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is an article compiled by our M.W.Grand Master , when he was the R.W.Deputy
Grand Master. He has dealt with the history of Freemasonry with particular
reference to India and an Introduction to its tenets in an admirable way. This
article illuminates about Freemasonry and its teaching in simple language and
can be a guide to non masons and Freemason alike. The learned Author has
gathered the material for the article from many different sources and has
produced an admirable and instructive article. Please read on….]
to Freemasonry and an overview of its history.
Compiled by R.W.Bro Justice Devinder Gupta, Dy. G. M.
Freemasonry is one of the
world's oldest secular fraternal societies. It is a world-wide organisation
based on the principle of the Fatherhood of God and the Brotherhood of man. It
is a society of men concerned with moral and spiritual values. Its members are
taught its precepts by series of rituals, which follow ancient forms and use
stone masons' customs and tools and allegorical guides. It seeks to make good
men better and thereby make the world a better place in which to live.
Information in this write-up is intended to explain Freemasonry as it has been
practised under the United Grand Lodge of England, which administered Lodges of
Freemasons in England and Wales and in many places overseas including India and
a quick overview of its history.
origin of Freemasonry
The origins of Freemasonry are
the subject of great debate. No one knows just how old it is because the actual
origins have been lost in time. One belief is generally accepted by Masonic
historians that there is a connection with the operative stonemasons, who built
the great medieval cathedrals and castles – but whether that connection was
direct or indirect is still the subject of speculation. According to that belief
the origin of Freemasonry is the ancient guilds or associations of operative
stonemasons in Europe, who were the builders of the great cathedrals in the
middle ages. Possibly, they were influenced by the Knights Templar, a
group of Christian warrior monks formed in 1118
A.D to help protect pilgrims making trips to the Holy Land.
As time passed other men of good
moral character and high standing were accepted as members of these stone masons
guilds or Lodges. This still applies today and Freemasons continue to reserve
the right to elect to membership only men with proven high moral standards.
Organised Freemasonry became
established when four of the "old" Lodges met in London on St. John
the Baptist's Day, June 24, 1717, and formed the first Grand Lodge of England,
thereafter known as the Premier Grand Lodge of the world. In 1723 the first
rulebook – the Constitutions of Masonry – was published. By 1730 the Grand
Lodge had over 100 lodges in England and Wales under its control and had begun
to spread Freemasonry abroad. For historical reasons separate Grand Lodges were
formed in Ireland (1725) and Scotland (1736). Between them they took Freemasonry
around the globe.
With effect from 1727-28, when
travel was by horseback and sailing ship, Masonry spread with amazing speed
in Europe, the West Indies, North America and India where lodges were set up.
In the later 18th and the 19th
centuries British Freemasonry was taken to the Middle and Far East, Australia,
Africa and South America, mirroring the development of the British Empire. When
those areas eventually achieved nation status, many of the lodges formed
independent local Grand Lodges, but other lodges decided to remain with their
parent Grand Lodge – resulting in the United Grand Lodge of England still
having hundreds of lodges overseas, principally in Commonwealth countries.
Freemasonry has been in
existence in the present form for nearly 280 years in the world and for over 266
years in India. There are more than 150 Grand Lodges throughout the world today
with a membership in excess of 6,000,000. In U.S. alone there are more than
It is of interest to note that
within 12 years of the Constitution of the Grand Lodge of England, which was
constituted mainly for the purpose of exercising supervision over the lodges in
London, and its neighbouring areas, a petition was sent by a few Brethren in
India to constitute a Provincial Grand Lodge in Calcutta. The Lodge at Fort
William -- that is, Calcutta -- appears in the Engraved List of 1730 A.D., to
meet at Fort William in Calcutta. Lodge Star in the East, No. 67 E. C.,
was the First Lodge constituted in Calcutta and is still in existence, having
completed 256 years. The Provincial Grand Lodge of Madras was formed in 1752 and
The Provincial Grand Lodge of Bombay was created in 1758.
