What is a Mason?


That's not a surprising question. Even though Masons (Freemasons) are members of the largest and oldest fraternity in the world, and even though almost everyone has a father or grandfather or uncle who was a Mason, many people aren't quite certain just who Masons are.

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Before we get started with this topic, let me say what Freemasonry is not:

It is not a replacement for your church or synagogue ? Freemasonry does encourage individual worship in the place of your choice.
It is not a religion - We must have a belief in God but Masonry teaches no plan of salvation.
It is not a band of devil worshipers ? Masonry condemns anything that is in opposition to the creator of the universe.
It is not a one-world government conspiracy ? There are many Masons involved in world government but our teachings say nothing about world domination. It is not a secret organization ? but we have secrets to protect the fraternity. It is not a Charity - Masonic Lodges by nature donate to charities. It is not a subversive Organization - a Mason must be a peaceful, law-abiding citizen. It is not a Political Party or Action Group - although you will find prominent Masons in leadership roles in our government. Freemasonry is a system of morality, veiled in allegory, and illustrated by symbols. I am sure that you have heard something like that said in the past to describe what Freemasonry is.


Freemasonry is so much more than this.

The answer is simple. A Mason (or Freemason) is a member of a fraternity known as Masonry (or Freemasonry). A fraternity is a group of men (just as a sorority is a group of women) who join together because:
There are things they want to do in the world.
There are things they want to do "inside their own minds."
They enjoy being together with men they like and respect.

What is Freemasonry?

Masonry (or Freemasonry) is the oldest fraternity in the world. No one knows just how old it is because the actual origins have been lost in time. According to Masonic historians, it?s earliest beginnings in recorded history date back to 1376 (Mackey?s Masonic Encyclopedia) the reference is to the Masons as stone masons or skilled workers. They worked with rough stones for erecting structures and special edifices. Those that worked on free stone or structures that stood alone, would later be referred to as freemasons. Their craft was so specialized that they developed trade guilds with secret passwords and handshakes to prove membership and skill. This membership allowed them to receive higher wages as they traveled around the world plying their trade.

It would seem most probable that Freemasonry arose from these guilds of stonemasons who built the castles and cathedrals of the Middle Ages. These trade guilds were sought after in every country. There are many documented reports of the freemasons and their contracts for building churches throughout Europe and great and important structures. Some are still standing today, and Masonic symbols are found etched in their construction. Possibly, they were influenced by the Knights Templar, a group of Christian warrior monks formed in 1118 to help protect pilgrims making trips to the Holy Land.

Operative masonry was the use of knowledge and tool to create a structure or edifice. Speculative masonry is when we took those same tools used for the construction and used them as symbols to remind us of the moral lessons and obligations we have to ourselves, one another, and to our creator.

Somewhere along the line, a transition was made from operative to speculative masonry. Still a guild, but it allowed those not skilled in the craft into their membership. It became necessary to carry on the old traditions and knowledge of the guilds. It was not until 1717 that the organization as we know it was formed. There are no lodge records between 1700 and 1717 but we do know that four lodges in 1717 formed the Grand Lodge of England with universal signs and passwords. The evolution process had brought us to what we have today.

Thus, in 1717, Masonry created a formal organization in England when the first Grand Lodge was formed. A Grand Lodge is the administrative body in charge of Masonry in some geographical area.

Let us not forget that Freemasonry was alive and well, in the forming of this great nation. Many of the signers of the "Declaration of Independence" were Masons. The constitution had many Masons in its conception. There are so many Masons important to what America is today that it would take hours to cover who they were and what they did. Here, we will touch upon this topic briefly. In the United States, there is a Grand Lodge in each state and the District of Columbia. In Canada, there is a Grand Lodge in each province. Local organizations of Masons are called lodges. There are lodges in most towns, and large cities usually have several. There are about 13,200 lodges in the United States.

If Masonry started in Great Britain, how did it get to America?

