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This page updated on
19 October 2008
A Beginners Guide to Freemasonry
The following information has been provided by The Grand Lodge of New Zealand, and is available on their website
http://www.freemasons.co.nz
Religious, family and community affiliations. It is a school of instruction and a system of moral and spiritual
philosophy as outlined in its rituals, lectures and teachings.
    Put simply, Freemasonry strives to make good men better.

    Who are Freemasons?
    Freemason's are men who share a common goal of:
    •        a belief in a Supreme Being
    •        high moral standards
    •        kindness in the home
    •        courtesy in society
    •        honesty in business
    •        fairness in all of their dealings.
    They seek a better way of life and treat all men as equal regardless of race, religion or social standing.

    What does Freemasonry stand for?
    Every true Freemason:
    •        shows tolerance and respect for the opinions of others and behaves with kindness an understanding
    to his fellow creatures
    •        practices charity and care for the community as a whole, as well as his own family through charitable
    giving and by voluntary work
    •        strives for the truth, requires high moral standards and aims to achieve them in his own life.
    Freemason's believe these three principles represent a way of achieving higher standards in life.

    What do Freemason's do?
    Freemason's are deeply involved in helping other people.
    They hold Lodge meetings once a month to share each others' company and follow their pursuit of a better
    way of life.
    They strive to enjoy the company of other Freemason's, assisting them in times of personal trouble and
    reinforcing essential moral values.
    Their most visible Masonic activity is charity, with Freemason's around the world giving away millions of
    dollars to charities every year. They are also actively involved in a great deal of community volunteer work.
    The charitable works of Freemason's are visible throughout New Zealand, as they are in other parts of the
    world.
    New Zealand Freemason's are very significant providers of aged care and health facilities provided through
    Masonic homes and hospitals, through the Masonic Chair of Gerontology and through Fellowships in
    paediatrics and other disciplines of medicine.

    How old is Freemasonry?
    No one knows just how old it is because its actual origins have been lost in time.
    The term "Freemason" appears as early as 1375 in the records of the City of London.
    The Regius Manuscript  in the British Museum, written around 1390 in the reign of King Richard II, contains
    almost 800 lines of rhymed English verse and points to the introduction of Masonry into England in the 10th
    Century.
    It sets out regulations for the society, including teaching duties to God, church and country, and makes
    repeated references to brotherhood.
    Excavations in the Libyan desert almost 100 years ago by the British Egyptologist and archaeologist, Sir
    William Petrie, uncovered a number of papyrus records including one that described secret meetings of a
    guild around 2000 BC which met to discuss working hours, wages and rules for daily labour. It convened in a
    chapel and provided relief to widows, orphans and workers in distress.

    How did Freemasonry evolve?
    It is generally accepted that the stone masons' guild of medieval times played a very important part in
    Freemasonry.
    The term "free" as in Freemason may refer to "freestone" masons, denoting the type of stone they worked.
    But it also indicated that the mason was not bound to the land as a serf, but was free to travel about the
    country to construct cathedrals and other significant buildings. This was quite remarkable in an age when
    almost no one travelled more than 20 miles from their homes in their entire lifetimes.
    Masons in the Middle Ages constructed many buildings, but particular attention has always focused on the
    great cathedrals. To build these marvels it was necessary for Masons to gather in large groups, sometimes
    moving from one finished cathedral or castle to the next.
    For mutual protection and to assist with education and training, the Masons gathered in a lodge - a building
    put up at the construction site where they could eat, rest, plan the construction project, receive their pay
    and socialise after work. This building was called a lodge and the term has remained down through the ages.
    The stone masons who built the great cathedrals of England and Europe had to have considerable
    knowledge of geometry, arithmetic and engineering. As a result, the Guild of Stone Masons  - including
    architects - became one of the few places of learning outside of the clergy.
    They used a series of rituals and procedures to teach their trade and by the 17th Century, as the number
    and status of Masons grew, Lodges began accepting honorary members who were not actually stone
    workers. The early Freemason's used these same rituals and teachings to instruct non-working Freemason's
    about the Craft.
    In 1717 four English Lodges met at the Goose and Gridiron Alehouse in London to form the first Grand Lodge
    of England. This meeting formalised the practices and procedures that had been observed by Freemason's
    for hundreds of years.
    From that time, Freemasonry spread from England to the Continent - particularly to France, Austria, Hungary
    and the Germanic states - and then to America and Latin America, and later to England's colonies.
    Freemasonry was introduced to Australia in 1803 and the first Lodge in New Zealand held its inaugural
    meeting in Akaroa in February 1843. It was a French Lodge known as the Francaise Primitive Antipodienne
    d'Akaroa. The Lodge had 12 founding members and was not formally founded until the issue of  its charter by
    the Grand Lodge of France in August 1843.   
    The Grand Lodge of New Zealand was founded in 1890.