On the advent of freemasonry
to Indian soil its membership was restricted to the British residents of India
until 1775, when for the first time an Indian, Nawab Umadat-Ul-Umara, the
eldest son of the Nawab of the Carnatic was initiated into Freemasonry at
Trichinopoly. But Hindus were not considered for admission, because it was
believed that they did not believe in one Supreme Being, but worship many
deities. The doors of Masonry to Hindus in were flung wide-open by the
unstoppable determination of one Mr. P.C. Dutt of Calcutta to become a member of
the craft after much opposition from the Provincial Grand Master (Hugh Sanderman)
and black balling by members, In the 1830’s the Duke of Sussex proclaimed that
the Hindu gods were the personification of a single Supreme Being and that the
religion of the Single Mason was his own concern. This allowed the native
Indians to join the Craft. Thus Mr. Dutt became Bro. Dutt in Anchor and Hope,
No. 234, only in 1872, nine years after he was proposed for initiation.
Order of Freemasons
After independence it was in
1956, that the first real consideration was given to the establishment of a
sovereign Grand Lodge of India and indeed, following a joint Conference in
Dublin of The Grand Lodges of England, Ireland and Scotland in October of that
year, it was agreed that the views of the Brethren in India should be sought.
Ultimately the Grand Lodge of India was officially consecrated as a Sovereign
Grand Lodge with full Masonic jurisdiction over the territories of the Republic
of India on Friday, the 24th November 1961 A.D. in Ashoka
Hotel, New Delhi, India. The Indian Order of Freemasons has, as its head,
its Grand Master, who is elected for a term of three years. The First Grand
Master was M.W. Bro. Major General Dr. Sir Syed Raza Ali Khan, G.C.l.E.,D.Litt.,
LL.D, the Nawab of Rampur. M.W.Bro. Arun Chintopanth O.S.M. is the 12th Grand
Master of the Grand Lodge of India. On 28th October, 2006, M.W.Justice Devinder
Gupta O.S.M., Former Chief Justice of Andhra Pradesh is to be installed as the
13th Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of India.
After the founding of the Grand
Lodge Of India, four Regional Grand
Lodges. viz, the Regional Grand Lodges of Northern India, Eastern India,
Southern India and Western India were established. There are now about 350
Lodges and about equal number of other Masonic bodies located in different parts
of the country with a total membership of about 18,000 Freemasons under the
Grand Lodge of India. There are a few Lodges and other Masonic bodies
functioning in India under their respective parent Grand Lodges.
Many prominent Indians have
been Freemasons. To name a few ; Swami Vivekananda, Shri C. Rajagopalachari,
Shri Moti Lal Nehru, President Dr. Rajendra Prasad, President Dr. S.
Radhakrishnan, President Shri Fakhrudin Ali Ahmed, as also several serving and
retired judges of Supreme Court and High Courts, serving and retired Defence
Personnel and Civilian Officers, besides many Industrialists, Business men,
Business Executives and other Professionals.
The primary unit organisation of
Freemasonry is a Lodge. The word "lodge" means both a group of Masons
meeting in some place and the room or building in which they meet. It's a Middle
English word. When the great cathedrals of the Middle Ages were being built, the
masons had special, temporary buildings built against the side of the cathedral
in which they met, received their pay, planned the work on the cathedral and
socialized after work. This building was called a lodge. The term has simply
remained down through the ages. Masonic buildings are also sometimes called
"temples", because much of the symbolism Masonry uses to teach its
lessons comes from the building of King Solomon's Temple in the Holy Land. While
there is some variation in detail from state to state and country to country,
lodge rooms today are set up in similar style.
Master of a Lodge is elected
annually by the members. Progression through the various Offices of a Lodge
enables members to develop self-confidence and improve speaking skills and
promotes qualities of leadership.
Lodge meetings include Social
functions, in which wives and families also participate and in many instances
these activities raise funds for charitable causes.
Freemasons enjoy personal
recognition and friendship, when they visit Lodges in any part of the Country
and when travelling interstate and overseas. A wide circle of friends and
acquaintances is easily established.
There are two types of meeting
agenda. The first is like the business meeting of any other organization. It
takes just a bit longer to call the meeting to order, because a longer opening
ceremony or ritual is used than most of the civic clubs. But, it reminds the
members of the Lodge of some of the most important lessons in Masonry. After the
lodge is "opened", there is reading of the minutes of last meeting,
vote to pay bills, take care of old and new business, and plan projects etc.,
The other type of meeting is one in which new members are received in solemn
ritual ceremonies and stimulating lectures, which relate to the ancient
traditions and principles on which Freemasonry is founded and conclude with
enjoyable fellowship over banquet.
and its principles
Freemasonry is fundamentally
based on Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth, which are ethical principles
acceptable to all good men. It supports the "Golden Rule" - To do unto
others as you would wish them to do unto you. It teaches each member to act and
live in such a way that he will always strive to become a better man, not better
than someone else, but better tomorrow, than he is today.
