The purpose of this page is to shed some 'light' on the Moral and Ethical code of the Masonic Lodge. There are 'Laws' to which the bothern must abide and uphold for the overall good purpose of the Lodge. The information used in the first section is from the book by Rollin C. Blackmer, C.m, M.D., LLD., Past Commander, Past High Priest. The book was first written in 1923 and has been republished many times, the last being 1976.
" In the hope that dark places shall be made
light and a clearer understanding had of our glorious
Instituation this book is dedicated with fraternal greeting ",
Freemasonry, according to the ancient definition, is "a beautiful system of morals, veiled in allegory and illustratrated by symbols". In this definition the main ideas are system, allegory and symbolism. There has never been but one set of moral principals revealed to mankind, or developed in humanity. These principals were announced at a very early date in the Mosaic Law, as embodied in the Decalogue or Ten words of the Hebrews, but they were just as clearly recognized in the code of Hammurabi, published more than a thousand years previously, on the germs of these same principals in a very beautiful manner in his poem, called "The Law of the Jungle". It starts as follows;
" This is the Law of the Jungle, As old and as true as the sky, And the wolf that keeps it shall prosper, But the Wolf that neglects it shall die.
"As the creeper encircles the tree trunk The Law runneth forward and back, For the Strength of the pack is the wolf, And the strength of the wolf is the pack.
"The kill of the wolf is the meat of the wolf, He may eat where he will, And until he has given permission, No other may eat of that kill.
"But the kill of the pack is the meat of the pack, One must eat where it lies, And no wolf may carry away of that meat, To his den, or he dies."
Freemasonry accepts members from almost any religion, including Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, and so forth. In Lodges following in the Continental tradition, atheists and agnostics are also accepted, without qualification. Most other branches currently require a belief in a Supreme Being. But even there, one finds a high degree of non-dogmatism, and the phrase Supreme Being is often given a very broad interpretation, usually allowing Deism and often even allowing naturalistic views of "God/Nature" in the tradition of Spinoza and Goethe (himself a Freemason), or views of The Ultimate or Cosmic Oneness, such as found in some Eastern religions and in Western idealism (or for that matter, in modern cosmology). This leads some to suggest that even Anglo Freemasonry will, in practice, end up accepting certain kinds of atheists‹those willing to adopt a certain brand of spiritual language. Such claims are difficult to evaluate, since many Anglo jurisdictions consider any further enquiry into a prospective member's religion, beyond the "Supreme Being" question, to be off limits. However, in some Anglo jurisdictions (mostly English-speaking), Freemasonry is actually less tolerant of naturalism than it was in the 18th century, and specific religious requirements with more theistic and orthodox overtones have been added since the early 19th century, including (mostly in North America) belief in the immortality of the soul. The Freemasonry that predominates in Scandinavia, known as the Swedish Rite, accepts only Christians.
Generally, to be a Freemason, one must:
be a man, if joining a masculine jurisdiction (the case for the majority of jurisdictions), or a woman, if joining a feminine jurisdiction (unless joining a co-Masonic jurisdiction with no gender requirement),
believe in a Supreme Being, or, in some jurisdictions, a Creative Principle (unless joining a jurisdiction with no religious requirement, as in the Continental tradition),
be at least the minimum age (1825 years depending on the jurisdiction),
be of sound mind, body and of good morals, and
be free (or "born free", i.e. not born a slave or bondsman).
Traditionally, membership was limited to men only, and the degree of recognition that should be accorded to feminine and co-Masonic jurisdictions is still a matter of great controversy. The "free born" requirement does not come up in modern Lodges, and there is no indication that it would ever be enforced, but remains there for historical reasons (it is often interpreted as meaning something like "freethinking"). The "sound body" requirement is today generally taken to mean physically capable of taking part in Lodge rituals, and most Lodges today are quite flexible in accommodating disabled candidates.
Freemasonry upholds the principles of "Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth" (or in France: "Liberty, Equality, Fraternity"). It teaches moral lessons through rituals. Members working through the rituals are taught by "degrees". Freemasons are also commonly involved in public service and charity work, as well as providing a social outlet for their members. There is considerable variance in the emphasis on these different aspects of Masonry around the world. In Continental Europe, the philosophical side of Freemasonry is more emphasized, while in Britain, North America, and the English-speaking parts of the world, the charity, service and social club aspects are more emphasized.
While Freemasonry as an organization does not directly involve itself in politics, its members have tended over the years to support certain kinds of political causes with which they have become associated: the separation of Church and State, the replacement of religiously-affiliated schools with secular ones, and democratic revolutions (such as the United States and France on a smaller scale, but on a larger scale in other places such as Mexico, Brazil, and repeatedly in Italy). In some places, especially Continental Europe and Mexico, Freemasonry has at times taken on an anti-Catholic and anti-clerical overtone.
Many organizations with various religious and political purposes have been inspired by Freemasonry, and are sometimes confused with it, such as the Protestant Loyal Orange Association and the 19th century Italian Carbonari, which pursued Liberalism and Italian Unity. Many other purely fraternal organizations, too numerous to mention, have also been inspired by Masonry to a greater or lesser extent.
