The Frequently Asqued Questions


Summary

1. What is Freemasonry?
2. It is often said that Freemasonry is an initiating order. What does that mean?
3. Why is respect of the Ritual so important in Freemasonry?
4. What is a Rite in fact?
5. I heard of the G.O., the G.L., the D. H., the GLF and of the R.G.L.B. Are they the same?
6. What ties are there between Compagnonnage and Freemasonry?
7. Why does the Regular Masonry not accept women?
8. Does Freemasonry have a Supreme Chief?
9. Is Freemasonry a private club of elderly men? Will it survive beyond the 21st century?
10. Are Freemasons not racists or elitists?
11. Why does Freemasonry have a reputation for wheeling and dealing?
12. Is Freemasonry a secret society?
13. What about the famous masonic secret?
14. Is Freemasonry a sect?
15. Are Freemasons anticlerical?
16. Why do the Freemasons take their Obligations on the Bible? Why the Bible?
17. What about the masonic Obligation?
18. Can physically handicapped people become Masons?
19. Is it necessary to be wealthy to enter Freemasonry?
20. Having become a Mason, is it possible to leave Freemasonry?
21. I am looking for documents on the history of Freemasonry.
--- What do you advise me to do?
22. I would like to become a Freemason. What am I to do?
23. Why are visits to loges of another masonic Obedience forbidden?


1. What is Freemasonry?

Freemasonry is an organization composed of free men :

Freemasonry offers to the individual a boundless field of perception, reflection, meditation, creativity, friendship, dialogue and intellectual speculation.

Freemasonry suggests that the individual launches out into the cosmic space of spiritual adventure by unlimited questioning. It presents no answer whatsoever and imposes none.

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2. It is often said that Freemasonry is an Order, an initiating order.
What does that mean?

Freemasonry is an Order, which means that it is based on a structured and regulated organization. All the elements of this order, of this organization, of this structure constitute the Rule of the Masonic Order.

This Rule defines the foundation of the Masonic Regularity in all countries of the world. The Freemasons who observe this Rule are Regular Masons.

The traditional Masonic Rule has existed since at least the 14th century. Its oldest transcriptions in our possession are written in mediaeval English and date from 1390 (Regius Manuscript) and from 1400 (Cooke Manuscript). It can be found in numerous handwritten or printed documents, collectively called Old Charges.

The analysis of these Charges shows a number of permanent requirements, coined Landmarks in 1723 by Anderson in his Constitutions.

There are several versions of them, but all of them comprise the following unquestionable principles (landmarks):

Depending on the periods, places and rites, these principles may have been completed by several additions, but on pain of irregularity, none of them can ever be diminished or dropped.

Any Masonic Obedience that does not abide scrupulously to these principles would immediately be excluded from universal Freemasonry. That is what happened in Belgium and in France in 1872 and 1877 to the Grand Orients of these countries.

The justification of this strictness in the respect of the landmarks is the principle of continuity in time and space: it unites the Brethren of the past and the present within an uninterrupted chain of successive initiations.

Freemasonry is an Order, but it is an Initiating Order.
What does that mean?

Since the beginning of time, humanity has searched for answers to all its questions on suffering, death, love, good and evil, the sense of life, etc.

Some strive to perfect themselves in order to live a better life in their bodies, minds and hearts.

In that sense, the Masonic Initiation is a spiritual process of inner perfectioning. It offers no ready-made responses but it does give methodological instruments that enable all people to continue their personal research and to develop their own answers.

These tools apply to the deepest self of each of us. They are above words, which are unable to express the essential things, to say the ineffable, to translate the inexpressible.

They are the symbols that are put to work and transmitted by the initiating rites. The Masonic rites are formalized settings, all elements of which (words, gestures, objects, lights, music, etc.) are so many messages to be decoded, to be deciphered.

It is by this personal effort at a progressive interpretation of the rites that the process of inner perfection is started. Does it eventually result in perfection? Very rarely, and it would be immodest to think so. But the important part of the voyage is to progress; going forward with one's brethren, more than reaching the final destination…

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3. Why is respect of the Ritual so important in Freemasonry?