In a time when travel was by horseback and sailing ship, Masonry spread with amazing speed. By 1731, when Benjamin Franklin joined the fraternity, there were already several lodges in the Colonies, and Masonry spread rapidly as America expanded west. In addition to Franklin, many of the Founding Fathers -- men such as George Washington, Paul Revere, Joseph Warren, and John Hancock -- were Masons. Masons and Masonry played an important part in the Revolutionary War and an even more important part in the Constitutional Convention and the debates surrounding the ratification of the Bill of Rights. Many of those debates were held in Masonic lodges.

Masonry Does Things in the World

Masonry teaches that each person has a responsibility to make things better in the world. Most individuals won't be the ones to find a cure for cancer, or eliminate poverty, or help create world peace, but every man and woman and child can do something to help others and to make things a little better. Masonry is deeply involved with helping people -- it spends almost $2 million dollars every day in the United States, just to make life a little easier. And the great majority of that help goes to people who are not Masons. Some of these charities are vast projects, like the Crippled Children's Hospitals and Burns Institutes built by the Shriners. Also, Scottish Rite Masons maintain a nationwide network of over 100 Childhood Language Disorders Clinics, Centers, and Programs. Each helps children afflicted by such conditions as aphasia, dyslexia, stuttering, and related learning or speech disorders.

Freemasonry is not an insurance or benefit society. It is not organized for profit. However, the charitable services rendered by Masons are beyond measure. We exist solely to help children, improve our communities through philanthropic support and to better ourselves by applying ethical and educational principles. We teach good men to learn, grow and become better men through the principles of Brotherly Love and the Golden Rule.r wages as they traveled around the world plying their trade.

Masonry Does Things "Inside" the Individual Mason

"Grow or die" is a great law of all nature. Most people feel a need for continued growth as individuals. They feel they are not as honest or as charitable or as compassionate or as loving or as trusting or as well-informed as they ought to be. Masonry reminds its members over and over again of the importance of these qualities and education. It lets men associate with other men of honor and integrity who believe that things like honesty, compassion, love, trust, and knowledge are important. In some ways, Masonry is a support group for men who are trying to make the right decisions. It's easier to practice these virtues when you know that those around you think they are important, too, and won't laugh at you. That's a major reason that Masons enjoy being together.

What's a Degree?

A degree is a stage or level of membership. It's also the ceremony by which a man attains that level of membership. There are three, called Entered Apprentice, Fellowcraft, and Master Mason. As you can see, the names are taken from the craft guilds. In the Middle Ages, when a person wanted to join a craft, such as the gold smiths or the carpenters or the stonemasons, he was first apprenticed. As an apprentice, he learned the tools and skills of the trade. When he had proved his skills, he became a "Fellow of the Craft" (today we would say "Journeyman"), and when he had exceptional ability, he was known as a Master of the Craft.

The degrees are plays in which the candidate participates. Each degree uses symbols to teach, just as plays did in the Middle Ages and as many theatrical productions do today. (We'll talk about symbols a little later.)

The Masonic degrees teach the great lessons of life -- the importance of honor and integrity, of being a person on whom others can rely, of being both trusting and trustworthy, of realizing that you have a spiritual nature as well as a physical or animal nature, of the importance of self-control, of knowing how to love and be loved, of knowing how to keep confidential what others tell you so that they can "open up" without fear.

Why is Masonry so "Secretive"?

It really isn't "secretive," although it sometimes has that reputation. Masons certainly don't make a secret of the fact that they are members of the fraternity. We wear rings, lapel pins, and tie clasps with Masonic emblems like the Square and Compasses, the best known of Masonic signs which, logically, recall the fraternity's early symbolic roots in stonemasonry. Masonic buildings are clearly marked, and are usually listed in the phone book. Lodge activities are not secret -- picnics and other events are even listed in the newspapers, especially in smaller towns. Many lodges have answering machines which give the upcoming lodge activities. But there are some Masonic secrets, and they fall into two categories.

The first are the ways in which a man can identify himself as a Mason -- grips and passwords. We keep those private for obvious reasons. It is not at all unknown for unscrupulous people to try to pass themselves off as Masons in order to get assistance under false pretenses.

