IN DEFENSE OF FREEMASONRY
(Neither a cult nor a religion)
I downloaded the article from Gateway West entitled "SO MOTE IT BE" and as a Freemason read the article with considerable interest. It, of course, uses the most common if not most deceptive tool of Masonic detractors namely, to pick and choose elements from the Masonic ritual: quote them out of context: and then proceed to misinterpret them in order to draw conclusions which to the objective mind could not be considered either factual or rational.
A simple analogy may assist the person who is familiar with Christianity and not familiar with Freemasonry to understand the dilemma. If you read an article which set out to establish that Christians are believers and supporters of cannibalism, no doubt you would regale with laughter. However, if one applies the same type of logic as utilized by "Computers for Christ" in their assault on Freemasonry the case can be made that Christians are cannibals. Let us go through the exercise for purposes of clarification only, since we all know that the conclusion is ludicrous.
Proposition 1. True Christians believe that the Bible is the literal word of God given to man for his guidance and instruction (here .... insert several quotations from the Bible which you feel will support the foregoing proposition ..... it is not important that other very learned Christian theologians interpret the Biblical quotations you use in an entirely different fashion as long as you and your particular sect have decided that they support the foregoing proposition)
Proposition 2. At the last supper, Christ transformed the bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ and in partaking in communion with his disciples said
"This is my body and my blood, drink ye all of this in remembrance of me."
Proposition 3. Christians, believing in the literal interpretation of the Bible, partake in communion or Eucharist in which the priest through his authority from Christ transforms the bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ. This is eaten by the congregation.
Conclusion: Therefore Christians each and every Sunday participate in a ritualistic cannibalism in which they eat and drink the blood of the very God they purport to worship.
a) If Christians believe that it is acceptable to eat the flesh and drink the blood of their God, then it must be acceptable to eat and drink the blood of another mere mortal man.
(b) If Christians believe in cannibalism, then it must be acceptable to kill your fellowman for the purposes of eating his flesh and drinking his blood.
Conclusion: The Christian religion is Demonic since it supports killing and cannibalism.
(At this juncture of the paper you include a whole series of quotations from your particular philosophy to show that cannibalism is evil and that your sect must struggle to overcome the evils of these Demonic Christians before they devour the whole civilization in one grandiose ritualistic feast)
(Lastly, you provide an earnest plea for these Demonic cannibals to see the errors of their ways and to join your particular sect which is of course the embodiment of truth and reason)
The foregoing, of course, is not intended to be an attack on Christianity. Rather it is to illustrate that the application of loose logic and misinterpretation can and does lead to monstrously absurd conclusions. Such is the case with most so called "exposes" of Freemasonry.
Traditionally, Freemasons have chosen to not respond to these insidious attacks upon their institution and have quietly proceeded with their good works on the basis that action speaks louder than words. Recently, the attacks have increased in both vociferousness and frequency producing a total misconception of the Order. Consequently, it has become necessary to respond but in so doing we are obliged to comply with one of the great principles of the order namely: not to criticize or denounce another man's religious beliefs. Consequently, in order to live within my parameters, my response will be somewhat circumspect in nature.
It is recognized that irrespective of the strength of the rebuttal, the dogmatic fundamentalists within the Christian tradition will continue to assail Freemasonry as the bastion of Satanism. However, there are many people who are open-minded and are gifted with a genuine intellectual curiosity. It is to these people that this defense of freemasonry is directed. It is hoped that they will see Freemasonry in its true light as an institution which tends to foster and improve the very best affections of our nature and carries into active operation the three great social virtues; liberty; fraternity; and equality.
Now before we deal with the accusation that Freemasonry is Satanic, it should be recognized the membership of the fraternity includes and indeed is predominated by men who represent the mainstream of western rational thought. The British Royal family, George Washington, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Walt Disney, Mozart, and countless other prominent men have joined and practiced freemasonry. Lest one concludes that it tends to attract only the secular type who has no genuine belief in the Christian doctrine, it should be remembered that such sincere Christians as President Harry Truman were active members of both their Church and the fraternity. Lest one responds by saying that these men did not have enough training in Christian theology to recognize the hypocrisy of their position, one must recognize that very learned Christian theologians have been active members of Freemasonry and consider their freemasonry to be an adjunct and in fact an emulation of their Christian beliefs. The position of Archbishop of Canterbury, for example, has often been filled by a Freemason. Joseph Fort Newton and countless other parish priests and ministers from a variety of denominations have worn the apron of a Freemason. None of these men considered freemasonry to be demonic.