The Ritual is at one and the same time a means of communication, a vehicle of messages and a message in itself. But it also forms a collection of signs that mark and delimit a space of concepts and symbols. The moment of executing a ritual delimits a time laden with sense. Thus the ritual marks out a specific space and time within which every word and every gesture creates, carries and transmits sense. Respecting the ritual is also respecting the Brethren.

From an individual point of view, the ritual is like a book which offers many joys and discoveries to the one who makes the effort of learning how to read it. It uses a collection of symbols (objects, gestures, words, regalia, music, etc.) which convey the spiritual heritage of Freemasonry. So the ritual is the central, essential and unique tool of every Freemason's individual perfection.

From a collective point of view, the ritual is a common language shared by all Brethren in the world, which is alive, even when one does not understand the local language. In this sense the ritual is a universal language over and above words. It is also a cultural place where Brethren find each other in the sense of finding one's Brethren again in the rediscovery of fraternal love, but also in the sense of rediscovering oneself at the very source, far from the passions and noises of the profane world.

In general, each Lodge practices six basic rituals, to which several occasional rites must be added.

The basic rituals are:

Occasional rituals may be added, such as

All these basic rituals put together form a rite (see question n° 4).

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4. What is a rite in fact?

The word rite has two meanings. It designates any ceremonial, even anodyne ones (the handshake or the military salute, for example), but also all the rules and ceremonies applied in a hierarchical context. The Roman Catholic Church has its "Rites" (Roman, Greek, Maronite or Coptic) which are different modes or styles of communicating the Christian message. Likewise, Freemasonry transmits its degrees in ceremonies; the style and the climate of which differ with the "Rites". These differences reflect the local characteristics, the particular interests of the editors of rituals or the specific genius of every language.

However different they may be in the details, these "Rites" have a common foundation. This is the transmission of the initiations of Entered Apprentice, Fellow Craft and Master Mason. They use a terminology borrowed from the mediaeval corporations; the recourse to stone working as a symbolic support and a legend, reserved to the Master Mason's degree, freely inspired from the Bible.

This compulsory succession of initiations illustrates the major lesson of the Masonic Order : the perfectibility of humanity. It urges the follower to apply himself to the task that cannot be but unfinished.

The Regular Grand Lodge of Belgium practices, the following rites in French and Dutch: the Modern, French, Ancient and Accepted Scottish, Rectified Scottish and Philosophical Scottish. Also practiced in English are the New York and California rituals (the Anglo-Saxon countries prefer the term working, rather than the word "Rite" in the sense described above); in German, the rituals of the AFAM Grand Lodge of Germany and in Greek the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite.

In short, these Rites, restricted to the blue degrees (Entered Apprentice, Fellow Craft and Master Mason) can be defined as follows:

Modern (Belgian) Rite : a simplified version of the French Rite with numerous elements borrowed from the "Scottish" Rites. It is a legacy of the Belgian 19th century masonry and is written in present-day language.

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5. I heard of the GO (Grand Orient), the GL (Grand Lodge), the DH (Droit Humain), the GLF (Grande Loge Féminine) and of the RGLB (Regular Grand Lodge of Belgium).
Are they the same thing?

The answer is unequivocally negative. The principles guiding them are different, even though the appearances may suggest certain similarities.

In all these cases, we are dealing with lodges, grouped in federations under the supervision of a regulating national body, whose essential object is the communication of the three fundamental degrees of Freemasonry (Entered Apprentice, Fellow Craft, and Master Mason). That is where the similarity ends.

The Regular Grand Lodge of Belgium demands that all its followers state their belief in God, Supreme Being and called the Great Architect of the Universe. It does not define the Supreme Being and leaves each member total freedom to understand this concept in his own way. It requires its followers to take their obligations on a Sacred Book. It forbids discussions of religious or political subjects in the lodge; it recognizes no authority, local or foreign, superior to its own in the Masonic field; it admits only men over 21 years of age.

