13 November 1984
In this live radio broadcast, listeners phoned in to Tuesday Call to ask questions about Freemasonry, under the chairmanship of Sue Macgregor. In the transcript below, her words are printed in italic, and those of the two participants are prefixed with
(K) - Stephen Knight author of `The Brotherhood ` or
(H) - Commander Michael Higham, Grand Secretary of the UGLE
to differentiate them from the questioners.
....continued from Part 2
Hullo Mr Hopkins?
(Mr Hopkins) Good morning Miss MacGregor and gentlemen. How can Freemasonry and Christianity be compatible as Freemasonry is essentially syncretistic and Christianity is not?
Can you explain, Mr Hopkins, what you mean by syncretistic?
(Mr Hopkins) Well a mixture- well syncretism is explicitly condemned throughout the Old Testament and implicitly in the New Testament, whereas the Freemasons' Great Architect of the Universe is a compound word derived from Chaldean, Hebrew, Assyrian and Jewish sources.
Yes. I think Commander Higham that a lot of Christians are bothered by the fact that the Masons take an oath to the Great Architect of the Universe who appears to be above the Christian God and Jesus Christ for instance. What do you say to that?
(H) First of all, there is no Masonic god. The oaths of Freemasonry are not taken to a god, the name of God is invoked. Freemasons must believe in a Supreme Being, but that doesn't mean that Freemasonry is a substitute for Religion. It is a way of pulling together men of any faith which requires the Belief in a Supreme Being under one society.
You don't have to be a Christian to belong?
(H) No you don't, you can be any sort of religion that believes in a Supreme Being.
Can you be an agnostic or an atheist?
(H) Not if you don't believe in a Supreme Being. It doesn't match. The whole business requires a belief in a Supreme Being, and a Supreme Being is I benign Supreme Being, there's no question of devil worship in Freemasonry, I know people have suggested it, this compound word which Mr Hopkins has mentioned has got an element which some people interpret as 'Baal'. That is not so, cannot be so. The origins of that particular word was a time in the mid-1800s when people didn't know so much about Egyptology, or The Bible even, as we know nowadays.
But there are a lot of Christians who are critical of the masonic movement because they feel that it is, actually overshadows what people believe when they go to church and go through, for instance the Church of England services.
(H) Absolutely not. Freemasonry is an addition to religion if you like, but there's no incompatibility between Freemasonry and Christianity.
Now Stephen Knight in your book you have made it fairly plain I think that you believe that there is.
(K) Well yes. From the Christian churches' point of view there is. Freemasonry is happy to accept Christians but basically why is Jesus Christ's name left out of masonic services and masonic hymns? Also there is the fact that the same, for the religions to be the same they must worship the same God, and 'Jabulon' simply is not the Same god as the Christian God.
Is this something that bothers you Mr Hopkins?
(Mr Hopkins) Well in the early 1950`s there was a considerable controversy about Freemasonry. And I remember at the time Walton Hanna writing to me and saying he only wished he was at liberty to disclose what went on behind the scenes to prevent the issue from being discussed at the Convocation of Canterbury, and when he was attempting to reply to a book on the subject by the Rev Dr Box, a masonic Anglican clergyman, writing under the pseudonym of 'Vindex', frankly claimed that Freemasonry was, and I quote, 'the heir and legitimate successor of the ancient mysteries,' close quotes, also that the masonic Hiram is Osiris, Persephone, Bacchus, Orpheus, Camus or Mithra, adding, quotes, 'but quite legitimately he is also Christ.'
Now you're confusing us with quite a lot of long words there Mr Hopkins. Are you saying that in fact some time ago a lot of Christian clergy were bothered about the connection and the incompatibility?
(Mr Hopkins) Oh there was a great controversy in the 1950`s.
But what about now?
(Mr Hopkins) Yes, well it's also, upsets a great number of Christians now, and they don't think that the two are compatible. I can understand a person being a Christian or a person being a Deist, being a mason, but I cannot understand how the two can be considered compatible.
(H) Well, if you can't understand it Mr Hopkins we're going to be in great difficulty. But I can tell you that a whole number of Christian churchmen have become Freemasons and had no problem with it. They can make the difference between their religion, which is Christianity in whichever form it takes, and Freemasonry, which is not a religion but an adjunct to it. And they find no difficulty at all. Freemasonry doesn't worship as Freemasonry a god, it refers to a Supreme Being. There's no form of sacrament in Freemasonry, talking in Christian terms. All right you can go on about syncretism, but Freemasonry won't join you in the argument, it studiously keeps away from theology, it is confident that it is not a religion. It merely pulls people of different religions together. There's no requirement I think for a system of that sort to refer to anyone particular religion, there's no harm in leaving out the name of Christ from masonic ritual. If you introduced the name of Christ you'd offend a lot of people who weren't Christians. The whole idea is to pull people together. It's not to substitute for a religion and I think it does its job quite well in that way.
