S. Brent Morris, 33
Anti-Masons often distort the meaning of Masonic symbols,
in particular the letter “G.”
This past week I went to a book store in a nearby shopping center to pick up a copy of the New Oxford Annotated Bible I had ordered for a Bible class. The shop was a “Christian bookstore,” and I browsed a bit to see what books they might have on Freemasonry. I didn’t expect much positive, but I was dismayed at the viciously deceitful material that was being purveyed in the name of Truth. I have no problem with someone who honestly disagrees with me. There is a wide diversity of opinion among Christians on many topics, including divorce, baptism, gambling, and the nature of the sacraments, to name just a few. The debates on these subjects have been heated and may never be settled on this earth. If someone says his understanding of Christian duty prevents him from unconditionally rejoicing when his neighbor worships God, then I can understand why he would not want to be a Mason. When someone states, however, that he cannot be a Mason because we are phallic worshipers and the letter G stands for “generative force,” I become angry. Such an allegation is a lie and a deliberate distortion of Masonic symbols.
The symbolism of the letter G is as simple as it is straightforward--it is an elementary play on words and has the dual meanings of geometry and God. Prichard’s 1730 Masonry Dissected, one of the exposures of early Masonic Ritual, captures the symbolism perfectly in two questions from the Fellowcraft Degree: Q. What doth G denote? A. One that’s greater than you. Q. Who is greater than I, that am a Free and Accepted Mason, the Master of a Lodge? A. The Grand Architect and Contriver of the Universe, or He that was taken up to the top of the Pinnacle of the Holy Temple.
Prichard certainly had no intent of helping the Fraternity with his exposé, but even he didn’t stoop to the disgusting perversions spread by our modern detractors.
The record shows that otherwise respected Masonic scholars of the middle to late 1800s, such as Albert Mackey, Albert Pike, and their followers, had ideas about the origins of Masonry that are discredited today. No one, in fact, knows where our gentle Craft began, but Pike and Mackey were strong proponents of the theory Masonry was descended from the Ancient Mysteries and various forms of pagan worship. While their ideas were fashionable in Masonic circles a century ago, no serious Masonic student takes seriously these parts of their writings.
Henry W. Coil, 33, is often quoted by anti-Masons as an expert--but only when they think his ideas support their preconceived notions about Masonry. They conveniently overlook Coil’s Masonic Encyclopedia when it contradicts their twisted fancies, as it does in the case of the Ancient Mysteries:
“From about 1779, [the Ancient Mysteries] came more and more into prominence. It was a fertile field and there was scarcely the possibility of disputing anything at all that was said within its limits.... [T]he theme spread like wildfire,.... Mackey and Pike embraced it avidly, and the latter’s Morals and Dogma is largely given over to Ancient Paganism. Mackey, in Masonic Ritualist (1867) and Symbolism of Freemasonry (1869) carried it not only to an absurd degree, but to an extent which can hardly be less than revolting to a Christian....
“In order properly to interpret Mackey and Pike on Paganism, one must understand that both of them entered the Fraternity in the 1840s, when the fabulous type of Masonic literature was at its height and both walked unsuspectingly into the circle of magism, paganism, and occultism before they were properly seasoned in the history or doctrine of the Craft. Those things that were indisputably Masonic, such as the Gothic Constitutions, the minutes of lodges in the pre-Grand Lodge era, and the Constitutions of the premier Grand Lodge, they ignored, but followed irresponsible writers who were teaching doctrines neither then nor since approved or adopted by any Grand Lodge of symbolic Freemasonry.” (pp. 460-461)
Albert Mackey, quoted so religiously by our foes, repudiated the idea of Masonic descent from the Ancient Mysteries in his History of Freemasonry (1906). His last writings can hardly be called support for his earlier theories, and hence are ignored by those looking for lurid accusations:
“It has been a favorite theory with several German, French, and British scholars to trace the origin of Free-masonry to the Mysteries of Pagans, while others, repudiating the idea that the modern association should have sprung from them, still find analogies so remarkable between the two systems as to lead them to suppose that the Mysteries were an offshoot from the pure Masonry of the Patriarchs.