The other obediences named in the question have a different, or even opposed, attitude toward one or other of these points. These divergences exclude all common activity.

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Speculative Freemasonry, founded in England in 1717, subsequently spread over the different continents of the globe. At the end of last century, in those times of atheism, rationalism and militant scientism, the strict obligation to believe in the existence of God, Supreme Being, as well as the prohibition of discussing political and religious subjects in the Lodge, presented a problem to some who wanted to eradicate the Great Architect of the Universe. Thus the Grand Orients of Belgium and France deliberately left what is called Masonic Regularity, that is to say, the acceptance and the respect of all the fundamental rules and laws of what was defined as being genuine Freemasonry. Relations between these obediences and the totality of the Grand Lodges in the world were broken off.

In 1959, Freemasons wanting to regain ancestral regularity and to restore the ties with all Freemasons in the world, in their turn left the Grand Orient of Belgium and established the Grand Lodge of Belgium.

In 1979, following a deviation toward practices inconsistent with Masonic Regularity, the Grand Lodges of the whole world broke off their relations with the Grand Lodge of Belgium. Some of the Masons of the Grande Lodge of Belgium wanted to react against this state of affairs and, as of June 15, 1979, nine Lodges established the Regular Grand Lodge of Belgium. It was recognized by the Grand Lodges all over the world and since its creation has grown considerably in all parts of the country.

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6. What ties are there between Compagnonnage and Freemasonry?

Compagnonnage is composed of associations of workmen practicing a very precise trade: carpenters, locksmiths, cooks, etc. having particular rules of admission and organization.

One of the essential functions of Compagnonnage is the education of young people during their so-called Tour de France training periods.

The relationship between Freemasonry and Compagnonnage has been discussed over and over again. Compagnonnage. Was established as early as the 17th century, long before Freemasonry in its present form existed. Although there have never been any structured ties between the two organizations, in the 19th and 20th centuries a good number of Compagnons were also Freemasons. Mutual traits are obvious, especially from Freemasonry towards Compagnonnage, but the reverse is also true, all the more so as the Compagnons' societies have been much better than the Freemasons in keeping the secret of their traditions.

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7. Why does the Regular Masonry not accept women?

It is clear that speculative Freemasonry, which derived its symbolism from a typically male profession originated as a male organisation and has continued to develop without departing from the traditional Landmarks, which in fact are accepted by all the members as part of centuries old rules appertaining to the Royal Art.

In addition to this socio-historic context one has to take into account the specific type of work within the Lodges.  This affects the personality of the members.  They try to develop and experience their inner self in a serene atmosphere, in which one gets to know everyone’s better and less good sides, whilst not simply accepting the current rules of secular society.  The Lodge, after all, does not want to reproduce secular models in its ritual surroundings.

Admitting both sexes might carry a risk with regard to the creation and maintenance of a serene atmosphere.  It could lead to attitudes which cannot be reconciled with the personal search journey of a Freemason and the harmonious working of the group.

Moreover a Freemason cherishes great respect for and devotion to women and nothing in his masonic work would contradict this attitude.  Indeed  it does not in any way prevent him from regarding women as his equal in society.

A similar Masonic organisation exist for women.

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8. Does Freemasonry have a Supreme Chief?

The answer is no.

Freemasonry possesses hierarchical structures of responsibilities and decision - making but there is no question at all of a hierarchy of men, rather it is a hierarchy of functions.

The officers assume duties. Above all, they must serve their brethren. Their mandates are limited in time.

Moreover, there are two hierarchical dimensions that are totally distinct and independent.

On the one hand, there is an initiating authority.

On the other hand, there is an administrative power for the promulgation and application of the Statutes and General Regulations of the local Freemasonry. In Belgium the Regular Grand Lodge of Belgium exercises this administrative power. It is composed of all the delegates of the Lodges of the Obedience, as well as of the Grand Committee (managing body of the Regular Grand Lodge of Belgium). The number of delegates varies in function of the Lodge's membership; every Worshipful Master is an ex-officio delegate.

