Freemasonry is not your typical "Social Club,” it is a Fraternity of Brothers with the same goal...building a better tomorrow!
Freemasons Say They're Needed Now More Than Ever. So Why Are Their Ranks Dwindling?
George Washington and Freemasonry
Freemasonry is the oldest, largest Fraternity in the world. It's members have included Kings, Presidents, Prime Ministers, Statesmen, Generals, Admirals, Supreme Court Justices, corporate CEOs, opera stars, movie stars and probably, your Next Door Neighbor.
And Masonry is always ready to welcome good men into the Fraternity. It's ready to welcome YOU, if in your heart you can answer "yes" to a few questions.
Do you believe that there is such a thing as honor, and that a man has a responsibility to act with honor in everything he does?
Masons teach that principle. We believe that a life not founded on honor is hollow and empty -- that a man who acts without honor is less than a man.
Do you believe in God?
No atheist can be a Mason. Masons do not care what your individual faith is -- that is a question between you and your God -- but we do require that a man believe in a Supreme Being.
Are you willing to allow others the same right to their own beliefs that you insist on yourself?
Masonry insists on toleration -- on the right of each person to think for himself in religious, social and political matters.
Do you believe that you have a responsibility to leave the world a better place than you found it?
Masonry teaches that each man has a duty not only to himself but to others. We must do what we can to make the world a better place. Whether that means cleaning up the environment, working on civic projects, or helping children to walk or read or see -- the world should be a better place because we have passed through it.
Do you believe that it is not only more blessed to give than to receive, it's also more fun?
Masons are involved with the problems and needs of others because we know it gives each of us a good feeling -- unlike any other -- to help. Much of our help is given anonymously. We're not after gratitude, we're more than rewarded by that feeling which comes from knowing we have helped another person overcome some adversity, so that their life can go on.
Are you willing to give help to your Brothers when they need it, and to accept their help when you need it?
Masonry is mutual help. Not just financial help (although that's there, too) but help in the sense of being there when needed, giving support, lending a sympathetic ear.
Do you feel that there's something more to life than just financial success? Masons know that self-development is more precious than money in the bank or social position or political power. Those things often accompany self-development, but they are no substitute for it. Masons work at building their lives and character, just as a carpenter works at building a house.
Do you believe that a person should strive to be a good citizen and that we have a moral duty to be true to the country in which we live?
Masons believe that a country is strong so long as freedom, equality, and the opportunity for human development is afforded to all. A Mason is true to his government and its ideals. He supports its laws and authority when both are just and equitably applied. We uphold and maintain the principles of good government, and oppose every influence that would divide it in a degrading manner.
Do you agree that man should show compassion for others, that goodness of heart is among the most important of human values?
Masons do. We believe in a certain reference for living things, a tenderness toward people who suffer. A loving kindness for our fellow man, and a desire to do right because it is right. Masonry teaches that although all men are fallible and capable of much wrong, when they discover the goodness of heart, they have found the true essence of virtue. Masonry helps men see their potential for deep goodness and virtue.
Do you believe that men should strive to live a brotherly life?
Masons see brotherhood as a form of wisdom, a sort of bond that holds men together -- a private friendship that tells us we owe it to each other to be just in our dealings and to refuse to speak evil of each other. Masons believe a man should maintain an attitude of good will, and promote unity and harmony in his relations with one another, his family and his community. Masons call this way of life believing in the Brotherhood of Man. It really means that every Mason makes it his duty to follow the golden rule. This is why Masonry has been called on of the greatest forces for good in the world.
Freemasonry offers much to its members -- the opportunity to grow, the chance to make a difference, to build a better world for our children. It offers the chance to be with and work with men who have the same values and ideals -- men who have answered "YES" to these questions.
It's easy to find out more. Just find a Mason and ask him about Masonry. You probably know several Masons. Perhaps you've seen the Square and Compasses like the one above or on a pin or tack or bumper sticker. If you know where the lodge is in your community, stop by or look up the number in the phone book and ask for the secretary of the lodge. He'll be happy to help you.
So you've decided that you might be interested in becoming a Mason. Now what? This is one of the most frequently-asked questions we get in our e-mail each day.
Freemasons have long wielded the qualities most irresistible to thriller writers and conspiracy theorists — secrecy, politics, power and celebrity. Among their members are Founding Fathers, presidents, musicians, artists and businessmen. But today, as membership plummets within one of the oldest international fraternal organizations ever to exist, a new question persists: What is the point?
The challenges facing the organization have been decades in the making. While part of the problem is that Americans simply don't join clubs or fraternities as often as they used to, some critics argue that Masons have also struggled to keep up with the changing face of the nation. Many lodges still don't allow women to join, and others have struggled to attract members of color. In recent years, membership has dropped roughly 75% from a high of more than 4.1 million in 1959 — when about 4.5% of all American men were members.
