Rosicrucian Writings Online

Mystic Illumination

By The Imperator
[H. Spencer Lewis]
[From The Mystic Triangle January 1928]
A Few Thoughts for Those
Who Contemplate a Broader
Understanding of Life.
I HAD just left the counter of the Western Union telegraph office and was about to exit to the street when another man who had stood beside me sending a telegram, approached me and said:
"May I ask you just what the organization is that you represent? I could not help seeing the signature on the message you just sent."
"It is the Rosicrucian Order, the American branch of an international body of mystics," I stated, briefly and started to go on my way. I knew intuitively that he wanted to know more, but I wanted him to ask, to seek, and thereby place himself in the position of being the inquisitor; that would make it easy for me to hold him to one line of questioning. He followed me through the door to my car, and just as I was about to enter it, he conquered the hesitancy that was quite evident, and came to me again.
"If I may have just a few minutes of your time, I would greatly appreciate it. I do not want to appear annoying, but there are a number of questions that I would like to ask. I conduct the Wednesday evening questions and discussions at the Second Baptist Church in this city and I believe that I can find in your answers much to talk about next Wednesday."
Knowing, as I do, the attitude of the Baptist Church generally regarding secret societies and about philosophical societies in particular, I could not help saying, "Well, I am sure that you will find in my answers a great deal to discuss, much to the discredit of my organization. However, get in and ride with me for an hour and we will talk."
So off we started. I did not know his name at first, though I knew by reputation the man that tore every philosophy and creed apart every Wednesday night in that Church in his endeavor to make the Baptist principles stand as the sole thought for man to have and hold. I had often wanted to argue some points with this man, and here was an opportunity to do so in real privacy. I know only too well from experience that many men assume certain strict attitudes when in their pulpits or when before their own congregations but have a slightly different, or wholly different, attitude and opinion when alone and in discussion with persons to whom they may confide. I do not mean to insinuate that such persons are hypocrites or even false to themselves and others; not by any means. I know that so long as they are affiliated with, a part of, and really a representative or employee of the certain demonstration which they serve, they must adhere to the doctrines of that organization. They are not selected or maintained by the Church to express their personal opinions. In fact their personal opinions must ever be subservient to the opinions of the Council, of the board of Bishops of their Church. We have often heard the honest clergyman say in regard to certain doctrines and principles, "it is not what I think that is important, but what the holy church in its great wisdom thinks as a result of its age-long experience." It is certain that if the Churches were to permit the individual expression of personal opinion on the part of its thousands of ministers, there would be little agreement in religious thought and no cooperative action in their larger affairs. So, my comment about public and private opinions was not intended to indicate deceit, but loyalty to a purpose.
He began the argument, or discussion, half apologetically. I could not help smiling when he said:
"You see we of the orthodox faith cannot understand why men and women leave the Church or slight the Church to take up the study of mysticism--that is, true and pure mysticism--when the Church and its teachings present the purest of all forms of mysticism."
Here was the old-time argument. It is one I have heard so often by those church officials who deplore the decrease in their congregation and blame it all on the increase of membership in the various "cults."
"And may I ask you in return why you start your argument with two assumptions, neither one of which have you attempted to prove? Why do you assume that men and women leave the churches or slight the churches when they take up the subject of mysticism, and why do you also assume that the Churches present the purest form of mysticism? I can answer both of these questions for you, as for instance; you will say that the great growth of various philosophical, occult and sectarian societies in America indicates that many thousands are attending these various meetings instead of attending churches--and you point to the slow growth of the Church in comparison with these societies to support your argument. Secondly, you will argue that religion, especially the Christian religion, contains so great an amount of mysticism that it would take volumes to reduce it to simple statements. Am I right?"
"You are. Evidently you know the facts as well as I do, therefore it was not necessary for me to prove my two assumptions, as you called them. What I wish to know is, why do sensible humans act like this?"
