An Introduction to Freemasonry

The following introduction to Freemasonry was prepared by the Masonic
Renewal Committee of North America after the 'Claudy' books went out of
print and became unavailable. Some jurisdictions attempted to write
their own versions but this was done on a National level. Then Temple
Publishers and the 'Claudy ' books were sold to a N.J. Mason and they
resumed availability, so this never gained the popularity it deserves.
The authors are some of the finest writers available in the late 1990s.
(This is not copyrighted and used with permission)
 

WELCOME TO MASONRY... You have been elected to receive the Three Degrees
of Masonry. We congratulate you on your acceptance and welcome you as
one about to enter our ranks. We hope that you are earnestly seeking the
truths our Fraternity has to offer.

You have made an important step, one which we are sure you will value
not only now, but also for many years to come. Masonry is a unique
institution that has been a major part of community life in America for
over years. Masonry, or more properly, Freemasonry, is America's largest
and oldest fraternity ... and one that continues to be an important part
of many men's personal lives and growth.

Your decision to enter the ranks of Freemasonry had to be your own
without the undue influence of others. That makes your membership in
Masonry one of your own choices, which is significant. Men join Masonry
for a variety of reasons, each valid and important.
Millions of men have traveled this path before you, nearly all
receiving a benefit from their efforts. A large majority of these men
had little knowledge or concept of the Fraternity, or what it could mean
to them. For this reason we wish to give you certain thoughts and
information, which we feel you, are entitled to receive before the
conferral of the degrees.
To begin with, you should thoroughly understand that Freemasonry is
entirely serious in character. Contrary to what you may have heard,
there is no horseplay or frivolity in our degrees; their primary purpose
is to teach, to convey to you knowledge of the principles of our
institution.
You should, therefore, prepare yourself to approach the degrees with an
open mind, determined to absorb as much as possible, without fear of
ridicule or indignity.

WHO ARE MASONS? Masonry is large and diversified enough to provide what
you are seeking. Masons are men who have joined together to improve
themselves. This is accomplished through the principles and ceremonies
of the fraternity. They endeavor to extend Masonic lessons into their
daily lives in order to become positive influences in their homes,
communities, nation, and throughout the world. They base their efforts
on morality, justice, charity, truth and the laws of God. Worldwide,
membership encompasses millions of men who believe and support the same
fundamental principles.

WHAT IS MASONRY?

What is modern Freemasonry? Masonry, as mentioned
before, is many things to many people. Many years ago in England it was
defined as "a system of morality, veiled in allegory, and illustrated by
symbols." It is a course of moral instruction using both allegories and
symbols to teach its lessons.

The legends and myths of the old stonecutters and masons, many of them
involved in building the great cathedrals of Europe, have been woven
into an interesting and effective way to portray moral truths. In
Masonry, the old tools and ways of the craftsmen are used to help
dramatically portray those moral truths.

For example, take the 24-inch gauge and the common gavel, just as the
ruler is used to measure distance, the modern Mason uses the gauge as a
reminder to manage one of his most precious resources: time. And, as the
gavel is used to shape stones, so it is also the symbol for the
necessity of all of us to work to perfect ourselves. One modern
definition is
"Freemasonry is an organized society of men, symbolically applying the
principle of Operative Masonry and architecture to the science and art
of character building."
In other words, Masonry uses ageless methods and lessons to make each of
us a better person. Thus, Masonry: Has a basic philosophy of life that
places the individual worth of each man high on its pedestal, and
incorporates the great teachings of many ages to provide a way for
individual study and thought. Has great respect for religion and
promotes toleration and equal esteem for the religious opinions and
beliefs of others.

Provides a real working plan for making good men even better. Is a
social organization. Has many important charitable projects. Has a rich
worldwide history. Is a proven way to develop both public speaking and
dramatic abilities, and provides an effective avenue for developing
leadership.

WHAT MASONRY STANDS FOR
Masonry stands for some important principles and beliefs. The primary
doctrines of Freemasonry are Brotherly Love, Relief, and Truth.

