What is Freemasonry?
"Pure, ancient, Freemasonry" consists of several distinct stages of progression. These are the "Craft" degrees administered in a Lodge (and associated with the colour blue) plus the "Royal Arch" administered in a Chapter (and associated with the colour red). To gain a full understanding of Freemasonry, it is necessary to progress through all the stages, illustrated on the left.
Freemasonry is open to both men and women, although we choose to meet separately in male Lodges and in female Lodges. They are controlled independently by a male Grand Lodge and a female Grand Lodge.
A person becomes a Freemason by being initiated into a Lodge - this is the First Degree, and is a powerful ceremony designed to make a lasting impression on the mind of the candidate.
Later he will progress further by being passed to the Second Degree and raised to the Third Degree. There is an additional ceremony by which he may be installed as Master (ruler) of his Lodge, if elected by the members.
The interval between these stages varies enormously from Lodge to Lodge, but it usually takes between one and three years to progress through all three degrees.
Next, the member moves on to the supreme Order of the Holy Royal Arch of Jerusalem. The Royal Arch is more spiritual in content, and the ceremony of the Royal Arch degree is particularly beautiful. Following a change in regulations, a Freemason who has taken the first three degrees may now proceed directly (after a gap of at least a month) to the Royal Arch degree, even if he has not served as Master of his Lodge.
His understanding of Freemasonry is completed by installation into the 3rd, 2nd, and 1st Principals' chairs of the Chapter: these three Principals rule the Chapter conjointly. The individual member must progress through each of these three Principals' chairs in turn, spending at least a year in each office, before he has reached the pinnacle of Freemasonry.
This whole journey will take a number of years to complete. Along the way, the member will encounter a great deal of learning about himself and about the world around him; he will learn about his God, and will be actively encouraged to participate in, and support, his own religion (Freemasonry is not open to atheists). He will also encounter an amazing level of friendship and fraternal goodwill. There will be social activity, shared meals, and a network of established charities to support him and his family should hard times come. He will also be taught to support non-Masons and non-Masonic charities to the best of his ability and means. Above all, he will find he has a new and better perspective on life, and it is our sincere belief that whatever his starting point, he will be a better man for the principles he has learned in Freemasonry.