As in modern fraternities, before the candidate was admitted to participate in the trials he must be selected by unanimous vote. Then he must give himself unreservedly into the hands of his guides and place implicit confidence in them, obeying their commands without asking questions. If we bear in mind that the whole ritual symbolically depicts the cycle of the soul, we perceive that this represents the faith that the soul should have in the wisdom and beneficence of Deity, and the obedience it should manifest to Nature’s laws. The ego is called from an undifferentiated state by the unanimous demand for souls to be fitted for specific work in the cosmic scheme of things. During the earlier portion of their initiation into the mysteries of life, these souls do not know the why or wherefore of the suffering they endure; but if they place implicit faith in the guidance of their spiritual tendencies, at last they will see the light shine through the darkness, and following this, will be led into the glorious sunshine of Self-Conscious Immortality.
At a distance from the Sphinx the neophyte’s eyes are bandaged, and he is led to its foot an unknown distance, where a door of bronze opens to admit him and then closes without noise. Now, the bandaged eyes of the neophyte represent the unconscious condition of the pure, diffusive spirit before its differentiation as an ego. The journey of the neophyte to the foot of the Sphinx represents the indrawing of this spirit potency to the celestial matrix of the ego’s angelic parents. The Sphinx, into which the neophyte enters, is a synthetic representation of all the energies in the zodiac, being composed in its unconventionalized form of the emblems of the four quadrants of the heavens—a lion, an eagle, a man, and a bull. It thus symbolizes a cycle, and because time is measured by the sun’s passage through this cycle, it also signifies the passage of time. For the ego time was not prior to its differentiation.
Next, the neophyte is led down a spiral stairway of 22 steps and through a second bronze door which when closed so harmonizes with the wall of the circular chamber into which it opens as to be undetectable. He is halted upon the verge of an abyss and commanded to cross his arms upon his breast and remain motionless. In the heavens, the solstitial colure and the equinoctial colure make a cross, the original of the swastika cross. This heavenly cross, due to the revolution of the earth on its axis, apparently moves around the heavens each day from east to west, and due to the procession of the equinoxes moves through the constellations also from east to west, though slowly, and is thus symbolized by the swastika with its points turned to the left, this being the emblem of evolution. The swastika with its points turned to the right is the emblem of involution.
The spiral stairway of 22 steps symbolizes the involutionary descent through the embryonic celestial state of the seraphs, the door being the passage into the paradisiacal worlds of the cherubs, where for the first time vibrations of love and wisdom, represented by the door of bronze, begin to disturb the tranquil innocence of the ego. Twenty-two steps are emblematical of the zodiacal circle of 12 signs and the chain of 10 planets which exert their influence upon the soul, and upon all Nature, throughout all states, from the highest to the lowest. The soul’s spiral pathway through each plane of existence is thus influenced by them. The candidate’s crossed arms signify progress.
The candidate now halted upon the abyss, represents that state in which a rib was being removed from Adam for the creation of Eve. The abyss represents the grosser worlds into which the ego cannot descend; upon which it directly can have no influence. Its vibrations are too fine to affect substance coarser than that of the paradisiacal world, or upper realm of spirit, represented by the circular chamber in which the neophyte now stands. But during its descent through the seraphic realms it has evolved a soul sphere, or organization of consciousness, containing both male and female potencies. That it may transmit motion to grosser substance, this soul sphere polarizes its motion and divides into two organizations of consciousness, into two souls related to each other as male and female; the Adam and Eve of each deific ego.
While the candidate stands motionless upon the verge of the abyss, the two guardians who have accompanied him take from an altar, and dress in, white linen robes. Then, from out of the abyss, only half of its body visible, rises a horrible mechanical spectre holding in its hands a huge scythe which, barely missing him, sweeps past the neophyte’s neck seven times. This spectre is the symbol of death. The scythe represents the changes which time brings. Only the upper half of the spectre is visible, to designate that the higher qualities of the soul alone survive the changes of time. The seven sweeps of the scythe, weapon of death, indicate that the soul both in involution and in evolution passes through conditions ruled by each of the seven planets.
Now, according to Kabbalistical doctrine, before the creation of the universe there existed the all-diffusive spirit, called Ain Soph Aur. From this the universe came into manifestation by means of ten emanations, the first of which, called Kether, or crown, signifies motion, and corresponds in human affairs to the ego. The next two emanations are Chocmah and Binah, wisdom and intelligence, which involve the idea of polarity and correspond to the positive and negative souls at the moment of their separation. From this godhead, Kether, Chocmah, and Binah, the universe evolves by means of seven other emanations, or impulses; and according to the law of correspondences, the soul also builds its microcosmic universe about itself by similar means, the seven-fold constitution of man being evolved, as was indicated, by passing through environmental influences ruled by each of the seven planets, a circumstance symbolized by the seven sweeps of the death-dealing scythe, evolution being accomplished only after the separation of the souls, by means of successive lives and deaths.
After the enactment of this drama, the neophyte is lead to the door of a small dark tunnel, giving him a lamp with which to light his way. The lamp represents the inner promptings of the ego which if listened to will direct the soul aright. He is now left to his own devices to indicate that the twin souls each go their separate ways. The tunnel is so small that to enter it he must proceed on hands and knees, and to indicate that once the cycle of necessity has been entered there is no return except through following out Nature’s plan, the door immediately shuts behind him. This tunnel dips more and more downward as he follows it until finally it ends abruptly at the brink of a crater formed like an inverted cone. The tunnel symbolizes the descent of the soul through the spiritual realm, and the inverted cone, the sides of which are polished to reflect the light of his lamp even as in the astral world the astral light is seen, represents the astral world. Down the side of this cone he observes an iron ladder of 78 rungs, and finding no other method of advance open, he descends it. At the bottom of the ladder, he observes when he arrives there, a yawning well. Therefore, to find a way out he starts to ascend, looking carefully for a means of egress. Climbing seven steps upward he notices a crevice in the rocks just large enough to admit his body, and through this he squeezes, to find himself at the foot of an ascending spiral stairway.