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Was Charles Taze Russell a Mason / Freemason?

Bedfellows with Freemasons?

The charge has been advanced that Pastor Russell and the Bible Students are connected With the Free masons and that both groups are to be condemned because they are occult in nature. The occult reference is used to describe both the secrecy aspect of their respective beliefs as well as the demonic.

One critic, Fritz Springmeier, unabashedly claims that “C. T. Russell was definitely a Mason” and lists thirty-five points that supposedly prove that much of the Pastor’s thinking and imagery was borrowed from them. Among the points Springmeier makes are that both the Bible Students and the Masons:

* Rely on the Great Pyramid for Truth
* Emphasize the name “Jehovah”
* Believe the Bible is written in code
* Are fascinated with numbers and their special meanings
* Rely heavily on Gnostic concepts of “revealed secrets”
* Use similar symbols, especially the “Cross and Crown” Logo
* Meet in Masonic halls.

The same critic also strongly implies that Pastor Russell was secretly “an important Satanist” and that “various items from magic were part of [his] religious beliefs, including the Winged-Sun-Disk” of ancient Egypt.

These charges are either inferential in nature or totally false.  This technique is an effort to emphasize some outward similarities without providing full analysis. It is not a valid form of reasoning and would prove guilt merely on the basis of weak circumstantial evidence. Once again, we will draw upon the actual facts, beginning with a brief description of the Masons.

The Masonic Order is an international organization with a long history going back to at least the twelfth century. It was originally connected with the art of building and adopted certain secretive and religious elements. It is generally thought of today as a fraternal and philanthropic organization, strongly supporting public education and various civic and charitable projects.

It is not a religion but has deeply religious overtones incorporated in its rites and ceremonies. These represent a blending of concepts from major world religions.  There has been a long history of mutual hostility between the Masonic Order and the Roman Catholic Church, with repeated official pronouncements against it from the Vatican. Relations have improved somewhat in recent years, and there has been some cooperation in mutual endeavors.  But the Catholic Church and some Protestant denominations for bid or discourage Masonic affiliation.

The secrecy of Masonic ceremonies has given rise to fear and suspicion in various lands, and through the years accusations have been spread that the Masons practice magic, engage in evil and worship the Devil.  Though these charges are wholly unsubstantiated, the supposed connection still lingers in the minds of some people.  Thus it becomes clear why critics of Pastor Russell would endeavor falsely to link him to Freemasonry. It would open the possibility that the Bible Students were covertly involved in Satanic worship and occult activities.  Nevertheless, we need to permit honesty and reason to prevail here as we explore the ramifications of this issue.  Let us do three things:

1. Examine Pastor Russell’s own statements regarding any possible Masonic       connections.
2. Compare some of the underlying religious concepts and philosophy of Freemasonry with the beliefs of the Bible Students.
3. Take a close look at some of the “mystic tokens” that supposedly have been adopted by the Bible Students.

With this evidence in hand, the reader will be enabled to appreciate the lack of understanding and the falsity of the charges being made.

 

THE PASTOR’S COMMENTS.  We turn first to the Pastor’s own words.   In his Scripture Studies series he wrote:

“Is it right for the [the New Creation] to be members of [various orders and] societies?  We answer that while Church associations are purely religious, and labor and beneficial organizations in general are purely secular, there are still other orders which combine the religious and the secular features. As we understand the matter, for instance, the Free Masons, Odd Fellows, Knights of Pythias, etc., perform certain rites and ceremonies of a religious kind … We admonish the New Creation to have nothing whatever to do with ny of these semi-religious societies, clubs, orders, churches; but to ‘Come out from amongst them, and be ye separate, and touch not the unclean thing.’ (2 Cor. 6:17)”

Even earlier he had expressed his over all disapproval of such secret, semi-religious societies:

“So far as we can judge, there is a certain amount of [simulated] worship or mummery connected with the rites of this order [Free Masonry] and some others, which the members do not comprehend, but which, in many cases, serves to satisfy the cravings of the natural mind for worship, and thus hinders it from seeking the worship of God in spirit and in truth—through Christ, the only appointed Mediator and Grand Master.

