Freemasonry is grounded in three specific virtues which are at the core of Masonic teachings. Are these virtues really at the core of the Masonic connection to faith, religion and the divine?
These three virtues are the foundations upon which Freemasonry is built.
Brotherly Love as directed towards all mankind and especially to other Masons. Relief, in that every Mason is obligated to relieve the suffering of any Master Mason they encounter who is in dire need, and if in their power to do so, to the best of their ability, Also to act charitably towards society, giving of themselves to better the common good. And Truth, which is represented by the Divine in its multiplicity and diversity, as understood by all men.
These three ideas represent the core upon which Freemasonry focuses in its ultimate distillation, in that Freemasonry does not hold one faith above another, rather seeing faith itself as the common denominator between all of faiths.
A common connection with Freemasonry is that it is a patriotic organization. While it suggests certain attributes of patriotism, the multi-national spread of the fraternity would suggest something other than a direct form of nationalistic adherence.
So then, is Freemasonry a patriotic body?
The answer is a challenging one. Simply put, it is and it isn’t.
The aims of Freemasonry are not specifically to embolden specific patriotism. It does, however, promote a strong affinity towards, and a passionate adherence to the nation in which the Freemason resides. It encourages more than a passive interest in the development of civil society and our roles as citizens in it.
The patriotism that is displayed is the result of that interest in the well-being of society itself. The fraternity does strongly encourage the adherence to and following of the principles and laws of the country in which the member resides.
In this episode we look at a reading of Frank C. Higgins from The Beginning of Masonry. In this piece, Higgins explores the philosophical relationship of God and Freemasonry.
There is no place in Masonry for dogmatic controversy affecting the current convictions of brethren of the craft. In its highest contemplation, Freemasonry solely regards and addresses itself to the “Great Architect of the Universe,” respecting the Names under which this Unique Identity is apostrophized in every clime, by every race, and by every school of thought.
There are no religious differences attached to the adoption of the Supreme Being. Men differ alone with respect to some of His manifestations of love and solicitude for humanity, making claims to an exclusiveness in one respect or another, which are too often the outgrowth of fast-vanishing racial isolation and the diverse trends of thought consequent upon differences of origin, climate, and environment.
In quibbling over these differences, so frequently the result of misunderstandings of identical premises, viewed from diverging angles, men are too prone to forget that the goodness and providence of Almighty God is forever pouring in a mighty deluge upon us, manifesting itself unceasingly and impartially in everything that either experience or can be experienced. From the selfish standpoint of the unintelligent ego, each individual is alternately blessed with satisfactions and cursed with deprivations or distresses, the extremes predominating in many instances without apparent reason. Many of the ancient philosophers, therefore, taught that man could attain supreme contentment only by realizing his identity with the All. Sensing this, he perceived the resistless operation of the great laws of Being, in perfect poise, harmony, and impartiality, requiring only to be heeded for man to escape the evils and enjoy the benefits thereof during his allotted term, the accidents and mishaps befalling him not being subject to the caprices of an unpropitious Ruler, but consequent upon his own unguarded collisions with unchangeable law.
There are no religious differences attached to the adoption of the Supreme Being.
Therefore, the whole problem of human life became the attainment of greater and ever greater knowledge of the natural law, upon which all progress and all security to life and happiness depended in so eminent a degree, and the divine gift of the reasoning faculties, which rendered the possible, was appreciated as God’s most precious blessing to man. Thousands of years of experiment and ceaseless vigilance on the part of eager watchers have never resulted in the detection of a single principle so unrelated to the rest of the universal machine as to have no dependence upon it. Even where the wonders of science have disclosed marvels so intricate as to baffle explanation or analysis, they have at least proved so entirely subject to certain conditions of known factors as to be easily provoked into manifestation or suppressed from view, at the will of man.
Year by year, day by day, hour by hour, minute by minute, the infinite details of this great cosmic-pervading law keep on unfolding to human perception, filling all space with their greatness and mocking pursuit in their ultra-microscopic perfections and yet nothing is discovered that had not existed ages before the human mind began to concern itself with its intricacies. The capacity of mind to see and understand has limitations and history-that of which it takes cognizance through the medium of the senses-is limitless and without historical beginning or end.
Every past age has attempted to place bounds upon that which it is legitimate for man to know or think he knows about the origin and constitution of the wonders about him. Each era has closed its book of human knowledge with a flaming “Finis” at the end of an ultimate chapter, and yet the dawn of every other day has ushered in new wonders, new visions, and new truths.
