What is Freemasonry?

Freemasonry means something different to everyone who joins.

For some, it’s about making new friends and acquaintances. For others, it’s about being able to help deserving causes, contributions to charity and society. However, for most, it’s a hobby and somewhere to meet new people from all walks of life.

Freemasonry is one of the world’s oldest and largest non-religious, non-political, fraternal and charitable organisations. It teaches self-knowledge through participation in a progression of ceremonies. Members are expected to be of high moral standing and are encouraged to speak openly about Freemasonry.

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Many are attracted by the valuable work that the movement performs in raising money for charity. A proportion of these funds are used to assist Freemasons and their dependents in times of need, but the majority goes to non-Masonic charities e.g. local, national and international. Freemasons also assist the community in more direct ways, such as carrying out voluntary work.

Others become Freemasons because of the unique camaraderie it provides. Visit a Masonic lodge anywhere in the country – or indeed, the world – and you are given a warm welcome.

Freemasons are always asked if there is preferential treatment and gain between fellow masons. Yes, there is. Freemasonry will make you rich. But isn’t in £££’s, it’s in experience. It’s in joining a group of likeminded, decent, principled people of the same values, who work together to help those less fortunate than ourselves, at the same time enjoying what masonry offers. In a world of mass media and mass suffering, famine and tragedy, Freemasonry provides a platform to react for fundraising when disaster strikes. Freemasons do give, but only what they can genuinely afford.
But what about the infamous secret handshake and the eccentric attire?

Freemasonry has been in existence for over 300 years and over time has developed a series of rituals. You may enjoy the pomp and splendour of certain parts of British life like the State Opening of Parliament. Well, Masonry has similar ceremonies that are great fun to learn and perform. They have long history and hence have some quirky rituals, (yes handshakes!!) and other symbolism that become relevant as you become involved. They no longer seem quirky after time as you learn the historical reason for the ritual.

The handshakes are signs used within Masonic ceremonies which cannot be denied. But do not expect preferential treatment or some other sort of advantage from fellow Freemasons.

It’s true of just about every group, society or body where men get together that mutual interests might be discussed. How many business deals are cooked up on the golf course? The difference is that, unlike the golf club, Freemasonry has a system of morality where personal benefit is frowned upon.

If Freemasonry has nothing to hide, why the mystery?

The ‘mysteries’ that are revealed to members as they progress are nothing more sinister than sound advice that helps them to lead a balanced life, like thinking about the welfare of others. Similarly, Masonic passwords are simply keys to the doors of the different levels within Freemasonry. Learning these principles on a step by step basis makes them easier to absorb and understand. Masonic ceremonies are like short morality plays in which members play different parts. Like any form of theatre, it demands the learning of words and the movements on stage.

You don’t need the acting skills of a West End star to become a Freemason.

In the convivial atmosphere of a Masonic meeting, members soon learn to relax and enjoy taking part in something rather special. It’s a place where everyone can be themselves and contribute in a way that suits their personality. Many members actually find that learning and performing these rituals is a useful programme of self development especially building self confidence in speaking in front of others. For those that want to do it, Freemasonry also provides the opportunity to practise after-dinner speaking with a totally friendly audience.

The majority of lodges in the Province of Middlesex meet four times a year. The formal part of the proceedings (the ceremonies) usually start towards the end of the afternoon and are followed in the evening by a dinner and speeches. There are also weekly ‘instruction meetings’ where members learn more about the principles of Freemasonry, and how to master the rituals performed in the ceremonies.

Freemasons also gain great pleasure in visiting lodges other than their own, making new friends and seeing different traditions followed. Like any hobby you can’t get anything out without putting something in and its as time consuming as you want it to be…….but we do think that sometimes our families may want to see us occasionally.

In the interests of domestic harmony, people interested in becoming Freemasons are strongly recommended to bring their wife/partner into the picture at the earliest possible stage. All of the Masonic Centres in the Province of Middlesex are happy to give guided tours. Visitors can see inside the Masonic temples where the ceremonies take place and ask loads of questions.

There are also entertaining lectures, held inside a lodge or chapter rooms, for anyone interested in learning more about Freemasonry. These are usually followed by an informal dinner.

What about the cost? Membership subscriptions compare favourably with everyday gyms and social clubs. Freemasonry is not a rich man’s hobby, but an affordable and rewarding pastime.
You have to be male, aged 21 or over, and be of good character (which means not having any criminal convictions). You must also believe in a Supreme Being, but Freemasonry is not a religion; men from a variety of faiths are members.

There are approximately 7,600 Middlesex Freemasons in some 270 Lodges and 125 Chapters meeting at the five Masonic Centres located at Harrow, Southgate, Staines, Twickenham and Uxbridge.

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