From About Freemasons
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Definition of Freemasons
Freemasonry is sometimes called simply Masonry, and it refers to one of the oldest fraternal organizations in the world. Although there is much mystery and even freemason controversy surrounding Masonry, Freemasonry is simply a society of men based on specific moral and spiritual values. The men who belong to this organization are called Freemasons or Masons.
Is it a secret society?
Freemasonry is in fact one of the “secret societies,” although today there is not that much secrecy concerning the Masons. In fact, Masons often do not hide their affiliation with Freemasonry. They wear jackets, rings, and hats with the square and compass – the symbol of Freemasonry – design Freemason web sites and even have Masonic license plates and bumper stickers on their cars. Masonic buildings are almost always clearly identified and even in the Yellow Pages. Some Freemason Grand Lodges even pay for advertisements.
In fact, ever since the founding of the first Grand Lodge in 1717, authors have written books about the secrets of the Freemasons. Detailed descriptions of Masons, freemasons rituals, mythology, and the organization are widely available. The Freemasons still have some secrets. For example, there are secret passwords and handshakes as well as other means of identification. These are largely kept secret, much the way that a company will keep certain PINs or codes secret.
Some basic definitions
Trying to summarize all the beliefs, rituals, and is obviously very difficult. There are Freemasons all over the world and many small changes are visible over time and between different regions. However, when trying to come up with a basic, workable definition of Freemasonry, it’s useful to consider these basics:
- Freemasonry is a fraternal organization of men who are bound together by oaths and freemasons rituals.
- Freemasonry is based on the ideas and even values of the medieval stonemason craft guilds and specifically on the rules of the guilds. These rules are called the Ancient Charges.
- Freemasonry aims to teach men moral and social virtues. It does this by using symbolism of the ancient building trade. The idea of building a structure is used by the Masons as a symbol for building character and virtue in men.
- Freemasons must, by definition, practice mutual assistance, equality, brotherly love, secrecy, and trust between all members.
- Freemasons use signs, passwords, and handshakes to identify each other.
- Freemasons meet in lodges, buildings which are designated for the use of Masons. Each lodge is governed by a Master, who in turn is assisted by Wardens.
- To become a Mason, a man must show himself to be morally and mentally qualified and must then be admitted to a lodge by secret ritual ceremonies.
- Freemasons must believe in the existence of a Supreme Being, although the group is not religious. Masons may come from most religious backgrounds and may practice whatever religion they choose.
- Freemasonry encourages its members to prize learning and experience and teaches them to be tolerant of others. Masons are to regard each man as their equal and to offer respect and assistance as needed.
Common questions about Freemasons
What is the entrance ritual?
When a Mason gets their first degree, they become an "Entered Apprentice." This first degree or stage is granted through a Freemasons ritual that is full of symbols that help the Mason better understand Freemasonry. Each Lodge can select or formulate their own ceremony, so the same ritual can look different in different Lodges. However, some of the ritual elements tend to stay the same. For example, in most Lodges, masons during this ritual have their eyes or heads covered to represent secrecy and their relative ignorance about Freemasonry.
Is there a Masonic Secret Handshake?
Although it is less often used now, at one point the Mason’s secret handshake was used to allow members to identify themselves as Masons. This handshake included a special grip and sometimes a password. Two people who did not know each other could identify each other as Masons by the use of this handshake.
Are the Masons a fraternity? What does that mean?
Masonry can be somewhat accurately described as a Fraternity. A fraternity is a formal organization that is a brotherhood. Certainly, the Masons are a formal organization with physical meeting places, rituals, membership requirements and rules. Freemasonry also emphasizes the tenets of brotherhood. However, to call the Masons a fraternity does not tell the whole story. While organizations and Lodges admitting women are not officially recognized by many Lodges, they do exist, so calling Freemasonry a “fraternity” only does not tell the whole story. Also, while in some ways Freemasonry is a formal organization, there is no centralized power or group, so that Freemasonry varies widely from one jurisdiction to another.
What is the role of Christianity in Freemasonry?
Every Lodge has a sacred book open during meetings and this book is generally the Bible. Members swear their oaths on this book and must even declare their belief in a “Supreme Being” to become Masons. All of this leads some people to conclude that Christianity and Freemasonry are interconnected. In reality, though, the sacred book at every Lodge can be any sacred text chosen by the Lodge and members can choose to believe in any Supreme Being they wish – whether that being is the Christian God, a Muslim deity or Hindu god. In fact, Masons are very clear in indicating that they accept men of all religious faiths and backgrounds. Some Masonic orders – specifically the Knights Templar – are explicitly connected to Christianity.
Also known as the “all-seeing eye,” The Eye of Providence is a common symbol used in Freemasonry, although it should be noted that not only Masons have used the symbol over the years. The Eye of Providence depicts an eye which is usually contained in a triangle and usually with rays of light emanating from it.
