The regularity and recognition of Grand Lodges are separate but allied subjects. Unless a Grand Lodge is regular, it cannot be recognised.
The United Grand Lodge of England
The administrators at ChristianForums.com has determined that the topic of Freemasonry, and its related threads, belong under the heading of Unorthodox Theology (a forum to discuss/debate theological doctrines not accepted by mainstream evangelical Christianity). This is rightfully so, because if any discerning evangelical Christian took a close look at the theological doctrines and teachings generally found in Freemasonry, they would have to conclude that they are biblically unorthodox; which for the purpose of this article may be loosely defined as failing to conform to, or consistently adhere to, the theological doctrines and teachings of the Christian faith as expressed in the Holy Bible and the early Christian ecumenical creeds.
Just as a Christian church or denomination must meet certain standards in order to be viewed or recognized as biblically orthodox; (namely that they believe in the inerrancy, and authority of Scripture [the Holy Bible], the Trinity, the Deity and exclusivity of Christ, His virgin birth and salvation by grace through faith in Him alone), a Masonic Lodge or Grand Lodge must meet certain standards to be viewed as Masonically orthodox. There are, however, some Masons who claim that while there are similarities among the tenets and teachings of one Masonic jurisdiction (a Masonic “denomination,” if you will) to another, each is “autonomous unto itself as pertains to authority and government of its lodges, and therefore does not have to comply with any other Grand Lodge jurisdiction.
That may be true, to a certain extent, but the purpose of this article is show that ALL Masonic jurisdictions MUST meet certain criteria, and ONLY that criteria, in order to be “regular” and/or Masonically “orthodox.”
While Freemasonry is arguably a religion, no Mason can deny that, at the very least it is religious in nature, by virtue of its religious requirements for membership; namely belief in a Supreme Being, the revealed will of such a being, and the immortality of the soul. The question is why they have these essential qualifications to become a member of the Masonic Order. The answer lies in what constitutes “regular” Freemasonry vs. “irregular” or “clandestine” Freemasonry. If a Masonic lodge or Grand Lodge is viewed or “recognized” as “regular” it means that it meets certain rules, principles or standards. If it does not meet these standards it is considered “clandestine” or Masonically “unorthodox.” Here is a more formal definition of Masonic Regularity:
Regularity is the process by which individual Grand Lodges recognise one another for the purposes of allowing formal interaction at the Grand Lodge level and visitation by members of other jurisdictions.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
So what are these rules, principles or standards and where in Masonry did they come from? Well, the United Grand Lodge of England (UGLE) is the Mother of ALL “regular” Freemasonry, therefore it only makes sense to turn to her for the answer to this question. The UGLE was established in 1717, but on September 4, 1929 the UGLE set forth “Eight Basic Principles for Grand Lodge Recognition.” As they put it, this was a codification, and not a statement of new principles that summarised the tests which the United Grand Lodge of England had applied and would apply in recognising regular Grand Lodges throughout the World.
In other words, if a Grand Lodge met the following criteria it would be considered regular and be recognized, if it does not meet this criteria it would not be considered regular or recognized.
1. Regularity of origin: i.e. each Grand Lodge shall have been established lawfully by a duly recognised Grand Lodge or by three or more regularly constituted Lodges.
2. That a belief in the G.A.O.T.U. and His revealed will shall be an essential qualification for membership.
3. That all Initiates shall take their Obligation on or in full view of the open Volume of the Sacred Law, by which is meant the revelation from above which is binding on the conscience of the particular individual who is being initiated.
4. That the membership of the Grand Lodge and individual Lodges shall be composed exclusively of men, and that each Grand Lodge shall have no Masonic intercourse of any kind with mixed Lodges or bodies which admit women to membership.
