Secret society - free mason

About secret societies, free masonry, simbols, rithuals, order, ... Some articles are taken from "Mysteries of Freemasonry" by Captain William Morgan "The Symbolism of Freemasonry" by Albert G. Mackey, M.D. 1882. "Secret Societies" by David MacDill, Jonathan Blanchard, and Edward Beecher Those three books have free licence and no copyright law has broken.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Oaths and Promises

1. Another serious objection to secret associations is the profanation by them of the oath of God. We regard such profanation as the natural result of their secrecy. When associations of men endeavor to keep secret their operations from generation to generation, they will not be willing to trust to the honor and honesty of their members. A simple promise of secrecy will not be deemed sufficient. Oaths or promises, with dreadful penalties, will very likely be required of all those who are admitted as members. Secret societies may, perhaps, exist without such oaths and promises. If the members of an association are few in number, or if the publication of its secrets would not be regarded as very injurious to its interests, perhaps a simple promise of secrecy will be regarded as sufficient; but whenever an association endeavors to secure a numerous membership, and regards a disclosure of its secrets as likely to damage its reputation or hinder its success, something more than a simple promise of secrecy will very likely be required at the initiation of members. Accordingly, some secret associations, it is known, do employ awful sanctions in order to secure concealment. Even when the members of a secret order claim that they are not bound to secrecy by oath, but only by a simple promise, it will, perhaps, be found on examination that that promise is, in reality, an oath. An appeal to God or to heaven, whether made expressly or impliedly, in attestation of the truth of a promise or declaration, is an oath. Such an appeal may not be regarded as an oath in our civil courts, the violator of which would incur the pains and penalties of perjury; yet certainly it is an oath according to the teachings of the Bible. Our Savior teaches that to swear by the temple, is to swear by God who dwelleth therein; and that to swear by heaven, is to swear by the throne of God, and by him that sitteth thereon. (Matt. xx: 23.) We find, also, that the words, "As the Lord liveth," is to be regarded as an oath. King David is repeatedly said to have sworn, when he used this form of expression, in attestation of his sincerity. (1 Sam. xx: 3; 1 Kings i: 29.) An appeal to God, whether direct or indirect, in attestation of the truth of a declaration or promise, is an oath. As we have already said, a secret association may exist without an oath. But we are not sure that any does. Odd-fellows have declared that they have no initiatory oath. In the address published by the Grand Lodge of the United States, referred to before, the following declaration is made: "No oath, as was once supposed, is administered to the candidate." (App. to Proceedings of Grand Lodge, 1859, p. 10.) Yet Grosch, in his Odd-fellows' Manual, speaks of an "appeal to heaven" in the initiation, at least, into one of the degrees. (P. 306.) Perhaps the contradiction arises from a difference of opinion in regard to what it takes to constitute an oath, or, perhaps, from the fact that an oath is required in initiations into some degrees, but not in others. However this may be, we know that some secret societies have initiatory oaths, and that nearly all administer what, in the sight of God, is an oath, though they may not so view it themselves. Nor do we see any reason to discredit the declaration of Grosch that the candidate "appeals to heaven."

