What is Freemasonry?
Freemasonry means different things to each of those who join. For some, it’s about making new friends and acquaintances. For others it’s about being able to help deserving causes – making a contribution to family and society. But for most, it is an enjoyable hobby.
Freemasonry is one of the world’s oldest and largest non-religious, non-political, fraternal and charitable organisations. It teaches self-knowledge through participation in a progression of ceremonies. Members are expected to be of high moral standing and are encouraged to speak openly about Freemasonry. The following information is intended to explain Freemasonry as it is practised under the United Grand Lodge of England, which administers Lodges of Freemasons in England and Wales and in many places overseas.
Freemasonry is a society of men concerned with moral and spiritual values. Its members are taught its principles (moral lessons and self-knowledge) by a series of ritual dramas – a progression of allegorical two-part plays which are learnt by heart and performed within each Lodge – which follow ancient forms, and use stonemasons’ customs and tools as allegorical guides.
Freemasonry instils in its members a moral and ethical approach to life: its values are based on integrity, kindness, honesty and fairness. Members are urged to regard the interests of the family as paramount but, importantly, Freemasonry also teaches concern for people, care for the less fortunate and help for those in need.
The Essential Qualification for Membership
The essential qualification for admission into and continuing membership is a belief in a Supreme Being.
Membership is open to men of any race or religion who can fulfill this essential qualification and who are of good repute.
Freemasonry and Religion
Freemasonry is not a religion, nor is it a substitute for religion. Its essential qualification opens it to men of many religions and it expects them to continue to follow their own faith. It does not allow religion to be discussed at its meeting.
The Three Great Principles
For many years Freemasons have followed three great principles:
Brotherly Love – Every true Freemason will show tolerance and respect for the opinions of others and behave with kindness and understanding to his fellow creatures.
Relief – Freemasons are taught to practice charity and to care, not only for their own, but also for the community as a whole, both by charitable giving, and by voluntary efforts and works as individuals.
Truth – Freemasons strive for truth, requiring high moral standards and aiming to achieve them in their own lives.
Freemasons believe that these principles represent a way of achieving higher standards in life.
Freemasons are taught to practise charity and to care, not only for their own, but also for the community as a whole – both by charitable giving, and by voluntary efforts and works as individuals. From its earliest days, Freemasonry has been concerned with the care of orphans, the sick and the aged. This work continues today. In addition, large sums are given to national and local charities.
Masonic charity is exercised at every level: individual Lodges make gifts and give aid to their own communities and every Province also gives large sums of money to regional causes. Nationally, our efforts are channelled through four main charity organisations:
- The Freemasons’ Grand Charity
- Royal Masonic Trust for Girls and Boys
- Royal Masonic Benevolent Institution
- Masonic Samaritan Fund
You can read more about our grants and support for good causes on our Masonic Charity page.
Freemasonry and Society
Freemasonry demands from its members a respect for the law of the country in which a man works and lives.
Its principles do not in any way conflict with its members’ duties as citizens, but should strengthen them in fulfilling their public and private responsibilities.
The use by a Freemason of his membership to promote his own or anyone else’s business, professional or personal interests is condemned, and is contrary to the conditions on which he sought admission to Freemasonry.
His duty as a citizen must always prevail over any obligation to other Freemasons, and any attempt to shield a Freemason who as acted dishonorably or unlawfully is contrary to this prime duty.
Freemasonry and Politics
Freemasonry is nonpolitical, and the discussion of politics at Masonic meetings is forbidden.
Other Masonic Bodies
Freemasonry is practiced under many independent Grand Lodges with standards similar to those set by the United Grand Lodge of England.
There are some Grand Lodges and other apparently Masonic bodies that do not meet these standards, e.g. that do not require a belief in a Supreme Being, or that allow or encourage their members as such to participate in political matters.
These Grand Lodges and bodies are not recognized by the United Grand Lodge of England as being Masonically regular, and Masonic contact with them is forbidden.
A Freemason is encouraged to do his duty first to his God (by whatever name he is known) through his faith and religious practice; and then, without detriment to his family and those dependent on him, to his neighbour through charity and service.
None of these ideas is exclusively Masonic, but all should be universally acceptable. Freemasons are expected to follow them.