Jewell Lodge #94
While a common question, it can be a complicated answer. Here are answers from two sources we trust:
What is Freemasonry?
Freemasonry is the world’s largest, oldest, and best-known fraternal organization. Mythically descended from the builders of King Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem, Freemasonry is believed to have developed from the craft guilds of European stonemasons who built castles and cathedrals during the Middle Ages. Temporary buildings called lodges were built next to the cathedrals, and the Masons used them to meet, receive their pay, plan their work, train new apprentices, and socialize.
The first Grand Lodge was established in England in 1717, transforming the craft from “operative” masons who constructed buildings, into a “speculative” fraternity that used the symbolism, tools, and terminology of the medieval masons as illustrations of character building. Masonic ceremonies use legendary tales of the construction of the biblical King Solomon’s Temple as symbols for building an inner temple in the hearts of men.
By the 1730s, Freemasonry had spread to the American colonies. Freemasonry circled the globe on the colonizing ships of the British, the French and the Dutch. Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, Paul Revere, and other Founding Fathers were among the first Masons in the United States. After the American Revolution, grand lodges were established in each state.
Freemasonry is based on the belief that each man can make a difference in the world by improving himself, and taking an active role in his community. It is a charitable, benevolent, educational fraternity. Yet, Freemasonry forbids the discussion in Masonic meetings of religion, creeds, politics or other topics likely to excite personal animosities.
Membership in the Masons is open to men who believe in a Supreme Being and meet its qualifications and standards of character and reputation. One of Freemasonry’s customs is not to solicit members, but any man is welcome to request information about joining the fraternity.
Related organizations that base their membership on Masonic affiliation include the York Rite (made up of Royal Arch, Cryptic Council and Knights Templar), the Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite, Allied Masonic Degrees, the Order of the Eastern Star, Order of the Amaranth, Shrine International, and Grottoes of North America. Masonic related youth groups include DeMolay International for Boys, International Order of the Rainbow for Girls, and Job’s Daughters International.
Freemasonry initiates its members using three ceremonial rituals, referred to as degrees: the Entered Apprentice, the Fellow Craft, and the Master Mason. Regardless of any other Masonic organization a Freemason may join in his lifetime, and no matter how any other organization may describe or number their degrees, there is no degree of higher rank or importance in Freemasonry than the 3rd degree, the Master Mason.
Today, there are 3 million Freemasons worldwide, including 1.5 million in the United States, and there are thousands of local Masonic lodges to be found around the globe. There is no national or international governing organization for Freemasonry. In the U.S. and Canada, each state or province has its own organization, called a grand lodge, that claims “sovereignty” over the lodges in its territory. Outside of the U.S. and Canada, most countries have their own governing grand lodge. There are agreements between these grand lodges that allow visitation and recognition between each others’ members, often using the term “regular.”
A closely related Masonic organization is the predominantly African-American Prince Hall Affiliated (PHA) group of grand lodges. The organization is named after Prince Hall, a prominent free black man from Boston who started a lodge in 1775. There are some 300,000 Prince Hall Masons in the U.S. and other countries around the world.
There are also competing organizations that are not considered regular or recognized by the mainstream grand lodges, and frequently cause confusion both inside and outside of the fraternity. (Taken from http://www.freemasonlostsymbol.com/ )What is Freemasonry? Freemasonry is a system of morality and ethics that trancends political, racial, financial and secular boundries. It is a belief that all men are created equal, and all deserve respect, love, relief and charity. It is a voluntary association of men who have adopted its teachings as a way of life, and seek to improve themselves in their daily existence. It is a pursuit of excellence in a world where excellence seems unattainable. Teaching morality through symbolism and allegory, its rites and ceremonies instruct its members to cherish the tenets of the `Brotherhood of Man, under the Fatherhood of God´.
It is sometimes easier to tell non-Masons what Freemasonry is not. It is not an organization which solicits membership - all men must come to Freemasonry of their own free will and accord. It is not an insurance organization or a benefit society. It is not a religion, a creed, or a religious order. It is not a charity, but recognizes that the tenet of Charity as a foundation of love for humanity is a duty for all Masons. It is not organized for profit, and no member may profit from his association with the Fraternity, upon penalty of explusion. It does not dictate to any man as to his religious or secular beliefs and is not a substitute for the connection any man has to his God. It is never a forum for discussion of religion, politics, or other partisan affairs. Finally, it is not a secret society as it does not conceal its existence, or its purpose.
Freemasonry seeks to improve all men who would believe that there is a fundamental good in everyone who is not unwilling to live to its precepts.
How old is Freemasonry?
