|The Lady Asks|
What is Freemasonry all about?
So your man has decided he wants to become a Freemason and you want to know what he is letting himself in for. It is fair question. You will no doubt have heard much about the organisation - some good and some not so good. I will try to allay your fears and answer some of the questions most often asked.
Essentially it is a meeting of like minded men who get together to make themselves and those they meet with, better men. They do this by a series of disciplines that are full of symbolism and allegories taken mainly from the building trade.
Why the building trade?
For a number of reasons. It was the builders who erected Solomon’s Temple. It was the builders who erected our Cathedrals. These builders, in order to protect their workers and keep them informed of future projects were a close knit society where discipline was important. Any one who has been to a building site will tell you it is dangerous place and workmen have to be disciplined to prevent accidents. The disciplines when working with sharp and heavy tools soon spread to the workers morals and behavior. The working tools were given symbolic meanings that helped the worker concentrate his mind. You will have heard the expression ‘on the square’ or ‘on the level’. Both are derived from masonry. The one meaning that you trust the one ‘on the square’ to be honest and truthful while ‘on the level’ means you are treated as an equal.
Why builders and not carpenters or metal workers?
It could just as easily be them or shipbuilders or farmers! The word ‘mason’ really means a craftsman. Some one who is skilled in his trade. It is just that in the early days it was the stone masons who first organised themselves into some sort of union or guild.
So does this mean that masons have to be builders?
No, not any more. As I said the tools of the workman were used to symbolise our life and actions. For instance the rough ashlar -that is the rough piece of rock that is taken from the quarry - represents man before he receives an education; before his parents teach him how to behave in life. Once the stone has been prepared by the expert mason it can be placed in the building - so, similarly, the new mason once he has received understanding and education in how to be a good man, an honest citizen, loving and caring to his family and friends, then he can be included into and welcomed by civilised society.
So it is a sort of Religion?
Not in the sense that Catholicism or Islam or Buddhism are religions. In fact any discussion of religion, or politics for that matter, is strictly banned. All that is asked is that a mason believes in a Supreme Being. We do not ask beyond that. A man’s religion is his own affair. He is encouraged to practice what he says he believes in but that is in the privacy of his own company. At our Lodges we meet on the ‘level’. All are equal. No attempt is ever made to dissuade a brother from his chosen beliefs.
If it is not a religion but it tries to make men better people why can’t atheists join?
Good question. In fact in some French Lodges atheists are admitted! However, in regular Freemasonry we obey what are called our Land Marks which are the rules laid down by our predecessors who in their wisdom have decided that they are for the good of all. Belief in a Supreme Being is one of them. All masons agree with it as a concept and a requirement – and a laudable one at that.
Will it cost a lot to join? No. In comparison with many other organisations or clubs Freemasonry is one of the least expensive. There is a joining fee which is only paid once. After that the only cost is the annual subscription which varies from Lodge to Lodge. The secretary of the Lodge will advise the candidate of all costs well in advance and it is up to the individual to decide if he can afford it. He will also be advised that he must do nothing and commit to nothing that will detrimentally affect his family.
Do you have lots of meetings? Each Lodge will have a schedule of meetings and these can vary from two or three a year to nine or ten. On the Continent of Europe and in America many Lodges meet every week or bi-weekly. Besides our regular meetings we also have rehearsal nights or classes. To the committed mason these can make a demand on his time. He is always advised never to take on more than his family commitments allow. Family and work must always take priority over Freemasonry.
What do we ladies get out of Masonry? The short answer is – nothing directly! Sounds a bit harsh doesn’t it? In fact many of our ladies do get involved with their husbands Masonic careers. There is usually a busy social side to Masonic life and our ladies are very much part of that. Most especially when Lodges arrange their annual Ladies Night which is a banquet where everyone dresses up for the occasion. These nights are enthusiastically attended by brethren and their ladies. The nights are also open to non Masonic relatives and friends.
What do masons do for Charity?
Charity is a major part of Masonic life. Being essentially a philanthropic organisation, the vast amount of work that is done for charitable purposes is something that we are proud of. Masonry is the biggest contributor to Charities in the World. However, their involvement is not blatant. Many donations and support have been given without any recognition that it has come from Masonic sources. This is of no concern to masons. It is the ‘giving’ that interests us, not the reward or the plaudits. sometimes a brother is asked to donate to Charity at our meetings and for specific purposes but his contribution is always secret. Total confidentiality is observed at all times. No-one knows whether a brother has given one cent or one million. This is how it should be. There is never any pressure to donate. A brother gives what he can afford and it is no business of anyone else.
Do you help if a mason is in trouble?
That is what brotherhood is all about. If a brother who through unforeseen circumstances is in trouble then his brothers will do all they can to help. On some occasions this means financial support especially where an urgent operation or medical procedure is required.
If a brother dies, then help and advice will be offered to his widow and his family. We have an officer called an Almoner and it is his duty to take care of people in distress. He will not interfere but will guide, comfort and advise as far as he is able. We also offer a Masonic service to the past brother and his family.
Once a man becomes a Freemason he and his family will never be alone.
I hope that I have answered some of your questions. If you want to know more please make contact through our ‘contact us’ page. All enquiries are treated with total confidentiality and discretion.
Thank you for taking the time to read this page.
Written by R.W. Bro. Roy Martin.