Thank you very much Commander, and Mr Hopkins for your question. Now we move to Reading to Mr Smith. I don't know whether that's a pseudonym, is it, Mr Smith?
(Mr Smith) No, no, absolutely genuine.
It's a genuine Mr Smith, right. What's the question you'd like to ask?
(Mr Smith) Well I've got two questions, I was listening to the Commander there speaking particularly about the advancement for business, and the secret, it's not a secret society. I would like to ask him first of all, as quoted in the Constitutions of the United Grand Lodge of England, Antient Charges, Five, that you're, 'particularly not to let your family and friends and neighbours know the concerns of the lodge.' Is this consistent with an open society?
(H) I think you're talking two different things, your open society is one thing and the private affairs of the lodge are something else. I think that a Freemason who doesn't tell his family anything about Freemasonry has probably got it wrong. There's a great deal he can tell them about it. But if something's private then I think he, as a mason, like any other citizen of the country is entitled to a small amount of privacy.
(Mr Smith) I would agree a hundred percent with you, but you do have in your Constitutions, particularly not to let your family and friends know the concerns of the lodge.
And you feel this is unfairly excluding the family?
(Mr Smith) Very much so.
From part of the business of being a family and being together. Commander?
(H) Well the Ancient Charges are as they say, ancient, and if you go on in that particular ancient charge you find the nice advice which does support the family, it says you must, 'consult your health by not continuing together too late or too long from home after lodge hours have passed, by avoiding of gluttony or drunkenness that your families be not neglected or injured, nor you disabled from working.' It's a practical rule. In the old days I think people were very much more private than they are now. I think that the ancient charges, while not being ignored, are being looked at in a slightly new light. I'm not saying they're going to be abandoned, because probably you'd destroy Freemasonry if you did. I repeat that you should be allowed to be private about some things even from your family. It doesn't mean you can't tell them, it's just that it doesn't concern them.
Stephen Knight what do you feel about this? Because there are a lot of women, for instance, although we've heard that women can join their own kind of Freemasonry, who feel excluded from their husbands' masonry.
(K) Yes, I've had many letters from wives, many saying that they are in favour of their husbands being Freemasons, that it has done a lot for them, and about an equal number saying that it is damaging to the marriage because they simply will not discuss where they've gone or what they've done. I think Commander Higham here has an opportunity to tell a lot of masons that Freemasonry doesn't require them not to tell their wives where they're going in the evening, if that's true, and I think it is.
(H) Indeed, we've just done it. In fact the first, it was the thin end of the wedge you might think when Freemasonry started making a noise, was a letter to the papers pointing out that a Freemason was not obliged by his obligations to conceal his membership and the people who wrote in to thank me for that were mostly wives.
But you think a lot of their husbands actually rather enjoyed the secretive nature of not saying where they were going in the evening?
(H) Well, I think with great respect to those husbands, they've got it wrong. They're taking Freemasonry out of the family when it's actually meant to be a sort of extension of it.
Mr Smith does that answer your question?
(Mr Smith) Yes, to a certain extent on that one. But there was this point about the advancement in business, that you wouldn't put up notices so as people wouldn't know, but we, I think the majority of people know there's words which will be said, not as a whole, etcetera, but then when we come down to the Ancient Charges again on six, it says quite clearly, 'only to prefer a poor brother that is a good man, and true before any other poor people in the same circumstances.'
Preferment for brother masons in other words against others. That's correct.
(H) Now we really are getting into history. You go back into history, the Freemasons grew from operative masons, they were the people who built castles, churches, they were 'free' of the mystery of operative stonework, they had learnt their trade, and they preserved the secrets of their trade for very good reasons, that if they gave them out to everybody their jobs would go, in a way you could say Freemasonry was one of the first trades unions.
But this is still in the book of rules?
(H) It's still in the book of the rules. And the explanation for this is that in the old days if somebody came as a Freemason to a masons' lodge he would be given a day's work and sent on his way. If he wasn't a mason he probably wouldn't be helped, it was a self help society in those days. Now it`s changed, and what I explained in the past is definitely the rule today.
So in other words it's a rule that we should interpret differently today?
(H) Yes, the interpretation is different.
.... continued in part 4