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Atheism and Freemasonry

The Question of Spirituality in Freemasonry

By definition, spirituality refers to the spirit world! More broadly, it also encompasses the religious fact and all the immaterial imaginary.

It is opposed to matter and materialism.

Many Freemasons make it an indispensable condition for initiation, replacing one of the landmarks that imposed belief in God.

David Bisson (Doctor of Political Science and Historian of Ideas, Associate Researcher at the Institute of Public Law and Political Science), defines it as follows:

"Spirituality remains in many ways an elusive object of study whose meaning varies according to the historical periods crossed. The term originated in the sixteenth century and refers to all that concerns the life of the soul as opposed to the imperatives of the body. It is essentially defined in relation to its supervisory authority: religion.

Thus understood, spirituality presents itself as a manifestation of the religious world that particularly insists on the personal relationship that the believer maintains with God - a meaning very close to the term "mystical" with which it is sometimes confused. In the Dictionary of Spirituality, Father Aimé Solignac proposes a first synthesis of the term which is articulated around three meanings:

a religious sense that takes up the above-mentioned distinction (spiritual/charnal) and emphasizes the inner experience of being,

a philosophical sense that privileges the spiritual/corporal distinction in order to emphasize a specific way of knowing

and a legal meaning based on the difference between spiritual authority and temporal power.

And the author points out that the first meaning ultimately predominated over the other two. The Dictionary of Ascetic and Mystical Spirituality - according to the first title of this work, which began in 1928 and closed in 2005 under the aegis of the Society of Jesus - has above all made it possible to highlight the existence of a mystical theology alongside dogmatic theology".

It may seem astonishing that this word has taken up so much space in people's minds, as if the religious having bad press it was better to declare himself a spiritualist!

But what's the problem? Freemasonry today accepts de facto several readings and whether one is a spiritualist or not, religious or non-believing, this does not prevent us from meeting, sharing and also fraternizing!

Historical reminder

The belief in one God is one of the four landmarks enacted by James Anderson in the 18th century as conditions for Masonic initiation. These were..:

Faith in God and in his revealed will.

Moral behaviour in accordance with the covenant with God

Respect for the law as a sign of freedom

The practice of fraternity and benevolence as the rules of the trade.

The so-called sanctity of these landmarks has justified the eight conditions of regularity that the United Grand Lodge of England imposes on obediences:

The regularity of its origin, that is to say that each Grand Lodge shall have been established by a duly recognized regular Grand Lodge and by three or more regularly constituted Lodges.

That faith in the Great Architect of the Universe and in his revealed will shall be an essential condition for the admission of members.

That all initiates shall lend their obligation on the Volume of the Sacred Law or eyes fixed on this open book by which is expressed the revelation from above, to which the individual who has just been initiated is, on his conscience, irrevocably bound.

That a Grand Lodge and the Blue Lodges placed under its authority shall be composed exclusively of men, and that each Grand Lodge shall maintain no Masonic relationship of any kind whatsoever with mixed Lodges or with bodies which admit women as members.

That the Grand Lodge shall exercise sovereign jurisdiction over the Lodges under its control, that is to say, that it shall be a responsible, independent and fully autonomous body, having sole and undisputed authority over the trade or symbolic degrees (Registered Apprentice, Journeyman of the Trade, and Master Mason) under its jurisdiction, and that it shall not be in any way subordinate to a Supreme Council or any other Masonic power claiming control or supervision of such degrees, nor share its authority with such Council or power.

That the three great lights of Freemasonry (i.e. the Volume of the Sacred Law, the Square and the Compass) shall always be displayed during the work of the Grand Lodge or of the Lodges under its control, the principal of these lights being the Volume of the Sacred Law.

That discussions of a religious and political nature shall be strictly forbidden in Lodges.

That the principles of the ancient Landmarks, customs and usages of the trade shall be strictly observed.

Does this mean that this obligation to believe in God is unavoidable?

No, for a simple reason, which will be explained below.

First of all, let us remember that humans, from the time of their socialization, were confronted with questions for which they had no answers: why day and night, why the sun, why the moon, why the stars, etc.?

