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AN EXAMINATION OF CONTEMPORARY ANTI-MASONRY

Copy of an Illustration from the 1832 Anti-Masonic Almanac
Illustration from the 1832 Anti-Masonic Almanac

First published here http://www.freemasons-freemasonry.com/

Paper first delivered at the Research Lodge of Southland No.415 on October 10, 2006.

Worshipful Master, do you realize that by addressing you as “Worshipful” I am providing absolute proof in the minds of some credulous and ignorant religious zealots that this Lodge is in fact worshipping you?  Your mirth and that of the other Brethren present at such a ridiculous suggestion was predictable and I have therefore made reference to it in advance in this paper.  You will be bemused by much more foolishness from intolerants and cranks before this evening is over, I can assure you.

Worshipful Master, on several occasions you have expressed the desire that this Research Lodge produce a response to the specious allegations and downright lies emanating from a range of anti-Masonic sources.  You have expressed concern that many Freemasons may not be equipped to respond to these allegations and criticisms even though they know them to be wrong.  Not every Freemason is an expert on Masonic philosophy or on the history, constitutions and ancient landmarks of Freemasonry, in fact it would probably be true to state that very few are.  But every Freemason has a perception of what Freemasonry is about and of what it is not about and in terms of that perception by far the greatest majority of our members have chosen of their own free will an accord to remain members of the Craft.  In other words, whether or not they know of the criticisms of Freemasonry, they have personally found nothing in Freemasonry which is objectionable or untoward which might cause them as a matter of conscience to resign from the institution

What I offer in this paper, is not an A to Z manual of responses to every point made against Freemasonry, but an examination of the identities of our most persistent accusers, the essence of their argument against us and their motivation for attacking Freemasonry.  It is important to understand what has formed the mindset of the anti-Masons for, indeed, the distorted perceptions they have of Freemasonry is all in their minds and does not represent reality.  Likewise, I will not touch too much upon the history of anti-Masonry, interesting though it is, but rather I have focused on contemporary anti-Masonry, bearing in mind that its origins go back a long way.  This paper does include responses to the major allegations against our honorable institution.

At the outset I wish to declare that the contents of this research paper contain my own opinions and not those of the institution of Freemasonry as a whole.  No one man speaks for Freemasonry, which is something our critics should remember before quoting statements by Freemasons out of context and using them as supposed “proof” in support of anti-Masonic allegations.  Secondly, the subject of religion will inevitably be touched upon in some depth because the most serious and persistent criticism of Freemasonry originates from churches or religious groups or persons.  Discussion of matters of religion is, of course, generally not acceptable in Masonic Lodges but in the context of this particular subject and as a Research Lodge project it is inevitable and indeed unavoidable, but I must stress that in spite of attacks on Masonic belief by the religionists, Freemasonry has never criticized their beliefs in return.  Freemasonry has indeed defended itself, as it is fully entitled to do, but Freemasonry has never attacked the fundamental beliefs of its opponents, nor will it.  Any criticism of religionists in this paper is thus entirely my own.

Most anti-masons fall in the following categories:-

Secular individuals

These are in the main authors of books on conspiracy theories, so-called secret societies and “exposures” of Freemasonry of whom the most famous and typical in recent years has been Stephen Knight with his book “The Brotherhood”.  Included in this category are former Freemasons such as Leo Taxil whose 19th.C hoax ‘exposures’ of Freemasonry are the major source of allegations of Satanism in Freemasonry emanating from the Fundamentalist Right.  Included also in this category are authors who, whilst not anti-masonic have nevertheless created the wrong impression of Freemasonry in the public mind.  Such authors include Dan Brown author of the ‘Da Vinci Code.  Another example is J.Manly Hall, whose writings about the symbolism on the United States 1 dollar note and the street plan of Washington DC are a favorite source for strident anti-masons conspiracy theories. Because Manly Hall was a Freemason, his writings are quoted as absolute “proof” from the ‘horses mouth’, as it were.  In fact, Manly Hall did not become a Freemason until many years after his book was published.

Idiosyncratic Masons

This category includes Freemasons whose writings, though not anti-Masonic, have nevertheless created the wrong impression of Freemasonry in the public mind and especially those authors who have described Freemasonry as a religion.  Extracts from their writings, usually quoted out of context, are used as ‘ammunition’ by dedicated anti-masonry writers.  Such authors include the famous Albert Pike, author of ‘Morals and Dogma of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite’ and Albert Mackie, author of ‘Encyclopedia of Freemasonry’ and various Masonic authors who have strongly asserted feasible but unlikely and unproven theories that the Freemasons originate from the Knights Templars, Gnostics, ancient mystery schools and the like.

Secular Political groups

This category includes totalitarian governments which have actively suppressed Freemasonry in the territories under their control for political reasons, such as most current and former  communist governments, Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, and Falangist Spain under Franco.  Included also are most of the Islamic states for religious as well as political reasons and Islamic political parties such as Hamas.  There have also been anti-masonry factions within political parties in democratic states and even an anti-mason party in the U.S.A.

Mainstream Religious groups.

This includes mainstream churches and other religious groups and individuals that oppose Freemasonry on theological grounds on the assumption that Freemasonry is a religion, or at least a philosophy which substitutes for a religion.  These groups have formed their views after extensive consideration and discussion and their criticisms of Freemasonry are generally free of sensationalism and deliberate falsification of the facts.  Their views are nevertheless the result of a misplaced mindset, but there is good reason to hope that an improved understanding of Freemasonry might in due course result in a change of attitude on their part towards the Craft.  This category includes the Roman Catholic and factions of the Anglican, Baptist, Presbyterian and Methodist churches.  In the case of the Roman Catholic Church a succession of Popes have condemned Freemasonry on behalf of the whole Church, in the case of the other denominations opposition to Freemasonry has been confined to individual synods, parishes or ministers.

Extreme Fundamentists – usually referred to as the Fundamentalist Right

It is misleading to apply the blanket term ‘Fundamentalist’ to the extreme religious opponents of Freemasonry because most Christian denominations include followers who espouse fundamentalist theology and the Baptist and Lutheran churches are specifically fundamentalist in doctrine.  The term “Creedist” was coined by Dr Bronwyn Elsmore, Senior Lecturer in Religious Studies at Massey University to describe those religious or secular groups and individuals who actively persecute, malign, defame and discriminate against those who hold a different religious or philosophical view to their own.  In the case of Christian groups the term particularly applies to those who have an obsessive belief in their own personal salvation and the righteousness of their personal faith to the extent that they have convinced themselves that all others, whether Christian or not, are destined for eternal damnation.  In essence, the Salvation Creedists, living in a world and a society which alarms and frightens them, are desperately clinging to a rock of personal salvation, but in condemning and slandering others are committing the very homophobic sins which are responsible for much of the evils in the society they so despise.  In fact, in their own terms, they are committing the very sins which will prevent their personal salvation.

