are subjected to suffering, both because we are sensible, and because we ought to be virtuous. If there were no physical evil, there would be no possible virtue, and the world would be badly adapted to the destiny of man. The apparent disorders of the physical world, and the evils that result from them, are not disorders and evils that occur despite the power and goodness of God. God not only allows, but wills them. It is His will that there shall be in the physical world causes enough of pain for man, to afford him occasions for resignation and courage.
Whatever is favorable to virtue, whatever gives the moral liberty more energy, whatever can serve the greater moral development of the human race, is good. Suffering is not the worst condition of man on earth. The worst condition is the moral brutalization which the absence of physical evil would engender.
External or internal physical evil connects itself with the object of existence, which is to accomplish the moral law here below, whatever the consequences, with the firm hope that virtue unfortunate will not fail to be rewarded in another life. The moral law has its sanction and its reason in itself. It owes nothing to that law of merit and demerit that accompanies it, but is not its basis. But, though the principle of merit and demerit ought not to be the determining principle of virtuous action, it powerfully concurs with the moral law, because it offers virtue a legitimate ground of consolation and hope.
Morality is the recognition of duty, as duty, and its accomplishment, whatever the consequences.
Religion is the recognition of duty in its necessary harmony with goodness; a harmony that must have its realization in another life, through the justice and omnipotence of God.
Religion is as true as morality; for once morality is admitted, its consequences must be admitted.
The whole moral existence is included in these two words, harmonious with each other: DUTY and HOPE.
Masonry teaches that God is infinitely good. What motive, what reason, and, morally speaking, what possibility can there be to Infinite Power and Infinite Wisdom, to be anything but good? Our very sorrows, proclaiming the loss of objects inexpressibly dear to us, demonstrate His Goodness. The Being that made us intelligent cannot Himself be without intelligence; and He Who has made us so to love and to sorrow for what we love, must number love for the creatures He has made, among His infinite attributes. Amid all our sorrows, we take refuge in the assurance that He loves us; that He does not capriciously, or through indifference, and still less in mere anger, grieve and afflict us; that He chastens us, in order that by His chastisements, which are by His universal law only the consequences of our acts, we may be profited; and that He could not show so much love for His creatures, by leaving them unchastened, untried, undisciplined. We have faith in the Infinite; faith in God's Infinite Love; and it is that faith that must save us.
No dispensations of God's Providence, no suffering or bereavement is a messenger of wrath: none of its circumstances are indications of God's Anger. He is incapable of Anger; higher above any such feelings than the distant stars are above the earth. Bad men do not die because God hates them. They die because it is best for them that they should do so; and, bad as they are, it is better for them to be in the hands of the infinitely good God, than anywhere else.
Darkness and gloom lie upon the paths of men. They stumble at difficulties, are ensnared by temptations, and perplexed by trouble. They are anxious, and troubled, and fearful. Pain and affliction and sorrow often gather around the steps of their earthly pilgrimage. All this is written indelibly upon the tablets of the human heart. It is not to be erased; but Masonry sees and reads it in a new light. It does not expect these ills and trials and sufferings to be removed from life; but that the great truth will at some time be believed by all men, that they are the means selected by infinite wisdom, to purify the heart, and to invigorate the soul whose inheritance is immortality, and the world its school.
Masonry propagates no creed except its own most simple and Sublime One; that universal religion, taught by Nature and by Reason. Its Lodges are neither Jewish, Moslem, nor Christian Temples. It reiterates the precepts of morality of all religions. It venerates the character and commends the teachings of the great and good of all ages and of all countries. It extracts the good and not the evil, the truth, and not the error, from all creeds; and acknowledges that there is much which is good and true in all.
Above all the other great teachers of morality and virtue, it reveres the character of the Great Master Who, submissive to the will of His and our Father, died upon the Cross. All must admit, that if the world were filled with beings like Him, the great ills of society would be at once relieved. For all coercion, injury, selfishness, and revenge, and all the wrongs and the greatest sufferings of life, would disappear at once. These human years would be happy; and the eternal ages would roll on in brightness and beauty; and the still, sad music of Humanity, that sounds through the world, now in the accents of grief, and now in pensive melancholy, would change to anthems, sounding to the March of Time, and bursting out from the heart of the world.
If every man were a perfect imitator of that Great, wise, Good Teacher, clothed with all His faith and all His virtues, how the circle of Life's ills and trials would be narrowed! The sensual passions would assail the heart in vain. Want would no longer successfully tempt men to act wrongly, nor curiosity to do rashly. Ambition, spreading before men its Kingdoms and its Thrones, and offices and honors, would cause none to swerve from their great allegiance. Injury and insult would be shamed by forgiveness "Father," men would say, "forgive them; for they know not what they do." None would seek to be enriched at another's loss or expense. Every man would feel that the whole human race were his brothers. All sorrow and pain and anguish would be soothed by a perfect faith and an entire trust in the Infinite Goodness of God. The world around us would be new, and the Heavens above us; for here, and there, and everywhere, through all the ample glories and splendors of the Universe, all men would recognize and feel the presence and the beneficent care of a loving Father.
However the Mason may believe as to creeds, and churches, and miracles, and missions from Heaven, he must admit that the Life and character of Him who taught in Galilee, and fragments of Whose teachings have come down to us, are worthy of all imitation. That Life is an undenied and undeniable Gospel. Its teachings cannot be passed by and discarded. All must admit that it would be happiness to follow and perfection to imitate Him. None ever felt for Him a sincere emotion of contempt, nor in anger accused Him of sophistry, nor saw immorality lurking in His doctrines; however they may judge of those who succeeded Him, and claimed to be His apostles. Divine or human, inspired or only a reforming Essene, it must be agreed that His teachings are far nobler, far purer, far less alloyed with error and imperfection, far less of the earth earthly, than those of Socrates, Plato, Seneca, or Mahomet, or any other of the great moralists and Reformers of the world.