Freemasonry is often called a secret society, and in fact is considered by many to be the very prototype for such societies. Many Masons say that it is more accurately described as a "society with secrets".
The degree of secrecy varies widely around the world. In English-speaking countries, most Masons are completely public with their affiliation, Masonic buildings are usually clearly marked, and meeting times are generally a matter of public record. In other countries, where Freemasonry has been more recently, or is even currently, suppressed by the government, secrecy may be practised more in earnest.
Even in the English-speaking world, the precise details of the rituals are not made public, and Freemasons have a system of secret modes of recognition, such as the Masonic secret grip (by which Masons can recognize each other "in the dark as well as in the light"); however, Masons acknowledge that these "secrets" have been widely available in printed exposés and anti-Masonic literature for, literally, centuries.
Prince Hall Masonry
In 1775, an African American named Prince Hall was initiated into an Irish Constitution Military Lodge, along with fourteen other African Americans, all of whom were free by birth. When the Military Lodge left the area, the African Americans were given the authority to meet as a Lodge, form Processions on the days of the Saints John, and conduct Masonic funerals, but not to confer degrees nor to do other Masonic Work. These individuals applied for, and obtained, a Warrant for Charter from the Grand Lodge of England in 1784 and formed African Lodge #459. Despite being stricken from the rolls (like all American Grand Lodges after the 1813 merger of the Antients and the Moderns) the Lodge restyled itself as the African Lodge #1 (not to be confused with the various Grand Lodges on the Continent of Africa), and separated itself from UGLE-recognised Masonry. This led to a tradition of separate, predominantly African American jurisdictions in North America, known collectively as Prince Hall Freemasonry.
Widespread racism and segregation in North America made it impossible for African Americans to join many so-called "mainstream" Lodges, and many mainstream Grand Lodges in North America refused to recognize as legitimate the Prince Hall Lodges and Prince Hall Masons in their territory.
Presently, Prince Hall Masonry is recognized by some UGLE-recognized Grand Lodges and not by others, and appears to be working its way toward full recognition. It is no longer unusual for traditional lodges to have significant African-American membership.
John Marrant the Huntingdonian minister preached to the Prince Hall Lodge on 24th June 1789. His Nova Scotia congregation was significant in the successful agitation for repatriation by Black Loyalists as well as the subsequent revolt which occurred in Sierra Leone in 1800.
Ritual and symbols
The Freemasons rely heavily on the architectural symbolism of the medieval operative Masons who actually worked in stone. One of their principal symbols is the square and compasses, tools of the trade, so arranged as to form a quadrilateral. The square is sometimes said to represent matter, and the compasses spirit or mind. Alternatively, the square might be said to represent the world of the concrete, or the measure of objective reality, while the compasses represent abstraction, or subjective judgment, and so forth (Freemasonry being non-dogmatic, there is no written-in-stone interpretation for any of these symbols). The compasses straddle the square, representing the interdependence between the two. In the space between the two, there is optionally placed a symbol of metaphysical significance. Sometimes, this is a blazing star or other symbol of Light, representing Truth or knowledge. Alternatively, there is often a letter G placed there, usually said to represent God and/or Geometry.
The square and compasses are displayed at all Masonic meetings, along with the open Volume of the Sacred Law (or Lore) (VSL). In English-speaking countries, this is usually a Holy Bible, but it can be whatever book(s) of inspiration or scripture that the members of a particular Lodge or jurisdiction feel they draw on‹whether the Bible, the Qur'an, or other Volumes. A candidate for a degree will normally be given his choice of VSL, regardless of the Lodge's usual VSL. In many French Lodges, the Masonic Constitutions are used. In a few cases, a blank book has been used, where the religious makeup of a Lodge was too diverse to permit an easy choice of VSL. In addition to its role as a symbol of written wisdom, inspiration, and spiritual revelation, the VSL is what Masonic obligations are taken upon.Much of Masonic symbolism is mathematical in nature, and in particular geometrical, which is probably a reason Freemasonry has attracted so many rationalists (such as Voltaire, Fichte, Goethe, George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Mark Twain and many others). No particular metaphysical theory is advanced by Freemasonry, however, although there seems to be some influence from the Pythagoreans, from Neo-Platonism, and from early modern Rationalism.In keeping with the geometrical and architectural theme of Freemasonry, the Supreme Being (or God, or Creative Principle) is sometimes also referred to in Masonic ritual as the Grand Geometer, or the Great Architect of the Universe (GAOTU). Freemasons use a variety of labels for this concept in order to avoid the idea that they are talking about any one religion's particular God or God-like concept.
