What Is Freemasonry all about?
Defining what Freemasonry is about is a topic that can be answered in a few words or thousands. The short answer is;
A peculiar system of morality, veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols.
I should point out here that in this context, the word ‘peculiar’ means particular or special rather than different or unusual.
Freemasonry was a way to teach Operative masons about being good stonemasons and decent people. These days most members are known as Free and Accepted or Speculative Masons and so the tools and practices of a mason are applied to a man’s actions and morals.
Freemasonry is one of the world’s oldest and largest non-religious, non-political, fraternal and charitable organisations. Its roots lie in the traditions and ceremonies of the medieval stonemasons who built our cathedrals and castles. Some rituals are still celebrated today.
You can read more about Oak Tree Lodge here.
Following, are some answers to some common questions about Freemasonry, you can find more on the UGLE website. Below the FAQs is a video that you might also like to watch.
A peculiar system of morality, veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols.In reality, Freemasonry is a society that seeks to promote decency, honesty, respect, and understanding. It aims to “make good men better” and to raise money for charities and good causes. Groups, known as Lodges, meet on a regular basis throughout the year and perform what are (somewhat archaically) known as rituals. These are very much like plays with different people playing different parts. Each person has a set of lines to speak and actions to perform. A formal Lodge meeting may last 2 hours or more. During these meetings, younger Masons get to learn about the craft and understand the importance of being a person of good character. Although the rituals were devised hundreds of years ago, they are still as true and pertinent today as they have always been.
Freemasonry means different things to different people and everyone has their own reasons for joining. It might be;
- To carry on an ancient tradition
- To join a new social circle or meet people in a new area
- Because you have in interest in history and allegory
- To carry on a family tradition
- To challenge yourself to learn new things
- To give some of your time to help local causes and charities
Whatever the reason, you will find it a fun and rewarding thing to do.
By keeping much of what goes on in a Lodge meeting out of the public domain (as far as possible), members get the best enjoyment out of the various meetings and ceremonies that take place. Since they experience them for the first time as it happens and do not know in advance what will happen.
Freemasonry is a journey. Just as you wouldn’t want to know how a book or a film ends before you start reading or watching, it’s better if members don’t know what is going to happen – some of the time.
It would also be rather overwhelming if everything were available at once. By revealing only a part of the story at a time it keeps people interested and keen to know more. It also gives newer Masons the time to think about and understand each stage as it comes along.
And it’s not just newer Masons that go into things without knowing what will happen. When someone is nominated to take on the role of Worshipful Master – the most senior position in a Lodge – they are unaware of the ceremony that they will go through until they are actually in it.
As has already been mentioned, the ceremonies are like plays and people take on the role of a particular character within that play. There are numerous different parts within the Lodge, with Worshipful Master being at the top – but you’ll have to join us to find out more about the others!
We do dress up a bit.
Meetings are formal and attendees will usually wear business suits, morning suits or dinner suits depending on the lodge, there are certain ceremonial collars that are worn by members to denote the role they have, and all members wear white gloves.
Members also wear an apron as recognition of the traditional leather aprons warn by stone masons, the design of these varies depending on your level and whether the Lodge is a traditional Craft Lodge or one of the side orders of Freemasonry.
Everyone starts off learning the basics of Freemasonry in a Craft Lodge. Here there are three levels (known as degrees) that you progress through. Once you complete the third degree and become a Master Mason, other areas (known as side orders) may become available.
These include Mark Masonry, Royal Arch, Knights Templar, Rose Croix.
After every formal Lodge meeting, the members (referred to as Brethren) retire to enjoy a meal known as the Festive Board. This is a little less formal and is an opportunity to really get to know your fellow Freemasons socially over some nice food and a glass or two!
The meal is usually restricted to those that attended the Lodge meeting but from time to time a Lodge may decide to hold a ‘White Table’ event where partners and friends of the Brethren are also invited to dine and meet.
Yes they can, there are two separate organisations that promote and oversee women’s Freemasonry. While UGLE presides over the male Lodges, The Order of Women Freemasons (OWF) and Honourable Fraternity of Ancient Freemasons (HFAF) preside of lodges specifically for women. They follow a very similar structure and progression, and still refer to each other as Brothers.
