What Is Freemasonry?

FREEMASONRY


Freemasonry means something different to each member. For some, it’s about belonging to one of the world’s historically oldest and largest non-religious, non-political, fraternal and charitable organisation for all parts of society. For others it's about camaraderie, making new friends and a brotherhood that stands the test of time. But for most, Freemasonry is a way of life. Members are expected to be of high moral standing as Freemasonry offers itself as a field of enhancement to your self-knowledge, service to humanity, and to understanding the Brotherhood of Man through participation in a progression of degree ceremonies.

Freemasonry is composed of people of all nationalities, religions, occupations and ages. Freemasons believe in truth, tolerance, respect, and freedom. Anyone may petition to be a Mason so long as they meet a few requirements.

Freemasons believe in “making good men better” which implies that its adherents should seek continual improvement and growth. A maxim in ancient Greece, “Man Know Thyself”, has echoes in modern ceremonial Freemasonry and implies the importance of learning about self, for by becoming a more enlightened and principled individual it is most probable that a person will in turn be a contributing citizen to their society. It is important that a Mason be a good family member, friend, neighbor and employee. Freemasons believe in living a life of positive contribution and to the building up of self, society and the world. Masonry is not a substitute for a person's chosen faith but rather supplements faith, spirituality, life and living.

Freemasonry is one of the world’s oldest secular fraternal societies. Freemasonry instills in its members a moral and ethical approach to life: it seeks to reinforce thoughtfulness for others, kindness in the community, honesty in business, courtesy in society and fairness in all things. Members are urged to regard the interests of the family as paramount but, importantly, Freemasonry also teaches and practices concern for people, care for the less fortunate and help for those in need. In essence it is a beautiful system of morality, veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols.

For many years Freemasons have followed three great principles and believe that these principles represent a way of achieving higher standards in life. They are:

Brotherly Love - Every true Freemason will show tolerance and respect for the opinions of others and behave with kindness and understanding to his fellow creatures.

Relief - Freemasons are taught to practice charity and to care - not only for their own - but also for the community as a whole, both by charitable giving and by voluntary efforts and works as individuals.

Truth - Freemasons strive for truth, requiring high moral standards and aiming to achieve them in their own lives.

The essential qualification for admission into and continuing membership is a belief in a Supreme Being. Membership is open to men of any race or religion who can fulfill this essential qualification and who are of good repute.

If you see a man who quietly and modestly moves in the sphere of his life; who, without blemish, fulfils his duty as a man, a subject, a husband and a father; who is pious without hypocrisy, benevolent without ostentation, and aids his fellow man without self-interest; whose heart beats warm for friendship, whose serene mind is open for licensed pleasures, who in vicissitudes does not despair, nor in fortune will be presumptuous, and who will be resolute in the hour of danger;

The man who is free from superstition and free from infidelity; who in nature sees the finger of the Eternal Master; who feels and adores the higher destination of man; to whom faith, hope and charity are not mere words without any meaning; to whom property, nay even life, is not too dear for the protection of innocence and virtue, and for the defense of truth;

The man who towards himself is a severe judge, but who is tolerant with the debilities of his neighbour; who endeavors to oppose errors without arrogance, and to promote intelligence without impatience; who properly understands how to estimate and employ his means; who honours virtue though it may be in the most humble garment, and who does not favor vice though it be clad in purple; and who administers justice to merit whether dwelling in palaces or cottages.

The man who, without courting applause, is loved by all noble-minded men, respected by his superiors and revered by his subordinates; the man who never proclaims what he has done, can do, or will do, but where need is will lay hold with dispassionate courage, circumspect resolution, indefatigable exertion and a rare power of mind, and who will not cease until he has accomplished his work, and then, without pretension, will retire into the multitude because he did the good act, not for himself, but for the cause of good! If you, my Brethren meet such a man, you will see the personification of brotherly love, relief and truth; and you will have found the ideal of a Freemason.

If you, my Brethren meet such a man, you will see the personification of brotherly love, relief and truth; and you will have found the ideal of a Freemason.

