Why are you called Freemasons?

The name dates back to the days when Masonry was operative in character. Numerous explanations have been suggested, such as (a) masons worked in free stone (which could be carved), and hence were called “free-stone masons”, later shortened to “freemasons” (b) they were free men, not serfs; (c) they were free to move from place to place as they might desire; (d) they were given the freedom of the towns or localities in which they worked; (e) they were free of the rules and regulations that were usually imposed upon members of guilds.

What is Freemasonry?

Freemasonry is best understood by considering the three basic principles on which Freemasonry is founded.

Brotherly Love: Freemasons should show tolerance and respect for the opinion of others and show kindness and under standing to their fellow creatures. In Christianity, for example, this might be translated as “do unto others as you would have them do unto you”. In Judaism, “thou shall love thy neighbour as thy self”. In Islam,”No one of you is a believer until he loves for his brother what he loves for himself.” Most other faiths have similar sayings.

Relief: Freemasons are taught to practice charity, though without detriment to themselves or their dependants. Members are urged to regard the interest of the family as paramount. However, they should care for other Masons in distress and for the community as a whole, by charitable giving and by voluntary work where possible.

Truth: Freemasons should act honestly and truthfully and uphold high moral standards in both their professional and private lives. Freemasons believe that there is still such a thing as honour and that man has a responsibility to act honourably in everything he does. It teaches its members the principle of personal decency and personal responsibility.

Freemasonry is a social organization that brings good men together to study, teach and practice these principles. The intention is to improve and strengthen the character of the individual Mason. It follows that by improving men and making better ones, Masonry seeks to improve the community as a whole. Although it is apparent that Freemasonry has high ideals and indeed some men join on purely moral grounds, for the majority of Freemasons it is a pleasant way of joining with friends, having a meeting, a drink, dinner and making lasting friendships.

Don't you have to be invited to become a Mason?

Masonic recruitment is strictly forbidden. Most men believe that you have to be invited or have a family member that is a Mason to join a Masonic Lodge. Though all morally good men would be welcomed in any Masonic Lodge, the man himself must ask a Mason about becoming a member. This question is likely due to the fact that from the 1700’s through the 1900’s, Masonry was considered an extremely exclusive organization. This period in history was a time when sons followed in their father’s footsteps making Masonry a family tradition. From the outside looking in, it’s easy to understand why people might believe that you have to be asked to join – ironically, exactly the opposite is true.

Are there rituals and ceremonies in Masonry?

Unfortunately, there is a negative connotation to the words “ritual” and “ceremony”, but Masons do practice them. There is nothing romantic or mystical about the Masonic rites and ceremonies. Although, they are practiced with great reverence, and are considered a very significant aspect of Masonry, they are not the centre of Masonry. Ritual and Ceremonies have been passed along through the ages to provide a practical way to establish a unique experience that all brothers can share and relate to – regardless of which part of the country or world they come from. Rituals and Ceremonies may differ slightly from province to province, and country to country. However, they all are based on the same foundation and provide timeless lessons in things like charity, honesty, morality, chivalry, love, trust, respect, etc..

Is Freemasonry a "Secret Society"?

Most emphatically not. Like many clubs, societies and business corporations, Freemasonry has aspects that are private to its members but are not secret. This is evident when one considers that almost every country in the world has a Grand Lodge of Freemasons and each has its own public web site. Freemasons freely wear rings and other Masonic ornaments, Masonic buildings, which often give a tour of their premises to the public, are clearly marked and their addresses can be found in the Yellow Pages, and in Ontario the Ministry of Transportation even issues Masonic licence plates! Moreover, almost every library carries many books on Freemasonry. If Freemasons are secret, they need a refresher course in camouflage! Nevertheless, the “secrets” or private aspects of Freemasonry can be classed as grips (handshakes), passwords and signs which function as modes of recognition. Practically every other aspect of Freemasonry can be aired in public.

How did Freemasonry arise?

The “mythical” origins of Freemasonry date back to the building of the Temple of King Solomon in Jerusalem around 1000 B.C. Its innermost sanctuary was the Sanctum Sanctorum and was built to house the Ark of the Covenant which itself housed the tablets which Moses was given by God and on which were inscribed the Ten Commandants. The building of the Temple was carried out by stonemasons and their practices form the basis of Freemasonry.

