Conscience and the Craft



                               Conscience
                             and the Craft
                  Question on Religion and Freemasonry




                                Forward
                                   by
                              Allan Large
            Grand Master of Masons of the State of Oklahoma
                               1991-1992

   Few things are sadder in human affairs than unnecessary conflict,
caused by misunderstanding or the unwillingness of men and women to
discuss, calmly and factually, the differencees they perceive to seperate
them.  In recent years, Freemasons have felt especially victimized by this
problem.  Some people make themselves adversaries of Masonry without first
finding out if a conflict really exist.  Often, rather than asking a
knowledgable Mason for clarification or information, they simply read
books written by other anti-Masons and find their answers there.  I have
asked Dr. Tresner to write this pamplet because I know that most conflicts
people see with Masonry -- especially in the area of religion -- are the
result of misunderstanding rather than actual differences.
   Each man seeks in Masonry for himself, and each man finds for
himself.  Each man has an absolute right to interpret Masonry for
himself as he sees fit.  With our long tradition of prizing intellectual
liberty and individual thought, it could not be otherwise.
   But if no interpretation of Masonry is officially "right," there are
some which are clearly wrong.  When someone ascribes words to a person
which that person never wrote, or when someone insists that Masons
believe something which has never been a part of the lessons of Masonry,
it is the duty of every thinking Mason to say, "That is not what Masonry
teaches!"
   It is my prayer that every thoughtful Christian who wants to know
more about Freemasonry will read this information and review again in
his heart the lessons of Him who taught it is better to love than to
hate and fear, and that it is our duty to cherish all mankind, to strive
to be better tomorrow than we were yesterday, and to strive to emulate
the compassion and caring of the Good Shepherd.

                                             Allan D. Large

-------------------------------------------------------------------------
Jim Tresner is the Director of the Masonic Leadership Institute.  He
holds the 33rd degree of the Scottish Rite of Freemasonry, is the
Director of the 33rd degree Conferral Team at his Temple, and is
Director of the Works at the Guthrie Scottish Rite temple in Guthrie,
Oklahoma.  He holds a B.A. with majors in Communications, Theatre,
English and Psycology, an M.A. in Communications Theory, an M.B.A. and a
Ph.D. in Business Communications.  He has served on the editorial board
of "the Scottish Rite Journal," is on the staff of "the Oklahoma
Scottish Rite Mason," serves as a video script consultant to the
National Masonic Renewal Committee, and is editor of "The Oklahoma
Mason."  He is considered a scholar in the interpretation of Masonic
Symbols and ritual and has authored numerous articles, video scripts and
booklets on Masonic subjects -- A.L.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------

                        Conscience and the Craft
                  Question on Religion and Freemasonry
                           -Expanded Edition-
                                   by
                    Jim Tresner, Ph.D., 33rd degree


   I undertake this task with considerable diffidence.  Indeed, were it
not for a belief that it is sinful to be silent when misunderstandings
create pain and confussion, I would probably decline. The world of
Masonry is vast, complex and rich, but it is as nothing compared to the
immense sweep and scope of thought, faith, history and culture contained
in the word Christianity.

   As a professed and professing member of the Christian (Disciples of
Christ) Church, I have never found any conflict between the lodge room
and the sanctuary.  And indeedm as the Reverend Doctor Norman Vincent
Peale, one of the best known Christian and Masonic authors of today has
remarked, there can never be conflict between Christianity and any other
organization which constantly urges its members to live a moral life.

   Following are some questions often asked  by those who are not
members of Masonry.  The responsibility for the answers is my own,
although, I have tried to draw from the best known and most respected
Masonic writers.


Is Masonry a religion?
   No, not by the definitions most people use.  Religion, as the term is
commonly used, implies several things: a plan for salvation or path by
which one reaches the after-life; a theology which attempts to describe
the nature of God; and the description of ways or practices by which a
man or woman may seek to communicate with God.
   Masonry does none of those things.  We offer no plan of salvation.
With the exception of saying that He is a loving Father who desires only
good for His children, we make no effort to describe the nature of God.
And while we open and close our meetings with prayer, and we teach that
no man should ever begin any important undertaking without first seeking
the guidence of God, we never tell a man how he should pray or for what
he should pray.
   Instead, we tell him that he must find the answers to these great
questions in his own faith, in his church or synagogue or other house of
worship.  We urge men not to neglect their spiritial development and to
be faithful in the practice of their religion.  As the Grand Lodge of
England wrote in "Freemasonry and Religion", "Freemasonry is far from
indifferent to religion.  Without interfering in religious practice, it
expects each member to follow his own faith, and to place above all
other duties his duty to God by whatever name He is known."  Masonry
itself makes only a simple religious demand on a man--he must believe
that he has an immortal soul and he must believe in God.  No atheist can
be a Mason.

