Lutherans Informed about Lodges (LIL)
The Ancient, Free, and Accepted Masons do not officially recognize any adoptive orders for women. Yet Eastern Star members generally consider themselves to be Masonic affiliates, so special mention should also be made of them.
By 1850, adoptive Masonry was quite popular in Europe, but poorly represented in the U.S. Robert Morris originally conceived the idea for the Eastern Star in that year. By 1855 he had set up a system of local lodgework called "Constellations", but it failed due to its complexity. In 1859 a more popular version called "Families of the Eastern Star" was introduced by Morris. Taken ever in 1866 by Robert Macoy, a Masonic publisher, the group began to flourish. By 1876, the present form was adopted with a General Grand Chapter in control.
As of 1980, the Eastern Star claims over 3,000,000 members. Headquarters are at 1618 New Hampshire Ave. N.W., Washington, D.C., 20009. Each state and province of Canada has a Grand Chapter under this office. Chapters are now headed by the Worthy Matron, rather than the sponsoring Master Mason. Membership is limited to Master Masons is good standing, their wives, daughters, legally adopted daughters, mothers, widows, sisters, half-sisters, granddaughters, stepmothers, stepdaughters and stepsisters.
Local chapters of the Order may, like Masonic Lodges, sponsor local Order of Rainbow Assemblies. Charitable work by the Eastern Star is mostly confined to its own membership. Although Negro lodges are not recognized by white Masonic bodies, Negro Eastern Star Chapters have been formed with a total membership of over 100,000.
Eastern Star confers five degrees, loosely based on five Biblical characters. "Jephtha's Daughter" (named Adah, here) illustrates respect for the binding force of a (Masonic) vow. "Ruth" is said to illustrate devotion to religious principles. "Esther" is to instill fidelity to kindred and friends. "Martha" teaches undeviating faith in the hour of trial. "Electa", based on the "Elect Lady" of II John, is to portray patience and submission under wrong. "These are all the Masonic virtues, and they have nowhere in history more brilliant exemplers than in the five characters presented in the lectures of the Eastern Star."
The purpose of the organization can be deduced from these character portrayals. The Eastern Star portrays itself as a fraternal order dedicated to service to those in need, to social enjoyment and to civic interests. It awards scholarships to students in religious training.
A paid advertisement from the Wisconsin Grand Chapter, dated 1977, expresses the same purpose, pointing out several excellent charitable projects, as well as an "atmosphere of faith in God."
The commonality of Eastern Star purpose with that of Masonry, may be seen in the opening words of the initiation ceremony. In the Initiation Ceremony the Worthy Matron outlines the purposes of the Order:
"The Order of Eastern Star exists for the purpose of giving practical effect to one of the beneficent purposes of Freemasonry, which is to provide for the welfare of the wives, daughters, mothers, widows, and Master Masons. Here we may share with the Masonic brother in promulgating the principles of Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth. [emphasis mine] Here we may aid, comfort and protect each other in our journey through the labyrinth of human life, and by cheerful companionship and social enjoyments, lighten the burdens of active duty."
The philosophy of the Eastern Star has already been alluded to in this statement of purpose. Religion plays an all important role in their philosophy. The ceremony is opened with prayer. The closing prayer has decidedly religious requests in it:
"Holy and Merciful God, who answerest prayer and dost not scorn the petition of the humblest of Thy children, bestow upon us in our parting that spirit of affection which can resist the selfishness of the world, and cause us to remember our obligations to each other and to Thee. Grant that we may be permitted with loving hearts to assemble here again for Thine honor, for our instruction, and for the good of our fellow men. All of which we ask for Thy name's sake. Amen." (New Ritual of the Order of Eastern Star, p. 38.)
During the initiation itself, the Worthy Matron prays on behalf of the initiate:
"Source of all wisdom, truth, and love, grant, we beseech Thee, that in the reception of this member into our Order we may add strength to strength and grace to grace. Oh, may the golden chain thus lengthened become the brighter for this link and be strengthened for the great work we strive to do. Enlarge our powers to benefit mankind and to honor Thee, our God. (emphasis mine) And when, one by one, each link shall fall away in death, may the parting be temporary and the meeting eternal. In the world where death comes not, may we realize the full happiness of loving and serving Thee forever. Amen.
The object to whom these prayers are addressed is described for us in the Eastern Star initiation: "This order is founded on a belief in the existence of a Supreme Being that rules the universe for good, and no one can become a member of the Order who does not hold this belief... Do you believe in the existence of a Supreme Being?" (Answer)
The Order expects all initiates to verify the answer to this question by taking an oath. This oath is taken "In the presence of Almighty God, and before these witnesses..."
