Membership in the Masonic Lodge has in many cases become a family tradition, with young men often joining because their fathers and grandfathers belong. Because of their admiration for certain friends or relatives, these men join the Lodge without hesitation, certain that the Order is based on noble aspirations. This was the case with me. From the time I was a little boy, my mother encouraged me to become a Mason some day like my uncle whom she greatly admired. Her impression of Freemasonry was that of a club where good men met to plan on helping those in need.
When I grew up, I married a fine woman who was a member of the Eastern Star and whose father was a Mason. Although her father would never talk to me about the Lodge, I was nevertheless proud of him. Surrounded by people I loved who were Masons, I finally decided to join the lodge myself.
Upon applying for membership in Indianapolis, I received a letter from the Lodge within two weeks telling me I had been accepted. I was instructed to be present at the Lodge at 6:30 p.m. on a particular day to receive my first degree. When the time came, I went to the Lodge and paid my dues for the first, three degrees after which I was told to follow a man who they said was the Senior Steward. He took me to the Preparation Room where he told me to remove my clothes and put on a pair of white pants (like pajama pants) and a white jacket. Before long, a man referred to as the Junior Deacon came in and told me to follow him. He took me to a door and put a blindfold on me. He also rolled up the left leg of my pants and turned back the collar of my shirt exposing my left breast. Being hoodwinked, I could not see, but I could sure feel! Something hit my left breast (it hurt). A man's voice said, "Jim Shaw, you are received into this Lodge on the sharp points of the compass, which (and he jabbed me again) is to teach you never to reveal any of the secrets of an Eternal Apprentice Mason to anyone unless he be a Brother Mason.
I had come to the Lodge that evening expecting merely to be told what a Mason was supposed to do. However, by the end of the ceremony I had become disgusted. With it was over, my friend told me it was something that all Masons had to endure; so I put it out of my mind.
After one year I was appointed Senior Deacon. This was a big jump for me as I had bypassed three chairs. I had told the Worshipful Master that I did not want to be a 'chair warmer' but wanted to be of service to the Lodge and go through all the chairs. I also joined the Scottish Rite, and had become Prelate in the Lodge of Perfection, studying for Master of the 4th degree.
About this time I received word from an old Army friend encouraging my wife and I to move to Florida where he was living. I didn't want to leave my job with the Post Office, but my friend told me he could get me a Civil Service job in Florida. My wife loved the idea of living there. So between the two of them begging me, I finally agreed to make the move. My Lodge membership was transferred from Indianapolis (which belonged to the Northern Jurisdiction) to my new Lodge in Florida (which belonged to the Southern Jurisdiction). Although the Ritual between the two jurisdictions varies somewhat, I found that the essence of the Lodges was still the same.
The Lodge in Florida was in need of good officers' and I soon progressed to the position of Worshipful Master. I had to be elected to this particular office, but that was no problem. I worked with Lodge members in my Civil Service job, and there were numerous officers of the Scottish Rite who were also City Officials. In fact, I had a part in the initiation of the Mayor of the city. It was in the Skull lecture I gave in the 30th degree. He paid close attention.
Soon I had served in many chairs and was given the Degree of K.C.C.H (Knight Commander of the Court of Honor). I had this degree for four years when I, quite literally, entered the darkest period of my life. My sight began to deteriorate rapidly as I was developing a cataract on my left eye. A friend of my wife recommended I visit an ophthalmologist who said she was very good. I took her advice. After examining my eyes the ophthalmologist informed me that I had to have an operation on one eye and possibly on the other eye as well at a later time.
He told me he had to see me every day for a week before he could operate because of an infection in my eyelid which had to be treated. During these visits he began to share with me about Jesus Christ and even read some verses to me out of the Bible. Although I knew of many ministers and preachers who were Masons, particularly those affiliated with the National Council of Churches, I had been trained by my family to stay away from churches. My stepfather said they were full of hypocrites and no one in his house was ever go go to church. And here I was. with a doctor who was working on my eyes trying to read the Bible to me. On my job I began speaking with a few people who I knew to be Christians, and they also told me about Jesus. One went so far as telling me that no Christian should ever be a Mason. In the meantime, the doctor continued to share with me while he was working on my eyes. I tried not to listen, but deep inside I knew he was right.
