By a blog reader

As we have seen in the previous article, Regular Freemasonry is not a religion – yet its prime requirement for membership is belief in a Supreme Being.

Why would an organization that does not claim to be a religion then require a belief in Deity as its primary requirement? The answer to that is partly a matter of tradition and partly philosophical. Let us deal with the philosophical first and deal with the tradition subsequently.

A belief in Deity means that a person believes in an external morality, which in turn means that morality comes from a higher authority and it is not subject to humanity’s whims. In turn, this means that truths are both objective and absolute and not relativist – indeed abstract yet fundamental concepts such as Truth, Justice, Beauty, and Love lose all relevance to the theist unless they are grounded in an absolute and external morality. It means that humans are “endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights” which no state, no matter how totalitarian can ever take away. The belief in Deity therefore also means that man is not the arbiter of all things and that reason is simply only another tool by which humanity can come to know its Creator through His works, and that if human reason and its creations such as science are uncoupled from the moral constraints set by Revelation they become ultimately destructive idols. A belief in Deity means that man has a fixed nature and is not as the materialists claim a tabula rasa or a social construct that can be forged into some utopian being by simply being given the ‘right’ education and societal conditions.

Indeed a belief in Deity ultimately means and this is most relevant to Freemasonry, that people of faith are more likely to find a common ground than a person of faith can ever do with a person without it. This means that people who CS Lewis describes as adhering to the Tao, despite all the sectarian and historical problems that divide them are more likely to bridge their differences and to consider themselves as being part of the “brotherhood of man under the fatherhood of God” since ultimately they all subscribe to the same worldview. In a nutshell, a believing Christian, Muslim, or Jew have more in common than they can all ever have with a materialistic atheist.

The Lord’s prayer starts with the words “Our Father” – and not my Father for a reason. It means that the Father can hardly be content if the children kill each other in His own name because of differences in human interpretation of His true nature. This as we have seen was a skandalon (any impediment placed in the way and causing one to stumble or fall) that Freemasonry had to surmount in the aftermath of the Reformation and it did so by sticking strictly to the Father as the the Great Architect of the Universe on which all denominations (indeed even other monotheistic traditions such as Judaism and Islam) agreed rather than the Son – the nature of who caused so much division.

This does not mean that the original Freemasons did not believe in the Son, and that most Freemasons today don’t  – far from it, for as we shall see once again once we delve into the detail, Freemasonry as a philosophy and ethical system always acknowledged the Son – it simply acknowledged that there was a universal agreement between diverse people on the nature of the Father and not as much on that of the Son.  

In order to bridge the differences between people of Faith, Freemasonry, seeking to build bridges between people, rather than destroy them focused on the Father – and left it at that (something which brought upon it much criticism not least from fundamental and Orthodox Christian Churches for it not being explicitly Christian) – a criticism which is in my view duplicitous given that speculative Freemasonry was born at a time when Christians were massacring each other on theological differences.  

As Freemasonry spread with the growth of the empire, it increasingly came across people of very different faiths – From Hinduism in India to naturalistic religions in the North American plains and this led to great internal discussion. What did it mean to be a Child of God? What did it mean to be a brother? What did it mean to be Freeborn? Interestingly we have a record of such a discussion in a Maltese lodge in the nineteenth century of which perhaps one day I will have the opportunity to publish. At the end of the day, Freemasonry, seeking the brotherhood of man took the decision that as long as a person believed in a Deity, in an absolute Truth – there existed hope. As Freemason and author Christopher Haffner explained in his work Workman Unashamed:

Now imagine me standing in lodge with my head bowed in prayer between Brother Mohammed Bokhary and Brother Arjun Melwani. To neither of them is the Great Architect of the Universe perceived as the Holy Trinity. To Brother Bokhary He has been revealed as Allah; to Brother Melwani He is probably perceived as Vishnu. Since I believe that there is only one God, I am confronted with three possibilities:

They are praying to the Devil whilst I am praying to God;

They are praying to nothing, as their Gods do not exist;

They are praying to the same God as I, yet their understanding of His nature is partly incomplete (as indeed is mine — 1 Cor 13:12)

It is without hesitation that I accept the third possibility..

Freemasonry’s appellation to the Father as The Great Architect of the Universe – brought about another accusation, namely that Freemasonry was some kind of Deistic cult. But this is simply nonsense.

As I have said before, to understand Freemasonry you have to have a good knowledge of medieval guilds – and now I will add a further prerequisite – that of having a good knowledge of Christian symbology.

God as Architect or Geometrician from a Medieval Christian Bible

The Term Great Architect of the Universe – or as also as the Grand Geometrician has its roots deeply in the Catholic Medieval ages. Medieval guilds all proclaimed a patron saint and that saint was inevitably brought in to justify both the guild’s existence and raison d’etre. All of them, be they Brewers or Taylors scoured the scriptures and Christian hagiography and sought stories from the Bible and tradition to enmesh in their elaborate rituals as justification for their own existence.

Well, the Stonemasons could go one better – unlike the brewers and the taylors – they could appeal to God Himself as their patron. God as a Geometrician or architect was not a new concept,  for God as the architect of the Universe was not only prevalent in Catholic breviaries but also in the depiction of Him being as such in Christian Bibles of the time. Indeed, none other than St Thomas Aquinas in his Summa Theologica described God as: “God, Who is the first principle of all things, may be compared to things created ‘as the architect is to things designed‘ (ut artifex ad artificiata).”

Even after the Reformation, John Calvin repeatedly in his Institutes of the Christian Religion (1536), calls the Christian God “the Architect of the Universe”, also referring to his works as “Architecture of the Universe”, and in his commentary on Psalm 19 refers to the Christian God as the “Great Architect” or “Architect of the Universe”.

James Anderson who wrote the first Constitution of the Freemasons was a Calvinist.

Catholics and Protestants could thus agree on something – that God, if nothing else was indeed a Grand Architect – that God was a Rational Omnipotence who not only created the world in such a manner that was Good – but that He was the ultimate Geometrician and  Artificer – and that He governed his creation by immutable and uncontradictory secondary causes and laws – which humans being themselves created in His own image, could through right reason learn to know something of His nature, much like a reader gets to know something about the nature of an author by reading his books.

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