Any collector develops a nose for 'the real thing', and as someone who has spent many years seeking out revealing literature on the subject of initiation I felt assured as soon as I began to read this book that the author knows what he is talking about.
I met Robert Lomas many years ago when I edited and published his first bestseller, which he wrote with Christopher Knight, called The Hiram Key. It was a manuscript with a helter skelter pace and charged with the excitement of making dizzying discoveries and seeing old worlds in new ways. The opening of this new book announces a deep and solemn change in Robert Lomas as a writer and as a man. Something has happened to him.
The enemies of Freemasonry like to see it as a club for men who seek unfair material advantages. Of course it may be the case - who knows? - that some individuals hope for this. But Robert Lomas reveals how the rites and symbolism of Freemasonry are intended to awake, perhaps gently and over time, sometimes suddenly and decisively, any spiritual curiosity, any curiosity about esoteric mysteries that lies inside the individual, however deep, however dormant. New dimensions may open up to him.
This short book contains as clear an account as I have ever read of the gifts and benefits that initiation brings. In my own book, The Secret History of the World, I talked about the way that different schools of initiation have flowed through history - for example, Greek, Roman, Cabalistic and Sufi. They intermingle and evolve, sharing certain essential beliefs and practices, but each - if they are true - addressing the spiritual needs of a particular age and place. It seemed to me that Freemasonry had a historic role to play, beginning with the scientific revolution and, intimately connected with this revolution, the great paradigmatic shift from idealism to materialism. In the seventeenth century physical objects began to become the yardstick of what is real, and spiritual realities, which had seemed blazingly real in earlier ages, began to flicker and fade. In this context the esoteric mission of Freemasonry has been to help lead humanity through an age of great materialism, a new Dark Age, while keeping the flame of true spirituality alive.
Great Freemasonic thinkers have therefore been concerned to work out what we can truly and reasonably say about spiritual matters. They have always been particularly wary of straying into superstition. So it's highly significant, that Robert Lomas is a scientist by training, yet he writes in an explicit way - which some will find surprising - about the continuing life of the spirit apart from the physical body. He alludes, too, to a universal Moral Law, a Divine Plan, to a Masonic astrology, to elements of esoteric physiology - what are called in other schools of thought, the chakras - and also the various gifts that initiation brings, which as I point out in my own book, are not un-adjacent to the gifts of the Holy Spirit outlined in the New Testament.
It's significant because these things would seem to sit uneasily with much of mainstream science, though that is not to say that they are not ultimately reconcilable with what scientists may soon come to discover. And that, I think, is the key point - and what makes Robert Lomas such an important writer. As a practicing scientist he recognizes the value of experiment and experience, and as a scientist and Freemason he also knows the importance of keeping an open mind, of not rushing to impose conventional or established explanations on new data, of not taking a partisan view. He is always alert to new developments in science, dismissing nothing out of hand, no matter how weird or far-fetched they might at first seem. If the rites and meditative practices described in this book work, if as he knows from repeated personal experience, they reliably produce the changes in consciousness it is claimed they produce, then that is a reason - not necessarily a determining one, but certainly a good reason - for believing they there might ultimately be some truth somewhere in the religious beliefs that gave rise to these practices.
Could it be part of the mission of Freemasonry, one of the many great benefits that it brings to the world, that it will help reconcile idealism and materialism, science and religion? We are setting off on a journey into unknown territory, and I commend Robert Lomas as a wise and good-hearted guide, in the first instance to the mysteries of Freemasonic initiation. You are standing on the threshold of a revelation that is, to borrow the author's own phrase, 'truly magical'. Initiation is dangerous, even deadly, but what may perhaps be most surprising to the enemies of Freemasonry, is to learn that what is at the heart of it …is love.
Jonathan Black (nee Mark Booth)