Freemasonry—the True Path to Self-Actualization
W Bro Sreedharan Srikanth
( Lodge Asoka No 93)
Self-Actualization in Freemasonry
Self-Actualization is the tendency of a sentient organism to realize its fullest
potential; it is the only real motive of life. Self-actualization can also be
viewed as a process of self-exploration, self-discovery or self-realization.
Abraham Maslow, a famous psychologist places self-actualization at the top of
his hierarchy of needs while explaining human motivation. He also notes that the
basic needs of humans such as food, shelter, clothing, security and a sense of
belongingness must be met before a person can achieve self-actualization. This
essay attempts to present a premise that Masonic knowledge and practices are
truly conducive to self-actualization.
Immediately after his initiation, the candidate is informed of the important
duties he owes to God, to his neighbor and to himself. To himself, he is
enjoined to “lead his life according to a prudent and well-regulated course
of discipline as may best conduce to the preservation of his corporeal and
mental faculties in their fullest energy, thereby enabling him to exert those
talents wherewith God has blessed him.” This implies that Freemasonry wants
each brother to seek out his true purpose in life and actualize himself in it.
In the Charge after Initiation the Candidate is further recommended to study
the liberal arts and sciences as may lie within the compass of his attainment.
All this is preparation or foundation for the candidate’s further exploration
into the hidden mysteries of nature and science which he will be freely
permitted to do on his being Passed to the Second Degree. Thus we can clearly
understand that Freemasonry is a structured path to self-actualization.
We the Free and Accepted or Speculative Masons have been constantly researching
this important subject of self-actualization in our assemblies and
congregations. We do this not merely by discussion and deliberation, but by a
participation in an experiential learning process that enables a personal
discovery of the meaning of life and its ultimate goal. In fact, it is this
feature of the institution that distinguishes Freemasonry from every other
organization or body of individuals. Freemasonry presents self-actualization
through allegory and symbolic representation. The candidate as well as the other
brethren are presented with these symbols and representations of the high ideals
of mankind and are left to draw their own conclusions. We invoke the assistance
of the Supreme to shed the ray of wisdom to enlighten us in the paths of virtue
A speculative Mason would discern that in all secrets of Masonry, nothing is
hidden from the contemplative mind. Our secrets are not hidden because they are
secrets; they are secrets because they are hidden. Our secrets are
incomprehensible to the uninitiated and popular world because they are hidden in
Self-actualization in Masonic Teachings is not an exposition but an exploration.
It is a search within for that which is constant and unchanging in all. This
exploration begins with initiation and never ends!
The Spiritual Paths of Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth
To those on the path of self-actualization, the true seekers of the mysteries
and secrets, three paths are suggested in the ancient Indian schools of
philosophy. They are the paths of Devotion, Duty and Knowledge. These are also
referred to respectively as Bhakthi, Karma and Jnana. A
clear parallel can be seen between these three paths and the Three Grand
Principles on which our Order is founded.
The Path of Devotion is to surrender to the will of God and ceaselessly offer
prayer and worship to Him. This transcendental love or Divine Love is
personified by great spiritual masters like Mira Bai and Kabir Das. The path of
Love is not unknown to Freemasons. In fact Brotherly Love is the first of the
three Grand principles! To worship rightly is to love each other; each smile a
hymn; each kindly deed a prayer; each loving life a psalm of gratitude. Thus by
practicing Brotherly Love not only towards our brethren in Freemasonry
but towards every sentient being in the universe we may discover our true
identity with the eternal.
The Path of Duty advocates selfless service. This leads to a continuous
performance of actions without any attachment to the results thereof. Masonic
charity is truly selfless. Freemasons seek no recognition for the help they
render. Thus we truly practice nishkamya karma or service without
recognition or reward. Our only goal is the upliftment of the poor and
distressed. Thus by practicing Relief we may discover our true self as
the unblemished and pure soul.
