A maxim in ancient Greece, these words have echoes in modern ceremonial Freemasonry and implies the importance of learning about self, for by becoming a more enlightened and principled individual it is most probable that a person will in turn be a happy and contributing citizen to their society.
Making Good Men Better
It is important that a Freemason be a good family member, friend, neighbour and employee. Freemasons believe in living a life of positive contribution and to the building up of self, society and the world. Freemasonry is not a substitute for a person's chosen faith but rather supplements faith, spirituality, life and living.
A Beautiful System
Freemasonry instills in its members a moral and ethical approach to life: it seeks to reinforce 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, more importantly, Freemasonry also teaches and practices concern for people, care for the less fortunate and help for those in need. In essence it is a beautiful system of morality, veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols.
The essential qualification for admission into Freemasonry and continuing membership is a belief in a Supreme Being. Membership is open to men of any race or religion who can fulfill this essential qualification and who are of good repute and who wish to follow the three great principles of Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth and believe that these principles represent a way of achieving higher standards in life. One of Freemasonry's customs is not to solicit members. However, anyone should feel free to approach any Freemason to seek further information. Membership is open to men of all faiths, 21 years of age or older.
The Third Degree
Freemasonry consists of Three Degrees - Entered Apprectice, Fellowcraft and Master Mason. However, there are many other Degrees and Orders which are called 'additional' or 'appendant' because they add to the foundations established in the first Three Degrees. These other Degrees and Orders add to Freemasonry by further expounding upon and illustrating the moral lessons taught within the first Three Degrees. Some of these additional Degrees are numerically superior to the Third Degree but this does not affect the fact that they are additional to and not in anyway superior to or higher than the Master Mason Degree. The ranks that these additional Degrees carry have no standing with Freemasonry.
The Privacy of Secrecy
Freemasonry has been called a secret society, yet all members are free to acknowledge their membership and its constitutions and rules are available to the public. There is no secret about any of Freemasonry's aims and principles as we highly promote equality, truth, respect and freedom. Freemasonry has been described as a system of morality, veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols. Such ideals as virtue, honour, mercy, temperance, fortitude, prudence and justice are empty clichés and hollow words unless presented within an ordered and closed framework. Freemasonry's closed framework should not be viewed as secrecy in and of itself, but rather as a symbol of privacy and discretion which enable Freemasons to demonstrate that they are men of discretion, worthy of confidences, and that they place a high value on their word and bond.
Society and Country
Freemasonry demands from its members a respect for the law of the country in which a man works and lives. Its principles do not in any way conflict with its members' duties as citizens, but should strengthen them in fulfilling their public and private responsibilities. The use by a Freemason of his membership to promote his own or anyone else's business, professional or personal interests is condemned, and is contrary to the conditions on which he sought admission to Freemasonry. His duty as a citizen must always prevail over any obligation to other Freemasons, and any attempt to shield a Freemason who has acted dishonorably or unlawfully is contrary to this prime duty and the teachings of Freemasonry itself.
Freemasonry is non-political, and the discussion of politics at Freemason meetings is forbidden. Freemasonry, as a body, will never express a view on politics or state policy. It charges each of its members to be true and loyal to the government of the country to which he owes allegiance, and to be obedient to the laws of any state in which he may reside. Holding these beliefs and in the knowledge that the true Freemason will act in civil life according to his individual judgments and the dictates of his conscience. Freemasonry naturally tends to attract those with a concern for people and a sense of social responsibility and purpose. There are members, therefore, who are involved in politics at local, national and international level.
Freemasonry and Religion
Freemasonry is not a religion, nor is it a substitute for religion. It has no theology and does not teach any route to salvation. It deals in a man’s relationship with his fellow man not in a man’s relationship with his God. Although every lodge meeting is opened and closed with a prayer and its ceremonies reflect the essential truths and moral teachings common to many of the world's great religions, no discussion of religion is permitted in Freemasonry's meetings. The one essential qualification means that Freemasonry is open to men of all religions or beliefs and it expects and encourages them to continue to practice his religion or beliefs and to regard its holy book or teachings as the unerring standard of truth. The Bible will always be present in a lodge but as the organization welcomes men of all faiths, it is called the Volume of the Sacred Law. Thus, when the Volume of the Sacred Law is referred to in ceremonies, to a non-Christian it will be the holy book of his religion or belief and to a Christian it will be the Bible.
