What is Freemasonry Really All About?
Freemasonry is one of the world’s oldest and largest non-religious, non-political, fraternal and charitable organisations. Its values are based on integrity, kindness, honesty and fairness.
Members learn its principles by a series of ritual dramas which are memorised and acted out in each lodge. This shared experience helps to develop each individual and, through his involvement as part of a team, a strong sense of support for others.
So what is Freemasonry really about?
It is about FELLOWSHIP, FUN, CARING AND CHARITY
First it’s about FELLOWSHIP. Men enjoy the company of other men. The operative Masons who were our predecessors, not only worked together in teams but often lived together in lodges, as the word implies. They looked after each others interests, they helped each other as members of a family, they relaxed and enjoyed their time together. Being happy in each others company was fundamental to working together. It’s the nub of the matter for us too. We enjoy belonging to a movement which accepts everyone for himself, whoever he is, with no strings attached. It’s a grand thing to visit a lodge in any part of the world and know that you will be welcome whatever your colour, your race or your religion. Churches you know are supposed to be good at this kind of thing but I know you can slip in and out of churches sometimes without so much as a word from anyone, except perhaps the vicar on the doorstep afterwards. That is really sad. It can’t happen in a Lodge. Always there is the welcoming word, always someone is ready to put themselves out to make you feel at home. That’s Fellowship. That’s partly what Masonry is about.
Then it’s about FUN. In the address to the Brethren at an Installation we are reminded that we are in the business of being happy and communicating happiness. Of course, happiness is more than fun but I use the word fun in an omnibus sense. Whilst our ceremonies in the Lodge and our rituals are serious matters, conducted with a sense of occasion and decorum, there is a certain lightness of touch about them which is borne of friendship, and that lightness of touch finds it consummation at the Festive Board. Beneath them both is happiness. Put together there is a lot of fun, and why not? Masonry is about fun as well as fellowship.
Then there is CARING. Masonry is also about concern for other people. Our ceremonies remind us of that. Those three great lights of Freemasonry, the Volume of the Sacred Law, the Square and the Compasses are a constant reminder of the care and concern we owe to God, to our Brethren and our families and not least to the wider community in which we live.
What we each receive free and in great abundance is the brotherly love and friendship of our fellows, in a way that cannot be bought or paid for and this is what separates us from other associations. If a Brother is in trouble then we try to help out in whatever manner we can. Sometimes by visiting and giving reassurance, sometimes it maybe necessary to go further afield and will require the assistance of the R.M.B.I. or Grand Charity with the guidance of the Provincial Almoner, but whatever course of action is required we can rest assured that it will be forthcoming.
And finally there is CHARITY, we say that Charity begins at home, and that’s exactly what happened when the charitable side of Masonry began in the eighteenth century. It began with schools to educate the children of needy masons. It supported and housed distressed masons and their dependents and of course it set up a hospital. All of these filled gaps in society’s pattern of care.
Our idea of Charity has developed. Our care for our own people and their dependants goes from strength to strength, but alongside it is the growing recognition that, because we are part of society, we share the duty of all citizens to care for others and this has become a much bigger part of Masonic charity for which we should all be rightly very proud. I do believe in the Charity work we do, however, in my opinion Freemasonry is not a Charity or Fundraising organisation, although at times recently it has felt like it as more and more demands seem to be made on us. People who want to focus completely on Charity should join Rotary or the Lions. I believe that a members charity giving should be his own private business between him and his Charity Steward and should not be worn like a badge or deserve reward. Each member gives what he can or wishes to afford, that is never going to be the same for everybody due to personal circumstances and should not be recorded or worn as such.
Freemasonry is about improving the morals of men in society and though Charity is an important element within this framework, it is not and never should be the “be all and end all”. I am convinced that to promote our organisation we should be focussing on our moral and brotherly advantages in a despairing world of lowering moral values and eroding standards.
We need to make sure that we maintain the right balance between all the aspects of Freemasonry.
The Ceremonies we undertake are serious matters, conducted with a sense of occasion and decorum. We should always do our very best not only for ourselves, but more particularly for the Candidate. It is his Ceremony and it should be unique and personal to him. Ritual is not the be all and end all of Masonry. Some people are great ritualists, others struggle with it, by far the most important thing is that you try and do your best, you will always be supported and helped by other members of the Lodge.
There are many aspects to Freemasonry and lots of side orders to join but I believe that Craft is the main function. Lots of people join side orders and enjoy them a great deal, sometimes more than the Craft. You can do as much or as little Freemasonry as you like, It can take you out every day/night of the week or just once a month.
Freemasonry is a hobby which we enjoy, otherwise we wouldn’t (or shouldn’t) do it. It is nowhere near as important as our families and our work (for those that still work). Brotherly love, relief, truth, honour, virtue and mercy are the basic foundations on what freemasonry rests. These are also the qualities, which are essential for remaining a useful member of society.
Freemasonry means different things to each of those who join. For some it’s about making new friends and acquaintances. For others it’s about working together to help deserving causes. But for them all, it is an enjoyable hobby.
For some its biggest draw is the fact that members come from all walks of life and meet as equals whatever their race, religion or position in society.
Overall, it enables us to make great friends and companions with whom we share fellowship. It enables us to enjoy ourselves and have fun with like minded men and it enables to care and provide charity for those not as fortunate as ourselves. It makes good men better.
We should consider ourselves very lucky and reflect on our good fortune.