“In proportion as such societies consume valuable time in foolish, senseless rites and ceremonies, and in substituting … words and symbols which have no meaning to them, for the [true] worship … in that proportion these societies are grievous evils …

“Wherever oaths of secrecy are demanded, it is safe for God’s people to touch not, taste not, handle not … St. James cautions against all binding oaths, such as many Secret Societies demand … (James 5:12)”

Finally, the clearest expression of Pastor Russell’s own noninvolvement with secret societies is found in his reference to a letter sent to him from a reader of his journal. This reader identified himself as a “fellow-worker” in the Harvest and a former Mason of over twenty years’ association, who had gained the position of “Worshipful Master.” In making the letter public, Pastor Russell introduced it in the following way:

“A brother, once very deep in Secretism, and who knows that the Editor has had no such experience, writes as follows: [The entire letter followed.]”

Here then is an unambiguous statement by the Pastor that he had never been a part of any secret society such as the Masons, which was the main subject of the letter. This quotation would normally be thought of as sufficient to settle the matter, except for a remark made by the Pastor in a discourse given in 1913. If taken out of context with out reading his explanation, it seems to contradict all that we have said thus far. His words were: “I am a free Mason … I am not going to say a word against Free Masons.”

However, as one reads his elaboration that follows, it turns out that he was giving a discourse on “the Temple of God” in a hall that had been rented from the Masons, and was merely using figurative language to express some limited similarity with that group. He had begun the discourse by stating that the Bible Students were a Christian group and, as such, had certain points of faith in sympathy and harmony with every denomination.

The Pastor then went on to detail the preparation of the Spiritual Temple in which the Masons were ostensibly interested. This consisted of the true followers of Christ who are selected out of the world during the Gospel Age as the masonry of “living stones,” chiseled and polished for their respective places in God’s symbolic Temple. Throughout his discourse, he made an effort to reach out to the Masons in the audience by using terms and expressions that would be familiar to them. At one point he said:

“We of the Free and Accepted Order of Masons of the Lord Jesus Christ’s Commandery have the very highest standard, and ours is not the cross that is on the head of the sword, but ours is the cross of Christ.”

Here is his explanation of how true believers could be thought of as “free Masons”:

“We are free, my dear brethren … free from [sin], free from the domination of sin, free from … that condition of sin and death in which we once were … The shackles have fallen off. If the Son makes you free, then are ye free indeed. And thus every man made free by the Lord Jesus Christ, through the merit of his sacrifice, in thus presenting his body a living sacrifice and being received of God and inducted fully into this Masonic Fraternity, into this Masonry of the highest order, into this Royal Priesthood, happy is his position, for the spirit of Glory and of God rests on him.”

 

In these comments and from the other language the Pastor employed in sketching the Biblical picture of the spiritual Temple in process of development (see 1 Corinthians 3:9-11), it is abundantly clear that his talk was designed to be especially appealing to the Masons, whose very existence as a group was related to the building arts. From this standpoint, his remarks are not to be interpreted as implying that either he or the Bible Students were associated with that group. To the contrary, it is evident that he was appealing to their spiritual senses and showing that there was a much higher calling to which they would also have the privilege of responding.

 

COMPARISON OF BELIEFS. Now let us go on to a more detailed look at the religious overtones of Free Masonry. Underlying these is their objective of providing a universal belief system embodying high ideals of charity, equality and morality.  Nevertheless, there are some important differences between Masonic religious elements and the beliefs of conservative Christianity. A helpful perspective is provided by The Encyclopedia of Christianity and can be summarized as follows:

(a) Freemasonry de-emphasizes the role of Jesus Christ. The enlightenment of Masonic teachings and accompanying good works are the only prerequisites “to ascend to the Grand Lodge Above,” without the necessity of acknowledging Christ as Lord and Savior.

(b) Freemasonry sets forth “a common denominator” god who is not limited to the Judeo-Christian definition of a unique Supreme Being above all others. Rather, its “ever- living, true God” may incorporate elements of belief from ancient Assyria, Egypt, India and other non-Biblical sources.

(c) Free masonry does not accord the Bible chief place in its belief system, even though the Book may be on display at meetings.  [In Britain and the United States, a copy of the Volume of the Sacred Law (which may be the Bible, Koran, Vedas, or any other sacred religious book) must lie open during proceedings.] Thus even when used, the Bible is regarded as but one of the various “holy” books of world religions and as merely a part of “God’s [whole] revelation.”

