SCIENCE AND THE INFINITE
Through a Window in the Blank Wall
SYDNEY T. KLEIN
London William Rider & Son, Limited Cathedral House, Paternoster Row, E.C. 1917
First Published November 1912 Reprinted September 1917
THE RIGHT HON.
ARTHUR JAMES BALFOUR
In venturing to prepare this little volume for the eyes of the reading public, I am fully aware of the difficulties of the subject and the inadequacy of the expressions I have been able to employ, but I have made the attempt at the request of those who have found consolation in some of the thoughts herein embodied; and the messages left by others before they passed away, embolden me to hope that many others may find in this volume some points of interest which will help them to appreciate better the "joys" which this life has for those who know how to look for them, and that perhaps others may even gain a clearer conception of that which awaits us beyond the Veil.
Many of us allow ourselves to be overwhelmed by the small worries and vexations of everyday life, clothing them with a reality quite disproportionate to their importance; we are too apt to look at them, as it were, through a powerful microscope, piling power upon power of magnification, until we have made mountains out of mole-hills, whereas if we treated them at their true value we should look at them through a telescope, in the reverse direction, when they would appear not only trivial, but would be seen to be too remote to have any material effect on our lives.
The sub-title of this volume, and indeed its inception, arose from my lately coming in contact with one of those establishments which are doing for humanity what a mother's arms do for the child who is "sick unto death"—a beautiful home with cheerful rooms and cheerful nurses, where patients are tenderly cared for after severe operations, carried through by our most famous surgeons, some cases, alas, almost hopeless from the first. At the head of this establishment was one of those kindly self-abnegating personalities, whose loving sympathy and encouragement have comforted the dying and smoothed the path for many a weary pilgrim passing from this life to the next. With immense responsibilities on her shoulders, and after a day full of strenuous work, the head of this establishment would often sit through the night for hours by the couch of those whose lives could not possibly be prolonged for more than a few days. It was a few simple answers elicited by the questions brought to me from those poor sufferers, and the way such answers seemed to calm anxieties connected with the fear of death and to render the impenetrable Veil more transparent, which suggested the title, "Through a Window in the Blank Wall."
I do not wish to lay claim to having made any startling discovery; similar thoughts, especially those concerning the non-reality of Time and Space, have no doubt occurred to others, but the whole problem "What is the Reality?" has been insistently pressing on me ever since I can remember, and I have tried to give here in simple colloquial language, without any attempt at rhetoric, the conclusions I have personally come to as to what is the Truth.
The study of ancient and modern philosophic theories is useful as showing how impossible it is, for even the greatest thinkers of any age, to grasp the Absolute with our understanding or to measure the Infinite with our finite units. The propounders of all these theories seem to me to be, without exception, looking in the wrong direction for the "Reality of Being"; they are all arguing from the standpoint of "Intellectualism" in a similar manner to that of the "Theologians" referred to in View Three. Our latest expositor of this, M. Henri Bergson, bases his theory upon "Life" being the Reality; this he postulates is a "flowing" in Time, and Movement therefore becomes for him the Reality; and yet we know that Motion is but the product of Time and Space, and these are only the two modes or limitations under which our senses act and upon which our very consciousness of living depends. Surely the Absolute cannot be localised, must be Omnipresent, and therefore independent of Space—cannot have a beginning or end, must be Omniscient, and therefore independent of Time; these two unrealities can therefore have no existence in "Reality of Being." If, then, there is any truth in "Intuition," we have, in this theory, the Reality, "Life," not only limited by the unreal but actually dependent for its very existence upon those limitations! In these Views I have attempted, on the contrary, to show that Time and Space have no existence apart from our Physical Senses; they are the modes only under which we appreciate motion, or what we call physical phenomena, and as our conceptional knowledge is based upon our perceptional knowledge, our very consciousness of living is limited by Time and Space, and we must surely therefore look behind consciousness itself, beyond the conditioning in Time and Space for the Reality of Being, otherwise physical motion, the product of these two limitations, would become the Reality of Being.
I have also suggested reasons for looking upon physical life as a mode of frequency, akin to Light, Electricity, Magnetism, Chemical Action, the Vibration of a Tuning Fork, or the Swing of a Pendulum, and therefore a transient phenomenon having to do only with the Race; Life can under these conditions only be looked upon as a reality in the same sense in which all other forms of energy or matter appear real to our finite senses—namely, as the shadows or manifestations of the Absolute on our limited plane of Consciousness.
However strongly I may be convinced—as I am—of the truth of my arguments, and however sure I may be that many others will not only agree with my conclusions, but will see that in "Introspection" rather than in "Intellectualism" lies the key to the Mystery, I do not wish to appear dogmatic in any of the suggestions contained in this volume; I am stating my own convictions, but at the same time I fully recognise that the presentation of the Absolute, with its infinite variety of aspects, must necessarily be different to every individual; we are all of the same genus, but each individual Ego is, as it were, a different species, and I do not therefore expect that my attempt to solve the Riddle of the Universe will appeal to all alike. It is, however, a true saying that "there is something to be learnt from every human being," and if I have by these suggestions succeeded in augmenting the number of those who have already started on the true "Quest," and have helped, however imperfectly, to enrich some lives with the "joy" of knowing their oneness with the All-loving, my aim has indeed been attained.
SYDNEY T. KLEIN.
"HATHERLOW," REIGATE, 1st June 1912.
PAGE VIEW ONE
CLEARING THE APPROACH 1
THE VISION 19
MYSTICISM AND SYMBOLISM 36
LOVE IN ACTION 71
THE PHYSICAL FILM 100
SCIENCE AND THE INFINITE
CLEARING THE APPROACH
The proof that the Human Race is still in its infancy may be seen in the fact that we still require Symbolism to help us to maintain and carry forward abstract thought to higher levels, even as children require picture books for that purpose. The Glamour of Symbolism, Rapture of Music, and Ideal of Art, which come to us in later years, had their beginnings when to the child every blade of grass was a fairy tale and a grass plot a marvellous fairy forest. The great aspiration of the Human Race is to gain a knowledge of the Reality, the Noumenon behind the phenomenon; but the fact that from infancy we have been accustomed to confine our attention wholly to the objective, believing that to be the reality, has surrounded us with a concrete boundary wall through which we can only at times, with difficulty, get transient glimpses of that which is beyond. It is only in recent years that we have been able to realise that it is the Invisible which is the Real, that the visible is only its shadow or its manifestation in the Physical Universe, and that Time and Space have no existence apart from our physical senses, in short, that they are only the modes or limits under which those senses act or receive their impressions and by which they are necessarily rendered finite.
The difficulty is that our physical senses only perceive the surface of our surroundings, and that we have hitherto been looking at the Woof of Nature as though it were the glass of a window covered with patterns, smudges, flies, &c., comprising all that we call physical phenomena and which, when analysed in terms of Time and Space, produce the appearance of succession and motion. It requires a keener perception, unbounded by these limitations, to look through the glass at the Reality which is beyond. I propose then in a series of short views, through a window not hitherto unshuttered and in a direction which I believe has not before been attempted, to lead those of my readers who have the necessary aspiration, patience, and, above all, strenuous persistence, to a watch-tower, situated well above the mists and illusions of our ordinary everyday thoughts, whence they will find it possible to get a glimpse of a strange new country, and where those who have by practice once attained to its clear perception, will be able to continue the study by themselves and thus get further insight into that wonderful region of Thought which I have called "True Occultism"—the knowledge of the Invisible which is the Real in place of the Visible which is only its shadow.
Let us first try and understand the conditions under which phenomena are presented to us. In our perception of sight, we find the greater the light, the greater the shadow; a light placed over a table throws a shadow on the floor, though not sufficient to prevent our seeing the pattern of the carpet; increase the light and the shadow appears now so dark that no pattern or carpet can be seen; not that there is now less light under the table but the light above has to our sense of sight created or made manifest a greater darkness. Thus, throughout the Universe, as interpreted by our Physical Ego, we find phenomena ranging themselves under the form of positive and negative, the apparently Real and the Unreal.
The Good making manifest its negative Evil. The Beautiful " " " " Ugly. The True " " " " False. Knowledge " " " " Ignorance. Light " " " " Darkness. Heat " " " " Cold.
But the negatives have no real existence. As in the case of light we see that the shadow is only the absence of light, so the negative of Goodness, i.e. Evil, may in reality be looked upon as folly or wasting of opportunity for exercising the Good. Owing to their limitations our thoughts are based upon relativity, and it is hardly thinkable that we could, under our present conditions, have any cognisance of the positive without its negative; we shall in fact see later on that it is by examining the Physical, the negative or shadow, that we can best gain a knowledge of the Spiritual, the positive or real.
The first step to a clear understanding of this, is to recognise that it is not we who are looking out upon Nature but that it is the Reality which is ever trying to enter and come into touch with us through our senses, and is persistently trying to waken within us a knowledge of the sublimest truths. It is difficult to realise this, as from infancy we have been accustomed to confine our attention wholly to the objective, believing that to be the reality.
