in a world torn by strife and divided by so many feuds of race, religion and
nationality, we have a right to rejoice in a fellowship, at once free, gentle
and refining, which spans all distances of space and all differences of speech,
and brings men together by a common impulse and inspiration in mutual respect
and brotherly regard. Truly it needs no philosopher to discern that such a
fraternity, the very existence of which is a fact eloquent beyond words, is an
influence for good no one can measure in the present, and a prophecy for the
future the meaning of which no one can reckon; and doubly so because by its very
genius Freemasonry is international, and therefore ought to be responsive to the
ideal world of fellowship.
words, written in the early part of this century by the late Brother John Fort
Newton of the Grand Lodge of Iowa, are as true today as they were then. Rising
from the mists of antiquity to the present day, many myths, legends and facts
have relating to the purpose, aims, objectives and validity of Freemasonry. It
is useful to look broadly at them and place them in a proper perspective.
who desire to develop a greater understanding of Masonic history and teachings
are aware of, and well served by, Lodges of Research all over the world. The
oldest and most eminent is the Quator Coronati Lodge No. 2076 EC, London, the
Premier Lodge of Research. Its transactions, Ars Quatuor Coronatorum (AQC),
have been published annually since 1886.
who genuinely seek knowledge concerning the Order can readily obtain it from
talking to a Freemason, or find almost unlimited material in any good public
a commencement point in this discussion, let the myth that Freemasonry is a
secret society be exploded - it is not. Freemasons proudly acknowledge their
membership of the Masonic Order, its Constitutions and Rules are freely
available, their transactions regularly cover the globe, and there is no secrecy
about any of the aims and principles of Freemasonry. Like many societies,
Freemasonry regards its internal affairs as a private matter for its members.
Even so, the only matters that are really intended to be ‘secret’ are its
traditional modes of recognition. It has been said that the only real
‘secret’ about Freemasonry is that it is no secret at all.
Freemasons have a vague idea that Freemasonry, as we know it, can be traced back
to King Solomon, the ancient pyramids of Egypt, or some ancient mystery or rite.
The late Brother Harry Carr, PJGD, EC, an eminent English Masonic authority,
states emphatically that the first Masonic trade organisation of ‘operative’
Masons (when Masons earned their living with hammer and chisel) was in 1356, and
this organisation started as a result of what we would now call a demarcation
dispute, between mason hewers who cut the stone, and the mason layers and
setters who actually built the walls. A simple code of regulations was drawn up
in a document which still survives. Within twenty years the organisation became
the London Masons Company, the first trade guild of Masons and one of the direct
ancestors of Freemasonry today. Other guilds became established. These guilds
were not lodges, but the Masons who were engaged on really big projects (such as
castles, abbeys, churches( formed themselves into Lodges so that they had some
form of self-government.
concerning the earliest lodges comes to us from a collection of documents known
as ‘The Old Charges’ - the Regius MS. C.
1390, the Cooke MS c.
1410, and some 130 versions of these running
through to the eighteenth century, including the important Sloane MS c.
1700 and the Graham MS
1726. From these early beginnings we come to 1717 when the first Grand Lodge was
founded, in England. As Freemasons are aware, from 1751 until 1813 there were
two rival Grand Lodges in England - the original (‘The Moderns’), and the
rival (‘The Antients’). In 1813 these two Grand Lodges merged to become the
United Grand Lodge of England, and it is fair to say that the basic pattern of
Australian Masonry today follows the ritual and procedures that were approved
upon that union.
can accept the foregoing as fact by virtue of documented evidence. We may now
turn briefly to the myth and legend which have affected the rituals and beliefs
inherent in Freemasonry.
the art of building, began many thousands of years ago, from the dawn of
civilisation. Man has always been a builder, and wherever a civilisation has
existed we find the remains and crumbling
ruins of towers, temples, tombs and monuments, originally erected by the
industry of human beings; and these invariably have some mark or monument
bespeaking a vivid sense of the Unseen, and the builder’s awareness of his
relation to it.