(d) A candidate for initiation as a Mason is portrayed as one “in a state of darkness” who will be enlightened by the revelations of knowledge he will receive which are unattainable elsewhere.

On all of these points, the Bible Students, in harmony with other conservative Christians, hold clear differences with the Masons. In the same order as listed above, the Bible Students teach:

(a) That Jesus’ ransom sacrifice is the center of God’s Plan for the salvation of the human race, since the Bible plainly states that “there is none other name under heaven given among men [besides Jesus], whereby we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)

(b) That a “common denominator” god incorporating elements from various pagan religions is a concept foreign to Bible teaching; the true, eternal God has revealed Himself in His written Word, the Bible, and not through a mixture of other philosophies or beliefs. (Isa. 8:20)

(c) That the Bible must be distinguished from all other books; it alone is the holy, inspired Word of God and serves a unique role as the source of all religious Truth. (2 Tim. 3:15,16)

(d) That spiritual enlightenment is gained from a personal relationship with God through the working of the Holy Spirit and study of the Bible. It is not dependent upon any human organization or attainments conferred through secret ceremonies and binding oaths.  Only by faith in Christ and full consecration to the Heavenly Father can one be accepted into the family of God. Understanding of the deep things previously hidden thereupon opens up to all who are thus walking in His pathway. (1 Cor. 2:9,10; Col. 1:26,27)

Whereas the above comparison shows significant differences between the Bible Students and Freemasonry, there is yet another point that should be mentioned. In an effort to form a fraternity of men of various religious persuasions, Freemasonry requires all prospective candidates to attest specifically to two religious tenets: (1) Belief in a Supreme Being, and (2) Belief in the Immortality of the soul. This second item distinguishes the Bible Students yet further, since they believe that the hope of a future life is based on the Resurrection of the dead, not on the possession of an Immortal soul. Bible Student understanding on this subject has been detailed more fully in Chapter 5 of this presentation.

In the light of this analysis, it may be seen how far fetched is the charge that Bible Students are related to the Freemasons in their religious beliefs or practices. The gap between these groups is just too great to permit such characterization.

 

USE OF MYSTIC SYMBOLS. If the foregoing conclusion is correct, how do we explain the apparent adoption of certain “mystic tokens” by the Bible Students, including the Cross and Crown?  In this regard, Randall Watters charges:

“It is known that Russell admired secret societies, especially the Masons. It is hardly a coincidence that one of his pet emblems, the cross and crown, was none other than the Knights Templar logo of the Masonic Lodge …

“Russell was [also] fond of using the ‘winged disk’ of the sun god, Ra, revealing his fascination with Egyptian religion and mysteries. He placed this emblem on the covers of his Studies in the Scriptures.”

Once again we have a mixture of presumptive and completely false statements.  We have already seen that Pastor Russell was not an admirer of secret societies and strongly counseled against participating in them. As for the Cross and Crown symbol, his was hardly distinctive, either to the Bible Students or to the Masons. If Pastor Russell was fond of this symbol, he had a lot of company: Both Catholic and Protestant churches had universally adopted the Cross and Crown and used it for centuries as a Christian emblem depicting the final reward of the faithful believer.

In Bible Student usage, a Cross and Crown symbol appeared for the first time on the cover of the Watch Tower magazine for January 1891 and continued to be displayed until 1931. At first there was no natural wreath encircling the Cross and Crown, merely an artistic geometric pattern.  Later, beginning January 1, 1895, a band of greenery was added, giving the wreath the distinctive appearance it has today, as frequently used on Bible Student convention programs and letter heads.  Since it never was unique to the Masons, its adoption by the Bible Students carries no significance in relating it to that group (or any other group, for that matter).

Bible Student meaning for the Cross and Crown is taken from the Scriptures where both symbols are given a prominent place. The cross, besides being the instrument used in the death of Christ, is also a metaphor of the trials and persecutions of the believer.  (See Matt. 16:24.) The crown is frequently used as a symbol of the glory, honor and immortality granted to Christ and his church for faithfulness in serving God. (See Rev. 3:21; 2:10.) The Bible also makes it clear that gaining the crown is dependent upon bearing the cross faithfully even unto death. (See James 1:12.) The poem, “No Cross, No Crown,” emphasizing this point, appeared in the July 1, 1911 issue of the Watch Tower. This again is not a concept unique to Bible Students and may be found in church hymnology dating back to at least the eighteenth century.  And finally, the wreath encircling the Cross and Crown symbol is taken as a sign of victory. Its use in crowning the winners in the Greek games is directly alluded to in 1 Corinthians 9:25.