The answers were found by involving the capacity of human beings to conceptualize the imaginary; thus the explanation of the unknowns they encountered was found through the intervention of invisible forces. Depending on advances in knowledge, local cultures and different eras, a whole world of the imagination with myths and legends was formed. Animism, polytheism and monotheism are among the beliefs to which human beings refer.

The conceptualization of the Masonic approach was gradually formalized in Great Britain in the seventeenth century as an evolution of operative Freemasonry. The latter places its art as an illustration of divine inspiration.

At that time, the state of knowledge in Europe favoured a formation of the Universe linked to a supernatural influence formalised by the naming of a unique God. It was logical, then, to think that everything on Earth was the result of a divine will; this became the ultimate reference with the corollary of the Good-End-End dichotomy, Paradise-Enfer: as there was life on Earth, there was necessarily extraterrestrial life.

Gnosticism appears more as a reflection on religious interpretation in its clerical mode than as a real questioning of religious thought.

Even if from its foundation, Freemasonry emphasized earthly life and the realization of a beautiful harmony, the essential rule remained to obey the divine laws in order to achieve this harmony.

In the context of the religious wars of seventeenth-century England, Freemasonry is distinguished by values: tolerance, pacifism and reference to royal authority; in this context the formulation of the Great Architect of the Universe was a step forward.

It cannot be said that the obligation to believe in God was fundamental; it was normal in the context of the times!

On the other hand, the fundamental contribution of Masonic thought was to conceive tolerance between the different religious doctrines! It is in the name of this tolerance, today, that we can say that the Masonic approach must "naturally" extend this tolerance to unbelievers and atheists!

Video : The wisdom of Pierre Perret

In the name of God...

Watch the video "Au nom de Dieu" - Lyrics and Music by Pierre Perret

Since the dawn of time

We gut cheerfully

In the name of God.

We're still going ahead,

Always doing better.

He's never happy.

We've made churches for him,

To calm his wrath,


Temples and Mecca,

Where women and men

Honour him on your knees.

Amongst all these fanatics,

Those millions of fans,

All those sheep,

There are those who worship Jesus,

Those who prefer Allah,

Others their canary.

If you're an atheist, do you know

For these guys, you're screwed,


They say you're wrong,

And that God is love,

And then they kill you.

They burn the witches,

Homos, undocumented,

The Freemasons.

And, in fact, we even had a peck

To poor lions

Blandine and the Boys.

Good King St. Louis

Massacra the harkis

All the way to Tunis,

Then came back under the mistletoe

Putting the star to the Jews

And render injustice.

Charles-Neuf, the catho

Offered to the blocks

In the name of God

St. Bartholomew's Day.

The Irish, since

Didn't do much better.

Mr. Christopher Columbus

Who, on Fridays, didn't like

That the fish

Blowtorch Grilling

The great Geronimo

Who ate buffalo.

"No condom."

Says the Souv'rain Pontiff...

In the name of God

And this wise way

To reduce unemployment

Made him a happy man.

And then there are those God-freaks

Who, in the name of virtue

Pointed hat

Egorging bravely

Women and children

By reading the Koran.

Since the dawn of time

We gut cheerfully

In the name of God.

And yet we continue

Always doing better.

He's never happy.

If this just and good God

Don't send his prayers

That to killers

Are we to think that then

The prayer of the strongest

Is she still the best?

Should we think that then

The prayer of the strongest

Is she still the best?

Pierre Perret

Respecting atheism and non-belief, a challenge for contemporary Freemasonry

In the 18th century, even a Voltaire, who made himself famous by condemning fanatics, could not but condemn atheism: "Atheists are for the most part bold and misguided scholars who reason badly, and who, unable to understand creation, the origin of evil, and other difficulties, resort to the hypothesis of the eternity of things and of necessity. »

It is in this 18th century, when the notions of Humanity and Human Rights emerged, that Masonic rites developed: all refer to the deity of the Great Architect of the Universe (and of the Worlds): the initiated Freemason can only find his place in the position of a "seeker" who can hope to be a "servant"!

