Freemasonry and Religion


                                                  ARTICLE NO. 22


                         FREEMASONRY AND RELIGION


          What is the relation, if any, between Freemasonry and
religion?  If Freemasonry is religion, then is there not a danger
that some brethren will assume that Freemasonry is sufficient for
all their spiritual needs?  Has Freemasonry any religion in it?  If
I am a Mason, do I need the Church and religion?  Such questions
frequently come from the critics of Freemasonry, but we
occasionally hear them from our members themselves.

A Bit of History:
          Let us look for a few moments at the history of
Freemasonry.  The oldest extant document of the Craft - The Regius
poem - dated about 1390 is definitely trinitarian Christian.  This
document was probably written by a priest for its opens with an
invocations to the Trinity and the Virgin Mary, and contains
instructions as to the celebration of the Mass.  The early Craft
Masons were loyal sons of the Church all through the cathedral
building period.  When the Reformation came, Freemasonry, still
operative, was allied with the new struggle for the freedom of the
people, liberty of the conscience, and independence of manhood. 
About the time when the English Prayer Book was first published
(1549), when the English people threw off their allegiance to the
Latin Church, the old Charges took a somewhat different attitude,
although they remained distinctly Christian for the next 150 years. 
When the Grand Lodge of England was organized in 1717 and the
present ceremonies established, the revisers, Rev. Dr. James
Anderson and Rev. Dr. Theophilus Desaguliers recommended a new
basis for all ceremonies, one that would include all who believed
in a Supreme Being, Author and Architect of the Universe and the
Father of all Mankind.  Dr. James Anderson and his associates put
forth this summary of the Ancient Charges concerning God and
Religion:

     A Mason is obligated by his tenure to obey the moral Law; and,
     if he rightly understands the Art, he will never be a stupid
     atheist nor an irreligious libertine.  But though in ancient
     times Masons were charged in every country to be of the
     religion of that country or nation, whatever it was, yet 'tis
     now thought more expedient only to oblige them to that
     religion in which all men agree, leaving their particular
     opinions to themselves that is, to be good men and true, or
     men of honour and honesty, by whatever denominations or
     persuasions they may be distinguished; whereby Masonry becomes
     the centre of union and the means of conciliating true
     friendship among persons that must have remained at a
     perpetual distance.

                                                            ...2


                                  -  2  -


With very little change this declaration is the same as that today
prefixed to the Constitutions of Freemasonry as issued by the Grand
Lodge of England. 

          This was a somewhat different attitude towards the Church
and Religion.  Instead of being allied to a particular Church, it
became henceforth free from any system of theology.  Masonry
proposed to unite man upon the common eternal Religion "in which
all men agree" and asked men to keep "their peculiar opinions to
themselves" and not make them tests of Masonic Fellowship.  When
the two Grand Lodges in England were united in 1813, the universal
religious character of the Craft was affirmed and the last definite
trace of denominational theology vanished.  This attitude, however,
has not been accepted by everyone since then.  Hutchinson in his
"Spirit of Masonry" made a strong plea for a definitely Christian
Masonry, likewise Reg. George Oliver.  In 1885, H.G. Whymper wrote
an able book "The Religion of Freemasonry" but to no avail.  The
matter is now finally settled and Freemasonry will never again be
the servant or handmaid of any particular dogma or creed. 

Today in the Masonic World:
          There are today at least three different attitudes
maintained or criticisms made, in respect of the relationship of
the Craft to Religion.  

(1)  The first is found in English speaking countries.  We have
     grown into it as we progressed in Freemasonry and so we know
     it best.  To enter the Craft a man must confess, not merely
     profess, his faith in God, in the principles and practice of
     morality, and in the immortality of the soul.  He is not
     required to define in what terms he thinks of God, nor the
     exact nature of the future life whether a physical
     resurrection or triumph of spiritual personality.

