What's the purpose of Masonic Music?
It may surprise you that most of the music I play is improvised on the spot to suit the occasion; it is specifically conceived for the moment. I believe that all Masonic music should be as ignorable as it is interesting. You should be able to listen to it with some degree of satisfaction but not be able to recall it or hum it on the way to the bar. There is good reason for this: each masonic ceremony has profound words and important thoughts to soak into our minds. No candidate will immediately understand the full meaning of a charge, understand the symbolism of the accoutrements, the significance of the movement around the temple and absorb the depth of the message being imparted. It is unlikely brethren on the side benches will be alert enough to hear all of what is repeated and repeated as we see ceremonies time and time again over the years. Over familiarity or brain-dead moments prevent the important meaning of the ritual being absorbed easily, so in my view the last things we all want is 'memorable music'. I put inverted commas around those words because - and this is a very personal view - a catchy tune, or a familiar theme from the shows steers the mind away from the ritual.
So I hope you cannot remember what I played in the Grand Temple when you were last there. A Masonic event is not one to showcase the organist. True: the duty of the organist is to create the atmosphere whether that be contemplative for the quieter parts of our ceremonies, or strident, robust and inspiring for grand fanfares and processions. However loud the latter may be, you should not remember it when it is over; however sleep inducing, thought provoking and inspiring the quieter passages may be at the central focal point of the ritual, it should wash over you and not bring to mind memories of the Sound of Music, or of your favourite rugby song.
That is why I create it for the occasion. This serves two useful purposes, it makes absolutely sure the music ends in a musically pleasing cadence when the movement ends, and it properly fits the resources of the organ. The bigger the organ, like Freemasons Hall in Great Queen Street, the greater the variety of tonal colours and sounds that are at the tips of the organist's fingers. But most masonic music is played on quite mediocre instruments in smaller temples. Importantly, that ceremony has to impress the candidate and those sitting on the side benches; more so than any flashy fanfares and exuberant displays possible on the larger instruments.
So I hope you cannot bring to mind in any great detail whatever you have heard me play, but that instead you feel the music was 'fit for purpose'.
As I come to the end of my tenure as Grand Organist for Mark and KT for ten years I hope my music fades into the background, but that the impact of our wonderful ritual has gently soaked into your consciousness - without you really spotting my 'Cunning little Plan' (as Baldrick so often said), hence my determination that the music should be interesting but ignorable.
Naunton Liles Febuary 2019
Masonic Music - a UK perception.
Freemasonry was of great appeal at the turn of the 20th century when the religious revival of the later Victorian era led to the building of dozens of church and chapels in every town. Where I live fourteen were built between 1860 and 1900 some lavishly funded by the newly enriched industrialists and ship owners. Certainly even the most modest chapel had a pipe organ and every parlour had a piano and it was quite the norm in those days for people to gather round singing as a family. Consequently plenty of children learnt to play the piano and some, like me, were drawn into the church at an early age to learn to play the organ. Although in my case I am now talking of the 1950s!
As freemasonry flourished each masonic centre had an organ and a regular supply of initiates who could play the piano, and thus the organ. The music used in lodges in those days, was taken directly from Hymns Ancient and Modern and other worthy tomes with several hundred tunes. Sometimes the words came directly from the the hymn books, particularly those that were not trinitarian or directly christian, craft masonry not being a christian order. For other Odes, as we call them, the words were written by the more erudite brethren.
Quite a number of lodges in early days used Anglican Chants, a most awkward way of setting words to music, but the chants were sufficiently well know to appeal to those who joined the Craft. As other Orders spread, Holy Royal Arch, Mark Masonry, Royal Ark Mariner, Knights Templar, and Rose Croix, the membership and particularly the leaders had come from the established traditions of the Craft and were steeped in the knowledge of Victorian church music. Even today in the 21st Century there are RAM lodges and Rose Croix Chapters that use anglican chants. And nearly all lodge music today has its origins in the Anglican church traditions of the 19th century. The snag is, adherence to and practice of these faiths has dwindled as has the supply of experienced church organists.