These prayers and the oath carry a strong religious message already. The religious purpose of the Order is further enhanced by the many funeral service provided by the Grand Chapter, and especially by the General Grand Chapter, which includes scripture readings, prayers, hymns, poetry, and symbolic allusions to assure the participants that the departed lodge sister has "entrance upon a glorious immortality."
We must ask ourselves, then, "Is the Eastern Star religion acceptable in the eyes of God; is it true Christianity?" The position of the Eastern Star is really the same as the Masons, so a detailed review of their religion will follow later in the paper. However a few details relating specifically to the Eastern Star may be in order.
The oath taken in initiation, "in the presence of Almighty God" is taken before the initiate even knows what she will be upholding. God says "Swear not at all...", let alone in matters which are totally unknown.
At the end of the initiates ceremony, the signs, passes, grip, and symbols of the Order are explained to the candidate, including the letters F.A.T.A.L. which appear on some Eastern Star documents. These are an abbreviation of the Cabalistic Motto: "Fairest Among Thousands, Altogether Lovely." The abbreviation FATAL is said to remind the initiate that "it would be fatal to the character of any lady" to disclose the secrets of the Order.
Those who do not assassinate their character by telling the secrets are assured that their faithfulness to the Order of the Eastern Star will grant them eternal life. The universal salvation offered to all members of the Order of the Eastern Star regardless of faith in Christ can be seen both in the initiation and funeral services:
"And when, one by one, each link shall fall away in death, may the parting be temporary and the meeting eternal. In the world where death comes not, may we realize the full happiness of loving and serving Thee forever."
Notice that "we"--that is, all Eastern Star members--will supposedly realize the happiness of loving and serving God forever. This universalism is reiterated in the symbolism of the order. Walking through "the labyrinth" in initiation is said to have the following significance:
"In the winding of the labyrinth... each soul will surely come into the light of His Star and then will understand."
In the funeral services, assurance of eternal life is given, not because of Christ's sacrifice and resurrection, but because the revival of plant life each spring assures us that there is a reawakening from death, and because Jesus spoke of a resurrection and life. (But note that they do not, and cannot insist that Jesus is the only reason for eternal life.)
Even more alarming is the confusion they perpetrate when suggesting that the departed sister has not only "gone on before us... through the heavenly portals", but simultaneously is also among us with her spirit:
"Our Sisters affection ceases not; therefore may she not now be whispering to grief-stricken hearts, 'Peace, be still,' 'Lo, I am with you always.' Think not that the spirit world is distant. Our loved ones, though lost to mortal sight, may be with us in spiritual existence. Let their loving presence be to us a perpetual inspiration, calling us to a higher moral and spiritual life."
This suggestion of spiritism certainly contradicts I Thess. 4:14; which informs us that the souls of believers are with Christ, and will return with Christ on Judgment Day. It is not hard for us to understand why the Order of the Eastern Star could come up with such conflicting ideas, and still consider them to be "scriptural." Consider their view of the Bible, God's Word. They see it, not as an open book of truth, but as a book of hidden wisdom properly understood only by the initiated:
"The bible as (sic) an esoteric book, dealing with spiritual and psychic matters, making a symbolic use of words for the purpose of concealing from those who are not prepared to know the Truth. ...The student can find all our O.E.S. work and symbols in the bible, hidden, it is true, but easily found."
The fact that the Bible with its "hidden wisdom" is not understood by the initiated members can be seen by their equation of the Holy Spirit with "instinct." Paul trusted everything to what we might call the Christian instinct and what he called the Holy Spirit, and he was justified. No force in the world has done so much as this nameless thing that has controlled and guided and illuminated--whatever we call it.
Rev. Phillip Lochhaas, of the LCMS has well summarized the Order of the Eastern Star.
The Eastern Star is, as it claims, a religious institution, but it is not the religion of Holy Scripture to which this "religious" refers. Omitting the central doctrines of Scripture--sin, redemption, grace--it offers religious instruction to men and women of all creeds, promoting "faith in Divinity" and "brotherly love". In spite of obvious good that may be done by its moral standards and demands for purity, the Order's distortion of the central message of the Bible cannot be approved. All men are not brothers, they are widely divided from one another and separated from God by sin. Non-Christians cannot stand before God proud of their moral achievements, for without Christ these "profit nothing" (I Cor. 13:3). The convinced Christian man and woman, constrained to testify to the unique redemption in Jesus Christ, cannot participate in the ideals, purposes and programs of the Order without compromise of faith and public denial of Christ.
From: WELS Conference Paper on the Lodges