By Rt. Wor. Bro. Rabbi Dr Raymond Apple, AO RFD, Past Deputy Grand Master of the United Grand Lodge of New South Wales & the Australian Capital Territory.
As I sit in Lodge I glance at the letter “G” suspended from the ceiling. I have seen it countless times and hardly even given it a thought. Like so much else it is a comforting fixed point in my life. Whilst “G” is there in the Lodge room the world is in order. I am reminded of Browning’s words, “God’s in His heaven – all’s right with the world”. Good poetry perhaps, but bad theology.
God has no physical shape; He cannot be placed anywhere geographically; neither in the heavens nor on earth. The truth is that God – by sheer definition – is everywhere. That is, everywhere that human beings let Him in.
In the Lodge room too. The piece of metal suspended from the ceiling is not God, nor even an idol. It is a symbol, like so much else in Freemasonry; a symbol that Freemasonry is religious, requires a belief in The Supreme Being; that what the Mason is and does, ought to demonstrate that God is in his life.
Which God, which concept of God? That depends on one’s cultural baggage. A Jewish God, a Christian God, a Muslim God? All of these, and none. The Jew thinks with a Jewish mind, the Christian and Muslim with their particular mindset. God Himself is un-adjectival.
But then comes a problem. If we cannot attach an adjective to God, can we nonetheless describe what He does? Cawdray’s Treasurie of Similies published in 1609 quotes an earlier source, A Spiritual and Most Precious Perle by Werdmuller, published in 1550.
“As the Free-Mason heweth the hard stones,” it says, “even so God the Heavenly Free-Mason buildeth a Christian Church”. The historian notes the 16th century use of the term Freemason and indeed even earlier sources indicate that it was in use in the 14th century. But that’s not quite my point. My point is the analogy between God and the Freemason. According to the Bible, man is made in the image of God; here God is made in the image of man. Anthropomorphism – applying human terminology to the Almighty. The Jewish sages say, “The Torah speaks in the language of human beings”.
We know it is poetry and we cannot take it literally when God’s strong hand redeems the slaves and His eyes gaze upon His creation. Nor do we read too much into the professional metaphors – “I the Lord am your healer”. If we took the poetry too seriously we would have problems.
God could not possibly be a physician; He never took a medical degree, nor does He have certification from a medical board.
In that sense He cannot be a Freemason either. No-one nominated Him for membership, He was never initiated, He has no Masonic regalia. But God as an architect who has a plan for His edifice (the world), and a builder who makes His creation beautiful and firm – that makes some sense to us.
So the letter “G” in the Lodge room does not mean that He is literally a Freemason nor that He needs us to tell Him how to do His job. Nor even that He is made in our image.
It is there to remind us that He is omnipresent and omniscient, and to ensure that we look up and work in a way that will earn His approval. I almost added, “and be passed by the Divine Foreman”. But maybe that would take anthropomorphism too far.
For more articles on Freemasonic issues by Rt. Wor. Bro. Rabbi Dr Raymond Apple, AO RFD, visit his Freemasonry webpage.
Rt. Wor. Bro. Rabbi Dr Raymond Apple’s book on the history, symbolism and teachings of Freemasonry, enlivened with personal reminiscences and humour.