About Masonry

01 A Quick Overview of Freemasonry

01.01 If there is one thing most people are sure they know, it‘s that Masons are never supposed to talk about Masonry.

Not true. Oh, there are some secrets - but there‘s nothing in them that would interest anyone except a Mason. Almost all of the "secrets" deal with ways of recognizing each other. But as far as Freemasonry, what it does, what it teaches, how it‘s organized, where it came from, what goes on in a Lodge meeting - that‘s open for discussion. Given a chance, we‘ll probably tell you more than you really wanted to know. We‘re excited about the Fraternity, we get a lot out of it, and we really want to share that with others.

01.02 Then why hasn‘t anyone ever asked me to join?

It‘s no reflection on you. There is a rule in Masonry that a person must seek admission himself. We aren‘t allowed to go out and twist arms. There is a reason for that. A person needs to come to Masonry because he really wants to, not because he‘s been talked into it. Masonry is a real commitment. If you are a Mason and you need help, every Mason in the world MUST help you, if he possibly can. By the same token, you must be willing to help any Mason who needs it. And then there is another reason - a person has to be ready for Masonry. Masonry isn‘t a civic club, although we do a lot of civic projects. It is a Fraternity. We‘re dedicated to the growth and development of our members as human beings. A person has to be ready to grow, has to suspect that there is something more to life, and wants to know what that is, before he is really ready to become a Mason.

01.03 What goes on in a Masonic Meeting?

There are two types of meeting agenda. The first is like the business meeting of any other organization. It takes us just a bit longer to call the meeting to order, because we use a longer opening ceremony or ritual than most civic clubs do. But, it reminds us of some of the most important lessons in Masonry. Then, when the lodge is "open", we hear the reading of the minutes, vote to pay bills, take care of old and new business, and plan projects, just like everyone else. The other type of meeting is one in which new members are received. This is done with a beautiful ritual, centuries old, which is designed to teach some important lessons and to start the person thinking about his own nature as a spiritual being.

01.04 What‘s the initiation like?

The Ceremonies of Masonic Initiation are meaningful and historic. Nothing humorous or embarrassing is permitted. In fact, it is a very serious Masonic offense to allow anything to happen during an initiation which is undignified or "funny".

01.05 I‘ve heard that Masonry is a religion. Is it? Can a man be a Mason and a Christian or of other faiths at the same time?

Masonry acknowledges the existence of God. No atheist can become a Mason. Prayer is an important part of the Masonic ritual. Masonic vows are taken in the name of God, but Masonry never tries to tell a person how he should think about God, or how he should worship God, or why he should believe. We offer no plan of salvation. We teach that man should live a good life, not because that alone will earn him entrance into heaven, but because anything else is destructive, both to himself and to those around him. It is good to be good.

As to whether a man can be a Mason and a Christian, the best answer is that most us are. There are many Free Masons who belong to other faiths, including Judaism, Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism, but the majority in America are Christian. And we number many, many ministers of many different denominations. As Dr. Norman Vincent Peale, an active Freemason himself, once remarked: "Masonry encourages men to be good and that can never conflict with Christianity".

01.06 Are there any churches or religions whose members you won‘t accept as Masons?

No. A man‘s belief is his own business, and Masonry has no right to approve or disapprove of his belief.

01.07 What about those "Secret Vows" I hear so much about?

The exact words of the vows are secret. That‘s one of the ways we recognize each other. The contents of the vows are not. In less formal language than we use in the Ritual, a Mason promises: "to treat women with deference and respect, to help a Brother when he asks for and needs help, to remember that people are entitled to dignity and respect and not to treat them as if they were things, to follow the directions of the Grand Lodge in things Masonic, and if he disagrees, to use the proper channels to express that disagreement and seek resolution, to respect the traditions of the Fraternity, and to keep secret the few things that are secret".

01.08 Why don‘t you let women join?

We‘re a Fraternity, a Brotherhood. The essence of a fraternity is that it is for men, just as the essence of a sorority is that it is for women. That‘s the primary reason. Recent developments in psychology and sociology have discovered another reason. There is a new thing called "male bonding." That‘s the new technical way of saying something that has been known for thousands of years. It‘s important for men to have a few things they do by themselves, just as it is for women to have the same thing.

