For the Good of Freemasonry


                     ARTICLE NO. 46


        FOR THE GOOD OF FREEMASONRY


    It has been my pleasure to be a member of the Philalethes
Society and to receive its excellent magazine.  It sets a high
standard of literary excellence and provides a wealth of Masonic
information not readily available through other publications.  It
also provides an invaluable service as a forum for the exchange of
ideas among members of our Craft.

    Many of the recent criticisms of Freemasonry have come
from Christian religious circles.

    Masons, who do not have a background in theology, have
been confused by these religious attacks, and their attempts to
answer our critics may have even added to the problem. 
Providentially, we have hundreds of outstanding Christian clergy
who are also Masons, and who are proud to be identified with our
fraternity.  Their wise council should be sought in these difficult
times.

    It is regrettable that the R.W. William A. Carpenter,
Past Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania, listened more
to non-Masonic critics than he did to our brother Masons.  In reply
to a statement by the National Conference of Catholic Bishops,
which was critical of our obligations, R.W. Brother Carpenter said
the Bishops were right and that Masonry was wrong and had been
wrong all the time.  Reacting to the Bishops' criticism, on October
16, 1985, he announced that he was removing all of the historic
penalties from the first three degrees.  R.W. Brother Carpenter
said at that time, "But I am not a theologian and cannot argue
doctrine."  It is true that he is not a theologian, and Masonry
suffered a disservice because he did not seek the advice of
competent Masonic Christian theologians.

    The Roman Catholic Bishops said with reference to our
obligations:

   "Either the oaths mean what they say, or they do not.  If they
   do mean what they say, the candidate is entering into a pact
   consenting to his own murder by barbarous torture and
   mutilation should he break it.  If they do not mean what they
   say then he is swearing high-sound schoolboy nonsense on the
   Bible, which verges on blasphemy."

    The R.W. Brother Carpenter than said of the above:  "The
point is well taken."  Actually, the point of the Bishops is not
well taken.  It is a deliberate falsehood with the intent to
deceive.

                         ...2

            -  2  -


    Masonry, like the Bible, is filled with imagery,
symbolism, parables, historical narratives and other literary
forms.  to interpret any passage literally when it is symbolic
would distort the meaning, whether it be in the Bible or in Masonic
ritual.  Let us take an example from Christ's Sermon on the Mount,
from the Gospel according to St. Matthew 5:29-30.

   "And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out and cast if
   from thee; for it is profitable for thee that one of thy
   members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be
   cast into hell.  And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off
   and cast if from thee; for it is profitable for thee that one
   of they members should perish, and not that they whole body
   should be cast into hell."

    As a condition of repentance our Lord did not intend that
we mutilate and destroy ourselves.  But if taken literally, a good
portion of the population would be blind paraplegics.

    Or shall we consider the passage regarding Christ as the
Bread of Life, found in the Gospel according to St. John 6:54-57.

   "Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal
   life; and I will raise him up at the last day.  For my flesh
   is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed.  He that eateth
   my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him. 
   As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father,
   so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me."

    In the context of this passage it is noted that both the
Jews and the disciples thought Christ was proposing cannibalism. 
And, of course, a literal interpretation of the passage could only
lead to that conclusion.  Actually Christ is asking that men feed
upon him, that is, enter into a relationship with the Son analogous
to the Son's relationship with the Father.

    I have used only two examples of many, where the Bible
cannot be interpreted in a strictly literal sense.  Masonic ritual
also deserves knowledgeable interpretation.  The historic and
analogous penalty passages of our obligations were never intended
to be given literal meaning, nor has such meaning ever been part of
Masonic life or practice.  Only our enemies could have conjured
such a distortion.

    It should be apparent to you, my brothers, that if the
Roman Catholic Bishops viewed scripture as they do our ritual, they
would surely involve themselves in blasphemy.  I can excuse the
Bishops for their incorrect interpretation of Masonic ritual 


                         ...3
            -  3  -



because they are not Masons, and thus are not in a position to
understand Masonic teaching.  I cannot excuse their impertinence in
their malicious criticism of our fraternity.  It should be equally
clear to you, my brothers, that it was wrong to rush to change our
obligations to attempt to comply with misguided criticism.  Such a
policy can only weaken our beloved Masonic fraternity.

    Whether our critics this year are Roman Catholics, or
Lutherans, or Methodists; or whether they are Jehovah's Witnesses
or Mormons, or any other religion or group, you may be sure that
they speak without any real understanding of Freemasonry, and that
their arguments today, as they have been in the past, are based on
falsehoods.  From time to time, we have made changes in our Masonic
ritual, but such changes should always grow out of our desire for
excellence, and never be made in response to critics.

    Finally brethren, we all know that Masonry is not a
religion and not a Church.  Rather it is a Brotherhood of Men under
the Fatherhood of God.  Masonry does not dictate how each brother
shall fulfil his religious obligations or how he shall worship God. 
Nor does Masonry dictate the country to which he owes allegiance,
nor the flag he shall salute.  Masonry does encourage and support
each brother in his endeavour to lead a moral and religious life,
and in his duty and service to his country.  To say that Masonry
discourages Christian living would be as distorted as saying that
Masonry discourages patriotism.  If a brother is a Christian,
Masonry will help him be abetter Christian; if he is an American,
Masonry will help him be a better citizen.

    Let us be proud of Masonry. It is historic, it is
honourable, and it is dedicated to God.  It has nourished many good
and worthy brethren who have walked this way before us, and it
challenges us every day to live a noble life int he service of God
and our fellow men.