What is Freemasonry?
Freemasonry is one of the oldest fraternal organizations in the world. Most likely founded in the Middle Ages among the stonemasons who built Europe’s great cathedrals, Masons are part of a brotherhood that uses the symbolism of ancient stone workers and the building of King Solomon’s temple to improve themselves, live upright and moral lives, and enjoy good fellowship.
Is Freemasonry a religion?
Quite simply, no. There is no Masonic religion, nor is there a Masonic God or other Masonic deity. Masonry uses symbolism and allegory taken from the Old Testament of the Holy Bible to teach moral lessons, all of which are the same moral lessons found in Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, or other religions. All Masons believe in a Great Architect of the Universe, and it makes no matter what an individual Mason believes the nature of that supreme being is.
Some religions and churches are opposed to Masonry and prohibit their followers or members from being Freemasons. Many times, their objections are based on taking aspects of Masonry out of context or overemphasizing or exaggerating “facts” about Masonry. Every Mason is assured three times before becoming a Master Mason that nothing regarding being a Mason or taking the obligations conflicts with that man’s duty to God, their family, country, or themselves.
What are Masonic degrees?
Masonic degrees are levels of membership and represent the advancement and progress in the teachings and knowledge of Masonry. All Masons progress through the first three degrees: Entered Apprentices, Fellowcrafts, and Master Masons. These degrees reflect the stages in ancient masonry, or any skilled craft today: apprentices, journeymen, and masters.
There is no higher degree than the Sublime Degree of a Master Mason, the third degree. However, there are other bodies and organizations that are open to Master Masons, the York Rite and the Scottish Rite in particular, that confer additional degrees that represent further and broader teachings in Masonry. A good way to think of these degrees are like spokes on a wheel–they all progress out in different directions, but at the center, at the same level, is the Master Mason degree.
What do Masons do? What is the organization like?
Masons meet in groups called Lodges in buildings called Masonic Temples or Masonic Centers, usually on a regular day once per month, and at other times when there are new candidates to receive degrees. During their regular communications, Masons enjoy fellowship and dispatch the business of the Lodge. Lodges may also sponsor social events and fundraisers like fish fries, breakfasts, golf outings, or dinners and Festive Boards. Masons are also very active in volunteer and community programs like the Child Identification Program, Bikes for Books, and other local events and programs.
The president of a Masonic Lodge is called the Worshipful Master, the vice presidents are called Senior and Junior Wardens, and other officers include the Secretary, Treasurer, Chaplain, Senior and Junior Deacons (assistants to the Wardens and Worshipful Master), Marshall, Stewards, and Tiler (door guard).
Lodges in Michigan are grouped into districts, and all fall under the Grand Lodge of Michigan. Each state has its own Grand Lodge, as well as Grand Lodges in other countries and regions around the world. There is no world-wide Masonic body or leadership; each Grand Lodge operates independently, and so while many of the fundamentals of Masonry will be the same wherever you go, every Lodge or Grand Lodge might do things just a little bit different.
There are a lot of rumors about Masons and being a secret society. What’s up with that?
Freemasonry has often gotten a bad reputation because of the overactive imagination that is produced when the word “secret” is said. Freemasonry is far from secret—the activities of Lodges are promoted publically, members proudly wear attire with Masonic imagery on it, and much information is available online about Masonry, its rituals and history.
Nevertheless, Freemasonry has symbols, words and grips that it considers “secret” and “private”. These “secrets” serve two purposes. Since Masons swear to help and assist each other, there might be some unscrupulous men who might claim to be Masons to gain special assistance. Masonic “secrets” serve to symbolically identify who are Masons and who are not. Moreover, Freemasonry’s “secrets” are devices to remind Masons to be true and faithful, both to their Masonic obligations and the other obligations in their daily lives. If a man cannot keep a trivial Masonic symbol or word private, can he really be trusted to keep important matters in confidence, or even to judge what is important or not?
Despite what may be portrayed in movies, TV shows or books, the Masons are not some nefarious secret society that is striving to take over the world or corrupt our governments into a new world order. It’s true that many prominent and powerful men have been Masons, but it’s more likely that it was the lessons and values taught through Masonry, and their inherent character, that allowed them to accomplish their achievements and not just their Masonic affiliation. Masons are everyday men who enjoy each other’s fellowship, like playing cards, swapping war stories, telling jokes, helping their communities and sharing the values of Freemasonry with new candidates.
How does one become a Mason? What is the process to become a member?
Masons must be men of the minimum age specified by the Masonic Law of their state, be of sound mind, good character and reputation, and openly profess a belief in a supreme deity. Aside from that, Masons should be caring and open-minded, willing to help others and committed to improving themselves.
Masons do not recruit new members. Masons can talk about their experiences as a Mason, answer questions, or share information, but we do not ask, solicit or pressure anyone to join. A man wishing to become a Mason must take the first step themselves and ASK A MASON—this ensures that their interest is genuine and that they’re willing to take the initiative and make the commitment to pursuing this life-changing process. Because of this requirement, most Masonic Lodges only count as members men of the highest character.
You can contact a Lodge officer, the Grand Lodge of Michigan, or anyone whom you know to be a Mason to get more information. If after that, you decide that being a Mason is what you want, you’ll submit a petition to the Lodge you wish to join (you can give it to any Mason). Your petition will be reviewed, and if accepted, you’ll meet with a committee of Masons who will get to know you and your family better, and answer any questions you might have. Upon their recommendation and the vote of the Lodge, you will then start your journey to becoming a Master Mason by scheduling a special meeting to receive the first degree of Entered Apprentice.