What is Freemasonry?



Freemasonry of the present day is a philosophic or speculative science, derived from, and issuing out of, an operative art. It is a science of symbolism. One of the authoritative definitions of Freemasonry is that it is “a peculiar system of morality, veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols”. But a more correct definition would be, that it is “a system of morality developed and inculcated by the science of symbolism.”


Its original descent from an association of builders has given to its symbolism a peculiar character. All the labours of operative or stonemasonry, its implements, and its technical language has been seized by the speculative Freemasons and appropriated by them as symbols, each of which teaches some important moral or religious truth. The cathedrals erected by their predecessors, some of which still remain as proud monuments of their surpassing skill in architecture, have been replaced as symbols, for esoteric reasons, by the Temple of Solomon, which has become, with one exception, the most important and significant of the symbols of the Order.


As all these symbols are applied to religious purposes, and receive a religious interpretation, we must conclude that Freemasonry is a religious institution. IT IS NO A RELIGION. IT MAKES NO SUCH CLAIM. It does not profess to offer the renovating efficacy and the spiritual consolation which makes religion so necessary truths, without any attempt to define theological dogmas. It demands of its initiates a trusting belief in God, and in the immortality of THE SOUL, and its ceremonies and its symbols impress these truths with all moral consequences that a belief in them implies. It recognizes all religious truth, and tolerates, but does not accept, sectarian dogmas. Around its altar, men of all creeds may kneel in one common worship, each one holding in his heart with all tenacity his own peculiar faith, the brotherhood around neither approving or condemning by work or look. Incidental to its organization as an association of men engaged in the same pursuit, we have other characteristics common to it with all similar associations, but which it possesses and practices with greater perfection because of it universality and its numerical extension.


Such is its social character. In the Lodge all artificial distinctions of rank, of wealth, and power are the time suspended, and Masons meet together on the great level of quality. The Prince and the Peasant, the Bishop and the Layman, sit together, and join hand in the same symbolic labour.


So, too, it is eminently a benevolent institution. There is no other institution that has built and endowed more asylums for the aged and decayed, or hospitals for the sick, or houses for orphans, or done more to clothe the naked, or feed the hungry, or relieve the poor and in granting eleemosynary aid to the distressed brother or his destitute widow. It hallows and sanctifies the gift by silence and secrecy.  Such is FREEMASONRY venerable in its age, beneficient in its design, and practical in its charity.