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Concept of Supreme Being in Freemasonry
Wor. Bro. Capt. Avadhesh Prasad
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
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.
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
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.
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
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?
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
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!)
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.
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.”