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Sunday, August 15, 2010

Masonry From The Historical Perspective

Masonry From The Historical Perspective Cover In the time since most of the above-cited works were written, we as a secular, Western society have moved beyond the name-calling and prejudices that plagued our forefathers. Indeed, the forbearers of our Craft did not always require religion in their ritual. Prior to the establishment of modern Freemasonry, when our predecessors still hewed stone and built magnificent cathedrals, religion may not have always played a part in meetings.

There is no denying that Masons as early as c.1430 were required to be Christian. Surviving fifteenth century records indicate that there were religious overtones in Masonry this early as c.1430, when the document now known as the Regius MS was written (Waite, p. 3-4). And though there was a requirement that Masons at this time “lift up their hearts to Christ” (Waite, p. 4), it was not until three centuries later that there was an absolute requirement that Christianity had to be professed (Coil, p. 515). Early on, therefore, it was certainly preferred that members of the Craft be Christian and God-fearing.

From a historical standpoint, however, how much was the Christian requirement simply based on the power and control exercised by the Church during the late Middle Ages? Given the nature of European feudal society, especially on the British Isles and in France, Church officials held most power in most places, and they held in their hands the “only” way to worship. In the Regius MS, Masons were required to “assist at Holy Mass with becoming reverence.” Since the primary buildings constructed by stone masons at the time were cathedrals, or places of Christian worship, there was likely some degree of religious oversight of the process by a Church official. Though they may not have been given the operative secrets of the guild (therefore making the Catholic Church distrust the Masons as an organization in later centuries), it is not an unreasonable assumption that the edicts requiring Christian faith may have come—either directly or indirectly—from the clergy.

Indeed, in the era of the Masonic Guild, it is clear historically that there was often a blurring of lines between Church and Lodge. The Comacine order, the early forbearer of later guilds of masonry, for example, was known to admit priests as members.

Masonic Monks were not uncommon, and there were such monks associated with the Comacine body; so that qualified architects were easily found in the ranks of religious orders. (Scott, p. 160)

Belief in God has clearly been at the core of Masonry since its inception. Given the obvious historic influence of the Church on what was to become Speculative Freemasonry, ritual and belief system within the Lodge was “erected to God.” No room for Atheists was left; this was likely done on purpose, at least early on, through the influence of the monk-architects. This, however, was likely not a sinister act. After all, “A Freemason in the year 1200 A.D. … thought of himself as a Catholic, [but] it did not occur to him to think of his art or craft as having anything to do with Catholicism” (Haywood, p. 122). Nonetheless, the required belief in Deity became a core tenet of the fledgling guild during that era.

Books You Might Enjoy:

John Dee - The Hieroglyphic Monad Latin Version
Moses Maimonides - The Guide For The Perplexed
Anonymous - The Urantia Papers
Greg Wotton - Suffering A Thelemic Perspective