The Sacred Shekinah Glory
The room of the Tabernacle was as dark as the heavens are at the time when the lesser light, the moon, is in the western portion of the heavens, at eventide, together with the Sun; that is to say, at the New Moon, which begins a new cycle in a new sign of the Zodiac. In the westernmost part of this darkened sanctuary stood the Ark of the Covenant, with the Cherubim hovering above, and also the fiery Shekinah Glory, out of which the Father of Light communed with His worshipers, but which to the physical vision was invisible and therefore dark. We do not usually realize that the whole world is afire, that fire is in the water, that it burns continually in plant, animal, and man, yes, there is nothing in the world that is not ensouled by fire. The reason why we do not perceive this more clearly is that we cannot dissociate fire and flame. But as a matter of fact, fire bears the same relation to flame as spirit does to the body, it is the unseen but potent power of manifestation. In other words, the true fire is dark, invisible to the physical sight. It is only clothed in flame when consuming physical matter. Consider, for illustration, how fire leaps out of the flint when struck, and how a gas flame has the darkened core beneath the light-giving portion; also how a wire may carry electricity and be perfectly cold, yet it will emit a flame under certain conditions.
At this point it may be expedient to mark the difference between the Tabernacle in the Wilderness, Solomon’s Temple, and the later Temple built by Herod. There is a very vital difference. Both the miraculously enkindled fire on the Brazen Altar in the eastern part of the Tabernacle and the invisible Shekinah Glory in the distant western part of the sanctuary were also present in Solomon’s Temple. These were thus sanctuaries in a sense not equaled by the T emple built by Herod. The latter was, nevertheless, in a sense the most glorious of the three, for it was graced by the bodily presence of our Lord, Christ Jesus, in Whom dwelt the God-head. Christ made the first self-sacrifice, thereby abrogating the sacrifice of animals, and finally at the consummation of His work in the visible world rent the veil and opened a way into the Holy of Holies, not only for the favored few, the priests and Levites, but that WHOSOEVER WILL may come and serve the Deity whom we know as our Father. Having fulfilled the law and the prophets Christ has done away with the outward sanctuary, and from henceforth the Altar of Burnt Offerings must be set up within the heart to atone for wrongdoing; the Golden Candlestick must be lighted within the heart to guide us upon our way, as the Christ within, the Shekinah Glory of the Father, must dwell within the sacred precincts of our own God-consciousness.
The Shadow of the Cross
Paul, in his letter to the Hebrews, gives a description of the Tabernacle and much information about the customs used there which it would benefit the student to know. Among other things note that he calls the Tabernacle “a shadow of good things to come.” There is in this ancient Mystery Temple a promise given which has not yet been fulfilled, a promise that holds good today just as well as upon the day it was given. If we visualize in our mind the arrangement of things inside the Tabernacle, we shall readily see the shadow of the Cross. Commencing at the eastern gate there was the Altar of Burnt Offerings; a little farther along the path to the Tabernacle itself we find the Laver of Consecration, the Molten Sea, in which the priests washed. Then upon entering the East Room of the Temple we find an article of furniture, the Golden Candlestick, at the extreme left, and the Table of Shewbread at the extreme right, the two forming a cross with the path we have been pursuing toward and within the Tabernacle. In the center in front of the second veil, we find the Altar of Incense, which forms the center of the cross, while the Ark placed in the westernmost part of the West Room, the Holy of Holies, gives the short or upper limb of the cross. In this manner the symbol of spiritual unfoldment which is our particular ideal today was shadowed forth in the ancient Mystery Temple, and that consummation which is attained at the end of the cross, the achievement of getting the law within as it was within the Ark itself, is the one that we must all concern ourselves with at the present time. The light that shines over the Mercy Seat in the Holy of Holies at the head of the cross, at the end of the path in this world, is a light or reflection from the invisible world into which the candidate seeks to enter when all the world has grown dark and black about him. Only when we have attained to that stage where we perceive the spiritual light that beckons us on, the light that floats over the Ark, only when we stand in the shadow of the cross, can we really know the meaning, the object, and the goal of life.
At present we may take the opportunities which are offered and perform service more or less efficiently, but it is only when we have by that service evolved the spiritual light within ourselves, which is the Soul Body, and when we have thus gained admission to the West Room, called the Hall of Liberation, that we can really perceive and understand why we are in the world, and what we need in order to make ourselves properly useful. We may not remain, however, when access has been gained. The High Priest was only allowed to enter once a year; there was a very long interval of time between these glimpses of the real purpose of existence. In the times between it was necessary for the High Priest to go out and function among his brethren, humanity, and serve them to the very best of his ability, also to sin, because he was not yet perfect, and then re- enter the Holy of Holies after having made proper amends for his sins.
