The Operative Mason of the Middle Ages drew up a code of rules or regulations to govern the behavior of the members of the Craft. These they called "charges". Today they are known as the Ancient Charges and they constitute the basis of Masonic law.
Among these Charges is one that states "a Mason is a peaceable subject to the Civil Powers, wherever he resides or works and is never to be concerned in plots or conspiracies against the peace and welfare of the Nation".
Another law of the Masonic Fraternity is that no candidate or Brother can be questioned as to his peculiar mode of religious faith or political opinion, nor can any discussion upon such subjects be permitted in any assembly of the Craft.
At the time the Old Charges were written people had not direct vote or voice in their own government; they were ruled by kings, and often the dynasty to which a king belonged was challenged in its right to rule by some other dynasty, or even by more than one of them. Under such conditions a rebellion or a revolution was the only method by which a government could be changed; what was then called a "political party" was a group of adherents to a dynasty. Almost every then-existing organization, including even churches and colleges, took sides with one dynasty as against the other. You may from this see how exceptional and extraordinary was the Masonic Law; it took the position that this system of warring parties, fighting over the very existence of government, was hurtful to mankind and a great danger to a people, and that it ought to be replaced by the principle of goodwill and peaceable and harmonious co-operation. It was a part of the mission of Masonry to stand for that principle and it consistently kept itself aloof from the warfare of contending parties and forbade any member to take part in them as a Mason.
Here in Canada we have, as you know, political parties. Instead of quarreling with each other as to what the government shall be, our parties are in contention as to what the government shall do; and instead of deciding which one or another shall triumph by means of rebellions and revolutions, our parties make use of political campaigns, and while these campaigns do not result in the shedding of blood they often result in a great deal of bitterness, ill-will, and general disharmony. In the face of this modern situation our Craft continues to take the same position that it took in an earlier time; it believes that these bitter, partisan contentions are hurtful to the people, dangerous to the general welfare and subversive of sound government, and that the welfare of the State can be secured only by good-will, toleration, and a patient, friendly co-operation. It therefore refuses to participate in partisan politics and it forbids its members ever to do so in the name of Masonry.
Masonry's sole concern is that we act throughout in the spirit of and according to the guidance of fraternalism; how we are to apply it in detail or upon local occasion it leaves wholly to our judgment.
A Mason, let us say, is an active worker in some political party. What party it is, what may be his opinion on political issues, is for him to decide; but, as a Mason, he will not hate those who differ from him, nor enter unjust intrigues against them, he will not set up his own party in opposition to the public good, nor will he use his Masonic connection for political party purposes.
He may be an active member of a religious body. It is for him to choose that body; nobody has any right to dictate to him as to this. His beliefs are held sacred to his own conscience; but, as a Mason, he will have goodwill toward men of a different faith, will not be actuated by prejudice or intolerance, nor will he be a party to making war upon any other religious communion, however much in error he may deem it to be.
In his social life, he may belong to any circle he wishes, wealthy or poor, and enjoy his companionship of such as please him, nobody else having any right to dictate what club he shall belong to or in what circle he moves; but, as a Mason, he will not consider his own circle above others, or despise those who may not be as fortunate as he in his social relations, for such snobbery is repugnant to the principle of fraternalism.
Again, it is possible that he may feel a pride of race, may cherish the traditions of his own people, may love its language and prefer its customs. If so, nobody has the right to forbid him, for it is a right and honorable in every man to respect his own blood; but, as a Mason, he will not therefore despise others of a different race, or seek at their expense to exalt his own, for there nothing more un-Masonic than race prejudice.
So long as we are loyal to the principle of fraternalism in all our dealings with others, Freemasonry asks nothing further of us, and it leaves it wholly to us to decide what form our citizenship shall take in detail, or where we shall find our own niche in the great structure of the public life. This is only another way of saying that towards us, its members, it practices the same fraternalism that it enjoins upon us to practice towards others.
From this you will clearly understand why neither any Lodge nor Grand Lodge, nor any group of Masons as such, ever interfere with matters of church, state, or society, or joins one party against another. It is nevertheless not inconsistent for the Craft to perform at times such service to the community as stand by common consent on a level beyond all parties.
Above all it has been an aider and helper of all forms of general charity, asylums, homes, orphanages, hospitals and the less special forms of public relief.
To sum up. If a Mason asks, How am I to apply the teaching of Masonry to citizen ship? the answer is, That is for you to decide, and according as you have opportunity. All that is required of you is to be guided throughout by the principle of fraternalism, in which case nothing more will be asked of you because you will then be, as the Old Charges require, "a peaceable subject to the Civil Power."
From the booklet, More Light on Freemasonry
Distributed by the Grand Lodge of New Brunswick
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