FreemasonryFreemasonry is primarily an alliance of free men of all faiths and all walks of life. Based on tolerance, it is this rich social and religious diversity that flourishes in a common direction: that which provides a path to one for the improvement of oneself.
For this, Freemasonry provides each person who wants to work on himself with the tools of Symbolism and Tradition. It is a school of life and teaching of moral conduct with which everyone can flourish by himself.
It is a brotherhood that enriches through true connections which contribute towards responding effectively to the problems that our time asks each of us through the multiplicity of perspectives. Modernity no longer calls upon monolithic thought, but instead takes into account the complexity and richness of our relationships.
It is a spiritual quest, structured both as a human organization and as a humanist way. The Masonic organization is there to provide freedom and independence in each other's work, while providing a collective and supportive community. The path is made of steps that permit one’s gradual evolution without any power relationships.
By and through this mix, which may seem surprising, of individual liberty and tradition, Freemasonry has survived intact from the 18th century to date by being, at the same time, always the same and never exceeded.
An alliance of free men
It is important to cultivate as much freedom for others as well as one's own. By respecting the freedom of another, not only are we enriched by his thoughts and experiences but, more than that, one may find that one’s own certainties may not necessarily be so. It is not about making a syncretism of religions and humanism, but on the other hand aims to open one’s mind to different universal cultures that have contributed towards enrichment of human thinking. By respecting freedom of others, one conquers one’s own freedom, well beyond the patterns, habits and beliefs that one may have unconsciously adopted. Man links himself to particular traditions, national and religious. Also, it is not necessarily about rejecting beliefs, but on the other hand to embrace them with conscience and in total freedom. Finally, this freedom is exercised all the way to the option of withdrawal at any time should the Masonic approach not suit one’s personality.
A path of training to and for life
The biological unity of mankind requires the removal of racism. There are no men above or below, but only a great ethnic and cultural diversity and varying degrees in the evolution of human societies. Solidarity with all beings in the cosmic unity, from the infinitely small to the infinitely large, conscious man feels united with the eternal spirit, soul or architecture of the cosmos, symbol of perfection, without dogmatic representation.
Teaching of moral conduct
The word morality, driven away at one time for dogmatism has returned today under the name of ethics, implies many senses. In the context of the individual’s Masonic development, it can mean something very simple and that which forms part of the particular work towards freedom, namely the development of agreement between our thoughts and actions. This agreement is far from easy to achieve in the context of contemporary life and requirements of courage.
In this search for improvement, it is important to find others on the same path to share one’s experiences, to support each other and experience the virtues of tolerance. That is why Freemasonry is a fraternity both as a result of collective workmanship and as a means of advancing along one’s own path. This fraternity is the deep bond that unites one with other men, be they Masons or not.
An approach to modernity
Today’s man must think globally, he must look beyond racial, philosophical and religious barriers which divide mankind. Dogmatism in all its forms can only be negative to current globalization. Freemasonry is an experience that shows us that universality is not and should not be synonymous of uniformity, but instead the contrary.
A spiritual journey
To meet the challenges of diversity in harmony, traditional Freemasonry appealed to a higher principle that transcends material, social and religious reality that some would call "God", other "energy", and that we call the Great Architect of the Universe so as not to enter into sterile debates. The combination of faith in a higher principle and a process of perfecting oneself is thus a spiritual process in a wider sense.
A structured society
Freemasons work in lodges that are themselves part of Grand Lodges or Grand Orients. In addition to this, each cell acquires a committee (called the College) and a chair (called Worshipful) as in any corporation. Similarly, Grand Lodges equip themselves with a Grand College. This structure is not a hierarchy but an organization. The College has a role in coordinating the work, as well as Grand Lodges and Grand Orients coordinate the activities of Lodges without directing them. In order for this organization not to have power relations within, the colleges and major colleges are compulsorily renewed on a regular basis. The overriding principle is: free masons free lodges. The Mason must obey only one thing: his commitment vis-à-vis himself to work on his self improvement in accordance with the approach he has freely chosen.