If our aims went as completely as His beyond personal care and selfish gratification; if our thoughts and words and actions were as entirely employed upon the great work of benefiting our kind-- the true work which we have been placed here to do - as His were; if our nature were as gentle and as tender as His; and if society, country, kindred, friendship, and home were as dear to us as they were to Him, we should be at once relieved of more than half the difficulties and the diseased and painful affections of our lives. Simple obedience to rectitude, instead of self-interest; simple self-culture and self-improvement, instead of constant cultivation of the good opinion of others; single-hearted aims and purposes, instead of improper objects, sought and approached by devious and crooked ways, would free our meditations of many disturbing and irritating questions.
Not to renounce the nobler and better affections of our natures, nor happiness, nor our just dues of love and honor from men; not to vilify ourselves, nor to renounce our self-respect, nor a just and reasonable sense of our merits and deserts, nor our own righteousness of virtue, does Masonry require, nor would our imitation of Him require; but to renounce our vices, our faults, our passions, our self-flattering delusions; to forego all outward advantages, which are to be gained only through a sacrifice of our inward integrity, or by anxious and petty contrivances and appliances; to choose and keep the better part; to secure that, and let the worst take care of itself; to keep a good conscience, and let opinion come and go as it will; to retain a lofty self-respect, and let low self-indulgence go; to keep inward happiness, and let outward advantages hold a subordinate place; to renoune our selfishness, and that eternal anxiety as to what we are to have, and what men think of us; and be content with the plenitude of God's great mercies, and so to be happy. For it is the inordinate devotion to self, and consideration of self, that is ever a a stumbling block in the way; that spreads questions, snares, and difficulties around us, darkens the way of Providence, and makes the world a far less happy one to us than it might be.
As He taught, so Masonry teaches, affection to our kindred, tenderness to our friends, gentleness and forbearance toward our inferiors, pity for the suffering, forgiveness of our enemies; and to wear an affectionate nature and gentle disposition as the garment of our life, investing pain; and toil, and agony, and even death, with a serene and holy beauty. It does not teach us to wrap ourselves in the garments of reserve and pride, to care nothing for the world because it cares nothing for us, to withdraw our thoughts from society because it does us not justice, and see how patiently we can live within the confines of our own bosoms, or in quiet communion, through books, with the mighty dead. No man ever found peace or light in that way. Every relation, of hate, scorn, or neglect, to mankind, is full of vexation and torment. There is nothing to do with men but to love them, to admire their virtues, pity and bear with their faults, and forgive their injuries. To hate your adversary will not help you; to kill him will help you still less: nothing within the compass of the Universe will help you, but to pity, forgive, and love him.
If we possessed His gentle and affectionate disposition, His love and compassion for all that err and all that offend, how many difficulties, both within and without us, would they relieve ! How many depressed minds should we console ! How many troubles in society should we compose! How many enmities soften! How many a knot of mystery and misunderstanding would be untied by a single word, spoken in simple and confiding truth! How many a rough path would be made smooth, and how many a crooked path be made straight ! Very many places, now solitary, would be made glad; very many dark places be filled with light.
Morality has its axioms, like the other sciences; and these axioms are, in all languages, justly termed moral truths. Moral truths, considered in themselves, are equally as certain as mathematical truths. Given the idea of a deposit, the idea of keeping it faithfully is attached to it as necessarily, as to the idea of a triangle is attached the idea that its three angles are equal to two right angles. You may violate a deposit; but in doing so, do not imagine that you change the nature of things, or make what is in itself a deposit become your own property. The two ideas exclude each other. You have but a false semblance of property: and all the efforts of the passions, all the sophisms of interest, will not overturn essential differences. Therefore it is that a moral truth is so imperious; because, like all truth, it is what it is, and shapes itself to please no caprice. Always the same, and always present, little as we may like it, it inexorably condemns, with a voice always heard, but not always regarded, the insensate and guilty will which thinks to prevent its existing, by denying, or rather by pretending to deny, its existence.
The moral truths are distinguished from other truths by this singular characteristic: so soon as we perceive them, they appear to us as the rule of our conduct. If it is true that a deposit is made in order to be returned to its legitimate possessor, it must be returned. To the necessity of believing the truth, the necessity practising it is added.
The necessity of practising the moral truths is obligation. The moral truths, necessary to the eye of reason, are obligatory on the will. The moral obligation, like the moral truth which is its basis, is absolute. As necessary truths are not more or less necessary, so obligation is not more or less obligatory. There are degrees of importance among different obligations; but there are no degrees in the obligation itself. One is not nearly obliged, almost obliged; but wholly so, or not at all. If there be any place of refuge against the obligation, it ceases to exist.
If the obligation is absolute, it is immutable and universal. For if what is obligation to-day may not be so to-morrow, if what is obligatory for me may not be so for you, the obligation differing from itself, it would be relative and contingent. This fact of absolute, immutable, universal obligation is certain and manifest. The good is the foundation of obligation. If it be not, obligation has no foundation; and that is impossible. If one act ought to be done, and another ought not, it must be because evidently there is an essential difference between the two acts. If one be not good and the other bad, the obligation imposed on us is arbitrary.
To make the Good a consequence, of anything whatever, is to annihilate it. It is the first, or it is nothing. When we ask an honest man why, despite his urgent necessities, he has respected the sanctity of a deposit, he answers, because it was his duty. Asked why it was his duty, he answers, because it was right, was just, was good. Beyond that there is no answer to be made, but there is also no question to be asked. No one permits a duty to be imposed on him without giving himself a reason for it: but when it is admitted that the duty is commanded by justice, the mind is satisfied; for it has arrived at a principle beyond which there is nothing to seek, justice being its own principle. The primary truths include their own reason: and justice, the essential distinction between good and evil, is the first truth of morality.
Justice is not a consequence; because we cannot ascend to any principle above it. Moral truth forces itself on man, and does not emanate from him. It no more becomes subjective, by appearing to us obligatory, than truth does by appearing to us necessary. It is in the very nature of the true and the good that we must seek for the reason of necessity and obligation. Obligation is founded on the necessary distinction between the good and the evil; and it is itself the foundation of liberty. If man has his duties to perform, he must have the faculty of accomplishing them, of resisting desire, passion, and interest, in order to obey the law. He must be free; therefore he is so, or human nature is in contradiction with itself. The certainty of the obligation involves the corresponding certainty of free will.
