Freemasonry - Q and A

FREEMASONRY – YOUR QUESTIONS ANSWERED

Q

What is Freemasonry?

A

Freemsonry is theU.K.’s   largest secular, fraternal and charitable organisation. It teaches moral   lessons and self-knowledge through participation in a progression of   allegorical two- part plays.

Q

Why are you a secret society?

A

We are not, but lodge meetings, like those of many   other groups, are private and open only to members. The rules and aims of   Freemasonry are available the public. Meeting places are known and in many   areas are used by the local community for activities other than Freemasonry.   Members are encouraged to speak openly about Freemasonry.

Q

What are the secrets of Freemasonry?

A

The secrets in Freemasonry are the traditional modes   of recognition which are not used indiscriminately, but solely as a test of   membership, e.g. when visiting a Lodge where you are not known.

Q

What happens at a lodge meeting?

A

The meeting is in two parts. As in any association   there is a certain amount of administrative procedure – minutes of the last   meeting, proposing and balloting for new members, discussing and voting on   financial matters, election of officers, news and correspondence. Then there   are the ceremonies for admitting new Masons and the annual installation of   the Master and appointment of officers. The three ceremonies for admitting a   new Mason are in two parts – a slight dramatic instruction in the principles   and lessons taught in the Craft followed by a lecture in which the   candidate’s various duties are spelled out.

Q

Isn’t ritual out of place in modern   society?

A

No. The ritual is a shared experience which binds the   members together. Its use of drama, allegory and symbolism impresses the   principles and teachings more firmly in the mind of each candidate than if   they were simply passed on to him in a matter-of-fact modern language.

Q

Why do grown men run around with their   trousers rolled up?

A

It is true that candidates have to roll up their   trouser legs during the three ceremonies when they are being admitted to   membership. Taken out of context, this can seem amusing, but like many other   aspects of Freemasonry, it has a symbolic meaning.

Q

Why do Freemasons take oaths?

A

New members make solemn promises concerning their   conduct in Lodge and in society. Each member also promises to keep   confidential the traditional methods of proving that he is a Freemason which   he would use when visiting a lodge where he is not known.

 

Freemasons promise to support others in times of need,   but only if that support does not conflict with their duties to God, the law,   their family or with their responsibilities as a Citizen.

Q

Why do your ‘obligations’ contain hideous   penalties?

A

They no longer do. When Masonic ritual was developing   in the late 1600s and 1700s it was quite common for legal and civil oaths to   include physical penalties and Freemasonry simply followed the practice of   the times. In Freemasonry, however, the physical penalties were always   symbolic and were never carried out. After long discussion, they were removed   from the promises in 1986.

Q

Are Freemasons expected to prefer fellow   Masons at the expense of others in giving jobs, promotions, contracts and the   like?

A

Absolutely not. That would be a misuse of membership   and subject to Masonic discipline. On his entry into Freemasonry each   candidate states unequivocally that he expects no material gain from his   membership. At various stages during the three ceremonies of his admission   and when he is presented with a certificate from Grand Lodge that the   admission ceremonies have been completed, he is forcefully reminded that   attempts to gain preferment or material gain for himself or others is a   misuse of membership which will not be tolerated. The Book of Constitutions, which every candidate receives,   contains strict rules governing abuse of membership which can result in   penalties varying from temporary suspension to expulsion.

Q

Isn’t it true that Freemasons only look   after each other?

A

No. From its earliest days, Freemasonry has been   involved in charitable activities. Since its inception, Freemasonry has   provided support not only for widows and orphans of Freemasons but also for   many others within the community. Whilst some Masonic charities cater   specifically but not exclusively for Masons or their dependents, others make   significant grants to non-Masonic organisations. On a local level, lodges   give substantial support to local causes.

Q

Aren’t you a religion or a rival to   religion?

A

Emphatically not. Freemasonry requires a belief in God   and its principles are common to many of the world’s great religions.   Freemasonry does not try to replace religion or substitute for it. Every   candidate is exhorted to practise his religion and to regard its holy book as   the unerring standard of truth. Freemasonry does not instruct its members in   what their religious beliefs should be, nor does it offer sacraments.   Freemasonry deals in relations between men; religion deals in a man’s   relationship with his God.

Q

Why do you call it the VSL   and not the Bible?

A

To the majority of Freemasons the Volume of the Sacred   Law is the Bible. There are many in Freemasonry, however, who are not   Christian and to them the Bible is not their sacred book and they will make   their promises on the book which is regarded as sacred to their religion. The   Bible will always be present in an English lodge but as the organisation   welcomes men of many different faiths, it is called the Volume of the Sacred   Law. Thus, when the Volume of the Sacred Law is referred to in ceremonies, to   a non-Christian it will be the holy book of his religion and to a Christian   it will be the Bible.

Q

Why do you call God the Great Architect?

A

Freemasonry embraces all men who believe in God. Its   membership includes Christians, Jews, Hindus. Sikhs, Muslims, Parsees and   others. The use of descriptions such as the Great Architect prevents   disharmony. Thr Geat Architect is not a specific Masonic god or an attempt to   combine all gods into one. Thus, men of differing religions pray together   without offense being given to any of them.

Q

Why don’t some churches like Freemasonry?

A

There are elements within certain churches who   misunderstand Freemasonry and confuse secular rituals with religious liturgy.

