Frequently Asked Questions
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Browse through some Frequently Asked Questions.
Freemasonry is the most widely recognized fraternal society in the world. It is a centuries-old brotherhood of men from different religious, ethnic, social, and economic backgrounds. It requires each member to believe in a Supreme Being, while accepting that his fellow members may hold very different beliefs than his own. Freemasonry respects each man’s success and place in society while treating him as an equal in the lodge room. It encourages members to take the lessons learned in the lodge, such as tolerance, integrity, civility, and charity, and apply them outside the lodge for the betterment of themselves, their families, and their communities. Thus, good men build character and become even better friends, citizens, husbands, fathers, and brothers. Today, Masonry has over 3 million members, with more than 1 million residing in North America.
Becoming a Freemason can help you achieve great personal reward by guiding you to build your moral character and connection to your community. Freemasonry is built upon the core tenets of brotherly love and affection, relief, and truth. Through a commitment to these values, all Freemasons share the common goal of making good men better. In addition to self-improvement, a Freemason is a man eager to be part of something bigger than himself, with a reverence for history, compassion in his heart, and a desire to create a better future.
Freemasonry functions helps members on multiple levels:
- Philosophically, Freemasonry is a system of morality veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols. This classic definition is used by many grand lodges around the world. Morality encompasses ethical principles of right and wrong, and adherence to these principles is one reason that Masons are often considered trusted leaders, employees, and volunteers.
- Organizationally, Freemasonry is a nonprofit, private association that operates on a local level in what’s called a “lodge.” In these lodges, members gather for meetings, lessons and ceremonies are conducted, and social events and fellowship opportunities are held.
- Freemasonry is also a “way of life” for good men – Freemasons – who apply Masonic principles to their daily activities, both personal and professional. By so doing, men work to become the best they can be for themselves, their families, and their communities. Most of the fellowship and service to humanity that is inspired by Masonic teachings happens at this level of individual action.
Freemasonry welcomes men of every country, religion, race, age, income, education, and opinion. However, to join Freemasonry in Wisconsin, one must meet the following qualifications:
- Be a male at least 18 years of age
- Believe in the existence of a Supreme Being, although Freemasonry is not concerned with theological distinctions or particular religious beliefs
- Be of good moral character
- Be motivated to join for reasons unrelated to personal gain or profit
- Your decision to apply is based on your own “free will and accord”
- Be prompted by a favorable opinion of Freemasonry
- Be desirous of earning knowledge and willing to conform to the ancient usages and customs of the Fraternity
No, you do not. In fact, Masons traditionally will not ask you to join. They may tell you they think you would be a good Mason, but the choice is ultimately yours. If you know a Mason that you respect, ask him to learn more about becoming a Mason. If you do not personally know any Masons, fill out the form on our website and start a conversation with us. No Mason will ever pressure you to join our Fraternity.
You must join in the state or country where you live. If you are not a resident of Wisconsin, we encourage you to look up the Grand Lodge in your state and find their requirements for membership or find a local lodge in your area and contact it directly. For more general information, visit www.BeAFreemason.org.
In Freemasonry, the lodge means two things. It refers to a group of Masons coming together in fellowship, and, at the same time, refers to the room or building in which they meet.
Wisconsin has over 160 lodges spread throughout our state. There are thousands of Masonic lodges in the U.S. and many more worldwide. The lodge itself typically consists of a lodge room where official business and Masonic ceremonies are conducted, as well as several additional areas for Brothers to share meals, spend time together, host public and private events, and more.
Lodges within a given state are all similarly governed, but each lodge has its own unique local “personality”. They meet on different days and at different times and may have their own philanthropic causes, social activities, and customs. You can get a general feel for the lodge during a visit.
The exact origins of Freemasonry remain lost in time. The Fraternity is thought to have arisen from the English and Scottish guilds of practicing stonemasons and cathedral builders in the Middle Ages. Certain Masonic documents actually trace the sciences of geometry and masonry to the time of ancient Egypt and the building of King Solomon’s Temple.