          The Constitution of the Grand Lodge of New York begins
          with this statement:
          There is one God, the Father of all men, The Holy Bible
          is the Great Light in Masonry, the rule and guide for
          faith and practice; Man is immortal; Character determines
          destiny; Love of men is next to love of God, Man's first
          duty; Prayer, Communion of man with God, is helpful. 
          Masonry teaches man to practice charity and benevolence,
          to protect chastity, to respect the ties of blood and
          friendship, to adopt the principles and revere the
          ordinances of Religion, to assist the feeble, guide the
          blind, rise up the down-trodden, shelter the orphan,


                                                            ...3



                                  -  3  -


          guard the altar, support the Government, inculcate
          morality, promote learning, love man, fear God, implore
          his Mercy, and hope for happiness.

     That sums it all up in clear, concise language, noble in its
     simplicity and comprehensiveness.

(2)  In the German and the three Scandinavian Grand Lodges, the
     entrant into Freemasonry must be a Trinitarian Christian. 
     Universalists, Jews, Mohammedans, and others are invariably
     refused admission.  This attitude recalls the days of
     operative Freemasonry when the Craft was thoroughly Christian.

(3)  In Latin countries, such as France, Italy, Spain, Portugal,
     South and Central America, and Mexico, Freemasonry is frankly
     agnostic in its attitude towards the fundamental faiths of
     Religion.  Neither the French nor Belgian Grand Orients
     require faith in God as a condition of fellowship.  They do
     not require any such believe, but they do not forbid such
     faith; they simply do not ask what a man believes.  With the
     French and Belgian Orients we in English speaking countries
     have no fraternal relations.  They have no Bible or other
     Volume of the Sacred Law upon their altars, and we do not
     recognize them as Masons.

Two Conceptions of Freemasonry:
          Referring again to Freemasonry in the English speaking
world, we find there are two schools of thought:  first, those who
hold Freemasonry to be a purely social and philanthropic fraternity
with nothing to do with Religion except to acknowledge its
existence, accept its basic ideas, and respect its ordinances.  Its
purpose is to make men friendly, "to make men wiser, and
consequently happier."  These men object to emphasis upon the
religious aspect of Freemasonry and the high spiritual means of its
symbols.  They are content with it as a social order devoted to
fellowship and benevolence.

          Second, the other extreme, composed of friends and foes
of Freemasonry who regard it as an organized system of spiritual
thought and practice and entitled to be called a religion, with a
definite creed and distinctive rites expressing its faith and
spirit.  That is the unfriendly attitude of the Roman Catholic
Church and a section of the Anglican Church.  They allege that
Freemasonry is a rival of religion of a naturalistic kind.  Where
lies the truth?


                                                            ...4




                                  -  4  -



Four Cornerstones:
          There are four cornerstones for the edifice of
Freemasonry.  The removal of any one of these stones would prove
disastrous to the Temple of Masonry and bring about the collapse of
the structure.  Let us consider briefly these four important
stones:

(1)  From time immemorial man has instinctively turned to a Higher
     Power.  In the sacred writings of all faiths we find recorded
     men's belief in God, Deity, Jehovah, the Almighty, The
     omnipotent One.  Moses, the great law giver, wrote "In the
     beginning God created the Heaven and the earth."  St. John,
     the Evangelist, likewise said, "In the beginning was the Word,
     and the Word was with God, and the Word was God."  Here we
     have indisputable evidence of Man's belief in God, the Creator
     of the Universe.  The wise man instinctively knows that
     without God was not anything made that was made; that it is
     the fool only, who says in his heart, "There is no God."  Is
     it any wonder then that the first prerequisite of a Mason is
     a believe in God?  "In whom do you put your trust?"  There is
     no place among the votaries of Freemasonry for the non-
     believer, or the atheist, or the agnostic.

     Everything in Masonry has reference to God, implies God,
     speaks of God, and leads to God.  Not a degree, not a symbol,
     not an obligation, not a lecture, not a charge but finds its
     meaning and derives its beauty from God, the Great Architect
     and Master Builder of the Universe, God the Father of
     Humanity, its solidarity and salvation, God the Maker of
     heaven and earth and all that in them is, before Whom silence
     is eloquence and wonder is worship.  Every lodge is erected to
     God and dedicated to the Holy Saints John and labours in God's
     Name seeking to make His will the design upon its Trestle
     Board.  No initiate enters a lodge without first kneeling and
     confessing his faith and trust in God, whose love is the
     foundation of fraternity.  The greatest symbol of Masonry, the
     triangle, is the oldest emblem of God in the history and the
     faith of man.  Under His arching sky, upon His friendly earth
     where man goes forth to his labour, Masonry toils for the
     Glory of God.