The stonemasons' tools and
principles of architecture are used in a symbolic way by Freemasons to teach the
basic moral truths and impress on members the virtues of Faith, Hope, Charity,
Prudence, Fortitude, Temperance and Justice.
Masonic ceremonials form the
basis for teaching the Masonic philosophy, which leads to a better understanding
of the purpose of life and the need for care and concern for others.
Masonic teachings promote
personal growth of character, and encourage Freemasons to lead an active life in
the community. Masons practice charity and benevolence and strive to promote
human welfare. All over the world Masons care for their indigent Brethren,
widows and orphans; maintain homes; support their mother countries; contribute
scholarships and practice character building.
Masons are dedicated to freedom
and are champions of liberty. This is as much a cardinal characteristic today as
it was when American colonial Masons were in the forefront of the fight for
freedom and independence. Even then, however, Masonic Lodges remained
Sanctuaries where war passions were conciliated with brotherhood. The background
thus displayed makes clear that neither tyrant nor dictator can exist in a
country where Freemasonry prevails. People helping people
Freemasonry teaches concern for
others, care for the less fortunate and help for those in trouble, sorrow, need,
sickness or any other adversity. Masonic teachings
inculcates in its members obedience to God and observance of the Laws of
the country. It is committed to extend the hand of fellowship and provide Relief
to those in distress.
Freemasonry reinforces kindness
in the home, honesty in business, courtesy in society and fairness in all
things. It flourishes in every free country and is a way of life for men of all
and the family
Freemasonry instructs its
members to hold the family in the highest regard. Lodges involve families
and friends of members in a number of their activities and the welfare of widows
and families of deceased members is of particular concern.
Freemasonry is not a social
club. It however provides the means of socializing among its members,
which consists of a cross section of society drawn from all walks of life, who
meet on an equal footing. It also
involves the families of members on such social occasions.
Freemasonry is not a political
organization. It has no political agenda. Discussion of any topic of a political
nature is not permitted in Lodges. Freemasons are urged to perform their
civic duties according to the laws of the country in which they work or live.
It reminds them of the filial affection one should always have for the Land of
their birth, to remain loyal to the laws of the land, which, for the time being,
may be the place of their residence, or afford them protection. The use of
membership of the Craft for material benefit is discouraged. Freemasonry
naturally tends to attract those with a concern for people and a sense of social
responsibility and purpose.
is not a secret society.
There is nothing secret or
secretive about Freemasonry. It is not a secret society, but lodge meetings,
like meetings of many other social and professional associations, are private
occasions open only to members. Freemasonry does not conceal the time and place
of its meeting, nor does a member hide the fact of his membership. Like many
other Societies it regards some of its internal affairs as private matters of
concern only for its members. There is no secret about its aims and principles.
Copies of its Constitutions and Rules and aims of Freemasonry can be obtained by
interested members of the public from its offices. The meeting places and halls
used by Freemasons are readily identifiable. Freemasons are encouraged to speak
openly about their membership, while remembering, that they undertake not to use
it for their own or anyone else's advancement.
The rituals and ceremonies used
by Freemasons to pass on the principles of Freemasonry to new members were first
revealed publicly in 1723. They include the traditional forms of recognition
used by Freemasons essentially to prove their identity and qualifications when
entering a Masonic meeting. These include handshakes, which have been much
written about and can scarcely be regarded as truly secret today; for medieval
Freemasons, they were the equivalent of a 'pin number' restricting access only
to qualified members.
Many thousands of books have
been written on the subject of Freemasonry and are readily available to the
general public. Freemasonry offers spokesmen and briefings for the media and
provides talks to interested groups on request. Freemasons are proud of their
heritage and happy to share it.
