So many of the designs and so much of the original intent of the ancient Adepts has been buried or destroyed by fanatics, dogmatists, well-intentioned but mercenary legions of faithful adherents, or by the idle worshiper. As Pike wrote, Freemasonry is the veritable Sphinx buried in the sands of mystery, and we who attempt to decipher the words that this great monolithic entity speaks to us must take great care not to fall to the ensnarements and gilded trappings of not only the superstitions of other institutions, but those of our own. Although I contend that our Order was constructed by those who were entirely more aware of the nature of these circumstantial entrapments than many other spiritual framers, weaving them into the fabric of the Fraternity’s Work intentionally, to cloud the minds of those who would be seduced by falsity and pomposity, thus to unclothe them as the ignorant sorts they are; They themselves could not see the landscape of mystery in its totality, leaving many stones for others to turn, hidden within the work and fog of reconstructed ritual.
Of course, I do not believe in idolizing men or the works of men. Remember well the words of Shelley, “Look on my works ye mighty, and despair.” Concluding that even the greatest of physical accomplishments will endure but a limited time, closing with the observation, “Nothing beside remains, round that colossal wreck boundless and bare, the lone and level sands stretch far away.” But it is true that heroes of a certain stamp are to be revered in a sober fashion. Such is the topic of this piece. The nigh-on limitless outstretched shadow of the great men who, from their dizzying plateau, bent their will toward the horizon and saw far-off lands, should be studied and marked in our hearts, but never mischaracterized as anything other than men.
Ascending over the crags and traversing the treacherous paths of the great mountain that is spiritual unfoldment, is quite difficult if one knows not the location of the corridor beyond which lies the serpentine road. Each man is given such vision as suits his destiny, and is thus deceived and enlightened as to the appearance of the gateway according to the character of his eyes; consequently, it will appear as though there are many doors, when, in fact, there is but one. But it is only from the summit, above the canopy, that one may clearly view the marvel of unity that is the level world of shadows, appearing disparate and disjointed from below, but cohesive from above. Greater or lesser levels of clarified vision could be interpreted through the Kabbalistic idea of the varying emanations of the Supreme Source, or worlds, transit between which alters the character of the being in transit.
And so, as we learn from Plato’s Allegory of the Cave, such men who have ascended beyond not only the physical limitations which bound them up in corruption, but the mental constraints of which they were not even aware until their ascension, are tasked by their very nature to re-immerse themselves in the kingdom of shadows, to help and guide. This is how we may distinguish those who are true Adepts from those who are still slaves to their prejudices and preconceptions, wedded to these so incredulously that they can no longer learn and evolve. The Adepts possess and exude many other unfalsifiable qualities. Wisdom is among them. Intelligence, urbanity, delicacy, and the social virtues can all be utilized to conceal or mask the uncultured and spiritually underdeveloped while exposed in profane company, but true wisdom can never be manufactured, and will always bare its mettle genuinely to those who are likewise endowed with its peculiar power. To others, it is either a bewildering spectacle, or a mesmerizing characteristic to be sought after. It is the latter type of person we should strive to be in the presence of the excellent heroes.
Once again, we learn from Pike that, “…neither must you believe that, even in this very different age, of commerce and trade, of the vast riches of many and the poverty of thousands, of thriving towns and tenement houses swarming with paupers...there are no men of the antique stamp for you to revere, no heroic and knightly souls, that preserve their nobleness and equanimity in the chaos of conflicting passions, of ambition and baseness that welters around them...whose virtue shines resplendent in all calamities and reverses and amid all temptations, and whose honor scintillates and glitters as purely and perfectly as the diamond." Yes, to the completely profane, those bereft of reason and light, it is an anointing to be cast in the shadow of such men as Pike describes, though the former would not understand. But they are still men, however excellent and however untethered they are to vice, their station is attainable with perseverance and tribulation; the burning away of superfluity and the detestable anchors of our lesser nature is the beginning, and long is the way to the summit, but it is not infinitely far, though it may seem so to the despairing cynic. Impossibly far, even.
We must never despair, dear reader, but, if we do find ourselves so encumbered, we will toil on in despair until we reach the state of being displayed as a possibility to us by the very cosmos itself. Some call it faith, this travelling in strange lands, not knowing if we are progressing. It is a virtue, after all. But I believe the colloquial weight of this word is hindering occasionally. It is merely the engagement of a non-physical faculty, the echoes of which are interpreted by our senses as something confusing and unknown. Perhaps the trust we place in the intuition that this faculty gives us is characterized by the word faith, but I suggest, in closing, that the cultivation of these non-physical tools, and the products of their employment, is the true distinction of an Adept. This I will expand on in another essay, but I hope you have enjoyed this dalliance into metaphysical speculations, and I encourage you to return to this refuge soon and with an open mind, for you are always welcome.