Masonic Charity is a myth.

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to participate in a Multiple Sclerosis 5k Walk-A-Thon here in Los Angeles.  My family worked to raise a modest amount of money for the fight against MS and we wanted to walk to show our dedication to the cause.  We walked because we cared.

The event was early with a 9am check in and a 10am start. There were a lot of free bagels, free t-shirts, and participants, a lot of participants.  I thought I overhead the number as 16,000 participating in the regions events and with a column of people nearly a mile long where I stood.  It felt like a big event.

Being amongst such a large group allowed me to make some mental notes and draw parallels to other aspects of my life that I find myself in the company of people of similar ideals.  The event gave me pause to stop and contemplate the awesome power of Masonic Charity.  That in amongst this retinue of walkers, with their team shirts and color coordinated bandanas, that to see a troop of Masonic walkers with a banner in the air to rally the team spirit of the crew and lead the fellowship of the dedicated would be a sight to behold.

But, then I started to think about how asking for charitable contributions in lodge for Non Masonic recipients is against our rules, and that the measure of Masonic charity is in the volume of monies raised to beat another lodge in how much was given to the homes fund.  That the idea of Masonic Charity is the institutional brand of what that charity means… not in what worthy causes we find or believe we should levy our oratory skills to convince others.  That, unless it’s an “official” charity, its not of value to elicit the help of our local lodge.  And, I don’t even know how to approach the changing of the will of the lodge to even contemplate doing something like this.

It started to occur to me that Masonic Charity was a myth.  That we are told to be charitable, and then guided in what works to be Charitable towards, but to leave our specific cause or need at the door so as not to offend the membership in yet another request of money.

Thinking about Masonic charity as a myth started to open up the whole field of Masonic education.  Is it something we were taught or something we do because we are told to?  What was Brotherly Love, Relief, and Truth anyways?  And, in the early morning hours of the Walk with so many others who obviously were expressing their idea of “relief”, what made my Masonic ideal any loftier than theirs?  Obviously they were up, and out, and had raised a sum of money to help fight to relieve the illness of M.S.  Was my conception of “Charity” any better than theirs?  Was it just different?

How do we envision our aspect of Charity?  I can go into the argument of our charity truly being an agape form of loving others rather than the expression (giving) of it, but we measure the giving today not the volume of how much we love.  Is it fair to hold Masonic Charity up to be measured against the temple?

Is Masonic Charity a Myth?

Posted in Masonic Traveler and tagged .

A devoted student of the Western Mystery Traditions, Greg is a firm believer in the Masonic connections to the Hermetic traditions of antiquity, its evolution through the ages and into its present configuration as the antecedent to all contemporary esoteric and occult traditions. He is a self-called searcher for that which was lost, a Hermetic Hermit and a believer in “that which is above is so too below.” Read more about Greg Stewart.


  1. Speaking solely for the brethren of upstate South Carolina, charity is not a myth nor checked at the door. There is no rule, unwritten or otherwise, that prohibits helping non-masonic groups or individuals. The 32 lodges in my county contribute annually to several non-masonic charities. We offer money for college scholarships, financially support several clothing and food banks, and provide gifts, clothing and food during the holidays for poor or distressed families. All this in addition to our usual Masonic charities.

    I would venture to say that many brethren in my jurisdiction consider it their duty as men and masons to help others, without regard to honor or recognition.

    David Ervin
    District Deputy Grand Master
    21st Masonic District
    Grand Lodge of Ancient Free Masons of SC

  2. Quote: to see a troop of Masonic walkers with a banner in the air to rally the team spirit of the crew and lead the fellowship of the dedicated would be a sight to behold

    Why? Do we need the publicity? What’s wrong with the old ways, of quietly helping someone in need? Isn’t that Masonic charity?

    Masonry is an institution that gives members the tools to make lives better, then told to go out in the world and do it. That includes matters of monetary charity. Masonry is not a service club which donates to each and every cause, making sure to have a big photo of grinning members holding a cheque to let the world know what great people we are. A Freemason is free to support the charity of his choice. There’s nothing preventing him from joining the kind of organisation which is designed to go marching with banners getting noticed. And there’s nothing preventing him from helping a bro. who is on some kind of drive for his pet charity. It’s an individual’s own decision he makes freely.

    There’s nothing wrong with a Lodge picking a charitible endeavour and assisting. But whose pet charity is it going to pick? Everyone’s? Is that practical? No doubt that’s why some Grand Lodges created their own, supported for and by Masons only. Part of the idea of a fraternity is helping each other in time of need because no one else is going to.


