Freemasonry is the world’s oldest, largest, and best-known gentleman’s fraternity. Founded in London, England in 1717, its current worldwide membership totals 3.5 million members, 1.3 million of which are in the United States. As a fraternal organization, Freemasonry unites men of good character of different religious, ethnic, and social backgrounds, who share a belief in the fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of mankind.
Freemasonry (often simplified to “Masonry”) is based on the medieval stonemason guilds who built the great castles and cathedrals of Europe. The traditions of the fraternity are founded upon the building of King Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem, and modern Freemasons likewise use the tools, traditions and terminology of those earlier stonemasons as allegories for building temples in the hearts of men. Its body of knowledge and system of ethics is based on the belief that each man has a responsibility to improve himself, while being devoted to his family, faith, country, and fraternity.
By attending Masonic Lodge meetings and learning from your fellow Masons, you’ll strengthen the bonds of fellowship as you join together with like-minded men who share ideals of both a moral and metaphysical nature. There are Masonic lodges on every continent on Earth, and in almost every nation. You’ll enjoy the friendship of other Masons in the community, and you’ll be welcomed as a “Brother” by Masons everywhere in the world. Freemasonry also promises that should you ever be overtaken by misfortune, sickness, or adversity through no fault of your own, the hands of our great fraternity will be stretched forth to aid and assist you.
While Freemasonry itself is not a charity, from its earliest days, charity has been the most visible Masonic activity. Freemasons have always been devoted to caring for disadvantaged children, the sick and the elderly. In fact, Masons in North America give away approximately $2 million to national and local charities each day, of which more than 70% is directed toward the general public. Masons are also actively involved in a great deal of community volunteer work. But personal acts of charity are deemed to be an essential cornerstone of Masonic philosophy, and this begins with agreeing to help, aid and assist fellow Freemasons and their families.
Its ceremonies provide instruction to all members, supplemented by various other activities such as seminars, lectures, workshops, and reading. Because Freemasonry is an esoteric society, certain aspects of its work are not generally disclosed to the public. Freemasonry uses an initiatory system of degrees to explore ethical and philosophical issues, and the system is less effective if the observer knows beforehand what will happen. It is described in Masonic craft ritual as “a beautiful system of morality veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols.”
Much has been rumored of Masonic “secrecy” for over three hundred years. Like so much that comprises our ceremonies and ritual, secrecy is used as a symbolic lesson to reinforce our philosophy of honor. Thus, the reputation of each Freemason, and of the fraternity as a whole, is reinforced. Since its very beginnings, Freemasons have been regarded as the most admirable men in their communities.
Freemasonry offers its members leadership opportunities at the lodge, District, and Grand Lodge level. As Freemasons progress through the Craft, they discover different aspects of themselves and develop a range of skills that even they might not have known they possessed. By developing leadership techniques that fit their personality, Masons unlock the door to their full potential.