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Article # 272
Concept of Supreme Being in Freemasonry

Author: Wor. Bro. Capt. Avadhesh Prasad    Posted on: Monday, November 25, 2013
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Concept of Supreme Being in Freemasonry

Wor. Bro. Capt. Avadhesh Prasad

 

Let me assure you, this dissertation is neither about religion, nor we are discussing God. But then belief in God is essentially desired of all Freemasons. In all our undertakings we invoke the blessing of Heaven -- for no danger can ensue where the name of God is invoked.

 

As the religion and God are so intrinsically entwined with faith, it is desirable to define these at the outset.

 

Freemasonry indeed is a peculiar system. Even though faith in God is demanded stringently, yet strangely, He is addressed by different names in various degrees.  One may well ask, “Is it a different entity that we are appealing to in these various Degrees?” Could the Most High be same Being as the Great Architect of the Universe, or the Grand Geometrician of the Universe, for that matter? Who, after all, are we addressing? Could it be the same God we seek protection during our meditation, or when distressed by some serious tribulation? Then, who is He?? 

 

Not a long while ago I was to interact with Brethren participating in Masonic Education Certificate Program. During discussion one serious scholar asked me, “As Freemasonry addresses itself to moral and spiritual advancement of its members, where was the need of shrouding its eminence in allegories; or, hiding its high principles by resorting to symbolism?”

 

During the ensuing discussion it turned out that religion too is firmly rooted in symbolism; however, Freemasonry is NOT a religion. There I took liberty of adding that even the concept of God is based on symbolism.

 

Generically Religion, every religion, incorporates certain characteristics, certain feelings and emotions such as wonder, awe and, of course, reverence on the part of its followers. A religion pretends to show a concern for values: Moral and Aesthetic – and seeks appropriate action to embody these values; thereby classifying behaviour as good or evil; or even as holy or unholy. In practice religion is a doctrine binding upon those who commit themselves to follow its tenets.

 

Scholars tell us that Religion has three essential elements. These are ‘Ideals’, or the values upheld; ‘Cult’, which are set practices, rituals and ceremonies; and finally both these elements are dominated by ‘Theology’, or set of doctrines or beliefs incorporating the view on man, universe and hereafter. This later part is invariably enshrined in form of a holy book, or scripture; which through its complex structure of practices, taboos, and beliefs is customarily evolved and authorized by “giving and receiving revelation from God”. Thus it becomes an inviolate dictate for its followers. The binding element of religion invariably extends to the whole gambit of social customs identifying its followers.  

 

 

Returning to our subject, to appreciate the nature of this peculiar nomenclature of God in Masonry we shall examine the evolution of Masonic viewpoint. However, remember that even as belief in Supreme Being is required of all Masons, the part which is totally absent in Masonry is any reference to theology. 

 

The Thirty Year War (1618-1648) in Europe had resulted in widespread and profound distress across the Central Europe. The whole economy had been reduced to barter, schools were closed, churches burned, the sick and needy were forgotten. The world scene around that time was openly venal and immoral. Disenchanted people attacked religion in self defence, and all the more easily because religion seemed but an ancient dogma in those days of strife and misery.

 

Then, there emerged a new idea in moral conduct, one appealing to intelligence instead of offering creed. It taught men to think. It was based upon analysis and reality where contemplation of nature produced certain logical facts. The idea centred on the new Order called Freemasonry. This was enjoined by a sudden intensification of desire for spiritual renewal; which thoughts were further stoked by the thinkers of the Age of Enlightenment: The likes of Newton and Voltaire.

 

During 17th and 18th centuries ideas concerning God, reason, nature and man were synthesized into a world view due to propensity for European intellectual movement. Central to that era was the use of ‘reason’ as the power that enabled man to understand the universe and improve his own condition. The goals of these rational men emerged to be Knowledge, Freedom, and Happiness. Science and mathematics reigned supreme.

 

Success of Sir Isaac Newton in particular, in capturing in a few mathematical equations the laws that govern the planetary motions imparted great impetus to a growing faith in man’s capacity to attain knowledge. This had a subversive effect on the concept s of a personal God, as upon the ideas of individual salvation, which were central to Christianity. Inevitably the method of reason was applied to religion as well.

 

The end product of a search for a natural albeit rational--religion was Deism; which, although never an organized cult or movement, conflicted with Christianity ever since. For the deist a very few religious truths sufficed, and these truths felt to be manifest to all rational beings. The existence of one God was propounded, often conceived of as Creator, Architect, or Mechanician, with its own system of rewards and punishments administered by that Supreme Being. Finally the Newtonian Deism found its definition, and for the first time He was addressed “The Great Mechanician of the Universe.”

