FREEMASONRY: A Revealing Look at the Spiritual Side – Final Chapter
Excerpts from a “Lighthouse Trails booklet FREEMASONRY: A Revealing Look at the Spiritual Side by Carl Teichrib.”
Perfection in the Lodge
The use of the word “perfection” is found throughout Freemasonry. For example, in the Scottish Rite, the combined degrees of 4 to 14 are called the “Lodge of Perfection,” and Degree 5 is labeled “Perfect Master.”
Henry C. Clausen, the former Sovereign Grand Commander of the Supreme Council (19691985), Southern Jurisdiction of the Scottish Rite, provides commentary on the fifth degree. Notice the connection between what we create—the works of our hands and what we do— and the subsequent attainment of immortality and our highest spiritual enlightenment:
The setting and symbolic color for this Degree remind us that while we die in sin we may revive in virtue. We therefore always should act with regard to justice, equity, honesty and integrity and reaffirm our abiding belief in the immortality of the soul. Thus, we symbolically raise the departed from the coffin and place him at the holy altar as a Perfect Master . . . The universe is created continually. As we participate in the process we partake of the Creator—the Divine of God. This participation as co-Creator is itself a form of man’s immortality regardless of whether, as we believe, his spirit survives the body. We exist and create. Being greater than self is man’s true destiny, dignity and grandeur.
Man’s will to believe in something greater than self is the springboard from which we can touch the Divine. Talk with men of faith. Read the books that tell of spiritual achievements. Meditate as you gaze at the stars of the first magnitude. Then you, too, may attain that conclusive spiritual revelation which is the highest human development.
When the Mason enters the 14th level of the Scottish Rite, Southern Jurisdiction, he has attained the degree of the Perfect Elu, or the Grand Elect Perfect and Sublime Mason in the Canadian division. Speaking to this degree, Clausen tells us:12/18
We press on toward the unattainable, yet more nearly approaching perfect truth . . . Our future well-being depends on how we perform in this life.
Albert Pike, who was Sovereign Grand Commander of the Southern Jurisdiction for 32 years starting in 1859 and had a hand in writing the Scottish Rite rituals, provides some philosophical background to the 14th degree:
Masonry is the universal, eternal, immutable religion, such as God planted it in the heart of universal humanity. No creed has ever been long-lived that was not built on this foundation. It is the base, and they are the superstructure . . . The ministers of this religion are all Masons who comprehend it and are devoted to it; its sacrifices to God are good works, the sacrifices of the base and disorderly passions, the offering up of self-interest on the altar of humanity, and perpetual efforts to attain to all the moral perfection of which man is capable.
Many other instances of perfection crop up in the family of Masonic societies. In the Egyptian Rite, we find the Rite of Perfect Initiates, in the Irish branch, we discover the Perfect Irish Master, and in the Order of Noachites, we find the Perfect Prussian. In Rennes, France, there existed a Lodge of Perfect Union, and in 1754, a Masonic oriented lodge was set up in the College of Jesuits of Clermont, in Paris, known as the Rite of Perfection. In Germany, the degree of Perfection was the last in the now-defunct Rite of Fessler. Moreover, when Adam Weishaupt formed his independent body—known as the Order of Illuminati at Bavaria—it was first called the Perfectionists.
Today, a number of Masonic lodges have “perfection” in their name. In Calgary, Alberta, you can find Perfection Lodge #9. Perfection Lodge #75 is in New Westminster, British Columbia. Jacksonville, Florida is home to Perfection Lodge #11, and Perfection Lodge can be found in Framingham, Massachusetts.
Going beyond the naming of lodges, Masonic symbolism speaks to something more ubiquitous within the Craft. Here, symbols meant to convey perfection and perfectibility are found across the Masonic landscape. One example is the rough and perfect Ashlar: A stone block which is first unfinished, and then, through the work of Freemasonry, emerges perfect and ready for use. Historian Albert Mackey describes it this way.
The Rough Ashlar, or stone in its rude and unpolished condition, in emblematic of man in his natural state—ignorant, uncultivated, and vicious. But when education has exerted its wholesome influence in expanding his intellect, restraining his passions, and purifying his life, he then is represented by the Perfect Ashlar, which, under the skillful hands of the workmen, has been smoothed, and squared, and fitted for its place in the building.
