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Freemasonry, Definition Of

A Masonic Lodge represents a body of workmen in which each member has a station or place corresponding to his task or function. Its chief officer is a Master Workman charged with responsibility to see that the members work peaceably and harmoniously as a unit at the task for which he lays the design upon his Tracing Board; his principal assisting officer is responsible for seeing that each man begins and ends on time and is at work in the place where he belongs. The body of potential workmen from whom new members may be drawn is called the quarries; a man who comes from them is called a Petitioner, and he must be qualified to take his place among the body of workmen or he is not admitted. Immediately he is accepted he becomes an Apprentice, which means he is to be trained, is to become a learner of a craft, or form of work; and he is said to be seeking light, which means intelligence and knowledge for the work he is to do.

At the beginning he is given a learner's tools; later he will receive tools for more advanced skill; and at the end will receive the use of all of them; they are working tools. He is clothed in a workman's apron; it is his livery, or badge, and he is warned against ever feeling shame while wearing it. These craftsmen are to act as one man, as men do when working together in the same place. They have traditions which concern men who worked on buildings, represented by a Temple, and of a Master of Workmen, who superintended the building of that Temple; but it is made clear that the work of builders is only a specimen of each and every form of work--it is symbolic. Their rules and regulations concern their hours, wages, their duty to their officers or overseers, and their discipline.

The Freemasons of the Middle Ages who formed the first of these Lodges lived in a society in which not only institutions and rulers but the great majority of men and women were opposed to the teachings of Masonic Lodges, and were ready to destroy them by force and violence. The fundamental doctrine of the Church was that work as a curse which had been pronounced on Adam's descendants as a supernatural and never-ceasing penalty for his disobedience. The great reward of a good life was to be released by death from toil, and entrance into "an everlasting rest"where men have ceased from their labors and go about in a never-ending worklessness. The two Patron Saints of a man in work are his wife and family, but the head of the Church had no wife, children or home.

The only truly holy man was a celibate priest who did no cork, or monks and nuns who kept long vigils of idleness, or friars who went about the roads begging for food and lodging. The King and his nobles and the aristocracy by which they were surrounded looked down upon work as something beneath them; and next below them came the rich merchants. From that level downward men and women belonged to the lower classes because they were working men and women in a descending series, skilled workmen, mechanics laborers, peasants, villains, serfs, cotters, slaves. These men and women of the lower classes were paid a few cents per day; had no voice or vote in Church or State; could hold no high office in army or government received no education could not even read and write, could not marry above their class; could own almost no property; were compelled by law to dress according to their station; could be impressed with force by the sheriffs to labor on public works or to fight in the army or navy. When the new colonies were opened up they were herded into small ships like cattle and sent without tools, implements, weapons, doctors, or teachers to live in the wilderness among savages.

To prevent their rebellion some 200 small felonies were made punishable by death--one man was hanged, burned, and quartered because he had dared to translate the Bible into the language used by the common people These disgraces, indignities, injustices, and atrocities were heaped upon them with a terrible inhumanity s century after century not because they were criminals, traitors, or recusants but because they were neither lords nor landlords but w ere working men. There were better times and worse; there were occasions when a man was honored for work that he had done; once in a thousand times a man might marry above or below his class; but these were nothing but sporadic exceptions, and did not avail to overthrow the barbaric feudalism, the cardinal principle of which was that a lord on and not only the land but the men who worked on it, and since he owned the men he owned the products of their work. The Medieval Freemasons found out the truth about work; they found it out for themselves, and from the work they themselves were doing, which was unlike the work being done by any other craftsmen. They did not write that truth down in books or cast it in the form of a creed, and Masons have never done so since, nevertheless it is possible to set it down in a series of statements in the language of today:

1. To work is to produce, grow, or make something without which men and women cannot continue to live; to have such things a man must make use of himself as the means to produce them. Since this is true he is neither an animal nor a machine; to take away from him by force. fraud or chicane, directly or indirectly, the products of his work, is to do violence not to things but to the man himself, and hence is absolute injustice.

2. The need men and women have for countless products, services, and commodities is not a temporary one, nor is it accidental, but continues to be true for ever. For this reason work is neither a curse nor an inconveniences but is a fact about the nature of man and the world, and is so eternally.