Similar Biblical basis is seen for the Winged-Sun-Disk design, which though of ancient origin, became popular in the early twentieth century and was even adopted by an automobile manufacturer.  The Bible Students took it as a fitting symbol to portray the events expected to occur at the start of the Millennial day: “The Sun of Righteousness shall arise with healing in his wings” (Mal. 4:2), referring to Messiah’s role as earth’s new ruler in the Kingdom, to bring blessings to all the families of the earth. For a time beginning in 1911, the winged disk was used as a design on the covers of the Studies in the Scriptures series, but it is certain that no reference to the primitive Egyptian sun god Ra was ever intended.  Pastor Russell was always firmly opposed to all forms of occultism, as will be discussed in greater detail in the section on Pyramidology later in this chapter; and he never knowingly employed any mystic symbols in his ministry and teachings.

CONCLUSION. We have touched on some of the outward similarities of Bible Students and Freemasons and clearly seen that a valid case for linking them together can not be made. Even the fact that some times the Bible Students meet in Masonic halls is irrelevant since they also meet in churches, YMCAs, schools, public auditoriums, conference centers and private homes where suitable accommodations may be available.  The bottom line here is that there is no basis for ascribing occultist beliefs or practices to Pastor Russell and his followers (or seemingly to the Masons).

 

This article is an excerpt from the book, PASTOR C. T. RUSSELL : MESSENGER OF MILLENIAL HOPE, Chapter 8, Current Charges of critics,  copyright 2006 by Charles F. Redeker:  You can download a pdf electronic copy of the book by clicking HERE: 

51 comments to Was Charles Taze Russell a Mason / Freemason?

  • Nestor

    what about us wrongly called, Black People.Slave’s in every country of this continent called America {NEW FOUND LAND}Religions do not take us into consideration but Moses did speak about us Deuteronomy chap 28 said a mouth full Deut.28:37,64 and68 so sad

    • Jacqueline

      Hi Nestor, I will take time to read those scriptures before I fully understand what you say, because you see I am Black. So I will see you tomorrow morning on this. Thanks for commenting.

  • hank

    1 Peter 4:7, “But the end of all things has approached.” Diaglott

    Did that happen? Did the history books leave it out?

    P.S. Did you read those two articles from Nehemiah Gordon? For that Hebrew speaking person gave a different line of thought from what you gave. It might be good for you to believe him, or give some reason why he is wrong. Like you do the WT.

    Thank You

  • hank

    To Henley;

    Luke 21:24, “until the appointed times of the nations are fulfilled.” Do you think Jesus new what he was talking about? Of what purpose would it be to the four disciples he told it to? Why 37 years later when Jerusalem was destroyed 3 of the four were dead, only John was still living and no appointed times of the Gentiles ended then or even why John finished his life coarse.

    So was Jesus just talking smack to those four? Better yet, the only person to put it in writing wasn’t even there. So, did Luke just make something up? And if he did for what purpose? And if someone does not want to believe that Jesus said this, and that Luke was inspired by Jesus God to right it, then they probably don’t believe in the Bible.

    But lets assume you believe in the Bible and that Jesus said it, and that God inspired Luke to write it. Then we ask ourselves, how long would it be, before Jesus understood it? Would this satisfy you? Mt 28:18, “All authority has been given me in heaven and on earth.”

    But wait that was in 33 C.E. when he was raised to heaven and yet the apostle John shows that 63 years later Jesus was given something else by God. What was that? “A revelation by Jesus Christ, which God gave him.” Rev. 1:1

    Now in order to understand the 2,520 year prophecy the book of Revelation was needed. But was Jesus able to know, those verses in there would help him to know? Or did Jesus have to wait until 1823 when John A, Brown calculated it to be 2,520 years? But he did not connect 1914. So did Jesus have to wait until 1844 when E.B. Elliot discerned 1914 as a possible date?

