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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: 

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

  • Henley Taylor

    Why was it necessary for Jehovah’s Witnesses prophecy, on many ocassion, the specific date on Christ return (all of which failed)? Mark 13 verse 32 indicates quite clearly that not even Christ knows the day nor the hour, only the father. Is this not false-prophecy?

    • Peter K. (admin)

      Henley – Are you saying that Jesus will not know when he returned? What exactly do you think Charles Russell taught about Jesus Second Presence that you think was wrong? Are you saying that Russell made a false future date prediction of Jesus return? I realize that the JWs had some predictions (i.e. 1925 & 1975 that did not work out.)

  • Henley Taylor

    Why does the general body of Christ in the Kingdom Hall not partake of the emblems during the memorial of Christ? Why must only the “144,000” partake of the unleaven bread and wine? Where is this scriptual? and who determines that those who partake are heaven-bound? I think this is not only silly but preposterous?

  • Henley Taylor

    Why do Jehovah’s Witnesses say so little on the trans-atlantic slavetrade of African? And why do Jehovah’s Witnesses not a potent voice against slavery and racism in America?

    • Jacqueline

      Henley Taylor, We are not Jehovah witnesses. To get an answer to why on some of your questions you will have to ask the governingbody of the “witnesses” or visit a kingdom hall to inquire.
      I however am a descendent of slaves and I got something to say! It is a very shameful, criminal, painful and abomination of the United States and England’s history. The Hitler’s pogroms of the Jews is spoken of often. But he who controls the press controls the information asssimilation. Also the Jewish nation retained their identity. The slave pogroms split the families apart and set in place a very difficult thing to overcome, taking the father away from the family by force during slavery. A man passes on to his sons what he possesses and the black slave’s possession was disinfranchiseness. The black man was used to produce as many slaves as he could for the fields, he was literally a buck. For generations this was the legacy passed down to our young black men! The slave master took care of his wife and kids and the woman had to head and teach the family.
      The Governingbody of the Witnesses wanted to stop education of it’s young black children to keep them in a mental slavery for most of the non black population ignored the order not to finish high school or go to college.(Yep, not to finish high school) This was a pogrom that had worked and so they used it. Because we began to speak out they put a token Black man man on their body Samuel Herd to placate some.
      BUT, with education and the rise of the Civil Rights movement by the permission of GOD ALMIGHTY, this pogrom has failed.
      Pol Pot of Cambodia and the Jewish Holocaust is often compared to the struggle of the blacks but that is not a true comparison, they were not slaves and it did not last 400 years.
      So that is what I have to say on that. I will wait for Jesus as the WHOLE CREATION groans TOGETHER as we wait for the revealing of the SON of GOD. Jacqueline

      PS: Many nations and tribes will sell their captives to slave traders of all nations. Remember Joseph was sold to slave traders. I mention this because someone tried to make me believe that Black in Africa was the cause of slavery in America and England because they gave them the slaves. All nations will sell their captives to slavers. i thought I would just mention that before someone went that route.

  • Henley Taylor

    I believe that for such strong allegations to be made of Charles Taze Russel, must speak to some truth about his partial or whole involvement in Free-masonary. People just do not go around and arbitrarily construct these blatant lies about someone. There are enough inferences for one to be tempted, to come to the conclusion that, Russel was definitely a freemason.

    • Peter K. (admin)

      Henley Taylor – I challenge you to provide any evidence that Russell was a Freemason. How do you refute our article here demonstrating that He was NOT a Freemason. How would you like it if I accused you of being a murderer! Perhaps I can find someone who was murdered and prove you were nearby at that time. Of course that would be ridiculous, as are the allegations against Russell. The religious rulers often used the tactic of false accusations against Jesus to try to discredit him. For example: Mt 12:10 “And behold, there was a man who had a withered hand. And they asked Him, saying, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?” ––that they might accuse Him.”

      Also, the Bible clearly teaches that God’s people should not evil speak against others:

      Eph 4:31 “Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice.”
      1Pet 2:1 “Therefore, laying aside all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking,”

      Are you willing to take the change of being judge by God?
      Matt 7:2 (NASV) “For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you.”

      Are you so confident that Russell was a Mason that you are willing to make this public accusation, with the understanding, that if you are wrong, that God will judge you by the same standard as you are judging Russell?

