Another misunderstanding surrounding Freemasonry is “how do I join,” or how do the Freemasons select new members? I will approach this from the time I joined to how new memberships works today. In both cases the fundamental criteria is you must ask and offer yourself to membership of you own free will.
If you have been approached to join Freemasonry by someone you don’t know then the most likely outcome is that you have been approached by a clandestine lodge, so beware.
I joined the Freemasons in 1986, and at this time in England, and probably most of the rest of the world too, Freemasons were quite secretive. An invitation to join is never made, although I am sure that a hint or suggestion may have been made, even back then. No such hint came my way so I had to find a friend who was already a Freemason, not an easy task in 1985.
At every opportunity I had I would mention “Freemasonry” whilst chatting to my friends until one said “did you know that “Twiggy” (a nickname a friend we both knew) was a Mason?” At last, I found a friend and asked. Yes, I asked because that is the basic way new members are found. His answer was, ask Ted, you know him better than you know me, and I’ll second the proposal.
Well, you may now think that’s it then, but there was a long way to go yet. First, as I now know, a new candidate’s approval is a long process and it generally begins with general discussion among the members of the lodge and, if the general consensus is favourable, you are visited at home by two Past Masters (senior lodge members) when the rest of your family is present (assuming you have a family as this is not a requirement). You and your wife/partner are then interviewed in a friendly manner, mainly to ascertain that you are prepared to commit time to your lodge and that your wife/partner is also acceptable of the fact that you will be committing to regular attendance at your lodge meetings, which can range from 4 to 10 months a year or so, more of course if you become a member of the General Purposes Committee (GPC), and then you are doubling your commitment. It will be pointed out to both of you that there is a cost associated with Freemasonry, an annual fee, your regalia and, if within your ability, we are a very charitable organisation. Also, and very importantly, at some stage you will personally be asked if you believe in a Supreme Being (God) as this is a fundamental requirement for membership of regular Freemasonry.
As the initiation into Freemasonry is best experienced without prior knowledge of the proceedings, we Freemasons do our best to give little away.
After this interview, the two Past Masters will report back to the GPC and if they think you’re unsuitable it ends there, but if they are in favour then their report will be positive and you move forward to the next stage, which is an interview in front of the whole GPC where preset questions are asked (and others too), the very first one to be asked (again) is “do you believe in a Supreme Being.”
You will be asked why you want to join. This question is especially important as if it is your intention to tap into Freemason’s large membership base to further your career, or worse, to sell your wares, then you will be rejected and told in no uncertain terms that Freemasons do not support this type of behaviour.
You will also be asked have you been coerced into membership, what do you think you can offer Freemasonry, a whole series of questions relating to your suitability as a member of that particular Lodge. A criminal record, prison, etc. would instantly exclude you from joining.
You will then be excused but may remain to chat after the GPC meeting, especially if held in a room at the Masonic Hall (even more especially if there is a bar). Your membership will be discussed, but you will not be told the outcome, as there is still more to come.
So, to recap, membership of Freemasonry is by your own request, you will never be recruited. You must show categorically that you freely and willing offer yourself a candidate and that you come “unbiased by improper solicitation of friends, and uninfluenced by mercenary or other unworthy motive,” and that you are over 21 years (18 if a Lewis (son of a Freemason) or a student today).
Not done yet!! You will then be proposed and seconded in open lodge and, one meeting later (usually) there will be a ballot where black and while balls are issued to each member for voting, white ball is approval, black is rejection, three or more black balls will exclude (in my lodge, others may differ). If it is your intention to “black ball” the candidate, then it is expected you will inform the Master, Proposer or Seconder of your intentions, prior to the ballot, such that any appropriate action can be taken before any embarrassing vote.
Finally, you will be invited to your initiation by letter and, before you will be admitted into Freemasonry, you must sign a declaration proving that you come freely, haven’t been coerced, and are prompted by a favourable opinion conceived of the institution, and have paid the necessary fees. It will be announced that you have signed and paid and the ceremony of your initiation will begin.
As stated at the beginning, there is a “then and now” procedure, which differs only slightly from my experience in 1986 to today, due to the Internet. Today you can now apply online (in England and in other Countries too) which avoids the need to find a Freemason, although today it is much easier to know whether your friends are Freemasons. In UGLE you can request joining information at their website or any of the Provinces/Districts. The process then will be for the Province or District to ascertain your interests and then select a suitable lodge and the above process will then begin, so there are no short cuts.
When choosing to join a Freemason’s lodge it is important that you will fit in with the membership as this is a life long commitment, unlike Rotary, in Freemasonry you really do need to know that you are prepared to become a worthwhile member of the lodge and of Freemasons in general. Our ritualistic system relies on newer members progressing by taking part in the ceremony, taking an office which will progress you eventually into the Master’s Chair, and, after you become a Past Master, offer other services such as Secretary, Treasures, and others (even Chaplain), or as a stand-in officer should one be unable to attend; there are many things you can do should you wish to.
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