HINDU VIEW OF MASONRY
Lodge Concord No.204.
2. Objective of Essay
4. Masonic voyage of Candidate
A Hindu View of Masonry
“We are not human
beings having a spiritual experience.
We are spiritual beings having a human experience1.”
The title of my paper “A Hindu View of Masonry” may appear misleading since one
of the chief features of modern philosophical thought is the growing
universality of outlook. Thus, it may appear inappropriate to project the mood
of provincialism. But what justifies my title is that, when we speak of Indian
philosophy or Eastern philosophy, we mean the philosophy that has developed in a
certain region of the earth. We do not mean that the truth which the philosophy
aims at is of the provincial character. The aim of philosophy is to reach the
truth which is always universal and unconditional-‘Ekam sat vipra bahuda vadanti’
(truth is one, called differently by many).
Objective of paper:
investigation is based on an imaginary candidate experiencing each plane
of Masonic craft journey and to give commentary with the help of prolific Indian
philosophy on his gradual transmutation process into a realized soul.
to emphasize that I am neither a philosopher nor Gnostic. I have simply put
together material from various sources for which ‘select Bibliography’ has been
It would be my responsibility to state straightaway that apart from documented
information, I have liberally used my imagination to connect the dots in the
preparation of this paper. I
humbly claim that my writings make no pretence to being complete or dogmatic and
crave the indulgence of the reader for my short comings.
1. Pierre Tielhard de Chardin- French Philosopher
Freemasonry is not the first attempt by mankind to form cohesive organizations.
Being ancient and universal, it steadily emerged as the largest fraternal
Institution comprising five well established systematic departments.
(Roscoe pound- Philosophy of Masonry)
Ritual, History, Symbolism, Law and Philosophy.
Philosophy as a subject though appealing to only a few, is by no means least of
all. Ignorance of the subject of Masonic Philosophy is profound.
But, a zealous Mason interested in
philosophy will, however, find in Masonic thought an extraordinary mass of
material whose spiritual insight or the rational philosophy can be paralleled
with any other spiritual traditions attained in the world.
The deeper essences of Masonic teachings are quite as interesting and
instructive as the systems of either Plato and Aristotle or Kant and Hegel or
the marvellous psychological analyses of Upanishads.
Freemasonry and Indian Thought - A comparison
From a study of Indian philosophy, one can realize that Freemasonry has several
distinct features in line with Hinduism.
Philosophy in India is essentially spiritual. The term Hinduism is of recent
origin & doesn’t appear anywhere in Vedic texts. Therefore, Hinduism at best can
be described as totality of philosophical thoughts & refers to SANATANA
DHARMA. Sanatana Dharma means eternal law, it
represents much more than just a religion; it provides its followers with an
entire way of life that makes their inner life more perfect, more comprehensive,
more universal, and in fact more truly human.
Freemasonry also shares identical perception. It is not a unitary religion or
faith or a body of Dogmas & cults but a liberal pluralistic tradition. This
tradition offers methods & technique all with a view to realize the ultimate
Freemasonry, akin to Hinduism, aims to preach that all knowledge is within the
human soul & no knowledge comes from outside. It is not discovered but remains
covered. Once the veil is removed from the soul, it reveals itself. The man from
whom this veil is being lifted is the knowing man; the man upon whom it
lies thick is ignorant.
Similar to Hinduism, freemasonry accepts all beings equally irrespective of
their creeds & beliefs. The masonry reveres “The Great Architect of the
Universe” & pronounces that ultimate aim of mankind is wisdom & enlightenment
3. MASONIC VOYAGE OF A CANDIDATE
Enquiry into Yourself
modern man has a fairly good degree of control over the external nature by means
of advances in science and technology. But, there also exists an internal
nature, dealt by the science of spirituality which too needs discipline and
control. Both are needed for the complete human development and fulfilment.
Currently, man is slave of his internal nature. Humanity has lost its true
identity. People are ignorant of the real self within. Groping in ignorance,
they suffer from stress and strain. The remedy lies in gaining the knowledge
of Self (Atma bodha).
Freemasonry also illustrates that man has fallen away from his own distinct
singular nature and from the highest consciousness. Its real aim is to provide a
course of self-knowledge and self discipline by means of which we may accelerate
our return to our real home “The Kingdom of Heaven”.
