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The Religion of Masonry

by Bro. Joseph Fort Newton, Litt. D.
The Master Mason - 1925



Chapter 1 - The Mystic Tie

Chapter 2 - The Builders

Chapter 3 - The Corner Stone


WHAT IS RELIGION? What is Masonry? What is the relation, if any, between them? Is Masonry a religion? If so, what religion is it? What is a religion as distinct from Religion? If Masonry is not a religion, what is its attitude toward Religion? That is to say, what is the Religion of Masonry, and how are we to interpret it?

Such questions, and others of a sort similar, have been more discussed than almost any other questions connected with the existence and study of Masonry. They are asked by friends and foes alike, often from different motives and with widely differing answers. Nor is it to be wondered at, remembering the confusion of thought in the minds of men regarding religion and what they mean by it. By the very fact that the things of religion are so important, so decisive, and touch life so deeply, men want to know how Masonry is related to the chief interest of human life. In what mood or from what motive soever the question is asked, it is fair and proper to ask it.

As a clearance of issues, if nothing else, there is need of a careful, reverent, discriminating, sympathetic study of the matter, in order to clarify our own thought and to set it forth in a manner worthy of its importance. Obviously, if we are to study the question to any profit, we must know what we mean by the words we use and the realities with which we have to do. But first, by way of introduction, it may be well to survey, in swift glance, the situation as it stands in the Masonry of our day in its formal attitude to religion.


IN THE organized Masonry of the world one discovers at least three different attitudes in respect to the relation of the Craft to religion. They are far apart, as will presently appear, and it is difficult to see how they can be reconciled, in view of the sentiments which religion evokes and its essentially conservative spirit. Each of these attitudes, it need hardly be said, is due to differences of race, as well as of religion, to say nothing of the different environments in which they developed; and here. we have to do with forces hard to manage. For the same reason, it behooves us to invoke all our powers not simply of toleration, but of insight and understanding, if we are not to lose ourselves in a tangle of racial prejudices and antipathies, to say nothing of the unholy confusion which religion, by the strangest freak of fact, has the power to create.

(1) In English-speaking lands, as we know well enough, our Masonry is essentially and nobly religious, both in its faith and its practice, and we are quite well agreed as to what we mean by the Religion of Masonry. To enter our Lodges a man must confess - not merely profess - his faith in God - though he is not required definitely to define in what terms he thinks of God - in the principles and practice of morality, and in the immortality of the soul; though here again the exact nature of the future life, whether it be a physical resurrection or a triumph of spiritual personality, is not usually defined. In some Grand Lodges, however, the Monitors do specifically state that they mean "the resurrection of the body."

THE MOST elaborate statement, so far as I am aware, is that adopted by the Grand Lodge of New York, as a preamble to its Constitution and Laws. It is an expression of "the simplest form of the faith of Masonry, not exhaustive, but incontrovertible and suggestive," to which is added a brief exposition intended to utter, so far as such things can be uttered, the atmosphere of thought and attitude of heart implied in the statement of religious truth, which is quite as important as the statement itself. It is as follows:

"There is one God, the Father of all men.

"The Holy Bible is the Great Light in Masonry, and the rule and guide for faith and practice.

"Man is immortal.

"Character determines destiny.

"Love of man is, next to love of God, man's first duty.

"Prayer, communion of man with God, is helpful."

Recognizing the impossibility of confining the teaching of Masonry to any fixed forms of expression, yet acknowledging the value of authoritative statements of fundamental principles, the following is proclaimed as the Masonic teaching:

"Masonry teaches man to practice charity and benevolence, to protect chastity, to respect the ties of blood and friendship, to adopt the principles and revere the ordinances of religion, to assist the feeble, guide the blind, raise up the downtrodden, shelter the orphan, guard the altar, support the Government, inculcate morality, promote learning, love man, fear God, implore His mercy and hope for happiness."

SUCH IS the statement of Masonic faith and teaching in English-speaking lands, lucid, concise, noble in its simplicity and comprehensiveness, in all ways worthy of the Craft and of the Grand Lodge which put it forth. Others would go even further into detail, but a majority, perhaps, prefer a statement less detailed content to leave much of what is here stated specifically to be assumed as implied and understood, by virtue of the religious and racial environment in which we live. Still, it is well to have an authoritative and detailed pronouncement of a great Grand Lodge, if only to prevent any possible misinterpretation and misunderstanding as to the attitude of the Craft.

(2) In German lands, as well as in the three Scandinavian Grand Lodges, it is demanded that a man be definitely Christian - that is to say, trinitarian - in his religious faith before he can be admitted into the fellowship of the Craft. In consequence of this attitude - quite uncompromising, so far as the old Prussian Grand Lodges are concerned - Jews are refused admission even to the Craft Degrees. Howbeit, in late years there has grown up a "Humanitarian" Masonry, as it is described, in Germany, which does not require a strict Christian, or trinitarian, faith as a basis of fellowship. There has been some friction between the two kinds of Masonry in German, but a tacit treaty of understanding seems to have been reached by which they can live together in mutual, if rather formal and distant, goodwill. It ought to be added. however, that even the old Prussian Grand Lodges found no great difficulty, in pre-war days, in meeting French Masons, who take a very different attitude.

(3) Of Masonry in Latin lands it is enough to say that - excepting that part of it which lives under English obedience or in affiliation with the Grand Lodge of England - it is frankly Agnostic in its attitude toward the fundamental faiths of religion. Neither French nor Belgian Masonry requires faith in God as a condition of fellowship, much less do they forbid such faith - though in Belgium such faith is required in some of their higher degrees, with which we have not to do here. They simply refuse to ask what faith a man may hold on the subject, and avoid retaining anything in the ritual which implies that Masonry rests upon or seeks to cultivate, faith in God. It is not my wish to discuss, here and now, the wisdom or unwisdom of this attitude, still less to recite the historical reasons why French Masonry took and maintains its present position. It is sufficient to indicate the wide gulf between the Christian Grand Lodges of Sweden and Germany and the Agnostic Grand Lodge of France; and the almost equally wide gulf between both of them and the Masonry of our English-speaking lands.


BY THE same token, one finds among Masons in English- speaking lands the widest differences of opinion in regard to the relation of Masonry to religion. First of all, there are those who hold that Masonry is a purely social and philanthropic fraternity and has nothing to do with religion at all, except to acknowledge its existence, accept its fundamental ideas, and respect its ordinances. Having done that in a formal manner, its duty to religion is done, and it is free to take up its work of "Brotherly Love, Relief, and Truth" - the truth being moral truth and teaching set forth in its symbols and its ritual.

For example, in the "Royal Masonic Cyclopedia" we find these words: "But, above all things, let it be clearly seen as a purely social institution, having no political or religious tendency at all, tending to make men friendly upon vastly different grounds than those of agrarian and political rights." It is astonishing how wide-spread this attitude is, both in spirit and in practice. Many Brethren, more, perhaps, than express themselves, object to - though they are good enough to tolerate as a kind of weakness or folly - emphasis upon the religious aspect of Masonry and the high spiritual meaning of its symbols. Indeed, it is much to be feared that the Order - which word Dr. Johnson defined as "a religious fraternity" - is actually in danger of becoming what they hold it to be, merely a social order devoted to fellowship and philanthropy. If such is to be the future of Masonry, it will assuredly lose what some of us hold to be its distinctive quality and tradition, and become one more society among so many - useful and valuable, to be sure-but in nowise the Masonry by which our fathers set so much store.

HOW ANYONE can so interpret Masonry is rather difficult to understand, in view of the facts of initiation and the spirit of the Lodge. Nor does it help matters to say that Craft Masonry is ethics, and the Royal Arch religion. Others are content to say that Masonry is "the handmaid of religion," a well-worn phrase which, if it means anything, implies that our Craft is a kind of servant to do the menial work of religion; as if religion were some haughty Dame too proud and arrogant to stoop to the common tasks of life. Whereas religion, if it has any worth or beauty, is the faith and spirit in which we do the humblest work of the world. As George Herbert put it, writing in his little rectory at Bemerton, as the birds nested in the eaves :

Who sweeps a room as for Thy laws

Makes that and the action fine.

