A brief history
Freemasonry traces its ancestry to the operative crafts which, records
indicate, were introduced into England as early as 674 A.D. Freemasonry is
directly descended from those associations of operative stonemasons,
primarily the cathedral builders of the Middle Ages. These master craftsmen,
because of their special knowledge and skills, were privileged to travel
from country to
country employing the secrets and skills of their craft. They developed
means of recognition and identification of their work.
In the 17th and early 18th centuries, membership in the fraternity was
confined to men who were engaged in the actual design, supervision and
construction of buildings and, in the most part, were members of operative
stone Mason guilds or lodges. From the early 1700's non-operative masons
were admitted and it was from this situation that theoretical and symbolic
speculative masonry, developed. Gradually the lodges came to be composed
almost entirely of these accepted or speculative masons. From these groups
the Freemasonry of today had its beginning.
Freemasonry is the oldest and largest fraternal order in the world and is
active in virtually every free country. It is a society of friends and
brothers and thus is limited to men of sound mind and good character who, in
Belgium, have reached the age of twenty-one years. The Fraternity does not
solicit members; a man must seek membership of his own free will and accord.
The desire to
become a Mason must come from within. Freemasonry is a fraternity of men who
share a firm belief in the existence of a Supreme Being. The main
qualification to joining the fraternity is that an applicant believes in a
Supreme Being and a future existence.
Freemasonry is a fraternity of men of good principle and character,
resulting in strong bonds of friendship between men of the same nature who
might otherwise have remained strangers. It regards all men as equals and
recognises no distinctions of rank or class.
It is a serious fraternity, which conducts its formal ceremonies in the
Lodge rooms with high dignity, and without frivolity. The ceremonies are
often considered by Masons as having been the most moving experience of
their lives. Employing the tools of the stone Mason as symbols of basic
moral truths, Masonic ceremonies dramatise a philosophy of life based on
morality. At other times it encourages debate and discussion, except on
matters of creed or race, religion, politics, or other topics likely to
excite personal animosities or disharmony among the members.
Freemasonry is not an insurance or benefit society. It is not organised
for profit. It is not a charitable institution, although it does assist its
members by many means through times of hardship, and its membership is
taught to be of service to mankind. It teaches monotheism. It teaches the
Golden Rule that we should treat others as we would like them to treat us.
It seeks to make good men better from a firm belief in the brotherhood of
all mankind, and the immortality of the human soul.
It uses builders' tools as symbols to teach the basic moral truths, thereby
impressing on the minds of the members the cardinal virtues; brotherly love,
relief of the distressed, and truth, which should be applied to their every
Freemasonry and religion
Freemasonry is neither a religion nor a substitute for one. Freemasonry has
no dogma, no priesthood and no plan for salvation. Neither is it an
off-spring of any church, synagogue, mosque or religious group - ancient or
modern. It espouses none of them nor is it subservient to any. While
Freemasonry does require a belief in a Supreme Being, each Mason may worship
in his own
It has a philosophy of its own which is compatible with the teachings of
religious institutions. The teachings of Freemasonry transcend all
denominational and sectarian divisions. In the field of human conduct it is
complementary to religion, but as has been said, religious topics may not be
The names used for the Supreme Being enable men of different faiths to join
in prayer (to God as each sees Him) without the terms of the prayer causing
dissention among them. There is no separate Masonic God; a Freemason's God
remains the God of the religion he professes. The Bible, referred to by
Masons as the Volume of the Sacred Law, is always open at every Masonic
members of a lodge below to different faiths other sacred volumes such as
the Koran and Tora will be open alongside the Bible.
Freemasonry in society
Freemasonry is not connected in any way with a political creed. A
Freemason's political views are his own and a lodge may well have members
belonging to many different political parties. For that reason, no
discussion of political matters is permitted in a lodge. A Brother may not
seek to persuade his Brethren in a lodge to adopt this or that views in
matters of Government - local, national, or international. Nor does any
lodge endorse candidates of any political persuasion.
A member is charged to be true and loyal to the Head of State and Government
of his country, and to be law abiding. Freemasonry is NOT a secret society.
It does not conceal its existence or activities. Masons are proud of their
affiliation. True, it has secrets of its own, such as its method of
recognition of brother Masons, and symbolic instruction in its principles.
It is a charitable, benevolent and educational society.
It is charitable in that it is devoted to the promotion of the welfare and
happiness of mankind and not to the profit of any individual or individuals.
It is benevolent in that it teaches ethical principles acceptable to all
men. Principles such as kindness and faithfulness in the home, honesty and
fairness in business and occupation, courtesy in social contacts, help for
the weak and unfortunate, forgiveness of the penitent, respect for one
another and, above all, reverence towards a Supreme Being.
It is educational in that it teaches morality and lawfulness, develops
self-discipline in thought and action and confidence in communicating and
dealing with one's fellows. It encourages research into its origins, and
contemplation and discussion of the moral concepts espoused.
It must be clearly understood by every member of the Craft that his
membership does not in any way exempt him from his duty to meet his
responsibilities to the society in which he lives. The Charge to the new
initiate calls on him to be exemplary in the discharge of his civil duties;
this duty extends throughout his private, public, business and professional
Irregular and unrecognised Grand Lodges
There are some self-styled Masonic bodies that do not meet the standard of
believing in a Supreme Being, or which allow or encourage their members to
participate as such in political matters. These bodies are not recognised by
the Regular Grand Lodge of Belgium as being Masonically regular, and Masonic
contact with them is forbidden.
