the final charge in the first degree, brethren are directed that their obedience
to the Masonic philosophy must be proved in several ways. One of the expressed
requirements is that brethren, whilst in the lodge, are to abstain from every
topic of religious or political discussion.
is not Freemasonry religious to some extent? And is not the order concerned with
politics in the sense that political policies, discussions, controversies and
decisions appear to touch on most aspects of everyday life? What then is the
reason for the very definite restraint imposed on brethren!
is certainly not a religious entity nor denomination. The Craft, however, must
be said to be religious or quasi-religious in character in that it:
all candidates to express a belief in the existence of a Supreme Being (God) and
to acknowledge that in all cases of difficulty and danger they will put their
trust in God;
all candidates to take certain firm obligations on the Volume of the Sacred Law
-- the particular sacred volume depending on the candidate's personal religion
and the book held by the candidate's creed to impart sanctity to an oath or
promise taken upon it;
the Volume of the Sacred Law to be open in every lodge during meetings (or more
than one Volume if more than one religion is represented in the lodge
the Volume of the Sacred Law as a Freemason's greatest light, guide or example
in relation to his conduct in life;
that all Masonic meetings will be conducted on the basis that Freemasons in
attendance acknowledge the continuous presence of the Supreme Being under the
various titles of Great Architect of the Universe, Grand
Geometrician of the Universe, Most High or other form;
all temples to be solemnly dedicated in the name of the Supreme Being;
all lodges to be consecrated in the name of the Supreme Being;
the appointment of a chaplain in all lodges with the responsibility of
presenting prayers and supplications to the Supreme Being at lodge meetings.
Freemasonry does not pretend to be a religion in a sectarian or denominational
sense, it can, nevertheless, represent a means of enforcing and illustrating
general religious and ethical principles and precepts.
basically, is a philosophical system of morality and candidates are entitled to
hold whatever religious principles and beliefs they choose. All that the order
asks is that each candidate brings with him from his particular religion an
essential belief in a Supreme Being -- a Being who has been called masonically,
"A Glorious Architect of Heaven and Earth".
seems that, originally, there were diverse religious views held by some senior
Freemasons in the United Kingdom, and, in such circumstances, it was agreed in
the early days of the order that the only means of preserving harmony in this
sensitive area was to prohibit religious discussion in lodges.
utter necessity for the Masonic order to be of a non-sectarian character was
emphasised by Dr James Anderson in his famous Constitutions published in
1723 when, in his charge entitled "Concerning God and Religion",
he wrote ". . . our Religion (is) the Law of Nature and to love God above
all things and our neighbour as our self; this is the true, primitive, catholic
and universal Religion, agreed to be so in all Times and Ages".
comment is necessary regarding the relationship between Freemasonry and one
particular branch of the Christian religion, namely, Roman Catholicism, because
of an obvious lack of understanding of the real position by many in the
community (including some Freemasons) who have the idea that Freemasonry
actively adopts an anti-Roman Catholic stance.
first of Freemasonry's three grand principles is brotherly love – a
fundamental love of mankind which bars the exclusion of any group. To preclude
the admission of members of any particular section of society would undermine
our very foundations and cause us to look hypocritical and false in the eyes of
gain a better understanding of the real position, it is necessary to go back
into the past. Over the many years since the Craft's beginnings, but
particularly in the 18th and 19th centuries, several Papal Bulls were issued
placing bans on members of the Roman Catholic church joining our order. The
precise reasons for the promulgation of these edicts have faded in the mists of
time, but Freemasonry may have to concede that, in the early formative and
developmental years, there may have been happenings involving some members of
the order which could have provided sufficient substance to cause the Church to
act as it did.
as the years went by, Church and Craft attitudes polarised and, here too, we
have to admit that there was some degree of over-reaction by some members of the
Craft which could have helped to maintain the gulf. But Freemasonry's conscience
is clear in that at no time was any restriction placed on Roman Catholics
becoming members of our order.
the event, it was not until the 1960s following the enthronement. Of Pope John
XXIII that any relaxation of the Church's hard-line attitude emerged. Pope John
was responsible for a considerable liberalisation in many areas of church
doctrine, and Freemasonry gained as the result of a more tolerant viewpoint
adopted by the Church. This welcome development was to result in more and more
members of the Roman Catholic faith coming forward to seek membership of the
Masonic order and all seemed well.
is sad to relate, however, that in the last two or three years, the Church has
again become more rigid in its attitude to the Craft. The situation now appears
to be that, while the fact of a Roman Catholic joining our order will not be
regarded by the Church as an excommunicable sin, the Church still has
Freemasonry listed as an organisation hostile to Roman Catholicism.
cannot be so, and it is unbelievable that the Church hierarchy would not know
this truth. From the Masonic side, it should be mentioned that intending Roman
Catholic candidates are normally advised to discuss their intentions with their
families and their local priest(s) before coming to a final decision. This
reflects Freemasonry's concern for harmony on both sides.
is of interest that the present pontiff, during a recent visit to South Korea,
expressed the hope that there would develop a greater degree of brotherly love
in the future between the two Koreas. He has voiced similar thoughts in relation
to his native Poland. As an organisation dedicated to the principle of brotherly
love, it does not seem out of place for Freemasonry to expect a more kindly
attitude towards it from the Roman Catholic authorities, a greater sense of
rapport, in the days ahead. Surely, we are at one with the Church in seeking
"a Brotherhood of Man under a Fatherhood of God".
the same way that no candidate is rejected from admission into the Masonic order
on denominational grounds, so no candidate is refused entry on account of his
political beliefs. Because of this, many religious denominations and political
parties are represented in the world Masonic membership. This is a healthy
situation and Freemasons can feel proud that their organisation is, indeed, a
fraternal fellowship which can bring together men with quite differing
viewpoints in these two fundamental aspects of life. To quote from the Ancient
Charges, Freemasonry is said to be able to represent "the centre of good
men and true, and the happy means of conciliating friendship amongst those who
must otherwise have remained at a perpetual distance".
politics, as well as religion, are matters which can divide if enthusiasm and
keenness are allowed to develop into fanaticism and permitted to override
prudence and temperance. Therefore, it is wise and sensible that our order, in
seeking to foster and maintain a spirit of harmony of the highest possible
order, should proscribe discussion in such sensitive areas in our Masonic
founders of our order also deemed it vital that Freemasonry, as an organisation,
should not seek formally to associate with any particular political entity or
religious body. In the outside world, however, the position is different and,
politically, brethren may espouse any political cause and may be members of and,
indeed, very dedicated adherents of any political group which, to them, appears
to offer the best and most equitable and effective means of facing up to and
solving the various social and other problems besetting mankind.
is expected by the Craft, however, is that, because of their Masonic association
and training, brethren with a strong interest in an attachment to particular
streams of political thought, extending even into the governmental and
parliamentary arena, would work and act in this field of endeavour with the
highest degree of responsibility and propriety, holding fast to Masonic
principles at all times.
conclude, it is not intended to be at all controversial in adding that our order
would not expect any Freemason to be associated with the Communist element in
politics for the simple reason that Communism, by definition, is a godless
society with no allegiance offered to any spiritual being. One can be a
Freemason or a Communist but not both at the one time.