«…what is the highest degree of service which an initiate can devote himself to? »|
Ethics of Sacrifice. The degrees on the «Path of Service»
By Athos A. Altomonte
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«…what is the highest degree of service which an initiate can devote himself to? »
Morale by itself is not enough
According to moral catechisms , working for the ‘benefit of others ' is a generous and altruistic act of devotion, which secures the overcoming of the egocentric stage where the words ‘Me, mine and for me' marked the boundaries of the personal world. To be at ‘other people's service', though, doesn't mean to show off or to propagandize ideologies. Altruistic service is a sign of maturity rather than exhibition; its quality depends on the mental vision of the operator, on the degree of intelligence reached and on the evolution of his conscience.
To serve the others means to ‘become a container' for their suffering and fears and a promoter of their hopes. The moral intentions of catechisms of any order and vocation converge on ‘good'. Someone who knew a lot about men wrote: ‘the road to hell is paved with good intentions' . He was right, because the moral aspect is very important, but it is not enough. Indeed, its contradictory effect is the creation of hypocrisy.
For a corrupted spirit, morale is only a prison from which to escape as soon as possible in order to go back to his favorite practices. In front of morale he will pretend, lie and grin and bear common sense; but as soon he is on his own he will go back to the old habits. Therefore moral incitement leads to hypocrisy rather than to good morality.
Abandoning and transmuting metals
If the moral aspect is accompanied by the processes of transformation that a man can reach by using with competence the mental instruments that develop intellectual sensitivity, qualities improve and the possibilities increase.
Masonic rituals keep suggesting their adepts to ‘work for the benefit of the humankind, promoting virtues and digging deep prisons for vice' . This is an excellent statement. But an assertion is not enough to turn a man into a servant for a higher ideal. We need to do more. We can find something concrete in the invitation to ‘abandon and then transmute metals* . On the other hand it's impossible to think that one can be at the service of the humankind when he remains in total imperfection, without improving oneself first.
Abandoning (one's own) metals means to accept to share personal possessions and benefits with the less fortunate; on a subtler level it is an invitation to detach from preconceptions, prejudices, illusions and collective imagery and tread one's own path (see A Brotherhood out of the flock). It is an invitation to be generous, to detach from heavy elements of materialism and bond with subtle ideals, as much as one can perceive them.
In this case as well good statements are not enough. It is necessary to know the method to transform oneself, to dominate the instruments of one's ‘mutation' and to transform the so-called animal spirit (see alchemy of sexual energy).
The sacrifice of self
As much as we can refine thoughts and feelings, the highest degrees of service can't be reached without lighting the fire of the will. Without the will fire obstacles can't be removed, difficulties can't be overcome, pains can't be tolerated.
Spiritual will is the fire of the alchemist.
Spiritual will is the Fire of the soul.
Fire is the will of the Initiate
The igneous element (fire) burns thanks to courage and with sacrifice.
Courage and sacrifice are elements of the heroic path. They belong to those who stop only when they reach the finish line, which in the initiatory dimension means to accomplish the Work in White . To reach the finish line means to pass three fundamental stages: to lose oneself (to abandon metals); to be reborn for oneself (resurrection of the Master Hiram) through the Sacrifice of oneself .
Sacrifice becomes part of the ‘path of service' from the moment when the initiate offers part of himself for the common good. There is sacrifice when we give up our attachments to improve ourselves; when we embark on the way to serve others, although the service is carried out at lower levels. There is sacrifice when a Master wisely passes on his knowledge because he is giving his pupils the best part of himself, in act and substance (see The Bread of Knowledge).
*heavy or vulgar metals represent the lower instincts that philosophers call animal spirit , from which the ideas and the feelings that outline the profane dimension originate.
The courage to serve without hoping
The commitment on the path of service can go beyond altruism and self-improvement; it can reach an ethical sacrifice bigger than those known so far.
The first stages of the heroic path originate compensations that make sacrifice easier to bear.
By compensations we don't mean the true, hoped or alleged prizes for people who expect their sacrifice to be paid back, but the compensating feeling that the person who sacrifices generates from himself.
To give help without being thanked consoles the sensitive heart. To immolate for one's ideal celebrates the heart of the martyr; to die for one's own country glorifies the hero's heart; to offer one's own life to one's own God consecrates the heart of the mystic; to give life in order to reach a paradisiacal condition is the aphrodisiac of the devotee.
So far the ethics of sacrifice, even when it is extreme, provides for a given or generated gratification, a somehow caused reward, an offer that expects an answer. The ethics of the Initiate, though, can go further and reach the dimension of the ‘subtle silence' where no compensations can be generated, no reward can be received, and no questions can be asked.
It is the dimension of the subtle conscience, where the detachment from corporeal perceptions is total, since in the silence of the soul metaphors have no meaning, hopes are useless, trades don't exist, dreams disappear and illusions fade. No redeeming chimaeras can protect the Initiate from the immense boundaries of reality.
Time dilates and death becomes a re-creational ( see note 1 ) passage of conscience after a ‘day of hard work' (metaphor of a life). The Initiate keeps serving but his work is timeless. In this dimension, outer loneliness is rewarded by inner wealth, but he must be very courageous to keep serving without the hope of at least sharing the results of his work.
Note 1 : A part of the Masonic ritual mentions this passage in an enigmatic form, saying that workers ‘are accompanied from work to re-creation and from re-creation back to work'.