Its cardinal virtues are Temperance, Fortitude, Prudence and Justice.
These principles or beliefs cover a broad field, actually supplying the
pattern to meet every experience in human life.
In the United States Masonry is a strong supporter of constitutional
government ... of quality public education ... of the freedom of
religion and expression.. . of the equality of all men and women ... of
the need for strong moral character... and of meaningful charity.
Masonry, and the organizations that are within the Masonic family,
contributes 400 million dollars every year to helping those with sight
problems or aphasia, physically disabled children, and those with severe
burns.
Local Lodges work to help their communities and individuals within those
communities. Masonry's charity is always given without regard to race,
sex, creed, or national origin.

THE MISSION OF FREEMASONRY

"The mission of Freemasonry is to promote a
way of life that binds like minded men in a worldwide brotherhood that
transcends all religious, ethnic, cultural, social and educational
differences; by teaching the great principles of Brotherly Love, Relief,
and Truth:and, by the outward expression of these, through its
fellowship, its compassion and its concern, to find ways in which to
serve God, family, country, neighbors and self."

WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF FREEMASONRY?

Simply put, the overall purpose of
Masonry is to provide a way to help each member become a better person.
We do not propose to take a bad man and make him good; rather, our aim
is to take the good man and make him better.
We try to place emphasis on the individual man by: Strengthening his
character.Improving his moral and spiritual outlook. Broadening his
mental horizons.
We try to impress upon the minds of our members the principles of
personal responsibility and morality; to give each member an
understanding ofand feeling for Freemasonry' s character; and to have
every member put these lessons into practice in his daily life.
We try to build a better world by building better men to work in their
own communities. Freemasonry believes in universal peace made possible
by teaching its doctrine through the Brotherhood of Man and the
Fatherhood of God.

WHAT ARE LODGES?

A Lodge is a meeting place for Masons. Masons may use
this place for regular business meetings, degrees, social activities,
other Masonic groups, or even community activities. Lodge buildings are
prominently marked, and are often recognized as special landmarks in the
cities, towns, and states.The local Lodge is a group of Masons granted a
charter by a Grand Lodge.There are specific guidelines set by the Grand
Lodge as to how this local Lodge may function and what it can and cannot
do. These guidelines are set forth in books of constitutions and ritual.

The leaders of the Lodge are elected by the Lodge membership each year.

ORIGIN OF FREEMASONRY

We are not sure at what point in time that our
craft was born. Hundreds of Masons have investigated this question, but
no conclusive answer has been found, and perhaps never will be. We do
know that the earliest written record of the term "Master Mason" appears
in the Regius manuscript, written about 1390 and now kept in the British
Museum. Its mention of the "Master Mason" refers to the stonemasons of
the Middle Ages. The tools of the stonemason date back, of course, to
the earliest periods of history and are lost in the mists of time. This
is also true of the geometry and geometric symbols used in the craft of
building.

Over the ages Freemasonry, as we now know it, slowly took form. It has
evolved into a comprehensive and effective form of fraternal teaching of
basic morals, truths and personal fulfillment. It ranks the development
of the individual's reasoning capabilities highly and encourages the
questioning mind.

THE TWO TYPES OF MASONRY
There are actually two kinds of Masonry. One we call "Operative" and the
other "Speculative. " Operative Masonry can be traced back to theMiddle
Ages and beyond. Operative Masons formed groups with Lodge structures
similar to ours today. We have officers similar to theirs. Men were
admitted only after they had served a number of years of apprenticeship.

This is the origin of the first or Entered Apprentice degree. In
Operative Masonry, Masons actually did the physical labor of building.
They were the best at their craft, and they kept secret their methods of
building. When the organization became what is called Speculative
Masonry, men were accepted into the Craft without being actual builders,
that is, they were spiritual builders. Speculative Masonry adopts the
terms and concepts of the actual builders, but substitutes men for stone
and mortar, and works toward self-improvement rather than the actual
construction of buildings.

FREE" AND "ACCEPTED" MASONS

How did the words "Free" and "Accepted"
originate? The ancient craftsmen were very skilled and their craft was
considered to be indispensable to the welfare of both church and state.
They were the men who built castles and cathedrals. For this reason,
they were not placed under the same restrictions, as were other workers.

