Fequently Asked Questions
Freemasonry is the world's oldest and largest Fraternity. Its history and tradition date to antiquity. Its singular purpose is to make good men better. Its bonds of friendship, compassion, and brotherly love have survived even the most divisive political, military and religious conflicts through the centuries.
Freemasonry is neither a forum nor a place for worship. Instead, it is a friend of all religions which are based on the belief in one God.
Freemasons are respectable citizens who are taught to conform to the moral laws of society and to abide by the laws of the government under which they live.
They are men of charity and good works. They remain unchallenged as the "world's greatest philanthropy".
Only individuals believed to be of the finest character are favorably considered for membership. Every applicant must advocate his belief in the existence of a Supreme Being (atheists are not accepted into the Fraternity).
In most Masonic Jurisdictions, one must ask a Masonic friend to recommend him for membership. He must sign a petition, stating his age, occupation and place of residence. Members of the Lodge vote by secret ballot, which, in most Jurisdictions, must be unanimous.
The candidate receives three Masonic Degrees, concluding with the Third (or Master Mason's) Degree.
The Degrees are solemn, enlightening and an enjoyable experience with no uncomfortable or embarrassing moments. It is here where the principles of Freemasonry are taught and where the new member learns that his family and his own necessary vocations are to be considered above Freemasonry.
Every Master Mason is welcomed as a "Brother" in any of the thousands of Regular Masonic Lodges throughout the world.
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 one-time fee for the three degrees of Masonry, as well as regular annual dues. But these vary widely depending on the number of members, cost of living (rent in Manhattan is higher than it is in rural Oklahoma), the actual physical facilities of the Lodge, etc. The fees and dues, however, are not prohibitively expensive (the author is a college student and has no problem with them). Rather than give a single figure which may be very different than your local Lodge charges, or publishing an extended table of costs, it is easiest to simply refer the interested to their local Lodge.
Incidentally, many Grand Lodge jurisdictions provide for "life membership" after a Mason has paid dues for a long period. For example, in Michigan a Mason is no longer asked to pay dues after he has been a Mason for forty years. Other jurisdictions allow members to pay a lump sum for life membership. As with almost everything in Masonry, check with your local Grand Lodge or Lodge for more information.
"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." (From a pamphlet entitled: "To the Lady and Family of a Mason")
No. In fact, most Masons believe that to trade with a Brother Mason only because he is a Mason is unmasonic. Even more importantly, anyone who attempts to join a Lodge solely for business reasons will not be given a petition.
Masons, however, are friends, and it is not surprising that many Masons do trade with Brothers. For one thing, they are dealing with people that are of good character and can be trusted, which is no small statement in the modern marketplace.
But Masonry is not a "place to network". Yes, some men do view one of the benefits of membership as an additional source of customers or partners, but few would say that is the only reason they became Masons. The work involved in the degrees alone would make this a poor investment - better to join the Rotary Club or other business group.
No. Secret societies are generally defined as organizations which are unknown to the public and whose existence is denied. The Bavarian Illuminati and the Mafia would be examples of secret societies.
Masonry, on the other hand, is well-known and proudly displays its existence. Masonic Temples are clearly marked as such, and many Lodges are listed in the yellow pages (usually under "Fraternal Orders"). Members often wear rings or tie-clips that identify themselves as Masons, and Masons often participate in community charity work. Finally, some Masonic functions are open to the public.
Masonry is not a secret society, but rather a society with a few secrets. These are mainly modes of recognition - the signals, grips, signs, and phrases by which Masons recognize each other. The actual degree rituals are considered secret as well, not because there is anything that would harm Masonry by their revelation, but rather because they are more meaningful if the candidate does not know what is going to go on during them beforehand.
It should be pointed out that many other organizations have a similar class of secrets. College fraternities (a.k.a. "Greek letter organizations") often have small secrets known only to their members, allowing them to travel from house to house and still be known.
Is Masonry is a religion?
"Masonry is not a religion by the definitions most people use. Religion, as the term is commonly used, implies several things: a plan for salvation or path by which one reaches the after-life; a theology which attempts to describe the nature of God; and the description of ways or practices by which a man or woman may seek to communicate with God. Masonry does none of those things. We offer no plan of salvation. With the exception of saying that He is a loving Father who desires only good for His children, we make no effort to describe the nature of God. And while we open and close our meetings with prayer, and we teach that no man should ever begin any important undertaking without first seeking the guidance of God, we never tell a man how he should pray or for what he should pray. Instead, we tell him that he must find the answers to these great questions in his own faith, in his church or synagogue or other house of worship. We urge men not to neglect their spiritual development and to be faithful in the practice of their religion. As the Grand Lodge of England wrote in Freemasonry and Religion, 'Freemasonry is far from indifferent to religion. Without interfering in religious practice, it expects each member to follow his own faith, and to place above all other duties his duty to God by whatever name He is known.' Masonry itself makes only a simple religious demand on a man - he must believe that he has an immortal soul and he must believe in God. No atheist can be a Mason." - Dr. Jim Tresner, 33rd degree
"Freemasonry has no dogma or theology. It teaches that it is important for every man to have a religion of his choice and to be faithful to it. A good Mason is made even more faithful to the tenets of his faith by membership." Rev. Norman Vincent Peale, who was also a Mason.
