First Published in 1950

By Bernard E Jones

Past Assistant Grand Director of Ceremonies


English Gothic Architecture

The twelfth century had opened up the way for the coming of the Gothic style, but there is no sharp and precise date at which one style succeeded another.


Norman Arcade at Canterbury Cathedral

A change of style took half a century or more to establish itself. In general, the Romanesque or Norman style changed in the second half of the twelfth century to the Early English or Gothic style, of which the Decorated period was from the second half of the thirteenth century until late in the fourteenth century.


Early English Gothic West Front – Peterborough Cathedral

The Perpendicular style of Gothic came from the Decorated style in the fourteenth century, went right through the fifteenth century with some changes, and continued into the sixteenth.

Evidence as to how England achieved its Gothic style is conflicting. Some people think that Gothic was but the maturing of the English Romanesque style, but obviously it was something much more than that. It is safer to regard English Gothic as the strongly Anglicized rendering of a great architectural movement which swept over Western Europe and reached England via the western and northern provinces of France. It was architecture with pointed arches, and succeeded the architecture of round arches, the chief influence leading to the introduction of the pointed arch being undoubtedly the discovery of a method of building vaulting over wide and often uneven spaces.

“The architecture of every people is an essential part of its history,” it has been said. English Gothic is a thoroughly national style despite the fact that it was inspired from abroad, and has been labelled “more perfect, more pure, more systematic, better proportioned, more consistent, than the Gothic of any other country.”

The Norman Conquest, by bringing about the mingling of two different peoples, was the great historic fact influencing the development of English Gothic. It must be remembered that by about 1150 roughly one-third of what now constitutes France was under English rule, and that Normandy was architecturally part of England from soon after the Conquest until late in the twelfth century. From the Continent came a deep sense of religion, a higher culture, a far greater skill in architectural construction, than the Saxons had enjoyed; by the end of the twelfth century this fact and the still greater one that the Saxons and Normans were in course of becoming one people-the English people must have made inevitable a more individual growth from the old Norman-Romanesque.

But G. M. Trevelyan makes clear that “the birth and general acceptance” of the English language and the happy blending of Saxon and French words into “English tongue” which “all understanden” did not come until Chaucer’s lifetime (1340-1400). It was then that “the English people first clearly appear as a racial and cultural unit.”


Geoffrey Chaucer (1340-1400)

The Crusades at the end of the eleventh century appear to have contributed something to the architecture of France and England, for in their long and tedious travels through Europe the Crusaders must have stored up many impressions to be remembered and applied on their return home.

By the turn of the twelfth century we see the early stage of Gothic in the simple lancet arch, to which were added, as the style evolved, clustered pillars, window mullions, and tracery, which, in the opinion of many architects, produced “a degree of perfection and refinement never before dreamt of.”







Lancet Windows

The Gothic columns, “with their simple moulded capitals, carried the mind back from our provincial cathedrals to the Parthenon at Athens,” says Professor Banister Fletcher. Gothic had those beautifully proportioned columns, with their dignified capitals. It had in particular the pointed arch and the ribbed vaulting of the roof; and often externally the flying buttress to give strength to the walls and carry the weight and thrust of the roof.

The Gothic arch was a great step forward in technical design. The reduction of side-thrust on pillars and walls meant that the pillars could be slighter and the walls thinner, less expensive, and much better built, for the old thick walls had often been mere casings of good masonry filled in with rubble and mortar. Externally the style could be distinguished not only by its narrow lancet-shaped pointed windows, but by the bold buttresses to take some of the thrust, the light pinnacles and spires, the acute pitch of the roof.








Flying Buttresses

Improvement in technical design making for the growing use of vaulting over large and often unusual spaces helped the introduction of the pointed arch. Vaulting is the great pride of the Gothic masons, as in Norwich and Durham Cathedrals-the rib vaulting of worked stone as distinct from the rough barrel vaults of earlier days. True, the Normans had invented the vaulting, but their knowledge of construction was not always sufficient to provide properly for the outward (destructive) thrusts, and as a result many examples must have disappeared. Gothic architecture of the later (Perpendicular) period glories in its open timber roofs, many fine examples of which are to be found in the old Norfolk churches.


Barrel Vault


Ribbed Vault

The Gothic period was remarkable for its building activity; cathedrals, castles, churches, were built in numbers, and no other period in English history can vie with it. Of all countries, says Professor Simpson, England is the most remarkable for the number, variety, and beauty of its parish churches. The whole of England was dotted with villages, and each had its own church, whereas in France, Germany, and other countries villages were few and far apart, and the people, for safety, were forced within walled cities.

It was in this great period that freemasonry had its true foundation. Gould, a conservative assessor of masonic history, believes that “in all lodge constituent elements and appointments, the track is broad and direct to a Gothic origin.”

Another historic fact was to play its part, an unfortunate one. In 1349 came the Black Death, the terrible plague that destroyed nearly half the population and had its serious consequences in every phase of national and domestic life; the shortage of labour and high prices of food led to the operatives trying to get higher wages, but legislation kept wages within very restricted limits.

