What is Freemasonry?

Purpose, philosophy and principles

Notwithstanding the wealth of literature and other sources of information of all kinds on its subject, Freemasonry remains for many a mystery and they would like to know more about the purpose, philosophy and principles of this ancient Brotherhood of Free and Accepted Masons.

Operating throughout the free world, this universal institution is mainly recognized for its volunteer aims and good works. Freemasonry is no longer engaged in material construction, but it derives directly from a brotherhood of stonecutters and architects whose ramifications stretched throughout the Middle Ages throughout Western Europe.

By transmitting the secrets of their art, these builders conformed to ancient customs. They practiced initiatory rites that incorporate legends traced back to greatest antiquity. Modern masonry inherited these ancient traditions and came into existence when practicing London masons, members of four (4) lodges, met on June 24, 1717 and formed the first Grand Lodge. Constructions, requiring the expertise of the operative masons, being more rare, the masonry was transformed and attracted, in large numbers in its ranks, “gentlemen” scholars who did not handle the trowel professionally. This change had the effect of renouncing the old material enterprises of the old professional masonry and paved the way for a new, purely philosophical masonry.

This new Grand Lodge codified the “Old Commandments” of Masonic law. 

The first of these ancient commandments enjoined the Masons to be: “Sincere and good men, honorable and honest, whatever their distinctions of worship or belief, so that Masonry becomes the center of union and the means of cementing a true friendship between those who, without its bonds of confraternity, would have stayed forever”

Freemasonry is briefly described as “A beautiful system of morality taught under the veil of allegory by means of symbols”. This means, in effect, that the moral values  implicit in integrity and probity are taught, in allegorical form, in the knowledge of abstract truth whose Masonic symbolism is the sensible translation.

These ingenious symbols are represented by familiar tools borrowed from the builders of the Middle Ages and which were used to erect incomparable monuments that will always impose themselves to the admiration of posterity.

In 1897 Oswald Wirth, wrote in his book, that he dedicated to Apprentices *(1)

By introducing you to its mysteries, Freemasonry invites you to become elite men, wise men or thinkers, brought up above of the mass of beings who do not think. Not to think is to consent to being dominated, led, directed and treated too often as a beast of burden. It is by his intellectual faculties that man is distinguished from the brute. – The thought makes him free: it gives him the empire of the world. – To think is to rule.

Freemasonry also represents  “Kindness at home, honesty in business, courtesy and politeness in society, loyalty to work, pity and compassion for the unfortunate, resistance to the wicked, assistance to the weak, indulgence towards the penitent, friendship toward others and above all the love of God. Freemasonry is a lot of things but above all: Freemasonry is a way of life.”

Freemasonry is not a religion but is essentially of a religious nature and its initiates are obliged to believe in a supreme being – whatever their way of conceiving it. It does not seek to reform but to make good men better. It’s not a charity but it teaches charity, in word and deed, and maintains its own charitable funds. It is not a secret society, but it has signs, words and grips, rites and ceremonies of its own. It is not a social club either, but by rules of good discipline and traditions of fraternal solidarity, it tends to apply the whole to the teaching of a social architecture, striving to build human happiness by working intellectual and moral perfection of individuals.


The privileges of Freemasonry lead to responsibilities. In asking for admission, the neophyte must recognize that his relations will be reciprocal and that he will be called upon to contribute. However, he is assured that there is nothing expected of him that is contrary to his civil, moral or religious duties.   


Ancient and Accepted Masonry is not a monolithic organization. Each Grand Lodge is independent and sovereign in its jurisdiction and is composed of representatives of the lodges that depend on its authority. These lodges function autonomously and confer degrees of Apprentice, Fellowcraft and Master Mason. In the province of Quebec, there are thousands of masons, grouped in lodges, making up the Grand Lodge of Quebec, which was founded in 1869. It has a rich historical past.  

In Canada, there are more than a quarter of a million masons, and across the United States and the rest of the world there are similar structures of  lodges and grand lodges, under which there are millions of Free and Accepted masons, who voluntarily joined to participate in its mysteries and ceremonies.


 Freemasonry has many faces: its history, its literature and its philosophy have a great significance in time and in its field of action. For those who are interested in a greater Masonic spectrum, the Lodge’s work offers many varied opportunities for personal development and the privilege of association of chosen men. While remaining faithful to its old principles, Freemasonry is by no means archaic but it maintains the traditions received during the transition from the old professional masonry designated as operative to a new purely philosophical masonry, so-called speculative or symbolic.   Freemasonry is today a living society that evolves. In initiating its mysteries, it invites its members to become elite men, wise men or thinkers, and to rise, by their own efforts, above the mass of beings who do not know the desire of the personal improvement. It aims to train initiates, that is to say men in the highest acceptance of the word. With its legacies and customs, Freemasonry is a way of life.

Freemasonry is today a living society that evolves

 Freemasonry is today a living society that evolves. In initiating its mysteries, it invites its members to become elite men, wise men or thinkers, and to rise, by their own efforts, above the mass of beings who do not know the desire of the personal improvement.

(1) –  L’Apprenti (1893, 2° éd. revue 1908 : Le livre de l’Apprenti : manuel d’instruction rédigé à l’usage des FF. du 1er degré),