Let us try and grasp this fact. If we analyse our sense of sight, we find that the only impression made on our bodies by external objects is the image formed upon the retina; we have no cognisance of the separate electro-magnetic rills forming that image, which, reflected from all parts of an object, fall upon the eye at different angles, constituting form, and with different frequencies giving colour to that image; that image is only formed when we turn our eyes in the right direction to allow those rills to enter; and, whereas those rills are incessantly beating on the outside of our sense organ when the eyelid is closed, they can make no impression unless we allow them to enter by raising that shutter. It is not then any volition from within that goes out to seize upon and grasp the truths from Nature, but the phenomena are as it were forcing their way into our consciousness. This is more difficult to realise when the object is near to us, as we are apt to confound it with our sense of touch, which requires us to stretch out our hand to the object, but it is clearer when we take an object far away. In our telescopes we catch the rills of light which started from a star a thousand years ago and the image is still formed on the retina now although those rills are in fact a thousand years old and, invisible to our unaided eye, have been falling upon mankind from the beginning of life on this globe, trying to get an entrance to consciousness. It was, however, only when, by evolution of thought, the knowledge of optics had produced the telescope that it became possible not only for that star to make itself known to us but to declare to us its distance, its size, and conditions of existence, and even the different elemental substances of which it was composed a thousand years ago. Yet, when we now allow its image to form on the retina, our consciousness insists on fixing its attention upon that star as an outside object, refusing to allow that it is only an image inside the eye and making it difficult to realise that that star may have disappeared and had no existence for the past 999 years, although in ordinary parlance we are looking at and seeing it there now.
I have referred above to the sense of touch; it is, I think, clear that the first impression a child can have of sight must take the form of feeling the image on its retina, as though the object were actually inside the head, and it could have no idea that it was outside until, by touching with the hand, it would gradually learn by experience that the tangible outside object corresponded with the image located in the head; this is fully borne out by the testimony of men who, born blind, have, by an operation, received their sight late in life; in each case their first experience of seeing gave the impression that the object was touching the eye, and they were quite unable to recognise by sight an object such as a cup or plate or a round ball which they had commonly handled and knew perfectly well by touch; in fact, the idea of an object formed by the sense of touch is so absolutely different to that formed by the sense of sight that it would be impossible without past experience to conclude that the two sensations referred to one and the same object. The image formed on the retina has nothing in common with the sense of hardness, coldness, and weight experienced by touch, the only impression on the retina being that of colour or shade, and an outline; it is, however, hardly conceivable that even the outline of form would be recognised by the eye until touch had proved that form comprised also solidity and that the two ideas had certain motions in common both in duration in Time and extension in Space.
Again, our senses of sight and hearing are alike based on the appreciation of frequencies of different rapidity; brightness and colour in light are equivalent to loudness and pitch in sound, but in sound we have no equivalent to perception of form or situation in space; it gives us no knowledge of the existence of objects when situated at great distances, nor can movements be followed even at short distances without having material contact, by means of the air, with the object; sight indeed appears to have to do with Space- and sound with Time-perception. In examining Nature by means of our senses we find we are so hemmed in by what we have always taken for granted and so bound down by modes of reasoning derived from what we have seen, heard, or felt in our daily life, that we are sadly hampered in our search after the truth. It is difficult to sweep the erroneous concepts aside and make a fresh start. In fact the great difficulty in studying the Reality underlying Nature is analogous to our inability to isolate and study the different sounds themselves which fall upon the ear, if our own language is being uttered, without being forced to consider the meaning we have always attached to those sounds.
Let us now go back to the contention that it is not we who are looking out upon Nature but that our senses are being bombarded from without; we are living in a world of continuous and multitudinous changes, and as our senses require change or motion for their excitation, without those changes we could have no cognisance of our surroundings, we should have no consciousness of living; but if we base our thought entirely on sense perception, taking for granted that Time and Space have reality instead of recognising that they are only modes or limits under which those senses act, the Wall will ever remain opaque to us. Let us try and make this clearer. If we analyse the impression we receive from Motion, we find it is made up of the product of our two limitations, it is the time that an object takes to go over a certain space. We must come therefore to the conclusion also that Motion itself has no existence in reality apart from our senses. The result of not being able to appreciate this, is that the finiteness of our sense, caused by its dependence on Motion for excitation, surrounds us with illusions; one of these illusions is what we call solidity or continuity of sensation. If you hold a cannon-ball in your hand, perception by the sense of touch tells you that it is continuous, or what is called solid and hard; but it is not so in reality except as a concept limited by our finite senses. A fair analogy would be to liken it to a swarm of bees, for we know that it is composed of an immense number of independent atoms or molecules which are darting about, and circling round each other at an enormous speed but never touching; they are also pulsating at a definite enormous rate; we can at will increase their motion by heat or reduce by cold; if our touch perception were sensitive enough we should feel those motions and should not have the sensation of a solid. We have a similar case of limitation in our other senses, which we shall grasp better in another View through our Window. We can hear beats only up to fifteen in a second, beyond that number they give the sensation of a musical or continuous sound. In our sense of sight we can see pulsations or intermittent flashes up to only six in a second, beyond that number they give the sensation of a continuous light; a gas jet, if extinguished and relit six times in a second, can be seen to flicker, but beyond that rate is to our sense of sight a steady flame. The effect may also be shown by making the top of a match red-hot; when stationary or moving slowly, it is a point of light, but, moved quickly, it becomes a continuous line of light.
Even apart from our senses we find Motion giving the characteristics of solidity: a wheel with only a few spokes, if rotated quickly enough, becomes quite impermeable to any substance, however small, thrown at it; a thin jet of water only half an inch in diameter, if discharged at great pressure equivalent to a column of water of 500 metres, cannot be cut even with an axe, it resists as though it were made of the hardest steel; a thin cord, hanging from a vertical axis, and being revolved very quickly, becomes rigid, and if struck with a hammer it resists and resounds like a rod of wood; a thin chain and even a loop of string, if revolved at great speed over a vertical pulley, becomes rigid and, if allowed to escape from the pulley, will run along the ground as a hoop.
Now with regard to this limit of time perception, which gives us the phenomenon of Solidity, I have lately been able to devise an arrangement which, acting as a microscope for Time, gives the sensation of an increase in sight perception up to several thousand units per second; it is based on the fact that though the eye can only see six times per second it can see for the one-millionth part of a second. An example of this is the well-known experiment of seeing a bullet in its flight; the bullet makes electrical connection resulting in a spark which illuminates the bullet when opposite the eye. The electrical spark exists only for the millionth of a second, and as the bullet in that time has no perceptible movement it is seen standing absolutely still with all marks upon it quite visible to the eye. When Sight perception is increased up to the rate at which time may be said to flow for any particular object we apparently get into the reality, the permanent now where motion ceases to exist as a sensation. A tuning-fork, kept vibrating, by means of an electro-magnet, at 2000 times per second, may to our sense of sight be gradually slowed down and, optically, brought absolutely to a standstill, for as long as desired, and the smallest irregularity of its surface may be minutely examined, though it continues to be heard and felt vibrating at that enormous rate. I have made several experiments in this direction, and some very curious facts connected with the sensation of Motion are brought to light by means of this increase in perceptive power. If the sense of sight is increased to 125 units per second, motion at the rate of one inch per second is barely visible; taking the common house-fly, whose wings vibrate about 400 times per second, its units of perception would appear to be about two-thirds of those beats, as I found it had no cognisance of Motion below two inches per second; you can put your finger on any fly provided you do not approach it faster than the above rate, it turns its head up to look at your finger but can see no motion in it; if you approach at over three inches per second it will always fly away before you are within a foot. I found that a dragon-fly, whose wings vibrate about 200 times per second, had only half the number of unit perceptions of the fly and could apparently see motion at about one inch per second but not under. In the converse of the above we have then the principle of a Microscope for Time, somewhat similar to the Microscope for Space of our laboratories. If our perception were increased sufficiently we could slow down any motion for examination, however rapid; there would be no difficulty in following a lightning flash or even arresting its visible motion for purposes of investigation without interfering with the natural sequence of cause and effect.
If, on the other hand, our perception were decreased below six times per second, all motion would be accelerated, until with perception reduced to one unit in twenty-four hours the sun would appear only as a band across the sky, and we could not follow its motion any more than, as we have seen, we could follow the point of a red-hot match. If perception were reduced far enough, plants and trees would grow up visibly before our eyes. But we must leave this subject now, as this and the Time Microscope will be treated in a later View.
Let us try and appreciate the fact that, under our present conditions, our conceptions of the immense and minute—namely, extension in Space, and that of quick and slow or duration in Time—are purely relative, and that from this arise those pseudo-conceptions which we call the infinitely extended and the infinitely lasting. Under our present limitations it is impossible for us to grasp the whole of any Truth, if we could do that, there would be no such mystery of Infinity to puzzle us; we could, as it were, see all around it, but that is again looking through another window. We are now considering relativity. If we cut off the very end of the point of the finest needle, we get so minute a particle of steel that it is hardly visible to the naked eye, and yet we know that that small speck contains not only millions but millions of millions of what are called atoms, all in intense motion and never touching each other. Try and conceive how small each of these atoms must be, and then try and grasp the fact, only lately proved by the discovery of Radio-activity, that each of these atoms is a great family made up of bodies analogous to the planets of our solar system and whose rate of motion is comparable only to that of Light. This is not theory, it is fact clearly demonstrated to us by the study of Radio-activity. Curiously enough, we know more about these bodies than we do of the atom itself; we actually know their size and weight and the speed with which they move. We do not yet know what is at the centre of this system, but we do know that each of these bodies is as far away from the centre as our planet is from the sun (93,000,000 miles), and as far from its neighbours as our planet is, relatively to its size. And now, for the purpose of grasping this subject of relativity, I want you to ask yourself whether it is conceivable that a world, so small as those bodies are, could possibly be inhabited by sentient beings. Leaving you to form your own conclusion upon this point, I will ask you to follow me down another path leading to the elucidation of the same subject.
