From the Book "Freemasonry: Its Hidden Meaning"
by George H. Steinmetz
"Religion must be as graduated as evolution else it fails in its object. * * * If a religion does not reach and master the intelligence, if it does not purify and inspire the emotions, it has failed in its object, so far as the person addressed is concerned."
The order has at all times been careful to explain that Masonry is NOT a religion. It has denied the fact over and over again, and insisted that it was a lodge or brotherhood, and in no way did, nor was it intended to, take the place of the church in a man's life. It is claimed that Masonry is universal, its tenets such that they can be subscribed to by Christian, Jew, Mohammedan and Buddhist alike, and all may meet in brotherhood at its altars.
Has Masonry been too careful in its explanations? Too vehement in its denials? Has it so loudly proclaimed it is not a religion that its followers have been misled into thinking it is not RELIGIOUS? Has it been fearful of inadvertently stepping on the figurative toes of some creed, mistaking a creed for religion?
A creed is defined as: "a formally phrased confession of faith; a brief authoritative summarizing statement of religious belief." As such, certainly Masonry is not a "creed," but also a "creed" is not "religion." What is religion? The dictionary defines it as: "The recognition of man's relation to a divine superhuman power to whom obedience and reverence are due; the outward acts and practices of life by which men indicate their recognition of such relationship; conformity to the teachings of the Bible, ef fort of man to attain the goodness of God."
What is Freemasonry? The Masonic Manual of Missouri contains this definition: "Freemasonry is a beautiful system of morals, veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols. Its tenets are brotherly love, relief and truth. Its Cardinal Virtues are Temperance, Fortitude, Prudence and Justice. Its religion, if religion it may be called, is an unfeigned belief in the one living and true God."
In Morals and Dogma Pike offers the following definition: "Freemasonry is the subjugation of the Human that is in man by the Divine; the conquest of the appetites and passions by the Moral Sense and the Reason; a continual struggle, effort and warfare of the spiritual against the material and sensual. That victory, when it has been achieved and secured, and the conqueror may rest upon his shield and wear his well-earned laurels, is the true HOLY EMPIRE."
The time has arrived for Masonry to make its position clear, to not only admit, but rather to declare, that it is religious, even though it may well explain it is NOT A RELIGION in the commonly accepted misuse of the word "religion." An attitude to the contrary may have been excusable in the past, as the vast majority of Masons, ignorant of the esoteric teachings, were equally ignorant of the fact that those teachings constitute religion. This has never been true of the Great Masonic Scholars of the past, all of whose writings show their recognition of the religion in Masonry. What is religion? "Religion is the recognition of man's relation to a divine superhuman power to whom obedience and reverence are due." The Masonic Manual states: "Freemasonry's religion, if religion it may be called, is an unfeigned belief in the ONE LIVING AND TRUE GOD." The definition of religion continues: "The outward acts and practices of life by which men indicate their recognition of such relationship." Paralleling this the Masonic Manual continues: "[Freemasonry's] tenets are brotherly love, relief and truth." How more can one's "outward acts and practices" indicate recognition of the Supreme Architect of the Universe and the relationship to Him, than by the practice of Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth? Recognition of Him as Father of all necessitates the recognition of every fellow man as a brother, demanding brotherly love which encompasses relief when needed, and above all else, truth.
"Conformity to the teaching of the Bible." Is there ever a time in the Masonic Lodge when the Bible is ignored? Is it not constantly open on the altars of Freemasonry? Is not the attention of the newest Apprentice immediately directed to it? Is he not told: "The Holy Bible is given us as the rule and guide of our faith and practice"? Scripture is quoted in each degree, and the closing prayer is: "and with reverence study and obey the laws which Thou hast given us in Thy Holy Word." If "conformity to the tea chings of the Bible" is the criterion on which to decide whether or not Masonry is religion, the case is already settled in the affirmative.
