Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Can Freemasonry be secular?

Get out your passport, call the airlines, and meet me at Conway Hall on Red Lion Square in London this Saturday.

The Grand Orient of France is hosting a symposium titled "Can Freemasonry be Secular?"

Speakers include Masonic historians Dr. Andrew Prescott, Jeffrey Tyssens, and Pierre Mollier.

You may remember Dr. Prescott from an article on The Taper last year, discussing his history of British Freemasonry based on his research of old library documents.

It sounds like a great way to spend a Saturday — much more interesting than another pancake breakfast.

Image: Dr. Andrew Prescott, professor of history

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  1. Of course it can. It has been for a long time in some traditions, if by 'secular' it is meant 'without a requirement to believe in a supreme being or consciousness of the universe displayed through natural laws'.

    Our last pancake breakfast included the raising of two EAs and Masonic education to follow.

  2. This all touches on the issues, what exactly is central to Freemasonry? What is peripheral? It is a good thing for people to concern themselves with these issues: thoughtfulness in a Mason is to encouraged. It is only fair to expect me to make my own stance clear.

    With regard to the question expressed in the title of the conference--and the post on which I am commenting--the crucial issue here is, what exactly is meant by the term "secular"? Although I am a long-standing supporter of Masonic scholarship and debate, I am somewhat disappointed that this conference's announcement does not include even a sentence defining what the organizers mean by this crucial term.

    Depending on how one defines the term, one may see mainstream, 'regular,' 'Free & Accepted' Freemasonry as secular already. When Masonry functions as it should, no particular religious group (for example, a particular church) or category of religious groups (for example, Christianity) has any control in the lodge. That would be a healthy secularism.

    However, if 'secular' means 'without a requirement to believe in a Supreme Being,' I would make the argument that regular or Free and Accepted Freemasonry cannot be 'secular' in this sense, and remain true to the core of Freemasonry.

    The idea of a Supreme Being is deeply embedded in every aspect of Free and Accepted Freemasonry. It is an integral part of our symbolism (for example, the All-Seeing Eye, found on tracing boards, in books, and even on the very apron in which I was installed as an officer in my local lodge last month). The notion of the Supreme Being is embedded in our obligations and teachings, and in the very furnishings of the lodge room.

    The notion of a Supreme Being is implicit in the very use of an Altar at the center of the Lodge room, and the requirement that the Volume of the Sacred Law be open on that altar at all times while the lodge is in session. It is only by some verbal and semantic gymnastics that the notion of an altar and a volume of 'sacred' law can be extended to an 'Altar of Reason' and so forth. Altars are for worship of the divine.

    In my opinion, although certainly one could build a system that dispenses with the belief in God as a requisite, purge one's ritual of references to God, and still call that system a form of 'Freemasonry'--this would not be Freemasonry as anything remotely like Masonry was originally conceived. This would be a different sort of enterprise altogether.

    On the other hand, I shall not demonize those who remove references to the Deity or requirements for belief in the Deity from their organization. These are not evil people. Rather, these are people who have taken a thoughtful position on the basis of principal. They are deserving of respect and reasoned discourse. However, their form of organization is not something I would care to consider as Freemasonry that was true to the spirit of Freemasonry, and I would not care to be involved in it, as Masonry.

  3. Worshipful Brother,
    Thank you very much for your well thought out post.

    "It is only by some verbal and semantic gymnastics that the notion of an altar and a volume of 'sacred' law can be extended to an 'Altar of Reason' and so forth. Altars are for worship of the divine. "

    I don't believe that it takes gymnastics of any type to arrive at this. For example, there are some theological stances that hold that their is a Deity and he is unknowable. Being that the Deity is unknowable it is required that man place reason as the foundation of morality and as his only tool for making his way in the world. On the same token an atheist could agree to an energetic force that permeates the universe but this force is not sentient or involved in the lives of men in a conscious manner.

    I offer a counter point Brother that Masonry by its very nature is a secular society. It does not propose itself to be a religion nor does it offer a plan or manner of "salvation." This being the case there is no reason to ask of a person's religious beliefs. Unless of course we take into account that there are certain rites of Masonry that are distinctly religious in nature (Swedish Rite, Rectified Scottish Rite) that may make an atheist a bit uncomfortable. Considering that these two rites were designed around a Christian paradigm I can see the reason why they are Christian in character. There are other rites that do not share this particular paradigm and would therefore not be a problem for those of other beliefs or lack of beliefs.

    When we say "Masonry" we are not referring to the system as practiced in our lodge, in our town, under our grand jurisdiction. We are referring to the vast tapestry that is the whole of Masonry (all the rites of Masonry). So, can Masonry be secular? Yes of course. That is like asking if a fish can be wet.

    The tired buzz line of "atheists cannot be bound by oath" is just so much BS. I am sure that you and every one else would do business with an atheist. Perhaps there is something more to trust than fear of a celestial boogey man that will strike you with lightening if you don't follow through.


  4. I agree that the idea that 'one cannot trust the oath of an atheist' is nonsense. In addition, the idea that people need actual fear of God's wrath, in order to be good people, reflects a very low level of moral development; see the work of the psychologist Fowler regarding faith development. (Those places in the King James translation of the Bible where it says to 'fear God' are using an early 17th century English sense of of the word 'fear'; today, we would use the word 'respect.')

    However, I disagree with much of the rest of what you say. It seems to me that belief in God is in the warp and woof of Freemasonry as originally conceived, and goes well beyond the matter of regional differences or inessential, peripheral issues. I would introduce the following as evidence:

    1) The whole notion of basing the three degrees around aspects of the Temple built by King Solomon. This structure was clearly dedicated to divine service--which I understand to be what Masons aspire to.

    2) The physical symbol of the Volume of the Sacred Law. At least in the GL of Florida, F&AM, it is forbidden to cross the space between the Worshipful Master and the open VLS, except when required to do so during ritual degree work, so that the communication between the WM and the VLS may be unimpaired. That is a powerful aspect of the symbolism. We also take our obligations upon the VLS; this is important in terms of establishing that this is an obligation, not just to the Fraternity, but to the Deity, as well. I would also point out that calling this the Volume of the Sacred Law is itself revealing: that which is sacred is made so by association with the Divine, not by fiat of Man.

    3) The Altar. Again, this is inherently a symbol of communion with the Divine.

    4) I find it revealing that the first bit of Masonic teaching conveyed to a candidate for the EA degree during the ceremony is the idea that, as Masons, we are never to enter upon any great or important undertaking without prayer. (At least this principal has primacy of place in the ritual in Florida.) I think that this is quite revealing, again, of primacy of belief in the Deity, to the heart of Masonic teaching.

    Contrary to my honored brother John Galt, Freemasonry does not place Reason as the basis of morality. Reason is part of that basis, to be sure, but belief in a Deity who is in some way associated with human affairs is a very important part of that foundation. Yes, other ways to consider morality are possible--but not, I think, Masonic.

    Again, Brother Galt, I must ask: What do you mean by "secular"? Because, depending upon what you mean, I may or may not agree that Freemasonry can be secular and remain Masonic.

    Of course, it is part of the nature of Freemasonry that there is no Supreme Masonic Court to decide these issues. (This is all for the better; we are here to learn to exercise and develop our faculties for reason.) Thus, I can only attempt to persuade you to my position on the basis of reason; one cannot mathematically "prove" a position on this.

    I would appeal to the readers of this blog to consider the heart of Masonry; to overlook, if only for the sake of considering the issue of 'secular Masonry,' the excesses and missteps taken by some in the name of religion, even within some Lodge meetings. Such excesses there certainly are, and we must work to eradicate them; however, we also must be careful not to cut out part of the heart of Masonry in order to eliminate some of the excesses committed in the name of Belief.

    Freemasonry is one of the few places in the modern Western world where Faith and Reason are seen as brothers, not antagonists. May that always be so.

  5. "Freemasonry is one of the few places in the modern Western world where Faith and Reason are seen as brothers, not antagonists. May that always be so."

    I agree with this statement wholeheartedly. Your assertions are thought out and well considered. On the other hand, I do think a form of Masonry is possible without a belief in deity is possible, although not a full version. As Einstein said, "Religion without science is blind, science without religion is lame." Freemasonry recognizes both faith and science as necessary. Neither are or need be necessarily antagonistic.




  7. also my brothers, an alter was also a place sacrifices were made
    to the angry Gods.(first born, calf,lamb,etc)

    also, king solomon used demons in his construction of the temple, so should we be conjuring up spirits to help us with our work as well?

