Freemasonry is one of the world's oldest secular fraternal societies. It is a society of men concerned with moral and spiritual values, but it is not a religion. Its precepts are taught by a series of ritual dramas, which follow ancient forms and use stonemasons' customs and tools as allegorical guides. Members share a belief in a single Supreme Being and the immortality of the soul. Christian Masons believe that the Holy Bible is the inestimable gift of God to man as the rule and guide for his faith and practice. Masons of other faiths revere their Holy books whether it is called the Quran, Talmud or another name. It is a fraternity or brotherhood pledged to the building of character - thoughts, words, motives and deeds being the materials used. It believes its members should have a strong desire to aid their fellow creatures. It strives to teach men the duty they owe to God, their country, their neighbor, and themselves. It inculcates the practice of virtue and morality in daily conduct and encourages good citizenship. Its foundations are the basic principles of the Fatherhood of God and the Brotherhood of Man.
The Three Great Principles:
For many years Freemasons have followed three great principles:
Brotherly Love -- Every true Freemason will show tolerance and respect for the opinions of others and behave with kindness and understanding to his fellow creatures.
Relief -- 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.
Truth -- Freemasons strive for truth, requiring high moral standards and aiming to achieve them in their own lives.
Freemasons believe that these principles represent a way of achieving higher standards in life.
From its earliest days, Freemasonry has been concerned with the care of orphans, the sick and the aged. This work continues today. In addition, large sums are given to local and national charities. It expects and requires that its members contribute to the support of the Masonic Home at Burlington, the Charity Foundation and other local and Masonic charities, subject to their higher duty to their families.
Freemasonry and Society:
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 private and public responsibilities. His duty as a citizen must always prevail over any obligation to other Freemasons.
Freemasonry and Religion:
Freemasonry is not a religion, nor is it a substitute for religion. Its essential qualification opens it to men of many religions and it expects them to continue to follow their own faith. It does not allow religion to be discussed at its meetings.
Freemasonry and Politics:
Freemasonry is non-political, and the discussion of politics at Masonic meetings is forbidden.
As with any fraternity, Freemasons’ secrets are primarily concerned with its traditional modes of recognizing its members. It is not a secret society, since all members are free to acknowledge their membership and will do so in response to inquiries for respectable reasons. Its constitutions and rules are available to the public. There is no secret about any of its aims and principles. Like many other societies, it regards some of its internal affairs as private matters for its members. Our real secret is how men of such diverse backgrounds, professions and other affiliations all manage to be at home together in their Masonic Lodge.
The Essential Qualification for Membership:
The essential qualification for admission and continuing membership is a belief in a Supreme Being. Membership is open to men of any race or religion who can fulfill this essential qualification and are of good repute. It knowingly admits none to membership except those who are able to provide for themselves and those dependent upon them. Freemasonry is not to be entered into through mere curiosity, ambition for honors, or in the hopes of personal gain or advancement or other unworthy motives. The aim of the true Freemason is to cultivate a brotherly feeling among men, and to help, aid and assist whomsoever he can, and to better himself as a man and as a citizen
The right to petition for the degrees of Ancient Craft Masonry is rarely denied to any man, but this right goes no further than granting the privilege of petitioning, and all who petition are not admitted. The Masonic fraternity does not solicit members, but wants and welcomes only men of high character and integrity, who should seek admission entirely of their own free will and accord.
A Freemason is encouraged to do his duty first to God (by whatever name He is known) through his faith and religious practice; and then, without detriment to his family and those dependent on him, to his neighbor through charity and service. None of these ideas is exclusively Masonic, but all should be universally acceptable. Freemasons are expected to follow them.
(This has been adapted from a 1984 leaflet published by the United Grand Lodge of England and "Principals and Purposes of Freemasonry" published by the Grand Lodge of New Jersey.)