MOST COMMON QUESTIONS
These are the most Frequently Ask Questions, and
they have been compiled by categories regarding:
If the answer provided does not satisfy your curiosity, the USENET section
goes a little bit more in detail.
Regarding Freemasonry in
teaches moral lessons and self-knowledge through participation in a
progression of allegorical two-part plays, which are learnt by heart and
performed within each lodge.
offers its members an approach to life which seeks to reinforce thoughtfulness
for others, kindness in the community, honesty in business, courtesy in
society and fairness in all things. Members are urged to regard the interests
of the family as paramount but importantly Freemasonry also teaches and
practices concern for people, care for the less fortunate and help for those
when did Freemasonry start ?
not known. The earliest recorded ‘making ’ of a Freemason in
England is that of Elias Ashmole in 1646. Organized Freemasonry began with the
founding of the Grand Lodge of England on 24 June 1717, the first Grand Lodge
in the world. Ireland followed in 1725 and Scotland in 1736. All the regular
Grand Lodges in the world trace themselves back to one or more of the Grand
Lodges in the British Isles.
are two main theories of origin. According to one, the operative stonemasons
who built the great cathedrals and castles had lodges in which they discussed
trade affairs. They had simple initiation ceremonies and, as there were no
City and Guilds certificates, dues cards or trade union membership cards, they
adopted secret signs and words to demonstrate that they were trained masons
when they moved from site to site. In the 1600s, these operative lodges began
to accept non-operatives as "gentlemen masons". Gradually these
non-operatives took over the lodges and turned them from operative to ‘free
and accepted ’ or ‘speculative ’ lodges.
other theory is that in the late 1500s and early 1600s, there was a group
which was interested in the promotion of religious and political tolerance in
an age of great intolerance when differences of opinion on matters of religion
and politics were to lead to bloody civil war. In forming Freemasonry, they
were trying to make better men and build a better world. As the means of
teaching in those days was by allegory and symbolism, they took the idea of
building as the central allegory on which to form their system. The main
source of allegory was the Bible, the contents of which were known to everyone
even if they could not read, and the only building described in detail in the
Bible was King Solomon's Temple, which became the basis of the ritual. The old
trade guilds provided them with their basis administration of a Master,
Wardens, Treasurer and Secretary, and the operative mason's tools provided
them with a wealth of symbols with which to illustrate the moral teachings of
Who can join ?
open to men of all faiths who are law-abiding, of good character and who
acknowledge a belief in God. Freemasonry is a multi-racial and multi-cultural organization.
It has attracted men of goodwill from all sectors of the community into
membership. There are similar Masonic organizations for women.
does it cost to be a Freemason ?
from lodge to lodge but anyone wishing to join can find a lodge to suit his
pocket. On entry, there is an initiation fee and an apron to buy. A member
pays an annual subscription to his lodge which covers his membership and the
administrative cost of running the lodge. It is usual to have a meal after the
meeting; the cost of this can be included either in the annual subscription or
paid for at the time.
entirely up to the individual member what he gives to Charity, but it should
always be without detriment to his other responsibilities. Similarly, he may
join as many lodges as his time and pocket can allow as long as it does not
adversely affect his family life and responsibilities.
people join and remain members ?
became Freemasons for a variety of reasons, some as the result of family
tradition, others upon the introduction of a friend or out of a curiosity to
know what it is all about.
who become active members and who grow in Freemasonry do so principally
because they enjoy it. They enjoy the challenges and fellowship that
Freemasonry offers. There is more to it, however, than just enjoyment.
in the dramatic presentation of moral lessons and in the working of a lodge
provides a member with a unique opportunity to learn more about himself and
encourages him to live in such a way that he will always be in search of
becoming a better man, not better than someone else but better than he himself
would otherwise be and therefore an exemplary member of society.
Is it true
that Freemasons only look after each other ?
Freemason is required to learn and show humility through initiation. Then, by
progression through a series of degrees he gains insight into increasingly
complex moral and philosophical concepts, and accepts a variety of challenges
and responsibilities which are both stimulating and rewarding. The structure
and working of the lodge and the sequence of ceremonial events, which are
usually followed by social gatherings, offer members a framework for
companionship, teamwork, character development and enjoyment of shared
Freemasons expected to prefer fellow Masons at the expense of others ?
its earliest days, Freemasonry has been involved in charitable activities.
Since its inception, Freemasonry has provided support not only for widows and
orphans of Freemasons but also for many others within the community. Whilst
some Masonic charities cater specifically but not exclusively for Masons or
their dependents, others make significant grants to non-Masonic organizations.
On a local level, lodges give substantial support to local causes.
you have women members ?
not. That would be a misuse of membership and subject to Masonic discipline.
On his entry into Freemasonry each candidate states unequivocally that he
expects no material gain from his membership. At various stages during the
three ceremonies of his admission and when he is presented with a certificate
from Grand Lodge that the admission ceremonies have been completed, he is
forcefully reminded that attempts to gain preferment or material gain for
himself or others is a misuse of membership which will not be tolerated. The
Book of Constitutions, which every candidate receives, contains
strict rules governing abuse of membership which can result in penalties
varying from temporary suspension to expulsion.
Freemasons are there ?