They were "free" to do their work, travel, and live their lives in a
manner that was in line with their duties. The Masons organized into
"guilds," something akin to a trade union, and individual companies or
groups of Masons contracted for specific construction projects. In the
England of that time, various crafts (carpenters, distillers, pewterers,
ironworkers, etc. also organized into guilds, but most of the population
worked under bond to the owners of the land on which they lived. The
word "Accepted" also goes back to the time of the Operative Mason.
During the later years of the Middle Ages, there were few educated
outside the monasteries of the church.

The "accepted" mason was originally a man who, in a lodge operative in
origin or still partly so in character, was for all practical purposes
of membership accepted as a mason. From this practice grew in course of
time the use of the words "accepted" and "adopted" to indicate a man who
had been admitted into the inner fellowship of symbolic masons.
Candidates were "accepted" into freemasonry no earlier than the
mid-seventeenth century. We first meet the phrase "free and accepted" in
1722. By the late1600's the demand for the type of architecture that
lent itself to the guild type of operation was declining. Architecture
itself was changing; and the numbers of men, as well as the number of
operative lodges, were declining. Increasingly, Masonry adopted the
legends and habits of the old operative lodges, for spiritual and moral
purposes. As time went on, there became many more "Accepted" members
than there were "Operative" members. Sometime in the eighteenth century,
the "Accepted Masons" outnumbered the "Operative Masons" and Masonry
became exclusively a speculative organization rather than an operative
one.

ORIGIN OF THE GRAND LODGE

In 1717four Lodges in London met together and
decided to form a Grand Lodge, possibly for no other reason than to
strengthen and preserve themselves. In1723 they adopted a Constitution.
Their success led to the establishment of still other Grand Lodges.

In 1725 some of the Lodges in Ireland formed a Grand Lodge and a
similar body was instituted in Scotland in 1736. Moreover the original
Grand Lodge in England did not remain without rivals, and at one time in
the eighteenth century three Grand Lodges existed in England in addition
to the one organized in 1717. Two of these died out without influencing
the history of Masonry in general, but the third had a great part in the
spread and popularizing of Masonry throughout the world. It called
itself the "Ancients Grand Lodge.

The two surviving Grand Lodges were long and vigorous rivals, but they
finally united in 1813 into the present United Grand Lodge of England.
Thus, from one of these two Grand Bodies in England, or from those of
Ireland or Scotland, all other Grand Lodges in the world today are
descended. Titles of Grand Lodges in the United States also vary. Some
Grand Lodges are called A. F. & A. M., which means Ancient Free and
Accepted Masons. Another commonly title is F. & A. M., or Free and
Accepted Masons. Masonry was established in France sometime between 1718
and 1825. The first lodge in Spain was established in 1728. A lodge was
established in Prague in 1729, in Calcutta in 1728 and in Naples in
1731. Masonry came to Poland in 1734 and Sweden in 1735.

The growth of Freemasonry and its ideals and beliefs came not without
opposition. Masons are taught that all men are equal - we meet upon the
level. Individual freedom of thought and action, as well as morality and
ethics, are the concepts and ideals upon which our order is founded. The
teachings are a condemnation of autocratic government, who in turn
condemns Freemasonry.

MASONIC HISTORY IN THE UNITED STATES

It was inevitable that Freemasonry
should follow the colonists to America and play a most important role in
the establishment of the thirteen colonies. Freemasonry was formally
recognized for the first time in America with the appointment by the
Grand Lodge of England of a Provincial Grand Master in New York, New
Jersey, and Pennsylvania in 1730.

American Masons worked under foreign jurisdiction until 1731, when the
first American Grand Lodge was established in the Commonwealth of
Pennsylvania. One of the most romantic portions of all Masonic history
lies in the story of the part played by Freemasons in the formation of
our country. Without exaggeration, we can say that Freemasonry and
Masonic thinking contributed most significantly to the founding of this
great Republic.
Many of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, as well as the
drafters of the Constitution, were members of the Fraternity.

George Washington was a staunch Freemason. He was the first of fourteen
Masonic Presidents and the only one to serve as Worshipful Master of a
Lodge and President at one and the same time.

The others after Washington are Monroe, Jackson, Polk, Buchanan, Andrew
Jackson, Garfield, McKinley, both Teddy and F. D. Roosevelt, Taft,
Harding, Truman, and Ford -- of whom Truman and Andrew Jackson served
also as Grand Masters.
In the struggle for independence many well-known patriots, such as Paul
Revere, Benjamin Franklin, John Hancock, Marquis de Lafayette, and Baron
von Steuben were members of the Craft.