Much building work was still proceeding in the seventy years following 1450 some of the finest of England’s churches were built, but by the middle of the sixteenth century the Gothic style of architecture was dying. It is true that even to the end of that century we get here and there a Gothic building and many Gothic details, but by 1600 the great medieval period known as Gothic had reached its close.

The marked similarity in style in the Gothic architecture of all the Western European countries, including England, has prompted the idea that the masons in all the countries concerned must have been guided by a secret principle handed down from one generation to another.

It is this similarity that has lent plausibility to the legend of the organized bands of travelling masons, armed with Papal authority, passing from one country to another, building churches here, there, and everywhere, and into all of them pouring their own spirit of design and introducing their own exclusive secrets of construction.

In later pages will be shown how much this legend is worth, but in the meantime it will merely be pointed out that some architectural writers have advanced the attractive theory that the monastic schools of masonry founded in Normandy sent forth, at the behest of kings, nobles, and great churchmen, many clever Master Masons, who took charge, artistic and practical, of the erection of a number of the most notable buildings in England, and that, inevitably, these graduates, all of the same school, produced buildings having strong family likenesses. The English, perhaps more than any other people in the world, had and have a genius for absorbing any new and foreign influence reaching their shores. Thus all over Western Europe buildings were conforming to a “Gothic” style; here, in this country, there was Gothic with a difference an English difference.

 The Successor to English Gothic

The Reformation in the sixteenth century strongly influenced Gothic and ensured its death, but the style had lost some of its purity following the reign of Henry VII when it started to introduce Italian features.

In course of time Gothic developed into the Elizabethan style of mixed Gothic and Italian, and then into what we know now as the Renaissance: a style less natural, or, rather, less national, than the Gothic, but extremely graceful, reproducing something of the old classic spirit of the Greek and Roman architecture; a style of much interest to the architectural but less to the masonic student.

The work of England’s great architect Sir Christopher Wren was largely based on the Gothic, to which, however, he added from his own genius the classic lightness and elegance which transformed it into a style which can best be described as, Wren.


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First Published in 1950

By Bernard E Jones

Past Assistant Grand Director of Ceremonies

The Saxons, on becoming Christians, built some churches, usually if not always of wood, but the Venerable Bede tells of the building of stone churches in the county of Durham about 680, this being regarded as the starting-point of the history of architecture in England. There were stone churches at York, Ripon, and Hexham late in the seventh century.

Saxon church builders went back to the Temple of King Solomon for some of their ideas, the buildings being preserved and ornamented by the use of plates of precious metals, and in particular of bronze. (Centuries later Glastonbury had its church of wood covered inside with plates of gold and silver, and outside with plates of lead.)

Until late in the seventh century there were few English buildings that were not of wood and thatch, and not until about the year 1000 did English architecture evolve into anything very definite – a sturdy form of Romanesque, having over – thick walls and columns and semi-circular arches-but something better was to develop before the Conquest.       King-Cnut                                                               Alfred the Great

Alfred the Great, late in the ninth century, and Canute, a few generations later, visited Rome, and it is more than likely that they were influential in bringing to England foreign craftsmen; masons may have come from Germany, Burgundy, and France, and carvers from Italy. Says one writer with great truth, “The world was surprisingly small in those days, notwithstanding the difficulty of travelling.”



The work of the builder suffered a setback in the tenth century owing to a general belief among Christians of the day that the world was to come to an end in the year 1000. Before the Conquest there was in England a style which we may call the Anglo-Saxon or pre-Conquest-Romanesque, and even after the Conquest, for some years, churches were being built in that style.

Norman masons occasionally worked on English churches during the pre-Conquest period, and it should be remembered that it was probably easier to travel from Normandy to England than to make any long journey by road in England itself.

Following the year 1000 an enormous number of churches and monasteries began to be built in Italy, France, and England. Canute, coming to the throne in 1017, restored the monasteries and built churches, his work being carried on by Edward the Confessor, who started the building of Westminster Abbey, not completed until after the Conquest.

The Norman masons were more skilled than the Saxons, but had no thorough grasp of constructional principles. The thickness of the masonry joint tells the story of one age or style succeeding another. In England and Northern France the joint is wide and badly made in eleventh century work, but there is a great improvement in the following century. The early Norman masons apparently knew very little of the use of the sculptor’s chisel, and did their decorative cutting with an axe; as the cutting grew deeper the chisel was used.

William-I-of-England                                                        William the Conqueror

The coming of William the Conqueror, and with him of great numbers of Norman churchmen and skilled operatives, led to a most astonishing increase in the building of churches, unparalleled in number in any similar period in any other country. The existing Saxon churches were rebuilt under the auspices of Norman ecclesiastics. For example, Canterbury Cathedral, started by a Saxon king, had much of the work razed to the ground and rebuilt in the period 1096-1110.

The use of the freestone of Caen, Normandy, was one of the causes of Normandy’s leading the revival of building in the eleventh century, it being easier to send stone from France to riverside towns in England than to send it by road through France, and often easier to get sea-borne Caen stone at English cathedral sites than horse-drawn stone from English quarries. When we call ourselves freemasons we may be harking back over all the centuries to the importation and use of French freestone.


