WHAT IS FREEMASONRY
Freemasonry is the oldest and largest worldwide fraternity dedicated to the Brotherhood of Man under the Fatherhood of a Supreme Being. Although Freemasonry is not a religion, it urges its members, however, to be faithful and devoted to their own religious beliefs.
Masons, when asked such a question, will give different answers, in their own words, based on their own perceptions, experience and education. The most common answer is “a peculiar system of morality, based on allegory and illustrated with symbols”.
The lessons Freemasonry teaches through its ceremonies are to do with moral values (governing relations between people) and its acknowledgement, without in any way crossing the boundaries of religion.
All Freemasons are taught that any duties which they have as a Freemason come only after their duties to family, work, and faith. In no circumstances should their membership interfere with these aspects of their lives. Freemasons feel that these lessons apply just as much today as they did when it took its modern form at the turn of the 17th century.
Another way of explaining, “What Freemasonry is”, is to detail what it is not.
Freemasonry is not a religion, nor is it a substitute for religion and it does not allow religion to be discussed at its meetings. Its essential qualification opens it to men of many religions, and it expects them to continue to follow their own faith.
All Freemasons are required to profess and continue in a belief in a Supreme Being. It has no theology, nor sacraments, and it does not claim to lead to or offers no answers on matters of salvation, as these are the preserve of churches.
All Freemasons are encouraged to find answers to such questions through their own faith, religion and church. Members are urged to respect the teaching of their own faith and not to allow Freemasonry to infringe, in any way, on the member’s duty to their mosque, church, synagogue, etc. For this reason Lodges in Christian countries do not meet on Sundays. Lodges within Jewish communities do not meet on Saturdays and Lodges with a predominately Muslin membership will respect the Holy Days of that faith.
FREEMASONRY AND POLITICS:
Freemasonry is not a political organization, and it will not comment on, nor offer, opinions as to competing forms of Government. Freemasonry is non-political, and the discussion of politics at Masonic meetings is forbidden. The reason the discussion of religion and the discussion of politics at Masonic meetings are expressly forbidden stem from Freemasonry’s aims to encourage its members to discover what people from all different backgrounds have in common.
Freemasonry is not in any way a secret society despite what many people claim. Freemasonry’s so-called secrets are solely used as a ceremonial way of demonstrating that one is a Freemason when in Lodge meetings; that is, its traditional modes of recognition. Like many other societies, it regards some of its internal affairs as private matters for its members.
Other reasons why Freemasonry cannot be called a secret society are that Freemasons do not promise to keep their membership secret. All members are free to acknowledge their membership, where and when Freemasons meet are matters of public record (you can look up Masonic centers in telephone directories) and our Constitutions, rules, principles and our aims are readily available to the public.
It is ironic that because Freemasons used to be reticent about their membership, as they were and still are taught never to use it to advance their own interests, critics have taken this the wrong way and think that there is something secretive going on. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Freemasonry demands from its members a respect for the law of the country in which a man works and lives. Its principles do not in any way conflict with its members’ duties as citizens, but should strengthen them in fulfilling their private and public responsibilities.
The use by a Freemason of his membership to promote his own or anyone else’s business, professional or personal interests is condemned, and is contrary to the conditions on which he sought admission to Freemasonry.
His duty as a citizen must always prevail over any obligation to other Freemasons, and any attempt to shield a Freemason who has acted dishonorably or unlawfully is contrary to this prime duty.
As a fraternity, Freemasonry provides an opportunity for men to meet and enjoy friendly companionship. In the spirit of helpfulness and brotherly love and guided by strict moral principles it encourages goodwill toward all mankind. Freemasonry is of a personal nature in its private ceremonies.
Its ritual dramatizes a philosophy of life based on morality. It promotes self-improvement. The tools of operative masons are used to symbolize and teach the basic principles of brotherly love, charity, and truth, which Masons are encouraged to practice in their daily lives. Charity is a tangible way in which Masons help those whose circumstances in life fairly warrant it.
Our traditions can be traced directly to the associations of operative masons. They were men of outstanding character and high ideals, who built the cathedrals, abbeys, and castles of the middle Ages.
With the decline of cathedral building in the 17th Century, many guilds of stonemasons, called “Operative” masons, started to accept into their membership those who were not members of the masons’ craft and called them “Speculative” or “Accepted” masons.
Our traditions can be indirectly traced to the Knights Templar, but cannot be proven.
It was in these groups, called lodges, comprised mainly of “Accepted” masons that Freemasonry, as we know it today, had its beginning.
In 1717, four such lodges, which had been meeting regularly in London, united to form the first Grand Lodge of England under the direction of a Grand Master. From that first Grand Lodge, Freemasonry has spread throughout the world. Today, some 150 Grand Lodges have a total membership of approximately four million Masons.