At this juncture several points seems beyond dispute, namely:
(1) men whose judgment and wisdom in other fields has been respected and followed have joined the ranks of the Freemasons;
(2) Christian ministers from the very prominent to the ordinary parish minister have joined the ranks of the Freemasons and not found it offensive to their Christian beliefs;
(3) those who proclaim that freemasonry is satanic do not appear to represent the mainstream of Christian thought.
THE CONFLICT WITH CERTAIN SECTS OF CHRISTIANITY
The question arises: how is it that certain Christians find Freemasonry to be perfectly compatible with their religion while others consider it to be the total anathema of Christianity? The phenomena obviously arises from the fact that there is a complete divergent in views among Christians as to exactly what Christianity is supposed to represent. However, it appears that the opposition to Freemasonry within Christianity falls into two distinct camps, namely:
(1) the fundamentalist ... born again type of Christians;
(2) the Roman Catholic church.
(It is notable that Freemasons themselves do not prohibit either of these groups from joining their ranks. Their exclusion is self-imposed.) The opposition of these two groups who are a different in theology as day and night has to be addressed separately.
THE PROTESTANT FUNDAMENTALIST
Freemasons have developed certain philosophical principles which appear to be unacceptable to the fundamentalist Christian. The basic tenants can be enumerated as follows:
(1) Freemasonry, not viewing itself as a religion, recognizes and tolerates men from all the great religions of the world. Throughout its long and established history it has accepted and respected Jews, Moslems, Sikhs, and a variety of organized and individualized religious beliefs. This religious tolerance appears to be unacceptable to the fundamentalist Christian.
(2) Freemasonry is by the very nature of the institution a symbolic rite. Its dramas, its emblems, its rituals, are not either taught or believed by its members in their literal sense. For example, the central focus of Craft Masonry, is the story of the death of one of the central figures in Masonic mythology, Hiram Abiff. No serious minded mason believes or accepts the Masonic account of his death as being historically accurate. No serious student of freemasonry is concerned by the fact that the story cannot be proven to be historically accurate. Additionally, no serious student of the Craft is content to accept the literal interpretation of the words of the ritual. They all know and appreciate that the ritual is veiled in allegory and thus the object of Freemasons is to look behind these veils in hopes of learning some of the great philosophical truths about this world and the human condition.
This practice of wrapping our religious and philosophical axioms within the context of symbolism and allegory is neither uniquely Masonic nor an aberration from human practice. The study of English literature is in a large part much the same exercise. Anyone who has taken a first year course in English literature is soon confronted by his professor with the "symbolism" incorporated by the author in his novel. The student of English literature is then expected to look beyond the plot of the novel to determine what the author is really trying to say on a philosophical, psychological, spiritual, social, or political plane. For example, the story of Huckleberry Finn did not become one of the great treasures of American literature solely because it is an interesting story about a the life and times of a young lad named Huck Finn. At its literal level the novel is a relatively simple if not childish story. Why then has it become a tradition to study this at the University level? The answer is found in the fact that Mark Twain (who incidentally was a Mason) through the use of symbolism and allegory reveals something important about American society and about human beings through this simple storyline. The mason views the degrees of Freemasonry in much the same light and throughout his Masonic career he finds himself in a continuous learning process and his views about the degrees and about life gradually but quite perceptibly change and grow.
All of the foregoing is quite foreign to persons who have chosen as an article of faith to view and interpret the bible in a literal level. And it is this totally different "mind set" which appears to lead these people to a total misconception of Freemasonry. Let us revert back to the article written by "Computers for Christ" in order to illustrate the dichotomy in thinking between them and a typical Freemason.
Computers for Christ write the following:
"It is in this final 'Blue Lodge' degree that candidate is laid out 'in death' and is raised from the dead by the 'Worshipful Master' of the Lodge, using the secret grip of the Master Mason. Let no Mason deceive you! We again face this replacement of our Savior's place by the power and authority of Lucifer."