It is the will that is free: though sometimes that will may be ineffectual. The power to do must not be confounded with the power to will. The former may be limited: the latter is sovereign. The external effects may be prevented: the resolution itself cannot. Of this sovereign power of the will we are conscious. We feel in ourselves, before it becomes determinate, the force which can determine itself in one way or another. At the same time when I will this or that, I am equally conscious that I can will the contrary. I am conscious that I am the master of my resolution: that I may check it, continue it, retake it. When the act has ceased, the consciousness of the power which produced it has not. That consciousness and the power remain, superior to all the manifestations of the power. Wherefore free-will is the essential and ever-subsisting attribute of the will itself.
At the same time that we judge that a free agent has done a good or a bad act, we form another judgment, as necessary as the first; that if he has done well, he deserves compensation; if ill, punishment. That judgment may be expressed in a manner more or less vivid, according as it is mingled with sentiments more or less ardent. Sometimes it will be a merely kind feeling toward a virtuous agent, and moderately hostile to a guilty one; sometimes enthusiasm or indignation. The judgment of merit and demerit is intimately connected with the judgment of good and evil. Merit is the natural right which we have to be rewarded; demerit the natural right which others have to punish us. But whether the reward is received, or the punishment undergone, or not, the merit or demerit equally subsists. Punishment and reward are the satisfaction of merit and demerit, but do not constitute them. Take away the former, and the latter continue. Take away the latter, and there are no longer real rewards or punishments. When a base man encompasses our merited honors, he has obtained the mere appearance of a reward; a mere material advantage. The reward is essentially moral; and its value is independent of its form. One of those simple crowns of oak with which the early Romans rewarded heroism, was of more real value than the wealth of the world, when it was the sign of the gratitude and admiration of a people. Reward accorded to merit is a debt; without merit it is an alms or a theft.
The Good is good in itself, and to be accomplished, whatever the consequences. The results of the Good cannot but be fortunate. Happiness, separated from the Good, is but a fact to which no moral idea is attached. As an effect of the Good, it enters into the moral order, completes and crowns it.
virtue without happiness, and crime without misery, is a contradiction and disorder. If virtue suppose sacrifice (that is, suffering), eternal justice requires that sacrifice generously accepted and courageously borne, shall have for its reward the same happiness that was sacrificed: and it also requires that crime shall be punished with unhappiness, for the guilty happiness which it attempted to procure.
This law that attaches pleasure and sorrow to the good and the evil, is, in general, accomplished even here below. For order rules in the world; because the world lasts. Is that order sometimes disturbed? Are happiness and sorrow not always distributed in legitimate proportion to crime and virtue? The absolute judgment of the Good, the absolute judgment of obligation, the absolute judgment of merit and demerit, continue to subsist, inviolable and imprescriptible; and we cannot help but believe that He Who has implanted in us the sentiment and idea of order, cannot therein Himself be wanting; and that He will, sooner or later, reestablish the holy harmony of virtue and happiness, by means belonging to Himself.
The Judgment of the Good, the decision that such a thing is good, and that such another is not,--this is the primitive fact, and reposes on itself. By its intimate resemblances to the judgment of the true and the beautiful, it shows us the secret affinities of morality, metaphysics, and aesthetics. The good, so especilly united to the true, is distinguished from it, only because it is truth put in practice. The good is obligatory. These are two indivisible but not identical ideas. The idea of obligation reposes on the idea of the Good. In this intimate alliance, the former borrows from the latter its universal and absolute character.
The obligatory good is the moral law. That is the foundation of all morality. By it we separate ourselves from the morality of interest and the morality of sentiment. We admit the existence of those facts, and their influence; but we do not assign them the same rank.
To the moral law, in the reason of man, corresponds liberty in action. Liberty is deduced from obligation, and is a fact irresistibly evident. Man, as free, and subject to obligation, is a moral person; and that involves the idea of rights. To these ideas is added that of merit and demerit; which supposes the distinction between good and evil, obligation and liberty; and creates the idea of reward and punishment.
The sentiments play no unimportant part in morality. All the moral judgments are accompanied by sentiments that respond to them. From the secret sources of enthusiasm the human will draws the mysterious virtue that makes heroes. Truth enlightens and illumines. Sentiment warms and inclines to action. Interest also bears its part; and the hope of happiness is the work of God, and one of the motive powers of human action.
Such is the admirable economy of the moral constitution of man. His Supreme Object, the Good: his law, virtue, which often imposes upon him suffering, thus making him to excel all other created beings known to us. But this law is harsh, and in contradiction with the instinctive desire for happiness. Wherefore the Beneficent Author of his being has placed in his soul, by the side of the severe law of duty, the sweet, delightful force of sentiment. Generally he attaches happiness to virtue; and for the exceptions, for such there are, he has placed Hope at the end of the journey to be travelled.
Thus there is a side on which morality touches religion. It is a sublime necessity of Humanity to see in God the Legislator suremely wise, the witness always present, the infallible Judge of virtue. The human mind, ever climbing up to God, would deem the foundations of morality too unstahle, if it did not place in God the first principle of the moral law. Wishing to give to the moral law a religious character, we run the risk of taking from it its moral character. We may refer it so entirely to God as to make His will an arbitrary degree. But the will of God, whence we deduce morality, in order to give it authority, itself has no moral authority, exccpt as it is just. The Good comes from the will of God alone; but from His will, in so far as it is the expression of His wisdom and justice. The Eternal Justice of God is the sole foundation of Justice, such as Humanity perceives and practises it. The Good, duty, merit and demerit, are referred to God, as everything is referred to Him; but they have none the less a proper evidence and authority. Religion is the crown of Morality, not its base. The base of Morality is in itself.
The Moral Code of Masonry is still more extensive than tha developed by philosophy. To the requisitions of the law of Nature and the law of God, it adds the imperative obligation of a contract. Upon entering the Order, the Initiate binds to himself every Mason in the world. Once enrolled among the children of light, every Mason on earth becomes his brother, and owes him the duties, the kindnesses, and the sympathies of a brother. On every one he may call for assistance in need, protection against danger, sympathy in sorrow, attention in sickness, and decent burial after death. There is not a Mason in the world who is not bound to go to his relief, when he is in danger, if there be greater probability of saving his life than of losing his own. No Mason can wrong him to the value of anything, knowingly, himself, nor suffer it to be done by others, if it be in his power to prevent it. No Mason can speak evil of him, to his face or behind his back. Every Mason must keep his lawful secrets, and aid him in his business, defend his character when unjustly assailed, and protect, counsel, and assist his widow and his orphans. What so many thousands owe to him, he owes to each of them. He has solemnly bound himself to be ever ready to discharge this sacred debt. If he fails to do it he is dishonest and forsworn; and it is an unparalleled meanness in him to obtain good offices by false pretences, to receive kindness and service, rendered him under the confident expectation that he will in his turn render the same, and then to disappoint, without ample reason, that just expectation.
