Brotherly Love & The Golden Rule

Part 4 of a 16 part series regarding morals and conduct.


Brotherly Love, the Column of Strength, which binds us as one family in the indissoluble bond of fraternal affection. (Mackey, 1878)

Love is the best thing someone can give to another. We value others not for what we can gain from them or their usefulness, but for each one in our own person and our own sake. We service them, sacrifice for them and enjoy being with them. That is what is meant by love. The concept of brotherly love is clearly explained in the antient charges:

BROTHERLY-LOVE, the Foundation and Cape-stone, the Cement and Glory of this Ancient Fraternity, avoiding all Wrangling and Quarreling, all Slander and Backbiting, nor permitting others to slander any honest Brother, but defending his Character, and doing him all good Offices, as far as is consistent with your Honour and Safety, and no farther. (Anderson, 1723)

So then, brotherly love means giving another man high appraisal. Freemasons are told that “by the exercise of Brotherly Love, we are taught to regard the whole human species as one family.” We shouldn’t selfishly gain anything from one another. The friendship is its own reward. Without the virtue of brotherly love, life just isn’t the same. That’s a fact and not just an ideal. Freemasonry uses this fact to give us opportunities for fellowship and harmony, inspires us to practice it daily and to make it a way of life. Thus, brotherly love is one of our principal tenets.

Remember that “the great aim of the order is the attainment of the universal brotherhood of man under the fatherhood of God.” Since we all profess a similar belief, “our members are drawn from every race and from every creed.” Brotherly love is that expression of amity we have when assembled together.

Brotherly love also means that we should always treat others as we would like to be treated. It’s important to think about how easily we judge others, and whether or not we’d actually do the same thing if we were in their shoes. Therefore, as Freemasons we should always practice the Golden Rule. This rule is quite prominent in all faiths:


“Lay not on any soul a load that you would not want to be laid upon you, and desire not for anyone the things you would not desire for yourself.”
Baha’i Faith – Bahu’u’llah

“Treat not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful.”
Buddhism – Udana-Varga 5:18

“In everything, do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law of the prophets.”
Christianity – Jesus in Matthew 7:12

“One word which sums up the basis of all good conduct…loving kindness. Do not do to others what you do not want done to yourself.”
Confucianism – Confucius, Analects 15:23

“This is the sum of duty: do not do to others what would cause pain if done to you.”
Hinduism – Mahabharata 5:15-17

“Not one of you truly believes until you wish for others what you wish for yourself.”
Islam – The Prophet Muhammad, Hadith

“One should treat all creatures in the world as one would like to be treated.”
Jainism – Mahavira, Sutrakritanga

“What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor, This is the whole Torah; all the rest is commentary.”
Judaism – Hillel, Talmud, Shabbat 31a

“We are as much alive as we keep the earth alive.”
Native American – Chief Dan George

“I am a stranger to no one; and no one is a stranger to me. Indeed, I am a friend to all.”
Sikhism – Guru Granth Sahib, pg. 1299

“Regard your neighbor’s gain as your own gain, and your neighbor’s loss as your own loss.”
Taoism – T’ai Shang Kan Yin P’ien 213-218

“We affirm and promote respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.”
Unitarianism – Unitarian Principle

“An’ harm none, do as thou wilt.”
Wicca – The Wiccan Creed

“Do not do unto others whatever is injurious to yourself.”
Zoroastrianism – Shayast-na-Shayast 13:29

We should always show consideration and concern not only for others, but their kin as well. Family comes first but this should expand into the community as well. Freemasons are taught “to aid, support, and protect each other.” The whole concept of brotherly love is what unites us:

By the exercise of Brotherly Love, we are taught to regard the whole human species as one family—the high, the low, the rich, the poor—who, as created by one Almighty Parent, and inhabitants of the same planet, are to aid, support, and protect each other. On this principle, Masonry unites men of every country, sect, and opinion, and conciliates true friendship among those who might otherwise have remained at a perpetual distance. (Sickels, 1868)

brotherly love

It’s vital to attain brotherly love with other masons. We have to be willing to forget or overlook petty gripes and oddities. It’s important to see the good things in our brothers that will make us love them. Remember, all men are brothers who should throw away any resentment or animosity they might have. In this sense, we will be much more successful in aiding, supporting and protecting our human family:

More than one man has gone into a lodge and curled his lip when he learned that he was supposed to be a brotherly lover, and turned around and wept when he found that he was being loved like a brother by men he didn’t know cared what became of him.

Masonry works miracles all the time, and the commonest of them and the one she works oftenest is teaching hard-hearted citizens to be soft-hearted Masons; teaching men the real meaning of the words ‘brotherly’ and ‘love’ until they, too, become teachers. (Claudy, 1924)

It’s important to show enough love towards our brothers so that they will, in turn, show love towards others. The longer we know someone, the more we enjoy their company. Mutual enjoyment should always come into consideration when practicing brotherly love. Ergo, teaching brotherly love to others involves establishing and maintaining that mutual enjoyment.