  8. Someone asked what is meant my "secular". The original post links to which addresses that question, and also links to the GOdF web site which has a long article on the question at:
    (Observatory of Freedom of Conscience).

    The former contains, inter alia:

    "The freedom of conscience
    During the eighteenth century, the Grand Lodges throughout the world decided to recruit not only among Christians, but also to open lodges to men of all religions. During the nineteenth century, the Grand Orient de France went even farther by proposing the Masonic initiation to all men, provided that they respect the “Moral Law” as stated in the Anderson Constitutions. In 1877, to remain “the centre of the union between people who would otherwise remain total strangers,” the Grand Orient abolished the requirement by which its members had to acknowledge the existence of God and the immortality of the soul. This was the beginning of a Freemasonry that accepted believers and non-believers, and left members completely free to pursue their own conscience and personal research. The Grand Orient considers metaphysical concepts are entirely personal. The lodges of the Grand Orient de France therefore work according to their own orientation, either under the invocation of Universal Freemasonry, or to the glory of the Great Architect of the Universe. They pursue a balanced humanistic approach between a reflection on the society and the initiatory work."

    The question was also raised about the UGLE and "secular". Please note this: "Freemasonry is one of the world's oldest secular fraternal societies." This is the first sentence of the UGLE's answer to "What is Freemasonry?", found on this web page:

  9. fascinating... I hope someone "youtubes" it!

  10. An altar in and of itself does not imply religion. For example the "altar of Freemasonry" can be seen (easily) as the "altar of Freedom" upon which so many brave men have sacrificed themselves.

    It appears my dear Brother Mark Kaltko-Rivera and I disagree mainly on the use of words instead of philosophy.

    If we agree that Free Masonry is a system of symbolic instruction we have to admit the question of the VSL and references to Deity also being symbolic. The entire structure of Masonry itself could well be symbolic. What came we here to do?

    I am relatively certain the that GL of Florida version of Preston-Webb ritual does give primacy to religion in its works. I am also certain that is only one working of the vast tapestry of Free-Masonry. There are other rites that are far more religious, and some that are far less so. If the introduction of a Masonic rite as proof is acceptable to show the religious nature of the Craft we are backed into a difficult corner.

    First we claim that Free Masonry is not a religion but we have a religious test to get in the door. Second, we have rites of Masonry that are not religious in character, thereby countering the "proof" offered by the introduction on one rite of Masonry.

    As a meeting of minds I propose this. There are some rites of Masonry that are not in any way secular. On the other hand there are rites of Masonry that are secular by their very nature.

    Would you agree with this Brother?


  11. Brother Dunce,

    Regarding the first of your two posts: There is a lot of pain here, for sure. I cannot begin to address that pain in a blog comment, but I would point out that the mere existence of this blog and many others shows that there is room for independent thought in Masonry. We are going through a hard period of our history right now, in many ways, including the relationship of leadership to membership, but even in the midst of this, there is a community (really, communities) within Masonry where one can share one's thoughts. I hope that you can find a place within these communities that you can call home.

    As to your second post: The logic of your position does not follow from what I am saying at all. I am saying: 'Religious elements are part of the very fabric of Masonry.' That does not imply, as you seem to think it does, that 'we therefore have to incorporate every religious element that ever was in any tradition or myth into Masonry.'

    Incidentally: the legend of King Solomon using demons to build the temple is not found in the Bible itself, and is actually contradictory to the biblical account, which says human builders worked for years to make the temple. (Consider the Lecture of the First Degree, in this respect.) I can understand how such a beautiful structure as the Temple built by Solomon seemed beyond human capability; in that context, I can see how some people would come to believe that demons had to construct it. But, not so: the layout for the temple and its components and its furniture, as well as the garments of the priests who were to administer in it, are all given in excruciating detail in the Bible, for the sake of the human builders.(Incidentally: is it really likely that the Deity would accept something built through the polluting agency of demons?)

  12. Concerning Brother Galt's comments: As one aspect of my secular (!) vocation, I conduct psychological research and scholarship. One of the areas in which I work involves the concept of worldviews, sets of assumptions about the world and reality itself, assumptions that guide the way people and cultures think and behave. (My main article on this topic: (See my book on this topic, The Psychology of Worldviews, to be published late this year.)

    One of the things I have come to understand is that reasoned discourse can only go so far in the face of worldview differences, in the face of fundamental disagreements about foundational assumptions. After a certain point, the best we can do is to agree to disagree, without being disagreeable. I think that this is one of those places.

    It is certainly the case, as you say, that "There are some rites of Masonry that are not in any way secular," that is, there are some systems of Masonic degrees that insist on belief in Deity. And, as you say, "On the other hand there are rites of Masonry that are secular by their very nature," that is, there are some systems of degrees that do not insist on belief in Deity. The issue is, are the latter really Freemasonry? Philosophically, I would have to say no--because of my own assumptions about Freemasonry. I do recognize that people with different assumptions about Freemasonry will think otherwise. In a free society, the least we can do is to allow each of our competing visions to thrive. I do not think that good will implies fraternal recognition, however.

  13. The Great Architect of the Universe is synonymous with the word God. If it is not; why not? Returns us to the semantic discussion. What, exactly, is wrong with the word God? The point of Freemasonry is that each individual has his own conception of God; be it Spinoza's and Einstein's God or any other conception of it. That is what the Perennial Philosophy is all about. Each man has his own conception of the divine ground of all being. No two have the same view of the Great Architect of the Universe, aka God and the Supreme Being. IF a lodge wishes to express a more specific version of a view of the Great Architect, that is up to the will of the brethren. Locally, there are pagans, Christians, Jews, Muslims, etc. It is of no concern to me what they are as long as they are not engaged in injuring others for their religion, and only know the religion of a few. A petitioner is not asked, in my experience, what religion they are.

  14. "You see many stars at night in the sky but find them not when the sun rises; can you say that there are no stars in the heaven of day? So, O man! because you behold not God in the days of your ignorance, say not that there is no God."


  15. Actually, I have no problem with the word "God." I refer to Deity merely out of respect, to not overuse the word designating the Supreme Being too frequently. But that's just me.

  16. Apologies, Brother Mark. I was referring to the use by the GOdF to the Grand Architect of the Universe and attempting to discover what the apparently purported difference there is. I know of none, and am curious

    "Thou, o God, art one, but thy manifestations are many."
    The Guru Nanak.

  17. Brothers,
    The quality of the discussion that has occurred under this blog post is indicative of the highest qualities of Free Masonry. I would like to thank each of you for participating. I have found it enlightening to a high degree (pun absoluting intended).

    Brother Mark Koltko-Rivera. You are absolutly correct. The divergent ideas that you and I hold of the foundational aspects of Free Masonry are unimportant in the face of Brotherhood. Please take this as me extending my hand to you as Brother and friend. I am in your debt always. If the Grand Architect was to place us in the same city at the same time the drinks are on me. I intend to visit Florida some time in the late summer. We don't need to visit each other's lodges to enjoy Masonry, Fellowship and diner together.

    Brother François-Marie Arouet. I must disagree Brother, humbly. The name Grand Architect of the Universe is not necessarily the same as the word God. Labels are important. This comes down to a matter of theology. In truth the word "God" does not mean the same thing to different people. I attend an Orthodox Church and I know for certain that my ideas and understanding of Deity are quite a bit different from some of the other members of the Church. So be it. We all share in the community together. Just as you and I, as simple Masons in the world, regardless of our ideas,share in the community of Brotherhood in Masonry. This is the true beauty of Free Masonry. People who may have otherwise remained at a perpetual distance can come together and share in the benefits of Brotherhood.

    Brother T. Ron Dunce. I understand your position Brother.

    Brother TSMR. I am familiar with your work and I appreciate and respect all that you accomplished thus far. I only wish that I could achieve the heights of Masonry that you obviously have.


  18. "I must disagree Brother, humbly. The name Grand Architect of the Universe is not necessarily the same as the word God. Labels are important. This comes down to a matter of theology. In truth the word "God" does not mean the same thing to different people."

    The word 'God' does not mean the same to different people. I agree entirely. Semantically, the phrase 'the Grand Architect of the Universe' need not necessary mean, and ideed does not mean the same thing to all who speak it. Indeed, in Freemasonry there are as many conceptions of the GAOTU as there are different religions for the attending members. I would argue that there are no two definitions of God exactly alike, even among those that agree entirely upon the definition they choose. I would likewise make the same statement of the GAOTU. If it is the same as another person's, it is without free thought.

