Freemasons are particularly proud of the provenance and heritage rooted in the stonemasons’ craft as far back in history to the masons who built King Solomon’s temple, as recorded in the Old Testament.
Just as apprentices in bygone days were guided through a rigorous and painstaking training process, so Freemasons today are led on a long path of self-discovery and learning, step by step, with the story unfolding, piece by piece over a number of years. It is that incredible process of continuous discovery that requires always that each step remains protected from premature disclosure – hence the so-called “secrecy” or privacy of elements of our ceremonies.
Apart from life itself, Freemasonry’s classrooms are the Masonic “Lodges”. They mirror the ancient groups of stonemasons wherein their skills were passed down through the generations. Nowadays, a different craft – that of self-improvement and development – is handed down in the Lodges through strict adherence to a variety of ceremonies and rituals.
On display in every Temple – the meeting place of Masonic Lodges – are two small blocks of stone – one rough and one smooth. Symbolically, they represent the progression of a Mason’s life from start and finish – from the unprepared apprentice to the accomplished, learned master.
Even today, stonemasons tools – the frequently seen Masonic emblems – such as the square, compass, level, plumb-rule, gauge, chisel and mallet all relate symbolically to this process. Not surprisingly, Freemasonry is referred to as “the Craft”.
By starting as an Apprentice and advancing steadily in “degrees” to be a Master, we are encouraged to learn about ourselves, to develop moral strength and compassion, to explore our capabilities and to know our limitations.
Tell me more about Degrees in Freemasonry
But in this potentially introspective journey of discovery Masons are taught, first and foremost, never to lose sight of the needs of others. Respecting and responding to the needs of others is a cornerstone of Freemasonry. The natural consequence of this is Freemasonry’s enormous charitable output.
Freemasonry encourages us to think of the process of self-improvement as a long, adventurous and enjoyable programme of learning. But then, of course, we know in truth, the learning process never ends……..
When admitted for the first time into Freemasonry as an ” Entered Apprentice” some are shocked to be charged or committed to fulfil certain expectations – a daunting list of human virtues and moral standards by which they should endeavour to live their daily lives. But we soon realise that this is the ideal, the benchmark by which we, as individuals, should continuously judge ourselves. And as we are all human, we know that we may not always succeed in that mission. The point is, Freemasonry encourages us to keep on trying, to keep improving on our imperfections!