In many cases, each Mason is left to his own devices when it comes to discovering an answer to this often asked question and one also finds that different Masons develop different answers – each according to his own needs and experiences. Sadly, there are those that never arrive at an appropriate response to their inquiry. These men can often be found on the rolls of lodges though they do not attend any meetings or events. Even more regrettable are the ones who demit or are suspended from the order because they see no value in their membership. In other words, they could never arrive at a satisfactory answer to the “what is the purpose” question. There is most certainly another group of Freemasons that get the answer wrong and look at the Freemasonic order more as a social club than as what it is truly intended to be.
It may be very possible that an explanation as to why some Masons can not arrive at a proper or suitable answer to the “purpose” question lies in the fact that some men are just not capable of grasping the teachings of the Fraternity and should not have been admitted into the organization in the first place. There are others that, though capable of understanding the answer, never voiced the question to other Masons or – if they did – there was no experienced Freemason available to help them in their quest for a purpose behind the Fraternity. If the latter is the case, then one can be very certain that such an inquiring Mason belongs to a lodge made up of members who do not know the answer themselves or have gotten the purpose wrong – i.e., the social club subscribers.
There is no one correct answer to the “purpose” question. As mentioned earlier in this article, different Masons often arrive at different conclusions and there is a certain amount of flexibility built into Freemasonry that allows for such. Each Freemason has the opportunity to be a cog in the Freemasonic machine and all cogs are not of the same size and each cog serves its own purpose towards the operation and betterment of the machine. There have been attempts throughout the years, however, to define – even codify – the purpose of Freemasonry and a brief examination of some historical documents may be in order.
In 1939, the Grand Lodge of Ancient Free Masons of South Carolina adopted a “Declaration of Masonic Principles” that – in part – stated,
Freemasonry is a charitable, benevolent, educational and religious society. Its principles are proclaimed as widely as men will hear.The General Regulations of 1721 touched on another possible answer in Regulation I.
Through the improvement and strengthening of the character of the individual man, Freemasonry seeks to improve the community. Thus it impresses upon its members the principles of personal righteousness and personal responsibility, enlightens them as to those things which make for human welfare, and inspires them with that feeling of charity, or good will, toward all mankind which will move them to translate principle and conviction into action.
To that end, it teaches and stands for the worship of God; truth and justice; fraternity and philanthropy; and enlightenment and orderly liberty, civil, religious and intellectual. 1
…whereby Masonry becomes the center of union, and the means of conciliating true friendship among persons that must have remained at a perpetual distance. 2Another hint to a possible answer to the “purpose” question can be found in Albert G. Mackey’s Landmarks.
XXII. That all men in the sight of God are equal, and meet in the Lodge on one common level. 3These quotes touch upon the ideals of the Fraternity as are displayed to the public. But what of the esoteric purpose that so many Freemasons search for? Those purposes exist – but only in a format that requires the individual Mason to find them for himself. No article or book can explain this aspect of Freemasonry or provide the answers. Those possible esoteric answers to the “purpose” question are buried deep within the secrecy of the Fraternity and require intense self study to be discovered. Such self study ultimately leads to different conclusions or answers to the question – as has now been mentioned thrice in this article. The individual Freemason may be able to glean some insight into the esoteric purpose of the Fraternity by way of discussions with experienced and knowledgeable Brothers but – ultimately – it is up to the individual to discover these answers for himself.
That self discovery, and the path to it, may – in all actuality – be the true purpose of Freemasonry.
1. Ancient Free Masons of South Carolina, Ahiman Rezon, Lexington, S.C.: 2007, pp. 486-487.
2. Grand Lodge of England, General Regulations, 1721, Regulation I.
3. Ahiman Rezon, p. 457. (See also: Mackey, Albert G., M.D., A Text Book of Masonic Jurisprudence, New York: Clark & Maynard, 1872, Chapter I).