First published here http://www.freemasons-freemasonry.com/
belief in a Supreme Being
One of the pre-requisites that must be satisfied by a prospective candidate in order to become initiated into the “mysteries and privileges” of freemasonry is to declare belief in a Supreme Being. The book of Constitutions makes this requirement quite clear:
“A Mason is oblig’d by his Tenure, to obey the moral Law; and if he rightly understands the Art, he will never be a stupid Atheist nor an irreligious Libertine. But though in ancient Times Masons were charg’d in every Country to be of the Religion of that Country or Nation, whatever it was, yet ’tis now thought more expedient only to oblige them to that Religion in which all Men agree, leaving their particular Opinions to themselves; that is, to be Men and true, or Men of Honour and Honesty, by whatever Denominations or Persuasions they may be distinguish’d; whereby Masonry becomes the Center of Union, and the Means of conciliating true Friendship among Persons that must have remain’d at a perpetual Distance.”
When I first read this article-long before I was initiated-what st me most were the words: “…a stupid Atheist nor an irreligious libertine” because I found them quite dogmatic and rather offensive for those who believe in matter alone. As a child from the late XX century religion was never an important feature of my life, even though I studied a Catholic school in Spain during the 1970s. I think it is fair to say that for many people of my generation, going to Church and being observant isn’t very common.
I will confess that there was a period in my life when I considered myself an atheist although this never stopped me from reading all sorts of religious texts, from Saint Augustine to the Buddhist scriptures and for having an interest in spirituality that has finally satisfied by becoming a freemason. This leads me into the main argument of this essay: what does it mean to believe in a Supreme Being?
As a candidate for initiation, before being interviewed by the senior brethren of my lodge, I spent many nights dwelling on this subject. At that moment in time, I wasn’t certain if I believed in a Supreme Being or not because I related this question to my relationship with the religion I had been indoctrinated into.
If we return to the above article, there is another section of it that also struck me enormously: “… leaving their particular Opinions to themselves; that is, to be Men and true, or Men of Honour and Honesty, by whatever Denominations or Persuasions they may be distinguish’d”
“Leaving their particular opinions to themselves” is a sentence that is almost emblematic of what Freemasonry is at its core: a fraternity shaped by Tolerance and Democracy. It also seemed to be offering me the chance to make up my mind on this important topic without the constraints of dogma and doctrine, listening to my heart and mind alone.
As the time for my interview was fast approaching I still hadn’t manage to resolve the problem. As a profane, I read voraciously on the subject of Freemasonry before my interview hoping to find the answer to my question. Needless to say, the last thing I wanted to do was to lie when asked the question in spite of the fact that I was quite eager to become a freemason.
I was finally able to determine what my “particular opinion” on the subject was.The Supreme Being could be interpreted not only as a generic term for God but simply as the hidden answer to the mystery of existence. Believing in this Omni present entity, independently of its name, immanence or transcendence meant that I believed in the need for metaphysics and in something beyond the realms of the material world, not a small feat in a postmodern world.
The name that we may choose to refer to the Supreme Being isn’t as crucial as I originally thought: all the names of the Creator are human expressions of reverence to the Divine creator and in my opinion all as valid as each other. As soon as I had concluded this, I realized that I was free and that all faiths have something very valuable to offer us and that these faiths aren’t or shouldn’t be mutually exclusive but that they rather all form a unit. All faiths and temples, regardless of their denomination, are sacred.
The key was to recognize that there was something else aside from the material world, that human existence is still a mystery in spite of scientific progress and that there is such a thing as a spiritual side to being human.
Freemasonry isn’t a religion but a faith builder and, at the very least, it embodies a willing and conscious desire to embrace the mysteries of God and of human existence. Most people declare themselves atheist without really knowing why and have discarded spirituality altogether and Freemasonry makes candidates face up to these important questions which are essential if we want to at least try and comprehend who we are and where we come from.
It then follows that belief in a Supreme Being should definitely be an unmovable requisite for admission into regular Freemasonry, for the Spirit can only reach out to the Divinity and both parameters must be in place for this to be possible. Freemasonry without a presiding G.O.T.U appears before my eyes as something paradoxical and meaningless.
Initiation into freemasonry should be a journey of self- discovery but we should also expect, as W.Bro. Julian Rees puts it, “a brush with the Divinity” as well