The Salvation Creedists, which we may call Extreme Fundamentalists for the sake of a more easily understood term, (another term is ‘Dispensational Fundamentalists)are the most unscrupulous and outrageous slanderers and defamers of Freemasonry and consist mainly of small activist groups or activist individuals who have mounted a campaign or crusade against Freemasonry and indeed against just about everyone apart from themselves.  They are generally anti-liberal, anti-socialist, anti-science, anti-mainstream Christianity, anti-Catholic, and can be anti-Jewish even though some of them make a great display about being pro-Israel.  Their own Christianity is not easily defined because they are outside of the mainstream churches, but they are generally Evangelical, Fundamentalist, Dispensational, Millinarian, Revivalist ‘born again’ Christians who generally describe themselves as “Evangelicals” if they describe themselves at all.  They frequently go under the name of a “Ministry”, which is either a single individual or a group, usually dominated by a single individual male minister or pastor supported by a small core of dedicated drones.  Most of their anti-masonry campaign is conducted these days through web sites.  In general they give the impression that they are much larger organizations than they actually are and partly because of this they have considerable influence on public opinion.  It is very unlikely that these people will ever modify their views for reasons I will explain in this paper.  It is essential however that Freemasons never cease to vigorously expose the base lies and false accusations originating from these groups.  For Freemasons it is a battle in support of truth against these false witnesses and a battle for the honour of Freemasonry against intolerants and defamers of honorable men.

The allegations and criticisms against Freemasonry can be summarized as follows:

That the Freemasons are the custodians of ancient secrets and mysteries, the inheritors of the ancient mystery schools, the Gnostics or the Knights Templars, perhaps the custodians of some really big secrets such as the whereabouts of the Ark of the Covenant or the secret life of Jesus Christ, or the truth about the Resurrection or the role of Mary Magdalene.  There are sometimes hints that Freemasonry is involved in the occult.

Generally these allegations can be traced to the authors of popular books such as Dan Brown’s “The Da Vinci Code” or “The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail” by Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh.  Masonic writers, such as J.Manly Hall, Christopher Knight and Robert Lomax also tend to give the impression to the general public that Freemasonry is involved in mysterious and somewhat odd activities or at the very least has some strange origins.  The supposed secrecy of Freemasonry and the sheer bulk and variety of theories and allegations about Freemasonry amount to very good material for books on mysteries, dark secrets, conspiracies and the like.  Authors know that books about taking the Lodge widows to afternoon tea or donating to the local hospice do not make for best sellers!

The effect of these books has been to place Freemasonry frequently in the limelight in a somewhat ambiguous context in that whilst the authors are rarely anti-Masonic and indeed are often quite complimentary towards the Craft, they nevertheless portray Freemasonry in a somewhat mysterious light which causes the public to be wary.  This is a perfect conduit for the rabid anti-Masons to follow through with their sensationalist lies.

That the Freemasonry is a secret society dedicated to promoting the preferential treatment and personal interests of its members.  In this regard, Freemasons are accused of favoring each other in business dealings, in job promotions and in politics.  Freemasons are also accused of seeking favorable treatment for themselves under the law, as in the well-known fictitious anecdote of a Freemason in the dock who gives a secret Masonic sign which the judge, who is a Freemason, recognizes and a consequence goes easy on the accused.  The police force and judiciary is allegedly stacked with Freemasons and so Freemasons who commit crime get away with it or get lenient treatment.

Allegations of this kind generally come from authors of conspiracy theory books such as “The Brotherhood” by Stephen Knight, but there have been public accusations made from time to times by members of the general public who have convinced themselves that a particular local council, for example, is dominated by a cabal of Freemasons.  Allegations of Masonic activities detrimental to the public good have occasionally led to government inquiries, of which the most famous example was that concerned the so-called P2 in Italy.  I will deal with this category of allegation in more detail later in this paper.

Freemasonry is a secret society with a political agenda.

Virtually its inception organized speculative Freemasonry has come under attack from individuals and groups who have believed Freemasons to be involved in plots and conspiracies against governments or else have infiltrated the corridors of power in order to influence policy in favor of Masonic ideas.  Various revolutions are attributed to the activities of Freemasons including the American Revolution, the French Revolution, the South American revolution against colonial Spain , and the unification of Italy .  Freemasons have also been credited with the growth of secular government at the expense of the influence of the Church.

The latest allegations concern the supposed involvement of Freemasons in creating a New World Order involving social, financial and industrial globalization.  Many of these allegations are extremely fanciful and sensationalist and, as such, betray the paranoid nature of the perpetrators of these myths but the fact that we have been witnessing serious demonstrations and riots against globalization is evidence that the myths have influenced large numbers of credulous people.  It only takes one demonstrable half-truth to turn an entire myth into a reality in some people’s minds.  Once again, the P2 episode has added grist to the mill.  In general, the allegations are not against individual Freemasons involved in politics, but centres on the insinuation that Freemasonry either acts as a body or is governed by a cabal of politically active Brethren of the higher esoteric degrees who allegedly govern the whole of Freemasonry.  Such a hierarchy does not in fact exist, but the critics insist it does.

Allegations in this category stem from the secular conspiracy theorists and from the Churches.  Of the Churches, the Roman Catholic Church has historically opposed Freemasonry on political grounds as much as on a theological basis but the modern New World Order theory is virtually confined to the Extreme Fundamentalists, for whom it is their main ploy.  I will address these allegations in more details later in this paper.

Freemasonry is a false religion.

This is the most serious allegation of all because although the previous categories of allegations can be proved factually wrong point by point, the allegation that Freemasonry is a religion of any kind is a matter of perception resulting from and in a mindset on the part of the accusers.  That Freemasonry is a religion at all is essential to their allegations, for if Freemasonry is not a religion it is impossible augment the allegation by saying that it is a false religion or that the Freemasons are pagans, neo-Palagians, Gnostics, witches, pantheonists, worshippers of Satan, heretical neo-Templars and all manner of descriptions of men allegedly involved in a dark plot to woo men away from true Christianity.

At the very least, Freemasonry stands accused of being “incompatible” with Christianity and this tends to be the summation of the attitude of the anti-Masonic components of the mainstream churches, much to the anguish and genuine distress of individual Freemasons who are devout practicing Christians and parishioners.

These allegations originate in the Christian churches and religious groups.  The mainstream churches make a firm but relatively non-defamatory allegation that Freemasonry is a religion, but since it admits men of all religions and “denies Jesus” by not mentioning his name or teachings in its ceremonies, it is therefore a false religion and incompatible with Christianity, which is the only “true” religion because salvation is only possible through the saving grace of Jesus Christ.  The Roman Catholic Church has, in addition to this, claimed that Freemasonry has advanced secular government to the detriment of the Church and has in the past been involved in plots against the Church.

The Extreme Fundamentalists make all of the aforementioned allegations but in addition claim that Freemasonry is ruled by an elite group of high degree Masons who worship Satan.  Lowly ‘Blue Lodge’ Masons are allegedly unaware of the Satanic nature of the institution they have joined but are enslaved to it by terrifying oaths.  The Masonic elite are dedicated to creating a “New World Order” in which the worship of Satan or Lucifer will be the global religion.  There will be world government in which everyone will be micro-chipped and enslaved to the interests of big business!  Such are just some of the absurd accusations emanating from the Extreme Fundamentalists.

Allow me to examine these allegations in some depth an expose what I consider to be the errors in the mindset that has created them.

The first category is easily resolved.  Books about ancient mysteries and the so-called secret societies which allegedly guard them will always be sought after by avid readers of that sort research, including myself.  Likewise the various theories about the origins of Freemasonry are of interest to Freemasons.  The research involved in producing books promoting these theories is impressive, as are the theories themselves.  Indeed, Freemasons tend to have an open mind about the origins of Freemasonry, simply because we are not absolutely certain of the origins ourselves.  In spite of the tendency to convey a false impression to the general public, such books at least serve to keep a worthwhile and interesting debate going and one never knows what research might discover about the origins and activities of the Craft.