The “historic” origins of Freemasonry are not known but two theories are generally put forward. In the first of these, Freemasonry can be traced back to the stonemasons’ guilds that formed in the Middle ages in England, Scotland and Wales. Such Masons, before 1700, were called Operative Masons as they worked with stone, chisels and hammers. The origin of the term Freemason is not known but may be connected with the fact that the Masons were free to travel to look for work- thus free Masons. Alternatively, it may be a shortening of the term freestone Mason (freestone is a soft fine-grained stone). Masons were members of craft guilds or lodges which were developed to train men in the skills needed to construct great buildings, to enforce a standard of workmanship and to protect their valuable trade secrets. They had a moral code and a strong desire to promote friendship amongst members. Master Masons were in possession of the Master’s word (password) and handshake, secret methods these master workmen used to recognize one another. Entered Apprentices were indentured to a Master Mason for seven years during which time they went through an initiation ceremony and were given their own secret password and handshake. After seven years they became a Fellow of the Craft, again with their own secret signs of recognition. In the 1640’s, lodges began to admit members who were not workers in stone. They were called “accepted or “speculative” Masons. Gradually these non-operational Masons took over lodges and turned them from operative to “free and accepted” or “speculative” lodges.

The second theory is that in the late 1500s and early 1600s, there was a group which was interested in the promotion of religious and political tolerance in an age of great intolerance when differences of opinion on matters of religion and politics were to lead to bloody civil war. In forming Freemasonry, they were trying to make better men and build a better world. As the means of teaching in those days was by allegory and symbolism, they took the idea of building as the central allegory on which to form their system. The main source of allegory was the Bible, the contents of which were known to everyone even if they could not read, and the only building described in detail in the Bible was King Solomon’s Temple, which became the basis of the ritual. The old trade guilds provided them with their basic administration of a Master, Wardens, Treasurer and Secretary, and the operative Masons tools provided them with a wealth of symbols with which to illustrate the moral teachings of Freemasonry.

Tradition informs us that In 1717, the first Grand Lodge of England was formed. In 1751, a competing Ancient Grand Lodge was formed causing friction between the two Grand Lodges. This was eventually healed by their merging in 1813 to form the United Grand Lodge of England (www.ugle.co.uk). This body provides the Constitution for Freemasonry and oversees how Masonry generally functions. It was also the stimulus for the development of Freemasonry in the USA and many other countries where it became a figurehead. However, the development of so called Regular Freemasonry internationally has seen many changes. Such changes have not always been sanctioned by the United Grand Lodge of England and there exists a situation where Freemasons working under the constitution of the United Grand Lodge of England are prohibited from having anything to do with lodges not approved by them, including women’s lodges.

Do you guys use secret handshakes?

The grip is among several customs that are intended to provide a little proof that you are a Mason and what degree (Entered Apprentice, Fellowcraft, or Master Mason) you are. The grips and passwords are rarely given outside the Lodge room but they are studied out of tradition.

How are Freemasons organized?

Freemasons belong to one or more Lodges. Such lodges are named by their founding members and may take the name of a town, an historical figure, a famous Mason or even a symbolic word or phrase. Lodge names are always followed by a number and the smaller the number, the older the lodge. Kerr was founded in 1870 and named after the Deputy Grand Master at the time James Kirkpatrick Kerr and was the 230th Lodge registered in Ontario, so we are known as Kerr 230.

Lodge meetings take place in lodge rooms, many of the details of which are patterned after King Solomon’s Temple. Freemasonry teaches by symbolism and much of this is also based upon accounts of Solomon’s Temple (for example, the square used by stonemasons to adjust rectangular corners is taken to denote “morality”, while the plumb rule teaches” justness and uprightness in life and actions”). The modern lodge room is a rectangular room with seating around the perimeter. It is usually oriented east to west, to be aligned to the east-west path of the sun. There is an altar where the Bible (or other book sacred to that lodge’s members) is opened. In Ontario this book is the King James Bible. If a member of another religion is receiving a degree and has a different book of faith, it is placed on top of the Bible to show that his personal beliefs are paramount. This book is referred to as the Volume of the Sacred Law to allow it to be universally recognized as a sacred book irrespective of the faiths of the lodge’s membership. People of all religious faiths can become Freemasons. Likewise, God is called the Great Architect of the Universe or the Supreme Being to prevent disharmony or offence to the different faiths. The floor of the lodge is part covered by a carpet having a regular pattern of black and white squares, symbolically representing, for example, good and evil, light and dark, joys and sorrows.

Officers of the lodge are elected by members of the lodge and usually serve for one year. The officers themselves progress over several years (usually 8-10) to become the Master, who presides over the Lodge. The other main officers of the Lodge, in order of seniority are Senior Warden, Junior Warden, Senior Deacon, Junior Deacon and Inner Guard. Each has a particular role to play. There are also other offices such as Secretary, Treasurer, Almoner, Senior Steward, Junior Steward, Director of Ceremonies, and Chaplin.

What happens in a Lodge meeting?

