Questions Frequently Asked About Freemasonry
IS FREEMASONRY A SECRET SOCIETY?
The answer to this question is an unqualified NO! A secret society conceals its membership ties and has secret meeting places; the public knows of neither its organization nor its principles. Freemasonry, therefore, is not a secret society. However, the constitution of the Grand Lodge of Maine describes Freemasonry as “a charitable benevolent, educational and religious secret society Used in that sense, it means that Freemasonry is a society with secrets that deal with its obligations, modes of recognition as well as certain esoteric parts of the ritual of its degrees.
The Masonic Lodge in most cities is a prominent landmark – brightly lighted at night, into which men go openly. Men are proud to wear its emblems on rings and lapel pins. Masons place decals on their automobiles, and indicate in many other ways that they are Freemasons.
The purpose, ideals and principles of Freemasonry may be learned by anyone who inquires. As discussed in Chapter VI, Freemasonry is written about in numerous books that may be obtained and read by anyone. Public notices of Masonic meetings appear frequently in newspapers and Masons are usually numbered among the more prominent citizens of the community.
IS FREEMASONRY A RELIGION?
Here again the answer must be an emphatic NO! Freemasonry is religious in its teachings and each man who aspires to be a Freemason is required to state that he believes and trusts in God as the Supreme Architect of the Universe. Belief in God is an expression of faith, not a theological statement of the nature of Deity.
Freemasonry does not require church membership before a person may petition for admission. That choice belongs to the individual, but many active Masons are also active churchmen. Our Fraternity has never been a part of any organized religious sect or church. The choice of creed and church belongs to the individual and Freemasonry does not infringe his religious prerogatives. It has no religious dogma and is based upon tolerance, seeking only to unite men under the common banner of brotherhood.
CAN AN ATHEIST BECOME A MASON?
A fundamental landmark of Freemasonry is a belief in a Supreme Being. An expression of this belief is required as a prerequisite for admission into Masonic Lodges. The atheist denies even the existence of God and has no belief in a Supreme Being by any other name. For this reason as well as others, Freemasonry denies its rights and privileges to atheists.
CAN A CATHOLIC BECOME A MASON?
There is nothing in any of the Masonic doctrines, rules or regulations, or in the laws of our Grand Lodge, which would prevent a Catholic from becoming a Mason because of his church membership. In fact, Masonic Lodges have members who actively practice their Catholic faith; Masonic Lodges often hold social functions jointly with the Knights of Columbus, a Fraternal organization whose members must be of the Catholic faith.
If Masonry made any distinction between men because of their religious beliefs, it could make no claim to universality, nor could it state that it did not espouse any theological doctrine or dogma.
MAY I HAVE MASONIC MEMBERSHIP IN MULTIPLE LODGES?
In some jurisdictions, Masons may be members of only one Lodge, or restricted to just two Lodges. In other jurisdictions, such as Maine, a Mason is not limited to the number of Lodges that he may join. It is particularly beneficial to a Brother who moves and would like to become active in a Lodge near his new home, but does not want to relinquish membership in his home Lodge where he joined the Fraternity. It also allows many retired Masons to retain membership in Maine, as well as a Lodge at their winter addresses in warmer climates. Finally, plural membership allows Masons to join a Lodge in need of officers, thereby helping to renew the strength of the Fraternity in that community.
A Mason may join a second Lodge through a process called affiliation. He completes an application for affiliation, is investigated and then must pass the ballot. If the second Lodge is in the same jurisdiction as the first, the affiliate pays Grand Lodge dues in both Lodges. After a Mason passes the ballot for affiliation in a jurisdiction that permits only single membership, he must demit from his original Lodge before signing the Bylaws of his new Lodge. A Mason should always wait until he passes the ballot in his new Lodge before requesting a demit; otherwise, he would become an unaffiliated Mason if he were not elected in the new Lodge.
CAN MASONS SOLICIT NEW MEMBERS?