The second group is harder to describe, but they are the ones Masons usually mean if we talk about "Masonic secrets." They are secrets because they literally can't be talked about, can't be put into words. They are the changes that happen to a man when he really accepts responsibility for his own life and, at the same time, truly decides that his real happiness is in helping others.

It's a wonderful feeling, but it's something you simply can't explain to another person. That's why we sometimes say that Masonic secrets cannot (rather than "may not") be told. Try telling someone exactly what you feel when you see a beautiful sunset, or when you hear music, like the national anthem, which suddenly stirs old memories, when your son becomes a Mason and you'll understand what we mean.

"Secret societies" became very popular in America in the late 1800s and early 1900s. There were literally hundreds of them, and most people belonged to two or three. Many of them were modeled on Masonry, and made a great point of having many "secrets." Freemasonry got ranked with them. But if Masonry is a secret society, it's the worst-kept secret in the world.


Why does Masonry use symbols?

Everyone uses symbols every day, just as we do ritual. We use them because they communicate quickly. When you see a stop sign , you know what it means, even if you can't read the word "stop." The circle and line mean "don't" or "not allowed." In fact, using symbols is probably the oldest way of communication and the oldest way of teaching.

Masonry uses symbols for the same reason. Some form of the "Square and Compasses" is the most widely used and known symbol of Masonry. In one way, this symbol is a kind of trademark for the fraternity, as the "golden arches" are for McDonald's. When you see the Square and Compasses on a building, you know that Masons meet there. And like all symbols, they have a meaning.

The Square symbolizes things of the earth, and it also symbolizes honor, integrity, truthfulness, and the other ways we should relate to this world and the people in it. The Compasses symbolize things of the spirit, and the importance of a well-developed spiritual life, and also the importance of self-control -- of keeping ourselves within bounds. The G stands for Geometry, the science which the ancients believed most revealed the glory of God and His works in the heavens, and it also stands for God, Who must be at the center of all our thoughts and of all our efforts.

The meanings of most of the other Masonic symbols are obvious. For example, the gavel teaches the importance of self-control and self-discipline. The hour-glass teaches us that time is always passing, and we should not put off important decisions.

Is Masonry Education?

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.

It has continued. Masons started some of the first public schools in both Europe and America. We supported legislation to make education universal. In the 1800s Masons as a group lobbied for the establishment of state-supported education and federal land-grant colleges. Today we give millions of dollars in scholarships each year. We encourage our members to give volunteer time to their local schools, buy classroom supplies for teachers, help with literacy programs, and do everything they can to help assure that each person, adult or child, has the best educational opportunities possible.

And Masonry supports continuing education and intellectual growth for its members, insisting that learning more about many things is important for anyone who wants to keep mentally alert and young.

Masonry teaches some important principles. There's nothing very surprising in the list. Masonry teaches that: Since God is the Creator, all men and women are the children of God. Because of that, all men and women are brothers and sisters, entitled to dignity, respect for their opinions, and consideration of their feelings. Each person must take responsibility for his/her own life and actions. Neither wealth nor poverty, education nor ignorance, health nor sickness excuses any person from doing the best he or she can do or being the best person possible under the circumstances.

No one has the right to tell another person what he or she must think or believe. Each man and woman has an absolute right to intellectual, spiritual, economic, and political freedom. This is a right given by God, not by man. All tyranny, in every form, is illegitimate.

Each person must learn and practice self-control. Each person must make sure his spiritual nature triumphs over his animal nature. Another way to say the same thing is that even when we are tempted to anger, we must not be violent. Even when we are tempted to selfishness, we must be charitable. Even when we want to "write someone off," we must remember that he or she is a human and entitled to our respect. Even when we want to give up, we must go on. Even when we are hated, we must return love, or, at a minimum, we must not hate back. It isn't easy! Faith must be in the center of our lives. We find that faith in our houses of worship, not in Freemasonry, but Masonry constantly teaches that a person's faith, whatever it may be, is central to a good life.

Each person has a responsibly to be a good citizen, obeying the law. That doesn't mean we can't try to change things, but change must take place in legal ways.