5. That the Grand Lodge shall have sovereign jurisdiction over the Lodges under its control; i.e. that it shall be a responsible, independent, self-governing organization, with sole and undisputed authority over the Craft or Symbolic Degrees (Entered Apprentice, Fellow Craft and Master Mason) within its Jurisdiction, and shall not in any way be subject to, or divide such authority with, a Supreme Council or other Power claiming any control or supervision over those degrees.
6. That the three Great Lights of Freemasonry (namely, the Volume of the Sacred Law, the Square and the Compasses) shall always be exhibited when the Grand Lodge or its subordinate Lodges are at work, the chief of these being the Volume of the Sacred Law.
7. That the discussion of religion and politics within the Lodge shall be strictly prohibited.
8. That the principles of the Ancient Landmarks, customs, and usages of the Craft shall be strictly observed.
The United Grand Lodge of England
So what is the point of all this? Well, there a two primary reasons; (1) to show that the criteria for Masonic Orthodoxy is vastly different from that of Christian Orthodoxy; which confirms why the topic belongs under “Unorthodox Theology” and (2) to refute the claims by Masons who would try to suggest that the specifics practiced in their own jurisdiction, or their own part of the world, is what really defines Freemasonry.
Having said that, the primary contention is with Principles # 2, 3, 6, and 7 above, will be addressed in the reminder of this article.
For example, some Masons who profess to be Christians will say something like, “Freemasonry affirms the God of the Bible.” Well that is not really a true statement because it violates Principle #2. According to this principle, the Great Architect of the Universe (G.A.O.T.U.) can also be “Allah” (the god of the Koran) to a Mason who professes to be Muslim; and he of course will believe the Koran is his revealed will. The same is true for Masons who believe in any other god other than the God of the Bible or the Koran. Their god is affirmed by this principle by virtue of their concept of G.A.O.T.U. and what they believe to be his/its revealed will. This is why this principle is biblically unorthodox, because it is not exclusive to the God of the Bible. And, this is why prominent Masonic authors can make the following claims.
For Masonry knows, what so many forget, that religions are many, but Religion is one . . . Therefore, it invites to its altar men of all faiths, knowing that, if they use different names for “the Nameless One of a hundred names,” they are yet praying to the one God and Father of all. . .
The Bible in Masonry by Joseph Fort Newton, 33º Mason
I will finish that quote in just a moment, but let me give you one from another prominent Masonic author that further emphasizes Principle #2.
You have learned that Freemasonry calls God, ‘The Great Architect of the Universe” (G.A.O.T.U.). This is the Freemason’s special name for God, because he is universal. He belongs to all men regardless of their religious persuasion. All wise men acknowledge His authority. In his private devotions a Mason will pray to Jehovah, Mohammed, Allah, Jesus or the Deity of his choice. In a Masonic Lodge, however, the Mason will find the name of his Deity within the G.A.O.T.U.
Page 6, The Craft and Its Symbols by Allen E. Roberts
And here’s one more to underscore Principle #2:
Now imagine me standing in lodge with my head bowed in prayer between Brother Mohammed Bokhary and Brother Arjun Melwani. To neither of them is the Great Architect of the Universe perceived as the Holy Trinity. To Brother Bokhary He has been revealed as Allah; to Brother Melwani He is probably perceived as Vishnu. Since I believe that there is only one God, I am confronted with three possibilities:
1. They are praying to the devil whilst I am praying to God;
2. They are praying to nothing, as their Gods do not exist;
3. They are praying to the same God as I, yet their understanding of His nature is partly incomplete (as indeed is mine — 1 Cor 13:12)
It is without hesitation that I accept the third possibility.
Christopher Haffner (1989) Workman Unashamed: The Testimony of a Christian Freemason. Lewis Masonic. p. 39
Of course, any good Bible Commentary will reveal that this is a misapplication of the verse (1 Cor. 13:12), but it is not uncommon for Masons who profess to be Christian to make such mistakes when applying Scripture. But in reference to Principle # 2, it would be more accurate for Masons professing to be Christians to state that “Freemasonry, as practiced in predominantly Christian countries, affirms the God of the Bible; but the orthodox Masonic principle in Freemasonry affirms the G.A.O.T.U., which includes all concepts of deity.” Nevertheless, it is still a heretical statement, and therefore biblically unorthodox. So in effect, Principle #2 violates the First Commandment (see Exodus 20:3 and Deuteronomy 32:16) and affirms that all concepts of Deity are one in the same, and that the One True Living God of the Bible is no different than the rest.
