What do Masons do?

by Clive Herron


I don’t think very fast on my feet. So when I'm asked, "What do Masons do," I usually break out into a cold sweat even though at times the question can be anticipated. Perhaps some of you have also had this experience - So let us take a close look at the question “what do Masons do?” But in order for the answer to be sincere we must first examine our self and determine are we fit to be called a true Mason?. Sounds like a ridiculous question but let’s look a little further, you see unless you qualify to be a true Mason then you are not able to give an answer to “WHAT DO MASONS DO” – Just as you cannot give an accurate account of what engineers do unless you are an engineer.

The answer to this question “WHAT DO MASONS DO” is probably best summed up in this anonymous story I came across. I have taken the liberty of rewriting the story in a more modern form of English, adding a few words of my own. But before I relate it to you, let me say that the original story was probably written about the time of the 1st World war and is as relevant today as it was then.


A conversation is taking place between a fairly new Master Mason and an experienced Past Master

"I have been a Master Mason for a year now," remarked the fairly new Brother to the Old Past Master. "There is a great deal about Masonry I enjoy, I like the company and all that, but I am more or less in the dark as to what Masonry is all about or what it really achieves in the world. Friends of mine in the Lions Club seem to be more active in the community than we are, don’t get me wrong I enjoy the fellowship but somehow I don't come away with the feeling that we have achieved much. What is the function has masonry outside of the relationship we enjoy in the Lodge and those acts of charity we may do? In fact the guys down at the Lions Club seem to be doing more than us without all this dressing up and ritual. We meet here in this most magnificent and impressive Lodge with all its benefits and comforts whereas they meet in a simple den wearing jeans. Lions clubs are put on a pedestal by the community whereas Freemasons are criticised by many. It all leaves me somewhat confused.

"Is that so smiled the Past Master I think I could win an argument about you,"

"An argument about me?!"

"Yes.  - You say you have been raised as a Master Mason for a year. I think it is fair to say, that while you are a Lodge member in good standing, you are not yet Master Mason in your heart and that is where it counts."

"I don't quite understand, what you mean" puzzled the enquirer. "I was initiated, passed, and raised in a regular lodge. I have my certificate, my subscriptions are up to date. I attend Lodge regularly and do what ritual work is assigned to me. If that isn't being a Master Mason about, what is?"

"My Brother you are missing the very point of Freemasonry - you have the body but not the spirit," retorted the Past Master. "You eat the husks and discard the kernel. You may know the ritual but fail to understand its meaning. I see you admire the building but fail to accept that this is only brick and mortar where you meet. It is not where you meet that counts. You may carry the documents, but for you these are just forms. You do not understand the first underlying principle that makes Masonry the great force it is, and yet, in spite of this, you enjoy the privileges of being able to call yourself a Freemason. Sadly a man may love and be called a Freemason yet still not fully comprehend .the fundamental principles"

"I really don't understand what you are telling me. I think I am a good Mason – I enjoy coming to lodge and seldom miss a meeting"

"That’s just where you are wrong. No man is a good Mason who thinks the Fraternity has no function beyond the pleasant association of men in the Lodge. You see, it has nothing to do with coming to meetings or being in the lodge room where you meet, for that is just the surface.  There are thousands of Masons who do not attend regularly so seldom see the inside of a Lodge be it grand or humble and therefore miss the fellowship. There are thousands who never need or support Masonic charity and who rarely come in contact with one of its many things masons do. Yet these men may liberally call themselves Freemasons and take freely from the treasure house which is Masonry

"My friend what I mean is that Masonry is an opportunity. It gives a man a chance to do and to be an example among the world of men. Freemasonry is a life changing experience. No man kneels at the altar of Masonry and rises again as the same man. At the altar something is taken from him never to return. No matter how selfish, or self-centred, or how much an individualist he may be, at the altar he leaves behind him some of the baggage of his purely profane make-up.

"No man kneels at the altar of Masonry and arises the same man because, in the place where that baggage and selfishness was, is put the most Divine spark which men may encounter.

    Where the self-interest was - is put an interest in others.

    Where the egotism was - is put love for one's fellow man.

You say that the 'Fraternity has no function. “Man, the Fraternity performs the greatest function of any institution at work among men. It provides a common meeting ground where all of us whatever our creed, our social position, our wealth, our ideas, or what our station in life may be, we  meet and understand one another whether it be your meeting place or mine.

Freemasonry, Is the only place where a capitalist and labourer, socialist and democrat, fundamentalist and modernist, Jew and Gentile, sophisticated and simple alike can meet and forget their differences? This is where Masonry exerts its greatest influence.

"It is Masonry, which opens the doors to men simply because they are men, not because they are wealthy or wise or foolish or great or small but simply because they seek the brotherhood which only masonry can give.

I am glad to hear that you participate in the ritual work of your lodge but be warned - He who only hears and utters the words of Freemasonry misses their meaning entirely. You must develop a clear understanding of our symbols and apply the meaning of each symbol to your daily life. For it is the interpretation of these symbols that link you to the Deity we all seek to serve.

"You ask about Freemasonry’s function and in the same breath you mention charity. Well, the function of charity, great as it is, it’s the least of the things Masonry does. You are right the fellowship in the Lodge, is something to experience but not much more than one can get in any good club, association, or organization. Those are just the side benefits of Masonry, but remember they are also present there in other organizations. The greatest fundamental gift of Freemasonry which the Craft alone possesses is that it stretches a kind and loving hand around the world, uniting millions of men in a bond far to strong to break.

