One of the greatest of American diplomats, hero of the War of Independence, distinguished also as publisher and printer, editor and author, a notable philosopher, a scientist whose valuable discoveries are even today highly esteemed Benjamin Franklin was also a devoted Freemason occupying for many years places of official prominence within the Fraternity. In this video, we hear what famous Freemason Ben Franklin may have responded to today, when asked “What is Freemasonry?”
Now some may ask what is Freemasonry? Now you can listen to me or not but I believe it’s simple; Freemasonry is the very measure of a man. Look in every city and town in America and you’ll see right out in the open, a building adorned with the square and compasses. Think for a moment… Freemasonry uses the oldest tools of antiquity. Those tools of measurement used by the stonemasons, like the square and the compasses to demonstrate and pass on the great truths and wisdom of the ages. We use tools of measurement because Freemasonry believes a man’s greatness can be measured. Not by his wealth or fame, but by his deeds, his character, his truth, his tolerance, his charity, his trust his friendship, his love for his fellow creatures.
It’s been said that human happiness comes from the smallest of improvements, so he that can affect positive change even by a simple kindness has wealth to the common stock of humanity. Freemasonry therefore believes greatness can be seen in a man’s positive effect in the world, and that to do good is the best way to glorify God.
Where the roots of Freemasonry began no one can say for certain. They’re hidden in antiquity and perhaps that is best, at least for me. I became a Freemason in the Age of Enlightenment. A time much like you now live. A time of great light where science had changed the way we live. I only wish that the moral Sciences could do the same because it seems to me that the great religions of the world all provide a moral compass to their faithful, and while each man must wrestle in private with his personal relationship with God, Freemasonry offers an ecumenical Brotherhood. A fraternity composed of men of all religions, founded on the practice of the great moral and social virtues. And that’s why you see on our symbol the letter ‘G’. It is there to remind us that God is part of each of our lives and that the all-seeing eye of God will take the true measurement of our action.
Freemasonry has three great lights by which we measure ourselves as men and Mason’s. The square, the compasses, and the volume of sacred law we place them upon. That sacred book, one revered by the individual Mason, is where we take our oaths, lay the foundation of our lives. The square, providing direction, helps us to square our actions by the square of virtue, because virtue is the stone used to build the man and his temple. Virtue is the cement that binds our relationships and it is by our virtues that we are measured. The compasses are the tools of our conscience. We learn by the compasses to circumscribe our desires and keep our passions within due bounds with all mankind. The compasses create a circle the precise circumference required to keep tradition and revelation principle and creativity in balance
Now as to the great secret of Freemasonry, it is actually found in unconscious of each person. It is discovered by each individual for himself, Mason or not, as he comes to know himself and finds the road that takes him to his city. Because the real secret of the masonry is finding out who you are.
The Mason square doth clear the air of folly deception. The rule is straight, the angle clear for greatness has direction by the compasses abide the points within so far and wide no pleasure sway nor profit tempt these bounds of Mason pride’Greatness what your virtues are good deeds practiced wide and far and that secret of Masonic love is learning who you really are for the great book knows what man can’t hide a life that’s measured from inside and on that book that oath we took and we will break it never but stand by this and this and this forever and forever’.
The last part is from a Masonic poem with an unknown author. Are these words Ben Franklin’s? No, but we do believe that if Franklin was alive today, he would echo sentiments much like those in this video about What is Freemasonry.
Thanks to Maryland Freemasons for providing this video