What is Freemasonry?

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 fraternity.

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. Masonry encompasses 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 its 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 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 ("stated" meetings)". In some parts the US, these are typically only open to Master Masons. Elsewhere, and in England, these meetings are often opened in the first degree, so Entered Apprentices and Fellowcrafts 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. There are also a great many things done for the simple pleasure of company: monthly breakfasts or dinners, dances, picnics, card/chess matches, lectures on Masonic history, you name it. Masonry is a fraternity, and its membership seeks to have fun.

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 no "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. In most cases, there is an understanding of "mutual recognition" between jurisdictions, and members may freely travel to other states, and countries, and are, in fact, encouraged to visit their brethren in other jurisdictions.

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 which is Chiefly British, and is used as a respectful form of address. The word worship comes from the Anglo Saxon weorth-scipe, meaning roughly "worthy shape" or "honorable." It is only in the last couple of centuries that it has become used mostly as an appropriate attitude toward deity.

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What is the Scottish Rite?

The Scottish Rite is an appendant body of Masonry, meaning that it is not part of the Blue Lodge per se, but closely associated with Masonry. It requires that a man be a Master Mason before joining the Scottish Rite. The Scottish Rite confers the 4th through 32nd degrees. The degree work may be, but is not necessarily, completed at one time. Any Master Mason is eligible to join the Scottish Rite. The degrees of the Scottish Rite continue the symbolism of the first three Masonic degrees. For a discussion of the 33rd degree, see question 9 of this section.

The above refers to the Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite (AASR), not the Rectified Scottish Rite , which exists both in UGLE (United Grand Lodge of England)-recognized and non-recognized Masonic bodies in Europe.

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What is the York Rite?

The York Rite, like the Scottish Rite, is an appendant body of Masonry, and confers degrees beyond the Blue Lodge's three degrees. It consists of nine additional degrees: Mark Master, Past Master, Most Excellent Master, and Royal Arch Mason; the Cryptic Degrees of the Royal Master, Select Master, and Super Excellent Master; and the Chivalric Orders: the Order of the Red Cross, Order of the Knights of Malta and the Order of Knights Templar.

The Temple degrees, which comprise the top degrees of the York Rite are specifically Christian. Or at least, it can be stated that the oath is: in some Grand Lodges in the US and abroad, one need not be a Christian, but rather only be willing to take a Christian oath. The difference being that there are some who would willingly swear to defend the Christian faith on the grounds that they would defend any man's faith. The Chapter (or Royal Arch) and Council Of Royal And Select Masters (Cryptic Rite), which comprise the first two sections of the York Rite, are not specifically Christian.

As with most things Masonic, discuss any concerns with your local York Rite, who can advise you regarding your eligibility.

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What is the Shrine?

The Shrine is not an appendant body of Masonry, though the distinction would escape many. The Shrine confers no additional degrees. It was founded in 1872 (the Mecca Temple in New York City) and an Arabic theme was chosen. Hence, the distinctive red fez that Shriners wear at official functions.

Until recently, members of the Ancient Arabic Order of the Nobles the Mystic Shrine for North America (AASONM is an anagram for "A MASON") were required to be members of the Scottish Rite's 32nd degree, and/or Knights Templar of the York Rite. In 2000, the Shrine opened its doors to all men who are Master Masons. The Shrine is most noted for its emphasis on philanthropy and its jolly outlook on life-- it has been called "the playground of Masonry". This is expressed as "Pleasure without intemperance, hospitality without rudeness, and jollity without coarseness."

The Royal Order of Jesters is a group drawn from Shrine membership, by invitation only.

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What is the Eastern Star?

The Order of the Eastern Star is an adoptive rite of Freemasonry with teachings based on the Bible and objectives that are charitable and benevolent. The founder of OES was Dr. Robert Morris, a lawyer and educator from Boston, Massachusetts, who was a Master Mason and Past Grand Master of Kentucky. Dr. Morris intended his creation to become a female branch of Freemasonry, but he failed to overcome the great opposition this idea engendered. After his first published ritual in 1849-50, he became associated with Robert Macoy who wrote and published a ritual based on Morris' in 1867. The first Grand Chapter was organized in Michigan in the same year. (There is evidence for an organization of the same name founded variously in 1788 or 1793, but this group was defunct by 1867.) Subordinate (local) chapters operate under charter from state level grand chapters which are responsible to the General Grand Chapter at the International Eastern Star temple in Washington, D.C.

