(excerpted from Encyclopedia of
Cults and New Religions, Harvest House, 1999)
In order to answer the question of whether Masonry
is a cult, one must first determine which type or level of Masonry
is being discussed and what definition of a cult is being
considered. Not all Masonry is the same; a purely social Mason would
be far less influenced by any cultic elements in Masonry than a
religiously committed Mason.
Theologically, Masonry may be classified as a cult
from the perspective of biblical revelation. If we define a cult as
a religious group which claims compatibility with Christian faith
but deviates seriously from orthodox Christianity in doctrine and
practice, Masonry qualifies. In addition, there are certain historic
associations, levels of initiation and levels of interpretation of
Masonry that reveal a more broad-based cultic nature.
Consider the more outlandish characteristics of a
cult such as: (1) a more or less complete withdrawal from all
non-cultic social and family contact; (2) the physical or spiritual
mistreating or abuse of cult members; (3) the inhibition of
independent thinking and deliberate cultivation of dependency upon
an authoritarian leader; (4) indoctrination reinforced through
intimidation such as threats of reprisal by physical violence or
severe spiritual consequence.
Masonry contains elements of some of these
characteristics. It keeps Masonic secrets from family members, its
oaths can be spiritually abusive, manipulative and intimidating, and
they imply retribution for their violation. The ritual may in
certain ways function to suppress independent thinking and
dependency on Masonry. Masons must obey Lodge authority and Masonry
Here are eight characteristics of cults that are
to varying degrees shared with Masonry.*
Masonry has parallels to ancient pagan cultic themes and beliefs.
This has been documented in chapters 17-19 of The Secret
Teachings of the Masonic Lodge,1 dealing with the occult
generally (chapter 17), spiritism specifically (chapter 18) and the
Ancient Mystery Religions (chapter 19). Many other researchers have
noted the correlations. Martin L. Wagner spent years of diligent
study of Masonry.2 He was the pastor of Saint John’s English
Evangelical Lutheran Church in Dayton, Ohio, and he concluded that
the peculiar views of Masonry harmonize it "with the religions
of the ancient cults."3 "The Masonic ritual has many
elements which have come down from antiquity, and connect the modern
institution with the cults of the ancients not so much in form as in
doctrine."4 In speaking of the unity of Freemasonry with such
pagan cults, he emphasizes that this is not to be seen in the
externals of the Craft, "not in exact identity of ceremony and
symbol, but in the religious ideas, in the object of its adoration,
in its conception and definition of the deity."5
2. The deception of the profane (the unworthy),
whether Mason or non-Mason. In Secret
Teachings, chapter 20, "Masonry and Deception," we
have examined and documented this.
3. Spiritual intimidation or secrecy
reinforced by penalty. In our
discussion on the oaths of Masonry (Secret Teachings, chapter
14), we said that the retributions were claimed as merely symbolic
but that this was not true and, regardless, they were punitive and
intimidating. To violate Masonic secrets is to offend the Deity
seriously,6 and to risk severe divine penalty, not to mention
censure and rejection by the Lodge. The penalties may be physical,
psychological or spiritual. To divulge Masonic secrets is to be
branded a traitor by fellow Masons, to lose important alliances and
friendships, and to suffer whatever consequences arise from Masonic
censorship. Among families of Masons, in business relations and in
social bonds, these consequences can be significant.
The oaths and their penalties are intended to
instill fear in the initiate, and they are effective. One only needs
to talk to a Mason to realize that he fears the consequences of
violating Masonic secrets. We cited the bloodthirsty nature of these
oaths, and we will document that Masonry shares a characteristic
common to cultism: spiritual intimidation and fear.
