WHAT IS FREEMASONRY

THE VOICE OF FREEMASONRY - 1881

IN the mind of the intelligent young Mason, who, of course, is
constant in his attendance upon all lodge meetings, questions
like these will continually arise: " What is the meaning of all
these solemn and mysterious ceremonies .

"What is the true explanation of these symbols so continually
presented to view?" "What is the interpretation of these curious
allegories so frequently repeated in our hearing?" In short,
"What is Freemasonry, and what is its object? "

To obtain Masonic light and knowledge, he learns "the work,"
and becomes a very "bright " Mason, when upon serious
reflection, he discovers that he has only obtained a knowledge
of a certain series of words, which in themselves, afford no
instruction. He eagerly reads a "Monitor," and obtains no
knowledge of the symbolism of Freemasonry that he did not
already possess as a profane. He reads Masonic publications,
from which he gleans much information connected with what
may be termed Masonic "diplomacy," reads learned
disquisitions on Masonic "jurisprudence," but does not find that
information of which he is in search. He is continually informed
that Freemasonry, in some form, has existed from time
immemorial, and that the wisest and best of all nations and in
all ages have been but too proud of the honor of being enrolled
among the members of such an ancient institution. He knows
that to-day the Society of Freemasons is the leading social
organization of the world, and has no reason to doubt that it will
continue to exist through all future generations. By reading, he
learns that the grand old institution has descended to us from
the remote past. It has seen nation succeed nation, as the
centuries have rolled past; in its time, dogmas, religious and
political, have swiftly sped their way and disappeared in
oblivion, yet Freemasonry, unsullied by political, strife, free
from religious dogma of man's invention, remains changeless
and, unchangeable - the same to-day as yesterday, and will so
continue forever - the chain connecting the past and present
with the future.

Those members of the Institution who have been favored with
the privilege of examining the structure in all its parts, - who
have descended to its foundation and wondered at its strong
supports, - have critically examined its finely proportioned
columns and pilasters, - have stood upon the checkered
pavement and admired the implements displayed thereon, and
received rudimentary instruction respecting their use, - have
been conducted through the middle chamber, and received
lessons in science, and finally been permitted to enter the most
holy place; yea, have even assisted in the rite of sacrifice at the
holy altar; those of us who have been so highly favored, should
know the meaning of all these symbols and allegories, - should
fully understand the import of these solemn rites and
ceremonies in all their allusions, and should be willing to
communicate that knowledge to our less informed brethren. It
is their right to demand information, and it is our duty to
communicate to them all that each is entitled to know.

Freemasonry does not consist merely of the ceremonies and
so-called "Lectures," connected with the initiation and
advancement of candidates; these are merely the frame work
of the structure, or, more correctly, the key which unlocks the
door to the treasure-house, - and are only intended to serve as
a means of impressing upon the mind of the candidate, in a
manner not to be misunderstood or easily forgotten, the most
vital and salutary lessons, not of mere morality, but religious
and political doctrines, comprising within their scope, our
entire duty to GOD, our country, our neighbor, and our own self.
Freemasonry is DUTY, and Masonic "work" is the performance
of every duty, religious, political and social.

Religion is defined by the best lexicographers as "the
recognition of GOD as an object of worship, love and
obedience - right feelings toward GOD as correctly understood
- piety;" and another definition is "Religion is Godliness, or real
piety, in practice;" which practical religion consists in the
performance of every duty to GOD and our fellow-men, in
obedience to His laws, or from love of Him and His works.

With these definitions in view, Freemasonry is eminently a
religious institution. It cannot be sectarian, for men of every
creed, and every phase of religious thought, are admitted
within the portals of its temples, and among its members we
find the followers of Moses and Confucius, of CHRIST and
Zoroaster, standing side by side, laboring in the interest of
Freemasonry - the benefit of humanity.

Masonry is a religious institution, but its religion is that of
nature and primitive revelation - that religion in which all men
may agree, and in which none can differ - and to that purely
religious element, as a foundation, it is indebted for its origin
and continued existence, and without which it would be no
more worthy of consideration than any one of the multitude of
ephemeral imitators, which from time to time have arisen,
flourished their brief day, and passed into decay and
forgetfulness. The religion of Masonry is not Christianity, or
even a substitute for it, as that religion is explained by the
dogmas of the various creeds, any more than it is peculiar
Judaism, or Brahminism, but it is the foundation of all creeds -
the true religion as expounded by the Great Teacher who
taught His disciples to raise their aspirations to "Our FATHER
which art in heaven; " that religion so fully defined by St.
James, who says, "Pure and undefiled religion before GOD
and the FATHER is this, that ye visit the fatherless and the
widow in their affliction, and keep yourselves unspotted from
the world."

