Who We Are
While there are many fraternal organizations in the world, perhaps none of them has garnered as much attention and as much intrigue as has freemasonry. This unique organization is shrouded in mystery and surrounded by a rich mythology. The ranks of freemasonry include some of the most famous names in the history of politics, religion and entertainment, and the presence of so many dignitaries has served only to increase the intrigue and fascination with this unique organization
Freemasonry is one of the most popular of all fraternal organizations, with a membership totaling in the millions. The organization known as freemasonry exists in many different countries and in a variety of forms. One of the chief guiding principles of freemasonry is a shared moral center, and most branches fo freemasonry require a declaration of a belief in some sort of supreme being.
On the administrative side of the organization, freemasonry is organized into a series of Grand Lodges, sometimes also referred to as Orients. Each of these Grand Lodges governs a particular jurisdiction, with this jurisdiction comprised of a number of constituent lodges. These Grand Lodges are recognized by one another using a series of landmarks. Freemasonry also includes a number of other bodies, in essence organizations that maintain their own independence while still being related to the freemasonry organization.
When asked to define their organization, freemasons are likely to define it as a system of morality. Freemasons often compare the structure and moral center of their organization to the tools and implements of the stonemason. In addition, freemasons often refer to these tools against the backdrop of the building of King Solomon’s temple. This metaphor helps to define the moral center of the organization and its reason for being.
Even though freemasonry is often referred to as a secret society, in reality this is not the case. Freemasonry could more accurately be referred to as an esoteric organization. While certain aspects of the organization remain a closely guarded secret, the freemasons of the modern age have become decidedly less secret than their reputation would suggest. In fact many of the private rituals and aspects of the freemasons are used primarily to allow members of different lodges to recognize one another.
Ask people what they know about freemasonry and the answers you get will probably be based on what they have picked up from unreliable sources, and as such may not paint too true a picture of what freemasonry’s really about. For years, freemasonry has had to fight against a public image that has been created, in part, by those people who not only know very little about the organization but for reasons of their own seem eager to disparage it.
Freemasonry is not a religion, nor is it a substitute for one. It is not a political organization either; in fact, discussion of politics is forbidden at Masonic lodge meetings. Membership is open to men of all races, religions, and political persuasions who are of good repute. They must, however, believe in a Supreme Being, this being one of the linchpins of freemasonry and the essential qualification for men wishing to join the fraternity. Freemasonry is, in essence, a society concerned with moral and spiritual values, which offers its members an approach to life that endeavors to reinforce thoughtfulness for others, kindness in the community, honesty in matters of business, courtesy in society, and fairness in all things. To this end, freemasonry can be regarded as a charity in some respects. From their earliest days, freemasons have helped the sick and aged, and members are encouraged to place paramount importance on the interests of the family, as well as caring for the less fortunate.
On a practical level, freemasonry can be seen as a group of responsible like-minded men who want to progress as individuals and at the same share a journey to self-enlightenment. And the practice of freemasonry doesn’t just involve attending Masonic lodge meetings; it’s a full time commitment with members usually finding ways in which they can contribute something to the community.
Many misconceptions surrounding freemasonry no doubt stem, in part at least, from the bounds of privacy within which freemasonry has always conducted itself. The practices of freemasonry are not advertised. Freemasonry is not a secret society as a lot of people seem to think it is. However, freemasons do believe that the internal affairs of their organization are a matter for members only and conduct their activities accordingly. There is no secrecy about freemasonry’s aims and objectives however, and all members are free to acknowledge their membership and many do so in the appropriate circumstances.
Freemasons follow three great principles: brotherly love - showing tolerance and respect for others’ opinions and behaving in a kind and understanding manner towards one’s fellow creatures; relief—practicing charity and caring for one’s family and the community as a whole; and truth—seeking to attain high moral standards in one’s own life in the search for truth.
Nearly all men who become freemasons do so because they want to emulate a man they greatly respect and admire, and any organization built on a foundation as strong as a man’s desire to improve himself can certainly outlast rumor and gossip.