What is a Freemason?
Freemasonry cannot be defined in a few sentences or pat answers. One of the most common definitions is that it is a system of morality, veiled in allegory (or a story) and illustrated by symbols.
This is true, but Freemasonry is more than that. While it is certainly a course of moral instruction that uses both allegories and symbols to teach its lessons, Freemasonry is also an organized society of men, a fraternity. It uses symbols derived from operative stonemasonry and architecture but not exclusively. Much of its symbolism is also taken from Biblical sources, especially the stories surrounding the building of King Solomon’s Temple. Great stress is placed upon the development of moral and ethical virtues and the building of character, with Truth being the guiding principle of our lives. Thus, Brotherhood and charity are natural outcomes which further define what we are. In other words, we are using proven methods to enhance the lives and spirits of our members in a tangible way.
There are also aspects of Freemasonry that enrich our lives and spirits in an intangible way.
This part of Freemasonry is harder to define but is just as real. There is something very profound about Freemasonry. It seems to speak to a hidden part of oneself that responds with a deep reverence and respect. The deeper one takes his studies of the rites and symbols of Freemasonry, the richer his Masonic life becomes.
In his poem, “When is a Man a Mason?” the Rev. Joseph Fort Newton captured the essence of what it means to be a Freemason:
“When he can look out over the rivers, the hills, and the far horizon with a profound sense of his own littleness in the vast scheme of things, and yet have faith, hope, and courage-which are the root of every virtue. When he knows that down in his heart every man is as noble, as vile, as divine, as diabolic, and as lonely as himself, and seeks to know, to forgive, and to love his fellowman. When he knows how to sympathize withmen in their sorrows yea even in their sins-knowing that each man fights a hard fight against many odds. When he has learned how to make friends and how to keep them and above all how to keep friends with himself. When he loves flowers, can hunt birds without a gun, and feels the thrill of an old forgotten joy when he hears the laugh of a little child.
When he can be happy and high-minded amid the meaner drudgeries of life. When starcrowned trees and the glint of sunlight on flowing waters subdue him like the thought of one much loved and long dead. When no voice of distress reaches his ears in vain, and no hand seeks his aid without response.
When he finds good in every faith that helps any man to lay hold of divine things and sees majestic meanings in life, whatever the name of that faith may be. When he can look into a wayside puddle and see something beyond mud, and into the face of the most forlorn fellow mortal and see something beyond sin. When he knows how to pray, how to love and how to hope. When he has kept faith with himself, with his fellowman, andwith his God; in his hands a sword for evil, in his heart a bit of a song-glad to live, but not afraid to die! Such a man has found the only real secret of Freemasonry, and the one which it is trying to give to all the world.”
The Purpose of Free Masonry
|What is the purpose of Freemasonry? One of its most basic purposes is to make good men even better. We try to place emphasis on the individual man by strengthening his character, improving his moral and spiritual outlook, and broadening his mental horizons. We try to impress upon the minds of our members the principles of personal responsibility and morality, encouraging each member to practice in his daily life the lessons taught through symbolic ceremonies in the Lodge. One of the universal doctrines of Freemasonry is the belief in the “Brotherhood of Man and the Fatherhood of God”. The importance of this belief is established by each Mason as he practices the three principle tenets of Freemasonry: Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth.
Freemasonry is also the custodian of a tradition of initiation. It is the duty of every Freemason to preserve and perpetuate this tradition for future ages. This is a heavy responsibility and should give pause to any who would seek to make changes in the body of the Craft, except those with the highest motives and deepest understanding of the principles involved.
The above has been used by expressed permission from The Committee on Masonic Education and Information of THE GRAND LODGE OF FREE AND ACCEPTED MASONS OF OHIO
©2008, Grand Lodge of Ohio