It is the business of Masonry to cut, carve, polish, and place in order of wall, pillar and arch the stones of a Temple of Brotherhood, founded upon spiritual faith and moral truth, built in accordance with the laws of God, by His aid, and in His holy name. As such it is manifestIy more than a mere social order inculcating ethical ideals and practicing philanthropy. As Arthur Waite put it picturesquely: "It is possible and is true to affirm that Masonry was born in a tavern, but it belongs to God Almighty; it began to make the life of the tavern like a vestibule for the life of the church."

AT THE other extreme, we find those, both friends and foes, who regard Masonry as a sufficiently organize system of spiritual thought and practice to be entitled to be called a religion. By a religion they mean a definite creed arid certain distinctive rites expressing its faith and spirit, and both of these they find in Masonry. Such is the position of the Catholic Church, and of a section of the High Church Party of the Church of England, which is Catholic in all respects except in actual allegiance to the Roman See. They really regard Masonry as a rival religion of a naturalistic kind, to which, by all the obligations of their own faith in Divine revelation, they must be opposed; and it must be confessed that French Masonry, with the Bible off the Altar and the name of God omitted from the ritual, does justify such a description. Other elements, of course, enter into the opposition of Catholic and Anglo-Catholic opposition to Masonry, but on the distinctively religion side this is the basis and sum of it.

What, then, is the truth of the matter? Is Masonry a religion? The leaders and students of the Craft, as well as the rank and mass of its members, in English-speaking lands at least, do not regard Masonry as a religion - though, as has been said, it has certain features which, in the strict technical sense, might lead those to regard it as such who wish, from whatever motive, so to regard it. As some of us prefer to put it, Masonry is not a religion but Religion - not a church but a worship, in which men of all religions may unite, unless they insist that all who worship with them must think exactly and in detail as they think about all things in the heaven above and in the earth beneath. It is not the rival of any religion, but the friend of all, laying emphasis upon those truths which underlie all religions and are the basis and consecration of each. Masonry is not a religion, but it is religious.


IF WE look at the matter historically, we find an interesting development in the attitude of Masonry to religion. The oldest extant document of the Craft - the Halliwell Ms. - known as the Regius Poem - dated about 1390, is not only Christian but definitely Catholic. Its discoverer held it to be such a document as a priest might have written, opening with an invocation to the Trinity and the Virgin Mary, and including instruction as to the proper way to celebrate the Mass. The early craft-Masons were loyal churchmen, and so far as we have record remained so throughout the cathedral building period.

With the advent of the Reformation all was changed. Masonry became allied with the movement, or group of movements, out of which came the freedom of the peoples, the liberty of conscience, and the independence of manhood. At any rate, from the time of Edward VI on the Craft was emphatically Protestant in its affinities, as is shown by the invocations of the Old Charges of the period, of which the Harleian Ms. is a notable instance. But, while Masonry became Protestant in its spirit and principles, it still remained Christian, and continued to be distinctly so until a much later time. just what happened at the time of the "revival" in 1717, and in the period of the formation of the first Grand Lodge, is hard to know accurately. The background is dim and the facts are few, much as we should like to know details of the influences which played upon the men who devised the Constitutions of 1723, which Gould said, "may safely be attributed to Anderson."

THE "REVIVAL," as we describe it, not only gave Masonry a new form of organization in the Grand Lodge, but a new attitude toward the church and religion - an attitude the full import of which was not understood until years afterward, and then it made a schism which lasted for half a century. The article on "God and Religion" in the Constitutions of 1723, if read in the setting of that time, is an extraordinary pronouncement, at once revolutionary and prophetic. In a word, just as in the Reformation Masonry severed its connection with Catholicism, so in 1723 it severed itself, once for all, from any one church or sect, making itself henceforth free from any system of theology. It proposed to unite men upon the common eternal religion "in which all men agree," asking Masons to keep "their peculiar opinions to themselves," and not to make them tests of Masonic fellowship.

Only a few, however, realized how far-reaching such a platform really was, but by the middle of the century its meaning was discovered, and a rival Grand Lodge was organized in 1751 - using the religious issue as a pretext, if nothing more, because other motives and influences mingled - calling itself "Anxient," on the ground that the "Modern" Grand Lodge had departed from the faith. The two Grand Lodges existed side by side for fifty years and more, not without friction, but the "Moderns" finally won, disengaging Masonry from specific allegiance to any one religion, to the exclusion of others. In the Lodge of Reconciliation, in 1813, the universal religious character of the Craft was finally affirmed, and the last definite trace of dogmatic theological influence vanished from our Fraternity - let us hope forever.

HOWBEIT, not all Masons were satisfied with the situation, and Hutchinson, a gifted and gracious man, in "The Spirit of Masonry" - a little classic to this day - made plea for a definitely Christian Masonry; as did Oliver and others. Even as late at 1885 the late Brother Whymper repeated the plea very persuasively in an able book, "The Religion of Freemasonry," but to no avail. He even went so far as to urge that Jews, Hindoos, and Mohammedans might be allowed to have Lodges of their own, if they wished, though not within, or not entirely within, the regular fellowship of the Fraternity - a thoroughly impossible suggestion on the face of it. Let us hope that the matter is now finally settled, and that Masonry will never again be the servant - handmaid or otherwise - of one religious dogma or creed, save its own universal creed of fundamental religion, but will continue to be "the center of union, and the means of conciliating true friendship," not only among persons but among faiths "that otherwise must have remained at a perpetual distance."

For, to say no more, Masonry is a system of moral mysticism, expressing faith in God and the eternal life in old and simple symbols of the building art, awakening the better angels in the nature of man and teaching the brotherly life. Its aim is to aid its sons to win a clearer conception of their duty to God and man, to develop their spiritual faculties, to refine and exalt their lives in fellowship and service, leaving each one to add to its profound and simple faith such elaborations and embellishments as may seem to him to be true and beautiful and good, with due respect for and appreciation of the thought and faith and dream of his Brothers and Fellows.

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Chapter 1 -  The Mystic Tie


WHAT is religion? Unless we have some idea of its nature and meaning we cannot go very far in the study here proposed, and yet it is not easy to put it into words. Every great thing opens out upon the infinite and asks for unfenced frontiers. A definition is a wall we build around a reality to bring it within reach and range, and a wall has its limits: it shuts out more than it shuts in. The old farmer in the Robert Frost poem was right:

Before I build, I would ask to know

What I was walling in, or walling out,

Something there is that does not love a wall,

That wants it down.

None of the really great things of life can be shut up within a wall. A man may fence a field, but never the soft winds that blow over it, nor the sunset glow that falls upon it. Yet without the wind, the sun, and the drifting mist that breaks into a blue dust of rain, his field would be of no value. No more can we fence religion with a definition; it breaks through our net of words and escapes. When all is said there remains a margin of mysticism, a spirit which baffles speech. Religion is the meaning of life and can only be learned by living.

OBVIOUSLY we must draw a line between religion and theology. One is the truth of life in its warmth and radiance, its joy and pathos; the other is a system of reasonings and conjectures, symbols, and traditions by which man seeks to justify, clarify, and interpret the faith by which he lives. Religion is poetry; theology is prose. It is the difference between a flower garden and a book of botany, a manual of astronomy and a sky full of stars. Theology is valuable but not indispensable. As one need not know the facts of botany in order to enjoy a bed of violets, so we do not have to fathom the mysteries of theology in order to live the religious life. Many a man who has only a dim idea of what it means to love God is really doing it all the time, in the best of all ways, by lending a hand to his fellows along the road.

Still, by the very necessity of his nature, man cannot be content with an impulsive and unreflective existence. He is a thinker, a seeker after truth, a philosopher who desires to analyze the mystery of his life and know its meaning, in order to live with clearer vision and to better purpose. So he has made him many theologies, at times more voluminous than luminous, about which he has debated hotly, excommunicating those who do not agree with him - forgetting that without charity no theology is of any value. Manifestly it is an error to mistake the explanation of religion for the reality itself, much less to make our dogmas tests alike of fellowship and salvation. For, according to Jesus, with whom our best instincts agree, we are saved not by what we think but by what we are. Our theology ought to be, as revisable as are all other human ideas, growing as "the thoughts of man widen with the processes of the suns."

