It uses rites and ceremonies to instruct its members
It is based on a firm belief in the Fatherhood of God, The Brotherhood of Man, and the immortality of the Soul.
It does not solicit members
It is not an insurance or benefit society
It is neither a religion nor a creed nor a religious order
It is not a charity organization, but makes charity a duty
It is not organized for profit
It dictates to no man as to his beliefs, either religious or secular
It seeks no advantages for its member through business or politics
It is not a forum for discussion of religion, politics or other partisan affairs
It is not a secret society, as it does not conceal its existence or purposes
From The Grand Lodge of Texas
What’s a Mason?
That’s not a surprising question. Even though Masons (Freemasons) are members of the largest and oldest fraternity in the world, and even though almost everyone has a father or grandfather or uncle who was a Mason, many people aren’t quite certain just who Masons are.
The answer is simple. A Mason (or Freemason) is a member of a fraternity known as Masonry (or Freemasonry). A fraternity is a group of men (just as a sorority is a group of women) who join together because:
There are things they want to do in the world.
There are things they want to do “inside their own minds.”
They enjoy being together with men they like and respect.
Masonry (or Freemasonry) is the oldest fraternity in the world. No one knows just how old it is because the actual origins have been lost in time. Probably, it arose from the guilds of stonemasons who built the castles and cathedrals of the Middle Ages. Possibly, they were influenced by the Knights Templar, a group of Christian warrior monks formed in 1118 to help protect pilgrims making trips to the Holy Land.
In 1717, Masonry created a formal organization in England when the first Grand Lodge was formed. A Grand Lodge is the administrative body in charge of Masonry in some geographical area. In the United States, there is a Grand Lodge in each state. In Canada, there is a Grand Lodge in each province. Local organizations of Masons are called lodges. There are lodges in most towns, and large cities usually have several. There are about 13,200 lodges in the United States.
If Masonry started in Great Britain, how did it get to America?
In a time when travel was by horseback and sailing ship, Masonry spread with amazing speed. By 1731, when Benjamin Franklin joined the fraternity, there were already several lodges in the Colonies, and Masonry spread rapidly as America expanded west. In addition to Franklin, many of the Founding Fathers — men such as George Washington, Paul Revere, Joseph Warren, and John Hancock — were Masons. Masons and Masonry played an important part in the Revolutionary War and an even more important part in the Constitutional Convention and the debates surrounding the ratification of the Bill of Rights. Many of those debates were held in Masonic lodges.
What’s a lodge?
The word “lodge” means both a group of Masons meeting in some place and the room or building in which they meet. Masonic buildings are also sometimes called “temples” because much of the symbolism Masonry uses to teach its lessons comes from the building of King Solomon’s Temple in the Holy Land. The term “lodge” itself comes from the structures which the stonemasons built against the sides of the cathedrals during construction. In winter, when building had to stop, they lived in these lodges and worked at carving stone.
While there is some variation in detail from state to state and country to country, lodge rooms today are set up similar to the diagram on the following page.
If you’ve ever watched C-SPAN coverage of the House of Commons in London, you’ll notice that the layout is about the same. Since Masonry came to America from England, we still use the English floor plan and English titles for the officers. The Worshipful Master of the Lodge sits in the East (“Worshipful” is an English term of respect which means the same thing as “Honorable.”) He is called the Master of the lodge for the same reason that the leader of an orchestra is called the “Concert Master.” It’s simply an older term for “Leader.” In other organizations, he would be called “President.” The Senior and Junior Wardens are the First and Second Vice-Presidents. The Deacons are messengers and the Stewards have charge of refreshments.
Every lodge has an altar holding a “Volume of the Sacred Law.” In the United States and Canada, that is almost always a Bible.
Freemasonry is a charitable, benevolent, educational, religious society with a purpose to teach; by ritual and symbolism the building of good character. It is charitable in that its income is not expended for private gain, but is devoted to the improvement and promotion of happiness and well being of mankind. It is benevolent in that it teaches altruism – and unselfish concern for the welfare of others – as a duty and exemplifies it by relief of poor and distressed brethren and their needy, widows and orphans. It is educational in that it teaches by prescribed ceremonials a system of morality and brotherhood based on Sacred Law, It emphasizes the duty of man to be curious about the world; to develop his intellect and skill: to follow precepts of conscience and exercise self-control; to be earnest and sincere. Freemasonry’s Lodges, Temples and Libraries are aids to; this end, It is religious in that it teaches belief in one God, a belief prerequisite for membership though without dogma or creed, for Freemasonry is not concerned with creeds or theology. Every Lodge must have an alter and on it, when the Lodge is in session, a volume of the Sacred Law. Freemasonry is secret only in its methods of recognition and of its symbolic instructions. It is not a secret society as many claim. Freemasonry is social in that it fosters the natural friendliness and a true spirit of brotherly love and affection that should take place in the lives of men associated and united for noble purposes.