Freemasonry is one of the world’s oldest secular fraternal societies. This website is intended to explain Freemasonry as it is practiced under the Grand Lodge of Scotland, which administers Lodges of Freemasons in Scotland and in many places overseas like South Africa.The explanation may correct some misconceptions. Freemasonry is a society of men concerned with moral and spiritual values. Its members are taught its precepts by a series of ritual dramas, which follow ancient forms and use stonemasons’ customs and tools as allegorical guides.
The essential qualification for admission into and continuing membership is a belief in a Supreme Being. Membership is open to men of any race or religion who can fulfill this essential qualification and are of good repute.
Freemasonry is not a religion, nor is it a substitute for religion. Its’ essential qualification opens it to men of many religions and it expects them to continue to follow their own faith. It does not allow religion to be discussed at its meetings.
For many years Freemasons have followed three great principles:
Brotherly Love – Every true Freemason will show tolerance and respect for the opinions of others and behave with kindness and understanding to his fellow creatures.
Relief – Freemasons are taught to practice charity, and to care, not only for their own, but also for the community as a whole, both by charitable giving, and by voluntary efforts and works as individuals.
Truth – Freemasons strive for truth, requiring high moral standards and aiming to achieve them in their own lives. Freemasons believe that these principles represent a way of achieving higher standards in life.
From its earliest days, Freemasonry has been concerned with the care of orphans, the sick and the aged. This work continues today.
Freemasonry demands from its members a respect for the law of the country in which a man works and lives. Its principles do not in any way conflict with its members’ duties as citizens, but should strengthen them in fulfilling their private and public responsibilities. The use by a Freemason of their membership to promote his own or anyone else’s business, professional or personal interests is condemned, and is contrary to the conditions on which he sought admission to Freemasonry. His duty as a citizen must always prevail over any obligation to other Freemasons, and any attempt to shield a Freemason who has acted dishonorably or unlawfully is contrary to this prime duty.
The secrets of Freemasonry are concerned with its traditional modes of recognition. It is not a secret society, since all members are free to acknowledge their membership and will do so in response to inquiries for respectable reasons. Its constitutions and rules are available to the public. There is no secret about any of its aims and principles. Like many other societies, it regards some of its internal affairs as private matters for its members.
Freemasonry is non-political, and the discussion of politics at Masonic meetings is forbidden.
Freemasonry is practiced under many independent Grand Lodges with standards similar to those set by the Grand Lodge of Scotland. There are some Grand Lodges and other apparently Masonic bodies which do not meet these standards, e.g. which do not require a belief in a Supreme Being, or which allow or encourage their members to participate in political matters. These Grand Lodges and bodies are not recognized by the Grand Lodge of Scotland as being regular, and Masonic contact with them is forbidden.
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 are 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.
It has been said that some people become Freemasons for personal benefit. This statement is true, but for the wrong reasons. 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 does ask 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.
But what about the so-called funny handshakes and the outlandish dress styles? Freemasonry has been in existence for over 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.
A Freemason is encouraged to do his duty first to God through his faith and religious practice; and then, without detriment to his family and those dependent on him, to his neighbour through charity and service.
None of these ideas is exclusively Masonic, but all should be universally acceptable. Freemasons are expected to follow them.