BY The Rev. Thomas E. Weir PhD
Fellow Philalethes Society; Grand Perelate
Grand Encampment of Knights Templar of the U.S.A.
The following text will be controversial!
Not because it sould be, but because those
with strongly held beliefs will make it so. It is
a serious attempt to put in perspective how
faith without understanding or toleration can
only divide people.
those who feel that they--and they alone-
have found the "true way" abuse the rights of
others. Freemasonry has always stood for
religious toleration and the right of all individuals to express their faith as they see fit.
Extremists groups, trying to force their views
on others, will always attack anyone with an
opposing point of view.
This Short Talk amply demonstrates how
religious beliefs and power can be abused in an
attempt to force others to the "true way."
Religions are fiercely competitive. Many
claim for themselves the exclusive mandate to
speak and act for God. In contrast, Masonry
believes and teaches that God, who "maketh
the rain to fall on the just and unjust alike,:" is
the Father of all and is continually pouring out
his love and his blessings. He loves all his
children equally. The religious differences
between human beings is how we respond to
His love. Unfortunately, every time we mortals
discover the richness of God's self-revelation,
we are tempted to organize and tell people that
they can "fill up" only at our spiritual service
station, and nowhere else, I am not opposed to
organized religion. I spent a substantial part of
my life at the University of Edinburgh working on answers to the questions of why we
have a church, why we have a ministry and
what they should be and do. I found substantial answers, but I am not prepared to say that
mine are the only explanations or that God
depends on my cooperation or permission for
It is difficult for us human beings to understand God, since we are so far removed from
Him and so tempted to confuse our interests
with his will. The history of religion is a
history of conflict; punctnated with wars of
words and steel, between factions who insist
that they are the sole, or principal, custodian of
God's word and spirit.
In extreme, some seem to believe that
they have the authority to compel God, as well
as the rest of us, to obey their will. There is no
need to remind ourselves of the religious blood
shed that grieves God and man in many places
of the world today. Because Christianity is the
most widely supported religion of our culture,
we are more conscious of the intolerance that
occasionally comes to the surface in that faith.
Since the 1975 publication of Jack The Ripper:
The Final Solution by Stephen Knoght, some
Christians have turned from their traditional
enemies, other denominations and other faiths,
to vent their anger on Freemasonry.
For example, Chick Publications of Chino,
California published in 1991 a 24 page booklet by J. T. Chick, with pages somewhat smaller
than a dollar bill, entitled THE CURSE OF
BAPHOMET. The thesis of the book is that Masons
worship a demonic god named Baphomet,
who is diametrically opposed to Christ. If you
follow the story line of the book it is also
possible to come to the conclusion that if one
is a Mason, his son will attempt suicide and
not recover. The pretext and pretense of the book
are scarcely worthy of reply. However, there
are some interesting points raised.
In the story, comic strip style, state troopers
arrive at the home of Sally and Alex Scott in
the dark of night, to tell them that their son has
been shot. At the hospital, they are told that he
attempted suicide and that he has no will to
live. The distraught and disheveled parents
are, three days later, greeted by the well dressed
and smiling Ed; who could be clipped out and
saved for a book on how to be a used car
salesman. The parents have just asked the
question, "Why has God done this to us?" Ed
explains that it is baause the father is practicing witchcraft by being a Mason and Shriner.
Sally and AIex defend their Eastern Star,
Masonic and Shrine memberships. Ed insists
that, although he was once a Mason, he now
really understands Masonry because he has
learned about Baphomet.
Every Mason will know, and those outside
the Fratemity must be told, that Baphomet is
unknown to Masonry. It is, actually, a Chrisrian term. Among the charges trumped up
against the Knights Templar by King Philip IV
of France and his sycophants nearly 700 years
ago was an accusation that the Templars worshipped "Baphomet" or the "Head of Baphomet." This dovetailed neatly with another
charge, that the Templars favored the Mohammedans over Christians. Baphomet is a modification, a corruption, of the name of the
Unaccountably, Ed wxplains that the
Masonic appellation, "Great Architect of the
Universe," another term from Medieval Christianity, is not the God of the Bible, but is really
Baphomet," ugly, frightening and completely
satanic." Ed produces a picture of Baphomet,
with a goat's head, red eyes, and a flaming
torch implanted in the top of the skull. The
otherwise human figure sits with legs folded
underneath. Wings are deployed from the back.
