Craft Masonry is the starting point of every Mason's journey through the Order. Without it none of the other orders which follow could exist. It is therefore the most important element of Freemasonry.
Every Mason is a member of at least one Craft Lodge. A man becomes a Freemason by being initiated into one of these Craft Lodges, usually the one which meets nearest to where he lives or works, although there may be reasons why he joins one further away. At this point the newly made Mason is known as an Entered Apprentice. Over the course of the following months he will be passed to the degree of a Fellowcraft Freemason, and then raised to the degree of a Master Mason. Initiation, Passing and Raising are achieved by the carrying out of ritual work in the form of something like allegorical plays. Each ritual is designed to impart meaning to the Candidate and to lead him to contemplate certain lessons. At some stage a Mason may be invited to hold one of the offices of the lodge, and perhaps even progress to become Master.
Amongst all of this Masons are expected to put something back into society. They do this largely in two ways. Firstly they make contributions on a regular basis to the Masonic charitable "pots" (see the article on charitable works for more detail). Secondly they are members of a society which aims to take good men and make them even better, and they are expected to be upstanding members of society and to not only help their fellow man but to set a good example for others to follow.
Lodge meetings also provide a way of getting together with a lot of other like-minded people and to discuss matters in general, except for religion and politics, which are expressly forbidden. After each meeting it is usual to have a meal, called the Festive Board, and to be in friendly company in a relaxed atmosphere. A Mason may also visit any other lodge which meets under the constitution of the United Grand Lodge of England (UGLE), and be sure of a warm welcome. It is also possible for visits to be made to lodges overseas, provided that the ruling Grand Lodge is in amity with UGLE.