The issue with Principle #3 will be illustrated in more detail when I discuss Principle #6, but for now suffice to say that the problem from a biblical perspective, making it unorthodox theology, is the fact that it affirms and gives credence to the ‘sacred’ books of false religions with the comment “Volume of the Sacred Law, by which is meant the revelation from above…,” which, in effect, gives credence to the false gods of false religions. The only Volume of the Sacred Law (VSL) that is meant to be revelation from above is the Holy Bible; which is inspired by the One True Living God (2 Timothy 3:16). Yet this principle does not specify the Holy Bible as the exclusive revelation from above, which leads me to Principle #6.
If you ask any Mason in America, what is the Great Light in Masonry, most likely he will respond with the Holy Bible. Yet, this is only true in predominantly Christian countries. Notice, however, how Principle # 6 states that of the Three Great Lights of Masonry, the chief of these being the Volume of the Sacred Law (VSL), not the Holy Bible. Why VSL and not specifically the Holy Bible? As a designation, VSL is used in Freemasonry to neutrally represent whatever book is deemed ‘sacred’ to each member individually; just as the designation, G.A.O.T.U. is used in Freemasonry to neutrally represent whatever Supreme Being to which each member individually holds in adherence. In effect, Principle #6 places the Holy Bible on the same level, and in some lodges on the very same altar, with the false teachings found in the major religions of the world.
So here is how Principle #6 plays itself out. Remember that quote I promised to finish? Well here is the rest of it:
. . .knowing also, that while they read different volumes, they are in fact reading the same vast Book of the Faith of Man as revealed in the struggle and sorrow of the race in its quest of God. So that, great and noble as the Bible is, Masonry sees it as a symbol of that eternal Book of the Will of God . . . (emphasis added)
The Bible in Masonry by Joseph Fort Newton, 33º Mason
Another prominent Masonic author put it this way; emphasizing not only Principle #6, but also Principle # 2 at the same time:
For the Bible is here a symbol of all holy books of all faiths. It is the Masonic way of setting forth that simplest and most profound of truths which Masonry has made so peculiarly her own: that there is a way, there does run a road on which men “of all creeds and of every race” may travel happily together, be their differences of religious faith what they may. In his private devotions a man may petition God or Jehovah, Allah or Buddha, Mohammed or Jesus; he may call upon the God of Israel or the Great First Cause. In the Masonic Lodge he hears humble petition to the Great Architect of the Universe, finding his own deity under that name.
A hundred paths may wind upward around a mountain; at the top they meet. Freemasonry opens the Great Light upon her altar not as one book of one faith, but as all books of all faiths, the book of the Will of the Great Architect, read in what language, what form, what shape we will. It is as all-inclusive as the symbols which lie upon it. (emphasis added)
Introduction to Freemasonry – Entered Apprentice – by Carl H. Claudy
So when you hear a Mason who professes to be Christian say something like, “My Grand Lodge affirms the Holy Bible, Old & New Testament, as the Great Light in Masonry,” you now know the truth. It would be more accurate for him to state, “Freemasonry, as practiced in predominantly Christian countries, affirms the Holy Bible, but the orthodox Masonic principle in Freemasonry affirms that the Volume of Sacred Law (which includes any book deemed ‘sacred’ by any religion in the world) as the Great Light in Masonry.” Nevertheless, it is still a heretical principle, and therefore biblically unorthodox; and Christians should have nothing to do with it.