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First Published in 1950

By Bernard E Jones

Past Assistant Grand Director of Ceremonies

Rome. Rome’s contribution to architecture was its study and general employment of the arch and its adoption of the Greek orders in modified designs. Rome had no real architecture of its own when it conquered Greece about 146 B.C., but the Romans were quick students, and were not long in becoming great architects and mighty builders. Professor Simpson remarks that the Romans, if they had had the artistic sense of the Greeks, would have been the greatest architects the world has ever seen, for their work is vast and strong, grand and lavishly decorated, but not refined, often incomplete and carelessly finished.

There are only two ways of spanning an opening: one is to put a beam across it, the other to build an arch into it.


Uprights and Lintels

The Greeks did not use the arch in their principal buildings; instead they used columns, but had to place them close together, because the length of the beam or lintel that spanned them was limited by its own weight and the maximum load it would bear.



The Romans in using the arch could space their columns farther apart. They made their buildings many storeys in height, and designed them as a combination of column, arch, and lintel; but it is the arch, and not the lintel, that as a rule gives quality to the design.

The Romans built great show palaces, fine baths, great triumphal arches, enormous amphitheatres. They built them not only in Rome and Italy, but in the colonies which they established in many parts of the known world. The Coliseum at Rome, built in the first century A.D., was 61 acres in extent.

The five orders of architecture familiar to the freemason were completed by the Romans. They took the three Greek orders, the Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian, and very slightly modified them, without adding to their refinement. They thickened the shaft or column of the Doric and made it into the Roman Tuscan order. They mingled the ornaments of the Ionic and Corinthian by replacing with small scrolls a part of tile foliage carved on the Corinthian cap, and in this way formed the Composite.

So now we have the Doric, dignified and simple, with tapered, fluted shafts; the Ionic, with its scrolls on the capital; the Corinthian, with its carved deep foliage; the Tuscan, hardly to be distinguished from the Doric, except by its thicker shaft; and the Composite, combining the scrolls of the Ionic with the foliage of the Corinthian. There are other differences, but these are the outstanding ones.

Early Christian Architecture

The Roman Emperor Constantine the Great legalized Christianity in the year 313, and founded Constantinople in 330, but not until two hundred years later did there emerge a style of architecture peculiar to the Roman occupied Eastern lands.


St Sophia, Constantinople

In 532 the Emperor Justinian began the building of the many-domed church of St Sophia in Constantinople and dedicated it to Eternal Wisdom. St Sophia marked a new style, to which was given the name Byzantine, from the ancient Byzantium, the site on which Constantinople was built; this combined Roman and Mohammedan traditions with the beauty of Greek architecture, the East providing the domes, the rich colour, and material, and the West the large scale, the bold construction, and the perfect proportion. The Byzantine style spread quickly in the East, and strongly influenced architecture in the West.

 Roman and Saxon Architecture in England

The Romans gave architecture to Britain, but it did not survive. We knew little or nothing about the art before they came. At one time we thought that we knew little of anything British in pre-Roman days, but the archaeologists have taught us that the Romans did not come to an entirely barbarous country. Glyn Daniel, in a B.B.C. broadcast address published in The Listener, says: “We know now that the first inhabitants of Britain lived over half a million years ago, that the first farmers and stockbreeders came to our shores about 2000 B.C. We know, too, that by the time Caesar came to Kent some of the Britons were exporting to the Continent metal, slaves, and fat stock, leather, corn, and hunting dogs, and in return were importing wine, bronzes and Gaulish pottery. They were using a minted coinage as well as currency bars, and maintaining, artists in metal and pottery. You can see some of their splendid and complicated patterns on the Battersea Shield, for example, the Witham Sword, or the Desborough Mirror on view in the British Museum. We can see now that Caesar and the Romans do not begin the drama of British history.”

The Romans built magnificent villas and many public buildings in England, but little more remains of them to-day than a few mosaic floors, some fragments of walls, and the broken systems of piping forming part of their bath installations; their upper storeys were usually of wood. The Roman basilica, or hall, is the original type of the Christian church. The domus, also known as a basilica, was the large room of the house. Any Christian churches in England when the Romans went were soon pulled to pieces by the Saxon hordes.

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A Short Outline of Architectural Masonry (Part 1 of 4)

First Published in 1950

 By Bernard E Jones

Past Assistant Grand Director of Ceremonies

The allegories that veil freemasonry, as also the symbols that illustrate it, are, as readers of this book well know, drawn from the lore of architecture and building. Freemasonry has two histories – the one, legendary and traditional, going back almost to the dawn of architecture; the other, authentic, covering a period of a few hundred years and deriving in some part from the ancient craft guilds and fraternities whose fortunes rose and fell in England with the Gothic period; in that particular period are believed to lie the main roots of world freemasonry.