What of the last portion of the definition of religion: "Effort of man to attain the goodness of God."? "Freemasonry is the subjugation of the Human that is in man by the Divine; the conquest of the appetites and passions by the Moral Sense and the Reason." "Effort of man to attain the goodness of God." Who knows the "goodness of God"? How can it be measured by finite mind? It has been said, "man makes God in his own image." This is the utterance of the cynic, but strangely, in a different sense than the or iginal remark was intended, it is true. The Book we are admonished to study "with reverence" informs us that man is made in God's image. That likewise is true. God first made man in His image and ever since, man has been making God in his own image. If one sits between two mirrors he sees his image reflected in the one glass while the other reflects the image of the image. Here the material analog must cease, for as man continues to "make Go d in his own image," and grows SPIRITUALLY to that first likeness to which he aspires, his conception broadens and he immediately makes God in the image of himself at his newly attained spiritual level, and so on ad infinitum. At each step the "goodness of God" comes closer of attainment. Eventually man makes God in his image, and the image is indistinguishable from the object. Which has made which? What matters? Only that the ultimate has been reached.
The Master, Jesus, was once asked a question intended to put him in an embarrassing position with the Roman Authorities. "Is it lawful to give tribute to Caesar, or not? Shew me the tribute money. And they brought him a penny. And he saith unto them, whose image and superscription is this? They say unto him Caesar's. Then saith he unto them, render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's and unto God the things which are God's." At the time it was the answer of a shrewd psychologist putting his questioner "on the spot" intended for himself, but like all his answers, it not only settled the question at the time but has come down through the ages, settling the questions of future generations.
What is the significance of this incident to our problem? Call the material things of life "Caesar," and the spiritual "God." Turn back to the definition of Masonry and read: "Its Cardinal Virtues are TEMPERANCE, FORTITUDE, PRUDENCE and JUSTICE." Jesus did not advise to disregard Caesar, or the material, but to render unto it its just due, being careful to render unto God or the spiritual its due as well.
"TEMPERANCE" - temperateness, not prohibition of material things, but judicious use of them, restraint from over-indulgence. "Be ye temperate in ALL THINGS." Temperate in what you eat, as well as what you drink. Temperate in your remarks and speech. Temperate in your judgment of your fellow man, that "due restraint upon our appetites and passions which render the body tame and governable, and frees the mind from the allurements of vices." Again quoting from Morals and Dogma, temperance is the "conquest o f the appetites and the passions by the Moral Sense and the Reason." It is also the circumscribing of our desires and the keeping of our passions within due bounds, not with a brother Mason alone, but WITH ALL MANKIND.
"FORTITUDE" - is an attitude of soul. According to the dictionary it is "spiritual strength to endure suffering and adversity with courage." But could one endure adversity without faith? The only reason man manifests fortitude is his intuitive knowledge that fortitude is compensated on the spiritual side of life.
"PRUDENCE" - "Teaches us to regulate our lives and actions agreeably to the dictates of reason, and is that habit by which we wisely judge and discreetly determine on all things relative to our present as well as future happiness."
"JUSTICE" - is the principle of dealing uprightly and fairly with others, regardless of the material relationship which exists between us. Justice renders unto each man his due, regardless of his station in life, without fear or favour. The just man is a righteous man, he cannot be otherwise. The more he "prudently" envisages what real justice is, the better will be his actions. The just man will be he to whom Buddha referred when he said: "He is the noble man who is himself what he believes other men should be." It is the ultimate of justice not to expect anything of others we are not willing to do or BE ourselves.
By giving the material due consideration, and in justice rendering unto it the things which are the material's but giving it no more, by properly keeping our desires and passions between the extended points of the compasses, we have automatically rendered unto the spiritual the things which are the spiritual's. Man is not a "division" but a "unity"- Body, Soul and Spirit - and when we render its due to any undivided part we have served the whole. Is this not religion as described as "an effort to attain t he goodness of God"?
Neither official denial nor confirmation can change facts. It is of small consequence whether or not Masonry is acknowledged to be religion. The important thing is HOW IT IS PRACTISED. Draw aside the veil of allegory from the "beautiful system of morals," thereby discovering the deeper spiritual truths of its meaning, while at the same time following the material admonitions.
"Illustrated by symbols" each symbol points a moral lesson and is used as an example for the material life, but there are always other interpretations which have reference to the spiritual. Until one "seeks and finds that deeper meaning and applies it spiritually Masonry is NOT religion. It becomes religion only to him who finds religion in it, to others it remains but ritual, and at best a system of morals. Yet there remains the promise contained in the "rule and guide of our faith and practice"-"SEEK, AND YE SHALL FIND."