 

But, who is He?

Symbolically, the essence of the Supreme Being lies in His Ineffable Name. This should not surprise us since most of the ancient religions share this tradition. Most emphatically it may be added that traditionally these several appellations were not seen as just an address, or identity of an entity. This Name was seen to manifest and encompass the Supreme Being’s inner self, His very soul.

 

At the beginning of this discourse we had sought the answer to a query, “With our acknowledged faith in God, why do we address Him differently in various Degrees?” In the context of Freemasonry the Supreme Being is addressed differently in different degrees emphasizing that particular characteristic which is most relevant to that Degree. Hence the multiple use of different appellations.

Nearer home too we only have just His Name to identify Him. No one, but no one can ever describe Him in tangible terms. We can, at best, only feel His presence, and that’s all! To all of us He is only an Ineffable Name. (Examples are: “Nanak! Naam Jehaz Hai . . . ; or, say “In the beginning there was a Word and . . . the Word was God!”, or still closure home, the ultimate exhortation: “Ram Naam Satya Hai!" . . . and that’s the ultimate Truth—the Name!) 

 

Having said that, and trusting that God is but an Ineffable Name, who might be addressed in several diverse manners it is not difficult to understand that a person could commit oneself to a particular religion of his choosing, believing that the same God could make some what similar revelation to some different people, perhaps under a different identity, infringed by intervening time and space. There could, thus, be nothing defective with the other people seeking relationship with God of their choice on their own terms. Freemasonry with its attendant enlightenment and mysticism supports this viewpoint admirably.

 

Finally, how does a real Freemason look upon Religion and God?

The answer comes from a very old issue of the “Square and Compasses”:

“The real Freemason is distinguished from the rest of mankind

  by the uniform unrestrained rectitude of his conduct. Other

  men are honest in fear of punishment, which the law

  might inflict; they are religious of being rewarded, or in dread

  of the devil in the next world. A Freemason would be just,

  if there were no laws, human or divine except those written

  in his heart by the finger of his Creator.

  In every climate, under every system of religion he is the

  same. He kneels before the Universal Throne of God in

  gratitude for the blessings he has received and

  humble solicitation for his future protection. He venerates

  the good men of all religions. He disturbs not the religion

  of others. He restrains his passions, because they can not

  be indulged without injuring his neighbour or himself.

  He gives no offence, because he does not choose to be

  offended. He contracts no debts which he is certain he

  can not discharge, because he is honest upon principles.” 

 

۞۞۞۞۞۞۞۞۞۞۞

 

 

Wor. Bro. Capt. Avadhesh Prasad was raised to the Sublime degree of Master Mason in 1966 in Lodge Friendship, # 47 GLI, Ajmer, where he now continues as Honorary Member. He is Past Master of Lodge Swarn Jayanti, #312, GLI, NOIDA (year 2006); and also Lodge Samyukta Sena, #126, GLI, New Delhi. He has since been privileged to hold several Grand and Regional Grand Lodge ranks in Craft, Mark, and Chapter Lodges respectively. He is an avid student of Freemasonry. Even as, being a Naval Officer, he was most of the time away in ships at sea thus beyond the proverbial ‘cable tow’ of any Masonic Lodge, he maintained an intimate touch with our Gentle Order, thanks to the “Square & Compasses” and similar sources of Masonic knowledge. A keen writer, he has published several essays in Masonic publications, both in India and abroad. He was recipient of the ‘Grand Master’s Masonic Essay Competition – 2007’; and recipient of the Certificate of Merit in year 2009. He constructively subscribed in planning, formulating and writing of the Grand Lodge of India Masonic Education Certificate Program (year 2009), as also the Masonic Diploma Program (year 2010) respectively under the astute guidance of Right Worshipful Brother Krishna Kumar Gautam, then the Regional Grand Master,( Northern India). In appreciation of his contributions in these programs he was awarded a salver and a scroll by the Most Worshipful the Grand Master in 2010. He has been selected for the award of the First Prize in the Essay Competition conducted by Sri Brahadeeswara Lodge (No.150) on “Spirituality in Masonic Teaching” as part of the Golden Jubilee and he received the Prize from M.W.Grand Master in the Masonic Retreat held in Matheran in June 2013.


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