"You are going a little fast, sir, in your argument. I said that I knew your answers to my two questions--and I stated them just as you would have stated them--but they are not the true answers. For instance, has it ever dawned upon your mind that those who join such societies as we have reference to may have left the Churches years before they began their new affiliations? Have you ever stopped to realize that it is not always the satisfied, happy member of your congregation that seeks for more or different light? And have you ever compiled statistics to discover how many of those still in your congregation may also be members of some societies, some like the one I represent, for instance? And, have you ever tried to discover how many of those who join such societies eventually return to Churches and to regular worship again? Smile, if you wish, but let me tell you the other side of the story."
We were driving along a magnificent boulevard facing a beautiful bay. The blue sky and blue water, green trees and abundant flowers, brilliant in the bright sunlight, made a picture of nature's own goodness and greatness that could not fail to impress anyone; and I often took my eyes from the road in front of me and gazed in all directions in adoration, while he kept his eyes turned toward the gray floor of the car, in deep thought. In such moments of quiet on his part and relaxation on my part, I sensed from his mind that he was as hungry for more light, for a broader understanding, as any who had ever made plea at the Portals of our Order. But he was afraid. He was fearful of the desire and the longing that was being born within him, perhaps covering a period of months or years. I know that class and I deeply sympathize with them. Are they face to face with some temptation? Is their loyalty to orthodoxy being tested? Is the devil trying to sway them from the straight path of religious thought, or is God really trying to speak to them while nature cries aloud and says "Don't stifle the soul, but broaden your vision and be complete"?
"My dear man," I began with more compassion, "I represent an organization that has no desire to take any from the Churches; in fact we know from our records that more of our members discover the folly of religious indifference than those who may be drawn away from previous church affiliation; and we know that our higher teachings inevitably lead to a closer and better reading of the Bible. You may be surprised to know that throughout this nation our officers and branch directors are usually those closely connected with some of the orthodox churches and in many cases clergymen. I do not say this to intimate that the Rosicrucians are different from all other philosophical or occult organizations, but to indicate that the desire to find mystical light, mystic illumination, is not distinct from a desire for religious worship, and cannot be distinct from religious attunement."
"I grant you that," he began with a sudden realization that here was an opportunity to argue his second contention. He had been deeply influenced by the early part of my argument, but again the feeling of going wrong overcame him, and he felt he must make one more attempt to rescue himself from the fall. He did not know how easily his mind and his thinking were being read by his companion. This fact, however, made it easier for me to prepare answers that would help him. So, he said again: "If these persons are actuated solely by a desire for mystic illumination, why do they not remain steadfast in the Church which has for ages preserved the true mysticism of religion?"
I smiled at the words he chose and then, becoming serious, replied: "Without seeming to be facetious I must admit that the church of recent centuries has most certainly preserved the mysticism that was once her glory and joy. It has been preserved, isolated, secreted and made less available than the mystery contents of the ark in Solomon's Temple. It was not always so. There was a time when the church, speaking now of the early Christian Church, kept its sublime mysticism alive and active. It practised the beautiful rites that are now veiled and lost in shallow ritual and formalities. It implored the soul of man to attune itself with the Cosmic Hosts and the Heavenly Assembly. It brought forth from the teachings of the Christ the exquisite perfume of its rarest flowers. It explained the mysteries, it solved the seemingly ambiguous principles of the religious doctrines. It gave Light and Life and Love to all who dwelt in its magnetic aura. But where is that mysticism today, so far as the churches are concerned?"
"It is still there," replied my companion, still ready to defend his church. "We have it in our Baptismal rites and in many others. The seeker can find it. All do not deserve it, and alas, all are not ready for it."
He was musing now, and sad. He was expressing his innermost thoughts and bordering on a line of argument that he could not have presented in his church, where all the rites are offered to any who ask, without consideration of inner worthiness. I could have taken advantage of his argument right at this point, but I preferred to have him find the truth from within.
"You are right, that mysticism was not given to all. The early Christian Church, as you must know, was composed of the outer and the inner circles or congregations. The outer was composed of those who were seeking, or thought they were. The Inner Congregation was secret, private, indeed, but it reached out into the body of the outer congregation and brought into its joyful fold those who were ready and deserving; and there they dwelt in that rapture of mystic teachings which Jesus gave only to His Disciples in private. Where--"
Again he interrupted me. I was truly revealing what was in his own consciousness; still it might be the voice of the temptor; he must not give in; he must not be weak.
