“Not Just A Man. A Mason”: What Does It Mean?

Embrace the profound essence of Freemasonry, not merely a group but a journey of integrity, shaping men of dignity.

By adopting virtues such as honesty, justice, and brotherly love, Freemasonry transcends time, urging us towards a dignified life. It’s more than being a man; it’s about living with unyielding dignity.

“Not Just A Man. A Mason”: What Does It Mean?

What do the following events have in common?

· People in the thirteen colonies take up arms due to a tax imposed on them by a faraway monarchy at the end of the 18th century

· People in Paris depose a monarch due to the excessive cost and unavailability of bread at the end of the 18th century

· People take to the streets against police brutality in the riots of 1962, 1992, 2020 and many other instances in the United States of America, France, and elsewhere across the world

· People gather to bring down the Berlin Wall in 1989

· People support the end of the Apartheid regime in South Africa at the end of the 20th century

· People rising up against the Covid-19 lockdown in the White Paper Protest in China in 2023

The answer is not freedom, nor liberty, nor economic or political independence. The answer is that in each case, people had their dignity degraded and robbed from them to the point where they could no longer take it.

Consequently, they decided to take a stand against their oppressor in a bid to restore their dignity.

So, what does all of this have to do with Freemasonry? To understand the relationship, we need to understand the meaning of the slogan: “Not Just A Man. A Mason”.

Essentially, we need a clear and simple definition of “a Mason” and “Freemasonry” that encompasses all the different views and understandings.

If we ask ten Masons to tell us what Freemasonry is and what differentiates a Mason from a non-Mason, not only would we get ten different answers, but it is likely that some of those answers would contradict each other. Moreover, some will have real difficulty giving a truly coherent answer.

This may reflect both the richness of experience entailed in being a Mason and the immensity of the philosophical system that is Freemasonry, but it also reflects a shortcoming: a difficulty in coalescing behind a unifying vision and a clear message after more than three centuries of speculative Freemasonry.

Fortunately, I postulate that there is a unifying vision of what “Freemasonry” and “a Mason” are, and this unifying vision may be one of the best-kept secrets of Freemasonry, hidden in plain sight in our ritual book.

· EA degree, in the north-east corner: “Brother AB, you there stand an upright man and Mason, and I give it you strictly in charge ever to walk and act as such before God and man.” What is an upright man? He is a man marked by strong moral rectitude; an honest, just, conscientious, scrupulous, and honorable man (Merriam Webster)

· EA degree, apron presentation: “Let its pure and spotless surface remind you of a ‘purity of life and rectitude of conduct’, a never-ending argument of nobler deeds, for higher thoughts, for nobler achievements.”

· EA degree, lecture, the four cardinal virtues: Fortitude, prudence, temperance, and justice; among many direct charges, we are told one additional time, “… Justice, in a great measure, distinguishes the good man, so should it be your practice to be just, ever remembering while standing in the North East Corner of the Lodge, your feet forming the angle on an oblong, your body erect before the WM, you were told that you there stood an upright man and Mason, and it was given you strictly in charge ever to walk and act as such before God and man.”

· EA degree, lecture, truth: “To be good and true is the first lesson we are taught in Masonry. Hence, while influenced by this principle, hypocrisy and deceit are unknown among us; sincerity and plain dealing distinguish us…”

· MM degree, charge: “Let nothing be more intolerable in your sight than the letting down of yourself to a lower level. Bid men come up to you, but refuse to descend a single step to them. Do not measure your importance by your titles or your money, but by the texture of your character and the cleanliness of your speech. Make other know always that a gentleman stands before them.”

There are many lessons in the rituals worthy of being included in the above list. Here, I have picked the ones which are the most direct, telling the newly-made brother what a Mason is and what is expected of him now that he is a Mason.

These are the first lessons and the first steps of that journey. So, what is the unifying vision of a Mason in the above list of adjectives and expectations? Surely we are not going to enumerate all of them when asked to explain “Freemasonry” and “a Mason” in a few words.

The unifying vision is simply dignity. Freemasonry simply teaches a man how to live life with dignity. A Mason is a man of dignity. Dignity is a concept readily understood by Masons and non-Masons alike, multifaced and quite complex, encompassing all the teachings of Freemasonry, compatible with “a system of morality veiled in allegories and illustrated by symbols”, non-religious, non-political, and contemporaneously sorely needed in our society.