The non-Mason is the Rough Ashlar, but once he enters the Lodge and is shaped by the rituals and educated in Masonic philosophy, this individual is made new and perfected in the task of what is called the “Great Work.” Sometimes the ashlar is pictured as a single stone being hewn or chiseled, but more often it’s two stones side-by-side: the rough and the perfect. The Masonic Trestle Board too is symbolic of perfection. Allen E. Roberts tells us in The Craft and Its Symbols:
The Trestle Board, used by the master workman to draw his designs upon, is a symbol of perfection. It is symbolically a spiritual board on which a man should lay out his plans to build his ‘living stones’ into a Temple to the Great Architect of the Universe.
Other symbols employed in Freemasonry have a meaning of perfection, including the square and compass, the jewel of the York Rite’s Past Master, the Equilateral Triangle, the level and the plumb, the ruler with 24 divisions, and the Lambskin Apron worn by all men of the Lodge. George H. Steinmetz reminds the Masonic traveler:
All the symbology of Freemasonry depicts man’s journey back to his lost perfection is intended to assist him to accelerate his progress by teaching him how to more quickly accomplish his purpose.
So what is this “perfection” that the Craft speaks so much about? It is the attempt through good works, rituals and obligations, and Masonic education to be spiritually perfected through one’s own striving. This is spiritual alchemy: the attempt to transform one’s spiritual imperfection through the science of mysticism and thus be re-forged as a new and perfected being.
Henry C. Clausen explains:
If you follow the true path of Scottish Rite perfection, with an unshakable faith in a Supreme power, you will go from the darkness of slavery into the dazzling, holy light of freedom.!!
The Scottish Rite teaches its members how to spell “God” with the right blocks. That truly is the great relevance of Scottish Rite Masonry in the modern world. We teach our initiates there are available for the mind of man vast spiritual forces, vital spiritual powers.
Similarly, we in the Scottish Rite can find in our inner selves a refuge from external distractions and evils, just as peace and quiet are found at the eye of a hurricane. There the sun shines and birds fly. Put your trust in your own inherent capacities.
Buddha attained his own enlightenment and said to his followers: “Be a lamp unto your own feet; do not seek outside yourself.”!
Chalmers I. Paton, in his book Freemasonry: Its Symbolism, Religious Nature and Law of Perfection, tells us that:
Freemasonry itself is symbolic of the highest possible perfection of mankind, and to this its great aim is to contribute; with a view to this object all its teachings are framed.!
J.D. Buck put it this way:
It is far more important that men should strive to become Christs than that they should believe that Jesus was Christ. . . . Jesus is no less Divine because all men may reach the same Divine perfection.!
For the Christian, we know through God’s Word that we are incapable of saving or perfecting ourselves: “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).
Scripture informs us that we must be perfect, yet that we are incapable of such a lofty goal. In Matthew 5, we find the standard for perfection, Jesus Christ, telling us we too must be perfect, “even as your Father, which is in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). How is this possible?Furthermore, Psalm 14 tells us that there is no one who does good, that all mankind is together corrupt, and that all have turned aside from God. Ecclesiastes 7:20 tells us; “For there is not a just man upon earth, that doeth good, sinneth not.”
Hebrews 10 informs us that Jesus Christ, as both the High Priest and sacrificial Lamb, completed this task of perfecting on our behalf—making us holy before God: “For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified” (Hebrews 10:14).
Consider the wonderful words of Ephesians 2:4-10:
But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) and hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: that in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.
Also, consider how the apostle Paul relates perfection and Jesus Christ in his letter to the Philippians. Here, Paul recognizes that his Savior is the one who perfects, and that Paul himself must continue the race as a believer, knowing that Christ Jesus is He who completes everything.
Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:12-14)
The man, therefore, who joins Freemasonry under the pretense that “we make good men better” places himself in a most difficult position where man is ascribed to be God and thereby able to perfect himself through his own efforts. We have, in effect, another gospel that excludes the Cross and leaves man to seek after his own devices. Hence, the souls of all involved may be imperiled by a human method that cannot save.When we examine the Lodge and explore its mystical quest to achieve perfection, and contrast this to the saving grace of Jesus Christ, we realize that a fork in the road is before us: Either trust Jesus Christ as the one who perfects and finishes or attempt to achieve the impossible—perfect ourselves. For the Mason, he must perfect himself.
While this book is just an introduction to the inner spiritual workings of Freemasonry, I believe it provides enough information to show that Scripture runs counter to the ideas of the Lodge and Freemasonry, which seeks mystical perfection through its own works, making it an avenue that delivers the antithesis of the Gospel message of Jesus Christ.