Masonry holds him also, by his solemn promise, to a purer life a nobler generosity, a more perfect charity of opinion and action; to be tolerant,. catholic in his love for his race, ardent in his zeal for the interest of mankind, the advancement and progress of humanity.
Such are, we think, the Philosophy and the Morality, such the TRUE WORD of a Master Mason.
The world, the ancients believed, was governed by Seven Secondary Causes; and these were the universal forces, known to the Hebrews by the plural name ELOHIM. These forces, analogous and contrary one to the other, produce equilibrium by their contrasts, and regulate the movements of the spheres. The Hebrews called them the Seven great Archangels, and gave them names, each of which, being a combination of another word with AL, the first Phoenician Nature-God, considered as the Principle of Light, represented them as His manifestations. Other peoples assigned to these Spirits the government of the Seven Planets then known, and gave them the names of their great divinities.
So, in the Kabala, the last Seven Sephiroth constituted ATIK YOMIN, the Ancient of Days; and these, as well as the Seven planets, correspond with the Seven colors separated by the prism, and the Seven notes of the musical octave.
Seven is the sacred number in all theogonies and all symbols, because it is composed of 3 and 4. It represents the magical power in its full force. It is the Spirit assisted by all the Elementary Powers, the Soul served by Nature, the Holy Empire spoken of in the clavicules of Solomon, symbolized by a warrior, crowned, bearing a triangle on his cuirass, and standing on a cube, to which are harnessed two Sphinxes, one white and the other black, pulling contrary ways, and turning the head to look backward.
The vices are Seven, like the virtues; and the latter were anciently symbolized by the Seven Celestial bodies then known as planets. FAITH, as the converse of arrogant Confidence, was represented by the Sun; HOPE, enemy of Avarice, by the Moon; CHARITY, opposed to Luxury, by Venus; FORCE, stronger than Rage, by Mars; PRUDENCE, the opposite of Indolence, by Mercury; TEMPERANCE, the antipodes of Gluttony, by Saturn; and JUSTICE, the opposite of Envy, by Jupiter.
The Kabalistic book of the Apocalypse is represented as closed with Seven Seals. In it we find the Seven genii of the Ancient Mythologies; and the doctrine concealed under its emblems is the pure Kabala, already lost by the Pharisees at the advent of the Saviour. The pictures that follow in this wondrous epic are so many pantacles, of which the numbers 3, 4, 7, and 12 are keys.
The Cherub, or symbolic bull, which Moses places at the gate of the Edenic world, holding a blazing sword, is a Sphinx, with the body of a bull and a human head; the old Assyrian Sphinx whereof the combat and victory of Mithras were the hieroglyph analysis. This armed Sphinx represents the law of the Mystery, which keeps watch at the door of initiation, to repulse the Profane. It also represents the grand Magical Mystery, all the elements whereof the number 7 expresses, still without giving it last word. This "unspeakable word" of the Sages of the school of Alexandria, this word, which the Hebrew Kabalists wrote; IHUH, and translated by ARARITA, so expressing the threefoldness of the Secondary Principle, the dualism of the middle ones, and the Unity as well of the first Principle as of the end; and also the junction of the number 3 with the number 4 in a word composed of four letters, but formed of seven by one triplicate and two repeated,- -this word is pronounced Ararita.
The vowels in the Greek language are also Seven in number, and were used to designate the Seven planets.
Tsadok or Sydyc was the Supreme God in Phoenicia. His Seven Sons were probably the Seven Cabiri; and he was the Heptaktis, the God of Seven Rays.
Kronos, the Greek saturn, Philo makes Sanchoniathon say, had six sons, and by Astarte Seven daughters, the Titanides. The Persians adored Ahura Masda or Ormuzd and the Six Amshaspands the first three of whom were Lords of the Empires of Light, Fire and Splendor; the Babylonians, Bal and the Gods; the Chinese Shangti, and the Six Chief Spirits; and the Greeks, Kronos, and the Six great Male Gods, his progeny, Zeus, Poseidon, Apollo, Ares, Hephaistos, and Hermes; while the female deities were also Seven: Rhea, wife of Kronos, Here, Athene, Artemis, Aphrodite, Hestia, and Demetei. In the Orphic Theogony, Gaia produced the fourteen Titans, Seven male and Seven female, Kronos being the most potent of the males; and as the number Seven appears in these, nine by threes, or the triple triangle, is found in the three Moerae or Fates, the three Centimanes, and the three Cyclopes, offspring of Ouranos and Gaia, or Heaven and Earth.
The metals, like the colors, were deemed to be Seven in number, and a metal and color were assigned to each planet. Of the metals, gold was assigned to the Sun and silver to the Moon.
The palace of Deioces in Ecbatana had Seven circular walls of different colors, the two innermost having their battlements covered respectively with silvering and gilding.
And the Seven Spheres of Borsippa were represented by the Stories, each of a different color, of the tower or truncated pyramid of Bel at Babylon.
Pharaoh saw in his dream, which Joseph interpreted, Seven ears of wheat on one stalk, full and good, and after them Seven ears, withered, thin, and blasted with the East Wind; and the Seven thin ears devoured the Seven good ears; and Joseph interpreted these to mean Seven years of plenty succeeded by Seven years of famine.
Connected with this Ebn Hesham relates that a flood of rain laid bare to view a sepulchre in Yemen, in which lay a woman having on her neck Seven collars of pearls, and on her hands and feet bracelets and ankle-rings and armlets, Seven on each, with an inscription on a tablet showing that, after attempting in vain to purchase grain of Joseph, she, Tajah, daughter of Dzu Shefar, and her people, died of famine.
