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Winston Smith 03-18-2010 04:16 PM

Ask the Freemason
 
I was raised to the Sublime Degree of Master Mason on March 16, was previously passed to the degree of Fellow Craft on 2/16 and was initiated an Entered Apprentice on 1/19. I have been invited to 'join the line' in the fall, meaning I will become an officer of the Lodge and may some day work my way up to Worshipful Master of my Blue Lodge (Grand Poobah). I would be pleased to answer your questions, dispell myths and fight some ignorance in regard to the Fraternity. There is a lot of information about the Freemasons out there, much of it accurate, much of it hogwash, and most of it somewhere in between. This is not a solicitation to recruit members, but if you've ever thought about joining the Masons but don't know how to take that first step, I can set you in the right direction.

I've taken certain vows to protect the secrets of Masonry, and will not reveal them, but even if I told you these secrets they would have no value to you as a non-Mason.

So, fire away.

running coach 03-18-2010 04:21 PM

I thought the first rule of Freemasonry is you don't talk about Freemasonry.

Winston Smith 03-18-2010 04:23 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by runner pat (Post 12239094)
I thought the first rule of Freemasonry is you don't talk about Freemasonry.

No, you're thinking <REDACTED>.

NAF1138 03-18-2010 04:25 PM

This is going to sound glib, but I don't mean it that way.

How do you like it? Other than the secret stuff (which I don't really care about) what's it like now that you are in?

Was there anything that surprised you when you joined?

What would you tell people who are potentially interested in masonry but can't decide if it's worth their time to investigate because they don't themselves know any active masons?

Unintentionally Blank 03-18-2010 04:25 PM

What belt do you have to attain to become an Illuminatus?

Do you all sit around a really cool table, behind a secret door in the library?

sandra_nz 03-18-2010 04:27 PM

What benefits do you get out of being a Freemason?

Oakminster 03-18-2010 04:28 PM

So, what are your secret plans to rule the world? And, in the event said plans are successful, how much are you willing to pay me to not go all Rebel Leader on your ass?

Cyberhwk 03-18-2010 04:31 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by sandra_nz (Post 12239117)
What benefits do you get out of being a Freemason?

This too. Is it socializing? Networking? Volunteering? Just a place to hang out?

I don't know much about the Masons.

Heart of Dorkness 03-18-2010 04:34 PM

What inspired you to get involved originally? Can I (a female atheist) be a Mason? I can't, can I?

Winston Smith 03-18-2010 04:36 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by NAF1138 (Post 12239107)
This is going to sound glib, but I don't mean it that way.

How do you like it? Other than the secret stuff (which I don't really care about) what's it like now that you are in?

Was there anything that surprised you when you joined?

What would you tell people who are potentially interested in masonry but can't decide if it's worth their time to investigate because they don't themselves know any active masons?

It has been a very personally rewarding experience so far. The main reason I joined is because I moved to a town that's on the coast and very difficult to get in and out of - I live on a peninsula, so there's no passing through on the way somewhere else, I work a very demanding job an hour away, and all of my friends live at least an hour away. So, I got into a rut the last few years - go to work, go home, try to be Super Dad to the kids all weekend because I haven't seen them all week, never seeing my friends and not making new friends in town. So, I needed a change, needed to get out of the house and make some friends, connect with my community, etc. Masonry seemed liek a logical choice. And I have made some friends already. I had lunch with one of my Masonic Brothers today. A few of us have gotten together after our studies to have a few beers.

The biggest surprises have been the rituals in the degree ceremonies. I had an idea of what was going to happen, but the whole experience has really exceeded my expectations.

My advice to those interested would be to use a search engine to find a local Lodge and give them a call. There's a nation-wide open house at the end of the month, so now would be a good time.

Winston Smith 03-18-2010 04:38 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Unintentionally Blank (Post 12239109)
What belt do you have to attain to become an Illuminatus?

Do you all sit around a really cool table, behind a secret door in the library?

Heh. They won't tell me anything about the Illuminati, only that there is additional Degree work that may shed light on some of the questions I have. ;)

Not a cool table, but a large room with an altar in the middle. They haven't shown me the secret door yet (additional Degree work again).

Nzinga, Seated 03-18-2010 04:39 PM

I had someone tell me that one of the rituals include spitting on the crucifix. Did he make that up?

AClockworkMelon 03-18-2010 04:39 PM

What is the point of the Freemasons? I mean, what's the group's mission statement? What are some of the requirements for joining?