Members must be eighteen years or older and either Master Masons in good standing or properly related to a Master Mason in good standing. The latter category includes wives; widows; sisters; daughters; mothers; granddaughters; stepmothers; step daughters; stepsisters; and half-sisters. In 1994 this was expanded to include nieces, daughters-in- law, and grandmothers.

Interestingly enough, OES requires only the belief in a Supreme Being even though the degrees are based in both the Old and New Testaments. While non-Christians are not specifically barred from membership, it would seem to be difficult to be other than Christian and belong to the Order. (Thanks to Joy Leavy)

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What is DeMolay?

DeMolay International is the world's largest fraternal organization for young men between the ages of 12 and 21. The Order was founded in Kansas City, Missouri on March 24, 1919 by Frank Sherman Land. DeMolay Chapters are sponsored by Masonic Lodges, and some members of the sponsoring body also serve as Advisors on the Chapter's Advisory Council. Structurally, it is similar to Masonry. The officers of a Chapter are the Master Councilor, Senior Councilor, Junior Councilor, Senior Deacon, Junior Deacon, Senior Steward, Junior Steward, Orator, Scribe, Marshal, Chaplain, Standard Bearer, Sentinel, Almoner, and seven Preceptors.

DeMolay Chapters hold monthly or biweekly meetings with Masonic-style Ritual. Other activities include athletic tournaments and events, social functions (joint activities with Rainbow are encouraged), fundraising activities, Masonic service activities, and civic and philanthropic activities.

DeMolays are taught the seven cardinal virtues of the Order: filial love, reverence for sacred things, courtesy, comradeship, fidelity, cleanness, and patriotism -- and the importance of practicing them in their daily lives. The Order's namesake is Jacques DeMolay, who was the last Grand Master of the Knights Templar and who was executed by the Inquisition on March 18, 1314. Louis Lower, the first DeMolay, and his group of friends, when asked by Land to choose a name for their group, believed that his heroic fidelity and loyalty to his fellow Templars were qualities with which they wanted their group to be identified.

(Thanks to Tom Schnorrenberg)

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What is Rainbow?

The International Order of the Rainbow for Girls is a junior organization for girls BETWEEN the ages of 11 and 20, from Masonic, Eastern Star or Amaranth homes, and the friends of members of Rainbow for Girls. Rainbow's purpose is to promote effective community, leadership skills and, most importantly, service to humanity.

The International Order of the Rainbow for Girls was established in McAlester, Oklahoma in 1922. The inception and writing of the first Ritual, and the laws governing the Order, was the work of W. Mark Sexson, a 33rd degree Scottish Rite Mason from McAlester, Oklahoma. Reverend Sexson was very active in several Masonic appendant organizations. Among his many offices, he held the titles of Most Worshipful Grand Master of a sovereign Masonic Grand Jurisdiction (1928) and Worthy Grand Patron for the Order of the Eastern Star (1925-1926), both in the state of Oklahoma. (Thanks to IORG Official website)

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What are some other Masonic organizations?

Job's Daughters: 

Similar to Rainbow. Enrolls girls between the ages of 11 and 20 that have some Masonic relative.

The International Order of Job's Daughters was founded in 1920 by Mrs. Ethel T. Wead Mick in Omaha, Nebraska. The group takes its name from the Book of Job, and in particular to a reference in the 42nd Chapter that says, "And in all the land were no women found so fair as the Daughters of Job."

Meetings follow a long tradition of order. The Officers wear traditional Grecian robes, symbols of democracy and equality, provided by the Bethel. Other members wear dresses to meetings. Meetings are held twice a month. Programs are planned and conducted by the members with the help of adult volunteers. Initiations are solemn, meaningful ceremonies presented by the Bethel Officers. Parents are welcome at initiations and all of the meetings. (Thanks to IOJD Official website)

A college fraternity for Master Masons, the sons of Masons, and young men recommended by two Masons one of whom is an Acacian himself. The national governing board is composed exclusively of 32nd and 33rd degree Masons.