Freemasonry under the United Grand Lodge of England has been restricted to
men. The early stonemasons were all male, and when Freemasonry was organizing,
the position of women in society was different from today. if women wish to
join Freemasonry, there are two separate Grand Lodges in England restricted to
United Grand Lodge of England, there are 330,000 Freemasons, meeting in 8,644
lodges. There are separate Grand Lodges for Ireland (which covers north and
south) and Scotland, with a combined membership of 150,000. Worldwide, there
are an estimated 5 million members.
happens at lodge meetings ?
meeting is in two parts. As in any association there is a certain amount of
administrative procedure - minutes of last meeting, proposing and balloting
for new members, discussing and voting on financial matters, election of
officers, news and correspondence. Then there are the ceremonies for admitting
new Masons and the annual installation of the Master and appointment of
officers. The three ceremonies for admitting a new Mason are in two parts - a
slight dramatic instruction in the principles and lessons taught in the Craft
followed by a lecture in which the candidate's various duties are spelled out.
Freemasonry a secret society ?
is not a secret society, but lodge meetings, like meetings of many other
social and professional associations, are private occasions open only to
are encouraged to speak openly about their membership, while remembering that
they undertake not to use it for their own or anyone else's advancement. As
members are sometimes the subject of discrimination which may adversely affect
their employment or other aspects of their lives, some Freemasons are
understandably reticent about discussing their membership. In common with many
other national organizations, Grand Lodge neither maintains nor publishes a
list of members and will not disclose names or member's details without their
circumstances where a conflict of interest might arise or be perceived to
exist or when Freemasonry becomes an issue, a Freemason must declare an
rules and aims of Freemasonry are available to the public. The Masonic Year
Book, also available to the public, contains the names of all national
office-holders and lists of all lodges with details of their meeting dates and
meeting places and halls used by Freemasons are readily identifiable, are
listed in telephone directories and in many areas are used by the local
community for activities other than Freemasonry. Freemasons' Hall in London is
open to the public and ‘open days’ are held in many provincial centers.
rituals and ceremonies used by Freemasons to pass on the principles of
Freemasonry to new members were first revealed publicly in 1723. They include
the traditional forms of recognition used by Freemasons essentially to prove
their identity and qualifications when entering a Masonic meeting. These
include handshakes which have been much written about and can scarcely be
regarded as truly secret today; for medieval Freemasons, they were the
equivalent of a ‘pin number’ restricting access only to qualified members.
thousands of books have been written on the subject of Freemasonry and are
readily available to the general public. Freemasonry offers spokesmen and
briefings for the media and provides talks to interested groups on request.
Freemasons are proud of their heritage and happy to share it.
Masonry is so aboveboard, why is it "secret?"
There are fewer secrets to Freemasonry
than most non-members imagine; even many Masons are not entirely clear on what
is and is not secret in Masonry. The moral principles of Masonry are the same as
those taught you in Sunday school or at your mother's knee (sometimes over it!);
it is only the exact procedures and words by which those principles are taught
in Masonry that are secret, for it is the knowledge of those that distinguishes
a Mason from those who are not members. To be entitled to the fellowship
peculiar to the Lodge, a Mason must be able to identify himself, and these
secrets provide the means for doing so.
A better term than
"secrecy" would be privacy. Masonry is not a public organization like
a school board or a city council. It is an association of private citizens, just
like a country club or a church. No one who is not a member has a right to know
about the internal workings of any of these things. They are private to the
group, not "secret."
ritual out of place in modern society ?
degrees are there in Freemasonry ?
ritual is a shared experience which binds the members together. Its use of
drama, allegory and symbolism impresses the principles and teachings more
firmly in the mind of each candidate than if they were simply passed on to him
in matter-of-fact modern language.
Freemasons take oaths ?
Freemasonry consists of the three ‘Craft ’ degrees (Entered
Apprentice, Fellow Craft and Master Mason) completed by the Royal Arch degree
(Chapter). There are many other Masonic degrees and Orders which are called ‘additional
’ because they add to the basis of the Craft and Royal Arch. They are
not basic to Freemasonry but add to it by further expounding and illustrating
the principles stated in the Craft and Royal Arch. Some of these additional
degrees are numerically superior to the third degree but this does not
affect the fact that they are additional to and not in anyway superior to or
higher than the Craft. The ranks that these additional degrees carry have no
standing with the Craft or Royal Arch.
make solemn promises concerning their conduct in Lodge and in society. Each
member also promises to keep confidential the traditional methods of proving
that he is a Freemason which he would use when visiting a lodge where he is
not known. Freemasons do not swear allegiances to each other or to
Freemasonry. Freemasons promise to support others in times of need, but only
if that support does not conflict with their duties to God, the law, their
family or with their responsibilities as a Citizen.
promises do Freemasons take ?
members make solemn promises concerning their conduct in the lodge and in
society. These promises are similar to those taken in court or upon entering
the armed services or many other organizations. Each member also promises to
keep confidential the traditional methods of proving he is a Freemason which
he would use when visiting a lodge where he is not known.
The much publicized
‘traditional penalties ’ for failure to observe
these undertakings were removed from the promises in 1986. They were always
symbolic not literal and refer only to the pain any decent man should feel at
the thought of violating his word.
also undertake not to make use of their membership for personal gain or
advancement; failure to observe this principle or otherwise to fall below the
standards expected of a Freemason can lead to expulsion.
your obligations contain hideous penalties ?
longer do. When Masonic ritual was developing in the late 1600s and 1700s it
was quite common for legal and civil oaths to include physical penalties and
Freemasonry simply followed the practice of the times. In Freemasonry,
however, the physical penalties were always symbolic and were never carried
out. After long discussion, they were removed from the promises in 1986.
Why do you
call it the VSL and not the Bible ?