  19. "Great Architect of the Universe. The title applied in the technical language of Freemasonry to Deity."

    Encyclopedia of Freemasonry-1916 Revised Edition
    By Albert G. Mackay

    "de·i·ty /ˈdiɪti/ Pronunciation Key - Show Spelled Pronunciation[dee-i-tee] Pronunciation Key - Show IPA Pronunciation
    –noun, plural -ties.
    1. a god or goddess.
    2. divine character or nature, esp. that of the Supreme Being; divinity.
    3. the estate or rank of a god: The king attained deity after his death.
    4. a person or thing revered as a god or goddess: a society in which money is the only deity.
    5. the Deity, God; Supreme Being."

    If you will accept these definitions and see that the word Deity is a synonym with the word God, I repeat my question; how is the GAOTU different than the word God?

  20. I don't believe that Freemasonry can be secular, and by that I mean that Masons cannot be atheists. There is a very good reason that Masons must believe in god. Masonry promotes natural law, which means that all men are equal, etc. This idea is dependent upon the idea that men are born with rights that are endowed by god. By god, I do not necessarily mean the christian god, but an intelligent creative "force". These ideas are spelled out in the Declaration of Independence, which itself is a Masonically inspired document. The problem that atheists run into is that they cannot justify personal rights or the concept of natural law. Because they do not believe that there is a god, they cannot say "my rights were given to me by god, and you cannot take them away." In the absence of god, the only entity that can give or take peoples rights is the state. We have all seen where that line of reasoning leads. I believe that Freemasonry and Atheism are incompatible.

  21. Brother John Galt,

    My noble brother, I can certainly accept a man as a friend even though our notions of Masonry differ.

    How distressing it is, though, that I must tell you that I will be leaving sunny Florida in July, to return to my distant homeland: Manhattan. (Lady Kathleen begins a doctoral program in NYC in the fall, so we'll be moving, almost certainly in July.) However, we might end up moving a bit later; you can find my e-mail address on my web page (click on my name), and let me know when you shall arrive in Florida.

    Incidentally, I am a cheap date: I don't imbibe alcoholic beverages. However, I shall be glad to toast Liberty, Equality, Fraternity, the Brotherhood, and your health with the finest agua minerale frizzante available.

    I, too, have been pleased with the overall level of civility seen in the comments to this blog post. Too often I have seen real incivility, even base and vile nastiness, emerge in the comments of various blogs--probably paralleling the breakdown of civility in American public discourse. However, we must remember that we are members of a society of gentlemen, who can disagree without discourtesy. So mote it be.

  22. Brother Warwick,

    Ultimately, I agree with you that Freemasonry and Atheism are incompatible. However, I follow a different line of logic than you do.

    If I understand you correctly, you are saying that the idea of personal rights is dependent upon the idea of the Divine; otherwise, the only source of rights is the State. In addition, as I think you are right to imply, that idea leads to totalitarianism and all its many and horrific excesses. Fair enough.

    However, I do not agree that the only alternative to the idea that 'personal rights come from God' is the idea that they come from the state. There are various philosophical positions one can take, to the effect that personal rights are inherent in human existence itself, and the workings of logic and reason. These arguments do not depend upon positing the existence of the Deity. I won't take the time at the moment to dig into my collection of works on atheism for references, but allow me to assert that one of the mainstays of modern atheism is that many things--ethics, morality, personal freedoms--which people have thought depend on God can be philosophically derived from non-theistic, non-deistic philosophical assumptions, as well. In addition to the literature on Western atheism, you might also want to consider literature on Buddhist ethics in regard to these matters. (Please understand, I say this even though I myself am as far from atheism as I think it is possible to get. I do believe my freedoms and my existence itself come from God--but I can't expect my atheist discussants to accept that, and all discussion is based on assumptions held in common.)

    Basically, you are saying that the atheist position undermines the idea of personal rights, and hence undermines Freemasonry. I am saying that, altogether aside from the notion of personal rights, atheism undermines the central teachings of Freemasonry. Our logics are thoroughly different.

    I point this out at such length because, in the dispute between theism/deist positions and atheism, it is easy to misrepresent atheism. I do not think that we advance the discussion by misunderstanding the position we disagree with. To the contrary, I think it is important to have a thorough and accurate understanding of the opposing position, in order to effectively answer it. (Of course, that might force one to develop one's own opinions along the way.)

    In addition, one of the most egregious problems I see in heated discussions is that the discussants each appeal to their own closely held assumptions, without realizing that discussion depends on assumptions held in common. As we discuss issues--either involving Freemasonry or the many other fractious issues that face the world--let us look to advance discussion by clarifying our assumptions, then seeing where we can get by working from the assumptions that both sides hold in common.

    Peace and fraternity.

  23. I agree that two individuals from different forms of Freemasonry can be friends even if they cannot sit in lodge together. My oaths are solemn, and I took them of my own free will and accord. Some claim that this makes me not a forward-thinker, but I cannot think any form of Freemasonry that does not include the keeping of one's word is not a valuable form. Nor do I think I am a true Mason if I were to break my oaths for convenience. I considered the oaths carefully when taking them to the point I kept the lodge waiting while I considered one aspect of the oaths. For the curious minds, the section that gave me pause was not the one about atheists. I spent a good deal of time reading about great Masons from the past and agreed with much of what they had to say. I did not agree to an oath I did not think I could keep. I have not found cause as of yet to break my oaths, and do not foresee such an event. My freedom of conscience gives me liberty to decide for myself what makes me a Mason.

  24. Demons and magic

    According to the Rabbinical literature, on account of his modest request for wisdom only, Solomon was rewarded with riches and an unprecedentedly glorious realm, which extended over the upper world inhabited by the angels and over the whole of the terrestrial globe with all its inhabitants, including all the beasts, fowls, and reptiles, as well as the demons and spirits. His control over the demons, spirits, and animals augmented his splendor, the demons bringing him precious stones, besides water from distant countries to irrigate his exotic plants. The beasts and fowls of their own accord entered the kitchen of Solomon's palace, so that they might be used as food for him, and extravagant meals for him were prepared daily by each of his thousand wives, with the thought that perhaps the king would feast that day in her house.

    A magic ring called the "Seal of Solomon" was supposedly given to Solomon, and gave him power over demons. The magical symbol said to have been on the Seal of Solomon which made it work is now better known as the Star of David. Asmodeus, king of demons, was one day, according to the classical Rabbis, captured by Benaiah using the ring, and was forced to remain in Solomon's service. In one tale, Asmodeus brought a man with two heads from under the earth to show Solomon; the man, unable to return, married a woman from Jerusalem and had seven sons, six of whom resembled the mother, while one resembled the father in having two heads. After their father's death, the son with two heads claimed two shares of the inheritance, arguing that he was two men; Solomon, owing to his huge wisdom (according to the tale), decided that the son with two heads was only one man.

    The Seal of Solomon, in some legends known as the Ring of Aandaleeb, was a highly sought after symbol of power. In several legends, different groups or individiduals attempted to steal it or attain it in some manner.

    One legend concerning Asmodeus goes on to state that Solomon one day asked Asmodeus what could make demons powerful over man, and Asmodeus asked to be freed and given the ring so that he could demonstrate; Solomon agreed but Asmodeus threw the ring into the sea and it was swallowed by a fish. Asmodeus then swallowed the king, stood up fully with one wing touching heaven and the other earth, and spat out Solomon to a distance of 400 miles. The Rabbis claim this was a divine punishment for Solomon having failed to follow three divine commands, and Solomon was forced to wander from city to city, until he eventually arrived in an Ammonite city where he was forced to work in the king's kitchens. Solomon gained a chance to prepare a meal for the Ammonite king, which the king found so impressive that the previous cook was sacked and Solomon put in his place; the king's daughter, Naamah, subsequently fell in love with Solomon, but the family (thinking Solomon a commoner) disapproved, so the king decided to kill them both by sending them into the desert. Solomon and the king’s daughter wandered the desert until they reached a coastal city, where they bought a fish to eat, which just happened to be the one which had swallowed the magic ring. Solomon was then able to regain his throne and expel Asmodeus. (The element of a ring thrown into the sea and found back in a fish's belly earlier appeared in Herodotus' account of Polycrates of Samos).

