The Reformed catholic Church International concurs with the statement below, and that being an inclusive church, all Freemasons, and all their various appendent bodies are welcomed under our Episcopal protection.
THE TRUTH ABOUT MASONRY Rev. Dr. Ed Crabtree Copyright (c) 2003 All Rights Reserved In order to comply with the requests of Reverends Steadman and Stansell and provide an article explaining the craft of Ancient Free and Accepted Masons that can be posted on the various web sites of the Inter Faith Christians Church and affiliated web sites, I have set forth to deliver a brief overview of the fraternity, for as to deliver a concise history might take days, months and even years to complete as we are discussing the world’s oldest fraternal order, one whose history is veiled by the sands of time and teachings are rich moral dogmas represented by allegory. Please accept this explanation as what it is just a brief description and explanation.
The modern “Blue” lodge and it’s appendant bodies. A Mason, true to his promises, is a seeker of “Light”, one always traveling upon a path to greater enlightenment or knowledge, always seeking to discover the truth that is so often hidden in the dogmas created by others. As such he petitions the Blue Lodge for membership and if accepted embarks upon this journey. After being entered as an apprentice, passing to fellow of the craft and being raised by his brothers to the degree of Master, he may then seek further enlightenment on one or both of two paths, the York Rite or the Scottish Rite. It is here we begin our first of several yet to come history lessons. The York Rite is a body comprised of three separate organizations, The Chapter of Royal Arch Masons, the Council of Royal and Select Masons, and the Commandary of Knights Templar. At one time these three organizations and the Blue Lodge was one in the same until the emergence of the Scottish Rite. The York Rite bodies have roots in the ancient city of York England while the Scottish Rite first appeared in an 1804 agreement between the Supreme Council of France and the Grand Orient of France. Many Scottish Masons fled to France during political upheavals in the 17th and 18th centuries, at a time when the Degrees of the Rite were evolving in French Freemasonry. This has caused some to think mistakenly that the Rite originated in Scotland. Actually, however, a Supreme Council for Scotland was not established until 1846.
Interestingly enough the Blue lodge requires of the prospective member a belief in the one living and true God, the creator and Grand Architect of the Universe. The Knights Templar of the Commandary portrays beautiful and impressive lessons, explaining the Christian interpretation of Freemasonry. So while membership in the Blue Lodge is open to any man who believes in God, some whose path might differ from the followers of Christ might have a moral dilemma with the Knights Templar. However the Scottish Rite teaches many of the same lessons, without an empathisis on Christian beliefs, so any man, regardless of his beliefs, can obtain enlightenment by joining the Blue Lodge then continuing on through one or both of the Rites, should he so desire.
Alcohol and other diversions are strictly forbidden in a Masonic Hall; due to this prohibition a group of Doctors formed a social order in the early twentieth century known as the Ancient Arabic Order of the Mystic Shrine. Membership in this order is open to any Mason in good standing who has completed ether the York or Scottish Rites. These same Doctors soon realized that a group formed just for the purpose of social pursuits would soon be doomed, therefore being Doctors they formed one of the most outstanding philanthropic organizations of the twentieth century, the Shriners hospitals for crippled children (see http://www.shrinershq.org/ ) Soon the Doctors of the crippled hospitals recognized that the majority of crippling accidents affecting children were due to burns, and out of this epiphany arose the burn centers, which over the years have set the standard for burn treatment due to the millions of dollars raised by the Shriners for research.
All other Masonic bodies have charitable pursuits, a testimony to the outstanding philanthropy of this great group of friends and brothers. While the traditional Blue Lodge is open only to men, there are also ladies only groups as well as “co-ed” organizations such as the Eastern Star, and also groups for teens such as Demolay for boys and Rainbows for Girls. All groups having based their teachings on biblical stories and values.
The Mysticism and Rituals of the Masonic Fraternities; While Freemasons agree that Freemasonry is neither a religion nor a substitute for one, the fraternity does have a set of beliefs or philosophies that are common among all members of the fraternity. What follows is an examination of those beliefs.