Just one day after I had returned to work following my operation, I received a letter from The House of the Temple in Washington, D.C. I had been chosen to receive the 33rd degree and was to report to Washington in one week to accept the honor. Two men from the Scottish Rite who were 33rd degree masons decided to go along with me to share in my time of joy. I remember being impressed by the size and beauty of The House of the Temple. It was at least four timea as large as our Scottish Rite Temple. After I had received the 33rd degree along with my white hat and ring, we all had a big feast and drank wine. It was all so much fun. Yet throughout this time I kept thinking about the passages the doctor had read to me from the Bible.
Soon after returning home I received a call from the Secretary of the Scottish Rite telling me to prepare for the upcoming Maundy Thursday services prior to Easter. I can tell you that the Lodges always make a mockery of Christian Holy Days. Now I was Master of all degree work and had to conduct the service.
In the meantime my wife and I had begun attending church with the ophthalmologist. He was still helping me understand the Bible and did not like the idea of me being a Mason. He told me he didn't think I understood just how evil the Lodge really was, and he urged me to read thoughtfully the books of John and Galatians. I studied these books and was on the verge of accepting Christ. But to become fully convinced I had yet to go through the Maundy Thursday ritual itself.
We were all in our places for the Maunday Thursday Rose Croix service to begin, each of us dressed in black robes. I stood and clapped my hands three times, and everyone rose to their feet. I began to speak, "My brothers, we meet this day to commemorate the death of our most wise and perfect Master - NOT as inspired or divine, but as at least the greatest of humanity."
At that point I had to stop for a moment to think about what I had just said. I was denying the fact that Christ was inspired or divine, saying he was merely a human master no greater than Buddha, Mohammed, Confucius or other religious figures. I felt a tear run down my face, but I had to go on. I walked out to the menorah and lit the candle.
The next speaker said his part and lit a candle on the menorah. All spoke and lit candles. I was feeling sad and bewildered, wondering I could go on; but I did. We had the Black Mass, drinking wind from a skull and eating a piece of bread, passing it around the table saying to each man, "take, drink, and give to the thirsty. Take, eat, and give to the hungry." Then we all went back to our stations. As I got up, my knees were shaking. I knew what fear was, and I had never felt anything like this since being shot at in the Army. I stood and began to recite the closing words. "We now close this commemoration of the death of our master. MOURN!! LAMENT!! CRY ALOUD!! HE IS GONE!! NEVER TO RETURN!! MOURN!! LAMENT!!" The candles were extinguished one at a time. I closed the ceremony by saying, "it is over, we must depart."
I hurried to the disrobing room and got out of the black robe and into my street clothes. Some men came around and asked me if I was sick. I just said, "yes, I've got to go!"
The very next day I wrote letters to the Blue Lodge, the Shrine and the Scottish Rite saying that I had attended my last meeting. I was a Christian now and would not be back. That was 25 years ago. I have never regretted my decision.
During my 19 years as a Mason, I witnessed and participated in numerous disturbing events, but the single most important reason causing me to leave was the fact that Jesus Christ was not the one being worshipped. Many gods in the Scottish Rite are revered and many religions taught, but never is the Blessed Name of Jesus Christ allowed. One is not even allowed to close a prayer in the name of Jesus, but instead must use a vague reference to God, which could mean anyone or anything. Teaching of the Kabbalah, Zend Avesta, and the Gnostics are used along with astrology and the doctrines of ancient false gods such as Osiris, Semiramis, Isis and Krishna. The Hindu gods Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva are also given reference as deities. But whenever Christ was mentioned, it was only in the form of a mockery.
For these reasons I left the Masonic Order. If you are currently a Mason, I urge you from the bottom of my heart to do likewise. It is the only right thing to do.
In Christian Love