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Blue_Lodge.jpg (13628 bytes)Henry Barnes Lodge
No. 607, F. & A. M.
231 Sixth Ave.
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859-581-5434
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Frequently Asked Questions

What is Freemasonry?

What is the difference between Masonry and Freemasonry?

Why do some Freemasons not recognize other Freemasons?

Is Masonry a religion?

Then what is a Masonic Bible?

And what about a Masonic funeral?

Is Freemasonry a secret society?

When did Freemasonry begin?

Can women be Freemasons?

What other Masonic organizations are there?

Who are some famous Freemasons?

What is Freemasonry?

    Freemasonry (or simply, Masonry) is a fraternal order whose basic tenets are brotherly love, relief (philanthropy), and truth. We strive to enjoy the company of our brother Masons, assist them in times of personal trouble, and reinforce essential moral values. There is an old adage that Masonry "takes good men and makes them better", which is our goal.

    It has often been observed that men are the products of everything they come into contact with during their lifetime. Masonry offers a man an opportunity to come into regular, enjoyable contact with men of good character, thus reinforcing his own personal moral development. Of course, Masonry is also meant to be enjoyed by its membership, so the order should not be viewed simply as a philosophical club, but rather a vibrant fellowship of men who seek to enjoy each other's company, a fraternity.

    To maintain this fraternity, discussion of religion and politics within the Lodge is forbidden, as these subjects are those that have often divided men in the past. Masons cover the spectrum of both religious and political beliefs and encourages a man to be religious without advocating a particular religion, and to be active in his community without advocating a particular medium of political expression.

    While there probably are some actual stone-workers who are Masons, Masonry does not teach is membership the literal techniques of stonework. Rather, it takes the actual "operative" work of Medieval Masons and uses it as an allegory for moral development. Thus, the symbols of Masonry are the common tools that were used by medieval stonemasons: the gavel, the rule, the compass, the square, the level, etc. Each of these has a symbolic meaning in Masonry. For example, Masons are said to meet "on the level", meaning that all Masons are brothers, regardless of social status, personal wealth, or office within the Lodge or in the world at large. Similar symbolism exists for other tools.

    Masonry is distinguished from other fraternal orders by its emphasis on moral character, its ornate rituals, and its long tradition and history, which dates back to at least the 17th century in modern form, the 14th century (c. 1350-1390) in the written evidence of its precursors, and back to the mists of antiquity in its origin. Masonry has a continuously documented paper history (i.e., Lodge to Lodge) since 1717, though historical analysis shows Masonry to be much older.

    There are also a great many things that Masonry is NOT: a religion, a secret society, etc., and these will be covered later in this FAQ.

    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 generally requires the mastery of a small body of memorized material, the contents of which varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. In some jurisdictions, only the signs, tokens, and grips of each degree must be learned; in others, a longer amount of material.

    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 in the US can take as little as three months, while in England, the degrees are spaced apart by a year's interval.

    Most Lodges have regular communications (meetings) once a month, that are also referred to as "business meetings". In the US, these are typically only open to Master Masons. In England, these meetings are usually opened in the first degree, and EAs may attend). Conferring of degrees is usually done at other meetings during the month.

    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 often 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, card/chess matches, lecturers on Masonic history, you name it. Masonry is a fraternity, and its membership seeks to have fun.

    Local Masonic Lodges are organized under Grand Lodges. In the United States, each state has its own Grand Lodge, which is a peer with every other Grand Lodge. There is not "Grandest Lodge"-- each Grand Lodge is supreme in its jurisdiction (e.g., in the US, in its state) but has no authority elsewhere. Of course, this does not mean that Masonry in New York is radically different than Masonry in Scotland or New Mexico. Masons are very traditional and the differences between Grand Lodges are usually minor.

    The head of a Lodge is given the title Worshipful Master. This, of course, does not imply that Masons worship him; it is merely a stylish title. Masonic Lodges can be found in many cities, of all sizes, around the world. There are presently approximately 5 million Masons, half of which are in the United States.

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What is the difference between Masonry and Freemasonry?

    The distinction between these two terms is very tricky to nail down, but a proper understanding of this distinction is the first step in comprehending Masonry. Freemasonry refers to the organization of Masonry, namely the lodges, Grand Lodges, Grand Orients, etc. The term Masonry refers to the sometimes abstract teachings that we as Freemasons attempt to learn and apply to our daily lives. Thus it can be said that Freemasons practice Masonry. It is freely admitted by most Freemasons that anyone, regardless of their affiliation or lack thereof, can practice Masonry. However, we are obligated to officially recognize only those men who have followed the formal procedure to become Freemasons. Therefore, it would not be wrong to say that a person was a "Mason" if he (or even she) embodied the teachings of Masonry. But in order to be officially recognized by other Freemasons, a person MUST belong to a Freemasonic body that is recognized as such.

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Why do some Freemasons not recognize other Freemasons?