    In another familiar version of the legend of the Seal of Solomon, Asmeodeus disguises himself. In some myths, he's disguised as King Solomon himself, while in more frequently heard versions he's disguised as a falcon, calling himself Gavyn (Gavinn or Gavin), one of King Solomons trusted friends. The concealed Asmeodeus tells travelers who have ventured up to King Solomon's grand lofty palace that the Seal of Solomon was thrown into the sea. He then covinces them to plunge in and attempt to retrieve it, for if they do they would take the throne as king.

    Other magical items attributed to Solomon are his key and his Table. The latter was said to be held in Toledo, Spain during the Visigothic rule and was part of the loot taken by Tarik ibn Ziyad during the Umayyad Conquest of Iberia, according to Ibn Abd-el-Hakem's History of the Conquest of Spain. The former appears in the title of the Lesser Key of Solomon, a grimoire whose framing tale is Solomon capturing demons using his ring, and forcing them to explain themselves to him.

    Demons also help out Solomon in building the Temple; though not by choice. The edifice was, according to rabbinical legend, throughout miraculously constructed, the large, heavy stones rising to and settling in their respective places of themselves. The general opinion of the Rabbis is that Solomon hewed the stones by means of a shamir, a mythical worm whose mere touch cleft rocks. According to Midrash Tehillim, the shamir was brought from paradise by Solomon's eagle; but most of the rabbis state that Solomon was informed of the worm's haunts by Asmodeus. The shamir had been entrusted by the prince of the sea to the mountain cock alone, and the cock had sworn to guard it well, but Solomon's men found the bird's nest, and covered it with glass. When the bird returned, it used the shamir to break the glass, whereupon the men scared the bird, causing it to drop the worm, which the men could then bring to Solomon.

    Early adherents of the Kabbalah portray Solomon as having sailed through the air on a throne of light placed on an eagle, which brought him near the heavenly gates as well as to the dark mountains behind which the fallen angels Uzza and Azzael were chained; the eagle would rest on the chains, and Solomon, using the magic ring, would compel the two angels to reveal every mystery he desired to know. Solomon is also portrayed as forcing demons to take Solomon's friends, including Hiram, on day return trips to hell.

    just as plausible as what the edited bible tells us?
    no wonder there was no sound...

  25. The French at the time were embroiled in a long-time feud with an oppressive Catholic church. The political struggles between a waning church and a Machiavellian royalty explain much in the way of French Masonry and its politically-driven choices after the second French revolution in 1852. Of course, Masonry is a secular institution. A devout brother, Paine, wrote a pamphlet observed to be anti-Christian. That does not make one non-religious to write a book against something you disagree with. There are many invectives against many religions by religious individuals. To have a non-religious pamphlet certainly does not prove one irreligious. Look at Jefferson, Paine, Kierkegaard, Luther, etc. All very religious men. Perhaps we can avoid religious leaders such as Jesus, the Guru Nanak, Buddha, Muhammad, or innumerable religious leaders, saints, and prophets who stood up to the accepted religion of their time. To say these pamphlets were published does not provide evidence the men who published them were not religious. It might as easily be supposed they were more religious than the society about them, not less.

  26. Perhaps there was no sound as demons and angels are either non-existent or the individuals who claim to see them can only describe their experience but not show evidence of the validity of said experience. There is no question that the Bible relates the struggle of an ancient theocracy in a hostile environment. There is a question of the existence of angels, demons, bigfoot, loch ness monsters, space aliens, etc. This is not to say they do not exist, but it is to say that because someone purported it does not necessarily mean the creatures are there as described.

  27. Food for thought on this issue.

    Francois-marie is correct in the beginning post. It's not a question of "can" because it already is both secular and non-secular. There has been two opposing schools almost since the beginning of the speculative Craft.

    More thoughts...

    In many early rituals there isn't an altar. Also, many of the original brothers took their oaths on the old Charges, and then after 1723 took them on Anderson's Constitutions. In other words the Bible was not always the book of choice for oaths by the early brothers.

    The Masons in France, the Netherlands and England were directly responsible for the widespread publication of the "Treatise of the Three Impostors," a pamphlet explain why Moses, Jesus and Mohammad are the three greatest impostors in the history of mankind, and how that reason can overcome their deceits.

    Strange that a non-secular organization would publish such a pamphlet?

    This is, of course, the Masonry of the original Grand Lodge of 1717. In the 1750's the new Grand Lodge of 'Antients' was far more religious and added much of the religious symbolism we see today.

    There has always been two schools of Masonry, and suspect there always will be.

  28. "Look at Jefferson, Paine... All very religious men." - Francois

    You may want to read further about these men. It is difficult to use their name and religion in the same sentence.

    Of course maybe you've been reading fairy tales or myths.

  29. The Kabalistic material provided is quite likely from the Middle Ages, and has all the earmarks of Midrashic interpretation by the author, presuming the authenticity of the material presented. According to Gershom Scholem, one of the foremost authorities on the Kabbalah, the larger part of the Kabbalistic writings began to appear in the Middle Ages, long after the first printing of the Vulgate Bible and even after the Tinsdale Bible. This would give the older verified material to the Bible the edge timewise, unless the information can be shown to pre-date the oldest existing material (presumably not the Vulgate), then the older verifiable documentation takes precedent. Even so, the proffered tale seems to be even more mythical than presented in nearly any tale in the Bible, admittedly full of myth. When I say myth I mean it in the best possible sense of the word.

  30. Br. Mark-

    I have to disagree with you on that. I have had some contact with atheist reasoning, although perhaps not as much as you have. In the end, their arguments for human rights and natural law always seem to end up as "just because" reasoning. Here we are delving, I hate to say it, into unprovable matters of faith. I regard natural law as something that is written into the hearts of men by their creator.
    You referenced Bhudda. Bhudda, in classically Bhuddist style, told some that there was a god and others that there wasn't. Indeed, he ultimately said that the question of god did not matter, and that he did not know if god existed. The purpose of Bhuddism is to free oneself from selfish desires in order to liberate oneself from the the miseries of this world. A major part of this is living according to the Golden Rule and other elements of Natural Law, just as all of the worlds major religions teach.
    Surely if all of the worlds major religions have come to the same conclusions about morality, in my opinion, those beliefs were placed in men by something higher than him.
    My interpretation of Atheistic arguments is that they use an incredible amount of semantics to justify believing in Natural Law without a creator. What is to keep me from being a bad person and victimizing others? According to atheists, Natural Law is "inherent" in me, but was not placed there by a creator. If there is no creator, why should I care what I do? Should I believe the Natural Law that is "inherent" in me speaks to no higher purpose, no learning experience on this planet? That it is not a sign post that guides me on my journey, but is simply a signpost pointing to nowhere. As an atheist and a Freemason I would be perfecting my ashlar "just because".
    Incidentally Brother Mark, I read your above arguments as to why a Freemason cannot be an atheist, and agree wholeheartedly with your conclusions.

  31. "Look at Jefferson, Paine... All very religious men." - Francois

    You may want to read further about these men. It is difficult to use their name and religion in the same sentence.

    I assume this relies on the semantic definition of religion rather than the dictionary definition. I have studied these men in particular and significantly.

    "We are answerable for them to our God. The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts as are injurious to others. But it does me no injury for my neighbour to say there are twenty gods, or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg . . . . Reason and free inquiry are the only effectual agents against error."

    "I believe in one God, and no more; and I hope for happiness beyond this life."

    "Were man impressed as fully and as strongly as he ought to be with the belief of a God, his moral life would be regulated by the force of that belief; he would stand in awe of God and of himself, and would not do the thing that could not be concealed from either. ... This is Deism."

    Strictly, I can think of no deeper religious sentiments than expressed by Paine and Jefferson. Of course, the definition of religion varies depending the individual, but if we can agree that the definition of religion is this:

    "a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe"
    "something one believes in and follows devotedly; a point or matter of ethics or conscience"

  32. More from Paine, particularly mentioning religion:

    "To do good is my religion."

    "I believe that religious duties consist in doing justice, loving mercy, and endeavoring to make our fellow- creatures happy" (Age of Reason)

    More from Jefferson:

    "The God who gave us life, gave us liberty at the same time."

    Of course, it can be said that I am not using the word 'religious' correctly if I think these statements are religious. I say they are being used in the most literal sense of the word religious.

  33. Francois,

    Let us not forget Mr. Jefferson's most famous quote about God.

