In the many years that I have been a member, I have always been fascinated by how people perceive the institution of Freemasonry. Some say it is a club, others see it as philanthropy, but very few seem to understand the concept of fraternity. Also, when we research candidates for membership, we typically ask what they are looking for, but rarely do people understand precisely what they are joining. This is a compelling argument, one that I have debated on more than one occasion.
Some of our members see Freemasonry as nothing more than a club, such as a garden club, sports club, country club, etc., an institution that we join with some common activity or goal. Clubs are usually run by a group of officers who participate in order to receive some notoriety for their position. This, of course, leads to a policy that involves scratching your back, cheating, backstabbing, and being a superior man. It is not uncommon to find people in these positions who have not done anything important in their professional lives and now enjoy the opportunity to control others. In Freemasonry, we are taught that the members are all equal in terms of position and opinion. Officers in a Lodge represent a network of duties and responsibilities designed to be implemented by many people, not just one, thus encouraging teamwork and eliminating the need for autocratic government.
There are those who see Freemasonry as a corporation. The problem here is that a corporation is designed to be profitable by nature, Freemasonry is not. It is true that running any institution as a company has advantages, particularly on the part of the state that requires all organizations to function as such, but Freemasonry certainly has no other mercenary goals than the betterment of its members.
Despite the warnings of conspiracy theorists, Freemasonry does not preach dogmas or practice religion. A person must believe in a Supreme Being to become a Mason, but his choice of religion is his business, not the Masons’. As such, it is not uncommon to sit in a Masonic Lodge with men of many different religions, thus promoting religious tolerance.
Freemasonry is not a Political Action Committee (PAC). To maintain harmony in the Lodge, politics and religion are two forbidden topics for discussion. Like religion, men of different political beliefs sit together in the Lodge in harmony. In any case, Freemasonry promotes the concept of citizenship in the community and patriotism in the country. Those who break the law and believe in the overthrow of the government by force cannot become Freemasons. Freemasons are law-abiding citizens who are taught to use peaceful means to change the government if necessary. As such, Masons hope to become role models for the community.
Perhaps the biggest mistake is that Freemasonry is philanthropy. It is true that Freemasons give generously to help others in distress, but this is a secondary objective. He does not intend to spend countless hours on fundraisers or to shake up the Brotherhood for every penny available. Masons help others if it is within their ability. Otherwise, there is no mandate in Freemasonry to do philanthropic work. If Masons spend more time on philanthropy than fraternity, then they are subverting the intent of the institution.
Instead, Freemasonry is a fraternity; the original fraternity, and the model for others that came much later, such as university fraternities. The term “fraternity” comes from the Latin word “frater”, which means “brother”. The fraternity, therefore, is a brotherhood, an environment of fellowship dedicated to the social development of its members. The basic principles of Freemasonry are “friendship, morality, and brotherly love.” As such, it is designed to build character, devotion, and encourage its members to lead honorable lives. Attending a Masonic Lodge meeting is intended to act as a fortress of solitude for its members, both local and visiting Masons, where they can come together and find comfort away from the vermin and troubles of the world. It is a place where men seek understanding, compassion, and to be treated fairly and honestly.
Education is of great importance in a Masonic Lodge, where the Brethren reflect on past, present, and future issues of morality, responsibility, compassion, and civility. We refer to this as looking for “more light.”
Freemasonry, therefore, is not a club, a philanthropy, a religion or a PAC. Using symbols from ancient operative Freemasonry, Freemasonry is a place where men meet “on the level” (to promote equality), act “by the plumb line” (uprightness of conduct), and separate “into the square” ( to practice morality). For many centuries, Freemasonry is the brotherhood that men of character have naturally drawn to, simply because they crave such a simple deal.
Those who think of Freemasonry or practice it in another way are losing their way.
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Copyright © 2014 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.