There are three initial degrees of Freemasonry:
As one works through the degrees, one studies the lessons and interprets them for oneself. There are as many ways to interpret the rituals as there are Masons, and no Mason may dictate to any other Mason how he is to interpret them. No particular truths are espoused, but a common structure - speaking symbolically to universal human archetypes - provides for each Mason a means to come to his own answers to life's important questions. Especially in Europe, Freemasons working through the degrees are asked to prepare papers on related philosophical topics, and present these papers in an open Lodge, where others may judge the suitability of the candidates' ascension through the higher degrees.
An expression often used in Masonic circles is to be on the square, meaning to be a reliable sort of person, and this has entered common usage. Another phrase from Freemasonry in common use is meeting on the level (without regard to social, economic, religious or cultural differences). The practice of Freemasonry is referred to amongst its members as the Craft, a term also used to distinguish the basic level of Freemasonry from other Masonic orders. A Mason who has served as Worshipful Master is known as a Past Master, which has passed into common use to indicate an expert in a subject.
Landmarks are the ancient and unchangeable precepts of Masonry, the standards by which the regularity of Lodges and Grand Lodges is judged. However, since each Grand Lodge is self-governing and no single authority exists over Craft Masonry, even these supposedly-inviolable principles can and do vary, leading to controversies and inconsistency of recognition. Some examples of common landmarks include:
A belief in a Supreme Being is required of all candidates for the degrees. The definition of "Supreme Being" is generally left to the candidate's discretion.
The modes of recognition are to be kept inviolate. They consist of covert gestures made with the hands, called signs; distinctive ways of shaking hands, called grips and tokens; and special identifying passwords, most often based on Hebrew words of the Old Testament. Variations have crept in over time, and often the modes of recognition will mark a Mason as coming from a specific jurisdiction.
Much of the landscape of Washington D.C. is thought by many to be inspired by, or directly designed by, Freemasons, including the layout of national buildings, the mapping of streets and roadways, and the placement of national monuments. This has caused some to speculate that some of the esoteric practices and symbolism in Freemasonry, seen as "occult", have embedded themselves within the structure of several governments - in this case, the United States.
The legend of the Third Degree, involving the building of King Solomon's Temple, is an integral part of Craft Masonry.
The government of Lodges in an area, usually geographic, is in the hands of a Grand Lodge, specifically the Grand Master or Provincial Grand Master. A Grand Master rules autocratically, but is elected democratically. He may attend any meeting, anywhere within his jurisdiction, at any time and may conduct the Lodge at his pleasure.
Each Lodge is governed by a Master, variously styled Worshipful or Right Worshipful Master, and two other officers, called the Senior and Junior Wardens.A Senior and Junior Deacon assist the Master and his Wardens by passing messages and guiding candidates around the Lodge.
The Inner Guard is situated by the door of the lodge to lock and unlock it as the need arises, to admit latecomers and candidates.
All Lodges, when at work, must be tyled, that is, the door is guarded so that non-Masons may not enter or overhear the proceedings. The Tyler or outer guard, as his name implies, is situated outside the door of the Lodge "being armed with a drawn sword to keep off all intruders and cowans to Masonry".
The second great schism in Freemasonry occurred in the years following 1877, when the GOdF started accepting atheists unreservedly. While the issue of atheism is probably the greatest single factor in the split with the GOdF, the English also point to the French recognition of women's Masonry and co-Masonry, as well as the tendency of French Masons to be more willing to discuss religion and politics in Lodge. While the French curtail such discussion, they do not ban it as outright as do the English (see ). The schism between the two branches has occasionally been breached for short periods of time, especially during the First World War when American Masons overseas wanted to be able to visit French Lodges.
Concerning religious requirements, the oldest constitution of Freemasonry (that of Anderson, 1723) says only that a Mason "will never be a stupid Atheist nor an irreligious Libertine [Freethinker]" if he "rightly understands the Art". The only religion required was "that Religion in which all Men agree, leaving their particular Opinions to themselves". Masons disagree as to whether "stupid" and "irreligious" are meant as necessary or as accidental modifiers of "atheist" and "libertine".
It is possible the ambiguity is intentional. In 1815, the newly amalgamated UGLE changed Anderson's constitutions to include more orthodox overtones: "Let a man's religion or mode of worship be what it may, he is not excluded from the Order, provided he believes in the glorious Architect of heaven and earth, and practices the sacred duties of morality." The English enforce this with a requirement for belief in a Supreme Being, and in his revealed will. While these requirements can still be interpreted in a non-theistic manner, they made it more difficult for unorthodox believers to enter the fraternity.
In 1849, the GOdF followed the English lead by adopting the "Supreme Being" requirement, but there was increasing pressure in Latin countries to openly admit atheists. There was an attempt at a compromise in 1875, by allowing the alternative phrase "Creative Principle" (which was less theistic-sounding than "Supreme Being"), but this was ultimately not enough for the GOdF, and in 1877 they went back to having no religious entrance requirements, adopting the original Anderson document of 1723 as their official Constitutions.
They also created a modified ritual that made no direct verbal reference to the G.A.O.T.U. (although, as a symbol, it was arguably still present). This new Rite did not replace the older ones, but was added as an alternative (European jurisdictions in general tend not to restrict themselves to a single Rite, like most North American jurisdictions, but offer a menu of Rites, from which their Lodges can choose.)