No doubt Freemasonry was responsible for and shared much of their
thinking and opinions. Much has been written about the participation of
the Fraternity in the Revolution and the founding of America, and it is
an episode of which we can be proud. Ever since that period, Freemasonry
has grown and flourished, following closely the growth and expansion of
the United States.

WHAT WE ARE NOT
We are not a secret society! A secret society is generally one that
wraps itself in a cloak of absolute secrecy. That means no one knows who
the members are, where they meet, what they do or what they stand for.

That is not Masonry at all! Masonry may have secrets, but it is not a
secret society. Masonic secrets are few in number, and deal with the
general method of initiation, the ways we recognize each other, and very
little else. These parts of the ritual, which are called the esoteric
side of Masonry, have been handed down by word of mouth for centuries.
Masonry's purposes, ideals, and principles may be learned by anyone who
inquires. There are numerous books on these subjects, which are
available to the public. Masonry often has public notices in the
newspapers, and our members are usually numbered among the more
prominent citizens in the community.

We are not a Religion! Masonry, as an organization, is understanding
and tolerant of all religious thoughts. Masonry has no specific creed,
no dogma, no priesthood. There are no requirements as to religious
preference in becoming a Mason. Masonry does ask you to state your
belief and trust in a Supreme Being. Non-sectarian Prayers are a common
part of all our ceremonies, but are not offered to a specific deity.
Masonic ritual does incorporate lessons and examples from the Bible, but
they are given as representative illustrations.

Masonry does not require you belong to a church, synagogue or mosque
although many Masons are very active in their religious organizations,
and among our members are leaders of many denominations. Freemasonry
accepts your right to belong to any church or religious organization of
your choice and does not infringe on that right. Neither does Masonry
try to be a substitute for your church.
Masonry wants to unite men for the purpose of brotherhood; not as an
organized religion.

WHAT WE DO NOT DO
Sectarian religion and partisan politics are not discussed in Lodge, and
there are very good reasons why. When we meet in a Lodge, we are all on
a common level, and are not subject to the classes and distinctions of
the outside world. Each Brother is entitled to his own beliefs and may
follow his own convictions. Our objective is to unite men, not to divide
them. These two subjects can cause honest differences of opinion, which
might well cause friction among Brothers.

No member running for political office has any right to expect the
support of any other member because of Lodge affiliation. This does not
mean, however, that matters that concern themselves with the nature of
government or individual freedoms are not proper concerns of Masons as
good citizens.

There will be subjects concerning the Lodge's business that have to be
discussed. These discussions should be kept within the bounds of
propriety, and everyone should show tolerance for the opinion of the
other. Every Master wants harmony in his Lodge; and, once a matter has
been put to vote in the Lodge, and a decision made, the decision should
be accepted by all members regardless of how they voted. Masonry
teaches every Mason to be a good citizen and to perform his civic
duties. We do not try to keep anyone from expressing his opinion, or
from serving his city, county, state, or nation in an honorable manner.
Anyone who serves in political office should not act politically as a
Freemason; nor, in the name of Freemasonry in exercising his rights. To
sum up:
As a Mason you will never introduce into the Craft any controversial
sectarian or political question; you will pay no heed to those, from
without, who attack the Fraternity; and in your life as a member of the
state you will ever be loyal to the demands of good citizenship.

QUALIFICATIONS OF A PETITIONER

Most Grand Lodges have decreed, "A
petitioner for the degrees of Masonry must be a man, of legal age, a
believer in a Supreme Being, and of moral conduct. They normally decree
that no one who belongs to any organization subversive to the government
of the United States is eligible for membership. In addition it is
generally understood that there are internal and external qualifications
necessary to become a Mason. The internal qualifications refer to those
not apparent to the world and include his attitude toward the Fraternity
and his motives and design in seeking entrance into it. The outward
qualifications refer to his physical fitness to participate in the
degrees and perform the duties of a member, his reputation in the
community and his financial ability to conform to the requirements of
membership. The applicant must act of his own free will, he must first
be prepared in his heart and must act uninfluenced by friends or
unbiased by mercenary motives. The petitioner may have some resident
requirements and may have to be recommended by someone in the
Fraternity. He must be a free man in the fullest sense. He must be a
peaceable citizen, loyal to his country and its laws.

