Division IX Organizations

Archive for February, 2009

Freemason FAQs

(Thanks to the Masonic Brethren At Fulton Friendship Lodge #102 in New Jersey for this list of questions and answers. We are adapting things such as age requirements for California Grand Lodge Rules and Regulations.)

Freemason FAQs

Author: http://www,SanDiegoFreemason.com

Frequently Asked Questions About Freemasonry

1) What is Freemasonry?
Freemasonry is the oldest and largest fraternal order in the world. It is a universal brotherhood of men dedicated to serving God, family, fellowman, and country. It is often described as a beautiful system of morality, veiled in allegory and illustrated with symbols.

Though its exact origins are uncertain, it is generally believed that the organization descended from the guilds of stone or "operative" masons who were "free" to travel from city to city to employ their skills in the building of Gothic churches and cathedrals in Medieval Europe. These craftsmen were known for the architectural skills and commitment to high standards and ethical values, and their guilds or operating lodges served as learning centers and protectors of competitive trade secrets, to be revealed only to trusted, capable companions. Gradually, as the cathedrals and churches were completed and the need for building skills declined, the lodges began to accept men of prominence who were not stonemasons, but who nevertheless desired to associate with the operative craftsmen. This new class of members, known as "speculative" masons, were given the status of "accepted"; that is, accepted into the lodges as members having something to offer, but to be distinguished from the operative masons. As time went on, these speculative masons outnumbered the operative masons, and the lodges accordingly shifted their focus from the discussion of technical and operative building arts to the teaching and practice of moral philosophy. It was from these groups of accepted masons that Freemasonry as we know it today had emerged.

2) How is Freemasonry organized?
The fraternity is organized into what are known as Symbolic or "Blue" Lodges. Each Blue Lodge is comprised of a group of Masons who meet on a regular basis. Blue Lodges are organized under a Grand Lodge, which serves as the authority for and dictates the practices of all lodges within its jurisdiction. No regularly constituted lodge can come into being without the consent of a Grand Lodge. The Grand Lodge is the highest Masonic authority within the jurisdiction in which it resides; its word on any Masonic subject is Masonic law within its own borders. In the United States, Masonic jurisdictions are coincident with state lines.

The first Grand Lodge was established in England in 1717. The fratenity grew rapidly soon after. Today, there are an estimated 5 million Masons throughout the world, with the United States claiming about 3.5 million of the total membership.

3) What are the Masonic "degrees"?
A man who enters Masonry does so by progressing through three ritualistic ceremonies or degrees, each of which is designed to inculcate important principles and practices of the fraternity. The three degrees are Entered Apprentice, Fellowcraft, and Master Mason. The significance of the lessons presented within each degree ceremony become more apparent to the candidate as he proceeds through them. The ceremonies are of a serious and solemn nature, and the candidate should have no apprehensions whatsoever in participating in the ceremonies or of the manner of his reception into each degree.

4) Is Freemasonry a religion?
No. While the moral philosophy of Freemasonry is based upon religious principles, it is not in itself a religion, nor is it a substitute for religion. To state it another way, the Fraternity does not regard itself as an instrument of God for the purpose of reconciling men to Him, but it does teach that men do need such reconciliation and should seek it through the religious faith of their preference. Candidates for Masonry are thus required to profess a belief in God and be of good moral character, though they are not required to be of any particular religious affiliation. Consequently, the fraternity is comprised of and welcomes men of all religious beliefs and persuasions. How and where a Mason chooses to practice his faith is entirely his own business.

5) Is Freemasonry a political organization?
No. Masonic organizations and Freemasonry in general are non-political. Lodge memberships consist of men of diverse political and social views. As Masons, they recognize one another as friends and brothers without regard to political party or allegiance. Indeed, partisan (as well as religious) discussions are forbidden within lodge meetings, as such topics can often result in divisiveness and disharmony.

It is also important to remember that Masonry never requires its members to do or say anything that might conflict with their duty to God, their country, their neighbors, or themselves. A man's obligations as a Mason in no way conflict with his obligations as a member of society. On the contrary, the Masonic Fraternity reiterates, reinforces, and reemphasizes them.

6) Is Freemasonry a charity?
Freemasonry is not a charity organization per se, although charity is a basic teaching and important element of the fraternity. Masons assist distressed brother Masons and their needy families through charity funds, maintained by most lodges.

But Masonic charity also reaches well beyond the Fraternity. Indeed, Masonry spends over $2,000,000 per day to support charitable causes. The best-known examples of such charities are the Shriners' Hospitals for Children. Known as the "World's Greatest Philanthropy", this renowned pediatric healthcare system provides outstanding treatment for children with orthopedic problems and serious burn injuries. A remarkable aspect of these hospitals is that they do not have a patient billing department - all services are provided totally without charge to the patient and family, and without regard to the family's Masonic affiliation.

Other examples of Masonic charity include treatment, rehabilitation, and research services for learning and speech disorders, cancer, mental illness, vision problems, and those in need of special dental restoration.

7) Is Freemasonry a "secret" society?
No. Freemasonry is a well-known organization that has been in existence for centuries. Its members freely identify themselves and are proud to be known as Masons. Masonic Lodges are familiar sights in communities all over the world. Their constitutions, rules, and regulations are open for inspection by anyone who cares to view them, and there are literally thousands of written works available in public libraries and bookstores on the subject of Freemasonry.