Opinions about Freemasonry around the world may differ from place to place, but Freemasons always stress non-dogmatism and tolerance (albeit often within certain defined limits). This openness has led to friction between Freemasonry and organizations which hold a negative view of ecumenism, or are themselves intolerant towards other forms of belief and worship. Masons have been opposed throughout history by various religious groups, such as some Protestants and certain Muslims.
In general, there are two doctrinal objections to Freemasonry made by established Christian denominations, Catholic and non-Catholic alike:
The ecumenical nature of Masonic membership, which is at odds with the claims of exclusivity of belief that distinguish the various religious denominations.
The "esoteric" aspect of Masonic ritual, which is seen as synonymous with Gnosticism, declared heretical and suppressed by the early Christian church. (Manifestations of Gnosticism also appeared in the Jewish and Muslim communities, as Kabbalah and Sufism respectively; however, these movements have survived within Judaism and Islam.) Gnosticism is identified with the early Christian churches west of the Red Sea, such as the Egyptian and Ethiopean Coptic churches. The Nag Hammadi scrolls, discovered in Egypt, in 1945, which contain such apocrypha as the Gospel of Thomas, are considered to be Gnostic inspired or influenced. Thus, the possible connection between Gnosticism and the mythical Egyptian roots of Freemasonry is a subject of interest. The Rosicrucians, a modern Gnostic movement, claim such a connection.
The most vigorous opposition to the fraternity has come from the Catholic Church. The Catholic Church is openly hostile to Freemasonry, deeming it at least partly responsible for the French Revolution and the resulting decline of the church in Europe. The Knights of Columbus and other Catholic fraternal organizations were established to provide alternatives to Freemasonry for observant Catholics. (Ironically, one of these organizations, Opus Dei, has been the target of accusations similar to those leveled against the Freemasons.) Although most Freemasons in the English-speaking world are Protestant, some Protestant churches hold that Freemasonry is incompatible with being a member of a community of Christian faith, based on the scriptural holding that "no man can serve two masters".
The first papal condemnation of Freemasonry came in 1738 from Pope Clement XII in his papal bull "Eminenti Apostolatus Specula", repeated by several later popes, notably Pope Leo XIII in the "encyclical Humanum Genus" (1884).
The 1917 Code of Canon Law explicitly declares that joining Freemasonry entailed automatic excommunication; the revised Code issued in 1983 does not explicitly name Masonic orders among the secret societies condemned in canon 1374. According to some interpretations of canon law, Roman Catholics are forbidden to become Freemasons by their church, though Freemasons do not bar Roman Catholics and it is not unusual to find Catholic members. The Eastern Orthodox church forbids its members from being Masons. Freemasonry is also discouraged by some denominations of Protestantism.
However, in a letter to the United States Bishops from the Office of the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the interpretation was made clear - the prohibition against Catholics joining Masonic orders remains. Many Catholic Masons in the US choose to rely on the letter of the law.
One reason the Free Methodist Church was founded in the 1860s was that its founders believed the Methodist Church was being influenced by Freemasons and members of secret societies. The Free Methodist Church continues to prohibit its members from also joining societies such as the Freemasons. Recently the Southern Baptist Convention, the largest association of Baptists in the United States, also stated that participation in Freemasonry is inconsistent with its beliefs.
This form of criticism has been markedly reduced, since modern nation states like the USA and Europe in general are founded on religious tolerance, and many adherents of the religions that formally opposed Masons now believe in the main Masonic principles.
Political conspiracy theories involving the Masons
Freemasonry has been a long-time target of conspiracy theories, which see it as an occult and evil power - often associated with the New World Order and other "agents," such as the Pope, the Illuminati and Jews - either bent on world domination, or already secretly in control of world politics.
Nowadays, the main theme of anti-Masonic criticism involves the idea that Masons involve their organization in covert political activities. This assumption has been influenced by the assertion of Masons that many political figures in the past 300 years have been Masons.
Some say the Masons constantly plot to increase their power and wealth, others say the Masonic Brotherhood is engaged in a plot to produce a new world order of a type different (usually more sinister) than the existing world order. These theories would be possible to apply to almost any secret society (since a society with secret meetings allows secret coordination, the very essence of a conspiracy). Nevertheless, Masons have been the largest target because of their size and notable membership.
The historical complaints that the Masons have secretly plotted to create a society based on their ideals of liberty, equality, fraternity, and religious tolerance, are not denied by Masons. In an enlightened age many have now accepted the core Masonic values as stated, and persistent enemies of the society have been forced to come up with more sinister motives as to what Freemasons allegedly conspire to achieve.
Freemasonry is almost universally banned in totalitarian states. In 1925, it was outlawed in Fascist Italy. In Nazi Germany, Freemasons were sent to concentration camps and all Masonic Lodges were ordered shut down. German Masons used the blue forget-me-not as a secret means of recognition and as a substitute for the traditional (and too easily recognized) square and compasses.