In spite of exhaustive research by Masonic historians such as Robert Gould and by the members of Quatuor Coronati and other research lodges, with all the manuscripts and documents available to those Brethren, there is no conclusive evidence which had led to a definitive statement as to the origins of speculative Freemasonry.  The theory most favored and frequently stated as fact, is that Freemasonry evolved from the guilds or companies or lodges of operative stonemasons.  This can, in fact, be proven in the case of Scotland but whilst the likelihood is very high in the case of England and Ireland , it has not so far been proven beyond doubt.  Likewise there exists some slight evidence of a linkage with the Rosicrucians but it probably amounts to no more than the possibility that some individual Freemasons were also Rosicrucians.  There may have been some exchange of ideas in the early days, but Rosicrucianism is very different from Freemasonry even though both make use of symbolic and allegorical ceremonial.

With regard to the alleged Templar descent, this again is possible but unlikely.  Modern Templarism is symbolic and bears little actual resemblance to the medieval Order.

The books that promote theories in this category are rarely written in an anti-masonic vein and it is left to the reader to form either a favourable or adverse opinion of Freemasonry from what is written about the Craft.  Some who are already anti-Masonry may find another in these books source of material with which to attack the Craft, but others may be pleasantly intrigued and feel a certain empathy with Freemasonry.

As Freemasons we should not attempt to interfere with freedom of speech and freedom to form opinions but we should always be prepared to respond questions and criticisms which may arise from what people write and say about us.  With regard to the origins of Freemasonry we can honestly state that whilst we traditionally believe our institution stemmed from the lodges of operative stonemasons in Britain , there is conclusive evidence to that effect except for Scottish Freemasonry.  Likewise, we can honestly state that Masonic Templarism emerged in the 18th.Century, originally in Ireland, and that whilst the traditional history of the Masonic Templars claims a descent from the medieval Crusading Order, there is no actual proof to support such claims.  Further, there is no proof of any connection with the historic Rosicrucian movement other than joint membership on the part of a few individual Freemasons.  One of the modern Rosicrucian groups, the Societas Rosicruciana in Anglia, is an allied Order recognized by the United Grand Lodge of England and it is a prerequisite that members be Freemasons.  The Societas was formed during the 19th.Century and has very little in common with other Rosicrucian societies.

Far more serious are the allegations that Freemasons lodges are involved in advancing the pecuniary interests of their members in gaining positions of power or preferential treatment or financial advantage in national and local government, in the judiciary and law enforcement, in the armed forces, in business and in society in general.  Perhaps the best known supposed exposure of alleged Masonic involvement in such activities is the book entitled ‘The Brotherhood’ by Stephen Knight.  First published in 1983, this book deals mainly with so-called “case histories” of alleged Masonic preferential treatment and contains reports of many face to face interviews with British Freemasons or former Masons.  The book is full of inferences and somewhat oblique conclusions, but very short on proof.  There have indeed been several investigations, both private and public, into the activities of English Freemasons over the past two decades and there exists a general public perception that Freemasonry exists as a conduit for the pecuniary interests of its members.

For New Zealand Freemasons it is virtually impossible to know whether or not some British Freemasons are involved in advancing themselves through membership of the Craft and it is also virtually impossible to either confirm or deny such activities in New Zealand .  Suffice to comment, that in any situation where men are in a position to make friendships or simply contacts, whether it be in a Masonic Lodge, Rotary, Lions Club, Rugby Club, or church group there is a potential for what may have been initially a purely social friendship to expand into a business, professional or political relationship which mutually benefits both parties or which might extend to several parties.  It is entirely natural and understandable that men who have got to know and trust each other may tend to feel easier in dealing with each other than with comparative strangers, especially as in the case of Freemasonry they may have good reason to suppose that they share similar values and attitudes.  That, one might say, is life.  It is very easy for someone who has been passed over to blame that circumstance on the Freemasons, especially if a Freemason had succeeded where he has not, but if Freemasons are not involved at all, some other group is just as likely to get the blame.

There exists, of course, a very long list of Freemasons who have made fame and fortune and very much longer list could be made of Freemasons who, whilst not household names, nevertheless are or were high achievers.  Every Masonic Llodge could compile such a list from its own members.  There are some Freemasons who are high achievers in Freemasonry but not necessarily in anything else, whilst some Freemasons who are high achievers in society are not particularly active in Freemasonry.  Many, possibly the majority of Freemasons, were already successful before they joined the Craft and clearly owe nothing to Freemasonry for their success.  The point is, every Freemason has a life outside the lodge, he is someone else apart from being a Freemason.  His life outside the lodge is, or should be where he strives to succeed in life to the best of his ability for the benefit of his family, employer and himself.  The moral examples Freemasonry provides may well help shape his conduct in life to the extent that advancement may be a result of his conduct but it is not the purpose or intention of the institution of Freemasonry as a whole, or any individual lodge, to render preferential treatment or provide any assistance for the pecuniary advantage, personal promotion or interests of any Freemason or group of Freemasons.

This is not to say Freemasonry has been entirely free of “bad eggs” or people who have attempted to use membership of the Craft to their own ends, but I can confidently state that such people are very rare indeed.  Certainly, from my own experience, I have never gained the slightest impression or hint that membership of the Craft had any potential whatsoever for personal advantage.

No examination of this aspect would be complete without reference to the infamous P2 Lodge scandal in Italy which broke in the 1981 and which has provided much anti-Masonic ammunition, although not as much as one would expect.  The original Propaganda Due lodge was chartered in Rome in 1877 as a research lodge and as a lodge for visiting Masons but by 1965 had only 14 permanent members.  In 1965, the then Italian Grand Master, Giordiano Gamberini installed one Licio Gelli as master of Propaganda Due urging him to ‘form a circle of important people, some of whom might eventually become Masons’, but all of whom could be useful to the growth of Freemasonry.  With extraordinary rapidity, Gelli built up a so-called “lodge”, renamed Raggruppamento Gelli-Propaganda Due which rose to a membership of 1000 in Italy and 2500 world wide and covered the entire power structure of Italy .  Most of the members were fanatical anti-communists and practicing Roman Catholics.  Very few members became ‘regular’ Freemasons.

Licio Gelli was a former fascist who had fought in the Spanish Civil War on the side of Franco.  In World War 2 he joined the German SS engaged in tracking down Italian partisans.  Realizing that the Allies were winning the war, Gelli became a double agent and thus escaped retribution when the war ended.  He made his fortune by stealing the national treasures of Yugoslavia and by helping Nazi war criminals escape to South America in return for a hefty fee.  Gelli was a master of making and cultivating useful contacts and he rapidly became influential amongst the rich, powerful and famous.  One might well wonder how such a man could be accepted into Freemasonry, which happened in 1963, but the fact is that Mussolini and his Fascists had nowhere near as bad a post-war reputation in Italy , or indeed Europe , as Hitler and the Nazis.  The greatest fear was communism and the old Fascists were quickly forgiven and recruited into the anti-communist ranks.  The CIA even financed the P2 Lodge anti-communist activities.

The penetration of Italian society was so thorough that the P2 Lodge became a state within a state.  Members of P2 included high ranking politicians, military officers, bankers, businessmen, industrialists, judges and clergy.  The list of Vatican clergy who were allegedly Freemasons included Secretary of State Cardinal Villot, Vatican Foreign Minister Monsignor Casaroli, Cardinal Vicar of Rome Ugu Poletti, Cardinal Baggio, Bishop Paul Marcinkus, head of the Vatican Bank and his associatye Monsignor Donato de Bonis and Papal Secretary Monsignor Pasquale Macchi, a total of 121.  The list was compiled by a former, disenchanted member of the P2 Lodge.