Why are Masonic buildings called "Temples", doesn't that suggest a
religious building?
   Webster's New Twentieth Century Dictionary provides a definition for
the word "temple" which is as good an explanation as any: "a building,
usually of imposing size, serving the public or an organization in some
special way; as, a temple of art, a Masonic temple"

Have some Masonic writers said that Masonry is a religion?
   Yes, and again, it's a matter of definition.  If, as some writers
have, you define religion as "man's urge to venerate the beutiful, serve
the good and see God in everything," tou can say that Masonry subscribes
to a religion.  But that, surely, is not in conflict with Christianity
or any other faith.

Is Freemasonry a Mystery Religion?
   No.
   The relationship (if any) between Freemasonry and the ancient
Mysteries is a favorite topic of speculation among Masonic writers.
Unfortunaly, just as Mathematicians tend to write for other
Mathematicians ahd Historians then to write for other Historians,
Masonic writers tend to write for other Masonic writers.  Many things
are never explained, simply because it is assumed the reader already
knowns them.
   Many Masonic writers say that Freemasonry uses the tradition of the
Mysteries.  (Others, meaning the same thing, say that Masonry is the
successor to the Mysteries.)  By that, we simply mean that Masonry also
seeks to find men and help them develop in thought and understanding to
seek enlightment.  The principles of goodness (not to be confused with
the principles of salvation) compassion, concern, love, trustworthiness,
integrity, a sense or "connectedness" with history-- these are the
elements of the Mysteries, along with other schools of thought,
preserved by Freemasonry.  And they are not in conflict with any faith.
   Masonry has nothing to do with the religion taught in the Mysteries.
Rather, we are concerned with the ethics and morality taught there--
ethics and morality which have been ratified by Christianity and every
major religion or mankind.

Can a man be a Christian and a Mason at the same time?
   Perhaps the best answer is that most of us are, at least in the
United States.  The ranks of Masonry have been and are distinguished by
many of the outstanding religious leaders of America.  A quick scan
throught the book "10,000 Famous Freemasons", gives us these names from
history, among many others.
Rev. Charles T. Aikens, who served as President of the Lutheran Synod of
   Eastern Pennsylvania
Bishop James Freeman, the Episcopal Bishop of Washington D.C., who first
   conceived and began the construction of the National Cathederal
Bishop William F. Anderson, one of the most important leaders of the
   Methodist Church
Rev. Lansing Burrows, Civil War Hero and Secretary of the Southern
   Baptist Convention
Rev. James C. Baker, who created the Wesley Foundation
William R. White, 33rd degree, who served as President of Baylor, and
   secretary of the Sunday School Board, Southern Baptist Convention
Rev. Hugh I. Evans, who served as national head of the Presbyterian
   Church

   It is useful on this question, to let some of America's most honored
Clergy speak for themselves.
   Carl J. Sanders, Bishop of the United Methodist Church and holder of the
highest honor conferred by the Scottish Rite of Freemasonry, writes: "My
Masonic activities have never interfered with my loyalty to and my love
for my Church.  Quite to the contrary, my loyalty to my Church has been
strengthened by my Masonic ties.  Good Masons are good Churchmen."
   Dr. James P. Wesberry, Executive Director and Editor of the Baptist
publication "Sunday" writes: "It is no secret that Masons love and
revere the Bible nor is it a secret that Masonry helped to preserve it
in the darkest age of the Church when infidelity sought to destroy it.
The Bible meets Masons with its sacred message at every step of progress
in its various degrees."
   The Reverend Louis Gant, 33rd degree, Mason and District
Superintendant of the Methodist Church writes: "Let no one say you
cannot be a Christian and a Mason at the same time.  I know too many who
are both and proud to be both."
   But we are proud, as Masons, that members of all faiths have found
value in the fraternity.  Rabbi Seymour Atlas, 32nd degree, and holder
of some of the highest Masonic honors, writes of what he finds in
MAsonry: "I was brought up in a religious home, a son of a Rabbi with
seven generations of Rabbis preceding me... I am proud to be a Mason who
believes in the dignity of God's children and opposes hatred and
bigotry, and stands for truth, justice, kindness, integrity and
righteousness for all."

