Freemasonry refers to the principles, institutions, and practices of the fraternal
order of the Free and Accepted Masons. The largest worldwide society, Freemasonry is an
organization of men based on the "fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man,"
using builders' tools as symbols to teach basic moral truths generally accepted by persons
of good will. Their motto is "morality in which all men agree, that is, to be good
men and true." It is religious in that a belief in a Supreme Being and in the
immortality of the soul are the two prime requirements for membership, but it is
nonsectarian in that no religious test is used.1 The purpose of Freemasonry is to enable men to meet in harmony,
to promote friendship, and to be charitable. Its basic ideals are that all persons are the
children of one God, that all persons are related to each other, and that the best way to
worship God is to be of service to people.
Masons have no national headquarters as such, but the largest regional is the Scottish Rite Southern Jurisdiction (35 Southern states), which is headquartered in Alexandria, Virginia. U.S. membership is claimed at about 3.5 million, with about five million worldwide. The basic unit of Freemasonry is the lodge, which exists under a charter issued by a grand lodge exercising administrative powers. The lodges are linked together informally by a system of mutual recognition between lodges that meet the Masonic requirements. The lodge confers three degrees: Entered Apprentice, Fellow Craft, and Master Mason. Additional degrees are conferred by two groups of advanced Freemasonry: the York Rite, which awards 12 degrees; and the Scottish Rite, which awards 30 higher degrees. In the United States and Canada, members have formed a large number of groups to enable them to expand their social and charitable activities. The best known of these groups is the Shriners (official name: "Ancient Arabic Order Nobles Mystic Shrine"), who hold festive parades and support hospitals for crippled and burned children. (To be a Shriner, one must be a 32nd degree Scottish Rite Mason, or its equivalent in the York Rite [Knights Templar]). [The 33rd degree is an honorary degree bestowed upon especially worthy masons who have accomplished outstanding work in such fields as religion and politics.]
Although only men (of at least 21 years of age) can be Masons, related organizations are available for their relatives -- there is the Order of the Eastern Star for Master Masons and their wives; the Order of De Molay for boys; and the Order of Job's Daughters and the Order of Rainbow for young girls. The Masonic Lodge has more than a hundred such fraternal organizations, including Daughters of the Nile, The Tall Cedars of Lebanon, The Mystic Order of Veiled Prophets Of The Enchanted Realm, The Knights Of The Red Cross Of Constantine, and The Blue Lodge.
Though some Masons trace their organization's origin back to the beginning of time (much of their teaching is tied to Solomon's temple, but they also claim that John the Baptist and the Apostle John were Masons), modern Masonry dates only to 1717. It was in that year that four lodges in Great Britain formed the first Grand Lodge of England, which became the Premier Grand Lodge of the world. Since that time, lodges have spread all over the world with local grand lodges formed whenever enough lodges exist in an area. Lodges first appeared in America in Philadelphia (1730) and Boston (1733).
The terminology and symbolism of Masonry seem to come mostly from the actual craft of stonemasonry during the Middle Ages. The "free" in Masonry probably came from the "freestones" (stones that could be cut without splitting) with which Mason's worked. Stonemasons had three classifications for workers practicing their craft: Apprentice, Fellow Craft, and Master Mason. As mentioned earlier, this is also the terminology used for the first three degrees in Masonry today.
Many allegories and symbols are used in Masonry. The old English Constitution refers to an ancient definition of the ancient craft: "Freemasonry is a system of morality, veiled in allegory, and illustrated by symbol," [Freemason' symbols can be made to mean almost anything a person chooses to make them; Master Masons take an oath, "Ever to conceal, never to reveal."2] It seeks to make good men better through the form of belief in "the fatherhood of God, the brotherhood of man, and the immortality of the soul."
Masonry was originally a means by which people in the occult could practice their
"craft" and still remain respectable citizens. The
official publication of "The Supreme Council 33" of Scottish Rite
Freemasonry is titled New Age. Some church denominations are also
led by avowed Masons. For example, a 1991 survey by the Southern
Baptist Convention Sunday School Board found that 14% of SBC pastors and 18%
of SBC deacon board chairs were Masons; it is also estimated that SBC members
comprise 37% of total U.S. lodge membership. (A 2000 updated SBC report found
that over 1,000 SBC pastors are Masons.)
Many other secret societies seem to be patterned after the Masons. L. James Rongstad says that Freemasonry "is the 'Granddaddy' of all lodges. Its teachings, rituals, customs and practices, and its secrecy have had an inspirational effect on other similar groups such as the Moose, Eagles, Elks, and the National Grange." Mormon Temple rites are also strikingly similar to Masonic Lodge practices (probably because Joseph Smith, the founder of the Mormon Church, was also a Mason). Most of the rituals of today's college fraternities are also based more or less directly upon Masonic rituals.
