This system of morality, or ethics, is as old as civilization. One must penetrate the allegorical veils, with the aid of symbolical emblems, and practice the moral precepts which have been therein revealed to prepare ourselves, spiritually, “as living stones for that house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.” Freemasonry is “a Way of Life”.
Freemasonry is a progressive science. A Mason can only advance by taking every step. He must acquire and apply the knowledge available to him on each level and perfect his skills so that each stone designed for that Spiritual Building might be square, level and plumb.
Candidates for Freemasonry must come of their own free will. American Grand Lodges prohibit the solicitation of members. The applicant must have a sincere desire to unite with a fraternity dedicated to “Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth”.
Many centuries ago the craft so successfully protected its trade secrets, consisting primarily of architectural and geometrical lore, that it became known as a secret society. Centuries later, when the fraternity had developed strong attachments to the precepts of Truth, Justice and Liberty, and the religious establishment instituted the “Inquisition”, the Freemasons became a secret society in fact. Today this description no longer applies. What Freemasonry teaches is written out for all to read. Masonic halls are listed in local directories. The members wear emblems publicly. The only secrets of the craft today are the manner in which the degrees are conferred and the means of recognition among the members.
Freemasonry is neither a religious nor political organization. It has been called the “handmaiden of religion” as it encourages all members to be active in the church of their choice. No theological dogmas nor creeds exist in Masonic practice, other than a reverence for God and a spiritual concern for our fellowman. While the Masonic craft does not support political candidates nor issues, it inspires each member to fulfill his civic responsibilities as an American citizen. The discussion of sectarian religion or partisan politics is prohibited in all branches of Freemasonry in the United States except the Christian Orders which are not denominational.
The annals of Freemasonry reveals two parallel lines of development; one is based upon historic fact with documentary support, and the other, an allegorical account that begins with the creation of the world. Many centuries ago the allegorical thread began to interweave with history and produced the fabric of modern Freemasonry.
It is appropriate to mention here that Freemasonry has grown directly from the small bands of builders who erected the first stone buildings on the continent of Europe. At a later date, expert European Masons were brought to England to construct the early castles and churches. They also brought with them the ancient legends, traditions anmd charges (rules) of their trades. These small independent groups acquired the title of “lodges”. Each lodge modified the ancient legends, traditions and charges, with which they were familiar, to suit their own purposes, with the result that no real standards existed within the craft. While no documents remain from the 10th century, we receive a glimpse oth the moral aspects of the ancient craft from the Regius Poem.Excerpted from: A History and Handbook, The York Rite of Freemasonry, by Frederick G. Speidel