Monday, June 14, 2010

Is Freemasonry a secret society?

Freemasonry is certainly not a secret society but in common with most organizations it does regard some aspects of its activities as confidential. The policy until recently was for members to be self-effacing and avoid. Today members are encouraged to speak openly about Freemasonry

Why and how is ritual and symbolism used?

Ask any member about Masonic ritual and he is likely to explain it as a unique and inspiring experience. Ritual is core in Freemasonry. This ritual is unique in that is uses a range of objects, symbols and scenarios to disseminate the values, traditions and philosophical precepts of Freemasonry. These rituals are centuries old and have been used in Freemasonry for hundreds of years. An example of such symbolism is the use of medieval stonemason working tools as a vehicle of instruction.
Symbols in the Lodge room are used to define the rank of a Freemason. The most widely recognized symbol of Freemasonry is the Square and Compasses. The Square teaches us to conduct ourselves properly – as in ’square conduct’, and the compasses teach us to keep our passions and prejudices within due bounds.
Members wear the symbol to remind themselves of their obligation to the lesson learned in their lodges and to identify their membership to other Freemasons and all people. Masonic symbols have wide meanings – some directly relate to the tools used by operative Masons and some represent the need for order and direction in life.

What is the History of Freemasonry?

The precise origins of Freemasonry have been lost in time; however, it’s traditions date back to the Middle Ages and to the stone masons who built the cathedrals and castles of Europe. To construct them, it was necessary for men to have considerable knowledge of geometry, arithmetic and engineering. These highly skilled masons formed themselves into Lodges to protect the skills and secrets of their trade and to pass on their knowledge to worthy apprentices.  

What does Freemasonry offer me personally?

Freemasonry offers men an opportunity to develop insights into philosophical ideals, which espouse the core values of prudence, temperance, fortitude and justice.
Prudence is to help us make the right decisions; temperance keep us on the straight and narrow; fortitude promotes self-confidence and strong self-esteem; and justice provides us with guidance in life.
Members are also provided with training in self-development, which includes public                                               speaking, monitoring, tolerance, communication skills and self-confidence

Why do you call yourselves a fraternity?

One of the greatest things about Freemasonry is that men from all walks of life regardless of their face, creed, colour and social status can come together as equals and share a common bond of friendship and fraternity.
The members are banned from any political or religious discussion whilst at Lodge, to ensure peace and harmony is constant.
It must be noted that as a Freemason, a member’s family is to be valued above all else and should at all times take precedence over his Masonic membership. However, it is important that a member’s family understands his Masonic association and supports him in his development.

A bit of the History in Egypt

Historians may assent however, Freemasonry in Egypt came out of the closet during the Orabi Revolt of 1882. That Ahmed Orabi Pasha was himself a member of the Order was never proven, we know however that several of his supporters were.
In his book How We Defended Orabi A.M. Broadley declares that Egypt’s most liberal cleric, Sheik Mohammed Abdou, was himself an avowed Mason. “Sheikh Abdu was no dangerous fanatic or religious enthusiast, for he belonged to the broadest school of Moslem thought, held a political creed akin to pure republicanism, and was a zealous Master of a Masonic Lodge.” Later in the same paragraph Broadbent states how many of the Deputies in the Egyptian Chamber had hastened to join the craft.
Broadbent gives us an insight on Freemasonry in Egypt during the 1880s when he differentiates between the principles and practice of Freemasonry in England and on the continent in Europe. While the British system embraced nothing more exciting than charity and good-fellow-ship, “foreign Masonry is almost avowedly an appropriate and convenient arena for political discussion, and both political and religious agitation.” Thus, according to Broadbent, “in Egypt the tenets of continental Masonry, with its Republican watchwords of Fraternit√©, Libert√©, Egalit√© had evidently overshadowed the strong British elements which once prevailed in our numerous lodges.”


