Basic Understanding of Freemasonry
Freemasonry is the oldest and largest fraternity known. In 17th and 18th century England, Masons defined their fraternity as "a system of morality, veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols." Today it might be defined as "an organized society of men who symbolically apply the principles of operative masonry to the art of character building." As is customary with any concept of thought, it has enjoyed times of great renown and prestige, and it has experienced times of adversity. Freemasonry, today, remains an energetic organization that is attracting advocates over the entire civilized world. Over the years a great deal has been written and said concerning the Masonic Fraternity, much of it fact and much of it fiction. It is perhaps inevitable that myths have arisen with respect to Freemasonry, some of them advanced by its supporters and others of them promoted by its critics, and that the dissemination of these myths has produced confused conceptions of Freemasonry. Freemasonry teaches, through ritual, how to build a better world by making "better men out of good men," by strengthening their character, improving their moral and spiritual outlook and broadening their mental horizons. It teaches men: principles of personal responsibility and righteousness; an understanding of character; and how to put these lessons into practice in daily life. The man who has decided to seek Masonic membership needs only to convey his desire to someone close to him who is a Mason. That Mason will take it from there.
Freemasonry teaches the universal principle of unselfish friendship and promotes those moral precepts, which are in keeping with all great faiths. The following, though not exclusive, is considered basic: One God created mankind; This God is the author of all life; God's existence is revealed to man through faith and the Book of Holy Scriptures; The Book of Holy Scriptures is the Ultimate Authority or Great Light in Freemasonry; The soul of man is immortal; Man's commitment to Divine Providence determines his destiny; Man's reverence for God is best exemplified by his actions toward his fellow man; Considering the universality of freemasonry, its teachings cannot be defined in any single statement or established profile. The following is considered to be representative of its fundamental precepts: Man's first duty is to love and revere God, implore his aid in all laudable undertakings, and seek his guidance through prayer, embrace and practice the tenets of religion, extend charity and sympathy to all mankind, shield and support the widow and orphan, defend virtue, respect the aged, honor the bonds of friendship, protect the hopeless, lift up the oppressed, comfort the downcast, restore dignity to the rejected, respect the laws of government, promote morality, and add to the common stock of knowledge and understanding. The heart of Freemasonry is the heart of its members.
The making of a Freemason is a continued course of education, training and character forming or symbolically known as the search for more light. It is also an innermost desire, followed by obligations, that makes one a member of the Craft, yet in a truer sense, a man is not a Freemason unless he lives up to his obligations. The philosophy of Freemasonry, when discovered and then accepted and practiced, provides simple but profound solutions to the problems of human relationships. The man who has been raised to the Sublime Degree of a Master Mason must understand that there is nothing higher and nothing superior to him in Masonry. When he has become a Master Mason, he has become as much a Mason as he will ever be. Thus, the man who has received the three degrees in the Symbolic Lodge or Blue Lodge is a Master Mason. The Master Mason Degree is the climax of Freemasonry. Thus, it is the sublime degree, and is supreme and unexcelled. From the Symbolic Lodge or Blue Lodge, one may join other Masonic groups such as the York Rite and the Scottish Rite. These are sometimes called higher degrees. They are higher only in the sense that they have higher numbers and that some of them are prerequisite for others. However, there is nothing higher and nothing superior to the degree of Master Mason. There are certain other organizations, the best known of which are perhaps the Shrine and the Grotto, which are not Masonic bodies, but organizations which require Masonic membership as a prerequisite for joining them. These organizations, in other words, draw their membership exclusively from the Masonic Fraternity, but they are not a part of it.
Freemasonry is not a religion even though it is religious in character. It does not pretend to take the place of religion nor serve as a substitute for the religious beliefs of its Members. Freemasonry accepts men, found to be worthy, regardless of religious convictions. An essential requirement is a belief in the existence of a Supreme Being. Freemasonry is not an insurance or beneficial society. It is not organized for profit. However, the charity and services rendered are beyond measure. It teaches the Golden Rule. It seeks to make good men better through its firm belief in the Fatherhood of God, the Brotherhood of Man and the Immortality of the Soul. The tenets of Freemasonry are ethical principles that are acceptable to all good men. It teaches tolerance toward all mankind. It is known throughout the world, it consists of men bound together by bonds of Brotherly Love and Affection. It dictates to no man as to his beliefs, either religious or secular. It seeks no advantage for its Members through business or politics. Freemasonry is not a forum for discussions on partisan affairs. We assemble for work and fellowship and to learn to love and cherish one another. By so doing, we bring light out of darkness, beauty out of drabness, exaltation out of despair, to the end that every Brother's life may become more radiant and meaningful.
To surmise, no man can live according to the principles and teachings of Ancient Craft Masonry and do anything, knowingly and willingly, that is contrary to moral and upright principles. Freemasonry frowns on every wrongful act and admonishes the right actions between each of us and the world at large. Freemasonry is and should always be a guide to our actions. Freemasonry is kindness in the home, honesty in business, courtesy in society, fairness in work, pity and concern for the unfortunate, resistance toward evil, help for the weak, forgiveness for the penitent, love for one another and, above all, reverence and love for God. Freemasonry is many things but, most of all:
Freemasonry is a way of life...
Good summary of Masonic belief 2nd Peter 1:5-7 (NIV)
5For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; 6and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; 7and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love.
Freemasonry doesn't tell men what they are supposed to believe, rather the fraternity attracts men who already adhere to a set of beliefs about the nature of God, their relationship with him, and the moral conduct their God requires.