Text from a brochure given to potential candidates in the early 1980s.
You have, no doubt, heard of Freemasons, and perhaps you have wondered who and what they are. It is natural that there should be some questions about them in your mind. This brochure, therefore, has been prepared for those who are not members of our Order, to inform them of the aims and purposes of our organization.
In our world today many are concerned about the bitterness and hate that is so prevalent in human affairs, and about the weakening of moral standards, disrespect for the laws of society and for the rights of others. Everywhere there are individuals and groups that are striving to maintain decent standards in society and to preserve those ways of life that are founded on justice and integrity.
Freemasons are also concerned about these things, and hope to add their influence in protecting the honor and dignity of human life.
ORIGIN OF FREEMASONRY
Our traditions go back over the centuries to the days of the "Operative" masons, the men who built the cathedrals, abbeys and castles in times long past. In the 17th century the need for such builders declined, but the practices and customs of the Operative craft left an influence on a new movement that began in the second half of that century. Groups of men began to meet occasionally in various places in England, men who were not actual builders, but who evidently had an interest in the old craft. Some, no doubt, had had an actual connection with it. But these new groups had no direct concern with the building trade. It would appear that they were men of integrity who enjoyed fellowship in an atmosphere of mutual trust amid the bitter divisions of the time. In order to give a basic form to their meetings it seems they adapted certain of the traditions and practices of the operative or working masons, and were influenced by the Scottish Operative Lodges. They called themselves "masons", and when a man was admitted as a member of the group or Lodge, he was said to have been "made a mason".
In the year 1717 four such Lodges that had been meeting regularly in London and Westminster decided to unite in forming a "Grand Lodge" and elect a "Grand Master" as their head. As more Lodges were established in England they looked to this Grand Lodge for guidance. Thus over the years regulations were set up to govern the Craft, a Constitution was adopted, and the simple ceremonies of the earlier years were elaborated until they finally became the three degrees or steps which we now have. It was in this way that what we call Speculative masonry gradually evolved.
From England Freemasonry spread to other countries where Lodges were formed, and eventually Grand Lodges were set up. There are now about 150 Grand Lodges in the world, with a total membership of nearly six million. One of these is the Grand Lodge of British Columbia with 173 Lodges and almost 23,000 members.
THE PURPOSE OF FREEMASONRY
From very early times Freemasonry has provided an opportunity for men to meet and enjoy the pleasures of friendly companionship in the spirit of helpfulness and charity, and guided by strict moral principles. Its members are encouraged to practice a way of life that will sustain high standards in their relationships with their fellow men. In other words, the practice of Brotherhood. It is an organization which recognizes no distinction between races, creeds, or social qualifications.
The organization of Freemasonry is based on a system of Grand Lodges, and each one is sovereign and independent within its own territory. There is no central authority governing all Freemasonry, but each Grand Lodge, in order to be "recognized" by the others, must maintain acceptable standards and follow established traditions and practices of Freemasonry. The Grand Master, with his officers, supervises his "constituent" Lodges, and each Lodge and each member is required to observe the regulations set out in the Constitution.
The Lodge is the basic unit of Freemasonry. Each year it elects officers to manage its affairs. Through them the members are encouraged to achieve a better understanding of the ideals and principles of our "Craft". It is through the Lodge that a man becomes a member of our Fraternity. When he has been accepted, he receives, over a period of time, the three degrees of Freemasonry. It is through these degrees that our teachings are mainly presented, as each one conveys a moral lesson.
To assist in communicating our truths and principles much use is made of symbolism. For this our ceremonies reach back to the usages of the old operative trade. Many of the tools and implements used by these builders are now employed as symbols to convey moral truth. Most people are familiar with the symbol of the "square and compasses" which is generally recognized as the "trademark" of Freemasonry. This symbolism became associated with the Biblical account of the building of King Solomon's Temple at Jerusalem. Thus much of our ceremony is based on the facts and legends of that famous structure.
