What is Freemasonry?

What is Freemasonry?

“So as the story starts, we have some very peculiar questions. The fundamental message of Masonry is truly man’s pursuit of communion with his creator. And Masonry is a very unique and ancient age-old repository of wisdom and knowledge that has been preserved through the ages and gives a whole new perspective to the man looking to understand who he is, where he has come from, what he is to be doing, and his ultimate direction. Masonry provides all of the tools for a man to think about that and to come to grips with who he really is.
So if you can think for yourself, you are probably a good prospect for masonry. If you can’t think for yourself, it’s probably better to follow the 10 steps to salvation that most folks ascribe to. Masonry is not for those folks.”
“So that when it’s all said and done, a man can look back and have some sense of comfort that he has lived a good life – he has lived an examined life. And in the process of learning himself, he has taught other men how to be good men. Our ultimate goal is to live respected and die regretted.”

Who We Are and What We Do

Freemasonry is a fraternal organization that contains a system of ethics and morality veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols. It focuses on a balanced approach to fellowship, charity, and education.

OK, OK. Thanks, Wikipedia. However, in all reality, that statement does a great job, albeit at a high level, describing what Freemasonry is all about. You could take each part of that statement and create a weekend-long seminar. Instead of something of that length, we will summarize what it all means.

Who We Are

Fraternal Organization
We are an organization of men of similar personal standards joined together by an obligation. Our fraternity is publicly 300 years old. We first became a public fraternity in 1717 when the Grand Lodge of England announced their existence. Prior to that time, we were a secret society (gasp!). Many people believe we are still a secret society. However, I would not be writing this for public consumption if we were.

A System of Ethics and Morals
Yes. We built a fraternity around two of the most commonly misunderstood words and ideas. Masons have a particular code by which they must live and operate, which is imposed upon them and presented by the jurisdiction of which they may be a member. For instance, the State of California is a Jurisdiction under the leadership of the Grand Lodge of California. In addition to our code (ethics), we teach virtues and universal principles of right and wrong (morality). Part of our code is that we do not discuss religion or politics while the lodge is in session. Some of the virtues we teach are temperance, fortitude, prudence, and justice.

Veiled in Allegory
See! You are a secret society! It’s veiled and shrouded in secrecy! Well, not so much. There are certainly mysteries in Masonry — many that most masons are still trying to decipher. Veiled in Allegory simply means that we partially conceal our teachings within a story so that they can be interpreted to reveal a hidden meaning, typically a moral one. As an operative mason, you must use tools to build a temporal or physical building. As a speculative freemason, you must use those same tools, albeit symbolically, to build a symbolic or spiritual building. Our Allegory is broken up into 3 degrees.

Illustrated by Symbols
Tools of masonry, among others, are our symbols. They give us a physical object to help us remember the moral lesson we were all taught within our allegories.

What We Do

Most masons become really good at two things—public speaking and eating. We use every opportunity to build the bonds of brotherly love. An indissoluble chain of sincere affection links us together.

The bonds that join us together also promote us in assisting and relieving others. Relieving the distressed and charity is an eternal gift. By this principle, we form our friendships and establish our connections.

Truth is the foundation of every virtue. To fully enjoy the gifts of fellowship and charity, one must constantly strive to improve oneself.

Monthly Meetings
Just like any Board of Directors or Council, we have standardized meetings where we conduct our business. Though our meetings are private, the business of a lodge is not so secret. We approve minutes, read applications, vote on applicants, read communications, approve bills, decide which charities to support, and present research papers.

Degrees of Masonry
The allegories of Masonry are taught in Degrees. There are three degrees of Masonry. Master Mason (the third degree) is the highest degree that can be earned and conferred upon a man. Many ask about the Illustrious 33rd degree (which is honorary based on service and merit) and the thousand other degrees of Masonry. The appendant bodies of Freemasonry (Scottish Rite, York Rite, etc) have many additional degrees which are for educational purposes. The Third Degree, or Master Mason Degree, is what unites Freemasons all over the globe.

What We Are Not
We are not a religion. We do not provide or offer salvation.

We are not solely a social fraternity (think Elks, Moose, etc.). We are not exclusively a charitable service organization (think Rotary, Lions, Kiwanis, etc.). We are not solely an esoteric research society (think: Ordo Templi Orientis, Hermetic Brotherhood of Light). We are not merely an Academic Association or Learned Society (think American Bar Association and American Philosophical Society).

Freemasonry is all of the above-mentioned groups combined into one organization. And has had a hand in the start of most, if not all, of the above-mentioned groups.

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