The Grand Committee is composed of the Grand Master and the principal Grand Officers. The Grand Master is elected for a term of three years. He chooses the members of the Grand Committee.

Thus the Grand Master is responsible to the Worshipful Masters for the good order and the good functioning of the Obedience. This includes the friendly relations with the Grand Lodges of the other countries, the promulgation and the respect of the Statutes, Constitutions and General Regulations of the Obedience and the consecration of new Lodges according to the Rules of the Order.

There is no formal international federation of the Grand Lodge in a "world-wide super-Grand Lodge". Each Obedience is national and does not submit to any foreign authority. Of course, there are international relations between the Masonic Obediences, comparable to the diplomatic relations among States, but no supranational organization has a regulating power. Each Grand Lodge sets its own criteria in the establishment or refusal of fraternal relations with other Grand Lodges.

The Basic Principles for the recognition of Grand Lodges adopted by the United Grand Lodge of England in 1929 are the best known. They are the regularity of origin, belief in God; taking oaths (called obligations) on the Volume of the Sacred Law (that is to say the Holy Book recognized as such by the petitioner); absolute sovereignty of the Grand Lodge over the three blue degrees (meaning independence from any higher-degree system); display of the Volume of the Sacred Law, the square and the compasses during the activities (the meetings); respect of the old Laws and Regulations.

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9. Is Freemasonry a private club of elderly men?

Will it survive beyond the 21st century ?

Though that is very quickly changing, it is true that Freemasonry for a long time recruited mature men in their forties or fifties. However, nowadays it is not unusual to see a young man of 25 or 30 receive the Light of the Masonic initiation.

In fact, age is of little importance. The important thing is the moral, intellectual and spiritual maturity of the petitioner. Becoming a Freemason is, above all, feeling co-responsible for the future of the world and humanity, without pride or impudent boasting. However, there is the conviction and the determination that anyone, on his own level, and around him, will be able, by making an effort on himself, to bring a little more joy and to alleviate a little more suffering. That requires courage, willpower, and conscience. That is the kind of maturity we speak about.

Will Freemasonry survive beyond the year 2000?

For the time being, the year 2000 means the future.

So the question is, "is there a long-term future for Freemasonry"?

Like every human creation, Freemasonry is not eternal, but it has a future.

First, Freemasonry will have the future that the Freemasons will prepare for it. They are free men, aware of their strengths and their weaknesses, of their dreams and their limitations. Freemasonry will be achieved by them and by them alone.

Moreover, throughout its centuries of existence, Freemasonry has developed a certain distance with regard to fashions. This is a way of ensuring its perpetuity for Freemasonry, even if sometimes its attachment to certain ancient principles is not always understood.

But, more profoundly, our world witnesses a radical change of paradigm. The rationalist era of the States, born from the Renaissance, is dying before our very eyes. A new era is opening, not opposed to rationalism, but over and beyond it. Today, other modes of Knowledge are necessary. The initiating ascetic is one of them.

Freemasonry conveys a vital hope to our world, which is in such a crisis.

That hope is twofold:

First a hope based on Freemasonry’s profound attachment to Humanism, for which man is the central concern, in the respect of ideas and differences.

Then there is a hope based on the efficiency of its symbolic and initiating methodology, more apt for the fulfillment of Man.

Together, these two expectations convey the following message: Man can grow up to be spiritually adult. He can free himself from certain ready-made answers. He himself must go in quest of his own truth.

The time has come for him to know that there is not now, never was and never will be a final and definitive answer. That absolute Truth is but a myth. That THE TRUTH is inaccessible.

That is probably what growing up to be spiritually adult is all about.

Faced with the confusion caused by this sudden awareness, Freemasonry offers a method of building up one's self through the love of others. That method, made up of rites and symbols, conveys only the tools. Only the craftsman cuts the stone. Nobody will do it for him. He is the sole master of his own talent. His Brethren can only encourage his effort, support him with their advice, assist him when the task becomes too heavy, sometimes guide him toward a darker or more difficult aspect of the craft or the work site, but they will never be able to take his place.