Freemasonry symbolically represents this journey from ignorance to knowledge
....nothingness to being.....darkness to light....as a gradual and steady
metamorphosis of Rough to Perfect Ashlar. The very essence of the
Masonic doctrine is to achieve this state of Perfect Ashlar which is an
internal process of self-discovery and knowledge.
II. Steps to Self - Realization
we commence to rediscover the steps to self-realization, it would be helpful to
know why we were born divided and as ignorant forms. Sri Aurobindo in his
book life Divine mentioned that, to experience the highest consciousness
in various life forms, the infinite consciousness interestingly withdrew its
highest consciousness in those forms.
when the forms...in particular we humans....discover our higher nature, we
experience the delight for which we were created. Therefore, only through willed
reduction in consciousness was the discovery of delight possible. Only by
starting with ignorance could we experience the joy of true knowledge.
To experience this divine truth, man has to pass through seven planes of
knowledge in his spiritual journey.
C) Insight & Intellect
F) Divine sight
– BEYOND SENSE MIND
We begin this transition by changing our mentality.
In this lowest and material plane, man clings to the sense pleasures and
mistakes them for the pure bliss, there comes a time in the lives of the
individuals when involuntarily they ask “Is this real”. Realizing the futility
of desires, they go out in the search of freedom, it marks a turning point. But,
what is Freedom? Vedanta defines freedom as spiritual value.
The true focus of freedom is gained only by the practice of self discipline.
The first degree or the Entered Apprentice stage of Freemasonry is
entirely focussed on the subject of acquiring this true freedom. It is also
called as the ceremony of initiation because it marks the commencement of a new
order of personal life consciousness. To be a Freemason, the individual must be
a Freeman -worthy and well qualified.
I. Worthy And Well
The term, ‘Worthy and well qualified’ in Freemasonry refers to the character or
personality of the aspirant. Adi Sankaracharya, in his classical text
Vivekachudamani3, brilliantly enumerated the
qualifications of a spiritual aspirant. These qualifications are
universal and may perhaps be applied to any student aspiring to gain any form of
science - physical or spiritual. They are:
intelligent and learned
3. Uhapoha vichakshana-
Masonry also demands that an Entered Apprentice besides having a clear and sharp
mind, must have an earnest desire to unravel the mysteries of life and nature
and for this he must be ‘Properly Prepared’.
3. Medhavi puruso vidvan – uhapoha -
Adhikari- atmacidyayam – ukta - laksana-laksitah . Vivekachudamani –
II.Preparation of the Candidate
What other qualities should an aspirant possess to begin his inquiry into
the eternal truth?
Brahmasutras4 have distinctly declared that to study the deeper
mysteries of infinite, a neophyte must be properly prepared and ought to
inculcate the Four-fold spiritual discipline (sadhana- chatustaya)4 .
Four- Fold spiritual Disciplines (sadhana-
1. Vivekam- Discrimination between Self and Non-self.
2. Vyragyam- Dispassion towards sensual pleasures.
3. Shad- Sampatthi (six treasures):
Sama, Dama, Uparati, Titksha, shraddha, samadhana
4. Mumukshutva: It is yearning for freedom from all bondages.
Elements of right living
Put in a nutshell, the spiritual qualifications mentioned are elementary to
gaining the ultimate experience of Self-realization. They serve as means for the
final goal of realization.
To commence the intellectual task of erecting a spiritual temple in his own
heart, the initiated mason purifies his heart (vivekam), re-orients and
empties himself from his old self, divesting and detaching himself from his past
acquisitions whether intellectual or material (vyragyam). A man aspiring
spiritual realization must possess clean and fit body-mind complex. And the
practice of sama-dama bestows on him this fitness. These along with
uparati and titiksha make a steady inner state. The steady state develops an
intense desire to enquire the purpose and destiny of human life.
4. Vivekachudamani – 18- 32 slokas , Brahma sutra: 6.4.2
Our first plane of knowledge is symbolized by the Jacob’s ladder composed
of many moral virtues. The principal ones are Faith, Hope and Charity. Thus, the
inspired Entered Apprentice employs Faith (shraddha) to approach the God,
continues his pilgrimage in the hope that ensures him on the path to knowledge
and the initiate tries to emulate (samadhana) god through charity intensifying
the desire for liberation (Mumuksuta). In Brahmasutra, This desire to
know the Brahman is mentioned as an aphorism Athato Brahma jijnasa (1.1.1).