If I understand their position correctly they appear to interpret the third degree of Freemasonry as teaching masons that it is the Masonic Lodge through some perverted Luciferian doctrine which provides salvation in contrast to the Christian doctrine that salvation is through Christ.
Although the third degree drama is capable of many interpretations I must say that I do not know of a single solitary mason from the lowest levels of the Craft to the highest degrees which are bestowed, who would accept that interpretation as having the slightest element of validity. If you congregated 5,000 masons and asked them if that was their interpretation of the degree, I am totally confident that you would not find one person who would accept this interpretation.
What then do masons see in the third degree? Let us briefly provide some background for the person who is not familiar with the degrees of Freemasonry. The central drama of the third degree involves the death of Hiram Abiff the legendary builder of King Solomon's temple. He is accosted by "ruffians" and assassinated. His loyal followers search out his remains and upon finding those remains carried them back to the temple where he was buried in the central sanctuary. The candidate taking this degree participates as the central character of the legend. During the course of the ceremony he is raised from the "dead level" to the "upright" position with the grip of a master mason. During this portion of the ceremony he is given these precise instructions:
"It is thus my brother, that all master masons are raised from a figurative death to a reunion with their companions of their former toils"
This drama has many explanations among masons. Many Christian masons view this as a dramatization of the resurrection of Christ and it serves to teach and reinforce for them the lesson that their salvation is through Christ. Many Christian masons view this portion of the drama as representing that doctrine of being "born again" as being a condition precedent to salvation. Others see it as the teaching the lesson that the path to eternal life is through "righteousness". Others do not see it as representing life after death at all but rather view it as symbolic of the idea that through philosophical development man is capable of reaching a new consciousness. Others see the central purpose of this segment of the drama is to teach masons the necessity of accepting death as an integral and inevitable part of life itself. All would agree that it is not the Master of the Lodge, or the Masonic Lodge itself which is the instrument to salvation since the Master of the Lodge in playing his role in the drama is intended to serve a symbolic purpose himself.
The central point of the foregoing discussion is this: to attempt to understand Freemasonry by interpreting it on a literal level is an exercise in misconception and absurdity. For those who have steeped themselves in the idea of a literal interpretation of the Bible as being the sole sound doctrinal position, it is a very big step to recognize that Freemasonry teaches its members NOT to interpret its degrees on a literal level.
The other great banner waved in these so called "exposes" of Freemasonry it the Masonic oaths of secrecy. Again, steeped in the school of literal interpretation, the detractors raise cries of "blood curdling", "Satanic", "Cult oriented" and "paganism". None of these people seem to recognize that these obligations to secrecy are in themselves symbolic. (In order to obviate these criticism and misunderstandings the modern rituals have now described them as "symbolic penalties".)
Why then do Freemasons have this tradition of secrecy and oaths of secrecy ... and what if any purpose do they serve within the organization?
The oaths never to reveal the secrets of a superior degree to an uninitiated serve and symbolize one of the great attitudes of Freemasonry. A mason starts his Masonic career as an apprentice and then gravitates to being a Craftsman, from whence he moves to being a Master Mason and so on..... Embodied in this course of progress is the idea of self improvement through stages or "degrees". Encompassed in that system is the idea (similar to the philosophies of the Far East) that each lesson will be shown to you when your mind and spirit has grown appropriately. Therefore one of the central and essential purposes of the obligations to secrecy, is simply an internal sociological one. It serves to preserve the line of progress from one degree to another for the masons themselves. Within their ranks this system appears to cause no disharmony. Why it causes such distress to outsiders is a question yet to be answered in any intellectual way.
