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A CHRISTIAN MASON'S RESPONSE
TO AN ANTI-MASON

by S. Brent Morris, 33*

EDITORS NOTE: the following was written in response to an anti-Masonic article that appeared in the November 1997 issue of CHRISMA & CHRISTIAN LIFE magazine.The article, by Ron Campbell, was titled "Unearthing the Mysteries of Freemasonry" and bore the subtitle "Did Masons bring a curse on our nation when they dedicated our public buidlings to pagan gods?" Stephen Strang, editor and publisher of Charisma, has refused to publish this response to Campbell's article.... A condensed version of this article appeared in the December 1998 issue of THE SCOTTISH RITE JOURNAL. This is the complete version.

reprinted with permission from THE PLUMBLINE, the journal of the Scottish Rite Research Society

As a Christian and a Masons I read with interest and then increasing sadness Ron Campbell's article, "Unearthing the Mysteries of Freemasonry" (Charisma, Nov. 1997). I do not expect my fellow Christians to agree with me in all aspects of living a Christian life - we humans are like that, but I did expect more attention to accurancy than I found in Mr. Campbell's article.

Christians disagree and have disagreed on many issues of theology; the exact nature and number of the sacraments, marriage and divorce, premillennialism and post millenialism, to name just a few. I do not have any desire to challenge Mr. Campbell's theology, but many of his innuendos and factual statements demand clarification and correction.

Mr. Campbell does not give a single reference in his article, so it is impossible for readers to check his statements. It appears he has based his impression of the masonic fraternity on the writings of eighteenth and nineteenth century Masonic historians whose enthusiasm for Freemasonry was greater than their understanding of history. This would be much like getting an impression of modern Christianity from the nineteenth-century writings of pro-slavery preachers.

Albert Mackey (1807-1881) and Albert Pike (1809-1891) are quoted by Mr. Campbell as if their interpretations of Masonic symbols are somehow dogmatic for masons. The two Alberts were brilliant men, and at one time their scholarship was among the best. It was eclipsed, however, by the birth of the "authentic school" of Masonic history. While the writings of Mackey and Pike are interesting, and often insughtful and stimulating, they are not authoritative for today's Freemasonry. Indeed, even at the time of the publication of his most widely distributed book, MORALS AND DOGMA, Albert Pike said: "Every one is entirely free to reject and dissent from whatsoever herein may seem to him to be untrue or unsound." (1) This was true then. It is still true today.

Charles Finney, the great nineteenth-century preacher, opposed Freemasonry. Rev. Finney was also a post-millennialist, opposing the doctrines of premillennialism.(2) Must Christians abandon their God-given abilities to reason and fall into lock-step with his teachings? Must premillennialists abandon their beliefs because Rev. Finney didn't accept that doctrine? While I admire Rev. Finney's zeal in spreading the Gospel, I most respectfully disagree with his conclusions about Freemasonry. I am joined in disagreeing with Rev. Finney by many Christian Masons today: Rev. Dr. Forrest D. Haggard, Interim General secretary of the World Office of the Churches of Christ; Senator Jesse Helms, 33*; Bishop Carl J. Sanders, 33*, United Methodist Church; and Senator Trent Lott, 33*.

But the question of Freemasonry should not become one of competing expects (I'll see you two pastors and raise you one Bishop). Rather it is a matter of personal conscience. Freemasonry is a fraternity that expects its members to enter with a mature understanding of their faith. The masonic fraternity (like Boy Scouting) encourages its individual members to participate faithfully in the religion of their own choice.

Freemasonry lacks the basic elements of religion: (a) It has no dogma or theology, no wish or means to enforce religious orthodoxy; (b) It does not claim to lead to salvation by works, by secret knowledge, or by any other means. The secrets of Freemasonry are concerned with modes of recognition, not with means of salvation...Freemasonry is far from indifferent toward religion. Without interfering in religious practice, it expects each member to follow his own faith and to place his duty to God above all other duties.(3)

Freemasonry does offer its members the opportunity to work together in the community and to be of service to their fellow citizens. In 1995, American Freemasons gave over $750 million dollars to charity - over $2 million dollars per day!(4)

Mr. Campbell's article opens with a sense of foreboding and gloom as we read a description of the headquarters of The Supreme Council for the Scottish Rite of Freemasonry, Southern Jurisdiction of the U.S. I'm not sure what Mr. Campbell's point is. The building is patterned after the mausoleum in Halicarnssus, one of the Seven Ancient Wonders of the World, and hence much of its decoration is appropriate to that architectural theme. If Mr. Campbell had visited the headquarters of the Scottish Rite's Northern Jurisdiction, he would have found an American Colonial building. And if he had journeyed acroos the Potomac to the George Washington Masonic national Memorial in Alexandria, he would have found differing architectural treatments on each floor. Just beneath the observation platform of the Memorial is, for instance, a Christian Chapel with a gothic design, decorated with stained glass windows depicting the Sermon on the Mount, Christ healing the blind, the Crucifixion, and the Resurrection. The design of the Supreme Council's building in Washington is no more sinister than the colonial simplicity of St. John's Church on LaFayette Square, the Byzantine charm of Sts Helen and Constantine Church on 16th Street, or the gothic magnificence of the Washington National Cathedral.