    Which now begs the question, are people who talk to rocks and mountains considered normal? There is nothing wrong in nature right? But hose mentioned in Rev. 6:15,16, are found doing that. Who was it they were afraid of?

    It says, “the One seated on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb.” 6:16 Well the One seated on the throne is Jehovah God. Rev. 4:9,11. And the Lamb is Jesus Christ. John 1:29

    So what religions profess to worship Jehovah God who Jesus said his Father was looking for. John 4:22-24 Which one is preaching Mt 24:14?

    Do they make mistakes? Of coarse they do? Why? Because no where does it say in the Bible they would not. Not with the early Christians, or the ones in the end times.

    But a mistake they made left a attrition to their group, showing proof your are wrong. “For there are many-I used to mention them often but know I mention them also with weeping who are walking as enemies of the torture stake of the Christ. “Philippians 3:18 60-61 C.E.

    Case in point, Col. 4:14, “Luke, the beloved physician, sends you his greetings, and so does Demas.” 60-61 C.E.

    “Sending you greetings is…Demas.” Philemon 23,24. 60-61 C.E.

    Did you notice all three were written in 60-61 C.E. Paul said many he used to mention, but now weeps?

    Did you notice one of the loving greeters name was Demas so he was fully aware of how Paul felt. 2 Tim 4:10, “For Demas has forsaken me because he loved the present system of things.” 65 C.E.

    Yes, attrition happened back then to, and as I type in the draw below my hands sits a book, with peoples names who came to our wedding in 1974. And yes I weep for them, but refuse to throw my wonderful relationship with Jehovah out the window for them.

    As far as I am concerned your argument is a lame duck.

  • Henley Taylor

    It is either you are ignorant or simply cannot reason. Christ tells us to look for signs but that is all he could say because as the scripture says he himself do not know the hour nor the minute. He cannot therfore advise on that which he himself does not know. That time is the sole purview of the Father. When the prophecy of 1975 did not materialize as was the case of all prior prophecies, it created great disappointment and attrition. You need to face truth and stop skirt around the facts.

    • Jacqueline

      Henley Taylor we are not Jehovah witnesses thus 1975 should be taken up with them. I agree with you that setting dates for things that are left in the hand of God is presumptiousness. Jesus readily as you said admitted he didn’t know the day or the hour so surely no man knows the year. To humbly admit error is not a sign of weakness but strength of character.

    • Dupin

      You and I do agree on something, at least.

      Yes, the father did put that detail in his own purview, Henley, on that we do agree. And many through the centuries who thought they could predict it failed. Even the Pastor admitted he failed in respects to one of the things he thought would happen in 1914. But in calling him a false prophet you ignore both the fact he wasn’t prophesying as well as the fact that his prediction about the time of the Gentiles ending did indeed come true. The existence of the state of Israel stands as an undeniable testimony to that fact, among other things which he predicted which happened. So much for me being ignorant.

      I was there for the 1975 debacle with the Witnesses, as was Jacqueline. I remember it vividly, both the fever pitch the Witnesses were driven to by their leaders as well as the disappointment many felt when their hope never materialized. I also remember the crackdown, which the leaders initiated as many reevaluated what they’d been taught. Oh yes, I remember it all!

      However, I will agree with Jacqueline, you will have to take that one up with the Watchtower since 1975 was never a date predicted by any of the Bible Students that I know of. All we can speak to is what we are talking about now.

  • Anonymous

    Go to a book store like barns and noble. Look at how books point out that WWI in 1914 changed the world as we new it. Its a sewer now compared to then in terms of morals and other things.

    You see it doesn’t matter what religion one is born in today. 20 years ago the kids think that is how the world always was. the ones 25 years before that, thought the same thing. But what did they tell their kids, back in our day. But the book shows the world of mankind went a lot alike until that year.

    Also, you possibly can’t know a thing about Pastor Russell, because if anyone checks on all the things he did, he would never come close to thinking like you do.

    Read Rev. 16:14-16 and don’t be caught naked. Be like the ones that come out of the great tribulation. They are wearing robes.

    One needs to understand spiritual things in order to get this.

  • Henley Taylor

    Hello sir, do not be disingenuous! Look for signs to know when the hour of Christ second coming is near is a different thing from prediction year, month and day. Russell did not make a mistake he made a false prophecy. Let me say this, the JW like all other denominations has the benefit of scripture in Mark 13 verse 32. And you know what that scripture says. It is not a new scripture that emerged after 1914, it was there from the first century.