But that doesn‘t mean that there is no place for women in Masonry. In fact, there are several Masonic organizations for both women and men. The Order of the Eastern Star, with one of the most beautiful rituals anywhere, is one. So are the White Shrine of Jerusalem, the Order of Amaranth, the Social Order of Beauseant, and several others.

01.09 Just what is a "Lodge?" What does it look like? Who runs it?

A lodge is both a meeting place for Masons and the Masons who meet there. You could actually say "The Lodge is a meeting at the Lodge." It‘s a Middle English word. When the great cathedrals of the Middle Ages were being built, the masons had special, temporary buildings built against the side of the cathedral in which they met, received their pay, planned the work on the cathedral and socialized after work. This building was called a lodge. The term has simply remained down through the ages.

As to the officers, the leader of the Lodge, the President is the "Worshipful Master". That title doesn‘t mean we worship him, although some people have thought that is what it means. The titles we use come from Middle English, about the time of Chaucer. Just as mayors in England and Canada are addressed as "Your Worship", the Master of the Lodge is called "Worshipful Master", meaning "Greatly Respected."

The First Vice President is the Senior Warden. The second Vice President is the Junior Warden. We have a Secretary and a Treasurer, just like any other organization. Assisting the Master are the Senior and Junior Deacons. They carry messages and help with the ritual work. The Senior and Junior Stewards help guide the new candidates in the initiation and also traditionally set out refreshments. Finally, the Tiler sits at the door to make sure that the Lodge is not interrupted and to help visitors get into the Lodge Room.

01.10 If that is the Lodge, what is the "Grand Lodge?"

The Grand Lodge is the State Organization of Masons. The local Lodges are members of the Grand Lodge. The Grand Master is the same as the State President.

01.11 Charity is the most visible Masonic activity. Each year Masons give many millions of dollars to charity. Some are large projects, some are small. Among the hundreds of local projects, we sponsor large programs such as Children in Crisis, and Blindne

Charity is the most visible Masonic activity. Each year Masons give many millions of dollars to charity. Some are large projects, some are small. Among the hundreds of local projects, we sponsor large programs such as Children in Crisis, and Blindness Prevention programs, testing thousands of school children and senior citizens for vision problems. We have strong commitments to public education.

Many Lodges have programs in which they recognize outstanding students. We have essay contests, awards for outstanding teachers and even programs to help teachers get supplies. The Fraternity gives hundreds of college scholarships to students each year. Nationally, throughout the United States, the Masons give an average of $1,500.000.00 (that is one and a half million) EVERY DAY to charitable causes, most of which are not Masonic. A fact never publicized and thus hardly known.

All those things are external, and they are important. But the real things the Masons do are far more difficult to describe. In essence, we try to build ourselves into better men, better fathers, better husbands and better citizens. We strive for self development and self improvement. We try to learn more about what it means to be human and what it takes to become better men.

01.12 How does a man become a Mason?

As we said earlier, no one will ever twist your arm. If you decide you want more information, we‘ll be happy to provide it through the Grand Lodge in your jurisdiction. If you want to join our Fraternity it works this way: Ask any Mason for a petition (to join). Fill it out and return it to him. He‘ll take it to his Lodge and turn it in. A committee (of about three) will be appointed to talk with you and with people you may list. Its purpose is to ascertain that you are a man of good character and that you believe in God. Atheism and Freemasonry are not compatible.

The committee will report its recommendation back to the Lodge. The Lodge will vote. If your petition is accepted, the Secretary will contact you about a date for the first of three degrees. There is some study and a bit of memory work required with which your Lodge Brothers will always help you. After the Third Degree you will be a full-fledged Master Mason and will have joined the oldest global brotherhood in the world!

02 More Information

02.01 Defining Freemasonry

Freemasonry is kindness in the home; honesty in business; courtesy toward others; dependability in one‘s work; compassion for the unfortunate; resistance to evil; help for the weak; concern for good government; support for public education; and above all, a life-practicing reverence for God and love of fellow man.

It encourages good citizenship and political expression but is not a political organization. Its charitable activities are manifold, yet, it is not a welfare or benefit organization.

A number of years ago, a prominent Freemason referred to our Gentle Craft as "an organized association of men, symbolically applying the principles of operative Masonry and architecture to the science and art of character building." That observance was true in 1937 as it is just as true today.

For the most relevant definition of our Fraternity, it is suggested that you consider the personal attributes of your Masonic friend who has made this brochure available to you.

