FREEMASONRY FOR WIVES FAMILY AND OTHERS
When it comes to attracting men to join Freemasonry, large factor in the potential candidates’ decision process will very often be the attitude of his wife. Immediately, his wife will think “what’s it all about”? Perhaps she, and indeed her husband, may have some preconceived idea of Freemasonry – perhaps her father, grandfather or another relative, or a friend is, or was, a member.
As with many things beyond the extent of one’s current knowledge, people have perceptions, many of which are vague, or even false. Is it a religion, or a substitute for religion? Is it a political organisation? Doesn’t it indulge in strange rites and rituals? Doesn’t it members where dark suits, carry funny little black cases, and wear strange aprons? And what’s this business about riding a goat? What about those “secret handshakes”? What is my husband/partner getting into !!??
The purpose my offering here is answers all these questions and more. And they can and must be answered, for Freemasonry cannot act or be seen to act outside of society, but rather as an integral part of it.
So, what is Freemasonry all about? In a nutshell, Freemasonry is a moral and ethical education society, and a universal brotherhood, which is affectionately known to its members as “The Craft”. Its primary aim is to teach morality and ethics to its members.
One of the best ways to define Freemasonry is to quote from Masonic ritual itself: “Freemasonry is a peculiar System of Morality veiled in Allegory and illustrated by Symbols”. “Peculiar” here means “special” rather than “strange” or “unusual”. The idea of teaching through allegories and symbols is not a new one. All great teachers have more or less followed this method. This System of Morality is that which every Freemason is bound to profess and practise. It includes principles with which he was more or less familiar before his entry into Freemasonry. The new member will, nevertheless, find them presented in new ways and under forms different from those with which he was previously familiar. If he finds in Masonic teaching nothing particularly new, he must remember that in some respects at least “there is nothing new under the sun”, and that the essence of morality is to be found in the simplicity of its requirements.
Freemasonry recognises the richness of the cultural beliefs of all men and excludes no individual from membership on the basis of race, religion or politics. In this sense it is a liberal organisation, recognising the value of all men who share a belief in a supreme being, the goal of self-improvement, and who work towards the betterment of mankind.
Three great principles that are the cornerstone of the beliefs of Freemasonry are taught in lodges throughout the world. These are traditionally described as Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth.
Freemasons are expected to practise these principles by:
• Showing tolerance & respect for the other’s opinions & behaving with kindness and understanding to all people.
• Practising charity & care for their own and for the community by charitable giving and voluntary work.
• Striving for the achievement of the highest ethical & moral behaviour and spiritual truth.
A wider look at “Brotherly Love, Relief, and Truth” is useful:
Masonry is a worldwide brotherhood, with a worldwide membership. Masons call themselves “brothers” (plural: “brethren”). Within the parameters of Masonic rules, a brother can visit and sit in any Masonic lodge in the world. It has been said that “There is no other organisation in the world where a man can walk into a room of strangers, anywhere on the surface of the globe, and immediately be welcomed and honoured as a friend and brother”. The Brotherly Love taught in Freemasonry is not confined just to Freemasons – Masons are taught that we are all brothers, regardless of religion, race or creed.
One of the great teachings of Freemasonry is charity. That said, the Craft is not a “charitable organisation” like Rotary or Lions. Unlike these organisations, it does not spend its total energies raising monies and dispensing charity. Instead, its principal role in this area is to teach charity as an important part of life. As a result, Masons are expected to practice charity in their daily lives. That said, many lodges and brethren donate a great deal of money and time to charitable pursuits through the medium of Freemasonry, as well as, in many instances, through non-Masonic charitable or community organisations. Many Masons are also Rotarians, Lions, etc. In many areas of the world, Masonry operates a wide variety of Masonic Homes for the elderly, and hospitals. In most cases, one does not have to be a Mason, or relative, to be admitted to these facilities.
In North America (primarily) a body of Masons, known as SHRINERS have created approx 24 Hospitals for Sick Children and offer services to children in need at no cost.
In all parts of the World it is common to see Educational Facilities ; Retirement or Subsidized Housing ; Educational Bursaries etc. created by and funded by the Masonic Community.
