Freemasonry

Introduction

Thank you for your interest in Freemasonry. You are gladly welcome to stop by our lodge, take a tour and meet our brothers. Every first Thursday between 5 and 7 PM we are open to new applicants.
Ask and you will receive are not idle words within Freemasonry. By clicking on the link to download an application you are asking. Keep in mind two brothers from this lodge will have to sign off on your petition. It may take several visits to our lodge to get to know the brothers before they may sign off on your petition.
Fraternally,
San Bernardino Masonic Lodge #178

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History of Freemasonry

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.

mason-tracing-board-first-degree

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 $1.5 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.

Freemasonry is a fraternity. Its membership is restricted to men, but there is no hazing as is found in some college fraternities. The Masonic Order is a serious group. It exists to take good men and help them to become better men. Thus, it is not a reform society. It does not exist to reform criminals, nor would such persons benefit from its teachings.

Variously known as Freemasonry, Masonry or The Craft, the beginnings of our fraternity are lost to history. Although Masonry is believed to be the oldest surviving fraternal organization in the world, the exact date of its founding is uncertain. Freemasonry can, however, be easily traced to sixteenth century Scotland although the first Masonic governing body was not founded until 1717 in London. The oldest Masonic document, the Regius poem, dates to around 1390 A.D. We know of no Masonry prior to that date. Somewhere mason-tracing-board-second-degreebetween 1390 and 1717 lodges of operative masons began to accept as members men who did not work in the building trade. Eventually whole lodges composed of such persons arose, leading to a transition from lodges being composed of stone masons to lodges being composed of men from other occupations who gathered and shared a ritual replete with allusions to carpentry, architecture, and stone masonry.

In 1717, four of these lodges in England met and formed the first Grand Lodge.   A Grand Lodge is a Masonic body having jurisdiction over the lodges within a certain geographical area.    Each state has its own Grand Lodge.   Also the District of Columbia has its own Grand Lodge.

Symbolic, Craft, or Blue Lodge Masonry has three degrees. The three degrees are, in order: Entered Apprentice, Fellow Craft, and Master Mason. In early Speculative Masonry there was only one degree. Later a two-degree system developed and finally the three-degree system of today evolved and was firmly in place by around 1760 A.D.

A “degree” is a drama in which a newcomer to Masonry, the candidate, is made to play a key part. These dramas have several characteristics and are progressive in nature, that is, they build on each other. These dramas are enacted with only Masons being present and are for the purpose of moral instruction. A unique characteristic of each Masonic degree is an “obligation” taken by the candidate. The obligation is an oath taken for the purpose of instructing the candidate in his Masonic duty.

The three degrees have a biblical basis. Much biblical imagery is used in the ritual of the degrees. The central biblical image used in Masonic ritual is that of the building of King Solomon’s Temple, as meticulously described for us in the Old Testament books of I Kings and II Chronicles. Whenever a Masonic lodge is in session, the Holy Bible is open upon the lodge’s altar.

Masonry does require of its adherents a belief in God and in life after death, though it asks no one to expound upon the particulars of his understanding of those two beliefs. There is some memory work the candidate must learn after each degree is conferred upon him.   He has a set amount of time to learn the catechism, that is, a set of questions and answers, and to recite them before the lodge members at a lodge meeting.

Masonry is not a religion. There is nothing in Freemasonry to interfere with a man’s religious life. Persons of all faiths and Christian denominations are a part of the worldwide Masonic fraternity. Religion and politics are two subjects not allowed to be discussed when a lodge is in session.

Masonry teaches the importance of helping the less fortunate. It especially stresses care for the widows and orphans of Masons.   Indeed, most Grand Lodges have within their jurisdiction a home for aged Masons, their wives and widows, and also a home for Masonic orphans. In the U.S.A. alone, all branches of Masonry combined provide over of $1.5 million of charitable aid per DAY!

