Freemasonry is a fraternal organisation that traces its origins to the loose organisation of medieval Stonemasonry. Early organizational forms included “lodges,” incorporations, and craft guilds. Early Freemasonry based on craft labour is known as Operative Freemasonry, while the modern, more philosophical form of Freemasonry is known as Speculative Freemasonry.
Even though Freemasons are members of the largest and oldest fraternity in the world, MASONS or FREEMASONRY, 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 or what freemasonry is about.
The answer is simple. Freemasons are members of a fraternity known as Freemasonry or Masonry. 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.
No one knows just how old freemasonry is because the actual origins have been lost in time. Probably, it arose from the guilds of stone masons who built the castles and cathedrals of the Middle Ages. 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.
In 1717, Freemasonry members created a formal organization in England when the first Grand Lodge was formed. A Grand Lodge is the administrative body in charge of Freemasonry in some geographical area. In the United States, there is a Grand Lodge of Freemasonry in each state and the District of Columbia. In Canada, there is a Grand Lodge of Freemasonry in each province. Local organizations of Freemasony are called lodges. There are freemasonry lodges in most towns, and large cities usually have several. There are about 13,200 lodges in the United States.
The fraternity of masons are an organization of men bound together with a philosophy of moral standards, mutual understanding and brotherhood in which all men are on a level and equal.
Although Freemasonry is not a religion, its emphasis on the Fatherhood of God ensures that the Brotherhood of Man follows naturally. This coupled with the obligation to abide by the Golden Rule, particularly with a fellow Mason, makes for one of the strongest bonds of society. When you meet other Masons, the odds are very high indeed, that they will treat you as you would like to be treated.
Freemasonry now exists in various forms all over the world, with a membership estimated by the United Grand Lodge of England at around six million worldwide. The fraternity is administratively organised into independent Grand Lodges (or sometimes Grand Orients), each of which governs its own Masonic jurisdiction, which consists of subordinate (or constituent) Lodges. The largest single jurisdiction, in terms of membership, is the United Grand Lodge of England (with a membership estimated at around a quarter million). The Grand Lodge of Scotland and Grand Lodge of Ireland (taken together) have approximately 150,000 members. In the United States total membership is just under two million.
The various Grand Lodges recognise each other—or do not—based upon adherence to landmarks. A Grand Lodge will usually deem other Grand Lodges who share common landmarks to be regular, and those that do not to be “irregular” or “clandestine”.
There are also numerous appendant bodies, which are organisations related to the main branch of Freemasonry, but with their own independent administration.
The history of Freemasonry encompasses the origins, evolution and defining events of the fraternal organisation known asFreemasonry. It covers three phases. Firstly, the emergence of organised lodges of operative masons during the Middle Ages, then the admission of lay members as “accepted” or speculative masons, and finally the evolution of purely speculative lodges, and the emergence of Grand Lodges to govern them. The watershed in this process is generally taken to be the formation of the first Grand Lodge in London in 1717. The two difficulties facing historians are the paucity of written material, even down to the 19th century, and the misinformation generated by masons and non-masons alike from the earliest years.
A complete history of Freemasonry is beyond the scope of a single article. This article traces the early development of Freemasonry from organised bodies of operative stonemasons to the modern system of speculative lodges organised round regional or national “Grand Lodges”. Notable events and developments of the modern period are also briefly described. The history of specific subjects, rites and jurisdictions within the general heading of Freemasonry are dealt with in detail elsewhere, in their own articles.
The earliest masonic texts each contain some sort of a history of the craft, or mystery, of masonry. The oldest known work of this type, The Halliwell Manuscript, or Regius Poem, dating from between 1390 and 1425, has a brief history in its introduction, stating that the “craft of masonry” began with Euclid in Egypt, and came to England in the reign of KingAthelstan. Shortly afterwards, the Cooke Manuscript traces masonry to Jabal son of Lamech (Genesis 4: 20-22), and tells how this knowledge came to Euclid, from him to theChildren of Israel (while they were in Egypt), and so on through an elaborate path to Athelstan. This myth formed the basis for subsequent manuscript constitutions, all tracing masonry back to biblical times, and fixing its institutional establishment in England during the reign of Athelstan.
