Interested in joining?
Would you like to join Freemasonry?
Freemasonry is not a religion. Masons who treat it as such are mistaken. Freemasonry strongly encourages its members to belong to an established religion, although that is not a requirement for membership (only that a candidate profess a belief in a Supreme Being). Masonry is a fraternal organization that encourages morality and charity and studies philosophy. It has no clergy, no sacraments, and does not promise salvation to its members.
There is nothing in Freemasonry that conflicts with most religions. However, Freemasonry does insist on religious tolerance. To the extent that certain religious groups would wish to suppress other religions or persecute their followers, Freemasons would be in opposition to such activities, and adherents of such groups would be both uncomfortable and unwelcome in Masonry.
It is also the case that certain religious groups are misinformed about Freemasonry and believe things about the Fraternity that are not true; basing their opinions on this false information, they then formulate opinions that create conflict.
Masonry does not recruit members, does not compel attendance at any of its meetings, charges modest dues and fees (some little changed from sixty years ago, when the dollar was worth a lot more), encourages community service and participation in civic and religious organizations, and allows any member to quit (demit) at any time (providing he has no outstanding financial obligations; otherwise, he is liable to be suspended, but in either case, he would no longer be a member).
It is easier to get out of Masonry than it is to get into it!
There are fewer mysteries to Masonry than most non-members imagine; even many Masons are not entirely clear on what is and is not confidential in Freemasonry.
The moral principles of Masonry are the same as those taught you in Sunday school or at your mother's knee (sometimes over it!); it is only the exact procedures and words by which those principles are taught in Masonry that are confidential, for it is the knowledge of those that distinguishes a Mason from those who are not members
To be entitled to the fellowship peculiar to the Lodge, a Mason must be able to identify himself, and these surreptitious methods provide the means for doing so.
Masonry is not a public organization like a school board or a city council. It is an association of private citizens, just like a country club or a church.
No one who is not a member has a right to know about the internal workings of any of these things. They are private or confidential to the group.
Masons must take solemn obligations to be faithful to the principles of Masonry, and their very nature and seriousness implies that there should be penalties.
However, the language of these obligations makes it clear that the penalties are not actually inflicted by the Lodge or any body of Masonry but are expressions of how disgraced and also how contemptible one should feel for violating such an obligation.
In some jurisdictions, the candidate is told that the penalties are of "ancient origin and symbolic only." Later degrees make this even more apparent, even if the actual information is not specifically addressed to the candidate.
But the true penalties for violation of the laws of Masonry are three only:
Admonition (reprimand), suspension, or expulsion.
Stories about Masons being maimed or murdered for violation of their oaths are just that: fiction. Not one single instance can be documented, despite the many attempts by the enemies of Masonry to promote this slander.
Freemasonry is a society dedicated to free thinking and freedom of all kinds. No Mason has the right to dictate to another what he shall or shall not believe regarding his religion, his politics, or even his interpretation of the Masonic symbols.
There are a number of conventional interpretations of the symbols of Freemasonry, some of which are given in the lectures of the degrees, but no Mason is required to accept any or all of them; he is free to explore the world of thought and make up his own mind.
Freemasonry demands from its members a respect for the law of the country in which a man works and lives. Its principles do not in any way conflict with its members' duties as citizens, but should strengthen them in fulfilling their private and public responsibilities.
The use by a Freemason of their membership to promote his own or anyone else's business, professional or personal interests is condemned, and is contrary to the conditions on which he sought admission to Freemasonry.
His duty as a citizen must always prevail over any obligation to other Freemasons, and any attempt to shield a Freemason who has acted dishonorably or unlawfully is contrary to this prime duty.
Q.What is Freemasonry ?
Freemasonry is the U.K.'s largest secular, fraternal and charitable organisation. It teaches moral lessons and self-knowledge through participation in a progression of allegorical two-part plays.
Q. 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.
Q. 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.
Q. What happens at a lodge meeting?
The meeting is in two parts. As in any association there is a certain amount of administrative procedure - minutes of last meeting, proposing and balloting for new members, discussing and voting on financial matters, election of officers, news and correspondence.
Then there are the ceremonies for admitting new Masons and the annual installation of the Master and appointment of officers. The three ceremonies for admitting a new Mason are in two parts - a slight dramatic instruction in the principles and lessons taught in the Craft followed by a lecture in which the candidate's various duties are spelled out.
Q. Isn't ritual out of place in modern
No. 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.
Q. Why do grown men run around with
their trousers rolled up?
It is true that candidates have to roll up their trouser legs during the three ceremonies when they are being admitted to membership. Taken out of context, this can seem amusing, but like many other aspects of Freemasonry, it has a symbolic meaning.