The Path of Knowledge (arguably the toughest of the three) takes the seeker to
the third Grand Principle of Truth. Freemasonry does not take the Mason
directly to the Path of Knowledge or Truth! Please note, my Brethren, that this
is the Third Grand Principle and not the First!
The initiate is carefully taken through the Paths of Love and Relief. The Mason
is first taught to Love the whole world and a sense of cheerfulness and positive
energy is inculcated in him. He realizes that to the man who feels life is a
tragedy whilst to the man who thinks, life is a comedy. Thereafter he is taught
the benefits of giving without expectation of praise or reward. Through ‘Karma
yoga’ i.e. action when it is selfless and without anxiety for the fruits,
the practitioner exhausts his desires and attachment to worldly pleasures.
A Mason does not conquer desires by renunciation but by experience! Yayathi a
great emperor who had already lived a thousand years desired to live another
thousand years! So he borrowed the youth of his son Puru and went on to enjoy
life. Finally he returns his youth back to Puru and states “vayam eva jeerna;
thrishna na jeerna” (It is we who become aged; our desires are eternally
young!) Thus realizing the futility of continuously satisfying the fire of the
desires, he decided to retire to the forest to contemplate the Truth and realize
his true self.
Similarly King Dasaratha and Janaka were yogis who pursued the path of
self-actualization whilst continuing to rule their kingdoms! This is The Way of
Freemasonry. Freemasons extract every bit of experience from life in their
search for eternal truth. The popular and uninstructed world does not understand
this and jumps into conclusions merely by our accoutrements and the pomp and
glory of our assemblies which are but the external manifestations and symbols of
the inner search in the secret world of the soul.
Freemasonry enables the brother to gradually experience the three stages of the
process of self-actualization which are:
activity (This is not wrong…simply futile.)
dedicated activity (This is Masonic Charity at its height)
When the mind is swept clean of desire-waves, it must necessarily become more
and more quiet and peaceful. When once the intellect is purified—rendered immune
to desire-disturbances—the mind cannot have any disturbances. The sentimental
and emotional life of one who has controlled the floodgates of desires
automatically becomes tame and equanimous. “The heart thus purified from
every baneful and malignant passion is now fitted only for the reception of
truth (!) and wisdom…”
Some Masons seem to be becoming uncomfortable with our heritage. Perhaps this is
because we have encountered so many religious extremists who obviously confuse
self-actualization with religion and try to insist that Masonry is a cult. Or
perhaps this uncertainty is caused by the cynicism and materialism of our age as
these forces have begun to affect the Fraternity. Also, perhaps some brethren
feel that self-actualization is hard to discuss or that man’s spiritual nature
is somehow less than manly to contemplate. Whatever the reason, many Freemasons
seem uncomfortable when confronted with the spiritual aspects of the Craft.
But self-actualization and spiritual growth are essential parts of our Masonic
heritage and of our purpose as a Fraternity. To deny them would be like a doctor
asserting that his task is only to cure disease and denying the value of
Freemasonry should not become a mere fraternal organization that has lost a real
understanding of our founding. The symbolism that continues to exist in masonry
tells a much deeper tale than a majority of our modern brethren apparently
recognize. To avoid the discussion of self-actualization on the grounds that it
may lead to a discussion on religion neutralizes the power of our symbolism as
all of it is deeply religious, spiritual, and philosophical.
Freemasonry makes a promise to every brother. A promise that, assisted by the
secrets of Masonry (the real secrets of symbolic meaning and not the passwords
and signs that are merely meant to keep away intruders and cowans), he could set
out on a path of understanding, or science of self-actualization and attain the
divine. Not some abstract objectified divinity but the True and Living God
already residing within the heart. Thus connected to the centre, a point from
which he cannot err, bounded by the equidistant parts of the circle a True
Freemason stands at the pinnacle of evolution as homo spiritualis or the
Spiritual Man who has found himself at last.