Freemasonry and It’s Place in the World
Adapted from the Jan 2010 Short Talk Bulletin presented by the Masonic Service Assoc. of North America.
and written by M.W. Bro, Norman Buecker Past Grand Master Grand Lodge of Illinois. USA
Freemasonry in its present form has existed for less that 300 years, yet there have always been organizations resembling this great Fraternity.
Such groups were formed in many places, over several centuries. WHY? because man is a social creature, he has an inherent need for companionship, friendship and association with others.
There are many definitions of Freemasonry.
Perhaps the one most often quoted is that it is an association of men believing in the “Fatherhood of God and the Brotherhood of Man,” using building tools to teach basic moral truths, thereby impressing on the minds of its members the cardinal virtues of Brotherly love, Relief and Truth which they should apply in their everyday activities.
If this description seems rather trite, maybe out of place in this cynical world of today, we need only remember that there is a real need for what are somewhat scornfully called “the old fashioned, out-of –date, virtues”.
Let us step back in time: at the dawn of history, man was confronted with many problems; hunger, the elements, disease, predators and many others. But God gave man memory so that he could profit from his experiences. Later, he was given the gift of communication so that he could pass on what he had learned from generation to generation. Thus, through the succession of ages, man has developed the means to increase our food supply, provide shelter from the elements, conquer many diseases, and solve many of the problems concerning the practical things of life. Yet with all this progress in technology we have to ask, has man’s moral progress kept pace? I think not. In spite of all the comforts that we enjoy in this modern world, there is no worldwide happiness, peace or tranquility.
As we look around we find frustrated individuals and unhappy people. Everyone is demanding more rights, more security and a desire for more things. Our community problems such as drugs, gangs and corruption appear to be increasing.
“What does Freemasonry Offer the World?” Let us rephrase that question and ask “What can we learn from Freemasonry which will help our modern world?”
First: Freemasonry does not deal with the mass media. It works with and through the individual.
In our Fraternity the individual is all-important. He is considered the most important thing in the world.
Our communities are made up of many people and to have a happy community the people must, individually, be happy.
Second: Freemasonry believes in and teaches the Fatherhood of God. Before an individual enters a Lodge, he is asked “Do you believe in the existence of God?” to which he must give an affirmative answer.
In many places God is forgotten, even denied. Many of the “isms” consider God and religion as old-fashioned, out-of-date, superstition, an opiate of the mind.
We as Freemasons consider God as the very foundation of Freemasonry.
Be advised that Freemasonry does not concern itself with doctrine or the theology of any church or form of worship. It requires only that a Mason must profess a belief in God. Freemasonry does not teach how God manifests Himself to man or how man is reconciled to God. It is true that Freemasonry tries to enrich a member’s belief in God by instructing him in the moral law. It tries to do that for every member.
Freemasonry therefore teaches tolerance for the religious beliefs of all men, to the point that we can and do meet together & pray together in complete harmony. To a Mason there is only one Supreme Being, no matter what name we give Him. Freemasonry affords men of all creeds the opportunity to meet together and to understand each other’s beliefs. It is the only organization where political and religious discussion is prohibited within its walls.
Third: Another principle offered to the world by Freemasonry logically follows from that which has just been said—“the Brotherhood of Man”.
If we have a common Father—God—are we then not all brothers? We hear nothing about this principle today.
All around us, we hear demands for “rights” of one kind or another. How often do we hear of duties or obligations?
In Freemasonry we are taught the duties we owe to others, we are taught the obligations we owe to our families, our community and our country.
With every “right” there is a corresponding obligation. Freemasonry says nothing about “rights”, but it has much to say about duties and obligations that we as members owe.
If we all do our duty, all of us will profit. Dr. Joseph Fort Newton tells us “a duty dodged is like a debt unpaid; it is only deferred and sooner or later we must settle the account”.
Fourth: The Freemasonry, that we know today, evolved from the builders’ guilds of the Middle Ages. Therefore, the word “work” plays an important part in the philosophy in our ceremonies.
Today, as I implied before, there is a great desire to get something for nothing.