Shortly after the formation of the Premier Grand Lodge of England, James Anderson was commissioned to digest these “Gothic Constitutions” in a palatable, modern form. The resulting constitutions are prefaced by a history more extensive than any before, again tracing the history of what was now freemasonry back to biblical roots, again forging Euclid into the chain. True to his material, Anderson fixes the first grand assembly of English Masons at York, under Athelstan’s son, Edwin, who is otherwise unknown to history. Expanded, revised, and republished, Anderson’s 1738 constitutions listed the Grand Masters since Augustine of Canterbury, listed as Austin the Monk. William Preston’s Illustrations of Freemasonry enlarged and expanded on this masonic creation myth.
In France, the 1737 lecture of Chevalier Ramsay added the crusaders to the lineage. He maintained that Crusader Masons had revived the craft with secrets recovered in the Holy Land, under the patronage of the Knights Hospitaller. At this point, the “history” of the craft in Continental Freemasonry diverged from that in England.
Anderson’s histories of 1723 and 1738, Ramsay’s romanticisation, together with the internal allegory of masonic ritual, centred on King Solomon’s Temple and its architect, Hiram Abiff, have provided ample material for further speculation.
The earliest known ritual places the first masonic lodge in the porchway of King Solomon’s Temple. Following Anderson, it has also been possible to trace Freemasonry toEuclid, Pythagoras, Moses, the Essenes, and the Culdees.Preston started his history with the Druids, while Anderson’s description of masons as “Noachides”, extrapolated by Albert Mackey, put Noah into the equation.
Following Ramsey’s introduction of Crusader masons, the Knights Templar became involved in the myth, starting with Karl Gotthelf von Hund’s Rite of Strict Observance, which also linked in the exiled House of Stuart. The murder of Hiram Abiff was taken as an allegory for the death of Charles I of England. Oliver Cromwell emerges as the founder of Freemasonry in an anonymous anti-masonic work of 1745, commonly attributed to Abbé Larudan. Mackey states that “The propositions of Larudan are distinguished for their absolute independence of all historical authority and for the bold assumptions which are presented to the reader in the place of facts.” The anti-masonic writings of Christoph Friedrich Nicolai implicated Francis Bacon and the Rosicrucians, while Christopher Wren’s connection with the craft was omitted from Anderson’s first book of constitutions, but appeared in the second when Wren was dead.
The German pioneer in Masonic history Joseph Gabriel Findel, and others since, have sought the origins of organised masonry in the lodges of the medieval German cathedrals, although no link has been found to the development of the Freemasonry that later spread from England to Germany. Similarly, attempts to root Freemasonry in the French Compagnonnage have produced no concrete links. Connections to the Roman Collegia and Comacine masters are similarly tenuous, although some Freemasons see them as exemplars rather than ancestors. Thomas Paine traced Freemasonry to Ancient Egypt, as did Cagliostro, who went so far as to supply the ritual.
More recently, several authors have linked the Templars to the timeline of Freemasonry through the imagery of the carvings in Rosslyn Chapel in Scotland, where the Templars are rumoured to have sought refuge after the dissolution of the order. In The Hiram Key, Robert Lomas and Christopher Knight describe a timeline starting in ancient Egypt, and taking in Jesus, the Templars, and Rosslyn before arriving at modern Freemasonry.
In common with other trades or mysteries, medieval masonry recognised three grades of craftsman;- the apprentice, the journeyman, and the master. An apprentice who had learned his craft became a journeyman, qualified to do all manner of masonic work. The master was also qualified as a project manager, often functioning as architect as well. He would sketch the day’s work on a tracing board for execution by the journeymen and apprentices. The Schaw Statutes of 1598 show how this had evolved in the lodge system of Scottish masonry. An apprentice, after serving his term of seven years, could elect to pay to join a lodge, becoming an “entered apprentice”. (Alternatively, he could elect to freelance on the lower grades of building work as a “Cowan”.) The journeymen were referred to as “fellows” or “fellows of the craft”, which accords with the Regius poem’s injunction (line 51) that masons should “calle other felows by cuthe”. The members of the lodge were “Brithers” (brothers), a Scottish legal term for those bound to each other by oath. The Master was simply the mason in charge of the lodge, or one that had held that distinction.
