Frequently Asked Questions
and when did Freemasonry start?
many Freemasons are there?
is the purpose of Freemasonry?
are the aims of Freemasonry?
are the values of Freemasonry?
Oaths, Penalties and 'Secrets' of Freemasonry
Freemasonry a secret society?
are the secrets of Freemasonry?
do Freemasons take oaths?
it true that Freemasons only look after each
do your 'obligations' contain hideous penalties?
Freemasons expected to prefer fellow Masons at
the expense of others in giving jobs, promotions,
contracts and the like?
don't you have women members?
- Is Freemasonry an international
is the relationship between Freemasonry groups
like the Orange Order, Odd Fellows and Buffaloes?
Freemasonry, Religion & Politics
Freemasonry a religion?
you a religion, or a rival to religion?
do you call it the Volume of the Sacred Law and
not the Bible?
do you call God the Great Architect?
don't some churches like Freemasonry?
will Freemasonry not accept Catholics as members?
Freemasonry just another political pressure
there not Masonic groups who are involved in
Ceremonies of Freemasonry
happens at a lodge meeting?
do grown men run around with their trousers
do you wear regalia?
many degrees are there in Freemasonry?
ritual out of place in modern society?
do people join and remain members?
promises do Freemasons take?
- How much
does it cost to be a Freemason?
is the joining process?
the United Grand Lodge of England is the UK's
largest, secular fraternal and charitable
organisation. It has over 300,000 members in
nearly 8,000 lodges throughout England and Wales
and 30,000 more members overseas. In Yorkshire it
is represented by approximately 10,000 member in
214 Lodges, 20 of which are within the
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.
and when did Freemasonry start?
recorded 'making' of a Freemason in England is
that of Elias Ashmole in 1646. Organised
Freemasonry began with the founding of the Grand
Lodge of England on 24 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
cerrtificates, dues 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.
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 build 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 mason's tools
provided them with a wealth of symbols with which to
illustrate the moral teachings of Freemasonry.
many Freemasons are there?
|Under the United Grand Lodge of
England, there are 330,000 Freemasons, meeting in
8,644 lodges. There are separate Grand Lodges for
lreland (which covers north and south) and
Scotland, with a combined membership of 150,000.
Worldwide there are probably 5 million members.
What is the purpose of Freemasonry?
are dedicated to making good men better and to
developing our knowledge of ourselves as
individuals and the world around us through
education, discussion and social exchange.
aim to make proper use of our time, dividing it
between worship, work, leisure and service, thus
making the best use of our mental and physical
aim to use our talents for the benefit of
ourselves, our families, our neighbours and our
communities throughout our private, public
business and professional life.
declare our membership whenever any possible
conflict of interest may arise or be perceived to
promise not to use our membership to promote our
own or anyone else's private, public business or
Highest Moral and Social Standards
aim to behave towards others as we would have
them behave towards us.
aim to be constructive in our approach to life
and uphold the importance of the welfare and
independence of everyone.
admit members from every ethnic group in the
believe that all individuals are equal and
dependant on each other. That they must be valued
for their own merits regardless of factors such
as race, national origin, religious creed, social
status or wealth.
respect the ideals and beliefs of others and
endeavour to behave with kindness and
understanding to all.
cherish all life and the well-being of all.
consider charity as being goodwill to all.
care not only for Masons and their families, but
also for the community as a whole.
raise money for charitable purposes only from our
own members, not from the general public.
give as generously as our wealth will allow and
through voluntary work in the community.
strive for truth and believe that nothing can
justify the telling of lies or being
treat everyone in an open and honest manner.
are the aims of Freemasonry?
Highest Moral Standards
are concerned with human behaviour, especially
the distinction between good and bad and right
are taught to be aware that all individuals have
a natural tendency towards both good and evil; to
consider our options and choose the former.
define our moral standards as
- Obeying the laws of the
- Working hard.
- Living peaceably and
- Acting honourably and with
understanding and charity to all.
Their Own Religion
is not a religion, but is about man's
relationship with man.
is no Masonic God.
all Freemasons must declare a belief in a Supreme
Being and we therefore have members of many
faiths, including Christianity, Hinduism, Islam
are encouraged to practice our own religion,
whatever faith it may be, and regard Freemasonry
as a moral code subordinate to, but supportive
of, that religion.
do not admit atheists or agnostics into
Their Own Community
encourages us to fulfil our responsibilities to:
Family and Ourselves
- We try and support our
families in all they do.
