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Index of Articles

Freemasonry - An Overview
Who is a Mason?
 
A Brief History of Freemasonry
 
Questions & Answers on Freemasonry
"How Do I Become A Mason?"
A History of the Grand Lodge of Minnesota
The Masonic Blue Slipper


Symbolic, Craft or "Blue Lodge" Degrees

1- Entered Apprentice

Once his petition is approved, the candidate for Freemasonry will participate in a ceremony called the Degree of Entered Apprentice. He will be assured that nothing will befall him that has not been experienced by all who have gone before him. He will reaffirm his declarations and then be received into the lodge and made an Entered Apprentice  "in due and ancient form". He will be conducted around the lodge and will take the first obligation, receive his white lambskin apron, then be introduced to the working tools of an Entered Apprentice and taught their uses. He will receive instruction on the nature of his new association and an important lesson in Masonic charity.
 

2- Fellowcraft

The Degree of Fellowcraft is widely regarded as the most poetic and instructive of the Masonic Degrees. In it, the Apprentice is passed to the Degree of a Fellowcraft in due and ancient form. He learns many of the more expressive symbols of his Craft and hears references to the philosophical basis for his conduct as a Mason. He will learn that he is obliged to "aid and assist all distressed, worthy brother Fellowcraft, wheresoever dispersed". His knowledge of the working tools of Masonry will be increased. The importance of the study of the liberal arts and sciences, especially the science of geometry, is emphasized.
 

3- Master Mason

In the Degree of Master Mason, the famous "Third Degree", the Fellowcraft will be raised to the sublime Degree of a Master Mason. He will receive further explanation of his specific obligations to his brethren and his instruction in the working tools of a Mason will be completed. He will participate in a brief traditional reenactment, designed to impress upon him the virtue of Fidelity. Upon completing this Degree, the brother is a fully qualified Master Mason, entitled to all the rights and privileges of that degree. He is entitled to "travel in foreign countries, work and receive master's wages". Among us, there is no higher rank than that of a Master Mason.
 


Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth, while the evil days come not, nor the years draw nigh, when thou shalt say, I have no pleasure in them;

While the sun, or the light, or the moon, or the stars, be not darkened, nor the clouds return after the rain:

In the day when the keepers of the house shall tremble, and the strong men shall bow themselves, and the grinders cease because they are few, and those that look out of the windows be darkened,

And the doors shall be shut in the streets, when the sound of the grinding is low, and he shall rise up at the voice of the bird, and all the daughters of musick shall be brought low;

Also when they shall be afraid of that which is high, and fears shall be in the way, and the almond tree shall flourish, and the grasshopper shall be a burden, and desire shall fail: because man goeth to his long home, and the mourners go about the streets:

Or ever the silver cord be loosed, or the golden bowl be broken, or the pitcher be broken at the fountain, or the wheel broken at the cistern.

Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it.

 Ecclesiastes 12:1-7
 


WHAT IS FREEMASONRY? - AN OVERVIEW

      Freemasonry is the world's oldest and largest fraternal organization. It is believed to have originated with the craft guilds of medieval Europe and latterly to have expanded to admit those who did not actually belong to the trade. The literal stonemasons are referred to as operatives, while those who did not actually work in stone were called speculative masons.

      While Freemasonry is the largest and best know fraternal organization the world has ever seen, it is without a doubt the least understood. It is hoped that this article will serve to help people have a better understanding of this organization.

      Masonic ritual says the following of Freemasonry; "Freemasonry is a beautiful system of morality, veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols". While this statement is certainly true, it is not the entire answer to the question "What is Freemasonry?". This being said, let us examine the portions of the statement.

Freemasonry is a beautiful system of morality
      Freemasonry, while based on religious principles, is not a religion and all members are admonished never to make it such. It is open to all men who profess a belief in a Supreme Being and who believe that Supreme Being rewards virtue and punishes vice. In this sense, men of good morals can join together in non-sectarian and non-denominational fellowship adhering to the moral tendencies common to all faiths.