Is Masonry Anti-Christian?
   No, Masonry is not anti ANY religion.  This charge is raised by some
anti-Masonic writers.  Quoting Matthew 12:30 ("He that is not with me,
is against me; and he that gathereth not with me, scattereth abroad."),
they claim that, since Masonry does not require its members to be
Christian, we are actively anti-Christian.
   First of all, of course, a reading of the entire passage makes it
quite clear that Jesus was answering the Pharisees who were criticizing
Him; it is not a passage which relates to the present discussion at all.
Most people wouldn't agree that there are only two positions in the
world-- Christian and anti-Christian.  The government of the United
States, the city library, even the natural gas company, all serve
and employee Christians and non-Christians alike-- but no reasonable
person would say they were, therefore "anti-Christian."  Masons
encourage their members in their individual faiths, we do not oppose any
faith.

Does Masonry have a hidden religious agenda or practice, known only to
"higher" Masons?
   No, The religious position of Freemasonry is stated often and openly,
and we've already mentioned it above.  A Mason must believe in God, and
he is actively encouraged to practice his individual faith.  Masonry has
no "god" of its own.  Some anti-Masons have said that we are not allowed
to mention the name of God in Lodge.  That isn't true-- in fact that is
one of the two meanings of the "G" in the square and compasses logo (the
other meaning is "geometry").  It is true that we generally use some
other term, "Grand Architect of the Universe" is most common, to refer
to God. That is done only to avoid giving religious offense to anyone
whose faith refers to God by another name.  But the God to whom Masons
pray is the God to whom all Christians pray.

But haven't some Masonic writers said that the information given in the
early Masonic degrees is incomplete or even misleading?
   Again, it's a matter of Masonic writers writing for those they assume
have a background knowledge.  Another way we say the same thing is
"Masonry is a progressive science, revealed by degrees."  There's
nothing astonishing, and certainly nothing sinister in that.  ALL
knowledge is gained bit by bit, and this is especially true in ethics
and morality.  A minister, who gave a new member of the church a copy of
the works of, for example, Cyprian, Clement of Alexandria, and Origen,
and said "When you've mastered those, let me know,"  would do very
little good.  Instead, Masonry introduces the idea of ethics and
morality, and gives some practicle instruction in each.  But then it
says to the Mason, "We teach by symbols because symbols can be
constantly explored.  Think about htese things, read what others have
written.  Only in that way can you make the knowledge and insight really
your own."  Masonry tries very hard to raise questions, and to help its
members acquire the tools for thought-- but we do not try to give
answers.

Why is it so hard to find an official statement of Masonic dogma?
   Because there isn't such a thing.  We've already mentioned everything
Masonry has to say officially on the topic.  to go further, as an
official position would deny a man his right to think for himself and
his right to follow the dictates of his own faith.  Each Mason has a
right to seek Masonry for what he wants to find.  It is his right to
believe as he wishes; BUT is is not his right to force that belief on
others.

But isn't the Masonic scholar Albert Pike's major book entitled "Morals
and Dogma"?
   Yes.  As is clear from his writings, however, Pike using the word in
its original Greek sense of "that which I think is true." or "that which
has been thought to be true," not in the modern sense of "this is what
you are required to believe."
   And the question of "Morals and Dogma" brings up an important point.
Anti-Masonic writers are forever "discovering" something they find
shocking in the book, largely because they don't understand what kind of
book it is.  Pike was attempting the almost impossible task of surveying
and condensing the whole history of human thought in philosophy into one
volume.  He writes about things which were believed in ancient Egypt,
China, Persia-- all over the world.  It's easy to take a paragraph out
of context-- as one writer does with Pike's comment about the ancient
Egyptian belief in Osiris-- and then insist that Masons teach and
believe that all good comes from Osiris.  But a history lesson is not a
statement of theology.
   Some of the anti-Masonic writers seem almost to deliberately twist
things to make them say what they want. As an example, the same writer,
takes a passage in which Pike in contrasting the immortality of the soul
with the temporary nature of earthly things.  To illustrate the
impermanence of the body as apposed to the sould, Pike notes that, when
we die, our bodies resolve again into the earth.  The minerals of which
it was compossed may scatter far. Those minerals may be picked up again
by the roots of plants, grow into food, and be eaten by other men.
This, the anti-Masonic writer suggests, is pagan Masonic communion--
eating the dead!  A simple illustration is distorted into a cannibal
feast.

