Frequently Asked Questions About Freemasonry
· What Is Freemasonry?
It is a fraternal society based on certain moral and religious doctrines; the moral doctrines including Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth, Temperance, Fortitude, Prudence and Justice, and the religious doctrines comprising a belief in a Supreme Being and the immortality of the soul. Freemasonry might also be defined as a charitable, benevolent, educational, religious society with a purpose to teach by ritual and symbolism the building of good character. It is charitable in that its income is not expended for private gain, but is devoted to the improvement and promotion of happiness and the well being of mankind. It is benevolent in that it teaches unselfish concern for the welfare of others as a duty, and exemplifies it by the relief of poor and distressed brothers and their needy widows and orphans. Masonry is not an insurance or benefit society. It is educational in that it teaches by prescribed ceremonials a system of morality and brotherhood based on Sacred Law. It emphasizes the duty of man to be curious about the world; to develop his intellect and skill; to be just; to follow precepts of conscience and exercise self-control; to be earnest and sincere. Freemasonry's Lodges, Temples and Libraries are aids to this end. It is religious in that it teaches belief in one God, a belief prerequisite for membership, though without dogma or creed, for Freemasonry is not concerned with creeds or theology. Every Lodge must have an altar and on it, when the Lodge is in session, a volume of the Sacred Law. Freemasonry is social in that it fosters the natural friendliness and a true spirit of brotherly love and affection that should take place in the lives of men associated and united for noble purposes. While a belief in a Supreme Being is the primary mandatory requisite to membership, Masonry does not require membership in any church as a condition of membership. Conversely, membership in a church is no restriction to admission to Masonry. There is nothing in our requirements to prevent a Roman Catholic, a Mohammedan, a Buddhist, a Latter Day Saint (Mormon), a Protestant or a member of any religious sect having a belief in one Supreme Being from becoming a Mason, and we have within our membership adherents to each of these religious groups. Discussion of sectarian religion is prohibited in the Lodge in order to maintain peace and harmony, but Masonry encourages its members to take an active part in the churches of their choice.
· Is Freemasonry a Secret Society?
Hardly! You are reading this are you not?
The perception that Freemasonry is in some way secret has arisen relatively recently simply because Freemasons value their privacy. This is no different from many other organizations that keep
their affairs private from people who are not members. If you asked a golf club, of which you are not a member, for details of the membership, committee minutes, etc. then you can safely assume
the reply - should the club concerned be courteous enough even to answer. This basic right to privacy applies equally to Trades Unions, Private Clubs, Political Parties, Churches, etc. as well as
In the legal sense, the Freemasons in the Philippines function as an association that is registered, has members, a statute, transactional account and agencies. Freemasonry is therefore not a secret society. Although it is true that it keeps the secrets of ancient masons and philosophers for centuries. Only members have access to those secrets. Freemasonry is not a secret society, but lodge meetings, like meetings of many other social and professional associations, are private occasions open only to members. Freemasons are encouraged to speak openly about their membership, while remembering that they undertake not to use it for their own or anyone else's advancement. As members are sometimes the subject of discrimination which may adversely affect their employment or other aspects of their lives, some Freemasons are understandably reticent about discussing their membership. In common with many other national organizations, Grand Lodge neither maintains nor publishes a list of members and will not disclose names or member's details without their permission. In circumstances where a conflict of interest might arise or be perceived to exist or when Freemasonry becomes an issue, a Freemason must declare an interest. The rules and aims of Freemasonry are available to the public. The meeting places and halls used by Freemasons are readily identifiable, are listed in telephone directories and in many areas are used by the local community for activities other than Freemasonry. The rituals and ceremonies used by Freemasons to pass on the principles of Freemasonry to new members were first revealed publicly in 1723. They include the traditional forms of recognition used by Freemasons essentially to prove their identity and qualifications when entering a Masonic meeting. These include handshakes which have been much written about and can scarcely be regarded as truly secret today; for medieval Freemasons, they were the equivalent of a 'pin number' restricting access only to qualified members. Many thousands of books have been written on the subject of Freemasonry and are readily available to the general public. Freemasons are proud of their heritage and happy to share it.
· Who are the Freemasons?
The Freemasons, the Masons, or the “Free & Accepted Masons (F&AM)”, is a world-wide fraternal organization composed of men of high integrity, who join together, under the fatherhood of God, to further the practice of a moral code; proven by a long distinguished history; relevant to the complexities of the world today and founded on the highest standards of ethics, honesty and character.
· What do Freemasons aim for?
They strive to be good citizens, to practice the highest moral and social standards, and to be men of friendship, charitable disposition, and integrity. It is often said that Freemasonry makes good men better.
· What is the difference between Freemasonry and Masonry?
Masonry refers to builders in stone or Operative Masonry , Freemasonry refers to builders in character or Speculative Masonry, but there is no difference in their useage today.
· Is Freemasonry a Religion?
