Most Americans, as often as they see a dollar bill, are unaware that the strange pyramid on the reverse side is a Masonic symbol and that George Washington, the "father of our country" was a Mason. What is Masonry? Few people could give more than a vague (and not very accurate) answer. It is, in fact, the largest secret society in the world, numbering nearly six million members, among whom are many men prominent in business, politics and the arts. Until quite recently I had never known a Mason. In the first six years of my pastoral activity in the missions I had never met an Orthodox Christian who was a Mason, or catechized anyone who had ever been one. Evidently Freemasonry has rarely been attractive to the average American convert to Orthodoxy, who sees the Masonic Lodge as a silly collection of "mumbo-jumbo" and "high pooh-bahs.” My own acquaintance with it was purely academic. Until this year, when my "book-knowledge" on the subject had cause to take on a definite form. Let me relate.
One day I received a call from an older man of Greek background who wished to join our parish. He made an appointment to come and talk to me. Although I noticed that he wore a distinctive ring, I failed to recognize the emblem until he casually mentioned that he belonged to the "Blue Lodge.” When I asked what this was, he said, "It's a local Masonic Lodge.” "Demetrios," I replied, "I can't admit you to the Sacraments if you area Freemason.” "Why not?" he asked. "Because Masonry is anti-Christian and has been condemned by both the Greek and Russian Churches in this century.” "That's funny," he said, "because I know many Orthodox who are my 'lodge brothers,' even a bishop!"
Shortly after this meeting with Demetrios (he refused to renounce Masonry, telling me that I simply didn't understand it), I had another encounter with a Mason. I then resolved that in future I would routinely ask all new parishioners or inquirers if they were involved with Masonry (or any of its related organizations--Odd Fellows, Shriners, Demolay, Job's Daughters, Rainbow Girls) in accordance with this decree from the Council of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church ;,broad, dating from 1932 and still in force:
The (Holy Council recommends) to pastors the necessity of questioning every person presenting himself for confession with a view of finding out whether or not that person is a member of a Masonic organization and whether or not he shares its doctrine. If it appears that the person is a member explain to him that participation in these organizations is incompatible with the name of Christian, with being a member of the Church of Christ That he must take a firm decision to break with Masonry and with doctrines related to it; and if he does not do so, not to admit him m Holy Communion; and if he should refuse to repent, to excommunicate him from the Holy Church."
Strong words, to those of us raised with the benevolent image of Masonry as we see it in Shriners' hospitals for children, but not as strong as the official statement of the Church of Greece in 1933, one year after the Russian bishops spoke out:
Freemasonry constitutes a mystagogical system which reminds us of the ancient heathen mystery-religion and cults--from which it descends and is their continuation and regeneration. This is not only admitted by prominent teachers in the lodges, but they declare it with pride, affirming literally Freemasonery is the only survival of the ancient mysteries and can be called the guardian of them-the Masonic Lodge is nothing else than the caves and the darkness of the cedars of India and the unknown depths of the pyramids and the crypts of the magnificent temple, of Isis, etc.
Thus the Greek bishops conclude:
"Freemasonery is a mystery religion quite different, separate, and alien to the Christian faith."
Similar pronouncements against Freemasonry have been made by the Roman Catholic Church (in 1738 and again in 1892). Likewise, some Protestant groups--as, for example, the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod-teach that Freemasonry is an un-Christian cult. And even the theologically liberal Church of England, after an investigation of Masonry, recently issued a recommendation that Anglicans take no part in it. (1) But in spite of official censure, many Christians-including those belonging to various Orthodox jurisdictions--see no conflict between their loyalty to the Lodge and their Faith. Most of these people would agree with Bishop Sven Lindegard of the Church of Sweden--where six of its 13 bishops are Masons--who responded to criticisms that Masonic membership is incompatible with Christian beliefs: "[That idea] does not deserve to be commented upon...It's absurd.” What is it that makes the Orthodox Church so vigorously opposed to it?