· Freemasons believe in the existence of a Supreme Being (God) that created the universe. · Freemasons believe that how a member names and worships that Supreme Being is between him, his God and his church or faith system. · Freemasons believe in the immortality of the soul and an afterlife. · Freemasons believe that the path to that afterlife is found in the book of faith of the individual member and not up to the fraternity to decide. · Freemasons believe in the Brotherhood of Man under the fatherhood of God. · Freemasons believe in Freedom of speech, freedom of religious expression and freedom of thought so long as such does not cause harm to others. · Freemasons believe in Faith, Hope and Charity - Faith in God, Hope in an afterlife and Charity towards all mankind.
Freemasons believe in Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth, the principles on which the fraternity is founded. o Brotherly Love is the respect for all regardless of individual religious or political beliefs. o Relief is the Masonic practice of charity towards the widow, the orphan and those in need. o Truth is the practice of being truthful and honest to others. To get our priorities in order with respect to our duty to God, our families and our country.
Freemasons believe that all men are created equal and in Masonic lingo all meet on the level regardless of rank, title or level of affluence. (#1) The Masonic fraternity is not a religion; contrary to anything you might have been told. But if a religion IT MIGHT BE called, its religion would be a belief in the one living and true God, that which created the sun, earth, moon, as well as the stars that beautify and ordain the night sky. In every well-regulated lodge you will find a charter from a Grand Lodge and the letter “G” prominently displayed in the “east”, the letter G reminding us of that grand benefactor to who we owe everything.
The Masonic fraternity is not a secret organization. Traditionally the lodges were required to advertise each meeting in a public place such as that part of the newspaper reserved for public notice. This requirement has been somewhat relaxed in some jurisdictions, only due to the rising cost of rates charged by newspapers for official public notice type ads. Some lodges advertise that their meetings coincide with the Full Moon, which has been misconstrued by some as to mean that the Masonic Fraternity was some how connected to astrology or pagan rituals. This had nothing to do with astrology or pagan beliefs but rather in the old days on the frontier, the meetings were held outside at night on a high promontory or a clearing in the woods, the light of the full moon was useful for “natural” illumination for the meeting and out of a sake of tradition some lodges still hold their meetings at this time of month, necessitating the member to have an almanac or calendar that shows the phases of the moon. Isn’t it interesting how the necessity of meeting under the light of the moon, gave birth to suspicion and accusation. Why didn’t the people of those days assume that an organized activity such as a hay ride under the silvery moon was some how a negative activity?
Although the Masonic Fraternity is not a secret organization, it does have secrets. Conservative Christian groups as well as the Catholic Papacy have denounced the fraternity for their refusal to divulge these “terrible” secrets. The “secrets” are nothing more than moral lessons that everyone who has read the bible is already familiar with, although as a Mason I will not divulge in detail these same secrets but those of you that know me as a Minister know that I have an habit of writing sermons on such topics as the law of Moses and the Golden Rule, think about it!
Also another part of the secrets that a Mason has are the signs, symbols, spoken words, and hand shakes that enable one brother to recognize another in the darkest night or crowded room. Adolph Hitler was quick to perceive the Masonic Fraternity of the nations his armies occupied as a threat, due to this ability of one man to covertly greet another. This ability in a group that existed prior to the German occupation made these men perfect candidates for the resistance forces that were in opposition to the Nazi armies, many Masons although innocent were tracked down and interred for this very reason.
As architects and operative mason use certain tools as implements to design and construct stone surfaces consisting of right angles horizontals and perpendiculars, speculative masons use representations of those same working tools as psychological reinforcements of great moral values. Again as a Mason I will not divulge these secrets but it doesn’t take a genius to ascertain the speculative meaning of tools such as the square, compass, trowel, or level to name a few. Again, think!
