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Don F. Nisbet, 33
Burbank, California

One Brother’s brief definition of Masonry provides an overall view of the Craft for the general public.

“What is Freemasonry? What at first had seemed like a very simple question now took on a deeper and greater meaning.

After all, I had been a Mason for many years and the answer should be as simple as the question. Or, is it?

Prior to retirement I was employed in the communication industry. It was the custom to hold management meetings from time to time to discuss the trends of business: profit and loss, new ideas, customer reactions, indices, and business in general. These meetings were held not only to keep employees informed but to improve employee relations. They were referred to as “rap sessions,” seminars, or sometimes junior board meetings.

It was at one of these sessions, and prior to the meeting having been called to order, that I was engaged in conversation with another employee. During the course of our conversation, he noticed the ring I was wearing with the Square and Compasses and asked, “What is Freemasonry?” Before I had a chance to respond, the hour had arrived for the start of the meeting, so I mentioned that I would get back to him with an answer.

Later, as I started to think about his question, I pondered a bit. What at first had seemed like a very simple question now took on a deeper and greater meaning. After all, I had been a Mason for many years and the answer should be as simple as the question. Or, is it?

He would know that any club or organized group would have its regular and appointed officers to conduct business. This would also be true in a local Lodge except that the president and vice presidents would be called the Master and Wardens. There would then be the lesser officers or committee heads. They meet on a regular basis, conduct business, have minutes, vote on paying bills, etc. What, then distinguishes Masonry from other groups?

Perhaps looking at the origin of Masonry would shed some light on the nature of the Fraternity. He would find it interesting that Masonry has existed for ages. However, the exact origin is hidden in the mists of antiquity. Masonic legend tells us that King Solomon’s Temple was built from the ground up by masons. They worked in the quarries to mine the stones, they transported the finished blocks to the temple site, and laid the cornerstone. Each block was plumbed and trued, and set block by block.

Also, the building of the ancient cathedrals of Europe is credited to the expertise of stonemasons who were master builders. They met together as lodges or social groups to be brought up to date on new methods or improvements to the craft. These meetings were often held in inns which acted as a bond to their social life. I’m sure he would find it interesting that England has always been a bulwark of Freemasonry and that kings and nobility were often Grand Masters. It was in England that the first Grand Lodge was formed in 1717. Masonry, up until this time, was considered operative and speculative, but due to a decrease or slackening of operative masonry it was now considered to be speculative only. However, even to this day, Masons are requested to set cornerstones for schools and public buildings.

He would be interested to know that Masonry requires of its initiates that they be true. The man who is always true is both moral and wise. It also requires the following virtues: Generosity, Fidelity, Industry, and Honesty. Albert Pike put it concisely in the following: “To study much; to say little and to hear and think much; To learn that we may be able to do; and then to do, earnestly and vigorously, whatever is required by Duty, by the interests of our fellows, our country, and mankind.”

My friend might be interested in learning that, while not a religion, Masonry is religious in nature. No atheist can become a Mason. Masons believe in the Fatherhood of God and the Brotherhood of Man. He should be made aware that Masonry gives to every man the opportunity to improve himself. The Fraternity performs the greatest function of any institution at work among men in that it provides a common meeting ground where all men, regardless of creed, social position, wealth or educational background, may meet and understand one another.

He would find it interesting that, although Masonry was not formed or organized for the sole purpose of providing charity, it is estimated that Masons in this country donate over two million dollars a day to charity. (See page 61.) Today, for instance, the Shriners operate 22 hospitals for crippled children of which there are three institutes to handle acute or serious burns. There is no cost of any kind to the parents for care. Another very important Masonic service is the Childhood Language Disorders Program. Sponsored by the Scottish Rite, there are 122 clinics, centers, and programs in the Southern Jurisdiction that diagnose and treat children with hearing, speech, language, or learning problems. Again, the total cost for these clinics is borne by Masons. After slow, painstaking attention and assistance by patient, dedicated clinicians, children learn to speak and communicate. Because of the Scottish Rite, they will someday take their place as productive, self-assured adults. Yet, the Shrine Hospitals and Scottish Rite clinics are only two of hundreds of Masonic philanthropies serving a wide variety of needs.

And so, to answer the simple question “What is Masonry?” we find that the truths learned along the way are among the myriad of items or treasures that comprise the Craft.

Please remember the Scottish Rite Foundation, S.J., USA,
with your gifts and in your will, 1-800-486-3331.