Gradually during the 20th century the organ building trade has declined; there are scores of redundant pipe organs in churches that have closed and any attempt to move these to new locations has proved very expensive indeed, particularly as the skills of experts who can work in wood and leather has withered. Meanwhile the electronic organ was invented and became affordable in the late 1930s. These did not hit masonic temples until the 1950s by which time there were some bargains to be had in the second hand market. There is nothing a lodge secretary and treasurer likes more than a bargain. When a member's family is bereaved and an electric organ from the lounge has no further family use, and when it is discovered there is no second hand market even if the walnut veneer seems perfect, then it makes an ideal bequest to the local Masonic Hall.
The consequence of this is that we have far more electric organs than pipe organs, and of course an ever diminishing band of worthy volunteers who can entice the right sort of sounds from among the vibratos, tremulants and waw-waw knee jerks that are all too often heard to emanate from these instruments in our lodges. The early electric organs from the post war period were pretty abysmal. By by the end of the 20th century new developments in audio technology has spawned some excellent digital organs.
Mark Masons' Hall
When these use files recorded from the great cathedral organs the sounds can be very impressive. Currently the best of these is at Mark Masons' Hall in St James's, London where the English maker Prelude were commissioned to built a bespoke organ with a full English cathedral sound overlaid with reeds suitable for the fanfares required in Mark and other Orders.
The auditorium, or lodge room was especially difficult acoustically. It is a long low temple with carpeting; far removed from the bright reflective surfaces of a lofty stone cathedral or large church. There are large chambers behind the grills that cover the west wall and these housed much of the electronics. A decision was made at the design stage that we would use 12 channels (most digital organs have two: left and right). They were dedicated to the specific needs of the sections. The reeds needed high powered speakers, almost tweeters, to handle the upper brass registers. Other channels were dedicated to quieter string sounds, the flues, diapason ranks, the pedal department and several other purposes. Just like a pipe organ, each note from the principal diapason scale was delivered from the north or south side alternately, so that the sound of a chord is heard to emanate from the centre rather from a particular side. The twelve channels allowed the power of each section to be adjusted in volume during the voicing, although some degree of override remains in the hands of the organist. Reverberation was essential as a low ceiling, acres of carpets and 375 men in suits, undoubtedly needed additional resonance.
A further consideration was to provide an instrument that sounded right even when the apse, which seats almost 80, is curtained off for smaller ceremonies. This is achieved by having the customary speakers in the organ console itself, but instead of it facing into the organists knees, the speakers face up to the ceiling. This works well, even when philistines place files, papers, gloves, regalia and trays with tumblers of water on the top. Most of the speakers are in the west end and there is a control to share the sound between the console and the banks of large speakers in the west. If the organist is known to be a bit heavy handed, the trick is to deliver more sound to console so that he hears himself well and doesn't deafen those at rest in the west end. A snag is that there are very many organist from the numerous lodges that use this Grand Temple, and there is a tendency to adjust the ideal settings of reverb, volume and shared speaker output too often.
There is provision for a dozen or more organists to set their own registration, but due to the haste and pressure to get going, few set up their own; they simply use someone else's and forget to put back what they changed. Nevertheless the organ is very rewarding to play and we should be grateful to the brethren and lodges who funded the entire project during the 2011. That enabled us to commission and build it on time and within budget. Carlo Curley gave the inaugural recital and declared it to be the finest new digital organ in central London at that date.
The Grand Temple Freemasons' Hall
Just after that Freemasons Hall in Covent Garden commissioned Harrison and Harrison to refurbish and substantially extend the 1933 Willis organ in the Grand Temple, which now is a stunning instrument of great delight to the organists and hopefully to those who hear it in full flood.
In recent decades there has been a steady movement away from maintaining masonic pipe organs, and instead to acquire digital organs, some of quite doubtful provenance. It is hard enough persuade the faint-hearted to take up playing for a lodge without confronting them with small organs that have enough buttons and red lights to make them look as intimidating as the flight deck of a jumbo jet cockpit. Sambas and rumbas may have been de rigour in the previous life of an electronic organ when it was in a pub or someones home, but they send Directors of Ceremonies into a state of apoplexy if used for the procession of high ranking freemasons.
There are some good pipe organs. Leicester has one that comes to mind and Cardiff have recently restored a 1906 organ which is now a showpiece and used by the University for tuition. By copying FMH's policy of encouraging students to come in the morning to practice and to give recitals for the public, they hope to show off their enthusiasm for the Craft and may win a few new recruits.