Within the organization's ranks, some members hoped the coronavirus pandemic might offer an opportunity to shed its reputation for mystery and secrecy and instead showcase the charitable work that Masons perform in communities nationwide. But that hasn't been the case. Instead, the virus continues to sweep the nation, keeping men away from their lodges and making it even more difficult to induct new members — something some say is too steeped in tradition to be attempted over Zoom.
"I don't know, really, how we combat [the loss of members]. If I had the answer to that, we would have solved the problem years ago," said Christopher Hodapp, a historian and author of multiple books on Freemasonry. "But I'll tell you, something that's scaring the hell out of me is this COVID shutdown thing. God help us all when we stand back and survey the crumbling wreckage that that has caused."
Like many organizations facing an uncertain future — one that could be more online and less interconnected — Freemasons are approaching an inflection point.
It wouldn't be the first time. Lodges saw a big dip in membership in 1826 following the mysterious disappearance of William Morgan, who allegedly broke his vow of secrecy as a Freemason by working on a book revealing the organization's secrets. The scandal fueled a national political movement tasked with taking the fraternity down. But Freemasons survived the scandal — and others that followed.
"Certainly in the 18th century and moving through the middle part of the 19th century, you could be powerful and influential without being a Freemason, but it was more likely that you would have been a Freemason," said Jessica Harland-Jacobs, an associate professor of history at the University of Florida who studies Freemasonry.
Many Freemasons see the decline in membership as symptomatic of the overall decline in all voluntary associations, rather than a problem specific to their fraternity. Membership has been steadily falling in everything from church groups and school associations to labor unions and Greek organizations, according to a 2019 congressional report. The Joint Economic Committee report found that membership rates in some organizations fell from 75% in 1974 to 62% in 2004. At 52%, the drop was steepest among fraternal organizations such as the Freemasons or the Knights of Columbus.
Part of the function of many fraternal organizations was to serve as a social safety net of sorts for its members, a driving force behind some membership, according to Harland-Jacobs. Until about the 1930s, she said, part of the appeal of groups such as the Freemasons is that they offered a way for members to acquire insurance.
"Some might've been more interested in the social aspect, and some might've been more interested in the insurance aspect: These are the days before actual insurance, so it would be nice to have your brethren to rely on if you needed them," she said.
John Dickie, a historian at University College London and author of The Craft: How the Freemasons Made the Modern World, also points to the idea that the secrecy of the fraternity that could have once intrigued men is less alluring.
"I think possibly actually the issue is that secrecy has lost something of its magic," Dickie said. "Maybe, we've become a little bit fatigued by the whole exposé draw, and in an age when it can take two minutes or less on Google to find out what the Freemasons' secrets really are, I'm not sure that they can really hold that much mystique for members anymore. It's a trick that they've played with great success since 1717 or even before. One wonders what success it will have in the coming decades."
Some outside the organization say that the Freemasons would be able to offset the decline in membership more easily if the group was seen as more inclusive toward women and people of color.
"[Freemasons] should tackle head-on those issues: secrecy, race, gender, sexuality, all of those things," Dickie said of how the fraternity could attract new members. But if that were to happen, Dickie added, it could backfire and lead to immediate "ruptures in Freemasonry" because some men are in the fraternity precisely because of those "limitations."
"A man, regardless of his religion, regardless of his social position, and regardless of his race is eligible to be a member of the brotherhood. That promise is obviously really attractive to groups who are traditionally excluded," Harland-Jacobs said. But the history of Freemasonry, she said, "has been the history of this tension between this inclusive promise and oftentimes its exclusive practices."
Men of any race are able to join Freemasonry, but that wasn't always the case. At the time of its inception, you had to be a free man to join — meaning people who were enslaved could not. When Prince Hall, an abolitionist Black man, attempted to join a lodge in the late 1700s, he was denied despite being a free man. He, along with more than a dozen other Black men, eventually started their own branch of Freemasonry called Prince Hall Freemasonry, which is still active today.
Membership is more complicated for women. Not all lodges in the U.S. will initiate women, and even if they did, that is unlikely to reverse drops in membership, according to Brent Morris, director of strategic communications at the Supreme Council of the Scottish Rite of Freemasonry in Washington, D.C.
"I don't think there would be a rush of people to the doors," said Morris, adding that membership was "a social experience that the men seek out and enjoy." Morris noted, however, that women are able to join affiliated fraternities such as the Order of the Eastern Star or the Order of the Amaranth.
On the issue of race, Morris said it was a challenge on which Freemasons have made major progress.
"I've been a Mason almost 50 years — 49 and a half years — and I have seen breathtaking changes that have occurred during that period with acceptance of people of color, with acceptance for Prince Hall [Freemasonry], with Black men joining mainstream lodges, white men joining Prince Hall lodges ... and it's certainly a breathtaking step in the right direction," he said.
Morris joined Freemasonry because he wanted a community of supportive men akin to his college fraternity and said he was happy to discover it helped him "establish friendships at a local level and friendships that you might not have otherwise."