02.02 Where Did It Start?

The background of today‘s Masonry is found deep in the time when men built the cathedrals, abbeys, and castles of medieval Europe. The stonemasons who created these awe-inspiring Gothic structures formed craft guilds to protect the secrets of their building trade and to pass on their knowledge to worthy and deserving apprentices.

By the time the need for this type of ‘Operative’ Mason declined in the Seventeenth Century, the practices and customs of the operative craft had left such an impression that men who had no inclination of being operative builders sought membership. These speculative builders were learned and well-thinking men, men of integrity and good will. With their admission, ‘speculative Masonry’ evolved. This speculative Fraternity of Freemasons used the symbols (tools) which the operative Masons used in Cathedral building as symbols in character building.

The two principal tools were the Square and Compass-which together form the most familiar Masonic ‘trademark’ in the world to this day. The letter ‘G’, in the very center of this emblem, reflects the true Masonic belief that God is the very center of ALL life.

02.03 What Are The Requirements for Membership?

Twenty-two words establish the most important prerequisite to becoming a Mason. " . . . We receive none, knowingly, into our ranks who are not moral and upright before God and of good repute before the world . . ."

02.04 Will I Be Asked To Join?

No, Hopefully, if the concepts and principles of Masonry as enumerated in this folder interest you, you will not need to be asked to join. You must ask to become a Freemason. Unfortunately, many men who would like to become Masons never do because they are unaware of the above-mentioned requirement (that it be of your own free will and accord, and you must ask to join the Fraternity). If you desire to learn more about Masonic membership, feel free to contact a Mason to satisfy yourself concerning Freemasonry. As Freemasons, we believe that membership in an organization as worthy as ours must come from a "sincere wish of being serviceable to your fellow creatures" and not because of coaxing, coercement, or of any promise of material gain of any kind.

02.05 What Happens At The Initiation?

An applicant, whose petition has been accepted by the lodge, is advised of the date his Entered Apprentice Degree has been scheduled. On that date, following a brief Ritualistic opening, the petitioner is properly prepared and introduced to the lodge. The solemn process is an enlightening experience and the candidate need never worry that embarrassing or compromising situations will arise during this (or any other degree).

After receiving the Entered Apprentice Degree, you will be expected to memorize several key passages of the Ritual and help will be extended in the teaching/learning process.

Having learned the required Ritualistic work and satisfying the lodge of that proficiency, you will be asked to return for the conferral of your Fellow Craft Degree. Following a proficiency examination on that Degree, you will advance to the "last and highest grade of Ancient Craft Masonry-the Sublime Degree of a Master Mason."

Only after having completed these three symbolic degrees will you truly understand the oft-quoted statement, "Freemasonry Builds Its Temples in the Hearts of Men."

02.06 Is Freemasonry A Religion?

No, Religion can best teach a man faith, hope, and charity. Freemasonry only endeavors to reinforce these teachings. Masonry is not a religion nor is it a substitute for or a rival of any doctrine. It is an aid to religious development in that it builds character and stresses righteousness. It is significant that many clergymen are active members of the Fraternity. A Mason respects and is tolerant of that which is sacred to his brother, be he Christian, Mohammedan, Jew, or of some other faith in God.

The Fraternity is essentially an institution providing moral instruction and the rules of right conduct a member must follow are acceptable to all religions.

02.07 How Do Masons Help Others?

The basic premise of Freemasonry is "The Brotherhood of Man under the Fatherhood of God." With that thought uppermost in mind, Masons strive to learn how better to serve that "brotherhood of man" - charitably - not just with money (although a recent survey revealed that over two million Masonic dollars are contributed EVERY DAY to philanthropies) but also through actions and deeds.

At the other end of the spectrum, Masons help, believe in, and support our young people through scholarship and student loan programs.

The 1985-86 restoration of the Statue of Liberty was given a $2,000,000 boost by the Masons of America.

03 Who and What are Masons?

03.01 What Does Masonry Mean?

With special interests trying to dominate the world, the former barriers of distance and oceans being ineffective, and our modern means of destruction which could annihilate all civilization; there is a definite need for better understanding throughout the world.

In its efforts to improve the individual Freemasonry urges the practice of Brotherly Love, strives to promote Universal Peace; and while it claims no monopoly on the worthwhile virtues, it offers proven doctrines of moral living in scientific order.