Not really. You are only asked to do the best you can (if you have a role in the ceremony) so you are only really competing with yourself.
That being said, time to progress through the ranks varies depending on how many members a lodge has. In a large lodge it may take a little longer to move up than in a small lodge – so, much better to join a small friendly lodge like Oak Tree !
Freemasonry is a journey – both spiritually and actually. When you are initiated you become an Entered Apprentice, this is the first degree of Freemasonry. After learning a little more about the craft you may be passed to the second degree and be known as a Fellow Craft Freemason.
After a little more time and learning, you will (hopefully) be raised to the third degree and can call yourself a Master Mason.
As well as the three degrees of Freemasonry, there are various roles within the Lodge and you will be asked to take on one of these when the time is right and a position becomes available. These roles also have a hierarchy so you would most likely start with the most junior position and then move up in stages over time.
Each role has a part to play in the ceremonies so you will feel involved from the beginning.
Only if you let it – you only do as much as you want to.
As you progress, the more senior roles have a larger part to play in the ceremonies which means more to learn, so make sure you understand that before agreeing to take on a role.
Most Lodges meet 4 or 5 times a year. In the lead up to the meetings there are Lodges of Instruction (LoI’s) where members rehearse the parts they have been asked to play so that everything goes smoothly on the night. The number of LoI’s varies between Lodges.
At Oak Tree we meet formally four times a year; in October, December, February and April with twice monthly LoI’s from September through to May. There are no meetings or LoI’s in June, July or August. As a newer Mason you may not be asked to attend all the LoI’s depending on what is being rehearsed.
Surely you mean the sheep!
There’s a lot of rumour and nonsense surrounding the various ceremonies and obviously we can’t say too much here except that everyone who becomes a Freemason goes through the same ceremonies no matter who they are – including lots of famous people and even Royalty (see our picture gallery).
As has already been mentioned we are a society that is based on promoting moral and social virtue and seeks to inculcate Brotherly love, respect and truth – so that should tell you a bit about what the ceremonies are likely be and what they are unlikely to be.
In past years the traditional method of getting into a Lodge was to be invited. It’s important that anyone who joins a Lodge is of good character, will contribute and is looking to join for the right reasons. This stipulation has been relaxed and these days it is perfectly acceptable for prospective candidates to approach a Lodge and ask to join.
What normally happens then is that you will meet with a couple of the more senior members informally – perhaps at a coffee shop or a pub – and they will talk with you about Freemasonry to make sure you understand what you’re getting involved in. From there, there may be a second meeting with a few more members of the Lodge before your application is considered.
Any application, whether through recommendation or enquiry, will then be put to all members of a Lodge as part of a Lodge meeting and members will vote in confidence whether to accept or reject your application.
One of the fundamental tenets of Masonry is that it is not ‘clique’ where you ask for, or expect favours or preferential treatment from others.
Don’t join if you are only doing so for personal gain.
Not really. Another of the golden rules of Freemasonry is to abstain from all topics of religious and political discussion – different people have different beliefs and all views are equally respected.
We are a secular society, not connected in any way with any religion, however we do ask that you believe in a superior being of some sort. That may be a God (or Gods) as part of a traditional religion or it may be your own personal (and private) belief.
Similarly, Freemasonry as a body, will never express a view on politics or state policy. The discussion of politics at Masonic meetings has always been prohibited.
If you choose to dine at the Festive Board, again costs vary from Lodge to Lodge but expect to pay £30-£40 including drinks.
Charity plays a big part in Freemasonry and at all meetings and at the Festive Board there are opportunities to donate. At Oak Tree we have a raffle at every Festive Board with a chance to win some nice prizes like bottles of wine, chocolates or the ever popular home made cake.
Easiest thing to do is to get in touch through our Contact Page.
Someone from the Lodge will be in touch to arrange a chat and maybe a face-to-face meeting with some of the members.
If you’ve got this far through the FAQs, you’ll have a reasonable understanding of what we’re about and you will know in your own mind why you want to join.
We look forward to hearing from you and having you join our friendly Lodge.