Okay, I’m posting this here because, well, I get this question a lot. I’ll put a link up to it on my little links thing if you go to my page (outside of the dashboard). That way, I don’t have to retype it all out every three weeks.
So I have been asked: “What is Freemasonry?” “Who Are Freemasons?”
First, and I didn’t include this in the original answer, I am a freemason. I am a member of Madison Lodge No. 87, Grand Lodge of Connecticut A∴F∴ & A∴M∴ and will soon also be a member of Columbia Lodge No. 91, Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania F∴& A∴M∴
In addition to that I am a member of a number of appendant orders (other orders in the Masonic Family).
I am a 32˚ member of the Valley of Philadelphia A∴A∴S∴R∴, N∴M∴J∴ (Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite).
I am a member of Joppa Council Royal And Select Master Masons.
I am a member of Temple Melita Chapter of the Holy Royal Arch.
I am proud to be a member of all of these noble orders. I’ve found nothing but happiness therein, happiness and knowledge.
In fact, I’m so proud of this that I’ve posted quite a few pictures of myself with my brethren (or in this case, to use the proper terminology, Companions and Illustrious Companions) which can be seen here:
Okay, so, enough about me. You want to know, in simple terms, what freemasonry is. Well, I could just easily sum it up with a quote from Brother George Washington (who is pictured above in masonic regalia, working as master in the corner stone laying of the capital house in Washington):
“Flattering as it may be to the human mind, and truly honorable as is to receive from our fellow citizens testimonies of approbation forexertions to promote the public welfare, it is not less pleasing to know that the milder virtues of the heart are highly respected by a Societywhose liberal principles must be founded in the immutable laws of truth and justice. To enlarge the sphere of social happiness is worthyof the benevolent design of a Masonic institution; and it is most fervently to be wished that the conduct of every member of the Fraternity, as well as those publications that discover the principles which actuate them, may tend to convince mankind that the great object of Masonry is the happiness of the human race.” George Washington
Though that does cover it, in essence, there is much more to it. I’m also sure you want to know a tad bit more.
We are a fraternal/philosophical/esoteric order that exists to make good men better and to better our communities. We make each other better through the lessons we teach in our lodges and through our ritual work. Our solemn rituals can be described simply as a system of morality, veiled in allegory and illustrated with symbols.
The concepts of secrecy, for those who are wondering, come from the stone working guilds we formed out of.
We trace our order to the 15/1600s when non-stone workers started to meet within stone-working guilds to discuss concepts (freedom of religion/education for all men) that monarchies at the time considered dangerous.
When we formed our own guilds, that we called lodges, we adopted their tools, trades and traditions to suit our philosophical needs.
One of those traditions was trade secrecy.
To recall the medieval european socioeconomic world, there were three basic social structures; poverty/serfdom, royalty and the trade guilds.
The trade guilds kept a middle class socioeconomic status by not revealing their trade secrets (to keep them from being exploited).
Since our trade secrets are character building and not cathedral building, many of them have been released publicly (see Internet Sacred Text Archive). However, to honor both the trade guilds, and the mystery schools that influenced us, we take oaths to not reveal our secrets (ritual/handshakes and passwords) even though they’re quite accessible by the intrigued non member.
It’s esoteric and spiritual in nature, but it doesn’t profess one spiritual/religious dogma. It is, however, set largely in the Old Testament. This stems from most of the earliest masons being jewish or christian, which made the old testament easier to relate to.
We also make each other better through our social functions. Often they involve our family, but they always followup or precede in the form of a hearty and lively dinner.
We make our communities better largely through the charities we have. They are all across the board and include:
- The Shriner’s Hospitals
- Masonic Learning Centers for Children
- The Humanitarian Foundation (The Grotto’s Dentistry Charity)
- The Scottish Rite Foundation (Disaster Relief and Scholarships)
- The Masonic Medical Research Laboratory
- Knights Templar Eye Foundation
- We Actively Promote Organ Donation
- Scottish Rite Schizophrenia Research
We are non political.
Though we do require a belief in a supreme being, we do not discriminate against religion, denomination, race, class or orientation.
We are all male and do not consider ourselves any more gender exclusive than a sorority (though there are many women’s orders, as well as androgynous, or men and women, orders in the masonic family).
Good Sites to learn more about is include:
- Masonry: Points of View
- Grand Lodge of British Columbia and Yukon’s Page
- Brother Christopher L. Hodapp’s Brilliant Blog: Freemasonry For Dummies
- Phylaxis Society
- Pietre Stones Review of Freemasonry
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