Freemasons: Your questions answered

Nigel Brown, grand secretary of the United Grand Lodge of England in Freemasons' Hall, London. Photo: United Grand Lodge Nigel Brown answers readers' questions about being a Freemason

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The Freemasons, an international organisation often shrouded in mystery, is undergoing a rebrand. But what is this society and what exactly do Freemasons do?

Conspiracy theories and controversy have dogged the Freemasons throughout their existence, fuelled by their secretive image, but for some they are just a gentleman's club devoted to charitable giving.

Nigel Brown, grand secretary of the United Grand Lodge of England has answered a selection of readers' questions.

Anwar Nawab in Virginia, US, writes: Can people of other races besides Caucasian apply and become members too?

Nigel Brown: Any man over the age of 21 (or 18 in the case of University Lodges) can apply to join the Freemasons, regardless of race, colour, religion, political views or social or economic standing. It should also be noted that Freemasonry is a non-religious and non-political organisation, and discussion of politics and religion are forbidden at lodge meetings.

Mohammed Kayani tweets: How can one become a member?

Nigel Brown: Members can be recommended, or they can put themselves forward. There is detailed information about becoming a Freemason on the United Grand Lodge of England's website. If individuals don't know anyone who is a member, they can either contact a Masonic Office in their area, or contact the United Grand Lodge of England via the website.

Freemasons' pyramid symbol The All Seeing Eye is pictured on the $1 note

Nasiru Saadu in Abuja, Nigeria, emails: What does the one-eyed symbol on their flags signify?

Nigel Brown: The symbol you are referring to is known as the All Seeing Eye. It is a reminder of the existence of a higher being.

Amanda Luxton in Southend-on-Sea emails: Do magistrates have to declare their membership to the Masons, as well as other judges within the Ministry of Justice?

Nigel Brown: No, none of them do and we are also working hard in other professions to stamp out discrimination. The European Court of Human Rights ruled in 2007 that in a modern democratic society it was discriminatory to single out Freemasons from the many voluntary organisations an individual can belong to and require them to register their membership with their employers.

Ana Milena Gongora in Colombia writes: Which conspiracy theory do Freemasons feel most annoyed about or consider the most awkward?

Nigel Brown: All conspiracy theories annoy us as they are just that - conspiracy with no truth or grounding. Part of the reason for our current activity is to dispel all the myths and conspiracy theories attached to Freemasonry.

Geoff Sandham in Oxford emails: What is the point of being a Mason? Is it fun - like going to the pub with a group of friends or does it serve the individual in a wider context?

and Igen in Warri, Nigeria, writes: What are the benefits for members who intend to join the society?

Nigel Brown: There are many different reasons why people join the Freemasons - one of the main reasons is camaraderie. Many friendships made through Freemasonry endure for life, and lodge dinners which follow our formal meetings offer members the opportunity to enjoy each others' company in a more relaxed and informal environment.

Set-square on door, person in background The square and compasses is a well-known symbol of Freemasonry

Other reasons put forward during the research for The Future of Freemasonry report include a sense of belonging and structure - which are not always easy to find in today's fragmented society - and a desire to help other people by getting involved in the local community.

Most importantly of all though, Freemasonry is all about enjoyment - if members didn't enjoy Freemasonry they would not remain part of the organisation in the way that they do.

Susan Moon in Tyne and Wear asks: If the top cop was a Freemason, would he "stretch" the rules if another Freemason broke the law?

Nigel Brown: Absolutely not - networking within Freemasonry and trying to use it for personal gain is completely forbidden.

Rachel in London asks: Is Freemasonry compatible with humanism?

Nigel Brown: The prime qualification for admission into Freemasonry is a belief in a supreme being. Having some form of religious belief is the one thing that all Freemasons have in common, whatever their backgrounds might be. As humanists do not believe in any form of higher power they cannot fulfil that prime qualification.

Man in building

Michael Lashford-Spinks in Gloucestershire asks: I am a retired carver, is Freemasonry linked to craft trades?

Nigel Brown: Organised Freemasonry, as we understand it today, began with the formation of the Grand Lodge of England in 1717 - hence our tercentenary celebrations in 2017. While not directly linked, we have taken a lot of our symbolism from stonemasonry. As with stonemasonry, Freemasonry is about moving from level to level as you gain further knowledge and experience, starting with being an apprentice.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 36.

