Frequently asked questions about Freemasonry
What is Freemasonry?
Freemasonry is the U.K.'s largest secular, fraternal and charitable organisation. It teaches moral lessons and self-knowledge through participation in a procession of allegorical plays. Its bonds of friendship, compassion, and brotherly love have survived even the most divisive political, military and religious conflicts through the centuries.
Freemasonry is neither a forum nor a place for worship. Instead, it is a friend of all religions which are based on the belief in one God.
Freemasons are respectable citizens who are required to conform to the moral laws of society and to abide by the laws of the government under which they live.
Only individuals believed to be of the finest character are favourably considered for membership. Every applicant must advocate his belief in the existence of a Supreme Being (atheists are not accepted into the Fraternity).
Freemasonry offers its members an approach to life which seeks to reinforce thoughtfulness for others, kindness in the community, honesty in business, courtesy in society and fairness in all things. Members are urged to regard the interests of the family as paramount but more importantly Freemasonry also teaches and practices concern for people, care for the less fortunate and help for those in need
Second only to the National Lottery, Freemasonry is the largest UK contributor to charity, collected solely from its members.
Every Master Mason is welcomed as a "Brother" in any of the thousands of Regular Masonic Lodges throughout the world.
How did Freemasonry begin?
There are two main theories of origin.
According to one, operative stonemasons had lodges in which they discussed trade affairs. They had initiation ceremonies and, as there were no City and Guilds certificates, 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.
This dovetails in with other theory that in the late 1500s and early 1600s, in an age of great intolerance when differences of opinion on matters of religion and politics were to lead to bloody civil war. 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, and the only building described in detail in the Bible was King Solomon's Temple, which became the basis of the ritual.
The old trade guilds provided them with their basic 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.
Why are you a secret society?
We are not. However, Lodge meetings, like those of many other groups, are private and open to members only. The rules and aims of Freemasonry are freely available to the public. Meeting places are known and in many areas are used by local community groups for non Masonic activities. Meeting places and times are regularly to be found advertised in the local press and members are encouraged to speak openly about Freemasonry.
What are the secrets then?
The secrets of Freemasonry are simply 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.
What happens at a Lodge meeting?
A Lodge meeting is usually held in two parts. As in any association there is a certain amount of administrative procedure - minutes of last meeting, proposing and balloting for new members, discussing and voting on financial matters, election of officers, news and correspondence. Then there are ceremonies for admitting new entrants. This consists of some dramatic instruction in the principles and lessons taught in the craft followed by a lecture in which the candidates various duties are spelled out.
What are the strange rituals?
Freemasonry endeavours to teach moral lessons and self-knowledge to new members, however,
it is one thing to have aims and ideals and quite another to impress them upon the minds of the members. So, in our Lodge rooms we enact, for the benefit of the new member, what can be likened
to the scenes from a play. The scenes are called degrees, because Freemasonry is a progressive
system. The play is centred on the building of King Solomon’s Temple where every part of the
building and every implement used is given a deeper moral or spiritual interpretation, which is explained to the new member.
Why do Freemasons take oaths?
Few words are more wrongly used, at least in Masonic circles, than "Oath". A candidate takes upon himself a solemn obligation to do certain things and to refrain from certain actions. The Masonic obligations are high minded duties voluntarily assumed by candidates as their part in becoming Brethren of an ancient craft. The Oath they take is purely their attestation of the validity of the covenants they thus make. To speak of a Masonic Oath is to name the whole after a very minor part. Freemasons do not swear allegiances to each other or to Freemasonry. They do however obligate themselves to be just and upright and not to do anything which would conflict with their duties to God, the Law, their families or their responsibilities as a citizen.
I thought Freemasons only look after each other!
Nothing could be further from the truth. 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 dependants, others make significant grants to non-Masonic organisations. As already stated, Second only to the National Lottery, Freemasonry is the largest UK contributor to charity. On a local level, lodges give substantial support to local causes.
Aren't you just another form of religion or religious belief?
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 practice 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 with a man's relationship with his God.
Why do you refer to the Volume of The Sacred Law and not call it The Bible?
To the vast majority of Freemasons the "Volume of The Sacred Law" is the Bible. However, there are many in Freemasonry who are not Christian and to them the Bible is not their sacred book. In a Scottish Lodge the bible is always present, but as our organization is open to men of any race or religion we refer to the VSL. Thus, when the “Volume of The Sacred Law" is referred to in our ceremonies, to a non Christian it is the holy book of his religion and to a Christian, The Bible.
Why do you refer to God as The Great Architect?
Freemasonry embraces all men who believe in God. Its membership includes Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs and many others. The use of descriptions such as The Great Architect prevent disharmony. The Great Architect is not a specific Masonic God or an attempt to combine all Gods into one. It is simply a term which allows men of differing religions to pray together without offence being given to any of them.
Why do you not accept Roman Catholics as Freemasons?
This is totally incorrect! The prime qualification into Freemasonry has always been a belief in The Supreme Being. How that belief is expressed by the individual is entirely a personal matter for him. There are many Roman Catholics within Freemasonry and indeed four Grand Master Masons of England have been Roman Catholic!
What is the connection between Freemasonry and groups like the Orange Order and The Rotary Club?
Absolutely none. There are numerous fraternal orders and Friendly Societies who have rituals and wear regalia, similar in some respects to Freemasonry. They have no formal or informal connections with our organisation.
Why can't women join?
Traditionally, Freemasonry under The Grand Lodge of Scotland is restricted to men. The early stonemasons were all men, and when Freemasonry was organising, the position of women in society was different from today. If a woman wishes to get involved in Freemasonry, there are Masonic orders which they can join.
Why do you wear regalia?
Wearing regalia is both historic and symbolic. Also, like a uniform, it serves to indicate to members where people rank within the organisation.
How much does it cost to become a Freemason?
This 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 to pay. Thereafter, a member pays an annual subscription to his Lodge which covers membership and the administrative costs of running the Lodge. It is entirely up to the individual 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 allow, as long as it does not adversely affect his family life or responsibilities.
How can I become a Freemason?
The answer to this is simple, Don't wait to be invited. Historically Freemasons are discouraged from actively recruiting or asking non-Masons to join the fraternity. This is to insure that candidates come of their own free will. So don't wait to be invited.
If you're interested, then act. Basically, if you know a Freemason, ask him about membership. He will be glad to tell you all about the Craft and the local Lodge, and give you a petition if you wish to join. Alternatively use the form on the contacts page and our Secretary will be happy to advise you. to The rule is;-"to be one, ask one!"