One of the most effective ways of promoting Freemasonry is through word of mouth.
However, many brethren have found it difficult to express to their friends, work mates and family,
what the essence of n Freemasonry is and what it means to them.
Some find it difficult to condense the meaning of Freemasonry into a few sentences,
without using jargon or sounding trite.
Others may not know how to introduce the topic of Freemasonry into a conversation,
without feeling embarrassed or obtrusive.
Brethren, almost totally, are unaware of how much information they should disclose and
some even feel unqualified to talk at all about Freemasonry.
In this sense, the most frequently asked question is, "what can I tell people".
This section is intended to answer this question and also give some helpful hints about how to broach
the subject confidently about Freemasonry with non-freemasons.
This also provides a list of references to help you and your interested friends research Freemasonry.
Starting the Conversation|
The way of introducing Freemasonry into conversation should be the same as introducing
any other topic of conversation, genuinely and positively.
You should never apologise for being a Freemason or talking about your Freemasonry.
On the contrary, you should always feel free to express your pride for the fraternity.
Rather than start with Freemasonry, you might introduce other topics into
a conversation which lead to talking about Freemasonry.
For example, conversation about your child's education could lead to a discussion
about the Masonic Scholarships programme and similar programmes in Lodges around the State.
This in turn could lead to a broader discussion on Freemasonry and
what it has to offer to individuals and the community.
"Did you know that Freemasons Victoria contributes over $200,000 a year to support the education
of secondary and post secondary students, through its scholarship programme.
This coupled with other charitable effects means that well over $1,000,000 per year
is donated to local, State wide and international causes.
While charity is one of the fundamental principles of Freemasonry,
it also offers opportunities for self development and an appreciation that a principled way of life,
based on treating everyone with dignity and respect, is how we should all live our lives.
There is no guarantee that your efforts to discuss Freemasonry will always be met with interest,
let alone enthusiasm, but one thing is guaranteed, awkward attempts to persistently steer a conversation
towards Freemasonry or to badger a friend into joining, will ultimately do more harm than good.
If you know someone who you think would enjoy Freemasonry, rather than
thrusting joining papers into his hands or taking him away for a hushed conversation,
invite him to your lodge's next social function, its next festive board,
and open night or an open meeting of Grand Lodge.
The invitation alone will likely begin a conversation about Freemasonry and
it places no immediate pressure on him to join.
Reinforce that you are not putting pressure on him to join and point him in the direction of references,
such as those listed below, so he can research Freemasonry in his own time and to the extent that
will allow him to make an informed decision about whether he would like to pursue membership.
Answering Questions about Freemasonry
The general public knows very little about Freemasonry and what it does know is largely
based on information in the public domain, some of which is misguided and misleading.
Talking about Freemasonry to others will prompt many questions some of which may be difficult to answer.
In addressing these questions be patient, clear and honest.
If you do not have an answer or are unsure, don't be afraid to say that you don't know or that you're unsure.
Let them know that you will find out and get back to them.
While you can refer these questions to the Grand Secretary's office or the Freemasons Victoria website,
it is best that you research the questions and get back to the enquirer personally.
In many instances you will be the first point of contact that a non-freemason has and they will
form their first impressions of the organisation based on you and your responsiveness.
A great deal of useful information about Freemasonry, including a definition of what it is,
what it does and it's history, have been provided in the pamphlets "What is Freemasonry",
"Freemasonry in the Community and "The History of Freemasonry".
These along with the information on the website and in the quarterly Freemasonry Victoria magazine
should provide ample factual information to address most questions.
What Happens when Freemasons Meet|
Obviously Freemasonry is about much more than what happens in the lodge room.
However, it is not unreasonable to ask what Freemasons do at their meetings.
Sometimes these questions can be the cause of embarrassment, particular if they
specifically relate to the ceremonial parts of our meetings.
The procedural and dining elements of Masonic meetings are simple enough to explain
however the ceremonial aspects of Freemasonry has proven problematic due both to its uniqueness
and an uncertainty as to how much can be disclosed to the uninitiated.
Let's be clear.
You are free to talk about our ceremonies and the lessons they teach, within the scope of your obligation.
However, despite the beauty of our ritual do not quote it,
as non-freemasons will not fully appreciate the quote
without the full context within which it is made,
namely the relevant degree ceremony.
Our ceremonies are best described as dramatic events designed to teach a number of moral and life lessons,
which include fidelity, charity and integrity.
Our ceremonial is not like anything else.
Our ceremonies are an aspect of Freemasonry that link it with over three hundred years
of tradition and make it unique within the community.
They are a great point of distinction and the opportunity to participate in something that has been
preserved for centuries is a genuine reason to consider joining.
