We often receive enquiries from people who wish to find out more about Freemasonry. This page contains the questions we are asked most frequently. If you have a question that is not answered her then please free to use our enquiry form and we will get back to you.
What is Freemasonry? +
Freemasonry is the UK's largest secular, fraternal and charitable organisation. It teaches moral lessons and self-knowledge through participation in a progression of allegorical two-part plays.
Is information about Freemasonry freely available? +
Yes - information, including the rules and aims of Freemasonry, is freely available to the public. Meeting places are known and in many areas are used by the local community for activities other than Freemasonry. Lodge meetings, like those of many other groups are only open to members, but all members are encouraged to speak openly about Freemasonry.
What happens at a lodge meeting? +
The meeting, which like those of other groups, are open only to members, 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.
Why do grown up men run around with their trousers rolled up? +
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.
Why do Freemasons take oaths? +
New members make solemn promises concerning their conduct in the 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 time of need, but only if that support does not conflict with their duties their family or with their public obligations.
Do Freemasons give preferential treatment to other Masons over others? +
Absolutely not. That would be a misuse of membership and subject to Masonic discipline. On his entry to 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 every candidate receives, contains strict rules governing abuse of membership which can result in penalties varying from temporary suspension to expulsion.
Who do the Masonic Charities donate to? +
Whilst there are Masonic charities that cater specifically, but not exclusively, for Masons or their dependants, others make significant grants to non-Masonic organisations.
Why do you call it the V.S.L and not the Bible? +
To the majority of Freemasons the Volume of the Sacred Law is the Bible. There are many Freemasons 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 of his religion and to a Christian it will be a Bible.
Why do you call God the Great Architect? +
Freemasonry embraces all men who believe in God. Its members include Christians, Jews, Hindus, Sikhs, Muslims, Parsees and others. The use of description such as Great Architect prevents disharmony. The Great Architect is not a specific 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.
Why don't some churches like Freemasonry? +
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.
Why will Freemasonry not accept Roman Catholics as members? +
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 Catholics. There are many Roman Catholic Freemasons.
What is Freemasonry's relationship with politics? +
Freemasonry, as a body, will never express a view on politics or state policy. The discussion of politics at Masonic meetings has always been prohibited.
Is Freemasonry an international Order? +
Only in the sense that Freemasonry exists throughout the free world. Each Grand Lodge is sovereign and independent, and whist following the same basic principles, may have differing ways of passing them on. There is no international governing body for Freemasonry.
What is the relationship between Freemasonry and groups like the Orange Order, Odd Fellows and the Buffaloes? +
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.
Are there women Freemasons? +
Yes. Women Freemasons have two separate Grand Lodges.
In 2018, in line with the Gender Recognition Act of 2004 and the Equality Act of 2010, UGLE published its gender reassignment policy. The policy outlines that a candidate for admission to Freemasonry under UGLE must be a man. Should a person who has undergone gender reassignment and has become a man apply to become a Freemason then his application must be processed in the same way as for any other male candidate. A Freemason who after initiation ceases to be a man does not cease to be a Freemason.
Why do you wear regalia? +
Wearing regalia is historical and symbolic and, like a uniform, serves to indicate to members where they rank in the organisation.
How many Freemasons are there? +
Under the United Grand Lodge of England, there are over 200,000 Freemasons, meeting in over 7,000 lodges. There are separate Grand Lodges for Ireland (which covers north and south) and Scotland, with a combined membership of approximately 150,000. Worldwide, there are around 6 million members.
How and when did Freemasonry start? +
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 on 24th June 1717, the first Grand Lodge in the world. Ireland followed in 1725 and Scotland in 1736. 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 Guild certificates, due 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-operatives 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 intolerance 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 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 masons tools provided them with a wealth of symbols with which to illustrate the moral teachings of Freemasonry.
How many degrees are there in Freemasonry? +Basic Freemasonry consists of 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 further by expounding and illustrating the principles stated in the craft and Royal Arch degree. 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 any way superior to or higher than the Craft. The ranks that these degrees carry have no standing with the Craft or Royal Arch.
How much does it cost to be a Freemason? +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 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.