The chances are you already know a Freemason, they may not have mentioned it but are probably more than happy to talk about it. Freemasons come from all walks of life, from Monarchs to Civil Servants, they support each other and others, share common priniples and considered eachother equals.
What is Freemasonary?
Freemasonry is one of the world’s oldest and largest non-religious, non-political, fraternal and charitable organisations; it teaches self-knowledge through participation in a progression of ceremonies, members are expected to be of high moral standing and are encouraged to speak openly about Freemasonry.
What does it mean?
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 being able to help deserving causes, making a contribution to family and society; but for most, it is an enjoyable hobby.
Freemasonry is a society of men concerned with moral, social and spiritual values, members are taught its principles (moral lessons and self-knowledge) through a series of allegorical two-part plays which are learnt by members and performed within each Lodge, which follow ancient forms, and use stonemasons’ customs and tools as allegorical guides.
Freemasonary is probably not the first thing you'd think about when considering helping or raising money for a charity, but from the earliest days Freemasonary has been concerned with the care of orphans, the sick and the elderly, and this work continues today. Through direct donations from individuals and lodges to local organisations, and donations through The Freemasons’ Grand Charity.
Freemasonary supports a huge variety of organisations. Yes, some goes to Masonic charities, to assist Freemasons and their dependents, particularly the sick and the elderly, but a much greater portion goes to non-Masonic charities and supports Hospitals, Research, Youth Projects, Air Ambulances and Disaster Relief to name just a few.
Freemasonry instils in its members a moral and ethical approach to life; its values are based on integrity, kindness, honesty and fairness; members are urged to regard the interests of the family as paramount but, importantly, Freemasonry also teaches concern for people, care for the less fortunate and help for those in need.
Yes, there are secrets, but Freemasonary is not a secret society, rather a society with secrets.
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 well balanced lifes, for example, through thinking about things like the welfare of others.
Likewise, 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 can be likened to short morality plays in which members of the lodge 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.
How many are there?
The United Grand Lodge of England (UGLE) currently has more than a quarter of a million members, in over 8,000 Lodges.
Outside of London, but within England, Wales, the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands, there are 47 Provinces, whose boundaries mostly correspond to Counties, each headed by a Provincial Grand Master.
The Provincial Grand Lodge of Middlesex (PGLM) has approximately 7,600 members in some 270 lodges and 125 Chapters meeting at the five Masonic Centres located at Harrow, Southgate, Staines, Twickenham and Uxbridge.
It is said that some people become Freemasons for personal benefit. This benefit, or personal satisfaction, is in experiencing the warmth of an honourable society and being part of an organisation that works hard to help those less fortunate.
In the convivial atmosphere of a Masonic meeting, members soon learn to relax and enjoy taking part. 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.
Of course there have been cases of members using their membership of Freemasonry to try to gain personal benefit, and whilst this is probably true of many organisations, societies or groups where men get together, such as business deals on the golf course, Freemasonry has a system of morality that says no to this.
Freemasonry has existed 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 or outlandish.
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 the basic principles of the organisation.
Is it time consuming?
The majority of lodges in Middlesex, like Sudbury lodge, meet four times a year. The formal part of the meetings (the ceremonies) usually start in the mid/late afternoon and is followed in the evening by dinner (although not essential to dine, it does form a large part of the social side of Freemasonary) and of course, a few toasts and speeches.
Additionally many lodges hold regular Lodge of Instruction (LoI) meetings where members learn more about the principles of Freemasonry and learn to master the ritual performed in the ceremonies (but these are by no means compulsary).
Freemasons may also visit other lodges, making new friends and seeing different traditions followed.
What does it cost?
Obviously cost is a concern, but membership subscriptions are comparable with say Gym or social club membership. Freemasonry is not just rich man’s hobby, but an affordable and rewarding pastime for the many.
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.
Well, you must to male, be at least 21 years old, be of good character (which, in simply terms means having no criminal convictions) and must also believe in a Supreme Being, but it is important to realise that Freemasonry is not a religion, and is in no way meant to replace/substitute any religion.
So, what now?
Well if you have read all the above and feel this is something for you, then the next thing you need to do is get in touch, we look forward to hearing from to you.
Wives, partners and family?
It is strongly recommended that those interested in becoming Freemasons bring their wifes, partners and/or family into the picture at the earliest opportunity.
Middlesex Masonic Centres regularly organise guided tours to the general public, visitors can see inside the Masonic temples where the ceremonies take place and ask questions, there are also entertaining lectures held inside a lodge or chapter rooms for anyone interested in learning more about Freemasonry, these events are often held at weekends but also sometimes in evenings, usually followed by an informal dinner.