Leadership and Religious Literacy in Freemasonry

Discussion in 'Masonic Blogs' started by My Freemasonry, Feb 10, 2016.

  1. [​IMG]
    Brother Paul J. Rich is a Freemason who lives in Boston. Over the years, I have read several of his Masonic research papers, and back in 2009 I was lucky enough to hear him speak in person at the International Conference on the History of Freemasonry, where he delivered a paper about the dubious history of a Masonic apron that purportedly belonged to Robert Burns. That was a dangerous thing to do deep in the heart of Scotland - even more so, he did it in the main hall of the Grand Lodge of Scotland!

    Today, he is the president of the Policy Studies Organization in Washington, D.C. Brother Rich has a fascinating history. He is very well traveled and experienced, and he is an academic gentleman and Brother for whom I have the very deepest regard.

    Paul just weighed in briefly on the discussion about the recent actions against gay Freemasons in Tennessee (and Georgia). I feel that it is a comment that should be more widely shared with all modern Masons today, and not just buried in the depths of an online discussion.

    He writes:

    Part of the crisis in the lodges over gay marriage is because of a change in the background of Masonic leadership, which has become less culturally literate at a time when the country is becoming more educated. An elite in grand lodges to an extent has become increasingly blue collar and lower middle class. Religions being to an extent a reflection of social class, the religious composition of some jurisdictions has changed.
    The result includes the loss of Masonic cultural literacy, which means unawareness of the importance of the jettisoning of Christianity from the Craft in the early eighteenth century (and perhaps hints of that even before in the time of Christopher Wren and the Royal Society). Anderson and his cohorts in London embraced this change, and the lodges dropped Trinitarianism, providing forums that attracted men like Benjamin Franklin because of their freedom from orthodox religion.
    Now with the increasing exit of educated members, there is a trend in some Masonic jurisdictions to move away from secularism and embrace a religiosity evidenced in the organist playing hymns and the prayers invoking an anthropomorphism rather than the Supreme Architect that the Enlightenment embraced. With that comes a Biblical literalism and its accompanying morality that should be left along with other theology outside the lodge room. The genius of Masonry was its insistence on providing a nondogmatic place of fellowship, so unusual at the time.
    The separation of church and state in America has something to do with the contribution made by Masonic secularism. Andrew Jackson, Grand Master of Tennessee, found himself roundly criticized for refusing to declare a national day of prayer. He replied that he would be,

    "...transcending the limits prescribed by the Constitution for the President and without feeling that I might in some degree disturb the security which religion nowadays enjoys in this country in its complete separation from the political concerns of the General Government." -- letter to the Synod of the Reformed Church of North America, 12 June 1832, explaining the request that he proclaim a "day of fasting, humiliation, and prayer."
    He understood the importance of demarcation.
    By all means people should have their views on marriage, but to impose in Freemasonry their religious beliefs on others stands against a centuries-old and successful openness that had much to do with the success of the movement.

    Continue reading...
     
    Classical likes this.
  2. JamestheJust

    JamestheJust Registered User

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    We have come a long way since the brethren of the late 17th century who were the leaders of scientific and philosophic investigation.

    In these times it is rare to find a brother who pursues Masonic Science.
     
  3. dfreybur

    dfreybur Premium Member

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    And certainly not all of it good. Lodge was always supposed to be a sanctuary away from the nonsense of fundies battling everyone they could point at. Not so in this decade where we have jurisdictions that had to vote down an edict banning specific religions, jurisdictions that failed to vote down bringing church law into lodge, jurisdictions ejecting PGMs over affiliating with lodges across race lines.
     
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  4. Bloke

    Bloke Premium Member

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    For non-masonic readers, "the importance of the jettisoning of Christianity from the Craft " in England in the 1700's does not mean Freemasonry is anti-Christian. The writer refers to the fact that Christian elements (words and possibly symbols) were removed from the ceremonies - and rightly so, Freemasonry is a Fraternity. It is not a Religion nor is it a religious sect. Our meetings are not religious services. Removing these elements made Freemasonry more inclusive as a much more open Fraternity to men of different faiths. It removed religious elements and made the fraternity more universal. It ensured it was not a Christian Fraternity like Knights of the Southern Cross or Knights of Columbus. Such groups do exist, but Ancient Free and Accepted Masonry is not one of them,
     
  5. JamestheJust

    JamestheJust Registered User

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    What if the Jewish elements were removed? That would probably make the rituals more acceptable to Eastern cultures.
     
  6. pointwithinacircle2

    pointwithinacircle2 Rapscallion Premium Member

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    It is my opinion certain truths about deity are the basis from which all religions developed. Please allow me to offer one example.

    One effect of a belief in deity is that the believer is called upon to recognize that human intelligence is not the supreme force in the universe. This is true no matter what religion one follows. Each religion expresses this truth in it's own words and in it's own symbols.

    Communication is accomplished through the use of symbols. In order for communication to occur both parties must attach the same meaning to the symbols which are being used. If you wish to communicate to me about deity it is appropriate to use Christian symbols because those are the ones whose meaning I most capable of understanding.

