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G.2 The Greater and Lesser Lights

The purpose of Initiation can be defined as follow:

. It is to stimulate and awaken the candidate to direct cognition and irrefutable demonstration of facts and truths of his own being of which he was previously ignorant.
. It is to bring him into direct conscious contact with the Realities below the surface of things. Instead of holding only beliefs or opinions about himself, the Universe, and God, he will be in direct contact with Truth.
. It is to incite him to become the Good and the Truth revealed to him by identifying himself with it through a gradual process.

The restoration to light of a candidate in the First Degree indicates a crisis. It symbolises the first enlargement of perception that Initiation brings to him. It reveals to him the threefold-symbol known as the three great emblematic lights in Masonry: the Holy Bible, the Square, and Compasses (the last two resting on the Bible). This triple symbol is the first object his outward eyes see after enlightenment; this is the first truth his inner eyes recognise and contemplate. Three emblematic lesser lights (“Sun”, “Moon” and “Master of the Lodge”) are also brought to his attention. The candidate can only see the three greater Lights with the help of the three lesser ones. In other words, the lesser triad is the instrument by which he sees the greater one. It is his own perceptive faculty (subject) that looks upon something larger (object) just as our small eye can see the whole of the heavens and the finite mind can see infinitude. This implies that the lesser lights of the candidate’s finite intelligence can reveal to him the greater lights or his yet undeveloped being. Man’s limited consciousness can be made aware of unlimited possibilities if his faculties have been carefully developed and made functional. The candidate’s problem and destiny is to lose himself to find himself; to unify his lesser with his greater lights so that he does not act anymore as a elementary reflex consciousness but in alliance with the All-Conscious with which he has become identified. In the Royal Arch Degree the candidate will discover that this identification of the lesser and greater lights has been achieved at least theoretically. The interlaced triangles of lights surrounding the central altar in that Supreme Degree implies the union of perceptive faculty with the object of their contemplation, the bending of the human, and the Divine consciousness.

The meaning of the three greater lights can be summarised as follow:

a- The written Word is the emblem and external expression of the unwritten Eternal Word, the Logos or Substantial Wisdom of Deity, out of which every living soul has emanated, and which is the ground or base of human life. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God; without Him was not anything made that was made; in Him was Life, and the Life was the light of men; and the light shineth in darkness, and the darkness comprehendeth it not”. In a Lodge the Bible should be open at the first chapter of the Gospel by St. John, the patron-saint of Masonry, so that the candidate will see these words when he is restored to light, and he will be reminded that the basis of his being is the Divine Word resident and shining in his darkness and ignorance. He has lost consciousness of that truth and this is the “lost Word” that every Mason is in search off, and that he can hope to find if properly instructed and through his work. If he find this, he will find all things, because he will have found God within himself. The candidate should also know that it is the motion and prompting of this Word within him that have led him to enter the Craft and to seek initiation into light. As a result, nobody should enter the Craft, or hope for initiation, if he is not searching to find God, the hidden treasure within himself. His first place of preparation must be in his heart, and his most important desire must be for this Light which, when attained, is Omniscience coming to consciousness in him. If this is not the case then any ceremonial initiation will be useless, and he will fail to understand even the external symbols and allegories of it.

b- The Square resting on the sacred Volume is the symbol of the human soul generated by the Divine Word. That soul was created “square”, that is perfect, as everything done by the Creator. The builder’s square used as a Craft symbol is an approximation of a triangle with its apex downward and its base upwards. This is an ancient symbol of the soul and psychic constitution of man and is known as the Water Triangle.

c- The Compass and the square together are the symbol of the Spirit of the Soul, its functional energy or fire. Alone the soul is passive, a negative quantity unbalanced by a positive opposite. Its active properties are the product of its union with its Divine basis as modified by its good or evil tendencies. God “breathed into man the breath of life and man became -no longer a soul- but a living soul.” This state of the soul is the Spirit of Man (a good or evil force depending as he shapes it) and is symbolised by the Fire Triangle which symbol is the Compass.

In conclusion the three Great Lights represent the groundwork of man:
. The Divine Word or Substance as its foundation.
. A passive soul.
. An active spirit generated in the soul as the result of the interaction of the first two.

Man himself, apart from his temporal body, is a triadic unit born from the Divine Substance.

In the First Degree the points of the Compasses are hidden by the Square. In the Second Degree, one point is shown and in the Third Degree, both are visible. This means that as the Candidate progresses, the inertia and negativity of the soul are transmuted and superseded by the positive energy and activity of the Spirit. The Fire Triangle soon becomes more important that the Water Triangle, meaning that the aspirant becomes a more vividly living and spiritually conscious being that he was before.