Don’t let it worry you that there are critics of Freemasonry, they can compare us with other organisations but we are unique. Time has demonstrated that Masonry is too strong for war, too strong for hate, too strong for jealousy and fear. Some have tried the strongest means to have Freemasonry cast aside and banned, however, in spite of all their efforts they have not succeeded, nor ever will. Our order will stand the test of time because it is good. A good mason will know what is in his heart is also good, and that all the criticism levelled at freemasonry is unjustified

"Masonry gives us all a chance to do and to be; no matter how humble the part, in making the world a better place; a little larger, a little fuller in our lives, and bringing us a little nearer to the G.A.O.T.U. Unless a man understands this, believes it, takes it to his heart, and lives it in his daily life, and strives to show it forth to others in his every act.” I say he is no Master Mason. He must lives and love the labours of his Masonry.

Yes he may belong to all the side degrees and carry all cards. He can be adorned like a Christmas tree with Masonic jewels and pins. He can even be an officer in all the degrees but again I say he is no Master Mason unless he has it in his heart and sees in Masonry as the chance to be in reality what he has sworn he would be, a brother to his fellow Masons. The years he has loyally attended or the fact that he may or may not belongs to all those side degrees are of no consequence.

Humility is the mark of a true Mason. Remember even monarchs have become promoters of the Craft; have not thought it beneath them to exchange the sceptre for the trowel; have become members of our Society; and taken part in our assemblies. They have stepped from their palaces and into the Lodge Room identifying themselves with Freemasons around the world – some meeting in grand halls and others in humble buildings.

A true Mason is not judged by his years of service or how well he recites ritual nor by how much he gives to charity or the car he drives. He could be the managing director or the lowest employee, yet it is possible for this man to be called a true mason.

The enquiring Brother, looked down, unfastened the emblem from his coat lapel and handed it to the Past Master. "Of course, you are right," he said, lowly, “I have a lot to learn, here is my pin -. Don't give it back to me until you think I am worthy to wear it."

The Past Master smiled. "Put it back now," he answered gently. "None are more fit to wear the Square and Compasses than those who know themselves to be unworthy, for they are the ones who strive to be real Masons. Being a true Master Mason has nothing to do with all the materialistic adornments, or who you are, or where you meet – your meeting place is but an address where you gather and for the storage of your paraphernalia - it’s what’s in your heart that counts and makes a true Mason. Never give up trying you have it in you.

You will see from this story that being a Mason is not easy and takes more than simply renewing your annual membership by paying subscriptions. So how do we go about being good Masons?

The Past Master tells the curious mason “the function of charity, great as it is, is the least of the things Masonry does”. This may seem harsh and makes it difficult to say exactly what we do. If charity is not then one of our main function you may well ask – WHAT IS?

Here I would like to pass onto you another piece of wisdom I have come across and this tells us exactly what Freemasons should do – IT GOES LIKE THIS

Just in case you believe that great social problems are beyond your scope, consider this story: God said to me; your task is to build a better world. I answered: How can I do that? The world is such a vast place, and so complicated; and I am so small and useless. There’s nothing I can do, but God in his great wisdom said: Just build a better you

That is the crux of what Masons do and this is how we do it.

We seek to improve ourselves through the Masonic principles and tenets we have been taught when we were handed the Working tools. We strive to be better men by examining and re-examining ourselves. By using Masonic allegory we can stretch our imagination and challenge our attitudes, we channel our thoughts, words, and deeds so becoming better men. And we are better men because we associate with others who also want to be better men .of honour and integrity believing in things like honesty, compassion, morality, love, trust, and knowledge..

So if we are truly honest Masons we are able to do things in the world that we would not be able to do alone and that is to build a better world by building a better US -  YOU & ME

We are Masons because Freemasonry enables us to spend time with friends. We enjoy being together with men who think like us and whose integrity we can respect.


are we Masons?

I believe that each one of us here tonight can honestly affirm that we are true Masons. Men of Honesty and Integrity yet in all humility believing that there is still room for improvement in our lives. Freemasonry exists in each one of our hearts and this is why you are here tonight.


What do Freemasons do?  -

We work to make ourselves better human beings and if we improve ourselves by the effort we make then we contribute to making the world a better place. In our every day lives and at every opportunity we influence others by the example we set. At the forefront of a Masons mind he is always conscious that he has obligated himself to advance those excellent Masonic doctrines of TEMPERANCE, FORTITUDE, PRUDENCE, JUSTICE, BROTHERLY LOVE, RELIEF, and TRUTH and that he is honour bound to this obligation.


  • By acknowledging the G.A.O.T.U as the sole creator of all things and the source of all our benefit

  • By being ever watchful and guarding our thoughts, words and actions.

  • By being alert to the needs our Brothers and neighbours.

  • By working together to make good things happen.

  • By practicing that Masonic attribute of tolerance.

  • By exercising Brotherly love,

  • By being honest in all our dealings and rewarding Truth in our daily life

  • By always having an enquiring mind and delving the teachings of Freemasonry

If you practice your life to these rules then you will know – “WHAT FREEMASONS DO”  So perhaps we come out in that sweat I referred to in the beginning (and I include myself) because we are not living to all the rules. However as in the story I read earlier – in humility we acknowledge that we fall short - but through perseverance we strive to achieve our own self improvement thereby we can justifiably call ourselves TRUE FREEMASONS and so DO WHAT FREEMASONS DO.




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