Masonry may be characterized as a Universal science and art - universal in the sense that it cuts across all cultures, all races, religions and creeds. It is a science because it respects rational thought; an art because its principles must be applied by each person to his unique circumstances in life.
The fundamental principle of all Masonic ideals is belief in the existence of a Creator. This is an important principle and not one accepted by all peoples on earth. Some members of the United Nations, for example, when drafting its Charter, opposed enshrining this belief as a fundamental principle of the Charter. No reference to the existence of a Creator was to be incorporated into the UN Charter. In fact there are countries in the world today, like Albania, where Masons espousing this ideal would not be welcome, where it is against the law to believe in a Divine Creator. We, as Masons, use many names to refer to this principle of a Divine Creator, metaphors like the Great Architect of the Universe, the Grand Geometrician of the Universe, the Most High, Almighty Father, the Supreme Governor of the Universe.
As Masons we also believe that our Creator has made known to us its will by making known to us whatever we need to know in order to live the good life. These principles of the good life are available to everyone and are laid out in sacred writings which we in Masonry call the Volume of Sacred Law and for which different religious groups have different names, like the Bible or the Koran, etc. The highest ideal of Masonry is to try to live according to the wisdom revealed to us in these sacred writings.
Among these principles are a respect for legitimate authority, a respect for all life, a respect for knowledge and the search for truth, a respect for freedom of conscience. A person, for example, must not join us out of pressure from friends or business associates, or for business advantages or any other material advantages.
As Masons we also champion respect for the family. We read so often today about the abuse of children and women. Such conduct is thoroughly repugnant to the ideals of Masonry. Any neglect of familial duties where the family seriously suffers as a result of such neglect is contrary to Masonic teaching. Another important principle of Masonry is respect for labor. Without work, without conscientious effort, any skill or talent we may have is of little value. It's what we can put to work in our lives that we respect.
The true Mason also holds in high regard the ideal of charity, kindness, consideration of others. The practice of charity is a distinctively Masonic ideal. This entails a respect for those less fortunate than we - the poor, the infirm, the elderly, the helpless, the destitute, the children.
The true objects of Masonic work in Lodge are to cultivate poise in our members, to develop the skills of responsible leadership and to inspire in its members an inclination to be of service to others. We try to encourage our young members to learn the skills of management in all areas of life, in lodge management and in their personal affairs, and to apply their skills and talents to the service of others. Management means order and harmony, virtues highly esteemed by Masons.
The ideals of Masonry may best be summed up as kindness and love, relief and charity, order and harmony, honesty and truth.
Family Night, November 26, 1987, University Lodge A.F.& A.M., No. 496