     Freemasonry insists that its votaries profess a belief in God
     but that, whatever their particular opinions may be concerning
     Him, they are of no immediate concern of the institution. 
     Freemasonry likewise insists that every Mason should never 


                                                            ...5



                                  -  5  -


     mention the Name of God except in that reverential manner
     which is due from a creature to his Creator, to implore His
     aid in all his laudable undertakings, and to esteem Him as the
     chief good.  Remove this cornerstone - Belief in God - and
     there can be no Masonry.

(2)  The second cornerstone of Freemasonry is the presence within
     our lodge room of the Volume of the Sacred Law.  Man by
     instinct is an animal which loves fellowship.  They associate
     themselves around some great concept or principle or code of
     principles.  this is essential or, as we say, the cornerstone. 
     Take any society such as the Red Cross, we are members of it
     because it stands for something definite in its purpose. 
     Similarly, a stamp collectors' club or a trade union or music-
     lovers' circle.  We are held together as a nation by a
     constitution and a civil code of laws and by principles of
     justice.  A Church likewise is a group of people which
     believes or professes to follow the doctrines to be found in
     a sacred Book of the Law.  Remove that book from its altars
     and pulpits and the Church will cease to exist.  It is as
     vital to the existence of the Church as the life blood which
     flows through the arteries and veins is to man; without it
     death ensures.

     Our second cornerstone, therefore, is the presence in our
     Lodge rooms of the Book of the Law.  No jurisdiction can be
     recognized as regular without this requirement, whether the
     Book of the Law be the Holy Bible of the Christian, the
     Pentateuch of the Old Testament of the Hebrew, the Koran of
     the Mohammedan or Islam, the Send Avesta of the Persian, the
     Tripitaka of the Buddist, the Rig Veda and other Vedas of the
     Brahmin, the Tao Te King of the Taoist, the Bhagavad-Giota of
     the Hindu, or the Book of Mormon of the Latter Day Saints.

     The volume of the Sacred Law is part of the furniture of every
     Lodge, indispensably present in the Lodge while the Craft is
     at work.  In other words, in this country, the Holy Bible -
     God's Law - is a vital part of the Masonic institution.

     The Bible opens when the lodge opens, and closes when it
     closes.  No Lodge, can transact its business, much less
     initiate candidates, unless the Bible lies open upon the
     altar.  There in the centre of the Lodge, supporting the
     Square and Compasses, it speaks to us of our duty to God, as
     the Square and Compasses speak to us of our duties to our
     neighbour and ourselves.  Around these three duties we build
     our lives and our work.


                                                            ...6


                                  -  6  -


     Moreover, how many Masons do you think would have every heard
     of the Temple of Solomon, the preparations of his father
     David, the cooperation of Hiram, King of Tyre, the supervision
     of H.A.B. and of Adoniram, of the two brazen pillars, of the
     dedication of the temple, of its destruction, of the captivity
     of the Israelites in Babylon, of the second Temple of
     Zerubbabel, and many other Biblical events, had they not
     learned of them in their Masonic ceremonies.

     What more beautiful passages of Scripture can be found than
     those enshrined in our Masonic ceremonies?  Passages such as
     that melodious poem in Ecclesiastes "Remember now they
     Creator", or those majestic words from Genesis "In the
     beginning God created .... and God said, 'Let there be light
     and there was light'" or that beautiful prayer beginning "O
     Lord, Thou knowest our downsitting and our uprising and
     understandeth our thoughts afar off" composed as it is of many
     beautiful passages strung together as a necklace of pearls. 
     The Bible is the rule and guide of every Mason's faith.  It is
     a lamp unto his feet and a light unto his path.  Freemasonry
     builds upon the precepts found within the Volume of Sacred
     Law.  "Within its covers are found those principles of
     morality which lay the foundation upon which to build a
     righteous life."

