The Tenets

By Nelson King, FPS

We have all heard our distinguished Junior Warden conclude the Entered Apprentice Lecture by stating that the tenets or fundamental principles of Ancient Freemasonry are Brotherly Love, Relief, and Truth. What is a tenet?A tenet is a teaching that is so obviously true and so universally accepted, that we believe it without question.

Freemasonry considers Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth to be teachings of this kind, true in the sense that no man can question them; they are self providing, axiomatic. It is not uncommon for men to consider Brotherly Love, while highly desirable, as not practicable, and therefore but a vision to be dreamed of but never possessed. It is challenging for Freemasonry to call these "tenets," thus stating that they are both obviously and necessarily true. Unless you grasp this, and see that the principles of Freemasonry are self evident realities, not visionary ideals, you will never understand Masonic teachings.

For Freemasonry does not tell us that the principles of Brotherly Love, Relief, and Truth ought to be true, that it would be better for us all if they were true--she tells that they are true. They are tremendous realities in human life, and it is as impossible to question their validity as to question the ground under our feet or sun over our heads. Our problem is not whether to believe them, but what are we going to do with them?

What is Brotherly Love? Manifestly, it means the we place on another man the highest possible valuation as a friend, a companion, an associate, a neighbor. By the exercise of Brotherly Love, we are taught to regard the whole human species as one family.

We do not ask that from our relationship we shall achieve selfish gain. Our relationship with a Brother is its own justification, its own reward. Brotherly Love is one of the supreme values without which life is lonesome, unhappy and unfulfilled. Brotherly Love is not a hope or a dream, but a fact. Freemasonry builds on that fact, provides opportunities for us to have such fellowship, encourages us to understand and to practice it and to make it one of the laws of our existence, one of the tenets or fundamental principles of our Beloved Craft.

Relief is one of the forms of charity. We often think of charity as relief from poverty. To care for the helpless or unemployed is deemed usually a responsibility resting on the general public. As a rule the public discharges that responsibility through some form of organized charity, financed by general subscriptions, or out of public funds.

Masonic conception of relief is broader and deeper than this. We fully recognize the emergency demands made by physical and economic distress; but we likewise understand that the cashing of a check is not necessarily a complete solution of the difficulty. There sometimes enters the problem or readjustment, of rehabilitation, of keeping a family together, of children's education, and various other matters vital to the spiritual comfort, for the assurance of a sincere and continuing interest and friendship, which is the real translation of our first Tenet: Brotherly Love.

Masonic Relief takes it for granted that any man, no matter how industrious and frugal he may be, through sudden misfortune or other conditions over which he has not control, may be in temporary need of a helping hand.

To extend it is not what is generally described as charity, but is one of the natural and inevitable acts of Brotherhood. Any conception of Brotherhood must include this willingness to give necessary aid. Therefore Relief, is Masonically speaking a tenet.

By Truth, the last of the fundamental principles or Tenets, is meant something more than the search for truths in the intellectual sense, though that is included. Truth is a divine attribute and the foundation of every virtue. To be good and true is the first lesson we are taught in Masonry. In any permanent brotherhood, members must be truthful in character and habits, dependable, men of honor, on whom we can rely to be faithful fellows and loyal friends. Truth is a vital requirement if a brotherhood to endure and we therefore accept it as such.

Thus Brotherly Love, Relief, and Truth are the fundamental principles or Tenets of Ancient Freemasonry. There are other Tenets, also; teaching so obvious that argument is never necessary to sustain them. With this in mind I urge you to ponder the Tenets of this our Beloved Craft, study them well, not as abstract teachings, but as living applications in our daily lives. You may not find them novel, but novelty is unimportant in the light of the knowledge that the truths upon which Freemasonry is founded are eternal. The freshness of immortality is on them because they never die; in them is a ceaseless inspiration and an inexhaustible appeal. They are the tenets of Freemasonry because always and everywhere they have been the tenets of successful human life.

For ritual alone cannot make us a good Masons, it is the everyday applications of its teachings that will broaden our powers of understanding. Learn well the tenets of Freemasonry, and, above all, practice them constantly, both within the confines of the Lodge and in your daily life.

Author's Note: The Junior Warden Lecture is part of Emulation Ritual.





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