Veiled in allegory
      The dictionary defines allegory as: "A story or narrative, as a fable, in which a moral truth or principle is presented by means of fictional characters, events, etc." 
Funk & Wagnall's Standard Desk Dictionary.  This is certainly true where Freemasonry is concerned, for within the first three degrees of Craft Masonry, the candidate is told the story of the building of Solomon's Temple, and more specifically the Masonic legend of Hiram Abiff, one of the three principal architects of its building. As each degree progresses, moral lessons of instruction are unveiled as they relate to the legend.

Illustrated by Symbols
      To the Freemason all tools employed by the operative stonemason carry a moral tendency. Symbolism has been throughout all of recorded time an important method of communicating ideas of all sorts. The square and compasses, the best known of these symbols, are perhaps the most important of the symbols communicated to the Freemason.

      The Masonic order, in addition to the aforementioned definition contained in the ritual, is said to be a Brotherhood of men under the Fatherhood of God. Once again, while Freemasonry is not a religion, it is founded on religious principles and no man can be made a Freemason if he is an atheist. Whether Christian, Moslem, or Jew, the Freemason believes in the God who created the universe and all prayers are offered to Him.

      Freemasonry has three particular principles of importance that the Entered Apprentice (First-Degree Mason) is taught. These Masonic principles are Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth.

Brotherly Love
      Every true Freemason shows tolerance and respect for the opinions of others and behaves with kindness, patience and understanding towards his fellow man. In fact, Freemasons are not permitted to discuss in open lodge topics that may cause differences of opinion, such as religion and politics.

Relief
      The Freemason is taught to practice charity and to care for their own families and brethren, but also for the community as a whole. This charity can take the form of both charitable giving and voluntary efforts and works within the community.

Truth
      The Freemason strives for truth continually. This requires high moral standards and a desire to achieve them in their own lives inside and outside the confines of the lodge room.

      With further respect to charity, Freemasonry has always been concerned with the care of orphans, the sick and aged. Additionally, it has given millions of dollars in financial aid to various charities. The principle difference between Masonic charity and others is that you will seldom see Freemasons in the newspaper holding a large check. It is rather Freemasonry's belief that charity should be given silently.

      In society outside the lodge, Freemasons are commanded to respect the laws of their land and to be patriotic to the country in which they live. Freemasonry contains nothing that would put him in conflict with his private, public and religious obligations, but rather these Masonic principles learned in lodge should support him in the undertaking of his duties outside the lodge.

      Perhaps the most misunderstood facet of the Freemason's Lodge has to do with secrecy. It is commonly said that Freemasonry is not a secret society but rather a society with secrets. While this is true, some Masons remain unaware of what is to be kept secret, and as a result never discuss their association with Freemasonry for fear of revealing these secrets. What are never to be revealed to the public are the signs and modes of recognition that would permit one to enter a Freemason's Lodge. Freemasons are free to acknowledge their membership in the society and its constitutions and rules are available to the public. There is nothing secret about any of its aims and principles, and the existence of this web site is a testament to that fact. Like many other societies, Freemasonry regards some of its internal affairs as private matters for its members, not even to be discussed with other lodges or their members. To this end, the inner transactions and business of a Masonic lodge are no different of the closed-door meetings of any corporation or organization.

      Another often misunderstood aspect of Freemasonry is that Masons are expected to be loyal to the lodge above all else. This train of thought is no doubt due to the misquoting of the obligations taken by a Mason during each of the degrees. In reality, a Mason is encouraged to do his duty first to God, by whatever name he is known, through his faith and religious practice and then, without detriment to his family and those dependent on him, to his neighbor through charity and service. None of these ideas are exclusively the providence of Freemasonry and should be universally acceptable to all moral citizens. Freemasons are expected to follow them if they are to be members of the Craft.


WHO IS A MASON?

A Mason is a man who professes a faith in God.
As a man of faith, he uses the tools of moral and ethical truths to serve mankind.


A Mason binds himself to like-minded men in a Brotherhood that transcends
all religious, ethnic, social, cultural, and educational differences.


In fellowship with his Brothers, a Mason finds ways in which to serve his God,
his family, his fellowman, and his country.


