Esotericism

Is Freemasonry a Modern Iteration of Raja Yoga?

“When the soul sees itself as a center surrounded by its circumference—when the Sun knows that it is a Sun, surrounded by its whirling planets—then is it ready for the Wisdom and Power of the Masters.”William Walker Atkinson


ALTHOUGH few are aware of the fact, the traditional practice of Yoga, as hailing from the ancient Hindu tradition, is not meant to be a merely physical endeavor. It is not a series of stretches and breathing exercises meant only for the body, but should encompass all levels of mankind’s being including physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual. Similar to Freemasonry, the Royal Path of Raja Yoga is also built on the principle of Morality, instructs individuals to “know thyself,” and works to unite man with his Creator. Could Freemasonry be a modern version of the ancient Raja Yoga tradition?

THE PATHS AND WHEEL OF YOGA

THE word “Yoga” means “union” and describes as a way “to connect, yoke, or unite,” with our real nature, true Self, or Divine Essence. This inner self is known by the Sanskrit word Ātman: the first principle, the true self of an individual beyond identification with phenomena, the essence of an individual.

Since time immemorial, numerous paths of Yoga have been developed, each particular to a different temperament of humanity. There is a lack of consensus as to the exact number and classification of true paths of Yoga, but all are founded upon the principles of moral rectitude and self-improvement through discipline. Yoga Paths practiced around the modern world include:

  1. Raja Yoga – The Royal Yoga
  2. Jnana Yoga – The Yoga of Knowledge
  3. Bhakti Yoga – The Yoga of Devotion
  4. Karma Yoga – The Yoga of Action
  5. Kriya Yoga – The Yoga of Technique [combination of Hatha, Tantra, and Mantra Yoga]

In addition, each path shares the same ultimate goal which can be found on the center. It is a journey towards Enlightenment (Samadhi) and Liberation (Moksha). Thus, viewed collectively, the different paths form a conceptual superstructure known as the The Wheel of Yoga. As one School of Yoga describes:

Imagine in the mind a bicycle wheel. The tyre that forms the outer part of the wheel is symbolic of the Yamas and Niyamas (ethical and moral principles of living). These are the basis of all of the paths of yoga. The very centre of the wheel is Samadhi (enlightenment). This is the end goal, which all of the paths are leading. The various paths of yoga are symbolised in the spokes that lead from the outer tyre to the inner hub.

THE PATH OF INITIATION

AS an initiatic science and method of instruction, Raja Yoga utilizes a degree system and techniques such as meditation, discipline, and directed concentration. Both Raja Yoga and Freemasonry are esoteric in their nature, encouraging members to go within in the search for answers, rather than relying on knowledge from exterior sources, in the search for Truth. Esotericism is based on the metaphysical conceptualization of the transcendent unity of all the major religious traditions practiced throughout human history and provides a point of unity, a center from which one cannot err, encompassed by all exoteric religions, faiths, and philosophies.

Recognized as one of the most influential comparative religious scholars of the modern era, Frithjof Schuon provided this further insight:

Our starting point is the acknowledgment of the fact that there are diverse religions which exclude each other. This could mean that one religion is right and that all the others are false; it could mean also that all are false. In reality, it means that all are right, not in their dogmatic exclusivism, but in their unanimous inner signification, which coincides with pure metaphysics, or in other terms, with the philosophia perennis.

Freemasonry’s teachings share a belief in the universality of all the world’s religions, described by Schuon as Philosophia Perennis or the Perennial Philosophy. This philosophy asserts that all religious traditions share “a single, metaphysical truth or origin from which all esoteric and exoteric knowledge and doctrine has grown.”

Do Freemasonry and Raja Yoga share the same origin or metaphysical truth? Do they share similarities in philosophy and tradition that may provide additional insight for the Freemason in search of more light or the seeker traveling towards the door of the Temple? That is for each reader to determine, and please share your thoughts in the comments section.

A SERIES OF LESSONS ON RAJA YOGA

What follows is an excerpt from the book “Raja Yoga” written by William Walker Atkinson, assumed author or co-author of the great workThe Kybalion,” under the pseudonym Yogi Ramacharaka. The complete version of the book can be found here.