Freemasonry is not a religion, nor is it a
substitute for religion. It requires of its members, belief in God as part of the obligation of every responsible adult, but advocates no sectarian faith or practice. Masonic ceremonies include
prayer, both traditional and extempore, to reaffirm each individual's dependence on God and to seek divine guidance. Freemasonry is open to men of any faith, but religion may not be discussed at
Masonic meetings. The Grand Lodge of Tennessee does not teach or advocate universalism (the doctrine that all people will eventually be saved and go to heaven) or any other theological doctrine.
Masons believe that there is one God and that people employ many different ways to seek and express what they know of God. Masonry primarily uses the appellation, "Grand Architect of the
Universe" and other non-sectarian titles, to address Deity. In this way, persons of different faiths may join together in prayer, concentrating on God, rather than differences among themselves.
Masonry believes in religious freedom and that the relationship between the individual and God is personal, private and sacred. Freemasonry lacks the basic elements of religion: It has no dogma
or theology, no wish or means to enforce religious orthodoxy.
It offers no sacraments.
It does not claim to lead to salvation by works, by secret knowledge or by any other means. The secrets of Freemasonry are concerned with the modes of recognition, not with the means of salvation. Freemasonry is far from indifferent toward religion. Without interfering in religious practice, it expects each member to follow his own faith and to place his duty in God above all other duties. Its moral teachings are acceptable to all religions. I hope this clarification of Freemasonry and Religion will enlighten the critics of this ancient Craft. In other words, " Better to light one candle than curse the darkness." It should be clear that we are not a secret society but rather a society possessing certain secrets. We do not hide our membership. We wear pins, rings and emblems of the Masonic Fraternity. We do not meet secretly. Our Temples are listed, they usually bear the Lodge name and the emblem of Freemasonry is generally displayed as we hold our meetings.
· Why are some Churches so Antagonistic Towards Freemasonry?
Quite simply that question should be
directed elsewhere. Freemasonry will not make any comment regarding any particular belief system, religious, political or otherwise. It will certainly make no comment on another organization's
internal affairs as that is their business.
One of the central teachings of Freemasonry is immortality. The answer to Job's question, "If a man die, shall he live again?" and the central teaching of all religions is also immortality. Therefore, say our critics, Freemasonry must be a religion. But that is false reasoning. The central teaching of the land in which we live is patriotism--love of one's country. Exactly the same thing is true of an American, or Englishman, of a German, a Frenchman. Each is taught patriotism, but that does not mean each loves OUR country best. Each loves best his own. Freemasonry insists on a belief in immortality, but it teaches no particular doctrine concerning survival after death. Freemasonry is reverent, charitable, and ethical in precept and practice. So are millions of people who are neither Masons nor church members. The only religious affirmation required of a Freemason is that he believes in one God.
Freemasonry accepts as members the Christian, the Jew, the Moslems, the Parsee, the Buddhist; a man may be a Unitarian or a Baptist, a Spiritualist, a Quaker or Catholic. Freemasonry accepts him as a man, not as a member of a church. Quakers and Catholics cannot become Masons without offending their own religion, which fact Masonic authorities will always explain to men of those faiths who apply, but Masonry accepts them if they are good men and wish to join. Ministers of all faiths are Masons, just as Masons are members of all churches. A minister of one faith cannot profess doctrine other than his own; yet he can be a Mason. The Fraternity obviously is not a religion, but only a philosophy of life.
· Why don't some churches like Freemasonry?
There are elements within certain churches who misunderstand Freemasonry and confuse secular rituals with religious liturgy. Although the Methodist Conference and the General Synod of the Anglican Church have occasionally criticised Freemasonry, in both Churches there are many Masons and indeed others who are dismayed that the Churches should attack Freemasonry, an organisation which has always encouraged its members to be active in their own religion.
· Why will Freemasonry not accept Roman Catholics as members?
It does. The prime qualification for admission into Freemasonry has always been a belief in God. How that belief is expressed is entirely up to the individual. Four Grand Masters of English Freemasonry have been Roman Catholics. There are many Roman Catholic Freemasons.
· Do the Freemasons still build cathedrals and churches?
Freemasons do not practice the “operative” skills of the craft masons, or stonemasons, who built the great cathedrals of Europe during the Middle Ages. Freemasons practice “speculative” Masonry, which symbolically applies the tools of the craftsman as lessons in personal growth and morality, thereby “building” a better life for the individual in his roles as a son, a brother, a father, a citizen, and a friend.
· How many Freemasons are there?
Under the Grand Lodge of the Philippines, there are about 15,000 active Freemasons, meeting in more than 350 lodges. Worldwide there are probably 5 rnillion members.
· How does one become a Freemason?
Usually by asking another Freemason. It is a general rule, in the Philippines as well as in any part of the world, that a Freemason will not solicit men for membership. There are occasions when a member of the family, a close personal friend, will be asked but this is a matter for the individual Freemason concerned.
