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Masonic Education

It is not Freemasonry, but the individual Mason, instilled with the principles and tenets of the Craft, who has a positive influence on society.

Freemasonry encourages every member to make a daily to advancement in masonic knowledge to enable them to be useful members of society, who lead happy and productive lives. Freemasons are taught that family and work commitments take priority over lodge activities. Members are encouraged to particpate in education, charitable and community projects.

In the lodge room members are introduced to a range of ideas, which are presented using symbols and stories associated with the work of stonemasons. The construction of King Solomons Temple as described in the King James Bible is the source of these symbols and stories.

By regular attendance at lodge meetings, members become familiar with the symbols of freemasonry and how they are applied by freemasons to illustrate principles for living. Some members have the time and money to contribute to the organisation of the lodge and develop their confidence and skills.

Over the centuries many books have been written about freemasonry. These books range from the personal reflections of the authors to academic studies on the social or historical aspects of the organisation.

The Masonic Trowel

spreads the cement of brotherly love and affection, which unites us into one society of brothers, among whom no contention should ever exist, but that noble emulation of who can best work or best agree.

"in every age monarchs have been promoters of the art, have not thought it derogatory to their dignity to exchange the scepture for the trowel, . . ."

And the scribe said unto him, "Well, Master, thou hast said the truth: for there is one God; and there is none other but he: And to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love his neighbour as himself, is more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices." Mark 12:32-33

In this story, the scribe is remembering the ancient Hebrew scriptires:

  • Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: I am the LORD. Leviticus 19:18
  • But the stranger that dwelleth with you shall be unto you as one born among you, and thou shalt love him as thyself; for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God. Leviticus 19:34

From some versions of the old catechism we learn that the Sharp Instrument was a pointed trowel.

Great Architect of the Universe

This phrase was introduced into freemasonry in 1723 with the publication of the Rev. Dr. James Andersonís Book of Constitutions. Anderson, a Presbyterian minister, derived this phrase from John Calvin. In his Institutes (Book 1, p. 157), Calvin wrote, "Hence God was pleased that a history of the creation should exist on which the faith of the Church might lean without seeking another God than Him whom Moses set forth as Creator and Architect of the world." In his Commentary on Psalm 19 John Calvin wrote; "the heavens were wonderfully founded by the Great Architect" again, according to the same paragraph, "when once we recognize God as the Architect of the Universe, we are bound to marvel at his Wisdom, Strength, and Goodness". In fact, Calvin repeatedly calls God "the Architect of the Universe", and refers to His works in nature as "Architecture of the Universe" ten times in the Institutes of the Christian Religion.

The original meaning of this phrase in freemasonry can best be illustrated by these words from Anderson's second degree of 1720:

Q. What did that G denote?
A. One that's greater than you.-
Q. Who is greater than I, that am a Free and Accepted Mason, and Master of a Lodge?
A. The Grand Architect and Builder of the Universe; or he that was taken up to the top of the pinnacle of the holy Temple.

In September 1721, the Grand Master and the Grand Lodge had requested Anderson to produce the Book of Constitutions based on the old Gothic Constitutions, which began with the following prayer:

"The might of the Father of Heaven, with the wisdom of the glorious Son, through the grace and goodness of the Holy Ghost, that be three persons in one Godhead, be with us at our beginning, and give us grace so to govern us here in our living that we may come to His bliss that never shall have ending. Amen."

Illustrations of Masonry by Willaim Preston in 1775 included the following prayers for English freemasons:

Opening. May the favour of Heaven be upon this our happy meeting; may it be begun, carried on and ended in order, harmony and brotherly love: Amen.

Closing. May the blessing of Heaven be with us and all regular Masons, to beautify and cement us with every moral and social virtue: Amen.

Jacob's ladder

In reference to Jacob's ladder, earlier versions of the ceremonies contained this explanation:

Q. How many rounds or staves in that Ladder?...
A. Rounds or staves innumerable, each indicating a moral virtue; but three principal ones, called Faith, Hope, and Charity
Q. Describe them? ...
A. Faith in Christ; Hope. in salvation, and to live in Charity with all mankind.
Q. Where does that Ladder reach to?..
A. To the heavens.
Q. What does it rest upon? ...
A. The Holy Book

Allegory and Symbol

An allegory is a story in which the characters are personifications of abstract moral qualities. No previous explanation or agreement about its significance is needed, allegory explains itself.

A symbol is a sign, device or object which by general consent represents an idea or quality. Some symbols are simple, others very complex. Some symbols are widely recognised, others have different meanings in different cultures.

There are three ceremonies in freemasonry, which are much the same wherever you find freemasonry around the world. The first deals with morality and the need to have good ethical standards of behaviour. It also emphasises the need to be in control of ones emotions. The second explains the importance of educating ones intellect so as to become a more useful member of society. The third deals with trust and integrity.

In the preface of the first officially approved English Bible, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Cranmer, presented the mallets, hammers, saws, chisels, axes, and hatchets used by the smith, mason, or carpenter, or any other handy craftsman as symbols of the instruments of our salvation to be found by reading the holy scriptures.

"Dost thou not mark and consider how the smith, mason, or carpenter, or any other handy craftsman, what need soever he be in, what other shift so ever he make, he will not sell nor lay to pledge the tools of his occupation. For then how should he work his feat, or get his living thereby? Of like mind and affection ought we to be towards holy scripture. For as mallets, hammers, saws, chisels, axes, and hatchets, be the tools of their occupation; so be the books of the prophets, and Apostles, and all holy writers inspired by the holy ghost, the instruments of our salvation. Wherefore let us not stick to buy and provide us the Bible, that is to say, the books of holy scripture; and let us think that to be a better jewel in our house than either gold or silver."

The idea of the English Bible as a symbol of light is also presented in this preface: "For the word of God is light: Lucerna pedibus meis, verbum tuum. (See Psalm 119) Thy word is a lantern unto my feet."

The Centre for Research into Freemasonry

Professor Andrew Prescott, formerly curator in the Manuscripts Department of the British Library, was founding director of this academic research unit which is supported by the United Grand Lodge of England. The centre aims to undertake and promote scholarly research into the historical, social and cultural impact of Freemasonry.

Masonic Books

a selection of books about freemasonry to browse and buy online from amazon.com

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