What is Freemasonry?
|Freemasonry is one of the world's oldest secular fraternal
societies, whose members are concerned with moral and spiritual values. They are taught
its precepts by a series of ritual dramas, which follow ancient forms and use stonemason's
customs and tools as allegorical guides. The essential qualification for admission is a
belief in a Supreme Being. Freemasonry is open to men of any race or religion who can
fulfill this essential qualification and are of good repute. Although it has a religious
basis Freemasonry is neither a religion in itself nor a substitute for religion. It
expects its members to follow their own faith. It has no theology or dogma and by
forbidding the discussion of religion at its meetings prevents the development of any
dogma. Nor is there a separate Masonic god. The use of honorifics, such as the Great
Architect, is simply to enable men of different faiths to meet together, offer prayers and
address their God without differences of religion obtruding. To the Christian the Great
Architect is his God; to the Jew, Hindu, Sikh, Muslim etc. he is the God of his particular
Freemasonry is not a secret society. Its aims, principles, constitutions and rules are available to the public and its members are at perfect liberty to acknowledge their membership. The only secrets in Freemasonry are the traditional modes of recognition.
A Freemason is taught that his prime duties are to his God, to the laws of the country in which he lives and works, and to his family. Any attempt to use his membership to promote his own or anyone else's business, professional or personal interests, and any attempt to shield a Freemason who has acted dishonorably or unlawfully, is contrary to the conditions on which he seeks admission.
By following the three Great principles of Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth a Freemason hopes to show tolerance and respect for the opinions of others; to practice charity within the community as a whole both by charitable giving and voluntary efforts; and to strive to attain truth and high moral standards in his own life.
Masonry teaches that each person has a responsibility to make things better in the world. Most individuals won't be the ones to find a cure for cancer, or eliminate poverty, or help create world peace, but every man and woman and child can do something to help others and to make things a little better. Masonry is deeply involved with helping people -- it spends more than $1.4 million dollars every day in the United States, just to make life a little easier. And the great majority of that help goes to people who are not Masons. Some of these charities are vast projects, like the Crippled Children's Hospitals and Burns Institutes built by the Shriners. Also, Scottish Rite Masons maintain a nationwide network of over 100 Childhood Language Disorders Clinics, Centers, and Programs. Each helps children afflicted by such conditions as aphasia, dyslexia, stuttering, and related learning or speech disorders. Some services are less noticeable, like helping a widow pay her electric bill or buying coats and shoes for disadvantaged children. And there's just about anything you can think of in-between. But with projects large or small, the Masons of a lodge try to help make the world a better place. The lodge gives them a way to combine with others to do even more good.
The more casual answer would add that Freemasonry is a body of like-minded, responsible men, who in their own way, wish to progress as individuals and share a journey of personal development towards self enlightenment which is often masked by the pace of life today.
Freemasons will also enjoy the customs and theatrics and within the lodge which, in an appropriate context, are used to explain symbolic meaning. There is also good humour, spirit of friendship and a dinner afterwards (which is known as the Festive Board) and the potential to visit other lodges in the US as well as abroad which all adds to the enjoyment.
In between lodge meetings, many freemasons will try to find opportunities to put something back into the community at large. They will also appreciate that humility and the conduct by which they run their lives outside the lodge room is important. Finally, they do not regard Freemasonry as a secret society, merely one that is private that would loose some of its special significance and meaning to newcomers should every aspect of lodge business become widely known or be taken out of context. These days though, even the briefest search on the internet will reveal all sorts of signs, signals or practices with trouser legs ascribed to Freemasonry, some true, others obvious fiction