Similar to Eastern Star. Open to Masons and their wives, mothers, daughters, widows, and sisters. At least one Master Mason must be present at every initiation. It confers only one degree.

Daughters of Mokanna: 

An auxiliary organization of the Grotto comprised of the wives, mothers, daughters, widows, and sisters of the Master Masons in the Grotto.

An auxiliary organization for the wives, mothers, daughters, widows, and sisters of members of the Shrine.


An organization for deaf Masons.

A fun organization open to Master Masons. It imitates the Shrine to a large degree, but has always required only that a member be a Master Mason rather than a 32nd degree Mason or Knight Templar, as was the case with the Shrine until the year 2000.

Officially known as The Mystic Order of Veiled Prophets of the Enchanted Realm (MOVPER).

High Twelve International: 

An organization of Master Masons that usually meet for lunch, enjoy fellowship, and support Masonic causes, with special emphasis on youth and patriotic endeavors.

L.O.S. of N.A.: 

The Ladies' Oriental Shrine of North America. Another auxiliary for the wives, mothers, daughters, widows, and sisters of Shrine members.

National Sojourners, Inc.: 

Open to Master Masons which are U.S. citizens and who have served or are serving as a commissioned or warrant officer in the United States military or in any armed service of a nation allied with the US in time of war.

A group for Masons interested in Masonic philosophy and history.

An organization for Christian Masons who have been 32nd degree Masons or Knights Templar for five or more years.

Tall Cedars of Lebanon: 

A fun organization for Master Masons similar to the Grotto. It confers the two degrees of the Royal Court and the Sidonian.

White Shrine of Jerusalem: 

For Master Masons and their wives, mothers, daughters, widows, and sisters. Members must profess a belief in the defense of the Christian religion.

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What is Co-Masonry?

Co-Masonry refers to Masonic Lodges that admit both men and women. It traces its heritage back to the 19th century.

There are two Grand Lodges of Co-Masonry with jurisdiction in America: Le Droit Humain, a Grand Lodge based in Paris, France and the original Co-Masonic organization in the US, and the American Federation of Human Rights (aka American Co-Masonry), which is based in Larkspur, Colorado.

The degree structure differs slightly from standard Blue Lodge structure (i.e., the Scottish Rite is worked as part of the regular Lodge, not a separate organization), but in most things Co-Masonic lodges function as regular Masonic lodges. Below is a passage from Bro. Ed King's website:

An announcement in the 'Grand Lodge News' of the United Grand Lodge of England which followed the March 10, 1999 Quarterly Communication of UGLE shows some of the difference in position vis-a-vis Eastern Star. It should be noted that the mixed order (Grand Lodge Droit Humaine) is not included in the sentence which talks about regularity. Perhaps this is because GL D-H encourages political and social (including religious) debate in its Lodges.

"There exist in England and Wales at least two Grand Lodges solely for women. Except that these bodies admit women, they are, so far as can be ascertained, otherwise regular in their practice. There is also one which admits both men and women to membership. They are not recognised by this Grand Lodge and intervisitaion may not take place. There are, however, informal discussions from time to time with the women's Grand Lodges on matters of mutual concern. Brethren are therefore free to explain to non-Masons, if asked, that Freemasonry is not confined to men (even though this Grand Lodge does not itself admit women). Further information about these bodies may be obtained by writing to the Grand Secretary."

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What is Prince Hall Masonry?

NOTE: This section is excerpted from the Grand Lodge of New Brunswick's annual communication. Any further or more accurate information would be appreciated.

"There are some schools of thought that Prince Hall (his given name, not a title) was born in Barbados to a free black woman and a Scottish father. He emigrated to the Colony of Boston, Mass. and acquired real estate, making him eligible to vote. It was also documented that he was a devout Christian and a leather-worker by trade. On March 6, 1775, during the American War of Independence, Prince Hall along with fourteen men of color were made Masons in Army Lodge #441 of the Irish Constitution. When Army Lodge moved on, the aforesaid brethren were issued a permit authorizing them to appear publicly as a Masonic body for the purpose of celebrating the feast of St. John and to bury their dead.