"How do you know that Jesus gave any instruction, any mystic advice, to His Disciples that he did not give to the public, to the mass, as preserved in the Gospels?"
"That, my friend, is plainly seen in the missions and work of the Disciples. The Gospels refer, in many places, to the sessions or gatherings held by Jesus with His Disciples, and even to other gatherings of the Disciples themselves, when they talked among themselves of the things He had told them--mysterious and strange things. Did not the Disciples constitute a close and limited body of followers bound by strange ties to their Master, their Lord? Was he not conscious of their thoughts, and they conscious of his presence, in spirit, wherever his body might be? Did He not leave to them the continuance of his work? Was He not often found in their company separated from the public? Did they not often take His astounding demonstrations as a matter of course, when all others were sorely puzzled and perplexed? Did they not witness and record events in His life--mostly mystical events, such as the Ascension--when no one else was near? Does not all this indicate a more intimate attunement and understanding of the mysticism of His doctrines than was possessed by the multitude?"
"You are right, but I have not wanted to believe that there is that in the Christian principles which has not been recorded in our Bible or contained in our church doctrines. I have wanted to believe that the Holy Fathers of the early church had been illumined in the first centuries after the Ascension, and the revelations added to the doctrines we now have. Surely you do not mean to say that the great truths of Christ's teachings are not contained in the Christian doctrines?"
"To answer your question first, I assure you that in the teachings of the Christ, even as presented in your much edited and limited Bible, are still available to all Christians--and also to those who are not members of the Christian church--the great truths of mysticism. I do not want to imply that the mystical teachings of the Great Master have been confined to the Church that bears His name. But they are there, preserved, as you say, almost dead in spirit. Understand me, I am not criticizing your Church--nor any of the many. I am merely stating the fact that since the middle ages the emphasis has been withdrawn from the mystical elements of the Christ's teachings so far as the Church is concerned, but made more available by other organizations."
"Ah, that is the claim. That is the pretension that leads so many from the orthodox path into the by-paths. Is there any proof to support such a claim? Again I return to my original question."
"The claim is not made as a pretension, but the fact makes itself manifest; therein lies the attracting power of many of these organizations of which you complain." I was accepting his question now as a challenge in behalf of all the ancient and modern schools of mysticism. "The organization I represent does not make any claim, for instance, of teaching the mysticism of the doctrines of Jesus the Christ, nor does it claim to teach that mysticism which was the very soul of the early Christian Church. It simply states that it teaches all the principles of mysticism, including the doctrines and practises of the many sects preceding the Christian sect and those which immediately followed it."
"Why do you refer to the first Christian body as a sect?"
"Because that is exactly what it was. Consider for a moment the coming of the man Jesus into a nation which had its established religion, and gathering around Him twelve or more followers who proclaimed a newer religion or a different one and attempted to convert the nation to it. Was that not the work of a sect? What would you call it today? To view the resulting church of today as having always been a church is like thinking of Rome as having never been a small village. But, it was a sect among sects. It has a form of mysticism and certain new mystical principles unknown to the multitudes of that land, but known to others in foreign lands. It was new only to the peoples of that land; it was better only in that it included all that had gone before, plus the power of later revelation and more recent authority. It was Divine because it was mystical; it was mystical because it was of Divine origin. God had revealed to one man--His Messenger--that which would serve them, save them, redeem them and give them new life. But, God did not cease His revelations. You admit that the Holy Fathers were inspired later with interpretations and additions to the doctrines. What became of these? What has become of the revelations of God in still later centuries? Has the Church kept abreast of these? Is man still the same as in the days of the birth of Christianity? Has he no newer needs, no newer problems, no newer temptations to overcome, no increased desire to know God and bask in the sublime effulgence of mystical attunement?"
"I see your point!" he exclaimed after a moment. "I understand your contention. But are those who seek these newer revelations of mystic illumination moved solely by religious ideas?"