How can I become a Mason?
To Become a Freemason contact the local Lodge you are interested in joining. In most cases, today’s Lodges have websites that clearly outline the requirements, fees, and processes involved. If your local Lodge does not have a website, call the Lodge to ask for information. Some Lodges require you to simply state your interest, pay your fees and go through the rites to obtain your first degree. Other Lodges require that you be nominated by a Mason in good standing at the Lodge. In most cases, you will need to be a man, in good standing in your community and be of the age of majority to join.
Can a Christian be a Freemason?
Freemasons and Christianity have a long and sometimes complicated history. Early Freemasons were Christian men and in fact Christianity was incorporated into Freemasonry in some ways. Freemasons need to proclaim a faith in a Supreme Being and most Lodges use the Bible as a scared text. Early Practicing Masons helped to build cathedrals and churches and some of the churches around the world in fact have Masonic symbols upon them.
What are Masonic Lodges?
A Masonic Lodge is also known as a Private Lodge or Constituent Lodge. A lodge is the basic organizational unit of Masonry and it is essential to understand the lodge in order to understand Freemasonry. Freemasons gather together as a Lodge and the Lodge can also sometimes be used to refer to the structure in which Freemasons meet. Therefore, a Lodge is a gathering or group of Masons that belong to the same group. It can also mean the location where Masons meet, although this second meaning is usually used by non-Masons. Masons usually say they meet “as a Lodge” while non-Masons often mistakenly say Masons meet “in a Lodge”. The physical building where Masons meet can be called a Temple, Masonic Hall, Masonic Center, or a Lodge. A Lodge can only be considered a Lodge if it is warranted and guaranteed by a Grand Lodge.
Officers are the members of a lodge who are either elected or appointed for specific offices or roles when the lodge meets. In most Jurisdictions, Officers serve their offices for one year. Officers usually have their duties, titles, and ceremonies based on customs and traditions. Like the officials in 1400s England, Masons proclaim their titles by wearing jewels which serve as badges of office. Today's masons use symbolic jewels only.
Who are Famous Freemasons?
There have been many millions of Masons throughout the history of Freemasonry, and while many were leaders in their communities – Freemasonry, after all, emphasizes leadership – most are not household names. Among the rosters of Masons, though, there have been some Famous Freemasons.
What happens at lodge meetings?
Lodge meetings vary from lodge to lodge. However, they usually include some administrative tasks, such as discussion of new members, voting on lodge matters, reading of the last meeting’s minutes, reading of news items, and other tasks. Lodge meetings also involve highly symbolic and allegorical ceremonies, admitting new members, granting Masonic degrees to existing members, and installing new Officers.
Is it true that breaking Freemason rules and laws can subject a Mason to severe corporal punishment?
No. Freemasonry in the modern sense dates back to the 1700s and even 1600s in some countries, when Freemasons first began to meet. At this time, corporal punishment was a common form of punishment for crimes and misdemeanors and early Freemasons included some physical punishments in their own rules, although these were only symbolic rather than actual punishments. All references to corporal punishment was removed from Freemasonic rules in 1986.
Do Freemasons give other Masons advantages?
No. Freemasons are not allowed to achieve material gain or any preferment from membership. The Mason Book of Constitutions clearly defines giving other Masons advantages as a misuse of membership, which is punishable by expulsion from Freemasonry or suspension. Therefore, members are not allowed to give other Masons advantages when it comes to job offers, contracts, promotions, and other such items. Masons are also not allowed to lie to authorities to protect a Mason who has committed a crime or misdemeanors.
What are the costs of joining a Masonic Lodge?
Fees vary widely from lodge to lodge. Most Masons need to initially buy an apron and pay an initiation fee. In addition, all Masons pay an annual fee to their lodge. This helps pay for the daily costs of the lodge. In addition, some Masons meet at restaurants after meetings and give to charity as well. Fees and costs are designed not to be cumbersome for the average income earner in an area.
When was the first FreeMasonic Lodge and Initiation?
Not much is known about the earliest Freemasons, simply because records have not necessarily survived. The first record of an initiation is of Sir Robert Moray on 20th May 1641 in England. The first Grand Lodge of England was established in June 1717. This was the first Grand Lodge. Earlier Freemasonic history is more difficult to trace. Some historians believe that the earliest Masons where masons, or people who worked with stone to build buildings. Historians believe that the masons created guilds or a society so that they could support one another and get jobs when they traveled. By the 1600s or possibly before this, masons may have started to admit “gentlemen masons” into their midst, or members who were not strictly masons. This led to the formation of a social rather than professional society which later became Freemasonry.
Is Freemasonry a religion?
Freemasonry is a fraternity or a social society. It is not a religious organization or political organization and in fact has no political or religious affiliations. Muslims, Jewish persons, and Christians can all become Masons and Freemasonry will not interfere with their religious beliefs at all.