This is rather like asking the question "What is a
Church?" or, "What is Faith?" People who are asked such a
question will give different answers, in their own words, based on their
own perceptions, experience and education. The most common answer is
"A peculiar system of morality, based on allegory and illustrated
with symbols". It is, therefore, a moral society which attempts to
encourage men to be upright in family, in business and in public life. All
Freemasons are taught that any duties which they have as a Freemason come
only after their duties to family, work, and faith. In no circumstances
should their membership interfere with these aspects of their lives.
The basic 'unit' of Freemasonry is the Lodge. This was
the basic unit of stonemasons, references to which are found in Scottish
records as early as 1491. Over time men who were not stonemasons became
members of these Lodges until many Lodges had few or no stonemasons left.
It is clear from existing records that stonemasons taught new members
morality without infringing on matters that were the concern of the
church. In educating their members they performed ritual 'plays' based on
legends of the origins of the craft of stone masonry. These plays were
common during the medieval period as the majority of people were
illiterate and a dramatic representation was a popular teaching method. It
is not surprising to learn that the 'props' used in these plays were the
working tools of the stonemasons, something with which they were
intimately familiar and to which they ascribed certain meanings. This form
of teaching is no longer common but perhaps the Passion Plays at
Oberammergau (Germany) are the nearest, albeit religious, equivalent
Another way of explaining what Freemasonry is, is to
detail what it is not. It is not a religion, it has no theology,
and it offers no answers on matters of salvation etc., as these are the
preserve of churches. All Freemasons are encouraged to find answers to
such questions through their own faith, religion and church. Freemasonry
is not a substitute for religion and members are urged to respect the
teaching of their own faith and not to allow Freemasonry to infringe, in
any way, on the member's duty to their mosque, church, synagogue, etc. For
this reason Lodges in Christian countries do not meet on Sundays. Lodges
within Jewish communities do not meet on Saturdays and Lodges with a
predominately Muslin membership will respect the Holy Days of that faith.
Freemasonry is not a political organisation. It will
not comment on, nor offer, opinions as to competing forms of Government.
The Essential Qualification for
The essential qualification for admission, and continuing
membership, is a belief in the Supreme Being. Membership is open to men of
any race or religion who can fulfil this essential qualification and are
of good repute.
Freemasonry and Religion:
Freemasonry is not a religion, nor is it a substitute for religion.
Its essential qualification opens it to men of many religions and it
expects them to continue to follow their own faith. It does not allow
religion to be discussed at its meetings.
The Three Great Principles:
For many years Freemasons have followed three great principles:
- 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.
Freemasons believe that these principles represent a
way of achieving higher standards in life.
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.
Freemasonry and Society:
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 private and public 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 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. 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.
Other Masonic Bodies:
Freemasonry is practised under many independent Grand Lodges with
standards similar to those set by the Grand Lodge of Scotland. There are
some Grand Lodges and other apparently Masonic bodies which do not meet
these standards, e.g. which do not require a belief in the Supreme Being,
or which allow or encourage their members to participate in political
matters. These Grand Lodges and bodies are not recognised by the Grand
Lodge of Scotland as being Masonically regular, and Masonic contact with
them is forbidden.
A Freemason is encouraged to do his duty first to 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.
Reproduced From The Grand Lodge Of Scotland Website