For generations, Masons have heard that they could not solicit new members, that they had to wait until a man inquired about our Fraternity. It is clearly permissible to give a good man information about Masonry and to ask him if he is interested in becoming a Mason. It was a long-held myth that a Mason could not ask a man to join. The words “Free Will and Accord” mean that the non-Mason was not coerced against his will to join. It is like signing a legal instrument and the Notary asks “Is this your free act and deed?”
For many years. Masons had often broached the subject of membership with their friends and relatives, but refrained from specifically asking if the man were interested in joining the Fraternity. You may be waiting for your son, father, brother, co-worker and neighbor to ask “How do I join?” Don’t wait! If you have a friend who should be a Brother, you shouldn’t hesitate to ask him — he may have been waiting a long time to be asked.
WHAT IS THE PROTOCOL FOR MASONIC FUNERALS?
A Masonic funeral service can only be conducted for a Master Mason at his own special request or that of his next of kin.
The proper attire for Masonic funerals is dark clothing of a conservative nature (tuxedos may be worn). Masonic aprons and regalia may be worn at a Masonic funeral if the Lodge has been regularly opened. Lodge officers may wear the proper apron and collar of their office.
Only Brethren who have advanced to the degree of Master Mason may unite in a Masonic funeral procession. They should assemble at the Lodge or some other convenient place where the Lodge is opened on the Third Degree for the purpose stated by the Master. Remarks upon the character of the deceased Mason may be made by the Master and Brethren at this time, if desired.
When the Lodge arrives where the service is to be held, care should be taken that the officers and members take their places without hesitation, confusion or audible conversation.
FORMING THE FUNERAL PROCESSION
The procession to the funeral service should be led by the Master, escorted by the Marshal. They are followed by the Chaplain, Wardens and other officers of the Lodge and the remaining Brethren.
The Master should stand at the head of the casket and the Chaplain may stand with him in order to use the same podium. If the casket is placed to allow easy access to both ends, the Wardens should stand one on each end, the Senior Warden being at the Master’s right. If only one end is accessible, the Wardens should stand at that end, with the Senior Warden being nearer the Master. All Lodge members should be encouraged to attend Masonic funeral services to remember their departed Brother and to participate. However, Brethren should remember that the service is being performed for the deceased Brother and his family. Brethren should, therefore, take particular care not to obstruct the family’s view of the service.
If seating is not available for the Brethren, they should stand in an open formation, or at one side, in a manner that will permit all present to better see and hear the service. When there is an aisle on both sides of the visitors viewing the ceremony, Brethren may form two rows, but again, at no time are Masons to block anyone’s view of the service. The Marshal should view the funeral facility before the ceremony and make arrangements that will ensure an impressive and meaningful funeral service.
At the conclusion of the service, the Master explains the symbolic meaning of the sprig of acacia and places a piece of evergreen over the heart of the Brother. After the Chaplain has completed the benediction each Brother in turn deposits a piece of evergreen over the heart of the departed Brother and then retires to the room where the procession formed.
Note: As of this writing legislation is pending which, if approved, will allow Entered Apprentices to be accorded a Masonic Memorial Service and to participate in the procession.
Abbreviations used in this bibliography include: STB, Short Talk Bulletin; MSA, Masonic Service Association. For additional titles, refer to the Classified & Alphabetical Index of Short Talk Bulletins, MSA
Facts of Freemasons; Macoy Publishing and Masonic Supply Co.
Making of a Mason; George Draffen, Grand Lodge of New York, New York, NY
Apron: STB, June 1932.
Cable-Tow: STB, March 1926.
Cardinal Virtues of Freemasonry, by Joseph Johnson.
(The Lure of Freemasonry” 1936, p.75-76) Compasses: STB, May 1924.
Ethics of Freemasonry, by Dudley Wright. Washington, D.C.,
MSA (cl924) Little Masonic Library, (no. 16) Free and Accepted: STB, November 1931. History of the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts 1733-1973. Holy Bible: STB, March 1924.