Finally, let’s talk about Principle #7, which states that “the discussion of religion and politics within the Lodge shall be strictly prohibited.” Politics, per se, has nothing to do with “theology” so we can put that part of it aside. But why do you think a religious fraternity, that has religious requirements for membership, would PROHIBIT religious discussion in the Lodge? Looking back at some of the quotes listed above should give us a good hint as to why. Let’s string them together, with others that speak to the same point, and we will begin to see the big picture that answers this question.
“It is the Masonic way of setting forth that simplest and most profound of truths which Masonry has made so peculiarly her own: that there is a way, there does run a road on which men “of all creeds and of every race” may travel happily together, be their differences of religious faith what they may. . .” “For Masonry knows, what so many forget, that religions are many, but Religion is one . . . Therefore, it invites to its altar men of all faiths. . .” “Every true Mason has come into the realization that there is but one Lodge – that is, the Universe – and but one Brotherhood. . . The true Mason is not creed-bound. He realizes with the divine illumination of his lodge that as Mason his religion must be universal: Christ, Buddha or Mohammed, the name means little, for he recognizes only the light and not the bearer. He worships at every shrine, bows before every altar, whether in temple, mosque or cathedral, realizing with his truer understanding the oneness of all spiritual truth.” “Under the shelter of this wise provision, the Christian and the Jew, the Muhammadan and the Brahmin, are permitted to unite around our common altar, and Masonry becomes in practice as well as theory, universal.” “”Masonry is not a religion, but Religion: not a church, but a worship, in which men of all religions may unite…”
Are you getting the picture? If you ask Masons about Principle #7, or google the reason why Freemasonry prohibits discussion of religion in the Masonic Lodge, you’ll find the answer was given in the “Masonic” Constitution of 1723 in which the first section states:
Of GOD and RELIGION
A Mason is obliged 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 it is 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 Denomination or Persuasion 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.
So as you can see, Principle #7 may prohibit discussion of sectarian religion, but it certainly allows discussion of the religion of Freemasonry; that is, “that religion in which all men agree.” How do they ensure that is the only religion discussed? They do it by incorporating symbolism into Freemasonry. From its inception, symbolism has been an integral part of Freemasonry. In fact, it is said to be a system that is “veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols.” As Masonic author, Carl H. Claudy put it, “Take from Freemasonry its symbols and but the husk remains, the kernel is gone. He who hears but the words of Freemasonry misses their meaning entirely.”
Hence Principles #2, 3, and 6; where G.A.O.T.U. is a symbol of any deity in the world, and the VSL is the symbol of any book deemed ‘sacred’ by any religion in the world. While there are many more “generic” symbols like this in Freemasonry, which are effective covered under Principle #8, suffice to say that through its symbolism, the Masonic Order can veil the “particular Opinions” of its disciples while allowing them to freely interpret them as they see fit in the context of their respective, individual faiths outside the Lodge, and at the same time, by keeping them generic it allows them to freely participate and adhere to “that religion in which all men agree.”
Of course, this is unorthodox from a Christian perspective, but so goes Masonic Orthodoxy. In conclusion, if are reading this right now and happen to be a Mason who professes to be a Christian, consider this article as a warning to you by God. Repent from your sin from this great compromise called Freemasonry; and resign from the Masonic Lodge. Until you do, the condition of your heart and soul hangs in the balance.
Most Masons, and every Grand Lodge in the world, will vehemently say that Freemasonry is NOT a religion, nor is it a substitute for religion. But if it clearly has all of the trappings of a religion, and meets a dictionary definition of religion, would that make it a religion? Of course it would. As the old adage goes, “if it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, and swims like a duck, it’s a duck!” Yet the institution of Freemasonry (the Lodge) declares that it is merely a fraternity that performs social, civic and philanthropic activities. However, let’s take a closer look at Freemasonry and allow you, the reader of this blog, to decide for yourself.
