The Straits Times
Secretive Freemasons offer rare glimpse into their society
By Maria Almenoar
May 27, 2004
USING secret hand signs, wearing royal regalia and speaking in Old English are just some of the unusual practices of the Freemasons.
Many think they are a secret society or even a satanic cult because, for hundreds of years, they have stayed out of the public eye.
But Freemasons deny such accusations, saying they will answer queries because they have nothing to hide.
On May 20, the media was given the rare opportunity to be with almost 50 Freemasons in their discussions with visiting Lord Northampton, the Pro-Grand Master of the United Grand Lodge of England.
Seated in the Temple, or the sacred room of the 125-year-old Freemasons' Hall in Coleman Street, Lord Northampton spoke about educating the public and defending Freemasonry, when it is wrongly accused.
'In the past, when people said all sorts of things about our society, we just shrugged it off.
'Nowadays, it's important that we speak up and let the public know what we are really about, because the long years of secrecy have led many to have the wrong idea about us,' he said.
Asked why ceremonies and initiations were then still exclusive to members, he said it was like any country club, where certain events are attended only by its members.
But while only members can attend ceremonial activities and meetings, other social events are open to the families of members and their guests, he added.
The hour-long discussion was conducted at Freemasons' Hall, where all lodges of the District Grand Lodge of the Eastern Archipelago in Singapore congregate.
There are eight lodges and more than 300 members in Singapore who are part of the United Grand Lodge of England.
Worldwide, there are about five million Freemasons who try to uphold the three basic principles of Freemasonry in their everyday lives - brotherly love, relief and truth.
But not everyone can be a Freemason as there are several conditions to fulfil, such as believing in God, being a man and asking your wife for permission to join the society.
In Singapore, it is a costly society to join as the royal regalia, which consists of an apron and chain, costs about $1,500, while yearly membership fees come up to about $500.
Those interested must approach a member and be voted in by existing members of a lodge.
The method of voting? Like its other unusual practices, the use of white and black beads.