Freemasonry is one of the world's oldest secular fraternal societies and which originated in Scotland. Below we explain Freemasonry as it exists under the Grand Lodge of Scotland which is the corporate body governing Freemasonry in Scotland and Scottish Masonic Lodges in many other parts of the world.
The explanation may correct some misconceptions.
Freemasonry is a society of men concerned with moral and spiritual values. Its members are taught its precepts by a series of ritual dramas. These remain substantially the same form used in Scottish stonemasons lodges, and use Scottish stonemasons' customs and tools as allegorical guides.
The Essential Qualification for Membership
The essential qualification for admission into and continuing membership is a belief in a Supreme Being. Membership is open to men of any race or religion who can fulfil this essential qualification and who are of good repute.
Freemasonry and Religion
Freemasonry is not a religion, nor is it a substitute for religion. The one essential qualification means that Freemasonry is open to men of many religions and it expects and encourages them to continue to follow their own faith. It is not permitted for Freemasons to discuss religion (or for that matter politics) at Masonic meetings.
The Three Great Principles
For many years Freemasons have followed three great principles:
Every true Freemason will show tolerance and respect for the opinions of others and behave with kindness and understanding to his fellow creatures.
Freemasons are taught to practise charity and to care - not only for their own - but also for the community as a whole, both by charitable giving and by voluntary efforts and works as individuals.
Freemasons strive for truth, requiring high moral standards and aiming to achieve them in their own lives. Freemasons believe that these principles represent a way of achieving higher standards in life.
A Freemason is encouraged to do his duty first to his God (by whatever name he is known) through his faith and religious practice; and then, without detriment to his family and those dependent on him, to his neighbour through charity and service. None of these ideas is exclusively Masonic, but all should be universally acceptable. Freemasons are expected to follow them.
Charity is a large part of a Freemason's life. It is one of the three basic guiding principals taught to Freemasons which are: Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth. Relief is the word Freemasons use for charity. To the Freemason relief (charity) is not just putting money in a collecting tin - it is much more than that. Charity in its widest sense is about relationships between people, how they treat each other, the need to respect one another and tolerance of the differences between people. Practical assistance such as giving money is important but it is a charitable attitude which is paramount and it is this that Freemasons are taught in their Lodges.
Freemasonry (also known to members as the Craft) means different things to different people and because Freemasonry has no dogma (which is one important reason why it is not a religion) providing a definition which is acceptable to every Freemason is impossible. Here then is presented a, that is one, possible definition. However, there are a couple of definitions which are good starting points:
'Freemasonry tries to make good men better, it cannot make bad men good'
Although this might sound a little trite to some it goes some way towards the central intent of Masonic teaching and practice. Another definition might be:
'A peculiar system of morality, veiled in allegory and illustrated with symbols'.
This sounds rather old fashioned to modern ears so an interpretation of that might be worthwhile. The word 'peculiar' has changed since it was first used to describe Freemasonry. Now-a-days is suggests odd or strange but when we are aware that it originally meant special or unique it makes a little more sense. 'Veiled in allegory' also benefits from further explanation. Allegory is one way of teaching precepts by telling a story and as a technique continues to be used today although has been used of a very long time. There are hundreds of examples to chose from and many are familiar. The story of the Good Samaritan is an example of and allegorical story or parable. 'Illustrated with symbols' is not so straight forward as one might think. Symbols are a form of shorthand. Some Masonic symbols may look familiar and other quite strange. This is known as the 'private language of the Craft' and so non-Masons cannot be expected to know the Masonic meaning(s) of a symbol even when it looks identical to one which they are familar.
Describing Freemasonry 'a peculiar system of morality, veiled in allegory and illustrated with symbols' could be rendered in more modern language as: 'a special and unique system of morality which is communicated by way of allegorical plays which use Masonic symbols as a teaching aid'. [I know which I prefer! - Ed]
This page is reproduced from The Grand Lodge of Scotland website by kind permission.
Aims and Relationships of the Craft
This Statement, approved by Grand Lodge on 4th August 1949, is required to be read aloud at the Annual Installation Meeting of every Lodge holding of the Grand Lodge of Scotland.
In August 1938 the Grand Lodges of England, Ireland and Scotland each agreed upon and issued a statement identical in terms except that the name of the issuing Grand Lodge appeared throughout. This statement, which was entitled "Aims and Relationships of the Craft", was in the following terms:-
From time to time the Grand Lodge of Scotland has deemed it desirable to set forth in precise form the aims of Freemasonry as consistently practised under its jurisdiction since it came into being as an organised body in 1736, and also to define the principles governing its relations with those other Grand Lodges with which it is in fraternal accord.
In view of representations which have been received, and of statements recently issued which have distorted or obscured the true objects of Freemasonry, it is once again considered necessary to emphasise certain fundamental principles of the Order.
The first condition of admission into, and membership of, the Order is a belief in the Supreme Being. This is essential and admits of no compromise.
The Bible, referred to by Freemasons as the Volume of the Sacred Law, is always open in the Lodges. Every candidate is required to take his obligation on that Book, or on the Volume which is held by his particular Creed to impart sanctity to an oath or promise taken upon it.
Everyone who enters Freemasonry is, at the outset, strictly forbidden to countenance any act which may have a tendency to subvert the peace and good order of society, he must pay due obedience to the law of any state in which he resides or which may afford him protection, and he must never be remiss in the allegiance due to the Sovereign of his native land.
While Scottish Freemasonry inculcates in each of its members the duties of loyalty and citizenship, it reserves to the individual the right to hold his own opinion with regard to public affairs. But neither in any Lodge nor at any time in his capacity as a Freemason is he permitted to discuss or to advance his views on theological or political questions.
The Grand Lodge has always consistently refused to express any opinion on questions of foreign or domestic state policy either at home or abroad, and it will not allow its name to be associated with an action however humanitarian it may appear to be, which infringes its unalterable policy of standing aloof from every question affecting the relations between one Government and another, or between political parties, or questions as to rival theories of Government.
The Grand Lodge is aware that there do exist bodies styling themselves Freemasons, which do not adhere to these principles, and while that attitude exists the Grand Lodge of Scotland refuses absolutely to have any relations with such bodies or to regard them as Freemasons.
The Grand Lodge of Scotland is a sovereign and independent body practising Freemasonry only within the three Degrees and only within the limits defined in its Constitution. It does not recognise or admit the existence of any superior Masonic authority however styled.
On more than one occasion the Grand Lodge has refused, and it will continue to refuse, to participate in conferences with so-called International Associations claiming to represent Freemasonry, which admit to membership bodies failing to conform strictly to the principles upon which the Grand Lodge of Scotland is founded. The Grand Lodge does not admit any such claim, nor can its views be represented by any such Association.
There is no secret with regard to any of the basic principles of Freemasonry, some of which have been stated above. The Grand Lodge will always consider the recognition of those Grand Lodges which profess and practise and can show that they have consistently professed and practised, those established and unaltered principles, but in no circumstances will it enter into discussion with a view to any new or varied interpretation of them. They must be accepted and practised wholeheartedly and in their entirety by those who desire to be recognised as Freemasons by the Grand Lodge of Scotland.
How do I become a Freemason
The answer to this is simple, Don't wait to be invited. Historically Freemasons are discouraged from actively recruiting or asking non-Masons to join the fraternity. This is to insure that candidates come of their own free will. So don't wait to be invited.
If you are interested in becoming a Freemason please contact our Provincial Grand Secretary using the form below or if you know which Lodge you wish to join, or is nearest to you, then use the form on the relevant Daughter Lodge page