VWBro. Amancio S. Donato
Past Grand Orator

In becoming Masons, we are supposed to have acquired a new way of looking at the world and human life and in the process to have become better men. So many times we are asked whether the Fraternity has enabled us to have a deeper understanding of life and its concomitant problems and therefore changed or modified our outlook of the world (weltanschauung) and human existence, which should have become broader and wider. If indeed it has changed our attitudes towards our own lives and eventually made us weave a sound philosophy of hfe, then Freemasonry has found its mark in us. If so, then we are on the right path to a deeper understanding of human life and the role we play in the universe.

Freemasonry, according to our late Brother Johan Wolfgang Goethe, a German Mason and thinker in whose honor the German Embassy in the Philippines has named its cultural center, is a great, earnest and grand business. Life, he further said, is a matter of making choices; it is brief yet endless, fleeting in terms of our little lives but endless in its human significance. Making choices refers to the decision an initiate in Masonry may take from darkness to light, from the unreal to the real, and from death to life immortal.  Freemasonry is about the importance and significance of human existence and its glorious destiny for its dedicated initiates and for mankind as a whole, which has to make those choices, too.

The royal philosophy of life is best understood in terms of the entrusted and communicated messages imbedded in the rites, illustrations, dramas, symbols and lectures in various degrees veiled in allegories and giyphs. The ideas conveyed are so eloquent and vivid, yet often missed and taken lightly. Philosophy of life is nothing more than the sincere attempt to answer the insistent and persistent questionings of the human mind as regards the origin, nature, growth, development, and ultimate destiny of human existence and the relation of man with the universe and T.G.A.O.T.U. The lessons given in the Craft to evolve a sound philosopfly of life are so similar to the views of the God-intoxicated philosopher Benedict Spinoza, who looked at life sub specie aeternitatis (from the point of eternity). For how else can we look at our lives as Masons except to have always "eternity in view"?

Our Masonic tenets proclaim and eloquently convey the universal message that man is, in fact, a Pilgrim of eternity. The Masonic philosophy of life enables the Searcher to view life, nor in its temporal and finite aspects, but rather, in its total magnitude and infinite possibilities. Here we at once become lovers of wisdom ... in the pursuit of truth and enrolled in a great University in this planet, known in its modem clothing as Freemasonry. The encapsulated and calibrated lessons taught in that University are so profound and deep, ever calling its initiates and all aspirants to acquire higher moral and spiritual attainments the better to enable them to finally reach the goal of true wisdom, happiness and life eternal.

This discourse may well be considered an evocative attempt for all brethen to get the cue that, indeed, our Noble Order is also the beacon light for the Pilgrims to find their proper path in life in the midst of devastating materialism, conflicting ideologies and religious differences in the world.

In brief, our Craft offers a complete learners' kit in terms of social, moral and spiritual reconstruction vis-a-vis the conflicting, limited, and superficial views, which mislead men to adopt misaligned and broken, tragic and morbid, hedonistic and materialistic, and therefore destructive perceptions of the world and mankind as a whole.

Let us now examine closely how our own Masonic royal philosophy of life differs from certain views of life.

The Degree works both in our Blue Lodges and in the Scottish Rites or Higher Bodies tru]y present the wide sweep of our search for Masonic Light. It is on this basis that we are compelled by sheer conviction to assure that, indeed, "Masonry is a rational system of deep religious philosophy which provides us with a doctrine of the universe and of our own place in it. It indicates whence we came and whither we may return." Indeed, we are convinced beyond doubt that we are true "children of life" and heirs to an immortal life. We cannot subscribe therefore to the ideas propounded by the eminent British philosopher Bertrand Russell. In one famous essay, Russell said:

"Man is the product of causes which had no prevision of the end they were achieving. His origin, his growth, his hopes and fears, his loves and his beliefs are but the outcome of accidental collocations of atoms. No fire, no heroism, no intensity of thought and feeling can preserve an individual beyond the grave; the labours of all the noonday brightness of human genius are destined to extinction in the vast death of the solar system; and the whole temple of man's achievement must inevitably be buried beneath the debris of a universe in ruins."

The eloquence of Russell's essay referred to above was the outcome of his scientific logical materialism, which has, indeed, generated much harm upon a large segment of mankind in search for a lasting philosophy to live by. As a matter of fact, Russell labeled that statement as one of the ideas that have harmed mankind. In that essay, he denies the concept of or belief in the immortality of anything possessed by man, including his soul and spirit, and the purpose of the universe and human existence. This is a dreary, pessimistic view of life, founded only upon the material and the biological compositions of the bodies of men and the world around us. The damning influence of this view has, indeed wrought havoc upon mankind groping, as it does, for a more valid and rational cause of existence and hopes for a better life. These false ideas held by some scientists and materialistic philosophers have gained innumerable adherents throughout the years simply because of their forceful sophistry and seeming logical validity.

Yet, the Master Mason or MRS or even the Knight of the Sun or Prince Adept knows better than to accept such sweeping conclusion that man has no more glorious tomorrows or future beyond the grave. He knows that to subscribe to the idea that man has no existence beyond the gateway of death is to throw all those lasting faiths, hopes and justice in the world.

On this ground we may well quote here what Dr. Carl G. Jung, a foremost psychologist of the contemporary world, replied when asked why so many people prefer to die than struggle for life. In his letter dated November 12, 1959 to Ms. Ruth Topping, a New York social worker in a hospital, he wrote:

when you study the mental history of the world, you see that people since time immemorial had a general teaching or doctrine about the wholeness of the world.