Freemasonry has certain “religious” requirements for membership. Every candidate for Masonic membership must:
- Believe in “a” Supreme Being (any ‘ol god of choice)
- Believe in the immortality of the soul
By the way, Freemasonry places a nebulous emphasis on defining just who God is. Whether it be the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, or Ahura Mazda in Zoroastrianism, Allah of Islam, or the ever-evolving Brahma of Hinduism, Masonically they ALL represent the Great Architect of the Universe (GAOTU).
Every Masonic Lodge must contain certain “religious” furniture in order to operate:
- Every lodge must have an altar
- Every Masonic altar must have opened upon it a Volume of Sacred Law (VSL), but not necessarily the Holy Bible
Additionally, regarding the VSL, it doesn’t matter whether it be the Old & New Testaments for the Christian, the Pentateuch to the Israelite, the Koran to the Muslim man, or the Vedas to the Brahman, in Freemasonry they all convey the same idea—that of the symbolism of the Divine Will of God revealed to man. What’s more, prayers are performed in every Masonic lodge, not just to open and close its sessions, but even for the sanctification of every new candidate for initiation. As one Grand Lodge puts it:
Every Mason must believe in [a] God and in the immortality of the soul. The VSL must be open on every Lodge Altar. A candidate takes his Obligations upon his knees. Before engaging in any important undertaking [i.e. initiation] a Mason seeks aid and guidance through prayer from the Sovereign Grand Architect of the Universe. This is religion, but it is not a religion. It is faith, but it is not a faith confined to any one creed. It is worship, but it is not a worship chained to any one Altar. In the great words of the First Book of Constitutions it is the religion in which all good men agree. It is the ground which underlies all religions, all churches, all creeds… (emphasis added)
Grand Lodge of Florida, Lodge System of Masonic Education, Booklet 1, pg. 11
Given what’s been shared so far, does this sound more like a fraternity or a religion? Thirty-third degree Mason Jim Tresner, would say that it all depends on how you define religion:
No, not by the definitions most people use. Religion, as the term is commonly used, implies several things: a plan of salvation or path by which one reaches the afterlife; a theology which attempts to define the nature of God; and the description of ways or practices by which a man or woman may need to communicate with God. Masonry does none of those things. . . . 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 beautiful, serve the good and see God in everything,” you can say that Masonry subscribes to a religion. But that, surely, is not in conflict with Christianity or any other faith. (emphasis added)
Conscience and the Craft by the Grand Lodge of New Mexico, 1992, pages 2-3
We will address his point about Masonic writers declaring Freemasonry as a religion in just a moment. But since he said it depends on how you define religion, let’s take a look at an appropriate dictionary definition of religion, and ask yourself, does the aforementioned information appear to be describing this definition:
A personal set or institutionalized system of religious attitudes, beliefs, and practices. – merriam-webster.com
As was mentioned at the beginning, most Masons will vehemently deny that Freemasonry is a religion. But some prominent Masons would disagree with them. Here is what a few of them have to say about it:
Some attempt to avoid the issue by saying that Freemasonry is not a religion but is religious, seeming to believe that the substitution of an adjective for a noun makes a fundamental difference. It would be as sensible to say that man had no intellect but was intellectual or that he had no honor but was honorable. . . The oft-repeated aphorism: “Freemasonry is not a religion, but is most emphatically religion’s handmaid,” has been challenged as meaningless, which it seems, to be. . . Freemasonry certainly requires a belief in the existence of, and man’s dependence upon, a Supreme Being to whom he is responsible. What can a church add to that, except to bring into one fellowship those who have like feelings?