Why do you
call God the Great Architect ?
majority of Freemasons the Volume of the Sacred Law is the Bible. There are
many in Freemasonry, however, who are not Christian and to them the Bible is
not their sacred book and they will make their promises on the book which is
regarded as sacred to their religion. The Bible will always be present in an
English lodge but as the organization welcomes men of many different faiths,
it is called the Volume of the Sacred Law. Thus, when the Volume of the Sacred
Law is referred to in ceremonies, to a non-Christian it will be the holy book
of his religion and to a Christian it will be the Bible.
embraces all men who believe in God. Its membership includes Christians, Jews,
Hindus, Sikhs, Muslims, Parsees and others. The use of descriptions such as
the Great Architect prevents disharmony. The Great Architect is not a specific
Masonic god or an attempt to combine all gods into one. Thus, men of differing
religion pray together without offense being given to any of them.
Why do you
wear regalia ?
regalia is historical and symbolic and, like a uniform, serves to indicate to
members where they rank in the organization.
do Masons want to hoodwink people?
This is a misunderstanding arising from
the use of archaic language in Masonry when modern meanings are different from
what they were a couple of centuries ago. (E.g., "let" used to mean
"hinder"--which it still does in tennis, but for most usages, it means
the exact opposite: to allow or permit.)
from two words, "hood" (meaning to cover, when used as a verb) and
"wink" (an archaic term for the eye). Thus, "to hoodwink"
means to cover the eyes, originally. At the time when this word was adopted by
Freemasonry (the early 18th century or before), this was its primary meaning.
Since that time, it has come
to be synonymous with the phrase "pull the wool over the eyes," which
is to say "to deceive." The word, however, is just as often used as a
noun in Masonry as a verb, and when used as a verb is accompanied by the action
of using a blindfold (the modern term for a hoodwink), making its meaning clear
at the time.
The word "hoodwink"
has only one meaning in a Masonic context, and that is "blindfold." It
is only anti-Masons who hope to deceive others (should I have said
"hoodwink others?") who claim, dishonestly, that Masons use the term
"hoodwink" with the meaning of "deception."
about "blood oaths" and hideous penalties of the degrees?
grown men run around with their trousers rolled up ?
It is true that Masons must take solemn
obligations to be faithful to the principles of Masonry, and their very nature
and seriousness implies that there should be penalties. However, the language of
these obligations makes it clear that the penalties are not actually inflicted
by the Lodge or any body of Masonry but are expressions of how disgraced and
contemptible one should feel for violating such an obligation. In some
jurisdictions, the candidate is told that the penalties are of "ancient
origin and symbolic only." Later degrees make this even more apparent, even
if the actual information is not specifically addressed to the candidate. But
the true penalties for violation of the laws of Masonry are three only:
Admonition (or reprimand), suspension, or expulsion. Stories about Masons being
maimed or murdered for violation of their oaths are just that: fiction. Not one
single instance can be documented, despite the many attempts by the enemies of
Masonry to promote this slander.
It is true
that candidates have to roll up their trouser legs during the three ceremonies
when they are being admitted to membership. Taken out of context, this can
seem amusing, but like many other aspects of Freemasonry, it has a symbolic
Freemasonry a religion ?
is not a religion, and
Masons who treat it as such are mistaken.
It has no theology and does not teach any route to
salvation. A belief in God, however, is an essential requirement for
membership, and Freemasonry encourages its members to be active in their own
religions as well as in society at large, although that is not a requirement
every lodge meeting is opened and closed with a prayer and its ceremonies
reflect the essential truths and moral teachings common to many of the world's
great religions, no discussion of religion is permitted in lodge meetings.
Masonry is a fraternal organization that encourages morality and charity and
studies philosophy. It has no clergy and no sacraments.
said that Masonry was not a religion and had no priests, but I have heard the
term the Grand High Priest"-- what gives?
At the time of the return from the
Babylonian exile, some of the legendary events of which are commemorated by the
Royal Arch Degree, Jeshua, Zerubbabel, and Haggai were the High Priest, King,
and Scribe among the Israelites. The important roles played by these individuals
led to their positions being used to designate the three principal officers of
the Royal Arch Chapter. The title "High Priest" is used by the
presiding officer of a Royal Arch Chapter in the United States of America. In
other countries, the title King is assigned to the presiding officer, and the
High Priest is a subordinate officer; anti-monarchist sentiment in the US at the
time the Royal Arch degrees were becoming established in America (late 1700s)
led to the primary role being assigned to the High Priest, which was also
consonant with the American notion of the state being subordinate to the Deity.
In some foreign jurisdictions, the designations of the first three officers are
simply First, Second, and Third Principal, with no reference to the historical
roles of the individuals commemorated in the degree ceremonies.
The High Priest of a Royal
Arch Chapter (and likewise the Grand High Priest of a Grand Chapter and the
General Grand High Priest of the General Grand Chapter) performs no sacerdotal
functions; his office is the equivalent of those of Worshipful Master of a
Lodge, Illustrious Master of a Council, Eminent Commander of a Commandery, and
so on. Like all Masonic bodies, a Royal Arch Chapter has a Chaplain (in Scottish
Rite Masonry, the office is termed "Prelate") who is responsible for
offering prayer at the opening of a meeting. The Excellent High Priest is
responsible for administration of his Chapter's business and conduct of its
Though it has Commanders,
Masonry has no army; though it has officers titled "High Priest,"
Masonry is not a religion. The High Priest is not a priest, paradoxical as that
may sound; he is a chairman or president in fact, if not in name.
what about terms like "Temple," "Worshipful," and so on?
