What Is Freemasonry?

Freemasonry is the oldest and largest world-wide fraternity dedicated to the
Brotherhood of Man under a Supreme Being. In a society whose moral values are
being severely tested. Masonry brings men together for fellowship and the promotion
of integrity and good citizenship.

Where Did Freemasonry Get its Start?

Our traditions can be traced directly to the associations of operative masons. They
were men of outstanding character and high ideals who built the cathedrals and
buildings of the Middle Ages.

With the decline of cathedral building in the 17th Century many guilds of craftsman,
called “Operative Masons” started to accept into their membership those who were not
working members of the Mason’s craft and called them Speculative or Accepted
Masons. It was in these groups called lodges comprised mainly of “Accepted” masons
that Freemasonry as we know it today had its beginning.

In Seventeen hundred and Seventeen 1717 four such lodges which had been meeting
regularly in London England united to form the ” First Grand Lodge of England” under
the direction of a “Grand Master”.

From that first Grand Lodge, Freemasonry has spread throughout the world. Today
some 150 Grand Lodges have a total membership of approximately five million

Our Grand Lodges currently recognizes approximately 140 other Grand Lodges
throughout the World. Each of these Grand Lodges is presided over by a Grand
Master, assisted by a Deputy Grand Master and a Board of General Purposes. These
jurisdictions are usually subdivided into Districts under the custody of a District Deputy
Grand Master and each district is comprised by a number of individual lodges, each
ruled by a Worshipful Master.

The District in which we belong is called Hamilton District B. It is comprised of several lodges, all meeting in many different Lodge buildings or Masonic Halls.

There are numerous other appendant bodies of Masonic origin that are recognized by
Masonic Grand Lodges including Royal Arch Masons, The Scottish Rite, the Shriners
and many more. The common thread running through all of these bodies is that they
are continuances of Craft masonry and their members must be Master Masons in order
to join.

Freemasonry supports many charitable institutions such as, The Ontario Deafness
Research Foundation, Autistic Homes of Ontario, and the Muscular Dystrophy
Association. The Masonic Foundation of Ontario has a bursary program for university
and college students and an awareness program to educate youth on the hazards of
drugs and alcohol.

What is Freemasonry and What are its Objectives?

Freemasonry is a non religious organization which throughout its very many years of
existence has maintained a consistent set of principles which are in parallel and which
compliment those of all the Major Religions of the world, while at the same time
promoting the simple but important objectives of helping all men and women
everywhere to live happy lives. These principles include: Kindness and consideration
at home; honesty in business, courtesy towards others, dependability in one’s work,
compassion for the unfortunate, and being a good citizen of the world.

While Freemasonry’s activities and work may vary from town to town and from country
to country its principles and objectives remain the same wherever it exists in the world.
The organization of Freemasonry is based on a system of Grand lodges, each
sovereign within its own territory. There is no central authority governing all Grand
Lodges. To be acknowledged by others, however, acceptable traditions, standards,
and practices must be maintained.

How Do You Become a Member?

One of freemasonry’s customs is not to solicit for members. However anyone should
feel free to approach any Mason to seek further information about the fraternity.
Membership is for men (21) years of age or older who are of good moral character,
and who believe in the existence of Supreme Being.

What does Freemasonry Expect From its Members?

Freemasonry welcomes applications from men who seek harmony with their fellow
man and who wish to participate in making this world a better place in which to live by
formatting Masonic ideals of reverence morality, kindness, honesty, dependability and

Masonic Points of Interest:

Freemasonry is not a religion, however, the primary requirement for
membership is the assertion of a belief in a Supreme Being. How the individual
Mason perceives and worships the Supreme Being in which he believes is his
own business, and no brother Mason is permitted to dissuade him from those
beliefs. To reinforce that rule, the discussion of religious beliefs is forbidden in a
Masonic lodge. Simplistically, the objective of Freemasonry is to take good men and make
them better. Through its lessons and charitable works, and the fellowship amongst its
members, Freemasonry stresses the principles of kindness and consideration at
home, honesty in business, courtesy towards others, dependability in one’s
work, compassion for the less fortunate and being a good citizen of the world.

