What is Freemasonry?
Freemasonry means different things to each of those who join. For some, it’s about making new friends and acquaintances. For others it’s about being able to help deserving causes – making a contribution to family and to society. But for most, it is an enjoyable hobby. Freemasonry is one of the World’s oldest and largest non-religious, non-political, fraternal and charitable organisation. It teaches self-knowledge through participation in a progression of ceremonies. Members are expected to be of high moral standing and are encouraged to speak openly about Freemasonry.
Why are you a secret society?
We are not, but lodge meetings, like those of other groups, are private and open only to members. The rules and aims of Freemasonry are available to the public. Meeting places are known and in many areas used by the local community for activities other than Freemasonry. Members are encouraged to speak openly about Freemasonry.
What happens at a lodge meeting?
The meeting, like those of other groups, is open only to members and normally in two parts. First, there are normal administrative procedures such as:
• Minutes of the previous meeting
• Proposing and balloting for new members
• Discussing and voting on the annual accounts
• Masonic news and correspondence
• News about charitable work
Second, there are the ceremonies for:
• Admitting new members
• The annual installation of the Master of the Lodge and his officers
Isn’t the ritual out of place in modern society?
The ritual is a shared experience which binds the members together. Its use of drama, allegory and symbolism impresses the principles and teachings more firmly in the mind of each candidate than if they were simply passed on to him in matter-of-fact modern language.
Why do Freemasons take oaths?
New members make solemn promises concerning their behaviour both in the Lodge and in society. Members also promise to keep confidential the way they recognise each other when visiting another Lodge. Freemasons also promise to support others in time of need, but only so far as it does not conflict with their family and public obligations.
Are Freemasons expected to show preference to fellow Masons at the expense of others in giving jobs, promotions, contracts and the like?
Certainly not. This would be unacceptable and may lead to action being taken against those involved. On joining, each new member states that he expects no material gain from membership.
Who do the Masonic charities donate to?
Whilst there are Masonic charities that cater specifically, but not exclusively, for Masons or their dependants, others make significant grants to non-Masonic organisations.
What is Freemasonry’s relationship with religion?
All Freemasons are expected to have a religious belief, but Freemasonry does not seek to replace a Mason’s religion or provide a substitute for it. It deals with a man’s relationship with his fellow man not in a man’s relationship with his God.
Why do some churches not like Freemasonry?
There are elements within churches who misunderstand Freemasonry and its objectives. They confuse secular rituals with religious liturgy. There are many Masons in churches where their leaders have been openly critical of the organisation. Masonry has always actively encouraged its members to be active in their own religion.
Does Freemasonry accept Roman Catholics?
Yes. Four Grand Masters of English Freemasonry have been Roman Catholics. Today there are many Roman Catholic Freemasons.
What is Freemasonry’s relationship with politics?
Freemasonry, as a body, will never express a view on politics or state policy. The discussion of politics at Masonic meetings has always been prohibited.
Is Freemasonry an international order?
Freemasonry exists throughout the world. However, each Grand Lodge is sovereign and independent. There is no international governing body for Freemasonry.
Are there women Freemasons?
Yes. Whilst UGLE, following the example of medieval stonemasons, is and has always been, restricted to men, women Freemasons have two separate Grand Lodges, which are restricted to women.
Why do you wear regalia?
Wearing regalia is historic and symbolic. Like a uniform, the regalia indicates the rank of the wearer in the organisation.
How many Freemasons are there?
Under the United Grand Lodge of England, there are over a quarter of a million Freemasons.
There are Grand Lodges in Ireland, which covers both Northern Ireland and Eire, and Scotland which have a combined total of approximately 150,000 members. Worldwide, there are approximately six million Freemasons.
How many degrees are there in Freemasonry?
Basic Freemasonry consists of three degrees:
• Entered Apprentice
• Fellow Craft
• Master Mason
How much does it cost to be a Freemason?
Our annual subscription costs are £110. There is an initiation fee on entry and in due course regalia will have to be bought. We have 9 meetings a year and these are followed by a dinner, the cost on average being less than £18. In addition members are invited to give to charity but this should always be within their means and it is entirely up to the individual how much they wish to contribute.
So what IS Freemasonry?
Freemasonry teaches moral lessons and self-knowledge through participation in a progression of allegorical two-part plays, which are learnt by heart and performed within each lodge. Freemasonry offers its members an approach to life, which seeks to reinforce thoughtfulness for others, kindness in the community, honesty in business, courtesy in society and fairness in all things. Members are urged to regard the interests of the family as paramount; but importantly Freemasonry also teaches and practises concern for people, care for the less fortunate and help for those in need.
Why do people join and remain members?
