The Newsletter of the Northwest Branch of the Theosophical Society
November 2002 Vol. 5 Issue 9
Freemasonry uses allegorical symbols to teach a philosophy concerning the nature of the Creator, the origins of the universe, and humanity's universal destiny. The religious doctrines in which most people are raised are designed to satisfy the basic needs of the general population. To get a truer understanding of the nature of Deity requires a long-term commitment of study. The Freemasonic initiate is put on the path of this study by being initiated into the fraternity of Masonry, a Westernized religious Mystery school. If the initiate studies the ritual, he will receive, proportionate to his ability to understand, deep mystic revelations regarding the nature of the universe and our mystic journey through it. Freemasonry keeps alive this knowledge from generation to generation until such time as it is understood and accepted by all beings.
Though dealing exclusively with religious themes, Freemasonry is not a religion: no one dogma is professed as being particularly Masonic. Nor is the Masonic Lodge a place of worship; it would be better considered a classroom. Freemasonry "teaches" an occult philosophy to lead the initiate towards the essence of religious thought. All that is required of the initiate is an expressed belief in higher intelligence (God); therefore, no atheist can become a Mason. Religions in and of themselves are made by mankind to explain Deity. Freemasons come in all colors and nationalities and may worship Jehovah, Jesus, Mohammed, or Krishna, to name a few.
Masons themselves cannot agree on exactly when Freemasonry began. Some say it was when the Grand Lodge of England was established in 1717. Others who have studied the fraternity closely put the date nearer to 5,000 BC -- though it was not then necessarily called Freemasonry -- with major modifications around the first century AD.
Freemasonic ritual is secret because men throughout history have persecuted their fellows for having opinions different from accepted doctrine; secrecy protects life, limb, and the message. Most Freemasons, however, do not under-stand the allegorical, mystic significance in the ritual work. For them it is a fraternal club with a secret ritualistic initiation which meets once or twice a month for fellowship and to sponsor charities.
The four prime beliefs of Freemasonry are: the Father-hood of God; the brotherhood of man; relief to others; and the search for truth. First and foremost, Freemasonry is a philosophy based on the position that there is a Supreme Being and that all human beings are of the same family. The duty of a Freemason is to practice brotherly love and friend-ship by transcending the differences in people to find their similarities.
Relief, the third prime belief, means that Freemasons are obligated to help others less fortunate than themselves when it is possible to do so. Charity work, whether of the group or individuals, is most important.
The search for truth, the last fundamental principle, is a Masonic mainstay. In all worldly endeavors Masons are reminded to be truthful to others, to follow the path of truth, and ever to look for the truth in their daily lives. As one's knowledge grows, the search becomes easier. Freemasonry leads toward truth by giving the student "working tools" to find true answers. As one grows in the study of Freemasonry, one also grows in the knowledge of all religions. Within all ancient religions the student will discover gnosis: knowledge or fundamental true principles. Truth is learned. From true knowledge, wisdom is born. To be wise is to be godly, and to be godly is to know ourselves, our universe, and our Creator.
Practicing the four Masonic beliefs outside the lodge instills harmony into everyday life. When enough Masons throughout the world practice the four fundamental beliefs toward their fellowmen, they will be passing along the true code of ethics for the earth. -- Norman Williams Crabbe, MPS
We must distinguish between exoteric religious systems and that entirely esoteric aspiration of the soul which alone is worthy of the name Religion, and which is the inward recognition of a divine element or permanent principle in this impermanent, material world of ours. -- R. M. Willoughby
"Exploring the Theosophic Tradition" is our subject. We will be discussing such questions as: How has the wisdom and knowledge of mankind been expressed in various eras and cultures? Why are there so many different religions and philosophies, and why don't they seem more compatible? What is the relation among religion, philosophy, science, and mysticism? Come and share your ideas!
Open to the public, unsectarian, non-political, no charge.
The topics for the monthly discussion group for the next few months are:
December 12: Is Taking Life Ever Justified?
January 2003: Hierarchies: A Universal Pattern?
February: God, God's Will, and Karma
March: How Can We Find Peace?
Simply defined, theosophia or "god-wisdom" is the knowledge of things divine concerning the cosmos and man as the expression of divinity, attainable through direct spiritual perception or by study and philosophic reflection, or by a combination of mind and intuition. It has existed since immemorial time and offers us a theory of nature and of life which is founded upon knowledge acquired by sages of the past. As the oldest tradition of human wisdom, theosophy has been expressed in different ages by such great and noble souls as Krishna, Buddha, Zarathustra or Zoroaster, and Jesus. Its philosophical import was presented to the West by H. P. Blavatsky, founder of the Theosophical Society in 1875.
It is fitting to stress that theosophy is not a faith or a system of beliefs, for faiths may be changed; but, being knowledge of natural law which each person can make his or her own, it is not dependent on dogma or revelation that must be believed on pain of condemnation.
What are its teachings? Theosophy is best explained by reference to three great principles or fundamental ideas which underlie all life, as well as every religion and every philosophy that ever has been or ever will be. Applied to humanity, they may be briefly named: firstly, the Self as reality in man; secondly, the law of rhythmic or cyclic progression as the process by which man evolves, both in form and in soul; thirdly, evolution as the design or pattern of life in terms of meaning and purpose.
Now, to the first fundamental idea, the Self or source of Being: the great theosophists both ancient and modern have recorded that there is one infinite Principle which is the cause of all that was, is, and ever shall be. Thus this causal Self, the only true deity, can be absent from no point in Space, and we are inseparable from it. Each one is a ray from and one with that absolute Principle. Behind all perceiving and knowing and experiencing is the one, undeniable Self. The power in us to perceive, to know, to experience, apart from anything that is seen, known, or experienced, the power of every being, is the one Self, the one Consciousness shared by all alike. Herein lies the true basis of universal brotherhood among all peoples and nations and the unifying bond of all beings both above and below man.
Now to the second fundamental idea, that is, the universal law of recurring cycles or periodic death and renewal in nature, and her constant tendency to restore equilibrium. Applied to man's moral life this second great principle is observable as karma, or cause and effect, and reincarnation. Karma, the doctrine of responsibility, means that whatever a person sows he shall also reap. We are all reaping what we have sown, individually and collectively. This presents to us the idea of absolute justice, in accordance with which each being receives, morally and physically, exactly what he gives.
The other aspect of the law of cycles, and indissolubly connected with karma, is reincarnation. This means that man as a thinker composed of soul, mind, and spirit, occupies body after body in life after life on earth, where he must under the very laws of his being complete that evolution once it has been begun. A knowledge of reincarnation and karma banishes the fear and sorrow of death: just as sleep is a release from the body during which we have dreams, so death is a complete release, after which we enter a blissful dream world of our own making. Then after hundreds or perhaps thou-sands of years we incarnate in a new body on earth. Our physical body is merely the shell of the real man, made of matter of the earth from the three lower kingdoms -- mineral, vegetable, and animal -- and being constantly worn out and renewed from day to day. Man himself is that invisible entity which inhabits the body and which is the cause of its present construction from lower forms of consciousness.
Summarizing, the doctrines of karma or responsibility, whereby an individual reaps only as he sows in life through thoughts and actions, and of reincarnation or hope, which means that, regardless of what a person is reaping, he may yet use his free will to sow better seed -- together these two doctrines are the very basis of a philosophy for living. Not only do they explain life and nature, but they are an integral part of evolution, for evolution could not go on without reimbodiment or cyclic renewal and the law of karma. Suffering can be a blessing in disguise because through it, it is possible to learn useful lessons in life.