Masonry does things "inside" the individual Mason.
"Grow or die" is a great law of all nature. Most people feel a need for continued growth and development as individuals. They feel they are not as honest or as charitable or as compassionate or as loving or as trusting as they ought to be. Masonry reminds its members over and over again of the importance of these qualities. It lets men associate with other men of honor and integrity who believe that things like honesty and compassion and love and trust are important. In some ways, Masonry is a support group for men who are trying to make the right decisions. It's easier to practice these virtues when you know that those around you think they are important, too, and won't laugh at you.That's a major reason that Masons enjoy being together. Masons enjoy each other's company.
It's good to spend time with People you can trust completely, and most Masons find that in their lodge. While much of lodge activity is spent in works of charity or in lessons in self development, much is also spent in fellowship. Lodges have picnics, camping trips, and many events for the whole family. Sirnply put, a lodge is a place to spend time with friends.
For members only, two basic kinds of meetings take place in a lodge. The most common is a sirnple business meeting. To open and close the meeting, there is a ceremony whose purpose is to remind us of the virtues by which we are supposed to live. Then there is a reading of the minutes; voting on petitions (applications of men who want to join the fraternity); planning for charitable functions, family events, and other lodge activities; and sharing information about members (called "Brothers," as in
most fraternities) who are ill or have some sort or need. The other kind of meeting is one in which people join the fraternity one at which the "degrees" are performed.
But every lodge serves more than its own members. Frequently, there are meetings open to the public. Examples are Ladies' Nights, "Brother Bring a Friend Nights," public installations of officers, Cornerstone Laying ceremonies, and other special meetings supporting community events and dealing with topics of local interest
What's a degree?
A degree is a stage or level of membership. It's also the ceremony by which a man attains that level of membership. There are three, called Entered Apprentice, Fellow craft, and Master Mason. As you can see, the names are taken from the craft guilds. In the Middle Ages, when a person wanted to join a craft, such as the gold smiths or the carpenters or the stone-
Why is Masonry so "secretive"?
It really isn't "secretive," although it sometimes has that reputation. Masons certainly don't make a secret of the fact that they are members of the fraternity. We wear rings, lapel pins and tie tacks with Masonic emblems like the Square and Compasses, the best known of Masonic signs which, logically, recalls the fraternity's roots in stonemasonry. Lodge activities are not secret-
The first are the ways in which a man can identify himself as a Mason-
The second group is harder to describe, but they are the ones Masons usually mean if we talk about "Masonic secrets." They are secrets because they literally can't be talked about, can't be put into words. They are the changes that happen to a man when he really accepts responsibility for his own life and, at the same time, truly decides that his real happiness is in helping others.
It's a wonderful feeling, but it's something you simply can't explain to another person. That's why we sometimes say that Masonic secrets cannot (rather than "may not") be told. Try telling someone exactly what you feel when you see a beautiful sunset, or when you hear music, like the national anthem, which suddenly stirs old memories, and you'll understand what we mean. "Secret societies" became very popular and there were literally hundreds of them, and most people belonged to two or three. Many of them were modeled on Masonry and made a great point of having many "secrets." And Masonry got ranked with them. But if Masonry is a secret society, it's the worst-
Is Masonry a religion?
The answer to that question is simple. No.
We do use ritual in the meetings, and because there is always an altar or table with the Volume of the Sacred Law open if a lodge is meeting, some people have confused Masonry with a religion, but it is not. That does not mean that religion plays no part in Masonry-
Meetings open with prayer, and a Mason is taught, as one of the frst lessons of Masonry, that one should pray for divine counsel and guidance before starting an important undertaking. But that does not make Masonry a "religion." Sometimes people confuse Masonry with a religion because we call some Masonic buildings "temples." and because a Masonic lodge is a symbol of the Temple of Solomon. Neither Masonry nor the Supreme Court is a religion just because its members meet in a "temple."
