As Free and Accepted Masons we are taught that the first great tenet of our Fraternity is Brotherly Love. By it we do not mean that we are all of one opinion in all matters, personal and political. By it we do not mean that we are all the same in religion, creed, nationality, race, political opinion, status or fortune. Rather the concept teaches us, in the words of the Georgia Masonic Manual, “to regard the whole human species as one family; the high and the low, the rich and the poor, who, as created by one Almighty Parent and inhabitants of the same planet, are to aid, support and protect each other. On this principle, masonry unites men of every country, sect and opinion, and conciliates true friendship among those who might otherwise have remained at perpetual distance.”
Admittance to our order is not based upon the artificial distinctions created by the human race. Rather it is based upon only those principles upon which all good men agree and which all religions teach. As set forth in the Ancient Charges and Regulations adopted by the Grand Lodge of England in 1722 candidates are “to be good men and true, or men of honor and honesty, by whatever denominations or persuasions they may be distinguished, whereby Masonry becomes the center of union and the means of conciliating true friendship among persons who would otherwise have remained at a perpetual distance.” Thus, our traditions and the Masonic Code (Chapter 39-1) only require that a candidate believe in the existence of a Supreme Being, in some revelation of His will, and in the immortality of the soul and that he be a man of at least 21 years, freeborn (i.e. not a born a slave or a vassal) and his own master, in respectable circumstances, able to read and write, capable of learning and performing the intellectual and physical duties of Masonry, and of good reputation. These are our only requirements.
Every candidate at initiation is informed of our purpose: “The design of the Masonic institution is to make its members wiser, better, and consequently happier. We receive none into our ranks, knowingly, who are not moral and upright before God, and of good repute before the world. Such persons, when associated together, will very naturally seek each other’s welfare and happiness equally with their own.”
By binding such men together as brothers Masonry does not intend to make them agree in all respects. That would be taking the concept of brotherhood much too far. Rather it recognizes and celebrates the legitimate differences between brothers. It seeks to subdue those discordant passions that are within each of us and to so harmonize and enrich our hearts with God’s own love and goodness that we can associate together on common ground as friends and brothers no matter what our other distinctive attributes are.
Indeed, Masonry does not require that we must “like” all of our brothers. But it does require that we respect them and treat them with dignity. Worshipful Brother H. L. Haywood in his book The Great Teachings of Masonry (Enlarged Edition) (McCoy Publishing and Supply Co., Inc., Richmond, 1986) explains,
Brotherhood does not demand of us that we privately like people who are obnoxious to us, or that others should like us who find our company distasteful. Such things are in the domain of one’s intimate likes and dislikes and have to do with private friendship rather than with brotherhood.
If I cannot like this neighbor of mine I can be a brother to him nevertheless. I can give him exact justice in all my dealings with him. I can always refuse to do evil to him or speak evil of him. I can always maintain an attitude of good will to him, and wish for him good fortune and happiness. I can ever stand ready to help him to fullness of life, insofar as circumstances make that possible, and I can always refuse to place any obstacles in his path. If I have a difference with him I can differ with him as one man to another, honestly and openly, without childish petulance. Such an attitude is brotherly spirit, and it can flourish where private friendship is impossible.
. . .
In proportion as a man understands brotherhood and acts in conformity with its demands, he will always work for human unity. In his lodge he will not be a dividing and distracting force. In his community he will be a good citizen who knows that the community has a right to demand many sacrifices on the part of its children He will uphold and maintain the principles of his country, and oppose every influence that makes for its degradation and division. He will everywhere use his efforts to break down racial antipathy, religious jealousies and unjust ambitions, the base intrigues of false statesmen, and the public connivance in public vices, he will everywhere and always oppose. It is his task as a true soldier of brotherhood.
This, then, is true Brotherhood: to act with respect to each other and to always do good to one another, even when we do not “like” each other. Masonically speaking, “Brotherly Love” means “charity” in the truest sense of the word: benevolent goodwill toward and love of humanity without any consideration being given to those artificial distinctions that are the creation of human prejudice, weakness, and greed. It is the chief lesson of the Entered Apprentice degree. No true Mason can bear ill will toward another, brother or not, unless the other violates the moral law, the laws of the land, or, if a brother, the laws of Masonry. Even then the true Mason must not hate him, but must pray for the miscreant’s reform.
If Masons understand this first great tenet of Freemasonry and follow it in their daily lives, their lodges will be places of peace and the Fraternity as a whole will be an institution where brotherly love prevails and where every moral and social virtue cements us. Moreover, Masonry will be understood and recognized by the profane as a force for human unity and happiness. The constant practice of Brotherly Love will be the primary refutation of our critics and the chief attraction to new candidates. Therefore, Brethren, let us ever so meet, act, and part. Let us never fail to practice Brotherly Love toward all mankind. We can only be the richer for it. So mote it be!
David J. Llewellyn, P.M.
East Point Lodge No. 288
Gate City Lodge No. 2