The freemason can well afford to spare a few minutes in which to acquaint himself with a mere outline of architectural development and see for himself how ‘English Gothic’ came into being. (Many authorities have been consulted for the detailed information presented in this articler, and mention must particularly be made of the 1909 edition of Professor F. M. Simpson’s three-volume History of Architectural Development (Longmans Green), a brilliant and valuable treatise.)

When the draughty hovels of prehistoric man, roughly built of stones or thrown together with boughs and mud, began in the course of ages to assume some vestige of form and proportion, then was architecture born, and civilization started on its long journey. “The perception of beauty and deformity is the first thing which influences man to attempt to escape from a grovelling, brutish character.”

Old-fashioned writers used to say that the Egyptians learnt architecture from the cavern, the Chinese from a bamboo-framed tent, the Greeks from a flat-roofed hut, and the Gothics from a grove of trees. This is no more than plausible, even if it be that, but it can be shown that architecture soon outdistanced any mere copying of natural and other simple forms, and grew, through six thousand years or so, to become the world’s supreme art, comprising in its ultimate development a whole group of subsidiary arts. Masonry, which is associated chiefly with building in stone, is one of the chief of those arts.

An extremely brief glance at prehistoric masonry suffices to show that from the very dawn of the mechanical arts thousands of years ago the mason was active. Remains of a few of the more massive examples of his work have come down to us.


Carnac, Brittany

The monoliths are upright stones, one of which in Brittany is 63 feet high and weighs about 250 tons; sometimes they support table stones, or cromlechs, weighing up to 10 tons. Ti

      Ancient City of Tiryns

In the ancient cities of Tiryns and Mycenæ stone walls 25 feet thick and 60 feet high, built with blocks 9 feet long and surfaced in such a way as to make very tight, thin joints, even without the help of mortar. We call the unknown builders of these great walls giants, or Cyclops.


The great temple at Palenque

There was much mighty building in Mexico and Peru thousands of years ago. The great temple at Palenque was 230 feet long and do feet wide; some retaining walls discovered in Peru are said to be no less than 225 feet thick and 108 feet high, and in walls elsewhere are found built-in stones as long as 27 feet, 14 feet deep, and 12 feet high, weighing about 28 tons, cut, shaped, and placed in position with extreme accuracy.

Eastern Architecture

So far as we know, Babylonia and Assyria were among the first of all the Eastern builders, but, unfortunately, in their very early days they built in brick of poor quality which returned in the course of centuries to the clay from which it had been made. When at a later stage they used more permanent materials we know from the remains brought to light by excavation that, as builders, these early people were of considerable worth. The proportions of their narrow, rectangular buildings, their handsome columns and lintels-all these are regarded as the real inspiration of Greek architecture.

In Babylon there was a great temple with alabaster floor-slabs measuring nearly 20 feet by 12 feet. The ancient Persians built in timber, but when their descendants built in stone they produced some massive work; the palace Chehil Minare, for example, had retaining walls over 1400 feet long, built of immense stones and supporting a raised platform, approached by what is regarded as the finest double staircase in the world.

Egypt. Building in Egypt must have been among the earliest in the world, and is the first of which we have written record. As builders, the Egyptians had both material and labour in their favour. Unlimited material – if not in their own country, then in bordering countries, such as Arabia, from which came, or so we are told, the great blocks of stone with which the Pyramids were built. Unlimited labour – slaves and serfs compelled by brute force to do work at considerable risk to life and limb. Overseers and artificers were well trained and highly skilled; the rest was simply the organized and ruthless direction of slave labour. In honour of the dead whom they worshipped the Egyptians built great tombs, the Pyramids, the largest of which has a base 768 feet square and a height originally of 490 feet, some of the stones of which it is built being 30 feet long and of enormous weight. For this one pyramid, it is said, it took twenty years to bring the stones from Arabia.

Long before written history the Egyptians were building temples in each of which a forest of columns supported a flat stone roof, the arch not then being used in great buildings, although the Egyptians did have arches, elliptical ones of brick, probably restricted to use in minor buildings. All architecture may be divided into the styles of the entablature (the joist and flat roof) and that of the arch, and we shall see later that it was the clever development and use of the arch that led to the Gothic construction with which the medieval working freemason was familiar.

Greece. The Greeks were a nation of merchants and mariners doing business with all the known world over a long period of time, and they must at an early date have learnt from Assyria, Egypt, and other countries of the East all that could then be taught them of architecture, an art in which they themselves soon became adept, and in which they are acknowledged to-day as the greatest masters. Their judgment with regard to proportion and symmetry has never been questioned. Of the early Greek temples and other buildings nothing much is known, as they were of timber and have long since disappeared. It is supposed, but sometimes questioned, that the horizontal timber lintel, or beam supported by posts (constituting for the Greeks a rude emblem of fraternal unity), was the inspiration of the outstanding feature of later Greek architecture – the pillars of exquisite design and beautiful workmanship supporting the entablature (the horizontal architrave, the frieze, and the cornice). It will be understood that the two parts of the sloping timber roof, meeting at the ridge, produced a triangular space back and front, and this had to be filled by what is known as the pediment, another Greek characteristic.