“Dogma” is the name given to all these futile finalities which do not finish, to the barbed wire entanglements and chevaux de frise set by each generation at the limit of its attainments, in the vain thought that the “End” had been achieved.
In most cases dogmas will be found to revolve round the privilege of classes to rule masses, irrespective of the fact that part of the cosmic law is as sure and continual an oxygenation of the sea of humanity by waves of upheaval as is manifest in seas of water, in which that which is the sluggish depth of today may be the foam-crested wave of tomorrow. Yet the mind of man, framed in the image of the Creator, even as the receiver of an acoustic instrument must be attuned to the vibrations of the transmitter, that the message may be received as it is sent, has discovered constant and unchanging elements in this stupendous order of varied manifestations, has discovered chaos-banishing laws which must be the same in an atom as in a sun, and so may be exhibited in symbols of dimensions convenient to the stature of contemplative man.
Such are the symbols of Freemasonry – evidences of the truth attributed to Triple-great Hermes, the mystic founder of our craft, that “that which is above may be discovered by examination of that which is below.”
The Masonic student may concern himself with every branch of research that is capable of throwing light upon the causes that have led men to crystallize their perceptions of immutable law in emblems and symbols. He may pursue each of the various paths of investigation indicated by the obscure phraseology of ritual until he emerges into the full blaze of Masonic light embracing its fundamental truth. He may unravel the intricacies of ancient philosophies and mythologies, in order to convince himself of their ultimate source in the fountain of revealed wisdom, and he may set his own value upon anthropomorphisms or the embodiment of attributes and principles in fleshly guise, so that what really are the play of natural forces, the sport of the elements, the cycles of worlds, are described in terms taken from the vocabulary of human life. Yet, with all this, he may not consciously offend his brother, by striking at the latter’s highest individual spiritual contemplation in a humor of disdain or ridicule. Each mind is a universe in little, a cell of the universe in great, one as eternal as the other, and subject to the same law of gradual unfoldment. Some day we shall all know the intricate and the complicated as we at present know that which is simple and few of parts; but of the infinite aggregate, the unfathomable indivisible total, our Masonry teaches us the value.
In this episode, we explore the meaning of the Free and Accepted which first occurs in the Roberts Print of 1722, a term applied in the symbolic allegories to the builders of Solomon’s Temple.
Mackey, in his Encyclopedia of Freemasonry, say:
The title “Free and Accepted” first occurs in the Roberts Print of 1722, which is headed The Old Constitutions belonging to the Ancient and Honorable Society of Free and Accepted Masons, and was adopted by Dr. Anderson in the second edition of the Book of Constitutions, published in 1738, the title of which is The New Book of Constitutions of the Antient and Honorable Fraternity of Free and Accepted Masons. In the first edition of 1723 the title was, The Constitutions of the Freemasons. The newer title continued to be used by the Grand Lodge of England, in which it was followed by those of Scotland and Ireland; and a majority of the Grand Lodges in this country have adopted the same style, and call themselves Grand Lodges of Free and Accepted Masons. The old lectures formerly used in England give the following account of the origin of the term:
“The Masons who were selected to build the Temple of Solomon were declared FREE and were exempted, together with their descendants, from imposts, duties, and taxes. They had also the privilege to bear arms. At the destruction of the Temple by Nebuchadnezzar, the posterity of these Masons were carried into captivity with the ancient Jews. But the good-will of Cyrus gave them permission to erect a second Temple, having set them at liberty for that purpose. It is from this epoch that we bear the name of Free and Accepted Masons.”
In this episode, we explore the significance of Geometry as it relates to Freemasonry. An old attribution, its scientific and philosophical connections hold greater resonance than its computational counterparts with paper and pen.
In the modern rituals, geometry is said to be the basis on which the superstructure of Masonry is erected; and in the Old Constitutions of the Medieval Freemasons of England the most prominent place of all the sciences is given to geometry, which is made synonymous with Masonry. Thus, in the Regius MS., which dates not later than the latter part of the fourteenth century, the Constitutions of Masonry are called “the Constitutions of the art of geometry according to Euclid,” the words geometry and Masonry being used indifferently throughout the document; and in the Harleian No . 2054 MS. it is said, “thus the craft Geometry was governed there, and that worthy Master (Euclid) gave it the name of Geometry, and it is called Masonrie in this land long after.” In another art of the same MS. it is thus defined: “The fifth science is called Geometry and it teaches a man to mete and measure of the earth and other things, which science is Masonrie.”
