GENERAL INFORMATION ON FREEMASONRY
The story of Freemasonry has captured the public interest for hundreds of years. Many have expressed opinions about the Craft and thought they understood her Mysteries, but few have shown any real understanding of Freemasonry's principal aims of bettering the individual, teaching him about himself and his place in the world, and being of service to Mankind. And yet, men of all religions, all walks of life, and all ethnic backgrounds, have continued to come to her doors and seek admission in order to better themselves and be of service to their fellow man. Freemasonry is a tremendously rewarding way of life for millions of Freemasons, or Masons, around the world.
Each and every Freemason is a builder. But instead of using the tools of architecture to erect a physical structure out of stone and mortar, he uses these same tools symbolically for intellectual, moral, and spiritual development. "Thereby fitting our minds, as living stones, for that spiritual building, that house not made with hands, eternal in the Heavens."
Freemasonry does not conflict with a man's family or his religion. It encourages him to be a better member of society, and to regulate his behavior by ethical principles. It is not a church, or a substitute for one. It expects each member to be loyal to his country, to provide for his family, and to conduct himself at all times to earn the respect and trust of others.
Freemasons are not only devoted to high ideals and principles but to community service and benevolence. California Masons maintain homes for the elderly and for children, provide college scholarships without regard to race, creed, or color, and support the public schools system. Hospitals for children and language disorder clinics are supported by Masonic affiliated organizations such as the Shrine and Scottish Rite, while the York Rite provides funds for eye research. The expenditure for these community services in the United States and Canada exceed two million dollars a day. This spirit of working together is at the heart of Freemasonry.
Throughout history, many distinguished men have found it desirable to join the Fraternity and unite with their brethren for the common purposes of bettering themselves and being of service to their fellow man. Fourteen U.S. Presidents have been Masons, as well as an incalculable number of world statesmen, authors, artists, musicians, actors, and more.
All of these men shared the basic values of the Fraternity: the belief in personal and religious freedom, the belief in a Supreme Being, and the belief that the actions of a single man can have a profound and lasting impact in making the world a better place.
Freemasonry is the world's oldest and largest fraternal organization. There are approximately 5 million Freemasons worldwide, and of those, about 2 million are in the United States. The Grand Lodge of California, which was formed on April 17, 1850, has approximately 100,000 members and 415 lodges, located statewide.
Requirements for Membership
To become a Mason in a lodge under the Grand Lodge of California, you must be a man, at least 21 years of age, of good moral character, and you must believe in a Supreme Being. The definition of the Supreme Being is entirely up to you. Thus, men of all faiths can become Freemasons, as long as they meet the other requirements. However, a man must join “of his own free will and accord” The decision is a personal one that must be made according to one’s own conscience and upon a favorable impression of the Fraternity.
The Basic Tenets of Freemasonry
Freemasonry is a Fraternal Order dedicated to the three principle tenets of Brotherly Love, Relief, and Truth.
Brotherly love is the idea that all of us are brothers and sisters under the Fatherhood of the Great Architect of the Universe (G.A.O.T.U.). This is the name we use to refer to whatever divine principle is applicable to a man's personal faith. How he chooses to practice this faith is entirely up to him. We do not discuss either religion or politics within a Masonic lodge.
Relief is the flower that stems from the root of brotherly love. Since we share this bond of brotherhood, it is our obligation to provide relief for the distress of another, especially our brothers in Freemasonry. This relief may take the form of monetary assistance, but more often it is exemplified in other ways. If a brother is in need, we will extend to him the hand of friendship and brotherly love. We will assist him in his endeavors, lending support where needed, and offering good counsel when necessary.
Truth is a two-fold idea. On the one hand it means being honest and forthright in all our doings. Thus, Masonry takes a good man and makes him a better man by inculcating universal moral principles that teach him the value of integrity, good citizenship, charity, fidelity, and so on.
The concept of truth also refers to the search for what Freemasonry calls Light. In order to better ourselves as individuals, it is necessary to search for knowledge about ourselves and the world in which we live, thereby transforming the rough, uncut stone into the perfect stone, which is then fit to be used by the Mason in his work.
How Masonic Lessons Are Taught
In Freemasonry, we use the allegory, or story, of the building of King Solomon’s Temple as the means of instructing the candidate in universal Masonic values. The candidate participates in various degrees which are ritualized dramas designed to impress upon his mind and conscience the importance of the three Principle Tenets, as well as other moral virtues.
The lessons of Freemasonry are illustrated by the use of symbols. Symbols are probably the oldest form of instruction known to man, and they are present everywhere. A stop sign is an easily recognizable symbol that is familiar to us all. The difference between a stop sign and a Masonic symbol, however, is that in the case of the street sign it means just what you think it means. In the case of a Masonic symbol, there are deeper and more profound meanings than what may be immediately obvious. To unlock these hidden meanings, it is necessary for the Freemason to study diligently and dedicate himself to the search for Light.
The working tools of the operative stonemason are some of the most common symbols used in Speculative Masonry to inculcate moral virtues. For example, the trowel is used by the operative mason to spread the cement that binds together individual stones into a single great edifice. As Speculative Masons, we also use the trowel, but for a more noble and glorious purpose. The trowel is an instrument made use of by Speculative Masons to spread the cement of brotherly love and affection.
The compass is used by the operative mason to circumscribe, or draw, a circle upon his trestleboard. However, we use this same instrument to teach the importance of a well developed spiritual life and to circumscribe our desires and keep our passions within due bounds towards all Mankind.
For Further Information
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Masonic Grand Lodge of California