The reluctant organist
Whilst there is a small supply of organists finishing their formal tuition every year, it is proving impossible for Freemasonry to recruit skilled organists. Instead we recruit from within and do this rather badly. The best plan is to ask a potential candidate at their very first meeting with a lodge committee if they can play a keyboard. By this means we might identify those who could become our organists. Once they are initiated and see a old chap sitting at the organ they will be too timid to raise their head above the parapet and offer to take over. So we are often left with the unschooled reluctant organist who can so easily be put off by comments from those who believe they know better, but who never touch a note.
I'm no good as a teacher as I've never taught music. But to the person who has picked up the rudiments elsewhere I can explain a bit about playing local organs. First I ask them to try the various 8' sounds and decide which are to be avoided and which will be useful. These will then need a 4' and 2' from the same rank, plus a small reed, such as an oboe.
Be quick to work out whether a vibrato or tremulant is on, which make for a theatre organ sound. I abhor these for masonic ceremonies but it seems many of my colleagues have used these last time the organ was switched on. I get rid of them and aim for a churchy sort of sound. The volume can be varied by use of the swell pedal and if I'm talking to a newcomer sitting at a pipe organ I explain that this should be left open afterwards so that the air can circulate freely in the swell box.
Beyond this, it is a matter of taste. If the reluctant organist can set up a loud combination on one manual and a quiet selection on another, they are ready for anything! Processional music needs to be bold and loud, and background music quieter to set a contemplative atmosphere.
We so desperately need our reluctant organists that the main thrust of what is said should be encouraging and complimentary.
Knowing when to stop: that can be the pitfall of many an organist. There is nothing more unmusical than a procession that stops and the music does likewise instantly and without drawing to a musical conclusion. This is rather more difficult to achieve for those who don't have a natural facility for extemporisation. One solution may be to have learnt some two bar phrases that end with a dominant and then tonic chord in the player's favourite keys. Hopefully these can be be used as the procession ends to sooth the anxieties of the DC and others.
The greatest secret of freemasonry is how and when are we all promoted. One trick is to play the organ. The odds are you'll left alone in the corner for several years until someone notices your contemporaries are through the chair and may then ask if you wish to progress. It took me 30 years to get through the Chair in Craft. However, having established a reputation for playing the organ, when I became more senior in several other Orders and Degrees, I gently floated to the top and became Grand Organist in Mark, KT England, KT France and others. This coincided with retirement as there is a definite need not merely to play the right tunes, but to be willing and able to travel widely. I have now played in well over 100 Masonic centres, so many in fact that I can seldom remember what the organ is like if I'm invited back a second time.
If you get into a different car, it doesn't take too long to work out where the wipers are or where the 4 way flasher button is that has to be pressed in an emergency. Most cars are mostly the same in the layout of controls. Being a peripatetic organist one encounters far greater variations. Firstly, I get there in good time and ask the secretary or some important looking person what tune is used for the opening ode? Invariably the answer is “Oh! The usual one”. As I know several I play the two most common and see if light appears behind the eyes of the listener. I do so wish the secretary would carry a copy of the music, not just words, for the benefit of whoever is asked to play at short notice. When you've sorted out the opening ode there is then the question of the closing, and whether other things are sung, like 'Fidelity, fidelity . . ' But our reluctant organist should confine himself to one lodge and get to know that well before being drawn into helping others.
For the past ten or more years I've been aware of CD players and computer discs that have suitable music prerecorded for our ceremonies. These too, have their problems; the first being that the man who had promoted the use of recorded music and who had brought in the kit and hooked up amplifiers and speakers is not immortal. These people grow old like organists, or their loyalty to a temple or lodge dwindles and it seems just as hard to find a willing successor. In any case, the real skill is in knowing the ritual thoroughly so that the recording can begin at the right moment. To ensure it ends at the right moment is far harder than at first it would seem. As has been said above, bringing processional music to a graceful conclusion is almost impossible at the click of a switch. But we can't get enough organists, so let's refine the skills of the 'roadies' and 'disc-jockeys' by inviting them to lodges of instruction to make everyone aware of the options available. Meanwhile the faithful old organists do this on auto-pilot and no one notices these skills are necessary until they are not there.
