Topic of Masonic Interest: A Thought Experiment

The other day, my 10-year-old son was playing with an 8-year-old friend from the neighborhood. I’m not sure how it was brought up, but at some point my son came to me and asked me if I was a Satanist. He said that his friend told him that Freemasons were Satanists. I assured my son that I was not and that Freemasons were not. The next day when the kid came over to play, my son told him he didn’t feel like playing. I’m not sure how much one was related to the other, but I’d like to think he was standing up for his old man.

This incident got me thinking. First, I wondered about the origin of the idea that Freemasonry was Satanism. In my cursory research online, I found a beautiful image painted by William Blake called “Ancient of Days.”

This painting is of Urizen, the creator God in Blake’s own mythology, who created the world using a compass. That seemed like some downright Masonic symbolism. Was this an interpretation of the Great Architect of the Universe? How would this have been taken as some viewed Blake as Satanic himself? Could William Blake be partly responsible for Freemasonry being considered Satanic? After more research and a lively post on the r/freemasonry subreddit, I determined that my initial question was absolutely wrong. Although I didn’t find the origin, the oldest reference of Satan in Freemasonry that I found was made by Hiram Hopkins in 1826 following the Morgan Affair. By that time, my interest no longer laid in the origin anyway, I was interested in whether a Satanist could actually be a Freemason.

Here is my thought experiment, which is a lesson in tolerance and understanding to be sure.

First, what are the requirements to become a Mason? You must…

  1. be a man (in most jurisdictions) of good repute
  2. be of appropriate age
  3. believe in a Supreme Being (in most jurisdictions)
  4. be self-sufficient
  5. lead a moral and ethical life
  6. have a strong desire to make a difference in the world, become a better man, and make your community and world a better place

Now, how does a Satanist fit the bill?

To begin, we must understand what a Satanist is in their own terms, not how others perceive them to be. They have certainly been in the news a lot lately for taking advantage of States that have relaxed laws concerning the separation of Church and State. In Florida, Satanists from The Satanic Temple showed support for Gov. Scott’s signing a bill allowing religious messages to be read at schools. “A Christian group received permission to distribute Bibles and other religious materials to their students, leading atheist groups to appeal for an equal opportunity. It wasn’t long before the Satanic community hopped on board as well.” So, they got Satanic coloring books ready to hand out to the kids. This prompted the school district to ban all religious materials from being handed out at schools realizing the importance of the separation of Church and State, which is what the Satanic Temple’s mission seems to be.

The Satanic Temple is the group behind the building of an enormous enormous statue of Baphomet to be places at the Oklahoma state capitol, because the state allowed a Ten Commandments monument to be placed on the premises. However, they put that on hold after someone destroyed that statue with their car in the name of Satan. Here’s the thing. The members of the Satanic Temple are not Satan worshippers and were appalled by that behavior. Wait what? How’s that? That’s because they’re actually Atheists who are strong advocates for separation of Church and State, hence their activism illustrated above.

So, wait Satanists are Atheists? Well, not all of them. There are two kinds of Satanism, theistic Satanists like the fellow who rammed down the Ten Commandments statue and atheistic Satanists like The Satanic Temple and Anton LaVey’s “atheistic and materialistic religion that champions individualism, epicureanism, secularism, and egoism, and propagates a worldview of naturalism, Social Darwinism, and Lex Talionis (law of retaliation or Eye for an Eye).” So before going any further, we can pretty much say that these Atheistic Satanists cannot become Freemasons, because they do not have a belief in a Supreme Being (a requirement in most jurisdictions). In fact, my obligation as a Freemason would not allow me to be present at the making of an Atheist a Mason, let alone an Atheistic Satanist.

Now let’s take a look at Theistic Satanists. These guys believe that Satan is a supernatural being or force that they can interact with through ceremonial magic. Their beliefs turn Christianity on its head, perceiving Satan as the giver of knowledge and Yahweh as the Platonic Demiurge (creator of the physical universe, unaware that there is actually something greater than them, not the true God). They say Satan is the true God, so in their belief system Satan is the Supreme Being and greater than Yahweh. So, they do seem to qualify for a belief in a Supreme Being.

Because they perceive Satan as the giver of knowledge, self-development is extremely important to Theistic Satanists. They tend to be anti-authoritarian and individualistic. The beliefs, however, are quite diverse. Some practice a belief in Satan as something positive, wanting an equal relationship with man, while others seek a darker path. They do not necessarily see their religion as the opposite of Christianity, rather they draw upon dark pagan and occult traditions.

Given this description it is easy to see how non-Masons who adhere strongly to their religious beliefs, seeing theirs as the only true way, could confuse Freemasonry’s openness and diversity in its acceptance of religious traditions and constant search for more light, as something akin to Theistic Satanism. But, that conclusion is a complete misunderstanding of what Freemasonry is. Freemasonry is not a religion and does not require the belief in a specific religion or God. It is a fraternal organization that requires any belief in a Supreme Being, as one of its important features, because it is necessary for a Freemason to believe that there is something greater than himself.

