Is Masonry a Religion? (I)

Fred Shewmaker
Williams, Indiana

I have not come to my convictions on this matter without investigating the writings of those considered by Masons themselves to he acceptable authorities regarding the doctrines of Masonry.

There are two reasons why most Masons you will chance to meet will deny that Masonry is a religion. Both reasons are to be found in one statement. Masonic teachers deliberately deceive "the Initiate" into believing that Masonry is not a religion. That is a grave charge for me to make and the fact is that it is made by a Masonic writer rather than by me. Here is the quotation from Morals and Dogma of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry:

"The Blue Degrees are but the outer court or portico of the Temple. Parts of the symbols are displayed there to the Initiate, but he is intentionally misled by false interpretations. It is not intended that he shall imagine he understands them. Their true explication is reserved for the Adepts, the Princes of Masonry. The whole body of the Royal and Sacerdotal Art was hidden so carefully, centuries since in the High Degrees, as that it is even yet impossible to solve many of the enigmas which they contain. It is well enough for the mass of those called Masons, to imagine that all is contained in the Blue Degrees; and whoso attempts to undeceive them will labor in vain, and without any true reward violate his obligations as an adept; Masonry is the veritable sphinx, buried to the head in the sands heaped round it by the ages." (page 819)

Obviously the two reasons Masons deny that Masonry is religion are that those in the "Blue Degrees" are deceived into believing that it is not, and the "adepts" are contributing to the deception.

I readily admit that the quotation does not necessarily identify all the areas of knowledge and understanding in which those in the "Blue Degrees" are "intentionaly misled." But the religious aspect of Masonry is definitely under consideration. According to Webster the word "Sacerdotal" means: "1. of or relating to priesthood: PRIESTLY 2. of, relating to, or suggesting Sacerdotalism." "Sacerdotalism" means; "religious belief emphasizing the powers of priests as essential mediators between God and man." The deception of Masons of the lower degrees regarding the religious nature of Masonry is very clearly seen in the quotation given from Morals and Dogma.

My convictions that Masonry is religious in nature is further supported by another paragraph found in Morals and Dogma:

"Nevertheless, Masonry, which is Morality and Philosophy, must not cease to do its duty.... Masonry should not be a mere watch-tower, built upon mystery, from which
to gaze at ease upon the world, with no other result than to be a convenience for the
curious. To hold the full cup of thought to the thirsty lips of men; to give to all the true
ideas of Deity; to harmonize conscience and science, are the province of Philosophy.

Morality is Faith in full bloom. Then Philosophy becomes Religion." (page 20)

Again I quote from Morals and Dogma:

"The Hermetic Science of the early Christian ages,.., embodied in certain symbols of the higher Degrees of Freemasonry, may be accurately defined as the Kabalah in active realization, or the Magic of Works. It has three analogous Degrees, religious, philosophical, and physical realization.

Its religious realization is the durable foundation of the true Empire and the true Priesthood that rule in the realm of human intellect: . . ."

These should be clear enough for anyone to see the religious nature of Masonry.

However, I want to use another quotation. Under the heading "Altar" in the Encyclopedia of Freemasonry by Albert G. Mackey you find this quotation:

"The most important article of furniture in a Lodge room is, undoubtedly, the altar. It is worth while, then, to investigate its character and its relation to the altars of other religious institutions."

Just here we should observe that the word "other" is a clear implication that Masonry is a "religious institution" among religious institutions. This article continues,

"The definition of an altar is very simple. It is a structure elevated above the ground, and appropriated to some service connected with worship, such as the offering of obligations, sacrifices, or prayers.

This certainly shows that the Masons conduct worship services in their "Lodge room." After a consideration of altars among ancient peoples, the following statement is made:

"The Masonic altar, which, like everything else in Masonry, is symbolic, appears to combine the character and uses of both of these altars."

This refers to a previous statement:

"Among the ancients, both Jews and Gentiles, altars were two kinds--for incense and for sacrifice."

Mackey explained how the Masonic altar combines "the character and uses of both of these altars."

"It is an altar of sacrifice, for on it the candidate is directed to lay his passions and vices as an oblation to the Deity, while he offers up the thoughts of a pure heart as a fitting incense to the Grand Architect of the Universe. The altar is, therefore, the most holy place in a Lodge."

In a later paragraph are these words:

"From all this we see that the altar in Masonry is not merely a convenient article of furniture, intended like a table to hold a Bible. It is a sacred utensil of religion, intended, like the altars of the ancient temples, for religious uses, and thus identifying Masonry, by it~ necessary existence in our Lodges, as a religious institution. Its presence should also lead the contemplative Mason to view the ceremonies in which it is employed with solemn reverence, as being part of a really religious worship."

It is my considered conviction that, regardless of the many denials that have been made Masonry is a religious institution, practices a false religion and thus is not compatible with the life of a Christian. My convictions are not based upon the writings of other gospel preachers, nor are they a matter of prejudice. Any reader can judge for himself as to what is the import of the quotations herein given.

TRUTH MAGAZINE XIV; 32, pp. 9-11

June 18, 1970