A Mason is dedicated.
He recognizes his responsibility for justice, truth, charity, enlightenment,
freedom and liberty, honesty and integrity in all aspects of human endeavor.

A Mason is such a man.


A BRIEF HISTORY OF FREEMASONRY

      "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void. And darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved across the waters, and God said: 'Let there be light', and there was light". This quote from Genesis 1:1-3 is powerful, and it is also read to every Masonic candidate during the very first Masonic Degree. It is suiting to a Fraternity like Freemasonry to have the new member start his path of Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth with the word of God.

      The exact beginning of the society of Freemasons is not known, but many historians, Masonic and non-Masonic, have many theories. Some place the origins to the days of Noah's Ark, others may believe it began with the building of King Solomon's Temple, while some feel it originated with the building of the great pyramids in Egypt and others trace it to King Athelston of England in 930 AD. These are theories are highly unlikely, yet do make for a colorful speculative history. However, the most widely supported and accepted theory places the origin of the fraternity to the building trade guilds of the Middle Ages.

      The possibility for this theory is because these skilled craftsmen were allowed to travel from city to city to build the huge cathedrals and beautiful castles that now dot the European landscape. Because of their incredible skills, these workmen; painters, carpenters, stonemasons, etc., were given the freedom to travel from job site to job site. They were not owned like the serfs and other residents of the kingdoms. It is believed this is where the term freemason comes from.

      The humble stonemason, with his common tools, the chisel, the hammer, the square, the plumb line, and the compasses, were all he needed to create and build the magnificent edifices that have stood for centuries and are admired by people to this day.

      The place where these operative craftsmen ate, slept, and drew up the plans for their construction projects, was called a "lodge". Each town or village that had construction crews had these lodges of masons, carpenters, painters, etc. This term has stayed in our vocabulary to this day, what was once called a lodge of freemasons, is now called a Masonic Lodge.

      The friendship and brotherly love these men and their families developed was an incredibly strong bond; one that was evident by the support of their fellow masons in distress, their widows and orphans. However, as the saying goes, all good things must come to an end, and there began an eventual "phasing out" of these massive construction projects. As this downsizing progressed, all the labor guilds began to lose members, and eventually discontinue all operations. However, these lodges of free masons, which had insisted on the high moral and ethical standards of its members, continued to survive.

      The most accepted theory for the continuation of these groups of "operative" masons and their lodges is that they started to admit new members, men who were not operative stonemasons. Doctors, farmers, sailors, merchants, and other men from all walks of life were allowed to join. These men who did not really work with stones and bricks, were called "speculative" masons. When these speculative members joined the Masonic Lodges, Freemasonry became more of a club or fraternity, than a labor guild. These new members, the Speculative Masons, became accepted as equals with the Operative Masons in a spirit of Fraternal Brotherhood, hence the "Accepted" in Free and Accepted Masons. Although this colorful beginning of Freemasonry is not necessarily factual, nor is it provable, it serves to lend an air of antiquity to the origins of this Fraternity, as there were several hundred years between the operative and speculative lodges. For instance, there are no records of operative Masonic Lodges in England after 1560, nor are there any records of operative lodges in Scotland after 1580. Therefore, for any person to say there is an actual documented connecting lineage between the two has yet to be proven to any history scholar, Masonic or non-Masonic.

      While this is the most popular theory, there is also some popular speculation that would trace the origins of Freemasonry to the original Knights Templar, founded in 1117. The original name of what we know as the Knights Templar was "The Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ and the Temple of Solomon in Jerusalem". This is obviously a long name to be called when people are referring to this group, so over time the name was modified to "The Knights of the Temple", later it was modified even more to the "Knights Templar", the name with which we are so familiar with today.

