This article will be my fifth submission on the topic of Postmodernism and its negative effects on the Craft. Here is a list of the other four:
- Jan 1, 2016: Postmodernism And Its Devastating Effect On Freemasonry
- Feb 1, 2016: Characteristics of a Postmodern Freemason
- March 1, 2016: Spiritual Anarchy and Freemasonry
- April 1, 2016:Why Does Freemasonry Conceal Its Secrets From Even Its Own Members?
I am often puzzled by the statement that Freemasonry is not a religion; for you see, I have read countless accounts where some of our greatest authors claimed otherwise. But before I delve into specifics, let’s first define what religion means; I say this only because most people don’t even understand how the word is defined. Here is a great definition for the word:
Religion (from O.Fr. religion ‘religious community,’ from L. religionem (nom. religio) ‘respect for what is sacred, reverence for the gods,’ ‘obligation, the bond between man and the gods’ is derived from the Latin religiō, the ultimate origins of which are obscure… Religion is a cultural system of behaviors and practices, mythologies, world views, sacred texts, holy places, ethics, and societal organisation that relate humanity to what an anthropologist has called ‘an order of existence’… Religions have sacred histories and narratives, which may be preserved in sacred scriptures, and symbols and holy places, that aim to explain the meaning of life, the origin of life, or the Universe.
I know, some readers of this post will immediately dismiss this definition. You see, our cultural conditioning has predetermined our path of thinking, “Within Postmodernism, we are taught to dismiss any teaching of religion; that religion has no place in a secular society.” However, let’s breakdown the above definition before specifically discussing its effect on Freemasonry.
So what is religion? Well from the above definition, the origin of the word religion is a “respect for what is sacred, reverence for God.” The word sacred can be defined as “devoted or dedicated to a deity;” and God can be defined as “the one Supreme Being, the creator and ruler of the universe.” Therefore, when we are discussing the word religion, we are talking about something that is of the sacredness of God, not a body or an institutional organization per say. Yes, such beliefs have morphed themselves into beliefs systems that have become known as religious organizations; but that does not negate its original meaning, which is nothing but a “reverence for God.”
Therefore, when Albert Pike mentioned the word religion, was he talking about religion in the original sense, the contemporary sense, or something in between? To answer this question, let us take a closer look at his profound words from Chapter VIII of Morals and Dogma (1871), pages 212-214; I interjected my interpreted comments between each paragraph to better relate Pike’s meaning:
For there is a religion of toil. It is not all drudgery, a mere stretching of the limbs and straining of the sinews to tasks. It has a meaning and an intent. A living heart pours life-blood into the toiling arm; and warm affections inspire and mingle with man’s labors. They are the home affections. Labor toils a field, or plies its task in cities, or urges the keels of commerce over wide oceans; but home is its centre; and thither it ever goes with its earnings, with the means of support and comfort for others; offerings sacred to the thought of every true man, as a sacrifice at a golden shrine. Many faults there are amidst the toils of life; many harsh and hasty words are uttered; but still the toils go on, weary and hard and exasperating as they often are. For in that home is age or sickness, or helpless infancy, or gentle childhood, or feeble woman, that must not want. If man had no other than mere selfish impulses, the scene of labor which we behold around us would not exist.
Comment: Here we see Pike discussing the toil of religion, or the work/study of religion. I must emphasis that Pike never mentioned any specific religious organization, which means he meant something else, like perhaps the benefits a man might receive from the study of religion.
The advocate who fairly and honestly presents his case, with a feeling of true self-respect, honor, and conscience, to help the tribunal on towards the right conclusion, with a conviction that God’s justice reigns there, is acting a religious part, leading that day a religious life; or else right and justice are no part of religion. Whether, during all that day, he has once appealed, in form or in terms, to his conscience, or not; whether he has once spoken of religion and God, or not; if there has been the inward purpose, the conscious intent and desire, that sacred justice should triumph, he has that day led a good and religious life, and made a most essential contribution to that religion of life and of society, the cause of equity between man and man, and of truth and right action in the world.
Comment: Pike now mentions an advocate who is making his case; as opposed to a particular doctrine, which comes from religious bodies and organizations. And that the advocate would begin to act according to the belief he spoke of, which would change his life and society.
Books, to be of religious tendency in the Masonic sense, need not be books of sermons, of pious exercises, or of prayers. Whatever inculcates pure, noble, and patriotic sentiments, or touches the heart with the beauty of virtue, and the excellence of an up-right life, accords with the religion of Masonry, and is the Gospel of literature and art. That Gospel is preached from many a book and painting, from many a poem and fiction, and review and newspaper; and it is a painful error and miserable narrowness, not to recognize these wide-spread agencies of Heaven’s providing; not to see and welcome these many-handed coadjutors, to the great and good cause. The oracles of God do not speak from the pulpit alone.