     The Bible has not always had the place in the Church it now
     has.  In the Middle ages it was a book unknown to the masses. 
     Copies of it were chained to the reading desks of churches in
     England.  It was written in the Latin tongue and its contents
     were unknown to all but the clergy.  Coverdale, Tyndale,
     Wycliff and others translated it into the language of the
     people and thus the Bible became known to the people, supreme
     in the Church and supreme in the Lodge, serving as a rule and
     guide to the Craft, giving colour to its lodge, and
     consecration to its labours.  Today that Book holds the place
     of honour in every lodge, that is upon the Altar.  There and
     always, it is sovereign, supreme, a source of unfailing light. 
     Remove this cornerstone - The Volume of the Sacred Law - and
     there can be no Freemasonry.

(3)  The third cornerstone of the Masonic Temple is Prayer.  Man
     has always been a worshipper, seeking communion with a Higher
     Power.  We call that prayer.  Whether in the quiet of his
     home, or while worshipping in church, or while walking along
     the street, or while riding home along the highway, or while
     seated at his office desk, he has the privilege and right of
     attuning his soul with his God through the medium of prayer.


                                                            ...7

                                 -  7  - 

          

     Prayer enters into Freemasonry from beginning to end.  When a
     man enters a lodge for the first time to receive the Entered
     Apprentice degree, he is caused to kneel for the benefit of
     prayer.  Every lodge is opened with prayer and closed in like
     manner.  Few can ever forget the solemnity of prayer in the
     drama of the Third Degree.  On all public occasions prayer
     forms part of the ceremony, whether it is the installation of
     officers, a St. John's Day Service, the laying of a
     cornerstone, a Grand Lodge Service, or the last rites when a
     brother is laid to rest.  On all these occasions, and many
     others, Freemasonry shows its belief in prayer.  In fact, it
     admonishes its votaries that they should never enter upon any
     great or important undertaking without first invoking the
     blessing of Almighty God.  This practice, this belief in
     prayer, is not, of course, confined to Freemasonry; scores of
     institutions recognize the need for prayer.  No true Mason
     should be ashamed to pray.  We read of the world's great
     leaders in the dark hours of conflict, seeking the solitudes
     to kneel in prayer; Nelson, Foch, Joffre, Montgomery,
     Washington, Lincoln, and many others.  Man does not live by
     bread alone.  Remove this cornerstone of Prayer and there can
     be no Masonry.

(4)  The fourth cornerstone of Freemasonry is a belief in
     immortality.  The all-perplexing question of all time ever has
     been:  "What becomes of man when he no longer walks among the
     living?"  Job, the patriarch, asked the question, "If a man
     die, shall he live again?"  He answered it himself, "I know
     that my Redeemer liveth and that he shall stand at the latter
     day upon the earth.  And though after my skin worms destroy
     this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God."  Thousands of
     years later St. Paul carried the thought further when he in
     his own assurance of immortality wrote, "For we know that if
     our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have
     a building of God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the
     heavens".  Freemasonry throughout its ceremonies emphasizes
     and reiterates its belief in immortality.

     The Mason expresses that faith in his symbolic use of the ever
     flourishing acacia, in the raising of the dead H.A.B., in the
     symbolism we attach to the white lambskin as the reward of the
     faithful Craftsman who will some day be welcomed by the Judge
     supreme by those words, "Well done, enter thou into the joy of
     thy Lord," and by that beautiful passage from Ecclesiastes
     which calls upon us to remember our Creator in the days of our
     youth "Before the dust returns to the earth as it was and the
     spirit returns unto God who gave it."

                                                            ...8


                                  -  8  -



     Remove this cornerstone - A Belief in Immortality - and there
     can be no Freemasonry.

          Upon those same four cornerstones also depends the
continued existence of the Church of God.  In no sense is
Freemasonry a religion, nor does it attempt to usurp the
prerogatives of the Church; but it does try to make its votaries
better men by its teachings and precepts.

 


THIS PAPER WAS PREPARED BY M.W. BROTHER R.V. HARRIS, PGM, PGS, AND
WAS DONATED TO THE BOARD OF MASONIC EDUCATION BY R.W. G. VICKERS,
PGS, GRAND LODGE OF NOVA SCOTIA.