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Baron Steuben Lodge #264 

The Secrets of Freemasonry

Q:  Is Freemasonry a "secret" society?

A:  No. Freemasonry is a fraternity of men who are proud to be known as Masons, Since our inception, the world has known of speculative Freemasonry and its work. Freemasonry does, however, have some secrets, all extending from historic tradition. Our modes of recognition, opening and closing ceremonies, and rituals for conferring the Degrees of Masonry are our only secrets. Thousands of works discussing Masonic history, traditions, craft, and proceedings are widely available to the public.


Q: What are the basic principles of Freemasonry ?

A:  Freemasonry is not a religion, nor is it a substitute for religion. It requires of its members a belief in God as part of the obligation of every responsible adult, but advocates no sectarian faith or practice. Masonic ceremonies include prayers, both traditional and extempore, to reaffirm each individual's dependence on God and to seek divine guidance. Freemasonry is open to men of any faith, but religion may not be discussed at Masonic meetings.


Q: Well, if Freemasonry is not a religion, what is all this talk about a Supreme Being ?

A:  Masons believe that there is one God and that people employ many different ways to seek, and to express what they know of God. Masonry primarily uses the appellation, "Grand Architect of the Universe," and other non-sectarian titles, to address the Deity. In this way, persons of different faiths may join together in prayer, concentrating on God, rather than differences among themselves. Masonry believes in religious freedom and that the relationship between the individual and God is personal, private, and sacred.


Q: Explain the Volume of the Sacred Law.

A:  An open volume of the Sacred Law, "the rule and guide of life," is an essential part of every Masonic meeting. The Volume of the Sacred Law in the Judeo/Christian tradition is the Bible; to Freemasons of other faiths, it is the book held holy by them.


Q: I've heard there was an Oath that Freemasons take. Explain that.

A:  The obligations taken by Freemasons are sworn on the Volume of the Sacred Law. They are undertakings to follow the principles of Freemasonry and to keep confidential a Freemason's means of recognition. The much discussed "penalties," judicial remnants from an earlier era, are symbolic, not literal. They refer only to the pain any honest man should feel at the thought of violating his word.


Q: How does Freemasonry compare to religion ?

A:  With origins in post-Reformation England, Freemasonry's allegories and rituals are rooted in Judo-Christian tradition. They exemplify mankind's universal experience and inculcate and admired moral and ethical value system. With respect to religion, Freemasonry simply teaches the "Fatherhood of God" and the "Brotherhood of Man."

Freemasonry lacks all of the basic elements of religion.
(1)  It has no dogma or theology, no wish or means to enforce religious orthodoxy. 
(2)  It offers no sacraments. 
(3)  It does not claim to lead to salvation by works, by secret knowledge, or by any other means. The secrets of Freemasonry are concerned with modes of recognition, and not with the means of salvation.

Freemasonry is far from indifferent toward religion. Without interfering in religious practice, it expects each member to follow his own faith and to place his Duty to God above all other duties. Its moral teachings are acceptable to all religions.

The following illuminating language was used by the Supreme Court of Nebraska several years ago in deciding a case concerning the incorrect and often heard statement that Freemasonry is a religion...

"The guiding thought is not religion but religious toleration .... The Masonic fraternity refrains from intruding into the field of religion and confines itself to the teaching of morality and duty to one's fellow men, which makes better men and better citizens."    

"The distinction is clear between such ethical teachings and the doctrines of religion. One cannot espouse a religion without belief and faith in its peculiar doctrines.

A fraternity broad enough to take in and cover with its mantle Christian, Moslem and Jew, without requiring him to renounce his religion, is not a religious organization, although its members may join in prayer which, in the case of each, is a petition addressed to his own Deity."

"Neither can the belief in the immortality of the soul be denominated religious in the sense that it is typical of any religion, of any race, or of any age. It constitutes one of the most beautiful and consoling features of our own religion, but it is equally found in almost every other.

It is so unusual and spontaneous that it is not so much belief or dogma as it is an instinct of the human soul." "Neither does it imply or require adherence to any system of religious worship."    

 "The fact that belief in the doctrines or deity of no particular religion is required, of itself refutes the theory that the Masonic ritual embodies a religion, or that its teachings are religious."

"Let There Be Light." by Alphonse Cerza. The Masonic Service Association, 1983.


A Family Affair

While The Blue Lodge is the bed-rock of the Masonic family, there are several organizations which a Mason's family members can join to share many more of their common interests and activities.

Family-oriented activities include a range of social and entertainment programs, family outings, and community service projects, as well as numerous occasions for statewide or regional travel. Among the appendant groups for adults, both men and women may be welcome as members, but women typically hold the principal offices. These groups include, among others, the Order of the Eastern Star, Order of Amaranth, and Ladies Oriental Shrine.

Groups for young people build self-esteem and prepare them for citizenship through successful experience with responsibility and leadership. Masonic youth groups include the Order of Rainbow for Girls, the Order of Job's Daughters for young women, and the Order of DeMolay for young men.

With many opportunities for growth and friendship, these family-centered groups typically develop active social calendars, so the "Masonic family" 
truly is a family affair.