That is exactly what the lodge does. . . Does Freemasonry have a creed (I believe) or tenet (he holds) or dogma (I think) to which all members must adhere? Does Freemasonry continually teach and insist upon a creed, tenet, and dogma? Does it have meetings characterized by the practice of rites and ceremonies in and by which its creed, tenet, and dogma are illustrated by myths, symbols, and allegories? If Freemasonry were not religion, what would have to be done to make it such? . . . The difference between a lodge and a church is one of degree and not of kind. . . Freemasonry has a religious service to commit the body of a deceased brother to the dust whence it came and to speed the liberated spirit back to the Great Source of Light? . . . Many Freemasons make this flight with no other, guarantee of a safe landing than their belief in the religion of Freemasonry. If that is a false hope; the Fraternity should abandon funeral services and devote its attention to activities where it is sure of its ground and its authority. (emphasis added)
Henry W. Coil, 33º ‘Coil’s Masonic Encyclopedia’, page 512
Folks, this is why famous Masonic author Carl Claudy can get away with saying:
The Master Mason learns that true Freemasonry gives to a man a well-spent life and assurance of a glorious immortality.
Carl Claudy, Foreign Countries, page 11
Other well-known Masonic writers assert that Freemasonry is religion. One is the most eminent Masons of all-time, Albert Pike, declared:
Every Masonic Lodge is a temple of religion; and its teachings are instructions in religion… This is the true religion revealed to the ancient patriarchs; which Masonry has taught for many centuries, and which it will continue to teach as long as time endures… It is the universal, eternal, immutable religion, such as God planted in the heart of universal humanity. … The ministers of this religion are all Masons who comprehend it; … (emphasis added)
Albert Pike, Morals and Dogma, pages 213-219
Then there is the prolific author, Albert G. Mackey, a Masonic historian, ritualist, and thirty-third degree Mason, who writes:
There has been a needless expenditure of ingenuity and talent, by a large number of Masonic orators and essayists, in the endeavor to prove that Freemasonry is not a religion. : . . On the contrary, we contend, without any sort of hesitation, that Freemasonry is, in every sense of the word, except one, and that its least philosophical, an eminently religious institution-that it is indebted solely to the religious element it contains for its origin as well as its continued existence, and that without this religious element it would scarcely be worthy of cultivation by the wise and good. . . . We open and close our Lodges with prayer; we invoke the blessing of the Most High upon all our labors; we demand of our neophytes a profession of trusting belief in the existence and the superintending care of [a] God; and we teach them to bow with humility and reverence at His awful name, while His Holy Law is widely opened upon our altars. Freemasonry is thus identified with religion. [emphasis added]
Encyclopedia of Freemasonry by Albert G. Mackey, rev. ed., Vol. 2, 1966, pages 846-47
Masonic scholar Robert Macoy said:
That Freemasonry should be spoken of as a religious institution, or as imparting religious instruction, undoubtedly sounds strange to those who think religion must necessarily be confined to a particular set of theological dogmas, or, in other words, be sectarian. But why should it be thought necessary to make religion traverse simply the narrow circle of sectarian ideas? Is it not a degradation to confine it to so limited a sphere?
Past Grand Chaplain, Joseph Fort Newton, 33º, of the Grand Lodge of Iowa, states that:
It is true that Masonry is not a religion, but it is Religion, a worship in which all good men may unite, that each may share the faith of all.
Joseph F. Newton, The Builders, pages 250-251
Finally, the Masonic ritual is the written authority of what constitutes Freemasonry. And it even declares that:
“Speculative, or Freemasonry is so far interwoven with religion as to lay us under obligations to pay that rational homage to the Deity which at once constitutes our duty and our happiness. It leads the contemplative mind to view with reverence and admiration the glorious works of creation, and inspires him with the most exalted ideas of the perfection of his divine Creator.” (emphasis added)
Although I could go on ad nauseum, let me stop here and ask you to respond to the question. After reading all of this what say you? Can you now honestly say Freemasonry is not a religion? If not, then what is it? If you cannot bring yourself to all it a religion, then call it a cult, or a universal-strangely-religious-brotherhood of men who wear aprons when they meet, but whatever you do, you certainly can’t just say it is merely a social, civic, philanthropic fraternity.
To learn more about the Order of Former Freemasons, visit us at www.formermasons.org.