WHAT IS FREEMASONRY?
ARE THERE SPECIFIC PRINCIPLES UPON WHICH FREEMASONRY IS BASED?
Charity: Freemasons have always been deeply involved in charity and make a major contribution to society through their own charities, as well as through donations to UK charities and worldwide disaster funds, with members playing an active role in their communities.
Honesty: Freemasonry prides itself on its transparency. Not only are Freemasons completely free to acknowledge their membership, they are encouraged to do so.
Friendship: Freemasons treat all as equal. For many, the organisation’s biggest draw is the fact that members come from all walks of life and meet as equals whatever their race, religion or socio-economic position.
Respect: Freemasons are expected to show respect for the opinions of others and behave with understanding towards other people.
Integrity: Freemasons are asked to be the best people they can be, which comes hand in hand with following the above principles of kindness, honesty, fairness, tolerance.
WHAT IS THE HISTORY OF FREEMASONRY - WHERE DID IT ALL BEGIN??
HOW IS THE ORGANISATION STRUCTURED?
HOW MANY MEMBERS DO FREEMASONS HAVE?
WHERE IS THE HEADQUARTERS OF FREEMASONRY?
WHAT IS A LODGE?
WHAT HAPPENS AT A LODGE MEETING EXACTLY?
Lodge meetings are run in a similar way to those of other membership organisations, covering orders of business, the induction of new members and any new appointments. They are open to members of the Lodge and guests from other Lodges. Charitable funds are also raised at Lodge meetings through out of pocket donations. These funds are given to causes chosen by the individual Lodge.
WHO CAN BE A FREEMASON?
WHO CAN NOT JOIN FREEMASONRY?
Freemasons do not discriminate on grounds of race, colour, religion, political views, or social or economic standing. However, anyone with a criminal record is not permitted to join. Any man over the age of 18 can apply to join, while woman can apply to join one of two equivalent Grand Lodges in the UK, which are independent of UGLE.
IS FREEMASONRY OPEN ONLY TO MEN?
Lodges under the United Grand Lodge of England (UGLE) are restricted to men. However, there are two separate Grand Lodges which are exclusively for women (The Honourable Fraternity of Ancient Freemasons and The Order of Women Freemasons). This is the way that both the men’s and women’s Lodges like it to be, just like other single-sex organisations such as the Women’s Institute (WI).
DOES FREEMASONRY ACCEPT ROMAN CATHOLICS AND PEOPLE WITH DIFFRENT RELIGIOUS BELIEFS?
Yes, absolutely, people from all faiths have always been welcomed. In fact this is a cornerstone of Freemasonry, which is a non-religious and non-political organisation and does not discriminate on the grounds of race, colour, religion, political views or social or economic standing.
WHY DO PEOPLE JOIN FREEMASONRY?
Like any membership organisation, there are many different, and personal, motivations for becoming a Freemason. One of the key reasons cited is camaraderie; Freemasonry provides a unique environment for people from all backgrounds to make lasting friendships, learn skills, achieve their potential and, above all, have fun. What is more, the organisation provides a valuable forum for discussion between members in an open environment, helping to build trust. Freemasonry also provides a valuable framework around which members can make a positive contribution to society and can also provide structure to people’s lives, helping them to be the best they possibly can.
HOW MUCH DOES IT COST TO BE A FREEMASON?
HOW DO FREEMASONS ATTRACT NEW MEMBERS?
WHAT IS THE APPLICATION PROCESS - HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE AND WHAT'S INVOLVED?
Suitable potential candidates are usually first seen by a Lodge Committee. It is important that each individual from the outset understands the principles of Freemasonry and the importance of communicating these to both family and friends.
IS IT POSSIBLE TO LEAVE FREEMASONRY ONCE YOU'VE BECOME A MEMBER?
Yes, of course! Like any other membership-based organisation, people only remain a member for as long as they wish to participate. People don’t tend to leave very often since the vast majority of members appreciate the personal and wider value that Freemasonry offers. It should also be noted that membership is growing, especially among young people.
WHY IS FREEMASONRY A MEN-ONLY SOCIETY?
The United Grand Lodge of England (UGLE) is restricted to men. However, there are two separate Grand Lodges, which are exclusively for women (The Honourable Fraternity of Ancient Freemasons and The Order of Women Freemasons). Historically this has always been the case and it’s the way that members today still prefer the organisation to be organised. It’s worth noting that it’s not so unusual, as there are many thriving single-sex organisations – the Women’s Institute, for example, is run for the benefit of its female members.