A structured approach
Masonic approach is structured by systems of grades or degrees: the rites. The wealth of available tools is vast, and because we can only advance one step after another, the Masonic approach was structured by a system of degrees which is made up of steps to be accomplished one after the other. Having reached a step further confers no superiority over the other who has yet to accomplish same, except the duty to help him accomplish same. Each degree proposes experiences and symbolisms upon which the Freemason is called to meditate.
What Freemasonry has to offer
Based on the foregoing, it is easy to grasp what Freemasonry can bring to the individual, in particular, and humanity in general. To summarize, it is essentially a school of life and learning about freedom while taking into account all the individual’s dimensions on affective aspects by and through fraternity, intellectual through exercise of tolerance, spiritual by tradition, and by reference to a higher principle. It allows any person who wishes to walk the difficult path of self-improvement (and we stress the word improvement rather than perfection, because it is a journey, not a goal) to find a fraternal alliance with which one can share one’s efforts and questions freely. Freemasonry, therefore, provides a meeting place where constructive dialogue is possible through listening to, and respecting, the views of others. What unites Freemasons is belief in improvement and perfectibility of one another and its possible influence on other men. Through the work of Masons, Freemasonry hopes to promote, beyond its fraternity and structures, more justice, tolerance, charity and love by and through the active and responsible behavior of each Mason.
History of Freemasonry
In Europe during the Middle Ages, jobs were grouped into corporations and each corporation had a hierarchy of Apprentices, Fellows and Masters. One of the most respected corporations was certainly that of the builders, or masons, who built, among others, the cathedrals. The three Masonic Degrees came from such, now "symbolic", as well as the symbols used which depict the art of building (Compass, Set-Square, Mallet, Chisel, Lever, Trowel, Apron, etc..) and the word "lodge" itself. Imagination helping, it was long believed that this "operative" Freemasonry masked mysterious esoteric doctrines, from the East. This is a legend to which modern historical criticism has done justice. The oldest Masonic documents, such as the Regius Poem (fourteenth century) proved this hypothesis wrong. Another mistake is to confuse Masonry with Companionship.
To ancient Masons, their art was mystically connected to the building of the Temple of Jerusalem for King Solomon. This explains the term “Royal Art” to describe Masonry. When, the Gothic style declined on the mainland, the venerable corporation was maintained in traditionalist England. It was in 1717 that four London lodges merged to form the first Grand Lodge, for which, in 1723, the Rev. James Anderson wrote the famous Constitution (known as Anderson’s Constitution), the foundation of modern speculative Masonry. What about the latter? Through the institution and adoption of "Acceptance", particularly practiced in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. This was an honorary title, conferring the title of Mason to members unfamiliar to the art of building, usually to distinguished amateurs or sponsors. When they eventually became an overwhelming majority, the evolution was complete. Stone construction was replaced by ideal allegorical construction. Work on raw stone to make it cubic, took the high moral and spiritual meaning that remained, and that became and remained the very purpose of the order.
In the eighteenth century, Masonry swarmed the British Isles around the globe, the continent, then on to other parts of the world, but like any human institution it went through deviations, especially in France. Some were inspired by occultism. Others deviated towards political processes as referred to rightly by a modern historian of the College as "the Substituted Path”. It is these very deviations that represent, even today, the diverse formations claiming to be Masonic “Obediences “, but justly qualified as irregular for this important reason.
They are not recognized by the origins of Freemasonry, inspired by the Anglo-Saxon and Anderson philosophy.
In our country, these substituted paths are: the Grand Orient de France, La Grande Loge de France, Le Droit Humain, La Grande Loge Feminine de France and some others of lesser importance.
Our intention is not to attack them in any way whatsoever regarding the decisions they felt they had to take, but to objectively show that by doing so, they moved away from the “landmarks”.