    Every Freemason is affiliated with some governing body or lodge. Typically, a group of lodges are organized under the jurisdiction of a Grand Lodge or Grand Orient. For Freemasons from one Grand Lodge to recognize those from another Grand Lodge as "brethren," both Grand Lodges must extend official recognition to each other. This recognition is not always extended between "Grand" bodies, so as a result, individual Freemasons from each Grand body are not allowed to communicate with each other about Masonry.

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Is Masonry a religion?

    The answer to this one is simple...NO! Religion serves the purpose of establishing the nature of its respective god or gods, and proposes a plan of salvation to its followers. Religions teach specific doctrines that tell how one's soul is to be saved from damnation and/or elevated to paradise. Masonry does not have a plan of salvation. Nor does it presume to tell its followers that their religion is wrong. While one of the requirements to become a Freemason is the expression of belief in a Supreme Being, the nature of that belief is not questioned. By limiting membership to those who express belief in a god, Freemasonry naturally attracts religious men. Freemasonry, therefore, can be called a society of religious men who associate with each other, but do not practice their respective religions together. In fact, Freemasons are strongly urged in their Masonic lectures to be good and faithful members of their own faith, whatever that faith may be.

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Then what is a Masonic Bible?

    A Masonic Bible is simply a normal bible, usually the King James Version. It has no special modifications to it, and contrary to some naysayers, the name Jesus is NOT deleted from it. The only real difference between a Masonic Bible and the ones most people are accustomed to is that a Masonic Bible often has a few added pages in the front. These pages usually include an area to record the owner's Masonic history. They also typically contain an outline of all the scriptural verses we refer to in our degree work. Some Masonic Bibles (mine for one) also identify the American presidents who were Freemasons. There is NOTHING secret in a Masonic Bible, nor have we changed any of the text.

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And what about a Masonic funeral?

    Masonic funerals are open to the public, and usually held in the presence of many people (Masons and non-masons alike). These services are simply our way of showing our brotherly love and respect for one of our number who has passed on. Some of the elements of the service have similarities with the normal ritual of the lodge, and like the lodge service, it is NOT a religious ceremony. The Masonic funeral is a solemn opportunity for Masons to express their feelings for their departed brother, and offer official, public condolences to the family.

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Is Freemasonry a secret society?

    Technically, no. Our society is not a secret. Members of our fraternity often wear rings, lapel pins and hats. They put bumper stickers on their cars and publish web sites declaring their membership. Not much of a secret, huh? Freemasonry IS a society that has a few secrets. But these secrets are nothing more than signs of recognition such as handshakes, passwords, and references that only initiated members would understand. The secrets help us identify each other, as well as impostors trying to reap the benefits of Masonic membership. Besides, in today's Information Age, any talk of secrets is absurd. There are no true secrets remaining in Freemasonry. The modern fraternity tends to practice secrecy in these matters out of a sense of tradition.

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When did Freemasonry begin?

    Masonry declares that it has existed since time immemorial. If we adhere to the definition of "Masonry" as a philosophy or way of approaching daily life, this statement ceases to be as overzealous as it sounds at first. Freemasonry as we know it today had its formal beginning in 1717 A.D. when groups of men who had been meeting in lodges with some degree of secrecy prior to that point, made themselves known and established the first Grand Lodge. Historians disagree about how long the institution of Freemasonry existed before 1717. Some people claim heritage with the ancient guilds of stonemasons. Others have had a greater degree of success in trying to prove that Freemasonry grew out of the old outlawed order of the Knights Templar, hence the need for secrecy. There are volumes on this subject sufficient to fill a reasonably large library.

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Can women be Freemasons?

    Sorry, but not directly. Freemasonry is a "fraternity" in every true sense of the word, and, as such, only admits men. However, there are many organizations that have close Masonic ties which are open to women. A Freemason, Rob Morris, who wanted the men of the fraternity to be able to share some of their activity with their wives established the Order of the Eastern Star, where men and women can attend together. In fact, in this order, the chief officer is the Worthy Matron. Other co-masonic bodies exclusively for women exist as well, but most do not enjoy recognition by most Masonic bodies.

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What other Masonic organizations are there?

    Too many to list here completely. Some organizations that are open to all Master Masons include: The York Rite Chapter, Council and Commandery; the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite; The Shrine. The Order of the Eastern Star is open to Master Masons and their immediate female relatives. The Order of the Amaranth is open to women. There are even Masonic bodies for children, such as the International Order of DeMolay, the International Order of Job's Daughters, and the International Order of Rainbow for Girls.

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Who are some famous Freemasons?

    There are many thousands of famous men who were Freemasons. Some of the more prominent were:

George Washington, Paul Revere, Andrew Jackson, Harry Truman, Teddy Roosevelt, John Hancock, Roy Acuff, Buzz Aldrin, Gene Autry, Gen. Omar Bradley, Ty Cobb, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Henry Ford, Ben Franklin, Rudyard Kipling, Charles Lindbergh, Thurgood Marshall, Mozart, Goethe, J.C. Penny, Roy Rogers, and John Wayne...

to name a few.

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Last updated: 09/03/2002

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