MASONIC ORGANIZATIONS

You have asked to join the Masonic Lodge, or
"Symbolic Lodge" or "Blue Lodge". It is the base of all other
organizations that require Masonic affiliation, one or more of which
you, or a member of your family, may want to join sometime in the
future. We are not sure where the name "Blue Lodge" originated, one
theory is because blue is generally regarded as the color used to
characterize friendship. Colors have a large place in the traditions of
the Craft. Today it is generally agreed that the American usage is
derived from English Freemasonry. We know that the United Grand Lodge of
England, in choosing the colors of its clothing, was guided mainly by
the colors associated with the Noble Orders of the Garter and the Bath.
When the Most Noble Order of the Garter was instituted by Edward III in
, its color was light blue.

Freemasonry' s colors were not derived from ancient symbolism. The
clothing of three groups of degrees is related to maim three colors; the
Craft of symbolic degrees with blue; the Royal Arch with crimson; and
other degrees with green, white and other colors, including black.
Worldwide, in many cultures, blue symbolizes immortality, eternity,
fidelity, prudence and goodness. In Freemasonry in particular, blue is
symbolic of universal brotherhood and friendship and instructs us that
in the mind of a Mason, those Virtues should be as extensive as the blue
arch of Heaven itself. "

Two of the organizations, the York Rite and the Scottish Rite, expand on
the teachings of the Blue Lodge, or basic Masonry, and further explain
its meaning.
The Ancient Arabic Order of Nobles of the Mystic Shrine, commonly called
the Shrine, is not formally connected with Masonry, but has, as its own
requirement, the restriction of its membership to members of the York
Rite and/or Scottish Rite. This organization is socially oriented, and
has as its major project the funding and operation of nearly two dozen
hospitals for crippled and burned children.

The Order of the Eastern Star, White Shrine of Jerusalem and the
Amaranth admit both men and women. Research Lodges do academic study on
Masonry.
The Masonic Service Association, whose headquarters is in Silver Spring,
MD, issues Masonic publications and sponsors visits to patients at our
Veterans hospitals.

High Twelve Clubs meet for dining and foster socialization among Masons.

There are several organizations, Order of DeMolay, Order of Rainbow Girls
and Job's Daughters, for young people.

In addition, the Mystic Order to Veiled Prophets of the Enchanted Realm
(Grotto, Tall Cedars Lebanon end many other concordant and Appendant
Masonic bodies will welcome you and your family as members once you
become a Master Mason, all you will need is the time and energy to
participate.

WHAT TO EXPECT
First of all, relax. All of the ceremonies of Masonry are serious and
performed in a dignified manner. There is no horseplay, no hazing.
Enter the lodge with an attitude that will help you appreciate the
serious and solemn ceremonies that you will experience. The degrees, or
teaching lessons, are done in the form of short plays, in which you play
a part, prompted by a guide. The language is beautiful, and the content
both meaningful and interesting. When you receive each degree it is
suggested that you dress respectfully, as in a business setting. When
you arrive at the Lodge for your degree you will be asked to wait a
short time in an outer room while the Lodge prepares to conduct the degree.
A small committee will meet with you formally. You will be asked a
series of questions to ascertain your motives and confirm your free
choice in joining our Fraternity.

You will then be prepared to receive the degree by temporarily
exchanging your street clothes for the plain garment of a candidate.

The degree itself will be recited to you, always from memory, by a team
of Masons. Listen to the content of what is being said. These are
spiritual lessons given with great dignity.
You should have no worries about entering a Masonic Lodge. The degrees
are simply lessons and you will be treated as the friend and brother
that you are becoming.