Freemasonry is a fraternal organisation that arose from obscure origins in the late 16th to early 17th century. Freemasonry now exists in various forms all over the world, with a membership estimated at around 5 million (including around 480,000 in England, Scotland and Ireland alone, and just under two million in the United States).[1][2] The various forms all share moral and metaphysical ideals, which include, in most cases, a constitutional declaration of belief in a Supreme Being.[3]

The fraternity is administratively organised into Grand Lodges (or sometimes Orients), each of which governs its own jurisdiction, which consists of subordinate (or constituent) Lodges. Grand Lodges recognise each other through a process of landmarks and regularity. There are also appendant bodies, which are organisations related to the main branch of Freemasonry, but with their own independent administration.

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.”

Purple Ink

To sign a certificate the “Grand maitre” uses a different colour of ink according to the degree the “brother” are getting! Have you people seen the rainbow carefully? You will notice many colours..the highest one is a purple colour thus the “Grand Maitre” uses appropriate ink to sign certicates of the ‘brothers’ in freemasonry

Masonry’s Secret Ballot

After a man has applied for Masonic membership, and after his background has been thoroughly investigated, the lodge members vote by secret ballot to accept or to reject him for membership.

Masonry’s secret ballot is another of its ancient landmarks. It has been rather aptly said that when a petitioner is voted upon for Masonic membership he undergoes the ”Ordeal of the Secret Ballot.” To be elected he must receive an affirmative vote from each and every member present at that meeting. Just one member out of all present – there could be twenty, or fifty, or a hundred members in attendance – can drop the black ball and deny him membership. When you consider the moral yardstick by which Masons measure membership applicants, and when you consider that only one member voting negatively can reject a petitioner, it would seem reasonable to assume that a large proportion of petitioners would be rejected for membership. But that is not the case. Many, many more are elected than are rejected. That fact is testimony to the generally good judgment of those who recommend applicants, and it also indicates the fraternity, by and large, attracts more good men than otherwise.

Much has been said and written, pro and con, concerning the unanimously favorable secret ballot. Some argue, not without logic, that it is not fair for just one member out of all those who may be present for a meeting to be able to deny a petitioner membership. Others argue, also logically, that if even one member knows something about a petitioner that convinces him the man’s election would not be in the best interest of Freemasonry, then that one member should have the right and the opportunity to prevent the entrance into Freemasonry of one he feels would bring discredit to it.

It goes without saying that the secret ballot is occasionally abused by a member who rejects a petitioner for mere petty reasons having nothing to do with moral fitness, but such instances are rare and in almost every election the good man is elected to membership.

It is also undeniable that despite the requirements as to recommendation, as to background investigation, and as to unanimous secret ballot, an occasional undesirable person attains Masonic membership. Again, though, these instances are relatively rare. Further, election to Masonic membership is not for perpetuity. Should a member ever act contrary to the requirements of Freemasonry he can be suspended or expelled from membership.

In summary, it can be said the secret ballot has served the fraternity well over the centuries and liberalization of this requirement is not probable. The man who has been rejected for Masonic membership is not thereby forever barred. He can repetition after the passage of a stipulated waiting period which varies from state to state. Some of the most prominent Masons in the history of the fraternity were rejected one or more times before finally gaining acceptance.

The Three Symbolic Degrees

Having been elected to receive the degrees of Masonry, the candidate proceeds to do just that. (In a few states a candidate is balloted upon between each of the degrees, in all other states one election is for all three degrees.)

The first degree is that of entered apprentice and during it the candidate is introduced to the basic principles of Freemasonry. As noted in an earlier chapter, symbolic use of various building tools is employed to impress upon him moral truths and doctrines. The degree is serious throughout and, contrary to some wild tales occasionally circulated, there is never any horseplay or frivolity involved (this is true of all three symbolic degrees). Upon completion of the degree, the candidate begins learning a catechism in which he must become proficient before he may receive the next degree.

In the second degree he becomes a fellow craft, learning still more of the principles and teachings of Freemasonry, especially of its close alliance with the arts and sciences. Again, he must commit a catechism to memory before proceeding to the next degree.

The third and final degree is that of master mason, teaching still more of the moral truths of the fraternity, culminating with an impressive lesson concerning the rich rewards awaiting all good men. In most states the candidate must also memorize a catechism on this degree, in others it must be learned only if the new Mason desires to take additional steps, and in others it is not required at all.