The Egyptians were undoubtedly one of the first nations who cultivated geometry as a science. “It was not less useful and necessary to them,” as Goguet observes (Orig. des Lois., I., iv., 4), “in the affairs of life, than agreeable to their speculatively philosophical genus.” From Egypt, which was the parent both of the sciences and the mysteries of the Pagan world, it passed over into other countries; and geometry and Operative Masonry have ever been found together, the latter carrying into execution those designs which were first traced according to the principles of the former.
Speculative Masonry is, in like manner, intimately connected with geometry. In deference to our operative ancestors, and, in fact, as a necessary result of our close connection with them, Speculative Freemasonry derives its most important symbols from this parent science. Hence it is not strange that Euclid, the most famous of geometricians, should be spoken of in all the Old Records as a founder of Masonry in Egypt, and that a special legend should have been invented in honor of his memory.
In this episode we look at the definition of what the masonic apron represents. Of the many emblems of Freemasonry, none is more iconic that the lambskin apron.
Alien outside of the lodge, under the tiled lodge it represents the totality of what it means to be a Mason. It’s said to be more noble than the Roman Eagle or the Golden Fleece, the Masonic apron is literally, the badge of a mason carried with him into the next existence.
Albert Mackey, in his Encyclopedia of Freemasonry, says of the apron:
There is no one of the symbols of Speculative Masonry more important in its teachings, or more interesting in its history, than the lambskin, or white leather apron. Commencing its lessons at an early period in the Mason’s progress, it is impressed upon his memory as the first gift which he receives, the first symbol which is explained to him, and the first tangible evidence which he possesses of his admission. Whatever may be his future advancement in the “royal art,” into whatsoever deeper arcana his devotion to the mystic institution or his thirst for knowledge may subsequently lead him, with the lambskin apron — his first investiture — he never parts. Changing, perhaps, its form and its decorations, and conveying at each step some new but still beautiful allusion, its substance is still there, and it continues to claim the honored title by which it was first made known to him, on the night of his initiation, as “the badge of a Mason.”
In this episode of Symbols and Symbols we examine the Masonic symbol of the beehive, a symbol that Mackey, in his Encyclopedia of Freemasonry, calls a symbol of an obedient people. In masonic parlance, the symbol is more recognizable as an emblem industry. The Master Mason degree says of the beehive that it is an emblem of industry, and “recommends the practice of that virtue to all created beings, from the highest seraph in heaven to the lowest reptile of the dust.” Yet, as Mackey explains, the emblem is much, much, more.
A symbol that Albert Mackey, in his Encyclopedia of Freemasonry, says “was among the Egyptians the symbol of an obedient people”, because, as he quotes Horapollo, “…of all insects, the bee alone had a king,” what we know now to be a queen. Mackey continues “Hence looking at the regulated labor of these insects when congregated in their hive, it is not surprising that a beehive should have been deemed an appropriate emblem of systematized industry. Freemasonry has therefore adopted the beehive as a symbol of industry, a virtue taught in the instructions, which says that a Master Mason” works that he may receive wages, the better to support himself and family, and contribute to the relief of a worthy, distressed brother, his widows and orphans. In the Old Charges, which tell us that “…all Masons shall work honestly on working days, that they may live creditably on holidays.”
There seems, however, to be a more recondite meaning connected with this symbol. The ark has already been shown to have been an emblem common to Freemasonry and the Ancient Mysteries, as a symbol of regeneration—of the second birth from death to life. Now, in the Mysteries, a hive was a type of ark. “Hence,” says Faber (Origin of Pagan Idolatry, volume ii, page 133), “both the diluvian priestesses and the regenerated souls were called bees; hence, bees were feigned to be produced from the carcass of a cow, which also symbolized the ark; and hence, as the great father was esteemed an infernal god, honey was much used both in funeral rites and in the Mysteries.”
In this episode of Masonic Symbols and Symbolism, we explore the symbolism behind the Volume of Sacred Law as used in Freemasonry. Few elements are as contentious as this “indispensable book” in the lodge. Perhaps because of the diversity of faiths who claim ownership of the “one true religion…” Whatever the case, Freemasonry being the religion upon which all men agree. So which Volume of the Sacred Law is the right one?
What holy book does your lodge place on the altar? Let us know in the comments below.
