It is indeed worthy of inquiry the character of this illumination that is the object of such ardent pursuit on the part of the candidate, who is as willing today as in the age of the Eleusinian mysteries to brave the terrors of the unknown for its acquirement.
Superficially the term Light may be deemed to apply solely to the intellectual enlightenment of one who has hitherto been groping in mental obscurity, with reference to the great questions of man’s origin, being, and destiny.
This is not, however, altogether the case. It is often a question as to whether the average initiate in these days emerges from his round of ordeals otherwise than gratified that they are over and that he has gained a right to the coveted fellowship with the elect.
There is significance in the word bight and its fullest interpretation, which far transcends any ordinary sense; for the true promise of “light in Masonry” is the return of man unsullied to the pure source of his being.
Thousands of years before Sir Isaac Newton declared light to be “a subtitle form of matter” it was universally accepted as the source of all that was good and beneficent in physical nature. All that exists was deemed to be the product of either the luminous principle in which resided the Godhead, or of the principle of darkness, equally substantial, which waged continual war upon it.
In all the ancient philosophies these two inimical substances engendered and were peopled by beings that partook of their several natures. Man, according to ancient tradition, was originally one of the inhabitants of the Kingdom of Light, and the home story of our first parents, notwithstanding the long-cherished notion of a geographical location for their original site, was among the stars, where they named and presided over the animal-shaped constellations as spirits. The bodies of these were composed entirely of the luminous substance.
The temptation and fall of man has to do with the latter’s voluntary commerce with the powers of darkness, or the intermingling of the positive and negative elements, in everything of which we are able to take cognizance through the medium of the senses.
Through this admixture of light and darkness the material world came into existence, and the male and female principle derived from JHVH were driven from the Kingdom of Light to this intermediate region of earth, on which they thenceforth must dwell, “clad in garments of skin;” i e.:, in bodies of human flesh.
From that time onward the human soul, according to the intention of the beautiful old Eastern allegory has been seeking to regain its lost estate ever driven and tempted by the powers of darkness seeking to drag it down to complete and final destruction . We hear less of this story of the connection of Freemasonry with that of the “Fall of Man” than was once the case, when this feature was embodied in the necessary lectures. The candidate, in seeking light, is but seeking his original state of physical innocence, moral integrity and wisdom. We have in many ways shown that the theater of his endeavors, divested of its cabalistic terms, is our own universe.
With this conception ever in view, and remembering the candidate to be the Ego, or self-conscious principle in man, it is easy to follow his spiritual experiences, from the cradle to the evergreen strewn grave, in search of – the talismanic word that shall restore his forfeited birthright. It is the Kingdom of Light and the rescue of the body of Light, the original and self-sufficient envelop of the soul, that is the constant object of his search along the rugged road that he is compelled to tread, in quest for the outstretched hand of Him who alone, is able to raise this body from the encumbering matter.
The symbols placed along his path, which at suitable times are interpreted to him, are age-old devices for revealing the mysterious connection between spirit and matter.
The symbolism of “direction,” taken from the points of the compass in which the solstices and equinoxes were situated at the moment of the inception of the Ancient Mysteries, have served to fix the Celestial East of the summer solstice in the sign of the Lion, as the home and source of perfect light; while its antithesis, the portal of the West, associated with the annual death of Nature, assailed by the blasts of winter, at that solstice, was the station of death, darkness, and dissolution.
It is the destiny of no man to regain the light, unless he face it from the threshold of the great Beyond. There alone will he be invested with the words of power that enable to set at naught temptations, fears, doubt, and error, until, in his final crisis of despair, the Eternal Truth, the Great Architect, the Manifested Word, which is the only authorized substitute for the Unmanifested Word, frees the eternal “Son of Light” from his earthly prison and bids him to the house not made with hands, eternal in the Heavens, whence, as a straying Lamb, he wandered in the infancy of the universe.
This, in short, is a synopsis of the story that Masonry attempts to tell, completed from the wisdom of the ancient East.