Freemasonry is the oldest and the largest fraternal order in the world. It is a universal brotherhood of men dedicated to serving God, family, fellowman and country.
The heritage of modern Freemasonry is derived from the organized guilds or unions of stone masons who constructed the beautiful cathedrals and other stately structures throughout Europe during the middle ages. The skills and architectural genius of these craftsmen and their commitment to the highest standards of moral and ethical values were universally applauded, and unlike other classes of people, they were allowed to travel freely from country to country. Thus, during this period, the word "Free" was prefixed to the word mason, and these craftsmen, and the generations of masons who followed, were referred to as Freemasons.
Until about the sixteenth century, masons were strictly an operative craft-stone masons and architects building those magnificent cathedrals and palaces, many of which still adorn the landscape of the European country side. Early in the seventeenth century, membership in these unions or operating lodges of stone masons began to decline, and probably to compensate for their loss in members, they began to admit certain men of prominence in society who were not craftsmen or stone masons. This class of members were initially considered patrons of the Fraternity, and over the years became known as "accepted masons". At the conclusion of the seventeenth century, a radical transformation had evolved; these accepted masons had become predominant, and the older lodges of Freemasons began to emphasize and teach moral philosophy rather than the technical and operative art of earlier centuries. Tools of the stone masons are still used in the Fraternity today, but only to symbolize moral virtue, not to build cathedrals.
Although the moral philosophy of Freemasonry is founded upon religious principles, it is not a religion, nor is it a substitute for religion. Candidates for membership (adult males) are however, expected to profess a belief in a Supreme Being, (God) and be of good moral character.
Membership in the brotherhood of Masons means many things...
It means being part of an unbroken tradition that stretches back over 500 years to a time when guilds of freemasons traveled throughout Europe laying the stones of the great Gothic cathedrals.
It means sharing the values of our nation's founding fathers; the ideals of men who believed in the brotherhood of man are firmly rooted in the Constitution of the United States and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
It means becoming a better person while helping to improve the quality of life for others. It means forming deep and lasting friendships that transcend the boundaries of race, religion and culture, as well as those of geography.
Sharing the Traditions of Our Founding Fathers...
In its early years, Masonry numbered among its members some of the nation's most influential citizens. Among them are George Washington, Henry Knox, Benjamin Franklin, John Hancock and Paul Revere.
The values that were important then - loyalty, patriotism, liberty, courage and faith - are just as important to Masons today. The principles upon which this country was founded are deeply embedded in Masonry.
Improving Yourself and Those Around You...
Basic to most of the world's great religions is the belief in what some might call the "old fashioned" values of honesty, fair play and unselfishness in dealing with others.
Freemasonry shares many of the same beliefs; and, through its traditions and teachings, attempts to instill in its members both the desire and the means to improve themselves and the lives of others.
However, while it may adhere to many of the same values associated with a religious faith, Masonry is not a religion. It is a brotherhood of men from every country, sect, and opinion, joined in a common effort to make themselves better people, to ease the suffering of others, and to make the world a better place.
Having Friends Wherever You Go...
Who becomes a Mason: anyone and everyone, accountants, businessmen, teachers, contractors, professional men and laborers. Masons come from all walks of life and levels of income. They represent every race, creed and culture.
In Masonry, it doesn't matter whether a man is a bricklayer or a physician, a waiter or the mayor of the city. All are on equal footing in the Lodge room.
The ceremonies and practices of the Masons have remained unchanged for hundreds of years. No matter where a Lodge is located, its members share the common bond of having passed through the same degree work, rites and rituals.
Because of this, members can find brother Masons wherever they go. In Massachusetts alone, there are 300 lodges with nearly 60,000 members. Across the country and around the world, there are Lodges in nearly every city and in many smaller communities.
It's a good feeling to know that, wherever a man's travels may take him, he has friends he can depend upon and trust.
Committing Yourself to a Code of Moral Ethics...
Freemasonry is built upon three basic tenets - Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth. Brotherly Love is the practice of the Golden Rule. Relief embodies charity for all mankind. Truth is honesty, fair play and adherence to the cardinal virtues.
These moral lessons are taught during three ceremonies, or "degrees" through allegory and symbolism using the traditional stonemasons tools.
The First Degree uses the gavel and gauge to remind the new member of his dependence on others and his subordination to God. In the Second Degree, the square, level, and plumb are used to reinforce the moral lessons of brotherly love and service. And in the Third Degree, the trowel and other tools encourage the candidate to reflect on the end of life and on the value of faithfulness to his promises.
After the Three Degrees, members may explore other branches of Masonry, such as the Scottish Rite, York Rite and Shrine.
Freemasonry is not a secret organization. Lodge buildings are clearly marked and listed in the phone book. Members frequently wear rings and pins identifying them as Masons. However, Masonry values confidentiality and, as with many other organizations, many of its meetings are not open to the public.
Giving Freely of Yourself and Asking Nothing in Return...
Of all the cardinal virtues, none is more valued in Masonry than selfless giving. Examples of Masonic charity are legion.
Nationally, Masons contribute nearly $2 million every day to relieve suffering and for the enrichment of mankind. Masons are the founding sponsors and supporters of the Shriners Burns Institutes and the Shriners Hospitals for Crippled Children, both of which offer their services free of charge. Every Shriner is a Mason.
Satisfaction derived from these endeavors cannot be measured in ordinary terms. We will say, however, that it is through helping others that man most helps himself.
What are the Qualifications?
THOSE WHO SEEK MEMBERSHIP
Anyone seeking Membership in Freemasonry MUST ASK a Masonic Lodge to recommend him. He must sign a Petition, stating his age, occupation and place of residence. Members of the Lodge vote by secret ballot. To be accepted, the ballot must be unanimous.
Freemasonry is proud of its philosophy and practice of "making good men better." Only individuals believed to be of the finest character are favorably considered for Membership. Every applicant must advocate his belief in the existence of a Supreme Being.