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Some Questions & Answers about Freemasonry


 What are the Origins of Freemasonry?

The exact origins of Freemasonry are uncertain, and there are two prevailing views about how modern masonry came about. The first that it emerged directly from the medieval stonemason guilds, the other that educated gentlemen copied the structure, high moral codes, and the stonemason’s practices and tools as a model for their own moral development.  Some historical evidence suggests that the truth probably lies between the two views and that: Freemasonry was a medieval craft guild which had clear charges, or rules, which certainly date back to 1390, if not before, and which can still be seen in a modified form in our current constitution.  These guilds were patronised by the rich, who financed the building of castles, cathedrals, & stately homes.

Many of these patrons studied the liberal arts and became great men of scientific learning.  They were able to use this knowledge to design structures and manage the building work, soon becoming associates and then accepted members of the craft guilds.  With the advent of brick structures, the guilds started to decline and these men of learning, many of whom founded the Royal Society, used the guild organisation to develop and spread a new type of morality and brotherhood.

Whatever the exact truth about how Freemasonry started, the objectives are still the same: to foster a high moral & ethical approach to life, and encourage thoughtfulness for others, kindness in the community, honesty in business, courtesy in society, and justice in all aspects of life. It also aims to develop friendships and to encourage its members to serve the community and practice charity.

How is Freemasonry Organised Today?

Freemasonry under the United Grand Lodge of England (UGLE) has over 200,000 members in England, Wales & in enclaves throughout the world, meeting in nearly 8000 Lodges. In England and Wales there are 47 Provinces, based roughly on county boundaries, that provide support for the Lodges meeting in their area. In Hampshire and IoW, there are 253 Lodges with a total of 11,000 members which meet in 38 Masonic Centres throughout the Province.  Worldwide there are thought to be about six million masons.

What is Freemasonry?

Freemasonry is the world’s oldest universal fraternity, which believes in the brotherhood of man under the fatherhood of God.  It strives to achieve moral improvement, family values, civic betterment, tolerance and freedom of thought. Freemasons round the world contribute to medical research, hospices, homes for the elderly, scholarship, & many other charitable causes.

Is information about Freemasonry freely available to the general public?

Lodge meetings, like many other groups, are private and open only to members. The rules and aims of Freemasonry are available to the public and many books, including our ritual books, are available from libraries. The UGLE and Hampshire & IoW Province, amongst others, have their own websites, and Lentune Lodge also has one, but this is still in its infancy. These websites contain a great deal of information, such as: aims, frequently asked questions, meeting places, contact information, activities, charitable donations, and photographs of some of these. Freemasons are encouraged to speak openly about Freemasonry and what they get out of it.

My impression is that Freemasons are reluctant to talk about Freemasonry. Is this correct?

Freemasonry raises a great deal of money for charity, and, as is the case with the majority of people who do good works, Masons are reluctant to talk about it – a typically British trait. There was also a period during the last World War, at a time when people were concerned about a German invasion, when Masonry became silent. Because Freemasonry was open to all religions, including the Jewish one, Hitler saw Freemasonry as part of a Jewish conspiracy, and classed Freemasons as political prisoners. Rumours were very prevalent that, when the Channel Islands and other countries were invaded, Freemasons were rounded up and sent to their deaths in the concentration camps. It is believed that between 80,000 and 200,000 Freemasons died in the holocaust. Stalin also saw Freemasonry as contrary to his vision of Communism, so even during the Cold War, there was a Freemasonic silence. This is no longer the case, hence the very open websites.

Who can be a Freemason?

Freemasonry is open to all men of good character, from all walks of life irrespective of race, colour, creed, or social position, who believe in a Supreme Being, by whichever name He is known to them. Whilst Freemasonry is to be enjoyed, its objectives are serious:

            . to practice universal charity

            . to foster high moral standards

            . to build friendships

            . to serve the community

            . to develop values such as integrity, respect, self-discipline, discretion, virtue, and    responsibility

Is Freemasonry for Me?

People become Freemasons for many different reasons: to develop friendships, to enjoy a social occasion, to improve themselves, or to help others; but generally, it is a combination of all of these.  One thing that all newly made masons remark on is the warmth with which they were welcomed, and this can be found also when visiting other Lodges. There is something special about being a Freemason that needs to be experienced, and is difficult to put into words.

We admit members from every ethnic group, who are valued on their own merits regardless of race, national origins, socio-economic class, or religion. We respect the ideals and beliefs of others and endeavour to behave with kindness and understanding to everyone.  Charity is fundamental, but we only raise money from our own members, providing it is not to the detriment of the member and those reliant on him.