If at this moment we and all our surroundings were reduced to half their size and everything were moving twice as quickly, we should absolutely have no cognisance of any change, neither could we possibly note any difference if everything were reduced to a hundredth part of the original size and were going a hundred times quicker; and even when reduced a thousand or a million times, or to such minuteness that the whole of our solar system with its revolving planets became no larger than one of those atoms in the needle point, and the whole of the starry universe therefore reduced to the size of the needle point, its millions of suns coinciding with the millions of planetary systems in that steel particle—our earth would still revolve round the sun, though no larger than one of those minute planetary particles and travelling at the rate of light, but we should still have no knowledge of any change, in fact, our life would go on as usual, though it was difficult a few minutes ago to think it conceivable that so small a globe could be inhabited by sentient beings.
Once more let us consider that the change is made in the direction of expansion in space and slowing down of Time; let all our surroundings be so enormously increased that each of the atoms in the steel point became as large as our solar system and the steel point as large as the visible universe, each atom therefore taking the place of a star, and motion being reduced in proportion; it is still absolutely inconceivable that we could know of any change having taken place, though the length of our needle, which was at first, say, one inch, would now be so great that light, travelling 186,000 miles per second, would take 500,000 years to traverse its length, and the stature of each one of us would be so great that light would require over 36,000,000 years to travel from head to foot, and that 36,000,000 years would have to be multiplied 163,000,000 times, making 5860 millions of millions of years to represent the time that an ordinary sneeze would take under such conditions. And yet we have only gone towards the infinitely great exactly as far as we at first went towards the infinitely small, and it is still absolutely inconceivable that we could be conscious of any change, our everyday life would go on as usual, we should be quite oblivious to the fact that every second of time, with all its incidents and thoughts, had been lengthened to 5860 millions of millions of years. Do we not now begin to grasp the fact that immensity and minuteness in extension, and motion in duration, are figments only of our finite minds, that Time and Space have no objective reality apart from our physical senses, that they are only the modes under which we receive impressions of our surroundings? With perfect perception we should know that the only Reality is the Spiritual, the Here comprising all Space and the Now all Time.
One more look through the window before we part, and we may see what I consider the greatest miracle in our everyday life: The Inner-self of each one of us, being part of the Reality or Spiritual, is independent of Space limitations and must therefore be Omnipresent, is independent of Time and therefore Omniscient. This inevitable deduction will be explained more fully in another View.
It is from this store of knowledge that our Physical Ego is ever trying to win fresh forms of thought, and, in response to our persistent endeavours, that Inner-self, from time to time, buds out a new thought; the Physical Ego has already prepared the clothing with which that bud must be clad before it can come into conscious thought, because, as Max Mueller has shown us, we have to form words before we can think; so does the Physical Ego clothe that ethereal thought in physical language, and by means of its organ of speech it sends that thought forth into the air in the form of hundreds of thousands of vibrations of different shapes and sizes, some large, some small, some quick, some slow, travelling in all directions and filling the surrounding space; there is nothing in those vibrations but physical movement, but each separate movement is an integral part or thread of that clothing. Another Physical Ego receives these multitudinous vibrations by means of its sense organ, weaves them together into the same physical garment, and actually becomes possessed of that ethereal thought—an unexplained marvel, and probably the most wonderful occurrence in our daily existence, especially as it often enables the second Physical Ego to gain fresh knowledge from its own Real Personality. Now, in connection with this, consider the fact, already emphasized, that it is not we who are looking out upon Nature, but that it is the Reality which is ever trying to make itself known to us by bombarding our sense organs with the particular physical impulses to which those organs can respond, and, if we aspire to gain a knowledge of what is behind the physical, it is clear that all our endeavours must be towards weaving these impulses into garments and then learning from them the sublime Truths which the Reality is ever trying to divulge to us.
"Thy Will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven," is in true consonance with the old philosophic dictum that "Everything in heaven must have its counterpart on earth"; in other words, the Reality has all Its multitudinous manifestations, every noumenon its phenomenon, in the physical universe. If we now examine those traits of our surroundings which affect us most, and best help us to reach the highest level of abstract thought of which our nature is capable, we find that it is the recognition of the Beauty (comprising also the Good and the True) in everything, which constitutes the power held over our minds by what we may call the Glamour of Symbolism, the Rapture of Music, and the Ideal of Art. But this influence is still only sensuous, it does not carry us beyond the extension of that Wonderment and Enchantment which had their birth with our first visit to Fairyland. This is, I think, evident, as Beauty is not the Reality; it is only what may be called the sensuous expression of the Reality or Spiritual on the physical plane. Although we have no words to express, nor indeed minds to grasp, the wonders and glories of that which is behind the Veil, it is possible for some of us to get a glimpse of it through our Window, and to those the following pages may be helpful, but to others the Wall will remain blank; and, here at the commencement, I should like to warn those who have not been through a certain experience, to which I shall refer, that no words of mine will open the Window for them; at the same time it is probable that many of my readers, who think at this stage that they have no knowledge of the subject of this View, will, as we proceed, recognise in the view through the Window something they have experienced more than once in their lifetime, and to these I address myself.
Let us first try to understand what we know concerning ourselves. The longer one lives and the more one studies the mystery of "Being," the more one is forced to the conclusion that in every Human Being there are two Personalities, call them what you like—"the Real and its Image," "the Spiritual and its Material Shadow," or "the Transcendental and its Physical Ego." The former in each of these duads is, as referred to in our first View, not conditioned in Time and Space, is independent of Extension and Duration, and must therefore be Omnipresent and Omniscient, whereas the latter, being subservient to Time and Space, can only think in finite words, requires succession of ideas to accumulate knowledge, is dependent on perception of movements for forming concepts of its surroundings, and, without this perception, it would have no knowledge of existence.
Let us go back into the far distant past, before the frame and brain of what we now call the genus Homo was fully developed: he was then an animal pure and simple, conscious of living but knowing neither good nor evil; there was nothing in his thoughts more perfect than himself; it was the golden age of innocency; he was a being enjoying himself in a perfect state of nature with absolute freedom from responsibility of action. But, as ages rolled on, under the great law of evolution, his brain was enlarging and gradually being prepared for a great and wonderful event, which was to make an enormous change in his mode of living and his outlook on the future. As seeds may fall continually for thousands of years upon hard rock without being able to germinate, until gradually, by the disintegration of the rock, soil is formed, enabling the seed at last to take root; so for countless ages was the mind of that noble animal being prepared until, in the fulfilment of time, the Spiritual took root and he became a living soul. The change was marvellous; he was now aware of something higher and more perfect than himself, he found that he was able to form ideals above his ability to attain to, resulting in a sense of inferiority, akin to a "Fall"; he was conscious of the difference of Right and Wrong, and felt happy and blessed when he followed the Good, but ashamed and accursed when he chose the Evil; he became upright in stature, and able to communicate his thoughts and wishes to his fellows by means of language; and by feeling his freedom to choose between the Good, Beautiful, and True on one hand, and the Evil, Ugly, and False on the other, he became aware that he was responsible and answerable to a mysterious higher Being for his actions. This at once raised him far above other animals, and he gradually began to feel the presence within him of a wonderful power, the nucleus of that Transcendental Self which had taken root, and which, from that age to this, has urged Man ever forward first to form, and then struggle to attain, higher Ideals of Perfection. As a mountaineer who, with stern persistence, struggles upward from height to height, gaining at each step a clearer and broader view, so do we, as we progress in our struggle upwards, toward the understanding of Perfection, ever see more and more clearly that the Invisible is the Real, that the visible is only its shadow, that our Spiritual Personality is akin to that Great Reality, that we cannot search out and know that Personality; it is not an idea, it cannot be perceived by our senses, any more than we can see a sound by our sense of sight or measure an Infinity by our finite units; all we can so far do is to feel and mark its effect in guiding our Physical Ego to choose the real from the shadow, the plus from the minus, receiving back in some marvellous mode of reflex action the power to draw further nourishment from the Infinite. As that Inner Personality becomes more and more firmly established, higher ideals and knowledge of the Reality bud out, and, as these require the clothing of finite expressions before they can become part of our consciousness, so are they clothed by our Physical Ego and become forms of thought; and, although the Physical Ego is only the shadow or image, projected on the physical screen, of the Real Personality, we are able, by examining these emanations and marking their affinity to the Good, the Beautiful, and the True, to attain at times to more than transient glimpses of the loveliness of that which is behind the veil. As in a river flowing down to the sea, a small eddy, however small, once started with power to increase, may, if it continues in midstream, instead of getting entangled with the weeds and pebbles near the bank, gather to itself so large a volume of water, that, when it reaches the sea, it has become a great independent force; so is each of us endowed, as we come into this life, with a spark of the Great Reality, with potential force to draw from the Infinite in proportion to our conscientious endeavours to keep ourselves free from the deadening effects of mundane frivolities and enticements, turning our faces ever towards the light rather than to the shadow, until our personality becomes a permanent entity, commanding an individual existence when the physical clothing of this life is worn out, and for us all shadows disappear.