Q. Why do Freemasons take oaths?
New members make solemn promises concerning their conduct in Lodge and in society. Each member also promises to keep confidential the traditional methods of proving that he is a Freemason which he would use when visiting a lodge where he is not known.
Freemasons do not swear allegiances to each other or to Freemasonry. Freemasons promise to support others in times of need, but only if that support does not conflict with their duties to God, the law, their family or with their responsibilities as a Citizen.
Q. Why do your 'obligations' contain
They no longer do. When Masonic ritual was developing in the late 1600s and 1700s it was quite common for legal and civil oaths to include physical penalties and Freemasonry simply followed the practice of the times. In Freemasonry, however, the physical penalties were always symbolic and were never carried out. After long discussion, they were removed from the promises in 1986.
Q. Are Freemasons expected to prefer
fellow Masons at the expense of others in giving jobs, promotions, contracts
and the like?
Absolutely not. That would be a misuse of membership and subject to Masonic discipline. On his entry into Freemasonry each candidate states unequivocally that he expects no material gain from his membership.
At various stages during the three ceremonies of his admission and when he is presented with a certificate from Grand Lodge that the admission ceremonies have been completed, he is forcefully reminded that attempts to gain preferment or material gain for himself or others is a misuse of membership which will not be tolerated. The Book of Constitutions, which every candidate receives, contains strict rules governing abuse of membership which can result in penalties varying from temporary suspension to expulsion.
Q. Isn't it true that Freemasons only
look after each other?
No. From its earliest days, Freemasonry has been involved in charitable activities. Since its inception, Freemasonry has provided support not only for widows and orphans of Freemasons but also for many others within the community. Whilst some Masonic charities cater specifically but not exclusively for Masons or their dependents, others make significant grants to non-Masonic organisations. On a local level, lodges give substantial support to local causes.
you a religion or a rival to religion?
Emphatically not. Freemasonry requires a belief in God and its principles are common to many of the world's great religions. Freemasonry does not try to replace religion or substitute for it. Every candidate is exhorted to practise his religion and to regard its holy book as the unerring standard of truth. Freemasonry does not instruct its members in what their religious beliefs should be, nor does it offer sacraments. Freemasonry deals in relations between men; religion deals in a man's relationship with his God.
Q. Why do
you call it the VSL and not the Bible?
To the majority of Freemasons the Volume of the Sacred Law is the Bible. There are many in Freemasonry, however, who are not Christian and to them the Bible is not their sacred book and they will make their promises on the book which is regarded as sacred to their religion. The Bible will always be present in an English lodge but as the organisation welcomes men of many different faiths, it is called the Volume of the Sacred Law. Thus, when the Volume of the Sacred Law is referred to in ceremonies, to a non-Christian it will be the holy book of his religion and to a Christian it will be the Bible.
Q. Why do
you call God the Great Architect?
Freemasonry embraces all men who believe in God. Its membership includes Christians, Jews, Hindus, Sikhs, Muslims, Parsees and others. The use of descriptions such as the Great Architect prevents disharmony. The Great Architect is not a specific Masonic god or an attempt to combine all gods into one. Thus, men of differing religions pray together without offence being given to any of them.
Q. Why don't
some churches like Freemasonry?
There are elements within certain churches who misunderstand Freemasonry and confuse secular rituals with religious liturgy. Although the Methodist Conference and the General Synod of the Anglican Church have occasionally criticised Freemasonry, in both Churches there are many Masons and indeed others who are dismayed that the Churches should attack Freemasonry, an organisation which has always encouraged its members to be active in their own religion.
Q. Why will
Freemasonry not accept Roman Catholics as members?
It does. The prime qualification for admission into Freemasonry has always been a belief in God. How that belief is expressed is entirely up to the individual. Four Grand Masters of English Freemasonry have been Roman Catholics. There are many Roman Catholic Freemasons.
Q. Isn't Freemasonry
just another political pressure group?
Emphatically not. Whilst individual Freemasons will have their own views on politics and state policy, Freemasonry as a body will never express a view on either. The discussion of politics at Masonic meetings has always been prohibited.
Q. Are there
not Masonic groups who are involved in politics?
There are groups in other countries who call themselves Freemasons and who involve themselves in political matters. They are not recognised or countenanced by the United Grand Lodge of England and other regular Grand Lodges who follow the basic principles of Freemasonry and ban the discussion of politics and religion at their meetings.
Q. Is Freemasonry
an international Order?
Only in the sense that Freemasonry exists throughout the free world. Each Grand Lodge is sovereign and independent, and whilst following the same basic principles, may have differing ways of passing them on. There is no international governing body for Freemasonry.
