What is Freemasonry
Freemasonry (also known as Craft Freemasonry) is among the oldest non-religious fraternal societies in the world. It is a society of men who are concerned with moral and spiritual values. It encourages men to live better lives, to discipline themselves and to consider their relationships with others.
Because it is a basic and essential requirement that every member professes and maintains a belief in a Supreme Being, it has a spiritual basis. However, it is not a religion, nor should it ever be regarded as a substitute for any form of religious faith. In fact, Freemasons are strictly forbidden to discuss matters of religion in the Masonic environment. The Bible (known by Freemasons as The Volume of the Sacred Law) is always open when Lodges meet. Obligations are sworn on or involve the Volume of the Sacred Law or whichever holy book is held sacred by the man concerned.
Freemasons attempt to follow three great principles which represent a way of achieving higher standards in life
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You must be fully aware of the financial commitments that you are expected to make. It cannot be stressed enough that at no time should your Masonic financial obligations be detrimental to the welfare of your family or those who depend upon you.
Like any other organisation, lodges and their administrative bodies have considerable operating costs. These costs must be borne out of Initiation and Joining Fees, Annual Subscriptions etc.
All lodges pay a per capita fee for each member to Grand lodge, the Grand Charity and to Provincial Grand Lodge for the purpose of administering Freemasonry and its charitable funds. In addition your Lodge may have to pay for the costs of its occupancy of a Masonic Hall and / or lodge room.
When you first join Freemasonry, you will be expected to pay the following fees etc. The current rates will be advised to you by your Proposer and / or Seconder or the lodge Treasurer.
- Initiation Fee
- First years Annual Subscription
- Cost of a Masonic apron (for certain lodges)
The only regular commitment in subsequent years will be your Annual Subscription which is payable in advance to the Lodge. This must be paid every year without fail at the proper time.
At most meetings charitable collections are taken and you will be expected to contribute within your means. There is often a raffle at the Festive Board for Charity. Members who are taxpayers are expected to make regular donations to Masonic charities by way of Gift Aid. The Lodge Charity Steward can provide details.
The charitable funds in Freemasonry are distributed first to needy and distressed Freemasons, their families and dependants and then to a large variety of non-Masonic international, national and local charities.
Your obligation to attend a number of meetings per year has already been mentioned. Visiting other lodges can take more of your time.
You will probably find that once you have joined Freemasonry you want to learn more about it. However this involves a further commitment of time which you should carefully consider.
Social activities etc.
You will be expected to play a full part in attending some of the Lodge’s social activities. There is often a Ladies’ Night or a Social Evening. These are good opportunities to let your lady partners or family and friends see what we are all about and meet those of other members. At these events, ladies and guests are often encouraged to tour Masonic premises, including the Lodge Room
All lodge members are expected to wear dark lounge suits, dark morning suits or dinner suits, white shirts together with the official Masonic tie, a black tie, official masonic bow tie or a black bow. Shoes and socks must be black. Jewellery must be kept to a minimum. White gloves are worn by all members.
As well as for reasons of equality and uniformity the standard dress has a symbolic significance in Freemasonry. (Some specialist Lodges may wear e.g. military uniforms or ‘old school’ ties).
No other form of dress is acceptable, and members may not be admitted if not properly dressed.
Before every meeting each member of the Lodge receives a ‘summons’ or ‘circular’ which requests his attendance and advises the date, time and business of the lodge. Members must attend on every occasion unless prevented by family, work, business commitments or other unforeseen circumstances.
When unable to attend it is essential that you send an apology to the lodge for your non-attendance. This can be done by contacting the Master, the Lodge Secretary or your Proposer or Seconder.
Although Freemasonry has serious aims and important ideals to convey, most members join to enjoy the fellowship, the conversation and simply to have fun. While members are encouraged to enjoy ‘good food and good wine’, excessive amount must be avoided at all times. The good behaviour of Freemasons outside of the Masonic environment is also very important if the high reputation of the Order is to be maintained.
One of the ceremonies, as briefly described above, takes place in the lodge room, and this may be followed by the social part of the evening, the ‘after-proceedings’ often historically known as the ‘Festive Board’. At the festive board, members may have dinner and/or refreshments, toasts are given to the Queen and various distinguished members of the Order, there are a few short speeches and there is occasionally an item of entertainment.
Freemasons meet in Private Lodges. Each one has a unique number on the roll of the United Grand Lodge of England. Of course, there are many thousands of other lodges in almost every country of the world. A lodge can have a membership from about 20 to several hundreds.
English Private Lodges outside of London are mainly grouped into Provincial Grand Lodges. The lodge you wish to join is probably part of a Provincial Grand Lodge. Provincial Grand Lodges administer Freemasonry for the lodges in their areas and appoint the more senior and experienced Masons from the Private Lodges for this purpose as well as a small number of paid staff.
In England the Private Lodges (under their Provincial Grand Lodges) form part of the United Grand Lodge of England which is administered from its premises at Freemasons’ Hall, Great Queen Street, London.
There are, however, certain preconditions of membership of any Masonic lodge.
You must believe in a Supreme Being
You must be at least 21 years of age
You must not engage in discussion on matters of religion or politics on Masonic occasions
You must profess allegiance to the Sovereign of your country and all that the Sovereign represents
You must be prepared to take an oath to preserve the private aspects of Freemasonry
You must be willing to strictly observe the Laws, Regulations and Constitutions of Freemasonry
You must be of good character and be prepared to uphold the Civil and Criminal Laws of any country in which you may reside, either temporarily or permanently
You must have the full support of your partner and family
Society, family and your job
A Freemason’s duty to society as a citizen must always prevail over any obligation to other Freemasons. Freemasonry will severely censure and probably expel any Freemason who attempts to shield another Freemason who has acted dishonourably or unlawfully.
Freemasonry must never be allowed to harm a man’s family or other connections by taking too much of his time or his money or causing him to act in any other way against their interests.
If it is ever proved that a Freemason has gained an unfair advantage over another person because of his membership of the Order, a serious view will be taken. Members must never use any sort of Masonic certificate or evidence of membership to advertise a business or other enterprise nor use any sort of Masonic device or description on stationery etc. Freemasonry is compatible with any form of occupation whatsoever, but all Freemasons must be careful not to compromise their living and the living of their dependants.
Men of all ages (i.e. 21 or above), races, colours, religions, politics or financial or social standing are qualified to become Freemasons. We have members who are part of our Royal family, professions, trades, skills, arts, sciences, businesses, manual occupations – both the employed and self-employed and sadly in these days, the unemployed.
When a person is admitted, he becomes known as a ‘Brother’ and remains so for the rest of his Masonic career. It is also pointed out to candidates that in Freemasonry all Brethren are ‘on the level’.