In Mauritius, other than the Grand Lodge of Mauritius constituted and consecrated on March 12, 2005, there are three other orders of regular obedience: they are the United Grand Lodge of England, the Grand Lodge of Scotland and the Grand Lodge of Ireland.
The Old Charges of Free and Accepted Masons
Compiled by the Author in their Old Records, by order of the Grand Master, the present Duke of Montagu. Approved by the Grand Lodge and printed by order in the first Edition of the Book of Constitutions, on the 25 March 1722.
I- Concerning God and Religion.
A Mason is oblig'd, by this Tenure, to obey the moral Law; and if he rightly understands the Art, he will never be a stupid atheist, nor an irreligious libertine. But though in ancient Times Masons were charg'd in every Country to be of the Religion of that Country or Nation, whatever it was, yet 'tis now thought more expedient only to oblige them to that Religion in which all Men agree, leaving their particular Opinions to themselves; that is, to be good Men an true, or Men of Honour and Honesty, by whatever Denominations or Persuasions they may be distinguish'd; whereby Masonry becomes the Centre of Union, and the Means of conciliating true Friendship among Persons that must have remain'd at a perpetual Distance.
II- Of the Civil Magistrate Supreme and Subordinate.
A Mason is a peaceable Subject to the Civil Powers, wherever he resides or works, and is never to be concern'd in Plots an Conspiracies against the Peace an Welfare of the Nation, nor to behave himself undutifully to inferior Magistrates; for as Masonry hath been always injured by War, Bloodshed, and Confusion, so ancient Kings and Princes have been much dispos'd to encourage the Craftsmen, because of their Peaceableness and Loyalty, whereby they practically answer'd the Cavils of their Adversaries, and promoted the Honour of the Fraternity, who ever flourish'd in Times of Peace. So that if a Brother should be a Rebel against the State, he is not to be countenanc'd in his Rebellion, however he may be pitied as an unhappy Man; and, if convicted of no other Crime, though the loyal Brotherhood must and ought to disown his Rebellion, and give no Umbrage or Ground of political Jealousy to the Government for the time being; they cannot expel him from the Lodge, and his Relation to it remains indefeasible.
III- Of Lodges.
A Lodge is a Place where Masons assemble and work: Hence that Assembly, or duly organiz'd Society of Masons, is call'd a Lodge, and every Brother ought to belong to one, and to be subject to its By-Laws and the General Regulations. It is either particular or general, and will be best understood by attending it, and by the Regulations of the General or Grand Lodge hereunto annex'd. In ancient Times, no Master or Fellow could be absent from it, especially when warn'd to appear at it, without incurring a severe Censure, until it appear'd to the Master and Wardens, that pure Necessity hinder'd him. The Persons admitted Members of a Lodge must be good and true Men, free-born, and of mature and discreet Age, no Bondmen, no Women, no immoral or scandalous Men, but of good Report.
IV- Of Masters, Wardens, Fellows, and Apprentices.
All Preferment among Masons is grounded upon real Worth and personal Merit only; that so the Lords may be well served, the Brethren not put to Shame, nor the Royal Craft despis'd: Therefore no Master or Warden is chosen by seniority, but for his Merit. It is impossible to describe these things in writing, and every Brother must attend in his Place, and learn them in a way peculiar to this Fraternity: Only Candidates may know, that no Master should take an Apprentice, unless he has sufficient Employment for him, and unless he be a perfect Youth, having no Maim or Defect in his Body, that may render him uncapable to learning the Art, of serving his Master's Lord, and of being made a Brother, and then a Fellow-Craft in due time, even after he has served such a term of Years as the Custom of the Country directs; and that should be descended of honest Parents ; that so, when otherwise qualify'd, he may arrive to the Honour of being the Warden, and then the Master of the Lodge, the Grand Warden, and at length the Grand-Master of all the Lodges, according to his Merit. No Brother can be a Warden until he has pass'd the part of a Fellow-Craft; nor a Master until he has acted as a Warden, nor Grand Warden until he has been Master of a Lodge, nor Grand-Master unless he has been a Fellow-Craft before his Election, who is also to be nobly born, or a Gentleman of the best Fashion, or some eminent Scholar, or some curious Architect, or other Artist, descended of honest Parents, and who is of singular great Merit in the Opinion of the Lodges. And for the better, and easier, and more honourable Discharge of his Office, the Grand-Master has a Power to chuse his own Deputy Grand-Master, who must be then, or must have been formerly, the Master of a particular Lodge, and has the Privilege of acting whatever the Grand-Master, his Principal, should act, unless the said Principal be present, or interpose his Authority by a Letter. These rules and Governors, Supreme and Subordinate, of the ancient Lodge, are to be obey'd in their respective Stations by all the Brethren, according to the old Charges and Regulations, with all Humility, Reverence, Love, and Alacrity.