Some people confuse Masonry with
a religion, but it is not. Although every meeting is opened and closed with
prayer, Freemasonry is not a religion, nor is it a substitute for religion. An
essential qualification for a person who wants to become a Mason is that he must
have a belief in God. No atheist can ever become a Mason. A Mason is taught, as
one of the first lessons of Masonry, that one should pray for divine counsel and
guidance before starting an important undertaking. But that does not make
Masonry a "religion." Men of many different faiths are members of the
Craft and while each one is encouraged to continue to follow his own religion,
discussions of a religious nature are not at all encouraged in a Lodge. However,
it emphasizes secularism by teaching respect for and tolerance towards all
religions. In every Lodge meeting Volume of Sacred Law is kept open on the altar
or table. In the Lodges under the jurisdiction of the Grand Lodge of India
Volumes of Sacred Laws of five major religions in India viz. Bhagwat Gita, Holy
Quran, The Bible, The Holy Granth Sahib and The Zend Avestha are opened on the
altar or table of the lodge at its meeting.
Sometimes people confuse Masonry
with a religion because we call Masonic buildings as "temples." But we
use the word in the same sense that the Court is called a "Temple of
Justice". Masons believe in the importance of religion. Masonry encourages
every Mason to be active in the religion and church of his own choice. Masonry
teaches that without religion a man is alone and lost, and that without
religion, he can never reach his full potential. But Freemasonry does not tell a
person which religion he should practice or how he should practice it. That is
between the individual and God. That is the function of his house of worship,
not his fraternity.
Freemasonry encourages its
members to be community minded. From its earliest days, Freemasonry has been
involved in charitable activities and since its inception it has provided
support for many widows and orphans of Freemasons as well as for others within
All monies raised for charity
are drawn from amongst Freemasons, their families and friends, while grants and
donations are made to Masonic and non-Masonic charities alike. Widows and others
in distressed circumstances are assisted by the provision of financial grants.
In India too the Masonic Fraternity is involved in several charitable projects,
all over the country. The General Williams Masonic Polyclinic at Janpath, New
Delhi, Masonic Public School in Vasant Kunj, New Delhi, Amrit Masonic Charitable
Society, Noida, Masonic Medical care centre for children in Coimbatore, as also
the adoption of an entire village located in backward area in Bheemlipatnam in
Visakhapatnam District and another village in Srikakulam District, for all round
development in Health, Sanitation, Education & Housing. and Construction of
Sheds for cyclone victims in Andhra Pradesh, awarding many Scholarships
and Bursaries to deserving students, helping institutions for the handicapped
and the aged, holding of periodical Blood donation camps, Eye camps and other
Health Camps etc., are examples of some of the socially relevant activities of
Masonic organizations all over the country.
does Masonry teach?
Masonry teaches some important
principles. There's nothing very surprising in the list. Masonry teaches.
Since God is the Creator, all
men and women are the children of God. Because of that, all men and women are
brothers and sisters, entitled to dignity, respect for their opinions, and
consideration of their feelings.
Each person must take
responsibility for his/her own life and actions. Neither wealth, nor poverty,
education, nor ignorance, health, nor sickness excuses any person from doing the
best he or she can do or being the best person possible under the circumstances.
No one has the right to tell
another person what he or she must think or believe. Each man and woman has an
absolute right to intellectual, spiritual, economic, and political freedom. This
is a right given by God, not by man. All tyranny, in every form, is
Each person must learn and
practice self-control. Each person must make sure his spiritual nature triumphs
over his animal nature. Another way to say the same thing is that even when we
are tempted to anger, we must not be violent. Even when we are tempted to
selfishness, we must be charitable. Even when we want to "write someone
off," we must remember that he or she is a human and entitled to our
respect. Even when we want to give up, we must go on. Even when we are hated, we
must return love, or, at a minimum, we must not hate back. It isn't easy!
Faith must be in the centre of
our lives. We find that faith in our houses of worship, not in Freemasonry, but
Masonry constantly teaches that a person's faith, whatever it may be, is central
to a good life.
Each person has a responsibly to
be a good citizen, obeying the law. That doesn't mean we can't try to change
things, but change must take place in legal ways.
It is important to work to make
this world better for all who live in it. Masonry teaches the importance of
doing good, not because it assures a person's entrance into heaven -- that's a
question for a religion, not a fraternity -- but because we have a duty to all
other men and women to make their lives as fulfilling as they can be.
Honor and integrity are
essential to life. Life without honour and integrity is without meaning.