Labor unions meet in a Labor Temple. A
museum may be called the Temple of Fine Arts. This does not mean that they are
religious institutions. The same is true of Freemasonry. (Masonic buildings are
also called Lodge Halls and Masonic Centers as well as Masonic Temples. Some
Scottish Rite buildings are called "Cathedrals," but that is from a
Greek word meaning "chair," and referring to the seat of authority of
"worshipful" stems from 18th century English usage, when Freemasonry
in its present form was being organized. The term has nothing to do with
religious worship but is an old synonym for "honorable" or
"respected." Check any good dictionary!
Similarly, Freemasons engage
in group prayer and have a chaplain, just as do the armed services and the
houses of Congress. That does not make Masonry into a religion.
there no Masonic theology, then?
An examination of the degrees will
reveal that there is a basic theology of Masonry, as follows:
is a Supreme Being
Who created the Universe,
Who has established and revealed a moral law,
And to Whom we must give account
in a life after this.
These five points are supported by
material in the lectures and related contents of the degrees, such as the
discourses on the Working Tools. But there is nothing in these points that is in
conflict with any major religion of the Western world. (To be sure, there are
branches of Buddhism that are non-theistic, and there are those who do not
believe in an afterlife, but they need not become Freemasons, nor does Masonry
seek to dissuade them from their beliefs.)
is the role of various doctrinal books, like Pike's Morals and Dogma?
Actually, there are no
"doctrinal" books in Freemasonry. Freemasonry is a society dedicated
to free thinking and freedom of all kinds. No Mason has the right to dictate to
another what he shall or shall not believe regarding his religion, his politics,
or even his interpretation of the Masonic symbols. There are a number of
conventional interpretations of the symbols of Freemasonry, some of which are
given in the lectures of the degrees, but no Mason is required to accept any or
all of them; he is free to explore the world of thought and make up his own
Anti-Masons are fond of
combing through Albert Pike's Morals and Dogma to find various
passages that somehow "expose" the "secrets" of
Freemasonry's dangerous beliefs. They conveniently ignore a number of facts:
preface of Morals and Dogma makes it clear that Pike's work is
an unannotated anthology, containing a portion of his own writing and also
the works of many philosophers and theologians dating back to antiquity.
Much of the book is derived from sources far removed from Freemasonry in
preface also makes clear that no one is required to believe or accept any of
the contents as truth. No "doctrinal" book would announce that
every reader is "free to dissent" from any of its contents.
and Dogma was first of all written for those who have received the
degrees of Scottish Rite Freemasonry in the form developed and edited by
Albert Pike (the "Pike recension"). For someone to attempt to
interpret the contents without the knowledge of the degrees is like trying
to understand a book on quantum physics without having mastered the basics
of dynamics and statics.
and Dogma was written under the authority of the Supreme Council,
33rd Degree, for the Southern Jurisdiction of the Ancient and Accepted
Scottish Rite of Freemasonry in the USA. The SJ of the USA, AASR,
encompasses only a minority of Masons in the US and an even smaller
proportion worldwide. Outside of the SJ of the US, Albert Pike is of much
less influence than many non-Masons (and certainly anti-Masons) suppose.
(The same is true of later works which also elucidate the degrees of the SJ
of the US, such as Clausen's Commentaries and Hutchens' A
Bridge to Light.)
Similarly, anti-Masons like to quote
(out of context, quite often) Manly Hall (who wrote many of his books before
becoming a Freemason), Coil's Masonic Encyclopedia, Albert Mackey,
and others. Many of these men did their writing a century or more ago and use an
idiom not well understood by those living today who are not familiar with such
writing styles. These books are useful reference sources for those who seek to
improve their knowledge of Masonry and who wish to sharpen their wits against
the whetstone of great thinkers, but they are not doctrine.
Freemasonry a cult?
That depends on what is meant by
"cult." By some definitions, Christianity, Islam, and Judaism are
cults. By another definition, golfing, bowling, and surfing the Internet are
cults. But in the usual use of the term, referring to a group that separates
itself from society and its members from their non-member friends, demands
slavish obedience from its adherents, engages in brainwashing techniques,
confiscates their resources, and sees itself in opposition to established
society, absolutely not!
Quite the opposite, in fact:
Masonry does not recruit members, does not compel attendance at any of its
meetings, charges modest dues and fees (some little changed from sixty years
ago, when the dollar was worth a lot more), encourages community service and
participation in civic and religious organizations, and allows any member to
quit (demit) at any time (providing he has no outstanding financial obligations;
otherwise, he is liable to be suspended, but in either case, he would no longer
be a member). It is easier to get out of Masonry than it is to get into it!
about allegations that Freemasonry is Satanic or pagan?
Most of these are complete fabrications;
the rest are misunderstandings of the institution and its rituals. A number of
forgeries and alleged exposes of Masonry were created during the last century.
Most of the claims of "Satanism" in Masonry can be traced to one or
two of these fraudulent sources. Other such allegations are simply made-up
claims about what various Masonic emblems and symbols stand for.
For example, it is sometimes
claimed that the letter "G" found in the Master Mason's jewel, along
with the Square and Compasses, is a substitute for a phallic symbol. But there
is nothing in Masonry to support such a statement; it is complete fiction. The
letter "G" stands for God (it is used by Masons who speak other
languages due to the modern origins of Masonry in English-speaking countries);
in the Scottish Rite, the Hebrew letter "yodh", which is the first letter of the Tetragrammaton,
or Ineffable Name, plays the same role.
