Your Questions Answered
Q What is
A 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 How many Freemasons are there?
A 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
A 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
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 secret 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-operative 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 tolerance 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
A 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 What happens at a lodge meeting?
A 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
A 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 candidates than if
they were simply passed on to him in matter-of-fact modern language.
Q Why do you wear regalia?
A Wearing regalia is historical and symbolic and,
like a uniform, serves to indicate to members where they rank in the
Q How much does it cost to be a
A 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.
Q Why are you a secret society?
A We are not, but 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.
Q What are the secrets of
A 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.
Q Why do Freemasons take oaths?
A 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
Q Why do your 'obligations'
contain hideous penalties?
A 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, however, the physical
penalties were always symbolic and were never carried out. After long
discussion, they were removed from the promises in 1986.
Q What is the relationship between
Freemasonry and groups like the Orange Order, Odd Fellows and Buffaloes?
A 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 Aren't you a religion or a
rival to a religion?
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 Is Freemasonry an international
A 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 Who can become a
Our fraternity has a wonderful history,
which dates back more than three centuries. It is one of the world's oldest
secular fraternities, a society of men concerned with moral and spiritual
values. Founded on the three great principles of Brotherly Love, Relief and
Truth, it aims to bring together men of goodwill, regardless of background and
People might think that to become a Freemason is quite difficult. It's actually
The essential qualifications for admission is that you have a belief in a
It is usual for candidates to be "mature men of 21 years and over", but in some
circumstances candidates between the ages of 18 and 21 can be admitted.
Q How do I do to
become a Freemason?
you are interested in becoming a Freemason, we advise that you first talk to a
family member, friend or colleague whom you already know to be a member. They
will be able to explain to you what they can about the fraternity.
One of the most common misconceptions about
Freemasonry is that you have to be invited to join. In fact, the exact opposite
is true - you have to ask to join. The problem is - who to ask? Often, members
keep their membership private. However, there are avenues open to prospective
If you don't know
anyone at all who is a member, then get in touch with us, you can contact us via
or by writing to the secretary via the address listed on the contacts page, tell
us a little bit about yourself and your reasons for wishing to join.
Arrangements will be made to meet you socially to find out more about you, and
to give you a chance to find out more about us.
You would then in due course be invited to meet a committee of members from the
Lodge, prior to being balloted for membership of the Lodge.