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What is Freemasonry?
Freemasonry consists of fraternal organizations that trace their origins to the local fraternities of operative stone masons from the end of the fourteenth century that regulated the qualifications of stonemasons and their interaction with authorities and clients.
The degrees of freemasonry retain the three grades of medieval craft guilds, those of Entered Apprentice, Journeyman or fellow (now called Fellowcraft), and Master Mason. These are the degrees offered by Craft (or Blue Lodge) Freemasonry. Members of these organizations are known as Freemasons or Masons. There are additional degrees, which vary with locality and jurisdiction, and are usually administered by different bodies than the craft degrees.
What are the requirements to become a Freemason?
Candidates are typically introduced to the Lodge by a friend at a Lodge social function or at some open event at the Lodge where non-members are entertained. Many candidates in modern times find their way to the lodge right here, on the internet.
The onus is usually on the individual interested in membership to ask to join, but restrictions on the practice of invitation have been relaxed in recent years so that Master Masons may encourage potential candidates to inquire about brotherhood if they are deemed of good character.
The absolute minimum requirement to become a Freemason is that the individual petitioning for membership be “a free man of good character”. In Pennsylvania, there is also a requirement that the candidate be of a mature age (21 years or older), but the underlying assumption is that he be a mature adult.
Other than that, all that is required is that the candidate professes a belief in a Supreme Being.
What is the process to becoming a Freemason?
Once a candidate makes his initial inquiry, a panel interview is conducted by a small committee nominated by the leadership of the Lodge to determine whether or not the individual is the right fit for the brotherhood. If both the candidate and the committee agree to proceed, a ballot is introduced into the body of an open lodge of Master Masons at the Lodge’s next stated meeting.
Why is Freemasonry considered a “secret society”?
Like many other groups with common history and purpose, our meetings are private and only open to recognized members. However, the rules and stated goals of freemasonry are hardly secrets, especially in the Information Age. We publish when and where we meet openly. We even offer our space to citizens and groups from the local community to use for activities other than Freemasonry. But we understand why so many people ask just that question.
Many Freemasons simply don’t answer many questions about the fraternity out of an over-abundance of caution when they believe doing so may approach violating the oaths and obligations they took on the day that they were raised to the sublime degree of Master Mason. In fact, there is no mandate to conceal one’s status as a Master Mason, or any instruction given that would prohibit talking openly about the nature of Freemasonry.
When many Master Masons are asked just that question, they reply that instead of being a secret society, Freemasonry is “a society with secrets”. However, that response is at best a poetic dodge to further obfuscate what inquiring minds want to know.
It is more proper to simply say that there are traditions and truths that are preserved and taught by Freemasonry only to the initiated in order to keep them in the proper perspective and context to which they belong.
Although we can’t say for certain, it stands to reason that secret societies would be apprehensive about listing the address.
How long does it take to become a Freemason?
In the 5th Masonic District of Pennsylvania, it is required that a petitioner wait a period of one month between the conferment of the first, second and third degrees of Freemasonry.
What do you mean by “we take good men and make them better”?
After a rigorous period of basic physical training during which we will hone your strength, stamina and reflexes to be like those of a jungle cat… (Just kidding).
We aspire to make good men better by teaching and applying Masonic lessons to the individual brother’s life.
Masonic lessons are taught using allegorical stories and symbolism. Through the study of allegory and symbol, one begins to discover the meanings and correlations between Masonic truths and the experiences of one’s own life. With one lesson building upon the next, the lessons – like pieces of a puzzle – make the “whole” larger than the sum of its’ parts, so to speak.
Many lessons aid the man in learning to reflect or contemplate his own experience in a different way. The result is a better-examined and more grounded sense of self and community. What this generally means is an increased dedication to family, duty to country and a more intimate understanding of the divine and the relationship we have to it.
But, like everything else worth doing, you reap the rewards of Masonic education in direct proportion to the amount of effort you put in.
You can have a large role, or a small one in the life of our Lodge. That much is determined by your level of interest and the amount of free time you choose to spend amongst your brothers.
What is expected of new members?
It’s hoped that once a member has been raised to the Sublime Degree of Master Mason he might take an active role in the charitable pursuits of the lodge in specific or Freemasonry in general. Concurrently, as a Master Mason, he will be invited to take part in the appendant bodies of Freemasonry like the York and Scottish Rites.
What does the “G” stand for?
In short, the “G” stands for “God” or “The Grand Architect of the Universe”. Though this second term may peculiar, but as with many things inherent to the fraternity, it has been chosen quite carefully.
“The Grand Architect of the Universe” is not a description of some specific “god of Freemasonry” as many critics and conspiracy theorists may suggest. It is, rather, an all-encompassing description of the “God” concept that is common to all of the great religions without attempting to combine their religiously-held attributes. As a result, we are able to bring men from a spectrum of different faiths together to pray with respect toward all and deference to none.
What happens at a lodge meeting? Is it like I’ve seen on YouTube?
Hardly. Meetings of the Lodge, like meetings of other organizations with a great deal of responsibilities to the community have a certain amount of administrative tasks to take care of when voting members meet. We read minutes of the last meeting, propose and vote on new measures and members, discuss existing and future financial obligations and special projects, election of officers, and general matters of organizational business.