  • Firstly, there are many kinds of Cross and Crown, but Russell used a specific red inclinated one with a Wreath around, so I ask you please prove from which Church he took this type from? As far as I know he criticized a lot the church but on the other hand gave compliments to Masonry. Also can you find some church which have (Red inclinated cross and crown with wreath, Sun with wings, Templar Knights and the use of Jehovah name all together?) If you are not a stupid person you know masonry has all together and also you know masonry is not the biggest devotee of the churches Russell criticized so much, obviously these symbols were not from the Church you stupid

    • Peter K. (admin)

      Sheldon – I suspect you have not read the material which answers your points. Even so, you must admit you are presenting circumstantial evidence. Would you mind being judged by this same standard?

    • Sheldon,

      I have been to many Churches and seen these exact logo there, from Methodist, to Lutheran, and even the worship center in a nursing home I visited recently.

  • I do not regard Fritz Springmeier’s accusations to even be “circumstantial” evidence. It all “imagined” and “assumed” evidence, based on what is being imagined to be “Masonic symbols”, and distortions and misrepresentations of a few things Brother Russell stated.

    Additionally, Springmeier’s idea that Brother Russell was of some “serpentine” bloodline shows, not only an almost total ignorance of what Brother Russell taught and believed, but it also would be in total disagreement with what the Bible teaches, for the Bible tells us that all men are of one bloodline originating from the one man, Adam, and that all Adam’s descendants are condemned in that one bloodline. Springmeier’s introduction of such alleged “serpent” or “Illuminati” bloodlines would only have any meaning if one believes that those of any such bloodlines cannot be covered by the blood of Jesus. In this, many who profess to be Christian are being mislead even more and more into greater rejection of the basis of the redemption in Christ. If one believes that there are serpentine bloodlines in existence today that prevents those of such bloodlines from accepting Christ as Lord and Savior, then those who believe such are, in effect, rejecting the scriptures that tell us that all of are of one bloodline, that all of us are condemned in Adam, and that anyone of any nation can be redeemed through faith in Jesus. — Acts 17:26; Romans 5:12-19; Acts 10:34,35; 1 Corinthians 15:21,22; Colossians 3:10,11; 1 Timothy 2:3,4.

  • Sorry; I see one has to go to the earlier post at 8;32am, and then scroll backwards to 9am, and then you reading this !!!!! Crazy .

  • Sorry for the poor presentation as it is just photos of made up depiction pictures .
    The first one is JW REDICULOUS teaching .
    Skip that if you wish !

    The second and third pictures, are more easily understood, if you see the destruction of satans cities ans system in the BACKGROUND .
    In the front is the place of safety, by OBEYING Jesus .

    The beginning of the new earth, as the earth literally splits in 3, mountains move,and virgin earth rises . Revelations, in fulfillment of the REAL NESSASARY destruction of satans concrete Jungle,that is DESTROYING God’s Garden of Eden to be, as originally purposed .

  • WHAT…after Math 24;14 is fulfilled worldwide to Jehovah’s satisfaction ???

    Were Bro Russel alive today I believe he would agree with the next big event on this earth, and that is the preparing as a nation to seperate from satans system, to allow its destruction .

    I studied “separating” from satans system for over 20 years now (based on “flee to the mountains”) , which is directly before the great tribulation at Math 24 ; 14-22 .

    It has been frustrating me no end , because whenever I try to share this very beautiful study and eventuality, blessed by Jehovah (by obeying Jesus) …. THEN NOBODY is even prepared to even CONCIDER it ,OR even to prove it WRONG !

    Anyway – at last I have actually found a group that uses and applies all the HUNDREDS of scriptures that PROOVES this will happen ! (The Israel of God , under the subject “rapture”).

    However – it has to become a worldwide belief FIRST , because actually it is a worldwide “EXODUS” from satans CITIES !

    Many choose to remain in the cities as a witness to Jesus , as the woman (the flock) “flies to the wilderness” … AWAY from the face of the serpent . Rev 12 ; 10-17 .

    I liked it when you told me all your brothers were camping out on a kind brothers farm !

    That is a very mini indication of the like-minded getting together .

    I mean …. How much better will it be when the belief becomes ; that instead of their properties being flattened as part of satans cities , they sell up and join the land of their brothers .Worldwide — this is the nation of JUDEA . AWAY from the destruction on satans cities , and FREE and independent – from the mark of the wild beast !

    If you wish you can see the pictures and support scripture I sent to the JW headquarters .

    This was mailed to them (no computer then) about 7 years ago , and the reply was a threat to stop using their artwork, or they take legal action against me . I would welcome that exposure , and so continue showing it to whoever I feel might be interested . http//allenboshoff.blogspot .

    Peace through Jesus , son of YaHWeH .

  • Ken

    Excellent article!I’ll make sure to save it in my favorites as a reference….Thank You!

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