Your questions answered about Freemasonry
We could talk about this for ages and still not find a definition that would satisfy every Freemason: Freemasonry is many different things to many different people.
Freemasonry originated in the medieval building guilds as a pure operative organisation it developed into a speculative fraternal order in the mid XVII century.
Freemasonry offers its candidates the chance of self discovery and self improvement via a series of ritual ceremonies (known as “degrees”) in which the mysteries of human existence are celebrated and the need to have a moral compass reaffirmed.
It also offers its members the chance of joining a universal brotherhood. Freemasonry is present in each and every continent of the world and it is the oldest secular fraternity in existence.
Lodges in the UK typically meet between four to six times per year in regular meetings in which members wear full regalia and when different ritual work is carried out. Once a candidate has completed his three degrees he is eligible for office in the lodge.
Family and work always come before Masonic duty is a mantra that every candidate will hear when he joins. Still, it is important to attend to as many regular lodge meetings and Lodge of instruction meetings as possible (ideally all) but it is understood that family and work related demands must be satisfied first.
Freemasons take a solemn obligation on joining the Lodge (their Initiation ceremony) and swear on their faiths sacred book, to never reveal the traditional modes of recognition between them. To be law-abiding citizens and not to do anything that will bring Freemasonry into disrepute.
An initiate is reminded of his duty to the sovereign and the laws of the realm.
Contrary to popular opinion, a Freemason is never to use their membership for financial gain and/or social advancement.
Expulsion from freemasonry can be the result of such criminal prosecution if convicted.
To be male, free and of mature age is an odd turn of phrase in the 21st century. But its origins stem from the stonemasons Guilds. Then, Male meant that no women were admitted (but see the next paragraph). ‘Free’ meant not indentured as an apprentice.
Regular Freemasonry, as far as United Grand Lodge of England (UGLE) is concerned, adheres strictly to the letter of its Constitutional, that only men can join it.
There are several side orders in Freemasonry that accept both women and men (The Order of the Eastern Star and International Co-freemasons).
These two, however, are not officially recognised by UGLE.
There is the Order of Women Freemason (OWF)and Freemasonry for Women(FOW), which only admits women and works on the same lines of regular male freemasonry. At Freemasons Hall, there have been exhibitions in the Museum, displaying both the OWF and FOW organisations.
‘Free’ means in the context of the XXI (21st) century assumes that one can afford the fees and spare the time dedicated to Masonic pursuits.
Mature age means that candidates should be at least 21 years of age in order to be considered for the initiation ceremony.
Belief in a Supreme Being is an essential requirement for membership for any freemason. No matter what religion that candidate for freemasonry may follow.
An applicant should not have been convicted of an offence in a criminal court.
Each Freemason Lodge sets its own costs according to its circumstances, like room hire, operating costs and any dining involved.
• Registration fee: £100.00 ‘one off’ fee.
• Initiation/Joining fee ‘one off’ fee: £50.00
• Annual Subscription: £220.00
• Dining fee: £35.00
Costs, other than annual subs, to be considered:
Charity: One of the three founding principles in Freemasonry, is charity. Freemasons give to charity either in the regular lodge meeting or at the Festive Board or Masonic dinner after the meeting.
Freemasons are reminded only to give to charity according to their personal circumstances. There are no set amounts and no pressure to give more than you can afford.
Charity also refers to the charity of spirit that we show to each other in Lodge and to the outside world.
The monies collected by a Lodge are for the Lodge to decide which worthy causes they should be donated to.
The Masonic dress code for a regular meeting is a dark suit, black shoes, black tie, white shirt and white gloves. In St Mary Islington some members like to wear a dinner jacket with a black bow tie for the meetings. Rehearsals on a Saturday morning take place in casual attire.
Socialising: members share a libation (drink) both before & after meetings but this is certainly not compulsory.
Overall costs are anything but prohibitive when compared to the potential that Freemasonry has to impact and enrich the wellbeing of its members.
Rehearsals or Lodge of Instruction (LoI) consists of less formal meetings held in Freemason Hall, at regular basis throughout the year.
These take place on several Saturday mornings before a regular meeting of that month. The purpose of which, is in order to learn the Masonic ritual and protocol. It gives new brethren, an opportunity to gradually learn and practice both the ritual and perambulation of Lodge ceremonies. Here all brethren can rehearse forthcoming ceremonies.
It gives you a chance to get to know your fellow Lodge members and forge friendships.
Freemasonry, given its nature, is neither a religion nor any substitute for religion. All members applying to join Freemasonry, must profess a belief in a Supreme Being. This, for any man joining a Lodge, must be of their choosing. So that they may be admitted “to the Mysteries and privileges of Ancient Freemasonry”. This is probably one of its most noble features, allowing men from very different religions to meet in the Lodge as brothers, all are equal or ’on the same level as everyone else in the Lodge’. This is sometimes at odds with a religious and ungodly world outside
Freemasonry has frequently been described as “A fraternity dedicated to the brotherhood of Man under the all seeing eye of a Supreme Being”. Whatever that man happens to regard as his “Supreme Being”.
Freemasonry frequently draws on the ‘Old Testament’ in the Bible. This is in order to create specific moral allegories. But it doesn’t adhere to any one religion and has members from all religious backgrounds. The name of God is referred to in several Masonic rituals and encompasses all the various religious creeds and beliefs of its members.
Apart from the Old Testament references, Freemasonry has many diverse influences from the Ancient Mystery schools, Gnosticism, Alchemy. The ideals of the 17th and 18th century Age of Enlightenment emphasising reason and individuality rather than tradition.
Freemasonry is not a Secret Society but rather a Society with traditional secrets. These secret words and gestures purely restricted to our ceremonies i.e. the degrees which each freemason passes through.
Apart from that, nothing is secret in regards to Freemasonry.
Once, Freemasonry was originally part and parcel of daily life and Masonic processions were common in the XIX (19th) and XX (20th) century. A town annual parade would have the local contingent of Masonic Lodges all wearing their regalia.
In the XX (20th) century the order became less visible and more secretive. It is not absolutely clear why this happened. At present Freemasonry is as open and transparent as ever it was. The rules and aims of Freemasonry are available to the public as are lists of its members, lodges and places of meeting.
The United Grand Lodge of England headquarters is in Covent Garden. It is open for guided tours most working days of the week.
Is Freemasonry involved in politics?
Freemasonry, or regular freemasonry, isn’t involved in politics. Members are not allowed to discuss religious or political subjects during any lodge meetings. Reasons for this, is that more often than not religion and politics discussion causes disharmony and can divide men. Freemasonry is above everything else a fraternity, a brotherhood.
St Mary Islington 5451 being a lodge under the constitution of the United Grand Lodge of England does not allow political or religious discussion at lodge meetings (as above) This is obviously not applicable outside of a Masonic context and many Freemasons are very active in politics in either their personal or even professional life.
There never was such a thing as a Masonic agenda to “take over the world”. All freemasons are charged to abide law-abiding citizens, no more & no less.
Freemasonry has been often described as a moral science. The only agenda it has is the spiritual and intellectual development of its members and of society in general. It must never be forgotten that Charity is a fundamental part of Freemasonry.
Yes, freemasonry is involved in the community at a grass roots level with Lodges helping out in the local community. It is also a force for the common good, giving donations to small & big charities and worthy causes.
Next to the National Lottery, freemasonry has over the past five years given well over £75m This has been donated by Freemasonry in the United Kingdom for a wide range of both masonic and non-masonic good causes.