“In India, the Candidates for Initiation into the science of “Raja Yoga,” when they apply to the Yogi Masters for instruction, are given a series of lessons designed to enlighten them regarding the nature of the Real Self, and to instruct them in the secret knowledge whereby they may develop the consciousness and realization of the real “I” within them. They are shown how they may cast aside the erroneous or imperfect knowledge regarding their real identity. Until the Candidate masters this instruction, or at least until the truth becomes fixed in his consciousness, further instruction is denied him, for it is held that until he has awakened to a conscious realization of his Actual Identity, he is not able to understand the source of his power, and, moreover, is not able to feet within him the power of the Will, which power underlies the entire teachings of “Raja Yoga.”

The Yogi Masters are not satisfied if the Candidate forms merely a clear intellectual conception of this Actual Identity, but they insist that he must feel the truth of the same—must become aware of the Real Self—must enter into a consciousness in which the realization becomes a part of his everyday self—in which the realizing consciousness becomes the prevailing idea in his mind, around which his entire thoughts and actions revolve. To some Candidates, this realization comes like a lightning flash the moment the attention is directed toward it, while in other cases the Candidates find it necessary to follow a rigorous course of training before they acquire the realization in consciousness.”

THE FIRST TWO DEGREES

The Yogi Masters teach that there are two degrees of this awakening consciousness of the Real Self.

1ST DEGREE: Consciousness of the “I”

The first, which they call “the Consciousness of the ‘I’,” is the full consciousness of real existence that comes to the Candidate, and which causes him to know that he is a real entity having a life not depending upon the body—life that will go on in spite of the destruction of the body—real life, in fact.

2ND DEGREE: Consciousness of the “I AM”

The second degree, which they call “the Consciousness of the ‘I AM’,” is the consciousness of one’s identity with the Universal Life, and his relationship to, and “in-touchness” with all life, expressed and unexpressed. These two degrees of consciousness come in time to all who seek “The Path.” To some it comes suddenly; to others it dawns gradually; to many it comes assisted by the exercises and practical work of “Raja Yoga.”

LESSONS REQUIRED BEFORE INITIATION

LESSON I: Existence of a Supreme Intelligence

The first lesson of the Yogi Masters to the Candidates, leading up to the first degree, above mentioned, is as follows: That the Supreme Intelligence of the Universe—the Absolute—has manifested the being that we call Man—the highest manifestation on this planet.

LESSON II: Infinite Manifestations of the Absolute

The Absolute has manifested an infinitude of forms of life in the Universe, including distant worlds, suns, planets, etc., many of these forms being unknown to us on this planet, and being impossible of conception by the mind of the ordinary man.

When he has accomplished this, then he may, and should, go forth to gain the outer knowledge as a Master demanding its secrets. rather than as a slave begging for the crumbs from the table of knowledge.

PREREQUISITE KNOWLEDGE FOR CANDIDATE

I: Knowledge of Self

The First Knowledge for the Candidate is the knowledge of the Self. Man, the highest manifestation of the Absolute, as far as this planet is concerned, is a wonderfully organized being—although the average man understands but little of his real nature. He comprises within his physical, mental and spiritual make-up both the highest and the lowest, as we have shown in our previous lessons. And in addition to the mental faculties common to all men, or rather, that are in evidence in a greater or lesser degree among all men, there are still higher faculties latent within Man, which when manifested and expressed render Man more than ordinary Man. The unfoldment of these latent faculties is possible to all who have reached the proper stage of development, and the desire and hunger of the student for this instruction is caused by the pressure of these unfolding latent faculties, crying to be born into consciousness. Then there is that wonderful thing, the Will, which is but faintly understood by those ignorant of the Yogi Philosophy—the Power of the Ego—its birthright from the Absolute.

II: Acknowledgment of Identity as a Divine Spark

That which is the Real Self of Man is the Divine Spark sent forth from the Sacred Flame. It is the Child of the Divine Parent. It is Immortal—Eternal—Indestructible—Invincible. It possesses within itself Power, Wisdom, and Reality.

But like the infant that contains within itself the sometime Man, the mind of Man is unaware of its latent and potential qualities, and does not know itself. As it awakens and unfolds into the knowledge of its real nature, It manifests its qualities, and realizes what the Absolute has given it. When the Real Self begins to awaken, it sets aside from itself those things which are but appendages to it, but which it, in its half-waking state, had regarded as its Self. Setting aside first this, and then that, it finally discards all of the “Not I,” leaving the Real Self free and delivered from its bondage to its appendages. Then it returns to the discarded appendages, and makes use of them.

~ Excerpt from Chapter 1 of Raja Yoga


 

 

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