  3. Justa, I see your point and agree with you in some respects, but do have a few comments to your points.

    Do we need the publicity?

    Yes, but not in the manner in which you are thinking. We don’t need billboards or television commercials, or other forms of blatant publicity, but living our word woudl go miles further than a sign on a highway.

    What’s wrong with the old ways of quietly helping someone in need?

    Nothing, if that is the length of your desire to give, and any brother engaged in it would be fulfilling his mandate of being a contributor to the growth of the social good. That is Masonic Charity, but then another question in the post was how is Masonic Charity any different than any other charity? Is it merely charity in another name?

    You are correct that Masonry is not a service club, to donate to each and every cause, that we ARE encouraged to be charitable giving where we individually desire to give. We can choose to help a brother in distress, walk in a charitable parade, do both, or neither, but that still does not answer the question of then how are the two different? Does it matter if they are not different? Can both be equally as charitable, relieving mankind?

    Your last point seems to suggest that the fraternity is an insurance club though, that the fraternity is to assist one another in time of need. The proverbial “Your in good hands”, but is that really the case?

    What I noticed in being a part of this organizations event was that charity is no longer the forte of Freemasonry when juxtaposed to events like the one I attended. That the givers (of time, energy and money) were motivated, interested, and eager to participate. There was a purpose, something I don’t feel that Masonic charity communicates.


  4. Br. David,

    I’m glad to read that Charity is alive and active in your area.

    I think your final thought is spot on for the lessons we teach. To be charitable no matter the cause.

  5. Br. David,

    I also agree with your final thought and feel the same way about the brothers in my mother lodge that they, “consider it their duty as men and masons to help others, without regard to honor or recognition.”

    Masonry is not a service club but this does not necessarily mean that we can not be more charitable to outside causes. To the masonictravelor I ask, have you ever brought up your suggestion to help out another charity in open lodge? I’m sure that you would have the ears of the brethren.

  6. Dear Brother,

    Thank you for sharing your article, what I have learned in my lodge and from my readings is that together I and my Brothers, “we” are our lodge. What we do is who and what we are. Your point is well made and I am glad you made it, we must lead by our examples regardless of what others may do in our lodge or other lodges. As Master Mason’s we are taught to question with reason and logic, and do what is just and right with love in our hearts.

    Is this not the lesson of charity? If our Brothers or our lodge strays we must guide them with our patience and example. I don’t think Masonic Charity is a myth, it is upto us, our duty to shine a light upon it’s face with our work no matter who may benefit from our efforts, so that others may see what Masonic Charity looks like, as all Brother’s strive to do.

    Brother Rahul K. Razdan
    SD, Osiris Pentalpha Lodge #23

  7. You are confusing the English word “charity” with the Latin word “caritas”. Masons are to have caritas, and if that manifests itself as charity, so be it.

    In most Grand Lodge jurisdictions in the USA, Amos, Chapter 7, verses 7-8 are read during the Fellowcraft degree, but in Massachusetts, First Corinthians, Chapter 13 is read. It is worth reading this chapter to see what is meant by caritas. The King James Bible translates caritas as “charity”, hence the confusion.

    Some European lodges refer to their Festive Boards as “Agape”, a Greek word akin to the Latin word “caritas”.

    Briefly, there are four kinds of love (while this is a Christian tradition, it appears in Plato’s Symposium): Storge, or affection, is love of family. Philia, or friendship, is a love of people sharing a common activity. Eros is being in love, and Caritas, or Agape, is a selfless, abounding love for our fellows. The Christians believe that God loves us with Caritas, and similar attitudes can be found in the Hebrew, Platonic, and Muslim traditions, as well as others I’m not familiar with. Masons are called upon to regard their fellows with Caritas. It is easy to regard our brothers with Philia, but masonry expects more of us.

    If this Caritas we feel compels us to aid and assist others, so be it. We are explicitly required to help a distressed Brother, his widow and orphans, but as long as we are feeling caritas, we are free to express that caritas as we see fit.

    The esoteric tradition talks about these ideas a lot, for example, in Wilmshurst.

  8. I think the problem is that too many brothers do not understand what charity means. It does not mean putting together or participating in a fund raiser. It is a personal committment to assist those who are in need, either mason or non-mason.
    BTW, it is not un-masonic in Nebraska for a lodge to contribute to non-masonic activities

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