People became Freemasons for a variety of reasons, some as the result of family tradition, others upon the introduction of a friend or out of a curiosity to know what it is all about. Those who become active members and who grow in Freemasonry do so principally because they enjoy it. They enjoy the challenges and fellowship that Freemasonry offers. There is more to it, however, than just enjoyment. Participation in the dramatic presentation of moral lessons and in the working of a lodge provides a member with a unique opportunity to learn more about himself and encourages him to live in such a way that he will always be in search of becoming a better man, not better than someone else but better than he himself would otherwise be and therefore an exemplary member of society.
Each Freemason is required to learn and show humility through initiation. Then, by progression through a series of degrees he gains insight into increasingly complex moral and philosophical concepts, and accepts a variety of challenges and responsibilities which are both stimulating and rewarding. The structure and working of the lodge and the sequence of ceremonial events, which are usually followed by social gatherings, offer members a framework for companionship, teamwork, character development and enjoyment of shared experiences.
The Promises that Freemasons take.
New members make solemn promises concerning their conduct in the lodge and in society. These promises are similar to those taken in court or upon entering the armed services or many other organisations. Each member also promises to keep confidential the traditional methods of proving he is a Freemason - which he would use when visiting a lodge where he is not known. The much-publicised 'traditional penalties' for failure to observe these undertakings were removed from the promises in 1986. They were always symbolic not literal and refer only to the pain any decent man should feel at the thought of violating his word. Members also undertake not to make use of their membership for personal gain or advancement; failure to observe this principle or otherwise to fall below the standards expected of a Freemason can lead to expulsion.
Membership is open to men of all faiths who are law-abiding, of good character and who acknowledge a belief in a Supreme Being. Freemasonry is a multi-racial and multi-cultural organisation. It has attracted men of goodwill from all sectors of the community into membership. There are similar Masonic organisations for women.
Freemasonry and religion
Freemasonry is not a religion. It has no theology and does not teach any route to salvation. A belief in a Supreme Being however, is an essential requirement for membership and Freemasonry encourages its members to be active in their own religions as well as in society at large. Although every lodge meeting is opened and closed with a prayer and its ceremonies reflect the essential truths and moral teachings common to many of the world's great religions, no discussion of religion is permitted in lodge meetings.
Freemasonry - A fraternal society?
Freemasons are encouraged to speak openly about their membership, while remembering that they undertake not to use it for their own or anyone else's advancement. As members are sometimes the subject of discrimination, which may adversely affect their employment or other aspects of their lives, some Freemasons are understandably reticent about discussing their membership. in common with many other national organisations, Grand Lodge neither maintains nor publishes a list of members and will not disclose names or member's details without their permission. In circumstances where a conflict of interest might arise or be perceived to exist or when Freemasonry becomes an issue, a Freemason must declare an interest. The rules and aims of Freemasonry are available to the public. The Masonic Year Book, also available to the public, contains the names of all national office-holders and lists of all lodges with details of their meeting dates and places. The meeting places and halls used by Freemasons are readily identifiable, are listed in telephone directories and in many areas are used by the local community for activities other than Freemasonry. Freemasons' Hall in London is open to the public and 'open days' are held in many provincial centres.
The rituals and ceremonies used by Freemasons to pass on the principles of Freemasonry to new members were first revealed publicly in 1723. They include the traditional forms of recognition used by Freemasons essentially to prove their identity and qualifications when entering a Masonic meeting. These include handshakes which have been much written about and can scarcely be regarded as truly secret today; for medieval Freemasons, they were the equivalent of a 'pin number' restricting access only to qualified members.
Many thousands of books have been written on the subject of Freemasonry and are readily available to the general public. Freemasonry offers spokesmen and briefings for the media and provides talks to interested groups on request. Freemasons are proud of their heritage and happy to share it.
Freemasonry and politics.
Freemasonry is definitely not a political organisation, it has no political agenda, and discussion of politics is not permitted at lodge meetings. Freemasonry naturally tends to attract those with a concern for people and a sense of social responsibility and purpose. There are members, therefore, who are involved in politics at local, national and international level. Equally there are members who take an active interest in non-Masonic charitable organisations and other community groups.
Freemasonry in the community
From its earliest days, Freemasonry has been involved in charitable activities, and since its inception it has provided support for many widows and orphans of Freemasons as well as others within the community. All monies raised for charity are drawn from amongst Freemasons, their families and friends, while grants and donations are made to Masonic and non-Masonic charities alike. Over the past five years alone Freemasonry has raised more than £5m for a wide range of charitable purposes including those involved in medical research, community care, education and work with young people.
Freemasonry has an enviable record of providing regular and consistent financial support to individual charities over long periods while at the same time making thousands of grants to local charities, appeals and projects throughout England and Wales each year. For the future, opportunities to obtain or provide matched funding are periodically examined with a view to enhancing the impact of the support Freemasonry can give to specific projects. The personal generosity of Freemasons and the collective fundraising efforts of almost 8,000 lodges, however, will continue to determine the contribution Freemasonry makes within the community.