What is Freemasonry?
Freemasonry is an initiatory, fraternal organization – the oldest such organization in the world. Often described simply as “a beautiful system of morality, veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols”, Freemasonry can enhance and strengthen the character of the individual man by providing opportunities for fellowship, education, leadership, and philanthropy.
The function of Freemasonry is beautifully expressed by W.L. Wilmshurst in his book The Meaning of Masonry as:
“…a system of religious philosophy in that it provides us with a doctrine of the universe and of our place in it… Its first purpose is to show that man has fallen away from a high and holy centre to the circumference or externalized condition in which we now live; to indicate that those who so desire may regain that centre by finding the centre in ourselves, for, since Deity is as a circle whose centre is everywhere… The second purpose of the Craft doctrine is to declare the way by which that centre may be found within ourselves, and this teaching is embodied in the discipline and ordeals delineated in the three degrees.”
Is Freemasonry a secret society?
Freemasonry is not a secret society, or at least, not in the way one might think. The lessons and “secrets” of Freemasonry are found in libraries, on television and on the Internet. It is only within the context of the Lodge and the Fraternity where those lessons obtain their true meaning for the individual man. Secrecy in Masonry is most eloquently described in an article on the subject found in a 1927 Masonic Service Association publication:
“The secret of Masonry, like the secret of life, can be known only by those who seek it, serve it, live it. It cannot be uttered; it can only be felt and acted. It is, in fact, an open secret, and each man knows it according to his quest and capacity. Like all things worth knowing, no one can know it for another and no man can know it alone.”
Where does Freemasonry come from and how old is it?
Modern scholarship tells us that Freemasonry emerged out of the medieval stonemasons guilds of England. As the need for monumental architecture in Europe diminished, these guilds began admitting non-operative or “speculative” Masons who wished to use the symbols of the Craft to convey lessons of morality to elevate themselves and each other.
The most complete and oldest verifiable record of Lodges of Masons in England comes to us in the form of the “Schaw Statutes” of 1599, which contain the earliest known rules and regulations for Lodges.
Freemasonry became a meeting place for great thinkers of the Age of Enlightenment and became a place to discuss the scientific and philosophical wonders of the modern world.
The system of Freemasonry as it exists today was first organized in England in 1717 when the first Grand Lodge of England was formed. Every traditional Lodge in the world traces its lineage to this body.
Modern Freemasonry, while centuries old, is not itself ancient. However, many of the ideas and symbols associated with it are found in ancient religious, philosophical and mystery schools that reach into thousands of years of recorded history.
What types of men become Freemasons and for what reasons?
Good men who seek to continually improve themselves. They seek to form bonds with other men of like character, who without the common bond of the Fraternity, may never have otherwise met. Men from every walk of life; rich and poor; young and old seek what the lessons of Freemasonry can teach.
The reasons that men join are as diverse as the men themselves. They may have had family members who were Masons who wish to carry on a family legacy. Many find that they wish to connect to other remarkable men of history such as George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Mark Twain, and John Wayne. Many seek personal growth or for answers to deeper spiritual or esoteric questions. Whatever the reason, there are elements of our Fraternity to appeal to all men of curiosity.
The following videos, presented by the Grand Lodge of New Hampshire, can give you further perspective on the Fraternity from a NH Mason.
What are the core tenets of Masonry?
Brotherly Love, Relief, and Truth
Is Freemasonry a religion?
No. It is not, or intended to be a replacement for, any dogmatic religious system. It is, however, highly spiritual in nature. As such, we require men who wish to join the Fraternity to believe in a Supreme Being. The definition of that belief is left to the conscience of each individual man. Discussions of specific religion dogma and politics are strictly forbidden within the walls of of Lodge.
What are the degrees of Masonry?
Degrees are levels of membership, each of which is conferred in a ceremony at the lodge. There are three degrees: Entered Apprentice, Fellow Craft, and Master Mason. The titles come from the Middle Ages. When a person wanted to join a craft such as carpentry or stonemasonry, he was first apprenticed. As an apprentice, then, he learned the tools of the trade and upon proving his skills, he became a “Fellow of the Craft.” When he attained exceptional ability, he was known as a “Master of the Craft.”
Aren’t there 33 degrees?