ISN'T FREEMASONRY GOING TO 'DIE OUT' AS YOUNGER PEOPLE LOOK FOR MORE STRAIGHTFORWARD, LESS ELABORATE ORGANISATIONS?
On the contrary, Freemasonry has over 200,000 members in England and Wales, 150,000 in Ireland and around six million worldwide. Membership is strong, particularly among younger people who often join University Lodges. In fact, Freemasonry is arguably more popular – and relevant – today than it has ever been. It does not discriminate on grounds of race, colour, religion, political views or social or economic standing, and encourages its members to take a moral and ethical approach to life, helping them to be the best they can. It is based on the principles of kindness, honesty, fairness, tolerance and integrity– all of which are perhaps more important in today’s society than ever before.
IS FREEMASONRY RELEVANT TODAY?
Yes, absolutely. Membership in the UK currently stands at over 200,000 and is strong, especially among young people, for example, who can join one of the many University Lodges. In many ways, Freemasonry is more relevant today than it ever has been, particularly with regard to its community involvement and contribution to good causes – both Masonic and non-Masonic – in the current age of austerity and reduced state involvement in many areas of life.
IS IT TRUE THAT MANY INFLUENTIAL AND POWERFUL PEOPLE WERE, AND STILL ARE, FREEMASONS?
DO YOU NEED TO BE RELIGIOUS TO JOIN FREEMASONRY
Members are expected to believe in a higher power, although Freemasonry does not seek to replace an individual’s religion or provide a substitute for it – instead it focuses on an individual’s relationship with his peers.
WHY DOES THE CHURCH / OTHER ORGANISED RELIGIONS NOT LIKE FREEMASONRY?
Broadly speaking, this is not believed to be the case, though there are elements within churches who choose to misunderstand Freemasonry and its objectives. Freemasonry has always encouraged its members to be active in their own religion and does not make any attempt to replace it. Freemasonry is a non-religious and non-political organisation which encourages its members to become the best they can be. In fact Freemasonry is entirely complimentary to the best aspects of all religions.
WHAT IS FREEMASONRY'S RELATIONSHIP WITH POLITICS?
Freemasonry is a non-political organisation and as a body will never express a view on politics or state policy. In fact, the discussion of politics (and religion) at Masonic meetings is not allowed. They believe this is the best way to ensure that everyone gets along well, since politics is a subject that often gets emotions running high!
BUT AREN'T RELIGION AND POLITICS TWO OF THE MAIN TOPICS OF CONVERSATION?
Freemasonry is a non-religious and non-political society and believes that separating these topics from Lodge meetings is the best way to ensure that Freemasonry is able to focus on its core principles and beliefs – such as helping other people and contributing to the wider community. We also think this is the best way to ensure that everybody gets along together as both religion and politics are subjects that often get emotions running high!
IS FREEMASONRY A FORCE OF GOOD?
Yes, absolutely. Freemasonry is one of the biggest contributors to UK charities (both Masonic and non-Masonic) and other good causes (such as disaster relief funds – it has contributed to every disaster since 1982). It is also worth noting that Freemasonry encourages its members to take a moral and ethical approach to life, helping them become the best that they can be. It seeks to reinforce the principles of charity, friendship, respect and integrity.
HOW IS THE MONEY DONATED TO CHARITY RAISED?
The money donated to charity is raised by the members themselves. For example, members are invited to give to charity at Lodge meetings, though this should always be within their means; it is entirely up to the individual how much they wish to contribute. Occasionally money is raised from such events as Ladies Nights and barbeques where wives and partners meet socially.
DO THEY RAISE ANY MONEY THROUGH CAMPAIGNS SUCH AS DOOR-TO-DOOR OR STREET COLLECTIONS?
No. Almost all of the money raised is by members themselves, from their own taxable income. Occasionally money is raised from such events as Ladies Nights and barbeques where wives and partners meet socially. All Freemasons are encouraged to give to charity – though this should always be within their means and it is entirely up to the individual how much they wish to contribute. In addition to an annual subscription fee, money is raised at regular Lodge collections, for example.
SURELY FREEMASONS COULD CONTRIBUTE MORE TO GOOD CAUSES IF THEY REACHED OUT TO THE PUBLIC - VIA STREET COLLECTIONS?
Freemasons have always raised money almost solely via their members – and occasionally through wives and partners of members at social events - and this is the way they want it to remain, especially since there are many other good causes which raise funds through proactive campaigns such as street collections. Freemasons are already one of the largest charitable givers in the UK. Members will continue to raise funds for good causes (both Masonic and nonMasonic), as well as contributing to society and individual communities more widely.