It is important to work to make this world better for all who live in it. Masonry teaches the importance of doing good, not because it assures a person's entrance into heaven -- that's a question for a religion, not a fraternity -- but because we have a duty to all other men and women to make their lives as fulfilling as they can be. Honor and integrity are essential to life. Life without honor and integrity is without meaning.

What are the Requirements for Membership?

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).

Those are the only "formal" requirements. But there are others, not so formal. He should believe in helping others. He should believe there is more to life than pleasure and money. He should be willing to respect the opinions of others. And he should want to grow and develop as a human being.

How Does a Man Become a Mason?

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. This is slowly changing in some Jurisdictions.

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.

So, when a man decides he wants to be a Mason, he asks a Mason for a petition or application. He fills it out and gives it to the Mason, and that Mason takes it to the local lodge. The Master of the lodge will appoint a committee to visit with the man and his family, find out a little about him and why he wants to be a Mason, tell him and his family about Masonry, and answer their questions. The committee reports to the lodge, and the lodge votes on the petition. If the vote is affirmative -- and it usually is -- the lodge will contact the man to set the date for the Entered Apprentice Degree. When the person has completed all three degrees, he is a Master Mason and a full member of the fraternity.

So, What's A Mason?

A Mason is a man who has decided that he likes to feel good about himself and others. He cares about the future as well as the past, and does what he can, both alone and with others, to make the future good for everyone.

Many men over many generations have answered the question, "What is a Mason?" One of the most eloquent was written by the Reverend Joseph Fort Newton, an internationally honored minister of the first half of the 20th Century and Grand Chaplain, Grand Lodge of Iowa, 1911-1913.

When is a man a Mason?

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 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 much 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 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.
You will find much information within this website to enlighten you, the reader, in what it means to become a Mason and a member of the world's greatest fraternity.

Masonic Humor

comedy
A Candidate for initiation was to be picked up and driven to the Lodge, but before this could happen the car broke down. The Candidate said as it was no great distance he would go on his bicycle.
Just when he reached the top of the hill his chain broke. As the Lodge was at the bottom of the other side and all he needed was a backpedal brake, so he repaired the chain with a cord he had in his pocket and free-wheeled downhill to the Lodge. Later that evening in reply to a toast in his honor, he said how proud he was to be a Freemason but could not understand, as he had told no one, how the WM knew that he had come on his own free wheel and a cord.
Q: How many Masons does it take to screw in a light bulb?
A: Three. One to screw it in, one to read the minutes of the previous light bulb replacement, and one to sit on the sidelines and complain that this wasn't the way they USED to screw in light bulbs.
There's a man, walking down the street at 1 in the morning and he's very drunk. A policeman stops him and asks: Where are you going in that condition? Man: II'mm on mmyy waayyy to a lectttuurre on FFreemmassonnrrry. Officer: Where can you possibly get a lecture on Freemasonry at this time of night? Man: Frromm mmyy wifffe, wwhenn I gget homme!
A little before Lodge is about to open an old man totters up to the Tyler and says, "I'm here to receive my 2nd degree.? Well, they all look at this guy, who really is older than dirt, and they ask him to explain.
"I was entered on July 4, 1957. Now I'm ready for my 2nd degree." So they go scurrying for the records, and sure enough, there was his name, entered on July 4, 1957. "Where have you been all these years? What took you so long to be ready for your 2nd?" they ask. His reply: "I was learning to subdue my passions!"

A mason who had just been installed as Master of his lodge and was duly attending all the functions he could, but he was having a hard time with his wife who said...
"All those masters-in-office have to do is click their fingers and you would be there wouldn't you?...I wish I was a master!" After due thought, he said... "So do I dear..... we swap them for a new one every year!!"
A small Lodge had had a string of bad luck. It was preparing to initiate a candidate on a steamy evening in June and it's air conditioner had stopped working. After sweating their way through part of the work, the Master had asked the candidate what he most desired.
The candidate replied "a beer".
At this juncture the WM., being startled, whispered "light" to the candidate.
"OK," the candidate replied, "a lite beer."



Masonic Media

Media


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The Masonic Ring by Howie Damron



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The Art of Masonic Education



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