If man became a conscious being on some such analogous lines as indicated, it is clear that he is, as it were, the offspring of two distinct natures, and subject to two widely separated influences; the Spiritual ever urging him towards improvement in the direction of the Real or Perfect, and the Physical or Animal instincts inviting him in the opposite direction. These latter instincts are not wrong in themselves, in a purely animal nature, but are made manifest as urging him in the direction of the shadow or Imperfect when they come in contact, and therefore in competition, with the Spiritual. Neither the Spiritual nor the Physical can be said to possess Free-will; they must work in opposite directions, but this competition for influence over our actions provides the basis for the exercise of man's Free-will—the choice between progression and stagnation. The Spiritual influence must conquer in the long run, as every step under that influence is a step towards the Real and can never be lost; the apparent steps in the other direction are only negative or retarding, and can have no real existence, except as a drag on the wheel which is always moving in the direction of Perfection, thus hindering the process of growth of the Personality.
The stages in development of the Physical Ego and its final absorption in the Transcendental may perhaps be stated as follows—
The Physical Ego loquitur:
"I become aware of being surrounded by phenomena, I will to see—I perceive and wonder what is the meaning of everything—I begin to think—I reflect by combining former experiences—I am conscious that I am, and that I am free to choose between Right and Wrong, but that I am responsible for my actions to a Higher Power; that what I call 'I am' is itself only the shadow, or in some incomprehensible sense the breathing organ, of a wonderful divine Afflatus or Power which is growing up within, or in intimate connection with me, and which itself is akin to the Reality. Owing to my senses being finite I cannot with my utmost thought form a direct concept of that power, although I feel that it comprises all that is good and real in me, and is in fact my true personality; I am conscious of it ever urging me forward towards the Good, Beautiful, and True, and that each step I take in that direction (especially when taken in opposition to the dictates of physical instincts) results in a further growth of that Transcendental Self. With that growth I recognise that it is steadily gaining power over my thoughts and aspirations. I learn that the whole physical Universe is a manifestation of the Will of the Spiritual, that every phenomenon is as it were a sublime thought, that it should be my greatest individual aspiration to try to interpret those thoughts, or when, as it seems at present, our stage in the evolution of thought is not far enough advanced, I should during my short term of life do my best to help forward the knowledge of the Good, Beautiful, and True for those who come after. As I grow old the Real Ego in me seems to be taking my place, the central activity of my life is being shifted, as I feel I am growing in some way independent of earthly desires and aspirations, and, when the term of my temporary sojourn here draws to a close, I feel myself slackening my hold of the physical until at last I leave go entirely, and my physical clothing, having fulfilled its use, drops off and passes away, carrying with it all limitations of Time and Space. I awake as from a dream to find my true heritage in the Spiritual Universe."
If we try to form a conception of the stages of growth of the Transcendental Self it would, I think, be somewhat as follows:
The first consciousness} of the Spiritual } I know that Love is the Summum Bonum. entity would be.... }
As it became nourished } I love. it would be.... }
Then.... I love with my whole being.
Then.... I know that I am part of God and God is Love.
And lastly.... I am perfected in Loving and Knowing.
And the above is the best description I have been able to formulate of the development of the Mystical Sense by means of which we can get a view of the Reality through our Window. I will try to give my own experience of this, which will, I know, wake an echo in other hearts, as I have met those who have felt the same. From a child I always had an intense feeling that Love was the one thing above all worth having in life, and, as I grew older and became aware that my real self was akin to the Great Spirit, at certain times of elation or what might be called a kind of ecstasy, I had an overpowering sense of longing for union with the Reality, an intense love and craving to become one with the All-loving. When analysed later in life this was recognised as similar in kind, though different in degree, to the feeling which, when in the country, surrounded by charming scenery, wild flowers, the depths of a forest glade, or even the gentle splash of a mountain stream, makes one always want to open one's arms wide to embrace and hold fast the beautiful in Nature, as though one's Physical Ego, wooed by the Beautiful which is the sensuous (not sensual) expression of the Spiritual, longed to become one with the Physical, as the Personality or Transcendental Ego craves to become one with the Reality. It is the same intense feeling which makes a lover, looking into the eyes of his beloved, long to become united in the perfection of loving and knowing, to be one with that being in whom he has discovered a likeness akin to the highest ideal of which he himself is capable of forming a conception.
As in heaven, so on earth the Physical Ego, though only a shadow, has in its sphere the same fundamental characteristic craving as the Transcendental Personality has for that which is akin to it, and it is this wonderful love that, as the old adage says, makes the world go round. It is the most powerful incentive on earth, and is implanted in our natures for the good and furtherance of the race; it is, in fact, the manifestation on the material plane of that craving of the Inner self for union with, and being perfected in loving and knowing, that Infinite Love of which it is itself the likeness. If we can realise that everything on the physical plane is a shadow, symbol, or manifestation of that which is in the Transcendental, the Mystical Sense, through contemplating these as symbols, enables us at certain times, alas! too seldom and fleeting in character, to get beyond the Physical; but those of my readers who have been there will know how impossible it is to describe, in direct words, which would carry any meaning, either the path by which the experience is gained or a true account of the experience itself. I will try, however, and I think I may be able to lead my readers, by indirect inductive suggestion, to a view of even these difficult subjects, by using the knowledge we have already gained in our first view through this Window. If an artist were required to draw a representation of the Omniscient Transcendental Self, budding out new forms of thought in response to the conscientious efforts of, and the providing of suitable clothing by, the Physical Ego, as referred to in View No. 1, he would be obliged to make use of symbolic forms, and I want to make it quite clear that the description I am attempting must necessarily be clothed in symbolic language and reasoning, and must not be taken as in any way the key by which the door of "the sanctuary" may be opened; it is only possible by it to help the mind to grasp the fact that there is a Window through which such things may be seen, the rest depends upon the personality of the seer.
Now bear in mind that it is not we who are looking out upon Nature, but that it is the Reality, which, by means of the physical, is persistently striving to enter into our consciousness, to tell us what? [Greek: Theos agape estin] (God is Love). As in Thompson's suggestive poem, "The Hound of Heaven"—the Hidden which desires to be found—the Reality is ever hunting us, and will never leave us till He has taught us to know and therefore to love Him, and, as seen in our first view, the first step is to try to see through the woof of nature to the Reality beyond. To this may also be added the attempt to hear the "silence" beyond the audible. Try now to look upon the whole "visible" as a background comprising landscape, sea, and sky—we shall get help in this direction in a later View—and then bring that background nearer and nearer to your consciousness. It requires practice, but it can be done; it may help you if you remember the fact that the whole of that visible scene is actually depicted on the surface of your retina and has no other existence for you. The nearer you can get the background to approach, the more clearly you can see that the whole physical world of our senses is but a thin veil, a mere soap film, which at death is pricked and parts asunder, leaving us in the presence of the Reality underlying all phenomena. The same may be accomplished with the "audible," which is indeed part of the same physical film, though this is not at first easy to recognise. As pointed out in View No. 1, there is little in common between our sense of sight and hearing; but the chirp of birds, the hum of bees, the rustle of wind in the leaves, the ripple of a stream, the distant sound of sheep bells, and lowing of cattle form a background of sound which may be coaxed to approach you; the only knowledge you have of such sounds is their impression or image on the flat tympanum of your ear; they have no other existence for you; and again you may recognise that the physical is but a thin transient film. With the approach of the physical film all material sensation becomes as it were blurred, as near objects become when the eye looks at the horizon, and gradually escapes from consciousness.
I have tried in the foregoing to suggest a method by which our Window may be unshuttered; it has necessarily been only an oblique view and clothed in symbolic phraseology, but those who have been able to grasp its meaning will now have attained to what may be called a state of self-forgetting, the silencing or quieting down of the Physical Ego; sight and sound perceptions have been put in the background of consciousness, and it becomes possible to worship or love the very essence of beauty without the distraction of sense analysis and synthesis or temptation to form intellectual conceptions.
We are now prepared to attempt the last aspect of our view—namely, the description of what is experienced when the physical mists have been evaporated by the Mystical Sense. Again we find that no direct description is possible, language is absolutely inadequate to describe the unspeakable, communications have to be physically transmitted in words to which finite physical meanings have been allocated. The still small voice which may at times of Rapture be momentarily experienced in Music, is something much more wonderful than can be formed by sounds, and this perhaps comes nearest to the expression necessary for depicting the vision of the soul; but it cannot be held or described, it is quickly drowned by the physical sense of audition. As the Glamour of Symbolism can only be transmitted to one who has passed the portal of Symbolic Thought, the Rapture of Music can only be truly understood by one who has already experienced it, and the Ideal of Art requires a true artistic temperament to comprehend it, so it is, I believe, impossible to describe, with any chance of success, this wonderful experience to any but those whom Mr. A. C. Benson, in his Secret of the Thread of Gold, very aptly describes as having already entered "the Shrine." Those who have been there will know that it is not at all equivalent to a vision, it is not anything which can be seen or heard or felt by touch; it is entirely independent of the physical senses; it is not Giving or Receiving, it is not even a receiving of some new knowledge from the Reality; it has nothing to do with thought or intellectual gymnastics; all such are seen to be but mist. The nearest description I can formulate is:—A wondrous feeling of perfect peace;—absolute rest from physical interference;—perfect contentment;—the sense of Being-one-with-the-Reality, carrying with it a knowledge that the Reality or Spiritual is nearer to us and has much more to do with us than the Physical has, if we could only see the truth and recognise its presence;—that there is no real death;—no finiteness and yet no Infinity;—that the Great Spirit cannot be localised or said to be anywhere, but that everywhere is God;—that the whole of what we call Creation is an instantaneous Thought of the Reality;—that it is only by the process of analysing in Time and Space that we imagine there is such a thing as succession of events;—that the only Reality is the Spiritual, the Here embracing all Space and the Now embracing all Time.