Manly Hall, a 33rd degree Mason,
concedes: "Every Mason knows that a broken vow brings with it a
terrible penalty.... When a Mason swears that he will devote his
life to [Masonry, and then violates his oath]... he is breaking a
vow which imposes not hours but ages of misery."7 Elsewhere
Hall even declares that spirits will bring retribution to the Mason
who violates his vows:
The average Mason, as well as the
modern student of Masonic ideals, little realizes the cosmic
obligation he takes upon himself when he begins his search for
those sacred truths of Nature as they are concealed in the ancient
and modern rituals. He must not lightly regard his vows, and
if he would not bring upon himself years and ages of suffering he
must cease to consider Freemasonry solely as a social order only a
few centuries old. He must realize that the ancient mystic
teachings as perpetuated in the modern rites are sacred, and that
powers unseen and unrecognized [the spirit world8] mold the
destiny of those who consciously and of their own free will take
upon themselves the obligations of the Fraternity.9
The "presentation volume"
of the Grand Lodge of Ancient Free and Accepted Masons of Virginia
observes: "The ancient oral penalties already mentioned are
retained in our ritual to impress upon the mind of each brother how
serious a violation will be regarded by the members of the
Fraternity.... Every means possible is used to impress the new Mason
with the solemnity and the necessity for faithful performance of
them."10 Masonic authority Carl H. Claudy states that the Mason
who violates his oaths must consider bringing upon himself the
divine wrath for such blasphemy:
... there are penalties in all
three [Blue Lodge] obligations and a discussion of one will do for
all.... The penalty should be read symbolically, each man for
himself. "I have taken an obligation. In it is a penalty by
which those who framed it intended to inspire terror;
to be binding upon those who then took it through fear. I
fear... what? The contempt of my fellows. The loss of my self
respect. The self abasement any true man feels who has broken a
solemn pledge. The wrath of a God blasphemed. The horror of a sin
than which there is none greater; breaking faith pledged in
honor. These, then, are what the penalties really mean; these are
the real consequences to me, if I violate my solemn
obligation; these are what will be done to me if I fail in living
up, so far as I am able, to the covenants I made with my brethren.
And may all of this be done unto me, in full measure should
I fail my brethren."11
Some have responded by saying that Christianity
also utilizes fear and threats. But any fear Christianity inspires
is merely a proper and respectful fear of God; it is not a fear
generated to retain secrets of doubtful value or outright
falsehoods. In addition, Christianity inspires fear of God’s
holiness for a legitimate reason: hell is real. So to do otherwise
would be cruel and ludicrous.
4. The justification, whether intended or
otherwise, of unethical practices. This
cultic characteristic can be seen in our discussion on Masonry and
morality (Secret Teachings, chapter 4). Cult groups often
claim that they uphold morality, but in fact the situation is
usually quite different. This is also the case in Masonry.
5. An element of authoritarianism.
Masonry is not authoritarian in the same sense that many cults are;
however, there is an element of authoritarianism. For example, L.
James Rongstad observes that in the Lodge, "Rule is autocratic.
The Worshipful Master of a local lodge, for example, has supreme and
total control."12 In his Introduction to Freemasonry, Volume
2, Carl H. Claudy observes,
The incumbent of the Oriental Chair
[Worshipful Master] has powers peculiar to his station which are
far greater than those of the president of a society or the
chairman of a meeting of any kind.... It is the Master’s right
to control lodge business and work. It is in a very real sense his
lodge. He decides all points of order and no appeal from his
decision may be taken to the lodge.... The Master has the right to
say who may enter and who may leave the lodge room.... Only the
Master may order a committee to examine a visiting brother.... If
he keeps within the laws, resolutions, and edicts of his Grand
Lodge [and the Landmarks]... the power of the Worshipful Master is
that of an absolute monarch.13
The Masonic scandal in the Italian
government in 1981 illustrates how such power may be abused. By
1975, more than 100 Masons were members of the Italian Parliament.14
The controversy centered around Propaganda Due ("P2"),
a secret grouping of Masons that constituted an "illegal"
Masonic Lodge (it was never officially constituted and never held
regular meetings of all members15). According to investigator
Stephen Knight, P2 was formed in 1966 at the request of the then
Grand Master of the Grand Orient of Italy, Giordano Gamberini. His
goal was apparently to establish a group of eminent persons who
could be useful to the cause of Freemasonry.16 Gamberini chose Licio
Gelli to form this group of respected individuals. But Gelli was a
fascist and a supporter of Mussolini.17 In effect, Gelli became the
"Venerable Master" (the Italian equivalent of Master
Mason) of an unofficial Lodge. According to Knight:
Many men joined P2 because they
believed the Venerable Master’s patronage was indispensable to
the furtherance of their careers. By this self-perpetuating
process, Gelli’s purported power became real. Others joined the
lodge because Gelli used ruthless blackmail. The "Masonic