      Some of the earliest writings that allude specifically to Masonry are the Regis Manuscript, dated in 1390, and the Cooke Manuscript, written in 1400. According to the research Lodge, Quatuor Coronati, of England, the earliest records of non-operative Masons being admitted to the Masonic Lodges took place in June of 1600. The Laird of Auchinleck, John Boswell, is registered to the Lodge in Edinburgh. In 1643 there were other names added to this list. They include Lord Alexander, Sir Anthony Alexander and Sir Alexander Strachan. In 1640 General Robert Moray is entered on the roster and in 1641 General Alexander Hamilton is added. Elias Ashmole and Randle Holme were added in 1646 and the Earl of Cassillis was registered in 1672. According to the Philalethes Society, the first native born American to be made a Mason was Jonathan Belcher in 1704, who was then the governor of Massachusetts.

      Whether or not these records are proof of an earlier beginning of Fraternal Freemasonry has yet to be documented, but their being admitted to the "Society of Freemasons" sounds a lot like a Lodge of Freemasons.

      However, the date of June 24th, 1717 is given as the "historically official" beginning of the Masonic Fraternity as we know it today. This is when the United Grand Lodge of England was formed, and from which all regular Masonic Lodges in every country can be traced.


ANSWERS TO QUESTIONS WE OFTEN HEAR ON FREEMASONRY


     If there is one thing most people are sure they know, it's that Masons are never supposed to talk about Masonry.

  • Not true. Oh, there are some secrets, but there's nothing in them that would interest anyone except a Mason. Almost all of the "secrets" deal with ways of recognizing each other. But as far as Freemasonry, what it does, what it teaches, how it's organized, where it came from, what goes on in a lodge meeting, that's open for discussion. Given a chance, we'll probably tell you more than you really wanted to know. We're excited about the fraternity, we get a lot out of it, and we really want to share that with others.
     

     Then why hasn't anyone ever asked me to join?  People have asked me to join Rotary, Lions and other clubs.

  • It's no reflection on you. There is a rule in Masonry that a person must seek admission himself. We aren't allowed to go out and twist arms. There is a reason for that. A person needs to come to Masonry because he really wants to, not because he's been talked into it. Masonry is a real commitment. If you are a Mason and you need help, every Mason in the world must help you, if he possibly can. By the same token, you must be willing to help any Mason who needs it. Then there is another reason, a person has to be ready for Masonry. Masonry is not a civic or service club. It is a fraternity. We're dedicated to the growth and development of our members as human beings. A person has to be ready to grow, has to suspect that there is something more to life, and wants to know what that is, before he is ready to become a Mason.
     

     What goes on in a Masonic meeting?

  • There are two types of meeting agenda. The first is like the business meeting of any other organization. It takes us just a bit longer to call the meeting to order because we use a longer opening ceremony or ritual than civic clubs do. However, it reminds us of some of the most important lessons in Masonry. Then, when the lodge is "open", we hear the reading of the minutes, vote to pay bills, take care of old and new business, plan projects and perhaps receive some Masonic education from our Lodge Education Officer. The other type of meeting is one in which new members are received. This is done with a beautiful ritual, centuries old, which is designed to teach some important lessons and to start the person thinking about his own nature as a spiritual being.
     

     What's the initiation like?

  • The ceremonies of Masonic initiation are meaningful and historic. Nothing humorous or embarrassing is permitted. In fact, it is a very serious Masonic offense to allow anything to happen during an initiation that is undignified.
     

     I've heard that Masonry is a religion.  Is it?  Can a man be a Mason and a Christian at the same time?

  • Masonry acknowledges the existence of God. No atheist can become a Mason. Prayer is an important part of the Masonic ritual. Masonic vows are taken in the name of God, but Masonry never tries to tell a person how he should think about God or how he should worship God or why he should believe. We offer no plan of salvation. We teach that man should live a good life, not because that alone will earn him entrance into heaven, but because anything else is destructive, both to himself and to those around him. It is good to be good. As to whether a man can be a Mason and a Christian, the best answer is that many of us are. There are also Freemasons who belong to other faiths, including Judaism, Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism. Moreover, we number many ministers of different denominations. As Dr. Norman Vincent Peale, an active Freemason himself, once remarked; "Masonry encourages men to be good, and that can never conflict with Christianity".
     

     Are there any churches or religions whose members you won't accept as Masons?

  • No. A man's belief is his own business, and Masonry has no right to approve or disapprove of his belief.
     

