Definition of Freemasonry
"The definitions of Freemasonry," says Oliver, in his historical Landmarks of Freemasonry, "have been numerous; but they all unite in declaring it to be a system of morality, by the practice of which its members may advance their spiritual interest, and mount by the theological ladder from the Lodge on earth to the Lodge in heaven. It is a mistake, however, to suppose that Freemasonry is a system of religion. It is but the handmaiden to religion, although it largely and effectually illustrates one great branch of it, which is practice."
The definition in the English Lectures is often quoted, which says that "Freemasonry is a peculiar system of morality veiled in allegory and illustrated symbols."
But Brother Mackey believed that a more compressive and exact definition is that it is a science which is engaged in the search after Divine Truth, and which employs symbolism as its method of instruction.
Another definition is by Dr. S. Bein, who terms Freemasonry that religious and mystical society - hose aim is moral perfection on the basis of general quality and fraternity (see Vortaro de Esperanto, page 50).
A more elaborate definition is by Brother W. N. Pontone, P.G.M., of Canada, as follows Masonry is something more than a secret Society, though secrecy is an element in esoteric work, more than ritualism, though the ritual, simple in its dignity and quaint and rhythmic in expression, is a factor more than symbolism, though Symbolic teaching is significant and transfigures the commonplace; more than philosophy, though it speculatively teaches how to live wisely and well; more than religion, but not greater than religion, yet discerning the divinity in humanity; more than mere landmarks, though these have their defining, historical, and traditional place; more even than brotherhood, for as in the Pythagorean days, it is educational and intellectual as well as social and fraternal; more than constructive and practical philanthropy, though love crowns all; yet it is all of these together with that something more of which language is inadequate to express the subtle mystery, even to those few choice spirits who seek to penetrate to the heart of its often unconscious power, and the span of life too brief to enable those who endeavor to attain the ideal perfection of that living organism, whose countersign is manhood~ whose inspiration is the God-head--that Masonic edifice of which love and truth form base and spire--Nisi Dominus frustra (see Builder, volume viii, page 55).
The Latin phrase Nisi Dominus frustra may be expressed in English as meaning Except the Masler be cheated. Brother Roscoe Pound has contributed to the Dictionary of Religion and Ethics (Macmillan Company, 1921), the following definition of our Institution: The art or mystery of the Freemasons or Free and Accepted Masons, a universal religious, moral, charitable and benevolent fraternal organization It is religious in requiring belief in God as a prerequisite of initiation and insisting on such belief as one of its unalterable fundamental points. Beyond this and belief in immortality it has no religious dogmas but expects the brother to adhere to some religion and obligates him upon the sacred oath of the religion he professes For the rest it seeks to promote morals by ceremonies, symbols and lectures, inculcating life measured by reason and performance of duties toward God, one's country, one's neighbor and oneself. It relieves needy Brothers, cares for their dependents, educates orphans, and insists upon duties of charity and benevolence.
.At the laying of a cornerstone with Masonic ceremonies, an old friend, the late Colonel Edward hi. L. Ehlers, Grand Secretary of New York, gave an eloquent oration in which he used with fine effect a magnificent tribute to Freemasonry as our gifted and beloved Brother understood the Masonic Institution. As a definition it may be appropriately inserted here and should be studied with a similar statement found elsewhere (see Charity).
Fraternities of men have existed in some shape or form during every period of the world s history. Doubtless in the primitive ages it became apparent that mutual protection would afford the greatest security against the unbroken forces of nature and the evil nature of man and secure sympathy, support and protection, to those whose bond of union was made a common cause. Hence originated Masonry.
The origin of Masonry, like other historical transactions, lies buried in the gloom of obscurity. Its philosophy may be traced to the remotest ages of the world's history. Its symbols are older than the Temple of Solomon and antedate the Pentateuch of Moses. Its ceremonials were practiced in the ancient mysteries when Egypt stood as the first and the most enlightened power of the then known world. Its tenets were known by the nomadic tribes of the East and transmitted from father to son, generation after generation, so that even today the Bedouin of the desert recognizes the hail of the Craftsman.
The mission of Masonry is to curb intemperate passions and to reconcile conflicting interests; to extend to nations these principles of humanity and benevolence which should actuate individuals, to destroy the pride of conquest and the pomp of war; to annihilate focal prejudices and unreasonable partialities; to banish from the world every Source of enmity and hostility, and to introduce those Social dealings which are better r adulated to preserve peace and good order than penal laws or political regulations.
The advantages which mankind in genera! reap from this master Science are beyond calculation. Its blessings are confined to no country, but are diffused with the Institution throughout the world. Men of all languages, of all religions, of the remotest nations, and of every habit and opinion, are united in a bond of brotherly affection..
A Mason is at home in every country and with his friends in every clime. What Society other than our own could make the proud boast that we know no foreign land On the plane of Masonry we only know God and man We know no royal blood or peasant stock. Men of wealth and simple toil, philosophers and men of low degree. royal heirs and hard-handed peasants, meet hers upon a common ground as brothers and God is Father of them all.
Live on for ever, thou Genius of Masonry ! Bring light and gladness, toleration and rational liberty, to those who dwell in darkness and superstition! reach the millions yet unborn thy Faith, thy Hope, thy Charity!
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