The Universal Mason (Why are you a Mason?)

by Bro. Edward Hartman, Ashlar Lodge No. 610 G.R.C. (London) 2016

I love being a Freemason for many reasons. Freemasonry has been the conduit through which I have received many of my life’s great experiences. One of the superficial benefits of being a member of the Craft is that it tends to cloak you with a certain amount of mystery and intrigue in the eyes of some non-Masons. It feels good when someone on the street or at the bar, or wherever, notices your ring and asks “Are you a Mason?” All Masons have at one time or another been in this situation and have tried to appear as humble as possible as they answer “Yes I am”, all while desperately ignoring that internal voice that yells “I’m special, I’m special.” That feeling of pride however will quickly abandon you if the non-Mason is inclined to continue his line of questioning beyond the realm of curiosity and into the sphere of general interest. That feeling of pride may even briefly turn into panic if the non-Mason asks you “Why are you a Mason?” At this point, for a terrifying moment, the Mason must rack his brain for an answer that can somehow summarize the experiences of his life that lead him to the door of the Lodge and also an answer that can somehow express the many intellectual, emotional and even possible spiritual experiences he has received since becoming Initiated, Passed and Raised. This is no small task indeed.

Driven by curiosity

I believe my experience has been shared by many other Masons when I first joined the Craft. The reasons I joined and the reasons I stayed are very different. When I joined Freemasonry I was driven by curiosity, some vague preconceptions of the Order and a desire to be part of something bigger than myself. It appears as though my life had lead me in the direction of the Lodge without much conscious input from myself. Almost as if somehow through my general interest and curiosity I just happened to find myself outside the doors of the Lodge, nervously awaiting my initiation. From this fact, I suppose, the argument can be made that sometimes in life your path chooses you, or at least steers you in the direction that would most benefit you, if you are only smart enough to see it. Whether or not your destiny is pre-determined or entirely left up to chance, circumstance and blind luck cannot be known for sure but what is a concrete fact is that it is up to the individual to accept and to passionately pursue the opportunities that life presents.

An intense desire to learn

I found this to be the case with my Masonic journey. Once already a member for a short time my heart was filled with an intense desire to learn all I could from the Craft’s beautiful system of symbols and rituals. I studied with feverish interest the philosophy and doctrines of all the great thinkers, reformers, mystics and visionaries who proudly called themselves Brother Freemasons. The depth of knowledge, wisdom, understanding, and insight displayed, by what I lovingly call the Prophets of the Craft, can have a sincerely profound and life changing effect on the Mason who not only studies but also applies them to his life. Freemasonry is a perfect system of not only social moral virtue, but it also has enough of the ancient mystery tradition woven into it as to keep not only the intellectual but also the spiritual appetite of man full.

All mankind should be viewed as a universal brotherhood...

Still there is one special function that Freemasonry preforms, which should be the pride of all that call themselves Masons. That function is its constant promotion of the idealistic teaching that states that all mankind should be viewed as a universal brotherhood. It was the great mystic Mason Manly P. Hall whose words resounded in my soul when he wrote, “The true Mason is not creed-bound. He realizes with the divine illumination of his Lodge that as a Mason his religion must be universal: Christ, Buddha or Mohammed, the name means little, for he recognizes only the light and not the bearer. He worships at every shrine, bows before every altar, whether in temple, mosque or cathedral, realizing with his truer understanding the oneness of all spiritual truth”. This magnificent quote is meant to inspire the idea within all Masons that all creeds, religions, and traditions carry a portion of truth and are all different expressions of the same shared goal. This goal is the attempt to understand the nature of God and all nations throughout time have sought in some form or another to answer this mystery. How can one philosophy be considered greater or lesser than another when they all work towards knowing what is unknowable?

Their higher spiritual pursuits

I believe the essence of Manly P. Hall’s beautiful statement can be taken further still. Not only is mankind united in its desire to worship and understand the Divine, for all societies have formed systems to express their higher spiritual pursuits, but more commonly mankind is united in its daily, civil and common desires. No matter what position a man holds in society he yearns to be free and he desires Liberty for his loved ones and for himself. Liberty in the form of freedom to do what he pleases, worship as he pleases and associate with whom he pleases. No matter what culture or traditional background a man comes from he wishes to be treated fairly and he desires Equality. Equality in the form of the protection of his right to exist as others exist. No matter what religion a man practices or associates with he wants to feel as though he is a member of the broader accepted community and he desires Fraternity. Fraternity in the form of support and brotherly love from his neighbours and fellow men. There exists a universal desire that spans the entire globe. This desire is mans want and need to be safe, protected, free and prosperous. The Lodge is a place that aims to magnify the similarities of men, as opposed to the all too common practice in society of amplifying their differences. It is a place where those who would have remained strangers otherwise meet not only as equals but as Brothers. It is a place that teaches its students the lessons of universal brotherhood. When our time here is over we will then see for ourselves that all mankind truly are brothers of the dust.

It is a force for good in this world

The question still remains, “Why am I a Freemason?” I am a Freemason because I believe in its lessons and I believe in its philosophy. I am a Freemason because I believe it is a force for good in this world and that it has the power to make society better one man at a time. I am a Freemason because I believe that the ultimate goal of universal brotherhood is possible. However, if I was asked by a non-Mason “Why are you a Mason?” I would most likely respond by saying, “Because it is a great organization and I’ve gained much through my involvement with it”.

“The true Mason is not creed-bound. He realizes with the divine illumination of his Lodge that as a Mason his religion must be universal: Christ, Buddha or Mohammed, the name means little, for he recognizes only the light and not the bearer. He worships at every shrine, bows before every altar, whether in temple, mosque or cathedral, realizing with his truer understanding the oneness of all spiritual truth”

Bibliography Manly P. Hall, The Lost Keys of Freemasonry, pg.65, Macoy Publishing and Masonic Supply Co., Richmond Va., 1976.

" Anybody may support me when I am right. What I want is someone that will support me when I am wrong"


Bro. John A MacDonald, First Canadian Priminster | St. John's Lodge No.5, Kingston. Initiated: 1844

"Always do right. This will gratify some people, and astonish the rest."


Bro. Tim Horton, Hockey Legend | Kroy Lodge No.676, Toronto. Initiated: 1962

"A probelm is a chance for you to do your best"


Bro. Honorable John Ross Matheson, Maple leaf flag | Queen's Lodge No.578, Kingston. Initiated: 1940

"I bow to no man for I am considered a prince among my own people. But I will gladly shake your hand."


W Bro. Joseph "Thayendanegea" Brant | First Master of Lodge No. 11, Mohawk Village (near Brantford) in 1798.