In some ways, the relationship between Masonry and religion is like the relationship between the Parent Teacher Association (the P.T.A.) and education. Members of the P.T.A. believe in the importance of education. They support it. They assert that no man or woman can be a complete and whole individual or live up to his or her full potential without education. They encourage students to stay in school and parents to be involved with the education of their children. They may give scholarships. They encourage their members to get involved with and support their individual schools. But there are sorne things P.T.A.s do not do. They don't teach. They don't tell people which school to attend. They don't try to tell people what they should study or what their major should be. In much the same way, Masons believe in the importance of religion. Masonry encourages every Mason to be active in the religion and church of his own choice. Masonry teaches that, without religion, a man is alone and lost, and that without religion, he can never reach his full potential. But Freemasonry does not tell a person which religion he should practice or how he should practice it. That is between the individual and God. That is the function of his house of worship, not his fraternity. And Masonry is a fraternity, not a religion.
What is a Masonic Bible?
Bibles are popular gifts among Masons, frequently given to a man when he joins the lodge or at other special events. A Masonic Bible is the same book anyone thinks of as a Bible with a special page in the front on which to write the name of the person who is receiving it and the occasion on which it is given. Sometimes there is a special index or information section which shows the person where in the Bible to find the passages which are quoted in the Masonic ritual.
If Masonry isn't a religion, why does it use ritual?
Many of us may think of religion when we think of ritual, but ritual is used in every aspect of life. It's so much a part of us that we just don't notice it. Ritual simply means that some things are done more or less the same way each time. Almost all school assemblies, for example, start with the principal or some other of official calling for the attention of the group. Then the group is led in the Pledge of Allegiance. A school choir or the entire group may sing the school song. That's a ritual. Almost all business meetings of every sort call the group to order, have a reading of the minutes of the last meeting, deal with old business, then with new business. That's a ritual. There are social rituals which tell us how to meet people (we shake hands), how to join a conversation (we wait for a pause, and then speak) , how to buy tickets to a concert (we wait in line and don't push in ahead of those who were there first) . There are literally hundreds of examples, and they are all rituals. Masonry uses a ritual because it's an effective way to teach important ideas-
Why does Masonry use symbols?
Everyone uses symbols every day, just as we do ritual. We use them because they communicate quickly. When you see a stop sign, you know what it means, even if you can't read the word "stop." The circle and line mean "don't" or "not allowed." In fact, using symbols is probably the oldest way of communication and the oldest way of teaching. Masonry uses symbols for the same reason. Some form of the "Square and Compasses" is the most widely used and known symbol of Masonry. In one way, this symbol is a kind of trademark for the fraternity, when you see the Square and Compasses on a building, you know that Masons meet there. And like all symbols, they have a meaning.
The Square symbolizes things of the earth, and it also symbolizes honor, integrity, truthfulness, and the other ways we should relate to this world and the people in it. The Compasses symbolize things of the spirit, and the importance of a good and well-
So, is Masonry education?
Yes. In a very real sense, education is at the center of Masonry. 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-
It has continued. Masons started some of the first public schools in both Europe and America. We supported legislation to make education universal. 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 Masonry 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.
What does Masonry teach?
Masonry teaches some important principles. There's nothing very surprising in the list. Masonry 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-
It is important to work to make this world better for all who live in it. Masonry teaches the importance of doing good, not because it assures a person's entrance into heaven-
What are the requirements for membership?
The person who wants to join Masonry 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 -
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 Mason?
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 Masonry, we can tell them about what Masonry 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 Masonry is making a permanent life commitment to live in certain ways. We've listed most of them above-
So, when a man decides he wants to be a 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 be a Mason, tell him and his family about Masonry and answer their questions. The county reports to the lodge, and the lodge votes on the petition. if the vote is affirmative-
So, what's a Mason?
Many men over many generations have answered the question, "What is a Mason?"
A Mason is a man who has decided that he likes to feel good about himself and others. He cares about the future as well as the past, and does what he can, both alone and with others, to make the future good for everyone.
When is a man a Mason?
When he can look out over the rivers, the hills, and the far horizon with a profound sense of his own littleness in the vast scheme of things, and yet have faith, hope, and courage-
When he knows that down in his 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 his fellow man.
When he knows how to sympathize with men in their sorrows, yea, even in their sins-
When he has learned how to make friends and to keep them, and above all how to keep friends with himself
When he loves 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 he can be happy and high-
When no voice of distress reaches his ears in vain, and no hand seeks his aid without response.
When he finds 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.
When he 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 he knows how to pray, how to love, how to hope.
When he has kept faith with himself with his fellow man, and with his God; in his hand a sword for evil, in his heart a bit of a song glad to live, but not afraid to die! Such a man has found the only real secret of Masonry, and the one which it is trying to give to all the world