Winston Smith 03-18-2010 04:42 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by sandra_nz (Post 12239117)
What benefits do you get out of being a Freemason?

Quote:

Originally Posted by Cyberhwk (Post 12239135)
This too. Is it socializing? Networking? Volunteering? Just a place to hang out?

I don't know much about the Masons.


All of the above, but I'd say "Fraternity" instead of socializing (not to nitpick, just a little different). I've only been involved with Masonry for a couple of months, but I've already made a couple friends. And, to me, that's really meaningful. It's a lot harder to make new friends when you're 40 than when you're 20, but within the Fraternity, it's a lot easier.

Winston Smith 03-18-2010 04:48 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Heart of Dorkness (Post 12239155)
What inspired you to get involved originally? Can I (a female atheist) be a Mason? I can't, can I?

This is a tough question to answer, because there are a lot of reasons. As I mentioned above, I needed a social outlet, but something more rewarding than going to a bar and joining a dart league. I'd like to be a better husband, father and citizen, and Masonry promises to "make good men better". I've never been in a Fraternity before, and have always found the aire of mystery and secrecy sort of tantalizing, too.

We've befriended a family in town (our kids are classmates & friends) and the dad is a Mason. I asked him if he'd help me learn more, and the rest is history.

ETA: Sorry, no ladies and no athiests. There is an organization called "Eastern Star" that is pretty much Masonry for ladies, though I'm not sure they accept athiests, either. Although it is not a religion, belief in a higher power is central to a lot of the themes, rituals and practices of Masonry, and there's no secular translation.

TruCelt 03-18-2010 04:49 PM

I have heard the rituals referred to as "Fear-factor lite." Was there anything involved which made you cringe, or which you had to question on an ethical or moral level? What about just frightening or gross?

And if you can tell us, is it true that there are human remains (skulls, etc) involved?

Winston Smith 03-18-2010 04:53 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Nzinga, Seated (Post 12239172)
I had someone tell me that one of the rituals include spitting on the crucifix. Did he make that up?

Yes. There's no way anything like that would ever occur in any ritual associated with Masonry.

Nzinga, Seated 03-18-2010 04:59 PM

I knew for a 100 percent fact he was full of it! Man, he's so full of it.

Winston Smith 03-18-2010 05:01 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by AClockworkMelon (Post 12239174)
What is the point of the Freemasons? I mean, what's the group's mission statement? What are some of the requirements for joining?

Freemasonry is a Fraternity which contributes a lot of money to charitable causes. The Shriner's Hospital is perhaps the best-known example of charitable work done by Masons. I read this morning that the Masons are responsible for 80% of the blood donated to the Red Cross in my state. So, the main point of the Fraternity is fraternity, but the Masons do a lot of good work.

Among the requirements to join are being a man, free-born, over 21, of good character, and belief in a higher power.

Alan Smithee 03-18-2010 05:16 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Winston Smith (Post 12239216)
ETA: Sorry, no ladies and no athiests. There is an organization called "Eastern Star" that is pretty much Masonry for ladies, though I'm not sure they accept athiests, either. Although it is not a religion, belief in a higher power is central to a lot of the themes, rituals and practices of Masonry, and there's no secular translation.

I actually thought I'd read recently that they had started admitting women. Was it my imagination, or is it just that most women would rather be in Eastern Star?

The atheist thing bugs me. I'm always up for any excuse to be social, and I like a lot of what Masonry claims to stand for. I have no problem with "cermonial deism" (although I don't buy it in the legal context the term was created for), but I won't pretend to believe.

Winston Smith 03-18-2010 05:20 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by TruCelt (Post 12239224)
I have heard the rituals referred to as "Fear-factor lite." Was there anything involved which made you cringe, or which you had to question on an ethical or moral level? What about just frightening or gross?

And if you can tell us, is it true that there are human remains (skulls, etc) involved?

The third degree ritual deals with the subject of death, but within the context of the progression of degrees, it is not morbid or anything like that. The first degree deals with youth, and the second degree deals with middle age. The ceremony surprised me, but nothing I experienced was even remotely cringe-worthy, unethical or immoral. It would be very difficult to explain the context of the ceremony to the extent that you would fairly have the proper context by which to understand the actual events of the ceremony, but "Fear-factor lite" would not be an unfair characterization. :)

As a matter of fact, the tenets of the ceremony (and Masonry in general) are Morality and Ethics.

No human skulls or remains - that's part of later degrees ;)

Alan Smithee 03-18-2010 05:23 PM

Wait, free-born? Really? I know that's just a relic, but Masonry is an international organization, and slavery and indentured servitude do still exist in the world. Would someone really be disqualified based on their legal status at birth? That's pretty offensive.

