Below are a number of commonly asked questions about freemasonry in general. Many thanks to Metropolitan Grand Lodge for providing inspiration for the answers.
Is Freemasonry an Open Society?
Yes. Our Constitutions (rule book) are available for anyone to read, our meeting places are well advertised and often used by other community groups, our headquarters is open to the public and has free tours, we have web sites like this one for the curious, and you can even ring us up. If anyone thinks we are not open, they clearly haven’t been looking very hard! We are, however, subject to the same data protection rules as other clubs and societies and so cannot publish membership lists.
What happens at Lodge meetings?
We enact rituals based on the historical ceremonies of stonemasons’ guilds. These are effectively short thought-provoking ‘morality plays’ which use allegory and symbolism associated with the stonemason’s craft to illustrate moral and charitable lessons, and everyone has a part to play. At other meetings there may be a short talk on Masonic history, symbolism or some other aspect of interest. After meetings, the members usually have a meal together.
Don’t Masons have to help each other ahead of other people?
No. Like everyone we are taught that we should help others, especially those less fortunate than ourselves. It is made absolutely clear to every new member that his civil, moral and religious duties take precedence over any obligation to fellow-Masons.
How does being a Mason fit with your ordinary responsibilities in life?
Freemasonry supports it. It teaches a moral code which is acceptable to all right-thinking people: to be law-abiding, support the broader community, help those less fortunate than oneself, and discharge one’s public and family duties faithfully.
Are you a religion?
Certainly not. We do not even allow discussion of religion at our meetings, as that could be divisive. We do require members to believe in God, however, as our ceremonies would make no sense to non-believers. Masonic meetings begin with a non-denominational prayer – so do meetings of Parliament, your local Scout troop and Remembrance Day services.
Do you accept Roman Catholics as Masons?
Yes, gladly, and there are many of them – and indeed many other sorts of Christian as well as Jews, Muslims and others. The Catholic Church in England has no problem with Freemasonry though, unlike other religions, it does not allow its ordained priests to join us. There is no conflict of interest, as a man’s duty to his religion would always take precedence over Freemasonry. Some organisations abroad which call themselves ‘Freemasons’ hold anti-clerical and even anti-Catholic views. We have no truck with them, do not recognise them, and forbid our members from dealing with them.
Why don’t Masons talk about their membership with other people?
Masons don’t conceal their membership, but equally don’t want to be wrongly accused of seeking to gain advantage from it. Also, despite excellent progress on equality in recent years, people still occasionally try to discriminate against us. Some employers until recently used to ask whether staff were Freemasons (but would not dream of asking if they were gay, Jewish, left-handed or from an ethnic minority, of course). Fortunately common-sense and the European Convention on Human Rights are making this sort of illegal discrimination increasingly rare.
What stance does Masonry take on politics?
None. Individual Freemasons have political opinions, of course, but Freemasonry as an institution does not. Discussion of politics is forbidden at our meetings, as it could lead to disagreements among friends. But it is fair to assume that our members’ political views encompass all major parties and many of the smaller ones.
Isn’t Freemasonry just a club for the posh?
Not at all. Part of the joy of Freemasonry is that it brings together people from all sorts of backgrounds. Our members include rich, poor, manual workers, office workers, professionals, the unemployed and the retired. Whatever their different backgrounds, they meet in Lodges as equals in a friendly and supportive atmosphere.
Is Freemasonry linked to groups such as the Orangemen, Oddfellows, Foresters etc?
No. Some of those organisations have superficial similarities with Masonry in that their members wear regalia and in some cases enact ceremonies. But they have no links to Freemasonry.
Why can’t women be Freemasons?
They can! Freemasonry started as a male-only movement, in keeping with the social conditions of centuries ago, and we see no particular reason to change that. But in the early 20th century women established Masonic organisations for themselves. We do not visit each other’s Lodges but they sometimes use our meeting-places. Some women Masons are even married to our members!
How much does it cost to be a Mason?
It varies. There is an annual subscription, typically around £100, plus a one-off joining fee, and perhaps £30-40 initially for regalia. In addition there is the cost of dining, which can vary a lot depending on how lavish or economical the individual Lodge chooses to be. There is also a strong expectation that members will make a regular contribution to charity, though not at the expense of their other commitments – for example their family.
If you have any further questions please contact us and ask away, there is very little we can’t share with non-masons. If you are already a mason and would like to know more then why not come along to one of our meetings.