What is Freemasonry ?

Freemasons don't always do such a good job of defining just what they are or what they do, but that's often because the answers non-Masons are looking for are really too complicated. Freemasonry is a society of men concerned with moral and spiritual values, and one of the world's oldest and most popular fraternal organizations.
Freemasonry is perhaps the most misunderstood, yet popular, "secret society" the world has ever known and the most visible one. Every county in the United Kingdom will undoubtedly have a Provincial Grand Lodge and almost every country in the world has a Grand Lodge of Freemasons, and each has its own Web site. Freemasons wear rings, jackets, and other articles emblazoned with the square and compass on them. Masonic buildings are clearly marked, and their addresses and phone numbers are in the Yellow Pages. If the Freemasons are a secret society, they need a refresher course on camouflage. Almost immediately after forming the first Grand Lodge in England in 1717, books trumpeting the secrets of the lodge began to arrive on shelves.
Masonry does have ceremonies it wants to keep private, along with methods of identification, just as corporations have information they want to keep private.

No simple, one-line definition satisfactorily describes what Freemasonry is. It is a philosophy and a system of morality and ethics — and a pretty basic one at that — but these are the main points that make Freemasonry different from any other organization:
• Freemasonry is a fraternity of men, bound together by oaths, based on the medieval stonemason craft guilds.
• Masonic laws, rules, legends, and customs are based on the Ancient Charges, the rules of those craft guilds.
• Freemasonry teaches lessons of social and moral virtues based on symbolism of the tools and language of the ancient building trade, using the building of a structure as a symbol for the building of character in men.
• Masons are obliged to practice brotherly love, mutual assistance, equality, secrecy, and trust between each other.
• Masons have secret methods of recognizing each other, such as handshakes, signs, and passwords.
• Masons meet in lodges that are governed by a Master and assisted by Wardens, where petitioners who are found to be morally and mentally qualified are admitted using secret ritual ceremonies based on the legends of the ancient guilds.
• Freemasonry is not a religion, and it has no religious dogma that it forces its members to accept. Masons must simply believe in the existence of a Supreme Being, whatever they conceive that deity to be. Their personal beliefs are just that: personal.
• Freemasonry is not a science, but it does teach its members to value learning and experience. It encourages Masons to think but does not tell them what to think.
• Freemasonry teaches Masons to be tolerant of the beliefs of others and to regard each man as their equal, deserving both their respect and their assistance.

The Basic Principles of Freemasons
Freemasons have a set of basic principles that they all live by. Masonic lodge members promise never to bring anything offensive or defensive into the lodge with them — both weapons and words. The object of the lodge is to create a place where those divisions are left outside, so Masons can engage in activities that unite them instead of separating them:
• A moral code: Freemasons believe in honour and that a man has a responsibility to behave honourably in everything he does. Freemasonry teaches its members the principles of personal decency and personal responsibility. It hopes to inspire them to have charity and good will toward all mankind, and to translate principles and convictions into action.
• Charity: Freemasonry is devoted to the promotion of the welfare and happiness of all mankind. Freemasonry teaches its members that unselfishness is a duty and that it's not only more blessed to give than to receive, but also more rewarding.
• Education: Freemasonry teaches a system of morality and brotherhood by the use of symbols and dramatic presentations. It encourages its members to expand their knowledge of the world around them.
• Religious, not a religion: Freemasons believe in the brotherhood of man, under the fatherhood of God. Freemasonry isn't a religion, but it is religious because it requires its members to have faith in a Supreme Being, according to the individual Mason’s belief. It's not a sectarian organization and does not promote one religion over another. Masonic ceremonies describe a moral code, using basic principles that are common to all religions.
• Social responsibility: Freemasonry stands for the reverence of God and the proper place of individual faith in society; for truth and justice; for fraternity and philanthropy; and for orderly civil, religious, and intellectual liberty. It charges each of its members to be true and loyal to the crown/government of the country to which he owes allegiance and to be obedient to the law of any country in which he may reside.
Masonry does philosophically oppose tyranny, dictatorship, and any destruction of human dignity, basic human rights, and the free exercise of religion.
• Nonpolitical, nonsectarian: One of the first rules of Freemasonry forbids the discussion in Masonic meetings of religious matters and politics — topics likely to cause personal arguments. It's also against the fundamental principles of Freemasonry for Masonic organizations to take political action or attempt to influence elections or legislation.
• Equality among members: Freemasonry regards no man for his worldly wealth, social status, or outward appearance.

What Freemasons do at the Lodge
• Freemasons hold their Masonic meetings at a lodge. Lodge meetings happen at regular intervals throughout the year, and they may be conducted for special occasions.
• Most lodges assemble once or twice a month for a business meeting, where communications are read, bills are paid, proposed members are voted on, and the members catch up on each other’s lives.
• Often, guest speakers are invited, or a member gives a presentation on the ritual, history, philosophy, or symbols of Masonry.
• Meetings are held to initiate new members and perform the various ceremonies to advance them to full membership. These ceremonies are called degrees.
• Masons also gather for the sombre purpose of conducting remembrance services for their deceased members.