Freemasonry is the oldest fraternal organization in the world. Freemasonry
claims to be descended from the men who erected the great Gothic stone
cathedrals of Britain, beginning some 650 years ago. The “Regius Poem”, dated
around 1390, describes the granting of the original Charter to Masonic guilds in
York, England, in the year 926. Over the years, as construction methods
changed, the need for stone buildings declined and so did the need for guilds
and lodges. To preserve the moral and other benefits offered to society by these
Masonic organizations, the lodges began to admit members who were not
practising stonemasons. As time passed, lodges came to have fewer and fewer
stonemasons, and more and more “non-operative”, or “accepted” Masons. It
was from these “mixed” lodges that modern Freemasonry descends. Modern
Freemasonry was founded in England when four lodges banded together in the
year 1717 to form the first Grand Lodge. From Britain it spread over much of the
world, playing a significant role in our culture and civilization.

Freemasonry is not a secret society, if it were, Official Masonic Lodge Websites such as this, would
not be giving out this type of information. Freemasonry is a fraternal association of men of good will and high ideals, proud to be members and to discuss its objectives with non-
Masons. There are certain secrets associated with membership in Freemasonry,
but they are restricted to means of mutual identification.

As noted, modern Freemasonry began in London, England in 1717, and rapidly
spread throughout the world. Within 20 years, for example, the Craft had
travelled to North America with the military forces and the colonists. Similarly, it
quickly spread to other parts of the Globe. A Mason from any Grand Lodge
recognized by another, may visit a lodge in that other Jurisdiction simply by
proving that he is a Mason in good standing.

The dictionary defines “God” as the one “Supreme Being, the creator and ruler
of the universe”. Certain religions use other terms to define the Supreme Being.
As Freemasonry does not espouse one religion over others, the universally
accepted term “Supreme Being” is generally used in reference to God.
Regardless of the term used to identify “God”, however, the common
denominator among all Masons, regardless of religious persuasion, is a
commitment to and the declaration of a belief in the existence of a Supreme
Being, as no Atheist can become a Mason.

There is no one “governing body” over this wide-spread Order. Each country, or
political entity within a country, is governed by its own sovereign and
independent Grand Lodge. Other Grand Lodges will recognize its right to call
itself Grand Lodge of its jurisdiction, and will be in amity with it, provided it has
exclusive control over the operations of Masons within its jurisdiction, and
abides by the established principles of Freemasonry.

Our Grand Lodge currently recognizes more than 140 other Grand Lodges
throughout the world. Each of these Grand Lodges is presided over by a Grand
Master, assisted by a Deputy Grand Master and a Board of General Purposes.
These Grand Jurisdictions are usually subdivided into Districts, under the
custody of a District Deputy Grand Master, acting on behalf of the Grand
Master, and each District is comprised of a number of individual lodges, each
ruled by a Worshipful Master.

Much has been made of the secrets of Freemasonry over the centuries by non-
Masons. The secrets basically boil down to various signs, tokens and words of
recognition by which a visitor can prove himself to be a Mason and thereby
eligible to enter a lodge in which he was not known.

The Masonic emblem of the “Square and Compasses” is widely recognized and
often seen being worn by members of the Craft, especially in North America.

While Charity plays a significant role in Freemasonry, fund-raising for particular
purposes is not its all-consuming goal. Throughout North America, Freemasonry
and its concordant bodies support many charitable and worthwhile causes, in
the amount of over half-a-billion dollars annually, that is, an average of more
than $2,000,000 each and every day! Through financial support of the MasonicFoundation of Ontario, we provide student bursaries, support such organizations
as the Scouts, Guides and 4-H, and contribute to youth-oriented problems,
including autism, hearing impairment and drug preventative programs. The
funds to support these projects come almost entirely from donations made by
our members.

Freemasonry is primarily interested in generating fraternal fellowship and
building strong moral character. It differs in that, unlike most clubs, societies and
similar organizations, Freemasonry does not actively solicit for new members.

There are numerous other appendant or concordant bodies of Masonic origin
that are recognized by Masonic Grand Lodges, including: Royal Arch Masons,
the Scottish Rite and Ancient Arabic Order of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine
(the “Shriners”). The common thread running through all of these appendant
bodies is that they are continuances of Craft Freemasonry, and members of a
Craft Lodge.

Possible Questions About Freemasonry With Suggested Answers

QUESTION: What is Freemasonry?

ANSWER: Freemasonry is an organization which, throughout its many years of
existence, has maintained a consistent set of principles that are in parallel with and
complement those of all major religions of the world, while at the same time promoting
the simple but important objectives of helping mankind to live happy lives.

