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Many FAQ (Frequently Asked Question) lists are long and tiresome. There are a LOT of questions folks have about Masonry, so some of that length will be inevitable here too. This site has nearly 400 pages, chock full of bits and pieces about an organization whose life has already surpassed some 400 years and 8 or more generations. This site is also the official maintainer of the USENET Masonry FAQ. If you're unfamiliar with USENET, you probably won't care about that any more than you might want to spend time perusing the various automobile brands from the early 1980s. If you're interested though just click here.
On our site, we've tried to give you "just the facts"! In some cases, there may be an underlying further descriptive page for those who desire more specific details; at the outset, though, we try to give you the basic information.
Have you heard terms like "York Rite", "Scottish Rite", etc. and wondered what that's all about - and what they have to do with Freemasonry? Click on 'Bodies of Masonry' on your left. We've got some really interesting facts in our 'Did You Know?' section. Want to know the secrets of Freemasonry? Well, we've got a section just for you and we've also provided a few quotes from notable Masons about the Fraternity. Unsure what a 'fraternity' is? We've dealt with that also.
Lots of folks are curious about relatives who may have been Masons. We've got a page all about genealogy just for them. Some come here looking for books about Freemasonry - and we invite them to check out this page. And finally, below we provide answers to some of the more general questions about the fraternity.
Some of the Frequently Asked Questions about Freemasonry involve questions and/or concerns that it is a religious organization which might be in conflict with one's present religion. Masonry - simply - is not a religion nor is it a substitute for religion. However, because many of these questions are raised by anti-Masonic objectors seeking to defame Freemasonry, we've put them in a section on our site which deals specifically with 'Religious Objections' and you can head directly there if your concerns center in this area.
Here are some of the other common questions asked about Masonry - and what we believe are reasonable responses:
(Or, if you prefer, you can go from here to find out Who's Against Freemasonry?)
NOTE: This part of our site will probably always be "Under Construction". While we've tried to put most questions into their own section/page, there are always those which need just a short thumbnail synopsis: you'll find that here.
The oft-repeated answer given by Masons is that Masonry isn't a secret organization but rather an organization with secrets. In fact, Masonry's only 'secrets' are its modes of recognition.
Any organization which is SO visible in the community and the world can hardly be considered 'secret'! The buildings used for meetings are generally quite clearly marked for all to find. In many parts of the world, there are even street signs as one enters the city/town/village helping those interested to find Masonic buildings. There are thousands of sites on the Internet, there are listings in phone books, and there are public events held regularly. Secret? Hardly!
Because of the history of Masonry - drawing from the Master Builders of the middle ages - the lessons of brotherly love, fidelity, and charity are taught in an allegorical format which is kept private and is for those who are involved only. The secrecy practiced by Masons today is no more secret than meetings of the Board of Directors of a corporation.
Those opposed to secrecy - for whatever reason - question the need for this, but the simple answer is that it is part of the 'fabric' of a nearly four hundred year old organization - and that makes it very unique.
Please also see our page devoted to this topic exclusively. Click Here.
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After the close of World War II, many men coming home were struck by the change which had occurred while they were away fighting for freedom. They sought the stability of 'traditional values' and 'freedom of conscience', recalling the joy of a father, grandfather, uncle, or other family member had felt from Masonic membership. They joined in droves! As they now age and die, however, Masonry's numbers are diminishing. The anti-establishment approach of the 60s and 70s made many eschew the history and toleration which is a hallmark of Freemasonry and thus there were fewer new candidates to replace those who passed on.
As we move through the 90s and into the next millennium, however, Masonry is seeing a revival as younger men recognize that the values which brought those to Freemasonry in the past are just as relevant today. Freemasonry, like nearly all other institutions has experienced membership loss. The tide is turning, however, and the organization looks forward to a bright future!
