Who Are the Freemasons?
The Freemasons are a private organization consisting of members of your community. Freemasonry is the oldest, largest and most prestigious fraternal organization in the world that also supports civic and charitable activities. We are like a civic club because we do many community projects. We are like a charity because Freemasons through their various organizations give away almost $2 million every day. Most importantly, though, we are a fraternity for men doing good things for each other as we bring men of good character together in the community. Many of our nation’s early patriots were Freemasons, as well as 13 signers of the Constitution and 14 Presidents of the United States including George Washington and Harry Truman. Today, the more than three million Freemasons around the world come from virtually every occupation and profession. Within the Fraternity, however, they all meet as equals. They come from diverse political ideologies, but they meet as friends. They come from virtually every religious belief, but they all believe in one God. One of the fascinating aspects of Freemasonry has always been how so many men from so many different walks of life can meet together in peace, never have any political or religious debates, always conduct their affairs in harmony and friendship, and call each other “Brother”.
What do Freemasons do?
The most important thing we do is take care of each other and our families. We are a fraternity. That means we help other Masons, treat them in special ways and support them no matter where they live. Along the way we build friendships all over the world. We also help others. That is why we give almost $2 million a day to charity, and most of our money goes to help children. We also teach leadership skills and help men lead a moral life. We promote good relationships and strong family values.
What do members get from the organization?
You get the sense of pride that comes with belonging to an organization that exists all over the world. As a Freemason we are part of a great heritage and we share an identity with the greatest men of the past and present. We share a special bond with men from all walks of life – creating life-long friendships.
What does it mean to be a Freemason?
It means being part of an unbroken tradition that stretches back over 500 years to a time when guilds of Freemasons traveled throughout Europe laying the stones of the great Gothic cathedrals. It means sharing the values of our nation’s founding fathers – among them George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, John Hancock, and Paul Revere – all Masons who lived their lives by the principles of loyalty, patriotism, liberty, courage, and faith, which are also deeply embedded in Freemasonry. It means becoming a better person while helping to improve the quality of life for others. It means forming deep and lasting friendships through Masonic Brotherhood that transcend the boundaries of race, religion, and culture, as well as those of geography. But most of all, being a Mason means the kind of deep satisfaction that comes only from selfless giving; from doing for others without asking or expecting anything in return.
How and where did Freemasonry start?
It is not known, but it is well documented that the first recorded initiation in England was that of Sir Robert Moray (one of the outstanding Scots of the seventeenth century) on 20th May 1641. This took place in a Scottish Lodge just outside of Newcastle upon Tyne when the Scots Army was laying siege to Newcastle upon Tyne. A meeting of the Lodge of Edinburgh, St. Mary’s Chapel took place and Sir Robert Moray was initiated. The earliest recorded making of a Freemason in an English Lodge is that of Elias Ashmole in 1646. Organised Freemasonry began with the founding of the Grand Lodge of England on 24 June 1717, the first Grand Lodge in the world. Ireland followed in 1725 and Scotland in 1736. All the regular Grand Lodges in the world trace themselves back to one or more of the Grand Lodges in the British Isles. There are two main theories of origin. According to one, the operative stonemasons who built the great cathedrals and castles had lodges in which they discussed trade affairs. They had simple initiation ceremonies and, as there were no City and Guilds certificates, dues cards or trade union membership cards, they adopted secret signs and words to demonstrate that they were trained masons when they moved from site to site. In the 1600s, these operative lodges began to accept non-operatives as “gentlemen masons”. Gradually these non-operatives took over the lodges and turned them from operative to ‘free and accepted’ or “speculative” lodges. The other theory is that in the late 1500s and early 1600s, there was a group interested in the promotion of religious and political tolerance in an age of great intolerance when differences of opinion on matters of religion and politics often led to bloody civil war. In forming Freemasonry, they were trying to make better men and build a better world. As the means of teaching in those days was by allegory and symbolism, they took the idea of building as the central allegory on which to form their system. The main source of allegory was the Bible, the contents of which were known to everyone even if they could not read, and the only building described in detail in the Bible was King Solomon’s Temple, which became the basis of the ritual. The old trade guilds provided them with their basis administration of a Master, Wardens, Treasurer and Secretary, and the operative mason’s tools provided them with a wealth of symbols with which to illustrate the moral teachings of Freemasonry.
