Freemasonry is the world’s oldest and largest fraternal organization. In the 19th century, Freemasonry was described as:
…a peculiar system of morality, veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols.
In more modern language, we would say that Freemasonry is a particular system of morality. The rituals of the Fraternity are allegorical in nature and use symbols to illustrate its teachings.
Most scholars would agree that there is little or no real evidence to define the origins of Freemasonry. A variety of theories have been advanced over the years and have moved in and out of fashion. What is certain is that modern Freemasonry is generally dated to 1717 when four already established Lodges in London met to form the world’s first Grand Lodge. From our earliest days, it may be said that Masons were of a charitable bent. Freemasons as a group provide an estimated $3 million per day to charities. Some charities are sponsored by various Masonic bodies, like the Shrine Hospitals or the Templar Learning Centers. Much of Masonic charity, however, supports community organizations and is offered quietly or even anonymously. Freemasonry, however, is not a charity.
It has often been said that Freemasonry “brings together men who would otherwise have remained at a perpetual distance.” For many of our members, the friendships the Fraternity forges are of enormous value. Because men are admitted to the fraternity based on character and not outward appearances or circumstance, membership cuts through class, race, religion, and political affiliation. Members meet and interact with one another in an environment of tolerance and respect and, often, discover differences that enrich their experience of one another.
Like many of life’s experiences, Freemasonry offers to each man a great deal and allows him to select and appreciate those aspects he most values.