The following summary is derived from the United Grand Lodge
of England website. The official text can be found at
Freemasonry is one of the oldest secular fraternal societies.
It's a society of men concerned with moral and spiritual
values. We are taught its precepts by a series of ritual
dramas, which follow ancient forms and use stonemasons'
customs and tools as allegorical guides. The use of allegory
and symbolism means that Freemasonry works at several levels.
The early history of the movement is obscure and open to
argument. It seems, however, that our forbears were admitted
as speculative masons (hence Freemasons) to the company of
operative masons where presumably they contributed when
discussion moved from the technical to wider philosophical
debate (reminiscent of architecture today). The earliest
surviving reference to Freemasonry in England occurs as an
aside in a private diary during a lull in the Civil War of
the 17th century. The timing is interesting for two reasons.
First, the 17th century was marked by extraordinary religious
and political turmoil and other events such as the Great Fire
of London; and millenarianism was in vogue. There is a theory
that the appeal of Freemasonry was that it offered a neutral
forum for men of good-will.
Secondly, the same century saw the flowering of what was termed
'Experimental Philosophy', or practical science as we would call
it today, with the emphasis on such subjects such as navigation.
Gresham College (late 16th century) and the Royal Society (1662)
owed their foundation to the trend. Luminaries such as Boyle,
Newton and Wren were joined in the Royal Society by dilettanti,
echoing the opening of operative masonry to laymen.
The Essential Qualification for Membership
The prerequisite for admission, and continued membership, is a
belief in a Supreme Being. Membership is open to men aged 21
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.
It expects us to follow our own faiths. Religious discussion is not
allowed at its meetings.
Freemasonry's guiding principles are:
- every true Freemason will behave to everyone with
tolerance, respect and consideration. It is perhaps no coincidence
that the first recorded instance of Freemasonry in England is during
the religious and political turmoil of the 17th century.
- from its earliest Freemasonry has been concerned with the
vulnerable. Thus, we are taught to practise charity and to care not
only for our own but for the community as a whole. Large sums are
given to national and local causes.
Truth (meaning Integrity)
- without being po-faced about it, we seek
to achieve high moral standards in the way we live. Mozart, a
Freemason, spoke of the golden truth in all things when lamenting
the lack of understanding of the concept of 'Truth' among those who
wished him to compose shallow works.
Freemasons and Society
It is incumbent on every Freemason to respect the law of the country in
which he lives and works. Our principles teach us to be good citizens.
Hence, we are enjoined never use our membership to promote our own or
anyone else's interests: such misuse would be contrary to the conditions
of membership and is rightly condemned. Furthermore, our duty as citizens
precludes our attempting to shield any member who has acted dishonourably
Our secrets are concerned with our traditional modes of recognition and
have long been exposed. We are not a secret society, given that we are
free to acknowledge our membership; the constitutions and rules are
available to the public; Freemasons' Hall in London and its library
and museum are open to the public; and there is no secret about our
aims and principles. As with other organisations, we regard some of
our internal affairs as private matters for our members.
Freemasonry is non-political and the discussion of politics at our
meetings is forbidden.
Other Masonic Bodies
Freemasonry is practised under independent Grand Lodges with standards
similar to our own.
There are, however, some Grand Lodges and other apparently Masonic bodies
that do not meet our standards. Consequently, they are not recognised by
the United Grand Lodge of England and Masonic contact with them is forbidden.