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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,
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
"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
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
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
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
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."
" 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"
Freemasonry use symbols and rituals instead of teaching it explicitly?
earlier, Freemasonry teaches moral and ethical values, as the means of achieving
perfection. It uses symbols and rituals to do so because
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.
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.
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
The Second degree
is about development of the intellect and acquiring knowledge and
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.
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."