After reading Albert Pike’s book, Morals and Dogma (1871), twice, followed by Elphas Levi’s book, History of Magic (1860), I made a most interesting discovery; but more on that a little later. You see, this significant discovery was not fully understood until after reading Levi’s book. As most students of Pike already understand, he was heavily influenced by Levi’s writings.
The saddest part of this whole adventure was when I heard the nonsense that Pike simply plagiarized Levi’s earlier work – as though this was a bad thing – let me explain. Firstly, one must understand the historical development of copying another persons written work. In the past, such behavior was a sign of respect; but over time, especially in the West, it has become a despised activity. Actually, in academia, it is now considered a high crime. Nevertheless, even though it is considered a terrible deed today, it wasn’t always so; in truth, “Plagiarism is a very ancient art.” That is why, I believe, Pike simply used Levi’s earlier works in his book Morals and Dogma – which was to send a clear Masonic message to his brethren; that is if they were/are wise enough to pick up on this important point. The unfortunate part of this whole historical point is pundits of Pike today love to use the plagiarism argument as a reason to dismiss his important historical book.
Yet, I now believe that Pike used the verbatim text for a specific reason. In short, he left a trail a mile long and a mile wide for anyone interested in learning the truth about Immortality. There is little doubt that Pike’s book, Morals and Dogma, is one of the most difficult to understand Masonic publications available today; so much so, I have read it at length, from cover to cover, twice, and have opened it for proportional study no less that a thousand times, in order to fully understand its hidden secrets. Nevertheless, it was because of Pike’s direct plagiarized sections from Levi’s book, History of Magic, that helped me better understand what Pike was trying to convey. Specifically, Levi held the key to fully understanding Pike; and only by studying Levi will one fully understand what Pike was trying to convey. But, I would have never understood this distinction without the Masonic pundits of Pike trying to discredit him for his use of Levi’s work. You see, even the fool has his purpose (Smile*)!
There have been countless Masonic historians and authors who have tried to understand what Pike was trying to convey; and just as many casual readers, if not more, who dismissed his writings due of a lack of understanding. One can’t fully understand Pike from a contemporary perspective. In fact, I am often asked why I disfavor contemporary Masonic publications in favor of older ones. The simple answer is almost every contemporary Masonic historian and author is not willing to look at Pike’s writings – as the ancients looked upon the mysteries – which is allegorically. Sadly, most, if not all, contemporary Masonic authors don’t even understand, or are willing to learn, Masonic allegory. In short, my discovery was made only through the use of allegorical interpretation; as Pike clearly explained:
These metaphysical ideas, with difficulty comprehended by the mass of the Initiates, were represented by figures, by symbols, and by allegorical analogies; no idea being so abstract that men do not seek to give it expression by, and translate it into, sensible images. The attraction of Secrecy was enhanced by the difficulty of obtaining admission. Obstacles and suspense redoubled curiosity (Albert Pike, Morals and Dogma, 1871, p. 673).
Pike now discusses why the mysteries are hidden allegorically:
‘A Spirit,’ he said, ‘that loves wisdom and contemplates the Truth close at hand, is forced to disguise it, to induce the multitudes to accept it…. Fictions are necessary to the people, and the Truth becomes deadly to those who are not strong enough to contemplate it in all its brilliance. If the sacerdotal laws allowed the reservation of judgments and the allegory of words, I would accept the proposed dignity on condition that I might be a philosopher at home, and abroad a narrator of apologues and parables….. In fact, what can there be in common between the vile multitude and sublime wisdom? The truth must be kept secret, and the masses need a teaching proportioned to their imperfect reason‘ (Albert Pike, Morals and Dogma, 1871, p. 108).
Did you catch that last sentence?… “The truth must be kept secret, and the masses need a teaching proportioned to their imperfect reason.” What secret was Pike writing about? Do we honestly think Masonic secrets revolve around just Masonic behavior? Sadly, I once believed that was all there was to Masonic secrecy; but no longer. There is a far more important secret hidden within Morals and Dogma; and it is the secret of Immortality of the flesh. Yes, the Philosophers Stone, the Elixir of Life, etc.
