Freemasonry is the oldest and largest fraternal organization in the world. Put at its simplest, it is a universal society of friends who seek to become better people through their association with each other. We are not a secret society! A secret society is generally one that wraps itself in a cloak of absolute secrecy. That means no one knows who the members are, where they meet, what they do or what they stand for. Masonry may have "secrets", but it is not a secret society. Masonic secrets are few in number, and deal with the general method of initiation, the ways we recognize each other, and very little else. These parts of the ritual, which are called the esoteric side of Masonry, have been handed down by word of mouth for centuries.
Freemasonry is not a religion, though many Christian ideals are important to Masons. It is what Masons term a "Fraternal Order" whose basic tenants are Brotherly Love, Truth and Relief. Brotherly Love requires that masons be tolerant, respectful, kind and understanding. Relief refers to the practice of charity and commitment to other forms of philanthropy and to Truth. For example, Masons are reminded at Lodge to "meet upon the level of equality, act by the plumb of uprightness, and part upon the square of virtue".
Freemasonry is not meant in any way to interfere with an individual's commitment to his faith, family or occupation. Freemasonry is not, and never can be, a replacement for these important institutions; rather, it is a positive environment that reminds every Mason of himself, his family, community and the Supreme Architect (an individual's own definition of a Supreme Being).
Being a Freemason means possessing a belief that there is a divine intelligence that governs the working of the universe. Freemasonry has no doctrines or dogmas as such or any political or religious affiliations. Rather it is a system of morality which is veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols with implications for a way of living that leads to self-improvement through service to the world. These are the ways by which moral and ethical truths are taught.
Most masons believe that the modern story of the movement began with the stonemasons, builders of Europe's greatest cathedrals. Member masons were craftsmen who banded together to practice what masons today call "the operative art" of masonry. They were an elite class that could travel freely between countries; hence the term freemason.
There was a profound change Freemasonry that came about in the eighteenth century; during the period of history known as the Enlightenment, when lodges began to accept members who were not stonemasons. Because of this many lodges now dub themselves "speculative" rather than "operative", dealing in ideas and the formation of ideals rather than stone. It is those ideals which govern masonry today.
The most important symbols of Masonry are the Bible, the Square and the Compasses. The Volume of Sacred Law sheds light on the Masons duty to the Supreme Being, the Square illustrates the duty to his fellow Masons and to society, and the Compasses provide the light necessary to understand the duties he owes to himself; to circumscribe his passions and keep desires within bounds.
One of the most visible signs of Masonic membership is the white leather apron. It is the perpetual symbol of Masonic affiliation. Whatever a Mason does and wherever he goes, the Apron serves to remind him of his duties and obligations. It is also a symbolic reminder to him to do his duty to God, his Country, his Neighbors and his Family.
There is no one better than Brother Benjamin Franklin to explain Freemasonry. View the video below, then click here to find out how to become a Free Mason.