What Is Freemasonry?
The Question...What is Freemasonry, is defined by one Freemason in the following address:
OFFICER INSTALLATION ADDRESS AT LEXINGTON LODGE NO. 1 FREE AND ACCEPTED MASONS
By Brian T. Evans Jr.
Installed Master 2020
Most Worshipful Grand Master, Most Worshipful Past Grand Master, Worshipful Appointed Grand Lodge Officers, Committee Men, Distinguished Guests, Wardens, Masters, Brothers all, Family and Friends.
Thank you for attending the 249th Installation of Officers since Lexington Lodge No. 1 was chartered in 1788.
This lodge is a very special place, and the evolution of Freemasonry is an incredible journey, one that has many versions, and means different things to different people depending on who you ask.
For those in this room that are not Freemasons, you may have questions and curiosities. You’ve likely seen the square and compass symbol on cars, buildings, and jewelry. Perhaps you’ve read about Freemasons in books or been entertained with the fictional stories in blockbuster movies.
Personally, I could talk for days about Freemasonry, what’s true and what’s false, the lessons I’ve learned, the books I’ve read, but time is short, and I don’t want to bore you, so instead I’m going to do my best to keep this message as brief and to the point.
So, what is Freemasonry? What is it NOT? And, what’s the big secret?
First, let’s talk about the secrets:
- Yes, we do have some secrets that we’re sworn not to share with others, and these are mostly the methods we use to identify each other as Masons such as our passwords, gestures, handshakes, and a few of the details pertaining to the ritual work with new and progressing brothers.
- Other than these items, there is not much else that we can’t talk about with you regarding Freemasonry, so if you’re curious about something just ask, we don’t bite.
Second, here’s what Freemasonry is NOT:
- It’s NOT a religion; it’s NOT a cult; we have NO connection with illuminati conspiracy theories; we are NOT secretly plotting world domination behind the scenes; and we DON’T have any special powers or privileges.
- In fact, if I get pulled over for speeding on the way home today, even though I’m a Freemason and Master of this lodge for the ensuing year, I will still get a ticket like everyone else.
- And lastly, we certainly DON’T control or push our views on politics or religions. In fact, one of our core rules as a brotherhood is to NEVER discuss politics or religion during Lodge because these are divisive topics, and division is the last thing we want as a Fraternity.
To best understand what Freemasonry is, it is important to understand it’s history:
Freemasonry is a Fraternity. The word fraternity is derived from the Latin word “Frater” which means “brother” or “brotherhood.” There have been hundreds of fraternal organizations established in our country’s history however most have failed to keep the attention and interest of their members and have eventually disappeared or transformed into casual forms of “organizations” “clubs” and “student fraternities,” but not Freemasonry.
Our establishment was originally inspired by ancient Stonemasons. Stonemasons were exceptional craftsmen that designed and built from stone: ancient buildings, monuments, cathedrals, pyramids, and most importantly King Solomon’s temple.
The room you are in right now is inspired by the design of King Solomon’s Temple. King Solomon was the successor and son of King David who is the man that defeated Goliath.
King Solomon’s Temple is known as the First Temple (The Holy Temple) believed to be built in 177 BC in ancient Jerusalem and is said to have housed the “Ark of The Covenant” which contains the two stone tablets of the Ten Commandments which was given to Moses by God at Mount Sinai.
Freemasonry is believed to have existed since "time immemorial" which is a fancy way of saying: the exact origins are unknown because its ancient existence extends beyond the reach of memory, record, or tradition…until 1717 when the fraternity was formally organized in London, England.
Today, the current worldwide membership total is over 3 million members and approximately 1 million are located in the United States.
To be a Freemason, one must knock on the door of his own free will and accord. He should be of sound mind, of good moral character, and share a belief in the fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of mankind.
Freemasonry does not promote any one religious creed, it simply teaches that it is important for every man to have a religion of his own choice and to be faithful to it in thought and action.
Every Freemason in the world has taken an almost identical oath while kneeling at a holy alter, giving us the right to regularly come together in private and call each other brothers within our fraternal family.
Some people consider Freemasons to be exceptional. Perhaps this is because 14 US Presidents, and other famous individuals in world history were Freemasons. These men certainly add to the romantic perception of our fraternity to the outside world, and although YOU AND I might view them as exceptional, none of them would label themselves as such because they knew that this characterization is unattainable, and because they also knew that pursuit of exceptionalism has no finish line.
As for me, I can humbly tell you, and my beautiful family would certainly agree, that I am far from exceptional (although I do find myself quietly disagreeing with them from time to time).