Although the arch was not used by the Greeks in the grand manner, they were well aware of its purpose, but were content to use it in a minor way; for example, over a lintel, itself supported by columns, they would place what we now know as a discharging arch, its purpose being to prevent the weight of the masonry above bearing direct upon the lintel.

It is the Greeks who originated or developed the orders of architecture to which the attention of the freemason is often directed. By “orders” are known certain arrangements of construction and ornament as applied to columns and the lintels over them; the three greatest of them – the Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian – are illustrated. The idea of the Doric came from Egypt, and that of the Ionic from Assyria but the Greeks so largely redesigned these two orders as to be regarded as their originators.


The Doric Column

The order which the Greeks most loved was the Doric, the most massive of the three, but more delicate, more refined, and more dignified; generally it had a fluted shaft standing on a series of steps and having no base of its own, and the tapering of that shaft, together with the slight convexing of the horizontal lines of the lintel above, was intended to correct an optical illusion. Its capital, where the shaft supports the lintel, is moulded. The Ionic shaft, on the other hand, had a base, and on the capital were carved scrolls or volutes; this shaft was lighter than the Doric. In the Corinthian order the shaft was lighter still, and a bell-shaped capital was deeply carved with foliage; very occasionally a scroll or volute was added.





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The Qualifications of our Members

The Qualifications of our Members


Bro Mike Lawrence

Over the many years that I have been involved in Freemasonry, I have heard many an interesting debate on the subject the qualification of members and how both the Operative masons of old and Speculative Masonry have always demanded that its apprentices fill a certain criteria. Here are a few thought on the subject.


“A Man desirous of becoming a Free-Mason, should endeavour to get acquainted with a Member of some good Lodge, who will propose him as a Candidate for Admission the next Lodge Night. He is likewise obliged to acquaint the Brethren of the Qualifications of the Candidate. Upon this it is debated whether or not he shall be admitted; and it being carried in the Affirmative, the next Step is to go with the Proposer the ensuing Lodge Night.

For the Good of this, and all other Societies, it were to be wished a more strict Regard was paid, on the Part of the Proposer, to the Character and Morals of the Candidate, too many of the most infamous Part of Mankind being often admitted as members.”

From – Jachin and Boaz; or an Authentic Key to the door of Free-Masonry c.1762

“A Man desirous of becoming a Free-Mason, should endeavour to get acquainted with a Member of a regular constituted Lodge, who will propose him as a Candidate for Admission the next Lodge Night. The Brother who proposes a new Member, is likewise obliged to acquaint the Brethren of the Qualifications of the Candidate, As to his Character and Morals, and whether a sensible man† and a sound Man in Body. Upon this it is debated whether he shall be admitted; and it being carried in the Affirmative, the next Step is to go with the Proposer the ensuing Lodge Night.

For the Good of this, and all other Societies, it were to be wished a more strict Regard was paid, on the Part of the Proposer, to the Character and Morals of the Candidate: as I have known several (both in England and Ireland) who have been initiated into that ancient and honourable Order (which Kings, Princes, and Potentates have not been ashamed to belong to) who have not only been young and illiterate, but given up to the most abandoned way of life. It is owing to such unworthy Members that Masonry is become so much the Ridicule of the generality of Mankind: and even those who may justly be called worthy and experienced Brethren, and who might be shining Ornaments in the Lodges they belong to, are (at this time) ashamed to own that ever they joined such a Body, and had the least Conexion with it, and all for the above reasons: which is a shocking Circumstance, and entirely reverse to all the Rules of Masonry, as will be seen in the Course of the Work; where the Danger and Consequence of admitting an unworthy Member is fairly stated.”

From – Mahabone: Or the Grand Lodge Door Open’d c.1777

The Old MS Constitutions for example, often required an apprentice to be of honest parents. This most probably was a result of the influence of the Church, which as you would recall in those days, was more a burden than a blessing. It was the Church that controlled the best part of the lives of those early masons and this requirement was almost certainly based upon the early Christian practice of not allowing bastards to enter the priesthood.

This observance obviously being taken literally by the readers of Deuteronomy 23:2 which reads: “A bastard shall not enter into the congregation of the Lord; even to their tenth generation shall he not enter into the congregation of the Lord.” Sadly, Bastards were generally considered unfit people and again we can read in Zechariah 9:6 how they were penalised: “A bastard shall not dwell in the city of Ashdod.”


In his book, Freemasons Guide and Compendium, Bernard E. Jones tells us that: “The Old Charges of a Freemason accompanying the Constitutions of the United Grand Lodge state that “no master should take an apprentice unless…he should be descended of honest parents,” and we know that in the superstitious days of the 1700’s many lodges took this old direction quite literally, believing that the illegitimate child was spiritually unfit.”

It was a similar situation regarding one’s physical attributes; certainly one would need to be in good physical condition if engaged in a heavy trade like construction, yet why would this stipulation be brought into Speculative masonry?