Freemasonry and Hostility
Because of their belief in universal principles and freedoms Freemasons have been prosecuted and seen historically as threats by tyrants and despotic dictators. Intolerance towards Freemasons even emanated at one time from the Holy Roman Catholic Church. Various Roman Catholic Popes have published condemnations of Freemasonry, starting with Bull, In Eminenti, by Pope Clement XII, on 28 April, 1738. Although Roman Catholic Canon Law does not specifically mention Freemasonry, the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith of the Roman Catholic Church still views association as a serious sin. Furthermore, Freemasonry had been outlawed in Germany by Hitler and the Nazi's during WW II, by Mussolini in 1925, by Franco in Spain in 1941, suppressed by the Communists of Russia, Romania and Hungary, and in Iran by the Ayatollah Khomeini in 1979. The countries where Freemasonry openly exists are in counties that are tolerant and more or less democratic.
Obligations for Life
New members make solemn promises concerning their conduct in the lodge and society. These promises are similar to those taken in court or upon entering the armed services or many other organizations. Freemasons promise to support others in times of need, but only if that support does not conflict with their duties to God, the law, their family or with their responsibilities as a citizen.
Charity and Time
Freemasonry should not be allowed to harm a man's family or other connections by taking too much of his time or his money, or causing him to act in any way against their interests. Members are invited to give to charity but this should always be within their means and it is entirely up to the individual how much they wish to contribute. From its earliest days, Freemasonry has been concerned with the care of orphans, the sick and the aged and with educating the masses. This work continues today. In addition, large sums are given to national and local charities.
Your Own Free Will
Every man comes, of his own free will and accord, with his own individual needs and interests. One man may join so that he can associate with other men who believe that only by improving themselves can they hope to improve their society. Another man may join because he is looking for a focus for his charitable inclinations. And yet another may be attracted by a strong sense of history and tradition. All who join and become active discover a bond of brotherly affection and a community of mutual support; a practical extension of their own philosophical beliefs.
How Much and How Many
Membership fees vary from Lodge to Lodge. Anyone wishing to join Freemasonry will find a Lodge to suit his needs and means. There is an initiation fee on entry. Meetings are normally followed by a dinner and the cost will depend upon the venue and event. There is, in addition, an annual subscription. It is entirely up to the individual member what he gives to charity, but it should always be without detriment to his other responsibilities. Freemasonry is a brotherhood of over 5 million worldwide with meetings typically every single night in major cities and uniquely in many small towns globally monthly.
The Equality of Woman
Women are not invited to join recognized Freemasonry lodges. By contemporary standards it may not appear easy to justify this exclusion and most Freemasons would simply claim tradition. One might justify this exclusion, in contemporary terms, as a form of male bonding; meeting a group of like minded men from a broad social, economic and cultural background to practice a ritual derived from those practiced hundreds of years ago. If Freemasonry is a power elite then women could and should feel justifiable outrage at being excluded. Freemasonry’s goal, though, is not the consolidation of power but rather the education of good men. The only real justification is that Freemasonry actively promotes and teaches certain social freedoms, one of them being the freedom of association and secondly the freedom of equality. If Freemasons wish to associate in a male-only environment, then that is their right and privilege as free citizens. No other justification or explanation is required except this. Women are a very important part of our lives as Freemasons and without them our hearts and minds would be at a significant loss.
The Ideal of a Freemason
If you see a man who quietly and modestly moves in the sphere of his life; who, without blemish, fulfils his duty as a man, a subject, a husband and a father; who is pious without hypocrisy, benevolent without ostentation, and aids his fellow man without self-interest; whose heart beats warm for friendship, whose serene mind is open for licensed pleasures, who in vicissitudes does not despair, nor in fortune will be presumptuous, and who will be resolute in the hour of danger; the man who is free from superstition and free from infidelity; who in nature sees the finger of the Eternal Master; who feels and adores the higher destination of man; to whom faith, hope and charity are not mere words without any meaning; to whom property, nay even life, is not too dear for the protection of innocence and virtue, and for the defense of truth; the man who towards himself is a severe judge, but who is tolerant with the debilities of his neighbour; who endeavors to oppose errors without arrogance, and to promote intelligence without impatience; who properly understands how to estimate and employ his means; who honours virtue though it may be in the most humble garment, and who does not favor vice though it be clad in purple; and who administers justice to merit whether dwelling in palaces or cottages; the man who, without courting applause, is loved by all noble-minded men, respected by his superiors and revered by his subordinates; the man who never proclaims what he has done, can do, or will do, but where need is will lay hold with dispassionate courage, circumspect resolution, indefatigable exertion and a rare power of mind, and who will not cease until he has accomplished his work, and then, without pretension, will retire into the multitude because he did the good act, not for himself, but for the cause of good! If you, my friend meet such a man, you will see the personification of brotherly love, relief and truth; and you will have found the ideal of a Freemason.