Saturday, April 11, 2009

Freemasonry - What is it?


There are countless answers to this question, and the beauty of Freemasonry is that none of these answers are wrong. They are just different words trying to express the same meaning.
The most well known definition is that which first appeared around the 19th Century, which states that:

Freemasonry is a peculiar system of morality, veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols.
I find the definition pretty good, yet a little difficult to understand at first reading, for many people from the twenty first century.
I firmly believe that if something works fine then you should not meddle with it, so I will leave the definition the same and would like to explain it in my own words and from my own perspective.
The purpose of Freemasonry is (to put it in modern terms):
To make good men, better!
Now I will attempt to explain what freemasonry is and then how it attempts to reach its purpose. To analyze the meaning of this definition of Freemasonry a little better let us break it down into its smaller parts:

Phrase 1:"...a peculiar system of morality..."
Interpretation: The word peculiar arises from the latin root "peculiaris".Technically it means "characteristic of only one person, group, or thing", or "different from the usual or normal". Now a days the word peculiar has negative connotations, as any one who hears this word today associates it with meaning "strange" or "odd", but in the 19th century it meant "special and unique".
The word system (from Latin systēma, in turn from Greek σύστημα systēma) means "An organized set of interrelated ideas or principles."
The word morality (from the Latin moralitas "manner, character, proper behavior") in its normative and universal sense, morality refers to an ideal code of conduct, one which would be espoused in preference to alternatives by all rational people, under specified c
onditions.
Therefore this ph
rase refers to a special and ideal set of principles that form the basis for a code of conduct.

Phrase 2:
"...veiled in allegory..."
Interpretation: The word veiled means "concealed or disguised" or "muted or unclear".
The word allegory refers to a story or visual image with a second distinct meaning partially hidden behind its literal or visible meaning.
Therefore this phrase refers to a method of communication which uses a narrative, dramatic, or pictorial form to convey an abstract idea or concept that plain language has difficulty in describing or which would take a long time to communicate.

Phrase 3:"...illustrated by symbols."
Interpretation: The word illustrate (Latin illūstrāre or illūstrāt means to make bright) means "to clarify by serving as an example or comparison"
The word symbol in the simplest sense, refers to anything that stands for or represents something else beyond it— usually an idea conventionally associated with it. For eg. the Indian flag is a symbol of the country India.
Therefore this phrase refers to the usage of an object as an example or comparison to represent another idea or concept.

By now the question that begins to form in the minds of people who have understood the definition is that, in that case is Freemasonry a kind of education?
My answer to that is, yes but it is not an end in itself (although for some people it might be). Just as we need to learn to drive a car before we can actually drive safely (literal meaning). Just as we need to be lit before we can go out into our society and be beacons of light to others. (figurative meaning). Just like that we need to learn a certain special system of morality before we can implement that in the various spheres of our lives.

In this sense Freemasonry helps people grow, build themselves up and thus helps make good men better!! When a group of such men get together it can not only benefit their families, and communities but ultimately society itself. And that my friends is what Freemasonry is about.