ABOUT FREEMASONRY – An Overview.
Freemasonry, also known generally as Masonry, is the oldest and largest fraternity in the world. No other organization has a man walk into a room full of strangers, anywhere on earth, and immediately receive welcome and honor as a friend and Brother. Many Masons are well-known throughout history. (see some examples)
Many have written over 100,000 books and innumerable articles on and about our Fraternity. Take a moment to read Bro. Artur Nistra’s “WHO ARE THE FREEMASONS?” (PDF-file). He is a Brother hailing from Jacksonville, FL.
Freemasonry does not recognize differences in race, color, creed, or station, and our history and traditions date from antiquity. We have two purposes: 1) inspire members to live by the tenets of Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth, and 2) endeavor to build a world where justice, equality, and compassion shine for all human kind.
While we founded our philosophy upon religious principles, we do not serve as a religion nor as a substitute for one. We do not solicit membership but rather welcome men who have good morals and profess a belief in a Supreme Being. Any man who sincerely wishes to serve in our fraternity need only ask a member to receive a petition.
When a man seeks a Masonic Lodge, he enters an opportunity for personal development, character building, and the nuturing of leadership potential. Through one’s Masonic journey, and his association with our brethren, a Freemason learns the skills and understanding needed to support his community and strengthen his family.
Medieval guilds of stone masons, who constructed the large European cathedrals, serve as the model for Freemasonry. Consequently, our moral symbolism draws from the art and science of those builders. As they labored to build an expression for a community’s faith, so Freemasons today labor within their communities to build a finer place to live.
Our earliest Masonic documents date to the close of the Thirteenth Century. Present Masonic practice and structure, however, emerged only some three hundred years ago. Lodges of Freemasons began to accept men of prominence and learning, those who did not work stone. In A.D. 1717, four British lodges met and formed the first Grand Lodge and elected a Grand Master to lead it.
Perhaps the civic service of Freemasonry becomes no more evident than with the laying of cornerstones for public buildings. In these ceremonies, Freemasonry reminds itself (and all citizens) of our moral convictions and our dedication to others, which remain necessary for any well ordered and compassionate society.
Here are some commonly and frequently asked questions about our fraternity:
1. Is Masonry a religion?
Masonry is a fraternity, not a religion. Masonry acknowledges the existence of God, but Masonry does not tell a person which religion he should practice or how he should practice it. That is a function of his house of worship, not his fraternity.
Sometimes people confuse Masonry with a religion because we call some Masonic buildings “temples.” But we use the word in the same sense that Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes called the Supreme Court a “Temple of Justice.” Neither Masonry nor the Supreme Court is a religion just because its members meet in a “temple.”
2. Why is Masonry so secretive?
It really isn’t secretive, although it sometimes has that reputation. Masons certainly don’t make a secret of the fact that we are members of the fraternity. We wear rings, lapel pins, and tie clasps with Masonic emblems like the “Square and Compass.” Masonic buildings are clearly marked, and are usually listed in the phone book. Lodge activities are not secret as events are often listed in the newspapers, especially in smaller towns. But there are two traditional categories of secrets. First are the ways in which a man can identify himself as a Mason: grips and passwords that are unique for any fraternity. Second are Masonic ceremonies, which are private (for members only) but are not secret.
3. Why does Masonry use symbols?
Symbols allow people to communicate quickly. When you see a red light, you know what it means. When you see a circle with a line through it, you know it means “no.” In fact, using symbols is probably the oldest method of communication and teaching.
Masons use symbols for the same reasons. Certain symbols, mostly selected from the art of architecture, stand for certain ethics and principles of the organization. The “Square and Compass” is the most widely known symbol of Masonry. In one way, this symbol is the trademark for the fraternity. When you see it on a building, you know that Masons meet there.
Provided by Northside Lodge No. 283, St. Petersburg, Florida