IN THE same way, temples, altars, creeds, feasts, fasts, and solemn ritual words are not religion. They are efforts, to realize and express the unseen element of thought and yearning which lies at the root of it-attempts to utter by symbol, or to invoke by sacrament, the mystery and meaning of life. Religion is no abstract thing; it is life itself, "the life of God in the soul of man," as Scrougall said, three centuries gone by. The Church has no monopoly of religion, nor did the Bible create it. Instead, it was religion that created the Bible and the Church, and if they were destroyed it would create them anew.

Out from the heart of nature rolled

The burdens of the Bible old;

The litanies of the nations came,

Like a volcano's tongue of flame,

Up from the burning core below -

The canticles of love and woe

The word unto the prophet spoken

Was writ on tables yet unbroken;

One accent of the Holy Ghost

The heedless world hath never lost.


There is in human nature a spiritual quality, by whatever name it is described, to express which some contrive theologies, others write rituals, and others sing anthems. It is a part of our human endowment, at once the fountain of our faith and the consecration of our labor. It emerged with man, revealing itself in love and birth, joy and woe, pity and pain and death, in the blood in the veins of men, the milk in the breasts of women, the laughter of little children, in the ritual of the seasons - all the old, sweet, sad, happy human things - adding a rhythm and a pathos to mortal life. Older than all creeds, deeper than all dogmas, it is a voice out of the heart of the world; the account which life gives of itself when it is healthy, natural and free.

Every man shares, in some degree, in the great mysticism of the race. By the very fact of his humanity, each man has a capacity for religion, as he has a need of it, whether he knows it or not; just as he is potentially a poet, though he may not be aware of it. One doubts the fact of an entirely irreligious person; but if he exists he is, by so much, less than human. In some men the spark may be dormant and undeveloped, but it is there, along with much else. As radium is found only in uranium, and then only a Few grains of it in tons of alien matter, so "the light that lighteth every man" may burn darkly; but it does not go out. The religious man is thus of many sorts, according to type, training, and stage of growth; but we ought to be able to know him in any garb.

NO WORDS may ensnare this elusive, ineluctable quality in the life of man, lending dignity to his dust and luster to his days. It takes myriad shapes - all the shapes which truth and love and duty take - in all true art, all great literature, in the magic suggestiveness of music, in the quest of beauty and the search for truth, in old and simple and lovable things lifted into light and color; no less than in the many forms of piety, from the crude rites of early man to the life of Jesus, It is a tone, a temper, a grace, like "touch" in a musician, like melody which turns sound into song - something deep, tender, haunting, in the hushed awe of an agnostic or in the life of a saint; in the grave and kindly Lincoln who walked under a sky as gray as a tired face, and in Francis who went singing through the world. Some men seem not to be aware of this fine thing in their lives, and even deny that they have it, yet they "live by the fact the lips deny, God knoweth why." All of us know men like Hankin in "The Mad Shepherds," of whom Snarley Bob observes:

Shoremaker Hankin were a great man. He'd got hold o' lots o' good things, but he's got some on 'em by the wrong end. He talked more than a man o' his size ought to ha' done. He spent his breath in proving that God doesn't exist, and his life in proving that He does.

The greatest of all Teachers of faith did not use the word religion at all, but always the word Life instead, saying that He had come that men might have life, and have it more abundantly. So far from limiting life, He sanctifies it, lifts it to a higher octave, sets it free, shakes the poison out of all its wild flowers, and reveals its eternal values in the arts and acts of every day. With Jesus, religion does not consist of a few acts of prayer, worship, and alms; it is not one thing, but the spirit in which we are to do everything, if it be only to give a cup of cold water to a brother man. Many kinds of life have to be lived, and no one kind has a right to be called religious, to the exclusion of others. The humblest labor, no less than the highest, if done with reference to the whole, has the sanctity of a sacrament. Every task is sacred which offers opportunity for growth and service; all things are holy which draw men together in fellowship and promote justice and beauty in the earth.

RELIGION, to repeat it once more, is not a thing apart from life; it is life itself at its best - the meaning of life by which we live, the art by which we learn how to live: how to be, how to do, how to do without, and, finally, how to join our fleeting lives with tone vast Life that moves and cannot die," which Jesus called the Eternal Life.


BY THE same token, it may be said that in the view here set forth, if religion is everything it ceases to be anything. Or else, if all thoughts, all feelings, all acts are, or may be, religious, it embraces what we include under morality, art, and even sport, and we are using more words than we need. Of course, for purposes of study and analysis we may separate religion from morality, but in actual life they blend, they intermingle, they are interwoven. Indeed, my point is that religion, as the Latin word for it implies, is the unifying spirit of all life. Cicero preferred the meaning "to think back," to think over again, to reflect on the meaning of life - to recollect. Augustine liked best to define it as meaning "to rebind," to tie together; that which unites man to God and to his fellows, They are two aspects of the same thought - the idea of a tie by which things are held together, a thread on which things are strung; a power of cohesion and coherence. Recent studies seem to arrive at the same insight. More and more religion is regarded, not as a separate faculty or interest or instinct, but rather as a unity of interests - the organizing spirit among the values of life.

If this seems at first a little hazy and fine-spun, a picturesque example of what it means may be seen in the life of Anton Tchekhov, the Russian novelist, to whose art we owe so much. Something happened in him, whether real or imagined, to cut the tie which gives unity and continuity to life, scattering ideas and events like beads in disarray when the thread is broken. It was an appalling experience, as he describes it, leaving him a sad, weary, bewildered man. In one of his letters he writes, giving us a glimpse of his inner chaos:

In all the thoughts, feelings, and ideas which I form about anything there is wanting the something universal which could bind all these together in one whole. Each feeling and thought lives detached in me, and in all my opinions and in all the little pictures which my imagination paints, not even the most cunning analyst will discover what is called the general idea, or the God of the living man. If this is not there, then nothing is there.

NO WONDER he is a specialist in hopelessness, a great artist of loneliness - like a tiny island in a vast sea. Each man stands by himself; fraternity is a fiction. Facts pile up Pell-mell, without sequence or significance. Things have no relation to one another; they just happen. He knows "the comfortless conglomerate of finite events." He sees each thing clearly; he etches vividly; he can fasten a fleeting impression in a flashing phrase. But life has no plan, no purpose, no meaning; it is just a jumble. Events fall at haphazard, as in the colors of a kaleidoscope. Ideas are deceptive; ideals are a mirage; work is unmeaning monotony; each day is an idle tale, ending in ennui, futility, and the fatigue of despair. So dismal does life become when the mystic tie is cut. What a fate to be thus marooned on a desert island in a world where there is truth to seek, love to win, and beauty passes with the sun on her wings!

Such a man is sick; something has hit him and he goes lame. Yet his experience, if it be only imagined, does show us that the basis of life is a sense, vague or vivid, of the "something universal" which unites things into a whole. As Bruno said, God is the principle of connection in things, and things are connected by the Meaning to which all their partial meanings contribute. Nature and events, as Goethe held, are the language of God, silent and incessant, of which we can read here a line and there a stanza. They are facts, but they are also symbols, and have meaning beyond the facts. That is to say, everything is somehow the voice of God, if we have ears to hear. To find meaning in the world is to begin to live in it and to love it, and where love is there God is.


TWO EXAMPLES will make the idea plainer, one in the field of psychology and the other in the facts of recent history. In his fine, closely packed study of "Man and Culture," Dr. Clark Wissler finds' what he calls two great complexes in human nature, tool- using and ritual-making, which give the clue to the history of culture. The reason why man uses tools is plain enough, but why, from the very beginning, in all ages and all lands, he has made rituals, is a mystery. The writer suspects that at the bottom of ritual-making there is a fact as fundamental, as natural, as the using of tools. Something is there, but he does not know what it is - something profoundly revealing.

