WHAT IS FREEMASONRY?
Freemasonry is not a religion, a political organization, or a social club. It interfaces with none of these, but has for its foundation the basic principles of the Fatherhood of God and the Brotherhood of Man. It believes in a Supreme Being, the immortality of the soul, and that the Holy Bible is the inestimable gift of God to man as the rule and guide for his faith and practice. It is a fraternity or brotherhood pledged to the building of character -- thought, words, motives and deeds being the materials used.
Similarities exist in all the degrees of Ancient Craft Masonry. Each has an entry, a reception, a circumambulation, an obligation, a bringing to light. Each discovers certain symbols to the initiate and, in demonstration and in lecture, gives him the key by which he may unlock the door behind which he will find their meaning. In its Second Section the Sublime Degree departs from the familiar. Instead of being concerned with moral principles and exhortations, as is the first degree, or with architecture and learning, as is the second, it answers the cry of Job, "If a man die, shall he live again?" The degree delves into the deepest recesses of a man's nature. While it leads the initiate into the Sanctum Sanctorum of the Temple, it probes the Holy of Holies of his heart. As a whole the degree is symbolical of that old age by the wisdom of which "we may enjoy the happy reflections consequent on a well-spent life, and die in the hope of a glorious immortality." But it is much more than that.
Freemasonry strives to teach man the duty he owes to God, his country, his neighbor and himself. It inculcates the practice of virtue and morality in daily conduct, and conveys its teachings through rites and symbols.
The Masonic Fraternity is in no sense an insurance society; neither does it pays benefits in case of sickness or death. In a correct or broad sense, it is both educational and charitable. It extends such assistance only as it is willing and able to grant. It knowingly admits none to membership except those who are able to provide for themselves and those dependent upon them.
Freemasonry teaches and gives opportunity to its members to inculcate morality, honesty, and integrity in all walks of life, and to worthy members renders assistance to a limited extent. It expects its members to obey the moral law and to practice charity towards all mankind. It believes its members should have a strong desire to aid their fellow creatures. It has its own laws, rules and regulations, and requires a strict obedience thereto.
Freemasonry is not entered into through mere curiosity, ambition for honors, or in hopes of personal gain or advancement. Admission must not be sought for mercenary or other unworthy motives. The aim of the true Freemason is to cultivate a brotherly feeling among men, and to help, aid and assist whomsoever he can.
The right to petition for the degrees of Ancient Craft Masonry is rarely denied any man, but this right goes no further than granting the privilege of petitioning, and all who petition are not admitted. The Masonic fraternity wants and welcomes only men of high character and integrity, who should seek admission of their own free will and accord. Should a petitioner be accepted, he gets no more out of Masonry than he puts into it, and for every benefit received a member is expected to render some equivalent.
It is at once the universal and yearning question of man throughout all ages and its answer. To teaches no creed, no dogma, no religion; only that there is a hope of Immortality; there is a Great Architect by whose mercy we may live again, leaving to each brother his choice of interpretations by which he may read the Great Beyond. It teaches of the power - and the powerlessness - of evil. For those who are happy in a belief in the resurrection of the physical body, the Sublime Degree has comfort. For those whose hope is in the raising only of that spiritual body of which Paul taught, the degree assures of all the longing heart can wish. When the lesson of the greatest hope and the dearest wish of all mankind is made manifest, the Sublime Degree turns to this life and this brotherhood, and in the symbolism of the Lion, the exposition of the Five Points of Fellowship, the means by which a Mason may claim all that a man may from his brother, and the Word, ties together the Hiramic Legend and daily living in a manner which no thoughtful man may see and hear without a thrill, a way at once awe-inspiring and heartening, terrible but beautiful, sternly uncompromising yet strangely comforting. It is because the degree is all this - and more, much more, which cannot be put into words - that it means so much to those of whom it becomes a part. The ceremony is not of the earth, earthy, but of that land of the inner life, that home of the spirit where each man thinks the secret thoughts he tells never - never. Pull the flower to pieces; remain the petals, a perfume, but no rose. Play the symphony, isolated note by note; sound is heard, but no music. Every word Milton wrote is in the dictionary but great poems may not there be found. So of any written account of this degree; we may write of its symbols, analyze its legend, tell of its meaning, but we pronounce but words without a rhyme, make a flower of wax, a song muted. The best we may do is to point out a path up the high mountain of spiritual experience which is the Sublime Degree, that he who climbs may see it with a new view - and clearer eyes.
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