dues" Gelli extracted from the brethren of Lodge P2 were not
primarily financial. What the Venerable Master demanded—and
got—were secrets: official secrets which he could use to
consolidate and extend his power, and personal secrets he could
use to blackmail others into joining his lodge. This most
sensitive information from all areas of government was passed to
him by his members, who seem to have obeyed him with
A secret society can be only as moral
and patriotic as those who rule it. If those who have absolute power
rule for personal ends, expect miscarriages of justice. Almost a
thousand of Italy’s most powerful men were secret members of P2,
and a prosecutor’s report observed: "Lodge Propaganda Due
[P2] is a secret sect that has combined business and politics with
the intention of destroying the country’s constitutional
order."19 Eventually, the "power of Gelli was found to
have undermined not only the national security of Italy, but to have
struck at the roots of Western strength in Southern Europe and the
Middle East. NATO was forced to support the attitude of the corrupt
Freemasons in Italy’s armed forces."20 "Gelli had his
Freemasons in every decision-making center in Italian politics, and
was able to exert significant influence over those
Knight also reveals that "P2 was
the very embodiment of the fear that had haunted Italy’s
undersecretary of state in 1913 when he had called for a law that
‘declared the unsuitability of members of the Masonic Lodge to
hold certain offices (such as those in the judiciary, in the army,
in the education department, etc.), the high moral and social value
of which is compromised by any hidden and therefore uncontrollable
tie, and by any motive of suspicion, and lack of trust on the part
of the public.’ "22
A parliamentary committee which
investigated the scandal charged that the Lodge was engaged in a
conspiracy to set up an authoritarian government in Italy—in
effect, attempting to overturn the Italian Republic.23 Knight
concluded, "There can be no doubt that many others have
suffered because of Freemasonry entering into areas of life where,
according to all its publicly proclaimed principles, it should never
intrude. The abuse of Freemasonry causes alarming miscarriages of
justice."24 He even cites Scotland Yard, which was
"heavily Masonic," as an example.25
6. The attempt at suppression of
critical literature. Many
cult groups today like Mormonism, Christian Science and Scientology
have something to hide. It may be an unsavory past, current abuse of
members, leaders’ immorality or destructive secret teachings.
These groups often attempt to undermine, discredit or suppress works
that are critical or too revealing. Stephen Knight observes,
"There is evidence of very considerable efforts being made by
Masons—including pressures on publishers, distributors and
libraries—to suppress works critical of the brotherhood.... This
even extends to the brotherhood’s own publications."26
According to Knight, Walton Hannah,
author of the critical work on Masonry, Darkness Visible, was
offered a thousand British pounds by "a mysterious
gentleman" not to publish his book.27 Knight’s own text, The
Brotherhood, also encountered publishing problems. His first
publisher was fearful of Masonic attempts to inhibit its
publication.28 This publisher, NEL, was taken over by Hodder and
Stoughton. The chairman and managing director were Philip and
Michael Attenborough. But their father, John Attenborough, was a
devoted Freemason and Christian. The book was killed because the
publishers "realized they would cause their father very great
pain by publishing The Brotherhood."29 The book
was eventually published in 1985 in England by Grenada Publishing.
It went through numerous printings, causing a furor.30 Knight claims
that Freemasons were officially warned about owning, discussing or
even reading the book.31 The "official" attitude of
Masonry toward critical works is to simply ignore them and maintain
silence.32 But it appears that some Masons, officially or otherwise,
have proceeded to take matters into their own hands.
7. The distortion of Scripture.
Cults often cite Scripture, sometimes extensively, but the manner in
which Scripture is interpreted involves a deliberate distortion to
make them conform to the beliefs of a particular group. Many
illustrations are found in our book Secret Teachings and in
James Sire’s Scripture Twisting. Masonry engages in similar
quoting and misuse of the Scriptures. As one official Presbyterian
It is significant, however, that in
Masonic ritual in use in so called Christian lands, as Great
Britain and the United States, quotations from Holy Scripture
abound. It cannot be doubted that this fact has blinded the eyes
of many to the real character of the Masonic order.... Time and
again in Masonic ritual portions of the Word of God are
erroneously—and, it must be said, even
blasphemously—applied.... Masonry does most serious violence to
the inscripturated Word of God and does the gravest despite to
Jesus Christ, the personal Word.33
8. Theologically, the denial of
Christian truth and blaspheming God.
In our theological analysis and elsewhere (Secret Teachings, chapters
5-16) we have seen that Masonry: (1) denies the deity of Christ, (2)
rejects the nature of God, (3) denies salvation by grace and teaches
salvation by works, (4) distorts the Scriptures;34 (reinterprets the
Bible to teach the "truths" of Masonry), (5) replaces
allegiance to God with allegiance to Masonry, (6) contains
contradictory theology, and 7) blasphemes God.
