Official Visit to Doric Lodge No. 91
Past & Present Grand Lodge Officers,
The Great Light in Masonry
One of the first
lessons we learn in the Entered Apprentice Degree is that:
unites men from every country, sect and opinion and promotes true
friendship among those who might otherwise have remained perpetually
at a distance.
That is a pretty
strong statement, considering the nature of man. Our national or
political allegiances and the religious beliefs to which we subscribe
may well set us at odds with our brethren from other countries and other
But when we consider the first
Landmark in Masonry which admits:
A belief in one living and true
God, the Great Architect of the Universe, and Father of all men.
and the fact that no
man can be made a Mason unless he confirms this belief, we find that the
harmony we so earnestly seek has it�s roots in the explanation the
Worshipful Master gives the newly obligated Entered Apprentice
immediately after he is brought to light:
I particularly direct your attention to the Great Light in Masonry,
the Volume of the Sacred Law. Howsoever men may differ in creed or
theology, all good men are agreed that within the covers of the
Sacred Law are found those principles of morality, which lay the
foundation upon which to build a righteous life.
Freemasonry, therefore, opens this Book upon its Altars, with the
command to each of its votaries that he diligently study therein to
learn the way to everlasting life.
Adopting no particular creed, forbidding sectarian discussion
within its lodge rooms, encouraging each to be steadfast in the faith of
his acceptance, Freemasonry takes all good men by the hand and leading
them to its Altars, points to the open Volume of the Law thereon, and
urges upon each that he faithfully direct his steps through life by
the Light he there shall find and as he there shall find it.
To this is added
The Equality of all Masons
Which implies that, as
children of one great Father, we meet upon the level in the Lodge; where
genuine merit, virtue, and knowledge take precedence over wealth and
worldly rank. Outside the Lodge, however, each will again resume that
social position and rank to which he is entitled.
We admit that the Book
of the Law is to the speculative Mason his spiritual trestle-board;
without which he cannot labour. Whatever he believes to be the revealed
will of the Grand Architect constitutes for him this spiritual
Trestleboard and must ever be before him in his hours of speculative
labour to be the rule and guide of his conduct.
In our almost
exclusively Christian jurisdiction we take it for granted that the
Volume of the Sacred law is the Holy Bible and indeed this is what we
find in our Lodges. In other jurisdictions, another � or several other �
monotheistic religions prevail and I was curious to find out what
practice their Lodges follow.
A prime role of the Holy Writings is to provide an acceptable medium for
taking and sealing our Obligations so that our candidates will consider
such Obligations to be solemn and binding upon them.
Depending on the Faith of the candidate we may find no fewer than eight
sets of Holy Writings in use:
Bible (Old Testament) for Hebrews.
The Bible (Old and New Testaments) for Christians.
The Dhammapadra for the Mahayana Sect of Buddhists.
The Gita for Hindus.
The Vedas for Brahmins
The Granth Sahib for Sikhs.
The Koran for Muslims.
The Zend Avesta for Parsees and Zoroastrians.
Of course, all of these Sacred Books Allude to a Supreme Deity.
In one article I found
on the Internet, the actual practices of Lodges where the dominant Faith
is non-Christian are described in more detail:
It is a universal practice in Lodges to have the Old Testament of the
Bible on the Altar (either open or closed � the custom varies). It is
generally considered necessary to have a separate Bible open at the New
Testament since Christian Masons accept the whole volume as one Sacred
In Israel, where the Old Testament alone is the Holy Writings for the
majority, a New Testament is also open if there are Christian members
Lodge Singapore No. 7178 (E.C.) has all seven volumes always on the
Altar, of which six are open. The Bible used contains both Testaments
and is open only at the Old Testament.
The Square and Compasses are normally placed on the Bible, but when a
candidate is taking an Obligation on another Book, a separate set of
Square and Compasses is placed on that Book.
The Koran is normally kept closed until required for an Obligation and
must not be handled by the bare hands of a non-Muslim. Brethren,
therefore, wear gloves as part of the Lodge regalia, and the Koran is
usually covered with a white cloth.
The Grand Lodge of India has six Sacred Books upon the Altar, with five
open � again the Bible is opened at the Old Testament only. Since there
are no Buddhist Masons in India, the Dhammapadra is omitted. The Square
and Compasses are placed on the Holy Writings to which the MWGM owes
allegiance. In installations, they are placed on the Book of the MWGM-
or WM-Elect's faith.