We receive lectures on matters of Masonic interest, showcase topics of interest to the brotherhood and sometimes host guests who talk about subjects related to, but not directly a part of the fraternity.
We also eat. Masons LOVE to eat.
That’s no exaggeration. You’ll find Masons love to break bread together. Many unmarried brothers often joke that it’s possible to visit a different lodge within the 5th district each night of the week and never cook a meal at home!
Are meetings mandatory?
No, but once a candidate has completed the process of becoming a member of the fraternity, participation is completely at his own will and pleasure. Further, once a man has been raised to the sublime degree of Master Mason he can go to any Lodge or Masonic function the world over.
However, there are certain protocols that must be followed when you decide to pay a visit to distant Lodges.
Is Freemasonry a patriotic activity?
Yes, in part. The original ends of Freemasonry were not identified as a means to embolden patriotism amongst members of the lodge. However, Freemasonry does promote a strong affinity towards interest in the civil society of the nation in which the Lodge resides. It encourages more than a passive interest in the establishment and preservation of civil society and the individual’s role as an upstanding member of society.
The patriotism that is felt by individual brothers is the result of becoming personally invested in the well-being of society itself. The fraternity does mandate adherence to the principles and laws of the country in which each man lives.
In the United States of America, the values of Freemasonry are the values of our nation.
Why do Freemasons take oaths?
An oath is a solemn promise that invokes a divine witness that assures a man’s future action or behavior. It is an affirmation that bonds his words to his deeds that is witnessed by the community. For Freemasons, they are made to establish a code of conduct in the body of the open Lodge and in society. They are promises to maintain confidentiality about the traditions and lessons of Freemasonry so that they may forever be preserved and understood in the fit and proper contexts, and that they may never be perverted, maligned, misrepresented or used for mercenary purposes.
Freemasons do not swear allegiance to each other, one man in specific, or to Freemasonry in general. They do make promises to support each other in time of need, but only insomuch as providing aid to a needy brother does not come into direct conflict with their obligations to their God, their family, or with the laws of their country.
Will I be expected to give Masons preferential treatment in hiring, promotions, business opportunities, etc.?
Emphatically not. Doing so is in direct opposition to the spirit of Freemasonry and could be subject to Masonic discipline. Every candidate states clearly that he expects no material gain from his membership in the fraternity. At a number of different occasions, Freemasons are reminded that attempts to gain preferential treatment or material gain is a misuse of membership and can result in penalties ranging from temporary suspension to total expulsion from a status of good standing with the lodge; expulsion.
Aren’t Freemasons anti-religion?
On the contrary, Freemasonry welcomes all men who believe in God. We welcome Jews, Christians, Hindus, Sikhs, Muslims, Buddhists and others alike.
Why don’t some churches accept Freemasonry?
There are many theological and ministerial traditions that have long-confused the secular practices of Freemasonry with a maligned or ill-intentioned liturgy. Though many religious authorities have occasionally criticized Freemasonry throughout the centuries, across the globe there has never been a shortage of Freemasons saddened and dismayed by misplaced attacks on the fraternity. As with all things in this life, it is natural to fear what is not clearly understood.
Paradoxically, despite even the most extreme efforts of its detractors throughout the ages, Freemasonry has never withdrawn it’s encouragement for each man to be active in the practice of his own religious affiliation.
Can I become a Freemason if I’m a Roman Catholic?
The primary requirement for admission into the fraternity of Freemasonry is a belief in God. How that God is worshipped outside the body of the Lodge and how devotion to that God is practiced is entirely up to he who worships. Roman Catholicism is in no way prohibited.
Why can’t women become Freemasons?
Freemasonry is a “fraternity” in its purest sense. Just like a male-only fraternal organization chartered at an institution of higher learning, Freemasonry practices a male-only admission policy as a matter of tradition.
This is not to imply that women cannot understand Freemasonry or that they should be completely excluded from its events and charitable works. However, during moral instruction, an environment free from the distraction of sexual politics that is enriched by unfettered brotherhood built on common experience, a same-sex environment is the prescription of our Grand Lodges.
Why does Freemasonry focus on symbols like the Square, Compass, and Skull and Crossbones?
The symbols of Freemasonry are images that are used in the teaching of moral lessons. In the aeons before projection screens, PowerPoint slides and YouTube videos they were used as visual aids of a sort. Quite literally, they are “pictures worth a thousand words” and are very helpful in accelerating new masons’ proficiency in “the craft”.
The Square, for example, symbolizes right action and “square dealing” with ones’ fellow man. The Compass, for example, symbolizes the necessity to draw boundaries upon our passions and to practice moderation. Symbols like the Skull and Crossbones (though it seems ominous in the present cultural context) simply serves as a reminder to “memento mori”, or remember that we are mortal.
Are there penalties for leaving Freemasonry?
No. However, should you choose to leave or become inactive, the friendships you form, the knowledge that you gain of yourself and the increased insight you will have gained into human nature will stay with you for the rest of your life.