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A Supreme Being - Thinking Instead of the Box

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A Supreme Being
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Instead of the Box

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August 5, 20 By Dan Zollm Permalink Short link

For my inaugural post on philosophy (not counting my introduction to the website itself), I'll share the discovery that this site comes up as, roughly, the 10th result for a Google search for the word "philosophization"and that's before I even posted a single article on the topic. The "Recent philosophization" page is responsible for this. I guess that means either that keyword optimization is easy, or that relatively few people use the word "philosophization" on the internet. Ironically, but incidentally, this post might just improve that ranking further. To the topic at hand: From my brief (and possibly superficial) reading about Freemasonry, my understanding is that one of the prerequisites to becoming a Freemason is a belief in a "Supreme Being." Freemasons, however, expressly do not question or discuss the nature of the Supreme Being, the details of a member's belief, or other matters of religion, at least in their lodges or in the context of their organization. This means that they are, by design, open to individuals of any religion or school of philosophy, as long those individuals are of the desired moral character. This rule leaves open the possibility of beliefs in any kind of God (or gods): a sentient God, a personal God, a natural Godany of the countless conceptions of God discussed in the study of religion and philosophy. It would support individuals who are atheists in the usual sense but still believe in something divine, such as Thoreau's understanding of the divinity of nature. The beliefs of many Buddhists would also be included. No conditions are placed on the idea of a Supreme Being; only a belief in a Supreme Being is required. Since I read about this, I've been pondering where exactly the boundary falls between belief in a Supreme Being and beliefs that don't quite meet that description. Certainly, there are atheists who fall on both sides, depending on their spiritual beliefs, or lack thereof. But how about someone like, say, Nietzsche? He might or might not have acknowledged any sort of divinity, but his views on humanity and life itself do point to something supreme (whether or not you take the idea of the Overman in a literal sense). Now, how about Taoism? Since the Tao Te Ching is all I know of Taoism, I'll speak in terms of the Tao Te Ching: The Tao, although its meaning varies in the same way that the meaning of "God" does, is not a being. Some interpretations of the Tao, however, would characterize it as something universal and divine. On the other hand, I personally interpret the Taothat is, this is only my interpretationas something limited to an individual person, bounded by oneself, but not universal. It is just as powerful and profound as it is in its other versions, but it has nothing to do with nature as a whole, nor does it relate to a universal energy. It is simply a way of being, thinking, and living. I see this as closely related to Kierkegaard's notion of faith, a subjective relationship with the "infinite," because that is, too, ultimately a way of believing and living. These sorts of beliefs are far from any conventional faith; they do not involve a Supreme Being in the senses described above. But they could still be described as beliefs in a Supreme Being that is, a supreme way of being. In other words, take the word "Being" as a gerund: Buddhists, Nietzscheans, Taoists, and Kierkegaardians could all say, "Yes, I believe in a Supreme Being." Admittedly, this amounts to wordplay on the Freemasons' term "Supreme Being." However, my aim is not to find a loophole in their policy nor to belittle the intent behind that requirement. For Nietzsche or for a Taoist of the type suggested above, "way of being" receives a truly religious focus and effort; it is not simply an excuse for atheism. At the same time, the idea of a "way of living," whether its connotation is primarily spiritual or merely practical or utilitarian, is an important part of many religions and belief systems, not to mention a core piece of the way Freemasons see their role in society. It can be an essential aspect of faith. The question is whether or not a belief in Supreme way of Being in absence of literal faith would be considered Page 1 of 4

A Supreme Being - Thinking Instead of the Box

03/04/2013 12:42 ..

a belief in a Supreme Being. I realize that, out of the context of Freemasonry, this question would be meaningless. However, in an attempt to understand the non-denominational belief system and organization of the Freemasons, it's a worthwhile question. It is possible, though, that I misunderstand their rules. On one hand, the original, 18th-century intent behind the rule was probably to make sure the organization was non-denominational, while a relatively narrow understanding of faith was assumed. On the other hand, it's possible that Freemasons today generally wouldn't care if an individual's "belief in a Supreme Being" is objectively on the border-line as long as the individual considers himself to have the right kind of belief. (Maybe I'll go down to the Pennsylvania Grand Lodge and find out.) In the latter case, that would truly reflect an embrace of the subjectivity of faith. Either way, I think the question would be interesting to explore.

This Guy Thursday, Aug 5, 2010

Subscribe to comments via RSS Leave a comment The exact definition of Supreme Being is not something even the Grand Lodge could tell you; Masons mean it when we say "it's up to you." However, the candidate is required to seek counsel from Him before each degree, and to believe in the resurrected life. While Masons are not required to believe in the God of Abraham, He is described in Masonry to be a very close approximation. Thanks for the comment! That's why I find this so interesting. The meaning of this belief is up to each individual, yet there is an implicit limitationa minimum, if you willon what that belief can be. Maybe the right question is: if a person says "I believe in a Supreme Being," under what conditions can he feel he is being honest? Is that up to him as well? (I'm not saying there's a definitive answer to that, either.)