How few of us who are now drawing towards the end of our sojourn here, have not, at certain times during our lives, experienced something akin to what I have tried to put before you in the above! Does not a particular scent, a beautiful country scene, a phrase in music, the beauty or pathos in a picture, symbolic sculpture in a grand cathedral, or even a chance word spoken in our hearing, every now and then waken in our innermost consciousness an enchanting memory of some wonderful happy moment of the past when the sun seemed to have been shining more brightly, the birds singing more merrily, when everything in nature seemed more alive, and our very beings seemed wrapped up in an intense love of our surroundings? On those occasions we were not far from seeing behind the veil, though we did not recognise it at the time; but when we now look back, with experience gained by advancing years, and consider those visions of the past, we cannot help seeing that the physical film was to our eyes more transparent at those times, and the very joy of their remembrance seems to be giving us a prescience of that which we shall experience, when for each one of us the physical film is pricked and passes away like a scroll.
MYSTICISM AND SYMBOLISM
"Who can doubt that the Mystics know more than the Theologians, and that the Poets know more than the Scientists? for this inner apprehension is surely the highest and truest kind of Knowledge." Such were the words written to me lately by a clergyman of great learning and of unimpeachable orthodoxy, whose mature knowledge of the Higher Mysteries has been gained by a life-long study of the Divine. In View No. 1 we saw that the first step towards opening our Window, was to grasp the fact that it is not we who are looking out upon Nature, but that it is the Reality which is ever trying to enter and to come into touch with us, through our senses, and is persistently trying to wake within us a knowledge of the sublimest truths: but this has not yet been appreciated by the Theologian; he is looking outwards instead of inwards, and asks the question, based on intellectual conception, in the form "Can I find out the Absolute so that I may possess Him?" and the answer ever comes back, "No, because I am trying to storm the Sanctuary of the Unthinkable, the Infinite, by means of a Ladder which cannot reach beyond our finite conceptions, and can deal therefore only with the shadows, cast by the outlying ramparts, upon our physical plane." An example of this is surely seen in the lecture lately delivered by the Bishop of Oxford (Dr. Gore) to the University of Oxford (13th February 1912, reported in the Guardian of 16th February), when he made the statement that the greatest difficulty we have is to recognise that the Absolute is a God of Love. His exact words were: "I believe that there are a great many of us who know, perhaps from bitter experience, that whatever difficulties there are about religious belief are difficulties about believing in a God of Love; whatever is our experience, and however sunny is our disposition, any steady thinking will make it apparent that thought, apart from the Christian revelation, presumed and accepted, or reflected unconsciously, has never got at it, and even after it has been in the world, thought is continually finding it hard to retain the idea of God the Creator, or the truth that God is Love, partly owing to the limitations of human thinking, partly, and even more, owing to the experience of man and of nature."
On the other hand the Mystic, with introspection, asks the question in the form "Can the Absolute find me out and possess me and thus make me feel that that which is within me is akin to, is, in fact, a part of Him and that I am possessed thereby?" and the answer ever comes back from those who are on the true Quest:—"Yes; because the Unthinkable, the Hidden which desires to be found, is ever trying to come into our Consciousness to waken the knowledge that His Sanctuary, or what is called the Kingdom of Heaven, is within us, that we are not an external but an internal creation of the All-loving." Such a realisation is, as pointed out in "The Vision," far above Analysis and Synthesis or Intellectual gymnastics, which can deal only with the finite and are seen to be but Mist. How many valuable thoughts are wrecked and lost from our inability to formulate and describe them intellectually, even in our own consciousness. We are too apt to lay the blame upon, and to doubt, the Truth of those conceptions, because we are unable to find words to express them; the very act of attempting to analyse such thoughts in Time and Space destroys our power of carrying them to higher levels. Those who have once realised that the knowledge of the Absolute is the true Divine Life within us, can, as we have seen, at certain times and under certain conditions, experience that wonderful joy of perception by means of what I have called the Eye of the Soul; but that is missed by those who are always asking questions, and arguing, about what that knowledge consists in; the command "Seek and ye shall find, knock and it shall be opened unto you, ask and it shall be given you," was not meant for the intellect but for the Heart, not for logical controversy but for inward discernment, not for physical enjoyment but for the nourishment of the Transcendental Ego. All things may be possible to him that believeth, but how much more is this true of him who, as referred to in View No. 2, is perfected in "Loving and Knowing." The nearer we get to that consciousness of Being-one-with-the-Reality, the more we see and can meditate upon the wonderful "joy" which permeates all creation; but without that consciousness it is invisible, and the world is dark and evil and unloving, and to many, alas! appears more the handiwork of a Devil than of a God of Love.
Mysticism is not, as the man in the street generally thinks, the study of the "Mysterious," but is the attempt to gain a knowledge of the Reality, the ultimate Truth in everything, especially the perception of that wonderful Transcendental Power which is growing up within, or in close connection with, each one of us. The study of the Physical Sciences, as also of the various forms of Religion around us, is useful and fascinating in the domain of "Intellectualism," but does not take us far towards the goal of our aspirations. I shall, however, attempt to show, in my next View, that by examining the phenomena of Nature and realising that they are symbols only of the Noumenon, the Reality, which is behind them, it is possible to reach a point where we may even feel that we are thinking, or having divulged to us, what may be called the very thoughts of the Absolute. We shall see that this can only be accomplished by first recognising that the Invisible is the Real, that the visible is only its shadow, that all our surroundings are but the images, or outlines, of the Reality cast on the Physical plane of our Senses; to accomplish this, we have to understand the use of Symbolic Thought for sustaining and carrying conceptions to a higher level; because, as already explained, we can only express and, indeed, think of the Invisible or Infinite under terms of the Visible or Finite. Let me give you a glimpse at what may be called the "Glamour of Symbolism"; it is difficult to explain to those who have not yet thought of or felt it, but the following may be helpful:
Think of the loveliest story or poem you have ever read, the most entrancing music you have ever heard, or the most beautiful paintings you have ever seen, and think how, at the end, you experienced a wonderful glow of enchantment with the concept as a whole, apart from specialising any particular character or event in the story, phrase in the music, or subject in the pictures; then do the same with one of those wonderful cathedrals of the twelfth to fourteenth centuries, the epoch of that beautiful Gothic style which I shall show was founded upon the highest mystical form of Symbolism possible to those who lived at the then zenith of Mystical Thought in the history of the world. The number of cathedrals built during those three centuries was so prodigious that, without the documentary evidence which we have, it would be absolutely incredible. Every part of those buildings, even to the smallest decorations, was, as shown by any of the old writers on Religious Symbolism, such as Durandus, planned to symbolise some beautiful thought, aspiration, tradition, or religious belief. The highest Thinkers, Artists, Poets, Philosophers, and Mystics in those centuries became Architects, and, in pure contemplation of and love for the Divine, helped to beautify design by giving up their lives and energies to the work without reward. It was, in fact, at that period the surest means by which they could record their ideals and aspirations. Before the advent of the printing press, with its facilities for spreading knowledge broadcast, they appreciated that Tectonic Art and Iconography were the means by which they could best permanently record and teach their aspirations to the masses. Every beautiful thought found its expression in some symbol of artistic design. Each Cathedral was, in fact, a beautiful complete story, and, when this has been fully grasped, the enchantment of the whole, the thread of gold running through the whole of that wonderful pile, is what may be called the Glamour of Symbolism.
For the last 400 years, Archaeologists, Architects, and others interested in the history of Tectonic art, have been trying without avail to discover what is called "the lost secret of Gothic Architecture"; even Sir Christopher Wren had a try and expressed his opinion that it was lost for ever. They were all looking in the wrong direction, confining themselves to the mists of physical intellectual perception, and could not get beyond that limited range of thought. I propose now, in illustration of this View, to show what this secret was. It has the making of a fascinating Romance; it is the most wonderful example of what I will call "the Evolution of Thought as depicted by Human strivings after the Transcendental in Mediaeval Mysticism." I shall give it in a brief form, touching only on those essential points which require a very slight knowledge of Geometry, but those interested in the subject may refer to Ars Quatuor Coronatorum (vol. xxiii., 1910), where I have given the whole subject, in extenso, under the title "Magister Mathesios."
