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Article # 289
Enlightenment through our Rituals

Author: R.W.Bro.R.K.Ramanathan P.J.G.W.    Posted on: Thursday, September 24, 2015
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[All of us have been instructed that our peculiar system of morality, veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols, helps us to become better men and that the true adherents evolve morally and spiritually. We had beseeched  the Most High to impart His grace to us to enable us, to pass safely under His protection through the valley of the shadow of death and finally rise from the tomb of transgression, to shine as the stars for ever and ever. Our rituals, when properly comprehended and implicitly followed will bring about enlightenment. The learned author has stressed the importance of all of us striving us to evolve as Living Stones. Please read on .  . . ]

Enlightenment  through  our  Rituals

M.W.Grand Master, R.W.Brethren,V.W.Brethren, W.Brethren and Brethren all,

I thank  the Organisers,  for granting an opportunity  to me to present this  paper, before a very learned audience.


Operative Masonry, in all countries, had constructed  the greatest and  most enduring and comprehensive  structures  and  edifices, making  us  feel  proud of  our  Ancient Craftmen  brethren, besides earning  the  great  admiration  and astonishment  of  mankind. Later, on the evolution of Speculative Masonry, Masonic Teachings were developed  imparting  vast  and  deep  Spiritual  knowledge and molding  them into a peculiar system of morality, veiled in allegory and  illustrated  by  symbols. Rituals with Esoterical  inner  meaning were developed, employing the tools of Craftsmen as symbols. That aspect is made clear by the portion of the ritual, that, "But as we are not all operative Masons, but rather Free and Accepted or speculative, we apply these tools to our morals." With certain variations, these words occur in each of the Craft Degrees, and a few other Degrees. That which is applied more specially to the working implements of Masonry, belongs to our entire building symbolism, whether it is concerned with the erection by the Candidate in his own personality of an edifice or "superstructure perfect in its parts and honorable to the builder,"  Above  all  Masonic teachings  instill the principle, that divinity resides in every human being and that it should be our endeavour to construct  a temple within us, worthy for the divinity to continue in it, as its temple.  Bro. John  Foster Newton,  writing on the Spirit of Freemasonry, has observed that,

    “Here lies the great secret of Masonry—that it makes a man aware of

      that  divinity within him, wherefrom his whole life takes it beauty

      and meaning  and inspires him to follow and obey it. Once a man

      learns this deep secret, life is new and the old world is a valley all

      dewy to the dawn with a lark song over it”.  

This learned audience has been instructed that all religions teach this great truth of the divinity within the humans. Our rituals which are more concealing, than revealing, makes it clear that, individual effort is needed to understand and comprehend the inner and deeper meaning of the rituals. In the early years of Freemasonry, the moral and philosophical aspects were discussed as part of instructions. We find in  Colin Dyer’s “ Emulation – A Ritual to Remember.”,  that, “ in the late 18 th  and early 19 th  Centuries, Lodges of Instruction did not teach degree ceremonies as, so much more engaged were they, in philosophical and moral  debate. My discovery of this fact resonated with my own feelings on the matter and was one of the stages in a journey, I had undertaken and still continue to make today, a journey whose name may be expressed as follows; Are we as Freemasons so bound up in the form  of our craft as to have lost sight of the content behind the form?”


David Sims after his experiences of life in the  East has enquired whether we are seriously making the ‘search for the genuine secrets’ of a Master Mason and as to what was standing in the way. Trevor Stewart has pointed out that even though our Ritual is important, it is not enough to merely rehearse it . He took us back to the 18th century and described the typical activities in Lodges at that time. There can not be any contrary opinion that the  process of spiritual and intellectual advancement, has to be an ever continuing process and that all Freemasons must endeavour to achieve such advancement. It is heartening, that a few brethren are devoting their valuable time to acquire such knowledge and sharing the same with us all for the greater benefit of our fraternity.


Freemasonry is a progressive science. The " principles of Moral Truth " were taught, besides our threefold duties. Scriptures instruct that morality is the base and foundation for spiritual advancement and  therefore is the first step to be taken for enlightenment. Accordingly, the first degree prepares the candidate to lead a life as per the principles of Moral Truth and enlightens him on complete morality. Initiation is likened to rebirth. That which is formulated as mystic birth is comparable to a dawn of spiritual consciousness. The second degree instructs us on the intellectual faculty and employ heavenly science to reach the Throne of God. The emphasis is on the imperative necessity to employ the intellectual and science to reach the Almighty. The third degree guides us to seek the “Light, which is from Above”, to enable us to pierce the mysteries veil, which can not be penetrated by human eyes or by mere reasoning. Our rituals thus take us step by step towards  spiritual  evolution and realization of divinity.


Most of the brethren think and act as if Masonic teaching has concluded on our being raised to the sublime degree of a Master Mason. The true import of the Third Degree will be lost, if we think of it as a " once and for all " event akin to initiation. The actual position  is  it represents a mystical process, which must be continuously pursued, if the Master Mason is to achieve or sustain his mastery. Masons are reminded that the path is one of achieving perfection, realizing that the genuine secrets have been lost and that they have been provided only with some substitutes and that the quest and the endeavour have to continue. However, as pointed out by Bro. Manly Palmer Hall, masonry does not expound the truths concealed in her emblems. It displays the symbol and may give a hint here and there concerning some characteristic of its several meanings, but it must remain for the candidate to search out for himself its more hidden significations.