The Persecution of the Fraternity by the Church. This is a fascinating aspect of American history that has implications that reach trough time and manifests itself even today with the persecution of unorthodox religious paths. One deeply rooted in the convoluted doctrine of those who seek to control and to impose their own minority view on the masses in direct opposition to that which our American Declaration of Independence as well as Constitution stands for. Just over forty years ago, when a strong anti – catholic sentiment still filled some parts of the country, some Protestants questioned the credibility of Kennedy’s presidency, the possibility of the White House being influenced by the Roman Catholic Church the basis of this fear. In response to this baseless implication JFK replied (I’m paraphrasing here) No Pope should never order an American President, but no protestant minister should never tell his congregation how to vote. It was this very concept, that of Ministers envious of the Masonic Fraternity and the influence that the ministers perceived that the fraternity had over government, due to the large number of elected officials that were also Masons, that almost lead to the extinction of the fraternity in this country and even vocal opposition to the fraternity today.
As a Mason is invested with the great moral lessons of the craft, he promises not to reveal these “secrets” under no less a penalty of certain bodily harm or death. NOW these penalties are strictly allegorical in nature, no sane man would ever take such a vow or expect to be called upon to execute these penalties upon another brother or ex-member. But rather again as the tools are mental reinforcements, these allegorical penalties are so severe as to be a constant reminder not to reveal the secrets, for as to do so would demonstrate a lack of honor on the part of the violator and he would suffer a symbolic death by being shunned by the fraternity. The detractors of the fraternity have taken this symbolism, this allegory, totally out of context, claiming that anyone leaving the order or revealing these secrets would certainly be murdered. Since the days of the first “speculative” Masonic Lodge, Masons have been recognized as fine upstanding industrious members of their respective community. This was very true in the days before and after the American Revolutionary war, when many leaders of that struggle for independence were Masons. Several of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, many of the framers of the constitution, a good part of our American Presidents (Washington and Truman were both Grand Masters of their respective state’s grand lodges) as well as numerous senators, congressmen, governors, judges, and other leaders throughout history have been members of the craft. During the late nineteenth century (memory loss and time for research prevents me from sharing exact dates and names) ministers recognized their inability to exert influence over these elected officials that were members of the craft. Although all these men believed in God and knew Christ, these members of the craft also were aware of the dangers of allowing a mono theology to take foothold in this country that had just fought for its independence from a Royal Crown that supported a single, state denomination. This situation is so very similar to the argument of today in which the ultra right claims that since the framers of the Constitution were men of Christ, therefore this country must be a Christians only nation. In reality many of the founding fathers actually spoke out against large scale organization of religion, and were staunch supporters of the concept of separation of church and state.
Jealously of the presumed power and influence of the craft in high office ran rampant through some of the ranks of the clerics of the day, but they were powerless to turn public opinion against the craft as its members were fine upstanding members of the communities. Then just as we see malfeasants of this modern day, leave a political camp or the inner circle of a celebrity, and motivated by monetary gain, issue a expose, --- a member of the craft influenced by the sermons of a powerful Minister, left the fraternity and told the secrets of the craft. These secrets, although already known to some ministers who were themselves members of the fraternity, was fuel for a fire that spread from pulpit to pulpit, canon fodder for those who hated the craft. Then to provide a coup de gra, the man who divulged the secrets turned up missing and was presumed murdered by the fraternity in keeping with the “Penalties” that although were meant in a allegorical sense were interpreted by the clerics as a real sentence of death for the man who spoke out. The ministers involved accused members of the lodge as having abducted, murdered, and dumped the violator’s body in a lake on the Canadian American border. Although sometime later the dead man was seen alive and well in Canada, this “atrocity” was all the ministers needed to discredit the Blue Lodge and soon every elected official either denounced his affiliation with the fraternity or was promptly voted out of a job, as well as any self respecting business man or upstanding member of the community that was concerned with his standing in the community, left the lodge. Obviously this was a dark time for those seekers of light, but the craft survived this “Grand Inquisition” and is still alive today.