To understand the subject it is necessary to recognise fully the place Geometry held, not only among Mediaeval Builders, but also in Classical times; it was recognised in those early times as the head of all the Sciences, and was the A, B, C of Hellenic Philosophy. Come back with me 2300 years, to the time when the "Greek Age of Reason" was at its zenith, and Plato, the greatest of the philosophers, was teaching at Athens, working thus, let it be known to his honour, solely for the love he bore to science, for he always taught gratuitously. What qualification was required of those who attended his Academy? Look up over the porch, and you will see written in large capitals these words:
[Greek: MEDEIS AGEOMETRETOS EISITO MOU TEN STEGEN.]
"Let no one who is ignorant of Geometry enter my doors."
At the root of Socratic teaching was the idea that wisdom is the attribute of the Godhead, and Plato, for twenty years the companion and most favoured pupil of Socrates, was imbued with that doctrine, and, having arrived at the conclusion that the impulse to find out TRUTH was the necessity of intellectual man, he saw in Geometry the keystone of all Knowledge, because, among all other channels of thought, it alone was the exponent of absolute and undeniable truth. He tells us that "Geometry rightly treated is the Knowledge of the Eternal"; and Plutarch gives us yet another instance of Plato's teaching concerning this subject, in which he looks upon God as the Great Architect, when he says, "Plato says that God is always geometrising." Holding, therefore, as Plato did, that God was a great Geometer, and that the aim of philosophy was the acquisition of a knowledge of the Eternal, it is natural that he should make a knowledge of Geometry imperative on those wishing to study philosophy. This was continued also by those philosophers who succeeded Plato in the management of the Academy, as we are told that Zenocrates turned away an applicant for admission, who knew no geometry, with the words:
[Greek: poreuou, labas gar ouk echeis tes philosophias.]
"Depart, for thou hast not the grip of philosophy."
In connection with the idea that God was a Geometer, must be taken the contention held by the Egyptians, and after them the Greeks and Arabs, that the Right-Angled Triangle symbolised the nature of the Universe; it was called the law of the three squares, because in every Right-Angled Triangle, as expounded by the Pythagorean Theorem, the squares, formed on the two sides containing the Right Angle, must together be exactly equal to the square on the third side, whatever the shape of the triangle may be. The Right Angle at an early date gave its name to the odd numbers, which were called, by the Greeks, gnomonic numbers, as personifying the male sex, and the Right-Angled Triangle was also called the Nuptial Figure, or Marriage, the Pythagorean Theorem receiving the name, [Greek: to theorema tes nymphes] (the Theorem of the Bride). Plutarch, in his Osiris and Isis, tells us in explanation of this, "The Egyptians imagined the nature of the Universe like this most beautiful triangle, as Plato also seems to have done in his work on the State, when he sketches the picture of Matrimony under the form of a Right-Angled Triangle. That triangle contains one of the perpendiculars of three, the base of four, and the hypotenuse of five parts, the square of which is equal to the squares of those sides containing the right angle. The perpendicular (three) is the Male, Osiris, the originating principle ([Greek: arche]); the base (four) is the Female, Isis, the receptive principle ([Greek: hypodoche]); and the Hypotenuse (five) is the offspring of both, Horus, the product ([Greek: apotelesma])." The central feature of this triangle, upon which its property is based, is the Right Angle. The Greeks gave to this Right Angle the name of Gnomon (meaning Knowledge), and it has ever since been, under the form of a carpenter's "square," the emblem or symbol of an Architect, the Master Mason, as personifying the Great Architect of the Universe—namely, He who has the knowledge of Geometry; and, as the Right-Angled Triangle represented the Universe, it was upon the perfection of this Gnomon, or knowledge, that the very existence of the Universe depended, because the law of the three squares only holds good when that angle is perfect.
The Secret handed down in the Craft, from Architect to Architect, was how to form a perfect right angle, or, as it was called, the "Square," without possibility of Error, and this I have called "the Knowledge of the Square." Vitruvius, who, at the beginning of our Era, wrote his thesis on Tectonic art, which is still the text-book of Architecture for Ancient buildings, says Pythagoras taught his followers to form a gnomon, or square, as follows: "Take three rods, of three lengths, four lengths, and five lengths long; with these form a triangle, and, if each rod be squared, you have 9, 16, and 25, and the areas of the two former will be equal to the latter."
Now let us come to the closing years of the tenth century. What a strange condition of the building craft was to be seen all over Europe; not a church was being built, nor had been built, for the last twenty years; the thousand years after Christ was drawing to its close, everybody was waiting for, and expecting, the world to come to an end; no new undertakings were begun. How much money went into the hands of the Monasteries and other Religious Houses, as peace offerings for the future welfare of the givers, nobody can say; it was probably enormous. When, however, the eleventh century was well started and the crisis was over, churches were built on a large scale, as shown by the numerous remains we have of Norman buildings of the last half eleventh century, and building was probably at its height about A.D. 1140 to 1150; but at this period an extraordinary thing happened. Hitherto the arches in the Norman style were round-headed and their columns enormously thick to carry them; but suddenly the style changed into the beautiful Gothic all over Europe. No single country can claim precedence, it was almost simultaneous; churches half finished in the round style were not only completed in the pointed, but had parts already built altered to the new style. What, then, determined this sudden change, resulting in a wonderful accession of beauty to Architectural design? We must go to the Monasteries and Religious Houses to find the explanation. These Houses had become the Patrons of Masonry, the providers of the funds for building Cathedrals, &c.; it naturally followed that, growing up alongside the Operative Science, there was a Religious symbolism being gradually formed which attached itself specially to the tools used by Masons, and thus formed the basis of Moral teaching—"to act on the Square," "to keep within the bounds of the Compasses," "to be Level in all your dealings," &c., &c. A wonderful, new, and Mystical form of Symbolism was opened to them with the advent of Geometry. The text-book of Geometry was unknown throughout the whole of Europe, omitting Spain, from the sixth to the beginning of the twelfth century; it was, as I have pointed out, well known in Greece before our Era, and continued to be so up to about the sixth century A.D. In the fourth century lived the Greek, Theon of Alexandria, so well known for his edition of Euclid's Elements, with notes, from which all Greek MSS. which first came to light in the sixteenth century were taken, being entitled [Greek: ek ton Theonos synousion], "from Theon's Lectures," and which he probably used as a text-book in his classes; but these MSS. had all been lost before the seventh century, and were not recovered again until the sixteenth century, when Simon Grynaeus, the greatest Greek scholar on the Continent, and companion of Melancthon and Luther, discovered a copy in Constantinople. Meanwhile, Theon's edition had been translated into Arabic, and thus preserved by the Mohammedans, and it was only at the beginning of the twelfth century that Athelard of Bath, who had been travelling in the East, came to study at Cordova, in Spain, and there found the Arabic MSS. of Euclid; these he translated into Latin, and this translation must have come into the hands of the patrons of the building craft at the very time when the Gothic style had its origin; it was the only Latin translation known in Europe, and was, some centuries later, the text-book of the first printed edition of Euclid.
The Operative Masons had always formed their Right-Angled Triangles by means of mundane measures of 3, 4, and 5 units to each side respectively, as was done by the Harpedonaptae of Egypt 5000 years ago, and 2500 years later by Pythagoras, and this same method continues to be used to this day; but to those of a religious turn of mind, who had only lately become conversant with Euclid, and looked upon Geometry not only as the height of all learning, but, as they progressed in the knowledge of its bearing on the Science of building, actually made it synonymous with Tectonic Art (the old MSS. which have come down to us from that time invariably state that "at the head of all the Sciences stands Geometry which is Masonry"), there must have come a wave of wonderful enthusiasm when they first discovered that the Geometrical way of creating a Right Angle, as given in Euclid I. ii., was by means of an Equilateral Triangle, by joining the Apex with the centre of the base. This Equilateral Triangle was the earliest symbol we know of the Divine Logos in connection with that wonderful figure the Vesica Piscis; and as the Bible declared that the Universe was created by the Logos (the Word), so the Square which represented the Universe was naturally created by means of the Equilateral Triangle. A great mystery this must have appeared to those who, like the Hellenic philosophers, postulated that everything on Earth has its counterpart in Heaven, and who, in their religious mysticism, were always looking for signs of the transcendental in their temporal surroundings.
But in what awe and reverence must they have held Geometry, when they further found that the Equilateral Triangle, representing the Logos, was itself generated, as shown in the first Problem of Euclid, upon which the whole Science of Geometry was therefore based, by the intersection of two Circles! These two Circles were held by the Greeks, at the beginning of our Era, to represent the Past and Future Eternities generating the Logos; but the whole figure (Euclid I. i.) was at the time we are now dealing with looked upon by Mediaeval Architects as representing the Three Divine personae, and that part, or cavity, of the figure which is bounded by the Arcs of the two circles, and which takes to itself one-third of each of the two generating circles (making its perifera exactly equal with that remaining to each of the two circles, all three therefore being co-equal), and in which the Equilateral Triangle is formed (vide frontispiece), was naturally held by the Mediaeval Architects, and indeed from earliest times, as the most sacred Christian Emblem—namely, that of Regeneration or "New Birth."
