An open and sensible approach to Freemasonry could have a significant impact on public perceptions of the Craft, according to Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes
Very often one will be asked how one came to join Freemasonry. In most cases it will have been knowing people who are masons and showing an interest in and asking questions about the subject. The next stage then should have been to meet other members of the lodge and for both sides to ensure that the various ramifications and responsibilities of being a member are out in the open.
I believe that it is important to let people know that we are not an organisation that goes hunting for members for the sake of numbers, but that we do encourage strongly those who show a genuine interest in finding out more about the subject. We should stress that Freemasonry is about the quality of the person who joins.
We must not forget that anyone can go into Letchworth’s and buy a copy of our ritual. If they read it, they will find very few aspects that are not fully explained. It is important to explain to people that there are very few things we keep private in masonry and these are restricted to a few words and signs.
We must also acknowledge that the language used in our rituals is somewhat archaic, but we become used to it and enjoy it. However, some of the wording is not appropriate to explaining ourselves to outsiders. One of the obvious examples of this is that we would never explain to an outsider our relationship with another as, ‘doing unto him as we would that he would do unto us’. Instead, we would say something like, ‘we try to treat others as we hope that they would treat us’. To put it another way, this isn’t rocket science.
I am also often asked what benefits can be derived from being a mason. My first response is always to say what someone must most certainly not expect is an improvement in his business fortunes. There is no doubt that there is still a body of opinion that feels that a lot of business is conducted between Freemasons that is to the detriment of others. I have done a lot of business with and for Freemasons, often without finding out until later that we were both members. Personally, I have never seen a case where it has been to the detriment of others. It would be wrong for us to categorically deny that this has never occurred. However, dare I say, I am confident that this would be considerably less so among Freemasons than members of many other organisations.
We then move on to what benefits a member can expect and I think it is important to stress that people will find many different benefits the more involved they become. At the outset it is reasonable to expect that, if they join a lodge, they will be among men who behave in a way in which they, themselves, would approve.
You will be thinking that I have left out an important aspect: our charities. It is all too easy, when asked what we do, to simply say that we do a vast amount of charitable work. I most certainly am not saying don’t talk about our charities, quite the reverse, but don’t use our charities to avoid answering more fully what we are all about. Above all stress that we are all in masonry for the immense amount of enjoyment that we derive from our membership.