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.
The letter “G” dominates the Masonic Lodge room (in Israel it is the Hebrew letter Heh, symbolising HaShem, the Divine Name). It stands for God, who is at the centre of craft thinking. Not that Freemasonry is a theology, but its terminology is religious
This is not the only context which speaks of God without being bound by a particular denominational interpretation. Other examples are the American currency notes, which proclaim, “In God We Trust”, and the Australian parliament, which opens its sessions with a prayer to God. No-one asks the United States or the Australian government whether they have any official view of what they understand by God, but they are apparently content to use His name. In the Australian federal system there was a debate some years ago about whether God should or should not be mentioned in the preamble to the constitution, and I vividly recall my own participation in that debate.
What is the situation in Freemasonry?
A Freemason is required to have a belief in the Supreme Being. “G” for God must metaphorically stand at the centre of his life. What we mean by God is not defined, though there are characteristic phrases about Him which fit the needs of the craft. Three phrases in particular – “Great Architect”, “Grand Geometrician” and “Most High”.
In a movement that focuses on building, the thought of God as architect and geometrician is obviously relevant. As any good building needs to be properly designed and measured, so do the macro-edifice of the world and the micro-edifice of the human being. In the history of theology, the existence of God was often demonstrated on the basis of the “argument from design”, which said, “How can there be a design unless there is a Designer?”
God as the Most High is also relevant to the craft. The name represents higher authority, majesty and dignity, all of them concepts that inform the dynamics of the lodge and the life of the Freemason.
None of these Divine names, however, expresses the inner personal spirituality which is basic to the religious life. Perhaps it is out of the question to expect Freemasonry to say, “Love the Lord your God”, or to echo the Psalmist, “As the hart pants after the brook, so does my heart yearn for You”. The passion, exaltation and reverence of the believer are a different dimension of religion, not part of the ideology of Freemasonry. The craft finds God in the order, design, harmony and dignity of the world, though hopefully the individual Freemason also finds the God of emotional encounter and spiritual experience.
Masonic ritual does not cry out to the loving One of the Psalms, but it seeks to honour His word as it ponders making the world into a place where His word rules.
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.