In this paper...it is proposed to trace a rough outline...of a movement which is as old as humanity itself and the purpose and doctrine of which are still faithfully, if very rudimentarily, preserved in the Masonic system.
Authors delight in supplying evidence of the close correspondences in various unrelated systems and in demonstrating how ancient and universal such and such ideas, symbols and practices have been. But they do not go so far as to explain the reason for this antiquity and universality, and it is this point which it will be well to clear up at the outset, since it furnishes the clue to the entire problem of the genesis, the history, and the reason for the existence of Masonry.
Beneath a veil of allegory describing the intention to build a certain temple that could not be finished because of an untimely disaster, Masonry implies that Humanity is the real temple whose building became obstructed, and that we, who are both the craftsmen and the building materials of what was intended to be an unparalleled structure, are, owing to a certain unhappy event, living here in this world in conditions where the genuine and full secrets of our nature are, for the time being, lost to us; where the full powers of the soul of man are curtailed by the limitations of physical life; and where, during our apprenticeship of probation and discipline, we have to put up with the substituted knowledge derivable through our limited and very fallible senses.
In all the Mystery-systems of the past will be found this degree of mystical death as an outstanding and essential feature prior to the final stage of perfection or regeneration. As an illustration one has only to refer to a sectional diagram of the Great Pyramid of Egypt, which was so constructed as to be not merely a temple of initiation, but to record in permanent form the principles upon which regeneration is attainable. Its entrance passage extends for some distance into the building as a narrow ascending channel through which the postulant who desires to reach the centre must creep in no small discomfort and restrictedness. This was to emblematise the discipline and up-hill labour of self-purification requisite in the Apprentice Degree. At a certain point this restricted passage opens out into a long and lofty gallery, still upon a steeply rising gradient, up which the postulant had to pass, but in a condition of ease and liberty. This was to symbolize the condition of illumination and expanded intellectual liberty associated with the Fellow-craft Degree. It ended at a place where the candidate once more had to force his way on hands and knees through the smallest aperture of all, one that led to the central chamber in which stood and still stands the great sarcophagus in which he was placed and underwent the last supreme ordeal, and whence he was raised from the dead, initiated and perfected.
In the great Mysterysystem of Egypt, which long anteceded the Hebrew system, the regenerate candidate, who had achieved the highest possible measure of self-transmutation of his lower nature, was accorded the title of Osiris.
If research and reflection be pushed far enough it becomes clear that the universality and uniformity referred to are due to the fact that at one time, long back in the world's past, there existed or was implanted in the minds of the whole human family which was doubtless much smaller and more concentrated then than now - a Proto-Evangelium or Root-Doctrine in regard to the nature and destiny of the soul of man and its relation to the Deity. We of today pride ourselves upon being wiser and more advanced than primitive humanity. We assume that our ancestors lived in moral benightedness out of which we have since gradually emerged into comparative light. All the evidence, however, negatives these suppositions. It indicates that primitive man, however childish and intellectually undeveloped according to modern standards, was spiritually conscious and psychically perceptive to a degree undreamed of by the modem mind, and that it is ourselves who, for all our cleverness and intellectual development in temporal matters, are nevertheless plunged in darkness and ignorance about our own nature, the invisible world around us, and the eternal spiritual verities. In all Scriptures and cosmologies the tradition is universal of a " Golden Age," an age of comparative innocence, wisdom and spirituality, in which racial unity and individual happiness and enlightenment prevailed; in which there was that open vision for want of which a people perisheth, but in virtue of which men were once in conscious conversation with the unseen world and were shepherded, taught and guided by the "gods" or discarnate superintendents of the infant race, who imparted to them the sure and indefeasible principles upon which their spiritual welfare and evolution depended.
The tradition is also universal of the collective soul of the human race having sustained a " fall," a moral declension from its true path of life and evolution, which has severed it almost entirely from its creative source, and which, as the ages advanced, has involved its sinking more and more deeply into physical conditions, its splitting up from a unity employing a single language into a diversity of conflicting races of different speeches and degrees of moral advancement, accompanied by a progressive densification of the material body and a corresponding darkening of the mind and atrophy of the spiritual consciousness.
