What is Freemasonry
There have been a great number of definitions of Freemasonry. Perhaps the best, and certainly the simplest, is Freemasonry is a system of morality, veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols. The idea of teaching by allegories and symbols is not new. All great teachers have, more or less, followed this method.
The system of morality, referred to as Freemasonry, is that which every Freemason is bound to profess and practice. If it includes principles with which he was familiar before his entrance into Freemasonry, he will nevertheless find these presented in new ways and in forms different from those with which he was previously familiar. If he finds in Masonic teachings nothing startlingly new, he must remember that, in some respects at least, there is nothing new under the sun and that the essence of morality is to be found in the utter simplicity (though not the ease) of its requirements.
The elementary principles of Freemasonry are exemplified in the three degrees worked in every regular masonic Lodge throughout the world.
Each Lodge has its own Office-bearers, headed by a Master; its own Committees and, in many cases, its own property. On the other hand, each Lodge is subject to the authority of the Grand Lodge under which it holds its Charter. In becoming a member of a Lodge under a particular Constitution one becomes subject not only to the general customs and usages of the Craft, but also to the Laws and Regulations of that Grand Lodge, as well as to the Bye-Laws and Regulations of that Lodge which one joins. However, Freemasonry will never require anything which might conflict with ones duty to God, to his Country, to his neighbour or to his family.
In the progress through Freemasonry, one is initiated as an Entered Apprentice; passed as a Fellow Craft and raised as a Master Mason. These are ritualistic ceremonies of a most serious character appropriate to each stage of advancement. It may be noted that during the ceremonies, one will not be asked to promise anything which will conflict with ones religious, civil or other duties. The first duty is to approach each ceremony calmly and solemnly, with mind and spirit attentive to the lessons which will be imparted.
So that one may not have a mistaken idea of what Freemasonry is, it may be well to point out some of the things which Freemasonry is NOT, and which it has never claimed to be.
1. Freemasonry is NOT a religion nor a substitute for religion. It has a philosophy of its own which it believes to be compatible with the teachings of religious institutions. The teachings of Freemasonry transcend all denominational and sectarian divisions. In the field of human conduct, it is complementary to religion, but religious topics may not be discussed in any Lodge.
2. Contrary to the opinion held by many, Freemasonry is not a charitable institution, as such. It is true that one of the fundamental principles of Freemasonry is the practice of relief, and a Freemason will necessarily minister to the widows and fatherless in their affliction. But these and other similar modes of conduct, must proceed from that purity of life and conduct which is one of the great objectives of all Masonic teachings.
3. Freemasonry does not insure its members against the vicissitudes of old age; provides no sick benefits as such; issues no insurance policies on the lives of its members and pays no death benefits of any kind. Not that Freemasonry disbelieves in these and other means by which modern civilisation undertakes to reduce suffering and privation-quite the contrary. But it confines the matter of individual relief to those cases where such relief becomes necessary, inspite of all the efforts of a Brother or his family to maintain their economic independence. The Masons part in this work is far more likely to be that of a contributor than a beneficiary, except in the larger sense, in which every man benefits from the fact that it is more blessed to give than to receive.
4. Freemasonry does not lend itself to the promoting of selfish or mercenary interests. Any underlying purpose of such a nature in one's mind will eventually become apparent to the other Brethren resulting in the inevitable loss of one's respect.
5. Freemasonry is not connected in any way with a political creed. A Freemason's political views are his own and a Lodge may well have members belonging to many different political parties. For that reason, no discussion of political matters is permitted in a Lodge.
Not every man can fulfill the requirements that Freemasonry asks of it's aspirants. The primary requirement, is of course, a sound moral character. One whose reputation in the Community is in any way questionable, cannot expect to become a Mason. But there are other requirements which the petitioner must have, such as:-
- He must be a believer in God, The Supreme Being.
- He must be a loyal citizen, willing to discharge his duties to God, to his neighbour and to himself.
- He must be at least twenty-one years of age (unless his father is or was a Freemason when the age of admission may be reduced, at the discretion of the Lodge, to eighteen).
- He must be in such financial circumstances that he can maintain himself as a Member of his Lodge, meeting the monetary obligations imposed by being a member, without detriment to his family or himself.
A potential Freemason, like Masons in all ages before, comes of his own accord to knock at the door of the Craft. Two Brethren are requested to recommend; indeed they have to vouch for the prospects character and sincerity of motives. In a very real sense they are Masonic sponsors and have the responsibility of seeing that they and others who have accepted their assurances will not be disappointed.
The privileges of Freemasonry are no greater than the responsibilities of its members. The obligations will not conflict with those already assumed by virtue of ones membership in modern society. On the contrary, Freemasonry reiterates, reinforces and re-emphasises them.
Thus, in asking Freemasonry to share its past, its present and its future and all the privileges of its Brotherhood, one must bear in mind the fact that the relationship is a reciprocal one and that certain things are expected of the prospect. Remember always:-
- The calling of a Freemason is a high one and one should never suffer oneself to depart from it.
- Loyalty to home, to country and to the Craft is expected at all times.
- Patriotism is a bounden duty and one must not countenance disloyalty or rebellion.
- That Freemasonry recognises that all men, whether Masons or not, are Brothers by birth, endowed with the same nature, and sharing the same hopes.
- That Freemasonry champions the cause of the widow, the fatherless, the weak, and the distressed.
- That the time-honoured virtues cherished by our forefathers are to be observed among Masons and that humanity, patience, charity and gentleness are among the hallmarks of purity and integrity of character.