There is a case for explaining all this to senior DCs. For the big showcase events like a Provincial Grand Lodge, the GDC is so busy worrying about protocol, who should stand where in the line-up prior to processing and making sure the Sword and Banner are deposited in a place of safety that even they can forget to help the organist by coordinating the movements to the music. How often have you heard the DC call 'To Order Brethren' from the west door, then there is a gap when the organist has begun to play and the escort are still wondering whether to step off with the left foot or not. The opposite can occur too. Often the organist has no line of sight to the west doors and suddenly finds a body of men marching towards him while he awaits that crucial cue of 'To Order Brethren'.
There are very few temples where the organist is ideally placed. The usual criteria is how close is the 13 amp power socket rather than whether the organist can see and hear what's going on.
One of the best is Sindlesham near Reading where the organist is raised high above the JW's desk. Probably the worst is the Grand Temple in Freemasons' Hall London, where the organist is deliberately place in a hollow so that he cannot be seen to be higher than the Grand Master. This has been so since 1933 and was not improved during the major rebuild in 2014. To overcome this a single camera was placed on the east wall facing the large bronze doors of the west, so that the organist can see the incoming procession as on his B+W screen. This too was upgraded when Holy Royal Arch funded the refurbishment of the organ. We now have colour TV and three cameras: one on the processional way to the south of the temple, one on the Grand Masters' throne and one pointing as before to the west door. The only snag is that the camera on the east wall is too low, and when the GDC calls: 'Brethren Upstanding' all the organist can see is the haircut of the fellow in the back row. Most cathedrals have a hard-wired control for the organist to switch easily between cameras and alter the camera lens to provide the right detail. At FMH it depends upon a stranger in morning dress sitting at a sound console and he is 200 yards away from the organist and is unaware of the problem.
Another local variation is the DC or bodyguard's idea of marching. I assume it must be in places where organists are scare that the escort parties set up their own marching on the spot, very rhythmically, and then moving forward. The visiting organist has to copy the pace and make his march music fit the predestined pace of the moving column.
Organists are only human. They want music to add to the splendour of the occasion but often feel they have to fight an uphill battle to achieve this.
Naunton Liles 24 July 2017
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W.Bro Naunton Liles P.A.G.D.C.
Organist 1999 - 2005
The purpose of music in Freemasonry is to add dignity, to provide a structure and atmosphere to the ceremony and to help everyone take part by singing the words of Odes.
W.Bro Naunton Liles has written a series of articles to assist those involved in this important aspect of Masonic meetings.
- The Purpose of Masonic Music
- Masonic Music - a U.K. Perception
- Music for Internet Lodge No. 9659
- The Reluctant Organist
- Odd and Awful Organs
- Organs -Short Term Hire
- Ideas for making music fit the movement
We trust you find them interesting and useful.
About the author
Naunton Liles has been a Masonic organist for over 50 years and is an active organist in several orders.
For ten years between 2008 and 2018 he was Assistant, then Deputy and
ultimately Grand Organist of Mark Master Masons and Great Organist in KT
He has played at more than 100 Masonic centres in the UK and Europe.