The teaching of Truth, in a Masonic sense, is seen as a belief in God and His revealed will. To become a Mason, one must believe in a Supreme Being (see further under Religion, below).
So, where does Freemasonry come from? The beginnings of the Craft are somewhat obscure, but there are a number of theories as to its origin. Organised Freemasonry began in 1717, when four lodges meeting in London England combined to form the first Grand Lodge. When, and under what circumstances, these four original lodges were founded is unknown. The most prevalent theory is that Masonic lodges as we know them today emerged during the Middle Ages, and that they are somehow descended from the operative lodges of stonemasons.
During the Middle Ages, there were a number of trade professions in existence, with members of each usually grouped together in guilds (what today we would call trade unions). One of these was that of the stonemason, whose guilds were known as “lodges”. However, unlike town-based guilds (as most where), the stonemason profession was itinerant. (mobile) Clearly, when one building site was finished, the stonemasons had to physically move to another location (often to another locality) to continue in employment. They were often housed under one roof at the building site – the probable origin of the word “lodge”.
Apprentices to the stonemason trade were usually indentured at about twelve years of age. Typically, an apprenticeship lasted seven years. Not only were apprentices trained in building in stone, but the lodges also acted as more general educative institutions, teaching religion and morality.
The key document that regulated the operative lodges was known as The Old Charges. These were a set of written regulations setting out not only building practices, but more particularly a moral code of “do’s and don’ts”. There are many extant versions of The Old Charges (also known as The Antient Charges) dating back several centuries.
Many of them are similar in wording. The oldest is the Regius Poem, dating to 1389, but most versions date to the 1600s, and 1700s.
An “updated” version of The Old Charges is to be found as a preface to the Book of Constitutions of the United Grand Lodge of England, and that of many other Grand Lodges. These charges are commonly read annually in each lodge to a new Master on his Night of Installation.
Over a “transition period” (17th and 18th Centuries) so this theory goes, the Stonemason’s Craft declined as a result of changing technologies. Simply put, people ceased building castles and cathedrals.
A slightly more modern analogy is the blacksmith’s trade. A century ago there were blacksmiths “on every corner”. Very few exist today – they have been replaced “on every corner” by motor mechanics.
In another century spacecraft technicians may well supersede them!
As a result of the decline in stonemasonry as a Craft, lodges dwindled in membership. During the transition period, according to the theory, non-stonemasons (non-operatives) were invited in increasing numbers to join & were known
as accepted masons.
By the 18th century, most members were not stonemasons, but what we now call “speculative” or “symbolic” masons.
So, how did Masonry expand? Subsequent to the formation of the first Grand Lodge in 1717, the Craft grew and spread across the world. One main impetus was the expansion of the British Empire. That said, it quickly found root in Europe as well. Grand Lodges were formed in Ireland (1725), Scotland (1736), France (1736), Germany (1740), Netherlands (1756), and Sweden (1760). Many others followed.
Today, every State of America, every State of Australia, and every Province of Canada has its own Grand Lodge. So does every country of South America, most of Europe, and many in Africa and Asia. In countries without a Grand Lodge, or even on “remote” islands, Lodges will be found – usually coming under the Grand Lodges of England, Ireland, Scotland or France.
How is Masonry organised? The basic unit of Freemasonry is a Masonic lodge, of which there are many thousands across the world. Each lodge is a member of a Grand Lodge, based either on a State (as in the United States or Australia), or on a Country. Each lodge has a number of Officers, the three most important of which are the Worshipful Master (or simply, the Master), the Senior Warden and Junior Warden. Others include a Director of Ceremonies, Secretary and Treasurer. So the Grand Lodge also has Officers, the main ones being the Grand Master, Deputy Grand Master, Senior Grand Warden, Junior Grand Warden, Grand Secretary and Grand Treasurer.
Each lodge elects a new Master once every year, and subsequently, usually on an annual fixed date, the new Master is installed in the chair of the lodge, and the lodge officers invested. The Grand Lodge, in which each lodge is represented (usually by its Master, Past Masters, and two Wardens), meets regularly. Many Grand Lodges meet quarterly, though some only twice yearly, or annually. Every year, the Grand Master is elected and installed, and the Grand Officers invested, although in many Grand Lodges the Grand Master (although usually elected annually) traditionally serves more than one year in the role.