QUESTION: Is Freemasonry a religion, or some substitute for religion?

ANSWER: Freemasonry is not a religion. Freemasonry does seek as members only
men who believe in the existence of a Supreme Being, but in no way does it promote
one form of religious conviction over another. Freemasonry recognizes each
individual’s right to his own beliefs, and prohibits discussion of a religious nature in
lodge. As such, it is not a substitute for religion. Each member seeks the way to pursue
his religious convictions in the manner best suited to him.

QUESTION: If Freemasonry is not a religion, or religiously focused, why does the Bible
play such central part of the lodge activities?

ANSWER: The Bible, which Masons refer to as the Volume of the Sacred Law since it
may be substituted by the Holy Writings of another religion should the candidate be a
follower of a religion not based on the Bible, is used for new members to declare their
faith in a Supreme Being, and is always open during lodge meetings. Masons are
taught to regard the Volume of the Sacred Law with reverence and to acknowledge it
as the inspired revelation of the mind and will of God. They are urged to read the Bible
(or Book of their faith) and to regulate their lives and actions by its teachings.
Furthermore, the Ritual has a religious aura and Biblical events and personalities, especially from the Old Testament, are part of that Ritual. Quotations from the Bible
are used for a specific and sometimes illustrative purpose.

QUESTION: Is Freemasonry a Secret Society?

ANSWER: No. If membership in Freemasonry required secrecy, members would not
wear or display insignia indicating their association with the fraternity. This is not to say
that Freemasonry does not have secrets, but those secrets are almost exclusively
related to ritual and modes of recognition, and permit strangers who share
membership in the fraternity to sit together in a lodge anywhere in the world and enjoy
each other’s fellowship.

QUESTION: How long has Freemasonry existed?

ANSWER: As with anything with its roots in antiquity, a definitive answer to the specific
origins of Freemasonry is not possible. Several hypotheses have been advanced. The
one considered most viable is that it began with the stonemasons who erected the
great Gothic stone cathedrals of Britain, beginning some 650 years ago, and to the
guilds they created. These operative Masons were engaged for years on end
constructing the mighty castles, abbeys and monasteries away from the major cities
and towns. They formed themselves into lodges, in imitation of the town guilds, to
provide some form of self-government while away from other forms of control. Modern
Freemasonry was founded in England when four lodges banded together in the year
1717 to form the first Grand Lodge.

QUESTION: Why are Masons called “Masons”?

ANSWER: Today’s Free and Accepted Masons take their name from the builders of
the great Gothic Cathedrals that were erected many centuries ago in England and
Europe. Because they were highly skilled, ancient Operative Masons were permitted
freedoms during an era when most citizens were bonded to the land as serfs. The
experience of being able to enjoy the privileges of a rare Middle Class in that era
caused Masons to realize that they had duties, obligations and responsibilities to each
other and to their Society. To preserve those ideals for the benefit of future ages to
come, these original Masons adopted their working tools as symbols to teach the
importance of just, upright and moral living and to impress upon the mind realizations
that can lead to higher achievement and nobler deeds in life. These symbols are still
used in lodges today, and the lessons they teach are practised by Masons throughout
the world.

QUESTION: Since Freemasonry does not admit women, what would my wife do if I
became a Mason?

ANSWER: While membership in Freemasonry is restricted to males 21 years of age or
older, of good moral character who believe in the existence of a Supreme Being, there
are several organizations, including the Order of the Eastern Star and the White Shrine
of Jerusalem, in which Masons can participate along with their ladies. There are also
youth organizations recognized by the Masonic Order, including DeMolay for boys and
Job’s Daughters and Rainbow for Girls.

QUESTION: How much time would it take to be a good Mason?

Each Lodge has one regular meeting every month, often with the exception
of the summer months. Other meetings may be called from time to time for special
purposes. Masons are also encouraged to visit other lodges, so a Mason can be as
active as he wishes. Freemasonry, however, recognizes that each member has
obligations to his family, his work, his religious beliefs, his community and himself.
These must take priority, and Freemasonry does not interfere with his ability to meet
these obligations.

QUESTION: How does one become a Mason?

Because tradition requires every Mason to come free of any coercion,
Freemasonry does not solicit for members. An interested man must ask. If he meets
the age and moral requirements, he need only ask a mason and submit an application signed by two members of the lodge as sponsors.

Reprinted with permission of the Grand Lodge of Canada in the Province of Ontario.