"On March 2, 1784, these same brethren applied to the Grand Lodge of England for a charter, which was subsequently issued to them on September 29, 1784. They were warranted under the name of African Lodge, No. 459 on the register of the Grand Lodge of England by authority of then Grand Master, the Duke of Cumberland. Prince Hall was the first Master. That charter, which is authenticated and in safekeeping, is believed to be the only original charter issued from the Grand Lodge of England still in the possession of any Lodge in the United States.

"African Lodge allowed itself to slip into arrears in the late 1790's and was stricken from the rolls after the Union of 1813, although it had attempted correspondence in 1802 and 1806. In 1827, after other unreplied-to attempts at communication, it declared its independence of any external authority and began to call itself African Grand Lodge No. 1.

"It is interesting to note that when the Massachusetts lodges which were acting as a Provincial Grand Lodge declared themselves an independent Grand Lodge, and even when the present Grand Lodge of Massachusetts was formed by the amalgamation of two separate Grand Lodges, African Lodge was not invited to take part, even though it held a warrant every bit as valid as those others. This may be explained in part by this 1795 quote from John Eliot, who later became Grand Chaplain of the Gr. Lodge of Mass. He wrote, 'White Masons, who are not more skilled in geometry than their black brethren, will not acknowledge them... .the truth is they are ashamed of being on an equality with blacks.'

"Today there are 45 Grand Lodges (the latest being the just formed Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of the Caribbean) that trace their origin back to African Lodge #459. There are more than 5000 Prince Hall Lodges and over 300,000 members. So far as it is known, their ritual, their secrets, their procedures, their requirements, their beliefs, their tenets or fundamental principles, are all either identical with ours, or recognizably similar. (Thanks to W Bro. Roy Cassidy)

To add to this:

The United Grand Lodge of England has now officially recognized Prince Hall Lodges. Many US Grand Lodges have recognized PH Grand Lodges within their jurisdictions, and it has been or is being discussed in other jurisdictions. Since every Grand Lodge is autonomous and the supreme authority in its jurisdiction, this issue must be approached on a state-by-state basis.

Some have criticized Masonry as "segregated" because of the Prince Hall Lodges, but this is erroneous, since there are many black Masons in non-Prince Hall Lodges and white members in Prince Hall Lodges, and displays a fundamental ignorance of Masonic history.

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What is a 33rd degree Mason?

The Scottish Rite awards a special honorary degree, the 33rd, to those it feels has made an outstanding contribution to Masonry, the community as a whole, and to mankind. There is no way to "achieve" this degree or "take" it, in the sense that one takes the 4th through 32nd degrees in the Scottish Rite. It is a singular honor, rarely bestowed, and greatly admired.

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Are there any Masonic functions that I can attend as a non-Mason?

Yes. Many Lodges open their installation of officers to the public. Once a year, a new Worshipful Master takes office. The ceremony performed during his inauguration is often made public. It is not the same ceremony as would be performed in a regular Masonic ritual or degree, but it does have the flavor of Masonic symbolism and working style and allows the public to "get a feel for Masonry" without being Masons.

NOTE: Not all jurisdictions have public installations. Call or write your local lodge for details.

In addition, many Lodges sponsor public functions throughout the year, such as dinners or charity functions, designed to allow non-Masons who are interested in Masonry the chance to talk with Masons and ask questions. For information, call your local Lodge.

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Who is the head of the Masons?

No one. Each Grand Lodge has its own jurisdiction and is the supreme authority within that jurisdiction. Obviously, many Grand Lodges have regular communication with each other, but official policy in one has no effect in another.

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Are there dues, fees, etc. associated with being a Mason?

Yes. Like all organizations, Lodges must be able to pay their light bills. Typically, there is a one-time fee for the three degrees of Masonry, as well as regular annual dues. But these vary widely depending on the number of members, cost of living (rent in Manhattan is higher than it is in rural Oklahoma), the actual physical facilities of the Lodge, etc. The fees and dues, however, are not prohibitively expensive. Rather than give a single figure which may be very different than your local Lodge charges, or publishing an extended table of costs, it is easiest to simply refer the interested to their local Lodge.

Many Grand Lodge jurisdictions provide for "life membership" after a Mason has paid dues for a long period. For example, in Texas a Mason is no longer asked to pay dues after he has been a Mason for fifty years. Other jurisdictions allow members to pay a lump sum for a "life" or "endowed" membership. As with almost everything in Masonry, check with your local Grand Lodge or Lodge for more information.

