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Freemasonry is the world’s oldest and largest fraternity. It is comprised of adult men (18+) of good character from every country, religion, race, age, income, education, and opinion, who believe in a Supreme Being. Its body of knowledge and system of ethics is based on the belief that each man has a responsibility to improve himself while being devoted to his family, faith, country, and fraternity.
Freemasonry (often simplified to “Masonry”) enhances and strengthens the character of the individual man by providing opportunities for fellowship, charity, education, and leadership based on the three ancient Masonic tenets: Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth. Freemasonry strives to “make good men better.”
The history of modern freemasonry is fairly understood, but once you get beyond the 1700’s things get lost to the sands of time.
One of the beauties of Freemasonry is that it allows the member to stretch his mind to think about a variety of topics not typically explored in mainstream history. Some Masonic historians attempt to explain and look at the connections or possibilities in history that are often overlooked, especially to the recent past and into the not so recent historical world. Freemasonry today has been fairly unchanged in the last 300 years, and is modeled in a system that was likely little changed for the 150 years prior to that. It is believed that the working aspects of Freemasonry, the form and function of the lodge, comes from guilds of the Renaissance and middle ages, and over time attracted a wider audience of non practicing “masons”.
This is the period that the present day fraternity shifted from an “operative” guild to a “speculative” one. These changes have evolved to shape the look and feel of modern lodge operation today.
Many masons will not answer questions about the fraternity as they believe it is supposed to be a “secret”. In the end that is a loss for the fraternity as any time someone asks a question about Masonry it’s a great opportunity to talk openly about it. An often retort to this idea is that it is a Society with Secrets, rather than a secret society, but this is equally confusing. There are aspects to Freemasonry that are kept and taught to only those who go through the initiations and ceremonies so as to keep them in a proper perspective and context of meaning. These aspects are not “secrets” but instead knowledge that is best communicated in a specific and concise manner.
Yes and no. The aims of Freemasonry are not specifically to embolden patriotism. It does however; promote a strong affinity towards a passionate interest in the nation in which the Freemason resides. It encourages more than a passive interest in the development of civil society and our roles as citizens in it. The patriotism that is displayed is the result of that interest in the well being of society itself. The fraternity does strongly encourage the adherence and following of the principals and laws of the country in which the man lives.
The fraternity has, with an unwritten rule, remained a principally all male fraternity. At times, women have been admitted, for a variety of reasons.
There are bodies comprised of mixed gender, and singular gender that have varying degrees of recognition to one another. Through most of the world, the predominate body of masonry is referred to as “Regular” which is essentially a collective of Grand Lodges who have reached a mutual agreement of recognition between one another. Within in this agreement, there is a stipulation that “Regular Freemasonry” is a masculine only body.
Why does Freemasonry say it is a “ritual” practice?
The use of the word ritual is in describing the rhythmic practice of the same ceremony at each occasion. Often there is a connotation of something sinister or counter to popular practice, but to the contrary, it is meant to imply that the degrees are an established or prescribed procedure to convey the knowledge of the Fraternity in a repetition.
What this means is that the same ceremony is practiced with each aspirant into the fraternal fold so that each man undergoes the same experience creating a unifying shared experience.
These three virtues are the foundations upon which Freemasonry is built. Brotherly love, as directed towards all mankind, especially to other Masons. Relief, in that every Mason is obligated to relieve the suffering of any Master Mason they encounter who is in dire need and if in their power to do so, to the best of their ability, also to act charitably towards society, giving of ourselves economically, physically, and mentally. And truth, which is represented by the divine, in its multiplicity and diversity as understood by all men. These three ideas represent the core of what Freemasonry represents in its ultimate distillation.
The skull and bones, or specifically the skull (or deaths head) is actually a symbol to remind us of death, as it is the ultimate equalizer of man as none can avoid its eventuality. This is more a means to remind us that no matter our station in life, rich or poor, we are all subject to the same fate, and that our goal should be to make this world better for everyone. The course of that meaning is that all Masons should always strive for our noble endeavors, namely brotherly love, relief, and truth.
Temperance is virtue promoted within Freemasonry. When, why, or who made that its social mandate is lost to the sand of time. Masonry does not frown on the consumption of alcohol, but many lodges are essentially dry. It is an odd paradox that a Fraternity founded in taverns is dry today but for now it is predominantly a temperate society. But, like all men, Masons still meet for drinks and imbibe together and at certain special occasions serve beverages in lodge. It may be more of a past social stigma playing out rather than a symbolic one. Also, lodges in Europe and elsewhere do not seem so stringently afflicted.
The issue of the older Masonic buildings is a paradox from the 1950’s when Freemasonry was in a boom era of incredible growth. At its height, Freemasonry had upwards of 4 million members and consequently lots of member money. With its growth of membership so to did its infrastructure expand. One of the consequences of having these expensive buildings that were built in the 1950’s and 60’s is that they eventually ultimately fell under needed to be updated to modern building codes which became very expensive. The consequence of this is that the buildings became less and less available for public and commercial use as they fell out of code. This with a declination in membership led to fewer and fewer funds to refurbish them. Today, there is an abundance of inventory of lodges, with a decreasing volume of membership.
The process begins first by getting to know the lodge you wish to join. This is really the first step in becoming a member, and starts with introducing yourself to a lodge at a dinner and getting to know
the membership before the lodge opens.
In most major cities there may be several lodges near you. The Grand Lodge of Washington has a complete list of lodges located within our state