    "When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation." - Jefferson

    "...the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God..." - Jefferson

    1. Natural Law
    2. Spinoza's Natural God
    3. All of the energy in the Cosmos = God = Nature

    These are the ideas of Atheism as pointed-out by Bro. Warwick.

    So who is ""The God who gave us life, gave us liberty at the same time"? Nature's God.

    perhaps a good reading of Prof. Jonathan Israel’s (Oxford University) “Enlightenment Contested” might help you to better understand.

    I might also add that your nome de plume (Francois-Marie Arouet: Voltaire) was an avowed atheist and Freemason of the Grand Orient of France at a time when it was recognized by the Grand Lodge of England.

  34. All of the arguments presented here are a part of a long and continuing debate. All who have posted here have done a fine job of clearly making their point.

    All of this illustrates one of the deepest problems with the Craft today. We have focused our eyes and minds on dogma as if it were an equal replacement for brotherhood, honor, common sense and morality. We are so concerned with the details of the dogma that we have forgotten the reason for Freemasonry.

    Perhaps this should be a warning sign to those who can see it for what it is.

  35. Nature's God is God. It is what I, Voltaire, Einstein, Paine, and Jefferson paid tribute to. I respectfully disagree that the God of Spinoza and others indicates an atheistic God. Spinoza, for example, was certainly a deeply- religious man, as were all those mentioned.

    I am quite familiar with Voltaire and his history in atheist thought, and also his membership in the Grand Orient. Just because one is purported to be an atheist does not remove them from my list of admired philosophers. I do not dismiss the thoughts of any thinkers out-of- hand. There is nowhere I am familiar with where Voltaire openly claims atheism. I would be intrigued to see such a quote. However, there are many quotes to dispute the assertion. I understand the crux of the disagreement here is whether or not a belief in God, be it Deist, Pantheist, et al, indicates necessarily atheism. I do not agree that it does, and would have to have definitive proof that an alternative view of God indicates atheism. Voltaire fought injustices propagated by the oppressive religious society of his time. This to me, does not indicate an atheism necessarily. To fight injustice has long been practiced among religious thinkers.

    Voltaire quotes:

    "You see many stars at night in the sky but find them not when the sun rises; can you say that there are no stars in the heaven of day? So, O man! because you behold not God in the days of your ignorance, say not that there is no God."

    "All sects are different, because they come from men; morality is everywhere the same, because it comes from God."

    "Your reasoning would only serve to make atheists were it not that the voice of the whole of nature cries out that there is a God with a strength as great as the weakness of these subtleties." >in response to Pascal's wager: From LETTERS ON ENGLAND<

    I believe here we are at an argument described by Kierkegaard. That the God of nature is not God does not seem a just conclusion.

    "...nor does it make any difference whether religion be apprehended by our natural faculties or by revelation: the argument is sound in both cases, inasmuch as religion is one and the same, and is equally revealed by God..." Benedict De Spinoza; The Chief Works Vol. 1

    I understand entirely, and agree with your assertions that many of these gentlemen followed the god of nature. I do not agree that followingthe god of nature is equivalent to atheism, nor necessarily juxtaposed to the revealed God.

  36. I do hope, Howard, that you do not consider my posts as abrasive as they were in our last conversation; an incident I humbly acknowledge and herein apologize for. I am taking a less confrontive path here and am pleased we were allowed to continue our brief conversation concerning deism and pantheism and its relation to Freemasonry. As I have said before, I will keep my oaths. Not for any Grand Lodge rules or laws, nor for those even of my own lodge. I keep them solely for myself. Should that sound egotistical or unenlighted; so be it. To do the right thing is far better than protecting my own vanity. Living up to my oaths, within reason and with my free will, is right.

  37. This comment has been removed by the author.

  38. Francois,

    In the end this issue, like so many others, will be rendered meaningless.

    A Mason's oath is equally meaningless to me because they so easily break it when convenient.

    Like Voltaire I committed the ultimate crime: I dared to question the status quo. I openly stated that racism and corruption were immoral. Then, like a herd of sheep, men who swore to be my brothers eagerly raised their knives and planted them in my back.

    I was not surprised by this because I knew how weak they were in their hearts. They needed so desperately to believe in something that they would do anything to keep their illusions alive.

    We have reached a point in our civilization where there is nothing a person can truly trust. The government, corporations and religions are no longer the servants of the people, but their master. They detest and fear the people believing only they are capable of knowing what is best. Democracy, to them, is actually the bane of the people. If the people would only hand over absolute power to them then they would turn our world into a utopia – or so they believe.

    Now people are lost in an endless maze of rhetoric handed down from on high to confuse them even further. The supposed experts speak in the language of their "expertise" which leaves the common man still groping in the dark for answers. Language is no longer used to enlighten but to obfuscate.

    It's no great wonder that men cling blindly to oaths of pretended brotherhood because there is nothing else left to them. Their communities have been uprooted and the mass exodus to the cities is well under way. The laws no longer afford protection but create a fear of your neighbor. Through endless lawsuits we have created a society of people too afraid to work together or say what they truly believe.

    Political correctness is just another term for censorship. It is self-censorship out of fear.

    If Jefferson and Voltaire were here to witness the society we have created they would realize how all of their efforts had been in vain.

  39. "Spinoza, for example, was certainly a deeply- religious man, as were all those mentioned." - Francois

    First, I find this statement to be delusional.

    Second, I have no desire to prove you wrong or teach you anything. My comments are intended only for those who have a full understanding of the subject.

    Believe what you will and wander about aimlessly if that is what suits you. Create fantasies that play to your delusions and convince the gullible of their truth. None of this matters to me in the least.

    You, like so many, are focused on the irrelevant while that which carries all the meaning and force of the future slips through your hands like water.

  40. "A Mason's oath is equally meaningless to me because they so easily break it when convenient."

    I do not take responsibility for the oaths of others. I also do not take into account your or anyone else's opinion of my oath. It is mine, and the responsibility for it is no one else's. It is solemnly held of my own free will and accord, and the actions and opinions of others cannot cause me to break it, nor do the many Masons I personally know do so. This is your experience, and it is significantly different than what I have encountered. If every Mason in the world simultaneously breaks their oaths, that does not relieve me of mine. If it did, I would not be a Mason or an individual true to himself first. If you cannot be true to yourself first, how can you be true to others?

    ""Spinoza, for example, was certainly a deeply- religious man, as were all those mentioned." - Francois

    First, I find this statement to be delusional."

    I find it completely delusional to not recognize the religious sentiment of these individuals. You do well to not make the attempt, as it is clear they were religious in what they believed, no matter how far it was from the status quo of their time. The difference here a disagreement on what the word 'religion' means.

    I direct you to the following quote and many others if need be from Spinoza's writings. I prefer not to take them off the shelf if I need not. I can direct you likewise to the many writings of the other gentlemen offered. Respectfully, Spinoza's religious sentiment is clear in the statement below and in many of his other writings. Was he outside the opinions of the religious thought of his time? Absolutely. Was he religious? According to the definition, yes. In his heart and writings, yes.
    If you disagree with the very word religion, that cannot be helped.

    "That God or a Supreme Being exists, sovereignly just and merciful, the Exemplar of the true life." Benedict De Spinoza; The Chief Works Vol. 1

  41. "All of this illustrates one of the deepest problems with the Craft today. We have focused our eyes and minds on dogma as if it were an equal replacement for brotherhood, honor, common sense and morality. We are so concerned with the details of the dogma that we have forgotten the reason for Freemasonry."

    The true reason for Freemasonry is not forgotten. Those things you've mentioned are part of that true meaning; brotherhood (keeping true to your brothers and their well-being), honor (keeping true to your word), and common sense morality are displayed every day in the brothers of my lodge and a better part of the brothers locally. It is unfortunate that your experience has differed. I am under no delusions that as Masons, we are likewise men. That carries with it fallibility. To hear that men are fallible is never a great surprise, as the human mind is greatly fallible.

    I had hoped a civil discussion possible here. The fallibility of my mind is apparent in thinking so. I will continue to work to improve.

  42. "That God or a Supreme Being exists, sovereignly just and merciful, the Exemplar of the true life." Benedict De Spinoza; The Chief Works Vol. 1

    Those references to "God", do not sound like he meant the "GOD" of the bible, but something else.

  43. Need they be different from each other? Granted, the Bible for the most part does allude to God being male, while the term 'mother nature' alludes to a feminine aspect. I offer that neither concept is likely complete. It seems that is what Spinoza asks in his writings. Below is a statement specific to the Bible:

    "The doctrine of the Gospels enjoins nothing but simple faith, namely, to believe in God and to honour him, which is the same thing as to obey Him."