U.S. Presidents who were FreemasonsGeorge Washington, James Monroe, Andrew Jackson, James Polk, James Buchanan, Abraham Lincoln (inducted postmortem by the lodge that he had petitioned for, and was denied, membership in while running for the U.S. Senate), Andrew Johnson, James Garfield, William McKinley, Theodore Roosevelt, William Taft, Warren Harding, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry Truman, Lyndon Johnson, and Gerald Ford.
Famous early Americans who were Freemasons: Benjamin Franklin, John Hancock, Paul Revere, Benedict Arnold, Stephen Austin, Jim Bowie, David Crockett, and Sam Houston.
Rudyard Kipling used masonic symbols and characters in some of his writings, most notably The Man Who Would Be King.
One of the main characters in Leo Tolstoy's War and Peace becomes a Freemason.
The plot of the opera "Die Zauberflöte" ("The Magic Flute") contains several references to Masonic ideals and ceremonies. Mozart and his librettist Emanuel Schikaneder were brothers in the same Masonic lodge.
The real object of the Ancient Mysteries was the preservation and inculcation of such scientific knowledge of astronomy and geometry as then existed. This scientific knowledge was common to all the learned peoples of all the prominent nations of the world. To keep this knowledge a secret from the common people, and at the same time preserve it and transmit it to succeeding generations, was the object of the Caballah, so we find the words as having the same sound in many languages and used as carriers of number philosophy. Geometry is Masonry and the words were origionally synonymous terms, being of a devine and moral nature is enriched with the most useful knowledge, and while it proves the wonderful properties of Nature, it demonstrates the more important truths of morality.
The following Ancient Charges and Regulations below, were prepared and presented to the Grand Lodge of England in 1721 by Dr. Anderson and Dr. Desaguliers and adopted by that body on the 25th of March 1722, are also held in great veneration by all regular Masons and state as nearly as possible what it was thought at that time the conduct of a Mason ought to be. They seem to be copied very closely from the laws and regulations of the Ancient operative Masons that had been handed down from unknown antiquity. Many old copies of these laws have been unearthed since the day when Anderson presented them by students of Masonic history, which confirm their authority. They may be said to constitute the standard of Masonic ethics throughout the world.
New members make solemn promises concerning their conduct in the lodge and in society. These promises are similar to those taken in court or upon entering the armed services or many other organisations. Each member also promises to keep confidential the traditional methods of proving he is a Freemason which he would use when visiting a lodge where he is not known.
The much publicised ‘traditional penalties’ for failure to observe these undertakings were removed from the promises in 1986. They were always symbolic not literal and refer only to the pain any decent man should feel at the thought of violating his word.
Members also undertake not to make use of their membership for personal gain or advancement; failure to observe this principle or otherwise to fall below the standards expected of a Freemason can lead to expulsion.
Membership is open to men of all faiths who are law-abiding, of good character and who acknowledge a belief in God. Freemasonry is a multi-racial and multi-cultural organisation. It has attracted men of goodwill from all sectors of the community into membership. There are similar Masonic organizations for women.
Freemasonry is not a secret society, but lodge meetings, like meetings of many other social and professional associations , are private occasions open only to members.
Freemasons are encouraged to speak openly about their membership, while remembering that they undertake not to use it for their own or anyone else's advancement. As members are sometimes the subject of discrimination which may adversely affect their employment or other aspects of their lives, some Freemasons are understandably reticent about discussing their membership. In common with many other national organisations, Grand Lodge neither maintains nor publishes a list of members and will not disclose names or member's details without their permission.
In circumstances where a conflict of interest might arise or be perceived to exist or when Freemasonry becomes an issue, a Freemason must declare an interest.
The rules and aims of Freemasonry are available to the public. The Masonic Year Book, also available to the public, contains the names of all national office-holders and lists of all lodges with details of their meeting dates and places.
The meeting places and halls used by Freemasons are readily identifiable, are listed in telephone directories and in many areas are used by the local community for activities other than Freemasonry. Freemasons' Hall in London is open to the public and ‘open days’ are held in many provincial centres.
The rituals and ceremonies used by Freemasons to pass on the principles of Freemasonry to new members were first revealed publicly in 1723. They include the traditional forms of recognition used by Freemasons essentially to prove their identity and qualifications when entering a Masonic meeting. These include handshakes which have been much written about and can scarcely be regarded as truly secret today; for medieval Freemasons, they were the equivalent of a ‘pin number’ restricting access only to qualified members.
Many thousands of books have been written on the subject of Freemasonry and are readily available to the general public. Freemasonry offers spokesmen and briefings for the media and provides talks to interested groups on request. Freemasons are proud of their heritage and happy to share it.
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 practise 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.
Freemasons believe that these principles represent a way of achieving higher standards in life.
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 member ship 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 dishonourably or unlawfully is contrary to this prime duty.
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 inquiries 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.
