But if there were custodians of a Secret Tradition at any time during the Christian centuries there arises the inevitable question: Who were these mysterious Wardens and also where were they? Can we learn anything about them? What was this strange power or influence working within the Church? Well, in the first place, it was not a power at all in any acting, governing, or intervening sense. When I speak about the region of a higher consciousness behind the manifest mind of the Catholic Church, it is equivalent to saying
that in the uttermost degrees of sanctity, the consensus omnium sanctorum does by a certain participation become the sensus Spiritus Sancti. It is, again, as if within the Church Militant there had been always a little body which had pursued a peculiar path and had travelled a great distance, making no obvious sign. We are faced, however, by the apparent problem of two schools which seem to bear testimony in conflict, and there is the witness to both in the Graal literature. The first is that of spiritual alchemy, which knows not the voice of faltering concerning the terra viventium and the Bona Domini therein. Its correspondence in the Graal literature is the grace and secret knowledge behind the Eucharist, when the sensible veils of bread and wine and the ultra-sensible veils of thaumaturgic transubstantiation have utterly dissolved, and God is revealed in Christ. The second is the testimony of Kabalism and Masonry to the glory departed from the Sanctuary, and hereof the Graal correspondence is the dispartition of the Hallows, the removal of the Sacred Vessel and the voiding of the Holy House. Looking, it will be said, on either side; on the experiment of alchemy, than which nothing seems lost more obviously at this late day; on the Quest of the Graal, over which the chivalry of Logres--except for twelve knights--broke and went to pieces utterly; on the theosophy of Israel, all dead and all forgotten; on the sad confession--ab origine symboli--of loss and dereliction in Masonry; how is there any choice to be taken between either school? If "green's forsaken and yellow's forsworn," in virtue of what melancholy persuasion can we exercise a preference among them? Surely beneath the title of this book there should be written the word Ichabod, "the glory has departed." On the contrary I have written: Vel sanctum invenit, vel sanctum tacit, for the implicits of the Graal literature are the shadowed secrets of a Holy School, or rather their inexpress formulation. I confess that in either school it may seem difficult on the surface
to suppose another construction than that of a treasure which there was but a treasure which is now withdrawn. And, as if to accentuate the position, I have said on my own part that the official sanctuary has closed down on its higher consciousness. But in so recording I have testified in the same terms that everything remains. The house is not less mine because I have locked its doors on the outer side; the ancestral heirlooms are still in my keeping, though I have not opened the secret chambers for so many moons or years that I have forgotten the fact of the keys still hanging, with many others, from my girdle. The Church, in like manner, is still the House of Souls; the Castle behind which there is the Earthly Paradise and Eden; the Temple with a Sanctuary on the other side of which there is the Ark of the New Covenant--the Hidden Altar of Repose, wherein is the Sacred Vessel. It is obvious therefore that no other House of God is possible in this age, and that if I or another were to institute a Church of the Holy Graal, dedicated to the Quest of the Sacred Vessel, and in hope of the grace thereof, I should have my pains for my recompense and I should communicate nothing therein. Our part is therefore one of watching and prayer until such time as the Church herself unfolds from within and all the doors are opened.
In harmony herewith, the characteristic of the Graal literature is its great ostensible orthodoxy, and that which is ostensible I regard also as implied and involved within. Here and there we discern a dubious hint which might signify a subdued hostility towards Rome; but its sacraments are still the sacraments; its doctrines are true doctrines, and its practices are the code of spiritual life. The metrical romance of De Borron is a Catholic poem, and if the Early Merlin and the Didot Perceval are scarcely religious works, there is no tincture of dissent from either institution or dogma; there are only the Secret Words and what is signified therein. The Book of the Holy Graal is a religious romance, and
its one questionable element is the meaning of the Super-Apostolical Succession. The zeal of the Graal has eaten up the later Merlin in both the texts thereof. The Longer Prose Perceval is the Church of chivalry spiritualised. The Romance of Lancelot is the ideal spirit in the exile of a morganatic marriage, but still remembering Zion. The Quest of Galahad is of him who came forth from Jerusalem and returned thereto; he was born in the place of the Great Mystery, but it was necessary that he should be put outside the gates thereof and should win his way back; he is the only seeker who belonged to the House from his beginning.