There is nothing anti-Catholic in Masonry, in its traditions, its rituals, or its beliefs. Masonry is open to men of all religions.
Nothing could be further from the truth. The rituals (degrees) are designed to reinforce virtues that the Craft finds desirable, such as Justice, Brotherly Love, Truth, and the like. The rituals are actually quite beautiful and filled with ancient language and much symbolism. At no point, however, is the candidate asked to do anything that would embarrass or demean him, nor anything that would violate his obligations to his faith, country, or the law.
The only religious requirement is that candidates believe in the Supreme Being. If you can in good faith profess a belief in the Supreme Being, you are eligible to be a Mason. No atheists will ever knowingly be made a Mason.
There are Christian (Catholic, Protestant, Mormon), Jewish, and Muslim Masons. It would be tedious and pointless to go into a religion-by-religion (and then denomination-by-denomination) discussion. The key points to remember are the requirement of belief in the Supreme Being and the fact that Masonry is a fraternity, not a religion.
Don't wait to be invited - you will die waiting.
Some men are surprised that no one has ever asked them to become a Mason. They may even feel that the Masons in their town don't think they are "good enough" to join. But it doesn't work that way. For hundreds of years, Masons have been forbidden to ask others to join the fraternity. We can talk to friends about Masonry. We can tell them about what Masonry does. We can tell them why we enjoy it. But we can't ask, much less pressure, anyone to join.
There's a good reason for that. It isn't that we're trying to be exclusive. But becoming a Mason is a very serious thing. Joining Masonry is making a permanent life commitment to live in certain ways. We've listed most of them above -- to live with honor and integrity, to be willing to share with and care about others, to trust each other, and to place ultimate trust in God. No one should be "talked into" making such a decision.
Masons are prohibited from actively recruiting or asking non-Masons to join the fraternity, to insure that candidates come of their own free will.
As with many things Masonic, there are some exceptions to this rule. Some Grand Lodges allow solicitation, provided it is low-key and with the strict provision that no pressure be applied.
Note: The Grand Lodge of Indiana allows low-key solicitation. Still, you don't need to be invited in any jurisdiction, and if you're interested, act.
The person who wants to join Masonry must be a man (it's a
fraternity), sound in body and mind, who believes in God, is at least the minimum age
required by Masonry in his state, and has a good reputation. (Incidentally, the
"sound in body" requirement -- which comes from the stonemasons of the Middle
Ages -- doesn't mean that a physically challenged man cannot be a Mason; many are).
If you do not know a Mason, drop a letter to the local lodge, and one of the officers will call you (or call the lodge, though you may not get an answer unless someone is actually there).
Typically, the process is as follows:
NOTE: This is based on the summation of several experiences in the U.S. Your experience may vary.
A fascinating question! And, alas, impossible to answer within the confines of this FAQ. There are a number of theories, a lot of debate, and a lot of musty history books. Some of the books listed in question 15 of this section should be of help. As a very brief overview, here is part of an essay by Henry C. Clausen, a noted Masonic author. This is, of course, just one point of view - many other theories exist, but Clausen nicely covers the basics:
"Our Masonic antiquity is demonstrated by a so-called Regius Manuscript written around the year 1390, when King Richard II reigned in England, a century before Columbus. It was part of the King's Library that George II presented to the British Museum in 1757. Rediscovered by James O. Halliwell, a non-Mason, and rebound in its present form in 1838, it consists of 794 lines of rhymed English verse and claims there was an introduction of Masonry into England during the reign of Athelstan, who ascended the throne in A.D. 925. It sets forth regulations for the Society, fifteen articles and fifteen points and rules of behavior at church, teaching duties to God and Church and Country, and inculcating brotherhood. While the real roots of Masonry are lost in faraway mists, these items show that our recorded history goes back well over 600 years. Further proof is furnished through English statutes as, for example, one of 1350 (25 Edward III, Cap. III) which regulated wages of a "Master...Mason at 4 pence per day." The Fabric Role of the 12th century Exeter Cathedral referred to "Freemasons."