The organization of Freemasonry is based on a system of Grand Lodges, each sovereign within its own territory. There is no central authority governing all Grand Lodges. However, to be acknowledged by others, acceptable traditions, standards and practices must be maintained. It is under the leadership of a Grand Master. He presides over the masons who belong to the lodges under its jurisdiction. Each of those lodges is under the direction of a Master.
The basic ‘unit’ of Freemasonry is the Lodge. This was the basic unit of stonemasons, references to which are found in Scottish records as early as 1491.
Masonic ceremonies are secular morality plays, which are learned by heart by lodge’s members for the benefit of the person who is becoming a Freemason or who wishes to explore Freemasonry further. Each ceremony has a message for the candidate.
All Freemasons experience the three basic ceremonies unless they drop out from Freemasonry very early on. These three ceremonies (or degrees as we call them) look at the relations between people, man’s natural equality and his dependence on others, the importance of education and the rewards of labor, fidelity to a promise, contemplation of inevitable death, and one’s duty to others.
The origins of the ceremonies originated, as explain before, from stonemasons who taught new members morality without infringing on matters that were the concern of the church.
In educating their members they performed ritual ‘plays’ based on legends of the origins of the craft of stone masonry. These plays were common during the medieval period as the majority of people were illiterate and a dramatic representation was a popular teaching method.
It is not surprising to learn that the ‘props’ used in these plays were the working tools of the stonemasons, something with which they were intimately familiar and to which they ascribed certain meanings. This form of teaching is no longer common but perhaps the Passion Plays at Oberammergau (Germany) are the nearest, albeit religious, equivalent today.
For many years Freemasons have followed three great principles:
- Brotherly Love — Every true Freemason will show tolerance and respect for the opinions of others and behave with kindness and understanding to his fellow creatures.
- Relief — Freemasons are taught to practice charity, and to care, not only for their own, but also for the community as a whole, both by charitable giving, and by voluntary efforts and works as individuals.
- Truth — Freemasons strive for truth, requiring high moral standards and aiming to achieve them in their own lives.
Freemasons believe that these principles represent a way of achieving higher standards in life.
From its earliest days, Freemasonry has been concerned with the care of orphans, the sick, and the aged. This work continues today. In addition, large sums are given to national and local charities.
Today in North America, the Masonic Fraternity continues this tradition by giving almost $1.5 million each day to causes that range from operating children’s hospitals, providing treatment for childhood language disorders, treating eye diseases, funding medical research, contributing to local community service, and providing care to Masons and their families at Masonic Homes.
The essential qualification for admission, and continuing membership, is a belief in the Supreme Being. Membership is open to men of any race or religion who can fulfill this essential qualification and are of good repute.
Membership is for men, 21 years of age or older, who meet the qualifications and standards of character and reputation, who are of good moral character, and who believe in the existence of a supreme being.
One of Freemasonry’s customs is not to solicit members. However, anyone should feel free to approach any Mason to seek further information about the Craft.
A man who wants to join a lodge must be recommended by members of that lodge. He must understand that his character will be investigated. After approval by the members of that lodge, he will be accepted as an applicant for membership in Freemasonry.
The doors of Freemasonry are open to men who seek harmony with their fellow man, feel the need for self-improvement and wish to participate in making this world a better place to live.
Any man who becomes a Mason is taught a pattern for living – reverence, morality, kindness, honesty, dependability and compassion. He must be prepared to honor his country, uphold its laws and respect those in authority. He must be prepared to maintain honorable relations with others and be willing to share in Masonic activities.
A Freemason is encouraged to do his duty first to God (by whatever name he is known) through his faith and religious practice; and then, without detriment to his family and those dependent on him, to his neighbor through charity and service.
Freemasonry is the oldest, largest Fraternity in the world. It’s members have included Kings, Presidents, Prime Ministers, Statesmen, Generals, Admirals, Supreme Court Chief Justices, corporate CEOs, opera stars, movie stars, and probably, your next door neighbor. And Masonry is always ready to welcome good men in the Fraternity. It’s ready to welcome YOU, if in your heart you can answer yes to a few questions.
Do you believe that there is such a thing as honor, and that a man has a responsibility to act with honor in everything he does?
Masons teach that principle. We believe that a life not founded on honor is hollow and empty — that a man who acts without honor is less than a man.
Do you believe in God?
No atheist can be a Mason.
Masons do not care what your individual faith is — that is question between you and your God — but we do require that a man believe in a Supreme Being.
Are you willing to allow others the same right to their own beliefs that you insist on yourself?
Masonry insists on toleration — on the right of each person to think for himself in religious, social and political matters.
Do you believe that you have a responsibility to leave the world a better place than you found it?