While the swearing of some sort of oath goes back to the earliest records of organised masonry, the first recorded ritual is not until 1696, in the Edinburgh Register House manuscript. From this, and from other documents of the same period, such as the Trinity College, Dublin manuscript of 1711, we can form an idea of the ritual of an operative lodge at the end of the 17th century. On taking of the oath of an Entered Apprentice a mason was entrusted with appropriate signs, a “Mason’s Word”, and a catechism. This was accompanied by much horseplay, which was probably excised as the craft became more gentrified. The fellowcraft was made to take a further oath, and entrusted with two further words and the “five points of fellowship”, which in 1696 were foot to foot, knee to knee, heart to heart, hand to hand, and ear to ear. The distinction between a fellowcraft and a master is unclear, and in many documents they appear to be synonymous. As accepted masons became initiated, where the various words and signs could no longer be regarded as professional qualifications, the entered apprentice ritual and the fellowcraft/master were sometimes condensed into one ceremony.
In Pritchard’s “Masonry Dissected”, an exposure of masonic ritual written in 1730 by a disillusioned ex-mason, we see for the first time something recognisable as the three degrees of modern Freemasonry. On being admitted to a lodge, a new mason naturally progresses through the degrees of Entered Apprentice, Fellowcraft, and Master Mason. There still remains the rank of Installed Master, which comprises the Master in charge of the lodge and its past masters, and involves its own ritual, words and signs, but entails being elected to take charge of the lodge for a year. These are the regular degrees and ranks of “craft” masonry, common to all constitutions. Other, “higher” degrees are optional and require a mason to join a side-order. (see main article, Freemasonry)
Anderson’s 1723 constitutions seem to recognise only the grades of Entered Apprentice, and the Fellowcraft/Master. Hence the third degree emerged sometime between 1723 and 1730, and took some time to spread within the craft. The fact that it did spread seems to many scholars to indicate that the tri-gradal system was not so much innovation, as the re-organisation of pre-existing material. The Mason word, once given to the Entered Apprentice, was now conferred in the third degree with the five points of fellowship, and the two linked words formerly bestowed on a fellowcraft were split between the first two degrees. The new Master Mason degree was centred on the myth of Hiram Abiff, which itself consists of three parts. The first is the biblical story of the Tyrian artisan with a Northern Israelite mother who became a master craftsman involved in the construction of King Solomon’s Temple. The second is the story of his murder by subordinates, which is similar to one of the legends of the French Compagnonnage. Lastly, the story of the finding of his body, and the derivation therefrom of the five points of fellowship, which appears in the Graham Manuscript of 1725, where the body being sought and exhumed is that of Noah. The origin of this re-organisation is unknown. The earliest reference to the conferment of a third degree is from London, from the minutes of “Philo Musicae et Architecturae Societas Apollini”, a short-lived musical society composed entirely of Freemasons. These minutes record the initiation and passing to the degree of Fellowcraft of Charles Cotton. Then, on 12 May 1725, the society took it upon itself to “pass” Brother Cotton and Brother Papillion Ball as Master Masons. This would nowadays be regarded as highly irregular. In March 1726 Gabriel Porterfield received the same degree in lodge Dumbarton Kilwinning in Scotland. That he was not the first is attested by the minutes of the lodge’s foundation, only two months earlier, where Apprentices, Fellowcrafts, and Master Masons are recorded as attending. In December of 1728, Greenock Kilwinning recorded separate fees for initiation, passing and raising.
Ritual, symbolism, and morality
Masons conduct their meetings using a ritualised format. There is no single Masonic ritual, and each jurisdiction is free to set (or not set) its own ritual. However, there are similarities that exist among jurisdictions. For example, all Masonic ritual makes use of the architectural symbolism of the tools of the medieval operative stonemason. Freemasons, as speculative masons (meaning philosophical building rather than actual building), use this symbolism to teach moral and ethical lessons of the principles of “Brotherly Love, Relief, and Truth;” or as related in France, “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity.”
Two of the principal symbolic tools always found in a Lodge are the square and compasses. Some Lodges and rituals explain these tools as lessons in conduct: for example, that Masons should “square their actions by the square of virtue” and to learn to “circumscribe their desires and keep their passions within due bounds toward all mankind.” However, as Freemasonry is non-dogmatic, there is no general interpretation for these tools (or any Masonic emblem) that is used by Freemasonry as a whole.
