Ancient Free and Accepted Masons

By James Bjornstad

  • History
    • The origins of Masonic Lodges began with ancient and medieval craftsmen who worked with stone, brick, and similar materials. In antiquity, groups of these craftsmen, who were particularly skilled in the construction of temples, stadia, and cathedrals, existed. These groups were prototypes of the associations of masons, builders, and carpenters found in the Middle Ages.
    • Because of their constant mobility, these craftsmen were denied the privileges of a static guild organization. Thus they grouped themselves into lodges wherever sufficient numbers would assemble and formed a flexible network which would allow an itinerant craftsman to be identified as a master mason. If one knew the appropriate answers to certain masked questions as well as certain passwords and signs, he could establish his credentials and obtain work in a new place.
    • While Masonic history in Scotland is more obscure, operative or working Masons can trace their heritage in England back to the time of King Athelstan. He gave them the first known royal charter, providing them with the privileges of self-government and the right to hold an annual assembly. The first Grand Lodge which can be historically verified was held in York in 926 AD.
    • Toward the end of the sixteenth and especially after the middle of the seventeenth century, speculative or non-operative freemasons [persons who were willing to assist in the construction of a spiritual temple - e.g. monarchs, nobility, and gentry] were admitted. Gradually these non-working Masons assumed control of the lodges.
    • In 1717 four speculative lodges in London, heavily influenced by three men (two ministers, Drs. James Anderson and Theophilus Desagulsers, and George Payne), united to form the first Grand Lodge. All the Masonic Grand Lodges of the world trace their origin to this lodge.

  • Structure
    • The basis of all Masonry is the Blue Lodge, or Craft Masonry, which is constituted by the degrees of Entered Apprentice, Fellow Craft, and Master mason.
    • Higher degrees are available to those who would further their understanding of the great fundamental truths found in Masonry.

  • Religion - Is Freemasonry purely a social institution offering fraternal and benevolent opportunities to its members, or is it also a religious institution?
    • A . . . [Freemasonry] is a science which is engaged in the search after Divine Truth, and which employs symbolism as its method of instruction (Mackey, Mackey's Revised Encyclopedia 269).
    • A Freemasonry is a charitable, benevolent, educational and religious society . . . It is religious in that it teaches monotheism; the volume of the Sacred Law is open upon its altars whenever a lodge is in session; reverence for God is ever present in its ceremonials . . .yet it is not sectarian or theological . . . To that end it teaches and stands for the worship of God . . . (Handbook 4a [The Preamble or Declaration of Principles of most State Grand Lodges defines the society in words similar to these]).
    • Every Masonic Lodge is a Temple of Religion, and its teachings are instructions in Religion (Pike, Morals 213).
    • A Freemasonry certainly requires a belief in the existence of, and man's dependence upon, a Supreme Being to which he is responsible. What can a church add to that, except to bring into fellowship those who have like feelings? That is exactly what the Lodge does . . . It is said that Freemasonry is not sectarian, by which is meant that it has not identified itself with any well-known sect. But if it has a religious credo, may it not, itself, constitute a sect to be added to others? (Coil, Coil's Masonic "Religion")

  • Theology - If it is a religion, what kind of religion is it? What are the tenets of its faith?
    • Freemasonry presents itself as the universal religion. It teaches that all religions are merely expressions of the One. . . . a Temple in which there shall be one altar and but one worship; one common altar of Masonry, on which the Veda, Sutra, Zend-Avesta, Koran, and Holy Bible shall lie untouched by sacrilegious hands, and at whose shrine the Hindoo, the Persian, the Assyrian, the Chaldean, the Egyptian, the Chinese, the Mohammedan, the Jew, and the Christian may kneel and with one united voice celebrate the praises of the Supreme Architect of the Universe (Handbook 99).
    • Freemasonry believes there is one only God. He is the Great Architect of the Universe (G.A.O.T.U.). There is one God, Supreme, Infinite in Goodness, Wisdom, Foresight, Justice, and Benevolence; Creator, Disposer, and Preserver of all things. How, or by what intermediates, He creates and acts and in what way He unfolds and manifests Himself, Masonry leaves to creeds and religions to inquire (Pike, Morals 23).
    • Freemasonry holds the Bible to be a symbol or part of the Sacred Book of Faith, on par with the sacred writing(s) of any other religion in the world. And yet, like anything else in Masonry, the Bible, so rich in symbolism, is itself a symbol - that is, a part taken for the whole . . . [Masonry] invites to its altar men of all faiths, knowing that while they read different volumes, they are in fact reading the same vast Book of the Faith of Man as revealed in the struggle and sorrow of the race in its great quest of God (Newton, Holy Bible 3-4).
    • Freemasonry considers Jesus to be a great moral teacher and reformer. It Freemasonry] reverences all the great reformers. It sees in Moses, the Lawgiver of the Jews, in Confucius and Zoroaster, in Jesus of Nazareth, and in the Arabian Iconoclast, Great Teachers of Morality, and Eminent Reformers, if no more; And allows every brother of the Order to assign to each such higher and even Divine Character as His creed and Truth require . . . (Pike, Morals 23).
    • Freemasonry teaches that man is not originally sinful, just imperfect. If man works faithfully at keeping the principles of Freemasonry, he will be welcomed into the Grand Lodge above where the Supreme Grand Master presides. Nor does Masonry teach that human nature is a depraved thing, like the ruin of a once proud building (Haywood, The Great Teachings 138).
    • Masonry inculcates the practice of virtue but it supplies no scheme of redemption for sin. It points its disciples to the path of righteousness (Mackey, Mackey's Revised Encyclopedia 619). The Worshipful Master, to the candidate for the Master Mason Degree: And now, my brethren, let us see to it, and so regulate our lives by the plumb-line of justice, ever squaring our actions by the square of virtue, that when the Grand Warden of Heaven shall call for us, we may be found ready (Handbook 132).

  • Conclusion - From the above it should be clear that Freemasonry is a non-Christian religion. Therefore
    • Masons who are not Christians must be told the truth about God, Jesus and salvation.
    • Masons who are Christians should be challenged as to their participation in a religion which is contrary to their beliefs (2 Cor 6:14-7:1).

  • Selected Bibliography
    • Ankerberg, John and John Weldon. The Facts on the Masonic Lodge. Eugene, OR:
          Harvest House, 1989.
      - - -. The Secret Teachings of the Masonic Lodge. Chicago: Moody Press, 1990.
      Finney, Charles G. The Character, Claims and Practical Worship of Freemasonry.
          Southern District of Ohio: Western Tract and Book Society, 1869.
      Harris, Jack. Freemasonry: The Invisible Cult In Our Midst. Towson, MD: Jack Harris,
      P. O Box 20214, Towson, MD, 1983.

  • Sources Cited
    • Coil, Henry Wilson. Coil's Masonic Encyclopedia. New York: Macoy, 1961.
      Handbook of Masonic Law. Free and Accepted Masons of Louisiana, 1963.
      Haywood, H. L. The Great Teachings of Masonry. Richmond: Macoy, 1971.
      Mackey, Albert G. Mackey's Revised Encyclopedia of Freemasonry. Revised and
          enlarged. By Robert I. Clegg. 3 vol. Richmond: Macoy, 1966
      Newton, Joseph Fort. Holy Bible. Temple Illustrated Edition. Nashville: Holman,
      Pike, Albert. Morals and Dogma of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of
          Freemasonry. Charleston, SC: The Supreme Council of the 33rd Degree for the    Southern Jurisdiction of the Untied States, 1906.