Freemasonry does have certain modes of recognition, rites, and ceremonies that are kept secret. These "secrets" are viewed by the Fraternity as private affairs, similar to the secrets kept by private businesses and other organizations who choose not to publicize certain information. Strictly speaking, therefore, Freemasonry is not a secret society, but rather a society with a few secrets.

The secrecy of Freemasonry is an honorable secrecy. Any man may ask for her secrets, and those who are worthy will receive them. To give any such secrets to those who do not seek or who are not worthy of them would trivialize their importance and impoverish their meaning.

See also the following paper: What Can I Tell My Non-Masonic Friends?.

8) How can I become a Freemason?
An important characteristic of the Masonic Fraternity is that it never solicits members. Our code of conduct prevents it. Thus, no faithful Mason will ever invite you to join the Fraternity. Instead, a man must ask to be admitted by contacting a lodge and requesting a petition for membership.

Applicants for admission must be at least 19 years of age, be mentally competent, be of good moral character, and must believe in the existence of a Supreme Being. Upon submission of a petition, a candidate must provide three character references, and will be investigated by a committee of inquiry. The Lodge must approve his candidacy by a unanimous ballot. The candidate is then eligible to receive the three Degrees of Symbolic Freemasonry.


Is Freemasonry a Religion?

Is Freemasonry a Religion?

Author: http://www.SanDiegoFreeMason.com

This question has been asked of me by close to half of those who discover that I am a member of our ancient and honorable fraternity, including prospective applicants.

The answer is of course no, freemasonry is not a religion, however it is too simplistic of an answer. To answer it in a more intelligent way I recently checked out Albert Pike's "Morals and Dogma" from the library at the San Diego Scottish Rite (thank you Bro. Norris), and will share what I gleaned from it here.

Brother Pike consolidated and reworked the Masonic degrees following the blue lodge degrees in the mid 1800s. He is an unimpeachable source and this work contains his opinion on all things Masonic.

I would dare not presume to interpret Pike, and find it unnecessary. The same is true of the ritual. If one does not understand the meaning then one should read it, or if possible, recite it again. There is a conciseness in the work rarely found in literature of any kind.

However to answer this frequently asked question I am going to rearrange this passage in his work as below:

Says Pike, "This is what is asked and answered in our catechism, in regard to the Lodge."

"A 'Lodge' is defined to be 'an assemblage of Freemasons, duly congregated, having the sacred writings, square, and compass, and a charter, or warrant of constitution, authorizing them to work.'"

"Though Masonry neither usurps the place of, nor apes religion, prayer is an essential part of our ceremonies. It is the aspirations of the soul toward the Absolute and Infinite Intelligence, which is the One Supreme Deity, most feebly and misunderstandingly characterized as an "ARCHITECT."

He continues, "Certain faculties of man are directed toward the Unknown--thought, meditation, prayer. The unknown is an ocean, of which conscience is the compass. Thought, meditaion, prayer, are the great mysterious pointings of the needle. It is a spiritual magnetism that thus connects the human soul with the Deity. These majestic irradiations of the soul pierce through the shadow toward the light."

"It is but a shallow scoff to say that prayer is absurd, becouse it is not possible for us, by means of it, to persuade God to change His plans. He produces foreknown and foreintended effects, by the instrumentality of the forces of nature, all of which are His forces. Our own are part of these. Our free agency and our will are forces. We do not absurdly cease to make efforts to attain wealth or happiness, prolong life, and continue health, because we cannot by any effort change what is predestined. If the effort also is predestined, it is not the less of our effort, made of our free will. so, likewise, we pray. Will is a force. Thought is a force. Prayer is a force. Why should it not be of the law of God, that prayer, like Faith and Love, should have its effects?

"Man is not to be comprehended as a starting point, or progress as a goal, without those two great forces, Faith and Love. Prayer is sublime. Orisons that beg and clamor are pitiful. To deny the efficacy of prayer, is to deny that of Faith, Love, and Effort. Yet the effects produced, when our hand, moved by our will, launches a pebble into the ocean, never cease; and every uttered word is registered for eternity upon the invisible air.

"Every Lodge is a Temple, and as a whole, and in its details symbolic. The Universe itself supplied man with the model for the first temples reared to the Divinity. the arrangement of the Temple of Solomon, the symbolic ornaments, which formed its chief decorations, and the dress of the High-Priest, all had reference tothe order of the Universe, as then understood. The Temple contained many emblems of the seasons-the sun, the moon, the planets, the constellations Ursa Major and Minor, the zodiac, the elements, and the other parts of the world. it is the Master of this Lodge, of the Universe, Hermes, of whom Khurum is the represetnative, that is one of the lights of the Lodge.

"For further instruction as to the symbolism of the heavenly bodies, and of the sacred numbers, and of the temple and its details, you must wait patiently until you advance in Masonry, in the mean time exercising your intellect in studying them for yourself. to study and seek to interpret correctly the symbols of the Universe, is the work of the sage and philosopher. It is to decipher the writing of God, and penetrate into His thoughts."