The meeting is in two parts. As in any association there is a certain amount of administrative procedure-minutes of the last meeting, proposing and balloting for new members, discussing and voting on financial matters, election of officers, news and correspondence and collection of charity. Then there are the ceremonies of admitting new Masons and the annual installation of the new Master and appointment of officers. There are three ceremonies for admitting new Masons. Each ceremony is 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. Needless to say, those members who play a part have to learn by heart, various lessons and lectures.

At the completion of each ceremony, the candidate is given particular regalia to wear. At the completion of the third ceremony, the candidate becomes a Master Mason and wears his regalia to every meeting of his or any other Lodge that he visits. For every meeting, Masons wear dark jacket and slacks or a dark business suit. In most Lodges in Ontario, the officers wear tuxedos, and Grand Lodge officers wear tuxedos with tails.

Because the primary goal of Freemasonry is fellowship, at Kerr Lodge a meal is served, generally after the meeting. This goes by the name of “repast” in Ontario. Other jurisdictions use the term “festive board”. Ceremonial toasting takes place, not least to welcome the newly made Mason as well as visitors and guests.

Why do you wear regalia?

Wearing regalia is historical and symbolic and, like a uniform, serves to indicate to members where they ranking the organization.

Why does Masonry use symbols?

The symbol has an esoteric purpose; it is a method that “suggests” what cannot be transmitted by teaching or direct representation. It allows the Mason to integrate his/her part of personal intuition to go toward the discovery of his/her secret truth. Then we can consider the symbol as an initiatic principle. The goal of symbolism is to link the mind of human to what transcend it, bond the element to the whole and to the universal.

What do all the symbols mean?
There are simply too many symbols used in Masonry to explain them all, but probably the most common symbol people see is the square and compasses. The square reminds Masons to “square” their actions by the “square of virtue,” and the compasses remind them to “circumscribe” their passions.  In other words, Masons are reminded to keep their actions virtuous and their passions in control.  Additionally, in the U.S. there is usually a “G” in the middle of the square and compass symbol. This letter stands for “geometry” and “God” and reminds Masons that geometry was central to the stone mason’s life as God should be to his.

What is the role of religion in Freemasonry?

Freemasonry is not a religion. It requires a belief in a supreme force and its principles are common to many of the world’s great religions. Freemasonry does not try to replace religion or substitute for it. Every candidate is exhorted to practise his religion and to regard its holy book as the unerring standard of truth. Freemasonry does not instruct its members in what their religious beliefs should be. Freemasonry deals in relations between men; religion deals in man’s relationship with God.

What about terms like “Temple,” “Worshipful,” and so on?
Labor unions meet in a Labor Temple. A museum may be called the Temple of Fine Arts. This does not mean that they are religious institutions. The same is true of Freemasonry. (Masonic buildings are also called Lodge Halls and Masonic Centres as well as Masonic Temples. Some Scottish Rite buildings are called “Cathedrals,” but that is from a Greek word meaning “chair,” and referring to the seat of authority of any sort.)
The term “worshipful” stems from 18th century English usage, when Freemasonry in its present form was being organized. The term has nothing to do with religious worship but is an old synonym for “honourable” or “respected.” Check any good dictionary!
Similarly, Freemasons engage in group prayer and have a chaplain, just as do the armed services and the houses of Congress. That does not make Masonry into a religion.

Is there a conflict between Freemasonry and established religion?
There is nothing in Freemasonry that conflicts with most religions. However, Freemasonry does insist on religious tolerance. To the extent that certain religious groups would wish to suppress other religions or persecute their followers, Freemasons would be in opposition to such activities, and adherents of such groups would be both uncomfortable and unwelcome in Masonry. It is also the case that certain religious groups are misinformed about Freemasonry and believe things about the Fraternity that are not true; basing their opinions on this false information, they then formulate opinions that create conflict.

Is Freemasonry involved in politics?

No. While individual Masons will have their own views on politics and policy, Freemasonry as a body will never express a view on either. It does however, encourage its members to be loyal to their country of origin, to be obedient to its laws and cheerfully to submit to the government under which they reside The discussion of politics (and religion) at Masonic meetings has always been prohibited.

Is Masonry a welfare system?

Masons receive no financial benefits from membership. We do provide for our own-after a fashion-but it is more likely that you will be called on to give charity rather than be its beneficiary.

Can being a Mason get you out of legal trouble?

A Mason takes an obligation to be a peaceable citizen, live within the law, and never put Masonic duties before his responsibility to his country. This question is likely due to the fact that some Masons have reported getting out of the occasional traffic violation when officers discovered that they were Masons. However, most Masons agree that receiving preferential treatment goes against Key Masonic principles – but it probably does go on.

Why is Freemasonry "men only"?