"Unearthing the Mysteries" declares the pyramid and the obelisk to be Masonic emblems, but that is not so, at least in the York and Scottish Rite Masonry as practiced in the United States. The emblems mat be used occasionally as a decorative motif. Early attempts to determine the origins of the Fraternity looked to Egypt and the Middle East. This theory was popular for a while. Even Thomas Payne, the revolutionary pamphleteer, promoted this plus the idea that Celtic Druids also originated in Egypt.(5) Modern scholars do not agree on the origins of the Fraternity, but they are universal in relegating the Egyptian theory to well-deserved obscurity.(6)

So far as anyone knows, Egypt neither had nor has any connection with or influence on Freemasonry, except whatever influence flowed from the imaginative writings of Masonic Egyptologists and a few charlatans such as Cagliostro with his Egyptian Rite....(7)

Many masons, more enthusiastic than discerning, willingly accept exotic theories of their Fraternity's origins. Many more anti-Masons eagerly grasp at these eighteenth and nineteenth century theories as some sort of evidence of occult or pagan origins. However, the most widely (though not universally) accepted theory is that the fraternity evolved from medieval catherdral building guilds which were essentially trade unions.(8)
The uncompleted pyramid on the reverse of the Great Seal of the United States originated with the 1778 design of a $50 colonial note by Francis Hopkinson (not a Mason), not as some mystic mark of approval by the Masons. "The misinterpretation of the seal as a Masonic emblem may have been first introduced a century later in 1884. Harvard Professor Eliot Norton wrote that the reverse was 'practically incapable of effective treatment; it can hardly, however artistically treated by the designer, look otherwise than as a dull emblem of a masonic Fraternity'"'(9)

Pierre L'Enfant (designer of Washinton D.C.) is not known to have been a Mason.(10) If he was one, then Mr. Campbell should have been able to give us the name of his Lodge, or of a Lodge whose register he signed. Perhaps Mr. Campbell can point us to a letter of someone who attended Lodge with Mr. L'Enfant or some other documentation of Mr. L'Enfant's participation in the Fraternity. L'Enfant's designs for Federal City has withstood the centuries well. The broad boulevards and tree-lined piblic spaces are beautiful. However, the Washington, Lincoln and Jefferson Memorials, important parts of the occult design perceived by Mr. Campbell, were not on L'Enfant's original design. In fact, the land on which the Lincoln and Jefferson Memorials sit was recovered from swamp after L'Enfant's death. They can hardly be part of some Masonic pattern by L'Enfant.

Freemasons did lay the cornerstone of the U.S. Capitol in 1793, but not with any dedication "to a pagan god". A transcript of the ceremony and following oration was preserved in the September 25, 1793, issue of THE COLUMBIA MIRROR AND ALEXANDRIA GAZETTE. Anyone can read it and decide for himself.(11)

Mr. Campbell confuses the Degree structure of the Fraternity. The most important degree - in fact the all-powerfull and governing degree - is the Third Degree, that of Master Mason. The 33rd degree of the Scottish Rite is NOT the "highest level", except of the Scottish Rite. After becoming a Master Mason, a member may join many other "appendant" or "condordant" bodies: The Royal Arch Masons (conferring four degrees), the Royal and Select Masters (conferring three degrees),the Knights Templar (conferring three degrees); the Scottish Rite, conferring 30 degrees; the Order of the Red Cross of Constantine (conferring 3 degrees), the Allied Masonic Degrees (conferring 10 degrees), and many, many more.

The legend of Hiram Abif does not involve the resurrection of a "hero-god", as Mr. Campbell claims. Hiram Abif is indeed viewed as a hero faithful to his promises even unto death, but he is no god. According to the old guild legend, his body was taken from ahasty grave and reburied in a more suitable location. Reburial is a far cry from resurrection.(12)

The square and compasses do not represent "ancient pagan solar deities." Their explanation has a simple and straightforward for centuries. The square reminds us to square "our actions by the square of virtue", while the compasses teach us to "circumscribe our desires and keep our passions within due bounds".(13) Some Masons may think that solar dietysymbolism is appropriate, but it is the symbolism used by any American Masonic Grand Lodge.

There is no "Masonic god" known as "The Great Architect of the Universe"; it is simply a way of referring to the Creator. This phrase was first used by John Calvin, the Protestant reformer whose teachings form the core of Presbyterianism; "Calvin repeatedly call God 'the Architect of the Universe', and refers to his works in nature as "Architecture of the Universe' ten times in the INSTITUTES OF THE CHRISTIAN RELIGION alone."(14) James Anderson, a Presbyterian minister, edited the Grand Lodge constitutions of 1723 and incorporated this phrase. It has been used ever since to celebrate the creative powers of God. Following the logic of Mr.Campbell, Boy Scouts are guilty of worshiping the "Scouting god" when they offer their prayers in the name of "The Great Scoutmaster".