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10. Are Freemasons not racists or elitists?

Racism, in all its forms, is an aberration and an outrage.

Freemasonry condemns it without hesitation. Freemasons of all origins, religions, social classes and colours may testify to this immediately.

Does Freemasonry favour elitism?

Yes, in three ways:

Any person, no matter whom, can progress in the areas of spirituality, knowledge, know how, judgements and opinions. All humans can widen their ranges of perception and understanding. Everyone can learn and communicate. In fact, we can all perfect our view of life and conception of our roles in society.

This is the Mason’s intimate belief. If his vision of the state of Humanity advances, his new view will find the route to his heart.

If his heart shudders and bleeds faced with the abominations that can overwhelm people, his sentiments will encourage his mind and stimulate his intelligence with a view as to the action to be taken. For the individual, everything is linked together once he can overcome indifference.

A freemason asks neither privilege nor power. He knows that he is ignorant of and does not know The Truth but that he can look for it. In addition, he committed himself to keep his word of honour and remain faithful to his Obligation.

That requires respect of one’s self and of others.

Thus, when candidates apply, one does not recruit them but one checks that they are not going down the wrong road. Will they be happy in Freemasonry? Will they understand this elitism of the heart and mind, which is built by a fraternity which does not ask for anything in return. An elitism that feels the human condition and the poetry of things, which is open to differences, that understands beauty free from passing fashions, all this while marveling at Creation.

Neither recruitment nor selection but the convergence of individuals ready to walk together with others along the winding, difficult and humble paths of the learning process, in the acceptance of others, of sensitiveness, of generosity, but also of friendship, sincerity and affection.

In that way, Freemasonry is an elite, and proud to be one.

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11. Why does Freemasonry have a reputation for unscrupulous business dealings?

Unscrupulous business , like clientalisme, whether financial or political, are types of behaviour that are fundamentally incompatible with the Masonic ethic.

This reputation of unscrupulous business which some people attach to Freemasonry, has some historical roots. The most striking are clientelism and unscrupulous business developed by the Grand Orient of France during the entire Third Republic (1870-1940) when the majority of the people in power belonged to that organization. Another example is the so-called Masonic Lodge P2 in Italy in the 1980s..

But, in everyday life, is the friendship among Brethren not the breeding ground of arrangements, of schemes, of good deals, good business, etc. Isn't there a strong temptation to take advantage of this close friendly tie to establish undesirable deals?

In politics, as in business, friendship as complicite can be beneficial, just as it can turn out to be harmful.

They are beneficial when they do not harm anyone else, while at the same time helping to solve a real problem. There is no shortage of examples of cases where Masonic solidarity enabled people to relieve distress. One has only to cite the thousands of philanthropic projects that lodges carry oout everywhere around the world, discretly in europe and openly in America.

They are insidious and harmful when they favor the personal interests of friends to the detriment of third parties. Clearly, Freemasonry condemns that sort of doings

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12. Is Freemasonry a secret society?

Freemasonry is a closed association whose new members are co-opted. The list of members is confidential and is not published in any public document.

Every Freemason is free to reveal his own membership to anyone he wants, but he is not allowed to reveal that of another member. What is done and said in the Lodge is theoretically covered by the seal secrecy and must not be disclosed to non-masons. This requirement of confidentiality is in every respect comparable to that of any board of directors or any similar association !

But if Freemasonry is discreet, it does have secrets that are nothing other than the means of mutual recognition that were used in former days by masons of the trade, who were often illiterate. These secrets, which are nowadays described in works available to anyone, are used only for ritual purposes, during the different Masonic ceremonies.

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13. What about the famous masonic secret?

That famous masonic secret which has caused so much gossip for so long. Far too long!

The Masonic secret, like everything Masonic, is above all a symbol that must be decoded, deciphered, interpreted. That curious symbol has several roots.

