If you ask a Mason that question, the most likely answer is the famous
line, "Masonry is a peculiar system of morality, veiled in allegory and
illustrated by symbols." But what does that really mean?
Freemasonry is the oldest and largest fraternal organization in the
world. The origins of the Craft are rooted in the stone mason guilds in
England during the Middle Ages. As stone masons, or operative masons,
traveled in search of work, they used secret ways of identifying
themselves to each other, to prove that they were worthy of working with
the lodge. These are the famous "secrets" of Masonry that have lived on
to this day.
The lodges were where masons ate their meals, kept their tools, and
discussed the day's work. As operative masonry gave way to speculative
masonry, with the acceptance of non-stone masons into the ranks, lodges
turned from working buildings into places for those men to gather in
equality regardless of their background.
This change represented a radical departure from institutions of the day.
The Lodge became a place for Protestants, Catholics, Jews, Muslims,
Hindus, and others to meet in complete equality as brothers. These
brethren sought to better themselves and the world with the lessons they
were taught which were rooted in their formidable history.
Freemasonry today is imparted to its members as series of important moral
lessons presented as allegory, from which a Mason is encouraged to make
himself a better man, for himself, his family, and his community.
These lessons often take form within religious symbolism, but they are
inclusive of, and compatible with, all religions.
Some of the most important lessons of life are there for those who have
the eyes to see them. With this said, no dogma is ever forced on the
members. It is up to the individual Mason to take what he can out of what
is presented to him, and use it the best way he can.
Masonry is also much more than just the ideals. It is a brotherhood of
men who hold these ideals dear to their hearts, a brotherhood that extends
beyond racial, economic, and political boundaries to every country in the
world. Wherever a Mason goes, he knows he can go to the closest Lodge,
and always be accepted as a Brother, one of their own.
What do Masons do?
Masons do everything they can to make themselves better men. The most
visible method is through charity work. Masons, both individually and as
Lodges, organize, raise money for, and volunteer at an extraordinary
number of worthy causes, from hospitals to soup kitchens to simply looking
out for their elders.
Masons don't do these things because they have to -- they just happen to
be the kind of people who enjoy helping others.
Most importantly, Masons lead through example, silently encouraging
everyone to follow in their footsteps of Truth, Relief, and Brotherly