     What about those "secret vows" I hear so much about?

  • The exact words of the vows are "secret", the contents of the vows are not. In less formal language than we use in the Ritual, a Mason promises; to treat women with deference and respect, to help a brother when he asks for and needs help, to remember that people are entitled to dignity and respect and not to treat them as if they were things, to follow the directions of the Grand Lodge in things Masonic, and if he disagrees, to use the proper channels to express that disagreement and seek resolution. To respect the traditions of the Fraternity, and to keep secret the few things that are secret.
     

     Why don't you let women join?

  • We're a fraternity, a brotherhood. The essence of a fraternity is that it is for men, just as the essence of a sorority is that it is for women.  As a private group accepting no money from the public, we are under no legal obligation to accept anyone, but are entitled to chose whom to associate with. Freemasonry's goal is the education and development of good men. If we wish to do this privately and without the involvement of women, it is no concern of others. One might justify this exclusion, in contemporary terms, as a form of male bonding; meeting with a group of like minded men from a broad social, economic and cultural background to practice a ritual derived from those practiced hundreds of years ago. It's important for men to have a few things they do by themselves, just as it is for women to have the same thing. Nevertheless, that doesn't mean that there is no place for women in Masonry. In fact, there are several Masonic organizations for both women and men. The order of the Eastern Star, with one of the most beautiful rituals anywhere, is one. So are the White Shrine of Jerusalem, the Order of Amaranth, the Social Order of Beauseant, and several others.
     

     Just what is a "Lodge?"  What does it look like?  Who runs it?

  • A lodge is both a meeting place for Masons and the Masons who meet there. You could actually say, "The Lodge is a meeting at the Lodge". It's a Middle English word. When the great cathedrals of the Middle Ages were being built, the masons had special temporary buildings built against the side of the cathedral in which they met, received their pay, planned the work on the cathedral, and socialized after work. This building was called a lodge. The term has simply remained down through the ages. As to the officers, the leader of the lodge, the president is the "Worshipful Master". That title doesn't mean we worship him, although some people have thought that is what it means. The titles we use come from Middle English, about the time of Chaucer. Just as mayors in England and Canada are addressed as "Your Worship", the Master of the Lodge is called "Worshipful Master", meaning "Greatly Respected". The first vice president is the Senior Warden. The second vice president is the Junior Warden. We have a Secretary and a Treasurer, just like any other organization. Assisting the Master are the Senior and Junior Deacons. They carry messages and help with the ritual work. The Senior and Junior Stewards help guide the new candidates in the initiation and traditionally set out refreshments. Finally, the Tyler sits at the door to make sure that the lodge is not interrupted and to help visitors get into the lodge room.
     

     If that is the Lodge, what is the "Grand Lodge?"

  • The Grand Lodge is the state organization of Masons. The local lodges are members of the Grand Lodge. The Grand Master is the same as the state president.
     

     Just what do Masons do?

  • Charity is the most visible Masonic activity. Each year Masons give many millions of dollars to charity. Some are large projects, some are small. We have strong commitments to public education. Many Lodges have programs in which they recognize outstanding students. We have essay contests, awards for outstanding teachers and even programs to help teachers get supplies. The fraternity gives hundreds of college scholarships to students each year. Nationally, throughout the United States, Masons give an average of $1,500,000 (that is one and a half million) every day to charitable causes, most of which are not Masonic. A fact never publicized and thus hardly known. All those things are external, and they are important. But the real things the Masons do are far more difficult to describe. In essence, we try to build ourselves into better men, better fathers, better husbands and better citizens. We strive for self-development and self-improvement. We try to learn more about what it means to be human and what it takes to become better men.
     

     How does a man become a Mason?

  • As we said earlier, no one will ever twist your arm. If you decide you want more information, we'll be happy to provide it through the Grand Lodge in your jurisdiction. If you want to join our fraternity it works this way: Ask any Mason for a petition (to join). Fill it out and return it to him. He'll take it to his lodge and turn it in. A committee of about three will be appointed to talk with you and with people you may list. Its purpose is to ascertain that you are a man of good character and that you believe in God. Atheism and Freemasonry are not compatible. The committee will report its recommendation back to the lodge. The lodge will vote. If your petition is accepted, the Secretary will contact you about a date for the first of three degrees. There is some study and a bit of memory work required, with which your lodge brothers will always help you. After the third degree you will be a full-fledged Master Mason, and will have joined the oldest global brotherhood in the world!