There is another point which is not of less importance, and I hope that this also will be seen to follow with clearness from what has been said previously. The rumours and implicits of the Graal literature being in no sense the voice of any Christian conclave speaking on its own authority from the hidden places; and Kabalism--though it bears the same testimony--being a confession of insufficiency on the part of a cognate but non-Christian school, and therefore only an accessory deponent; it should be understood further that the voice of Masonry is also not the authoritative voice of such a conclave; it is the testimony of those who knew, who derived their symbolism from the old mysteries of spiritual rebirth, and, for the rest, on their own warrants made an experiment on the mind of their age. The one voice which we can and must recognise as the most approximate echo or replica of the Unknown Voice is that of alchemy--which only adored and exemplified in respect of Church doctrine. It is understood that I do not put forward the literature of spiritual alchemy as the corpus doctrinale of those who in Christian times were the Wardens of the Secret Tradition. Masonry, Kabalism, the root-matter of a few Graal books are all in their special manner and under their particular reserves the independent channels of the doctrine. Deeply imbedded in the higher side of the Hermetic
works I believe that we get nearest to the Secret Tradition. A time came when the bare possibility of speaking more openly led to more open speaking, and so in the eighteenth century and the first flush of the age which followed thereafter, we have two or three text-books wherein are put forth the, most express intimations on the subject which have so far transpired in the world. I will speak only of two, which were at once independent and concurrent--Eckartshausen's Cloud on the Sanctuary and Characteristics of the Interior Church, attributed to a Russian named Lopoukine and said to be translated from the Russian. The dates of these works are respectively 1800 and 1801.
Such as are acquainted with the literature of the mystic life will not be unfamiliar with the conception of a Holy Assembly in the hands of which the guidance of the Christian Church is thought to have rested during the ages of Christendom. It is not, by the claim put forward, more especially a corporate union than the life of humanity at large on this earth is also a corporate 4 union. It will not have occurred of necessity to my colleagues in thought, but they will understand what is meant when I say that the hypothetical Holy Assembly should perhaps be described as the sodality of a consciousness in common, and as I have spoken already of a consciousness behind the Church as of a region now untrodden, it will be understood that on the present supposition this region is not vacant. As we have inferred further from the researches of the ninth book that there are in specific literatures the records of a Secret Tradition in Christian times, the written veils of which are actually those literatures, so in the Doctrine of the Holy Assembly we find a late, sporadic, but unusually definite witness which, after an entirely new manner, is saying the same thing. I believe that the mode in which this claim has been advanced, though in one sense it is the most temperate and moderate of all, does tend towards a certain confusion because two streams of influence
are identified therein--one being the holy, exalted and saving mind of the official Church at its own highest in the manifest, and the other that of the Hidden School itself as this is presented in the claim. The inference, moreover, seems to be that the Holy Assembly is a kind of head in concealment, and this I reject because of the misconception which it tends to induce of necessity. If we could suppose for a moment that man is the last development and issue from the anthropoid ape--much as one might agree to regard the story of the princess who came out of the water as a little chronicle of fact--that point--and whatever that point might be--at which the animal consciousness passed into the human consciousness would represent the analogical kind of transition by which the members of the mystical body enter--if they do enter--into the consciousness of the Holy Assembly. But the human being is not leading the anthropoid ape, nor are the adepts who devised symbolical Masonry ruling the Craft from a specific, unseen centre. The worst of all illustrations would be, in like manner, to say that the Visible Church is the body and the Secret Church is the head. The Visible Church has been described most truly as the mystical body of Christ, and the Real Presence in the Eucharist is the mystical communication in perpetuity of Christ's life to that body; but this is on the understanding that the body is the incorporation of souls in sanctity. In respect of the Holy Assembly a similar description may obtain, but also on the understanding that it is a generic union of illuminated spirits in Christ--making use of the term spirit in that sense which attributes to man the possession of a higher soul. The head is Christ in both cases indifferently, but in the case of the Secret Church that Divine Union, which here is of faith or imputation, has been established there under the sun of consciousness.
