"A Closer Look" then makes a strange charge:
"A Bridge to Light teaches that God is a God of love who should not be
feared. 'I put my trust in God, is the protest of Masonry against the belief in
a cruel, angry, and revengeful God, to be feared and not reverenced by His
creatures.'" [The inner quotation is taken from Morals and Dogma by Do.
Gordon.] It is rather unusual to be accused of teaching that one should love
God. But the writer of "A Closer Look" then lists Biblical quotations to prove
that God should be feared.
He is missing the point. Pike and Hutchens were simply trying to corect an
error which has crept into thinking because our language has changed. The Oxford
English Dictionary tells us that, at the time the King James Translation of the
Bible was made, a primary meaning of the word "fear" was "to hold in awe and
respect." Over time, "fear" has developed the primary meaning it has now -- "be
terrified of." Pike was simply saying that God is a God of love, you need not be
terrified of Him. Hold him in awe and respect certainly, but do not assume that
He is a malignant being who is looking for a chance to do you harm.
The next point gets a little abstract, and I apologize for dragging the
reader through it, but it is important. According to the writer of "A Closer
Look," A Bridge to Light claims that Christianity accepts the principle
of dualism as taught by Zoroaster (page 311). But, that's not what A Bridge
to Light says.
Dualism is a doctrine which says that both a good and an evil force exist in
the universe. Dualism, as taught by Zoroaster, involved two essentially
equal gods, one good and one evil, who contested for control of the universe.
Dualism, as it appears in many Christian denominations, teaches that
there are two forces, but that they are not equal. The good force is God, who is
omnipotent. The evil force is Satan, who is not omnipotent. Dr. Hutchens is
referencing Pike, who observed (as have many Christian theologians) that
Zoroaster seems to have originated the idea of dualism, and the idea has found
echoes in many Western religions, including Christianity.(1a) Dr.
Hutchens was not suggesting, as "A Closer Look" implies, that Christianity
believes in a good God and an evil God.
Again, I wish the writer had taken a closer look at page 218 of A Bridge
to Light. He says the Scottish Rite teaches that man cannot have a knowledge
of God. Had he read more carefully, he would have realized that the book says
the Koran teaches that man's limited intellect cannot form a true conception of
what God is like. That's hardly a surprising statement. The book also says that
when we start describing God, we limit our idea of Him because words are
limited. So we should remember that when we try to describe God, there is a
danger that we will overlook part of His greatness. Again, that's obviously
true. It's just another version of "For now we see through a glass,
The writer then distorts the references to the Trinity so badly that it is
truly offensive. What A Bridge to Light actually says is that many
religions have conceived of God as triune (three-part) in nature. That is
clearly true, as the example given in A Bridge to Light make obvious. But
the writer of "A Closer Look" then suggests that masonry teaches that these
trinities believed in by ancient religions are the same as the Holy Trinity of
Christianity. Nowwhere in Morals and Dogma, A Bridge to Light,
or any other Masonic writing of which I am aware is such a claim made! Dr.
Gordon's reasoning is the same as saying that because a watch has a face and
hands and a human being has a face and hands, a watch and a human being are the
I would also ask the writer to take a closer look at the concept of a
Messiah. He claims that the Scottish Rite teaches that Jesus was not unique. The
passage he cites doesn't say that. It says that many religions in the ancient
world taught that a Messiah would come. Again, that is provably true. But to say
that the Greeks taught that Dionysius was a messiah-figure, or that the Hindus
taught that Krishna was a messiah-figure is to make a statement about the
teachings of those religions -- not to make a statement about Jesus of Nazareth.
The same sort of misunderstanding is responsible for the assertion in "A
Closer Look" that the Scottish Rite confuses pagan deities with the one True
God. It does not. It describes ancient religions as part of an intellectual
study. It tells us what people have believed in the past. It does nothing more.
I really wish that the writer of "A Closer Look" had given more depth to his
reading before he wrote "Scottish Rite Uses the Occult as a Source of Religious
Truth." He cites some instances, including the suggestion that we teach
astrology, and then devotes quite a bit of space to showing Biblical quotations
that Christianity disapproves of divination by astrology.
The point he missed is that the Scottish Rite disapproves of it, too. As any
Scottish Rite Mason knows, nowhere in the Rite are you taught how to be an
astrologer. The Scottish Rite does teach about astrology by divination, however.