Similarly it is with ourselves at this day. We do at times attain glimpses of the things that are in store for us and the things we must do to follow Christ to that place where He went. You remember that He said to His disciples, “Ye cannot follow me now, but ye shall follow me later.” And so it is with us. We have to look again and again into the darkened temple, the Holy of Holies, before we are really fit to stay there; before we are really fitted to take the last step and leap to the summit of the cross, the place of the skull, that point in our heads where the spirit takes its departure when it finally leaves the body, or off and on as an Invisible Helper. That Golgotha is the ultimate of human attainment, and we must be prepared to enter the darkened room many times before we are fitted for the final climax.
The Full Moon as a Factor in Soul Growth
Let us now consider the Path of Initiation as symbolically shown in the ancient Temples with the Ark, Fire, and Shekinah, and in the later Temples where Christ taught. Note first that when man was expelled from the Garden of Eden because he had eaten of the Tree of Knowledge, Cherubim guarded the entrance with a flaming sword. Passages like the following, “Adam knew Eve, and she bore Abel”; “Adam knew Eve, and she bore Seth”; “Elkanah knew Hannah, and she bore Samuel”; also Mary’s question to the angel Gabriel, “How shall I conceive seeing that I know not a man?” all show plainly that indulgence of the passions in the creative act was meant by the phrase, “eating of the Tree of Knowledge.” When the creative act was performed under inauspicious planetary rays it was a sin committed against the laws of nature, which brought pain and death into the world, estranged us from our primal guardians, and forced us to roam the wilderness of the world for ages.
At the gate of the mystic Temple of Solomon we find the Cherubim, but the fiery sword is no longer in their hand; instead they hold a flower, a symbol full of mystic meaning. Let us compare man with a flower that we may know the great import and significance of this emblem. Man takes his food by way of the head, whence it goes downward. The plant takes nourishment through the root and forces it upward. Man is passionate in love, and he turns the generative organ toward the earth and hides it in shame because of this taint of passion. The plant knows no passion, fertilization is accomplished in the most pure and chaste manner imaginable, therefore it projects its generative organ, the flower, toward the Sun, a thing of beauty which delights all who behold it. Passionate fallen man exhales the deadly carbon dioxide; the chaste flower inhales this poison, transmutes it, and gives it back pure, sweet, and scented, a fragrant elixir of life.
This was the mystery of the Grail Cup, this is the emblematic significance of the Cup of Communion, which is called “Kelch” in German, “Calix” in Latin, both names signifying the seed pod of the flower. The Communion Cup with its mystic blood cleansed from the passion incident to generation brings to him who truly drinks thereof eternal life, and thus it becomes the vehicle of regeneration, of the mystic birth into a higher sphere, a “foreign country,” where he who has served his apprenticeship in Temple building and has mastered the “art and crafts” of this world may learn higher things. The symbol of the Cherubim with the open flower placed upon the door of Solomon’s Temple delivers the message to the aspirant that purity is the key by which alone he can hope to unlock the gate to God; or as Christ expressed it, “Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God.”
The flesh must be consumed on the Altar of self-sacrifice, and the soul must be washed in the Laver of Consecration to the higher life ere it may approach the Temple door. When “naked,” “poor,” and “blinded” by tears of contrition it gropes in darkness, seeking the Temple door, it shall find entrance to the Hall of Service, the East Room of the Tabernacle, which is ablaze with light from the Seven- branched Candlestick, emblematic of the luminosity of the full moon, the moon changing in cycles of seven days. In this Hall of Service the aspirant is taught to weave the luminous vesture of flame which Paul called “soma psuchicon,” or soul body (1st Cor. 15:44), from the aroma of the shewbread.
When we speak of soul body we mean exactly what we say, and this vehicle is in nowise to be confused with the soul that permeates it. The Invisible Helper who uses it on soul flights knows it to be as real and tangible as the dense body of flesh and blood. But within that golden “wedding garment” there is an intangible something cognized by the spirit of introspection. It is unnameable and indescribable; it evades the most persistent efforts to fathom it, yet it is there just as certainly as the vehicle which it fills. Yes, and more so, it is not life, love, beauty, wisdom, nor can any other human concept convey an idea of what it is, for it is the sum of all human faculties, attributes, and concepts of good, immeasurably intensified. If everything else were taken from us, that prime reality would still remain, and we should be rich in its possession, for through it we feel the drawing power of our Father in Heaven, that inner urge which all aspirants know so well.
To this inner something Christ referred when He said: No man cometh to me except my Father draw him. Just as the true fire is hidden in the flame that encloses it, so that unnameable, intangible something hides in the soul body and burns up the frankincense extracted from the shewbread; thus it lights the fire which makes the soul body luminous. And the aroma of loving service to others penetrates the veil as a sweet savor to God, who dwells in the Shekinah Glory thus created above the Ark in the innermost sanctuary, the Holy of Holies.