We have quiz programs, horse races, lotteries, bingo games and casinos all catering to this desire.
We, as Freemasons, believe that wealth comes from work, working with natural resources and creating useful products. Some think that wealth comes from government- but it doesn’t
Mostly, the government collects money from us, the taxpayers, and then distributes it, the handling charge is tremendous!!
The operative masons in the middle ages worked with their hands. They built huge structures of wood and stone. They had an apprentice system to teach young men to work and develop their natural skills.
The idea of “work” is woven into the very fabric of Freemasonry. The world needs to be reminded that work in honourable, work is necessary and that work makes for happiness.
Freemasonry takes the idea of work from our ancient brethren and converts it into a symbol.
We, as Freemasons, no longer build visible structures, but we build a symbolic structure; a structure of character, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.
Fifth: Freemasonry offers an opportunity for social contacts and the development of friendships.
The feeling of belonging, being a part of, is a vital part of every man’s being. No man is an island unto himself. To be happy we must belong to something, a family, a community, a county club or some other group.
Freemasonry is one of the best groups to which we can belong. It has a glorious past and many great men have been Masons.
It teaches valuable lessons and affords the opportunity for service to mankind. The bringing together of its members in worthwhile activities helps to promote this feeling of belonging
The psychologists tell us that the feeling of being important to someone or something is what makes us happy. Freemasonry provides many opportunities for the development of this feeling.
A member can take pride in belonging to the oldest, largest and greatest Fraternity in the World; he can serve a vital function by serving as an officer; he can do charitable work; he can visit the sick and shut-ins, all of which gives a member a feeling of knowing that he is important to others and to Freemasonry. But here again, we stress the importance of the individual, not the group.
I think this is one of the intangible, subtle and necessary elements of Freemasonry- making the individual happy.
We have already said if the individual is happy, the community is happy; if the community is happy; and if the nations are happy then the world will be at peace.
Sixth: Freemasonry offers the World a philosophy of life. Our degrees are designed to teach each member certain basic moral truths. No man ever became a Mason without becoming a better man.
Our lessons are taught in a unique manner which makes the principles even more effective.
Oft times, we are asked if the lessons of Freemasonry are so beneficial, why are they taught behind closed doors?
The answer lies in the very nature of man. That which is open to constant view becomes common-place
and attracts little attention.
That which is hidden is sought for, searched for, becomes attractive and creates interest.
That is the purpose for the secrecy of the ritual- the element of anticipation, and air of surprise.
All of these put the new member in a receptive frame of mind.
In addition, is the fact that our lessons are taught using symbols, and this has been found to be a very effective teaching method.
With the use of builders tools Freemasonry teaches moral lessons.
Many Masonic expressions have found their way into everyday conversations.
We use the square to illustrate honesty in our dealings with one another “He is on the square” or “He is a square dealer” are examples of this.
Each candidate receives this philosophy of life in a most impressive manner. This “way of life” contains all the lessons or rules adopted and practices by all good men. It covers the Golden Rule. It teaches us that we are our brothers’ keeper (helper); that we are to aid the widow and orphan. It teaches us that we can best worship God by rendering service to our fellow men. It teaches honesty is the best policy.
The moral lessons are taught in schools and churches, but the method of teaching in a Masonic Lodge is unique.
These lessons are taught without reference to sectarian creeds or religious dogma.
Freedom of thought and expression are taught and practiced without any reference to the results of the next political election.
Many of the characteristics of church, school, social clubs and ethical societies are incorporated in Freemasonry, and while resemblance with such organizations can be discerned, none is exactly like this great organization that the World knows as Freemasonry.
To summarize and answer the question posed at the beginning “What does Freemasonry offer the World?”
my answer is this:-
Freemasonry offers to mankind an emphasis on the importance of the individual, the belief in the Brotherhood of Man under the Fatherhood of God, the concept of the dignity of work and its necessity for the pursuit of happiness, the opportunity to realize one’s social aspirations in a moral, constructive atmosphere and a philosophy of life which can lead to individual and there fore community happiness.
The world really needs what Freemasonry has to offer!
Have a wonderful day & God Bless