A FREEMASON is a man who has taken an obligation to make of himself the best that he can, for himself, his family, and his community—a man who feels and adores the higher destiny of man; to whom faith, hope and charity are not mere words without any meaning.
What is Freemasonry? A fraternity designed to teach morality and ethics, and train good men to make themselves of service to themselves, their families and their communities.
Freemasonry is not a religion, but it teaches its members to be active in their chosen faith.
Freemasonry has no politics, but it teaches its members to be active in civic concerns.
What attracts a man to Freemasonry?
Every man comes, of his own free will and accord, with his own individual needs and interests. One man may join so that he can associate with other men who believe that only by improving themselves can they hope to improve their world. Another man may join because he is looking for a focus for his charitable inclinations. And yet another may be attracted by a strong sense of history and tradition. Many join simply because they knew a friend or relative who was a Freemason and they admired that man’s way of living his life. All who join and become active discover a bond of brotherly affection and a community of mutual support; a practical extension of their own religious and philosophical beliefs.
Freemasonry is not a charity; although it promotes charity in its members — in America, Freemasons contribute some two and a half million dollars a day to operate children’s hospitals, cancer clinics, burn wards, senior’s homes and other such facilities.
There are some 200 recognized Masonic jurisdictions around the world and no central authority. They operate under a system of mutual recognition, working within a set of Landmarks of what qualifies as recognized Freemasonry.
Records strongly suggest a lineage to operative stonemasons’ lodges or guilds of fourteenth century Scotland and an inner fraternity of the London Company of Masons. Whether operative and non-operative lodges existed concurrently or if operative lodges slowly accepted non-operative members into their ranks are still debatable. By the end of the seventeenth century most lodges were speculative, not operative, and the ritual which involved the tools of stonemasonry as symbols was all that remained.
Freemasonry has been labeled atheistic and pagan since it removed Christian references in its ritual in 1813, and dangerously radical because it would not support oppressive regimes. History shows that Freemasonry has always been outlawed under totalitarian regimes. Before an initiate receives a degree, and takes an obligation of secrecy, he is assured that the mysteries are founded on the purest principles of piety and virtue and that any vows are not inconsistent with his civil, moral or religious duties.
Why are the rituals and ceremonies secret?
Tradition, more than anything — there have been times and places where promoting equality, freedom of thought or liberty of conscience was dangerous. Also, a lesson that must be earned may have a greater impact. The lessons are not secret but the presentation is kept private to promote a clearer understanding in good time.
But the true secrets of a Freemason are not contained in the ritual. A Freemason who is true to his obligation will not reveal the modes of recognition but they are not truly secret; this is demonstrated by the number of exposures that have been published over the centuries. The secrets of a Freemason are those personal, private, and lawful, aspects of a man’s life that he may choose to share with a brother, a brother who will keep those secrets. This is not secretiveness, this is discretion. There is also that secret which is not kept secret but is only revealed to those who realize the happiness that comes from living a good life.