If you are over 21, have a belief in a Supreme Being, want to have fun, have a process for self-improvement, and also do some good in the world, then Freemasonry may be for you.

What do we do?

English Freemasons meet in Lodges, which are situated in most towns and cities.  These have a membership from 20 to several hundreds. When a person joins, he takes part in three different ritual dramas, known as degrees, each of which imparts a different moral message. These moral plays use traditional stonemasons’ tools to symbolise parts of the message to help people remember them.

First Degree: the candidate is admitted as an Entered Apprentice when he learns the importance of organising his daily routine to include: prayer, work, rest and helping those less fortunate than he. He is also impressed with the importance of education, and that his family and other dependants must always come first.   Apron EA (thumbnail)


Second Degree: he becomes a Fellow Craft, and learns about man’s natural equality, irrespective of race, religion, or social standing, his dependence on each other, and his obligation to lead a just, moral and upright life. Apron FC (thumbnail)


Third Degree: he is made a Master Mason, when he is encouraged to contemplate his own mortality, to obey the laws of his own religion and the country in which he resides, and to conduct himself in life in such a way as to please his God and benefit his fellow man.   Apron MM (thumbnail)


What happens on a Lodge Evening?

The evening (though some Lodges meet during the day) is divided into three parts: there are the usual administrative items, such as minutes, accounts, communications, charitable activities, and a report on the welfare of members and their families; this is followed by one of the three moral plays, which are used to highlight the codes of conduct by which a member strives to live, or a lecture of Masonic interest, which will further explain or enhance the three plays, and lastly, the evening ends with a relaxed dinner, usually with visitors from other Lodges.

Most meetings last from 6.00 pm to 10.00pm, and are held 7 times a year from October to April.

What costs are involved in being a Freemason?

As with many sports & social clubs, there is a joining fee of around £100 and an annual subscription similarly just over £100.  Much later, there are regalia to buy which cost about £50. It is usual, but not compulsory, to have a meal after the meeting, the cost of which varies depending on the type of meal, but with drinks etc is typically about £20. It is entirely up to the individual what he gives to charity, but it should always be without detriment to his other responsibilities.

Isn’t Ritual out of place in Modern Society?

We don’t think so. The ritual that makes up a ceremony is a shared experience which binds members together.  Its ancient use of drama, allegory and symbolism impresses the principles and teachings of Freemasonry more firmly on a candidate, than if they were simply passed on to him by lecture or book.

Why do Freemasons take oaths?

The correct answer is that we don’t – an oath is taken in the name of God, as in “I swear by Almighty God ...”, but new members do promise, or take an obligation, 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 only use when visiting a Lodge where he is not known.  He also promises to support others in times of need but only if that does not conflict with his duties to his God, the Law, his family, or his responsibilities as citizens. 

Are Freemasons expected to favour fellow masons over others?

Absolutely not. That would be a misuse of membership and subject to Masonic discipline such as temporary suspension or even expulsion. On his entry into Freemasonry, each candidate solemnly declares that he expects no material gain from his membership.

Is Freemasonry a Religion?

The simple answer is – no. Religion is a system of worship to a deity & has a set of beliefs supporting its views on man’s relationship with God, the universe and the hereafter. A Freemason must profess a belief in a Supreme Being, by whatever name, and is encouraged to practice his particular religion.

On the other hand, Freemasonry is a fraternity, with certain ethical standards, which teaches a system of morality concerning a member’s relationship with his fellow man and the community around him. In the Lodge, a mason refers to his God as the Great Architect of the Universe, which shows no preference to any specific religion.  This enables men of all creeds to take part in the opening and closing prayers without compromising his beliefs but at the same time respecting those of others.

Why do some churches not like Freemasonry?

There are elements within certain churches that 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, we have many members from each church who are dismayed that the Churches should attack our order which has always encouraged its members to be active in their own religion. Many of the more enlightened clergymen are Freemasons.

Is Freemasonry an International Order?

Only in the sense that Freemasonry exists throughout the world. Each Grand Lodge is sovereign and independent, and whilst following the same basic principles, they may have different ways of passing them on. There is no international governing body for Freemasonry, and there are some Masonic orders which are not recognised or countenanced by the UGLE because they contravene our own standards; for example: ones which allow the discussion of religion and politics at their meetings, which is forbidden in our Lodges.

Why don’t you have female members?

Traditionally, Freemasonry under the UGLE has been restricted to men. This follows the early stonemasons, who were all male at a time when the position of women in society was very different from today. However, if women wish to join Freemasonry, there are two separate Grand Lodges in England restricted to women only: The Order of Women Freemasons, and The Honorable Fraternity of Ancient Freemasons.