The historical advance of science also treats of our operative ancient brethren who were architects and stonemasons of geometry. It is apparent from this portrayal that they had a very real and personal identification with the Deity and that this fervent devotion provided energy to build cathedrals. They embraced the teachings of Plato and understood and applied Pythagorean relationships. Just as there is a beauty of harmony credited to mathematical relationships on which music is based, in precisely the same way these master geometricians treated architecture. The architects and stonemasons became the personification of geometry, performing extraordinary feats with squares and compasses. Geometrical proportion, not measurement, was the rule. Their marks as stonemasons were derived from geometric constructions. The mighty works they wrought, cathedrals with Gothic spires pointing toward the heavens, and especially their "association," were not without danger and opposition, bearing in mind the Inquisition established in 1229, the Saint Bartholomew's Eve Massacre of 1572, and the revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685. These historical points remind us of the need for our cautions against cowans and eavesdroppers.
Our operative Brethren of the Middle Ages thus were the builders of mighty cathedrals throughout the British Isles and continental Europe, many of which still stand. These skilled craftsmen wrote in enduring stone impressive stories of achievement, frequently chiseled with symbolic markings. With these architectural structures of these master builders there was a companion moral code. These grew up together. Out of this background modern Freemasonry was born.
Although "Lodges" had existed for centuries, four of the "old" Lodges met in London on St. John the Baptist's Day, June 24, 1717, and formed the first Grand Lodge of England, thereafter known as the Premier Grand Lodge of the world. No longer operative as of old, the Masons carried on the traditions and used the tools of the craft as emblems to symbolize principles of conduct in a continued effort to build a better world.
The American colonial Masonic organizations stemmed from this Grand Lodge of England and were formed soon after 1717. Its then Grand Master appointed Colonel Daniel Coxe as Provincial Grand Master of New York, New Jersy and Pennsylvania on June 5, 1730, and Henry Price of Boston as Provincial Grand Master of New England in April 1733." - Henry C. Clausen
Notes (in chronological order):
St. John's Chapel, Edinburgh, Scotland is said to be the oldest Masonic Lodge Room (1736) in the world. The oldest known Lodge Room in the U.S. is situated in Prentiss House, Marble head, Massachusetts (1760).The oldest Masonic Lodge Building is the Lodge Hall of Royal White Hart Lodge No. 2, Halltax, Northings, North Carolina (1771).
Other information disagrees with this, stating that the oldest American Lodge Room is "Masons Hall in Richmond, Virginia, the home of Richmond Randolph Lodge No. 19 and Richmond Royal Arch Chapter No. 3. The building owned by Royal White Hart Lodge wasn't built until 1821. Masons Hall was built in 1785. It was originally the home of Richmond Lodge No. 10, the first wholly new Lodge chartered by the Grand Lodge of Virginia. It was also the first permanent home of the Grand Lodge of Virginia." (from Northern Light)
The word "lodge" means both a group of Masons meeting in some place and the room or building in which they meet. Masonic buildings are also sometimes called "temples" because much of the symbolism Masonry uses to teach its lessons comes from the building of King Solomon's Temple in the Holy Land. The term "lodge" itself comes from the structures which the stonemasons built against the sides of the cathedrals during construction. In winter, when building had to stop, they lived in these lodges and worked at carving stone.
Since Masonry came to America from England, we still use the English floorplan and English titles for the officers. The Worshipful Master of the Lodge sits in the East. "Worshipful" is an English term of respect which means the same thing as "Honorable." He is called the Master of the lodge for the same reason that the leader of an orchestra is called the "Concert Master." It's simply an older term for "Leader." In other organizations, he would be called "President." The Senior and Junior Wardens are the First and Second Vice-Presidents. The Deacons are messengers, and the Stewards have charge of refreshments.
Every lodge has an altar holding a "Volume of the Sacred Law." In the United States and Canada, that is almost always a Bible.
NOTE: If your religion requires a different "Volume of the Sacred Law." You may provide one for your degrees.
Yes. In a very real sense, education is at the center of
Masonry. We have stressed its importance for a very long time. Back in the Middle Ages,
schools were held in the lodges of stonemasons. You have to know a lot to build a
cathedral -- geometry, and structural engineering, and mathematics, just for a start. And
that education was not very widely available. All the formal schools and colleges trained
people for careers in the church, or in law or medicine. And you had to be a member of the
social upper classes to go to those schools. Stonemasons did not come from the
aristocracy. And so the lodges had to teach the necessary skills and information.
Freemasonry's dedication to education started there.