About Freemasons & Freemasonry
 
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About The Freemasons & Freemasonry - FAQ's

Freemasonry is the UK's largest secular, multi-faith, fraternal and charitable organisation. It teaches moral lessons and self-knowledge through participation in a progression of allegorical two-part plays.

One of the world's oldest secular fraternal societies the following explains how Freemasonry is a society of men concerned with moral and spiritual values through ritual dramas, using stonemasons' customs and tools as allegorical guides.

Teaching moral lessons and self-knowledge participation in through a progression of allegorical two-part plays, which are learnt by heart and performed within each lodge.

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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 more importantly Freemasonry also teaches and practices concern for . people, care for the less fortunate and help for those in need

Second only to the National Lottery, Freemasonry is the largest UK contributor to charity, collected solely from its members.

It is usual for Lodges to hold funds which the Almoner can use to provide immediate relief. However, not all problems can be solved by money and often a friendly chat can be more appropriate.

The Lodge Charity Steward co-ordinates the collection of charitable donations from Lodge members. The Lodge Almoner will assist the Brethren of his Lodge to ensure that the required assistance is obtained for those in need.

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 Ireland (which covers north and south) and Scotland, with a combined membership of 150,000. Worldwide, there are probably 5 million members.
Why do you call the Bible the VSL?
There are many Freemasons, who are not Christian and the Bible is not their sacred book on which to make their promises.

For them their holy book is placed near the Bible The Bible will always be present in an English lodge, as will the holy book of brethren, of other faiths if they are present as we welcome men of many different faiths.
Why call God the Great Architect?
Freemasonry embraces all men who believe in a God. Its membership includes Christians, Jews, Hindus, Sikhs, Muslims, Parsees and many other faiths. The use of descriptions such as 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 pray together without offence being given to any of them.
Why don't some churches like Freemasonry?
There are elements within certain churches that misunderstand the precepts of Freemasonry. They do not understand the difference between Masonic secular rituals and faith based 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 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.
Can Roman Catholics become Freemasons?
Yes. 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 Roman Catholics. There are many Roman Catholic Freemasons.
Isn't Freemasonry just another political pressure group?
Emphatically no. While individual Freemasons will have their own views on politics and state policy, Freemasonry, as a body, will never express a view on either. 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 who follow the basic principles of Freemasonry and ban the discussion of politics and religion at their meetings.
Why aren’t there women members?
We are often asked ‘why men only?’ ‘No different to the WI, and other organisations being only for Women?’ Traditionally, Freemasonry, under the United Grand Lodge of England, has been restricted to men.

Freemasonry is not solely a male preserve. There are four UK Masonic Orders, two being exclusively female; one established 100 years ago, one mixed and our own (admittedly much the largest) which is exclusively male.
Does Freemasonry have a connection with groups like the Orange Order, Odd Fellows, and Buffaloes?
There are numerous UK fraternal orders and Friendly Societies whose rituals, regalia and organisation are similar, in some respects, to those of Freemasonry. There is no formal or informal connections between them and Freemasonry.
How & when did Freemasonry start?

The earliest recorded 'making' of a Freemason in England is 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. There are two main theories of origin.

According to one, operative stonemasons had lodges in which they discussed trade affairs. They had initiation ceremonies and, as there were no City and Guilds certificates, 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.

This dovetails in with other theory that in the late 1500s and early 1600s, in an age of great intolerance when differences of opinion on matters of religion and politics were to lead to bloody civil war. 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, 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 basic 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 degrees are there?
Basic Freemasonry consists of the three 'Craft' degrees (Entered Apprentice, Fellow Craft and Master Mason) completed by the Royal Arch degree (Chapter). There are other Masonic degrees and Orders which one can join.
What happens at a lodge meeting?
The meeting is in two parts. 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.

How does ritual fit modern society?
The ritual is a shared experience which 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.
Why do men roll up their trousers ?
The reason is symbolic and shows the prospective member is a ‘free man’ with no marks of imprisonment (mark caused by a leg iron). Incidentally, a new member is only required to roll up his trouser leg on three occasions and never thereafter. He should not, feel self conscious about it as everyone present, without exception, has been required to do the same.
Why do you wear regalia?
To symbolise the clothes of the early stonemasons, who wore leather aprons to protect themselves whilst at work. This is one of many legacies of the Operatives, continued by present day Freemasons.
What does Freemasonry cost ?
It varies from lodge to lodge. On entry, there is an initiation fee and an apron to buy. A member pays an annual subscription to his lodge which covers his membership and the administrative cost of running the lodge. It is also usual to have a meal after the meeting. It is up to the individual member how much he gives to Charity, but it should be without detriment restriction on the lodges a Freemason joins as long as it does not adversely affect his family life & responsibilities.
Why are you a secret society?
The prevailing impression of a secretive society is difficult to dispel. We are not a Secret Society. No Secret Society, would publish as much about itself in books and on the web as Freemasonry does. Freemasons have stands at many local and county Shows and our members are encouraged to speak openly about Freemasonry.

We can do no better than quote The Home Affairs Select Committee, which in May 1998 reported to Parliament. "We do not believe that there is anything sinister about Freemasonry, properly observed... it is obvious that there is a great deal of unjustified paranoia about Freemasonry".
What are Freemasonry’s secrets?
The secrets in Freemasonry are the traditional modes of recognition which are not used indiscriminately, but solely as a test of membership, e.g. when visiting a Lodge where you are not known.
Why do Freemasons take oaths?
New members make solemn promises, not oaths, 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. 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.
What are the 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, to frighten initiates, and Freemasonry simply , however, the physical penalties were always symbolic and were never carried out.
What are the strange rituals?
Freemasonry endeavours to teach moral lessons and self-knowledge to new members, however, it is one thing to have aims and ideals and quite another to impress them upon the minds of the members. So, in our Lodge rooms we enact, for the benefit of the new member, what can be likened to the scenes from a play. The scenes are called degrees, because Freemasonry is a progressive system. The play is centred on the building of King Solomon’s Temple where every part of the building and every implement used is given a deeper moral or spiritual interpretation, which is explained to the new member.
Do Masons exclusively 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 dependants, others make significant grants to non-Masonic organisations. On a local level, lodges give substantial support to local causes.
Isn’t Freemasonry 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. In a world where there is presently such intolerance, we take great pride in our members who are able to meet together in friendship whatever their faith.

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