The figure has female breasts and symbols
adorn the visceral area. The hands mock the
traditional blessing of Christ, the right hand
raised, the left lowered. The goat-headed figure and the other symbols are frequently found
in witchcraft, but are totally foreign to Freemasonry. The Eastem Star, Ed declares, is
designed to hold a Baphomet's head without
the torch. Albert Pike is quoted as saying that
Masons know that "Lucifer is God." The
Sovereign Grand Commander's Patriarchal
Cross is described as the symbol of Baphomet.
Ed convinces Alex to burn his Masonic
regalia and repent the sin of being a Mason. on
bended knees, Sally and alex prayerfully burn
their Masonic relics, and their son immediately begins to recover, and the book concludes. In a way, I am sorry Ed is wrong. It
would be wonderful if prayer and a righteous
life made everything happen the way we wish.
Christian experience teaches that God does
not work in such a simplistic way. God's
People, individually and collectively, have
often suffered undeserved pain in spite of their
prayers and their holiness. We do not manipulate God in prayer, we cooperate with Him.
Ed, fictitious though he may be, travels in
the wake of a onetime popular religious tradition. In the days of the Spanish Inquisition,
religious beliefs and practices that did not
meet the standards of the religious establishment were punished by death. Such execu-
tions were called, strangely, "Acts of Faith."
Auto-da-Fe became part of the language of
our common experience. Webster's Nineth New
Collegiate Dictionary defines Auto-da-Fe as,
the ceremony accompanying the pronouncement of judgment by the Inquisition and followed by the execution of sentence by the
secular [civil] authorities." In a broad sense,
the term refers to the burning of a heretic.
Perhaps the great irony was that many were
converted under duress to what the inquisitors
considered orthodox belief, then executed so
that they could go
to heaven while in a state of
grace and before they could sin again. Those
being executed were less enthustastic about
the benefits of such immediate transport into
eternal life than those making the arrangemets..
The ascendancy of the Roman Catholic
Inquisition was followed by the heyday of
Protestant persecution of witchcraft in the
l6th, l7th and early l8th centuries. Many
pious and responsible persons swore that they
saw the devil in one form or another, that they
saw accused friends speaking with the devil or
acting as his agent. A remarkable occurrence
in the late l6th century was a solemn inquiry
into a report that the devil had appeared in a
Scottish church and had "mooned" those
present from the pulpit. The incident was
scrupulously believed as fact and included in
a book on witchcraft written by King James VI
(later James I of England) and required to be
taught in schools. It is paradoxical that this
same King James twenty years later convened
the leading scholars of the day to update the
translation of the Bible into English. The result of their labors is the King James Version
of the Bible.
Some Protestants did not take kindly to
theological debate. As late as 1719, a theological student was hanged at St. Andrews, Scotland for unorthodox beliefs. Grading in seminaries is less severe these days.
Christianity, great as its efforts are to proclaim the Gospel and to serve succeeding
generations as the incarnate presence of Christ
in the world, has been the home base for some
in great and trifial offices who enjoy condemming others and executing those whom
they can, by death or disgrace. Members of
churches are human and liable to the sins of
the flesh, most notably in this case, pride.
Those who would try to rekindle the flames of
the Inquisition are trying to take us 500 years
into the past. The Christian Bible teaches that
the fruits of the Spirit are love, joy and peace.
Frenzied attacks on other religious bodies or
upon Masonry display little love, joy or peace.
Instead of love, there seems to be hatred,
instead of joy a thirst for blood and instead of
peace, violent verbalization.
It is interesting to note that the rise of
Masonry coincides with the decline of witch
craft, real and imagined, together with the
hysteria and paranoia such occult practices
generated. Masonic ritual inherited from our
ancient operative Brethren was Christian. In
time it was opened to all men of good will who
share the quest to know and serve God. What
ever the intention of God, religion seems to be
cursed with the propensity to divide people
against each other, as if God wished to be
worshipped in a proliferation of Towers of
In contrast, Masonry teaches respect for
God and all his children. If we really devote
ourselves to the profound task of serving god,
deepen our faith, and truly commit ourselves
to the call of God, perhaps we shall not have
time to criticize others!
About the author:
The Rev. Thomas E. Weir, director of Hospital
visitations for M.S.A. earned a doctor of Philosophy
degree from the University of Edinburgh. His speciality is
development of church and ministry in Scotland in the 16th and 17th
centuries. He is a Fellow of the society of Antiquaries of
Scotland and a member of the Scottish Church Histoy Society.