Freemasons, the oldest and largest fraternal organization in the world has a long history.
This group of like minded men have been around so long that way too many stories embellished with questionable circumstances have been circulated. From some of these imaginations we get the movie, National Treasure. So many books, both pro and con have been written about Freemasons that I can’t even think of covering all of the material here in one post. I will try and condense the material into a useful amount so that the reader can at least decide if they have an interest in becoming a member or becoming an empowered volunteer for one of the many groups associated with Freemasonry.
First off, Freemasonry is a fraternal organization.
It is different from civic groups like the Lions Club or the Kiwanis or Rotary International. The difference is more legal than anything. Fraternal groups can have closed memberships requiring votes for entry. Civic groups are much more open, with restrictions being limited to well defined sectors such as the Rotary and the business sectors represented for each section within the local club. Civic groups can’t legally exclude any sectors of the public for instance. There have been a few court cases that have settled this in the past.
Freemasons started in the current incarnation we see today in the year 1717 in England. The past beyond that for the group traditionally included the masons building the great Roman Catholic Churches and buildings going back several hundred years. Some claim masons go back to the times of the Crusades even. However, today’s groups can only trace their current form to the creation of Freemasons in 1717. Before that, so many things were different that the linage is very hard to prove and for our purposes we really don’t care.
Freemasons in the United States are open about their membership and members often openly wear the affiliated symbols openly and proudly. However, Masons are one of the most persecuted of groups in modern times. Freemasons were not welcome under dictatorships or in Germany under the Nazi party. It is a little known fact that masons were included in the rounded up groups sent to the concentration camps.
Jews, gypsies, gays, and masons were all included in the concentration camp round up in Germany prior to and during WWII.
Masons, fearing the hostile government of Germany took to wearing a small lapel pin of a forget me not, a purple flower to distinguish themselves to others in the groups, much like the fish symbol was used by Christians during the time after Jesus in Rome.
Freemasonry today is a wide branch of a tree containing many different sections of groups, all with a Masonic connection. Think of this collections of groups like a high school in the United States. For a member of the school to join associated groups is normal. But you can’t join the base ball group of another school if you don’t live there. You have to stay in your area. It is the same with Freemasons. Once you have petitioned and been fully initiated into the local lodge as a Master Mason, which is also called the third degree of Masonry, you are at the top of the ladder. You can go no higher, only adding other groups.
Like a high school has many clubs and groups, so does the Master Mason confront many potential groups who will happily put him to work for the cause they support. You can’t just skip to the supporting group and skip the process of becoming a mason though, just as you can’t attend a school group without belonging to that school, home schooled children exempted.
Once you have joined the local Freemason’s lodge your are usually allowed to consider the other groups as you see fit. Such groups as the Shriners, Tall Cedars of Lebanon, the Order of the Eastern Star are all for adults. The Order of DeMolay is a boys youth group. Rainbow Girls is a youth group for girls. There are other groups associated with masons.
Eastern Star is for ladies as well as men, all the lady has to show is a relationship to a mason.
The purpose of Freemasonry in today’s society is stated as, “To make good men better”. This is simple and yet very complicated. The voting process for membership entry is supposed to ensure that only men of high character are allowed to join. There is a group that meets with you and your spouse to ensure she will not be unhappy if you join. Masons promote harmony both in the lodge by banning any conversation regarding religion or politics, but also at home by ensuring that spouses are secure that their men are attending functions which reflect positively on their reputations and that of their respective families.
If you do a search engine request on Freemasonry you will get many replies. Some of them will not be positive. Some will claim that Freemasons are a “secrete” organization which is unChristian. This is simply false. I am a Freemason, I have been in the group in many different states for over 20 years now. I have been in several of the associated groups as well. We do not have any deep dark secretes like the movies show, nor do we do sinister things during our initiations. Lastly, we are completely compatible with most Christian and many other religions.
