What is Freemasonry?

Freemasonry is one of the world’s oldest and largest non-religious, non-political, fraternal and charitable organizations. Its roots lie in the traditions and ceremonies of the medieval stonemasons, builders of cathedrals and castles. 

Freemasonry has always been about making good men better. Individuals aim to shape their lives around core values of: 

  • Integrity: We say what we mean and we keep our promises.

  • Kindness: Although our families come first, we believe in playing a key role in our communities and give time and money to charitable ventures.

  • Honesty: We pride ourselves on openness, about what being a Freemason means for us.

  • Fairness: We treat everyone as equal – we listen to others, explore any differences and look for common ground.

  • Tolerance: We respect the opinions of others and behave with understanding towards them.
     

"Freemasonry is a beautiful system of morality, veiled in allegory and illustrated with symbols" 

 

history of freemasonry

The questions of when, how, why and where Freemasonry originated is still the subject of intense speculation. The general consensus amongst Masonic scholars is that it descends directly or indirectly from the organization of operative stone masons. Operative Masons, skilled in geometry and other construction skills, traveled freely building the great cathedrals of Europe. They were divided among classes, the Entered Apprentice, Fellow Craft, and Master Mason. As they travelled through Europe, to protect their trade secrets they had secret handshakes, passwords, and other modes of recognition. The oldest known minutes of a lodge date back to 1599 for Edinburgh Lodge No. 1(Marys Chapel) under the jurisdiction of the Grand Lodge of Scotland. 

On St John's Day, Jun 24 1717, four London Lodges, which had existed for some time, came together at the Goose and Gridiron Tavern in St Paul’s Churchyard, declared themselves a Grand Lodge and elected Anthony Sayer as their Grand Master. This was the first Grand Lodge in the world.. From this point begins the transformation of a trade guild into a society of enlightened men of reason, devoted to God and Science.

In 1425, a document was penned called the Halliwell manuscirpt or Regius Poem suggests that masonry began in Ancient Egypt, where the mystery schools began. Under these mystery schools, initiates underwent ancient rituals as they advanced through multiple degrees of knowledge. Degrees were held in temples, with secret passwords and codes. Many of these degrees deal with the death and resurrection of Osiris, and in some of the sculptures left by the Egyptians to illustrate the rites of the Egyptian Mysteries the candidate is shown lying on a couch shaped like a lion from which he is being raised from the dead level to a living perpendicular. The bas-reliefs at Denderah make this very plain, though they represent the god Osiris being raised instead of a human candidate. Similarly, other ancient societies, such as Mysteries of Eleusis, Mystery of Dionysus, or the Mystery of Mithras all deal with the death of a great man, followed by his resurrection and redemption.

 Throughout the 18th century, Masonry bloomed abroad as well as in America with at least 8 known signers of the Declaration of Independence being Masons. Masonry continued to grow even into the . Civil War where in some situations Masonic brothers did not turn  against one another even if they were on opposite ends of the conflict. During Nazi occupation, Freemasons were feared and persecuted similarly to other groups and would widely hide their association with the fraternity. 

While we may never truly know the origins of Freemasonry, we know that the one common thread across all of these different groups, whether it be the Ancient Mystery Schools of Egypt, the Essenes, Templar Knights, Royal Society, or Freemason Guilds, is a passion and a love for humanity. An understanding and appreciation for the belief in God and an enlightened view of Science. Most importantly, a belief in religious toleration. But more than that, it was not just a simple toleration for another person’s faith, but an understanding that in the end, we all pray at the feet of the same Divine Architect, we just use different names and rituals to achieve his Divine Grace.

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Masonic Appendant Bodies

While there is no "rank" system in Freemasonry since no position is higher than a Master Mason, there are however, higher degrees. In short, a degree is simply an advanced lesson or instruction. Therefore, higher "degrees" in Masonry are simply more lessons, more understanding, more "light". 

The majority of the appendant bodies make up two major "Rites" in Freemasonry, or, a collection of rituals/degrees.  They are  the Scottish Rite created in America in 1801, and the York Rite, created in England around 925  a.d. 