Freemasonry and Politics; Freemasonry is non-political, and the discussion of politics at Masonic meetings is forbidden.
Ancient Charges and Regulations
There are in italics some , but not all the words taken from the Dead Sea Scrolls. [ from the Master and 'the teacher of the righteous' ]
A Lodge is a place where Masons assemble and work, hence that assembly and organized society of Masons is called a lodge, and every brother ought to belong to one and be subject to it's by-laws and general regulations. A lodge is either Particular or General and will be best understood by attending it and by the regulations of the General or Grand Lodge here unto annexed. In ancient times Masters and Fellows could not be absent from it, especially when warned to appear at it, without incurring severe censure, until it appeared to the Master and Wardens that pure necessity hindered him. The persons admitted members of a lodge must be good men and true, free born and of mature and discrete age, no bondsmem, no woman, no immoral or scandalous men but of good report.
Of Masters, Wardens, Fellows and Apprentices;
All preferment amoung Masons is grounded upon real worth and personal merit only, that so the lords may be well served and the brethren not put to shame, nor the Royal Craft despised. Therefore, no Master or Warden is chosen by seniority, but for his merit. It is impossible to describe these things in writing and every brother must attend in his place and learn them in a way peculiar to this Fraternity. Only, candidates may know that no Master should take an apprentice unless he has sufficient work for him and unless he be a perfect youth, having no maim or defect in his body, that he may render him incapable of learning the art of serving his Master's Lord and of being a Brother and then a fellow in due time, even after he has served such a term of years as the custom of the country directs, and that he should be descended from honest parents, that so when otherwise qualified, he may arrive at the honor of being a Warden, and then the Master of the Lodge, the Grand Warden and at length the Grand Master of all the Lodges, according to his merit. No brother can be a Warden until he has passed the part of a Fellowcraft, nor a Master until he has acted the part of Warden, nor a Grand Warden until he has been a Master of a Lodge, nor a Grand Master unless he has been a Fellowcraft before his election, who is also nobly born, or a gentleman of the best fasion, or some eminent scholar, or curious architect, orother artist, decended of honest parents, and who is of singular great merit, in the opinion of the Lodges. And for the better, easier and more honorable discharge of his office, the Grand Master has the power to choose his own Deputy Grand Master, who must be then or have been formerly the Master of a Particular Lodge, and has the privilege of acting whenever his principal, the Grand Master, should act, unless the said principal be present or interposes his authority by a letter. These rules, supreme and subordinate of the Ancient Lodge, are to be obeyed in their several stations by all brethren, according to the old charges and regulations, with all humility, reverence, love and alacrity.
Of the Management of the Craft in Working:
All Masons shall work honestly on working days, so that thet may live creditably on Holy Days and the times appointed by the laws of the land or confirmed by custom shall be observed. The most expert of the Fellows or Craftsmen shall be chosen or appointed Master or Overseer of the Lord's Work, who is to be called Master by those who work under him. The Craftsmen are to aviod all ill language and to call each other by no disobliging name but Brother or Fellow, and to behave themselves cautiously both within and without the lodge. The Master, knowing himself to be able of cunning, shall undertake the Lord's work as reasonably as possible and truly dispence his goods as if they were his own, nor to give more wages to any Brother or Fellow or Apprentice than he really deserves. Both the Master and the Masons receiving their wages justly shall be faithful to their Lord and honestly finish their work, whether task or journey, nor put the work to task that hath been accustomed to journey. None shall discover envy at the prosperity of a brother nor supplant him, nor put him out of his work, if he be capable to finish the same, for no man can finish another's work so much to the Lord's profit unless he be thoroughly acquainted with the designs and drafts of him that began it.
When a Fellow Craftsman has been chosen Warden of the work, under the Master, he shall be true to the Master and the fellows , shall carefully oversee the work in the Master's absence to the Lord's profit and the brethren shall obey him. All Masons employed shall meekly receive their wages without murmuring or mutiny and not desert the Master until the work be finished. A younger brother shall be instructed in the working to prevent spoiling the materials for want of judgement and for the increasing and continuing of brotherly love. All tools used in working shall be approved by the Grand Lodge. No laborer shall be employed in the proper work of Masonry, nor shall Freemasons work with them, that are not free, without an urgent necessity, nor shall they teach laborers or unaccepted Masons as they would teach a Brother or Fellow.
Of Behavoir When the Lodge is Constituted:
You are not to hold private committees or separate conversations without leave of the Master, nor talk of anything impertinent or unseemly, or interrupt the Master or Wardens, or any brother speaking to the Master, nor behave yourselves hilariously or jestingly while the lodge is engaged in what is serious and solemn, nor use any unbecoming language upon any pretence whatever, but to pay due reverence to your Master, Wardens and Fellows and put them to worship. If any complaint is brought the brother found guilty shall stand to the award and determination of the lodge, who are the proper and competent judges of all such controversies ( unless you carry it by appeal to the Grand Lodge ) and to whom they ought to be referred, lest the Lord's work be hindered meanwhile, in which case a particular reference may be made. But you must never go to a law about what concerneth Masonry without absolute necessity apparent to the Lodge.