It’s vital for leaders within a lodge to adopt an attitude of brotherly love. There are times when problems arise, but they are not so difficult and can be much more quickly resolved if everyone approaches these problems with brotherly love. Leading with brotherly love will go a long way in retaining harmony within a lodge:

When we forgive a brother, we give him the opportunity to renew his oath and his obligations to the brotherhood. By forgiving, we demonstrate that we have Faith that our brother, who may have wronged us, will want to rectify his actions. We always have Hope that brotherly love will prevail against all odds. In part, our lodge needs to be a place of refuge where one can commit a human failing and still receive forgiveness. We are taught to “whisper friendly counsel” in an erring brother’s ear. Yes, the brother may have erred toward us personally, but are we not guiltier of tearing the fabric of our mystic tie by being unforgiving? Do we not act less dignified when we are unwilling to extend the hand and heart of brotherly love to a brother? A brother who has wrongfully hurt us is still a brother who needs to know that we are compassionate. (Schwartz, 1999)

brotherly love

Indeed – compassion, forgiveness and counsel will go a long way in making “good men better”, and in turn we ourselves will become better men. It’s okay to make mistakes, it’s only human. Remember that brotherly love means helping each other so we don’t repeat those same mistakes, and that we’ll support each other when confronted with difficulties.

A real Freemason will always respect and tolerate the opinions of others and act with kindness and understanding towards them. There are times when we may get upset at something that had been said or done and jump to making harsh reactions. Rather, we should stay calm and remind each other to walk uprightly:

It is human to want to “get even.”  Our brother wrongs us; it is only natural to wish him taken before the bar of lodge opinion, and, perhaps, punish him for his infraction of his obligation.  Brethren often see no further than the immediate present; the immediate wrong doing; the immediate lodge trial and its results.  A word of wise caution may make him look further.  No man, unless suffering wrong of the most grievous character, but may be caused to stop and think by reminding him of the many obligations and duties he assumed when he, too, became a Mason. (Unknown, 1930)

It’s important to remember that we are all on the level and should treat each other as such. That’s what we are taught through ritual. We are to naturally respect our brethren by always offering help without questioning motives. As Freemasons, it’s always critical that we demonstrate that mutual respect for each other, whether or not we are in the presence of others. One may be familiar with that rite of destitution that we all experience at some point in our Masonic lives:

For one impressive instant, in which many emotions mingle, he is made to feel the bewilderment, if not the humiliation, which besets one who is deprived of the physical necessities of life upon which, far more than we have been wont to admit, both the moral and social order depend. Then, by a surprise as sudden as before, and in a manner never to be forgotten, the lesson of the Golden Rule is taught – the duty of a man to his fellow in dire need. It is not left to the imagination, since the initiate is actually put into the place of the man who asks his aid, making his duty more real and vivid. (Unknown, 1923)


Brotherly love is one of the greatest things to have between two people. We love family simply because they are family, not because we hope to gain something from them. And were they to offer something, we would refuse them. We spend time with them just for the pleasure of being in each others company. We help not because we must, but because we want to – and without expecting to have any favors returned. Being with them satisfies us like nothing else can. We don’t care about their faults and would aid them even if we thought they were in the wrong. We ignore any small gripes we have about them. For what exists between us is an unbreakable bond which can’t be easily explained. It is because we are brothers that these things are possible:

Brotherly Love or Friendship is regarded by Freemasons as the strong cement of the Order; without this high moral virtue, the Fraternity would soon cease to exist. By Brotherly Love, we are to understand that generous principle of the soul which regards the human species as one family, created by an All-wise Being, and placed on this globe for the mutual assistance of each other. The man who is actuated by the pure principle of Brotherly Love, will not desert his friend when dangers threaten or misfortunes assail him. When he is calumniated, he will openly and boldly espouse his cause, and endeavor to remove the aspersion. When sickness or infirmity occasion him to be deserted by others, he will seize the opportunity, and redouble all the affectionate attentions which love suggests. No society can exist for any length of time, unless Brotherly Love prevail among its members. To “dwell together in unity,” is the life and support of the great Masonic institution. (Sickels, 1868)

brotherly love

Without brotherly love, Freemasonry wouldn’t be what it is and thus would not have survived since time immemorial. Indeed, the bond that exists between brothers is an aspect that attracts others to our honorable society and what allows us to live moral, upright lives.

Anderson, James. (1723). THE CHARGES OF A FREE-MASON. EXTRACTED FROM The Ancient RECORDS of LODGES beyond Sea, and of those in England, Scotland, and Ireland, for the Use of the Lodges in LONDON.

Black Hawk Masonic Lodge. (2002). Principle Tenets of Freemasonry. Cedar Falls, Iowa.

Claudy, Carl. (1924). Brotherly Love. Excerpted from “The Old Past Master.” The Masonic Service Association.

Clevenger, Michael D. (2010). Leading with Masonic Values – Brotherly Love. Worthington, Ohio.

Grand Lodge F.&A.M. of California. (2001). The Tenets; Brotherly Love, Relief, and Truth. Excerpted from “The Masonic Scholar: A Manual of Masonic Education for Candidates.” The Master’s Jewel. Pine Mountain Club, California.

Lodge of Happiness. (2011). The Masonic Core Principles of Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth. Warwickshire, England.

Mackey, Albert G. (1878). Relief. Excerpted from “Encyclopedia of Freemasonry Vol. II.” Philadelphia: Moss & Company.

Okorafor, Chris A. (2005). Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth: Significance to Our Lives as Masons. Umuahia, Nigeria.

Schwartz, Ray. (1999). The Act of Forgiveness. Newton, New Jersey.

Sickels, Daniel. (1868). Great Tenets of a Freemason. Excerpted from “The General Ahiman Rezon and Freemason’s Guide.” New York: Masonic Publishing and Manufacturing Co.

Stewart, Greg. (2008). The Golden Rule. Los Angeles, California.

Unknown. (1923). The Rite of Destitution. Short Talk Bulletin, Masonic Service Association.

Unknown. (1930). The Reputation of the Fraternity. Short Talk Bulletin. Masonic Service Association.

Wine, William N. (2003). Brotherly Love. The Philalethes Magazine. Sebring, Ohio.


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