Another example that came up
recently was a discussion of the Blazing Star. This is one of the
"ornaments" of a Lodge, introduced in the Entered Apprentice degree. A
non-Mason insisted that:
Masons "worship" the
the Blazing Star is somehow to
be identified with Lucifer (based on the verse Isaiah 14:12)
the Blazing Star is the
"false dawn" that can then be identified with a false light
(in competition with the true Light of Jesus)
and that therefore Masons engage
in devil worship
Here are the facts:
Isaiah 14 is a chapter with a
prophecy against the kings of Babylon, specifically Nebuchadnezzar. The
quoted verse is rendered, in my Bible, "Day-star, son of the
morning, how hast thou fallen?" In this passage, the prophet
alleges that the arrogant king of Babylon has thought himself as
glorious as a celestial body, but that the destruction of the kingdom of
Babylon shall surely bring him back to earth. The word here translated
as "day-star" is, in Hebrew, "heyleyl," and refers
to the planet Venus. The ancient Greeks and Romans both used different
words for this planet when it appeared in the morning sky from its
appearance in the evening sky. The Greeks called it Hesperus in the
evening and Phosphorus in the morning; the Romans called it Venus in the
evening and Lucifer in the morning. Hence, the translation of the
Hebrew, via Greek, into Latin (i.e., from the Hebrew to the Septuagint to
the Vulgate), naturally would introduce the word "Lucifer" as
the correct Latin translation of the Hebrew.
The term "Lucifer" as
a name for the Devil or Satan, cannot be traced any farther back than
the Middle Ages, and was only widely popularized by Milton's epic poem,
The Minnesota Masonic Manual (as
one source on the lectures of Masonry) clearly identifies the Blazing
Star as emblematic of the Star of Bethlehem, hardly a
"Satanic" reference. It has nothing to do with the planet
The Blazing Star is mentioned
for about 30 seconds in a lecture some 20-30 minutes in length (it
depends on jurisdiction) in the first degree of Masonry only, an amount
of attention that could scarcely be described as "worship."
The "false dawn" is
not heralded by Venus, but is a phenomenon produced by the Zodiacal
Light, a band of dust lying in the plane of the Earth's orbit, which
most prominently appears as a skyglow before sunrise in the fall (the
false dawn) and after sunset in the spring, but can only be observed
under ideally dark conditions
In other words, the allegation
about Masonry in this case combines many errors: Taking a portion of a single
verse of the Bible out of context, misinterpreting its translation,
misunderstanding an astronomical term, misidentifying a Masonic emblem with an
astronomical object, and mischaracterizing the importance of a symbol in the
ritual. Perhaps all of this can be attributed to ignorance, but since the facts
are easy to obtain, one is forced to wonder about how such allegations come to
be and to persist.
"pagan" material in Masonry may stem from the study of material from
the ancient world in some of the degrees. But this is not paganism (the worship
of idols, natural objects, or polytheistic human-like deities). In fact, many of
the early teachings of the Church depended heavily on the works of such
"pagan" philosophers as Plato and Aristotle; Christianity has absorbed
such pagan elements as the Christmas tree, the name Easter (from a pagan
fertility goddess), and the actual date of Christmas (pre-empting the Roman's
pagan winter solstice festival of the Saturnalia). Indeed, the mythos about the
fall of Lucifer from heaven to the underworld is of pagan origin, derived from
the Greco-Roman legend of Hephaestus (Vulcan) who fell from Mt. Olympus to the
nether regions, where his forges were located, and in ancient art is depicted as
lame from the fall. There have been many thinkers and learned men in cultures
other than that of the West in the Judea-Christian era, and it is not
"paganism" to study them.
there a conflict between Freemasonry and established religion?
There is nothing in Freemasonry that
conflicts with most religions. However, Freemasonry does insist on religious
tolerance. To the extent that certain religious groups would wish to suppress
other religions or persecute their followers, Freemasons would be in opposition
to such activities, and adherents of such groups would be both uncomfortable and
unwelcome in Masonry. It is also the case that certain religious groups are
misinformed about Freemasonry and believe things about the Fraternity that are
not true; basing their opinions on this false information, they then formulate
opinions that create conflict.
some Churches like Freemasons ?
elements within certain churches who misunderstand Freemasonry and confuse
secular rituals with religious liturgy. Although
the Methodist Conference and the General Synod of the Anglican Church have
occasionally criticized Freemasonry, in both Churches there are many Masons
and indeed others who are dismayed that the Churches should attack
Freemasonry, an organization which has always encouraged its members to be
active in their own religion.
Can't Christians Pray in Lodge?
Of course Christians can pray in Lodge!
What they may not do is offer a specifically Christian prayer as Lodge prayer,
any more than a Jew or Muslim may offer a prayer specific to his religion.
The reason for this is that it
is the custom of Masonry to require all to participate in and assent to Lodge
prayer. How can it be proper for a Christian to require non-Christians to assent
to a prayer peculiar to his own religious belief? No Christian would assent to a
prayer offered by a Jew or Muslim which essentially denied the doctrine of the
Trinity. Because a Lodge acts in unison, prayers offered in Lodge must be of a
nature that will be agreed to by all present.
To be sure, some Christians
believe that only prayers given in a particularly Christian form are truly
prayers. These people cannot become Freemasons because they do not subscribe to
the principles of religious toleration required of Masons. But most Christians
do not hold these exclusive beliefs and have no objections to the form of prayer
offered in the Masonic Lodge.
No. Masonry has no objection to the
admission of a Catholic to the Masonic fraternity. Whether the Roman Catholic
Church objects to a Catholic becoming a Freemason is their business, not ours.
