MASONRY has and always had a religious creed. It teaches what it deems to be the truth in respect to the nature and attributes of God, as the loving and beneficent Father of all mankind, as a Supreme and Perfect Intelligence, as not in anywise the gigantic and distorted image of a man reflected upon the clouds. It no more tolerates false ideas of the Deity and accepts them as God, than images of Him carved of wood or stone. To believe and teach the immortality of the soul, it must of necessity have some not wholly erroneous idea of the nature of the soul, or else its belief is but an idle formula of empty words.
If this were not so, if it were only necessary to believe in and fear a Something eternal and omnipotent, called God, Masonry might again with propriety become Paganism, accepting as Initiates the bloody worshipers of Baal and Moloch, consenting that the scaffold should again be the supplement of the altar, and the Executioner the appendix of the Priest. For all religious mysteries have been also mysteries of blood; and there have been no worships without the sacrifice.
Charity and loving-kindness are two words that comprehend the whole political and religious creed of Freemasonry. The law of charity cannot have been enacted by, the spirit of loving- kindness cannot have emanated from, a cruel or ferocious God. It is the expression of the Divine will, because it is of the Divine nature. A cruel God arms cruelty and persecution with the sanction of Divine authority. Idolatry is but the worship of an arbitrary despotism; and the kings of the world and the chiefs of republics are made after the image of the Gods whom the world or the republic adores. A cruel and vindictive God permits bloody revenges to be preached in His churches, and authorizes all the barbarities of autocrats. When men shall conceive of a just God, charity and loving-kindness will be preached in His Temples, and there will be equitable kings and merciful and generous popular chiefs. Beliefs make opinion; and opinion consecrates powers. The Divine right of the Tudors perfectly corresponded with the God of Laud and Pole; the extermination of the Aztec and Peruvian races, the Eve of St. Bartholomew, Alva’s rule in the Netherlands, and the slaughtering of the Covenanters and Albigenses, with the God of Dominic and Pius V.; the murder of Servetus with the God of Calvin; and the hanging of Quakers with the savage God of the Puritans. A people’s idea of God is its God; and therefore it is true to say that as man makes progress, the excellence of his God increases; as Humanity elevates itself, its God becomes greater and more exalted. Then the ideal which the world forms of God for itself reacts upon the world. The Divine ideal is a mirror from which the rays of human thought are reflected to humanity. This reflection from the ideal world becomes the light of the real one; manners and habits form themselves in accordance with creeds; and political principles are the result of these manners and habits.
Degrees, if worthy to be called such, are so many steps of the mystic ladder, by which we ascend to the knowledge of the TRUE WORD, to the Knowledge of GOD, and of NATURE which is His Revelation. They are, therefore, instructions, by symbols and their interpretations, in political, philosophical and religious knowledge. If not this, they are nothing or merely vain and empty ceremonies. Masonry must teach the truth or die. It lives only by teaching the truth. GOD, being infinite, is known to us only by His finite manifestations; the Known leading us, by necessary or reasonable hypothesis, to divine the relative Unknown; and the Wisdom of God, by which everything begins and ends, the principle of all that eternally exists, consists in the spirit of loving-kindness or charity. It created the universe, and it preserves it, and by it dissolution is regeneration. To it alone the soul owes its immortality; and whatsoever, in Masonry or in political conduct or in religion, is contrary to this spirit and this Supreme Wisdom, is false.
— Albert Pike, Legenda for the 19th Degree. From Legendas, XIX – XXX, no date, no copyright, no publishing data….
One note we add, in the form of a comment is this: We have chosen to include this piece because it shows that Masonry is indeed much more than its present-day representatives want to claim it is. One day we shall run the entire Legenda of the 28°. We also have some interesting texts from Mackey’s National Freemason, volumes II and III, 1873 and 1874, e.v. One must go back that far in order to find something useful in the Order, since most of what has come out in the past 75 years or so has left quite a lot to be desired.