The first root is historical: the operative Freemasons were craftsmen, often illiterate, who possessed real know-how. We need only visit a basilica such as Vézelay or a cathedral such as Chartres or Reims to realize the miracle that those buildings represent.

In order not to be corrupted or distorted, the craft rules had to be kept secret. Any new mason had to swear, on pain of the most terrible sanctions (…to have his throat cut, his heart torn out, his intestines extirpated…) to keep all the secrets of the craft sacrosanct and to reveal them only to a person duly recognized as a mason of the craft. As means of recognition, secret words, signs and tokens were and are still used.

The second root is sociological : in catholic countries, mainly in the 19th century, the church frequently condemned Freemasonry. Moreover, nazism and communism, like all totalitarian regimes, are terribly allergic to Freemasonry, which conveys messages of liberty, tolerance and difference. Masons died in camps and gulags next to Jews and Gypsies.

That condemnation and those persecutions caused a certain obsession with secrecy in many Masons. That obsession is less justified nowadays, but old habits die hard and it is true that in certain circles, declaring openly that one is a Freemason may lead to problems, notably of a professional nature. That explains why, in our countries, it is the rule never to reveal the membership of any living Freemason without his express permission.

The third root is psychological: it only expresses the idea that fraternal love, complicity, serenity and peace of mind and soul require a certain intimacy. And that intimacy is only possible in the background, in secluded places.

Together those three reasons are sufficient to explain why Freemasonry is not a secret but a discreet society.

But there is also a fourth and even more serious root, of a symbolic and initiating nature. The Masonic initiation triggers off, in the deepest self of the individual, a process of perfecting which cannot be expressed to a person who does not experience it himself.

Everything or nearly everything has been revealed on Freemasonry. Bookshops abound with works, more or less relevant, authentic or serious, which reveal the rituals, the passwords, the handshakes. Yet the fact remains that the real secret of Freemasonry is incommunicable to anyone who is not a Freemason. As early as the 18th century this anonymous, well-known sonnet could be heard:

Pour le public, un Franc-Maçon
Sera toujours un vrai problème,
Qu’il ne saurait résoudre à fond
Qu’en devenqnt Maçon lui-même

(To the ordinary man a Freemason / will always be a real mystery / that he will only be able to solve / by becoming a Mason himself)

It is from the common effort, work and struggle that understandings and fraternities beyond all words are born: that is the essence of the one and real Masonic secret that nobody will ever be able to betray.

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14. Is Freemasonry a sect?

No, it is not. It has no dogma and does not impose any belief. It brings together people who share the conviction that man is perfectible. Masons are neither militants nor crusaders; they do not try to convert anyone.

Entry into Freemasonry is a maturely considered act and is free from any constraint. Freemasonry does not exert any coercive power on its members, who have joined it of their own free will and may likewise leave it. It does not communicate any philosophical or other doctrine, which is presented as the supreme truth. Neither is it a religion and it accepts the faithful of every monotheistic religion, as well as any believer, even if he does not recognize any of the organized religions.

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15. Are Freemasons anticlerical?

Freemasonry cannot be anti-religious as it demands of its members that they believe in God whom they are free to define. Neither can it be anticlerical, for such attitude is in the first place a political stand. That sort of thing does not interest freemasonry.

Nevertheless, the anticlerical deviation of French, Italian and Belgian Masonry in the 19th and 20th centuries obediences is an unquestionable fact. Even today it cuts a deep rift between the so-called regular masonry (Anglo-Saxon, Scandinavian and European) and the others (Grand Orients or Grand Lodges of France and Belgium, Droit Humain and others, confined to the Latin countries).

This deviation is the result of two factors: the condemnation of Masonry by the Catholic Church and the bi-polarisation of political life in the Latin countries. The first removed the Catholics from the Lodges (and they were numerous there in the 18th century), which became refuges of the supporters of secularity. The second stressed the antagonism of both parties, which found its expression, among other things, in the language used in the lodge and elsewhere, by anti-clericals who had become Freemasons.

