Questions about Freemasonry

What is Freemasonry?

Somewhat enigmatically, Freemasonry describes itself as "A peculiar system of morality, based on allegory and illustrated with symbols." A system of morality because Masons are expected to exhibit strong moral principles; these principles are explained by means of short, allegorical "plays", which use the symbolism of operative stone masons to illustrate the points being made.

It encourages men to act fairly and honestly in all their undertakings; to respect the rights and aspirations of others and to attempt to relieve suffering wherever possible. Charitable giving, whether of money or time, is a major activity. However, no Freemason is ever expected to make any commitment to Freemasonry which is beyond the means of him or his family. All Freemasons are taught that any duties which they have as a Freemason come only after their duties to family, work, and faith. In no circumstances should their membership interfere with these aspects of their lives.

Freemasonry is the UK's largest secular, fraternal and charitable organisation. Under the auspices of the United Grand Lodge of England (UGLE) it has over 300,000 members working in nearly 8,000 lodges throughout England and Wales and 30,000 more members overseas. Scotland and Ireland each have their own independent Grand Lodges with a further 150,000 members between them. Worldwide there are probably more than 5,000,000 freemasons.

Who can join?

Any man who is at least 21 years old, is of good moral character with no criminal record, and who believes in a Supreme Being (known to masons as The Great Architect Of The Universe) can become a Mason. It matters not what religion he follows, what colour his skin is, how much money he has, nor what position he holds at work or in the community. What matters is that he has a desire to help others and to improve his own moral worth.

The prospective candidate for membership is told that he should only consider joining if he can do so without detriment to himself, his family or work commitments. Freemasonry places a call on a man's time and he should be sure that he will be able to devote this time; normally one or two evenings per month are required. Also, as with membership of any other organisation, there is an annual subscription fee in any lodge (which varies from lodge to lodge).

Is it a religion?

Freemasonry & religion

Freemasonry is not a religion. Neither is it a substitute for religion. To become a Freemason a man must believe in a deity or supreme being, but the name he gives to that being is unimportant. Men of every faith are welcomed, and encouraged to be as active as possible in the promotion and support of their chosen religion. This is the reason that Masons refer to "The Great Architect Of The Universe" - a neutral term which ensures that no deity is excluded.

Freemasonry & politics

Freemasonry is not a political organisation. Although every member will have their own political opinions, in common with the rest of the population, the discussion of political (as well as religious) topics in a Lodge is expressly forbidden. These subjects tend to be divisive and it is Freemasonry's aim to bring men of all persuasions closer together.

Is it a secret society?

Freemasonry is not a secret society... after all, you're reading this page aren't you? Masonic halls normally advertise their identity above the door and can always be found in the phone book. Freemasons themselves are encouraged to freely acknowledge their membership (although they are forbidden to try to use membership to further their business activities).

Freemasonry is a private, members only, organisation. Like any such organisation its meetings take place in private. Membership is open to any man over the age of 21 who believes in The Great Architect Of The Universe.

Masons are taught "secrets." These are not sinister but can be analogised to a historical version of being given the combination to the lock on the door of the lodge, much as members of any other organisation might have the combination for their club house. Just as the club-house combination cannot help away from the club, so the "secrets" of Freemasonry serve no purpose outside the confines of the Lodge.

These days, the "secrets" of Freemasonry can be obtained from many books in the library but you will never hear them from a Mason. There is one good reason for this; we have all promised not to reveal them, and as men of our word we will not.