The catechisms a Mason is required to learn as he progresses through the degrees are often, at the outset, regarded as considerable chores and candidates sometimes wonder why they are required at all. But they serve useful purposes for the fraternity and – although he may not realize it at the time – they are particularly useful to the Mason all through his life. It would be an extremely rare thing to ever hear a Mason regret having to learn the catechisms.

In committing the catechisms to memory the candidate is of necessity further impressed by the lessons and instructions he received in the degrees, for this is what the catechisms are all about. He thus begins his Masonic career a much more knowledgeable Mason than would otherwise be the case. He learns to memorize, an ability that will serve him and Masonry well through the years. When he visits a lodge in which he is not known to be a Mason, the knowledge he gained in learning his catechisms will enable him to prove his eligibility to visit. He will, as a good and active Mason, have many occasions to feel thankful for the lessons he learned in his catechisms.

Sometimes, despite their professions of good intent, men seek Masonic membership out of mere curiosity, or for other piddling reasons. The requirement that candidates learn the catechisms will often weed these out at an early stage, their motivations will not lend themselves to the effort required.

The catechisms pose no problem for men of reasonable intelligence and energy. It is rare to hear of anyone failing to learn a catechism if they really wanted to.

The New Member: What He May Expect

Upon becoming a master mason and paying his annual dues the new member is issued a dues receipt card, the possession of which is one of the requirements for admission as a visitor to a lodge other than his own.

The new member is at this point entitled to all the rights and privileges of Freemasonry, and he is fully obligated to conform to the teachings of the fraternity. He is also obligated to discharge the duties of a master mason.

The rights and privileges of a master mason are often one and the same, but are often also distinguishable. A mason, for example, has the right to participate in the affairs of his lodge; he has the privilege of visiting other lodges. The former cannot be denied him, the latter can – but rarely is.

A new mason discovers he has entered into a highly protective organization. Members will rally to his support in time of his need, even though he may be among strangers. It does not matter what the nature of his need, the worthy Mason can always depend upon the support of his brethren, collectively and individually, at home or abroad.

Although help in time of need is most often thought of as financial aid, and frequently is, masons also come to a brother’s aid in time of emotional crisis, they assume another’s duties when he is unable for good cause to perform them, they see to the needed care and safety of a brother’s loved ones, and in many additional ways faithfully support and sustain each other.

Such support is not guaranteed by the fraternity, it is instead the consequence of the obligations Masons assume. It will be more readily forthcoming in some areas than in others, and the kind of Mason a man is and has been will often affect the extent of the assistance he receives in time of need. A Mason is not obligated to assist an unworthy brother.

Masons are very supportive of the widows and children of deceased members.

In many states a mason’s membership entitles him and his wife (and other close relatives, in some instances) to admission into Masonic homes for the aged.

The foregoing benefits, however important they may be in time of need, are not the chief or most often enjoyed benefits of Masonic membership.

Perhaps the greatest single benefit of Masonic membership is the sheer joy of participation. To be a part of Freemasonry’s fellowship, to be active in all Masonic activities – particularly in helping confer the degrees, and to merit the approbation of his brethren, are benefits the practicing mason would not trade for any material gains. An integral part of participating in Free masonry is helping provide assistance to deserving members, as earlier described. In Masonry, as everywhere, it is infinitely more blessed and more satisfying to give than to receive.

But full participation includes so much more.

The mason that regularly attends lodge meetings soon discovers this is at least one place where he can temporarily escape the controversies and pressures of today’s living. In a lodge he meets with men from every walk of life, with men of every religious and political persuasion, and who come together in a Masonic lodge with one common purpose – true fellowship.

In a Masonic lodge he will not hear one religion advanced as being superior to any other. This is forbidden, as noted in an earlier chapter.

He will not hear a political party or candidate promoted. This, too, is forbidden.

He will not hear a business or a product extolled. Also forbid den.

Simply put, he will not hear any non-Masonic position or argument advanced in a Masonic lodge. He and his fellow members will sit in complete harmony, because they share a unity of purpose.