The Cavity is evidently referred to in the Mystical Gospel of St. John (iii. 16), in the question by and answer to Nicodemus, and it was the eye of the needle referred to in St. Mark x. 25, in answer to the question in verse 17, and again in St. Luke xviii. 25. In later ages this symbol was extensively used by the Christian Church to surround the "Soul of a Saint" after death (illustrated in Magister Mathesios). The date of the birth of a Saint was always given as the date on which he or she died and had been born again in the Spiritual Life, and the Saint was depicted in a Vesica Piscis, the vulva of the Ruach or Holy Spirit, representing this new birth. To show the extraordinary reverence and high value attached to this symbol, it is only necessary to remember that, from the fourth century, when Theon of Alexandria lectured on Geometry, and onwards, all Seals of Colleges, Abbeys, Monasteries, and other religious communities, as well as of ecclesiastical persons, have been made invariably of this form, and they continue to be made so to this day. It was also in allusion to this most sacred ancient emblem that Tertullian, and other early Fathers, spoke of Christians as "Pisciculi." It was called the "Vesica Piscis" (Fish's Bladder), and named, no doubt, by the Greeks at the beginning of our Era, for the purpose of misleading the ignorant from the true meaning of the Figure.
One can well understand the object which led the learned Rabbi Maimonides, the greatest savant of the Middle Ages, when addressing his pupils in the twelfth century, to command his hearers: "When you have discovered the meaning thereof, do not divulge it, because the people cannot philosophise nor understand that to the Infinite there is no such thing as Sex;" but later on the noted writer on Symbolism, Durandus, in the introduction to his book, is more explicit, and gives the real meaning as follows: "The Mystical Vesica Piscis ... wherein the Divinity and, more rarely, the Blessed Virgin are represented, has no reference, except in name, to a fish, but represents the Almond, the symbol of Virginity and self-production."
The Vesica Piscis, and its name, is intimately connected with the discovery, by Augustus Caesar in the century preceding our Era, as narrated by Baronius, of a prophecy in one of the Sibylline books, foretelling "a great event coming to pass in the birth of One who should prove to be the true 'King of Kings,' and Augustus Caesar therefore dedicated an altar in his palace to this unknown God." Eusebius and St. Augustine inform us that the first letter of each line of the verses from the Erythrean Sibyl containing this prophecy, formed the word [Greek: ICHTHYS] (a fish), and were taken as representing the sentence: [Greek: Iesous Christos Theou Huios Soter]("Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Saviour"). Based upon this discovery arose that extraordinary enthusiasm, during the second, third, and fourth centuries, for hunting up further prophecies in Pagan sources, resulting in a great number of Sibylline verses being invented, giving the minutest details in the Life of our Lord. These fabrications seem to have been at that time generally accepted by the masses as true prophecies, though we know now that they were written some centuries after the events they were supposed to foretell.
Let us now return to the Vesica Piscis. In the paintings and sculptures of the Middle Ages, we find it constantly used to circumscribe the figure of the Saviour, especially whenever He is represented as judging the world and in His glorified state. Many beautiful examples of this in Anglo-Saxon work of the tenth century may be seen in King Edgar's Book of Grants to Winchester Cathedral and the famous Breviary of St. Ethelwolfe. Numerous illustrations of these and other pictures of the Middle Ages, as also diagrams of the properties of the Vesica Piscis, can be seen in the volume I have already referred to dealing fully with this subject.
The building fraternity was a purely Christian community; the First Crusade raised a great enthusiasm for building Christian Churches, and brought in large gifts of money for that purpose. Up to 1140 Norman Architecture held sway, having the "Square" for its unit, its greatest symbol being the Gnomon, representing knowledge; but about that time, as we have seen, arose from the study of Geometry, the head of all learning, a Mystical form having the mysterious figure of the Vesica Piscis, the true Gothic Arch, with the Equilateral Triangle enclosed as its unit, and symbolising the Trinity in Unity. The recognition of the import of the Trinity was paramount throughout those early days; all important documents began with an Invocation of the Tres Personae, or were garnished with symbolic illustrations thereof; all the old MSS., already referred to, which have come down to us from that period, invariably commence with "In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost."
It can therefore be readily understood what determined the sudden change between 1140-1150, resulting in that wonderful accession of beauty to architectural design which we find in the Gothic. The incentive had to be a strong one, and of an eminently religious character, to accomplish the radical change of throwing over so absolutely the Norman, and commencing to build entirely on what are called Gothic lines. A careful examination of the proportions of the structures themselves, and the character of the decorations found in the finest examples of buildings representing that style, at once shows us that the incentive was the symbolism attached to the mysterious figure called the Vesica Piscis, which appears to be not only the principal feature upon which the whole style rests, but is also employed, as a symbol of the Divine, wherever we have Gothic Architecture, either in painted windows or mural decorations. Every Cathedral has its Vesica Piscis, often of enormous dimensions. Geometry was synonymous with Masonry, and the very foundation of the Science of Geometry, as expounded by Euclid, was his first proposition. Every single problem in the whole of his books necessitates for its construction the use of this one foundation—namely, "how to form an Equilateral Triangle," and this is the Mystical form of "the Knowledge of the Square." This triangle, symbolising the Logos, is therefore not only the beginning of the Science of Geometry, and therefore of Masonry, the Head of all the Sciences, but it is by that triangle that all Geometrical forms, and therefore forms of knowledge, are made, and it became the most mysterious and secret symbol of the Logos, for is it not written by St. John that "In the beginning was the Logos, and by it were all things made"; so the Vesica Piscis, the cradle of the Logos, became the great secret of Masonry, the foundation as we find it upon which Gothic Architecture was evolved, the means by which its wonderful plans were laid down, and the most reverenced figure in Religious Symbolism, as shown by its use in seals, engravings, sculptures, pictures, &c., throughout the Middle Ages.
Let me make this clearer. The more one examines the typical points in the Saxon, Norman, and Gothic styles of Architecture, the more clearly one sees that the Architects of the two former used circles and squares on their tracing-boards, as units for their proportions, in drawing up both ground plans and elevations, with here and there suggestions only of the Equilateral Triangle having been made use of in some of the smaller details; whereas the Gothic Architects seem to have used the Vesica Piscis almost entirely. This explains the reason why true Gothic buildings have always been said to be built mainly on the basis of the Equilateral Triangle; this naturally follows, because the use of the Vesica creates, and therefore necessitates, the appearance of the Equilateral Triangle in every conceivable situation. The following quotation is typical of the leading essay writers on this subject: "The Equilateral Triangle enters largely into, if it does not entirely control, all mediaeval proportions, particularly in the ground plans. In Chartres Cathedral the apices of two Equilateral Triangles (vide frontispiece to these Views), whose common base is the internal length of the transept, measured through the two western piers of the intersection, will give the interior length, one apex extending to the east end of the chevet within the aisles, the other to the original termination of the Nave westward, and the present extent of the side aisles in that direction. With slight deviation, most, if not all, the ground plans of the French Cathedrals are measurable in this manner, and their choirs may be so measured almost without exception. Troyes Cathedral is in exact proportion with that of Chartres, and the choirs of Rheims, Beauvais, St. Ouen at Rouen, and others are equally so. Bourges Cathedral, which has no transept, is exactly three Equilateral Triangles in length inside, from the East end of the outer aisle to the Eastern columns supporting the West Towers. Most English Cathedrals appear to have been constructed in their original plans upon similar rules." White's Classical Essay on Architecture compares the Norman with the Gothic, where he says: "In what is usually called the Norman period, the general proportions and outlines of the Churches are reducible to certain rules of setting out by the plain Square. As Architecture progressed the Square gradually disappeared, and the proportion of general outline, as well as of detail, fell in more and more with applications of the Equilateral Triangle, till the art, having arrived at its culminating point, or that which is generally acknowledged to be its period of greatest beauty and perfection in the thirteenth and the beginning of the fourteenth centuries, again began to decline. With this decline the Equilateral Triangle was almost lost sight of, and then a mode of setting out work by diagonal squares was taken up, for such is the basis found exactly applicable to the work of the fifteenth century, since which time mathematical proportions have been generally employed." And after referring to numerous scale drawings of Churches, windows, doors, and arches, he points out that every student of Church architecture must pronounce those of the untraceried and traceried first point to be the most beautiful of all, those of the Norman to be a degree less so, and those of the perpendicular and debased to be far inferior to either, and in that analysis we find that the Equilateral Triangle was used almost exclusively for determining one order (the Gothic), the Square for another (the Norman), and the Square diagonally divided for the other (the debased).
Now let me try to describe the wonderful properties of the Vesica Piscis, so that you may understand the mystery which shrouded it in the minds of those Mediaeval builders. The rectangle formed by the length and breadth of this figure, in the simplest form, has several extraordinary properties; it may be cut into three equal parts by straight lines parallel to the shorter side, and these parts will all be precisely and geometrically similar to each other and to the whole figure,—strangely applicable to the symbolism attached at that time to the Trinity in Unity,—and the subdivision may be proceeded with indefinitely without making any change in form. However often the operation is performed, the parts remain identical with the original figure, having all its extraordinary properties, the Equilateral Triangle appearing everywhere, whereas no other rectangle can have this curious property.
It may also be cut into four equal parts by straight lines parallel to its sides, and again each of these parts will be true Vesicas, exactly similar to each other, and to the whole, and of course the Equilateral Triangle is again everywhere.
Again, if two out of the tri-subdivisions mentioned above be taken, the form of these together is exactly similar, geometrically, to half the original figure, and again the Equilateral Triangle is ubiquitous on every base line.