IS FREEMASONRY A REGISTERED CHARITY?
IS FREEMASONRY AN OPEN SOCIETY?
WILL FREEMASONRY CHANGE IN THE FUTURE TO BECOME MORE OPEN & TRANSPARENT?
BUT LODGE MEETINGS ARE PRIVATE AREN'T THEY?
Yes, Lodge meetings are for members only, similar to the meetings of most membership-based organisations or even the board meetings of companies. However, Freemasons operate in an extremely open and transparent manner. For example members follow a set of rules as set out in the Book of Constitutions which was first published in 1723 and is available for public viewing and purchase. Furthermore, visitors are welcome to visit the UGLE headquarters, Freemason’s Hall, there is a wealth of information available on the United Grand Lodge of England website and the organisation welcomes enquiries about Freemasonry and its aims and objectives.
FREEMASONS TAKE OATHS DON'T THEY? WHAT'S THAT ALL ABOUT?
New members make solemn promises concerning their behaviour both in the Lodge and in society. 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. Effectively, such promises govern the way members conduct themselves – similar to the rules and terms of membership of any membership-based organisation – whether it’s a tennis club or organisations such as Rotary or the Women’s Institute.
THERE ARE RITUALS INVOLVED IN FREEMASONRY AREN'T THERE?
There are ceremonies symbolically based on the initiation of apprentice stonemasons in the Middle Ages and which have become part of Lodge meetings. For example new members are introduced to the values of Freemasonry through ritual dramas which are learnt off by heart and stonemasons’ customs and tools are used in these. In addition, historic regalia is worn and this shows members’ role within the organisation. Any organisation that has a history dating back several centuries will have built up a particular way of doing things, including ceremonies that may appear strange to non-members. For example, the ceremony and rituals surrounding the state opening – and operation – of Parliament are likely to appear strange to those not familiar with its history and heritage. The meetings of other well-known organisations such as Rotary and Scouting, for example, follow set patterns, and many involve uniforms, badges or chains of office, so there are a number of parallels.
WHY DO MEMBERS WEAR REGALIA AT LODGE MEETINGS?
WHY ARE THERE SO MANY MYTHS AND RUMOURS SURROUNDING FREEMASONS?
IS IT TRUE THAT THERE ARE HIDDEN FREEMASON MESSAGES BUILT INTO SOME OF THE MAJOR BUILDINGS IN CITIES AROUND THE WORLD?
No. This is a rumour likely to have derived from the fact that Freemasonry’s symbolic heritage dates back to the stonemasons who were responsible for building many historic buildings – such as churches and cathedrals – which still stand today. They may well have included some of their symbols in the architecture, almost like signatures to illustrate their involvement. However, they are no more than that.
IS FREEMASONRY A CULT?
No. Freemasonry is a non-political, non-religious membership based organisation open to people regardless of race, colour, religion, political views or social or economic standing. Freemasonry encourages its members to take a moral and ethical approach to life and to become the best that they can be. Freemasonry is run in an extremely open and transparent way and is one of the largest charitable givers in the UK.
HAS BEING A FREEMASON HELPED INFLUENTIAL PEOPLE REACH SUVH LEVELS OF SUCCESS IN THEIR CAREERS?
No, absolutely not. In fact, business networking is not allowed in Freemasonry. Clearly, many highly successful people have been Freemasons, but most Freemasons are ordinary people.
IS FREEMASONRY EFFECTIVELY A NETWORKING OPPURTUNITY FOR MEMBERS TO HELP FURTHER THEIR CAREERS?
No, absolutely not. In fact, networking is not permitted in Freemasonry and using Freemasonry for business advancement is strictly not allowed. Freemasonry is a non-religious, non-political organisation. From its earliest days Freemasonry has been concerned with the care of vulnerable people in society including the sick and the elderly. This work continues unabated today and the Freemasons have become one of the largest givers to good causes.
DO YOU HAVE TO BE SUCCESSFUL TO BE A FREEMASON?
No, of course not! There have been many high profile Freemasons, but there are also many other members who are ordinary, hard-working people from all walks of life who join Freemasonry for the camaraderie, to become the best that they can be and to get involved in charitable and community work.
IF YOU WERE TO LOOSE SOME OF THE MYSTERIOUS TERMINOLOGY & PRACTICES WOULDN'T IT APPEAL MORE TO THE NEXT GENERATION?
No. Membership of Freemasonry in the UK is strong, currently standing at over 200,000. The long history and heritage of the organisation are an integral part of the Freemasons and will continue to be so in the future.