Freemasonry is one of the world's oldest secular fraternal societies. 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 following 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, which follow ancient forms, and use stonemasons' customs and tools as allegorical guides.
The structure of Scottish Freemasonry is fairly straightforward. It exists in three tiers, Grand Lodge, Provincial and District Grand Lodges and local Lodges.
Grand Lodge is the 'Head Office' and performs all the functions of a head office, although it is very important to bear in mind that Freemasonry cannot be satisfactorily compared to other organisations. Grand Lodge therefore essentially administers, and has oversight over Scottish Freemasonry in its totality. Provincial and District Grand Lodges represent Grand Lodge at a more local level.
In Scotland Provincial Grand Lodges have oversight of particular geographical areas which, in the main, are based on counties, although geographical boundaries roughly coincide with those of Local Government this is not always the case.
To access links to the Provincial Grand Lodge of Lanarkshire Middle Ward and Lodges use the main links page.
District Grand Lodges fulfil the same function as Provincial Grand Lodges - that is they represent Grand Lodge at an intermediate level. Scottish Lodges out with Scotland require a slightly different kind of supervision because District Grand Lodges generally supervise a much larger area than a PGL within Scotland.
Finally we have our local Lodges who are run by the RWM and his Wardens, who through their wisdom, guidance and instruction ensure the Lodge functions as per the laws and statutes of both PGL and the Grand Lodge of Scotland.
A Way of Life
There are now about 4 million Freemasons under more than 100 "regular" Grand Lodges worldwide. Membership of the craft is open to every respectable man who believes in his own personal Supreme Being usually known in Masonic terms as The Great Architect of the Universe, Grand Geometrician of the Universe or Most High. These descriptive names show the importance the Freemason places on his Supreme Being in the order of things in life.
From its earliest days, Freemasonry has been concerned with the care of orphans, the sick and the aged. Today charitable work has expanded to include the whole community and in addition large sums are given to national and local charities. Local Lodges will be seen supporting the charities within the community, with members taking part in a various fund raising events to support such great causes.
Three great but simple principles, Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth, unite Freemasons of every colour and many creeds. Non-Freemasons often unfairly criticize not knowing that members of the Craft are guided by such honourable objectives. The good Freemason builds these principles into his daily life as a law abiding Man and Citizen of the world.
Brotherly Love is the concern which each Freemason has for his Brother, which is readily shown by tolerance and respect for the beliefs, opinions and practices of his fellows and his willingness to care for his Brother and that Brother's dependents.
Relief The Freemason is by nature and teaching a charitable man. He will cheerfully and kindly assist those less fortunate (whether Freemasons or not!). He will care for and support his community - local, national and international.
Truth The Freemason believes in Truth in all things in honesty and integrity in his personal, business and public life, in fair dealings and in firm standards of decency and morality.
As every man progresses in life by education, so every Freemason is taught how he can be a better man. This is done by a series of degrees - each degree educates him and answers some questions but leaves a door beyond. When the candidate has grasped the teaching of one degree, that door is opened by his progress to the next degree.
Freemasonry is believed to have begun its evolution 500 or more years ago among the bands of working, skilled builders known as "masons" (stonemasons). The traditional framework into which most Masonic degrees are woven is the story and symbolism of King Solomon's Temple.
Masonic teaching is a system of education related to the building of the Temple a especially the activities and traditional skills of those by whom it was designed and built, and is intended to maintain the interest of the candidate as he progresses through the masonic degrees, thus rendering his development more effective.
Freemasonry and Society
Freemasonry demands from its members a respect for the law of the country in which a man works and lives. Its principles do not in any way conflict with its members' duties as citizens, but should strengthen them in fulfilling their public and private responsibilities.
The use by a Freemason of his membership to promote his own or anyone else's business, professional or personal interests is condemned, and is contrary to the conditions on which he sought admission to Freemasonry. His duty as a citizen must always prevail over any obligation to other Freemasons, and any attempt to shield a Freemason who has acted dishonourably or unlawfully is contrary to this prime duty and the teachings of Freemasonry itself.
Freemasonry and Religion
A man's religion is precious and personal to him. Discussion on matters of religion often cause arguments and many wars have been fought ostensibly to impose or defend one religion against another. As he loves all his fellows, understandably religion is a topic which the Freemason, in that capacity, is just not allowed to discuss nor would he want to.
Freemasonry is most certainly not a religion. It
has no Masonic God. When Freemasons pray together, as they do in their
Lodges, each is addressing his personal Supreme Being. So freemasons of many
creeds can in love and fellowship meet and pray together, irrespective of their
individual religions. The Holy Book (Known to Freemasons as the Volume of the
Sacred Law) of each religion represented in the Lodge is open during meetings.
It is common for 5 or 6 different V.S.L.'s to lie open during Lodge meetings.
Freemasonry and Politics
For much the same reasons as above the discussion of political matters among Freemasons is absolutely prohibited. A man's politics are his own concern and the Craft, being completely non-political, will never interfere in the world of Politics nor will the Grand Lodge of Scotland express any views on political ideology or theories.
Freemasonry and Secrecy
It is often wrongly stated that Freemasonry is a Secret Society. There are many thousands of books on Freemasonry openly available in libraries everywhere. The Masonic Temple is usually a fairly conspicuous building in most communities. In Scotland many lodges advertise and publish details of their meetings in the local press.
The Museum and Library of the Grand Lodge of Scotland are open to - and used by - members of the public who are not Freemasons. Are these the hallmarks of a Secret Society?
The truth is that the principles and many of the practices of Freemasonry are anything but secret. Members are perfectly free to make it known that they are Freemasons. The only masonic "secrets" are just those methods which members of various degrees throughout the world use to recognise and greet each other. It's as simple as that!
It is not a secret society, since all members are free to acknowledge their membership and will do so in response to inquiries for respectable reasons. Its constitutions and rules are available to the public. There is no secret about any of its aims and principles. Like many other societies, it regards some of its internal affairs as private matters for its members.
Other Masonic Bodies
Freemasonry is practiced under many other Grand Lodges which set the same standards and promote the same principles as the Grand Lodge of Scotland. However, there are some Grand Lodges and other bodies which claim to be Masonic that do not meet these standards. For example some, do not require a belief in a Supreme Being, others permit their members as such to participate in political matters. For these reasons such bodies cannot be considered to be masonically regular and Scottish Freemasons can have no Masonic contact with them.
Freemasonry is an ancient and honourable Society. Its principles are just steady standards of life and conduct in a changing world. The practice by the Freemason of Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth and the other principles of the Craft will go a long way to making a good man better.
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.