This article was written for Masons in response to statements by James C. Holly of
Beaumont Texas who addressed the June '92 convention of Southern Baptists in Indianapolis.
Holly, reported by the Associated Press, said that "Masonry is non-biblical, anti-Christian, wrong
in its doctrine about God" and practices"occultism". At least 10,000 copies of a booklet calling
Masonry "devilish...its' occultic, Satanic, and sensual nature is an evil that must be removed from
the church...it is incompatible with being afaithful Christian or a Southern Baptist." The
convention has moved to investigate Freemasonry for one year before making any policies against
Our Moral Mission
Periodically, we, as Masons are attacked by various religiousleaders,
who presumably have never taken a single degree; and thus know nothing of Masonry's inner
purposes. While the terminology of their attack demonstrates their ignorance of our order, so
does the weakness of our response indicate our ownlack of self-knowledge. While we know that
we are not a Satanic cult; not anti-Christian; not even a religion; and several other 'nots'; we have
difficulty stating what we are.
What is our purpose? Beyond (definitively) stating that we require a belief in God; that we
are (theoretically) tolerant of all religions and nationalities; and (abstractly) that we exist to make
good men better...we have only our ritual to fall back upon for further explanation. Here we meet
with our great difficulty. The usual response by Masons who hear of an attack is amazement, a
little curiosity, and then dismissal. In a way, this is goodfor the greater number of occurrences; for
no response is better thana weak response. One of our detractors, an ex-Mason, stated
"MostMasons are not knowledgeable of what they are participating in andthey don't take seriously
what the lodge officially says". Most Masons' gut reaction would be to say 'Hey, who does this
guy think he is' and then let the accusation fall to the side never taking issue at any depth. But I
agree with him.
Most Masons live as social fellows. While this aspect, (or should I say opportunity), is
only one of the many fruits of the Masonic tree, it by no means represents the root. Further, if one
only enjoys the fruit and cares not for the root, then the tree will die. To continue the analogy, the
trunk of the tree may be represented by our ritual. Here we find another group of Masons who
attend only to this great support of Masonry. But again, this is not the root.The ritual gives us our
tools, it is only the delivery system. With these tools we may tend to our Masonic garden;
expanding thegirth of our ritual trunk; improving the multitude of branches that connect us all;
and profiting from the many fruits. But the root requires digging.
What is really in the depths of our ritual? What is the nutrientthat we would use to make
"a good man better"? What is the emphasis of our ritual? What should a man understand from our
allegories? What is our mission? To whom? These questions must be answeredbefore any
reasonable response can be given to someone outside of Masonry. The answers are found in a
study of morality. To many thisis a vague word representing 'doing or being good'. It is a
wordused synonymously with ethics. As a study, it is a branch of philosophy. Opinion relating to
moral issues have both created anddivided governments. Morality is the foundation of religion;
the strength of nations; and is the tap root of Masonry. Historically, as thought developed through
the centuries,definitions of what is 'good' or 'moral' have not remained the same.Societies reflect
change in moral forces; as moral forces change from societies reflections.
At one time, what was good was defined only by the church. Determinations by the Pope
became the law of the land. 'Rules' of moral conduct where debated in Rome and delivered by
messenger to the ignorant masses. Breaking the moral laws of church resulted in at best,
excommunication; at worst torture and the stake. The church in Rome was not the only body that
determined right and wrong. Kings of every land made laws that reflected their personal or social
belief systems. Morality was legislated. When Luther nailed his 95 thesis to the door of the Castle
Church in 1517, other doors opened in minds of men. Several major belief systems arose
regarding moral issues. Some systems based their belief on principles rather than laws.
The philosophies of the Greeks, Socrates and Aristotle, began to shine in European'
minds. By the time of The Age of Enlightenment (1700's), men realized that morality stood of its
own accord with Reason as guide. Morality became an individual's responsibility and he was held
accountable to his own reasoning powers and methods. Morality began with self-determination
and self-guidance. Philosophical movements of the time where aimed against superstition,
ignorance, traditional knowledge and wisdom. Critical interpretation of the scriptures brought
about a weakening of religious orthodoxy.
The Enlightenment was a time when men broke away from the strictgrasp of the church.
Pure philosophy and science along with art for art's sake became the theme of the day. Reason, to
the Enlightened man,was sharpened by logic and 'natural philosophy' (the Liberal arts and
sciences). With it he could "...trace nature through her various windings to...". The universe was
seen as a vast machinewhose connecting proportions could be viewed and discovered withdelight
by the aid of mathematics. Newtons 'Principia' had penetratedthe public mind; popularized by men
like Ben Franklin, Voltaire and Rousseau. Literary clubs and salons became popular.
The Freemasons,the Illuminati, the Rosicrucians and many other 'Enlightened' societieshad
their beginnings here. Circulating libraries and periodicalsfed the public hunger for knowledge;
knowledge previously held captive by the church. A time of profound philosophic expansion.
When the individual was empowered through experiments like liberty and democracy. This was
indeed a hot-bed for Masonic growth. Classical Enlightened thought appeared incompatible with
orthodox Christianity. Modern secular faiths such as positivism, materialism, rationalism, ethical
culturalism, and humanism; all ofwhich reject pure Christian dogma, each began during the Age of
Enlightenment. Deism, expounded by Voltaire became quite popular. "If God did not exist, it
would be necessary to invent him," was one of Voltaire's favorite aphorisms. No wonder the
church felt so threatened. They were losing control. This is our Masonic beginning. The church,
both Catholic andProtestant felt aggression from the Age.
