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Freemasonry explained: a guide to

the secretive society

Ian Cobain Sun 4 Feb 2018 14.00 GMT

When did it begin, is it a religion, and are its members’

identities kept secret?

Freemasonry models itself upon the fraternities of medieval stonemasons who would use secret
words and symbols to recognise each others’ legitimacy Photograph: Tim Sloan/AFP/Getty Images


The first grand lodge, established to govern Freemasonry in England and

Wales, was formed in 1717, during a meeting at a pub in the City of
London called the Goose and Gridiron. At that time there were four lodges
in the city. But in Scotland, a masonic lodge in Edinburgh has records to
show that it has been in existence since at least 1599. During the early
18th century, Freemasonry spread quickly to Europe and the colonies.

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Freemasonry’s guiding metaphor is the craft of stonemasonry: it models

itself upon the fraternities of medieval stonemasons who would use secret
words and symbols to recognise each others’ legitimacy, and so protect
their work from outsiders. During some periods of history, Freemasons
have been persecuted – by the Nazis, for example – and have needed to go
underground to survive. But there are persistent suspicions that
Freemasons also remain secretive in order to conceal the way in which
they can assist each other in business and the workplace.

3) _______________________________
Such rumours are very rarely substantiated, and masons are expected to
swear an oath that they will not be involved in “any act that may have a
tendency to subvert the peace and good order of society, by paying due
obedience to the laws of any state”. But parliament’s home affairs select
committee heard that in 1995, the Lancashire police authority was obliged
to pay £70,000 to a father and son who were assaulted and then arrested
and prosecuted after stumbling on a masonic dinner being hosted by a
lodge dominated by police officers. The committee heard that a police
officer who investigated the fracas was a mason, as was the manager of
the hotel where the dinner took place.

4) _________________________________

No, it is a secular movement, although new members are expected to

acknowledge a belief in a God-like superior being, often called the Grand
or Great Architect of the Universe. Anyone believing in a single deity may
be admitted. Rudyard Kipling, who was a member of a masonic lodge in
Lahore, wrote a number of poems about his fellow masons who were
Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs and Jews. In theory, all discussion of religion and
politics is prohibited within lodges.

5) _____________________________________

No, individual masons can declare themselves if they wish, and the names
of senior officers of the brotherhood in England and Wales can be found
in a masonic year book. The grand master is the Duke of Kent. Prince
Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, is a member of a navy lodge. Others who
have declared their membership in recent years include the Rev Jesse
Jackson, the former astronaut Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin and musician Rick
Wakeman. However, a great many masons do not disclose their
membership outside the brotherhood.

1) Match the headings to each paragraph. There is ONE extra paragraph you don’t need to
 Are the identities of all Freemasons kept secret?
 Is there any substance to these claims?
 Freemasonry: a way of living.
 Is Freemasonry a religion?
 When did Freemasonry begin?
 Why are they so secretive?

2) Do you know any story of Masonry in your country? Write a short paragraph about it.