Naunton at the Organ
|ROYAL ARCH (Chapter)||Master Mason (for at least 4 weeks)||Apron, sash, jewel||Exaltation||Discovery of the Lost Word at the Building of the Second Temple||United Grand Lodge Of England, Freemasons Hall, 60 Great Queen Street, LONDON, WC2B 5AZ|
|MARK (Lodge)||Master Mason||Apron, jewel||Advancement||Loss and recovery of the Keystone for the Arch in the First Temple||Mark Masons Hall, 86 St. James's Street, LONDON, SW1A 1PL|
|ROYAL ARK MARINER (Lodge)||Mark Master Mason||Apron, jewel||Elevation||Noah and the Ark||Mark Masons Hall, 86 St. James's Street, LONDON, SW1A 1PL|
|ROSE CROIX (Chapter)||Master Mason (for at least one year) & Christian||Collar||4th to 17th Degrees (conferred by name only)
18th Degree (Perfection)
19th to 29th Degrees (conferred by name only)
30th Degree (Grand Elected Knight K.H)
31st Degree (Grand Inspector Inquisitor Commander)
32nd Degree (Sublime Prince of the Royal Secret)
33rd Degree (Inspector General)
|The events of Good Friday and Easter Sunday||The Supreme Council 33rd Degree, 10 Duke Street, LONDON, SW1Y 6BS|
|KNIGHTS TEMPLAR (Preceptory)||Royal Arch Mason & Christian||Tunic, mantle, sash, belt, sword, cap, gloves, jewels||Knight Templar
Knight of Malta
|Christian pilgrimage leading to dubbing as Knight||Mark Masons Hall, 86 St. James's Street, LONDON, SW1A 1PL|
|ROYAL AND SELECT MASTERS (Council)||Royal Arch & Mark Master Mason||Apron and jewel||Select Master
Most Excellent Master
Super Excellent Master
|The depositing of the Word in the Crypt of the First Temple - and the intervening history between the First and Second Temples||Mark Masons Hall, 86 St. James's Street, LONDON, SW1A 1PL|
|RED CROSS OF CONSTANTINE (Conclave)||Royal Arch Mason & Christian||Sash and jewel||A: Red Cross of Constantine
|A: The conversion of Constantine to Christianity||Mark Masons Hall, 86 St. James's Street, LONDON, SW1A 1PL|
|B: Appendant Orders
Knight of the Holy Sepulchre
Knight of St. John the Evangelist
|B: The events of Good Friday and Easter Sunday and the explanation of the Hiramic Story in Christian terms|
|ALLIED MASONIC DEGREES (Council)||Royal Arch & Mark Master Mason||Breast jewel||St. Lawrence the Martyr||The death of St. Lawrence||Mark Masons Hall, 86 St. James's Street, LONDON, SW1A 1PL|
|Knights of Constantinople||The humility of Constantine contrasted with the arrogance of his nobles|
|Grand Tilers of Solomon||Inadvertent intrusion into King Solomon's Crypt|
|Red Cross of Babylon||Zerubabel visits the Persian Court of King Darius|
|Grand High Priest||Melchisidec meeting Abraham|
|ORDER OF THE SECRET MONITOR (Conclave)||Master Mason||Breast jewel||Induction
Admission as Prince
|The love and friendship of David and Jonathan||Mark Masons Hall, 86 St. James's Street, LONDON, SW1A 1PL|
|OPERATIVES (Assemblage)||Royal Arch & Mark Master Mason||Collaret and jewel||Indentured Apprentice
Fellow of the Craft
Fitter and Marker
Superintendent and Warden
|Detailed construction of the First Temple using the brethren as Living Stones||29 Wickets Way. ILFORD, IG6 3DF|
|Installed Master in the Craft and Mark||Passed Master
|KNIGHT TEMPLAR PRIEST (Tabernacle)||Installed Master in the Craft & Knight Templar & Royal Arch Mason & professing the Holy Christian Trinitarian Faith.||Tunic, mantle, mitre||Admission||Journey to Priesthood past Seven Pillars||Castlegate House, Castlegate, YORK, YO1 9RP|
|ROYAL ORDER OF SCOTLAND (Provincial Grand Lodge)||Master Mason (for at least 5 years) & Christian||Apron, sashes, jewel, garter||Heredom of Kilwinning
|Masonry expressed through the life and death of Christ in old Border Verse||23 St.John Street, EDINBURGH, EH8 8DG|
|SOCIETAS ROSICRUCIANA IN ANGLIA (College)||Master Mason & Christian||Breast jewel||Zelator
|Acquisition of knowledge of the world and oneself by symbolism||88 Hampstead High Street, LONDON, NW3 1RE|
|Reflection on death|
|Study of the life and death of Christian Rosenkreutz|
|ROYAL ORDER OF ERI (Faslairt)||Adeptus Minor||Waist sash and breast jewel||Man-at-Arms
|Life and times of the ancient Irish hero Brian Boru||88 Hampstead High Street, LONDON, NW3 1RE|
|C.B.C.S. (Chapter)||Knight Templar||Tunic, mantle, sash, collar, sword, belt, cap, gloves||Knight of St. Andrew
|Templar story emphasising beneficence||Mark Masons Hall, 86 St. James's Street, LONDON, SW1A 1PL|
|ORDER OF LIGHT (Temple)||Master Mason||Robe and belt||First Degree
|Deeper understanding of Masonry through the symbolism of Eastern religions||7 West Street, Shelf, HALIFAX, HX3 7LN|
