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Article # 151
Masonry's Mission

Author: W.Bro.C.S.Madhavan    Posted on: Saturday, December 18, 2004
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[ M.W.Bro.Arun Chinthopanth  O.S.M, the M.W.Grand Master, Grand Lodge of India, while   dedicating,  the Temple of Lodge Kalingaraya (No.220) at Erode to the honour and glory of the Most  High  had delivered a  beautiful address. It was an inspiring address and was well received. Inspired  by that address, the Author, W.Bro.C.S.Madhavan has captured the essence of that address in this article on  Masonry’s  Mission.  The Author dedicates  this article to our revered Grand Master,  M.W.Bro.Arun Chinthopanth. In this beautiful article the author is answering  the  question “What is Freemasonry”- an answer, that can be given to persons,  who are not on the square, as well as to the candidates. This article merits repeated  study by all of us and each study will bring more enlightenment . Please read on …]




                                                                                                                                                 W.Bro.C.S.Madhavan, Lodge Jyothi # 253, Salem



There is a palpable current of excitement in the home of the Freemason on the day of the Lodge meeting. Suit is pressed, shoes are shined, apron checked; and the Mason himself is closeted with his little black book, reading and muttering to himself. All this provokes a barrage of questions from the near and the dear, which are either stonewalled, or answered perfunctorily.


" What do you do in your meetings?"

" Oh! We have some rituals and ceremonies." 

"Are you a charitable organisation?"

"Of course, we do much charitable work, but it is seldom advertised."

"Then is it a social organisation?"

"In a way, yes, there is some socialising after the meeting."

"What exactly is Freemasonry about?"

"Well, we aren't supposed to talk about it."


None of these answers satisfies and Freemasonry is looked upon with a mixture of curiosity and a little mistrust.


If however, our Mason were to be more forthcoming, he would have said, "Freemasonry is about inculcating moral and ethical values, and building character. To achieve these goals, it employs a ritualistic method of instruction using allegories and stonemason's tools as symbols. Its fundamental principles are Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth. Brotherly Love teaches the Fatherhood of God and Universal Brotherhood of  Man, irrespective of creed, colour, race or rank. That is why all Masons are called brothers and meet as equals on the level. Once we accept that all men are brothers, then individual ego sense or ahamkara dissolves; we are able to identify ourselves with others and live in harmony with them . What Masons call Relief is Charity and is an essential part of Masonry. It is not merely dropping a few coins in a beggar's bowl. It is empathy and compassion. “Seeking the solace of your own distress by extending relief and consolation to your fellow creatures in their affliction.”  But laudable as these virtues are, they are not the ultimate purpose of Freemasonry. If only these  were  all, Freemasonry  would not have survived for over 500 years. As Bro.Walter Wilmhurst, an eminent Mason, rightly observed ,


"It is absurd to think that a vast organization like Masonry was ordained merely to teach to grown-up men of the world the symbolical meaning of a few simple builders' tools, or to impress upon us such elementary virtues as temperance and justice:--the children in every village school are taught such things; or to enforce such simple principles of morals as brotherly love, which every church and every religion teaches; or as relief, which is practiced quite as much by non-Masons as by us; There is surely, too, no need for us to go through the great and elaborate ceremony of the third degree merely to learn that we have each to die. The Craft has surely some larger end in view than merely inculcating the practice of social virtues common to all  the  world and by no means, the monopoly of Freemasons."


Thus. it is obvious that though Brotherly Love and Relief are two important and fundamental principles of Freemasonry, they only prepare a Mason to reach its ultimate objective, which is the third principle -Truth.


This brings up some more questions. 


What is this Truth?


Man has always had a compulsive need to know his real self. 'Know thyself.' said the ancient Greeks.   Annapurna Upanishad urges   " Who am I?  How came this world? What is it? How came death and birth? Thus inquire within yourself; great will be the benefit."  Boethius puts it more strongly , " In other living creatures ignorance of self is nature, in man, it is vice." The Truth that Freemasonry teaches is 'that most interesting of all human studies - the knowledge of oneself.' That Man's soul had an existence prior to his being born, in which it was one with the Supreme Being, - 'Ayam Atma Brahma'-  and the sole purpose of our life here is to strive to return to that existence.  This is the genuine secret of a Master Mason. But this goal is attainable only by truth, by austerity and by purity of thought and actions. Therefore Freemasonry inculcates moral and ethical values through symbolic instruction. These values, by which he regulates his life and actions, are called the 'substituted secrets' of a Master Mason.


Why should we know this Truth?


All of us are deluded into identifying ourselves with our bodies.  This is the root cause of all misery and pain. As Socrates argues in the Phaedo,


"And the body fills us with passions and desires and fears and all sorts of fancies and foolishness, so that, as they say, it makes it impossible for us to think at all. The body and its desires are the only cause of wars and factions and battles ... we are slaves to its service .... and in fact we perceive that if we are ever to know anything absolutely, we must be free of the body and must behold the actual realities with the eye of the souls alone."


 Mahabharata  teaches:


" In each human body the two principles of immortality and death are established. By the pursuit of delusion we reach death; by the pursuit of Truth we attain immortality"


Why does Freemasonry use symbols and rituals instead of teaching it explicitly?


As mentioned earlier, Freemasonry teaches moral and ethical values, as the means of achieving perfection. It uses symbols and rituals to do so because Man is a creature of habit; his everyday life is conditioned by repetitive actions. Therefore repetition of the ritual conditions his mind to respond instinctively, in every situation in life, according to its ethical and moral precepts.


But Freemasonry does not merely teach morals. It is essentially a Spiritual Science and lessons of the Spirit can never be explicitly explained. Intellectual reasoning can only give an approximation of Reality. It has to be experienced. The seers of all religions have communicated their experiences only through allegories and symbols because that experience is not susceptible of adequate expression. Freemasonry also propounds it teachings in a similar manner and employs rituals as its mode of participative instruction.


How does Freemasonry teach this Truth?


Sankara, in his Viveka Chudamani says " Detachment  and knowledge are the two indispensable wings of a bird that help it to rise to the top of the house of liberation." Freemasonry also adopts the same steps in guiding us towards to the Truth.


The First Degree in Freemasonry teaches detachment from all worldly attractions - represented by 'money or metallic substance' - as well as purification of the body and sensual tendencies.


The Second degree is about development of the intellect and acquiring knowledge and discrimination.


Once we have attained to these two basic conditions, we are prepared for the final step to perfection. The Third Degree depicts the surrender of the individual ego sense or ahamkara, so that the personality merges in the divine and the illusion of a separate existence gives way to mystical union with the Absolute.


Thus Freemasonry is, in the words of Bro. Wilmhurst, " a working philosophy for those brought within its influence."  Its mission is:


"to supply a need to those who are earnestly enquiring into the purpose and destiny of human life. It is a means of initiating into reliable knowledge those who feel that their knowledge of life and their path of life have hitherto been but a series of irregular steps made at haphazard and under hoodwinked conditions as to whither they are going."


W.Bro. C.S.Madhavan of Lodge Jyothi, Salem requires hardly any introduction. He is a prolific writer , a great Sanskrit and Masonic scholar and a consistent winner in the M.W.Grand Master’s Essay Competition year after year. Many of his articles have been posted in this website and premier Masonic Website Pietre Stones Review of Freemasonry. In this short article, he has crystallized in this article the Mission of Freemasonry. We are thankful to him for making available to all of us this article.

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