    "I confess that some profane men, to whom religion is a burden, may, from what I have said assume a licence to sin, and without any reason, at the simple dictates of their lusts conclude that Scripture is everywhere faulty and therefore its authority is null; but such men are beyond the reach of help, for nothing, as proverb has it, can be said rightly that it cannot be twisted into wrong."

    "I will show that Scripture, in so far as it teaches what is necessary for obedience and salvation, cannot have been corrupted."

    Let me also say that in no way were Spinoza's writings entirely in agreement with the common religious thought of his time. Nor were the teachings of Jesus, Buddha, the guru Nanak, the prophets (for the most part), Luther, etc.

    As for Voltaire and Paine believing in God, they both were Freemasons. Voltaire under the Grand Orient at a time when the Grand Architect portions remained a part of their ritual and a belief in God was still a requirement for them. I do not doubt that these men, if asked for a statement they did not believe in to join a group they did not require, would have refused taking such an oath. Their displeasure with the religion of their time did not require themselves to not be religious. Many honored thinkers of humanist and atheist philosophy were religious, including Jesus:

  44. Jesus was also against the "selling of salvation",

    is that not what a Grand Master's One Day Class is? selling salvation(degrees 1-32 in a day?)

    dove sellers=one day class?

    that is only if you believe in a God, then we will sell you the degree's, at a price; but to you, Atheist, no!
    We would rather have unenlightened, uneducated men over potential educated, enlightened atheists who may come to a better understanding of a GAOTU by the exposure to the Great Lessons of Freemasonry...
    uh, ok........

  45. We don't do the one day class here. I don't know men taking the one-day class 'unenlightened, uneducated men' just because they take a one-day class or simply because they have a belief in God. Nor do I believe that someone is 'educated, enlightened just because they are atheists, I do not know that they 'may come to a better understanding of a GAOTU by the exposure to the Great Lessons of Freemasonry...' None of these things are a given.

    I've known educated and enlightened men to believe in God, and I've known unintelligent, unenlightened men to be atheists. Vice versa as well. I've known atheists to be cruel beyond belief, as well people professing a belief in God.

    Freemasonry does not offer salvation in 1 day or 1 century. It offers nothing that the individual does not already have inherently inside himself. Freemasonry offers only a set of instruments with which to dig. Several different teachings and paths can offer these instruments, though many are not as useful as Freemasonry. None are expedient and easy, and the reception of the third degree does not necessarily make a man a Mason. Someone's atheism or religion does not matter to me in the least. My oaths are mine, and I will hold them. Dogma and egotism is what causes some to suggest I should not. I keep my oaths as I took them; of my own free will and accord and within my own freedom of conscience.

  46. Francois,

    I recommend you actually read Spinoza and the other philosophers, and not just about them. Quoting them out of context can be used to create any kind of argument you want.

    For instance Toland says that God is universal. Taken out of context one could argue that he is a Roman Catholic. However, when read in context you learn that he believes God *is* the universe and that he detests Roman Catholicism with a passion.

    When Einstein states that he believes in the God of Spinoza, and one truly understands Spinoza's concept of God, it becomes clear that he's not talking about an omniscient and omnipotent thinking being but energy in and of itself.

    If you want to stretch the concept of theism to include just energy then I guess you claim these men were religious. However, most scholars identify them as atheists because energy alone does not usually constitute a theistic belief.

    Therefore, when they use terms such as "god" and "deity" it is understood not to be within the framework of theism.

    All of this being said the argument has no real relevance in this context unless you are looking for a loophole in mainstream Masonic law allowing you to admit those who are in reality atheists.

    From the GOUSA's perspective it is entirely irrelevant because it (the GOUSA) isn't concerned with whether or not a man believes in a God, but whether or not believes in the brotherhood of man, tolerance, democracy, justice and equality.

    Quit trying to redefine atheism in order to find loopholes in your own Masonic laws.

  47. I am quoting directly from a 2 Volume set collecting the works of Spinoza that I have read and understood. I have read much of Einstein's philosophical writings, and a well-read in Voltaire and Paine. I am myself heavily influenced in my personal religious thought by all these men, also by Rousseau, Hume, Huxley, Plato, Marcus Aralius, H.G. Wells, Sir Thomas More, and recent philosophers and religious thinkers. Being a pantheist of some description myself, partially based on the writings of Spinoza and Einstein as well as other material, it is not up for me to decide who is or is not an atheist. That is up to the individual to wear the appellation if they so choose:

    a person who denies or disbelieves the existence of a supreme being or beings."

    In this accepted definition, clearly Voltaire and Paine were not this to take the oath. Unless, of course, they were liars. I prefer to think they were not. Nor am I to assume anything suggested about Spinoza over the man's own words. He states as quoted above that revelation is as valid as scientific observation to apprehend God. Not the words of an atheist in my view, nor does it agree with the accepted definition.

    Unlike Einstein, I choose to believe a personal God remains possible. The existence of an afterlife, Occam shows us, need not be connective tissue to that existence. The GOUSA's opinion means nothing to the discussion.

  48. Francois/spinoza:"He states as quoted above that revelation is as valid as scientific observation to apprehend God."

    Is as valid as scientific observation....

    Correct: scientific observation "may" have the opportunity to give physical facts, which may also then allude to a higher % of truth findings, which would then satisfy the inquisitive, doubting mind of good, solid moralistic men.

    Knowing how powerful the mind was, spinoza knew that IF the common man, who was evolving through the 15th & the 18th centuries, wholeheartedly "belived" that "Revelation" was a "Factual, Scientifically Proven
    Obseravtion", and thus, that it COULD have the same effect as a scientifically proven observation.

    Mind over matter....when the concept of "revelation" was jammed down the neck of your cut off fathers head back then, you "believed" in "revelation" as a scientificically proven observation(even though they did not know what the word science was), the man with the sword told them what was "real"! Crown and Church both used Might to get their meassage across to the masses.

    So, spinoza HAD to allude to the "Judeo-Christian"/ Monotheistic concept of a creator/G-d, just so they could live to see tomorrow.

    See, we have been afforded the freedom to Read these materials, where the writers, if they ever "truly" expressed their belief, would have been erased.
    So, my brother, Toe may toe, Toe maah toe.........

    On one hand, GOD is irrelevant.
    TGAOU is

  49. "In this accepted definition, clearly Voltaire and Paine were not this to take the oath. Unless, of course, they were liars." - Francois

    At the time Voltaire took his obligation belief in a deity wasn't required. There was only a short period in the 1870's when the GOdF required a belief in deity. There was no rule about it one way or the other. After this they passed a rule admitting absolute freedom of conscience to clarify their position.

    The bottom line is Voltaire never had to make any claim about God when he joined the Craft.

  50. If you are a true pantheist then you believe in causality. In such a cosmos every event can be attributed to a natural cause. This view doesn't allow much, if any room, for an all powerful deity. Spinoza was just such a pantheist. In his book "The Ethics" he lays out in detail how everything is attributable to a natural cause.

    If you have the books you say then this shouldn't be too difficult for you.

  51. "I die adoring God, loving my friends, not hating my enemies, and detesting superstition." Voltaire:

    If Voltaire joined when it was not required to believe in God (before his death in 1778), I would like to see the documentation that there was a period before 1778 when Voltaire might have joined. It is strange that the GOdF would have had an argument in 1877 over a requirement they had held but briefly. It would be interesting to see the evidence, although the evidence that Voltaire believed in God is incontrovertible at any rate. There is no evidence of your assertion here on a site about the history of French Freemasonry:

    It's a matter of knowing what is natural or what is supernatural. The supernatural is not only superfluous to the concept of God as Occam shows us, it is unnecessary to the concept of God.

    From Spinoza's THE ETHICS:

    "By God, I mean a being absolutely infinite-that is, a substance consisting in infinite attributes, of which each expresses eternal and infinite essentiality."

    I take this 'being' as Spinoza puts it, to be a consciousness of the universe.

    I prefer to not type the entire section, but you can be rest assured that I do own these volumes. The Unabridge Elwes Translation, published by Dover.

    Of course, to say Spinoza partially informs my viewpoint on pantheism does not indicate total agreement with his views. Bertrand Russell and Ayn Rand also informs them. I do not agree with them entirely either.

