The edict reads, in part:
Whereas the Holy Bible is the Great Light in Masonry; andWhereas the Holy Bible is the rule and guide to our faith and practice; andWhereas Freemasonry opens this Book upon its alters, with the command to each of its votaries that he diligently study therein to learn the way to everlasting life;Therefore, by the authority vested in me as Grand Master of the grand Lodge of Louisiana, Free & Accepted Masons, I do hereby issue and proclaim the following edict:
“Effective upon the date hereof, the Worshipful Master of each lodge shall cause a verse or passage of Scripture from the Holy Bible to be read aloud immediately after the lodge has been opened and before the reading of the minutes or any other business of the lodge shall be transacted.”
(Click image to enlarge.)
Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.
Entered Apprentice: Psalm 133
Behold how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! It is like the precious ointment on the head, that ran down upon the beard, even Aaron's beard: that went down to the skirts of his garments; As the dew of Hermon, and as the dew that descended upon the mountains of Zion: for there the Lord commanded the blessings, even life for evermore.
Fellowcraft Degree: Amos 7: 7,8Thus he shewed me: and, behold, the Lord stood upon a wall made by a plumbline, with a plumbline in his hand.And the Lord said unto me, Amos, what seest thou? And I said, A plumbline. Then, said the Lord, Behold, I will set a plumbline in the midst of my people Israel: I will not again pass by them anymore.Master Mason Degree: Ecclesiastes 12: 1-7Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth, while the evil days come not, nor the years draw nigh, when thou shalt say, I have no pleasure in them;While the sun, or the light, or the moon, or the stars, be not darkened, nor the clouds return after the rain;In the day when the keepers of the house shall tremble, and the strong men shall bow themselves, and the grinders cease because they are few, and those that look out of the windows be darkened,And the doors shall be shut in the streets, when the sound of the grinding is low, and he shall rise up at the voice of a bird, and all the daughters of musick shall be brought low;Also when they shall be afraid of that which is high, and fears shall be in the way, and the almond tree shall flourish, and the grasshopper shall be a burden, and desire shall fail: because man goeth to his long home, and the mourners go about the streets:Or ever the silver cord be loosed, or the golden bowl be broken, or the pitcher be broken at the fountain, or the wheel broken at the cistern.Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it.
But lest you think the whole Masonic world uniformly includes these verses in their ritual work, that's simply not the case. Even in the U.S. I'm told some state grand lodges, including Idaho and Mississippi, do not use them. On the other hand, some states include the 133rd Psalm as an official part of their opening of all meetings. So, like so much else in Freemasonry, differences in rituals and customs are entirely jurisdictional.
Healing Day – June 24,1813.
Moderns and Ancients had separated and formed separate Grand Lodges over one question: The religious belief of a candidate.
They agreed – June 24, 1813 on this statement:
“Let a man’s religion or mode of worship be what it may, he is not excluded from the order, provided he believes in the Glorious Architect of Heaven and Earth and practices the sacred duties of Morality.”
[The first section of the Entered Apprentice] degree teaches the candidate, by Symbols, many important lessons, and among other things, that Masonry is a moral institution, founded upon the morality as taught in the Bible, and that he has to take the Holy Bible as the rule and guide to his faith and practice; it being the great light in Masonry and the source whence we, as Masons, derive all our ethics.
Texas' Charge to the Entered Apprentice includes this:
As a Mason, you are to regard the Holy Scriptures as the great light in your profession; they are the unerring standard of truth and justice; and you are to regulate your life and actions by the divine precepts therein contained. No institution was ever raised on better principles, or a more solid foundation than that of ours, which takes the Holy Bible as its corner-stone; nor were ever more excellent rules or useful maxims laid down, than are inculcated in the several Masonic Lectures, which you will learn at your leisure, by conversing with well-informed Brethren, who will be always as ready to give as you will to receive instruction.
The 2013 revision of the Grand Lodge of Kentucky's Constitutions has this to say:
The Supreme Being.
Masons believe that there is one God and that people employ many different ways to seek and to express what they know of God. Masonry primarily uses the appellation, “Grand Architect of the Universe”, and other non-sectarian titles, to address Deity. In this way, persons of different faiths may join together in prayer, concentrating on God, rather than differences among themselves. Masonry believes in religious freedom and that the relationship between the individual and God is personal, private and sacred.