These moral lessons are communicated in performance of allegorical ritual. A candidate progresses through degrees, gaining knowledge and understanding of himself, his relationship with others, and his relationship with the Supreme Being (per his own interpretation). The philosophical aspects of Freemasonry tend to be discussed in Lodges of Instruction or Research, and sometimes informal groups, although Freemasons and others frequently publish studies, with varying degrees of competence, that are available to the public. Any mason may speculate on the symbols and purpose of Freemasonry, and indeed all masons are required to some extent to speculate on masonic meaning as a condition of advancing through the degrees. There is no one accepted meaning, and no one person “speaks” for the whole of Freemasonry.
Some lodges make use of tracing boards. These are painted or printed illustrations depicting the various symbolic emblems of Freemasonry. They can be used as teaching aids during the lectures that follow each of the three Degrees, when an experienced member explains the various concepts of Freemasonry to new members. They can also be used by experienced members as self-reminders of the concepts they learned as they went through their initiations.
Freemasonry uses the metaphors of operative stonemasons’ tools and implements, against the allegorical backdrop of the building of King Solomon’s Temple, to convey what has been described by both Masons and critics as “a system of morality veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols.”
Membership and religion
Masonic Governing bodies insist that Freemasonry is neither a religion nor a substitute for one. “There is no separate Masonic God”, nor a separate proper name for a deity in any branch of Freemasonry.
Regular Freemasonry requires that its candidates believe in a Supreme Being, but the interpretation of this term is subject to the conscience of the candidate. Consequently, Freemasonry accepts men from a range of faiths, including (but not limited to) Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, and Sikhism. As a result, Freemasonry usesVolume of the Sacred Law (VSL) as a generic term for a religious book. As Anglo-American Freemasonry also requires that a VSL be present on the Altar, many Lodges have multiple VSLs available, and a candidate can be obligated on his book of choice.
Since the early 19th century, in the Continental European tradition (which is considered irregular by those Grand Lodges in amity with the United Grand Lodge of England), a very broad interpretation has been given to a non-dogmatic Supreme Being; in the tradition of Baruch Spinoza and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe – or views of The Ultimate Cosmic Oneness – along with Western atheistic idealism and agnosticism.
The form of Freemasonry most common in Scandinavia, known as the Swedish Rite, accepts only Christians.
George Washington was one. So were Benjamin Franklin, Paul Revere and Henry Ford. All of these illustrious and influential men were Freemasons (or Masons) — privileged members of the world’s oldest and largest fraternity.
Though it boasts 5 million members worldwide, the Freemasons are an enigmatic society. Freemasons say they are nothing more than a brotherhood of like-minded individuals who meet regularly for spiritual and intellectual enlightenment. Conspiracy theorists see them as a secretive underground movement bent on world domination.
In this article, we’ll take a look inside the world of the Freemasons. We’ll discover where they originated, separate the truth from the conspiracy theories and find out what really goes on during their rituals.
Legends of Knights and Kings
Ask five different people for the origins of the Freemasons and you may get five different explanations. Some say they descended from the ancient Druids. Others link them to the Isis-Osiris cult in ancient Egypt. Still others claim they were an order of Jewish monks called the Essenes, who formed in the 2nd century B.C.
According to some Masonic scholars, the Freemasons trace their roots to the building of King Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem in 967 B.C., an event which was described in the biblical Book of Kings. In the story, the builders of the temple were the original stonemasons, and the forefathers of today’s Freemasons. The legend centers on the master builder—a man named Hiram Abiff—who claimed to know the secret of the temple. One day, three men kidnapped Abiff and threatened to kill him if he didn’t reveal that secret. When he refused to talk, Abiff was murdered. After learning of the killing, King Solomon ordered a group of Masons to search for Abiff’s body and bring back the secret of the temple. The men were unsuccessful, so the King established a new Masonic secret. His secret is believed to be the word “Mahabone,” meaning “the Grand Lodge door opened,” which is now the password used to enter the third degree of Masonry.
Freemasons and the Knights Templar are also rather closely connected.
High level Freemasons have been accused of everything from conspiring with extraterrestrials to practicing sexual deviancy to engaging in occult rituals to running the world—or trying to end it. Detractors include global conspiracy theorists and religious organizations, including the Catholic Church.
