From the Short Talk Bulletin of the Masonic Service Association of the
By the Rev. Thomas E. Weir, Ph.D., Fellow Philalethes Society; Grand
Prelate Grand Encampment of Knights Templar of the U.S.A.
The following text will be controversial! Not because it should be,
but because those with strongly held beliefs will make it so. It is a
serious attempt to put in perspective how faith without understanding or
toleration can only divide people.
Those who feel that they -- and they alone -- have found the "true
way" abuse the rights of others. Freemasonry has always stood for
religious toleration and the right of all individuals to express their
faith as they see fit.
Extremist groups, trying to force their views on others, will always
attack anyone with an opposing point of view.
This Short Talk amply demonstrates how religious belief and power can
be abused in an attempt to force others to the "true way."
Editor [of the MSA bulletin]
Religions are fiercely competitive. Many claim for themselves the
exclusive mandate to speak and act for God. In contrast, Masonry
believes and teaches that God, who "maketh the rain to fall on the just
and unjust alike," is the Father of all and is continually pouring out
his love and his blessings. He loves all His children equally. The
religious differences between human begins is how we respond to His love.
Unfortunately, every time we mortals discover the richness of God's
self-revelation, we are tempted to organize and tell people that they
can "fill up" only at our spiritual service station, and nowhere else.
I am not opposed to organized religion. I spent a substantial part of
my life at the University of Edinburgh working on answers to the
questions of why we have a church, why we have a ministry and what they
should be and do. I found substantial answers, but I am not prepared to
say that mine are the only explanations or that God depends on my
cooperation or permission for anything.
It is difficult for us human beings to understand God, since we are
so far removed from Him and so tempted to confuse our interests with His
will. The history of religion is a history of conflict, punctuatedwith
wars of words, and steel, between factions who insist that they are the
sole, or principal, custodian of God's word and spirit.
In the extreme, some seem to believe that they have the authority to
compel God, as well as the rest of us, to obey their will. There is no
need to remind ourselves of the religious bloodshed that grieves God and
man in many places of the world today. Because Christianity is the most
widely supported religion of our culture, we are more conscious of the
intolerance that occasionally comes to the surface in that faith. Since
the 1975 publication of Jack the Ripper: The Final Solution by
Stephen Knight, some Christians have turned from their traditional
enemies, other denominations and other faiths, to vent their anger on
For example, Chick
Publications of Chino, California published in 1991 a 24 page
booklet by J.T. Chick, with pages somewhat smaller than a dollar bill,
entitled The Curse of Baphomet.
The thesis of the book is that Masons worship a demonic god named
Baphomet, who is diametrically opposed to Christ. If you follow the
story line of the book it is also possible to come to the conclusion
that if one is a Mason, his son will attempt suicide and not recover.
The pretext and pretense of the book are scarcely worthy of reply.
However, there are some interesting points raised.
In the story, comic strip style, state troopers arrive at the home of
Sally and Alex Scott in the dark of night, to tell them that their son
has been shot. At the hospital, they are told that he attempted suicide
and that he has no will to live. The distraught and disheveled parents
are, three days later, greeted by the well dressed and smiling Ed, who
could be clipped out and saved for a book on how to be a used car
salesman. The parent have just asked the question, "Why has God done
this to us?" Ed explains that it is because the father is practicing
witchcraft by being a Mason and Shriner. Sally and Alex defend their
Easter Star, Masonic and Shrine memberships. Ed insists that, although
he was once a Mason, he now really understands Masonry because he has
learned about Baphomet.
Every Mason will know, and those outside the Fraternity must be told,
that Baphomet is unknown to Masonry. It is, actually, a Christian term.
Among the charges trumped up against the Knights Templar by King Philip
IV of France and his syncophants nearly 700 years ago [web-master:
1307-1314] was an accusation that the Templars worshipped
"Baphomet" or the "Head of Baphomet." This dovetailed neatly with
another charge, that the Templars favored the Mohammedans over
Christians. Baphomet is a modification, a corruption of the name of the
Unacountably, Ed explains that the Masonic appellation, "Great
Architect of the Universe," another term from Medieval Christianity, is
not the God of the Bible, but is really Baphomet, "ugly, frightening and
completely satanic." Ed produces a picture of Baphomet, with a goat's
head, red eyes, and a flaming torch implanted in the top of the skull.