Q. What is
the relationship between Freemasonry and groups
like the Orange Order, Odd Fellows and Buffaloes?
None. There are numerous fraternal orders and Friendly Societies whose rituals, regalia and organisation are similar in some respects to Freemasonry's. They have no formal or informal connections with Freemasonry.
Q. Why don't
you have women members?
Traditionally, Freemasonry under the United Grand Lodge of England has been restricted to men. The early stonemasons were all male, and when Freemasonry was organising, the position of women in society was different from today. If women wish to join Freemasonry, there are two separate Grand Lodges in England restricted to women only.
Q. Why do
you wear regalia?
Wearing regalia is historical and symbolic and, like a uniform, serves to indicate to members where they rank in the organisation.
Q. How many
Freemasons are there?
Under the United Grand Lodge of England, there are 330,000 Freemasons, meeting in 8,644 lodges. There are separate Grand Lodges for Ireland (which covers north and south) and Scotland, with a combined membership of 150,000. Worldwide, there are probably 5 million members.
Q. How and
when did Freemasonry start?
It is not known. The earliest recorded 'making' of a Freemason in England is that of Elias Ashmole in 1646. Organised Freemasonry began with the founding of the Grand Lodge of England on 24 June 1717, the first Grand Lodge in the world. Ireland followed in 1725 and Scotland in 1736. All the regular Grand Lodges in the world trace themselves back to one or more of the Grand Lodges in the British Isles.
There are two main theories of origin. According to one, the operative stonemasons who built the great cathedrals and castles had lodges in which they discussed trade affairs.
They had simple initiation ceremonies and, as there were no City and Guilds certificates, dues cards or trade union membership cards, they adopted confidential signs and words to demonstrate that they were trained masons when they moved from site to site. In the 1600s, these operative lodges began to accept non-operatives as "gentlemen masons". Gradually these non-operatives took over the lodges and turned them from operative to 'free and accepted' or 'speculative' lodges.
The other theory is that in the late 1500s and early 1600s, there was a group which was interested in the promotion of religious and political tolerance in an age of great intolerance when differences of opinion on matters of religion and politics were to lead to bloody civil war. In forming Freemasonry, they were trying to make better men and build a better world.
As the means of teaching in those days was by allegory and symbolism, they took the idea of building as the central allegory on which to form their system. The main source of allegory was the Bible, the contents of which were known to everyone even if they could not read, and the only building described in detail in the Bible was King Solomon's Temple, which became the basis of the ritual.
The old trade guilds provided them with their basis administration of a Master, Wardens, Treasurer and Secretary, and the operative mason's tools provided them with a wealth of symbols with which to illustrate the moral teachings of Freemasonry.
Q. How many
degrees are there in Freemasonry?
Basic Freemasonry consists of the three 'Craft' degrees (Entered Apprentice, Fellow Craft and Master Mason) completed by the Royal Arch degree (Chapter). There are many other Masonic degrees and Orders which are called 'additional' because they add to the basis of the Craft and Royal Arch. They are not basic to Freemasonry but add to it by further expounding and illustrating the principles stated in the Craft and Royal Arch. Some of these additional degrees are numerically superior to the third degree but this does not affect the fact that they are additional to and not in anyway superior to or higher than the Craft. The ranks that these additional degrees carry have no standing with the Craft or Royal Arch.
Q. How much
does it cost to be a Freemason?
It varies from lodge to lodge but anyone wishing to join can find a lodge to suit his pocket. On entry, there is an initiation fee and an apron to buy. A member pays an annual subscription to his lodge which covers his membership and the administrative cost of running the lodge. It is usual to have a meal after the meeting; the cost of this can be included either in the annual subscription or paid for at the time. It is entirely up to the individual member what he gives to Charity, but it should always be without detriment to his other responsibilities. Similarly, he may join as many lodges as his time and pocket can allow as long as it does not adversely affect his family life and responsibilities.
Interested in joining?
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.
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.
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 canlead to expulsion.
Membership is open to men of all faiths who are law-abiding, of good character and who acknowledge a belief in God.
Freemasonry is a multi-racial and multi-cultural organisation. It has attracted men of goodwill from all sectors of the community into membership.
Freemasonry is not a religion. It has no theology and does not teach any route to salvation.
A belief in God, however, is an essential requirement for membership and Freemasonry actively 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 is not a clandestine society, but lodge meetings, like meetings of many other social and professional associations, are private occasions open only to members.
Freemasons are encouraged to speak openly about their membership, while remembering that they undertake not to use it fortheir 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' Halls are 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.