Review of Freemasonry

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by W.Bro.Dr.K.Jyothindra Kumar
Past Master of Lodge Ananthapadmanabha.(No.280), Grand Lodge of India.
He is a member of Craft Lodges L.Aruvi No.293 and Kerala Master Lodge No.309 (GLI), Holy Royal Arch Chapter, Mark, RAM Conclave, Rose Croix, Allied Masonic Degrees, Cryptic Council-RSM and a member of Acacia Research Lodge, Chennai.

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In Freemasonry, Light is a powerful symbol. In fact, it is the most illumosinary symbol, in our  ritual that is presented so dramatically, persuasively and memorably, to the Initiate, in an angelic flash, when his hood wink is removed. This allusion contains within itself the very essence of Speculative Freemasonry. Masonic initiation symbolically takes the new initiate from darkness to light and symbols constitute the language of Freemasonry. For us Masons, therefore, it is very necessary to learn and master that language, by which means alone we shall be able to "make a daily advancement in Masonic knowledge" and to ascend that tyled winding staircase which leads from "darkness to light".


Goethe was one of the myriad-minded men of our race, and a devout member of our gentle Craft. When he lay dying, as the soft shadow began to fall over his mind, he said to a friend watching over his bed: "open the window and let in more light!"  This last request of a great poet-mason is the first quest of every Mason.  The Worshipful Master after acceding to that predominant wish of the new initiate's heart, namely  - "Light" , further points out to his attention, what we as Freemasons consider the "three great though emblematical lights in Freemasonry", namely the V.S.L., the Square and the Compasses. In fact, the light that emanates from these emblems, convey such a profound meaning, that a Freemason who has understood them properly,  would have also understood the whole philosophy of Freemasonry. It is for this singular reason that they are called the three great lights in Freemasonry. The W.M further dilates on these emblems of light: "the sacred writings are to govern our faith, the Square to regulate our actions and the Compasses to keep us in due bounds with all mankind, particularly our Brethren in Freemasonry". This delightfully brief statement, parallels Shakespearean eloquence - nay surpasses it in its depth and import; and is only equaled in brevity by the truly Indian adage: "Manasa Vacha Karmana" which is also encompassed in the former!!


Wisdom and thereby Knowledge is one of the grand pillars of Freemasonry, was compared to light and ignorance to darkness by the ancients. Etymologically, Vid is the root of the word Vidya. Vid means light, Ya means what.  So, the meaning of the term 'Vidya' is that which gives light. From this term, it is evident that Brahma Vidya (knowledge of the Self) alone deserves to be known as Vidya, as it illumines our minds. Just as light and darkness cannot co-exist in the same place at the same time, Vidya and Avidya (ignorance) cannot be together. As Martin Luther King, Jr said "Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that". So, when a man becomes a mason, the Masonic light that illumines him as he sets out on his spiritual journey, is to purify his consciousness and illumine him with Brahma Vidya. That desire for light, which is of his "own free will and accord" and was the "predominant wish of his heart", for which he was ready and at that moment,  is not merely for that material light, which is to remove the physical darkness, - which is only the exoteric form which conceals the inward symbolism; he craves for that intellectual illumination which will dispel the darkness of spiritual and moral ignorance and inducts in him a spark of that spiritual light or wisdom, which in essence is the grand design of Freemasonry.


To the Freemason, the V.S.L. is a record of the Will of God as revealed to him in his Religion of birth or faith. It may symbolically be called the Tracing Board of the G.A.O.T.U. Therein; He has laid down His designs, His plans and specifications for our guidance. Men and Masons in particular are expected to study them, abide by them and to regulate all our actions by the Divine precepts contained therein.  Masons should take cognizance and ruminate over the fact that although the V.S.L. is always kept open while we are in labour in the temple. As an emblematic light, the VSL shines preeminently in the grand design of Freemasonry and should likewise shine in the lives of Freemasons;  it behooves us that the VSL should ever be open in our lives - "Manasa, Vacha, Karmana " -  in thought, word and action.


Our forefathers have taught us in their writings and by word of mouth, that man is dual or has two elements, - the human and divine and these are represented or symbolised in Freemasonry by the Square and the Compasses. The square "is an instrument which brings rude matter into due form" and is a symbol of that moral law which every individual must observe in order to be "a fit member of a regularly organised society". The axiom that one who builds a house must observe the laws and principles of engineering, lest the structure should fall has been long with us. Analogously, an individual or a mason who does not observe the moral laws in the building up of his character sooner or later will face a collapse of the "inner temple building" and is likely to be materially or spiritually reduced to "the lowest ebb of poverty and distress". Thus, the square symbolises moral character; and in the grand design of Speculative Masonry it is considered emblematically a great light alike the beacon from a light house to a ship in its directions and moorings.