    • Dupin

      I’m not being disingenuous Henley. I’m just pointing out that you are misusing language. Russell never prophesied anything Henley, he made predictions much in the same way Hal Lindsey did in his book “The Late Great Planet Earth.” Or do you consider Lindsey a false prophet as well since his prediction that the Rapture, the Great Tribulation and Armageddon would all happen on or before 2007?

      I am well aware of what Mk. 13:32 says and even have it underlined in my Bible. But what you don’t seem to get is that his words were spoken to his disciples Henley, not us. If his words extended to his servants at the time of the end, then why did he mention to his disciples signs to watch for in the first place in the very same chapter? It appears to me that you are taking the verse out of its context to make your point.

  • Dupin

    I note, Henley, that you keep dodging Peter’s two questions. I also see that you seem to use the words “prediction,” and “prophecies” as equivalent in meaning when they are not. Predictions are educated guesses made based on one’s analysis of the evidence available while prophecies are sayings or warnings said to come directly from God. There is a big difference between the two and we need to get it right in order to go any further.

    I’ll leave it to Br. Peter to follow up on his point in his own way.

  • Henley Taylor

    Peter you are taking me in a different realm of reasoning that has nothing to do with Mark 13 v 32. The fact is, I can’t put false prophecy aside. It is either Mark 13 v 32 is correct or it is wrong. It is either the Mark v 32 is correct or JW is. And based on the numerous false prophecies, I submit that JW was wrong. Not even Christ knows the minute nor the hour. I guess the so-called “faithful and decrete slaves” think that God is using them as the sole organization on Earth and that even they, know more than Christ, with respect to the second coming.

    • Henley,

      Do you believe in the rapture concept?

    • Peter K. (admin)

      Henley – I am trying to help you think this through, but we can’t seem to move forward. The Bible teaches that when Jesus returns, his followers on earth will know by the signs that He is present. I would be glad to get into a discussion of this with you. This does not violate mark 13:32 which indicates that Jesus and his disciples did not know when in the future He would return. Mark 13:32 is not saying that after He returns, Jesus and His followers will continue to be ignorant and unaware of His return.

      You said, “The fact is, I can’t put false prophecy aside.” I agree with you 100%. False prophets cannot be trusted. This website is sponsored by Bible Students, not JWs. We have never made false prophecies (future date predictions). Bible Students respect Charles Russell’s insights into the Bible – Jesus’ Ransom for ALL, explaining why God permits evil, etc. Looking backward in time, Russell applied some time prophecies to the past, following the example of some of the Reformers and Adventists. This is not a false future date prediction. I have studied out and agree with those applications. You have not studied these time prophecies. Right? So I don’t know how you would have an opinion either way.

      The year 1914 is only one future prediction Russell has been charged with false prophecy on. I believe He was spot on with that date. Much of what He spoke of was fulfilled or began to take place in 1914. Here’s what happened in 1914:
      1) The European kings lost their crowns, thrones and authority
      2) Church-State rule ended
      3) The European empires (10 toes) lost their colonies (completed in WW2)
      4) WWI led to the 1917 Balfour Declaration setting aside Palestine as a homeland for the Jews.

      The problem was that Russell was mistaken in over-expecting more things to happen at that date. He apologized for that mistake. However if that make Him a false prophet, then now you have the problem of calling Jesus’ disciples false prophets for the same mistake. What do I mean?

      Students of prophecy at Jesus first advent, made the same mistake. At the time Jesus was born, people were in expectation of the Messiah (Luke 3:15.) They expected the 70 weeks of Daniel 9, pointed to a Messiah that would immediately defeat the Romans and set up the earthly kingdom (Luke 24:21; Acts 1:6). They were wrong to expect more than the prophecy had promised. Nevertheless, the Seventy Weeks time prophecy was correct and did point to Messiah. Even if these disciples over expected the results, we should not call them false prophets.

      Now Henley, if you would like to have a discussion as to whether Jesus returns invisibly – where the world is unaware – and what the signs are that show Jesus is present now, I would be glad to begin that discussion with you. However, I imagine you are not open to considering what the scriptures say about that possibility. I hope you prove me wrong.

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