And what does Pike say about astrology? He refers to it as "pretended
Pike states the study of the heavens was originally a useful means of telling
the seasons so that men knew when to plant and when to harvest. This use then
expanded to the heavens as a source of inspiration as men and women marveled at
the Creator of such perfect order. Finally, astrology deteriorated in the hands
of unscrupulous men to nothing more than spurious fortune-telling.(3)
There is more. It really is not worth the space to answer each of the
charges. They result from either a misreading or a misunderstanding of the
material in A Bridge to Light -- and, of course, from a starting position
that all Christianity must conform to the writer's own denominational doctrines.
It is worthwhile, however, to look at the comments of "A Closer Look" on the
31º, because it is clearly a case of misunderstanding the purposes of the
Masonic Degrees, and it is possible that a better understanding may help the
writer of the leaflet comprehend that here is nothing to cause concern.
He points out that the Degree is set in the Egyptian afterlife and that the
candidate is required to swear things in the name of the Egyptian gods. He finds
But there are a few things to be remembered and understood.
First of all, the 31º, like all Degrees, is a play. It has a plot and
characters like any other play. The candidate is playing the part of a
character, like everyone in the cast. In his case, he is playing the rôle of an
ancient Egyptian who has died and entered into the after life as conceived by
his people. It is a play just as Macbeth is a play, and the actor playing the
dead Egyptian is no more engaging in an act of worship of the ancient gods than
the actor playing Macbeth is really plotting political assassination.
The 31º is the next-to-last Degree in the basic Degrees of the Scottish Rite.
Pike wanted to make the point that the Mason should constantly examine his
actions and motives, holding himself to the highest standards of honor and
ethics. He wanted a story line which represented the ultimate judgement, when
nothing is hidden. He was far too devout a Christian to use a play based on the
Last Judgement as seen by Christianity -- he would have considered that
But there is another religion, now dead, which contain such a scene, and that
is the religion of ancient Egypt. There are not practitioners of that religion
left, and so Pike could draw on an old Degree, without fear of giving offense to
a member of that faith. He did. But he did something more wonderful and subtle,
and it a good example of the way the Rite teaches.
The Egyptian Book of the Dead contains a sequence usually called the
"negative confession." The soul of the departed asserts that he has never moved
the landmarks, he has never cheated in trade, he has never broken the law, etc.
Pike uses that, but then tells the character played by the candidate that that
is not enough. It is not enough to have avoided evil, one must have done good.
It is not enough to have not wronged people, one must have helped them.
Pike is saying that productive living involves being active, helping, making
a difference in the world. That's the message. One should no more get upset over
the fact that the drama of the 31º is set in ancient Egypt than that the opera
Aida is. In both cases, it's just a setting which helps to tell a
dramatic and important story.
And there is one more assertion which should be given attention, if only
because it is so wrong and so often made. The writer of "A Closer Look" says
"A Bridge to Light Teaches a Works Salvation." To prove this claim, he
says that page 142 "claims that immortality is won by suffering and sorrow." It
doesn't . The quotation says that the rose on the cross is a symbol of
immortality won by suffering and sorrow. It is, for the Christian, clearly a
reference to Christ who won redemption for His followers by His suffering and
sorrow -- hardly a strange concept.
He says that page 165 "informs the reader that 'a man's actions are a bridge
to his own immortality and to the future of mankind.'" But the passage begins,
"Will you obey God's law, trust in His goodness and be patient though the
appointed time may seem to draw no nearer during your life, nor your labors and
exertions produce any fruit?...each man must act as abridge builder to the
future, being a good example to his children, peers and brethren. A man's
actions are a bridge to his own immortality and to the future of mankind."
Certainly, in most Christian doctrine, a man's actions are a bridge to his
own immortality, since it is action to accept Christ. And many Christian
denominations teach that one can, by one's actions, destroy one's hope of
salvation even after the person has made a profession of faith.
There are other examples, but the point remains the same. Masonry does not
teach a "works salvation." It teaches, over and over again, that it is important
to do good in the world because we have a duty to make the lives of others
better, not because it is some way of "earning" salvation.
The writer of "A Closer Look" says, in his conclusion, that many of the
religious teachings of the Scottish Rite are incompatible with Biblical
Christianity. But he has confused "religious teachings" with "teaching about
religions." We do not offer religious teachings; we do offer information about
religions. The difference between "religious teachings" and "teachings about
religions" is like the difference between teaching medicine and teaching about
Any college survey on social history or economics may well contain a section
which teaches about medicine as it relates to the subject matter of the course,
but that would hardly make one into a doctor. Again we would ask Dr. Gordon to
please look a little closer, look without preconceptions and prejudices. He will
see there is nothing to criticize, and even less to fear.