The truth is, the founders of our Fraternity are right, exceptionalism doesn’t exist. However, the PURSUIT for exceptionalism does. And it is that challenging quest as well as other important reasons why I joined Freemasonry and commit to spending time with it on a regular basis.
Having become extremely involved and committed in the Fraternity and in this lodge over the years, I’ve experienced many feelings and developed many opinions about Freemasonry, and most are all positive, however there is room for improvement on every level, and we should never forget that.
Freemasonry, although defined as a fraternity was originally meant to be much more than just a Fraternity. I believe Freemasonry is not just something that men can belong to, but rather, it is a structure that provides unity; education that encourages thought; accountability that preserves honesty; and brotherly love that provides fellowship for likeminded men seeking a deeper understanding and appreciation of life than any financial currency could ever provide.
Freemasonry is a representation of who someone is inside and someone we are always striving to improve upon on a daily basis. Freemasonry is about self-improvement, and the coming together of men of character for a purpose greater than anything imaginable by the mind, and the ever-longing pursuit of acceptance by God.
In simplest form, for me, Freemasonry is a “practice” a ritualistic, symbolic, and mental practice that helps to prepare us for our daily lives. Just as athletes practice to win against their opponents, we too must practice to win against our own opponents in the outside world. And, our primary opponent is the one that looks back at us in the mirror every single day.
Freemasonry is meant to craft an environment where men of like mind can come together and strive to achieve the unattainable goal of exceptionalism with their thoughts and actions.
By doing the little things such as making the commitment to attend lodge twice a month we are training ourselves to show up, on time, well dressed, well-rehearsed, to practice the habit of self-discipline, and contemplate techniques for self-improvement so that we may STRIVE to be better today than we were yesterday, and better tomorrow then we were today.
Freemasonry also has various appendant bodies for continued education and brotherhood; however, all require you to have first been initiated as an Entered Apprentice Mason, passed to the degree of a Fellow Craft Mason, and then raised to the sublime degree of a Master Mason.
Some of the extended organizations that you may have heard of include: the Shriners, the York Rite, and the Scottish Rite which has a total of 33 degrees.
In light of this number, I thought it would be fitting to conclude my message by providing you with 33 simple guidelines that I believe all Masons must do in order to become better men. It may surprise you to hear how basic these guidelines are, but if we’re being completely honest with ourselves, then I think you’ll agree that these are the little hinges that will open the biggest doors in our lives and the lives of those we love.
- We must do our best and always try to do better.
- We must tell the truth even if it’s hard.
- We must follow through with everything we say we will do.
- We must be someone that others in need can count on.
- We must improve our communication skills with others.
- We must always remain teachable to new things.
- We must be gentlemen and have good manners.
- We must respect others even when we disagree.
- We must remain mature and professional during stressful times.
- We must never make others feel less than us.
- We must maintain good eye contact and a firm handshake.
- We must maintain a good physical appearance.
- We must work hard and be on time.
- We must remain humble with our gifts and achievements.
- We must work towards becoming better leaders.
- We must eliminate hypocrisy in our thoughts and actions.
- We must accept full responsibility and accountability for our mistakes.
- We must face our fears in life, and help others overcome theirs.
- We must not seek the spotlight, but rather be the one who shines the spotlight on others
- We must surround ourselves with other good people.
- We must avoid bad habits and unnecessary gossip.
- We must not talk about our problems in an effort to seek compassion from others, but rather we should give compassion to others who need it.
- We must remove hate, jealousy, and prejudice from our lives.
- We must think before we speak, and when someone else speaks, listen.
- We must be friendly and courteous to strangers.
- We must strive to be the best person we can possibly be in everything we do.
- We must strive to improve or maintain our organizational skills.
- We must not be too proud or too afraid to ask for help when we need it.
- We must follow our desires as long as they are good.
- We must create the habit of always rendering more service than what is expected of us.
- We must maintain faith and courage in our beliefs.
- We must never give up when trying to reach new goals.
- We must welcome disagreement and debate in conversations, but also be mindful of our tone, respect those who participate, and remain open to understanding a different opinion.
In closing, I believe that who we are as Freemasons is determined by how we think and what we do when no one is looking, so that we may one day, with a good physical appearance: look God in the eye, and with a firm handshake hear him say, well done my son, you’ve made me very proud.
Brian T. Evans Jr.
Master of Lexington Lodge No. 1 (2020)
Chairman of the Rubicon Masonic Society