Winston Smith 03-18-2010 05:28 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Alan Smithee (Post 12239337)
I actually thought I'd read recently that they had started admitting women. Was it my imagination, or is it just that most women would rather be in Eastern Star?

The atheist thing bugs me. I'm always up for any excuse to be social, and I like a lot of what Masonry claims to stand for. I have no problem with "cermonial deism" (although I don't buy it in the legal context the term was created for), but I won't pretend to believe.

Yes, Eastern Star is for the ladies. There are definitely no women accepted as Masons.

It's more than "cermonial deism", though. Masonic rituals and meetings include a lot of prayers, some hymns, and talk about the "Supreme Architect"; belief really is central to their teachings. Without belief, much of the meaning is lost.

Joey P 03-18-2010 05:30 PM

Okay, stupid question, I know. Actually, two stupid questions. 1)Freemason and Mason, are the terms used interchangeably? 2)Do Freemasons/Masons have anything to do with brick and concrete workers that call themselves masons?

AClockworkMelon 03-18-2010 05:35 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Alan Smithee (Post 12239357)
Wait, free-born? Really? I know that's just a relic, but Masonry is an international organization, and slavery and indentured servitude do still exist in the world. Would someone really be disqualified based on their legal status at birth? That's pretty offensive.

No more offensive than basing requirements on gender. The organization isn't a government one, they can do as they please with their club.

ivan astikov 03-18-2010 05:37 PM

What's that business about hopping on one leg? Or just hopping, whatever!

Does the "dressing up" aspect appeal to you at all?

Winston Smith 03-18-2010 05:37 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Alan Smithee (Post 12239357)
Wait, free-born? Really? I know that's just a relic, but Masonry is an international organization, and slavery and indentured servitude do still exist in the world. Would someone really be disqualified based on their legal status at birth? That's pretty offensive.

Yes, they still include "free-born" in the requirements. At it's core, this means that in order to be a Mason, a man's time must be his own. A slave or indentured servant cannot commit his time because it is not his to give.

It's also symbolic of the fact that Masonry is something to which you must devote you time in order to benefit from it, and if you do not have the time to spend, you shouldn't join. More or less.

fluiddruid 03-18-2010 05:39 PM

Do you know of fraternal (or, well, comparable) organizations that accept female atheists? I've always been interested in them but there don't seem to be any options for me. I'm okay with secrecy and ritualism, I just won't vow that I believe in a Creator.

Winston Smith 03-18-2010 05:40 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Joey P (Post 12239385)
Okay, stupid question, I know. Actually, two stupid questions. 1)Freemason and Mason, are the terms used interchangeably? 2)Do Freemasons/Masons have anything to do with brick and concrete workers that call themselves masons?

Yes, we use Freemason and Mason interchangably (to the best of my knowledge). The origins of our Fraternity are said to be in the Stone Masons guild of ancient times, and the rituals and teachings use the tools of operative masons (trowel, square, level, etc) in a symbolic manner.

Winston Smith 03-18-2010 05:42 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by ivan astikov (Post 12239411)
What's that business about hopping on one leg? Or just hopping, whatever!

Does the "dressing up" aspect appeal to you at all?

Hopping did not occur during any of my initiation ceremonies, nor have I heard of any hopping to occur at some later date.

The dressing up? How do you mean?

Gary Robson 03-18-2010 05:44 PM

What kind of time commitment does freemasonry involve? Are you required to attend a certain number of meetings or donate a certain amount of time to the charitable works? Does the ritual make the meetings long?

Also, what is the difference between Masons and Shriners? I talked to my uncle once years ago (he's since passed on), and if I recall correctly, he was thirtieth degree, Scottish Rite. But he wouldn't tell me anything.

Quote:

Originally Posted by Alan Smithee (Post 12239337)
I actually thought I'd read recently that they had started admitting women. Was it my imagination, or is it just that most women would rather be in Eastern Star?

Might you be thinking of the Elks? We've been admitting women for a while now, but people are just starting to notice. I'm just finishing up my term as Exalted Ruler in my Lodge, and three of my officers are women. Next year, we're adding another.

Winston Smith 03-18-2010 05:46 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by fluiddruid (Post 12239425)
Do you know of fraternal (or, well, comparable) organizations that accept female atheists? I've always been interested in them but there don't seem to be any options for me. I'm okay with secrecy and ritualism, I just won't vow that I believe in a Creator.