"Blue Lodge" Masonry, as we call it is made up of 3 degrees being the Entered Apprentice, Fellowcraft and Master Mason and is governed by a single Grand jurisdiction in each of the United States. For example, New Jersey is governed by the Grand Lodge of New Jersey, Pennsylvania has its own Grand Lodge  as well ,etc. Each of the United States recognize each others Grand Lodges. 

However, the Scottish Rite is governed by a Supreme Council, one for the Northern Masonic  jurisdiction based in Lexington,  Mass. and the Southern jurisdiction based in Washington, DC. The Scottish Rite consists of 29 degrees, the 4th to the 32nd, with the 33rd being honorary and by . invitation  only. This is typically granted to those who have lived a life dedicated to others and the craft of Freemasonry. 

The York Rite, unlike the Scottish Rite, is governed state by state similar to Blue Lodge Masonry, with the exception of the Commandery Knights Templar who does have its own jurisdiction by state and also has a single Grand Encampment governing body for the entire United States. The York Rite is made up of 3 organizations : The Royal Arch, Council of Royal & Select Masters (aka Cryptic Council), and Commandery Knights Templar. The York Rite covers the 4th degree (Mark Master) up to the Order of Knights Templar which technically isnt a numbered  degree., with the last numbered degree being the 9th degree of Royal  Master with the Cryptic Council. 

Lastly, there is the Shriners International. The Shrine does not belong to the York or Scottish Rites but stands alone. The Shrine celebrates the values of Freemasonry under its own governing body based in Florida,  USA, and supports the charitable Shriners Hospitals where children and their parents never have to pay for care. 

There are also several invitation only appendant bodies, as well as co-ed appendant bodies where women may join if they have direct family that are Masons. Those groups  include the Order  of the Eastern Star and the Order of Amaranthe. 

Each of the appendant bodies has its own prerequisites to join, but the one common thread with all the bodies is that one must first be a Master Mason. 

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Common Masonic Terms

There are several terms Masons use in public that may confuse a non member. We're here to help! Here's a few terms we use in public that we can give you  some clarity to

  • Lodge an officially recognized and constitued group of Masons conducting Masonic business. As an example, Audubon-Parkside LODGE was constituted and recognized by the Grand Lodge of NJ in 1920
     

  • Temple The temple is where a lodge meets. A temple doesn't have to physically be a temple, but any regular meeting place. Audubon Masonic Temple houses several lodges and appendant bodies
     

  • Grand Architect of the Universe When Masons refer to this phrase, we are referring to a general deity. Since Freemasonry does not require a professed focus on any particular religion but does require a belief in supreme being, the Grand Architect represents the god that the brother has faith in. The only caveat to this statement is that the Commandery Knights Templar require a devotion to the Christian faith, but the order is optional to join. 
     

  • Worshipful Master This term can be misleading. The "Worshipful" Master is the elected leader of the lodge. The term "worshipful" comes from antiquity and refers to someone who is a great leader, revered. Worshipful could translate into "great" in some respects
     

  • Gavel The item which allows the Worshipful Master to open and govern his lodge. The Masonic gavel is similar to a gavel you would see in a court room. 

  • Apron The Masonic apron is the symbol of our craft and represents our origins from operative Masons and builders 

  • Officer An officer of the lodge is responsible for various duties, based on which office he represents. Officers in a lodge under the jurisdiction of the Grand Lodge of New Jersey are as follows: 

    • Worshipful Master - stated above

    • Senior & Junior Wardens - assists the Master 

    • Treasurer - pay debts 

    • Secretary - record transactions & minutes of the lodge

    • Senior & Junior Deacons - open/close lodge, receive candidates

    • Senior & Junior Master of Ceremonies - prepare candidates 

    • Senior & Junior Stewards - ensuring satisfaction of all members

    • Chaplain -  leads the lodge in prayer

    • Marshal - conducts all candidates and visitors 

    • Tyler - outer guard of the lodge while in session

    • Other roles such as Ritual Instructor, Historian, Trustees, etc​

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  • Being "Black Balled"  - technically this phrase has Masonic origins. Certain jurisdictions use balls, some use cubes. When candidates submit a petition and investigated, there is a vote that must be unanimous to vote someone into the lodge for initiation.  This proves that no one in their local community can say anything negative against his character. If a black "ball" is found in voting, this person is barred entry from joining the lodge. 

