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Frequently Asked Questions


  1. What is Freemasonry?
  2. How and when did Freemasonry start?
  3. How many Freemasons are there?
  4. What is the purpose of Freemasonry?
  5. What are the aims of Freemasonry?
  6. What are the values of Freemasonry?

The Oaths, Penalties and 'Secrets' of Freemasonry

  1. Is Freemasonry a secret society?
  2. What are the secrets of Freemasonry?
  3. Why do Freemasons take oaths?
  4. Isn't it true that Freemasons only look after each other?
  5. Why do your 'obligations' contain hideous penalties?
  6. Are Freemasons expected to prefer fellow Masons at the expense of others in giving jobs, promotions, contracts and the like?

Freemasonry & Society

  1. Why don't you have women members?
  2. Is Freemasonry an international Order?
  3. What is the relationship between Freemasonry groups like the Orange Order, Odd Fellows and Buffaloes?

Freemasonry, Religion & Politics

  1. Is Freemasonry a religion?
  2. Aren't you a religion, or a rival to religion?
  3. Why do you call it the Volume of the Sacred Law and not the Bible?
  4. Why do you call God the Great Architect?
  5. Why don't some churches like Freemasonry?
  6. Why will Freemasonry not accept Catholics as members?
  7. Isn't Freemasonry just another political pressure group?
  8. Are there not Masonic groups who are involved in politics?

The Ceremonies of Freemasonry

  1. What happens at a lodge meeting?
  2. Why do grown men run around with their trousers rolled up?
  3. Why do you wear regalia?
  4. How many degrees are there in Freemasonry?
  5. Isn't ritual out of place in modern society?

Membership Issues

  1. Why do people join and remain members?
  2. What promises do Freemasons take?
  3. Who can join?
  4. How much does it cost to be a Freemason?
  5. What is the joining process?


What is Freemasonry?

Freemasonry under 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 Huddersfield District.

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.

How and when did Freemasonry start?

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 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.

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 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.

How 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?

Good Citizens

  • We 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.
  • We 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 abilities.
  • We 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.
  • We declare our membership whenever any possible conflict of interest may arise or be perceived to arise.
  • We promise not to use our membership to promote our own or anyone else's private, public business or professional interests.

The Highest Moral and Social Standards

  • We aim to behave towards others as we would have them behave towards us.
  • We aim to be constructive in our approach to life and uphold the importance of the welfare and independence of everyone.


  • We admit members from every ethnic group in the world.
  • We 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.
  • We respect the ideals and beliefs of others and endeavour to behave with kindness and understanding to all.
  • We cherish all life and the well-being of all.


  • We consider charity as being goodwill to all.
  • We care not only for Masons and their families, but also for the community as a whole.
  • We raise money for charitable purposes only from our own members, not from the general public.
  • We give as generously as our wealth will allow and through voluntary work in the community.


  • We strive for truth and believe that nothing can justify the telling of lies or being untrustworthy.
  • We treat everyone in an open and honest manner.

What are the aims of Freemasonry?

The Highest Moral Standards

  • We are concerned with human behaviour, especially the distinction between good and bad and right and wrong.
  • We 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.
  • We define our moral standards as
    • Obeying the laws of the land.
    • Working hard.
    • Living peaceably and creditably.
    • Acting honourably and with understanding and charity to all.

Serve Their Own Religion

  • Freemasonry is not a religion, but is about man's relationship with man.
  • There is no Masonic God.
  • However, all Freemasons must declare a belief in a Supreme Being and we therefore have members of many faiths, including Christianity, Hinduism, Islam and Judaism.
  • We 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.
  • We do not admit atheists or agnostics into Freemasonry.

Serve Their Own Community

Freemasonry encourages us to fulfil our responsibilities to:

  • Our 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.
  • Our Neighbours
    • 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.
  • Our 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 meetings.
    • Joining in the social activities.
    • 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.

A Society of Upright Men

  • Our governing body is The United Grand Lodge of England. For administrative purposes it divides the country into a number of 'Provinces'.
  • We 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.
  • We offer membership to men of any race or religion who are of good reputation and not atheists or agnostics.
  • All 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).
  • We 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 of Freemasonry.
  • Our 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.
  • Our society is for men only but there is a parallel and totally independent Masonic organisation for women.

Enjoy Each Other's Company

  • Our 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.
  • Most of our meetings include a social dimension where the focus is on good fellowship and enjoyment in the company of like-minded friends.
  • Our family and friends are important to us and are activly encouraged to participate in our social activities just as we participate in theirs.

Develop Team Spirit and Fellowship

  • We 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.
  • We therefore consider Freemasonry to be a way of life which, when practiced, makes us good citizens.
  • Happiness 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?

The 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 achieve:


Affection - Fellowship - Harmony - Love



Compassion - Generosity - Assistance



Honesty - Dependability - Faithfulness - Truth



Esteem - Reputation - Duty - Trustworthiness

Obedience - Honour


Ethicalness - Goodness - Honesty - Uprightness



Forbearance - Moderation - Restraint



Courage - Determination - Endurance



Common Sense - Wisdom - Caution


The Oaths, Penalties and 'Secrets' of Freemasonry

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. 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.

What 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 citizen.

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.

Freemasonry & Society

Why don't you have women members?

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 international Order?

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.

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 meetings.

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 Great Architect?

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 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 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 their membership.

The Ceremonies of Freemasonry

What happens at a lodge meeting?

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 'plot spoiler').

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 this.

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 modern language.

Membership Issues

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 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 Freemasons take?

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?

If you 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 repute.

When people join they are asked to make the following declarations on their membership forms:

  1. My application is entirely voluntary.
  2. I do not expect, anticipate or seek any pecuniary benefit as a consequence of my being a member of Freemasonry.
  3. I have never been convicted by a Court of any offence. *
  4. I have never been the subject of a finding of dishonest or disgraceful conduct.
  5. I have never been disciplined by any professional, trade or other tribunal.
  6. I am not awaiting the outcome of proceedings against me before a criminal court or a professional, trade or other tribunal.
  7. I am not, to the best of my knowledge, the subject of any criminal, professional, trade or other investigation.

* 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.