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What is Freemasonry?

Freemasonry is the oldest and largest fraternal organization in the world. Its members share a common goal of helping each other become better men. Its body of knowledge and system of ethics is based on the belief that each man has a responsibility to improve himself while being devoted to his family, faith, country, and fraternity. Its roots go back centuries and its members are diverse: high profile leaders, physicians, construction workers, farmers…and maybe you.

Is Freemasonry a secret society?

No, Freemasonry is not a secret society. We clearly communicate our presence (this website is just one example of that!), buildings are clearly marked, and many cars feature the familiar Masonic logo. Freemasonry does, however, have a few key secrets that are used for two primary reasons: (1) to prove to each other that we are Masons, and (2) as a bond between members – showing that we can honourably keep our secrets.

What are the secrets of Freemasonry?

Following the practice of the ancient stonemason guilds, Freemasons use special handshakes, words, and symbols to not only to identify each other, but to help, as William Preston said in 1772, “imprint upon the memory wise and serious truths.” Although every Freemason takes an obligation — and vows to keep the secrets of Masonry — it doesn’t matter to him that you can find the secrets in print; what matters is that he keeps his promise. And the secrets he is protecting are only used to help Masons become better men; and there’s certainly no secret surrounding what it takes to be good and true.

Is Freemasonry a type of religion?

No, Freemasonry is not a religion and does not pretend to be a substitute for religion. It is a fraternity, and its members are encouraged to follow their own paths when it comes to religion.

What happens at a lodge meeting?

The meeting is typically in two parts. As in any association there is a certain amount of administrative procedure – minutes of last meeting, proposing and balloting for new members, discussing and voting on financial matters, election of officers, news and correspondence. Then there are the ceremonies for admitting and advancing new Masons.

Where and when are the meetings held for Victoria Lodge?

We meet at 6:30 pm on the 1st and 3rd Tuesday of each month (with break in the summer) at Toronto West Masonic Temple – at 151 Annette Street in Toronto.

How much does it cost to become a Freemason?

On entry, there is an initiation fee and an apron to buy. Members pay an annual subscription to the lodge which covers membership and the administrative cost of running the lodge (including food at each meeting).

How many Freemasons are there?

There are 3.2 million Masons across the world and more than 47,000 in Ontario.

Isn’t ritual out of place in a modern society?

Not at all. In fact we think society benefits from it even more in these fast-paced times. The ritual is a shared experience which binds the members together. Its use of drama, allegory and symbolism impresses the principles and teachings more firmly in the mind of each candidate than if they were simply passed on to him in matter-of-fact modern language.

Are Freemasons expected to prefer fellow Masons at the expense of others in giving jobs, promotions, contracts and the like?

Absolutely not. That would be a misuse of membership and subject to Masonic discipline. On his entry into Freemasonry each candidate states unequivocally that he expects no material gain from his membership.

Why don’t you have women members?

Traditionally, Freemasonry has been restricted to men, as the early stonemasons were all male. These days, most organizations in society are co-ed – social groups, sports programs, etc. Freemasonry provides men a place to develop life-long brotherly relationships.

How and where did Freemasonry start?

It is not known, but it is well documented that the first recorded initiation in England was that of Sir Robert Moray (one of the outstanding Scots of the seventeenth century) on 20th May 1641. This took place in a Scottish Lodge just outside of Newcastle upon Tyne when the Scots Army was laying siege to Newcastle upon Tyne. A meeting of the Lodge of Edinburgh, St. Mary’s Chapel took place and Sir Robert Moray was initiated. The earliest recorded making of a Freemason in an English Lodge is that of Elias Ashmole in 1646. Organised Freemasonry began with the founding of the Grand Lodge of England on 24 June 1717, the first Grand Lodge in the world. Ireland followed in 1725 and Scotland in 1736. All the regular Grand Lodges in the world trace themselves back to one or more of the Grand Lodges in the British Isles.

There are two main theories of origin. According to one, the operative stonemasons who built the great cathedrals and castles had lodges in which they discussed trade affairs. They had simple initiation ceremonies and, as there were no City and Guilds certificates, dues cards or trade union membership cards, they adopted secret signs and words to demonstrate that they were trained masons when they moved from site to site. In the 1600s, these operative lodges began to accept non-operatives as “gentlemen masons”. Gradually these non-operatives took over the lodges and turned them from operative to ‘free and accepted’ or ‘speculative’ lodges. The other theory is that in the late 1500s and early 1600s, there was a group which was interested in the promotion of religious and political tolerance in an age of great intolerance when differences of opinion on matters of religion and politics were to lead to bloody civil war. In forming Freemasonry, they were trying to make better men and build a better world. As the means of teaching in those days was by allegory and symbolism, they took the idea of building as the central allegory on which to form their system. The main source of allegory was the Bible, the contents of which were known to everyone even if they could not read, and the only building described in detail in the Bible was King Solomon’s Temple, which became the basis of the ritual. The old trade guilds provided them with their basis administration of a Master, Wardens, Treasurer and Secretary, and the operative mason’s tools provided them with a wealth of symbols with which to illustrate the moral teachings of Freemasonry.