- We try to deveop knowledge
of ourselves, look after our health and
do nothing to excess.
- We try to behave towards
others as we would have them behave
towards us and to help anyone in need of
support and assistance.
- We try to avoid private
disputes and quarrels.
Masonic Lodge and its Members
- We serve our Lodge by:
- Attending regularly and
particpating in the ceremonies through
which the high moral standards to which
we aspire are re-inforced.
- Keeping the few
traditional Masonic forms of recognition
within the confines of the Lodge.
- Preserving harmony at our
- Joining in the social
- We promise to support and
serve our fellow members by:
- Respecting their family.
- Defending their good
character in their absence.
- Keeping their confidences
- except anything contrary to the laws of
our own religion or country.
Society of Upright Men
governing body is The United Grand Lodge of
England. For administrative purposes it divides
the country into a number of 'Provinces'.
have in the Province of Yorkshire (West Riding),
over 200 Lodges with almost 10,000 members in an
area which stretches from Ripon in the North to
Sheffield in the South and Bentham in the West to
Goole in the East. Each Lodge is individual in
character and has its own Bye Laws.
offer membership to men of any race or religion
who are of good reputation and not atheists or
applicants must confirm that they are aged 21
years or above and come forward voluntarily with
no expectation of obtaining material advantage.
(By exception gentlmen over 18 years can be
admitted, provided the Provincial Grand Master
allows a dispensation to be granted).
exclude from membership those Freemasons who
abuse the trust placed in them in their private
or public lives or who fail to uphold the rules
ceremonies contain dramatic presentations of
moral lessons and include:
- Traditional passwords and
signs of recognition which are only used
in those ceremonies.
- Solemn promises which are
no different from those taken elsewhere.
- Traditional penalties from
an earlier age which are symbolic, not
literal. They allude to the pain any
honest man should feel at the thought of
violating his word. We give as generously
as our wealth will allow and through
voluntary work in the community.
society is for men only but there is a parallel
and totally independent Masonic organisation for
Each Other's Company
social activities and our enjoyment of
Freemasonry cannot be over-emphasised. The
objectives of Freemasonry are serious but our
members are ordinary, fun-loving individuals who
seek a good balance in life.
of our meetings include a social dimension where
the focus is on good fellowship and enjoyment in
the company of like-minded friends.
family and friends are important to us and are
activly encouraged to participate in our social
activities just as we participate in theirs.
Team Spirit and Fellowship
develop team spirit and fellowship through all
our activities and gain an understanding of the
needs of others which in turn leads to increased
tolerance and respect.
therefore consider Freemasonry to be a way of
life which, when practiced, makes us good
is the outcome of such activity. It cannot be
expressed in words but can only be experienced in
the heart. As such it is sometimes described as
the only true mystery of Freemasonry.
What are the values of Freemasonry?
following expanded list of attributes contains the
traditional words used in our ceremonies together with
others which add to the overall picture of what we value
in our Freemasonry and the standards we strive to
- Fellowship - Harmony - Love
- Generosity - Assistance
- Dependability - Faithfulness - Truth
- Reputation - Duty - Trustworthiness
- Goodness - Honesty - Uprightness
- Moderation - Restraint
- Determination - Endurance
Sense - Wisdom - Caution
The Oaths, Penalties and 'Secrets' of
Freemasonry a secret society?
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
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. 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 mediaeval 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. Freemasons are proud of
their heritage and happy to share it.
are the secrets of Freemasonry?
|The secrets in Freemasonry are the
traditional modes of recognition which are not
used indiscriminately, but solely as a test of
rnembenhip, e.g. when visiting a Lodge where you
are not known.
Why do Freemasons take oaths?
|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 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 with their duties to God, the law,
their family or with their responsibilities as a
Isn't it true that Freemasons only look
after each other?
|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 Freemasons 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,
lodges give substantial support to local causes.
Why do your 'obligations'
contain hideous penalties?
|They no longer do. When Masonic
ritual was developing in the late 1600s and 1700s
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 penates were
always symbolic and were never carried out. After
long discussion, they were removed from the
promises in 1986.
