Sunday, June 16, 2013

The Rite of the Black Eagle - Part 1 of 3

When I find myself not writing for long periods of time, I get stagnate, then I don't want to write out of the anticipation of writing, it is a complete mess.  The cycle of not writing feeds to the procrastination of future writing.  Getting out of the habit of writing makes for lack of proper reflection and study for me.  To stop this constipation of writing, I wanted to plunge right back into it, and so I am writing about something I read about four months ago, and something that isn't readily available on the internet.

I want to apologize up front as this subject matter only has one author that I could find, so the information comes directly from A.E. Waite, the little known, but seemingly familiar story, added with aspects of Christian doctrine, philosophical Hermeticism in the terms of figurative alchemy, and some Kabalism thrown in for good measure.  Waite up front acknowledges that this "Rite" was never popular, nor did it have any real popularity in Freemasonry.  To Waite, this Rite represented the origins and a first swipe of sorts of the first three degrees as they are told in the Red Degrees, as they are called here in America.  After the first three degrees the order devolves shortly there after and is as Waite put it "militanty distant" from the high degrees.

The first degree is made up of three principle officers, the Grand Master, Grand Prior and Grand Warden.  The tracing board is set up in the following matter:

(1) Large amounts of Acacias in the vicinity where the unskillful assassins interned the Master Builders body.  

(2) A cloud descending from Heaven to conceal the place, so that the assassins can not find it again. 

(3) Nine candlesticks, by allusion to the Nine Elect Masters who were sent in search of the Master, as ordained by Solomon the King

(4) The Place of entombment

(5) The sun and moon which enlightened successively the Brethren who went on the quest, so that neither cloud nor darkness hinder them

(6)  The Blazing Star, which shone over the grave of the Master

(7) The triangle - inscribed with the initial letter of the Great Name of Mystery, which appeared when the body was exposed

(8) The eagle which guarded the grave for the space of nine days and which took flight with the legendary branch of acacia when the body was found.

The predominate color of the Chapter and clothing is black, with hints of gold, red and white.  Between the pillars of the East is a great Black Eagle, having the Sun on the right and the Moon on the left side.

The candidate is roughly handled and moved into a Chamber of Reflection. His is stripped of all their clothing, and is given a blood soaked garment to wear and a pair of slippers.  In traditional Chamber of Reflection his is left alone wearing nothing but what has been given to him and the door is guarded by two brothers who have swords drawn.

The officers start their procession into the apartment and the chief officers take their station.  The Master then cries out that an innocent man has been murdered, and his killer still lives.  This is in reference to the candidate who is then led into an apartment, blindfolded by the two guards.  The only light in the room is a dimly lite lamp.  At this time one of a brother is to assume to role of the corpse and lay on a table with a bloodstained apron.

The blindfold is removed from the candidate and is told to contemplate the remains of the  man who has perished on false suspicion of murder.  The candidate is then held in the room with the "corpse" alone and again guarded by two men with swords.  This is to see if the candidate will attempt to escape or somehow lose his fortitude when dealing with the situation.

The candidate is again blindfolded and the officers again in procession enter and this time the Warden says that the candidate has proven to be more unfortunate than guilty, that the great criminal is he who has suffered already, but that an accomplice has been found who also must die.  The perpetrator is under arrest already, is charged, and condemned.  All the officers depart except the Grand Prior, who takes off the blindfold of the candidate and leaves him with the corpse, again to reflect.  After a while the Grand Prior comes to the door, reblindfolds the candidate and leads him to the door of the Chapter, into which is is introduced as a worthy Mason who desires to become a Knight of the Black Eagle.  He is praised for his fortitude, is pledged on the Holy Gospels and receives the Secrets of the Grade, together with the insignia.

The Grade Lecture:

As in all of these Rites, there is an explanation of everything that happened to you.  I find the lecture amusing as this was less esoteric, far more hazing.  Seriously, locking a guy in a room and accusing him of murder, then knowing that he is not guilty, but has to die anyway?  Still the newly knighted Mason is given the following instruction:

1) The Chapter is hung in black to illustrate the impenetrable obscurity which must cover the mysteries of the grade

2) The Pillars are white to signify the candor of chivalry

3)  The the gold of their chapters and pediments represent the purity of the Order

4)  Their number is 12, by allusion to the sacred and Mysterious Names inscribed on the Pentacle of Solomon

5)  The clothin of the Brethren is black, to commemorate their grief for the murder of the Master-Builder, but is ordained with white in token of their innocence concerning it, and embroidered with red as a symbol of his blood poured out.

6)  There are batteries of knocks, six to be exact, this is to signify the six modes of pronouncing the Sacred Word kabalistically, but these modes are yet not revealed to the new knight in this degree.

The next article (Part 2) we will detail out the Second Grade, and the Hermetic Parables that are taught to the new knight. 

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