After the Lodge is Over and the Brethren Not Gone;,
You may enjoy yourselves with innocent mirth, treating one another according to ability, but avoiding all excess or forcing any brother to eat or drink beyond his inclination, or hindering him from going when his occasions call him, or doing or saying offensive, or that may forbid any easy and free conversation, for that would blast our harmony and defeat our laudable purposes. Therefore , no private piques or quarrels must be brought within the door of the lodge, far less any quarrels about religion, or nations, or state policy. We being only Masons of the ( universal ) religion, above mentioned, we must not forget that we are also of all nations, tongues, kindreds and languages, and are resolved against all politics as what never yet conduced to the welfare of lodges and never will. This charge has been strictly enjoined and observed but especially since the Reformation in Britain, or the descent or secession of these nations from the Communion of Rome [ 'universal' once read 'catholic'] .
At Home and in your Neighborhood;
You are here to act as becomes a moral and wise man, particularly not to let your family, friends and neighbors know the concerns of the lodge, but wisely to consult your own honor and that of the Ancient Brotherhood for reasons not to be mentioned here. You must also consult your own health by not continuing together too late or too long from home after the lodge hours are past and by avoiding all gluttony and drunkenness, that your family be not neglected or injured, nor you disabled from working.
Concerning God and Religion;
A Mason is obliged by his tenure to obey the Moral Law , and if he rightly understands the art he will never be a stupid atheist or an irreligious libertine. But though in ancient times Masons were charged in every country to be of the religion of that country or nation, whatever it was, it is now thought more expedient only to oblige them to that religion in which men agree, leaving their particular opinions to themselves. That is ,to be good men and true, or men of honor and honesty, by whatever denominations or persuasions they may be destinguished, whereby Masonry becomes the center of union and the means of conciliating true friendship amoung persons who otherwise have remained at a perpetual distance.
Of The Civil Magistrates Supreme and Subordinate:
A Mason is a peaceable subject to the civil powers wherever he resides or works, and is never to be concerned in plots or conspiracies against the peace and welfare of the nation, nor behave himself undutifully to he inferior magistrates. For as Masonry has always been injured by wars and bloodshed and confusion, so most kings and princes have been much disposed to encourage the Craftsmen because of their peaceableness and loyalty whereby they practically answered the cavils of their adversaries and prompted the honor of the Fraternity which has ever flourished in times of peace. So that if a brother should be a rebel against the state he is not to be countenanced in his rebellion, however he may be pitied as an unhappy man, and if convicted of no other crime, though the brotherhood must not and should not own to his rebellion and thus give umbrage or ground for political jealousy to the government for the time being, they cannot expel him from the lodge and his relations to it remain indefeasible.
Every Mason should read and reread these Ancient Charges, as they , together with the Particular Charge that goes with each degree, practically demonstrate what the general conduct of a mason ought to be under all circumstances, in the lodge, to his brethren and to the world at large. The standard so set up is dignified and kindly, but does not place any puritanical damper on rational enjoyment. It is normal and reasonable and requires nothing that the ordinary honest , upright, decent citizen could not comfortably and easily comply with.. Every man would admit that he ought to live by such a standard, whether he was a Mason or not. Yet if Masons invaribaly lived up to this standard the lodge and the world would be a much pleasanter place to live in than it is today.
Albert G. Mackey would write as late as 1874 in his “Encyclopedia of Freemasonry”, “Until the year 1858, no attempt had been made by any Masonry writer distinctly to enumerate the landmarks of Freemasonry and to give them a comprehensive form …. ” This same amazing statement would appear in later revised editions of that same encyclopedia.
Mackey’s list composed of twenty five items and are so listed:
“1. The Modes of Recognition.
“2. The Division of Symbolic Masonry into Three Degrees.
“3. The Legend of the Third Degree.
“4. The Government of the Fraternity by a Grand Master.
“5. The Prerogative of the Grand Master to preside over every Assembly of the Craft.
“6. The Prerogative of the Grand Master to grant Dispensations for Conferring Degrees at Irregular Times.
“7. The Prerogative of the Grand Master to grant Dispensations for Opening and Holding Lodges.
“8. The Prerogative of the Grand Master to Make Masons at Sight.
“9. The necessity for Masons to congregate in Lodges.
“10. The Government of the Graft by a Master and two Wardens.
“11. The necessity for every Lodge to be Tiled.
“12. The right of every Mason to be represented in all General Assemblies of the Craft.
“13. The Right of every Mason to appeal from the decision of his Lodge to the Grand Lodge.
“14. The Right of every Mason to visit and sit in every regular Lodge.
“15. No Visitor may enter the Lodge without passing an Examination.
“16. No Lodge can interfere in the business of another Lodge.
“17. Every Freemason is amenable to the Law of the Jurisdiction where he resides.
“18. The Qualifications of a Candidate for Initiation are that he must be a man, un-mutilated, free born and of mature age.