Maybe the National Organization for Women? I dunno. I reckon the Eastern Star has the same requirement for belief that the Masons do.

My best friend is an athiest, and when I told him I was joining he said pretty much what has been expressed here - he'd like to join, but the whole requirement for belief in a higher power thing just didn't work for him.

Alan Smithee 03-18-2010 05:49 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Winston Smith (Post 12239414)
Yes, they still include "free-born" in the requirements. At it's core, this means that in order to be a Mason, a man's time must be his own. A slave or indentured servant cannot commit his time because it is not his to give.

It's also symbolic of the fact that Masonry is something to which you must devote you time in order to benefit from it, and if you do not have the time to spend, you shouldn't join. More or less.

But free-born is not the same as free.

I would further argue that one's time is always one's own by natural right, regardless of legal status.
Quote:

Originally Posted by Gary "Wombat" Robson
Might you be thinking of the Elks? We've been admitting women for a while now, but people are just starting to notice. I'm just finishing up my term as Exalted Ruler in my Lodge, and three of my officers are women. Next year, we're adding another.

Probably.

Out of curiosity, how do they feel about atheists?

Rhythmdvl 03-18-2010 05:50 PM

What about an agnostic Jew? Are the hymns/prayers/rituals Christ-based? What about a very open-minded Buddhist? Is the belief in a higher power similar to, say, the loose belief in a HP as thought necessary by AA?

What did you mean by "gotten together after our studies"? Does your time in the lodge require a fair amount of history/lore learning? What else do you do in a lodge between blood-donating and charity setting-up? Drink? Play mumbleypeg?


Do you know anything about the Rotarians, Lions Cubs, Knights o' Columbas, etc? Is there any way to compare organizatons?

ivan astikov 03-18-2010 05:53 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Winston Smith (Post 12239438)
Hopping did not occur during any of my initiation ceremonies, nor have I heard of any hopping to occur at some later date.

It's probably just for the higher level members then.
Quote:

Originally Posted by Winston Smith (Post 12239438)
The dressing up? How do you mean?

Don't you wear trendy robes and sashes, and have funky jewelery?

Winston Smith 03-18-2010 05:53 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Gary "Wombat" Robson (Post 12239448)
What kind of time commitment does freemasonry involve? Are you required to attend a certain number of meetings or donate a certain amount of time to the charitable works? Does the ritual make the meetings long?

Also, what is the difference between Masons and Shriners? I talked to my uncle once years ago (he's since passed on), and if I recall correctly, he was thirtieth degree, Scottish Rite. But he wouldn't tell me anything.

Might you be thinking of the Elks? We've been admitting women for a while now, but people are just starting to notice. I'm just finishing up my term as Exalted Ruler in my Lodge, and three of my officers are women. Next year, we're adding another.

Meetings are once a month, except in July & August (when the Lodge goes dark). As far as how much time it takes, that's really up to the individual. Technically, now that I've got my dues card I'll be a Moson as long as I keep current on my dues. I could probably spend the rest of my life as a member in good standing and never set foot in a Lodge again. Obviously, that's not the point of it, though. You can go once a month to the meetings, or join the line and go twice a month, or visit other Lodges, join charitable committees, etc. As much or as little time as you want, really.

The Shrine runs the Shriners Hospital, and their association with the Masons is that membership in the Masons is a pre-requisite to joining the Shrine. And they wear the funny hats and get to drive tine fire engines. Scottish and York Rite are also appendant bodies that are seperate from Masonry, but require members to be Masons. They all have specif charities they operate and specific teachings and methods of teaching.

Winston Smith 03-18-2010 05:57 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by ivan astikov (Post 12239486)
It's probably just for the higher level members then.


Don't you wear trendy robes and sashes, and have funky jewelery?

Perhaps.

The officers at my Lodge wear tuxedos with vestments to signify their rank in the Lodge. I heard they get all decked out like you describe in other Lodges, but not mine. The funky jewelery is kind of cool though, yeah.

I wear dockers and a sports coat to Lodge. Most of the guys wear suits.

freckafree 03-18-2010 07:45 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by fluiddruid (Post 12239425)
Do you know of fraternal (or, well, comparable) organizations that accept female atheists? I've always been interested in them but there don't seem to be any options for me. I'm okay with secrecy and ritualism, I just won't vow that I believe in a Creator.

Not to hijack Winston's thread, but you might be happy with Rotary. (I'm no longer a member. I just didn't have the time I felt I should commit to it.) We had a lot of women (including me) in our chapter.