To be eligible to become a
Freemason the absolute qualification are that a man must be over the age of 21
years; be of good character; be law abiding and profess belief in a Supreme
Being. No atheist can become a Mason. Anyone who is of good moral character and
believes in the existence of Almighty God and a belief in the Supreme Being, no
matter by what name He is called, or what faith the person professes, is
The process of becoming a Mason
is not complicated. It involves three evenings to undergo three degrees, or
three stages of membership called Entered Apprentice, Fellowcraft, and Master
Mason. These are learning experiences. There is some homework that goes with
each degree that is worked out with another member of the Lodge. The degrees of
Masonry teach progressive lessons in morals, ethics, and philosophy the
importance of honour and integrity, of being a person on whom others can rely,
of being both trusting and trustworthy, of realizing that you have a spiritual
nature as well as a physical or animal nature, of the importance of
self-control, of knowing how to love and be loved, of knowing how to keep
confidential what others tell you so that they can "open up" without
fear. To understand these lessons and use them in our daily life requires that
we invest some individual time and thought. But that's what makes being a Mason
so special. But, after a man becomes a Mason, the time he gives to the
fraternity is entirely up to him. There is no requirement that a man participate
in the meetings and projects of his Lodge. Each man determines for himself the
time he wants to give to the fraternity.
There is a rule in Masonry that
a person must seek admission himself. Some men are surprised that no one has
ever asked them to become a Mason. They may even feel that the Masons in their
town don't think they are "good enough" to join. But it doesn't work
that way. For hundreds of years, Masons have been forbidden to ask others to
join the fraternity. We can talk to friends about Masonry. We can tell them
about what Masonry does. We can tell them why we enjoy it. But we can't ask,
much less pressure, anyone to join. There's a good reason for that. It isn't
that we're trying to be exclusive. But becoming a Mason is a very serious thing.
Joining Masonry is making a permanent life commitment to live in certain ways.
Most of them listed above -- to live with honour and integrity, to be willing to
share with and care about others, to trust each other, and to place ultimate
trust in God. No one should be "talked into" making such a decision.
Men enter of their own volition after a discussion with a Mason about joining.
He should come to Masonry "of his own free will and accord", to
learn to improve himself and to enjoy the company of other good people, not
because someone keeps pestering him to join or because he think it will help him
"get ahead" in business. . A person has to be ready to grow, has to
suspect that there is something more to life, and wants to know what that is,
before he is really ready to become a Mason.
to join the fraternity
So, when a man decides he wants
to be a Mason, he asks a Mason for a petition or application. He fills it out
and gives it to the Mason, and that Mason takes it to the local lodge. The
Master of the lodge will appoint a committee to visit with the man and his
family, find out a little about him and why he wants to be a Mason, tell him and
his family about Masonry, and answer their questions. The committee reports to
the lodge, and the lodge votes on the petition. If the vote is affirmative --
and it usually is -- the lodge will contact the man to set the date for the
Entered Apprentice Degree. There is some study and a bit of memory work required
with which a Lodge Brothers will always help. After the Third Degree the man
will be a full-fledged Master Mason and will have joined the oldest global
brotherhood in the world!
For more information a person
can call the Grand Lodge or the Regional Grand Lodge office and get information.
can Free-masonry offer?
On the basis of the foregoing
information, it is relatively easy to see what Freemasonry can give to someone,
on an individual basis as well as towards humanity in general. In short, it is
essentially an educational guide for showing how to live one’s life and an
apprenticeship for learning what liberty is, whilst taking into account the
dimensions of one’s personality on emotional planes, passing through
“Fraternity”; on intellectual grounds through the exercise of
“Tolerance”; and on the spiritual plane through “Traditions”, and by
reference to the Superior Being. It would allow anyone who prefers taking the
difficult way to attain his own improvement to find essential material
inside the fraternal alliance where he may share efforts and questions.
Freemasonry, therefore, provides a place where constructive discussion is
possible through the mutual respect of others’ opinions and in the listening
of them. What unites Freemasons is faith in one’s perfectibility and one’s
radiating influence on others. Through Mason’s works, and through an active
and a responsibly guided self conduct, Freemasonry endeavours to shine out
towards the exterior world with more Justice, more Tolerance, more Charity and