The symbols on the back of the U.S. dollar bill (pyramid, all-seeing eye, the number of
feathers on the eagle's spread wings, the stars above the eagle's head in the shape of the
Star of David, and the mottos e pluribus unum [out of many one] and novus
ordo seclorum [a new order of the ages]) also appear to emanate from Freemasonry;
this would not be surprising considering many of America's so-called
founding fathers were themselves Masons -- George Washington, Thomas Jefferson,
Benjamin Franklin, Ethan Allen, John Hancock, John Paul Jones, Paul Revere, Robert
Livingston, and 35 other lesser known men who were signers of the Declaration of
Independence and/or the Constitution. (It should be noted that there were also a number of
the founding fathers who condemned masonry: John Adams, John Quincy Adams, James Madison,
Millard Fillmore, Daniel Webster, and Charles Sumner.) Other notable men in history who
have been Freemasons include Mozart, Henry Ford, Rudyard Kipling, Gerald Ford, Norman
Vincent Peale, Douglas MacArthur, and Will Rogers.
Since Masons are involved in so many worthy causes, many are unaware that Masonic leaders readily admit that Freemasonry is actually a religion, not merely a "fraternal, social, civic service organization." Joseph Fort Newton (1880-1950), an Episcopal minister and recognized authority in the Masonic world, said, "Masonry is not a religion but Religion -- not a church but a worship in which men of all religions may unite." In fact, Freemasonry even sees itself as superseding and unifying all religions. (At various times and places, Freemasonry has met religious and political opposition. Religious opponents, especially the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches, have traditionally claimed that Freemasonry is a religion and is a secret organization.)
Henry Wilson Coil is the author of the encyclopedia that many lodges now accept as their authoritative source (Coil's Masonic Encyclopedia). Coil says that if Freemasonry is not a religion, nothing would have to be added to make it such, and that the religious service at the funeral of a Mason is evidence enough that Freemasonry is a religion. But the fact that Freemasonry is religion would not necessarily condemn it, except that the views of the Masonic religion are in open conflict with Biblical Christianity, so much so that, in our opinion, a knowledgeable and committed Mason could not possibly be a true Christian.
Below is detailed what the Masons believe about their source of authority, God, Jesus Christ, sin, and salvation and future life:
1. Source of Authority. Masons refer to the Bible as the "Volume of the Sacred Law" (V.S.L.), and it is considered an indispensable part of what is called "the furniture" in a Masonic Lodge. But the Bible is used only in a so-called "Christian" lodge -- the Hebrew Pentateuch is used in a Hebrew lodge, the Koran in a Mohammedan lodge, the Vedas in a Brahmin lodge, etc. Jim Shaw, a former 33rd degree Mason, says that Masonry is not based on the Bible (referred to as "The Great Light"), but on the Kabala (Cabala), a medieval book of mysticism and magic. Masonic authority Henry Wilson Coil also admits that the Kabala's teachings can be seen in some of the mystical and philosophical degrees of Masonry. Albert Pike (see next), the man responsible for virtually rewriting the Scottish Rite degrees into their present form, said that the Masonic "search after light" leads directly back to the Kabala, the ultimate source of Masonic beliefs (Morals and Dogma). [HJB]
One of the great authorities on Masonry was Albert Pike (1809-1901), Sovereign Grand Commander of the Southern Supreme Council of Scottish Right Freemasonry in the USA and "an honorary member of almost every Supreme Council in the world" (Albert G. Mackey, 33rd degree, and Charles T. McClenachan, 33rd degree, Encyclopedia of Freemasonry, The Masonic History Company, 1921, rev. ed.; 2:564). Pike authored Morals and Dogma of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry for the Supreme Council of the 33rd Degree, which was published by its authority. This compendium of official Masonic lore clearly traces Masonry to Hinduism, Buddhism, Zoroastrianism, and other Eastern religions. Albert G. Mackey, co-author of Encyclopedia of Freemasonry, is also one of Masonry's highest authorities. In his Manual of the Lodge, he traces Masonic teaching back to "the ancient rites and mysteries practiced in the very bosom of pagan darkness. ..." (Albert G. Mackey, Manual of the Lodge, Macoy and Sickles, 1802, p. 96).
In the final analysis, Masons do not adjust their beliefs to fit the Bible, the Bible is adjusted to fit their beliefs. A Mason's loyalty is never to God but to the Lodge. Coil has concluded that: "The prevailing Masonic opinion is that the Bible is only a symbol of Divine Will, Law, or Revelation, and not that its contents are Divine Law, inspired, or revealed. So far, no responsible authority has held that a Freemason must believe the Bible or any part of it." Masonry's only concern is that each person must swear by the most holy book he knows, so that he will then keep the oaths of Freemasonry. (See Endnote #2 again.)
2. God. Masons require one to believe in God to be a member, but the candidate is never required to say what god he believes in -- "Masonry ... requires merely that you believe in some deity, give him what name you will ... any god will do, so he is your god" (Little Masonic Library, Macoy Publishing, 1977, 4:32). Masons commonly refer to their deity as the "Great Architect of the Universe" (G.A.O.T.U.) or the Supreme Being. God is further described as Grand Artificer, Grand Master of the Grand Lodge Above, Jehovah, Allah, Buddha, Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva, or Great Geometer. (The "G" in the Masonic ring can refer to God; it can also refer to geometry.) Masons claim that the actual name for God has been lost (cf. Jn. 14:8,9; Phil. 2:9-11; 1 Jn. 5:20) [HJB].