One of Freemasonry's customs is not to solicit members. However, anyone should feel free to approach any Mason to seek further information about the Craft. Membership is open to men of all faiths, 21 years of age or older, who meet the qualifications and standards of character and reputation, who are of good moral character, and who believe in the existence of a Supreme Being. A man who wants to join a lodge must be recommended by two members of that lodge. He must understand that his character will be investigated. After approval by the members of that lodge, he will be accepted as an applicant for membership in Freemasonry. The doors of Freemasonry are open to men who seek harmony with their fellow man, feel the need for self-improvement and wish to participate in making this world a better place to live. All applicants must come of their own free will. To be one...ask one.

Basic Freemasonry consists of three degrees - Entered Apprectice, Fellowcraft and Master Mason. However, there are many other Masonic degrees and Orders which are called 'additional' or 'appendant' because they add to the foundations established in the first three degrees. They are not basic to Freemasonry but add to it by further expounding upon and illustrating the moral lessons taught. Some of these additional degrees are numerically superior to the third degree but this does not affect the fact that they are additional to and not in anyway superior to or higher than the Master Mason degree. The ranks that these additional degrees carry have no standing with the Craft.

The secrets of Freemasonry are concerned with its traditional modes of recognition. It is not a secret society, since all members are free to acknowledge their membership and will do so in response to enquiries for respectable reasons. Its constitutions and rules are available to the public. There is no secret about any of its aims and principles. Like many other societies, it regards some of its internal affairs as private matters for its members. In history there have been times and places where promoting equality, freedom of thought or liberty of conscience was dangerous. Most importantly though is a question of perspective. Each aspect of the craft has a meaning. Freemasonry has been described as a system of morality, veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols. Such characteristics as virtue, honour and mercy, such virtues as temperance, fortitude, prudence and justice are empty clichés and hollow words unless presented within an ordered and closed framework. The lessons are not secret but the presentation is kept private to promote a clearer understanding in good time. It is also possible to view Masonic secrecy not as secrecy in and of itself, but rather as a symbol of privacy and discretion. By not revealing Masonic secrets, or acknowledging the many published exposures, freemasons demonstrate that they are men of discretion, worthy of confidences, and that they place a high value on their word and bond.

Freemasonry demands from its members a respect for the law of the country in which a man works and lives. Its principles do not in any way conflict with its members' duties as citizens, but should strengthen them in fulfilling their public and private responsibilities. The use by a Freemason of his membership to promote his own or anyone else's business, professional or personal interests is condemned, and is contrary to the conditions on which he sought admission to Freemasonry. His duty as a citizen must always prevail over any obligation to other Freemasons, and any attempt to shield a Freemason who has acted dishonorably or unlawfully is contrary to this prime duty and the teachings of Freemasonry itself.

Freemasonry is non-political, and the discussion of politics at Masonic meetings is forbidden. Freemasonry, as a body, will never express a view on politics or state policy. It charges each of its members to be true and loyal to the government of the country to which he owes allegiance, and to be obedient to the laws of any state in which he may reside. Holding these beliefs and in the knowledge that the true Freemason will act in civil life according to his individual judgments and the dictates of his conscience. Freemasonry naturally tends to attract those with a concern for people and a sense of social responsibility and purpose. There are members, therefore, who are involved in politics at local, national and international level. Equally there are members who take an active interest in non-Masonic charitable organizations and other community groups.

Freemasonry is not a religion, nor is it a substitute for religion. It has no theology and does not teach any route to salvation. It deals in a man’s relationship with his fellow man not in a man’s relationship with his God. Although every lodge meeting is opened and closed with a prayer and its ceremonies reflect the essential truths and moral teachings common to many of the world's great religions, no discussion of religion is permitted in Masonic meetings. The one essential qualification means that Freemasonry is open to men of many religions and it expects and encourages them to continue to practice his religion and to regard its holy book as the unerring standard of truth. The Bible will always be present in a lodge but as the organization welcomes men of all faiths, it is called the Volume of the Sacred Law. Thus, when the Volume of the Sacred Law is referred to in ceremonies, to a non-Christian it will be the holy book of his religion and to a Christian it will be the Bible.