B. REVELATION- MOVING TO THE DEPTHS
The candidate or the neophyte who all along was ignorant or sat in darkness, has
now suddenly seen a great light but cannot yet say what that light is. The
revelation is that he knows that he has received his sight and that earlier he
was relatively blind and now beginning to see. So the restoration of light or
the spiritual knowledge is likened as Masonic regeneration or psychological
Though a momentous milestone in the path of knowledge but is confronted with
significant road blocks. Our normal nature will resist and throw us back into
the ego, sense- bound mind leading into the life of ignorance and falsehood.
Somehow we need to make permanent connection or bridge with inner self.
I. How do we
maintain this inner status?
This is illustrated very well in the charge in the North-East corner.
It is a meeting place of north and east, of darkness and light. It is a
parable of the dual paths of life open to each one of us; represents
candidate’s ambiguous mind. Standing at this point, he can either advance
towards east for want of knowledge or relapse backwards to north plunging into
the ignorance; the direction to pursue ultimately rests on the candidate
himself. The erection of the spiritual structure in Masonic mysticism is
known as King Solomon’s Temple which every mason must build for himself.
C - INSIGHT AND INTELLECT- A CONSECRATED LIVING
On his forward journey, insight occupies the intermediate plane between the
sense-world and the supra - sensual world. Insight is essentially an inference
that is validated by a reason. It is through the insight and intellect we
enquire into truth.
Now, what is this enquiry? The discrimination between the Self and the Non-self
constitutes enquiry into the truth. for by this discrimination alone and by
knowing one’s own Self- the man becomes ever peaceful.
The question that needs to address is how do we differentiate Self from
non-self? The method adopted is called Adhyaropa apavada (negating the
superimposition). When the non-self is negated in its entirety, what remains is
the pure self, the truth. Hence, the self is first defined in negative terms
“not this not this” (na iti na iti) before its true nature is asserted.
Advance to Altar
The discrimination of Self from Non-self is skilfully represented as an allegory
of the candidate advancing from West to East, from nothingness to being, from
unreal to real. Let us penetrate further to appreciate what they actually mean
at the Gnostic level.
of Winding Staircase:
In the second degree, advancing to East is designed in the form of a winding
staircase. It comprises five steps taken high and elevated in spiral fashion.
Spiral ascent is a narrow path that commence with the two pillars that
exemplify the universal properties as “the pairs of opposites". The
pillars therefore, epitomize the perfect integrity of body & soul essential
for spiritual perfection. The spiral ascent by five steps in Masonry can be
paralleled with the expositions of Taittreya Upanishad5 (5. Taittreya Upanishad: 2.1.1)which
says that; atman (self) is covered by five sheaths (Pancha- kosa). Each step
signifies a sheath and climbing over each step denotes detaching yourself from
the material layers and moving a step closer to the identification of soul
Let us now examine what the five sheaths are (Panchakosa-vidya) :
1) Food sheath (Annamaya kosa):
2) Bio energy sheath (pranamaya kosa):
3) Mental sheath (Manonmayah kosa):
4) The intellectual sheath (vijnanamaya kosa):
The blissful sheath(anandamaya
(Atma Bodha: pancakosa-vidya 31-46 Slokas)
This spiral ascent implies that the candidate with his insight and intellect
uncovers the Self and gets liberated from the shackles of the five sheaths. He
thus, departs the sense world and transcends to supra-sensual world. A new
milestone thus has been reached- “the Psychic being”.
D. INTUITION- THE PERSONAL EVOLVING SOUL
Intuition is an inference validated by the thinker’s belief system. It takes the
person beyond what he already knows. In this spiritual plane, the Gnostic
utilizes the enlightened heart as an instrument to seek that intuitive
Legend of Charge in the South-East
The candidate placed in the south symbolizes left or the heart side of the lodge
thus, appealing the heart or the spiritual intuition rather than the head or
mind. Swami Vivekananda in his discourse said that it is the heart which takes
one to the highest plane, which intellect can never reach. This mythical legend
signifies the step by step transition of the aspirant from the position of
North-East – a state of divided allegiance into the region of South-East which
is all illumination-a vast spiritual self.
This is the phase where the individual has begun to move beyond the mind’s
higher capacities for logic and rational thought. The candidate through the
intuitions of knowledge feels more connected with the universe.
