The Genius Of Freemasonry

IT has often occurred to us that the spirit of Free-masonry is not as genuinely understood and appreciated as it deserves to be. We are often in doubt whether, in practice, full effect is given to the principles we profess.

We know there is a vast amount of beneficence among Craftsmen, but we are not quite sure our good works areal ways done as retiringly and unostentatiously as they might be.

Benevolence, too, is not a quality to which the heart of the Freemason is by any means a stranger, but here, again, we are sometimes disposed to question if the benevolence is invariably pure and simple. It is, we fear, quite as often mere lip-service we render as heart-service.

The utterances we breathe are the passing compliments of the moment. It is ‘en regie’ to say pretty things to each other, and we say them.

We observe, strictly, the forms and ceremonies of polite society, but it is merely an observance, and nothing more. We are, indeed, professors of Freemasonry, but we are not adepts at illustrating the sterling value of its principles.

To a certain extent, it is our duty not to feel any surprise at this. Masons are merely men, and share, in common with all mankind, the weaknesses of human nature, but at our reception into the Craft we bind ourselves to rise superior to the weaknesses of ordinary beings, and we are not always diligent in the observance of this obligation.
We deviate frequently from the hard and fast lines laid down for our guidance. We ought to be perfect exemplars of every human virtue. We are not; we often, indeed too often, deliberately illustrate the strength of human weakness, and through passion cultivate error when it were as easy to cultivate truth.

In short, and we say it with a strong sense of humiliation, there is a vast amount of humbug about Freemasonry, and we are tolerably certain that now, when Masons are the observed of all observers, is the time to utter a few home truths.
The principles of Freemasonry are coeval with time itself. They are older than the oldest form of religion of which we read in any history. They rest on the firm basis of love—love of God the Creator and man the created. In common parlance this basis is generally known as religion and virtue.

The former is the observance of that duty we all owe to the Supreme Being. There is no uniformity in the observance of this duty. It is enough for a man to observe it becomingly. Masonry, in fact, prescribes no form of religious worship, but simply that men shall worship religiously.

The limits of virtue, the twin sister of religion, are defined, as accurately as the imperfections of our nature will permit, but no matter how we regard it, and different peoples form a different estimate of virtue—no matter, we say, how men regard it, virtue is neither more nor less than the love of our fellow-man.

This love of God, that is, religion, and love of man, that is, virtue, together form the basis of Freemasonry.

One difference between these principles is, that the religious element in Freemasonry obeys no particular law. We must all of us worship the Supreme Being, without prescription, however, as to the form of worship.

The virtuous element, equally to be observed of all, may find different forms of expression under different circumstances, but the end in view is always the same, to promote the well-being of our fellows.

All this may seem, perhaps, mere grandiloquence, mere meaningless talk. Our purpose, however, is to compare the practice of Craftsmen with the professions they make.

Love of God and love of man are the principles we profess, and confining ourselves, for the moment, to a consideration of the latter, we ask, in all sincerity,—Do we practice what we preach ? We have said beneficence is one of the virtues on which we pride ourselves. We are, as a body, beneficent, but will our motives always bear analysis?
Benevolence, again, is a quality we strive to exhibit both in season and out of season, aa the phrase runs, but are we benevolent in very truth or merely as regards mere outward form ? Are there not those who say they wish a man well, yet secretly do all they can to thwart him.

Are there among us none who steal behind and deal treacherous blows ? Are we always free and open towards each other privately as well as in the Lodge room ? Are there no quarrels and dissensions among us.

No exhibitions of bitter party feeling ? Are there not those who think far more of those outward and visible signs of Freemasonry, with which they are bedizened, than of the principles laid down in our book of Constitutions ?

The question, whether a man shall wear a particular kind of jewel is, in the eyes of many, of far greater importance than the question whether the government of our Lodges may, or may not, be improved in this or that detail.

It is, in one sense, perhaps, a matter for thankfulness that our archives are so few and have been kept so carelessly, or we imagine the history of no Lodge but would show the frequent prevalence of bickering, squabbles constantly breaking out, a narrow spirit of clicquism, or some similar short-coming, the very reverse of edifying, and worse still, indirect antagonism to the spirit of our Craft.

Some of this is to be expected, for we are men, and ‘humanum est errare’; but should this difference between our practice and precept prevail to the extent it does ? Would it prevail so largely if more heed were given to instructing the young Crafts-men as to the nature of the obligation he has formed ?

The end of Freemasonry is not the decoration of the person with jewels and ribbons. Were this the case, we should be on a level with the poor, ignorant aborigines of Africa and the Pacific islands, who will make any sacrifice in order to acquire possession of a few beads or a strip of coloured cloth.

We are told to believe the badge of a Freemason is more honourable than the badge of any order of knighthood.

Yet not a few think of little else than how and when they may wear amass of tinsel. We do not mean, of course, that decorations conferred for honourable service are despicable. We are pointing now to the silly ambition of those who care little how a decoration is won, so long as it may be worn.

Again, as to our fraternal greetings, we could often wish they had a deeper significance. It is true there is an old saying in vogue among us that charity covers a multitude of sins; but it is certainly not an act of charity—that is, an act which illustrates our love for others—when under cover of a polite fraternal address to Bro. A.B.C., we do all in our power,—it may be merely to weaken his influence, or it may be worse still,—to lower him in the just estimation of his fellows. Herein lies the humbug of Freemasonry—that we allow so much of this sham, this make-believe of a fraternal feeling to exist among us.
Simplicity is at the root, is of the very essence of Free-masonry. Principles that cannot be folded up so as to present a different aspect under different conditions, a purpose that is directed to the attainment of one object—these are the principles and the purpose of true Masonry.

We believe these prevail among us largely, but they are not as operative as they might be for the shams that crowd them in on every side. Let us rub off these, and the glories of Freemasonry will stand some chance of being loved for its own sake.

– The Freemason’s Chronicle: 12/8/1876

The Freemasons Chronicle, a weekly record of masonic intelligence, was first published 2nd January 1875 London, England as an independent weekly journal of masonic interest and continued for 27 years.


It should be the business of a journal devoted to the interests of the Order to attempt the removal of prejudices such as these, which, though they may have little perceptible influence upon the prosperity of the Fraternity, yet have the effect of preventing timid or ill-informed persons from enlisting under its banner.

It will not only attempt to keep pace with the growing literary requirements of the day, but it will seek to exhibit the Order to the non-Masonic world divested of its technical details, and clothed in the garb of Charity and Brotherly Love.

The questions of the hour, which exercise the minds of thoughtful men, will be handled freely and broadly, without any tinge of political or sectarian bias.

The memoranda of Masonic gatherings which will appear from week to week, will be full and accurate; and as free interchange of opinion is one of the best signs of life and vigour in any society, ample scope will be given for Correspondence on topics of interest to the Order.

If we may venture upon a new rendering of words which recent events have made memorable, we will say here, once and for all, that we will be keen men of business, and will spare no effort, consistent with honour, to achieve commercial success; but first, and before all things, we will prove to our brethren and the world that we are FREEMASONS.

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