Who Can Be a Freemason?
To qualify for membership, a petitioner must be:
- Male, at least 18 years of age
- A believer in the existence of a Supreme Being
- A voluntary candidate for membership, unsolicited by friends
- Motivated to join for reasons unrelated to personal gain or profit
- Prompted by a favorable opinion of Freemasonry
- Desirous of knowledge, and willing to earn it
- A first-time petitioner for membership
- Willing to conform to the Ancient Usages and Customs of the Fraternity.
Freemasonry is proud of its philosophy and practice of “making good men better.” Only individuals believed to be of the finest character are favorably considered for membership. Although Freemasonry is not a religious organization, every applicant must advocate his belief in the existence of a Supreme Being as atheists are not accepted in the fraternity.
The Masonic Lodge
The Masonic Lodge is the local organizational unit of Freemasons, organized under a charter provided by a Grand Lodge. The Lodge meets regularly each month to conduct its regular business, vote on petitions for membership and confer degrees for new and advancing members. Here is where the bonds of friendship and fellowship are strengthened.
The Masonic Degrees
There are three stages of Masonic membership: Entered Apprentice, Fellow Craft, and Master Mason. These stages are referred to as “degrees,” and correspond with members’ self-development and increased knowledge of Freemasonry. As a man completes each phase of learning, the lodge holds a ceremony to confer his degree. Degree names are taken from craft guilds: In the Middle Ages, to become a stonemason, a man would first be apprenticed. As an apprentice, he learned the tools and skills of the trade. When he had proved his skills, he became a “fellow of the craft,” and when he gained exceptional ability, he was known as a “master of the craft.” The conferral of the degrees is a solemn, enlightening, and enjoyable experience steeped in ritual and tradition without levity or embarrassment.
What is Masonic “ritual?”
The nature of Masonic ritual is both complex and beautiful. Masonic ritual includes a formal ceremony of initiation for each degree, which recites certain tenets and truths that have been passed down for generations, mostly from mouth to ear. This ritual takes the form of lectures and theater in the Lodge, and is used to teach new Masons the value of true friendship, the benefits of knowledge, and the necessity of helping those in need. It speaks to the power and impact our ritual has on men’s hearts and minds because it has stood the test of time for more than 300 years. Although our world has changed dramatically during that time, our ritual is virtually the same. Not everyone will want to learn the ancient ritual as it takes great time and study, but those Masons who choose to learn it are rewarded with the satisfaction of upholding a great tradition and helping their fellow brothers further their Masonic understanding.
Is Freemasonry a secret organization?
Membership in Masonry is not a secret; all members are free to acknowledge their membership. There is no secret about any of Masonry’s aims or principles. Masonry’s constitutions and rules are available to the public, and meeting locations are clearly identifiable. Like many similar organizations, some of Masonry’s internal affairs, such as ceremonies, grips, and passwords, are regarded as private matters for members only.
What Are Appendant Organizations?
These are organizations comprised of Freemasons and/or their families with specific focuses and functions. Some such organizations are Scottish Rite Masons, York Rite Masons, Order of the Eastern Star, Order of DeMolay, Job’s Daughters, Rainbow Girls and the Ancient and Arabic Order of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine. Some of these organizations build upon the knowledge base of the traditional Masonic degrees while others are geared toward youth and family members of Masons. Others are more social in nature. The common thread is that each is based on membership in a Masonic lodge.
After I become a Freemason what’s next?
As a member of the Masonic fraternity the opportunities to grow, learn and participate are many. You can simply attend regular meetings of your local Lodge to build on the friendships and fraternal benefits of fellow Freemasons. You and your family can join and participate in various appendant organizations with a variety of focuses and functions. You can become active in the administration of the Lodge and pursue a position in the advancing line of officers. You can study and become expert at components of the ritual associated with meeting functions and degree conferrals.
How Do I Become a Freemason?
To become a Freemason, just ask a Freemason. More information can be found on this page.