Freemasonry: The Craft

For centuries, millions of men of every race, color, creed, and political persuasion throughout the world have found in the Symbolic Lodges of Freemasonry the light to guide their search for answers to eternal questions: What is the meaning of life? The nature of God and man? Freemasonry is a system of morality, veiled in allegory, illustrated by symbols. Not a religion but religious in character, it is a philosophy of ethical conduct which imparts moral and social virtues and fosters brotherly love. Its tenets have endured since man turned the first pages of civilization. They embody the understanding by which man can transcend ordinary experience and "build a house not made with hands" in harmony with the Great Architect of the universe. Yet Freemasonry can never conflict with a man's relationship to God or fellow man. Sectarian religious or partisan political discussion in a lodge is strictly prohibited. Every Mason stands equal among his brothers, regardless of walk of life, and none is turned away for financial need. The purpose of ANCIENT CRAFT OF FREEMASONRY is to unfold a message where "truth abides in fullness," invoking greater understanding of the inward life and a spirit of fellowship in which every Mason can also lead a better outward life.


The Brotherhood at Work

Freemasonry has been characterized as a fraternity devoted to high ideals and admirable benevolence. Community service and charitable work are, in fact, principle Masonic activities. Easily the best-known is the world's largest single charitable institution, the Shriners Hospitals for Crippled Children and Burns Institutes, which are located throughout Canada, the U.S., and Mexico. Other Masonic bodies support their own statewide and national foundations for research, teaching, and treatment or rehabilitation services for children with learning or speech disorders, cancer, visual problems and need of dental restoration.

Masons everywhere assist distressed brother Masons and their families. They also sponsor or support local projects ranging from the recognition of the achievements of others to scholarship programs. Masons support community volunteers and quietly extend help for countless thousands - from providing a child with shoes to assisting the handicapped. Altogether, the budgets for these community services exceed two million dollars per day, which Masons support without regard to the Masonic affiliation of their recipients. With this spirit of working together to serve mankind, brotherhood works well, indeed.


A Progressive Science

Once raised to the "sublime degree" of Master Mason in his "Blue" Lodge, a Freemason steps onto a broad vista of opportunity for fellowship and advancement. First, concordant bodies of the York Rite and the Scottish Rite offer ritual instruction for advanced degrees. Then, every Shriner is a Mason first... as are members of other Masonic groups, each serving a particular need or interest. Advancement through these concordant bodies not only invites participation in this Masonic network, but also promotes a more comprehensive understanding of its sacramental system of ceremonies, doctrines, and symbols.

A statewide Grand organization governs every Masonic body, and all but the Blue Lodge have national governing councils as well. These offer further opportunity for growth and responsibility. No Mason is required to advance beyond his Blue Lodge or participate actively in its ritual or business affairs, but those who do so find personal fulfillment in the rewards of public speaking, teaching, community work, and even music and the dramatic arts. Whether their commitments are to Masonic ritual, study or organizational and charitable work, most active Masons simply speak of the camaraderie among trusted friends and a satisfying sense of purpose.


Ancient Traditions

Through its heritage in antiquity is unmistakable, modern speculative Freemasonry was founded more recently upon the structure, ceremonies, and symbolism of the lodges of operative or working freemen stonemasons, who built the magnificent Medieval Gothic structures throughout much of Europe and England. Dated in 1390 A.D., the Regius Poem details the charter of a lodge operating in the 900s A.D. "Masonry" then meant architecture and encompassed most of the arts and sciences. Because lodges held knowledge as competitive secrets, only trusted, capable companions were instructed in the craft - and then only by degrees, orally and through symbols, because of widespread illiteracy.

In the late Renaissance, lodges of freemason began to accept as speculative masons those educated men who were attracted by the elegance of Masonic traditions for their philosophic expression. In time they were passed through the inner circles. Thus, the framers of speculative Freemasonry began to describe a code of conduct through the symbolic nature of architecture and the stone mason's craft. Signaling modern speculative Freemasonry, the first Grand Lodge was chartered in 1717. Constituent Symbolic Blue Lodges were soon established though out the world. The first Lodge in the Colonies was chartered in Boston in 1733, and the first Masonic Lodge communication was held in the Ohio Territory at Marietta in 1790.


Ask Yourself...

Among millions of Masons, not one was lawfully invited to apply for membership. Our code of conduct prevents it. Thus, no faithful Mason can invite you. A Mason can obtain a Petition for the Degrees of Masonry for you, but you must ask for it - and for good reason.

You must first ask yourself if you're suitably prepared to enter the "gentle craft of Masonry" . . . to become a brother in the world's most exclusive fraternal order. Few men are intellectually or spiritually prepared to understand or appreciate even the more apparent meanings of Masonry.

Do you reflect on the nature of man's existence and your obligations to God, your family, and yourself? If such ethical and moral questions hold little interest for you, then you will gain little benefit from the teachings of the Craft. But if you seek a more meaningful quality of life - and the spirit of charity and good fellowship which flow from it - then Freemasonry has much to offer. We want you to know what we believe, how we act, and what we do... then, should you become a Mason, to be proud to be our Brother and to participate in our work.

Only those who desire membership because of their favorable impression of us should seek a petition. That's why you must ask yourself. Any man who is twenty one years of age or older and of good moral character, who comes well-recommended and who believes in a Supreme Being may petition to become a Freemason.


A Remarkable Ritual

M\W\Louis H. Fead, PGM of Michigan, once stated so eloquently, and I quote:

"The ritualism of Masonry is truly a wonderful thing. Simple in its dignity and with no striving for dramatic effect, its power is so intense that, when even fairly rendered, levity is impossible and the initiate is consciously impressed with a serious grandeur.

So distinctive is it in its character that ten consecutive words from it cannot be used in the press, on the rostrum or in conversation without practically every Mason recognizing them; so quaint in its context that its antiquity is instantly impressed on the hearer; so tuneful in its rhythm that it rivals the stately measure of poetry; so natural in its movements and so devoid of restraint that its force is felt at first subconsciously but the words often spoken always convey a new idea; and withal, so lofty in its principles and so true its precepts that it is not a wonder some men make Masonry their religion."