Comment: Now we read Pike making a distinction between Masonry and central religious tenancies, i.e. Churches. That Masonry’s religion should not be based on sermons, prayers or pious exercises; rather, our religion is based on the “beauty of virtue” and an “up-right life.”
There is also a religion of society. In business, there is much more than sale, exchange, price, payment; for there is the sacred faith of man in man. When we repose perfect confidence in the integrity of another; when we feel that he will not swerve from the right, frank, straightforward, conscientious course, for any temptation; his integrity and conscientiousness are the image of God to us; and when we believe in it, it is as great and generous an act, as when we believe in the rectitude of the Deity.
Comment: Now he writes that there is a religion of society; that our own daily actions in business and life are based on God, i.e. Religion. Again, Pike is not talking about an organizational body.
In gay assemblies for amusement, the good affections of life gush and mingle. If they did not, these gathering places would be as dreary and repulsive as the caves and dens of outlaws and robbers. When friends meet, and hands are warmly pressed, and the eye kindles and the countenance is suffused with gladness, there is a religion between their hearts; and each loves and worships the True and Good that is in the other. It is not policy, or self-interest, or selfishness that spreads such a charm around that meeting, but the halo of bright and beautiful affection.
Comment: “When friends meet… there is a religion” that exist between them; that there is love and goodness, and a worship, which links one to another. Again, there is no mention of an organizational body, just people loving the company of another – this is a religion.
The same splendor of kindly liking, and affectionate regard, shines like the soft overarching sky, over all the world; over all places where men meet, and walk or toil together; not over lovers’ bowers and marriage altars alone, not over the homes of purity and tenderness alone; but over all tilled fields, and busy workshops, and dusty highways, and paved streets. There is not a worn stone upon the sidewalks, but has been the altar of such offerings of mutual kindness; nor a wooden pillar or iron railing against which hearts beating with affection have not leaned. How many soever other elements there are in the stream of life flowing through these channels, that is surely here and everywhere; honest, heartfelt, disinterested, inexpressible affection.
Comment: Pike wrote that this “same splendor” is in the world; wherever people meet, work and toil together there is religion.
Every Masonic Lodge is a temple of religion; and its teachings are instruction in religion. For here are inculcated disinterestedness, affection, toleration, devotedness, patriotism, truth, a generous sympathy with those who suffer and mourn, pity for the fallen, mercy for the erring, relief for those in want, Faith, Hope, and .Charity. Here we meet as brethren, to learn to know and love each other. Here we greet each other gladly, are lenient to each other’s faults, regardful of each other’s feelings, ready to relieve each other’s wants. This is the true religion revealed to the ancient patriarchs; which Masonry has taught for many centuries, and which it will continue to teach as long as time endures. If unworthy passions, or selfish, bitter, or revengeful feelings, contempt, dislike, hatred, enter here, they are intruders and not welcome, strangers uninvited, and not guests ( Albert Pike, Morals and Dogma, 1871, p. 212).
Comment: And now the finale, therefore, “every Masonic Lodge is a temple of religion, and its teachings are instruction in religion.” You see, Masonry “is the true religion,” which had been “revealed to the ancient patriarchs.” And it will continue to “teach as long as time endures.”
I know, I know, you might be saying again that Masonry is not a religion, and in this sense I agree – Masonry is not a religion in the contemporary sense. No, Masonry is a religion in the ancient sense. Nevertheless, it is still a religion. It does not matter that contemporary religions have altered its usage and made a mockery of the word, the word religion still retains its original meaning if one only wants to take the time to study it meaning!
Pike also commented that Masonry had always “religiously preserved that enlightened faith;” that it has always been because of “religion and philosophy,” and that many of the religions of the past “enfeebled the religious spirit:”
Masonry has in all times religiously preserved that enlightened faith from which flow sublime Devotedness, the sentiment of Fraternity fruitful of good works, the spirit of indulgence and peace, of sweet hopes and effectual consolations; and inflexibility in the accomplishment of the most painful and arduous duties. It has always propagated it with ardor and perseverance; and therefore it labors at the present day more zealously than ever. Scarcely a Masonic discourse is pronounced, that does not demonstrate the necessity and advantages of this faith, and especially recall the two constitutive principles of religion, that make all religion,–love of God, and love of neighbor. Masons carry these principles into the bosoms of their families and of society. While the Sectarians of former times enfeebled the religious spirit, Masonry, forming one great People over the whole globe, and march under the great banner of Charity and Benevolence, preserves feeling, strengthens it, extends it in its purity and simplicity, as it has always existed in the depths of the human heart, as it existed even under the dominion of the most ancient forms of worship, but where gross and debasing superstitions forbade its recognition.