The otherwise human figure sits with legs folded underneath. Wings are
deployed from the back. The figure has female breasts and symbols adorn
the visceral area. The hands mock the traditional blessing of Christ,
the right hand raised, the left lowered. The goat-headed figure and
other symbols are frequently found in witchcraft, but are totally
foreign to Freemasonry. The Eastern Star, Ed declares,is designed to
hold a Bahpomet's head without the torch. Albert Pike is quoted as
saying that Masons know that "Lucifer is God." The Sovereign Grand
Commander's Patriarchal Cross is described as the symbol of Baphomet.
Ed convinces Alex to burn his Masonic reglia and repent the sin of
being a Mason. On bended knees, Sally and Alex prayerfully burn their
Masonic relic, and there son immediately begins to recover, and the book
concludes. In a way, I am sorry Ed is wrong. it would be wonderful if
prayer and a righteous life made everything happen the way we wish.
Christian experience teaches that God does not work in such a simplistic
way. God's people, individually and collectively, have often suffered
undeserved pain in spite of their prayers and their holiness. We do not
manipulate God in prayer, we cooperate with Him.
Ed, fictitious though he may be, travels in the wake of a onetime
popular relitgious tradition. In the days of the Spanish Inquisition,
religious beliefs and practices that did not meet the standards of the
religious establishment were punished by death. Such executions were
called, strangely, "Acts of Faith." Auto-da-Fe became part of
of the language of our comon experience. Webster's Ninth New
Collegiate Dictionary defines Auto-da-Fe as, "the ceremony
accompanying the pronouncement of the judgement by the Inquisition and
followed by the execution of sentence by the secular [civil]
authorities." In a broad sense, the term refers to the burning of a
heretic. perhaps the great irony was that many were converted under
duress to what the inquisitors considered orthodox belief, then executed
so that they could go to heaven while in a state of grace and before
they could sin again. Those being executed were less enthusiastic
about the benefits of such immediate transport into eternal life than
those making the arrangements.
The ascendancy of the Roman Catholic Inquisition was followed by the
heyday of Protestant persecution of witchcraft in the 16th, 17th and
early 18th centuries. Many pious and responsible persons swore that
they saw the devil in one form or another, that they saw accused friends
speaking with the devil or acting as his agent. A remarkable occurence
in the late 16th century was a solemn inquiry into a report that the
devil had appeared in a Scottish church and had "mooned" those present
from the pulpit. The incident was scrupulously believed as fact and
included in a book on witchcraft written by King James VI (later James I
of England) and required to be taught in schools. It is paradoxical
that this same King James twenty years later convened the leading
scholars of the day to update the translation of the Bible into English.
The result of their labors is the king James Version of the Bible.
Some Protestants did not take kindly to theological debate. As late
aas 1719, a theological student as hanged at St. Andrews, Scotland for
unorthodox beliefs. Grading in seminaries is less severe these
Christianity, great as its efforts are to proclaim the Gospel and to
serve succeeding generations as the incarnate presence of Christ in the
world, has been the home base for some in great and trivial offices who
enjoy condemning others and executing those whom they can, by death or
disgrace. Members of churches are human and liable to the sins of the
flesh, most notably in this case, pride. Those who would try to
rekindle the flames of the inquisition are trying to take us 500 years
into the past. The Christian Bible teaches that the fruits of the
Spirit are love, joy and peace. Frenzied attacks on other religious
bodies or upon Masonry display little love, joy or peace. Instead of
love, there seems to be hatred, instead of joy a thirst for blood and
instead of peace, violent verbalization.
It is interesting to note that the rise of Masonry coincides with the
decline of witchcraft, real and imagined, together with the hysteria and
paranoia such occult practices generated. Masonic ritual inherited from
our ancient operative Brethren was Christian. In time it was opened to
all men of good will who share the quest to know and serve God.
Whatever the intention of God, religion seems to be cursed with the
propensity to divide people against each other, as if God wished to be
worshipped in a proliferation of towers of Babel.
In contrast, Masonry teaches respect for God and all His children.
If we really devote ourselves to the profound task of serving God,
deepen our faith, and truly commit ourselves to the call of God, perhaps
we shall not have time to criticize others!
About the author:
The Rev. Thomas E. Weir, Director of Hospital Visitation for
M.S.A. earned a Doctor of Philsophy degree from the University of
Edinburgh. His specialty is development of church and ministry in
Scotland in the 16th and 17th centuries. He is a Fellow of the Society
of Antiquaries of Scotland and a member of the Scottish Church History
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