Frequently Asked Questions
What is Freemasonry?
Freemasonry is a brotherhood of men who share one common goal: To help each other become better men. It is the oldest, largest and most widely known fraternal organization in the world. Men from all different backgrounds and walks of life come together as equals and improve their character by applying the timeless virtues of brotherly love, charity and truth to their everyday lives.
What are the qualifications for membership?
To qualify for membership, a petitioner must be male, at least 18 years of age and one who believes in the existence of a Supreme Being. He must be of good moral character, motivated to join for reasons unrelated to personal gain or profit, prompted by a favorable opinion of Freemasonry, interested in earning knowledge and willing to be part of the long-standing traditions and customs of the fraternity.
Is Freemasonry a religion?
No. All who join Freemasonry must declare their belief in the existence of a Supreme Being and practice their own personal faith, but the fraternity is neither a religion nor a place to worship. Rather, it is a place where men of all monotheistic creeds can meet and focus on the shared values of peaceful human interaction that are common to all religions.
Must all Masons be obligated on the Bible?
A primary requirement of a Freemason is a belief in a Supreme Being, whether He be called God, Allah, Jehovah or any other name utilized by one’s faith. Therefore, a candidate for Freemasonry should be obligated on a book he considers to be a Volume of the Sacred Law of his religious beliefs (e.g. Holy Bible, Torah, Koran).
What are the Degrees of Freemasonry?
The experience of becoming a member of a Masonic lodge is divided into ceremonial stages known as “degrees.” There are three degrees of Freemasonry: Entered Apprentice, Fellowcraft and Master Mason. The degrees are loosely based upon the journeyman system, which was used to educate medieval craftsmen. At each educational stage, a craftsman was required to achieve proficiency before moving to the next stage. By advancing through the degrees, a Freemason learns the moral and ethical lessons of the Masonic rite.
What is a Masonic lodge?
The term “lodge” comes from the structures 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. Today, a Masonic lodge means two things: a group of Masons coming together in fellowship and, at the same time, the room or building in which they meet. No two Masonic lodges are the same; all have unique personalities driven by their members. The lodge typically consists of a room where official business and Masonic rituals are conducted, as well as several additional areas for brothers to share meals, spend time together and host social and charitable events.
What is a Grand Lodge?
The overarching governing body of Masonic lodges in a given area, usually a state or country.
Where did the term Freemason come from?
The name dates back to the days when Freemasonry referred to those working in the trades. Numerous explanations have been suggested, such as: (a) Masons worked in free stone (which could be carved), and hence were called “free-stone masons,” later shortened to “freemasons;” (b) they were free men, not serfs; (c) they were free to move from place to place as they might desire; (d) they were given the freedom of the towns or localities in which they worked; (e) they were free of the rules and regulations that were usually imposed upon members of guilds.
Which U.S. Presidents were Freemasons?
George Washington, James Monroe, Andrew Jackson, James K. Polk, James Buchanan, Andrew Johnson, James A. Garfield, William McKinley, Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, Warren G. Harding, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman and Gerald R. Ford. Some authorities also include Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, but documentary evidence is lacking. Lyndon B. Johnson received the Entered Apprentice Degree, but did not advance. Andrew Jackson (Tennessee) and Harry S. Truman (Missouri) were Grand Masters.
Which famous Founding Fathers were Masons?
George Washington was a Mason and Benjamin Franklin served as the head of the fraternity in Pennsylvania, as did Paul Revere and Joseph Warren in Massachusetts. Other well-known Masons involved with the founding of America include John Hancock, John Sullivan, Marquis de Lafayette, Baron Fredrick von Stuben, Nathanael Greene, Joseph Warren and John Paul Jones. Another Mason, Chief Justice John Marshall, shaped the Supreme Court into its present form.
When and where did Freemasonry originate?
It is not known for certain when Freemasonry began, but there are records referencing Masons from as early as the 14th century.. A widely accepted theory among Masonic scholars and historians trace its beginnings to the Middle Ages, when stonemasons’ guilds and cathedral builders traveled throughout Europe. As free masons moved from one construction site to the next, they would gather in shelter houses. They had to prove their skills in order to secure work, so they formed a bond, or guilds, to recognize their skills as bona fide masons, to perfect their art and to protect the secrets of their trade. The square and compasses – the tools of the masons’ trade – became the symbol of their brotherhood.
The language, symbols and customs used in the fraternity’s rituals come from this era. The knowledge and skills of the trade had to be passed from one mason to another, from the experienced to the inexperienced, with masters introducing new workers as apprentices and teaching their fellows to become masters of the craft. They were concerned for each other and were charitable to those in need: widows, orphans and their destitute brethren.
As the need for such builders declined, those outside of the trade started to become members of the fraternity, continuing to use the customs and tools of the craft to convey moral truths. In the 1600s, evidence exists of gentlemen, men of prominence who were interested in learning about all types of sciences, particularly architecture and building, being made Freemasons. At the end of the 17th century, the lodges were attracting more non-masons of integrity and goodwill, calling them “Accepted” Masons.
In 1717, four lodges in London formed the Grand Lodge of England, the first Grand Lodge in the world, to govern the lodges in the country. By 1723, the new Grand Lodge had published its first rulebook, “The Constitutions of the Free-Masons,” and was meeting quarterly and recording its meetings. Subsequent Grand Lodges were established: Ireland in 1725; Pennsylvania (Philadelphia), in 1731; Massachusetts in 1733; and Scotland in 1736.
Freemasonry became very popular in colonial America. During the late 1700s, it was one of the organizations most responsible for spreading the ideals of the Enlightenment: the dignity of man and the liberty of the individual, the right of all persons to worship as they choose, the formation of democratic governments and the importance of public education. Masons supported the first public schools in both Europe and America.
During the 1800s and early 1900s, Freemasonry grew dramatically. At that time, the government had provided no social “safety net.” The Masonic tradition of founding orphanages, homes for widows and homes for the aged provided the only security many people knew.
Over the centuries, Freemasonry has developed into a worldwide fraternity emphasizing personal study, self-improvement and social betterment via individual involvement and philanthropy. Today in North America, the Masonic fraternity continues this tradition by giving almost $2 million each day to causes that range from operating children’s hospitals and children’s homes, providing treatment for childhood language disorders, treating eye diseases, funding medical research, contributing to local community service and providing care to Masons and others in their retirement years.
More than 80,000 Masons in Pennsylvania and several million worldwide continue to help men and women face the challenges of the 21st century by building bridges of brotherhood and instilling in the hearts of men ideals for a better tomorrow.
When and where did African American Freemasonry start in the United States?
It was started on March 6, 1775, in Boston, when the degrees of Masonry were conferred upon Prince Hall and 14 other African American men in a Military Lodge (No. 441 on the Irish Register) in the English Army attached to the 38th Regiment. Prince Hall was born in Barbados, British West Indies. He came to Boston, became the leader of the free African Americans of that city and was an ordained minister.
Where can additional information concerning Freemasonry be obtained?
We have book titles available in the Masonic Temple gift shop, and Pennsylvania Freemasons may borrow resources from the library.