What he suspects - he does not set it forth as a dogma - is that ritual is the desire, if we may not call it instinct, by which man is led to "seek to complete the sequence of cause and effect' when an effect is experienced." In other words, in his rituals man is seeking to spin and weave a tie uniting cause and effect; that is, trying to find the connection in things. It is a quest after the sequence of facts, the relation of events, as over against the awful miscellaneousness of mere Chance, in which forces move haphazard. Even Fate is better than Chance; at least it implies order, direction, control in the nature of things which, if men follow it, leads to freedom and power. Ritual, then, is man trying to interpret his experience, flinging across the gaps of life a network of meaning - his effort to escape from the most terrifying of all fears, that his life is at the mercy of caprice, the sport of whim. In his ritual he dramatizes what he thinks the meaning of life is, acts out its law as he knows it, endeavoring to bring himself into harmony with the order of the world, and thus to be at home in it.

So the history of religion is the story, more fascinating than any tale told in fairyland, of man seeking for the meaning of his life, setting forth in drama, symbol, and sign the truth as he finds it. Always, by an insight deeper and clearer than he knows, he finds the meaning of his life in spiritual reality and value; in Truth, Love, and "that thread of all-sustaining Beauty that runs through all and doth all unite." In short, he is a mystic, and the essence of all mysticism is a sense, a vision, of the unity of things, of the oneness of all life, of the kinship of man with God, without which life and the world are alike unintelligible and utterly baffling. When, in an hour of madness or sin or blindness the mystic tie is cut, chaos comes again. Of this fact we have bad in our own time the most ghastly demonstration in Russia, whereof a great lawyer of Moscow has told us. Writing in the Hibbert journal, in 1920, Eugune Troubetzkoy analyzes Bolshevism in these words:

It is first and foremost the practical denial of the spiritual. They flatly refuse to admit the existence of any spiritual bond . between man and man. For them economic and material interests constitute the only social nexus; they recognize no other. This is the source of their whole conception of human society. The love of country, for example, is a lying pretense; for the national bond is spiritual, and, therefore, wholly fictitious.

From their point of view the only real bond between men is the material - that is to say, the economic. Material interests divide men into classes, and they are the only divisions to be taken account of. Hence they recognize no Nations save the Rich and the Poor. As there is no other bond which can unite these two Nations into one social whole, their relations must be regulated exclusively by the zoological principle revealed in the struggle for existence.

The materialistic conception of society is their method of treating the family. Since there is no spiritual bond between the sexes. there can be no constant relation. The rule is therefore that men and women can change their partners as often as they wish.

THERE IT is, stripped of fine phrases and clothed in the gray garb of fact, smeared with blood and mud and lust. There we see what life is, what society becomes, and the pit into which man falls when the mystic tie of religion is cut. Fraternity is as futile as all the vain things proclaimed by the Preacher of Despair. Theology sinks to the level of zoology; the home becomes a brothel; all the fair and holy things that lend dignity and sanctity to the life of man are lost in a dark jungle of slimy greed and blind brutality. Atheism, "the practical denial of the spiritual," ends in anarchy, running wild and running red. As Benjamin Kidd remarked in his survey of Western civilization: "The central feature of human history is not reason, but religion, which has kept progress going when reason would have ended it. Religion is the real cement of society."


RELIGION, then, is the bond that binds us, first, to God, whose is "the something universal" which unites all things into one whole, and gives to the universe meaning and beauty. Second, it is the tie by which we are united to our fellow men in the service of duty, the sanctity of love, and the spirit of fraternal righteousness. Third, it is the thread which gives unity, and, therefore, peace, in our own inner life, without which we "go to pieces," as the phrase has it, describing exactly the spiritual chaos which foretells a physical or mental or moral collapse. It is the life of God in the life of man whereby, as Dante said, we learn to make our lives eternal.

So interpreted, our religion is one with our vision of right and wrong, our capacity for joy and wonder, our sense of the mystery surrounding our lives; our sense of pity, and beauty, and pain; our latent feeling of fellowship with all creation, and the subtle but invincible conviction of solidarity that knits together the loneliness of innumerable hearts; the solidarity in dreams, in joy, in sorrow, in aspirations, in illusions, in hope, in fear, which binds men to each other, which binds together all humanity - the dead to the living and the living to the unborn generations awaiting their advent.

There is an unseen cord that binds

The whole wide world together;

Through every human life it winds,

This one mysterious tether.

There are no separate lives, the chain

Too subtle for our seeing,

Unites us all upon the plane

Of universal being.

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Chapter II - The Builders


AS HAS been said, it is not the purpose of these pages to deal with the attitude of Masonry toward organized religion, but to study our Craft as itself an expression of religious faith, life, and hope. If religion, as here interpreted, be a great solidarity, a sense of a vast Kindred-Life, in whose near-neighborliness and far-friendliness we, and all men, live in a fellowship of duty and destiny, then surely, Masonry is one of its myriad manifestations; a part of the organized spiritual experience of the race, a form of the Divine Life upon the earth.

By the same sign, to know the meaning of Masonry, in any real sense, it must be studied in the context of the universal spiritual history of humanity, of which it is a unique and significant aspect. Otherwise it will remain not a mystery, but a riddle, as unintelligible as if it had been the work of men of another planet, having no place in our estimate of the spiritual possessions of the race. Here lies the value of the work of Edward Waite, to whose clear vision and rich learning every student of the Craft is so deeply in debt. He sees that the spiritual life of mankind is one quest and conquest, no matter how many forms it may take or what different rituals it may employ - Masonry being one of the three really great rituals in which man has sought to surprise in art and embody in experience the mystery and meaning of life.

Such an insight into the unity of the life of the soul ties things together and gives us not only a wise tolerance, but also a patient sympathy with, and a clearer understanding of, every form the search for God has taken, alike in Christian and pagan lands. It does not mean that all forms of faith are of the same depth, or degree of development, or value for our guidance, much less does it deny the reality of that revelation of moral law and spiritual truth which shines upon our path, a light to lead our wayward feet, in the Book of Holy Law. But it does help us to see and understand how and why,

Answering unto Man's endeavor

Truth and right are still revealed,

lifting our aspiration into realization, making our spiritual dream come true; and that while religions are many, Religion is one - perhaps we may say one thing, to use once more the words of Henry Scrougall who, dying in the morning of life, told us that religion is "the life of God in the soul of man."

UNLESS we see Masonry in this setting and tradition, we miss its real beauty and infinite suggestiveness, as well as the wonder of its symbolism. It is unique indeed, not so much in the truth it teaches or the experience it seeks to realize as in the spirit and method in which it leads us in the greatest of all adventures. It is in fact, for those who understand - and, dimly, for those who do not see its full splendor - a thin shadow of something very great, something ineffable and memorable. It holds a certain extremely simple and profound secret, for which words were never made, and which can only be hinted in symbol and drama; and that is why it speaks to us in

The picture writing of the world's gray seers,

The myths and parables of primal years.


WHAT, then, is Masonry? One thinks of the answer of Augustine to a like question long ago, when he said: "I know until you ask me; when you ask me I do not know." There is something unique in Masonry, a tie unlike any other, uniting men of all ranks, types, temperaments into a closely-knit fellowship; something deep and tender - one would call it mystical, if the word had not been so badly used - which all of us feel, but which no one of us can analyze. No one cares to analyze it. We sit in lodge together, each knowing exactly what will come next; we meet upon the level and part upon the square - old and simple and familiar symbols - and somehow, no one knows how, a tie is woven light as air yet stronger than steel. It is very strange, very wonderful - to attempt to analyze it is like trying to draw a rim round a perfume.

None the less, as we have set ourselves the task of expounding, as best we may, something of the deeper meaning of Masonry, we must attempt some kind of a definition - or, better still, a description - of its spirit and purpose and form. It will help us, perhaps, if we bring together a number of definitions, none of them perfect, as those who made them would be the first to admit, each one emphasizing one aspect or segment of the many-sided, far- ramifying wonder of Masonry; and all of them together showing at once the necessity and the futility of trying to define it. Each man, as will appear, sees in Masonry the thing nearest to his own nature and need, his own heart and thought, but there is much more than he sees, Masonry itself, like its symbols, being a benign and beautiful mystery which many behold, each from his own angle and point of view, but which no one exhausts. Thus we may read:

The definition of Freemasonry that it is "a science of morality, veiled in allegory, and illustrated by symbols," has been so often quoted that, were it not for its beauty, it would become wearisome. This is its internal character. Its ceremonies are external additions, which affect not its substance. - A.G. MACKEY.

