Your Question Answered
Freemasonry under the United
Grand Lodge of England is the
Q. What is Freemasonry?
A. Freemasonry is the
Q. Why are you a secret
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
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. What happens at a
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 modern society?
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 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?
A. 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
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 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 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 1600's and 1700's 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?
A. 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 ever 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?
A. 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 Freemasonry 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, lodge give substantial support to
Q. Aren't you a religion
or a rival to religion?
A. 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 practice 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 God.
Q. Why do you call it
the VSL and not the Bible?
A. 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 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?
A. 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?
A. 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?
A. 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 Romans Catholic Freemasons.
Q. Isn't Freemasonry
just another political pressure group?
A. 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?
A. 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 meeting.
Q. Is Freemasonry an
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. What is the
relationship between Freemasonry and groups like the
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. Why don't you have
A. 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
Q. Why do you wear
A. 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
A. Under the United Grand Lodge of England, there are 330,000
Freemasons, meeting in 8,644 lodges. There are separate Grand Lodges for
Q. How and when did
A. It is not known. The earliest recorded ‘making' of a
Q. How many degrees are
there in Freemasonry?
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. How much does it
cost to be a Freemason?
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.