The Compasses, on the other hand, figuratively or symbolically comprehend the higher spiritual principles stated in our ritual, and is a symbol of the higher or spiritual nature of man and thus, is symbolic of the Soul or Consciousness itself - the divine element. The Compasses have a further wider significance. As the first degree tracing board teaches us: "the lodge is here represented as of rectangular form", meaning the daily world and the four walls within which we live our daily lives, and the "figurative covering of a Freemasons Lodge is the celestial canopy of the Heavens "which to the human eye appears as a vast circle. That instrument in geometry by which we draw the circle is undoubtedly is the compasses. Therefore, masonically speaking, one point of the compasses is on this our human world, and the other on the heavens to which the GATOU will summon us in due course and "to those immortal mansions which we hope to ascend". Symbolically, it   means that in all our labour, love, and aspirations our aim should be towards heaven, that is, towards a Life Divine. Thus emblematically this great light in Masonry - the Compasses is the symbolic working tool that will enable a mason to ascend the Jacobs Ladder in his heaven ward spiritual path.


At the center of the Lodge, upon the Altar of Obligation, the Great Lights shine forth upon us, uniting the light of nature and the whiter light of revelation. Without them no Lodge can be opened in Due Form, and no business can be validly transacted therein. As the moon reflects the light of the sun, as the stars are seen only when the sun is hidden, so the Lesser Lights follow dimly when the Greater Lights shine. In the opening of Freemasons Lodges these three great and emblematical lights, which shed light and luster are placed in a unique manner. On the pedestal most prominently rests the open   V.S.L, and there-upon the Square rests, and the Compasses, come to rest upon the Square, point by point. The two symbols, therefore, in combination, typify the being and life in their entirety, - the Divine element is united with its vehicle - the human body. They are never separated though they change their positions and importance relative to each other as typified by the points disclosed in each of our craft degrees. Just as a perfect square can be readily drawn within a circle, so the earthly element of a man's life man has to be built within the circle of the Divine. Both the Square and Compasses are supported by the V.S.L.;  it symbolizes  that man is not only dependent on the Will and Pleasure of the G.A.O.T.U. as the basis of all his life and existence, - in fact he does and cannot exist as a separate entity. These  symbols of the emblematical lights are continually kept before our eyes to remind us of the three most important aspects of our being, namely - the existence and nature of the Divine Laws and Plans that  govern all created beings; the material and transitory nature our being and  the higher and  spiritual nature of our being.


These great lights of our ritual provide the Divine rules for life on our way to God. The essence of these Masonic lights can be briefly summarized as follows: solve any and all situations in this human life with the almighty power of Divine Love ; call for Divine assistance from God whenever you need help; serve God by serving his lost and needy children in his creation ; share what you have with all those who have little or nothing especially your brethren in distress ;make other people happy everywhere and you'll be happy anywhere; help others to find their way home to God, because we all are one single Divine Family in God . Learn all the spiritual lessons that life offers, now and when time is with us and be ready any day to follow God's invitation to join him - when time shall be with us no more; limit your belongings and baggage to only what you must carry and what you need for your work in serving God. Just as Hiram Abif's mortal remains were ultimately raised to a sepulcher, God's almighty Divine Love will uplift you, until you are one with Him, if only you are focused on God's Divine Love. Love is the truth of your Divine Being, because Love is the truth of God.


If one were asked to state the summum bonum of Masonry in a word, the only word equal to the task is - light! From its first lesson to its last lecture, in every degree and every symbol, the mission of Masonry is to bring the light of God into the life of man. It has no other aim, knowing that when the light shines forth the truth will be revealed. A Lodge of Masons is a House of Light. Symbolically it has no roof but the sky, open to all the light of nature and of Grace. All the work of the Lodge is done under the All seeing-eye and in the name of God, obeying Him who made the great lights, whose mercy endureth forever. To the door of the Lodge comes the seeker after Light, hoodwinked and groping his way - asking to be led out from the shadows into realities; out of darkness into light. All initiation is "Bringing Men to light," teaching them to see the moral order of the world in which they must learn their duty and find their true destiny. It is the most impressive drama on earth, a symbol of the Divine education of man. The gentle craft through all its degrees, its slowly unfolding symbols, the ministry of Masonry is to make men "Sons of Light" - men of insight - a rare vision as it where who know their way and can be of help to others who stumble in the dark. When that light shines the path is plain, and the highest service to humanity is to lead men out of the confused life of the five senses into the light of moral law and spiritual faith. To that end, Masonry opens upon its Altar the great Books of Light, its pages glow with "A Light That Never Was on Sea or Land," shining through the triumphs and tragedies of man and the tumults of time, showing us a path that shineth evermore unto the perfect day. From its first page to the last, the VSL teach us that, at the end, when the City of God is built it will have no need of the sun or the moon or the stars; for God is the Light of it.