Masonry teaches that each man has a duty not only to himself but to others. We must do what we can to make the world a better place. Whether that means cleaning up the environment, working on civic projects, or helping children to work or read or see — the world should be a better place because we have passed through it.
Do you believe that it is not only more blessed to give than to receive, it’s also more fun?
Masons are involved with the problems and needs of others because we know it gives each of us a good feeling — unlike any other — to help. Much of our help is given anonymously. We’re not after gratitude; we’re more than rewarded by that feeling which comes from knowing we have helped another person overcome some adversity, so that their life can go on. Masonry is mutual help. Not just financial help (although that’s there, too) but help in the sense of being there when needed, giving support, lending a sympathetic ear.
Do you feel that there’s something more to life than financial success?
Masons know that self-development is more precious than money in the bank or social position or political power. Those things often accompany self-development, but they are no substitute for it. Masons work at building their lives and character, just as a carpenter works at building a house.
Do you believe that a person should strive to be a good citizen and the we have a moral duty to be true to the county in which we live?
Masons believe that a country is strong as long as freedom, equality, and the opportunity for human development are afforded to all. A Mason is true to his government and its ideals. He supports its laws and authority when both are just and equitably applied. We uphold and maintain the principles of good government, and oppose every influence that would divide it in a degrading manner.
Do you agree that man should show compassion for others that goodness of heart is among the most important of human values?
Masons do. We believe in a certain reverence for living things, tenderness toward people who suffer. A loving kindness for our fellow man, and a desire to do right because it is right. Masonry teaches that although all men are fallible and capable of much wrong, when they discover the goodness of heart, they have found the true essence of virtue. Masonry helps men see their potential for deep goodness and virtue.
Do you believe that men should strive to live a brotherly life?
Masons see brotherhood as a form of wisdom, a sort of bond that holds men together — a private friendship that tells us we owe it to each other to be just in our dealings and to refuse to speak evil of each other. Masons believe a man should maintain an attitude of good will, and promote unity and harmony is his relations with one another, his family, and his community. Masons call this way of believing in the Brotherhood of Man. It really means that every Mason makes it his duty to follow the golden rule. This is why Masonry has been called one of the greatest forces for good in the world.
IF YOU ANSWERED YES, YOU MAY WANT TO CONSIDER BECOMING A MASON.
Freemasonry offers much to its members — the opportunity to grow, the chance to make a difference, to build a better world for our children. It offers the chance to be with and work with men who have the same values and ideals — men who have answered YES to these questions.
Have you ever considered becoming a Mason? We’d like a chance to talk with you. You can call, email, or visit us, with any questions or comments.
There are three degrees in Masonry. Other appendant bodies confer additional degrees, up to the 32nd (or the honorary 33rd) of the Scottish Rite, but in symbolic Masonry (or Blue Lodge Masonry) proper, there are only three. At the Blue Lodge, Masons receive the degrees of Entered Apprentice (first degree), Fellowcraft (second degree), and Master Mason (third degree). Promotion requires the mastery of the lessons material of each degree, contents of which will teach moral lesson using various allegories and symbols. The signs, tokens, and grips of each degree must be learned; in other word there is what we term “memory work” involved.
Of course, no Mason would ever look down upon a Brother simply because he was of a lower degree– the degrees do not exist to create a pecking order or to confer rank. Rather, they are a system of initiation that allows men to become familiar with the august and ancient history and principles of Masonry at a comfortable pace. Proceeding from Entered Apprentice to Master Mason can take as little as six months, while in England, the degrees are spaced apart by a year’s interval.
Most Lodges have Stated Communications (meetings) once a month that are also referred to as “business meetings”. the logde normally have two meetings per month held on the first and third Saturday of each month, starting at 6PM. Meeting usually last no more then two hours, but can be longer if needed. There may also at times when needed “Special Communications called for things such as conferring of degrees or other business that cannot wait until the normal Stated Communications of the lodge. All members are required to be at the meetings and to participate in the Lodge functions.
While conferral of degrees and mundane business do take up a lot of a Lodge’s time, there are a host of other activities that Masons engage in within the fraternity. Charitable work is always done, in the form of fundraisers, community volunteer work, etc. And there are also a great many things done for the simple pleasure of company: monthly breakfasts or dinners, picnics, lecturers on Masonic history, you name it. Masonry is a fraternity, and its membership seeks to have fun.
The Scottish Rite is an appendant body of Masonry, meaning that it is not part of the Blue Lodge per se, but closely associated with Masonry. It requires that a man be a Master Mason before joining the Scottish Rite. The Scottish Rite confers the 4th through 32nd degrees. The degree work may be, but is not necessarily, completed at one time. Any Master Mason is eligible to join the Scottish Rite. The degrees of the Scottish Rite continue the symbolism of the first three Masonic degrees.