Degrees 4 through 32 are conferred as a part of an appendant body of Freemasonry called the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite. These degrees expand on the first three degrees of Craft (Blue Lodge) Masonry through a series of dramatized moral lessons. The 33rd degree is an honorary degree awarded to Masons for exceptional service to the Fraternity or in public life.
It is important to note, there is no higher degree in rank or importance than that of the Master Mason, or Third degree. All members of the Rite are Master Masons, but not all Masons choose to join the Rite.
What is Masonic “ritual?”
The nature of Masonic ritual is both complex and beautiful. “Ritual” is a formal ceremony of initiation which recites certain tenets and truths that have been passed down for generations. This “Ritual” takes the form of lectures and theater in the Lodge, and is used to teach new Masons the value of true friendship, the benefits of knowledge, and the necessity of helping those in need. It speaks to the power and impact our ritual has on men’s hearts and minds because it has stood the test of time for more than 300 years. Although our world has changed dramatically during that time, our ritual is virtually the same. Not everyone will want to learn the ancient ritual – as it takes great time and study – but those Masons who chose to learn it are rewarded with the satisfaction of upholding a great tradition and helping their fellow brothers further their Masonic understanding.
What are some of the organziations affiliated with Freemasonry?
The Scottish Rite, the York Rite bodies culminating in the Knights Templar, the Arabic Nobles of the Mystic Shrine (Shriners) and the Order of the Eastern Star (a body for men and woman of Masonic affiliation). Youth organizations included the Order of the Rainbow for Girls and DeMolay for Boys. Once a Master Mason, you can become a part of any, all, or none of those organizations if you so choose. More information about these bodies can be found here.
Why is there so much interest in Masonry today?
Over the last four centuries, Freemasonry seems to have flourished during times of great enlightenment and change. It is no coincidence that Freemasonry rose to prominence during the Age of Enlightenment in both Europe and America. That was the time when a new generation believed it could discover ways to gain personal improvement, bring order to society, and understand the whole universe. This statement is perhaps even stronger today than it was in the 18th century.
Today, men seek out Masonry for the same reasons – to better themselves and improve society in the company of like-minded Brothers. As we learn more about how our physical world works, there’s also new interest in those things we don’t understand – especially things bound by tradition or that have a more mystical nature. Also, books like The Da Vinci Code and movies like National Treasure have brought up both new interest and renewed speculation about the nature of the Fraternity. Though these books and movies are a product more of a vivid imagination than fact, the real history of Masonry is perhaps the best story of all; one learned only by asking – and becoming a Freemason.
Who can become a Mason in New Hampshire?
To be qualified to petition a Lodge of Masons, you must:
- Be a man of good character
- Be at least 18 years old
- Believe in a Supreme Being
- Be a resident of State of New Hampshire for a minimum of 6 months
How do I become a Mason?
Freemasonry does not solicit for new members. To become a Mason, you must ask a Mason. You will have to be recommended by two current Masons in good standing, but it is ok if you do not currently know any Masons. We ask that you contact us, and we would be happy to meet with you. We often invite interested men to dinner before our monthly meeting so that we can learn about you, and in turn you can learn more about Masonry first hand.
After meeting with several Brethren of the Lodge, the petition is then presented to the membership for a vote at our a business meeting. It must be unanimously approved by a ballot of those in attendance. If successful, the applicant then is qualified to receive the Entered Apprentice degree at a Special Communication of the Lodge.
How much does it cost to be a member of the Lodge?
The one-time fee to petition Ancient York Lodge No. 89 is $225.00. Annual dues as of 2016 are $160.00.
What kind of time investment will I be required to make to the Lodge?
The amount of your time you invest in the Fraternity is completely up to you, but make no mistake, there will be demands required of you to progress through the Degrees and beyond. That being said, your family, your career, and your overall well-being, will, and should, take precedence over your Lodge. We ask that you attempt to make meetings and participate as much as you are able. There are many opportunities to join in fellowship with the Brethren, participate in the life of your Lodge, and learn valuable lessons to aide in strengthening your character; the choice is yours.
The information contained in this FAQ is only the tip of the iceberg. There is much more you can learn about the Craft by navigating to the “Links” section of our site.