Although today membership is declining due to attrition and in this modern day most men find that there is simply just more exciting pursuits other than the study of moral values and pursuing charitable works. One of the cornerstones of the fraternity is the actual means for its decline, that of each member petitioning the lodge of his own free will, he cannot be recruited by a member, but rather must ask for himself. There have been many a disappointed Father who went to his grave waiting for his son to ask to for a lodge petition, and a son saddened because his Father never asked him to join the fraternity. Both Father and Son clueless as to how to circumvent the rule of this cornerstone. Again this rule has been modified in some states and the fraternity has started a turnaround, gaining members to keep it alive into this new century.
The rituals of the lodge are based upon the peace and good fellowship that was said to exist among the workmen engaged in the construction of King Solomon’s temple. This is another allegory, however some Masons will tell you this as fact. This is also where the ultra conservative Christians get the basis for their claims that the fraternity has roots based in pagan mysticism as Solomon was also rumored to consult astrologers and other men of questionable science. The allegorical references to the Sun, Moon, and Stars in the ritual work is also taken out of context to base allegations of paganism and witchcraft in the fraternity. Again these references to the heavenly bodies in the rituals are no more dangerous than that in the book of Genesis, just more content taken out of context, by those struggling to find fault where none exists. Other lessons that teach life after death, or immortality as promised in the Bible are taken out of context and presumed satanic.
Freemasonry has a rich history since its official documented formation in 1717 when four London lodges joined to form the first Grand Lodge of London. But for Freemasonry to have so bonded at that time it had to have existed prior to that date. Some say that in reality the craft actually has historical origins in the time period of the renaissance era just after the so-called dark ages. If you will recall from what you learned in secondary school history, you will remember that guilds or quasi unions emerged each specializing in a particular craft. When the period of construction that began with the building of the grand cathedrals and other stone edifices of Europe the operative masons guild emerged. Master stone masons traveled from city to city in search of employment and, obviously strangers in a strange land, these workmen would seek out those in which they shared common grounds and they established guildhalls or lodges for traveling men in each city. These operative masons eventually established laws and moral values to govern themselves and these lodges eventually became noted for the peace and good harmony, which prevailed.
Finally, observers outside the ranks of the operative masons visited the stonemason guildhalls, and noted the unusual brotherhood and fellowship that these stone masons demonstrated in their union halls and actually sought membership. Soon speculative lodges evolved that allowed membership of men not employed as stone masons and ritual work, dogma and doctrine were adopted establishing the tradition of great moral values and lessons that inspire men to this day. There are even rumors that Shakespeare might have had a hand in the development of some of the ritual work. Much has been written about the history of the fraternity but the above two paragraphs, paraphrase what most historians agree on.
Brother Benjamin Franklin, once said of Freemasonry: Freemasonry has tenets peculiar to itself. They serve as testimonials of character and qualifications, which are only conferred after due course of instruction and examination. These are of no small value; they speak a universal language, and act as a passport to the attentions and support of the initiated in all parts of the world. They cannot be lost as long as memory retains its power. Let the possessor of them be expatriated, shipwrecked or imprisoned, let him be stripped of everything he has got in the world, still those credentials remain, and are available for use as circumstances require. The good effects they have produced are established by the most incontestable facts of history. They have stayed the uplifted hand of the destroyer; they have softened the asperities of the tyrant; they have mitigated the horrors of captivity; they have subdued the rancor of malevolence; and broken down the barriers of political animosity and sectarian alienation. On the field of battle, in the solitudes of the uncultivated forest, or in the busy haunts of the crowded city, they have made men of the most hostile feelings, the most distant regions, and diversified conditions, rush to the aid of each other, and feel a special joy and satisfaction that they have been able to afford relief to a Brother Mason.
In conclusion, the Masonic fraternity is not a religion, nor a replacement for one, but rather it enhances the follower’s belief in whatever religion or path he chooses to follow. And like the Church of Interfaith Christians, the fraternity inculcates respect for all regardless of individual religious or political beliefs. And like the Church of Interfaith Christians, sadly, this centuries old institution has come under attack from the orthodox for this very reason.