Perhaps, within the more familiar forms of expression, the idea of the Secret Church corresponds most closely
with that which is understood by a school of the prophets, though the term describes an advanced spiritual state by one only of the gifts which belong thereto. The gift itself has little connection with the external meaning of prophecy; it is not especially the power of seeing forward, but rather of sight within. In subjects of this kind, as in other subjects, the greater includes the lesser--it being of minor importance to discern, for example, the coming of Christ in a glass of vision than to realise, either before or after, the deep significance of that coming. So also the interpretation of doctrine is not manifested so much by the exhibition of meaning behind meaning as of truth understanding truth.
I suppose that it would be almost impossible to undertake a more arduous task than that which is imposed on me in these sections of this last book. My experience in the secret fraternities is that those which work under any warrants, and with any shadow of tradition behind them, suggest, in spite of their divergences, a single root of all, and this is so patent that even in exoteric circles the hand of the Hermetic brotherhoods has been surmised in Craft Masonry; of the Rosicrucians in the high grades; of so-called Magian adepts in Knight Templary--and hence onward and onward. The root fact at the back of all these dreams is the actuality of an experiment which has always existed in the world, which has never changed, which has been pursued unceasingly by a few, the rumours of which are everywhere, which has many literatures, and all these literatures, are veils. When the German poet Werner produced his wonderful legend concerning the Sons of the Valley as the guiding hand behind the old Order of the Temple; when he told how it was afterwards withdrawn, so that they were left to their fate in the power of the French King and the miserable pontiff; he--Werner--was dreaming of this Experiment and those who pursued it. In after-days he struck out this hypothesis and all element of life from his two strange
plays; but apart from any Templar hypothesis he knew that he was on the right track, in the light of which knowledge he took the path of Lancelot and died as a priest of the Latin Church, having sung Mass for I know not how many moons. When Eckartshausen, who had been born in the sanctuary, and was filled with the spirit of the sanctuary, made an end of composing little books of popular devotion which took Germany and France by storm, he saw that the Great Experiment and its great tradition were in truth the secret of the sanctuary and the heritage thereof. People who did not understand him said: "This is Deism"--but it was the higher mystery of the Eucharist in the adyta of a conceived Holy Assembly, and he it was--as I have hinted--who, on the intellectual side, drew nearest of all to the heart of truth within.