At this time the evolution of Masonic practice leads in fact to two practices:

A practice in blue lodges (the first 3 degrees) where the reference to the Great Architect of the Universe is lived in a rather formal way, the essential being the life of the freemason in the city and his relationship with the power (the king or the queen, the emperor).

A practice of the high ranks where the deist reference is omnipresent and justifies the different legends that are attached in each rite.

However, ways are being raised to claim atheism; it is asserted on three opinions:

The perversity of the religious fact

The glorification of Nature

The omnipresence of suffering deemed incompatible with the existence of a good and just God.

It was in the 19th century, in the context of the emergence of social demands, that the renunciation by the convents of the Grand Orient of Belgium in 1872 and the Grand Orient of France in 1877 of the obligation to believe in God and therefore the reference to the GADLU, created a real opening of the lodges to spirits not inclined to refer to a mystical ideation.

This "revolution" in fact concerns only the conventual instances; for the blue lodges, it is left free to each lodge to keep or name the reference to GADLU; the rites, they are not concerned by this new freedom.

A new way of living one's atheism appears where indifference and trivialization allow atheists to accept to adhere to rites that are fundamentally deist.

We must wait until the 20th century to see another entry into atheism.

Anticlericalism, the glorification of Nature and incomprehension in the face of the suffering of peoples are no longer in the foreground. Atheism is no longer defined as a belief in the absence of supernatural life. The discoveries on the biological activity of the brain lead to a twofold conclusion:

Human thought is dependent on cerebral biological activity; and therefore religious thought is dependent on this same cerebral activity;

And what is peculiar to human thought is its capacity to create imagination; religious thought being one of the most beautiful illustrations of this creative capacity of the human imagination.

Moreover, this scientific knowledge does not prevent religions from always doing well and from waging wars among themselves to justify their existence.

Because of the new balances between state and society in the main European countries, religion has been given a more prominent place in civil society; scientific knowledge has not upset relations between believers and non-believers as if a non-aggression pact had been concluded. But what has been true in Europe is not true in many countries in the rest of the world where religious power remains closely linked to state power and where atheists are subjected to merciless repression.

In spite of everything, Masonic practice has not evolved much, and everything happens as if it were a subject that should not be delved into too much, everyone agreeing that the freedom to interpret words in one's own way, allowed words to be used without adhering to their meanings.

Today, only a few lodges of various obediences (practicing the contemporary French rite) accept not to impose a formal deist reference in their work, leaving the deists the possibility of integrating their projections into expressions with several meanings.

This new freedom leaves however "uncertain" the interpretation of the legend of Hiram in the 3rd degree. All the lodges of the so-called higher workshops and all the blue lodges operating according to a deist rite, impose the reference to the deity, while accepting that some members do not refer to it in their inner fors.

It will surely still take a long time to see all Masonic lodges adopt a completely tolerant approach towards atheists.Le Grand Orient de France n’a malheureusement pas poursuivi sa démarche qui aurait pu consister à réserver aux hauts grades la pratique de rites déistes ou qui aurait pu susciter la création de rites « neutres » capables d’être vécus avec autant d’authenticité par les imaginaires variés.

In spite of all the unspoken and ambiguities, the originality of the life of the lodges comes from the great tolerance which allows a peaceful coexistence and mutual respect whatever the imagination of each one. In a world context where inter-religious wars are flourishing, it is a social space where mutual respect exists and allows us to live together.

Atheism is a current reality, especially because of the repression imposed in many countries of the world on all those who dare to refer to it.

It does not seem necessary for atheists to proselytize because, all in all, it is not very important to have diverse and varied beliefs in the field of the supernatural as long as these spirits accept to respect those who find no particular interest in it.

In this 21st century, which is characterized by a resurgence of religious wars, the relevance of the Masonic approach in its essentials, namely the search for the center of union, is more relevant than ever. By enriching the Masonic approach, atheism brings a greater dimension to the demand for tolerance and secularism, in order to prepare a world of peace for believers and non-believers.

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