2. Now, the taking of an initiatory oath is, to say the very least of it, of doubtful propriety. Every one who does so swears by the living God that he will forever keep secret things about which he knows nothing. The secrets of the association are not imparted to him until after he has sworn that he will not reveal them. He is kept ignorant of them until the "brethren" are assured by his appeal to heaven that they can trust him. Now, the inspired apostle lays down the principle that a man sins when he does any thing about the propriety of which he is in doubt. He declares that the eating of meats was in itself a matter of indifference, but that if any man esteem any thing unclean, to him it is unclean. He then makes the following declaration: "But he that doubteth is damned if he eat, because he eateth not of faith; for whatsoever is not of faith is sin." (Rom. xiv: 22, 23.) According to this most emphatic declaration, we must have faith and confidence that what we do is right, else we are blameworthy. We sin whenever we do any thing which is, according to our own judgment, of doubtful propriety. The man who is initiated into an oath-bound society, swears that he will keep secret things about which he knows nothing--things which, for aught he knows, ought not to be kept secret. If the apostle condemned, in most emphatic language, the man who would do so trivial a thing as eat meat without assuring himself of the lawfulness of his doing so, what would he have said had the practice existed in his day of swearing by the God of heaven in regard to matters that are altogether unknown? To say the very least, such swearing is altogether inconsistent with that caution and conscientiousness which the Scriptures enjoin. The apostle also condemns the conduct of those who "understand neither what they say nor whereof they affirm" (1 Tim. i: 7.) Does not his condemnation fall on those who know not about what they swear, nor whereof they appeal to heaven?
masonic belt
3. There is another objection to taking an initiatory oath. We are expressly forbidden to take God's name in vain. To pronounce God's name without a good reason for doing so is to take it in vain. Certainly, to swear by the name of the living God demands an important occasion. To make an appeal to the God of heaven on some trifling occasion is a profanation of his oath and name. If the secrets of Masonry, Odd-fellowship, Good Templars, and similar associations, are unimportant, their oaths, appeals to heaven, and solemn promises made in the presence of God are profane and sinful. Perhaps their boasted secrets are only signs, grips, pass-words, and absurd rites of initiation. To swear by the name of the Lord about things of this kind is certainly a violation of the third commandment. The candidate does not know that the secrets about to be disclosed to him are of any importance, and he runs the risk of using God's name and oath about light and trivial things. He must be uncertain whether there is any thing of importance in hand at the time of swearing, and how can he escape the disapproval of God, since the inspired Paul declares that the doubtful eater of meat is damned? (Rom. xiv: 23.)

4. We have already adverted to the fact that concealment is resorted to in order to take advantage of "a weakness in human nature," and to recommend things which, if known generally, would be disregarded. Is it right to use the name and oath of God for the accomplishment of such purposes? Is it right to use the name and oath of God in order to take advantage of "a weakness in human nature," and to invest with fictitious charms things which, if seen in the clear light of day, would be regarded with indifference or contempt? The taking of oaths for such purposes, and under such circumstances will generally be avoided by those who give good heed to the command, "Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain."

5. While we do not claim that there is any passage of Scripture which expressly declares the initiatory oaths under consideration to be profane and sinful, at the same time there are many passages which require us to beware how and when we swear:

"But above all things, my brethren, swear not, neither by heaven, neither by the earth, neither by any other oath; but let your yea be yea, and your nay, nay, lest ye fall into condemnation." (James v: 12.) Does not this command condemn those who swear to keep secret they know not what, and to fulfill obligations which devolve upon them as members of an association, before they know fully what that association is, or what those obligations are? Should not every one consider himself admonished not to swear such an oath lest he fall into condemnation? Again: Our Savior says, "Swear not at all; neither by heaven, for it is God's throne; nor by the earth, for it is his footstool; neither by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great king. Neither shalt thou swear by thy head, because thou canst not make one hair white or black; but let your communication be yea, yea, nay, nay; for whatsoever is more than these, cometh of evil." These words were spoken in condemnation of those who employed oaths frequently and on improper occasions. They should make every one hesitate in regard to swearing, in any form, on his initiation into an order the obligations and operations of which have not yet been revealed to him. Once more: "Be not rash with thy mouth, and let not thine heart be hasty to utter any thing before God, for God is in heaven and thou upon earth; therefore, let thy words be few." (Eccl. v: 2.) Is it not a rash thing to bind one's self by the oath of God to keep secret things as yet unknown, or to bind one's self to conform to unknown regulations and usages? In view of these declarations of the Word of God, it certainly would be well to avoid taking such oaths as generally are required of the members of secret associations at their initiation.

