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.
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.
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.
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.
WHO IS A MASON?
A Mason is a man who professes a faith in God.
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
Then why hasn't anyone ever asked me to join? People have asked me to join Rotary, Lions and other clubs.
What goes on in a Masonic meeting?
What's the initiation like?
I've heard that Masonry is a religion. Is it? Can a man be a Mason and a Christian at the same time?
Are there any churches or religions whose members you won't accept as Masons?
What about those "secret vows" I hear so much about?
Why don't you let women join?
Just what is a "Lodge?" What does it look like? Who runs it?
If that is the Lodge, what is the "Grand Lodge?"
Just what do Masons do?
How does a man become a Mason?
"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
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.