Masonic art of building probably reached its greatest peak in the erection of
temples and cathedrals. Ruskin, in his Seven Lamps of Architecture, argues
that the laws of architecture are moral laws, that there are two sets of
realities - the material and the spiritual - so interwoven that the practical
laws are exponents of moral laws.
discovery of the square was a great event to the primitive mystics of the Nile
and very early it became an emblem of truth, justness and righteousness, which
it remains to this day. So too, the cube, compasses, triangle and keystone,
while the tools which fashioned these, the level, plumbrule, pencil, skirret,
chisel, mallet, gavel and 24-inch gauge, have attracted to themselves symbolisms
of the laws of the Eternal.
made probably the greatest discovery ever made - that human nature is universal.
It has been found that races far removed from each other by space, distance and
time, but at roughly the same stage of culture, have used the same or similar
symbols to express their thoughts, hopes and aspirations. The outstanding
example, as ancient as it is eloquent, is the idea of the trinity and its
emblem, the triangle. When the social life of man becomes the prism of faith,
God is a trinity of Father, Mother, Child. Almost as old as human thought, we
find the idea of trinity, and its triangle emblem everywhere - the two best
known examples being Siva, Vishnu and Brahma in India corresponding to Osiris,
Isis and Horus in Egypt.
triangle, cross and circle are the oldest symbols of humanity and, as symbols
do, point beyond themselves to an invisible truth which they seek to embody.
Sometimes we find them united, the square within the circle, and within that the
triangle, and at the centre the cross. These earliest of emblems indicate the
highest faith and philosophy, betraying not only the unity of the human mind but
its kinship with the Eternal - the fact that lies at the root of every religion.
virtues of faith, hope and charity, embodying love in its broadest sense, and
the four cardinal virtues of temperance, fortitude, prudence and justice, are
enshrined in Masonic lore. The various symbols which have become associated with
Freemasonry through the centuries all fortify in one way or another these
this point, let it be acknowledged that Freemasonry is not a religion - neither
is it a creed or sect, nor a substitute for religion.
this regard it is again pertinent to quote from the late Brother John Fort
this confusion (about Freemasonry being a religion) results from a
misunderstanding of what religion is. Religions are many; religion is one -
perhaps we may say one thing, but that one thing includes everything - the life
of God in the soul of man, which finds expression in all the forms which life
and love and duty take. The church has no monopoly on religion. The soul of man
is greater than all dogmas and more enduring than all institutions. Masonry
seeks to free men from a limiting conception of religion, and thus remove one of
the chief causes of sectarianism. It is itself one of the forms of beauty
wrought by the human soul under the inspiration of the Eternal Beauty, and as
such is religious. Many fine minds have been estranged from the Church, not
because they were irreligious, but because they were required to believe what it
was impossible for them to believe; and, rather than sacrifice their integrity
of soul, they have turned away from the last place from which a man should ever
turn away. No part of the ministry of Masonry is more beautiful and wise in its
appeal, not for tolerance, but for fraternity; mot for uniformity, but for unity
of spirit amidst variety of outlook and opinion. Instead of criticising Masonry,
let us thank God for one altar where no man is asked to surrender his liberty of
thought and become an indistinguishable atom in the mass of sectarian
agglomeration. What a witness to the worth of the Order that it brings together
men of all creeds on behalf of those truths which are greater than all sects,
deeper than all doctrines - the glory and the hope of man! The lessons of
Freemasonry are based upon the Volume of the Sacred Law, whilst it is founded on
the principles of the brotherhood of man under the Fatherhood of God, and the
acknowledgment of a Supreme Being. It has preserved the right of each individual
soul to its own religious faith; it does not compete with any religion and holds
itself aloof from all sects and creeds whilst it requires its members to
tolerate, revere and respect, or at least regard with clarity, that which its
fellows hold sacred. Masonry does not divide men, it unites them, leaving every
man free to think his own thought and fashion his own system of ultimate truth.
All its emphasis rests upon two extremely simple and profound principles - love
of God and love of man. Therefor all through the ages it has been, and is today,
a meeting place of differing minds, and a prophecy of the final union of all
reverent and devout souls.
Brother Reverend Neville Barker Cryer, in his outstanding paper, ‘The
Churches Concern with Freemasonry’ came to ‘conclusions’ which are
eminently sound, but two in particular are of note -
1…one of the essential landmarks of the Craft should constantly be the
assertion that Freemasonry is not a religion;
2…one of the major difficulties would be overcome if it were constantly
realised by non-Masons that not every Mason who issues in print is speaking with
authority for the whole Craft, and is not quotable to that end.