Hear again the words of an adept, who had profoundly studied the mysteries of science, and wrote, as the Ancient Oracles spoke, in enigmas; but who knew that the theory of mechanical forces and of the materiality of the most potent agents of Divinity, explains nothing, and ought to satisfy no one!
Through the veil of all the hieratic and mystic allegories of the ancient dogmas, under the seal of all the sacred writings, in the ruins of Nineveh or Thebes, on the worn stones of the ancient temples, and on the blackened face of the sphinx of Assyria or Egypt, in the monstrous or marvellous pictures which the sacred pages of the Vedas translate for the believers of India, in the strange emblems of our old books of alchemy, in the ceremonies of reception practised by all the mysterious Societies, we find the traces of a doctrine, everywhere the same, and everywhere carefully concealed. The occult philosophy seems to have been the nurse or the godmother of all religions, the secret lever of all the intellectual forces, the key of all divine obscurities, and the absolute Queen of Society, in the ages when it was exclusively reserved for the education of the Priests and Kings.
It had reigned in Persia with the Magi, who perished one day as the masters of the world had perished, for having abused their power. It had endowed India with the most marvellous traditions, and an incredible luxury of poetry, grace, and terror in its emblems: it had civilized Greece by the sounds of the lyre of Orpheus: it hid the principles of all the sciences, and of the whole progression of the human spirit, in the audacious calculations of Pythagoras: fable teemed with its miracles; and history, when it undertook to judge of this unknown power, confounded itself with fable: it shook or enfeebled empires by its oracles; made tyrants turn pale on their thrones, and ruled over all minds by means of curiosity or fear. To this science, said the crowd, nothing is impossible; it commands the elements, knows the language of the planets, and controls the movements of the stars; the moon, at its voice, falls, reeking with blood, from Heaven; the dead rise upright on their graves, and shape into fatal words the wind that breathes through their skulls. Controller of Love or Hate, this science can at pleasure confer on human hearts Paradise or Hell: it disposes at will of all forms, and distributes beauty or deformity as it pleases: it changes in turn, with the rod of Circe, men into brutes and animals into men: it even disposes of Life or of Death, and can bestow on its adepts riches by the transmutation of metals, and immortality by its quintessence and elixir, compounded of gold and light.
This is what magic had been, from Zoroaster to Manes, from Orpheus to Apollonius Thyaneus; when positive Christianity, triumphing over the splendid dreams and gigantic aspirations of the school of Alexandria, publicly crushed this philosophy with its anathemas, and compelled it to become more occult and more mysterious than ever.
At the bottom of magic, nevertheless, was science, as at the bottom of Christianity there was love; and in the Evangelic Symbols we see the incarnate WORD adored in its infancy by three magi whom a star guides (the ternary and the sign of the microcosm), and receiving from them gold, frankincense, and myrrh; another mysterious ternary, under the emblem whereof are allegorically contained the highest secrets of the Kabala.
Christianity should not have hated Magic; but human ignorance always fears the unknown. Science was obliged to conceal itself, to avoid the impassioned aggressions of a blind love. It enveloped itself in new hieroglyphs, concealed its efforts, disguised its hopes. Then was created the jargon of alchemy, a continual deception for the vulgar herd, greedy of gold, and a living language for the true disciples of Hermes alone.
Resorting to Masonry, the alchemists there invented Degrees, and partly unveiled their doctrine to their Initiates; not by the language of their receptions, but by oral instruction afterward; for their rituals, to one who has not the key, are but inconprehensible and absurd jargon.
Among the sacred books of the Christians are two works which the infallible church does not pretend to understand, and never attempts to explain,--the prophecy of Ezekiel and the Apocalypse; two cabalistic clavicules, reserved, no doubt, in Heaven, for the exposition of the Magian kings; closed with Seven seals for all faithful believers; and perfectly clear to the unbeliever initiated in the occult sciences.
For Christians, and in their opinion, the scientific and magical clavicules of Solomon are lost. Nevertheless, it is certain that, in the domain of intelligence governed by the WORD, nothing that is written is lost. Only those things which men cease to understand no longer exist for them, at least as WORD; then they enter into the domain of enigmas and mystery.
The mysterious founder of the Christian Church was saluted in His cradle by the three Magi, that is to say by the hieratic ambassadors from the three parts of the known world, and from the three analogical worlds of the occult philosophy.
In the school of Alexandria, Magic and Christianity almost take each other by the hand under the auspices of Ammonius Saccos and Plato. The dogma of Hermes is found almost entire in the writings attributed to Dionysius the Areopagite. Synesius traces the plan of a treatise on dreams, which was subsequently to be commented on by Cardan, and composes hymns which might serve for the liturgy of the Church of Swedenborg, if a church of illuminati could have a liturgy.
To this epoch of ardent abstractions and impassioned logomachies belongs the philosophical reign of Julian, an illuminatus and Initiate of the first order, who believed in the unity of God and the universal Dogma of the Trinity, and regretted the loss of nothing of the old world but its magnificent symbols and too graceful images. He was no Pagan, but a Gnostic, infected with the allegories of Grecian polytheism, and whose misfortune it was to find the name of Jesus Christ less sonorous than that of Orpheus.
We may be sure that so soon as Religion and Philosophy become distinct departments, the mental activity of the age is in advance of its Faith; and that, though habit may sustain the latter for a time, its vitality is gone.
The dunces who led primitive Christianity astray, by substituting faith for science, reverie for experience, the fantastic for the reality; and the inquisitors who for so many ages waged agains Magism a war of extermination, have succeeded in shrouding in darkness the ancient discoveries of the human mind; so that we now grope in the dark to find again the key of the phenomena of nature. But all natural phenomena depend on a single al immutable law, represented by the philosophal stone and its symbolic form, which is that of a cube. This law, expressed in the Kabala by the number 4, furnished the Hebrews with all the mysteries of their divine Tetragram.
