What is Freemasonry?
is the difference between Masonry and Freemasonry?
do some Freemasons not recognize other Freemasons?
Is Masonry a religion?
Then what is a Masonic Bible?
And what about a Masonic
Is Freemasonry a secret
When did Freemasonry begin?
Can women be Freemasons?
Masonic organizations are there?
Who are some famous
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
There are many thousands of famous men who were Freemasons. Some of
the more prominent were:
to name a few.
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...
Last updated: 09/03/2002