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I hear Masons refer to an "apron". What is that?

From the pamphlet, To the Lady and Family of a Mason

"During the ceremonies of his initiation, each Mason is presented with a white apron. It is, to him, an emblem of innocence and the badge of a Mason. It has, in all ages, been cherished by the rich, the poor, the high and the low. It is his for life. He will never receive another one and has, therefore, been cautioned to take it home and instructed in its care. While perfectly satisfactory for him to do so if he desires, he need not bring it to Lodge, as linen aprons are provided for his use during meetings."

The above applies to the US. In many other countries, the Master Mason owns his regalia and brings it to the Lodge.

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What is a "Masonic Funeral"?

From the pamphlet, To the Lady and Family of a Mason

"Any member who was in good standing at the time of his death is entitled to a Masonic funeral if he or his family requests it. Such a request should be made to the Master of his Lodge who will make the necessary arrangements with the family, the mortuary, and the minister. A service is authorized by the jurisdiction in which you are located, and consists of participation at the mortuary, the beginning at the mortuary and the closing at the graveside, or graveside only. Pallbearers will be furnished at the request of the family. In general, the Lodge will do as much or as little as the nearest relative wishes it to do."

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Are Masons just a bunch of old men? Isn't Masonry dying out?

As regards the United States:

There is no doubt that the population of Masons is aging. There was a huge increase in membership in almost all fraternal orders after World War II, including Masonry. This peaked at sometime in the late 50s. During the social turbulence and generational strains of the 60s and 70s, new membership fell off, with the result that by the 1980s, total membership was in sharp decline. However, there are signs that membership has leveled out, or is gaining in some areas. In many lodges, there are a great number of 50-and-up members, and a number of 30-and-under members, with a gulf in between, representing where Baby Boomers would have been. Of course, we are speaking in broad generalities here-- there is no way to know the demographics of your local Lodge without asking one of its members.

The overall point is that Masonic membership, when talking on a national scale, has probably hit a stable membership base, after a huge surge and then fall in membership.

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Are Masons racist/elitist?

Regarding racism: Masonry explicitly states the equality of men, regardless of race, creed, or color. There are some Masons who are prejudiced, and this is unfortunate, saddening, and un-Masonic. However, it is not representative of Masonry as a whole, or representative of anything except a tiny minority of Masons. There are Masons of all ethnic backgrounds.

"Elitism" is harder to define. If you mean that Masons are highly selective in their membership, then yes, Masons are elitists. But just criteria is used: men of good character, of good report, who believe in God. Does the majority of the population fit that criteria? If you think not, then you could say that Masons are elitists. The idea that Masonry is only open to the patrician class, the landed gentry, and the wealthy is incorrect. There are Masons of all economic backgrounds. Indeed, there are Lodges which are mostly or wholly made up of blue-collar workers due to local demographics.

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Isn't Masonry just a place where businessmen make deals?

No. In fact, most Masons believe that to trade with a Brother Mason only because he is a Mason is un-Masonic. Even more importantly, anyone who attempts to join a Lodge solely for business reasons will not be given a petition.

Masons, however, are friends, and it is not surprising that many Masons do trade with Brothers. For one thing, they are dealing with people that are of good character and can be trusted, which is no small statement in the modern marketplace.

But Masonry is not a "place to network". Yes, some men do view one of the benefits of membership as an additional source of customers or partners, but few would say that is the only reason they became Masons. The work involved in the degrees alone would make this a poor investment-- better to join the Rotary Club or other business group.

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I see titles like "Worshipful Master" -- Is Masonry a cult?

No. The titles are simply colorful, stylish, and full of ancient symbolism. No Mason worships the Master of the Lodge, nor does a Senior (or Junior) Deacon engage in religious actions, as a Deacon of a church might.

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Is Masonry a secret society?

No. Secret societies are generally defined as organizations which are unknown to the public and whose existence is denied. The Bavarian Illuminati and the Mafia would be examples of secret societies.

Masonry, on the other hand, is well-known and proudly displays its existence. Masonic Temples are clearly marked as such, and many Lodges are listed in the yellow pages (usually under "Fraternal Orders"). Members often wear rings, tie-clips or other jewelry that identify themselves as Masons, and Masons often participate in community charity work. Finally, some Masonic functions are open to the public.