Freemasonry is an ancient male society, having secret methods of recognition, teaching by symbolism (in part esoteric) a moral philosophy based upon Monotheism and inculcating the brotherhood of man and belief in immortality - M.M. JOHNSON.

Masonry is Friendship, Love, and Integrity - friendship which rises superior to the fictitious distinctions of society, the prejudices of religion, and the pecuniary conditions of life; love which knows no limit, nor inequality, nor decay; integrity which binds man to the eternal law of duty. - A.C.L. ARNOLD.

Masonry is the science of life in a society of men, by signs, symbols and ceremonies; having as its basis a system of morality and for its purpose the perfection and happiness of the individual and the race. - G.F. MOORE.

The word carries with it, through all the variants known to us, the idea of unity. From this view it appears that Masonry is the building together of various units, such as stones, bricks, wood, iron, or human beings, into a compact structure. When we apply it to Speculative Masonry, we mean the building morally of humanity into an organized structure, according to a design or plan. - A.S. MACBRIDE.

Life separates man from man; to unite him again with man needs an art; a means to this art, not the art itself, is Freemasonry. Freemasonry is, therefore, the medium of an art which strives to mold people whom life has separated so that they can enter a new communion with one another. - OSKAR POSNER.

Masonry is an art of the Brotherhood of Man, a code of ethical laws and revelations impressing all men with its candor, justice and faith; commending its members to extend justice to all mankind; instructing its students in an open mind, strength in the right and cleanness of heart and body; inculcating love of God, home and country, and respect for the rights of a brother. - R.W. ABBOTT.

Masonry is the subjugation of the Human that is in man by the Divine; the conquest of the appetites and passions by the moral sense and the reason; a continual effort, struggle and warfare, of the spiritual against the material and sensual. That victory - when it has been achieved and secured, and the conqueror may rest upon his shield and wear the well-earned laurels - is the true Holy Empire. - ALBERT PIKE.

Masonry is the activity of closely united men who, employing symbolical forms borrowed principally from the mason's trade and from architecture, work for the welfare of mankind, striving morally to ennoble themselves and others, and thereby to bring about a universal league of mankind, which they aspire to exhibit even now on a small scale. - GERMAN HANDBUCH.

SO MUCH for definitions, if indeed they ought not to be called descriptions instead, all except the first which is taken from the Book of Constitutions, the second which might stand in a court of law, and the last which entitled us to be called the Builders. The rest are true and beautiful, the words of Pike being a memorable picture of the passion, purpose and prophecy of every religion, the effort of all the higher human life, in nowise peculiar to Masonry, save as we see and interpret Masonry as a part, or expression, of the common spiritual aspiration and endeavor of mankind; one with the old eternal quest of God, however unique its symbolism may be. Once, somewhere down the years, I tried to sum it tip in one sentence, to which may be added a like saying by a master Craftsman:

Let us rather say that Masonry, as we see it in our dream and seek to realize it in our fellowship, is like one of the Cathedrals which our brethren built in the olden time: Faith its foundation, Righteousness its cornerstone, Strength and Wisdom its walls, Beauty its form and fashion, Brotherly Love its clasped arches, Reverence its roof, the Bible its altar light, Mysticism its music, Charity its incense, Fellowship its sacrament, Relief its ritual; its Symbols windows nobly wrought, half-revealing and half- concealing a Truth too elusive for words, too vast for dogma, and too bright for eyes unveiled, and only hinted to us until we are ready and worthy to behold it with other and clearer eyes than now we know:-

Masonry is not a Temple of Mysteries, nor a Repository of Rituals, nor a Reformatory of the Fallen, nor a Branch Office of a Benevolent Society, but the happy and restful, refined and intellectual home of men of good-will and good sense; Brethren not Bondsmen, men of brain and brawn, young men and mature men, drawn and conciliated together by some magnetic affinity of association far more than mere gregariousness; just average men in a world of motion and emotion, of aspiration and purposeful progress, men who discover one another and realize themselves in close and familiar association, and who have realized that the Brotherhood of Man begins with the Manhood of the Brother.

There, in one shining sentence, the thing all of us feel, love and try to express, does get itself said, giving us a thrill of recognition and joy. It is a perfect description of the atmosphere in which Masons live and the spirit in which they work - a spirit gentle, joyous, free - held together by a magnetic and creative affinity, seeking the truth without envy, discussing it without rancor, and striving to make it effective in private life and public service. For Masonry is Truth, Charity and Service - the truth by which no man was ever injured, the charity without which no dogma is worth holding, and the Doing of Good which is the finest art known upon earth and among men.


THERE is, then, a Religion of Masonry - old, simple, wise - as profound as it is practical; a religion of faith, freedom, and fellowship, taking the truths of faith and revelation, but allowing each man to read and interpret those, truths as his heart elects, thus avoiding the envies and debates which so often disfigure the religious life. It is not a theology in the technical sense, nor a philosophy like the philosophy of Plato or Kant, but, rather, a living wisdom, a practical moral mysticism, so to name it, veiled in allegory and illustrated by signs, symbols and dramas. One may take the words of Jesus as describing its Degrees: "The Way, the Truth, and the Life"; the way of moral rectitude and fraternal righteousness, the truth of a moral order and a spiritual law as exact as geometry, and a life everlasting discovered and lived in time.

However, let us remember that the Religion of Masonry, be it ever so simple and profound, just because it is a spiritual interpretation of life, rests upon the same basis and is subject to the same tests as all other such readings of the meaning of life. As such, it is open to denial by sceptical criticism and brute facts, open to persecution by the accidents of life and the menace of death, to say nothing of things darker, by far, than death can ever be. It behooves us, therefore, at least to state the faith by which we live as men and Masons, as over against those blind thoughts we know not nor can name, and the blight of cynicism at whose touch all the finer values of life fade, like flowers in a frost. There is no need to give reasons for our faith, if only because the profoundest faiths of man are deeper than reason, and are the basis of reason itself - as deep as infancy and old age, as deep as love and death.

Masonry, like all the best life of man, rests upon the faith - which can neither be demonstrated nor refuted by logic - that life has meaning and value, and is not an accident to be lived at loose ends and to no purpose. Such a faith, because it is healthy and sane, makes the venture that life is real, sane, and worth while, and acts accordingly. It is not a mere opinion we hold, but a passion that holds us:

It is an affirmation and an act

That bids eternal truth be present fact.

As SPARKS ascending seek the sun, so this high, heroic faith of man rises above the things that deny and finds its confirmation and its consecration in God and His life of law and love: a truth never stated more nobly than in the words of Richard Hooker, a fellow of Shakespeare and Bacon and Milton, one of the amplest minds of his age, who, dying at forty-nine, left us a passage famous alike for its sweep of thought and its stately, old-world style:

Wherefore, that here we may briefly end: of law there can be no less acknowledged, than that her seat is in the bosom of God, her voice the harmony of the world; all things in Heaven and earth do her homage, the very least as feeling her care, and the greatest as not exempted from her power; both angels and men and creatures of what condition soever, though each in different sort and manner, yet all with uniform consent, admiring her as the mother of their peace and their joy.

THAT is to say, Masonry, rests upon I and lives and builds in the assurance, to which human experience and Divine revelation alike bear witness, of the existence of a universal moral and spiritual world, whose laws are as real, as reliable, as the laws of the physical order in which we live; a vast, potent, living, beneficent order, more radiant than we can yet imagine, of which the symbolism of the race, in the scattered letters of a lofty language, gives us hints and gleams; and the seeker after reality recognizes his own - and understands. Otherwise our symbolism means nothing at all, because there is nothing to symbolize. Nay, more; if this be not so, human life is a flash of glory against a dark background - a flash doomed to fade and be lost in a void. As a protest against so dark a philosophy our Masonic faith stands immovable, a Temple covering the holy things of life with an abiding protection. Its faith may be stated briefly, in more detail, as follows:

(1) Faith in the universe as friendly to fraternal enterprise. Our Craft believes that the world in which we live, in spite of facts apparently contradictory, was made for Brotherhood. At first sight it may not seem so. Nature appears to be constructed on contrary lines, "red in tooth and claw," careless of the higher values. For many the seeming indifference of Nature to the higher ideals of man is terrifying, and to dream of a brotherly society in such a world seems futile. It is indeed a daring act of faith, a challenge to the courage of man, and Masonry accepts the challenge. It affirms, in spite of appearances, that man was made for man. If there is a law of the Struggle for Existence, there is also a law of Mutual Aid, without which man would have perished long ago. Slowly, surely, the higher, gentler law triumphs over the lower, lesser law - includes it, indeed, and fulfils it. Man himself is a part of Nature, and because he has a hunger for fraternity, he believes that the universe is not against his faith.