Masonry does not leave us clueless, but teaches us that we can hope to find the lost secrets with the centre, which is a point, within a circle from which every part of its circumference is equidistant and from which no master mason can err. That centre is stationery and has positioned itself as a vital and immortal principle inside our perishable frames. We have to therefore develop an inner vision and look within, which will definitely lead us to the culmination of that most interesting of all human studies, knowledge of ourselves. We shall then have achieved an awakening of the inner self and the duality will cease and becomes one with the divinity. Till then the Mystic quest has to continue.


Bro.A.E.Waite has elaborated on the mystic quest by observing that,”Mystic life is a quest of divine knowledge in a world that is within. It is the life led in this light, progressing and developing therein, as if a Brother should read the Mysteries of Nature and Science with new eyes cast upon the record, which record is everywhere, but more especially in his own mind and heart. It is the complete surrender to the working of the divine, so that an hour comes when proprium meum et tuum dies in the mystical sense, because it is hidden in God. In this state, by the testimony of many literatures, there supervenes an experience which is described in a thousand ways yet remains ineffable. It glimmers forth at every turn and corner of the remote roads and pathways of Eastern philosophies. It is in the little books of unknown authorship, treasured in monasteries and most of which have not entered into knowledge, except within recent times.”


Acquisition  of  such understanding or wisdom is Enlightenment. Immanuel Kant defines enlightenment as emergence from immaturity. Total lack of knowledge of  self  can only be immaturity. It is this lack of knowledge, which is described as darkness.


Ours is the institution which aims and in fact removes and assists in removing symbolically the knobs and excrescences from its votaries, when they are rough ashlars. It is not sufficient that we become Perfect Ashlars. In fact, every one of us is expected to make all those , who are rough ashlars, Perfect. An old Lecture mentions that, when someone becomes a Perfect Ashlar, he will be placed at the proper place by the G.A.O.T.U., in the temple not made with hands eternal in heaven. In lodges under some of the sister constitutions, the Perfect Ashlar is kept suspended at the S.Ws Pedestal, symbolically to show that it is awaiting the pleasure of the Most High for its ultimate placement after which it becomes a living stone. The duty and aspiration of every freemason should be to become such a living stone. I came across a meaningful  poem written long ago, on this aspect and I am sharing it with you all.

                              by -Lawrence N. Green


The temple made of wood and stone may crumble and decay
But there’s a viewless Fabric, which shall never fade away;
Age after age, the Masons strive to consummate the Plane
But still, the work’s unfinished, which th’ immortal Three began;
None, but immortal eyes may now, complete in all its parts
The Temple formed of Living Stones, the structure, made of hearts.
‘Neath every form of government, in every age and clime:
Amid the world’s convulsions and the ghastly wrecks of time,
While empires rise in splendor, and are conquered and overthrown,
And cities crumble into dust, their very sites unknown,
Beneath the sunny smiles of peace, the threatening frown of strife,
Freemasonry has stood unmoved, with age renewed her life.
She claims her votaries in all climes, for none are under ban,
Who place implicit trust in God, and love their fellow man;
The heart, that shares another’s woe, beats just as warm and true,
Within the breast of Christian, Mohammedan or Jew
She levels all distinctions from the highest to the least,
The King must yield obedience to the Peasant in the East.
What honored names on history’s page, o’er whose brave deeds we pore,
Have knelt before our sacred shrine and trod our checkered floor !
Kings, princes, statesmen, heroes, bards, who square their actions true,
Between the Pillars of the Porch, now pass in long review
0, Brothers, what a glorious thought for us to dwell upon,
The mystic tie, that binds our hearts, bound that of Washington!
Although our past achievements, we with honest pride review
As long as there’s Rough Ashlars, there is work for us to do
We still must shape the Living Stones with instruments of love
For that eternal Mansion in the Paradise above;
Toil, as we’ve toiled in ages past, to carry out the plan,
‘Tis this;-the Fatherhood of God, the brotherhood of Man !

How nice and wonderful, it would be, if the entire Fraternity and the people around us are transformed as Living Stones. Let us invoke the blessings of the Most High to enable us all to evolve as Living Stones and await HIS pleasure of placement in the Heavenly Temple, not built with hands, eternal in Heaven.

Thank you brethren for your rapt attention.




[The Author, was initiated in Lodge Golden Pagoda (No.195) 25 years ago. He joined Sri Brahadeeswara Lodge (No.150) in 1991 and was installed in the Eastern Chair of that Lodge in 1995. He is a very good ritualist, besides being an erudite Masonic Scholar. He presented his first paper in the Masonic Seminar in Vijayawada in 1996 and continues to share his Masonic knowledge by his presentations, since then. He is a Founder Member of Lodge Navi Mumbai. This paper was presented in the Masonic Retreat at Matheran.]

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