"One of the things that I found so very appealing about Freemasonry is men from different backgrounds," Morris said. "It's nice to go somewhere... and socialize on a basis other than your occupation."
Freemasons argue that the reason to uphold the fraternity goes beyond maintaining historic traditions or belonging to something that once bore immense influence. It might not be a secret society full of presidents and powerful men pulling the strings of society from the shadows, but that's never been the point for these members. Instead, they joined to establish friendships outside of work, and vibe with a community that isn't divisive. At a time in which polarization and division in the U.S. are growing more intense, Freemasons said it's refreshing to spend time with people who aren't arguing.
"People are isolated," said Hodapp, the historian and author. "People are locked in their apartments, or locked in their parents' basement at the age of 35, and don't associate with each other, and social media has them screaming at the computer screen at 3 in the morning because somebody told them to get stuffed over something. Every Mason you talk to will stand there and say, 'Yeah, we're needed now more than we've ever been needed.' "
The challenge, he said, is finding a way to communicate that.
"How do you get the message of, yes, there is a place where you can go where people aren't at each other's throats, there's a place that deliberately stops the kind of arguments that are making your life miserable."
Credit : Christianna Silva NPR News
IT IS THE DESIRE TO SERVE THAT MAKES A GREAT LEADER, NOT THE DESIRE TO RULE!
No one knows with certainty how or when the Masonic Fraternity was formed. A widely accepted theory among Masonic scholars is that it arose from the stonemasons’ guilds during the Middle Ages. The language and symbols used in the fraternity’s rituals come from this era. The oldest document that makes reference to Masons is the Regius Poem, printed about 1390, which was a copy of an earlier work. In 1717, four lodges in London formed the first Grand Lodge of England, and records from that point on are more complete.
Within thirty years, the fraternity had spread throughout Europe and the American Colonies. Freemasonry became very popular in colonial America. George Washington was a Mason, Benjamin Franklin served as the head of the fraternity in Pennsylvania, as did Paul Revere and Joseph Warren in Massachusetts. Other well-known Masons involved with the founding of America included John Hancock, John Sullivan, Lafayette, Baron Fredrick von Stuben, Nathanael Greene, and John Paul Jones. Another Mason, Chief Justice John Marshall, shaped the Supreme Court into its present form.
Over the centuries, Freemasonry has developed into a worldwide fraternity emphasizing personal study, self-improvement, and social betterment via individual involvement and philanthropy. During the late 1700s it was one of the organizations most responsible for spreading the ideals of the Enlightenment: the dignity of man and the liberty of the individual, the right of all persons to worship as they choose, the formation of democratic governments, and the importance of public education. Masons supported the first public schools in both Europe and America.
During the 1800s and early 1900s, Freemasonry grew dramatically. At that time, the government had provided no social “safety net”. The Masonic tradition of founding orphanages, homes for widows, and homes for the aged provided the only security many people knew.
Today in North America, the Masonic Fraternity continues this tradition by giving almost $2 million each day to causes that range from operating children’s hospitals, providing treatment for childhood language disorders, treating eye diseases, funding medical research, contributing to local community service, and providing care to Masons and their families at Masonic Homes.
The four million Masons worldwide continue to help men and women face the problems of the 21st century by building bridges of brotherhood and instilling in the hearts of men ideals for a better tomorrow.
The two Lodges most closely associated with George Washington are Fredericksburg Lodge at Fredericksburg, Virginia (his Mother Lodge) and Alexandria-Washington Lodge at Alexandria, Virginia, where he was elected Charter Master under the Grand Lodge of Virginia. No precise date can be found when the Lodge at Fredericksburg began. The date of its first meeting is usually found as September 1, 1752, under a dispensation from the Provincial Grand Lodge of the Colony of Massachusetts. The Lodge was granted a charter on July 21, 1758, by the Grand Lodge of Scotland.
Brother Washington received his Masonic degrees over a nine-month period. He was initiated an Entered Apprentice on November 4, 1752, passed to Fellow Craft on March 3, 1753, and raised to Master Mason on August 4, 1753.
The Lodge at Alexandria, Virginia, was first warranted by the Provincial Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania on February 3, 1783, as Lodge № 39. George Washington attended a St. John the Baptist Celebration of the Lodge in June 24, 1784, where he was later made an honorary member of the Lodge. On April 28, 1788, the Lodge received a Charter from the Grand Lodge of Virginia as Alexandria Lodge № 22. The Lodge asked Washington to be its Charter Master under the Virginia Charter and he agreed. Washington was inaugurated as the First President of the United States on April 30, 1789, while holding the office of Master of Alexandria Lodge. In 1804, the Lodge petitioned the Grand Lodge of Virginia to change its name to Alexandria-Washington Lodge № 22, in memory of Washington. That petition was granted in 1805.
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ORDO AB CHAO
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