FREEMASONRY AND RELIGION
While Masonry has a religious basis, it is neither a religion nor a substitute for religion. Before he can be admitted a member, a man must profess his belief in a Supreme Being, by whatever name He is known, and be of good moral character. Beyond that Freemasonry does not go. It does not question a man as to his particular faith or his religious dogma, but it does urge him to pracfice the religious belief which he holds.
WHAT DO FREEMASONS DO?
Freemasons meet regularly in their Lodges for the transaction of necessary business, for fellowship, and for the discussion of matters of Masonic interest. They are pledged to preserve the moral fiber and quality of life and to act in a spirit of helpfulness towards all men. They are taught to make Charity and Benevolence a distinguishing characteristic of their Masonic life.
Our Grand Lodge as a whole does not undertake any large public projects. It has its own Benevolent Fund, built up by the contributions of our members, through which Masons or their dependents have been helped in a time of need. The responsibility for humanitarian activities falls on the individual Lodges, as well as Grand Lodge. Each one may choose its own particular project. Many Lodges present scholarships for deserving students in local schools; some provide useful equipment to schools for handicapped children, or special equipment needed in Rehabilitation Hospitais. In some cases generous support has been given to local community projects. Freemasons do not appeal to the public for funds, ail contributions come from our own resources. In this way an attempt is made to inspire our members with a feeling of charity and goodwill towards ail mankind.
CONCORDANT BODIES OF FREEMASONRY
The whole purpose and teaching of Freemasonry is communicated through the three degrees of the Craft Lodge. A member, however, may wish to extend his experiences of Freemasonry by participating in additional degrees such as the Scottish Rite or Royal Arch masonry. Through these he may become a member of the Shrine. The Shriners, with their colorful parades, their annual circus, and their work for crippled children are probably the best known to the public. However, to become a member of any of these bodies a man must be, and remain a member of his Craft Lodge.
Since membership in the Masonic Order is for men only there are various women's and youth organizations, which may require sponsorship by Masonic Lodges, or for those who are relatives of Freemasons. The aims of these groups have an affinity with Freemasonry.
QUALIFICATIONS FOR MEMBERSHIP
A man becomes a Freemason only through his own volition. We do not solicit members. When he makes his application the decision as to his acceptance rests with the Lodge members. If a man has some thought of becoming a Freemason he should approach a friend whom he knows to be a Mason who will explain the necessary procedure.
Anyone seeking membership in our Order must meet certain qualifications. He must profess his belief in a Supreme Being; be a man of mature age (at least 21 years); be of high moral standards. He must maintain honorable relations with his fellow men, and be willing to share in Masonic activities.
WHAT FREEMASONRY IS NOT
Freemasonry is not a mutual benefit or insurance society. It offers no protection or material gain or advantage to any of its members, though it teaches charity and tolerance towards all men. Thus the needy and unfortunate have received help from it in many quiet ways. It is not an organization for social enjoyment only, though we treasure the pleasures of fellowship.
it is not a "secret society". There are certain parts of ourceremonies which we keep to ourselves, since they can be understood only by those who have participated in them. No member hides the fact that he is a Freemason, and our meeting places are openly marked.
A WAY OF LIFE
Freemasonry is kindness in the home; honesty in business; courtesy towards others; dependability in work; compassion and concern for the unfortunate; resistance to evil; help for the weak; forgiveness for the penitent; love for one another; and, above all, reverence and love for God.
Freemasonry is many things, but most of all it is A WAY OF LIFE.
NOT A SOLICITATION
The information contained in this brochure is not intended, and may in no way be regarded as an invitation to become a member of the Masonic Order. Its sole purpose is to acquaint people, generally, with its significant and worthwhile aims.
Anyone seeking further information about Freemasonry should inquire from a member of a Lodge in his community, or call at our Grand Lodge offices in The Freemason's Hall, 1495 West 8th Ave., Vancouver, British Columbia.