The Principle behind Freemasonry
The principal idea of Freemasonry as a fraternal organization is to take a good man and make him a better man. A better man internally as well as externally, a better citizen of his community and country, a better husband and father to his children, a better friend and co-worker.
For the man who seeks out the fraternity, for Freemasonry does not seek out members, this quality should already be inherent in his person.
The Degrees of Craft Masonry
There are three degrees in Freemasonry collectively known as Craft Masonry.
1st or Entered Apprentice Degree
2nd or Fellow of Craft Degree
3rd or Master Mason Degree
Beyond the Craft Degrees are several bodies of Masonry that have been erroneously referred to as higher degrees. The third degree of Freemasonry, The Master Mason Degree is the highest degree in Freemasonry, and while the interested Master Mason will greatly benefit from an association with other masonic side degrees, these degrees are additional degrees and not higher degrees. In fact, in order for a man to join a side degree, or any other Masonic organization, he must be a member of a recognized Craft lodge and have completed the three degrees therein.
The History of the Degrees
While there is much speculation as to the origins of Freemasonry it is generally regarded that it is an extension of the operative guilds of stonemasons who worked to build the many cathedrals of Europe. Upon the completion of the gothic cathedrals, the guilds began to accept speculative masons – that is to say men who were not operative in the craft.
Certainly Freemasonry having evolved from an operative to a speculative science and philosophy still utilizes the tools of the operative craft to illustrate universal truths and moral concepts. The square, compasses, and level all have symbolic significance and the Master Mason will never look at them henceforth in the same light as he did prior to receiving the degrees.
The degrees of the Craft Lodge centre on the building of King Solomon’s Temple as outlined in the Book of Kings as found in the Old Testament.
Requirements for Membership
There are five basic requirements for Membership in a Masonic Lodge. They are as follows:
- Being a man, freeborn, of good repute and well-recommended
Being a man – as Freemasonry is a Fraternity or all-male organization, this is a must as the lodge does not admit women. There are, however, Masonic organizations which do.
A prospective member must be of good repute and sponsored by someone who knows his reputation in the community. It is important that a member not be admitted who would stain the reputation and principles of the craft.
- A belief in a Supreme Being
No man can be made a Mason if he is an atheist. All masons must profess a belief in a Supreme Being. This is an area where Freemasonry often comes under attack by religious opponents. Because Freemasonry accepts Christian, Muslim and Jew alike, how that member chooses to worship God, or by which name that member knows God, is of no consequence to Freemasonry.
- Ability to support one’s self and family
While not clearly stated in all jurisdictions, this condition is placed so that a prospective member does not join the craft in the hope of deriving financial benefit from the order. It also is in place to show the prospective Mason that the Lodge comes after his religious and family responsibilities.
- Of lawful age
The prospective Mason must have reached the age of 21, although some constitutions allow a member to join at an earlier age.
- Come to Freemasonry of their “own free will and accord”
Freemasonry, unlike many fraternal organizations, does not actively seek out new members, rather it requires that members seek out the order.