The new mason may be the richest or the poorest member present, or he may be the most or the least prominent citizen in his community, but none of this will work to his advantage or disadvantage in a Masonic lodge. Each and every member has one voice, one vote, and identical rights.

A sergeant in the army can be master of and preside over a lodge which includes generals and other high ranking officers among its membership, and this has happened on numerous occasions. The only significant rank in a Masonic lodge is Masonic rank, and that is conferred by vote of the members.

It has been reported that when Theodore Roosevelt became a mason he discovered his gardener was serving as master of the lodge-the presiding officer. No resentment is evidenced by men of high station outside Masonry when men of lower outside station occupy positions of greater Masonic authority. Some how Masonic lodges are able to function without snobbery. Members meet on the level, a phrase explained in an earlier chapter.

Another great benefit of Masonic membership is Masonry’s universality. No matter where a mason goes in the United States, or in other free countries, he is never far from a Masonic lodge. The lodge is a home away from home for countless masons who would otherwise on many occasions be extremely lonely. An American member can feel at home, for example, in a French or a German lodge, although he may not understand a word that is spoken. The ritual will differ in some respects from nation to nation, even from state to state, but the teachings and the basics will be the same. And the all-important fellowship is ever present. Lodges go to great lengths in making welcome a visitor from far away.

Few things can be more valuable to a mason than the friendships he establishes in Freemasonry. It is said of the fraternity that it “conciliates true friendship among those who otherwise might have remained at a perpetual distance,” and few truer statements were ever made. Extremely shy individuals, men that previously found it difficult to mix with others, have been known to establish friendships by the score upon becoming Masons. Time after time Freemasonry has demonstrated its ability to bring together and unite men who would have otherwise been forever separated. The unique bonds of the fraternity are invaluable to its members.

Many lodges regularly schedule functions enabling members to involve their wives and families, thus providing family outings at which a member can be assured his family will be exposed only to that which is wholesome and uplifting. Such assurance in most modern activities is becoming ever more rare and ever more precious.

Such are some of the benefits of Masonic membership, full appreciation of which can be realized only in attainment.

As earlier noted, at the same time a Master Mason becomes entitled to the rights and privileges of Freemasonry, he also obligates himself to many and various Masonic duties. These duties are not onerous. In fact, the performance of Masonic duties is the most rewarding facet of Masonic membership.

To begin with, the new Mason is obligated to live by a strict moral code, the requirements of which will not be unfamiliar to any good man accustomed to living according to the teachings of his religion and according to the laws of the land.

And the new Mason assumes unique new obligations to his fellow members and their families, and to all mankind.

Masonry’s success probably stems in large part from the fact that wherever a member turns he is reminded of the fraternity’s teachings and of his obligations to be true to them. These reminders come in such beautiful form, or in such unobtrusive manner, that the Mason never has the feeling he is being hounded or badgered.

So Freemasonry expects its members to be good men and true; true to their church, their nation, their family, their friends.

Masonry encourages each member to be active in the affairs of his community and state and nation, but always as an individual citizen and never attempting to represent Freemasonry in these matters. Masonry will not lend its name or permit its members to use its name in any political, commercial, or religious activity, but urges each member to be individually active in these areas, so long as their activities are morally correct.

Appendant Orders

There are many Masonic and Masonic-related orders or organizations in which membership is predicated, to varying extent, upon membership in a Masonic lodge. Included are such well known bodies as the Scottish Rite, the York Rite, the Shrine, the Eastern Star, and many others.

The blue lodge, as it has been referred to and described in the preceding chapters, is recognized as the root and foundation of all Freemasonry. Once a man has received the three symbolic degrees in a blue lodge, thus becoming a Master Mason, he is often invited to become a member in one or more of the appendant orders. Many Master Masons accept these invitations and eventually become quite active in various areas of Free masonry, being constantly reminded all along the way that they must remain faithful to their blue lodges.

Masonic lodges, in cooperation with other Masonic and Masonic-related orders, often sponsor various youth organizations in which the teachings are much like those a Mason receives during the three degrees. It is not the purpose of this booklet, though, to go beyond the blue lodge.

