Introduction to Freemasonry
Freemasonry is one of the world's oldest secular fraternal societies, whose members are concerned with moral and spiritual values. They are taught its precepts by a series of ritual dramas, which follow ancient forms and use stonemason's customs and tools as allegorical guides. The essential qualification for admission is a belief in a Supreme Being. Freemasonry is open to men of any race or religion who can fulfill this essential qualification and are of good repute. Although it has a religious basis Freemasonry is neither a religion in itself nor a substitute for religion. It expects its members to follow their own faith. It has no theology or dogma and by forbidding the discussion of religion at its meetings prevents the development of any dogma. Nor is there a separate Masonic god. The use of honorifics, such as the Great Architect, is simply to enable men of different faiths to meet together, offer prayers and address their God without differences of religion obtruding. To the Christian the Great Architect is his God; to the Jew, Hindu, Sikh, Muslim etc. he is the God of his particular religion. Freemasonry is not a secret society. Its aims, principles, constitutions and rules are available to the public and its members are at perfect liberty to acknowledge their membership. The only secrets in Freemasonry are the traditional modes of recognition. A Freemason is taught that his prime duties are to his God, to the laws of the country in which he lives and works, and to his family. Any attempt to use his membership to promote his own or anyone else's business, professional or personal interests, and any attempt to shield a Freemason who has acted dishonorably or unlawfully, is contrary to the conditions on which he seeks admission. By following the three Great principles of Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth a Freemason hopes to show tolerance and respect for the opinions of others; to practice charity within the community as a whole both by charitable giving and voluntary efforts; and to strive to attain truth and high moral standards in his own life.

Lodge Meeting
The 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.
  Masonic Society

Masonry teaches that each person has a responsibility to make things better in the world. Most individuals won't be the ones to find a cure for cancer, or eliminate poverty, or help create world peace, but every man and woman and child can do something to help others and to make things a little better. Masonry is deeply involved with helping people -- it spends more than $1.4 million dollars every day in the United States, just to make life a little easier. And the great majority of that help goes to people who are not Masons. Some of these charities are vast projects, like the Crippled Children's Hospitals and Burns Institutes built by the Shriners. Also, Scottish Rite Masons maintain a nationwide network of over 100 Childhood Language Disorders Clinics, Centers, and Programs. Each helps children afflicted by such conditions as aphasia, dyslexia, stuttering, and related learning or speech disorders. Some services are less noticeable, like helping a widow pay her electric bill or buying coats and shoes for disadvantaged children. And there's just about anything you can think of in-between. But with projects large or small, the Masons of a lodge try to help make the world a better place. The lodge gives them a way to combine with others to do even more good.

Masonic Orders and Degrees

The structure of Freemasonry can often appear confusing to the non-mason for many reasons, not the least of which is the fact that Freemasonry has evolved from a two-degree system to a three-degree system and then, as it spread from England into Europe and North America, it either evolved into various multi-grade systems or else recognized other organizations conferring degrees and imparting lessons which were believed to compliment or supplement the first three. Whilst members of the philanthropic club, the Shrine, may style themselves "Shrine Masons", and members of the Scottish Rite will call themselves "Scottish Rite Masons", it is only the fact that they have received the first three degrees, and continue to be members of a Craft lodge, that permits them to call themselves freemasons.

Adding to the confusion, in North America there are three Scottish Rite bodies, the Canadian Jurisdiction, Southern Jurisdiction and the Northern Jurisdiction, which have slightly different titles for their degrees. In South America and Mexico the Grand Lodges will have absorbed variations of either the York or Scottish Rite degrees into their systems and often there will be two or more Grand Lodges in one geographical jurisdiction—generally one styled a Grand Lodge and the other a Grand Orient—each conferring a different set of degrees.
In Europe, what they term the Scottish Rite more closely resembles various eighteenth century European rites than it does the North American model.

To complete the confusion, historically in the United Kingdom there were some lodges working what was once termed the York Rite which included the Supreme Order of the Holy Royal Arch. The numerous degrees and orders of the York Rite, or American Rite, that is those of the Chapter, Council and the Temple, exist in the United Kingdom, but are organized quite differently than in Canada and the United States. For example, the Mark Master degree is conferred by either lodges or Royal Arch Chapters in Scotland and in lodges of Mark Master Masons in England.