Because of their belief in universal principles and freedoms Freemasons have been prosecuted and seen historically as threats by tyrants and despotic dictators. Intolerance towards Freemasons even emanated at one time from the Holy Roman Catholic Church. Various Roman Catholic Popes have published condemnations of Freemasonry, starting with Bull, In Eminenti, by Pope Clement XII, on 28 April, 1738. Although Roman Catholic Canon Law does not specifically mention Freemasonry, the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith of the Roman Catholic Church still views association as a serious sin. Furthermore, Freemasonry had been outlawed in Germany by Hitler and the Nazi's during WW II, by Mussolini in 1925, by Franco in Spain in 1941, suppressed by the Communists of Russia, Romania and Hungary, and in Iran by the Ayatollah Khomeini in 1979. The countries where Freemasonry openly exists are in counties that are tolerant and more or less democratic.

New members make solemn promises concerning their conduct in the lodge and society. These promises are similar to those taken in court or upon entering the armed services or many other organizations. Freemasons promise to support others in times of need, but only if that support does not conflict with their duties to God, the law, their family or with their responsibilities as a Citizen.

Freemasonry should not be allowed to harm a man's family or other connections by taking too much of his time or his money, or causing him to act in any way against their interests. Members are invited to give to charity but this should always be within their means and it is entirely up to the individual how much they wish to contribute. From its earliest days, Freemasonry has been concerned with the care of orphans, the sick and the aged. This work continues today. In addition, large sums are given to national and local charities.

Every man comes, of his own free will and accord, with his own individual needs and interests. One man may join so that he can associate with other men who believe that only by improving themselves can they hope to improve their society. Another man may join because he is looking for a focus for his charitable inclinations. And yet another may be attracted by a strong sense of history and tradition. Many join simply because they knew a friend or relative who was a freemason and they admired that man’s way of living his life. All who join and become active discover a bond of brotherly affection and a community of mutual support; a practical extension of their own religious and philosophical beliefs.

Membership fees vary from Lodge to Lodge. Anyone wishing to join will find a Lodge to suit his needs and means. There is an initiation fee on entry and in due course regalia will have to be bought. The meeting is normally followed by a dinner, the cost depending on the venue. There is, in addition, an annual subscription. It is entirely up to the individual member what he gives to Charity, but it should always be without detriment to his other responsibilities. Freemasonry is a brotherhood of over 5 million worldwide.

Women are not invited to join recognized Masonic lodges. By contemporary standards it may not appear easy to justify this exclusion and most freemasons would simply claim tradition. One might justify this exclusion, in contemporary terms, as a form of male bonding; meeting a group of like minded men from a broad social, economic and cultural background to practice a ritual derived from those practiced hundreds of years ago. If Freemasonry is a power elite then women could and should feel justifiable outrage at being excluded. Freemasonry’s goal, though, is not the consolidation of power but rather the education of good men. The only real justification is that Freemasonry actively promotes and teaches certain social freedoms, one of them being the freedom of association. If freemasons wish to associate in a male-only environment, then that is their right and privilege as free citizens. No other justification or explanation is required except this. Women are a very important part of our lives as Freemasons and without them our hearts and minds would be at a significant loss.

Preferential treatment would be unacceptable and may lead to action being taken against those involved. On joining, each new member states that he expects no material gain from membership.

The meeting, which like those of other groups, are open only to members, is normally in two parts. First, there are normal administrative procedures such as: Minutes of the previous meeting, proposing and balloting for new members, discussing and voting on the annual accounts, Masonic news and correspondence and news about charitable work. Secondly, there are the degree ceremonies for admitting new members and the annual installation of the Master of the Lodge and his officers.