But what if Freemasons—the world’s largest international secret society—are just a bunch of guys into socializing, non-satanic rituals, self-improvement, and community service?
The pentagram, for example, is much older than Freemasonry and acquired its occult overtones only in the 19th and 20th centuries, hundreds of years after the Masons had adopted the symbol.
Likewise, the all-seeing eye saw its way to the Great Seal—and the U.S. dollar bill—by way of artist Pierre Du Simitiere, a non-Mason.
The eye represents divine guidance of the U.S. ship of state, or as Secretary of the U.S. Congress Charles Thompson put it in 1782, it alludes “to the many signal interpositions of providence in favour of the American cause.”
There was one known Mason on the committee to design the seal, Benjamin Franklin. His proposed design was eyeless, and rejected.
Freemasons and virtue:
When they can look out over the rivers, the hills, and the far horizon with a profound sense of their own littleness in the vast scheme of things, and yet have faith, hope, and courage — which is the root of every virtue.
Masons and nobility:
When they know that down in their 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 their fellowman.
Freemasons and sympathy:
When they know 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 they have learned how to make friends and to keep them, and above all how to keep friends with themselves.
Masons and life:
When they love flowers, can hunt birds without a gun, and feels the thrill of an old forgotten joy when he hears the laugh of a little child.
When they can be happy and high-minded amid the meaner drudgeries of life.
Masons and rememberence:
When star-crowned trees and the glint of sunlight on flowing waters subdue themselves like the thought of one much loved and long dead.
Freemasons and aiding a distressed voice:
When no voice of distress reaches their ears in vain, and no hand seeks their aid without response.
When they find 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.
Masons and fellow man:
When they can look into a wayside puddle and see something beyond mud, and into the face of the most forlorn fellow mortal and see something beyond sin.
When they know how to pray, how to love, how to hope.
Masons and their God:
When they have kept faith with themselves, with their fellowman, and with their God; in their hand a sword for evil, in their heart a bit of a song — glad to live, but not afraid to die! – Masons.
Mason and Secrets:
Such men have found the only real secret of Masonry, and the one which it is trying to give to all the world. These are the Masons.
FROM BRITAIN TO AMERICA, HOW?
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 Freemasonry 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 Freemasonry 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.
WHAT IS A LODGE?
The word “lodge” means both a group of Freemasonry members meeting in some place and the room or building in which they meet. Freemasonry or Masonic buildings are also sometimes called “temples” because much of the symbolism Freemasonry uses to teach its lessons comes from the building of King Solomon’s Temple in the Holy Land. The term “lodge” itself comes from the structures which the stonemasons built against the sides of the cathedrals during construction. In winter, when building had to stop, they lived in these lodges and worked at carving stone.
If you’ve ever watched C-SPAN’s coverage of the House of Commons in London, you’ll notice that the layout is about the same. Since Freemasonry came to America from England, we still use the English floorplan and English titles for the officers. The Worshipful Master of the Lodge sits in the East. “Worshipful” is an English term of respect which means the same thing as “Honorable.” He is called the Master of the lodge for the same reason that the leader of an orchestra is called the “Concert Master.” It’s simply an older term for “Leader.” In other organizations, he would be called “President.” The Senior and Junior Wardens are the First and Second Vice-Presidents. The Deacons are messengers, and the Stewards have charge of refreshments.
Every lodge has an altar holding a “Volume of the Sacred Law.” In the United States and Canada, that is almost always a Bible.
SO IS FREEMASONRY EDUCATION?
Yes. In a very real sense, education is at the center of Freemasonry. 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 dedication to education started there.
It has continued. Freemasons 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 Freemasonry 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.
Freemasonry teaches some important principles. There’s nothing very surprising in the list. Freemasonry 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 Freemasonry 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. Freemasonry 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 TO JOIN THE MASONS?
The person who wants to join Freemasonry 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 FREEMASON?
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 Freemasonry. We can tell them about what Freemasonry does. We can tell them why we enjoy it. But we can’t ask, much less pressure, anyone to join.
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 Freemasonry 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 Freemasonry 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 become a member of the Masons, tell him and his family about Freemasonry, 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 Freemasonry fraternity.