Famous Masons

The membership of Freemasonry, by and large, is made up of average men. Its ranks include laborers, clerks, merchants, tradesmen, lawyers, enlisted and commissioned members of the armed forces, doctors, statesmen, farmers, salesmen…the whole spectrum.

In all ages, though, its ranks have included the great and the near great, including a sizeable number of Presidents of the United States, as follows:

George Washington: The only President to serve as Master of his lodge during his incumbency, Washington laid the cornerstone of the United States Capitol, acting as Grand Master pro tem for the Grand Lodge of Maryland. He was buried with Masonic honors. Masons of the United States have erected a granite monument in his memory on Shooter’s Hill, at Alexandria, Va.

James Monroe: Except for records of his membership, little is known of Monroe’s Masonic life.

Andrew Jackson: Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Tennessee, Jackson was the first of two Presidents to have so served Freemasonry.

James K. Polk: Known to have served as Junior Warden of his lodge, there is no record of Polk ever serving as Master. During his Presidency he assisted in laying the cornerstone of the Smithsonian Institution with Masonic ceremonies.

James Buchanan: Master of his lodge in 1823, Buchanan also served as a District Deputy Grand Master in Pennsylvania. He delivered the address at the Masonic dedication of the statue of Washington, Washington Circle, Washington, D.C. He was buried with Masonic honors.

Andrew Johnson: During his Presidency Johnson participated in five Masonic cornerstone ceremonies… in Chicago, Baltimore, Boston, Antietam (Md.) and Washington. He was buried with Masonic honors.

James A. Garfield: Eventually holding membership in three different lodges (Masons may move membership from one lodge to another or, in some states, become dual or plural members), Garfield was Chaplain in the second of these. Many Masonic groups attended his funeral.

William Mckinley: Our 25th President was prompted to seek Masonic membership when he observed the fraternal kindnesses being exchanged among Masons in the Union and Confederate Armies during the Civil War.

Theodore Roosevelt: Often expressing his interest in Freemasonry, Roosevelt visited lodges at home and abroad. He participated in Masonic ceremonies on several occasions while President, delivering the principal address on one occasion and wearing Masonic regalia on another.

William H. Taft: Taft was another of the Presidents that took part in various Masonic activities while in office. On one occasion he posed for a picture while wearing Washington’s Masonic regalia at the White House.

Warren G. Harding: Becoming a Mason only three years before his death, Harding nevertheless became very active Ma sonically and joined a number of the appendant orders.

Franklin D. Roosevelt: A Mason for thirty-four years, Roosevelt participated in numerous Masonic activities, including “raising” his son Elliott as a Master Mason in 1933.

Harry S. Truman: Becoming a Mason in 1909, Truman was the second President to have served as a Grand Master, being elected Grand Master of Missouri in 1940. He was probably the most active Mason of any President since Washington. Millions of Americans witnessed his Masonic funeral service on national television

Gerald R. Ford: It is perhaps still too early to summarize Ford’s Masonic life. In addition to the Presidents listed, it is widely believed that Thomas Jefferson and James Madison were Masons, but documentation of their Masonic memberships has never been discovered. Lyndon B. Johnson received the first degree and was thus an Entered Appentice, but he never became a Master Mason.

The foregoing summarizations have been very brief and do not even include the memberships and activities of some of the Presidents in appendant orders. Truman and Ford, for example, were each honored by the Scottish Rite when they were elected to its Thirty-Third Degree.

There have been many other famous Americans that were Masons, and these have included Benjamin Franklin, David Bushnell, George Walton, Haym Salomon, John Hancock, Joseph Hewes, John Marshall, Paul Revere, Red Skelton, Douglas MacArthur, and many, many more. Numerous Masons are members of the United States Senate and Congress, while others hold important commands in the armed forces. Several state governors are Masons.

LaFayette, Robert Burns, Goethe, and Rudyard Kipling were among famous Masons abroad. Masonic ranks in Europe have for several centuries included members of royal families.