“In my opinion there is not the slightest foundation in historical evidence to support either theory, although I admit the existence of many analogies between the two systems, which can, however, be easily explained without admitting any connection in the way of origin and descent between them. (p. 185)
“Is modern Freemasonry a lineal and uninterrupted successor of the ancient Mysteries, the succession being transmitted through the Mithraic initiation which existed in the 5th and 6th centuries; or is the fact of the analogies between the two systems to be attributed to the coincidence of a natural process of human thought, common to all minds and showing its development in symbolic forms?
“For myself, I can only arrive at what I think is a logical conclusion; that if both the Mysteries and Freemasonry have taught the same lessons by the same method of instruction, this has arisen not from a succession of organizations, each one a link of a long chain of historical sequences leading directly to another, until Hiram is simply substituted for Osiris, but rather from those usual and natural coincidences of human thought which are to be found in every age and among all peoples.” (p. 197)
The real test of Masonic acceptance of the Ancient Mystery theories of Mackey and Pike is to study the writings of serious Masonic historians from the authentic school, not those from the romantic period. The publications of Quatuor Coronati Lodge No. 2076, the American Lodge of Research, the Texas Lodge of Research, the Ohio Chapter of Research, and others show that these absurd theories have been politely ignored. They have died the quiet death they deserved. The pathetic irony is that only one group today believes the tall tales of Mackey and Pike--not the Grand Lodges, not the Scottish Rite, but the anti-Masons. Our enemies are so anxious to believe the worst about us, they rush to embrace hypotheses long since abandoned, if ever widely accepted. Whether they are incompetent as historians or simply facile liars is for others to decide.
The above essay was originally published in The
Plumbline, the quarterly newsletter of the Scottish Rite Research Society,
in September 1992. Since the significance of the letter G remains a focus
of criticism of the Craft among anti-Masons, the article remains relevant
today and worthy of reprinting. Also, in 1993 Dr. Morris co-authored with
Bro. Art deHoyos, 32, Is It True What They Say About Freemasonry? The
Methods of Anti-Masons. A revised edition this year contains 100 new
pages and authoritatively updates this vital and contemporary subject.
Is It True? is the 1997 gift book to current members of the Research
Society and those who join this year. Membership is $20 (individuals only;
life membership $300) and includes a year’s subscription to The Plumbline.
In addition, each 1997 member will receive in mid-1998 a hardbound, custom-covered
book titled Heredom. It is a collection of very readable research
papers written and submitted by Society members during the 1997 calendar
year. To join, send a check payable to: Scottish Rite Research Society
1733 16th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20006-3103.
THE LETTER "G"
My first impression of Lodge still holds today. When I first walked in the Lodge Room, some 16 years ago, I was astonished at its beauty. Today, that astonishment remains. It’s a very large room with beautiful blue carpeting and matching chairs on the North and South sides. As I began to look around, I noticed the officers’ stations in various sections of the room and the altar that stood out by itself with an open Bible on it. But what really got my attention was that one and most important symbol hanging on the East Wall. It was the letter “G” and I asked what the Lodge used it for. I was told that it was to symbolize and remind everyone in the Lodge that God was present and that the Lodge must call upon Him before work can be done. Today, I am the Worshipful Master of that Lodge and sitting under that same letter “G.” I’m proud to be associated with an organization reverent enough to show that letter, whether it is inside their Lodge Room, outside their Lodge, or on the rings and clothes they wear. Brethren, look at that letter “G” again and remember what it stands for. Attend your Lodge today, associate with men of sound character and, most of all, attend your church and thank God for letting you be one of the few who can say to the world that you are a Master Mason who proudly displays that letter “G” wherever he may be.
W.M. Roger D. Allen, 32
Melrose Lodge, No. 1294, Houston, Texas; Member, Houston Scottish Rite Bodies