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masonic matters

Masonic Altar

by Ed Halpaus
Grand Lodge Education Officer
Grand Lodge of A. F. & A. M. of Minnesota

I came across the following information on the Philalethes List server, in a piece written by W.B. Eric Schmitz, I was so impressed with what Brother Eric wrote I asked if I might put a quote from his article in Masonic Matters, and Brother Eric gave his permission.

So here is what he wrote, I’m sure you will like it.

“Our Christian detractors have often made the assertion that "Freemasonry is incompatible with Christianity." Christian Freemasons have vehemently denied this allegation. With all due respect to my brethren who have repeatedly stated; "Freemasonry is not incompatible with any religion," I must say the following:”

“If your religion, as you practice it, makes it impossible for you to peacefully coexist with anyone of a different faith than yours, under the spirit of universal religious tolerance, or to show respect for another's faith by reciting a non-sectarian prayer that does not name any specific Deity, and to which a brother of a different faith may readily add his "Amen;" if your religion, as you practice it, requires that you always be allowed to proselytize your beliefs to others, no matter what the forum; then Freemasonry is indeed incompatible with your religion, whatever it may be.”

“Here, it seems appropriate to quote one of my favorite authors:

"The major offense of Masonry to orthodox churches is that it, like our First Amendment, encourages equal tolerance for all religions, and this tends, somewhat, to lessen dogmatic allegiance to any one religion. Those who insist you must accept their dogma fervently and denounce all others as devilish errors, correctly see this Masonic tendency as [inimical] to their faith."- Robert Anton Wilson, Everything is Under Control: Conspiracies, Cults, and Cover-Ups, HarperCollins, 1998.

“But Freemasonry does not have to be incompatible with your (or anyone's) religion. Whether it is so is up to you, not us.”

The complete article that the above is excerpted from may be found at:

Masonic Altar

The Masonic Altar – Coils Masonic Encyclopedia says; the presence of an Altar in a Masonic Lodge is difficult to account for, and it is difficult to place the time of, or occasion for, its introduction into American Lodges.

In the book Masonry Defined, by Albert Mackey, it says; the most important article of furniture in a Lodge Room is the Altar. He goes on to say that Altars were erected long before Temples, and that Altars, of the ancients, (both Jew and Gentile,) were of two kinds – for incense and for sacrifice. Altars for sacrifice were erected outside of the Temple in the open air, Altars of Incense “only” were permitted within the Temple walls.

The Masonic Altar, which like everything else in Masonry is Symbolic, appears to combine the character, and uses, of both of these Altars.

It is an Altar of Sacrifice, for on it a candidate is directed to lay his passions and vices as an obligation to the Deity, while he offers up the thoughts of a pure heart as a fitting incense to the Grand Architect of the Universe.

An interesting comment in his article about the Altar is that the Altar in the French and Scottish Rites is in front of the Worshipful Master, and therefore, in the East. In the York Rite, the Altar is placed in the center of the Lodge Room, or more appropriately a little to the East of the center of the Room.

So while in Coils it says it is difficult to account for the use of the Altar in a Masonic Lodge, I think it is because it comes from the York Rite, at least here in MN and other jurisdictions where the 3 degrees on the Blue Lodge are York Rite Degrees. Its kind of a mystery all right, almost like in the lecture of the second section, of the second degree, by the S.D. where he says it also represents the first three degrees of Masonry. It’s the First 3 degrees because the 3 degrees practiced are of York Rite origin, the exception being some Blue Lodges in Louisiana, which are from the Scottish Rite in origin.

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Last modified: March 22, 2014