3. Since this is true, work is one of the attributes of God. It is for this reason that He is named Sovereign Grand Architect of the Universe. 4. Man is by nature a worker. It is only in his work that a man finds himself, his fulfillment and satisfaction; idlers and parasites become less than men, are ex-men. This truth is plain to any observer; when a man ceases or refuses to work an inner deterioration begins, first in his character, later in his mind, and in the end his body undergoes a process of degeneration; and while this process of disintegration goes forward he knows himself to be under contempt.

5. To be able to carry on his work a man must have Knowledge and intelligence which means education; he must be free to think because work calls for reasoning and understanding; he must one free to speak, because the larger part of the world's work is done by numbers of men working together and therefore they must have information from each other; they must one free to enter or to leave any form of work because always some things are completed and new things must be done, to work in continuous association with each other establishes them in a fraternalism a fact so clearly seen by Freemasonry that often it is said of men in the same trade or art that "they have a freemasonry among themselves," and it is this which is meant by morale or es t de corps.

There can be no chasms of class distinction among workers because they must meet upon the level in order to co-operate with each other. If a man be not honorable, upright, and truthful it is not he alone who suffers from his failure; his fellows suffer also, they and the work together. If work fails the world fails, and workers and non-workers go down in catastrophe together. no church or government is more stupid than one which denies men the liberty to work, or interferes with the liberties required by work.

The best thought of men about the matters which belong to religion are embodied in the great organized Sligions such as Christianity, Judaism, hiohammedanism, Buddhism, Confucianism, etc., and by them is stated in their creeds which in turn are amplified and expounded and taught by their theologies. It is an astounding fact that thus far no theology has ether embodied in its creed any doctrines about work.

Men's best thought about their way of life in the world is embodied in the great philosophies, of which the first were founded by Greek thinkers of about 600 B.C. Although a philosopher may endeavor to incorporate the whole world in his system it is always found in the end that his philosophy consists of the elaboration or exposition or exploration of some one idea or truth or fact. The philosophy of Plato concerns itself with ideas. Aristotle w as the philosopher of logic. Roman Stoicism was an elaboration of the theory that there are laws of nature, and that these are the laws of man. Descartes declared that everything is a dualism of matter and mind; Spinoza declared that there is no dualism and only one Reality, but that this Reality manifests itself in the two modes of matter and mind. Kant was an epistemologist, concerned with the nature of knowledge. Haeckel was a materialist. Bergson examined and elaborated the fact of change, or flux, or motion. There is scarcely an idea or truth capable of being thought which has not been seized upon, expanded and expounded, and made into a system of philosophy by some thinker. And yet, and again it is an astounding fact, no Scnoum system of philosophy has eater been devoted to tile subject of work! William James and John Dewey have come closest to it but neither of them took work itself as his subject matter but only used it as if it were a means to an end. Thomas Carlyle saw the need for a philosophy of work, and cried out for some man to do it, but did not produce it himself.

When the first Freemasons found out for them8elves the truth about work and though they did not embody it in creeds or books but left it, as it w ere, to speak for itself, and only among themselves, it w as a far greater achievement than the discovery and perfection of Gothic cathedrals. They won a place for themselves among history's great way-showers, thinkers, philosophers, prophets. Nor is it any wonder that in those days of feudalism they kept it among themselves, in their tiled rooms, behind locked doors, and pledged every candidate to hold inviolate the privacy of his Lodge. What they thought and taught and knew was not a heresy, theological or philosophical, but it differed so radically from the whole mass and drive of the beliefs and practices of the feudalism around them that they saw no need to disturb outsiders by what those outsiders could not have understood; and not being fanatics, and having intelligence as well as character, they saw no need to expose themselves to the fury of the priests or the barbaric brutalities of the lords. It is not all-important to Freemasons that the founders of their Fraternity were builders, or even great builders; the all-important fact is that they were great thinkers, and found out for themselves a set of truths which no men had found or seen before, and which, even now, only a few are beginning to see; there would be neither point nor purpose for adult men to carry on, month after month, a mere routine repetition of builder customs. The soul of Freemasonry as well as its purpose in the world. is the set of truths which they found. The fact that those truths are not codified, or printed, or tabulated but are embodied in rites and symbols and Lodge practices does not matter; they are there, and while a man is being made a Mason they stamp themselves upon his mind. It is because they are there that after a man has worn off the first strangeness of being a member of a Lodge and begins to learn for himself what Freemasonry is and what its history has been, there begins to grow in him a zeal and an enthusiasm for it. H. L. H.

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