Again, the diagonal of the rectangle is exactly double the length of its shorter side, which characteristic is absolutely unique, and greatly increases its usefulness for plotting out designs; and this property of course holds good for all the rectangles formed by the original figure and for the other species of subdivision. But perhaps its most mysterious property (though not of any practical use) to those who had studied Geometry, and to whom this figure was the symbol of the Divine Trinity in Unity, so dear to them, was the fact that it actually put into their hands the means of trisecting the Right Angle.
Now, the three great problems of antiquity which engaged the attention and wonderment of geometricians throughout the Middle Ages, were "the Squaring of the Circle," "the Duplication of the Cube," and lastly, "the Trisection of an Angle," even Euclid being unable to show how to do it; and yet it will be seen that the diagonal of one of the subsidiary figures in the tri-subdivision, together with the diagonal of the whole figure, actually trisect the angle at the corner of the rectangle. It is true that it only showed them how to trisect one kind of angle, but it was that particular angle which was so dear to them as symbolising their craft, and which was created by the Equilateral Triangle. All these unique properties place the figure far above that of a square for practical work, because even when the diagonal of a square is given, it is impossible to find the exact length of any of its sides or vice versa; whereas in the Vesica rectangle the diagonal is exactly double its shorter side, and upon any length of line which may be taken on the tracing-board as a base for elevation, an Equilateral Triangle will be found whose sides are of course all equal and therefore known, as they are equal to the base, and whose line joining apex to centre of base is a true Plumb line, forming at its foot the perfect right angle, so important in the laying of every stone of a building.
In the volume referred to I have given a skeleton plan upon such a scale of subdivision that a tracing-board, of 5 feet by 8 feet, would be divided up into over one million parts, and, as all these subdivisions are perfect representations of the original Vesica figure with all its properties, the design of the largest building, with the minutest detail, could be drafted with absolute accuracy. There are many other curious properties of this Figure, but they are difficult to explain without diagrams. I will, however, give one more example of its creative power. The problem of describing a Pentagon must have puzzled architects considerably in those early times, but this was again easily accomplished by means of the Vesica. Albrecht Duerer, the great designer and engraver, who lived at the end of the fifteenth century, refers to the Vesica in his works (Dureri Institutune Geometricarum, lib. ii. p. 56) in a way which shows that it was as commonly known in his time as the Circle, Square, and Triangle. His instructions for forming a Pentagon are: "Designa circino invariato tres piscium vesicas" (describe with unchanged compasses three vesicae piscium). Three similar circles are described with centres at the angles of an Equilateral Triangle, forming the three Vesicae, by means of which the Pentagon is drawn, and from which also we get a beautiful form of arch very common in the thirteenth century (vide illustrations in Magister Mathesios). This is also the method used in that old manuscript of the fifteenth century named "Geometria deutsch." In this old MS. it is also shown that the easiest method for finding the centre of a circle, however large, or any segment of a circle, is by means of the Vesica Piscis. And just as we see so many Cathedrals of the Middle Ages are stated by antiquarians to have been planned on the Equilateral Triangle, so do we find the Pentagon appearing as the basis of Architectural designs of buildings of a later date, such as Liverpool Castle, Chester Castle, and other similar structures; but the true means by which each were laid down, as in the case of the Equilateral Triangle, was again the Vesica Piscis. A beautiful example of decoration, on the basis of the Vesica, is seen in the tomb of Edward the Confessor in Westminster Abbey.
I will conclude this subject by quoting from the summing up by Prof. Kerrich (Principal Librarian to the University of Cambridge in 1820), in his masterly Essay on Architecture, where he gives the different forms of what he calls the "Mysterious Figure," used in the most noted Gothic buildings: he says, "I would in nowise indulge in conjectures as to the reference these figures might possibly have to the most sacred mysteries of religion; independently of any such allusion, their properties are of themselves sufficiently extraordinary to have struck all who have observed them."
From earliest Christian times the principal doctrine based upon the Mysticism of the Neo-platonists and the Kabalists was what was called the [Greek: Gnosis], the Knowledge of the All, and the fundamental basis of this, as of all esoteric teaching from the beginning of History, was Procreation. From the first dawn of civilisation the "Great One" always had an enemy with whom he had to fight; having conquered, he married that enemy, and their offspring was Life or Duration. In the oldest forms, as in Persia and ancient Egypt, it was Light and Darkness, "Ormuz and Ahriman," "Osiris and Isis," the Light conquering Darkness, the Day conquering Night, resulting in Time and duration. In the Eleusinian Mysteries it was the "Sun and Earth" producing Vegetable Life, and in the [Greek: Gnosis] it was the "Ainsoph and Ignorance," resulting in True Knowledge or Everlasting Life.
In the Vesica Piscis (vide frontispiece) we see two Equilateral Triangles formed on the same base, similar to what we found in the ground-plan of Chartres and other Gothic Cathedrals; these two triangles symbolised to the Mediaeval Builders the Divine and Human Natures of the Logos, the Word, the Creator; they are both procreated and enclosed in the Vesica; the one having the Apex pointed upwards, represented Divine or Spiritual Life, and in that I have placed the "Tetragrammaton," the Word or name of God (Jehovah), which, throughout the Jewish race for thousands of years, was held to be so sacred that they did not dare to utter it aloud. It was, at this time, depicted in the Equilateral Triangle, the symbol of the Logos, becoming thus the Masonic Word of the Middle Ages, and was probably used, exoterically, for purposes of recognition among members of the Great Building Societies, with the introduction of Gothic Architecture; but the esoteric teaching, which was known only to the elite of the Craft and not by the Ordinary Operatives, was the mystical procreation of that triangle, the doctrine of Spiritual or New Birth, symbolised by that mysterious figure which we have seen was the very foundation stone of Geometry, and therefore of Tectonic Art, the Head of all learning, and the great Secret of Gothic Architecture, called for esoteric purposes "Vesica Piscis." The Triangle, having the Apex pointing downwards, represented Human or Physical Life, and I have placed therein a representation of sacrificial death, which we shall see was introduced, as a necessity, for the good of the Race.
As "everything in Heaven has its counterpart on Earth," so may we see, by introspection, that the reflecting surface, the thin, physical film between the Human and Divine, is represented by that Base, and Human Life then becomes truly, as it should be, the reflection of the Divine.
One more glance through the Window at what I will call—
"The Mystery of the Apex."
The earliest forms of Life, the unicellular "Beings," whether animal or vegetable—for both divisions, if they can be said to be divided, have the same protoplasmic cell as basis of life—were, and are still, immortal except for accidents; they are not subject to natural death as we know it; they multiply by fission and not by "budding." It was only with the building up of cell upon cell into communities, and the advent of polycellular beings of greater and greater complexity of structure, that the "Wisdom" behind natural laws introduced death as an adaptation, to prevent monstrosities in the shape of mutilated specimens being perpetuated on the earth. Life is purely physical and, in conformity with the modes under which our physical senses act, has the appearance of tri-unity. As white light is seen to be composed of but three primary colours, as Music is based on the Triad, as Space is known to us in three dimensions only, and Geometry, "the Head of all Learning," is based upon the Circle, Square, and Triangle, so may we see life in its three primary aspects: the Animal, Vegetable, and Material. The last-mentioned aspect, though long suspected, from the investigation of Crystallography, to have in some mysterious way a common basis with the animal and vegetable, was not fully grasped until, in the last few years, we have been able to study in our laboratories the actual evolution, or more correctly devolution, of matter from one form to another; and as all plants and animals are found to be built up of the same identical protoplasmic cells, so are we now able to break down and analyse not only these cells but even the very structure of matter, and find that all substances are built up of exactly the same bricks, the different forms known to us as Elements being the designs of the great Architect upon which each structure has been built; and these completed designs again are used and become the "ashlars" of the higher forms of plant and animal structure. As Evolution in the Animal and Vegetable Kingdoms has given us Species, so in the Material it has developed Elements. The structures of animal and vegetable life are of comparatively recent formation, and are still apparently progressing in the direction of complexity, whereas the structures of matter appear to have long passed the stage of highest complexity, and the elements are now undergoing the retrograde process of being transformed, by radio-activity, from the more complex into simpler elements of lower atomic denominations—namely, having fewer bricks in each atom.
All these material designs are more or less radio-active—namely, changing into other elements, but some, like radium, polonium, &c., are active to an extraordinary extent. Each molecule or atom may be looked upon as an aperture, more or less open, through which we have flowing the equivalent of what may be called a leak from the Infinite, the changing of one element into another being represented by the change of shape or activity of that aperture. Countless ages ago these apertures were, by evolution, growing more and more complex in shape, but when the limit of complexity was reached and the Apex was passed, an adaptation, somewhat analogous to death in the animal and vegetable, must have come into play, with the result that these apertures are now becoming more and more simple in their shape and activity. The Infinite referred to above may be diagnosed by some as being in the fourth dimension of space, or it may even be comprised within the Ether of our known three dimensions, for the discovery of radio-activity has enabled us to see that Ether is not only as dense as iron, but millions of times denser than that metal, every cubic foot, or probably cubic inch, being capable of supplying millions of horse-power if it could only be tapped. A homely simile of this leak from the Infinite may be seen in a glass of aerated water, where an irregularity of surface, a crumb of bread, or a grain of sand becomes the means by which carbonic-dioxide escapes from the interstices of the water.