THE PROFICIENCY As you take each degree, you will be asked to show that
you understand what has been said and portrayed. This step is called
"the proficiency. " The proficiency is evidence that the candidate is
qualified for advancement, just as in the days of operative masonry,
when the worker had to show that he was qualified to do more complicated
tasks. A candidate is asked to memorize a portion of the lecture that
accompanies the degree. A coach will be assigned to you to help you
learn the material, answer any questions that you may have, and see that
you pass smoothly through the process of becoming an informed Mason and
an active Lodge member.
You are expected to meet with your coach as often as necessary in order
to acquire a basic knowledge of Masonry. Material will be given to you
at the end of each degree. It will contain an explanation of the degree
and will explain the symbols and actions in each part of the degree. In
addition,you will be required to memorize a portion of each degree, so
that you will be able to visit other Lodges. It will be written in a
brief memory-aid form. If you so desire, there will be optional
material along with a list of voluntary projects for you to participate
in that will help you become more comfortable and familiar with your new
Lodge and fraternity. As in all endeavors, you will receive as much from
the experience as you put into it. When you pass the proficiency, you
will be given the next degree.

YOUR DUTIES AS A MASON

You will become a member of the fraternity when
you have received the three degrees, proved your proficiency in each of
them, and signed the by-laws of your lodge. In assuming the obligations
of the degrees and signing the by-laws, you enter into an agreement with
the Lodge, wherein you bind yourself to perform certain duties, and the
Lodge binds itself to protect you in certain rights and privileges.
Always your duties will be loyalty to Masonry, faithfulness to your
superior officers, and obedience to Masonic laws. These are fundamental
conditions of membership.
As a Mason, it will be your duty to hold membership in some Lodge. If
necessary or expedient you may transfer your membership to another
Lodge. Membership in a Lodge necessarily requires some monetary
obligation. Dues should be paid promptly as an imperative condition of
membership. While the Lodge is not an organized charity, it teaches love
and charity for all mankind and especially for Brother Masons, their
widows and orphans. It will, therefore, be your duty to stand ready to
lend a helping hand to a Brother Mason in sickness or distress, and to
aid in the charities of the Lodge so far as your conscience will guide
and your means permit. If you are present at your Lodge when a ballot
is taken on a petition for degree, you must vote. Voting on a petition
for membership is not a right or privilege to be exercised at your
choice, but an obligation and a duty. This is only another way of saying
that the responsibility for deciding who shall be Masons rests on every
member.
You may be summoned by the Worshipful Master to attend a meeting of your
Lodge for some special purpose, or to discharge some duty required of
you as a Mason and, unless circumstances at the time make it impossible,
it will be your duty to obey.
A Lodge differs from any other organization in many fundamental
respects; duties and obligations may not be laid down or taken up at
pleasure and membership is not a mere gesture of honor or an idle
privilege. A member may not stand aside until an opportunity occurs to
secure something from it for his own selfish purpose, nor may he evade
his responsibilities by shifting his burdens to more willing shoulders.
The Mystic Tie that binds him to his fellows holds him fast.
When among strangers you will have certain means of recognition by which
to prove yourself to another Mason and to prove him to you, to enable
you to establish fraternal relations with men whom you might never have
met. To know that wherever you go in the world and whatever your
financial or social position, you will find Brothers ready to extend to
you the hand of fellowship, is one of the greatest of all the privileges
of membership.

YOUR REWARDS AS A MASON
If you go through the degrees, receive the work, decide that Freemasonry
is a fine institution and then do nothing about the teachings presented
to you, then you are wasting our time as well as your time and money. If
you recognize the opportunity which is yours, take the various doctrines
and truths presented to you, study them, analyze them, contemplate their
meanings, and apply them to your own life, then your investment of time
and money will be richly rewarded.
Do not adopt a double standard of conduct, whereby you apply Freemasonry
to a part of your life, but feel that it doesn't apply to other phases.

The thoughtful Freemason will apply the teaching of our Institution to
each and every phase of his life, and we sincerely hope that you will
see fit to follow such a practice. This great opportunity for
self-improvement is one that you should grasp to such an extent that the
principles of Freemasonry will eventually spread through every facet of
your life; when you do you will have allowed Freemasonry to become one
of the greatest of your personal experiences.

As a member of a Lodge you will be eligible for any office in it. It
will be your right to visit other Lodges in this or other Grand
Jurisdiction, provided always the Worshipful Master is willing to admit
you after you have been properly identified. In case of sickness or
distress you have the right to apply for relief. These statements are
not exhaustive. We have just touched the fringe of a great theme, but it
is our hope, with such light as may have been given you, that you will
go forward with a livelier understanding of what Masonry will mean to
you and also of what you mean to Masonry.
 

 

 

         

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