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In short, not at all likely! Three hundred years ago, an organization was given it's 'credibility' by its associations with the ancient past so forming groups would attempt to create a historical link to earlier times - even if such links had no basis in fact whatsoever. Antiquity gave recognition, even if it was manufactured. In earlier times too, there were many 'degree systems' which existed throughout Europe, one of which ultimately became a part of Freemasonry. The explanations of the fourth degree's connection with basic 'craft' Masonry (the first three degrees) and the entire (current) Knights Templars organization would take volumes and is far beyond the scope of this web site. Further, differing authors over time have had different opinions on the matter.
The history of the original Knights Templar is also shrouded in the mists of time. One of the most powerful organizations of the late 1200s, it was effectively eliminated as a result of a power play between church and state leaders. Many of its members simply 'disappeared' and many theories have since arisen, where attempts are made to link the Templars to various locations including a fortress in northern France and, most popularly, Scotland including Rosslyn Chapel. However, despite the fanciful beliefs and varied theories, no proof for any of these assumptions has been forthcoming - and they remain merely theories notwithstanding the sometimes impassioned pleas that there really are 'facts' (including things like the 'proven' chambers still unopened under Rosslyn Chapel etc.)
In centuries past, Masonic writers would freely attribute their lineage to the sometimes popular Knights Templar. With advanced knowledge of actual historical facts - and despite popular writers' theories - there is no definitive proof of a connection between Templars and Freemasonry. Some information on the Knights Templar can be found on our site here.
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Masonic lodges are organized much as any other organization. The primary officers (three or five in most lodges) are elected by the membership and serve during the term for which they were elected (nearly always one year - although some may be reelected to the same position in a succeeding year). The primary officer (the Master of the Lodge, referred to by the title of "Worshipful Master" as a mark of respect) is similar in many ways to the President or presiding officer of any organization. He appoints other officers to carry out the work of the lodge as well as committees etc.
We've added a page here explaining the powers and duties of the Master further. One of the fascinating things about Freemasonry is that the absolute power of the Lodge's Master is rarely abused - and at the end of his term, he relinquishes his authority to another who will fill that position while he joins the honored ranks of "Past Master", having served his lodge honorably and well.
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The term "hoodwink" used in Masonic ritual is misleading because of
its origins and it's the archaic rather than the modern use to which Masons
refer. The word comes from two: "hood" (meaning to cover, when used as a verb) and "wink" (an
ancient term for the eye). To "hoodwink", therefore, literally meant 'to cover the
Only anti-Masons, in their attempts to deceive, will claim that Masons "hoodwink" others. There is nothing anywhere near that in the ritual, it is not a part of any lodge activity, and it is abhorrent to any good Mason. Because Masons have continued to use an term common at the time of their founding three hundred years ago, anti-Masons condemn them today. We should ask, "Who's hoodwinking whom?"
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It must be emphasized - strongly and firmly - that Freemasonry is, and always has been, primarily a social and service club. The vast majority of Masons find the organization to be one which allows them to engage in assisting the less fortunate as well as to share fellowship with like-minded persons from all walks of life. Freemasonry encourages its members to be better and to take time to consider the 'sublime mysteries' in the world around him.
No one knows with certainty the origins of Freemasonry and Masonic scholars have, over the centuries, taken different approaches to its history. Today, an "Authentic School" dominates Masonic literature and research. Most current Mason-authors seek to provide clear, proven, and 'scientific' explanations for Freemasonry's past as well as its present. There are, however, a small fringe of Masons who support an "Esoteric School", claiming all sorts of various scenarios for Freemasonry's birth and growth including origins in various venues: the rites of ancient Egypt, the Knights Templars, and the various quasi-religious organizations such as the Rosicrucians.
Obviously, there is no one answer to the question which presents modern researchers: where are our 'roots'? Additionally, Freemasonry encourages its members to grow mentally and it's sometimes an interesting exercise to compare our present ceremonies and forms with those of the past and to speculate on how they might have formed in the image of those from earlier times.
Freemasonry's detractors will point to 'evil' or 'God-hating' in looking to these possible historical antecedents. What they ignore, however, is that EVERY institution is created and grows based on both known and unknown backgrounds. Many of the leading thinkers of days past explored what we now would consider "occult" (whether it involved spells or alchemy) - and they were almost universally committed Christians in their personal religious beliefs. Current day detractors grasp at straws when they attempt to show that one or two authors, well-versed in the 'arcane arts', drove Freemasonry's growth and define its existence today. It's simply not so.