Masonry is not a secret society, but rather a society with a few secrets. These are mainly modes of recognition-- the signals, grips, signs, and phrases by which Masons recognize each other. The actual degree rituals are considered secret as well, not because there is anything that would harm Masonry by their revelation, but rather because they are more meaningful if the candidate does not know what is going to go on during them beforehand (see question 9 of this section if that makes you nervous).

It should be pointed out that many other organizations have a similar class of secrets. College fraternities (a.k.a. "Greek letter organizations") often have small secrets known only to their members, allowing them to travel from house to house and still be known.

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Is Masonry is a religion?


"Religion, as the term is commonly used, implies several things: a plan for salvation or path by which one reaches the afterlife; a theology which attempts to describe the nature of God; and the description of ways or practices by which a man or woman may seek to communicate with God. Masonry does none of those things. We offer no plan of salvation. With the exception of saying that He is a loving Father who desires only good for His children, we make no effort to describe the nature of God. And while we open and close our meetings with prayer, and we teach that no man should ever begin any important undertaking without first seeking the guidance of God, we never tell a man how he should pray or for what he should pray. Instead, we tell him that he must find the answers to these great questions in his own faith, in his church or synagogue or other house of worship. We urge men not to neglect their spiritual development and to be faithful in the practice of their religion. As the Grand Lodge of England wrote in 'Freemasonry and Religion', 'Freemasonry is far from indifferent to religion. Without interfering in religious practice, it expects each member to follow his own faith, and to place above all other duties his duty to God by whatever name He is known.' Masonry itself makes only a simple religious demand on a man -- he must believe that he has an immortal soul and he must believe in God. No atheist can be a Mason." (Dr. Jim Tresner, 33rd degree)

"Freemasonry has no dogma or theology. It teaches that it is important for every man to have a religion of his choice and to be faithful to it. A good Mason is made even more faithful to the tenets of his faith by membership." (Rev. Norman Vincent Peale, who was also a Mason)

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Are Masons really controlling the world/meeting with the Bavarian Illuminati/members of the Trilateral Commission, etc?

Yes, not to mention the International Jewish Conspiracy, the Elders of Zion, S.P.E.C.T.R.E., The Men In Black, and the minions of Cthulhu. Anyone who says they believe that Masons are the Master Puppeteers of the Globe either is pulling your leg, has read too much Robert Anton Wilson, or is in need of serious psychotherapy.

Another possibility is that they don't feel their religion/party/ideology is important unless it has an arch-nemesis. You will find that the majority of Masonic groups will not deign to dignify these absurd accusations with a reply.

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Are Masons anti-Catholic?

No. A common misconception. There is nothing anti-Catholic in Masonry, in its traditions, its rituals, or its beliefs. Contrary to popular belief, there are many Catholic Masons.

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Are Masonic rituals demeaning or embarrassing to the candidate?

No. The rituals (degrees) are designed to reinforce the virtues that the Craft finds desirable, such as Justice, Brotherly Love, Truth, and the like. The rituals are actually quite beautiful and filled with ancient language and much symbolism. At no point, however, is the candidate asked to do anything that would embarrass or demean him, nor anything that would violate his obligations to his faith, country, or the law.

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I heard/read a Mason talking about a "Masonic Bible". Do Masons have their own Bible?

No. The Bibles sometimes called 'Masonic Bibles' are just Bibles to which a concordance, giving the Biblical citations on which the Masonic Ritual is based, has been added. Sometimes reference material on Masonic history is included. Anyone is welcome to read one. (Dr. Jim Tresner, 33rd degree)

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I see that Masonic buildings are called Temples. Does that mean that Masons worship there?

No. "Webster's New Twentieth Century Dictionary provides a definition for the word 'temple' which is as good an explanation as any: 'a building, usually of imposing size, serving the public or an organization in some special way; as, a temple of art, a Masonic temple'". (Dr. Jim Tresner, 33rd degree)

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What are the requirements for becoming a Mason?

Candidates must be male, at least 18 years of age, able to profess a belief in God or a supreme being, and of good character.

For information on mixed-sex Masonry, see the discussion on Co-Masonry.

Some Grand Lodges also have a residency requirement; for example, the Grand Lodge of Texas requires candidates to have lived in its jurisdiction (Texas) for a minimum of one year.