Dignity is not only a unifying vision, but also a unifying thread across all the teachings of Freemasonry. For example, dignity is present in the three tenets of Freemasonry: Brotherly Love, Relief, and Truth.

While it is easy to see how a man of dignity will always stand for and defend truth, one may ask how Brotherly Love and Relief are related to dignity.

To understand that, we need to explore the definition of Brotherly Love. Beyond the obvious (that we love each other as brothers), Brotherly Love is the all-encompassing feeling we have when we are present with each other.

It is that space where we treat each other with respect, tolerance, and acceptance; the space where we act with decorum, order, and harmony; that space where we speak in turns, politely, courteously, and gracefully.

In short, it is the safe space where we practice giving and receiving dignity.

Dignity has three dimensions: an outward one refers to how we treat others; a receiving one refers to how others treat us; and an internal one refers to how we view ourselves as dignified people.

Brotherly Love makes us practice treating others with dignity and receiving dignified treatment from others.

It is an essential and fundamental teaching, practice, and enjoyment of Freemasonry, which many if not most active Freemasons cherish. When we fail to instill the practice of Brotherly Love in newly-made brothers, we often fail at the rest of Freemasonry teachings because those brothers usually disappear from our lodges, meetings, and events.

When we learn about dignity and how to practice it when showing Brotherly Love, we become equipped to use this perspective when we are in the outside world. Similarly, we are able to readily identify the lack of dignity thereof and we can thus either restore dignity in that aspect of our lives or extract ourselves from the environment.

In both cases, we are better equipped to exercise dignity and demonstrate the principles of Freemasonry in the profane world. This is how the practice of Brotherly Love reinforces and fortifies the third aspect of dignity: that of how we see ourselves, which grants us the fortitude to live a dignified life when dignity around us may be lacking.
 

Finally, Relief is the ultimate expression of dignity because in charity, we attend to the needy in a bid to lift them and restore their lost human dignity.

A needy person may be weakened by sickness, age, emotional or physical loss, sorrow, poverty, or homelessness; all of these result in a loss of human dignity. In charity, we contribute to restoring to them their human dignity, and this act keeps a Mason aligned with his fundamental duty.

The Masonic Care Community allows people to live the rest of their lives with dignity; the Masonic Medical Research Institute finds treatments to allow people with certain medical conditions to improve their lives and continue to live in dignity; Hurricane Katrina Relief, Ukraine Relief, and Maui (Hawaii) Wild Fire Disaster Relief are aimed at restoring the human dignity to those who lost it by losing their homes and their loved ones.

I invite each Brother to explore how many teachings across all three degrees relate to the idea of dignity.

I am confident that dignity is the unifying thread of the philosophy of Freemasonry, and the few examples above are just the tip of the iceberg.

For many Masons and most new Masons, the slogan “Not Just A Man. A Mason” is at best a question mark: indefinite words, neither intuitively understood nor yet experienced.

I hope that the above sheds much-needed light on that slogan. However, that slogan has absolutely no meaning to a profane person wanting to join Masonry, though the slogan is intended for the profane candidate who hopes to be a Mason.

If many seasoned Masons cannot define what a Mason is, why should we expect a profane to seek further answers? A better slogan would be one which is intuitively understood by a profane and includes the definition of both “a Mason” and “Freemasonry”.

Dignity must be at the center of the slogan. Obviously, a professional marketer may have more insight into how to spread this idea to the public. However, based on my own ideas, I would propose variations such as: “A Mason, leading life with dignity”; “A Mason, perpetuating human dignity”; “A Mason: a way of living with dignity”.

Dignity is a powerful and fundamental human need, it moves people to revolt, resist, and protest when they are robbed of their dignity.

There has never been a time in the history of human beings when human dignity has not been of vital importance, and our time in history is no different.

Furthermore, in the history of human beings, there has never been a better time than today for men to uphold human dignity at the highest level.

The teachings of Freemasonry and the qualities of the true, dignified Mason in society are contemporary, indispensable, and sought after. We just need to shed a better light on who we already are.

Article by: Ziad Jalbout

 

Ziad Jalbout is an active member of the L’Union Française No.17, of the 10th Manhattan District, a Past Master of Aurora Grata Day Star Lodge No. 647, of the 3 rd Kings District, and a Past Assistant Grand Lecturer, of the 3 rd Kings District, of the Grand Lodge of the State of New York.

Ziad is a member of the American Lodge of Research, Constitution Chapter 140 of the Royal Arch and Valley of NY Scottish Rite.