As far as atheism goes, you certainly won't be quizzed about your beliefs to qualify for membership. Our chapter meetings always began with the singing of The Star Spangled Banner and a non-denominational invocation. If a 30-second vague prayer is too much religion, then Rotary might not be for you. (I'm guessing chapters may vary widely in the degree of religiosity, though.)

Joey P 03-18-2010 07:55 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Winston Smith (Post 12239428)
Yes, we use Freemason and Mason interchangably (to the best of my knowledge). The origins of our Fraternity are said to be in the Stone Masons guild of ancient times, and the rituals and teachings use the tools of operative masons (trowel, square, level, etc) in a symbolic manner.

Other then using the tools of the masons as symbols and the name, the two groups really have nothing to do with each other though, right?

VunderBob 03-18-2010 08:11 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Winston Smith (Post 12239414)
Yes, they still include "free-born" in the requirements. At it's core, this means that in order to be a Mason, a man's time must be his own. A slave or indentured servant cannot commit his time because it is not his to give.

I'm married, so I guess that rules me out, too. ;)

Billdo 03-18-2010 11:14 PM

You mention that you were initiated into a series of degrees of Masonry, and that there are more to come.

Other than having different initiation ceremonies as you discuss, can you explain the both ceremonial and practical differences between the degrees. Are there reasons why one would get one or more of them and not the others? Do they entitle you to different things? Are there separate requirements for each?

Claude Remains 03-18-2010 11:26 PM

Q. How many Masons does it take to change a light bulb?
A. After much research this tricky question can now be answered. It takes 20, as follows:

2 to complain that the light doesn't work.
1 to pass the problem to either another committee, the Temple Board or the Master of the Lodge.
3 to do a study on light in the Lodge.
2 to check out the types of lights the Knights of Columbus use.
3 to argue about it.
5 to plan a fund-raising dinner to raise money for the bulb.
2 to complain that "that′s not the way we did it before."
1 to borrow a ladder, donate the bulb and install it.
1 to order the brass memorial plate and have it inscribed.

Infovore 03-18-2010 11:39 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Winston Smith (Post 12239377)
Yes, Eastern Star is for the ladies. There are definitely no women accepted as Masons.

I believe there's an organization called "Co-Masonry" that's essentially Masonry that accepts both men and women. It's not sanctioned by the Grand Lodge, though.

As far as Eastern Star being "Masonry for ladies," I'd say that's probably not quite accurate. OES does have rituals, but it's not really the same thing. My parents were in Masonry and Eastern Star for many years, and I definitely got the impression that OES was more of a Masonic support organization, concerned more with philanthropy and entertaining than with ritual. I know the Eastern Star has ritual (I used to help my mother learn hers) but...I dunno. It just never seemed the same to me. Plus the fact that you can't be in the OES unless you have a close male relative who is/was a Mason, while any male who fulfills the requirements can be a Mason.

Ever since I was a kid (I'm female) I wanted to be a Mason. I never wanted to be in the Eastern Star, because it always struck me as the "Masonic Ladies Auxiliary." (No offense intended to OES Dopers...it's just not the sort of thing that appeals to me.)

Paul in Qatar 03-19-2010 12:10 AM

Welcome to the club Brother Winston Smith!

The Second Stone 03-19-2010 12:50 AM

Is it true that all the secrets are in books that anyone can buy at a Masonic bookstore or a public library.

EvilTOJ 03-19-2010 02:32 AM

Did you get to meet Steve Gutenberg?

ralph124c 03-19-2010 04:24 AM

In the famous Kipling story ("The Man Who Would Be King"). the newspaper man is relaying a message from Daniel Dravott, to Peachy Carnahan.
He is asked to identify himself-and he replies "for the sake of the widow's son"-is this a Masonic identification?

Paul in Qatar 03-19-2010 06:04 AM

No; or perhaps not any more.

Winston Smith 03-19-2010 08:30 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Alan Smithee (Post 12239471)
But free-born is not the same as free.

I would further argue that one's time is always one's own by natural right, regardless of legal status.
Probably.

Out of curiosity, how do they feel about atheists?

Indeed, I cannot argue with your reasoning. In any event, it's mostly a symbolic requirement to remind us that we must invest our time to the fraternity.

Winston Smith 03-19-2010 08:33 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Joey P (Post 12239862)
Other then using the tools of the masons as symbols and the name, the two groups really have nothing to do with each other though, right?

I don't think so. However, I'm sure their are operative masons (tradesmen) that are also Masons (Fraternity). The Freemasons are not a labor union.


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