Friday, May 15, 2015

Slate: "The Mysteries of the Masons"

By Andrew Burt here. A taste:
Freemasonry is thought to have originated in England and Scotland sometime in the 1500s as a trade organization made up of local stoneworkers, but it soon took on a philosophical air. The triumph of reason began to be a focal point of the organization, as did dedication to deism, or the Enlightenment belief that the existence of God is apparent through observation and study rather than miracles or revelation. Over the centuries, the fraternity of Masons would expand throughout the world, as would its ceremonies and rituals, which involved strange symbols and oaths—in addition to its more benign emphasis on civic-mindedness, religious tolerance, and communal learning. The group met in secret.

Masons were overwhelmingly men of middle- and upper-class status—doctors, lawyers, and businessmen—who had the time and leisure to join what amounted to a social club for the well-to-do. Many of the founding fathers had been Masons, including George Washington and Benjamin Franklin—indeed, 13 of the 39 signers of the Constitution claimed membership in the fraternity. In the years between America’s founding and 1826, Masonry had only grown more powerful, especially in New York. Gov. DeWitt Clinton was not only a Mason but had also been the grand master of the Grand Lodge of New York and the highest-ranking Mason in the country. By one estimate, more than half of all publicly held offices in New York were occupied by Masons.
American Creation has a resident Mason who perhaps can verify the facts in that above longish article. It's a mistake, in my opinion, to conflate late 18th Cen. Freemasonry with deism as many understand the term. My understanding is that Freemasonry was dedicated to monotheism and held itself as compatible with all monotheistic religions. You could be a Deist, a Christian, a Jew, a Muslim, etc. and be, in principle, a good Mason.


Anonymous said...

As a Freemason of 8 years, I can tell you that "Deism" has never come up in my lodge experience, either by official ritual or casual conversation. You're correct about our monotheistic position.

On the other hand, the idea that "the existence of God is apparent through observation and study..." is absolutely Masonic.

Yes, there is a contradiction there, but that's a discussion for another time.

Daniel said...

The notion that the existence of God is apparent through observation and study is found in Aquinas and in the Apostle Paul. I think it can be safely argued that neither of them is a Deist.