Freemasons are a fraternity of men, who believe in friendship, charitable acts and traditional honest values.
In today’s society, which so often appears to be materialistic and driven by celebrity, Freemasonry offers its members an approach to life, which seeks to reinforce thoughtfulness for others, kindness in the community, honesty and courtesy in society and fairness in all things. Members are urged to regard the interests of the family as paramount; but importantly Freemasonry also teaches and practices concern for people, care for the less fortunate and help for those in need.
Charity plays an important part of the Masonic Order. It would be a sad world if we could not help those who are less fortunate than ourselves. It is not onerous, however, and it is up to each member as to how much he wishes to contribute and how often.
St Augustine Lodge in Bristol has a charity account assigned for the proceeds from Lodge collections, raffles, social functions and members’ personal contributions (typically in the form of covenants and small monthly payments). The funds collected by St Augustine Lodge is passed onto local charities, of which different ones are chosen annually to receive such gifts.
The Provincial Grand Lodge of Bristol also plays its part by coordinating support from the 36 Bristol Lodges in the Province for local charities and national charities with local connections.
The Grand Charity donates substantial sums each year to national and international charities (in particular where major disasters have occurred). It is emphasised that regardless of whether charity is dispersed by an individual Masonic Lodge or the Provincial Grand Lodge, all such funds are raised by members of the Craft by personal donations and fund raising activity.
New members make solemn promises concerning their conduct in the Lodge and in society. These promises are similar to those taken in court or upon entering the armed services or many other organisations. Each member also promises to keep confidential the traditional methods of proving he is a Freemason (which he would use when visiting a Lodge where he is not known).
A very important principle is that members also undertake not to make use of their membership for personal gain or advancement. Failure to observe this rule or otherwise to fall below the standards expected of a Freemason can lead to expulsion.
Freemasonry is not a religion. It has no theology and does not teach any route to salvation. A belief in God, however, is an essential requirement for membership and Freemasonry encourages its members to be active in their own religions.
Although every Lodge meeting is opened and closed with a prayer and its ceremonies reflect the essential truths and moral teachings common to many of the world’s great religions, no discussion of religion is permitted in Lodge meetings.
Freemasonry attracts those with a concern for people and a sense of social responsibility and purpose; there are members, therefore, who are involved in politics at local, national and international level. However, Freemasonry is not a political organisation, it has no political agenda, and discussion of politics is not permitted at Masonic Lodge meetings.
These strict principles are more fully explained below in an extract of a statement issued by the United Grand Lodge of England.
In August 1938, the Grand Lodges of England, Ireland and Scotland each agreed upon and issued a statement identical in terms, except that the name of the issuing Grand Lodge appeared throughout. This statement, which was entitled “Aims and Relationships of the Craft’ was in the following terms:
From time to time the United Grand Lodge of England has deemed it desirable to set forth in precise terms the aims of Freemasonry as consistently practiced under its jurisdiction since it came into being as an organised body in 1717, and also define the principles governing its relations with those other Grand Lodges with which it is in Fraternal accord.
In view of representations which have been received and of statements issued, which have distorted or obscured the true objects of Freemasonry it is considered necessary to emphasise are certain fundamental principles of the Order.
The first condition of admission into, and membership of, the Order is a belief in the Supreme Being. This is essential and bears no compromise.
The Bible, referred to by Freemasons as the Volume of the Sacred Law, is always open in Lodge. Every candidate is required to take to take his Obligation on that book or on the Volume, which is held by his particular creed, to impart sanctity to an oath or promise taken on it.
Everyone who enters Freemasonry is, at the outset, strictly forbidden to countenance any act which may have a tendency to subvert the peace and good order of society: he must pay obedience to the law of any state in which he resides or which may afford him protection, and he must never be remiss in the allegiance due to the Sovereign of his native land.
While English Freemasonry thus inculcates in each of its members the duties of loyalty and citizenship, it reserves to the individual the right to hold his own opinion with regard to public affairs. But neither in any Lodge, nor at any time in his capacity as a Freemason, is he permitted to discuss or to advance his views on theological or political questions.
The Grand Lodge has always consistently refused to express any opinion on questions of foreign or domestic policy, either at home or abroad, and it will not allow its name to be associated with any action, however humanitarian it may appear to be, which infringes its unalterable policy of standing aloof from every question affecting the relations between one government and another, or between political parties, or questions as to rival theories of government.
The Grand Lodge is aware that there do exist Bodies, styling themselves Freemasons, which do not adhere to these principles, and while that attitude exists the Grand Lodge of England refuses absolutely to have any relations with such Bodies, or to regard them as Freemasons.