What is Freemasonry?
Freemasonry teaches moral lessons and self-knowledge through
participation in a progression of allegorical two-part plays,
which are learnt by heart and performed within each lodge.
Freemasonry offers its members an approach to life which seeks
to reinforce thoughtfulness for others, kindness in the community,
honesty in business, courtesy in society and fairness in all
things. Members are urged to regard the interests of the family
as paramount but importantly Freemasonry also teaches and practices
concern for people, care for the less fortunate and help for
those in need.
Why do people join and remain members?
People become Freemasons for a variety of reasons, some as
the result of family tradition, others upon the introduction
of a friend or out of a curiosity to know what it is all about.
Those who become active members and who grow in Freemasonry
do so principally because they enjoy it. They enjoy the challenges
and fellowship that Freemasonry offers. There is more to it,
however, than just enjoyment.
Participation in the dramatic presentation of moral lessons
and in the working of a lodge provides a member with a unique
opportunity to learn more about himself and encourages him to
live in such a way that he will always be in search of becoming
a better man, not better than someone else but better than he
himself would otherwise be and therefore an exemplary member
Each Freemason is required to learn and show humility through
initiation. Then, by progression through a series of degrees
he gains insight into increasingly complex moral and philosophical
concepts, and accepts a variety of challenges and responsibilities
which are both stimulating and rewarding. The structure and
working of the lodge and the sequence of ceremonial events,
which are usually followed by social gatherings, offer members
a framework for companionship, teamwork, character development
and enjoyment of shared experiences.
What promises do Freemasons take?
New members make solemn promises concerning their conduct in
the lodge and society. These promises are similar to those taken
in court or upon entering the armed services or many other organisations.
Each member also promises to keep confidential the traditional
methods of proving he is a Freemason which he would use when
visiting a lodge where he is not known.
The much publicised 'traditional penalties' for failure to
observe these undertakings were removed from the promises in
1986. They were always symbolic not literal and refer only to
the pain any decent man should feel at the thought of violating
Members also undertake not to make use of their membership
for personal gain or advancement; failure to observe this principle
or otherwise to fall below the standards expected of a Freemason
can lead to expulsion.
Who can join?
Membership is open to men of all faiths who are law-abiding,
of good character and who acknowledge a belief in God. Freemasonry
is a multi-racial and multi-cultural organisation. It has attracted
men of goodwill from all sectors of the community into membership.
There are similar Masonic organisations for women.
Is Freemasonry a religion?
Freemasonry is not a religion. It has no theology and does
not teach any route to salvation. A belief in God, however,
is an essential requirement for membership and Freemasonry encourages
its members to be active in their own religions as well as in
society at large.
Although every lodge meeting is opened and closed with a prayer
and its ceremonies reflect the essential truths and moral teachings
common to many of the world's great religions, no discussion
of religion is permitted in lodge meetings.
Is Freemasonry a secret society?
Freemasonry is not a secret society, but lodge meetings, like
meetings of many other social and professional associations,
are private occasions open only to members.
Freemasons are encouraged to speak openly about their membership,
while remembering that they undertake not to use it for their
own or anyone else's advancement. As members are sometimes the
subject of discrimination which may adversely affect their employment
or other aspects of their lives, some Freemasons are understandably
reticent about discussing their membership. In common with many
other national organisations, Grand Lodge neither maintains
nor publishes a list of members and will not disclose names
or member's details without their permission.
In circumstances where a conflict of interest might arise or
be perceived to exist or when Freemasonry becomes an issue,
a Freemason must declare an interest.
The rules and aims of Freemasonry are available to the public.
The Masonic Year Book, also available to the public, contains
the names of all national office-holders and lists of all lodges
with details of their meeting dates and places.
The meeting places and halls used by Freemasons are readily
identifiable, are listed in telephone directories and in many
areas are used by the local community for activities other than
Freemasonry. Freemason's Hall in London is open to the public
and 'open days' are held in many provincial centres.
The rituals and ceremonies used by Freemasons to pass on the
principles of Freemasonry to new members were first revealed
publicly in 1723. They include the traditional forms of recognition
used by Freemasons essentially to prove their identity and qualifications
when entering a Masonic meeting. These include handshakes which
have been much written about and can scarcely be regarded as
truly secret today; for medieval Freemasons, they were the equivalent
of a 'pin number' restricting access only to qualified members.
Many thousands of books have been written on the subject of
Freemasonry and are readily available to the general public.
Freemasonry offers spokesmen and briefings for the media and
provides talks to interested groups on request. Freemasons are
proud of their heritage and happy to share it.
Is Freemasonry involved in politics?
Freemasonry is definitely not a political organisation, it
has no political agenda, and discussion of politics is not permitted
at lodge meetings.
Freemasonry naturally tends to attract those with a concern
for people and a sense of social responsibility and purpose.
There are members, therefore, who are involved in politics at
local, national and international level. Equally there are members
who take an active interest in non-Masonic charitable organisations
and other community groups.
Is Freemasonry involved in the community?
From its earliest days, Freemasonry has been involved in charitable
activities, and since its inception it has provided support
for many widows and orphans of Freemasons as well as for others
within the community.
All monies raised for charity are drawn from amongst Freemasons,
their families and friends, while grants and donations are made
to Masonic and non-Masonic charities alike.
Over the past five years alone Freemasonry has raised more
than £75m for a wide range of charitable purposes including
those involved in medical research, community care, education
and work with young people.
Freemasonry has an enviable record of providing regular and
consistent financial support to individual charities over long
periods while at the same time making thousands of grants to
local charities, appeals and projects throughout England and
Wales each year. For the future, opportunities to obtain or
provide matched funding are periodically examined with a view
to enhancing the impact of the support Freemasonry can give
to specific projects. The personal generosity of Freemasons
and the collective fundraising efforts of almost 8,000 lodges,
however, will continue to determine the contribution Freemasonry
makes within the community.
For further information and details of how to join, telephone
or write to:
The Grand Secretary
The United Grand Lodge of England
60 Great Queen Street
Tel: 0207 831 9811
Fax: 0207 831 5719
This information is taken from a booklet entitled "Freemasonry:
An Approach to Life" issued by the United Grand Lodge of
England, from where printed copies may be obtained at the address