The Fundamental Nature of the Craft 
By Neil Neddermeyer  PGM, Minnesota

 An age old question that has plagued many for centuries has to do with the fundamental nature of the Craft.  Three questions that continually need to be considered are:  Who do we think we are? Who does the public think we are? And truly who are we? 

We have divided ourselves into the following three groups:

 Group A.

          This group believes that we are a social club and a support group. They believe that the Craft exists for bonding through events that are both member-oriented and family-oriented.  These members support our concordant and appendant bodies and are very much in favor of public relations and new member initiatives.  They may feel that the lessons learned from the ritual and the public charities that we support are valid but the main reason for us to exist is for fun and fellowship.

Group B

          This group feels that our sole function should be to support our philanthropies and our community service programs. It may be apparent to them that Masonic fellowship and teachings are compelling, but also they are necessary to have an organization in place for the continuation of public giving.

Group C.

          These members of the Craft are involved primarily to receive Masonic light. They believe that the histories and philosophies of Masonry are the principal reasons for our existence. These members may feel that the best way to increase our membership is through word of mouth and that the mystery of the Craft is what sets us apart from other organizations.  They seek introspection and edification. 

These three groups represent the reasons given for Masonry to exist, namely Brotherly Love, Relief, and Truth.  These three groups are often at odds with each other as to how the Craft should be managed and lead. This becomes apparent when new ideas are explored and old customs are challenged. Of course the lines of definition that separate the three groups are sometimes vague and we may individually change our thoughts as to who we are over time.  Many true Masons, however, feel that we can equally serve all three beliefs. This is not, however, as easy as it seems.

The direction of many of our Lodges is determined by how the majority members of each Lodge view the reason for the Craft to exist.  Some Lodges are primarily made up of one or two of these groups, while others are a mixture of all three.  Astute Masonic leaders may determine the direction to lead their Lodges by assessing the Masonic interest of the active members.  Programs can then be developed that match the Masonic expectations of each member. Each Lodge may vary significantly in its approach.

 Non-members who examine the Craft may feel that these three concepts do not dispel rumors or false accusations that have been directed towards Masonry. They may feel that our purposes are not clear and that more explanation is needed.  We have adopted a more definitive slogan that the public can easily understand and with which they can identify. This motto comes from hundreds of years of Masonic tradition and explains much as to who we are and what we stand for. The motto is simply “Religious Tolerance, Political Freedom, and Personal Integrity”. 

 There is a need for each one of us to have a working definition of what Masonry is, not only as an explanation to others but also to ourselves.  Each of us needs to decide what we personally feel the Craft is and how we fit in it.  We need to respect the opinions of other Masons who may not see the Craft in the same light.  The fundamental nature of the Craft may be as simple as Tolerance, Freedom and Integrity.  You decide.