Everything is contained in that word of four letters. It is the Azot of the Alchemists, the Thot of the Bohemians, the Taro of the Kabalists. It supplies to the Adept the last word of the human Sciences, and the Key of the Divine Power: but he alone understands how to avail himself of it who comprehends the necessity of never revealing it. If OEdipus, in place of slaying the Sphynx, had conquered it, and driven it into Thebes harnessed to his chariot, he would have been King, without incest, calamities, or exile. If Psyche, by submission and caresses, had persuaded Love to reveal himself, she would never have lost him. Love is one of the mythological images of the grand secret and the grand agent, because it expresses at once an action and a passion, a void and plenitude, an arrow and a wound. The Initiates ought to understand this, and, lest the profane should overhear, Masonry never says too much.
When Science had been overcome in Alexandria by the fanaticism of the murderers of Hypatia, it became Christian, or, rather it concealed itself under Christian disguises, with Ammonius Synosius, and the author of the books of Dionysius the Areopagite. Then it was necessary to win the pardon of miracles by the appearances of superstition, and of science by a language unintelligible. Hieroglyphic writing was revived, and pantacles and characters were invented, that summed up a whole doctrine in a sign, a whole series of tendencies and revelations in a word. What as the object of the aspirants to knowledge? They sought for the secret of the great work, or the Philosophal Stone, or the perpetual motion, or the squaring of the circle, or the universal medicine; formulas which often saved them from persecution and general ill-will, by exposing them to the charge of folly; and each of which expressed one of the forces of the grand magical secret. This lasted until the time of the Roman de la Rose, which also expresses the mysterious and magical meaning of the poem of Dante, borrowed from the High Kabalah, that immense and conealed source of the universal philosophy.
It is not strange that man knows but little of the powers of the human will, and imperfectly appreciates them; since he knows nothing as to the nature of the will and its mode of operation. That his own will can move his arm, or compel another to obey him; that his thoughts, symbolically expressed by the signs of writing, can influence and lead other men, are mysteries as incomrehensible to him, as that the will of Deity could effect the creaion of a Universe.
The powers of the will are as yet chiefly indefinite and unknown. Whether a multitude of well-established phenomena are to be ascribed to the power of the will alone, or to magnetism or some other natural agent, is a point as yet unsettled; but it is agreed by all that a concentrated effort of the will is in every case necessary to success.
That the phenomena are real is not to be doubted, unless credit is no longer to be given to human testimony; and if they are real, there is no reason for doubting the exercise heretofore, by many adepts, of the powers that were then termed magical. Nothing is better vouched for than the extraordinary performances of the Brahmins. No religion is supported by stronger testimony; nor as any one ever even attempted to explain what may well be termed their miracles.
How far, in this life, the mind and soul can act without and independently of the body, no one as yet knows. That the will can act at all without bodily contact, and the phenomena of dreams, are mysteries that confound the wisest and most learned, whose explanations are but a Babel of words.
Man as yet knows little of the forces of nature. Surrounded, controlled, and governed by them, while he vainly thinks himself independent, not only of his race, but the universal nature and her infinite manifold forces, he is the slave of these forces, unless he becomes their master. He can neither ignore their existen nor be simply their neighbor.
There is in nature one most potent force, by means whereof single man, who could possess himself of it, and should know how to direct it, could revolutionize and change the face of the world.
This force was known to the ancients. It is a universal age whose supreme law is equilibrium; and whereby, if science can but learn how to control it, it will be possible to change the order of the Seasons, to produce in night the phenomena of day, to send a thought in an instant round the world, to heal or slay at a distance, to give our words universal success, a make them reverberate everywhere.
This agent, partially revealed by the blind guesses of the disciples of Mesmer, is precisely what the Adepts of the middle ages called the elementary matter of the great work. The Gnostics held that it composed the igneous body of the Holy Spirit; a it was adored in the secret rites of the Sabbat or the Temple, under the hieroglyphic figure of Baphomet or the hermaphrodic goat of Mendes.
There is a Life-Principle of the world, a univercal agent, wherein are two natures and a double current, of love and wrath. This ambient fluid penetrates everything. It is a ray detach from the glory of the Sun, and fixed by the weight of the atmosphere and the central attraction. It is the body of the Holy Spirit, the universal Agent, the Serpent devouring his own tail. With this electro-magnetic ether, this vital and luminous caloric, the ancients and the alchemists were familiar. Of this agent, that phase of modern ignorance termed physical science talks incoherently, knowing naught of it save its effects; and theology might apply to it all its pretended definitions of spirit. Quiescent, it is appreciable by no human sense; disturbed or in movement, none can explain its mode of action; and to term it a "fluid," and speak of its "currents," is but to veil a profound ignorance under a cloud of words.
Force attracts force, life attracts life, health attracts health, is a law of nature.
If two children live together, and still more if they sleep together, and one is feeble and the other strong, the strong will absorb the feeble, and the latter will perish.
In schools, some pupils absorb the intellect of the others, and in every circle of men some one individual is soon found, who possesses himself of the wills of the others.
Enthralments by currents is very common; and one is carried away by the crowd, in morals as in physics. The human will has an almost absolute power in determining one's acts; and every external demonstration of a will has an influence on external things.
Tissot ascribed most maladies to disorders of the will, or the perverse influences of the wills of others. We become subject to the wills of others by the analogies of our inclinations, and still more by those of our defects. To caress the weaknesses of an individual, is to possess ourself of him, and make of him an instrument in the order of the same errors or depravations. But when two natures, analogical in defects, are subordinated one to the other, there is effected a kind of substitution of the stronger instead of the weaker, and a genuine imprisonment of one mind by the other. Often the weaker struggles, and would fain revolt; and then falls lower than ever in servitude.
We each have some dominant defect, by which the enemy can grasp us. In some it is vanity, in others indolence, in most egotism. Let a cunning and evil spirit possess himself of this, and you are lost. Then you become, not foolish, nor an idiot, but positively a lunatic, the slave of an impulse from without. You have an instinctive horror for everything that could restore you to reason, and will not even listen to representations that contravene your insanity.
Miracles are the natural effects of exceptional causes.
The immediate action of the human will on bodies, or at least this action exercised without visible means, constitutes a miracle in the physical order.
The influence exercised on wills or intellects, suddenly or within a given time, and capable of taking captive the thoughts, changing the firmest resolutions, paralyzing the most violent passions, constiuttes a miracle in the moral order.