Politics is correctly defined as "the science of government; that
part of ethics which has to do with the regulation and
government of a nation or state; the defense of its existence
and rights against foreign control or conquest; the preservation
of its safety, peace and prosperity; the augmentation of its
strength and resources, and the protection of its citizens in
their rights with the preservation and improvement of their
morals." With this definition in view, Freemasonry is also a
political institution; not the tool of party, not laboring in the
interest of any individual or section, but for the benefit of the
whole body politic.

Freemasonry may, therefore, be defined as being a system
and school of Religious and Political Philosophy, in which its
doctrines are suggested by allegories and concealed under
symbols.

An allegory is a narrative containing a double meaning, a literal
rendering, and at the same time a spiritual allusion. The
allegory was a favorite figure among the ancients, and the
Jewish Rabbins made use of it to such excess that in the
Hebrew writings it is extremely difficult to distinguish the
allegory from the true history. This style of instruction has ever
been used by Christian teachers, and in Freemasonry, what
are known as "traditions" are but allegories - Masonry has no
traditions.

A symbol is a visible sign, with which a spiritual idea is
connected. The first records of the world were in hieroglyphs, -
a collection of symbols; letters of the alphabet are but symbols
of spoken sounds, - words are but symbols of ideas, and in all
ages visible symbols have been used as most vividly acting
upon the minds of the people, and thus we find that all
propositions, religious, political or scientific may be expressed
by means of symbols. Symbolic representations of things
sacred were coeval with religion itself, and even at the present
time a religious symbolism is practiced which has descended
to us from the most remote antiquity. Masonic "traditions" and
legends are allegories - spoken symbols - by the utterance of
which spiritual things are better understood, and by the
exhibition of visible symbols, a deep and lasting impression is
made upon the attentive mind.

To study the symbols made use of in Masonry, and endeavor
to elicit from them the ideas they were originally intended to
express, without which knowledge the practice of the tenets of
our profession would be of no force, because not understood,
is a labor of love for the intelligent Mason. The ability of an
individual to rehearse a certain series of words, with
appropriate action, as is comprised in what is commonly
termed the "work," is merely evidence of a retentive memory,
or capacity as an actor; and it is frequently found that the
brother who can scarcely recite sufficient of the catechism -
improperly called "Lecture" - to enable him to "work his way"
into a lodge, is foremost in true Masonic labor, and a most
active and zealous brother, fully understanding the full meaning
of all the symbols presented to his view, and showing by his
daily conduct that he endeavors practice the lessons they
convey.

Every portion of the ceremonies of Masonry is full of meaning;
nothing is done which, when properly understood, does not in
the most impressive manner, convey some lessons calculated
to make all who witness the ceremony wiser and better men
and consequently more worthy citizens; and any portion of the
ceremonies which does not convey such lessons is an
innovation, and should not be tolerated. In the performance of
our solemn rites no haste should be allowed, nor omission be
tolerated, and the Master of a lodge, who abridges the
ceremonies, or allows his officers to shorten them by omitting
any portion of the instruction the ritual provides, is guilty of a
violation of his duty as a Mason, and neglectful of the vow he
assumed as Master, when he promised in the most solemn
manner that he would never close his lodge without giving a
lecture for the instruction of the brethren. A few trivial questions,
selected at random from the catechism, should in no case be
accepted as even to the letter fulfilling the requirements of the
law, but a lecture, on some Masonic subject should be
delivered for the instruction of the young Masons, before the
close of every lodge meeting, and thus the requirements of the
installation obligation be fulfilled in the spirit as well as to the
letter. Being instructed in the principles of the Institution, in all
their applications, the object is evident - the spiritual elevation
of man-but in order to accomplish this end we must be true
ourselves, by continually endeavoring to practice all the
precepts inculcated by the lectures and allegories and
illustrated by the symbols of Freemasonry.

 

 

 

         

Museum Home Page     Phoenixmasonry Home Page

Copyrighted 1999 - 2013   Phoenixmasonry, Inc.      The Fine Print