Volume of the Sacred Law.
An open volume of the Sacred Law, “The rule and guide of life,” is an essential part of every Masonic meeting. The Volume of the Sacred Law in the Judeo/Christian tradition is the Bible, to Freemasons of other faiths, it is the book held holy by them. (2000)
The Oath of Freemasonry.
The obligations taken by Freemasons are sworn on the Volume of the Sacred Law. They are undertakings to follow the principles of Freemasonry and to keep confidential a Freemason’s means of recognition. The much discussed “penalties”, judicial remnants from an earlier era, are symbolic, not literal. They refer only to the pain any honest man should feel at the thought of violating his word.
Freemasonry Compared with Religion.
Freemasonry lacks the basic elements of religion:
(A) It has no dogma or theology, no wish or means to enforce religious orthodoxy.
(B) It offers no sacraments.
(C) It does not claim to lead to salvation by works, by secret knowledge, or by any other means. The secrets of Freemasonry are concerned with modes of recognition, not with the means of salvation.
Freemasonry Supports Religion.
Freemasonry is far from indifferent toward reli- gion. Without interfering in religious practice, it expects each member to follow his own faith and to place his Duty to God above all other duties. Its moral teachings are acceptable to all religions.
By the way, since I'm on the subject of VSL readings, I'll pass this along. More than 20 years ago, this subject was being debated on the old Philalethes Society mailing list. WB Rashied K. Sharrieff Al Bey (who, 20 years later, is now the current president of that esteemed society) gave these recommendations if the Holy Qur'an was being used on the Altar during a Muslim's circumambulations:
Entered Apprentice - Surah 3: 103And hold fast all together, by the Rope which G-d stretches out for you, and be not divided amongst yourselves; and remember with gratitude G-d's favor on you; for ye were enemies and He joined your hearts in Love, so that by His Grace, ye became Brethren; and ye were on the brink of the Pit of Fire, and He saved you from it. Thus doth G-d make clear His Signs to you: that ye may be guided.Fellowcraft - Surah 2: 255G-d! There is no god but He, -- the Living, the Self-subsisting, Eternal. No slumber can seize Him, nor sleep. His are all things in the heavens and on earth. Who is there that can intercede except as He permitteth? He knoweth what (appeareth to His creatures as) before or after or behind them. Nor shall they compass aught of His knowledge except as He willeth. His Throne doth extend over the heavens and the earth, and He feeleth no fatigue in guarding and preserving them for He is the Most High, the Supreme (in glory).Master Mason - Surah 85: 12-16Truly Strong is the grip of thy Lord. It is He Who creates from the very beginning, and He can restore (life). And He is the Oft-Forgiving, full of loving-kindness, Lord of the Throne of Glory, Doer (without let) of all that He intends.
The more you read from the past, the more you learn from it. Our Founding Brethren could have picked any symbols or sources they liked when crafting our rituals. I suppose one could argue that you could just as effectively teach "wise and serious truths" using Gulliver's Travels instead of the Book of Kings (the mind reels - think of THAT initiation!)
But the greatest lesson Freemasonry was designed to teach was NOT that Freemasonry must be blanched of any whiff of religious-sounding influences. Nor must Freemasonry as an institution be dramatically changed so that MY religious faith or YOUR's (or our lack of it) get accommodated so neither you nor I be offended. No, the lesson is that YOU and I must accept its methods of teachings, and be tolerant of our brethren's beliefs, while ALL of us find the universal truths in Masonic teachings themselves. The Founders wanted lodge to be a place where men who had been quite literally killing each other for seventy years over whether they believed in seven sacraments, or three, or two could sit in the same room, break bread together, and celebrate their commonality, while happily accepting their differences. Masonic philosophy had no equal at that moment in time.
Somewhere, somehow, modern Masons got mixed up into thinking that religious faith, questions of the soul and eternity, can't be talked about in lodge. On the contrary – lodge is EXACTLY where men should be able to openly and unashamedly discuss their own beliefs with each other without reproach or scorn. Even goldfish desperately want to know who changes the water in the bowl. These are questions that have haunted every single one of us since the Dawn of Man. And if we can't freely exchange our thoughts and fears and joys and heartbreaks with our Brothers, we're a piss-poor excuse for the dream our Founders expected us to fulfill.