“19. A Mason must believe in God as the Grand Architect of the Universe.
“20. A Mason must believe in a Resurrection to a Future Life.
“21. The Book of the Law shall constitute an indispensable part of the Furniture of the Lodge.
“22. The Equality of all Masons.
“24. The Foundation of a Speculative Science upon an Operative Art.
“25. These landmarks are unchangeable, nothing can be subtracted from, and nothing can be added to them.
A Past Grand Master had these words;
"The ritual is the vehicle on which the principles of Freemasonry ride into the hearts and minds of men". There are many things which can be only partially explained in writing; some that cannot be explained at all. A portion of the work is esoteric and secret, and a portion is exoteric and may be known to anyone who cares to interest himself in the subject. The workings of the spirit of Masonry, like the "Kingdom of Heaven," spoken of by a Great Teacher, is partially internal and secret, like the leaven or yeast that works in the measure of meal until the whole is leavened and partially outward and visible, like the growth of the mustard seed into a tree capable of supporting the fowls of the air. It is of the latter only that they are permitted to speak in full. Of the former they may only hint and draw comparisons.
Obligation to Secrecy;
Secrecy is in itself a virtue. If it were possible for some wise men to collate the sources of human error and sin, the loose tongue would be found to rank next to selfish desire in its evil influence. Masonry has always been a secret profession, whether speculative or operative. The true explaination of all the ancient religions dogmas was known only to the inner circle of the initiated. Sometimes we fear , a selfish priesthood, while keeping secret the true explaination , gave the ignorant and unenlightened public one entirely false and misleading.
Even Jesus, talking with his deciples, regarding the meaning of some of his parables, said," " Unto you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of Heaven, but unto them it is not given." "Cast not your pearls before swine lest they trample them under foot and turn again and rend you." " Give not that which is holy unto dogs."
Freemasonry is a philosophy which is essentially creedless. It is the truer for it. Its brothers bow to truth regardless of the bearer; they serve light, instead of wrangling over the one who brings it. In this way they prove that they are seeking to know better the will and the dictates of the Invincible One. No truer religion exists than that of world comradeship and brotherhood, for the purpose of glorifying one God and building for Him a temple of constructive attitude and noble character. from the page ( link ) below by Manly P. Hall
THE MODERN COWAN,by Floren L. Quick
In Scotland, the operative Mason knew cowans to be ignorant builders who put stones together without mortar. They piled rough fieldstones into a wall without hewing them true, or squaring them. They masqueraded as Masters, but they did not have the Word.
Now and again, today - fortunately not too often - we find a modern equivalent of the operative imposter. One such is the Mason who manages a place in an officer's line with little or no effect of his own to deserve it. With only that exertion that is necessary to maintain his place, he continues to advance in line until he receives the jewels and honours that he prizes so highly. But he does not know the Constitution, and he does not understand the traditions and dignity of the Craft. As a presiding officer, his vocal ability is more noteworthy than his executive ability; and when his term is ended, he is seldom seen until another honour or prize appears to be within his grasp.
He is a contemporary builder who works without the benefit of the mortar of real enthusiasm or accomplishments. His structure is liken unto the rough stone wall, having little beauty of value. He is the cowans of modern peculative Masonry.
He is to be pitied, for he is a Masonic failure. His honours are shallow. Bringing no interest to his position, he received little of the satisfaction and respect that belong to the real Master.
Masonry has failed to reach him with a clear understanding of those marks of true devotion which she has to offer. He never knows the opportunities that the Craft makes available to those who diligently seek them. He misses the opportunities that the Craft makes available to strive for a just and worthy cause. He misses the opportunity for continuing fellowship and friendship. He misses the opportunity for loyalty and devotion. He misses the opportunity for development of his executive, intellectual and oratorical abilities. And most of all, he misses the opportunity for service - to God - to his community - and to his fellow man.
These are the jewels that Masonry has to offer, but in his quest for position and honours, the modern cowan misses them. Like the operative cowan, he does not have the Word. -reprinted from the Masonic Shimbun in the GLBC Bulletin, Nov. '79.
The ANTIENT CHARGES and REGULATIONS of the UNITED GRAND LODGE of ENGLAND
Which every Master Elect must submit to, and promise to support, as Masters have done in all ages.1. You agree to be a good Man and true, and strictly to obey the moral law.
For those of you that can appreciate a full explanation of the degrees from the 1st to the 33nd. This page comes from 'A Manual For Officers Of Subordinate Bodies, Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry'. It was published in 1955 by the Supreme Council, 33' ( Northern Masonic Jurisdiction, USA, ). University of Delaware Library, HS 774 .A5 .
The story of the history of each degree is covered with the descriptions of what each lodge is 'dressed in' for each ceremony. NOTE: Unless you are familar with the 'history of Hiram Abiff, Solomon, Enoch, Jesus as Master and the Knights Templer, the explainations and descriptions probably won't make much sence but the Moral teaching should. The 33 degrees of Masonry
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