Freemasonry: What's It All About

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What is Freemasonry?


The Three Great Principles on which Freemasonry is founded

For centuries Freemasons have followed these three great Principles:

Brotherly Love: Every true Freemason will show tolerance and respect for the opinions of others and will behave with compassion and understanding to his fellows.

Relief: From earliest times Freemasons have been taught to help, to the best of their ability, those in distress. without detriment to any who are dependent upon them, and to give their support to outside Charities.

Truth: Freemasons strive for truth both in their view of themselves and in their dealings with others. Masonry requires high moral standards and its members endeavour to uphold these principles in their public and private lives.

In today's modern Freemasonry, members are expected to be of high moral character and are encouraged to speak freely about Freemasonry. In fact a recent report (which you can read by clicking on ‘Freemasonry: What's It All About’) is in agreement with the claims made here. What may be of interest, is that the report was written by non-masons and concludes:

"What attracts masons to Freemasonry varies greatly, as we have already touched on. Some are attracted by the friendships they form and the sense of belonging it instils, others by the ‘nudge’ that Freemasonry provides towards living a more altruistic life. Others still will be attracted by the rituals of Freemasonry. Much like the rituals themselves, however, Freemasonry may deserve a closer look in order to understand and appreciate it more fully, and its relevance and role today. If Freemasonry is able successfully to conclude its ‘quiet revolution’, while at the same time ensuring that its central features are retained to preserve the true ‘spirit’ of Freemasonry, then its future may well be assured – for the next century or two at least." (A report by The Social Issues Research Centre 2012)

A unique institution with global membership

People from all walks of life become Freemasons for a variety of reasons. Some are attracted by the valuable work that the movement performs in raising money for charity. A proportion of these funds is used to assist Freemasons and their dependents in times of need, particularly the sick and the elderly, but the greater part goes to non-Masonic charities - local, national and international. Freemasons also assist the community in more direct ways, such as carrying out voluntary work. Others become Freemasons because of the unique fellowship it provides. Visit a Masonic lodge anywhere in the country – or indeed, the world – and you are greeted as an old friend. Freemasonry is the ultimate leveller, a community where friendship and goodwill are paramount.

Personal satisfaction not personal gain

It is often thought, by non-masons, that some people become Freemasons for personal benefit. This belief is true, but not for the reasons assumed. The personal gain is in experiencing the warmth of an honourable society and being part of an organisation that works hard to help the less fortunate of the world. Freemasonry asks its members to give as freely as they can to charity. How often have we told ourselves that we really should send money to help with some famine or other disaster we have seen on TV, only to forget all about it in the rush of everyday life? Freemasonry provides a structured channel for fundraising from its members and reacts quickly when help is needed urgently, as in the case of the Welsh flooding last year.

Masonic symbolism has a purpose

But what about the so-called funny handshakes and those pinnies? Freemasonry has been in existence for nearly 300 years and over this time has developed a pattern of rituals. They are no more outlandish than ceremonies such as the State Opening of Parliament but, like this event, they perform a valuable function in reminding members of the heritage and standards they are expected to maintain. Once people have become Freemasons and understand the context of the rituals and symbolism, they no longer seem quirky.

Handshakes don't give an unfair advantage

The handshakes are signs used within Masonic ceremonies. Certainly they can be used in everyday society, but to expect preferential treatment or some other sort of advantage from fellow Freemasons met in this way is both misguided and contrary to one of the basic principles of the organisation. Rather than spend your money on Masonic membership fees, you'd be better off buying a lottery ticket. Has anyone ever used their membership of Freemasonry to try to gain personal benefit? Of course there have been cases. But that is true of just about every group, society or body where men get together. How many business deals are cooked up on the golf course? The difference is that, unlike the golf club, Freemasonry has a system of morality that says no to this.

Why the mystery?

If Freemasonry has nothing to hide, why the mystery? The 'mysteries' that are revealed to members as they progress are nothing more sinister than sound advice that helps them to lead a balanced life, for example through thinking about things like the welfare of others. Similarly, Masonic passwords are simply keys to the doors of the different levels within Freemasonry. Learning these principles on a step by step basis makes them easier to absorb and understand. Masonic ceremonies are like short morality plays in which members play different parts. Like any form of theatre, it demands the learning of words and the movements on stage. Through taking part in these ceremonies, Freemasons come to understand the truths that they contain.

So what is involved?

So do you need the acting skills of a West End star to become a Freemason? Certainly not. In the convivial atmosphere of a Masonic meeting, members soon learn to relax and enjoy taking part in something rather special. It's a place where everyone can be themselves and contribute in a way that suits their own personality. Many members actually find that learning and performing these rituals is a useful programme of self development. For those that want to do it, Freemasonry also provides the opportunity to practise after-dinner speaking with a totally friendly audience.

How time consuming is it?

Doesn't all this take up a great deal of one's time? The majority of lodges in the Province of Worcestershire meet six times a year. The formal part of the proceedings (the ceremonies) usually start in the early evening and are followed by a dinner and a few (hopefully short) speeches. Additionally there are weekly or monthly instruction meetings where members learn more about the principles of Freemasonry and to master the ritual performed in the ceremonies. Freemasons also gain great pleasure in visiting lodges other than their own, making new friends and seeing different traditions followed. While there are numerous opportunities to engage in Masonic pursuits, Freemasonry encourages its members to live well rounded lives and always stresses that one's family and personal affairs must always come first.

Wives and partners matter to Freemasons

In the interests of domestic harmony, people interested in becoming Freemasons are strongly recommended to bring their wife / partner into the picture at the earliest possible stage. All of the Masonic Centres in the Province of Worcestershire are happy to give guided tours to the general public. Visitors can see inside the Masonic temples where the ceremonies take place and ask about the issues discussed in this leaflet. There are also entertaining lectures, held inside a lodge or chapter rooms, for anyone interested in learning more about Freemasonry. These are usually followed by an informal dinner.

Not just for the well-heeled

What about the cost? Membership subscriptions compare favourably with everyday sports and social clubs. Freemasonry is an affordable and rewarding pastime for the many.

What else?

What else is involved in becoming a Freemason? You have to be male, aged 21 or over and be of good character (which means not having any criminal convictions). You must also believe in a Supreme Being and men from a variety of faiths belong.

If you would like to know more please contact the Secretary through the Contact Us page.

* Please note: We do not guarantee that websites accessed by links on this page are either Masonic in nature, or have been approved or endorsed by the United Grand Lodge of England. We specifically do not warrant that any other websites accessible from their pages are recognised by, or have the approval of, the United Grand Lodge of England.*