Ziad is a graduate of New York University and his area of interest in Masonic research is in English and French Freemasonic history of the 18 th century and the esoteric dimension of Freemasonry.

Ziad is a member of the Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of the State of New York.

 

Recent Articles: of current interest

Masonry in the Age of Leisure

Embrace the future of Masonry in the Age of Leisure! Imagine an era where technology empowers deeper connections, offering a tapestry of diverse groups united by Freemasonry’s timeless values. Envision hybrid meetings transcending borders, fostering brotherhood across continents. This optimistic future cultivates intellectual growth and social interaction, heralding a Masonic renaissance for all.
 

“Not Just A Man. A Mason”: What Does It Mean?

Embrace the profound essence of Freemasonry, not merely a group but a journey of integrity, shaping men of dignity. By adopting virtues such as honesty, justice, and brotherly love, Freemasonry transcends time, urging us towards a dignified life. It’s more than being a man; it’s about living with unyielding dignity.
 

Multiculturism and the Culture of Freemasonry

Freemasonry, with its deep roots in universal principles such as individual freedoms, education, and the pursuit of science, stands as a beacon of unity in a world divided by conflicting ideologies. By embracing the tenets of Freemasonry, including respect, peace, and mutual understanding, we can navigate societal challenges and foster a more harmonious world.
 

Freemasonry and Ecology

Embrace the new paradigm of eco-conscious living in the 21st century. Freemasonry, a cornerstone of society, must evolve, placing Nature at its heart. Reject anthropocentrism, embrace deep ecology, and champion sustainable living and global cooperation. Let Freemasonry lead by example, advocating for a world where humans and nature coexist harmoniously.
 

How Freemasonry Has Woven Itself into the Fabric of Society

Like the weathered stones of an ancient temple, Freemasonry's origins are shrouded in mystery. This fraternal order has woven invisible threads throughout society's fabric since emerging in the 1600s. Despite declining membership, Freemasonry's influential legacy endures, seen in philanthropy, architecture, and the ideals of legendary members. Though facing challenges, revival remains possible if it adapts traditions to the modern era. 

AI help in matching mentors with new Freemasons

Harnessing AI for Freemasonry Mentorship: A Comparative Analysis. Freemasonry, an age-old fraternity, seeks to enhance its mentorship program by leveraging AI. While the Grand Master suggests detailed member profiles for matching, a Professional Coach emphasizes personality compatibility. Meanwhile, an AI Bot proposes machine learning for pattern recognition. Dive in to explore the potential and pitfalls of each approach.
 

Masonic Charities P.2 – The Shriners

Discover the Shriners' legacy within Freemasonry; delve into their profound commitment to philanthropy and see how Masonic Charities demonstrate brotherly love, relief, and truth. Become inspired by the bonds that unite Shriners around the globe and their impactful work in local communities.

Masonic Charities P.1

Freemasonry's commitment to charity has always been a priority and remains a core principle, reflecting its mission to promote brotherly love, relief, and truth in the world. Part 1 of the series gives an introduction to the establishment of the main Masonic Charitable endeavours in the 18th and 19th centuries and several key influencers.

Solomon Learning and Development Platform

The Intersection of Freemasonry and Technology: Embracing the Digital Age with the New
Solomon is a Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) established by United Grand Lodge of England. A Comprehensive Online Resource for Freemasons of All Degrees.

Especial Meeting of United Grand Lodge of England

The year 2023 marks the tercentenary of the publication in London of the Constitutions of the Freemasons, based on Enlightenment principles that provide the philosophical foundations of modern Freemasonry. Why are the 1723 Constitutions important? Many Masonic histories have been concerned with ‘when’ and ‘what’. We also explore ‘why?’

The Rite of Destitution

Like every other incident of initiation it is in the light of the larger meanings of Freemasonry that we must interpret the Rite of Destitution. But what does it mean?

Who are SOGLIA?

Society of Grand Lodges in Alliance (SOGLIA) is a confederation of Grand Freemason Obediences in which all members obey the principles of Regularity. Assembled annually, in different places of the world, in order to share fellowship and to promote Masonic tradition, SOGLIA members are respecting the autonomy of each Grand Lodge.

Who are CGLEM

Confederation of the Grand Lodges of Europe and the Mediterranean - Universal Freemasonry and its intellectual property are less and less taken into account in the current times of constant movement and unclear future prospects.