V- Of the Management of the Craft in working.
All Masons shall work honestly on working Days, that they may live creditably on holy Days; and the time appointed by the Law of the Land, or confirm'd by Custom, shall be observ'd. The most expert of the fellow-Craftsmen shall be chosen or appointed the Master, or Overseer of the Lord's Work; who is to be call'd Master by those that work under him. The Craftsmen are to avoid all ill Language, and to call each other by no disobliging Name, but Brother or Fellow; and to behave themselves courteously within and without the Lodge. The Master, knowing himself to be able of Cunning, shall undertake the Lord's Work as reasonably as possible, and truly dispend his Goods as if they were his own; nor to give more Wages to any Brother or Apprentice than he really may deserve. Both the Master and the Masons receiving their Wages justly, shall be faithful to the Lord, and honestly finish their Work, whether Task or Journey; nor put the Work to Task that hath been accustom'd to Journey. None shall discover Envy at the Prosperity of a Brother, nor supplant him, or put him out of his Work, if he be capable to finish the same; for no Man can finish another's Work so much to the Lord's Profit, unless he be thoroughly acquainted with the Designs and Draughts of him that began it. When a Fellow-Craftman is chosen Warden of the Work under the Master, he shall be true both to Master and Fellows, shall carefully oversee the Work in the Master's Absence to the Lord's Profit; and his Brethren shall obey him. All Masons employ'd, shall meekly receive their Wages without Murmuring or Mutiny, and not desert the Master till the Work is finish'd. A younger Brother shall be instructed in working, to prevent spoiling the Materials for want of Judgment, and for encreasing and continuing of Brotherly Love. All the Tools used in working shall be approved by the Grand Lodge. No Labourer shall be employ'd in the proper Work of Masonry; nor shall Free Masons work with those that are not free, without an urgent Necessity; nor shall they teach Labourers and unaccepted Masons, as they should teach a Brother or Fellow.
VI- Of Behaviour,
1. In the Lodge while constituted.
You are not to hold private Committees, or separate Conversation, without Leave from the Master, nor to talk of any thing impertinent or unseemly, nor interrupt the Master or Wardens, or any Brother speaking to the Master: Nor behave yourself ludicrously or jestingly while the Lodge is engaged in what is serious and solemn; nor use any unbecoming Language upon any Pretence whatsoever; but to pay due Reverence to your Master, Wardens, and Fellows, and put them to worship. If any Complaint be brought, the Brother found guilty shall stand to the Award and Determination of the Lodge, who are the proper and competent Judges of all such Controversies, (unless you carry it by Appeal to the Grand Lodge) and to whom they ought to be referr'd, unless a Lord's Work be hinder'd the mean while, in which Case a particular Reference may be made; but you must never go to Law about what concern the Masonry, without an absolute Necessity apparent to the Lodge.
