Fraternity, What Does It Really Mean?

Bro. Jon Patrick Sage

Randle Holmes, was an early Masonic author, as well as one versed in general history, an antiquary and genealogist, employed by Charles II. He was a Freemason in the Lodge at Chester, believed to have been made a Mason there around 1665. Holmes was a contemporary of Elias Ashmole, who is, arguably, the “first” speculative Mason, having been “Made” a Mason at the Lodge at Warrington, on October 16, 1646. As such, Holmes was in a handful of persons who were among those who might have been among the first Speculative Masons.

In this vein of thought, such a man’s thoughts on Fraternity, in the sense of the word in which is used within Freemasonry, ought to be one which would interest us all.

Holmes writes, in his Academie of Armory, 1688:

“Fraternity, or Society, or Brotherhood, or Company; are such in corporation, that are of one and the same trade, or occupation, who being joined together by oath and covenant, do follow such orders and rules, as are made, or to be made for the good order, rule, and support of such and every of their occupations. These several Fraternities are generally governed by one or two Masters, and two Wardens, but most Companies with us by two Aldermen, and two Stewards, the later being to receive and pay what concerns them.”[1]

Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary defines Fraternity as “1. State of being brothers; brotherliness. 2. A body of men associated for their common interest, business, or pleasure; a brotherhood; specif.: a A religious or ecclesiastical brotherhood. b In American colleges, a student organization formed chiefly to promote friendship and welfare among the members, and usually having secret rites and a name consisting of Greek letters.  3. Men of the same class, profession, character, or tastes; as, the legal fraternity.”[2]

So, we have learned that ours is a fraternal organization, by definition of our aims, as well, as by the origins of the nature of our business, formerly rooted in that of Operative Mason’s Companies. We apply, by definition, secular and Masonic, the Principles of Brotherly Love, Relief, and Truth, which are established as the Tenets of our Institution. As the year progresses, we may pay particular attention to the definitions and applications of each of these Principles. However, it is important, at the onset, to understand the significance and importance that all of them play in the definitions of our Institution, that of a “Fraternity of like-minded men”.

[1] Bernard E. Jones, Freemasons’ Guide and Compendium (George G. Harrap & Company Ltd.: London, 1950), 99-103.

[2] John P. Bethel, ed., Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary (G. & C. Merriam Co.: Springfield, 1960), 330.