The York Rite, like the Scottish Rite, is an appendant body of Masonry, and confers degrees beyond the Blue Lodge’s three degrees. It consists of nine degrees additional degrees: Mark Master, Past Master, Most Excellent Master, and Royal Arch Mason; the Cryptic Degrees of the Royal Master, Select Master, and Super Excellent Master; and the Chivalric Orders of the Order of the Red Cross, Order of the Knights of Malta and the Order of Knights Templar.
The Shrine degrees, which comprise the top degrees of the York Rite are specifically Christian. Or at least, it can be stated that the oath is: in some Grand Lodges in the US and abroad, one need not be a Christian, but rather only be willing to take a Christian OATH. The difference here is that there are some who would willingly swear to defend the Christian faith on the grounds that they would defend any man’s faith. The Chapter (or Royal Arch) and Council of Royal and Select Masters (Cryptic Rite), which comprise the first two sections of the York Rite, are not specifically Christian.
The Order of the Eastern Star is an adoptive rite of Freemasonry with teachings based on the Bible and objectives that are charitable and benevolent. The founder of OES was Dr. Robert Morris, a lawyer and educator from Boston, Massachusetts, who was a Master Mason and Past Grand Master of Kentucky. Dr. Morris intended his creation to become a female branch of Freemasonry.
Members must be eighteen years or older and either Master Masons in good standing or properly related to a Master Mason in good standing. The latter category includes wives; widows; sisters; daughters; mothers; granddaughters; step-mothers; step daughters; step-sisters; and half-sisters. In 1994 this was expanded to include nieces, daughters-in- law, and grandmothers.
Each chapter (just like masonic lodges) retains the right to decide who shall be a member of the organization. Election to the degrees must be unanimous, without debate, and secret. The successful candidate must profess a belief in a Supreme Being and is initiated in five degrees, which maybe conferred in several ceremonies.
Order of the Holy Royal Arch: the first part of the York Rite system of Masonic degrees. Royal Arch Masons meet as a Chapter, and the Chapter confers four degrees: Mark Master Mason, Past Master, Most Excellent Master, and Royal Arch Mason.
Order of the Knights Templar: the final body that a member joins in the York Rite after, Unlike the initial degrees conferred in a Masonic Lodge, the Knights Templar is one of several addition Masonic Orders in which membership is open only to Freemasons who profess a belief in the Christian Religion.
The Consistory: The final portion of the Scottish Rite System of degrees which includes the 31st° through to the 32nd°.
Ancient Arabic Order of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine (A.A.O.N.M.S.): The Shrine grew out of Freemasonry over 100 years ago and is meant to provide additional fellowship to its members through its various clubs and other functions.
Order of the Daughters of Amaranth: Open to Masons and their wives, mothers, daughters, widows, and sisters. At least one Master Mason must be present at every initiation. It confers only one degree
Order of the Heroines of Jericho: The Heroines of Jericho is an androgynous degree conferred in America on Royal Arch Masons, their wives, mothers, widows, sisters and daughters.
Order of the Lady Knights Templar: The Lady Knights Templar is a degree conferred on American Knights Templar Masons wives, mothers, widows, sisters and daughters.
What is a 33rd degree Mason?
The Scottish Rite awards a special honorary degree, the 33rd, to those it feels has made an outstanding contribution to Masonry, the community as a whole, and to mankind. There is no way to “achieve” this degree or “take” it, in the sense that one takes the 4th through 32nd degrees in the Scottish Rite. It is a singular honor, rarely bestowed, and greatly admired.
No one. Each Grand Lodge has its own jurisdiction and is the supreme authority within that jurisdiction. Obviously, many Grand Lodges have regular communication with each other, but official policy in one has no effect in another.
Yes. Like all organizations, Lodges must be able to pay their light bills. Typically, there is a joining fee for the three degrees of Masonry, as well as regular monthly dues, Grand Lodges dues, travel expenses, event/functions cost, books/material, and cost of Regalia (Masonic Apparel).
During the ceremonies of his initiation, each Mason is presented with a white apron. It is, to him, an emblem of innocence and the badge of a Mason. It has, in all ages, been cherished by the rich, the poor, the high and the low. It is his for life.
Any member who was in good standing at the time of his death is entitled to a Masonic funeral if he or his family requests it. Such a request should be made to the Master of his Lodge who will make the necessary arrangements with the family, the mortuary, and the minister. A service is authorized by the jurisdiction in which you are located, and consists of participation at the mortuary, the beginning at the mortuary and the closing at the graveside, or graveside only. Pallbearers will be furnished at the request of the family. In general, the Lodge will do as much or as little as the nearest relative wishes it to do.
It’s just not a “Fraternity” It’s a “Calling”!
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