The scheme of his interpretation of those Mysteries of Compassion which summarise God's providence towards man for the fulfilment of our return into union may be divided into a part of preamble and a part of definition. The preamble announces the conditions by which an entrance is hypothetically possible into the communion of saints. The requisite faculty is the interior sense of the transcendental world, and the opening of this sense is the beginning of Regeneration, understood as the eradication of that virus which entered into man at the Fall. Rebirth has three stages--that of the intelligence, that of the heart and will, but that in fine which--seeing that it embraces the entire being--is called corporeal rebirth, because the beast is also saved together with the man, and the Great Quintessence by which the soul is converted transmutes the body as well. It is held to follow herefrom that union with God is possible in this life in the opening of the world within us by a triple gradation through the moral, metaphysical and plenary worlds, wherein is the Kingdom of the Spirit. This is the process of Regeneration expressed in other terms. So far as regards the preamble,
but the dogmatic part affirms: (1) that an advanced school has existed from the beginning of our history, deriving directly from Christ, as He in Whom there dwells substantially the whole plenitude of God; (2) that this is the enlightened community of the interior Church, disseminated throughout the world and governed therein by one spirit; (3) that it is the most hidden of sodalities; (4) that the outer school, which is the visible Church, is founded thereon, and by its symbols and ceremonies it gives an external utterance to the truth which abides in the Hidden Sanctuary; (5) that the work of the Interior Church has been the building of a Spiritual Temple of regenerated souls; (6) that it possesses the direct knowledge of those means by which man is restored to his first estate; (7) that the external Church became a subsequent necessity by the frailty of man as a whole; (8) that the external worship fell away automatically from the service within; (9) that the Church which was founded in Abraham was raised to perfection in Christ; (10) that the Inmost Sanctuary is without change or shadow of vicissitude; (11) that it is the union of those who have received the light and share in the communion of saints; (12) that it unites the science of the old, external Covenant with that of the new and interior Covenant; (13) that it has three degrees corresponding to the stages of Regeneration; (14) that herein repose the mysteries of all true knowledge; (15) that it resembles no secret society, for all external forms have passed utterly away; (16) that the path thereto is Wisdom and the way is Love; (17) that although the Inner Sanctuary has been separated from the Temple, they are destined for reunion; (18) that the Way which is Wisdom and Love is also Christ; (19) that the Mystery of the Incarnation is the deep Mystery of re-union with God; (20) that man in his first estate was the Temple of Divinity, and God in His wisdom has projected the rebuilding of this Temple; (21) that the plans of His scheme are in the Holy
[paragraph continues] Mysteries and constitute the secret of Regeneration, which is the royal and sacerdotal science; (22) that man approximates to Regeneration, and does in fine attain it, by the discernment of the Body and Blood of Christ, or, as I have myself expressed it continually throughout this work, by the Mystery of the Eucharist.
The same testimony was given independently at the same time by the Chevalier Loupoukine in his little tract on the Characteristics of the Interior Church. He defined the higher spiritual mind as that of consciousness in grace only, by which those who participate therein become that which Christ is by His nature. Here also the Great Work is that of Regeneration, which is accomplished in Christ, and the Church within has the keys of the process. The testimony is also identical as to the sanctity and indefectible character of the external Church, which is the means of entrance into the Church of Christ unseen. The way, again, is Love, as the essence of the Body of Christ; by Regeneration that Body is reborn in us; and so the whole process--though in neither case is the truth stated expressly--becomes the arch-natural Mystery of the Eucharist.
There are errors of expression in both these works, and, as I have said, there is a certain confusion; they are not to be taken by themselves or in connection simply with one another; but it will be evident that, after their own manner, they bear the same testimony as the schools of tradition in Christian time and as the higher literature of the Graal.
It will be seen otherwise that the Secret Church is an arbitrary name adopted to describe the penetralia of the tradition in secret; the idea itself does not correspond to any titular description, and in adopting of necessity some distinguishing name, I have chosen one which in several respects is perhaps the most arbitrary of all; but it serves to particularise the school as essentially Christian. Whether in the East or the
[paragraph continues] West, I believe that there are still custodians in the world, for the hidden truth does not perish. It is not a sectarian school, and I think that it has even abandoned all those Houses of Initiation, the fact of which has transpired in the outer world. Its reflections, however, remain imbedded therein. For those secret fraternities at the present day which confess to two incorporated orders and to have recipients in both, it corresponds to that third Order from which they claim to hold--though how they do not know. For those Masonic Rites of the past which were, by their own imputation, under the obedience of Unknown Superiors, whom they never saw probably, these Superiors would answer to the Holy School. It is the Holy Assembly of Eckartshausen and the Interior Church of Loupoukine; it is the Crowned Masters of Alchemy; it is the Unknown Philosopher of early Martinism, but for Martinism this Leader was the Repairer Himself, who is certainly the first-fruits of the Great Transfiguration. I believe that if any member of this school were authorised to manifest, he would come--and this I shall reiterate--like Melchisedech out of Salem, carrying Bread and Wine. Meanwhile, their old rumours are everywhere, and it is not curious that they are in the Graal literature; having regard to its subject-matter, it would be more curious if they were not. The mystic life is the way of the Secret Sanctuary; it is the way of the opening of consciousness towards the things that are Divine. The makers of the Graal books found certain elements to their hands, and they incorporated them as they best could. The literature expresses after several manners its absolute belief in the truth of doctrinal Christianity, but also that behind all doctrine there was something great and undemonstrable, the direct knowledge of which had departed because the world was unworthy. Like the Graal literature, the Secret Church recognises fully the external Church and presents something from within it. I conclude that a valid Mass has always been
said in Rome and the other assemblies, but unfortunately at the present time it is a memorial rather than a realisation. Transubstantiation and reservation are the nearest approaches to the idea of the arch-natural Eucharist. There is also in the Christian Church generally a consensus of sanctity at the height, and it is the reflected glory of a greater height beyond. But this is only an affirmation on the testimony of all the saints, after every deduction has been made for the decorative renunciations and denials of the self-abnegating mind.