Who may become a Freemason?
Any adult male of good repute, of high moral character, of sound mind who
believes in a Supreme Being, and has the usual senses of a man can become a
Freemason. You must be in such financial circumstances as to be able to meet
your monetary obligations as a member of your lodge without detriment to
your family or yourself. These obligations include lodge subscriptions and
the cost of
regalia. Freemasonry should not be allowed to harm a man's family or other
connections by taking too much of his time or money, or causing him to act
in any way against their interests.
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
You must be recommended by two brethren, who will have to vouch for your
character and sincerity of motive. It cannot be too strongly emphasised that
you should not enter Freemasonry in the hope of material gain or
advancement. If you do you will be disappointed. Admission must not be
sought from mercenary or other unworthy motives.
Your wife should be made aware of the likely claims on your time and
efforts, and fully support your application.
What Freemasonry expects of you
All Freemasons voluntarily commit themselves to the principles of
brotherly love, relief, and truth, non-sectarian principles which are
universally recognised as the moral virtues. These three great principles
may be explained thus
- brotherly love, every true Freemason will show tolerance and respect
for the opinions of others and behave with kindness and understanding to
his fellow creatures;
- relief, 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;
- truth, 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. Freemasons are to be found in all walks of life -
business, labour, government, professional, and entertainment to name a few.
They are admonished to obey all laws under whose protection they live; to
serve their fellowman, and maintain high standards of conduct.
A Mason is expected to treat every man as his brother, to practice charity,
temperance and justice. His mode of life should be such as to earn the
respect and trust of those with whom he comes in contact. He must recognise
that humility, patience, charity, and gentleness should be among the
characteristics of a true Freemason. He must never propose for membership
any man whom he knows to be an atheist or otherwise unworthy to become a
The basic unit of the Masonic Fraternity is the Masonic Lodge which
operates under rules and regulations prescribed by a Grand Lodge. In Belgium
this is the Regular Grand Lodge of Belgium. The chief executive officer of a
lodge is termed Master and addressed as the Worshipful Master; the chief
executive officer of the Grand Lodge is the Grand Master. Both are elected
officials. In a Masonic Lodge the Master and officers of the lodge generally
serve for a one year term at the will and pleasure of the membership. The
officers of the lodge comprise a number of brethren occupying positions
responsible for ceremonial, administrative, and social matters. The officers
of the lodge also include a Secretary and Treasurer.
It is the Masonic Lodge that receives petitions from candidates for
membership and confers upon them the principal Masonic Degrees. The new
member immediately becomes an integral part of the Lodge and regular and
punctual attendance at its meetings is one of his first duties. In Belgium
most lodges meet twice a month, except in July and August. As a Freemason
you have the right to visit other lodges wherever Freemasonry is practised
throughout the world. Each Masonic meeting concludes with a social gathering
of the members at a supper where masonic fellowship is conducted in lighter
vein. Most lodges arrange social functions to include the wives and families
of the members.
On your admission into the Craft, you will be required to make a solemn
promise to fulfil your obligations to Freemasonry. You can be assured that
you will never be required to obligate yourself to anything which might
conflict with your other duties and loyalties.
Is Freemasonry a Secret Society?
Freemasonry is not a secret society. It does not hide its existence.
Members in Belgium do not hide their membership although they may decide to
keep their membership of the Craft discrete. There has been no attempt to
conceal the purpose, aims and principles of Freemasonry.
Its constitutions are published for the world to behold. Its rules and
regulations are open for inspection. Great numbers of books on Freemasonry
have been published and they are available in public libraries.
It is true that in Freemasonry we have modes of recognition and
ceremonies with which the world is not acquainted. In this regard, all human
groups and institutions have their private affairs. For example families
have their discussions on subjects which do not and should not concern their
neighbours. The Masonic fraternity is, in many respects, like a closely knit
The secrets of Freemasonry are concerned with its traditional modes
of recognition. Its ceremonies are private. In ordinary conversation there
is very little about Freemasonry that may not be discussed.
People become Freemasons for a variety of reasons, some as the result of
family tradition, others upon the introduction of a friend or out of a
curiosity to know what it is all about. Those who become active members do
so principally because they enjoy it. They enjoy the challenges and
fellowship that Freemasonry offers. There is more to it, however, than just
Participation in the dramatic presentation of moral lessons and in the
working of a lodge provides a member with a unique opportunity to learn more
about himself and encourages him to live in such a way that he will always
be in search of becoming a better man, not better than someone else but
better than he himself would otherwise be and therefore an exemplary member
Each Freemason is required to learn and show humility through initiation.
Then, by progression through a series of degrees he gains insight into
increasingly complex moral and philosophical concepts, and accepts a variety
of challenges and responsibilities which are both stimulating and rewarding.
The structure and working of the lodge and the sequence of ceremonial
events, which are usually followed by social gatherings, offer members a
framework for companionship, teamwork, character development and enjoyment
of shared experiences.
It is your decision to become a member, your entry into Freemasonry will
open the door to many and lasting friendships. There is one thing that you
must clearly understand and appreciate.
Although we strive to make Freemasons better members of society, to make
them masters of their passions and prejudices, to broaden their sympathies,
charities and their service to others, to make them tolerant of the
political and religious beliefs of their neighbours, you personally will
gain nothing without your own honest endeavour.
Chevalier Ramsay No. 4 What is Freemasonry by Chevalier Ramsay is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Belgium License.