Thanks to the services of prominent Catholic layman and P2 member Umberto Ortelini, the P2 Lodge became involved in the Vatican plan to divest itself of most of its vast assets in Italy because of high taxation and fear of a communist takeover.  Licio Gelli introduced the chairman of the Vatican Bank, Bishop Marcinkus, to Sicialian banker and P2 member Michele Sindona.  Sindona bought of the Vatican shares in a number of large industrial conglomerates and then started to work a number of stock exchange swindles, tax evasions and money laundering scams in conjunction with banker and P2 member Roberto Calvi.  The two worked the heady world of high finance with spectacular success until Sindona bought the ailing Franklin Bank.  The bank collapsed and with it all of Sindona’s other banks.  Calvi’s Banco Ambrosiano also collapsed and Calvi was found hanging under a London Bridge .  The P2 Lodge was implicated in the alleged murder of Pope John Paul I.  Sindona and Gelli were convicted and imprisoned in the USA for fraud.  The Italian Government of the day collapsed and a subsequent inquiry, whilst ruling that Freemasonry is not a secret society, dismissed all P2 members from public office and banned “secret lodges”.  A law excluding Freemasons from holding public office in Italy has recently been successfully challenged in the European Court of Human Rights.

The Grand Orient of Italy in fact suspended the P2 charter and expelled Gelli from the Craft 1976.  The Grand Orient had no complicity in the P2 activities whatsoever and the question must be asked, how could a Masonic lodge contain both Freemasons and non-Freemasons?  Its members were scattered all over Italy and the world and the majority of its members had probably never been initiated or seen the inside of a lodge room.

The P2 scandal brings us to the next category of anti-Masonry, the allegations concerning supposed political activity and, in particular, the theory that the Freemasons are bent on world dominance.  The following excerpt from The New Catholic Encyclopaedia is typical, in fact the anti-Masonry sources tend to feed each other:-

“Freemasonry is a politically powerful financial organization operating under the guise of an all encompassing religion, generally open, at least at some levels, to everyone but atheists.  Their goal is the domination of the world from a deistic perspective.  Freemason’s concern for morality is focused in relationship to their own membership, not upon morality of the world.   . . .  Their goal, world domination, is sought through control of currency, through control of major corporations including banking, media, entertainment and communications, through control of educators and textbooks, and most importantly the infiltration of religions.”

The even more strident allegations emanating from the Extreme Fundamentalists is very similar, even though they are bitterly opposed to Roman Catholicism.  Typical of the Fundamentalist approach was that of New Zealand evangelist Barry Smith.  In his series of short books he attributes all the misfortunes of the world, including the closure of local banks and petrol stations, to Freemasons who are bent on bringing about the ”New World Order”.  He says that President George Bush and afterwards Bill Clinton, indeed all American Presidents were hand picked by the New World Order men, the American voters had nothing to do with it.  It’s being going on, he says, since the Illuminati were formed in 1761, the same year as the American Declaration of Independence.  The date on the US $1 bill (1761) refers to the formation of the Illuminati and the pyramid on the seal represents the orders of Freemasonry and the all-seeing eye at the top is the eye of Lucifer.  The street layout of Washington DC contains the square and compasses and the pentagram and the pentagram is symbolic of the head of a goat.  The date 1761 contains the number 666, which is Satan’s “area code”, when added to others.  Well, so it does and so does any number higher than 666!  The pages of his books are full on this sort of nonsense and total falsehood, every paragraph screams from the page in an attempt to drive fear into the hearts of the readers.  Of course, having hopefully driven fear of other people into people and forced them into a paranoid, isolated frame of mind, Barry Smith has all the answers to the fears that he, Barry Smith, has put into their heads.  All they have to do to be freed and saved, because they must be sinners as well as scared stiff of the world around, is to give themselves to Jesus.  That’s fine, but surely Jesus is there for them anyway, without all the mental manipulation from Barry Smith.  It’s a desperate man who perpetrates total fiction and malicious lies in the name of Jesus.  In many ways his propaganda technique is similar to that used by Adolf Hitler.  Unfortunately, Barry Smith was just one of many clones from the standard Fundamentalist missionary production line. There does not appear to be anyone following in his footsteps in New Zealand but his innuendos are typical of the Extreme Fundamentalist line disseminated from US based websites.

Accusations of political activism have dogged Freemasonry on and off virtually from the foundation of the English Grand Lodge in 1717, so much so that there would be a great many of the general public aware of the accusations who feel they must be true.  The first allegations were that the Jacobite Masons, supporters of the deposed king James II and his heirs and who were instrumental in promoting Freemasonry on the continent of Europe , actively used Freemasonry as a cover for promoting the Jacobite cause.  There is no evidence to support such an assertion and, in any case, what would have been the point when the Vatican and all the Catholic monarchs already supported the Stuarts?  Jacobite support was minimal in England and in Scotland it was mainly confined to the Scots highlanders, hardly any of whom were Freemasons at that time.  It is very unlikely any English or Scots masons would have attempted to disturb the harmony of the lodge by introducing Jacobite politics and there is no evidence that they did.

There is no doubt, however, that the secretiveness of Freemasonry aroused considerable suspicion and led to the first Papal Bull against Freemasonry, that entitled ‘In Eminenti Apostulatus Specula’ of Pope Clement XII, 28 April 1738.  This brief and decidedly vague Bull does not specifically state what the Freemasons stand accused of other than admitting men of all faiths and meeting in secret  The Pope states that all he knows about the Freemasons is from rumour and “common gossip” and they “have caused in the minds of the faithful the greatest suspicion”.  Having spent one paragraph admitting that he knows very little about the Freemasons, he spends another paragraph of waffle condemning them.  That is the sum total of the Bull.  It seems to be simply an attempt to nip in the bud something he and others are suspicious of from a political point of view.  In my opinion the Pope was reacting in a purely political way to the initiation in 1731 of the Duke of Lorraine.  In 1736 the Duke married Maria Theresa the heiress to the Habsburg Empire.  At the time of the Bull, the Duke would have looked certain to become the Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire and in 1740, he did.  To the Pope, the building political situation might have seemed very much like the events of 1619 when the Protestant Elector of the Palatine was elected King of Bohemia, which triggered the Thirty Years War.  The “secret college” of Rosicrucians, known to be anti-Papal, were supposedly behind this Protestant attempt to gain possession of a kingdom which was traditionally the fief of the Roman Catholic Holy Roman Emperor.

Much is said these days about the involvement of Freemasons in the American Declaration of Independence and the subsequent war of independence as supposed “proof” of Masonic revolutionary activity.  This criticism comes from the Extreme Fundamentalists who owe their very right to free speech to the democracy forged out the War of Independence and the American Constitution.  That fact is that, although Freemasons were prominent amongst those who signed the Declaration of Independence and in the American officer corps, there were Freemasons on both sides.  Most of the opposing British generals were Freemasons and most British regiments which served in America had Masonic lodges.  There is no evidence that Freemasonry was politically active as an institution.

Likewise the French Revolution has been blamed on Freemasons but, once again, there were Freemasons on both sides.  The philosopher Voltaire, whose writings are credited with having spurred the Revolution, was a Freemason but, firstly, he did not directly instigate the Revolution, secondly his philosophy was not especially Masonic and, thirdly, there were a whole range of reasons for the French Revolution.  No academic history of the French Revolution mentions Freemasonry as having any influence on the course of events.  The Revolution in fact saw the closure of the French lodges until Napoleon allowed the re-emergence of Freemasonry under the supervision of his brothers.  Once again, there is no evidence Freemasonry was politically active as an institution.

