TOP TEN MOST ASKED
QUESTIONS ABOUT MASONRY
Published by the
Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania
Where can I learn more about the Freemasons?
way to get information is to talk to a Mason – either in
person or online. You may have some of the same questions as
those below – so take a look at the
FAQ's. If you want more historical information, Mark Tabbert’s book,
American Freemasons, is a good place to start. More
lighthearted, yet accurate and thorough, is
Freemasons for Dummies by Christopher Hodapp. Both
books were published in 2005 and are available in your local
bookstore, or you may find them at online stores like
and Borders. We do provide a list of recommended books
and publications for those who are interested in seeking
more knowledge in Masonry -
What is Freemasonry?
Freemasonry aims to promote Friendship, Morality, and
Brotherly Love among its members. It is, by definition, a
Fraternity; comprised of men from every race, religion,
opinion, and background who are brought together as Brothers
to develop and strengthen the bonds of friendship. With over
3 million members, Freemasons belong to the largest and
oldest fraternal organization in the world. Freemasonry
proposes to “make good men better” by teaching – with
metaphors from geometry and architecture – about building
values based on great universal truths.
did Freemasonry come from?
the mystique of Freemasonry can be attributed to speculation
about its roots. Over the years, researchers have never been
able to conclusively determine exactly when, where, how, and
why Freemasonry was born. The order is thought to have
arisen from the English and Scottish guilds of practicing
stonemasons and cathedral builders in the Middle Ages, but
certain Masonic documents actually trace the sciences of
geometry and masonry to the time of ancient Egypt, and some
historians say that Masonry has its real roots in antiquity.
Sound clip from MSA -
Listen to "Brief History"
formation of the first
Grand Lodge of England in 1717 could mark the beginning
of the Modern (or “Speculative”) era of Freemasonry, when
members were no longer limited to actual working
stonemasons. These “Accepted” Masons eventually adopted more
enlightened philosophies, and turned what was a tradesmen’s
organization into a fraternity for moral edification,
intellectual recitation, benevolent service, and gentlemanly
Is there a difference between Masons and Freemasons?
are interchangeable. The term Freemason is often used today
in public to differentiate the Fraternity from actual
operative stonemasons, and is said to more accurately
describe the enlightened “freethinking” of the membership.
Why is there so much interest in Masonry today?
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 – where 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.
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 around 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.
Can Freemasonry actually prepare me for greatness?
organization can guarantee to make anyone great, but the
powerful values and important truths that are taught as part
of the Masonic tradition has proven to inspire, challenge,
and develop leadership in men. Benjamin Franklin may have
said it best, describing the Fraternity as a place to
one of the things that has kept Masonry a strong and vital
organization for so long is the fact that the Fraternity
proposed only to “make good men better,” not to make bad men
good. This distinction is critical in that from its early
days the Fraternity took itself out of the “rehabilitation”
game -- which became the purvey of both religion and the
criminal justice system.
are preparing themselves for greatness in Lodges the world
over. If you think there’s greatness in you, we invite your
Is Masonry a secret society? (This requires RealPlayer to view.)
No. It is
sometimes said that Freemasonry is a “Society with secrets,
not a secret society.” In point of fact, however, any
purported Masonic “secrets” were made public several
centuries ago in London newspapers, and today can be found
in the Library of Congress, on the Internet, and in many
books on the subject. As Benjamin Franklin once said, “The
great secret of Freemasonry is that there is no secret at
What about secret handshakes, ritual, and passwords?
Freemasonry, often called the “Craft” by its members, is
founded on metaphors of architecture. Following the practice
of the ancient stonemason guilds, Freemasons use special
handshakes, words, and symbols not only to identify each
other, but to help, as William Preston said in 1772,
“imprint upon the memory wise and serious truths.”
Although every new Freemason takes an oath – and vows to
keep secret the metaphors of Masonry – the metaphors are
only used to help Masons become better men; and there’s
certainly no secret surrounding what it takes to be good and
How do I become a Freemason?
Ask One To Be One!
Masons have not traditionally recruited members, and do not
hold public meetings, there has long been confusion about
how to join the Fraternity. Does someone ask you? Do you
ask? Today, because of widespread interest in the Fraternity
– along with the plethora of both information and
misinformation found on the Internet – the following
information was put together on how men can join:
men can become a Mason by simply asking
– like Washington, Franklin, and most every Mason from the
past to the present day. Membership is open to men of every
race, religion, culture, and level of income. The
requirements for membership are that you be over the age of
18, believe in Supreme Being, and can be found to be of
good character. The belief in a Supreme Being is said
to be a requirement that is needed to take certain oaths,
otherwise “no obligation would be binding upon you.”
men seek out a Lodge near their home or workplace, or ask
someone they know who is a Mason to recommend a Lodge to
men can become Masons, however. Masonry does not purport to
make “bad men good,” only “good men better.” Only men of
good character are accepted into the Fraternity. Masonic
lodges review every applicant’s moral character – and the
centuries-old “blackball” system is still in place; members
must be voted in by a 100% vote of Lodge members present.