Introduction to Freemasonry-Book 1, Entered Apprentice, by C. H. Claudy Lambskin Apron: STB, November 1927. Lesser Lights: STB, February 1926. Lodge: STB, December 1927.
Meaning of Masonry, by Albert Pike. Washington, D.C., MSA,
(cl924) Little Masonic Library (no. 17) Northeast Corner: STB, October 1927. Pocket Encyclopedia of Masonic Symbols, MSA Booklet 1969 Point Within a Circle: STB, August 1931. Rite of Destitution: STB, November 1923. Rite of Discalccation: STB, April 1933. Rough and Perfect: STB, August 1933. Square: STB, April 1924.
Swaddling Clothes: STB, April 1925.
Symbolism of the First Degree of Masonry, by A. W. Gage.
(In The Three Degrees and Great Symbols of
Masonry, by J. F. Newton, cl924, p.6-13) Trestle Board and Tracing Board: STB, July 1932. Tools: STB, April 1928.
Twenty-Four Inch Gauge: STB, September 1933.
Charity: STB, February 1925.
Corn, Wine, and Oil: STB, August 1930.
Faith, Progress, and Reward: STB, March 1928.
Fellow Craft: STB, March 1960.
“G”: STB, July 1927.
Introduction to Freemasonry-Book 2, Fellow Craft, by C. H. Claudy
Letter “G”: STB, June 1933.
Level and Plumb: STB, June 1924.
Masonic Geometry: STB, May 1934.
Seven Liberal Arts and Sciences: STB, May 1944.
Square: STB, April 1924
Square, Level, and Plumb: STB, December 1943.
3-5-7: STB, June 1925.
Two Pillars: STB, September 1935.
Winding Stairs: STB, January 1932.
Altar: STB, February 1924.
Book of Constitutions Guarded by the Tyler’s Sword: STB, August 1923.
Declaration of Principles, Mass. Grand Lodge, 1939.
Five Points: STB, May 1931.
Foreign Countries: STB, November 1928.
47th Problem: STB, October 1930.
Fourth Class of Instruction: Booklet: Masonic Education Department,
Massachusetts, 1973. Freemasonry and Good Citizenship, by J. E. Perry. 1939 Mass. 203-211. Freemasonry and the State: by M. M. Johnson. 1938 Mass 20821 7. Grand Lodge: STB, October 1937. Grand Masters’ Powers: STB, October 1935 Hiram Abif: STB, February 1934. Hour Glass and Scythe: STB, June 1935. Immortality, by E. Perry. 1940 Mass. 84-91.
Introduction to Freemasonry-Book 3, Master Mason, by C. H. Claudy Legend of the Lost Word: STB, May 1928. Lodge and Grand Lodge Organization: STB, July 1929. Masonic Blue: STB, July 1934.
Masonic Way of Living, by J. E. Perry. 1938 Mass. 58-70.
Massachusetts Manifesto, 1938 Mass. 280f.
Master’s Wages: STB, February 1933.
Mathematics: STB, November 1925.
Pot of Incense: STB, May 1935.
Powers of the Worshipful Master: STB August 1929.
Religion of Masonry: an Interpretation, by J. F. Newton.
Washington, D.C. MSA, 1927. Ruffians: STB, September 1927.
Saints John, the Patron Saints of Freemasonry, by H. R. Cruse.
1928 Mass. 498-504. Secrecy: STB, January 1927 Sprig of Acacia: STB. November 1932. Sublime: STB, August 1925. Sword in the Craft: STB, January 1930. Symbolism of Freemasonry, Albert Gallatin Mackey
This booklet, while prepared primarily for the use of newly made Masons, is a useful reference for all Masons. Practical, as well as historical information is presented. Further information may be obtained from the Secretary of Grand Lodge of Maine.
P.O. Box 15058
415 Congress Street
Portland, Maine 04112-5058
Telephone: (888) 220-9606
Fax: (207) 773-5108