Books on Masons – Fraternity in Freemasonry

“Neither shall thy name any more be called Abram,
but thy name shall be Abraham; for a father
of nations have I made thee.”

Gen. 17:5

From the moment he is initiated as an Entered Apprentice, a Mason is instructed upon the importance of remaining free. The initiate quickly learns that freedom is a quality of life that the Craft takes very seriously. Each Mason is informed at some early point in his Masonic career that he must endeavor for the remainder of his life to be the sole sovereign over his earthly destiny. He also learns that from a political perspective, while Freemasonry abstains from generally expressing preferences, the Craft emphatically endorses liberty, freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of association and a free public education for all citizens.

In his Books on Masons Albert Pike wrote that where two or several of these sovereignties associate, the State begins, requiring each to relinquish a portion of his personal sovereignty. (Morals and Dogma). However, even in the act of relinquishment, the individual gains, for he participates in the establishment of a union whose ties shall never be dissolved. That union is called fraternity, a word that conveys both a definition of unity, as well as an understanding about how to accomplish human unification.

The Masonic meaning of fraternity is quite likely much different than the meaning you acquired while attending school. In colleges across the nation, campuses abound with fraternities that offer male students social acceptance, camaraderie, fellowship and a central place or house to sleep, study and party. Women are not left out, for most of those campuses offer the same environment to female students through an assortment of sororities. Many who join Freemasonry have at one time also been members of such fraternities, as well as other social fraternal organizations, such as the Moose or Elks lodges. While certainly not denouncing or demeaning any of those fraternities that perform many valuable services to the societies in which their members live, the meaning of fraternity to the Craft is profoundly philosophical.

Lamenting about how communities of seemingly good people could quickly morph into vicious, death-dealing armies, Manly P. Hall wrote Books on Masons and about a new fraternal order he hoped would eventually sweep the world. In his book entitled Lectures on Ancient Philosophy, Hall called his new order the gospel of identity. The premise for his new gospel was that all life forms are the manifestations of one God. Using that premise, Hall expanded his thinking to include the notion that all people were evolving to one identity, one government and one new world order. Such thinking foretold of a new age and, indeed, the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite entitled its publication The New Age. It foretold the fulfillment of a Masonic hope – a brotherhood of man under the fatherhood of God.

Hall’s gospel of identity, while subject to denunciation as fanciful thinking, at best, or, at worst dangerous in its promotion of forsaking individual freedoms, is relevant to each one of us when considered in light of lessons set forth in the Holy Bible. As a teaching drawn from the First Great Light of Masonry, its significance in shaping individual conduct must be carefully considered. In the book of Genesis, God calls forth Abram from among the masses and upon finding him worthy changes his name and promises that, “In you all the nations of the earth shall be blessed.” (Gen. 17:5). That covenant was not with many people on behalf of many nations, but with one holy and worthy man on behalf of all men.

The meaning of fraternity to Freemasons at least includes the notion that as members of the nations referred to in scripture, we are also heirs of the benefits God has promised -…all nations of the earth shall be blessed. But, what does Freemasonry teach us about how we are to be blessed? What, if anything are we to do? Cain slew his brother Abel and, as we are informed, was condemned to wander the world. The sons of Jacob through their brother Joseph into a well and left him to die. They suffered the ravages of famine and death as a consequence. To the contrary, the men described in the Holy Writings who treated their brethren well were, in turn, treated well by God and Nature. To us as Masons, the lesson is evident: treat your brother as you would have him treat you – then you will be blessed.

But the concept of one Abraham being the father of all nations also teaches us valuable lesson about how man is expected to live, especially when compared with the lessons taught us by Nature. We believe as men that equality is the foundation to human liberty. But, true equality in all things leads to chaos and disorder where jealousies and personal interests push aside justice, compassion and love. The equality taught us in Masonry holds that all men of all aptitudes shall have equal opportunities in life. Freemasonry teaches tolerance of other opinions – it does not teach that harmony and freedom are achieved when the presence of all opposing opinions forces mankind into a moral gridlock. If, as it has been said, Hermeticism is the true philosophical ancestor of Freemasonry, then we must harken to the lessons of that credo – varying ideas and opinions must be synthesized into a cohesive structure whereby all men are free to equally pursue each and every opportunity providence has made available to us.

If you would be wise, as King Solomon was wise, you must learn the thoughts and desires of your brethren, as well as the thoughts of the members of your family, neighborhoods, houses of worship and work places. As humans, we are first brought together to differ, then to listen to the difference and then to make a difference by coming to an agreement. It is sad that the word compromise has fallen into such disfavor in our world of today. To compromise a position means to some the very abdication of all that is correct in favor of all that is false. The arrogance of such an assumption is self-evident – no one has a right to make the assumption that his point of view is correct and yours is incorrect. We do, however, have the right, and indeed the obligation as human beings to advocate for the position we believe is most correct. But once the advocacy ceases, as a fraternity of God’s children we then have the obligation to come to a peaceful agreement – to achieve compromise – to abide by the teachings of our Hermetic philosophy – to synthesize and harmonize.

Freemasonry does not free us as men from the responsibility of embracing the difficult task of discovering the right path that will lead us from chaos to confusion. Suffice to say, there is no silver bullet, or magic potion that will ease the way. The adjustment of mutual rights and mutual wrongs is as difficult for us as it is for nations around the globe who do not see eye-to-eye on much of anything. Freemasonry teaches us that the difference lies in how we feel about the human beings with whom we have differing opinions – and that is a feeling about others that must be learned, for we are quite naturally a very selfish lot and enjoy pandering to our own interests. How natural is it for an entire body of men to work industriously all of their lives and then to give of that wealth so that crippled children may be healed at no cost to them? Is it not more natural to spend what you have earned on yourself and also to chastise the poor for being poor? Freemasonry teaches us that fraternity is not about self-interest. Rather, it is all about someone other than you – a lesson that may take a lifetime to learn, if, indeed, it ever is truly learned.

If truth were to be told, humans have an extremely difficult time placing faith in other humans. When a medical doctor recommends a specific course of medical action, we generally want a second opinion. Before hiring a person to handle our money, we seek assurances that he or she is ethical, honest and, above all else, bonded! Masonry does not ask us to leave our common sense at home – asking for a second opinion and seeking assurances of honesty are prudent courses of conduct. That we are compelled to make them prudent courses of conduct precisely proves the truth about the difficulties we have we faith in others. Freemasonry offers you the tools to improve that faith through both understanding and working on behalf of fraternity.

Not all of the workings of fraternity are benign and harmonious. Threats to freedom do exist and are very real even in today’s society. Wherever light exists in the world, darkness hides in the corner waiting for its opportunity to absorb the light. Demagoguery and despotism, two evils that Masonry has combated against for ages, still demands the Craft’s attention. Where they exist, the pen of Masonry is expected to bring them to light; to accuse them; to prosecute them; and, to eliminate them as best as possible.

By nature, man is cruel. But, fraternity replaces cruelty with justice, compassion and love. By nature, man enjoys seeing others suffer. Fraternity builds hospitals, homes for the aged and clinics for children in need of learning how to speak. History reveals that man kills man for pleasure and political gain. Fraternity embraces all men – not just who think like us, or look like us – all men. Fraternity builds Masons by providing the network within which the gospel of identity may be preached and put into action. Masons build fraternity by forging a brotherhood of man under the fatherhood of God – by following in the footsteps of Abraham so that all nations will truly be blessed.