  • Given "The Third Degree this phrase also has Masonic origin and references the third degree of Freemasonry, which is the  Master Mason degree. 

Fact, Fiction & Conspiracies

Founding Fathers Were Masons : FACT 

George Washington, Ben Franklin, Paul Revere and many of our founding fathers were Masons. In fact, 8 signers of the Declaration of Independence were Masons! 

Freemasonry is not a religion: FACT

While there is a requirement to believe in a supreme being prior to becoming a member, Freemasonry is NOT a religion. People of ALL faiths and creeds  are welcome

Freemasonry gives over $1.5 million per day to charity :  FACT

While seeming like an insurmountable task, Freemasonry does indeed give that much money to various charities daily. This includes the Scottish Rite children's dyslexia centers, the Shriners Hospitals for children, Cryptic Masons Medical Research foundation, educational donations, and so much more

Religion & Politics Are Banned Within The Lodge : FACT
Freemasonry teaches brotherhood, love, and tolerance. Everyone has a differing opinion on politics and religion, thereby to prevent discourse among brethren, it is forbidden to discuss during loge meetings and while brethren are enjoying each others company. 

Friday the 13th Being  Bad Luck Is Tied To The Masons : FACT (sorta)

After Crusaders captured the holy land, Hugh De Payens formed the poor knights of Christ which would then be shortened to the "Knights Templar" to guard people on their pilgrimage to the holy land. The Knights took vows of poverty and chastity, but were fierce warriors. Since they did not believe in individual fortunes, the Templars pooled their resources, and formed the first version of a bank. Those traveling would "deposit" their goods on one side of the trip, the Templars would provide a type of record of deposit (checks as we know them today), and they would be paid the value of their goods when they arrived. The  Templars financed various Royal figures including King Phillip of France. Over time, King Phillip convinced Pope Clement that the Templars spit on the cross and worshipped a false idol, thus the Templars were named heretics, rounded up and killed by the hundreds on Friday October 13, 1307. While this indeed did happen, there is no factual evidence that Freemasonry is tied to the medieval Templars  directly, even though Masonry does have Templar  degrees. Speculation is that the Templar degrees are an homage to the order, but  not directly linked. 

Freemasonry is a secret society: FICTION

Contrary to what many believe, Freemasonry is not a secret society. It does not hide its existence or its membership. There has been no attempt to conceal the purpose, aims and principles of Freemasonry. It is an organization formed and existing on the broad basis of Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth. Its constitutions are published for the world to behold. Its rules and regulations are open for inspection.

Freemasonry is just an old social club: FICTION
Freemasons are seekers of knowledge and value education. Our efforts are applied toward making good men better through personal development. While there is a social aspect to the Fraternity, our true goal is to help each man grow as a person and to contribute to his community.

The Great Seal of the United States is a Masonic symbol : FICTION

The Great Seal of the United States, as found on currency, was created by committees of the Continental Congress. Designs were submitted to Charles Thomas, Secretary to the Continental Congress, who wasn’t a Mason. Thomas submitted the final design to the Continental Congress, which was approved on June 20, 1782.

Masons wore "Forget Me Not" Flowers During WWII : FICTION

While we truly want  to believe the story that Masons,  who were persecuted during WWII wore forget me  not flowers to distinguish one another, is false. There has been no factual evidence to prove this

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Freemasonry is part of the Illuminati : CONSPIRACY 

The Illuminati translates into "the enlightened". The Illuminati formed in Bavaria in 1776  by Adam Weishaupt with degrees and content similar to Freemasonry. Though not proven, speculation states he may have been a Freemason or rejected by the craft at  some point. The illuminati was a secular order formed to reject  the control of  religion, reject abuses of state power and to supposedly end injustice by  controlling but not dominating those  who would control the masses. The order lasted but only 10-11 years before it was disbanded.  While  there are random groups  in  modern day to claim they are  the Illuminati, absolutely no links  can  be made to the  Bavarian based society which fell as quickly as it  rose. 