The Book of Law in Brazilian Freemasonry

We are informed that, Freemasonry it is not a religion, but the candidate has a belief in a creative principle, which later, we call the Great Architect of the Universe. - by Fernando Rodrigues de Souza

Mike's Masonic Walks And Talks

WBro. Mike Neville is a Masonic author and lecturer. He offers walks and talks primarily around London, based on his vast knowledge of the area and his specialist subjects, which cover all aspects of Masonic history.

A Masonic lodge is not a service club

An address delivered to the 10th Annual Conference of Western Canadian Grand Lodges (1950) in response to the question, "Should Our Western Grand Lodges Sponsor a Specific Program?" By
Laurence Healey

Order of Bees

The Order of Bees was established as a youth initiative for the boys and girls of Prince Hall Freemasons, and symbolises the relationship existing between the activities of the youth and the family of bees.

Who are the CMI?

The Confederación Masónica Interamericana (CMI) was founded in 1947, is a non-profit organization that groups together 92 Great Masonic Powers, admitted as members and distributed in 26 countries in South, Central, North, Caribbean and Europe.

Interlogias Masonic App

This smartphone app is designed to work with all Freemasons from both Regular and Independent Grand Lodges around the world.

Who are FAMAF ?

The American Federation of Feminine Freemasonry (FAMAF) is an organization that brings together Grand Lodges, Grand Orients and Confederations of Feminine Masonic Grand Lodges from the American continent.

Grand Masonic Alliance TRACIA

The third largest Masonic Alliance of independent grand lodges, which currently has over 500,000 members in the world and an incredible resource of "good people with a good reputation" from around the world.

A Guiding Paw - my faithful 'brethren'

A heart-warming story of one Mason's best friends – and how Gary's faithful guide dogs have helped fulfil both his Masonic life but also his valuable work in public service.

A visit to the Mother Lodge of Scotland

Let me take you to the heart of Scotland to meet our Brethren of the Mother Lodge of Scotland, a journey into one of Freemasonry's deepest roots. Our guide Carlos Oliveira Santos who is from
Grand Orient of Portugal.

Who are VGLvD

An introduction to VEREINIGTE GROSSLOGEN von Deutschland / UNITED GRAND LODGES of Germany

International Masonic Union CATENA

An international association of Grand Lodges and independent Lodges, with all true Masonic traditions, which adhere to the basic principles of the equal standing of men and women in Freemasonry

Prince Hall Freemasonry

Social Impact of Prince Hall Freemasonry in D.C., 1825-1900. Alonza Tehuti Evans discusses Prince Hall Freemasonry, founded by African Americans.

The Widows Sons UK

Who are the Widows Sons, and what do they do, and how can you join ?

UGLE 2020 Annual Review

For the first time in its 300 year history UGLE has published an Annual Review

Who are the Order of DeMolay?

Founded in 1919 and named after the Grand Master of the Knights Templar, this International Order has helped young boys become great men.

9th International Conference of Freemasonry

Hidden Meanings: Esotericism and Masonic Connections

Who are CLIPSAS?

An introduction to CLIPSAS and we look at who are they and what do they do

Why don't Freemasons read?

The title of this article will seem somewhat of an oxymoron, because at this precise moment you, most likely a Freemason, is reading this

Harmony in the Lodge

Music can make you either remember everything or forget everything! They even call it the 'rhythm' of life because life does have a beat, a rhythm, a song! Music is equally important for Freemasons.

Young Masons' Inter-Club Virtual Social

An initiative was created to initially keep Brethren engaged in their Masonry whilst the restrictions of the COVID-19 pandemic are in place.

Heroes in Masonry

I've heard people say that we don't have heroes

Stay Hungry Stay Foolish

What can we learn from Steve Jobs' address given at Stanford in 2005

Open Lectures on Freemasonry

Open Lectures on Freemasonry as a series of monthly online lectures that aims to increase the visibility and accessibility of research into Freemasonry. The lectures are open to anyone who is interested.

What Kind of Library Do You Have?

Many Brothers have no clue as to what kind of "Craft" library they actually have in their home or office. Most of these Brothers don’t care that they don't know – so, what kind of library do you have?

Russian Freemasonry

Russian Freemasonry a combination of a short sketch of its history and a review of the present-day Masonic landscape in this country

Masonic Structure

A brief outline showing the differences and similarities within Freemasonry

masonic knowledge

to be a better citizen of the world

share the square with two brothers

click image to open email app on mobile device

Share this article ....

Contents