There is no doubt about the involvement of Freemason’s in the revolution of the South American colonists of Colombia and Venezuela against Spanish rule.  An unsuccessful revolution in 1796 was undertaken mainly by Freemasons. Freemasons featured prominently in the subsequent wars of independence, including generals Miranda and Bolivar.  But, yet again, there were Freemasons amongst those who remained loyal to Spain and when Bolivar came to power all the lodges but one were forcibly closed.  There is no evidence that Freemasonry was politically active as an institution although there is no doubt that there was a core of revolutionary leaders who were Freemasons.

The nineteenth century saw a progressive movement towards secular government, whether under parliamentary democracies, dictatorships or despotic monarchies and with it a marked decline in the authority of the Church, especially with regard to its involvement in education and general welfare.  In particular, the despotic monarchies, with whom the Church was traditionally allied, were under increasing pressure from the democratic movements within their own countries to introduce democratic reforms and in this regard the Roman Catholic Church found itself on the losing side in the conflict between the forces of democracy and those of reaction.  Failing to recognize the justifications for democratic change and the reasons for the secular policies of the democratic movements, the Roman Catholic Church saw fit to align itself with the reactionary camp and to fulminate against those groups it perceived to be driving reform, namely the liberals, socialists and Freemasons, accusing them of plotting against the Church and God.  Still less did the Church perceive any potential for the propagation and preservation of Faith in partnership with political reform even though Pope Leo XIII for the first time lent support to the rights of the working men.  It is against this nineteenth century background that the current Roman Catholic position with regard to Freemasonry stands for it is formed from the papal encyclical entitled Humanus Genus of Pope Leo XIII, promulgated in 1884 and which remains to most comprehensive condemnation of Freemasonry by the Roman Catholic Church.

The encyclical Humanus Genus starts with a declaration that there is only one Kingdom of God on Earth, that is the Church of Jesus Christ as embodied in the Roman Catholic Church.  Everyone else belongs to the kingdom of Satan .  This introduction not only sets the tone for the entire encyclical but also clearly exposes the mindset of the Church, that the Church is right and everyone else is wrong.  Apart from referring to the Freemasons as followers of “natural” religion, that is to say religion which recognizes a simple belief in a god or gods but not of revelation of God’s word through Jesus, the encyclical is concerned with condemning the Freemasons for supporting secularism and democratic reform.  The following extracts encapsulate the thrust of the condemnation:-

“They work, indeed, obstinately to the end that neither the teaching nor the authority of the Church may have any influence: and therefore they preach and maintain the full separation of the Church from the State.  So law and government are wrested from the wholesome and divine virtue of the Catholic Church, and they want, therefore, by all means to rule States independent of the institutions and doctrines of the Church”.

“The Sect of the Masons aims unanimously and steadily also at the possession of the education of children. — Hence, in the instruction and education of children, they do not leave to the ministers of the Church any part either in directing or watching them.  In many places they have gone so far that children’s education is all in the hands of laymen.”

“The principles of social science follow.  Here naturalists teach that men have all the same rights, and are perfectly equal in condition, that every man in naturally independent, that no one has a right to command others: that it is tyranny to keep men subject to any other authority than that which emanates from themselves.  Hence the people are sovereign; those who rule have no authority but by the commission and concession of the people; so that they can be deposed, willing or unwilling, according to the wishes of the people.  The origin of all rights and civil duties is in the people or in the state, which is ruled according to the new principles of liberty.  The State must be Godless; no reason why one religion ought to be preferred to another; all to be held in the same esteem.  Now it is well known that Free-Masons approve these maxims, and that they wish to see governments shaped on this pattern and model needs no demonstration”.

The encyclical covers fifteen pages, but these three paragraphs contain the substance of the condemnation of Freemasonry.  The encyclical was promulgated over 120 years ago in reaction to alleged Masonic involvements in the secular democratic political and social scientific developments of the time which promoted human rights we now take for granted.  In this regard it would be tempting to debunk the encyclical on its own terms, but that is not necessary because the principle of secular democracy moved past the obstacle presented by the Church at that time to become the idea to which most nations now aspire and which most churches now accept as being the most just political system.  It is historical fact, however, that secularism in government, which is now virtually global, has been brought about as much by totalitarian regimes as by democracies.  Clearly, this is because the provision of universal education, health care and social welfare is most readily and evenly provided through universal taxation and state control.

But to return to secular democracy, if the Roman Catholic Church has, to its credit, now espoused the cause of democracy and human rights, why does it still enshrine the encyclical Humanus Genus as the basis upon which it condemns Freemasonry, which institution it alleges was instrumental in promoting secular democracy?  To this question must be added the weight of historical fact that, although individual Freemasons were undoubtedly involved in democratic movements and in support of secularism, there were equally those who were active in the opposing camp and never, at any time or in any country, can it be demonstrated that Freemasons were politically active as an institution.  Freemasons are someone else apart from Freemasons and, in any case, the Masonic lectures do not specifically advocate either democracy or any other political system, nor do they advocate secularism.  Freemasonry does not say that all men are equal in condition, that is demonstrably not so, but that all men (and by implication women also) should be treated equally as persons.  So why, in the almost certain knowledge that its condemnation of Freemasonry is based on misplaced and, at best, obsolete assumptions and in the knowledge that a great many practicing Roman Catholics have from the outset disagreed with and ignored the strictures of the Church with respect to Freemasonry, does the Church persist with its condemnation?

The answer lies in the mindset of the Roman Catholic Church, and indeed of some many of the Christian denominations that denies that they can commit error.  The Roman Catholic Church regards itself as the “Mystical Body of Christ” and therefore its teachings and rulings are the very word of Christ and therefore of God and the Holy Spirit also.  Any criticism or denial of the word of the Church is a criticism or denial of Christ.  Christian fundamentalists think the same way.  I noticed on a Blog site an item by a Baptist in response to criticism of a particular Baptist teaching – the Baptist could not understand how anyone could criticize God!  Criticism of his church was criticism of God.

There is also, as I found out, a scriptural basis for the Roman Catholic Church’s condemnation of Freemasonry.  I found this in a book entitled The Faith by Canon Ridley, which is a very comprehensive and definitive manual of contemporary Roman Catholic doctrine.  Father Ridley justifies the strictures against Freemasonry under the Fourth Commandment “Honor thy father and thy mother”.  He goes on to say that we are thereby commanded to “obey” not only our parents “but also our bishops and pastors, the civil authorities and all our lawful superiors”  We are also ” bound in justice to contribute to the support of our pastors; for St.Paul says, “The Lord ordained that they who preach the Gospel should live by the Gospel”.  It must be said, firstly, that St.Paul was not referring to the Fourth Commandment but, more importantly, and with respect to Father Ridley and the Roman Catholic Church, the interpretation of the Fourth Commandment simply does not stretch that far.  The Fourth Commandment say “honor thy father and thy mother”, it does not say obey in all things, it does not say agree and it does not say support.  The Fourth Commandment is about honoring one’s natural, human father and mother and does not include other persons, natural or supernatural, and by “honor” the Commandment means to pay due respect to one’s parents and, more particularly, to do nothing to dishonor them, bearing in mind that human society has tended to hold parents responsible in some measure for the behavior of their offspring.  God’s Commandments given to Moses were a simple set of common sense rules by which humankind could live in amity and peace, the Commandments were not given with the intention of being liberally interpreted 3000 years later by a Christian Church in order to condemn its perceived enemies.