At present, the situation tends to be normalized: the Regular Grand Lodge of Belgium, like all the Obediences with which it is in communication, adopts a position of strict neutrality in this domain.

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16. Why do Freemasons take their Obligations on the Bible?

Why the Bible?

Since eternity, Freemasons have always taken their oaths on a book that they consider sacred and which lends a solemn and irrevocable character to their commitment.

As a matter of course, in Western countries, that book was the Bible. Nowadays, the candidate-Freemason takes his oath on the sacred book of his choice.

So it is important to state that the Freemasons whose personal religious roots are not reflected in the Bible can, without any problem, take their oath on the Sacred Volume of their choice, opened next to the Bible. Thus, throughout the world, it is not rare to see on the altar of the Masonic Lodges, near the Bible, a Moslem Koran, a Hebrew Torah, the Hindu Bhagavad Crîta, etc.

In a word, the nature of the sacred vehicle is not important, provided it is present.

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17. What about the masonic Obligation?

Whenever the oath is taken, in the main it repeats the same thing, which is both of an apparent simplicity and an intense profundity.

It comprises three points, combined in variable ways:

These oaths are taken on the Volume of the Sacred Law, so that the one taking them commits himself toward his deepest self on the element most sacred to him. The holy Book opened on the altar is the symbol of this.

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18. Can physically handicapped people become Freemasons?

Yes, they can, provided that their handicap does not prevent them from participating in the meetings, for otherwise Masonry will be of no help whatsoever to them.

If one becomes handicapped after having acquired the quality of a Freemason, one remains a Freemason and the Brethren find a way to pursue the relationship.

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19. Is it necessary to be wealthy to enter Freemasonry?

No, it is not. It is clearly less expensive than smoking. Freemasonry does not impose a sacrifice, but a choice.

The cost of membership of Freemasonry is relatively reasonable. The annual subscription to the running costs of the Lodge is generally situated between 125 € and 250 €, part of which is refunded to the Obedience to cover its own expenses.

At every Lodge meeting a Widow’s box, or charity box, or solidarity box is handed round and everyone can donate the alms he wishes to give (usually 2.5 €). These donation are used to finance the philanthropic actions that the Lodges organize individually or collectively.

In many Lodges it is the tradition that the Brethren often dine together after the meeting. In theory these meals are optional, but fraternally they are much desired. Depending on the Lodges, they cost between  10 € and 25 €, drinks included.

Finally, in Lodges with a bar, the nights may, if one so wishes, carry on later and this entails expenses for various drinks (generally offered at lower prices than at the pub!).

The majority of the Lodges meet between 15 and 25 times a year. So that means a normal basic budget of some 625 € per year, everything included.

As the case may be, for those who want visit other regular national or foreign Lodges, the cost may be increased by travel expenses.

However, an important remark must be made: an old and well practiced rule, unwritten but applied as a matter of course, is that a Mason must never cause his family to suffer misery on account of his membership in Freemasonry. Consequently, if the entry into Freemasonry should prove injurious to the petitioner's family, his initiation would be postponed until his situation permits it.

If a Freemason should suffer a financial setback that causes difficulties for him to meet his financial obligations towards his Lodge, Masonic solidarity would very quickly and very discreetly come into operation.

Finally and more generally, as a spiritual, initiating and fraternal movement, Freemasonry does not practice any cult of money in any form whatsoever. Everything works by the law of benevolence. A candidate for initiation is always judged only according to his qualities as a Man and not in function of his fortune, to which we are entirely indifferent.

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20. Being a Freemason, is it possible to leave Freemasonry?

Of course! Whenever one wants. The oath is a commitment of honor that does not exclude voluntary departure. But it is a profound failure, both for the one who leaves and for his Lodge.

Several legends keep up the idea that the Freemasons take vengeance for the treason of those who leave - legends that are kept alive by the terms vengeance degrees or avenger of Freemasonry but that only refers to purely symbolic ideas. Reality is much simpler and more pragmatic: whoever wants to leave can do so, any time he wants.