The common error in relation to miracles is, to regard them as effects without causes; as contradictions of nature; as sudden fictions of the Divine imagination; and men do not reflect that a single miracle of this sort would break the universal harmony and re-plunge the universe into Chaos.
There are miracles impossible to God Himself: absurd miracles are so. If God could be absurd for a single instant, neither He nor the Universe would exist an instant afterward. To expect of the Divine Free-Will an effect whose cause is unacknowledged or does not exist, is what is termed tempting God. It is to precipitate one's self into the void.
God acts by His works: in Heaven, by angels; on earth, by men.
In the heaven of human conceptions, it is humanity that creates God; and men think that God has made them in His image, because they make Him in theirs.
The domain of man is all corporeal nature, visible on earth; and if he does not rule the planets or the stars, he can at least calculate their movement, measure their distances, and identify his will with their influence: he can modify the atmosphere, act to a certain point on the seasons, cure and afflict with sickness other men, preserve life and cause death.
The absolute in reason and will is the greatest power which it is given to men to attain; and it is by means of this power that what the multitude admires under the name of miracles, are effected.
POWER is the wise use of the will, which makes Fatality itself serve to accomplish the purposes of Sages.
Omnipotence is the most absolute Liberty; and absolute Liberty cannot exist without a perfect equilibrium; and the columns JACHIN and BOAZ are also the unlimited POWER and SPLENDOR OF PERFECTION of the Deity, the seventh and eighth SEPHIROTH of the Kabalah, from whose equilibrium result the eternal permanence and Stability of His plans and works, and of that perfect Success and undivided, unlimited Dominion, which are the ninth and tenth SEPHIROTH, and of which the Temple of Solomon, in its stately symmetry, erected without the sound of any tool of metal being heard, is to us a symbol. "For Thine," says tbe Most Perfect of Prayers, "is the DOMINION, the POWER, and the GLORY, during all the ages ! Amen !"
The ABSOLUTE is the very necessity of BEING, the immutable law of Reason and of Truth. It is THAT WHICH IS. BUT THAT WHICH IS is in some sort before HE WHO IS. God Himself is not without a reason of existence. He does not exist accidentally He could not not have been. His Existence, then, is necessitated is necessary. He can exist only in virtue of a supreme and inevitable REASON. That REASON, then, is THE ABSOLUTE; for it is in IT we must believe, if we would that our faith should have a reasonable and solid basis. It has been said in our times, that God is a Hypothesis; but Absolute Reason is not one: it is essential to Existence.
Saint Thomas said, "A thing is not just because God wills it, BUT GOD WILLS IT BECAUSE IT IS JUST." If he had deduced all the consequences of this fine thought, he would have discovered the true Philosopher's Stone; the magical elixir, to convert all the trials of the world into golden mercies. Precisely as it is a necessity for God to BE, so it is a necessity for Him to be just, loving, and merciful. He cannot be unjust, cruel, merciless. He cannot repeal the law of right and wrong, of merit and demerit; for the moral laws are as absolute as the physical laws. There are impossible things. As it is impossible to make two and two be five and not four; as it is impossible to make a thing be and not be at the same time; so it is impossible for the Deity to make crime a merit, and love and gratitude crimes. So, too, it was impossible to make Man perfect, with his bodily senses and appetites, as it was to make his nerves susceptible of pleasure and not also of pain.
Therefore, according to the idea of Saint Thomas, the moral laws are the enactments of the Divine WILL, only because they are the decisions of the Absolute WISDOM and REASON, and the Revelations of the Divine NATURE. In this alone consists the right of Deity to enact them; and thus only do we attain the certainty in Faith that the Universe is one Harmony.
To believe in the Reason of God, and in the God of Reason, is to make Atheism impossible. It is the Idolaters who have made the Atheists.
Analogy gives the Sage all the forces of Nature. It is the key of the Grand Arcanum, the root of the Tree of Life, the science of Good and Evil.
The Absolute, is REASON. Reason IS, by means of Itself. It IS BECAUSE IT IS, and not because we suppose it. IT IS, where nothing exists but nothing could possibly exist without IT. Reason is Necessity, Law, the Rule of all Liberty, and the direction of every Initiative. If God IS, HE IS by Reason. The conception of an Absolute Deity, outside of, or independent of, Reason, is the IDOL of Black Magic, the PHANTOM of the Daemon.
The Supreme Intelligence is necessarily rational. God, in philosophy, can be no more than a Hypothesis; but a Hypothesis imposed by good sense on Human Reason. To personify the Absolute Reason, is to determine the Divine Ideal.
NECESSITY, LIBERTY, and REASON! Behold the great and supreme Triangle of the Kabalists!
FATALITY, WILL, and POWER! Such is the magical ternary which, in human things, corresponds with the Divine Triangle.
FATALITY is the inevitable linking together, in succession, of effects and causes, in a given order.
WILL is the faculty that directs the forces of the Intellect, so as to reconcile the liberty of persons with the necessity of things,
The argument from these premises must be made by yourself. Each one of us does that. "Seek," say the Holy Writings, "and ye shall find." Yet discussion is not forbidden; and without doubt the subject will be fully treated of in your hearing here after. Affirmation, negation, discussion,--it is by these the truth is attained.
To explore the great Mysteries of the universe and seek to solve its manifold enigmas, is the chief use of Thought, and constitutes the principal distinction between Man and the animals. Accordingly, in all ages the Intellect has labored to understand and explain to itself the Nature of the supreme Deity.
That one Reason and one Will created and governed the Universe was too evident not to be at once admitted by the philosophers of all ages. It was the ancient religions that sought to multiply gods. The Nature of the One Deity, and the mode in which the Universe had its beginning, are questions that have always been the racks in which the human intellect has been tortured: and is chiefly with these that the Kabalists have dealt.
