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THIS Degree is both philosophical and moral. While it teaches the necessity of reformation as well as repentance, as a means of obtaining mercy and forgiveness, it is also devoted to an explanation of the symbols of Masonry; and especially to those which are connected with that ancient and universal legend, of which that of Khir-Om Abi is but a variation; that legend which, representing a murder or a death, and a restoration to life, by a drama in which figure Osiris, Isis and Horus, Atys and Cybele, Adonis and Venus, the Cabiri, Dionusos, and many another representative of the active and passive Powers of Nature, taught the Initiates in the Mysteries that the rule of Evil and Darkness is but temporary, and that that of Light and Good will be eternal.

Maimonides says: “In the days of Enos, the son of Seth, men fell into grievous errors, and even Enos himself partook of their infatuation. Their language was, that since God has placed on high the heavenly bodies, and used them as His ministers, it was evidently His will that they should receive from man the same

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veneration as the servants of a great prince justly claim from the subject multitude. Impressed with this notion, they began to build temples to the Stars, to sacrifice to them, and to worship them, in the vain expectation that they should thus please the Creator of all things. At first, indeed, they did not suppose the Stars to be the only Deities, but adored in conjunction with them the Lord God Omnipotent. In process of time, however, that great and venerable Name was totally forgotten, and the whole human race retained no other religion than the idolatrous worship of the Host of Heaven.”

The first learning in the world consisted chiefly in symbols. The wisdom of the Chaldæans, Phœnicians, Egyptians, Jews; of Zoroaster, Sanchoniathon, Pherecydes, Syrus, Pythagoras, Socrates, Plato, of all the ancients, that is come to our hand, is symbolic. It was the mode, says Serranus on Plato’s Symposium, of the Ancient Philosophers, to represent truth by certain symbols and hidden images.

“All that can be said concerning the Gods,” says Strabo, “must be by the exposition of old opinions and fables; it being the custom of the ancients to wrap up in enigma and allegory their thoughts and discourses concerning Nature; which are therefore not easily explained.”

As you learned in the 24th Degree, my Brother, the ancient Philosophers regarded the soul of man as having had its origin in Heaven. That was, Macrobius says, a settled opinion among them all; and they held it to be the only true wisdom, for the soul, while united with the body, to look ever toward its source, and strive to return to the place whence it came. Among the fixed stars it dwelt, until, seduced by the desire of animating a body, it descended to be imprisoned in matter. Thenceforward it has no other resource than recollection, and is ever attracted toward its birth-place and home. The means of return are to be sought for in itself. To re-ascend to its source, it must do and suffer in the body.

Thus the Mysteries taught the great doctrine of the divine nature and longings after immortality of the soul, of the nobility of its origin, the grandeur of its destiny, its superiority over the animals who have no aspirations heavenward. If they struggled in vain to express its nature, by comparing it to Fire and Light,–if they erred as to its original place of abode, and the mode of its

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descent, and the path which, descending and ascending, it pursued among the stars and spheres, these were the accessories of the Great Truth, and mere allegories designed to make the idea more impressive, and, as it were, tangible, to the human mind.

Let us, in order to understand this old Thought, first follow the soul in its descent. The sphere or Heaven of the fixed stars was that Holy Region, and those Elysian Fields, that were the native domicile of souls, and the place to which they re-ascended, when they had recovered their primitive purity and simplicity. From that luminous region the soul set forth, when it journeyed toward the body; a destination which it did not reach until it had undergone three degradations, designated by the name of Deaths; and until it had passed through the several spheres and the elements. All souls remained in possession of Heaven and of happiness, so long as they were wise enough to avoid the contagion of the body, and to keep themselves from any contact with matter. But those who, from that lofty abode, where they were lapped in eternal light, have looked longingly toward the body, and toward that which we here below call life, but which is to the soul a real death; and who have conceived for it a secret desire,–those souls, victims of their concupiscence, are attracted by degrees toward the inferior regions of the world, by the mere weight of thought and of that terrestrial desire. The soul, perfectly incorporeal, does not at once invest itself with the gross envelope of the body, but little by little, by successive and insensible alterations, and in proportion as it removes further and further from the simple and perfect substance in which it dwelt at first. It first surrounds itself with a body composed of the substance of the stars; and afterward, as it descends through the several spheres, with ethereal matter more and more gross, thus by degrees descending to an earthly body; and its number of degradations or deaths being the same as that of the spheres which it traverses.

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