    Of course, there is a religious pantheism perhaps not as familiar to a conversation about Spinoza, although it generally agrees. Here is one definition of "Pantheism:
    Pantheism is neither a theism nor an atheism but is a belief that God is everything."

  52. "The clergy themselves had furnished the Nine Sisters with a notable array. Two churchmen took part in the first grouping of founder members. On the day when Voltaire was received, the Lodge contained no less than thirteen priests of religion. One of these, untiring in his zeal, took part in the work. Four others who came later into the Lodge sat as members of the great Revolutionary Assemblies."

    "Father Cordier, a very ardent and very zealous Brother, presented the subject for deliberation in the Lodge of the Nine Sisters, and the vote being unanimous for carrying the plan into execution, it was arranged that on the next Wednesday, the 17th of the month, there should be chanted a Mass and a Te Deum in music at the Church of the Cordeliers as an act of grace for the happy event."

    Despite the obvious participation of religious figures, the exact oaths are not given. All-in-all, however, it appears that religion was certainly involved to receive music from the church. Amazing that one so purported to be a staunch atheist ought to allow it.

  53. Francois,

    So far you haven't produced anything more than what you already had; quotes from historical figures out of context with both history and general philosophy.

    Your knowledge of the history of the GOdF is limited, as you indicate.

    Again, I'm not here to educate you. I don't have time to sit at my computer and Google all day.

    Believe whatever you want. I simply don't care.

    Discussing this with someone who lacks even a fundamental understanding of causality is boring.

  54. Small minds discuss people.
    Regular minds discuss events.
    Great minds discuss ideas.

  55. All truth is one.
    In this light, may science and religion endeavor together for the steady evolution of Mankind:
    From darkness to light,
    From narrowness to broadmindedness,
    From prejudice to tolerance,
    It is the voice of life that calls us
    To come and learn.

  56. A Democracy: Three wolves and a sheep voting on dinner.
    A Republic: The flock gets to vote for which wolves vote on dinner.
    A Constitutional Republic: Voting on dinner is expressly forbidden, and the sheep are armed.
    Federal Government: The means by which the sheep will be fooled into voting for a Democracy.
    Freedom: Two very hungry wolves looking for dinner and finding a very well-informed and well-armed sheep.

    good thing we do not discuss politics in Lodge, then the members can stay ignorant of what their leaders should be doing.

  57. The truths of religion are never so well understood as by those who have lost the power of reasoning.
    - Voltaire

  58. The most preposterous notion that H. sapiens have ever dreamed up is that the Lord God of Creation, Shaper and Ruler of all the Universes, wants the saccharine adoration of His creatures, can be swayed by their prayers, and becomes petulant if He does not receive this flattery. Yet this absurd fantasy, without a shred of evidence to bolster it, pays all the expenses of the oldest, largest, and least productive industry in all history.
    - Robert Heinlein, "The Notebook of Lazarus Long"

  59. I believe that it is generally accepted that it is not possible for an atheist to take or make an oath because an oath is a solemn declaration calling upon God as witness.

    Therefore, it seems to me that in 2008 Freemasonry per se, reflects society at large, which has changed dramatically since the 1960's, and is divided, thus:

    1. There are those Masons and Grand Lodges who believe that Freemasonry is a brotherhood bound together by sacred oath with sacred penalties for non-compliance (strict observance lodges).

    2. There are those who require an obligation, or a promise calling upon a "Supreme Being" as a witness and using a "Volume of the Sacred Law". (Moderns Grand Lodges)

    3. There are those who believe that Freemasonry is a brotherhood simply based upon "freedom of thought". Their members range from those with devout religious beliefs to those who have none, but who are willing to comply with a set of morals, or standards of behaviour. (Grand Orient types of Lodges)

    All are Freemasons, per se.

    What we are witnessing however, I believe for the first time in Masonic history, is Grand Lodges grappling (or refusing to grapple) with the problems associated with this diversity.

    If we could all get together at administrative level then there may be a way forward towards the ideal of Universal Freemasonry.

    The first requirement, is to accept that territorial monopolies do not exist (they never have done) and to stop "Ya Boo" diplomacy.

    Otherwise universal Freemasonry, per se, will not become a practical reality. We will stay where we are, and I for one, am unhappy with where we all are.

    My Grand Lodge is open to ideas, and willing to work towards common aims and for the common good, respecting diversity.

    IMHO this should be the motto of Freemasonry per se - "Common Aims for the Common Good".

    I know that there are Grand Lodges which share these aims. Would it be that all Grand Lodges were the same!

  60. Can Freemasonry be secular? Well, look at all the Masons who participate in order to attend barbecues and fish-fries and tell dirty jokes. Their membership is entirely secular in purpose and effect.

  61. There is no human field that can prosper and progress if its caring and capable students are unable to exchange views with each other.

  62. Nemo states:"Can Freemasonry be secular? Well, look at all the Masons who participate in order to attend barbecues and fish-fries and tell dirty jokes. Their membership is entirely secular in purpose and effect."

    You triggered a memory...
    when I was a member of Rcoky River 703, after meetings we would go to a local tavern for fellowship.
    We took in one of the exoding members of 498 into our Lodge, a Past Master to boot who in his incestigation said he was demitting out because the young men of 498 were fags and N lovers and we took him in without hesitation?, whose only addition to our lodge were N-word Jokes and female anatomy jokes, would run rampant with these jokes and with not one human stating that it might not be "proper", to tell racist and feminine jokes, but to my astonishment, all the brothers seemed to revel in the humor?

    yes, drinks and racists jokes was what 703 had to offer young, zealous men.

    thanks for jarring that memory loose bro nemo

  63. Perhaps there are simply two types of Free-Masonry, with respect to religious discrimination:

    1. Has religious admission requirements.
    2. Lacks religious admission requirements.

    The first type ranges from no more than a "creative principle" all the way to "trinitarian Christianity". Both of these extremes co-exist within the United GL's of Germany.

    The second type is simply free from religious requirements at the GL level, leaving religious opinions to the individuals, or perhaps leaving lodges free to have religious requirements. The GOdF is an example.

    One may wonder which of these two types is consistent with Anderson's 1723 Charges, which state:

    "only to oblige them to that Religion in which all Men agree" ...
    "that is, to be good Men and true, or Men of Honour and Honesty" ...

    "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."

  64. yes, drinks and racists jokes was what 703 had to offer young, zealous men.

    And so you, TBC, immediately demitted from that lodge and joined 498 to be with more like-minded brethren, right? Or, did you stay behind in 703 and protest every time that PM made an inappropriate joke?

    Let me tell you a story.

    After a meeting, several of us were discussing something that needed to be done at the lodge - I don't remember what - and one brother made a comment about "jewing down" a contractor.

    I stopped talking and pointedly turned to him and said " 'Jewed him down?' Gosh, I haven't heard that expression since the 70s. Have you been watching Archie Bunker reruns?"

    He sputtered and stammered that he didn't mean anything by it. Interestingly, since then I've never heard him use that expression.

    Better to light a single candle, TBC, than to complain about the lack of syrup at the pancake breakfast.

  65. As I have spent less time involved with Masonry I've spent more time involved with my Church. I find the time better spent than the time I spent drawing attention to and complaining about the defects of other Masons (i.e., racism) when I was more active in Masonry, which never helped anyone or changed anything. Lent begins today, and I expect to get more out of that, in terms of becoming a better man, than I got out of the years I was actively involved Masonry. This isn't a knock on Masonry, which is basically harmless and ok as far as it goes. It just reflects my experience.

  66. No Brother Tom, I pluraled into 498 when my fellow brothers called them faggots and nigger lovers and not one person in my district did anything to stop it!

    So, as sitting master of 703, I joined in the defense of the young brothers, with only RWB John Whitehouse in their corner.

    RWB John Whitehouse and myself were the ONLY ones defending brothers names when the majority of the vocal leaders were back biting their brothers when they were not around to defend themselves, which is a direct violation of any GL tenets.

    Not one sir!

    Then the crew turned their back biting towards RWB John Whitehouse, one of their supposed own! His name was ruined like the young men of 498........

    sorry for the venom, but some wounds take longer than others to heal.......

  67. Gentlemen,

    It's debatable whether Spinoza was an atheist. I think otherwise.

    Here is yet another quote affirming Spinoza's belief in G-d:

    "Affirming that everything exists in God and moves in Him, I affirm this with [St.] Paul, and, perhaps, even with all of the old philosophers, though expressed in other modes; nay, I dare say even with all of the ancient Hebrews, as far as it is allowed to conjecture of them from certain traditions, however much these are variously adulterated."

