What is Freemasonry?
Freemasonry is a society of men concerned with moral and spiritual values. Its members are taught its precepts (moral lessons and self-knowledge) — a progression of allegorical two-part plays learned by heart and performed within each Lodge which follows ancient forms, and use stonemasons’ customs and tools as allegorical guides.
Freemasonry does have handshakes and passwords incorporated into the fraternity. The tradition of using handshakes and passwords was very common in the Middle Ages, enabling one to identify oneself as belonging to a trade guild and his rank within that guild.
Freemasonry refers to the principles, institutions and practices of the fraternal order of the Free and Accepted Masons, the largest worldwide society, and an organization of men using builders’ tools as symbols to teach basic moral truths generally accepted by persons of good will. Their motto is “Brotherly love, Relief and Truth.” It is religious in that a belief in a Supreme Being is a prime requirement for membership, but it is non-sectarian in that no religious test is used. The purpose of Freemasonry is to enable men to meet in harmony, to promote friendship and to be charitable.
As Masonry is universally spread over the face of the earth, it goes without saying that many of its members belong to different religions and therefore the Bible which is exhibited open during our Masonic ceremonies is referred to as “The Volume of the Sacred Law.” In countries where other religions are practised, each Lodge will exhibit “The Volume of the Sacred Law” of his own belief.
In Freemasonry, the process of joining is also a private matter, and its members are pledged not to discuss with non-members certain parts of the ceremonies associated with the organization.
During the ceremonies, Masons walk in a regular pattern of squares and right angles to reinforce the teachings of right behaviour. Some phrases we commonly use derived from stone mason tools. When we speak of “being on the level” or acting “on the square” in our daily lives, we are using some of the classic moral values of Freemasonry.
Music plays an important role in Masonic ritual and a piano or organ can usually be found in a corner of the Lodge room. Most Lodge rooms also display the national flag as Masons are taught to pledge allegiance to the authorities and government of their land.
Freemasonry instills thoughtfulness for others, kindness in the community, honesty in business, courtesy in society and fairness in all things. Members are urged to regard the interests of the family as paramount but, importantly, Freemasonry also teaches and practises concern for people, care for the less fortunate and help for those in need.
The peculiarity of Freemasonry is that although the Order expanded worldwide to extraordinary proportions, the actual origin of the Order remains a mystery. The questions of who gave origin to the Order, when it was founded and where it started are still the subject of intense speculation.
The general consensus amongst Masonic scholars is that it descends directly or indirectly from the organization of operative stone masons who built the great cathedrals and castles of the Middle Ages.
The first documented making of an English Freemason, dates back to Elias Ashmole, at Warrington, Lancs, England in 1646.
On June 24, 1717, four London Lodges, which had existed for some time, came together at the Goose and Gridiron Tavern in St Paul’s Churchyard and declared themselves a Grand Lodge and elected Anthony Sayer as their Grand Master. This was the first Grand Lodge in the world and from then onwards Masonry became commonplace throughout Europe.
Via UGLE Distrital Grand Lodge of South America