In 1809 for example, minutes from the Maid’s Head Lodge at Norwich ceased the ceremony of Initiation on the grounds that: “…in consequence of his not being upright in body, he could not be admitted…”

Again we can cite such scriptures as Leviticus 21:18-21: 18. For whatsoever man he be that have a blemish, he shall not approach: a blind man, or a lame, or he that hath a flat nose, or anything superfluous, 19. Or a man that is broken footed or broken handed, 20. Or crookback, or a dwarf, or that have a blemish in his eye, or be scurvy, or scabbed, or hath his bones broken; 21. No man that hath a blemish of the seed of Aaron the priest shall come nigh to offer the offerings of the Lord made by fire; he hath a blemish; he shall not come nigh to offer the bread of his God.


Fortunately we can categorically state today that neither of these two qualifications need to be met in their literal sense. To bar a prospective member on these grounds would be doing a great injustice to the whole ethos of the craft for which the only real qualification is one of age, belief and good character.

Talking of one’s character, as the Candidate stands at the door of the lodge in a state of darkness, humbly soliciting to be admitted into masonry, the Master has an exchange of words with the Inner Guard culminating in the affirmation that the candidate is of good report.

This phrase “of good report” can be found in Philippians 4:8 where it says: “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report…” Incidentally, I found the phrase used in several other scriptures of both the Old and New Testament.


For general interest, here is a sample list of questions, including supplementary notes, often used as a guide, which are put to Candidates during his interview to become a Freemason.

Please note:

These questions are merely a guideline and not meant to be exhaustive, any other relevant question may be asked during the course of an interview to ensure the suitability of the Candidate.

The Proposer and Seconder will also have previously discussed these questions with the Candidate prior to the interview to avoid any unnecessary embarrassment or misunderstanding of the commitment or expectation of the Candidate when joining Freemasonry. They will also have gauged the Candidates reliability as a person and their suitability as a prospective member of their Lodge.

Sample Questions for the Candidate at his interview

1) Do you believe in God/Supreme Being?

It is very important that the Candidate does not hesitate when asked this question and it must be answered in the affirmative as this is one of the Landmarks of our Order. We all view the Great Architect differently; the question is not how you perceive him or what you think of him, just if you believe there is a God/Supreme Being!

2) Do you have the full support of you wife and family to join Freemasonry?

This question must be answered in the affirmative. Freemasonry has no desire to cause any form of rift in family circles and would not allow anybody to join if they did not have the support of their family. In Freemasonry, your family and work always come first! In many cases, two brethren are appointed to visit the home of the prospective Candidate and meet his wife and family prior to the Lodge interview.

3) Do you understand the financial cost of Freemasonry?

The Candidates Proposer would have previously explained details of the joining fees and the annual fees also other charitable donations that might be expected.

4) What are your reasons for joining Freemasonry?

It is absolutely crucial that the Candidate understands from the beginning that Freemasonry is an organisation that you bring something to, rather than take something from! Freemasonry is not meant to benefit you or your business financially or to give you an advantage over others. Freemasonry is about serving others in its many forms. The Candidate’s response to this question must reflect that understanding.

5) Are you a member of any other organisation which might be considered anti-masonic or that will prevent you from attending your Masonic duties?

The answer to this question must be negative.

6) Do you understand what freemasonry is and your commitment to Freemasonry both in time wise and financially?

A slightly repetitive question, but the Candidates answer must reflect his understanding of the commitment expected.

7) Will your work commitments allow you to attend Masonic meetings?

The Candidate must answer in the affirmative. Basically, if the candidate has a job which precludes you from attending the meetings then there is little point in joining this Lodge. It may be another Lodge meets at a more suitable time for the Candidates working arrangements. Members of the Armed forces or the Emergency services are generally excluded from this scenario.

8) Have you ever made a previous attempt to join Freemasonry?

The answer to this question must be negative, or details given of the reasons why any previous application was refused.

9) What qualities do you think that you can bring to Freemasonry?

Since Freemasonry is about service to others, the Candidates answers must reflect a desire to help and assist those less fortunate than themselves in any way that Freemasonry prescribes.

10) Are you prepared to take a solemn obligation on the Volume of Sacred Law recognised by your own faith?

The answer to this question must be in the affirmative.

11) Do you have any criminal convictions or do you have any court proceedings outstanding?

The answer to this question must be in the affirmative. The Candidate would have been advised of this question prior to the interview. If the answer is negative and relates to a youthful indiscretion or a long ago minor conviction or misdemeanour which is no longer current, then further enquires must be made to assess the Candidates suitability.

12) Have you ever been declared bankrupt?

The Lodge should not accept anyone who is in financial difficulty, since membership will place added financial burdens on him. However, someone who has gone through misfortune of bankruptcy and has since improved his situation might be an acceptable candidate for Masonry. However, further enquires must to be made to assess the Candidates suitability.

13) At our meetings, we sing the National Anthem and drink to the health of Her Majesty; do you have any objections to this?

The answer to this question is generally in the affirmative. However, like religion, one’s political beliefs are not in question at this point, and standing in respect of the National Anthem or toast to the Head of State is perfectly acceptable.

14) It is obligatory at our meetings that you wear a dark suit, white collar and black tie, black shoes and socks, and white gloves. Are you willing to do so?