3. Jesus Christ. The name of Christ is seldom referred to in Masonic literature, apparently due to Masons not wanting to offend their non-Christian members. Some Masonic leaders even teach that the Messiah will not be an individual, but "the perfection of the human race." One such leader thinks that the stories about various Messiahs have their origin in the most ancient of religious beliefs -- Solar Worship. Masons, therefore, consider the discussion about the deity of Christ to be an endless, futile argument. When quoting from the Bible, references to Christ are omitted, and prayer is never allowed to be offered (in a "well-ordered" lodge) in the name of Jesus Christ. Masons do not care whether a person privately petitions God or Jehovah, Allah or Buddha, Mohammed or Jesus, the God of Israel or the "Great First Cause," but in the Lodge, the only petition allowed is to the "Great Architect of the Universe." [HJB] Clearly then, Freemasonry does not believe that Jesus Christ is God, nor that salvation is available only through Him (cf. 1 Jn. 4:3). Freemasonry is a religion without a Savior.
At the heart of Masonry is a secret Luciferian doctrine which a Mason only comes to understand as he reaches the higher levels. Manly Palmer Hall, another of the great authorities on Masonry, writes, "When the Mason ... has learned the mystery of his Craft, the seething energies of Lucifer are in his hands. ..." (Manly Palmer Hall, The Lost Keys of Freemasonry, p. 48). The Apostle John warned that those who deny that Jesus is the only, all sufficient Christ, and that He came once and for all in the flesh, have embraced the spirit of Antichrist (1 Jn. 4:1-3). That Jesus was not the Christ, but that He had attained to the state of "Christ-consciousness" available to all mankind, is again part of Masonry: "Jesus of Nazareth had attained a level of consciousness, of perfection, that has been called by various names: cosmic consciousness, soul regeneration, philosophic initiation, spiritual illumination, Brahmic Splendor, Christ-consciousness" (Lynn F. Perkins, The Meaning of Masonry, CSA Press, 1971, p. 53).
4. Sin. Sin is seldom referred to in Masonic literature. The reality of sin in the Biblical sense is denied (much like the Christian Scientists); Masons think that any "shortcomings" can be overcome by greater enlightenment. Yet in attaining the degree of Master Mason, the symbolism implies that a person is redeemed from the death of sin and sin's pollution. [HJB]
5. Salvation and Future Life. Masons think that salvation refers to being brought from the material to the spiritual; i.e., when man returns to "his forgotten inherent spirituality." Masons believe that the degree of Master Mason is symbolical of old age, which allows a person to happily reflect on a well-spent life and to "die in the hope of a glorious immortality." Because they deny the reality of sin, Masons see no need of salvation in the Biblical sense. They see salvation as a step-by-step enlightenment, which comes through initiation into the Masonic degrees and their mysteries. [HJB]
In the 19th degree of Scottish Rite Freemasonry, the initiate is told that attachment to Masonry's "statutes and rules of the order" will make him "deserving of entering the celestial Jerusalem [heaven]." In the 28th degree, he is told that "the true Mason [is one] who raises himself by degrees till he reaches heaven" and that one of his duties is "To divest [him]self of original sin ..." Masons clearly teach a salvation by works, or character development, not a salvation by faith in Christ alone. Even in the 32nd Degree, a Mason never can nor will find the "light" he is looking for.
"... most solemnly and sincerely promise and swear, that I will always hail, ever conceal, and never reveal, any of the arts, parts or points of the hidden mysteries of ancient Freemasonry. ... All this I most solemnly, sincerely promise and swear, with a firm and steadfast resolution to perform the same, without any mental reservation or secret evasion of mine whatever binding myself under no less a penalty than that of having my throat cut across, my tongue torn out by its roots, and buried in the rough sand of the sea at low water mark where the tide ebbs and flows twice in twenty-four hours, should I ever knowingly or willingly violate my solemn oath and obligation as an Entered Apprentice Mason. So help me, God."
Each succeeding degree has a similar horrible oath and penalty connected with it. But Jesus commanded His followers to "not swear at all" (Matthew 5:34; James 5:12). In addition, Jesus would never sanction these required oaths, for He said: "I have said nothing in secret" (John 18:20). Masonry claims to have found the truth, and yet demands that its members swear never to reveal and always to conceal its teachings! -- How unlike true Christianity in which believers are commanded to "go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation" (Mark 16:15). Masonry's methods stand condemned by the Word of God. [Return to Text]
*Unless otherwise cited, six primary sources were used for this report: (1) Grolier's 1995 Multimedia Encyclopedia, (2) What They Believe, Harold J. Berry [HJB], BTTB:1990, pp. 71-96); (3) Freemasonry and Christianity, Alva J. McClain, BMH Books:1986; (4) Examining & Exposing Cultic & Occultic Movements, Jack Sin, "Of Freemasonry and the Lodge," April 2000, pp. 42-46; (5) "Freemasonry: The Cult--The Truth," Jack Harris (former Past Worshipful Master of a Masonic lodge), 3/01, Internet web site; and (6) 7/97, The Berean Call. [Return to Top.]