    (Spinoza, Epist.xxi)

    I like Spinoza, but, I prefer Leibniz.

  68. Leibniz, by his own admission, didn't believe in his own philosophy. Apparently, you and Leibniz have much in common in this way.

  69. Howard Roark (--->JP),

    I provided a quote by Spinoza to back up my assertion that he was not an atheist. However, you have not provided a quote by Leibniz to back up your assertion about the sincerity or lack thereof of Leibniz's beliefs.

    As usual, brother, you have resorted to ad hominem attacks when your opinions are confronted, especially on this topic. We've both been down this road before on another forum. I see you haven't changed your destination or methods. Peace be with you.

  70. Most of these comments, rather than addressing the question, have been quarrels about religious opinions. Either one's own or the supposed religious opinions of others.

    One might imagine that, if Free-Masons, as suggested in Anderson's 1723 Charge, kept their religious opinions to themselves, instead of flaunting it, that they might have more constructive conversations.

    One advantage of secular Free-Masonry might be that this trap would be a non-issue.

    The same might be true if other prejudices were kept private, rather than argued about.

    That way it might be possible to find shared meaning, develop non-"missionary" conversation patterns, and perhaps even find ways of thinking and talking about personal biases in a mature manner.

    Regular Freemasonry has suffered terribly from the three great prejudices about religion, sex, and race.

    Can Freemasonry be Secular?

    Can Freemasons be Unprejudiced?

    Imagine this conversation:

    P: I'm interested in Freemasonry. I understand that Freemasons seek and value truth.
    F: Yes, but in order to get started, you must profess that you have already found the most important truth. The one truth that is greater than all else: Religion.

    P: What is the reason for this?
    F: It's always been that way. We call it an ancient landmark.

    P: How is it justified in terms of ethics, or the principles and values of Freemasonry?
    F: Landmark means dogma. It is not subject to reasoning. It's an article of faith.

    P: When was this dogma defined?
    F: Someone named Anderson first mentioned the term "landmarks" in connection with rule-amendments in 1723, in London.

    P: So, Anderson said that professing a religious opinion about a supreme being as a qualification for admission was a landmark?
    F: No, he didn't say that. On the contrary. He said that applicants should keep their religious opinions to themselves, and the only religion required was goodness and truth, honour and honesty.

    P: So, somehow, sometime later, this "supreme being" requirement was stated, and it became the prime landmark, accepted by all?
    F: As a minimum, it became required by all, except that some interpret it as less, many require more, some require trinitarian Christianity, and so on. The UGLE itself changed its requirements in the 1980's, dropping "His revealed will", which had been required since 1929.

    P: This sounds really confusing and contradictory. Perhaps I'll go and check out Secular Freemasonry.

    "I. Concerning GOD and RELIGION.

    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 good 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."

    [Anderson's Charges, 1723]

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  72. Stoic,

    I don't even bother wasting my time with zealots like yourself. There is no need looking up quotes, etc. because you will always quote outside of historical context in response.

    Arguing with you is like debating a fundamentalist Christian: A WASTE OF TIME.

    And, I will call your real name if you keep talking smack.

  73. In my life I have been a monotheist, an atheist, a Christian, a Buddhist and an agnostic. I have been a communist, a conservative, a libertarian, a fascist and a liberal. I have been a realist, an idealist, a skeptic, a modernist and a existentialist.

    You can never step into the same river twice. Our minds are rivers that are in a constant state of change. It is impossible to define an individual's belief system based upon single quotes in a single moment in time. To argue what a person did and did not believe throughout the course of their lives is futile. It's like asking "What was the weather in the 20th century?" Sometime it rained, sometimes it snowed and sometimes it was sunny. Beliefs and ideas change based upon location and time.

    All that any of you have proven in your argument of the beliefs of centuries past dead men is that you all are willing to blindly push your own belief system. Furthermore, you have throughly proven to us all how "well read" you all are. Now prove to us that you have the ability to convert knowledge into wisdom.

    If you want to be seen, stand up. If you want to be heard, speak up. If you want to be appreciated, sit down and shut up.

  74. Howard Roark,

    My name is:

    Marc Conrad, PM
    Etoile Polaire No. 1, F&AM
    Arthur Retif Lodge No. 473, F&AM
    New Orleans, LA

    I don't believe that debating philosophy is talking "smack" or acting like a zealot. In polite society, especially among freemasons, people can disagree with each other without calling them names.

    The only person employing caustic invective here and using ad hominem attacks is you. Please take your venom somewhere else. Peace be with you.

  75. Another quote from Spinoza concerning his belief in God:

    "Further, since without God nothing can exist or be conceived, it is evident that all natural phenomena involve and express the conception of God as far as their essence and perfection extend, so that we have greater and more perfect knowledge of God in proportion to our knowledge of natural phenomena: conversely (since the knowledge of an effect through its cause is the same thing as the knowledge of a particular property of a cause) the greater our knowledge of natural phenomena, the more perfect is our knowledge of the essence of God (which is the cause of all things). (29) So, then, our highest good not only depends on the knowledge of God, but wholly consists therein; and it further follows that man is perfect or the reverse in proportion to the nature and perfection of the object of his special desire; hence the most perfect and the chief sharer in the highest blessedness is he who prizes above all else, and takes especial delight in, the intellectual knowledge of God, the most perfect Being."

    A Theologico-Political Treatise by Benedict de Spinoza [1883]; Chapter IV-Of the Divine Law.

  76. I honestly enjoy poking a stick at you. lol

    I have zero respect for men such as yourself.

  77. Howard Roark,

    You neither know me nor do you know my thoughts or beliefs well enough to offer any remarks regarding an opinion about respect or disrespect. Thus, don't flatter yourself by making uninformed and boorish statements.

    I might wake up from my nap when you are able to manipulate a stick well enough to poke it in my direction in any sort of real debate. Until then, I'll ignore your ramblings. I wish you peace and balance.

  78. The Grand Orient of France changed their codes to satisfy the Catholic Church. It was motivated by political correctness. It was NOT for higher ideals. It was to satisfy the pope that Masonry was not a religion. That was the primary motive.

    "Every man who believes in God and immortality is the raw material of a mystic; every man who believes that there is a discoverable way to God is on the path of conscious mysticism."

    Brother A.E. Waite

  79. Voltaire quotes:

    "console oneself by enjoying physical and moral good, in worshipping the Eternal Being who has made one and permitted the other."

    "THE theist is a man firmly persuaded of the existence of a Supreme Being as good as He is powerful, who has formed all beings with extension, vegetating, sentient and reflecting; who perpetuates their species, who punishes crimes without cruelty, and rewards virtuous actions with kindness.

    The theist does not know how God punishes, how he protects, how he pardons, for he is not reckless enough to flatter himself that he knows how God acts, but he knows that God acts and that He is just. Difficulties against Providence do not shake him in his faith, because they are merely great difficulties, and not proofs. He submits to this Providence, although he perceives but a few effects and a few signs of this Providence: and, judging of the things he does not see by the things he sees, he considers that this Providence reaches all places and all centuries.

    Reconciled in this principle with the rest of the universe, he does not embrace any of the sects, all of which contradict each other; his religion is the most ancient and the most widespread; for the simple worship of a God has preceded all the systems of the world. He speaks a language that all peoples understand, while they do not understand one another. He has brothers from Pekin to Cayenne, and he counts all wise men as his brethren. He believes that religion does not consist either in the opinions of an unintelligible metaphysic, or in vain display, but in worship and justice. The doing of good, there is his service; being submissive to God, there is his doctrine. The Mahometan cries to him--" Have a care if you do not make the pilgrimage to Mecca !" " Woe unto you," says a Recollet, " if you do not make a journey to Notre-Dame de Lorette! "He laughs at Lorette and at Mecca; but he succours the needy and defends the oppressed."

    Of course, the charge will be made that this is 'out of historical context,' as if we could ever progress if we always stayed within historical context!

  80. Bro. Clatworthy,

    Your keen and clear insight into the present situation should be at that forefront of all meaningful Masonic debate. The world has indeed changed, and Masonry with it. Unfortunately, some Grand Lodges and Masons have yet to arrive in the 21st century.

    As in any evolutionary context, only those fit to adapt to changes in the environment will survive. The 21st century could be the beginning of a new golden age for the Craft where tolerance and diversity are valued more than pride and pomp.

    It's an exciting time to be a Freemason.


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