What did George Washington, Winston Churchill and Benjamin Franklin have in common with Goethe, Mozart and Voltaire? They all belonged to the biggest and the oldest fraternal organisation in the world. So did Buzz Aldrin (Astronaut), Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (Writer), Sir Thomas Lipton ( the Tea Man), Henry Ford and Sir Don Bradman, to name a few. Freemasonry, spread across the four corners of the globe, has millions of members, who come from all walks of life. From the common man to Monarchs, they all work together with enthusiasm for the furtherance of the objectives of Freemasonry
Without any doubt included in the list of Masons have been people who changed the course of history. However, the organisation they all belonged to remains the least understood organisation among the public. It has always perplexed non-members, and has always been an organisation shrouded in mystery. The public lack even the rudimentary knowledge about Masonry, and ignorance results in confused ideas and the spread of misinformation. Speak of Freemasonry to the common man, and you find his mind is filled with many unanswered questions: Is Freemasonry a religion? Is it a political organisation? Isn’t ‘Masonic Lodge’ a Secret organisation?
So what is Freemasonry? What are its objectives? What do Masons do and how can I become a Mason? Freemasonry is a society of men concerned with moral and spiritual values. Its members are taught its precepts by a series of ritual dramas, which follow ancient forms and use stonemasons’ customs and tools as allegorical guides. The fundamental ritual consists of a drama of building of King Solomon’s Temple, and the fate of its master architect.
Using this allegory, moral lessons are taught. Since the story concerns building of a Temple, Masonic rituals are replete with the tools of Masons, like the Level, Plumb-rule, Square, Compasses and so on. Some of the Masonic terminology has found its way into the dictionary, and ‘on the level’ and ‘on the square’ are no longer exclusive Masonic clichés.
Freemasons believe in God, however Freemasonry is not a religion. How a man worships God is purely his private affair, and is never discussed in a Masonic Lodge. Since Freemasonry does not interfere with the way men worship, it stands firmly for the Freedom of Religions.
Freemasonry expects a member (“brother”) to be active, it also makes it explicitly clear to him that a Mason must never put his duties and responsibilities to Freemasonry ahead of his duties to this family, to his God and to his Country. Throughout history, Freemasons have followed three great principles: Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth. Every true Freemason will show tolerance and respect for the opinions of others and behave with kindness and understanding to his fellow man, in effect, pouring his Brotherly Love over mankind.
By Relief, masons mean relief to the community from their sufferings. When a candidate is initiated into the Lodge, he is reminded of this duty he is expected to fulfil to those who need his help. Freemasons are taught to practice charity, and to care, not only for their own, but also for the community as a whole, both by charitable giving, and by voluntary efforts and works as individuals. Moreover, charity need not be a financial charity alone; a Mason is expected to practice charity of thought. Needless to say the charity expected of a Mason is an absolutely voluntary contribution.
Until recently, Freemasonry has seldom publicised its charitable activities, even though worldwide Freemasonry has always been concerned with the care of the Sick, the aged and the Orphans, amongst other things. In this area of Coffs Harbour alone, the Coffs Coast Freemasons has supported Local Charitable causes to the amount of approximately $200,000. Freemasons strive for Truth, requiring high moral standards and aiming to achieve them in their own lives.
Freemasonry demands from its members a respect for the law of the country in which a man works and lives. Its principles do not in any way conflict with its members’ duties as citizens, but should strengthen them, in fulfilling their public and private responsibilities. It is believed that these principles represent a way of achieving higher standards in life. Allegations have often made, that Freemasonry is a Secret Society. It is not a Secret Society, but a society with secrets. The secrets of Freemasonry are concerned with its traditional modes of recognition. It is not a secret society, since all members are free to acknowledge their membership. Its constitutions and rules available to the public.
The Grand Lodge in Sydney is open to the public and is a pleasure to visit for Masons and non-Masons alike. How can such an organisation with so much public presence be called a Secret Organisation? While none of the ideas that Masons follow are exclusive to Freemasonry, and there may be other organisations which have similar objectives, what is however, unique about Freemasonry is the allegorical drama in which the principles are presented to the members, and the constant reminders that the Masonic rituals give to the members to help them remember the duties that people often tend to forget.