Freemasons aren't a secret society, rather they are a society with secrets.
But their secrets are not nefarious. Nor are they a cult, a religion, or in league with Satan. These are just some of the accusations and misinformation spread about the global fraternal organization, according to Robert Prince, the worshipful master of the Landmark Freemasons Lodge, which meets in Haney.
"You name it, they've thrown the accusation at us," Prince said of rumours about the centuries-old fraternal organization.
In fact, the ideas of Freemasonry have been behind some of the greatest democratic movements in the world, Prince said, with their principles of liberty, equality, and fraternity.
Freemasonry is not a religion, but all Freemasons believe in a supreme being, and those who belong to a religion swear an oath to uphold their religion when they become a member of the brotherhood.
The lodge room in Maple Ridge contains a Bible and a Torah, the Christian and Jewish holy books, because there are both Christian and Jewish members of the lodge.
If there were Muslim members at the lodge, there would be a Koran as well.
"It's an accepting fraternity," Prince said. "We don't look to exclude people, we include people."
Religion and politics are not discussed at the lodge because they can be divisive issues.
Freemasons are a fraternity of men who have been coming together for centuries to improve themselves and to fraternize.
The first Grand Lodge was recorded as emerging in 1717, but Prince said there are stories of freemasonry going back much farther.
They have, however, sworn an oath to keep the secrets of what happen in their lodge, but over the years, people have broken that oath, and their secrets have been spread, especially with the advent of the Internet.
Their secrets include their rituals and a mode by which Freemasons recognize each other.
Because some Freemasons have broken their oath of secrecy, there is a lot of information in the public library and online about the fraternity, but there is a lot of "crap" about the organization as well, Prince said.
There has been an upsurge in interest in Freemasonry recently, Prince said, as people are looking for meaning in their lives.
This week, the Port Coquitlam lodge will hold an open house to allow the public to learn more about Freemasonry.
There are two lodges in Maple Ridge, the Prince David Lodge and the Landmark Lodge, which Prince belongs to.
The Landmark Lodge meets twice a month, during which they have their business meeting, an emergent meeting, their education, which entails a lesson on becoming better men, and their ritual work. And then there is the socialization aspect: "hang out with your brothers," Prince said.
The ritual work of the Freemasons is meant to help the members become improved men, and then use what they have learned to better the world.
Freemasons strive to be respectful to life, useful to mankind, and an ornament to the society of Freemasons, Prince said.
Their priorities are family first, work next, and Freemasonry third.
In the lodge, which is organized into north, south, east, and west, there are two stones at front, one a rough-hewn stone which represents man when he becomes a Freemason, the other one, smooth and polished, which represents the perfect person that a Freemason is striving to be.
While members of the brotherhood are expected to be charitable, the Freemason Lodge is not a service club, and the purpose is self-improvement. But there is a charity arm to Freemasons in the form of the Shriners.
District 28, which includes Maple Ridge and Port Coquitlam, will hold an open house on Thursday, Feb. 21 at the DeWolf Lodge Hall, 2660 Shaughnessy St., in Port Coquitlam. The doors open at 6: 30 p.m., and the event begins at 7 p.m.