My Freemasonry | Freemason Information and Discussion Forum

Register a free account today to become a member! Once signed in, you'll be able to participate on this site by adding your own topics and posts, as well as connect with other members through your own private inbox!

Autism and Freemasonry by Dr Sandra Beale-Ellis

Joe Ellis
Premium Member
My wife wrote an article entitled, Autism and Freemasonry. You might find it interesting reading, as below:


You may wonder why the subject of autism is particularly relevant to freemasonry, but it is possible that someone in your own lodge is autistic. 1 in 100 people in the UK are on the autism spectrum and that is just the number who has been diagnosed.

I should add that I am a freemason’s wife. My husband, Joe, is shortly to go into the Senior Warden’s chair. Joe and I have both been diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome.

The autism spectrum is broad with Kanner’s or ‘classic’ autism traditionally at one end, which can include either a delay in or a lack of language development and often continuing learning difficulties; and Asperger’s syndrome at the other end which is an intellectually high functioning form of autism. In between are varying degrees of autism. All presentations of autism share two common features: social communication difficulties, and narrow interests and repetitive actions. Although this positioning on the spectrum indicates that perhaps some autistic conditions are milder than others, this is not necessarily the case. Whether a person has classic autism or Asperger’s, there are good days and there are bad days, some very bad. These can also switch quickly where a person is thriving at one point in the day, and then within seconds, it can change and the same person can suddenly feel depressed, angry, or overwhelmed.

Rather than write too much generally about the characteristics of autism, which can be found elsewhere on the site I shall briefly attempt to reveal how an autistic person may be affected within freemasonry.

Joe had a desire to join freemasonry, because one of his obsessive or narrow interests is history and tradition. He absorbs facts like a sponge. He spent many years studying freemasonry and its traditions before contacting Grand Lodge and consequently being introduced to his local Lodge. He knows more facts about freemasonry than many more experienced freemasons (or brethren as they are called by those ‘in the know’). While some may think this is strange, or even try to belittle him for it, others admire him for his obvious passion and commitment.

He loves the tradition of ritual and the ways it is performed, which I understand he does with military precision. He has been complimented on this often. He dislikes sloppiness because if there are correct ways to do things, autistics believe they should be followed exactly. They thrive on correctness and routine. Paradoxically this is where some aspects of freemasonry can be more challenging.

Learning needs to be systematic. Joe has to learn ritual, one part at a time. Once he has learned a part, he can then move on to the next part, and then the next part. It is difficult for him to move around haphazardly before he has learned the words properly. He will just get confused, panic and then likely miss lodge nights because he feels overwhelmed.

If there is ‘unrest’ or ‘incident’ at an event it is likely to affect an autistic individual severely. They tend to be either hypo or hyper sensitive and react to situations quite differently, often seen as dramatically, to non autistics. Autistics may find interpreting others’ comments or reactions difficult and can often misread situations. They can be easily upset especially when they are feeling tired, stressed or panicked by situations. Social occasions can be overwhelming and you will often find an autistic person sitting alone, calming himself down. Joe uses a tactic to get over this discomfort, which may be considered unusual for the autistic individual. He approaches everyone as quickly as he can and speaks to them before they speak to him. This way he is in control of the situation, what he says, how he needs to react. It is a way to reduce feeling cornered and under pressure in social situations. As he is a leader, leader, within top management, within his professional career, this tactic has worked well for him and enables him to network superbly. I, on the other hand, do the complete opposite given the chance, unless I know people in which case, I imitate Joe’s tactic if the situation allows me to do so. Imitation is something autistic individuals do a lot – it is their way to learn how to behave in social situations.

As a freemason’s wife I struggled when Joe first entered the lodge. I had to attend lots of social events with people I mostly did not know. The wives of Joe’s proposer and seconder, were told to look after me. They did, and they have continued to do so throughout Joe’s masonic career. Even now, some events make me feel overwhelmed. Usually it is the less formal events I struggle with most. The bigger, more formal events, involve dressing up and dancing. One of my autistic obsessions is dancing and dressing up is all part of the competitive dancing world so I cope better. I can act a part and be another person.

Autistic individuals can sometimes seem rude and seemingly ignorant. Often there is a lot going on, lots of noise, lots of talking, lots of information, and autistics become overwhelmed easily. One way of overcoming this, if it is not possible to leave the situation and find a quiet space, is by ‘switching out’ and appearing to be ignoring what is going on. It can be a way to avoid sudden rage or episode of anxiety. Be patient, they will eventually ‘come back’.

It is important that you accept your fellow brother for the way he is. Autism is not an excuse; it is simply a difference in the way the brain is wired, which cannot be altered. Most importantly, be supportive and listen to him when he explains what you can do to help him.

Written in 2011. (In 2013, Joe took up the Mastership of Sharpers Hall Lodge No.9196 and resigned from UGLE Freemasonry the same year, stating that; 'UGLE Freemasonry is at variants with my religious, moral and principal beliefs in life').

Dr Sandra Beale-Ellis' links:

Website is via
Blog is via
Facebook page is via
Twitter page is via
Linked In is via
Last edited:


Coach John S. Nagy
Premium Member
...Written in 2011. (In 2013, Joe took up the Mastership of Sharpers Hall Lodge No.9196 and resigned from UGLE Freemasonry the same year, stating that; 'UGLE Freemasonry is at variants with my religious, moral and principal beliefs in life').
Spot on article. Thanks!

BTW - Why did you leave Male-Craft Freemasonry and join C0-Masonry? What was at variant?