Those elected as Grand Master tend to be men who have made a significant contribution in the wider community. For example, if one looks historically at the Grand Masters of the six Australian Grand Lodges, there have been many State Governors, noted doctors, lawyers, and businessmen amongst them.
Freemasonry is not one worldwide condominium. Each Grand Lodge is fully independent. That said, most Grand Lodges, even though their rituals are often different (although largely similar), maintain warm relations with each other. Any Mason, all things being equal, can visit a lodge anywhere in the world, and even join as a member.
What do Masons do in Lodge? Around the world, lodges meet at various times and on various days. Some lodges meet (such as in London) only three to four times per year, in other places monthly, or bi-monthly, and in many countries of Europe, weekly. It is common in the Northern Hemisphere for lodges to recess in June, July and August – in the Southern Hemisphere, in at least January. Worldwide, most lodges meet in the early evening.
The primary work of a Masonic lodge is to work one of the Three Degrees of Freemasonry. The lodge is opened accordingly to its ritual, usually followed by administrative business (confirmation of minutes, correspondence, Treasurer’s Report), and as appropriate, the reception of visitors. Thereafter, the Master and officers of the lodge perform a degree ceremony. On occasions, instead of working a Degree, a lodge with have a guest speaker talking about some aspect of Freemasonry & the sharing of Masonic education.
There are three degrees: Entered Apprentice, Fellow Craft, and Master Mason, which are taken by a new member in that order. On the night he joins, the new member becomes an Entered Apprentice. At subsequent meetings he becomes a Fellow Craft, and then a Master Mason. There is often a six to twelve month gap between a member receiving each Degree. Each of the three ceremonies involves a ritual ceremony, which date back several hundred years.
Yes, but aren’t Masonic Ceremonies secret? The ceremonies of Freemasonry hark back to the operative lodges of the Middle Ages. The Mason’s Craft was then quite itinerant.(mobile) In this era, few people could read or write and there was no such thing as written qualifications. The problem of adjudging the claimed qualifications and experience of a person arriving to work at castle or cathedral under construction was axiomatic. This was solved by developing “modes of recognition” – signs and words, as well as grades of qualification (Apprentice, Fellow of the Craft, etc). Thus, when a stranger turned up at a building site, his qualifications and experience could be checked. These “modes of recognition” have come down to us, and are incorporated in modern Masonic ceremonies.
Freemasonry is not a Secret Society, but it is a Society with secrets – it contains some things that are restricted to members alone. The secrets in the three Masonic degrees are a very small part of the ceremony – a handshake, and word, for each degree.
When you think about it, society in general is based to some extent on secrecy. The discussions of a company board meeting are secret. Discussions amongst a family group often contain privileged information. So it is with Freemasonry. That said 95% of what occurs in a Masonic lodge is not secret.
There is no secret where lodges meet and who its members are. Anyone can obtain of copy of the Lodge’s Constitutions. Indeed, if one in interested enough, you can find a copy of Masonic ritual in many public libraries, or even buy a copy from a good book shop. In the end, few bother, one suspects. People tend to buy a book on golf only if they are interested in golf. Largely, the only people interested in Freemasonry are its members.
What are Masonic Ceremonies About? As noted above, Freemasonry dates back hundreds of years. The three degrees of Freemasonry are largely based on the Old Testament story of the building of King Solomon’s Temple. All three degrees are sequentially linked in their teachings. The First Degree (Entered Apprentice) symbolizes one’s birth; the Second Degree (Fellow Craft), one’s transition through life, and the Third Degree (Master Mason) deals with the subject of death (to quote from the Third Degree ceremony: “…to the just and virtuous man, death holds no terrors equal to the stain of falsehood and dishonour”). The ceremonies incorporate the use of the tools of operative masons (such as the square and compasses) to impart moral lessons. As an example, the following is the wording of the address on the Working Tools in the Second Degree. As will be noted, the address is one of great beauty, and imparts a number of moral truths:
“I now present to your notice the working tools of a Fellow Craft Freemason. They are the square, level, and plumb rule. The square is to try and to adjust all rectangular corners of buildings, and assist in bringing rude matter into due form, the level to lay levels, and prove horizontals, and the plumb rule to try, and to adjust all uprights, while fixing them on their proper bases. But, as we are met not as operative but rather as Free and Accepted or Symbolic Masons, it is the moral to be derived from the contemplation of these tools to which I would direct your attention.