E. ECSTASY-THE SPIRITUAL TRANSFORMATION
At this point of the path with dramatic changes in mental
functions, man may experience a shift from his negative attitudes and sentiments
to higher attitudes and behaviours. This process of spiritual transformation
brings in ecstatic pleasures as he develops inviolable faith in the higher will
The Masonic journey at this juncture appears to have taken an
abrupt halt. The legend of Hiram Abiff may be conceived as the symbol of man’s
journey through life. In this journey, man encounters many obstacles which may
be symbolically referred to as ruffians (Jubela, jubelo and Jubellum). The three
ruffians he met are none other than the symbols of Ignorance (avidya), Desire
(kama)) and Action (karma). His fate may be regarded as the same that
befalls every man who encounters and become victim to these three enemies. Let
us try and understand this dramatic legend with the aid of Upanishads which have
untangled the mystery of death effectively.
Seven steps to Altar:
The advancing from the West to East in the third degree is by seven steps. These
seven steps constitute the sukshma sarira or the internal instrument (Antaha-karna).
The first three belong to three primordial elements namely; Ignorance (avidya),
desire (kama), and action (karma) and the remaining four involves the components
of internal organ namely, Manas, Buddhi, Ahamkara or Citta.
The three primordial elements
Ignorance (jubela), Desire (jubello), and Action (jubellum) symbolically
represent that man still clings to these subtle attractions. The cycle of
ignorance, desire and action is of a vicious type in which our life moves. Our
actions proceed from desire; behind desire is ignorance of our true nature.
Through our actions we succeed in getting what we desire. This cycle repeats
itself, one causing another. Our lives are caught in the wheel of this cycle
which is nothing but the cycle of birth and death. The foolish man who treads
this path will be constantly facing death, not physical death, which is not
important; it is but spiritual death, which is the cause of concern for all.
we get out of it?
Shankaracharya in his commentary on Tattvabodha says, we can free ourselves from
this cycle only by cutting at the root, i.e. by destroying our ignorance with
self-knowledge. To get this control and the resultant freedom, we have to
utilise the four subtle components of the internal instrument (antaha-karana)
manas, buddhi, ahamkara, and citta. These components can be paralleled with the
four corrective steps or the purification
process that is comparable to the resurrection of man after passing through the
valley of death.
The internal organ as the manas is indecisive, vacillating from one
possibility to another. The same internal organ transforms itself from the
indecisive state to a decisive state known as buddhi. The decisive state
about a particular experience is then referred to a subject in us, the ‘I’. This
is called ahamkara or ego. It implies a profound reality hidden inside
our psychophysical system. In its absolute sense, it refers to the reality that
witnesses the “I”- The Eternal Self. The fourth step signifies the ‘chitta’
which always remind us of that supreme truth.
F. DIVINE SIGHT–SUPRAMENTAL TRANSFORMATION
The path then continues into the realm that is indescribable or
unfathomable. Standing on the brink of the grave, our contemplation of the
mortality reminds us that the soul of man is a tiny spark of the divine and
can therefore never die, and will be at peace only when in perfect harmony
with its divine source.
As we begin to move towards divine life,
the inner and the outer are no longer separate. We are in perfect harmony with
everything that is unfolding around us.
It is here that the path reaches its culmination or goal. We experience the
ultimate Delight in existence, fulfilling the very purpose for which the Divine
enabled this universe. On this ultimate leg of the Path our bodies are no longer
subject to death and decay because the cells of our body have been
supramentalized so that they respond to the higher Power, preventing their decay
and degeneration. In other words, we are on the road to becoming immortal.
Masonic teachings are few and definite. They insist on the importance of
ethical life and moral virtues. The teachings of Masonry are identical to
Svetasvatara Upanishad (Svetasvatara
Upanishad 1.12, 1.13, 1.14),
which stresses that man is of divine race, but he has in him an element of
non-being which exposes him to evil. If we do not break with evil, we cannot
Masonic teachings articulate the philosophy of life. The teachings are centered
on the light (knowledge), the conscious light man had, the light it had lost and
the light it must regain. The Masonic candidate is presumed to enter the order
in search of this light upon these problems.
The training for which is symbolized in the three progressive degrees of the
Entered Apprentice, Fellow Craft and Master Mason.
With this brief dissertation, the author wraps up his journey of discovery by
concluding that what freemasonry preaches is nothing but SANATANA DHARMA.
It stands for religiousness, philosophy & a way of life towards spiritual goal.
It enjoins upon us with two principles-‘satyam vada dharmam chara’ (speak
truth & tread the path of righteousness). This is well illustrated in
freemasonry by the unshaken fidelity & noble death of our Master HIRAM ABIFF.
It is meant for the whole of mankind and not exclusively for Hindus.