All these are characteristic of allegedly
"biblical" cults. What these characteristics represent are
(1) a rejection of God’s interests and (2) a corruption of the
Church. The late Dr. Walter Martin, an acknowledged authority on
comparative religion and cultism, observed:
I think there is a motivation in
Masonry as there is in the entire cultic structure that we study
in The Kingdom of the Cults. "Human nature is
perfectible by an intensive process of purification and
initiation." That is the Masonic initiation. Good works is
the pathway to salvation in all pagan religions and the pathway to
justification…. What we are dealing with in Masonry is a
non-Christian cult with a lot of very nice people in it who are
very sincere and very dedicated but very mistaken. In the words of
Scripture, "There is a way that seems right unto a man but
the end thereof are the ways of death."35
If the supreme allegiance of the Mason must be to
Masonry, then it cannot be to God, particularly if the teachings and
goals of the two are at variance. Masonry does not add membership to
the Christian Church; rather, it lures members away and corrupts
their faith. In a sense, it is parasitic, nurturing itself by
draining the life from another living organism.
All of this indicates that Masonry, in various
ways and at various levels, contains many of the characteristics of
a cult and is therefore properly classified as a cult, or at least
1. John Ankerberg, John Weldon, The Secret
Teachings of the Masonic Lodge, (Chicago IL: Moody Press, 1990).
2. Martin L. Wagner, Freemasonry: An
Interpretation, nd., np. (distributed by Missionary Service and
Supply, Route 2, Columbiana, OH, 44408), p.140.
3. Ibid., p. 283.
4. Ibid., p. 138.
5. Ibid., pp. 252-253.
6. Carl Claudy, Foreign Countries: A Gateway to
the Interpretation and Development of Certain Symbols of Freemasonry,
(Richmond, VA: Macoy Publishing and Masonic Supply, 1971), p.
7. Manly P. HaIl, The Lost Keys of Freemasonry
or the Secret of Hiram Abiff (Richmond, VA: Macoy Publishing and
Masonic Supply Co., Inc., 1976), p. 68, emphasis added.
8. Cf. ibid., pp. 11-13, 17-18, 25, 57, 60, 62.
9. Hall, The Lost Keys of Freemasonry, p.
11, emphasis added.
10. John Dove (comp.), Virginia Textbook (containing
"The Book of Constitutions," Illustrations of the Work,
Forms and Ceremonies of the Grand Lodge of Virginia), Vol. II,
(Grand Lodge of Virginia, nd.), p. 21.
11. Claudy, Foreign Countries, p.
90, emphasis added.
12. L. James Rongstad, How to Respond to the
Lodge, (St. Louis: Concordia, 1977), p. 14.
13. Carl. H. Claudy, Introduction to
Freemasonry, Vol. II, (Washington, DC: The Temple Publishers,
1984), pp. 89-92.
14. Stephen R. Sywulka, "The Pope Uses
Masonic Scandal to Stiffen Traditional Stance," Christianity
Today, June 26,1981, p. 38.
15. Stephen Knight, The Brotherhood: The
Explosive Expose of the Secret World of the Freemasons (London:
Grenada Publishing, Ltd./Panther Books, 1983), p. 270.
17. Ibid., pp. 210-271.
18. Ibid., p. 271, emphasis added.
19. Ibid., p. 275.
20. Ibid., p. 275, cf. p. 277.
21. Ibid., p. 275.
22. Ibid., pp. 273-274.
23. Sywulka, "The Pope Uses Masonic Scandal
to Stiffen Traditional Stance," p. 38; Knight, The
Brotherhood, p. 274.
24. Knight, The Brotherhood, p. 4.
25. Ibid., p. 85; cf. pp. 269-77, 298-307.
26. Ibid., pp. 244-245.
27. Ibid., p. 245.
28. Ibid., p. 10.
29. Ibid., p. 11.
30. Ibid., p. 12.
32. Alfonse Cerza, Let There Be Light: A Study
in Anti-Masonry (Silver Spring, MD: The Masonic Service
Association, 1983), pp. 29, 55.
33. Committee on Secret Societies of the Ninth
General Assembly of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church (meeting at
Rochester, NY, June 2-5, 1942), Christ or the Lodge?
(Philadelphia, PA: Great Commission Publications, nd.) pp. 12-15.
34. Ibid., pp. 12-13; Jack Harris, Freemasonry:
The Invisible Cult in Our Midst, (Chattanooga, TN: Global,
1983), p. 97.
35. The John Ankerberg Show Transcript,
"Christianity and the Masonic Lodge: Are They Compatible?"
(Chattanooga, TN: The John Ankerberg Evangelistic Association,
1985), pp. 33-34.