What is Freemasonry? 4


What is Freemasonry

Freemasonry is one of the world's oldest fraternal societies.  
The lessons Freemasonry teaches in its ceremonies are to do with 
moral values (governing relations between people) and its 
acknowledgement, without in any way crossing the boundaries of 
religion, that everything depends on the providence of God. 
Freemasons feel that these lessons apply just as much today as 
they did when it took its modern form at the turn of the 17th 
century.

Despite what many people claim, Freemasonry is not in any way a 
secret society. Freemasonry's so-called secrets are solely used 
as a ceremonial way of demonstrating that one is a Freemason 
when in Lodge meetings. In any case, they have been exposed by 
the media for almost as long as Freemasonry has existed and are 
not important information anyway. The real point of a Freemason 
promising not to reveal them is basically a dramatic way of 
promising to keep one's promises in general.

Other reasons why Freemasonry cannot be called a secret society 
are that Freemasons do not promise to keep their membership 
secret (they can tell anyone they wish), where and when 
Freemasons meet are matters of public record (you can look up 
masonic centres in telephone directories) and our rule book, the 
Book of Constitutions and our aims are readily available to anyone. 

It is ironic that because Freemasons used to be reticent about 
their membership (because they were and still are taught never 
to use it to advance their own interests), critics have taken 
this the wrong way round and think that there is something 
secretive and nasty going on. Nothing could be further from the 
truth.

Masonic ceremonies are secular morality plays which are learned 
by heart by members of the lodge for the benefit of the person 
who is becoming a Freemason or who wishes to explore Freemasonry 
further. Each ceremony has a message for the candidate. A 
further reason why Freemasons do not go around broadcasting 
their contents is simply because it would spoil it for the 
candidate - exactly as in the same way you would not tell 
someone the ending of a book or a film.

Under the English Constitution, basic Freemasonry is divided 
into two parts, called the Craft and the Royal Arch [o Royal 
Arch]. For Freemasons who really want to explore the subject in 
more depth there is a host of other ceremonies, which, for 
historical reasons, are not administered by the United Grand 
Lodge of England. 

All English Freemasons experience the three Craft (or basic) 
ceremonies unless they drop out from Freemasonry very early on. 
These three ceremonies (or degrees as we call them) look at the 
relations between people, man's natural equality and his 
dependence on others, the importance of education and the 
rewards of labour, fidelity to a promise, contemplation of 
inevitable death, and one's duty to others. A fourth ceremony - 
the Royal Arch emphasises man's dependence on God.

Although all Freemasons are required to profess and continue in 
a belief in a Supreme Being, and their ceremonies include 
prayers, Freemasonry is not in any way a substitute for 
religion. It has and can have no theological doctrines, it 
offers no sacraments, and it does not claim to lead to 
salvation. By having prayers at its meetings Freemasonry is no 
more in competition with religion than, say, having a meal at 
which grace is said.

Furthermore, Freemasons are not allowed to discuss religion at 
meetings. English Freemasonry is also strictly non-political and 
the discussion of politics at masonic meetings is expressly 
forbidden. These rules both stem from Freemasonry's aims to 
encourage its members to discover what people from all different 
backgrounds have in common. As is all too well known, debate 
about religion and politics has all too often led, when allowed 
to run riot, to discrimination, persecution and war.

A Freemason is thus basically encouraged to do his duty first to 
his God (by whatever name he is known) through his faith and 
religious practice, and then, without detriment to his family 
and those dependent on him, to his neighbour through charity and 
service.

None of these ideas is exclusive to Freemasonry, but all should 
be universally acceptable and Freemasons are expected to follow 
them.