A Masonic Lodge should resemble a bee-hive, in which all the members work together with ardor for the common good. Masonry is not made for cold souls and narrow minds, that do not comprehend its lofty mission and sublime apostolate. Here the anathema against lukewarm souls applies. To comfort misfortune, to popularize knowledge, to teach whatever is true and pure in religion and philosophy, to accustom men to respect order and the proprieties of life, to point out the way to genuine happiness, to prepare for that fortunate period, when all the factions of the Human Family, united by the bonds of Toleration and Fraternity, shall be but one household,–these are labors that may well excite zeal and even enthusiasm (Albert Pike, Morals and Dogma, 1871, p. 137).
Yes, many people still think religion and philosophy are separate; however, they are in fact not. In truth, the basis of religion is philosophy, something Masonry has maintained:
Nevertheless, Masonry, which is Morality and Philosophy, must not cease to do its duty. We never know at what moment success awaits our efforts–generally when most unexpected–nor with what effect our efforts are or are not to be attended. Succeed or fail, Masonry must not bow to error, or succumb under discouragement. There were at Rome a few Carthaginian soldiers, taken prisoners, who refused to bow to Flaminius, and had a little of Hannibal’s magnanimity. Masons should possess an equal greatness of soul. Masonry should be an energy; finding its aim and effect in the amelioration of mankind. Socrates should enter into Adam, and produce Marcus Aurelius, in other words, bring forth from the man of enjoyments, the man of wisdom. Masonry should not be a mere watch-tower, built upon mystery, from which to gaze at ease upon the world, with no other result than to be a convenience for the curious. To hold the full cup of thought to the thirsty lips of men; to give to all the true ideas of Deity; to harmonize conscience and science, are the province of Philosophy. Morality is Faith in full bloom. Contemplation should lead to action, and the absolute be practical; the ideal be made air and food and drink to the human mind. Wisdom is a sacred communion. It is only on that condition that it ceases to be a sterile love of Science, and becomes the one and supreme method by which to unite Humanity and arouse it to concerted action. Then Philosophy becomes Religion ( Albert Pike, Morals and Dogma, 1871, p. 20).
I realize this information is perhaps new to many readers of this blog; nevertheless, it must be revealed to you now, during this critical juncture in Masonic history. Like so many things, Pike actually warned the Craft back in 1871 that this day would come; that we would divide the Craft based on these two areas, Religion and Philosophy:
We may be sure that so soon as Religion and Philosophy become distinct departments, the mental activity of the age is in advance of its Faith; and that, though habit may sustain the latter for a time, its vitality is gone (Albert Pike, Morals and Dogma, 1871, p. 731).
Again, Pike warned that Religion and Philosophy would become distinctly separate. We can see it every time a member of the Craft states that we are not a religion, when in fact, in a historical sense, we are.
You see, this is all apart of the subject I have been writing about since January – YES, the pesky topic of Postmodernism. Feel free to link to other articles for further information on the topic; which has been linked above for your convenience. In short, Postmodernism has been a failed experiment. As hard as contemporary scholars have tried to separate society from seeking Divinity, it has not worked. Of course it worked for the people who always succumb to the whims of the moment; but for those who are seeking a higher calling than immediate social gratification, Postmodernism has only been a temporary obstacle to true Enlightenment.
In conclusion, in your authors humble option, Indeed, Masonry is the original primitive religion; however, it is not a religion in the contemporary sense, let’s make a distinction. Pike wrote the “Masonry is not a religion…” and yet he wrote that “Every Masonic Lodge is a temple of religion” above:
But Masonry teaches, and has preserved in their purity, the cardinal tenets of the old primitive faith, which underlie and are the foundation of all religions. All that ever existed have had a basis of truth; and all have overlaid that truth with errors. The primitive truths taught by the Redeemer were sooner corrupted, and intermingled and alloyed with fictions than when taught to the first of our race. Masonry is the universal morality which is suitable to the inhabitants of every clime, to the man of every creed. It has taught no doctrines, except those truths that tend directly to the well-being of man; and those who have attempted to direct it toward useless vengeance, political ends, and Jesuitism, have merely perverted it to purposes foreign to its pure spirit and real nature (Albert Pike, Morals and Dogma, 1871, p. 161).
You see, despite the fact that Freemasonry is not a contemporary religion, we are still obligated, as Masons, to seek Divinity and Masonic religion in our own way; therefore, never let any Postmodern thinking tell you otherwise!
So Mote It Be!!!