Which Masonic writer does Masonry consider authoritative?
   None, if you mean "authoritative" in the sense that they speak for
the fraternity or that what they say is "binding" upon Masons.  Each
Mason must think for himself, and each is entitled to write whatever he
wishes.
   It's like the situation is studying government.  If a person really
wants to understand American Government, he or she almost has to read
Madison's and Hamilton's "Federalist Papers" as well as de Toqueville
and the History of the Constitutional Convention.  But none of those
things are the law-- they are just commentaries on the way the law was
made, and the thinking of the people who wrote the Constitution.
   It's like that with Masonic writers.  Some have a lot of value to
say-- some are useless (each man can write whatever he wants, after
all)-- but none of them "speaks" for Masonry.  He can only speak for
himself.

Is there such a thing as a Masonic Bible?
   No.  The Bibles sometimes called "Masonic Bibles" are just Bibles
(usually the King James Version) to which a concordance, giving the
Biblical citations on which the Masonic Ritual is based, has been added.
Sometimes reference material on Masonic history is included.  Anyone is
welcome to read one.

Is Freemasonry a secret society?
   No.  A secret society tries to hide the fact that it exists.  Masonic
Lodges are marked with signs, listed in the phone book and their meeting
places and times are usually listed in the newspaper.  Members identify
themselves with pins and rings.  The only secret in Masonry relate to
the ways we can recognize each other.  The ritual of Masonry, the
Monitor, is in print and anyone can read it.  Interestingly, the
anti-Masonic writers who condemn us for being a secret society are
always quoting from the Monitor.  If is's a secret, it isn's a very
well-kept one.

So what do Masons mean by "Secrecy?" What kind of secrecy do we teach?
   The first and most important kind is the ability to keep confidences.
All of us value those friends whome we can talk, "blow off steam,"
really open ourselves to, and still know without any question that the
friend will never tell anyone else or use those moments of sometimes
painful honesty against us in any way.  As it says in Proverbs 11, 13 "a
talebearer revealeth secrets, but he that is of a faithful spirit
concealeth the matter."  Masons are taught it's important to be such a
friend.
   The second kind of secrecy we teach is the idea of "doing good in
silence."  One of the degrees says it this way: "Be careful that you do
not contribute to showy charities in order to have the reputation of
being a charitable man, while sending away from your door the Poor whom
God has sent to test you."
   Secrecy, in those senses, is a virtue, and it is in thoise senses it
is taught in Masonry.

Can a Christian take the vows or obligations of a Mason?
   Yes, with the exception of a very few denominations.  If a Christian
belongs to a denomination which forbids all vows, such as the Oath of
Office of the President of the United States or the common oath of the
law courts, "I solemnly swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and
nothing but the truth, so help me God," then he probably could not take
the obligation.  Any Christian, whose denomination does not forbid the
PResidential or the court oath, or the oath taken when entering the
Armed Services could take the Masonic obligation.  Some anti-Masonic
writers have complained about the so-called "penalties" in the Masonic
obligations.  Those penalties are purely symbolic and refer to the pain,
despair and horror which which any honest man should feel at the thought
that he had violated his sworn word.