Father Ridley, reflecting the contemporary Roman Catholic standpoint states that Freemasonry is:-

A Secret Society of a character opposed to right moral principles.

An organization demanding from its members an oath which is unjust and too sweeping.

Proved guilty of much social injustice

Essentially anti-Catholic.

A false religion.

Our response cannot be otherwise than as follows:-

Freemasonry is not a secret society.  It is established in the civil law of all reputable democracies that it is not so.  The constitutions, laws and aims of Freemasonry are available to the general public and its business affairs are open to the scrutiny of audit.  Its ritual, whilst private to its members, is also readily available to the general public as it happens.  The practice of moral rectitude is central to Masonic teachings, exhorted on all members, and Freemasons both individually and severally endeavor to conduct themselves in a manner beyond reproach.

Freemasonry simply demands of its members a traditional oath to keep the traditional secrets of Freemasonry, being the means of recognition between Freemasons, and an undertaking to treat other Masons as brothers.  The Masonic oaths are by no means as unjust and as sweeping as the demands of some religions on those who seek comfort in the Church.

Freemasonry has not been proved guilty of much social injustice.  If any Church has aligned itself with a particular social policy, it should not be surprised if it encounters opposition.  It is more likely that that opposition will come from another church or religion.  Freemasonry, as an institution, has no social policy.  Individual Freemasons might well support one social policy or another, as is their right, but Freemasonry does not take sides.  Freemasonry does, however, exhort its members to act with moral rectitude and with brotherly love to all mankind in all their activities.

Freemasonry is not essentially anti-Catholic.  Roman Catholics have always been welcome to join Freemasonry and, since the inception of speculative Freemasonry, Roman Catholics have been prominent and very active members of the institution.  There has never been a Masonic plot to overthrow the Catholic Church and indeed there has been a desire on the part of Freemasonry in general for an amicable resolution to what amounts to a misunderstanding.

Freemasonry is not a false religion or any sort of religion or substitute for religion.

Before moving on to the subject of religion, I will touch briefly on the opposition to Freemasonry from non-Christian or secular sources.  Starting with the Soviet Union, Freemasonry was banned in all communist countries except Cuba on the grounds that Freemasonry is an institution of the middle and upper classes of society and therefore unacceptable in a proletarian society.  Freemasonry has vigorously re-emerged in the former soviet republics and eastern European satellites since the fall of communism.  In 1926, Freemasonry was banned in Italy by the fascist government of Mussolini on the grounds that the Italian Freemasons were involved in political intrigue against the state.  In a remarkable interview, Mussolini stated that he had no problem with Freemasonry as practiced in England and Germany , but was convinced that the Italian Freemasons took orders from the Grand Orient of France.  There were 100,000 Freemasons in Germany in 1930 but by 1935 all lodges were closed by the Nazi regime.  Hitler himself is on record as stating that Freemasonry was “harmless” but other Nazis associated Freemasonry with Judaism and with liberal opposition to Nazi policies.  Several thousand Freemasons in Germany and occupied countries were killed or imprisoned.  Likewise, in Spain the fascist government of General Franco executed several hundred Freemasons and imprisoned about 6000 on the grounds that the Freemasons were deemed to be opposed to traditional Catholic Spain.  Freemasonry is banned for Muslims in most Islamic countries simply on the grounds that any system of philosophy that is not Islamic is deemed to be either opposed to or superfluous to Islam.  In Muslim countries, Freemasonry tends to be associated with Christianity and Judaism and is believed to lend itself to Zionist ambitions.  This is certainly the view of Hamas and Al Qaeda.

The assertion that Freemasonry is a religion and, in particular, a false religion represents the most misplaced and stubborn mindset on the part of sections of the Christian religion.  It is the official view of the Roman Catholic Church, of the Greek Orthodox Church and of individuals and groups within the Anglican, Presbyterian, Baptist and Methodist Churches amongst the mainstream denominations.  The most strident and defamatory accusations come, however, from a wide range of small but vocal evangelical fundamentalist “born again” Christian groups or individuals.

It must be stated that the Roman Catholic Church simply contends that Freemasons are deists or followers of natural religion.  Deism is the belief in the existence of a ‘Supreme Being’ who is the ground and source of reality but who does not intervene of take an active interest in the natural historical order.  Natural religion involves the notion that there is a natural religious response to the world, or religiousness that is a natural human endowment and common to all religious belief and accessible to human reason, as opposed to supernatural beliefs in concepts such as miracles, providence and eternal life and in further contrast to revealed religion which is based on the notion that religion is revealed by some external authority such as God.

Clearly, Freemasonry is an inclusive rather than an exclusive fraternity in that it admits men of all faiths that confess a belief in God.  Because of this diversity in the personal beliefs of its members it is therefore not possible to define or label Freemasonry or Freemasons as a group either as deists or by any other specific religious definition.  Neither does Freemasonry points its members towards any particular religious path, whether in terms of natural religion or revealed religion.  The Roman Catholic Church has also criticized Freemasonry for admitting men of all faiths without distinction, so that no man’s faith is superior to another’s and that is wrong.  If that is so, and it is, how then can Freemasonry be accused of being a self-contained religion and how can Freemasonry be wrong in admitting men to meet in peace, love and harmony who believe in God and agree to abide by the same moral law?

Amongst the latest condemnations of Freemasonry has been that of the 46th Synod of the Anglican Church Diocese of Sydney resolution 25/03 of 20 October 2003 which:-

Affirms that Freemasonry and Christianity are fundamentally and irreconcilably incompatible.

Affirms that Freemasonry teaches and upholds a system of false religious and spiritual beliefs that are contrary to biblical Christianity.

Most Worshipful Brother Tony Lauer, Grand Master of New South Wales and ACT in a media statement replied “the resolution is pure discrimination, smacks of bigotry and religious fundamentalism and is a betrayal of all Freemasons who practice the Anglican Faith”. “The stance is taken in total ignorance and is a misrepresentation of what Freemasonry is all about”.

The resolution was made in spite of the statement given in paragraph 42 of the Standing Committee Report that “the impression which obtained of Freemasonry was of a society of men with a highly religious and ritualistic structure in which the Mason is made to feel a welcome member of a warm sympathetic group with high moral ideals.  He is taught to believe in his won vale and dignity and his ability to improve himself.”  In paragraph 44 it is stated “it is hard to criticize an organization which requires its members to adopt a moral lifestyle generally consistent with what Christianity teaches and which performs many charitable works”.  We come across the mindset in paragraph 45 – and this is the key to the opposition to Freemasonry – where it is stated “The majority had difficulty in seeing how any person who loves Jesus Christ as his Lord could take part in a ritual where the secrets of godliness and eternal life are offered without any mention of Jesus’ love an death”.

The allegation that Freemasonry “denies Jesus” is common to all Christian critics of Freemasonry, except for the Roman Catholic Church, which does not press that term.  The Masonic response is that no mention is made of Jesus in our philosophy touching upon religion, simply because Freemasonry does not preach or point the way to personal salvation or moral way of life through the example or intervention of any particular savior, prophet or avatar or any particular religion or church.  When the name of God is mentioned in a Masonic Lodge it will mean to the Christian Mason the Holy Trinity, but it will not denote a triune deity to the Jew or Muslim.