The square teaches us to regulate our lives and actions according to Masonic line and rule, and to harmonise our conduct in this life so as to render us acceptable to that Divine Being from whom all goodness springs, and to whom we must give an account of all our actions.
The level demonstrates that we are all sprung from the same stock, are partakers of the same nature, and sharers in the same hope; and, although distinctions among men are necessary to preserve subordination, yet ought no eminence of station make us forget that we are brothers, for he who is placed on the lowest spoke of fortune’s wheel is equally entitled to our regard, as a time will come – and the wisest of us knows not how soon – when all distinctions save those of goodness and virtue, shall cease, and death, the great leveller of all human greatness, shall reduce us to the same state.
The infallible plumb rule, which, like Jacob’s ladder, connects heaven and earth, is the criterion of rectitude and truth. It teaches us to walk justly and uprightly before God and man, turning neither to the right nor the left from the paths of virtue. Not to be an enthusiast, persecutor, or slanderer of religion, bending neither towards avarice, injustice, malice, revenge, nor the envy and contempt of mankind, but giving up every selfish propensity which might injure others. To steer the barque of this life over the seas of passion, without quitting the helm of rectitude, is the highest perfection to which human nature can attain, and, as the builder raises his column by the level and perpendicular, so ought every Freemason conduct himself towards this world, to observe a due medium between avarice and profusion, to hold the scales of justice with equal poise, to make his passions and prejudices coincide with the just line of his conduct, and in all his pursuits to have eternity in view. In this sense the square teaches morality, the level equality, and the plumb rule justness and uprightness of life and actions.
Thus, by square conduct, level steps, and upright intentions, we hope to ascend to those heavenly mansions whence all goodness emanates”.
Is Freemasonry a Religion? The answer is NO. Freemasonry is neither a religion, nor a substitute for religion. It does not offer salvation, nor does it provide sacraments. It is however, to some extent “religious”. As already noted, Masonic ceremonies are partly based on sections of the Old Testament, and prayers are said in lodge. Of course, prayers are also said in Parliament, but politicians are not necessarily religious!
As it is Old Testament based, Masonry is open to a believer in any monotheistic religion. Thus there are many Masons who are Jews, Moslems, Parsees, Sikhs, and Buddhists, as well as Christians. The only qualification one needs to become a member is to believe in a Supreme Being – indeed, on the night a man joins, he is asked if he believes in God. That is the extent of the Craft’s interest in the subject. How each individual sees God is an individual matter, purely for him.
In every lodge, open on a pedestal, is what Masons call the “Volume of the Sacred Law”. In lodges in Christian countries; this will be The Bible. In Turkey, it will be The Koran. Indeed, if the members of any lodge adhere to more than one religion, then several holy books will be open therein, representing their various faiths.
It is interesting to note that the discussion of religion and politics is not permitted in a Masonic lodge. Freemasonry is a uniting brotherhood, and it takes just a moment of reflection to adduce the two main things which divide mankind – religion and politics! Masonry takes no position on either matter. Outside of the lodge any member is welcome to his own religious or political opinion, but not in lodge.
For example, one can readily sit in a lodge in Israel, surrounding by members who are Jews, Christians, Moslems, Parsees – Palestinians and Israelis! Inside the lodge they sit in perfect harmony, as brothers.
I heard men only join for what they get out of it!
A man cannot join Masonry in the hope of material advantage. He is specifically told he cannot join if influenced by “mercenary or other unworthy motives”. Certainly, Masons will assist each other in times of trouble – that is one aspect of brotherhood – but no more than they will assist anyone in need, Mason or not. One cannot expect, nor will he receive, preferment in employment or in any other way because he has become a Mason. However, he will receive considerable advantage in joining a lodge – that advantage is its moral teachings.
