Freemasonry is a system of morality, veiled in allegory, illustrated by symbols. Not a religion but religious in character, it is a philosophy of ethical conduct which imparts moral and social virtues and fosters brotherly love. Its tenets have endured since man turned the first pages of civilization. They embody the understanding by which man can transcend ordinary experience and build “a house not made with hands” in harmony with the Great Architect of the universe.
Yet Freemasonry can never conflict with a man’s relationship to God or fellow man. Sectarian religious or partisan political discussion in a lodge is strictly prohibited. Every Mason stands equal among his brothers, regardless of walk of life, and none is turned away for financial need.
The purpose of the Ancient Craft of Freemasonry is to unfold a message where “truth abides in fullness”, invoking greater understanding of the inward life and a spirit of fellowship in which every Mason can also lead a better outward life.
Freemasonry is a fraternity — the world’s oldest fraternal organization — that encourages its members to practice the faith of their personal acceptance. Masonry teaches that each person, through self-improvement and helping others, has an obligation to make a difference for good in the world.
Modern Freemasonry started in England in 1717 when four english masonic lodges met and formed a “grand lodge” — a body that would govern all of the lodges and permit new lodges to be formed. However, Freemasonry obviously started before that. With this in mind, no one really knows when Freemasonry started, as there are various evidence that point to numerous times in the past. The Fraternity’s origins are basically lost in the mists of time, perhaps to be found in future generations, or otherwise.
To the surprise of many, Freemasonry is not a secret organization. In fact we have very few secrets. There are no secret members. Lodges publish their rosters and clearly identify their locations, meetings, activities, and community involvement. In fact, many Masons regularly wear jewelry and pins that announce their membership in Freemasonry. The world at large is aware of the aims, ideals, and charitable efforts of our organization. Only the individual modes of personal recognition, some of the details of the degrees, and private ballots of members are and must be kept secret.
While we are religious in nature, we are definitely not a religion. In fact, men of all faiths and creeds can and are members of our fraternity. We merely strengthen man’s personal belief and covenant with his faith.
In North America alone, Freemasonry contributes over two million dollars a day to charitable causes through its various concordant bodies. Most of that assistance goes to people who are not Masons. Some of these charities are vast projects. The Shrine Masons, known as Shriners, operate the largest network of hospitals for burned and orthopedically impaired children in the country, and there is never a fee for treatment. The Scottish Rite Masons maintain a nationwide network of over 150 Childhood Language Disorder Clinics, Centers and Programs. The York Rite continues its philantrophy in a variety of charities, including scholarship programs for students, and perform public service activities in ther communities.