Freemasonry is the oldest, largest, best known, and most widespread Fraternity in the world. Its origins have been the subject of much research and discussion among scholars, who generally agree that it predates any written records which are available today. Most Masonic scholars also agree that it has its origins in the operative stonemason lodges which existed in Europe during the Middle Ages. These lodges were created to ensure that people who claimed to be stonemasons were in fact qualified through a deep practical understanding of the craft. They enforced codes of conduct on their members, established means of recognition, and dictated training and testing of apprentices. A lodge had jurisdiction over any stone work in its locale, and therefore also ensured that its stonemasons would have a means to perform their work and earn a livelihood.
During the 1600´s, as the number of great cathedrals under construction began to decline, lodges adopted the practice of admitting men who were not stonemasons into their membership. These members were termed `Speculative´ or `Accepted´ Masons. It was from these groups that modern day Freemasonry had its beginning, and from which the earliest recorded historical artifacts can be identified.
In 1717, a famous meeting was held in London, England, where the four Lodges present agreed to work under a common constitution, and by this act, the first Grand Lodge was created. From this Grand Lodge, many Symbolic and Provincial Grand Lodges were chartered, and today there are over 150 Grand Lodges with a membership of over 6 million members. There are very few places in the world where you cannot find a Masonic Lodge, or locate a Brother.
What is the purpose of Freemasonry?
A common expression used to describe Freemasonry is that it exists to "make good men better." To this end, the purpose of Freemasonry is to teach those universal ethical principles that guide all good men. It teaches kindness in the home, honesty in business, courtesy in society, fairness in work, pity and concern for the unfortunate, resistance toward evil, help for the weak, forgiveness for the penitant, love for one another, and above all, reverence and love for God. These principles are so universal to the basis of a working society that they are an essential way of life for each of its members.
What are the qualifications to become a Freemason?
Freemasonry accepts applications from men who are of good character, recommended by those within the fraternity, and who believe in one God. With the exception that one must be monotheistic, Freemasonry makes no distinction among the various religions when considering a man for membership, nor does it care about his political beliefs, wealth, or station in life. Religion and politics are never discussed in Lodge, and to violate this ancient custom would mean expulsion from the Lodge. In all things, it is the interior character of the man and not the external trappings and wealth which would recommend him to become a Mason.
To become a Mason, an applicant must ask a Mason for a petition, and be recommended by two members. The petition is then presented to the Lodge and must be unanimously approved by ballot. If successful, the applicant then is qualified to take the Entered Apprentice degree at a special communication of the Lodge.
Is Freemasonry a religion?
Categorically, not. Freemasonry is not a religion, although there is a religious aspect of every Freemason. Those who claim that it is a religion either do not understand our tenets, are confused as to what constitutes a religion, or have simply made an error of judgement without basis of fact. Freemasonry does require that a man profess a sincere belief in God, but not as to how he practices it, or what else he might believe spiritually. It does not take the place of religion, nor does it supplant the teachings of any religion. If anything, it reinforces those moral teachings of religions that form the basis of all good societies.
Finally, it is one of the ancient landmarks of Freemasonry that there is never any secular or political discussion in any legally constituted Lodge. So seriously do all regular Lodges take this principle, that the penalty for such discussion is severe and could result in expulsion.
Isn't Freemasonry a `secret´ society?
Contrary to the claims of some, Freemasonry is not a secret society, any more than a publicly held company or most civic organizations. Freemasonry neither hides its existence, or its membership. There are some very public demonstrations of Masonry through parades, the East-West Shrine Football Game, the many Scottish Rite Learning Centers, the Shriners Burns and Orthopedic Hospitals, many biomedical research programs into schizophrenia, vision, diabetes, and dyslexia, as well as cornerstone laying ceremonies, scholarship funds, boys and girls programs, and many charitable events.
There has never been any attempt to conceal the purpose, aims, and principles of Freemasonry. Its constitutions are published for the world to read, and its rules and regulations are open for inspection by anyone.
It is true that we have modes of recognition, rites, and ceremonies with which the world is not acquainted. But in the same light, so do most families, groups, and business organizations have private affairs internal to their membership. In fact, Masonry has been so studied and published, that there are virtually countless sources for reputable information in bookstores, on the internet, and in libraries. There simply are no secrets to be had which cannot be obtained elsewhere.
Where can I get a petition?
You may obtain a petition for membership by one of three ways.
Once you have filled it out, you may give it to a Freemason or the Secretary of a Lodge and they will guide you through the rest of the application process.
Copyright©2003, The Grand Lodge Of New Hampshire
1Information on this page has been extracted from several sources, including the pamphlet "Freemasonry - A Way of Life", and "Historical highlights of Freemasonry in New Hampshire", both published by the Grand Lodge of New Hampshire.