I will put it this way, the group that has issues with Freemasonry must base their objections on either false or misleading information in order to compromise Christian values as they view them in some way.
Religions for the most part are happily aligned with the tenants of Freemasonry, since most of the initiation wording comes straight from the Old Testament part of the Bible, specifically the part involving King Solomon in first and second Kings. The idea is to use the symbols from this story as a pattern for building one’s moral character. Very simple, easily remembered rules from Bible stories help teach the new Mason his requirements and expectations.
Freemasons use rules and symbols that are put into a kind of story surrounding the building of Kind Solomon’s temple as an allegory for every mason to build his own personal spiritual temple here on earth. In other words, take the many lessons from the Bible verses that are memorized and make yourself a better person.
Freemasons don’t preach salvation, we only claim that we live on after we die here on earth.
How that is done and the surrounding issues are left to the individual and his church if he attends one. In America, most Freemasons attend a church of their choice. Many attend on a regular basis. However Jews are also welcome along with many from the other major religions of the world.
The key is to believe in a Supreme Being, usually called God.
Many famous people were Freemasons. Here is a site which lists some of them. http://www.dummies.com/how-to/content/famous-freemasons.html
Some famous Masons are remembered for behavior which was not very Masonic, meaning not of good character. Likely the most memorable of these was Benedict Arnold, famous for betraying his Commander General George Washington during the Revolutionary War.
Other memorable divisions between Masonic Brothers in American history involved Davy Crockett in his opposition to the Native American policies of President Andrew Jackson and the Korean War division between General Douglas MacArthur and then President Truman firing his general for insubordination.
These high profile episodes reflect and refute the notion that Masons will not enforce laws between themselves. Davy Crockett was so distraught with his treatment by his Brother Mason that he left his home and went to Texas to fight in their revolution, with several Brother Masons also involved and where he seemed to find better treatment as well.
The public perception that Masons will refuse to deal with fellow members as needed when in public office should now be dead from these examples.
The internet is full of stupid sites making so called historical claims that Freemasons do many creative and lowly things. I can tell you from personal experience they are simply not true. There are only a very few things which Freemasonry members promise not to reveal to the public. To that end, in 1723 a book was published which claimed to give out all of the secretes of the fraternity. To this day none of the so called secretes have been changed due to that violation of the authors oath when he published them.
It simply doesn’t matter if someone learns the hand grip or the gesture or whatever. To be a Mason starts in the heart with the right attitude and goes from there. It is not in gestures or hand shakes. So the liars on the internet can continue their negative crusade, but it will not stop good men from continuing their good works on behalf of society and in the name of the Holy Saint’s John.
To be a Mason you need to believe in a Supreme Being, usually called God. This allows the three religions stemming from Abraham of the Bible,including Jewish followers of most variations, Christian followers in most instances, and the followers of Mohammad as well as a few of the other religions of the world that are in alignment with the idea of a supreme being can apply to join Freemasonry.
Many famous Masons, such as Ben Franklin were Deists during the age of enlightenment, meaning that they were not Christian any longer, even if they were raised that way. George Washington was another Deist. Deists were not Christian, rather they believed God was a kind of watchmaker who wound up the universe and then stepped aside to let matters unwind. Since Deists believe in a Supreme Being or God, they too are welcome to join the ranks of Freemasonry. This is mentioned to set the example that very good men such as these were also Freemasons and history has not judged them harshly for either characteristic.
Atheists are not welcome to join Freemasonry.
If you take a look at some of the more famous Freemasons, you should be able to detect the true nature of the group as judged by the overall tone and character of the past members. Many of the more famous members were famous not for being masons but for their contributions to society. I will let you review the list for yourself and come to your own conclusions.
In the future I will write about many of the other Freemason groups and their respective traits.
For now, Freemasonry is a worthy group for the consideration of the empowered volunteer. It has a vast amount of space to enjoy and explore. Enjoy this group if you choose to spend your time in such good company. So mote it be!