What abut Mason’s strange vows? Each Mason, when he joins a lodge, takes a pledge of fidelity. Again, this is common in many organisations. Ministers of Religion and Members of Parliament take vows before assuming their roles. Prior to taking his obligation in a Masonic lodge, the following, or similar, preamble is put to him:
“It is my duty to inform you that Masonry is free, and requires a perfect freedom of inclination in every candidate for its mysteries; it is founded on the purest principles of piety and virtue; it possesses many great and invaluable privileges; but, in order to secure those privileges to worthy men, and we trust to worthy men alone, vows of fidelity are required. Let me assure you, however, that in those vows there is nothing incompatible with your civil, moral or religious duties. Are you, therefore, willing to take a solemn obligation founded on the principles I have stated…?”
Upon his affirmative reply, he then takes the Obligation of a Freemason.
What about those strange aprons Masons wear? All Freemasons wear a Masonic apron in lodge. That is what is in their small black bags! Aprons hail from the times of operative Masonry, when stonemasons wore aprons to protect themselves, their clothing, and to hold their tools of trade – just as carpenters and butchers do to this day.
In modern lodges, the apron is worn to designate the Masonic rank of the wearer in meetings. They are worn symbolically as a badge of honour. The Entered Apprentice apron is made of white lambskin and is a symbol of innocence. There are different aprons for Entered Apprentices, Fellow Crafts, Master Masons, Masters and Past Masters, and Grand Lodge Officers.
Doesn’t it cost a lot of money to be a member? Any social organisation or club has membership fees, and a Masonic lodge is no different. Each lodge needs to meet it share of the costs of the Masonic Hall it meets in, printing, postage of meeting notices, and so on. The fees for annual membership, which are far from excessive, vary from lodge to lodge. Any prospective member should make appropriate enquiries.
Why can’t women join? Freemasonry is traditionally a men-only society. In a nutshell, historically, no women were operative stonemasons. The lodges of the Middle Ages were solely composed of men, and this is the way modern Masonry has come down to us. As the Craft is something of a traditionalist organisation, this is difficult to change, and there are probably few members who would want to.
Indeed, anecdotally, it would appear that there are few wives/partners of Freemasons who want it changed, either. Conversely, there are some organisations which only woman can join. That said, there is a Grand Lodge of Women’s Freemasons” in England , and co-masonry groups consisting of both men and women exist in various parts of the World.
Can Women be involved at all? Yes, they can, and are, as they may wish. Most lodges have a social program spread across the year that can include cocktail parties, barbeques, social dinners, picnics, film nights, and range of other activities. Some lodges regularly invite the wives/partners of members to the dinners held after lodge meetings.
What do Masons do when their lodge meeting is over? In many lodges, after a meeting is concluded, a “Festive Board” is held. This is simply the Masonic term for a dinner or a supper. Some lodges regularly hold only a light supper after meetings, while others prefer a full dinner. Mostly, these repasts will be held in a hall within the Masonic building, but there are some lodges that move on to dine at a local restaurant. Virtually all lodges hold a full dinner after their annual Installation meeting.
As well as the repast, the “Festive Board”, in most lodges, involves a number of toasts. These are to The Queen, the New Member (as applicable), the Visitors to the Lodge, and the Tyler’s Toast.
The Toast to the Queen, which is always honoured, is not in any way a “political statement”. It does not imply that Freemasonry is a monarchist organisation! Freemasons are charged, as part of its teachings, to obey the law of land, and respect its legal institutions. In Australia, The Queen is Head of State. In other countries, as appropriate, the toast is to “The President”, or to whatever office heads its government.
The final toast is the Tyler’s Toast. The Tyler is the lodge officer responsible for looking after the admission of members and visitors to the lodge – the lodge “doorman”. His toast is to remember those members who, for whatever reason, are not present at the meeting. The wording is as follows: “To all poor and distressed Freemasons, where so ever scattered over the Earth’s broad surface, a speedy relief to their suffering, and a safe return to their native land should they so desire.”