    By using Christian symbols I am not asserting that it is the "best religion" or the "only true religion", only that I understand it the best. In fact, I am able to accept the Christian symbol of the cross even though scholars and historians tell us that the cross as a symbol of deity predates Christ by at least 2500 years.
     
    Last edited: Mar 2, 2016
  7. dfreybur

    dfreybur Premium Member

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    Acceptance is not symmetrical. Eastern faiths have no problem accepting stories and histories from other faiths. Not an issue.
     
  8. Bloke

    Bloke Premium Member

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    I agree with dfreybur's thinking. While I understand some folk might believe rubbish like the Protocols of Zion or leaders such as Hitler and think Freemasonry is some sort of Jewish Conspiracy, in removing Christian elements, it made the Craft more universal AND removed strong religious overtones specific to Christianity.. "Jewish" elements in the Craft are simply that; the story of King Solomon's Temple emerged from Jewish history and were elaborated on by Freemasons. "Jewish" elements in Craft ritual are not religious - they are 'historic" and just as I admire a great leader like Salidin - that does not make me Muslim, just like being in the Shrine does not make me a Muslim, or admiring men like Ghandi make me Hindu or Lao Tzu make me Daoist if I participated in a play about there deeds or thoughts.... . If an "Eastern" culture cannot tolerate the "Jewish elements" then they are probably not tolerant enough to be Freemasons and should not be admitted.
     
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  9. JamestheJust

    JamestheJust Registered User

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    That is an interesting test for a prospective candidate: Are you sufficiently tolerant to cope with the Jewish texts, stories and words throughout Masonry?
     
  10. Bloke

    Bloke Premium Member

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    I assume the question is rhetorical ...
     
  11. JamestheJust

    JamestheJust Registered User

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    I have long wondered how a Jewish-based ritual can be thought to be universal.
     
  12. Bloke

    Bloke Premium Member

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    It's a bit like Chinese noodles, just because they are used in spaghetti does not make spaghetti Chinese. Likewise the Craft's story is not "Jewish" - it's masonic ..
     
  13. JamestheJust

    JamestheJust Registered User

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    Perhaps it is more accurate to say that Masonry in its current form uses Jewish traditions as a basis for its mythology.

    I suggest it is now time for a non-ethnic non-religious mythology for Masonry.

    Consider the reasons given for our temples being on sacred ground. Personally I would be embarrassed to argue any of them in public.
     
  14. Bloke

    Bloke Premium Member

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    Many pagan sites in Ireland became occupied by Catholic Churches. In occupying the real estate once occupied by Pagans, does that make it a Pagan site or a Catholic site ? Likewise, some Catholic Churches in England (and other European States) were once Catholic and then became Protestant. Does that make those Protestant Churches Catholic ? I see the Masonic Ritual the same way, the Freemasons simply adopted an earlier history and made it Masonic...

    At the end of the day, Freemasonry is just one of several paradigms to look at several things ; morality, the self, our relationships and philosophy and (for some) the esoteric. We don't need a "non-ethnic non-religious mythology' to do that, we just need to think and reflect. And I can see how some folk might have tensions on that, but I don't. The whole thing is symbolic and speculative not literal..
     
  15. pointwithinacircle2

    pointwithinacircle2 Rapscallion Premium Member

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    Surely only a truly secret society could survive with such a structure. In fact for a truly closed society such a structure would be the ideal. But since Freemasonry is neither a secret nor a closed society it is necessary to to use a mythology that deflects the fear of the uninitiated. If Freemasonry once had such a structure it has surely been hidden behind the veil of religion.
     
  16. JamestheJust

    JamestheJust Registered User

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    With the demise of the Holy Inquisition we might be ready to do away with the veil of religion.

    I would not like Masonry to be caught up in the general decline of traditional religions in Western countries.
    http://www.spectator.co.uk/2015/06/2067-the-end-of-british-christianity/
     
  17. pointwithinacircle2

    pointwithinacircle2 Rapscallion Premium Member

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    Religion is an easy balm to those who suffer from fear, ignorance, or superstition. It will, in my rather pessimistic view, always be possible to find frightened, confused human beings who will quickly cling to any mythology that offers them a proposed escape from their inner turmoil.
    Perhaps religion in like the tides, they ebb and flow, but never disappear.
     
  18. JamestheJust

    JamestheJust Registered User

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    Still I find it hard to make a case that a Freemasonry that aspires to be universal should appear in the garments of culturally-specific religions.
     
  19. Bloke

    Bloke Premium Member

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    Respectfully, that's not very respectful of my faith. :) I would admonish you but I did something parallel recently in a thread.

    If you're tolerant of others beliefs ( or simply able to ignore them), i find freemasonry a much easier path to tread than if i'm reacting negatively to others views..
     
  20. Bloke

    Bloke Premium Member

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    Yet, Muslim and Hindu and Buddhist etc still become and stay Freemasons...
     
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