What Is Masonry? 2


   WHAT IS MASONRY?


	One of the most impressive and touching things in human 
history is that all peoples have set apart and venerated certain 
interests. Guilds and societies have been formed to cultivate an 
interest in art, science, philosophy, fraternity and religion. This 
interest conserves the hard-won, precious inheritance of humanity; 
trains men in their service; and sends through the common life of 
mortals the light and glory of the Ideal. Of such is Masonry which 
unites all these high interests and brings to their service a vast 
world-wide fraternity of free and devout men. Built upon a 
foundation of spiritual faith and moral idealism, its mission is to 
make men friends, and to refine and exalt their lives. More than an 
institution, more than a tradition, more than a society, Masonry is 
one of the forms of Divine Life upon earth.

   There is a common notion that Masonry is a secret society 
because of its secret rites, and the signs and grips by which 
members recognize each other. Its principles are published in its 
writings; its purpose and laws are known, as also the time and 
place of its meetings. When all men shall practise its simple 
precepts, the innocent secrets of Masonry will be laid bare, its 
mission be accomplished and its labour done.

   Masonry is in no sense a political party, still less a society 
organized for social agitation. Our generation, like those gone 
before, is full of schemes for reform and betterment of mankind. 
Why do these schemes not succeed? Why does the wisest and noblest 
plan do no more than half what its advocates labour so heroically 
to bring about? Because there is not sufficient men fine enough in 
soul, large enough in sympathy and noble enough in nature to make 
the dream come true. Indolence, impurity, greed, injustice, 
meanness of spirit, and above all, jealousy, are obstacles that 
thwart the nobler social aspirations of humanity. Therefore, when 
Masonry, instead of identifying itself with particular schemes of 
reform, devotes all her benign energy and influence to ennobling 
the souls of men, she is doing fundamental work on behalf of all 
high enterprises. By as much as she succeeds, every noble cause 
succeeds; by as much as she falls, everything falls! Masonry 
therefore best serves society by building men up to spiritual faith 
and character.

   Surely the way of Masonry is wise. Against the ancient 
hostilities and inhumanities of the world, it wages eternal war, 
not with vengeance nor violence; but by softening the hearts of men 
and inducing a better spirit. How effective is our individual puny 
warfare against evil and ignorance compared with the warfare which 
Masonry has been waging for ages against them.

   Masonry is not a religion, but it is religious. Often it had 
been objected that some men leave the Church and enter the Masonic 
Lodge, finding there a religious home. That may be so but the fault 
may be, not of Masonry, but of the Church. While Masonry is not a 
Church is has preserved some things of highest importance to the 
spiritual realm - among them the right of each individual soul to 
its own religious faith. A vast change of heart is now, taking 
place in the religious world. By an exchange of thought and 
courtesy and a closer personal touch, the various sects are 
learning to unite the things most worth-while and least open to 
debate. They are moving toward the Masonic position; when they 
arrive Masonry will witness a scene which she has prophesied for 
ages. High above all dogma that divide, all bigotries that blind, 
all bitterness that beclouds, will be written the simple words of 
one eternal religion - The Fatherhood of God, The Brotherhood of 
Man, the Moral Law, The Golden Rule and the hope of a life 
everlasting.

   What is Masonry? No one may ever hope to define a spirit so 
gracious, moreover, definitions may be dangerous; but perhaps the 
following is the best description of Masonry so far given:

   "Masonry is the activity of closely united men who, employing 
symbolical forms borrowed principally from the mason's trade and 
from architecture, work for the welfare of mankind, striving 
morally to ennoble themselves and others, and thereby to bring 
about a universal league of mankind, which they aspire to exhibit 
even now on a small scale."

   How fitting that the idea and art of building should be made 
the basis of a great order of men which has not other aim than the 
upbuilding of humanity in 
Faith, Freedom and Friendship. Thus Masonry labours, linked with 
the constructive genius of mankind, and so long as it remains true 
to its Ideal it cannot be overcome.

   This is the first in a series of lectures prepared by Most 
Worshipful R.V. Harris many years ago and are now reprinted to 
allow this generation of Masons to benefit from the wisdom of 
generations gone by.