It is true that, in one sense, we can have no actual knowled of the Absolute Itself, the very Deity. Our means of obtaining what is commonly termed actual knowledge, are our senses only. If to see and feel be knowledge, we have none of our own Soul of electricity, of magnetism. We see and feel and taste an acid or an alkali, and know something of the qualities of each; but it is only when we use them in combination with other substances, and learn their effects, that we really begin to know their nature. It is the combination and experiments of Chemistry that give us a knowledge of the nature and powers of most animal and vegetable substances. As these are cognizable by inspection by our senses, we may partially know them by that alone: but the Soul, either of ourself or of another, being beyond that cognizance, can only be known by the acts and words which are its effects. Magnetism and electricity, when at rest, are equally beyond the jurisdiction of the senses; and when they are in action, we see, feel, hear, taste, and smell only their effects. We do not know what they are, but only what they do. We can know the attributes of Deity only through His manifestations. To ask anything more, is to ask, not knowledge, but something else, for which we have no name. God is a Power; and we know nothing of any Power itself, but only its effects, results, and action, and what Reason teaches us by analogy.
In these later days, in laboring to escape from all material ideas in regard to Deity, we have so refined away our notions of GOD, as to have no idea of Him at all. In struggling to regard Him as a pure immaterial Spirit, we have made the word Spirit synonymous with nothing, and can only say that He is a Somewhat, with certain attributes, such as Power, Wisdom, and Intelligence. To compare Him to LIGHT, would now be deemed not only unphilosophical, but the equivalent of Atheism; and we find it necessary to excuse and pity the ancients for their inadequate and gross ideas of Deity, expressed in considering Him as the Light-Principle, the invisible essence or substance from which visible Light flows.
Yet our own holy writings continually speak of Him as Light; and therefore the Tsabeans and the Kabala may well be pardoned for doing the same; especially since they did not regard Him as the visible Light known to us, but as the Primordial Ether-Ocean from which light flows.
Before the creation, did the Deity dwell alone in the Darkness, or in the Light ? Did the Light co-exist with Him, or was it created, after an eternity of darkness? and if it co-existed, was it an effluence from Him, filling all space as He also filled it, He and the Light at the same time filling the same place and every place ?
MILTON says, expressing the Hebraic doctrine:
"Hail, Holy Light, offspring of Heaven first-born,
Or of th' Eternal, co-eternal beam!
May I express thee unblamed, since God is Light.
And never but in unapproached Light
Dwelt from Eternity; dwelt then in Thee,
Bright effluence of bright Essence uncreate."
"The LIGHT," says the Book Omschim, or Introduction to the Kabala, "supremest of all things, and most Lofty, and Limitless, and styled INFINITE, can be attained unto by no cogitation or speculation; and its VERY SELF is evidently withdrawn and removed beyond all intellection. It WAS, before all things whatever, produced, created, formed, and made by Emanation; and in it was neither Time, Head, or Beginning; since it always existed, and remains forever, without commencement or end."
"Before the Emanations flowed forth, and created things were created, the Supreme Light was infinitely extended, and filled the whole WHERE; so that with reference to Light no vacuum could be affirmed, nor any unoccupied space; but the ALL was filled with that Light of the Infinite, thus extended, whereto in every regard was no end, inasmuch as nothing was, except that extended Light, which, with a certain single and simple equalityy, was everywhere like unto itself."
AINSOPH is called Light, says the Introduction to the Sohar because it is impossible to express it by any other word.
To conceive of God as an actuality, and not as a mere non- substance or name, which involved non-existence, the Kabala, like the Egyptians, imagined Him to be "a most occult Light," AUR: not our material and visible Light, but the Substance out of which Light flows, the fire, as relative to its heat and flame. Of this Light or Ether, the Sun was to the Tsabeans the only manifestation or out-shining, and as such it was worshipped, and not as the type of dominion and power. God was the Phos Noeton, the Light cognizable only by the Intellect, the Light-Principle, the Light Ether, from which souls emanate, and to which they return.
Light, Fire, and Flame, with the Phoenicians, were the sons of Kronos. They are the Trinity in the Chaldaean Oracles, the AOR of the Deity, manifested in flame, that issues out of the invisible Fire.
In the first three Persian Amshaspands, Lords of LIGHT, FIRE, and SPLENDOR, we recognize the AOR, ZOHAR, and ZAYO, Light, Splendor, and Brightness, of the Kabalah. The first of these is termed AOR MUPALA, Wonderful or Hidden Light, unrevealed, undisplayed--which is KETHER the first Emanation or Sephirah, the Will of Deity: the second is NESTAR, Concealed--which is HAKEMAH, the second Sephirah, or the Intellectual Potence of the Deity: and the third is METANOTSATS, coruscating--which is BINAH, the third Sephirah, or the intellectual producing capacity. In other words, they are THE VERY SUBSTANCE of light, in the Deity: Fire, which is that light, limited and furnished with attributes, so that it can be revealed, but yet remains unrevealed, and its splendor or out-shining, or the light that goes out from the fire.
Masonry is a search after Light. That search leads us directly back, as you see, to the Kabalah. In that ancient and little understood medley of absurdity and philosophy, the Initiate will find the source of many doctrines; and may in time come to understand the Hermetic philosophers, the Alchemists, all the Anti-papal Thinkers of the Middle Ages, and Emanuel Swedenborg.
The Hansavati Rich, a celebrated Sanscrit Stanza, says: "He is Hansa (the Sun), dwelling in light; Vasu, the atmosphere dwelling in the firmament; the invoker of the gods (Agni), dwelling on the altar (i.e., the altar fire); the guest (of the worshipper). dwelling in the house (the domestic fire); the dweller amongst men (as consciousness); the dweller in the most excellent orb, (the Sun); the dweller in truth; the dweller in the sky (the air); born in the waters, in the rays of light, in the verity (of manifestation), in the Eastern mountains; the Truth (itself)."
"In the beginning," says a Sanskrit hymn, "arose the Source of golden light. He was the only born Lord of all that is. He established the earth and the sky. Who is the God to Whom we shall offer our sacrifice?"
"He who gives life, He who gives strength; Whose blessing all the bright gods desire; Whose shadow is immortality; Whose shadow is death; Who is the God, etc?"
"He through Whom the sky is bright and the earth for us; He through Whom the Heaven was established, nay, the highest Heaven; He who measured out the light in the air; Who is the God, etc?"
"He to Whom the Heaven and earth, standing firm by His will, look up trembling inwardly; He over Whom the rising sun shines forth; Who is the God, etc?"
"Whenever the mighty water-clouds went, where they placed the seed and lit the fire, thence arose He Who is the only life of the bright gods; Who is the God! etc?"