In addition to the foregoing, it should be recognized that the Freemason's tradition of binding oaths of secrecy serves a philosophical purpose. It teaches its members something important about life. Let me elaborate. It teaches men the importance of developing the ability to keep those things to himself which should not be publicized for fear of doing harm to other persons. No one would dispute that a lawyer, doctor, should maintain the confidentiality of his clients files. No one would dispute that a plumber should keep his bid on a project confidential lest his competitor being aware of his bid chooses to underbid him. No one would argue that the romance of a husband and wife's bedroom should remain confidential lest something sacred and beautiful be destroyed. No one would argue that the confessions of a close friend who is in crisis are best kept to yourself since its exposure will hurt or destroy the friends reputation and esteem. Now this matter of keeping a lawful secret is not an intellectual proposition is a matter of learned behavior. Consequently, freemasonry teaches this not as an intellectual proposition but by making its members keep certain matters discreet. It is the best way to learn a behavior ... learn by doing.
At this point in the "exposes" of Freemasonry, we get to the cheapest literary trick which seems to be irresistible to all enemies of Freemasonry. That is, to re-enforce their argument they proceed to misquote the ritual. (after all ... most readers of the expose do not have ready access to the rituals and their chances of being caught are slim when they are discussing the penalties since these are never written down. Such of course is the case with the "expose" at hand. Let us re-examine their words. It should further be noted that in the Royal Arch Degree, the candidate swears to protect the brethren, "Murder and treason not excepted"! This places the Masonic oath above that of our courts and our country. What hope would you have against a Mason in a Criminal or Civil Court with a Judge who is a 32nd or 33rd degree Mason? None, by the nature of their oaths! (emphasis mine)
Being a member of the Royal Arch and having taken the very degree which they discuss I can assure you that the penalty when given includes the phrase "murder and treason excepted" Additionally I should add that recent innovations to the penalties have clarified the matter so that a mason is not obliged to keep any crimes of another mason secret. However, in this case it is our word against theirs.
However, the accusation "What hope would you have against a mason in a Criminal or Civil Court with a Judge who is a 32nd or 33rd degree mason" can be examined more independently. Oliver Wendell Holmes was such a man and his non-Masonic biographers and the American people at large seem to have liked their chances of justice and equity in front of this renowned jurist. There is not a single suggestion in his whole record as a jurist wherein anyone has alleged that he favored a fellow mason against a non mason. His record both as a man, and as a Judge is an exemplification a Freemasonry in action. Clearly he did not consider himself or any mason above the law of the land. This is probably because he was charged with the responsibility as a mason on following the laws of his country. The Canadian version is as follows:
"As a citizen of the world, I am next to enjoin you to be exemplary in the discharge of your civil duties by never proposing or at all countenancing, any act that may have a tendency to subvert the peace and good order of society, by paying due obedience to the laws of any state which may for a time become the place of your residence or to afford you its protection and above all, by never losing sight of the allegiance due to the sovereign of this nation, ever remembering the obligation of loyalty which you owe to our Queen and Country."
Freemasons I suggest have a very clear concept of their obligation to their country and an equally clear concept that justice should be equally administered irrespective of creed, color, or religion. Given that a substantial number of the signatories to the American Constitution were practicing Freemasons and that document remains a beacon of light to freedom, equality, and human dignity, should provide an additional if not conclusive rebuttal to this spurious allegation.
I suggest to you that the concern is not "How would you fare against a mason in court when the judge is a mason?". That record has been established. The genuine concern we should consider is "How would a Moslem, Jew, or Christian, or indeed a Mason, fare in a court conducted by one of the members of Computers for Christ?"
THE ROMAN CATHOLIC POSITION
The Roman Catholic antagonism towards Freemasonry can only be properly understood from a historical perspective. During the Reformation, many masons were actively supporting the reformation. French Freemasons were particularly active in their struggle to reduce the power of the Church and elevate the position and influence of the national state. As a consequence of this political struggle the two camps arose and unfortunately were maintained even into the 1950s. French Freemasonry unlike English and American Freemasonry countenanced and accepted Atheists. It is perfectly understandable that this was unacceptable to the Papal Authority in Rome and consequently a decree or Bull emanated from the Holy Sea prohibiting Catholics from membership in the Masonic Lodge.
Additionally, the Humanism and the 18th Century Rationalism which permeated and inspired continental freemasonry came into conflict with the established doctrines of the Church which had been developed during the medieval period. In recent times English (and thereby American) Freemasonry has received the tacit approval of the Papal See. At this juncture the historical dispute appears to be in abeyance and Catholics are no longer banned from membership in the Craft. It should be recognized that there are conservative elements within the Catholic Church who continue to waive the anti Masonic flag. Their criticisms of the Craft mirror that of Computers for Christ and the foregoing answer applies with equal force.
