A. G. Henderson, Chairman,
Committee on Foreign Correspondence
Grand Lodge of Arkansas.
Many of our American Masons do not understand that in Continental lodges the Bible is not upon the altar, but that it is lying on the Master's pedestal, as is also the case in some of the English-speaking lodges. It has been decided in Massachusetts, after an exhaustive examination of the law and precedent, that according to the ancient regulations, it is the Sacred Book of the Law which is placed upon the altar. It will be readily understood that the Sacred Book of the Law includes the Koran, the Veda, the Scruti, the Pentateuch, as well as the Bible.
Referring to the question of the use of the Holy Bible on the altar in English and American lodges, we note in a recent Proceedings of the Grand Lodge of England that it was decided that the Provincial Grand Lodge of India could initiate candidates without interference with religion, and laid down the rule, "He need not cease to be a Mohammedan, Buddhist, Hindu, Jew, Christian, or any other denomination."
The Grand Registrar of the Grand Lodge of England stated "It is not a question of the Bible being on the altar, it is 'The Volume of the Sacred Law.' Among the Christians it is the Old and New Testament combined. Among the Jews it is the Old Testament alone. Among the Mohammedans it is the Koran.
"During the latter part of 1875, there was considerable stir among the Craft lodges in India, as to the propriety of the use of the Koran in Masonic lodges under English Constitutions. Considerable correspondence was had with the Grand Lodge of England, in London, which brought out the fact of the initiation of the King of Oudh, a Mohammedan, in Friendship Lodge No. 6, in London, on April 14, 1836. At the initiatory ceremonies a volume of the Koran was used. The book had been furnished by the Grand Master, and the candidate was obligated upon it by the Master of the lodge, who was an English clergyman. This stopped further discussion, and it was settled in the Grand Lodge of England and her colonies, that it was proper to obligate all candidates upon that particular book which they held to be most sacred, and contains the work of Deity. All of this has been accepted and acknowledged as correct by the Grand Lodge of Scotland, and the annual appointment of Grand Shastii bearer, Grand Veda Bearer, Grand Koran Bearer, Grand Bible Bearer, etc., has been regularly made."