That’s not a surprising question. Even though Masons (Freemasons) are members of the largest and oldest fraternity in the world, and even though almost everyone has a father or grandfather or uncle who was a Mason, many people aren’t quite certain just who Masons are.
The answer is simple. A Mason (or Freemason) is a member of a fraternity known as Masonry (or Freemasonry). A fraternity is a group of men (just as a sorority is a group of women) who join together because:
- There are things they want to do in the world.
- There are things they want to do “inside their own minds.”
- They enjoy being together with men they like and respect.
Masonry (or Freemasonry) is the oldest fraternity in the world. No one knows just how old it is because the actual origins have been lost in time. Probably, it arose from the guilds of stonemasons who built the castles and cathedrals of the Middle Ages. Possibly, they were influenced by the Knights Templar, a group of Christian warrior monks formed in 1118 to help protect pilgrims making trips to the Holy Land.
In 1717, Masonry created a formal organization in England when the first Grand Lodge was formed. A Grand Lodge is the administrative body in charge of Masonry in some geographical area. In the United States, there is a Grand Lodge in each state. In Canada, there is a Grand Lodge in each province. Local organizations of Masons are called lodges. There are lodges in most towns, and large cities usually have several. There are about 13,200 lodges in the United States.
What is Freemasonry?
Freemasonry is often thought to be complex and difficult to explain or understand. Perhaps the following ten basic elements explain it better to member and non-member alike:
- In a lodge room, a Mason is expected to be informative and inspirational.
- In the home a Mason is gentle, kind and practices fidelity.
- In business relationships, a Mason is honest and maintains his veracity.
- In his daily work, a Mason exhibits thoroughness and dependability.
- In social contacts, a Mason conducts himself with moderation and self-control.
- Towards the fortunate, a Mason is the first to offer congratulations and best wishes.
- Towards the weak, a Mason quickly offers compassion and assistance.
- When confronted with wickedness, a Mason puts up resistance and offers rebuke.
- Towards the truly penitent a Mason grants forgiveness and another chance.
- Towards God a Mason shows reverence, love and obedience.
These ten concepts are easy to remember but difficult to achieve. Only through daily practice can one hope to accomplish them.