What is Freemasonry?

Freemasonry is one of the world’s oldest secular fraternities with some 35,000 members in Ireland meeting in around 644 Lodges North and South. There are separate Grand Lodges for England and Scotland, with a combined membership of 480,000 in the United Kingdom and Ireland. Worldwide there are around 5 million members. It is a fraternal and charitable organisation, a society concerned with moral and spiritual values. Its members are taught these precepts by a series of ancient forms, using the customs and tools of the stonemason as allegorical guides

How do I become a Freemason?

The essential qualification for membership is a belief in a Supreme Being. Membership is open to men of integrity from any race or religion who can fulfil this essential qualification and who are known to be of good repute. Application for membership is normally made on behalf of a new candidate through a member of his preferred Lodge. Conversely if potential candidates are not aware of any Masonic colleagues, or friends, then contact should in the first instance be made using the enquiry form here.

How much does it cost to become a Freemason?

It varies from Lodge to Lodge. On entry, there is an initiation fee. A member pays an annual subscription to his Lodge which covers his membership and the administrative cost of running the Lodge. Additionally it is usual to have a meal after the meeting and join in the fellowship. It is entirely up to the individual member what he gives to Charity, but it should always be without detriment to his family life and other responsibilities. Similarly, he may join as many Lodges as his time and pocket permit.

How and where did Freemasonry start?

It is not exactly known. The earliest recorded ‘making’ of a Freemason is that of Elias Ashmole in England in 1646. Organised Freemasonry in Ireland began with the founding of the Grand Lodge of Ireland in 1725. According to popular theory, the operative stonemasons who built the great cathedrals and castles had Lodges in which they discussed aspects of their skills. They had simple initiation ceremonies and, as there were no City and Guilds certificates, or trade union membership, they introduced secret signs and words to demonstrate that they were trained stonemasons. In the 1600s, these operative Lodges began to accept non-operatives as “gentleman masons”. Gradually as these non-operatives grew in number their Lodges turned from being operative to ‘free and accepted’ or ‘speculative’ Lodges.

What is the relationship between Freemasonry and groups like the Orange Order, and the Royal Ancient Order of Buffaloes?

Absolutely no relationship. There are numerous fraternal orders and friendly societies whose rituals, regalia and organisation bear a similarity in some respects to those of Freemasonry. Irrespective they have no formal or informal connections or relationships with Freemasonry.

Why does Freemasonry not accept Roman Catholics as members?

We most certainly do. The prime qualification for admission into Freemasonry has always been a belief in a Supreme Being. How that belief is expressed is entirely up to the individual. There are many, many, Catholic Freemasons.

Why are some churches anti-Freemasonry?

There are elements within certain churches who misunderstand Freemasonry and confuse our secular rituals with religious liturgy. Although the Methodist Conference and the Presbyterian Church have occasionally criticised Freemasonry, in both Churches there are many Masons and indeed 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.

Why do Masons refer to God as the Great Architect?

Freemasonry embraces all men who believe in a Supreme Being. Our membership includes Christians, Jews, Hindus, Sikhs, and Muslims. The use of a term 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. Therefore, men of differing religious faiths may pray together without offence being given by one to the other.

Why then do you call it the VSL and not the Bible?

To the majority of Freemasons the Volume of the Sacred Law is their Bible. However, there are many in Freemasonry who are not Christian and to them the Bible is not their sacred book. Consequently they make their promises on the book which they regarded as sacred to their religion. The Bible will always be present in an Irish Lodge but as the organisation welcomes men of many different faiths, we call it the Volume of the Sacred Law. Thus, when the Volume of the Sacred Law is referred to in ceremonies, to a non-Christian it will be the holy book of his religion and to a Christian it will be the Bible.

Aren’t you a religion or a rival to religion?

Categorically not. Freemasonry is not a religion, or a combination of different religions, it does not try to replace religion nor is it a substitute for religion. Freemasonry requires a belief in a Supreme Being. It expects its members to continue to follow their own faith, and it does not permit discussion on religious matters at Masonic meetings. Freemasonry does not instruct its members in what their religious beliefs should be, nor does it offer sacraments. A Freemason is encouraged firstly to do his duty to his God through his faith and religious practice, and secondly to his neighbour through charity, tolerance and service. These ideas are not exclusively Masonic, but are universally accepted, and Freemasons are expected to follow them.

Are Freemasons expected to favour fellow Masons at the expense of others when awarding contracts, job interviews, promotions, etc., and only look after each other?

Absolutely not. That would be a misuse of membership and subject to disciplinary measures. On his entry into Freemasonry each candidate states unequivocally that he expects no material gain from his membership. At various stages during his admission he is reminded that attempts to gain preferment or material gain for himself or others is a misuse of membership of the Order which will not be tolerated. Our By-Laws, a copy of which every new member receives, contains strict rules governing abuse of membership which if subsequently proven could result in penalties varying from temporary suspension to outright expulsion. From its inception, Freemasonry has been involved in charitable activities, providing support not only for widows and orphans of Freemasons but also for many others within the community. On a local level, Lodges give substantial support to local causes. This year we are actively supporting Ovarian Cancer Research.

Is your ritual out of place in a modern society?

No, we don’t think so. The ritual is a shared experience which binds the members together. Its use of allegory and symbolism impresses the principles and teachings more firmly in the mind of each member than if they were to be simply passed on to him in general conversation.

What happens at a Lodge meeting?

As with any association there is a certain amount of administrative procedure – minutes of the 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 election and appointment of officers. Most meetings close with a supper, buffet or knife & fork, depending on the occasion.

Well, are their Masonic secrets?

Yes. Members are required to observe certain confidences which mistakenly may be referred to as secrets, but these are entirely of a ceremonial nature, and are not used indiscriminately, but rather as traditional modes of recognition.e.g. when visiting a Lodge where you are not known.

Are you a secret society?

No, we are not a secret society, but more accurately a society with secrets. Lodge meetings, like those of many other groups, are private and only open to members. The rules and aims of Freemasonry are open and available to the public. Meeting places are known and in many areas are used by the local community for activities other than Masonic