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Can ____________ be Masons?

Any human who meets the requirements in the previous question is eligible, regardless of race or color.

Some have speculated that while there is no official prohibition against, say, blacks or Asians from becoming Masons, there is a de facto prohibition because they would never be voted into a lodge. This is false. There are Masons of all ethnic backgrounds.

However, it is fair to state that Masons, as humans, are prone to the kinds of prejudices that all humans may succumb to. Since the vote to admit a candidate is anonymous and must be unanimous, one man's unspoken prejudice is sufficient to deny entry to a man (except, of course, in those jurisdictions which require more than one 'no' vote to deny entrance, but you get the idea).

Racial prejudice is inexcusable and irreconcilable with Masonry, but then, it is also irreconcilable with Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, and there are certainly Christians, Jews, and Muslims who harbor prejudices. So it is possible that a Mason, acting un-Masonically, could act to keep a candidate out without due cause. But this is not common, nor is it representative of Masonry in general, nor does it conform to the high ideals of Masonry.

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Can gay men become Masons?

Yes, and there are gay Masons. Oscar Wilde was a famous Mason well known to be gay. Everything said in the previous question holds true in this case as well. There is the consideration that some men who are Masons may view homosexuality as being immoral, i.e., that homosexuals are not men of "good character". This is generally not due to any specific prejudice but rather due to religious belief (depending on how one interprets St. Paul, for example). However, judging by conversation on alt.freemasonry, it is safe to say that most Masons generally would not regard homosexuality as a barrier to membership.


I have a physical disability. Can I be a Mason?

The answer is almost certainly yes, provided you can attend Lodge (and meet the non-physical criteria above). Paraplegics have been made Masons, as have the blind, the deaf, and others with a variety of physical handicaps. Minor modifications may need to be done to the rituals (e.g., employing sign language, modifying points where the candidate stands if the candidate is in a wheelchair, etc.) but most Lodges are willing to accommodate candidates.

In medieval times, the requirement to have a sound body free of physical defect was a serious one, since the work of stonemasonry was physically difficult. Some Grand Lodges did carry this requirement into symbolic (i.e., non-operative) Masonry. However, in recent times this has all but been eliminated. Talk to your local Lodge if you have any questions.

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Do Masons accept Catholics?

Catholicism is only mentioned specifically because it has generated a lot of controversy and debate. There is no prohibition in any Grand Lodge jurisdiction against Catholics being made Masons, and there are in fact many Catholic Masons.

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Can Wiccans or other Neo-Pagans be Masons?

This religion is specifically mentioned only because it has been often debated on alt.freemasonry. It is possible to get into very involved discussions on the nature of Wiccan beliefs and their compatibility with Masonry, but the only possible arbitrator is your Grand Lodge. To that end, it is suggested that if you have more specific questions, contact your local Lodge.

Again, the same could be said about a number of religions, and Wicca is only mentioned specifically because it has been brought up repeatedly on the Masonic newsgroups. Please bear in mind that discussion of this subject on the USENET Masonic newsgroups invariably generates more heat than light.

[On the religion issue, this editor is personally acquainted with, and has sat in Lodge with, Masons who were Catholic, Wiccan, Druid, Thelemite, Jewish, Muslim and Gnostic.]

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What if my religion does not allow the swearing of oaths?

Some Grand Lodges allow affirmations to be used instead of the traditional Masonic oath. This is more common in Europe than in the United States. In all cases, it is best to check with the Grand Lodge in your jurisdiction (or your local Lodge) for more specific information.

Many believe that the form and content of the Masonic obligations does not actually violate the true spirit of the prohibition of oaths in their religions, but rather reinforces the ethics and values therein.

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Do I have to be invited?

Don't wait to be invited-- you will die waiting. In most jurisdictions Masons are prohibited from actively recruiting or asking non-Masons to join the fraternity, to insure that candidates come of their own free will.

As with many things Masonic, there are some exceptions to this rule. Some Grand Lodges allow solicitation, provided it is low-key and with the strict provision that no pressure be applied. Still, you don't need to be invited in any jurisdiction, and if you're interested, ask.

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OK, I'm interested-- how do I proceed?

Click here to go to our "How to join" page.