Square and Compasses

What has been said about Freemasonry?

These signs and tokens are of no small value; they speak a universal language, and act as a passport to the attention and support of the initiated in all parts of the world. They cannot be lost so long as memory retains its power. Let the possessor of them be expatriated, shipwrecked or imprisoned; let him be stripped of everything he has got in the world; still these credentials remain and are available for use as circumstances require.
      The great effects which they have produced are established by the most incontestable facts of history. They have stayed the uplifted hand of the destroyer; they have softened the asperities of the tyrant; they have mitigated the horrors of captivity; they have subdued the rancor of malevolence; and broken down the barriers of political animosity and sectarian alienation.
     On the field of battle, in the solitude of the uncultivated forests, or in the busy haunts of the crowded city, they have made men of the most hostile feelings, and most distant religions, and the most diversified conditions, rush to the aid of each other, and feel a social joy and satisfaction that they have been able to afford relief to a brother Mason.

- Benjamin Franklin

Concerning the oft-heard statement by some that Freemasonry is a religion, the Supreme Court of Nebraska, in deciding a case some years ago, used the following illuminating language:

?The guiding thought is not religion but religious toleration . . . . The Masonic fraternity refrains from intruding into the field of religion and confines itself to the teaching of morality and duty to one?s fellow men, which makes better men and better citizens.
     ?The distinction is clear between such ethical teachings and the doctrines of religion. One cannot espouse a religion without belief and faith in its peculiar doctrines. A fraternity broad enough to take in and cover with its mantle Christian, Moslem and Jew, without requiring him to renounce his religion, is not a religious organization, although its members may join in prayer which, in the case of each, is a petition addressed to his own Deity. Neither can the belief in the immortality of the soul be denominated religious in the sense that it is typical of any religion, of any race, or of any age. It constitutes one of the most beautiful and consoling features of our own religion, but it is equally found in almost every other. It is so unusual and spontaneous that it is not so much belief or dogma as it is an instinct of the human soul. Neither does it imply or require adherence to any system of religious worship.
     ?The fact that belief in the doctrines or deity of no particular religion is required, of itself refutes the theory that the Masonic ritual embodies a religion, or that its teachings are religious.?

- -from ?Let There Be Light.? by Alphonse Cerza.
The Masonic Service Association, 1983.

Of all the institutions which have been established for the purpose of improving the condition of mankind, Freemasonry stands preeminent in usefulness as it is in age. Its origin is lost in the abyss of unexplored antiquity. No historical records, no traditional accounts, can with certainty point out the precise time, the place, or the particular manner of its commencement. While some have endeavored to discover its footsteps amongst the master-builders and artists engaged in the construction of the first Jewish temple, others have attempted to trace it to the Eleusinian Mysteries, which are said to have taught the immortality of the soul and the other sublime truths of natural religion. Some again have ascribed its rise to the sainted heroes of the Crusades; while others have endeavored to penetrate the Mysteries of the Druids, and to discover its origin among the wise men of the institution.

- De Witt Clinton

The Order is a semi-secret, semi-public institution; secret in respect of its activities intra moenia, but otherwise of full public notoriety, with its doors open to any applicant for admission who is of ordinary good character and repute....For Initiation, - for which there are so many candidates little conscious of what is implied in that for which they ask - what does it really mean and intend? It means a new beginning (initium); a break-away from an old method and order of life and the entrance upon a new one of larger self-knowledge, deepened understanding and intensified virtue. It means a transition from the merely natural state and standards of life towards a regenerate and super-natural state and standard. It means a turning away from the pursuit of the popular ideals of the outer world, in the conviction that those ideas are but shadows, images and temporal substitutions for the eternal Reality that underlies them, to the keen and undivertible quest of that Reality itself and the recovery of those genuine secrets of our being which lie buried and hidden at the centre or innermost part of our souls. It means the awakening of those hitherto dormant higher faculties of the soul which endue their possessor with light in the form of new enhanced consciousness and enlarged perceptive faculty. And lastly, in the words with which every Mason is familiar, it means that the postulant will henceforth dedicate and devote his life to the Divine rather than to his own or any other service, so that by the principles of the Order he may be the better enabled to display the beauty of godliness which previously perhaps has not manifested through him.

- W.L. Wilmshurst

When the art and craft of building temples and houses began to be spiritualized is admittedly in a cloud of darkness, setting aside of course the casual symbolism which runs through all literature. We shall probably never know when men first took tools in their hands and began to moralize upon them, or when for such reason they might have called themselves speculative Masons - had a denomination of this kind come into their heads. But late or early - and not so late, I think - a time arrived when they issued out of their obscurity and held that epoch-making meeting which is connected forever with the name of the London Apple-Tree Tavern [note: the Apple-Tree Tavern is held by Masons to be the birthplace of present day Freemasonry - webmaster]. Thereon followed the institution of a Grand Lodge which became that of England - regarded now as the Mother Temple of the whole Masonic world.

- Arthur Edward Waite

The course of Freemasonry in the twentieth century is far more peaceful than it was in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. But the truth that it teaches the freedom of the individual is attested by the suppression, in our day, of Masonry by all modern dictatorships. So it was under Mussolini, Adolf Hitler, and all Communist rulers. So it [was] under Franco in Spain and Salazar in Portugal. Most Americans look upon Masonic bodies merely as social and fraternal organizations. But the principles of Liberty, Fraternity, and Equality are instilled today with the same emphasis and practicality in the same words that they have been over the centuries. Beneath the social activities and the ritualism stand millions of men dedicated to the continued freedom of all people from political or ecclesiastical tyranny.

- Emmett McLoughlin