The formation of the first Grand Lodge in London in 1717 marks the beginning of the Modern (or “Speculative”) era of Freemasonry, when members were no longer limited to actual working stonemasons. These “Accepted” Masons adopted more enlightened philosophies, and turned what was a tradesmen’s organization into a fraternity for moral edification, intellectual recitation, benevolent service, and gentlemanly socialization.
Part of the mystique of Freemasonry can be attributed to speculation about its roots. Over the years, historians have never been able to conclusively determine exactly when, where, how, and why Freemasonry was formed.
Obviously, we are not a secret society, nor do we attempt to be. However, our lodge meetings, like those of many other groups are private and open only to our members. The rules and public works of our lodges and our members are openly available to the public, and our lodge buildings are often used by our local communities for activities other than Freemasonry.
No. Freemasonry is not a religion, nor a substitute for religion. Freemasonry’s focus is on a man’s relationship with his fellow men. We leave the relationship between a man and his creator to himself and his personal religion. Freemasonry does not judge, interpret, or in any way attempt to change the religious beliefs of its members. In fact there are no discussions of religion (or politics) allowed in lodge meetings.
Our meetings, like those of many other organizations, begin and end with a non-denominational prayer. We often refer to God as the Great Architect of the Universe. It is a descriptive title that allows each member to think of the Supreme Being according to his own beliefs and convictions, uninfluenced by, but respectful of, those around him. Thus, Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, other religions, and even men who are spiritual but not affiliated with a particular religion, can sit together in Lodge and share a common prayer while each worships his Supreme Being in his own way.
Freemasonry is a system of morality, veiled in allegory, and illustrated by symbols. Symbols allow people to communicate quickly, and to transcend language barriers. When you see a green light or a circle with a line through it, for example, you know what it means. Likewise, Masons use metaphors from geometry and architecture to inform their continuing pursuit of knowledge, ethics, and leadership skills.
To reflect their heritage, Masons wear aprons and other regalia while in lodge, at certain public events, and at funerals to demonstrate their pride in the Fraternity. Aprons represent our lineage from stonemasons, who historically carried their tools in leather aprons. Our regalia is historical and symbolic and, like a uniform, serves to indicate to our members affiliations to various aspects of our organization.
No. Masons are revered as men of high esteem and of good character. They are men of high moral standards, charitable, and believe in a Supreme Being. Only those who meet these criteria may become a Mason.
If you feel you are one of these men of high integrity, we’d love to meet you. Please introduce yourself to a fellow Mason, or complete the form on our website to learn more about the greatest Fraternity in the world.
While Wisconsin Freemasonry views all people, regardless of sex or gender identity, as equals and all part of God’s creation and worthy of respect, the Grand Lodge of Wisconsin continues to observe the Ancient Masonic Landmark that only adult males can be made Masons.
In Wisconsin, there are other excellent organizations, some with a strong Masonic connection, such as Order of the Eastern Star, that provide women with similar fraternal experiences.
Yes, frequently. There are dinners and other functions which invite family and friends to attend and share in the festivities of the lodge and Fraternity. For example, there are often family lodge picnics, dinners with spouses, and other entertainment activities throughout the year.
Most certainly not. While individual Freemasons will have their own views on politics and government policy, Freemasonry itself will never express a view on either. In fact, the discussion of politics at masonic meetings has always been prohibited as it can lead to divisiveness amongst our members. We encourage our members to support the health and well-being of their country, but we do not interfere in any way with their personal political views.
Around the world, every regular grand lodge requires that there be a Bible or other sacred book – often referred to as the Volume of Sacred Law – in the lodge room. The choice of a holy book may be based upon the predominant faith of the country where the lodge meets, the particular religious belief of the candidate who is participating in a lodge ceremony, or some other practice of the grand lodge in question.
From the standpoint of Masonic principles and teachings, there is no such thing as a Masonic Bible. Over the years, many publishers have produced and marketed versions of the Bible with added content in introductions that refers to Masonic ceremonies. Such versions often include illustrations of King Solomon’s Temple, for example. None of these versions is approved by the Grand Lodge. They are the work of private companies.
