PS Review of Freemasonry

Make this site your Home Page Print this page Send Masonic E-card recommend PS Review of Freemasonry Masonic Book Reviews Alerts Masonic News Alerts RSS News Feed
Serving Freemasons first
Search PS Review of Freemasonry

voltaire writing
"If this is the best of all possible worlds, what are the others?"
- Voltaire, Candide, Chapter 6
Bro. Gerald Reilly
Autumn 2009
by Bro. Gerald Reilly

“...between jurisdictional identities there are tensions on the lines of religion, gender and politics.” 

Recently, the UK Prime Minister paid tribute to a man who, during the early and mid 20th century, was a gifted mathematician and had made a massive contribution to public life. The opportunity was taken to express shame that this person ended his own life pending corporal punishment for the, then, offense of homosexuality. Since then it has been, in many part of the world, possible for people to “come out of the closet” to embrace a new climate of tolerance underpinned with the protection of anti-discrimination laws.

Indeed, the concept of openness and visibility is one of the tectonic plates that, repeatedly colliding with the bedrock of Freemasonry has often shaken grand lodges. For many in masonry, openness and visibility does not extend beyond the public recognition of a charitable donation where a good mason is understood to be contained within the parameters of the lodge and out of it one is but a good law abiding citizen. Commentators on Freemasonry have pointed to an inclusive/exclusive tension with which the movement wrestles; and, as earlier Candide’s Column’s have indicated, Freemasonry may yet have to realise a harmonised identity and role within civil society.  That Freemasonry may be considered to be a “broad chapel” is surely an understatement as between jurisdictional identities there are fundamental tensions on the lines of religion, gender and politics. It is on the first of these, religion, which Candide wishes to suggest an initial and exploratory focus.  

“ was not possible to be both a gentleman and a professing atheist.”     

There is a general prohibition on the discussion of religion within a lodge enabling sociability between a diversity of religious views united in a common belief in an ill-defined supreme being; or, an option of nothaving such a belief.  Superficially, this may be a good thing; however, this led to irreconcilable religious differences between grand lodges?  Worse, has it occasioned the suspicion and hostility of the world’s three leading revealed religions? It would appear that to some early masonic constitutionalists it was not possible to be both a gentleman and a professing atheist. Perhaps this was not an appropriate time for atheists to come out of the closet of unbelief. That is to say, a belief, no matter how vague or ill-defined, was more respectable than the profession of non-belief. Perhaps constitutional Freemasonry took its rise when religion was giving way to religiosity; that is to say, it was becoming a matter of outward conformance rather than inward conviction. Perhaps Freemasonry today is increasingly more of the same. However, why is it that in most constitutions there is a requirement for a belief in a supreme being? What is being achieved thereby and why should a person who professes belief in an ill-defined concept of a supreme being be inclusive to freemasonry to the exclusion of a model citizen who has no need of such a belief? How many Freemasons who profess belief in a supreme being would recognise one if they fell over a hundred of them?

“It seems that the need to be religious.... is understood as believing in a supreme being.”

Candide has earnestly sought to ascertain one thing and one thing in particular from among freemasons who profess, in general, to a belief in a supreme being. And, it is the one thing that makes all the difference between all the various existing subjective understandings of supreme being. The usual understanding is that the location of a supreme being is outside of measurable space and that this has been the case since before time began and will continue after time is no more. However, is there a possibility that a freemason may have a concept of supreme being that does not extend beyond space and time and that this may be necessary and sufficient for a grand lodge requiring a belief in a supreme being? That is to say, a supreme being might not have to be super-natural to achieve the recognition of a grand lodge!  

Of course, in those grand lodges where there is a requirement to believe in the immortality soul and the resurrection of the body the view could be taken that such a grand lodge has lost the masonic plot. It is promoting a divisive sectarian concept alien to the constitutions of the early part of Eighteenth Century Freemasonry into which Jewish people, who did not, and do not, believe in the resurrection of the body, were initiated. For some it is difficult to understand how there can be amity between grand lodges where such differences exist; perhaps, as such things are not allowed to be discussed, no problem arises. But, how would we explain this to an enquiring world where such things are discussed? How do we understand amity between lodges where some are open to any religion whereas some are only open to one particular religion? Yet some unity does exist as those open to either one or all religions combine in a rejection of those grand lodges for which a religion is not required. It seems that, in other than the grand lodges that are confined to one particular religion, the need to be religious is understood as believing in this vague notion of a supreme being.

“...Freemasonry has, apparently, thrived on obfuscation and obscurantism?   

Writing with the use of the term “supreme being” does invite some interesting intervention, varying from version to version, from Microsoft’s spelling and grammar check. It seems to be happy with “a supreme being” but with “the supreme being” it requires upper case “S” and “B”. Indeed, what does an affirmative answer to the question; “Do you believe in a supreme being” or “Do you believe in a Supreme Being” objectively convey? If the question is not, “Do you believe in that there is a Supreme Being” or “Do you believe in the existence of aSupreme Being” then what on earth is being asked?  Dare it be suggested that Freemasonry has, apparently, thrived on obfuscation and obscurantism?   

Perhaps it is time for freemasonry to come out of the cloisters. It does not require a belief in the super-natural to accept that Old Testament narratives can be a basis for moral and ethical lessons. What more is required? If a person wants to please a supernatural entity then perhaps a worshiping priest would be more appropriate than a worshipful master. Freemasonry provides a moral compass, derived from the workplace and applied to the rest of life on this earth; it was never intended for the acquisition of favours beyond space and time.

The ritual is fine as long as it is understood as secular ritual and not religious liturgy. For Freemasonry to have contemporary and future relevance it must explicitly and demonstrably cut the apron strings that bind it to religion, grow up and stand on its own secular feet. In so doing it can be open and visible for the cause of humanity; in modern definition, transparency is honesty.      

Home Page | Alphabetical Index | What is New | Freemasons World News
Research Papers | Books online | Freemasons History | Symbolism & Rituals
Saggi in Italiano | Essais en Langue Française | Monografias em Português | Planchas Masonicas en Español

| Sitemap | Privacy Policy | How to Contribute a Paper |

RSS Feed News Feed | News Alerts Subscribe News by Email

visitor/s currently on the page.