First of all, the conservatively estimated four-million strong Freemasonry is the oldest and largest fraternity in the world. Although it is not a religious organization, it has a religious character. Its lodges and temples are neither a forum nor a place of worship even if Freemasons believe in eternal life and that house not made with hands eternal in the heavens. It is a friend of all religions.
A belief in benevolent and beneficent God is a fundamental requirement for most Masonic jurisdictions while being sound in mind and body is a must before one could be initiated into the light. It is not a charitable organization although Freemasons are not averse to acts of charity. It is not a reformatory institution for it only takes good men in to make them better. It is not a secret organization but like any other fraternity, it has secrets.
Freemasonry teaches its members to square their actions by the square of the cardinal virtues (Temperance, Fortitude, Prudence and Justice) and to circumscribe their desires and keep their passions within due bounds. These sacred teachings are aptly represented by the square and compasses.
I first came to know Freemasonry when I was in elementary school learning Philippine history. I learned that most of our heroes are members of this fraternity and that it inspired them to spread the virtues which the fraternity was founded —brotherly love, relief and truth. Thus it is not surprising that the ideals, rituals and organizational structure of the Kataas-taasan Kagalang-galangang Katipunang mga Anak ng Bayan was based on freemasonry since its founder, Brother or Kuyang Andres Bonifacio, is a freemason.
Since then I came to know that Freemasons are always in the forefront of the fight for freedom of thought and religious tolerance in the world. Just to mention a few, Freemasons actively participated in the American war of independence (1775-83), the anti-bourbon inspired French revolution (1789-99) and our very own 1896 revolution.
Albert Pike, one of Freemasonry’s foremost philosophers, said freemasonry is involve in “the overall struggle against ignorance, intolerance, fanaticism, superstition, un-charitableness and error.” It is remarkable that because of its enlightened ideals, Freemasonry is banned in totalitarian countries and still considered a heretical organization by the Roman Catholic Church.
Freemasonry is inherently imbued with libertarian traditions that characterized much of the Age of Enlightenment, it goes without saying that it is against religious intolerance and other forms of oppression. This explains why the Roman Catholic Church on 1738 started prohibiting its faithful from joining freemasonry under the threat of excommunication because of its “depraved and perverted ideals.”
The 1917 Roman Catholic Church’s Code of Canon Law explicitly declared that joining Freemasonry entailed automatic excommunication. It also forbade books promoting Freemasonry, which likely includes this article.
In 1983, then Prefect Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (now ex-Pope Benedict XVI), with the personal approval of the late Pope John Paul II, reiterated the Church’s opposition to Freemasonry. He issued a Declaration on Masonic Associations which states: “The faithful who enroll in Masonic associations are in a state of grave sin and may not receive Holy Communion….” and “…the Church’s negative judgment in regard to Masonic association(s) remains unchanged since their principles have always been considered irreconcilable with the doctrine of the Church and therefore membership in them remains forbidden.”
Modern Freemasonry started on June 24, 1717 when the United Grand Lodge of England was formed. However, there are documents found showing that Freemasonry is already in existence in 1000 AD in Scotland. Furthermore, circumstantial evidence suggests that this sublime fraternal organization started in ancient Sumer in the year 4000 B.C. and thereafter quickly spread to Egypt and other parts of the known world. Perhaps this is the reason for freemasonry’s extensive usage of ancient symbols.
In the Philippines, Freemasonry started in 1856 when European Freemasons organized the first Masonic lodge, Primera Luz Filipina. Accordingly, Jacobo Zobel, a German-Spaniard born in Manila and the great grandfather of the Zobel family, was the first Filipino mason. It soon after became popular among the rich and educated Filipinos like Marcelo H. Del Pilar, Jose Rizal, Graciano Lopez Jaena, Jose Alejandrino, brothers Juan and Antonio Luna, Ambrocio Flores, and Galicano Apacible.
The Filipino-American war disrupted effective Masonic activities in the country. It was revived during the American occupation when three lodges that were chartered under the Constitution of the Most Worshipful Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of California formed the Most Worshipful Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of the Philippines on Dec. 19,1912.
Among the most prominent members of the MWGLP are Commonwealth President Manuel Luis Quezon, General Douglas MacArthur, Pres. Jose P. Laurel and Chief Justice Jose Abad Santos.
Congratulations to the Most Worshipful Grand Lodge of the Philippines, its new set of officers and to its Masonic District Region VI-A in Iloilo for successfully hosting the 2013 Annual Communication. May the Grand Architect of the Universe be with us all.