Is Freemasonry an open society?
Very much so! Whilst Lodge meetings are private and only members can attend, our meeting places are well known to the public and have signs outside. Our venues are often opened for the public to visit so they can look round and ask questions. The rules and aims of Freemasonry are available to anyone and both the United Grand Lodge of England and the Provincial Grand Lodge of Derbyshire have websites which can be easily accessed. Our members are actively encouraged to talk openly about Freemasonry.
What is Freemasonry?
It’s the world’s largest non-religious, fraternal and charitable organization. It teaches moral lessons and self-knowledge through a progression of ceremonies. Members are expected to be of high moral standing. There are around 3000 members in Derbyshire and around 200,000 in England and Wales ( Scotland and Ireland are administrated by their own Grand Lodges )
What happens at a Lodge meeting?
The meeting is usually made up of two parts, the first being the “business” of the lodge which includes approving of minutes, correspondence, accounts etc. The second part is one of the three ceremonies for admitting new members, passing them to the second degree and raising them to the third degree. Once a year the Master of the Lodge and his officers are installed.
All of our meetings are followed by a meal which we call a “festive board” The business in the Lodge meeting is quite formal but the atmosphere in the Festive Board is much more relaxed.
What sort of people become Freemasons?
Our members come from a wide variety of backgrounds and social status Religion, sexual orientation and socioeconomic position are irrelevant. Our members are men over the age of 21 and are expected to be good citizens and of high moral standing, honest in business, kind in nature and concerned with the welfare of those less fortunate than themselves.
Are there Women Freemasons?
Absolutely! Women are invited to join one of two female-only Grand Lodges – The Order of Women Freemasons and Freemasonry for Women. The Provincial Grand Lodge of Derbyshire Freemasons is proud of our association with Women Freemasons and co-operate with them openly.
Is there a handshake which Freemasons use?
The handshake is one of several traditional modes of recognition which are used only within the ceremonies to demonstrate how far the member has progressed. They are believed to date back to a time when written certificates did not exist, so operative masons travelling the country seeking work could demonstrate that they were qualified. Freemasons adopt this in modern times to preserve the tradition.
How many degrees are there in Freemasonry?
Basic or “Craft“ Freemasonry consists of three degrees. Entered Apprentice, Fellow Craft and Master Mason. There are a large number of extra orders which can be joined in addition to Craft Masonry which expand the experience but not everyone chooses to do so. Some of these will include higher numerical designations than the established three, but this does not infer rank and they are additional.
How much does it cost to be a Freemason?
Costs can vary somewhat between Lodges, usually depending on how many meetings the Lodge holds during the year. There is an initiation fee of around £100 and then then the annual subscription to cover the running costs. Subscriptions are typically between £100 and £250 per year. Meetings are followed by dinner which again will vary in cost – £15 is a reasonable estimate but there is no requirement to stay for dinner if you prefer not to. You will also be expected to wear a dark suit and in due time to buy your own regalia. Members are invited to donate to charity but this is entirely up to the individual member.
Why do Freemasons take oaths?
They don’t, they do take obligations however which include promises about their behaviour both in Lodge and in society. They promise to keep confidential the way they recognise each other when they visit another Lodge, and to support each other in time of need but only so far as it does not conflict with their family and public obligations.
Are Freemasons expected to prefer other Masons with regard to jobs, promotions, contracts etc?
Absolutely not. Every Freemason takes an obligation never to do this and that he expects no material gain from becoming a member. It would be a misuse of his membership to do so and could potentially lead to him being excluded.
Is it true that you have to donate a percentage of your salary?
Most definitely not, we doubt anyone would ever join on that basis.
What is Freemasonry’s relationship with religion?
Freemasonry requires all of its members to have a religious belief but considers that such belief is private.
Religious discussions have always been prohibited at Lodge meetings to avoid discord. Freemasonry does not try to replace religion or to be a substitute for it, nor does it instruct members what their belief should be. Freemasonry is concerned with a man’s relationship with his fellow man, not in a man’s relationship with his God.
Does Freemasonry accept Roman Catholics?
Of course! We have many members who are Roman Catholics and four Grand Masters of English Freemasonry were Roman Catholics.
What is Freemasonry’s relationship with Politics?
Whilst individual Freemasons will have their views on politics, Freemasonry as a body will not. The discussion of politics in Lodges has always been prohibited.
What is the relationship between Freemasonry and the Orange Order, Odd Fellows and Buffaloes?
None. There are many Fraternal Orders and Friendly Societies whose rituals, regalia and organization are similar in some respects, but they have no formal or informal connection with Freemasonry.
Is ceremonial ritual necessary in modern society?
Yes. The ritual is a shared experience and can be both challenging and rewarding for the participants. It binds the members together as a team. Furthermore, the use of drama, allegory and symbolism impress the principles and teachings more firmly in the minds of the candidates than simply passing them on in matter of fact modern language.
How and where did Freemasonry start?
It is not known, but there is documentary evidence that the first recorded initiation in England was that of Sir Robert Moray (one of the outstanding Scots of the seventeenth century) on 20th May 1641. This took place in a Scottish Lodge just outside Newcastle Upon Tyne when the Scots army was laying siege to the town. A meeting of the Lodge of Edinburgh, St. Mary’s Chapel took place and Sir Robert Moray was initiated.
The earliest recorded making of a Freemason in an English Lodge was that of Elias Ashmole in 1646.
Organised Freemasonry began with the founding of the Grand Lodge of England on 24th June 1717, the first Grand Lodge in the world. Ireland followed in 1725 and Scotland in 1736. All of the Grand Lodges in the world trace themselves back to one or more of the Grand Lodges in the British Isles.
Whilst we can’t be sure, the most likely theory is that Freemasonry began with the operative stonemasons who built the great cathedrals and castles had lodges in which they discussed trade affairs. They had simple initiation ceremonies, and as there were no written certificates, trade union cards or membership cards they adopted private signs and words to demonstrate that they were trained masons when they moved from site to site.
In the 1600’s, these operative lodges began to accept non-operative or “Gentlemen masons” Gradually these non-operatives took over the Lodges and turned them from operative to “free and accepted or speculative“ Lodges.
As the means of teaching in those days was by allegory and symbolism, they took the idea of building as the central allegory on which to form their system. The main source of allegory was the Bible, the contents of which were known to everyone even if they could not read, and the only building described in detail in the Bible was King Solomon’s Temple which became the basis of the ceremonies.
The old trade guilds provided them with their basic administration of a Master, Wardens, Treasurer and Secretary. The operative mason’s tools provided them with a wealth of symbols with which to illustrate the moral teachings of Freemasonry.
So what do Freemasons get out of their membership?
The answer to this will be different for each member. For some, it will be the fellowship of good men and in making lifelong friends, for others, it will be the challenge of performing Ritual well and feeling part of a team. For many, it will be a sense of belonging to something that offers more on a spiritual level than other interests and pursuits.