But surely, only important people can join the lodge! It cannot be denied that many men of rank and importance have been Freemasons, including many Kings of England, many Presidents of the United States, great men of the arts such as Mozart, Haydn, Sebelius, Prime Ministers and potentates – to name a few amongst hundreds. The current Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of England is HRH The Duke of Kent. That said, hundreds of thousands of ordinary men worldwide have become Masons. The important thing is that a Mason is not esteemed on account of his worldly profession or status. Masons have little interest in what a man does, only in what a man is.
What do Masons do in the Community? If you look at any worthwhile element of any community, you will find many Masons serving, from Local Government, to Rotary, Lions, volunteer fire brigades, in innumerable charity and community organisations. Of course, you can find many non-Masons equally involved.
A primary teaching of Freemasonry is charity. As an organisation, Masonry involves itself directly in many charities, raising and donating large sums of money; and in some places running such things as Freemason’s Homes for Elderly, and Masonic hospitals – which are open to all.
There must be a reason why millions of men have joined Freemasonry over the last few centuries? Undoubtedly, men have joined for a variety of reasons, based on their perceptions of it – which will have come, invariably from friends and relatives who were already members. Some men join, find it is not for them, and leave. A great many more join and stay as members for life.
According to Masonic ritual, men are attracted to Freemasonry in three ways:
1. “By a favourable opinion preconceived of the Institution.” This could be formed by reading and study, but is more likely the result of a personal acquaintance with a Mason – father, relative or friend.
2. “A general desire for knowledge.” As Freemasonry is founded on the purest principles of piety and virtue – on faith in God, the acceptance of the Brotherhood of Man and a belief in Immortal Life, it is not surprising that so many are drawn by its philosophy and idealism to seek membership within the Craft.
3. “A sincere wish to render yourself more extensively serviceable to your fellow creatures.” Brotherly love, in Freemasonry, finds expression in benevolence and charity. It seeks to improve our citizenship, intensify our patriotism and extend our philanthropy.
Friendship is one of the strongest appeals of Freemasonry. More addresses are given in Masonic Lodges on friendship than on any other theme. Friendship becomes an unworthy motive when we allow the solicitation of a friend to over-ride our own set inclination and considered judgment. The reason to enter Freemasonry must be the moral choice of a free man – even free from the coercion and persuasion of a friend.
A conscientious candidate for Freemasonry must also be free from any form of self-interest. A true ethical society such as Freemasonry demands of all its would-be members, faith in God and the free acceptance of the Moral Law.
This is the dynamic of Freemasonry today. To be sure, it has an intellectual appeal and it captures the imagination in colourful and often dramatic rituals, but underlying all this is a sense of belonging to a Brotherhood reaching far back into the historic past and full of promise for the limitless future. The deeper messages of our Rituals have more impressiveness as they are illumined by friendliness and a unity of spirit, tied together by a bond of mutual understanding and peace.
I conclude with a poem written in the 1950’s by Brother Monty Blandford, which sums up Freemasonry, and a Mason’s attitude to life:
THE MEASURE OF A MAN
Not ‘how did he die?’
But ‘how did he live?’
Not ‘what did he gain?’
But ‘what did he give?’
These are the units of a man, as a man,
To measure the worth, regardless of birth.
Not ‘what was his station?’
But ‘had he a heart?’
And ‘how did he play
His God-given part?’
Was he ever ready, with a word of good cheer
To bring back a smile, to banish a tear?
Not ‘what was his church?’
Nor ‘what was his creed?’
But ‘had he defended
Those really in need?’
Not ‘what did the sketch
In the newspaper say?’
But ‘how many were sorry when he passed away?’
I do not have a record of where I obtained this paper, however, I have a hunch it was created by Kent Henderson, a noted Australian Freemason and Author and shared with me during his visit to Victoria BC some years ago.
The hope is that this paper will serve as a guide for Freemasons to utilize in their personal understanding of who & what we are & shared with wives ; family & others as the occasion may arise.
Please remember that feedback, including possible improvements &/or corrections are always most welcome & appreciated.
Have a wonderful day & God Bless