10) What is a Grand Lodge?
Lodges were formed – first in England and Ireland, and later
in America, to help standardize ritual, traditions, and
customs among various Lodges. The first Grand Lodge in
America was formed in Massachusetts in 1733. Today there is
a Grand Lodge in every state – and virtually every country
in the world. There is no “central” Grand Lodge, though
Grand Lodges also meet to help facilitate unity and uphold
tradition within the Craft.
Interested? Here Are More Questions...
of Masonic ritual is both complex and beautiful. “Ritual” is
actually a recitation of certain tenets and truths that have
been passed down for generations – mostly from mouth to ear.
This “ritual” takes the form of lectures and theater in the
Lodge, and is used to teach new Masons the value of truth
and the necessity of helping those in need.
everyone will want to learn the ancient ritual – as it takes
great time and study – but those Masons who choose to learn
it are rewarded with the satisfaction of upholding a
powerful tradition and helping their fellow brothers further
their Masonic understanding.
Americans become Masons?
accepts men from every race, color, creed, nationality, and
culture, and there are many Freemasons of African-American
decent. In addition, Prince Hall Masonry, formed by Prince
Hall, an African-American Freemason who received a charter
for a Lodge in 1775, has maintained active Lodges for the
African-American community throughout America for over 200
Shriners are Masons. Before a man can join the Shrine –
often called the “Playground of Masonry,” – he must first
receive three “degrees” in his “Blue Lodge,” or Home Lodge.
After that, any Mason can move on to one or more of the
appendant bodies, including the Scottish and York Rites –
and the Shriners. Masons may also affiliate with other
Lodges. It should be noted that although these other Masonic
bodies allow members to pursue advanced degrees and get more
Masonic education, there is no “higher” degree than the
third, which is received in the Blue Lodge.
Catholics cannot become Masons, is that true?
Freemasonry has always welcomed members of any faith,
including Catholics. Today, there are many, many Catholics –
as well as Jews, Muslims, and members of every faith who are
Were all our
early presidents Masons?
Although many presidents have been Masons throughout history
– from George Washington to Gerald Ford (14 Presidents).
Many of the early leaders of the Revolution were Masons,
including Benjamin Franklin, John Hancock, and Paul Revere.
The list of prominent men who became Masons before going on
to greatness is extensive. Famous Masons ...
there any famous women who are Masons?
Freemasonry is, by definition, a fraternity that aims to
promote Brotherly Love and Friendship among its members. It
is a worldwide organization that draws together men from
every country, race, religion, ethnicity, opinion, and
background, and helps cultivate and promote better
relationships and bonds of friendships among them.
Freemasonry doesn’t focus on Friendship and Brotherly Love
because it believes that only relations between men are
important, or that relations between men and women are
unimportant, but because hope for peace and harmony in the
world is improved when men can put aside their differences
and come together as friends.
also appreciate and value relations with women. We sponsor
and participate in Masonic related organizations such as the
of Eastern Star, Job's
Daughters International, and the Order of
Rainbow For Girls, whose members include women and girls
Is Masonry a Religion?
not a religion. But it is one of the few platforms where men
of every religion can come together. And although Lodges
open and close with a prayer, and Masonry teaches morality,
it is not a church or a religion. Masonry is open to all men
who believe in God, but because of the necessity to
take oaths, no atheist can become a Mason.
Freemasonry a charity?
Masonic principles teach the value of relief - or charity -
and Freemasons give more than 2.6 MILLION DOLLARS A DAY, of which
more than 70% of these donations support the general public.
Among their works are the
Shriners Hospitals for Children
with 23 sites throughout North America, including a burn
center in Boston and an orthopaedic facility in Springfield;
Scottish Rite RiteCare® clinics, centers, and special programs helping children with speech and language disorders; the
Knights Templar Eye Foundation; the
Identification Program (VACHIP), and the
Foundation, providing modest assistance to children and
adults in local communities who do not fit the criteria for
usual social-services. Most recently, the
Association of North America entered into an agreement with
the USO to participate in Operation Phone Home: a campaign
to provide United States Military Service Personnel serving
overseas with prepaid international phone calling cards.
There are numerous other worthy causes and groups that local
Lodges contribute to and help in their communities.
because the secrets have been made public doesn't mean
everyone knows the mystery of Masonry. In fact, much of the
appeal of the Craft is that the great truths revealed in
Masonic ritual can take years to understand. Like the
building of any great structure, the powerful metaphors and
symbols of Masonry build character - and sometimes greatness
– one stone at a time.