Bro Rev Cryer has been Director General of the British and Foreign Bible Society
since 1970. His service to the Anglican Church has taken him all over the world.
He is a Past Master of the Quatuor Coronati Lodge, Assistant Provincial Grand
Master of Surrey, EC and in 1986 he was appointed as Grand Chaplain of the
United Grand Lodge of England. He was Prestonian Lecturer in 1984.
the individual Freemason has the right to hold his own opinion with regard to
public affairs, neither in any lodge nor in his capacity as a Freemason may he
advance his views on theological or political questions. Freemasonry does not
express any opinion on the questions of foreign or domestic policies either at
national or international levels.
have been many definitions attempted or offered as to what Freemasonry is; but
one which would meet with universal acceptance is to be found in the German Handbuch
is the activity of closely united men who, employing symbolical forms borrowed
principally from the mason’s trade and from architecture, work for the welfare
of mankind, striving morally to ennoble themselves and others, and thereby to
bring about a universal league of mankind, which they aspire to exhibit even now
on a small scale.
Freemasonry is a code of living based on the highest ethical and moral
its principle aims are:
to promote the brotherhood of man under the Fatherhood of God;
to render practical aid to the less fortunate members of the community;
to develop such behaviour in daily life as will demonstrate that the teachings
of the Order have a profound and beneficial affect on all who sincerely embrace
to encourage the practice of every moral and social virtue.
is open to all men of good reputation and integrity, of any race or religion,
who can fill the one essential qualification that the applicant believes in a
Supreme Being. He is also required to acknowledge obedience to lawful authority
and the laws of the land in which he resides. A most serious responsibility
rests on his sponsors that he is well fitted to become a members of the lodge he
seeks to join. One of the outstanding appeals of Freemasonry lies in its
exhortation that honesty, decency, integrity and virtue are the hallmarks of a
his period as Grand Master of the United Grand Lodge of Queensland, Sir Leslie
Orme Wilson, then Governor of Queensland, often commented that Freemasonry might
not be able to make a bad man good, but that it could make a good man better.
future of Freemasonry is very bright indeed. Since its ancestral beginnings
Freemasonry, at various periods, has survived international wars, political and
religious suppressions, and the victimisation
of its members. While the principles and the objects of the Order have been so
firmly established over the centuries, it is sensible to conclude that its
future appeal will be as a beacon light drawing men of integrity, strength and
goodwill within its lustrous ambit.
is a vast, worldwide fraternity based on spiritual faith and moral idealism. It
helps a man to think through to a more satisfactory meaning of life. It is a way
of life, a code of conduct, a pattern of behaviour, philosophically subscribing
to the Golden Rule, in a world society which today is fractured by deceits,
duplicities, tensions, torn by violence and acts of terrorism, wars of
acquisition and wars based on religion in the name of God, for purposes all of
which are abhorrent and repugnant to the teachings of Freemasonry.
John Fort Newton might possibly had some of these thoughts in mind when he asked
the question ‘When is a man a Mason?’ He answered his own question at length
in beautiful and noble phrases:
he can look out over the rivers, the hills, and the far horizon with a profound
sense of his own littleness in the vast scheme of things, and yet have faith,
hope and courage - which is the root of every virtue. When he knows how to
sympathise with men in their sorrows, yea, even in their sins - knowing that
each man fights a hard fight against many odds. When he has learned how to make
friends and keep them, and above all how to keep friends with himself. When he
loves flowers, can hunt the birds without a gun and feel the thrill of an old
forgotten joy when he the laugh of a little child. When no voice of distress
reaches his ears in vain, and no hand seeks his aid without a response. When he
finds good in every faith that helps any man to lay hold of divine things and
sees majestic meanings in life, whatever the name of that faith may be. When he
knows how to pray, how to love, how to hope. When he has kept faith with
himself, with his fellow man, with his God; in his hand a sword for evil, in his
heart a bit of a song - glad to live, but not afraid to die! Such a man has
found the only real secret of Masonry, and the one which it is trying to give to
all the world.