Many men live a lifetime and never know that they must ask for admission to the world's oldest, most purposeful and greatest fraternity. They do not realize that they will not be invited. They must come in of their own free will and accord, without persuasion. While we cannot invite a non-Mason to become a member of the Lodge, there is a door upon which you can knock for admission if you so desire! You must ask a Mason for a petition.
· Who can join?
Membership is open to men of all faiths who are law-abiding, of good character and who acknowledge a belief in God. Freemasonry is a multi-racial and multi-cultural organization. It has attracted men of goodwill from all sectors of the community into membership. There are similar Masonic organisations for women.
· Is there any other way to become a member if I would like to join but no Freemason knows me?
You can send us an e-mail.
· What is the joining process?
If you live in or around the town area, and are interested in joining, we suggest you approach one of our Lodge members that you know. If everything seems to be in order you will be invited down to one of our Fellowship events and meet some of the members. If there is a social on at this time, you will be invited along with your wife, where appropriate. This is to ensure that you are comfortable with the members of the Lodge and the Lodge members are comfortable with you. After this you will be asked to attend an interview with senior members of the Lodge and your name will be read out in the Lodges in the districts in which you live and work, and in the area, to verify you are a man of good repute. When people join they are asked to make the following declarations on their membership forms:
- My application is entirely voluntary.
- I do not expect, anticipate or seek any pecuniary benefit as a consequence of my being a member of Freemasonry.
- I have never been convicted by a Court of any offence.
- I have never been the subject of a finding of dishonest or disgraceful conduct.
- I have never been disciplined by any professional, trade or other tribunal.
- I am not awaiting the outcome of proceedings against me before a criminal court or a professional, trade or other tribunal.
- I am not, to the best of my knowledge, the subject of any criminal, professional, trade or other investigation.
What can be considered as a minor traffic offence or a "youthful indiscretion" do not normally count against an application to join. When the reports come back favourably you will be proposed into the Lodge and balloted for by the members. The whole process can take from three to six months, assuming there is no waiting list. If at any time you have any misgivings or reservations you should discuss these with your Proposer or Seconder and you may withdraw your application at any point in the process. It is natural to have doubts about joining Freemasonry because you do not know the nature of the ceremony, though it is better for everyone if an application is withdrawn than if somebody feels they are joining out of a sense of responsibilty. Please note that "blackballing" or denying a candidate is extremely rare as we take a lot of care to ensure that any problems are taken care of at an earlier time.
· How much does it cost to be a Freemason?
It varies from lodge to lodge. It is entirely up to the individual member what he gives to Charity, but it should always be without detriment to his other responsibilities. Similarly, he may join as many lodges as his time and pocket can allow as long as it does not adversely affect his family life and responsibilities. Annual dues are paid normally at the start of the fiscal year and donation to Charity can be paid anytime.
· What are the requirements for membership?
The doors of Freemasonry are open to all men who seek harmony with their fellow creatures, who feel the need for self-improvement, and wish to participate in the adventure of making this world a more congenial place in which to live. The prescribed requirements for membership are being a man at least 21 years of age, having a belief in a Supreme Being and in the immortality of the soul, being capable of reading and writing, being of good moral character, having been a resident of the county in which he resides for at least one year preceding the presentation of his petition, and being recommended by two Master Mason members of the Lodge to which he desires to apply.
· Once a Member, is it not Difficult to Leave?
Freemasonry is a voluntary organization and once a member there is no pressure to continue to participate. Indeed men join and subsequently find it is not to their taste or is not what they had envisaged and so cease to be active members. Whilst it is sad that Freemasonry is unable to meet the applicant's aspirations, in such cases, it will not stand in the way of anyone's decision to leave.
· Does a man have any benefits at all of being a Freemason?
There are no material benefits. However, he has the knowledge that many other respected men think of him as a free man of good reputation. He discovery new wisdoms of life in their company and in the company of reflections offered by Freemasonry. Some have a higher regard for that than any material benefits.
· When I become a member, will you help me in finding a job, making money, securing my life, etc.?
Oops! Please be informed that Freemasonry is not an insurance company. Thank God you didn't ask us for flood insurance
· Isn't it true that Freemasons only look after each other?
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 organisations. On a local level, lodges give substantial support to local causes.
· Can a woman become a member of the Masonic Fraternity?
No. There are groups which proclaim themselves co-masons, that is male and female members, but they are not considered regular members by mainstream Grand Lodges. The Order of the Eastern Star, an organization for both men and women, is closely aligned with Masonry and provides an opportunity for husband and wife to enjoy the fraternal companionship of like-minded people.
· What is the Logo of the organization?
The Square, the Compasses and a capital letter “G” in the center is the universal logo of Freemasonry. The G stands for the ever-living and loving Supreme Being.
· How can I understand Masonry?
How can I make you understand a song without you hearing it, a fragrance without you smelling it, or a thought without you thinking it. You can learn about Masonry, but the only way you can understand Masonry, is to join.