Taken from The Builder magazine from 1920, it says “As the Trestle Board is for the Master to lay lines and draw designs on to enable the brethren to carry on the intended structure with regularity and propriety, so the Volume of the Sacred Law may justly be deemed the spiritual trestle board of the Great Architect of the Universe in which are laid down such divine laws and mortal precepts that were we conversant therewith and adherent thereto they would bring us to an ethereal mansion not built with hands but one eternal in the heavens.”
The Volume of the Sacred Law is considered one of the landmarks of Freemasonry and Albert Mackey, in his Encyclopedia of Freemasonry, defines it as “an indispensable part of the furniture of every Lodge.” “Advisedly,” he says, “a Book of the Law, because it is not absolutely required that everywhere the Old and New Testaments.”
Mackey goes on to say, “The Book of the Law is that volume which, by the religion of the country, is believed to contain the revealed will of the Grand Architect of the Universe. Hence, in all Lodges in Christian countries, the Book of the Law is composed of the Old and New Testaments; in a country where Judaism was the prevailing faith, the Old Testament alone would be sufficient; and in Islamic countries, the Koran might be substituted.
Masonry does not attempt to interfere with the particular religious faith of its disciples, except so far as relates to the belief in the existence of God, and what necessarily results from that belief. The Book of the Law is, to the speculative Mason, his spiritual Trestle board; without this he cannot labor; whatever he believes to be the revealed will of the Grand Architect constitutes for him this spiritual Trestleboard, and must ever be before him in his hours of speculative labor, to be the rule and guide of his conduct. The Landmark, therefore, requires that a Book of the Law, a religious code of some kind, purporting to be an exemplar of the revealed will of God, shall form in essential part of the furniture of every Lodge.”
In its most distilled essence, one could interpret the idea of the Book of Law, as an amalgam of all sacred texts (in so far as all faiths are represented) or, as in some iterations of Freemasonry, as a blank book that is emblematic of all faiths including non-traditional acknowledgements of agnostics, hermetic, pagan or even perhaps atheism.
The modern incarnation of Freemasonry dates to around 1717, but, was that truly the beginning of the “ancient” and honorable fraternity?
The history of modern Freemasonry is fairly understood, going back to roughly the 1700’s. Beyond that point in time, information starts to become less available. Their are some documents and notable figures prior to that point in time, such as the Regius/Halliwell poem, and notables like Elias Ashmole, but no certifiable records exist to demonstrate organized activity as we have today.
One of the virtues of Freemasonry is that its study and practice allow members to explore this topic, and at times travel outside the bounds of connections typically explored in mainstream history. Some Masonic historians have attempted to draw connections to the Knights Templar, the Rosicrucian’s, Jewish Kabbalah traditions, Hermetica, Alchemy, Christian Mysticism, and to much further back to the precursor Essenes at the time of Jesus. These explorations have been considered in both the past and present Masonic scholarship to varying degrees of acceptance, but many points of contention remain.
In present day, Freemasonry has little changed in the preced-ing 200 years since the founding of the United Grand Lodge of England, and is modeled in a system that was likely little changed for the 150 years prior to that. It is believed that the working aspects of Freemasonry, the form and function of the lodge, comes from the stone working guilds of the European Renaissance and middle ages which, over time as that trade profession became less specialized, attracted new members of non practicing “speculative masons.”
From that shift, the present day fraternity moved from an “operative” guild to a “speculative” one in that the function of the lodge turned to the allegorical and symbolic meanings of the stone masons and less about the physical operation. These changes have evolved to shape the look and feel of modern lodge operation today.
What is Freemasonry hiding? Is there some great mystery at work in the secret workings of the Masonic Lodge? Why are Freemasons so Secretive?
Many masons will not answer questions about the fraternity as they believe it is supposed to be a secret. In the end this becomes a loss for the fraternity as any time someone asks a question about Masonry, it’s a great opportunity to talk openly about it.
A common reaction to this idea is that Masonry is a “Society with Secrets”, rather than a “Secret Society”, but this is equally confusing. There are aspects to Freemasonry that are kept and taught to only those who go through the initiations and ceremonies so as to keep them in a proper perspective and contextual meaning. These aspects are not secrets but instead knowledge that is best communicated in a specific and concise manner.
Many of the secrets have been published and written about, in many instances by Freemasons themselves, but the foundations of the teachings can be found throughout the spectrum of faiths and philosophical teachings of the past and present. It is in the process of their teaching that it could be best suggested where they are truly secret.