2. Behaviour after the Lodge is over and the Brethren not gone.
You may enjoy yourselves with innocent Mirth, treating one another according to Ability, but avoiding all Excess, or forcing any Brother to eat or drink beyond his Inclination, or hindering him from going when his Occasions call him, or doing or saying any thing offensive, or that may forbid an easy and free Conversation; for that would blast our Harmony, and defeat our laudable Purposes. Therefore no private Piques or Quarrels must be brought within the Door of the Lodge, far less any Quarrels about Religion, or Nations, or State Policy, we being only, as Masons, of the Catholick Religion above-mention'd; we are also of all Nations, Tongues, Kindreds, and Languages, and resolv'd against all politicks, as what never yet conduc'd to the Welfare of the Lodge, nor ever will. This Charges has been always strictly enjoin'd and observ'd; but especially ever since the Reformation in Britain, or the Dissent and Secession of these Nations from the Communion of Rome.
3. Behaviour when Brethren meet without Strangers, but not in a Lodge form'd.
You are to salute one another in a courteous manner, as you will be instructed, calling each other Brother, freely giving mutual Instructions as shall be thought expedient, without being overseen or overheard, and without encroaching upon each other, or derogating from that Respect which is due to any Brother, were he not a Mason: For though all Masons are as Brethren upon the same Level, yet Masonry takes no Honour to whom it is due, and avoid ill Manners.
4. Behaviour in Presence of Strangers not Masons.
You shall be cautious in your Words and Carriage, the most penetrating Stranger shall not be able to discover or find out what is not proper to be intimated; and sometimes you shall divert a Discourse, and manage it prudently for the Honour of the worshipful Fraternity.
5. Behaviour at Home, and in your Neighbourhood.
You are to act as becomes a moral and wise Man; particularly, not to let your Family, Friends, and Neighbours know the concerns of the Lodge, etc. but wisely to consult your own Honour, and that of the ancient Brotherhood, for Reasons not to be mention'd here. You must also consult your Health, by not continuing together too late, or too long from home, after Lodge Hours are past; and by avoiding of Gluttony or Drunkenness, that your Families be not neglected or injured, nor you disabled from working.
6. Behaviour towards a Stranger Brother.
You are cautiously to examine him, in such a Method as Prudence shall direct you, that you may not be impos'd upon by an ignorant false Pretender, whom you are to reject with Contempt and Derision, and beware of giving him any Hints of Knowledge. But if you discover him to be a true and genuine Brother, you are to respect him accordingly; and if he is in want, you must relieve him if you can, or else direct him how he may be reliev'd: You must employ him some Days, or else recommend him to be employ'd. But you are not charged to do beyond your Ability, only to prefer a poor Brother, that is a good Man and true, before any other poor People in the same Circumstances.
Finally, All these Charges you are to observe, and also those that shall be communicated to you in another way; cultivating BROTHERLY-LOVE, the Foundation and Cape-stone, the Cement and Glory of this ancient Fraternity, avoiding all Wrangling and Quarrelling, all Slander an Backbiting, nor permitting others to slander any honest Brother, but defending his Character, and doing him all good Offices, as far as is consistent with your Honour and Safety, and no farther. And if any of them do you Injury, you must apply to your own or his Lodge; and from thence you may appeal to the GRAND LODGE at the Quarterly Communication, and from thence to the annual GRAND LODGE, as has been the ancient laudable Conduct of our Fore-fathers in every Nation; never taking a legal Course but when the Case cannot be otherwise decided, and patiently listening to the honest and friendly Advice of Master and Fellows, when they would prevent your going to Law with Strangers, or would excite you to put a speedy Period to all Law-Suits, that so you may mind the Affair of MASONRY with the more Alacrity and Success; but with respect to Brothers or Fellows at Law, the Master and Brethren should kindly offer their Mediation, which ought to be thankfully submitted to by the contending Brethren; and if that Submission is impracticable, the must however carry on their Process, or Law-Suit, without Wrath an Rancor (not in the common way) saying or doing nothing which may hinder Brotherly Love, and good Offices to be renew'd and continu'd; that all may see the benign Influence of MASONRY, as all true Masons have done from the Beginning of the World, and will do to the End of Time.
Amen, so mote it be.