By summary, therefore, the term of research in the doctrine of the Secret Church is no instituted Assembly--not even an orthodoxy in ascension. It does not mean that another Mass is said than that which is celebrated daily at any high altar in Christendom; it does not mean that other elements are used or that the words of consecration differ in kind or genus. The Secret Church is our own Church when it has entered into the deeper understanding of its proper implicits. In so far as it can be said that external forms may remain at all, I conceive that it uses the same forms, but in virtue of interior organs which receive more fully from the immanence of the Divine Will, so that the priest who begins by reciting Introibo ad altare Dei has the direct experience that God is truly at His altar, and thus he ascends the steps, discerning the Presence with his eyes in the spiritual part of his nature, rather than with faith. I would that it were here and now given me to say how this condition is reached in the term of sanctity; but I think that it is by the imagination raised in ecstasy. In the normal sense there is imagination, but it is not a pure and constant fire; there is also ecstasy in many stages, and some of these are experienced in the devout life apart from any shaping spirit. I put it forward tentatively as a high speculation that the union of which I have spoken is consummated in the higher consciousness, so that the priest prepared thereto
enters and attains. What he celebrates there is a Mass of the Beatific Vision; but this is the Mass of the Graal. At that Veni Creator the Lord Christ comes, and the Comforter. I believe further that these things are done in the sanctuary of a man's own spirit, as in an Ark of the Graal.
It is obvious that this is the limit of things at which expression suffers a complete paralysis. If I say with Elias Ashmole that of what is beyond I know enough to hold my tongue but not enough to speak, even then it is obvious that I exceed my narrow measures: "I know not, God knoweth." It is useless, in any case, to pursue the evidential questions further than I have taken them up to this point. I might have begun by saying that what I proposed to present was an hypothesis only; the true evidences of the Secret Tradition are in the Secret Schools, and of these it is idle to think that one can produce more than the rumour in the open day. I have left nothing unstated that it has been in any sense possible to adduce; those of my own tradition will understand what remains over and what is indeed involved. I put forward no claims; that day has passed long since when one man could be so much as desired to believe on the authority of another where things vital are involved. I invite no verdict; I care utterly nothing for the impression which the considerations of this book may occasion in the academies of external thought, and in the words of one who has preceded me carrying no warrants but those of his own genius: in any case whatsoever, I shall not on my own part be "the less convinced or the more discouraged." The rumours of Graal literature are a part of sanctuary doctrine. I do not know how they transpired; I am not certain that the question is much of my concern; no doubt in the historical sense I could desire that I did know. I am certain that the spiritual alchemists were men after the heart of Christ; I am not less certain that those who created symbolical Masonry were the
members of a lower grade; and when the Quest of Galahad takes that high prince and king among all anointed through the veils of transubstantiation into the Divine Vision, I know that the sanctuary is made void for him who has so achieved, the curtains are parted, and it is given him to depart hence, for there is nothing left to detain him.