Why Young Men Join the Freemasons
Freemasonry has been shrinking for a while, and lodges have been panicking. The Baby Boomers just didn’t join. But young men now are starting to rediscover Freemasonry. This new generation of Masons wants to associate with
• Something ancient, mythical, or legendary
• A group that has been the fraternity of the greatest of men for three centuries
• A fraternity that's worldwide in its scope and universal in its welcoming of all faiths and all races
• A local lodge that helps the family next door and the school down the street
• A fraternity that claims as its members the most imaginative minds and the most successful of men.

Often, the image of what these young men are looking for doesn't match what they find in the lodge down the street, and you can even argue that such an idealistic institution never really existed. But instead of leaving, these men are staying and starting to build the Masonry that suits their needs, just as their grandfathers did in the 1950s.

How Freemasonry Is Still Relevant Today
The bad thing about the basic tenets of Freemasonry is that they don’t change very much. And the good thing about the basic tenets of Freemasonry is that they don’t change very much.
The simple concepts and goals of Freemasonry apply as much to today’s world as they did to our grandparents’, and they’re certainly needed every bit as much now as they ever were:
• Making good men better ones: Freemasonry was never intended as a refuge for fallen men in need of reformation. It doesn’t save souls, cure alcoholism, reform straying husbands, or put cheaters back on the road to honesty. In fact, its rules and customs are specifically designed to keep such men out. Freemasonry has always had standards of conduct for members and hopefuls.
• Building confidence: The lodge lets you bond with a small group of men from all walks of life and get to know them on an individual basis. Performing the ritual ceremonies gives members confidence and experience speaking in public, along with connecting them to traditions that go back a thousand years.
• Fostering brotherly love: Freemasonry’s ceremonies join men from diverse backgrounds and from all over the world through common experiences shared in the lodge room. Freemasonry brings together men who might otherwise never have met, and it cuts across all social, economic, racial, religious, and political lines.
• Offering relief: Freemasonry encourages its members to take a greater part in the community. It inspires Masons to volunteer, to donate, and to become engaged in their neighbourhoods, places of worship, and governments.
• Searching for truth: Lodges are not places of worship and lodge meetings and rituals are not intended as a substitute for going to church, temple, or mosque. Freemasonry does encourage its members to take more-active roles in their religious communities.
• Providing timeless principles: The principles of Masonry are simple. Reduced to their most basic level, Masonry provides its members with a place to go for a while to escape the strife and struggle of the outside world, leaving the most contentious topics between men outside its lodge-room doors.
Freemasonry has always changed to accommodate the needs of its members throughout its history, while retaining its character, forms, and overall philosophy.

Common myths associated with Freemasonry
Masons get away with breaking the law because the police and legal fraternity is full of masons who let them off.
If a Mason breaks the law, not only does he face the legal consequences like everyone else, but he has the added ignominy of being relieved if all his duties, his office within the lodge falls forfeit, he is subject to an internal inquiry and is sanctioned, many times resulting in him being banned for life.

Masons give jobs to other Masons at the expense of more qualified people.
Anyone who has a business will realise the inanity of an action like this. If your business needs someone with certain qualities and qualifications you hire the right man for the job regardless of whether he is a Mason or not. Your business would otherwise fail at the expense of Freemasonry and this is not a requirement.

Freemasonry has been behind world revolutions.
As there are many men who are Freemasons and all are free to follow whatever religious or political pathway they wish, it is not surprising that some have found themselves in these situations. They are there because of their own beliefs and not through any steering and ulterior motives of Freemasonry.

Freemasonry does not have women members.
There are female lodges.

Freemasonry dislikes Catholics.
Freemasonry aspires towards universal brotherhood and tolerance. There are members of all religions in Freemasonry.

Freemasons are into devil worship.
Someone who wants to become a Freemason needs to believe that there is a higher creative spiritual power for good. There is no room for destructive powers within the Craft.

What about the goat?
Sorry, there is no goat. Apologies to all goat lovers.

Disclaimer

The Grand Lodge of Scotland does not, and never has, made pronouncements as to the meaning and interpretation of Masonic ritual, symbolism and even particular words in Scottish Freemasonry.

Freemasonry is a unique system of morality through which the individual Freemason takes his own path, makes his own way. On his journey the Freemason might be accompanied by other Freemasons for all or part of the journey during which they may offer opinions on all aspects of Freemasonry but in the end it is of the individual Freemason to decide for himself to accept or reject the interpretations of others. He must decide what the various aspects mean to him including Masonic symbolism, ritual, signs, tokens and words.

In light of the above it is not possible for any one man, or group of men, to speak on behalf of all Freemasons regarding matters appertaining to the meaning, interpretation and understanding of Freemasonry. It is not possible for the Grand Lodge of Scotland to define Freemasonry for Scottish Freemasons, it is up to the individual to determine his journey through the Craft.

To attempt to impose a universal understanding and/or definition of the numerous elements of Freemasonry on all Freemasons would be to create and inflict a dogma on the Craft. This would set Freemasonry on the path of becoming a religion (for which a dogma is an essential part) and as the Craft is not a religion Freemasonry would cease to exist.

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