Although the Freemasons have something of a reputation, fuelled by conspiracy theorists such as author Dan Brown, and assisted by some curious and secretive practices, this is an organisation that does commendable work and is exceptionally generous.
It’s the world’s oldest and largest non-religious body, which has at its heart a sense of fraternity and good works.
Members are “expected to be of a high moral standing” and its “values are based on integrity, kindness, honesty and fairness”.
It is, in short, a sign that you are of good moral character with concerns beyond yourself.
You will be joined at lodge meetings with others of similar outlook and standing which means that the networking opportunities cross across sectors and create links across, ultimately, the quarter of a million members in the United Grand Lodge of England .
The Freemasons say: “Freemasonry provides a unique environment for people from all backgrounds to learn skills, make lasting friendships, achieve their potential and, above all, have fun.
“What is more, the organisation provides a valuable forum for discussion between members in an open environment, helping to building trust.”
The UGLE is keen to press its transparency and push its credentials for increasing self-esteem and confidence, all vital tools in the workplace.
The Freemasons are not an inherently evil and sinister organisation – that’s just a perception promoted by Hollywood. However, despite the efforts of the United Grand Lodge of England to throw open its doors, there will be many who might view membership with suspicion.
And there are organisations that actively frown upon the Freemasons. The UGLE admits: “There are elements within churches who misunderstand Freemasonry and its objectives. They confuse secular rituals with religious liturgy.”
And the best known perception about the Freemasons, disowned by the UGLE, is that there is a commitment to help a fellow Mason that overrides all other loyalties. So careers that require judgment and objectivity – police, law, journalism – might be hindered by knowledge of membership.
Only recently Mayor Sadiq Khan rejected the idea of a Register of Freemasons in the police when it was revealed that the Independent Police Commission was investigating whether Freemasonry played a part in South Yorkshire Police’s cover-up of the Hillsborough stadium disaster .
What may be in the rule book may not translate to the reality and a commitment to professional integrity may be tested on an informal level.
There may also be very strong reason you cannot join the mainstream Freemasons even if you wanted. You may be a woman.
Find out more
A new gallery titled Three Centuries of English Freemasonry has just opened at the Library and Museum of Freemasonry in the Freemason’s Hall WC2 . The gallery features items including Winston Churchill’s Masonic apron and the Grand Master’s Throne.