Thursday, June 15, 2006

Isn't that a Secret?

A Quick Overview of Freemasonry for Those Who Would Like to Know a Little More About Us
If there's 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 what Masonry is, what it does, what it teaches, how it's organized, where it came from, what goes on at 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's 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.

And then there is another reason -- a person. has to be ready for Masonry. Masonry isn't a civic club, although we do a lot of civic projects, it's 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 want to know what that is, before he is really ready to be 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 most civic clubs do. But, it reminds us of some of the most important lessons in Masonry.

Then, when the lodge is "open" we hear the reading of minutes, vote to pay bills, take care of old and new business, and plan projects, just like everyone else.

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 the initiation which is undignified or "funny."
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 most of us are.

There are Masons that belong to other faiths, including Judaism and Islam, but the majority in the United States are Christian. And we number many, many ministers of many different denominations. As Dr. Norman Vincent Peale, an active Mason 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; that's one of the ways we recognize each other. 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. That's the primary reason. Recent developments in psychology and sociology have discovered another. There is a thing called "male bonding." That's a new technical way of saying something that people have known for thousands of years. 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.

But that doesn't mean that there's 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 around, is one.

So are the White Shrine of Jerusalem, the Order of Amaranth, the Social Order of the 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 meeting at the Lodge." It's a Middle English word. When the great cathedrals of the Middle Ages were being built, the Mason's had special, temporary building, built against the side of the cathedral, in which they met, received their pay, planned the work on the cathedral and socialized after work. The 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" -- "Greatly Respected."

The First Vice President is the Senior Warden. The second Vice President is the Junior Warden. We have a Secretary and Treasurer, just like any other organization. Assisting the Master are the Senior and the Junior Deacons. They carry messages and help with the ritual work. The Senior and Junior Stewards help guide the candidate in the initiation and also traditionally set out refreshments. Finally, the Tiler, 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 in Oklahoma alone, Masons give more than $4,000,000 in charity. Some are large projects, some are small. In addition to hundreds of local projects, the fraternity has a Children in Crisis program, giving grants to organizations working with children who have some need. It also has a major program, working with the Oklahoma Society to Prevent Blindness, testing thousands of school children and senior citizens for vision problems .

We have strong commitments to public education. Lodges have programs in which they recognize outstanding students. We have essay contests, awards for outstanding teachers and programs to help teachers get supplies. And the Fraternity gives hundreds of college scholarships to Oklahoma students each year.

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. We try to learn more about what it means to be human.

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, as we'll be happy to provide. If you want to join the craft, it works this way:
Ask any Mason for a petition.

Fill it out and return it to him. He'll take it to the Lodge and turn it in. A committee will be appointed to talk with you and with people you may list. 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 degree, the Degree of Entered Apprentice.

You take the Degree, learn a bit of memory work from a brother, take the Second Degree, do a bit more memory work, take the Third Degree, and that's that. You're a fully-fledged Master Mason.

Long Island Masons

3 Comments:

Blogger Todd said...

Very nicely done, Brother.

10:04 AM  
Blogger KD said...

I found this wonderful FAQ during a search for the short talk bulletin, "Dear Son". I like it so much I am going to link it on our Lodge Facebook page and send the link to some friends who have asked politely about my Masonic activities and Freemasonry in general.
Thank you so much!
Sincerely and Fraternally, Dave Minke, Junior Deacon, Washington Lodge No. 20, Sacramento, CA

9:27 AM  
Blogger KD said...

I found this wonderful FAQ during a search for the short talk bulletin, "Dear Son". I like it so much I am going to link it on our Lodge Facebook page and send the link to some friends who have asked politely about my Masonic activities and Freemasonry in general.
Thank you so much!
Sincerely and Fraternally, Dave Minke, Junior Deacon, Washington Lodge No. 20, Sacramento, CA

9:42 AM  

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