Masonry would not counsel anyone to do something opposed by his religion. The
present position of the Church regarding Freemasonry is not altogether clear;
some sources indicate that the Vatican remains opposed to any form of
Freemasonry, others say that only those organizations which "plot against
the Church" (which Masonry does not) are proscribed, and others see no
problem. This is a matter for any individual Catholic who might be interested in
joining the Masons and his spiritual advisor.
There is material in some of
the degrees of the appendant bodies of Freemasonry which might be interpreted as
anti-Catholic, particularly with reference to the history of the Knights Templar
and the death of Jacques DeMolay. But those events occurred nearly 700 years
ago! The Church of today is not the Church of the 14th century. The Church
itself has recognized that leaders of those times made errors of various sorts;
one need only look to the 20th century canonization of Joan of Arc, burned in
the 15th century as a heretic, or the rehabilitation of Galileo, forced in the
17th century to recant his scientific studies, to recognize this. The degrees of
Masonry make no mention of the Church in any other than remote historical
Freemasonry is the enemy of
tyranny and despotism, not of any particular religion or nationality. If the
Church were to fall into the hands of the heartless and rapacious, as it did in
earlier times (the days of the Borgias and the Medicis, not to mention
Torquemada), it would be as much the duty of every Catholic to denounce such
behavior as it would be for Freemasons--and modern-day Martin Luthers.
Freemasonry not except Roman Catholics as members ?
The prime qualification for admission into Freemasonry has always been a
belief in God. How that belief is expressed is entirely up to the individual.
Masters of English Freemasonry have been Roman Catholics. There are many Roman
involved in politics?
is definitely not a political organization, it has no political agenda, and
discussion of politics is not permitted at lodge meetings.
naturally tends to attract those with a concern for people and a sense of
social responsibility and purpose. There are members, therefore, who are
involved in politics at local, national and international level. Equally there
are members who take an active interest in non-Masonic charitable organizations and other community groups.
Freemasonry just another political pressure group ?
not. Whilst individual Freemasons will have their own views on politics and
state policy, Freemasonry as a body will never express a view on either. The
discussion of politics at Masonic meetings has always been prohibited.
not Masonic groups who are involved in politics ?
groups in other countries who call themselves Freemasons and who involve
themselves in political matters. They are not recognized or countenanced by
the United Grand Lodge of England and other regular Grand Lodges who follow
the basic principles of Freemasonry and ban the discussion of politics and
religion at their meetings.
Regarding Community and
Freemasonry involved in the Community ?
earliest days, Freemasonry has been involved in charitable activities, and
since its inception it has provided support for many widows and orphans of
Freemasons as well as others within the community.
monies raised for charity are drawn from amongst Freemasons, their families
and friends, while grants and donations are made to Masonic and non-Masonic
past five years alone Freemasonry has raised more than £75m for a wide range
of charitable purposes including those involved in medical research, community
care, education and work with young people.
has an enviable record of providing regular and consistent financial support
to individual charities over long periods while at the same time making
thousands of grants to local charities, appeals and projects
England and Wales each year. For the future, opportunities to obtain or
provide matched funding are periodically examined with a view to enhancing the
impact of the support Freemasonry can give to specific projects. The personal
generosity of Freemasons and the collective fundraising efforts of almost
8,000 lodges, however, will continue to determine the contribution Freemasonry
makes within the community.
Freemasonry an International order ?
Only in the
sense that Freemasonry exists throughout the free world. Each Grand Lodge is
sovereign and independent, and whilst following the same basic principles, may
have differing ways of passing them on. There is no international governing
body for Freemasonry.
Masonry some kind of global conspiracy?
The simplest answer is "no."
But that is not a very satisfying answer for those who have heard many
preposterous rumors about Masonry, the "New World Order," the Bavarian
Illuminati, and so on. Let's look at some of the issues that have been raised:
There is no
single governing body of Freemasonry in the world. The United Grand Lodge of
England (UGLE) is the descendant of the first Grand Lodge formed in 1717, but
that gives it no authority over other Grand Lodges, all of which are equal. The
UGLE does not even have total authority in Great Britain, for Scotland has its
own Grand Lodge.
The Supreme Council of
the Ancient And Accepted Scottish Rite for the Southern Jurisdiction of the USA,
sometimes is called the Mother Supreme Council of the World, for it was the
first to be formed, but again, all Supreme Councils are equal, and chronological
primacy confers no special authority. The Southern Jurisdiction of the AASR does
not even have complete authority in the USA, for there is also a Supreme Council
for the Northern Jurisdiction, comprising the states east of the Mississippi and
north of the Ohio River and Mason-Dixon Line.
There are the General
Grand Chapter of Royal Arch Masons International and the General Grand Council
of Cryptic Masons International. But these bodies have mostly ceremonial impact;
no Grand Chapter or Grand Council is required to belong to its General Grand
counterpart, and many Grand Chapters/Councils do not.
Finally, the top
authority in Masonry is always the Grand Master of Masons, not some Grand
Commander or other personage associated with the "higher" degrees. The
Grand Master of Masons can suspend the General Grand High Priest from all the
privileges of Masonry; the GGHP has no such power. Obviously, there is no global
organization in Masonry.
bizarre thing about conspiracy theories in general is that there is never a
clear explanation of what the conspiracy is about, nor how it is carrying out
its aims. The alleged Masonic conspiracy stories conform to this. None of the
conspiracy theorists ever explains what it is that the Masons want to do with
their supposed power.