Does Masonry use symbols which are diabolical in nature?
   No.  Masonry uses many symbols-- it's our primary way of teaching, as
it has been the primary way of teaching from ancient times (just try
teaching arithmatic without number symbols)-- but there is nothing
satanic about them.  Symbols mean what the person uses them to mean.  X
may be a st. Andrew's Cross, ancient symbol of Scotland, or it may mean
"multiply two numbers together" (or "10" in Roman Numerals, or "unknown"
in algebra, or "don't do this," or "truce," or "Xenon" in chemistry, or
"by" as in 2 x 4 board, or "this is the spot," or even "railroad
crossing").  It depends on the meaning in the mind of the person using
it.
   It's the same for Masonic symbols.  We sometimes use the five-pointed
star, for example.  Some people chose to see that as a symbol of
withcraft.  It's their right to use it that way in their own thinking if
they wish.  But we use it as a symbol of man, because that is its oldest
meaning (the five points refer to the head, the hands and the feet).
The five-pointed star, with one point downward, is used by the Order of
the Eastern Star.  Some anti-Masons like to see it as a symbol of the
devil.  But it's also known as the "Star of the Incarceration," with the
downward-pointing ray representing that moment when God came down from
Heavan and was Incarnate by the Holy Ghost.  And it is in that meaning
it is used by the Eastern Star ("We have seen Hi star in the East, and
are coming to worhip him").

But don't some writers say that in the 30th degree of the Scottish Rite
the room is filled with diabolical symbols and the candidate comes face
to face with Lucifer?
   Some anti-Masonic writers have said that, but it isn't true.  first
of all, the mistake a stage-set for a sanctuary.  The Degrees of Masonry
are plays, some set in the Lodge room and some using full stage
settings.  The message of the 30th degree is that man should think about
death, (not avoid the thought fearfully), and realize that death is not
frightening but a natural process.  So the setting contains traditional
symbols of death, like black curtains and the drawing of a mausoleum.
   But the material which these writers quote as coming from the 30th
degree doesn't.  they generally quote from the anti-Masonic boot
"Scottish Rite Masonry Illuminated".  The anonymous author of the book
wildly changed materials wherever he wished-- even some of the names of
the degrees are wrong.
   Although the book is presented as a ritual of the fraternity, you
need only read through his introductory notes or end notes to realize
that he intends it as an attack of Freemasonry, which he calls "a tissue
of fearful falsehood."
   The book is generally quoted by writers who insist that, instead of
quoting anti-Masonic materials, they are using only material, written by
and/or published by Masons for Masons."  Perhaps they have not read the
notes.

Is Masonry "guilty" of teaching toleration?
   And proud of it!  It seems a strange accusation, but anti-Masonic
writers often charge that we accept people with many different religious
viewpoints as Brothers.  They are correct.  Jesus did not say to us, "A
new commandment I give unto you, that you love one another-- as long as
he goes to the same church you do, or belongs to the same political
party."  Yet one anti-Masonic writer claims that this toleration is the
blackest sin of Masonry.  Toleration, he says, "springs from pits of
hell and from the father of lies, Lucifer."  When you consider what
intolerance has produced in the world-- the Inquisition, the burning or
Protestants at the stake, the horrors of Hitler, the mass murders of
Stalin, the "killing fields" of Cambodiam, the massacre of the
inhabitants of Jerusalem by the Crusaders-- it is hard to believe that
toleration springs from the devil.

Does freemasonry teach that man can be saved by good works?
   That charge is sometimes leveled against us by anti-Masons who
mistake both the nature of Masonry and the meanings of its ritual.
Salvation is not a grace which Masonry can or does offer.  As the
Reverend Christopher Haffner points out in his book, "workman Unsahamed:
The Testimony of a Christian Freemason",  "Withing their Lodges,
Freemasons are not concerned with salvation and conversion, but with
taking men as they are and pointing them in the direction of brotherhood
and moral improvement.  Insofar as the Order is successful in this aim,
it is content, and leaves the member to devote himself to his own
religious faith to receive the grace of salvation."
   In most Masonic rituals, the candidate is reminded of that even
before he steps into the Lodge room for the first time.  A typical
example reads: "You are aware that whatever a man may have gained here on
earth, whether of titles, wealth, honors, or even his own merit, can
never serve him as passport to heavan; but previous to his gaining
admission there he must become poor and destitute, blind and naked,
dependent upon the sovereign Will of God; he must be divested of the
rags of his own righteousness, and be clothed in a garment furnished him
from on high.