From that "fall," which was not due to the transgression of an individual, but to some weakness or defect in the collective or group-soul of the Adamic race, which was not the mater of a moment but a process covering vast time-cycles, it was necessary and within the Divine counsels and providence that hmanity should be brought back once more into vital association with Divine Principle from which by its secession it became increasingly detached, as its materialistic tendencies overpowered and quenched its native spirituality.
It fell, through inherent weakness and lack of wisdom. Unable to effect its own recovery it required skilled scientific assistance from other sources to bring about its restoration. Whence could come that skill and scientific knowledge if not from the Divine and now invisible world, from those "gods" and angelic guardians of the erring race of whom all the ancient traditions and sacred writings tell?
Thus, then, was the origin and birth of Religion. And Religion is a word implying a " binding back" (re-ligare). As with the setting and bandaging a broken limb, so the collective soul of humanity, fractured and comminuted by its fall into countless individuations and their subsequent respective progenies, each separately damaged and imperfect, needed to be restored to the condition from which it had become dislocated and once more built up into a perfect harmonious whole.
To the spiritual guardians of primitive man, then, one must attribute the communication of that universal science of rebuilding the fallen temple of humanity, of which science we now surprisedly find traces in every race and religion of the world. To this source we must credit the distribution, in every land and among every people, of the same or equivalent symbols, practices and doctrines, modified only locally and in accordance with the intelligence of particular peoples, yet all manifesting a common root and purpose.
This Proto-Religion is related to have originated in the East, from which proverbially all light comes, and, as humanity itself became diffused and distributed over the globe, to have gradually spread towards the West, in a perpetual watchfulness of humanity's spiritual interests and an unfailing purpose to retrieve "that which was lost" - the fallen human soul.
The earliest teaching of the Mysteries traceable within historic time was in the Orient and in the language known as Sanscrit - a name itself significant and appropriate, for it means Holy Writ or "Sanctum Scriptum", and for very great lights upon the ancient Secret Doctrine one must still refer to the religious and philosophical scriptures of India, which was in its spiritual and temporal prime when modern Europe was frozen beneath an ice-cap.
The next great torch-bearer of the Light of the world was Egypt, which, after many centuries of spiritual supremacy, in turn became the arid desert it now is both spiritually and materially, leaving nevertheless a mass of structural and written relics still testifying to its possession of the Doctrine in the days of its glory. From Egypt, as civilizations developed in adjoining countries, a great irradiation of them took place by the diffusion of its knowledge and the institution of minor centres for the imparting of the Divine Science in Chaldea, Persia, Greece and Asia Minor.
The Mysteries came to an end as public institutions in the sixth century, when from political considerations they and the teaching of the secret doctrine and philosophy became prohibited by the Roman Government, under Justinian, who aimed at inaugurating an official uniform state-religion throughout its Empire. Subsequently, as the Roman Empire declined and broke up, the Roman Catholic Church emerged from it, which, as we know, has resolutely discountenanced any authority in religion and philosophy as a rival to her own and at the same time claimed supremacy and an over-riding jurisdiction in temporal matters also. For the Freemason the result of that Church's conduct is instructive. For when an authority upon matters wholly spiritual and belonging to a kingdom which is not of this world, lays claim to temporal power and secular possessions, as the Roman Church has done and still does, it at once vitiates and neutralizes its own spiritual qualifications. It becomes infected with the virus of "worldly possessions." It loads itself with the "money and metals" from which it is essential to keep divested. The result has been that what might have been, and was designed to be, the greatest spiritually educative force in the world's history, has become a materialized institution, exercising an intellectual tyranny which has estranged the minds of millions from religion altogether.
Freemasonry records an ancient tradition that says that a man called Enoch foresaw a worldwide Flood and tried to preserve civilization. An ancient Jewish text known as the Book of Enoch, which had been lost around the second century AD, but which was found by an 18th-century Freemason, does contain such an account. This book provides detailed information about the movements of the sun, moon and the stars, taught to Enoch by an angel called Uriel, and, also tells about a strange group of beings called the Watchers, who bred with local women to produce giants as their children.