    What is the significance of the Temple of King Solomon?
    According to the legends contained in its rituals, Freemasonry's origins date back to the construction of King
    Solomon's Temple as described in the Bible.
    Many of the characters mentioned in the books of Kings and Chronicles in the Hebrew Scriptures are
    encountered in the various degrees of Masonry.

    What happens at a Lodge meeting?
    There are two aspects of any Lodge meeting.
    The first is the same as the business meeting of any organisation, although it takes a little longer to call the
    meeting to order because Freemason's use a ceremony that is quite formal, drawing on elements from the
    very foundations of Masonry. This ceremony reminds Freemason's of the virtues they strive to live by.
    Once this aspect is completed, minutes and accounts are considered, and business is taken care of just like
    any other organisation.
    The second aspect of the meeting is the reception of new members. This is done in formal ceremonies that
    are centuries old and are designed to teach Freemason's important lessons and start them thinking about
    their own nature as spiritual beings.

    Symbols Of Freemasonry
    The most identifiable tools of Freemasonry are the square and compasses, represented on many Masonic
    buildings.
    These tools were used by stone masons in the design and construction of the great cathedrals. Other
    symbols include the common tools that were used by the medieval stone masons - the gavel, the rule, the
    level and so on.

    Is Freemasonry a Religious organisation?
    Freemasonry is not a religion, nor is it a substitute for a religion, although Freemason's share a common
    belief in a supreme power, according to the beliefs or customs of each individual.
    This is the essential qualification for admission to Freemasonry and continuing membership.
    Freemasonry goes beyond Religious boundaries and brings together men of every country, belief, sect and
    opinion in peace and harmony.
    Because religion can divide men it cannot be discussed within the Lodge.
    That does not mean that religion plays no part in Freemasonry. Masonic meetings open and close with a
    prayer, but no Freemason is told how he should pray or what he should pray to of for. He must find the
    answers to these questions in his own faith, in his own church, synagogue, shrine, temple or other place of
    worship according to his individual beliefs.
    Without interfering in Religious practice, Freemasonry expects each member to follow his own faith.

    Is Freemasonry a political organisation?
    No. Politics, like religion, cannot be discussed within the Lodge because of its tendency to divide.

    Is Freemasonry a business organisation? Are there business benefits from being a Freemason?
    No. Most Freemason's believe it is Un-masonic to trade with another member purely because he is a
    Freemason.
    However, Freemason's are friends and it is not surprising that many do trade with each other, because they
    know they are dealing with people who are of good character and can be trusted.
    But Freemasonry is not a place to network. Before joining, a potential Freemason is clearly told that he must
    not expect any special treatment in his daily work as a result of his membership.

    How is Freemasonry different from service clubs such as
    Rotary or Lions?
    In some respects they are similar, but Freemasonry is distinguished from other fraternal orders by its
    emphasis on moral character, its ornate rituals and long tradition and history.
    Belief in a Supreme Being and the three great principles of Freemasonry -
    tolerance and respect for the opinions of others; charity and caring for their own and for the community; and  
    striving for truth and high moral standards to achieve a better life -  make Freemasonry a way of life, rather
    than being a fraternal organisation with business and community interests.

    Why can't women join?
    Freemasonry is a fraternity - a brotherhood. The essence of the fraternity is that it is for men, just as the
    essence of sororities is that they are for women.
    It has become very fashionable of late to talk about male bonding. That is just a way of saying something
    that has been known for thousands of years; namely that it is important for men to have a few things that
    they do by themselves, just as it is for women.
    A man cannot become a Freemason without the support of his partner and family.

    Do you have to be invited to join?
    No! This is one of the most misunderstood aspects of Freemasonry. Men of good character are always
    welcome to apply for membership.  But a person must enter the fraternity because he wants to - not
    because he has been talked into it.
    Joining Freemasonry makes a permanent commitment to live in a certain way: to live with honour and
    integrity, to be willing to share and care for others, to trust each other and place ultimate trust in a Supreme
    Being.
    Freemason's believe no man should be talked into making a decision like this.

    How do you join?
    Any man who is at least 21 years old and believes in a Supreme Power may become a Freemason.
    There are very few formal requirements, but generally Freemason's believe in helping others and share a
    belief that there is more to life than pleasure and money. Freemason's should also be willing to respect the
    opinions of others and have a desire to grow and develop as people.
    When a man decides he wants to be a Freemason, he asks a Freemason for an application or might write to
    or visit a Lodge in his community.
    As with similar organisations and clubs, any application will be considered by a committee who may ask for
    character references and meet with the applicant to make sure he has been properly informed about
    Freemasonry.

    What should I do if I want to join?
    If you know a Freemason, ask him about membership. If you don't, write to your local Lodge or to the
    Freemason's New Zealand at P O Box 6439, Wellington. You can also check the Freemason's New Zealand
    website (www.freemasons.co.nz) or contact The Avon Shirley Lodge No 185.