What Is Freemasonry?
Freemasonry is unique. It cannot be likened to any institution in that it offers experiences not found anywhere else.
Freemasonry is one of the world’s oldest and largest fraternal societies. There are approximately five million Freemasons worldwide and 10,000 in New Zealand.
Freemasons are ordinary men in the community, 21 years and over, of all religions and backgrounds, who share a concern for human values, moral standards and the rights of individuals.
There may be many reasons why a man will choose to be a Freemason. It is an organisation that promotes self-development, family and community values. It provides men with an opportunity for public service and hands-on involvement in charitable and community issues, as well as the chance to socialise with men from all walks of life.
Why do you call yourselves a Fraternity?
One of the greatest things about Freemasonry is that men, regardless of their race, creed, colour and social status, can come together as equals and share a common bond of friendship and mutual support.
Members are banned from any political or religious discussion whilst at Lodge meetings, to ensure constant peace and harmony. Freemasons often refer to the term “meeting on the level and parting on the square,” which means they meet as equals and part as friends.
After a regular formal Lodge meeting is completed, members come together and share a meal, and family and friends are occasionally invited to participate. Freemasonry can provide men and their families with a fun and active social life with like-minded people. Family values are an all important part of a Freemason’s life and families are frequently invited to take part in Masonic social get-togethers.
What Does Freemasonry Offer Me Personally?
Freemasonry offers men an opportunity to develop insights into philosophical ideals, which espouse the core values of prudence, temperance, fortitude and justice.
Prudence is to help us make the right decisions; temperance keeps us on the straight and narrow; fortitude promotes self-confidence and strong self-esteem; and justice provides us with the guidance in life.
Members are also provided with training in self-development, which includes public speaking, mentoring, tolerance, communication skills and self-confidence.
What is the History of Freemasonry
The precise origins of Freemasonry have been lost in time, however its traditions date back to the Middle Ages and to the stone masons who built the cathedrals and castles of Europe. To construct them, it was necessary for men to have considerable knowledge of geometry, arithmetic and engineering. These highly skilled masons formed themselves into lodges to protect the skills and secrets of their trade and to pass on their knowledge to worthy apprentices.
Why and How is Ceremony and Symbolism Used?
Ask any member about the Masonic ceremony, and he is likely to explain it as a unique and inspiring experience. Ceremony is core in Freemasonry. It is unique in that it uses a range of objects, symbols and scenarios to disseminate the values, traditions and philosophical precepts of Freemasonry. An example of such symbolism is the use of medieval stonemason working tools as vehicles of instruction.
Symbols in the Lodge room are used to define the rank of a Freemason. The most recognised symbol of Freemasonry is the Square and Compasses. The square teaches us to conduct ourselves properly – as in ‘square conduct,’ and the compasses teaches us to keep our passions and prejudices within due bounds.
Members wear the symbol to remind themselves of their obligation to the lesson learned in their Lodges and to identify their membership to other Freemasons and all people.
Is Freemasonry a Secret Society?
Freemasonry is certainly not a secret society but in common with most organisation it does regard some aspects of its activities as confidential. The policy until recently was for members to be self-effacing and avoid publicity about the fraternity and community work.
In the Middle Ages, people were predominantly illiterate. Therefore, symbols such as the square and compasses, modes of dress, handshakes and signs were used to distinguish a Mason from a non-mason, and thus to protect the highly prized technical know-how of their trade. The equivalent of a modern Trade Certificate.
Developed long before our modern day modes of communication, these secret signs and passwords were later used by Freemasons to identify one another and to establish their degree level of attainment in Freemasonry. These days, these modes of recognition are used solely as a ceremonial means of demonstrating that one is a Freemason when in Lodge meetings.
That a Freemason does not reveal these so-called ‘secrets’ is basically a dramatic way of testing the good character of those who join. To become a Freemason requires a person to continually observe, with total sincerity, the high ideals of integrity and confidentiality.
Is Freemasonry a Religion?
No, this is a misconception. Freemasonry does not have any theological doctrines, offers no sacraments and does not claim to lead to salvation. It is not a substitute for religion, nor is it a forum for religious discussion. To be a Freemason you must however, have a belief in a ‘Supreme Being.’
Freemasonry is made up of men who come from many different religions. There is nothing whatsoever in being a Freemason that conflicts with a member’s religious beliefs or practices.
How is the Organisation Structured?
Individual Freemasons come together in a local Lodge and meetings are held regularly – often monthly. Like any organisations there is a business element where minutes, accounts and plans for forthcoming events and charity activities are addressed and discussed. Lodge meetings are also ceremonial and involve formalised and symbolic presentations (similar to short plays) that use drama to highlight the codes of conduct by which a Freemason chooses to live.
The Grand Lodge is the central representative administrative body.
The titles that Freemasons use to address each other have their origins in history. For example, just as mayors are referred to as ‘Your Worship,’ the leader of a Lodge is called a ‘Worshipful Master’ – meaning greatly respected. The Grand Lodge is led by a ‘Grand Master,’ who represents and oversees Freemasonry within his jurisdiction. He is referred to as ‘The Most Worshipful Master.’
What costs are involve in joining Freemasonry?
Annual membership fees are expected of members but are reasonably priced. Fees may vary from Lodge to Lodge depending on the style of the Lodge. For example, a Lodge that values fine wine and cuisine would have larger catering costs.
When you first become a Freemason, you will pay a one-off joining fee and also purchase Masonic attire.
What kind of Charitable works are Freemasons involved in?
Charity is a basic principle of Freemasonry. Members have been involved in charitable activities in this country since European settlement. The Freemason Charity is actively involved in the community for youth support, care of the aged, medical research and services, and university scholarships. Money is raised through initiatives at Lodge meetings, dinners and social events. In any year, Freemasons throughout New Zealand give generously and significantly to charities and not-for-profit organisations on a community and national level.
How can I become a Freemason?
The basic qualifications of becoming a Freemason are; that your decision to join is made without improper inducement by others, nor personal gain or reasons of idle curiousity; that you believe in a ‘Supreme Being,’ and that you are a law-abiding person.
The traditional way is to approach a Freemason known to you and express your desire to join. This Freemason would then become your ‘proposer’.
If you are not already aquainted with a Freemason, you are welcome to contact our membership coordinator at the Freemasons Grand Lodge Office, who can refer you to a member of Lodge Mana.