The Meaning of Masonry
"A society without standards will be a society without stability and it will one day go down. Not only nations but whole civilizations have perished in the past for lack of righteousness. Hence the importance attached to the square of virtue and the reason why Masons call it the symbol of their Craft. It is the symbol of that moral law upon which life must be based if it is to continue."
Membership in the brotherhood of Masons means many things:
Masons were active in America even before 1733, the year the first Provincial Grand Lodge of Masons was formally organized by Henry Price. Today the United States can proudly claim the oldest continuously operating Masonic organization in the Western Hemisphere.
In its early years, Masonry numbered among its members some of the nation's most influential citizens - George Washington, Henry Knox, Benjamin Franklin, John Hancock and Paul Revere. The values that were important then - loyalty, patriotism, liberty, courage and faith - are just as important to Masons today. The principles upon which this country was founded are deeply embedded in Masonry.
Basic to most of the world's great religions is the belief in what some might call the "old fashioned" values of honesty, fair play and unselfishness in dealing with others. Freemasonry shares many of those same beliefs and, through its traditions and teachings, attempts to instill in its members both the desire and the means to improve themselves and the lives of others.
However, while it may adhere to many of the same values associated with a religious faith, Masonry is not a religion. It is a brotherhood of men from every country, sect, and opinion, joined in a common effort to make themselves better people, to ease the suffering of others, and to make the world a better place. To achieve these goals, Masonry does not promote itself or its individual members. Instead, it teaches by example.
Freemasonry is built upon three basic tenets - Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth. Brotherly Love is the practice of the Golden Rule. Relief embodies charity for all mankind. Truth is honesty, fair play and adherence to the cardinal virtues. These moral lessons are taught during three ceremonies, or "degrees" through allegory and symbolism using the traditional stonemasons tools. After the Three Degrees, members may explore other branches of Masonry, such as the Scottish Rite, York Rite and Shrine.
Freemasonry is not a secret organization. Lodge buildings are clearly marked and listed in the phone book. Members frequently wear rings and pins identifying themselves as Masons. However, Masonry values confidentiality and, as with many other organizations, many of its meetings are not open to the public.
Of all the cardinal virtues, none is more valued in Masonry than selfless giving. Examples of Masonic charity are legion. Nationally, Masons contribute more than $2 million every day to relieve suffering and for the enrichment of mankind. Masons are the founding sponsors and supporters of the Shriners Burns Institutes and the Shriners Hospitals for Children, both of which offer their services free of charge. Satisfaction derived from these endeavors cannot be measured in ordinary terms. We will say, however, that it is through helping others that man most helps himself. If you would like to learn more about Masonry or to become a Mason, contact any Mason or Masonic Lodge or telephone the Grand Lodge of your state.