Masonry asks its candidates not to tell the details of its ritual to non-Masons. This is not because Masonry is ashamed of anything. It is because an element of secrecy serves to heighten interest in Masonic teaching. It is also because most people would not benefit from being introduced to Masonic teachings out of the context of the Masonic degree system.

mason-tracing-board-third-degree

Why do Masons keep their rituals a secret? For the same reason that the ancient stonemasons kept their trade secrets. Their secrecy helped to maintain a better quality of work. Our secrecy today helps us to make a good man better. It is difficult to believe that the secrets of Masonry are evil when you consider the heritage of Masonry that includes a long list of influential leaders such as Paul Revere, George Washington, Andrew Jackson, Theodore Roosevelt, Douglas MacArthur, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry Truman, Stephen F. Austin and Sam Houston. It is difficult to believe that the secrets of Masonry are evil when you see so many Masons working as a vital part of every community to provide better churches, better schools and better governments. It is difficult to look into the eyes of a little child in a Shrine Hospital and say the secrets of Masonry are evil. If we really believe the biblical teaching, “by their fruits ye shall know them” then we must believe that the secrets of Masonry really do help to make a good man better.

The influence of Masonry is like the influence of the home and the influence of the church. It does not produce perfect human beings.Despite the best efforts of the home there has never been a perfect child.   Despite the best efforts of the church there has never been a perfect Christian. Despite the best efforts of Masonry there has never been a perfect Mason. Nevertheless there is a place for all these in our society.   Man’s basic nature is such that he needs every good influence he can get.  He needs the powerful influence of a good home.   He needs powerful influence of a dedicated church made up of dedicated believers. The needs the influence of dedicated teachers in the public schools.   But, when it is all said and done, it doesn’t hurt to have a little extra push that comes from civic organizations, from professional organizations and from fraternal organizations.

The beginning

In the Middle Ages, the term “freemason” was awarded to highly skilled stonemasons who were hired as free agents to build castles and cathedrals in England and Scotland. Because of the inherent danger of their work, stonemasons formed local organizations, called lodges, to take care of sick and injured members as well as the widows and orphans of those who were killed on the job. Eventually, men who were not skilled stonemasons wanted to join the group for the many advantages it offered. These men were known as accepted masons rather than working masons. This is how the group began to shift from a craft guild to a fraternity.

The first Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons was established in 1717 in London. In 1718, English Freemasonry spread to France and Spain, and after 1729, to India, Italy, Poland, and Sweden. Freemasonry spread to other parts of Europe and eventually made its way to the American colonies. In 1733, the first American lodge was established in Boston, under the authority of the Grand Lodge of England. The United States now has grand lodges in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

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 $1.5 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.

Masonry in California

Masonry has been an integral part of California for more than 150 years. During the Gold Rush of 1849, thousands of settlers came to California in search of fortune. Many of these men were Masons and brought with them Masonic values and traditions. Not surprisingly, some of California’s first Masonic lodges were established in the mining towns of the Gold Country. In 1850 – the same year that California became a state – the Grand Lodge of California was established in Sacramento.

Within 10 years, the number of Masonic lodges in the new state had grown from 11 to 130, while membership soared from 258 to more than 5,000. Over the years, the Masons have played a key role in shaping the history of California. To date, 19 California governors have been Masons, and at least four California Masons have been elected to the U.S. Senate. Today there are more than 60,000 members and about 340 lodges, making the Grand Lodge of California one of the largest in the world.

Organization of Freemasonry

Freemasonry is the oldest fraternal organization for men in the world, and its organizational structure shows its age. The basic organizational unit of the fraternity is the lodge. We believe the term comes from the lodges (shelters) constructed at the building sites of cathedrals and castles during the Middle Ages. Masons worked and lived in these shelters.

Each lodge is headed by an officer called the “Worshipful Master.” “Worshipful” means “highly respected” or “honored.” The term comes from the judicial system of England and carries no religious implication. “Master” means “leader,” or “best qualified,” as in “Concert Master” or “Master Architect.”