There are three degrees of Freemasonry: Entered Apprentice, Fellowcraft, and Master Mason. These degrees are the three ceremonial stages that a man must complete to become a full member of the Masonic Fraternity. Collectively, these degrees are known as the symbolic lodge (often called the “blue lodge”).
The Masonic degrees are loosely based upon the journeyman system, which was used to educate Medieval craftsmen. At each educational stage, a craftsman was required to achieve proficiency before moving to the next stage. Symbolically, the degrees represent the three stages of human development: youth, manhood, and age. By advancing through the degrees, a Freemason learns the moral and ethical lessons of the Masonic rite.
Becoming a Mason can take anywhere from a few weeks to several months. The process begins with submitting a petition for membership and concludes with receiving the third degree.
Once the degree work begins, you may be asked to attend your lodge’s monthly meetings or social functions. There is also “homework” that you will need to complete. Every member of the fraternity has gone through this process, and your lodge will assign a Brother to help you.
Freemasons are expected to be men of good character and reputation. In earlier times, men generally joined the lodge where they grew up and lived. They were well known in their communities or had a family, religious institution, or neighbor to vouch for them. In today’s highly mobile society, those connections often do not exist. To protect the membership and the reputation of the organization, any man asking to join our fraternity must be willing to undergo a vetting process to help establish their good character.
The highest rank in Freemasonry is the third degree, that of the Master Mason. While some Masonic organizations offer additional degrees that explore the teachings of Freemasonry in further depth, those degrees are not considered to be “higher” than the symbolic lodge degrees.
Many of the words and phrases used in Freemasonry have been with us for several centuries and often seem odd in today’s common language. The word “ritual” simply refers to customs and formalities that govern how we begin and end our lodge meetings or conduct our degrees. The use of the word ritual describes the delivery of the same ceremony on each occasion in order to convey the knowledge of the Fraternity consistently, so that each man in every lodge undergoes the same experience and thus creates a unifying shared experience across all of our members.
Masons take obligations on whichever Holy Book he holds sacred. These obligations relate to the welfare of the organization, to his relationships with his fellow Masons, and to their mutual care and support. The use of a Holy Book to support an oath is similar to the action performed by government officials and other positions of high regard.
When Masonic ritual was developing in the late 17th century, it was quite common for legal and civil oaths to include physical penalties and Freemasonry simply followed the practice of the times. In Freemasonry, however, such penalties were always only symbolic. The wording of these historical oaths was altered to make it clear that such penalties were never literal.
There are many priests, ministers, elders, and deacons who belong to the Masonic Fraternity. While many churches approve of Freemasonry, there are also elements within certain churches who misunderstand Freemasonry and confuse our secular ceremonies with religious liturgy.
Freemasonry, as an organization, has always encouraged its members to be active in their own religion and never asks a man to ignore his church’s teachings. Rather, he must follow his conscience in choosing whether to be a Mason, and that choice is respected.
Freemasonry strongly encourages the development of civil society and our roles as peaceable citizens in it. The aims of Freemasonry are not specifically to embolden patriotism or favor a specific political agenda. It does, however, aim to promote the well-being of the nation in which the Freemason resides.
No. In fact, political discussions and activities are prohibited in the lodge. Masonic philosophy follows its own non-political course, which expresses values that may be interpreted as liberal or conservative or both.
As citizens, members of a lodge may be encouraged to educate themselves on the issues of the day and to exercise their right to vote, but that is likely to be the only acceptable reference to politics made in a lodge meeting.
In addition, Freemasons are prohibited by our rules from belonging to or promoting subversive organizations that advocate the overthrow of the government of the United States by force or other illegal means. Membership in such groups is a disqualification for membership, and it results in the expulsion of current members.
The cost of becoming a Freemason varies from lodge to lodge. The fees associated with membership include a one-time initiation fee and annual dues, which cover the operational expenses of the lodge. Contact your local lodge to find out the exact costs.
TAKE YOUR FIRST STEP
When you become a Freemason, you begin your journey toward being a better man. You will build rich, meaningful relationships with your Brothers, commit to the service of those around you, and strive for a deeper, more honest connection with yourself and others. It’s a journey of self-discovery and enlightenment.
Make a difference.
Find your truth.