|ST.THOMAS OF ACON (Chapel)||Subscribing Knight Templar||Tunic, mantle, breast & mantle jewels, sword, belt, cap, gloves||Installation||The life and death of Thomas a Becket||46 Gilstead Lane, BINGLEY, BD16 3NP|
|PILGRIM PRECEPTORS (Conclave)||Past Royal Arch First Principal||Royal Arch regalia plus a collaret and jewel||Pilgrimage
|The Fourth Grand Lodge in Jerusalem and the coming of Christianity to Britain||5 View Crescent, Tivoli Road, LONDON, N8 8RG|
|HERMETIC ORDER OF MARTINISTS (Lodge)||Zelator||White alb, a black cloak with hood and cordelier||Free Initiate
Supérieur Inconnu, SI or Unknown Superior
|The discovery and understanding of Christ within us||38 Westcombe Park Road, LONDON, SE3 7RB|
|SQUAREMEN (Shed)||Mark Master Mason||Apron||Admission||Old workings and atmospheres revived|
|BALDWYN RITE||Bristol Royal Arch Mason||Knights of the Nine Elected Masters
Scots Knights Grand Architect
Knights of the East, the Sword, and the Eagle
|Freemasons Of Bristol Ltd, 31 Park Street, BRISTOL, BS1 5NH|
|CORK DEGREE (Lodge)||Master Mason||Hat and cork||Admission||Noah satire|
Thanks to WBro Barry Clarke PAGDC for the above information.
This leaflet is intended to expand a topic mentioned in the leaflet 'What is Freemasonry'. It explains the United Grand Lodge of England's relations with other Masonic bodies.
Freemasonry is practised under many independent Grand Lodges with principles or standards similar to those set by the United Grand Lodge of England throughout its history.
To be recognised as regular by the United Grand Lodge of England, a Grand Lodge must meet the following standards.
- It must have been lawfully established by a regular Grand Lodge or by three or more private Lodges, each warranted by a regular Grand Lodge.
- It must be truly independent and self governing, with undisputed authority over Craft - or basic - Freemasonry (i.e. the symbolic degrees of Entered Apprentice, Fellow Craft and Master Mason) within its jurisdiction, and not subject in any other way to or sharing power with any other Masonic body.
- Freemasons under its jurisdiction must be men, and it and its Lodges must have no Masonic contact with Lodges which admit women to membership.
- Freemasons under its jurisdiction must believe in a Supreme Being.
- All Freemasons under its jurisdiction must take their Obligations on or in full view of the Volume of the Sacred Law (i.e. the Bible) or the book held sacred by the man concerned.
- The three Great Lights of Freemasonry (i.e. the Volume of the Sacred Law, the Square and the Compasses) must be on display when the Grand Lodge or its Subordinate Lodges are open.
- The discussion of religion and politics within its Lodges must be prohibited.
- It must adhere to the established principles and tenets (the 'Antient Landmarks') and customs of the Craft, and insist on their being observed within its Lodges.
Irregular or unrecognised Grand Lodges
There are some self-styled Masonic bodies which do not meet these standards, e.g. which do not require a belief 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 Grand Lodge of England as being Masonically regular, and Masonic contact with them is forbidden.
This United Grand Lodge of England leaflet is reproduced here with permission.
This leaflet is intended to expand a topic mentioned in the leaflet 'What is Freemasonry'. It explains the United Grand Lodge of England's view on Freemasonry and Society.
Grand Lodge's Policy
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 or professional life.
Respect for the law
Freemasonry demands from its members a respect for the law of any country in which a man may work and live.
The principles of Freemasonry do not in any way conflict with its members' duties as citizens, whether at work or at home or in public life, but on the contrary should strengthen them in fulfilling their public and private responsibilities. Thus there is no conflict of interest between a Freemason's obligation and his public duty. If an actual or potential conflict of duties or interests is known to exist or is foreseen, a declaration to that effect should be made. It may on occasions be prudent to disclose membership to avoid what others mistakenly imagine to be a potential conflict or bias, but this must be a matter for individual judgment.
Use of Membership
A Freemason must not use his membership to promote his own or anyone else's business, professional or personal interests. This is made clear directly or by inference several times during a Freemason's early career so that no Freemason can pretend to be ignorant of it. A Freemason who transgresses this rule may be suspended from Masonic activities or even expelled.