"HOW DO I BECOME A MASON?"

      Becoming a member of our Fraternity is not a difficult task.  If you look around you, you very well may discover that you are already in the company of Masons.  Look closely for bumper stickers or medallions with the "Square and Compass" insignia.  Look for rings, tie tacks and/or lapel pins with the insignia, and if you find one amongst your acquaintances, make inquiry with him about joining "the Lodge".  If you do not know a Mason, click here to bring up our contact form, or get in touch with one of the Brethren on the Lodge Officers page.  Ask him about submitting your petition for membership in the Lodge.  He will be more than happy to assist you.

      Once a petition is submitted, the following things happen in the following order.  The petition is read for the benefit of the membership at the next regular Stated Communication (business meeting).  The Master of the Lodge will then appoint an investigating committee, usually several senior members of the Lodge, who will contact you and find a mutually convenient time to meet with you to talk and determine if you meet the prerequisites for membership.  Prerequisites are generally that you are an honest and upright man who conducts his affairs with dignity and treats all mankind fairly and decently.  They will then report their findings to the Master of the Lodge.  Since it is not practical that you meet each person who will be balloting on your petition, the committee interviews you and reports their findings through the Master to the entire Lodge.

      The petition will be read at the next Stated Communication and it will be voted on by the membership present.  If you are accepted as a member, you will be contacted by the Secretary, and instructed as to when and where to report for your "First Degree", that of "Entered Apprentice", at which time the Lodge, in full ceremony, will confer the ancient rites and rituals of that Degree.

      After the degree, there will be some study on your part to commit parts of what happened to you and with you that night to memory and recite it before the Lodge.  Then on to the Second Degree, that of "Fellowcraft", or in the terms of our ancient brethren, "Fellow of the Craft".  Then on to the Sublime Degree of a Master Mason.

      You can meet no finer group of men than those you will find in a Lodge of Freemasons and, in our opinion, no higher ideals to hold yourself to.



A Brief History of the Grand Lodge of Minnesota


     Before there was a State of Minnesota, there were the Masons, quietly building communities across the territory.

     The original pioneers brought the Masonic Fraternity with them from other states and homelands in Europe. These lodges allowed men of different nationalities, religious beliefs, and political persuasions to find common ground from which they could build their cities and towns. Thus, five years before statehood, in 1853, the Grand Lodge of Minnesota was established. In modern times, Masons have established endowments that have become fixtures in Minnesota, such as the Masonic Cancer Research Center at the University of Minnesota, the Masonic Home senior housing facilities, and Shriners Hospital for Children. Over the years, Masons have played a key role in the evolution of Minnesota. In all, 14 Minnesota governors and numerous state Supreme Court Justices and state legislators have been Masons. Today, the Minnesota Masons have 171 lodges statewide, with nearly 20,000 members.

     "It is impossible to measure the numerous good works and contributions of Freemasonry in Minnesota from 1853 to 2003," said 2003 Minnesota Grand Master Neil Neddermeyer. "As an organization, we are extremely proud to look back on 150 years of commitment to community service, leadership, and philanthropy, especially for the state's youth. We are also excited by a recently renewed interest by young men in Freemasonry and look forward to continuing that legacy for another 150 years."

     The Masons have many affiliate organizations, each with a special social, educational and philanthropic focus. Appendant organizations for men include the Shrine, Scottish Rite, and York Rite, and for women the Eastern Star. Youth groups include DeMolay for boys, Rainbow Girls and Job's Daughters for girls.

     Freemasonry is not a religious organization and it respects the diverse beliefs of all members. Membership is open to men 18 or older who believe in a Supreme Being, are of good moral character and possess a strong desire bond together and to help others through community service. Masons do not recruit members; men must seek membership on their own.