"Not if you mean churchly by the term religious. They do not associate mysticism with the church for the very reason that as a child and as an adult they have not found the one associated with the other. But if you mean divine inner urge when you say religious, then I must say that it is quite customary. The man or woman who gradually or suddenly senses a need for the study of mysticism or an investigation of its offerings is generally actuated by a desire to become purged of the sins of ignorance and reborn in the Light of Life and Love. They may not call it a religious urge, or a Divine prompting; but they are quite aware of the fact that it is holy and sacred. They sense with it the possibility of a saving grace, a method of salvation. They know that it is good for it seems to be of God, the God within."
"Granting that all you say is true--and that a good Christian can unite with your organization without finding any temptation to leave his church--just what will the study of mysticism do for the member or student that the church does not do?"
"Many things, indeed", I began. "In the first place a good Christian or a good Jew, or a Hindu or Sufi, will find nothing in the study of practical mysticism that will lead him from his Church unless that Church is wrong in its teachings."
"Do you make a distinction between Christian mysticism and what you teach, when you refer to practical mysticism?" he queried, with a guarded glance in my direction.
"Not at all, but I do make a distinction between the mysticism found in your Church rituals and rites of today and that mysticism which Jesus taught His Disciples. What He taught, what we teach, what the multitudes are seeking, is that practical form of mysticism which enables its followers to accomplish, to master, to do. Jesus stood by the side of the sea and commented on the fact that the fishermen were failing to catch fish. He might have philosophized a while and then told them how to fish for men, as he did; but he knew the value of practical application, and he therefore philosophized little but told them in a practical way just what to do to demonstrate the laws to themselves. He might have conducted long discourses on the cause of disease and the possibility of curing it through prayer; but he showed them how to do those things in a practical way. Wherever He went, whatever the call, He was practical. He applied His mystical knowledge to the practical things of life, even to materializing food when it was needed. That is practical mysticism. It is what the churches have eliminated from their work and, forsooth, left to other organizations to teach as a distinctly separate work. Who but the churches are to blame then, if the seeker for practical mysticism, finding it not in the church goes elsewhere? And through study, preparation and worthiness becomes illuminated, attuned and made mighty in mystical powers to such an extent that he finds himself a master over the obstacles of life,--intuitive, supersensitive, happy, healthy and prosperous. Who is to blame? Certainly not the seeker. Yet he soon realizes, if he has not realized it before, that he needs the association of the church or at least the assistance of a guide in his religious worship, and he finds in the church, usually, a place for the proper meditation, consolation and peace that he seeks. He also discovers the great good that the churches are doing and comes to understand the limitations of the clergyman in being bound by doctrines that are comprehensible to the multitudes. This understanding places him in sympathy with the clergyman and the church directors and he aids and supports them to the best of his ability. The result is that you have, in such a case, a more loyal supporter and worker in God's vineyard than you will find among those who attend the church simply as a matter of duty. If, on the other hand, the mystic can find no church that affords him the opportunity for meditation, religious joy and peace, he refrains from uniting with any, and sets aside certain hours of the week for meditation, prayer and religious study at home, and constitutes himself a worker in the vineyard and seeks opportunities to help the sick, strengthen the weak and make happy the sorrowing. He knows how to do these things through his training in practical mysticism. He senses where and when he can render the practical help required of him as his special mission in life, because he has mystic illumination."
"I believe you are right! I have always believed that such a system as you have outlined was possible, but on every hand I have been confronted with the claims and shallow pretensions of so many of the occult or metaphysical organizations. Each investigation has brought to light no fruit of their efforts, no fulfillments of their promises. So, I have become more and more discouraged in my search, more and more convinced that in the church only could one find the mysticism of the early sects, as you call them. I am going to look further into the work of the Rosicrucians and I shall be glad to tell my Wednesday night congregation exactly what you have pointed out to me today."
After a few comments about the larger affairs of life, we reached the main entrance of his Church and he alighted. As I nodded good bye, he turned and made this final remark:
"At any rate I am convinced of one thing: The Rosicrucians most surely adhere to the injunction, 'Thou shalt have no other Gods before me,' and that makes me extremely happy."
(Editor's comment--I believe that the foregoing article could be used to excellent advantage by many of our members. When you find someone who is interested in mystical subjects but believes such studies may lead them from the church, give them this issue of the Triangle to read and mark this article for their special attention. Keep this issue in mind as a special help in your propaganda efforts.)

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