The answer to this question must be in the affirmative.

 These are the some of the more popular questions asked of a candidate, but members of the interviewing Committee may ask any other question they may feel relevant.


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Exactly what does Freemasonry demand of us? Part 5 of 5


Bro. Mike Lawrence

©  Freemasonsareus 2015

And so on to those two truly Masonic ornaments which we are counselled, should be maintained in their fullest splendour and that are second of those Grand Principles that the Order was founded upon namely, Benevolence and Charity. William Preston had the following to say upon this subject:1

“The most inveterate enemies of Masonry must acknowledge, that no society is more remarkable for the practice of charity, or any association of men more famed for disinterested liberality. It cannot be said, that Masons indulge in convivial mirth, while the poor and needy pine for relief. Our charitable establishments and quarterly contributions, exclusive of private subscriptions, to relieve distress, prove that we are ready, with cheerfulness, in proportion to our circumstances, to alleviate the misfortunes of our fellow-creatures…”

“Possessed of this amiable, this godlike disposition, Masons are shocked at misery under every form and appearance. When they behold an object pining under the miseries of a distressed body or mind, the healing accents which flow from the tongue mitigate the pain of the unhappy sufferer, and make even adversity, in its dismal state, look gay. When pity is excited, they assuage grief, and cheerfully relieve distress. If a brother be in want, every heart is moved; when he is hungry, we feed him; when he is naked, we clothe him; when he is in trouble, we fly to his relief. Thus we confirm the propriety of the title we bear; and convince the world at large, that BROTHER, among Masons, is more than the name.”

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And in another brother’s view – “Charity means shortly – and particularly in Freemasonry – all round good-will, beneficence, kindness and service for and to others, to bear the cross, if needs be, for others wrong doing, to do unto others, etc, knowing that these form the only [characteristic] which will procure admission into the Grade Lodge above.”2

I need not here dilate any further upon this subject only to say that charity is the most godly of all attributes we can obtain and practice. There is scarcely a Masonic publication, book, magazine or lecture that does not touch upon it, and in biblical terms it is second only to that first and great commandment: Love the Lord thy God.

Moving on, our attention is peculiarly and forcibly directed towards three other great excellences, Secrecy, Fidelity and Obedience.

Secrecy. The secrecy that we practice is simply no longer secret. Wilfully perjured individuals have chosen to reveal so much of our ceremonies to the world that we scarcely have any secrets left. However, passing from what secrets we have, and on to why we have secrets, we find that the skill of the medieval Operative Mason and any trade for that matter, are his secrets. The word mystery is derived from the Latin word “ministerium” meaning professional skill, therefore this ancient usage of the term mystery and secrets were actually of trade origin. Today, it is the modes of recognition that become our secrets, not the terms or handshakes for which we are renown, but the manner in which they are ritually taught and applied within the context of our ceremony. The demand for secrecy also forms part of the Obligations we take, and therefore we are obliged to maintain that characteristic in all our undertakings.

Fidelity. Fidelity is faithfulness, constancy and allegiance. It is one of those terms that encompasses all of the major tenets of the Craft in one word. It implies devotion and piety and, in the Masonic sense, to move forward slowly and steadily, learning, while affording appropriate respect to each degree and examining the true motives of those that wish us to sponsor their membership in the Craft.

Obedience. If love is the first commandment of heaven, and faith the first principle, then obedience is the first Law, such is the importance of this characteristic. It pervades our entire Craft journey, it illustrates our submission to the Master and his Wardens and it shows our willingness at all times to undergo examination. Obedience creates order, and a harmonious lodge is built upon order. Therefore in showing obedience we demonstrate that respect due to the Officers of the Craft, its principles and landmarks as well as its laws and bye-laws. In essence obedience brings a peacefulness to all of our proceedings.

In its closing comments, the Charge exhorts us to follow such pursuits that will at once make us recognisable as a Freemason and a useful ornament to mankind and to this society, this needs no further illumination on my part.

We are also encouraged to make a daily advancement in masonic knowledge and I would suggest there has never been a better time to do so. We not only have access to knowledge through our masonic museums and libraries, but through Lodges of Research, magazines, Internet web-sites and regularly published books.

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Study is an important part of masonry. Through study we learn, absorb and apply. Through study we not only become better masons, but better husbands, fathers and citizens of the world that we may ever have imprinted upon our hearts the sacred dictates of Truth, of Honour, and of Virtue.


1) William Preston, Illustrations of Masonry, 1812 edition, p.17-19.

2) A. Holmes-Dallimore, Freemason’s All in All – p249

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Exactly what does Freemasonry demand of us? – Part 4 of 5


Bro. Mike Lawrence

©  Freemasonsareus 2015

Our relationship with our neighbour, you may remember, is called;

“…acting with him on the square…”

and we are instructed to offer him;

“…every kind office which justice and mercy may require.”

This means we must show kindness, compassion, tolerance, magnanimity and patience.

