Questions and Answers

What is Freemasonry?

Freemasonry is the UK’s Largest secular, fraternal and charitable organisation.  It teaches moral lessons and self-knowledge through participation in a progression of allegorical two-part plays.

Are meetings open to non-members?

Lodge meetings, like those of many 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 are used by the local community for activities other than Freemasonry.  Members are encouraged to speak openly about Freemasonry.

What are the secrets of Freemasonry?

The secrets in Freemasonry are the traditional modes of recognition which are not used indiscriminately, but solely as a test of membership, e.g. when visiting a Lodge where you are not known.

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 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 introduction in the principles and lessons taught in the Craft followed by a lecture in which the candidate’s various duties are spelled out.

Isn’t ritual out of place in modern society?

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.

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.

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 he is visiting a lodge where he is not known.  Freemasons do not swear allegiances to each other or to Freemasonry.  Freemasons promise to support each other 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.

Why do your ‘obligations’ contain hideous penalties?

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.

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.

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 to widows and orphans of Freemasons but also to 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.

Aren’t 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.

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 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.

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 different religions pray together without offense being given to any of them.

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 many who are dismayed that the Churches should attack Freemasonry, an organisation which has always encouraged its members to be active in their own religion.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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 to Freemasonry.

Why don’t you have women members?

Freemasonry, following the example of medieval stonemasons, has always been restricted to men. Women who wish to become members have two separate Grand Lodges 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 approximately 330,000 Freemasons. There are Grand Lodges in Ireland, which covers both the North and the South, and Scotland which combined total 150,000 members. Worldwide there are probably five million members.

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?
It varies from Lodge to Lodge. Anyone wishing to join will find a Lodge to suit his pocket. There is an initiation fee on entry and in due course regalia will have to be bought. The meeting is normally followed by a dinner, the cost depending on the venue. There is, in addition, an annual subscription.

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.