(2) Faith in man as a spiritual being. Man is an animal, but if he is nothing else, religion and fraternity are thin fictions: he would live by the law of the jungle. But man is more than an animal; he has "thoughts that wander through eternity." He is a citizen of two worlds, and the glory of his life is the art of living in two worlds at the same time. No fraternity built on the baseness of man can endure. Only the spiritual tie can unite men in the bonds of brotherhood. Nothing else holds, in the end, against the brute forces in ourselves and in the world. Any other tie of fellowship is a rope of sand, weak as water. All fraternity is founded on faith in man as a moral and spiritual being, capable of disinterested fellowship, service, and sacrifice.

(3) Faith in the power of spiritual ideals. If man is fashioned by Fate, if his higher ideals are at the mercy of his lower instincts; that is, if self-interest is the only motive strong enough to move him to fight, or serve, or suffer, then fraternity, of the kind we seek, is impossible. The history of human heroism refutes this cynical philosophy. The devotion of man to the great disinterested ideals of liberty, justice, mercy, truth, is overwhelming testimony to the power of spiritual influences over him. These cannot be simply human aspirations; they must be divine inspirations. They sway man in his nobler hours, touching his life to finer issues, and shaping him after a Divine pattern. This threefold faith underlies the grand affirmations of Religious Masonry: the Fatherhood of God, the Brotherly Life, the Geometry of Character, and the Life Everlasting.


SUCH is the faith upon which Masonry builds - the faith which underlies and upholds all the higher life of man - uniting the flickering rays of the old Light-Religion with the brighter revelation of moral law and spiritual truth as it shines in the Book of Holy Law. The three Great Lights of the lodge give us the clue to the Religion of Masonry, the Holy Bible supporting the Square and the Compasses - symbols of Revelation, Righteousness, and Redemption; teaching us that by walking in the light of Truth, and obeying the law of Right, the Divine in man wins victory over the earthly. Thus Earth and Heaven are brought together in the lodge - the earth where man goes forth to his labor, and the heaven to which he aspires.

Indeed, the Religion of Masonry is Universe Religion, in which all men can unite: its principles are as wide as the world and as high as the sky. Nature and Revelation blend in its faith; its morality is rooted in the order of the world, and its roof is the blue vaunt above. The lodge, as we are too apt to forget, is always open to the sky-overhung by a starry canopy by night, lighted by the journeying sun by day-whence come those influences which exalt and ennoble the life of man. Symbolically, at least, it has no rafters but the arching heavens, and the business of man is to reproduce in his life the. law and order of the far-shining City of God. Of the heavenly side of Masonry the Compasses are the symbol, and they are the most spiritual of all its working tools - the law of Nature and the light of Revelation being the two points of the Compasses within which our life is set under a canopy of Sun and Stars.

While we hold a view of the world very unlike that held by our ancient brethren - knowing it to be round, not flat and square - yet their insight is still true; the whole idea being that man must imitate the order of the world in which he lives. That is also our dream and design, our labor and worship. Any man has a right to build a house to suit himself; but if he expects it to stand and be a shelter of his home, he must obey certain laws of physics in building it. By as much as he obeys those laws his home will stand; if he disobeys, no. Nor is it otherwise with the moral laws which rule the building of character. If the laws of architecture are moral laws, as Ruskin taught us, just so moral principles are laws of spiritual architecture. In short, the basic idea of Masonry is that the moral order, like the physical world, is a realm of law, order and beauty, where obedience is liberty and stability.

Upon this fact Masonry erects its noble and beautiful allegory of human life in al its varied aspects: the lodge a symbol of the world in which man lives on a checker-board of nights and days, joys and sorrows - over-arched by the sky, at its center an Altar of obligation and prayer. By the same sign, initiation is our birth from the darkness of prenatal gloom into the light of moral and spiritual faith, out of a merely physical into a human and moral order; into a new environment with a new body of motive and experience. The cable tow is like the cord which joins a child to its mother at birth, nor is it removed until, by the act of assuming the obligations of the moral life, a new, unseen tie is woven, uniting, its with our race in its moral effort to build a world of fraternal goodwill.

IN THE First Degree we learn morality and charity - two things always to be kept together; if counted worthy we pass, in the Second Degree, out of youth into manhood with its wider knowledge and heavier responsibilities; and finally, if we have integrity and courage, we discover, in the Third Degree, that we are citizens of Eternity living in time. Thus we have portrayed, in a sublimely simply and eloquent allegory, an ideal world ruled by wisdom, strength, and fellowship, in which we are set to do our duty, build our character, and win our destiny. It is a great day for a young man when Masonry reveals its meaning to him, unveiling its plan of life, its purpose, its prophecy of a Temple of Brotherhood, into which he may build his life and thought and aspiration, so that whatever immortality this human world shall have his character and personality shall have a share in it.

IN ITS modern form at least, our Masonry is a symposium of symbolism in which three streams or strands of faith unite, by which man is a Builder of a Temple, a Pilgrim in quest of a lost Truth, and, if he be worthy and heroic, a Finder of sublime Secret of Life. He is, first, a builder, taking the rough stones of the world and shaping them into forms of beauty, building upon the will of God, by His design, with His help, in His name; nay, more, building together with his fellow men, as our Brethren built the cathedrals. He is, second, a seeker, a pilgrim journeying from the West, a land of sunset and death, toward the East, the place of sunrise and life; a pilgrimage of the soul, affected, at least in this state of its journey, in the sandals of Human Nature - a long, weary road. He is, finally if he be worthy, a finder of the greatest secret man may know, whereby he is reborn to Eternal Life here and now, while walking the dim paths of earth and time. O my soul, remember, strive, persevere, and rejoice!

TELL me, Brother Man, if in all the world of wisdom and prophecy, in science or philosophy, you have found a faith more profound, a plan of life more noble, a task more challenging, a hope more enchanting! One thinks of the Sonnet by Carl Claudy, who asked of Masonry her meaning, and answers the question in words that set our souls singing:

What hath thy lore of life to let it live?

What is the vital spark, hid in thy vow?

The millions learned, as thy dear paths they trod,

The secret of the strength thou hast to give:

"I am a way of common men to God,"

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Chapter III - The Corner Stone


THE CORNER-STONE of Masonry, at once its first and greatest Landmark, the basis of its plan and purpose and prophecy, is the old and simple Faith in God which finds its purest revelation and clearest interpretation iii the Holy Bible - God the Great Architect and Master-Builder of the Universe; God the Father of Humanity, its solidarity and salvation; God the Maker of heaven and earth and all that in them is, before whom silence is eloquence and wonder is worship. Other foundation there is none; upon God Masonry builds its Temple of Brotherly Love, Relief, and Truth.

In nothing is our gentle Craft wiser than in laying its foundation; it begins at the beginning and puts first things first. God is the first Fact and the final Reality - the Truth that makes all other truths true; the corner-stone of faith, the key-stone of thought, the cap- stone of hope. Nay, more; God is the meaning of the universe, its rhythm and its reason, the secret of its integrity, the source of its goodness, the sign of its sanity; its author and its end. Thought about God is thought in its longest reach; trust in God is the highest wisdom and the deepest joy. Beyond Him human faith cannot go; short of Him it cannot rest.