Although the Methodist Conference and the General   Synod of the Anglican Church have occasionally criticised Freemasonry, on   both churches there are many Masons and indeed others who are dismayed that   the Churches should attack Freemasonry, an organisation which has always   encouraged its members to be active in their own religion.

Q

Why will Freemasonry not accept Roman   Catholics as members?

A

It does. The prime qualification for admission into   Freemasonry has always been a belief in God. How that belief is expressed is   entirely up to the individual.

Four Grand Masters of English Freemasonry have been   Roman Catholics. There are many Roman Catholic Freemasons.

Q

Isn’t Freemasonry just another political   pressure group?

A

Emphatically not. Whilst individual Freemasons will   have their own views on politics and state policy, Freemasonry as a body will   never express a view on either. The discussion of politics at Masonic   meetings has always been prohibited.

Q

Are there not Masonic groups who are   involved in politics?

A

There are groups in other countries who call   themselves Freemasons and who involve themselves in political matters.. They   are not recognised or countenanced by the United Grand Lodge of England and   other regular Grand Lodges who follow the basic principles of Freemasonry and   ban the discussion of politics and religion at thei meetings.

Q

Is Freemasonry an international Order?

A

Only in the sense that Freemasonry exists throughout   the free world. Each Grand Lodge is sovereign and independent, and whilst   following the same basic principles, may have differing ways of passing them   on. There is no international body for Freemasonry.

Q

What is the relationship between   Freemasonry and groups like the Orange   Order, Odd Fellows and Buffaloes?

A

None. There are numerous fraternal orders and Friendly   Societies whose rituals, regalia and organisation are similar in some   respects to Freemasonry’s. They have no formal or informal connections with   Freemasonry.

Q

Why don’t you have women members?

A

Traditionally, Freemasonry under the Grand Lodge of   England has been restricted to men. The early stonemasons were all male, and   when Freemasonry was organising, the position of women in society was   different from today. If women wish to join Freemasonry, there are two   separate Grand Lodges inEngland  restricted to women only.

Q

Why do you wear regalia?

A

Wearing regalia is historical and symbolic and, like a   uniform, serves to indicate to members where they rank in the organisation.

Q

How many Freemasons are there?

A

Under the Grand Lodge of England, there are 330,000   Freemasons, meeting in 8,644 lodges. There are separate Grand Lodges forIreland  (which covers north and south) andScotland,   with a combined membership of 150,000. Worldwide, there are probably 5   million members.

Q

How and when did Freemasonry start?

A

It is not known. The earliest recorded ‘making’ of a   Freemason inEngland  is that of Elias Ashmole in 1646. Organised Freemasonry began with the   founding of the Grand Lodge of England on24 June 1717, the first Grand   Lodge in the world.Ireland  followed in 1725 andScotland  in 1736. All regular Grand Lodges in the world trace themselves back to one   or more of the Grand Lodges in theBritish Isles.

 

There are two main theories of origin. According to   one, the operative stonemasons who built the great cathedrals and castles had   lodges in which they discussed trade affairs. They had simple initiation   ceremonies and, as there were no City and Guilds certificates, dues cards or   trade union membership cards, they adopted secret signs and words to   demonstrate that they were trained masons when they moved from site to site.   In the 1600s, these operative lodges began to accept non-operatives as   “gentlemen masons”. Gradually these non-operatives took over the lodges and   turned them from operative to “free and accepted” or “speculative” lodges.

 

The other theory is that in the late 1500s and early   1600s, there was a group which was interested in the promotion of religious   and political tolerance in an age of great intolerance when differences of   opinion on matters of religion and politics were to lead to bloody civil war.   In forming Freemasonry, they were trying to make better men and build a   better world. As the means of teaching in those days was by allegory and   symbolism, they took the idea of building as the central allegory on which to   form their system. The main source of allegory was the Bible, the contents of   which were known to everyone even if they could not read, and the only   building described in detail in the Bible was King Solomon’sTemple,   which became the basis of the ritual. The old trade guilds provided them with   their basis administration of a Master, Wardens, Treasurer and Secretary, and   the operative mason’s tools provided them with a wealth of symbols with which   to illustrate the moral teachings of Freemasonry.

Q

How many degrees are there in Freemasonry?

A

Basic Freemasonry consists of the three ‘Craft’   degrees (Entered Apprentice, Fellow Craft and Master Mason) completed by the   Royal Arch degree (Chapter). There are many other Masonic degrees and Orders   which are called ‘additional’ because they add to the basis of the Craft and   Royal Arch. They are not basic to Freemasonry but add to it by further   expounding and illustrating the principles stated in the Craft and Royal   Arch. Some of these additional degrees are numerically   superior to the third degree but this does not effect the fact that they are   additional to and not in any way superior to or higher than the Craft. The   ranks that these additional degrees carry have no standing with the Craft or   Royal Arch.

Q

How much does it cost to be a Freemason?

A

It varies from lodge to lodge but anyone wishing to   join can find a lodge to suit his pocket. On entry, there is an initiation   fee and apron to buy. A member pays an annual subscription to his lodge which   covers his membership and the administrative cost of running the lodge. It is   usual to have a meal after the meeting; the cost of this can be included   either in the annual subscription or paid for at the time.

It is entirely up to the individual member what he   gives to Charity, but it should always be without detriment to his other   responsibilities. Similarly, he may join as many lodges as his time and   pocket can allow as long as it does not adversely affect his family life and   responsibilities.