Anti-masons are quick to point out that some prominent Freemasons have stated that Freemasonry is a religion, for example Albert Pike when he says “Every Masonic Lodge is a temple of religion and its teachings are instructions in religion … this is true religion revealed to the ancient patriarchs” and Albert Mackey who says “The religion of Freemasonry is non-sectarian”.  It is certainly true that some prominent Freemasons have expressed such views but there have been many more who have expressed views to the contrary.  It must be said that both Albert Pike and Albert Mackey were markedly self-opinionated individuals promoting a personal viewpoint which was not representative of Freemasonry as a whole.

Neither do dictionary-style definitions help because it is possible to narrow and broaden definitions to support or refute either argument until it becomes a war of semantics.  So does Freemasonry fit the profile of a religion?  Let us compare Freemasonry with a typical set of evangelical assertions about us:-

They have there own god or hero

They have their own beliefs and practices

They present an alternative plan of salvation

They claim to take their initiates from darkness into spiritual light

They have their own distinct places of worship ( Temples )

They have their own Christless prayers and hymns

They have their own religious offices which are alien to the Christian Church and contrary to the teaching of scripture

They make use of the Bible

They have an altar

Our response is as follows:-

We do not have our own god or hero.  Freemasons evince a belief in God in accordance with their personal religious convictions formed and practiced outside Freemasonry and Freemasonry does not provide them with an alternative.  Hiram Abiff is a symbolic hero as the traditional founder of Freemasonry and as a model of fortitude.  Hiram Abiff is not worshipped or sanctified in any way.

Freemasonry believes in and practices the virtues of brotherly love, charity and trust as essential to an upright way of living.  Freemasonry holds that these virtues are those upon which men of all religions can agree.  Freemasonry provides a means by which men who aspire to live by these virtues can work together in amity for the good of society rather than separately and potentially in dissention.  This not religion.

Freemasonry does not preach an alternative plan of salvation, neither does it advocate a particular plan of salvation such a salvation through the saving grace of Jesus or the Seven Pillars of Islam.  The inference in Freemasonry is that a Freemason should have “hope” in salvation through the practice of high moral conduct and good works.  This is fully in accordance with the doctrines of all religions and, again, represents the common ground upon which men of all faiths can agree.  Criticism that Freemasonry preaches salvation through good works alone is a purely Protestant one and is misplaced.  The Gospels clearly demonstrate that Jesus laid great emphasis on how people should treat one another, with respect, understanding, compassion, forgiveness, charity and, above all love.  The teachings and practices of Freemasonry, whilst not specifically based on the teachings of Jesus are nevertheless fully compatible with the teachings of Jesus with regard to salvation.

Freemasonry symbolically takes initiates from darkness into spiritual light by pointing out the Volume of the Sacred Law as the compendium of moral teaching and to the symbols of the square and compasses, representing Freemasonry and the path of brotherly love, rather than the path of intolerance and hatred.

Freemasons do not worship any deity whatsoever in their meeting places.  Some Lodges refer to their Mason Halls as “temples”, but this is in reference to King Soloman’s Temple , the figurative building of which is in a Freemason’s heart but which he does in terms of his own religion as reinforced by Masonic teaching.

Prayers and hymns are used to invoke God’s beneficent approval of the proceedings in the same way as they are used, or used to be used, in school assemblies.  In the USA , prayer meetings are held before race car meetings – that does not mean that the North American Stock Car Racing Association is a religion!  Prayers on public and private occasions was once commonplace, but less so these days.  The very fact that Freemasons use prayers and hymns to a God who we believe listens is surely proof that the Freemasons are not deists.

All Lodges have deacons and a chaplain.  The deacons have a purely secular role and the chaplain intones prayers on behalf of the assembly.  These offices are not comparable with there equivalents in the Church.  I would challenge religionists to demonstrate how these offices are contrary to scriptural teaching.

The Bible, or the holy book of another faith, is revered in Freemasonry as the symbolic and actual compendium of the moral law according to all faiths.  The candidates take their oaths on the VSL and by the help of God, by doing so making a promise by that which they hold most sacred.  This used to be common practice in ancient guilds, investitures of knights and orders and, of course, the ordination of clergy.  Use of the Bible is not proof that Freemasonry is a religion in itself.

Personally, I believe that the use of the term “altar” to describe the structure upon which is placed the Bible in a Masonic Lodge, is wrong.  An altar is specifically a flat topped table or block upon which sacrifices or offerings to a deity are made or upon which religious ceremonies are performed.  None of these functions apply to the so-called “altar” in a Masonic Lodge.

In summation, Freemasonry is not a religion in the sense that its religious critics mean the term, that is to say an institutionalized religious church or group equivalent to themselves, for the reason that Freemasonry does not:-

Practice sacerdotal functions.

Teach theology.

Ordain clergy

Define sin and salvation.

Perform sacraments

Publish or specify a Holy Book

Describe or define the Deity.

Preach the teachings of a particular savior, prophet or avatar.

Most importantly, although Freemasonry does feature some religious overtones reflecting the natural aptitude towards religion in the social and moral attitudes of mankind, Freemasonry does not perceive itself to be a religion, does not aspire to be a religion, promote itself or act as a religion or as a substitute for religion, rather it serves to teach and nurture those fundamental beliefs and moral mores which are shared by all faiths and which make for civilized society.  In doing so, Freemasonry brings together in harmony those who might otherwise be divided.

This paper would not be complete without reference to those who accuse Freemasons as worshipping Satan and being involved in witchcraft.  These, I have previously called the Extreme Fundamentalists but who are more technically referred to a Dispensational Fundamentalist.  They exist both outside and inside the mainstream Protestant churches and represent a composite belief.  They are “evangelical” in the purely Protestant sense of a belief in the principles of justification by faith alone and the supreme authority of scripture, “fundamentalist” in their belief in the Immaculate Conception, the Resurrection and the literal interpretation of the Bible, “dispensationalist” in the belief that history is divided into six distinct periods or dispensations in which God works in a particular way (we are now in the final period), “millenarianist” in the belief that there will be a thousand-year reign of the saints either before or after the return of Christ, “apocalyptic” in the belief that the Book of Revelation is true prophecy about the end of the world and the “last days” which we are now in, “Salvationist” in the belief that salvation is only possible though faith and the saving grace of Jesus Christ, “dualist” in the doctrine that there are two opposing principles at work in the universe, namely good and evil, and “creedist” in that they regard any belief other than theirs as the evil work of Satan.  These religious extremists firmly believe that they, and they alone know, God’s revealed truth.  They and they alone are free from scriptural error.  They, and they alone are true Christians and will be saved.  All other Christians, together with the atheists, Muslims, Hindus and, indeed, everyone else are condemned to eternal damnation to burn in hell.

People possessed of such implacable bigotry and intolerance are capable of anything.  In the USA , the extreme fundamentalists have condemned and slandered all around them, entered politics in a covert sort of way, indulged in personal defamation of opponents or perceived enemies, all of whom they describe as “Satan’s helpers”.  They thrive on paranoia and total lack of compromise to bind followers to total obedience to Jesus, meaning their church.  Their technique is to tell people that, because of their grave sins, the only hope they have of being saved is to surrender themselves entirely to Jesus, otherwise the devil will get their soul.  If they surrender themselves to Jesus, he will protect them, think for them and act for them provided they do as they are told.  Any negative thoughts and actions are the work of the devil and all the bad things happening in the world are the devil’s works.

