Is Freemasonry still relevant in the 21th Century?

The history of modern Freemasonry is fairly well understood, going back to roughly the 1700’s. Beyond that point in time, information starts to become less available. There are some documents and notable figures prior to that point in time, such as the Regius/Halliwell poem, and notables like Elias Ashmole, but no certifiable records exist to demonstrate organised Masonic activity as we have today.

Although over the centuries society has changed, the core beliefs of Freemasons and its role in society have not.

The 3 Masonic tenets, Brotherly Love, relief (helping other people), and truth, which I think are self-explanatory. We also suggest that to be a good Mason, it would be a good idea to adhere to the 4 cardinal virtues.

Masons, however, are not instructed in their applications. It is left entirely up to the individual to determine how he will incorporate them into his life.

All Masonry offers is a rationale as to why it’s a good idea to practice these virtues. The virtues themselves are known to almost everyone across the globe; temperance (restraint and discipline), fortitude, prudence, and justice.

Our aim throughout the ages has always been to make the world a better place by practising our virtues and acting according to our tenets. We live in hope that the world, by our example will be a kinder and gentler place to live.

The following was taken from the book Freemasonry for Dummies. It seems pretty accurate to me.

The Basic Principles of Freemasons

Freemasons have a set of basic principles that they all live by. Masonic lodge members promise never to bring anything offensive or defensive into the lodge with them — both weapons and words. The object of the lodge is to create a place where those divisions are left outside, so Masons can engage in activities that unite them instead of separating them:

  • A moral code: Freemasons believe in honour and that a man has a responsibility to behave honourably in everything he does. Freemasonry teaches its members the principles of personal decency and personal responsibility. It hopes to inspire them to have charity and good will toward all mankind, and to translate principles and convictions into action.
  • Charity: Freemasonry is devoted to the promotion of the welfare and happiness of all mankind. Freemasonry teaches its members that unselfishness is a duty and that it’s not only more blessed to give than to receive, but also more rewarding.
  • Education: Freemasonry teaches a system of morality and brotherhood through the use of symbols and dramatic presentations. It encourages its members to expand their knowledge of the world around them.
  • Religious, not a religion: Freemasons believe in the brotherhood of man, under the fatherhood of God. Freemasonry isn’t a religion, but it is religious because it requires its members to have faith in a Supreme Being, according to the individual Mason’s belief. It’s not a sectarian organisation and does not promote one religion over another. Masonic ceremonies describe a moral code, using basic principles that are common to all religions.
  • Social responsibility: Freemasonry stands for the reverence of God and the proper place of individual faith in society; for truth and justice; for fraternity and philanthropy; and for orderly civil, religious, and intellectual liberty. It charges each of its members to be true and loyal to the government of the country to which he owes allegiance and to be obedient to the law of any state in which he may reside. However, Masonry does philosophically oppose tyranny, dictatorship, and any destruction of human dignity, basic human rights, and the free exercise of religion.
  • Nonpolitical, nonsectarian: One of the first rules of Freemasonry forbids the discussion in Masonic meetings of religious matters and politics — topics likely to cause personal arguments. It’s also against the fundamental principles of Freemasonry for Masonic organisations to take political action or attempt to influence elections or legislation.
  • Equality among members: Freemasonry regards no man for his worldly wealth, social status, or outward appearance. Kings, princes, sultans, and potentates have been Masons. So have paperboys, garbage men, factory workers, and fast-food fry cooks.

Indeed, the basic principles of Freemasonry have not changed over the centuries, and let’s pray they never will.

There is a lot of information on the Internet and in books about Freemasonry. Much of it is wrong or written in a way to fulfil an agenda, either intended to be good or bad for the fraternity, depending on the author of the information.

The purpose of this article is not to go after some of the more common misinformation about the fraternity, it is meant to remind us how valid Freemasonry is in today’s world.

Although most Freemasons know this, it bears repeating, there is no central authority for Freemasonry. Every Grand Lodge is its own entity on to itself.

Grand Lodges can recognise each other as true Freemasonry, that is up to the individual Grand Lodges involved. So with that said, it is impossible for anyone Grand Lodge or individual Freemason to make a blanket statement about how Freemasonry sees the World and the problems in it.

All we can do as a Freemason is to follow the principles laid down upon our Masonic Trestle-boards. To stick to them no matter what.
We are a melting pot of social, economic, political, racial and religious backgrounds. My views of the world are not necessarily those of the men sitting next to me in the lodge.

It is said that Freemasonry was at the centre of the American Revolution. What many do not realize is that there were Loyalist Lodges in the American colonies as well. Despite their differences, they all believed in the same core principals which make up Freemasonry.

The same can be said about the American Civil War.

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It is important that we remind people outside the fraternity, and sometimes within the fraternity, that one mason does not speak for us all.

No matter who that Mason might be. Inside the fraternity, we should also remember political arguments and disagreements about social issues have no place in the lodge room and that sticking to our Masonic principles is the way we can make everyone wiser, better and happier. By making Freemasonry stand out, it really means making the World a better place.

Freemasonry is the journey of an individual, not the journey of a group. There may be many who walk alongside of me on my Masonic path, they are just individual travellers who happen to be walking in the same direction as I am.

Finally as to “Is Freemasonry still relevant in the 21st Century?”, YOU decide the answer to this question.

Article by Bro. Wito Schouten

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