Most Masons, certainly those that profess to be Christian, would claim that Freemasonry is not a religion but only a fraternal organization. Historically Masonry grew out of the medieval stone masons' guilds. When the guild system disintegrated, the desire for preserving a select, mutually supportive group inspired four lodges in London to band together, and in 1717 the first Grand Lodge was formed. Unlike the medieval guilds, however, the Lodge from its inception was composed of "speculative masons" who had nothing to do with stone work but who incorporated into their society many terms and symbols of the stone cutter's trade. This is the factual history of the Lodge, although Masonic sources claim that the society's origin is traceable to King Solomon and the building of the temple in Jerusalem, and extends even further back to "the very cradle of the human race.” The Lodge claims to accept men of all creeds, and to lead them along the road of moral perfectibility to "Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity" (the very motto of the French Revolution),
There are, however, some Masonic authorities who openly admit that the purpose of the society is not purely fraternal. Albert Pike, in his exhaustive compendium, Morals and Dogma (a Masonic source, 1871), writes: "Every Masonic Lodge is a temple of religion and its teachings are instruction in religion" (p. 213). Requisite for membership in the Lodge is belief in a Supreme Being (who is referred to as the Great Architect of the Universe) and the immortality of the soul. Every meeting opens with a prayer addressed to this Supreme Being. Christians are assured that they can pray to their God, although discussion of particular religious creeds is forbidden, as well as any mention of Jesus Christ (ostensibly because Masonry seeks not to offend anyone's personal religious beliefs).
Given a superficial acquaintance with Masonic teaching, one can understand how an unthinking Christian can be deceived into believing that there' s nothing wrong in his being a Mason· This deception is reinforced by the strong parallels between Masonic dogma and Christianity from which it has taken many basic concepts--lifting some directly, one can say deliberately, from the Scriptures. "The great commandment of Masonry is this: ' A new commandment give I unto you: that ye love one another' "(Pike, 18). St. Paul is frequently quoted: "Know ye not that ye are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?” In “Christian” lodges, the Sacred Book (which together with the square and compass comprise the indispensable "furniture" of the lodge) is the Holy Bible. Masonry even claims to "reverentially enforce the sublime lessons of Him Who died upon the Cross" (Pike, 221).
A Rival Religion
But even a cursory examination of Masonic doctrine will prove to anyone that the Mason' s "Great Architect" is certainly not the God of the Christians, not Solomen's Jehovah. Pike makes this very clear when he writes that the Old Testament writings about God merely reflect "popular notions of the Deity .... But such were not the ideas of the intellectual and enlightened few among the Hebrews. It is certain that they possessed a knowledge of the true nature and attributes of God, as the same class of men did among the other nations-Zoroaster, Manu, Confucius, Socrates, Plato. But their doctrines on this subject were esoteric; they did not communicate them to the people at large, but only to a favored few...to the Initiates. The communication of this knowledge and other secrets ·... constitutes, under other names, what we now call Masonry...
"The Supreme, Self-existent, Eternal, All-wise, All-powerful, Infinitely Good, Pitying, Beneficent, and Merciful Creator and Preserver of the Universe was the same, by whatever name he was called, to the intellectual and enlighten ed men of all nations" (pp. 207-208, our italics).
This teaching was precisely reflected in a troubling conversation Demetrios had had with one of my parishioners. When I learned he was a Mason, his meaning suddenly became clear. "The Greeks wouldn't say that Allah is God," he said, "only because they didn't know the word Allah; they only knew the Greek word for God, Theos--but they're both the same" When asked about the Greek Orthodox martyrs who died simply because they refused to utter the two syllables, Allah, he was silent. Here, then, was the chilling fruit of Masonic "theology”, an ecumenism so profound that thousands of martyrs could be dismissed as ignorant fools rather than glorified as Confessors of the Faith.