Since Masonry's tenets
are brotherly love, relief, and truth, if the Masons did run the world, it might
be a better place. Many of the Founding Fathers who wrote the Constitution of
the United States were Freemasons; the principles in that document have stood
the test of over two centuries. Would a Masonic government be so bad? Look at
the governments founded by anti-Masonic groups: Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union,
Iran under totalitarian religious rule. Where is the real problem in the world?
died out in the 18th century. An organization that does not exist is a
convenient scapegoat! To the conspiracy loony, that there is no evidence of a
group's existence is "proof" that it is fiendishly clever in
concealing itself. One does not have to be a professor of philosophy to see that
this kind of logic makes no sense in a search for truth.
Masonic symbols on the dollar bill
commentators have claimed that there are Masonic symbols on the US $1 bill, and
that they were put there by the Masonic president, Franklin Delano Roosevelt to
show that the country had been taken over by Masons.
Well, perhaps the
symbols are Masonic, but the material on the dollar bill dates from the late
1700s, not Roosevelt's term. The two circled objects on the back of the bill are
the two sides of the Great Seal of the United States. It is said that Ben
Franklin, a Mason, had some influence in the design.
What are these Masonic
symbols? The representation of an eye and an unfinished pyramid. The All-Seeing
Eye of Deity is certainly mentioned in Freemasonry, but that concept dates back
to the Bible, at least. An unfinished pyramid symbolizes that the work of nation
building is not completed, but the pyramid is not a particularly Masonic symbol;
any unfinished building would have done. (Some say that there is an owl in the
engravings in one corner of the bill, but that is a product of an overactive
imagination. The owl is also not a Masonic symbol; the only birds that come to
mind in any of the degrees are the pelican in the 18th degree [a symbol of
Jesus, incidentally], the mythical phoenix, and the eagle. And those are found
only in the Scottish Rite, so they are not characteristic of Masonry as a whole.
New World Order
George Bush (not a Freemason) publicized this term, it has been an obsession of
certain groups. They point to the wording on the dollar bill (see above), which
reads "novus ordo seclorum." The phrase on the bill means "a new order of
the ages," and refers to the completely novel (and still unique) form of
American government, a republic of separated powers, composed of a federal union
of states, in which the central government is granted powers by the people,
whose rights are supreme over the institutions of government. If the term were
to mean "new world order," the third word would have to be "sæculorum"
The Kennedy Assassination (and others)
Much has been
made of the facts that many members of the Warren Commission were Freemasons.
Supposedly, this allowed them to "cover up" the "evidence"
that the Freemasons had Kennedy assassinated. Of course, there is no explanation
of how the Freemasons might have benefited from Kennedy's death or what other
motivation they might have had for such a plot. For most of the history of the
American Republic, about one-third of American officeholders--presidents,
senators, judges, congressmen, local officials--have been Freemasons. It is
hardly surprising that a group such as the Warren Commission would have been
about 1/3 Freemasons.
As for other sensational
assassinations, there is the same question to be asked: How could the Freemasons
have benefited from this act? As there is never a sensible answer, the
allegations are clearly laughable.
Since the Freemasons have been around
for nearly 300 years and have held many responsible positions in the American
government, as well as in other countries around the world, particularly the
English-speaking ones, if there were any such conspiracy, it would have long
since succeeded in its aims. As the concept is the product of overwrought
imaginations, the total lack of evidence or purpose for any such conspiracy must
lead us to dismiss it as nonsense.
do certain fundamentalist groups oppose Freemasonry?
Mostly out of ignorance and
misinformation, although possibly out of fear of competition for time and
attention with the church (churches have been suffering the same loss of active
membership over the past few decades as has Freemasonry). Ignorance of Masonry
allows misinformation to spread. For example, it is claimed that Freemasonry has
a "plan of salvation" that is in opposition to that of the Christian
Church. Simply not true; nothing in any of the Masonic degrees refers to
do Masons insult non-Masons as being profane?
Again, this is a misunderstanding over
the use of archaic language. The word "profane" comes from two Latin
words, "pro," meaning "before," and "fanum,"
meaning "temple." In earlier usage, "profane" had a more
literal meaning of "outside the temple." It was simply an antonym for
the term "sacred," just as "secular" still is. (Classical
music lovers will note, for example, the Debussy work, "Danses sacrees et
profanes," as a use of the same word in French with this meaning.)
In more recent usage, dating
from well after the language of Masonry became fixed, the term
"profane" was most often coupled with the term "language,"
to denote speech which would not have been uttered inside a temple or other
sacred precincts. Gradually, this became the most common application of
"profane" and, in the popular mind, became its only meaning.
"Profane" became a synonym for swearing, cursing, and blasphemy, all
of which are now called "profanity."
But when a Mason refers to
"profanes" or the "profane" world, he means only those who
are not initiated into Masonry and thus must remain "outside the
temple." Nothing more; no insult is intended.
say one thing, anti-Masons say another--whom should I believe?
The history of Freemasonry is
well documented, and its major players include a vast number of contributors to
society--men such as Washington, Truman, and Churchill in politics, Goethe,
Schiller, and Conan Doyle in literature, Burl Ives, Ernest Borgnine, Gene Autry
in the performing arts, Mozart, Haydn, and Irving Berlin in music, and on and
on. Freemasons played essential roles in the civilization of the New World,
taming the west (Kit Carson was a Freemason), freeing Latin America (Bolivar was
a Mason, as was Bernardo O'Higgins), and so on. Freemasons have established a
vast array of charitable activities, primarily focusing on the health field,
such as the famous Shriners' Children's Hospitals for treatment of orthopedic
problems and burns, the Scottish Rite speech disorder clinics, the Masonic
cancer centers, the Tall Cedars' activities for muscular dystrophy, and many
others. Not to mention homes for the aged and even dormitory accommodations at
the University of Texas.
