Some frequently asked questions about Freemasonry
Q: What is Freemasonry?
A: Freemasonry is the U.K.'s largest secular, fraternal and charitable organisation. It teaches moral lessons and self knowledge through participation in a progression of allegorical two-part plays
Q: Why are you a secret society?
A: We are not, but lodge meetings, like those of many other groups, are private and only open to members. The rules and aims of Freemasonry are available to the public. Meeting places are known and in many areas are used by the local community for activities other than Freemasonry. Members are encouraged to speak openly about Freemasonry.
Q: What are the secrets of Freemasonry?
A: The secrets of freemasonry are the traditional modes of recognition which are not used indiscriminately, but solely as a test of membership, e.g. when visiting a Lodge where you are not known.
Q: What happens at a lodge meeting?
A: The meeting is in two parts. As in any association there is a certain amount of administrative procedure - minutes of last meeting, proposing and balloting for new members, discussing and voting on financial matters, election of officers, news and correspondence. Then there are ceremonies for admitting new Masons and the annual installation of the Master and appointment of officers. The three ceremonies for admitting a new mason are in two parts - a slight dramatic instruction in the principals and lesson
Q: Isn't ritual out of place in modern society?
A: No, The ritual is a shared experience which binds the members together. Its use of drama, allegory and symbolism impresses the principals and teachings more firmly in the mind of each candidate than if they were passed on to him in matter-of-fact modern language.
Q: Why do grown men run around with the trousers rolled up?
A: It is true that candidates have to roll up their trouser legs during the three ceremonies when they are being admitted to membership. Taken out of context, this can seem amusing, but like many other aspects of Freemasonry, it has symbolic meaning.
Q: Why do Freemasons take oaths?
A: New members make solemn promises concerning their conduct in Lodge and in society. Each member also promises to keep confidential the traditional methods of proving that he is a Freemason which he would use when visiting a lodge where he is not known. Freemasons do not swear alliances to each other or to Freemasonry. Freemasons promise to support each other in times of need, but only if that support does not conflict with their duties to God, the law, their family or with their responsibilities as a Citizen.
Q: Why do your 'obligations' contain hideous penalties?
A: They no longer do. When Masonic ritual was developed in the late 1600s and 1700s it was quite common for legal and civil oaths to include physical penalties and Freemasonry simply followed the practice of the times.
In Freemasonry, however, the physical penalties were always symbolic and were never carried out..
Q: Are Freemasons expected to prefer fellow Masons at the expense of others in giving jobs, contracts and the like?
A: Absolutely not. That would be a misuse of membership and subject to Masonic discipline. On his entry into Freemasonry each candidate states unequivocally that he expects no material gain from his membership. At various stages during the three ceremonies of his admission and when he is presented with a certificate from the Grand Lodge that the admission ceremonies have been completed, he is forcefully reminded that attempts to gain preferment or material gain for himself or others is a misuse of membership which will not be tolerated. The Book of Constitutions, which every candidate receives, contains strict rules governing abuse of membership which can result in penalties varying from temporary suspension to expulsion.
Q: Isn't it true that Freemasons only look after each other?
A: No. From its earliest days, Freemasonry has been involved in charitable activities. Since its inception, Freemasonry has provided support not only for widows and orphans of Freemasons but also for many others within the community. Whilst some Masonic charities cater specifically but not exclusively for Masons or their dependents, others make significant grants to non-Masonic organizations. On a local level, lodges give substantial support to local causes.
Q: Aren't you a religion or a rival to religion?
A: Emphatically not. Freemasonry requires a belief in God and it's principles are common to many of the world's great religions. Freemasonry does not try to replace religion or substitute it. Every candidate is exhorted to practice his religion and to regard its holy book as the unerring standard of truth. Freemasonry does not instruct its members in what their religious beliefs should be, nor does it offer sacraments. Freemasonry deals in relations between men; religion deals in a man's relationship with his God.
Q: Why do you call it the VSL and not the Bible?
A: To the majority of Freemasons the Volume of the Sacred Law is the Bible. There are many in Freemasonry, however, who are not Christian and to them the Bible is not their sacred book and they will make their promises on the book which is regarded as sacred to their religion. The Bible will always be present in a Scottish lodge but as the organisation welcomes men of many different faiths, it is called the Volume of Sacred Law. Thus, when the Volume of Sacred Law id referred to in ceremonies, to a non-Christian it will be the holy book of his religion and to a Christian it will be the Bible.