Each officer of a lodge has a title that originated during the Middle Ages. These titles may vary somewhat from state to state, but in general the officers and their contemporary equivalents are:

Worshipful Master

President

Marshal

Master of Ceremonies

Senior Warden

1st Vice President

Deacon

Messenger

Junior Warden

2nd Vice President

Steward

Page 

Treasurer

Financial officer

Tiler

Door Keeper

Secretary

Recorder

Chaplain

Chaplain

 

 

Until 1717, each lodge of Masons was autonomous. On June 24, 1717, four of the lodges operating in London met together to form the first Grand Lodge of England. It became the first administrative or policy-making body of Freemasonry.

Masonic lodges still retain autonomy over their finances, activities, officer election, fundraising, and joining ceremonies. But administratively, each State or Province has a Grand Lodge which co-ordinates activities, serves as a central source of record keeping, and performs other administrative and policy functions for the fraternity. The state president is called the Grand Master of the Grand Lodge. He has broad powers in overseeing the progress of the fraternity and while there is no national spokesperson for the fraternity, within his own state (Jurisdiction) he is the chief spokesman.  

Freemasonry and Brotherhood

The fraternity of Free and Accepted Masons has members from every ethnic group and every continent in the world. Brotherhood is a primary teaching of Masonry–that each person must be judged as an individual, on his own merits, and that such factors as race, national origin, religious creed, social status, or wealth are incidental to the person’s character.

Freemasonry was brought to North America in the 1700s, a time when racial attitudes were very different from today. As happened with many churches and social organizations, these attitudes caused Freemasonry for African-American men to develop independently. In 1776 a group of African-American Masons in Boston began meeting as a Lodge; they were formally chartered by England in 1784 as African Lodge #459. African Lodge and its descendants developed a separate Grand Lodge system, known as Prince Hall Masonry (after the first Master of African Lodge). Prince Hall Grand Lodges ascribe to the same beliefs and rituals of Freemasonry as do all regular Masonic Lodges throughout the world.

Since a petition for membership in Masonry does not ask a petitioner’s race, statistics on ethnic breakdowns are not kept by any Grand Lodge. Collecting such information is considered as inappropriate as collecting information about a Brother’s financial standing. A lodge is not permitted to accept or exclude a candidate on the basis of his race or national origin. To petition for membership, the petitioner must be “a man of legal age, good reputation, and possess a belief in God.” While election to membership in the fraternity is a matter for the local lodge to decide, the qualifications for membership are standard, and all Masons are required to observe them.  

Statement on Freemasonry and Religion

Prepared by the Masonic Information Center

Basic Principles. Freemasonry is not a religion, nor is it a substitute for religion. It requires of its members a belief in God as part of the obligation of every responsible adult, but advocates no sectarian faith or practice. Masonic ceremonies include prayers, both traditional and extempore, to reaffirm each individual’s dependence on God and to seek divine guidance. Freemasonry is open to men of any faith, but religion may not be discussed at Masonic meetings.

The Supreme Being. Masons believe that there is one God and that people employ many different ways to seek, and to express what they know of God. Masonry primarily uses the appellation, “Grand Architect of the Universe,” and other non-sectarian titles, to address the Deity. In this way, persons of different faiths may join together in prayer, concentrating on God, rather than differences among themselves. Masonry believes in religious freedom and that the relationship between the individual and God is personal, private, and sacred.

Volume of the Sacred Law. An open volume of the Sacred Law, “the rule and guide of life,” is an essential part of every Masonic meeting. The Volume of the Sacred Law in the Judeo/Christian tradition is the Bible; to Freemasons of other faiths, it is the book held holy by them.

The Oath of Freemasonry. The obligations taken by Freemasons are sworn on the Volume of the Sacred Law. They are undertakings to follow the principles of Freemasonry and to keep confidential a Freemasons means of recognition. The much discussed “penalties,” judicial remnants from an earlier era, are symbolic, not literal. They refer only to the pain any honest man should feel at the thought of violating his word.

Freemasonry Compared with Religion. Freemasonry lacks the basic elements of religion: (a) It has no dogma or theology, no wish or means to enforce religious orthodoxy. (b) It offers no sacraments. (c) It does not claim to lead to salvation by works, by secret knowledge, or by any other means. The secrets of Freemasonry are concerned with modes of recognition, not with the means of salvation.