    Each to their own. Personally I don't want to join the Freemasons, though a few of my acquaintances have, because I am very individual in the way that I think and no organisation has a home for me. I do approve of their charitable work, but I doubt they are entirely non-political. A lot of the symbolism, bears similarities to that of alchemy, and although esoteric is certainly not evil.

  • rate this

    Comment number 35.

    Some might testify that after a few pints it's a matter of a wee friendly handshake and you get a free ride home and tucked into bed.

  • rate this

    Comment number 34.

    I constantly hear the great and the good saying "if you have nothing to hide then you've nothing to fear"

    This apparently doesn't apply to the masons. The shiftiest bunch I have ever came across. Suspicion pointing to them from every direction.

    I would ban them

  • rate this

    Comment number 33.

    As I understand it, if you can, hand on heart, perceive yourself as 'surpeme' then you qualify. You have to be prepared for others to not accept you as supreme, though. If you believe Michael Jackson, the Hypnotoad, or any anthropomorphic personification to be supreme, then you also qualify. If you're atheist, you don't.

  • rate this

    Comment number 32.

    Ask Roberto Calvi...........................

  • rate this

    Comment number 31.


    There is a (apologies, pun not intended) sister organisation, called The Eastern Star, which is very similar, and this is where women can join. In the same vein as #26, the Guides movement don't allow boys to join. This is not considered descrimination.

  • rate this

    Comment number 30.

    In the UK, 25, private associations are just that - private - and can be male-only or female-only if they wish. It's called freedom of association.

  • rate this

    Comment number 29.

    One Q&A later and I still don't really know what they do. All I know is you need to believe in a higher power to join, but they don't class that as religion. They don't give each other preferential treatment in real life. They like members to enjoy it, but not sure what IT actually is. Oh and he shoehorned an upcoming anniversary in.

    That man should be a politician.

  • rate this

    Comment number 28.

    First off let me start by showing you this, Military:Pertaining to war or to the army; concerned with war. Blacks 6th.
    The amendatory act to the trading with the enemy act of Oct 6 1917 - namely the emergency banking relief act of March 9 1933
    Defined the American people as the enemy. Legeally of the United States Government because of the U.S. bankruptcy through which the private international

  • rate this

    Comment number 27.

    When Freemasonry is described as "non-religious" it means that the supreme being you need to believe in doesn't have to be associated with any particular religion e.g. Christianity, Islam etc. It's left as a matter of conscience for the individual Mason.

  • rate this

    Comment number 26.

    Several people can't see how not being a religion equates with a need for a belief in God.

    In this Masonry is no different to that other dangerous cult, the Scouts.

    Masonry doesn't care what you call God.

    We take our obligations on the holy book of our choice, referring to God by an neutral term that favours no particular religion, and offer prayers using similar neutral terms.

  • rate this

    Comment number 25.

    Why are they allowed to ban women from joining? is that not against the law?

  • rate this

    Comment number 24.

    I'm currently reading 'The Hiram Key', a work of diligent research into the origins of Freemasonry by two Masons. Anyone wanting to know why the need to believe in a supreme being is fundamental to becoming a Freemason will receive their answers in the book. As a woman I can't join but the whole idea fascinates me.

  • rate this

    Comment number 23.

    So the conspiracy theories are bunk. I like the masons now. :)

    Hold on, you must believe in a supreme being.
    back you go in the " watch them carefully" folder .

    oh well

  • rate this

    Comment number 22.

    Members of the "Black Hand Gang" must be here on this HYS becuase any critics of them are quickly marked down. lol

  • rate this

    Comment number 21.

    They are so POWERFULL and influence so many things in all walks of life. I know, but are not brave enough to prove it in public.

  • rate this

    Comment number 20.

    @6 - the truth is that any socialising has the capacity for informal networking. Are we to forbid anybody who makes decisions from having friends? The main difference between masonry and the Golf Club is that you would be thrown out of Freemasonry if improper conduct came to light

  • rate this

    Comment number 19.

    A pity the question around the belief in a higher being, and how that sits with the masons being non-religious, was not tackled at all.

    Perhaps Nigel Brown could clarify that....

  • rate this

    Comment number 18.

    "The prime qualification for admission into Freemasonry is a belief in a supreme being".

    While I don't believe in a "religious" type "God" I do see **myself** as a supreme being - is this enough?

    I have many friends who think Michael Jackson was the supreme being... would that count?

  • rate this

    Comment number 17.

    This was done to death 5 days ago.

    The stories you open for comment are a bit like a bus beeb, none for ages, then two or more come along at once.


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