When a Freemason leaves his Lodge, it is a sad event, comparable to the end of a love-story. It is a divorce and a divorce always means tearing, wounding and bleeding. And that goes for both parties. What a waste! What a pity! What a loss of time, effort and love!

Although it does not occur very often, it does happen and the Brethren who choose to leave do not lose their friends as such. The Masonic initiation is ineffaceable, just like any striking recollection. In the heart of the one who leaves. In the hearts of those who stay.

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21. I am looking for documentation on the history of Freemasonry.

What do you advise me to do?

The works on this subject are innumerable and are to be found in numerous bookshops. Unfortunately, most of the time, they are confined to shelves devoted to the occult or to astrology, parallel medicine and other fantasies. These works contain the best and the worst; a beginner cannot sort the wheat from the chaff!

The best thing is no doubtless to start by consulting a good Bibliography on the subject and then to trust the works suggested.

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22. I would like to become a Freemason. What am I to do?

Entry into Freemasonry can be achieved through two very different channels.

Most of the time, the process functions step by step. A friend, neighbor or colleague asks you for a private conversation. He reveals that he is a Mason and tells you he would be very happy to share this experience with you. That is the beginning of a dialogue that will establish a relationship between the two of you, soon to be shared with his Brethren in Freemasonry.

More rarely, but quite regularly, that kind of encounter is expected by the petitioner, but does not materialize. In that case, things are quite simple. It is enough to send a letter of application for the attention of the Secretary's Office at the Regular Grand Lodge of Belgium, 265 rue Royale, 1030 Brussels (Belgium). The application letter must contain:

Nothing more, nothing less.

Then, according to where you live, the Regular Grand Lodge will send your application to the Lodge of its Obedience closest to your home, and the process will start.

That process may differ slightly depending on the Lodge, but the following stages are always indispensable :

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23. Why do we forbid visits to lodges of irregular Obediences?

The reason is simply one of loyalty, that is to say, a freemason’s faithfulness to his commitment, as well as, a question of reason, logic and coherence.

Loyalty

A rare, demanding but essential virtue.

All Masonic edifices are built on their members’ ability and determination, confirmed by an Obligation, to respect the Constitution and General Rules of the Obedience and these rules explicitly state this ban.

The Regular Mason is bound by this rule in the same way as he is by all other rules. There can be no discussion about respecting one’s word of honour.

Reason, logic and coherence.

Of course, everyone has the right to ask why this ban exists. To understand this one must go back too the essentials of masonry.

Freemasonry is an initiating Order; an organism to which one accedes through an initiation, that is to say, by revelation, by sharing philosophical knowledge, by a specific method and atmosphere conducive to the respect of the individual and of his personal fulfillment.

Initiation is based on an entity composed of:

That is why each Obedience has its own identity and particular nature. All of this is completely logical.

In addition, an Obedience only federates and brings together lodges that accept and share, by thoughts and actions, everything stated in its Constitution and General rules and that is what marks out its initiating specificity.

Therefore, and coherently, the very notion of initiation excludes the possibility of receiving any person in a Masonic lodge who has not been subject to initiation according to the references of regular masonry.

Recognition.

This is an important concept. The regular lodges belong to Obediences that subscribe to the same initiation references. In other words, the very idea of visits to lodges of irregular Obediences and the concept of initiation are totally incompatible. By such an act, a regular freemason would deny the very essence of his initiation and would despise his oath.

Yet, one can have the most friendly, fraternal and fruitful relations, in the profane fields of human existence, with men and women who live an experience similar to ours in certain respects but which are, nevertheless, different. That is why we respect their commitment. In fact, some irregular lodges start their meetings in regular ways. It is only their membership of their Obedience that deprives us of a guaranty of the permanence of the regularity of their work.

For the profane, what separates the Regular Grand Lodge of Belgium from the other Obediences might appear insignificant. In reality, the distance that separates them on certain subjects is really cosmic and irreducible.

For the Regular Grand Lodge of Belgium there can be no confusion about the concept of initiation nor any compromise on either this question or on the sense of the term "an initiating Order".