Freemasons are devil worshippers : CONSPIRACY 
Some of this conspiracy theory is based on  the Templar Friday the 13th story (see above).  Others believe this because  Freemasonry has "rituals" and talks about a deity, but not  specifically  the christian "god". Ritual is just another way of saying "process" or "procedure" or "tradition". As stated previously, Freemasonry does not require one to profess his  faith in a particular religion just that he believes in a supreme being/a god. There is, however a phrase in a certain Masonic book written in the mid 19th centurry within the Scottish Rite that discusses Lucifer. The point of this particular book it to show the duality and contradiction of man. The point of the particular phrase about Lucifer was to  poke fun at the contradiction, that the word "Lucifer" translates into "light bearer" but  was considered evil. 

Masons Are A Shadow Government : CONSPIRACY 
This is the conspiracy that makes  its rounds the most on the internet. People fear the most what they do not know. Freemasonry was founded on brotherly love, relief, and truth. While there are indeed Masons who work  in government, they are upstanding citizens working tirelessly to do their job with honesty and integrity for the  betterment of mankind. Masons come from all walks  of life from plumbers to presidents. Taking over the world one pancake breakfast  at a time :-) 



 
 

Famous Freemasons

Famous Freemasons include but are not  limited to: 
 

  • George Washington

  • Benjamin Franklin

  • John Hancock

  • Aaron  Burr

  • James Monroe

  • Andrew Jackson

  • Theodore Roosevelt

  • Franklin D. Roosevelt

  • Harry Truman 

  • Gerald Ford

  • Davy Crockett

  • Jim Bowie

  • Sam Houston

  • Lewis & Clark

  • Buzz Aldrrin

  • Alexander Fleming

  • Ringling Bros

  • Harry Houdini

  • John Wayne

  • Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

  • Richard Pryor

  • Mel Blanc

  • John Elway

  • Scottie Pippin

  • Giuseppie Garibaldi


  • Henry Ford

  • Walter Chrysler

  • Colonel Sanders

  • Steve Wozniak

  • Oscar Wilde

  • Sir Arthur Conan  Doyle

  • Mark Twain

  • Jesse Jackson

  • Don Rickels

  • Voltaire

  • Count Basie

  • Thurgood Marshall

  • Gene Autry

  • Nat King Cole

  • Duke Ellington

  • Sugar Ray Robinson

  • Rudyard Kipling

  • Francis Scott Key

  • Thomas Paine

  • Arnold Palmer

  • Willie Mays

  • Samuel Adams

  • Thomas Edison

  • Ludwig Von Beethoven

  • Winston Churchill

  • Louis Armstrong


Reading & viewing list

Below is a list of movies, documentaries and books that we would recommend reading if you  are a Mason or not to learn more about the craft 

Film

  • Inside  the Freemasons documentary  (Netflix)

  • Knightfall (TV show on History channel)  

  • Kingdom of Heaven 

  • National Treasure

  • Pillars  of the earth

Books

  • Foundations: new light on the formation and early years ofThe Grand Lodge of England The 2016 Prestonian Lecture by Ric Berman

  • The Magus of Freemasonry: The Mysterious Life of Elias Ashmole Scientist, Alchemist, and Founder of the Royal Society by Tobias Churton

  • The Regius Poem or Halliwell Manuscript
    by James O. Halliwell (Author), Carl E. Weaver (Editor)

  • The Symbolism of Freemasonry Illustrating and Explaining Its Science and Philosophy, Its Legends, Myths and Symbols by Albert Gallatin Mackey

  • Freemasonry and its Relation to the Essenes:
    Foundations of Freemasonry Series by William Wynn Westcott

  • The New Atlantis by Francis Bacon

  • John Theophilus Desaguliers: A Natural Philosopher, Engineer and Freemason in Newtonian England by Audrey T. Carpenter

  • The Builders  by Joseph Fort Newton

  • The Templars : Rise and spectacular fall of God's holy warriors by Dan Jones

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