Traditionally, Freemasonry has been restricted to men. The early stonemasons were all male and when Freemasonry was organizing, the position of women in society was different from today. However, as early as the 1740s some French lodges began to initiate women as fellow members. Over the years, and almost entirely in Europe, several lodges made up of men and women (called Co-Masonry) or for women only have been formed. In England these include the Honourable Fraternity of Ancient Free-Masons, founded in 1913 (www.hfaf.org); and most recently the Grand Lodge of Freemasonry for Men and Women, founded in 2001 (www.grandlodge.org.uk). There is a Grand Lodge in the Province of Ontario that does accept women, but we have no association with them.

What are the "Higher Degrees" in Freemasonry?

There are none, although there are additional degrees other than the three of Symbolic Masonry. The degrees of the Scottish and York Rites are dependent on the Three Degrees of the Symbolic Lodge.

Are there other functions or clubs you can join by being a Freemason?

Yes, Scottish or York Rite, or the Shrine as well as others. These clubs also have monthly meetings, some with several informal get-togethers.

How do you join a Freemasons Lodge?

To ensure that only worthy and qualified men are admitted, the strictest precautions have to be taken. In the first place it will be necessary for you to find an appropriate Lodge. You will then need to find two members of the lodge to sponsor you. Great responsibility rests on these two members for they must not only be in the position to satisfy their fellow members that your character reaches a very high standard but also to help, guide and advise you. To be able to vouch for your suitability, they must have known you for a reasonable length of time. They should be conversant with your home life. There are several essential requirements necessary before your application can be considered.

  • That you believe in the existence of a Supreme Being, however you envision that force
  • You must be 21 years of age or over
  • You must be unbiased by your friends and uninfluenced by any mercenary motives
  • You must have you consulted with your wife/partner and is she in complete agreement with you joining Freemasonry and you both agree that your membership will not be detrimental to your family life, bearing in mind the financial aspects of a joining fee, annual subscription, donations to charity, and the commitment of time
  • You willing to reserve as far as possible the day of each meeting, which occurs at least once each month, the 3rd Thursday night for Kerr, and other meeting times as they arise.

If you decide to join, your sponsors will arrange for you to attend an interview when any questions you may have will be answered as far as possible and when it will be determined that your joining would be appropriate. An application form is then completed by you and your sponsors and submitted to your chosen Lodge, after which it may take some months, depending when the Lodge meets and its order of business, before you are actually admitted.

Is every Lodge different?

Lodges do have personalities and should be evaluated as such. The dynamic, however, can change so what may seem one way may be something else another time, but you can often get a general feel for the lodge on a visit. The best things to look for are a vibrant membership with diverse age groups, and members.

How long does it take to become a Freemason?

It can take 6 months to 18, depending on your interest, ability, and time. It could theoretically be faster or longer, depending on how one applies themselves.

How much does it cost?

Costs are separated into two categories, joining fees and annual dues. The cost of Dues vary depending on the Lodge, and like all memberships in organizations, rise with inflation. Kerr’s yearly dues will be about one or two days wages and your Initiation will be around one weeks take home wages. When compared to other organizations annual costs, the fee is very low. As with any organized body, the dues go to the operation and management of the lodge to which they are paid, as it forms the basis of a fraternal home to the membership.

Are meetings mandatory?

No. None of the meetings are “mandatory”. Once a candidate has been raised to the 3rd degree, participation is completely voluntary and at the individuals will and pleasure. Further, a Mason is not obligated to go only to his lodge once all 3 degrees have been obtained and a certain degree of proficiency has been achieved. Once full membership is achieved, the Mason can go to any lodge or Masonic function. There are certain protocols when visiting distant lodges.

What is expected/hoped for new members?

Ideally, once you go through the degrees it is hoped that the new member will desire to attend the regular meetings and contribute to the organization as their time permits.

What's in it for me?

When asked about the benefits of their membership in Freemasonry most members speak of the friendships they make or the spiritual or philosophical growth it has stirred in them. There are other benefits members receive from becoming a Mason, including the following:
• A worldwide fraternity: There is prestige and honour in being part of the biggest and best society of gentlemen.
• Centuries of tradition: The Masonic rituals connect you with 300 years of history, 1100 years of tradition and 3000 years of legend.
• A network of mutual friendship and aid: Masons pledge to help, aid and assist each other in every walk of life.
• Help for your community: The charities of Masonry are vast. These aid both Masonic and Non-Masonic charities.
• Spiritual awareness: Masonry encourages a man to study his own religion and strengthen his own faith.

Masonry in many ways is what the individual makes of it. You can have a large role, or a small one, it is incumbent on you and your interest and time. If the philosophy resonates well with an individual, then it will be a great experience in which you are inspired to learn from it. In its most simplest of personal reaction to it will cause the participant to reflect on something different than what they have experienced before. What it makes better is their dedication to family, duty to country, and an understanding of the divine and how to understand our relation to it.