Frequently Asked Questions
Why is Freemasonry secret?
Freemasonry is actually not secret. We are happy to discuss most aspects of Freemasonry. What we will not discuss with non-masons are the details of the ceremonies, as to do so would blunt the impact for those wishing to join. As with any society, our proceedings are private.
Many books have been written about Freemasonry over the centuries and continue to be written. These books cover all aspects of Freemasonry and will show you all aspects of the ritual and the workings of Freemasonry.
You can buy a complete book of the ritual of the degree ceremonies. But that would not facilitate your reception into Freemasonry, because you can’t become a Freemason by reading about it; you can only become a Freemason by experiencing it.
So the supposed secrecy about Freemasonry frankly does not exist.
Are there any famous Freemasons?
Throughout our recorded history, at least since the 17thC, many prominent and influential people in the arts, sciences, philosophies, politics, literature have been Freemasons.
It is quite interesting to run through even a short list of these:
Alexander Fleming, who discovered penicillin, King George VI, George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Josephine de Beauharnais, Mark Twain (‘Courage is not the absence of fear but the mastery of fear’), Elias Ashmole, Goethe, Mozart, Voltaire, William Hogarth, Gustave Eiffel, Garibaldi, Dr. Barnardo, Henry Ford, Josephine Baker, Buzz Aldrin, Winston Churchill, Cecil B. de Mille, Douglas Fairbanks, Clark Gable, Harry Houdini, Peter Sellers, Al Jolson, Lord Kitchener, Rudyard Kipling, Oscar Wilde, Martin Luther King, Louis Armstrong, Theodore Roosevelt, Gerald Ford and many more.
If I join, will I make friends? Will it help my career?
You would almost certainly make friends, for you would be among like-minded people who probably share your views and interests. That is not to say you would agree with them on every level.
The friends you would make amongst Freemasons would engage in lively debate; engaging with them would probably stimulate your intellect. Freemasons engage with each other on many levels, and tolerance, courtesy and harmony always characterise our dealings with each other.
Freemasonry will never directly help your career. There is no such thing as giving one another a ‘leg up’ or possibility of promotion because of membership. But it is perfectly possible that Freemasonry will so aid you on the path to spiritual growth and development that you will become a more all-round person in yourself, thereby fitting you for the daily tasks that your profession or career demand of you.
Is it true that I have to roll up my trouser leg?
No. When a candidate is prepared for initiation, his or her clothing is discreetly disarranged to denote, in an allegorical fashion, the frailty of the human condition.
What promises do Freemasons make?
New members make solemn promises concerning their conduct in the Lodge and in 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. Members also undertake not to make use of their membership for personal gain or advancement.
Isn’t ritual out of place in modern society?
The ritual is a shared experience that 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.
What are the ceremonies of Freemasonry about?
Briefly, each degree conferred is conducted as a drama, like a mystery play. Each one of the three is in two parts – the first part relates to the conferral of the degree itself, the second part consists of a legend and instruction in the duties conferred by the first part. The first degree may be regarded as an allegory of birth – birth of the spirit, or the attainment of inner light and self-knowledge. The second degree is an allegory of life, or the journey we all undertake between birth and death, and concentrates on intellectual growth.
The third degree explores the allegory of the death of the old person to be reborn to a higher state of consciousness.
Who can join?
Membership of a lodge is open to men and women of all faiths and of none, who are law-abiding and of good character. Freemasonry is a multi-racial and multi-cultural organisation. It has attracted persons of goodwill from all sectors of the community.
Are only men admitted to Freemasonry?
Both men and women are admitted to the Order in total equality and total harmony. Unlike other masonic Orders, we make no distinction whatsoever.
Do Freemasons claim to be better people than non-masons?
No. Freemasons seek ways to self-knowledge and to achieve progress in virtue and in moral awareness and uprightness, but would never claim to be better than other people.
Are Freemasons expected to prefer fellow Masons at the expense of others in giving jobs, promotions, contracts and the like?
Absolutely not. That would be a misuse of membership and is not allowed.
Can I improve my career prospects by becoming a Freemason?
You should never attempt to use your membership of Freemasonry to improve business or career prospects – if you did, any Freemason who suspected that you were trying to do so would immediately be alienated, since it is totally against the ethos and spirit of Freemasonry.
I have heard it said that Freemasons conspire against the state and that they aim to take over the world. Is that true?
There is no truth in that assertion whatsoever; in fact, each person on being initiated is enjoined to be exemplary in the discharge of his civil duties and faithful to the laws of any country in which he lives, and not to plot against the state, as such action would result in his being expelled from Freemasonry.
Isn’t it true that Freemasons only look after each other?
No. From its earliest days, Freemasonry has been involved in charitable activities. Freemasonry has always provided support not only for widows and orphans of Freemasons but also for many others within the community. On a local level, lodges give substantial support to local causes.
Is it true that Freemasonry had its origins in ancient Egypt?
Probably not. What is true is that the precepts and practices of Freemasonry mirror many ancient mysteries and belief-systems, from the dawn of history, through medieval times, the Renaissance, the Age of Enlightenment and many other strands of learning and culture.
So when and where did Freemasonry originate?
Nobody knows for certain. The earliest recorded Masonic proceedings were in Scotland in the late sixteenth century. One of the most persuasive theories concerning the origins of ‘speculative’
Freemasonry goes back to the medieval stonemasons, who were engaged in the construction of the many sublime examples of architecture in England, particularly churches and cathedrals. This theory has it that such stonemasons introduced means of protecting their craft in each area from itinerant or immigrant workers, who might have undercut the wages offered, or taken work that belonged to the local workers. The stonemasons engaged in the construction of such buildings often organised themselves into Lodges, and elected men to lead them and provide guidance in the work.
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.
Why will Freemasonry not accept Roman Catholics?
It does. How a candidate’s belief is expressed is entirely up to him or her.
Isn’t Freemasonry just another political pressure group?
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.
Is Freemasonry a religion?
No. Freemasonry is a spiritual pursuit, leading to self-knowledge and moral growth, and can be said to underpin the individual Freemason’s religious adherence if he has one, but Freemasonry has no theology and does not teach any route to salvation in the way that institutional religions do. Discussion of religion is not permitted in Lodge meetings.
What about religion and God?
Freemasonry is not a religion. It does not offer sacraments or salvation in the sense employed by many world religions. Freemasonry has no dogma and does not direct what you should believe or practise beyond the masonic ritual.
It is a spiritual path, one which may be travelled at your own pace, and one whose aim is to actively assist the Freemason in his or her pursuit of self-knowledge, spiritual and moral growth and development, thereby enabling him to achieve his own inner building.
This, if successful, will then enable him to take part in the building of an edifice with his members in the Lodge, ultimately leading to the building of an edifice to humanity leading to the establishment and maintenance of a better world.
Freemasons acknowledge the existence of a Creative Principle, designated by some as the Supreme Being, and referred to by many Freemasons as the Great Architect of the Universe.