Many masons are indeed buried east to west, alledgedly a pagan custom. In fact, about as many are buried north to south. To me, this is a newly created charge vaguely accusing Freemasonry of pagan elements. Apparently, it is original with Mr. Campbell. A recent book by Richard Fletcher, THE BARBARIAN CONVERSION: FROAM PAGANISM TO CHRISTIANITY states just the opposite: In the past, archaeologists were confident that it is easy to distinguish a Christian froma pagan grave. Pagans creamated their dead and furnished them with grave-goods in the tomb.(15) If, however, masons really must be buried east to west, as Mr. Campbell claims, then this imformation should be well known to funeral directors and can be easily verified by a visit to any cemetery.

No "symbol of the sun always appears" over the Master's seat in the Lodge. There is a letter "G" which stands for "geometry" - central to the guild of catherdral builders - and "God" - central to the life of all members of the Masonic Fraternity.
It is clear that Mr. Campbell and I do not agree on the question of Freemasonry, and I suspect there are issues of theology on which we also disagree. However, if we must disagree, let us base our differences on the substantiated facts that readers can confirm. The readers of Charisma magazine deserve nothing less than accurate, up-to-date references that they can confirm for themselves. I do believe clearly, however, that Mr. Campbell and I, as Christians, are in complete agreement on the saving grace offered mankind by Jesus's vicarious atonement.

END NOTES: 1...Albert Pike, MORALS AND DOGMA OF THE ANCIENT AND ACCEPTED SCOTTISH RITE OF FREEMASONRY, REV.ED. (Washington, DC: The Supreme Council 33*, SJ, 1950) p.iv
2...Charles E. Hambrick-Stowe, CHARLES G. FINNEY AND THE SPIRIT OF AMERICAN EVANGELISM (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eardmans Pub., 1996)
3..."Statement on Freemasonry and Religion" (Silver Spring, MD: Masonic Information Center, 1993)
4...S. Brent Morris, MASONIC PHILANTHROPIES: A TRADITION OF CARING (Washington DC, Supreme Council 33*, 1997)
5...Thomas Payne AN ESSAY ON THE ORIGINS OF FREEMASONRY (London, R. Carlile, 1826)
6...Steven Bullock, REVOLUTIONARY BROTHERHOOD (Chapel Hill,NC: U of NC Press, 1996); David Stevenson, THE ORIGINS OF FREEMASONRY: SCOTLAND'S CENTURY 1590-1710 (Cambridge: Cambridge U Press, 1988): John Hamill, THE HISTORY OF ENGLISH FREEMASONRY (Addlestone, Surry: Lewis Masonic, 1994)
7...Henry W. Coil, et al. COIL'S MASONIC ENCYCLOPEDIA, rev ed (Richmond VA: Macoy Publishing Co. 1997) p219
8...Harry Carr THE TRANSITION FROM OPERATIVE TO SPECULATIVE MASONRY (1957 Prestonian Lecture), THE COLLECTED PRESTONIAN LECTURES 1925-1960 ed Harry Carr (London, Quator Coronati Lodge, 1967)
9...S. Brent Morris THE EYE IN THE PYRAMID, Short Talk Bulletin vol 73 no 9 Sept. 1995
10...William Denslow 10,000 FAMOUS FREEMASONS, 4 vols (Missouri: Missouri Lodge of Research, 1957,58,59,60)
11...S. Brent Morris CORNERSTONES OF FREEDOM: A MASONIC TRADITION (Washington DC: Supreme Council 1993) pp44-45
12...Art Dehoyos and S. Brent Morris IS IT TRUE WHAT THEY SAY ABOUT FREEMASONRY? 2nd ed (Silver Spring MD: Masonic Information Center 1997) pp80-82
13...Jewel P. Lightfoot, LIGHTFOOT'S MANUAL OF THE LODGE (ft Worth TX: Grand Lodge of Texas 1934)pp45,26
14...Wallace McLeod, "The Great Architect of the Universe" THE GRAND DESIGN (Highland Springs, VA Anchor Communications 1991) p108
15...Richard Fletcher THE BARBARIAN CONVERSION: FROM PAGANISM TO CHRISTIANITY (New York: Holt & Co. 1998) p124
NOTE: persons wishing to review Mr. Campbell's article "Unearthing the Mysteries of Freemasonry" may order a copy of it by sending $3.00 s/h included, to the magazine subscription department at Rhinehart Rd. Lake Mary, FL 32142-0234. or you contactr them by telephone at 1-800-829-3346

S. Brent Morris is a mathematician with the federal government and has taught at Duke and Johns Hopkins Universities. he is a Past Master of Patmos Lodge #70, Elliott City, Maryland, a fellow of the Philallethes Society, editor of the Scottish Rite Research Society, former book reviewer of the SCOTTISH RITE JOURNAL, and author of many scholarly articles on the Craft as well as the intriguing cryptanalysis THE FOLGER MANUSCRIPT and many well-known popular books on Freemasonry. Brother Morris is the only full member in the United States of the world's premier Masonic Research Lodge, Quator Coronati Lodge #2076 founded in London in 1886.


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