Principles and Beliefs of Freemasons
From About Freemasons
Principles of Freemasonry
Benjamin Franklin, himself a mason, described the principles and tenets of Freemasonry as follows:
“Freemasonry has tenets peculiar to itself. They serve as testimonials of character and qualifications, which are only conferred after due course of instruction and examination. These are of no small value; they speak a universal language, and act as a passport to the attentions and support of the initiated in all parts of the world. They cannot be lost as long as memory retains its power. Let the possessor of them be expatriated, shipwrecked or imprisoned, let him be stripped of everything he has got in the world, still those credentials remain, and are available for use as circumstances require. The good effects they have produced are established by the most incontestable facts of history. They have stayed the uplifted hand of the destroyer; they have softened the asperities of the tyrant; they have mitigated the horrors of captivity; they have subdued the rancor of malevolence; and broken down the barriers of political animosity and sectarian alienation. On the field of battle, in the solitudes of the uncultivated forest, or in the busy haunts of the crowded city, they have made men of the most hostile feelings, the most distant regions, and diversified conditions, rush to the aid of each other, and feel a special joy and satisfaction that they have been able to afford relief to a Brother Mason.”
Today as in past times, each lodge generally formally states its own basic principles. While the wording and the priorities may vary, however, most Masons agree on a few basic principles that are crucial to Freemasonry:
Most lodges emphasize philanthropic activities that are designed to improve the welfare and happiness of humankind. Some lodges organize special charity events, give money to specific individuals or organizations or set up scholarships.
All lodges practice treating others well.
While each lodge is created from individual members and while individuality is treasured, lodges are designed to be sociable and to encourage mutual works. Brotherhood is a key tenet in lodges and that is one reason why Freemasonry is designed to allow men to meet together.
Good works and good actions are seen as essential in a Mason and personal character and righteousness are emphasized.
Masons encourage education through well-stocked libraries, scholarships and other means. Many of the rites require study of the Sacred Law and various books.
While Freemasonry is not secular or theological, all ceremonies and rituals are based on the belief in a benevolent Supreme Being. Members must believe in such a Deity in order to join, although they can worship this deity as they wish and call him or her what they wish.
Truth and justice
Freemasons believe in the pursuit of justice as well as in helping and forgiving others. Some of the charitable work many lodges do may be designed to help bring justice to situations. Masons are encouraged to be truthful and honest with God, their Country, fellow men, their family and themselves. When becoming part of a lodge, most Masons have to swear not to take part in any act which threatens the peace and good order of society. Masons also sometimes must pledge to follow the law. Masons who are convicted of crimes may be ousted.
Beliefs of Freemasons
There is no one set of written Freemason beliefs and no central authority over Freemasons. Each region has its own Grand Lodge and smaller localities have their own local lodges. Although lodges are part of a larger organization, the members of each lodge ultimately decide what to believe in and what to emphasize. As a result, some lodges prioritize education and may be closely linked with a local university. Other lodges may put more focus on charitable works and may linked to a local organization or children’s hospital, where members devote a lot of energy.
Although there are differences in terms of what each lodge believes, all Masons are taught to believe in three main tenets:
Known as the Golden Rule in Christianity, this basic tenet is the foundation of many world religions. At its simplest, it states “treat others well” or “treat others as you would like to be treated.” This principle is seen in Buddhism, Christianity, Confucianism, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, Taoism, and other religions. Although Freemasonry is not a religion, it outlines the same tenet for its members to follow. Masons show their brotherhood by meeting together and by helping one another as needed.
Charity or Relief
While many religions teach that charity on earth brings rewards in the afterworld, Freemasonry teaches that charity improves the lives of people now. Masons are encouraged to help those who need it through good works and monetary contributions. Statistics suggest that Masons worldwide give $3 million every day to charity. US Masons alone provide $2 million daily. Freemasons support a range of charities – those providing relief for natural disasters, help for schools and relief to needy families. They also create scholarships for students. In addition, Masons provide help for members of their lodges. This help include building retirement homes for Masons, paying for some member funerals and building schools and homes for Masons’ children.
Truth is emphasized in every lodge, but it is a somewhat term that can mean many things. Many Masonic rituals and ceremonies involve the symbol of light, which in Masonic tradition represents spiritual truth and knowledge. Every Mason is expected to seek and find that light or knowledge individually. Each Mason is encouraged to seek knowledge and to educate themselves as well, since no Mason should be “in the dark” or ignorant. Therefore, truth can be understood to mean a quest for education. In addition, every Mason is expected to be honest with themselves, their country, their family, fellow Masons, and with mankind. Dishonesty or underhanded or illegal acts are not tolerated. Perhaps the easiest way to understand truth is to understand that Freemasonry believes in building a Mason’s character and the cornerstone of good character is honesty and truth in all its forms.