Freemasonry Supports Religion. Freemasonry is far from indifferent toward religion. Without interfering in religious practice, it expects each member to follow his own faith and to place his Duty to God above all other duties. Its moral teachings are acceptable to all religions.  

Freemasonry and Secrecy

People sometimes refer to Freemasonry as being a “Secret Society.” In one sense the statement is true. Any social group or private business is “secret” in the sense that its business meetings may be open only to its members. In Freemasonry, the process of joining is also a private matter, and its members are pledged not to discuss with non-members certain parts of the ceremonies associated with the organization.

Freemasonry does have certain handshakes and passwords, customs incorporated into later fraternities, which are kept private. They are means of recognizing each other–necessary in an organization which spans the entire world and which encompasses many languages.

The tradition of using handshakes and passwords was very common in the Middle Ages, when the ability to identify oneself as belonging to a building or trade guild often made the difference in getting a job or in obtaining help for yourself and family. Today, Freemasons make the same pledge to every member that he will be offered assistance if he, or his family, ever requests it.

Freemasonry can’t be called a “secret society” in a literal sense. A truly secret society forbids its members to disclose that they belong to the organization, or that it even exists. Much of the Masonic ritual is in books called “Monitors” that are widely available, even in public libraries. Most Freemasons wear rings and lapel pins which clearly identify them as members of the fraternity. Masonic lodges are listed in public phone books, Masonic buildings are clearly marked, and in many areas of the country Masonic lodges place signs on the roads leading into town, along with civic organizations, showing the time and place of meetings.

In terms of what it does, what it teaches, who belongs, where it meets, there are no secrets in Freemasonry! It is a private fraternal association of men who contribute much toward the public good, while enjoying the benefits of the brotherhood of a fraternity.

Youth Organizations

While there are several youth organizations sponsored or supported by the various Masonic organizations, three are the largest and best known.

The Order of DeMolay is an organization for young men aged 13 to 21. Young men do not need to have a Masonic relative to join the organization. DeMolay was founded in Kansas City, Missouri, in 1919, and is now international in scope. Like the other Masonic Youth Orders, DeMolay Chapters (local groups) usually meet in a room at a local Masonic Lodge. Adult leadership is provided by men (usually Masons) known as Chapter Dads or advisors. The Order takes its name from Jacques DeMolay, the last Grand Master of the Templars, who was martyred in the Middle Ages for refusing to compromise his honor. The Order teaches the virtues of reverence, love of parents, comradeship, patriotism, courtesy, cleanness, and fidelity. The Order provides many social events and activities, which help to teach social skills and leadership.

The International Order of Rainbow for Girls is an organization for young women aged 11 to 20. It was founded in McAlester, Oklahoma, in 1922. No relationship to a member of the Masonic Order is required for membership. Local groups or Assemblies are generally sponsored by either a Masonic Lodge or a Chapter of the Order of the Eastern Star. Women known as Mother Advisors give adult supervision and guidance. Each of the colors of the rainbow is associated with a particular virtue or source of inspiration. Like the other Youth Orders, Rainbow is deeply involved with local charity and support of education. It teaches character development, planning, leadership, and social skills through training programs and social events.

The International Order of Jobs Daughters takes its name from a story in the Biblical Book of Job. It was organized in Omaha, Nebraska, in 1920. Membership requires the young woman be related to a Mason. The local organization is called a Bethel. The teachings of the Order are Biblically based, and similar virtues are stressed as in the other Masonic Youth Orders. Job’s Daughters places special emphasis on community service. Many Bethels work with drug education programs and with the Hearing Impaired Kids Endowment (HIKE) Program. Membership is for young women age 11 to 20. 

The youth organizations are separate and independent organizations that stress the importance of character development, community service and leadership. While members of the youth groups are free to seek membership in Freemasonry or the Eastern Star, it is a personal choice and not a requirement of membership in a youth order.

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