General Ahiman Rezon, by Daniel Sickels, , at sacred-texts.com
THE RITE OF ILLUMINATION is a very ancient ceremony, and constituted an important feature in all the mysteries of the early ages. In the Egyptian, Cabirian, Sidonian, Eleusinian, Scandinavian, and Druidical Rituals, it held a prominent place, and in them all represented the same ideas. It marked the termination of the mystic pilgrimage through gloom and night, and was emblematical of that moral and intellectual light which pours its divine radiance on the mind after it has conquered prejudice, and passion, and ignorance, with which it has so long been struggling.
The prevailing notion of all those Rites was, that man, society, humanity could arrive at the Perfect only by the ministry of gloom and suffering; that the soul's exaltation and highest enlightenment could be approached only by the dark way of tears and sacrifice. The Rite of Illumination indicates the triumphant conclusion of man's conflicts, sacrifices, and trials; announces that he has found that LIGHT for which he has so persistently sought—that Truth which alone can give dignity to his life, freedom to his spirit, and repose to his soul, and which is the grand recompense for all his journeyings, labors, and combats.
The particular act which now distinguishes this illumination is, comparatively, modern, but is, nevertheless, deeply significant and instructive. It refers to that point of time when "God said, 'Let there be light,' and there was light." The loftiest imagination is utterly powerless to paint a picture of the unspeakable glory of the scene, when the sun, for the first time, poured down his light in a golden deluge on the earth, hitherto a chaotic mass, plunged in eternal night!—when ocean, lake, and river, hill and valley, smiled and sparkled in the new-born splendor! Yet this Rite does not commemorate that event simply as an historical, material fact, but rather because it symbolizes the release of the soul from darkness, and ignorance, and sin—from the chaos and confusion of a sensual and selfish life—and its establishment in the light and glory of virtue and knowledge.
The emblems peculiar to this Rite are the Bible, Square, and Compasses, the Burning Triangle, or the three lighted Tapers illuminating the altar. These all have exclusive reference to the leading idea of the ceremony, viz: the release, from moral, spiritual, and intellectual darkness. Hence the first three of these emblems are called the Great Lights of Masonry, and the latter the Lesser Lights.
These lines of the great German beautifully and forcibly illustrate the sublime thought which underlies and shines through this Rite. We cannot, of course, enter into any particular descriptions of it, or give any special details thereof, but the above suggestions are all that the intelligent brother will need to assist him to a thorough comprehension of the whole.
—"isasin oi ntemueménoi."—"The initiated know what is meant."
The three * * * * * * * * * * * are the Holy Bible, Square, and Compasses.
The Holy Bible is given us as the rule and guide of our faith and practice; the Square, to square our actions; and the Compasses, to circumscribe our desires, and keep our passions in due bounds with all mankind, especially with the brethren.
The Holy Writings, that great light in Masonry, will guide us to all truth; it will direct our paths to the temple of happiness, and point out to us the whole duty of man.
The Square teaches us to regulate our actions by rule and line, and to harmonize our conduct by the principles of morality and virtue.
The Compasses teach us to limit our desires in every station, that, rising to eminence by merit, we may live respected and die regretted.
The three * * * * * * * * * * * * are the Sun, Moon, and Master.
* * * * * * *
The MASTER represents the sun at its rising, that he may open his Lodge, and employ and instruct the brethren in Masonry; to whom it is his duty to communicate light, forcibly impressing upon their minds the dignity and high importance of Freemasonry, and zealously admonishing them never to disgrace it.
The Senior Warden represents the sun at its setting, and his duty is not only to assist the Master, but to look after certain properties of the Lodge, to see that harmony prevails, and that the brethren have their just dues before being dismissed from their labors.
The Junior Warden represents the sun at meridian, which is the most beautiful part of the day, and his duty is to call the brethren from labor to refreshment, and see that the means thereof are not perverted by intemperance or excess, but so regulated that pleasure and profit may be shared by all.
That ancient and spotless ensign of Masonry, the LAMBSKIN, or WHITE APRON, * is presented in behalf of the Lodge and the Fraternity in general.
It is an emblem of innocence, and the badge of a Mason; more ancient than the Golden Fleece † or Roman Eagle; ‡ more honorable than
the Star and Garter, * or any other Order that can be conferred upon the candidate at the time of his initiation, or at any future period, by king, prince, potentate, or any other person, except he be a Mason * * * * *. It is hoped you will wear it with pleasure to yourself and honor to the Fraternity.
The investiture of the candidate with the apron, among the primitive Masons, formed an essential part of the ceremony of initiation, and was attended with rites equally significant and impressive. This badge received a characteristic distinction from its peculiar color and material. With the Essenian Masons, it was accomplished by a process bearing a similar tendency, and accompanied by illustrations not less imposing and satisfactory to the newly-initiated neophyte. He was clothed in a long white robe, which reached to the ground, bordered with a fringe of blue ribbon, to incite personal holiness, and fastened tightly round the waist with a girdle, to separate the upper from the lower parts of the body. With feet bare and head uncovered, the candidate was considered a personification of Modesty and Humility, walking in the fear of God.
In the course of this section is exhibited a beautiful and impressive illustration of one of the grand principles of the institution, and concludes with a moral application.
66:* An Entered Apprentice's Apron should be a pure white lambskin, from fourteen to sixteen inches wide, and from twelve to fourteen inches deep, with a fall about five inches deep; square at the bottom, with sharp angular corners, and without device or ornament of any kind.
66:† The Order of the Golden Fleece has ever been ranked among the most illustrious and distinguished Orders of Knighthood in Europe. It was instituted on the 10th of January, 1429, at Bruges, by PHILIP III. Duke of Burgundy, the most puissant prince of his age, on the occasion of his marriage with ISABELLA, daughter of King JOHN I. of Portugal.
66:‡ There is no such Order as the Knights of the Roman Eagle. The expression (which is an unhappy one) probably refers to the fact that the Eagle was the standard of the ancient Roman empire.