6. The promise required of candidates at their initiation, whether there be an oath or not, is also, at least in many cases, improper and sinful. For instance, the "candidate for the mysteries of Masonry," previous to initiation, must make the declaration that he "will cheerfully conform to all the ancient established usages and customs of the fraternity." (Webb's Freemason's Monitor, p. 34.) Grosch, in his Odd-fellows' Manual, directs the candidate at his initiation as follows: "Give yourself passively to your guides, to lead you whithersoever they will." (P. 91.) Again, in regard to initiation into a certain degree, he says: "The candidate for this degree should be firm and decided in his answers to all questions asked him, and patient in all required of him," etc. (P. 279.) In the form of application for membership, as laid down by Grosch, the applicant promises as follows:

"If admitted, I promise obedience to the usages and laws of the Order and of the Lodge." (P. 378.)

These declarations, by reliable authors, plainly show that both in Masonry and Odd-fellowship obligations are laid on members of which, at the time, they are ignorant. Candidates for Masonry must promise to conform, yes, "cheerfully conform to all the ancient established usages and customs of the fraternity." The application for membership in the association of Odd-fellows must be accompanied by a promise of obedience to the usages and laws both of the whole Order and of the lodge in which membership is sought. No man has a right to make such a promise until he has carefully examined the usages, and customs, and laws referred to. While he is ignorant of them, he does not know but some of them or all of them may be morally wrong. Before the candidate has been initiated, he has not had an opportunity of acquainting himself with all the laws, usages, and customs which he promises to obey. Is not such a promise condemned by the divine injunction, "Be not rash with thy mouth?" Is not the man who promises to obey regulations, customs, and usages before he knows fully what they are as blameworthy as the doubtful eater of meats, who, the inspired apostle tells us, is damned for doing what he is not confident is right? The candidate for initiation into Odd-fellowship must "give himself passively to his guides." Such demands indicate the spirit which secret associations require of their members. They must surrender the exercise of their own judgment, and permit themselves to be blindly led by others. No man has a right thus to surrender himself passively to the guidance of others. Every man is bound to act according to his own judgment and conscience. Before a man promises to obey any human regulations, or to conform to any usage or custom, he is bound to know what that regulation, usage, or custom is, and to see that it is morally right. To do otherwise is to sin against conscience and the law of God.

7. Besides this, the promise to "preserve mysteries inviolate," made before they have been made known to the promiser, is condemned by sound morality. He may have heard the declaration of others that there is nothing wrong in "the mysteries," but this is not sufficient to justify him. A man is bound to exercise his own reason and conscience in regard to all questions of morality.
No man has a right, at any time, to lay aside his reason and conscience and allow himself to be "guided passively" by others. Every man is bound to see and decide for himself in every case of duty and morals. We should not let the church of Christ even decide for us in such matters, much less some association, composed, it may be, of infidels, Mormons, Jews, Mohammedans, and all sorts of men except atheists. (See pages 37, 31.) A band of such men may have secrets very immoral in character, and which it would be a violation of God's law to preserve inviolate. To promise beforehand that any "mysteries" which they may see fit to enact and practice shall be forever concealed, is to trifle with conscience and morality. It is useless to plead that a member can withdraw as soon as he discovers any thing wrong in the regulations and usages which he is required to obey. Every one who joins such an association as those under consideration must make up his mind to do so before he knows what "the mysteries" are, and he must promise (either with or without an oath) that he will preserve them inviolate before "the brethren" will intrust them to him. The possibility of dissolving his connection with the association afterward does not exonerate him of promising to do he knows not what--of laying aside his own conscience and reason, and yielding himself "passively" to others. The promise of secrecy and of obedience to unknown regulations and customs, required at the initiation of candidates into such associations as we are considering, is, therefore, a step in the dark. It involves the assuming of an obligation to do what may be morally wrong, and is, therefore, inconsistent with the teachings of the Word of God and the principles of sound morality.



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