Everything in Masonry has reference to God, implies God, speaks of God, points to God. Not a degree, not a symbol, not an obligation, not a lecture, not a charge but finds its meaning and derives its beauty from God, the Great Architect, in whose Temple all Masons are workmen. Every lodge is erected to God and labors in His name, seeking to make His will the design upon its Trestle- board. No initiate enters a lodge without first kneeling and confessing his faith and trust in God, whose love is the fountain of fraternity. The greatest symbol of Masonry, the Triangle, is the oldest emblem of God in the history and faith of man. Under His arching sky, upon his friendly earth where man goes forth to his labor, Masonry toils for the glory of God.

Upon the Altar of every Lodge, at which every Mason takes vows of chastity and charity, lies the open Bible, the Book of the Will of God, revealing the sanities and sanctities of life. Its writers were seers who beheld God in the ongoing of nature, in the unfolding of history, and in the yearning heart of man. In a sense unique and overwhelming, it is a book, not about God, but a book of God. Even in its driest chronicles one is aware of the presence of God, as David heard Him moving in the rustle of the mulberry tree. In the "forest of the Psalms," along the dreamy ways of prophecy, in Gospel, Epistle and Apocalypse, God is the one living and blessed reality, the companion of the journeying generations, the atmosphere of the life of man and his everlasting hope.

Truly God is in Masonry - in its faith, its ideals, its labor - and without Him it has no meaning, no mission, no ministry among men. For, when faith in God fades, then falls that "house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens." Then, too, is stultified the prayer of a true Mason, "by patient continuance in well-doing" to be "built up as living stones into a spiritual house," meet for the praise of God. As a great Craftsman said, "I bear my last witness, God willing, and it testifies that of God moveth the great Rite of Masonry."


THERE IS no need that any one argue to prove that God exists. No proof is possible; no proof is needed. No vital faith is ever secured, still less maintained, by debate. There is no proof in reason for anything which we fundamentally believe, if only because reason is not fundamental. Men do not believe in God because they have proved Him; they are always trying to prove Him because they cannot help believing in Him. Faith in God is not the fruit of logic, but of experience of life. It is the function of reason to clarify, justify and interpret the truth learned by living. The Bible does not argue; it opens the windows and lets in the light.

Each age has its arguments for God, but the arguments of one age often seem empty and inadequate to the next-frail ghosts of a time far gone. The arguments pass away but the faith remains. The four historic arguments may still be stated with power, but they do not prove that God exists. They only prove that He ought to exist. As Voltaire said, "If there were no God it would be necessary to invent Him," because He is necessary to the healthful working of the human mind. Ever the quest of man goes on, trying to answer the questions, Who am I? Why am I? Whence did I come? Whither do I go? The only answer is God, and as the mind of man enlarges, as his thought fits more truly into the interstices of reality, his vision is clearer and his faith firmer. Yet, evermore, the horizon lengthens, the vista deepens, and the wonder of God gathers and grows.

Often truth is made vivid by its opposite, as night brings out the stars hidden by day. Emerson was wont to say, "If there ever was one good man, there will be another and there will be many"; but without God the life of a good man is a mystery, if not a tragedy. It is an exotic flower growing in the air, without seed or root. There is nothing to suggest it, nothing to sustain it, nothing to fulfill its promise. By the same token, it is not the base man but the good man who is most profoundly bereaved when the vision of God grows dim. There is no keener pain known to man than a loss of the sense of the reality of God, doubly so for a refined and sensitive nature, as witness the words of Neitzsche lamenting the loss of his right, as he felt, to pray - words which move like the overture of a great symphony of despair:

Never more wilt thou pray, never more worship, never more repose in boundless trust - thou renouncest the privilege of standing before an ultimate wisdom, an ultimate mercy, and unharnessing thy thoughts - thou hast no constant watcher and friend for thy seven solitudes - there is now no redeemer for thee, no one to promise a better life - no more reason in what happens, no love in that which shall happen to thee - thy heart hast now no resting place, where it needeth only to find, not to seek - man, of thy self- denial, wilt thou deny thyself all this? Whence wilt thou gain the strength?

THERE IS the lonely horror which settles like a pall over man when faith in God fades, and it is no wonder that it drove him mad. Such is the fatality of thought. Men seem to be - often seek to be - atheists, yet the wildest flight of thought is haunted by the presence of God. Of a truth it has been said, God has made us for Himself, and our hearts are restless, weary and alone until they rest in Him. jean Paul Richter was right; no one is so much alone in the universe as a denier of God. With an orphaned heart, which has lost the greatest of Fathers, he stands mourning by the immeasurable corpse of nature, no longer moved or sustained by the Spirit of the universe, but growing in its grave; and he mourns, until he himself crumbles away from the dead body. It may be difficult to keep our faith in God at times, but the alternative is far more difficult - aye, it is desperate, and the very denial of God is proof of the sanity of faith.


NO TALE ever told in fairyland is more fascinating than the story of the thought of God in the mind of man. Life is the basis of faith in God - life with its pain and peril, its joy and woe, its pitiful broken beauty, its fleeting fellowships and its long partings; life so brief at its longest, so broken at its best. Older than all arguments, it is a faith deeper than all dogma, as old as the home and the family, as deep as infancy and old age, as deep as love and death. Men lived and died by faith in God ages before philosophy was born, long before logic had learned its letters. If we have ears we may hear Vedic poets and penitential Psalmists praising God on yonder side of the Pyramids. In Egypt, five thousand years ago, a great king wrote of the unity and purity of God, celebrating the beauty of the world. Let me trace, as vividly as possible, the long slow climb of faith in the heart of man:

First, it was an advance from Nothing to Something, from a vague, bewildered awareness in man of himself and the world to the sense of a Presence. How little can we realize the earliest musings of man when thought first found a throne in his brain-the dawning of faith out of fear, of polytheism out of animism, his sense of kinship with the world, his worship of spirits in stones, in trees, in flowing waters. Such a book as The Golden Bough, by Frazier, shows us man feeling after God, if haply he might find Him, groping his way through a jungle of shadows, following a flickering light. It is an encyclopedia of superstitions, but it does portray the birth and childhood of faith, its growth from magic into mysticism, from polytheism to pantheism. It is a far cry from the early poetic myths to the poetry of Wordsworth - a sweet voice singing among the English lakes - but both were aware, in different degree -

Of Something far more deeply interfused,

Whose dwelling is the light of setting suns

And the round ocean and the living air

And the blue sky, and in the mind of man.

SECOND, it was a long step forward when faith passed, slowly, from Something to Some One, from gods many to one God, over all, in all, through all; from personification to Personality. In the Abbey painting in the Boston Public Library we are shown the dawning of a nobler vision of God out of the dark night of animal worship; it is like a sunrise in Nature - truth rises and the shadows flee away. For ages the old gods lingered - as lower, lesser deities - haunting places and things; but more and more there grew a sense of one God above all others - an unknown, awful God, whether good or evil man did not know. In none of the early religions - except in Persia - do we find any Devil, because some lesser god fulfilled that function. In our own day a man like Wells sees above our troubled mortal life "a Veiled Being," whose character and purpose are hidden, and he thinks it a new discovery; it is in fact a primitive idea long since left behind. As the Samoan chief said to the missionary, "We know that at night Some One goes by among the trees, but we never speak of it."

Third, it was a day to divide time into before and after when faith advanced from Some One to the Holy One, from a unifying Power to a consecrating Moral Empire. This revolutionary insight we owe to Hebrew genius which dared, once for all, to identify the stupendous Power above with the Moral Law within, giving a new date and depth to the history of faith. The vision made the fame of the Hebrew race immortal, and set apart their ancient shrine on Mount Moriah as the loftiest temple ever uplifted by man - because dedicated to the Unity, Righteousness and Spirituality of God. With the single exception of Indian theism, all the theisms of the world today depend on the Hebrew faith. It made the old polytheisms and pantheisms obsolete; it made the world an orderly place, not the playground of dark Fate and wild Chance; it covered the precious possessions of humanity with an infinite security. For that reason the Temple of Hebrew faith became, as in the imagery of our Craft, the symbol of a moral structure sheltering the holy things of the life of man.