“The origin of Freemasonry is one of the most debated, and debatable, subjects in the whole realm of historical inquiry. One has to distinguish between the legendary history of Freemasonry and the problem of when it actually began as an organized institution. According to Masonic legend, Freemasonry is as old as architecture itself.” Prof. Francis A. Yates

It is not known where Freemasonry began. The earliest recorded ‘making’ of a Freemason in England is that of Elias Ashmole in 1646. Organized Freemasonry began with the founding of the Grand Lodge of England on 24 June 1717, (St John’s Day), the first Grand Lodge in the world. Ireland followed in 1725 and Scotland in 1736. All the regular Grand Lodges in the world trace themselves back to one or more of the Grand Lodges in the British Isles.

There are two main theories of origin. According to one, the operative stonemasons who built the great cathedrals and castles had lodges in which they discussed trade affairs. They had simple initiation ceremonies and, as there were no City and Guilds certificates, dues cards or trade union membership cards, they adopted secret signs and words to demonstrate that they were trained masons when they moved from site to site. In the 1600s, these operative lodges began to accept non-operatives as “gentlemen masons”. Gradually these non-operatives took over the lodges and turned them from operative to ‘free and accepted’ or ‘speculative’ lodges.

The other theory is that in the late 1500s and early 1600s, there was a group, which was interested in the promotion of religious and political tolerance in an age of great intolerance when differences of opinion on matters of religion and politics were to lead to bloody civil war. In forming Freemasonry, they were trying to make better men and build a better world. As the means of teaching in those days was by allegory and symbolism, they took the idea of building as the central allegory on which to form their system. The main source of allegory was the Bible, the contents of which were known to everyone even if they could not read, and the only building described in detail in the Bible was King Solomon’s Temple, which became the basis of the ritual. The old trade guilds provided them with their basic administration of a Master, Wardens, Treasurer and Secretary, and the operative mason’s tools provided them with a wealth of symbols with which to illustrate the moral teachings of Freemasonry. Source: The Freemason at Work by Harry Carr

Masonic writers over the years have tried to claim a venerable lineage, associating the Craft with the Knights Templar, the Roman Colleges of Artificers, the Essenes, the Dionysian and Eleusinian mystery schools, Mithraic mystery schools, King Solomon and, even more fantastical, Noah and Adam. There are striking similarities between the rituals of Freemasonry and many ancient mystery schools, at least those few parts that have survived.

The original medieval Order of Knights Templar was established after the First Crusade, and existed from approximately 1118 to 1312. There is no known historical evidence to link the medieval Knights Templar and Masonic Templarism, nor do the Masonic Knights Templar organizations claim any such direct link to the original medieval Templar organization. Though its affiliation with Masonry is based on texts that indicate persecuted Templars found refuge within the safety of Freemasonry.

Freemasons have no interest in any dogma or doctrine, the occult or world domination. We are however dedicated to the basic Masonic principles of brotherly love, relief and truth; and by their consistent practice, we strive to lessen the aggregate of human suffering and promote the true and lasting happiness of Mankind. We begin to make a better world by building within ourselves, our family, our community, and our country. This is our true history.

To join Freemasonry there are a few ways. First you can fill out our BE ONE form below. Ensure you include your age, address and reasons to become a Freemason. Secondly you can contact various lodges in your area (for a detailed listing CLICK HERE). And thirdly, to be one...ask one. Do Note: It may take 2-4 weeks before a member contacts you to discuss your potential membership into Freemasonry. Be advised, each lodge has their own procedures on membership which can take up to one year or longer to become a member.

Our fraternity has a wonderful history, which dates back more than three centuries. It is one of the world's oldest secular fraternities, a society of men concerned with moral and spiritual values. Founded on the three great principles of Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth, it aims to bring together men of goodwill, regardless of background and differences. People might think that to become a Freemason is quite difficult. It's actually straightforward. The essential qualification for admission is that you have a belief in a Supreme Being. A Freemason is encouraged to do his duty first to his God (by whatever name he is known) through his faith and religious practice; and then, without detriment to his family and those dependent on him, to his neighbour through charity and service. None of these ideas is exclusively Masonic, but all should be universally acceptable. Freemasons are expected to follow them.

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