Freemasonry is a fraternal organization founded on the principals of brotherly love, relief, and truth. As a fraternity, women are traditionally excluded, but there are exceptions to this rule, and a shift is taking place in a number of locations to be more inclusive to women and to those who have been historically underrepresented. The Freemasons use lodges to organize their membership in much the same way as the Girl Scouts are organized into troops.
Few organizations exist today whose origins, membership, and associations are more shrouded in mystery than the Freemasons, and many people are drawn to their organization due to their whispered ties to magick and the occult. Today, we’re going to dispel the mystery so you can make a smart and informed decision on whether you’d like to join the Freemasons!
Where did the Freemasons originate?
Freemasonry began as a guild of stone masons who were especially prominent in 14th century Europe. Guilds of craftspersons were seen as a way to guarantee the quality of the work of individual members, and multiple members of a guild could be hired onto the same project for both speed of construction and consistency of technique. Guilds protected their members by nurturing skill development and ensuring appropriate pay, much like today’s labor unions.
Each guild carefully guarded its secrets to prevent other guilds from stealing their methods. Apprentices were chosen with extreme caution for not only their ability in their craft but also for how tightly they would keep their lips sealed.
By the 17th century, membership in guilds had sharply declined due to the restructuring of politics and industry. Since these guilds relied in membership dues to survive, they opened their ranks to high ranking gentlemen of society who shifted the focus of the organization to more intellectual pursuits such as philosophy and science. However, the veil of secrecy persists even today, and lends a conspiratorial tone to any conversation that involves Freemasons.
Are the Freemasons a secret society? Not really, no. There are indeed secret handshakes and passwords for each the initiatory three degrees that members can progress through. These handshakes and secret phrases are used in lodge ceremonies which include a formal dinner called a festive board, where members enjoy singing and toasts. The three standard Masonic degrees are Entered Apprentice, Fellowcraft, and Master Mason, and each successive degree shows that a member has demonstrated learning and personal growth, and is becoming an even greater asset to the organization and to the community.
Wondering about the 33 degrees of Freemasonry? The Scottish Rite includes a greater delineation of knowledge earned through the lodge which is only gained after the third degree of Master Mason. Going back to the Girl Scout example, each new degree earned is like a merit badge for a specific block of knowledge and commitment. Master Masons can instead choose the York Rite, which has an additional 10 degrees instead of the Scottish 33.
What Freemasons Do
The Masonic lodges are a community-centric organization that builds its members as the foundation of a strong community. Their philosophy is that supporting a man’s growth, education, and moral character will enable him to improve the community that he is a part of, by his actions and his example.
Many Masonic temples build or support hospitals, addiction clinics, create scholarships for students, and otherwise assist those with few ways to help themselves. Shriners hospitals are world renowned for their exceptional care, and the Shriners themselves must first become Master Masons before they can pursue membership to the Shriners.
Can Master Masons become members of the Illuminati, the secret society that is at the heart of much speculation and many conspiracy theories? Here you may be disappointed. While the Illuminati likely recruited Freemasons in Europe in the early 1800s, the Illuminati have largely disappeared and most sources believe that they no longer exist. (Or do they?)
How to Join the Freemasons
Here’s the tricky part: you have to know someone, or more specifically two someones. To join a lodge, you have to be recommended by two (or more) members of the lodge that you seek to join. You never know who in your area is a member unless they decide to tell you, so keep being friendly, helpful, and virtuous in your community. If you’re already known for the work you do and the service you provide, all the better!
You also must be male, 18 years of age or older (or in some places 21), be of good moral character, believe in a Supreme Being, apply based on your own free will, be motivated to join for reasons unrelated to personal gain, and desire to learn and adhere to the customs of the fraternity.
Thanks to the internet, it has gotten easier to get introduced to lodge members near you. Quite a few local lodges have a handy “Contact Us” form on their web page, and have their membership petition linked as well, ready to be signed by the Masons who are recommending you.
Freemasons for Women
The Freemasons began as a strictly male organization, and lodges today maintain the tradition of this gender bias. However, as early as the 1740’s, some lodges were accepting women, many of whom were relatives of male members. While some regions were less accepting of women becoming full members in the lodge, some regions welcomed the female presence, and branches were founded that encouraged women to join and grow into positions of leadership.
Some lodges maintained a more inclusive roster during parts of the 19th and 20th century, but that trend declined around the 1970s. Today, there is a clear delineation between male lodges and female lodges, and the Masonic history with those who have been historically underrepresented due to ethnicity, religion, or other reasons becomes even more complex. There are currently lodges whose membership is more inclusive, and lodges that accept membership only from women and historically underrepresented people, but the traditional Caucasian male roster still heavily persists.
Freemasons and Religion
Freemasonry is not a religion, nor does it restrict the religion of its members. In fact, lodges strongly discourage any discussion of religion (or politics, like any good dinner table…) between its members so as to remain inclusive and tolerant of all religions and avoid dogmatic divisiveness. Freemasonry does, however, require that members have faith in a God or higher power. They refer to this divine being nondenominationally as the Grand Architect of the Universe.
Religions, on the other hand, may forbid their members from becoming a Freemason, with varying levels of success. Catholics are not permitted by the church to join a Masonic lodge, but plenty of Catholics are willing to disobey this rule. Masons assert that being a member of a lodge makes them a better member of their church as well, due to their focus on virtue and respect, and to being of value to their community.
Why Join the Freemasons?
Joining a lodge is an experience much like joining a mystery school, so approach it both with reverence and excitement. If you’re going to do it, do it with dedication and you’ll grow through the ranks. You can expect to work in your community on service projects just as you can expect guidance and education from the senior members of your lodge. Since their entrance requirements state that you must not be seeking personal gain, think hard about why you want to join. Being a Mason can put you in a position of greater power so that you may be of benefit to your community and the world at large, and the expectation is that you will use your wisdom and position to empower others who may otherwise be oppressed or suffering.
The Freemasons are a great organization to be a part of, and if you get the opportunity, it’s one to consider seriously. Due to its less than inclusive nature and sometimes challenging demands, it’s not the right fit for everyone. You don’t need to join the Freemasons to become the best version of yourself, or to be an asset to your community. While an online course like Magick.Me can never take the place of real-world groups, it has more than enough to get you started right now—it empowers you with skills and knowledge that will help you build the life of your dreams while you set an example and improve the lives of those around you. We don’t have any secret handshakes... we just help you discover the secrets of your own soul.