ANSWERS TO COMMON QUESTIONS TO FREEMASONRY

Q
What goes on in a lodge? 
AThis is a good place to repeat what we said earlier about why men become Freemasons:

  • 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.

Q
What Does Freemasonry Do in the World?
AFreemasonry teaches that each person has a responsibility to make things better in the world. Most individuals won’t be the ones to find a cure for cancer, or eliminate poverty, or help create world peace, but every man and woman and child can do something to help others and to make things a little better.

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.

Q
Why is Freemasonry so “secretive”?
AIt really isn’t “secretive,” although it sometimes has that reputation. Freemasons certainly don’t make a secret of the fact that they are members of the fraternity. We wear rings, lapel pins and tie tacks with Masonic emblems like the Square and Compasses, the best known of Masonic signs which, logically, recalls the fraternity’s roots in stonemasonry. Masonic buildings are clearly marked, and are usually listed in the phone book. Lodge activities are not secret picnics and other events are even listed in the newspapers, especially in smaller towns. Many lodges have answering machines which give the upcoming lodge activities. But there are some Masonic secrets, and they fall into two categories.

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.

Q
Is Freemasonry a religion? 
AThe answer to that question is simple. No.

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.”

Q
What is a Masonic Bible? 
ABibles are popular gifts among Freemasons, frequently given to a man when he joins the lodge or at other special events. A Masonic Bible is the same book anyone thinks of as a Bible (it’s usually the King James translation) with a special page in the front on which to write the name of the person who is receiving it and the occasion on which it is given. Sometimes there is a special index or information section which shows the person where in the Bible to find the
passages which are quoted in the Masonic ritual.
Q
So, is Freemasonry education?  
AYes. In a very real sense, education is at the centre of Freemasonry. We have stressed its importance for a very long time. Back in the Middle Ages, schools were held in the lodges of stonemasons. You have to know a lot to build a cathedral — geometry, and structural engineering, and mathematics, just for a start. And that education was not very widely available. All the formal schools and colleges trained people for careers in the church, or in law or medicine. And you had to be a member of the social upper classes to go to those schools. Stonemasons did not come from the aristocracy. And so the lodges had to teach the necessary skills and information. Freemasonry’s dedication to education started there.

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.

Q
Why does Freemasonry use symbols?  
AEveryone uses symbols every day, just as we do ritual. We use them because they communicate quickly. When you see a stop sign , you know what it means, even if you can’t read the word “stop.” The circle and line mean “don’t” or “not allowed.” In fact, using symbols is probably the oldest way of communication and the oldest way of teaching.

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.