What Is Freemasonry?

What is Freemasonry? When I wrote this page a few years ago, I performed a Google search for the words, "What is Freemasonry?". Google returned 1,120,000O results pages.  Today, October 14, 2014, this search term returned 4,430,000 results pages.

Therefore, Freemasonry has obviously, become a much more popular topic for Masonic authors to attempt to express and define Freemasonry in terms of what it has meant to them, personally.

In their attempts to answer the question of "What is Freemasonry?", most authors write long, eloquent, flowing paragraphs, enumerating Freemasonry's many benefits and virtues; its mystic symbolism, its history, its philosophy, its religious spirituality, its universality, and its feelings of brotherhood among men across the world. 

Much like the reflected mirror image of the true self, men receive from Freemasonry what they put into it.

The most succinct and evergreen answer to the question of "What is Freemasonry?" is found in the book, Conversations on Freemasonry, by Henry Wilson Coil, Sr., entitled "Facets of the Diamond".


Facets of the Diamond

At the present day, we find much uncertainty as to what Freemasonry is or means.

Some call it a religion; others, merely religious.

Some say its fundamental dogma is monotheism; others add immortality of the soul or even resurrection of the body; some consider it Christian; while still others aver that, fundamentally, it has no religious doctrine at all.

Many think of it almost as a temperance society or one of pharisaic morality; {Sic} (meaning excessively or hypocritically pious); others as a patriotic society to uphold the flag, the Constitution, and the public schools.

Not a few regard it as a charitable or benevolent institution, at least, expecting it to care for them in old age.

Some look upon the lodge as a holy place; others as merely a private room where the ceremonies may be performed in secrecy.

Some never tire of the ritual and have mastered it so thoroughly that the least slip of a word or phrase gives pain; others are soon surfeited and care little to hear it oft repeated.

Many take the ritual literally; others symbolically; while a few, with no thought about it either way, perfect themselves in its rendition in order to gain that eminence which comes from passing through the chairs.

Some see all sorts of meanings in the symbols; others see only the symbols themselves.

Some become immersed in the history of the Fraternity; others in its philosophy of life; and a few work out of it a fine and exalting spirituality.

Some sense a strong bond of brotherhood; others find only a social club or place to meet for diversion; some merely scent the aroma of a dinner; while some find nothing whatever in the order and soon lose contact with it.

Surely, if Freemasonry is a jewel, it is a diamond with many facets.


Source:  Conversations on Freemasonry by Henry Wilson Coil, Sr., 1976, Transactions of the Missouri Lodge of Research, Volume No. 32, page 11.

About Henry Wilson Coil

Brother Coil was born in Denison, Texas, December 12, 1885.  He graduated from Colorado College with a B.A., Cum Laude in 1910 and from the University of Denver, College of Law, Cum Laude in 1914. 

He began the practice of law in Trinidad, Colorado in 1914, but in 1918 moved to California to become attorney for the California Electric Power Company and that firm's general counsel from 1926 to 1955 when he retired to private practice in Riverside, California.

He was president of the Riverside County Bar Association in 1938. 

Brother Coil was past master of Riverside Masonic Lodge No. 635, past high priest of Riverside Chapter No. 67, R.A.M. and commander of Riverside Commandery No. 28, K.T. 

A member of the Long Beach Scottish Rite Bodies, he was an honorary 33˚and a member of Al Malaikah Shrine Temple of Los Angeles. 

He served the Grand Lodge of California in many capacities and was on its History Publication Committee at the time of his death at the age of 89 on January 29, 1974.

About Coil's Literary Works

Conversations on Freemasonry (Transactions of the Missouri Lodge of Research) discusses the grand lodge system, jurisprudence and landmarks, literature, lectures and ritual. 

Brother Coil also discusses the various rites of Freemasonry and has chapters about Freemasonry and religion, ancient paganism, Rosicrucianism, Catholicism, Mormonism and revolution.

Other volumes by Coil are Outlines Of Freemasonry V1, Comprehensive View of Freemasonry, and his well known magnum opus, Coil's Masonic Encyclopedia of Freemasonry.

What is Freemasonry? By each member's acts, words and deeds, Freemasonry's light reflects both inward and outward.

Lodge members may find "What Is Freemasonry?", Facets of the Diamond, to be useful as a short Masonic lodge talk as part of their Masonic education program.


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