In the early days of the society before endorsing a person's petition for membership in its mysteries, members would take the time to discuss freemasonry with him. They would also typically share the historical, fraternal, and societal benefits of actually becoming a Freemason. In addition, they would seek information about his personal and family history, the places he lived and visited, and why he desired to become a member. The goal of the questions was to simply determine whether he would be a good fit for the society (capable of keeping its ancient secrets) and the society would be a good fit for him.
Similarly, in signing a man's petition, the signer was taking on a responsibility that did not end when he was raised into the brotherhood but continued on through the first year with the society. This same responsibility belonged to every member of the lodge and was not to be taken lightly. Another important role was that of serving on the investigating committee which was considered a mark of special trust by a master of a lodge. Only those who could be counted on to make a complete and impartial inquiry into the petitioners character and determine his worthiness were selected (otherwise there would be no need for such a committee).
The goal of the investigating committee was to strengthen the core of the society by only endorsing those with the correct personal characteristics, truly desiring the benefits and responsibilities of being a Freemason and could contribute to the society in a meaningful way. The basic qualifications to be a Freemason were cognitive (The person had to have the capacity to make responsible decisions for his own life), moral (self-evident for the viability or ideals of the society), and spiritual (a belief in a Supreme Being and the immortality of the soul).
After a thorough investigation the lodge members would then vote by secret ballot to accept or reject him from membership. To be elected he had to receive an affirmative vote from every member present. If even one member dropped a black-ball he would be denied entry. In their view, every single member had the right, responsibility, and duty to prevent the entrance of anyone into Freemasonry they felt would be a discredit to it.
Freemasonry has been defined a system of morality, veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols. It can also be defined as an organized society of men symbolically applying the principles of operative masonry and architecture to the science and art of building better human character. In other words, they were using a method of instruction they felt would strengthen the lives and spirits of their members in a tangible way. The deeper a person searched and, studied masonic rituals and symbols the richer his masonic life became.
Especially, according to its adherents who believed and continue to believe that Freemasonry's basic purpose is to make "better men out of good men”. They feel this is more likely to be accomplished by supporting their membership and strengthening the character of individuals and their lodges, through fraternal bonds, spiritual knowledge, and morality. This was more easily accomplished through what they defined in their principles:
The importance of the belief in the "Brotherhood of Man, and the fatherhood of God" is established in the heart of each Mason as he practices the three principal tenets of brotherly love, relief and truth. It was the duty of every ancient Freemason to preserve and perpetuate Masonic traditions for future generations. This was an important responsibility that should have served as a caution to anyone who sought to make changes in the craft.
Origin of Freemasonry Ritual
Freemasonry's origins are questionable, but it is believed by many scholars to have been influenced by the ancient mystery schools of Egypt, Greece and the Far East, which are thought to have contributed to the Masonic ceremonies of the symbolic lodge. These earlier religious ceremonies were designed as tests that had to be passed through before the initiate could receive further instruction.
The Masonic ceremonies of today continue this practice and have some of the same element as these earlier rituals maintaining the original spiritual components. Specifically, there are points of similarities between Freemasonry's rituals and the society founded by Pythagoras and later Hermes in Egypt. There can also be found affinities with the great mystery schools of Isis and Osiris of Egypt, the Jewish eschatological sect of the Essenes, the Roman Collegia of Artificers, and the Comacine masters who flourished near the fall of Rome. The latter providing a direct link with the cathedral building projects of the Middle Ages. The study of these other schools of thought provides information about Freemasonry's beliefs.
In addition, the Biblical passages regarding Solomons temple found in the First Book of Kings Chapters 5 to 8 and the First Book of Chronicles, beginning in the second chapter can provide further insight into the society's believed affiliations. However, these frequent Old Testament references have led many Masons to the false conclusion that the fraternity was founded by Solomon. Sadly, this is not the case, although the ritual is based upon the Biblical legends connected with that history (which has helped enrich is symbolism), a direct link is difficult if not impossible to prove.
However, the lodge is philosophically connected to the temple of Solomon, and all the degree work completed there is symbolically completed in Solomons's temple. Thus, the lodge is considered an exact replica of the divine world and the center of the universe. It's structures, furnishings, dimensions, and proportions are a symbolic image of the Divine, the center of the cosmos, and the place where the human is most likely to encounter the Supreme Architect of the Universe.
In reality, the written word contained in the modern ritual, cannot be traced back much further than the year 1700 and was most likely a continuation of the practices and customs of the operative masons. Over time, the emphasis gradually shifted from practical skills needed by builders towards the more esoteric, moral, and spiritual virtues as the accepted masons began to outnumber their operative counterparts. As this occurred, Freemasonry started making more use of symbolism and allegory. Research into the historical usages and meanings of some of the symbols utilized in the rituals and a comparative study of mythology provided further foundation for the society's continued education.
Especially, sections in the Old Testament there are numerous references to stones which allude to a link between stone, the sacred and spirituality. In genesis 28:11, it is read that when Jacob had his vision of the angels and the ladder reaching to Heaven he used to Stone as his pillow. After he awoke: "Jacob rose up early in the morning and took the same stone that he had put for his pillows and set it up for a pillar, and poured oil upon the top of it and he called the name of that place Beth-El (God's House)." Psalm 118: 22 states: "The stone which the builders refused is become the head stone of the corner." In Isaiah 28:16 can be found "therefore thus saith the Lord God, behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation." Lastly, in revelation 2:17: "to him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it."
Secret Society or Religion
My ideas on this subject are different than most of the official positions of modern day Freemasonry that promote the organization as a charitable society. Rather, I see Freemasonry as being an ancient philosophy and set of beliefs that voids all individual religions in its effort to unite the world under one belief system. An attempt that has obviously completely failed.However, hints of these beliefs are still found in the symbolism and ritual (which has been handed down for centuries) that forms the core of masonic tradition. The answer to the question is? The ritual, philosophy and society were obviously supposed to remain secret, with like-minded individuals united under one belief it has always been the hidden agenda to influence world politics, and you can see evidence of their presence throughout history. As final evidence, every single obligation in Freemasonry either involves torcher, pain or even death if their secrets were revealed.
This, it is the only reasonable conclusion that the secrecy was intended not strictly for the sake of the ritual, but also for the protection of the brethren involved during times of unrest and persecution. Unfortunately, all the secrets are now exposed, and its ritual and philosophical teachings are available in the public domains. However, all need not be lost because now as in the past the true secrets of freemasonry are contained within the repository of the faithful breast and cannot be revealed to those who are not dually and truly prepared to receive them.
Although, all the reframing and reinterpretations cannot erase the hands of time, or the damage done through exposure. In fact, the average Freemason of today is fond of wearing masonic jewelry, lapel pins, distinctive aprons, and even participates in parades and circuses. They even publish the time in place of their meetings which would never been the case in the ancient society. Thus, the reasonable mind has to concede that since the definition of a secret society is one in which the membership is concealed. The meeting places kept secret and the knowledge of the organization and principles is unknown to the public. They can hardly call themselves a secret society at this point.
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