Freemasonry should not be allowed to harm a man's family or other connections by taking too much of his time or his money or causing him to act in any other way against their interests.
Duty as a citizen
A Freemasons's 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 or to confer an unfair advantage on another Freemason is contrary to this prime duty.
Personal or business difficulties
If it could be proved by evidence that any personal failure or business difficulty was attributable to 'Masonic influence', Masonic authority would take a serious view of the fact, as it would be contrary to the principles of Freemasonry.
- Freemasonry is not a secret society.
- Like many other societies, it regards some of its internal affairs as private matters for its members.
- There is no secret about its aims and principles. Copies of the constitutions and rules can be obtained from Freemasons' Hall by interested members of the public.
- 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 which may not be discussed.
- On inquiry for acceptable reasons, Freemasons are free and will be proud to acknowledge their own membership.
This United Grand Lodge of England leaflet is reproduced here with permission.
This leaflet is intended to deal with a topic mentioned in the leaflet 'What is Freemasonry'. It explains the United Grand Lodge of England's view of the relationship between Freemasonry and Religion.
Freemasonry is not a religion, nor is it a substitute for religion. It demands of its members a belief in a Supreme Being but provides no system of faith of its own.
Freemasonry is open to men of all religious faiths. The discussion of religion at its meetings is forbidden.
The Supreme Being
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 dissension among them.
There is no separate Masonic God; a Freemason's God remains the God of the religion he professes.
Freemasons meet in common respect for the Supreme Being as He remains Supreme in their individual religions, and it is no part of Freemasonry to attempt to join religions together. There is therefore no composite Masonic God.
Volume of the Sacred Law
The Bible, referred to by Freemasons as the Volume of the Sacred Law, is always open at every Masonic meeting.
The Obligations of Freemasonry
The obligations taken by Freemasons are sworn on or involve the Volume of the Sacred Law, or the book held sacred by those concerned. They are undertakings to help keep secret a Freemason's means of recognition, and to follow the principles of Freemasonry.
The physical penalties which are purely symbolic do not form part of an Obligation. The commitment to follow the principles of Freemasonry is, however, deep.
Freemasonry compared with Religion
Freemasonry lacks the basic elements of religion:
It has no theological doctrine, and by forbidding religious discussion at its meetings will not allow a Masonic theological doctrine to develop.
It offers no sacraments.
It does not claim to lead to salvation by works, by secret knowledge or by any other means. The secrets of Freemasonry are concerned with modes of recognition and not with salvation.
Freemasonry supports Religion
Freemasonry is far from indifferent to religion. Without interfering in religious practice it expects each member to follow his own faith, and to place above all other duties his duty to God by whatever name He is known. Its moral teachings are acceptable to all religions.
Freemasonry is thus a supporter of religion.
This United Grand Lodge of England leaflet is reproduced here with permission.
Freemasonry is one of the world's oldest secular fraternal societies. This leaflet is intended to explain Freemasonry as it is practised under the United Grand Lodge of England, which administers Lodges of Freemasons in England and Wales and in many places overseas. 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, which follow ancient forms and use 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 are of good repute.
Freemasonry is not a religion, nor is it a substitute for religion. Its essential qualification opens it to men of many religions and it expects them to continue to follow their own faith. It does not allow religion to be discussed at its 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.
From its earliest days, Freemasonry has been concerned with the care of orphans, the sick and the aged. This work continues today. In addition, large sums are given to national and local charities.
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 member ship 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.
The secrets of Freemasonry are concerned with its traditional modes of recognition. 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.
Freemasonry and Politics
Freemasonry is non-political, and the discussion of politics at Masonic meetings is forbidden.
Freemasonry is practised under many independent Grand Lodges with standards similar to those set by the United Grand Lodge of England.
There are some Grand Lodges and other apparently masonic bodies which do not meet these standards, e.g. which do not require a belief in a Supreme Being, or which allow or encourage their members as such to participate in political matters. These Grand Lodges and bodies are not recognised by the United Grand Lodge of England as being masonically regular, and masonic contact with them is forbidden.
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.
This United Grand Lodge of England leaflet is reproduced here with permission.
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