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 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 every candidate
receives, contains strict rules governing abuse
of membership which can result in penalties
varying from temporary suspension to expulsion.
Why don't you have women
|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 reemasonry, there
are two separate Grand Lodges in England
restricted to women only.
Is Freemasonry an
|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.
What is the relationship
between Freemasonry groups like the Orange Order, Odd
Fellows and 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.
Religion & Politics
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
Aren't you a religion or a
rival to religion?
|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
practise 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 his God.
Why do you call it the Volume of the
Sacred Law and not the Bible?
|To the majority of Freemasons the
Volume of the Sacred 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 of his
religion and to a Christian it will be the Bible.
Why do you call God the
|Freemasonry embraces all men who
believe in God. Its membership includes
Christians, Jews, Hindus, Sikhs, Muslims, Parsees
and others. The use of descriptions such 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 can enjoy each other's
company without offense being given to any of
Why don't some churches
|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
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 Catholic Freemasons and they are more
than welcome to join.
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.
Are there not Masonic
groups who are involved in politics?
|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. These follow the basic principles of
Freemasonry and ban the discussion of politics
and religion at their meetings. Of course there
are individual Freemasons active in local and
national politics. However, if their membership
of the Craft creates a conflict of interest they
will declare it. Most Freemasons are open about
Ceremonies of Freemasonry
What happens at a lodge
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.
We tend not to talk too much about
the content of the ceremonies themselves, as it
will lessen the impact on the candidate, just as
someone telling you about a film before you've
had a chance to see it (otherwise known as a
Why do grown 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. Contrary
to what some people say, Freemasons do have a
sense of humour. Whilst our ceremonies are
serious affairs, we also see the funny side of
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.
We do not wear regalia during the festive board
as this is conducted in a more relaxed
atmosphere. The Grand Master is HRH Duke of Kent, seen here in his
regalia presiding over the 275th celebration of
United Grand Lodge of England.
How many degrees are there in Freemasonry?
|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 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.
Isn't ritual out of place
in modern society?
|No. The ritual is a shared
experience which binds the members together. Its
use of drama, metaphor 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
Why do people join and
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
representation 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 of society.
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
|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. 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 his word. 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.
How much does it cost to be a Freemason?
|It varies from lodge to lodge. The
subscription rates for our Lodge is approximately
£185 per annum, and there is a £70 joining fee.
(The fee for student members below 25 is
discounted). The cost of the meal is presently
£11 with drinks on top. 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. Both the annual
subscription and the donation to charity can be
paid monthly by standing order, if required.
What is the joining process?
live in or around the Huddersfield area, and are
interested in joining, we suggest you contact one of
our Lodge members. If everything seems to be in
order you will be invited down to one of our Practice
Nights on a Monday evening to have a look around the
Lodge building and meet some of the members. If there is
a social on at this time, you will be invited along with
your partner, where appropriate. This is to ensure that
you are comfortable with the members of the Lodge and the
Lodge members are comfortable with you. After this you
will be asked to attend an interview with some members of
the Lodge. Your name will be read out in the Lodges in
the districts in which you live and work, and in the
Huddersfield District, to verify you are a person of good
people join they are asked to make the following
declarations on their membership forms:
application is entirely voluntary.
do not expect, anticipate or seek any pecuniary
benefit as a consequence of my being a member of
have never been convicted by a Court of any
have never been the subject of a finding of
dishonest or disgraceful conduct.
have never been disciplined by any professional,
trade or other tribunal.
am not awaiting the outcome of proceedings
against me before a criminal court or a
professional, trade or other tribunal.
am not, to the best of my knowledge, the subject
of any criminal, professional, trade or other
Dispensation may be awarded in exceptional
cases. This is made clear on the application form.
|Assuming the reports come back
favourably you will be proposed into the Lodge
and balloted for by the members. The whole
process can take from three to nine months,
assuming there is no waiting list. If at any time
you have any misgivings or reservations you
should discuss these with your Proposer or
Seconder. You may withdraw your application at
any point in the process. It is natural to have
doubts about joining Freemasonry because you do
not know the nature of the ceremony, though it is
better for everyone if an application is
withdrawn than if somebody feels they are joining
out of a sense of responsibilty. Please note that
"blackballing" a candidate is extremely
rare as we take a lot of care to ensure that any
problems are taken care of at an earlier time.