JUST because we assume a righteous God who requires righteousness of men, we do not - perhaps cannot - realize the horror which haunted the hearts of men until they became aware and assured of the goodness of God. Man has known, from the beginning, that he is every moment dependent upon a Power other and greater than himself, by whatever name he called it - Fate, Force, Destiny, God. The real question - the crux of all questions - is not as to the fact of such a Power, but as to the nature and character of Him "in whose great hand we stand." For, naturally, our thought of God determines what we think about everything else, about ourselves and our fellow men; about life and duty and destiny. No wonder, then, the vision of a Moral God, eternally and unchangeably pure and true and good, brought relief to the noblest natures, released the finest powers of the soul, and inspired the spacious and magnificent poetry of Hebrew psalms and prophecy.

By a sure and clear insight, our wise and gentle Masonry, in searching the noisy and confused quarry of human thought and faith, found a precious stone - too often rejected by builders hitherto - and made it the head of the corner; the truth of a righteous God who asks of man that he do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with the Eternal. By an insight equally clear, our fathers opened upon the Altar the Holy Bible, tile moral manual of mankind, making it the center of the lodge and "the master light of all our seeing." As we gather about it, each of us has a profound quiet deep down inside, just to live under the spell of such a Book and the things it tells; and when we see it on the Altar of the lodge we know we are not following a dim taper, but the light of God shining through our mortal days.


BUT THE great day of the feast arrived when human faith, divinely daring, was led and lifted from the Holy One to Our Father, carrying the sublime adventure forward, keeping all that had been won and lifting it to the highest. If Hebrew monotheism moralized life, Christian faith humanized it. Hints and gleams of this all-transfiguring vision had been seen from the heights of song and prophecy. "Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth," said the Psalmist. "As one whom his mother comforteth, so will God comfort you," said the greatest prophet of old. The ancient seers saw that man lives in God, who is "our dwelling place in all generations" - like an old ancestral home in which a family lived, and one by one passed away; but it remained for Another - standing in their tradition and glorifying their vision - to show us that God lives in man. The idea of God was reborn in the life of Jesus, shepherded by love and joy and wonder - revealing the Everlasting Truth by what is true and everlasting in the human heart.

Jesus revealed the spirit and nature of God through what is deepest, highest, holiest in man, finding in His Father-heart winter, spring, summer, and autumn glory, as on the hills of home. The teaching of Jesus in parable, in sermon, in conversation, in all His incomparable eloquence - bright with color, warm with sympathy, profound as life and death - is so simple that it is startling. "If ye, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more your Father" - how strange that man finds it so hard to believe that God is as good as He is! Yet that is what Jesus asked us to think and believe, and he enshrined his Gospel of the love of God in the parable of the Prodigal Son, which ought to be named the Parable of God the Father.

THE HERO of the story is not the boy who went away, wasted his substance in riotous living, and returned ragged, haggard and hungry, nor the boy who stayed at home, faithful, respectable, and selfish - so cold that one could skate all round him. No, the hero of the parable is the foolishly fond old father, bowed with age, broken with grief - all-enduring, all-forgiving - waiting on the house-top, watching for his lost boy - thinking him dead, but still keeping watch, as love watches beside a grave - recognizing his gait afar off, running to meet him, stopping his confession of sin with a kiss; forgetting all else, except to plead with the elder brother to be brotherly and forgive - wild with a heart-breaking joy: "My son was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found!" There is revealed a love that lasts all down the years and beyond; a love that never tires, and has in it the secret of unknown redemptions. Time does not limit it. Death does not end it. Nor height nor depth can defeat it!

What this revelation means, in all its sweep and grandeur, we have not begun to imagine, much less to realize. There are three stages in the growth and unfolding of it in the life of man: First, when he awakes from the wonder of infancy and becomes aware of himself as a person, separate from others, with a moral responsibility of his own. Second, when he discovers that God is the One with whom he really has to do in the adventure of life. God may be to him only a Power, or, as with most of us, a Big Man up in the sky, venerable, grave, sometimes kindly, often stern, always watchful; but that day marks a step toward manhood. Third, When he passes, suddenly or slowly - taught, it may be, by the love of his own father, or by the fact that he himself is a father - from the idea of God as a Power, a Ruler, to the sense of God as Father; that is his real birthday. Happy is the man who has learned this truth, not as a pretty theory, but as the meaning of life - he is free indeed!

(1) Such a faith will determine our reading of the meaning of life and our philosophy of history. As Tolstoi has said, the most terrible thing to man is not the fear of death - no brave man ears death-but a dread of the meaninglessness of life. If God is a Father, our days do not ebb out their hours in futility - no, life has meaning, worth, nobility. In the same way, the long human march through the ages is not a blind groping without leadership. Through the centuries there runs an "increasing purpose" - invisible, it may be, in nearby events, but made clear in the long teaching of Time - which is leading humanity to "the far off Divine event."

(2) Faith in God the Father affects our interpretation of the events of life. Sorrow, evil, sin, all the tragedy of life - youth blighted in its bud, manhood shattered in its prime, the cup of death forever pressed to the lips of love - all the woe of mortality, in which each of us has his share, or soon or late, becomes bearable if we are assured that it has a reason, and is not the whim of chance, or the freak of Fate. Man can endure much - anything, perhaps, even if his heart breaks - if he knows that an Eternal Goodness rules things, and we are not at the mercy of blind Force.

(3) Trust in God determines our sense of values. Life, character, honor, virtue, truth, service, sacrifice, all the high, heroic qualities have new worth and luster in the light of the master truth of the Fatherhood of God. The discipline of life, no less than its opportunity, finds reinterpretation in this faith. Prayer is as natural as the song of a bird. Love turns prophet and foretells a radiant future; hope is triumphant. Life does not dismay nor death terrify, if we are convinced that in all, above all, underneath all, there is the love of a Father who knows and feels and cares; a love, as Dante said, one with the love that moves the sun and all the stars."

SUCH, in dim outline, is the story of faith in God in the life of man, rising from lowly, groping, shadow-haunted thoughts to the loftiest truth man may know on earth; and all he needs to know. To know God as our Father - to realize that, though He holds the worlds in His hand, yet these wistful, quivering, questioning souls within us are made in His image, and are precious in His eyes - this is life indeed. There is much in nature to appal and affright, much in history to stagger and dismay; but once we know that the heart of "the veiled Father of men" is unfathomably kind, all the world is new. Nature then goes forward to music. Nor is it always a battle chant to which she keeps step. In her song are all things - the shout of victory and the sob of defeat, but also the ripple of the brook over the stones, the murmur of the trees, the laughter of little children, and the thunder in the mountains.


YET, oddly enough at first, if all the teaching of Masonry impIies the Fatherhood of God, still its ritual does not actually affirm that truth, much less make it a test of fellowship. It is not an oversight, but a bit of deep and true wisdom for which all men must be grateful, if they know what lies back of it. If Masonry made faith in God the Father a basis of membership, it would debar many a noble man who is unable to attain to that faith, much as he wants to hold it and tries, amid the tragedies of life, to win it. Besides, it is only by the practice of brotherhood that men actually realize the truth of God the Father; and it is the mission of Masonry to lead and lift men to the truth.

In nothing is Masonry wiser than in its attitude in regard to the deep and delicate things of the soul, its trust in God, its thought about Him, its fellowship with Him. It lays down no dogma about God, it speaks His name rarely, using, instead, the august phrase "the Great Architect of the Universe" - a phrase which is like a chalice into which each man may pour such truth as his insight and experience may win, such beauty as his vision may behold; at the same time allowing his brethren a like liberty and joy. The life of man with God is a thing so intimate, so inward, so utterly individual, that to violate its privacy, or to invade its sanctity, is a sacrilege, if not a blasphemy. There is, indeed, a truth which no man can learn for another and no one can know alone; and Masonry offers a fellowship in which men may learn together the truth that makes us men.

If only the Church had learned this simple wisdom, it would have been spared the ugly agitations which mar its fellowship and endanger its influence. For, surely, to argue angrily about God, to bandy bitter words about the sacred things of the soul, is not religion but irreligion. It is the better way of Masonry to be silent, as we well may do in the presence of a Reality so great that all men are one in their littleness, as they should be in their faith and charity. Our Craft does not drive like a despot; it leads like a lover - trusting a Truth which is to faith what beauty is to art, what melody is to music.

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Last modified: March 22, 2014