ANSWERS TO COMMON QUESTIONS TO FREEMASONRY
- There are things they want to do in the world.
- There are things they want to do “inside their own minds.”
- They enjoy being together with men they like and respect.
The Lodge is the centre of those activities.
Freemasonry is deeply involved with helping people – it spends millions of dollars every year in Canada, just to make life a little easier. And the great majority of that help goes to people who are not Freemasons. Some of these charities are vast projects, like the Shriners Hospital for Children built by the Shriners. Also, Scottish Rite Masons maintain Learning Centres. Each helps children afflicted by such conditions as aphasia, dyslexia, stuttering, and related learning or speech disorders.
Some services are less noticeable, like helping a widow pay her electric bill or buying coats and shoes for disadvantaged children. And there’s just about anything you can think of in-between. But with projects large or small, the Freemasons of a lodge try to help make the world a better place. The lodge gives them a way to combine with others to do even more good.
The first are the ways in which a man can identify himself as a Mason — grips and passwords. We keep those private for obvious reasons. It is not at all unknown for unscrupulous people to try to pass themselves off as Masons in order to get assistance under false pretenses.
The second group is harder to describe, but they are the ones Masons usually mean if we talk about “Masonic secrets.” They are secrets because they literally can’t be talked about, can’t be put into words. They are the changes that happen to a man when he really accepts responsibility for his own life and, at the same time, truly decides that his real happiness is in helping others.
It’s a 9wonderful feeling, but it’s something you simply can’t explain to another person. That’s why we sometimes say that Masonic secrets cannot ( rather than “may not”) be told. Try telling someone exactly what you feel when you see a beautiful sunset, or when you hear music, like the national anthem, which suddenly stirs old memories, and you’ll understand what we mean.
“Secret societies” became very popular in North America in the late 1800s and early 1900s. There were literally hundreds of them, and most people belonged to two or three. Many of them were modeled on Masonry, and made a great point of having many “secrets.” And Freemasonry got ranked with them. But if Freemasonry is a secret society, it’s the worst-kept secret in town.
We do use ritual in the meetings, and because there is always an altar or table with the Volume of the Sacred Law open if a lodge is meeting, some people have confused Freemasonry with a religion, but it is not. That does not mean that religion plays no part in Freemasonry — it plays a very important part. A person who wants to become a Freemason must have a belief in God. No atheist can ever become a Freemason. Meetings open with prayer, and a Freemason is taught, as one of the first lessons of Freemasonry, that one should pray for divine counsel and guidance before starting an important undertaking. But that does not make Freemasonry a “religion.”
Sometimes people confuse Freemasonry with a religion because we call some Masonic buildings “temples.” But we use the word in the same sense that Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes called the Supreme Court a “Temple of Justice” and because a Masonic lodge is a symbol of the Temple of Solomon. Neither Freemasonry nor the Supreme Court is a religion just because its members meet in a “temple.”
passages which are quoted in the Masonic ritual.
And Masonry supports continuing education and intellectual growth for its members, insisting that learning more about many things is important for anyone who wants to keep mentally alert and young.
Freemasonry uses symbols for the same reason. Some form of the “Square and Compasses” is the most widely used and known symbol of Freemasonry. In one way, this symbol is a kind of trademark for the fraternity, as the “golden arches” are for McDonald’s. When you see the Square and Compasses on a building, you know that Freemasons meet there.
And like all symbols, they have a meaning.