Dan Zollman Thursday, Aug 5, 2010

This Guy Monday, Aug 9, 2010

Don't take the relative openness to concepts of a Supreme Being to mean that God has no part in Masonry. Deity plays a particularly important part in Masonic ritual, as does the concept of the afterlife; the true Masonic penalty (the physical punishments you may have heard of are figurative) applies in one's placement in the latter, and the goal of Masonry is service toward the former. The God of a Freemason is One that would hold him to the obligations he takes upon himself in each degree, with corresponding reward/penalty in the afterlife.

Descendent Sunday, Oct 10, 2010

This has been my question for quite some time. I was asked to leave my lodge after revealing I was a Pantheist. My desire to join was based on tradition as I would have been a fourth generation Freemason. When I asked to substitute the Bible with something more spiritually in-tuned to my belief, an investigation ensued. The result was that my spiritual views were too "atheistic" in nature, and I was asked to leave. Prior, I was asked if I believed in one Supreme Being, and I do; the totality of everything. Part of me thinks their investigation was unorthodox per Masonic policy not to discuss. If I said I believe, I believe and case closed.

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A Supreme Being - Thinking Instead of the Box

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Another part wonders if I was dunce for requesting something out of the "norm" and needlessly drawing attention, opening the door in the first place. Perhaps a great deal of the question at hand rests with the tolerance level of the particular lodge and its members in which you belong. Adrien Barlow Tuesday, Oct 4, 2011 HI, At present I am trying to find if there can be a connection between pantheism and freemasonary, my understanding of pantheism is every thing is god or all is god. As a freemason, I belive in a supreme being which can be called God, how the make up of that being is as each person percieves his own belief. Now pantheism basic make up is everything is god, to place with in a biblical phrase unto any name will i answer, this implies to me that the bible is a source of pantheism and that each componant of god is each animate and inanimate object, is a part of that God (a supreme being). This being the case then Taoisim fits the requirements of being a free mason. The members of my lodge know I am not a Christian, I am quite vocal about that, they understand that my concept of a supreme being is complex and they further know that i will question all the paradoxs of belief. This they accept as part of my charge in understanding the areas of study we are commended to apply as we progress through the different degree levels. When we consider the rebirth after death then this can equated to the circle of reincarnation. Regards Adrien Adrien Barlow, am I am too a Freemason with some underlining beliefs in pantheism. I feel as I qualify as believing in a Supreme being by my personal precepts and spiritual outlooks. I am rereading the Tao myself and some of what is inscribed in it can be found in the secrets of the Masonic Trestle Board; that being the two pillars being masculine and feminine, day and night related, and dualism that leads to the trinity (3) by use of the all seeing eye, which some consider the eye of god, or to others of more of the occult, the third eye, used throughout other cultures. I would post some links to other sites but I dont want to advertise, but rather give insight. Interesting post and discussion on pantheism. The discussion leads to more questions such as : Can one have a personal god / believe in a supreme being and still believe that god is everywhere and in everything? Do polytheists qualify within the definition of masonry, as they have many gods, yet believe that there is a supreme being in charge and ultimately let the individual decide? The ancient Greeks were polytheists, yet believed in an ultimate god, xeus. So ,uch to think about. Thanks and have a wonderful new year. In my comment I was referring to Hindus as the pantheists.

Bro. G.K. Tuesday, Oct 11, 2011

sam Sunday, Dec 30, 2012

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sam Sunday, Dec 30, 2012 WBro. R Saturday, Feb 16, 2013

The rules of Freemasonry are quite clear on this matter: all that is required from a candidate is that he profess a belief in a supreme being. Although, the ritual is heavily based on Judeo-ChristianPage 3 of 4

A Supreme Being - Thinking Instead of the Box

03/04/2013 12:42 ..

Islamic story, there is no requirement to be a member of these or any other organized religion. Only that you profess a belief in a supreme being. But, Descendent, you pressed the issue by requesting something other that the Holy Bible or the Koran which are generally present in our meetings and were challenged to be more specific. I suspect that your answers to their questions were not convincing and probably led them to believe that your core beliefs were as non-specific as your answers and they gave you a vote o non-confidence. Perhaps you can firm up your belief system and decide on a scripture that represents your beliefs and reapply once you can increase your level of specificity. Perhaps Zoroastianism aligns with your core beliefs? ...just a suggestion. really think this blog post , !A Supreme Being Thinking design Instead of the Box!", relatively engaging and also the post was a Monday, Feb 18, 2013 fantastic read. I appreciate it-Dominick Where exactly did you actually end up getting the suggestions to Monday, Feb 18, 2013 post !!A Supreme Being Thinking Instead of the Box!"? Thank you ,Mai

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