Craft Freemasonry

1° Entered Apprentice
2° Fellowcraft
3° Master Mason

Concordant Bodies

* Scottish Rite
(Lodge of Perfection)

4° Secret Master
5° Perfect Master
6° Intimate Secretary
7° Provost and Judge
8° Intendant of the Building
9° Elect of the Nine
10° Elect of the Fifteen
11° Elect of the Twelve
12° Grand Master Architect
13° Royal Arch of Solomon
14° Grand Elect Perfect and Sublime Mason

15° Knight of the East or Sword
16° Prince of Jerusalem
17° Knight of the East and West
18° Knight Rose Croix

19° Grand Pontiff
20° Master ad Vitam
21° Patriarch Noachite
22° Prince of Libanus
23° Chief of the Tabernacle
24° Prince of the Tabernacle
25° Knight of the Brazen Serpent
26° Prince of Mercy
27° Commander of the Temple
28° Knight of the Sun
29° Knight of St. Andrew
30° Knight Kadosh
31° Inspector Inquisitor Commander
32° Sublime Prince of the Royal Secret
33° Sovereign Grand Inspector General

* York Rite

Royal Arch Masons
Mark Master
Virtual Past Master
Most Excellent Master
Supreme Order of the Holy Royal Arch
Council of Royal and Select Masters (Cryptic Rite)
Royal Master
Select Master
Super Excellent Master
Royal Ark Mariner
Preceptory of Knights Templar
Illustrious Order of the Red Cross
Order of Saint Paul
Order of Saint John or Malta
Order of the Knights Templar


Order of the Eastern Star
Daughters of the Nile
White Shrine Youth Orders
De Molay
Job's Daughters
Rainbow Girls


Ancient Arabic Order of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine
Grottoes of North America
High Twelvians
National Sojourners
Sociatas Rosicruciana in Anglia
Tall Ceders of Lebanon

BODIES IN AMITY (Friendship)

*Royal Order of Scotland
Rosy Cross

*Red Cross of Constantine
Knight of Rome
Knight of the Red Cross of Constantine
Knight of the Holy Sepulchre
Knight of St John the Evangelist

*Grand Council of Allied Masonic Degrees
Excellent Master
Grand Architect,
Masters of Tyre
St. Lawrence the Martyr
Knight of Constantinople
Grand Tyler of Solomon
Excellent Master
Grand Architect,
Masters of Tyre
Ye Antient Order of Corks
Masonic Order of the Bath
Royal Order of the Red Branch of Eri (additional six degrees)

The Articles of Union were signed on November 25, 1813 by the Duke of Sussex and the Duke of Kent, and confirmed on December 27, 1813 prior to the constitution of the United Grand Lodge of England: Article II "...declared and pronounced that pure Antient Masonry consists of three degrees and no more, viz., those of the Entered Apprentice, the Fellow Craft, and the Master Mason, including the Supreme Order of the Holy Royal Arch."

A Degree System
A degree is a stage or level of membership. It's also the ceremony by which a man attains that level of membership. There are three, called Entered Apprentice, Fellowcraft, and Master Mason. As you can see, the names are taken from the craft guilds. In the Middle Ages, when a person wanted to join a craft, such as the gold smiths or the carpenters or the stonemasons, he was first apprenticed. As an apprentice, he learned the tools and skills of the trade. When he had proved his skills, he became a "Fellow of the Craft" (today we would say "Journeyman"), and when he had exceptional ability, he was known as a Master of the Craft.

The degrees are plays in which the candidate participates. Each degree uses symbols to teach, just as plays did in the Middle Ages and as many theatrical productions do today.

The Masonic degrees teach the great lessons of life -- the importance of honor and integrity, of being a person on whom others can rely, of being both trusting and trustworthy, of realizing that you have a spiritual nature as well as a physical or animal nature, of the importance of self-control, of knowing how to love and be loved, of knowing how to keep confidential what others tell you so that they can "open up" without fear.

BACK to Freemasonry 101

Tools and Symbols
A beautiful system of morality, veiled in allegory,
and illustrated by symbols.

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