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The Freemasons-A Brief Overview

Updated on July 31, 2014

What Do You Know About The Freemasons?

The Freemasons are a type of fraternal organization. The origins of this society with secrets is unknown, however, many believe that its history dates back to the 16th or 17th century. This is hotly contested with scholars, who feel that this organization has much older roots and could date back as far as biblical times.

Currently, there are approximately six million Freemasons and membership in this fraternal order is worldwide, and one of the main criteria for membership is men must believe in a Supreme Being. This can mean that men from any religion can join just as long as they have a good reputation. Possessing good moral values and being a spiritual person is the cornerstone of this fraternal order.

As the Freemasons is a secret society, many of their rituals and other membership criteria are not disclosed to the public, although this certainly does not curtail speculation from the public. There have not been any formal confirmations or denials of those rituals.

Their practices vary widely depending on the jurisdiction, but the common Masonic ritual is to use the architectural symbolism of tools used by real stonemasons from medieval times.

Freemasons use this symbolism to represent 'building' philosophically, as opposed to building physically. One of the most prominent and readily identifiable freemason symbols is the Masonic square and compass.

The compass and square are tools that are used by architects and are used by Freemasons during various rituals in order to strengthen the order and teach various symbolic lessons. Generally, the tools are used to in order to demonstrate judgment an discernment.

These tools are applied as lessons in conduct. Masons should "square their actions by the square of virtue" and learn to "circumscribe their desires and keep their passions within due bounds toward all mankind." from Square and Compass.

It is important to note that Freemasonry is not a religion, so those rituals and/or interpretations of the square and compass are not static. Interestingly enough, at the center of the square and compass is the letter G, which is thought to represent God, something that Freemasons say, is at the foundation of their organization. This interpretation has not necessarily been confirmed or denied by any Freemason and some contend that the letter could refer to geometry, which is considered "the noblest of sciences."

Anyone who is morally upright and believes in a supreme being can join this fraternal organization, no matter what his race or formal religion is. However, it seems like gender is the only hard and fast criteria for joining. Women are precluded from becoming a Freemason.

Freemasons Toolkit
Freemasons Toolkit

Masonic Meeting

The basic organizational unit of Freemasonry is called a Lodge. In order to meet and work, each new Lodge must obtain a Warrant issued by a Grand Lodge. Masons who convene as a Lodge without displaying this official documentation are deemed to be irregular and "Clandestine."

It is important to note that Freemasons meet as a Lodge, not in a Lodge, as the word "Lodge" refers to the people gathered rather than the location or setting of the assembly. The buildings are called Temples, or Masonic Halls, as is increasingly common. These Masonic Halls can also be used for non-Masonic gatherings as well.

This list of Masonic buildings in the U.S. details the locations and historical details of many such Masonic Halls. Many of these are now regarded as historical landmarks. On this list are many buildings commonly associated with the Ancient Arabic Order of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine, also known as the Shriners. Because local chapters of the Shriners and the Freemasons often meet in the same building or Masonic Hall, many people mistakenly confuse or conflate the two groups as being the same. In actuality they are two different organizations, with different bylaws and rituals. However, membership in the Freemasons is required to join the Shriners

Importance of Blue

In Freemasonry, the color blue holds deep significance. It symbolizes benevolence and universal friendship, and is considered the color of the vault of heaven. It is tradition that, other than white, only blue can be used for decoration in a Masonic Hall for decorations. Craft degrees are conferred within the Blue Lodge. Three degrees, taken sequentially, are an important Masonic ritual.

In terms of the hierarchy within the freemason organization, members can attain certain degrees. For example, an entered apprentice is the degree of a person that has just joined the organization or an initiate. The next rung up, sort to speak, is the Fellow Craft, and the third degree is a Master Mason. A Master Mason has, according to some studies, reached a higher level of personal development and consciousness.

Many people have become fascinated with Freemasons, primarily because of how many notable leaders and scholars have been and are currently members of this fraternal organizations, such as Wolfgang Mozart, George Washington, and George Bush.

As it stands, Freemasons will say to anyone who has questions about their organization, that like any private club, certain things are privy only to members. They do not like to be called a secret society because members usually disclose their affiliation. Rather, they might prefer to be called a 'society with secrets,' founded on the principles of truth, brotherly love, and charity.

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    • Jameshank profile image
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      Jameshank 5 years ago from Japan, NY, California

      Hi tillsontitan! You're right Freemasons can be interesting. Thanks for dropping by and for voting up!

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 5 years ago from New York

      Interesting. To us 'outsiders' not much is known about the Freemasons whether they call if a secret organization or an organization with secrets....it is pretty secret! Voted up for interesting subject and content.

    • Jameshank profile image
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      Jameshank 5 years ago from Japan, NY, California

      You're welcome alocsin! Thanks also for stopping by.

    • alocsin profile image

      alocsin 5 years ago from Orange County, CA

      Thanks for enlightening me about a society which is subject to many myths. Voting this Up and Interesting.

    • Jameshank profile image
      Author

      Jameshank 5 years ago from Japan, NY, California

      Yeah, I have some older relatives who were involved, and I always heard whispers about it here and there when I was a kid. I've always wanted to do more research into the 'masons.' This article only scratches the surface, actually, so I plan to follow up with more at some point. Thanks for the comment,WayneDave.

    • WayneDave profile image

      WayneDave 5 years ago from Leeds, England

      Very interesting article. I knew nothing of the Freemasons, I had just heard the name now and again. Thanks for posting this.