This is where the Freemasons come in.  The fundamentalists have conjured up Satan in their followers minds to a status almost equal to God, with Jesus as a sort of mediator.  Thus the fundamentalists have created in effect a quadrune deity, which is bordering on pantheonism and occultism.  However, because all these beings are supernatural they need human helpers to bring about human events.  The fundamentalist pastors are, of course, Christ’s helpers for the good, everyone else is the devil’s helpers for the bad.  The fundamentalists believe they actually have proof that the Freemasons worship and assist Satan.

Fundamentalists claim the  so-called “proof” is to be found in the 1984 book by Abel Clarin de la Rive, entitled La Femme et L’Enfant dans la Franc-Maconnerie Universelle (Woman and Child in Universal Freemasonry, which was actually penned by one Gabriel Antione Jogand-Pages, otherwise known as Leo Taxil, a former Freemason who had been expelled from the Craft for writing pornography.  In the book contained some false quotations from a prominent American Freemason named Albert Pike, of which the following have been seized upon by anti-masons:

The fourteenth day of the fifth month of the 889th year of True Light (consequently July 14, 1889, of the vulgar era) Albert Pike, Sovreign Grand Inspector general, 33rd and last degree; Most Puissant Sovereign Commander Grand Master of the Supreme Council of Charleston, Premier Supreme Council of the Globe; Grand Master Preserver of the sacred Palladium; as Sovereign Pontiff of Universal Freemasonry, in the thirty-first year of his Pontificate, he addressed to the 23 Confederated Supreme Councils of the entire world these diabolical instructions

There follows a long discourse which includes the following:-

“To you, Sovereign Grand Council Inspectors General, we say, so that you can repeat it to the Brethren of the 32nd, 31st and 30th degrees:- the Masonic religion must be, by all of us initiates of the higher grades, maintained in the purity of the LUCIFERIAN doctrine”  There are two other alleged references to Lucifer being God in Pike’s opinion.

These quotations and, indeed, the entire book were a total hoax, publicly confessed by Taxil in 1897.  Albert Pike was Grand Commander of the Supreme Council, 33 degree of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite, Southern Jurisdiction 1859 – 1891, but had no control whatsoever over world Freemasonry.  At the time, about 10% of American Freemasons were members of the Rite and only about half of them were members of the Southern Jurisdiction.  Albert Pike had no influence whatsoever over the Northern Jurisdiction. The proportion over both jurisdictions is about 33% today, but much, much lower in other countries.

Insisting that the quotes are true and that the 33 degree Freemasons control the whole of Freemasonry, the fundamentalists claim that the Craft is devoted to worship of Lucifer, or Satan.  They recognize that this is not true of the Blue lodges, but claim that the humble 3 degree Masons have been duped in ignorance into joining a Luciferian organization.  The fundamentalist minister, Barry Smith, would not even talk to any Mason under the 30th.degree, because “they do not know enough”.  He also attempted to debunk the denials of 33-degree masons by claiming they were lying.  So here is a non-mason claiming to know more about Freemasonry than any Freemason and his approach is typical of the extreme fundamentalist line.

The plain truth is that the Antient and Accepted Scottish Rite is not involved in the worship or even the consideration of Lucifer.  In any case there is nothing in scripture that equates Lucifer with Satan – that is mere folklore.  The Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite Masons operate under their own constitution and government, as do the Antient, Free and Accepted Masons or Blue Lodge Masons.  The three blue lodge degrees, plus the three Royal Arch degrees, are the only degrees recognized in regular Masonry.  The doyens of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite most definitely do not rule the Craft as a whole.

Brethren, this concludes the essay but before I resume my seat I wish to take you back to the roots of Freemasonry.  Brethren, although the actual origins of Freemasonry are not known for sure, it is nevertheless a fact that Freemasonry emerged as an active institution in the years following the Reformation and, in particular, grew in strength during and following the religious wars of the 17th Century.  Freemasonry represented, I believe, a reaction against those terrible and, in the end, futile wars which were caused by nothing less than religious intolerance on both sides.  The Thirty Years War, fought between 1618 and 1648 reduced Germany to ruin, two thirds of the German population wiped out, towns razed to the ground and once fertile fields turned to desert.  Is that the kind of Christianity that Freemasonry is incompatible with?

The English Civil War, fought between two factions of the Church of England, spilled over into Scotland and Ireland involving Presbyterians, Episcopalians and Roman Catholics, all eager to spill blood for the sake of religion.  In these wars, fathers fought against sons, brothers against brothers, uncles against nephews and, everywhere, neighbour against neighbour.  Is that the kind of Christianity that Freemasonry is incompatible with?

Brethren, our Masonic forefathers found a better way than intolerance, division and hatred of mankind.  Realizing that good men were being forced to fight against good men for the sake of the religion of intolerance and in contravention of the teachings of Christ, they started to build a figurative temple on the solid foundation of brotherly love, charity and trust and into this temple they invited men of divergent religious and political persuasions to meet in harmony on the basis of those things upon which all good men agree, belief in God, obedience to the moral law, the practice of truth, honour and virtue in daily life, the practice of charity and a belief in the brotherhood of man.

Brethren, times have not changed and the work our Masonic ancestors started is not finished.  Have we not witnessed in the 20th century the vilest of all persecutions, the Jewish Holocaust?  Hitler did not invent anti-Semitism in Germany , he simply capitalized on religious intolerance that had always been there, encouraged it and made it legal.  We have the example of Northern Ireland of intolerance at its very worst, and yet, Irish Freemasons of whatever religious persuasion meet in peace, love and harmony.  In the Balkans we have witnessed an appalling war between Greek Orthodox, Roman Catholic and Muslim factions with men and boys taken out into the fields in their thousands to be shot because of their faith.  Is that the kind of Christianity that Freemasonry is incompatible with?

Brethren, mankind needs more than ever to cut out the cancer of intolerance.  Freemasonry has shown the way by recognizing that tolerance and the pursuit of social harmony is the cement of civilized society and at the heart of all of the great religions of mankind.  To live in peace, love and harmony is indeed the desire of all good people and is indeed possible with Masonic attitude.  Masonic attitude is the true secret of Freemasonry, but we should share it with mankind.

It would be wishful thinking to believe that we can change the mindset of the anti-masons by argument and the erudite presentation of the facts and proofs because they seem to need to have that mindset in order to justify their baleful view of the world.  It is important, however, for the honour of the Craft and in the interests of truth and the great work of Freemasonry, to make sure our story is told to the public and, more particularly, that the public justifiably gain a favorable impression of Freemasonry and will opt to trust our word, rather than the lies and distortions of our critics.  Much good work is being done on Masonic web sites in this regard.

The world should know that we Freemasons speak truth about ourselves.  We, as Freemasons, know what Freemasonry is and what it is not, what we as Freemasons believe in and what we do not believe in, what Freemasonry teaches and what it does not teach, what Freemasonry does and what it does not do.  We Freemasons know all of these things, not the writers of books, not the clergy, not the politicians and certainly not the religious bigots.

The most important asset Freemasons must preserve and nurture in themselves is pride in their membership of the Craft because of what it stands for, quite simply, brotherly love, charity and trust.  These universal and unassailable values, together with freedom from bigotry and prejudice and the application of true justice for all men must be preserved and applied for the sake of humanity.  Freemasons should be very proud they are a part of this great work.  Once the general public compares the nature of Freemasonry with prejudiced and distorted nature of our opponents, there can only be one winner and that is Freemasonry.  We must put our case and promote our cause firmly, truthfully and without malice and let the public make up their own minds.

But we must, we really must speak out.  We have got nothing to hide and everything to work for in a world that needs, more than ever, an attitude of brotherly love, charity and trust.

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