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From: PROSPER THE ART, by J, Sullivan.

Developed by W.Bro. Kent Henderson
Dip. T., B. Ed., Grad. Cert. Ed., Grad. Dip. Ed., M. Ed, Diploma of Masonic Education (Sth. Aust.)
Past Junior Grand Deacon, A. F. & A. Masons of Victoria, Australia.


In 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.


But 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!


Freemasonry 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:


· requires 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;

· requires 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;

· requires 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 membership);

· nominates the Volume of the Sacred Law as a Freemason's greatest light, guide or example in relation to his conduct in life;

· prescribes 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;

· requires all temples to be solemnly dedicated in the name of the Supreme Being;

· requires all lodges to be consecrated in the name of the Supreme Being;

· requires the appointment of a chaplain in all lodges with the responsibility of presenting prayers and supplications to the Supreme Being at lodge meetings.


While 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.


Freemasonry, 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".


It 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.



The 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".


Some 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.


The 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 the world.


To 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.


Unfortunately, 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.


In 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.


It 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.


This 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.


It 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".


In 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".


But 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 gatherings.


The 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.


What 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.


To 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.

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