The "Esoteric School" of Freemasonry which explores the 'occult subtext' of Freemasonry is a minute minority. Nothing more....
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In the year 1858, an article on Masonic law written by Dr. Albert Mackey was published in the American Quarterly Review of Freemasonry (vol. ii, page 230) containing a distinct enumeration of the "Landmarks" of Freemasonry. From that time to this, they have been widely debated. Some Grand Lodges accepted all, some none, and some seemed to pick and choose. Among them was "#7 - The prerogative of the Grand Master to make, masons at sight." In effect, a Grand Master could - without the usual Masonic ceremonies and without having the usual ballot - use the power of his office to declare a man to be a Mason and to waive any/all of the 'normal' processes which normally lead to such a thing.
A short FAQ can do no justice to this topic which has been debated with billions of words by thousands of Masons. With the much more frequent shortening of time between degrees (from what was usually three months now down to one day), the sometimes-used justification of time demands on important personages has been ameliorated. The concept of honoring an individual by (with his permission, of course) simply 'declaring' him to be a Mason is not always accepted by rank and file Freemasons but Grand Masters know only too well that precious few members acting - obviously - in a gross unmasonic way could sabotage a petition proceeding through the normal process when a highly visible individual is involved.
As a result, the Grand Master - if permitted by his jurisdiction - may use this option in certain cases. General of the Armies Douglas MacArthur, for example, became a Mason in this way - as did entertainer Danny Thomas. Both are excellent examples of men who, having received this very distinct honor, went on to serve the fraternity visibly and with great pride to themselves and honor to Freemasonry.
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What happens when someone wants to leave Freemasonry - completely - and to sever all ties with the organization? Although it doesn't happen on a regular basis, there are times when a Mason will decide that they simply don't wish to be associated with the organization any longer. Perhaps they've done something in their personal life which they feel might bring discredit or disgrace upon the fraternity or perhaps they just don't feel that they're living up to what Freemasonry expects. Perhaps they've been deceived by a newly-found religious belief into thinking that Freemasonry is improper or perhaps they no longer can afford the dues and don't want to be a burden on their Brothers who would gladly overlook any such obligation and be happy to continue them on the rolls as an active member.
Each Grand Lodge has their own policies and procedures but overall they vary little. A member simply writes a letter to their lodge's Secretary telling them of their intent to sever their connections. In a large number of jurisdictions, this causes a 'demit' to be issued. It's a document or letter which states that the member left 'in good standing' - and as such, would be eligible to reaffiliate at some later point of his choosing. In some jurisdictions, he also retains the right to visit new/other lodges under limited circumstances.
Sometimes a member simply ignores their financial obligation to the lodge and winds up being 'suspended for non-payment of dues'. They simply 'walk away'.
Despite bizarre images from 'Godfather' movies, the 'bottom line' to this issue is that NOTHING happens if one chooses to leave. Nobody shows up at the door and nobody leaves flaming bags of poo-poo on your doorstep. You want to leave - you do! It's really just that simple....
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Brother Alton Roundtree has provided this explanation:
"The term "mainstream" was coined by Joseph A. Walkes, Jr. as an ongoing definition distinguishing Prince Hall Freemasonry and predominantly white Freemasonry. Walkes certainly was not the first to use the term "mainstream." He was probably the first to use the term repeatedly to distinguish Prince Hall and predominantly white lodges. Walkes' usage of the term "mainstream" was first noted in a speech, "Our Two Masonic Powers," that Walkes presented to Iowa Research Lodge No. 2 in 1989. The term "mainstream" also evolved from the CompuServe Masonry Forum, which was the most widely used Masonic computer message system during the approximate time of 1992 to1997."
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More to come as time goes on....
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This site and its contents are © (copyright) 1998-2012 by Edward L. King (Ed King). All rights reserved. All comments and opinions are mine personally.
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