Originally, and down to our days, it was considered in highly differentiated civilizations. The teaching had always a "philosophical" and "ethical" aspect.

In our civilization this spiritual background has gone astray. Our Christian doctrine has lost its grip to an appalling extent chiefly because people don't understand it anymore.

Thus one of the most important activities of our mind has lost its object. All these views deal with the world as a whole; they create also wholeness of the individuai so much so that, for instance, a primitive tribe loses Its vitality when it is deprived of its specific religious outlook.

People are no more rooted in their world and lose their orientation. They just drift. That is very much our condition, too.

The need for meaning in their lives remains unanswered, because the rational, biological goals are unable to express the irrational wholeness of human life. Thus life loses its meaning.

Using inspiring language, Ill. Brother Manly Palmer Hall of California has the following to say on his matter:

" To live means to dream, to hope, and to aspire. When dreaming ceases, when hoping fails, and when aspiration can no longer dominate daily purpose, there is no use in living longer. A man dies when his ideals die. The disillusioned man is a walking corpse, for when the finer emotions and sentiments no longer find expression, a soulless creature wanders blindly on earth. Life is not merely eating and sleeping and working. It is the perfecting of the hidden virtues of the inner life. When this work of perfection ceases for some outward cause or inner weakness, life ceases, and only drudgery, monotony, and hopelessness continue. "

Ill. Bro. Manly Palmer Hall continues in another Masonic and philosophical lecture:

" The sham of civilizanon is apparent when we realize that it forces the majority of people to assume false lives, to live in conflict with their inner conviction. The idealist must hold his peace or be persecuted; the mystic does not share his vision with the world which, though aware that he is right, will crucify him if not in body at least in soul. Hence, those with little knowledge bubble continuously and their words become the laws of men, while those of nobler vision must remain unknown, unhonored and unsung. Never can we rise to the true heights seen by the eyes of the idealist while we are in servitude to the inferior part of ourselves. "

It is when we can free ourselves from all the deeply rooted conditionings of ideas that have greatly harmed us, and truly adopt a more purposive life, that liberation or freedom can be attained. This is where modern Freemasonry offers itself as the best alternative to a more rational and purposive existencel. It is this first and last freedom, which Chrisnamurti expounded, that can then deliberately remove the shackles and heavy barriers of our minds. We can only become free from an imprisoning predicament of dividing the inner from the outer life when we discover the fount of divinity or reality within ourselves. In this sense, we may no longer have a need to create a God outside ourselves because we find it welling from within. As aptly stated in the Isis Unveiled:

"A man can have no God that is not bounded by his own human conceptions. The wider the sweep of his spiritual vision, the mightier will be his deity. But where can we find a better demonstration of him than in man himself, in the spiritual and divine powers lying dormant in every human being?

Call the phenomenon force, energy, electricity or magnetism, or spirit-power, it will ever be the same partial manifestation of ... that intelligent, omnipotent and individual Will, pervading all nature and known, through the insuffidency of human language to express correctly psychological images, as - GOD. "

H.P. Blavatsky, similarly, has wisely written in her great work The Secret Doctrine:

"True knowledge is of the spirit and spirit alone and cannot be acquired in any other except through the region of the higher mind, the only plane where we can penetrate the depths of the all-pervading absoluteness. He who carries out only those laws established by human minds, who lives that life which is possessed by the code of mortals and their fallible legislation, chooses as his guiding star a beacon which shines in the ocean of Maya or Illusion or of temporary delusions and last for just one incarnation (or one life only). These laws are necessary for the life and welfare of the physical man or one life alone. He has chosen a pilot who directs him through the shoals of one existence, a master who parts with him, however, on the threshold of death. How much happier therefore is the man who, while strictly performing on the temporary objective plane the duties of daily life, carrying out each and every law of his country, and rendering, in short, to Caesar what is Caesar's, leads in reality a spiritual and permanent existence - a life with no breaks of continuity, no gaps, no interludes, not even during those periods which are the halting places of the long pilgrimage of purely spiritual life."

At this point, Freemasonry, paricularly Scottish Rite Freemasonry, has much to offer to the weary pilgrim by presenting, through his higher consciousness, the ancient wisdom and teachings of the great religions and of the various ancient Mystery schools in this planet for his own helping. These Masonic Lights are imbedded in glyphs, dramas, allegories, paradigms, symbols; it is for us to extract from them the perennial philosophy of life so essential in the attainment of truth and more Light in our otherwise dark, wearisome, dreary, as well as lonely existence. It is that point in time when we have deciphered the meanings of those degree works, rituals and veiled messages that we start to unravel the deep mystery of life and the universe. It is then that we can ponder our destiny among the stars that sweep the constellation and appreciate rationally the myriads upon myriads of life all around us.

As rightly said by the Ill. Bro. Albert Pike in his great work Morals and Dogma:

"Freemasonry is a continual effort to exalt the nobler nature over the ignoble, the spiritual over the material, the divine in man over the human. In this great effort and purpose the Chivalric degrees in our Scottish Rites concur and cooperate with those that teach the magnificent lessons of morality and philosophy. Magnanimity, mercy, clemency, a forgiving temperate virtues indispensable to the character of a perfect Knight."


Reprinted from "The Cable Tow", Vol 73. No. 3