Building a caring society with Integrity, Friendship, Respect and Charity
DEBUNKING COMMON MYTHS ABOUT FREEMASONRY
Modern Freemasonry has been around since 1717. The first concocted untruths about the Order appeared in print at almost the same time. The United States was consumed by anti-Masonic hysteria in the late 1820s and Europe has made Mason-bashing a popular sport for two centuries, often tying it to anti-Semitic propaganda. The Internet has only served to resurrect these myths, as they get dragged out and repeated all over again. Here are some of the most common ones.
The lodge goat
Freemasons do not ride a goat in their lodges. It's a joke, perpetrated often by Masons themselves on nervous initiates.
Freemasonry is a religion
Another area which is ripe for misconception and myth is Freemasonry relationship with organised religion; a lodge meeting is not an act of worship, a Lodge is not a church and Freemasonry is not a religion. We use prayers to open and close our meetings the same as our Parliament does.
To be accepted into Freemasonry, initiates must believe in one god - but that can be any god. Christians may be in the majority, but Jews, Muslims and others are well represented in Masonic circles. At meetings, religious and political discussion is banned.
It's a secret society
The traditional 'secrets' of Freemasonry reference the means by which medieval stonemasons made themselves known and proved their qualifications when arriving at a new building site. In more contemporary times, the Second World War saw Freemasons frequently targeted, captured and put into concentration camps, where they were classified as political prisoners and wore an inverted red triangle.
Historians estimate that between 80,000 and 200,000 Freemasons were killed under the Nazi regime. Hitler believed Freemasons had succumbed to Jews conspiring against Germany.
Yet many still managed to hold secret meetings under the very noses of their guards, making do with any materials they could find. The resolve was unshaken - and the need for secrecy indeed paramount. Today, meetings are publicised in advance, minuted and run to a strict set of regulations. An annual directory is published listing the senior officers of every Lodge, there are regular open days, members attend community events and are encouraged to discuss their membership openly with family, friends and colleagues. Not that secret after all.
It's only for the upper classes
While a significant number of the Royal Household are members, and the Duke of Kent is Grand Master of the United Grand Lodge of England, you don't have to be rich, famous or even of a certain age to be a member. Membership is open to men over the age of 18 and younger members are particularly welcomed for the fresh dynamism they bring to our Lodge.
It's all about personal gain
One of the fundamental rules on joining is that Freemasons agree they're not seeking to gain personal, financial or material advantage. Using Freemasonry for financial benefit is forbidden.
Masons look after themselves
A Freemason's first duty is always the wellbeing of his family, but Freemasonry also teaches concern for others, care for the less fortunate and help for those in need. Freemasons are known for their charitable donations, to their local communities, to national and international causes, but no one is asked to donate more than they can afford. And yes, of course, they do also care for each other.
Women are unwelcome
Traditionally, Freemasonry was restricted to men; the earliest stonemasons were all male and when Freemasonry was starting, the position of women was very different from today. Now there are Lady Freemasons, with their own Lodges organised under their own Grand Lodge. In the UK male and female Freemasons prefer to keep that separateness, both agreeing that their Freemasonry offers special attractions for socialising.
It's all about silly rituals
As one member put it: "Rituals are all part of our tradition; because you have to learn it you start to get a deeper understanding of the organisation and what it's all about."
The degrees of Freemasonry reflect the three grades of medieval craft guilds: Apprentice, Fellowcraft, Master Mason. The route forward is then mapped by the individual - some stay at Master Mason level because they enjoy it so much.
Candidates are progressively taught the meanings of the symbols of Freemasonry, and entrusted with grips, signs and words to signify to other members that they have been initiated.
Everything has a meaning. The aprons that are worn, for example, hark back to working stonemasons, on which the ceremonies are based. That single most identifiable symbol of Freemasonry, the square and compasses, are architect's tools and used to teach symbolic lessons. The gavel wielded by the Master of the Lodge is the mason's gavel that was used to break the rough edges off of a stone.
Even the floor has significance. Masonic tradition is that the floor of the Temple of Solomon was decorated with a mosaic pavement of black and white stones, hence all Lodges, as a representation of the Temple, have a floor of the same pattern.
So, don't dismiss or judge, just because Freemasonry is 'different.' It's been in existence for more than 300 years and has not only stood the test of time but also that of prejudice and persecution.