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Frequently Asked Questions

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What is Freemasonry?
This one of the most difficult questions to answer and even Freemasons themselves give differing definitions. This is probably due to the fact that Freemasonry does not impose any particular Dogma, has no Theology but simply attempts to guide members to a more moral way of life. ‘Attempting to make good men better’ is one definition.
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 organisations 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 to individuals.
Why do Freemasons have a Funny Handshake?
Freemasonry is a very old society that pre-dates many present day institutions. The earliest Masonic records are to be found in Scotland and date from a time when members of Lodges were mainly illiterate. As stone masons had to travel all over the country, and occasionally overseas, some simple method of recognition had to be devised in order to secure employment appropriate to the degree of skill of each individual. Modern day Freemasonry continues that practice. Other organisations use different methods to identify between those who are members and those who are not. A membership card is the most common form and instantly shows that one is a member of a particular society etc. A membership card, or anything in writing, would have been useless to an illiterate stone mason. Freemasonry is a very traditional institution, proud of its history and what it stands for. It simply continues to use practices established centuries ago.
How does one become a Freemason?
Usually by asking another Freemason. It is a general rule, in Scotland, 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.
What are the Qualifications for Membership?
There are several. An applicant must believe in a Supreme Being but Freemasonry will not provide any further definition and the nature of that Being must be determined by the applicant himself. The applicant must be an upright man of good moral character and be at least twenty-one years old. He must not have a criminal record. He must be able to meet his financial commitments to his family before those to Freemasonry.
Once a Member is it not Difficult to Leave?
Freemasonry is a voluntary organisation 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.
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 organisation’s internal affairs as that is their business.
Why is Freemasonry a Unique Institution?
In many ways it is not. There are other organisations in existence that also value their privacy. It may be because Freemasonry is so popular that it attracts a greater degree of attention than these other organisations. Historically Freemasonry was but one institution among many. For instance there were the Free Gardeners, Free Shepherds, Free Carpenters, Free Colliers, etc. which were organised along similar lines to Freemasonry and taught morality by way of their own ritual plays and symbolism. Most of these organisations no longer exist leaving Freemasonry as the only example of this once common form of society or association.
Who can become a Freemason?
The answer to this question is very simple – ANY MAN! – but there are qualifications:

• Any male of mature age, that is, of twenty-one years or more, can apply to become a Freemason (or in Scotland, over eighteen years of age if his father is a Freemason).

• A belief in a Supreme Being. Every applicant must profess such a belief but Freemasonry does not define, or impose, a definition of a Supreme Being. Each individual applicant must define that entity for himself. Atheists and Agnostics cannot, therefore, become Freemasons. This belief is absolute and admits of no exceptions. Of course individuals might lie in this respect in order to gain admission and there is little that Freemasons could do to identify such men. All is taken on the honour of the individual concerned. In fact everything that a Freemason does in his private and public life must be honourable and Freemasonry encourages all members to behave in an upright and moral manner.

• A Members Obligation. Each and every applicant must be able to fulfil his obligations (financial, moral, and in terms of his time) to his family, his employment and his faith before he makes any commitment to Freemasonry.

• Masonic ‘Obligation’. For in excess of 400 years Scottish Lodges have required an applicant to take a vow, or oath, on a holy book on his admission to Freemasonry. Such an oath, or obligation, is necessary in order to add sanctity to what is a serious undertaking and can be compared to; ‘swearing the whole truth and nothing but the truth’ in a court of law. Such oaths were common in many aspects of life 400 years ago when Freemasonry began and the Grand Lodge of Scotland continues that practice although many institutions have since done away with that necessity.

• Moral and Upright Men. This means that a man who has been convicted, in a court of law, of a serious criminal offence cannot become a Freemason. Anyone who is a Freemason who is so convicted is subject to Masonic discipline and will be expelled from the Craft.

Note on Membership.
No man is permitted to use his membership to advance his own political, religious or business aims. For this reason Lodges do not allow members to discuss political, religious or business matters. Anyone who persists in doing so is in danger of expulsion. There is no doubt that one of the attractions of Masonic Lodges is the ability of all faiths, creeds and cultures to mix freely knowing that no one is interested in the individual’s social position, faith, or politics. This ability to meet with others, of various backgrounds has been one of the mainstays of Freemasonry for centuries. This, unique situation has been described as being: ‘the ideal escape from the rat race’.