Constituent Lodges under the Grand Lodge of India follow the same
procedure. Lodges under other Grand Lodges but residing in India place
the Bible on the Altar and, usually, the other Sacred Books representing
the faith of their members. Some Lodges display only the Bible on the
Altar, but provide other Volumes when required for an Obligation.
The Lodges of the Grand Lodge of Israel have the Old Testament always
open on the Altar with the Square and Compasses thereon. If Christian
and Muslim Brethren are present, the New Testament and Koran are added
and one large set of Square and Compasses covers the three Volumes.
There are also several variations to the usual method of taking
Obligations, kneeling with the hands on the Bible, as we are accustomed.
In Singapore, Muslims kneel, but have the Koran held over the head and
use the words "hereby and hererunder" rather than "hereby and hereon."
In one New Zealand Lodge, the Charter is held over the head of the
candidate, at the beginning of the Obligation, and the words "hereby and
hereunder" are used.
Brethren in Israel of the Orthodox Jewish faith take their Obligation
standing, with their hands on the Old Testament and with the head bowed
towards it. Since the destruction of the Temple, Jews do not kneel,
except on the Day of Atonement. Jewish Brethren, also, usually have
their heads covered with the Kippa (the skull cap
which reminds Jews of the presence of
God.) when in the Lodge.
The method of sealing the Obligation also varies from area to area.
Christians, Jews, and some Muslims seal their Vows by kissing the Holy
Writings. Other Brethren may touch the Book with the hand or forehead,
or salute with the hands before the face, palms together, and bowing.
It is most interesting to note that the many problems, which could have
arisen from the meeting of Brethren of various creeds, have been
anticipated and procedures have been adopted, to promote Peace and
Harmony within the Lodges and the welfare of Freemasonry in general.
While other Holy Writings may be introduced in various Lodges as
occasion demands, the Old Testament Scriptures still perform their
traditional function as a Landmark of our Order which has united men
through the fundamental belief that above all things, there ever reigns
Supreme but one Grand Architect of the Universe.
The Great Light in
Masonry, is opened upon our altars. Upon it lie the other Great Lights �
the Square and the Compasses. Without all three no Masonic lodge can
exist, much less open or work. Together with the warrant from the Grand
Lodge they are indispensable.
The Volume of the
Sacred Law on the altar is more than the rule and guide of our faith. It
is one of the greatest of Freemasonry's symbols. Let us remember that in
our Lodges, the Bible is here as a symbol of all holy books of all
faiths. It is the Masonic way of setting forth that simplest and most
profound of truths which Masonry has made so peculiarly her own: that
there is a way, there does run a road on which men "of all creeds and of
every race" may travel happily together, be their differences of
religious faith what they may. In his private devotions a man may
petition God or Jehovah, Allah or Buddha, Mohammed or Jesus; he may call
upon the God of Israel or the Great First Cause. In the Masonic Lodge he
hears humble petition to the Great Architect of the Universe, finding
his own deity under that name.
A hundred paths may
wind upward around a mountain; at the top they meet. Freemasonry opens
the Great Light upon her altar not as one book of one faith, but as all
books of all faiths, the book of the Will of the Great Architect, read
in what language, what form, what shape we will. It is as all-inclusive
as the symbols which lie upon it. The Square is not for any one lodge,
any one nation, any one religion � it is for all Masons, everywhere, to
all of whom it speaks the same tongue. The Compasses circumscribe the
desires of Masons wheresoever dispersed; the secret of the Square, held
between the points of the Compasses is universal.
in our ritual are taken from the Old Testament. Almost every name in a
Masonic lodge is from the Scriptures. In the Great Light are found those
simple teachings of the universality of brotherhood, the love of God for
his children, the hope of immortality, which are the very essence of
Freemasonry. Let it be emphasized; these are the teachings of
Freemasonry in every tongue, in every land, for those of every faith.
Our Great Light is but a symbol of the Volume of the Sacred
Law . Freemasonry is no more a Christian organization than it is Jewish
or Mohammedan or Brahmin. Its use of the collection of sacred writings
of the Jews (Old Testament) and the Gospels of the New Testament as the
Great Light must not confuse the initiate so that he reads into
Freemasonry a sectarian character which is not there.