Today they still battle any type of secular Humanism. Masonry began in the Age of
Enlightenment, passed its childhood in the Age of Reason and spent its adolescence in the Age of
Romanticism. Our ritual abounds with thereflections of these ages. Deism, natural philosophy, the
liberalarts and sciences, illumination, liberty, equality, are capturedin our ritual for perpetuity;
much of which can be found in our second degree lectures. This is the perspective necessary to
understand why we areperiodically attacked by the church. We represent the belief thatman can
guide himself with reason and science. That divine knowledgecan be unlocked by the intellect;
within the realm of natural sciences. That enlightenment is attainable by mans effort.
The church teaches that salvation is attainable through either their prophets, saints,priests
or the church itself (depending on the denomination); but in no ways--the individual self. Yet,
while the Age of Reason (1790's-) mocked Christianity, setting up Reason as the only true deity.
As the Bishops of France wore Liberty caps instead of miters - Masonry resisted this approach to
atheism. A deeper study of what was retained in ourritual will reveal the same morals found in the
The Cardinal Virtues; Faith, hope and Charity; many of our lecture symbols; the Saints
John; are all Christian. Actually,our philosophic views more closely resemble the Gnostic
Christian; in that God is knowable. But the Gnostics were persecuted by the church also.
Philosophically, a study of the Virtues would prove most enlightening. Virtue itself is an
old-fashioned term to mostpeople. It represents personality traits as what make up 'character'.
Virtues are things such as honesty, kindness and conscientiousness.These things are
believed not to be innate, but must be acquired by teaching or practice. Moral virtues must be
distinguished from moral principles.The Age of Enlightenment sought principles in all things, it
attempted to reduce all the universe to numbers that could beput in a book. The Age of
Romanticism retaliated against this by saying: "Enough of science and art: Close up these barren
leaves; Come forth, and bring with you a heart, that watches and receives." (Wordsworth 1801)
During this Age of Romanticism, the Virtues flourished. Yet there was a difference of
opinion regarding how to achieve moral good. While the philosophers agreed that morality is
concerned with various values, they differ at how to arrive at an application of these values. Some
say goodness is arrived at through objective activity (by principle), others say through subjective
reality (by being). Saying 'Virtue' represents the choice of being. Plato and Aristotle viewed
morality this way; that morality should not be conceived of as rules and principles, but with the
cultivation of traits and character. The moral issue is not to 'do', but to 'be'. Or as we say, "to
make a good man better".
To say that our four virtues are 'Cardinal' virtues is to saythat these are the root virtues
from which all others flow. This isno off-the-cuff statement, this is obviously thought out. The
wordsin our rituals, while quite archaic to some, are indeed specific.Philosophic (speculative)
science is vary exact; Cardinal virtues mean 1) they can not be derived from one another and 2) all
other moral virtues can be derived from or shown to be forms of them. Plato and the Greeks
conceived of four virtues also: Wisdom, Courage, Temperance and Justice. A little different from
The Church has seven Cardinal Virtues, three theological "Faith,Hope and Love (a biblical
study will show that in various versions ofthe bible Love and Charity are interchanged, see 1st
Cor, 13:1) andfour 'human' virtues "Prudence, Fortitude, Temperance and Justice"Today many
secular moralists have reduced the Cardinal Virtues down to two, benevolence and justice.
Compared to most post-industrialmaterialistic philosophies, we Masons and the Church are not
too extreme from each other. Another point of similarity in moral approach is that known
tophilosophers as the 'moral ideal'. An ingredient of morality againgeared toward defining morality
as a way of being, rather than doing.This is through 'emulation' of traits found in other exemplary
personslike Jesus or Buddha. We choose our ancient Grand Master. In theappendant bodies of the
York and Scottish Rite, there are many exemplary personages we are taught to emulate. Mostly
all biblical.At the apex are included the Knights Templar, being highly Christian in origin. Moral
ideals of chivalry and duty are found in all of our degrees. A march through the Ages will reveal
that those who wish to find conflict will do so. To those who demand conflict, there is no
responseother than maintaining our Square of Virtue. But to those who would listen we have this
message to tell, each in our own words: Freemasonry has ever sought harmony. Harmony in an
age that rebelled from the Church.
We have preserved the best from all Ages and have accepted the role as archivists of
moral truth and the virtues. We have preserved our integrity when others swayed with the winds
of time. We accepted Reason as a guide, but we did not make it our God. We support human
equality, liberty and education; but not to the exclusion of the Church. Unlike some in the Church
who would exclude us. We have a moral mission. For within our ritual are embedded theVirtues,
a point of view, and teachings that are at once spiritual; and yet not exclusionary of the other
aspects of our being, particularly the intellect. There may come a time, perhaps even now, when
what we have locked in the repository of our breasts will need to come to light. We are the
keepers of that Age of Enlightenment. The age when man learned to stand on his own two feet
and began traveling westward. Masonry will ever be that mystic temple in the west, at the
boundary of wandering. It's mission-- to deliver that message to the future that says, "Go no
further, and stay within due bounds!". Ever preserving the Square of Virtue for future generations
saying, 'Be this...'.
If the leaders of the Church continue to attack they will bestopped by their own hearts,
for therein lives our common God, who is the cause of all things in existence, both known and
unknown. Although we believe in the acquisition of 'Truth' through the attainment of 'knowledge';
and they, that God is unknowable; we are only separated in this. Let us continue to search; and
they continue to wait. But let us all live in harmony.
By: David Randel 71220,1365
Hesperia #411 Chicago Uploaded from: "The Trestleboard" (708) 366-0803