June 13, 2015

What Is Freemasonry?

Freemasonry is the oldest and largest world wide fraternity dedicated to the Brotherhood of Man under the Fatherhood of a Supreme Being. Although of a religious nature, Freemasonry is not a religion. It urges its members, however, to be faithful and devoted to their own religious beliefs. In this regard, Masonry teaches its members tolerance and acceptance of each other and promotes the individual to develop the comprehension of his spiritual beliefs.

Freemasonry is organized based on a system of Grand Lodges, each sovereign within its own territory. There is no central authority governing all Grand Lodges. However, to be acknowledged by Grand Loges in other jurisdictions, and to ensure that the traditions of Ancient Free and Accepted Masonry are upheld, certain standards, practices, and ancient rituals must be maintained.

In our Province the governing body is known as the Grand Lodge of Ancient Free and Accepted Masons of Canada in the Province of Ontario. It is under the leadership of the Grand Master. He presides over 53,000 Masons who belong to one or more of the 587 lodges in our jurisdiction. Lodges are organized into geographical areas or ‘Districts’ under the leadership of a District Deputy Grand Master, who is the Grand Master’s representative to the District. Each of the lodges in the District is under the direction of a Worshipful Master.

What It Does

As a fraternity, Freemasonry provides an opportunity for men to meet and enjoy friendly companionship. In the spirit of helpfulness and brotherly love and guided by strict moral principles it encourages goodwill toward all mankind. Freemasonry is of a personal nature in its private ceremonies. Its ritual dramatizes a philosophy of life based on morality. It promotes self improvement. The tools of operative masons are used to symbolize and teach the basic principles of brotherly love, charity, and truth which Masons are encouraged to practice in their daily lives. Charity is a tangible way in which Masons help those whose circumstances in life fairly warrant it.

Historical Background

Our traditions can be traced directly to the associations of operative masons. They were men of outstanding character and high ideals, who built the cathedrals, abbeys, and castles of the Middle Ages. The beginnings of modern Freemasonry are generally attributed to the year 1717, although there are a number of historical references to the existence of lodges dating as far back as the early 1300s and beyond.

With the decline of cathedral building in the 17th Century, many guilds of stonemasons, called “Operative” masons, started to accept into their membership those who were not members of the masons’ craft and called them “Speculative” or “Accepted” masons.

It was in these groups, called lodges, comprised mainly of “Accepted” masons that Freemasonry, as we know it today, had its beginning.

In 1717, four such lodges, which had been meeting regularly in London, united to form the first Grand Lodge of England under the direction of a Grand Master. From that first Grand Lodge, Freemasonry has spread throughout the world. Today, some 150 Grand Lodges have a total membership of approximately four million Masons.

Membership

One of Freemasonry’s principal rules forbids the solicitation of members. However, anyone should feel comfortable about approaching any Mason to seek further information about the Craft, and the benefits of membership.

Membership in Masonry is to men, 21 years of age or older, who meet the qualifications and standards of character and reputation, who are of good moral character, and who believe in the existence of a supreme being.

A man who wants to join a lodge must be recommended by two members of that lodge. He must understand that his application for membership will be investigated. Upon approval by the members of that lodge, he will be accepted as a candidate for initiation into Freemasonry.

The doors of Freemasonry are open to men who seek harmony with their fellow man, feel the need for self-improvement, and wish to participate in making this world a better place to live.

Any man who becomes a Mason is taught a pattern for living – reverence, morality, kindness, honesty, dependability and compassion. He must be prepared to honour his country, uphold its laws and respect those in authority. He must be prepared to maintain honourable relations with others and be willing to share in Masonic activities. Freemasonry is a way of life.

To Be One, Ask One