Is a Masonic service a worship service?
   No. Except, perhaps, in the sense that, for a christian, EVERY act is
an act of worship.  Our meetings open and close with prayer, Masons are
encouraged to remember that God sees and knows everything that we do,
and the Bible is always open during a Masonic meeting.  But it is a
meeting of a fraternity, not a worship service.
   And that brings up one of the most ridiculous charges sometimes made
against us-- that our members are "really" worshiping a demon or some
pagan god such as the Baalim, Bel, Osiris, Mendes, Pan, etc..-- only
they don't know it!  But you cannot worhsip something with out knowing
it.  The act of worship is an act of full concentration, knowledge, and
devotion-- "with all thy heart and with all thy sould and with all thy
mind."  We honor and venerate GOD, not the Adversary.
   One example will serve to show the complete lack of foundation of
these kinds of charges.  The charge of worshiping a demon usually
involves one named "Baphomet."  Historians know the origin of the story.
   In brief, during the middle ages, a military monastic order known as
the Knights Templar, grew very wealthy.  Kink Philip the Fair of France
and the Pope, wanting to confiscate their treasure, had them thrown into
prison and accused of heresy (the only charge that would allow for the
confiscation of the property) in 1307.  Philip, fearing that the
Inquisition would be too gentle (!) had his own commissioners involved.
After years or horrible torture, some of the knights signed
confessions-- of anything their tortureers wanted.
   They were burned at the stake.
   A standard part of the pre-written confessions was worshiping an idol
named Baphomet (language scholars tell us that "Baphoment" was a term
for "Mohammed" in the Middle Ages).  You can read the full story in any
good historical account of the period.
   So, Baphomet" wasn't the name of a demon, the Knights Templar did not
worship him/it, their "confessions" were obtained under torture and, at
any rate, a false charge used to steal from and murder military monks in
A.D. 1307 has nothing to do with Freemasonry.

Did Albert Pike really say that all Masons were secret followers of
Lucifer?
   No.  In many anti-Masonic books you'll see what is supposed to be a
quotation from Pike, saying that all Masons of the "Higher Degrees" are
secret worshipers of Lucifer or that we reguard Lucifer as God.  the
historical fact is that those words were written in 1894, three years
after Pike's death.  They were written by a notorious athiest and
pornographer named Gabriel Jogand-Pages, but better known by his pen
name, Leo Taxil.  Taxil was engaged in an elaborate hoax to discredit
both Freemasonry and the Church of Rome, and made up the Pike quotation
out of thin air.  He then "discovered" the letters, and revealed them to
the world.  He was highly praised by the religious authorities--
showered with honors and listed as a defender of the faith for having
revealed the "true evil purposes of Masonry."
   Then, just as he was being acclaimed all over Europe for his
"religious zeal," he pubicly announced the hoax, making everyone look
like fools.  The scandal broke in 1897, but the supposed "Pike letter"
had already been published by a man named Abel Clarin de la Rive, who
took Taxil's hoax at face value.
   Rive's book, "La Femme et l'Efant dans la Franc-Maconnerie
Universelle", (Woman and Child in Universal Freemasonry) was quoted by
Edith Starr Miller in 1933, in her book, Occult Theocrasy.  She
translated the "quotation" into English.
   Since that time, several writers of anti-Masonic books have simply
repeated the "quotation" without checking on its source or authenticity.
Taxil's pubic confession and Rive's subsequent retraction of his book
notwithstanding, it continues to shadow the name of Pike, who was, to
his death, a sincere and devoted Trinitarian Christian.

Can one learn more about Freemasonry without joining the Fraternity?
   Yes.  The Grand Lodge of almost any state can provide information and
lists of books which explain Freemasonry in detail.  They are the same
books that Freemasons read and study to learn more about the fraternity.
And I hope that this short discussion may help resolve some doubts.  We
have neither horns and tails nor halos.  Masons are simply your
neighbors, joined together in a fraternity which tries to help men
become better people as it tries to help the world become a better place
through its charities.  It is, so to speak, a "support group" for men
who are trying to practice ethics and morality in a world which does not
always encourage those ideals.

------------------------------------------------------------------------
Freemasonry's teachings are acceptable to all religions-- upholding the
values of faith in the secular world-- an organization for thoughtful
Christians-- and all men of good will.