Within Theistic Satanism, the beliefs are so disparate that one could not just say with a resounding, “NO, they would not belong!” However, those who are seeking the dark path are not seeking light. They aspire to see themselves as dangerous, so they are not trying to be better men. These Theistic Satanists who would be willing to rundown a statue of the Ten Commandments would never ever be able to be considered as Freemasons. There is nothing in their behavior or character that would allow it. Even if they did have good repute, were of age, believed in their Supreme Deity, and were self-sufficient, they do not likely lead a moral and ethical life or desire to make the world a better place.

The conundrum here are those Theistic Satanists who perceive Satan, not as the protagonist of the Judeo-Christian God, but as the one true God that gave man knowledge when the Demiurge would keep man enslaved. Why they call themselves Satanists, I know not. It seems they would be better categorized as neo-Platonists or Gnostics. However, all the information I have on these seemingly mythical creatures is gleaned from Wikipedia. Perhaps this special group of Satanists does not really exist, at least as described here. For to take on the belief that the one true God is Satan seems to have no other purpose than to have shock value for the Judeo-Christian believer. In as such that should be the purpose, they should have no place as a Freemason, as that shows such intolerance and disrespect to another person’s religion just to choose a name for God to be spiteful.

Although these kinds of Theistic Satanists may satisfy all the requirements to be Freemasons, there is one part of ritual they may never be able to bring themselves to perform. Upon the altar lie the three great lights of Freemasonry. Masons of traditions other than Christianity may have their holy book placed upon the altar, so that they may swear upon it. However, the Holy Bible will always be represented as the volume of sacred law by which Freemasonry governs itself. Some lodges may display all seven of the sacred books alluding to a Supreme Deity: The Bible for Hebrews, The Bible for Christians, The Dhammapada for Mahayana Buddhists, The Gita for Hindus, The Granth Sahib for Sikhs, The Koran for Muslims, and The Zend Avesta for Parsees and Zorastrians. Would an avowed Satanist be able to be a part of a society where the Holy Bible is of such a central focus? Even if they decided to petition, I do not think they would last long on their own accord, so perhaps it would be best to discourage them from becoming a Freemason.

However, we do find much religious tolerance in Freemasonry, so who knows? When the Grand Master of Masons in Florida, M.W. Bro. Jorge L. Aladro condemned Masons practicing Wicca, Paganism, Ásatrú, Agnosticism, and Gnosticism in a ruling on November 28, 2012, many Masons were vocally against such intolerance and discrimination of those brothers with alternative beliefs. Among them were, Bro. Cliff Porter who wrote an open letter to the Grand Master, and Bro. Erik Arneson who explained on his blog how Freemasonry is now a “progressive science” and should embrace such alternative spiritualities. Within six months, the Florida Grand Master’s edict to expel those alternative believers from Freemasonry was overturned.

Florida Masonry hereby declares its eternal devotion to the religious toleration that is one of the immovable and Ancient Landmarks of Freemasonry, never to be changed by any man or group of men.

So given all that I have described above, I still ponder whether this particular kind of Theistic Satanist should be accepted as a Freemason.

If we grant that his view of Satan is in name only for all those pagan and really non-Christian religions that were Satanized or Demonized by the Catholic Church’s Inquisitions through the years, then they are using that name to define a difference between the God of those particular Christians and their own beliefs. If he believes that all people are entitled to their own conception of the supreme deity and therefore are tolerant of even those who have that particular Christian belief, then why would they not be considered to be a Freemason, for their Satanism is in name only.

However, if they choose that name to worship Satan in opposition to Christianity, then they show the same religious intolerance of the Catholics, because they recognize the impact that such a name and belief has on those individuals. They could just as easily call themselves followers of Amun, Set, Ra, Isis, Osiris, Mithra, &c, and not have such a connotation attributed to them. It is a choice that they are making by choosing the name, which means Adversary, and in that choice they are being adversarial, which is not at all Masonic.

My conclusion is that choosing to name one’s Supreme Deity Satan is done so in order to increase the discomfort of others. This to me is intolerant. I would not support a Christian, Jewish, Muslim (or any other religious) petitioner who is just as intolerant of someone else’s traditions, so I will not suffer it to be done so here.

EDIT – 2 days later – After much discussion on this topic on Reddit and a private Facebook forum, my thinking has evolved slightly in regard to my conclusion. Although my feelings have not changed about my conclusion, I now think that if you were to say this person is a Satanist, I could not make a decision without personal communication to insure that the petitioner was compatible with Freemasonry. I should not rely on the heuristic of such a label to be my determining factor.

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