Also, there is a hidden mystery in light that great luminary of Nature into which a Freemason is called upon to extend his researches in the second degree, as also into Science.  Modern science, measures time and distance with light, - in light years to give him a physical measure of the cosmos, and teaches us that light alike man is sui generis, dual in its nature - a form of matter in motion either as particles or waves whose speed is one of the fastest known to man; it is not spirit, though is seems closely akin to it - science speculates matter beyond the speed of light as Tachyons. Whilst modern scientists fervently search to discover that "God particle", in matter, midway between the material and the spiritual, it is perhaps the gateway where matter and spirit pass and repass until they become one with eternity. Aldus Huxley derisively said: "Science has explained nothing; the more we know the more fantastic the world becomes and the profounder the surrounding darkness". Francis Bacon said "In order for the light to shine so brightly, the darkness must be present"! And Nikos Kazantzakis rightly said: "The real meaning of enlightenment is to gaze with undimmed eyes on all darkness". Light, is but the hand of God, in all the glories, in its gentleness, its benignity, its pity, it falls with impartial benediction alike upon the just and the unjust, upon the splendor of wealth and the squalor of poverty, and it floods its luminescence impartially on the alternating squares of white and black of the chequered Masonic floor, over the joys and sorrows of human life in all its dualities and polar opposites, teaching us to endure them with Temperance, Fortitude, Prudence  and Equanimity for "where the name of God is invoked we trust that no danger can ensue".                                     


Indeed, God is light, and the mission of Masonry is to open the windows of the mind of man, letting the dim spark within us meet and blend with the light of God, the Alpha and Omega, the first and the last, in whom there is no darkness. There is as we learn in the Book of Holy Law "A Light That Lighteth Every Man That Cometh Into The World,"; but too often it is made dim by evil, error and ignorance; until it seems well nigh to have been extinguished; as the Bible says : "Eyes they have, but they do not see." How many countless tragedies of this world it explains, how many sorrows it accounts for. Most of our bigotries and brutalities are due to blindness. Most of the cruel wrongs man inflicts upon each other in war or peace are the blows and blunders of the sightless. William Shakespeare said "There is no darkness but ignorance". Othello was blinded by jealousy, Macbeth by ambition; the third degree ritual tells us: "the light of a Master Mason is but darkness visible". As humans, we are apt to be blinded by ego, passion, prejudice or greed. With merciful clarity Jesus saw that men do awful things without seeing what they do and said: "Father, forgive them for they know not what they do." The charge after passing likewise teaches us to "judge with candour, admonish with friendship and reprehend with and Mercy ". The pages of history are blacker than the hearts of the men that made the history. Man is not as wicked as the wrongs he has done. Unless we see this fact, much of the history of man will read like the records of hell - be it the atrocities and sufferings of the Mahabharatha war, of the Inquisition, or the terrors of the French Revolution. It is all but a hideous nightmare - man stumbling and groping in the dark for want of "Light".


Thus our gentle Craft, by seeking to "Bring Men to Light," not symbolically but morally and spiritually, is the finest and fittest working tool to lift the shadow of evil, ignorance and injustice off the life of man; the recognition of which is a benign labor, to which we may well give the best, if  we are, or hope to be, toiling to spread the rays of light that we and all men may see what is true and do what is right. Freemasonry teaches us that character is the secret and source of insight. Simply stated - "Virtue is vision; vice is blindness". "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God".  Reform the individual, and as the ranks of the reformed swell, ye would have reformed the world!!. What the sad world needs - what each of us needs - is more light, more love, more clarity of mind and more charity of heart; and this in copious measure  is what Free Masonry gives us -  only if we let the light of love enter the dark recesses of our hearts: "Asatoma sad gamaya, tama soma jyotirgamaya, Mrityorma amrithamgamaya" . Once we take it to heart, it will help us to see God in the face of every creation, our fellows, to see right and wrong, to see the effulgent glory of truth and its final victory - to endeavor to see these things is to be a Mason, to see these things is to be saved and liberated to immortality while still alive on this planet earth - verily a Jeevanmuktha!.

O Light that followeth all my way, I yield my flickering torch to thee;

my heart restores its borrowed ray, that in thy sunshine's blaze,

its day may brighter and fairer be.

So mote it be

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