Masons, like other humans, sometimes apply Masonry to a part of their lives but cast the teachings aside when it is expedient; and they are cautioned and charged to avoid this kind of double standard.

03.02 It is equally Important to Understand what Freemasonry does NOT mean.

There have always been those who oppose fraternal orders, and when the objections of such individuals or groups have ended in fragmentation, they have always resorted to classifying Freemasonry as a "secret" order with the implication that "secret" is also corrupt, deceitful, or sinful.

The purposes, aims, and doctrines of Freemasonry have never been concealed, and have been well discussed in many publications which remain available in public libraries. It is also noted that corrupt and deceitful organizations soon disappear while Freemasonry has withstood the tests of all ages.

It is not a secret order, and Masons have the same rights as other people - one of which is the right of privacy. All human groups and institutions have "secret" - or more correctly stated - "private" affairs which they do not make public. Families have discussions which are of no concern to their neighbors or the general public. Church councils convene in selected committees to resolve matters which require prompt or discrete action. Civic organizations form special committees and draft plans which may never be made public. In labor and industry boards of directors make decisions which are of no concern to their competitors.

While such actions are completed privately - or secretly - this is certainly no evidence that they are in any way corrupt, deceitful or unwholesome.

If these and other groups have matters which they discuss in private, it is only reasonable to assume that Masons might also wish to engage in the lawful pursuit of their own business in privacy.

Freemasonry is not a mere social institution even though it provides social contact and many friendships have begun in the Lodge; but its primary purpose has always been, and still remains the advancement of its doctrines of Temperance, Fortitude, Prudence, Justice, Brotherly Love, Relief, and Truth.

It is not an insurance or burial society, or a vehicle to increase one‘s personal business, ambitions, or special material interests. Masons are not required to patronize each other, and any material benefits which may come to a Mason will result from the reputation he establishes and maintains, and not because he became a member of a Masonic Lodge.

Freemasonry requires a belief in God, and while it is religious in its concepts, it is not a religion or a substitute for the Church. The Masonic Ritual teaches responsibility to God and dependence on God, and should therefore strengthen one‘s loyalty to his church.

Religious discussions often result in disagreement and for this reason such discussions are prohibited in Lodge. That which might disrupt the harmony among the members can not be tolerated.

In the interest of harmony, partisan polities discussions are also prohibited. A Mason‘s political beliefs are his own, although they must conform to good citizenship. Even a member running for public office has no right to expect the support of other Masons merely because he is a Member of the Lodge.

Freemasonry means - that no man will ever introduce controversial sectarian questions into the Lodge; he will pay no heed to those who attack the Fraternity; he will adhere to his belief in God and be ever loyal to his Church; he will remain a good citizen, obeying the laws of Freemasonry, and the civic laws under whose protection he lives.

04 What Makes A Man A Mason?

By: Rev. Joesph Fort Newton, 33rd Degree
Grand Chaplain, Grand Lodge of Iowa, 1911-1913

When he can look out over the rivers, the hills, and the far horizon with a profound sense of his own littleness in the vast scheme of things, and yet have faith, hope, and courage -- which is the root of every virtue.

When he knows that down in his heart every man is as noble, as vile, as divine, as diabolic, and as lonely as himself, and seeks to know, to forgive, and to love his fellowman.

When he knows how to sympathize with men in their sorrows, yea, even in their sins -- knowing that each man fights a hard fight against many odds.

When he has learned how to make friends and to keep them, and above all how to keep friends with himself.

When he loves flowers, can hunt birds without a gun, and feels the thrill of an old forgotten joy when he hears the laugh of a little child.

When he can be happy and high-minded amid the meaner drudgeries of life.

When star-crowned trees and the glint of sunlight on flowing waters subdue him like the thought of one muched loved and long dead.

When no voice of distress reaches his ears in vain, and no hand seeks his aid without response.

When he finds good in every faith that helps any man to lay hold of divine things and sees majestic meanings in life, whatever the name of that faith may be.

When he can look into a wayside puddle and see something beyond mud, and into the face of the most forlorn fellow mortal and see something beyond sin.

When he knows how to pray, how to love, how to hope.

When he has kept faith with himself, with his fellowman, and with his God; in his hand a sword for evil, in his heart a bit of a song -- glad to live, but not afraid to die!

Such a man has found the only real secret of Masonry, and the one which it is trying to give to all the world.