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May Brotherly Love Prevail & Every Moral & Social Virtue Cement Us

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Masonic Information

Freemasonry Defined

        Freemasonry cannot be defined in a few sentences or pat answers. One of the most common definitions is that it is a system of morality, veiled in allegory (or a story) and illustrated by symbols. This is true, but Freemasonry is more than that. While it is certainly a course of moral instruction that uses both allegories and symbols to teach its lessons, Freemasonry is also an organized society of men, a fraternity. It uses symbols derived from operative stonemasonry and architecture but not exclusively. Much of its symbolism is also taken from Biblical sources, especially the stories surrounding the building of King Solomon's Temple. Great stress is placed upon the development of moral and ethical virtues and the building of character, with Truth being the guiding principle of our lives. Thus, brotherhood and charity are natural outcomes which further define what we are. In other words, we are using proven method to enhance the lives and spirits of our members in a tangible way.

        There are also aspects of Freemasonry that enrich our lives and spirits in an intangible way. This part of Masonry is harder to define but is just as real. There is something very profound about Freemasonry. It seems to speak a hidden part of oneself that responds with a deep reverence and respect. The deeper one takes his studies of the rites and symbols of Freemasonry, the richer his Masonic life becomes.


The Purpose of Freemasonry

        What is the purpose of Masonry? One of its most basic purposes is to make good men even better. We try to place emphasis on the individual man by strengthening his character, improving his moral and spiritual outlook, and broadening his mental horizons. We try to impress upon the minds of our members the principles of personal responsibility and morality, encouraging each member to practice his daily life the lessons taught through symbolic ceremonies in the lodge. One of the universal doctrines of Freemasonry is the belief in the "Brotherhood of Man and Fatherhood of God." The importance of this belief is established by each Mason as he practices the three principle tenets of Masonry: Brotherly Love, Relief, and Truth.

        Masonry is also the custodian of a tradition of initiation. It is the duty of every Freemason to preserve and perpetuate this tradition for future ages. This is a heavy responsibility and should give pause to any who seek to make changes in the body of the Craft, except those with the highest motives and deepest understanding of the principles involved.


Origin of Freemasonry

        How did Freemasonry originate? We are not sure when our craft was born. We do know it goes far beyond written record and we believe it was not always called Freemasonry. It is obvious that some of the ancient Mystery Schools of Egypt, Greece and the Near East influenced the ceremonies that are used today.  These ceremonies were designed as tests, and admission was granted only to those who passed and were worthy of further instruction. Our ceremonies have some of the same elements, though probably of a less physical nature, while still maintaining its spiritual form. Specifically, there are points of similarity between our Fraternity and the society founded by Phytagoras and the Fraternity of Hermes at Hermopolis in Egypt. We can also find affinities in the great Mystery Schools of Isis and Osiris of Egypt, the Dionysiac/Orphic and Eleusinian Mysteries of Greece, and the Mithraic Mysteries of ancient Rome.

        Other groups that carried on like traditions include: the Jewish eschatological sect of Essenes - from whom some believe John the Baptist came; the Roman Collegia of Artificers - an organization of builders - that Marcus Vitruvius Pollio (under the Emperor Augustus) led in the first century; and, the Comacine masters who flourished at the fall of the Roman Empire. The last group provides some link with the cathedral building projects of the medieval ages that were virtual bibles in stone. Our connection with these great schools of the past and other organizations is tenuous at best, but nevertheless, a study of them yields deep insight into our own Fraternity... It is generally thought that the medieval craft guilds gave rise to the operative lodges that in turn became the birthplace of Freemasonry as we know it today.


Transition from Operative to Speculative

        What is the difference between "Operative" and "Speculative" Masonry? Operative refers to the time in our history when Masons actually performed the physical labor of building. They were the best at their craft, and they kept secret their methods of building. Speculative refers to the period of time when men were accepted into the Craft as "non-operative" members. They were not "physical builders", but "builders of character" instead.

        We are unable to accurately pinpoint the time when we transitioned from operative to speculative masonry. The change was gradual and probably stretched over a period of more than 50 years. It began early in the 1600's and may have begun with the acceptance of patrons into the operative lodges... Other members who were not interested in becoming stone masons, followed the patrons. Those who were admitted by consent of the operative masons became "Accepted Masons." Membership was desired because of the spiritual, social, and cultural advantages. During this time, our Craft grew rapidly in numbers.

        The decline of Gothic architecture and the reduced demands for great building projects greatly lowered the number of skilled operative craftsmen needed to carry on construction during this period. If we had not become Speculative Masons, our Craft would have been faced with extinction. Many of the institutions of that day did pass into oblivion; but by becoming Speculative, the Craft has grown to a point never envisioned by its founders. Much of this growth can be attributed to the formation of the premier Grand Lodge of England, when four old Lodges in London held a meeting at the Goose and Gridiron Tavern in June of 1717. At this meeting, a brother named Anthony Sayer was elected Grand Master. From there, Masonry quickly spread over much of the world, and other grand lodges were established.


Additional Masonic Information

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Information found in this page were extracted from the "A Basic Masonic Education Course: The Entered Apprentice" manual published by the Grand Lodge F. & A.M. of California