What is Secret|
The only things that a Freemason is obligated not to reveal are the means by which
they recognise each other and are distinguished from everyone else.
All other aspects of Freemasonry can be openly discussed.
How to handle the issue of "secrets" is one of the most complicated we face,
particularly in the modern world where secrecy equates less with privacy and more with evasiveness.
It is up to the individual Freemason to define for themselves why
they have agreed to keep these means of recognition secret.
It is perhaps helpful to remember that, while historically certain operative masons maintained
secret methods of identification to preserve their competitive advantage over other operative masons,
today this recognition is symbolic and that the act of agreeing to keep a secret
is a measure of a man's trustworthiness and reliability.
Although they are easy to remember cliches and bland over simplifications are not
particularly helpful when talking about Freemasonry.
Their use suggests only a superficial understanding and generally reflects poorly on the organisation.
More importantly they quickly become outdated, can seem smug, patronising and
most intelligent people will view them as evading the question.
An honest, well thought and personal answer is far better than a glib, off the cuff one liner.
For these reasons the use of phrases such as,
It's not a secret society, it's a society with secrets.
We take good men and make them better.
I'll tell you the secrets of Freemasonry if you tell me your pin number,
and their variants are to be discouraged.
Similarly, resist the impulse to make jokes or to be casually disrespectful about Freemasonry.
Although Freemasons are amused by jokes about "riding the goat" they only give non-freemasons the wrong impression and trivialise the fraternity.
It is important to remember that you are an ambassador for Freemasonry.
The dignity of Freemasonry is in your hands.
Be Clear about the Commitment
Prospective members will want to know what Freemasonry will ask them and their family.
Research conducted by Freemasons Victoria has demonstrated that this is likely
to be a critical factor in their decision to join.
As with everything you should be open in discussing the commitments
required by Freemasonry, both financially and in terms of time.
It should be made clear that there are some basics that apply to all members such as
membership joining fees and annual subscriptions, Masonic attire, the requirement to buy an
apron and the expectation that you will attend meetings as regularly as possible.
However, it should also be noted that any thing more than this is entirely at the member's own discretion.
No expectation should be placed on a new member to complete their three degrees in the minimum time
and then take office in a rapid progression to the Master chair.
This approach is a significant contributing factor to premature resignation,
particularly if an appropriate level of commitment hasn't been discussed prior to joining.
Don't focus on what you think are negatives
There are certain undeniable facts about contemporary Freemasons that do not present
the organisation in the most positive light.
The aging membership profile and declining membership numbers for example can easily communicate
a negative impression, as can dwelling on personal grievances or frustrations with the organisation.
The challenges when discussing Freemasonry is to find a way to discuss these aspects
without making them seem negative or disproportionate.
The age difference in membership for example has proven to be a positive aspect
of freemasonry for many of our younger members as through it they gain access to a depth and breadth
of experience and support they would not otherwise find in their own social circle.
While it is important to be honest about Freemasonry and communicate an accurate expectation of
the organisation it is also important to ensure the image presented is objective and free from prejudice.
The best story about Freemasonry is your own
Finally, the most important and convincing information you posses about Freemasonry
is your own reason for becoming and remaining a Freemason.
A large percentage of newly initiated Freemasons report that the most compelling factor
in their decision to join was the recommendation of a trusted friend.
Regardless of the many positive aspects of Freemasonry that can be officially suggested
it is your own experience that will best communicate the value of Freemasonry.
It will be most convincing and honest answer you can give and will also be the easiest thing to remember.
You should ask yourself if you are suggesting that your friend become a Freemason because
you believe they will genuinely enjoy it and personally benefit and grow through being a member,
or if you are simply fishing for numbers.
Boosting membership in the short term is not productive and is not our goal.
Instead an engaged and involved membership that is sustainable over the long term should be our aim.
This can only be achieved by raising awareness and understanding of Freemasonry amongst our friends
and in our community and giving every assistance to those who express an interest.
Be proud that you are a Freemason
Tell them what to expect as a member
Tell them what their financial and time commitment will be.
Tell them what Freemasonry does in the community
Tell them why you personally enjoy Freemasonry
Tell them about our ceremonies and their beauty and drama
Give them false expectations
Be afraid to say I don't know
Make jokes about Freemasonry
Dwell on things you perceive to be negatives
How do I become a Freemason?|
Becoming a Freemason is simple.
Contact Freemasons Victoria on 03 9411 0111 or
toll free on 1800 068 416 and talk to one of our friendly staff.
Alternatively, contact a Freemason;|
email a very friendly Freemason at the Footscray St John's Lodge No 71.
They will be able to supply you with reliable research material and
are free to answer nearly any question you may have.