Indeed, Masonry reverences equally Moses, Confucius, Zoroaster, Jesus Christ and others, for ecumenism is its deepest truth: "Universality is its boast .... In its language citizens of every nation may converse; at its altars men of all religions may kneel; to its creed disciples of every faith may subscribe.., the Christian, the Hebrew, the Moslem, the Brahmin, the followers of Confucius and Zoroaster, can assemble as brethren and unite in prayer...” As the Greek bishops said in 1933: "Masonry seeks to embrace in itself gradually all mankind and ·... promises to give moral perfection and knowledge of truth...lifting itself to the position of a kind of super-religion, looking on all religions (not excepting Christianity) as inferior to itself.” This philosophy is identical to that of modern ecumenism, and it is precisely this idea which has been anathematized by traditional Orthodox jurisdiction, as being the gathering place of all heresy, all error, all idolatry. "Therefore," declare the Greek bishops:
All who have become involved in the initiations of masonic mysteries must from this moment sever all relations with masonic lodges and activities, being sure that they are thereby of a certainty renewing their links with our one Lord and Savior which were weakened by ignorance and by a wrong sense of values.... For Christianity alone is the religion which teaches absolute truth and fulfills the religious and moral needs of men .... We must not fall from the grace of Christ by becoming partakers of other mysteries. It is not lawful to belong at the same time to Christ and to march for redemption and moral perfection outside Him."
Masonry promises to all its faithful members salvation and a place in the "Grand Lodge above" without need of Christ's redeeming Sacrifice on the Cross; it promises moral perfection without need of repentance; it claims to initiate man into a knowledge of God and truth through a revelation of mysteries, not through Christ Who said: "I am the Way, the Truth and the Life; no man cometh unto the Father, but by Me" (John l4:6). These facts alone should alert the Christian that his participation in the Lodge is nothing less than spiritual adultery. For our God is a jealous God, and we have been exhorted:
Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for...what concord hath Christ with Belial or what part hath he that believeth an infidel! Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord. (II Cor. 6:14-17)
Even were it not for the pagan, syncretic ecumenical nature of Masonic dogmas, the religious rites of the Lodge make it impossible for a conscious and informed Orthodox Christian to participate in any slightest way. Orthodox means not only "right belief”, but also "right worship" (pravoslavny is the Russian for "orthodox" and means, literally, "true praising"). Therefore, since right belief and right worship are virtually synonymous in Orthodoxy, it is never permissible for an Orthodox Christian to participate in non-Orthodox religious rites (and "Masonry is worship"--Pike, 219). When Orthodox Christians join a Masonic Lodge (or participate in the prayers and rites of other churches) they utterly compromise the purity of their witness, both theologically and liturgically. They betray the Faith as Judas betrayed Christ. They place Orthodoxy on the same level as non-Orthodox faiths, non Christian movements, and even the ancient pagan mystery religions--all of which Christ came in order to overthrow and destroy, not to somehow el evate to the same level of Truth !
According to the Masons, the True God "rediscovered" is JAH-BUL-ON. "Jah" is the abbreviation for the Hebrew name of God - Jahweh or Jehovah; "Bul" or "Bal" is the Assryrian deity Baal; "On" is the Egyptian sun god.
(From L. James Rongstadt, How to Respond to...the Lodge; Concordia Publishing House, 1977)
Here we do not have the space to investigate in detail the doctrine s and rites of Masonry, or the favoritism practiced by Masons towards each other, the elitism, the barbarous oaths of secrecy, the deception practiced on the members, etc. But we hope that even this brief explanation will serve to enlighten those who have been unwittingly attracted by Masonry's benign exterior and to steer others clear of its nets. Freemasonry is obviously the mother of modern ecumenism, (2) without doubt the most subtle and dangerous heresy of our time. If we are to persevere faithful to Christ, we must be vigilant and "try the spirits whether they are of God, for many false prophets have gone into the world" (I John 4:1). How are we to do this? Herein lies our hope:
And we know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we may know Him that is true; and we are in Him that is true, even in His Son Jesus Christ. This, is the true God, and eternal life. (I John 5:20)
 Some readers may be interested to know that Prince Charles is the first in a long line of English male' royalty to decline membership
 For example, even 19th century Masonic manuals taught the "branch-theory" of Christianity, which has now been accepted by Roman Catholics, Anglicans, and, alas, some Orthodox.