A question I am often asked is regarding networking within Freemasonry; can Freemasonry help me expand my personal network? From this question I assume is meant for the purpose of business or personal gain, or maybe both.
I am not going to explain “networking” in this article as I assume the reader is fully conversant with this term, but it must be admitted that we, in Freemasonry, meet many people from many professions and trades in our lodges and even more if you enjoy visiting other lodges. After all, there is an estimated 5 million or more regular Freemasons located in most corners of the world.
Some young (and older) professionals put a great deal of emphasis on their personal and business networks, from the need to share or gain professional information or marketing with the aim of opening doors to better career opportunities (and more), and it cannot be denied that many of these professionals are Freemasons.
Many people are, and have been since its evolution from stonemasons guilds, very confused as to the real purpose of Freemasonry. Medieval stonemasons had “the Mason’s Word” which they were sworn by an obligation to keep secret from the public, and their ceremonies were also kept secret as this was where travelling stonemasons were tested and newly made fellows and apprentices learned this “secret Mason Word.” As Freemasonry evolved into what it is today, and because of this “secrecy,” many conspiracy theories have abounded, and unfortunately still do. This included the mistaken belief that secret political and business dealings were conducted in “secret” meetings, which, of course, is not true. In those early days of Freemasonry, many were members of parliament, Dukes, Earls, etc., even Monarchs became members, but there was also many professionals, merchants, trades and undoubtably stonemasons too. Strangely, this is similar today.
Let’s examine the age when the stonemasons guild was at the heart of all work performed by fellows and their apprentices of the guild. There were many rules in the ‘Old Charges” that related to stonemasons at work, one demanding explicitly that:
“you shall not supplant any of your fellows of their work.”
This was the first instruction relating to the work of other stonemasons. The very existence of these craft guilds was to regulate, govern, find and share all the work undertaken by their members, stonemasons guilds included. Stonemasons guilds were also charitable organisations with respect, not just to their local members, but to all stonemasons, especially when it came to work, or lack of it. Stonemasons travelled extensively for work and through the network of their guilds, places of work would be “networked.” So a stonemason who possessed the “Mason Word” would travel to where there was work, and if on arrival there was none available, the lodge (or guild) of stonemasons at the worksite would feed and shelter the one seeking work and, if necessary, provide cash from their charity book and send their fellow craftsman on his way, hopefully with a good tip on where work for his skills could be acquired. Another extract from the 1723 “Charges of a Freemason,” which are an interpretation of one of the “Old Charges” states in part:
“if he is in want you must relieve him, or else direct him how he may be relieved, you must employ him some days, or else recommend him to be employed.”
So the real purpose of networking in Freemasonry in medieval times was to support fellow craftsmen to find work, or feed and house the travelling stonemason as he sought out work. Today, the only networking to be found within our organisation is that of social networking, encouraging friendships to be made and for each Freemason to assist their “brothers” in this way or to “relive their necessities,” but only within their personal ability. As it evolved into the Freemasonry we know today, this also evolved into the charitable society it is today, having now moved from a member only charity to also providing charitable funds to non Freemasons.
So the networking in Freemasonry is simply social networking, promoting friendships among fellow Freemasons, looking after each other when times are hard, but on no account may Freemasonry be used for business networking or expanding you own network for personal gain. Every candidate for Freemasonry today is told, and he/she must agree before admittance into our society, that on no account should the reason for joining be to network for personal gain. If found that there has been any attempt to do this, then he/she is likely to be expelled from the order. The only type of networking promoted by Freemasonry is simply for friendship; Freemasonry being a place where new friends are made. We allow no politics nor business dealing, no “secret” deals, nothing in fact that could cause the “harmony of the Lodge to be disturbed.”
These articles are written by W Bro Steve Froggatt PPJGD, current Chaplain of Neptune Lodge No 5150 EC. Steve was initiated into Freemasonry in 1986.They do not represent the view of any Grand/Provincial Grand Lodge.
© Copyright 2019 Al-Khabar/Stephen Froggatt all rights reserved