“And to ourselves…”

says the Charge, by;

“…walking uprightly before God…and steering the bark of this life over the seas of passion without quitting the helm…”

so we can;

“…exert those talents wherewith God has blessed us with for His glory and the welfare of our fellow creatures.”

At the front of the Book of Constitutions, a copy of which we were all given on the night of our Initiation, we find the following:

“The Charges of a Free-Mason.

Extracted from the antient records of lodges beyond the sea,

and of those in England, Ireland and Scotland.

To be read at the making of new brethren.

Published by order of the Grand Lodge.”

First section entitled: Concerning God and Religion,

“A Mason is obliged, by his tenure, to obey the moral law; and if he rightly understands the art will never be a stupid atheist nor an irreligious libertine…..A Mason is, therefore, particularly bound never to act against the dictates of his conscience…..Masons unite with the virtuous of every persuasion in the firm and pleasing bond of fraternal love;…..Masons strive, by the purity of their own conduct, to demonstrate the superior excellence of the faith they may profess.”1

Having given us this great guidance for our relationship with our God, the Charge now teaches us the other obligations we have;

“…as a citizen of the world…”

we have an obligation towards our Country and our community. It implores us to be;

“…exemplary in the discharge of our civil duties, by never countenancing any act that may have a tendency to subvert the peace and good order of society.”

As the Book of Constitutions explains under section II of the Antient Charges:

“Masonry has ever flourished in times of peace and been always injured by war, bloodshed, and confusion; so that kings and princes, in every age, have been much disposed to encourage the craftsmen on account of their peaceableness and loyalty…”2

It is not therefore surprising that during the last war, while Hitler prepared for the invasion and occupation of England, Nazi Intelligence prepared a document entitled, Sonderfahndanglist GB or rather “Special Search List Great Britain”.

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This list contained some 3000 entries including the names of some prominent Freemasons and addresses of Masonic buildings as well as companies that had dealings with Freemasons, all of whom I have no doubt would have been singled out and subject to the humiliations known to be practised by that fearsome regime.3

That this fraternity should show such allegiance to one’s King and country is another example of our antiquity. The building programmes of those gothic architects of the 12th to 14th centuries depended much upon monies raised by great religious foundations, much through sponsorship from monarchs. Loyalty to one’s sponsor would have been demanded and one would have been reliant upon them for their livelihood as well as protection.

It may also be worth noting that all trade guilds accepted men not engaged in their particular craft as patrons or as a means of bestowing an honour or special privilege. Royal patronage was not uncommon as Edward III, Henry IV, Henry VI and Henry VIII were all guild members.4

In a world where many countries have dismantled their monarchy and turned republic, the United Grand Lodge of England stands immovable in its open and unashamed displays of loyalty to our Sovereign, and brethren both young and old stand perfectly upright and erect as we affirm that loyalty during each lodge meeting by respectfully singing the national anthem.

With regard to our domestic duties, the Charge now shows us the characteristics needed to adequately discharge them. I will quote from those wonderful Craft lectures which these days remain an important point of reference, yet I am sorry to say are rarely referred to.5

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Temperance – Is that due restraint of our passions and affections which renders the body tame and governable, and relives the mind from the allurement of vice. This virtue ought to be the constant practice of every Freemason, as he is thereby taught to avoid excess, or the contracting of any vicious or licentious habits, whereby he might unwarily be led to betray his trust, and subject himself to the penalty contained in his Obligation.”

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Fortitude – Is that noble and steady purport of the soul, which is equally distant from rashness or cowardice; it enables us to undergo any labour, pain, danger or difficulty, when thought necessary or deemed prudently expedient. This virtue, like the former, ought to be deeply impressed in the breast of every Freemason, as a fence and security against any attempt which might be made either by threats or violence, to extort from him any of those Masonic secrets he has so solemnly engaged to hele, conceal and never improperly reveal, the illegally revealing of which might prove a torture to his mind”

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Prudence – Teaches us to regulate our lives and actions according to the dictates of reason, and is that habit of mind by which wise men judge, and prudentially determine, all things relative to their temporal and eternal welfare. This virtue ought to be the distinguishing characteristic of every Free and Accepted Mason, not only for the better regulation of his own life and actions, but as a pious example to the popular world who are not Freemasons, and should be nicely attended to in all strange or mixed company, never to let drop of slip the least sign, token, or word, by which any of our masonic secrets might be illegally obtained.”

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Justice – Is that station or boundary of right which teaches us to render every man his due, and without distinction. This virtue is not only consistent with Divine and humans laws, but is the standard and cement of civil society; without the exercise of this virtue, universal confusion would ensue, lawless force overcome the true principles of equity, and social intercourse no longer exist; and as justice, in a great measure, constitutes the really good man, so it ought to be the invariable practice of every Freemason never to deviate from the minutest principles thereof…”

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 1) Book of Constitutions. 1965 edition, p.3.

2) Ibid, p.4.

3) Mike Martin, Why is Freemasonry so Secret in Britain, p.4.

4) M. Lawrence, Stealing History, p.4.

5) M.M.Taylor, Lectures on Freemasonry, First lecture, Section Six

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