Among the anti-Masons, one can
count a single president of the US, John Quincy Adams (thirteen presidents were
Masons), two literary figures (Edgar Allan Poe and Charles Dickens--and it is
not clear whether Dickens was really an anti-Mason, or one who simply felt that
the Masons of his time were not living up to their standards and were therefore
hypocrites), and almost no one else of any consequence in history or who has
made a significant contribution to the humanities. The anti-Masons operate no
charitable groups but engage in fund-raising only to support themselves: They
sell books for profit, seek donations to keep their "ministries"
operating on television, and contribute nothing to society at large.
All of this is a matter of
public record; these facts do not depend on one's ability to determine who is
telling the truth. Further, we have the experience of history to teach us what
to believe of a group of "anti-" something, whether they are
anti-Semites, anti-Catholics, or anti-Masons. That historical experience has
shown that those who single out a group, especially one different from the
majority in society, for opprobrium and hatred are generally not telling the
truth about that group, but are seeking to benefit themselves from stirring up
the passions of the mob.
In other words, if we knew
nothing of the Masons nor of the anti-Masons, it would be difficult to know whom
to believe. But we are not so ignorant as that. There are plenty of
epistemological reasons to choose to believe that Masons are telling the truth
in the present context, as opposed to accepting the word of the anti-Masons.
(E.g., one epistemological principle is known as Occam's Razor--it tells us to
accept the simplest hypothesis that explains the known facts. The anti-Masons,
when confronted with their own contradictions, pile on ever more assumptions.
Prove that "Lucifer" is not mentioned in the Symbolic
Rite of the first three degrees and they will assert that it is the Scottish
Rite that teaches "devil worship." Prove that there is no such
thing in the 32
degrees, and they will claim it is taught in the 33rd degree. A denial by a
33rd degree Mason will lead to the attribution of Satanism to the Knights
Templar. And so on. The simpler hypothesis is that there is no such Satanic
nonsense in Freemasonry--given the conflict of assertions, Occam's Razor directs
us to this choice.) The anti-Masons also engage in circular reasoning: They
claim that there is a great "Masonic
conspiracy" to control the world. Absent any evidence of that, they
claim that the very lack of evidence is "proof" of the power of the
conspiracy. (Too many Oliver Stone movies? Of course, even Congressmen have
engaged in such reasoning, as in the case of the "October surprise"
investigation, when Tom Foley suggested that the very lack of evidence was what
justified a Congressional hearing. An inability to reason against one's own
prejudices is not unique to the anti-Masons.)
Anti-Masons, in discussing
some of the more inflammatory allegations about Masonry, such as the worship of
satanic or pagan gods, also assert that the vast majority of Masons are totally
ignorant of the "real" nature of Masonry, which is revealed only to a
few "high" Masons. Yet these anti-Masons insist that they themselves
know these hidden secrets better than most of the millions of active members of
the Masonic fraternity. Is this a credible state of affairs?
In other words, there are very
good reasons to believe that Masons, rather than anti-Masons are telling the
truth about the Fraternity, based on the history of Freemasonry, the known
character of those who have been Freemasons, and the principles of epistemology.
Of course, if one is ignorant of the history and background of a witness, as
well as ignorant of the theory of knowledge, one is at the mercy of every
smooth-talking mountebank and charlatan to come along. (Why do you think that
criminal defense lawyers seek the most uninformed jurors possible?)
A recent (Mon Aug 9 1999) update: In
addition to spreading false stories about the nature and intentions of
Freemasonry in print media, television and radio programs, and Internet venues,
the past few months have seen an escalation of anti-Masonic activity of an
active nature on the Internet. Anti-Masons have engaged in several forms of Net
abuse, including multiple repeated postings to Usenet of the same material (a
dozen or more times), postings to large numbers of Usenet newsgroups, and
combinations of these. Within the past week or so, one anti-Mason in Australia
with administrator privileges has begun issuing *CANCEL* requests for postings
by Freemasons to alt.freemasonry and
replacing those messages with forgeries of the originals containing obscenities,
incoherencies, and so on. Examination of the full message headers reveals these
posts to have originated at telstra.net, near Canberra, and not with the ISPs of
the reputed senders. Since anti-Masons uniformly use anonymous posting methods
and never appear under their own names or identities, closing down their
accounts takes time.
The evidence of those actions
can be found at what used to be known as Deja
News. Anti-Masons frequently allege that Masons are part of some worldwide
criminal conspiracy; when they are caught doing the same, what does it mean for
the credibility of their accusations? And why would anyone take the word of a
source or group of sources that choose to be anonymous.
No, the matter of whom to
believe is not one which requires hard thought to resolve.
read the ritual in an exposé; what is all this strange stuff?
Remember that Masons solemnly pledge to
keep the ritual secret. An "exposé" is the product of someone who has
broken a promise to his friends and neighbors and to God. Can you really trust
that such a person is telling you the truth?
Masonry must be experienced to
be understood; reading the ritual does not truly confer the lessons of the
degrees, even for those of us who have the real ritual (and not some "exposé").
Masonry is a way of life that involves much more than the ceremonies of the
degrees. Knowing a password or secret handshake is not what makes a man a Mason.
The essence of Masonry is not something that can be written down.