This light is the quintessence of Paracelsus and is either latent or active in all created substances. Such quintessence is the true elixir of life, and it is extracted from earth by cultivation; from metals by incorporation, rectification, exaltation and synthesis; from plants by distillation and coction; from animals by absorption; from men by generation; from the air by respiration. In this sense we are told by Aristeus that air must be derived from air; by Khunrath that living mercury must be obtained from the perfect man formed by the androgyne; by practically all the sages, that the medicine of metals must be derived from metals and that this medicine—though fundamentally one in all kingdoms—is graduated and specified according to forms and species. Its use is threefold—by sympathy, repulsion or equilibrium. The graduated quintessence was only the auxiliary of forces; the medicine of each kingdom must be derived from the kingdom itself, with the addition of basic mercury—terrestrial or mineral—and of synthetic living mercury, or human magnetism. Such is the rapid and summary sketch of this science, which is vast and profound as the Kabalah, mysterious as Magic, real as the exact sciences, but too long and too often discredited by the frustrated greed of false adepts and by the obscurities with which true sages have surrounded their theories and their processes (Eliphas Levi, History of Magic, 1860, p. 263).
And Levi continued again (I love this one):
Ambrosia answered: ‘To respond adequately to a love which you term supernatural would require an immortal existence. If this love be sacrified heroically to our respective duties during the lives of those who are dear to each of us, it will, beyond all doubt, create for itself an eternity at that moment when conscience and the world will permit us to love one another. It is said that there is an elixir of life; seek to discover it, and when you are certain that you have succeeded, come and see me. Till then, live for your wife and your children, as I also will live for the husband whom I love; and if you meet me in the street make no sign of recognition…‘ At the accents of that voice, the alchemist startled violently; he recognised her whom he had thought fondly to find unchanged. Casting himself on his knees at her feet, he offered her the phial, saying: ‘Take it, drink it, it is life. Thirty years of my own existence are comprised in it; but I have tried it, and I know that it is the elixir of immortality‘ (Eliphas Levi, History of Magic, 1860, p. 321).
So now you have it; Levi discusses the ‘elixir of immortality.’ However, what about Pike, what does he have to say on the subject?:
The Dimensions of the Lodge, our Brethren of the York Rite say, ‘are unlimited, and its covering no less than the canopy of Heaven.’ ‘To this object,’ they say, ‘the mason’s mind is continually directed, and thither he hopes at last to arrive by the aid of the theological ladder which Jacob in his vision saw ascending from earth to Heaven; the three principal rounds of which are denominated Faith, Hope, and Charity; and which admonish us to have Faith in God, Hope in Immortality, and Charity to all mankind‘ (Albert Pike, Morals and Dogma, 1871, p. 14).
Knowledge is the most genuine and real of human treasures; for it is Light, as Ignorance is Darkness. It is the development of the human soul, and its acquisition the growth of the soul, which at the birth of man knows nothing, and therefore, in one sense, may be said to be nothing. It is the seed, which has in it the power to grow, to acquire, and by acquiring to be developed, as the seed is developed into the shoot, the plant, the tree. “We need not pause at the common argument that by learning man excelleth man, in that wherein man excelleth beasts; that by learning man ascendeth to the heavens and their motions, where in body he cannot come, and the like. Let us rather regard the dignity and excellency of knowledge and learning in that where unto man’s nature doth most aspire, which is immortality or continuance (Albert Pike, Morals and Dogma, 1871, p. 111).
Here we see Pike discussing the real human treasure is not an afterlife; instead, we read that knowledge and learning is man’s nature, or put another way, the continuance of the human body through Immortality.
I do think a short explanation into the word usage of Immortality is in line at this point; especially after Pike’s use if the word soul. Clearly, most people are taught that Immortality means the Immortal soul in an afterlife status; not true I am afraid. In short, when the word Immortality is used by itself, it refers to an eternal life in your current state. However, if additional words are used with Immortality, like Immortality of the soul, it maybe referring to an afterlife; although, not always. One can still have an Immortal soul and an Immortal body; more on that in another future posting. As such, when reading Pike and Levi, one must consider the context in which the word Immortality is being used to fully understand what they are trying to defend, instruct or comment on.
In conclusion, after studying both of these men over the past several years, it has become apparent that they believed in Immortality of the flesh (and soul) and taught this topic allegorically; otherwise, it would have been discovered much much sooner. I will, of course, be discussing this topic further in next months Gnosismasonry posting. Until then, feel free to follow me on Facebook and Twitter for even more Immortal lessons.
So Mote It Be!!!