THE POSITION OF FREEMASONS ON RELIGION
There is no more eloquent explanation of the position of Freemasonry than that found in The Builders written by an Anglican Minister Joseph Fort Newton at page 243 wherein he states:
"While Masonry is not a church, it has religiously preserved some things of highest importance to the Church—among them the right of each individual soul to its own religious faith. Holding aloof from separate sects and creeds, it has taught all of them how to respect and tolerate each other; asserting a principle broader than any of them—the sanctity of the soul and the duty of every man to revere, or at least to regard with charity, what is sacred to his fellows. It is like the crypts underneath the old cathedrals—a place where men of every creed who long for something deeper and truer, older and newer than they have hitherto known, meet and unite. Having put away childish things, they find themselves made one by a profound and childlike faith, each bringing down into that quiet crypt his own pearl of great price — ......... Of no one age, Masonry belongs to all ages; of no one religion, it finds great truths in all religions. Indeed, it holds that truth which is common to all elevating and benign religions, and is the basis of each; that faith which underlies all sects and overarches all creeds, like the sky above and the river bed below the flow of mortal years. It does not undertake to explain or dogmatically to settle those questions or solve those dark mysteries which out-top human knowledge. Beyond the facts of faith it does not go."
Throughout the centuries Freemasons have been branded as Atheists, accused of satanic worship, and cursed as the anathema of Jesus Christ. I suppose this arises from fear of the simple yet profound truths that are given to every man who steps across the portals and through the Pillars of Freemasonry.
.... he is taught to free the soul from the dominion of pride and prejudice, to look beyond the narrow limits of particular institutions, whether civil or religious, and to view every son of Adam as a Brother of the Dust."
... he is taught to form a just estimate of those wondrous faculties with which God has endowed the being created after His own image, and to feel the duty which He has thereby imposed upon him, of cultivating those Divine attributes with the most diligent care and attention, that he may be enabled to show forth His glory and contribute to the happiness of mankind.
"Some day, when the cloud of prejudice has been dispelled by the searchlight of truth, the world will honor Masonry for its service to freedom of thought and the liberty of faith. No part of its history has been more noble, no principle of its teaching has been more precious than its age-long demand for the right and duty of every soul to seek that light by which no man was ever injured, and that truth which makes man free. Down through the centuries—often in times when the highest crime was not murder, but thinking, and the human conscience was a captive dragged at the wheel of the ecclesiastical chariot—always and everywhere Masonry has stood for the right of the soul to know the truth, and to look up unhindered from the lap of earth into the face of God. Not freedom from faith, but freedom of faith, has been its watchword, on the ground that as despotism is the mother of anarchy, so bigoted dogmatism is the prolific source of skepticism—knowing, also, that our race has made its most rapid advance in those fields where it has been free the longest."
(The Builders, p. 264)
Is then Freemasonry Satanic or the Anti Christ? Nothing could be farther from the truth. No amount of misinterpretation ..... no amount of selective misquotation from the mason's rituals .... no amount of dogmatic literal interpretations of the Bible can change the nature and purpose of Freemasonry. Long after those who claim to have a monopoly on the truth have folded their dogmatic tents, Freemasonry will stand, quietly as she has always done, solemnly as is her nature; charitably as is her tradition, as Temple of peace, harmony, and brotherly love. It will comfort the mourner; bring peace and consolation to the troubled spirit; dry the tears of the widow and the orphan; it will even seek to light up the darkness and gloom of the grave by pointing to the hopes and promises of a better light to come.
Within the confines of her peaceful wall men, and indeed Christian men, will still gather and conduct her age old rituals. In so doing those masons who are Christians will find Freemasonry gives them more faith .... not less faith: more love of Christ ..... not less love of Christ .... more understanding not less understanding of one of the great religions of the World.
In the words of Rudyard Kipling's character, the Sergeant Major, in that classic novel Kim, it is intended " Not as a substitute for religion but as an average plan of life".